Thursday, February 28, 2013


The Iron Master, May 1995 Edition, (Reprinted with permission)

Whelan Strength Training
Washington, DC

One of the classic rules of strength training seems to have been forgotten by many. Back when we were a cult, (prior to the fitness craze of the last 20 years), everyone knew that full range of motion was a fundamental rule. It was a given. John Grimek was one of it's strongest proponents and was so flexible that he could almost touch his elbows to the floor while keeping his legs straight. Grimek, Ed Jubinville and other old-timers who always advocated full range of motion were largely responsible for dispelling the old "muscle binding" and "muscle bound" myths. With the advent of the fitness craze, however, our beloved Iron Game has been invaded by toners, shapers, sculptors, and firmers. These toner types have caused great confusion to many well intentioned beginners.

You should train your muscles to the fullest (but safe) possible range of motion that the joint will allow (Provided that you are healthy and not recovering from an injury.) Full range of motion training increases your flexibility. Half motion and "herky-jerky" ballistic movements do not improve flexibility and can sometimes cause injury. I can't tell you how many times I've walked into a gym and seen someone doing tricep pushdowns with (lifting gloved) hands incorrectly spaced. The weight is usually so light that they keep their grip open and don't even close their fingers. They then proceed with a range of motion of about 6 inches, pushing down till a full 2 or 3 inches before lockout and then only raising the forearms until parallel to the floor! It is like this for most exercises now. The reason usually given for this half-range of motion style is to, "Fatigue the muscle by keeping constant tension on them."

You must remember that "toning" simply means to "firm-up". People who tone are not serious members of the traditional Iron Game Fraternity and are usually afraid of getting "too big" (as if it would happen by accident!) They are generally the typical unisex, 90's, sensitive, lacking in testosterone, wimp type. (Any techniques they use, you want to do the opposite!) Toning techniques purposely retard progression to reduce hypertrophy. The muscle if "fatigued" by means other than progressive resistance (poundage). This is usually muscular endurance (second energy system/intermediate twitch fiber) training, not strength training. Strength is the ability to produce force; muscular endurance is how many times you can do something at a sub maximum rate of force.

If you are training at a high level of intensity, and want to maximize hypertrophy, (All Natural Strength Readers) the primary method used should be resistance, not some toning, muscular endurance technique. Example: If you lean against a wall with your knees bent and held at mid-squat position, it won't take long before your legs are fatigued and burning. But so what? It is a waste of time and energy. Your training time is limited and should be focused only on productive methods. This does not increase your ability to produce force and will not do much for gains in muscular size or strength. If you are using good form (a given) the poundage lifted should be giving you all you can handle. If not, the weight is too light.

Another common reason (Excuse) for not training with full range of motion is fear of joint damage. First of all, I don't know of anyone who has ever hurt their joints by locking-out! Most people understand not to FORCEFULLY lock-out. That being said, however, there still is a common fear of joint damage by locking out. This theory is expounded by various "fitness organizations" that specialize in TONING. Here is the rule of thumb: Do not "Grind" or rapidly snap the joint (by forceful lockout), Do not hyper-extend or hold the weight in lock-out position. The difference between avoiding forceful lock-out or hyper-extension and proper full range of motion should barely be seen with the naked eye and is not an excuse to cut the range of motion in half! Make the transition of a repetition (between positive and negative) in a slow, smooth manner without completely stopping. (Or holding the repetition at lock-out). Remember, full range of motion is fundamental and is the backbone of good form. Do not confuse classic, hardcore, progressive "Iron Game" strength training with the common, general public, "Johnny Home-Owner" information given by most "so called" personal trainers and general fitness publications that specialize in toning.

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Friday, February 22, 2013

What is it? - By Dave Durell

Originally posted on on August 24, 1999
Visit Dave's High Intensity Nation


Many qualities, both physical and mental, go into the making of a successful athlete. Two of the most important physical qualities are strength and skill. Since all sports require physical movement, and skeletal muscles produce movement, it follows logically that increasing muscular strength will allow the athlete to more easily perform the movements required in his or her sport. Of course, the strongest athlete is not always the best athlete; a high degree of sport-specific skill is also required. It is generally accepted that resistance training will increase muscular strength. But what about skill? Will weight room activities specifically enhance certain sports skills? How can strength and skill be trained most efficiently? Can they be combined or must they be trained for separately?

What is the most effective way to maximally enhance both? What constitutes proper strength training-and how, if at all, does that differ from proper skill training? This article will address, and attempt to provide some answers to, these questions.


Strength is defined as "the ability of the musculoskeletal system to produce force"(1). In order to improve that ability most productively, training must involve uniform, efficient muscular loading. Uniform - Resistance should be applied as equally as possible throughout a full range of motion. A controlled speed of movement should be utilized; the weight should be moved by muscular force alone, eliminating as much momentum as possible. Exercises which apply heavy resistance at one point and little or no resistance at another point in the range of motion are inferior in this regard. This can occur if strict form is forsaken or if an explosive style of lifting is employed. Efficient - The training program should be designed to achieve the highest degree of stimulation in the shortest possible time. High Intensity Training, where each set is carried to a point of extreme muscular fatigue, satisfies this criteria. Training in this fashion will necessarily limit the duration of the workout, thus maximizing efficiency. In addition, it is important to maintain proper form to efficiently overload the target musculature. Muscular Loading - This is the essence of strength training. A load of sufficient magnitude to stimulate a strength increase must be applied. The trainee should strive to work to the limit of his or her existing capacity on each set and regularly attempt the momentarily impossible. If you are capable of performing 10 reps with a certain weight in a certain exercise, but you always stop at 9 reps, and you never attempt an 11th rep, why would you ever get stronger? To review, proper strength training means loading the target musculature uniformly throughout the range of motion while maintaining strict form with a high level of intensity.


An athletic skill is a movement or series of movements which produces a specific athletic outcome. The key word in the previous sentence is "specific". For any sports skill performed, a unique neuromuscular pathway is created which is specific for that skill alone. In order to most effectively reinforce that pattern, the skill must be practiced as it will ultimately be executed in game situations. Thus, the practice of sports skills should be performed using the same equipment, on the same playing surface, in the same situation as they will occur in the game, while still maintaining practicality and safety. Activities which merely resemble the specific sports skill require unique neuromuscular pathways of their own; therefore, the performance of such activities is not an efficient means of reinforcing the specific neuromuscular pattern required for the sports skill in question.

To review, proper skill training means practicing a movement, or series of movements, which produces a specific athletic outcome as it will be executed in game situations.


In light of the information presented above, it is apparent that certain weightroom activities currently in vogue do not fit within the parameters of either proper strength training or proper skill training. Such activities most commonly include movements which are performed in an explosive fashion using additional resistance; including, but not limited to, power cleans, olympic lifts and various plyometric drills using medicine balls. These types of activities typically utilize the forces of acceleration and momentum to propel the resistance, negating the opportunity for uniform, efficient muscular loading. This fact disqualifies these activities as proper strength training. With regard to proper skill training, remember that the specific skill must be practiced exactly as it will be used in competition. Thus, the only athletes for whom these types of activities can be considered proper skill training are competitive weightlifters or competitive medicine ball throwers.

This brings us to the key questions to consider:

1) If it's not proper strength training, and it's not proper skill training - WHAT IS IT?
2) More importantly - WHY DO IT?

The answers to these questions will determine which activities should, or should not, be included in the training program.

Time is a limited resource; as such, it must be invested wisely. Don't waste yours by engaging in unproductive training methods. Use proper strength training to increase the ability to produce muscular force. Use proper skill training to perfect the movements used in competition. Avoid activities which don't fit within the parameters of either category. Doing so will help the athlete most efficiently scale the heights and reach the peak of his or her athletic potential.


1. Asanovich, Mark: "What is Strength?" Athletic conditioning Quarterly 1992; 1 (1): 4-5.

2. Brzycki, Matt: A Practical Approach to Strength Training. Masters Press; Indianapolis, IN, 1995.

3. Schmidt, R. A.: Motor Learning and Performance: From Principles to Practice. Human Kinetic Books; Champaign, IL, 1991.

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Friday, February 15, 2013

20 Rep Squats: Form and Foot Placement - By Philip Escott

Recently I've written a couple of pieces on the 20-rep squat, a sort of introductory piece and a more advanced piece about the pure psychology of getting through the horror of a heavy set. Although I wrote that I wasn't going to get into correct form, it's been niggling me that if I have inspired anyone out there to have a go at them and they dive in without a good instructor, maybe I need to give them at least something to go on.

For what is on the face of it such a simple exercise, it has always amazed me that even when you have squatted for years, you still find tiny little adjustments and improvements in the form.

Small changes I have made over the years have been as subtle as a couple of inches difference in hand placement on the bar (changing the 'pad' of your traps for more comfort under the bar) or even the direction the eyes look at the bottom of the rep. These seemingly tiny changes can make the difference between success and failure during the full-bore sets at the end of a cycle.

However, if I had to pick one little piece of the puzzle to impart it's on foot placement. During my time training people in the squat, I have encountered a small minority who just cannot seem to 'get' the form. They look ungainly and twist and bend as they come up from the bottom of the rep, and however hard they try they just don't seem cut out for this magnificent exercise.

I cannot remember a case where eventually I didn't have them squatting successfully, and 90% of the time it was down to foot placement. Once this was sorted, great gains were made.

If you read about the form of the squat, even in some great publications, it generally does not stress enough what should be the number one consideration - everybody's physiology is different! One person might be able to grab a squat bar and do the exercise perfectly from the off, but some people with limitations such as a long back, or tight Achilles tendons and/or hips, might need to do some detective work first to find their form.

This detective work takes the form of practicing extensively with just the bar until the form is good, then finding a way of remembering and duplicating that form so that you can reproduce it in the heat of battle of a heavy set.

The main cause of injury during the squat is rounding the back while driving up from the bottom position. This can just be caused by losing focus on keeping the core muscles tightened on a difficult rep, but that has to be addressed by mental issues, which I address in another article.

But presuming we are just working on pure form with just the bar, some people can squat deeply before the back rounds, and some people less so. Once you have found your ideal depth of squat, find a way to remember it. My favourite was to always squat in a power rack, and at the bottom of each rep look in the mirror to align the bar with a certain hole on the upright of the rack. It's surprising how, by the 17th or 18th rep, we naturally try to make the squat less deep and cheat! This trick prevents such naughtiness!

To find the deepest you can safely squat with your genetics, you have to experiment with foot placement. Some people like their feet to be close together, and others further apart. For some, and well worth experimenting with if you are having trouble, the key is the angle of the feet. In such cases sometimes a few degrees one way or the other can make a difference to comfort.

As a general rule, the wider you have your feet the deeper you can squat, up to the point where it compromises the knee joint, of course.

Having promised solutions, it might seem like I'm being a little vague, but I'm just trying to give some pointers as starting points for your own experimentation, as the form of a squat is so particular to individual, I cannot just lay down the law about it without meeting you and seeing your limitations first hand.

So, to recap, practice with the bar only. Squat until the top of the thighs are parallel with the floor, and if it's not comfortable and the back begins to round slightly at the bottom of the rep, move your feet out a little bit and try again until you can squat to your maximum comfortable depth with NO rounding of the back at the bottom of the rep. Then measure the distance between your heels and between your toes so you can reproduce that safe stance every time.

It might seem like a lot of faffing about, but if you can learn to take advantage of what must surely be the king of exercises it will be well worth it, and the health and muscular benefits you will reap will amaze you!

Remember to keep your diet in order, and have a look at some Ayurvedic principles for clues on that, and stretch those muscles and joints out with Somatic Movement routines after the squats to get rid of all the knots and keep your weights cycle on track.

That's something both sides can agree on.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Originally posted on on June 20, 1999

In a perfect strength training universe, everybody would work hard, everybody would keep adding weight to the bar, everybody would progress and everybody would reach their natural strength limits.

But this is not the perfect strength training universe. Not everyone can-or will-work to their utmost intensity, and strength gains do not come in a linear progression. Strength coaches cannot pick and choose who enters their weight-room: we can't control genetics, motivation, desire, bio-mechanical advantages or self generated effort.

For the most part, athletes strength train because they have to, not because they want to. Their sport venue is where they feel most comfortable, where they have had a history of success. The weight-room - for most athletes - is a means to an end, not the end in itself.

That does not mean, however, that an athlete cannot succeed in the weight-room. In fact, quite the opposite. The strength coach is presented with the opportunity to help the athlete come into a foreign territory, meet the enemy head on and emerge victorious. Rare is the individual who has never faced obstacles along the way to athletic success. Whether it is making a free throw, fighting a down block or hitting a 90-mph fastball, successful athletes have always faced challenges head on. Unsuccessful athletes do not. The weight-room is no different.

Keeping workouts short and increasing the intensity are keys to long term success. This applies to competitive athletes and people who just love to be in a weight-room to work hard and get stronger. Light headedness and nausea are not uncommon by-products of a great workout.

At Lafayette College, we use various techniques to intensify the workouts. These protocols have been collected from many strength coaches over the years. They are not gimmicks, but rather methods utilized to shorten and add variety to the workout. A good workout partner and a stopwatch will help. Be sure to adjust your total workout accordingly, as over-training is a distinct possibility.

The following are our most widely used overload protocols:

1. 1 1/4 reps: While doing a plate raise, bring the plate from the thigh to your eyes, arms straight. Look through the hole in the plate. Pause and contract. Slowly lower to the chest. Pause and contract. Back to the eyes. Pause and contract. Now, slowly, down to the thighs. That counts a 1 rep. Go to failure; add weight next time if you get more than 8 reps. Also good with leg extensions, dips, chins, leg curl, bicep curls, flyes, most tricep exercises lateral raises and squats.

2. 15 second reps: On bicep curls: lift 5 seconds positive; 5 seconds contract; 5 seconds negative. Go to failure. Also can be used with any of the exercises mentioned in 1 above. Add weight when you get more than 4 reps.

3. Super slow reps: On military press: 10 seconds positive,; 10 seconds negative; no pausing, just continuous movement. Go to failure. Can use with almost any exercise. Especially good for those coming back from injury. Add weight next time if you get more than 5 reps.

4. 7 up: On Lat pulldown: Do 7 full reps and, after completion of 7th rep, do 1/2 a repetition. Hold in that iso-contracted position for 45 seconds. Great to use with all pulling movements, bicep exercises and leg curls and leg extensions (basically any exercise where there's a mid-point contraction).

5. Jet sets: Can be used with any exercise: do 7 reps on your 1st set; add 10 lbs for upper body and 20 lbs for lower body for your 2nd set of 4 reps; then deduct the weight you just added for a final set of 7 reps. 30 seconds between sets. Add weight when all 3 sets can be completed.

6. 3 and out: Another protocol that can be used on any exercise: do 3 sets, all to failure, with 30 seconds between each set. Same weight for all 3 sets; add weight if you get more than 4 reps on your last set.

7. Pro 1 - 6: Again, utilize with any exercise: do 1 rep; rest 10 seconds; do 2 reps; rest 10 seconds; keep adding 1 rep with a 10 second recovery period until 6 sets are performed. Can also do a regression set where you begin with 6 reps and work down to 1 rep with 10 second intervals. Add weight when all 6 sets are completed.

Other techniques we have used include drop sets, negative only, forced negative, stage reps, partial reps, rest-pause, singles, 5-12-25, pre-exhaust, super set and unilateral movements. Add these techniques into your workout slowly, and don't do all at one time. The cornerstone remains, however, good repetitions taken to failure. Again, without intensity, overload and progression, no routine - no matter what methods or exercises are used - will be successful.

Remember - work hard, work short and keep adding weight. Above all, don't be comfortable. GOOD LUCK.

That's something both sides can agree on.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I See the White Smoke - By Fred Cantor

Originally posted on on June 20, 1999

There are too many "rules," too many "self-evident truths," and too much egotism and close-mindedness. The fact is, strength training is simple -- no, not the training itself, which needs to be brutally hard -- but the principles behind the training. Let the scientists and researchers argue amongst themselves -- the disagreements that they have now will be the same disagreements that they'll be having 5 and 10 years from now. I'm too busy training myself and others to wait for the white smoke to arise from the chimney and the "final word" on strength training to be released.

Because there will never be a final word.

Machines or free weight, Olympic lifting or non-Olympic lifting, periodization or high-intensity -- what's all the yelling about? Why is there so much anger -- on both sides-- if the other side disagrees? It's time that we stopped looking for differences in philosophies and started concentrating on the similarities -- because there are a lot more similarities than there are differences.

The goals on both sides are the same: We train to stay healthy, get stronger, and perform more effectively. All these goods can be met and have been met over the years, using machines or free weights, doing one set or multiple sets, and doing a variety of exercises. In fact, there are numerous variables in strength training -- sets, reps, equipment, exercises, etc. The factors, however, that are not debatable, the components that must be satisfied for a strength program to be successful are quite simple:

1. There must be intensity.
2. There must be overload.
3. There must be progression.

That's it. Nothing else. If you don't have those elements, no philosophy, no equipment, no methodology, and no supplement will make the program effective. The flip side, of course, is that if there is progression, overload, and intensity, every program will get good results. If you're not succeeding, look no further. Don't blame the equipment and don't blame the workout program: Remember, the same workout given to 10 people will get 10 different results. You must work hard -- every rep, every set, every day.

When designing a program, ask the following questions:

1. Is the program safe?
2. Is it effective?
3. Is it efficient?
4. Is it practical?
5. Is it purposeful?
6. Is it balanced?

If you cannot answer "yes" for an exercise or protocol, then exclude it from your workout. Make your decision objectively. Don't lose sight of what we're doing: strength training. You should never, ever be comfortable in a weight room. No one has ever reached their strength gain potential by being comfortable. If it's comfort you want, go some place else.

There are no secrets to success. Choose only productive exercises -- they should be chosen for functional, not cosmetic purposes. Do perfect repetitions with maximum effort -- you can either train hard and short or easy and long. Choose the former. Remember: As the intensity increases, the duration and frequency of the workouts decreases. Adjust your workout accordingly.

Above all, be aggressive. Don't fall in love with rep schemes or exercises, and be sure to make changes when adaptation occurs. Add weight. Add reps. Intensify sets. Don't be comfortable.

There are no gimmicks to successful strength training -- just hard, brutal work. Keep it simple and safe. Plan all workouts. Be accountable. Sleep and eat enough to enhance your progress. And finally, have fun and enjoy your workouts and appreciate the opportunity that you have to train hard and to challenge yourself.

That's something both sides can agree on.

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Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Originally posted on on June 20, 1999

Reprinted with permission from HARDGAINER magazine issue #58, January-February 1999

"Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter." - Satchel Paige

"Getting older is not for sissies." - Jack Palance

There’s no such thing as the fountain of youth, but strength training is the closest thing to it. Strength training is no longer thought of as only a hobby of youth, but a lifetime endeavor. In fact, it gets even more important as you get older. Cardiovascular training is vital, and everyone should be doing it regularly-at least three times per week-but in addition to strength training. If you only do cardiovascular training you may live to be 90 years old, but you’ll more than likely look and feel old for the last 40 years of your life.

Cardiovascular training gives you the "quantity of life," but strength training gives you the "quality of life." Without strength training you’ll probably still struggle to carry your groceries, you could fall and break your hip, and have the same age-related problems of lean muscle tissue loss, bone density loss (osteoporosis), arthritis and lack of strength that other senior citizens have.

Have you ever stood at the end of a marathon race, and watched the runners come in? Even though they are accomplishing a tremendous physical feat, most of them (who don’t lift weights) look like hell. Other than being trim, the older runners look no different than any untrained older person. After they shower, change and put their business suits back on, they will look ordinary, and most people won’t believe that they even completed the race. Cardiovascular training alone will not come close to retarding the aging process. You’ll just end up with a healthy heart in an average body.

Every year, more and more research information is coming in about the benefits of "strength training for life," and the news is good. In fact, some of the latest research states that strength training is now considered at least as important as cardiovascular training for overall health, with some studies claiming it’s even more important, especially when you get older. A big reason for this is that many people are unable to move much at all when they get older. Strength training liberates them to be able to do cardiovascular exercise and other things in order to lead independent lives.

Most of my clients are in their twenties and thirties, but I’ve some older ones who are dedicated and train very hard. You’ve previously read about "Big Daddy" Joe Bunton, who went from "grey afro" to shaved head, disco to rap, and off the high-blood-pressure medication. Joe looks about fifteen years younger than when he started, and is in such good shape that I let him do the sandbag carry at age 47, without fear of him dropping. I also have other older high achievers like him.

Frank Farrow

Frank Farrow is in his early fifties but is tenacious, with great mental focus-sometimes too great. He is one of the best I’ve ever seen, regardless of age, at truly going to muscular failure. Frank seemed to understand the concept right away and took to it like a duck to water. He is the only person for whom I have to end many of the sets because he wants to persist until he ends up looking like a "tortured, vibrating sack of isometrics." In one of his first workouts with me he was doing shrugs and kept going till the weight totally stopped moving. But he didn’t stop, and was shaking, grimacing, growling, breathing like a steam engine, and dripping with sweat for another 20 seconds doing what looked to be isometrics. I watched with amazement and finally had to make him stop.

When people first call me about training, I don’t sugar coat anything. I lay out my philosophy plain for everyone to see regardless of age. Many people get scared off, but that’s okay because we would probably not be a good match anyway. Training with me is not a democracy, but I don’t turn away anyone who is determined to join the program and follow my instruction. I don’t care if they have trained before, or are beginners. I don’t care about their gender or age. All I require is a philosophical match. If they are willing to work as they have never worked before, are not looking for gimmicks, and want to maximize their natural, genetic potential for muscular development, strength and overall body stamina and fitness, then we will get along great.

Art Brown

Recently, Art Brown called me. Art is 63 years old and was not in great shape. He had never exercised in his life and didn’t know anything about training. All Art knew was that he felt weak, old and unhealthy, and wanted to make some changes. I came on strong with Art but he was not scared off, and had a great attitude. He put his trust completely in my hands. Even though Art is by far my oldest client, I was happy to help him. Frank Farrow used to be my oldest client, but Art jokingly calls Frank "sonny boy" now. I had to start Art slow. I mean s-l-o-w! For the first month I mainly built up Art’s cardiovascular conditioning and overall fitness, doing mostly Stairmaster, ab work, stretching and a very short weight workout. My main goal was just to keep him alive through the one-hour workout.

After a month, Art was able to perform 30 minutes on the Stairmaster fairly easily, so I weaned him into more strength training and gradually let him do the cardio work in his own time. I have to admit that the first few workouts with Art were scary. I made him take long rests between sets for the first month or so, and made sure that he did not breathe too hard. I would tell him, "Breathe deeply, Art, but above all, breathe!" He could only go down one hole on the Tru-Squat, with no weight, and used many other machines with a very light weight to start with.

Art has now been training for about three months and has doubled his strength on most exercises, and now goes to the bottom on the Tru-Squat for 10 reps. He has greatly increased his range of motion in many exercises. He noticeably suffered from arthritis when he started, but now the arthritis does not bother him. He acts and feels ten years younger already!

The main motivation for Art to train was his work. He works in the National Science Foundation, a branch of the US Government. He specializes in polar operations, and spent the first twenty years of his career going to the North Pole area and Greenland, and he’s spent around the last twenty years making trips to the South Pole area (Antarctica). The last few trips have been rough and he has literally almost been blown away (or frozen) a few times, and he has barely passed the physical required. Art is one of just a few men who have gone to both the North and South Poles. He’s making another Antarctica trip soon, and recently passed his physical with flying colors. His doctors were amazed, and told him his physical data had not looked this good in over ten years.

Vic Boff and Joe Marino

Vic and Joe are friends of mine, and are in phenomenal shape for their ages. Vic is in his eighties and is one of the all-time legends in physical culture. He still trains regularly and hard, and looks and acts twenty years younger than his age. Vic does not let age slow him down at all. Joe Marino is in his sixties and trains as hard as ever. Joe competed in a lot of major bodybuilding contests in the fifties, winning several titles. Joe is very fit and still as enthusiastic and dedicated to his training as ever. He puts most younger guys to shame. Vic and Joe have an abundance of energy and enthusiasm, and an endless supply of physical culture stories from the glory days long past when there were no such things as steroids. Vic was a good friend of both George Jowett and Sig Klein, and Joe was a long-time training partner and still a close friend of Marvin Eder.

Vic and Joe visited me recently, at Whelan Strength Training, and we had a great time. The three of us, together with my girlfriend, Sue, had dinner later, and talked so much that it was like going back in time.

It’s never too late to start

Dr. William Evans, Chief of the Human Physiology Laboratory at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston has spent a lifetime studying aging and the benefits of strength training. In a usa today interview, Dr. Evans states, "There is nothing like a lifetime of physical activity to help prevent a whole host of chronic diseases. Starting early on is important...but it’s never too late to begin. Our oldest subject is 101 years old. He’s been lifting weights for four years. He’s probably as strong as a typical man who is forty years his junior but who doesn’t exercise...Much of the loss of muscle with age is preventable...We can make a 70-year-old man stronger than he has ever been in his life. We can bring back strength and aerobic capacity. We can make people thinner and reduce their bodyfat levels."

Personally, I’m stronger now than I’ve ever been. It’s really true that you don’t lose strength for decades longer than previously thought. It just takes more thought and discipline to maintain conditioning and avoid injury. I now need a longer warmup and more stretching, and more rest and recovery than I used to. But once I’m warmed up, especially my elbows, I can lift more than ever. I also need less food and more cardiovascular work than I used to. I used to be able to eat anything and everything, but now, if I’m not careful and disciplined, I can gain bodyfat very easily.

Everyone needs to make adjustments as they get older, but the basic philosophy remains the same. The rewards are great, as strength training, probably more than anything, helps keep you young. Strength training, just like brushing your teeth, should be a lifetime activity.

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

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Active Women without Monthly Menses: A Cause for Concern - By Nancy Clark MS, RD, CSSD

The Athlete’s Kitchen - Copyright: Nancy Clark February 2013

Hey ladies, has your monthly “visitor” stopped coming? Some active women feel relieved when they no longer get a monthly menstrual period. (Yes! More freedom, less discomfort, no more cramps.) They may believe having no period is a sign they are training hard, like a real athlete. Others believe they have stopped menstruating because they are exercising too much or have too little body fat. No. Many very thin athletes who exercise hard have regular menses.

Absence of periods (called amenorrhea) can be linked to serious health problems, including loss of calcium from the bones, almost a three times higher incidence of stress fractures today and long-term problems with osteoporosis in the not-too-distant future. If you should want to start a family, amenorrhea interferes with the ability to conceive easily, and can also contribute to future problems with infertility (even though normal menses may have returned).

Amenorrhea is not sport-specific. Sports that emphasize lightness (ballet, running) have the highest prevalence. Up to 44% of these athletes may experience amenorrhea (as compared to 2% to 5% of women in the general population).The question arises: among a team of female athletes, why do some of the women experience menstrual problems and others don't? The answer may relate to nutrition. Woman with amenorrhea commonly under-eat. Their bodies have inadequate fuel to support the menstrual process, to say nothing of nurture a baby. Under famine-like conditions, menstruation can stop to conserve energy.

If you among the estimated 20% of active women who have missed three or more consecutive menstrual periods and are experiencing amenorrhea, please stop rejoicing and go see your gynecologist. Amenorrhea is abnormal. It can be a red flag for body image problems (i.e., claiming to feel fat even when emaciated), an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, and restrictive eating. Amenorrhea is part of The Female Athlete Triad, along with low bone mineral density/stress fractures, and restrictive eating patterns/eating disorders. Amenorrhea can create undesired health issues.

Resolving the problem

If you no longer get regular menstrual periods and feel as though you are struggling to balance food and exercise, please get a nutrition check-up with a sports dietitian as well as a medical check-up with your doctor or gynecologist. To find a sports dietitian in your area, use the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics referral networks at or

The most important change required to resume menses includes matching your energy intake with your energy output, so you eat enough to support both exercise and normal body functions. Historically, doctors gave the birth control pill to women with amenorrhea; this forced menstrual bleeding. But taking the birth control pill is a “Band-Aid approach” and does not resolve the underlying problem. You are likely eating too few calories if you are hungry all the time and think about food too much. You can achieve energy balance by exercising a little less (add a rest day) and by eating a little more (add a healthy snack or two). Your goal is to consume about 15 calories per pound of body weight that you do not burn off with exercise. That means, if you weigh 100 pounds, you my need to eat ~1,500 calories to maintain your weight PLUS another 500 to 800 calories to replace the fuel you burned while training. That totals 2,000-2,300 calories for the entire day, a scary amount of food for some women.

Tips for resolving the issue

If eating this much sounds overwhelming to you, the following tips may help you get “back on the healthy track.”

1. Take a vacation from dieting. If you cannot let go of your compulsion to lose weight, at least be less restrictive. Cut back on your eating by only 100 to 200 calories at the end of the day, not by 500 to 1,000 calories during the active part of your day. Small deficits can result in losing excess body fat and are far more sustainable than the food chaos that accompanies starving-stuffing patterns. 2. Throw away the bathroom scale.

Rather than striving for a certain number on the scale, let your body achieve a natural weight that is in keeping with your genetics.

3. Eat adequate protein.

When you under-eat, your body burns protein for energy. Some of the protein comes from your diet; for example, the protein in your omelet gets used for fuel instead of building and repairing muscle. Some of the protein comes from your muscles, hence, you experience muscle wasting and that can lead to weaker bones and stress fractures. A 120-pound athlete should target 60 to 90 g protein per day. If you think your diet might be low in protein, track your food intake at

4. Eat a calcium-rich food at each meal to help maintain bone density.

Exercise alone is not enough to keep bones strong. Enjoy milk on cereal, low fat cheese on a lunchtime sandwich, a decaf latte in the afternoon, and a yogurt after dinner.

5. Get adequate vitamin D to help with calcium absorption and bone health. Sunlight on the skin helps make vitamin D. If you are an “indoor runner” (a “treadmill rat”) who gets little sunshine, be sure to choose foods fortified with D (milk, some breakfast cereals), fatty fish like salmon, eggs, and mushrooms. In the winter months, you may need to take a vitamin supplement.

6. Eat at least 20% of your calories from (healthful) fat. While excess calories from fat are easily fattening, a little fat at each meal (15 to 20 g fat per meal, or 45 to 60 g fat per day) is an important part of a sports diet. You won’t “get fat” by eating fat. Your body uses fat to absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K; these vitamins are important for good health. To boost your intake of healthy fats, sprinkle slivered almonds on cereal, snack on a banana spread with peanut butter, enjoy salmon for dinner, drizzle olive oil on steamed veggies, and add avocado to your turkey sandwich.

Is there long-term damage? Loss of bone density can be irreversible and lead to early osteoporosis. The younger you are, the better your chances of recovery. My advice: nip this problem in the bud now!

Nancy Clark, MS, RD CSSD (Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics) counsels active people at her private practice in Newton, MA (617-795-1875). For more information, read her Sports Nutrition Guidebook and food guides for marathoners and new runners. The books are available at Also see for online education and CEUs.

-- Nancy Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD Sports Nutrition Services LLC (Indianapolis Feb 5, online) (books, handouts, CEUs) iPhone app: Recipes for Athletes

Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook Food guides for soccer, new runners, marathoners, cyclists 1155 Walnut St, Newton Highlands, MA 02461 Phone: 617.795.1875 Fax: 617.963.7408

"Helping active people win with good nutrition."

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