Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sled Training - By Jim Bryan

Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on August 12, 2006

Using a sled for training is a topic that appears on many discussion boards. Most usually want to know where to buy one. If you look you’ll find a number of places to buy some real nice looking sleds and harnesses. The problem is that they must be made of gold or some other precious metal. I’ve never found one for less than $100.00 plus shipping. What I did was get an old garden wheel barrow, take off all the hardware, so just the tub is left. I drilled two holes in the front, put a 2X6 inside the tub up against the front and screwed two large screw eyes from the front side into the wood. This is where I hooked a plastic covered wire strand dog tie out onto. (They have metal snap hooks on each end) The handle is made of a 2 inch piece of PVC (I don’t like harnesses) But you could use a harness or tie a rope from the tub to a lifting belt. I put several 12 ½ and a couple of 25 pound Sears plastic weights in the tub. (Admit it you have some) Then I picked up some Kwik Crete (2-80 pound bags) and mixed them onto the weights already in the tub. When finished the sled weighs in at 190 plus pounds. If I pulled it on the driveway or road it would probably move pretty well. But I do it in the back yard and its soft back there and sometimes very hard to do multiple pulls. This suits me fine because I don’t want to spend a bunch of time getting in a workout (remember High Intensity Training)? For added weight I put a pipe in the wet cement so I could put extra plates on and not worry about them sliding off. In the past I’ve used the sled and 2 45’s. And sometimes had my Grand Daughter ride on it. Lately it works good just as it is. Several people have pulled it and so far all like the big handle for hand comfort. I also built another one for those that can't possibly pull the “stone cold sled.” For that one I went to Home Depot and picked up the mid size plastic cement mixing box. If you look for them they are black plastic boxes and will be near the cement bags. I also picked up a couple of large screw eyes and screwed them through the front of the box into a 2X4. This way when you pull you won’t pull out the front of the box. I hooked a rope through a metal pipe for a handle. With this sled I can just add the desired weight into the box. This sled slides real well in the back yard and usually is pulled by female clients.

As far as technique goes, I don’t run with the sled. I just pull or drag at a steady pace for as many 50 yard trips as I can make. Great conditioning tool and the “stone cold sled” is also a damn good strength tool. In the Florida heat it becomes a test of will. Helps flatten out the bumps in your back yard too. I don’t have any certain times I pull it. I just fit it in whenever I feel like it. Some weeks I do it daily. Some weeks I don’t pull at all. And instead do rope climbing or another outdoor activity. I saved a bunch of money on this. I only had to buy two screw eyes, two bags of cement, and a plastic mixing box. The rest I had laying around.

Physical Culture Books.com
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Monday, May 28, 2012

How To Gain Muscle Mass - By Joe Karszen

Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on September 5, 2006

This is a question that arises everyday in the gym. How is one to gain muscle mass? There are a lot of answers and opinions out there from people. I will give you my opinion and hope you will follow these guidelines. You have to ask your self a few questions. How many days am I strength training, how long am I working out for, how many sets do I do, am I eating properly, do I give myself enough rest before the next workout, do I have to incorporate some type of cardio in my training, do genetics play a part in how I gain muscle mass? All these questions play a major role in how one gains muscle mass.

There are many ways in how one strength trains. Do you use free weights, plate loaded machines, pin loaded machines, bands, weighted balls, manual resistance exercises? If you do belong to a gym, have some equipment at your house or have nothing at all, you can get results if you train properly and record what you do. I will discuss how ones goes about gaining good lean muscle mass not just adding extra weight.

In order to see results, you need to record what you have done on that particular day (areas worked out on, sets, repetitions, rest in between the sets and date). By recording what you have done, you know what you can do on that particular workout. The next time you perform that workout, you want to better that by either increasing the weight or by increasing the repetitions. This is all done with proper form and with no momentum involved in the exercise.

What is proper form? I will give you my opinion on form. You want to select a weight you can properly perform 8-10 repetitions for, higher number for endurance athletes (10-12 repetitions). The last repetition should be difficult to perform. You want constant tension on the muscle (upward and lowering phase) while performing the repetition. If one is throwing the weight up, bouncing it up you need to lower the weight. By throwing the weight up you have a greater chance of getting injured. If you get hurt in the weight room, I would question the program your doing.

Most people training out there are not power lifters. This is where the Olympic type lifts are involved. The people who perform these particular exercises have to train with speed and momentum. There are cycles, rests in between sets and greater risks involved if not performed correctly. I don’t believe in Maximum lifts for the average person. You want to keep it simple and safe for yourself to gain some weight. Not injure yourself if you move the wrong way while lifting.

Intensity is a big key in how one trains. Intensity is how hard one trains in that particular exercise. Do you give up on the 7th repetition, or do you continue to go on until you can’t perform another repetition? The intensity level on how one trains is where one can attain great results. This will vary from one individual to another. If you train longer then 45 minutes you’re kidding yourself about the intensity level. Your body can only work so long before depleting its glycogen storage. If you feel light headed or nausea, STOP. This is where recording what you do falls into place.

Rest is another factor in how one gains muscle mass. More is not better. What I mean by that is you don’t have to strength train 5 days a week. A majority of people over train themselves and wonder why their not seeing the results there looking for. Three days at the most is enough. Again, if you’re training with great intensity, your body needs rest for it to grow. If you constantly train every day you’re not giving your muscles enough rest for it to gain any size. On the off days of strength training you can incorporate some type of cardio. Choose something you don’t mind doing. It could be jogging on the roads, a brisk walk, racquetball, a game of basketball, swimming, stationary bike, etc. The cardio can last from 20 to 30 minutes.

Nutrition is another factor in how one gains weight. I believe in 5 to 6 small meals a day. You just want to eat to get full, not stuff yourself. You need your breakfast. You next meal after breakfast is a small snack. A snack consisting of a fruit, a nutrition bar, or a protein shake. Your next meal will be your lunch. Two to three hours after that will be another snack. After your snack will be your dinner. Dinner can consist of a green salad, fish, baked potato and some vegetables. During the day you should be hydrating yourself with water. If you want a snack at night you can. I am not a nutritionist; if you need further information on nutrition I would check with your local phone book.

If you train properly and record what you do, you should gain muscle mass. Each individual will vary on how much weight they will gain. You want to train hard and smart every time you lift. If you have any further questions about this article please visit my web site at www.wetrainu.net.

Joe Karszen, B.S., M.S. - I have been strength training people from the ages of 14yrs. to 72yrs. old for over ten years. I owned a one on one training facility on Long Island, New York (The Quality Repetition) for six years. I have done strength training camps and have given seminars on numerous topics regarding strength and conditioning. You can contact me at my web site www.wetrainu.net and ask me any further questions.

Physical Culture Books.com
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Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Hey everybody... I hope all is well. I love equipment and recently ran accross a company called Black Widow. They are in Long Island and their equipment is built really strong. I have purchased numerous items and everything is as strong as any other company people buy from. They also make things custom ... no big company would ever do that. I got farmers walk items as well as a rickshaw bar and swiss bar. He has also custom made a few bars for me and they are great. Anyone who knows me understands that if I don't like a company I would never promote them. There stuff is too good not to be known. The price for his machines are unbeleivably cheap for such high quality. Check it out ... its worth it. You can reach them at (631) 245-9599 also on facebook (CLICK HERE FOR WEBSITE) and he has a lot going on YouTube. DREW ISRAEL

Physical Culture Books.com
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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

So what is Best? - By Jim Bryan

Let me start off by saying that I’m not a Scientist or Researcher. I don’t claim to have a research lab that turn’s out to be a closet in my home. I’m a Coach or Strength Trainer that has been active in the field for over forty years. I’ve had the good fortune to know some of the best Scientists, Researchers, Coaches, and Trainers in the Strength World. I've trained with them and been trained by them. Because of my involvement I'm asked on a continuous basis what I think is the best way to results. I competed as an Olympic lifter, Power Lifter, and Body Builder. I’m going to be honest but not too concerned about being P.C.


What are they? Are you an athlete wanting to get stronger? If so you probably don't have much time to spend on the Strength Training, most of your time will be devoted to skill training. You can still strength train and build muscle. Look for time efficient ways to do it. Are you interested in Body Building? If so you are probably willing to invest more time in your training. It still doesn't have to take up your life. AND you don't need to work every little muscle in your body. Stick with the major muscle groups until you start seeing muscle. Then work them harder! Notice I didn't say more, I said HARDER. Are you interested in Olympic Lifting or Power lifting? GET A COACH! Don't rely on Mr. Gym Stud, find a real Coach. AND don’t rely on Internet geeks either.

Free Weights and Machines

Unless you're a beginner or in denial you know that you can build strength and muscle on both. I've heard over and over that if you want to be “toned” use machines, but if you want to really “build up” use free weights. Whoever tells you that has issues and is not looking out for you. For Olympic Lifting and Power lifting you need to gain experience and the feel of an Olympic set. That is what you will be using to compete with. Practice, practice, practice. If you're a Football, Soccer, Volley Ball, Basketball, Baseball player or any other athlete involved in Strength Training you can use either or a combination of both. No one can tell me that he or she can look at how any team or individual plays and be able to know what they use. This also applies to Mr. / Ms. Fitness or Mr. / Ms. Home Gym. Free weights are cheaper to buy but have safety issues. Unless you have a spotter you better have a power rack. I wouldn't have a free weight home gym without a rack. Then you can train very hard without the worry of being crushed. Machines carry a much higher price tag but allow you to train safely by yourself and sometimes allow you to be able to do things that are impossible with free weights. If you have the interest, build up a gym with both, as well as some odd implements such as a sled or Farmers Handles. You can make them or buy them.

Full Body or Split Routine

I feel that a full body routine is more efficient. If you are doing a Full Body you don't have to go to the gym as much. I think Split Routines are okay now and then. I just don't like them over the long haul. The real key is PROGRESSION. Always try to add weight when you can or do more reps. Staying with the same weight over and over again is a waste of your time in the gym. Make the best use of your training time.

Rep Ranges

I like to vary my reps from low to higher. I'm also in favor of changing my exercise choice every 6-8 weeks. Low reps for me is 5. High reps would be over 20. It stands to reason you will be using heavier weights on the low reps and lighter weights on the high reps. But I don't believe in using weights so light that you can do the exercise without much effort. Effort is the name of the game. After all it is called Weight Training. And don't let anyone tell you that you can’t get stronger using higher reps.

Men and Women

Train the same. They both have Human muscles. Neither will have to worry much about becoming “too muscular” It's just not that easy, even with drugs. Women have much to be gained by working out with weights.

Size and Muscularity

It's been my experience that the ones that eat less are usually the most “defined” and the ones that eat the most are “bigger.” I usually ate the most so I struggled with being lean, I still do. Rep ranges usually don't count for much here, no matter what “gym stud” or “Internet Expert” told you.

Number of Sets

I use from 1 to 3 sets of a particular exercise. If I use more than one exercise per body part I use fewer sets. Most of the time I'm between 1 and 2 sets. The harder the sets, the fewer you'll need. Your not trying to see how much exercise you can tolerate (or shouldn't be) your trying to get the most efficient training you can. If you are really training hard with little rest (metabolic training) you won’t need many sets. Anyone that tells you that you won't build strength and muscle this way, doesn’t get out much. Yes, if you sit around on your ass and rest you'll be able to do many more sets. I guess if you have the time and want to spend it that way, go for it. Just don't tell me how hard you train.

Infrequent Training

Don't get carried away with this. I feel that Arthur Jones was just saying don't train every day or multiple days in a row. I don't believe he meant to only train once a month. Or one body part a month. Use your head. That is too frickin infrequent! I use two or three full body workouts a week. If three wears you out, then do two. You don't need to consult with the latest “hot ticket” Guru for his or her “secrets.” There aren't any. Hard work, done safely, on a regular basis is what you need. Keep it simple.


Don't look for supplements to fix your diet. If your diet is in the toilet it won't matter what the clerk from “Vitamin Heaven” sold you. “Fat Burners” Do you really believe that a pill will take that blubber off your waist? If you do, bend over and let me kick you in the ass! There are no Magic Pills! Hard work *done safely* on a regular basis. That is your Magic Supplement. AND eating real food. I do believe in using a multiple vitamin. Add a Protein powder if you want. Creatine? Eat a steak.

Training to Failure

I happen to believe that it can be a good thing. I won’t argue about it though. I feel that training that hard has to be learned. Yes, it is very hard. It is SUPPOSED to be. Does it make you tired? THEN REST! Bear with me folks it ain't that hard to grasp!

Personal Trainers

I would like to say that they are all good. I'd also like to say that I'm a millionaire. Truth is many are not worth a flip. I don't care who certified them. They get their knowledge from the latest “Drug Bloat Journal.” Or from that Science Lab in a closet. DO YOU REALLY think that Mr. America wrote that article? Some are good though, and if you find one, they can help you set up a routine and help you get over being intimidated in the gym. Don't worry ladies! You aren't the only ones that are intimidated when you first go to the gym.

Rep Speed

I don't count rep speed. I do expect full range reps done with control. If your slinging the weights around or the weight stack on a machine is banging, you should know better. If you've been told and you still do it, then you're a dumb ass.


I believe in doing Cardio. I just don't believe in pounding over and over on a stepper or treadmill. I get as much cardio as I can from my workouts. Most of my weight training is at a fast pace, not much rest. The Heart rate stays up and I'm breathing hard. I also walk a lot, usually 3 miles with my dog in the morning. I also pull a sled in the back yard. I've started hanging up my heavy bag again and as soon as my knee quiets down I'll be jumping rope again. These are all done when I feel like it. I don't run anymore, over 30 years of pounding the roads has got the best of my knees. I like getting outside for my Cardio. I'm not much on Aerobics but I sure like watching the girls do it. Guys if your going to join in Aerobic classes wear something that doesn't make you look like a sissy. I hate seeing guys wearing spandex.

The one best way to train

I don't think there is one. There are many methods and as long as they use progressively heavier weights most will work. Safety is a big thing for me. I like the way many Power Lifters train. They focus on what works and don't waste a lot of time. They also don't try to train every little tiny muscle in their body. Squats, some type of press, and dead lifts can turn a boy into a man. Add pull ups too. They can also give a woman a “Hard” body, and a hard woman is good to find! Increase your strength, better your conditioning and you'll be glad you did.


PLEASE guys, WORK YOUR LEGS! Nothing funnier in the gym than a guy walking around with his chest puffed out, arms held out away from the body, back all stiff, and flamingo legs. I expect bird sounds when I see them.

Bryan Strength & Conditioning "The Strength Department"

Physical Culture Books.com
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Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on October 14, 2006

O.K. you do chest/shoulders/triceps on Mondays and Thursdays, and legs/back/biceps on Tuesdays and Fridays. Cardio three times a week, and then, wait a minute, where am I. Is this the "good old days". Thank God its not the "good (bad) old days". I remember doing this and being told that I wasn't doing enough because I was only doing 3-4 different exercises per bodypart. Wow! ... Even if this program worked, who would want to do it? Who would have the time?

One idea that has stayed with me is the push/pull split. I believe the whole body workout is a great system also. But hear me out. There are a few benefits to the P/P split. My favorite reason for this system is that it allows you to perform more exercises per workout yet get more recovery time. I'll explain, I enjoy benching, pressing overhead and dipping. With whole body workouts it is difficult to incorporate these lifts into one day and cover the whole body. Something will have to go. The next benefit is minimal overlap between the two days, providing more recovery between workouts. Also I find it easier to focus on just pushing or just pulling on a particular day. Another advantage is if your pushing and pulling muscles recover at a different rate splitting them up will eliminate going into the gym ready to bench but not ready to chin, for example. Here is a sample routine and some explanation.

Day one: Press overhead 1x8-10 bench press 1x8-10 dip 1x8-10 Incline dumbell 1x8-10 (optional) dumbell crunch,grip, calf work

Day two: Chin 1x8-10 dumbell row 1x8-10 squat 1x20 deadlift 1x8-10 curl 1x6 crunch, grip, calf

Notes: incline dumbell is pushing it a little, should be a finisher. Deadlift is done conventional rest/pause style (this helps keep form tight after twenty reppers). This routine should be done once a week when the weights start to get heavy (monday-thursday). Maybe three days off between both days late in the cycle. It sounds like not enough frequency, but if you go to death's door on the squat and deadlifts and add a couple cardio days you will change your mind. You will feel both physically and mentally ready every workout, even when those twenty reppers and deadlifts almost kill you! The added volume (exercises) is offset by the less frequently you train the push/pull structures. To keep progression going pyramid the reps when you hit the wall (can't make your rep target 3-4 workouts in a row) or drop an exercise (or both). Whatever exercise you do first in a day will be your strongest and if you plan to drop an exercise later, you might want that one to be an earlier one so the ones behind it will be positively effected. Give it a shot, I think you will like it.

Physical Culture Books.com
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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Not Just Another Day at the Beach - By Jim Duggan

Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on November 2, 2006

About a year ago, I purchased a weighted vest in the hope that it would add a new wrinkle in my training. The vest weighs 84 pounds. When I purchased the vest, I thought that the benefits I would reap from using it would not only help me in my training, but would also carry over to my job. I am a NYC Firefighter, and a large part of my job is operating while wearing about 75 Lbs. of equipment- climbing, crawling, ascending flights of stairs.

On the first workout with the vest, I decided to go to the boardwalk at Jones Beach in Long Island, New York. The beach has about four miles of boardwalk, although my initial goal was much more modest. I thought I would try to do about a mile. The weather was brisk and cool- about fifty degrees and windy. I decided to to my "vest walk" after my regular weight workout. Even thought it is considered an aerobic workout, I felt that because of the weight that I should do it after I lifted weights ( rather than on my cardio days, which entail thirty minute workouts on a Stairmaster Gauntlet.)

The first thing I noticed about using the vest is the fact that because it is tight around my upper body, just taking deep breaths was a challenge. I tried to walk at a vigorous pace, and concentrate on my breathing, but because of the tightness of the vest, I found that it was more difficult than I had anticipated. Another thing that I had not counted on was the fact that the shoulder straps dug very deeply into my shoulders and traps. This was a minor inconvenience, and I quickly shrugged it off, trying instead to focus on the benefits that would accrue from this type of training. I usually did this workout twice per week ( usually Mondays and Fridays.) I limited myself to doing this in the Fall and Spring- during the Summer months the boardwalk is just too crowded.

I've had the vest for about a year now, and I recently came up with a new wrinkle to my workouts. Instead of walking on the boardwalk, I've started to walk on the beach itself. Walking on the boardwalk was challenging, but walking on the soft sand added a whole new dimension. My feet and ankles, in addition to my hamstrings, were much more involved. It was quite a challenge to keep "picking 'em up and putting 'em down." What I've done lately is to do about 3/4 mile walking on the sand, while doing about 1/2 mile on the boardwalk. I wear low-cut boots ( not for any fashion statement,but to simply keep sand out of my shoes.) Incidentally, I usually wear a light windbreaker-type jacket over the vest. Again, not so much as a nod to fashion, but in today's day and age, people might mistake the vest for something else!)

"Vest walking" has been a nice addition to my training. Steve Justa's book "Rock, Iron Steel" has a nice chapter on carrying weight. Although I could not imagine carrying two-hundred pounds on my back and walking two miles ( at least not yet, anyway,) my twice-weekly workouts walking in sand with 84 Lbs. on my back have proven very beneficial not only aerobically, but to my strength training as well. I've even thought about using my ankle and wrist weights in conjunction with the vest to make it even more difficult, but instead I'll just focus on increasing the distance for now.

Physical Culture Books.com
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