Friday, December 20, 2019

An Iron Reunion - By Jim Duggan

During the Summer of 1983, I had just turned nineteen, and was looking for a place to train. There were several local gyms in the area, and I wasn't sure where to go. Eventually, I made my decision based on cost ( at that age, cost will definitely factor into anything you do!), and proximity. I was fortunate that Bruno's Health Club was close to where I lived, and relatively inexpensive. Looking back, I can't believe the good fortune I had when I walked into Bruno's, on July 27, 1983.

As I've often described, Bruno's was the ultimate hard-core gym, when the term "hard-core" really meant something. Nowadays, "hard-core" is a euphemism for steroids. Back then, it signified a place where hard, heavy workouts were the norm. The big basic exercises- Squats, Deadlifts, Presses, Bench Presses- were emphasized. Machines were frowned upon. Instead, there was plenty of steel. YORK steel, to be more precise. At a time when most gyms had three or four olympic bars, Bruno's had twelve, plus two York Power Bars ( which were relatively new at the time.) You didn't go to Bruno's to "pump iron." You went there to LIFT. And there was no shortage of Lifters at the gym. Powerlifters and Olympic Weightlifters. If you trained hard and heavy, Bruno's was for you. There was one more thing about Bruno's that separated it from most other gyms: Steroids - and steroid users - were not welcome. I realize that many places claim to be against steroids, but, for the most part, they only talk a good game. Larry Licandro, the owner of Bruno's, had the guts to actually enforce his "no drugs" rule. More than once, a drugged-up pumper would try to join the gym, only to be shown the door, and told to go someplace else.

Even though Bruno's was only in existence for less than ten years, the impact that the place had on its members can't be underestimated. Many of us who trained there, are still lifting today, over thirty years after the gym closed its doors for the last time. The spirit of Bruno's is alive and well, as evidenced by the number of us who still "hoist the steel," and remain true to the values that we learned at Bruno's.

Each year, a bunch of us get together for a Holiday reunion dinner. We've been doing this for over ten years now, and while we may be few in number, we are still dedicated to lifting hard and heavy. This year, as in years past, we gathered at Domenico's Restaurant in Levittown, N.Y., which is down the road from where the gym once stood. This year, we had eight attendees, which is about average for us. Our ages range from 55 to 64 years old. But our enthusiasm for lifting has not waned over the years. The coming year will be particularly memorable as one of our members - Tom Tedesco - will turn 65 in March. Also, January will mark the 25th anniversary of the passing of Larry "Bruno" Licandro. Hopefully, we will all continue to lift for many years to come.

Season Greetings from Bruno's Barbarians!
Standing ( L to R ):  Dr. Rich Seibert, Tom Tedesco, Chris Newins, Mike Doucette.
Sitting ( L to R ):  Jim Duggan, Bill Mannino, Bob Sailor, Steve Matthews.


Editors Note: Great article Jim! I always love hearing about Bruno's and wish I could have met Larry.  We both ran our gyms the same way. Merry Christmas!
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Friday, December 13, 2019

More Work and More Weight - By Jim Duggan

"Weightlifting has proven to be the best means to attain your physical desires." These are the opening words of an article written by Bob Hoffman in the April 1942 issue of "Strength and Health" magazine. The title of the article is, appropriately enough, "More Work and More Weight is What You Need." You can imagine how this caught my eye, as I was looking through the table of contents on the first page of the magazine.

The article itself is geared to the trainee who is not entirely satisfied with his progress insofar as it relates to getting bigger and stronger. Mr. Hoffman mentions several of the "superstars" of that era. Men like Louis Abele, Steve Stanko, and, of course, John Grimek. Every serious fan of the Iron Game will immediately recognize these names. They are, rightfully, held up as shining examples of the benefits of lifting weights. They were - and are - inspirations to all who "hoist the steel." But Mr. Hoffman makes an interesting point: "The men who have succeeded, the weaklings to begin, men who were small, weak, and ailing, are the ones who have gained the most and continue to gain,"

There are several reasons why people succeed when it comes to strength training. Perhaps the number one reason is that they train progressively. There is a reason why it's called "progressive resistance training." Sometimes we lose sight of this simple truth. Adding reps to each set and weight to the bar. Poundage progression. If you are using the same weight on all your exercises as you were six months ago, then there is something wrong. Constantly strive to handle more weight.

Another reason why people succeed is that they are persistent. If you dedicate yourself to a regular routine, and you don't miss workouts, and you push yourself to work hard, then you will be successful. To be a successful strength athlete - or to be successful in any endeavor- one must be willing to work hard. Even when you don't feel like it. Especially if you don't feel like it. When it comes to lifting weights, you must overcome the inevitable plateaus, stay the course, and keep pushing.

One of the things that Mr. Hoffman mentions is something that is as true today, as it was nearly eighty years ago: " Most men expect too much in too little time. To gain, you must put plenty in your strength and health bank." This may sound a bit hokey, but how many times have you seen someone start a weight training program with great enthusiasm and then lose interest after a short time? People embark on an exercise program, they go all out for a while, and then they burn out. This very scenario will be playing out in commercial gyms across the country in a few short weeks, once the new year begins. People who haven't lifted anything heavier than a fork for the last six months, will all of a sudden try to become Jack LaLanne. When they don't see immediate results, they will inevitably quit. Nothing good ever comes from quitting. Actually, there is one good thing: The gym will be a lot less crowded!

There is another quote by Mr Hoffman that caught my eye: "If a man will continue to train intensively and wisely, he will continue to improve until an advanced age is reached." Of course, in the 1940s an advanced age was considered to be fifty years of age. Today, there are countless strength athletes who train hard, and who are in their sixties and seventies.

Now, what happens when you hit the inevitable "sticking point?" If you've been lifting long enough, you've experienced the temporary plateaus. There are several solutions. Taking a short break is one, of course. But what if you just don't want to stop training? According to the article, you can simply replace barbell movements with dumbbell exercises. Embarking on a heavy dumbbell routine, if only for a change of pace, will challenge your body in a different way. For example, if you've hit a sticking point in your Deadlift, you can try doing Dumbbell Deadlifts for a while. There a few things more intense than a set of high-rep Dumbbell Deadlifts. An all-out set of twenty or thirty reps will challenge even the most experienced lifter.

There is one more valid point that Mr. Hoffman mentions in his article. It has to do with keeping a journal or log, to keep track of your workouts. The importance of keeping a training notebook has been covered by numerous Iron Game authors, and cannot be overstated. By keeping track of each workout, you can chart your progress. Exercises performed, sets, reps, poundages can be easily recorded in a simple notebook, or daily diary. Personally, I've been keeping track of my workouts for over thirty years now. Whether I was training for a contest, or trying to gain, or lose weight, each training session has been recorded. There a few things more gratifying than looking back over your workouts and seeing the progress that you have made over the course of a year. If you are trying to lose weight, or gain muscle mass, you can even keep track of your food consumption, and make it easier to count calories.

As I write this article, there are less than three weeks left in the year.  While 2019 is almost over, there is absolutely no reason why you can't get a head start on the New Year. Promise yourself that nothing will stop you from achieving your goals. Make 2020 a year of great Strength and abundant Health.
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Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Steroids are as Commonplace as Marijuana - By RJ Hicks, BS, CSCS

Every time I go into the gym I see 10 obvious steroid users. Most people pass right by them without even knowing the difference. Many beginners have no idea about drugs and give these people their full attention. They are the first people beginners begin to idolize and go to for training advice.

Whenever I watch them train they are always working on the easy exercises. I never see them doing heavy squats or deadlifts. I never see them overhead pressing , doing weighted chin ups or heavy rows. I always see more focus on pumping the muscles than progressing the weights, more flexing than lifting and more resting in the gym than actually training. These trainees are nothing but frauds.

Many of these people are in the gym for the wrong reasons. They get into training for the egotistical purposes and bottom line results. They could care less about earning the muscle and are willing to sell their health and integrity just to look big. There is a need to recognize that these people are doing it wrong and to stop giving them the credit they don’t deserve.

But who is to blame them when all the bodybuilding champions past the mid 1960s have been heavily involved in steroids. Professional bodybuilding has become a game of who has the best chemist. You can tell from how bloated and unnatural all of the top professional bodybuilders look. Whats worse is the magazine companies will try to deceive you by using these drug-enhanced champions to promote their supplements for profit. Throw away all of your copies of “Muscle and Fiction” and refuse to follow the advice of any of these drug assisted bodybuilders. Drug user routines do not work for natural trainees simply because you are not on the drugs. The training routines they follow have NOTHING to do with their results. What they are doing and what natural trainees do are completely separate activities. None of the pre drug era champions would come close to the monsters seen in today's contests.

Power lifting has been practically ruined from the rampant use of steroids. The record totals these athletes are producing at meets have been artificially enhanced by the use of equipment and drugs. It is nearly impossible to compete in any of the top organization unless you submit and become drug assisted. Many people will lie and suggest they have new ground breaking training methods, but in reality it is just them using drugs. Former Powerlifting coach Dick Conner in Bob Whelan’s Natural Strength Night Podcast on even said if you can bench over 350 pounds natural, (and raw, no gear), you could bench over 500 with a bench suit and steroids. What difference does it make? It is all a joke. It is the equipment and drugs doing all the work not the athlete. This is not just the case for power lifting, but in all the strength sports.

Steroids have gotten so out of control that there is hardly any good information to read anymore. Bob Whelan has expressed his frustrations with me many times about how much over the last 15 years the average training knowledge has gone down. All through the 90s before the Internet there was good information to read; HardGainer by Stuart McRobert, Hard Training by Ted Lambrinides, The IronMaster by Osmo Kiiha and the original Dinosaur Files by Brooks Kubik. Now most of what people read is riddled with drug user routines with the exception of a few good sites like Although has been around for over 20 years, the average trainee doesn’t know about it because it is dwarfed by all the crap on the internet.

Drugs are so common that the average person thinks if you control the way you take it or how much you take that you can take them safely. What a complete lie! Why do you think many steroid users die prematurely? The truth is there is no safe way to taking steroids. Bradley Steiner another guest on Bob Whelan’s Natural Strength Night Podcast said the idea of believing there is a safe way to take steroids is as insane as saying there “is a safe way to play Russian roulette”. That any athlete or person interested in strength training should stay away from it because, “there is no way to predict 100% about how it [the drugs] will effect the body even when it is used for legitimate medical purposes.” But that is not what people want to hear.

All of this to say if you train natural AND train properly like what is advocated on you are unique. Most natural guys train like the drug users and wonder why they are having all sorts of problems.

Editor's Note: Awesome article RJ!
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Tuesday, November 26, 2019

You Have Time - By Jim Duggan

The most common excuse for not training regularly is "I don't have time." This weak rationale for not working out has been in existence for as long as people have been engaged in the pursuit of Physical Culture. In other words, making excuses for not exercising is nothing new under the sun. You hear them all the time, especially around this time of year when the holidays are approaching. It just so happens that time constraints are the most common excuse. But, let's be brutally honest: If you want to do it badly enough, you will find time. Or you will endeavor to make time. Either way, you find a way to get the job done.

We all have twenty-four hours a day. That comes out to 1,440 minutes a day. Over the course of a week, that equals 168 hours. If you work forty hours per week, and sleep 56 hours per week ( eight hours a night), you will still have 72 hours left over. Naturally, your work - or school- schedule may vary, and perhaps you require more than eight hours of sleep per night. You can still arrange your time so that one or two hours each week can be used to build your body. In other words, you can still find time to train.

Depending on your goals, you can easily find a couple hours during the course of a week to exercise. If your goal is simply "to get in shape," you will require less time than someone who wants to maximize his/her potential. If you want to build maximum size and strength, you will require more in the way of time to reach your goals. But, even if you want to get as big and strong as possible, you do not need endless hours in the gym to build strength. Great strength can be developed by doing two or three heavy workouts per week. You will still be able to hold a job, go to school, and lead an active life. In other words, you do not have to live in the gym, despite what you may read in the various muscle magazines.

If you are determined to get stronger, then you find a way to make time for your training. Determination to get bigger, stronger, and healthier will help you achieve your goals. One of the best ways to build determination is to force yourself to do things you would rather not do. If this means waking up an hour earlier in the morning in order to complete a workout, then so be it. Every day you must do things you don't want to do, if for no other reason than the fact that doing things you don't want to will strengthen your character.

Don't be a procrastinator. Don't wait until tomorrow. One of my favorite lines from the movie Rocky III was when Apollo yelled at Rocky: "There is no tomorrow!" Think about that the next time you feel like putting off your workout. When it comes to finding time to train, there is today. Now. Don't put it off. As I am writing this, there are less than forty days left in the year. In a little over a month, we will be ringing in the year 2020. How will you spend the last month of this year? Will you get a jump on the new year and push yourself to work hard towards achieving your goals? Just think, if you've been planning on starting a strength-training program, you can get a head start on the New Year Resolutioners by getting started right now. You will be richly rewarded for the effort to you put forth. Let the weak-minded procrastinators wait until January 1st. You will be ahead of the game, in more ways than one. The best part is that you don't need a lot of time. Twenty or thirty minutes, several times a week, is a good way to begin. Whether you train at home or in a commercial gym is not important. Just get going, and continue with your routine.

You will fail only if you don't start. It may seem trite to say that you get out of lifting what you put into it. Don't let anything interfere with your ambition. If you put forth the effort, you will derive the benefits of strength and health. Last year, I wrote an article titled "Strength and Health Must Be Earned." And while nobody ever said that it would be easy, progressive strength-training will be the best investment you will ever make.

This is the time of year when it is customary to take inventory of ourselves. What have we accomplished over the past year? If you are currently engaged in a weight-training regimen, then you should plan now to continue with what you are doing. What if you are not satisfied with the progress you've made? Or what if you have stopped training for one reason or another? Then you must determine what mistakes you have made, and formulate a plan to go forward. Set a goal, devise a plan to achieve that goal, and then don't allow anything to deter you from achieving what you want.

Don't make excuses, and, especially, do not claim that there isn't time. One of my favorite quotes came from a High School yearbook. The Principal's message to the graduating class ended with these words: "Time is the only thing of real value that you possess. Don't waste it!" Don't wait for tomorrow. It's time to lift.
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Saturday, November 23, 2019

Adaptations and Adjustmants For Training Longevity - By Burt Gam

This is probably the most difficult article I will write but I think some things, no matter how distasteful, need to be said. Over the years I have trained, studied, and learned a lot about training. The methodologies may have changed over the years, but at the core of it all has always been driven by the concept of progressive overload. Progressive overload is probably the one link that all spheres of lifting and strength sports have in common.

Powerlifters, bodybuilders and Olympic lifters all are based on either steadily increasing poundage (intensity) and/or the number of repetitions performed (volume) over time. Unfortunately I like many others have reached a crossroad. Due to acute and chronic injuries which have accumulated over time, I have been forced to make some adjustments in my training. Bad knees due to osteo-arthritis from years of wear and tear have made squatting and deadlifting painful some days. Rotator cuff issues in my right shoulder have made any kind of pressing meaningful weight impossible.

Progressive overload is no longer possible on these key movements. Mentally this is very tough for me to digest since I am an old school and hard nosed hard-ass. At 63 I have gotten about as strong and probably as big as I am going to be in this lifetime. There I said it. Ouch....

The good news is I feel I can still continue to work out at a lower level. I always knew this day would come but was not ready. I can probably maintain my strength on these movements and avoid atrophy and loss of strength through lowering the resistance and performing more repetitions. On days when the pain is higher I have experimented with other exercises. For example, today I could not squat so I substituted leg presses.

Good mornings and stiff legged deadlifts take care of the hamstrings and lower back. Bench presses, inclines and overheads can be performed for reps with lighter weight. Lately I have implemented stiff arm pullovers to work the specs and lats and stretch my shoulders.I also perform shrugging and neck exercises as I find them to be therapeutic. I am able to perform most other exercises and even add a little weight here and there with the exception of lateral raises. I strongly feel that the things learned over the years teaches us to be creative and adapt when inevitable changes occur in our bodies.
Overcome and adapt and make the necessary adjustments. Allowing more time between workouts to allow the body to heal is necessary as we age to prevent overtraining. I also feel as we get older our bodies benefit greatly with stretching and flexibility exercises. This can help overcome stiffness and soreness in the muscles. Including a bit of low impact cardio will not hurt you. The body can still improve other parameters of fitness. So what does all this mean?

At the end of the day we must recognize and accept our limitations. Even when progression over time becomes impossible, we can still continue to train around our physical issues. We can also continue to acquire more knowledge and apply this to our unique training situations. Simply because we are no longer making consistent gains should we throw in the towel. If the day I die I can still lift 10 pounds I guess I went out a winner. When it comes down to it, the quality of life and the ability to perform daily tasks efficiently is more important. Avoid injury and train smart. You will last longer and live better. Good night and good training.
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Monday, November 4, 2019

My Undeniable Truths of Weight Training for Beginners - Part 4 - Train Infrequently - By RJ Hicks, BS, CSCS

One of the hardest concepts of proper training people refuse to accept is training infrequently. Far too many programs have people lifting weights four, five and even six days a week. It is hard to progress long term on any program like this as a natural trainee. For best results in the gym try training the entire body no more than twice a week.

Many of the old-time greats trained and preached infrequent training. These men knew recovering between workouts was need to progressively get stronger.They instinctively knew training everyday was incorrect. In fact, they always suggested irregular training on abbreviated workouts for people who were severely underweight. They were no strangers to the idea that the body needed time to rest and grow. It was learned early on training irregularly allowed you to work up to your limit or beyond on a regular bases.

It can be hard to follow this simple principle. Beginners fall into the trap of listening to all the bad information in this field and begin to believe more is always better. The current fitness fad is to have no off days. People brag about how much they go to the gym, but rarely talk about how much stronger they are in each exercise. So many of them are so screwed up they don’t even understand what progressive resistance training is. If your goal is to getting bigger and stronger you must go against what the majority believes and cut back the amount of training days. More training is not better, hard, progressive, safe training is.

Stop following the routines from the muscle and fiction magazines or the neighborhood drug users.It is not possible for 99% of natural trainees to train all the time and make anything past beginner results. Many of the programs that insist on high frequency training cannot be followed long term, usually because of injury or burnout. Training the body four to six times a week is grossly overtraining for a majority of people. One or two days off a week for recovery does nothing. You can pretend to split up the routine anyway you like, but a most of these programs have too much muscle overlap and create too much systemic fatigue, if you are truly training hard. No adaptation or growth can occur when the body is constantly being trained like this.

To avoid wasting years in the gym with little progress try limiting your workouts to no more than two full body training sessions a week. Peary Rader made no notice gains in weight training for several years until he switched to a twice a week training program built around heavy high rep squats. You can even take an extra day or two of rest if needed as long as you get two workouts in a 10 day span. There is no rule which says you must get all your training done during the week, as long as you don’t completely fall into the minimum mentality Training twice a week or twice every 7 to 10 days allows, two to three days of rest between each workout. If you plan on training the whole body using the big pushing and pulling exercises for both the upper body and lower body (which every healthy individual should), you will need the rest.

Many of the top researchers suggest there is a 72-96 hour window of recovery before de-conditioning occurs and muscle atrophy begins.This is why two to three days off between workouts is perfect. It maximizing recovery without risking muscular atrophy on a regular bases and ables you to work past your old training limits for years.

Trust the advice of men like Bob Hoffman, Mark Berry, Sig Klein, George Jowett, Peary Rader, Bradley Steiner, Dick Conner, Stuart McRobert and Bob Whelan and train infrequent. You might just be surprised how strong you get.

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Friday, November 1, 2019

The Importance of a Proper Warm-up - By Jim Duggan

"A pitcher warms up before he pitches a ballgame, I gotta warm up before I play the piano." - Ed Norton to Ralph Kramden.

The above quote is from The Honeymooners episode titled "The $99,000 Answer." And while it might seem odd to mention The Honeymooners on a website devoted to Strength Training, Ed Norton hit the nail on the head when he mentioned warming up. The importance of a proper warm-up cannot be overstated. This is true for all athletes, including - and especially- strength athletes. Whether you are just starting out in the world of strength training, or you are an experienced lifter, a thorough warm-up is essential if you plan on lifting heavy weights. In fact, the stronger you become, the more important it is to do a proper warm-up.

There are many reasons to warm-up before a workout, but the most important one is to prevent injuries. If a muscle isn't warmed up adequately, then there is a greater chance of sustaining a tear or a "pull." This is particularly true if you are attempting maximal or near-maximal poundages. Nobody playing with a full deck wants to sustain an injury, and pulled/torn muscles are frustrating, as well as painful. Nothing can derail your training worse than an injury. Strained muscles can set you back a week or more. Tendon and ligament injuries, on the other hand, can be very serious because their recovery times are usually much longer.

It is important to remember to warm-up on each exercise that you're doing. Begin each exercise in your workout by warming up for that particular movement. In other words, if your workout calls for you to do Squats and Bench Presses on the same day, then you should do a separate warm-up for each movement.

Every lifter should determine just what constitutes an adequate warm-up. This is something that you can learn from experience. I remember reading about some of the Soviet Weightlifting champions from the 1970s. They would begin each exercise by lifting an empty bar. I have always tried to use a similar approach in my own training. Regardless of what exercises I'm doing, I always begin with an empty bar to get the blood flowing, so to speak. By warming up, you actually are increasing blood flow to the muscles. Increased blood flow means more oxygen to the muscles. The trick is that you want the muscles to become warm, and not fatigued. You want to get your body ready for the heavier sets that will follow.

Naturally, as you get older, you may need to make allowances and give yourself extra time to properly warm up. You can't get away with doing things that you may have done when you were younger. At some point, youthful mistakes will catch up with all of us, unless we learn to train smarter as we get older. An example of an extra warm-up would be riding a stationary bicycle for five or ten minutes as a way of increasing your body temperature before you begin your warm-up sets.

Once you're properly warmed up, and have commenced your workout, you want to stay warm. This is usually not a problem during the Summer months. And if you train in a commercial gym, the temperature is usually set at a comfortable level. Even during the Winter, most commercial gyms are set at a comfortable temperature, so staying warm is usually not a problem. What if you train at home? A "cellar dweller," or "garage gorilla" may find it challenging to keep warm when the temperatures take a plunge. If you train in an unheated garage, then a proper warm-up is even more important. Obviously, a portable heater will make it easier to keep your body temperature elevated for the duration of your training session. I remember when i was fifteen years old, and had just started lifting weights. My training area was an unheated porch in the back of my parents' house. Naturally, when the temperatures plummeted, it was freezing in that porch. We had an old wood burning stove in that porch, but we were never allowed to use it ( my Dad, being a Fireman, was VERY cautious about that sort of thing.) Despite wearing layers of sweatshirts, it was hard to keep warm. But I never missed a workout, and I think it was that determination that caused my Dad to relent and allow me to light up the stove whenever I lifted weights. Problem solved! When I joined Bruno's Health Club at the age of nineteen, I thought the problem of keeping warm during the Winter was over. Boy, was I mistaken! Since Larry's heat rarely worked, his gym was almost as cold as my parents' porch ( except that there was no wood-burning stove to provide relief.)

A very important thing to remember when it comes to staying warm, is to avoid resting too much and cooling off. Don't take too long between sets. We've all seen people at the gym who seem to take forever between each set. But if you allow yourself to cool off, then you are defeating the purpose of warming up in the first place. If you are doing multiple sets of low reps ( heavy weights), then you should rest only as long as it takes to recover from your last set. You don't want to take time out for anything that might interrupt your workout for more than a few minutes. In today's climate, that means no phone calls, selfies, texting, or other distractions. Do yourself a favor and leave the phone in your locker, if you train in a commercial gym. Leave the constant texting to the pumpers and toners. They're in the gym for the wrong reason anyway, so let them waste their time. But don't waste yours!

The whole idea behind warming up is that you want to prepare your body and mind for lifting heavy weights. Don't underestimate the importance of getting your mind ready for the task at hand. A thorough warm-up will prepare you physically, as well as mentally. Your body will be prepared to lift progressively heavier weights. Your muscles will be able to function at a high level. Your blood circulation will be improved, providing more oxygen to your muscles. This will allow you to train hard, heavy, and injury-free.
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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

To Dead or Not To Dead - By Burt Gam

Lately I have been coming across some interesting stuff on the deadlift out there. It seems there are some folk out there who seem to believe that Deadlifting is not such an effective tool for increasing muscle mass or hypertrophy.I even read a statement from a leading and well known certifying fitness organization that deadlifts alone are great for increasing strength but not so much for hypertrophy. Really? But just to be fair, I will say that the majority of what I have read up to this point contradicts this notion and supports the theory that deadlifts DO increase muscle mass effectively, particularly in the posterior chain.Now I want to say straight out from the start I am and always have been a HUGE fan of the deadlift. I was raised on milk, cookies, all kinds of good food, and DEADLIFTS. The deadlift was among the first resistance exercises I was taught at a young age. It required nothing more than a barbell, and perhaps some padding to protect the floor. I was taught proper form, the muscles which were activated, and the physical and mental benefits derived from it. And I knew and felt with every rep I did that I was doing something really useful for myself. To this day, if I had to pick just one exercise to the exclusion of all others it would be my choice. So yes I am very biased when it comes to this topic and I acknowledge this.

The purpose of this article is very simple. I realize that a lot of you out there reading and contributing to Natural Strength are pretty smart with lots of real life experience with weight training and was hoping to generate some opinions on this topic. And personally, I consider myself a lifelong student of the weights and really would like to hear from the Natural Strength community on this topic. So what I would like to do to get this going is simple; (1) Give a quick summary of what my reading and experience has taught me on this topic which positively supports my theory that deadlifts build strength and mass like no other(2) Summarize the thinking that seems to prevail to the contrary, that deadlifts while useful for developing strength, are not so effective for gaining mass.(3) My rebuttal. Whew ok, lets try to do this so here goes!

Arguments For Hypertrophy

1. Well the first and most obvious problem I see is the obvious connection between strength and hypertrophy. It is a fact that a larger muscle, all other factors being equal is a stronger muscle, and vice versa. And guess what? The deadlift is without equal for promoting strength gains. It excels here, mainly because it incorporates more muscle groups and muscle mass than just about any other exercise. From head to toe the body must work as a unit so the carryover to athletics is obvious. More weight(ideally) can be utilized as a result. It is the best test of overall muscular strength in existence. It has earned its place rightfully so as the "King of Exercises". If strength and size are even remotely related it would make sense for all lifters from bodybuilders to powerlifters and strongman and cross fitters and even fitness enthusiasts.

2. The deadlift in a related sort of way joins the upper and lower body as a unit and forces them to work together. It has been shown that increasing deadlift or squat poundage have a positive effect on each other.

3. The posterior chain is worked hard and heavy. From the quads, hams, to the glutes,lower back lats and traps. Even the arms and calves.Even the grip.

4. Along with this a number of stabilizer muscles are activated, particularly the core. I am not just talking abs here, but also the deeper tissues, like the obliques and transverse abdominis which also improve posture and promote trunk stability.

5. Greater hormonal response such as testosterone, growth hormone and insulin growth factors are released due to the amount of musculature used as well as the higher intensities from the heavy loading.Increased hormonal release contributes to hypertrophy and strength.

6. Increasing strength is foundational to increased power production. The deadlift movement in fact imitates the first movements of the Olympic lifts. But that is a topic for another article.

7. I will conclude here for the sake of brevity by saying that some of the more "enlightened" bodybuilders throughout history(which was nearly all of them back in the day) have utilized heavy deadlifts into their bodybuilding programs. And from looking at those that did, they clearly benefited from this heavy work by being rewarded with some thick and dense muscle, particularly in the posterior.

Argument Against Hypertrophy

1. Deadlifts are not essential for hypertrophy. There are compound and isolation movements which are effective for increasing mass in all of the muscle groups. Sure, while this may certainly be true, it would also make good sense for a natural drug free lifter to be very selective in exercise choice, that is to select exercises which give the most "bang for the buck". And since deadlifts are extremely taxing it would make sense to perform this movement first on a training day.i think the aversion some bodybuilders have to doing deadlifts is that they cannot nearly fit it into a typical split program, as they do lend themselves better to total body workouts which seem to have fallen out of favor these days and sadly so. Where do you put them, on leg or back day? Plus I think they are avoided because they are so damn hard!

2. There is little or no eccentric work when performing deadlifts. This one is a bit tricky, but it basically has to do with proper form and injury prevention. Sure most if not anyone would ever take a long eccentric lowering the weight to the floor, it is just as certain that improper protocol for lowering is to drop the weight which would be not good for the equipment or gym members having to hear that. It is usually done in a controlled manner when the weight is lowered. And while it may be true that eccentric loading is important for mass as well as strength it is not the only factor involved either. Sometimes where an exercise may fall short it can make up in other ways. This is true of the deadlift in the amount of muscle used as well as the super high intensity that is necessary to perform this exercise. There are no perfect exercises. But deadlifts are a damn good one.

3. Deadlifts are usually performed in the low to moderate rep strength gaining protocols. Yes, I have not met too many people who want to attempt suicide by deadlifts by performing high repetition sets.The argument against this has some validity, since performing high strength and power exercises with high reps while great for conditioning and to increase hypertrophy, can result in a breakdown in form and possibly increase the risk of injury.But if proper form is used it could be possible. But as stated earlier while there are optimal repetition ranges for developing strength, power and hypertrophy, there is definitely overlap. They cannot be totally separated. If the program is balanced by providing assistance exercises, compound and otherwise, performing deadlifts makes great sense as a cornerstone to any worthwhile weight program.

4. Deadlifts are dangerous. Yes I admit I screwed my back up once or twice doing deadlifts. But I have also hurt myself doing squats, presses, even curls! It all boils down to using good form and proper warmup. This is always important. Any physical activity can hurt you, football, baseball, even golf or just bending over.Risk is inherent in any physical movement, but performing deadlifts with proper form can go a long way toward injury prevention in the lower back, and could even minimize back pain.Risk versus rewards.

So there you have it. The condensed version of Deadlifting pros and cons. I love and am an advocate of deadlifting and always have been. I know that most of you out there probably feel the same or you would be somewhere else. I am very interested in hearing any thoughts on the topic of deadlifts and their effects on hypertrophy using typical training protocols, how to best incorporate them into a full body or split program, and any other related thoughts.

And guess what? Deadlifts are first up tomorrow. Cant wait!
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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Self Defense and Strength when Times Are Hard - By David Sedunary

All my life from 13 years of age I wanted to be strong and be able to defend myself. I started early, never got bullied, never backed down from a fight and never looked for a fight. My Dad God bless his soul, said, "Son there is always someone better than you, so don’t go looking for a fight.”

I started on the trail as a skinny little prick of 120 pounds, doing press-ups and chin ups, boxing with my brother, playing football against my brother with no holds barred, belting the piss out of each other until Mum said that’s enough and learning from my Dad who had 20 professional fights in and out of the Army during World War 2.

My brother was younger than me, bigger naturally, strong and tough. I used the Bull worker, and bought Joe Weiders Course when I was 16 years of age, just started my trade as an Electrical Fitter on the mine, and was scared of no one, fuck em I said to myself I am getting stronger, tougher, and can handle myself.

I started to go to the local boxing Gym with long time friend and trainer Jimmy Johns. Jimmy loved boxing and taught me heaps, but as the years went on I wanted something different: "True" self defense.

Twelve years ago I contacted Bradley J Steiner (the most knowledgeable Self defense trainer in the world bar none) via email and have learned from, and even visited and trained under Bradley in May 2014 for two weeks.

Brad taught me his style, American Combato, you know, street fight stuff, nothing fancy, fingers to the eyes, chops to the throat, hammer fist blows to the bridge of the nose, smash the balls, ear boxing, and sidekicks to the knee. One can break the knee with only 80 pounds of pressure, so why wouldn’t you do it in an emergency?

Before I met Brad I practiced my style at home always twice a week straight after Strength training. It was bag work usually 5 by 3 minute rounds of elbows, knees, an plenty of punching, straight lefts, right crosses, left hooks, upper cuts and body blows. This was my cardio plus 5 minutes on the air dyne bike at 80% max heart rate.

Now I practice American Combato twice a week for 30 minutes a time, at a slow easy pace concentrating as I have become older, doing it right so to speak. I also had several months of online training and consultations with Bob Whelan too.

I played (Australian Rules) Football from 10 years of age until the age of 32, and I feared no prick, only because of strength training and self defense mainly boxing and my own style of self defense.

Some people said I was a dirty bastard while playing football, but I knew if I didn’t get in first, they would get me, I WAS NEVER EVER INTIMIDATED. Never backed off and gave as much as I received.

I once stood up to a bully in Alice Springs, who was bad mouthing my girl friend who became my wife, I belted him and I followed him into the toilet and belted his useless fucking head in to the hand basin taps.

He kept his mouth shut in future around me, and my girlfriend.

I always trained with the weights twice a week, squats, dead lifts, behind neck presses, curls, dumbbell rows, the bench press, and dips.

Loved grip work and become strong in the hands and fingers.

Eventually got to 193 pounds and was strong for a bloke who didn’t have large bones, only a 7 inch wrist.

Squatted 285 lbs for 20 reps, and 325 for sets of 6 reps, dumb bell rows 120 lbs, and behind neck presses with 140 lbs, I love dips and could dip body weight plus 88 lbs for 6 reps.

My arms always grew to 16 and a half inches, could curl 125 lbs strictly for 6 reps.

As I have become older,  68 now, I can defend myself. I have learned to be Respectful, Peaceful, Gentle and Reserved, but know that at anytime I can explode like an atomic bomb. My training has changed a bit since I am older, same exercises just less weight and in proper style with great form, no cheating. Twice a week, once at home in my Gym and once in a local Gym where a trainer like Bob Whelan pushes the shit out of me.

I love that .. I decided to go and train at a local Gym, to add some variety and meet people as my wife of 44 years died of Lung cancer June 6th 2019.

This knocked the wind out of my sales, I lost 15 pounds of muscle and strength and it has become a huge challenge for myself to keep going, but I am slowly getting back to previous size and strength through hard work, good food and rest.

Those who have gone through it know, those who haven’t, I hope you don’t.

I know I need to keep going forward, easier said than done, I must and will. Strength training and self defense kept me sane, strong and able to handle the stresses of life.


There is no better combination of strength training and self defense in my opinion, to keep you fit, strong and ready to handle the chaos of life.

Don’t sit at home and do sweet F All, get off your arse and train, keep healthy by eating right, keeping your body and mind strong, to give you health, vigor and longevity.

Read as much you can from Bob Whelan, Stuart McRobert and Bradley J Steiner! You can’t go wrong with these 3 experts.

The Only Place "Success" comes before "Work" is in the dictionary.

Make savage the Body and civilize the mind.

The above are always in eye sight of me.

Editor's Note: Great story of life long determination my good friend David.  
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Saturday, October 19, 2019

Money in the Bank - By Burt Gam

I just now finished reading an article by a guy named Daniel Braun. Daniel it seems is a very accomplished guy. I have to begin by crediting him with the article originally featured in OP ED. Powerlifting. Dan holds a JD, LLM and is an adjunct professor. He is a Bronze Medal winning powerlifter and is a Certified Powerlifting Coach. Anyway I found the article quite interesting and feel his message was something worth sharing. The message is simple yet powerful, and to me is the heart and soul of why so many of us toil and sweat with the iron. It has to do with lasting functionality..... or loss of it as we age.

It might not have mattered in my 20s, 30s, or 40s. Not even 50. But I now realize I lift now for far different reasons than when I started. Daniel points out the stark reality that aging is regressive. Doctors measure aging not in a chronological way but rather "a loss of physical or mental reserves". He further states that this decline can come in the forms such as muscle atrophy or sacropaenia, bone mass loss, and neuro-degenerative disorders. Daniel believes that the most effective way to delay the onset of these types of markers is to perform Powerlifting exercises, Bench Presses, Squats and Deadlifts! Why is this so?

It would seem that these three basic exercises will give most people all of the functional strength necessary to perform any tasks likely to be part of one's daily life. Growth hormone and other beneficial hormones are released, muscle and bone mass is maintained, and exercise even seems to provide a degree of neuro-protection.

Additionally, powerlifting or weight training with moderate repetitions he feels is less stressful on the body and more safe than many sports, especially high impact. Furthermore, although strength training alone may not turn you into a marathon runner or even a sprinter, it is a fact that increased strength has a positive indirect effect on the cardio-respiratory system. The chosen example is if a person can squat or deadlift twice their weight they will have a much easier time climbing flights of stairs than if the can only lift their bodyweight. Additionally, although typically performed in slow controlled fashion, increasing strength will provide the potential for increased power and speed. Dan states that a 650 pound deadlifter has a better chance of power cleaning 300 pounds than someone who deadlifts 450 pounds. Sure sounds logical to me.

And this is where it gets a bit depressing, but sooner or later age catches up to all of us. The analogy Daniel uses is a comparison between building strength and muscle and saving money early in your life, as much as humanly possible. What happens is you build(save) as much as you can in the years you have the capability to do so.As you atrophy(spend) the reserves you have built up, you will last longer than someone who did not. Dan's example is a person with a million dollars can last longer than someone with only a hundred. A strong person will decline more gradually and last longer. Here is how I see it; When you are nearing the end of your journey and you are having trouble getting off of the toilet, you will not wish you had done more cardio but rather that you had squatted more! Down here in Miami I used to jog with a retired IRS agent. I dropped out a long time ago, but I still see this guy going at it. He must be over 80 and although he can run for miles, he is rail thin. I really admire this guy, but had a vision of his beating heart being the last thing left of him while the rest of him disintegrates. But he has the heart of a 30 year old!

Anyway, I thought Daniel wrote an effective and thought provoking article with a simple but powerful message. Like life itself, everything eventually fades. But we can still be strong and healthy well into old age. And at the end of the day, for me having the ability to carry in the groceries at 85 will matter more that what I did when I was 25. Good health and strength to all as we look forward to the new year!
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Friday, October 11, 2019

The Proper Way To Train - By Jim Duggan

There is a world of difference between training properly, and just working out. Training properly will allow you to achieve your maximum potential in terms of Strength and Health. And, make no mistake, maximum strength and optimum good health should be the goals of every person who lifts weights. Of course, "Strength and Health," was also the name of one of the great magazines devoted to strength training, which is no coincidence.

Naturally, not all trainees will have the same training goals. However, whether your goal is to gain muscular size and strength, lose excess bodyweight and become leaner, or if you're lifting weights as part of a strength training program for another sport, you will want to be able to fulfill your potential. Nobody playing with a full deck wants to just "go through the motions." There are several basic principles that apply to everyone who lifts weights.

1. Progression.  Progression is the key to getting bigger, and stronger. The whole idea of "progressive resistance" rests on this principle. The goal of any strength training program is to increase the number of repetitions, or the amount of weight used, in each workout. If you are performing the same number of reps, with the same poundage, every workout, then you are NOT training progressively. Naturally, if you want to make progress, you will have to work hard. Nobody ever said it would be easy. I remember a quote from a former weightlifting champion: "It takes a very brave man to lift heavy weights." Pushing the poundages does, indeed, takes guts. But it will be worthwhile.

2. Proper Form.  Using proper form in all of your exercises will go a long way in keeping you from getting injured. Of course, injuries can be caused by other things besides poor form: insufficient warm-up, over-exertion, fatigue. Likewise, I'm not saying that using proper form will prevent you from ever becoming injured, but it will make an injury less likely to happen. Another benefit of using proper form is that it will help develop the muscles being trained. For example, if you are doing a standing barbell curl, it makes absolutely no sense to cheat by utilizing excessive swinging. Yes, you may use more weight, but you will not derive the benefits of the exercise. Likewise, if you are Squatting, all of your reps should be done to proper depth, especially if you are a competitive powerlifter. And if you are Deadlifting, and it seems today like everyone has jumped on the Deadlift bandwagon, do NOT bounce the bar off the floor between each rep, but rather start from a complete stop. And don't even think about doing a Bench Press without a pause between each and every rep. Here's a hint: If you are training for a contest, perform every rep as if you are being judged by the strictest referee in the history of the sport. This will guarantee that you will never bomb out of a meet. And it will build greater strength. Greater Strength!

3. Adequate Rest/Recuperation.  If you are training hard, then it only stands to reason that you must allow your body time to recuperate from your workouts. You can't do justice to your training if you don't recover from one workout to the next. At some point, you will pay the price in the form of overtraining and/or injury. You can't expect to make continuous gains if you don't get adequate rest between workouts. This is especially important for the drug-free trainee. That is why it is foolish - and potentially dangerous- to follow the routines of steroid-bloated, so-called "champions." As natural strength-athletes, we only have so much training energy to expend. And don't be foolish enough to fall into the trap of "body part training." The silly idea of training arms on one day, legs the next, etc.. The old "split routine" that was propagated by the old muscle magazines. Leave this type of foolishness to the pumpers, and toners. Use common sense, and devote yourself to two or three full-body workouts per week, with an emphasis on the basics.

And while I'm on the subject of the basics, remember that is is the basics that have built such legendary figures as John Grimek, Norbert Schemansky, and Bruno Sammartino. If your goal is to do pumping movements, you can't reasonably expect to develop an appreciable amount of strength. Pumped up bodybuilders usually lose their "size" once they stop training. Mere size should not be an end in itself, but, rather the combination of size and strength should be the goal of all trainees who are just starting out.

4. Make Every Workout Count.  When you go to the gym, be ready to train hard. Try to eliminate any and all distractions. This means NO cell phones. You do not need a phone while lifting weights. I realize that this is not a popular sentiment, especially in today's world, but let's be brutally honest: How is a cell phone going to help you train harder? Leave the phone, and its inherent distractions, to the toner crowd. You'll make better progress. But aside from cell phones, your workout should be a time to train, not to engage in lengthy conversations, or waste time.

While there have been many books, and articles devoted to the concept of "proper training," the four which I have described above will build a solid foundation, and establish healthy training habits. And good training habits will lead to more successful workouts, not just for today, but for years to come.
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Friday, September 20, 2019

Thick Bar Thursdays - By Jim Duggan

     Serious Lifters have known about the benefits of using thick-handled barbells for years. It's hard to say who originated the idea of using thick bars.  Their use dates back to the days of the old Strongmen from over a hundred years ago.  The use of thick bars as a training tool probably goes back to Peary Reader's old "Ironman" magazine. My first exposure to thick bars was through an article by Dr. Ken Leistner, over thirty years ago.  In the article, he described how he used them to train his clients. He mentioned how Kim Wood, the legendary strength coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, used thick bars ( and other implements) to train his players. Several years after reading the article, I had the good fortune to join Iron Island Gym, and I got to see first-hand how thick bars can build strength in a way that was different from a standard barbell.
     Dr. Ken had several thick bars in his gym. They were painted blue, and they were quite scary looking. Of course, I had to try them, and I found that they definitely added a different dimension to my training.  It was about this time when I began reading "Hardgainer" magazine.  There were articles by Bob Whelan, and Brooks Kubik which described their experiences using thick bars, and the many benefits they derived from their use.  A few years later, Brooks Kubik's classic book "Dinosaur Training" came out, followed by his "Dinosaur Files" magazine. Brooks was a strong advocate for thick bar training, and, more than anyone else, was responsible  for the resurgence in the popularity of using thick-handled barbells and dumbbells.
     Among the many benefits of using thick bars is the fact that they activate more muscles, ligaments, and tendons in the hands, fingers, arms, forearms.  Consequently, there will be a corresponding increase in strength.  Not many people think about tendons, and ligaments when training, but they play a big part in the development of strength.  Stronger hands and forearms will increase your grip strength.  Improved grip strength will translate into better performance on any movement which requires a strong grip.  Whether you're  lifting a heavy barbell, anvil, or large stone, thick bars will improve your performance and make you a better lifter.
     You can utilize thick bars with just about any upper-body movement.  While you can use them for various Presses, thick bars would be more effective for "pulling movements." Curls, and Deadlifts immediately come to mind when you try to incorporate thick bars into your workouts.  You must be very careful when using them for overhead Presses, for obvious reasons.  For many years I used thick bars for overhead work.  In fact, in 2000,  at the York Strongman Contest, one of the events was an overhead Press for weight.  The bar used was a 2" axle, lifted from a rack.
     By far, my favorite upper-body thick bar movement was doing Bench Presses inside a power rack.  Pushing a thick bar off the chest from a motionless starting point is pure, unadulterated power.  There's absolutely no comparison to doing a typical "touch and go" bounce press found in a typical commercial gym.  Incidentally, if you are planning on using thick bars for Bench Pressing, it is vitally important to only do them inside of a power rack where the pins can be set to catch the bar, in the event of a missed rep. Always train safely.
     For the past few weeks, I have been using my thick bars for various movements.  I like to vary the exercises from week to week, just to avoid boredom.  However, the challenge of doing the Lifts with a thick bar has made for an interesting change of pace.  Here are a few movements which I have been doing:
1) Trap Bar Deadlift.  I recently purchased a 2" Thick Trap Bar.  The thing is a monster.  It weighs 45 Lbs., but feels much heavier, if that makes any sense.  A couple of months ago, on my 55th birthday, I did 400 Lbs. for 75 reps in a little over 50 minutes.  I had hoped to get 100 reps, but two torn calluses on my hand made it impossible ( did I mention that this bar is a monster?)  Recently, I've been using the Trap Bar off a 2.5" block. I suppose the modern term is "deficit deadlift," but I prefer to use the phrase "deadlift off a block."  However you wish to describe it, it is an intense movement. I usually work up to a heavy single or triple, then drop the weight for a high-rep back off set.  By the way, each rep is done with a pause between each rep. No bouncing off the floor! I encourage you to do your reps strictly.  You will develop better strength through proper form, rather than relying on momentum. In other words, don't cheat.
2)  Thick Bar Deadlift off the Block.  About a year ago, I purchased a 2" revolving olympic bar from York Barbell.  It weighs 25kgs ( 55 Lbs.) Let me tell you, this bar is a beast! By standing on a 5" platform, I do Stiff-Leg Deadlifts for sets of ten.  Of course,  the rep selection can vary, but I prefer the higher reps.  I perform the movement by lowering the bar just above the floor, and then raise the weight upward.  This keeps continuous tension on the muscles throughout the movement.  It really taxes the grip, especially when using a double over-hand grip.
3) Thick Bar Curls.  Again, I use the York 2" revolving bar.  Between the thickness of the bar, and the fact that the bars revolves, it is an intense exercise. While I've never been a big fan of direct arm work, this is my favorite way to perform barbell curls.  For further variety, you can do Reverse Curls.
4) Thick Handle Dumbbell Rows.  These are simply dumbbell rows, but performed with thick-handled dumbbells.  There are many brands available, but I use mu Ironmind Dumbbells. Naturally, you will not be able to use as much weight as you would for regular DB Rows, but the intensity, and difficulty of the movement makes it a worthwhile change of pace.
     These are just a few of the movements you can do with thick bars.  Naturally, there are many different exercises, and with a little creativity, you can come up with an effective routine.  Unfortunately, most commercial gyms do not have thick bars, so you might have to resort to buying your own, and training at home.  The general public has never really embraced the idea of lifting thick-handled barbells and dumbbells.  One of my favorite lines from "Dinosaur Training," and believe me there are MANY great lines from that book, goes something like this: "Muscle Pumpers and drug babies wouldn't touch a thick bar on a bet."  Don't follow the crowd.  If you can get your hands on a thick bar ( pun intended), then by all means do so. You'll be glad you did.
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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Heavy Weights vs. Light Weights - By Jim Duggan

     I've often said that there is no shortage of training information available today.  In the past, you would have to wait for the various "muscle magazines" to arrive at the newsstand.  If you were like most trainees, you had a favorite magazine that you used to follow the various champions, the way they trained, and other "breakthroughs" in the world of Strength.  Usually, once you got your hands on a magazine, you would read it from cover to cover.  Then, having devoured everything contained within the pages, you had to wait another month for the next issue to arrive.  Obviously,  that isn't the case today.  We have instant access to any and all online authors and articles.  A plethora of information is only a click away.
     Unfortunately, while there is a vast quantity of training articles, the actual quality leaves something to be desired.  Most, if not all, of what's online is not written for the serious lifter in mind.  And the "muscle comics" that are still in print are no better.  They are of little use to people who want to LIFT.  Toning, pumping, shaping, and "judgement free" training seem to be the order of the day.  But what if you want to get bigger and stronger? More importantly, what if you want build drug-free strength the right way?
     I recently came across an article which addressed the age-old debate of heavy exercise versus light training.  The author was about to embark on a strength-training program, and was describing his introduction to the world of lifting weights.  Instead of summarizing the article, I will repeat some of the main ideas that he brings up in the article.  These ideas are certainly useful, and will be helpful to anyone who lifts weights, regardless of their level of experience. 
     "Every system was supposed to be the best."  How many times have we heard that? High volume, Low volume, Nautilus, High Intensity, Super-Slow, Abbreviated Training,  Six Sets of Six, Five Sets of Five, etc..  It can get pretty confusing, especially for a beginner. But the main thing to remember is that no matter what philosophy you subscribe to, it won't be worth a damn if you don't work hard.  That means training consistently and progressively.
     "To obtain muscle of any size and strength, one has to use those muscles against heavy resistance, ever greater resistance, and that the muscles have to be forced to do harder work."  Hard work. Poundage progression. Progressive resistance means just that.  If you are not increasing your poundages on a consistent basis, then you are doing something wrong.  Don't be afraid to push the poundages.  If you are seeking to gain size and strength, that is the only way to make gains. You're not going to get there with milk and cookies.
     "Muscles quickly become accustomed to the work demanded of them.  It is necessary to make demands of the muscles, to make them overcome more and more resistance."  It's not easy to push yourself to bigger poundages. Years ago, a famous Weightlifting champion said that  "The weight must not be feared. It must fear you." It takes a brave person to lift heavy weights. Sometimes a training partner can provide the impetus to push past boundaries that were seemingly unreachable.
     "Don't make the mistake of using weights that are too easy to handle."  If you train in a commercial gym, you will see a lot of things that will cause you to shake your head.  Guys doing Standing Presses with a 55 Lb. barbell, then sitting around for five minutes texting on their phones. And they wonder why they can't gain.  If you want to be able to lift heavy weights, then you must lift heavier weights than what you're using now.  And you have to work hard.
    "The best results are to be had by including in the training program exercises which involve all the muscles."  I saved the best for last.  Only movements which bring all the muscles into play make the internal change that build size and strength.  Training the large muscle groups stimulate the entire body to grow bigger and stronger.  In other words, isolation movements are definitely out.  Good-bye cable-crossovers, and tricep pushdowns.  Hello Squats, Presses, and Deadlifts. We're all familiar with people who have made great gains in size and strength by utilizing a program of heavy Squatting.  Years ago, my friend Larry Licandro gained fifteen pounds of muscle by doing just three exercises: Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift. No Pulldowns. No curls.   Too many people waste their time doing isolation movements that bring little-if any- increase in size and strength.  You can do concentration curls from now until the cows come home, but if you're not Squatting or Deadlifting, you will not gain.  Leave the wimpy exercises to the pumpers and toners and hit the multi-joint movements. The exercises that have built men from John Grimek to Norbert Schemansky.
     The ideas presented in the article that I'm referring to can be invaluable for anyone looking to get bigger and stronger.  One more thing that I'd like to add is that the original article from which these ideas came is from the September, 1937 issue of Strength and Health. The title of the article was "Heavy Exercise Is Best." Truer words were never spoken. Yes, over eighty years ago, trainees were interested in getting bigger and stronger.  And the answers were readily apparent way back then.  And over the years, countless thousands have benefited from a common sense approach that emphasized hard work, basic exercises, and heavy weights.  No gimmicks, no personal trainers, no fancy equipment.  It worked back then, and it will work today.
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Friday, July 19, 2019

Remembering Ralph Raiola - By Jim Duggan

     Over the years, much has been written about some of the elite lifting gyms that have gained a reputation among Lifters and Strength Athletes.  While many, unfortunately,  have gone by the wayside, a few are still operating to this very day.  I've often lamented the fact that I have the "pleasure" of belonging to a commercial gym.  While I am fortunate to be able to train at home for the most part, one of the things I miss is belonging to a great lifting gym.  There just aren't many around, at least here in Long Island.  That wasn't always the case, though.  I had the good fortune of belonging to two great gyms in the past.  The first was Bruno's Health Club, which operated from 1980 until 1989.  The second was Iron Island Gym, where I trained from 1992 until 2008.
     Iron Island was simply the finest gym I had ever seen. If you speak to anyone who trained there, I think you will get the same response. It had everything you would want in a gym: great equipment, convenient hours, immaculate facilities, and an atmosphere that had to be experienced.  Naturally, a big reason for the excellence of any gym is the people who run it.  And Iron Island Gym had two of the absolute best in Dr. Ken Leistner, and Ralph Raiola.  These two gentlemen were childhood friends who became business partners and created the finest lifting facility that any of us had ever seen.
     Earlier today, I received the sad news that Ralph passed away yesterday at age 72.  How sad that these two legendary figures would pass away within a few months of each other.  It is definitely the end of an era.  And while there may never be another Iron Island Gym, the memories of that special place will live on.  And while people usually associate Dr. Ken with Iron Island, Ralph played a big part in the success of the gym.  Indeed, after Dr. Ken had left the business, Ralph continued to run the gym for almost another ten years.  While I have many memories of Ralph, perhaps my warmest memory of him occurred during the very darkest of times.
     In the days following September 11, 2001, I had stopped going to the gym. I don't think it's necessary to explain why. However, up until that point, I had been going to the gym every day.  Whether it was to lift, or simply do my thirty minutes on the Stairmaster, I was at the gym every day.  Naturally, in the days immediately following 9/11, there was little time, interest, or incentive to work out. But several days later, on Friday, September 14, I decided to go to the gym early in the morning,  before I reported to work.  If nothing else, lifting weights would provide temporary relief from everything that had taken place.  I'll never forget walking into the gym that morning.  It was very early, and even more quiet than usual. As I walked through the door, Ralph spotted me from behind the front desk.  He sort of did a double-take, then ran out from behind the desk and hugged me.  He then began to cry, as he was hugging me.  He even kissed me, and tried to tell me how happy he was to see me.  It was hard for him to speak, because he was crying so hard, but words were not necessary. I could feel what was on his mind, and in his heart.  I tried to inject some humor and said something like "Ralph, people may get he wrong idea." But he was just so glad that I was alive.  Since he hadn't seen me for four days, he assumed that I had been among the missing. I don't remember the particulars of my workout, and, really, it wasn't important what I did that day.  I was just glad that I went to the gym that day.
     During a time when raw emotions were the order of the day, Ralph restored my faith in human nature, and restored hope when there had been little cause for hope. I'll never forget what Ralph did for me that day. And I'll never forget a man who was as big-hearted as he was big.  RIP Ralph.
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Monday, July 15, 2019

Understanding and treating type 2 Diabetes - By Dr. Jason Fung

Dr. Jason Fung is a Canadian nephrologist. He's a world-leading expert on intermittent fasting and Keto, especially for treating people with type 2 diabetes.
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Monday, July 1, 2019

Lifting Belts: Good or Bad? - By Jim Duggan

     A lifting belt is something that is found in the gym bag of just about every person who trains with weights. Different styles, leather or suede, metal buckles or velcro are just some of the options available to trainees.  But are lifting belts really necessary?  Do you really need to be wearing a belt from the moment you walk onto the gym floor?  For years, beginners were taught that wearing a belt was necessary to support your lower back and prevent injury.  This was especially true if you were doing Squats, Presses, or Deadlifts.  Quite often, the various muscle magazines would endorse the notion that the use of a belt was absolutely essential to remaining injury-free.  Never mind the fact that just about every magazine advertised - and profited from the sale of- lifting belts.  If you were to believe the "muscle comic books," a lifting belt was the sine qua non for better, safer workouts.
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Thursday, June 20, 2019

My Undeniable Truths of Weight Training for Beginners - Part 3 - Balance your training routine - By RJ Hicks BS CSCS

A common theme I come across when discussing training with individuals is the lack of balance in exercise selection in their routines. Many people believe they are training all their muscles, when they only truly train half or focus on training the primary muscles used in a given activity and ignore the rest. If you want to get as strong and muscular as possible, take up a balanced approach.

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Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Embracing The Deadlift - By Jim Duggan

     Not too long ago, the US. Army decided to overhaul its long-standing physical fitness test, in order to improve fitness, reduce injuries, and better demonstrate strength.  Read those last three words again: Better demonstrate strength.  STRENGTH.  What we train for, what we admire, and respect. What we enjoy reading about ( and writing about, too!). And just what movement has the Army chosen to most effectively  test the strength of its soldiers?  Why, none other than the Deadlift.  Actually, to be more precise, the Trap Bar Deadlift.  More about that in a few minutes.
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Thursday, May 2, 2019

Squats For Bigger Arms - By Jim Duggan

     The title of this article is from the April 1970 edition of Muscular Development magazine.   It was originally written by Sterri Larsen.  Who is/was Sterri Larsen you might ask?  I have no idea.  A Google search produced no answer.  Under his byline in the article, it states that he was a bodybuilding authority in Norway.  That is all I have on Mr. Larsen.  It doesn't really matter who he is.  What matters is that he wrote a great article, which contained information that is as relevant today, as it was nearly fifty years ago.
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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Natural Encouragement - By Vince Vaught

In our small group we should be thankful for one another as we cling to the
original purpose of what it was intended to be about. A healthy lifestyle and increased
strength through the disciplines of consistent hardwork with the use of weight training
equipment. It was and still is our objective. There's an existing respect & appreciation among
us who never crossed over. We're the ones who have stuck to the theme of health and are
satisfied with who we are. The old school purist never feels inferior or envious of what's
happening with the drug enhanced crowd. In the modern fitness & wellness culture most
people understand the difference and quietly feel sympathetic towards individuals who
made bad choices. After decades in the strength section of fitness, one can assume he's heard
and seen almost all of it...... except, a justified legitimate reason for chemical enhancement.
              The Natural Strength enthusiast has to discard all methods contrary to what's already been
proven effective. One must believe in what works and having followed those instructions also
believe in theirself. It takes confidence to embrace the challenge of out doing what you did before.
Keep on believing and don't waste time. You're doing the right things, proper nutrition, enough
sleep, and a generally clean lifestyle and along with that, the common sense not to over train in
volume or frequency.
             In pursuit of new strength levels a main issue is avoiding injuries & setbacks along the way.
One should be comfortable in knowing which compound exercises their body tolerates and the
particular technique required for them. Training forward comes easier when you're not working
around aggravated body parts. Consistency is key to achieving your goals, with that in mind, learn
how to minimize injury risk.
             It's hard to imagine anything goofier than training hard without a lifestyle to support your
expected progress. Worse yet would be someone doing everything right and the only thing holding
them back is the workout itself. Over the years many times a misguided young bodybuilder would
ask me how its done. What he really wanted to know was, could he expect to be like me someday,
20 years from now when he's my age. Well, no help was given unless they promised to put everything
aside, forget the past, believe,  and commit to my instructions.
             They were prescribed a 2-wk rest and provided with an abbreviated version of what they had
been doing. Without exception everyone who followed the plan got back to me with an amazing
testimony of new strength levels and muscular growth. Like me, they learned to appreciate quickly
what a difference it makes when a program is designed to ensure recovery and how the body responds.
              Having experienced good progress with a split routine in the past, there were still concerns
about overlap when doing Squats or Dead Lifts later in the week. If you've already hit upper body real hard,
how can you do Squats or Dead Lifts(which are both whole body efforts) within 2 or 3 days the
same week without interrupting recovery. Granted, these are concerns limited to those serious about
becoming stronger and they're the ones capable of training hard enough to overtrain.

              This is an example routine to be tweaked for your personal use and performed in a High Intensity
Abbreviated style. Rest instinctively after each workout. You should be ready to train again in
less than a week without fear of overlap. If not, you'll know it, just take an extra days rest.

The 3-Routines to rotate are "A", "B", & "C" in order. Do "A" take 5 days or so to
              rest and do "B" then rest again appropriately and do "C". If 5 days rest between isn't
             enough you'll realize soon enough. Obviously more rest could be required based on
             activities and other demands in life. Even at max intensity you should typically feel
             ready to workout again within 5 or 6 days, for sure by the 7th day in most cases.
                        Clearly this program is designed for those with the cultivated ability to train
              hard. The ones who really do something to the body, can't risk overlap, and are
             totally reliant on recovery to be consistent.
                        Honestly though, this comes with a warranty and it will work for everyone. The
             beginner, the one starting over, the veteran, and you too!!

                             "A"                             "B" "C"
             overhead bar press                              chin up 30 degree Inc Bench press
             trap bar dead lift                                      dip rows
                     pull up                                chin up bar squat
             overhead bar press                                 dip 30 degree Inc Bench press
             trap bar dead lift                                  calf press  rows
                    calf press                         Romanian dead lift bar squat
                   leg curl                                     Leg press 45 degree back extension
            seated DB curl                                     bar curl calf press
                                                                                                                                      arm curl: choice

                                Note: as mentioned before, tweak it a little for personal needs but leave
                                things structured the same.
                                             * upper body heavy as possible in the 5 to 8 rep range in strict form
                                             * Squats & dead lifts work it in the 12 to 16 range, keep the same load
                                                and see what you can get on the 2nd set. If your trap bar has high                                             
                                                Handles have a heavy day and a heavier day on the high side next                                                                                           
                                                Time and occasionally do a static hold at end of 2nd set
                                            **for upper body go to positive failure most of the time, do some
                                                 beyond failure cheat reps or negatives every 3rd or 4th workout
                                            **upper body: plan your micro load increases according to rep
                                                 accomplishment of a collective 10 in the two sets (or your
                                                 preference) & occasionally do a flush set with a reduced wt. after
the 2nd set.


Great article Vince!

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