Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tips from WST to Get You Stronger - (16-30) By Bob Whelan

Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on June 28, 2007

16. Buy and read the classic old magazines like Strength & Health, Muscular Development, Strength, The Strong Man, Iron Man, (only by Peary Rader - not the modern crap the magazine turned into since 1986) etc. from Bob Adams. Bob is My Favorite Source. There are several others who sell them, but NO ONE gives me the great service that Bob does. My advice is to always check with Bob first. 101 Greenwood Drive, Butler, PA 16001, 724-282-4918 adamsrp@aol.com Also buy the classic iron game books at PhysicalCultureBooks.com

17. Train your WHOLE Body TWICE every 7-10 days. If you train once a week, it is not enough. Period. Learn to enjoy training BUT then TRAIN!!

18. Ignore “Flamingos!” Don’t be influenced by the wrong people. Always size-up a lifter first by his LEGS. In the serious strength world, “You ARE your legs.” The phony gym lifters who only do benches (with poor form) and curls are NOT lifters. They NEVER squat so they really don’t know anything about Hard Training - (but think they do.) They are not serious members of the Iron Game Fraternity but are what I call the “Johnny home-owner” type toners who do mainly curls simply so they can roll up their sleeves to show their 14 inch arms at the bar on Friday night. They are not strong so ignore anything about training they have to say. If someone looks like they spent half their life in a wheelchair, THEY ARE NOT STRONG! Remember: Flamingos are not LIFTERS!

19. Don't forget to work your neck.

20. Always work your grip too and train it for both pinching and crushing strength. Use a variety of exercises to train your hands and forearms. Order Titan’s Telegraph Key from Iron Mind Enterprises. Make a wrist roller and use it often. Train your grip to enable you to lift heavy weights. That's the purpose. Don’t waste training time to “specialize” in grip work and strength tricks, stunts etc. (IF you can’t yet lift heavy weights in the main core lifts.) Once you get strong in the big basic lifts, then specialize in grip if you are so inclined. There are too many guys already who have world class grip strength, can bend nails and rip phone books but can’t bench 300 or squat 400 - I've seen many of them; don’t be yet another one.

21. A one hour workout ... IS ... ABBREVIATED!! There are now those who call just one hour over training! Give me a friggin break! When I was a kid I felt like I was loafing when I first tried the one hour workouts! A three hour workout done 5-6 days a week is over training! One hour workouts done twice a week is definitely NOT over training! You can get a productive workout in 20 minutes or even less BUT you can NOT work your whole body in that time. You will leave out many important exercises. If you truly work your whole body including calves, abs, neck and grip and all the big basic pushing and pulling as well as legs ... HEAVY ... (not just going to failure with LIGHT weight) then you need about an hour to get it all done.

22. Burn (or destroy some other way) all your copies of the “Muscle Comic Books” like Muscle & Fiction etc. These are the worst sources of information you can read. They are filled with lowlife drug users who you should not want anything to do with. Their training info is written by drug users and is for drug users or the ignorant.

23. Also avoid any health or fitness magazine that has the word MEN’S in the title. These magazines are for the wimpy metrosexuals who need a weekly facial or manicure. They are poison to the minds of hardcore natural strongmen.

24. Remove the mirrors from your home gym. Never look in the mirror when you train. Remember: there are NO MIRRORS in Power lifting, Olympic-lifting, Strongman competitions etc. Focus on WHAT YOU ARE DOING - Not how you look! Stay Focused. You should be in narrow internal concentration when you train, NOT BROAD EXTERNAL concentration which the mirror sucks your mind into and this hurts your strength performance.

26. Read anything you can find by Dr. Ken E. Leistner.

27. Read anything you can find by Brad Steiner.

28. Never wear lifting gloves - use chalk! If your gym forbids chalk, find a new gym. Lifting gloves are like wearing a neon wimp sign.

29. Do not use supportive gear when training. Unless you have lower back issues, then a belt is ok, but avoid wraps, straps, hooks, suits etc. if at all possible. These things make you weaker - not stronger.

30. Do not replace "real food" meals with protein shakes and health bars. Eat real and natural FOOD!

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tips from WST to Get You Stronger - (1-15) By Bob Whelan

Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on June 9, 2007

Here are some tips that will help you reach your goals:

1. Read every article on the NaturalStrength.com web site. It may take you awhile, but work on it. Pay special attention to the Physical Culture History section, the Strength Training Truth section and Ken Mannie’s section (Spartan Strength) in Special Features.

2. Buy and read all of Stuart McRobert’s Books and all the back issues of Hardgainer magazine at Hardgainer.com. The ORIGINAL BRAWN is still the best of his books.

3. Read the book Dinosaur Training. (If you can get you hands on the original earlier 1st edition, its even better than the revised edition in my opinion). Go to BrooksKubik.com for info. The original 1996 edition may be on ebay.

4. **Buy the book The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz. Its in the NaturalStrength bookstore. The best motivational book of all time. Read it and re-read it for the rest of your life. Memorize it.

5. NEVER skip breakfast.

6. Prefer a “knife and fork” lunch over sandwiches if possible.

7. Take at least a good multi-vitamin every day (as insurance) and for your over-all HEALTH. Keep an open mind and do your own research on other things like Fish and Krill Oil, Vitamin D, Niacin, a daily Aspirin etc. Keep on top of it as the information changes almost daily.

8. Get enough sleep every night.

9. Drink enough water every day - at least 8 big glasses per day. Most people are de-hydrated and don’t even know it.

10. *Take pride in doing the HARDEST exercises possible and focusing on them. Leave the easy stuff to the lowlifes. Concentrate your training on squats, squats and more squats. (Front squats too!) Also, focus on deadlifts, military presses, chins or pull-downs, various forms of heavy rowing, bench and incline presses etc.

11. You can do isolation exercises too but ONLY if you finish your core compound/multi-joint exercises first. (See #10) You don’t replace your squats with leg extensions. You don’t REPLACE your military press with lateral raises. Get it?!

12. Stop doing “Body-Part” Training. Its been around for about
50 years and is not “more advanced”. Its actually LESS ADVANCED and it shows that you are a gullible “newbie” who probably just bought your first “Muscle & Fiction” magazine and are trying to copy what the druggies do. Body-Part training became popular right about the same time that drug use started and its no coincidence.

13. **Take pride in your form. Pause about 2 seconds on your chest when benching and don’t move your feet or raise your butt off the bench! When squatting, ALWAYS go deep enough etc.

Always use the fullest (and safe) range of motion possible. *Pause at the midpoint of most pulling exercises and *pause after each rep is completed. *Lower the weight slowly on each repetition and *don’t just DROP the weight on the negative side of the exercise. Follow these rules ALWAYS especially when training by yourself! Its what you do when there is no one else to impress that makes you a champion!

14. Keep your life in perspective and don’t become a self-absorbed jerk like so many “gym lifters” are today. (I used to actually like most lifters! - Joking.) Don’t walk around like a stiff robot always flexing etc. Stop looking in the mirror & Focus on training “performance” (and training the right way). *Your “appearance” will take care of itself from your good training performance.

15. Follow my “Four F” Life Priority Sequence guide:

1. Faith 2. Family 3. Fitness 4. Finances/Job. Your job and finances will be even better if you put those three things ahead of it. Trust me! Your strength will improve too if you don't insult the real "Big Man".

Next article will be Tips 16-30. Stay Tuned!

Physical Culture Books.com
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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Man on a Mission - By Dave Wright

Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on August 5, 2007

As some of you may or may not know, I have a job that keeps me in the “Hot Zones”. Currently I have the privilege of working in Baghdad, Iraq. Now I am a civilian but also work with and around many, many fine young Americans in uniform. What never ceases to amaze me is how our military are NOT trained to exercise. So much of the propaganda that Armed Forces Network brings to view in 30 second commercials is basic junk. They are told to do cardio 3 per week for 30 minutes at a medium pace and to mix it with strength training. So far, so good.

I see so many young people who are wander aimlessly through a workout, imagining they are working hard no doubt with the goal of looking like this year’s “Mr Everything” in the latest issue of Flux or Mussels and Fiction. I work with some of the finest Americans I know of here in Iraq; Intelligent, healthy and fairly fit men ranging from age 22 to me (I am the old guy at 39!) Ask me how many of them keep a logbook of what they do. Yep. You guessed it. Zero.

There are many things I could criticize them on but the one that seems to blow my mind ther greatest is their lack of focus in the gym and about weight training. I don’t expect or think everyone should train exactly as I do nor should they have exactly the same goals. (Although I think EVERYONE should have as a goal becoming more than just a little bit stronger!)

I will give you an example of what I am talking about. Paul is talking to Mike (names changed to protect the ignorant)

Paul: You going to the gym today?

Mike: Yeah. I guess so. What are you gonna do?

Paul: Arms and Shoulders. Why? What were you gonna do?

Mike: I was gonna do whatever you were gonna do.

What the HELL is this?? (I won’t even go into my distaste for body part training. I’m sure it has it’s place even in natural bodybuilding but until you have something to “mould” it should be the last thing on your mind.) It is beyond my comprehension how someone could even CONSIDER lifting weights without a plan already in place. (Mike was going to the gym later that night with the lone female in our office, a Southern cutie with bleach blonde hair who thrives on drama and attention….but I digress.)

I asked Mike what he was going to do for “arms and shoulders”. He replied with “Oh some pushdowns, curls, overhead extensions and maybe some concentration curls.” I asked him what weights he used in the overhead extensions and he didn’t give me a weight as much as he told me what plates he had on the EZ curl bar. I didn’t go into any further detail. I just went back to what I had been doing…taking MY supplements. What supplements” Um…just a can of tuna and two pints of milk and some fish oil capsules. That is about it.

The first thing anyone serious about lifting weights, whether it be to change their appearance or get gorilla strong is to one, focus on your goal and keep a record of your progress. Every self improvement book there is agrees on one thing and that is set your goals and write them down. That is the first step.

Second step is to keep TRACK OF WHAT YOU DO!! How will you know in several months time what was working when and why? Most any program that uses progressively harder loads will work for awhile and always at first but the human body is highly adaptable and needs constant stressors applied to keep it from what I call “settling” By that I mean if you don’t keep applying outside forces or stressor to your body it will find a state of rest that it can maintain with the least amount of effort. In short the body is naturally lazy. The mind MUST take control.

That is where FOCUS comes in. You have to be a MAN ON A MISSION. Due to circumstances, I have to train in a gym where the music is often loud and the genre changes from day to day because it is Armed Forces Radio in Iraq. Many of my co-workers have iPods on while they work out. I personally can’t do that. I prefer wither silence or babble from people talking mixed with the music. It creates a type of white noise for me I guess.

Anyone that has ever worked breathing squats SERIOUSLY will tell you that you if you don’t respect the iron it will hurt you unimaginably. I do 2 sets of 20 reps twice a week in my current program. My mental preparation starts the night before. I mentally rehearse what I plan to do the next day and re-read motivational things like old Dino Files or articles from Natural Strength for example. I make sure I eat a good meal the night before and have a high protein snack before bed. (I am fortunate here in that the particular task force I work for provides us with MetRx for free. Otherwise I would use my old standbys of tuna or chicken and milk.) I get up the next morning and again, first thing I think about while I make coffee is my planned workout. Either that morning or the night before I sit down, go over last workout’s log and adjust my starting poundage for each exercise and my goal reps. I then eat a small breakfast, go to my morning briefing and then…to the gym I go.

If I missed a goal of repetitions the prior workout I sort of talk to myself on the walk over. I WILL make 20 reps with 275!!” or “I WILL go up 10 lbs on the deadlift today”. I don’t chit-chat with people when I am in there, I don’t ogle the females, I get almost hypnotized by the bar before a clean and press or a squat for instance. All I am thinking about is controlling my breathing, and VISUALIZING how I want to lift to feel and how I want it to work.

I can say that the times I go in to train with a half-ass focus I usually can figure out why my workout sucked. 99% of the time it was because of a lack of focus or rest or both. An example is on a Friday only getting 12 reps with a certain amount of weight in the squat then on Monday pumping out a full 20 reps with ease. I did nothing different except prepare mentally.

If I had to list the Number One essential for success in the iron game I personally would have to say it is a laser-like MENTAL FOCUS. So the next time you go to train, don’t just go to push and pull iron…BE A MAN ON A MISSION and be successful because of it.

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Need old USED Singlets for AAU Lifters in Afghanistan - ASAP

To Bob and any lifters, who may have gear they are not using please consider sending old stuff you do not use. Read message below. Thanks for your support. - LInda Jo Belsito

OK POWERLIFTERS AND OTHERS: Time to help others. Admiral Pittman and Captain Allen are working to have another satellite meet from Afghanistan as part of the AAU Nationals April 14-15 in Laughlin, NV. Along with US Armed Forces, there could be 15-20 Canadian troops and 15-20 Afghan civilians and/or troops. WE NEED SINGLETS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! USED OR NEW - IF YOU CAN HELP please E-MAIL ME AT naturalpower@earthlink.net




PO BOX 22409



Thanks for Helping to Support the Troops!

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Not Your Typical Birthday Celebration - By Jim Duggan

Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on August 17, 2007

This year I decided to challenge myself for my birthday. In years past, I would set a modest goal for myself- maybe a heavy set of 10-20 reps in the Deadlift, or an extra ten minutes on the Stairmaster. Nothing too extraordinary. This year, for some reason, I decided to really push myself to the limit. Maybe it was some of the inspirational articles I've read, or maybe even reading about some of the exploits of Jack LaLanne that got me thinking about doing something that I would not soon forget. After all, turning 43 years old is not that big of a deal. It does not carry the significance of turning 40, or 50. Nevertheless, I wanted to prove- if only to myself- that age is only a number, and that you are only as old as you feel. I don't like the idea of conceding anything to age- whether you're 23, 43, or 73, there's only one way to train and that's all out.

About a week before the big day, I decided upon what movements I would do. I would begin with a movement I hadn't done in a while- the Dumbbell Clean and Press, followed by a tire flip for reps ( many reps ), then I would do 45 minutes on the Stairmaster ( as opposed to my usual thirty minutes.) I would then go home and complete my challenge with an anvil curl for reps, followed by a one mile walk wearing a weighted vest.

On the morning of July 20, I awoke at 4:30 A.M. brimming with anticipation. I wanted to get to the gym early and avoid the crowd. I arrived at the Iron Island Gym at about 5:30 A.M. The first thing I did was 100 Sit-Ups. I usually begin my workouts with this movement as it warms up my entire body. I am not interested in developing ripped abs, I simply want to strengthen my mid-section so as to prevent injury. After the Sit-Ups and a brief warm-up, it was on to the first "event."

1) Dumbbell Clean and Press for Reps:
I had not done this movement in quite a while. What a shame, because it is one of those exercises that works your entire body, and involves practically every muscle group at some point. My goal was to use 85-Lb. Dumbbells for as many reps as possible. The first couple of reps were not too hard, by about the seventh rep, I was working hard. I was still going strong at rep number ten. I was able to complete another two good, clean reps before my form started to break down. Still I was happy with 12 good reps. After changing out of my lifting shoes, it was outside to the lot behind the gym where the tires are located.

2) Tire Flip for Reps:
This was the movement I was really looking forward to above the others. I had set a lofty goal for myself: I was going to attempt to do 43 flips using the 515 Lb. Tire. The actual weight of the tire was 518 Lbs., but why quibble over three pounds? I knew that this was going to be the hardest part of what I set out to do today. The first few reps were hard, simply because I had to get used to getting my body in the proper position. Once I got into a good groove, I was able to knock off reps in bunches. I was able to get to number 17 before I had to stop briefly to check the blood that was coming from one of my fingers. After a couple of breaths, I started again and was able to get to number 27. A few more quick breaths, as well as a chance to wipe the sweat off my forehead, and I was back in business. I was able to do another seven flips, to bring me to 34, and I was really pushing. It was at this point that I knew that I was going to successfully reach my goal. Nothing was going to stop me. Even though I was getting tired, I began to think of some of John McCallum's articles about hard work and pushing yourself. By the time I reached rep number 40, I still had some fuel left in the tank, and I kept pushing until I hit number 45. I felt exhausted- but very happy with the effort I had put out. I had reached my goal and then some. But it was no time to start patting myself on the back- I had a lot of work ahead of me. It was now time to go back inside the gym for the next challenge.

3) Stairmaster Gauntlet for 45 Minutes:
I began doing regular cardio work in my early thirties. Like most lifters, I find it boring, sickening drudgery- but it has to be done. Even though I will never grow to love aerobic exercise, I have learned to appreciate it. The health benefits are invaluable and impossible to ignore. I usually do the Stairmaster about three to four times per week, for thirty minutes. I prefer this exercise to running because it causes no stress to my feet, ankles, or knees. Also, since I am a New York City Fireman, climbing stairs is an excellent way to stay in condition. My goal for this day was forty-five minutes. Normally, fifteen additional minutes would not seem like a big deal, but after what I had just done, I was not looking forward to it. I simply went at a steady pace, and hoped that the minutes would fly by. Unfortunately, they didn't. They seemed to drag at a snail's pace. After what seemed like an eternity, the forty-five minute mark approached and I was able to complete about 5.5 miles ( approx. 260 floors.) Now, I would get a brief rest while I drove home from the gym.

4) 100 Lb. Anvil Curl for Reps:
"The American Manhood Stone," as it has been referred to in the pages of "MILO." I purchased my anvil about eight years ago. While I don't usually do curls with it, I have used it in conjunction with my headstrap to train my neck. Except for curls and neck work, there are simply not that many things you can do with a 100 Lb. anvil- unless you plan on going out into the desert and dropping it on the Road Runner. I simply grabbed the anvil and began doing curls with it. My goal was thirty reps. This movement actually went pretty well. Ten, then twenty reps flew by quickly. Before I knew it, I had my thirty reps and was looking forward to the last "event."

5) One Mile Walk with Weighted Vest:
The last exercise I wanted to do was a one mile walk while wearing a weighted vest. The weight of the vest is 84 Lbs. I had purchased it about a year ago, and had used it during the Fall, when I would drive to the beach and walk in the sand. Today I was simply going to walk around the neighborhood. The hardest part of wearing the vest is the fact that it digs into the shoulders, and makes breathing uncomfortable. During the last half-mile I was really beginning to get tired, but I figured that I made it this far, there was no way I was going to quit now. I couldn't quit anyway- there was no other way home. Aside from getting wet from a lawn sprinkler, which was kind of refreshing on a hot day, the last few blocks went quickly and I was finished.

One of the best things about setting goals for yourself is the satisfaction that you feel when, after having worked hard to achieve something, you accomplish what you set out to do. Articles by Dr. Ken, Max Bob, John McCallum, and others helped inspire me to do something different, difficult, and very worthwhile. Now, only one question remains: "What will I do next year?"

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

University of Tennessee Strength and Conditioning Clinic - March 2nd and 3rd, 2012

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

What’s Your Obsession? - By Brian Cass

Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on August 26, 2007

I have not shared this with Max Bob yet (well, at least not until he read this article), but one of my personal goals is to add at least 100 pounds to my 20-rep squat over the next six months or so. Truth be told, I’ve become obsessed with getting my squat poundage up to competitive standards.

At WST we usually squat on a "machine" (there’s a picture of the machine on Bob’s website somewhere... (a super re-enforced Pendulum type). Don’t let the machine fool you. WST-style squats are the most exhausting, grueling, and humbling exercise I’ve ever performed. (Also- we do 2 SETS of 20!) Yet – and I cannot begin to explain why – I love them. The squat machine is simultaneously feared and revered. I love “letting it go” and “killing” a serious set of squats. There are few things that get the testosterone pumping through my veins like a death march on the squat machine. I always end up on the ground wheezing madly after a strenuous set, but the great sense of accomplishment makes it all worth it. Perhaps that’s it – perhaps the mere challenge of the machine attracts me to it. I don’t fully know. All I know is that I’ve become completely obsessed with progressing on this single exercise – almost to the exclusion of the other lifts.

And here’s the thing ….. I’m 100% confident that I’ll reach my target. There’s positively no doubt in my mind. However, getting there from here will require a great deal of hard work and mental doggedness. The more I train with Bob, the more I realize that a proper attitude is the key to success – particularly when wrestling with the squat machine. Come determined to succeed and I often will. Show up with a laissez-faire attitude and a head filled with doubt and I might as well go home. Simply put, if I’m not “in the mood” I seldom nail my lifts. If I show up with resolve – with something to prove, if you will – great things nearly always happen. Bringing my “A game” and “being here now” (as Bob espouses) are paramount to success.

One day a few months ago, I approached the squat machine and recall looking at the weigh and commenting to myself (perhaps I even murmured it aloud) “you’ve got to be kidding me, Bob.” It’s no surprise that I was only able to get a few reps before surrendering. I learned the hard way that day that positive thinking is absolutely critical for getting through a tough set. Driving yourself to finish the last couple of reps when all you want to do is pack up, go home, and never come back takes fortitude and concentrated focus. There’s no two ways about it.

Nowadays I approach my workouts with an entirely different mindset. I’ve definitely seen the light on the need for proper mental preparation. When I show up at WST today, I’m no longer satisfied to merely complete a tough set – I come prepared to CRUSH the set! Anything less won’t do. I focus on being on the offensive, trying to kill the weights before they kill me.

All this revelation has lead me to “study up” on the mental training techniques of the experts. I just finished reading Peak Performance (one of Bob’s recommended readings) and I’ve begun to apply some of the strategies outlined in the book. I’ve been spending a lot of my time away from the gym focused on mental visualization techniques. As such, I find myself rehearsing my 20-rep squats several times a day, most often in the car as I’m driving to and from the Metro station each day (just about the only quiet time I’m afforded). On WST training days, I have to walk approximately ten minutes from the Metro station to Bob’s dungeon. I spend most of this walk mentally rehearsing my squats (oddly enough, even on non-squatting days).

All of this appears to be working. This past weekend I was using a record weight (for me that is) on the squat machine yet it actually felt light – unexpectedly light, absurdly light even. As a result I completely crushed the set - killed it in fact - and I swear I heard the machine beg for mercy! I almost completed all 20 reps in a continuous rep fashion, when normally I’m gasping for air long before I’m halfway through. Have you ever had one of those workouts where you felt like Superman? Well it was one of those days. I damn near died when the set was over and I was categorically useless for the rest of the workout – I’d be misleading you if I suggested otherwise – but during the set I was so focused that it felt like my body was on autopilot. I was a force to be reckoned with. I really surprised myself. Needless to say, the experience was extremely motivating!

All of this has only amplified my obsession to improve on the lift. I find myself redoubling my mental training efforts. To steal Dave Wright’s expression, I’ve become a “man on a mission.” Some would say I’ve taken my obsession too far. For example, at WST I usually precede a heavy set by psyching myself up and screaming “YES!” immediately before attacking the iron. The other day I caught myself yelling “YES!” while sitting in traffic. Strange, huh?

This all might be a little strange, sure. I’m a 38 year old husband and father of two beautiful little children with a demanding job and remarkably little free time, and if I’m being honest I spend far too much time focused on this little weightlifting hobby of mine. After all, I should be playing with the kids and spending quality time with my wife instead of writing articles for Natural Strength, right? From this perspective, sure, obsessing over something like 20-rep squats seems like energy a tad bit misplaced. I tell you what though – I’ve never felt more energized and I cannot recall having this much fun or feeling this much personal satisfaction in a long while. Nor have I ever had such a healthy hobby. I feel like I’ve subtracted 20 years off my age. Weight training is the best stress reliever I’ve found, and in the final analysis all the energy I pour into training repays me double by allowing me to be a better father, husband, and co-worker. With all these benefits, I can live with a little “strangeness” in my life.

Have I taken my obsession too far? Am I crazy? Probably. However, six months from now when I’ve added 100 pounds to my squat and hopefully gained a considerable amount of muscle in the process, I’m not sure there will be too many individuals equally crazy enough to challenge my sanity face-to-face …… if you know what I mean. ? ?

To all those diehard lifters out there, what’s your obsession?

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Friday, February 10, 2012

5th ANNUAL BASKETBALL SPECIFIC STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING SYMPOSIUM - Friday, May 18th -OR- Saturday, May 19th, 2012 at UNC-Chapel Hill

*Only register for ONE of the days. Click HERE for More Info

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Sunday, February 5, 2012

What I Think of Commercial Gyms - By Steve Meredith

Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on August 30, 2007

Jim Duggan posed the question, "What is it that bothers you the most when you are training at a gym?" in one of his recent posts in the Natural Strength Inner Circle, after he read a newspaper article about a fracas in a health club between two middle aged men.

The fracas that Jim read about happened because one of the men was “making too much noise” and “wouldn’t shut up”. I don’t know what noise the other fellow was making, but I imagine he was grunting and groaning with exertion, something which has to be expected if you’re working hard; occasionally some other more gut-tural noises can be common also!

What strikes me is the resort to violence because the other fellow wouldn’t stop making his noise, this shows a complete lack of manners, and maturity on the part of both men, and is a reflection of just how self centred many people are now. This sparked a memory for me about the gym I started to train in when I was a boy of 13, in the late 1970’s and throughout the 1980’s, where this kind of incident just didn’t happen.

When I was in school a few of my schoolmates and I developed the aspiration to become bigger and stronger. We all played rugby and the extra size and strength would help. Our enthusiasm was fuelled by the success of the legendary Welsh rugby team of the 1970’s and the success of the great athlete Geoff Capes, and later we were inspired by “Rocky”. In particular, I was motivated by “the Pontypool front row” and their tales of domination made legendary by Max Boyce, a Welsh folk singer. He also sang about the steelworks and the mines which employed some of the very same men who were playing rugby for Wales at the time. You could not help but feel immense admiration and respect for these men who would finish a day’s heavy work and then go to rugby training, or running, or the gym, or in some instances play an international game! Of course their training had to be very efficient, no time for long drawn out complicated routines; they got the basics done in short order then went home to their families for food and sleep, before staring another day of hard work.

Some of these men trained at a local sports stadium which contained a large area set aside for weight training. It was about six miles from home, so whenever we could get a lift up there a group of us would go there to train. This supplemented our regular workouts performed in the garage of my friend’s house.

It was a place for men. I know that sounds a little politically incorrect and sexist, but it was for men. I can only ever remember one female training there; she was a police officer and an international shot putter, her name was Vanessa Head. I got to know here a few years later when she coached the Welsh schools athletics team. She was an immensely strong woman, stood over six feet tall and weighed in at 15 ½ stones. I remember her telling us how difficult it was to keep weight on for her, and she had a special supplement – large tins of creamed rice pudding! I remember seeing her do reps in the split style clean with over 100 kg’s, and benching over 140 kg’s. She was an exceptionally strong woman and fitted in well, but primarily it was a place for men.

As boys we didn’t dare to interrupt any of the men training, and looking back we didn’t get much training done there until we had established ourselves as regular faces and gained the trust and respect the men who trained there. We simply observed, learned about how the strongest men trained by watching them, then taking that information and constructing routines based on it. When we got the opportunity to train with some of them we did, and we did what we were told to do.

This was a time when the majority of young men still respected their grandfathers, fathers, uncles and brothers, and aspired to grow into big strong responsible men just like them. Working men were still seen as providers and protectors, trusted and imitated, looked up to. Things have changed now, and it seems that young men in particular (although many young women are not immune) are more interested in upholding their “repsec’ wid’ de homies” than considering what sacrifices their forefathers made to allow them to live in a democratic society.

We learned about good morals, about the virtues of loyalty to those who help you, friends and family; honesty, not only in the sense of being publicly honest but just as importantly being honest to yourself, about not taking the easy route, about the dignity of work and the satisfaction and pleasure to be gained. We learned about taking real pride, not the puffed up bragging that so many people see as acceptable today, but an inner feeling of accomplishment and worth in achieving some thing by putting effort into it. Try talking about real pride to some of today’s youngsters; unless you can buy it and it makes you look good they don’t want to know. We developed healthy social principles and respect for others, supporting and helping people around us, we had to, many families relied on food handouts to survive during the steel and coal strikes which took place at the time.

We were educated in real gym manners. In the gym you didn’t behave in a way that would offend or upset someone, it was “owned” in a figurative rather than literal sense, by tough men, mainly miners and steelworkers. You played by the unwritten rules or you didn’t go there! I’m not talking about how to dress or what would be an acceptable level of noise, these were never an issue, every one was too busy training to worry about what you looked like or whether you were shouting too loudly. I’m not talking about quarrels over which kind of music should be played THERE WASN’T ANY! All you could hear was the bustle of men talking, laughing and encouraging each other, and the clank and bang of weights as they were being used. I’m not talking about that most heinous crime of walking in front of the mirror when someone was “using” it to observe their form on side lateral raises! (People rarely did them and there were no mirrors!) The manners I’m talking about are clearing up after yourself without being asked or expecting someone else to do it; not hogging the lifting platform or squat rack to do curls in when someone was waiting to do squats; not trying to dish out “advice” to people who YOU think ought to concentrate on losing fat instead of doing 400 pound squats; being friendly and asking people who are obviously waiting to use the piece of equipment you are using if they would like to work in with you, not taking extra sets just to wind them up; about trying to inspire rather than intimidate respecting men who have experience and actually listening to them when they say that training two or three times per week is enough for most people! No one strutted about trying to impress and intimidate, these men were modest, and interested in improving themselves not showing off.

The place was large with three lifting platforms which dominated the entrance side of the room, a multi-gym, some benches, a rack of dumbbells and several plate loading machines. The ceiling was high and the walls were bare. It smelled of sweat, liniment, and a lingering sulphurous odour which was ingrained in the clothes and skin of the men who worked in the local steelworks. There was no heating, and the windows looking out onto the running track would get misted up with the heat being produced in the gym in the winter. There was no carpet or mirrors, no receptionist or pretty instructor, and no club towels in the changing rooms. There were no “instructors” to walk you through each item of equipment and get you to sign away liability if something unfortunate happened, and there was no lounge area to sit and chat afterwards. No “expert advice” about how to achieve “optimum health and fitness”. No presumption that you wanted to achieve a particular “look” or a bloody six pack! YOU JUST WENT TO LIFT! And so did everyone else. Can you imagine how one of the members of the “fitness club class” of today would react to this place?! It wasn’t for socialising or networking, it was a place to lift weights. You didn’t go there after a hard day at the office to “unwind” you went there to get big and strong! It was used by lifters and athletes. Isn’t that what a gym is for?

You paid your fee at the front desk and went in to train, there were no joining fees, monthly and yearly schemes, gold memberships or off peak deals. Most blokes didn’t use the changing rooms, they went already dressed in their kit, and deposited their holdall usually containing work clothes, boots and lunch-boxes in a pile at the entrance to the gym, when they finished they picked their bag up and went home. They didn’t swan around with a bottle of “posh water”; if they got thirsty they got a drink from the tap! They would have felt most uncomfortable discussing tans, man boobs, hairstyles, jewellery, and the multi-sexual lifestyle! No offence intended, you live the way you want to, but in the gym talk about weights! Nowadays you get groups of young men(?) who turn up at the gym purely to socialize, ogle the ladies (and men?) and generally make a nuisance of themselves. They are loud and lazy, all tattoos, fake tans and funny hair! I wish I could transport them through time to the old gym; they would shrivel up and crawl out never to return again! Talk about the feminization of society.

There were weightlifting and power lifting clubs run there informally, and if you wanted to get involved you just turned up when everyone else did and the blokes helped you out. You didn’t need to pay for a personal trainer or extra fees to be part of a club. I remember a couple of old-timers who helped me out, they trained regularly on the power lifts and were quite strong. They were in their 50’s at least, and did a routine which consisted of squats, bench, chins, and dips one day and deadlifts, bench, chins, and dips the other day, they trained twice per week and performed several sets of 3’s and 5’s per lift. I think they were squatting about 200 kg’s for 5 reps, deadlifting about the same and benching about 130 kg’s for 5. They were both about 14 stones in weight, about 5’ 7” tall. I remember that one of them always trained in a heavy tracksuit with a zip up the front, which he would zip right the way up to the neck. One day, it was very warm, and he took the top off, he was wearing a t-shirt underneath which was damp with sweat; I’ve never seen so much honest muscle on a man before or since! He was doing chins at the time, his arms and back were thick with solid, real muscle, and his forearms swollen with blood. This was the only time I saw him without his tracksuit top off, he was typical of the men who trained there, he wasn’t interested in showing off what he had achieved, it was enough that he knew he had achieved it.

The loads hoisted at the gym were very ordinary, if you believe what the internet and the glossy magazines of today say, but if you have trained with men who have lifted for a long time without using drugs you know that actually they were very respectable loads. In my experience Stuart McRobert was about right in the 300 bench press – 400 squats – 500 deadlift estimation he made for realistic goals set out in Brawn. Also, looking back there were very few heavy men lifting, most men were lean and muscular. I think trainees today have been duped into believing that they can attain unrealistic bodyweights and as a result become fat (myself included!). Perhaps this is another slip in realism brought about by drug use and drug users who report high bodyweights at low levels of body fat. I think that it is realistic for a man of 5’ 9” to get into hard muscular condition at about 14 stones bodyweight, but much more than this will require exceptional genetics or drugs.

In the main we learned about lifting by watching these older guys doing Olympic lifts squats, deadlifts, bench press, standing press, rows, curls, chins, dips etc. Where can a young man go now if he wants to learn about real training? There aren’t many places which even allow the practice of Olympic lifts anymore. The last time I went to the old gym they had modernised it, moved it to a smaller plush room with atmospheric lighting, nice floors and mirrors, a loud stereo system, TV’s mounted on the walls, and places to plug your personal headphones in. They got rid of the useful stuff like the lifting platforms and squat racks, Eleiko bars and bumper plates, and furnished it with shiny hi-tech machines and cardio equipment. There’s a running track outside, why the hell do we need treadmills! For crying out loud, where do you squat, deadlift, clean and snatch!

If you are lucky enough to find a traditional gym nowadays it is more likely than not to be populated by the type of trainee I despise even more than the “beautiful people” and “know-it-alls” who populate the health clubs and fitness centres. The meathead juicer! He’s anywhere from 16 years old to late 30’s, with a shaved head and a red face covered in spots. He wears those stupid trousers that look like a cross between psychedelic pyjama bottoms and something Ali Baba and the forty thieves would have worn! He’s got a sweatshirt on which has been hacked to subtly reveal his “big guns”, and usually has a picture of a big gorilla on the front of it. He’s got various tattoos, some designs, some writing, none of which actually mean anything; they just “look ‘ard!”. He walks with a permanent ELS (exaggerated lat spread), and wears his lifting belt tightly notched from the moment he enters the gym. He spend his time camped at the heavy end of the gym, taking about 20 minutes rest between sets with 220 pounds for 6 reps in terrible form on the bench press. He and his buddies talk in grunts and one syllable words, about their latest “bitches” and what stacks they are using. They have no respect for themselves or anyone else. If you enter “their patch” you feel the air of hostility immediately. There’s no friendly banter, offers to work in or welcomes, just stares and sly smirks, posturing and attempts to intimidate. After they realise they won’t fluster you they get back to their conversation about the things which concern the dregs of society. They don’t work, or go to school, and have no interest in helping anyone but themselves. They find pleasure only in immediate self gratification. The gym is filled with loud music with words which offend and sicken me. The walls are covered with various posters of “muscle stars” and soft pornography. The changing rooms are a place where drug deals take place, and the owner is usually the biggest fellow, who got his capital together by dealing drugs to kids, “bouncing” at night clubs and working as a debt collector! What kind of example is this for a young lad interested in getting big and strong?

I still visit commercial gyms from time to time. I like to rattle their cages, show them how it should be done, and you never know I may even have the opportunity to impart some knowledge and inspire others to train properly. I can still remember the smell and sounds of the old gym and I miss it, but I'm lucky enough to have a good garage gym, and the company of some of the old school friends I first started training with, so I stay there to train...

Physical Culture Books.com
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Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Passing of an Olympic Legend - By Jim Duggan

Originally posted on Natural Strength.com On Monday, October 1, 2007

Al Oerter, the first man to win four consecutive Olympic gold medals in the same event, died of heart failure near his retirement home in Ft. Myers, Florida. He was 71 years old.

He won the first of his gold medals in the discus in 1956, when he was just 19 years old. He won his last gold medal, battling poor weather and injury, in 1968. He was in his thirties when he won his last gold medal, and decided to take a break from the sport. While today's olympic athletes are, essentially, professionals, Oerter pursued his career while holding down a full-time job and raising a family. He competed at a time when amateur athletes were truly "amateur." They were prohibited from receiving ANY money or financial assistance.

I first became aware of Al Oerter in the Spring of 1980. I was fifteen years old, and a sophomore in high school. I had been lifting weights for about a year at that time, and, with the encouragement of my father, joined the track team competing in the shot-put, and discus. It was around this time that Al was in serious training for the Moscow Olympic games. He had embarked on a comeback in 1976, and he was throwing better than he ever had. His comeback was being chronicled in Newsday, the Long Island newspaper. Al lived, and worked, on Long Island, and our track coach held him up as a fine example of talent, hard work, and dedication. We all followed his comeback, and tried to emulate him. And for good reason- his athletic career was as inspiring as it was successful.

In every Olympics that he competed in, he upset a reigning world record-holder to win the gold medal. He was never the favorite, in fact he never even won the Olympic Trials. However, he was, in the words of fellow Olympian Elliott Denman, "the supreme competitor, able to rise to every occasion, cool while others around him were collapsing." Additionally, he set a new Olympic record with every victory.

He overcame a lot to win each medal. In 1957, he survived a near-fatal car accident and was able to return to Rome in 1960. In 1964, he suffered a serious injury just prior to the Games- he tore cartilage off his rib-cage, yet still competed and won. In 1968, he endured a disc injury to win his fourth gold medal. In 1980, at the age of 43, he made a throw of 227'11" for his best throw ever. Unfortunately, politics prevented him from competing for a fifth gold. Yet, he still kept pushing, and was on his way to the 1984 Olympic Trials when a leg injury ended his competitive career for good. I still remember an interview he gave just prior to the Trials when he was asked what it was like to compete against men who were half his age. His response was: "So what if I'm twice as old, I'll just work twice as hard."

He did work hard. He began lifting weights when he was about ten years old, and trained diligently for his entire life. Although his college coaches frowned upon lifting weights, he began to incorporate serious weight-training into his Olympic preparation and the results were obvious. He was a fan of strength-training and, in 2002 was honored with The Highest Achievement Award from The Association of Oldetime Barbell & Strongmen.

He was a great athlete, yet viewed sports as a joyous personal challenge. He once described his discus pursuit as " very internal...a self-fulfillment, not an acquisition of fame and fortune." That philosophy, as well as his four gold medals, makes him one of the greatest- if not the greatest- champion in Olympic history. As well as an inspiration to all athletes, of all ages, in all sports.

Physical Culture Books.com
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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Jim Duggan Bio - Fire Fighter Strongman - NaturalStrength.com - Special Features section

Jim Duggan is 51 years old (in 2015), and stands a massively built 6 feet tall. He is a Lifetime Drug-Free RAW Power Lifter and Strongman Competitor in the 275 and 242 pound weight classes. Jim had a Bench Press that was over 500 pounds with NO SHIRT, and a deadlift of 688 pounds. He also won the Bob Hoffman Strongman Challenge in 2000 held at York, PA. Jim is a Captain in the NYC Fire Dept. and is assigned to Engine Company 231 in Brownsville, Brooklyn. He has written dozens of great Strength Training articles for The Dinosaur Files and NaturalStrength.com where he has a column in the Special Features section.

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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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