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Thursday, November 19, 2009

George Jowett

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Footsteps of Yesterday - By George F. Jowett

Originally posted on on 30 June 2000

Reprinted on Natural Strength with permission of The Iron Master

A great poet once wrote a great phrase; simple, but rich in eloquence. It ran: "Footsteps in the sands remind us of the great lives left behind us." To me that passage has been a guiding hand in my life work. I have always realized that in order to succeed, one must build on experience. While we are young we lack fundamental experience, and the only way we can get it, is from personal experience or from the study of the great lives who pioneered before us. They left footsteps, as we choose to term them, into which we can step and continue on from where they left off. The wise person searches for such footsteps of knowledge as short cuts to success. He saves the years that otherwise would have been aimlessly spent in acquiring personal experience. He delves into the lives and findings of his elders and absorbs their wisdom. It is truly said that youth whirls the world but age supplies the balance wheel. Too many young men fired with enthusiasm get lost in the whirl and fail to benefit from the balance. Many wonderful lives have been wasted from lack of forethought. By the time they acquire the formula to success too many years have sped past, and the years left to them are too short, or devoid of opportunity.

For this reason, I urge my youthful body building enthusiasts to pause a while in their enthusiasms, and spend a little while gleaming benefit from worthwhile examples of men who have left their footprints on the sands of time. These footprints are stepping stones. The world's progression is built on this same foundation. Your success in life can be more fully blessed by following the same example.

Enthusiasm and vanity walk dangerously hand in hand. Vanity is the despoiler. It too often causes the ears to be closed to reason-even your own sound judgment. More body builders fail because of vanity than from any other cause. Too often the body builder thinks success can only come from terrific effort. He thinks the more exercises he performs and the more repetitions per exercise, the quicker will his goal be reached. Not a part of this is true, no matter how others may tell you to train, train and train. The unfortunate part of it is, once a fellow has started he just hates to be restricted in his enthusiasm. He hates to cut down on weight and repetitions. He hates to turn from an exercise that makes him struggle, to practice one that better calls for a lighter weight. His vanity spitefully whispers and urges him to continue the old way. Enthusiasm is an essential factor to success, but too much of it can burn up your energy. It is difficult to curb enthusiasm but reason is a good curb.

Study the lives of those who reached the heights of idealism in physical perfection. They did not succeed overnight, not in a few months. It took time-yes, years. Then longer, within reason, it takes to build, the stronger will be the building, whether that building be made of stone or of the fabric of your own body. Don't let vanity get the best of you. Give reason to everything. Study the lives and the works of the great men of yesterday. Step into their footsteps and by so doing, bring out the best that is in you, physically and mentally.

Three Months of Training at WST - By Titus Solomon

If you train at WST you will reach your goals. I have been there for three months and very happy so far with my results. When I first met Bob at my orientation we talked about my goals: gaining weight andgetting stronger, how much I would have to eat and he told me in September "by this time next year you will be a solid 200+ pounds." And I was kind of surprised because I couldn't see myself being that big. I thought it would take a long time for me to get to 200. I weighed 165 at the time and was planning on putting 15 maybe 20 pounds max but 200+ pounds is too much. Right now its mid November about two
and half months at WST and I am 192. Even Bob was surprised how much I have gained in just three months. I am getting stronger and lifting heavier each session.

Besides the intense workouts another vital component is the nutrition. Like Bob says "who says that you can only eat cereal or toast in the mornings? Why not chicken, steak or have dinner for breakfast?" Thats right the only way to get big was to eat huge everyday. Sometimes I would eat leftovers from the night before (like chicken, pizza) for breakfast and yes most of the time my Mom and Sister would look at me like I am from another planet but who cares because at WST we are not normal. With that drink a lot of milk everyday - drink a gallon if you can. Tuna is another food that helps and I eat about two cans daily. So with the milk and tuna the calories add up to about 2600 calories already and this does not include my three BIG meals so everyday I am eating between 4500-5000 calories everyday.

Having Bob as your trainer is great because he will motivate you and push you to the limit - thats why the sign at the front of the door says "if you train here you are not normal" because at WST we train HARD. Bob is a great trainer, coach and friend. Sometimes when I am worn out and trying not pass out or puke he will keep your mind busy by talking about random things like football or basketball (don't get him started on the patriots or celtics), TV, food or traveling. He always has something interesting to talk about. If you are ready to train and work HARD, and SERIOUS you will be successful. After working hard and focusing on my goals I have become successful in about three months. If you think you can handle it give Bob a call.

Thanks Bob for your help!

Titus Solomon

EDITORS NOTE: Thanks Titus! You did all the work. Great job training (and eating)!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Originally posted on on 01 March 1999

Reprinted with permission of Hardgainer, Issue #59, March-April 1999

For all of my training life I've had the quiet comfort of knowing John Grimek was around to inspire and motivate me. He was my all-time Iron Game hero, a legend of unparalleled achievements, but who was universally described as a "good guy" by everyone who had the honor of meeting him. He was a guy you could really admire, look up to and respect not only for his titles or measurements, but as a man.

His pictures have always been on the walls of my gym, even if it happened to be my bedroom or garage. I have several of his pictures on the walls at Whelan Strength Training, from various decades of his life starting with the Mark Berry posters showing John in his early twenties, until several decades later showing his body even more muscular and better, with only his face showing signs of age. For my money, he was the best, a legend-the man! This greatest chapter in Iron Game history came to a close on November 20, 1998 when John C. Grimek passed on at age 88.

Vic Boff summed it up well when he stated, "For over five decades, John C. Grimek has been heralded as the Monarch of Muscledom throughout the world. He was the greatest combination Iron Game athlete-physique star, bodybuilder and strength performer-of all time and certainly the most popular, inspiring millions. He was a major influence in the lives of every top bodybuilder. He was the only bodybuilder in history who was never defeated in a contest. His charisma was so outstanding that everyone in the Iron Game wanted to meet him, shake his hand or get an autograph. His obliging patience was endless."

Grimek was also the only man to win the Mr. America title twice, and was also a member of the 1936 US Olympic weightlifting team. He won the Mr. Universe in 1948 and the Mr. USA in 1949. He was also an expert swimmer, diver, acrobat and muscle control expert. He was also very strong, and capable of a 400-pound jerk.

John probably did more to advance strength training in academia, teaching and coaching than anyone-especially as a legitimate method for training and preparing athletes. The all-prevalent musclebound myths of the day were largely dispelled and reversed by his awesome demonstrations of flexibility, grace and speed while working with Bob Hoffman and other members of the York Barbell Club. Modern strength and conditioning coaches may not have had a profession if not for John C. Grimek.

I began to train, involuntarily at first, at age 10. I was a good baseball player and was batting around 600 in little league. I just came home from a game and as soon as I got in the door, my father asked me, "How many hits ya get, ya bastard?" He had his usual beer in hand and was in his typical semi-intoxicated state.

"Three!" I proudly replied.

"How many home runs?"

"None," I replied.

My introduction to training was when my father responded, "You weak son of a bitch. Get on the floor and do pushups."

I did only three, and he really tore into me for that. I usually managed to make a positive out of most of the negative childhood situations with my father. He made me do pushups every night before bed, and soon I began to love the exercise because I felt stronger, which in turn raised my confidence and self-esteem; and I began hitting some home runs. Soon I was doing 90 pushups in a row.

I put up a chinning bar in the basement and was up to 18 in no time. I made a wrist roller. I walked around constantly squeezing rubber balls to strengthen my wrists because that was what Ted Williams did. I was hooked on training at an early age.

It was during this time that I bought my first copies of STRENGTH AND HEALTH and MUSCULAR DEVELOPMENT magazines. I was buying baseball cards near a magazine rack and a cover caught my eye. MUSCULAR DEVELOPMENT was a new magazine at that time (1964), and John Grimek was the editor. From my first glance of him, I was in awe, but greatly inspired. I always read every word in MD a liked it even more than S&H because of Grimek's influence. (I didn't even know about iron man till a few years later.)

I continued to lift cement blocks and copper tubing stored in the cellar, and did pushups, chins, dips between chairs, wrist roller work, situps and other calisthenics until I got my first York 110-pound barbell set for my birthday at age 13.

I was a fanatic and devoured everything related to training I could get my hands on. I was sad when I'd read all the articles in a new issue. I couldn't wait till the next month so I could ride my bike to the apothecary in Sherborn, Massachusetts, and buy the next issue.

I can remember the smell of the ink in the new issues. I had to hide the magazines because my father thought all the bodybuilders were "musclebound," but I knew better. My biggest heroes were Bob Hoffman and, especially, John Grimek. I still have a deep affection for and loyalty to the tradition of the York Barbell Company, and tremendous respect for its pivotal role, since the thirties, in the development of the Iron Game. To this day I will only buy York weights.

This background information is important because it should help you to understand the magnitude of the thrill I had in April 1976 when I drove to York, Pennsylvania, and met John Grimek. For an Iron Game/Physical Culture enthusiast, this was the equivalent of a baseball fan meeting Babe Ruth. I'd hoped to meet Bob Hoffman too.

I remember looking at all of Hoffman's medals and spending an hour or so in the museum section downstairs. I finally got the nerve up to ask if I could meet Bob Hoffman, but was told he was not in that day. I still regret not meeting him. But Grimek was upstairs in his office, and I was told that he would be happy to see me. My heart raced as I walked up a creaky staircase to his office. I sheepishly knocked on the office door and politely referred to him as Mr. Grimek.

Mr. Grimek invited me in and was extremely friendly. I was only 21 at the time and was completely in awe. At first I was surprised because he was well into his sixties at the time, but most of the photos I'd seen of him were not recent. He was in great shape, though, and I could tell that he still trained hard and regularly. He had his shirt sleeves rolled up, and I could see his huge biceps in full glory. He looked at least 20 years younger than most men of his age.

He asked me as many questions about my training, and my life in general, as I asked him. He seemed genuinely interested in me and I was impressed at how approachable and kind-hearted he was. He answered every question I had and was in no rush to have me leave. He signed an autograph for me that I guard with my life and proudly display on a wall of my gym. After asking every possible question I could think of, and spending about 30 minutes in his office, I felt I might start to be a pest. I thanked Mr. Grimek for his time, shook his hand, and let him get back to his work.

Dispelling myths

It wasn't until fairly recently that the term "musclebound" has finally been put to rest. You may hear it once in a while now, but mainly by ignorant people. Most people today believe that strength training is beneficial. It wasn't always that way, and as a kid growing up I would always hear about it and be discouraged from lifting. I never believed it was true, mainly because of the hard work and courage of John Grimek and Bob Hoffman, who told me the truth.

On April 4, 1940 Bob Hoffman brought several members of the York Barbell Club, including John Grimek, to Springfield College. Dr. Karpovich, of Springfield College, had been influential in pushing "musclebound" theories throughout academia, and was making most athletic coaches shy away from training with weights. Strength training was being seriously threatened, and John Grimek was instrumental in turning this around. After Grimek was introduced to the panel, the pompous academics sneered at him and seemed to mock him at first, believing he was nothing but a big clumsy oaf with limited movement and "bound" muscles.

Grimek went right up to each of them and said, "Can you do this?" He then proceeded to contort his body into every stretch and bend possible, and reportedly could come close to touching his elbows to the floor while keeping his knees straight! Each of the academics gave a pitiful performance of flexibility when responding to his challenge, to which Grimek replied, something to the effect of, "You're musclebound, not me!"

Hoffman then had Grimek and others perform all kinds of feats including one-arm chins, handstands, backbends, jumping splits and numerous stretches. After Karpovich had witnessed this, he was stunned. By the time Hoffman and Grimek got through with Karpovich, he changed his position to, "There's no such thing as musclebound."

Hoffman went further and challenged any athlete in any sport to compete against his York Barbell Club in any physical test outside of their own specific sport. The challenge was widely publicized. There were no takers, mostly because of the larger-than-life image of Grimek and the fear that he would humiliate any challenger.

Our responsibility

John Grimek was larger than life, much like John Wayne was. John was what the Iron Game and Physical Culture are really all about. He was the essence of how things were and how things should still be. When you think of John Grimek, you think of the glory days of the Iron Game before drugs ruined the honest competition, and the brotherhood.

The "good guys" in the Iron Game today have a sacred duty to carry on the tradition that John Grimek stood for and which Vic Boff and others still represent. Give no respect to steroid users-they are scum. Take down their pictures. Always keep your focus on good health as the primary motivation for your toil, and build muscle the old fashioned way-earn it by hard work and dedication, like John Grimek did.

"Maximum" Bob Whelan runs Whelan Strength Training in Washington, DC.

BARE BONES TRAINING - By "Maximum" Bob Whelan

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

Originally posted on 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

Friday, November 13, 2009


Originally posted on on August 3, 1999

Reprinted with permission of The Iron Master

This is one of the most argued about topics in strength training and the answer is not the same for everyone. Of course, you must train in a moderate to high rep range to make one set to failure work as low reps require a lot more warm-up sets. With classic one set to failure training, usually two, (or just a few), warm-up sets are done to start the workout. One for the major upper body exercise, (e.g. bench press), and one for the major lower body exercise, (e.g. the deadlift). Then you blast through the workout with all the training weights pre set with little or NO rest.)

If you TRULY TRAIN TO MUSCULAR FAILURE, then one set to failure works and is all you need. The problem is that many people, if not most, do not really go ALL OUT and don't understand what true muscular failure is. They think that they are going all out to failure, but they end the set. ONE SET TO FAILURE IS NOT ENOUGH IF YOU GO ALMOST ALL OUT!

One set to failure is not fun. It is brutal and UNCOMFORTABLE. I guarantee you that if you let Dr. Ken put you through a ONE SET TO FAILURE workout, you will not be smiling at the end of it, and you will not want to train any more either, for several days. Many people who claim to have tried one set to failure have only given it a 90 percent effort and then claim that it does not work. They have no clue. ONE SET TO FAILURE DEFINITELY WORKS, BUT YOU HAVE TO WORK YOUR ASS OFF TO MAKE IT WORK. It is sort of a reward for your efforts. You can actually get bigger and stronger than you have EVER been in your life, with only two fifteen minute workouts a week, IF (and that's a big if) YOU TRULY GO ALL OUT. MOST PEOPLE DON'T.
It all boil's down to this. THE HARDER YOU ARE WILLING TO WORK, THE LESS SETS YOU HAVE TO DO. PERIOD. Sometimes it takes several months of training before someone LEARNS HOW TO GIVE 100% and REALLY GO TO FAILURE. But some people NEVER LEARN, partly because they really don't want to do it, and are not willing to endure the pain it takes to make it work. For these people, multiple sets are better because they are not training HARD ENOUGH to make one set work.

People are always asking Drew Israel how much time he trains per week and when he gives them the answer, they frequently refuse to believe him. Drew usually trains, "30 minutes tops" PER WEEK! (Exactly as I described in the opening paragraph, including warm-up sets.) He trains to true failure and is on the floor at the end of the workout. Most people are not willing to train like this and probably would do better with two or three sets per exercise If you are willing to do what it takes, however, one set is a great thing.


Sometimes, especially for off season athletes, I want them to do multiple sets to failure (two or three) because I don't just want to build muscle and strength, but also STAMINA too. My goal is to train them even harder than they will be trained later when they report to their camp. I want them prepared. I don't want them to run out of gas after 30 minutes or less. It usually takes around 3 weeks to get through my one hour multiple sets to failure workout without feeling sick. THE HUMAN BODY CAN ONLY TAKE SO MUCH. But it's not just the strength factor I am concerned with, but the overall body stamina factor as well. To be able to stay on your feet for the whole hour workout is brutal. If you go down, you still try to get back up and finish the workout.

If you do multiple sets to failure, then you must be careful not to OVERTRAIN. This is where THE ART PART comes in and you use your instincts with variety in the volume.


You burn a lot less calories with one set to failure so you may have to put more emphasis on your cardiovascular training to keep your body fat down. Keep this in mind if you do one set to failure and the weight keeps piling on. You will build a lot of muscle and get stronger and stronger but you will be burning a lot less calories and may need to do extra cardio training to make up for this. One set to failure does work and will get you as big and as strong as you can possible get. It is a great thing and is so good it can almost make you feel guilty because it takes so little time. Me and Drew joke about this all the time. But its BRUTAL and not easy. This works ONLY for those who do it right. Remember, the harder you work, the less sets you have to do.

*** Editors Note: As long as you train Progessively (ie poundage progression), you will get good results. Going to failure is secondary to poundage progression but is a good method to make your workouts more intense. Going to failure is also the most time efficient way to train. The harder you are willing to work, the less sets you have to do and the less time it will take for you to train.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Second Capital City Strength Clinic - By Bob Whelan

Reprinted with permission of Hardgainer, Vol. 9, No. 6 (May-June 1998)

I put out 110 chairs thinking that I should have plenty, but I still had to borrow 6 more from the Chinese restaurant on the first floor. We almost doubled the attendance from last year. A very enthusiastic crowd of 116 people (excluding speakers) showed up, with many having driven hundreds of miles. We had people from all over, including Michigan, Ohio, Ontario, North Carolina, and Colorado. There were many from the New York and New Jersey area, largely because Iron Island Gym was well represented in the speaking department. Probably more than half the crowd was not local.

The theme of this year’s clinic was “Elements of Productive Strength Training,” and a variety of philosophies was represented by the speakers. My goal was to stress the similarities of all successful training programs, regardless of the specific mode or method used. My view has always been that a good coach can get to the root of things and keep training simple. (People who don’t know their subject will frequently hide their lack of knowledge by making things hard to understand.)

Strength training is similar to religion as far as strong opinions go. But by focusing on “getting stronger,” and not on minor details, and by stressing the similarities of various philosophies rather than getting into “cat fights,” we accomplished a great deal—and all within an atmosphere of brotherhood and camaraderie.

Anyone who did not want this atmosphere of brotherhood and camaraderie was warned that they should keep themselves under control or else they would have to leave. There have been several clinics on the east coast over the last few years that have been disrupted and spoiled by a few individuals who wanted to argue about minor details, and rattle speakers. These individuals say that they are trying to promote their type of training, and “Educate” people, but actually do no more than make people dislike them and reject their ideas. There was a mutual respect for all speakers at the clinic, and a true feeling of brotherhood.

Linda Jo Belsito

Linda Jo, who spoke about drug-free power training and what it takes to be a world champion, is a two-time (and current) world champion drug-free powerlifter (ADFP). She is always up for a new challenge and is now crossing over to Olympic weightlifting. She plans to compete in Olympic lifting soon. Her goal is to make the US Olympic team in the year 2000, in which weightlifting will be open to women for the first time. Linda Jo is stronger than most men, and squats and deadlifts over 400 lbs. She holds many world and national powerlifting records, and works as a Registered Nurse. She has also spent several years working for Dr. Ken at Iron Island Gym.

Linda Jo spoke about her workouts with Dr. Ken, and singled him out as the person who has probably helped her the most during her career. She said that he put her through some absolutely brutal workouts, such as 100-rep days where the only thing in the entire workout was to get 100 reps in the deadlift or squat. She said that those one-exercise workouts were among the toughest things she has ever done in her life.

Like many women, she used to be worried about her weight. Dr. Ken told her that if she was going to get stronger and be a champion powerlifter, she was going to have to eat. She would have to decide between bodybuilding and powerlifting. She decided to go into powerlifting. Her bodybuilding days were over. (She had previously been competing at bodybuilding, winning some amateur titles.) Once she focused on getting stronger, and eating what her body needed rather than be obsessed with a number on the scale, her poundages went way up!

She made up her mind that she was going to be a champion, and improved the details of her life that make a difference. She focused on getting more sleep each night, and eating better, and stopped partying. She started to really believe in herself, stopped associating with negative people, bought and read a lot of positive-thinking books, and listened to positive-thinking tapes.

Drew Israel

Drew Israel did more to advance slow training with his awesome demonstration of strength than all the cat fights ever did! Drew did several 10/10 gut-wrenching reps (ten seconds up, and ten seconds down) till he looked as if he was struck by lightning. He did this with well over 400 lbs on my Hammer Deadlift machine. Most people can’t do one rep with that using a regular speed, never mind a 10/10 cadence. Drew also did slow prone presses and upright rows on the same machine. Shortly afterwards he did some manual resistance work, with Eric Weinstein providing the resistance. Because Drew deadlifted first, and did not stay down long to recover, he was breathing extremely hard, which made the rest of his workout a lot tougher than it may sound on paper. The deadlifts alone were a workout and most people would have been KOed after doing them as hard as Drew did.

Drew spoke about how he made many training mistakes over the years. He has tried many training methods, and suffered many injuries. He especially had trouble with his back, and had to give up squatting with a barbell many years ago. He now trains almost exclusively with machines (no free weights except for an occasional set of dumbbell curls,) and works his legs with the Tru-Squat, Hammer Deadlift, and Hammer Leg Press. He started using slow-cadence training about a year and a half ago, and found it very beneficial for him. He loves it and now only trains using a slow cadence.

Drew does not like the image that many people have of training using slow reps, i.e., that it is only for wimps. It absolutely is not for wimps as it is a lot of hard work, and painful. Since he began to train slow, he now hardly ever gets hurt, and his body recovers a lot quicker than it did with conventional speed reps. Drew also feels that slow training is making him stronger than he has ever been.

Eric Weinstein & Jamie La Belle

Eric, featured in my “Nightmare on Seventh Street” article in issue #52, was put through a tough workout by Drew. Eric’s workout was finished off by two trips around the large room (and crowd) with the 225-lb sandbag. He got a thunderous ovation, as people appreciate hard work.

Classic high-intensity training was well represented by myself and Jamie La Belle. My talk was very similar to the information in my article in issue #53, in which I described progression as the unifying factor.

Jamie trains many professional athletes in all sports, and is a big believer in the importance of balanced routines and not overlooking any muscle group. He puts a lot of emphasis on the neck, wrists, calves, ankles and abs, which are undertrained areas for many athletes. He made a great point when he stated, “How many NFL players got put out of action by hurting their chests?” But the chest is usually the most overworked area. Most injuries are of the forgotten areas, which Jamie focused on.

Jamie stressed that most people spend too much time bench pressing. As a result they do not spend enough time on the exercises needed to keep their strength in balance over their whole body. Jamie usually has to train someone with twice as many pulling exercises as pushing exercises because they are so out of whack due to having spent so much time on the bench.

Jamie has his athletes do a lot of rowing, pulldowns and chins. He also uses a lot of manual resistance work, and is able to apply this for every muscle of the body. He has special manual resistance exercises to work even ankles, and has devised a manual resistance squat, which is a killer. He loves to pre-exhaust muscles, especially for very strong athletes with big egos who have their minds only on big numbers.

Jamie frequently take the bench press out of his athletes’ workouts, to get their training in proper balance. And when he does include the bench press, he will frequently have his athletes do it at the end of the workout, after their chests and triceps have already been hammered. Then the athletes are forced to get their minds off numbers and just on working hard.

Jamie uses mostly machines (Hammer Strength, Nautilus Power Plus, Med-Ex and Southern Xercise) as opposed to free weights, in his well-equipped gym on Long Island—The Quality Repetition. He has machines that cover the neck, calves and abs. He trains these small areas using the same principles employed for the big areas. He uses a slower-than-average speed of motion for all his machine exercises—about six seconds up and six seconds down. He stops his athletes from completely locking out, to keep a constant tension on the muscles. He is a big believer in the one-set-t-total-failure principle, but uses such a variety of exercises that his total volume for a workout would not be considered low. But keep in mind that he focuses on training competitive athletes. Jamie is highly opposed to ballistic type explosive training, especially plyometrics.

Andrea Rippe & Jay Spaid

Andrea Rippe, who was featured in my “Dinosaur Women” article in issue #46, gave a great talk about exercise selection and the importance of using compound multi-joint exercises as the foundation of your training program, similar to one of the themes of Brawn. She talked a lot about the balance between high volume and high intensity, and that if you do the hardest exercises intensively you can cut your volume way down. Many people spend too much time in the gym, but not enough time really working.

Jay Spaid gave a good talk about recovery. He coined the five- and six-day-per-week program as “drug routines,” and used some advertisements and articles from muscle mags to show the absurdity of much of the popular modern training routines.

One of our planned speakers, Brooks Kubik, who is a lawyer by trade, did not attend. He called just a few hours before the start of the clinic, to advise that he had a work-related “legal emergency” to attend to. It didn’t matter, as each speaker talked a bit longer than planned, and we even covered his topic, the mental aspects of training. The clinic actually ran about thirty minutes over, and went to 3:30 p.m.

This was a hands-on clinic—a coaches’ clinic, not a researchers’ clinic. We did not talk about actin and myosin, or the sliding-filament theory. We did not talk about how to organize a weightroom, periodization of synchronized swimmers, NSCA budgets or elections, or other boring typical clinic topics. We focused on the “meat and potatoes” of training. We focused on passion and the love of training that bonds us, not boring, “scientific” statistics to “prove” a point of view, and divide. We focused on strength training, not “conditioning.” When I opened the clinic with, “I’d like to welcome you to the second annual Capital City NSCA Strength and Conditioning Clinic,” I shouted “Strength” but whispered “Conditioning,” to make the focus of the clinic clear. Strength training is what most people want, and why I had so many people say that this was the best NSCA clinic they had ever attended.

One of the funny things that happened during the clinic was when a pigeon few in an open window and flew around the room. when it tried to fly out, it flew into a pane of glass and fell to the floor. Jamie La Belle yelled “PLYOMETRICS!” just as the pigeon fell to the floor. Luckily the pigeon was okay, just stunned. A few minutes later, the pigeon did the same thing again, and in unison many of the audience yelled “PLYOMETRICS!”

... For those who went to this year’s clinic, thank you for your support and enthusiasm. See you again next year!

"Maximum" Bob Whelan runs Whelan Strength Training in Washington, DC.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Originally posted on on June 29, 1999

Reprinted with permission of The Dinosaur Files

These guys don't just talk about training, read about it, write on the internet about it, or make excuses about why they can't do it. They just lift. These guys are the backbone of the Iron Game. They are the passion and the beauty of modern strength training. These guys are my brothers. Guys who work hard, sweat buckets, and move great poundages regularly and diligently in the icy cold garages of New England, in the barns of Iowa, or in the basements of London.

These are regular guys who train with a tenacity and dedication that is anything but regular. They do this because they love it. They believe in it. It is almost spiritual to them. They get no money, fame or glory for it. No one is making them do it; they just do it for themselves. They love getting stronger but would never dream of taking steroids to gain strength.

They just love to train hard and stretch their natural physical capacity to the limit. They live their life by the sacred code of our physical culture forefathers -- the code of GOOD HEALTH, STRENGTH, and DEDICATION, not the latest megahype gimmick.

I am talking about guys like Jon Schultheis of Keansburg, New Jersey, who is one of the strongest guys that you have probably never heard of. Jon has come down to train with me a few times, and I've put him through some brutal workouts. He loves to train hard. So does Jim Duggan of Seaford, New York, who can bench press over 400 pounds for several reps with a 3" bar! (Jim is one of the best natural lifters of all time.) Guys like Paul Condron of Manchester, England, who does regular farmers walks with 120 pound bells, going uphill for about 1/4 mile, or Lowell Boisen of Sioux City, Iowa, who is 65 years young and does regular power rack training, outside, including partial deadlifts with over 500 pounds!

There are many more guys like them, and I wish I could mention them all. They all deserve some recognition. Guys like these define what strength training is all about. The pure love of training. The brotherhood of iron. We all share this common goal and common bond that unites us. Passion for natural strength and hard training. Iron Nation is the brotherhood of Iron, Strength and Hard Work. All are welcome if they are willing to pay the price. Race, religion, political or nationality don't matter when you are battling iron. Citizenship to this nation requires only EFFORT and DOING, not excuses and theorizing.

You earn respect only by DOING. Not talking. Nothing turns me off more than a so-called expert who does not even train. There are so many of them. Many conferences and seminars are given by guys with 12-inch necks! It's incredible! These are the types of guys who usually spend hours each day on the internet arguing about strength training philosophy. They love to attack or put down others but would never have the balls to say it to their faces. They hide behind the computer screen, usually thousands of miles away using a phony name. The funny thing is that many if not most of these guys do not train and are ashamed to be seen.

Many of the PhD researcher types also fall into this category. They can talk forever about the human physiological response to strength training. However, they know nothing about real world strength training because they don't do it.

Respect is earned by doing, but it's not just how much you life that earns respect. It's about EFFORT. It's the guys who just lift that make brotherhood and good will come naturally. They are willing to put forth the effort and dedication that earns respect and promotes camaraderie. It's hard not to like a guy who works his ass off! It's hard not to respect a coach who works your ass off. Even a beginner who is not strong will be respected and liked if he works hard. People who train hard themselves usually respect others who train hard. They respect hard work because they do it. They know how it feels! They understand how tough it is. It's usually the pencil-neck type, who doesn't train hard himself, who loves to foster ill will and argue about minor issues (not load related). In fact, load (or poundage) is the last thing these guys want to talk about. They are more comfortable typing pages of excuses on the internet than getting themselves under the squat rack.

To all these geek types, here is some simple advice: SHUT-UP AND LIFT!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Essentials for Success - By P.J. Striet

Originally posted on in Aug 1999

I've seen a growing trend in the weight training world as of late: attention to detail. It seems as if everyone wants
to talk about the ideal time under load, what repetition (rep) range to pick based on their fiber type, what
philosophy book to read, what supplement to take, how many exercises to perform in a session, how many
movements and sets per body part, etc. etc.

Some of these issues have merit, I suppose. However, in my opinion, the five following components will "make
or break" your training success.

1) Consistency

You must train on a consistent basis. Training twice a month is not a consistent basis, nor will it bring any
results. If you expect to get anything out of a routine, consistency is your first order of business. I think one can
train hard 6-12 times monthly. The exact number will depend on your training level, age, job and family
responsibilities etc. Allow enough time for recovery, but don't get carried away.

2) Overload & Progression

You need to have some type of progression scheme. You must consistently overload your body, and the easiest
way to do that is to lift more weight, or perform another rep. I don't care if you are training to failure using one
set, training to failure using multiple sets, not training to failure, training with free weights, training with machines,
training with rocks, training the Olympic lifts, or training in any other manner - YOU MUST FORCE YOUR BODY
TO WORK AT PROGRESSIVELY HIGHER LEVELS. Basically, when I train, I want my body to say, "Oh sh*t!"
That would be my definition of overload. If you don't train progressively, you are kidding yourself.

3) Desire

You have to want to train. If you are going to train, then train hard. Do not "play at it". A training session is not
some kiddy scissors class. I don't know how many people I have seen come into a gym on a consistent basis,
and consistently do nothing. You know the types I'm talking about. The people who will use the same weight on
every exercise, for the same reps, time and time again. The ones who socialise, take a lot of water breaks, and
otherwise do nothing. These individuals would be much better off going to an ice cream parlour and eating ice least their heart would be in that.

4) Safety

If you can't perform a certain exercise safely, you are not going to perform it well, and therefore are not going to
see many gains from that movement. I'm a big believer in the squat and deadlift. If one has the leverages, and
their medical history allows, that individual should be performing these movements. When I talk about safety, I'm
speaking in terms of the potential for injury...not the potential for experiencing discomfort. Feeling a certain
amount of muscular discomfort during a compound joint exercise is inevitable. This is NOT a reason not to
perform an exercise. Similarly, telling yourself "I'll just do leg presses in place of squats", when there is no
reason you can't squat, is not an option. If one expects to get results, then one must be willing to bust his/her ass
on movements which bring a large level of discomfort (squats, deadlift variations, presses, etc.).

5) Keep It Simple

• Train the largest muscular structures of the body with a limited number of compound exercises (eg squats
and pulldowns) and any isolation movements needed to prevent injury (biceps and wrists)

• Perform an exercise until you can no longer perform it. Squat until you don't rise from the bottom position.
Press until the bar doesn't budge from your chest or shoulders. Deadlift until the bar doesn't come off the

• Perform your reps in a controlled manner (do NOT count rep speed)

• Eat a variety of nutrients that allow for growth and recovery

• Attempt to progress each workout. Leave the gym knowing you gave it your best on that particular day.

Is this method "scientific"? No. Is it effective? You bet.


Originally posted on on July 23, 1999

Reprinted with permission of The Iron Master

It may sound strange to some people to attach low (to moderate) reps with the term "High Intensity," but I've done it for years with great success. IN FACT, IT IS MY FAVORITE WAY TO TRAIN. Too many people assume too many things in the strength training field. They think like programmed robots. They need to follow an organization or play "follow the leader." They can't even be friends with people with different training ideas. They view them as "the enemy." That is one of the many things wrong with this field. If more people would just think for themselves, there would be less division and more brotherhood.

There are many methods that will work and there are many combinations of various philosophies that work. There are many schools of thought in strength training and most of these philosophies work. They each have some value and truth, (just more or less for different people). Why must HIGH INTENSITY always mean HIGH reps? It doesn't have to. It does not always mean ONE set to failure either. (Many high intensity types do multiple sets too.) HIGH INTENSITY means HARD WORK. It is measured by the amount of Work done per unit of time. If you work out for one hour, the more work that you do in that hour, than the higher the intensity.

I have always liked the high intensity philosophy, but I believe that it is even more effective for strength development if there is MORE EMPHASIS ON STRENGTH not muscular endurance. Of course ANY form of progression is beneficial, but I believe that a lower rep range puts even more emphasis on STRENGTH. (Just remember to do a few more warm up sets.) Many people confuse "hard work" with strength development and get too caught up in the image of vomiting or passing out on the ground, etc. Don't get me wrong, this definitely does happen with me too, but it is not the GOAL or the way to measure how hard someone has worked. Some guys are just more prone to get sick while others never do. Vern Veldekens is the type of guy who ALWAYS gets sick so I put his name on my bucket. Most of my people only get sick during the initial conditioning phase of training and once they are conditioned, they rarely do. The truth is, some of the hardest workers that I have ever seen have never vomited. It happens sometimes, yes, but it is not a way to measure a good workout.

I start beginners with high reps of at least 10 or more per set. I train myself (and some of my advanced clients) using a rep range of 5-8 reps most of the time, but will also train several months of the year using higher reps (10-20) too. I believe that it is healthy both mentally and physically to change your rep range periodically. It gives your joints a break from the constant heavy load too. This is what I call "common sense periodization," not the official orthodox definition of periodization which I find illogical. Strength and hypertrophy are built together, not in separate phases. (In my Go Hard or Go Home training video, I chose to use higher reps because I believe it shows effort better on tape as there is less breaks in the action.) Of course, if you are training to compete or demonstrate strength, or your sport is in a specific energy system, then you will have to keep your rep range constant in relation to your performance goal.

I believe that the lower rep range, combined with the high intensity philosophy is optimal for strength development and an extremely tough way to train. I believe it is more productive than the usual high rep sets for strength development as each set is usually kept in the first energy system of 0-45 seconds. This is the system (ATP) where the type 2b Fast twitch fibers are targeted which are the primary fibers for strength and power development. In other words, you should reach muscular failure for the set at 8 reps or less. When 8 reps are done in perfect form, ADD WEIGHT.

The poundage should take care of speed of motion. Controlled positive speed reps are more sensible using higher reps. The first four or five reps are controlled and then as the weight gets harder to move, you let yourself go. This does not apply to low reps. If the weight is HEAVY ENOUGH and you are doing lower reps, there is no time for games. You just focus on getting the weight up. If the weight is HEAVY with low reps, it won't fly up. Just concentrate on LOWERING THE WEIGHT SLOWLY. If you do this, it is not ballistic. You can not use proper mental focus if you are worried about your speed of motion. Your mind should be in the mood of a "disgruntled Postal Worker," or, COMBAT/HATE/ANGRY/ATTACK mode. When your mind is ready and in this mode, you should not ruin it by counting and worrying about how many seconds it takes to ram it up. This splits your mind. Just get the weight up. If the weight is moving too fast (in 8 reps or less), then it's too light. Add enough weight to slow it down!

Alternate pushing and pulling exercises to give your muscles additional time to rest even though your actual rest is minimal. Do sets to failure. If doing multiple sets use the "Controlled Failure" method where you stop at 8 reps (if reached) but on the LAST set, go all out to failure. I usually do three exercises in a row and then give a minute rest. I give a longer rest after leg exercises like squats, deadlifts or leg presses. I manipulate exercise sequence to keep rest to a minimum too. I now do neck work (Hammer 4 way neck) after legwork so not to waste time. They are getting additional rest while still training. These tricks help to raise intensity and keep rest to a minimum.


1. PROGRESSIVE RESISTANCE - The primary way to increase intensity is to increase the LOAD, (or progressive poundages). This is BY FAR the most important way, in fact the other ways are meaningless UNLESS YOU DO THIS AS A TOP PRIORITY. One of my pet peeves with some high intensity advocates is that they always talk about going to muscular failure and maximum muscular contractions as if this were the most important thing. This is important, but secondary to poundage progression. You can go to failure doing pushups or any other bodyweight exercise. If you go to failure using light weights, you are just kidding yourself.

2. MAXIMUM MUSCULAR CONTRACTION (or going to muscular failure).

3. REDUCE REST between sets. If you train for an hour, the more work you do in that hour, than the higher the intensity as you are working more and resting less. Also you are training for strength under adverse conditions. When you get the extra rest when you DEMONSTRATE your strength, you will be even stronger for it.

4. STRICTER FORM. The stricter the form, the more work for your muscles. (Less momentum etc.)

Monday, November 9, 2009


Originally posted on on June 2, 1999

Reprinted with permission of The Dinosaur Files

There is a cult of underachievers in the strength training field that believes in a "minimalist" training philosophy. These minimum mentality advocates are constantly searching for the minimum amount of training possible. They stretch the limits of recovery to the extreme and train as little as possible. They go far beyond recovery and deep into atrophy. Only in strength training do you find such a negative view of self-improvement. If you want to get better at almost anything, do you brag that you only practice for 5 minutes once every two or three weeks, and try to get better by doing even less? If so, you would NEVER improve at anything you were trying to do--including strength training.

Most of the guys who advocate this underworking philosophy look average and untrained. This is understandable considering they spend just a couple of days per month training. Deep down, they hate training and will come up with every excuse in the world to avoid it. They avoid hard work like the plague. It's easy to see how this philosophy sells. There are a lot of lazy suckers out there who love the idea of taking a two or three-week break between workouts. These types believe that less training is the answer for everything. Not getting stronger? Can't get bigger? Don't work harder or lift heavier, just take three weeks off! What a farce! The truth is that less training is only better when compared to too much training, such as the five and six days per week body part routines. Most people do not need less training, they need to work harder and lift heavier! Everyone should be searching for the right amount of training, which is not always less training.

The minimalists claim that they overtrain unless they get anywhere from 10-21 days of recovery (or more) after a very short workout, usually using a slow speed cadence. I guess they don't believe in muscle atrophy. If you want to just make up your own organization and certification program to back your philosophy, you can say whatever you want, but muscular atrophy is a scientific fact. Usually somewhere in the area of 72-96 hours of recovery is enough and rarely up to about 120-144 hours after a brutal (50s day type) workout emphasizing load. This is not just my opinion but also according to Dr. Wayne Westcott. There is a big difference between an extra day or two of rest once in a while, which is helpful, and regularly grossly undertraining. Too much recovery is deconditioning and will lead to muscular atrophy. Period. You will not get an optimum training effect with two or fewer workouts per month. (Or regularly and consistently taking ten or more days off between workouts.)

Most minimalists train slow, which should require even less recovery, not more. It is almost impossible to get sore when training slow because of the light weights being used. That is why slow training is so good for rehab as it is a gentler way to train. You need less recovery training slow because the lighter weights being used cause far less micro-trauma to the muscles. Ask Drew Israel. A few months ago he was "ambushed" by Dr. Ken and his son, Greg Roman-Leistner, a coach with the Carolina Panthers. They put Drew through a regular speed workout with heavier weights. (When on Dr. Ken's turf, you do it his way.) Drew had previously trained slowly for over a year, mainly because of his history of injuries. He was sore for almost a week. I jokingly refer to this episode of Drew's as "How Drew Got His Groove Back!" The truth is that you need even less recovery training slow because of the lighter weights used. It's the load that causes the micro-trauma.

The underachievers who are aiming to do the minimum will get only minimum results. They spend far too much energy worrying about overtraining, even though most of them have probably NEVER really trained hard in their lives and have probably never overtrained. They are always striving to do the least amount of work to stimulate the muscles, instead of just doing the right amount of work to ensure that the muscles have been hit hard (about twice every seven to ten days), I personally think it is destructive to strive to do the minimum amount of work to stimulate the muscles. I believe this theory is the main reason behind the failures of most underachievers.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Practical Progression - By John Szimanski, Jr.

Originally posted on on June 1, 1999

Every good lifter knows of and accepts the idea that progression is the key to getting stronger. Progression can be in the form of more weight or more reps, or, both. While we all know that being able to do more reps means that we are stronger, it's the increase in weight that brings a smile. It's the increase in weight that demonstrates improved strength.

Typically, regardless of where we start out, we reach a point where it seems impossible to make that next 5 or 2½-pound jump. Sometimes we successfully work past it, by any of a number of strategies; only to re-encounter it a short way down the road. If you are at your maximum potential, you may not be worried about trying to add more weight. Chances are pretty good that you are not so close to your maximum potential that you are willing to stop trying to add weight. There may be a way you CAN continue to add weight.

Let's start by examining the fundamental principle of fractional loading. Stated as a concept rather than a law: the typical human body cannot discriminate, by feel, 1 pound increments with anything weighing over 100 pounds.

To illustrate, load a bar to 100 pounds and load another, identical bar to 101 pounds. Have a blindfolded lifter unrack one bar, then the other several times. Ask him which bar is heavier each time. Unless he is a genetic wonder, he cannot possibly discern a difference in the weights. He might guess correctly 50% of the time; those odds are built in. But, he cannot factually tell. The threshold of human tactile sensitivity cannot detect the difference between 100 pounds and 101 pounds, 200 pounds and 201 pounds, etc.

Here's another example many of you have experienced. Do your bench warm ups and work sets all the way to your final top set as you usually do. We assume your top set is intense, i.e., to failure. Add 5 pounds to the bar, unrack and proceed to lift. You can't make it. The additional 5 pounds feels like a ton. Now, strip the 5 pounds and replace it with 1 pound. Unrack and lift. Bet you made it.

The key is the difference of just a few pounds, two pounds too much might as well be 100 pounds. Regardless, you won't lift it. You see it at meets all the time. Lots of lifters practice 'peaking' and, it's an effective strategy most of the time. But, how many times have you seen a win turned into a loss by a few pounds? How many workouts of 'no progress' have left you dejected?

Let's start at the beginning of a cycle and look at how fractional progression is applied to the utmost advantage. Say your deadlift workout is three increasing worksets with the top set using your maximum weight for the workout. Your previous PR is 400 pounds and you are currently doing 200 pounds for 10 reps at the top. These are easy workouts for you. They get you warmed up and you feel great. You feel like you could add 400 pounds now. But use your head. Be patient. Keep your eye on the light at the end of the tunnel.

A few days later, after you rest and eat well, you're champing at the bit to HIT the iron. Add 15 pounds to your top set this workout. After several workouts using this procedure, you are using over 300 pounds. Still well within your capabilities, but it is becoming more like work. Slow the increments to 10 pounds for several workouts. As you get around 380 it starts to get tough. Slow down to 5-pound increments for a few weeks.

Now you're up to 395 and you're working your tail off. You have good control of the weight, great form, and you have a little oomph left at the end of each workout, but now you're undeniably working out. Enjoy the success. Take a few moments before the next workout to recall how good this workout was. Savor it. Mull over how great the next workout will be, because you know you will increase the weight and you cannot possibly fail. Now it's time to get fractional.

At the next workout add 1 pound. Just 1 pound! As you work your way to the top set recall that you are absolutely certain to make the weight. You know your body cannot possibly tell the difference between this load and the load at the last workout. You did it then and you absolutely will do it now. There are no other possibilities. It's easy to envision yourself doing it because you know you will do it. When you get there, the top set will seem to fly.

Continue adding just 1 pound, and following the same procedure, at each workout. The old 400 maximum will no longer be an issue. Just concentrate on that 1 pound more you know you will lift at the next workout. Ignore the actual total. Focus on that inevitably successful 1 pound increase.

You will sail right past that old theoretical PR. You will probably have to take a breather from the intensity before you actually fail at a lift. You used to get to 400 and stall for 3 months with no progress. This time around, at the end of the same 3 months, and before you know it, you are lifting 425. And, you are smiling. "Big time". The best part is, you're still moving up.

Now is a good time for a reality check. We know we can add 10 or 15 pounds at a time, make progress, then begin to stall. We know if we then slow to 5-pound increases we can keep going. And now we know, if we slow to 1 pound increases, we can go on lifting more, virtually forever. Baaaaahhhh. Wrong. Nobody but nobody goes on lifting ever-increasing weight forever. You could slow down to ½ or ¼-pound increments and go a bit further. But at some point, if you actually could continue on and on, you will reach your true PR range, your true potential, your 'best' condition. So there is a double-edged sword of truth here: you can't go on lifting more ad infinitum yet, how many people do you know, who are at or near their true potential? One, two, none?

The bottom line - there's another tool for your toolbox. You pull it out when it's time. You use it when it's appropriate. There is no magic to it. But, there is guaranteed progress.

Like any other nice piece of equipment, nicely finished, personalized, accurate fractional plates can offer a little extra kick in the motivation department. But there is no denying that hanging ½ pound of peanut butter on each side of the bar will do the same thing. It's your choice 'how'. Just do it.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Effort and Dedication Make Many Methods Work - by Bob Whelan

Reprinted with permission of Hardgainer, Vol. 9, No. 5 (March-April 1998)

A few years ago, while attending the annual conference of the National Strength and Conditioning Association in New Orleans, I was having a conversation with a well known Ph.D. “researcher type.” We talked for about twenty minutes, and seemed to be getting along great. Out of the blue he asked me, “Do you do power cleans?” When I replied that I did not usually do them (but I had nothing against him for doing them), he abruptly stopped talking to me and walked away.

There are many jerks in the training field. They think that they alone have all the answers, and if you don’t agree with their particular theory or approach, then you are their enemy. Their whole self esteem is based on having you agree with them.

And there are also many narrow-minded robots who can only think in one direction at a time. They take any variation or difference of opinion as a personal insult.

Every time someone thinks he has all the answers, I can find hundreds of strong men who don’t train like the know-it-all says they should, but they are usually a lot bigger and stronger than the “expert.”

Many of these know-it-all types love to argue, and like to use “science” as their defense. There is a big problem here because every camp has its own version of science. Each uses its own “pet” researchers who espouse the “party line.”

I hold a Master's degree in exercise science and can tell you that most professors of exercise science look like they never touched a weight in their lives. They can talk forever about the body’s physiological response to strength training, but have no clue on how to use the various modes and methods of training.

Many of the leading scientists and researchers don’t agree on the best modes and methods of training. Talk to Ted Lambrinides, Wayne Wescott, Ralph Carpinelli, James Graves or Mike Pollock and you may not get the same “scientific” explanation as you would from Mike Stone or William Kramer. And talk to Ellington Darden and you may get something all together different.

There are few absolute rules in strength training

One of the absolute rules I know of is that hard work (or progressive strength training), plus good nutrition and adequate recovery, equals good results. I feel sorry for the beginner who reads the “cat fights” and opposite views each backed by “science” as supposedly the best way to train. The beginner may be so confused that he does not know what to do. One author may have “absolute scientific principles” that “prove” you must train “explosively.” Then turn the page and the next author says he has the grip on “science” that you must, for example, train using extremely slow reps.

There is a big difference between giving an opinion of what works for you, and giving information that is defined as scientifically “proven” as the “best” way to train. According to Dr. Wayne Wescott, the only significant factor in a successful strength-training program is to train progressively in the anaerobic energy system. All other facts are minor compared to this, and provide different results for different people.

The enjoyment factor

Most people will get best results doing what they enjoy. You can’t argue about what someone else likes to do. If you like to train using slow reps, go for it, but don’t tell me that I must do it, too, or that I shouldn’t be moving my facial muscles or screaming as I train. If you like to train fast (or explosively), and can do it without getting hurt, then do it. Both ways can work, but neither is the best way.

Climbing mountains can be dangerous, but if you have a passion for climbing them you should be able to. It’s the same with lifting rocks and sandbags, and doing power cleans or snatches. If you enjoy doing this sort of training, or have a background in Olympic lifting, then do it. I don’t perform the Olympic movements too often because I don’t enjoy them. My background is in powerlifting.

I also don’t believe that power cleans, snatches and jerks work as much as muscle as other exercise variations. I would rather do deadlifts, rowing, presses and shrugs.

I believe that the power clean is only beneficial in the bottom of the lift and, after the initial explosion, the bar is in what Dan Riley calls “upward freefall.” Then you just fall under the bar. No musculature is being worked much after the initial explosion, and the musculature that was worked was only trained intensively through a minimal range of motion. It takes great skill to power clean right and avoid injury. I would rather teach people lifts that don’t require as much learned skill to do them. But I don’t hate anyone who likes the power clean. It can still be a fine exercise if you do it right.

The safety factor

If you are a coach, you have to judge what is best for your athletes or clients considering their different ages, medical backgrounds and injury history. For some people, lifting rocks or sandbags would be crazy. Everyone I train does not perform the same workout. A young tough athlete will be trained extremely hard. A beginner in his forties will be started very carefully and conservatively. I don’t want any deaths in my gym.

Speed of motion vs. poundage

It’s common sense that speed of motion and poundage are directly related, and are like the opposite ends of a see-saw. The faster the speed of motion, the heavier the poundages that can be used. And the slower the speed of motion, the lower the poundage that can be used. Both ways can be productive. But the terminology used in the different camps of training is not the same.

Enthusiasts of slow training would be far more effective at winning over opinions if they talked more about progression and getting stronger, and less about minor details and overcomplicating training. Training is not nearly as complicated as they enjoy making it. It seems to me that most slow-speed enthusiasts are more concerned about the strength curve of the machine that the strength of the person using the machine. They love the word “inroads” but don’t talk enough about strength and progression. Regular-speed proponents like to talk about strength, poundage and progression. These factors should still be the focus if you are training slow, and are the unifying factors of all methods.

Strength is defined as the ability to produce force. Many conventional-speed trainers believe that slow-rep training with less resistance (force) is simply taking strength training one step closer to calisthenics. Most people fall on one side or the other when it comes to speed of motion, but I see no problem with using more than one rep speed. But you need to understand the difference between poundage and progression.

Progression, not the numbers game

Using the highest possible poundage (or the highest number) is not always the same thing as progression. Poundage comparisons only have validity when comparing the same mode of training and rep speed. It’s possible to use bigger poundages but without necessarily having progressed, just as it’s possible to use reduced poundages and yet still make progress.

Certain machine variations of barbell exercises force a considerable reduction in weight used, e.g., the Tru-Squat reduces squatting poundage by 50%. It’s the same thing with speed of motion. You will use a lot less weight going at a slower speed. Poundages are only relative when measured against the same modes, rep speeds and equipment. For example, you may Hammer Leg Press 530 lbs for 8 reps at regular speed (2 seconds concentric, 4 seconds eccentric), but only be able to use 375 lbs for 8 reps at 8/8 speed. You should not let the number 530 make you feel inferior if you if you use an 8/8 speed and the accompanying reduced poundage. The workout with 375 lbs may even be harder and take more effort because it’s on an entirely different scale to that used for the 530 lbs. You can’t compare numbers at different rep speeds. Just focus on progression within the speed used.

Many people will not even consider using certain machines, or training at a slower speed, because they will have to train with lighter weights. It’s an ego thing or numbers game with them. They focus on numbers and not progression.

Don’t be hung up on numbers. Focus on progression—i.e. adding weight (using consistently good form, of course)—in the rep speed and/or on the equipment you are using. Progression, not purely the highest poundage number, is the top priority and the constant unifying factor regardless of the speed of motion or apparatus used.

Slow-rep cadence training has a bad image in the eyes of many poorly-informed conventional-speed people. This is because many people who are not strong are attracted to slow-rep training. They like it because it helps to camouflage the lack of weight being used. They can always have an excuse for the lack of weight by saying that they are going slow. Most of the people I know who do slow-rep training never talk about progression, which is why most of them look so puny. Remember, if you do use slow-rep training, the key is still progression regardless of the speed used.

There are exceptions, and more and more strong guys including NFL teams are now using slow-speed training. People like Drew Israel and Jeff Watson train using slow reps, but keep progression as their top priority; and they are getting great results. You do not have to train 10 up and 5 down. Drew is using 10/10; and Jeff Watson has coined “deep training” which is a single rep, or low reps, of 30 seconds or more for each.

I’m a regular-speed guy, but still use slow training as a change of pace. At least once a month we will use it. The speed of motion I’ve been using for this is 8 seconds up and 8 seconds down, for 8 reps to add weight. Slow training is especially good for rehab.

Don’t let the so-called experts with narrow definitions of science confuse you. Reread Brawn whenever you get confused, and get back to basics. Remember the basic Hardgainer philosophy of hard work, good food, and plenty of recovery time. Combine this with lots of effort and dedication, and you can succeed with one of many specific modes or methods of training.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Effective Strength Training: Understanding the Intensity-Duration Relationship - By Dave Durell

Originally posted on on June 1, 1999

The optimal number of sets of resistance exercise required to produce maximum increase in strength remains a very controversial topic. In order for any strength training program to be considered effective, obviously that program would have to produce an increase in strength. If two different systems both produced an equal increase in strength, then other criteria must be utilized to determine which is truly the most effective. These additional criteria would be the amount of time invested to achieve the desired result, as well as the amount of effort expended. Thus, the most effective system of strength training (or anything else) would be the one which produced the greatest possible results with the lease possible amount of effort in the shortest possible time. The purpose of this article is to compare single set training to multiple set training to determine which training protocol comes closest to being the previously mentioned most effective system.

Multiple set training is defined as performing more than one set of a certain resistance exercise, typically 2 to 5 sets. Usually a 1 to 2 minute rest period is taken between sets. Traditionally, multiple set systems have been considered a requirement to stimulate maximum strength gains (1). While multiple set training has produced unquestionably good results in a multitude of trainees over the years, this system contains one inherent flaw: it attempts to defy the principles of logic, reason, and human physiology by disregarding the incontrovertible relationship between intensity and duration.

Intensity is defined as the percentage of possible momentary effort being exerted (2). Duration is the amount of time over which such efforts are conducted. To paraphrase, intensity is how hard it is, while duration is how long it takes. There is universal agreement that intensity is the single specific stimulus required to generate increased muscular strength. The critical, yet often ignored, factor involved in strength training programs is that intensity and duration are inversely proportional. This means that as the intensity of effort increases, the amount of time that such an effort can be sustained will proportionately decrease. These are incontrovertible facts not subject to debate which can be readily observed in everyday life. It is literally impossible for a human being to sustain 100% intensity for prolonged periods of time.

Consider, for example, the activity of running, something almost all of us have had experience with since we were children. Picture yourself sprinting at top speed for a distance for 50 yards. Now imagine yourself running a distance of one mile. Can you run the mile at the same all-out pace you used in sprinting the 50 yards? Of course not. Why? Because intensity and duration are inversely proportional. Since you drastically increased the duration of your run, the intensity had to decrease, whether you wanted it to or not.

Once the facts regarding the intensity-duration relationship are clearly established, it becomes possible to manipulate these variables to produce the desired training result. Since intensity is the factor responsible for stimulating strength gains, and duration is inversely proportional to intensity, an ideal strength training program would combine the highest possible intensity with the lowest possible duration. One set per exercise, performed until no further volitional movement is possible, satisfies these requirements.

Have any studies been performed comparing multiple set to single set training? One study performed at the university of Florida (3) consisted of 25 subjects performing 1 set of lumbar extension exercise 1 day/week for 10 weeks. Strength increases ranged from 42% to 102%. A second study performed at the University of Florida (4) utilized a total of 110 subjects who performed either 1 or 2 sets of lumbar extension exercise 1 day/week for 12 weeks. The results showed significant and similar improvements for both groups as compared with controls. The researchers concluded that performing more that one set was unnecessary for increasing strength in the muscles of the lumbar spinal area.

Another interesting study was performed by Golds Gym of Bristol, CT and ESPN cable television network (5). This study compared the effects of a 3-set, 2-set, and 1-set upper extremity resistance training program on 61 subjects. Results showed an average overall strength increase of 16.42% in the 3 set group, 23.54% in the 2-set group, and 26.95% in the 1-set group.

How do these results compare with other similar studies? A review by Fleck and Kramer (1) showed that the average increase in strength for most studies using isometric or isotonic testing and training of a variety of different muscle groups was between 20% and 30%. Thus from a theoretical as well as practical standpoint, it appears that single-set training systems produce comparable or superior strength gains in less time and with less total
effort than typical multiple-set training systems.

How can this information be utilized by the individual wishing to make his own training program as effective as possible? The following guidelines are offered:

1. Make each repetition as intense as possible by maintaining strict form. This includes controlling the repetition speed, taking care to move the weight by muscular force alone without momentum. No quick starts, bouncing or heaving. Lift the weight smoothly, pause at the end position, and lower slowly under full control.

2. Make each set as intense as possible by continuing that set until no further volitional movement is possible, that is, to muscular failure. Continue performing strict repetitions until you are stopped in your tracks during the repetition despite your greatest effort. Remember, if you complete a repetition, no matter how hard it was, you must attempt another one! Make sure, however, you have the proper safety measures in place first, i.e. racks to catch the weight in a safe position and a competent spotter.

3. Make each workout as intense as possible by performing only one set per exercise in the fashion described above. Remember, intensity and duration are inversely proportional; if you do extra sets , the intensity of your workout will decrease, reducing its effectiveness. In addition, keep your workouts as brief as possible by limiting the total number of exercises performed to one, or at the most two, per muscle group.

I hope this article has provided a clearer understanding of the intensity-duration relationship as it applies to effective strength training. Such an understanding, properly applied, is the cornerstone of an effective strength training program.

1. Fleck, SJ; and Kramer, WJ: Designing Resistance Training Programs. Human Kinetic Books; Champaign, IL 1987.

2. Mentzer, Mike: Heavy Duty. Self Published, 1992.

3. Pollock, ML; Leggett, SH; Graves, JE, et al: "Effect of Resistance Training on Lumbar Extension Strength". Am J Sports Med 1989; 17: 624-629.

4. Hochschuler, SH; Guyer, RD; and Cotler, HB (ed): Rehabilitation of the Spine. Mosby-Year Books, Inc., 1993.

5. Sansone, J; and Fitts, B: ESPN/Golds Gym Fitness Study. Unpublished Study, 1993.