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 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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