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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