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Reprinted with permission from HARDGAINER issue #57, November-December 1998
I believe that any advice I could give to a young man trying to get big and strong would have to come from my own failure and the failure I see day in and day out at The Pit, the gym in Indiana I’m co-owner of. And remember, I have been deeply involved with training for longer than most readers have been alive.
I have never rejected helping anyone at The Pit who asks for help. But time has taught me that few people will listen. As a result, I give most of my advise with a lackluster enthusiasm, knowing that what I say will in the long run fall on unbelieving ears.
About a year ago a young man by the name of Justin Miles came to The Pit and someway got into powerlifting. I gave Justin very little help, but one of our lifters worked with him. After a few months of training, Justin went to a local powerlifting contest and lifted in the 148-pound class.
Justin was not new to training. He had been training for some years, and had worked, not just trained, in a Gold’s Gym in Clearwater, Florida. After the power meet Justin lifted in, the man who had been training him ran into some work problems and, having a wife and four children, had to leave the gym for a length of time. So Justin fell into my hands, or I fell into his, depending on how you look at it.
At 61 years of age I’m a semi grouch, and as I mentioned before, few listen, so why talk? But Justin was not easy to avoid and showed me that he would listen to every point I had to say. So I started working with him.
As usual I found he had plenty of injuries from doing movements that an average man can’t do, and from listening to people who foolishly tell you to work through pain. I also had to admit that I saw in Justin average genetics for powerlifting and knew he had to gain weight for his height in order for him to ever become decent in the sport.
Justin had been convinced by his past training to spend many hours in the gym, but for some reason he listened to my half-hearted reasoning to train less, and so he went to twice-a-week training. His program consisted of bench work on Mondays along with about six assistance exercises of one work set each, so his Monday workouts would have about eight work sets, two of them on the bench.
We trained the squat on Friday one week, and the deadlift on the next week, so during a given month we would train the squat twice, and the deadlift twice too.
On squat day we would work again about eight work sets, two work sets on the squat, and one each for the six assistance exercises. The deadlift workout was the same except that the deadlift substituted for the squat, and just one work set was performed for the deadlift (rather than the two for the squat). I have never got it in my mind that you can do over one work set of deadlifts correctly.
Now remember, Justin had a background in a gym. He lived to get big and strong long before he came to The Pit. He had been given advice from personal trainers who had spent time and money themselves learning what they knew. And bless their hearts, they probably believe the stuff they have been taught-but you can’t get big and strong that way.
So Justin, with all his might, went to work, and even though he works construction and is on his feet all day, he gained from 148 pounds to 184 in the six months he followed the routine I put him on. He has now decided that he does not want to gain weight for a while. He has discovered that gaining muscular weight is a simple thing, so simple that he could weigh 220 pounds in six more months. At his height, he has decided to stay in the 181-pound class.
As for eating, he ate lots of carbs, fat and protein, not cutting back on anything. If a person wants to gain weight and get strong, he cannot cut back on any macronutrient. You do not want a high-protein diet or a low-fat one or a high-carb one. You want a lot of each, and then you will get big and strong muscles, but only if you train brief and hard on the basics.
A note on the deadlift An important point about the deadlift is that you don’t need as much of a gifted lifter, to do well at it. What counts more is the willingness to work hard. With the bench press and squat, genetics are more influential in determining success than in the deadlift. But the deadlift is the lift that most lifters are lazy at. Plus, the deadlift is the exercise that lifters haven’t found a way to ruin using lifting paraphernalia, unlike in the other two powerlifts when in competition. So the deadlift is the only real lift left in powerlifting competition.