Thursday, September 18, 2014

Two Approaches to High Volume Training - By Todd Baisley

Most of us who visit Natural Strength probably wouldn't be considered high volume trainers. Years ago, we realized we made better progress and enjoyed lifting much more on a lower volume, less frequent, and more intense protocol. Some of us even became more upbeat as a person, without our CNS being beat down from 5 to 6 days per week of relentless training.

Having said that, there are some times when a higher volume (say 20 sets per body part) may fit your lifestyle. When stationed on a smaller base in Panama during the late eighties, there was precious little to do after we were no longer allowed off base. Camping out in the gym for set after set, at that phase of my life, was better than hanging out at the cheesy NCO club. Some people I know and have known of, have found a good gym therapeutic when going through a divorce, and easier than going straight home to an empty apartment. Ditto for some retirees with more energy and time on their hands than they are used to. While it would probably be better for them to develop other interests and relationships, for some the gym scratches the itch.

While there are an infinite number of ways to adjust a high volume routine, they generally fall on or between two poles. One is a more health and muscle building focus, while the other would be pure strength and size.

The first approach could be epitomized by some of Jack Lalanne's routines. In his later years he stated that he would do 20 sets per body part, resting 15 seconds between sets. While one doesn't have to follow this exactly, the idea is a lot of sets in a little time. Supersets are encouraged and reps would usually be more in the 8 to 20 range than the typical strength building range. A good blend of compound and isolated exercises is typical. Plan on using a lot less weight for the last seventeen sets or so.

The upside is there is no need for extra cardio. It also can be great therapy for aching joints. When asked what to do for injuries, Jack would often respond, "Work that sucker!". Find the right angle, the right exercises, and strengthen that muscle all around, while pumping it with blood. I have asked a couple of physical therapists if blood flow is the key to connective tissue repair, both of them said yes. Many sets equals much blood flow (as well as a cost effective and manly approach to physical therapy!).

The downside is most of us won't gain much size or strength on this protocol. While a bulky fellow might carve out some muscularity, I have frankly always gone backwards in the size and strength department when on this type of routine. Better break out your copy of BRAWN or SUPER NATURAL STRENGTH if that is your goal.

The polar opposite would be a high volume workout emphasizing big weights, long rest periods, and compound movements. Paul Anderson used this type of approach. Do a set, rest as long as needed to get your strength back, but not cool down, then do another set. Repeat many times. Squats, half squats, weighted dips, presses, presses from the forehead, deadlift, etc. Plan on spending a long time in the gym. It's not a bad idea to bring some milk or other energy giving drink while you camp out.

On the plus, if you can keep your calories up, you will slowly add layers of thick, dense muscle tissue, the kind that won't disappear if you miss a week in the gym. Because you are doing so many sets, you can become very proficient at a movement, and your strength will go up. Patience and not training to failure are important.

On the down side, this will do little to improve overall health. You NEED to do cardio as well. Strength AND health, as Bob rightly reminds us. Major time investment is another down side. You can make as good or better gains on an abbreviated program. However, if you're at a season when you need to fill time or you're a young guy and you and your buddies enjoy a long squat off, give it a try. Life will get busy again, and you can always fall back on a more sensible program.
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Monday, September 8, 2014

ONE ARM TRAINING - By Howard L. Liviskie

I have always tried to do something that entails one arm training. This type of training is great for developing power and speed. It will also help if you tend to favor one side over the other. This kind of training is great to add to a full program or just to make a training day of all one arm exercises. When most people hear the term "one arm training", they think of dumbbell curls or triceps work. Well, those exercises are okay, but not the only ones I think of. I believe that one arm movements should use a lot of muscles and should make you work hard. Swings, one arm clean and presses, one arm snatches, and bent presses are all one arm movements. These are going to give you the most bang for your buck. Some of these movements are a technique driven, such as the swing or the snatch, but anyone can do them.

Let's start with the swing. First, I would like to say that a good place to see the swing done is on the BROOKS KUBIK video. To start, you need a good dumbbell. You are going to try to get the form first so start light. Now stand over the dumbbell with the bell between your legs and your feet spread a little wider than shoulder's width. Reach down and grab the bell with one hand bending your knees. (Don't worry about which hand to start with, you will train them both.) Keep your hand right up next to the front plates. Now, keeping your arm straight, take the bell up to your waist and let it swing back between your legs to get some movement. Then swing it up over your head keeping your arm straight the whole time. Putting your other hand out to your side can help you keep your balance. Repeat these steps with your other hand. I don't recommend doing reps because your form starts to suffer. It is very important to always keep good form even if it means using lighter weights.

The one arm clean and press is actually two one arm movements in one, the clean and the press. You can train them together or separate. I sometimes separate them depending on how I feel or if I'm training for a certain contest. This movement starts similarly to the swing except you don't swing the weight. Instead you clean the weight to the shoulder, get your balance, and then press it overhead. Now a little warning, it sounds easier than it is. The form has to be good on both the clean and the press. In the press, you should lay back a little because it helps keep the bell stable. I'm not a big rep guy with this one either but you can do more than the swing. I would say do no more than five reps and keep tight. If you just press, have someone hand you the weight and keep tight all the way up and down.

The one hand snatch is next. I personally am no good at this one and to work at it to feel comfortable with the weight I am using. I find that this is a great movement to make you stronger but it is a bear and I would not say it is for everyone. It is really hard if you are tall or have long arms. It is almost like a regular snatch, but again, you start over like the other two movements, the swing and the clean. The balance you need to get heavy weights s great so start light and be careful. Make sure you get under the weight and control it.

The last movement is the bent press. I tried this movement about one year ago and found it not only awesome for body power, but it trains the core of your body like crazy. This will help you build a stable, strong middle and help get some flexibility. Now, I do this with a dumbbell from he floor and start the same as the other movements. I know that some people start the bent press differently and that is cool, but I like to keep everything in the center of my core to always keep control. Now once you get it to your shoulder, start to press and as you start to press, start to bend away from the bell. As it goes up at the end, you should be bent at the waist with the bell over you. This movement is going to help your core and you will get sore. This is a movement that can be done for reps but keep the form tight and focus on each rep.

Now, one arm movements are great, and on their own could be a session. I'd like to add them to my training. I feel that they are great for building a good stable core and they will work you very hard. Sets are up to you. I like to keep them in the context of my training at the time. I have done twenty sets of singles on the swing trying to find a top weight. I find they help now that I have started back into martial arts because I grapple and working on balance is important. Try one arm training in your program. Good luck, train hard.

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