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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Natural Bodybuilding Champion, Staying Lean & Strong, Bill Pearl, Getting Ripped, Cancer Research

Ian Duckett interview with Bob Whelan - NATURAL STRENGTH NIGHT podcast - (episode 29) - 31 January 16

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Importance of Neck Training - Jim Duggan

One of the most beneficial things that any trainee can do would be to train his/her neck. Strengthening the neck is vitally important, especially if you participate in contact sports, or are a tactical athlete. Even if you don't play sports, there are numerous benefits to having a strong, well-developed neck. Falls, accidents, or simply the everyday hazards of certain occupations, can cause all sorts of damage to the cervical spine and head. By incorporating some neck work into your strength training program, you can strengthen those crucial areas and possible make them more resistant to injury. And while training your neck may not be as fun as pumping your arms, or blasting your pecs, or blitzing your lats, the gains you derive from neck training may actually save you from suffering whiplash, or serious head injury, or worse.

The good news is that a lot of time does not need to be devoted to developing your neck. The exercises themselves are safe and effective in developing size and strength. They are relatively easy to perform, and, aside from the 4-Way Neck Machine, expensive equipment is not required. In fact, you can develop a bigger more powerful neck with as little as some barbell plates and a neck harness.

A simple, but effective, way to exercise your neck is something that can be done anywhere, anytime, and does not require any equipment at all. Several sets of Chin Tucks are a good way to introduce yourself to neck training. To perform a Chin Tuck simply turn your head as far as possible to one side. Then raise it, then lower it down so that your chin touches your shoulder. I do this simple exercise every morning upon rising. A couple sets of twenty reps is an easy way to stimulate your neck muscles.
The next exercise requires only a barbell plate, and a flat bench. Lie supine (face up) on a bench. Your head should be hanging on the end of the bench. Hold a plate on your forehead and raise your head up and down. This movement, like all neck exercises, should be down slowly and under control. Allow your head to roll back as far as you can, then raise it up and hold it for a second. Of course, you can place a towel on your forehead as a cushion once the weights get heavier. Or else you might have the word YORK imprinted on your forehead. Provided, of course, that you're using York plates, which I hope you are.

Next up on the exercise list utilizes a Headstrap or Harness. There are numerous Headstraps on the market. You want to make sure you find one that is not only strong, but comfortable. I personally use Ironmind's Headstrap Fit For Hercules. I've had it for years, and I wouldn't think of using anything different. And while it might be a little on the costly side, I personally believe that we should spare no expense when it comes to quality training equipment. In neck training, as in life, you get what you pay for! I like to utilize loading pins and/or chains to secure plates to my harness. Like all neck exercises, I prefer to do higher reps than on other exercises. For the Headstrap, I will do several sets. On my first set, I like to do a set of twenty or thirty reps. I will add weight for my second set and do a set of twenty. For the last set or so, I will add more weight and do one or two sets of 10-15 reps. Do the reps under control. I can't emphasize this enough. This especially important when you're training the neck. Do not bounce, jerk, or cheat in an effort to use more weight. It's better to lower the poundage and do the exercise under control. 

The final direct neck exercise utilizes a 4-Way Neck Machine. There are several companies that manufacture Neck Machines. They are all pretty much the same. The allow you to exercise the neck in four directions: Extension, Flexion, and each side (left and right.) A couple of sets in each direction will provide stimulation to your entire neck. Again, high reps are best. The biggest mistake that can be made on this machine- or any machine for that matter- would be trying to use limit poundages for low reps. You're trying to build strength, not set any records. Unfortunately, many gyms do not carry this piece of equipment. What a shame. Every commercial gym, as well as every high school or firehouse weight room should have a quality 4-Way Neck Machine. Think of how many aches, pains, and injuries could be avoided if everybody trained their neck in a sensible fashion.

Another way to strengthen the neck would be to include various Shoulder Shrug variations. Utilizing a barbell, or dumbbells, shrugging will develop the trapezius which will aid in strengthening the neck. The key is to keep your arms straight, and pull your shoulders straight up. There is no need to rotate your shoulders at the top position. Just shrug straight up as high as you can. Again, don't bounce or cheat. At various times, when I've done shrugs, I've used high reps ( 20 or more), as well as low reps ( sets of six.)
You may have noticed that I have not included any type of Bridging exercises ( aka The Wrestler's Bridge.) Years ago, when I trained at Iron Island Gym, I remember Dr. Ken Leistner giving a seminar about training. He explained why he did not advocate doing the Wrestler's Bridge. While I don't quite recall exactly what he said, I do remember him saying bridging placed a lot of stress on the cervical spine. If a Doctor of Chiropractic- as well as one of the most respected exercise authorities- says not to do them, then that is good enough for me. And I can honestly say that I have never done them, nor have I had a desire to try them.

By devoting a small amount of time to developing your neck, you will reap big dividends. A bigger, more powerful neck not only looks impressive, but it can actually be helpful in minimizing injuries to a vulnerable area of the body. Get going and good luck!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Journey Into Strength - By Jeff “T-Rex” Bankens

I would now like to take you on my Journey Into Strength. My aim is to inspire you, encourage you, and help you avoid some of the roadblocks I have encountered during this journey. While I still consider myself on the young side, I have been on traveling on this path for a long time. It actually began in 1977, the year I was born. You see, before I could even speak, I loved strength. While I can’t recall most of my early childhood, I can tell you what I did once a week between ages 1-3. I watched a mild-mannered scientist turn into the most powerful man-like creature to ever walk the face of the earth. I became a full time strength-seeker the first time I saw Bill Bixby morph into the green-skinned Incredible hulk!

Comic books fueled my passion for strength until I was old enough to begin weight training. For me that was age 14. Once I reached this age, I was given permission to workout at a very nice gym my dad had built for his employees, for as many workouts as I could handle. While this sounds like a lifter’s paradise, there were two important things missing: 1) Adult Supervision, and 2) competent instruction. This brought on over training, injury, and a lack of real progress. At this point, I thought I would look to the experts for advice and turned to the muscle comics. We all know where they lead, more disappointing gains and frustration.

At this point I would like to make an appeal to the experienced trainees. Share your knowledge of sensible training with the next generation. Help them navigate past the pitfalls and roadblocks that you came across as a young lifter. That is what I am doing with my son now. While he is only 11 months old, he accompanies me on every workout. Because of this, he is already learning what it takes to be a champion, by example.

We will now return to the journey. I continued to train the same way as described above
throughout high school, college, and the first year or two of my professional career. I went through the motions of 5-6 day a week blitzing & pumping for all of those years with little to show for it. I knew that I needed a change, and even began praying for change! At that time (about 2002-2003), I saw an advertisement for a book titled Dinosaur Training in the back of Iron Man magazine. I bought the book, read it carefully, and began implementing the principles into my training. My life was forever changed. I started gaining strength, muscle, and power in every lift.

It was also at this time in my life that I experienced a spiritual change. You see, deep inside my heart I knew that my new-found strength would be used to help others. I didn’t know how yet, but I would find out very soon. Over the next couple of years, I began to learn how to (crudely) perform a few old time feats of strength. This includes ripping a phone book in 1/2 with my bare hands and bending a 60 Penny nail into a “V” shape. I began to perform these feats for family and friends on occasion, but did not yet perform in public. I was far removed from a real-life performing strongman. Over the next couple of years I continued to increase my repertoire of feats, as well as perfecting the feats I already learned. After 3-4 years of practicing, I was given my first opportunity to perform in public! It was at a children’s church service. The whole show consisted of maybe 3-4 feats and lasted all of maybe 10 minutes. To me it seemed like an eternity!

I continued to have opportunities to perform from time to time, but nothing steady. I did not let this stop my journey. Instead, I used the time to keep honing my skills and increase my overall strength. This quiet period taught me something. If you have a dream, hold onto it with bulldog determination! Whether we are talking about a 500 pound squat, or a world record setting feat of strength, any dream worth having takes lots of hard work and preparation!

Finally in 2008 I received my first big break. I was given an opportunity to travel with a strength team. We traveled across the U.S. as far west as North Texas, and as far East as Upstate New York. We performed feats of strength and spoke at churches, schools, and even a private college. It was at this time that I learned how to perform in front of crowds and speak in public. Without this time on the road I would not be the strongman I am today.

Since then I have been blessed with the opportunity to speak and perform in front of thousands of people, I have been featured on television, and I have even set three world records. All of this came about because I did not quit! When my training failed me, I did not quit! I searched until I found the training style that works best for me. When my dream did not come to fruition immediately, I did not quit! I used the time I was given to perfect my craft.

When my 250# sandbag did not move off the ground, I did not quit! I worked on it until I was able to lift it and carry it. What will your response be to your next dream? Will you fight for it, or will you take flight? My advice is for you to take hold of that dream and never let go! You have no control over where your life begins, but you do have some say in where it will end.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Advanced Techniques - By Dave Yarnell

Old school progressive training programs are about as un-complicated as it gets. It is where just about everyone that has picked up a barbell, dumbbell or kettlebell began their journey, and the beauty of it is that it works. It works for everyone, even us so-called “hard-gainers”. Now there is an interesting term, perhaps over-used over the years just a wee bit. In my opinion, the majority of strength and body- building trainees fit nicely into this category.

Then you have your Steve Reeves types, which really are few and far-between, being highly blessed in the gene pool game. So if old school linear progression works just fine, why the need for all the other variations that have come down the pike? Well, because though simple straight-forward progression works, it gradually slows or even stops producing gains for most of us over the long haul. The same awesome adaptability the good Lord built into our amazing bodies that causes them to grow stronger in response to being over-loaded, ironically is the problem when it comes to sustaining gains. Your body adapts to the stimulus and the stimulus no longer creates new adaptation. 

There are a whole bunch of possible responses to this predicament; one of which is to just give up, get back on the couch, grab the chips, your favorite beverage, and live vicariously through all those fitter and faster folks that earn their bread and butter through athletic endeavors. Many, unfortunately have chosen that path, but if you are taking the initiative to read this article, you probably are not in that group. Another route is that well known short cut to gains known as performance enhancing drugs, which also have lured many, but though the promised gains are legit, they do not come without strings attached. Again, if you are reading this article, posted on NaturalStrength.com, this path is clearly not the one you have chosen, and I believe you have chosen wisely in that case. 

So where does that lead us? It leads us to what many have called ‘advanced techniques”, or “plateau busters” or some other such jargon. Such techniques as forced reps, super sets, giant sets, negatives, time under tension manipulations, heavy partial movements, cheating movements are just a few that come readily to mind. You will run into those folks who swear by one of these as superior to all others, and some who bad math most of them, or still others that have tried with some favorable results just about all of them. My friend Joe DiMarco, one of the founding members of the original Culver City Westside barbell club has an interesting idea about these plateaus we all face. His mindset is to just stay with the program and be content with slow or no gains for a while. Perish the thought? Heresy? Joe’s reasoning on this is that tendon and ligament strength just takes longer to respond than does that of muscle tissue, so the plateau is like your body’s little trick to keep things in balance. Eventually, when the balance has been restored, the gains start to improve again, according to Joe. I cannot tell you if this is scientifically valid, but it is certainly an interesting viewpoint, at least. 

The concept is a hard sell in today’s instant gratification society, though. OK, so let’s talk about some of these advanced training techniques. There are 2 that jump to mind as the most misunderstood and overly used in the game. You guessed it, my friends, I am talking about forced reps and cheating reps. In every commercial gym I have been in, I have seen these 2 methods horribly abused, often to the point of absurdity. I think we have all seen the “spotter” doing heavy rowing motions over the “lifter” supposedly doing bench presses with far more weight than he is capable of properly handling. This form of what are alleged to be forced reps is pretty much worthless and a waste of time for all involved (excepting maybe the spotter getting a good workout in some cases). The old Culver City method was called “the touch system”, and there were several articles in the old Muscle Builder magazines about this system (all reprinted in my book on the group). In their application, the spotter would more feign assistance than actually give any. As soon as the spotter touches the bar, the lifter assumes he is getting just enough help to finish the rep, and he naturally follows through.

This was more of a mind game than a physical thing, and most of us that have spent lots of hours in the gym realize just how important the mind is in accomplishing anything worthwhile in the iron game. This method was (is) vastly superior to the version commonly practiced by most folks these days. What about cheating? There have been volumes written on the pros and cons of the cheating method, with an on-going debate over whether it is a valid method at all. I think much of the controversy is based on the over-use and abuse of what I believe to be a very valid method. Some wise man once said “there is cheating, and then there is CHEATING”. Duh, right? In most areas of life, cheating is not a good practice, but in the iron game, a little cheating goes a long way. My rules for acceptable cheating? First, don’t jump right into cheating in any particular exercise; rather, perform some strict, full range movements with weights that allow this. Next, cheat only as much as absolutely needed to complete a rep(s) with a challenging resistance level. For example, using a little bit of swing or “body-English” to complete a heavy curl, then fighting the descent of the weight on its way down offers far more benefit than loading up twice as much weight as you can legitimately handle and swinging the weight with all the momentum you can muster to complete every rep. These ideas are far from rocket science; really just common sense which sometimes seems sadly lacking in some of our training environments. Maybe next time, we will cover some other of these techniques. Until then, train hard, train smart, and God bless your endeavors. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

A New Year and New Resolutions - By Jim Duggan

It's that time of the year. The time when just about everyone makes New Year's resolutions. And in about two or three weeks, most-if not all-of these various resolutions will be history. As it relates to exercise and fitness, most people resolve to either lose weight, or to work out more. Unfortunately, most people make resolutions that are not only unrealistic, but are just about impossible to keep.

If you've spent the better part of the past year sitting on your fat aspirations and think that you will start the new year by going on a strict diet and lose a lot of weight in a short time, you are kidding yourself. Likewise, if you've spent the last twelve months having lifted nothing heavier than a fork, and think that you will all of a sudden hit the gym everyday and become a Hercules by the end of the month, then give me a call. I've got some NY Giants playoff tickets I'd like to sell you. 

The fact of the matter is that any goal- whether it be losing weight or getting stronger- requires a plan. The plan should include short-term as well as long-term goals. The goals have to be specific. As well as realistic and progressive. Simply stating " I want to lose weight" is not going to be enough. You must have a short-term goal, a deadline for that goal, and a plan to reach that goal. If you state that you want to get stronger, without having a plan, and a series of short-term poundage goals, then you will not be successful.    
Now, in order to be able to attain your goals, you are going to have to work. Everybody wants to shoot for something, but if you are not willing to put in the effort, then you will just be wasting your time. Before you can put in the effort, you must be willing to ask yourself some serious questions. And you must be honest with yourself. What are your strong points? More importantly, what are your weak points? How do you plan on enhancing your strong points while trying to improve your weak points? What will it take to remove any and all obstacles standing between you and success?

When it comes to losing weight, you can forget about fad diets and the supposed weight-loss supplements that are being advertised. They won't work. There is no secret, no matter what the infomercials tell you. You must burn more calories than you consume. Simple thermal dynamics, if you will. If you need dietary advice, seek out a registered dietician or qualified nutritionist. Do NOT seek advice from people at the gym. Unless, of course, you are fortunate enough to train in the company of dieticians, nutritionists, and doctors.

As far as working out is concerned, you must have a sensible workout plan. A program that consists of the basic movements like Squats, Bench Presses, Deadlifts, and Overhead Presses will provide all the stimulation you will need. If you train consistently, and progressively, you will make gains. If you give yourself ample time to recover, you will avoid going stale. This will go a long way in maintaining your enthusiasm. There are many talented writers on this website, and the articles contained herein offer a number of basic, no-nonsense training information. There is also a vast wealth of information available in the strength training books offered on this site. (See the links to PhysicalCultureBooks.com) All of them are top-quality, written by some of the legendary figures in the Iron Game. But no matter how much good information you have at your disposal, it is ultimately up to you to provide the effort. Nobody can supply that but you. This may mean waking up extra early in order to get to the gym and lift. Or it may mean giving up something else that you prefer to do. A good motto would be "Whatever it takes." Decide what will required to reach your exercise goals, then go and do it. Sure, there will be effort required, but isn't it worth it? And if you're worried about the gym being too crowded at this time of year don't worry. In a few weeks the crowds will drop off dramatically. And more resolutions will have vanished. Until next New Year's. 

Happy and Healthy New Year to Everyone!
BODY • MIND • SPIRIT