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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Monday, June 12, 2017

Getting Back To Basics - By Jim Duggan

      Every lifter and strength athlete began their training journey doing similar exercises. Regardless of how old you were when you first wrapped your hands around a barbell, we all began with simple movements. The basics. Presses, Squats, Curls, Bench Presses. Perhaps, if you were fortunate enough to have been exposed to the proper training information and guidance, you also learned to do Deadlifts.  But, even without Deadlifts, a beginner can make tremendous gains in strength and size by sticking to the basic, multi-joint movements. No need for isolation movements ( lateral raises, concentration curls, pushdowns) because hard, heavy work on the basics was all that was needed to become bigger and stronger. And as long as the gains continued, then all was right with the world. Until, however, the lifters hit the inevitable plateau.
     Every person who has ever lifted weights has hit a sticking point in their training. That time when the gains slowed, and eventually stopped. Overtraining,  or simply the fact that the body has simply adapted to whatever stresses you have imposed on it, is the bane of all strength athletes. And while there are many solutions to this condition, ranging from a simple tweaking of your workout routine to taking a break from training, most lifters make the mistake of completely overhauling their entire strength training program. Abandoning the movements that have been the staples of their routines, and replacing them with inferior exercises. Or simply not doing any heavy exercises at all. Sometimes they will revert to a program consisting solely of bodyweight exercises. Maybe they will do a bodybuilding program of "pumping movements." In any event,  their strength will wane, their size will decrease, and their motivation could very well disappear for good.
     The absolute best thing to do at this point is to reevaluate your training, your goals, and the plan by which you will achieve your goals.  And while your goals might not have changed, time and other necessities might have caused you to make changed to your lifting routine that is causing you to fall off track insofar as it relates to achieving your goals. The solution to your lack of progress might very well be to return to the movements that have worked in the past. Exercises that have helped countless people get bigger and stronger over the years. I will offer my own training as an example.
     Over the last several years, I have avoided training in commercial gyms, for the most part. I rationalized this decision by noting that most gyms are woefully lacking in quality equipment. Shoddy bars, old free weights, lack of quality machines, plus the ever present crowd of pampers and toners made the gym experience something that I wanted to avoid. And while I was able to train effectively at home with a selection of weights, dumbbells, stones, and anvils, my training was not as complete as it should have been. I was not doing Military Presses, Squats, or barbell Deadlifts. Yes, Dumbbell Deadlifts are an effective movement ( particular if done for high reps) but they are not the same as heavy Deadlifts with a bar.  I was doing DB Presses, DB Deadlifts, weighted Step-Ups, and lifting my stones. And while I was making gains, and getting stronger,  there was still something that was lacking. I was missing that feeling you can only get from doing heavy, low-Rep Deadlifts. That feeling you experience from doing heavy Deadlifts that we've all experienced. That indescribable "hit by a truck feeling" that only Deadlifts can provide.
     At the beginning of the year, I joined a commercial gym and began doing the basic barbell movements again. Yes, the gym is not a serious lifting facility. But I was doing the basics again. However, there was one minor issue: The weights were not round, they were a ten-sided polygon that didn't allow for the bar to be placed on the ground smoothly. It's difficult to describe in words, but imagine having plates shaped like STOP signs, and loading them onto a bar and lifting it. Not a favorable situation. But it was a situation that is easily corrected. I ordered a Texas Power Bar, and, along with my York weights, I am able to do Deadlifts at home. And while it is not unusual for someone to do Deadlifts in the comfort of their home, I am willing to bet that not too many people get to Deadlifts in their living room! Since my home is built on a concrete slab, there is no basement.  Nor do I have a garage. So, the only solution is to lift in my living room. Not your usual workout facility, but I am doing heavy Deadlifts again, so, who cares about amenities? My whole body feels stronger, and the Deadlifts have even carried over into my stone lifting. So why complain about barbells in the living room?
     It doesn't get any more basic than the Deadlift. And with a first-class bar, quality weights, and a renewed enthusiasm, what more can I possibly want?


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Thursday, June 8, 2017

One Year Update - By R.J. Hicks

1 year later training at

Over the past year I have had the privilege to train with Bob Whelan through his site I've gained more in this past year training with Coach Whelan than my last 9 years of training combined. My bodyweight has climbed nearly 20 solid pounds in a year with all of my lifts increasing between 20-90 pounds. Furthermore, the knowledge I have gained in strength training, coaching and the iron game is insurmountable.

Coach Whelan is far more than a strength coach, he is a teacher, motivator, and a mentor. Through our many phone calls, I have been able to gain insight to the most important principles of strength training, enabling me to sort between the "has-beens" and the "good guys" in the field today. I've been able to form my own strength training philosophy while keeping an open mind to the fact that many other methods and tools work as long as they stay in line with the fundamentals of strength training. Coach Whelan expects a lot whether through my increases in poundage, commitment to eating, or academics to become a strength coach. None-the-less, coach Whelan is always there to provide positive encouragement and to remind me of my end goal. Most importantly, I receive a great deal of mentoring from Coach Whelan on a weekly basis. We talk about the importance of  education through degrees, which certifications to receive, books to read, and future business strategies. I cannot be more grateful for the opportunity to train with Bob Whelan and I look forward to our next year of training together.

Lt. R.J. Hicks
Malmstrom AFB, Montana

R.J. ... Thank you so much. It has been a pleasure working with you.  Keep going strong!
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