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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

BARE BONES TRAINING - By "Maximum" Bob Whelan


Bob Whelan doing 2 inch thick bar reverse curls at WST.

Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on July 8, 1999. Reprinted with permission of The Dinosaur Files


I am an "Iron Game" guy, born and raised on free weights, now also using machines. I don't collect them (machines) or enjoy talking about them. I use them. I would rather talk about the strength of the guy using the machine than the "strength curve" of the machine. There are many who are just the opposite. They are not Iron Game guys; they are machine guys. They have no idea who George Jowett was and would rather talk about the latest Med-Ex machine. (Not how much they lifted on it, just about the machine!) I get calls from people like this all the time now. Once you get a few machines, you get into a whole new machine network. It's amazing. (They are like the guy who never drives his car and keeps it in his garage so it won't get dirty.)

I never had any machines until about two years ago. I trained only with York bars and plates and Jubinville stuff for years. Just for me, this stuff was great; but when you train ten people in a row, you can get exhausted! Your job becomes that of a laborer, no different from a bricklayer! The Hammer Strength and Southern Xercise machines I now have are great and make my job a lot easier, but my training is not BETTER just because of them. A lot of guys call me and almost apologize for not having a certain machine and use this is an excuse for poor training. My philosophy about (the good plate-loaded) machines is that they are nothing more than "guided barbells." Just alternate tools to get the job done. They should be viewed as secondary to the work being done, not the reason for training success. I had some of the best workouts of my life in crude, poorly equipped gyms. It's PASSION, EFFORT, DESIRE, and consistent HARD WORK that make just a simple barbell work wonders. You don't really need anything more. At a small, dingy, minimally equipped gym at Bitburg Airbase in Germany, from 1976-1979, I had some of the best workouts of my life. The showers frequently had only cold water. The cables on the pulley machines were always broken. They were always painting something for an inspection. (In the military, anything that doesn't move gets painted.) Even the barbell plates were painted several times during this period. They were black, gold, and white at different times. A few times they were still wet when we came to train, as some idiot painted them in the middle of the day. We still lifted and got paint all over us. As long as there were bars and plates, we were happy!

My "Iron Brother" training partner, Glenn Pieschke, and I trained like we owned the place, and we did. (We are still best friends.) Whenever we went for a personal record, we let everyone know. We would run all around the gym and tell everyone, the racquetball courts, basketball court, everywhere. Anyone who was interested, and there were many, would be brought to the weight room. Some thought we were crazy but just wanted to see what all the fuss was about. We loved to put friendly pressure on each other. THE WHOLE GYM WOULD ROOT US ON. I remember when I benched 350 for the first time and Glenn organized a large crowd. After completing the lift, I yelled, "350 pounds! Enough weight to CRUSH the average human being! Go home and tell your mothers!" We were cocky, but friendly. People loved it. It got them psyched! Soon every guy in the weight room was doing the same thing.

We rooted for each other. There was a lot of back slapping, screaming, yelling, grunting, groaning and sweating! We had a sort of "gang," and if someone wasn't there we all knew it and would get on his case when we saw him at the chow hall. There was peer pressure to train. The weight room was dark, damp, and cold; but to us, it was warm, bright, and full of energy and life. We LOVED that place! Weights were banging everywhere, and 10s, 5s and 2-1/2s were tossed back and forth around the room. Everyone had chalk; in fact, it was all over us! We had a true brotherhood and so much fun training.

We would train come sleet or snow. Even base alerts (war games) didn't stop us from training. We usually worked 24-hour shifts, but when your shift was over you had free time. But you still had to comply with the "war" conditions if you remained on the base. Most guys would get the hell out of Dodge after they ate and slept. We would bring our gas masks to the gym and STILL TRAIN. I can remember squatting in my gas mask. This is real HIGH INTENSITY training! Glenn broke his lower leg (tibia) but kept training while it healed and even squatted with his cast on. He put a ten-pound plate under the shoe of his good leg to offset the heel bump on his cast. We never missed a workout, grew like crazy, and made tremendous progress. Anyone who trained with us at Bitburg would have made at least as much progress as they ever had anywhere else. As long as we had bars and plates, the rest of the equipment didn't matter.


"Maximum" Bob Whelan runs Whelan Strength Training in Washington, DC
BODY • MIND • SPIRIT