Monday, May 4, 2020

When The Gym Is Still Closed - By Jim Duggan

In a previous article, I discussed various ways to train without going to the gym. At the time, a little over a month ago, commercial gyms in the New York area had been closed for two weeks. Here it four weeks later, and the gyms are still closed. Just when - and how - they will reopen is anybody's guess. But there is absolutely NO reason for you to abandon your workouts. If you are truly determined to make it work, then you will do whatever it takes to get the job done.

Last month, I mentioned several ways to train without the use of weights. Make no mistake, you can build a remarkable degree of fitness with bodyweight exercises. You can build strength, fitness, and develop a superb level of conditioning. But, let's face it, if you're like me, you want to LIFT. Progressive resistance. Hoisting the steel. Call it what you want, just so long as you add weight to the bar. Quite honestly, I'm getting a little tired of seeing internet "experts" encouraging me to do countless burpees, planks, and other toning exercises. Not that there isn't a time and place for such movements, but the name of this website is Natural STRENGTH.

I realize that many people simply do not have access to barbells and dumbbells, let alone various exercise machines when the gyms are closed. However, with a minimum amount of equipment, you can continue your workouts, build strength, and maintain a desirable level of health. Strength and Health. A familiar theme. Barbells and dumbbells are all that is required to design an effective weight-training program.

Please note that the information that I'm presenting here is directed at those trainees who have minimal equipment at their disposal. I'm well aware of the large number of "celebrities" who post pictures from their home gyms. I could never fathom how anyone would be motivated by a steroid-bloated "athlete," or "action hero" sharing pictures of themselves in a palatial gym. Can anybody really relate to that? Most people I know do not train in a 10,000 square foot "home gym." Ignore the phonies and concentrate on creating a positive training environment for yourself.

All you will need to get started are the same things that have been building stronger bodies for decades: Free weights. Quality barbells and dumbbells are all that is required. Throw in some determination and persistence and you will get through the gym closures with flying colors.

If you're limited to just a set of adjustable dumbbells, there are many exercises you can do to get stronger. Please note that I'm not talking about pumping and toning exercises. Curls, triceps kickbacks, and other such movements should be reserved for the toners. I'm talking about exercises that will make you stronger. And one of the all-time best dumbbell movements to build strength is the DB Clean and Press. This has been a staple of many a strongman over the years. Simply clean a pair of DBs to your shoulders and perform a strict press. Then lower the DBs to the ground. That's one rep. If done for higher reps this movement will serve as a great overall conditioner, in addition to building great strength. You can also use this as a general warm-up, as it will hit just about every muscle in the body.

There are two other dumbbell exercises that I've enjoyed over the years: Dumbbell Deadlifts and Dumbbell Power Cleans. Performing Deadlifts with a pair of dumbbells is a great way to train the lower back. It is particularly useful for a powerlifter who is between contests. It's an excellent "off-season" assistance exercise. One or two heavy sets of 10-12 reps is a great way to build usable strength that will translate into a bigger deadlift. If you want a particularly intense workout, then try doing one all-out set of 20-30 reps. Naturally, proper performance demands that you do not bounce the DBs off the floor between each rep. Do each rep strictly and under control.

An effective alternative to the dumbbell deadlift is doing power cleans with heavy dumbbells. Multiple sets of low to medium reps or one all-our set for maximum reps will give your back, traps, and shoulders an intense workout. I would like to add a note of caution. If you are using adjustable dumbbells, make sure that you use a set of heavy-duty collars, and that the collars are securely tightened before every set. This applies to all dumbbell exercises.

Another one of my favorite dumbbell exercises is the One-Arm DB Clean and Press. This exercise is especially useful if you have limited time and/or space ( although, in light of current circumstances, most people should have sufficient time on their hands.) In any event, you can select a number of reps that you wish to complete, and then try to achieve that number in a certain amount of time. A couple of years ago, while spending a few days on vacation, I brought along a 50 Lb. Center Mass Bell, which I purchased from Sorinex. One morning, I decided that I was going to shoot for one hundred reps in 30 minutes. It was an intense workout, but I was able to finish in less than thirty minutes. I had the rest of the day to enjoy, and was still able to get in a workout. For the rest of the day, I felt a sense of accomplishment for not having neglected my workout. I also felt pretty darn sore!

As for barbell exercises, there should really be little need to describe what can be done with a barbell. Deadlifts, Clean and Presses, Bent-over Rows are a few effective exercises. One high rep set of Deadlifts, followed by a set of overhead Presses is an intense way to stimulate your entire body. And no special equipment is necessary. If you happen to have a flat bench or squat racks, then you can add those movements to your routine, providing, of course that you ALWAYS use a spotter when doing those exercises. Remember, safety first.

Naturally, barbells and benches will will take up more room and require more space than a set of dumbbells. If you are lucky enough to have a garage or basement, then you can easily fashion a home gym. If your living area is tight,my oh may have no alternative than to lift in your living room or bedroom. I've done many deadlift workouts in my living room over the years. Again, whatever it takes. Performing strict movements will save your floor ( a good set of bumper plates wouldn't hurt either!)

There is yet another alternative to lifting at home that can be highly beneficial for those who want to strengthen their lower bodies. Billy Mannino, a member of Bruno's Health Club from way hack, recently shared a workout that he does with his daughter. They drive to an empty parking lot, and push their car. Car pushing has been around for a long time. All it takes is a large, open area to push your car. Billy alternates pushing forwards and backwards, and says that, by the end of the workout, his legs, particularly his quads are fried. Car pushing is an excellent substitute for Squats, or can be performed after your workout as a "finisher." I had almost forgotten about car pushing until Billy sent a video of himself and his daughter pushing their car through an empty parking lot. If you live near a large, open parking area, and want an intense lower-body workout, then give it a try.

When, and if, commercials gym open again is still undetermined. If you dedicate yourself to your workouts, and adopt the attitude that "nothing will stop me from lifting," you can continue with your workouts without interruption. Hopefully, those who train at a commercial gum will be able to go back soon. But if things remain the way they are, you can still lift, and get stronger while being quarantined.



Editors Note: Thank You Jim. Great article.
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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

My 10 Undeniable Truths of Weight Training for Beginners - Part 5 - Strive for poundage progression using good form - By RJ Hicks, BS, CSCS

As a beginner, one of the biggest tips I can offer you is to strive for poundage progression in all of your exercises, utilizing good form. I say strive, because you cannot always add weight each workout and that is okay. Just because you’re not adding weight each workout doesn’t mean the program is not working. It takes time to lift poundage’s you’ve never lifted before.

There is no need to over-complicate your training program and base your poundage progression on time. Drug -free trainees cannot predict their bodies ability to handle heavier weights by looking at a calendar. You cannot just add 5 pounds a week to your lifts, because the workout told you too. Many programs get away with adding weight this way because they train with far too light of a weight. It is a total waste of time and energy to back off the weights the heavy weights just to several weeks later return to the same weight. It’s just false progression. True poundage progression means you are lifting a weight you have never done before. Time does not dictate your strength levels, how you decide to train and recover does.

Think the phrase, “lift heavy weight, then try to lift heavier weight” until it is ingrained in your mind. Training progressively means just that. You are trying to lift heavier weights to keep your current weights from getting easy. Lifting heavy means, you are lifting the greatest amount of weight you can properly handle in good form for the correct number of repetitions. It is not based on anyone else’s performance just your current ability and goal. Once the repetition goal is reached in good form you add some weight. This keeps the weight from getting too easy so that your muscles are continually challenged. If you are lifting as heavy as possible for the proper number of repetitions and don’t add weight each week, who cares! It is the constant attempt to improve your poundage that builds great size and strength

Do not overlook importance of using proper form in your weight training if you’re looking to maximize your strength. No momentum should be used to help raise the weight. Never try to quickly reverse or bounce the weight to gain momentum to start the next repetition. Pause momentarily in the muscle contracted position. Squeeze the barbell to your abdominals momentarily during barbell rows before lowering the weight. Do not drop the weight at the top of the contracted position. Slowly reverse the direction of the weight and use the same muscles that got the weight up to lower the weight back down. You never want the weight to fall down into the start position. Lifting the weight up is only one half of the lift, make sure you lower the weight as well. Lastly, be sure to raise and lower the weight through the muscles full range of motion (fullest range of motion that is safe for you). If you only train part of the movement you only train part of the targeted muscles.

The amount of repetitions and sets prescribed doesn’t matter if you lift the weights haphazardly. It is more important to perform the repetitions correctly with heavy weight you can handle then to bombard the muscles with a ton of volume or weight that is past your current lifting ability. You must make your training count!

Consistently battling with heavy weight without cheating may seem to be a slow method of building strength, but it will reward you will great strength if you can keep with it. Ignore the short-cuts and miracle methods that will try to distract you from this truth. There are no quick fixes for strength for natural trainees. Stick to the advice of the old-time strongmen from long ago and strive for poundage progression using good form.




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Thursday, April 2, 2020

When The Gym Is Closed - By Jim Duggan

In the July 1980 issue of Ironman magazine, there is a column written by Bradley Steiner, which was devoted to answering questions sent by readers of the magazine. Bradley Steiner, as many readers probably know, has been one of the most prolific Iron Game writers for over forty years. In this particular article, he responds to a reader who, because of a hectic travel schedule, is unable to train at a commercial health club. He goes on to mention several ways to exercise without weights and equipment. However, before we get into training, he wrote some words that are very appropriate today.

In the second paragraph, he wrote the following" "Problems in Weight Training, as just about in everything else human beings do, are inevitable. Part of your satisfaction in training should be derived from your resolve to overcome your problems, and succeed in spite of them."

As I am writing this, we are in the midst of a global pandemic. Where I live, Long Island, New York, all non-essential businesses have been ordered closed. This includes commercial gyms. For over two weeks now, those who train at a commercial gym have had no place to train. If that doesn't qualify as a problem to your training, then I don't know what does.

However, as Mr. Steiner so eloquently explains, we should resolve to overcome our problems and succeed in spite of them. Those words were true nearly forty years ago, and they are even more pertinent today. He goes on to offer more useful advice:

"So....when a problem arises, pause, examine it, come to grips with it, and work through it. Never give up or become discouraged. Remember, a quitter never wins, and a winner never quits." Thank you, Mr. Steiner, for your words of wisdom and inspiration.

Now, the main topic of the original article was how to maintain an exercise program when you can't get to the gym. The answer, as you might expect, offers numerous exercises that can be performed in a hotel room, with no special equipment required. For those of you who, like many of us, have been restricted to our homes for the last two weeks, there are several ways to stay in shape and exercise. This will, of course, be a radical change for anyone who is accustomed to using weights, and specialized exercise machines. Unfortunately, sometimes the real world intrudes upon our weight-training existence. Rather than just throw in the towel, we must be willing to adapt, and do whatever it takes.

Here are a few suggestions on how to work out in the confines of your home. To begin with, if you are used to walking or running on a treadmill, you can easily make the adjustment and do your road work outside. Naturally, in light of the concept of "Social distancing," you may have to make a concerted effort to avoid other people, but there is absolutely no reason why you can't get in a brisk walk.

Naturally, doing heavy Squats will be impossible without weights, but there are options available. Bodyweight Squats done for high reps, can develop a level of conditioning that might not be possible when you are continually lifting heavy weights for low reps. You can add variety to your bodyweight Squats by substituting Hindu Squats, or Lunges. Another viable option is Step-ups. Weighted Step-ups have been used by Olympic Weightlifters for years, but what I'm talking about is Step-ups done for high reps. I was originally introduced to these by watching Bob Backlund perform them back in the early 1980s, when he was one of the greatest pro wrestlers of that era. Mr. Backlund was always one of the strongest and best conditioned athletes of his time, and Step-ups became a staple of his exercise routine. Ironically, because of his travel schedule, he developed a routine that he could use that consisted of two movements. Step-ups and the Ab Wheel were the mainstays of his exercise program, and he was able to build a level of conditioning that was truly incredible. An Ab Wheel is a relatively inexpensive piece of equipment that will pay huge dividends in strength and conditioning. Mr. Backlund would perform many hundreds of Step-ups, and hundreds of Ab Wheel rollouts in one workout. I can enthusiastically recommend that you begin with less. Start slowly, master the correct form, and gradually build up the reps. If you've never done them before, you will be surprised at how sore you will feel the next day. As for the Step-Ups, all you need is a box, bench, or platform that is between 12" and 14" in height. Obviously, it should be sturdy enough to hold your bodyweight. If you are handy, you can build one out of wood, cement blocks, or any other strong material. You can do sets of 50-100 reps. Or you can do them for time, and shoot for going for fifteen or twenty minutes without stopping.

No home-based, bodyweight workout would be complete without an old standby. I'm referring to Push-ups. There are many variations that you can do to avoid boredom. Hindu Push-Ups are an excellent alternative. You van also elevate your feet to make regular Push-Ups more difficult. You can also place a heavy chain around your neck, or have someone place a weight on your back to increase the resistance.

Another staple bodyweight movement is Sit-ups. Again, no equipment is needed. Hook your feet under a bed, or couch ( or have someone hold your feet down.) Doing one or two sets to failure will be enough to keep your torso strong. If you get bored with Sit-Ups, you can always substitute Leg Raises.

Push-Ups, Sit-Ups, and Squats do not require any equipment. The following movement does, but it is relatively inexpensive, and is one of the best investments you can make in your training. I'm talking about Chest Expander Cables. If you've never tried them, then you are definitely missing out on an excellent training modality. Cables are an excellent way to build functional strength. There are many places where you can purchase cables, and numerous excellent cable courses available. You won't regret the time spent training with cables.

With the many exercises from which to choose, how do you arrange them into an effective exercise routine? Actually, it's relatively easy to combine different exercises. One of my favorite ways of training is doing the "Deck of Cards" workout. I had written about this back in September 2016. You can pick any four movements, and give yourself an intense workout. There is no need for special equipment. All you need is a deck of cards and an imagination.

Imagination and determine will be the keys to this, and any other exercise program. In a future article, I will outline a program that can be done using nothing but a barbell, and a pair of dumbbells. In the meantime, make up your mind that you will not let a quarantine deter from working out. You will be able to get fit, and strong using nothing but your body. And when the gyms re-open, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you did not give in to fear, and that you were able to overcome the problem of not having access to specialized training equipment. Good luck to all of us.
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Thursday, March 12, 2020

What's Wrong With Flipping Truck Tires? - By Jim Duggan

There is a popular chain gym, which prides itself as not being a gym. It is a place where you will not be judged. In an effort to attract members, they go to great lengths to explain that no matter what you do at the "gym," you're OK, and everything will be right with the world. To make sure that they get their point across, they actually discourage people who might lift heavy weights from joining. The term "lunk" was introduced and there was an old commercial where a "lunk alarm" would go off as a way to deter serious lifting. The outside world may judge you based on your achievements, appearance, or success, but inside the walls of the gym which isn't a gym, you will not be judged. Everybody is special. Everybody gets a trophy.

Thankfully, most sensible people realize the foolishness of such thinking. I remember reading a biography of a famous bodybuilder, and there are are a couple sentences which, when I read them, hit the nail on the head. The author, Laurence Leamer, wrote the following: "The gym is not a place to sing hymns to the glorious equality of human beings. In the weight room, the stark inequalities of men are on view." Anyone who remembers their first visit to a serious gym can attest to the accuracy of these words.

Now, I am certainly not saying that a person should be judged by their degree of muscle mass, or how much weight they can lift. But what is wrong with a person trying to improve themself? Is it a crime to challenge yourself with heavy weights in an effort to get stronger? Afterall, isn't that why people begin to lift weights in the first place? Poundage progression means adding weight to the bar. As the weight adds up, you will get stronger. This means that you will be at a greater level of achievement than you were before. It also means that you will be ahead of someone who is just starting out. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, provided, of course, that you go about things in the right way. Practice proper gym etiquette, and never forget where you came from. Never lose sight of the fact that no matter how strong or well-developed you are now, you were a beginner once. In the past I've shared a gym with people who were world-class lifters, who were some of the most humble, down-to-earth individuals I have ever known. I've also had the misfortune of witnessing juvenile behavior from pumper/ toner /wannabes with elevated opinions of themselves.

Poor behavior in the gym notwithstanding, there is absolutely no reason to condemn serious Lifters. Please note that I said "serious," rather than "hard-core." The phrase "hard-core" can have a negative connotation, and is often associated with steroid use. "Serious" lifters has a more positive meaning when it comes to Lifters, and lifting. If a man or woman comes to the gym, trains hard, is respectful of other members and respects the equipment, then nobody should have reason to take issue. Or be outraged. Or sound the "lunk alarm." I realize that in today's climate, everything is offensive, and everybody's a victim. And seeing someone train hard and heavy will certainly cause indignation and outrage among certain people. Call it the victim/snowflake/crybaby mentality. But let's be brutally honest. The weights don't owe anybody anything.

One of the more popular recent commercials consisted of a couple walking into a gym, and the owner/manager proudly states the he "flips truck tires." An obvious reference to a popular event in Strongman contests. The "Tire Flip" has been a mainstay in Strongman contests for years, popular among competitors and fans alike. Competitors love it because it is an event that involves the muscles of the lower back, legs, and hips. The areas of the body from where true power originates. Fans of Strongman- and there are many- enjoy the Tire Flip for the same reason. It takes a strong man or woman to flip heavy tires. And, let's face it, seeing large, heavy tires get flipped around looks impressive. And as the tires get larger, the visual impact becomes even greater.

Aside from being an event in Strongman contests, flipping tires is an excellent exercise. It can be easily incorporated into the routine of any serious lifter, or strength athlete. Obviously, if you are training for a strongman contest which has a tire-flip event, then you must "event train," with equipment that resembles the actual event. However, if you're not a competitive strongman ( or strongwoman), you can utilize a heavy tire and make tremendous gains in strength.

When I trained at Iron Island Gym, there were several large tires in a lot behind the gym. The two larger tires were 530 Lbs., and 710 Lbs, respectively. Many times after a workout, I would go outside, and flip the 530 Lb. tire back and forth. It was a great "finisher." Ten or twelve flips after a heavy Squat and Deadlift workout was an excellent way to fry your back and legs. Usually, ten reps was enough, but there was one day when I set out to do a lot more. On July 20, 2007, my 43rd birthday, I did 50 reps with the 530 Lb tire, as part of my birthday challenge workout. It was an exhausting endeavor, but I felt a real sense of accomplishment after fighting for fifty reps. The 710 Lb. tire was another matter altogether. The most I was ever able to do with that monster was a couple of singles. The 530 pounder was the perfect size, and I've often lamented the fact that I have no access to large tires since Iron Island closed. I'd love to have one in the backyard. The fact that the "judgement-free" people don't approve of flipping truck tires only reinforces my belief in the many benefits of using such an effective training modality.
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Tuesday, March 10, 2020

5-4-3-2-1 Blastoff For Old School Strength And Size - By Burt Gam

Over the years numerous so called "training systems" have been utilized, some with good results and others not so much. Many of these simply disappeared as fads or got lost in the shuffle. One of the best ones in my opinion is known as the "5-4-3-2-1 weight training system". It was very popular back in the day by experienced trainees and was known to produce spectacular gains in strength. One of its earliest writings appears to have originated with the "Father of American Weightlifting" Bob Hoffman and the "York Barbell and Dumbbell System. How Bob stumbled upon it is unclear, but his belief was that the way to might and muscle was to perform 15 quality repetitions of a given exercise, similar to 3x5 or 5x3 training methods.

This comparison may have been somewhat flawed since these training methods theoretically produced different training effects. Nonetheless it has been proven to be quite effective. It was used frequently in the 1960s and 1970s by lifters seeking maximal strength gains. It was a favorite among powerlifters, and in fact was used by former powerlifting champion and writer Dr. Mauro Di Pasquale. In 1969 he wrote about this training method in none other than Bob Hoffman's Muscular Development magazine. This system has endured the test of time as a tried and proven method with a strong emphasis on the concept of progressive overload. When I first became "serious" about lifting and sought to educate myself, I bought and read a book called "Inside Powerlifting" by Dr. Terry Todd in 1977. The program was mentioned in the book and became the foundation of my training program for the core lifts. My main purpose at that time was gaining maximal strength which at that time was also useful in my job as an Air Force Firefighter. But something unexpected happened. I actually got a lot bigger too! Over the years this period of growth was probably the largest I have ever experienced. So I figured that this program was for real. To be fair, some of this growth was probably attributed to expected large initial gains. But it was clear to me that although being quite taxing it flat out works for strength and probably was useful as a hypertrophy tool as well when not overdone.

What makes it so great? First off is simplicity. This system is very easy to implement and track progress on the main lifts based on the principle of progressive overload. The idea is to perform several warm-up sets of an exercise with light to moderate weights before proceeding to the work sets. The first work set is the lightest weight performed for 5 reps with a weight you could do for say 8 reps or so. Each successive set diminishes by one repetition with a concurrent increase in weight by about 2.5-5 percent depending on your strength level. This process continues for each subsequent set and culminates with the last set performed for 1 repetition with the maximal weight possible. After successful completion of all reps the next workout would see an increase in the amount of weight for each set and the process continues. This is called "Neural Preparation" because it teaches the muscle to prime itself for a maximum effort while reducing the risk for injury. Psychologically, this system is useful because in the lifter's mind those dreaded reps are diminishing with each set so each set seems more palatable even though the amount of weight on the bar continuously goes up. Because of this, each set becomes more intense, so intensity is the main driving force for growth rather than volume. It is always emotionally gratifying to set personal records on a fairly frequent basis, and this method can produce those kinds of results.

One limitation of this training method is that it seems to work best when used on multi-joint compound lifts like "The Big Three", presses, rows, and so forth. It does have some limited uses on certain isolation exercises such as barbell curls, but those types of exercises seem better suited to more traditional set and repetition schemes utilizing more volume. It also might be a good idea to rotate out every so often to that type of training to alleviate boredom and add some variety and give the body a rest from the grind. Care should be limited to the number of exercises assigned to this protocol in a given workout to one or perhaps two, as it is very intense and overdoing could increase the risk of injury or cause gains to stagnate. The following is a sample program using the "5-4-3-2-1 Training Method".

MONDAY

1. Deadlifts 5x5
2. BARBELL PRESSES 3x6-8
3. PULL UPS 3x6-8
4. BENCH PRESSES 5x5
5. LATERAL RAISES 3x10-12
6. BARBELL CURLS 3x8-10
7. LEG EXTENSIONS 3x10-12
8. AB WORK 2x15

WEDNSDAY

1. INCLINE PRESSES 3x8-10
2. BARBELL ROWS 5x5
3. LEG PRESSES 3x8-10
4, LEG CURLS 3x10-12
5. TRICEP PRESSDOWNS 3x12-15
6. DUMBELL PULLOVERS 3x10-12
7. CALF RAISES 3x15-20
8. AB WORK 2x10-12

FRIDAY

1. SQUATS 5x5
2. GOOD MORNINGS 3x8-10
3. LEG PRESSES 3x10-12
4. BENCH PRESSES 5x5
5. LAT PULLDOWNS 3x12-15
6. DUMBELL FLYS 3x10-12
7. REVERSE BARBELL CURLS 3x10-12
8. AB/CORE WORK 2x 8-10

Now it should be apparent that there are a number of ways to implement this program and allow for flexibility of program design depending on individual preferences. Variations could include experimenting with different exercises for strength or hypertrophy emphasis, rotating core exercises every so often, alternating this program each week with more traditional programs, adding/deleting exercises for variety and so on. It is fine to be creative since there is really no one right way to run this program as long as the basic guidelines are followed. Experiment and learn as you go along.
Finally, it is important to realize that no one program works forever no matter how good it might be. But this program is a great staple in any intermediate or advanced program. Although I was "technically a beginner when I did this program in 1977, I soon realized how taxing it was and required adequate warm-up to avoid injury and really was better suited for more advanced lifters than myself. This program is best run after perhaps a year or more of solid training and gaining technical experience and perfecting exercise form. This disclaimer is important because as previously stated the program can be brutal and is not for the faint of heart. But if you are fairly advanced and would like to rejuvenate a stagnating program and gain some decent "OLD SCHOOL" size and strength, why not give the "5-4-3-2-1 Weight Program" a try. You will be very happy with your gains I promise you.


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Monday, March 2, 2020

Get Stuart's New Book - By Bob Whelan

I was very impressed with Stuart's latest Book, A MAN DEVOURED. It took a lot of courage to expose his own flaws and struggles and lay it out in the open in an honest public way. This book was sort of a surprise and is not easy for me to write about but I gained even more respect for Stuart after reading it.

I have known Stuart for almost 30 years. I was a regular writer for his great magazine HARDGAINER from 1994 to 2004 so I already had a great deal of respect for him. I have read almost all of his books and consider this one to be one of his best. It is well organised and surprisingly easy to read. Stuart bares his soul and exposes his demons and does not hold anything back.

This book is sure to help those who struggle with Orthorexia, Muscle Dysmorphia and OCPD, but it will also help anyone who just wants to have better relationships, and a more balanced and happy life. I highly recommend this book. Well done Stuart!
ORDER HERE!
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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

MEANING OF LIFE AND SURVIVAL MY STORY - BY DAVID SEDUNARY

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:

Training

Diet

Rest

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”.

Diet

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

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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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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