Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Join me in the Lawnmower Challenge! - By Jeff Bankens ... (Try this out next summer!)


If you are like me, then you may find it challenging to get everything done around your house. During the spring and summer, that includes weightlifting, cardio/endurance training, and taking care of my lawn. One day, as I was getting ready to mow my lawn, it occurred to me that I could combine each of these tasks into one full body workout! I call it “The Lawnmower Challenge”. As you will soon find out, one of the great things about this challenge is that it can be changed / adapted to almost any season, climate, or landscape. To complete “The Lawnmower Challenge”, you will need the following pieces of equipment: 1) A walk-behind lawnmower ( “Self-Propelled” mode is Disengaged) 2) A lawn to mow 3) An O2 Trainer (I tend to use a lower setting on this exercise, going no higher than Level 6) 4) 5 – 10 Odd Objects (Rocks, boulders, Atlas Stones, Kegs, Sandbags, etc.) 5) A stopwatch (optional) 6) **Don’t forget your Water** I will now give an overview of the “challenge”, before explaining it in more detail: Step 1) I mow my lawn with a small push mower, while utilizing the O2 Trainer and nose clip. This usually takes me about an hour to complete (At this point I mow the entire yard, except for the small strip surrounding my odd objects). I recommend that you start with setting 1 on the O2 trainer, and gradually work your way up. This is especially important in the summer months, when heat and humidity are at peak levels. 
Step 2) I park the mower near the odd objects so that I can mow the grass under them, once they are moved out of the way.
Step 3) Begin timing yourself with the stopwatch. Next, move the odd objects from their resting place to a spot near the fence, using a combination of bear hugs, push jerks, and carries. This allows me to mow the grass that they rest on. I do this while still wearing the nose clip and O2 Trainer. I have intentionally stacked these objects in such a way that they must be moved in order for me to be able to mow the lawn.  
Step 4) I restart the mower and finish my lawn mowing task.
Step 5) I have finished mowing and each object is carried back to its original resting place, utilizing the same techniques described in Step 3. Stop the stopwatch. Keep a record of your times so that you can try to beat your personal best each time you take on the challenge.
Step 6) I remove the O2 Trainer and nose clip, and then store the lawn mower in my shed.
Step 7) I rest, rehydrate, and enjoy the rest of my day. There are several reasons why I like to do “The Lawnmower Challenge”. First, it is a great test of your fitness and strength level. After all, you’re following up an hour of fairly hard cardio with heavy lifting. I know that if I can get through the challenge on a hot, humid day, my strength will not fail me in real life situations. This also lets me know that I have still “got it”. Secondly, the challenge allows me to incorporate a great full body workout into my weekly yard work. This results in a huge time savings. With the schedule I have, it is important that I squeeze in a workout whenever I get the chance to do so. Lastly, taking on the challenge builds mental toughness. That is, if you allow it to. What I mean is that you are already tired from the heat, the mowing, and the use of the O2 Trainer. Now you are expected to do some heavy, awkward lifting without the benefit of a proper warm up. If you approach the challenge knowing that quitting is not an option and that you must complete it, you will strengthen your mind every time you take it on. Now that we have established how the challenge works and what it does for you, I will show you how to setup a challenge for yourself, using mine as an example. As you will see in the photos, I have my implements (odd objects) setup in an easily accessible area of my yard. This allows for consistency and ease of use. I have them set in a certain order that I do not change. The order is as follows: 2 stones (50 – 60lbs. (22.7 – 27.2kg) each) 1 Stone (127lbs. /57.6 kg) 1 Stone (149lbs. /67.6 kg) 1 Granite Ball (100lbs. /45.3 kg) 1 Keg (160lbs. /72.6 kg) *This Keg is filled with a combination of sand, water, and bent 60 Penny Nails* 1 Keg (132lbs. /59.9 kg) *This Keg is filled with a combination of sand and water * 1 Concrete Atlas Stone (240lbs. /108.9 kg) *O2 Trainer is set at level 5 for mowing and lifting. Do not be “too tough” to take breathing breaks and water breaks during the challenge. This is very taxing, even on the fittest bodies / minds* Once you establish the setup of your challenge, you must have a way to gauge progression in your performance. This can be done in several of ways: First, you can time yourself, trying to accomplish the same amount of work in a shorter period of time than the last session. Second, you can add implements into your challenge every so often. Lastly, you can do the same amount of work for each challenge, while slowly raising the level used on your O2 trainer. Using any of these methods (or a combination of all 3) will give your body a challenge for many weeks, months, and years to come. When you setup your own challenge, remember this: We do not all live in Louisiana, USA. We also do not all have the same type of yard or training implements. We all do have the opportunity to transform our daily or weekly outdoor chores into an amazing workout. Take this into consideration as you begin taking on the Lawnmower Challenge. Before I leave you to setup your own challenge, I want to say thank you for taking the time to read this article, and I pray God blesses your fitness endeavors.

Jeff's Website

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Bruno’s Health Club Powerlifting Team Tribute - By Chris Newins


Bruno's Dinner Photo: L-R Carl Calleca, Mike Duschette, Bob Sailor, Chris Newins, Dr Rich Siebert, Tommy Tedesco, Jimmy Duggan
  
Let me start off by introducing myself as this is my first article for Bob. My name is Chris Newins and I am a lifetime drug free powerlifter, strongman and weightlifter. Fans of Bob’s Mind Force Radio pod casts might recognize my name as Jim Duggan mentions me, as well as other lifters from our old “Bruno’s Health Club” powerlifting team during his interviews. We also had a thread on Bob’s old Natural Strength Inner Circle website about the old Bruno’s gym.

I first met Larry “Bruno” Licandro on June 1, 1979 when I joined my first gym, the old Olympic Health Club in Hicksville LI NY. I was 14 years old and weighed in at about 132 pounds. Bruno worked at the gym. Back in those days, employees at the gyms would actually instruct new members in proper lifting technique and set up a program for them. Now, all they seem to be interested in is getting a commission for signing up new members and selling “Personal Training” packages.

Every time I went to the gym (which was everyday) Bruno would say, ”Hey kid, where is your membership card?”, and I would have to show him my card to get in. Even though he knew who I was and that I was a member, he would ask for my card every day. On Friday and Saturday nights, he worked a local bar and would go straight to the gym after closing the bar to get few hours of sleep since he had to open the gym in the mornings. He would be sleeping on the couch in the lounge and I would wake him up to “show him my card”. This was the beginning of a friendship that would last until he was killed in a car accident in January of 1995.

Bruno became my mentor at the gym. He set up a program for me to follow and helped me every day. The basic concept was 5 sets of 5 of multi joint, basic exercises. Squats, dead lifts, bent rows, bench press (both flat and incline), shoulder presses, shrugs, close grip bench, and pull ups. He would also have me do ab work and yes, even curls. This was broken down as chest, shoulders and triceps on day 1, back and biceps day 2 and squats day 3. I would not take any days off, and would just repeat the sequence. Since I was only 14, and the gym was about 5 mile from my house, my cardio work consisted of me riding my bicycle to and from the gym every day, with the idea of doing it faster each day. The ride home after squat day was usually very difficult. All reps were to be done with strict form. Squats were to be done to proper depth (top of the thigh at the hip below the knee) and all benches, shoulder presses and close grips were paused. Dead lifts were not hitched and the weight was to be controlled all of the way to the floor. If the reps were sloppy, the set didn’t count and had to be repeated. I worked with Bruno every day that summer and by following his advice, on August 15, the first day of 10th grade football practice, I was 168 pounds. I had put on 36 pounds in roughly 10 weeks. Granted, my body chemistry was naturally changing at the time, but the program that he had me follow had an awful lot to do with it. The program was, on paper, simple, but it was a lot of hard work. For the most part, it consisted of several basic exercises. And it worked then, and still does today. One of the philosophies he taught me was “You can work out hard, or you can work out long, but you cannot work out hard for long”.
In October of 1980, Olympic Health Club changed hands and Bruno was always banging heads with the new owner, so he opened his own gym and Bruno’s Health Club was born.

As mentioned above, Larry “Bruno” was tragically killed in an auto accident almost 20 years ago. He was a true driving force in the world of Drug Free powerlifting on Long Island. Every year a group of us from our old team get together and celebrate Larry. This year was no exception. This past Sunday seven of us met up at Larry’s favorite restaurant. We still talk about numbers, but only now instead of squats and totals, the numbers we talk about are triglycerides and blood pressure. This year, Carl “Blowfish” Calleca, Mike “Wookie” Duschette, Bob Sailor, myself Chris “Natch” Newins, Dr. Rich Siebert, Tommy “the Thunder” Tedesco and “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan were there. All of the nicknames were given by Bruno and most of them “stuck”.

One of the stories we rehashed was took place at a meet in 1985 or so. As a team, we were never much into the supportive squat suits, but some of us did wear them in the meets. Not crazy tight and we could get the straps up without help. Around this time is when we first got wind of this new bench press shirt that was supposed to add up to 15 pounds on your bench. Larry was a light 220 and I had to suck down to make 198, so we were about the same size across the shoulders, with Larry being a little bit bigger. We both chipped in to buy 1 shirt for the meet. Back in those days, the meets were run by “weight on the bar” like an Olympic style meet, not the rounds system that is popular today. We figured that we could both wear the same shirt, just switching off between attempts. Larry went first and missed his opener because the shirt threw him off. Since we both were opening with the same weight, I was next. Larry got up off of the bench, stepped off of the platform facing me. We both bent over at the waist and interlocked hands. Jimmy and Tommy, each on one side of Larry, grabbed the bottom of the shirt and pulled it off of him and right onto me. I then proceeded to miss my opener. Since the meet was run “weight on the bar” Larry was up right after me, so the shirt swap routine took place again, and again Larry missed the lift. I was then up for my second attempt, and yes, another shirt swap, and of course I missed my attempt. For our third attempt at what was our opener, we both went without the shirt and easily made the attempt. That was the last time we tried to use the shirt.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Caught Dead Deadlifting - By Burt Gam

About 10 years ago I happened to meet a cocky young kid who fancied himself a body builder. A rather chunky individual, this character was doing some sort of 6 day split routine just like an IFBB pro might do. Chest/Back on Monday, Legs on Tuesday and shoulders/arms Wedensday and all over again on Friday. It was exhausting just listening to him describe his work out. I guess he had unlimited time and energy. Not me. I had spent countless years learning about what works for me and what does not. Split routines, multi-angular training, drop sets, pre-exhaust systems, nautilus routines and countless other methods. I asked him if he had ever done deadlifts and he said no he had not. I asked him why not try them in his routine instead of the countless other exercises he was doing. He responded by saying "I don't see much point in them. That was the end of the conversation because I could see it was a dead end and a waste of energy and time.

If I had cared to expend the effort I would have told him that by deadlifting alone he could accomplish as much or more benefit than all the lateral raises, leg extensions and arm curls combined he was doing. Technically, I suppose the deadlift would be considered a lower back exercise but that description alone would not do it justice. In reality, the deadlift is a most complete exercise because it incorporates so many different muscles either directly or indirectly, perhaps as much as 70% of the entire body's musculature. The quadriceps, hamstrings, lats, and traps are all significantly activated, as are a multitude of stabilizer muscles almost too numerous to count. Much like the squat, the glandular release of testosterone, growth hormone. and insulin like growth factors combine to produce a potent anabolic effect. Perhaps no other exercise barring the squat is nearly as effective in this regard. Muscular growth and overall useful bodily strength are accelerated to a point where one becomes stronger in other exercises as well. Useful and practical strength with significant core strengthening are promoted. Even grip and forearm strength is significantly improved. All I know is if I knew I was going to prison in 3 months and could only do one exercise to put slabs of muscle on my frame, this is the exercise I would pick! And perhaps a few well placed tattoos to boot!

As old as humans have been roaming the earth, the deadlift may be the most practical and functional lift in existence. From the beginning of time, humans have had to squat down and lift heavy objects from the ground. The lift itself has a stark and primitive nature that is both gratifying and relatively easy to learn as far as technique is concerned. Deadlifts can be quite taxing. After performing deadlifts, one has the feeling that they have truly accomplished something productive. As basic a lift as it is, there is still a need to learn the techniques applicable to the lift, not just for the sake of efficiency but for safety as well. While it may be true that poor technique in the deadlift can put the discs of the lower back at risk, it is just as certain that proper performance can go a long way to prevent lower back injury. Powerful spinal erectors and strong abdominal muscles will act like a girdle to protect the lumbar discs, which when weak are responsible for a large incidence of back pain and problems. 

Rather than try and discuss proper technique for the deadlift which can be practiced and learned, what follows here is a discussion of basic principles on how to incorporate the lift into a routine. First and foremost, the deadlift should be performed early in a routine because of the taxing nature of the lift. If your passion is powerlifting or strength training, perhaps deadlifting one day a week is all that is needed. Sometimes less is better, as it may take some individuals a full week to recover from an intense deadlift work out. The other work outs will focus on some other types of lifts such as squats and bench presses. In fact, since squats incorporate so many similar muscles, it could actually prove to be detrimental to deadlift more often. Squat day would perhaps best be devoted to that lift itself. As far as repetition schemes are concerned, this lift seems to lend itself to low or moderate repetitions to focus on technique, although a few hardcore individuals have used higher reps which can be extremely effective in developing hypertrophy or cardiovascular endurance. This method can be extremely taxing and seems to be the exception rather than the rule. For bodybuilders who seem to prefer devoting each workout to a different area of the body, deadlifting on leg or back day can work just fine. Again, it would be prudent to prioritize the deadlift as the first exercise of the day or performance is likely to suffer due to fatigue. Also, some workouts incorporate the squat and deadlift on the same day, but in this instance one or the other is likely to suffer. In this case, if one is performing both exercises twice a week on the same day, train each lift heavy on one day and light on the other day to avoid overtraining. There are many different ways to train and no single right way, just general principles. Everyone is different so by trial and error see what works for you. The main thing is to make steady progress by gradually increasing the poundage. When progress stalls, some kind of change is in order or perhaps a layoff is required. Try and incorporate the deadlift into a 12-14 week cycle and take a much needed and deserved rest. Also, due to the compressive forces on the spine while performing squats and deadlifts, it is wise to perform some flexibility work after lifting to help prevent muscle pulls and tears and relax the muscles for overall back health.

To summarize, whether your passion is bodybuilding , strength training, or general fitness, consider making deadlifts a part of your program. It is truly an all around exercise with all around benefits.

Friday, December 11, 2015

High Rep Stone Workouts and El Nino - By Jim Duggan

The Northeast part of the country has been experiencing unusually high temperatures lately. While many meteorologists have attributed this to the powerful El Nino that is taking place in the Pacific Ocean, some weather experts are simply explaining the unexpected warm weather to the random nature of weather patterns. Whatever the reason, El Nino or just the fickle nature of Mother Nature, it has given many a strength athlete in the New York area reason to say "Thank You" for the opportunity to train outdoors well in the Christmas season. To anybody reading this in the Southwest, and who is bearing the brunt of El Nino, I am sorry if it seems like I am rejoicing at your bad fortune. I am not, of course. I am simply happy to be able to continue with some high-rep stone workouts withoutt having to bundle up in layers.

The last month or so, I have tried to take at least one stone workout a week. I would work out at the gym on my second training day. I would not usually lift more than twice per week if I am doing the stones. Lifting heavy stones taxes your entire body, and doing them for high reps leaves your sore for days. Of course, everybody is different, and one of the most important things that any trainee has to determine is the right amount of work that he/she is capable of doing without overtraining. Whether you train using free weights, machines, or a combination of modalities, the second-to-last thing you want to do is overtrain. The LAST thing you want to do is injure yourself. If you are a hard gainer, you might want to limit yourself to two full-body workouts per week. If you are able to handle more, than proceed cautiously and add a third workout to you weekly routine. You know yourself better than anybody else. Don't try to copy someone else's program. In lifting, or in life itself, if you try to imitate someone else you will be a poor imitation. Also, by all means, do NOT buy the latest muscle mags and attempt to follow one of the bogus routines offered by some steroid bloated so-called champion. Train hard, but intelligently.

Anyway, back to the stones. I have five spherical stones. Atlas, or McGlashen, type stones if you will. They are spherical. However, if you have access to natural stones, then by all means you can train with them using the same ideas in this article. My five stones range in weight from 145 Lbs. up to 300 Lbs.. I've used all five at various times, however, for the high-rep stuff, I usually stick to the 145, 180, and 220 pounders. When I say high reps, that can vary as well. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I took out my 145 Lb. stone and did a total of 100 reps. The actual workout consisted of lifting the stone and shouldering it for a number of reps ( usually 10-12) then going inside and doing 15 Hindu Push-ups. I would rest one minute then go outside and do another set of stones. I continued in this manner until I completed 100 reps of each movement.

My most recent workout took place on Tuesday, December 8. This time I decided to use the 180 Lb. stone. I wanted to do as many reps possible in an hour. I did not do any other exercise that day. I felt really good and was able to shoulder it 73 times. The actual time was slightly over an hour, but I felt strong during the set and was not getting overly fatigued. There was on drawback. Since it was warm, and I was not wearing a long-sleeve shirt, my forearms were taking a beating. The granite was tearing into my skin and by the end of the workout, my forearms were raw.

I would like to say a few words about torn skin and stone lifting. I do not wear sleeves, gauntlets, or tacky. I don't even like using chalk, and of course I do not wear a belt. I realize that this an individual choice, and there may be some people reading this who adamantly disagree with me. Again, you know yourself better than anybody. It is simply my choice to not wear any of those things. And while I would never criticize anybody wearing sleeves to protect their arms, I do have some questions about why anybody would opt to use tacky. Afterall, the whole idea behind tacky is to help your arms adhere to the stone. I realize that if you're competing in a strongman event, you would use whatever is available to assist in lifting the stone, but if you are using the stones to train, then it would be a smart idea to make the movement as difficult as possible. I have always felt the same way about powerlifting. If you are competing, then a supersuit, belt, and wraps are a must. But if you are training, you will build more strength by training without any of that stuff. Squatting and deadlifting without a belt will build tremendous strength, and will actually strengthen your back.

Hopefully, the warm weather will last a bit longer. I have always enjoyed lifting stones, and this favorable weather has only added to the enjoyment. And while a little cold weather will not deter me from attacking the stones, it is always more enjoyable to be able to wear shorts and a t-shirt. Forearms be damned. 
Does modern bodybuilding make you sick? You should write for Natural Strength! I always need good articles about drug-free weight training. It only has to be at least a page and nothing fancy. Just write it strong and truthful with passion! Send your articles directly to me: bobwhelan@naturalstrength.com
BODY • MIND • SPIRIT

Bob Whelan

Bob Whelan

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