Sunday, March 31, 2013


Originally posted on on September 28, 1999 Reprinted, with permission, from HARDGAINER issue #61, July-August 1999

You must go slow. You must go fast. Supplements are good. Supplements are bad. Do 20-rep squats; no, do heavy singles. You must bulk. You must keep your bodyfat as low as possible. Cycle your training. Split your training into phases. Time your sets with a stopwatch. What program are you using: Heavy Duty, Hardgainer, SuperSlow™, Periodization, Westside Methods, Dinosaur Training? Talk about information overload! It's a wonder most new trainees don't just grab a beer, a bag of chips, and become a couch potato watching TV!

What's a trainee to do? Maybe there's more in common among the various groups touting different lifting methods than most people realize? How about looking at the common denominators that exist in the groups, rather than argue over differences? These common denominators would be part of the foundation of common sense. In this article, we'll find some of the commonalties among the various groups and programs.

Add the iron!

I don't think I've read any of the advocates of various training programs state: "Keep the weight the same at all times—adding weight to the bar isn't important." To get stronger, and bigger, you must add iron to the bar! It's called progression. It doesn't matter if you do singles, 20's, SuperSlow, a pseudo-scientific plasmatic cycle, or measure the time under load. If you aren't adding iron consistently over a significant period of time, don’t expect much. This is a common denominator.

The big movements

I don't think you'll find exercises like triceps kickbacks, concentration curls and sissy squats as a common denominator. What you will find as a common denominator is using the big compound exercises that involve a lot of muscle in one movement. Deadlifts, presses, bench presses, and yes, the O-lifts involve a great deal of muscle. How about squats? The choir sings in unison with this exercise. It's a great one.

Hard training!

To progress, you should go to the gym and not break a sweat. Don't push yourself…ever. How many groups do you hear singing this tune? Everyone, and I mean everyone, seems to understand that to get bigger and stronger you must put in some hard training. The differences lie in the details of what constitutes "hard training." However, the bottom line is that hard training is necessary to force the body to change and adapt by getting bigger and stronger. Yet another common denominator is found.


You must use good technique. Most will agree that even if you're lifting a rock, barbell, or using a machine, proper technique needs to be used. A breakdown in technique is one of the major contributors to injury regardless of the rep speed, rep range or lift performed. Many coaches and trainers don't emphasize it enough in my opinion, but they certainly don't advocate out-of-control technique.


One of the most ridiculous statements I've ever read was in an article by a pro bodybuilder, or should I say ghostwriter, who stated, "There's no such thing as overtraining, only undereating." A common denominator among all the groups is that "overtraining" does in fact exist. What leads to overtraining is often argued in terms of volume and frequency, not whether it exists.

Lifting belts

I believe the majority agrees that a lifting belt isn't necessary in the quest to become bigger and stronger. Some lifters would rather die first than give up their belt. Some powerlifters state that a belt makes it "safer" to lift. In my opinion, this is hardly the case. If you watch an Olympic-lifting competition, you'll rarely find the lifters wearing any belt at all. A lifting belt really isn't needed to become bigger and stronger. One more tick mark under the category of common ground.


Eat like a bird! Chips and soda to feed the body! Candy, cookies, and creme puffs are the ticket to building muscle. Nobody advocates such nonsense. The common opinion is that good food is needed to build muscle. You must provide the fuel. The arguments are about quantities, types, and percentages. Another one in the common ground category; you must provide the fuel in the form of good food to build muscle and might.


How many groups do you see arguing over what's the best supplement? Can you picture Fred Hahn and Dave Maurice battling over what creatine to use? Not likely! Could this be one of the common denominators? The common denominator is you don’t need supplements. They aren’t necessary, period. So, who are the people touting supplements and training information? They sell the supplements! And, often the "training articles" in their magazines are nothing but supplement ads in disguise. Definitely, these articles are only good for floor protection when training a puppy.


I think everyone agrees that sleep is an important ingredient to build strength and muscle. You won't find anyone arguing that sleep doesn't matter in the muscle growth equation. Yet another common denominator: you must get enough quality sleep.

Avoid injury

There's certainly no group that advocates getting injured! I'm sure avoiding injury is a common denominator. Yet, I'm sometimes puzzled why injury prevention isn't given as much attention as it deserves in articles and books. Maybe some coaches and trainers are afraid their "methods" will be questioned? Maybe their egos are too big to admit they made a mistake? I don’t know. But, I'm certain they advocate injury avoidance. I do know that if you get injured, you can be sure that the person at fault can be found in your closest mirror.

The final word

There certainly can be information overload when it comes to training. Too many trainees get caught up in the intricate details and lose sight of the basics. There are basic common denominators shared by all the different "methods," "programs" and "groups." These are essentially the basic elements for becoming bigger and stronger. To summarize:

1. You must strive to continually add iron to the bar, and do it consistently.

2. Use the big movements that involve a lot of muscle, e.g., squats, deadlifts, presses.

3. Train hard!

4. Use excellent technique, whether you're using a barbell, rock or machine.

5. Avoid overtraining.

6. You don't need a lifting belt.

7. You must fuel your body with enough good food to grow bigger and stronger.

8. Supplements aren't needed.

9. Get plenty of sleep.

10. Avoid injury.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Great New E-Book By Bill Piche

If you want to trim down and loose fat I Highly Recommend that you check out this great little e-book by my friend Bill Piche. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO
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A Hockey Workout - Fighting Irish Style - By Aaron Hillmann

Originally posted on on September 21, 1999

The doors to the Joyce Center Athletic Weight Room were opened at 6:12 AM on Friday morning. The hockey boys strolled in as a team for their final workout of the week. We began the warm-up as a team with 7 minutes of work on the Quick Foot Ladder from Speed City and a five minute stretching routine. The fellas were sweating and ready for the REAL work to begin.

Master of Puppets (Metallica) was cranked up to ear deafening decibels. We started with 12 reps of manual resistance neck flexion and extension. The boys have been taught how to provide manual resistance and how to lift with manual resistance. Both of these movements are done slowly while lying on an exercise bench. Muscular failure is the goal, with perfect form and spotting technique. After the neck work we completed 2 sets of twenty reps on the seated dumbbell shoulder shrug. A priority misplaced on developing the neck and trapezius musculature because of the violent collisions in the sport of hockey. After the neck and trap work the team split into two, half to do the upper body portion of the workout and half to do the lower body portion of the workout. They were required to complete each half of the workout in 15 minutes before we switched. The upper body workout today consisted of a chest press (their choice of BB or Hammer Strength Incline Press or Hammer Strength Flat Bench Press) done for 3 sets of 15 reps, descending in weight each set. Each hockey player is paired with one partner and it is the partner's job to ensure proper form and intensity on each set, with a lot of positive reinforcement given by the strength coach.

The second upper body exercise was an upper back pulling movement (their choice of Hammer Strength High Row, Hammer Strength Pulldown or Hammer Strength Rowing), again they completed 3 sets of 15 brutal reps, each set the weight was lowered about 25% from the previous one. The third exercise was another pressing movement (choice of BB Close Grip Bench Press or Dips), 2 sets of 15 reps with perfect form and intensity. The upper body workout was completed with one set of 12 manual resistance reps on the preacher curl bench using a towel to grab onto. The goal of the spotter is to beat the living piss out of their partner, ensuring proper form and intensity.

The Notre Dame Hockey Team takes their lifting and spotting very seriously. The lower body workout today consisted of three or four exercises each done with no rest in between sets. One set each taken past muscular failure. When we train past muscular failure this means forced reps with the negative (lowering) portion of the rep being emphasized. We don't normally train past muscular failure but once or twice in any two week period we will crank the boys up. The first exercise in the lower body workout was Hammer Strength Leg Extension or Stability Ball Squats against the wall. We shot for around twenty reps on this first exercise. We chose leg extension or ball squat to emphasize the quadriceps and we have one leg extension and two balls for ball squats, with about 15 guys doing leg sat the same time we had to give them a choice. From here the spotters rushed their training partners to the floor for manually resisted leg curls for the hamstrings. The emphasis here is again on the negative part of each rep, going through a full range of motion. We shot for 15 reps. Normally we will use the Romanian Deadlift or The Westside Barbell Club Reverse Hyper Machine for hamstrings, but occasionally we do a leg curl movement and today was one of those days. After leg curls we rushed to the final leg exercise of the day. They had a choice between BB Squats, DB Deadlifts, Hammer Strength Leg Press or a Cybex Squat Machine.

Our policy here at Notre Dame is those they CAN Barbell Squat Do Barbell Squat. Some individuals have body leverages or previous injury that does not allow them to Barbell Squat effectively, safely and with an appreciable amount of weight. In this case we do alternatives (Deadlifts, Leg Presses, etc.) We again shot for 20 reps on this last exercise. Best of the day in the BB Squat were 275 x 23 and DB Deadlift 100 x 32 (100 lb. Dumbbells in each hand). Not too shabby if you do leg extension and leg curl immediately prior to this. As an incentive to work and spot hard, we gave the hockey boys the option of a 60 second wall sit at the end of the 3 lower body exercises. This is done sitting at a 90 degree bend in the knees, back flat against a wall and not touching your legs. It's a real fryer after a lower body workout. About 5-6 guys "took" the option to further their intensity of effort. The workout finished with 20 perfect pushups done as a team, Military Style. "Down", "Up" "One!" was the cadence. We also did various abdominal crunching movements with body weight as a team to finish. Overall it was a great workout. 29 hockey players, one strength coach and the workout was completed in 56 minutes, warm-up included.

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Message From John Greaves

His Praise Shall Continually Be In My Mouth

I competed in a Powerlifting Contest last Saturday. Tee “Skinny Man” Myers has been putting on meets through his Python Power League to allow natural lifters a chance to get their feet wet in powerlifting without spending a ton of cash on equipment and memberships. I hadn’t planned on competing, this was supposed to be an event where four of the eight teens who I mentor through strength training could get some experience. All but one of them were competing in their first contest. I firmly believe in the developmental power of sports and two of the guys are high school aged but never found a sport that fit them. I was hoping that Powerlifting would be their niche but having lifted in meets sponsored by some national organizations, I wasn’t willing to expose my guys to a whole bunch of politics. Tee’s meet fit the bill nicely. Now, understand that I was tired. I work for a wonderful company on a rotating shift which allows me four days off one week and three the next. It’s great because I have time to pursue my writing dreams. But the tradeoff is that I work twelve hour back to back night shifts. I’d just ended my workweek, going in at 7 PM Friday night and getting off at 7 AM Saturday morning when we went to the competition which started at 11 AM. I knew that I’d be tired after being awake for twenty hours straight (I wake up at 3 PM during my workweek) but I assumed I’d be able to handle it and I’d have three days to recover from the abuse. Besides, I was only supposed to be there to coach.

Ha ha. Right. So, we’re at weigh in and the contest promoter, Tee “Skinny Man” Meyers started the trash-talking. Tee is an outstanding lifter in his own right, he pulls close to 800 lbs at a body weight hovering around 180 lbs in his mid fifties, but anyone who knows him knows that he’s also an outstanding trash talker, so before I knew it, I was at Wal-Mart buying shorts so I could compete. I didn’t even contemplate backing out but I did question my sanity as I stood in line to buy two bottles of Five Hour Energy and a protein bar along with the aforementioned shorts. Granted, this is a local meet, but Tee is an USA Powerlifting official and disqualifies lifts just as strenuously at his own meets as he does for USAPL events. Plus, who wants to be embarrassed in front of a room full of people, including kids you coach? Then there was the guy in my weight class giving me the stink eye the whole time. Actually his attempt at intimidation worked in my favor. Now I had something to prove.

Anyway, it was a great day. Despite my butterflies, I benched only ten pounds less than my all time personal best at 340 lbs and deadlifted a personal best 470 lbs. These numbers aren’t the highest out there, but I’m all natural and compete raw, no special equipment other than a weight belt no matter when I lift. This was also my first time competing in deadlift and I missed pulling my personal goal weight of 500 lbs but I know what I need to do to get there. The best thing was that the lifter giving me the stink eye was telling me “good lift” by the time we got to the deadlift portion. Turns out he’s pretty inexperienced and his stink eye was actually nerves. Glad I didn’t overreact. That’s what I love about this part of the Iron Game. There’s mutual respect as everyone competing recognizes that everyone else there has sacrificed something to be there to walk the walk.

Now how did I train kids and myself for two hours total, drive for an hour to work, work twelve hours, drive forty five minutes and then compete successfully?

The keys are Jesus, smart training, consistency and Jesus.

I always pray before each lift asking for clarity and help lifting it. I ask the Holy Spirit to work through me to lift the weight. I give God the glory after every lift.

I follow Jim Wendler’s EXCELLENT 5 3 1 for Powerlifting protocol. It’s not the only program out there but it’s a good one with plenty of options for flexibility in case Murphy shows up that day. I also recommend any of Zac Even Esh’s stuff as well as Joe Defranco’s work. Mark Rippetoe explains the “why” of certain lifts better than anybody I’ve ever read and he was a champion. Dan John is great and makes the seemingly complex simple to understand. He’s the guy I’d send my father to become gorilla strong and injury resistant because he’s got old school wisdom. I don’t recommend Crossfit unless you plan to compete in that, because progression is a vital part of long term success and I don’t see how you can progress in lifts when you follow seemingly random WODs.

Would you take a karate class where you only practice a skill once every six weeks? All of the guys I mentioned are easily found through the magic of Google.

I don’t go super heavy all of the time, cycling intensity and deloading every four weeks. That being said, I don’t miss workouts.

I do have a life and it doesn’t revolve around training but I don’t miss workouts. Following Wendler’s advice, even if I only have time to do the main lift that day, it gets done. My gym is in my garage so there’s very little excuse and I’ve done my main lift at 4 PM after waking up, midnight after coming home from some outing with the wife (code named Puerto Rican hottie), 7 AM after working all night, etc. And sometimes I actually get a full nights rest before training. This consistency not only builds a solid strength base, but also conditions my body to perform even when conditions are less than ideal. Zac Even-Esh, another strength coach I admire greatly, points out that we’re training for life so what’s the point of only being able to perform when conditions are ideal? My time in the U.S. Marine Corps taught me that Murphy tends to arrive when you’re already tired or to put it another way, Satan loves to kick you when you’re down. So you’re doing yourself a disservice by skipping workouts because everything’s not perfect. You’ll thank me when the car breaks down on your way home after you’ve worked all day and you’ve got to walk ten miles carrying your kid on your shoulders.

I give God the glory for keeping me safe yesterday. I thank Him for:

• A wife who was happy to do the driving and cheered me and all of the kids on. • The kids themselves who all put on an outstanding performance and all set personal records. • My son Malcolm who was understanding when I couldn’t be at his band concert yesterday because I was with his two oldest brothers.

• My sons James and Marshal who were more excited about Malcolm’s band performance video when they got home than their own weightlifting performance. My youngest, Juaquin, who waited patiently while his brothers and I competed and helped us with taking pictures, watching over our stuff and keeping the mood light with his antics.

• A body of believers who provided a part of the funds for the trip. • Brad Martin, who inspired me over years of preaching , teaching and hanging out to get out of the pew and serve these kids.

I also thank God for inspiring Jim Wendler to write a protocol that allows regular people to train themselves safely and giving them a taste of what great lifters have experienced throught the ages. For Zach Even-Esh who inspires me with daily emails to push myself. For everyone who suffered through this extraordinarily long blog post. Finally I thank Him for Jesus, who died for me when He didn’t have to, just because His Daddy missed having us in the family.

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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Pushing Past Plateaus - By Fred Fornicola

Originally posted on on September 17, 1999

If you are a novice lifter, you are probably making progress by leaps and bounds, but if you are an experienced lifter, you undoubtedly encounter sticking points throughout your training. If you are progressing every workout, whether it is an extra rep or an additional pound thrown on the bar, then keep up the good work and keep doing whatever your doing, but if you find yourself "stuck" on some exercises, than something needs to be done.

*First, take an honest assessment of the situation. Have you had several workouts without any progress in ANY exercise or was it just one workout that you didn't make any progress? If it's just 1 or 2 workouts, give it some more time. Progress comes to those who are persistent. Review your training log. So many times people feel that they've hit a sticking point in their training and they people fail to realize that progress in one exercise may hinder the performance in another. If you add an extra rep or two to a set of chins, for instance and you follow it up with a set on the pullover machine, you most likely won't get as many reps as you did your previous workout because of the improvement on the chins. If you do get the same amount of reps, you're progressing on two exercises so don't think that improvement has to always be on every exercise (although that is what you are striving for), the improvement on the chins will definitely trickle down to the pullovers because your back is getting stronger. So review your log, make sure that what you consider to be a problem may very well be progress in the making and any changes WILL result in a plateau.

*Second, have you been eating and resting properly? Not consuming enough good food and getting the proper recuperation will no doubt hinder your progress. Also, take into consideration if there are any outside interferences that may be affecting your training (family, work etc) if so, realize that this will affect your progress so try to resolve the issues at hand and keep plugging away in the gym.

*Third, make sure that when you are in the gym, you are focusing on one thing and one thing only, working out. If your head is up your ass when you enter the gym, you're already defeated, mental preparation is equally important to being physically prepared.

* Fourth, re-evaluate your training. Maybe it's time to make some minor adjustments to your program. I'm not talking about anything radical here; you don't want to revamp your whole program because you're stalled on an exercise or two. Maybe it's time to drop that exercises for a while and do one that simulates it. For example, if you can't budge on the leg press, switch to the Tru-Squat or regular squat, but whatever you choose, stay with it for a while. Any time you do a new exercise, there is a muscular learning curve, (some people even feel that you can't apply enough intensity the first workout or two until the exercise is learned) so use the new exercise for a few workouts before going back to the old one. A few other options would be for you to change up the rep scheme to help break through the plateau you've hit or possibly the order in which you do it.

* Fifth, the one everyone hates to do. REST! Yes I know, the one thing that you don't want to do, but may be a must to facilitate the progress you are after. Training to failure 2x a week and doing cardio 3x a week in your THR can take its toll on you after a while and a scheduled layoff may be the boost your body and mind needs. I'm not talking about anything really long here either; just taking off 1 or 2 consecutive workouts off could do the trick.

The most important thing to do if you hit a sticking point in your training is to be intelligent about it. Take the time to evaluate what's going on and DON'T make radical changes. The saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is definitely applicable to weight training. Training hard has gotten you where you are today so don't abandon ship, keep pushing on and make subtle changes to your training regimen and your progress will continue on as planned.

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