Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on June 20, 1999

In 1974 IronMan Magazine published an article by a young Ken Leistner detailing the strength training programs that his football trainees were using. The article emphasized high repetition squats and hard work on a relatively brief program. This type of training appealed to me. I always felt a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment upon completing a high rep set of squats or deadlifts. After a hard high rep set of hip and thigh work my workouts had to be brief and relatively infrequent. Training in this manner (especially when one trains alone) the trainee has to be extremely motivated. Through the years Dr. Ken's articles and unique ideas helped to inspire me to maintain this difficult regimen of training.

Dr. Ken is surely the most prolific writer in modern Iron Game history. I would venture to guess that he has written over 1000 articles for strength publications such as Powerlifting USA, The Steel Tip (his own newsletter from the mid-eighties), Muscular Development, Hard Gainer, HIT (Hard Training), Milo, Dino Files and others. His hard hitting, tell it like it is writing style is refreshing.

In this article I'm going to write about a few of my favorite training tips that Dr. Ken has written about over the years. I might have modified some of the techniques but the original suggestions came from Dr. Ken's articles.

50% SETS
This method involves selecting a weight for a particular exercise that will allow the performance of 10-12 reps to absolute failure with good form. Rest exactly 1 minute and do a second set to absolute failure with the same weight. The majority of trainees will fail on the second set with approximately one half of the number of reps completed during set one. Strive to exceed 50% during set 2 while maintaining perfect form.

10-10-10 SETS
This is a technique that I might have changed. I can't find the original article but this is the way I do it now. Select a weight that will allow you to complete 20 reps in perfect form. Perform 10 reps and rest exactly 1 minute. Complete your second round of 10 reps and again rest exactly 1 minute. During the third bout aim for 10 reps in good form. Of course if you have anything left push on to failure. For most people set 3 will be a difficult challenge to reach 10 reps. What you are doing in effect is taking a weight that will allow 20 good reps. Instead of pushing for 20 consecutive reps you are aiming for 30 reps with 2 rest intervals. This technique provides variety and a nice psychological change of pace from pushing each set to the absolute limit.

Your editor has written about and utilized this method extensively. I really like this method for the Hammer leg press (one leg at a time). Simply select a weight that will allow the performance of approximately 25 good reps. After completing as many reps as possible hold the weight out at leg's length. Rest 15 seconds while breathing deeply and then continue on in subsets until 50 reps are completed. This is extremely tough and I would only use it as a change of pace challenge on an infrequent basis. A typical set might consist of 25 reps followed by 8, 6, 5, 3, and 3 for a total of 50 reps.

These are an old favorite of mine. Again a little goes a long way. These can be very intense so just use these on a very infrequent occasion. They are also very effective. I'll have a trainee do a hard one leg set on the Hammer leg press (approximately 20 reps on each leg). I'll give them a short break and then load another 25-30% more weight on the movement arm. I'll help them lift the weight to leg's length then have them lower the weight very slowly (8-10 seconds per rep) initially. The set is terminated when the trainee cannot maintain a 3-4 second negative. The trainee must constantly breath in pants during each rep and strive to touch the movement arm to the rubber stop at the bottom as lightly as possible. It is surprisingly easy for the spotter to help the trainee lift the weight back to leg's length for another rep. I caution the trainee not to squeeze the handles and remind them to breath rhythmically throughout the set. The trainee should strive for 6-8 good reps.

This requires setting up 3 stations so the trainee can move from one to another immediately. Work one arm at a time starting with the left. Start with the seated Hammer gripper (any other gripper will work). Utilize a weight that will allow approximately 15 good reps. After completing the gripper move as fast a possible to kneeling reverse shot wrist curls. Kneel at the side of a bench with the forearm resting palms down across the bench.

The hand and shot hang off the edge of the bench. Start with a 6 or 8 lb. shot for these and go to absolute failure. And then move to anvil pounds to complete the series. Grasp a standard rubber mallet in the left hand and strike the anvil as many times as possible in 1 minute (strive for over 100 strikes). The rubber mallet will tend to rebound. Maintaining a tight grip on the mallet requires intense concentration and it will work the hands and forearms in a unique manner. Make sure the mallet does not twist excessively or it could fly out of your grasp. Repeat the above sequence for the right arm.

The above techniques are just some of my personal favorites. It would require a book to cover all the creative and innovative training methods that Dr. Ken has written about over the last 25 years.

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

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