Thursday, February 20, 2020

Readers Question Answered - By Jim Duggan

Readers Question:

Hi Bob: Another great article by Jim Duggan about the trap bar. Maybe you can get Jim or another great writer to write an article about the Texas Deadlift Bar or similar type deadlift bars. Example would the bar be worth purchasing if you not a powerlifter and just want to change things up. In other words would there be any advantage to using that type of bar over a regular oly power bar for the basement lifter. Keep up the great work! Thanks, Steve ...

Answer From Jim Duggan:

If you're not planning on competing in a Powerlifting or Deadlift contest, then I don't think it's necessary to purchase a special Deadlift bar. These bars are becoming increasingly popular, and are being used in various competitions. It seems like a new "world record" is being set every other month on these things. So, if you are planning on entering a meet in which a Deadlift bar will be used, then it would be a wise idea to become familiar with the equipment that will be used. There is a different feel to these bars, especially as the weight increases past 400- 500 Lbs. or so. Since the goal of a contest is to lift as much as possible on that day, not being familiar with the equipment will place the lifter at a disadvantage. But if you don't plan on competing, then a regular Olympic bar will more than suffice. Real strength doesn't require special equipment.

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Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Trap Bar - By Jim Duggan

I was first introduced to the Trap Bar back in 1992, when I joined Iron Island Gym. Prior to that, my only exposure to the Trap Bar was through the pages of Powerlifting USA Magazine. I remember advertisements, and even an article written by Dr. Ken Leistner extolling the benefits of this unique piece of equipment. However, until I finally tried it for myself, I was still "in the dark" as to the advantages of using it.

I'm not going to chronicle the entire history of the trap bar, but I will review a few relevant facts. To begin with it was developed and invented by a gentleman by name of Al Gerard. Mr. Gerard was a powerlifter- and a damned good one at that- as well as an engineer. The original design was diamond-shaped, whereas today's models are hexagonal in shape. In fact, many people refer to it today as a "hex bar." I prefer to call it by its original name: The Trap Bar.

When the trap bar hit the market, the advertisements listed several advantages of using it. I will list a few here:

When deadlifting with a trap bar, the weight is located in a more efficient- and safer- position, relative to the center of gravity. By standing inside the bar, the weight is located to the rear of its normal path of movement. This reduces lower back strain, thereby lessening the chance of injury.

During a trap bar deadlift, the spine is closer to vertical than when using a straight bar. For most people, this will result in vastly improved leverage. Moving the wright closer to the body improves balance, and less effort is required to move the weight off the ground. Most conventional deadlifters find that they can use more weight using a trap bar than they can with a straight bar. In my own experience, my best contest deadlift was 688 Lbs, but using a trap bar, I was able to pull 715 Lbs.. Sumo-style deadlifters may find that they have a different ratio between the two movements.

The Trap Bar is quite versatile. In addition to Deadlifts, other movements can be performed using this strength-training tool. Obviously, deadlifts are the primary trap bar exercise. But, just as with a straight bar, there are many ways to keep it interesting. High reps, low reps, or any combination of rep schemes, can prevent boredom or becoming stale. If you are a competitive powerlifter, the trap bar is an excellent adjunct to your deadlift training. Naturally, if you are preparing for a contest, you must use a straight bar. But the trap bar is a great way to build useable strength, particularly during the "off-season" when you are not training for a meet. High reps done to failure, will strengthen your back, without placing undue strain on your spine. Now, what exactly is meant by "high reps?" When I used to compete in powerlifting, I used to consider anything above five to be "high reps." Over the years, I've allowed myself to become a little more open-minded as to what "high reps" really mean. When I trained with Drew Israel, we would sometimes do sets of ten, with one minute between each set. Other times we would do one all-out set of twenty reps. Another popular rep scheme which we did was to do three sets. Two sets of fifteen, then a set of ten. With only one minute between sets, you can imagine how wiped out we felt at the end of the workout. Incidentally, the most reps that I've ever done on a trap bar were done at contest. One year, at a trap bar "rep-off" contest, I did 400 Lbs. for 28 repetitions. Another time, at another contest, I did 460 for 22 reps. Somehow, over the years, I have never been able to break the elusive thirty rep barrier. At least not yet!

At the opposite end if the spectrum, you can do partial reps with very heavy weights. Recently, I've been doing deadlift lockouts using a trap bar. My friend Steve Weiner introduced me to this, and the results have been impressive to say the least. Steve has an extra long trap bar which fits in a power rack, but you can perform these off of elevated blocks with a regular trap bar. There should be no need to mention the merits of doing heavy rack work. The time and effort that you devote to heavy partials will pay off in the form of great strength. The type of strength that cannot be developed through toning and pumping.

Speaking of the power rack, there is another great exercise that you can do with a trap bar. Overhead Presses. By placing the trap bar in the power rack, resting on the pins set at just below shoulder level, you can grab the handles with the palms of your hands facing each other. In other words, the parallel grip. Similar to when you do dumbbell presses. But, unlike dumbbell presses, it's easier, and safer, to do trap bar presses inside the rack. And by standing inside the trap bar, you can lower the bar to a point that is below that which is possible when doing Standing Presses with a straight bar.

Shrugs are another exercise that can be done with a trap bar. As with overhead Presses, standing inside the bar will make the movement smoother and safer. There is no need to drag the bar up the body, as you would when shrugging with a straight bar. There is also a tendency to cheat, or use excessive "body english" when doing regular barbell shrugs. The Trap Bar eliminates this since the weight will be moving in line with the spine, producing a smoother movement.

Deadlifts, Presses, and Shrugs. These exercises should be part of every Lifter's routine. The Trap Bar provides a safe - and interesting- alternative to these movements. Any experienced trainee will tell you that sometimes a change of pace is needed. For a competitive lifter, the trap bar provides that change with a little something extra. It's just outright effective.

In the decades since the trap bar burst on to the lifting scene, there have been many variations to the original design. I've already mentioned the change from a diamond shape to a hexagonal. There are also bars which are longer and heavier. Some of the newer models have raised handles, to shorten the range of motion when pulling off the floor. There are even new "open" trap bars which are not fully enclosed. I don't really go for these new gimmicks but there is one new version that I have really enjoyed. Last year, I purchased a thick-handled trap bar. The entire bar, including the handles, are two inches in diameter. It is a beast, and turns a deadlift workout into a brutal test of grip strength. Lately, I've been using it on alternate weeks. To make the exercise even more difficult, I place a five inch block inside the bar, and pull off a deficit. It makes for an interesting- and tough- workout.

So, the trap bar deadlift is less stressful on the spine, allows for the use of heavier weights, is easy to learn how to use, and is quite versatile. Therefore, it may be safe to assume that a trap bar should be a staple in every commercial and home gym. Sadly, that is not the case. Just about every person who lifts weights can benefit from using a trap bar. If your gym does not have one, ask the owners/ managers to invest in one. If you train at home, a trap bar is one of the best additions you can make to your gym.

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Thursday, January 30, 2020


The Death of a young friend from suicide has prompted me to write this story and maybe try in some way to get out to others who suffer depression , anxiety and have thoughts of suicide and even commit it. I would enjoy helping others to become Mentally and Physically stronger throughout their life. People often say to me . you are strong, are wired with a stronger fuse, resilient, never give in , don’t need help , you can do it alone.

That isn’t right I have often called out for help, but they are right I have mostly kept strong using my own tactics as others should try to do , in some way that agrees with them. And after completion makes them feel better and having achieved something.

Firstly as you get to an age to understand yourself and the trials and tribulations of life , or work out who you are and where you are going, you need to tell oneself three things. This has been my Philosophy throughout my life especially the last 37 years.

My three beliefs below are my pathway to a more peaceful and tranquil life, get them fixated in your brain then act upon them:

Life is tough whether you like it or not, it is tougher for some than it is for others.

From the day you are born , you are going to get kicked in the face , some get kicked harder than others, some think it is hard but it is soft compared to how others are kicked. But unfortunately you are going to get kicked in the face, that is a truth of life.

Prepare yourself for the two above points and the challenges life brings you, do it , don’t put it off, don’t say do. By looking for weak options such as drugs , alcohol, legal drugs and cigarettes, is a quick fix which leads you down the path to further depression and negative and like threatening thoughts.

I believe the set backs in life have helped me to become stronger, firstly my son became ill at 7 months of age , he got whopping cough, was immunised and all the trouble started , he had an Epileptic seizure which lasted 3 hours, looked as though he wasn’t coming out of it , but he did.

Since then and he is now 37 years of age , suffers epilepsy ( approximately 72 seizures a year ) and is physically and intellectually disabled, lives alone with 24/ 7 help. It was a tough ride, for my wife and I throughout 35 and a half years, and still is for me now as my wife died from lung cancer in June 2019.

Having had to care for her for 8 months , was torture for her and me, it has left a mark, like a tattoo from a prisoner war camp, it won’t go away, I just have to push forward like we all do when things get tough, and look for ways to make my life a slight improvement on the day before, or as it is now.

Before the death of my wife in February 2018 I contacted a lung virus which caused my heart to race and my heart beat to become irregular, and I now suffer with Atrial Fibrillation, take medications first time ever and have some bouts of AF, which scares me some.

So getting back to points 1 and 2 what did I do about it then 37 years ago and what am I still doing about it now.

Three things I have worked on which have pathways into other helpful areas are:




A triangle which needs to remain even at all times to have a better and more full filling life. I will look at each separately and show you how each area falls into others areas , and how important each area relies upon the other.

Training, strength training, running, hill walking, biking, boxing, self defence , swimming keep moving do it every day moderately or once or twice a week hard, and have easy movement days the remaining days. This will squirt good , feel good chemicals throughout the body , making you high in a healthy way, serotonin is the drug produced the feel good drug, great for the brain and enabling to feel good about yourself.

Head up and shoulders back, strong muscles move the bones, and training or exercise encourage blood flow throughout the body , giving us needed oxygen and energy.

I love strength training, Self Defence, have done it since I was 16 years of age, walking and working in the yard.

When younger and able to squat 300 pounds for 20 reps, had me believe I could handle any challenge which came my way, strong , body strong mind.
Training makes me feel great, I can handle the face kicks better , and the challenges are weaker. I train for :  (a) Health, (b) Longevity, (c) Vigour.

To achieve the above I 1. Strength train, 2. Train for self defence, (3) Keep body fat low. (4 ) Maintain cardio vascular fitness, (5) Keep flexible, ( 6) Remain free from injuries, ( 7) Keep my mind strong and positive.

“Make savage the body and civilise the mind”

“Every man should have a set of weights in his shed and a punching bag and never stop using them”.


One needs to eat a healthy diet, supplying yourself with all the necessary nutrients, and avoiding all white sugar and flour , and man made processed food. Never , never smoke , drink alcohol in small amounts or eliminate it as it is a depressant in larger doses. I eat three good sized meals a day evenly spaced , lighter meal at night, when hungry I eat fruit , nuts and maybe a milk drink. If you don’t eat healthfully and regularly , you will have no energy or strength to train and your training will suffer, and then you may give it up and fall further into depression. Keep moving and eating the right food. Investigate , what works for you and makes you feel and look good.

Read , books, visit the Dietician they are the experts and have completed University so should know.


Rest is the last side of the triangle and just as important as the other two, if it is not followed , the triangle becomes uneven and weak, and will faulter causing you to give in, and become ill. Have late nights through alcohol abuse etc, you won’t train and feel like eating, no training no feel good , no energy, lack vitamin B , and you feel worse.

Go to bed same time each night say 10-30 pm and up at 7pm as an example, do some movement for 15 minutes after you rise and are awake, don’t eat before bed, you will sleep better, what are animals doing in the forest when the sun goes down , resting and sleeping, as we should all be doing. I enjoy as I have got older 68 years young at the time of writing , a sleep and meditation for an hour each day.

All the above ingredients , with educating yourself therefore reading and writing up positive affirmations to boost your self esteem such as :

I deserve to be happy and successful

I have the power to change myself

The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary

Make savage the body and civilise the mind.

Don’t say do

Keep moving ,and always go forward

Never Never give in

Will keep you strong and on the right pathway, it has kept me on it , and at times I have wandered off as we all have, but I keep finding ways to get back on the right path, as I don’t want to stay off as it leads to a deep state of depression.

Hope you can stay of the right path and Train, Rest and Eat right , it is a simple way that has worked for me, since the age of 16.

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Friday, January 24, 2020

What Is Strength? - By Jim Duggan

This is the title of an article that appeared in the July 1946 edition of "Strength and Health" magazine. It is also a question that has been asked - and debated- countless times over the years. Just about everyone who has ever "hoisted the steel" has asked themselves the same question. Yet, no matter how many times the question has been asked, there has never been a simple, standard answer. And, over seventy years after Bob Hoffman first posed the question of what is strength, we are still searching for an answer.

Let's start with the dictionary definition of strength: " The quality or state of being physically strong." Of course there are other words that are synonymous with strength. Power, vigor, brawn, are a few that come to mind. Many words to express the same idea. But for someone who lifts weights, there are definite opinions on what is considered strength.

In the original article, Bob Hoffman raises some valid questions in regards to the ultimate definition of strength. He mentions famous heavyweight boxers of that era, as well as prominent track and field athletes as examples of men who possess great Strength. He also mentions performing Strongmen of that time. Harness lifting was a popular way of demonstrating or displaying strength back then. But is moving a heavy weight a couple of inches off the ground a true barometer of Strength? Probably not. Nor is pulling a vehicle with one's teeth, or hair, which, apparently, were popular in many strongman performances.

It should come as no surprise that the "Father of World Weightlifting" believed that the best demonstration of strength is the ability to lift heavy weights. More specifically, the Olympic lifts were the best way to decide who is strong. Naturally, since Mr. Hoffman was a long-time coach of the US Weightlifting team, and produced and sold barbells, his opinion on the matter was a bit biased. But was he necessarily wrong in his statement?

While discussing the merits of Olympic Weightlifting, Mr. Hoffman admits that there are other factors that contribute to weightlifting success, besides brute strength. Leverage, whether it be favorable or unfavorable, will always play a role in a how much weight an athlete can lift overhead. Along with skill, speed, coordination and balance. This was true in 1946, and it is still true today. Simply put, the gold medal will not always go to the person with the most strength. Nevertheless, Mr. Hoffman still made the claim that the Clean and Jerk is the "greatest exhibition of strength and ability." He went on to make the additional statement "until we find a better way, the strongest man is the one who lifts the greatest weight overhead." But, in the seven decades after the article appeared, haven't we found a better way?

In the years since 1946, I think a better way has most certainly been found. The sport of Powerlifting became popular in the Sixties and Seventies. Naturally, as Powerlifting grew in popularity, the question arose: Who were the strongest athletes, Weightlifters or Powerlifters? I remember hearing that debate when I first began to lift weights back in the 1970s. I remember watching the 1976 Summer Olympics, and I'll never forget the super-heavyweight lifters being touted as the strongest men in the world. Later that year, the super-heavyweight Powerlifting champion was given the same unofficial title after the world championships. To make matters even more confusing, a year later there was a contest called the "World's Strongest Man," which was broadcast on television in the Fall of that year. This contest drew athletes from the sports of weightlifting, powerlifting, track and field, pro football, and even professional wrestling. Over the years, the sport of Strongman has evolved to the point where we now have a new class of strength athlete: competitive strongmen. Athletes who train for - and compete in- various strongman contests, which feature a variety of events.

I don't think that Mr. Hoffman, in his wildest dreams, could have imagined how the sport of strength has developed over the years. When I began lifting weights as a teenager, the popular question in the weight room was " How much can you Press?" Within a few years that question became "What do you Bench?" Now, many training facilities have an assortment of Stones, Logs, Yokes, and other training modalities. I don't believe that strength can be accurately tested, or demonstrated, with just one or two lifts. And, of course, back in 1946, Mr. Hoffman could not have predicted the proliferation of steroids, lifting suits, bench shirts, wraps, and all the other so-called advances which have cheapened the sport, and made a mockery of the idea of building - and measuring- strength the right way.

There is another interesting point that was made in the 1946 article. He goes on to say that while he admired lifting strength, he would not measure a man's strength only by his ability to lift heavy weights overhead. Mr. Hoffman believed that "Strength should be measured by the ability to do things. Many things." He made a point about the importance of endurance. "The ability to extend oneself to the limit when necessary and to keep going at the heavy work is my idea of real strength." Strength is of little avail if it cannot serve you in the many and diverse manners in which it can be used. Naturally, he was addressing these words to the working man. The man who worked in a physically demanding job. Back in the 1940s, this made up a big part of the workforce, and a large part of the "Strength and Health" readership. I don't think a steroid-bloated powerlifter in a double denim, triple-ply bench shirt would satisfy his idea of strength.

Lifting weights will benefit you in many ways. The way you feel, the way you look, and the things you can do with your strength you get from lifting. A variety of exercises is necessary to become stronger. Muscle, tendons, and ligaments need to be strengthened. Poundage progression is required to get stronger. Training consistently, and progressively will make you stronger. No matter what your profession, regardless of what sport you train for, lifting weights will build Strength. And Health.
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Another Look (or Two) at Intensity - By Burt Gam

We all understand that the necessary ingredients to programming resistance training involve intensity, volume, training frequency and rest intervals between sets. Much like the ingredients in a cake recipe, the interplay of these four factors largely determine the final product. Too much or too little of any of these four factors can throw the whole end result out of whack. Under or overtraining are likely outcomes. They four variables all play a necessary role in the implementation of any worthwhile program. But how so?

Over the years, there have been proponents of both high volume and high intensity workouts. But unfortunately, any overemphasis on one variable can be at the detriment of the other. It would seem there is an inverse relationship between volume and intensity. Due to the bodies limited ability to recuperate or perform optimally. If one goes up the other must go down. But exactly what does intensity mean? It depends who you ask.

In bodybuilding, intensity is more of a perception and is somewhat subjective. If you go by what is known as perceived exertion which uses a scaled numerical progression to any given effort, intensity seems more subjective to how the exerciser feels. As a set progresses for example, each succeeding repetition becomes increasingly more difficult. This is because the momentary ability after each rep for a given muscle is reduced. If taken to an extreme, the end result is muscular failure. This methodology is fundamental to most HIT based programs. These types of workouts tend to be brief(low volume) and quite taxing. There are problems here though. For one, most people cannot tolerate this type of punishment for long periods of time. Moreover, the only way to measure the intensity is to go to failure since the intensity on the last repetition of that set would be 100%. If a person were to terminate the set sooner the intensity would be less. For example, if a person can bench press 300 pounds they might be good for 225 pounds for ten reps. The first rep in the set would seem easy because the lifter is capable of lifting 300 pounds. Therefore the intensity of effort would be 225 divided by 300 or 75%. But each successive rep will feel more intense because the momentary ability to lift the weight is reduced by a certain percentage. By the 7th or 8th repetition the weight may feel quite heavy because the lifter might only be capable of bench pressing 235 pounds or so at that point. By the 10th repetition the lifter is pushing with all they have with 225 pounds of force or 100% effort or intensity. At that point, muscular failure has occurred and the muscle is no longer capable of further work unless an adequate rest period is taken.

For a weightlifter or powerlifter the concept of intensity is more about maximum poundage lifted. Lower reps with higher weight is the norm. If a lifter is moving up in poundages on their lifts then intensity can be quantified by poundage. It is not a perception and is easily measured. But is intensity alone the magic bullet as some advocates believe?

Suppose a person were to go to one extreme and perform only the best select exercises with the absolute maximum weight and effort they could muster for one all out effort. If they were to train exclusively that way would it be optimal for the development of hypertrophy and/or strength? Probably not. Or let's say a lifter performs an exercise with a light weight for 100 repetitions before reaching failure. Would they expect to make much in the way of any gains? Likely not. So what is the point in all of this?

For the best overall gains in strength and size, steady progressive overload is the key to success. Intensity alone will not be enough for most people. There must be a balance between intensity, volume, frequency of training and rest intervals between sets for optimal training stimulus and recovery.Each variable plays an important role in programming training.How each variable is manipulated is what really matters. And progressive overload is the vehicle that will get you where you want to go, regardless of whether you are a bodybuilder, powerlifter, olympic lifter, strongman, or strength athlete. These principles apply equally in all cases.
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