Friday, December 8, 2017

Five of the Best Vintage Strongman Books Ever Published - These are MUST Have Books!

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Monday, November 20, 2017

Dedication to Hard & Heavy Weight Training - By RJ Hicks, BS Exercise Science, CSCS

Year after year you hear the excuses of many trainees for their lack of results in the weight room. Poor genetics, old age, the wrong program, plateaued muscles, the list of excuses goes on. These excuses blind us to the real problem at hand, inhibiting us all from receiving the training results we deserve. An honest assessment must be made with one's training approach to developing muscular size and strength by asking the following questions. Am I lifting heavy enough weight to provide adequate overload? Am I training legs heavy and hard twice per week? Do I use the hard and productive exercises or use the easy toner exercises? Am I striving to progress in training poundage each week? It is the total dedication to training hard that will bring results gym trainees seek not any magical program.

People like to complicate weight training more than they need to. You lift weights to build muscular size and strength, that’s it. The largest muscle fibers responsible for gains in strength and size are type IIa and IIx muscle fibers, which make up around 50% of an average person's muscle fibers. These muscle fibers are anaerobic by nature and require heavy resistance exercise to cause overload to the working muscles. Light weight will not provide adequate overload, stimulating mostly the type I muscle fibers. The principle of orderly recruitment states that motor units (a bundle of muscle fibers) are ranked by sized and recruited in ascending order. Type I motor units are recruited first during muscular contraction as they are the smallest motor units. The large type II motor units are recruited sequentially as the movement demands for greater force. Too many trainees train with light weight, doing very little to stress their largest muscle fibers due to the low levels of force. Lifting with light weight only burns calories and provides some endurance work through the stimulation of type I muscle fibers, but does little to build muscular strength and engage the type II fibers. To build muscular size and strength you must lift with the heaviest weight you can handle for the given repetition goal, using perfect form.

The truth is that heavy resistance training intimidates a lot of people for fear of becoming injured. Lifting with heavy weight does not injury trainees, lifting more than you can handle with bad technique injures trainees. Heavy weight is needed to generate the higher levels of muscular force to stimulate the largest motor units. This is hard work; many trainees try to avoid training heavy and find excuses why to reduce the training load on a continuous basis. There are no secrets or ways around working hard, heavy resistance training for the entire body is necessary throughout the year to develop muscular size and strength.

"Legs feed the wolf" and any serious trainee who desires real results must follow suit. In every workout where time or energy is a limiting factor leg training is the first thing to go. Leg training is uncomfortable and extremely demanding which is why many trainees refuse to do it. Many trainees will replace lower body training with running or use the excuse of fear of injury as to why they are handling light weight. Many functional trainers and performances coaches like to avoid these exercises as well. They like to talk about movement patterns, muscle activation and stabilization to build stronger athletes, as if this is more advanced than weight training for strength. This is total BS! If you want real training results you are going to have to train the legs heavy and hard twice per week, once the form is learned. Body weight squats, kettle bells, band walks and plyometric jumps are not going to get the job done. Squats, deadlifts and leg presses done with challenging weight are needed to bring fourth the greatest training stimulus to the lower body. Done through the most complete range of motion as safety dictates, these exercises will bring about the greatest stimulus to the hips, thighs and lower back. These exercises should be rotated each training session as these are the hard exercises with the greatest potential for growth.

Words such as toning, firming and pumping have hurt the weight training community in a big way. Popularized by many of the present-day bodybuilding magazine and fitness models, these words have gotten many trainees spinning their wheels on the wrong exercises. Cable cross overs, concentration curls and hack squats are dominating many commercial gyms. The exercises promoted by old-time strongmen like Mark Berry, Sig Klein and Henry Steinborn have been tossed to the side. The hard-productive exercises have not changed since the early 1900's. Squats, rows, deadlifts, presses, dips, barbell curls and shrugs should be at the forefront of any weight training program. These exercises provide movement of heavy resistance through the fullest range of motion forced by muscular contractions. Two factors needed for productive exercise. All the old-time strongmen knew this and worked religiously at these exercises year after year, with fantastic results! Toners will look for the easier exercises and will make little to no progress. Do not look to replace the most productive exercises, rather formulate your training around them for the best results. Choosing the basic hard exercises is important, but without poundage progression results will be limited.

I have seen plenty of people at gyms training with the same weight they used several years ago. Everyone has a certain weight they are comfortable with on each exercise; however, it is necessary to push past that mental barrier. It is a lack of poundage progression that holds many trainees back whether they notice it or not. Many trainees switch from program to program in hopes of finding the best training routine, inevitably doing little to force poundage progression. Tracking progression, in terms of poundage, is the greatest evidence any individual has of training success. A real assessment needs to be made on your training journal to physically visualize how far you have come since the beginning of your training cycle. The weights must be increased over the weeks, months and years. This is hard to do! It takes patience and discipline to trust in the process and keep grinding away at the basic exercises. It is more appealing to add massive variety, changing the exercise routine every few weeks. Most trainees will run to variety as soon as the weight gets heavy, in fear of reaching a plateau, when they should be digging in and focusing on slowly building the poundage. George Hackenschmidt, an old time strongmen and champion wrestler, used a simple method of progression to build his legendary strength and so can you. Whether you train with single sets, multiple sets or pyramids the overload principles stay the same. Every time you complete the number of repetitions for an exercise add a little iron to the bar for the next workout. A little bit of added weight every few weeks turns into serious weight over the years.

There is no one method for hard weight training. Multiple sets, machine training, low repetitions and olympic lifts all can work given the proper dedication to hard training. The emphasis does not rely on training tools or methods, but rather the principles. Heavy progressive strength training, utilizing the best exercises to cover the full body, will always produce the greatest gains in muscular size and strength. The only question left to ask, are you training hard and heavy?


Kenney, W. L., Wilmore, J. H., Costill, D. L., & Wilmore, J. H. (2012). Physiology of sport and exercise. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Todd, J. S., Shurley, J. P., & Todd, T. C. (2012). Thomas L. DeLorme and the Science of Progressive Resistance Exercise. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 26(11), 2913-2923. doi:10.1519/jsc.0b013e31825adcb4

Editor's note: Fantastic article RJ! This is the truth. The current "effort only" and multi-dimensional fads are NOT the way to go. Get back to heavy and hard weight training.
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Friday, November 17, 2017

The Mighty Atom Documentary is Finished and it's Fantastic! - by Bob Whelan

"Known as 'The Mighty Atom,' Joseph Greenstein was, indeed, the greatest and perhaps the most unlikely strongman who ever lived. He overcame impossible odds to simply survive to adulthood, then learned to harness the powers of the body - and more importantly, the mind - to achieve the impossible. Stopping an airplane from taking off with his hair, bending cold rolled steel with his hands, biting through nails - Greenstein may have been the inspiration for Superman. An amazing tale of human potential, The Mighty Atom will have audiences cheering." - (from the movie website) Click on image below.

Click on image above.
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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

My Buddy Jeff Bankens Does an Impressive 145 Pound Bent Press with 2 inch Bar

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CARDIO - For Life and For You! - By Jeff "T-Rex" Bankens

Last summer, our friend Christian Tackett wrote an article entitled “Cardio Thoughts”.  In this article he talks about the “fake news” he was told regarding cardio vascular training for most of his training career.  He then goes on to say that his coach (our coach), “Maximum Bob” Whelan advised him to take another look at cardio.  It changed Christian’s life.  

You can read that article for yourself at this link ( )

As soon as I read that article it struck a cord with me.  You see, it was not very long ago that, Like Christian, I too believed I did not need cardio.  After all, I was not only a weightlifter, I was a performing strongman.  I saw those two activities as a free pass on cardio vascular training.  Enter “Maximum Bob” Whelan.  He taught me something that I pray I will never forget.  He said, ‘Jeff, do the weight training for YOU, and the cardio for YOUR FAMILY’.

What Bob meant, was that, while weight training alone will make your musculoskeletal-skeletal system strong and virile, it will do little to nothing for your cardio-vascular system.  What point is there in having a strong, powerful body if you are not going to put in the necessary work to ensure that body STAYS strong and powerful for years to come.  If I want to be around to see my son grow up, and (God Willing) play with my grandkids, I better do something to ensure that my heart and lungs stay healthy enough to get me there in one piece.

Bob shared that advice with me a little over two years ago.  I am here to tell you that it was some of the best advice I have ever received!  In the last two - three years, God brought mentors into my life that I am convinced were meant to help bring my physical game to the next level.

Rather than re-hash that story, I suggest you read it for yourself at this link ( ).

After seeing the physical changes I have experienced over the last 2 years, I can say that Bob knew exactly what he was talking about.  I can also say that, on the other side of two years’ worth of cardio training under my belt, I now see that the cardio is not just for my family, it is for me too!  I heeded good advice that brought about what we are all looking for: RESULTS.  I would like to take a few minutes of your time to share with you the results I have seen manifested in my own life, to encourage YOU, the natural lifter.

I was told that, besides two days of weight training, I needed to have a minimum of two cardio workouts per week.  Implementing this was not that difficult, as I already had a treadmill in the house.  It even came with a built-in incline and two cross-country ski poles to boot!  I was all set, and began implementing the cardio work into my regular weekly schedule.  I usually have two - three cardio sessions per week that are usually thirty - forty-five minuted in Length.  While the intensity varies, I try to make a practice of regularly pushing myself so that I do not become “satisfied” with a certain level of fitness.  Just to be clear, when I say I push myself, I do not go crazy.  For example, I may try to increase the length of time I maintain a certain speed before  slowing down to catch my breath.  Other times I may walk an extra five minutes, or try to get another quarter or half mile in before quitting for the night.

Doing these things has helped me get stronger and fitter than I have been in many years, at an age when many people have started to let go and  become couch potatoes, forty.  I now find it quite thrilling to be getting stronger and leaner at the END of youth, looking down the road at middle age with a smile!

As I mentioned earlier, I am a performing strongman.  In fact, I am also a minister.  As stated in previous articles, I have a unique ministry that allows me to combine the feats of strength of the performing strongmen of old, with the Gospel message of Jesus Christ!  This has allowed me to speak and perform for many 1,000’s of people over the years.  I regularly speak at elementary schools, churches, youth groups, employee picnics, and other family-oriented venues.  It is a really unique way to connect and share with others that I really enjoy!  

Even though I have been doing this a long time, I have never done a large multi-day event as “TRex”.  One of my desires for many years has been to be given the opportunity to do something big, and last summer I did it!

It all started in October of 2016.  I reached out to the largest church in my area, in hopes that I might be able to schedule a time to speak and perform for them one Sunday or Wednesday.  The children’s pastor contacted me and asked that I meet with him.  I was hoping and praying for a successful meeting, but I had no idea what God had in store for me!  I was about to find out just WHY GOD had brought mentors Bob Whelan and Dennis Rogers in my life.  It was to prepare me for this very meeting!  You see, the children’s minister was not looking for someone to speak and perform for some random service, he was looking for someone to be the children’s speaker at a four-night / two-day church-wide revival!  

He proceeded to explain to me that I would have to prepare and preach four different sermons, with a unique performance tailored to each sermon, as well as write an anti-bullying program that would need to be presented seven or eight times during a two-day period that same week!  I can only imagine the ridiculous look I must have had on my face!  I had just been asked to do exactly what I had been dreaming of doing for so many years!

To be honest, I knew I (in myself) was not prepared, but I could not pass up an opportunity like this.  These types of events can be life-changing for the attendees, as well as the presenter.  It was a once in a lifetime event and I had to say “YES”.  I said yes to this because:  1) I knew this was an opportunity from God that I could NOT pass up; 2) I WAS prepared as an experienced speaker / preacher; 3) God had brought two men in my life that were ALREADY helping me get ready for this event, Bob Whelan and Dennis Rogers.  Knowing these things, even though I was very surprised and nervous, I KNEW it was going to be a success.

From October 2016 through August 2017, I trained my butt off!  I learned during that season of life that having an end goal in mind will keep you in the weight room and on the treadmill, not to mention on your knees (in prayer), and in the Word (studying the Bible).  After all of those months of preparation, the week had come, and it was showtime!  I ended up performing more than TEN times over a four day period, with little rest between performances.  I also spoke more than TEN times, either preaching from the Bible or giving an anti-bullying program.  We probably ministered to a couple of thousand kids that week.  Make no mistake about it, by the end of that four night period I was tired.  I was tired mentally, physically, AND spiritually!  But, I was not nearly as tired as I SHOULD have been.  You see, I had been preparing for that week for a long time, because of the mentorship of the men God brought into my life.  HE planned ahead for my success, so that those kids would get to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

I can tell you for a fact, had it not been for the hours of proper cardio-vascular training, I would not have been able to display the strength I had forged through the hours of weight training and practicing feats of strength.  I can also tell you that, had I not built up my “wind”, I would have been hard-pressed to properly present the Gospel or the anti-bullying program.  

I was successful because I was obedient to the instruction I was given, and you can too!  Remember, weight lifting is for YOU, cardio-vascular training is for YOU AND your family!

Jeff “TRex” Bankens is available for performances and speaking engagements.  He can be reached via his website or e-mail address listed below.  Feel free to drop him a line, as he loves to communicate with people from all over the world.

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Monday, November 13, 2017

Favorite Exercises - By Jim Duggan

Everybody who lifts weights realizes that there are many exercises from which to choose that will make up an effective training program. Whatever your goal may be- gaining muscular size, building maximum strength, rehabilitating an injury- there is no shortage of movements to help you get there. And, if you train consistently, and progressively, you should be able to make considerable gains in the form increased strength, more muscle, better health, and improved appearance.

One of the wonderful fringe benefits from lifting weights is that it causes you to learn a lot about yourself. Hard work, persistence, consistency, resilience, and an increased level of self-awareness are all admirable traits. And they are all traits that will develop as a result from hoisting the Iron. I think you would be hard-pressed to find someone who has been lifting weights for many years who regrets dedicating so much time and energy to working out. Simply put, lifting weights is an enjoyable, and beneficial, pursuit.

When we begin our journey of lifting, most of us will start with the same exercises, as a general rule. Squats, Bench Presses, Curls, Presses, to name a few. These are the basics. As we gain experience, and make progress, we might add different movements based on our goals. For example, if you wish to become a competitive lifter, you will begin to learn the respective lifts, preferably from a qualified coach/mentor. And as you continue to make progress, you will also gain valuable knowledge and experience. You will discover a lit about the wonderful world of Iron. And about yourself.

As we continue to train, we will invariably learn that there are certain movements that will be of benefit to us, and others that will not. Some exercises may work for other people, but may not work for you. And vice versa. That's why it is vitally important not to blindly follow the routines of others. It is especially foolish to try to attempt the "routines" published in the various muscle magazines ( aka muscle comics.) Learn what works for you, and then do it.

Naturally, there will always be exercises that we just plain enjoy doing. Bodybuilders, for example, always seem to have certain exercises that they swear by, when it comes to gaining mass, or developing definition. Lifters will discover exercises that will help them accrue great overall body strength. This discovery does not occur overnight. It may takes months, or years of experimenting to find out which exercises are most effective for you.

Year's ago, when I began to compete in Powerlifting, I had to develop a routine that was effective, yet compatible with my school/work schedule. I had to focus on the three Lifts, of course, in addition to including various "assistance" work. Like most Powerlifters, I had exercises that I preferred over others. Movements that not only worked for me, but also that I enjoyed doing. What I always found interesting was that all of the lifters at Bruno's Health Club each had their favorite exercises. What was especially interesting was that we practically NEVER agreed on any of them! For instance, my friend and training partner Larry Licandro loved to do Incline Presses with a barbell. He hated regular Bench Presses, but he loved to do Inclines. He often lamented that the Incline Press- and not the Bench Press- should be contested in Powerlifting contests. On the other hand, I never particularly cared for Incline Presses, and never did them during my competition years. I thought they were superfluous when included in a Powerlifting routine.

To make an additional point, Larry had an older brother who dabbled in the sport, but was never a serious lifter. Robert never had an interest in training seriously, but there was one exercise that he absolutely loved to do: The Barbell Pullover. He was able to do heavy weights on this relatively obscure exercise. Robert, a non-lifter who was thirteen years older than Larry, was able to put his younger brother to shame when it came to this one and only exercise. Go figure.

Anyway, at the risk of sounding like a popular former talk-show host, here are some of my favorite exercises. A competitive lifter might label them as "assistance exercises," but I think that they are good enough to stand on their own. You can build a lot of strength by doing just these movements. Anyway, here are a few:

Front Squats. I was never a gifted squatter. I never had natural leverages for doing Back Squats, but I did have the good fortune to train with people who did. I was motivated as well as challenged, to come up with a routine that would allow me to strengthen my lower body which would help add pounds to my competitive Squat. My favorite assistance exercise was the Front Squat. I realize that there are a couple ways of performing this exercise, but my preferred way of doing it was to try to do it the way it is performed by Olympic Lifters. This requires flexible wrists and shoulders. It also requires that you keep your elbows up throughout the movement, otherwise you will lose the bar forward. Yes, it is uncomfortable, especially at first. But if you work on your flexibility, you can make the exercise a bit less taxing on your wrists. I always did Front Squats inside of a Power Rack. I'd set the pins at 36", which would allow me to go slightly parallel. I would pause at the bottom position for one second. This would eliminate bouncing. Then I would try to drive explosively out of the bottom. I would always keep the reps low, usually no more than 5-6 reps and working up to a heavy triple.

Bench Press Lockouts. When it come to the Bench Press, my favorite assistance movement involved the Power Rack. As I mentioned earlier, I was never a big proponent of Incline Presses. I never did them while I competed because I felt that the movement too closely resembles regular Bench Presses. I've always felt that the Bench Press was easy to overtrain. This is especially true for drug-free lifters. Too much Bench Pressing will eventually take a toll on your shoulders.

When it comes to utilizing the Power Rack for Bench Presses, I'd set the pins at a height which was about halfway through the movement. Personally, my weak point was always the lockout. I never had a problem getting the weight off my chest. If I lost a lift, it was during the last several inches to completion. The heavy lockouts were an effective way to improve a weak point, while at the same time overloading my muscles. One thing to note is that I usually scaled back in my regular Benches so as to avoid overtraining.

Good Mornings. When it comes to the Deadlift, I have several favorite exercises that have been effective in strengthening my lower back. I've always felt that since the Deadlift involves so many muscle groups, you can't just stick to one assistance movement. I'll just describe one right now, the Good Morning. Now, before anyone blows a gasket and starts ranting about how dangerous they are, let me explain that I have been doing Good Mornings for years. When I first experimented with the movement, I started slowly. Using moderate weights, and being careful about my form, I did not try to push the poundages until I was sure that I could perform the movement without getting hurt. Good Mornings are not for everyone. If you decide to give them a try, pay close attention and listen to your body. If it doesn't feel right, then discontinue them, and move on to another exercise. What I've always liked about Good Mornings is the fact that they can be used with just about any type of rep scheme. High reps, low reps, and anything in between. I've gone as high as thirty reps, for one all-out set. I've also used heavy weights for sets of 5-6. Again, if you're able to do them, Good Mornings are an excellent exercise.

While I have only listed three exercises here, there, are of course, many other movements that I enjoy doing. That's one good thing about lifting weights for nearly thirty-five years. Years of trial and error will inevitably give anyone a large number of favorite exercises to keep in "your pocket." I'll list more in a future article.

Editor's Note: Great article Jim!

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Friday, October 27, 2017

The Reality of the Fitness World - By Sutinder Mann

I came across an article in which a drug user outlined their experience of training with and without drugs. It got me thinking about the difference between physical culture and the fitness world and I wanted to communicate that to the widest audience and not just those of us who labour under heavy iron. I wanted my prose to get through to those who have not lifted and appreciate our situation. So below is my humble attempt:

A Tale of Two Neighbours.

Joe and Bob live on the ground floor of a High rise apartment building. Both decide to get into shape and come to the conclusion that the most convenient way would be to use the stairs in the building.

Joe would leave his apartment in the morning before work and start climbing the stairs rather quickly, holding the hand rail and once he had a few flights done, puffing and panting, he would take the lift back down to the bottom floor. Having caught his breath he’d return none the worse for wear to his apartment room to take a shower.

Bob would also leave his apartment before work and hit the stairs, but he did not hold the handrail, instead he worked to keep balanced and moved a lot slower to avoid falling. When Bob got as far as he could (which was fewer flights than Joe) he would turn back puffing and panting, and painfully walk again unsupported down the flights to his apartment, for a shower.

Both enjoyed the exercise and did more steps each session. Joe was able to follow his program of stair climbing almost every day but Bob often had to have a few days off to recover from his stair climbing sessions. In time Bob was climbing to a considerable height, however still far behind Joe.

There was a young woman called Jessica who lived on the mid-level apartment floor who also decided to start climbing stairs a few weeks after her ground floor neighbours. One morning as she started on her climb, she met Bob huffing and panting on the way up and they had an exchange.

Jessica: Nice to meet another stair climber. Hi, I’m Jessica.

Bob: Hello….erh…nice to meet you…..mine’s Bob.

Jessica: You near this floor?

Bob: Phew!....No, ground floor.

Jessica: Arhh just like Joe!

Bob: Yeah.

Jessica: Isn’t Joe incredible? I’ve been seeing him on his way up.

Bob: Yeah….I guess….Well I’ve got to go down now.

Jessica: What already?

Bob: Yeah….Bye.

Bob made his painful steps back downstairs. As he reached the ground floor he hears the ping of the lift doors opening and he sees a smiling Joe strolling out.

Joe: Oh hey, Bob.

Bob: Hello Joe. What’s got you so happy?

Joe: I’ve got a date tonight with Jessica upstairs.

Bob: Cute blonde?

Joe: Yeah, have you met her?

Bob: Yeah briefly.

Joe: Bob you look shattered. You know you can use the lift down, it’s much easier.

Bob: No shortcuts for me. I want to do it under my own steam.

Joe: Have it your way.

As they walked back to their rooms Bob shrugged and thought to himself “My way’s the right way”.

Rather left field I guess but let me explain, as I mentioned earlier my inspiration was based upon an article I came across in which a drug user outlined the main difference between natural training and steroid use. The main gist was he could train an intense squat session and feel fine the next day, as if he had not squatted at all, whereas the same session done without drugs destroyed him totally for a few days. Also the drugs gave him an artificial mental focus and drive in the gym. From reading that I virtually lost all respect for steroid users.

Drug users do not suffer for their growth as we do. When we experience the exhilaration of hard training we know the next day or so we will wake up suffering somewhat, being sore and tired but we know that is the price we are willing to pay for physically bettering ourselves. We do not fool ourselves thinking that you can get something for nothing. We do not fear this suffering but embrace it as part of the physical culture lifestyle. We train and suffer like the Bodybuilders of the pre drug era. Their achievements in muscle and strength astonish and inspire us to this day because we know they truly earned it.

As the Bobs of this world we are climbing to achieve more muscle and strength; unlike the Joes we won’t hold the stair rail or take the easy ride to recovery. We are realising our God given potential naturally, and it is truly “the right way”.

Editor's Note: Great article Stind! My ending of this story would continue with Joe catching an STD and quitting training completely in his thirties. Bob continued to train and improve for the rest of his long healthy and happy life.
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Friday, October 20, 2017

A Beginning Powerlifting Program - By Jim Duggan

The title of this article would imply that the routine that follows would only be of use to aspiring Powerlifters. The reality is that just about anyone can benefit from a basic Powerlifting program. Whether you are an aspiring lifter, or an experienced lifter coming back from an extended layoff, or someone who seeks to build size and strength, a program built around the three powerlifts will produce the results you are looking for.

If you plan on entering Powerlifting competitions, you will need to build a solid foundation in order to prepare your body for the physical demands of competitive lifting. The beginning phase is the time to strengthen and develop your muscles, joints, bones, and connective tissues, so that they will be better able to cope with the heavy workload that a Powerlifting routine requires. It is also the time to learn how to perform the three lifts- Squat, Bench Press, Deadlift- properly. Correct form is something that must be learned and repeated constantly. Whether you're a beginner, or an advanced lifter, you should continuously use proper form all the time. And it is much easier to correct flaws in your form in the early phases of your lifting career, while habits are being formed. Sometimes this requires a training partner to watch and critique you while you lift. You do not want to fall into the habit of not squatting deep enough, or not pausing your bench presses. Needless to say, I think it would be foolish to practice sloppy form in training in the misguided hope that you will be able to correct yourself at a contest. Always train the way you compete and you can avoid the embarrassment of bombing out.

The first point to consider when beginning a Powerlifting program is the number of days per week to train. I think a good rule of thumb should be two or three days per week. Some people might be better off doing only two workouts per week, while others can handle a heavier workload. If you handle three workouts per week, and you can adequately recover between workouts, then by all means train three days per week. Nobody knows you better than yourself. But be honest. And, if course, your work/school/family commitments will influence how much time you can devote to your training.

When it comes to poundage selection, as a beginner, you want to use a weight that will allow you to complete each movement in good form. That means no cheating. You may heed a coupkenof workouts before you're able to determine the correct poundages to use. Again, be honest with yourself. If you find yourself cheating to complete the required number of reps, then lower the weight. Once you're using the correct poundages, your next goal will be to train progressively. Pondage progression. The two magic words for any strength athlete. However, before you add weight, you should strive to add repetitions. Adding one or two reps to your training poundages each workout will allow you to add weight during subsequent workouts. For example, if your program calls for you to do 3 sets of 6 reps in the Deadlift, you should try to do 3 sets of 7 reps in the following workout, then 3 sets of 8 reps in the workout after that. Once you can complete 3 sets of 8 in good form, then it is time to add weight, lower the reps and start over again.

One point to remember is to not try to do too much. Too many exercises, for too many sets, without allowing your body time to recover, will lead to staleness, burn out, or injury. None which is desirable.

The routine is as follows:

1) Squats 3x8

2) Bench Press 3x8

3) Deadlift 3x6

4) Military Press 3x8

5) Bent-over Barbell Row 3x8

6) Dips 3x8

7) Barbell Curl 3x8

At the end of the workout, you can do one or two sets of Sit-ups. You're not looking for washboard abs, but rather, you want to strengthen your abdominals which will aid in your Squat and Deadlift.

Another point to remember is to try not to get into the habit of depending on wearing a lifting belt. Anyone who trains in a commercial gym will attest to the fact that just about everybody wears a lifting belt for just about anything and everything. My advice would be to not wear one. It might take a while to become comfortable going "beltless," but you will develop greater strength in your midsection, as well as your lower back, which will translate into increased poundages in your Squat and Deadlift. And then when you use it in a contest, you will get an additional "boost," which will only help your total.

Some additional points:

When Deadlifting, try to use the conventional stance. I realize that many people use the "Sumo" style, but I've always felt that the conventional Deadlift is the truest form of Deadlifting. Call me a purist, but it's just something that I've always believed. And while it may take a while to get comfortable in your grip and stance, just be patient. Don't try to rush things.

When Bench Pressing, try to do all your reps with a pause. At a contest, you will be required to pause the bar at the chest. It makes absolutely no sense to not train the same way. Even if it means having to use less weight.

I would like to say a few words about spotters. When you are Squatting, or Bench Pressing, it is a good idea to utilize spotters. If there are no spotters available, then you should lift in a Power Rack with the pins set so that they will catch the bar in the event you can't complete a rep. In lifting, as in life, it is better to be safe than sorry. Always practice safe lifting habits!

Dips are an exercise that I've always liked doing. They are far superior to pushdowns, triceps extensions, French presses and the like. However you can substitute close grip Bench Presses if you prefer, and see which works best for you.

You can use this routine for as long as you want, but if you plan on competing, you will need to do more assistance exercises for each lift. This means that you'll have to be more judicious in how you set up your training schedule. As Drug-free athletes, we have to be more conscious of our ability to recuperate. Sometimes it boils down to training smarter not harder.   
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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Looking for an old York Giant Krusher and a York Horse-shoe Exerciser

Hey Bob how are you doing? It’s Jeff Gretz. I'm looking for an old York Krusher and a York Iron Horse-Shoe exerciser both with springs. I am looking to pay top price for any of the spring type exercisers. Please let me know if you know anyone that wants to sell or trade.


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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Working Out When You're On Vacation - By Jim Duggan

One of the biggest challenges about going away on vacation, for those of us who love to train, is the issue of working out. Do I attempt to train? Or do I take a "true vacation" and not work out for the duration of the time away? For many people, the prospect of missing just one workout is almost too much to bear. This seems to be especially true of runners and other distance athletes. Maybe it has something to do with the "runner's high" that has been widely commented on through the years. While I have no doubt that such a feeling exists, what about those of us who lift? Why hasn't anyone spoken of the feeling of accomplishment after completing a rigorous strength workout? For many runners and joggers, there is this fear that life as we know it will come to a screeching halt if they miss just one running session.

Fortunately, for those of us who lift, the prospect of skipping a workout, as unpleasant as it may seem, does not signify the beginning of the end of the world. "Tomorrow is another day." That is one of the great things about strength training. While runners may hate themselves for missing a trading session, lifters generally have a more forgiving nature. There is no need to beat yourself for missing a workout. In fact, there are times when it may be advantageous to take an extra day of rest. Or two. Lingering soreness, excessive fatigue, mental burn out are all valid reasons to take some time off from your workouts.

Please note that I'm not talking about "blowing off" a workout because of plain, old laziness. Sometimes, you just have to simply get up and do it. Regardless of what life throws at you. On the other hand, if you have been making steady progress, and your training is going great, one of the most difficult things to do is to take some needed time off in order to prevent overtraining.

If you are going away- whether it be for business or pleasure- there are a number of options available if you wish to stick with your workouts. For one thing, many hotels have an exercise room or fitness facility. Notice I did not use the word "Gym." Most persons who are serious about strength training would be hard-pressed to get a decent, heavy workout in a hotel exercise room. Most of these facilities, are equipped with one or two treadmills, an exercise bike, dumbbells up to around 30-40 Lbs., and maybe a cable crossover or lat machine combo. You certainly would NOT expect to find a York Power Bar, 100 Lb. plates, or Power Rack ( although, if anybody reading this has ever actually found these things inside a hotel, please let me know where it is!)

So, here you are. Away from home ( and the gym.) And you want a challenging workout. If you are in a large city, you can always search for a local gym. There are still places that will charge a daily fee. While you might feel out if place in a strange gym, a good lifting environment will make you feel right at home. After all, a good Power Bar is like an old friend! But what if you're not in a major city, and there is no local gym nearby? There are ways to overcome this dilemma.

One of my all-time favorite places to visit is Montauk, NY. It is located at the very end of Long Island's South Fork. It's known for beautiful beaches, incredible fishing, and scenic hotels. It's just a great place to visit, especially during the Summer months. This year, we visited during the first week in September. For the second year in a row, we stayed at the Ocean Resort Inn, a lovely motel just steps away from the Ocean. There are many interesting things to do, but one thing that I was determined to do was to get in a workout. To accomplish this, I would need to bring along my own equipment. As well as some imagination.

Among the luggage that I packed were two 50 Lb. Center Mass Bells ( CMBs). They are made by Sorinex. They come in sizes up to 100 Lbs., and I'm happy to say that I have every size above 50 Lbs.. They are sort of a cross between a Dumbbell and a Kettlebell. Like everything else made by Sorinex, they are super-strong, and extremely useful. I've had them since they first came out, and I think that they are an awesome strength-training tool. I've always been a strong believer in heavy Dumbbell training. However, I've never been a big fan of using Kettlebells. I just never got caught up in the whole fad when it was popular about ten years ago. However, I really like using the CMBs. They can be used for Presses, Curls, Swings, Farmer's Walk. Just about anything you can do with Dumbbells, you can do with the CMBs, and they can easily be incorporated into any strength-training program.

Anyway, after lugging my CMBs up to our room, I planned my workout for the next morning. I decided to use the CMBs as part of a "Deck of Cards" workout. I've written about these workouts before ( September 2016) and am a firm believer in their effectiveness. The workout that I planned would be as follows:

Diamonds= CMB Clean and Press

Hearts= CMB Alternate Curl

Spades= Leg Raises

Clubs= Side Bends w/ CMB

While this is not exactly a pure strength building workout, it combined elements of strength training along with the cardio effect of trying to complete the workout in as short a time as possible. Going from movement to movement, with no rest, is a challenge. About halfway through, I had to catch my breath for about one minute. I had done four consecutive Hearts for a total of over thirty curls, and I had to try to get some blood flowing again! Other than that, I had a surprisingly good workout. What made it even more challenging was trying to be extra careful and to let the CMBs down as gently as possible. I didn't want the guests in the room below to complain to the management!

This quick, simple workout routine provided me with an effective workout. And, like most satisfying workouts, it was a great way to start the day. And while I wouldn't necessarily recommend traveling with DBs or CMBs, on the other hand, it's a helluva lot more convenient than strapping a Power Bar to the roof of a car!

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Friday, September 1, 2017

Health, Strength and Longevity - By Sutinder Mann

When I look at modern bodybuilding today I ask myself  Where is the love?

Nowadays you have champion bodybuilders who have compromised their health to such an extent they can no longer train either due to internal damage to their organs or damaged skeletal structure due to the unnatural weights their drug engorged muscles could hoist. It should be called bodybreaking rather than bodybuilding. On steroids they grow quickly and burnout and are unable to face the iron again. There is no love of training; simply a short lived quest for personal glory.

I have always been fascinated with Strength and Muscles and their acquisition. I read the typical Muscle & Fiction magazines but I particularly favoured Ironman which at the time was past the Peary Rader era but still had echoes of it’s glorious past. In these I first saw adverts for Brawn, and that led to me pursing real training for natural trainees. As the internet became readily available at home I would pursue Hard Training and HIT training information on the and Cyberpump! websites.

As a young inexperienced trainee, I would, in my enthusiasm, tend to get carried away with beyond failure methods and train far too frequently. Looking back, I know I overworked and should not have overloaded the bar once I had hit my rep target.

These days I have reduced my workouts to once or twice a week and cleaned up my form, obtained smaller plates for micro loading and warm up much more than before. I do full body workouts and the best exercises to get the most ‘bang for my buck’, so a steady diet of Squats, Bench Presses, SLDL etc. I tend to use a mix of single progression and double progression, only increasing the weight once I have met the rep target on all the sets and that is where patience is both a virtue and a necessity.

While enjoying the training movements I know what I’m working towards. When you hit that rep target that you struggled with for a few weeks, you are a winner. I know that at any time I’m stronger and better than I would be without the training. I compete with myself and that brings to mind an old Hindu proverb which says:

“True nobility is being better than your previous self.”

Now if you want to continue training then health must take priority, you must look after your internal organs and joints. This is where modern bodybuilding differs from the real golden age where men were building rock solid internal health while strengthening their supporting structures through intelligent progressive weight training.

Another benefit which has grown more and more important is the natural high you experience after a workout. I love that feeling of elation, calmness and clarity: it’s amazing and a God given gift for working hard. God willing, I want to continue to experience that feeling as I get into my fifties, sixties, seventies - my whole life. This is the love of training I’m talking about. If you love training then train naturally for Health, Strength and Longevity.

“The trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.”


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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Reader Wants an Issue of Strength & Health

Good Evening Bob,

My name is Will I am trying to find a copy of this magazine:

Strength and Health 1981 September Vol 49, Num 5. 

My mother is on that cover and I would like to get it for her as a gift? If you have any available I would like to purchase it.

Thank you

Will Doxtader
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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Never Miss an Update

Submit your email to our mailing list. (Look near top right corner of site.) You will get new post updates only. No daily spam. 
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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Question from a Reader: "... Where to purchase Anvils and a resource for instructions?"

Hello Bob,

I am writing in reference to the article:

A Birthday Celebration With Anvils And Granite ... By Jim Duggan.

Do you have a recommendation on where to purchase anvils and a resource for instructions?

Thank you in advance.


Please send responses directly to Alex at:

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Monday, August 14, 2017

A Birthday Celebration With Anvils And Granite - By Jim Duggan

There are many benefits to lifting weights. Too many to list here, but, one of the best things about strength training is that there is always a way to challenge yourself. Whether it's poundage progression, timed sets, ultra-high reps, or a new workout routine, you can always find a way to make your training both interesting and challenging. Getting older presents its own form of a challenge. Hoisting the Iron as we get older is not for the faint of heart. A famous weightlifter once said that it takes a very brave man to lift heavy weights. I would double-down on that statement by saying that it takes a brave man to lift heavy weights as he gets older.

There are many great examples of strength athletes who have defied the odds, and continued to train at a high level of intensity at an age when many people would be content to engage in nothing more strenuous than golf. Al Oerter, Bruno Sammartino, Norbert Schemansky, Jack LaLanne, and, of course, John Grimek are just some examples of legendary athletes who have inspired countless trainees over the years, myself included. It is because if my admiration for the legends of the Iron Game, and also my appreciation for the spirit of old-school Physical Culture, that I have tried to complete a "Birthday Challenge" every year for the last twelve years or so.

The actual challenge has usually consisted of selecting one or more movements and perform as many reps as possible over a set period of time. Over the years I've flipped heavy Strongman tires done high-rep Deadlifts, walked long distances with a Weighted Vest, and done various Atlas Stone workouts. This year, I decided to incorporate the use of heavy Anvils into my workout. And, since this was my 53rd birthday, the number 53 would play a big part in this year's challenge.

The actual workout was as follows:

1) 180 Lb. Atlas Stone Lift ( from ground to shoulder.)

2) 153 Lb. Anvil Press

3) 135 Lb. Anvil Lift w/ Headstrap

4) 100 Lb. Anvil Curl

5) York Krusher

Each movement was to be done for a total of 53 repetitions.

Lifting Stones has become a staple of my birthday challenges. There is just something about lifting a granite stone from the ground, and then shouldering it. The rough granite tears the skin on my forearms, and leaves my shoulder bruised, and my body fatigued, but there is a feeling of satisfaction after completing a demanding workout. Normally, I try to lift stones every 10-14 days. Of course the weather plays a role in when I can train, but the warmer weather always brings about more frequent stone workouts. And the numerous holes/craters in my backyard will attest to the fact that Summer and Stones go hand in hand!

When it comes to pressing Anvils overhead, I am still something of a newcomer to the game. In fact, I never did Anvil Presses until recently. During the last week of June, I had the pleasure of training with Steve Weiner. Steve is a professional Strongman, a Certified Captain of Crush and a very powerful man. He's also true gentleman, and was kind enough to invite me to train at his home. After doing several sets of heavy Deadlifts, he had us doing Anvil Presses with his anvil. Even though it was my first attempt at lifting anvils overhead, I was instantly hooked. Lifting heavy anvils overhead has now become something of a challenge for me. My immediate goal is to clean and press my 185 anvil. So far my best is 167 Lbs. for five reps.

I've had my Ironmind Headstrap since the early 90s. The importance of neck work has been widely commented on by many strength coaches over the years. I've always believed in training the neck with as much enthusiasm as one would train any other body part. And while there are many quality neck training machines on the market, I still think that utilizing a quality Headstrap is the easiest, and most effective way to strengthen and develop the muscles of the neck. My 135 Lb. Anvil was a the perfect size to challenge myself and at the same time maintain strict form. Cheating, sloppy form, or jerky movements when performing neck work is an invitation to injury.

The 100 Lb. Anvil Curl is an "oldie but a goodie" for me. I have never liked doing regular curls. Whether it was barbells, or dumbbells, curling has never been an exercise that has held much interest for me. However, for some reason, doing Anvil curls makes the movement at least a little interesting. The final movement of my challenge, the York Krusher, was done as an homage to the spirit of York Barbell. How many older lifters have been inspired by Strength and Health, and Muscular Development? How many trainees got their start with York weights? I just thought that my vintage York Krusher would be a great, and unique, addition to the workout.

Thursday July 20 was a hot, humid day. I knew that I would have to be adequately hydrated both before-and during- the workout. The workout itself was simple. I would do the movements in two groups. The first group was Stone, Anvil Press, and Headstrap. I did the exercises for 5-6 reps at a time. For example, I'd lift the stone for six reps, then proceed to the Anvil Press, then do the Headstrap. I would then rest for a minute and then repeat the cycle until I hit 53 reps in each movement. The hardest part was the stones. Because of the stone rolling after each rep, and the need to get proper footing for each rep, it took longer to complete a set with stones than with the other exercises. But the reps themselves went smoothly. For all the movements. It wasn't until I hit the upper thirties that I began to feel fatigued. And, of course, the hoy weather required that I change my shirt about halfway through. After I completed 53 reps in the first three movements, it was on to the last two: Anvil Curl, and York Krusher. The curls, after the Stones and Presses, were brutal. I did the same rep scheme as the first cycle. Sets of 6-8 curls, immediately followed by the Krusher. The Curls became especiallydifficult once I hit 30 reps. I really had to fight through the last 20 reps or so. The Krusher actually felt easy after struggling with the curls. But, after a lot of work, sweat, and fatigue, I was able to complete the workout that I set out to do.

Following the workout, I felt as though I had been hit by a truck. I was (barely) able to text Steve Weiner to tell him that I was finished ( in more ways than one!) Each year, there seems to be a point during my challenge when I ask myself if it's all worth it. And, every year, at the conclusion of the workout, I answer with a resounding: "Yes! It certainly was!"

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

A good letter from Sutinder Mann

Real World Fitness?

As I lifted the corner of the beast and pushed the immense metal frame forward with considerable might; I was thanking God that I lifted. If I were weak, I could not have accomplished this feat. It was more than being strong but an awareness of bodily power and being in harmony with my muscles which told me how much I could load them with.

It brought to mind the sage words of George Hackenschmidt

“The knowledge of one's strength entails a real mastery over oneself; it breeds energy and courage, helps one over the most difficult tasks of life, and procures contentment and true enjoyment of living.” George Hackenschmidt

Let me tell you why I’m having to lift an orthopaedic bed. For those of you unfamiliar with such a bed, it boasts a heavy metal frame with several motors set along its structure. We were having a new carpet fitted by two strong fitters, twice the size of me, who move furniture for a living. When they came to my father’s bedroom and adjoining shower room they hit upon a problem. The bedroom is small and with the bed taking about half the space in it, they could not lay and fit the carpet.

Normally they would be willing and able to shift furniture but when confronted by an expensive contraption of metal, which if broken would leave them liable, they understandably declined. So we were stuck. I needed the room carpeting and rather than arguing I knew it fell upon me to deal with the bed.

I first attempted to disassemble it, however the screws were so worn that the bolts would not come out despite using an electric screwdriver. The only other solution was brute force manipulation of the bed into the shower room. I managed to deadlift it over onto its side and lifted the corner of the hulking bed and pushed the immense metal frame forward with the other end having a carpet piece to protect the wet room floor. After some heavy pulling and pushing I was triumphant. In the end, the room was carpeted and I managed to get the bed back in place.

I know a number of contributors to Natural Strength talk about odd object lifting but this is the first time I had tried a facsimile of it and the following day I felt like I had been hit by a truck! I was hurting in a very different way from my regular workouts and appreciate how difficult it can be.

This brings me back the title of the Article “Real World Fitness?” I regularly see a Chiropractor who is very knowledgeable and has helped me immensely. I started to see him because of Stuart McRobert’s advice in Beyond Brawn and he noticed I train and has described me as stocky (which is a testament to the power of iron as I was a scarecrow when I started lifting weights.) We were talking about exercise and he was encouraging me to do more cardiovascular work as I neglect such training especially when busy with work. He said heavy weight training in a sense is not for real world fitness because generally for most people, including myself, you are not lifting heavy objects these days but cardio fitness will impact more every day. He is right but I’ll rather have might and muscle and not need it than not have might and muscle and need it. There may not be many everyday occasions in which you would need might and muscle but don’t be found wanting. Gain mastery over your body and gain contentment and true enjoyment of living as, Hackenschmidt urges.

Sutinder Mann
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Monday, July 31, 2017

Listen To Brad Steiner Talk about Self Defense

If you are interested, I am going to be a guest on Coast to Coast Radio again this coming Wednesday (August 2) at 10 pm (to 12 midnight). You might wish to mention this to anyone you know who is interested in self-defense.

If you are interested but cannot listen to the live broadcast, then you will be able to listen to a recording of the Show on


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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Cardio Thoughts - By Christian Tackett

For 18 years of my training career, l have been told that cardio was bad for me.  I have heard it all from "Cardio will destroy your recovery ability" to "You won't be able to recover effectively enough for your workouts" to "There is no evidence that cardio will improve your performance" to "There is no evidence that shows that the heart can be strengthened."  Yes, l believed these and more, and falsely believed that l was doing my body a service by keeping from it.  That is, until reality showed it's face to me after years of stress and on-again-off-again smoking.  

Let's fast-forward two months to the present day where Level 8 (hard interval style) on the elliptical, three times a week, 30 minutes each session is the rule.  To vary things up, and since yesterday was a beautiful day and needed some fresh air, l decided to do sprints--as in, sprint the length of a football field and walk back, ten times.  The first six times, l was breathing very hard; from 7-10 times, l was going on all mental strength and positive self-talk, but my son thought l was probably trying out for the Special Olympics.  After l finished, 20 minutes later, l headed home to continue the day and what it demanded of me.

To Maximum Bob:  Thank you, sir.  You've changed my thinking to my betterment.  I have easily trimmed off an inch or two on my waist measurement and my health--my body, my mind, and my spirit--has improved dramatically.  To the anti-cardio folks out there, l say this:  The lazy man's way to a physique may be out there, but cardiovascular stamina is important for good health and will enable you to improve mentally, physically, and emotionally.  Properly applied hard interval style cardiovascular training that is totally different from training for a marathon can all but help your training and your overall quality of life, so what do you have to lose?  Nothing.  However, if you, dear reader, do not build the whole person--inside and out--you will miss out on your cardiovascular health and its benefits that will all but help you.

EDITORS NOTE:  Some great information Christian. I completely agree. Interval style cardio is good for you and not at all like marathon training. Doing stairmaster, (or your choice of activity), 3 times a week for 30 minutes on hard interval setting will not hurt your strength and will get you in a lot better condition. *(Most machines have a built in warm up and cool down so a 30 minute hard interval workout is really just 20 minutes of actual training time.)
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Thursday, July 27, 2017

The True Masters of Natural Training - By Sutinder Mann

Truth has a power all of its own, you may try to cover it up with lies or ignore it but it remains the truth. In the training world a sincere physical culturist has an internal compass which points to the truth but as fallible beings we get lured by flashy claims. When I first read Stuart McRobert and Bob Whelan, I knew they were the real deal and ordered their books, which now serve as references on my bedside table.

About five years ago, the summer before I started back at work, I had happened upon a thread which discussed John Christy’s training methodologies and I was captivated by the ideas he expressed and they complimented the aforementioned authors. Another thing about truth is that it keeps popping up.

I was captivated by the ideas Coach Christy expressed they fitted my experience as an old school home garage trainee using free weights. It was as if I was illuminating a room I had always lived in but for the first time I saw it clearly and understood the the whys and wherefores of strength training.

For instance the idea of sticking with an effective program long term to master the exercises to ensure consistent performance and progression through his concept of ‘beating failure’. I had to have his book; I went to his website and was saddened by a lovingly put together video tribute to John Christy. I did not know ….. I did further research and on there was a fine tribute from Bob Whelan.

I returned to John’s RealStrengthRealMuscle website and ordered his book. It would take several weeks to arrive because it would need shipping from America to England.

Work became tumultuous due to restructuring of the organization and it became a fight for survival. John’s book arrived I could not put it down and I started to incorporate many of John’s ideas.

Despite working harder than I have ever done in my career I made great progress in my gym. Being patient and believing in his program I actually beat the hard gainer target of 300 x10 by getting (150kg) 330X10 reps for 2 sets in the parallel squat. Which was massive for me as the other targets outlined in Brawn Page 35 are still a long way off but I’m working towards them. Unfortunately I broke John’s rules by getting too greedy, buoyed by my success and not listening to my body which resulted in an injury but that’s another story and entirely my fault. Even in my predicament John had advice which helped.

“If you are a warrior, you’re going to get battle wounds -whether it is an injury or sickness. Just be smart, get healed and get back into the fight!" ... Excerpt from John Christy’s Real Strength Real Muscle Book P79

John Christy was master of natural training but also on how to approach life. He stressed hard work and guts both in dealing with training and also life in general. The tough minded approach helped me with one of the most difficult years of my career and his book cuts out the crap which is prevalent in training. I know I could not have made the progress I have made without his wisdom and the complimentary ideas of Stuart McRobert and Bob Whelan.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Strongman Priest - By R.J. Hicks, BS Exercise Science, CSCS

RJ Hicks is an active duty officer in the US Air Force and a Graduate Student in Exercise Science.

Who was the first college strength coach? Many believe it was Boyd Epley, at Nebraska, but few have heard of the man who formed the position, without knowing it, decades before people commonly accepted weight training. Father Bernard Lange was a man of character who ruled his weight room without opposition from 1935 into the late 1960s. A man of tremendous strength and love for his university, Father Lange dedicated his life's work to the people of Notre Dame.

In 1923, as noted in the magazine Strength and Health , Father Lange, was recognized as one of the strongest men in the world. He measured at 5 feet and 8 inches, weighing 260 pounds, with a 50 inch chest backed by 19 inch arms, Father Lange was truly an old-time strongman. His feats of strength include 11 repetitions on the bench press with 403 pounds. He regularly did military presses with dumbbells weighing over 100 pounds and deadlifted over 500 for repetitions with ease witnessed by "his boys,” the students of Notre Dame who trained under him. At the age of 60 he recorded a 600 pound deadlift and was successful in tearing a deck of cards in each hand with just his thumb and index fingers. He was a beast!

On the front door to his personal makeshift gym the sign read “private keep out". Barbells, dumbbells, benches and lifting platforms filled the room, all of which were painted bright colors. Mirrors, anatomy charts and clippings from weight lifting magazines covered the room wall to wall. Father Lange was solely in charge of the upkeep of the gym and the personal designer for many of the weight lifting apparatuses. He had complete control over who he let in and all of the rules by which the gym was governed. The gym was a fraternity for hardcore lifters only. New lifters had to rely on the veterans to learn the ways of Father Lange's gym and had to do so quickly. It was a privilege to train under Father Lange and an education in life.

Father Lange believed in a self disciplined lifestyle. He was known for being a real tough guy with a serious temperament, but a heart of gold. He believed weight training was a vital component to an athlete’s success, at a time when many fought against weight training. Through physical fitness, Father Lange imposed the development of character to "his boys." He believed in heavy weight training and cared more about heart and effort than the lifting records won. His gym was a place to teach life lessons. Father Lange saw the importance of success outside of the weight room and wanted more than anything for "his boys" to become winners in life. His relationship with the boys of Notre Dame was one of loyalty and tough love. Those who survived his tough reign and adhered to his rules strived to earn his respect and admiration. He was a true hero in their eyes.

Throughout his time at Notre Dame, Father Lange was able to make many contributions to the university. Within the weight room, he was able to coach over 6,000 students. Some of which were sent through the athletic departments, while others courageously entered at their own will. In addition, Father Lange coached the intercollegiate weightlifting team for six years, winning the championship in 1953. Outside the gym Father Lange was a charitable man, he ran free swimming lessons to the children of Notre Dame employees and to the children of the less privileged local neighborhoods. He would visit the immigrant land keepers, remembering where he was from, leaving them with a handful of coins or a beer as recognition, and built altars for many of the churches around campus. Father Lange was a protector and mentor to many of the people at Notre Dame.

Unknown by many, Father Lange's legend is carried amongst many of the boys at Notre Dame. Father Lange was probably the first true college strength coach in history, long before the position was even created and recognized. Many lessons can be taken away from his teaching, none-more than the opportunity coaches have to positively impact the lives of their students through hard work and discipline. Legendary strongman priest, coach and non-conformist, Father Lange was a beloved icon to many at the university of Notre Dame.


Gill, Paul G. "The Strength of His Convictions." Notre Dame News Spring 1987: n pag. Print.

Mahoney, R.J. "Notre Dame: A Salute To Father Lange And The Weight Training Program At Notre Dame University." Strength and Health Oct. 1967: n. pag. Print

Editors Note: Great article RJ. Father Lange is one of my favorites. My book SUPER NATURAL STRENGTH is dedicated to him.
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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Practice Makes Perfect - By Jeff "T-Rex" Bankens

This article is a follow up to the recent video posted on this website showing "yours truly" bursting a hot water bottle.

Bursting hot water bottles is a feat that has been performed by old time strongmen for decades. I have been performing this feat myself for nearly 10 years. I really like adding it to a performance because it is exciting to for the audience to watch, and really builds the tension in the room leading up to a grand explosion of rubber and hot air!

While bursting a hot water bottle is, no doubt a very exciting feat to perform, it is very taxing on the entire body. Performing this feat can tax your chest, biceps, abdominals, neck, and cardio vascular system. It can also wreak havoc on your tongue, which makes it difficult to speak shortly after performing this feat. The degree to which it taxes you depends on several factors, including: the type of Hot Water Bottle being used (some are tougher than others), the cardiovascular fitness level of the individual performing the feat, and what feats have been performed prior in your performance.

I was reminded of the importance of taking your own advice about 2 months back. I was performing at the annual employee crawfish boil for the company I work for. I have been performing here annually for at least 7 years. In preparing for my performance, I only took one of the listed factors into consideration: my cardiovascular fitness level was pretty high, as I have implemented some big changes in the last 1-1/2 years. That being said, I did not seriously consider the the feats I had performed prior to bursting the hot water bottle (I was tired and winded by the time I got to the hot water bottle). I also overestimated my ability to burst the new bottles I recently acquired (They are 2 - 3 times harder to burst than my normal bottles). Up to that point I had only practiced bursting them when my body and mind were "fresh".

I wish I could say my years of experience allowed me to skate through that feat and complete it with seeming ease, but I would be lying to you. I was able to get about 30 breaths of air into the bottle, and then it began to overcome me. In general, my body and mind were tired, and more specifically my cardiovascular system were taxed by the time I got that much air into it. I could literally hear and feel the air escaping as I tried in vain to "hold my breath" in the bottle. The struggle became too much, and I let the air escape, put the bottle back up to my lips, and started over. You see, the first time went so well that I decided to give it another shot. Once again, I was severely disappointed. I admitted defeat, moved on and completed the performance.

That failed performance taught me something valuable, again! It taught me that practice makes perfect! No matter how good you think you are, you should never skip out on practice! I was overconfident in my abilities and it cost me a failed performance. Thankfully the crowd was forgiving and enjoyed the rest of the performance.

So, what are the takeaways from this failed feat of strength?

Do not take yourself so seriously that you cannot mess up in front of people. Learn to laugh it off and move on.

Planning is key. Lay out your performance (or workout routine) in such a way that you are able to complete all of the required feats (or exercises). Practice, practice, practice. You do not become an expert at something without hours and hours of repetitive practice.

Should you have any questions regarding this article, public speaking, or performing feats of strength, please do not hesitate to contact me at
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Bursting a thick Hot Water Bottle "How to's" & necessary practice - By Jeff "T-Rex" Bankens

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Starting Over and Getting Strong(er) All Over Again - By Jeff "T-Rex" Bankens

It has been a while since I have written an article for Bob, and I can honestly say that, as of the writing of this article, I am in one of the strongest places I have ever been in my life. This is, in large part, thanks to a couple of guys that have invested time in me as a person and as a lifter. One of them, of course, is "Maximum" Bob Whelan.

I have talked about this in other articles, but I believe it is worth mentioning again. About a year and a half ago, Bob gave me the gift of strength all over again. What I mean, is that he helped me take a step back, analyze my current training system, and see that it had some major holes.

The toughest thing (at first), was knowing that I had to "start over". The reason was that I had to take a lot of the "fluff" & "fads" out of my programming , and then transitioned to 2 full body workouts plus 2 (or 3) cardio days, per week. It is nothing fancy, just hard, heavy, & consistent lifting using the basics. I have a very simple home gym setup. My workouts are performed with barbells, dumbbells, a trap bar, a treadmill, and a few other useful tools. The transition back to "the basics" was quite a change, and took a break-in period. While this was a tough pill to swallow, it literally changed my life.

The other changes I speak of occurred shortly after I implemented the changes Bob helped me make. First, I was given the opportunity to train one on one with the best living old time strongman in the world. Next, I was given the chance to prepare for a four night children's revival at a local church, coming up later this year.

You see, I have the privilege of being a lifter, an old time strongman, and a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

With all of these changes and opportunities happening, I became (and still am) pressed for spare time. Beside ministering, performing, and lifting (all three are "hobbies"), I have a full-time job, a wife, and a three year old "big boy" named Isaac.

With all of this going on in my life, I have learned of the importance of three things:

Setting Attainable Goals will help keep you focused. These days I am working on making my body as strong and healthy as possible for the long haul while also becoming more proficient at the feats of strength I perform. I also have to have time to pray, write sermons, and put together a different program of feats for each night of the revival. None of this could ever come together without properly set, attainable goals.

Getting connected with the right mentors in life will help you attain the goals you set. If not for Bob and the other gentleman I spoke of earlier, there would be no Jeff "TRex" Bankens at this time. Because of their generous investments in me, I will get to carry on their legacies. This means that their investment in me will (God willing) bear fruit. I now get to invest what I have learned in others, including my own son. I would like to point out that mentors have been instrumental in every area of my life. In business, health, relationships, etc. Surrounding yourself with the right people is one of the best investments you can make. 

Decide today that you will never give in and quit. Life is but a vapor, it goes by fast. Do not waste it. Once you have found an attainable goal (or goals) that drive you, and you have been surrounded by the right people to help you attain these goals, decide here and now, that you will see these goals to completion.

Am I saying that if you follow these three principles you will become happy, healthy, wealthy, and wise? Or, that you will become anything that you think about, no matter what? No, not at all. I am simply saying that you will become a success, and your life will not have been lived in vain.

In just the short time I have implemented these principals into my life, I have achieved some lifting goals that used to only be dreams of mine:

1 set of 20 reps in the trap bar deadlift with 300 lbs. prior to this, I had not lifted 300 lbs. for more than 5-10 reps in any lift. This was a big boost to me mentally. My next goal is to achieve 2 sets of 10 with 400 lbs. Once this is done, I will set my sights on 1 set of 20 reps with the same weight.

A 134 lbs. Bent press with an oversized circus dumbbell. I did not even start training this lift until November of 2016. My goal is to be lifting around 150 lbs. before the children's revival later this year.

These are but two of the many goals I have been able to achieve since implementing these principles in my life. I know there are more things coming down the road, and once again, I am excited to see what lies ahead of me in my lifting career.

In conclusion, I would like to say that (up to this point), I have not ever been as sure of a training system and the direction my life is heading, as I am now. It is because God blessed me with the opportunity to implement three things in my life: 1- I set attainable goals for my life, 2- I was able to be surrounded with the right people that helped me attain those goals, and 3- I decided that I would not quit until those goals were achieved. I have also learned that once those goals are achieved, I will have to set new goals, attain them, and pass on what I have learned to others. Doing this over and over throughout your lifetime will allow you to leave a legacy that you would never be able to build on your own. You will truly be a success, in the gym, in your life and family, and (most importantly), in eternity.

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