Saturday, July 21, 2012

Training with the Human Wall and Max Bob - By Ken Dowman

Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on January 10, 2006

During my senior year of high school I weighed 130 pounds and was roughly 6' 0" tall. I was weak and I was unable to pitch for the varsity squad. I had everything but the strength to compete. I thought it was unfair because all my peers grew while I stayed the same size. If I was going to gain some size I would have to do it the hard way and earn it! Luckily, I began working at a warehouse in Claymont, DE where I became good friends with the owner, Ed Keene. Ed was in his mid 50's and had more knowledge than most personal trainers when it came to strength training.

I asked Ed for some advice on how to gain strength and size. It was here where I was introduced to people such as Bob Whelan, Dr. Ken, and Stuart McRobert. Ed provided me with a workout routine, meal plan, trap bar, training videos, etc. I was able to gain 20 pounds in a relatively short amount of time but I was far from what I wanted to achieve. Soon enough, summer was over and I was off to begin my college career.

When I was a freshman at Pace University located in downtown Manhattan, I e-mailed Bob Whelan asking for any gyms he knew of in the New York City area. His e-mail back was simple- "Drew Israel-phone number." I was new to lifting and never heard of Drew Israel, so I searched Bob's website and sure enough I was able to view a picture and read some articles about "The Human Wall." I gave Drew a call and we set up our first session for a Saturday morning. When I arrived at Drew's apartment I was astonished by his size. Never have I seen someone so big and so strong! What else should I have expected from the 200 pound dumbbells in the driveway? The apartment was filled wall to wall with machines and there was barely enough room for his bed.

Before the workout Drew asked me if I had any medical conditions. I told him I suffered from asthma and kyphosis of the back. Drew made sure I had an inhaler and I told him my back is OK, just as long as I don't "overdue it," like anyone else for that matter. The first exercise was the squat in the Bear made my Powernetics. Drew didn't specify the reps, but I assumed twenty. Man was I wrong. After twenty I was tired, but Drew insisted ten more. I didn't think I could but I took my time and completed ten more. After thirty Drew yells out, "Five more, come on Kenny, you can do it!" Soon enough I kept going in increments of five and after fifty Drew let me rest. It was more of a collapse on the floor and I started seeing stars, and the banana I ate not too long ago was creeping its way up from my stomach. The set was painful but laying on the floor I felt a great sense of accomplishment. Drew told me I was in the machine for about 15 minutes, but it seemed like an hour. I did some sets on the Med-Ex Chest Press, Med-Ex Military Press, Med-Ex Pull Down, and the Dominator, made by powernetics. The workout lasted about 45 minutes and sure enough my banana came right up and into Drew's toilet. Drew let me rest and put my feet up on one of the machines and after about ten minutes, I made my way back home, as my legs continued shaking from the squats.

I was able to make significant gains whenever I visited Drew, even if it was just for a months time. Drew introduced me to slow training which was never easy. I'll never forget the burning in my legs from the Med-Ex Leg Press. We would watch videos of training at Ken Leistner's house and WST, Bob Whelan's gym in Washington D.C. Unfortunately, I trained at Drew's on an "off and on basis." Working and going to class took up most of my time and I was never able to gain consistency in my training.

Hanging out with Drew was always a fun time. Watching him left hundreds of pounds in a slow cadence was always amazing to me, and hearing how much he ate the previous night for dinner was always a good story. I plan to move back to New York City and when I do, I'll be sure to give Drew a call for a workout and for a bite to eat.

After living in New York City for five years I decided to try something new, so I took a job with the Federal Bureau of Prisons and moved with my beautiful fiance, Denea to Washington D.C. A couple of weeks living in D.C. passed and an incident on the metro changed me forever. When my fiancé and I were getting off the train, some drunk skinny punk made a rude comment toward Denea. I was hesitant and the door closed. I felt weak and I felt if I was stronger there would have been no hesitation and I would have ripped him off the train and made him apologize. It had been awhile since I trained with Drew and I was in need of getting on the right track. The next day I rang Maximum Bob and the rest is history.

Bob asked me if I was familiar with his style of training and I told him he recommended me a few years ago to his buddy Drew Israel. We set up our first session and I was pumped! It had been awhile since the last time I trained and I was eager to get strong, get healthy, and gain size.

It was a muggy day in August when I first met Bob, and I didn't know what to expect. Drew had mentioned Bob before, and told me his workouts were brutal and that he was a no nonsense type of guy. I figured if I just worked hard and kept my mouth shut I would be OK, and my assumption was correct. Bob was waiting for me outside and lead me downstairs to his awesome and unique gym. When I met Bob the first thing I noticed was the thickness of his lower body. His legs look like tree trunks but Bob has squatted 380 pounds for 20 reps (back when he weighed 181) so what else should have I expected? His chest and back are massive, the signs of true strength.

As you walk downstairs you are greeted with sand bags of various sizes, farmers walk implements, a weight stacked grip machine/ wrist roller, granite stones, and a Mega-Hex bar loaded with 450 plus pounds. His walls are covered with olde timer memoribillia and motivational material. He has stacks of old Strength and Health Magazines from the 1930's to the 1960's (with almost every issue) for his students to read. His place is as much a museum as a gym! He even has some old globe barbells and dumbells! We headed into Bob's office and I sat on the Tru-Bench machine while he explained his training philosophy and the importance of showing up on time for workouts and gave me a full hour orientation.

Bob explained to me that all sets are done to failure, and that after the first set of all movements are completed, a second set of the same movements are completed again to failure. I wasn't sure if I would complete my first workout, but it was worth a try.

Bob had me start with the Hammer Chest Press and then on to pullovers. My upper body was already tired and I knew I was far off from true training shape. With little rest it was on to chins and Bob helped me perform many of the reps. I was able to take a longer breather before the next group of exercises. I drank some water and was ready for the next movement. The Natilus plate loaded military press. I love this machine, the movement is very smooth and hits the shoulders very hard!

After military presses came calf raises. About half way through Bob mutters "Veal Parmesan!" I thought he was just hungry but Bob later explained to me he was referring to my calves being cooked, (cooked calf flesh!) like veal! He was right as my calves were on fire! Bob let me take a little breather before twenty rep squats. After ten reps I was really hurting, and Bob took mercy on me and encouraged me to get fifteen. There wasn't much time left in my workout (as I had to do a lot of resting in my first workout) but Bob had me repeat the chest Press and military Press. I thought to myself, how will I ever finish a work out? But Bob told me not to worry, that it would take time, and before I would know it, an hour workout would be nothing.

I couldn't wait to go back and Bob set up a training program where I could go to WST at twice every 10 days. Bob was very patient and encouraging when it came to helping me finish the workouts. His goal was NOT to make me puke but gradually improve my workouts and get me stronger. Bob's goal was to gradually improve my conditioning so I could complete all the volume of the WST one hour workout without feeling sick. Bob stressed the importance of eating some "good carbs" two hours before the work out and emphasized what I should be eating in between my training sessions. Since I wanted to GAIN more size, Bob recommended tuna, 1% milk, chicken breasts, meat, fruits and vegetables, salads, and more 1% milk.

I have trained with Bob for roughly five months, and have found consistency in my training. Bob sticks to the basics and every work out consists of vertical and horizontal pushing and pulling, at least one major leg movement and some ab work, some neck work, some calf and grip work and "if time" some odd object stuff ...all done in a one hour time frame. My conditioning has improved to the point that I now need a lot less rest between sets than I did a few months ago. I can complete the full volume of the one hour workout now. Although I'm wiped out and tired at the end, I never feel sick anymore as my conditioning has greatly improved.

I eat more than I ever did before, and after a workout I can easily eat a turkey plate and then some at the BBQ place next door. My body weight has increased from 165 to 190 and I am beginning to gain the strength I always wanted to when I first started training a few years ago. I hope that one day I will be able to attempt the farmers walk around D.C., but that will come with time.

Training with Max Bob has been an experience I will never forget. Not only is the training fun, but Bob is a real life example of how proper training and nutrition can lead to many benefits. I was shocked when Bob told me he was 51 years young. (Bob looks at least 15 years younger.) Bob has energy that most people in their 20's do not have.

Training with Drew and Bob has taught me a great deal about true strength and the importance of effort. One of my favorite signs at WST states "No Wimps Allowed" with the word "Toners" underneath. This is why I enjoy training with Bob. I cant imagine if I went to Bob and said "I want to tone or just get cut." I want to get big and strong and Bob has given me the tools and encouragement I need. One day I hope Drew, Bob, and I can train all together, go out for a great meal, and listen to Bob's philosophy about (right wing) politics.


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