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 10 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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Sunday, April 14, 2019

Tribute to Dr. Ken - By Linda Jo Belsito

Kathy, Sol, BariAnn, Bari, Doris, Greg, Kevin, Family and Friends.

As I sat down to write about my memories of Ken, I wasn’t sure how or where to begin. My mind has been flooded with 40 plus years of so many memories. How can I put all of this into words? As I read the tributes over the past week the recurrent themes I read were: He was a Dr. of Chiropractic, dedicated father, husband, son, brother, grandfather, friend, mentor, motivator, coach, great man, real, honest, smart, author, gentle, brilliant, motivator, pioneer & historian in the iron game and strength world. He was all of those things and more to me, as I called him my brother from another mother.

I received a call last Saturday afternoon on my way home from my gym which he helped me build.
All of us have some piece of equipment from his home gym or had something donated from someone he contacted to help us build his legacy. We will carry on his traditions of paying forward in the world of strength training.

Nothing made his chiseled face light up more than when he would give you a new piece of equipment, t shirt, steak, or slip you some cash as you walked out the door. Paying it forward was something he did constantly. He still is by asking us to donate to the kids in his community he has helped for so many years.

Beth and I worked for Ken and Kathy in his Chiropractic office from 1986- 1992. We were reminiscing, about the basement gym, the juke box, where he and Kevin allowed us to pick a song to train to after everyone else was done. 60 minute Man comes to mind. What he did for so many was taught us how to find that inner strength, mentally and physically. He lived that life, he had this charismatic way of making you want him to bring you to that next level. He would not give you any leeway, he would not ask you to do anything he had not done, or wasn’t willing to do along with you. If your goal was to get stronger, he was going to get you there.

I was blessed when he came into my life over 40 years ago at a local powerlifting meet on Long Island. I have to be honest, I was a little afraid of this guy with tattoos, who was running the meet. I guess he saw potential. He introduced himself “ I’m Dr. Ken”. He gave me his information in case, I wanted to get serious. I had no idea that in a short time I would be calling on him for help. I took him up on that after a squat work out when I attempted 225 lbs., pulled something in my low back. I went to the ER, where the physician said, “ women don’t lift weights! They gave me pain meds, told me to sit on ice and heat, rest and don’t lift.

I called Ken and told him what happened, and in Ken fashion, he said, “F**K that, get in here, I will adjust you and you will be back in the gym this week. “ And I was.

He has helped athletes of all walks of life. Many came to Ken wanting to train. But he gave us so much more. He made us all stronger, not only physically but mentally. He could explain the how and why, we needed to do something, due to his knowledge in the Iron Game that goes back so many years. But we all remember the experiences of those high rep workouts, where we either hit the bucket, or would attempt to stop, and his words were “ I didn’t tell you to F** ing stop”.

We did HIT training back then, which I incorporate every now and then with my athletes.

I traveled with Ken doing lifting exhibitions on Hammer equipment, did seminars, visiting colleges, and he also would take me to competitions to get the experience I needed in PL since he believed I could be a champion one day. He taught me how to find that inner strength. He let me figure out what it meant to be a mentally and physically strong in a world that did not yet accept female strength athletes.

Something he always demonstrated was unbelievable stamina, resilience, and a never quit, positive attitude to a degree where we questioned if he was human? Does he eat? Does he sleep? I could never figure that out. But believed in him and he would always greet me with a big hug and That great smile.

What I do know is, when he did eat, it was for the masses and he loved good food. He introduced me to Peter Lugers, steak tartar. He invited me to Thanksgiving dinner and asked me to help make smashed potatoes, which was a back and tricep workout. He would have summer strength events and BBQ’s, and pudding pie fights with the kids in the backyard of valley stream. We would train in the cold garage fully clothed, but completed the workout only to come inside and have Kathy waiting with something great to eat. His legacy will live on in everyone he has touched, mentored or trained. From local high schools, college, pro teams to helping produce an Olympic Champion Derrik Adkins.

He made us mentally and physically strong. He gave me unconditional love, friendship, guidance, and always followed through on anything I asked of him. He made me a better person and my successes in life and lifting I can say are because of him.

I find myself doing what he did for me with my athletes, young kids, children, and most recently the wounded warriors, marines, and Army soldiers who come into my gym to find that strength. I make it a safe place for all. I expect as he did that you train well, stick to the program and make the most of that training time.

All of us who have had the opportunity of training under Dr. Ken, know the lessons we have learned from him. We all can probably recite the stories he would tell about back in the day, when strength training for him consisted of lifting steel beams, sand buckets, in his garage, and the stories of trips he took to York Barbell to pick up equipment in a massive snow storm back in the 60’s.

What amazed me about this when I read it, is that the rack he picked up on that trip, he gave to me for my home gym back in 1986. I have it in my gym now. Beth and I worked for Ken and Kathy as their rehab nurses, in Valley Stream and it was some of the best times of our lives. Not only did we get great experience and learn, but he would always have perogies, cheesecake, steak, or Graters Ice Cream, to help us get stronger, after a workout.

Ken was real. He said what he felt. He was misunderstood by many, but to those of us who he loved, you knew you were loved. This man would give you anything to help you succeed, or put you in touch with those who could help you.

If he is listening now, just hear this. We didn’t tell you to Fucking STOP!

To say I will miss Ken, is an understatement. I will miss his hugs, calls, emails, that great laugh, and of course the events he held at his home. His absence is felt by us all. Our hearts are broken, But I know every time we step in the gym, now more than ever, we will be living his legacy and paying it forward as he taught us to do. I know we will meet again someday at his “Iron Island In the Sky”.

In Strength, LJ your sister.

Editor's Note: A Great Tribute to Dr Ken Lindo Jo! 
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Thursday, April 11, 2019

Much Respect and Rest In Peace Dr. Ken - By Bob Whelan

I really only knew Dr. Ken in a professional way, mostly in the 90's when we both wrote for some of the same magazines and he contributed a chapter for my book IRON NATION. I also got the idea of having a puke bucket in my gym after watching a few of his training video's! It sure beat cleaning the mess! If I had lived in the New York area, I believe we would have been the best of friends. I met him when I visited Iron Island Gym with Drew Israel in the mid 90's and had a chance to speak briefly to him and see his great world class gym. I wrote about this visit in Hardgainer. A few phone calls and emails pretty much sum up our personal relationship. We really did not know each other well, but I always had the greatest amount of respect for Dr. Ken. He was a unique personality and the people who knew him best absolutely loved him. I loved reading his articles and always wish that I had the chance to go to one of his epic Thanksgiving dinners. I heard so many great things about them from many of our mutual friends. I consider him to be one of the greatest and most influential writers in the history of physical culture. He will be missed. Much respect and Rest In Peace Dr Ken.
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Sunday, April 7, 2019

Dr. Ken Remembered - By Jim Duggan

    It would be difficult to overstate the impact that Dr. Ken Leistner had on the world of Powerlifting, and Strength Training.   As a chiropractor, strength coach, writer, and gym owner, he influenced countless Lifters, and Iron Game devotees over the years.  Earlier today, I received the sad news that Dr. Ken had passed away, at the age of 72.
     Several of us from Bruno's discussed the impact that Dr. Ken had, not only on us, but on the world of weight training.  Chris Newins put it best when he said: " He was a mentor and friend to so many."  Truer words were never spoken.  He certainly had an impact on my life insofar as it relates to training.  There will undoubtedly be numerous tributes to Dr. Ken over the coming days, and rightfully so.  I think it is accurate to say that he was one of the most influential figures in the world of Strength and Lifting.
     My first introduction to Dr. Ken was through the pages of Powerlifting USA Magazine.  His column, "More From Ken Leistner," was a regular feature.  It was also one of the first things that I would read.  His no-nonsense, straight forward, no bull style of writing was perfectly suited for those of us who love to lift.
     Dr. Ken wrote for many magazines over the years.  Just about every Muscle/Lifting/Strength publication benefited from his expertise.  And readers like me were all the better for it.  His own publication, "The Steel Tip," was years ahead of its time.  I'm glad that I have a complete set of back issues,  which he generously gave to me.  One of my favorite articles of his appeared in Muscular Development magazine.  It was titled "Unorthodox Power Builders."  It described how one can become brutally strong by lifting odd objects.  Back then, lifting I-Beams, Anvils, or Torpedoes was not something that was generally done by trainees. This particular article was focused on lifting heavy anvils.  It must have made an impression on me since I am the proud owner of nine ( yes, nine) anvils ranging in weight fro 50- 206 Lbs..
     The first time I ever met Dr. Ken was in the Winter of 1992, when he opened the world famous Iron Island Gym.  I had the pleasure of speaking with him for about twenty minutes. At the time, I was 27 years old, and I thought I knew a lot about lifting.  Boy, did I have a lot to learn, and I could not have have picked a better place to learn, nor a more knowledgeable person to learn from.  You could just feel his passion about all things strength related, and he wanted to provide the very best facility for those who shared his passion.  I think if you ask anybody who trained at Iron Island, you will get the same answer:  It was the best lifting gym that any of us had seen.  The atmosphere, equipment, environment, and energy of that place could inspire anyone.  I have often said that if you couldn't get motivated at Iron Island, then you ought to be embalmed.  Dr. Ken and Ralph Raiola created a gym that was second to none.
     My first experience with High Intensity Training was through Dr. Ken.  At the time, he was writing articles for "Hardgainer" magazine. He was kind enough to give me a stack of back issues.  Looking back, Hargainer was one helluva training magazine.  And, just as with PL/USA magazine, his column was the first thing I would read.  Incidentally, during the mid 1990s, Hargainer could boast of having Dr. Ken, Bob Whelan, and Brooks Kubik as regular contributors.  Imagine, three of the most knowledgeable and talented Iron Game writers on the same magazine at the same time!
     I can't begin to imagine just how many lifters and Strength coaches have been influenced by Dr. Ken.  I certainly learned a lot from him.  I still have his monthly "Iron Island Insights," that he wrote for the members of the gym.  As I've often said, quality training information never goes out of style.  In fact, I still have a hand-written Deadlift program he wrote for me in 1993.  It was a program that helped me to a personal best of 688 Lbs., which I pulled at a meet at his gym.  The trophies he gave out were made from actual I-beams.  I cherish the program, and the trophies I received to this day.  More importantly, I will forever cherish the memories of a great gym, and a man who made a difference in the lives of those who benefited from his talent, passion, and wisdom.  I would like to offer my sincere condolences to his family, relatives, and many friends.
Rest in Peace, Dr. Ken. And Thank You. 

Editor's Note: Thank You Jim for the great tribute to Dr. Ken. I had a great deal of respect for him. He was an Iron Game legend and one of the best strength/ muscle writers in history. He will be missed but his influence on weight training will long remain with us.
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Saturday, March 30, 2019

The 3 x 3: Oh, How I Love Thee! - By Rick Rignell

Whenever I’m looking for a quick, simple, metabolically challenging workout, I usually turn to the 3 X 3.  If you’re not familiar with it, a 3 x 3 consists of a multi-joint leg exercise, a multi-joint upper body pushing exercise, and a multi-joint upper body pulling exercise.  Examples of each of the three categories are listed below:

Multi-Joint Leg: Squat, Leg Press, Deadlift

Multi-Joint Upper Pushing: Bench Press, Incline Press, Military Press, Dip

Multi-Joint Upper Pulling: Row, Pulldown, Chin Up, Pull Up

The three exercises are performed in 3 cycles with as little rest as possible between exercises.  In other words, do a set of squats, then go immediately into a set of bench press, then immediately to a set of rows.  Then it’s right back to squats and so on until all three cycles are complete. As far as reps go, you’ve got some flexibility.  A common recommendation is to start with 15-20 reps on the legs and 10-15 on the upper body. If you hit muscle failure on each set, your reps then may end up looking something like this:

First Cycle: Squat = 20, Bench = 15, Row = 15

Second Cycle: Squat = 15, Bench = 12, Row = 12

Third Cycle: Squat = 12, Bench = 8, Row = 8

You can keep the weight the same on each set, increase it, or decrease it as necessary to hit the desired rep goals.  My personal preference is to keep it the same for all three cycles and of course, the number of reps completed on each cycle will decrease.  Regardless, I take each set to the point of muscle failure (or very close). My current favorite 3 x 3 routine is performed entirely on Hammer Strength machines as follows:

V-Squat: 15, 12, 10
Iso Horizontal Bench: 8,6, 4
Iso Rowing: 8,6,4

I prefer slightly higher reps for the lower body and slightly lower ones for the upper.  I take the V-Squat within 1-2 reps of muscle failure ( prefer not to get stuck at the bottom of a squat movement), and take each upper body set to failure. During the third cycle, I go to failure on the upper body sets, rest 20 seconds, then go to failure again.  Then, if time and energy permit, I do this “finisher”:

Using one pair of dumbbells, complete 3 cycles of the following exercises non-stop:

  1. Biceps Curl
  2. 2-arm Shoulder Press
  3. Single-arm Shoulder Press
  4. Negative Hammer Curl
  5. 5 Push ups

Specifically, curl the dumbbells to your shoulders, press both overhead, alternately press each, lower both with a hammer grip, then set them down and perform five push ups.  Repeat the cycle 2 more times. Some colleagues and I learned this finisher at an outstanding strength and conditioning clinic at Michigan State University a few years back, and chose to name it “MSU Upper Body Finisher” out of respect.  I highly recommend the 3 x 3 workout. Use whichever combination of exercises and reps best suits you, and get after it!

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Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Perfect Home Gym - By Jim Duggan

     In a previous article,  I discussed various exercises that should be performed if one wished to develop strength, health, and increased muscle mass.  The motivation for writing that article was something I came across on the internet.  The "age of information, " in which we live, has given us access to a seemingly unlimited source of training knowledge.  Unfortunately, we are also subjected to a large amount  of fancy theories, sissy exercises, and "bro science."  Any so-called expert who doesn't  endorse consistent, progressive hard work on the basic exercises should be ignored.  Granted, ignoring useless information is easier said than done.  But if you have a realistic goal, a systematic plan, and the desire to put in the required work, then you can successfully navigate through the silliness and become bigger and stronger.
     Recently,  I came across another internet article on a training website.  The subject of this one was how to create the perfect home gym.  For those who are fortunate enough to be able to train at home, I sincerely hope that your gym is, indeed, "perfect." While most commercial gyms will never be able to satisfy each and every member, a home gym, on the other hand, provides the perfect opportunity to create an optimal training environment.  Naturally, you have to know which pieces of equipment you will need to accomplish your goals.  And, of course, you have to be able to obtain the items you need, as well as have the available space for everything to fit.
     I will describe the article, written by a film industry personal trainer, and see how it applies to a hard-training lifter.  While we don't normally equate Hollywood trainers with serious lifting, there are many points that were brought up with which I agree.  Of course there were others that were complete nonsense.  I will try to separate what is good from that which is best left ignored.
     The first point that was raised is a very valid one: "Do time and budget constraints make it exceedingly difficult to belong to a commercial gym?"  Most commercial gyms are, sadly, expensive.  Additionally, very few of these gyms cater to serious Lifters.  Naturally, paying an arm and a leg for a membership to a place you cannot possibly train properly will make the decision easy.  If you are lucky enough to have access to a quality gym, then you are in the minority .
     Before I get to the equipment that this "trainer" recommends, there is one paragraph in the article that needs to be addressed.  Motivation.  The author argues that some people need to be in a group environment in order to to make gains.  Gym Bros, Gym Chat, and other silliness are supposed to be a motivating force.  What a bunch of bull!  If you are truly dedicated to a goal of Strength and Health, you will not need others to inspire you to train.  In fact, you should be able to motivate yourself without the aid if a "trainer," or anyone else.  One of the greatest lifters of all-time, John Davis, for many years trained in the basement if a church, by himself.  He did not need cheerleaders, "rep counters," or anybody else to become one of  greatest Weightlifters who ever lived.  Incidentally, I sometimes  wonder if most personal trainers today have any knowledge about John Davis, Tommy Kono, or Norbert Schemansky?
     Now, according to the "expert," here are the essential pieces of equipment that no home gym should be without:
     Barbells and weights.  I have always felt that ANY gym should start with a quality barbell.  Do not settle for a cheap bar.  Sure, quality barbells cost more, but isn't it worth it?  In lifting, as in life, you get what you pay for.  There are many quality barbells available.  Don't sacrifice quality just to save money.  A good barbell will literally last a lifetime.
     Bench.  A strong, sturdy bench is also crucial.  Bench Presses and Incline Presses are important movements.  A quality bench is an invaluable addition to any gym.  While we're on the subject of Bench Presses, do NOT perform Bench Presses or Incline Presses alone.  Always have a spotter on hand.  If you do not have a spotter available,  then the next item is crucial.
     Power Rack.  The Power Rack has been around for decades.  Countless lifters have built tremendous strength with this great piece of equipment.  You can do heavy partial movements, as well as Squats and  Bench Presses in complete safety.  Whether you want to call it a Cage, a Rig, or a Rack, find yourself a heavy-duty power rack.  You will never regret the investment.
     Kettlebells.  Here is where I don't  completely agree with the author.  While I have nothing against kettlebells, per se, I think a set of heavy adjustable  Dumbbells are more practical. And just as effective.  If you have access to both, then by all means invest in both.  On a personal note, I would try Center Mass Bells (CMBs).  I've purchased a bunch of them over the last few years, and have had great workouts with them.
     Cardio. The author, surprisingly, does not recommend investing in a treadmill, stationary bike, or other cardio machines.  He advocates high-rep bodyweight exercises.  He also recommends "lifting weights fast."  Whatever that means.  I think everyone should do some form of cardio, particularly if you are over the age of 35.  Brisk walking is an easy, low-impact way to get your body moving.  Needless to say, you won't need any fancy equipment other than a good pair of walking sneakers.  A more intense way of incorporating cardio training into your workouts would be to purchase a good Jump Rope. If your knees and ankles can handle the impact, then skipping rope is an effective way to burn calories.
     Spin Bikes, Suspension Trainers, Punching Bags.  These are other items that the author recommends.  I had always thought that most stationary bikes are the same, but, boy, was I ever wrong!  Spin classes are extremely popular, and the bikes they use are technically advanced, and capable of simulating myriad workouts.  As for punching bags, in the past I've used both Heavy and Speed Bags.  While you may get a nice workout from these pieces of equipment ( as well as burn off a lot of aggression), there a more effective ways to build strength. An additional note regarding the use of Heavy Bags:  It would behoove anyone planning on using it to learn the correct way to deliver a punch.  Your wrists will thank you!
     Mirror.  While the author is ambivalent about the need for a mirror, I would just like to add what I learned about mirrors from my days at Bruno's Health Club.  While they may assist you in developing good form in the Squat, and Deadlift, especially if you're a beginner, they are not necessary. Don't become dependent upon them.  Especially if you are a competitive lifter.  As Larry Licandro used to say: "There are no mirrors in a contest." In other words, if you are used to Squatting in front of a mirror, then you will be in for a rude awakening when you are Squatting in front of a crowd of people.
     For those "Garage Gorillas" who are in the process of equipping their gym, best of luck.  It goes without saying that you can have the very best if everything, but it won't do a bit of good if you don't use the equipment properly.  Training progressively, and safely, with the goal of poundage progression, should be the goal of all people who lift weights.
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Friday, January 18, 2019

Strength And Health Must Be Earned - By Jim Duggan

Strength and Health must be earned. These are the first six words of an article by the same name which was originally published in the December 1942 issue of Strength and Health magazine. Over seventy-six years ago, Bob Hoffman offered advice that is as useful and relevant today, as it was back then, during the height of World War Two. While there is no way to accurately determine how many people read the advice offered in the original article, it is interesting to wonder just how many people derived a direct benefit by following the numerous axioms of that time. Hopefully, there were a great many Physical Culture devotees who lived long, healthy , and strong lives by heeding the advice of the "Father of World Weightlifting." In this article, I will mention a few of the more notable nuggets of information.

"The state of strength and health we enjoy depends upon the lives we lead." Obviously, you cannot get stronger without lifting weights. But just going to the gym is not enough. You have to train the right way. By that I mean consistently and progressively. Hard and heavy. Whichever words you want to use to describe it, you cannot simply buy a membership to a gym and expect to make progress. This point is especially pertinent to the many New Year Resolutioners who annually invade gyms and Health clubs at this time of year. You cannot sleepwalk through a workout, and expect to get stronger. You must have a goal, and a plan to achieve that goal. Then you must dedicate yourself to achieving that goal.

"A large percentage of the population go through life offering themselves excuses why they don't exercise." I suppose laziness, insofar as it relates to working out, has been around since time immemorial. Certainly, for as long as people have been lifting weights, there has always been the constant struggle against becoming lazy and complacent. We've all had to fight the temptation to skip a workout when we didn't feel like lifting. But, if you really want something, you will find a way to get it done. We all have time- 1,440 minutes in each day. How we use those 1,440 minutes will determine if we earn our Strength and Health.

"Proper exercise is the difference between strong, healthy, energetic supermen, and the sadly out-of-condition people we see everywhere." The more you put into your workouts, the more you will get out of it. Regular workouts are a long-term investment that you can make for the future. Even moderate lifting will pay you a thousand times in dividends of physical benefits. Certainly, during the 1940s, weight training was not as accepted as it is today. Nevertheless, many people still embraced the idea of progressive resistance training ( no doubt because of the gospel put forth by people like Bob Hoffman, and John Grimek) and developed their bodies. Today there is no reason why anyone cannot achieve some sort of physical condition. Numerous gyms, exercise equipment and training information exist today that simply weren't available during the "war years."

"Activity is life. Stagnation is death." Sensible strength training brings healthful activity to every organ, gland, and cell in the body. While Bob Hoffman could not have possibly foreseen the sedentary lifestyles that would characterize our present-day culture, he did warn against slipping through life doing nothing constructive or beneficial for our bodies.

"Weightlifting and weight training is a pleasure." Truer words were never spoken. Lifting weights is indeed a pleasure. The ability to push yourself, and push yourself through a challenging workout is something to be celebrated. You should look upon your workouts as a pleasure. Not something to be endured, but rather something to look forward to with anticipation. The anticipation of being able to challenge yourself. Those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to train should never take this for granted.

Lifting weights and working out can - and should- become more than a mere hobby. It is a way of life that will improve your life, and add to it in ways that cannot be described in an article. While some train for the goal of entering competition, such as Weightlifting, Powerlifting, Strongman, or bodybuilding, the vast majority of trainees lift for the sheer love of training. Even if you do compete, your toughest opponent will always be yourself. All people who strength-train are, in fact, engaging in competition. Your opponent is your potential.

While the world has changed a lot since 1942, people, for the most part, have not. And words of wisdom that resonated nearly eighty years ago ring just as true today. This is the time of year when just about everybody has some sort of physical goal set for themselves. As the weeks, and months, go by, time will determine just how many people are truly serious about achieving their goals. How many of us will earn our Strength and Health in 2019?

Editors Note: Great article Jim!

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Does modern bodybuilding make you sick? You should write for Natural Strength! I always need good articles about drug-free weight training. It only has to be at least a page and nothing fancy. Just write it strong and truthful with passion! Send your articles directly to me: bobwhelan@naturalstrength.com

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