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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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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