Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Just Keep Training - By Jim Duggan

Back in the Spring of 1995, I had the good fortune to attend the Club Industry Trade Show in New York City.  Basically, It was a convention of vendors and distributors of exercise equipment. Most of the well known, as well as the lesser known, equipment manufacturers were in attendance. I attended the show with Drew Israel and other members of Iron Island Gym.  

     Naturally,Nautilus, Hammer Strength, MedEx, and Southern Exercise Equipment Were popular exhibits. For anyone who loved the train, and who appreciated various strength building modalities, seeing all the latest machines and equipment was like going to strength training heaven. This was the main reason for wanting to attend. Another reason was that there would be any number of “famous spokespersons” representing some of the equipment manufacturers.

     Some companies used former bodybuilders from the 1970s and 1980s in the hope of  attracting potential customers. For some reason, seeing some chemically enhanced freak would not inspire me to purchase anything. Other companies used former powerlifting champions from the same era, hoping to appeal to the “lifting crowd.”  And, indeed, there were at least two former World’s Strongest Man winners selling equipment and making themselves seen.

     While it was nice to see some of the legends from the past I got the feeling that they were there just to collect a paycheck,. In other words, they were just doing their jobs. Nothing more and a day's work. Of course, there were exceptions. Getting to meet the legendary “Big Jim” Flanagan from MedEx  was a privilege and a pleasure.  What an impressive man!  He was friendly, knowledgeable, and down-to-earth.  He took the time to discuss his machines without pressuring you. He loved to talk training, and it was quite evident that he was not there just to make a buck for himself.

     Another highlight of the day was meeting Bill Pearl, who won his first Mr. Universe title back in 1956. There is a reason why I distinguish men like Bill Pearl from current crop of glitter shorts wearing pumpers and posers.  Bodybuilders like Bill Pearl trained for size strength and health. His longevity in the Iron Game indicated that his way of training exemplified  the ideals of Physical Culture.  Additionally, when I met him he was nearly 65 years old, but he looked about twenty years younger.  At least.

     Mr Pearl was exceedingly friendly, in addition to being knowledgeable about the machines he represented. He actually had a complete line of machines from the company for which he was a spokesman in his home gym. He confided to us he couldn't endorse a product if he did not actually use it himself. Mr Pearl also took the time to answer questions about his legendary career, is early morning workouts ( he was famous for training at 3:00 AM ), as well as his current lifestyle.  Although nobody in our group was a “bodybuilder,” We were all impressed by his passion for lifting and training.  

     There was one thing he said that has stuck with me for many years. I had asked him for his “secret” for staying strong healthy and youthful at an age when most people are ready to retire.  His answer was simple and brief.  “Just keep training” was his response. At the time, I didn't understand the significance of his advice. I almost felt as if he were brushing me off, but he seemed too genuine to dispense superficial advice. “Just keep training.”  In time, I would begin to comprehend the meaning of what he told me. And it truly was a significant statement. What he meant was if you keep training and lifting, you will discover what exercises and routines work best for you. And by applying the knowledge accumulated over years of experience, you will indeed find the “secret.”  In other words, learn what works best for you and then keep applying it.

     Whenever I think of Mr. Pearl’s “secret advice,” I remember a picture hanging in my home. It is an autographed photo of Jack LaLanne.  The picture is from 2007, and I always think about what he wrote to me. “To my friend, James.  Keep up your workouts always.  Health and happiness always.  Jack LaLanne.”  

     “Keep up your workouts always” was what really hit home for me, as you can imagine. Whenever I have a day where my enthusiasm maybe lagging, I always think about the words that Jack LaLanne wrote for me.  And then I combine his words with Mr Pearl’s pithy advice. I don't think anybody could go wrong following use two pieces of sage advice. They have certainly helped me over the years. 

     I am at an age now ( 57 years old ) where, if someone were to ask me for training advice, I would start with “Just keep training,” and “ Keep up your workouts always.” Naturally, I would give credit where credit is due and acknowledge the two legendary Iron Game figures who were kind enough to share their knowledge with me.  Lifting weights is an activity where we learn so much about ourselves, but sometimes it takes a few brief words of common sense to keep us focused.  I consider myself to be lucky to count myself among the countless number of people to benefit from the wisdom Bill Pearl and Jack LaLanne. Hopefully others will be inspired to keep lifting.

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Friday, November 5, 2021

We Must Have Strength To Live - By Jim Duggan

This is the title of Bob Hoffman's editorial in the November 1946 issue of Strength and Health magazine. While looking through the pages of this classic edition, the title of the Editorial immediately caught my attention. Anyone who loves strength would be drawn to such a title. The opening sentence of Mr. Hoffman's editorial is even better: "Strength and health are the two most important things in the world. Without them life is not worth having." While some people may not completely agree with this statement, the importance of being strong and healthy cannot be disputed. As Dan Lurie famously said "Health is your greatest wealth."

All of us who "hoist the steel" have an appreciation for strength and, more importantly, the process by which strength is developed. The process of getting stronger- the workouts, dedication, and sacrifice- is truly a labor of love. How can anyone lift for decades and not love it?

I remember a conversation I had with a "personal trainer" which took place back in 1996. This guy was affiliated with the "Super-Slow" training philosophy, which was popular at the time. Now, I'm not going to get into a discussion of the merits (if any) of super-slow training, or whatever they call it today. But I'll never forget something this guy said to me. Actually, it was a question that he had asked me. "Do you actually like to train?" At first I thought he may have been kidding, but he was totally serious. "I absolutely love lifting and working out!" was my response. The look of surprise on his face indicated to me that he himself most certainly did NOT enjoy lifting. This told me all I needed to know about him as a "trainer." In my opinion, he wasn't worth a damn as a personal trainer. To him, it was just a job, a way to make money. Those were my thoughts twenty-five years ago, and I have not wavered in my opinion all these years later.

If you absolutely must hire a personal trainer, in addition to seeking out someone who is qualified by virtue of an academic background in exercise kinesiology, or physiology, try to find someone who has a passion for working out. How can anyone who trains other people expect their clients to embrace the ideals of Physical Culture if they are only in it for a paycheck. Avoid "trainers" who don't love the Iron just as you would avoid a trainer who is a steroid-bloated druggie. Neither of these categories of Physical instructors is worth your time or money.

The most successful strength coaches and trainers LOVE to "sling the Iron." I first began lifting weights as a teenager, and I love more at the age of 57 than I ever have. Whenever I'm asked if I still enjoy working out after all these years, I always flash back to one of my favorite movies, "Patton," the story of legendary American general George Patton. I always think of the scene during the battle of the Ardennes. As Patton surveys the battlefield, he states:"I love it. God help me I do love it so. I love it more than my life." Now, I don't expect everyone who lifts to have such strong feelings, but I think you get my point. If you cannot get excited about lifting, and getting stronger and healthier, then why bother going to the gym? Go play golf instead.

Later in the Editorial, Mr. Hoffman makes the additional statement that strength is internal as well as external. Basically, when when you develop your muscles on the outside of your body, you also develop and improvenall the muscles,processes, organs, and glands on the inside of the body. The only way to strengthen the internal organs and processes is through exercise.

"When you start out to make yourself stronger with weight training, when you constantly endeavor to put forth more effort through progressive training, you are teaching or conditioning the internal organs to work with greater strength and efficiency." Quite a statement, but what it means is that when you lift weights, you are not only building physical strength, you are also building super health and mental strength as well.

Getting bigger and stronger requires self-discipline, courage, and determination. These admirable traits will benefit anyone wishing to improve his/her life. However, in your quest for size and strength, never lose sight of the importance of improving your health. "To become super-strong, you must become super-healthy." Another excellent quote.

"Strong men and women are strong all over, inside and out." Most people who adhere to the drug-free lifestyle are already aware of this simple fact, stated so eloquently by the "Father of American Weightlifting," 75 years ago this month. And since the anniversary of Bob Hoffman's birthday is in a few days ( November 9, 1898), it's only fitting that we benefit from his words of wisdom.

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Sunday, October 31, 2021

Priorities of Strength - By RJ Hicks: MS, CSCS

One of the major strength training topics Bob and I talk about is intensity. Intensity is defined as the amount of work done per unit of time. I have been mentored by Bob for many years and have had his personal definition of increasing Intensity ingrained into me. Bob believes there four ways to increase intensity. Poundage progression or adding weight to the bar. Training with sets to muscular failure, forcing the muscles to do more work in one set. Reducing the amount of rest you take between sets, allowing you to do more work in less time. Lastly, using good form during your training. This forces the muscles to perform more of the work, rather than using momentum and gravity to assist with moving the resistance. All of these methods will increase intensity, but it is essential that you train with progressive resistance in good form as it is the backbone of all successful strength training programs.

Sets to Failure There are many professionals in the field who believe training intensely only means lifting a weight until momentary muscular failure. They forget all about poundage progression and believe as long as they train with a high level of effort to failure, they will maximize their muscular size and strength. There are training facilities across the U.S. that utilize training to failure as their main goal for their clients’ workouts. They book appointments in 30-minute blocks and use high end strength training machines so the clients can safely train to failure in all of their exercises. This is both a great business plan for business owner and for the client. The business owner can train twice as many clients in a day and double their profit. While, the client can receive an extremely hard work-out and only sacrifice 30 minutes of their day.

There is zero doubt that intensity is one variable to maximizing muscular size and strength, however it is the way some trainer’s priorities the different methods of raising intensity that detract from the goal of maximizing strength. Training to failure can be a very beneficial way to train, especially for athletes whose sport doesn’t involve a barbell. It is a productive way to train, because it requires fewer work sets to be done. Usually, training to failure only requires one hard all-out work set with a moderate rep range as opposed to performing three to four work sets of a specific exercise. It is time efficient because less work sets are required to produce the amount of muscular overload needed to increase muscular size and strength. Bob and I both agree training to failure can be a great way to train, IF it is done progressively.

You can go to failure with light weights all you want, but if you never increase the weight, you’ll progress little. Going to failure with light weights has the same pitfall that training with only calisthenics present. It deemphasizes strength (the amount of muscular force you can produce) and emphasizes muscular endurance (the amount of repeated submaximal force your muscles can reproduce over an extended period of time). If they weight is too light your muscles will not improve the amount of muscular force they can produce. You will only get better at lifting light weights to failure. If this wasn’t the case there would be no need for weights and everyone would just use calisthenics. You can make training to failure a productive element of your training, but without poundage progression your ability to maximize strength will be limited.

For most of Bob’s years competing in powerlifting he never focused on training to failure and only focused on trying to get the goal for each work set. Failure happened by accident, but was never thought of as the goal. It was a natural byproduct of training hard and heavy. It wasn’t until later in his training years after reading “Heavy Duty” that he started to alter his training. The main exercises (bench, squat, deadlift, incline press and behind the neck presses) were still trained in a pyramid style fashion, but the supplementary exercises were done in a high intensity training manor. He knew it doesn’t really matter if you go to failure, it just makes you do less sets.

Many of the Oldtimers never trained to failure either and made tremendous gains in muscular size and strength. Most of the training courses advertised in the early “Strength and Health” and “Muscular Development” magazines used a double progressive system, meaning the reps were increased first and then at a certain point the weight was increased. Take the arm curl as an example on a routine that trains three days per week. The athlete would choose a weight which they could complete the arm curl at least ten times, and for four exercise days it is repeated for the same number. Then it would be tried for 11 times for four exercise days. Then 12 times for four exercise days until the athlete is able to repeat the arm curl twenty times for four exercise days. At this point five pounds would be added and the process is repeated until another five pounds is added, and so on. The old-timers built up to handling large weights on the basic exercises through consistently prioritizing POUNDAGE PROGRESSION. They didn’t worry about training to muscular failure, burn-out sets or creating large amounts of fatigue in their muscles.

Rest Between Sets Reducing the amount of rest between work sets is another great way to increase intensity. The less sitting around you do the more challenging each exercise will feel. Your heart rate will stay at a higher pace as you continue to lift weights not fully recovered. I think reducing rest between sets is great way to increase the intensity of your workout, but if you get too carried away with limited rest it can negatively affect your muscular strength development.

There are still trainers that like to utilize a method of reducing rest called “the rush factor”. I know people who swear by this method and whose workouts only last 15 to 20 minutes. It is a non-stop workout where you move from one exercise to the next with no rest in between. Some motivated enthusiast even run between exercises to further reduce their resting time. Using the rush factor brings cardiovascular benefit to the workout and certainly raises the intensity level, but it is not a priority in maximizing strength. There are no physiological strength benefits from putting your body into metabolic shock. Vomiting and rolling around the floor at the end of your workout looks hardcore, but does nothing to build greater strength. When you severely decrease the amount of rest you take between sets you actually hurt your ability to maximize your strength. Without rest your muscles are unable to produce enough force to optimally provide overload to the muscles. You get a watered-down version of strength training most times, because your cardiovascular system ends up holding you back. That is why powerlifters take plenty of rest between their heavy work sets.

The truth is reducing the amount of rest you take between sets plays no part to increasing your muscular strength. You can rest as long as you want between exercises and make fantastic strength gains, as long as you are focusing on poundage progression. Paul Anderson used to rest for several hours between exercises, while he trained. He would do some heavy squats, then go inside to eat and relax, then he would come back outside an hour or two later and do some heavy military presses. As long as you get all of your training done within the day, it really doesn’t matter how much rest you are taking if you are looking to just increase your strength.

For a business this is not an optimal way to train clients, because you are charging them by the hour. Nobody wants their money wasted by sitting around for three to four minutes between every work set. Too much rest also takes away from the overall workout intensity and can play mental games on clients. One way Bob taught me to strategical build in rest between work sets is to add in tinkering exercises between the basic compound exercises. An example of this would be to go from the bench press to the seated row to an abdominal exercise. You may be only resting 30 seconds between each exercise, but there is a three to four minutes rest before you return to do another set of the bench press or seated row. This way you are increasing the number of exercises done in the hour, while prioritizing lifting the heaviest weight that you can.

Good Form Good form is the third variable to increase the intensity of a workout. Good form is a given and always expected to be used during training. Good form forces your muscles to work more to contract against a certain load, raising its intensity. Good form means using a safe full range of motion and not allowing momentum or gravity to assist in moving the weight. Good form is always needed and doesn’t even need mentioning, however, there are some who take good form to an extreme and train with a very slow speed of motion.

Slow training was a method of performing repetitions that was popularized in the 90s and is still imbedded in many trainers’ philosophies today. The idea behind it is to move the weight so slowly that the momentum is nearly all eliminated from the movement and that every repetition can mirror the next to accurately measure progress. The most popular repetition cadences seen from gym that follow this philosophy are 10/10 rep speed (10 second raising the weight and 10 seconds lowering the weight). 10/5, 8/8 and 6/6 are other popular cadences, but a 10/10 rep speed is the most common.

There are advantages to using a slow speed in some instances and it is without a doubt a workout intensifier technique. A slower rep speed compared to a fast rep speed can be safer since less force is imposed on the surrounding muscles, ligaments and tendons. A slower rep speed forces the muscles to stay under load and contract longer than a fast rep speed does. The problem arises when trainers overemphasize the form of exercise, but decrease the speed of movement

The disadvantage of the normal way slow training is administered when it comes to maximizing strength is that it prioritizes rep speed over poundage progression. Slow training dissuades the use of heavy weight, due to the strict rep rules. You can get strong in the beginning using slow training, but once the weight gets heavy you can’t finish the rep. It is against the rules to pick up speed to finish the rep, you are constricted to lifting at a specific cadence. This makes it very difficult to move heavy weight. The weight ends up holding you back from getting stronger, because you cannot push through the mid-range of the rep. The only gains you’ll make over a few months is a couple of 2.5-pound plates.

Drew Israel, a frequent guest on Bob Whelan’s “Natural Strength Night” had a very similar experience with slow training. Drew used slow training for two years and found his strength was diminishing from what his previous training built. He noticed a loss in overall size and strength when he experimented going back and forth between using normal speed training and slow training. He did note that slow training can still be beneficial to beginners or if you have injuries that are bothering you, since it could allow you to train on exercises that your body couldn’t tolerate at normal speeds.

If you like slow training than do it. There is nothing wrong with slow training and it is a great way to get a challenging workout in. Some trainers will have you performing repetitions between two and three minutes, which is a killer cardiovascular wise. There are ways to add it into your training as a specific theme for the day as a form of variety or on a specific movement that causes irritation. One of my clients suffered from a shoulder impingement for years and was unable to do any consistent overhead pressing. I had him train the overhead press for several months using a 10/10 speed which allowed him to get stronger and remain pain free. I prioritized poundage progression by setting the goal at three reps and not being overly critical on the timing/form. his way he was still training in the anaerobic energy system since no set lasted longer than 60 seconds. If he had to pick up speed naturally on the last rep to finish, so be it. The speed was still slow enough not to cause any pain.

Poundage Progression Poundage progression is the fourth variable, yet equally important as good form when it comes to increasing intensity. Without poundage progression none of the other three methods will maximize your muscular size and strength. The principle of poundage progression goes all the way back to the late 1800 in the United States when physical culture really started to take off. Everyone in the know knew poundage progression was the main focus for developing strength. That’s why tools like the adjustable barbell are so valuable to the Iron Game, because it was the first tool of its kind to easily allow users to incrementally add more weight. Every barbell and dumbbell course published during early to mid-1900s was built around the premise of continuously adding weight to the bar overtime. Every authority in the field agreed that training with tools that allowed you to progressively add resistance were far superior compared to calisthenics. It was even the main method of muscular rehabilitation during World War II. Poundage progression is the key-ingredient that makes different training routines work. It doesn’t matter if you use machines or free-weights, high reps or low reps, one set or multiple sets, or prefer to do Olympic lifts over bodybuilding movements. The key is that no matter what you are doing if you systematically implement a method of adding weight overtime then you will get stronger.

To force a muscle to grow larger and stronger you must provide muscular overload. This occurs when a muscle is driven to work beyond what is comfortable. Training progressively does this by increasing the weight against which the muscles develop tension. The heavier weight the muscles are able develop tension under and create movement the stronger the muscles become. This is the best intensity variable to use to increase the total work output during a training session.

There is no one best progression scheme for anyone or for any one specific lift. There are many ways to set up a progression scheme best off of your preferences and instincts. The main rule is to have a set/rep goal and to add a little weight when you are no longer straining to reach it. The exact load to increase by varies amongst individual and is base on the current ability of the muscle’s groups being trained. The key is once you have a systematic progressive scheme in place is to stick with it for several weeks before switching to another.

All of these ways of increasing intensity can be thought of as a It balancing act. The more emphasis you put on any of the four ways of increasing intensity, the more you must take away from the other variables. How you prioritize each variable is ultimately up to your preference and goal. If you prioritize poundage progression you must decrease the emphasizes on reducing rest. If you prioritize limited rest between exercises, you must decrease the amount of weight you are handling. Each variable of increasing intensity comes with its own benefits and can be made to work as long as some form of increasing resistance is systematically applied. As Bob has stated numerous times “poundage progression is the unifying factor in all successful training programs”.
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Friday, October 1, 2021

Training Liberation or Wisdom From Bradley Steiner - By Jim Duggan

Over the years, I've written articles based on material obtained from old issues of Strength and Health magazine, usually from the 1930s and 1940s. I've always believed that quality training information is timeless, and that we can all benefit from the wisdom of the past. Naturally, common sense training advice is not limited to a certain period of time. I recently looked through an old issue of Muscular Development from August 1988. What I found interesting about this magazine was that this issue was definitely NOT before my time. Indeed, in 1988 I was 24 years old, and had been competing in Powerlifting for several years. Additionally, by 1988, Bob Hoffman had been dead for several years, and John Grimek had retired. But guess what? There was still useful, pertinent training advice written by some of the most prolific Iron Game authors. A casual glance at the contributing authors of this edition of MD shows names like Dr. Ken Leistner, Jan Dellinger, and Bradley Steiner. Any list of the most talented Iron Game writers off all-time would include these three gentlemen. Incidentally, I would also include "Maximum" Bob Whelan, and Brooks Kubik to this list as well. 

Back to the August 1988 edition of Muscular Development. There is an article titled "The Liberated Trainee," written by Bradley Steiner. Mr. Steiner passed away almost a year ago. He has been rightfully described as one of the greatest strength training writers ever. He always advocated sensible training with an emphasis on hard work, determination, and desire being the keys to success. And he was against the use of steroids and PEDs. Many people claim to be against drugs, but Mr.Steiner actually had the guts to speak out against them. Many people pay lip service to being against steroids, but people like Brad Steiner and Larry "Bruno" Licandro didn't just talk the talk. They walked the walk and fought the scourge of steroids. In this particular article, Mr.Steiner details the challenges faced by the vast majority of trainees. He refers to these people as "hardgainers" but he could very easily be referring to those lifters who are drug-free. He brings up a number of valid points which i would like to share.

"The saddest thing is being a hardgainer and quitting because you feel that it is useless to expect satisfactory gains." If you are a "hardgainer," or if you are drug-free, there is absolutely no reason to quit if gains are coming slowly. You can build impressive size and strength without the use of drugs if you are willing to work hard. In addition to working hard, you must also work smarter. Do not blindly follow follow the routines of the so-called champions. Most, if not all, of these "champions" are steroid-bloated druggies. Learn to listen to your body and learn what works for you. "Hardgainers require very limited programs and carefully controlled schedules of exercises." 

Mr.Steiner hit the nail right on the head with this statement. Training bodyparts, with endless sets on a six-day-per-week program is a sure way to overtraining, burn out, and injury. Many new trainees simply can't believe that you can make great gains by lifting only two, or at most three, days per week. "Start thinking in terms of simple, brief, and intensive workouts." Another solid statement. Squats and Deadlifts are the bedrock upon which the most effective strength-training programs are built. Developing the legs, hips, and lower back will build great all-around strength. In other words, pumping your arms and "pecs" may build showy beach muscles, but it will do little in terms of building overall body piwer. "A hardgainer's program should be built around Squats, Presses, Deadlifts, and Bent-over Rows." Truer words were never spoken. Naturally, you can make substitutions based on leverages, age, past injuries, etc., but if you wish to build strength then you must include some form of Overhead Press, a heavy pulling movement, and leg work. Concentration curls, triceps pushdowns, and other useless exercises simply will not get it done. 

"Do not organize a drawn-out program of training if you are a hardgainer." Another spot-on observation. If you are drug-free your body will not be able to recover from long, drawn-out workouts. A few hard, heavy sets on the basics is all you need to get stronger. If you train at a commercial gym and suggested abbreviated training to the vast thong of pumpers and toners you would probably be considered some sort of weirdo. But you probably walk into the gym, perform a few heavy sets of Deadlifts, Presses, Rows and be finished while the toners are still sitting around and texting their friends. "Don't grind away at any exercise to the point where you're ready for a stretcher." A common sense piece of advice. 

As drug-free Lifters, we only have so much energy to expend in any given workout. Even on a wonderful exercise like the Deadlift, you can reach a point of diminishing returns. Don't do too many sets of any movement, no matter how strong you may feel. "Be sure that heavier weights and not more exercise is your main goal." Heavier weights. Poundage progression. Adding weight to the bar. The key point of progressive resistance training is increasing the resistance. If you're not adding weight to the bar, then performing additional sets will not help. It may even hurt. Poundage progression is the "since qua non" of any strength training program, and don't let anyone tell you differently. "Avoid any tendency to train with any degree of frequency that forbids rest days between hard sessions." This was mentioned before. Give yourself adequate rest between workouts. By rest days, I mean days of NO lifting whatsoever. 

How many rest days between workouts? Again, everyone is different. Some people, due to age, work sschedule, etc., require more rest than others. Listen to your body. Nobody knows you like you do. If you haven't sufficiently recovered from your last workout, give yourself an extra day it two. Your body will thank you. " Discouragement is your worst enemy." If you love to lift, then it will be easy to maintain your enthusiasm. Many hardgainers have been able to develop great strength. You can too. Don't allow the occasional bad workout to deter you from achieving your goals. There is one other point that Mr. Steiner mentions throughout the article, and I will conclude this aarticle with his words regarding steroids" "Never use them!"
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Thursday, September 23, 2021

New Remote Training Products and Prices! - By Bob Whelan

Check-out the new options and prices for remote training and consultations! Scroll to the bottom of the landing page.  CLICK HERE FOR INFO  

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Monday, September 13, 2021

A Tribute Workout - By Jim Duggan

Every year, as the Summer winds down, most people look forward to the upcoming Autumn season. The end of August usually brings the anticipation of Labor Day along with the accompanying return to school, work, and Fall weather. However, for members of the Fire Service and especially for members of the NY City Fire Dept., it can be a difficult and challenging time. The anniversary of the 9/11 attacks bring feelings of dread and sadness as we remember the nearly 3,000 Americans murdered on that tragic day, including 23 NYPD Officers, 37 PAPD Officers, and of course the 343 members of the FDNY who made the supreme sacrifice. 

Any anniversary of a significant event causes us to reflect more than usual. "Where were we when it happened?" is a question we often ask ourselves. Time marches on, as it always does. Memories fade, as they sometimes do, which, in a way is a good thing. If we had to live with the acute pain of every past historical event that ever happened, it would be a depressing existence. But as we look past the pain and sadness, we remember the bravery, dedication and sacrifice of those we lost twenty years ago.
Every year, throughout the country, there are tributes, memorials, and ceremonies to mark the anniversary and renew our promise that "We will never forget!" There are also memorial events of a physical nature- 5k runs to honor the memory of Firefighter Steven Siller who, in full firefighting gear, ran through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel that day to join his unit where he lost his life while saving others. There also memorial Stair Climbs to honor the hundreds of firefighters who ascended the stairs of both towers in an attempt to save as many trapped victims as possible. 

This year, a few days before the anniversary, I decided to honor the memory of my fellow firefighters who were lost that day, with a physical challenge. I've never been much of a runner ( if I were a car, you might say I was build for comfort, not speed), and since I no longer belong to a commercial gym, I no longer have access to a Stairmaster. I decided that a Deadlift Challenge would be the most appropriate means of honoring the 343 fallen heroes, especially considering my love for all things strength-related. I came up with a very simple, yet brutal, workout challenge: 343 Lbs. for 107 reps in one hour, using my special 2" thick-handled Trap Bar. The number "343" naturally represents the 343 FDNY members who were lost that day. The number "107" represents the company I was assigned to twenty years ago, Ladder Co. 107, in East New York, Brooklyn. I decided to complete my "workout" on Friday, September 10, since I would be at various remembrance ceremonies the following day. On the morning of the workout, I decided to weigh myself, and my bodyweight was 231 Lbs., which is significant since my current assignment is Engine Co. 231, in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Talk about coincidence. 

For the last month or so, I have been doing kettlebell deadlifts with the goal of reaching 107 reps in as short amount of time as possible. I was introduced to this type of training by my good friend and fellow strength fanatic, Steve Weiner, and I've found it to be intense, and effective. A week before, I did 107 reps with two 144 Lb. kettlebells in 36 minutes, while standing on a two-inch block. However, 343 Lbs on a thick-handled trap bar would be a different story. On Friday, September 10th, at 2PM, I began my workout. I began with several singles, to warm up, and then I did sets of five until I hit 25 reps. At that point, I switched to triples, so that I wouldn't expend too much energy on each set. I kept going at a fairly regular pace until I hit 85. It was at this time that I noticed that I had torn a callus on one of my fingers. Thank you, thick-handled trap bar! I also knew that there was NO way I was going to let that stop me. From 85 onward, I alternated between triples and doubles until I reached my goal of 107 reps. Upon completing my final rep, I checked the time and was slightly disappointed that it had taken me slightly over an hour to complete my workout. I say "slightly" because I was happy that I was able to get through what turned out to be as grueling a workout as I can remember. To say I was sore the next day would be the understatement of the year. My entire body felt as if I had been run over by a truck. At our firehouse remembrance ceremony the following day, each time I performed a hand salute was a new adventure in soreness, as my entire body was aching. But I'm glad I did it. I would like to conclude this article by remembering those we lost twenty years ago. May we never forget. May we also never forget the men and women of our armed Forces who serve and protect our great nation.
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Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Remember the Goal of Strength Training - By RJ Hicks MS, CSCS

The goal of strength training is to train progressively with the most weight you can in perfect form. The weight must be challenging for you, depending on your specific repetition goal. When the weight is no longer heavy you add a little weight to keep the total weight challenging for you to lift. It is so simple, but misunderstood by many.

The only competition in the gym is between the lifter's past performance and their next performance. Each workout is a competition where the lifter strives to improve how much weight they are able to lift. It doesn’t matter what other lifters in the gym are doing, world records that have been achieved or what is displayed on social media. All that matters in strength training is whether or not a lifter is able to add weight to the barbell or machine they are handling over time.

However, nobody said you add weight every time you train or at all, unless you are physically able to in good form when the goal is reached. You cannot just add five pounds each workout. It is unrealistic for the body to be able to adapt to this long term. If it was possible everyone would be benching over five hundred pounds after a few years of training.

Poundage progression is based off of your individual performance not based off of time. You can only add weight when you earn it, by surpassing the training goal for each specific lift. Training with long cycles doesn’t make sense if you are a natural trainee. You cannot pre-plan when to add weight unless you are starting so light in weight that you waste most of the year training sub maximally. Drug users can pre-plan poundage progress, because the training cycles work in conjunction with the amount and type of anabolic drugs they are taking.

The key for natural trainees is to strive for poundage progression. Do the best you can, handling the heaviest weight you can for the proper repetition range. You may hit seven repetitions two weeks in a row, six the next week and seven the fourth, but it doesn’t matter. Pat yourself on the back if you gave it your best effort and move on to the next set or the next exercise.  As long as you are TRYING to continue to lift more weight you are doing everything you can to get stronger. Eventually you will surpass seven repetitions if you stay with the weight and continue to train hard, eat the proper nutrition and take plenty of rest.

Where many beginners go wrong is they get attached to a certain repetition range or scheme and allow themselves to become negative when they reach a sticking point in their training progression. There is no magic behind any repetition scheme, whether it is straight sets, descending sets, single sets etc. They are all just systems that guide poundage progression in your training. Once you are able to surpass the goal of the repetition scheme you know to add weight. You use the repetition scheme to assist you in the goal of adding weight, but the specific repetition scheme is NOT the overall goal of training.

If you keep missing your goal with the same weight, it has a negative effect on your confidence and mood. You can start to expect to miss your lifts with a certain weight and fall into a sticking point. Strength training requires struggling with weights, but it shouldn’t become negative. Never let yourself get crushed by the same weight more than two or three times in a row without making a change. Most training plateaus are more mental than physical.

If you’re training with higher repetitions to failure, change the poundage and goal for the sets. Instead of training doing twenty repetition squats all the time, switch it up and train in the ten to twelve repetitions range for a few months. If you are training with three sets for a specific exercise, drop one of the sets or only judge your performance on the first set. This will get your mind set on a new goal and let you forget the past failures. Your mind will begin to focus on working to constantly improve instead of focusing on a specific number.

Bob Whelan coined this style of training “Common Sense Periodization” years ago as an alternate method to the popular long periodization training cycles that some of the top certification like to promote. Bob suggests every few months adjusting the equipment type, repetition ranges and or the exercise to keep things fresh. It is all dependent on how you feel and not written in stone. If you are on a roll and not burned out with your current training, continue to ride the wave. If you are stalled out and need a change of pace, switch things up responsibly. There will still be linear progression because the basic exercises and principles of strength training never change.

Poundage progression all comes down to using your own judgement when to move up on weights. If you are straining to meet the goal, stay with that weight until you exceed it. If you have a psychological issue on a specific lift change the repetition goal or repetition speed so you don’t feel negative on your performance. There is no specific rule on what system of poundage progression you use, only that you strive to improve on whatever system you train with. In the end, you are only competing against yourself. Strive to set new PRs for different repetition goals if you are stuck on a specific one.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2021

The Finnish Deadlift Routine - With A Twist - By Jim Duggan

When I began powerlifting, in the 1980s, the primary source of information was Powerlifting USA magazine. Contest results, training articles, upcoming events, and anything related to powerlifting were covered in each issue. As I've often mentioned, Dr. Ken's column "More From Ken Leistner" was one of my favorite features of the magazine. Even before I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Ken, I was a fan of his writing. Another popular feature was the "Workout Of The Month." As the name implies, it was a monthly routine described in great detail, right down to the sets, reps, and poundages. It was usually written by one of the "big name" lifters of the day. The implication was that by following a champion's workout routine, you too can build great strength and increase your lifts. All you had to do was wait for each issue to arrive in the mail. 

Fortunately, today we do not have to wait a month to obtain training information. Training routines are just a click away. Unfortunately, a lot of the information that is so readily accessible is also useless, particularly for drug-free lifters. Sometimes it can be difficult to differentiate between what is quality lifting information and what is not, especially for newer trainees. Let's face it, there is a lot of misinformation out there. However, we are lucky in that there is also more than enough timeless information that is worth its weight in gold. 

One particular nugget that has been around for a long time is the "Finnish Deadlift Routine." Originally published in PL/USA during the Summer of 1981, it was reprinted several years later, and has been discussed and debated by many authors, discussion boards, and forums over the years. I am going to discuss my experience with this routine and offer my opinion as well as apply it to the training of a drug-free lifter. The original Finnish Deadlift Routine was written by Jaska Parviainen. A quick search will reveal that he has written a few strength articles, and introduced a number of ideas to the lifting world. Now, to break down the routine. The routine is comprised of three cycles for a total of twenty weeks. Deadlifts are performed twice per week. 

The first cycle is seven weeks long, and requires the lifter to perform stiff-leg Deadlifts off a 5" block (what we refer to as "deficit Deadlifts today). In other words, you will not do standard Deadlifts at all for the first seven weeks, only stiff-leg Deadlifts for sets of ten repetitions. The second cycle is also for seven weeks, and like the first cycle, you will be lifting off a 5" block. However, during this second cycle you will be doing regular Deadlifts, using your legs, this time for sets of five repetitions. The third and final cycle is for six weeks, and will have the lifter performing regular Deadlifts only this time off the floor for various repetitions. 

Poundages are determined as a result of percentages of your one-rep max at the beginning of the program. The routine boasts of some impressive gains for those who follow through and complete the program. As you can see from reading the program, an increase of up to 50 pounds can be expected. Along with the increase in strength, there will be an accompanying increase in size and muscle. The exact phrase the author uses is "back musculature worth bragging about." If bragging is your thing, then you're in business! At the beginning off the year, I decided to give the routine a try. Over the years, I've attempted to follow the Finnish Deadlift Routine but never followed through the entire three cycles. This year, I decided I was going to make it through the whole program, but with a twist: Instead of doing Deadlifts with a barbell, I was going to use a Trap-bar, but not just any Trap-bar but my thick-handled trap bar, which I purchased several years ago. 

Now, I would like to explain some very important observations that I've made after completing the routine. The first and most important point I'd like to make is that deadlifting twice per week is definitely too much work for a drug-free lifter. There is simply too much volume for a natural lifter to make gains on the routine. This is especially true when you consider that other heavy movements are usually performed in a lifter's overall program. What I did to adapt this routine to my needs was to simply eliminate the "lighter" of the two deadlift days. I would simply do the heavy day once per week. Sometimes, because of my work schedule ( rotating shifts) I would deadlift once every eight days. Later in the program, during the final cycle, I would give myself extra days of rest between Deadlift sessions. I cannot emphasize this enough. Drug-free lifters cannot blindly follow advanced routines that were developed for lifters that are not natural. However, there is no reason why a drug-free lifter can't improvise, and make it work for him/her. A little imagination, some trial and error, and a lot of hard work can overcome a lot of barriers. The second point I'd like to make is some people may have never done trap-bar Deadlifts off a 5" block. This is not a problem. Like any new movement, go slowly at first and perform the movcement in good form. The first cycle calls for stiff-leg Deadlifts. If you have never done stiff-leg Deadlifts with a trap-bar, then begin slowly. 

Good form is imperative, and the routine calls for NOT placing the bar on the floor between reps. The continuous tension between reps makes it easier to concentrate on maintaining good form. I've always enjoyed pulling off a block, and using a trap bar was a minor adjustment. I found that the sets of ten were a nice way to break into the program. It will make you hungry for the heavy stuff that will come later. And, trust me, it will get heavy. When the time came to begin pulling from the floor, it took a while to get comfortable. After nearly four months of pulling off a block, that is to be expected. But the biggest twist I made to the routine took place during the final cycle. 

Sometimes I would take 12-14 days between deadlift sessions. I simply listened to my body, and didn't attempt to lift unless I felt recovered from the last workout. The biggest mistake a drug-free lifter can make is not allowing for sufficient recovery between workouts. As for the auxiliary exercises, I decided to stick to One-Arm DB Rows and Bent-over Rows. I did not do the pull-ups or hyperextensions like the routine called for simply because I do not have a chin-up bar or hyperextension bench. If you have those pieces of equipment, I would only advise you to chose one or the other. Sometimes less is more when it comes to getting stronger and recovering between workouts. 

One thing I did do during the final cycle was to substitute Good Mornings for the Rowing movements. I've always enjoyed doing Good Mornings and have always felt that they are a super strength building exercise. Again, if they are for you then do them. Listen to your body. As I mentioned before, I utilized a thick-handled trap bar for this routine. I've always enjoyed using thick-handled barbells and dumbbells. Yet another benefit from following Dr. Ken. Naturally, the 2" handles will make it more difficult than using a regular bar, but when it comes to getting stronger, whatever is harder is better. I completed the final cycle on July 1st, nearly 25 weeks after I began. That day I pulled an easy 515 Lbs, in good form. I'm sure I could have pulled another 10-15 pounds, but I've always been conservative when it comes to poundage progression, and now that I'm 57 years old I see no reason to change. Besides, I plan on using this routine again and I want to stay hungry. The Finnish Deadlift Routine is an excellent way to build strength and increase your Deadlift if you're willing to be creative and work hard.
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Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Latest Strength and Sports Newsletter - By Jamie Labelle

Connective Issues BLOG/NEWSLETTER 

Vol. 1/No. 1/APRIL ‘21 

Musings about the world of mental and physical training for all human beings who desire to improve or maintain themselves for their sport, job, activities of daily living or for the sole purpose of looking and feeling better. 


Subject“A” is a male in his late 50’s with fabulous hair. The 309lbs he is currently carrying around is not healthy, considering the fact that his college playing weight was 225lbs. In recent years his inconsistent workouts were not helping. However, the eating habits of this individual required a drastic change...NO, he actually needed an INTERVENTION! 

The intervention came in the form of a 29-day diet, which typically ends in disaster for most people who either can’t complete the task or successfully lose the weight, only to gain it back along with additional pounds after once again sliding back into old habits.. 

“A” is now on day number ninety and going strong at 275lbs. In about a week he will be tackling an exercise program. This hopefully, will become part of his daily life when it is blended into his new eating habits. More on his specific program, as well as similar situations, ahead in future issues. 

Subject “B” is a high school female athlete with good skills and toughness on track to play at the college level. The current issue is her weight. Through a combination of an unfocused diet and dad’s bulky genetics, her weight is now interfering with her great skill. Our concern is that the body weight (fat tissue) increases between senior year and that famous freshman year. More on “B” in future issues. 


Menu con’t 

Subject “C” is a 14year old talented wrestler, entering our facility for his first workout. In a previous consultation meeting, dad claimed that the little grappler could do sixty chin-ups. We also learned that dad is a bit more “enthusiastic” than his young son after speaking with the boys coach. Dad has been recording (filming) EVERY move, pin, nose bleed, burp and fart. 

We tell dad that if his son could do more than three Quality Repetition chin-ups, the first 12 training sessions would be free. 

On chin-up #2 the struggling athlete is starting to lose his grip with his left hand. We advise him to “squeeze with his left” but after barely completing his second he could not continue safely. 

At home, dad is reviewing video and notices that almost every time his son uses his left to grab and hold an opponent he cannot maintain his grip. Once again, the controlled reps allowed us to uncover a weakness that went unnoticed during the herky-jerky, sixty rep, chin-up session, which focused on the destination, not the journey. 

This began the creation of a program, not specific to the sport of wrestling (he’s already doing that in the wrestling room) but a program geared to HIS specific needs. We create programs for the “wrestler”, but the strength training aspect has almost nothing to do with attempting to mimic a single leg takedown in the weight room. 

Subject “D” is a professional football rookie in the “beast” shape of his life, eight weeks prior to the first training camp of the season. During one of the workouts he is able to complete twelve sets of uphill sprints with less rest and in record times, than in any prior sessions. All while wearing army boots. Just to be clear, the boots are not necessary, they were worn to stabilize and protect the ankle. The hills are large and all sand. On day one of the football camp, he is winded after doing ten simple up-downs and is baffled by the experience. 

His body was in a state of overtraining and was now faced with the upcoming and intense double sessions practices, coupled with a need to “show his stuff” in order to make the team. The overtrained athlete only has but one choice; rest to recover. Unfortunately, there was no rest in sight as it was show time! 

Each week prior, he had increased the volume of exercise and at one point was doing double sessions of conditioning, as well as, lifting weights six days per week. The additional football skill sessions with one of the veteran players, was also taking place on three separate days per week. He was slowly deteriorating and had no idea. At the time all he knew was, “more is better.” 



Hello (again) and welcome 

“It’s been a while” 

This little publication (now a blog/newsletter)was created in the early 90’s. It was just starting to pick up a little speed, as it was being read by our clients, teams, athletic coaches and trainers around the United States but then came to a halt. At the time, it was receiving some positive reactions from some noteworthy people who were near the top of their game. For many reasons we discontinued the “publication,” as we were beyond busy. Honestly, it was definitely not a floating boat in our revenue stream, actually it was free. Just add in a growing family, teaching, coaching, bills, career and BURNOUT...well you know the deal. 

So now we are back. We will be periodically re-issuing all or parts of the back issues, with necessary modifications. Unfortunately, at first glance, little has changed. In the words of one of the few experts in the field, “over the last thirty years, the industry has deteriorated exponentially.” 

With that, I welcome you to the new and improved, bi-monthly content and format of the Connective Issues blog/newsletter. A smattering of opinions, facts and ideas surrounding the industry of training and exercise, related to the development and maintenance of the human musculature and a whole lot more. 



One QualityRepetition 

Part 1; Initiation of movement 

Although there are many other factors involved. In teaching one quality repetition, that has always been the mainstay of our program, since its inception some thirty-seven years ago. It is our main course, our fundamental standard and our “platinum” package. It involves using the muscles to initiate movements instead of momentum. 

For exercises that commonly begin in the concentric phase, such as a chin-up, bicep curl or machine row, a smooth transition from a paused or a motionless position is crucial… 

It activates the muscles that move the resistance, which is a much more intelligent and safer way to initiate a repetition. Just think how “vulnerable” a person’s joints, connective tissues and muscles are at the beginning of a regular chin-up. 

It places the stress on the muscle or groups of muscles which is vital if the goal is building muscle that will improve your strength, health, flexibility and the ability to decrease the incidence and/or severity of injuries. If that “package” of outcomes, in its entirety is the goal, then starting the repetition in this manner is a requirement. 

It improves the probability that the resistance is correct for a given INDIVIDUAL. It begins a movement where the results can be recorded with a higher degree of accuracy in order to provide the type of overload that is necessary, safe, real and consistent. 

It most definitely does not commence with any rocking, jerking, swaying, screaming or even the very common, off-loading one might witness prior to “lift-off” on a seated cable row for instance. 

For exercises that commonly begin with the eccentric phase, such as a dumbell squat, bench press or certain leg presses, a smooth activation phase from a paused or motionless position is important… 


Initiation of movement con’t 

It usually dictates how the rest of the repetition will go...assuming that one wants to be safe and effective. 

It places the focus on fatiguing the muscles rather than completing and falsely counting/recording a full repetition. 

It assists in making muscle fatigue inroads into that aspect of a repetition (eccentric) where most trainees possess more “strength” than in the concentric...hoping that one’s goal is to get the most out of each rep, set and workout. 

Part 2; Movement 

For exercises that usually begin in the concentric phase, this is a little more simple (for the trainer, anyway) as we ask the person to “drag” the weight throughout the first part of the range prior to reaching the full range. We do not count. Our focus is on control and trying to use the natural and correct stabilizing properties that assist within the modality of choice, which allows that specific muscle or group of muscles to be solely responsible for performing the work. 

For exercises that usually begin in the eccentric phase, we continue to ask for a controlled movement, but with a noticeable difference in speed, albeit, a much slower speed than one would witness in almost ANY gym in the world. The reasons for that will be the focus of another article, in a later issue. 

Part 3; The FIRST Pause 

This may be the single most important aspect of the quality repetition which needs to occur at the concentric/eccentric phase exercise “halfway” point

3a...Concentric starting phase exercises; eg. Dumbbell Press/Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise 

If the person cannot pause with a given resistance (at least up to the lower number of the rep range) then the weight is too heavy and needs to be adjusted. 

This required first pause, will take the most energy to complete and maintain throughout the rest of the set and subsequently the entire workout. We treat it as any other skill development task; it must be taught, practiced and repeated. The only requirement for it to be included and recorded as a full repetition, is that a PAUSE must occur at the fullest range possible. 


First pause con’t 

This is also where we begin to TEACH proper breathing, attitude and an absolute requirement of remaining calm, while slightly aggressive (effort wise) with a relaxed facial expression, mouth slightly open and in the best possible body position for that specific exercise. 

3b...Eccentric starting phase exercises; eg. Bench Press/Squat 

This particular first pause requires the most discipline as well as a great deal of energy to accomplish. However, it is also the most dangerous, both in that it usually occurs at a moment in the exercise where the trainee is least protected due to the mechanics of the movement (think bottom range of the bench press or squat). 

In addition, that same danger MIGHT exist and be multiplied based on SO MANY FACTORS related to one’s specific, unchangeable, physical and genetic make-up. This would take an entire book, videos and at least a semester to explain. 

There are however, some adjustments and modifications that exist which are easily applied but sometimes it just goes back to “you are who you are”. 

Unfortunately and partially because of the singular desire to complete and then mistakenly “count” anything resembling a repetition, remains to be one of the reasons why this seemingly irrelevant aspect of exercise is often overlooked. In fact, I’m surprised you’re still reading this! 

Most of the time, the increased speed during this part of the repetition is to aid the trainee in making it past the “sticking points’ inherent in the exercise and/or self, but also because the weight selection is incorrect. 

The other, mostly male reason for ignoring this critical component of exercise (commonly referred to as form), is that it demands using a weight that they can actually handle. Additionally, from a vanity perspective, most males are not able to deal with the fact that for as strong as they appear to be, based on their size (or what they have developed over time), using a true resistance in “good” form during a given exercise might diminish their “prowess” as the strongest member of a gym. The same holds true for both the guy who only took a brief swim in the gene pool and the unlucky guy who only got to test the water by dipping in his toe. In fact, their form could be worse, especially if they are trying to impress other gym members or themselves. No judgement here or any intended harm to anyone...just what we have noticed about people exercising. All could be great and kind human beings (which is what matters most). 


Part 4...The initial return phase after the first pause. 

4a..Concentric starting phase exercises; eg. Pulldown/Machine Leg Curl 

We require and teach a focused and very dramatic slower speed of movement during the first few degrees after the contracted position pause. This sets the stage for the desired speed of movement during the eccentric portion of the exercise. If the trainee can accomplish this, it indicates to us that the resistance is safe and most effective for that specific individual as long as they can maintain that speed along with the necessary body mechanics. As we mentioned earlier, this will further contribute to the eccentric fatigue and develop deeper inroads as our goal is getting the most out of each repetition. 

4b..Eccentric starting phase exercises; eg. Push-up/Lunge 

It is very important during this part of a repetition/exercise to understand that the human body is especially vulnerable and that the focus MUST be on good body positioning (think “bottom” of the push-up; straight back, feet and hands shoulder width and remaining directly under the shoulders). There must be a concentrated effort to engage muscles and not just think of making it through that difficult portion of the exercise in order to complete or count the repetition. Additionally, we offer technique “reminders” to enhance muscle involvement and safety during almost every exercise. 

Part 5...The remainder of the return phase 

Again, this is a controlled, slow movement with no counting from the trainer. If the person is returning the resistance to the starting position on a machine leg curl, the speed of motion is considerably less than on the concentric portion. Maintaining a controlled speed to reach the “top” of the push-up position is also required. 


Part 6...The second pause 

6a...Both Concentric and Eccentric starting phase exercises. 

This pause allows the individual or trainee to prepare and focus themselves for the next repetition rather than allowing the set to deteriorate into one continuous motion. It is intended to separate one repetition from another and eliminate the dangerous, and ineffective momentum during exercise that is so often witnessed in health clubs, irrespective of whether a trainer is present or not. 

6b...Concentric starting phase exercises; Machine Leg Curl 

We require the trainee to touch the weight stacks together during this PAUSE so that we can make sure it is a full range repetition. Tension is kept static for a brief moment, as we ask them to “pause but don’t relax”. On certain exercises such as a tricep pushdown, lat pulldown or pullover this may not be possible. Once again, this eliminates the ability to utilize momentum in order to “get” the next rep. This METHOD is more measurable (as long as factors like seat heights remain the same and body “english” is not assisting completion of the repetition). If there wasn't the requirement to touch the weights together, then as fatigue set in the gap between the weight plates would widen from rep one to rep ten. You “recorded” ten, but you really did six. You believe you got stronger, the weight gets increased and so begins the further collapse of your form and the first steps toward injury. 


...By the way, we didn’t want you to think we forgot to address the importance of general and specific warm-ups, breathing, body positioning and exercise choice. Our goal here was to write about A REP. We will get to those other, very important topics, in future Connective Issues. 

...Please note; The references to specific exercises made in this blog/newsletter are included for the purposes of describing how WE want clients to perform repetitions. Understand that we are not, by any means, advocating for these exercises, it's just easier to use common movements done throughout the history of weight training. We will review ALL exercise movements for a combination of safety and efficacy in future issues. Remember, this is not about posing on stage or demonstrating how much a person lifts, it’s quite simply about getting results that transfer to performance, while lowering the incidence and/or severity of injuries. That performance could range from walking the dog to doing the forty at the NFL combine. 


SIde dishes con’t 

...just a point of OPINION here regarding the few members of the massive workout population of today who appear to “know what they’re doing” based on how they look, how they train, which “exercises” they choose or possibly how much they lift... For the general population, who mistakenly attempt to copy that selective society’s lead in how we exercise, please understand that it’s one of the main reasons that most of us are not achieving even close to our genetic potential. Trust us, good genes make it easier but that is another reason one needs to get the absolute most out of every rep, set and workout which begins with good, “clean” and safe repetitions. 

...and we might as well point out here that this philosophy of performing quality repetitions is intended for EVERY ADULT and EVERY ATHLETE, no matter what age or level from fourteen years old and beyond, no matter what the goal. The only exception being a powerlifter or olympic weightlifter...much more on that in a later issue. 

...If the first set calls for between 10-14 reps, we want the trainee, at a minimum, to complete the tenth rep in order to adjust accordingly, either for a new set, the next set or future sets during another session. For a beginner or even an advanced, new client, we would want them to hang out near the top end of the repetition range for at least a month, as long as they have been consistent. An advanced trainee is still considered a beginner if a new routine or exercise is introduced as part of their workout, with the difference being that we want them living at the top of the rep range for less time (one week) than the beginner or advanced new client. 

...Let’s say that the goal of the set is to do 8 repetitions with 120lbs on a cable pulldown machine, using a parallel grip. Based on the overload principle (researched based), once the trainee completes the required repetitions, the resistance is increased by .5 to 2.5lbs. Any more than this small increase will certainly impact one’s form and eventually lead to nagging, persistent or permanent damage. Using the new weight, the trainee attempts to reach 8 repetitions, beginning the same process all over again. 

For the advanced or intermediate trainee, the next time they perform this exercise with the new weight, they might typically complete between 5-7 reps if they are using the same form. If they increase the speed (momentum) they might complete 10-12 reps. If they decrease the speed to say a “Quality Repetition” they might complete 2-4 reps. How do you think the typical male would react to that decrease? 


SIde dishes 

For the beginner trainee, they might complete or exceed 8 reps due to a natural learning curve or something as simple as the resistance being too light. 

The real issue is that when the trainee assumes they completed the required number of repetitions with a specific resistance and then increases that 

resistance, their form progressively breaks down with each successive workout. This leads to possible injury, modifications in range of motion, less protection against injury, avoidance of specific exercises (especially favorites), limiting or cancelling workout sessions or even memberships. In turn, this reduces effort (intensity) leading to less results and a host of other issues. 

To complicate this subject even further, we MUST also discuss exercise choices as it relates to both the physical and mechanical advantages and disadvantages of each individual, as well as, the exercises themselves. This particular topic is not easy to discuss, debate or learn. Furthermore, there are few who can break it down, explain it AND have someone walk away with a working knowledge of the reasons it is so important for designing INDIVIDUAL workout programs. 

...When we first began training clients, we tried counting out loud, a three-second “positive” and a five-second “negative” repetition speed. We quickly scrapped the idea which was met with some thunderous applause from all involved. Our original goal was to make the recording of the repetitions even more measurable and exact, leading to greater effect and efficiency, but we determined that the quality repetitions were difficult enough without the verbal bellowing! Actually, it was getting in the way of important instructions that needed to be conveyed, especially to the beginner. 

...For most of the workouts, the rest period between each exercise is kept as brief as possible and constant, unless we are in the early off-season of an athlete’s sport or the adult client and/or athlete are brand new. How each progresses is based on age, health, medical history, individual desire, ability to take instruction and/or deal with varying discomfort levels associated with progressively less rest in between exercises. More on this and the “dosage” of exercise, related to the beginner through advanced client, in a future issue. 



A college strength coach was trying to motivate his athletes and at the same time have a little fun. The coach got hold of a whiteboard and wrote the following on the top of the board so that entering athletes could “order” and be taken through, one on one, at some point during their routine for that day; 

“Welcome to our restaurant, please order before entering” 

“Specials of the day” 

Legs ala kill you...served in a fine lactic acid sauce 

Bicep soup 

Pork Shoulder (well done only) 

Deltoid Mussels; Steamed and Overloaded in a bowl 

15-20 Little Neck clams...progressively leading to Bigger Neck Clams (seasonal) 


Our Principle, Philosophy, Mantra or Credo? 

“DO NO HARM” Actions should not cause or create injury or injustice to people. Overall goal of the training program? 

Our end goal is to create usable muscular strength for any endeavor whether its winning a gold medal at the olympics or progressively strengthening your leg musculature to improve your quality of life. We have assisted with the training of both of those clients and almost every type of individual in between...that is, until the next client enters the facility. 

To date, all of the successful athletes that we have trained (strength training only) spent a total of 1.5 hours or less per week (not a typo) with us during the off-season and only 45 minutes per week in-season. 



“Everything related to the demonstration of strength is counterproductive to the development of strength.” 

“You cant teach anybody anything, you can only create a situation where they might learn” “Count up enough of those tomorrows and all you have is a bunch of empty yesterdays.” 


Questions and/or comments regarding the Vol.1/No. 1 APRIL ‘21 issue to What would you like us to write about in future issues? 


Exercise and/or training advice is not without its risks and this or any other exercise/training program may result in injury. Our advice is to consult with a physician before starting an exercise program. As with any of these types of programs, if at any point during your workout you begin to feel faint, dizzy or have physical discomfort, you should stop immediately and consult a medical professional. You should rely on your own review, inquiry and assessment as to the accuracy of any information made available

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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:

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Vintage Bodybuilding Literature
Oldtime Strongman Books

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