Monday, January 3, 2022

Training Essentials - By Jim Duggan

In the June 1936 issue of Physical Training Notes, Mark Berry wrote an article titled “A Talk

On Training Essentials” which appeared on the second page. Anytime I see the word

“essential” written anywhere I take notice. Naturally, a gifted wordsmith realizes that certain

words and phrases will attract the attention of readers. The old “muscle magazines” are

famous – or infamous – for using words like “Bombing,” “Blitzing,” “Blasting,” etc. in order to

entice prospective muscle-heads. Even today, certain phrases designed to grab your attention

and cause you to read further, as well as advertise some of their bogus products. The bottom

line is, words are powerful tools, especially in the hands of a skilled writer ( or someone who

writes for mainstream muscle magazines!).

Mark H. Berry published his Physical Training Notes monthly for approximately one year.

And while he did actually advertise barbells and other equipment, the information he

disseminated during the short run of his magazine was useful, pertinent, and has stood the test

of time for the most part. Other articles in this particular issue include “Towards Lifting

Proficiency,” “Dietetic Absurdities,” as well as several photos of a young John Grimek.

Anyway, back to “Training Essentials,” the prime essential is that trainees “put forth some

effort. He must train with religious regularity.” Regular training is an absolute must if you want

to make progress, no matter what your goals may be. This was true 85 years ago, and it is true


Mr. Berry continues by saying “There are literally hundreds who regularly undertake barbell

exercises who do not persist for longer than a few weeks.” As we embark upon a new year,

how many people will make a resolution to start working out only to fall by the wayside within

aa few weeks? In addition to being persistent, you must also have the discipline and

determination to stick to your workouts and accomplish what you set out to do. Missing

workouts, skipping meals, or not training hard will inevitably lead to failure.

Another valid point that is mentioned in the article is the importance of following a workout

routine designed for the entire body. Apparently, the foolish idea of training individual

bodyparts ( Chest Day, Arm Day, etc.) was around even back in the 1930s. What nonsense! “I

am a believer in the harmonious development of the entire body.” The article goes on to say

that many trainees have increased the size of their arms as a direct result of heavy leg work. In

other words, forget about endlessly pumping your arms and instead, hit the squat rack. Heavy

Squats will add size to your entire body, including your arms. Many years ago, when I was

training at Bruno’s, Larry Licandro once devoted an entire Summer to just three exercises:

Squats, Bench Presses, and Deadlifts. No other movements except for the three powerlifts. He

did nothing else. Guess what happened? By the end of the Summer he had gained twenty

pounds ( from 210 to 230 ). A twenty pound increase in bodyweight without having done a

single curl!

Mr. Berry refers to another training concept that has been very effective over the years:

High Rep Squats. “The Deep Knee Bend has been found most valuable as one of the training

methods; nothing less than twenty repetitions should be employed. He even goes on to

suggest doing more. Forty, fifty, or even more reps! Can you imagine going to the gym with

the goal of doing a set of fifty Squats? The mere thought is enough to scare off most people.

The most I’ve ever done is an all-out set of 30 reps, years ago at Iron Island. I thought I was

going to die. I can’t imagine doing fifty. However, the important thing is that even back in

1936, the importance of high-rep Squatting insofar as it relates to gaining muscular size was

widely recognized and accepted . Over the years, many diverse authorities have confirmed the

effectiveness of doing sets of high-rep Squats to failure. Dr. Ken Leistner, J.C. Hise, Peary Rader,

John McCallum are but a few of the proponents of doing Squats for high repetitions.

There is another salient point in the article, and it is the underlying principle of lifting

weights. It is the law of progression. Whether it’s adding weight to the bar, or increasing the

repetitions, the whole idea behind progressive resistance training is, indeed, to make progress.

Sometimes you simply have to force yourself to add weight to the bar. “It is wise for the more

experienced culturist to adopt the progressive system when he reaches that bug-bear of all

weight enthusiasts- the sticking point.” Is there any lifter who has NOT experienced the

dreaded sticking point or plateau? The occasional sticking point is inevitable, especially for

drug-free trainees. If it becomes increasingly difficult to continue to add weight, then try

increasing the repetitions, even if means lowering the weight on the bar. “Sooner or later, you

will be enabled to progress on poundage and through dropping down on repetitions be capable

of continuing to progress.” Many times it’s easier said than done, but we must always keep our

eyes on the prize: Poundage Progression.

Effort and Regularity.


Whole Body Workouts.

High Rep Squats.

Poundage Progression.

These five “essentials” are the key to any effective strength training program. They’ve been

building strength for a long time, and will continue to do so for many years to come.

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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