Saturday, November 24, 2018

My Undeniable Truths of Weight Training for Beginners - Part 2 - Do the Hard Exercises - By RJ Hicks, BS Exercise Science, CSCS

One of the biggest mistakes I see is the use of ineffective exercises. Although many exercises are effective, there are some exercises much more effective than others. For a program to be productive and yield the greatest results, a trainee must train using the most effective exercises. For maximum results in size and strength, train the hard exercises.

Multi joint exercises vs single joint exercises

The hard exercises are the major compound multi joint movements. They are the most systematically demanding, involve the most muscle mass and carry the most potential for poundage progression (or greater increases in strength). These are the exercises many trainees like to avoid, simply because they are uncomfortable and hard to do. This is a huge mistake! A routine of squats, dead lifts, rows, dips, pull ups, presses and bench will do more to transform your muscular size and strength than any number of lateral raises, cable cross overs or hack squats. The foundation of the routine should be built on the hard exercises. Squat, deadlift, leg press or any variation of the three should be a stable in your lower body training. Presses, rows, chins/pull downs, flat/incline bench and dips should be the primary exercises in your upper body training, with pullovers, shrugs and barbell curls as a close secondary. Keep the hard exercises as the meat and potatoes of the workout, leave the single joint exercises for dessert.

The easy exercises are often, but not always, the single joint exercises. It is common for beginner trainees to choose to perform single joint exercises for most of their routine. Most single joint exercises are nothing more than a pumping exercise in my book. The whole toning, sculpting and shaping theory is a myth that DISTRACTS many trainees from using the hard exercises. Muscles adapt through progressive overload (stress), not through pumping. The pump these trainees experience is a temporary rush of blood that bloats a muscle, doing little in the long term for muscular size and strength. Toners and phonies primarily use pumping exercises, because they “feel” good and are the EASIER to do.

You can get a painful burn on leg extensions and watch your quads swell up, but it is nothing compared to the total body metabolic shock your body would undergo from a hard set of 10-12 repetitions on the trap bar deadlift. Pumping exercise involve less muscle activation, less weight and less metabolic stress. Often, you’ll see trainees perform hack squats instead of squats or skip overhead pressing and go straight to lateral flies. This is a sin for serious trainees. No real long-term gains in size and strength are made by pumping exercises for the natural trainee, because there is a lack of mechanical stress on the muscles. Be wary of exercise routines filled with single joint exercises as they distract you from the hard exercises and never substitute them for the hard exercises you can do safely.

Rehabilitation, tinkering and special circumstances

The best exercises to train with are the hard exercises you can do safely. If an exercise hurts, don’t do it. Not everyone can squat in a safe manor due to long limbs or previous injuries. The pendulum Squat, trap bar/DB deadlift, Hammer Strength horizontal leg press, or a belt squat can serve as a good substitution for the barbell squats. Substituting a belt squat due to injury is acceptable, substituting a hack squat because it is more comfortable is not. The same is true with single joint exercises, if you cannot do the multi-joint exercise, but can target the muscle with a single joint exercise, do what you can! A lateral raise will never compare to an overhead press, but it will be far more productive than doing nothing for the shoulders.

Not all single joint exercises are bad. Some parts of the body are best trained with single joint movements such as the neck, calves, rotator cuffs, forearms/hands and midsection. Bob Whelan ( refers to these as your tinkering exercises. He often sequences them in after multiple compound exercises, strategically using them as built in rest. They are of low intensity compared to the major compound exercises, but important in keeping the entire body strong none-the-less. Any serious strength training program should include these exercises a majority of the time.

Sometimes extra work is needed due to a lagging muscle group. While the major compound exercises advantage is in the amount of muscle mass they work, not all the muscles are worked equally. Sometimes the best way to bring a lagging muscle up to par is to train it with a single joint exercise, but don’t overdo it. Single joint exercises have the advantage of what's known as the “direct effect” and can force all the mechanical stress on the targeted muscle. The lateral raise is a great example of an exercise with a “direct effect” upon the shoulders. If you feel it is of physiological/psychological benefit, great! Add it in to the end of the routine, if it doesn’t take away hard exercises. To summarize, you can train single joint exercises IN ADDITION to the hard exercises AFTER all the hard exercises have been completed.

Final walk-through

If you’re a beginner, train the basic hard exercises. If you’re a middle age adult, train the basic hard exercises. If you’re an athlete train the basic hard exercises. If you want to look strong and be strong, train the basic hard exercises.

Editors Note: This is great RJ! Awesome job on this!
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Friday, November 16, 2018

Staying Motivated - By Jim Duggan

     As I am writing this, I am looking out my window at the snow on the ground from the first snowstorm of the season.  The snow, cold temperatures, and gloomy forecast remind me of two things.  First, that this is just the beginning, a preview of what's to come during the next few months.  Second, the holidays are rapidly approaching.   This is reinforced by the large Christmas display at the local Home Depot, the Christmas music playing at the bank, as well as the holiday light display along Pitkin Avenue in Brownsville, Brooklyn, where I work.
     For many trainees, the holidays pose a significant problem.  Staying on a workout regimen. Finding time to train.  How to avoid overeating and other indulgences.  Finding the motivation to train hard. It's very easy to fall into a rut.  Miss a couple workouts, fall off your diet, and you can easily see how quickly your progress can slow down or even stop.  And once you stop it will become difficult to resume a training program.
     Once you hit a snag, you can become dejected and lose your drive to train.  Once your drive is stymied, your progress comes to a halt.  Now, there are ways to deal with a training slump.  One method that has worked for some people is to take a brief layoff from working out.  I say "some people" because I don't believe in taking layoffs. Layoffs have just never been something that worked for me. There are those who benefit greatly from an occasional break from training, and if you are one of those individuals, then a scheduled layoff of a week or so will help recharge your body, and energize your training.   I've never liked taking time off from working out.  Doing nothing can become a habit.  Besides, the worst part of doing nothing is that you never know when you're finished ( sorry for the lame joke.)  Seriously, becoming lazy, or sedentary,  even if only for a brief period, can lead to longer periods of inactivity. I don't believe in backsliding- whether it be in lifting, or life itself. The only way is to keep going.  Even if your lifting may have hit an inevitable "sticking point," there are other ways to improve your strength, health, and appearance without burning yourself out.  Instead of taking a day off, go for a vigorous walk.  Engage in some of other form of physical activity on your "off days."  This will provide your body with some sort of exercise.  It will also give you the motivation to follow healthy eating habits.  If you stick to an exercise program, then you will have the incentive to be disciplined during the holidays when temptation- in the form of too much food- is everywhere.
     The hardest part of staying disciplined is to make up your mind decisively and just do it.  Decide that you want to continue to make progress, and that nothing will stop you from achieving your goals.  Then work out your plan, and do it.  Ambition plus effort equals success.
     There are ways to stay motivated during this time of year.  Since it isn't beach season ( at least here in New York), one has to be creative in developing a plan to maintain training enthusiasm.  One way, if you happen to train in a commercial gym, is to think of how empty the gym will be in December.  The lack of crowds ( toners, pumpers, gym bros, etc.) means that there will be less nonsense and no waiting for equipment and machines.  Imagine how crowded things will be in January, when the Resolutioners invade the gym.  Now, think about how much you can accomplish during December when you have the gym to yourself.
     Now, back to the training itself. What if you have a bad workout? My answer to that is "So what?"  Every person who has ever lifted weights has experienced the occasional "off day."  This is particularly true for drug-free lifters.  Let's face it.  A bad workout every once in a while is a fact of life. It's not a reason to panic, or become dejected.  Learn from it, and move on.  Now, if you have a succession of bad workouts, then it maybe time to analyze what you're doing.  Are you getting enough sleep? Are you getting proper nutrition? Again, the holiday season can bring about bad habits, and halt progress.  Overcome that which will stop your progress.
     Of course, one of the best ways to get out of a rut is to not fall into one in the first place.  Discipline yourself into not only training consistently, but into putting everything you have into each and every workout. Every set and every rep. Don't sleepwalk through your workout.
     Setting goals will help keep you focused. Not only long-term goals but short-term as well.  Remember, the most worthwhile goals will never be achieved without a systematic plan of action.  Great things cannot happen if you do not make them happen. That heavy barbell will not lift itself.
     There is one trick to maintain motivation that I first read about ten years ago.  Since most people make resolutions for the new year, and subsequently begin working towards those goals after January 1st, what's wrong with getting an early jump on the year ahead? Who says you have to wait until January to begin your quest for Strength and Health?  Why not start now? You'll gain a healthy head start on everyone else.  And you'll feel better about yourself in the process.
     Once a man ( or woman) gives up, he/she is beaten.  You can't be beaten as long as you continue to fight.  Fight for your goals, fight for the things you want in life.  Strength and Health are noble pursuits that are worth fighting for.
     Don't use the holiday season as an excuse to skip's a poor one.  Keep lifting.  You'll be glad you did.

Editor's Note: Great article Jim.
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Thursday, October 4, 2018

What To Avoid....And What Not To - By Jim Duggan

     There is no shortage of training information available to anyone willing to look.  And you don't have to look very hard.  Note that I didn't say "quality" training information.  A casual glance at the typical articles appearing in the various muscle comics, fitness blogs, or the ubiquitous training videos will illustrate that there is a serious shortage of quality information for those who seek to build strength and health.  As for those unfortunate individuals who are forced to train in commercial gyms, well, I don't have to remind you of some of the silliness that passes for training today.
     It is not my intent to denigrate an entire generation of trainees.  And I certainly am not trying to be one of those people who look at the past through rose-colored glasses.  The "good old days" weren't always good, and the only way to make gains and achieve your goals is to train progressively.   And the only way to make progress is to continuously look forward. Living - or lifting- in the past won't get the job done.
     It's usually not too difficult to look past some of the strange training ideas being put forth by "the experts."  Just about anybody can go online and become a "certified" trainer.  Anybody with a smart phone can make and publish exercise videos.  And anybody can make, and post, exaggerated claims regarding what they lift.  I've always approached such claims with a great deal of skepticism. Perhaps I've become a bit cynical in my, uh, middle age. But for as long as I can recall, if a person claims a certain lift, then it should be verifiable. Eyewitness testimony is usually reliable, so long as you can trust the witness.  As a Lifter, it was easy for me to distinguish between what was real and what wasn't. If it wasn't done in a sanctioned contest, then it is merely a "gym lift," which means it falls into the same category as the various outrageous claims made by countless persons.  And while there are countless claims, and all too many foolish ideas floating around, most of the time, it is easy to ignore the silliness.  Once in a while, though, you have to take the time to address things that are just plain wrong.   
     Recently, a popular magazine published an article detailing fourteen exercises that you shouldn't do if you're over 50 years old.  Over the years, I have made my feelings about getting older quite clear.  It may sound trite, but age is only a number.  Whatever your age, there is only one way to approach your training, and that is to go all-out.  Progressive resistance means training progressively, regardless of your age.  Naturally, if you're injured or have a medical condition, you may need to adjust your training. Train smarter, not harder if that's the case.  But if you have no medical issues, then there is no reason to limit your training, or your choice of exercises.  
     So, getting back to the article in question, I will highlight some of the exercises that are verboten.  And I will offer my opinion as to why these movements SHOULD BE PERFORMED.  
1) Push-Ups.  Is there anyone out there who has not done Push-ups at various times during their life?  Push-Ups are part of every American Phys-Ed program. Not to mention every branch of the Armed Forces. Why Push-Ups are right up there with Apple Pie, the Flag and watching The Honeymooners reruns ( OK, The Honeymooners is my addition, but if you've ever watched it, you known what I mean.) Seriously, what lifter hasn't done his/her share of Push-Ups, especially during their early years?  The person who wrote the article claims that wall push-ups ( leaning against a wall a doing them standing) is safer, in order to save your shoulders as you age.  What a joke.  Charles Atlas did hundreds of Push-Ups every day until the day he died, and he enjoyed a long, healthy life.
     2) Squats.  Has there ever been a strong man who did not dedicate a large portion of his training to performing heavy Squatting? Back Squats, Front Squats, Partial Squats.  All elite strength athletes have spent a large amount of time inside a Squat Rack ( or Power Rack.) Now there may be some people who, because of poor leverages or body mechanics, cannot Squat without risking injury.  If you have a legitimate issue, there are alternatives. But if you can Squat safely, then you should do Squats. Period. Don't let fear of hard work deter you from performing this wonderful exercise.
     3) Bench Press.  The King of upper-body exercises.  Pure, unadulterated power is how the Bench Press has been described, and I think most people will agree.  Except the person who wrote the article.  Her alternative? Using a rowing machine.  Ridiculous , don't you think? Bench Presses, properly performed ( no bouncing, no back arch, no cheating) will develop great upper-body strength. 
     4) Pull-Ups.  Another staple body-weight movement.  Yes, they are challenging, especially if you weigh more than 200 Lbs.. But if it were easy, then everybody would be able to do it, right?  Stick to it, and make the effort to do them.  You will build great strength. You can do Chin-ups if it's easier. Either one if those exercises is superior to using a Lat machine in my opinion. The author of the article recommends doing Lat Pulldowns instead of Pull-Ups.  Yes, you can pump your lats better with Pulldowns.  But is there anybody reading this who is interested in pumping and toning?  This website is called Natural STRENGTH.  Go someplace else if you want to pump.  Besides, how many times have you seen somebody doing Pulldowns incorrectly and hurting their shoulders? Stick with Pull-Ups and Chins.
     5) Crunches.  While the person who wrote the article advocates doing Planks instead of Crunches and Sit-ups, my advice would be to listen to your body. If you can do Sit-ups without injury,  then stick with the exercise that has been strengthening the mid-section of generations of lifters.  We're not looking for six-pack Abs, we are after functional strength.  Therefore,  use a sensible approach. No need to try to do hundreds of Sit-ups per day. Leave that for the posers. 
     6) Deadlift.  "The meet doesn't start until the bar is on the floor." That is a refrain that is familiar to all Powerlifters. The most majestic of the three Powerlifts, and the one that will build the most overall body power.  Is there anything more motivating than seeing someone fight through a heavy Deadlift? While some lifters may have mechanical issues with the Deadlift, there a several safer alternatives. Dumbbell Deadlifts, Trap-bar Deadlifts, Partial Deadlifts, Deadlifts off a block, Snatch-Grip Deadlifts.  All of these are more effective than the alternative suggested by the person who wrote the article. Her recommendation? Glute bridges.  I kid you not.  If performing Deadlifts after the age of fifty is dangerous, as the author claims, then I recommend she speak with Steve Weiner who regularly does heavy Deadlifts in his mid fifties. Or Tom Tedesco who is still doing Deadlifts at age 63.  
     7) Leg Presses.  Earlier, I mentioned that if you can Squat safely, then you should most certainly do Squats.  However, there are some people who simply cannot Squat without incurring injury.  Years ago, I used to train with Drew "The Human Wall" Israel.  Drew had a congenital back condition that prevented him from doing Squats.  That did not stop him from training hard.  He simply substituted Leg Presses for Squats.  Through heavy high-rep Leg Pressing, he was able to build great size and strength. There are two important things to remember when doing Leg Presses.  One, use a quality Leg Press machine.  The sled-type machines found in most commercial gyms are of little, if any, value.  Yes, you can load a lot of weight, and the toners can feel strong moving heavy poundages.  But what they don't realize is that the machine is leveraged in such a way as to allow anybody to use a lot of weight. They are just ego machines, plain and simple, for people who don't want to Squat.  The Hammer Strength Iso-Leg Press was an excellent machine, and Drew had one in his home gym.  The second thing to remember about the Leg Press, is to use it properly.  That is, do not try to use it for low reps with near-limit poundages. High reps, done to failure, will give you a terrific workout.
     The above movements are just some of the exercises that shouldn't be done by those of us over fifty, if you were to listen to the author of that dubious article.  Personally, I think that they are all terrific exercises that have been used successfully by generations of Lifters the world over.  But if you are over fifty, and want to take her questionable advice, then so be it. If you are younger than fifty, then on the day before you turn fifty, do all of the exercises listed above.  Then never do them again.  Seriously, don't listen to people who have no understanding of what it's like to train hard. Listen to your body,  train smarter, and progressively.

Editor's Note: Great Article Jim. This is one of my favorites.
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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

My Personal Journey of Training - By Burt Gam

When I was a kid I remember reading my first issues of Strength and Health, which was published by Bob Hoffman. I was simply captivated by the muscular looking dudes on the cover and within the pages, and Bob Hoffman himself was pictured at times, particularly in the ads of the products Bob was selling. Inside the magazine were also published results of regional weightlifting contests with the contestants poundage lifted. I was a skinny young teenager and these guys were my heroes. I wanted to be like them and I wanted it bad. My father knew this very well. He was a lifter of sorts himself, and he taught me the basics. Nutritionally I needed help too, and since I wanted to gain weight my father purchased Hoffman's products from the neighborhood health food store. Soon enough I was making milkshakes with Bob's Weight Gain Formula,taking Energol and Dessicated Liver pills. Being pre-pubescent the gains came slow until later on. Bob was my go to guy for years ahead.

I remember my first 200 pound bench press in my garage and how proud I felt. Lacking self confidence, this was exactly the remedy I needed. Even so, I still had not filled out much and graduated high school at a whopping 140 pounds. Off to Florida State University I went. They had a gym for students and a small weight set in a dungeon like room in my dorm building. I tried to hit the weights 2-3 times a week, mostly bench presses .Bench pressing was about all I knew about lifting with a few supplemental exercises back then. My break out was the next summer at my home in Miami. That summer I hit it hard in my garage gym, again mostly bench presses and accessory work. But I was also eating a lot and drinking Hoffman's Weight Gain Formula religiously.I was weighing 150 pounds,10 more than after high school. By the end of the summer I got on my bathroom scale at 190. Not to say it was all muscle, but for sure I was noticeably bigger. People were a bit startled and I got a bit of attention due to my abrupt change in appearance. The hormones had kicked in and I guess my body was finally ready to grow. 

Here I realized my greatest single phase of bulking, but the refinement of physique was needed. At that point, I decided to chuck college for awhile and join the Air Force. When I discovered the base gym I thought I had found heaven. Squat racks, sturdy benches, machines, all kinds of equipment. I met up and began training with some more seasoned lifters and bodybuilders, drawing on their education and experience. Still loving benching, I hit my first 300 lb. bench. But I also discovered what later became my favorite by far, the deadlift. I also began training my lower body and added more assistance work. My chest got larger and I put on another 20 pounds of bodyweight. The Air Force used to weigh us annually, and we had to do a mile and a half within a prescribed time. They wanted to put me on the "Fat Boy Program" but I was actually pretty damn solid. I ran the mile and a half in 11:30and the Air Force ended up giving me a waiver for technically being 20 pounds overweight. Around that time I also began reading about lifting and trying to apply some of that knowledge. I read Terry Todd's "Inside Powerlifting"and Bill Starr's "The Strongest Shall Survive". I tried everything I could, my body was my lab experiment. Power cleans and push presses were added to the program. I deadlifted my first 400 lbs. I tried everything to get bigger and stronger along the way. I even sent away for Charles Atlas's course just out of curiosity. 

There was a system of training published by some unknown author called the "Tri Contractional System". The system called for hard work on a handful of basic compound exercises using 3 continuous sets each; A heavy set say on dips with added weight, quickly followed by a reduction in weight,in this case bodyweight for as many reps as possible, then finally a third set of as many partial reps as possible! Very much like a "Heavy Duty Routine". Looked easy on paper but brutally hard. Neither of these routines worked out very well for me. Later on I tried to get inspired by reading up on Arther Jones and Ellington Darden's Nautilus inspired routines. I did that one set to failure on Nautilus machines in my university gym while studying Physical Education. Did that for a year and a half until I decided to test myself in the free weight bench press. I was so weak I could hardly steady the bar. That was when I realized the superiority of free weights over machines, no matter how state of the art. But I read, lifted and learned.  I read articles, became certified as a trainer. I tried different programs. I wanted to know what worked and what did not.Eventually, I learned what my body responded to and how to design my own programs for what worked for me, not for someone else.

Today at age 62 I stick with a simple and basic 3 day a week program, utilizing basic powerlifting and compound exercises performed first in the workout using moderate reps for strength. Following this with higher rep assistance and isolation work for fewer. sets. I use my off lift days to swim, stretch and rest. After this long journey of trial and error, I came back to simple and basic. I am an average guy with average genetics and a thirst for knowledge. I train at home in my home gym with my own equipment. I set lofty goals for myself. I reached some, others I didn't. I never competed, nor did I ever desire to. I realized at some point long ago I would never be the guys in the magazines. I achieved something much more. I have a wonderful life with a wonderful family, wife, daughter grand daughter, friends.I have had a career. I have seen beautiful places and marveled at the bounties of nature.Lifting is part of life, but it is just one part. The body, mind and spirit make up the total person. Balance is the key. We all can achieve greatness in our own way. Life is a journey. Lift, love and be happy.

Editor's Note: Great article Burt. I'm just a few years older than you and can relate to a lot of what you wrote. I got an Air Force waiver too. :) Good job on this.
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Friday, August 31, 2018

Lessons From Tommy Kono - By Burt Gam

I just got finished listening to my first Bob Whelan podcast featuring the legendary Tommy Kono. It was as enlightening as it was inspiring. First I wish to be clear. For those reading who have never heard of Tommy Kono, it would be because you were probably just a glimmer in your father's eye when Tommy was competing in the late 40s, 50s and 60s in Olympic weightlifting as well as bodybuilding. That is to say those of you under 50 or perhaps 40 or so. Secondly, I am not intending to be redundant here to speak about the article directly or to summarize it. I would suggest very strongly instead that you take the time to listen to it.

But just a few words about Tommy first just for context so I can make a few significant points, and highlight the lessons that I derived from the interview. Tommy Kono was probably pound for pound one of the greatest Olympic lifters who ever walked the earth. He may have been the best Olympic lifter that the United States has ever produced. He competed in an era where weight training and good health went hand and hand. It was a wonderful era for lifting beside steroids were all but unheard of up to a point, rather emphasis was placed on good old fashioned hard work and sensible training. Tommy was lucky enough to train at one point under the coaching of Bob Hoffman, considered the "Father of American Weightlifting". Tommy Kono in this regard in my opinion could only be compared in greatness to the legendary Paul Anderson, considered by many strength historians to be the strongest man who ever lived. Paul too was competing around that time as a super heavyweight for the United States.Tommy actually won numerous titles, Olympic medals in four different weight classes and was nominated by a number of hall of fame organizations. Not only that, Tommy was no one trick pony because as was more common in that era, also competed as a bodybuilder and took numerous titles.

I want to emphasize this point and come back to it in a bit since there is a valuable lesson here too. Sadly Tommy passed away in 2016 at the age of 85. So since in Bob Whelan's interview Tommy stated he was 84 years old, I surmised Bob's interview must have been a year or so before his passing give or take. So it was very fortunate indeed that the interview took place before Tommy passed. Again, it was an excellent interview full of excellent training info and I highly recommend spending 45 minutes or so to take it all jn. Which leads me to the purpose of this article. Bob's questions to Tommy and his forthcoming answers got me thinking about a few key insights I would like to share. The lessons of the past to the present so to speak. So for what it is worth, here I go.

1. Tommy stated that as a youth he was not very strong. He in fact described himself as skinny and sickly. This kind of brings me back to my own youth and the reasons I started lifting. Yeah I was skinny and weak. I was not sick, but I knew deep down that what I was doing was HELPING ME BE HEALTHIER. I was making my body stronger and healthier because strength was equated with health. That is why a popular bodybuilding magazine was titled "Strength and Health". Tommy made himself stronger and healthier, although he took it to a way higher level. And he did it clean. No drugs. Tommy stated that he was able to successfully complete against the Russians even though they were doing steroids and he was not. 

2. Tommy stated in the interview that he started out with very little equipment to train with. Paul Anderson could have said the same. Yet both became incredibly strong. Tommy claimed he had no bench or squat racks to use. They had to be creative and improvise. So it would seem to imply that hard work on basic exercises is all that is necessary, not a wide variety of movements. 

3. Back in the day, lifters competed in both weight lifting a and bodybuilding. Oftentimes both types of contests happened on the same night. Today it is less common to compete in both due to the way contests are scored and the highly specialized nature of each at the higher levels of competition. Still though, there are a handful of examples of unique individuals who train for both. 

4. Tommy spoke about the mental aspect and it's importance to training. Hard work, discipline to eat healthy, get enough sleep and train hard regularly. No amount of performance enhancers can overcome the lack of these variables. And this type of rigorous discipline has real life carryover to breed success in all aspects of life. Old school thinking is just as valid now as it was then. 

 5. One final message. I realize that many of you young guys are going to feel invincible. That is the blessing and the curse of youth. Know this. If you take one thing from all this it should be that no amount of drugs or fancy equipment will make you a REAL champion like Tommy. God did not give you the gift if you were not willing to work your ass off for it. And if you think you might want to get married and have kids one day and live to see them make something of themselves, stay away from the juice. If you do not believe this or care, go online and research all of the bodybuilders and pro wrestlers who decided that a moment of glory in the sun can take the place living a long, healthy and glorious life. They cashed in their child before 50 or 40 or sooner. Take care of your body now and reap the rewards later. Lift, love,and be happy and healthy. You might just live long enough to have kids. grandkids. or great grandkids if your lucky. I am working on that now.Thank you Tommy.

Editor's Note: Great article Burt. Besides being the greatest athlete in the history of physical culture, Tommy was a class act and one of the nicest human beings ever.

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Friday, August 24, 2018

Variations in Iron - By Jim Duggan

     Hoisting the Steel. Pumping Iron. Slinging the Iron. These are just a few of the expressions used to describe what we do ( and love): Lift weights. Many books, and countless articles have centered around the same sort of language.  One of my favorite Iron Game authors, Brooks Kubik, has used the word "Iron" in the title of many of his great books and articles.  And while we may consider ourselves to be "Iron Slingers," we hardly pay any attention to what we are actually slinging.  And, for good reason: Who cares? Just Lift!
     The very first set of weights I ever used was made of neither Steel nor Iron.  My first weights were plastic filled with sand.  Somehow, I just can't embrace the idea of "Pumping Plastic."  It wasn't until I joined Bruno's Health Club in July of 1983 that I quickly became aware of the beautiful sound of steel plates clanging as they were being lifted.  There was a lot of steel at Bruno's. YORK steel to be precise. And while I've been lifting weights for many years, I've tried as best as I could to stay true to York Barbell and the brand that has built strong men and women since 1932.  Naturally,  there are many brands available today.  Some good, many not so.  But, no matter what type of equipment you use, the important thing is to train hard and consistently, with an eye on poundage progression .
     I still have York weights at home, much of it vintage stuff from years ago.  Sometimes,  though, I will lift weights that aren't exactly weights in the conventional sense.  There are two items in particular that are not exactly what one would envision when you think of "working out."  One item has been around for a long time and has a rich history, though not in the sense of Physical Culture.  The other item is relatively new to the lifting scene, but is becoming increasingly more popular.
     I've been using anvils for a long time.  My first exposure to anvils as a training tool was through the pages of Muscular Development magazine back in the 1980s.  It was an article written by Dr. Ken Leistner about "unconventional power builders."  In the article, he described the various ways in which to use an anvil as a training tool.  Several years after the article, I had the good fortune to join Dr. Ken's Iron Island Gym.  One of the first things I noticed upon entering the gym was a large anvil sitting next to a rack of dumbbells.  I used the anvil, as well as the various I-beams, Sandbags, and other toys that the gym offered.  And over the years, I have used anvils to perform various movements.  Curls, Presses, Deadlifts are some exercises that can be easily done with an anvil.  They can also be used to provide resistance for a Headstrap when doing neck work.  There also grip specialists who use them for grip work by lifting them by the horn.  And, incidentally, some of the poundages these guys use are staggering.
     I have a total of nine anvils ranging in weight from 30Lbs, up to 205 Lbs.. If you use your imagination,  you can do any movement with an anvil that you can do with a barbell, with the exception of Squats.  While purchasing an anvil can be expensive, you can pretty much rest assured that it will last a lifetime.  We don't often see anvils breaking apart.  One thing that I've noticed when purchasing anvils is that they are often described as being made of "Cast Iron," or "Wrought Iron."  I realize that anvils are designed for Farriers and Blacksmiths, and these terms are important for what they are used for.  Admittedly,  metallurgy was never my strong suit.  But since my goal insofar as it relates to anvils is simply to lift them, I'll ask again: Who cares? Just Lift.
     Now the debate between Cast or Wrought Iron brings me to the other unconventional strength-training item that I have been using: Center Mass Bells (CMBs.) These are made from Ductile Iron. All you metallurgists can have a field day debating the pros and cons of each type of Iron. I'll just describe my experience with CMBs.
     I've been using CMBs for a couple of years now.  I purchased mine from Sorinex.  I have all the large sizes up to 100 Lbs, and I can tell you that these things are great!  They are an excellent training tool.  In fact, all of the equipment from Sorinex is excellent: Top-quality and built to last.  Try them and see for yourself.
     The CMBs can be used to duplicate exercises that can normally be done with Dumbbells.  Standing Presses, One-Arm Clean and Press, One-Arm Rows, Curls are just some examples of the wide range of movements that you can do with CMBs.  From the moment I tried them, I liked the feel of using a CMB as compared to kettlebells, which I never really cared for.  I realize that it's a personal preference and that there may be people who adamantly disagree with me.  Use what works for you.
     The actual workout that I've used is a variation of a popular workout utilizing two movements. It's an excellent way to get in a workout when you are pressed for time.  The two movements are:
One-Arm CMB Clean and Press
Anvil Curl
     The goal is to do 55 reps of each movement, via doing a superset of Presses and Curls for 10 total sets.  For the serious Lifters out there, don't panic at the mention of "supersets."  You will not be emulating some pumped up bodybuilder, rather, you will be combining two heavy movements with minimal rest.  The goal is to push yourself, not pump yourself up.
     Here's what it looks like:
One Arm CMB Clean and Press x 1 Rep supersetted with Anvil Curl x 10 Reps. 11 Reps Total.
Next set, do 2 reps of the CMB Press and 9 Anvil Curls. Again, 11 Reps Total.
Keep going until the last set of 10 Presses, and 1 Curl.
There should be minimal rest between sets. In fact, for the first five sets, try not to rest at all. After the fifth set, you can rest up to one minute between sets.  The workout should take no longer than fifteen minutes or so.  For those who want to really challenge yourselves, after you complete the workout, you can do it again in reverse.
     You can do this workout with different movements, or you can even utilize bodyweight exercises. I chose these movements because they are eady to perform, but physically demanding. And besides, the title of this article is "Variations in Iron," and while I had never considered the different types of Iron, I have always enjoyed lifting them.
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Friday, August 3, 2018

A Birthday Tradition - By Jim Duggan

     For the past fifteen years or so, it has been something of a tradition for me to celebrate my birthday by challenging myself with the lifting of heavy objects.  Anvils, Stones, Tires, Barbells, and Dumbbells.  It didn't matter what tools were available, just so long as I challenged myself.  There are many definitions of "tradition," but the best one I can think of is "a longstanding custom or practice." And while fifteen years can hardly be considered to be a long time, it is significant enough so that I always look forward to my annual birthday challenge.
     This year, on July 20, upon waking up , the first thing I did was the "Magnificent Seven" exercises.  For those who are unfamiliar with the Magnificent Seven, I urge you to check out "Combat Abs," by Matt Furey.  It is loaded with functional exercises that will help you achieve a powerful, and functional mid-section. And while there are hundreds of exercises in the book, the seven movements that constitute the Magnificent Seven are supposed to be done on a daily basis.  I try my best to perform them every day, as much as my work schedule will allow, anyway.  The exercises are simple to do, require no equipment, and take less than twenty minutes to complete.  And they help energize you at the beginning of the day.  Even though the Magnificent Seven are not part of the Birthday Challenge, I like doing them, and I wanted to make sure that I include them, birthday or not.
     The main part of this year's challenge would be made up of two main movements:
1) Repetition Clean and Press with 75 Lb. Dumbbells
2) 180 Lb. Atlas Stone, Lift to shoulder for 55 Reps
     I have developed a renewed interest in lifting heavy Dumbbells. I've always enjoyed heavy dumbbell training whether it be DB Deadlifts, Rows, Cleans, etc.. They are an excellent way to develop great strength. It's been only recently that I've dedicated myself to working hard on DB Pressing.
     In my last article, I mentioned the Sig Klein Dumbbell Challenge.  Basically, it consists of cleaning and pressing two 75 Lb. DBs for twelve reps.   Clean the DBs, and then press them overhead in strict fashion.  Then lower the DBs, and repeat for twelve strict repetitions. No cheating, no leg drive, no back arch, no pause between reps.  It sounds relatively easy, until you begin to do it.  I tried to to establish a rhythm and concentrate on breathing so that I would not be "gassed" halfway through the set. I'll admit it was tough, especially after the eighth or ninth rep. I had actually entertained thoughts of doing more than twelve reps, but I was happy to be able to do the twelve in strict form and then live to press another day.  Needless to say, I was breathing pretty heavy after the DBs, but now it was on to the Stones.
     I've always been a fan of stone lifting, and have included them in each of my birthday challenges. There's just something about lifting a heavy, granite sphere off the ground and on to the shoulder.  Not withstanding the fact that the rough granite tears the skin of your forearms, and leaves bruises on your shoulders, there is quite a feeling of accomplishment after a demanding stone workout. And lifting a 180 Lb. Stone for 55 Reps is certainly demanding. I chose the number 55 because it was my 54th birthday, and added an extra rep for good luck.  It was also an homage to one of my favorite strength athletes, Jon Kolb, who wore number 55 for the Steelers during his stellar thirteen year career.
     After a few warm-up reps, I was going to tackle the Stone in sets of 8-10 reps.  I would do a set, go inside and do a set on my York Krusher as a form of active rest, if you will.  Then I would rest a minute, then go outside and continue.  For some reason, the reps seemed smoother as I went along, and I seemed to have plenty of energy. Maybe it was because the weather was not excessively hot, maybe I was in a groove.  Whatever it was, I was able to complete 55 reps without feeling too much worse for the wear.  Except for the previously mentioned "rock burns," I felt pretty good.
     Like I mentioned, I included my York Krusher as a tribute to the York Barbell Company.  It was meant as active rest, but I also wanted to do a little something for my upper body.
     After the Stone Lifting, my next goal was to use my 193 Lb. Sewer Grates and hold them for time.  I purchased these about ten years ago. They are basically heavy sewer grates with a handle welded to the top.  Each one weighs in at 193 Lbs. They are excellent for Farmer's Walks, Shrugs, or just holding them for time.  My goal was to hold them for a minute.  It was tough, especially since my hands were sore from the Stones, but I was able to hold them for one minute and four seconds.
     The final thing that I did, a lifting coda if you will, was to bend a horeshoe.  My friend Steve Weiner recently taught me how to bend horeshoes, and I have really enjoyed going through the learning process while bending them.  So much so that I recently ordered a large box of horeshoes to improve my technique.  Even though my technique is still crude, and I was fatigued, I was able to bend one into a nice "S" and hopefully establish a new tradition. Thanks, Steve.
     All in all, I was happy with how everything went.  I want to continue to lift heavy Dumbbells, increase my hold time on the Sewer Grates, as well as improve my horeshoe bending. So I guess I have something to look forward to next year as I approach the speed limit!
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Monday, July 23, 2018

Occupational Strength and Health - By Burt Gam

One of the the most neglected aspects of weight training and conditioning is he topic of occupational health and wellness. As a 35 year career postal employee I can personally attest  to this. Postal workers and workers in many industries perform hard physical labor routinely for 40 or more hours a week for years on end with just short interruptions for vacations and other scheduled or sick days off. These industries employ a wide variety of workers who sacrifice their bodies and health at times to make a living and provide necessary services we all depend on if not take for granted. Many of these employees are given 'safety" training on how to lift properly during orientations by some pre-elected  human resource employee who may never have lifted a weight in their life other than perhaps performing "beer curls". They are given safe advice on how to lift with your stronger leg muscles to avoid back injuries. In some cases workers are issued back braces to help provide lumbar support. They are told to remain "for for duty" throughout their careers and then turned lose to fend for themselves. Rather than providing real help and training that would be truly beneficial it seems more geared to removal of company liability for injuries of workers. To be fair,some more progressive companies have taken the steps to provide gym on-site exercise and wellness programs or perhaps gym memberships which is a step in the right direction but may still fall short of providing useful help or training in proper exercise performance. The focus tends to be about injury prevention as it relates to list work days. Since injuries are often related to overuse , lack of muscular strength and flexibility plus poor lifting .mechanics, certainly something is lacking.                                                    
                                                         Enter the Worker Athlete 
The first concept about physical labor and it's relationship to strength is simple but vital to understand. A person who performs physical labor in a regular basis will become only physically strong enough to meet the requirements of job performance.That is, simply put if your job requires you to lift or move 50 pounds daily over a given period of time, you will only become strong enough to lift or move 50 pounds, regardless of how many times you do it. You may move or lift more once or twice but that is a different topic. Your body will only allow you to get strong enough to do your job based on a lack of progressive overload. The body only becomes strong enough to accomplish the task(s) that are demanded of it. And this worker will be performing work at 100% capacity. But suppose this worker decided to start a weight training    program and through hard training developed enough strength to lift 100 pounds. Now the lifter returns to work and now lifts the 50 pound weight. The worker is now working at 50% capacity.The weight will seem considerably lighter. The net effect is the workers job becomes much easier to perform. And very likely the workers chances of injury drops drastically because he has literally become twice as strong as necessary to perform the job! He will go home less tired and fatigued. Perhaps with enough reserve energy left to perform an exercise program. It is a win-win.This worker will possibly even receive recognition for job performance due to higher work production. He will likely  have fewer sick days. Couple a basic resistance training with some flexibility work and perhaps light cardio to round out the program. It seems clear to me that the laborer and the athlete are highly correllated. The same factors that make an athlete great makes the Worker great! These things are increased strength,flexibility and overall conditioning. A worker sacrifices their bodies just liked an athlete and are paid to do so. They get injured. They are required to perform under similar harsh conditions day in and day out.Their bodies are subjects to similar stresses. Increased strength and conditioning and injury prevention is vital for optimal performance for both. Therefore, does it not follow that both should train for the same results, perhaps in a similar fashion? Designing a sensible program for the Worker to increase strength, endurance, flexibility and overall conditioning.To increase productivity and longevity.That is how I made it through 35 years of physical labor.Something to think about.

Editors Note: Welcome Back Burt! Good article.
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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Lifting Heavy Dumbbells - By Jim Duggan

     Dumbbells can- and should- be an integral part of any serious strength-training program.  For competitive Lifters looking to increase their strength, dumbbells are an excellent way to increase overall body strength, which will translate to success on the lifting platform.  For those who seek to increase their muscular size and mass, dumbbells have been a proven bodybuilding tool for many decades.
     Many trainees, myself included, were introduced to weight training through the use of dumbbells.  I vividly recall my early workouts with a pair of 14" adjustable dumbbells with plastic weights and collars.  And even though we've all progressed to various other training modalities, dumbbells still play an important role in my training.  And rightfully so.  You can build great strength and power with heavy dumbbell training.
     For many beginners who train at home, one disadvantage of dumbbells is having to change more plates than when using a barbell.  This is one time when training in a commercial gym may be an advantage over training at home.  Most gyms will have a large selection of fixed ( or pre-loaded ) dumbbells from which to choose.  Of course, if you have the space, you can obtain a collection of fixed dumbbells for your home gym.
     Another reason why some people avoid using dumbbells is that, pound for pound, dumbbells are more difficult to handle than a barbell.  The reason for this is quite simple.  Lifting a pair of dumbbells makes it necessary to control each one individually.   This is the opposite of handling a barbell, which is lifted as a single unit.  Sometimes, one arm may be slightly weaker than the other, which means that one arm may falter or lag during an exercise.  Even if both arms are equal in strength, a lack of concentration can cause the same thing to happen.
     There is one more reason why some people avoid dumbbells.  Some movements, like the Bench Press or Incline Press, require the help of one or more spotters just to get the dumbbells in the proper starting position.  Even cleaning a pair of dumbbells to the shoulders for a standing Press can be tricky, especially for a beginner.  However, learning to get a pair of heavy dumbbells to the shoulders is an important skill to master.  Lifting heavy dumbbells is an excellent way to build good, rugged power.
     There are two ways to clean heavy dumbbells.  You can either stand in between them, or your feet can be on the outside of the dumbbells.  Personally, I prefer to stand between them, with the dumbbells on my sides.  By keeping your back flat, and straight,  drive with your legs and hips with a strong pull and bring the dumbbells in one sweeping motion to the shoulders.  You can bend at the knees slightly to help get them to the shoulders. You want to keep the dumbbells close to your body and concentrate on pulling the dumbbells.  You do NOT want to swing them.  Once they're at the shoulders, then you're ready to do either strict Presses or Push Presses, whichever you prefer.
     While I prefer doing strict Presses, you can also Jerk the dumbbells overhead.   It may take a while to find out the precise timing and coordination while combining the slight leg dip while throwing the dumbbells overhead.  If you re pressing them strictky, then you must keep the knees locked and push the dumbbells overhead with minimum arching of the back.
     There is one very important thing to remember:  Don't assume that just because you can Clean and Press a 250 Lb. barbell, that you should be able to handle 125 Lb. dumbbells in each hand.  It doesn't work that way.  The same goes for dumbbell Bench Presses.  Like any other movement,  you'll just have to determine, through trial and error, the correct amount of weight to use.
     One thing that I've neglected to mention is that you don't necessarily have to lift the dumbbells overhead.  Dumbbell Power Cleans are an excellent exercise just by themselves.  You can develop great power doing heavy dumbbell Power Cleans.  And, in my opinion, dumbbell Power Cleans are easier to do than Power Cleans with a barbell.  And you will greatly increase the size and strength of your legs, back, arms, and shoulders.  One of my favorite movements is dumbbell Power Cleans with my Ironmind thick-handled dumbbell bars.
     For those of you who want to really push yourselves, I suggest the Sig Klein Dumbbell Challenge.  As most of us know, or should know, Sig Klein is one of the legendary figures of the Iron Game.  He was a Physical Culturist, gym owner, bodybuilder and one of the strongest men of the early 20th century.  At a bodyweight of slightly over 150 Lbs., he was able to do twelve strict reps in the dumbbell Clean and Press.  He felt that this was an accomplishment that few men could perform.  A casual glance through a typical commercial gym would prove that he is still correct today.  Anyway, here is the challenge:
     Take two 75 Lb. Dumbbells and Clean and Press them for 12 perfect reps.  Perform a separate Clean and Press for each rep.  The Press has to be strict. Legs locked, back straight, complete lockout. While it may not seem very daunting on paper, after a few reps, most people will quickly realize that it is harder than it looks. Much harder.
     Whether your goal is to challenge the great Sig Klein, or simply build more size, strength, and power, learning to lift heavy dumbbells is a worthwhile endeavor .
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Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Thrill Is In The Doing - By Jim Duggan

     Why do you train? Everyone who begins a weight-training program does so for a reason. From the very first time we wrap our hands around a barbell, there is a motivating force which drives us.  For many of us, the motivation is to get bigger and stronger.  This applies to the great majority of teen-age trainees who take up the sport. For older lifters, the reason for training may be to "get back in shape," after years of inactivity.   Then there are those who use weight-training as an adjunct to another sport.  There are countless athletes who lift to improve their performance in a chosen sport.  And, of course, there are those who lift competitively,  in either Olympic Weightlifting, Powerlifting, or bodybuilding.
     Naturally ,as we get older, our reasons for lifting change.  It's only natural. Our goals, our view of the world, and our priorities change, so it follows that our motivation for lifting will change too. A trainee of forty will not have the same goals and aspirations of a teenager.  Nor should he/she.  But that doesn't mean that we should all approach our training with a plan of action and a willingness to train progressively and consistently.
     For older trainees, there are many fine examples of lifters who have demonstrated that age is merely a number.  Legends like Norbert Schemansky, Jack LaLanne, and Sig Klein are but a few of the legendary Iron Game figures who defied Mother Nature, and showed what "hoisting the steel" can accomplish.
     What about those who lift competitively?  Is it a worthy pursuit?  As someone who competed for many years, I can say that it certainly is a worthwhile endeavor. Setting a goal, developing a plan of action to achieve your goal, working hard to accomplish your goal, and being able to achieve what you had set out to do are just some of the rewards that you can derive from lifting.  Incidentally,  if monetary gain is your motivation to compete,  then I can enthusiastically recommend that you try your hand at another sport. But if you wish to develop discipline, and the ability to set and reach goals, then competitive lifting will certainly be worth the effort.  And competitive Lifters, like all athletes, want to win.  Sometimes this desire to win will lead some people to an attitude of not caring how they win, just as long as he/she wins.
     Don't get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with competing, and wanting to win.  But competing should be something to be enjoyed.  One of my favorite athletes of all-time is Al Oerter, the four-time Olympic champion in the Discus. Mr. Oerter once described his Olympic pursuit as "very internal...a self-fullment, not an acquisition of fame and fortune."  He viewed sports as "a joyous personal challenge." I couldn't agree more with his assessment of his Olympic career.  I've always felt that Powerlifting- or and strength sport-  was a competition with yourself.  Your opponent is your potential.
     Years ago, in one of the first contests that I ever did, there was a former world champion who was scheduled to compete in my weight class.  Even though I had no chance of beating him, that did not stop me from training hard in preparing for the upcoming meet.  On the day of the contest, the former champion not only won his weight class but also pickedmup the Best Overall Lifter trophy, too. But, I had set personal records in my Squat, Bench Press, and Total.  I was very happy, and felt that I had a successful  contest. And my friends and I, the four of us battled a blizzard to drive to Pennsylvania, each of us had a great time. Looking back at that meet, and many others in which I participated, I think about the training, and preparation, and how much joy it brought.  This brings me to another favorite quote of mine: "The Thrill isn't in the winning. It's in the doing."
     How many lifters have that attitude today?  For many, anything goes.  Their drive to win "at all costs" sometimes leads to taking drugs.  "The end justifies the means" is a philosophy that, sadly, is widely accepted today.  Far too many athletes rely on an assortment of drugs to reach their maximum performance.  But at what cost?
     Don't be afraid to lift without drugs.  Your own drive and incentive will suffice if you train properly.  And when you succeed without the aid of drugs, you'll last longer and enjoy greater longevity than those who cheat.  It's up to you to lift the right way now, so that in the future, you can look back and know in your heart that you did your best. And if you do your best today, then years from now,  you will have the good fortune to be able to reflect upon "the good old days" and be proud of what you did. And how you did it.
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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Message from Al Coleman, one of the best clients I ever had, and a great guy. Please help!

Hello all,
Many of you haven't heard from me in some time and I hate to renew contact under these circumstances.
Approximately one year ago my daughter Brooke was hit by a car while walking her bike across the street. She was in a coma for almost two months and wasn't released from the hospital until midway through October. She sustained some severe physical injuries much of which were reparable thankfully. While she is slowly getting better from these injuries the injury that has reverberated and caused the most suffering was/is the brain injury. It took a while before the brain scans started to show some normalcy but the doctors said that we wouldn't really know how they would heal until about two years out. Here we are a year later and things are tricky. On the surface she appears to be normal, but she is having a great deal of cognitive difficulty that has caused her not only to miss a majority of her freshman year of high school, but has also caused her multiple multi week stays in the hospital for a multitude of reasons.
I tell you all of this because around the time of the accident my wife set up a Go Fund Me page to help bring in some extra funds to cover the unpredictable medical costs both for the out of pocket and for what insurance wouldn't cover. The campaign helped us out a great deal initially( and we are very grateful for the contributions), but we accruing continued medical cost that we did not think would still be accumulating to the degree that they are.
My wife was very active on social media and is responsible for generating the responses we received, but as some of you may know I'm non existent in that realm so now I'm trying to help by reaching out to those I know. I feel trepidation is asking but it has come to that point. I'm grateful to have had all of you in my life in some way and we would be grateful for anything at all that is contributed.
The description on the Go Fund Me cover page was written at the time of the accident just so it makes sense when you read it.
Thank you all for reading this and I sincerely hope you are all well and in good health.
Warm regards,
This is about our Beautiful once vibrant and Artistic and intelligent daughter Brooke. My daughter IS Brooke Coleman, she just recently turned 14. She was riding her new bike she had just earned through her new babysitting job on Monday afternoon when She was Hit by a car head on! She was thrown...

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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Good Coaches and Basic Strength Training - By Jim Bryan

I am no different than most. I have had help from the beginning of my training life. I was very fortunate to have these men take notice of me and offer their experience. First was Bill Duncan. I had already been training for about 6 years when I met Coach Duncan in High school. I had all the old York Courses, that came with the barbell sets I bought with the little money I earned from the Ski Show at Cypress Gardens. These sets also came with implements that I didn't know how to use at the time. Kettle Bells, Iron Shoes, etc. This was pre teen for me around 10/12 years old (Yes, Kettle Bells have been around that long........they are NOT a new invention) As far as I know they started in the Old USA. My first training partner during this time was my friend of over 60 years Bob McKean.

Once I was able to drive and have a car I started training at another gym in Auburndale, a town near me. It was located in the back of Furnari's Barber Shop. The gym was run by Bill Lemacks a top body builder, Olympic and Power Lifter. I would train at my gym and then go to Billy's gym in order to train with him. Shortly after that Al and Vera Christensen opened a gym in Winter Haven, Fl. my home town. Several of us moved there and I had the opportunity to train with Al and Billy and be coached by them for Olympic Lifting. I competed for a few years as a Lifter for Al's "Bosco Weight Lifting Team."

The next group of gentlemen all helped with advice and tips. All of these Men were top bodybuilders and Olympic lifters from Florida. Harry Smith (TV wrestler and owner of Smith's Health Studio in Tampa) Tom Bowman,Former Mr Florida and a Coach at nearby Auburndale High School. Bill Hilton, Craig Whitehead (2nd Mr Universe) and Bob Harrington. Bob was one of the best to come out of Florida and won many Bodybuilding Titles. He was my main Training Partner when Al Christensen built a bigger Gym. I was just out of the Navy.

Then I met Arthur Jones. This was around 1970. I trained with Arthur and almost went to work for him. I chose instead to work at the Phone Company and lived in Winter Haven. I still traveled back and forth to Deland and later Lake Helen to train with the crew and Arthur. Here I met Jim Flanagan and Kim Wood, two of the best Trainers anywhere. Spent a bunch of time with Arthur and he was very generous with his knowledge. We became good friends and he trusted me enough to recommend that I take over and run the Nautilus Training Program at a local College.

Others have influenced me with their writing and phone calls. This group has a great deal of knowledge from many sources about Strength Training and Nutrition. Fred Fornicola has been a friend and treasure trove of good training ideas for me for many years. We talk a lot on the phone. Fred is a "thinker" and has many good ideas based on good factual common sense. Bill Piche started the first online version of "HIT" -High Intensity Training- called Cyberpump. This is the best darn collection of articles about sensible Strength Training from the days I was with Arthur Jones I have found. Matt Brzycki, Doc Ken Leistner, and Bob Whelan keep me informed with their articles and training sense. Bob is a big proponent of the "Old Way of strength training." Drug free and hard work. All of them inspire me. Later and one of the biggest influences on me is Randy Roach (Muscle, Smoke, and Mirrors) Randy is the go to man for Strength Training and nutrition and the history of the "Weight Game." Tom Kelso is also a Top Strength Coach and has many very good articles to read. I still check his Website regularly.

Tyler Hobson, Tyler has developed my favorite weight Training equipment. "Pendulum" is now owned by Rogers but the brains behind this excellent Leverage style Strength Equipment is still Tyler. He has a unique God given ability to come up with some of the safest and most productive Strength Training Machines in the world. I have one of his first "Multi Machines" and it's still in heavy use for me and the select clients I train. Last but certainly not least is a young man I really admire for his experience and training savvy. Liam "Taku" Bauer. is a very good Trainer and a friend I listen to. He has written several Articles and has a vast amount of experience training athletes and the regular Joe and Jane.

What do all of these people have in common? They all believe in safe, honest, hard training with whatever you have.................Barbells, dumbbells, and well developed machines. All work when used properly. None believe in gimmicks that you see so much today. They don't have people stand on balls while lifting. They all know when training hard a stable surface is best. They don't make crap up to get noticed. I respect them all and thank them for all their input and help. If I have learned anything, it's been the ability to spot quality Coaches and Coaching.

Editors note: Great Information Jim!
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Monday, June 4, 2018

My Undeniable Truths of Weight Training for Beginners (Part 1) - By RJ Hicks, BS Exercise Science, CSCS

One of the most glaring problems I see in commercial gyms today is the lack of productive training that takes place. Many beginners in the weight room are confused on how to train and do not know where to go for help. This series of tips is to help you save a lot of time and energy by avoiding many of the mistakes that I have made early on 

Truth number 1: Train for strength 

With all the new fads and gimmicks on the market today, it is easy to get off track in the weight room. Too many people are looking for a magical program that will give them the best results in minimal time, often leading them to a string of unproductive training months.  The purpose of weight training is to increase muscular size and muscular strength. To do this you must train heavy and progressively, utilizing basic compound exercises that match the muscle function. There is nothing glamorous about it. It takes hard work and discipline to continuously fight to add weight to the bar for the long haul. Most people will not accept this and will think weight training is more complicated than it really is. 

Just because you train to failure does not mean you are gaining strength.Training to failure can be a productive and time efficient way if you are continuing to lift heavier weights. Using the same light weight to failure over and over is no better than doing calisthenics. Strength is the ability to produce muscular force. The muscles produce more force as they become accustom to lifting heavier and heavier weight. It has nothing to do with how the muscle feels while you exercise, but how much ore weight a muscle can move over time. 

 There are many great exercises and repetition schemes you can choose from, if they facilitate easy and continuous poundage progression in the long term. Pick a handful of compound exercises that together cover all the major muscle groups, while sprinkling in a few of your favorite isolation exercises. Work hard for several months with perfect form and let the poundage grow for each lift. . Remember the goal is to increase the amount of weight you use on EACH lift to make your training harder, not to challenge your motor learning ability or to confuse your muscles. After a few months of hard and heavy training substitute a few different exercises that still work the major muscle groups progressively and continue building the poundage. Strength training is a journey not a sprint. 

 There are a host of reasons why every young athlete through senior citizen should engage in weight training. One of the best ways to change your body composition is through strength training. Lifting heavy weights progressively stimulates muscular growth, while simultaneously increasing your bodies metabolic rate and burning body fat. It is amazing how a few years of strength training can transform a beginner's body. As far as functional training goes, weight training is at the top of the list for its ability to improve your quality of life. Muscles make movement possible and the stronger they are the easier it is to moveThis means walking upstairs and carrying groceries will not be a burden in your later years if you’ve been continuously strength training. Want to reduce your chances of injury? Train for strength. Develop more muscular power? Train for strength. Increase bone density, ligament strength and tendon strength? Train for strength. For the best results, train for strength.
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