Saturday, September 24, 2022

A Tribute to Bill Pearl - By David Sedunary

I sit at my desk and think to myself after the death of the great Bill Pearl, the leaves of time keep falling off the tree of weightlifting and body building knowledge. Bill Pearl just recently passed away at 91 years of age. As we all know Bill was an American professional body builder, athlete, and strongman. During the 1950’s and 1960’s Bill won The Mister Universe Title five times and was named World’s Best Built Man of the Century. Bill was born on the 31st October 1930 and sadly passed away on the 14th September 2022.

I bought Bill Pearl’s book in 1980 called Keys to the Inner Universe, and read it many times, it still sits proudly on my bookshelf. The book is 636 pages of comprehensive knowledge gained from over thirty years  of teaching and training athletes. From an early age Bill had an intense desire to be strong and well built, studied the Strength and Health magazine and looked at the photos of John Grimek, Clancy Ross and Steve Reeves and he knew then he had found the way. Bill worked long and hard hours to save enough money to buy a York Barbell set. Bill would write of strongmen such as the Saxon brothers, Eugene Sandow and Louis Cyr.

Bill Pearl, like Jack LaLanne, Peary Rader, and Bob Hoffman influenced me and many others, to train in weight training. Whether you were an athlete, body builder, or just an average active person, with weight training your body became stronger, you bettered your health, fitness, and longevity. Thank you, Bill Pearl, for helping me guide my life to its most exciting potential of strength, health and well-being.

Rest in Peace Bill Pearl.

Editor's Note: Nice job David. Bill was truly one of the all-time greats. I had his picture on the wall of my basement gym in my earliest years of training. He had a huge influence on me to start weight training and make it a way of life. I had the honor to interview him for the informative chapter he contributed in Iron Nation. Thank You Bill and RIP. You were a tremendous Iron Game champion and will be missed.

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Friday, September 23, 2022

All gone now - By Jim Bryan

LtR Bruce Howell, Craig Whitehead, Bill Pearl, and Al Chrietensen. All gone now. Craig Whitehead trained with Bill Pearl and I trained with Craig b/4 he went to Mr Universe. He got 2nd place behind Bill March. (Circa 66-68 timeframe) 

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Sunday, September 11, 2022

Are You A Slave To Your Program? - By Jim Duggan

I have often mentioned that the Iron Game has been blessed with the talents of many great “strength writers” over the years. People who write with such a passion about getting stronger that their love of strength jumps off the page. I’ve mentioned many such people over the years. Dr. Ken Leistner, Bob Whelan, Brooks Kubik, Jan Dellinger to name just a few. My inspiration for this month’s article is a gentleman who I have referred to previously.

I’ve devoted previous articles to Bradley Steiner before so I’ll just jump right in and get to an article that first appeared in the November 1987 edition of Muscular Development magazine. York Barbell may have been in the doldrums during this period of time, but MD was still a great source quality articles geared towards those who hoist the steel. This should come as no surprise since the Editor-in-Chief at that time was Jan Dellinger, and Brad Steiner as well as Dr. Ken were regular contributors.

“How planned should your workouts be?” was the question that was posed at the very beginning of the original article. The basic question seems to center around the debate between approaching a workout with a definitive program in mind and following it no matter what, or having a tentative program in mind and making changes as you go along. In other words, should you rigidly follow your planned workout, or should you train “instinctively?” There are strong arguments for either approach, but Mr. Steiner seems to favor an approach consisting of some sort of structure, particularly for beginners.

“Planning your routine to some extent in advance is just good common sense.” I happen to agree with this statement. This is especially true for those who are just starting out. Structure, consistency, common sense, and progression should be the hallmarks of any weight training program. However, as the saying goes, common sense is not always common. There is a lot of foolish ideas circulating through the world of weight training. Unfortunately, beginners are particularly vulnerable to silly ideas. I’m thinking about the inane training principles put forth by the self-proclaimed “master blaster” years ago, when his muscle comics dominated the scene. I believe there was even a “principle” devoted to instinctive training. I can only guess as to how many young trainees wasted their time with his useless ideas and products, in an effort to emulate the steroid-bloated druggies featured in his magazines.

Getting back to Mr. Steiner and common sense training. If you’re a beginner your workouts should be carefully planned and structured so that you can attain your goals. But there is a point – after six months or a year of training- when Mr. Steiner concedes that a trainee needs to alter the way in which he/she structures their routine or else there will be a point where progress will begin to slow and eventually stop.

“A routine which becomes overly rigid or unrealistic will prove to be an unpleasant grind from time to time.” Once a trainee has been lifting for a while, there is a certain leeway or “wiggle room” in altering one’s sets/reps, and even choice of exercises, to a certain extent. This leeway is based on your energy, drive, and strength levels on a particular day. Specifically, it is the LACK of rigidity which can salvage a bad workout on those days when you may not be feeling your best, for whatever reason.

This is especially true for drug-free lifters. Let’s face it, there are going to be times when you go into the gym with plenty of enthusiasm, ready to attack the weights, then once you begin, the weights feel as if they weigh a ton. Hopefully, these occurrences are few and far between, but we’ve all experienced them. It is during these times that you can alter or “tweak” your workout. Instead of working up to that heavy triple, try lowering the poundage and go for higher reps. Better to live to fight another day than to force yourself through an unproductive workout. Or, even worse, risk injury.

According to Mr. Steiner, there are four steps to determine your training structure. Step one is pretty simple. Decide which days you will be training. Naturally, this will vary with the individual. Work, school, family responsibilities will determine what days you can devote to lifting weights. Step two is the selection of exercises. It should be obvious that the basics- Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Presses, Presses- should be the staples of any effective strength training program. Beginners should avoid doing too much so that they may recover from their training sessions. “ A good workout should consist of enough exercise, not too much.” Do not overtrain.

Step three is deciding on an effective set/rep scheme which will allow you to reach your goals. Low reps, high reps, medium reps. The choice is up to you, depending on your individual goals. This, of course, can be varied as mentioned before. But if you’re training to achieve a new one-rep max in a particular lift, then the majority of your training should consist of low-reps and heavy weights.

Step four is the training itself. This is where good common sense must apply. “Regardless of the routine you’re following, you simply must let a certain degree of on-the-spot flexibility and variation to take place.” If your workout calls for heavy sets of five for your deadlifts, you might decide that heavy triples would be more effective. If you have been lifting for any appreciable length of time, it is important to listen to your body.

“There is nothing to be gained by browbeating your body into a routine that it might not be prepared to follow on any given training day.” If you’re feeling fatigued or sluggish, learn to adapt to how your body is responding.

Should you plan your workouts? Yes, but do so with the knowledge that nothing is written in stone. Rather than being rigid, be open to the idea that you can alter your training and still make gains. “Benefit from the discipline and balance of of sound structure, but don’t be a slave to it. That’s advanced, effective training.”

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Monday, September 5, 2022

My Undeniable Truths of Weight Training for Beginners – Part 9 - Adopt a Label-Free Approach to Training – By RJ Hicks, MS, CSCS

I know a lot of coaches that like to label their training as the most effective or efficient way. They take a one size fits all approach to strength training no matter the clients experience, preference or goal. Their training philosophy becomes the very methods and modes they have chosen. This can be confusing for beginners and enough pressure to make them feel the need to choose a specific camp. If you want to maximize your muscular size and strength ignore these coaches and ditch the dogmatic mentality in your training.

There is no one best way to train for every individual. Many coaches rather cramp their style of training down your throat then to take the time to understand your goals. I see it all the time where a coach says we do barbell training or HIT training or Olympic lifting at this gym. They try to fit the client to the methods rather than the methods to the client goals and interest. It is a backwards approach to training that limits the physical potential a client reaches since no one method will work for each individual.

When you label yourself in training you handicap yourself from progressing in the long term. Injury, burn-out, mental blocks are all real factors when it comes to training. It has nothing to do with a lack of knowledge or motivation as to why you cannot train in one particular method for the rest of your life. You do not have to swear allegiance to anyone camp to be a serious lifter. It is better to have the freedom to adjust your training as you see fit for the specific goal. it is not the tool, exercise or rep scheme that determines your success; it is your attitude and effort towards lifting greater resistance on the basic exercises that does this.

Do not label yourself. When you become a disciple of any one of the many camps in the field of strength you close the door to many other good training methods. Strength training is not an either-or conflict. Take the good parts of each training camp and discard the bad from your training. Your own instincts, knowledge and experience has to override what any one camp may say. You do not want to be bound by one individual camp and their training methods. Instead, you want a large tool box of methods so that you have the opportunity to choose the right tool for the right job.

Be a label-free zone like is not a HIT, DINO, Super Slow, Hard Gainer, NSCA, BFS or Starting Strength site. All training philosophies and methods of training are welcome as long as they are drug-free and productive. The site promotes the best of each training method and highlights the commonalities between the groups. It’s the basic principles that they share that makes the training successful, not the differences.

Successful drug-free lifters all utilize he same basic principles. They train their whole body with the basic compound exercises. They ensure to place equal emphasis on pushing and pulling for both the upper and lower body. They also train hard, prioritize load progression and always plan for enough recovery between workouts. How they incorporate the specific modes and methods into their training is of minor importance and based on the individual. Jim Duggan, Linda Jo Belisto, Bob Whelan and Jamie LaBelle’s are just a few examples of successful lifters who demonstrate different variations on how they apply the same basic principles to their training, based off of their goals and enjoyment.

You can train in a pyramid set fashion, straight sets, super sets or one set per exercise. You can train to failure or just shy of complete muscular fatigue. You can use train with high repetitions or low repetitions, with good machines or free weights with great success. There is no one rep/set scheme or rest interval that is always the right choice. What matter is if you train hard and progressively and specific to your goal and interest.

You should be able to enjoy your training and not feel confined to only one method of training. I know guys who miss training with heavy weights and using a mix of free weights and machines, but refuse to switch up their training because they label themselves Super Slow. The tools and methods you decide to use has nothing to do with the foundation of strength training. As long as you train the whole body hard with equal emphasis on pushing and pulling, with poundage progression as the main goal you can make many methods work! It is good for both your body and your mind to switch your training up and set new goals.

Make a strategic change every four to five months based off your goals. Alternate the rep ranges you are using for your exercise every few months. Don’t be afraid to experiment with higher reps for a period of time and then with lower reps. If you are always training on machines and want to train on free weights, switch up your tools for four months. Train in a high intensity format for several weeks if you’re an in-season athlete and time is tight. Then, if in the off-season you want to see how strong you can get take the next few months to train with straight sets and a lot of rest to see how much you can increase your poundage’s. Listen to how your body feels and chase after goals that will keep your motivation high. You will become much bigger and stronger this way rather than if you settle for a dogmatic approach.

Brooks Kubik said it best in Dinosaur Training, “The common denominator for all guys who are serious about their training is very simple: THEY TRAIN HARD! They may use different equipment, do different exercise, use different set/rep schemes and so on, but the bottom line is always the same: HARD Work!” Skip the internet wars and go out there and find the training approaches that excites you the most. If anyone asks you which camp you belong to, respond with the “Hard, progressive, drug-free training camp”.
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Sunday, August 28, 2022

An Interview with Brad Steiner - Total Fitness - By David Sedunary

I read with interest the excellent article written by Jim Duggan, praising the efforts of Bradley J Steiner. In my humble honest opinion what a writer he was on strength training, weight training, body building, survival, self defence, hypnotherapy and ways to live a more productive, healthy, and fulfilling life. What more could one ask for than to, read Bradley J Steiner s writings, when one was down, and feeling unenthusiastic as I have been at times.

One only needs to read a paragraph or two of Brad’s informative articles, and you feel like training harder than ever. I know I did. To remedy feeling down and out, I just picked up one of his books or would go to his web site www.American Combato .com and read of his monthly Official Newsletters of the International Combat Martial Arts Federation called Sword and Pen. What a treasure chest of brilliant life absorbing information.

I was fortunate as mentioned in an earlier article to visit and train under Brad Steiner in Self defence, I lived in Seattle for 2 weeks. All our conversations I taped and at one such taping I asked Brad What are the unseen attributes or characteristics Weight training or training in general gives you besides Strong muscles, good, impressive physique, large shapely and balanced development, and power to back up your impressive development.

Well David said Brad in his knowledgeable tone of voice, If you are wise David, and if you are seeking total fitness as well as a muscular and developed body, you will direct much of your training energies toward the acquisition of cardiovascular efficiency, flexibility, coordination and physical toughness.

I asked Brad to please give me his opinion and knowledge on the acquisition of each, and here it is, I have also added my training in which I have done over the years to meet each of the attributes. In Bradley Steiner’s words and some of my training added:

Cardiovascular efficiency

This is David said Brad a finely tuned, healthy thoroughly conditioned heart, circulatory and respiratory system. It is what many physical fitness authorities mean when they speak of “being in good physical condition.” A person who possesses top cardiovascular efficiency will not get winded running for a bus or playing a moderately demanding sport.

The best physical training methods we can use to achieve cardiovascular efficiency are Bike riding, running, Rope skipping, distance swimming and many more. I like Brad Steiner preferred 250 reps of rope skipping for two sets after the completion of my weight training workout. Also, three rounds of 2 minutes each on the punching bag after my workout. Brad wore ankle weights when he skipped, and Brad told me when he trained for self defence, he would pick out three to four blows and work them hard for 2 minutes, rest and repeat.

This worked his cardiovascular system strongly. Some cardiovascular conditioning takes place from regular training but not much. The best way to train in body building is with total body workouts, and if one does this, and adds cardiovascular work to the program, one will be in fine shape. I now prefer Bob Whelan’s instruction of 30 to 45 minutes in an interval style cardio fashion two or three times a week or Ruck walking with a weighted pack.


Brad said that in normal training it is always important to use a full extension and full contraction style of working at each exercise, at every rep; but that will not assure maximum flexibility it only assures full range development of the muscle. The lower back and legs are critical parts of the body. A body must be kept supple to be properly fit. Brad Steiner employed bending and stretching at every martial arts workout he took.

He found it beneficial with weight training. Brad could touch his palms flat on the ground by keeping his knees locked. At least keep yourself limber enough to be able to touch fingertips to toes without bending at the knees. Yoga provides a wealth of tips and exercises for flexibility and will provide you with lots of movements you can add to your training, said Brad.


It was Brads contention that bodybuilders that could only pose and flex were incomplete athletes. Many would disagree. Body building routines assist coordination only in the most limited way, said Brad. Brad also added whereas a man who practices Olympic snatches and the clean and jerk, need not worry about coordination.

Attempt to learn some skill that assist your coordination such as table tennis, or if young and fit judo. David’s training for coordination, balance, and toughness. I now at 70 years of age twice a week practice strikes with my walking stick and hand stick for 15 minutes nonstop. I step and move to the face of an imaginary clock, at for me a quick pace. Stepping forward, backwards, and sideways striking and moving, it not only helps coordination, balance as well improves, and this also gives one a taste of the real world. Best to be always ready for the worst. My walking stick is heavy and takes hand strength and body strength to keep the self defence movements going.

Physical toughness

I had a fair idea of Brads meaning of physical toughness as I played Australian Rules football from age 10 and retired when I was age 33, one had to be physically tough to play Football as it is a very physically demanding and contact sport. Brad explained physical toughness as not of the obnoxious” tough guy” type of toughness. Brad meant one’s entire body should be stressed like high quality steel. One should seek to develop a ruggedness and a hardiness that can provide the means, if necessary, of surviving and emergency or crisis.

The realistic world we live in, is coldly indifferent to the way things ought to be, and it provides us with emergencies, violent criminal attacks, fires, and car accidents to name a few. Brad said we need to be prepared to weather these crisis situations and proper physical training can help. One can practice Boxing, mountain climbing, martial arts, especially combat martial arts. So, there you have said Brad, some suggestions on how to improve you present training program and make it a super training program, so that all round fitness as well as impressive muscularity becomes yours.

I have been saying all my training life every man should have set of weights in his back shed, and a boxing bag hanging from the rafters, know how to use them and use them regularly. Read and study all writings by Bradley J Steiner and bring them into practice. Thank you to Brad Steiner for allowing me to interview him on this important subject, I have many more I wish to share.
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Sunday, August 21, 2022

Five Life Changing Effects Of Steroids Showing Why You Should NEVER Use Them - By James Athanasiou

With Steroid use becoming all the more widespread, the probability for both lifters and non-lifters to experience the effects of these substances is skyrocketing as well.

On the surface, using these drugs would seem a no brainer. Almost double the energy you currently have, enhanced strength & muscle building potential, 2-3 times less the recovery time needed after sessions, as well as bonus benefits like increased libido. But if it were all sunshine and rainbows, everyone would rush to their pharmacist to start their first cycle.

In fact, this post is intended to shed light on the 5 major highly neglected yet extremely critical side effects most users experience from Anabolic Steroids. And if you're still willing to inject TRT or any other drug in your blood after reading the following, I'm truly sorry for you.

  1. The Need For Constant Medical Examinations

Getting yourself on steroids is like adding a Turbocharger on your car. Regardless of how well structured and tied together the build is, you still have to go through all the daily maintenance and constantly risk something breaking down.

Same goes for your body on Steroids. Blood exams on a weekly basis become a necessity, if you don't want to experience sudden irreplaceable damage to your health. And even then, something can always go wrong. It's like always living on the edge, praying that nothing you didn't take into account can mess you up to the point of no return. 

  1. Your Body Is Never The Same Again

Alright, fair enough. You might have gotten off these drugs and maintained a relatively healthy build, even better than your first truly natural frame. Even still, there are both internal and extrernal consequences that ought to be addressed.

Your body isn't used to this much testosterone production, and this hormonal imbalance is bound to bring a whole lot of mess. On the obvious side effects, infertility is one of the most common, even making you totally sterile. Certain others include indigestion, spots appearing all over your body, osteoporosis, eating disorders and even eye conditions like glaucoma.

Your body also ceases the natural production of testosterone when blasting steroids, so it'll take months of you having less testosterone than a female once you get off them before you get to recover – if you're ever fully recovered. Stop thinking about getting off these drugs at some point: you're much better off never taking up cycles in the first place.

  1. The Mental Aspect

With all these raging hormones and constant changes to your body, it's only expected that your mental health will also start to diminish. Many users report severe cases of insomnia, losing quality sleep or not getting any sleep at all for many days in a week.

Not only that, the abrupt spark in testosterone once you get back on cycles can cause emotional breakdowns, short tempers and violent outbursts for a long time. It is not uncommon to see cases of depression caused by perceived body dysmorphia or mind-function shifts due to the hormonal imbalance. And here come the septic shocks and heart failures.

  1. Intense Stress & Anxiety

With all that going on, it's only natural that most people using these drugs will experience daily and intolerable amounts of stress. Very few things function normally, you can't keep a steady mood, all the while losing sleep due to hormones raging. Not to mention constantly worrying about whether you'll be healthy enough to see another sunrise.

I don't know if that sounds appealing, but I think that's too high a price to pay just to look good & perform better. Which brings me to my next and final point:

  1. The Illusion Of Improvement

While there's no doubt you'll become stronger, bigger and draw more attention than most people in your gym, but is that really all you're risking your life for?

A natural lifter can stay in the game longer, make a higher effort to achieve his training goals, all the while being able to enjoy a much better quality of life outside the gym.

I've seen countless doped Bodybuilders and strength athletes who got into using these drugs just to fill their insecurities by getting bigger. Now, they're obsessed with their looks and preserving their performance, unable to function normally outside of their safe zone (which will always remain the gym). Other than that, your social life gets worse, your relationships with others and yourself becomes lacking and you can't focus on any other areas of life. To me, that's a very poor way to live.

The tragic thing about this tale is that they're usually unable to fix the insecurities that resulted in them living this way in the first place. Most of them lack the confidence to put all that muscle into practical use or to defend themselves, so they just cover up in it, praying that nobody gets to disrupt this seemingly tough and monstrous image.

On The Side Effects:

Here's a quick summary of the potential – and very likely – side effects of taking these drugs. Starting with your internals, kidney problems / failure, a weakened immune system, liver damage, an enlarged heart accompanied by high blood pressure and constant fluctuations between cholesterol and blood sugar levels are some of the sweet gifts when opening the "Pandora's box".

If you happen to avoid the strokes and heart attacks from all that, the list still goes on. Genital damage even leading to infertility, as well as an irritated skin that produces bleeding acne is shared amongst more than 90% of users. Pair that with a highly irritable and unstable emotional condition, resulting in insomnia and –quite often– depression.

There's a fine line between working out to improve physically and mentally – and taking it to an unnatural level that is bound to backfire. If you don't learn to struggle to get what you want for yourself, don't expect to be fulfilled by getting it by vicious means. In this case, you either get your engine to run at its best performance through controlled acceleration, allowing it to run for its full lifespan – or you put some "boosters" on and constantly track its stats to make sure it gets to run another day. Being bigger, lean and outlifting everybody in the gym, while constantly battling hormonal and medical issues just to sustain their ego.

There are some influencers and "role models" out there promoting products and tips with the false promise that YOU will naturally look like they do, if you simply follow/buy what they have to offer. In an age full of deception, stay aware of what lies behind the beautiful image smashed into your face. 

Yes, it's true that some people's organisms are overall better suited for Steroid use. However, tackling at least one of these things with these drugs is a nearly inescapable fate. If putting your and your future children's health at constant risk is something you're conscious of, but don't bother bashing drugs  regardless, then I am deeply concerned for your cognitive health. I'd rather work harder and realize the potential given to me than pursue a false promise of glory and easy results, gradually poisoning my body and my mind. 

I hope you're with me on that, and thank you for reading till the end. It was an honor to be featured in NaturalStrength, the most genuine source for natural athletes to pursue their passion for Strength and excellence. All the best for a life full of progress and fulfillment.

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Sunday, August 14, 2022

Fatigue And Laziness - What’s The Difference? - By Jim Duggan

     This was the title of an article in the July 1981 issue of Strength and Health magazine.  The author of the article is the imitable John Grimek.  Any time I look through an old York publication and see the name “John Grimek” I immediately take a look.  I figure that you can’t go wrong learning from one of the all-time legends of the Iron Game.

     Fatigue and laziness are usually not words that come to mind when we think of building muscle and strength, but it’s important to learn to differentiate between the two, as much as we may not want to discuss these subjects.  But before I get into the discussion of laziness, I’d like to bring up a quote from the article attributed to Bob Hoffman.  “You should never miss a workout.  Every workout that you miss makes it that much easier for you to miss others.  If you want to make progress, you should always do some kind of training if you expect to get good results.”

     At first glance, this seems like sound advice.  But is it actually a good idea to never miss a workout?  What if you did heavy squats and deadlifts earlier in the week, and on the day of your next scheduled training session, your back, hips, and legs have not sufficiently recovered?  It probably would not be a good idea to “suck it up” and proceed to train just for the sake of not missing a workout.  It would probably be a better, wiser idea to allow yourself an extra day of rest before lifting heavy again.

     It has been stated by many diverse authorities that one must listen to his/her body.  You must be alert to subtle clues that your body might be sending you.  This means that you must also be alert to the signs of overtraining.  But more importantly, if you are exhibiting signs of overtraining, you must be smart enough to “live to fight another day.”  This can sometimes be difficult, especially considering the fact that we all LOVE to hoist the steel.  But as difficult as it may sometimes be, it is very important, especially for drug-free lifters.

     How many times over the years have you walked into the gym with the best of intentions, seemingly full of energy, and ready to “sling the iron” only to find out within a few sets that you just don’t seem to have it?  I know it has happened to me more times than I care to remember.  What’s the reason for this? Why does it happen? 

     If there were easy answers for those questions people would be lining up for the solution, and no lifter ever again would have a bad workout.  There are, of course, solutions to the phenomenon of having little or no energy during a training session.  For instance, if your plan was to train heavy, and the weights feel like a ton, then you can simply switch to a session of lighter poundages.  You may find that you gain a surge of energy while using light weights.  Another strategy would be to utilize substitute exercises.  Instead of several heavy sets of deadlifts, try one all-out set with lighter weights, or skip the deadlifts and do power cleans, pulls, or another movement.  Or, if you had planned on doing heavy overhead presses and the bar feels like it weighs a ton, try doing dumbbell presses for higher reps. This is another case of your being limited only by your imagination.  

     If you’re able to salvage a workout via the use of alternate exercises or different rep schemes, then perhaps you are not overtrained or “burnt out,” or fatigued.  Perhaps the real culprit is, indeed, laziness.  Let’s face it, we’re all humans, and subject to the foibles that befall all lifters.  And laziness is one of the worst things that a lifter can experience.  

    If you are indeed suffering from a case of laziness, the a few sets of light weights or different exercises will rejuvenate you, and you will have a productive workout.  However, if you truly are physically fatigued, no alternative training strategy will help.  You may find yourself getting progressively more tired and fatigued.  It is at this point that Mr. Grimek says that you should cancel the workout and “save yourself” for another day.

     Getting back to what Bob Hoffman said about missing workouts, this leaves us with an interesting question:  Who should we listen to, the “Father of World Weightlifting” and not miss a workout, or the “Monarch of Muscledom” and save yourself for another workout?

     The answer to that question, is that you should listen to YOU.  Only you know how you are truly feeling.  If you have been lifting for any appreciable length of time, you will know your body and how it responds to fatigue, lethargy, lack of energy, and loss of enthusiasm.  It is important to remember that if you miss more than one workout, then it definitely will become easier to skip others.  Hall of Fame football coach Vince Lombardi once said that “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”  He was not the first person to utter those words.  General George Patton wrote those words to his troops during the second World War.  

     Sometimes all you need to get yourself going is to remind yourself of the gains that you’ve made already.  If you’ve been lifting for a while, then you have definitely experienced gains in strength, size, and development.  You can look back and be proud of the work it took to get to your current state of physical conditioning.  Allow yourself to reflect on the positive effects and invigorating feeling after a successful workout.  

     Thinking about Bob Hoffman’s words of wisdom should help get you through a training session when you feel like throwing in the towel.  But if you’re feeling lazy, then it is definitely not the time to attempt a limit lift.  Heed the advice of John Grimek, “ Begin lightly, do more reps, and inhale deeply.  After a few exercises, you should regain your energy and enthusiasm.”

     None of us like to think about negative feelings like fatigue, laziness and bad workouts.  But they are a part of life when it comes to lifting and getting stronger.  How you adapt to those days when you don’t seem to have it will determine how successful you will be in the long run.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Training Athletes for Sports - WEIGHT TRAINING - Part One - By Jamie Labelle

Athletes must be very careful when developing a training program. There is only so much time and energy that the human body can endure before breaking down. Results from any type of training will only be realized if the plan is safe, progressive and allows for recovery. This allows one to be able to accelerate natural genetic gifts and safeguard a less vulnerable, reinforced physique for the rigors of the athletic battlefield. My goal when training athletes for sports is to help them make the team and participate in practice and games. I want them to perform at a higher level and keep themselves off the sidelines due to injury and/or less than optimal performance. Weight training is only one part of the overall program. The athlete must also include visualization exercises and studying opponents as well as their own team strategies and tactics. The same level of importance needs to be applied to flexibility/mobility, general/specific conditioning, muscular maintenance of prior injuries, and sport-specific skill work. In addition, they must follow a daily recuperation plan to ensure that the training is of high quality while preventing overuse injuries and mental/physical burn-out. Surrounding this mandatory program are the basic human essentials that require our daily attention. They must navigate life, school, diet, work and relationships. These life necessities can also make inroads into ones’ recovery reserves if not managed properly.

Striking a balance between all of these critical activities and timing it with the first day of official practice should be the ultimate goal. Recovery, it turns out, is the least understood and a highly individual process that can quietly derail any athlete. The main by-product of an unfocused recovery program, which usually goes unrecognized until it’s too late, is overtraining. Overtraining is camouflaged by misguided beliefs and a philosophy which confuses hard/intense training with more time spent in the gym. It could lead to injury, sub-par workouts and/or simply steal your thunder on the opening day of practice as you attempt to retain or earn a position. This becomes even more critical as the season nears, where vital energy stores must be taxed intermittently, efficiently and intelligently. Everything one does must have a purpose and an outcome that produces results. On the opposite end of the spectrum is under training, categorized by a lack of intensity and using an exercise form in which momentum, not muscle, moves the resistance.

Still another useless waste of valuable time is attempting to copy athletic movements with gadgets or weights. A boxer who practices throwing punches with a dumbbell in each hand gets better at that skill, while subjecting themselves to neuromuscular confusion and injury. Immediately following this “exercise”, thought to build quickness and explosiveness, they now feel quicker when they punch. Unfortunately, this kinesthetic after-effect usually lasts for about fifteen seconds and then disappears forever. However, if the boxer continues performing this “exercise”, the brain will set a new neuromuscular connection for dumbbell boxing. The injury occurs in the wrists, elbows and shoulders as the body constantly attempts to stop the forward acceleration forces generated by each punch. How good would a boxer be after creating injuries in the very part of the body that allows him/her to perform? This all unknowingly leaves the athlete underprepared and unprotected.

Each repetition of every weight training exercise should require the muscles to do ALL of the work. This establishes the development of muscles which enable the athlete, rather than present a clear risk, both on the field or in the weight room. Almost all of the required movements for sports will place the athlete in any number of defenseless positions as soon as the whistle blows. There is no need to create the origin of an on-field injury in the weight room or leave the athlete more susceptible by using methods that are inherently dangerous. Yes, even if done correctly! The weight room and the playing surface are two, distinctly different places. Any effort to mimic the skills and speed of the game inside the walls of the weight room is a complete waste of time and energy. The only true connection is that training will enable an athlete to develop USABLE muscle, less body-fat with less chance of injury, or at least the severity of injury. If done correctly, it will also enhance skills, allowing an athlete to move faster and quicker. PROPER weight training by itself, will also improve flexibility. However, I believe a post-workout stretching routine will complete the circle of preparation.

The only way to make a weight training program sport-specific is to identify the muscles most often injured and make sure those muscles are an integral part of the overall program. Other than that, every athlete can basically utilize a similar strength training program of free weights, machines and bodyweight exercises. These tools in the athlete's tool box are merely a means to an end, not an end in itself. Therefore, everything related to the demonstration of weightlifting prowess and technique, similar to Olympic/Powerlifting, is counterproductive to the development of the athletic performance type of strength essential for all athletes. Olympic lifters and Powerlifters are certainly athletes, but they lift barbells both in practice and competition. The boxer must box and the football receiver must run and catch. To subject athletes to learn anything other than the basic up and down motions of strength training is useless at best! Muscles that are required to serve the dual purpose of being stronger AND preventative are only formed through specific, slow, controlled movements with deliberate pauses at the top and bottom of each repetition. The program, for the most part, is unrelated to a specific sport. Can an athlete look better in the mirror or in uniform without using this exercise form? Of course, but remember, the goal here is what happens on the playing surface, not on the bench press, the oily stage or the power clean platform.
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Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Learning Olympic Weightlifting On Your Own – The 5 Optimal Steps - By James Athanasiou

A 2 month rabbit hole in YouTube consuming video after video on Olympic weightlifting sparked my desire to practice it myself. It seemed to be such an elegant sport, balancing speed, strength and mobility all the same. Surely, I thought, it would take no time before I was able to lift 225 overhead.

And I couldn't be further from the truth. In reality, it will take months or years to get your technique close to being solid. And without it, you're very much likely to injure yourself in any body part you can think of. Struggling to Snatch 40kg in the first training, I knew that I was poorly mistaken.

However, I've now gotten to a quite succesful point, in regards to getting the technique right. Still no 225 thrown overhead though. It took more than six months to learn these 5 lessons the hard way. I've put them all in this article for you, just to make sure you're well aware of what you're getting yourself into – as well as how to best avoid any serious setbacks.

I'll have to warn you though: It is far better for you to get a certified coach to break down the technique properly, work on your individual weaknesses and guide you to the right path quickly. If that's not an option, then keep reading through.

  1. Stick to using light weights for the first 3 months

Knowing myself and most enthusiasts out there, it feels incredibly appealing to just grab the bar and try shooting up as much weight as possible. The most probable outcomes? Crushing your pelvic bone, losing balance in a terrible way or - heaven forbid -  dropping the bar mid movement on yourself. I'd even argue that it is best to use just an empty barbell for the first month and stick to mastering the next principles. 

If, however, you find gradually increasing the weight helpful, make sure you do so in a slow and sensible way. A rule I personally stuck with was to add no more than 15lbs after a month of successful progress. Your starting weight will largely be determined by your general strength and adaptation to the new movements. Ideally, it can range from 70 to 110lbs.

  1. Break down the movement in drills

This is especially crucial for the first few weeks of starting out. Grab an empty barbell and start drilling down the movements. 

For the Snatch: Start with pulling from the floor to your hips for a few reps. When you feel comfortable with the snatch grip, start practicing contact by pulling from the knees to the hips and then making triple extension (ankles, knees and hips fully extend as the bar makes contact with the hips). Do NOT bend your arms unless the bar has reached its maximum height.

When you've mastered the explosive part of the movement, it's time to practice receiving the bar. As the bar reaches its maximum height, you start bending your arms and dropping under to catch it in a full-depth squat. Ideally, you want your shoulders to internally rotate, meaning your head leans ahead of the barbell and your shoulders retract.

For the Clean: The pull & contact part is the same, just with the standard double overhand grip.

After the bar has reaching maximum height, you receive it in the front rack position (bar placed between shoulders and clavicle, elbows looking forward), while squatting as deep as needed.

For the Jerk: As you come back up, stop and take a deep breath. Then slightly bend your knees until you feel tension and power in your legs. After that, quickly squat back up, drive overhead, and dip under in a Split or Power Jerk position. In the Split, you'll have your most balanced leg forward and your weaker leg back to create a triangle shape support, whereas the Power Jerk requires that you get back to the position you had before getting the bar overhead – and lifting it back up. Both dips should be small and tight, getting power from tension gathered in the leg muscles.

  1. Improve your mobility before anything else

Even before thinking about touching the barbell, you need to have an above average level of mobility, meaning you can comfortably Squat full ATG depth, hold the Front Rack Position and balance the bar overhead with an Internal Rotation of the shoulders. The best way to do that is the following mobility routine at the start of each session:

  1. Full Depth Squat: Hold for 2-3 minutes

  2. Ankle Stretches: Lean on one leg with the knee as far forward and the foot as far back as possible. Hold it for 10-15sec in each leg.

  3. Elbow Stretches: In the Front Rack position, dynamically extend your elbows as much forward as you can for 10-15 reps in each arm.

  4. 3 sets of 10-12 reps at Back Extensions for getting your lower back warmed up

  5. Overhead Squats with empty barbell and pause at the bottom. Do 8-10 reps with Internal Rotation of the shoulders.

4) Include Strength Specific Movements:

This is the movements I'd recommend you implement for getting your muscles used to transferring heavy loads from one part of the lift to another when performing the full movement:

  1. Double Overhand Deadlifts (1x per month): Work up to a heavy load and use double overhand or Hookgrip to lift it. The hookgrip is a tool used by all weightlifters, where you put your thumbs inside the bar and surround them with the rest of your fingers.

  2. Snatch Grip Deadlifts (1x per month): Use the same principles, only with your hands gripping at the same width as you would in the snatch. Practice doing a small shrug at the end of the rep.

  3. Front Squat (1x per week): This is the core of a weightlifter's strength. Directly transfering to the Clean and general leg strength, this lift requires as much upper as it does lower body contribution. Work up to a relatively heavy load – ideally around 75-80% of your Back Squat – and do a proper full depth squat with it.

  4. Snatch Balance (1x per two weeks): Unrack the bar like you would back squat it, then widen your grip to Snatch Grip, bend your knees slightly to the power position – then quickly throw the bar overhead and dip under. This directly transfers to your Snatch and general balance. Use up to 60% less of what you would in the Overhead Press.

  5. Push Press (1x per week): More than anything, this will help you find the Power Position in your legs, as well as strengthen your shoulders and upper body without restricting your mobility. Don't be afraid to work up to 30% more than you would in the standard overhead press.

5) Practice the full movements

All of that is ideal for properly preparing your body, but there's no point in doing so if you don't get to practice the Olympic lifts themselves. What I'd suggest is you start with mastering the 4 steps above for the first month, and then switch to practicing the Full Snatch and Full Clean & Jerk 1x per week each.

And that sums it up. Both these movements are highly taxing on the body and require pinpoint precision and adjustments to get optimal and safe results. They're also incredibly rewarding and a true indicator of the beauty and capability of one's body. 

Start practicing today, don't let your hesitations postpone your progress any further. Remember to always keep it simple & fun, as only then you'll be able to endure failures and upsets – while genuinely becoming better. Thank you for reading this post, all the best wishes for strength and fulfillment through your training.

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Sunday, July 24, 2022

Staying Strong in Prison - By Jeff Bankens

While the title of this article may seem surprising, there is good reason for it.  You see, besides being a strength-training enthusiast, I am a minister and performing strongman.  However, I have been on hiatus for a while, mostly due to situations and events beyond my control.  They include: the COVID shutdown, back-to-back hurricanes, and many other severe weather events, and the business of becoming one of the Elders (pastors) at my church. 

After all of this time away from performing, I am glad to finally say, “I am back, baby!”  Last week I had the honor of bringing “T-Rex” (my stage persona) to the men incarcerated at the Glen Ray Goodman Unit State prison in East Texas.  While I was very excited at the prospect of being able to minister to and perform in front of a live audience, I had not done it in a very long time.  Not only that, but I had paired down my feats of strength training to a bare minimum over the last couple of years for several reasons stated in the 1st paragraph above.  In addition to those reasons stated above, I was also unsure if I would ever perform again.  My life has moved in a different direction over the last few years and much of my spare time is taken up with my desire to do my part in taking care of the flock I am now helping to shepherd as one of 6 pastors at our church.  

While I thought my performing days might be behind me, I was content to keep up my feats training as a hobby and focus more of my free time acting as and learning to be a pastor.  While it has been very challenging, it is one of the greatest honors and privileges of my life.  I love preaching God’s word, sharing the Gospel, and discipling others in their Christian faith.

This January, unexpectedly, I was contacted by a chaplain that I am friends with.  He lives and works in East Texas, about an hour and a half drive from my home in Southwest Louisiana.  He wanted to know if I would be interested in bringing “T-Rex” and a friend (my good friend Josh) to fellowship with his men this July.  Of course I agreed to speak and perform at his unit on July 16, 2022.  As the date approached, the chaplain called again to confirm our date.  He also asked if it would be alright if we had two events on the same date.  Once again, I said yes.  On the inside, I started wondering how my body and performance would hold up in back to back performances.  Remember, although I did have a couple of performances in 2022, it had been at least two years since I had trained and performed feats regularly.

The day came and went, and I can say, I had two of the best evangelistic sermons and performances of my life!  Not only did I not injure myself, but my feats were spot on, my strength was  dialed in, and I barely broke a sweat!  I could not believe how well everything went.  Not only that, but my audience thoroughly enjoyed the performances and the sermons.  To be honest, I really could not imagine it going any better than it did.  So, what is the secret to my success?

As I have reflected on this in the days following my program at the State Prison, I have wondered what brought on my success.  Even though I do not train the feats of strength as often as I did in years past, I have done four things consistently for many years that have brought about my success.  They include the following:  1) Training consistently using basic, full body exercises under a system of double progression with heavy weights and good form; 2) Cleaning up my eating habits and subscribing to intermittent fasting five or more days per week; 3) Focusing more on my cardio-vascular health as I get older (I am 44 now and in some of the best shape I have ever been in); 4) Remembering the importance of my spiritual health.  I would not be who I am now, if not for the changes brought about by my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  

If I did not consistently work on these four areas of my overall health, I would have no right to call myself a minister, a strongman, or a performer.  While I am grateful that my recent trip to prison was successful, I am also glad to be able to share what I learned with each of you.  To truly be healthy man or woman (made in God’s image), you need to take care of yourselves.  To do so, you need to take care of your bodies.  What better way to do so, then with a program consisting of heavy, basic exercises becoming progressively heavier over time?  One of the best resources you can use to get there is this website.  There are literally hundreds of free articles, podcasts and radio programs, as well as for-purchase books waiting to be digested by eager minds like yours and mine.  Next, it would behoove all of us to continually work on what we eat on a regular basis.  To be honest, I am not the best at “fork discipline”, and I still have been able to make consistent progress over the years.  You can too!  While we are on the subject of health, we cannot neglect the importance of cardio-vascular health.  As Bob likes to say, lift for yourself and do cardio for your family,  This is one of my favorite pieces of advice from Maximum Bob W.  

Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not remind you of the importance of your spiritual health.  While it is great to focus some of our extra time and energy on our bodies, they will one day fade and die.  Even the best of us only last into our 90’s or 100’s.  However, we are body and spirit.  Our spirits live on forever, and you and I need to be sure of where we are headed when this life is over.  The only sure bet that I recommend is asking Jesus Christ to be your Lord, Master, and Savior.  If you would like more information concerning spiritual matters, I would invite you to visit the spiritual section of WebStrengthCoach.  I would also invite you to contact me directly at  Please do not hesitate to contact me, as I work very hard to respond as quickly as I can.

God bless you, and happy lifting!

Jeff “TRex” Bankens

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Sunday, July 17, 2022

Hard Work In Training - By Jim Duggan

     One of the best- if not the best- of the old muscle magazines was Ironman magazine.  I am specifically referring to Peary Rader’s version, which was published from 1936 until 1986.  After 1986 the magazine went downhill in a big way, but for those who were fortunate enough to have been exposed to the original version, Peary Rader’s magazine was a goldmine of useful information.

     When it comes to putting together a magazine, it is important to have good writers, and Ironman featured some of the best in the business.  One of my favorites was Bradley J. Steiner, who was one of the best strength training writers ever.  Mr. Steiner was strongly opposed to the use of steroids, while at the same time he emphasized the importance of sensible training built upon the foundation of hard work.  If I were to create my own pantheon of great strength training writers, Bradley Steiner would definitely make the list, along with Dr. Ken Leistner, Bob Whelan, and Brooks Kubik.  I encourage anyone who loves reading about serious strength training to get your hands on anything written by these gentlemen.  You will not be disappointed.

     The May 1971 edition of Ironman included an article by Mr. Steiner titled “What Is Hard Work In Training.”  At the very beginning of the article, he mentions a column written by Peary Rader which recommended two workouts per week as the best way to build maximum gains.  How many times has it been written that you don’t need to lift every day, as recommended by some of the current magazines and “experts”?  The ridiculous notion of six-day split training, “bodypart training,” and  marathon workout sessions are all debunked in this fabulous article written over fifty years ago.  Certainly, no drug-free lifter could expect to make consistent gains by following such a foolish training protocol.  Two full-body workouts per week ( three at the absolute most) will produce maximum gains in size and strength.

     Imagine, no three hour sessions of “bombing,” “blitzing,” and other nonsense.  According to Bradley Steiner’s article, all you need is hard work, limit reps, and concentrated abbreviated sessions.  Not surprisingly, the legendary authors that I mentioned previously all advocated the same training principles.

     Hard work is something that has been written about since the earliest days of lifting.  Naturally, everyone has their own definition of just what constitutes hard work.  Perhaps it would be easier to explain what hard work in NOT.  Hard work is not spending hours at the gym, doing many sets of countless exercises and training until you get a “super grotesque pump.”  

     According to Mr. Steiner, hard work is “concentrated, severe, maximum, limit effort, made on the basic, overall weightlifting exercises and routines.”  Every person who embarks on a weight training program should have to memorize these words.  Months and years of frustration would avoided if all trainees adopted this approach to their workouts.

     Mr. Steiner offers a simple breakdown on how to achieve your limit in strength and muscular development:  Train hard enough to break down your muscles, eat a protein-rich, nutritious diet to adequately nourish the muscles, and give yourself plenty of rest so that the muscles will grow stronger and bigger.  These are the three essentials, or as he called it, “the never-to-be-omitted axiomatic ABSOLUTES for effective superman development.”  For regular readers and contributors to NaturalStrength this is not new information, but rather something that has been disseminated for years.  

     The “all around schedule” that Mr. Steiner recommends consists of seven or eight basic movements.  More than this would not allow you  to work as hard as you must.  It would also be a waste of time.  It’s not hard to determine what type of exercises to perform.  Suffice it to say that cable-crossovers and tricep pushdowns are not mentioned in the original article.

     “Limit work” is the concept of working so hard that it would be impossible to work any harder.  I guess another term would be “training to failure.”  However way you describe it, the important thing to remember is that for a muscle to grow bigger and stronger, it must be broken down first.  “Limit work” will certainly do the trick.  

     Another salient point brought up by Mr. Steiner is the fallacy of constantly searching for a “secret routine” that will deliver gains in both size and strength.  Again, his advice is spot on.  “It is not the schedule that you follow, so much as the effort you put into it.”  There is no such thing as a super, secret training routine.  The secret is hard work on the basics. “It is how hard you work that turns average muscles into superman muscles.”  For some reason, he likes to refer to “Superman” in his article, but if that inspires people to train harder, then  so be it! 

     As I mentioned before, the “essential exercises” need not be discussed in great detail.  Squats, Deadlifts, Presses, Rows will build great size and strength.  Pumping and toning movements are best left to the pumpers, toners, and posers.

     The final paragraph in Brad Steiner’s article is of such importance- and such pertinence- that I will quote it verbatim: 

     “Exercise schedules, programs, and various routines arrangements all vary in their effectiveness, but this remains true:  The best schedules are the heavy, basic workout programs, and these programs will work only to the extent that you do!”  

     If you get the opportunity to look through some of the old Ironman magazines, do yourself a favor and read them.  Great material never gets old, and the classic strength training writers of that era were ahead of their time.

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