Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Gronk Visits the Troops at Randolph AFB - Signs RJ Hicks football

Captain RJ Hicks, USAF, gets his football signed by Rob Gronkowski at Randolph AFB, TX. Pretty cool! Gronk is huge! 



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Sunday, June 19, 2022

Piecing Your Workout Together - By RJ Hicks, MS, CSCS

There are many unaccounted variables that are not laid out when a beginner is presented the basics of training. It is easy to say, train the whole body twice every seven to ten days, progressively, with the basic compound exercises, but it can be challenging to write out. You may not know what exercises are best to use to cover the basic planes of motion or which method of progression is best. It is tough to create a routine without specific training goals. 

Your specific training goals are the most important question to creating the best training routine for you. General goals of increasing size and strength are good, but the more specific you can get the more likely your program is to be successful for you. The specific goals of your training help determine the best exercises and equipment to use, the priority of exercises they should be completed in and the best methods of progression to implement. 

Exercise Selection

When designing your own routine, you want to first ask yourself what exercises do I want to improve on? The exercises you decide to perform are the specific exercises you are going to increase your strength with. If you train progressively with the barbell bench you can expect your barbell bench pressing numbers to go up. If you train progressively on the Hammer Strength Chest Press you can expect the same for your numbers on the Hammer Strength Chest Press. Both horizontal pushing movements will increase the size and strength of the same muscle groups, but will not guarantee an increase in strength between the two. 

There is no direct correlation between free weights and machines. You cannot compare them because they are completely different exercises. Just like if you were trying to compare a barbell bench press and a dip. The muscles used are similar, but the movements are different. The barbell bench press and Hammer strength Chest Press have their own specific motor learning patterns. Your nervous system looks at each exercise as an individual skill. A skill that takes several weeks of practice to enhance performance. Motor learning experts suggest that practice must be exact, not similar, for there positive transfer in skills. 

It is inefficient to train with a barbell in hopes to increase your strength on a specific machine and vice versa. What determines which exercises are better are your training goals. If your goal is to increase your barbell bench press then you will include the barbell bench press in your routine. If your goal is to increase the amount you can perform on the Hammer Strength Deadlift, then you will have to include the Hammer Strength Deadlift. You can perform the Hammer Strength Chest Press and a barbell deadlift to assist some with both of the aforementioned exercise, but the most effective way to improve your performance on a specific lift is to train that specific lift.

Pick a specific compound exercise or two for the horizontal/vertical pushing and pulling for the upper body. Then do the same for a lower body push and pull movement. There is no answer on what you should pick, other than which ones are safe for you to perform and that you have interest in improving on. If you chose an additional compound lift you can alternate between two workouts for the added variety. These exercises can change overtime, but it is wise to give them at least four to five months of consistency to give your training enough time to work.

Sequencing your Exercises

When it comes to sequencing your exercises, you want to ask yourself two things. What are my priority exercises and how can I maximize by performance on my selected exercises? There is no one best method for sequencing your exercises. It doesn’t matter if you start with lower body first or upper body first. It doesn’t matter if you start with a pulling exercise first or with a pushing exercise instead. It doesn’t matter if you perform your vertical pushing and pulling movements before you perform the horizontal pushing and pulling movements or vice versa. What matters is that you sequence your exercises based off of your specific goals.

The most important exercises should always be sequenced at the start of the routine. This is when you have most energy and will most likely do the best at the exercise you do first. If your main priority is to increase your performance on the chin-up then chin-ups should be the first exercise you perform. You want to perform the chin-ups when you have the most amount of strength, performing any other exercise that may take away from the chin-up’s performance. From there you would be able to sequence the rest of the workout picking either the next priority exercise if you had one or by strategically sequencing your exercise for optimal performance. 

The goal of sequencing exercises should always be on how to maximize your individual performance on each movement. You selected each exercise for a purpose so you should order them in a way that benefits you the most. Do you do best training legs first? Or are you physically drained after performing heavy squats, deadlifts and or leg presses? Can you do back-to-back compound exercises for the upper body or do you need more built-in rest? Obviously if you are competing in a specific strength sport there is a set sequence you must follow, but outside of that you need to sequence your exercises to optimize your performance. 

There are many different tactics you can use to strategically sequence your workouts for optimal results. Most good routines follow an upper body pushing movement with an upper body pulling movement to allow more rest for the primary muscles involved. A common example of this is performing the seated row followed by the military press. If more than one set is desired you would continue to alternate between the two exercises until all sets were complete. A second tactic for more rest is to sprinkle in the tinkering exercises, as Bob refers to them, (abs, grip, neck, calves) periodically into the routine to act as additional built-in rest. Sticking with the first example you could follow the first set up seated row and military press with neck flexion and neck extension prior to performing a second round of the seated row and military press. A more extreme example would be placing an easy exercise between each compound movement. You could perform the seated row, neck flexion/neck extension, military press, abdominal flexion then repeat the cycle or move on to another compound exercise. A third tactic is to save your hardest compound exercises for the end of the workout. You can place the leg press after the two cycles of seated row and military press so there is no concern of the leg press negatively affecting the amount of weight you can lift on the seated row and military press. It is all specific to your individual goal. You can decide what order is best as long as you end up getting all the exercises done and stay consistent with the order you perform them. 

Number of Repetitions

As a beginner it is important to understand that all reasonable sets and reps’ schemes work If done in a progressive manner. You can get stronger utilizing low reps or high reps, as long as the weight is heavy relative to the number of repetitions being performed and that the set number of reps falls within the anaerobic energy system timeframe. The key however, is that each set needs to have a repetition goal. The repetition goal is a guide for adding weight. That being said your set/rep goals are specific in nature just as the exercises you choose and the order of exercises you perform. 

Progress in a specific repetition range is specific to the number of repetitions you actually perform. You will always improve the most on the repetition ranges you consistently perform for a given exercise. If the goal is 8 repetitions you will be improving your ability to lift heavier weights for around 8 repetitions. The further away your goal becomes from the actual number of repetitions you perform the least effect your training becomes. This is common sense, but many exercise programs will have you train with moderate to high repetitions for several weeks then have you attempt a one repetition maximum.  

Your goal determines how many repetitions you should utilize not the recommendation of an on-line authority in the field. If you are competing in a strength sport you will program low repetitions a majority of the time in the competition lifts. If you are an athlete looking to compete in a non-strength sport, your goal will be a repetition range that utilizes primarily the same energy system as does your sport. If your goal is to improve your 20-rep squat then you must squat for 20 repetitions. If you are consistent in a specific repetition range your weight you can handle for that repetition range will significantly increase.

Putting it all Together

Spend sometime and determine your specific personal strength training goals. Most people who lift weights want to increase muscular size and strength, but the more specific you can be the more effective your training will be. Spend some time and determine your specific personal strength training goals for right now. Find the exercises you want to improve on the most, determine how you want to measure the performance and the most effective way for you to complete all of the exercises and stick with it for four to five months. Your specific goals will (and should) always change down the road, but you must give the current routines enough time to work. 


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Friday, June 17, 2022

Remembering Marvin Eder - By Bob Whelan

Editors Note: I already wrote this in HardGainer 2.0 (issue #12) but I just realized I did not put anything on NaturalStrength, so here it is: 

I wanted to acknowledge the passing of Iron Game legend Marvin Eder on February 1, 2022, at the age of 90. Marvin was known as “the biceps from the Bronx” and was one of the greatest figures in the history of Physical Culture. In my opinion, he was pound-for- pound the strongest drug-free man ever!

My good friend and great Iron Game historian, Osmo Kiiha, gave me Marvin’s phone number in the late 1990s, and we became friends. We had many long conversations over more than 20 years. I even had him as a guest on my podcast. Marvin was the recipient of the Physical Culture Award at my final Capital City Strength Clinic.

Here’s what Osmo wrote about Marvin:

“Marvin set the strength world on notice in the early 1950s. His incredible power, along with a world-class physique, set him apart from other men of his era. He had tremendous natural gifts: thick joints, great leverage. All his lifting was done way before the era of drugs.

“Marvin’s strength feats were almost superhuman; he was able to surpass the efforts of almost all super-heavies of the time, [although] weighing only 196-198 pounds. He was the third man in the world to bench press 500 pounds and the only man under 200 pounds to accomplish this fabulous feat in the 1950s. His one single parallel bar dip has never been equaled: 434 pounds, at the bodyweight of 198. He cleaned and military pressed 355 as a middle-heavyweight in 1953, which exceeded the official American record by 74 pounds; but due to being declared a professional athlete at the time, he was unable to claim his rightful place as the American and world record holder.

“Marvin was the original high intensity training kid; very few could stand up to his training volume or load. Truly, Marvin Eder was pound-for-pound the Strongest Man who ever walked the face of the earth.”

Rest in peace Marvin. You’ll be missed! 


Below is an autographed picture that Marvin gave me. It was on the wall at WST for many years. I still have it hanging in my bedroom. 





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Monday, June 13, 2022

A Training Philosophy - By Jim Duggan

     The July 1971 issue of Strength and Health magazine was devoted to the idea of family fitness.  There were articles extolling the virtues of exercise and how everyone- young, old, men, and women- can and should practice a healthy lifestyle.  Even Bob Hoffman’s editorial, “Physical Fitness for All,” addressed the need for health, fitness, and exercise.  You might think that there was nothing of interest for someone who followed weightlifting and was interested in getting stronger.  

     Alas, on page forty-four under the heading of “Lifter’s Platform” there was a nice article that could have easily have escaped the attention of most readers.  I’m so glad that it caught my attention because it was written by five-time world champion Yuri Vlasov of the old Soviet Union, who passed away a little over a year ago.  It’s worth doing a little research on Mr. Vlasov if only because he was not only a world class lifter, but he led what can only be described as a remarkable life after he walked away from the platform.  

     While the article itself does go into detail about sets, reps, and percentages, there are numerous references to his overall training philosophy as it applies to competing and getting stronger.  While at first it may seem a bit incongruous for an article written by a Soviet era lifter to be useful to a drug-free lifter, his thoughts and ideas can easily be used by anyone seeking to build strength.  Anyone who “hoists the steel” can benefit from the words of wisdom that Mr. Vlasov first shared with the readers of Strength and Health over fifty years ago.  

     “The absolute guarantee of success in sport is the creative approach to training.”  My interpretation of this is that while there are many requirements for any successful strength training program- hard work, poundage progression, adequate recovery- you must find out what works for you specifically and, just as important, what does not.  You cannot simply follow the routine of someone else.  This is where the “creative approach” comes into play.  If you train long enough, you will find out what works for you and develop methods to maximize your gains.

     “It is useful to keep a scrupulous training diary from year to year and later choose those exercises and methods which are most reasonable and suitable for you.”  This is related to the previous paragraph insofar as it relates to being creative and choosing movements that work for you.  However, it is only after keeping meticulous records of your training over the period of months and years that you will be able to adequately determine just what exercises work best.  This underscores the absolute importance of keeping a training diary or journal.  Many strength authors have commented on the importance of maintaining a workout notebook, so I will not repeat what should already be obvious.  I’ll just say that training journals are an invaluable tool for not only tracking your progress, but measuring what works and what doesn’t.

     “An essential circumstance, on which much depends, is the individuality of training for each sportsman.”  Basically, you cannot try to use a “one size fits all” approach to training.  Naturally, if you want to get bigger and stronger, you must utilize the basics.  Squats, Bench Presses, Deadlifts and other basic movements.  But how often should you perform each lift?  Should you do your squats using a wide or narrow stance?  No two lifters are alike.  My friend Larry Licandro used to squat three times per week.  I was never able to follow such a schedule. On the other hand, Larry could never figure out how I was able to make gains by Bench Pressing only once per week.  But it worked for me, and that’s what mattered.  We each trained according to what was best for us.  “It is inadmissibly nearsighted to mimic the training of so-called authorities.”  You know yourself better than anybody else.  If you try to imitate someone else, you will wind up being a poor imitation.

     “By no means should you overwork yourself.”  These words, when they appeared in Strength and Health in 1971, were intended for Olympic weightlifters.  However, they are equally applicable today to any person who lifts.  This is particularly important for drug-free trainees.  It  has been stated many times that you can train hard, or you can train long, but you cannot do both.  This is why it is foolish to try to follow some split-routine, bodypart routin, unless you are simply engaged in a “pumping” routine, in which case you are already wasting your time.  Two or three full-body workouts per week with adequate rest between workouts will build size and strength more effectively than any “pumping routine” gleaned from the muscle comics.

     “The psychological factor also plays a large role in success.”  This is the ability to believe in one’s own strength and success.  It is also crucial to not fear the weights.  One of my favorite all-time favorite quotes is as follows:  The weight must not be feared.  It must fear you.”  You have to have confidence in your ability to lift the heaviest of weights.  But where does that confidence come from?  It comes from years of training and demonstrated ability.  It doesn’t happen by magic.  You have to pay your dues and put in the requisite work in order to develop the ability to approach a heavy weight with confidence.  

     “In training, it is necessary to be patient and not expect miracles-almost instant results.”  This one should be obvious, especially to anyone who has been lifting weights for any appreciable length of time.  Building strength requires hard work, determination, persistence, and patience.  Ignore anybody who guarantees instant results.  There is no secret routine, no miracle supplement which will transform you overnight.  “Whatever path you take it is a path of labor.  Hard, thoughtful labor.  Only then your dreams will come true, without fail they will come true.”  The final sentence was one of encouragement, but in lifting, as in life, hard work usually leads to success, and success means happiness.

     There is one final quote from Mr. Vlasov that I would like to include.  It didn’t come from the article in Strength and Health, rather it was after a world championship in which he battled it out with American lifter Norbert Schemansky.  “Norbert Schemansky is the greatest and strongest athlete I have ever seen.”  I couldn’t end this article without a reference to one of the greatest weightlifters that America has ever produced.  Schemansky and Vlasov competed against each other many times and developed a mutual respect for each other that transcended politics.  Any person wishing to get stronger would be wise to listen to the words of wisdom from either of these legendary lifters.





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Does modern bodybuilding make you sick? You should write for Natural Strength! I always need good articles about drug-free weight training. It only has to be at least a page and nothing fancy. Just write it strong and truthful with passion! Send your articles directly to me: bobwhelan@naturalstrength.com
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