Wednesday, July 11, 2018

"Lifting Heavy Dumbbells" by Jim Duggan

     Dumbbells can- and should- be an integral part of any serious strength-training program.  For competitive Lifters looking to increase their strength, dumbbells are an excellent way to increase overall body strength, which will translate to success on the lifting platform.  For those who seek to increase their muscular size and mass, dumbbells have been a proven bodybuilding tool for many decades. 
     Many trainees, myself included, were introduced to weight training through the use of dumbbells.  I vividly recall my early workouts with a pair of 14" adjustable dumbbells with plastic weights and collars.  And even though we've all progressed to various other training modalities, dumbbells still play an important role in my training.  And rightfully so.  You can build great strength and power with heavy dumbbell training.
     For many beginners who train at home, one disadvantage of dumbbells is having to change more plates than when using a barbell.  This is one time when training in a commercial gym may be an advantage over training at home.  Most gyms will have a large selection of fixed ( or pre-loaded ) dumbbells from which to choose.  Of course, if you have the space, you can obtain a collection of fixed dumbbells for your home gym. 
     Another reason why some people avoid using dumbbells is that, pound for pound, dumbbells are more difficult to handle than a barbell.  The reason for this is quite simple.  Lifting a pair of dumbbells makes it necessary to control each one individually.   This is the opposite of handling a barbell, which is lifted as a single unit.  Sometimes, one arm may be slightly weaker than the other, which means that one arm may falter or lag during an exercise.  Even if both arms are equal in strength, a lack of concentration can cause the same thing to happen. 
     There is one more reason why some people avoid dumbbells.  Some movements, like the Bench Press or Incline Press, require the help of one or more spotters just to get the dumbbells in the proper starting position.  Even cleaning a pair of dumbbells to the shoulders for a standing Press can be tricky, especially for a beginner.  However, learning to get a pair of heavy dumbbells to the shoulders is an important skill to master.  Lifting heavy dumbbells is an excellent way to build good, rugged power. 
     There are two ways to clean heavy dumbbells.  You can either stand in between them, or your feet can be on the outside of the dumbbells.  Personally, I prefer to stand between them, with the dumbbells on my sides.  By keeping your back flat, and straight,  drive with your legs and hips with a strong pull and bring the dumbbells in one sweeping motion to the shoulders.  You can bend at the knees slightly to help get them to the shoulders. You want to keep the dumbbells close to your body and concentrate on pulling the dumbbells.  You do NOT want to swing them.  Once they're at the shoulders, then you're ready to do either strict Presses or Push Presses, whichever you prefer. 
     While I prefer doing strict Presses, you can also Jerk the dumbbells overhead.   It may take a while to find out the precise timing and coordination while combining the slight leg dip while throwing the dumbbells overhead.  If you re pressing them strictky, then you must keep the knees locked and push the dumbbells overhead with minimum arching of the back. 
     There is one very important thing to remember:  Don't assume that just because you can Clean and Press a 250 Lb. barbell, that you should be able to handle 125 Lb. dumbbells in each hand.  It doesn't work that way.  The same goes for dumbbell Bench Presses.  Like any other movement,  you'll just have to determine, through trial and error, the correct amount of weight to use. 
     One thing that I've neglected to mention is that you don't necessarily have to lift the dumbbells overhead.  Dumbbell Power Cleans are an excellent exercise just by themselves.  You can develop great power doing heavy dumbbell Power Cleans.  And, in my opinion, dumbbell Power Cleans are easier to do than Power Cleans with a barbell.  And you will greatly increase the size and strength of your legs, back, arms, and shoulders.  One of my favorite movements is dumbbell Power Cleans with my Ironmind thick-handled dumbbell bars. 
     For those of you who want to really push yourselves, I suggest the Sig Klein Dumbbell Challenge.  As most of us know, or should know, Sig Klein is one of the legendary figures of the Iron Game.  He was a Physical Culturist, gym owner, bodybuilder and one of the strongest men of the early 20th century.  At a bodyweight of slightly over 150 Lbs., he was able to do twelve strict reps in the dumbbell Clean and Press.  He felt that this was an accomplishment that few men could perform.  A casual glance through a typical commercial gym would prove that he is still correct today.  Anyway, here is the challenge:
     Take two 75 Lb. Dumbbells and Clean and Press them for 12 perfect reps.  Perform a separate Clean and Press for each rep.  The Press has to be strict. Legs locked, back straight, complete lockout. While it may not seem very daunting on paper, after a few reps, most people will quickly realize that it is harder than it looks. Much harder. 
     Whether your goal is to challenge the great Sig Klein, or simply build more size, strength, and power, learning to lift heavy dumbbells is a worthwhile endeavor .

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Thrill Is In The Doing - By Jim Duggan

     Why do you train? Everyone who begins a weight-training program does so for a reason. From the very first time we wrap our hands around a barbell, there is a motivating force which drives us.  For many of us, the motivation is to get bigger and stronger.  This applies to the great majority of teen-age trainees who take up the sport. For older lifters, the reason for training may be to "get back in shape," after years of inactivity.   Then there are those who use weight-training as an adjunct to another sport.  There are countless athletes who lift to improve their performance in a chosen sport.  And, of course, there are those who lift competitively,  in either Olympic Weightlifting, Powerlifting, or bodybuilding.
     Naturally ,as we get older, our reasons for lifting change.  It's only natural. Our goals, our view of the world, and our priorities change, so it follows that our motivation for lifting will change too. A trainee of forty will not have the same goals and aspirations of a teenager.  Nor should he/she.  But that doesn't mean that we should all approach our training with a plan of action and a willingness to train progressively and consistently.
     For older trainees, there are many fine examples of lifters who have demonstrated that age is merely a number.  Legends like Norbert Schemansky, Jack LaLanne, and Sig Klein are but a few of the legendary Iron Game figures who defied Mother Nature, and showed what "hoisting the steel" can accomplish.
     What about those who lift competitively?  Is it a worthy pursuit?  As someone who competed for many years, I can say that it certainly is a worthwhile endeavor. Setting a goal, developing a plan of action to achieve your goal, working hard to accomplish your goal, and being able to achieve what you had set out to do are just some of the rewards that you can derive from lifting.  Incidentally,  if monetary gain is your motivation to compete,  then I can enthusiastically recommend that you try your hand at another sport. But if you wish to develop discipline, and the ability to set and reach goals, then competitive lifting will certainly be worth the effort.  And competitive Lifters, like all athletes, want to win.  Sometimes this desire to win will lead some people to an attitude of not caring how they win, just as long as he/she wins.
     Don't get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with competing, and wanting to win.  But competing should be something to be enjoyed.  One of my favorite athletes of all-time is Al Oerter, the four-time Olympic champion in the Discus. Mr. Oerter once described his Olympic pursuit as "very internal...a self-fullment, not an acquisition of fame and fortune."  He viewed sports as "a joyous personal challenge." I couldn't agree more with his assessment of his Olympic career.  I've always felt that Powerlifting- or and strength sport-  was a competition with yourself.  Your opponent is your potential.
     Years ago, in one of the first contests that I ever did, there was a former world champion who was scheduled to compete in my weight class.  Even though I had no chance of beating him, that did not stop me from training hard in preparing for the upcoming meet.  On the day of the contest, the former champion not only won his weight class but also pickedmup the Best Overall Lifter trophy, too. But, I had set personal records in my Squat, Bench Press, and Total.  I was very happy, and felt that I had a successful  contest. And my friends and I, the four of us battled a blizzard to drive to Pennsylvania, each of us had a great time. Looking back at that meet, and many others in which I participated, I think about the training, and preparation, and how much joy it brought.  This brings me to another favorite quote of mine: "The Thrill isn't in the winning. It's in the doing."
     How many lifters have that attitude today?  For many, anything goes.  Their drive to win "at all costs" sometimes leads to taking drugs.  "The end justifies the means" is a philosophy that, sadly, is widely accepted today.  Far too many athletes rely on an assortment of drugs to reach their maximum performance.  But at what cost?
     Don't be afraid to lift without drugs.  Your own drive and incentive will suffice if you train properly.  And when you succeed without the aid of drugs, you'll last longer and enjoy greater longevity than those who cheat.  It's up to you to lift the right way now, so that in the future, you can look back and know in your heart that you did your best. And if you do your best today, then years from now,  you will have the good fortune to be able to reflect upon "the good old days" and be proud of what you did. And how you did it.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Message from Al Coleman, one of the best clients I ever had, and a great guy. Please help!

Hello all,
Many of you haven't heard from me in some time and I hate to renew contact under these circumstances.
Approximately one year ago my daughter Brooke was hit by a car while walking her bike across the street. She was in a coma for almost two months and wasn't released from the hospital until midway through October. She sustained some severe physical injuries much of which were reparable thankfully. While she is slowly getting better from these injuries the injury that has reverberated and caused the most suffering was/is the brain injury. It took a while before the brain scans started to show some normalcy but the doctors said that we wouldn't really know how they would heal until about two years out. Here we are a year later and things are tricky. On the surface she appears to be normal, but she is having a great deal of cognitive difficulty that has caused her not only to miss a majority of her freshman year of high school, but has also caused her multiple multi week stays in the hospital for a multitude of reasons.
I tell you all of this because around the time of the accident my wife set up a Go Fund Me page to help bring in some extra funds to cover the unpredictable medical costs both for the out of pocket and for what insurance wouldn't cover. The campaign helped us out a great deal initially( and we are very grateful for the contributions), but we accruing continued medical cost that we did not think would still be accumulating to the degree that they are.
My wife was very active on social media and is responsible for generating the responses we received, but as some of you may know I'm non existent in that realm so now I'm trying to help by reaching out to those I know. I feel trepidation is asking but it has come to that point. I'm grateful to have had all of you in my life in some way and we would be grateful for anything at all that is contributed.
The description on the Go Fund Me cover page was written at the time of the accident just so it makes sense when you read it.
Thank you all for reading this and I sincerely hope you are all well and in good health.
Warm regards,
This is about our Beautiful once vibrant and Artistic and intelligent daughter Brooke. My daughter IS Brooke Coleman, she just recently turned 14. She was riding her new bike she had just earned through her new babysitting job on Monday afternoon when She was Hit by a car head on! She was thrown...

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Good Coaches and Basic Strength Training - By Jim Bryan

I am no different than most. I have had help from the beginning of my training life. I was very fortunate to have these men take notice of me and offer their experience. First was Bill Duncan. I had already been training for about 6 years when I met Coach Duncan in High school. I had all the old York Courses, that came with the barbell sets I bought with the little money I earned from the Ski Show at Cypress Gardens. These sets also came with implements that I didn't know how to use at the time. Kettle Bells, Iron Shoes, etc. This was pre teen for me around 10/12 years old (Yes, Kettle Bells have been around that long........they are NOT a new invention) As far as I know they started in the Old USA. My first training partner during this time was my friend of over 60 years Bob McKean.

Once I was able to drive and have a car I started training at another gym in Auburndale, a town near me. It was located in the back of Furnari's Barber Shop. The gym was run by Bill Lemacks a top body builder, Olympic and Power Lifter. I would train at my gym and then go to Billy's gym in order to train with him. Shortly after that Al and Vera Christensen opened a gym in Winter Haven, Fl. my home town. Several of us moved there and I had the opportunity to train with Al and Billy and be coached by them for Olympic Lifting. I competed for a few years as a Lifter for Al's "Bosco Weight Lifting Team."

The next group of gentlemen all helped with advice and tips. All of these Men were top bodybuilders and Olympic lifters from Florida. Harry Smith (TV wrestler and owner of Smith's Health Studio in Tampa) Tom Bowman,Former Mr Florida and a Coach at nearby Auburndale High School. Bill Hilton, Craig Whitehead (2nd Mr Universe) and Bob Harrington. Bob was one of the best to come out of Florida and won many Bodybuilding Titles. He was my main Training Partner when Al Christensen built a bigger Gym. I was just out of the Navy.

Then I met Arthur Jones. This was around 1970. I trained with Arthur and almost went to work for him. I chose instead to work at the Phone Company and lived in Winter Haven. I still traveled back and forth to Deland and later Lake Helen to train with the crew and Arthur. Here I met Jim Flanagan and Kim Wood, two of the best Trainers anywhere. Spent a bunch of time with Arthur and he was very generous with his knowledge. We became good friends and he trusted me enough to recommend that I take over and run the Nautilus Training Program at a local College.

Others have influenced me with their writing and phone calls. This group has a great deal of knowledge from many sources about Strength Training and Nutrition. Fred Fornicola has been a friend and treasure trove of good training ideas for me for many years. We talk a lot on the phone. Fred is a "thinker" and has many good ideas based on good factual common sense. Bill Piche started the first online version of "HIT" -High Intensity Training- called Cyberpump. This is the best darn collection of articles about sensible Strength Training from the days I was with Arthur Jones I have found. Matt Brzycki, Doc Ken Leistner, and Bob Whelan keep me informed with their articles and training sense. Bob is a big proponent of the "Old Way of strength training." Drug free and hard work. All of them inspire me. Later and one of the biggest influences on me is Randy Roach (Muscle, Smoke, and Mirrors) Randy is the go to man for Strength Training and nutrition and the history of the "Weight Game." Tom Kelso is also a Top Strength Coach and has many very good articles to read. I still check his Website regularly.

Tyler Hobson, Tyler has developed my favorite weight Training equipment. "Pendulum" is now owned by Rogers but the brains behind this excellent Leverage style Strength Equipment is still Tyler. He has a unique God given ability to come up with some of the safest and most productive Strength Training Machines in the world. I have one of his first "Multi Machines" and it's still in heavy use for me and the select clients I train. Last but certainly not least is a young man I really admire for his experience and training savvy. Liam "Taku" Bauer. is a very good Trainer and a friend I listen to. He has written several Articles and has a vast amount of experience training athletes and the regular Joe and Jane.

What do all of these people have in common? They all believe in safe, honest, hard training with whatever you have.................Barbells, dumbbells, and well developed machines. All work when used properly. None believe in gimmicks that you see so much today. They don't have people stand on balls while lifting. They all know when training hard a stable surface is best. They don't make crap up to get noticed. I respect them all and thank them for all their input and help. If I have learned anything, it's been the ability to spot quality Coaches and Coaching.

Editors note: Great Information Jim!

Monday, June 4, 2018

My 10 Undeniable Truths of Weight Training for Beginners (Part 1) - By RJ Hicks, BS Exercise Science, CSCS

One of the most glaring problems I see in commercial gyms today is the lack of productive training that takes place. Many beginners in the weight room are confused on how to train and do not know where to go for help. This series of tips is to help you save a lot of time and energy by avoiding many of the mistakes that I have made early on 

Truth number 1: Train for strength 

With all the new fads and gimmicks on the market today, it is easy to get off track in the weight room. Too many people are looking for a magical program that will give them the best results in minimal time, often leading them to a string of unproductive training months.  The purpose of weight training is to increase muscular size and muscular strength. To do this you must train heavy and progressively, utilizing basic compound exercises that match the muscle function. There is nothing glamorous about it. It takes hard work and discipline to continuously fight to add weight to the bar for the long haul. Most people will not accept this and will think weight training is more complicated than it really is. 

Weight training is simple, but not easy. There are many great exercises and repetition schemes you can choose from, if they facilitate easy and continuous poundage progression in the long term. Pick a handful of compound exercises that together cover all the major muscle groups, while sprinkling in a few of your favorite isolation exercises. Work hard for several months with perfect form and let the poundage grow for each lift. . Remember the goal is to increase the amount of weight you use on EACH lift to make your training harder, not to challenge your motor learning ability or to confuse your muscles. After a few months of hard and heavy training substitute a few different exercises that still work the major muscle groups progressively and continue building the poundage. Strength training is a journey not a sprint. 

 There are a host of reasons why every young athlete through senior citizen should engage in weight training. One of the best ways to change your body composition is through strength training. Lifting heavy weights progressively stimulates muscular growth, while simultaneously increasing your bodies metabolic rate and burning body fat. It is amazing how a few years of strength training can transform a beginner's body. As far as functional training goes, weight training is at the top of the list for its ability to improve your quality of life. Muscles make movement possible and the stronger they are the easier it is to moveThis means walking upstairs and carrying groceries will not be a burden in your later years if you’ve been continuously strength training. Want to reduce your chances of injury? Train for strength. Develop more muscular power? Train for strength. Increase bone density, ligament strength and tendon strength? Train for strength. For the best results, train for strength.

Friday, May 4, 2018

The Passing of The Living Legend - By Jim Duggan

     Once, while being interviewed, Bruno Sammartino described his mother as his biggest inspiration. "She was my absolute hero," was how Bruno described the woman who was forced to flee to the mountains with her three young children when the Nazis invaded her village during the second World War.  For over a year, Bruno, his mother and two siblings were forced to eat dandelions and snow while their small Italian village was occupied.  It's not hard to see how much Bruno admired his mother.  It's even easier to see why Bruno Sammartino was a hero to many people, particularly to Italian-americans. His greatness as an athlete was exceeded only by his greatness as a person.
     On April 18, 2018, Bruno Sammartino passed away at the age of 82.  Not only was he was one the greatest wrestlers to ever enter the ring, he was widely considered to be one of the strongest men of his era.  When he came to America as a teenager,  he was literally a 90-Lb. weakling. It was after he began lifting weights that he developed into one if the biggest and strongest men of all-time. His best lifts include a 565 Lb. Bench Press with a two second pause. According to David Willoughby's book, "The Super Athletes," Bruno was capable of performing a Press ( while lying on the floor) of 545 Lbs. He also did a Military Press of 410 Lbs., as well as a strict Barbell Curl with 235 Lbs.  According to Willoughby,  "In all probability, if Sammartino had not chosen to concentrate on wrestling, he would have become a champion performer in the three official Powerlifts." David Willoughby was not given to exaggeration or expressions of hyperbole. Bruno was truly powerful, and was recognized as much for his great strength as for his stellar wrestling career.
     As a wrestler, he was one of the most popular champions ever to grace the "squared circle." He held the title longer than any man before or after. He sold out Madison Square Garden more than any other wrestler. When I broke the news of Bruno's passing with former members Bruno's Health Club, Chris Newins, one of the very first members to join Bruno's, made the statement that if it wasn't for Bruno, there would probably be no WWE today. "Bruno actually saved the old WWWF when it was tanking. As champion, he saved the company." While wrestling scholars ( if there is such a thing) might debate that last statement, there is one thing of which I am certain. There would have been no Bruno's Health Club if not for Mr. Sammartino.
     Larry "Bruno" Licandro idolized Bruno Sammartino. He even followed in Bruno's footsteps and wrestled professionally for a short time in the late 1970s. When Larry opened his own gym in the 1980s, it was only fitting that it would be named for the "Living Legend." I trained at Bruno's Health Club from 1983 through 1988. I can safely say that the memories of that gym will stay with me always.
     I am also proud to say that I have a special memory of meeting Mr. Sammartino back in 2000.  That year, the Association of Olde-time Barbell and Strongmen (AOBS) honored Bruno for his contributions to the Iron Game.  The line of people waiting to meet Bruno wrapped around the room.  Everybody, and I mean everybody, wanted to meet the Living Legend. He was gracious to everyone, and posed for pictures with just about everybody. A real gentleman. When I finally got to meet him, I had asked him to sign a copy of his autobiography that I had brought with me. When I mentioned to him that the pen that I handed him was the same one that John Grimek had used to sign my program a few years before, he seemed genuinely honored. He definitely had an appreciation for Iron History because he mentioned that he was proud to be mentioned in the same breath as the the great JCG.  During his acceptance speech, Bruno mentioned that he always loved lifting weights, and wished that he could have pursued it.  Unfortunately,  back then, as it is today, there was no money in hoisting the steel. But that didn't stop him from dedicating his life to building his body, and making himself as strong as possible. He was very appreciative of what lifting weights had done for him, and was very grateful for his legion of fans.
     If you have the opportunity to get your hands in a copy of his autobiography, I encourage you to read it through to the end. It definitely is inspiring. There are two passages that stand out in my memory.  In the Foreword, Bruno summarizes how much he appreciates the life he was able to build in this country. "For me, it is a privilege to be an American."  That just about says it all. Later on in the book, there are words that will resonate with everyone who supports this website, and believes in the principles of drug-free training. On page 186, Bruno states: "I'm proud to say that I never used or condoned the use of steroids."  Strong words from a great man.
RIP Bruno.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Learning From The Past - By Jim Duggan

     When did you first begin to lift weights? Who were your earliest influencers as you entered the Iron Game? Do you remember the first muscle magazine you ever read?
     Everyone who shares our love of "hoisting the steel" has a story.  And every story has a beginning. While we may all come into the Iron Game from different backgrounds, our introduction to the Iron usually ( but not always) takes place at a relatively young age.  My introduction took place during the 1976 Summer Olympics. I was twelve-years old, and was absolutely riveted to the Weightlifting competition.  I knew then and there that I wanted to lift weights. Over the next few years, while watching numerous Weightlifting and Powerlifting contests on television, I grew more determined to learn as much as I could in order to get bigger and stronger.  I began training regularly, and tried to emulate the huge, powerful men that I saw lifting monstrous weights on the television screen.  
     In addition to television,  there was no shortage of books, and magazines available at the local bookstores and magazine stands.  My desire to learn as much as possible, coupled with my love of reading, helped in developing a basic lifting routine that I followed religiously.  The best, or most reliable, sources of information, consisted of what was contained in thejavascript:; various "muscle magazines."  While the local magazine stand did not carry Peary Reader's "Ironman," it did carry all of the other muscle, strength, and bodybuilding periodicals of the day.  I bought as many as i could, and devoured them each month.  I'll never forget the first time I read Bob Hoffman's "Muscular Development."  It was the August 1980 issue, and it featured a fairly prominent bodybuilder on the cover.  But what really caught my eye was something written on the cover:  "How to Increase Your Benching Power." That was it for me.  What sixteen year-old boy does NOT want to increase his Bench Press? The article was written by two-time World's Strongest Man Winner Bruce Wilhelm.  It listed his current program and even included the poundages that he used.  While I couldn't do the exact program ( I didn't have access to an Incline Bench at the time), I was inspired to train even harder to increase my Bench Press.  While Bruce was a World-class Olympic Lifter,  Track and Field thrower, and collegiate wrestler, he never specialized in Powerlifting. Nevertheless,  his article motivated me to train hard in the hopes that I could lift heavy weights like the ones that he was using.  On a personal note, I had the meeting Bruce at the 2017 Reunion Dinner of the Association of Oldetime Barbell and Strongmen.  Through my friend Steve Weiner, Bruce was kind enough to invite us to sit at his table, and pose for pictures afterwards. 
     In addition to the article about Bench Pressing, there were other items in the magazine that would leave an impression on me.  The first one was about a contest that had been held in England the previous Winter.  It was called the World Strongbow Contest.  Powerlifters dominated the event but what was particularly interesting was the fact that the Lifts that made up the contest were/are some of the most impressive lifts that anyone can practice.  The contest consisted of the following:
1) Clean and Jerk
2) Deadlift
3) Dumbbell Press for Reps ( 55 kg DBs)
     Think about it.  If you were to plan a workout, and decided to do these movements, you would have one helluva workout.  If you trained hard enough, your entire body woukd be sore for days.  Every major muscle group would be called into play.  You may not get a pump in your lats, or pecs,  but you would build incredible strength. 
     The only possible variations that I can think of would be to substitute the Power Clean and Push Press for the Clean and Jerk.  The reason for this is obvious. If you are not a trained Olympic Lifter,  it would be wiser to begin with a less technical movement. It would also be a smart idea to adjust the weight of the Dumbbells so that you so that you could perform at least ten or more repetitions. 
     The last item about the August 1980 issue of MD that stood out in my mind was the very last article.  It was the famous John Grimek column "Your Training Questions Answered." The great MCG would answer readers' questioned that we're submitted to him.  In this particular issue, a reader wrote a letter lamenting the fact that people didn't train as hard as they did in the past.  Sound familiar?
     The reader mentioned that his 23 year-old son was seeking the all-too elusive "super, secret training course." Again, sounds familiar, right?
     In his response, Mr. Grimek mentioned that has stood with me for a long time. Here it is, word for word:
     "As for your son, tell him to stop looking for that secret training course. He won't find it.  The secret is hard work and regular training,  and when you feel ambitious and eager for a good workout, then you should go all-out.  But on days when your energy level is low, train accordingly.   In this way you will make better progress and you should enjoy your training much more, regardless of which system of training you elect to try.  Just remember,  you get from your training what you put into it, and the more you know about training and what your muscles can take, the better results you can expect. That's the basis for training."
     These words were written nearly 38 years ago, but they are as still as relevant, and valid now as they were when they first written.  You wont find better training advice on any website, or YouTube channel. The sad part is that most trainees at a typical commercial gym would have no idea who John Grimek was, or what Muscular Development contributed to the Iron Game.  It is up to those of us who have a deep-rooted appreciation for the Iron Game, and old-time Physical Culture, to keep the idea of no-nonsense, sensible training alive. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

More Favorite Exercises - By Jim Duggan

     In a previous article, I described some of my favorite exercises.  The movements that I selected were those that I used during my competitive Powerlifting days.  These movements could be accurately described as "assistance exercises," because their main purpose was to assist in building strength for the three Powerlifts.  At that time, most, if not all, of my training energy was devoted to increasing my total. Increasing the Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift was paramount in my training, as it should be for anyone training for Powerlifting competition.  The fact that I enjoyed doing "assistance" work meant that I could approach my workouts with a sense of enthusiasm, which is a good thing, whether you compete or not.
     I can honestly say that I have always looked forward to working out. From the time I first began to lift weights, I have thoroughly enjoyed  training. Decades later, there is still nothing I enjoy as much as being able to lift weights. And even though I no longer compete in Powerlifting,  I can honestly say that I still look forward to training.  I actually look forward to my workouts.  As I get older, I realize that I am very fortunate to be able to still "hoist the steel."
     The Powerlifting assistance exercises that I've done in the past still serve a useful purpose, but now I can enjoy a larger variety of movements that will help build usable strength. Like many trainees who do not compete, I am not limited in my selection of exercises.  A drug-free Powerlifter has limited energy to devote to movements that do not directly assist the three Powerlifts. Being free from the constrictions of a Powerlifting regimen, one can explore and enjoy many different exercises.
     There are countless exercises to choose from when designing a workout routine. For most Lifters, there is always a period of several months, during which, there are no contests to train for.  The "off-season" was always a perfect time to experiment with new things. Perhaps concentrate on improving a weak lift, or simply build strength without fear of "burning out" on the three Lifts.  Let's face it, even the most dedicated trainee can become stale if he/she does nothing but Squat, Bench, and Deadlift to the exclusion of other movements.  The exercises that I'm about to describe can be used by competitive Lifters, or by trainees who simply want to get stronger. For the Lifter, these movements offer a change of pace.  A method of strengthening a Lift, without actually performing the Lift itself.  But whether you compete or not, these exercises are an effective way to get stronger, which should be the goal of everyone.  Anyone who seeks to increase his/her strength can use these movements.  Overall body strength is something we should all strive for, and these movements will certainly "do the trick." However,  it should go without saying, that one has to train hard, and progressively in order to get stronger.
     Here are three exercises that I have enjoyed in the Past. Some I still enjoy doing, and hope to continue to do them for many years to come. Anyway, here it goes:
1) Hammer Leg Press.
     I can hear the serious Lifters screaming bloody murder at the suggestion of using machines to gain strength. I have always been a dedicated supporter of free-weights, but some of the most intense workouts that I ever did took place on a Hammer Leg Press machine. I was introduced to this exercise by Drew Israel.  When I first met Drew, I was following what can be described as a typical Powerlifting program. Heavy Squats, Bench Presses, and Deadlifts for sets of low reps.  The first time I trained at Drew's house, he had me do a set of thirty (30!) reps on his Hammer Leg Press machine. At the time, I considered anything over five to be "high reps." Boy, did I have a lot to learn! The hard work required to complete a High Intensity workout translated into greater strength.  And while I would never advocate doing sets of thirty prior to a competition, it was the perfect way to train in the "off-season." It's also a great way to train for anyone seeking to get stronger.
     For those who have access to a Hammer Leg Press, or Hammer Iso-Leg Press, you are indeed fortunate. Many gyms do not have them. Most commercial gyms favor the popular "sled" type machine. I never cared for this machine. I think the Hammer Strength machine provided for a more effective workout without placing strain on the lower back. The key is to use up the machine properly. Do NOT use it to attempt heavy singles or maximum attempts. That isn't what these machines are built for. These machines are for building strength, not testing or demonstrating strength. Try to work to a point of muscular fatigue or failure. Good form, full range of motion, slow negative, and absolutely no bouncing will give you an effective workout that will leave you sore for days.
2) Modified Push-Up
     I can't think of an official term to describe this movement, but I can explain it and it will sound quite simple. It is also an effective way to strengthen your chest muscles. Even if you're not interested in increasing your Bench Press, this exercise will develop slabs of muscle and increase your upper-body strength.
    You'll need a partner for this exercise.  Place an empty bar on the floor.  Get down into a Push-up position with your hands on the bar ( instead of your palms on the floor.) Imagine doing an upside-down Bench Press. When you are in the proper position, have your partner place a heavy plate in the center of your back.  Now, try to perform as many repetitions as you can.  I always liked sets of ten, but you can do as many-or as few-as you like.  Be sure to nice, smooth reps, with a long pause at the bottom. One suggestion I would make is that it's better to use one large plate than trying to balance several smaller plates on your back.  I realize that this exercise closely resembles the regular Bench Press, but I always noticed a difference between pushing a heavy barbell off my chest versus pushing my body off the floor.
3) Farmer's Walk
     The best is saved for last.  Over the last twenty years or so, a lot has been written about the benefits of this great exercise.  The first time I heard of the Farmers Walk was in the early 90s.  It was a staple of the World MusclePower Championships, and quickly made its way into major Strongman competitions. Indeed, there a few, if any, strongman contests that do not have some form of Farmers Walk event. The reason for this is simple:  It is a test of overall body strength that will leave your entire body sore for days. Along with lifting heavy stones, the Farmers Walk will have you feeling as if you've been hit by a truck.  Imagine something as simple as picking up a heavy weight in each hand, and then walking as far as you can! Yet, simplicity is the hallmark of genius when it comes to building strength. And this simple exercise will fry your lower back, hips, shoulders, legs, and grip. It is definitely NOT an exercise for Toners, Pumpers, Posers, and the like.
     There are several ways that you can incorporate this movement into your training program. You can mark a course and time yourself with the goal of adding weight while maintaing your time. Or you can go for maximal distance.  Either way, if you do the movement  correctly, you will feel it for days afterwards. As for what type of weights to use, you can use Dumbbells, or if you wish, there are implements that you can purchase which have a handle and a loading area which you can load with as much weight as you'd like. Either way, the important thing is to work hard, and "carry that weight!"
     The three exercises that I just described have been an enjoyable part of my workouts for many years. There are hundreds of exercises from which to choose when designing a training program, and if variety is your thing, there will always be different movements that you can do.  But to build size and strength, you don't need more than a few basic exercises.  The effort that you put forth, as well as the discipline to train consistently and progressively, is more important than having a large variety of exercises from which to choose. Think quality over quantity.
Does modern bodybuilding make you sick? You should write for Natural Strength! I always need good articles about drug-free weight training. It only has to be at least a page and nothing fancy. Just write it strong and truthful with passion! Send your articles directly to me:

Bob Whelan

Bob Whelan

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