Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Second Capital City Strength Clinic - By Bob Whelan

Reprinted with permission of Hardgainer, Vol. 9, No. 6 (May-June 1998)

I put out 110 chairs thinking that I should have plenty, but I still had to borrow 6 more from the Chinese restaurant on the first floor. We almost doubled the attendance from last year. A very enthusiastic crowd of 116 people (excluding speakers) showed up, with many having driven hundreds of miles. We had people from all over, including Michigan, Ohio, Ontario, North Carolina, and Colorado. There were many from the New York and New Jersey area, largely because Iron Island Gym was well represented in the speaking department. Probably more than half the crowd was not local.

The theme of this year’s clinic was “Elements of Productive Strength Training,” and a variety of philosophies was represented by the speakers. My goal was to stress the similarities of all successful training programs, regardless of the specific mode or method used. My view has always been that a good coach can get to the root of things and keep training simple. (People who don’t know their subject will frequently hide their lack of knowledge by making things hard to understand.)

Strength training is similar to religion as far as strong opinions go. But by focusing on “getting stronger,” and not on minor details, and by stressing the similarities of various philosophies rather than getting into “cat fights,” we accomplished a great deal—and all within an atmosphere of brotherhood and camaraderie.

Anyone who did not want this atmosphere of brotherhood and camaraderie was warned that they should keep themselves under control or else they would have to leave. There have been several clinics on the east coast over the last few years that have been disrupted and spoiled by a few individuals who wanted to argue about minor details, and rattle speakers. These individuals say that they are trying to promote their type of training, and “Educate” people, but actually do no more than make people dislike them and reject their ideas. There was a mutual respect for all speakers at the clinic, and a true feeling of brotherhood.

Linda Jo Belsito

Linda Jo, who spoke about drug-free power training and what it takes to be a world champion, is a two-time (and current) world champion drug-free powerlifter (ADFP). She is always up for a new challenge and is now crossing over to Olympic weightlifting. She plans to compete in Olympic lifting soon. Her goal is to make the US Olympic team in the year 2000, in which weightlifting will be open to women for the first time. Linda Jo is stronger than most men, and squats and deadlifts over 400 lbs. She holds many world and national powerlifting records, and works as a Registered Nurse. She has also spent several years working for Dr. Ken at Iron Island Gym.

Linda Jo spoke about her workouts with Dr. Ken, and singled him out as the person who has probably helped her the most during her career. She said that he put her through some absolutely brutal workouts, such as 100-rep days where the only thing in the entire workout was to get 100 reps in the deadlift or squat. She said that those one-exercise workouts were among the toughest things she has ever done in her life.

Like many women, she used to be worried about her weight. Dr. Ken told her that if she was going to get stronger and be a champion powerlifter, she was going to have to eat. She would have to decide between bodybuilding and powerlifting. She decided to go into powerlifting. Her bodybuilding days were over. (She had previously been competing at bodybuilding, winning some amateur titles.) Once she focused on getting stronger, and eating what her body needed rather than be obsessed with a number on the scale, her poundages went way up!

She made up her mind that she was going to be a champion, and improved the details of her life that make a difference. She focused on getting more sleep each night, and eating better, and stopped partying. She started to really believe in herself, stopped associating with negative people, bought and read a lot of positive-thinking books, and listened to positive-thinking tapes.

Drew Israel

Drew Israel did more to advance slow training with his awesome demonstration of strength than all the cat fights ever did! Drew did several 10/10 gut-wrenching reps (ten seconds up, and ten seconds down) till he looked as if he was struck by lightning. He did this with well over 400 lbs on my Hammer Deadlift machine. Most people can’t do one rep with that using a regular speed, never mind a 10/10 cadence. Drew also did slow prone presses and upright rows on the same machine. Shortly afterwards he did some manual resistance work, with Eric Weinstein providing the resistance. Because Drew deadlifted first, and did not stay down long to recover, he was breathing extremely hard, which made the rest of his workout a lot tougher than it may sound on paper. The deadlifts alone were a workout and most people would have been KOed after doing them as hard as Drew did.

Drew spoke about how he made many training mistakes over the years. He has tried many training methods, and suffered many injuries. He especially had trouble with his back, and had to give up squatting with a barbell many years ago. He now trains almost exclusively with machines (no free weights except for an occasional set of dumbbell curls,) and works his legs with the Tru-Squat, Hammer Deadlift, and Hammer Leg Press. He started using slow-cadence training about a year and a half ago, and found it very beneficial for him. He loves it and now only trains using a slow cadence.

Drew does not like the image that many people have of training using slow reps, i.e., that it is only for wimps. It absolutely is not for wimps as it is a lot of hard work, and painful. Since he began to train slow, he now hardly ever gets hurt, and his body recovers a lot quicker than it did with conventional speed reps. Drew also feels that slow training is making him stronger than he has ever been.

Eric Weinstein & Jamie La Belle

Eric, featured in my “Nightmare on Seventh Street” article in issue #52, was put through a tough workout by Drew. Eric’s workout was finished off by two trips around the large room (and crowd) with the 225-lb sandbag. He got a thunderous ovation, as people appreciate hard work.

Classic high-intensity training was well represented by myself and Jamie La Belle. My talk was very similar to the information in my article in issue #53, in which I described progression as the unifying factor.

Jamie trains many professional athletes in all sports, and is a big believer in the importance of balanced routines and not overlooking any muscle group. He puts a lot of emphasis on the neck, wrists, calves, ankles and abs, which are undertrained areas for many athletes. He made a great point when he stated, “How many NFL players got put out of action by hurting their chests?” But the chest is usually the most overworked area. Most injuries are of the forgotten areas, which Jamie focused on.

Jamie stressed that most people spend too much time bench pressing. As a result they do not spend enough time on the exercises needed to keep their strength in balance over their whole body. Jamie usually has to train someone with twice as many pulling exercises as pushing exercises because they are so out of whack due to having spent so much time on the bench.

Jamie has his athletes do a lot of rowing, pulldowns and chins. He also uses a lot of manual resistance work, and is able to apply this for every muscle of the body. He has special manual resistance exercises to work even ankles, and has devised a manual resistance squat, which is a killer. He loves to pre-exhaust muscles, especially for very strong athletes with big egos who have their minds only on big numbers.

Jamie frequently take the bench press out of his athletes’ workouts, to get their training in proper balance. And when he does include the bench press, he will frequently have his athletes do it at the end of the workout, after their chests and triceps have already been hammered. Then the athletes are forced to get their minds off numbers and just on working hard.

Jamie uses mostly machines (Hammer Strength, Nautilus Power Plus, Med-Ex and Southern Xercise) as opposed to free weights, in his well-equipped gym on Long Island—The Quality Repetition. He has machines that cover the neck, calves and abs. He trains these small areas using the same principles employed for the big areas. He uses a slower-than-average speed of motion for all his machine exercises—about six seconds up and six seconds down. He stops his athletes from completely locking out, to keep a constant tension on the muscles. He is a big believer in the one-set-t-total-failure principle, but uses such a variety of exercises that his total volume for a workout would not be considered low. But keep in mind that he focuses on training competitive athletes. Jamie is highly opposed to ballistic type explosive training, especially plyometrics.

Andrea Rippe & Jay Spaid

Andrea Rippe, who was featured in my “Dinosaur Women” article in issue #46, gave a great talk about exercise selection and the importance of using compound multi-joint exercises as the foundation of your training program, similar to one of the themes of Brawn. She talked a lot about the balance between high volume and high intensity, and that if you do the hardest exercises intensively you can cut your volume way down. Many people spend too much time in the gym, but not enough time really working.

Jay Spaid gave a good talk about recovery. He coined the five- and six-day-per-week program as “drug routines,” and used some advertisements and articles from muscle mags to show the absurdity of much of the popular modern training routines.

One of our planned speakers, Brooks Kubik, who is a lawyer by trade, did not attend. He called just a few hours before the start of the clinic, to advise that he had a work-related “legal emergency” to attend to. It didn’t matter, as each speaker talked a bit longer than planned, and we even covered his topic, the mental aspects of training. The clinic actually ran about thirty minutes over, and went to 3:30 p.m.

This was a hands-on clinic—a coaches’ clinic, not a researchers’ clinic. We did not talk about actin and myosin, or the sliding-filament theory. We did not talk about how to organize a weightroom, periodization of synchronized swimmers, NSCA budgets or elections, or other boring typical clinic topics. We focused on the “meat and potatoes” of training. We focused on passion and the love of training that bonds us, not boring, “scientific” statistics to “prove” a point of view, and divide. We focused on strength training, not “conditioning.” When I opened the clinic with, “I’d like to welcome you to the second annual Capital City NSCA Strength and Conditioning Clinic,” I shouted “Strength” but whispered “Conditioning,” to make the focus of the clinic clear. Strength training is what most people want, and why I had so many people say that this was the best NSCA clinic they had ever attended.

One of the funny things that happened during the clinic was when a pigeon few in an open window and flew around the room. when it tried to fly out, it flew into a pane of glass and fell to the floor. Jamie La Belle yelled “PLYOMETRICS!” just as the pigeon fell to the floor. Luckily the pigeon was okay, just stunned. A few minutes later, the pigeon did the same thing again, and in unison many of the audience yelled “PLYOMETRICS!”

... For those who went to this year’s clinic, thank you for your support and enthusiasm. See you again next year!

"Maximum" Bob Whelan runs Whelan Strength Training in Washington, DC.
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