Friday, August 23, 2013

Beginning Weight Training - Setting Up the Program, (Part I) - By Jay Trigg

One of the most frequently asked questions in the gym, internet training Q&A’s, and magazine articles is: "How does one set up a training program if one has never lifted weights before? How can I ensure that I will utilize the correct exercises and intensity when I train?" While the question seems easy enough to answer, many great minds in the "weight training world" have pondered this question at great length, and have come up with many different answers to the question. There are as many different answers as there are styles of training. Depending on who one asks, the initial routine can take on many forms and functions. A beginning trainer working with Dr. Leistner would certainly train differently than one working with Brooks Kubik. And Bob Whelan might train a new person much differently in some respects than Steve Baldwin or Andrea Rippe. Yet, undoubtedly, all trainees would stand the same chance of success in making the desired physical and mental changes no matter which of the above trained them. All of the above have proven themselves to be effective trainers and are well educated in the field of exercise and its application. So, it isn’t a particular style of training that is necessarily more effective, but rather it is the construct and application of a training regimen that tends to prove successful over time.


Beginning trainees come in all sizes and shapes. From 17-year-old high school athletes needing some weight and strength to make the varsity squad, to guys and gals in their mid-20’s who want to "get buff". 40-year-old executives who want to lose that "executive spread", as well as improve their health and self-image, all the way to 50-year-old women who want to attack the aging process before it attacks them.

The first perspective is to address your (and my) attitude towards the trainee. Often we enter a relationship with a "newbie" somewhat prejudiced to their individual goals and desires. If my number one goal is to press a water filled keg overhead with one hand, while closing the Captains of Crush #4 gripper in the other hand, and my trainee wants to "look good on the beach this summer", my attitude can get in the way of his training. While his goal is not my goal (or at least my primary goal, now that I am married), his goal is not a bad one. What he is saying is "I want to have a body that is healthy, muscular, and fit". Sounds like my goal, as well. Only my priorities are different in achieving that goal. So if we assume that all trainees, or serious ones anyway, are looking to improve themselves physically we should be all right. We just have to understand that their goals and aspirations may be different from ours in the physical realm.

The second perspective is to look at the needs, limitations, and abilities of the trainee. Generic training advice is often the worst training advice. It fails to address specific needs that the trainee may have. With a new trainee, it is best to first evaluate the limitations they may have. It is not safe to assume that everyone can safely squat, especially on the first day. Nor is it safe to assume that anyone can do barbell curls, or even leg extensions. The better thing to do is to speak at length with the trainee about specific physical problems and concerns they may have. Obvious is questions about injuries and surgeries. Not so obvious may be discomfort in exercises done prone, exercises requiring a strong grip (rows, pulldowns) or exercises that require a rotation around a joint that is unusual for the trainee (grabbing the bar on squats for example). You don’t have to be a physiological whiz to figure these things out, either. Generally the client can inform you of specific problems they may have. You may also find out that with this knowledge you can easily adjust exercises, via positioning or performance, to safe and effective means.

It is also good to walk the client through every machine and exercise you have available to them. While this isn’t an "official workout", I treat it as one. I have the client warm up on a Schwinn Aerodyne for 10 minutes, do some light stretching, and we then use every machine and implement available. Utilizing light weights and low repetitions, we put each move through its full ROM, checking for constant feedback from the trainee. "Does this feel okay?" "Any pain or weird catches?" "How does that weight feel? Heavy, medium, or light? If I told you to do 15, could you do it easily or not at all?" By doing this we are insuring several things:
    a. The trainee knows we are concerned for their safety and comfort. They can be told that proper exercise will often be uncomfortable and even somewhat painful at times, but as well should know it will never be unsafe or prone to injury, and that the exercise chosen will be appropriate for their physical abilities and limitations.

    b. That we know the trainees state of mind. Women are often intimidated about entering a "man’s realm", especially if the other females they see present are fit and powerful. Men are often intimidated because they feel they are "less masculine" because they haven’t reached or maintained a state of physical fitness. Others, particularly young males, are more interested in doing a lot of bench presses soon, rather than developing a whole body. While some of these can be somewhat frustrating to deal with at times, it is our responsibility to educate and motivate the trainee. And this situation may be our first real look at how they view themselves, effort, and exercise.

    c. That the trainee has some initial familiarity with the machine, implements, and exercises they will be using. Even if you never plan on using a leg extension with a trainee, knowing that they can use it and use it properly is insurance for the day they come in to train with a cast around an ankle. You also begin to get a look at some of the problems and technique issues you and the trainee will soon be facing in the weight room. Some clients move to fast, some let the weight stack fall too quickly banging the stack. Others can’t get the hang of breathing correctly, others are too cautious, and still others will get into orthopedicaly suicidal positions the moment you blink your eyes. It is better to find this out early and with minimally challenging weights, than to suddenly wake up to the fact that your trainee is inhaling as he comes up from the bottom of a heavy squat.

    d. The initial questions get answered quickly and appropriately. For example, if you don’t allow trainees to use weight belts or straps, this is the time to address this and why you don’t recommend them. If your philosophy is "sets x reps" on free weights and "’go til ya’ puke" on machines, now is the time to explain why you make that distinction and how it applies to the trainee. If you like "push - pull", or "duo-poly-contractile" explain to the client why that is good, and how it works. Also, this is the best time to explain to and show what muscle groups each exercise is working. Explain how the delts and triceps get a workout in the overhead press (and show them THEIR delts and triceps, not yours). Explain how the row affects lats, rear delts, and biceps. Give them enough gross anatomy so that they can make sense of what the exercises are for, and why in the world a stiff leg deadlift is a hamstring exercise, not an arm exercise.
This is the conclusion of Part I of this series. Part II will address exercise selection, special needs, and individualizing a "cookie cutter" routine (after all, you only got so much equipment, right?)


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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Sets from Hell! - By "Maximum" Bob Whelan


Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on March 14, 2000, Reprinted, with permission, from HARDGAINER issue #48, May-June 1997



"The mind is its own place and in itself can make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven."
-Milton

Big Billy Banks arrived a few minutes early for his Saturday afternoon training session. Even before he got to the door he could hear weights banging, my shouting, and Victor Peck screaming bloody murder through the noisy Marine cadence tape that was blasting away. Billy knew that he, too, was in for one hell of a day!

I have been training Victor (on and off) for seven years. His mother hired me as a present to him for his 30th birthday. He was about 40 lbs overweight at the time, and smoked cigarettes. He had trained a decade earlier but was hobbled by a serious knee injury while playing football, and then he got off track.

Victor is one of the most gung-ho determined guys I know. All he needed was some direction and a little shove. He quit smoking and has taken to serious training like a fish to water. He is now a high-intensity training fanatic and has totally changed his life. He is 6-4 tall and 250 lbs, and in the best shape of his life, at age 37. He has a high level of conditioning and mental toughness, and was an ideal candidate for my new half-hour training program. A bonus is that the half-hour program is much cheaper than the hour-long program. But many people are unable to do the half-hour program because they do not have the high-level of mental toughness that is required. Even many who think that they are in good condition could not take the half-hour workout because every work set is to complete failure with very little rest between sets. Anyone's mental (and physical) toughness would be put to the test by the half-hour workout.

I recently twisted Victor's arm to try it. At first he had some doubts. He was used to the hour workout and thought that only half an hour of training wasn't long enough. But now he has no doubts. He is a believer!

Billy joined in with me, screaming at Victor to finish strong. Victor was coming down the home stretch and needed to rally his remaining energy. Victor moved from the Hammer Iso-Lateral Behind Neck Press to the Hammer Iso-Lateral Pulldown-where he went to failure, and then continued to pull in a "static" contraction for an additional 10 seconds. Then it was over to the Hammer Iso-Lateral Leg Press with 350 lbs, and Victor pushed out 20 reps. He collapsed in the machine and was drenched in sweat. Prior to Victor's workout the rubber floor was dry. Now there were many small puddles of sweat on the floor.

"Great workout, Bob!" Victor gasped.

"Twenty-seven minutes," I responded, "you worked real hard, as usual."

I asked Billy if he minded starting his workout about ten minutes late, so Victor could do the sandbag. A big grin came over Billy's face. He did not mind at all. Victor wasn't smiling, but he was willing. People love to watch others do the sandbag! Victor already has his name on the bag as he got 200 lbs around a few months ago, but had not done it since. He recently tried 225 lbs for the first time, but failed to get it more than 20 feet. Because he was pretty tired, today he was going to go for the 200 again.

For this high-rep 30-minute workout we only do warmup work for the first upper-body movement, and the first lower-body movement. The reps are high enough (usually over 10 for the first set of each exercise) for warmup work not to be needed for every exercise. But this system only works if the first set has high reps. If low reps, pyramids or singles were to be used, that would be different and we would do specific warmup sets for each exercise (and not be able to fit the workout into a 30-minute session). But Victor was using a very specific routine tailored to fit a 30-minute time limit.

Here is a typical workout that I'll put Victor through in 30 minutes:

Five-minute cardiovascular warmup and series of 20-second static-hold stretches for the entire body

1. Squat or deadlift (alternating, once per week for each): 1 warmup set and 1 set to failure, moving up in weight next time if 20 reps are reached in perfect form

2. Hammer Iso-Lateral Chest Press: 1 warmup set, 2 sets to failure

3. Hammer Iso-Lateral Row: 2 sets to failure

4. Hammer Iso-Lateral Behind Neck Press: 2 sets to failure

5. Hammer Iso-Lateral Pulldown: 2 sets to failure

6. Hammer Iso-Lateral Leg Press: 1 set to failure, moving up in weight next time if 20 reps are reached in perfect form


Exercises 2-5 are done one after the other, to failure, in two rotating series. The poundage is increased the following workout once 8 or more reps is reached on the second set of a given exercise. Note that exercises 2-5 are alternating pushing and pulling movements. This entire program is done in under 30 minutes, with the hardest exercises done first and last. A sandbag carry and/or grip work is/are sometimes added after the regular 30-minute workout.

Like all of my clients, Victor does cardiovascular work, abdominal work, and extra stretching in his own time.

SANDBAG ALLEY
I recently moved my gym (again) to a bigger and better facility, just a block away from the old place. We now do the sandbag carry outside in a fenced-off alleyway behind the gym. My landlord owns the alley and gave it to me as part of the lease. We call it "sandbag alley." We start and finish at the same place. The actual carry for a single up-and-down trip is about 250 feet. Up and down sandbag alley twice is about the same distance as around the old third floor, so the same 10-minute time limit remains. Victor managed to get the 200-lb bag up and down the alley twice in under 10 minutes before collapsing in a heap. Billy and I were hoarse from screaming encouragement. Victor's workout, including the sandbag carry, took only 35 minutes.

YOU CAN'T TRAIN HARD AND LONG
You can train hard, or you can train long. But you can't do both. One hour is probably the limit for a high-intensity workout. The two- and three-hour marathon workouts in the mega-hype drug-infested bodybuilding mags are greatly exaggerated. Being in a gym for three hours is not the same thing as training for three hours. Those guys spend more time looking in the mirror, gossiping and talking than they do training. The drugs they use enable them to train at a low level of intensity and yet still get good results. But most of those types don't have a clue of what a hard workout is.

With my one-hour program (seven exercises) only the third (final) set of each exercise is always done to complete muscular failure, and you get some rest between sets-usually no more than one minute and only after squats, deadlifts and leg presses. For the hour-long workout I use the "controlled failure" method for the first two work sets of each exercise. Using this method you stop at the rep goal for the set, if it's reached. If the goal isn't reached, and you went all out, then you reached muscular failure. The half-hour program (six exercises) has a maximum of only two work sets per exercise, but both are done to complete muscular failure with very little (or no) rest between sets.

Both workouts are brutal and take some getting used to, but I make all newcomers start with the one-hour program. If they adapt well to the program and show that they have the ability to train hard, and are mentally tough, they have the option of switching to the half-hour program.

Here's how Drew Israel describes the difference between my half-hour and one-hour programs: "Bob's hour program is like taking body blows and shots to the head. But the half-hour program is all shots to the head. With both programs you end up on the floor."

My clients have to prove that they are really ready if they want to switch to the half-hour workout. It's not the physical factor I'm looking at; it's mainly the mental factor. To make the half-hour workout productive you must be willing to go all out and hold nothing back. You must be willing "to go down with the ship." You have to have the right mental state to make it work. Many do not. But it's a good system because you get rewarded with a cheaper rate for your mental and physical toughness.

The equipment you have available is a big factor in determining which program would work best for you. You need to have all equipment pre-loaded before starting the workout. If, for example, you only have a single barbell that you use for all exercises, the half-hour workout isn't practical.

MENTAL FOCUS
The better your mental focus, the more you are able to get good results from one or two sets to failure per exercise. (To help you increase your mental focus, and effort level, apply what you learn from the excellent article titled "The White Moment," by John Christy, in hardgainer issue #40.) There are many trainees who will not get good results from one or two sets to failure. But it's not because one or two sets to failure doesn't work. It's because the individual has failed to understand and apply what true muscular failure is.

I've been experimenting in my own training with just one set to failure. I've always known that it works, but have never used it. I've always felt better doing at least two sets to failure per exercise. My friendship with Drew Israel influenced me to give it a try. When you see how big and strong Drew is, you can't help but be influenced. Since November 1996 I've only done one set to failure per exercise in my own training. I'm stronger than ever and training with weights for less than one hour per week-two training days per week, less than half an hour for each session. In a recent visit to Drew's place I got 500 lbs for 10 reps in the Hammer Leg Press with a dead stop pause on each rep. It works for me, Drew, and others, because we understand what complete muscular failure is, and what type of mental focus is needed.

Of course, it's important always to have good mental focus, but the fewer sets that you do (per exercise), the more important that mental focus is. If you do one set to failure, you can't have a lapse in concentration because you can't make it up in later sets. You must be "on" throughout each set. There is no room for mistakes. Every one must be a quality, all-out, kick-ass, life-and-death set or else you will be wasting your time and doing nothing more than burning calories. It's not merely thinking positively. You must combine anger and aggression with positive thinking. Get mad at the weights. Growl, scream, and let yourself go! It's life and death. It's combat. You must have the attitude that you are going to war. If you can't (or won't) do this, you are better off with multiple sets.

TOTAL MUSCULAR FAILURE
If you can finish the repetition, then you can't be at positive muscular failure because the weight is still moving in a positive direction. You must try one more rep. Positive muscular failure is not when the weight feels heavy. It's not when you are shaking and your muscles ache. Positive muscular failure is when the weight ceases to move in a positive direction even though you are pushing or pulling as hard as you can. But this is just the first part of a complete set to failure.

The second part of a quality set to true complete failure is continuing to push or pull in a static contraction for about ten seconds after you have reached positive failure. The third and final part of taking a set to complete failure is lowering the weight slowly.

Many exercise scientists and researchers believe that the static contraction (held after reaching positive failure) is the most beneficial part of the set. Whether or not you do it could make the difference between success and failure while using one set to failure. But most people are not willing to train to complete failure because it's so brutal. So one set to failure won't work for these types. These people are not willing to do what it takes to make one set to failure work, but the rewards are great for those who will.


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IN SERVICE: PERVIS An Intense Summer of Strength Work Has Made Him a Gym-Dandy Player - Peter May


Boston Globe (Sports), Posted on NaturalStrength.com on January 18, 2000


November 25, 1997

There's a revealing sign above the entrance to Whelan Strength Training in Washington, D.C.: "If you train here,...you are not normal."

Call up the office and you hear an ominous message about commando-tough training, high-intensity stuff clearly not for the faint of heart or, for that matter, for the non-zealot.

Sounds like the perfect place for Pervis Ellison, huh? It was into this fanatical world that Ellison was thrust last summer, and things haven't quite been the same since. He is bigger, stronger, healthier, and actually playing regularly. The Celtics are reaping rewards after three years of on-again, off-again delays, malfunctions, and general chaos.

The Celtics sent Ellison to Whelan's with a simple instruction: it's time. If Ellison was ever going to be a Rick Pitino Celtic, he had to add weight, build muscle, and be ready to work as he never had worked before.

Bob Whelan oversees the shop that bears his name. He had heard all about Ellison and, as he put it yesterday, "I wasn't overly optimistic." His gym is for the maniacal and fanatical. Ellison didn't seem to be either.

But after nine weeks of brutally intensive workouts in which Ellison gained strength and 20 pounds, the results are starting to show.

Ellison is playing more confidently and, for the first time in years, he is pain free. His summer of hell under Whelan's whip and watch has turned into an autumn of emancipation and rebirth.

"It was a lot of hard work," Ellison said. "But I had tried so many different things that I thought this might help. And it has. For me, this is almost like starting over. I'm 30, but it's like for the last three or four years, I haven't really played basketball."

The reclamation of Ellison has been arguably Pitino's master coup. Any team in the league could have had him over the summer for nothing. Pitino wanted wall busters on his team. Ellison was not viewed as such.

In July, the Celtics' new strength and conditioning coach, Shaun Brown, brought Ellison over to Whelan's place, which sits across from MCI Arena in downtown Washington. Whelan, who grew up in Sherborn and is a diehard Celtics fan, was suspicious from the start.

"Pervis brought his agent along and I think he was a little nervous about the whole thing. I kind of babied him in that first meeting." Whelan said, "Then, after that, I hammered him. I absolutely killed him. I have this plastic bucket which almost everyone has used after one of my workouts. Pervis used it more than once."

Ellison had two one-hour sessions a week. Lest you think that is not a lot of work, Whelan says, think again.

"It takes most people who are in great shape three weeks even to adjust to my one-hour workout," he said. "You just go from machine to machine with time maybe to breathe and have a small cup of water. By the end of the hour, you've had enough.

"It's none of this toning, body-sculpting, shaping, male-estrogen, '90s, unisex crap." Whelan added, "It's an all-out, kick-ass workout. Blood and guts."

Whelan put Ellison on a diet, which included two cans of tuna fish a day. There were also two running sessions a week around the outdoor track at Catholic University, where Whelan was once the strength and conditioning coach. Those were drills designed by Brown. Inside the gym was Whelan's exclusive domain.

"Bob is crazy," Ellison laughed. "He's this military guy, and if you see any of those military movies like 'G.I. Jane,' those are the kinds of things he does. He had me walking around (in the summer DC heat) with a 150-pound bag of sand."

And that came AFTER the workout!!

"I have the bags all outside in an alley," Whelan said. "I call it Sandbag Alley. There are bags ranging from 50 pounds to 300 pounds. You have to carry them over a course that's about 250 feet long. And remember, this was outside in the Washington summer heat. It's brutal."
Whelan said Ellison was an excellent student. He hadn't had a name athlete come through his door before. But Brown had read about Whelan in a fitness magazine and the gym was near Ellison's summer home. Why not?

"I had heard and read that Pervis didn't work hard, but that was not the case with me," Whelan said. "Pervis worked his butt off. You have to. And we didn't cut him any slack with his knees, either. We told him to suck it up and then maybe he could be like Nolan Ryan and do some Advil commercials."

All of this would be immaterial, of course, if Ellison's basketball performance this season had been anything similar to the last few years. This is his fourth season with the Celtics and the first time he hasn't been hurt. There were the knees the first two years and then last year a shattered foot after a table fell on it. He played only six games.

There was a legion of skeptics, and Pitino was among them. During the summer, he said he looked Ellison in the eyes and said, "I just want to know if you want to play and are willing to pay the price. Because if you aren't, you can't play for me."

Now, Ellison has not only has paid the price, he has morphed from the poster boy for sloth and indifference into something approaching a folk hero last seen in the person of Marty Conlon. He doesn't mind throwing his new weight around. He is making good use of his fouls, which, alas, he still manages to accumulate with regularity. And he has made two huge blocks in each of the last two games that were result-determining plays.

How soon before we hear a Per-vis, Per-vis chant?

"When I start seeing some signs, then I'll know," Ellison said. "The fans want a winning team and they appreciate it when you put it on the line. They see you put the effort out and they appreciate that."

What we all know from the last four or five years is that Ellison has a well rounded, versatile game that can look utterly seamless when he's playing with confidence. There have been cameos in Boston, but mostly there have been too many DNPs, almost all because of injuries.

His main benefit now is defense and shot-blocking. His offense is basically stick-backs. Pitino is hoping to get 20-plus minutes a game, and the rest of the package, from Ellison.

"Before, when Pervis would get a pass, he would look all around for someone to pass to, including the coaches," Pitino said. "Now he's taking that shot. He's coming around. We thought he would and we are very excited about that progress because that's going to mean a lot for us."

Whelan thinks he has an explanation for the turnaround.

"He was drafted by Sacramento and they stunk. He came here [Washington] and they stunk. He went to Boston and they stunk. He had always been on bad teams," Whelan said. "It's different now. From what I can see, this is an organization committed to winning and keeping guys fit."

And for the first time in years, Ellison not only wants to be a part of something special, he actually can be a part of it. You wouldn't want all that abuse over the summer to have been for naught, now?


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Linda Jo Belsito Brings Home The Gold!

Video from Italy MWG 2013  Linda Jo: sets 10 MWG records and brings home the GOLD!!!!

Send a "Congrats email" to LJ: ljbbpowerof2@aol.com


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Thursday, August 1, 2013

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BODY • MIND • SPIRIT

Bob Whelan

Bob Whelan

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