Sunday, July 27, 2014

NATURAL STRENGTH NIGHT - Podcast - 27 July 14 - Bob Whelan with Chris Lutz & Ted Harrison


Chris Lutz talks about training and his great organization S.P.A.R.T.A. that is dedicated to helping fitness professionals.  Some great info. Ted Harrison gives us some great training tips on how to avoid injuries. Also the first "Flamingo" sighting.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Birthday Challenge - By Jim Duggan



I have always been a huge admirer of many of the legendary figures of the Iron Game. Men like John Grimek, Bob Hoffman, Jack LaLanne, Herman Goerner, Norbert Schemansky, and Bruno Sammartino to name just a few. I was fortunate in that the first commercial gym at which I trained, Bruno's Health Club, was dedicated to the premise of no nonsense, drug-free training. And, as I have written numerous times, the only equipment used was from York Barbell. And, even though I only trained at Bruno's for about five years, my appreciation for the idea of old time Physical Culture has only grown over the years. The stature of the legends that I listed above has only risen in the intervening years.

I remember reading about some of Bob Hoffman's strength-feasts, which usually coincided with his birthday. I also vividly recall some of Jack LaLanne's birthday feats, especially in his later years. In recent years, I have tried to honor the memory of Bob and Jack by trying various challenges on my birthday. This year's birthday was no different, except for the fact that I was turning fifty. A milestone. The big 5-0! Big deal. You see, age means almost nothing to me. I feel no differently now than I did ten years ago, when I turned forty. It was no big deal then, and it's no big deal now. I truly believe that age is only a number. Even when it comes to working out. Whether you are twenty, thirty, or fifty, there is only one way to train, and that is all-out. And, if you are familiar with the stories of the gentlemen that I mentioned at the beginning if this article, you will know that a little thing like getting older can not deter you from doing great things.

I wanted to make this birthday challenge special. I wanted to do several movements, combining an exercise I do regularly, a movement a do a little less often, and something that I rarely do. I came up with the following: Stone lifting-lifting a 180 Lb. granite stone to my shoulder. One-Arm Dumbbell Press with a 88 Lb. thick-handled dumbbell. And Anvil Curl using a 100 Lb. anvil. The idea was simple, starting with the granite stone, I would do five reps, then go immediately to the thick-handled dumbbell for five reps with each hand, then go straight to the anvil for five reps of curls. After the curls, I would rest about a minute then begin again for a total of ten sets. 50 reps of each ( yes it sounds trite, 50 reps on my 50th birthday, but it was the best I could come up with!)

Lifting stones is something I enjoy doing. I try to do various size stones every week or two during the warm weather months. Today, it felt easy at first. Maybe because I'm used to using heavier stones. I'm not sure, but, in any event, the stone was going up easy at first. Even the dumbbell presses went well. I use one if my shot loaded Dumbbells that I purchased years ago. I have it loaded with BBs to a weight of 88 Lbs.. I do the presses in strict fashion- no cheating, bending, or leg drive ( just like John Grimek always advocated.) the anvil was almost too easy at first, so I adjusted the reps. Instead of five reps of curls, I did ten. Incidentally, I almost never do curls. I couldn't tell you the last time I did curls in the gym ( I realize that this would sound blasphemous to a typical toner in a commercial gym, but I really do find them to be a drag.) Anyway, as the sets progressed, I felt strong until about the fifth set or so. After that, it became work. Especially the presses. It was not too hot outside, thankfully, so the heat did not play a factor in my workout. By about the eighth set, I was really fighting on the stone, and the presses. The curls went easy ( of all things, the one movement I never do was proving to be the easiest.) The final two sets were very hard work, as I tried to keep up the pace. My hands were particularly fatigued, especially having to clean a dumbbell with a 2-1/2" handle. But I was determined to keep my form strict. By the end of the last set, I felt exhausted, but oddly euphoric. I even decided to add one extra set of stone lifts, just for good luck. So my totals were as follows:

180 Lb. Granite Stone - 55 reps total

88 Lb. Thick DB - 50 reps

100 Lb. Anvil Curl - 100 reps

Not a bad workout. And, by the way, it took me a little less than ninety minutes to complete the whole thing. And aside from some soreness, and some nice abrasions on my forearms (courtesy of the granite stone), I seem to be no worse for the wear. And while none of us can stop the clock from ticking, there is no reason why we can't continue to train hard.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Our New Voice Recorders On Site - By Bob Whelan

You can now be on the podcast! I put recorders on this site and at MindForceRadio.com

You can leave training questions and Flamingo Sightings for the show. Your voice will be recorded and we will play your voice on the show and answer your question from your voice on the podcast .... or play your Flamingo sighting. (If you speak clearly and follow directions.)

I need YOUR NAME (first and last) and where you are from (what gym, city, state, & country if not USA) ... with your question. Speak clearly and slowly. Just hit the record button and talk.    
I don't need your email, or anything in writing ... just talk.   

GOOD ARTICLES always wanted. (Note I said GOOD!) - by Bob Whelan

If you can't spell, you don't know that the first letter in a sentence is a capital letter, you don't know what a period is or even what a comma is and can't write worth a shit, please don't send me your so called articles! I do want GOOD articles. If you can't even write at a junior high school level then please don't send them to me. I'm not going to re-write them for you. In this day of TEXTING I've never seen so much shit come in! Text style crap will not be re-written for you.

NATURAL STRENGTH NIGHT - Podcast - 20 July 14 - Great Interview! Bob Whelan with Ted Harrison & Drew Israel

LISTEN TO PODCAST ON BTR HERE      Listen to Podcast on Podomatic below


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Natural Deadlift Training - By Jim Duggan


The Deadlift is one of the best movements that a person who is interested in getting bigger and stronger can do. Notice that I didn't say THE best. I truly believe that there is no best way of training, nor is there one best be-all-end-all exercise. There are many effective programs, which include a variety of quality exercises. The key is to work hard, and continually strive for poundage progression. If anybody tells you that they have the "best" way to train, then you have encountered a fool, or somebody who is trying to sell you a load of BS. Either way, ignore him/her, and find out what works best for you, work out your plan, expect to do a lot of hard work, and then DO IT. 

I've always enjoyed the Deadlift. When I was competing in Powerlifting, I enjoyed working hard to improve all three lifts, but for some reason, I seemed to enjoy the Deadlift more than the other two lifts ( Squat, and Bench Press.) and, as you can imagine, I've tried just about every type of routine over the years. The interesting thing is that I've had success with numerous different programs, which would seem to indicate that perhaps it wasn't the routine that I followed which was the reason for increased gains. Maybe it was the fact that I had a strong desire to improve. If you train with passion, desire, and hard work, then tremendous gains will accrue. 

So, for anyone wishing to add to their Deadlift, here a some movements which I have been using lately. Naturally, you must perform the movement itself. That goes without saying ( even though I just did say it.) However, you don't have to be a slave to regular barbell Deadlifts, especially if you are not training for a contest, and you are a somewhat experienced lifter. Trap Bar Deadlifts, or the more recent Hex Bar Deadlift, are excellent movements. Every gym should have a Trap/Hex bar. It's an excellent exercise, and it's a bit of a change of pace while it still approximates regular Deadlifting. Whether you train with high reps, medium reps, one set to failure, it doesn't matter. Try them all, and see what works best for you. Another variation that I particularly enjoy is Dumbell Deadlifts. I use the 2" Thick Dumbbells that I purchased for Ironmind Enterprises years ago. If I elect to do DB Deadlifts, then I will always use high reps. When I say high, I mean at least twenty, for one all-out set. This movement will also give you a terrific forearm workout, just so long as you don't cave in to weakness and use straps. Just say NO! to straps. For that matter, there is no reason to use a belt while training ( but that's a subject for another article.) 

As far as frequency of Deadlifting, I have always liked to do them once per week. I can't see how a natural lifter would be able to do Deadlifts more than that. I also prefer to Squat on the same day as I Deadlift, but some people can Squat one day, then Deadlift on a separate day. Again, you have to decide what works best for you. Please don't try to imitate what you might read in the so-called muscle mags ( in fact, do yourself a tremendous service and don't read those rags to begin with. They contain nothing of use for a drug-free trainee.) 

I do like to perform a couple of assistance exercises for the Deadlift. Any sort of rowing movement, whether it bent-over barbell rows, DB rows, or rows using a Hammer Strength ISO Row machine are an excellent to strengthen the back. Don't go crazy with too many sets. Just try to utilize good form, and try to push the poundage up. Another movement that I've always enjoyed doing is the "Good Morning" exercise. I realize that there are many people who cannot do this movement because of the very real chance of injuring themselves. You have to be careful how you perform this exercise, especially if you've never tried it before. Go slow, and see how it feels. Be honest with yourself, and if you're able to do it without pain in your lower back, then by all means include it in your training. I've never sustained a back injury from doing Good Mornings, so I include them in my workout. I've been using two sets of twenty reps. When I competed, I would go heavier and use lower reps, but the higher reps work just fine now. 

There is one last "assistance" exercise that I've been doing lately. I have a number of stones that I've purchased over the years. They range in weight from 180- 300 Lbs., are spherical, and made of granite. I got them from Roger LaPointe at Atomic Athletic. I will do the stones about once per week. I will simply go outside in my yard, do a few reps with the 180 pounder, then use the 220 Lb. Stone for my work sets. I'll just pick it up, then shoulder it, then drop it, and repeat several times. The most total reps I'll do is 12-15. I realize that not everybody has access to granite spheres, but they do make for a unique, and intense, "finisher." Incidentally, the Stone workouts are contingent upon there being dry weather, as wet soft ground plus stone workouts equals huge craters in the backyard! 

There you have it, basic exercises to improve your Deadlift. Even if you're not competing in powerlifting, increasing your poundages on the Deadlift will lead to your entire body becoming stronger.


Friday, July 4, 2014

A Review of Bob Whelan's Book: Super Natural Strength - By Jim Duggan

"An excellent compilation of articles written by one of the most respected strength coaches in the field. The book is easy to read, and cuts through a lot of the bs that so frequently appears either in books, or online. "Maximum" Bob has been training people, and writing about training for a long time, but his writing never gets old- it only serves to motivate you even more to train hard. Whether you're a beginner, or if you've been training for a while, this book will provide excellent training information that you will be able to use over and over. Good information never gets old. Unfortunately, common sense isn't very common when it comes to training, nevertheless, Bob is able to present his ideas in a clear, easy to read style. It should be part of every trainee's library."

Buy On Amazon


Thanks a lot Big Jim! - Bob

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

NATURAL STRENGTH NIGHT - Podcast - 28 June 14 - Great Interview with Ted Harrison.


Host Bob Whelan and Guest Ted Harrison
Despite the technical problems we still did the show and I'm glad we did. It was one of the best interviews ever as far as good information goes. Ted did a great job and provided great answers to listeners questions. If you can just listen to it despite the sound and technical problems, you will get about 40 minutes of great information. I will for sure have Ted on again soon and hopefully the sound will be better next time. (... but with Blog Talk Radio, you never know.) 

CLICK HERE : NATURAL STRENGTH NIGHT - Podcast - 28 June 14 - Great Interview with Ted Harrison.





Discover the Champion in You - By Bill Simanovich Jr.

Many readers may have wondered what Discovering the Champion in You means. To me being a Champion isn't just about winning an athletic event and/or contest. Being a Champion is not necessarily about being the "best" at something. Ultimately, being a Champion is making the most of the ability that our Creator has endowed you with. To reach our potential in strength training, making the most of our ability, we must keep several points in mind.

You were created for a purpose. You are not here on this earth by accident, nor did you evolve from green slime or something of the sort. God made you for a reason, with abilities that are unique to you. Some may find this as "preaching" or of little importance, but I can only give you the truth. To do otherwise would be denying what has happened in my own life. This is a key point. If you see your self as just merely "being" here by chance or circumstance you can not have the peace, strength, and resolve as someone knowing that their life has meaning and purpose. With this in mind, when you train you must train with passion, purpose, and desire to reach your genetic potential that was given to you. While we classify bodytypes by ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph, these descriptions only give us an indication of muscular potential. Why not train in such a way as to reach your genetic limits, as no one can predict completely what they are, except God himself. I doubt that anyone has completely reached their maximum potential, as no one always eats just right, sleeps just right, trains just right, etc.. I've personally witnessed people with great potential for strength training never progress and others with seemingly little potential transform their bodies to points that are unimaginable. The point here is control what you can control, and don't make excuses about your lack of progress. Everyone can improve and make quite noticeable changes in body composition if they give the proper effort. Will everyone be a champion bodybuilder, powerlifter, strongman, etc.? Of course not; thank God! Most of today's "champions" are drug infested, liars, charlatans, and cheats. Being a true Champion is using whatever potential God gave you and doing your part by taking it to the limit!

You must train hard, harder than you can ever imagine. I know, I know. You train hard. It may be this is not a problem with you, however even veteran trainers need to reevaluate their efforts from time to time. Think to yourself, did I take it to momentary muscular failure on that last set of squats? You do have the ability and strength within you to accomplish much more than you could ever imagine. I can personally identify as I began competing in powerlifting three years ago. I first went to a meet to watch my brother and saw guys lifting weights I never thought I could do. Then I thought to myself, "if they can do it, I can do it." You see, these lifters weren't any bigger, built better, or even stronger. I just had never been in a competition or focused on competing with other lifters. This experience was a catalyst, a jolt if you will, and soon I was competing and lifting weights heavier than I had witnessed at that first meet I went to watch. The bottom line is to not limit yourself, and in my estimation hard effort is the key ingredient to successful weight training. Throw out much if not all the discussion about supplements, drugs, the latest equipment and focus on effort. Commit to training harder than you ever have, and then push a little harder.

You must never quit. As a Champion you must determine that you will not quit and you will not surrender. You are on a mission, someone with a purpose, remember? You see, what many people lack today is commitment. We face a little opposition and we retreat. Many millionaires went broke before they became millionaires, many top athletes had to walk on to teams, overcome devastating injuries, and had to be cut from teams before they accomplished their goals. The beauty of weight training is that it's largely in your control. No one else can lift for you, eat for you, or sleep for you. Plainly said, excuses are for losers, just as arrogance is for losers. I don't care where you've been or what you've been through, anyone can improve and make the decision to not give up. Something that I try to remind myself is that there are people all over this world with disabilities and illnesses that would cherish the joy of training hard. Their goal may be to just walk unassisted or to speak a few words fluently. How dare we moan and cry, "I'm too tired, I'm too busy, I can't." Learn to be thankful that you have the health to train. Never ever, ever quit; you must commit!

You must train smart. With all this talk of intensity, desire, and passion sometimes we can forget to train smart. I hesitated and almost didn't include this section of the article for fear of giving people an excuse. However, there are times that intensity may have to take a back seat. Let me explain; if you have an injury it would not be smart or prudent to train so hard that you are basically "throwing gasoline on a fire." I can personally attest to this as I recently suffered a shoulder injury, having injured myself weight training for the first time. Even with my experience, for a while I tried to "work through it." This was not training smart, and I further aggravated the injury. My body was telling me to rest this shoulder, and I didn't listen. Now I'm rehabbing the injury. During this rehab period, am I training as heavy or as hard as I can with this shoulder? Of course not. During this rehab period am I training my legs with alternate movements i.e. leg presses, calf raises that don't affect my shoulder, hard and heavy? Of course! You see, an injured shoulder is not a reason to give up or an excuse to not hit other areas of my body to the maximum. Remember, control what you can control. Along with training smart, work around any structural imbalances and chronic injuries or disabilities. Again, these are not to be used as excuses, but you are to utilize common sense. I hope I've conveyed this clearly for you to train smart, but to never ever make illegitimate excuses not to train with 100% intensity. Finally, training smart means learning everything you can about productive strength training, nutrition, cardio, flexibility, etc.. Over my training career I read countless articles, journals, magazines, etc.. Much of it was garbage, but this even served the purpose of giving me discernment between fact and fallacy, who to listen to and who to not, etc.. I truly believe that a Champion asks questions, and wants to continually learn more; this is training smart.

Try putting these principles into practice and see if they help your training. Sometimes even reading what we already know or believe strengthens our resolve and gives us additional focus.

Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on July 8, 2002

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

NATURAL STRENGTH NIGHT - Podcast - 22 June 14 - Great Interview with Linda Jo Belsito!

NATURAL STRENGTH NIGHT - Podcast - 22 June 14 - Great Interview!

Nick McKinless Squats 405 x 20 reps



"Bob, ... that's high bar, below parallel, just a belt. Been chasing this for 20 years. It's not often you hit lifetime goals in training. Ever since I heard about 20 rep squats well over 20 years ago I have wanted to do this feat of strength. Last week I failed with 17 reps. This week I took a little more time and got all 20. As it happens I didn't feel great going into this workout. I was tired from a long week of work, driving in and out of London and not getting much sleep. I haven't trained since last weeks attempt though and I think my back was fully recovered. This is the end of this successful and enjoyable phase of training to push my squat to new heights. Training is simple but it is not easy. I am grateful that I can still train this hard after 30 years under the Iron." -Nick

Great job Nick! Congrats!

Most Steroid Users Not All That Impressive - By Zac Davenport

In my experience from all the years I’ve been training in bodybuilding and strength training one of the biggest misconceptions is that anybody who happens to use steroids is impressively strong ... from what I’ve seen this is a myth I’ve seen this time and time again.

People will approach me saying look at the size of this guy every week in the gym I train in. Without fail the same people will say the same things about the local freaks but to the ignorant mind I suppose it can be excused as the youth of today haven't got a chance. While me and my friend train old school hard core we pick maybe four basic exercise such as the bench press squats barbell rows and some ab work then across the way some big guys who are obviously taking something are in the corner doing for instance if its Monday. Which for some reason seems to be international chest day their doing cable cross overs with weights my grandmother could do and she's been dead 15 years.

Bench press with terrible form normally with two 20kg plates only bouncing off their chests and letting the weight control them not the other way round. Along with dumbbell flyes with relatively lights weights I look over and see one of these not so impressive people watching our squatting poundages with eyes that look like they are going to pop out of their head if they are so strong with their drug induced physiques why would they be taking such a keen interest in our basic so called inferior workout. But another thing we also noticed and to our amusement they are actually big in the torso area. But and this is a big but have spindly legs like a sparrow so all this time they have been concentrating on their mirror muscles they have neglected their legs. Well if they do happen to train their little legs they must only use the machines. No squats. Like only the leg press lying leg curls or the leg extension.

This is the thing I can't understand because the drug using fraternity which is the bodybuilding elite of today have deluded the minds of young trainees who take steroids to use split routines and don't put the effort in to train natural and increase their workout poundages over time. It seems in terms of training knowledge we really do need to go back 50 to 100 years and learn about solid training ... more is not better ... more brief intense workouts is what its all about something I bet the drug users of today don't seem to understand. There they are in near enough every gym in the world posing in the mirrors on their phones and trying to look pretty if they happened to put that much effort in to their training and re-evaluated their training then perhaps they wouldn't have to take short cuts

That point I'm trying to make here my friends is that you can take all the drugs and take all the short cuts you want. But nothing can replace hard work on the basic compound exercises that the strength trainers of old built their impressive physiques on. Men such as Reg Park, Steve Reeves and not forgetting Eugene Sandow and what did all these men have in common? That's right they were all drug free and used basic exercises like the squat military press and deadlifts to build up their strength and physiques with hard work. At the end of the day folks its your choice if you wan't to use short cuts but if you wan't my advice just don't do it and have a bit of pride about yourself and take the natural route you might just surprise yourself.

Editors note: Your message is good. Steroids ALONE don't work. You still have to do the work. Most steroid users lack character or they wouldn't use drugs in the first place. This lack of character is also what makes many of them look for every short cut in training as well.




Monday, June 16, 2014

Concerns About Functional Strength - By Jay Trigg

In perusing the Internet, one will often come across discussions about the advantages and disadvantages of machines and / or free weights. One of the oft-used arguments against machines is that they somehow do not build “functional strength” or contribute to “stabilizer strength”. One is led to believe that if they are using machines in their workout they are somehow robbing themselves of an ability to generate power on any plane other than that a machine will provide. As a result, lifts such as squats, deadlifts, overhead presses with a barbell, power cleans, snatches, clean and jerks, etc. are defined as superior exercises, and ones that should be used in exclusion of all others for their ability to develop this elusive functional and stabilizer strength. The consensus seems to be with these folks that machines somehow limit strength in the limbs and torso to a linear motion defined by a track of a machine.

While I would advise no-one without physical limitations to avoid squatting or deadlifting, or using barbells for an overhead press. Nor would I state that the Olympic lifts are not powerful and potent strength builders. But I would challenge someone to correctly define or apply functional strength versus nonfunctional strength in a meaningful way.

Many times, for example, the case will be made for the individual who can use a leg press for 700 lb. for 12 reps or more, but cannot squat with even half that for as many reps. Somehow this is proof that the leg press doesn’t build functional strength. Yet this is an indication that the leg press actually overloads the quads, hips, and hamstrings with far more weight than could be supported when hinged upon the “weak link” of low back and abdominals. While exercising these “weak links” is paramount, providing the highest intensity to the legs can be more easily provided by a leg press than a squat. Furthermore, a person squatting regularly and well will always do better at squatting then a person who works legs in another manner, and doesn’t squat.

Functional strength is usually best defined by the manner in which the strength must be applied outside of training. And this is typically learned and developed in this arena. So “functional strength” for a football player is applying the available power and strength in a manner that makes for better football. Since there is no arena inside the weight room that is applicable to the football field, there is no style of lifting that closely mimics football performance. The only sports that truly mimic gym exercises are powerlifting and Olympic lifting. Otherwise the gym is a place to develop a base level of strength and conditioning to be honed on the practice field. For those not involved in competitive sports, functional strength is more in tune with what you do on a day-to-day basis that requires strength. For example, I occasionally like to utilize the Farmers Walk in my routine. Starting this move is similar to a Trap Bar deadlift, but not exactly the same. Nor is it exactly like a dumbbell deadlift, as the handles are quite high off the ground compared to dumbbells. And walking 120 or more feet with 300 - 400 lb. or more in the hands is nothing like either. To gain functional strength, as it were, for Framers Walking you need to have a base level of strength in hips, thighs, shoulders, back, etc. This can come from any source. But to “get good” at Farmers Walks, you have to do the move. It provides its own groove and performance envelope that cannot be developed any other way. Being a good squatter or deadlifter will not make you a better Farmers Walker outside of the base level of strength provided. This same strength can be easily provided on a range of quality Hammer, Nautilus, or Southern Exercise machines.

Re-read and realize that I do not condemn the use of free weights, or call them secondary or inferior to the use of machines. Free weights are useful, and I utilize them in my exercise programs. But development of strength via barbells is only specific to demonstrations of strength via barbells. So if one plans to competitively lift, one should spend lots of time practicing those lifts he or she will be using in competition (squat, bench press, deadlift, other competitive lifts). If one is seeking a general level of strength, power, and conditioning for martial arts, football, soccer, or general fitness one should spend a more balanced time utilizing the barbells and machines to their best advantages. You may find that you gravitate towards more use of free weights or you may fall in love with a quality line of machines. Or like most lifters you will find a core set of free weight compound moves (squat, stiff leg deadlift, overhead press) and a core group of good machines (Nautilus Pullover and Compound Row being two of my favorites) that will become the foundation for many productive routines for years to come. But whatever you do, don’t let worrisome arguments about functional and stabilizer strength concern you much. Do a quality, progressive, intense, abbreviated routine with a priority on big moves for the legs, hips, low back, upper back, and shoulders and you will have done much more than 90% of the lifters out there. Add the regular performance of Farmers Walks, Whelan Walks (sandbag carries), tire flips, and other oddities at the END of most workouts and you will be doing more than 99% of lifters, and will be doing about all that can be done to create, improve, or develop functional strength.

This article was originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on June 20, 2000



Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Other Unparalleled Exercise, Part II - By Jan Dellinger

Reprinted, with permission, from HARDGAINER issue #36, May-June 1995


Part I of this article sought to explore the bent-legged deadlift from a contextual perspective, which, while not new or unknown, seldom receives consideration. Broadly speaking, its full applicable utility and importance transcends the roles of a contested lift and a time-honored lower/upper-back builder. Foremost, the repetition bent-legged deadlift exercise is the only maneuver to rival the vaunted back squat in possessing the wherewithal to single-handedly upgrade the overall musculature by a pronounced degree. The extraordinary extent to which either major movement is independently able to transform one's physique can be characterized with a colorful J.C. Hise expression--ultimate "Man-Making" exercises.

Some may question the need to pay homage to the deadlift when we have the squat with its illustrious track record. As pointed out previously, due to idiosyncrasies in skeletal leverages, some individuals, over the long haul, may be better served by the bent-legged deadlift exercise. Further, there are unique case-by-case circumstances regarding existing conditions, a lack of training space and/or necessary equipment, or just a natural proclivity for the deadlift, which push it past the squat as one's personal priority choice. As long as one makes up his or her mind to work at the bent-legged deadlift diligently and intelligently, he or she will be richly rewarded.

Deadlift training

At first blush there would seem to be little mystery to this topic. After all, it's the simplest of exercises to perform. Following warm-up sets, do a set or two with a poundage which permits the performance of roughly 10-20 reps, once weekly, apply some form of sensible poundage cycling, and the formula for getting the most out of yourself is complete.

Actually, the rest of this article is not so much about sets and reps as it is about possibilities, attitude and keen application, along with some side issues which can maximize overall results. Likewise, there are potential pitfalls to be aware of.

As stated countless times, in order to develop fully the entire musculature of the human body, one must engage in a lot of hip-leg-back specialization. HARDGAINER has profiled a few individuals who have dedicated the bent-legged deadlift exclusively to this protracted task, thereby casting themselves in the role of deadlift specialists. While this is an extremely workable strategy, here's some food for thought for those in this category: In milking the most from the deadlift, generous amounts of patience will be required. Due to the grinding nature of the exercise when done with heavy weight for reps, its practice can be very draining, especially on the nervous system. Therefore, taking every set of deadlifts "to the death" all of the time may not be wise. Perhaps more so with the deadlift than any other exercise in the weight man's repertoire, smart poundage manipulation over time is imperative. An excellent source for guidance on this area is Stuart's book BRAWN.

Deadlift technique

While many who engage in true deadlift specialization do so because they feel more biomechanically comfortable with the movement, and/or it poses less of an injury threat than does the squat, recognition should also be taken that even one's inherent physical assets can become problematic if they are not managed properly. Specifically, very tall trainees, as well as those with a classic deadlifter's build (short torso, long legs and arms) tend to use an inordinate amount of back when they deadlift. Sooner or later, most deadlifters realize that by setting their hips higher when beginning the movement, the greater their leverage advantage and, therefore, a better poundage is attainable, even for reps. Obviously, a lesser degree of leg flexion permits enhanced force generation. After all, in terms of sheer poundage, most trainees can register a much greater weight in the quarter squat than they can in the parallel squat.

Up to a point, this technique is permissible and, frankly, expected with most of those who gravitate toward the deadlift. However, the "stop sign" should come up when a trainee leads with his hips out of the starting position to such an exaggerated extend that he can only raise the weight with a very humped-back, stiff-legged style. This is why, in my opinion, every rep in a set of deadlifts should be started from the floor and a conscious effort be made to move the weights from the floor by pushing hard with the feet. More on this style later.

Granted, examples of super deadlifters like Bob Peoples from the 1940s, and Vince Anello of the 1970s, can be cited as exponents of the "no-no" style, who seemingly got away with this technique from an injury standpoint, despite playing around with some outlandish weights. Bear in mind these gentlemen were several cuts above the typical trainee, as we'll see in regards to Mr. Peoples later in this article.

Common sense would dictate that allowing one's deadlift form to lapse excessively for the sake of achieving greater and greater exercise poundages is a mistake for most. Pertinent form elements for the deadlift specialist to strive for include the following: Seek a good, reasonable starting position, and begin every rep in every set from this position. By the same token, no one is advocating going to extremes in the other direction, or seeking to "squat the weight" up. Practically speaking, this approach would fall into the category of sumo-style deadlifting. This is a manner of elevating weights from the floor more suited to the squat-advantaged. I'm dealing strictly with the conventional version here.

Once a solid starting position for the deadlift has been established, the trainee should focus on pushing or driving his feet strongly into the floor to move the weight, rather than yanking on the bar. Of course, this requires that the deadlift specialist not ignore the role of leg strength in deadlifting.

Oops, it would seem that I've contradicted myself and am making a case for the indispensability of the back squat. Not necessarily, as improved leg power is very possible via usage of the bent-legged deadlift, especially when it's done off a raised surface. The elongated range of pulling motion forces the hips to be lowered slightly in the starting position, and, again, consciously break the bar off the floor by exerting leg power and pushing hard with the feet. Do not underestimate the potential of deadlifting off a raised surface as a power builder, or a developmental medium for the musculature of the lower body, even though it will not allow quite the same exercise poundage as the regular bent-legged version.

A built-up surface of 2" to 3" from which to perform the bent-legged deadlift is sufficient. Frankly, newcomers to this elongated deadlift are advised to commence with comparatively light poundages as there will probably be a few degrees of new flexibility to be gained, and the likelihood of experiencing extreme muscular soreness can be minimized. Furthermore, this particular exercise has additional relevance to the deadlift specialist because the increased range of motion will improve the stability and strength of the lower-body joints.

Gerard-style training

One deadlift specialist who employs and emphasizes all of the themes I've brought up here is Al Gerard, whose name was men-tioned in Part I. Al is a competitive powerlifter with an official deadlift of 625 lbs (done at a bodyweight of 205 lbs, and past age 40) to his credit in ADFPA competition. It's probably safe to say that Al prepares for meets differently than most other lifters. When I last interviewed the "Father of the Trap Bar" in 1992, he mentioned in passing that when readying for a contest in the prior November, he did absolutely no back squats from January of 1991 to that August, engaging in the practice of this lift only once weekly for two months prior to the actual contest, where he managed 500 lbs to the judges' satisfaction.

Nevertheless, Al assured me that in the months (January to August) prior to his pre-contest squat binge, his legs and hips received plenty of heavy work via Trap Bar deadlifts and nothing more. Experience has shown Al that the general strengthening effect from bent-legged deadlifts with this device carries over magnificently to the competitive squat and deadlift, with minimal focused peaking.

As you'll recall from Part I, Gerard's lower back has a history of breaking down from prolonged exposure to heavy squatting. Hence, relying on the Trap Bar deadlift to build functional lower-body strength throughout most of the year, permits Al to lessen his chances of injury while still whipping himself into shape for the competitive lifts. Plus, let's not forget that because the Trap Bar allows the trainee to keep the resistance much closer to the center line of gravity while deadlifting, his spine is saved even more stress throughout the preparatory phase. Note, too, that the parallel hand grips of the Trap Bar put the forearms in a more efficient lifting position, and dramatically lessen the chance of sustaining injuries to the tendons of the biceps.

Elaborating briefly on Al's general off-season training routine, which, at least in terms of exercises, could easily be adopted by the average trainee, he engages in three distinctly different deadlift cycles, each lasting approximately 7-8 weeks. First, it's stiff-legged deadlifts while standing on the raised surface, with the intent being to bolster the lower back, glute and leg bicep areas fully. The next cycle focuses on bent-legged deadlifts while standing on the same block, which are aimed at promoting greater leg drive for bringing the bar off of the floor, as well as training the legs and back to work together in a coordinated fashion for the maximum force production.

In the final preparatory cycle, Al does the regular deadlift from the floor, utilizing the Trap Bar as in the two preceding cycles. The intent here is to consolidate the gains he's made in the two prior cycles, and set himself up for a smooth transition to a few weeks of straight-bar deadlifts up to a meet. In case you were curious, the only other assistance work he includes with this trilogy of pulling exercises is the shrug done on a Trap Bar.

Al's noted some very favorable side benefits in himself and others who have undergone his combination-deadlift approach: One tends to deadlift with less of an acute round-back style. Also, there's a tendency to assume a better starting position instinctively--back flatter, shoulders higher than hips, but with the hips still staying higher than knee level. And all of these good things occurring while achieving greater deadlift poundages in the end.

That's not all. Al contends that one's squat will show improvement from this deadlift system, due to the enhanced lower back/leg biceps strength imparted by the stiff-legged deadlifts, and the increased quadriceps strength garnered from the work on extended-range deadlifts.

Strength author Bill Starr always contended that the best way to train the deadlift was to refrain from the lift in the main, concentrating instead on Olympic-style pulls, shrugs and squats.

Gerard, however, is making the opposite case from Starr, that intelligent application of the deadlift and its variations can react favorably on the squat. Rather than looking at this as being confusing as to which lift is superior, maybe what's demonstrated here is parity, commonality and a considerable degree of transference between them.

Other considerations

These illustrations of application to competitive powerlifting are insightful and instructive in the broad spectrum. However, as I specified in my opening article, my advice is primarily geared for non-competitive trainees who feel their physical tools are compatible with building their lower-body training around the bent-legged deadlift. This prompts the question as to whether the deadlift is a worthless pursuit for the non-competitive trainee with a squat-advantaged build. My opinion is that because the deadlift dynamically involves key muscle areas like the forearms, trapezius and lower-back, which when maximally developed add much functional strength and ruggedness to one's physique, this category of iron pumper should explore the deadlift too.

However, he should go about it on somewhat different terms than it's usually pursued. Specifically, I would recommend that the average trainee who is more gifted at the squat to train both major lifts but tackle them separately. For example, do a squat-only cycle and when one goes stale on that, switch to a cycle of deadlifting only. Of course, it's understood that there would be the standard upper-body rows, presses and curls accompanying either cycle, not just mixing the squat and deadlift.

My observation is that non-competitive trainees who do not have to conform to meet deadlines have an advantage over those who do. Most of the time, those in the latter category must do the squat and deadlift concurrently, thereby being forced to divide, on a week-in/week-out basis, their attention and, more importantly, their available energy and recovery ability between the two most demanding movements.

Bob Peoples

The example of alternating squat-only with deadlift-only training cycles has its practitioners as far back as the 1940s, in the person of Bob Peoples. While he was an all-round strength athlete of accomplishment, in addition to being a stupendous deadlifter, there's precious little about him in magazines of his time. Thanks to Joe Roark, my exploration for details on Peoples yielded the most expansive profile of this mighty resident of Johnson City, Tennessee, in the April/May, 1952 edition of IRON MAN. One of the more successful training strategies outlined in this account, in Peoples' opinion, centered on working the squat and deadlift independently for stretches of time.

Of course, he mixed other extraordinary tacts with this style of alternation. For one thing, on this routine he preferred to do single lifts, starting light and working up to a limit, or nearly so, single for the day. Okay, hard gainers, brace yourself for this one: As much as his farming duties allowed, he preferred to work the "lift of the cycle" like this every day. He did this until he started to go stagnant on the lift, at which point he'd switch over to the other major lift which he had not been working. Then he'd pursue that on a daily, heavy-singles basis until going stale on it. Peoples found variety and renewed progress in bouncing back and forth between the squat and deadlift, contending that this approach gave him very good results. In the interests of full disclosure, though, Peoples did state that he used other productive systems aside from this one.

Digressing for a moment, obviously Peoples was very much a "specimen" as evidenced by his clean-grip deadlift of 725 lbs, and 530 lbs full squat, at a bodyweight somewhere in the low 180s, done back in the 1940s. Also, there's the matter of being able to prosper from daily ultra-heavy training. And also bear in mind that he trained alone in barns or cellars with no moral support from others, and did his great lifting feats in exhibitions devoid of competitive stimulus from others, and registered terrific physical achievements despite making a living working the land. Imagine how the physical drain and long hours required by his occupation interrupted his ability to train with consistency. Perhaps they had Bob Peoples in mind when the Superman character was brought to life.

The partial deadlift

Returning to the bent-legged deadlift and its variations that have purpose and productivity, consideration should be given to the periodic usage of the partial deadlift done in the power rack (or off boxes) and repeated in reps of 10-20. Because of the decreased range of motion and more favorable leverage positions, very substantial poundages are possible, even for higher reps. Of course, these factors are what prompts the musculature to respond so dramatically. But, good exercise form--lifting and lowering the weight under control, and resetting for each new rep--should always be observed. Typically, trainees tend to allow these greater poundages to move with the aid of increasing ballistic momentum, generated by banging the bar off the pins in the power rack.

Not only is this tact hard on the equipment, but it increases one's risk of injury while robbing the working muscle groups of much overloading. Considerable compressive forces are being imposed on the spine, so use the combined power of the legs and lower back in a coordinated fashion, and do not become overambitious, sacrificing form for the sake of enormous poundages.

To my knowledge, one of the earliest might and muscle figures to regularly espouse the partial deadlift was Harry Paschall, feeling that, when starting the deadlift from just below the knees, the lifter would avoid the precarious "stooped over" position most people assumed when taking a weight from the floor. Besides, the higher starting position permitted greater weights, in addition to the safety factor, thereby blasting the pulling muscles even more.

Those possessing a collection of Joe Weider's YOUR PHYSIQUE from the 1950s may have noticed that Charles Smith raved and raved about the benefits of this exercise for Olympic lifters (there were no power-lifters as we know them today, in that era) and bodybuilders. Smith believed that this movement was unparalleled for imparting sheer body power, and especially for strengthening the pulling muscles. Additionally, Smith stated that the partial deadlift was in the vanguard of a select few exercises which truly had the potential to completely revamp one's physique.

Paschall was of the opinion that this was a pure power-type exercise and should be pursued with sets of 3-5 reps, with the bar positioned in the rack just below knee height (when the knees are bent in the starting position). On the other hand, Smith reco-mmended sets of 15-20 reps, advocating the bar should start just above knee level.

Even though he espoused high reps, Smith warned against developing mental ceilings about exercise poundages in the partial deadlift, emphasizing that 500-600 lbs for a couple of sets of 15-20 counts was not really that much to write home about for an advanced barbell man.

For my money, once per week is plenty on the partial deadlift. Actually, depending on age, recovery ability and poundage capabil-ities, some readers may profit more by attacking this exercise vigorously every other week, regardless of the rep range used.

When it comes to partial pulling movements, quality variations of variations exist. In his book THE STRONGEST SHALL SURVIVE, Bill Starr touts an ultra-heavy shrug movement which commences from just above knee height in the power rack. Although technically not a true deadlift maneuver, in that Bill's prime objective is to overload the trapezius muscles maximally, as opposed to all of the pulling muscles in general, the lower back receives significant loading. As a matter of fact, Bill reports having worked with a few football players who got up to in excess of 700 lbs in this pull-shrug. Any movement, or class of movements, which offers this kind of poundage potential is guaranteed to have muscles galore popping out on those who apply themselves.

As far as incorporating regular deadlifting, deadlifting off a raised surface, and partials into a training program, my basic suggestion would be to do one movement per cycle, รก la Gerard. But, really, it is up to the individual to sort out the practical implementation according to age, personal recovery ability, objectives, mental commitment, available training time, etc.

Other equipment options

Straight bars and Trap Bars are not the only implements applicable to the bent-leg deadlift. As Eric Bryan documented in HARDGAINER issue #33, dumbbells are a viable alternative for this wonderful gaining exercise. Few of us ever consider this possibility because we so strongly associate these particular training tools with the practice of upper-body movements only. Frankly, I was guilty of failing to connect heavy dumbbells with deadlifting, until the mid-1980s when Dr. Ken Leistner submitted an article dealing with this very exercise for publication in MUSCULAR DEVELOPMENT.

What a natural fit, and for reasons beyond just results. In broad terms, many of the same pluses from using the Trap Bar for deadlifts can be approximated with dumbbells, i.e., resistance kept closer to one's center of gravity, the hands applied in a more advantageous force-generating position while leaving the biceps less vulnerable to injury, and, because the plates of the dumbbells are smaller, the trainee must adopt a deeper starting position, thereby achieving a greater range of pulling motion.

Perhaps the biggest drawback with the exercise for veteran trainees is finding dumbbells of sufficient weight, especially in the typical commercial gym where a pair of 100 pounders may be the heaviest. Here again, a home trainee may have an advantage in that he can secure a pair of the long, extra-heavy-duty handles, along with the required plates, and fashion his own "monster" 'bells. The unavailability of really big dumbbells was one reason why Leistner advocated high reps (15-20) in the dumbbell deadlift. Still, 20 reps with a pair of 150-lb dumbbells would prove most challenging to the bulk of HARDGAINER readers. Be advised that this task would prove a lot tougher than the same rep number with a 300-lb Olympic bar.




Friday, May 30, 2014

The Other Unparalleled Exercise, Part I - By Jan Dellinger


Reprinted, with permission, from HARDGAINER issue #35, March-April 1995


Since the inception of HARDGAINER, the suggestion has subtly surfaced within its pages, on occasion, that, for certain categories of serious weight trainees, the repetition bent-legged deadlift (8-20 counts) may produce more long-term size and strength gains than the considerably more heralded repetition back squat. Truth be told, one of the advocates of this proposed "new wrinkle" in the conventional wisdom has been the editor of HARDGAINER.

A major hurdle in his own training life prompted Stuart to pose this seemingly provocative proposition in the first place. Briefly, Stuart read voraciously of the renowned "squat for success" philosophy. He believed in the advice that heavy, repetition back squatting was the ticket to realizing one's full measure of might and muscle preordained by Mother Nature; and he pursued cycle after cycle of routines which had the back squat positioned as the cornerstone.

For a few years, this supposedly fail-safe approach yielded anticipated progress. At this juncture, however, Stuart encountered an insurmountable plateau which would not respond to a diverse array of commonly espoused remedies--noticeable escalations and reductions in training volume, different repetition counts, layoffs, meticulous poundage cycling, greater attention to flexibility work, adjustments in squatting style, knee wraps, and more.

Over the years that followed, Stuart's persistence was further rewarded with the onset of potentially chronic knee and lower-back pain. The coup de grace, however, was his observation that others in the gym with commensurate workout experience were still benefiting greatly from the "squat for success" plan.

As his frustration and confusion built to a crescendo, Stuart began focusing on the bent-legged deadlift in a major way. The switch proved propitious almost immediately. Each workout found him progressing. Of course, this scenario provided the lead-in to his triumphant achievement of deadlifting 400 lbs for 20 consecutive reps, which was chronicled in HARDGAINER issue #21.

Understandably, this turn of events prompted Stuart to wonder if there weren't at least some qualifications needed to the "squat is unparalleled" dictum, as well as why such a variance would occur. Moreover, he wondered if others had experienced the same phenomenon, and what they did about it.

Al Gerard

Al Gerard, originator of the Trap Bar, crossed this same bridge before Stuart. While we already know what solution this powerlifting engineer settled upon (the Trap Bar), examining the discoveries which brought him to it can shed much light on this whole issue.

As reported in HARDGAINER issue #25, which carried a detailed article authored by Paul Kelso focusing on the virtues of the Trap Bar, back problems prompted Gerard to seek some sort of less-damaging alternative for overloading his lower-body and lower-back musculature. In point of fact, Al had suffered five prolonged episodes of nasty lower-back miseries, all of which, he noted, came as a direct result of heavy back squatting. Aside from these setbacks putting a decided dampener on his competitive powerlifting aspirations, there was always the worry that such conditions could become chronic.

Because he didn't know precisely what device or apparatus would ultimately meet his requirements, Al reasoned that a bio-mechanical study would be a logical first step. Fortunately, there was a substantial number of local high school athletes already actively involved with intense weight training workouts who were more than willing to participate.

When completed, this extensive investigation produced much valuable information which explained Al's penchant for recurring back injuries, demonstrated that not everyone benefitted equally from back squatting, and revealed that many individuals in the aforementioned category did respond favorably to heavy pulling movements and, more importantly, explained why these observations occurred.

Cutting to the crux straightaway, Gerard determined that individuality with regard to basic fulcrum-lever physics held the key. Specifically, due to wide variation in skeletal leverages, trainees possessing certain kinds of physical construction were at a greater risk of injury while back squatting. Moreover, generally speaking, the typical "squat disadvantaged" type of body build was characterized as having a short torso and long legs, especially inordinately long thigh bones. Also, very tall trainees--even those with more balanced upper to lower body apportionment--qualified.

Further, Gerard noted that those with the "squat disadvantaged" structure innately tended to lapse into body positions which left them susceptible to spinal injury during back squatting. In fact, vulnerability generally peaked during the squat descent at and below the point where the upper thighs form a 300 angle with a line drawn parallel to the floor and through the knees. The exact anatomical trouble spot was the spinal section from the fifth lumbar vertebra down to the coccyx, which would prematurely rotate under the rest of the spine during the bottom portion of the squat.

Naturally, the likelihood of aggravating this danger zone escalated greatly when very heavy weights were applied to the squatting movement. Of course, it occurred to Gerard that much of the danger could be avoided by limiting the descent depth to the 300-above-parallel point, among those who were inclined toward problems. This tact was never in the "acceptable remedy" category because curtailing a squatter's range of motion can trigger another set of problems, especially among athletes who are competing in other sports. For example, the muscles of the lower body are robbed of complete development. Even worse, optimal flexibility in the joints of the lower body would never be realized. Interestingly, limiting squat depth short-changes the knee of maximum stability and strength. Some research studies have concluded that squatting to the depth where the upper thighs are parallel to the ground is required to fortify the connective tissues of the knee joint, and solidify its structural integrity. One such research project was conducted at Oregon State University in the early 1980s.

As a way of contrast, those participants in Gerard's study who possessed a squat-efficient kind of physical construction (relatively long torso and short lower body levers) could, as you would expect, readily achieve all of the criteria of textbook squatting technique--a very straight spine even at 150 below parallel when under a squatting load, a very upright torso position, and the ability to keep gravity (focal force) on their heels throughout the entire lift.

As this study progressed, Al attempted to alter lower leg positions of the leverage-disadvantaged squatters. (This would include heel elevation in some people, though for many such a measure increases the risk of injury to the knees.) While such measures did greatly reduce the spinal stress these lifters sustained while squatting, they increased the shearing forces to the subjects' knees to injurious levels. Plus, these technique alterations radically lessened the amount of resistance the subjects were capable of squatting. Hence, the overload to their lower body musculature was diminished. Needless to say, Al quickly abandoned this "round peg in a square hole" approach when safety, first, and overload capabilities, second, were compromised.

In the same vein, more than a few professional and college strength and conditioning coaches do not force heavy back squatting on their athletes, especially the very tall ones, due to biomechanical considerations which can impact on one's risk of injury. Typically, coaches who are acutely attuned to such possibilities give the leg press and/or Trap Bar deadlift prominence in lower-body routines. Of course, squatting on very specialized devices like the Tru-Squat apparatus, as well as serious work on various hip and back machines, may also be included. Bear in mind, these coaches are training athletes who are only looking to get muscularly larger and stronger for increased performance in their chosen sports, in addition to seeking balanced muscular development so as to minimize their likelihood of sustaining an on-field injury. The coaches are not trying to cultivate elite powerlifters or bodybuilders.

Attributes of a stellar exercise

What extraordinary attributes does the squat hold in order to earn it the hands-down sine qua non reputation it enjoys among body/strength-building exercises? Quite simply, it works the largest muscles of the human body against the greatest possible resistance the structure is capable of overcoming. This, of course, maximally develops the key thigh, hip and lower-back musculature, thereby paving the way to realize one's full genetic inheritance for size and strength.

Just as important, the demanding nature of the squat dramatically enhances one's respiration and triggers powerful internal chemical reactions, notably those relating to metabolism and the natural production of testosterone, which catalytically drive this whole gaining process.

Without question, the squat performs this little miracle. However, doesn't the repetition deadlift exercise possess the wherewithal to duplicate all of the advantages available from the squat? Since the same prime movers are employed, the lower-body musculature is overloaded maximally, one's respiration is certainly taxed massively after 10-20 consecutive reps with a challenging weight; and the physical demand of the deadlift guarantees comparable activation of the internal processes. Plus, like the squat, the deadlift is every bit the total-body movement in that it forces participation from the smaller muscle groups along with the larger ones. In fact, areas like the forearms and traps receive more direct stimulation from the deadlift.

Since both the squat and the deadlift are superlative overall conditioning exercises, it would seem there are two worthy claimants to the title of "definitive growth-inducing exercise," instead of just one.

The deadlift version I am referring to is the conventional style, not the sumo style which is more suited to the squat-advantaged.

Squat or deadlift preference

As esteemed as this pairing is, it's already been demonstrated that, at least in some cases, they will not serve with equal effectiveness. The most glaring disparity is in one's respective exercise poundages. The amount of resistance that can be employed is important because there is a well-established correlation between it and one's size and strength status. Perhaps this is a somewhat oversimplified statement--though not by much--that bodybuilding is little more than powerlifting (or strength training, if you like that term better) done at higher repetitions. Still, the aim is to add more weight to the bar on basic exercises over the long haul.

It's a fine strategy for those constructed for efficient squatting to devote years on end to this exercise. But the individual whose mechanics are inclined toward better deadlifting will be handicapping himself needlessly by following the same squat-focus path. Wouldn't it be better for this latter trainee to, at least some of the time, focus on the deadlift, thereby cultivating his greatest asset to the fullest?

Poundage disparities between the squat and deadlift can be substantial. Examples abound in competitive powerlifting, especially in the early days. At the first national powerlifting tournament held in the USA, in 1964, some vivid ratios could be found among the seven class winners. Middleweight winner, Nathan Harris, exhibited a 180-lb spread (445 squat vs. a 625 deadlift); Terry Todd, heavyweight winner, squatted 600 while deadlifting 710; Wilbur Miller, runner-up to Todd, displayed a 200-lb gap (515 squat vs. 715 deadlift). In passing, note that Miller deadlifted this 715 with a clean (knuckles-front) grip!

No one at this inaugural event, however, had a squat-deadlift differential approaching featherweight (132 lbs) winner, Hal Raker. Raker's differential was 240 lbs (235 squat vs. 475 deadlift).

In case readers wonder why I went back to 1964 to make comparisons, the sport of powerlifting was in a more "natural" state in those pioneer days. Specifically, there was no support gear to artificially aid a lifter's performance--no supersuits, bench shirts, erector shirts, specialized knee wraps or deadlift slippers. Actually, standard-issue lifting attire then was either a lifting singlet or a T-shirt (usually white and devoid of advertising or slogans), and trunks. Footwear, in the main, was limited to either sneakers or work boots.

Okay, that's powerlifting, you say. I specifically denoted that this discussion is related to the squat and deadlift strictly as repetition bodybuilding exercises. Nevertheless, even when doing reps, more resistance should always be the goal. Al Gerard is adamant about utilizing the best loading mechanism (exercise) possible for maximally developing any muscle group, assuming that safety is not jeopardized. If a trainee finds that in his case the greatest- resistance-equals-greatest-results formula favors usage of the squat, then this should be his focal point the majority of his training career. On the other hand, if another trainee sees that the greatest poundage rule favors the deadlift in his case, then he should pursue this barbell maneuver with fervency.

Clarification

Although nothing presented here is new or revolutionary, the relationship between the squat and deadlift is explored in a different manner to that most readers are probably accustomed to. Hence, there's a chance that parts of the message will be misconstrued or taken out of context.

While it's a given that a trainee with competitive powerlifting aspirations must practice both the squat and deadlift continuously, his counterpart who is merely interested in maximizing his size and strength capacity in a much broader way is at liberty to concentrate on either movement at his discretion. This is not to imply, however, that those with "squat disadvantaged" physical construction should totally ignore the squat. Especially during one's formative period with progressive resistance exercise, both the squat and deadlift should be pursued. But after a couple of years of divided focus on the pair, if either movement appears to hold decidedly more promise than the other, then a prolonged cycle or two of singular focus on the dominant movement is in order. In fact, to refrain from doing this would seem to be a needless handicap. And, in time, this same individual can (and probably should) come back to the neglected movement of the pair and pick up on it to the exclusion of the other.

Frankly, this tact amounts to a workable form of lower-body specialization which gives the mind, and, to some extent, the body a break from at least one of the two big movements at any given time. Plus, when a new cycle or routine is embarked upon, one has a new challenge to look forward to--this is not an insignificant factor when reflecting on the years of hard work required on such a small repertoire of exercises.

Actually, among elite strength devotees and powerlifters there have been practitioners who have rotated squat-emphasis and deadlift-emphasis routines. Examples will be outlined in the next issue of HARDGAINER, along with effective utilization of other forms of the bent-legged deadlift.

In closing out the ledger for this issue, I want to stress in the strongest possible terms that none of the suggestions here are rooted in any negativity toward the back squat, which has been and remains in the vanguard of bodybuilding exercises. Rather, this presentation is about maximizing productivity--using one's options to the fullest as they relate to personal physicality.

At the same time, there is admittedly a consciousness-raising dimension to this article. Too many iron pumpers think of the deadlift as strictly a single-repetition competitive lift, or as nothing more than a complement to the back squat. Sort of a "bridesmaid" of lower-body exercises. Nor has there been a 50-year publicity campaign associated with the deadlift, as the squat has benefitted from. In fact, when was the last time you ran across an article of consequence devoted to the deadlift exercise in a muscle magazine, save HARDGAINER? They are few and far between. Yet, without question, the deadlift has the wherewithal on its own to pack many pounds of lean tissue on the body, and much power into the muscles.
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