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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