Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Originally posted on on January 5, 2000,  Reprinted with permission of The Iron Master.

If you take a close look at old Iron Game literature, you will find a common theme: health, strength, vigor, and longevity. Cosmetic results, although mentioned, were clearly secondary. They were believed to be the end result of "doing the right thing" and were a reward for effort, discipline, and a total lifestyle commitment. The names of the popular books and the titles of the magazines reflected these values. There were "Strength and Health," "Health and Strength," "Physical Culture," "Strength," "The Strong Man," and countless other titles. Compare this literature to the best-selling books and magazines of today; the difference is astounding! Things just haven't been the same since Physical Culture became commonly known as bodybuilding. Cosmetic muscular results have become the primary goal with the end justifying the means.

The pioneers of physical culture were not just body beautiful posers. They were strong! Eugene Sandow and others competed in various feats of strength. They had to make due with crude training facilities and equipment, but they made the most of what they had. They had to endure the wrath of society, as attaining health and strength was not the trendy thing to do in those days. This is how the term health nut got started (they were definitely not called buff!). Even though they had far less information available to them, they swore by the information they did have. Their lifestyles reflected courage and integrity. How many of us truly can say we are using the information we have? Jack LaLanne was so dedicated that he trained his mind to visualize disgusting images at the very thought of junk food. He was once so mad at himself after eating a cookie that he made himself throw up! Cosmetic results were seen as the reward for correct living and hard training.

Many of our Physical Culture forefathers went beyond physical health and were concerned with mental and spiritual health as well. Peary Rader frequently wrote articles about spiritual health; and Bob Hoffman and Bernarr MacFadden, in addition to writing about training, wrote about practically everything dealing with health and happiness, including moral issues. Although innocent at first, the change from physical culture to bodybuilding was like the onset of a silent cancer that changed the values of many of its participants.

In the 1990s the hearty souls who remained true to the convictions of physical culture resembled an endangered species. We are a truly special breed, crafted from the old school values of our Iron Game pioneers. We must do our part, however, and play an active role in keeping the old-time style of training and values alive; if we don't, we will continue to lose influence to the two mutant offshoot extremes. We have the shapers and toners, who are growing in number like rabbits, ad the drug-using subhumans who are even worse! Don't forget where the root of our values came from: Physical Culture. Do your part to keep it alive.

Take down the pictures of drug users from your gym walls. Replace them with pictures of the old timers (or anyone you could bet your life NEVER took drugs). Show no respect for any drug user. Burn your collection of steroid-infested, mega-hype muscle magazines. Support the few good magazines that reflect our values. Train at a high level of intensity and focus on strength, not just a pump (almost any exercise with light weight will give you a pump). Add thick bar training to your program; get rid of your chrome and lifting gloves or anything else "toneresque," which in my gym even includes mirrors. You should enjoy the feel of cold steel in your bare hands! Do grip work, do neck work, make a wrist roller, clean the weight from the floor once in a while when doing presses. Defend the basic exercises such as the squat and deadlift, which are commonly under assault and being described as dangerous. Join the Association of Oldetime Barbell and Strongmen. Physical Culture is not just something you do; it is a way of life. Make use of the information that you have and find your own personal weakest link. We all have one; find yours and work on it. Physical Culture is about self-improvement. Do you need to do more aerobic training? So you skip working your legs too often? Do you drink too much alcohol?

The neo-physical culture philosophy should be focused on maximizing your genetic/physical potential (naturally), while never allowing cosmetic results to be the ends-all primary goal. Total health (mental and spiritual as well as physical) should always be the primary unit of measurement for progress. Strive for total health and train for strength; don't waste time worrying about cosmetics. If you train your whole body in a high-intensity fashion to be as strong as it can naturally be, and consistently over the years, cosmetic muscle will be only one of your many just rewards.

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GET MENTAL! - By Krista Brittan

Originally posted on on March 10, 2001, (Editors note: This could have gone in the Mind Strength section, but since it is primarally directed toward women, I put it in the Hard Training Women section.)

Ladies! Its time to get mental! If you don't already know it, your mental state is KEY to the success of your training, lifting and progress.

There is a whirlwind of information out there about diet and training and most of it is crap. (Editors note: Especially the zero and very low carb diets!) You wont find squat (pardon the pun) about getting mentally prepared for your workouts in the mainstream training magazines. (Only in the good magazines like the ones in NaturalStrength resource section.) Your state of mind is everything! If you tell yourself you cant do something than guess what? You cant! I know you have heard it before, but dont just hear the words, actually listen to them, understand them and actively change the way you prepare for your lifts as a result.

It doesnt even start first thing in the morning when you get up. It starts while you are going to bed and thinking about the day you have ahead of you. If you know the next day you will be taking on a new, challenging exercise or attempting a weight you havent achieved before, use visualization.

See yourself walking into the gym (or where ever you train) with confidence, knowing you are going to have an incredible workout. Dont bring with you memories of a past poor workout or lagging negativity about missing a new PR your last workout. Feel the surroundings; look and listen for any possible distractions and be aware of them so you cant use them as an excuse. Go through the motions of your workout. Load the bar or pick up the dumbbells or grip the handles. Choose your weapon that you will use to destroy the mental blocks that you have set up for yourself in the past. Visualize yourself just kicking the shit out of that weight! Perfect form, perfect execution you nailed it and focus for a few minutes on how great that feels.

Visualization is only one ingredient in the recipe of mental preparation. You have to take that vision and make it a reality. Do exactly that when you enter whatever pain domain you call your gym.

Refuse to believe any misconception, myth, stereotype and down right CRAP that you ever grew up believing about women and lifting about women and anything for that matter. Get utterly infuriated inside when you hear a fellow sister say, "I dont want to bulk up", "Women dont dead lift", "Chin ups are for men", "I just want to get toned" or "I really dont need any more than 5 lb. weights". Get mental when you hear anything remotely similar to that and use that frustration to fuel your workouts. Use those comments as a challenge to prove them wrong. Women ARE supposed to dead lift and squat and bleed and sweat and swear and be damn good at it!

Remember when you were a kid or a teenager and anything and everything you couldnt do or werent allowed to do, you wanted to do even more! But, when you did you always ended up in trouble, right? Now is the opportunity to do all the things you stereotypically shouldnt. Plus, the added bonus is you wont be "grounded" if you do. You will become a conqueror, a heroine, a fighter, a role model, and a stronger person both mentally and physically.

Getting mental is all about confidence in your abilities. You need to understand and believe that there is no threshold on what you can do or what you can lift. Believe that there is no maximum. With that state of mind you will be able to accomplish tasks and feats you never ever thought possible. The human psyche creates its own ceiling. When you mentally tell yourself, "I bet I can bench 125", even though that is a positive thought, you just set yourself up for not being able to lift 130. It is great to have a goal of a certain poundage but dont stop there. Tell yourself "I will be able to squat 200 by fall, and 225 by winter" and so on and so forth. Dont put a cap on it. Invincibility is the mind-set you want to establish for lifting. Only then can you truly start to discover what you are capable of lifting.

Confident is not a four-letter word. Do not confuse confidence with conceit. When someone calls you cocky, simply say, "thank you". Take that as a compliment.

Eliminate the words cant, wont, couldnt, wouldnt, shouldnt, will not from your vocabulary please. That is an excellent place to start on the road to positive thinking. Out loud, right now, say "cant" and be aware of the inner feelings that occur as a result. Negations produce similar type feelings within. They make you feel crappy. Now, out loud say "can". Feel the difference? Your head is held a bit higher, your heart feels a bit lighter yet stronger, and your posture is more erect. Keep that in mind. Make an effort to go about your day without using negations in your sentences. You can say the same thing as a positive. Rather than "I cant go for a walk tonight", say, "I will go for a walk tomorrow morning". Try it!

I want you to picture the most mental guy or gal at your gym. The one who walks in to the gym with a purpose and gets right to work. They dont socialize or really speak to anyone. They hardly even smile. They are focused and it is very obvious that they are thinking very hard and seriously about what they are about to do. They may make a lot of noise or deep breathing or have little rituals. They may stretch in the same order and place, they may have a very systematic approach and have to do everything a certain way. Or, diversely they may approach the bar with amazingly little noise, breathing or preparation. Basically, they are in the right state of mind for ultimate results. Try to get inside their head and think what they may be thinking. Give yourself the task of developing your own system for getting mental.

If your training and diet are right on track, you get ample rest, dont over train, you have great genetics, but you still feel like you are just spinning your wheels then you may need to get mental. You may be lacking a key ingredient in the training recipe mental preparation and self-confidence in your lifting.

The only way to gain self-confidence in your strength and abilities as a lifter is to overcome your fears. If you are telling yourself you cant do dumbbell presses with 40 lbs., then DO IT! Maybe it is only one rep, but next time it will be three, then five and before you know it youve done a set of 6-8 at a weight four weeks ago you told yourself you could never handle.

Most of our female role models are those who have achieved things we never would have thought possible. They take a challenge and make it a reality. They make us proud that they are women and that they represent us. They acquire possibly the physical, mental or emotional attributes we personally are lacking. They have no fear of their fears and are not hindered by their weaknesses. Learn from them. That is why we have role models. To use them as a source of inspiration and motivation to be more like them. Dont just watch them as they succeed and dream of being like that. Be like that. Everyone has the ability to be a role model for others too. That is the ultimate reward to have your accomplishments recognized and mimicked by others. In order to do that, you have to have what it takes mentally. Get metal, and know you can do it; whatever "it" may be or mean to you.

Although, remember that you are responsible for your state of mind only. We can try to be role models for others but each individual is 100% responsible for how they chose to think and feel. Once you have discovered the power of your positive thinking you will not be able to understand why others are so hard on themselves and negative. You will want to try and make everyone feel the way you do. Focus on yourself first. Confidence is very contagious. You will influence others without even trying.

I would like to share with you my own personal experience, a recent one where I was letting mental barriers block my progress:

I have always been very jealous of those who could perform wide grip pull ups on their own, especially women. It was a primary goal of mine to be able to do one, just one on my own. I had only been properly training my back for a short period of time and figured that it would be a year before I would see my vision as a reality. You see I put a mental block on my progress I told myself it would be a year. Mistake. For months I was doing bent over rows, chins and assisted wide grip pull-ups religiously. I was very pleased with my progress in the rows. I had excelled from doing reps of 5 at 25 lbs. to over 80 lbs. But, I was still only doing sets of 8 pull-ups with a chair. One day I was in my gym showing a friend of mine how to perform wide grip pull-ups. Without even thinking about it, I put my hands on the chin bar and without a wiggle or struggle lifted myself up to the bar and back down. After a few seconds I realized it "I just did one on my own holy shit!" I started jumping up and down in the gym and hugging my friend. I was elated. And I did it in about 3 months of me establishing that as a goal. I kept saying "I thought it would at least 6 more months before I would be able to do that." That was my problem. I never tried! I kept putting the chair under me because it wasnt enough time in my mind anyway. It wasnt until I literally forgot about the chair that I discovered I was underestimating my abilities. That was just last week. So tomorrow when I am scheduled to do chins I will not tell myself how many I will be able to do, I will tell myself I there is no limit to the number I can do! Ladies you really, truly can do whatever you set your mind to do. But that is the key, you must first set your mind to do it. All the old cliches are fact. My mother used to tell me "Krista, you must think before you act!" Usually my Mom was saying that because once again I messed up. Now, I consider that one the eleventh lifting commandment. I make a conscious effort to do exactly that before every lift I perform and every challenge I am faced with.

It is not about merely getting psyched. It is about sheer self confidence, absolute conviction and utter determination. Get Mental! Great things willfollow.

Think - Act - Achieve!

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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Misconceptions Regarding Super-High Rep Training - By Jay Kiiha

Reprinted with permission of The Iron Master

A good deal of attention has been given as of late to 20 and higher rep schemes to increase muscular bodyweight and strength. Although what works for one individual does not always hold water with another, I have never had especially good luck with this type of routine.

I recall a few years ago, in an attempt to break one of my father's old records, I worked into a program of 50 rep bodyweight Olympic style squats.

At the time, my program consisted of an abbreviated routine of pressing and rowing movements followed by 3 sets of squats eventually leading into a "death set" of fifty. After six weeks, I had worked to the level where my final set of squats put me onto the floor for 11 hours and significantly elevated my pulse for the next hour after that.

Surely, I figured with that sort of extended effort, I would be able to "bump up" my single rep effort in the lift at least a few pounds. To my surprise, however, I had actually lost strength and bodyweight as a result of the high rep routine. It took the better part of five months of hard low rep efforts to return to where I was before I started the program. When I have used twenty rep approaches in the squat, I have met with similar but less dramatic results.

Is my contention, then, for all serious strength athletes to avoid high rep approaches to the squat and deadlift? Not by any means. I would like to make the suggestion, however, that when one devotes most of one's time to fatiguing oneself to a frazzle, one primarily increases one's threshold of pain for the endurance of high rep strength movements. For those who are interested in competing in strongman contests, where both might and endurance are tested, high rep programs are an excellent means to train for a test of power that may take several minutes to complete (i.e. truck pulling, stone carrying, etc.) On the other hand, trainees who are interested in strength first and endurance second would do best to avoid super-high rep (20 or more) training altogether. This is not to say that aerobic movements are worthless, just that total aerobic fitness is best achieved by training in an aerobic fashion; not by combining strength and aerobic movements. The same goes for strength. If you want to be strong, concentrate on building power - don't concentrate on endurance.

I realize to many in the nouveau strongman/strongman crowd this may come as anathema. Who could deny that there isn't something damned manly about vomiting into a rusty bucket following some kind of super-duper, high rep set? I also am aware that the sort of training first proposed by the Peary Rader, Mark Berry crowd has had its share of major success stories where individuals were transformed from weaklings into muscle men as a result of the breathing squat.

For the beginner, super-high rep programs are great at introducing the concept of intensity to the newbie who has never lifted a barbell and has no idea how to mentally push oneself to complete a limit single.

Unfortunately, for the intermediate or advanced trainee who isn't starting from scratch, super-high rep training fails to build much in the power department. When one looks to the training programs used by the champions of the past, one thing should stand out to the reader. Most, if not nearly all, past champs rely heavily upon near maximal low rep (1-5) sets to achieve strength success.

To back this statement up, let's take a look at two typical mid-50's training programs used by two exceptionally strong men: Norbert Schemansky and Doug Hepburn. In their prime, each of these men represented the "the flower of their sport." Both men were not only World Record holders, but both men also remained on the top for very long periods of time. In addition, because we are examining routines from the 1950's the usual (and too often relied upon excuse, in one man's opinion) bit about their training successes being the result of steroids and not hard work cannot be applied.

In 1952, Norb Schemansky was at the top of his game. Not only did he win the Gold in Helsinki in the 198 lb. class, but he did so in capital fashion establishing three world records in the process (C&J 3913; Snatch 3081; Total 980H). On October 14, 1954, Norb jerked the Apollon wheels three times in succession at 224 bwt. For those who are unfamiliar, the Apollon wheels were a detached set of locomotive wheels which were joined by a non-revolving 1.93 inch diameter bar. The entire apparatus weighed in at 366 pounds. John Davis and Norbert Schemansky were the last men to ever lift the wheels overhead.

While in his prime, especially when he was a heavyweight, Schemansky was the world's strongest Olympic lifter and certainly one of the strongest men to walk the face of the earth. To achieve this kind of strength, he typically relied upon a three rep training routine consisting only of presses, snatches and clean & jerks (Fig. 1). He also occasionally added squats and bench presses for variety. Note that during a typical workout Norbert did not attempt to hit the maximum lifts of which he was capable. Schemansky stated in the Vol. 9, October 1992, issue of The Iron Master that "Limit weights should be restricted to once every three or four weeks. One should not work any more than 80 to 90 percent of his limit in training."

If we are to examine Schemansky's program in detail, one first notices the low number of reps used, but second it becomes obvious that Schemansky did not rely heavily upon the usage of assistance exercises to reach his goals.

Modern trainees can take heed to Norbert's example by sticking to basic whole body movements, rather than wasting time by overspecializing on isolated muscle groups to improve strength.

Much like his contemporary, Paul Anderson, Doug Hepburn was less an Olympic lifter than a power athlete/modern strongman. Even though he won the 1953 World Championships, Doug's greatest accomplishments were in the power lifts. Not only did he break the 500 pound barrier in the bench, but Doug also pulled off such feats (while in training) as a 760 pound full squat with a five second pause and a crucifix with a pair of 105 pound dumbbells.

Doug Hepburn also relied upon a very low rep scheme to surpass the strongest of his day. While in the process of going where no man had gone before, Doug's bench press routine consisted of training the bench twice per week while using an ascending series of single reps which led to a maximum weight (See Fig.2). When Doug reached the point where he could pull off six singles with his maximum he would add ten pounds and begin the process again. Much like Schemansky, because he was performing a max lift six times in a row, he was using weights well beneath what he could use on a single one rep attempt; but just the same, he was using weights more than heavy enough to give him a very difficult workout.

Although everyone responds differently to how often they need to recover from a maximum attempt, it has been my experience that the best way to gain strength in a given exercise is to work up to a series of singles within 30-50 lbs. of one's target weight and supplement it with a series of low rep assistance exercises which build tendon and muscular power to augment whatever one is attempting to do. On a personal level, I have attempted to apply this strategy to my own training for the past year and have managed to gain twenty pounds of solid muscle along with increasing my previous bests in the deadlift and Olympic squat by thirty-five and fifteen pounds respectively 

The only disadvantage to training with heavy singles is that because one is constantly hovering near one's maximums, greater attention must be paid to one's aches and pains to avoid injury. Because I don't possess the recovery times of a Norb Schemansky, it usually takes me at least 2-3 months before I am able to work back up to a maximum squat or deadlift after breaking a personal record without ending up on the floor with a super-fatigued lower back. As such, when training with singles, I have found it best to attempt only one thing at a time and to cut back when simple fatigue begins to cross the line into pain and injury. That is to say, when attempting to build up to a record in the deadlift, it is wise to reduce one's squats to a medium-heavy weight or even eliminate back squats altogether in favor of heavy front squats.

In conclusion, it is not my aim to discredit high-rep training. It would be dogmatic and irresponsible to deny the physical and psychological benefits many have reaped from milk, rest and all out sets of twenty, thirty or even fifty rep exercises. It is simply my contention that in an attempt to turn our eyes to the past and build upon the sage advice of our iron game elders, we have placed too much of a focus on the endurance-strength movements popularized by mid-century bodybuilders and physical culturists and have forgotten about the important lessons of the benefits of low and single rep training taught to us by men such as Anderson, Schemansky and Davis which helped to keep America on top of the lifting world for almost three decades. If you have yet to try single rep training, I urge you to give it a try - I think you'll be amazed by the results.

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Calling All Women: Get Fit, Get Strong - By Andrea Rippe

Most women are out to look good and hey, so am I. But I also like to be strong. And being strong will help any woman who wants to change her body.

Most women go to the gym because they want to lose weight, reduce the size of their thighs and get a flat tummy. If you want to change your body, you've got to have some muscle. A body without muscle is a bag of bones and that doesn't have much shape. Don't just strive to be thin, strive to be fit and strong. If you want to be fit and strong, you are going to have to work.Here is a list of things that need to happen if you really want to change your body:

1) It's going to mean feeling "a bit uncomfortable"(HIGH INTENSITY) and doing your workouts when you don't really feel like it (CONSISTENCY).

2) It also means eating what you should eat, in the amount you should eat, not just what you want to eat or what you are craving (DISCIPLINE).

3) It means not believing that if you lift heavy weights you will become big and bulky or look like a steroid freak.

4) It means that you forget terms like toning, sculpting and muscle lengthening.

5) It means learning how to do exercises that will actually change your body (CORE EXERCISES) not small ineffective exercises.

6) It means doing cardiovascular exercise. If you want to get fit and in good condition, you will have to work hard, that means using 70% to 80% of your maximum heart rate as a target range.

7) It means getting enough sleep to allow for recovery and basic health.

8) It means resting adequately between weight training sessions so your muscles have enough of a chance to grow stronger (INFREQUENCY) and yet not atrophy.

9) It means always trying to get stronger.

10) It means following Bob Whelan's Ten Commandments.

The bottom line is that women need to train intensely and consistently-but not to frequently--using basic exercises.

Intensity is the most important variable of a cardiovascular or weight training program. Your success in changing your body, specifically your muscles, will be determined by whether or not you lift with high intensity. What is high intensity training? High intensity means working to momentary muscular failure. That means you cannot perform another rep, with proper form. You must give 100% to each set of each exercise, continuing at full intensity until you can no longer achieve another repetition.

If you always lift the same amount of weight for the same number of repetitions, your body can obviously handle the stress. Therefore, it will make no changes since it doesn't need to change. If you increase the demands placed on your body, it will respond in turn. As you increase the amount of weight, you force the muscles to develop strength and eventually some size.

As females, we don't have the same potential as men to develop huge muscles; but muscle is a good thing, and to develop some that are visible to the naked eye is okay. You are developing your body to your potential. All women have different genetic potentials. You cannot look at someone and say, "I want her thighs or her shoulders". You need to say, "I want to develop my shoulders, my body". Even better than that, decide you want to be able to do a pull-up, or five pull-ups, or even ten or more pull-ups. Set concrete goals for yourself.

Consistently training with a high intensity is the only way your body will adapt and therefore change. One hard workout once or twice a month is not enough to create change. It's also not enough to keep you from getting sore, really sore all the time. I tend to get sore after most workouts. The idea is not to incapacitate yourself, but to challenge the muscles, and sometimes that will make you sore. Too much soreness does not allow for regular hard training.

Infrequent training means taking at least a couple of days off between weight workouts. Working out two times per week is plenty if you train intensely. If you train too often, your body will not have a chance to grow stronger and repair your muscles. This will lead to over training, which is a backward step. The common three-day-on/one- day-off split workouts do not allow you to train intensely without over training. Even though you're working different body parts, your body is a system: when you stress one part of it, especially the lower body, the rest of the body is affected. For example, if you're working your back and biceps using the pull-up or the pulldown, you may not know it but you're also using your chest, triceps and shoulders as well.

Use Core Exercises in your routines. Basic multi-joint exercises are more efficient, safer and allow the use of heavy weights. Heavy weights will build muscle and bone density. The basic exercises that build muscle and strength are the squat, dead lift, leg press, pull-up, pull-down, pullover, row, bench press, dip and overhead press. Include at least a push and a pull and a major leg movement.

Discipline in eating regularly and nutritionally is the only way to get and stay lean and provide the building blocks for a healthy, strong body. Food is a major issue for most women. Not just anorexics and bulemics, but a large percentage of the female population have issues with food. Food needs to become a more neutral topic. Eat to live, not live to eat. Eat because you are hungry and your body needs fuel. We have to stop eating because we're bored or stressed or because the food is there. Eat to restore the glycogen stores in your muscles after you work out. Eat to provide the protein your body needs to repair your muscles and build your new muscles. Refer to Nancy Clark's books and articles for information.

A fit body is flexible, strong, cardiovascularly fit and has a reasonable percentage of body fat. All of these aspects of fitness are important and you can't get fit without working. You may just find yourself addicted to looking and feeling and strong and healthy.

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