Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Muscular Weight Gain - By Jay Trigg

Many beginning trainees desire to increase their Lean Body Mass, and have this as the primary, if not only, goal in mind when beginning a training program. I suppose it is human nature to want to have large muscles and the appearance of power and capability. It was certainly the reason I started lifting weights (at a measly 115-120 lb.), and is the reason that a great majority of men start lifting as well. There has probably been more ink spent on this subject in muscle mags than any other topic, from Bob Hoffman, Peary Rader, and Charles Atlas all the way to Joe Weider and the supplement muscle shams of today. Muscle gain comes hard for a natural lifter, and anything over the "normal" level of BW is extremely difficult for most lifters to achieve without resorting to steroids and other drugs. Not difficult in the sense of "it can’t be done", but difficult in paying the price under the iron to get it and keep it. This is particularly true of the ectomorphic lifter. This is the type of male whose "normal and untrained" bodyweight might be 130 lbs., or less, at a height of 5’8" or taller. This is not an individual who would be sick or ill at this weight (although they may look sickly), but the individual whose body type and genetic makeup have him "locked into" a body frame and metabolism that does not support much in the way of muscle mass. For these lifters, it can be extremely frustrating to train with weights, to seemingly no avail. Frustrating when their lifts fail to increase after weeks of trying, and the lifts were not much to begin with. Who, reading this, can identify (whether from personal experience or observation) with the lifter who joins the gym and begins a simple (or very complicated) routine? His friends, also beginners lift much more than him even initially. He can barely bench press the bar and a few 5 or 10 pound plates. They manage to throw up 135, so it at least looks like they have something on the bar. Our lifter can manage 3-4 reps in an awkward squat with 60-70 lb. His friends, within weeks, have 150 and 160 on the bar, and are getting 10, 12, even 20 reps. If the lifter is typical, he will quit the gym and never return. If he is tenacious or hardheaded, he will almost certainly (without common sense to be a foundation to his will) fall into the trap of super supplements and super routines. He will, as many including myself have done, be an avid student of supplement advertisements and the various soft cover training books put out by the muscle publishers. He will be a veritable expert on the benefits of various foot spacing on Smith Machine squats. He will know why it is better to supinate, rather than pronate, the hands when performing a set of concentration curls. He will know the proper dosage, frequency, and contraindications for every pill, powder, and potion sold on the "muscle shelf" of his local health food store. And, likely as not, he will not gain a pound of muscle for it all. In all reality, I can hardly blame this individual for this plight. Having "been him" at one time, I can certainly understand how one gets there. It speaks of a certain level of sincerity and desire, but also of a level of ignorance and possible laziness, that is deadly to his goals.

There is, however, hope. He is looking for a home, and he is in the right town (the gym). He merely needs to find the correct address and to move in. He will likely need to find the "old neighborhood", the one where the houses were built back in the 40’s and 50’s. Where the houses, albeit dated and old fashioned, are also still standing after 50 or 60 years of weathering the storm. It is here, and likely only here, that he will find the comfort of making gains.

Alright. Enough Harry Paschall and J.C. Hise talk. How do you do it? How does a guy who wants to pack 20, 30, 40 lb. of muscle weight on a body that is reluctant to add 5 lb. do it? How does a rank beginner pack on the pounds? And how can you, Mr. Trigg, with your prime physique (ha-ha-ha) tell me how to do so, when you have never experienced such frustrations? I may tell my story later, but today I will tell the story of Mr. DB (Delibabu) Chakrapani. DB is one of my trainees. DB is 25 years old, Indian (not American Indian, but India-Indian), and started training at a bodyweight of 118 lb. at 5’ 9" in height. This was a gentleman well past his puberty, and into adulthood. He had never had any significant bodyweight, and was not recovering from a lingering illness. His joints are all small, and his bone structure is quite light. He is a textbook case of ectomorphia, and he wanted to get big. When he walked through the door, I gulped hard, because this was a test case of any "weight gain" program I could devise, and there would be no hiding the fact if it didn’t work. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to dust off any tomes to find and old-school program for weight gain. Those books are always open around here. Here is the very basic program that DB began on, and utilizes today.

Two days a week

Day one:

Stiff Deadlift
Nautilus pullover
Overhead press (parallel grip "log bar" from Reflex)
Chins (assisted in the beginning)
Dumbbell bench press
Curls with Apollons Axle

Day two:

Nautilus leg curl
Nautilus pulldown
Nautilus overhead press, Duo-Poly
Nautilus compound row, Duo-Poly
Nautilus preacher curl
Bench dips
Side bends

Yes. DB is squatting twice a week. Yes, he is overhead pressing twice a week. Yes, he is using "foo-foo" or "pumping" exercises like leg curls, pulldowns, and preacher curls. Yes, he is also busting his buttocks under a real live bar, in squats and overhead presses.

He is using a "15 or 20" rep scheme on the squats. Meaning we worked him up from 10 reps to 20 reps in the squat at his initial weight. We then added 5 lb. and had him do 15 reps. Next workout we had him do the same weight for 20 reps. Next workout we added 5 lb. and had him do 15 reps, and the same weight for 20 the next workout, and so-on. He DOES NOT work to failure on the squats, although his last 3 reps are generally reps that the average human being would quit on. He works a strict 15 reps ONLY on the stiff deadlift, adding 5 lb. per week. Everything else (abs excepted) he works to absolute failure, or in the case of the Compound Row, until he can no longer hold the handles back, in the Duo-Poly fashion. What has all of this accomplished for DB? What has our ectomorphic poster boy been able to claim as his reward? The obvious is strength increases from workout to workout. He is getting the perfect (for him) mixture of intensity and rest. He is currently being neither underworked nor overworked. He would tell you he is being overworked every workout, but that is the nature of the task at hand. But his recovery abilities are not being taxed at this time. DB is also registering a 3 lb. gain a week in bodyweight. I know. It amazes me as well. In fact, it makes me supremely jealous. And his diet is "fair" at best, as culturally and physically he is not a big eater. He doesn’t tolerate milk well, and beef causes him digestive problems. So he eats lots of fish, chicken and vegetables. I can only imagine what his weight gains would be if he went on an "American Style" food blitz. But, as well, his dietary practices are very healthy and are minimizing fat gain. So we can assume that his weight gains are almost all muscle.

There is nothing "magical" about the above routine, other than the magic of the squat, deadlift, and overhead press. And the routine is definitely a routine that caters to the new trainee. It might not work as well for the more advanced trainee, although the principles are ironclad. But we are speaking of the new trainee. As well, DB invokes more intensity and effort in the workout then he has ever done physically in his life before. It is very much work for him, and exhausting work at that. He is constantly pushed, as around here we live and work by the mantra "at least one more rep or one more pound than last week". So, DB gains. He isn’t ready for a magazine cover. He will not be lifting in the Senior Nationals this year. And he isn’t the strongest guy in town. Yet. But he has gotten a handle on what it takes to succeed in the weight game, and is succeeding as a result.

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Needs Help Finding Christy Book: Real Strength, Real Muscle

Dear Mr. Whelan,

I've been a great fan of yours since ever I first read your articles in Hardgainer. The sound principles that you and other Hardgainer writers have promoted through the years continue to guide me to this day, so I must thank you for your valuable insight into the iron game.

Anyway, I have a somewhat unusual request, and thought that you might be able to help me. It might be a long shot, but I thought I would try anyway, since I have exhausted all other options.

For several months now, I have been trying to buy a copy of the late John Christy's book "Real Strength, Real Muscle", which he used to sell on his site, However, his site seems to have gone down sometime in early 2013, and apparently it was the only source for buying that book, as I couldn't find any other online merchants selling it, and all the third party recommendations were leading back to his own site, now unavailable.

What I wanted to ask was, considering that you were an acquaintance/friend of his, if you maybe have any extra copies lying around and were able to part with one of them, or if not if you have any ideas of online options for purchasing his book, or at least some contact information (an email address maybe) where I might get ahold of someone (perhaps a family member) to inquire about the possibility of purchasing his book. Since I found noone on eBay selling this, this may be my last remaining chance to maybe get ahold of a copy.

Thank you for your time, any help would be greatly appreciated.

Best regards,
Emanuel Mihaiescu  

Thanks for the nice message Emanuel. 

If anyone can help Emanuel find a copy ...  please contact him at email:   

elsydeon at gmail dot com
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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Tru Squat Machine Wanted & Beefy Buffalo Bar for Sale

Hi Bob,

I cannot do TB DL's anymore.  The pull on my upper body, makes me move at the L5 and causes me alot of pain. I have to be very selective. Most people with this disorder are alot less functional than I am.

I can do Squats with a ball up against a wall and I am fine. I can even do the hip stuff etc, but anything that consists of carrying anything with  my upper body, is a no-go. I can do curls seated and standing, but when standing I have to keep the knees bent and maintain PERFECT form. No overhead pressing etc. I can use a hip sled with no issues as well.

Basically looking to sell the Beefy Buffalo Bar for 400.00 plus S&H.  Its mint and I can take pictures for those interested. If someone has a TRU SQUAT and they want to part with it and would like to work out a deal, then let me know. The BBB's are 589.00 new as you know and this one looks it. I have taken well care of it and have not used it in 7 years due to my back situation. Its been hard. I used to squat double bodyweight with it for reps, but no longer.

IronMind Beefy Buffalo Bar in mint condition. Asking 400.00 plus S&H. Email for pictures.  Looking for a Southern Xercise Tru Squat machine. 

If you have one or know of anyone who does, let me know. I cannot do heavy squats anymore due to Spondylolisthesis.

Please contact Troy at:
Thank you Bob, I sure appreciate it!
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Beginning Weight Training - Setting Up the Program, (Part 2) - By Jay Trigg

Exercise Selection

In setting up the program, we want to insure that the trainee benefits from the best selection of exercises and set and repetition scheme. Therefore we must be diligent in this process, and very receptive to the trainee’s specific needs, wants, and limitations. In the previous article we talked about learning about a trainees physical limitations. These are the first consideration in choosing exercises. For example, in my opinion, extremely overweight or detrained persons should not be doing free weight squats, deadlifts, bench presses, or overhead presses. Why such a harsh assessment? Not because of any problems I have with those exercises, but rather with the problems that can come about with their use by the above individuals. Obese individuals are typically “stationary”. Meaning that they rarely move around in their daily activities. Many sit at a desk all day, drive home, and sit on the couch or in an easy chair until it is time to go to bed. Their daily “motion” may be limited to trips to the bathroom or bedroom, and the necessary walking to get from one room to the next at work. Flexibility is poor, balance is poor, and strength is poor in “unused” ROM. Asking this individual to do a squat, even a “non-loaded” deep knee bend, is an exercise in futility, embarrassment, and possible injury. Better to place them in a machine exercise, with a “locked” movement and ROM, and allow them to gain strength over time, to the point that they gain the necessary strength, flexibility and confidence to do a correct squat. There is never a rush to get a severely detrained individual into free weight exercises. It is doubtful that a person 150-200 lb. overweight will be entering a powerlifting meet in the next 12 months, so don’t be in a rush to have them doing the “big three” as if they had to catch up to the competition. Rather get them “in motion” and slowly and patiently increase general conditioning, flexibility and strength to the point where you can move into compound exercises safely and comfortably.

With trainees in their mid to late 30’s and up who are not severely detrained, I find it best to begin a weight training program on machines, with some light free weight movements (curls, stiff leg deadlifts, dumbbell bench press). Many of these trainees are capable of learning and completing free weight moves very quickly, and can be moved into a more balanced routine (approx. 50% machines and 50% free weight) in several weeks. My experience has shown, however, that very few individuals who are non athletic and past the late 20’s in age can properly perform a squat or deadlift the first time in. Calf and hamstring flexibility, balance, and coordination all work against this move (and many others) in the beginning. I find it better for me and the trainee to work to some good intensity with machines, and come back afterwards to practice the squats, deadlifts, and other moves. The client is warm and loose. He or she has just “successfully” completed the primary workout and has been encouraged and complimented on their effort and performance (you do encourage don’t you?). They are in a prime place to begin to learn a new skill. These would be very light, low rep moves. Not another workout, but a skills training. This process can be a short one, lasting only a couple weeks, or it may stretch for some time with those who have poor flexibility or strength.

Some trainees may best benefit from only machines. One of my trainees is a middle-aged woman with severe rheumatoid arthritis. Due to poor flexibility and joint strength, she utilizes a “machine only” program, using the lowest possible resistance and high reps. She will use 25-30 reps on each exercise, increasing the weight by only 1 lb. per week, if she make all her reps. We must be very careful with her joints, so we err on the side of caution in everything we do. However, her strength is improving and her flexibility has increased to the point that she can utilize a Nautilus overhead press and Pullover in her workouts, where as in the beginning she had to use a broomstick for those muscle groups. She also has only 1 finger on each hand with any “gripping” ability, so machines are ideal for her situation.

In summary for that section is that trainees can benefit from the “good” free weight moves (squats, deadlift variations, bench press, overhead press, curls), and should utilize them when possible. Yet, one should not be too quick to move them into free weights if conditioning is poor to start with. If free weights are all that is available, be very conscious of limitations in strength and flexibility and be aware and alert to immediately take control of the weight, and possibly the trainee if the exercise or load proves too great for them. We must always remember that intensity is relative to the condition, abilities, and state of mind of the trainee. We should press for excellence and effort, but not at the expense of safety or common sense.

Possible beginning, intermediate, and advanced exercise selection:

New trainee:

Nautilus Leg Press
Nautilus Leg Curl
Nautilus Pullover
Nautilus Shoulder Press or manual resistance shoulder work
Cable Row
Chest press
Dumbbell curls
Skills coaching for squat and deadlift

Intermediate trainee:

Stiff deadlift
Leg extension
Nautilus Pullover
Overhead press, dumbbell or barbell
Nautilus Compound Row
Close grip bench press with 2” bar
Reverse Curls with exercise bar or EZ curl bar

Advanced trainee:

Stiff deadlift
Nautilus Pullover
Overhead Press, barbell or dumbbell
Weighted chins or towel chins
Weighted dips
Thick bar curls, followed by manual resistance curls with rope or towel

Now of course, none of the above are claimed as “the ideal routine”, but only used to represent a movement from an early reliance on machines, to a more mixed routine, to a routine with some fairly complex and skilled movements. This is also not to say that machines are not effective, or as effective for an advanced trainee, compared to free weights. I prefer a mix myself. But again, the idea is for trainees to learn to crawl before they can walk, and machines teach that skill far better than most free weight exercises and with less potential for injury. With advanced trainees on a machine centered program, one can get terribly wicked with intensity generating techniques and muscular failure sets. Wicked enough to have many less motivated trainees ready to find a good “barbell only gym”. Conversely, millions of trainees have gotten brutally strong and fit with nothing more than a barbell and some space to use it.

Individualizing routines calls for some imagination. If your trainee only has access to 5-10 basic machines, a squat bar, and a set of dumbbells, you only have a few variations on exercises, without delving into weird isolation exercises (one-arm-reverse-triceps-adduction across the neck). While very basic routines can be effective and intense, trainees often get bored with doing the same old grind day in and day out. The obvious choice for full body workouts (which is what I enjoy using for myself and trainees) is to have 2 weekly workouts, doing different things each workout. For example (for lower body):

Day 1

Stiff Deadlift

Day 2

Leg press
Leg Curl
Leg Extension
Leg press
(or go ahead and make it the “Filthy Five” as advocated by Ken Mannie in his section of Bobs page)

One could also move to a 3 or 4 workout rotation, keeping workouts at twice weekly, and each workout being done about 2 times a month.

First workout:
    Squats, high rep
    Stiff deadliftsSecond workout:
      “Filthy Five”
    Third Workout
      Heavy trap bar sets, 2-3 sets of 5
      Super-slow leg press (20 second reps)
      Super Slow leg curl (20 second reps)
    And lastly, “special days”, as advocated by Bob Whelan. Such as “50’s day” (50 rep sets), or “barbell only days”, dumbbell only days, and circuit days. My favorite circuit, by the way (it is always better to give than to receive, however):Dumbbell or trap bar deadlifts (15-20 reps; heavy and hard, but not to failure)
    Nautilus Overhead press (15-20 reps; duo-poly and to failure)
    Nautilus pulldowns (15-20 reps, to failure)

    Run this cycle by having the trainee run through it twice with progressing weights and 5-6 reps for a warm up. Then run them through it 3 times with no rest between sets (or at least minimize the rest between sets with a whip and pistol). Finish with some abs and light grip work. Takes about 15 minute to complete with a wimp like me, and about 10 minutes with a motivated lunatic. Floor time is variable, however.

    In summary, one should be careful in deciding exercise selection for new trainees. We want most everybody to progress to the point when they can do complex and skill oriented moves, however it isn’t always the case that it can happen immediately or even quickly. We should also be aware that even our better-conditioned trainees might need a break in period where exercise selection is simple in performance, and that more skilled moves are taught as an adjunct until they are strong and confident enough to make them the backbone of the routine. Lastly, we should be aware that the same old workout grind, day in and day out, could become tedious and even halt progress. We must be willing to experiment and be flexible in exercise selection and order.

Let Bob Whelan be Your Personal Coach
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