Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Carry Like Crazy! - By Zach Even–Esh

Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on November 17, 2007

The simplest movements can often yield the most powerful results. Is this why I never saw anyone doing farmer walks with the 180 lb dumbbells at some gyms I’ve been to?

Or heavy rack pulls, heavy squats, heavy military presses (standing not seated) or heavy barbell rows?

These movements pack on the real muscle and make you stronger than a Bull! What about farmer walks with the farmer walk bars?

These long bars make the carries much harder and really hammer the lower body. Normally we used our 130 lb dumbbells or heavy kettlebells but these long bars were different and better for full body work!

You can also perform the other basic carries with dumbbells and sandbags. These movements will develop full body strength and you want to include these HEAVY in your workouts on a regular basis. These are the basics. After the basics you can start getting more advanced by using cross carries or mixed carries.

The cross carries can be used with dumbbells, kettlebells and even sandbags. All you need to do is hold them in two different positions. This awkward loading of the body strengthens the muscles and the body from unique angles that don’t get worked through traditional movements.

Carrying heavy objects of any type are awesome for full body strength development and work capacity.

In addition, the first rep of every set is some form of a power clean and / or deadlift just to get the weight off the ground. Putting the weights down requires control, so no dropping, only squatting /deadlifting the weights down under control.

I’ve met some seriously strong men who never touch free weights, their strength came from manual labor carrying objects, lifting them, throwing them, power cleaning them into truck beds, etc.

The guy who used to pick up our garbage when we were remodeling our house had an old pick up truck, it seriously looked like Steve Justa’s truck!

This guy’s name was Tony. Tony picked up junk for people as a side job, but it was always heavy stuff. Odd objects that makes you stronger than a freight train.

He would pick up all our stuff: toilet bowls, dish washers, heavy contractor bags filled with sheet rock, an old deck and more! I remember talking to him about strength training (as I always did) while we were loading his pick up with 20 + bags of sheet rock. He was holding one bag with a straight arm as he causally spoke with me! I was using two arms and my entire body to heave those bags up and I was starting to sweat bullets.

Tony was used to carrying car parts, scrap metal and other seriously heavy and odd objects. Essentially, all he did was carry junk. But, remember, like I said, when you carry objects, you power clean them up / down as well as deadlift the weight up /down.

It can’t get any simpler than that!

Now it’s time you begin to carry some odd objects!

Physical Culture Books.com
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Sunday, January 29, 2012

My Story - By Efraín Vázquez

Ever since I was a kid in elementary and junior high I was your typical skinny-nerdy type. The textbook definition of hardgainer. I was very tall but packed little to no muscle, and all the time I was either picked on by the bullies at school or I was the last person to be chosen by any team when we played sports.

At 16 years of age I decided it was time to change, and entered a gym with three of my buddies. We went first at night time, when it’s packed with people, and we tried to talk to the pretty girls, have a good time, and so on. Eventually, all three of my friends stopped going to the gym, so I decided to go in the morning, so I wouldn’t be distracted by lots of people.

My first day of morning training (which was not really early, it was at about 7 or 8 am) I was greeted by the gym trainer, and he put me on a scale (I weighed 176 lbs. at around 6’1”) and literally told me that I had good starting weight, and with a “couple of shots” I would be bulking up in no time. I didn’t get it at first, but now I realize that without even seeing me train, or putting me in a training an eating program, he was already offering me steroids!!!

I declined the offer, but I did buy a can of protein powder, and started my 5-day/week training schedule, doing plenty of exercises and reps per “bodypart” and so on. This change in me took place during high school, and my confidence started to grow. (If you’re training for the first time, practically any method of training will get your body to grow)

When I entered college, I was looked upon differently by my friends. My look and my confidence soared! I enjoyed my college days very much, especially since the gym was dark, with old equipment, and a couple of guys did actually train pretty hard. We all inspired each other to work our asses off. At that time I started taking my training more seriously, so I started searching the web for info on weight training. I came up with a really cool website which I loved, called The Brotherhood of Iron, hosted by Sam DeLucia. I was hooked, reading page after page on this training method called “HIT” in which you trained to failure, using compound exercises, squatting, deadlifting and so on (Deadlift? What’s that?). In the “Links” section of that website, I finally saw the light by clicking on NaturalStrength.com.

I was introduced to names such as Bob Whelan, Drew Israel, Dr. Ken Leistner, Stuart McRobert and many others. I loved reading the training stories of Sean Toohey, especially the one about the squat lesson. I also changed my view on training, doing now shorter, infrequent, more brutal workouts using compound exercises.

At that time the college gym was being remodeled, so they moved all the equipment to the old “arts” building. There were paintings on the walls, huge columns, and it was built like the inside of a monastery or something of the sort. Since I started working part-time and going to school afterwards, I asked permission to train at 10 pm, after school. They let me in, so I bought my radio and my attitude and started hitting it hard. (My brother trained with me most of the occasions, so it was a great time in which we bonded together and became good friends in the process, but that’s another story)

We made great gains, started gaining strength, and all my friends started telling me “What are you taking man? Creatine?” I just laughed and said “tuna cans”. Still, I had no notion of progression, and I just added weight when I felt like it, and took it out when I felt kind of lazy. So my strength levels practically stayed the same.

After college I trained on and off for a few years (more “off” than “on”), until one day I looked in the mirror with 250 lbs. of weight (read: FAT) and said “What the heck happened to me?”. So I decided to do some cardio (spinning) for a month and lost around 12 lbs. of fat and I guess a little muscle. I didn’t care, I just wanted to lose all that fat which I had wrongly let in my body by not training at all and eating the wrong foods.

I had not trained for a while so I started going to a local gym, but again, training on and off because work was taking most of my time.

Last December the gym I was going to announced that it would be the last month of operations, and they would close for good. I spoke with the owner and bought a squat rack, a bar, a bench, an EZ bar and a few plates (adding up to about 260 lbs.). I also got a wrist roller.

As of January this year, I decided it was enough. I wanted to train seriously. So I took my copy of the Arnold Encyclopedia…. sorry, I mean, my copy of Brawn by Stuart McRobert, and designed a training program for me following his guidelines. I had lost a lot of strength so I needed to take it slow, cycling and adding small weight increments week after week.

I’m proud to say that, even though I have been training on and off for many years, I started my first real cycle of training this January, with a three day schedule as follows:

Deadlift 1x15, 1x10 (after two months drop the second set)
Pulldowns 2x8
Skull-crushers 1x10

Bench press 1x10
Seated press 1x10
Barbell curl 1x8

Squat 1x20
One-leg calf raise 1x20, 1x15

Ab and grip work take place on Tuesdays and Saturdays, although most Tuesdays I have a hard time with the wrist roller since my forearms are already fried by deadlifts and pulldowns.

I now weight 242 lbs. at 6’3”, but I want to trim down to around 220 lbs. After training with correct cycling and progression, I can say that I started deadlifting 135 lbs. for 15 reps, and now it’s April and I can deadlift 253 lbs. for 15 reps.

I started squatting 135 lbs. for 20 reps (never did 20-rep squats before in my life) and now I squat 225 lbs. for 20 reps.

I started benching 135 lbs. for 10 reps and now I bench 215 lbs. for 10 reps.

This after 3 and a half months of training hard, eating well (I could do better, though) and sleeping just enough (7 hours). I can only imagine the results I will get when I eat the right foods and sleep 8 or 9 hours per day, and this motivates me to train and live correctly.

Sure, these weights may seem small considering my size and build, but I have come to realize that I’m not really an extreme hard gainer. Maybe it’s my mind or maybe I have the genetic potential (or maybe both), but it’s my goal to reach a 300-400-500 by the end of the year, if I put my heart into it, and by next year I will be way stronger!

I started with very little strength, but I have reached levels of strength now which I never had before. I am squatting 20 reps and love it! I am training solo, at home, and I am more motivated than ever! No distractions, no talking with friends, just myself and the bar.

They guy who sold me the squat rack and the weights told me in December “don’t worry, you won’t need more plates in many months”. I’m calling him this week “I need another 250 lbs., bro! When can I pick them up?”.

I just wanted to share my story to motivate everyone to forget about being a hardgainer or an easy gainer. Forget of going to the gym for its “great social experience”. Forget about bioavailability of this and that protein powder.

Sure, those things may have their place, and some are more important than others, but my advice is to just develop yourself a balanced training program consisting of 5 compound exercises (upper/lower body, push/pull), maybe 2 or 3 assistant exercises (barbell curls are not forbidden), divide them in 2 or 3 days of training, start with low weights and add a little bit to the bar every single time you train. Keep a training log, eat lots of tuna cans and milk, turn off the TV and get some quality sleep, and you might just convince yourself, like me, that you’re not a hardgainer at all!

Eat like an animal, train like a horse, sleep like a baby and grow like a weed.

Live strong!

Physical Culture Books.com
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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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