Monday, May 4, 2009


Reprinted with permission of Hardgainer, Vol. 8, No. 4 (January-February 1997)

It was a steamy early-September Saturday in Washington, D.C., and it would be hard not to break a sweat. I glanced at the day’s schedule and noticed that I had a great lineup of hard workers coming in, and most of them were women! Overall, about one third of my clients are women and they all train hard. They are tough and not looking for any mercy. (And they don’t get any.) They hate toning; they want to get strong. They are tired of being underestimated. They want to kick ass and take names! I train them the same as the guys, and they love it. As Charlene McNamara puts it, “Women are tired of being babied!”

I was fired up and really looking forward to getting “in the trenches.” I eagerly prepared for the day’s coming battles. I filled all the water bottles and put them in the fridge, turned on all the fans, and then got the day’s training logs ready. I put a US Marine Corps cadence tape in the stereo and upped the volume. We were ready for war, with women at the front lines!

All-out Effort!

First in would be Andrea Rippe. Andrea is 27 years old, 5’3’’ and about 134 lbs. She is tough, hard working, motivated and is stronger than most men her size. She is hardcore and wouldn’t be caught dead wearing lifting gloves! I put her on the Stairmaster for five minutes to elevate her core body temperature, and then had her do a few minutes of 20-second static-hold stretches. While she was doing this, I pre-loaded all the bars and Hammer machines so we could blast through the workout with minimum delay.

We started things off with the bench press. After warmups we progressively added weight for the first two sets, done to failure, and Andrea completed her last set of 3’’ monster-bar bench presses, going to failure on the eighth rep with 130 lbs.

Next was the Hammer Iso-Lateral Row with custom-made 2’’ handles. Andrea put some chalk on her hands and then went through a killer breakdown set of 110, 90 and 70 all done to high-rep failure. She only got enough rest for me to strip off the plates and it was go again. Her rear delts, forearms and lats were “cooked.”

Next was the deadlift with my Sutherland giant 100-lb Trap Bar with thick handles. After warmups, it was loaded to 175 lbs and Andrea took it to failure doing 19 reps. She had to lean against the Hammer Iso-Lateral Behind Neck Press machine to stay on her feet, and was breathing so hard that she could probably be heard on the next floor!

Next was the Hammer Pulldown for 3 sets of 10 with 80 lbs, and then it was over to the Hammer Iso-Lateral Behind Neck Press with a breakdown set of 80, 60 and 40, with each set going all out to failure. Her shoulders were smoking! I had her get right up for some manual resistance shoulder work, which made her scream. The place sounded more like a slaughter house than a gym! I let her take a minute’s rest to drink some water.

The next movement was standing reverse curls with a 2’’-diameter bar, and Andrea did 3 sets of 10 reps with 50 lbs. Then it was over to the Hammer Iso-Lateral Leg Press. She pounded out 2 sets of 20 with 190 lbs with a dead stop pause on every rep. No bouncing allowed! After the last set of leg presses she was very wobbly. I let her take a two-minute rest so she could complete the workout. The “main meal” was over and now it was time for “dessert.”

I grabbed the 2’’-diameter wrist roller that has a 15’-long rope, and we headed to the stairway banister. There is no air conditioning in the stairway and where Andrea was standing was like a sauna! After a few 15’ reps she was “fried” and drenched in sweat. Her forearms and 14’’ arms were swollen and gorged with blood. She was breathing like a freight train and struggling to suck in enough air to stay on her feet. She was determined to finish strong and not be KOed. She was soon ready to accept today’s final challenge.

At a bodyweight of only 134 lbs she was about to do battle with the 175-lb sandbag, to put the finish on a brutal one-hour high-intensity workout. If she got it, she would be the first woman to transport 175 lbs of sand all the way around the tough course.

Andrea loves the sandbag carry exercise and even has her own sandbag at her house that she practices with. (She is also one of several clients that I’ve had call Brooks Kubik to jokingly “cuss him out” for introducing me to this torturous device!) She is currently one of only two women with her name already on the 150-lb bag, Charlene McNamara being the other. They have a friendly rivalry that motivates each of them to work even harder.

Women can get their names on the sandbag, and a free workout, if they can carry 150 lbs around the course in under ten minutes. They are not allowed to drag the bag or to put it on their shoulders. It must be “carried” in bear-hug fashion.

My clients frequently make bets with each other, usually offering to pay for a workout, to see who is first to get a certain poiundage around the course in less than the ten-minute time limit. The time limit can make things interesting indeed!

A few months ago Charlene McNamara made a (workout) bet with Vern Veldekens that she would get 150 around in under ten minutes before Vern could get 225 around. Since clients can train on different days, the rule is that they have to match the bet on their very next workout to tie, or else they lose. Vern took the bet and, unexpectedly, Charlene got 150 all the way around the very next week. She immediately called Vern and really enjoyed giving him the news.

Vern had just got back from a month-long end-of-semester vacation, and was slightly out of shape. Since he had to do the sandbag carry at his very next workout, he looked doomed to lose this bet. But Vern was determined not to let Charlene beat him, and managed to get the 225-lb bag three quarters of the way around the course in quick time. But this great effort took its toll and when Vern collapsed, he could not even think of getting up for 7 minutes!

I warmed Vern of the time and he struggled to get up. He was operating on auto pilot and willed himself to get the bag to within 10’ of the finish line, before collapsing again. This time he was almost in a coma.

As the clock ticked away, it looked hopeless. I screamed, “Ten seconds, Vern. C’mon—finish it!” Somehow, Vern jumped up, grabbed the bag, took three big steps and then dove across the finishing line, bear-hugging the bag which landed on top of him as the clock ticked to zero! It was a tie and no one won the bet.

Vern stayed down on the floor for a long time and was breathing so hard that it sounded like a tornado, but he had a smile on his face. The first thing he did when he got up, twenty minutes later, was call Charlene.

I let Andrea rest for about three minutes to regain her strength and get her mind ready for combat. “C’mon Andrea, you made 150 look easy. Be the first woman to get 175. Let’s do it!”

Andrea attacked the bag and wrestled with it to get it into the clean position. She couldn’t quite lock her fingers around the bag, lost her balance and fell over backwards. She was okay, and we had a good laugh. Then she tried it again. Her whole body shook as she struggled to get the bag above her knees. She gave a great heave and screamed with concentrated anger at the bag! She finally had it where she wanted it, in a bear-hug position. This time, she managed to lock her fingers and began her walk around the third floor. She collapsed twice, each time requiring several minutes of rest to regain her sense. She managed to carry the bag more than three quarters of the way around the floor as the ten-minute time limit expired. This was a great workout and a tremendous effort. Andrea will soon get 175. It’s only a matter of time.

Muscle Fiber is Human

Charlene McNamara was next and she went through the same brutal one-hour workout that Andrea did, and ended up also trying to get the 175-lb bag around. She managed to get it about half of the way around, which was quite impressive since she almost killed herself when she got the 150.

Charlene is a hard worker and very competitive. The quickest way to get Charlene to do something is to tell her that she can’t. She is one of the most determined people I’ve met. She loves grip work and has an extremely strong handshake. She loves to crush men’s hands and make their eyeballs pop out! Ask Mike Thompson and Drew Israel about her vice handshake, as they both have met Charlene.

Stephanie Jirard and Rochelle Bratton are hot on the trail of Andrea and Charlene. They train extremely hard. In fact, most men have probably never trained as hard as any of them. It’s by word of mouth, but every week I get a new hardcore dinosaur woman come in who wants to train hard. It’s great!

Muscle tissue is not defined as male or female, but as human. The same principles of intensity and progression apply to training women as they do to training men. Women do not want to be babied! Women should not be embarrassed or afraid to develop strength or to maximize their physical potential. Toning is nothing more than low standards and surrendering to the norms of society. Toning is an inferior way to train with weights, and a growing number of women want nothing to do with it!

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:

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