Thursday, December 17, 2020

Power Rack Training Without A Power Rack - By Jim Duggan

      " Nothing will work you as thoroughly as power rack training."  

     "I have never witnessed physical decline or defeat when a trainee incorporates power rack work into his training routine."

     These two quotes are from "The Development of Physical Strength," by Anthony Ditillo, written in 1982.  Power Rack Training has been around for a long time, and has been used by just about every serious lifter at one time or another.  A Power Rack allows for the use of partial movements in complete safety.  The heavy poundages that partials allow you to use will stimulate strength gains not only in the muscles, but also in the ligaments and tendons.  In order to build great strength you must you must use heavy weights, and partial movements are a great way to utilize heavier poundages.  Powerlifters, Olympic Weightlifters, and serious strength athletes from all walks of the Iron Game have benefited from using heavy partials.  

     What if you don't have access to a power rack?  Most serious gyms, while few and far between, usually have at least one heavy-duty power rack.  Even some of the "chain gyms" have a rack, although few of the clientele use it correctly.  But in these challenging times, when many gyms have been forced to close, many lifters no longer have access to a power rack.  Therefore, the use of partial rep training is out of the question, right?

     The answer to the above question is a resounding "No!" There is a solution to every problem. As Clint Eastwood told us in "Heartbreak Ridge" the solution is simple:  Improvise, adapt, and overcome. 

     A while back, while training with my friend, Steve Weiner, we did partial Trap Bar Deadlifts. The interesting part of this was that we didn't use his power rack.  Instead, Steve had two large manhole covers ( over 200 Lbs. each) with 2" holes drilled into the center to fit onto an olympic bar.  This was the first time I had tried partials with a trap bar, but it would not be the last.  Incidentally, it was the first time I had ever used manhole covers as exercise equipment.  I don't suppose that I will ever see them in any other gym.  Mr. Weiner is one of the few for whom manhole covers are considered exercise plates. On an unrelated note, for any persons reading this who were raised in the City, I use the term "manhole covers" advisedly.  "Sewer caps" is the vernacular used by city residents.  My apologies for any confusion!

     Since March of this year, I have done most of my training at home.  Since I have neither a basement, nor a garage, I have had to become "creative" with my workouts.  In a previous article, I wrote about the thick-handled trap bar that I purchased from eliteFTS.  It is one of the best training investments I've made.  It combines two great things:  thick-bar training with a trap bar.  However, lacking a power rack, as well as manhole covers, I couldn't do partials.  But, again thanks to Steve, I found a solution to the problem.  There is a way to do partial reps without a power rack, all in the comfort of my living room:  Wagon Wheel Pulling Blocks.  I recently purchased a pair from Titan Fitness.  These plates weigh 45 Lbs. each, and are 26" in diameter, which means that the bar will be starting from just below the knee.  Because of their height, they allow you to do partial  Deadlifts, and other pulling movements.  Shrugs are also much easier from the increased height.  They can even be used for partial Bench Presses off the floor.  I've only had these plates for a couple months, so I have only just begun to these plates to their fullest potential.  In short, you can do a variety of power rack movements, with the exception of Squats, of course.  

     As for my own personal training, I am currently Deadlifting once every eight days.  Obviously,  this is not engraved in stone, as sometimes the interval between Deadlift workouts can be less, or more, than eight days.  Depending on my work schedule ( which varies every week), or, more importantly, how I feel, being flexible plays a big part in training success.  It is increasingly important to recover sufficiently between workouts as you get older.  Even younger trainees can benefit from listening to their bodies when it comes to trainjjng frequency.  Adequate recuperation is crucial for drug-free lifters.  

     The bane of drug-free trainees is overtraining.  This is why so many people who try to follow the bogus routines of the so-called champions fall flat on their faces.  If they don't overtrain physically, they will surely burn out mentally.  Too much volume, and not enough recuperation between workouts have caused many beginners to lose interest and quit.  Two, or at most three, full-body workouts per week are more than enough to get bigger and stronger.  

     If, for whatever reason, you are unable to get to the gym, there are options available to enable you to train at home.  While there might have been shortages of home exercise equipment at one point, the general public doesn't like to be pointed in the direction of heavy workouts. There is good, heavy-duty equipment available out there.  Combine that with a solid training routine, and a determination to succeed,  and you will be able to get bigger and stronger in the face of adversity. And in the comfort of your home!



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Wednesday, December 16, 2020

We Lost One Of The Best in Bradley J. Steiner - By Bob Whelan

Way back in my early years of training, I had a framed article written by Bradley J. Steiner on the wall. I bought several of his books and always loved reading anything he wrote. He was one of my earliest inspirations, a role model and a mentor. He always preached truthful, sensible training. No gimmicks. He was strongly against the use of steroids. It was a thrill for me to have one of my earliest inspirations to eventually become my friend. He was a guest on my podcast twice and he contributed a chapter to IRON NATION too. He also contributed several articles to NaturalStrength.com.

Brad was a world-renowned expert in two separate fields: strength training and the martial arts. (Especially self-defense and close combat.) He wrote over 30 published books in these areas of study. Brad was a tenth degree black belt and Founder and Grandmaster of American Combato. Professor Steiner was President and CEO of the International Combat Martial Arts Federation, an elite and prestigious organization of internationally recognized close combat, self-defense, and martial arts authorities. He awarded me a Physical Training Instructor (strength & conditioning) Certification from his organization.

He was one of the greatest strength training writers ever and has helped thousands of people with his truthful advice. He was one of the few writers left with the balls to be strongly against the use of PEDs.

I will miss his legendary email rants that he sent to his inner circle of friends. Brad was a truth finder and a truth teller. He was passionate about his beliefs and was an articulate speaker and writer. I'm gonna miss him. This one hit me hard personally, but all of us who knew Brad are better people from knowing him. Thanks for everything Brad and rest in peace.

  




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Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Remembering Bradley Steiner - By Jim Duggan

      Several days ago, when I learned of the passing of Bradley Steiner, two thoughts came to mind.  First, was that the Iron Game has lost another iconic figure. Second, was the sad fact that the majority of people who lift weights today probably have never heard of Brad Steiner.  What a shame.

     My first introduction to Mr. Steiner was through the pages of Peary Reader's Ironman magazine.  Back "in the day" Ironman was considered to be the least biased of all the muscle magazines.  Peary Rader put out a magazine that covered all facets of the Iron Game. He did it in a straightforward style utilizing the talents of many gifted writers.  Whether you were an experienced lifter, or just starting out, Ironman had something for everyone.

     Brad Steiner was one of the contributors to Ironman.  His column "Answers to your Problems" answered questions from readers.  There was a great deal of valuable  training information disseminated through his column over the years.  There were a few that stand out in my recollection. 

     In the May 1984 edition, Mr. Steiner received a question about how to train.  In addressing the question, Mr. Steiner hit the nail right on the head.  "Training is simple.  Hard work and perseverance" are the keys.  I've often stated that valuable training information is timeless.  Hard work and perseverance have been building stronger bodies long before his article first appeared.  And, decades later, most successful trainees recognize the importance of hard work. 

     In the March 1982 issue, Mr. Steiner addresses the problem of setbacks, slumps, and difficulties.  Any person who has ever hoisted the steel has had to deal with plateaus, injuries, and other obstacles.  We've all had our share of training ruts.  The answer, according to Mr. Steiner, was persistence.  "If you keep trying, keep working, keep thinking about your struggles with whatever problems you experience, you will ultimately win."  This advice goes far beyond lifting weights.  Think about any struggles you may be experiencing in your life, and how to solve them. Then go back to the words of Mr. Steiner.  

     In the May 1982 issue, a reader asked Mr. Steiner about training at home versus working out at a gym.  The answer was short, sweet, and tithe point:  Where you train has little effect. JUST TRAIN."  During the past year, with gym closings, shutdowns and other obstacles, his words are a simple reminder of what really matters.

     Brad Steiner authored two classic books that should be required reading for any person who wants to lift weights. "A Complete Guide to Effective Barbell Training," and "The Hardgainers Bible."  Both books promoted the idea of hard work on the basic movements.  If you can get your hands on these two books, by all means do so.

     Looking back at the works of Brad Steiner, and his contributions to the Iron Game, it occurs to me that there have been a great deal of gifted, talented writers that have contributed to the advancement of Physical Culture. Dr. Ken Leistner, Bob Whelan, Brooks Kubik are but a few.  Bradley Steiner ranks up there with the great Iron Game writers and teachers.  Rest in Peace.



Editor's Note: Great Article Jim. You also belong in that group of writers too. Brad will be missed. There are only a handful of writers left who have the balls to be openly AGAINST steroids. Now we have one less. Brad was one of the best. 

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Monday, December 7, 2020

Tribute to Bradley J Steiner - By David Sedunary

As I sit in my office I look up at Bradley J Steiner’s portrait drawn by his student and great and loyal friend Brian Snoddy.

To me Brad was a strong physical, mental and knowledgeable human being, one that I was privileged to meet and will never forget.

He has been my mentor and idol for 45 years and Iam now 68 .

I was fortunate to have fulfilled my dreams by training under him in Seattle for 2 weeks in 2014, in his self defence system of American Combato, meeting and loving Brad and his wonderful students.

I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be honourable, and to be compassionate. It is after all, to matter: to have made some difference that you lived at all.

Brad Steiner has passed with honours in all of the above qualities, I will miss his emails and talks on the phone , as well as reading his magnificent and true to life articles and books which are of many.

Iam sad , but Iam also happy and privileged to have met and trained under a man such as Bradley Steiner, who even after his death he keeps me knowledgeable and self-defence ready.

Brad once said to me “David the only thing you have to worry about is dying ,and when you are dead you don’t worry”

Rest in peace my mentor and friend Bradley J Steiner, I will miss and never forget you.

Yours Sincerely David Sedunary Student and friend Australia
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Sunday, December 6, 2020

Rest In Peace Bradley J. Steiner - Message from David Sedunary

 Hello Bob


I was informed by my good  friend Brian Snoddy ( a student of Brad’s for 17 years ) that  Bradley J Steiner died this morning in Seattle.

 

It saddened me and I will never forget one of the best if not best men I ever met and trained under.

 

He will be with me forever in my heart and mind.

 

Regards David Sedunary



Editor's Note: Thanks for informing me David. I'm shocked and saddened to hear this. Brad was one of the all time best writers and coaches for both weight training and self defense. He was one of my earliest influences when I was just starting out in training. I will have a lot more to say about this soon. Rest in peace Brad my friend and mentor.

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Saturday, November 14, 2020

Barbells or Dumbbells - By Jim Duggan

      "For it is only by exercising with heavy weights that any man can hope to develop really great strength.....unless he sedulously carries out barbell and dumbbell exercises, he can never acquire really great physical powers." These words, from George Hackenschmidt in 1908, are as relevant today as they were over one hundred years ago.  To be perfectly honest, however, the very first thing I did when I first came upon this quote was to Google the word "sedulously." It is means diligently, or marked by persistence.  Words that any serious Lifter know all too well.  Interestingly, the importance of barbells and dumbbells was evident back at the turn of the 20th century.  And two decades into the 21st century, their importance is just as apparent today. 

      Recently, I came across an article which asked the question "Are dumbbells or barbells better for building muscle?"  In the article, the author lists the various advantages of each modality before coming to his conclusion.  And while most readers are aware of the benefits of barbells and dumbbells, it's a good idea to review some of the basics.  

Barbells.

    We can use heavy weights on the basic exercises. The so-called compound exercises that will build the most strength and size.  Squats, Bench Presses, Deadlifts, High Pulls, Military Presses.  These movements will build strength fro the entire body.  Experienced Lifters will be able to use heavy weights on the big movements.  Even beginning trainees will aspire to work up to the coveted 300-400-500 standard.  A Bench Press with 300 Lbs, a 400 Lb Squat, and a Deadlift of 500 Lbs are worthy goals for anyone who hoists the Iron.  Naturally ( pun intended) these numbers are geared towards drug-free Lifters.  I have no idea what a steroid-bloated druggie would strive for, nor do I really care. 

     Barbells allow you to do partial reps.  Most experienced trainees recognize the benefits of partial reps and power rack training.  Countless Powerlifters have used partials for the three competitive lifts.  However,  you don't have to be a Powerlifter to benefit from using a power rack.  Any person seeking to increase his/her strength can make enormous gains with a sensible power rack routine.  Incidentally, anyone who is contemplating entering a powerlifting or weightlifting meet must absolutely utilize a barbell.  There is no substitute for the competitive  lifts if you plan on competing.  

Dumbbells.

     Dumbbells have been around since the very first days of weight training.  The early Strongmen utilized various dumbbells to build a great portion of their strength.  Of course, there are other advantages of using dumbbells other than history.

     Dumbbells can isolate and thereby intensify the muscles being trained.  This will lead to greater gains in size and strength.  Dumbbells also allow for a greater range of motion, which will stimulate greater amounts of muscle fibers and cause an increase in the size of the muscles.  Bigger, stronger muscles.  Size and strength.  Call it what you wish, but most people reading these words all aspire to the same goal.  

     One disadvantage of using dumbbells is that, for the most part, dumbbells usually target the upper body.  There is, however, one notable exception.  Dumbbell Deadlifts.  The first time I experienced doing Dumbbell Deadlifts was at Iron Island Gym.  That should come as no surprise, since it was Dr. Ken Leistner who first wrote about this wonderful exercise in his magazine "The Steel Tip" ( February 1986).  High repetition dumbbell Deadlifts will absolutely punish your body like few other movements.  An all-out set of twenty - or even thirty - reps will leave you sore for days.  The greater range of motion, coupled with the high reps, will stimulate the muscles of your lower back, legs, hips, and grip like nothing else. 

     So, which is better, a Barbell or Dumbbells? In my opinion, it is a question that need not be answered.  In other words, why choose?  I recently watched an interview with one of my favorite strength athletes.  In it, he was asked if he was a "glass half-empty," or "glass half-full" type of person.  The answer he gave was priceless.  "Half-empty or half-full? They're both losers.  Who wants to live with half a glass? Fill the thing up!" 

     In other words,  don't choose between between the two.  Utilize BOTH barbells and dumbbells to build maximum strength. 




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My Undeniable Truths of Weight Training for Beginners - (Part 8) - The Mental Aspect of Training - By RJ Hicks MS CSCS

 

 

To be successful in the weight room you have got to be there for the right reason. There is no way around it for long term success. You should enjoy training and have a desire to physically improve the right way. Nobody else can do the work for you, that is why your attitude and mindset are the keys to strength training success.

Champions in the weight room have a burning desire to improve. They have specific goals they are striving for and their training matches this desire. Waltzing into the gym to “just get a good workout” will do little to build great strength. You must be specific in what you want to achieve whether it is to improve by five pounds in the short term or a hundred pounds in the long term. Compete with your current ability and never accept your current level of strength as your final destination.

Once your goal is developed, purposeful planning can take place. Every set of any exercise you do in the gym should have a specific purpose, otherwise you are wasting time. Throw out all of the distractions in your training. The achievement of the set (of an exercise) should be your sole purpose. Like a machine, you must shut off all distractions when you approach the weights. Be present with the task at hand. The only thing on your mind should be to go all out to reach the prescribed goal on each exercise for the day.

Take time to focus before each you begin each set. There should be no talking 20-30 seconds before you pick up any weight. You are not there to socialize; you are there to train! Your mind should be dialed in solely to the task at hand. The music and people in the background should become a dull blur. The next exercise should not matter nor should the performance on the last one.  The only thing you should be focused on is lifting the heaviest weight to meet the goal (repetition range), with good form on the exercise you are currently about to attempt.

Take it rep by rep. Each repetition should be viewed as its own challenge. Too many people try to rush through a set of eight or ten repetitions with sloppy form so they can hurry up to the next set. This is a waste of time and energy. The purpose is to train your muscles with progressively heavier loads as they get stronger, not to finish an arbitrary amount of volume for each exercise. Get the most out of every repetition and every set of exercise you do to maximize your results.

Think about attacking the weights with aggression and hostility. Bob Whelan refers to it as “going postal”. You cannot be timid when lifting the weights and expect to make great results. It is okay to think this way because it is resulting in a positive outcome. Not only are you stronger when you channel all of your anger into lifting, but you are less stressed outside of the weight room. The key to this is control the anger. There is a big different between focusing this energy into the weights and focusing it into yourself. Uncontrolled aggression will waste energy and potentially injury yourself, making it very unproductive. Set your body into proper position before lowering the weights. Be dialed into the proper exercise technique so you can maximize the amount of force you are able to generate to get the weight up. When it is time for the positive (concentric) portion of the lift channel that aggression and hostility to push or pull the weight throughout the fullest range of motion. Once the repetition is finished it is time to reset and repeat.

Although you are attacking the weight with anger, your overall training should all be positive. You must have a positive attitude about yourself and what you are doing to be successful. Many of the old-timers wrote about the power of the mind and the wonderful results it would bring. Picture yourself where you want to be instead of where you currently are. Believe you are big and strong so that one day you will become big and strong. If you go into the weight room thinking you are weak your training will reflect.

Never get hung up on the numbers so much that your workout becomes a negative experience. The goal is to progress in weights, but nobody said it will happen every week. Too many people label their training as a bad workout if they failed to move up in poundage. Training should always be a positive experience. Who cares if it takes a few weeks or months to move up five pounds, that means you are using a heavy enough weight! You are doing everything right if the weights are heavy and you cannot move up that day. Just give your best on each exercise and pat yourself on the back afterwards. There is nothing you can do to turn back the clock, but you can hurt your performance on the next exercise if you are still dwelling on the last one.

Learn to play mind games and use your instincts to avoid mental blocks. Bob always uses the example of himself breaking the 300-pound barrier in the bench press as an example of this. He was stuck at 295 in the bench press and could not lift 5 more pounds, because of a mental barrier he had with benching 300 pounds. After several attempts of failing with 300 he decided to try change the goal to 305 because there would be no pressure if he didn’t make the lift. This was enough change to beat the mental block and the lift was successful. Remember the goal can always change. There are no hard-set rules of having to reach the same repetition goal as long as your training stays progressive. If you are stuck in your training you can lower the repetition goal and add a few pounds to the work set. You can refer back to your notes and decrease the weight, and shoot for beating your best number of repetitions from a few weeks ago. Or you can drop a set to change the goal needed for you to progress in weights. The key is to always strive to do better than what you have done previously. When you learn to trust your instincts, you can attempt a new PR at several different repetition goals just by looking at past attempts and understanding how you are feeling that day.

Read books like the “Magic of Thinking big” over and over until the principles sink in. Use positive self-talk to build your confidence in the weight room and to set the tone for your training. Visualize yourself lifting the weights on each exercise and succeeding, prior to showing up to train. Set high expectations for your results and pursue after them. Do not get hung up on wrist size or bone structure. Never limit your expectations because of what one person’s thoughts and opinions may be. Think of big goals and focus all of your efforts into reaching them. Your mind has to be exercised just as your muscles do if you want to be successful in the weight room.

You can have the best weight training routine and the best equipment in the world, but none of it will make a difference if you do not have the right mental attitude. None of these techniques will work either unless you truly believe they will. Spend the time to train your mind for the gym and in life. Set goals, focus your best efforts towards those goals, build your self-confidence and only worry about what you can control. You might just be surprised how far it takes you.

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Friday, October 23, 2020

My Undeniable Truths of Weight Training for Beginners (Part 7)- Learn the history behind the Iron Game - By RJ Hicks, MS CSCS

It is too bad that the old-time strongmen get no respect from the vast majority of people training today. Ask anyone who Alan Calvert is. Ask about Bob Hoffman, Mark Berry, Leo Stern, Tommy Kono or John Grimek and you will get the same puzzled response. Nobody respects the accomplishments of these greats. All the respect goes to the modern-day bodybuilder who are full of steroids who have done nothing, but ruin the Iron Game. It is no wonder why there is so much confusion in the field.

One of the best things I did for my training was learn the history of the Iron Game. Bob Whelan really pushed the importance of learning the history of the Iron Game to me if I was going to be serious about lifting. I was hesitant at first, but slowly began to appreciate this advice the more familiar I became with the history. You quickly learn that the basics do not change very much when it comes to weigh training and building strength and your training is less likely to be thrown off track.

When you read about the history of iron game you learn that the old-timers already figured most of this stuff out. They knew training had to be progressive which is why the adjustable barbell replaced almost all of the previously used equipment. No one trained every day because they already figured out that time off was critical to becoming bigger and stronger. Just look back to the old Iron Man magazines, Peary Rader was talking about training twice a week in the 30s, 40s and 50s, long before anyone in HIT was preaching the same.

The old-timers were able to learn how to train through trial and error. They experimented on themselves, sharing with those willing to learn what worked and what didn’t. There were no drugs to push false narratives or arm chair experts speculating what worked behind a computer monitor. You can see there was a clear advancement of training from the late 1800s until the late 1960s. Almost all of the authorities in the field agreed that heavy progressive weight training was best and to focus on the basic exercises.

When you learn the history, you realize there are no real training secrets. Just about every new idea related to strength training has already been thought of. Most of what you see is an attempt to rebrand a prior idea just to sell. Progressive weights and hard work are what built the size and strength of many lifters long before drugs and will continue to work for you. Even the exercises lifters were doing in the 40s are the same ones that work now.

The real benefit comes from the confidence you gain in your knowledge of strength training. There is so much free mis-information available today that the average person knows less about training than the average person who lifted 80 years ago. When you do know the history, you are less likely to be confused. You get to avoid making the same mistakes many of the old-timers made and avoid getting caught up in many of the fads and gimmicks seen today. Learning the history gives you over 70 years of training information in just a short period of time.

My advice to a beginner is to spend time reading of the old-time strongmen books and magazines. It is important to know this history so you understand why things are the way they are now. You can understand that power lifting, bodybuilding and Olympic lifting now have strong roots and steroid use which caused the radical change in training philosophies. You understand many of the fads aren’t new nor better, that many of the old timers already found this out the hard way so you do not have to. You understand that the basics do not change much and hopefully you can learn to apply the best information from the old with the best of the new.


Editor's note: Great advice RJ!

 

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Saturday, October 17, 2020

Say No To Steroids : My Top 5 Reasons - By Burt Gam

    Greetings to all and hopefully everyone is staying safe and healthy in these risk filled and stressful times with COVID.

I want to begin this article by stating it's purpose, to dissuade any new readers of NaturalStrength.com to think carefully before making the decision to try anabolic steroids. If that is anyone's intention then this column, as I am sure Bob would agree is not for you. So here goes my "Top 5" reasons not necessarily in any order of importance.

#5. It is bad for your body. Steroid use has been associated with damage to the various organs of the body. I am talking about impaired, heart, liver and kidney function. The heart for example is in reality another muscle. With excessive steroid use the heart becomes enlarged and the left ventricle thickens. This is not beneficial to the body because the heart is working harder dealing with feeding the extra body mass and fluid retention. The liver enzymes are affected, and kidney function is impaired. The endocrine system basically shuts down the production of testosterone naturally. High blood pressure, inflated LDL and triglyceride levels can result in arteriosclerosis. Steroid use has even been linked with cancer. Some effects are acute while others become chronic. There is more but I covered enough bases.

#4. It is bad for your mind. Steroid use has been linked to various mood disorders, paranoia, schizophrenia, and aggressive behaviors and other mental disorders. They are actually considered addictive, if not physically at least psychologically. A tragic example is a well known professional wrestlers who killed his entire family and then himself.

#3 It is dysfunctional. There is nothing functional about a steroid lifestyle. Muscles are meant to be stretched due to their elasticity as well as contract. In other words they must function properly to produce efficient movement. An athlete for example usually does not benefit by an increase in size unless it is accompanied by a corresponding increase in strength. With steroid use this co-development tends to develop our of proportion to each other. That is why NFL players are not just big but fast, powerful and agile. Excessive bulk is not even advantageous to most but the larger lineman if it has a negative effect on overall performance. In some cases the biomechanics of the muscle and it's angle of pull at the joint changes, not for the better. And there is nothing functional about spending your money so you can stick needles in your body, especially if you don't compete or can financially benefit in some way. Not too functional for family life or even being a normal well balanced individual. In a nutshell *one dimensional".

#2. It can shorten your life. Related to #1, steroids can put you in an early grave. The professional wrestling industry is loaded with examples of wrestlers who never saw age 50, 40, or even 30! And plenty of pro bodybuilders too. Never saw their kids grow up, have grandchildren or great grandchildren. Never retire, travel and live out their full natural lifespan.

#1. It is not sustainable. The biggest difference between a "natural" or a steroid fueled physique is in the long term the natural lifter can maintain their physique(as well as their health) throughout their lifetime. A natural hard trainer can maintain their physique well past age 60. If you look at some of the top pro bodybuilders and compare their physiques while they were using to after they stopped, they appear almost unrecognizable due to muscular atrophy and less favorable body composition. In some cases this difference is drastic. And if they had tried to sustain their usage they probably would not live to a ripe old age anyway.

    I would like to end this article with a story. "Little Frankie" as we used to call him was well, little. On a good day he might have been five foot 3. Frankie was very young, athletic and a hit with the ladies. But Franky started to change before our eyes. In a span of 6 months "Little Franky" blew up to cartoon character superhuman size. We all knew he was lifting, but his tiny frame just did not fit with the amount of bulk it was carrying. And then something strange happened. He started shrinking. ALOT. He claimed he had stopped lifting but something was off. Then he got big again. When he hit age 30 or so you could see the male pattern baldness forming in his once thick haired head. Then when Franky was in his 40s the word spread through the building like wildfire. Little Franky had been busted for distribution of steroids on federal property. He lost his job, his pension, his self respect and dignity, and probably his health. Don't be like Little Franky. Be like the bodybuilders of the past. They were strong, athletic, agile and flexible. They were the ultimate examples of good health and longevity. Reeves, Grimek, Eder, Hepburn... Always choose long term good health over a fools dream.


   Editor's Note: Great Article Burt!
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Monday, October 5, 2020

Wisdom From The Past - By Jim Duggan

     It's no secret that I've always enjoyed reading vintage weightlifting magazines, especially the old York publications.  While looking through some old Strength and Health magazines, one particular issue caught my eye.  The October 1937 issue of S&H had an interesting variety of articles.  Who would guess that information that was published eighty-three years ago would still be pertinent today?  Actually, the answer to that question is quite simple.  Anyone with an appreciation for valuable training information recognizes that good material is timeless.  Just about everybody can benefit from closer study of the classic physical culture publications.  
     In this particular issue, there were several articles that resonated with me.  The first one was Bob Hoffman's editorial.  "Home Exercise is Best" was the title.  The opening words are of particular significance today.  "Are you a person who has always wished to be strong, healthy, and well-built but has put off the commencement of training because there is no gym near you?"  
     Back in 1937, commercial gyms were not all that common.  Today, while there are plenty of gyms, for many months they were forced to close their doors due to the pandemic.  Sadly, many had no choice but to go out of business permanently.  Even with the re-opening of most gyms, many people are reluctant to return out of health concerns, or unwilling due to time constraints, mask requirements or social distancing restrictions.  So, in a way, serious Lifters are facing some of the same challenges that were around in the 1930s.  
     There are a few more useful quotes from Mr. Hoffman's editorial.  Here is a good one: "You need not make a lot of noise.  Handling the bells gently, setting them down lightly, will make you stronger than if you constantly drop them." I guess abusing equipment was an issue back then, just as it is today.  We've all seen this particular type of gym character.  Attention-seeking  yo-yos  who insist on yelling, screaming, and making as much noise as possible.  If screaming like a banshee isn't enough, then intentionally dropping a loaded barbell will certainly draw enough attention.  
     Even if you don't train at a commercial gym, a casual glance at some of the YouTube videos floating around will provide you with a laugh.  "Screaming meemies," as Dr. Ken used to call them.  And what about all these so-called world records that we see on a weekly basis?  A lifter, surrounded by his screaming entourage, approaches a barbell ( or dumbbells, or power rack), and performs a "world record." Since many legitimate contests have been cancelled or postponed,  we are subjected to these glorified "gym lifts" masquerading as world records.  And, of course,  the requisite yelling, chest bumping, adds to the drama, all caught on video.  What a joke!  Noise doesn't make you stronger, and yelling and screaming do not make the weight lighter.  Even if you are attempting a "world record," a real lifter doesn't need a cheering section.  A good rule to follow, whenever you have the urge to make a lot of unnecessary noise, is "empty barrels make the most noise."
     In addition to Bob Hoffman's editorial, there is an article by Dr. Frederick Tilney titled "Quit Making Excuses."  It seems that excuses, procrastination, and laziness have been around for a long time.  Dr. Tilney goes on to describe the Strength and Health way of life as "earnestly striving each day to get the MOST out of life."  Basically, if you're not happy with your training- or any other aspect of your life- then it is up to you to help yourself in order to change things for the better.  
     "Tomorrow is the devil's motto."  Putting things off until tomorrow will not make you stronger or healthier.  How many times have you heard someone promise to start working out tomorrow. Or next week. Or next month.  "The present time is the raw material out of which you make whatever you will.  Instead of worrying about the past, or dreaming of the future, seize the the present instead."  Sound advice for anyone who needs motivation to get going.  Wasting time equals waste of energy and vitality.  
     Dr. Tilney goes on to address those who are "getting on in years."  Even in 1937, there were euphemisms for getting older.  The only difference is, back then, forty was considered to be "older."  Fortunately, we are more enlightened about age and getting older.  And I say this not because I recently turned 56, but because so many people today are still going strong in their sixties and seventies!  And, if you are indeed "older," it is never too late to begin a weight-training program.  You can still accomplish what you want if you quit making excuses and "plunge into action." 
     There was another article by Bob Hoffman that caught my eye.   "Heavy Exercise Saves Time and Energy."  While he was making a case for his york Heavy and Light System, there was one salient point: "It's necessary to use heavy weights to get results." If you want to get stronger, you must train progressively, and that includes training heavy.
     "You can build your strength in a minimum of time and effort through heavy training for the large muscle groups and all-around training for the entire body."  Sounds familiar?  Any sensible drug-free training program is based on that concept.  While today's "muscle magazines" may feature steroid-bloated bodybuilders pumping away on isolation movements, we know better.  Apparently, so did Mr. Hoffman back in 1937.
     I will close this article with the closing line of Bob Hoffman's editorial:   "Cooler weather is coming soon.  Fall is a time for those striving to reach physical perfection.  Get into action NOW to train."



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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Building Power Without The Powerlifts - By Jim Duggan

      The purpose of lifting weights is to become stronger and build muscle.  Progressive resistance. Strength training.  Hoisting the steel.  Call it what you want, but I am glad to contribute to a website that is devoted to building strength and getting stronger.  Years ago, Whelan Strength Training put out a t-shirt that said:  "No toning.  No chrome.  No bull.  Just the workout of your life!"  I am proud to say that I still have the shirt, because it encapsulates a very basic training philosophy.  A philosophy that I was introduced to when I first began training.  

     Anyone reading these words is interested in becoming stronger.  Pumpers and toners can go elsewhere.  So can steroid users.  "Natural strength" means just what it says.  If you are interested in drug-free strength training, then keep on reading.  

     One of the most popular ways to become stronger is to dedicate yourself to the three powerlifts.  Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift.  Powerlifting has been described as the sport of super strength.  But in addition to being competitive lifts, Squats, Bench Presses and Deadlifts are excellent exercises for developing great strength.  In other words, you do not need to be a competitive powerlifter in order to reap the benefits of these wonderful exercises.  And you certainly do not need to perform endless sets of near-maximal poundages either.  High-rep Squats and Deadlifts have long been used to build strength and increase muscle mass.  

     What if you are a powerlifter who wants to take a break from the three Powerlifts?  What if you don't have access to a power rack or heavy-duty flat bench?  Or what if you want to build overall body strength with a minimum of equipment?  The last two questions are of particular importance lately since many gyms have closed due to the ongoing pandemic.  

     I'm going to list some movements that will help develop greater overall body strength.  Before I go any further, I  want to stress that heavy Squats and Deadlifts are crucial to building serious strength.  The last thing I want to do is diminish the value of these two great movements.  Indeed, any strength-training program that does not include some variation of these movements is misguided at best.  However, if you'd like to try a change of pace and/or add variety to your workouts, then give the following exercises a try.  

     1) High Pulls.  Various pulling movements have been a staple of Olympic weightlifters for years.  Any trainee wishing to increase his/her back strength and pulling power can benefit from High Pulls.  The good thing about Pulls is that you can do them in a variety of ways, thereby preventing boredom and staleness.  You can use a "clean grip," or or you can take a very wide spacing and do "snatch grip" pulls.  You can also vary the exercise by doing them from the floor, off blocks, or from various heights from inside a power rack.  I remember reading old Strength and Health magazines and seeing pictures of Norbert Schemansky doing heavy pulls from various heights.  If you have any doubts as to the effectiveness of High Pulls, kindly read about Mr. Schemansky and his accomplishments.  

     2) One-Arm Clean and press.  Cleaning a heavy dumbbell to your shoulder and pressing it over head is an excellent way to add strength and size to your shoulders.  The important thing to remember is to always use good form.  Do not turn it into a Bent Press.  Maintain a straight back, keep your forearm vertical at the start of the press, and stay as upright as possible.  No leaning.  

     3)  One-Arm High Pull.  Placing a DB between your feet, with knees bent and hips lower than your shoulders, keep your head up and drive with your legs and pull the DB up to shoulder level.  At the completion of the rep, you can lower the dumbbell all the way to the floor, or you can make it more difficult and prevent the dumbbell from touching the floor between reps.  

     4) One -Arm Swing.  Place a DB between your feet and simply swing it between your legs, then drive yourself forward "swinging" the DB up to about the height of your head.  You can also do a two-hand version of this exercise.  Again, starting with the DB between your feet, but this time grasp it with both hands.  If you're willing to make a small investment in a quality piece of equipment, Sorinex Equipment sells a "Hungarian Core Blaster" that will make the two-handed swing much easier.  I purchased one years ago and have found it to be a useful exercise.  

     5)  One-Arm Dumbbell Snatch.  Simply grab a DB with your feet about shoulder-width apart (or slightly wider).  Bend your knees, drive with your hips and pull the DB as high as you can, while at the same time straightening your knees.  Keep the DB close to your body and rotate your elbow under the weight,then lock out your arm.  

     Since these exercises are definitely NOT isolation movements, you will feel soreness throughout your body, especially your back ( upper and lower ), shoulder girdle, abdomen, and the muscles of your "core."  These are not pumping exercises , although you can utilize high reps when performing them.  That's another advantage of these movements.  You can use any variety of rep schemes and still make gains.  

     If you're looking for a change of pace, while building greater overall body power, give some of these exercises a try.  






Editor's Note: Great Article Jim as always. 




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Saturday, August 15, 2020

The Most Basic Of The Basic - By Jim Duggan

      One of the most fundamental rules of building strength is the importance of performing basic exercises.  Hard, heavy work on the basics is the foundation on which any sensible strength program is built.  If your goal is to become bigger and stronger, then you must "pay your dues" by devoting a lot of time and hard work on the basic movements.  The basics cannot be overlooked, or overstated.  In order to get stronger, there is simply no alternative.  

     For those who are just beginning, you might be asking "What are the basic exercises?"  The answer is simple.  Basic exercises are those that target the large muscle groups.  Some examples are Squats, Bench Presses, Deadlifts, and Military Presses.  As opposed to isolation movements, these magnificent exercises bring the most muscle groups into play.  Consequently, and this is very important, the basics allow you to use heavy weights.  

     While I listed several basic exercises in the previous paragraph, I would like to mention one movement in particular.  The Deadlift.  The most basic and simple test of overall body strength.  An excellent exercise, as well as a competitive lift.  Any trainee who wishes to get stronger should include some form of deadlifting in their training program.  And, make no mistake, there is no shortage of Deadlift variations to include in your program.  Regular Deadlifts, stiff-leg Deadlifts, Deadlifts off a block ( deficit Deadlifts), partial Deadlifts to name just a few.  There are also a number of specialty bars today that can be found in any commercial training facility.  Special Deadlift Bars, Trap Bars, competition bars, Open Trap Bars.  In other words, because of the many variations in exercises and equipment, there is absolutely NO reason to go stale, or lose interest in this wonderful exercise.  When it comes to the Deadlift, variety is the spice of life.

     When I say that there are special Deadlift Bars available, these bars are longer, and have more "give" than a regular  competition bar.  This "give" or "bend" allows one to use heavier weights.  You might have seen these bars in use recently.  There have been several professional Strongmen who have attempted "world records" using these bars.  Personally, I view most of these "records" with a healthy dose of cynicism.  Most Deadlifts that are performed in a strongman contest would never get passed in a sanctioned powerlifting contest.  In a strongman contest, lifting straps are permitted, as is hitching, or dragging the bar up the thighs.  I'm not denying that these ( mostly steroid fueled) Strongmen are brutally strong, but if you set out to accomplish something, then do it right. Or don't do it at all.

     Getting back to the basics of the Deadlift, some of my favorite deadlift workouts recently involve nothing more than a York 5' exercise bar, utilizing standard plates.  I was introduced to this method of Deadlifting by my friend Steve Weiner.  Steve is a professional performing Strongman who happens to hold the World record for bending frying pans, horseshoes, and other steel items.  He also has one of the best-equipped home gyms anywhere.  He has a great collection of vintage Iron, York weights, classic machines, heavy stones, and a heavy-duty power rack.  While we try to train together as often as possible, our favorite exercise is, you guessed it, the Deadlift.  We just happen to share a great respect for this magnificent exercise.  During one of our training sessions, our Deadlift workout consisted of five sets of the three reps on the standard barbell.  That's it.  No specialty bar. No fancy rep scheme. Just five heavy sets of three.

     Because of its short length, there is absolutely no "give" or "bend" in the standard bar.  The initial pull off he floor is pure, unassisted power.  And while we may be using less weight with this standard bar, the strength that accrues from using a short bar is real, and not a gimmick.  Incidentally, the soreness we felt the following day indicated to us that we did, indeed, work hard.  And heavy.

     So, a heavy, basic exercise, using a simple rep scheme, on the most basic piece of equipment available.  I can't think of a way to make it any more basic than that. Or any more effective either.

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Friday, August 14, 2020

Congrats to R.J. Hicks - MS Exercise Science

Congrats to NaturalStrength.com writer R.J. Hicks for completing all requirements for his Master of Science Degree in Exercise Science from Liberty University.  He is also an active duty Captain in the U.S. Air Force. Great job RJ!

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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Avoid Strenuous Activity? - By Jim Duggan

     For the past five days, the daily weather forecast for the New York area would contain the warning" avoid strenuous activity," or the ever-popular "limit your time outside." Heat waves during the middle of July are not uncommon, and avoiding strenuous activity is usually sound advice when the temperature is in the mid 90s.  But, what if it's your birthday, and you plan on doing your customary "birthday challenge workout?"  Birthdays come but once a year, and it's not my fault that I was born during the hottest part of the year.  And for my 56th birthday, I had planned on doing something special, since I am now officially "over the speed limit."
     I have been doing my birthday challenge workouts for nearly fifteen years now.  When I was younger, I was always amazed at some of the feats that Jack LaLanne would perform on his birthdays.  And while I am not about to swim the length of the Golden Gate bridge while handcuffed, or perform thousands consecutive push-ups, I always want to mark the day by doing something meaningful.  This year was no exception, so I decided to do the following:
1) One-Arm Dumbbell Press with 56 Lb. "Bosco Bell."
2) One-Arm Kettlebell Row with 56kg kettlebell.
3) Anvil Curl with 125 Lb. Anvil
4) 180 Lb. Stone ( lift from ground to shoulder.)
5) York Krusher
     My original plan was to do each movement for 56 total  reps, in sets of 6-10.  I set up the first four movements, and would rotate through each one.  The York Krusher I would save for last, since it was the easiest to do.
     The One-Arm DB Press is one of my favorite movements.  I usually include it in my "Deck of Cards" workout, which I originally wrote about in September of 2016.  The "Bosco Bell" is a loadable thick-handled dumbbell that I bought from Sorinex.  It is an excellent piece of equipment, and I highly recommend getting one. You can load it with lead shot, sand, or BBs.  Mine is currently loaded to 56 Lbs.  I had originally had hoped to be able to do 112 reps for my birthday, but the combination of heat, humidity, and fatigue caused me to rethink strategy, so I stopped at 84 reps.  I was a bit disappointed, but the Rows, Curls, and Stone really smoked my arms, back, and shoulders. As the saying goes "Wait 'till next year!"
     The Kettlebell Row is something that I usually don't include in my workouts.  I've never been a big kettlebell advocate.  I much prefer good old-fashioned dumbbells or the newer Center Mass Bells ( CMBs).  I have to say, though, that the kettlebell row is an effective, and brutal, exercise.  I've done dumbbell rows with over 130 Lbs., but the 56kg kettlebell was more than enough to handle.
     Over the years, I have enjoyed using various anvils in my workouts.  Dr. Ken Leistner and Kim Wood were writing about the virtues of anvils decades ago, and I was fortunate enough to follow their sound advice.  I have nine anvils ranging in size from 50 Lbs all the way up to 206 Lbs.. I've used them for Presses, Curls, Carries, and neck work with my neck harness. I chose to use the 125 Lb. Anvil today because it weighs close to 56 kg( in keeping with the 56 theme.) Also, it is plenty heavy, and I don't think I can strictly curl my 150 anvil. At least, not yet!
     When it comes to my birthday, stones hold a special place in my heart.  Actually, I enjoy lifting stones throughout the year. I've even found a way to incorporate stones into my "Deck of Cards" conditioning workouts, and I could not have been more happy about the results.  This year as in years past, I decided to do one rep for each year ( plus I add an extra rep for good luck!) Lifting the stone from the ground to shoulder takes a toll on the skin of your forearms, not to mention your shoulder.  However, I decided long ago to not use gauntlets on my forearms. Embrace the discomfort is a familiar theme when it comes to strength training, and a high rep stone workout on a hot day will drive the point home very convincingly.
     After the four basic movements were completed, and after changing my shirt several times and drinking several liters of water, the last thing to do was to do 56 reps with my York Krusher.  I like my Krusher, and feel that it is an effective movement, even though this particular piece of equipment is almost as old as I am.  I also did it in part as a tribute to Bob Hoffman. My birthday is July 20, but it was on July 18, 1985 that Bob Hoffman passed away.  This year was the 35th anniversary of his passing.  So after the heavy work was done, I did two sets of 28 reps on my York Krusher as a tribute to the "Father of American Weightlifting."
     After I was finished, I was spent. The heat and the weights made for a powerful combination with which to contend.  I'm glad that I got through the workout, and I'm happy to report that while I was sore the next day, it was the soreness that accompanies the sense of accomplishment one feels after setting out to complete a difficult task.  I'm equally glad that I didn't pay attention to the weather forecast telling me to avoid strenuous activity.


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Monday, July 13, 2020

My Undeniable Truths of Weight Training for Beginners - Part 6 - Train Drug Free - By RJ Hicks BS, CSCS

It makes my blood boil to see how fake the weight training industry is in regards to steroids. Time and time again, I see young trainees make tremendous gains in a short period of time. In May he’s a wimp and by September he is a monster. Weight training and good genetics isn’t what did it. Bob Whelan and I talk about drug use all the time. He has personally seen many lifters who were average lifters but less than a year later he couldn’t even recognize them because they were so massive. All to say they got back into training hard and ate well? It’s all BS.

People aren’t fooling anyone who is in the know. There are no training secrets, routines or luck that comes into making drastic gains quickly. Anyone that says so is lying to you. People in the know, know it’s the drug that you are on making those gains, not your training and diet.

It pisses me off to see a guy get 10 years of training results in 1 year when I have to work so hard for years to make a third of his gains. It is cheating the time and effort it takes to earn real results. I have no respect for people who submit to drug use to produce results. They are in training for egotistical purposes only and have no desire for good health.

Steroids first started to become noticed in the early to mid-1950’s after the Helsinki Olympics. They were originally created to increase aggression and strength levels in the Nazi forces to enhance their warfighting, but after the war the Soviets discovered the drugs and began applying it to their athletes to improve their competitiveness. It took the US almost a decade to figure out how the Soviet Union could become so dominate in Olympic lifting, track and field and other events hosted at the Olympics seemingly overnight. But once we did, it didn’t take long until they became popular in bodybuilding and the strength sports in the USA and worldwide.

Through most of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s there were plenty of authorities in the field speaking out against the use of steroids. Bob Hoffman and John Grimek had numerous articles published in their magazines “Strength and Health” and “Muscular Development” that spoke of the dangers of drugs. Peary Raders “Iron Man” also had many authorities who were openly condemning steroid use, to include Peary himself! Unfortunately, less and less is being said now of the matter to steer those interested in weight training away from drugs.

Bob has told me many times the 90s and early 2000’s was a resurgent of good training information. There were many great magazines and newsletters available at a time after most of the good information had faded in the mid 80's. “The Steel Tip”, “Hard Training” “Hard Gainer”, “The Dinosaur Files”, "Milo" and “The Iron Master” were packed with great training advice, but many of the authors hardly touched on drugs. They assumed you were training natural, but never took a hard stance. There were really only three people during this time who were strongly against drugs. Bob Whelan, Stuart McRobert and Brooks Kubik. They were main people to carry the torch of the anti-steroid movement throughout the 90's and early to mid 2000s.

For the last 15 years, Bob has been one of the only people to be adamantly against steroid use. It’s too bad most people don’t know about NaturalStrength.com. The most popular weight training websites people visit today are filled with nothing but drug users and BS drug user routines. This is all the masses are ever influenced by, gimmicky training. Be part of the few in the know and read the great training information on this site and truly understand the meaning of drug free training.

The days of “Strength and Health” and “Physical Culture” are long gone. Strength training is now a money-making industry not a health industry. There is no regard for vigor and longevity for many in the field. Most of the guys seen on the front cover of magazines, in the T.V. commercials or big-name websites are using drugs. It is a quick way of making you believe what they are selling will produce those results. It is all a lie. None of their gimmicks or supplements are going to produce the desired results for you, only natural training will.

Dick Conner had a great talk at one of Bob’s Clinics on drug use in powerlifting. When asked about an infamous barbell club that I will not mention, he directs their success solely to the use drugs, gear and perfecting the power lifts technique. That the reason behind the high frequency and volume of the lifts is a learning process to develop perfect technique. High bridging on the bench, rising your chest to the bar, cutting the squat depth short an inch by taking a wide stance and sitting back. None of these techniques are making your stronger, than are decreasing the amount of work you have to do each repetition. Everyone one of their powerlifters takes steroids, it’s a must to train there. No one is shy about it there, but most don’t realize that’s where the huge poundage comes from. The use of drugs and wearing the latest "Gear" plays a dramatic effect on the amount of weight you can move. On Natural Strength Night on Mind Force Radio with Bob, Dick talks about a 350-pound natural bencher just by going on drugs and wearing gear can easily become a 500-pound bencher. That 150 pounds has nothing to do with getting stronger, it is just all just BS. He closes off at the podcast stating all the chains/bands, high volume, percentage training does not make enough difference in training results to matter. It is all just fluff to disguise what is really producing their results.

I don’t care how many championships so and so coach won or successful athletes they produced, if they train with drugs their methods will not work the same with you. Drug training and natural training are two completely separate activities. The drugs allow you to train completely different than if you were not on them. It’s the drugs that causes the body to grow bigger and stronger in these trainees, not the training and recovery. They enhance you genetically, weight training doesn’t do that. Any routine will work if enough drugs are taken. That is why so many drug routines are crap, most drug users never learned how to properly train.

The effects of steroids on your body should be reason enough never to try them It is like playing Russian Roulette with two rounds in the cylinder. There is a good chance they will kill you and a greater chance that regular steroid use will ruin your health. It is not some supplement you will excrete out; you are literally altering your cellular structure as Bradley Steiner puts it on Natural Strength Night. It is a dangerous substance and should never be used except in extreme medical purposes under a qualified medical doctor.

Look at the WWE as just one small example. The WWE has had a major drug problem since its inception. Many of their athletes have tried at one time or used drugs regularly to improve their physique and performance. You can look on google and easily find tons of articles listing all the former stars who have had premature deaths related to drug abuse. Chris Benoit, Macho Man, Eddie Guerrero, Brian Pilman and the Ultimate Warrior are just a few of the names that are sadly on just one of these lists. These drugs can destroy your health and do so quickly. Mood swings, depression, injury to tendons and ligaments, heart disease, and high blood pressure are just a short list of the harmful effect’s steroids can cause. No healthy individual should ever take them.You can maximize your physical potential without subjecting yourself to the dangers of steroids

 There are some phenomenal natural lifters who can make lift as much as one on steroids, but they are the exceptions. Men like Marvin Eder and Paul Anderson are the exception to the and vast majority. With a 500 pound bench and 1000 pound squat respectively, these lifters were magnificent and should be remember as such. In the history of the world they are probably the strongest weight lifters ever. Their numbers may seem forgotten because they are dwarfed by huge numbers the drug lifters are putting up today. It's a shame that their incredible feats go unnoticed and they don't get enough praise.  I remember an ad in the old "Strength and Health" from Bill Anton called "Bill Anton Big Bench"  He was one of the first few men to have a 400 pound bench, and incredible feat at the time that is still deserving of a lot of respect.. People look at a 400 pound bench like it is nothing now because everyone is on drugs. This is a completely fabricated illusion! Not everyone's genetics will allow such progress. Only the few genetically gifted can obtain such lifts naturally, and that is okay.

When you commit to being a natural trainee you refuse to ever try drugs. You are in this to be strong and healthy, not for egotistical purposes. Natural training is about maximizing your physical potential the right way. You don’t listen to the quacks in the field who are involved in the drug scene or illicit drug training. Natural training is a completely different activity than drug training. Drug training works for drug users not natural trainees. All of the golden era bodybuilding splits, secret soviet training, long periodization cycle percentage training can be traced back to drugs and are of no use!

Listen to the few good voices in the field who are natural trainees and commit natural training to their core philosophy. Build your body to be strong and healthy. Maximize your physical potential the right way, without drugs Trust the advice of Bradley Steiner, Bob Whelan, Dick Conner, Stuart McRobert, Brooks Kubik, Jim Duggan and the many great natural lifters before them that preached drug free training. Your body will thank you for it, for years to come.



Editor's Note: Great Article RJ! One of my all-time favorites. This information is rare today and badly needed.
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Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Are You Really Working Out? - By Jim Duggan

Peary Reader's Ironman magazine was published from 1936 through 1986. He published articles on all facets of the Iron Game. Weightlifting, Bodybuilding, Powerlifting, just about every strength endeavor was covered in the pages of his magazine. Ironman was generally considered to be the least biased of all the various "muscle magazines." Mr. Rader was a true Physical Culturist who not only wrote about having a balance of mind, body, and soul- he actually lived such a life. The great authors who wrote for his magazine are too numerous to mention. Needless to say, if you can get your hands on some old issues of Ironman ( before 1987), I encourage you to do so. You will be glad you did.

Recently, while looking through some old issues, I came across the March 1985 edition. The editorial was written by a gentleman by the name of Ivan E. Bright, Jr.. It was titled "Are You Really Working Out?" It struck me that this was a valid question to ask, even though it's been over thirty-five years since the original article was written. Incidentally, one of the great things about Ironman in those days was that Mr. Rader would present articles from authority kany different and diverse viewpoints. He had many outstanding guest editorials over the years. In this particular editorial, Mr. Bright relates a recent workout that he had in a gym. While at the gym, he had encountered an acquaintance named "Ed," who was also at the gym to work out. Or so he thought.

While Mr. Bright was doing heavy Bench Presses for sets of five, his friend Ed was at the front desk, talking with the owner of the gym. Eventually, Ed made his way to the Pec-deck machine, and did a few light sets. After his Bench Presses, Mr. Bright proceeded to several sets of heavy Presses. Ed, meanwhile, was still jaw-jacking, this time at the water fountain.

I think you see where this is going. One person engaging in a heavy workout, while another is basically wasting his time. Ed is a classic example of someone who thinks he works out by virtue of the fact that he simply shows up at the gym. But merely showing up doesn't make you a lifter. The contrast between these two individuals- one working hard, while the other is doing nothing- is something that plays out in every gym, every day. It also leads to a couple of important questions.

1) What type of trainee are you?

2) Do you actively "train" when you work out or are you simply "going through the motions?"

Before you answer those questions, it is important to note that you don't necessarily have to belong to a commercial gym to waste time. You can be in the comfort of your own home and still be "spinning your wheels." Cell phones, social media, texting, and tweeting are the domestic equivalent of jaw-jacking at the water fountain.

To avoid wasting time, you have to decide what it is you want to accomplish from your training session. Do you want to get bigger, strongr, and healthier? If so, then you have to determine whether your workout is sufficient. If it is not, then quit kidding yourself.

If you want to train more productively, then you have to be serious and dedicate yourself to the goals that you have set. You also have to commit to a training program which consists of basic, heavy movements. There is no need to train six or seven days per week. "Body part training," which is a by-product of six day per week training, is a waste of time. Training body parts is something that originated with steroid users, and has no place in the training regimen of a hard-training natural lifter.

Something that goes hand in hand with basic, heavy workouts is the recognition of the importance of adequate rest and recuperation. Getting sufficient rest between workouts is crucial, especially for drug-free trainees. Two, or at most, three workouts per week are more than sufficient for most Lifters.

When it's actually time to train- be it at home or in a commercial gym- then do it. Don't waste precious time doing things that will impede your progress. One of my favorite sayings goes like this: "Time is the only thing of real value that you possess. Don't waste it." Only you know whether you're working out hard enough or not. Are you really working out?



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Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Health and Strength for Today - By Jim Duggan

     "It's a great life if you don't weaken."  These are the opening words to an article written by Dr. Frederick Tilney in the March 1936 edition of "Strength and Health" magazine.  Since we are currently in the third month of a worldwide pandemic, it's easy to forget that health issues existed over eighty years ago.  But, believe it or not, before Joe Dimaggio played his first game for the Yankees, before World War II even began, people sought to become stronger and healthier.
     Strength and health are priceless possessions.  Unfortunately, like many gifts, we usually don't appreciate what we have until they're gone.  Instead of wishing, dreaming, and hoping to get stronger and healthier, start doing something about it today.  Forget about tomorrow.  Never mind about next week, or the week after.  The best time is now.  The only time is now.  Take action today that will make you stronger, and will improve your health.  Use the beginning of a new month- or the beginning of Summer- to wake up to the possibilities and pleasures of greater strength and abundant good health.
     Even though most commercial gyms are still closed, don't let that stop you from working out.  Adopt an attitude of "My quest for strength will not be denied!"  Besides, all serious Lifters realize that most commercial gyms are a joke when it come to serious training.  And with the warm weather upon us, you  can train outside and reap the benefits of fresh air and sunshine.  Vitamin D is good for the immune system, and who couldn't use a boost to their immune system today?
     Please don't fall into the trap of believing all the "experts" on the internet.  You don't need countless burpees, planks, or pistol squats.  Use common sense and concentrate on the basics.  Hard, heavy work on the basic exercises will negate any need to read the nonsense you'll find from most online trainers.
     Just as important, don't pay any attention to the so-called celebrities who constantly post pictures and videos of their home workouts.  Many of these "action hero" actors are steroid users who owe their physiques to drugs and/or plastic surgery.  And don't fall for the false notion that you need a personal trainer to achieve your goals.  Most trainers are merely "rep counters" and cheerleaders.  You don't need anyone other than yourself.
     During the last few months, while everyone has been in "lockdown mode," there has been plenty of time to reflect on things and take stock of your habits and actions , while at the same time take better care of yourself.  Naturally, when confronted with an abundance of free time, it's only natural to take stock.  But it is also a golden opportunity to learn to respect your body, all aspects of it.
     Needless to say, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the large amount of information available at the click of a mouse, or by pressing a key.  Don't become overly dependent on what you read or hear from others.  Don't rely on someone else to work out or take care of your health.  Ensure it yourself by attending to your health and strength requirements each and every day.  One day at a time.
     It requires no more effort to form a good habit than a bad habit.  Make a conscious decision to cultivate better habits in all aspects of your life.  Instead of lifting weights merely because you ought to it, resolve to work out because you want to do it.  One of the many things for which I am grateful is the opportunity to still enjoy lifting weights after over forty years devoted to our beloved Iron Game.  I love to work out, and I have never looked upon a workout as something that is required ( I hate that word.)  I approach each and everyntraining session as an opportunity:  I get to lift today!  How lucky are we  to be able to lift weights ( and stones, anvils, etc.) and enjoy what we do?
     I would like to offer one more piece of advice.  When it comes to working out, just do it.  Don't talk about it, or go on social media to proclaim it to the world.  The internet is filled with self-proclaimed experts who constantly preach about their training, yet these same people look like they've never touched a barbell.  Don't be a keyboard lifter.
     One of my favorite all-time athletes was Rocky Marciano.  The only heavyweight fighter to retired undefeated.  The "Brockton Blockbuster" was renowned for his unbelievable punching power, stamina, and conditioning.  His 49-0 record ( 43 knockouts) has not been matched.  Yet, unlike most of today's athletes, Rocky never bragged or blew his own horn.  He was a humble, unassuming champion, whose favorite Italian saying was: " Fa i fatte e no parole," which means "Do it. Don't talk about it."
     When it come to lifting weights and working out, don't be a talker.  Set out with unflinching determination to do it.

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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 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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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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