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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Essentials for Success - By P.J. Striet

Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on June 9, 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 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 system, 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 shit!" That would be my definition of overload. If you don't train progressively, you are kidding yourself.

3) Desire: Quite simply, 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 socialize, take a lot of water breaks, and otherwise do nothing. These individuals would be much better off going to Graeter's (a famous ice cream parlor here in Cincinnati) and eating ice cream...at 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 ass on movements which bring a large level of discomfort (squats, deadlift variations, presses, etc.).

5) KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid. Stop looking through the various research studies, seeking the perfect routine. You will not find the perfect routine now, nor will you find it in the future. Science has provided us with some good information when it comes to strength training...don't get me wrong. However, it is not going to provide the "Answer" to gaining size and strength. I've stated before that your common sense can take you a long way...so keep it simple. In a fairly recent conversation with Ted Lambrinides, he made the statement that "Strength training is more art than science." Agreed.

Train the largest muscular structures of the body with a limited number of compound exercises (and any isolation movements needed to prevent injury). 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 floor. 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.

Until next month...TRAIN HARD.


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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Practical Progression - By John Szimanski, Jr.

Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com 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.


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Monday, December 3, 2012

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

Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com 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.

REFERENCES
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.


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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A DAY OF TRAINING AND EATING IN WASHINGTON, DC - By Drew Israel

Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on April 24, 2001, Reprinted with permission from HARDGAINER issue #44, September-October 1996, (Ed, Note: This was in the previous Whelan Strength Training at 720 7th st. Moved to 800 7th st in 1997)

I made great time coming down from New York and got to Bob Whelan’s place at 10.30 in the morning. We went out to have a light breakfast. After breakfast we took a walk around Washington for a while, and then returned to his apartment.

Before going to train I took a look at Bob’s collection of old training literature. He has an incredible collection of books from the turn of the century, including those of Eugen Sandow, right up until the present day. I found myself getting all geared up to train from this motivating literature. Now it was time to leave for Bob’s gym.

I had brought some custom-made weight plates from Iron Island Gym. I wanted to park my car as close to Bob’s gym as possible so we wouldn’t have to carry the plates further than necessary. I got a parking spot right across from Bob’s facility, so we took the plates and off we went.

The Gym

Bob’s gym is located on the third floor of an office building in Chinatown. On the first floor is a nice looking Chinese restaurant. Since we were carrying weight plates we had to go through the restaurant to the back where the elevator was located. Bob and I both had sweat plants and workout shirts on. Since Bob has a shaved head, and carries a lot of impressive muscle and looks really strong, he looks menacing. I thought it rather amusing that we were weaving through the lunch tables attired as we were, with everyone around us dressed up.

Entering Bob’s gym was like going back in time. There were old photos everywhere on the walls. As for his gym space it was packed with equipment, reminding me of where I live along with all my training gear. Bob has a nice mix of machinery and lots of free weights. He told me that he would soon be adding a couple more Hammer Strength pieces to his facility.

There is a long hallway which runs around the entire third floor, and Bob has sandbags which his clients carry around the floor. He also has thick bars and old-time barbells which are in mint condition.

The Workout

We were now ready to train. I went first. The bench press was my first movement. I took 225 lbs for one set of 30 reps. I was feeling real good because my bothersome right shoulder felt great. The second movement was the Trap Bar deadlift, for 3 sets of 10. After a few warmups sets, Bob had me Trap Bar deadlift 400 x 10, rest one minute, then do 500 x 10, rest one minute, and finish off with 550 x 10. My body was now ready to explode and Bob was mentioning that we would finish with the sandbag. That was the last thing I needed to think about. Just getting through the workout was hard enough. My third movement was the pulldown which was neat because my upper back was already screaming from the deadlifts, but neither Bob nor I were looking for any mercy. I took about 200 lbs for a set of 15 reps, then rested one minute, upped the weight for a set to failure, which happened on the ninth rep. Now I was ready for a Hammer Strength Iso-Lateral Leg Press. I did one set of 20 reps with 550 lbs. My legs were shaking uncontrollably after 15 reps but I managed to complete the set, and ended up falling out of the leg press machine.

While crawling on my hands and knees Bob kept reminding me of the bloody 200-lb sandbag. After I managed to get to my feet I bent to pick the bag up. With a gut-wrenching effort I bear-hugged the bag up and began my journey around the third floor along its four long hallways. As soon as I started walking with the bag I realized there would be visits to the floor. I did not go very far before exhaustion set in and I went down to the floor for the first time. It was an incredibly uncomfortable feeling and I was still nowhere near finished. At that point I did not want to contemplate the three sides of the building I still had to go.

An interesting point about the floor and its design is that there are some professional offices on it. The employees there can see and hear everything in the hallways, if they so choose. As Bob was pushing me to regain my feet, heads were popping out of the doorways. Their faces showed a terrible horror as if having to witness this was more than they could bear. Through all of this Bob had a big smile on his face. He was really enjoying himself. I battled on with the bag, but soon went going down again.

It wasn’t until my second collapse that I realized I was holding the bag too high on my chest. As I got off the floor to finish my last surge I held the bag lower on my torso. After I finished the course I collapsed in a giant heap on the floor.

After my visit to the floor it became Bob’s turn to train. Bob’s first movement was the incline press using a thick bar which he couldn’t close his hands around. After his warmups he took 285 lbs for 5 reps. With little rest he went to the Trap Bar deadlift. After warmups he performed an all-out set of 10 reps with 485 lbs. Color was now draining from Bob’s face and I felt like mentioning the 200-lb sandbag he would be finishing his workout with, but I kept my mouth shut.

Next, looking very queazy, Bob did seated presses for 6 reps with 215 lbs. Bob’s fourth movement was the prone row. For his first set he did 150 x 10. With little rest he brought the weight up to 175 lbs and did 8 reps.

Bob was now ready for the 200-lb sandbag, which he picked up with great expertise. He carried it around the floor looking as if his life depended on it.

Bob has a progression scheme with the sandbags. Once someone can carry a given weight around the entire floor, he or she gets a heavier bag to work on next time. Bob has a number of 50-lb bags, and one 25-lb bag, which he packs into a larger canvas bag according to the required load.

The recovery We had a great workout but needed a period of silence in which to recover. We were both excited because next we would be making our way to Morton’s Steak House.

When we got to Morton’s we surveyed the menu and each ordered a steak for two. We were so hungry that we each would have ordered a steak for three if they had had it.

After our steak and salad we got some chocolate mousse cake, which was great. As we left Morton’s, Bob told me of a great ice cream store where we each got a pint of chocolate chip which really hit the spot.

We had a terrific time of training and eating and I regretted having to return to New York that evening. I had to return because the next morning I had to train a few people. I was feeling the effects of a great workout and a long day when I said farewell to Bob. Bob let me know that he would come up to visit me in New York. Then we will have a great training session at my house and afterwards go to a great New York steakhouse.


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Thursday, November 22, 2012

My Journey with Strength Training, Fitness and Self Defence - By David Sedunary

I love feeling strong fit, and healthy. And at near 61 years young I am still hitting the iron and trying to improve. My journey started when I was 16 years of age a skinny and small boned kid, who desired to get bigger and stronger. My Dad was a Physical fitness instructor in the Australian Army during the Second World War, he also was a professional Boxer, so he must have handed down his genetics for fitness, and self defence to me so too speak.

My first set of weights were made out of old ice cream tins full of concrete, with a broom stick as the bar. I slowly purchased some weights and also some older men in the area gave me their weights they no longer used. So I started my Gym in the sleep out or a room at the side of my Mum and Dads House.

I purchased Joe Weiders System of Progress Barbell Exercise, and the Charts with Alan Stephen, Clarence Ross and Jack Delinger showing their natural great physiques of how to perform each exercise. I also wrote to Peary Rader of how to get bigger and stronger of course Peary being the gentleman he was wrote back with the following. Train twice a week David he said on the following Exercises: Squat - 1 set 0f 20 reps, Bench press - 1 set of 10 reps, Row - 1 set of 10 reps., Press behind neck - 1 set of 10 and Curl - 1 set of 10 reps, and drink 2 quarts of milk a day.

The letter Peary wrote is laminated, and on my home gym wall..

Even today I still train on the basics, full body twice a week. Being a small boned person with a wrist of 7 inches and a small ankles I still managed to squat 300 pounds for 20 reps and 350 pounds for 15 reps in the Trap Bar Deadlift into my late 40’s and early 50’s. Today of course I have dropped the weights down and train for form and to keep safe and injury free.

I have always believed that a man should be able to defend himself and his family, so I was taught boxing by my father and a local Boxer when I was 17 years old and I have maintained that until to today.

Near 5 years ago I emailed Bradley J Steiner, interested in Brad’s System of self defence, Brad Instructed and helped me by email, I bought all his material, as I have had his weight training books for 30 years.

Since that day I have religiously practiced his Self Defence near every day. Weight Training teaches you many things in life, but none better than knowing you have battled the iron and squatted 280 to 300 pounds for 20 reps, when you thought you were going to give in, and you kept going until you achieved your goal. All this was done by myself with no one pushing me just my determination and will to improve. This teaches you in life to never give in when those challenges come at you from all angles.

At the present moment I train, twice every 7 to 10 days, therefore I train on Monday, train on Thursday, Monday the following week and I miss Thursday, this works out to training nearly every 5 days full body.

A typical week for me is a follows:

Monday: Warmup with Self defence for 10 minutes/ I always do 1 to 2 sets warm-ups to a maximum 1 set
Bench press 1 set 6 to 8 reps
Seated row 1set 6- 8 reps
Dumb bell clean and Press 1set 6-8 reps
Lat Pull down 1 set 6- 8 reps
Curl 1 set 8- 10 reps
Squat 1 set 6-8 reps
Neck work
Crunch 1set 10 to 15 reps
As finisher I use 25lb, 5olb and 55 lb block weights, one block in each hand gives me a total of 25lb etc.
I toss them, clean and press them use them for the farmers walk for a total of 5 to 6 minutes

Thursday: Warmup self defence 10 minutes
Bench press 1set 6 to 8 reps
Seated row 1set 6- 8 reps
Dumb bell clean and Press 1set 6-8 reps
Lat Pull down 1 set 6- 8 reps
Curl 1 set 8- 10 reps
Squat 1set 8-10 reps
Neck work
Side bend 1 set 8 reps

For fitness work I train the following:

•Hard aerobics on the Concept rower once a week for 20 minutes.
•I walk for 20 minutes every day I am not weight training, and after the walk I practice self defence for 20 minutes. Total of 40 minutes (the self defence work can be as hard as you want to make it?

•I have one day a week of total rest.

My Philosophy of life is the following:

Life is a challenge whether you like it or not, it is harder for some than it is for others. Prepare yourself for the tough journey by weight training, learning American Combato, and strengthening your mind, in every way you can.

Read and study and learn from the following people as I have, which has fulfilled my life, they are in no particular order:

Bradley J Steiner (read all he writes you can’t go wrong), Bob Whelan, Stuart Mc Robert, Clarence Bass, Brooks Kubik, Richard Winett, and the late John Christy. Just keep training and use abbreviated training at times, two exercise per workout. Take a week off every now and then just walk for the week, but easy.

I don’t take supplements, just good wholesome food, eating some form of protein every three hours, this maintains my body weight at 190 LBs at a height of 5 feet 11 inches.

Rest plenty, look at ways to improve your sleep.

Hope I have enlightened someone out there to, to take the journey I and the above people mentioned have taken, if you do this life will be easier to handle, you will be stronger, healthier, fitter, and more confident.

Regards David Sedunary
Australia



Great Article David! - Bob


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Friday, November 16, 2012

The Barbell - By Andreas Sjölund

Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on May 21, 2001

In my belongings there is a very special thing, a barbell. Not special because it's worth a lot of money, its not and it doesn’t look much, it ain’t shiny and chromed, in fact its a little rusty. It’s thick, impossible to grip around, hard to handle and not very well balanced at all. and you load it with weights that looks just like it, rough, thick and hard to handle. What makes this barbell speciall is the history behind it, a history I am going to share with you.

When my dad was a kid in the early 40s he lived in a small community based around the jobs provided by a power plant and a mine. These jobs places was like sugar to flies when it came to attracting rough, hard working and hard living men, my grandpa was one of those, hard working miners and therefore my dad was raised in a community that was honest but hard. Anyway, it was a society where people did not think much of pencil pushers and office clerks, a man worked with his body and hands and that was that.

There was a smith named Bergkvist living in this community, a huge man with a temper like a wolverine and a reputation to be very, very strong. Some of the stories about him just have to be lies but let me share a couple of them that there is actual proof happened, or at least some eye-witnesses are still alive. Many of the men were not married or had travelled from other locations to work and they lived in barracks, and developed a special culture. They often had "home made" strength competitions, besides finger-hook and arm-wrestling one event was to grip a steel bar between the fingers of one hand and draw against one and other.

Bergkvist was the man to beat, but no one ever made it, one came "close", he just refused to let go of the steel cylinder, he just hung in there, refusing to give in and the Bergkvist could not get him to let go...until HE LIFTED HIM UP, with one hand, and shook him, then he finally lost his grip and fell to the floor.

When my dad was really young he ran into Bergkvist, this was their first encounter. My dad said "I have heard that you can bend coins with your bare fingers (that was one of the stories told about this man) can you bend this "10-öring" (a small Swedish coin) for me? Bergkvist just looked at him, smiled and picked up a coin from his pocket and it went away somewhere inside his giant hand. And apparently he lost the grip and the coin flew through the air, hitting the wall in the other side of the room and got stuck in the wall. Not very deep, but deep enough to be hard for a kid to get it loose. My dad dug it out whit his pocket knife, he still has it, I’ve seen it and yes, it was bent alright, right in the middle.

Another story about Bergkvist takes place during the winter. The workers had been out all day and it was cold, real cold and they were dressed for it. Anyway, it was time for lunch and they walked in to the dining room when Bergkvist came in, ice in his beard, drunk as a sailor and in a very good mood. He walked up to one of the biggest men there, a huge guy that must have been over 130 kg, smiled and said something like "do they feed your kind to" and picked him up and shook him a bit. This is nothing special. Lifting 130 kilos, but when the men had eaten and were ready to return to work, the guy that got picked up, said that he could not work anymore. There was no way that he could move his arms and when he undressed all the clothes, and remember this was thick thick winter clothes. They could see the bruises on his arms, formed after Bergkvists fingers and it took over a week before he could even move his arms again.

Berkvist was known for was his bad temper. Especially when drinking, and he did that quite often, and in many ways the booze was his demon to fight. Anyway, one evening he had been out drinking and something had pissed him off and he got into a fight, apparently cleaning the place out. When he woke up, and came back to his senses he found himself sitting over a table and the owner of the place was yelling at him. He just looked at the guy screaming and shouting and asked "have I done all this?" (the place was pretty messed up) yes you have and you will pay or I will call the police. No need for that, I will pay for the damage I have caused, he said. Took up his keys, carved his name and address on the corner of a marble table, broke the corner loose and gave it to the owner and went home to get some rest.

These are just some of the stories told about Bergkvist but I hope this gives some idea of what kind of man we are talking about here. Anyway back to what I want to say. As a young teenager my dad worked at the local food store, delivering food and supplies to the families living in the community. And this is about one of the most fearsome stops he had to make during his delivering carrier. Bergkvist was not an easy man to deliver to. He always ordered around 40 beers, most of the times he did not pay for them, he just said "put them on my tab", and this tab was running long. Not many wanted to argue with him over it. But my dad was new on his job and his boss told him that he had to get paid or take the beers back. So when my dad got the standard answer "put it on my tab" he took the beers and walked out, and Bergkvist ran after screaming "what the hell are you doing lad, take your hands of my beers" my dad refused and Bergkvist glared at him for a while, took out his wallet and paid him.

I personally believe that this episode is very important for what happened later on. Dad continued to deliver his beers, and always got paid. Over the time Bergkvist started to talk to my dad and tease him for being weak, he used to look at my dads arms and say things like "poor kid, you must have suffered from polio". Dad knew he was joking, and at the same time he was impressed with Bergkvists strength and asked him how to get that strong. Hard work and lots of food was bergkvist answer.

This was the beginning, later on Bergkvist showed my dad a "gym" he had, with barbells, huge stones, and a chest-enlarger thing whit 6 thick springs. (dad got this one later on, when Berkvist had stretched it beyond all further use). My dad wrestled and wanted to be stronger so he talked and trained a bit with Bergkvist, always getting good advice and pointers in the right direction. And in time long dad had to train against guys in much heavier weightclasses to get anything out of the wrestling-workouts. One day, years after the first "beer incident" Bergkvist. had a gift for my dad, it was a home made barbell, whit thick heavy iron weights to ad. It laid on the ground, fully loaded and Bergkvist lifted it up, Dad says it looked like he just picked it up like a dropped towel or something like that, and Bergkvist raised it on straight arms and said..."when you can do this...then you are strong". And for the years to come my dad tried to lift it. And tried again and then again, and then tried some more. He worked out like crazy with that barbell, but never made it all the way, to the shoulders, but not the last little bit. Berkvist helped him out here and there with his workouts and they continued to be, well..I guess you have to call it friends.

When Dad turned 20 he started to work at the power plant and in the barracks the evening games were still the same and my dad discovered that he was one of the strongest guys around, he did not win all of the games and plays but he was strong enough to earn the respect from his elders and more experienced, and he very quickly became "one in the gang" something that normally take a few years. Then Dad finally understood, that the gift he got from Bergkvist that day was much more than a pile of iron. The day Bergkvist gave my dad the barbell he also gave him respect, strength, and self-knowledge and what an awesome gift that is.

Bergkvist lived alone, and wasn’t easy to get along with so I guess his solitude had its reasons. But there was one thing that he had and kept until the day and that was his reputation to be the strongest man anyone had ever seen.

And for the barbell...my dad gave it to me a couple of years ago, I actually can't say exactly how heavy it is, and to tell the truth I do not want to know, it feels like it will take the magic away. I have made some attempts to beat it, and every 6-12 months I load it up in the basement and glare at it for a few days before the attack. I have not been able to get it up over my head yet. All I know is that some day, I will."


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Friday, November 9, 2012

Sports Nutrition News from The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics - By Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD

The Athlete’s Kitchen Copyright: Nancy Clark 2012

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association; the nation's largest group of food and nutrition professionals) recently convened in Philadelphia (Oct., 2012). The following highlights from that conference may shed new light on ways for you to optimize your sports diet and manage your weight

Protein: How much is enough?

Many athletes believe more protein is better. Not necessarily true, according to exercise physiologist Doug Paddon-Jones from the University of Texas Medical Branch. Research subjects who ate a 30-gram dose of protein (about 4 ounces of meat) had similar rates of protein synthesis as those who ate a 90-gram dose (~12 ounces of meat, i.e., a big steak). Because the body does not temporarily store extra protein as muscle, about 60 grams of the protein got “wasted” (or rather, burned for energy or stored as fat). Yet, if you eat only a 10-gram dose of protein at breakfast (1 egg + 1 white), you may not have eaten enough to maximally stimulate muscle synthesis. Paddon-Jones recommends athletes target about 30 grams of protein at three meals per day. That means, cut your hefty dinner steak into thirds and enjoy two-thirds of it the next day at breakfast and lunch!

Although 30 grams is the number often mentioned by researchers, Paddon-Jones reminds us this is not an exact science. Protein research is incredibly expensive; few researchers are able to do dose-response studies to precisely determine the number of grams of protein needed per pound of body weight. Hence, Paddon-Jones suggests athletes simply enjoy a moderate portion of protein-rich foods at each meal.

He also recommends eating protein after you exercise (back your exercise into a meal-time), so your muscles will have the tools they need to do the building and repairing that peaks in the next 3 to 5 hours. “Mind you, following this strategy will not make a massive difference in your musculature, but it may optimize muscle maintenance. This could make a meaningful difference over the course of a year, particularly for athletes over 30 years old who slowly lose muscle as a normal part of the aging process.”

Enjoying an even distribution of protein throughout the day has another benefit: you'll feel less hungry all day. For yet-unknown reasons, eating protein-rich foods for breakfast contributes to greater satiety than protein eaten at other times of the day. Research suggests a higher protein breakfast can result in consuming 200 fewer calories at dinner. Theoretically, that's enough to lose 20 pounds of fat in a year! How about boosting your breakfast with more Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and omelets?

Weight Management: How much exercise is enough?

If you want to lose weight temporarily, you don't have to exercise; you “simply” need to create an energy deficit by eating less food. (Think about people in the hospital who lose weight without exercise.) But if you have already lost a lot of weight and want to maintain that fat-loss (and help minimize fat-regain), you need to be active for about one hour a day. According to obesity researcher Dr. Jim Hill, “Unfortunately, that's the price a person who has lost 70 pounds needs to pay for having been obese.”

Dr. Hill suggests there is a yet undefined “sweet spot” where just the right amount of exercise (not too much, not too little) enhances fat loss. As many frustrated dieters have learned, too much exercise forces the body into starvation mode and then the traditional weight loss rule—to knock off 500 calories per day to lose one pound of fat per week—becomes a myth. The less you eat (or the more you exercise), the more your body down-regulates to conserve energy and your metabolic system adapts. The body has a very complex system that makes weight reduction difficult.

While any type of exercise is good for weight management, lifting weight and doing other forms of strength training help maintain muscle mass. Dr. Brenden Gurd of Ontario suggests high intensity interval training as an effective strategy for fat loss, particularly abdominal fat. But it can also be a good strategy for getting injured; be careful!

Weight and Taste Buds

Weight gain is related to not only under-exercising, but also to over-eating. Why do some people routinely overeat? According to Dr. Beverly Tepper of Rutgers University, the answer might be related to their taste buds! About 30% of the population has a genetic variation in bitter taste that results in a preference for the taste and texture of high fat foods, such as creamy salad dressings, cheese, and ice cream—as well as spicy hot foods. Combine this with our enticing food environment—voila, overeating! When compared by body mass index (BMI, a ratio of weight and height), fat-preferring women have a higher BMI (30 vs. 24; obese vs. average physique) as compared to women with a different version of this gene.

When presented with a buffet lunch (that encourages overeating), genetic “fat lovers” need to muster more dietary restraint to consciously choose foods that are lower in fat. Otherwise, they may eat 88% more calories than usual, while those without the gene will consume “only” about 38% more calories. (Buffets can be dangerous!)

In a three-day food experiment during which women ate a standard breakfast (OJ, yogurt, toast) and then selected their lunch and dinner, the genetically predisposed “fat lovers” chose more added fats (butter, salad dressing), cakes, and pies, while the others preferred more fruits and vegetables. Perhaps obesity prevention programs could include genetic screening so these people can be taught to better manage our food environment?

Cooking tip: Mushrooms have an “umami” (meaty, savory) flavor that allow them to easily substitute for meat. Taste-testers equally enjoyed tacos made with 100% beef, 50% beef with 50% mushrooms, or 20% beef with 80% mushrooms. How about adding more mushrooms to your next beef stew, spaghetti sauce, or meatballs to save calories and saturated fat—as well as helping save the environment? According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, for every two pounds (1 kg) less beef we eat, we spare the environment about 60 pounds (27 kg) of greenhouse gasses. This adds up; we don’t need more super-storms like Hurricane Sandy.

Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD (Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics) counsels both casual and competitive athletes at her office in Newton, MA (617-795-1875). Her Sports Nutrition Guidebook and food guides for new runners, marathoners, and soccer players offer additional information. They are available at www.nancyclarkrd.com. Also see www.sportsnutritionworkshop.com.

Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook Food guides for soccer, new runners, marathoners, cyclists 1155 Walnut St, Newton Highlands, MA 02461 Phone: 617.795.1875 Fax: 617.963.7408 "Helping active people win with good nutrition."


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“If you can’t grip it, you can’t rip it” - How to Increase Your Deadlift Max with specialized grip training. - Karsten Jensen

“You rock my world”

Those where the words of world class power lifter friend of mine, when I shared these grip training ideas.

The principle behind this training program is the same principle that is behind all result producing strength and conditioning programs.

The training must be harder than the competition.

In the case of the dead lift, this principle dictates that if you are aiming to dead lift 500 pounds, each hand must be able to support more than 250 pounds due to accelerative forces.

Partial deadlifts may be the first exercise that comes to mind to fit this task. With a partial deadlift you may be able to hold 600-700 pounds or much more. Let’s take it a step further and ask: “How many different ways can we train the hand? Let me rephrase that. How many ways – specific to the deadlift – can we train the hand? Like any other form of training, grip training is highly specific to the task. Another friend of mine a performing strongman, trains the partial dead lift and manages 1500 pound, but never trains with grippers and cannot close the captain crush gripper level 3, which requires supposedly requires 280 lbs to close (1) According to the textbooks, a deadlift involves a so called “power grip”, which places “all fingers and the thumb around an object (2) So let break it down and see how many different ways we can train specific to the power grip

1. You can flex one finger at a time.
2. You can emphasise either the proximal or the two distal joints of each finger.
3. You can emphasise the thumb or any of the other four fingers.
4. You can train the finger extensors of the hand
5. You can train the wrist extensors
6. You can train the wrist flexors

In this article I want to share three exercises to develop these areas. This article will present these exercises as an extra workout (or feeder workout) to be performed two to three times a week an adjunct to your regular routine These exercises are strongly inspired by famous Strongman Herman Goerner, whose personal best in the one hand deadlift was 720 pound. Among his prefereed exercises was was two finger deadlifts and deadlifts holding the bar with only the first joint of the fingers (3)

1. Single Finger Curl with Cable The Single Finger Curl with Cable emphasises the two distal joints of the little finger, ring finger, middle finger and the index finger. . A study indicate that grip strength is higher with the elbow extended (4). Therefore these exercises are performed seated on the floor or a bench with the extended elbow supported on the inside of the bend knee. The cable is set to match the hight of the hand. Start position: Begin with the little finger and place the handle on the last digit of the finger. The Finger should be on the middle of the handle. If the finger is placed of the middle of the handle, the handle will rotate and the quality of the repetition is compromised. The other fingers are curled and thus “out of the way”.

Action: Curl the finger until the handle touches the other fingers. The range of motion is VERY small, but the load on the muscle is significant. Perform 12-20 repetitions per set and increase the load when you perform 20 repetitions in 1 or more sets. Perform 2 sets per finger. (With the short range of motion the duration of each repetition is about 2 seconds. Therefore the 12-20 repetition bracket is not – as it would normally be – endurance, but rather structural strength) Continue with the ring finger, middle finger and index finger without rest. Repeat the process with the other hand without rest.

2. Dynamic Plate Pinch with dowel Rod Dynamic Pinch emphasises the first joint of each finger as well as the force produced by the thumb As a tool to train dynamic pinch strength, I learned of the Titan Telegraph key years ago, but it was not until recently, when a very strong mountain climber friend of mine told me how dynamic pinch improved his climbing that I paid attention to dynamic pinch.

If you don’t happen to have a Titan Telegraph Key, you may train the dynamic pinch strength using a dowel rod and to small weight plates with smooth sides. The exercise is show on this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8OpMdcw8pM Start position: “Sandwich” the dowel rod with the weight plates using a pinch grip on with both hands.

Action: Aim to pinch the two plates together on the left side of the dowel rod, while resisting maximally with the right hand. Continue to pinch the plates together on the right side of the dowel rod, while resisting maximally with the left hand. Pinching the plates together on each side of the dowel rod, counts as one repetition. Perform 2 sets of 4-8 repetitions with about a minute of rest in between sets. The advantage of this exercise is the maximal tension on both hands throughout the range of motion. On the other hand, progression cannot be objectively quantified. You goal is subjectively to exert more force with each training session.

3. Self Resisted Finger and Wrist Extensions. During any natural movement in the body, muscles on both sides of the joint co-contract in a pattern, specific to the goal of the movement. This co-contraction serves to optimize performance and prevent injury. During the power grip the flexors of the fingers and the hand are the agonists (the muscles performing the movement), but the strength of the extensors of the fingers may affect the level of force the flexors can produce (5). Legendary strongman John Brookfield notes that “Some of you who are at sticking point with your hand strength rigth now, will notice a huge difference if you start to train the extensors (6). The exercises shown are inspired by the self resisted finger extension exercises in “The Grip Masters Manual” by John Brookfield . Start position: There are four components to this exercise. Resistance is placed at each joint of the finger and at the back of the hand.

1+2: Resistance applied to the distal joint and middle joint of the little finger.

3+4: Resistance applied to the proximal joint of the little finger and the back of the hand.

Action: In each postion try to extend the little finger with high effort, but resist with the other hand so no movement occur. You are creating a near maximal isometric contraction of the finger extensors. Extend with maximal effort for 10 seconds in each of the three first positions. Go through the little finger, ring finger, middle finger and index finger in this fashion. Finish with 10 seconds in position 4 (back of hand). Repeat with the other hand. There should be no rest between sets. As far as your regular routine goes, there is no way around training with a thick bar if your goal is to optimize your grip strength. I am sure that you have heard this before, but I want to share a little biomechanics that helped me understand, why training with a thick bar is such a powerful tool to develop grip strength.

However, most often (if not always) we can’t lift as much weight with a thick bar as we can with a regular Olympic bar (7). Thus, by only training with a thick bar all other muscles than the grip muscles are under stimulated. Therefore training with the thick bar should always be used in combination with training with the regular bar. One way to incorporate the thick bar training is to use a thick bar exclusively in the early phases of a cycle and then shift to training with the regular bar later in the cycle.

References: (1) http://www.ironmind.com/ironmind/opencms/Main/captainsofcrush.html (2) Enoka R. Voluntary Movement. Neuromechanics of Human Movement, 4th Ed. Chapter 7, p 298. Human Kinetics. 2008 (3) Mueller E. His Training Methods. Goerner The Mighty, Chapter 6, p 92-96. www.superstrengthbooks.com (4) Espana Romero V, Ortega FB, Vicente-Rodriquez G, Artero EG, Rey JP, Ruiz JR. Elbow position affects handgrip strength in adolescents: validity and reliability of Jamar, DynEx, and TKK dynamometers. J Strength Cond Res. 24(1):272-7. 2010. (5) Li Z-M, Zatsiorsky VM, Latash ML. The effect of finger extensor mechanism on the flexor force during isometric tasks. 34(8):1097-1102. Journal of Biomechanics. (6) Brookfield J. Advanced Lower Arm and Grip Training. Gripmasters Manual. Chapter 2, p63. Ironmind Enterprises, Inc. 2002. (7) Ratamess NA, Faigenbaum AD, Mangine GT, Hoffmann JR, Kang J. Acute muscular strength assessment using free weigth bars of different thickness. J Strength Cond Res. 21(1):240-4. 2007

Karsten’s newest book “The Flexible Periodization Method” – How personal trainers and strength coaches create completely individualized longterm training programs for the fitness enthusiast, the world class athlete and everyone in between is available from www.flexibleperiodization.com


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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

IRON, (from Details Magazine) - By Henry Rollins

Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on May 21, 2001

I believe that the definition of definition is reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself. Completely.

When I was young I had no sense of myself. All I was, was a product of all the fear and humiliation I suffered. Fear of my parents. The humiliation of teachers calling me "garbage can" and telling me I'd be mowing lawns for a living. And the very real terror of my fellow students. I was threatened and beaten up for the color of my skin and my size. I was skinny and clumsy, and when others would tease me I didn't run home crying, wondering why. I knew all too well. I was there to be antagonized. In sports I was laughed at. A spaz. I was pretty good at boxing but only because the rage that filled my every waking moment made me wild and unpredictable. I fought with some strange fury. The other boys thought I was crazy.

I hated myself all the time. As stupid at it seems now, I wanted to talk like them, dress like them, carry myself with the ease of knowing that I wasn't going to get pounded in the hallway between classes. Years passed and I learned to keep it all inside. I only talked to a few boys in my grade. Other losers. Some of them are to this day the greatest people I have ever known. Hang out with a guy who has had his head flushed down a toilet a few times, treat him with respect, and you'll find a faithful friend forever. But even with friends, school sucked. Teachers gave me hard time. I didn't think much of them either.

Then came Mr. Pepperman, my advisor. He was a powerfully built Vietnam veteran, and he was scary. No one ever talked out of turn in his class.Once one kid did and Mr. P. lifted him off the ground and pinned him to the blackboard. Mr. P. could see that I was in bad shape, and one Friday in October he asked me if I had ever worked out with weights. I told him no. He told me that I was going to take some of the money that I had saved and buy a hundred-pound set of weights at Sears. As I left his office, I started to think of things I would say to him on Monday when he asked about the weights that I was not going to buy. Still, it made me feel special. My father never really got that close to caring. On Saturday I bought the weights, but I couldn't even drag them to my mom's car. An attendant laughed at me as he put them on a dolly.

Monday came and I was called into Mr. P.'s office after school. He said that he was going to show me how to work out. He was going to put me on a program and start hitting me in the solar plexus in the hallway when I wasn't looking. When I could take the punch we would know that we were getting somewhere. At no time was I to look at myself in the mirror or tell anyone at school what I was doing. In the gym he showed me ten basic exercises. I paid more attention than I ever did in any of my classes. I didn't want to blow it. I went home that night and started right in.

Weeks passed, and every once in a while Mr. P. would give me a shot and drop me in the hallway, sending my books flying. The other students didn't know what to think. More weeks passed, and I was steadily adding new weights to the bar. I could sense the power inside my body growing. I could feel it.

Right before Christmas break I was walking to class, and from out of nowhere Mr. Pepperman appeared and gave me a shot in the chest. I laughed and kept going. He said I could look at myself now. I got home and ran to the bathroom and pulled off my shirt. I saw a body, not just the shell that housed my stomach and my heart. My biceps bulged. My chest had definition. I felt strong. It was the first time I can remember having a sense of myself. I had done something and no one could ever take it away. You couldn't say shit to me.

It took me years to fully appreciate the value of the lessons I have learned from the Iron. I used to think that it was my adversary, that I was trying to lift that which does not want to be lifted. I was wrong. When the Iron doesn't want to come off the mat, it's the kindest thing it can do for you. If it flew up and went through the ceiling, it wouldn't teach you anything. That's the way the Iron talks to you. It tells you that the material you work with is that which you will come to resemble. That which you work against will always work against you.

It wasn't until my late twenties that I learned that by working out I had given myself a great gift. I learned that nothing good comes without work and a certain amount of pain. When I finish a set that leaves me shaking, I know more about myself. When something gets bad, I know it can't be as bad as that workout.

I used to fight the pain, but recently this became clear to me: pain is not my enemy; it is my call to greatness. But when dealing with the Iron, one must be careful to interpret the pain correctly. Most injuries involving the Iron come from ego. I once spent a few weeks lifting weight that my body wasn't ready for and spent a few months not picking up anything heavier than a fork. Try to lift what you're not prepared to and the Iron will teach you a little lesson in restraint and self-control.

I have never met a truly strong person who didn't have self-respect. I think a lot of inwardly and outwardly directed contempt passes itself off as self-respect: the idea of raising yourself by stepping on someone's shoulders instead of doing it yourself. When I see guys working out for cosmetic reasons, I see vanity exposing them in the worst way, as cartoon characters, billboards for imbalance and insecurity. Strength reveals itself through character. It is the difference between bouncers who get off strong-arming people and Mr.Pepperman.

Muscle mass does not always equal strength. Strength is kindness and sensitivity. Strength is understanding that your power is both physical and emotional. That it comes from the body and the mind. And the heart.

Yukio Mishima said that he could not entertain the idea of romance if he was not strong. Romance is such a strong and overwhelming passion, a weakened body cannot sustain it for long. I have some of my most romantic thoughts when I am with the Iron. Once I was in love with a woman. I thought about her the most when the pain from a workout was racing through my body.

Everything in me wanted her. So much so that sex was only a fraction of my total desire. It was the single most intense love I have ever felt, but she lived far away and I didn't see her very often. Working out was a healthy way of dealing with the loneliness. To this day, when I work out I usually listen to ballads.

I prefer to work out alone. It enables me to concentrate on the lessons that the Iron has for me. Learning about what you're made of is always time well spent, and I have found no better teacher. The Iron had taught me how to live. Life is capable of driving you out of your mind. The way it all comes down these days, it's some kind of miracle if you're not insane. People have become separated from their bodies. They are no longer whole.

I see them move from their offices to their cars and on to their suburban homes. They stress out constantly, they lose sleep, they eat badly. And they behave badly. Their egos run wild; they become motivated by that which will eventually give them a massive stroke. They need the Iron Mind.

Through the years, I have combined meditation, action, and the Iron into a single strength. I believe that when the body is strong, the mind thinks strong thoughts. Time spent away from the Iron makes my mind degenerate. I wallow in a thick depression. My body shuts down my mind.

The Iron is the best antidepressant I have ever found. There is no better way to fight weakness than with strength. Once the mind and body have been awakened to their true potential, it's impossible to turn back.

The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all kinds of talk, get told that you're a god or a total bastard. The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds.


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Training Consultation With Max Bob

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“I didn’t know what to expect from your phone consultation … but I was most impressed! Thanks for your help. The hour flew by and I appreciate your straight talking, no nonsense style. I’ve now got balanced routines to get to work on. I went into the first workout on Saturday with added zeal and enthusiasm. I’m pretty determined to get stronger and the phone consultation has definitely kick started and given me great motivation to succeed.”

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“After my telephone consultation with Bob I was armed to my teeth with all necessary training information to get back to training after a 8 year old layoff. Not only was the information worth every penny but also the way Bob present his training wisdom inspire you to rush to the gym and have the workout of your life. Bob presents the information in a very simple way that makes 100% sense and which everyone can understand. Bob gives hope to guys like me, (who just turned 50, working full time and have a family), that training and making gains is still possible. I’ve just finished my first workout based on the information Bob gave and I cannot remember I ever had a better workout. I cannot wait for my next workout!”

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Most of our Books Now Available on Kindle @ PhysicalCultureBooks.com

Go to Physical Culture Books.com and click on KINDLE Links.


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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Lifting Weights for a Healthy Heart - By Joe Aben

Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on February 4, 2002

When people think about improving their heart health, they may think of doing aerobic exercise or cardiovascular training such as running or jogging. However, recent research by the American Heart Association has proven that strength training or weight training counts for heart health, too. Studies have shown that lifting weights lowers the body’s heart rate and blood pressure response, thereby decreasing the demands on the heart when people perform tasks like picking up a heavy bag of groceries or shoveling snow. Research has also proven that lifting weights on a regular basis lowers ones resting blood pressure.

Getting Started

If you have not received a physical within a year, do so. It is also a good idea to obtain a physician’s medical release for initiating a strength program. Fancy equipment and expensive shiny machines are not necessary to benefit from a well-designed strength-training workout. Usually, the machines that are the most complicated to operate do the least. Working out at home with a set of dumbbells or adjustable dumbbells (Sport Blocks or Power Blocks) and a bench or Swiss ball will do just fine. I train many people with varying fitness levels (from 80 year old stroke victims to pro athletes), and no one needs much more equipment than previously mentioned. Many quality exercises do not even require any equipment.

Keep it simple

A complete total-body strength-training workout should take you no longer than one hour. Compound multi-joint movements such as pushups, chin-ups, and squats should be the core of your workout. Multi-joint movements stimulate the most muscular growth because they work many big muscle groups. The big range of motion from these exercises also stimulates a greater metabolic response (i.e. burns fat at a more rapid rate), as opposed to an exercise like calf raises that isolates a very specific area. I could write at great lengths about this topic, but just “keep it simple” – perform compound multi-joint movements. Seven to nine exercises are sufficient for a complete workout. In general, one set is sufficient, but two sets can be performed.

The Workout

A “set” consists of 8 to 20 repetitions using impeccable form taken to a point of momentary muscular fatigue or close to that point. A typical workout would look like this: pushups – 1 to 2 sets of 8 to 15 repetitions, chin-ups – 1 to 2 sets of 8 to 15 repetitions, squats – 1 to 2 sets of 12 to 20 repetitions, presses- 8 to 15 reps, rows – 8 to 15 reps, lunges – 12 to 20 reps, and crunches or sit-ups – 15 to 20 repetitions. Take about 3 to 4 seconds to raise the weight and 3 to 4 seconds to lower it. Make sure you allow at least 48 hours between workouts in order for your muscles to recover and grow. These are very broad and basic guidelines for setting up a strength program. I would suggest consulting a qualified strength coach or fitness professional regarding any questions you may have and or designing a more personalized strength-training regime.


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Sunday, October 28, 2012

High Intensity Strength Training - By Joe Aben

Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on February 24, 2002

Intensity, as I define it in relation to weight training, is the amount of work done in a given amount of time. High-intensity strength training, which I practice and teach, is performing the most work possible in the shortest amount of time. The “work” is the actual time spent training with weights. High-intensity strength training (HIT) is characterized by performing one set (for each exercise) taken to the point of muscular failure with the most amount of weight possible using impeccable form.

Many fitness “gurus” believe that multiple sets of a given exercise and spending countless hours lifting weights are needed to develop strength. However, Ralph N. Carpinelli, Ed.D., a researcher and writer for Hard Training journal, found that “there is very little evidence-in fact, only two studies out of 50-to suggest that more than one set of strength-training exercise is required for the maximum development of strength.” (December 2000, p.20). When practicing high-intensity strength training (HIT), it is important to understand and utilize the following key elements. They include: progression, momentary muscular failure, rep speed, form, and rest (or lack of).

Progression

Use the most weight possible for each exercise. Adding weight to the exercise makes “Progress”. A word of caution: Never compromise form for the sake of adding weight. It may take you three workouts using the same weight before you can add pounds to your exercise. You may want to use “Platemates” to help you gradually increase the intensity of your exercise. Platemates are small magnetic weights starting at 5/8 of a pound that can be attached to barbells or dumbbells.

Momentary Muscular Failure

You may think of failure as being a negative term. However, when practicing HIT it is very positive. In order to progress, you must reach momentary muscular failure. This happens when a set is taken to the point where you cannot perform another full repetition within the parameters of good form and speed.

Rep Speed and Form

A repetition (rep) can be broken down into two parts: 1) the positive (or concentric part), and 2) the negative (eccentric part). Take for example the bench press exercise. The positive would be pushing the weight from your chest to the ceiling. The negative would be lowering the weight to your chest. As a general rule, take about 3-4 seconds to raise the weight and 3-4 seconds to lower the weight (don’t forget to breathe!). You should also be able to pause for a second at the mid-point of the rep. If you cannot pause, the weight is too heavy or you have reached the point of muscular failure. A good HIT set consists of 8 to 12 of these “perfect” repetitions.

Rest

In order to maintain “high intensity”, your rest between sets should be minimal. You should take about 60 seconds (no more than 90 seconds) between sets or exercises. This is usually about the amount of time it takes you to change the weight and prepare for the next exercise. As mentioned previously, HIT is performing the most work possible in the shortest amount of time. The benefits are lost if you rest 5 minutes in between exercises. Of course, the less rest you take between sets- the higher the intensity (therefore, increased benefit but also increased difficulty). It is a good idea to keep a journal of your workouts and write down the exercise, weight, reps performed, and duration of your workout. This way you will be able to see your progression. You will also be able to move on to the next exercise without trying to guess the amount of weight you are using for the particular exercise.

Anyone can perform HIT wanting to increase physical and mental strength. I have found that it is the most safe, beneficial, and time-efficient way to strength train. The benefits are too numerous to mention; but rest assured if you practice the principles outlined in this article, you will increase your strength and lean muscle mass. Have fun, get strong and stay strong and healthy for your lifetime.


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Monday, October 22, 2012

Rest, Repair, and Recovery - By Joe Aben

Originally Posted on NaturalStrength.com on July 29, 2002

One of the most frequent mistakes I encounter with someone who initiates a strength training (weight training) program is not getting proper rest and recovery between workouts. It is a fantastic feeling to be motivated and have a “gung-ho” attitude when beginning a program, but some control and moderation must be included with that eagerness in order to see results. Maintaining motivation to work out through one’s lifetime is a challenge in itself. However, there is nothing more discouraging to a beginner than being so sore from his first workout that he can hardly sit down (or stand up). The following article will hopefully assist you in understanding how and why rest and recovery are very important factors in implementing a strength-training program.

One should keep in mind some basic principles of training when starting a program. The Overload Principle – For physical improvement to take place, workloads must impose a demand on the body’s systems. When the body becomes accustomed to existing work loads, new work loads must be added to keep the body challenged. The overload principle is closely related to The Principle of Super-Compensation – Super-Compensation is the period in which overload is needed to insure proper growth and progression. These principles can vary according to individuals’ genetics, body type, sex, age, present condition, type of stimulus, intensity of stimulus, and duration.

The overload principle is responsible for producing hypertrophy. Hypertrophy is the term used to indicate the existence of muscle growth (increased muscle size). When a muscle is forced to respond to increasing demands, it will gain strength and grow in size in order to protect itself. This brings up an interesting point - Growth (progress) occurs during your rest period, NOT during the training. Although it may appear that an increase in size occurs during training, this is actually brief and it is what some strength athletes refer to as the “pump.” This happens as a result of the increased blood flow “pumping” into the muscle(s) being exercised. What one is actually doing to the muscle(s) when training is creating very small tears in the muscle fibers. These small tears breakdown muscle tissue and if proper rest is achieved before the next time that muscle tissue is broken down --- progress and growth are the results. The muscle tissue creates scar tissue (i.e. repairs itself) over the small tears in order to protect itself and prepare for the increasing demands being imposed on it ---HYPERTROPHY. But if the muscle tissue is broken down again before it has been given sufficient time to recover and repair then the principles of Overtraining and Diminishing Returns take effect.

As a general rule, 48 to 72 hours is usually the time it takes for a given muscle or body part to fully recover and repair from an exercise IF one is applying the principle of overload. Keep in mind though, as stated previously, there are many factors that may change the recovery time. There are many people who, because of their fitness level, age, intensity, etc., may require more or less rest and recovery. I have found that most of my clientele need a minimum of 72 hours to fully recover from a total body strength-training workout.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is common when exercising. DOMS usually peaks at 24 hours following a workout. Muscle soreness, however, should not be the only component to consider when choosing to exercise next. Temper dedication with judgment and moderation. Too much of anything can be bad for your health. If you train too hard, too long, and too fast without proper rest and recovery, the body rejects progress and deteriorates. Strength train within your own capabilities and you will enjoy your exercise experiences and reap the benefits of life long health, strength, and fitness.


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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Nice Home Gym Set-Up in Ireland



Hey Bob,

All moved into the new gym - that was WORK and I was only moving 10 miles down the road I can't imagine the pain of moving it from Washington, DC to Florida!

I've included a few photos of the new gym.

Anyways the gym is approx 225 square feet, 8ft high to the wall plate. The floor is covered with stall mats 1.5 inches thick.

Equipment wise it has the power rack my dad made for me when I was 18

Approx 320kg in York olympic plates ( even though I don't really consider them "real" york plates as they came with 140kg barbell sets, the paint is chipping off some and I'm fairly sure they are chinese and not american made)

Some PDA stainless steel fractional plates in grams

Approx 150kg of york standard plates (again I do not consider them "real" york plates")

An early PDA shrugbar

An Ironmind Buffalo bar ( I use this on and off)

2 "york" olympic bars that came with 140kg sets

assorted standard barbells

Nautilus Pullover 2ST

Hammer Incline Press

Hammer 45 degree back extension

Stairmaster 4400CL

Exercise bike

Next thing on the list is to save up for a good quality olympic bar everything over here or by the time I get it over here easily ends up costing over twice what it does in the states. It will probably be next summer / autumn before I can afford it but I'm considering Ivanko, York, pendlay, texas power bar - I'm still reading reviews and pricing - have you got any recommendations for a good quality bar that I should also be considering?

Stu - your Irish brother in Iron


Stu, I would recommend the same ones you mentioned but I would also check to see if you could get a used ELEIKO bar. -Bob


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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

How to Build Muscular Size and Strength - By Lanier Athletic

Originally Posted on NaturalStrength.com on December 17, 2002

Most people need to add to the muscle on their bodies. This extra muscle, for most people, is just to replace the muscle lost by aging, dieting, and a sedentary lifestyle. The inevitable effect of this lost muscle is 1) Extra fat due to slower metabolism, 2) Bodily proportions showing less muscle and more fat, and 2) Decreased functionality due to decreased strength.

For more of the reasons to add muscle, see "Loss of Muscle Mass is the Real American Fitness Problem".

The purpose of this article is to address many of the misconceptions that exist concerning how to add muscular size and strength.

The basic principles of proper strength training are rather simple. The bottom line is that it requires "hard work" to gain muscular size and strength.

What Do You Mean by "Hard Work"

Many people confuse "hard work" with "lots of work". These phrases are not the same in exercise. In fact you can’t do both. You can not work really HARD for very long. If you are working out for a long time, you are not working hard. Hard work (also called high-intensity training) means each exercise should be continued to the point of temporary momentary muscular failure.

What method should you use to strength train? The method used in a strength training program is called its protocol. The protocol describes such things as frequency of training, number of repetitions and sets, number of machines, what weight to use, and how to progress to more weight as you get stronger. There are lots of different protocols which all work to some extent. For the beginning weight lifter we recommend either Standard Nautilus Protocol or Super Slow® Protocol. Write ups of these protocols are included in your membership packet. The reason for choosing these two very similar protocols is that they are simple, time efficient, they stress form by being relatively slow, and they get results. Both protocols call for a single set of exercises and has the advantage of producing good results in a short time (30 minutes, 3 times per week). Super Slow® Protocol places an emphasis on safety and form, and research has shown it to be the most productive method for beginners when a personal trainer is used. This method is very intense and is best learned with a personal trainer. Once you have learned Super Slow®, however, a workout partner works very well. Eventually you may decide to try some of the multi- set protocols, working different body parts each day, etc. These topics are well beyond the scope of an introductory document such as this one.

But It Really Hurts

Unfortunately, high-intensity strength training is quite painful toward the end of each exercise. This is only bearable because the exercise does not last very long. In fact, there is less than 1/2 minute of discomfort for each exercise. The results of working out this way are dramatic and well worth the temporary discomfort. Also, the discomfort will not bother you nearly as much, once you have become used to it. Don’t try to achieve maximum effort at the beginning. Just try to work a little harder each time.

Should a Beginner Work That Hard?

This depends on factors like age, physical limitations and experience with the equipment. If you have no health problems, you should be able work hard fairly soon. It is more important, however, to learn good form at the beginning, than it is to finish that final repetition

Size vs Strength

Most people think there is a difference between muscular size and muscular strength and that you can increase one without increasing the other. This is physiologically impossible. A muscle becomes stronger by becoming bigger. If a muscle is bigger, it is also stronger.

But I’ve seen people with small muscles lift more weight than people with large muscles.

There are two principles involved here, 1)neurological efficiency, and 2)skill. Neurological efficiency is a hereditary characteristic referring to a person’s ability to use his/her muscles. Those with greater neurological ability are able to utilize a higher percentage of their muscles than those with lower neurological ability. If the person with the smaller muscles (and better neurological ability) increases his muscular size, he would be even stronger. A person can only be compared to himself when comparing muscle size and strength relationships. Also, many weightlifting feats which are thought to be a test of strength are, at the least, equally a test of skill. A skilled weightlifter can easily lift much more than an unskilled person of similar strength.

The Role of Heredity

A potential range of strength has been set for everyone at birth. This range is usually quite large, especially for men. The average untrained male can improve his strength by 300% with proper training. This figure is 150% for the average female. The message here is that though everyone can make major improvements in their muscular size and strength, very few can be competitive bodybuilders..

What Causes Muscle to Grow?

Muscle growth is a defense mechanism in response to the body perceiving that it is not strong enough to meet environmental demands. In this case, the environmental demands come from high intensity strength training. Other forms of exercise also cause the muscle growth response, but to a lesser extent.

The Importance of Rest

The purpose of the exercise is to stimulate the body to grow. The growth takes place during a time of rest. If there is inadequate rest, some or all of the strength improvements will be inhibited.

What About Nutrition

Nutrition is the third requirement. The average American diet provides more than enough of the nutrients needed for good health and muscular growth. Eating a balanced diet of moderate portions is more important than Food supplements and Protein Powders.

Use Good Form and Don’t hold your breath. Whatever method of strength training you use, learn and use proper form. When done incorrectly, weight training can lead to unnecessary soreness and even injury. Also, it is dangerous to hold or control your breath during lifting because it raises your blood pressure.

Don’t work through pain.

This is referring to joint pain rather than muscle discomfort. When starting on weights, learn how to safely and productively strength train. Strength training is the most productive of exercises, but only if done safely. If you have trouble with pain in a joint, ask Lanier Athletic Center staff. Remember, you’re supposed to be exercising for your health. Surgical procedures, a possible result of repeatedly working through pain, is not health enhancing.


Physical Culture Books.com

Monday, October 15, 2012

Q & A - Best Books and Propper Mindset - Brad Steiner

Dear Brad,

Here are a few questions for you from Paul M.

1. What would be the top books on self defense that you would have me read. I think that you recommend several on Paladin Press right?

2. I think its wise to try to de-flate or avoid conflict when possible right? But once you know it can't be avoided and you are threatened you must act. What is the propper mindset an individual should have once he decides he must fight?

Hi Paul,

I thank you for your questions.

Some of the top books on self-defense are books that really do not address the topic of "self-defense" per se, but rather are excellent treatments of close combat.

Book #1 is Kill Or Get Killed, by Rex Applegate (I suggest the WARTIME — i.e. the FIRST (1942) — edition . . . reprinted by Paladin Press)

Book #2 is All-In Fighting, by William Fairbairn (Reprint available from Paladin Press)

Book #3 is Cold Steel, by John Styers (Reprint available from Paladin Press)

Book #4 is Hand-to-Hand Combat, U.S. Navy V-5 Physical Education Book (Reprint available from Paladin Press)

Book #5 is BruceTegnér's Complete Book of Jukado, by Bruce Tegnér (Paperback and other versions for sale on eBay, and through many channels on the internet)

Book #6 is Self-Defence Complete, by Pat Butler (Out of print, but copies available and well worth purchasing, on line)

I would also refer you to my web site www.seattlecombatives.com, for the Book Review Section, which you'll find helpful.

I agree with you 100% about the need to strive always to avoid violence and trouble. In fact, I have an article on our web site in which I explain that AVOIDANCE is in fact Technique #1.

Once it is clear that you are in real danger and cannot walk away, diffuse, or somehow talk your way out of a situation, and you must act to defend yourself, only an attitude of total fury and committment — utter ruthlessness and fierce disregard of anything save stopping your attacker — is in order. There's no "nice way" to defend yourself, I'm afraid.

You should expect to get hurt and disregard anything but dropping your attacker. Remember that human beings can be exceedingly difficult to "shut down" once aroused and on the attack determinedly, so followup, followup, and FOLLOWUP! Once you know that you must defend yourself do so and relent only when your attacker is harmless. This occurs — a) If he runs away (Let him go), b) If you can safely escape (Go ahead and get out of there!), or, if neither of those things obtain, then c) When your attacker has lost the ability and the will to endanger you further (Strike no more once it is clear to you that no danger is any longer present).

I wish you well, and if you have any further questions please know that I will do my best to answer them for you.

Cordially,

Brad Steiner

Seattle Combatives.com


Physical Culture Books.com

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Psychology of the 20-Rep Squat - By Phil Escott

From Hardgainer #55 - July/Aug 98'

Twenty-rep squats done to a person's absolute limit are so productive that they are practically indispensable to most hard gainers' routines. If you really want to grow without drugs there is no substitute for cycles of full-bore squats. The strength of character needed to push your body through 20-rep squats is not easy to find for most people. It's much easier to be influenced by opinions that advocate far longer workouts done to way less than maximum intensity.

Is it all hell, then? No. The satisfaction of breaking further into new poundages is extremely satisfying, not only for itself but also for the physical and mental gains it produces. Anyone who perseveres diligently with a cycle where they are breaking personal records every week on the 20-rep squat, whatever the weight they are lifting, deserves serious respect. The trouble is, too few people want to push themselves that far, and most beginners give up at their first taste of just how hard it is.

I'd like to share some of the ideas I've applied in order to keep people at intensive 20-rep squatting, and keep their gains coming. Most of these I devised for myself, as I've no natural willpower. I've had to tricks to keep me from giving up cycles short of my maximums, and to keep me from putting the bar back after 15 or even 10 reps!

I lifted my first weight at age 29 and never had a huge desire to be big. Strangely enough that attitude is what actually led me to the correct way to work out. After following routines designed for the steroid heads for a couple of years, and getting nowhere, I read hardgainer and brawn and the ideas there made sense. A lot of my acquaintances decided that they didn't want to chance these abbreviated workouts "in case they lost their muscle"! I wasn't really bothered about muscle, but I knew I was only really interested in the major barbell movements. I followed the principles of abbreviated training, and finally started to grow. Then I got interested in muscle!

In early 1997 I took over a gym in my home town that I used to train at before I got a power rack and stayed home. I was a bit nervous at first as many of the trainees there have been training longer than me and are stronger. I was worried that they would not be receptive to abbreviated workouts. I needn't have worried as many of them seemed tired of conventional stuff and were gagging for a change. I've now had experienced, intermediate and novice trainees on abbreviated program, and the results have been phenomenal.

Many who hadn't had any arm growth for years put an inch or more on their arms–and this was without any specific arm training, just heavy routines based on the squat, deadlift or stiff-leg deadlift, bench press, a row or pulldown, maybe a shoulder press, and some grip work. Curls are only allowed if somebody is new to the routines and absolutely insists on training arms. They usually happily drop the curls after a few weeks when they get into the spirit of things. It's so gratifying to have more and more people asking me to write out routines for them once they see the gains piling on the others. I now have total confidence in putting people on these workouts, however experienced they may be. Because I believe that the squat is one of the main cornerstones of training, if not the main cornerstone, here are some of the ways I have found to encourage people to get their sets and cycles finished.

I have a slightly different view of the Iron Game to most trainees because prior to getting into weights my only form of exercise was yoga, and I only used that as a preparation for meditation. Some of my way of thinking about squats has come from the experiences I had then, and I'd still say the best training aid anyone could have is to learn to meditate. The focus and visualization powers it gives you are worth ten thousand dodgy food supplements!

Tips to Squat By

The first thing to get out of the way is that a set of full-bore 20-rep squats should begin the night before. It goes without saying that your eating and sleeping should be in order generally, but it is particularly important to be well rested the night before tackling a heavy set. Eat well, too.

When you are doing one set of 20 near your maximum you need to cut out as many variables as you can in order to track your progress as accurately as possible. This could come down to wearing the same shoes, using the same equipment at the gym, and performing each set from week to week in the same manner for a whole cycle, i.e., taking squats to parallel. There is no point adding to the weight lifted if you are not going down as far. Progressive resistance is the key; make sure you know it is progress and not cheating.

A good idea is to set yourself up for squats in a power rack in front of a mirror with no weight on the bar. Get somebody to tell you exactly when you are at parallel, look in the mirror and see where the bar lines up on the rear uprights. Mark the spot so that you know for sure that every rep is the same even when there's so much discomfort late in a set that it feels like you are parallel even when you're only halfway down. There are other ways of ensuring you don't cheat reps, but this way works a treat if you have the appropriate equipment.

Before beginning a cycle it is a good idea to set some rules for all your sets. The two I insist on are:

a. If you take the bar onto your shoulders to start a set, the full 20 reps must be completed unless you get trapped at the bottom on the failing bars, or you feel that you sustained some injury (which should not happen if correct form is observed). The bar must never be put back on the rack just because you are suffering mere discomfort.

b. Every rep must be to parallel–no cheating. The proviso here is that your lower back must not round. If your lower back rounds at the parallel depth, try a wider stance with toes turned out more. That stance change may enable you to go a bit deeper without your lower back rounding.

With those rules established you need some mental techniques to get you through each set. Squats are largely a head game. You can do those last two reps; you aren't really at failure; it's just your head crying out for you to stop because the general discomfort is so intense. But how do you convince your body of that?

In watching many people on a 20-rep squat routine I've seen how different characters cope with the intense discomfort, but there are some things that can help all types. When the temptation to put the bar back is becoming almost unbearable here's a few things you can try. These principles can be adapted for any exercise.

1. Retreat

This is where experience of meditation can be helpful. There is a place inside us where we are the witnesses of what is happening to our bodies, and retreating there can lessen the discomfort of squatting. Just watch yourself as if you were watching a film. Become disconnected from the pain, observe it, react to it, but don't get overwhelmed by it. Now direct all your muscular effort to the target muscles instead of squirming and losing the form with potentially dangerous results.

2. Regroup and set up

You have just completed a rep and your head is scrambled. This is not the time to rush the next rep however quickly you'd like the set to end. This will just set you up for injury. Instead of focusing on the pain, breathe, regroup your thoughts, focus on your form checklist to keep the next rep as good as possible. "Back straight, midsection tight, lower under control, drive up in good form, no squirming." Right, go for the rep and get back to the top with your head scrambled again. Regroup your thoughts again, and "enjoy" the next rep.

3. Life or death

What about if the rep just won't go up? Providing you are sure you have applied the previous two steps, you can now turn it into a life or death situation. Convince yourself that you are trapped under a car or lorry and you have to lift it up or you'll be crushed. Puts a sense of urgency on the rep that will make you realize that you have reserves when needed. Got any kids? A morbid variation of this is to imagine one of them is trapped instead–works for me every time! Ever heard about mothers lifting cars to get their children out from underneath? This is the intensity we need in order to trigger the growth process!

The more I see people succeeding or failing in 20-rep squat routines, the more I believe it is a test of character as much as a test of physical strength. No matter how much character we may possess, though, failing on a weight can be very demoralizing and blow a cycle before its natural end. Sets can be blown late in a cycle for various reasons–bad eating, not enough rest, lack of motivation or preparation, or poundage increases that are too great. Keep the gains coming for as long as you can by keeping all these bases covered. Good luck!


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