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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Friday, July 15, 2022


In 2017 I became the strength coach of my local Australian Rules Football Club. I could see the need for getting the players stronger and bigger, for obvious reasons such as preventing them being intimidated on the football field, becoming better conditioned and the prevention of injuries. I contacted my friend Bob Whelan through to help me design a program based on the goals and equipment available.

Unfortunately, after 8 weeks the Coach of the team saw no benefit in strength training for his players, and the program folded. He was a non-believer, after 5 years the Club continues to be unsuccessful, and lose on a regular basis, and are still bullied and intimidated. Regardless of what others think of strength training I am a firm believer in getting athletes stronger and better conditioned, they will benefit, have less injuries and play longer and stronger. I hope you get benefit out of the principles below; they are basic and true. It would be great if you could instigate them into your local Football Club, it will take time, but eventually with discipline and consistency you will be successful.

How to get the most out of your workouts

  • Muscular Strength is one of the most crucial factors to a Footballer.

  • It is my feeling that strength training has had the greatest effect on the improvement of athletic performance, more than any other variable.


  1. It provides the power behind every movement.

  1. Because of the role it plays in protecting the Footballer from injury.

  • Stronger muscles enable a Footballer to kick farther, hit the ball harder, tackle harder and not get knocked off the ball so easily.

  • Stronger muscles also provide increased joint stability- whether it is ankle, knee, shoulder, hip, neck, elbow, or wrist.

  • Many Athlete/ Footballers have strength training programs of some form or fashion. The results that are gained through from the vast amount of training time and effort fall far short of what they should be.

  • Most Footballers lightly scratch the surface of their potential

The problems seem to stem from:

  1. Faulty training techniques, which limit results and contribute to injuries, and 

  2. Lack of understanding built on extensive list of myths and superstitions, such as what is the right way to build strength? How often should I train? Which methods should you use? What exercises are best?

How can one distinguish between Fact and Folly?

This presentation was put together to answer these questions and provide Football players with some basic guidelines to use in establishing sound strength training knowledge and programs.

I will present 6 basic strength training principles

Principle 1. 

Strength training must be progressive: you should constantly attempt to increase the resistance or repetitions in every workout.

(Force your body to use its reserve ability; it forces muscle to get stronger).

 In general, best results will occur when repetitions are kept in the 8 to 12 range.

If you perform less than 6 reps of an exercise, little in roads are made into your reserve ability.

 When you perform 8-10 reps in good form increase the resistance by 5%, in that exercise at the next workout.

 Never terminate a set simply because a certain number of reps have been completed.

Training should be done to build strength, not to demonstrate it; therefore, how much you can lift for one rep should be avoided. (Do not throw a weight or jerk a weight it5 will damage connective tissue)


Principle 2.

The building of strength is related to the intensity of exercise; the higher the intensity, the better the muscles are stimulated.

The set that is terminated prior to the point of failure, will not involve the maximum number of muscle fibers.

 If one decreases the intensity of effort, a reduction in results will occur.

Example of working hard or hard training-   is the last 2 reps of an exercise are extremely hard to perform in good style.


THAT IS WHY your workouts are supervised.

Principle 3.

Each repetition should be performed with special attention given to a slow speed of movement, a vast range of movement, and pre stretching of the involved muscles.

 The speed of movement must not be too fast, or too slow. Reps performed in a slow smooth manner, apply steady force throughout the entire movement. (2 to 3 seconds up)

Special attention should be given to the lowering portion (eccentric contraction) of all exercises. (4 to 6 seconds down)

Jerky movements should be avoided at all costs.

3 to 4 times the actual; weight is directed on the muscles and joints if we jerk or throw a weight.

 The range of movement from full extension to full flexion of each rep should be as great as possible.



Principle 4.

Exercise should be selected that involve the greatest range of movement of the major muscle groups.

 The greater mass of muscle involved the greater the value of the exercise. For example, the Squat, Dead lift, Chin up, Dip, Press, Bench press, Lat Pull downs. (Compound exercises, which involve rotation of two or more joints, the standing press involve movement around the elbow and shoulder joint).

The following exercises, grouped by muscle group and equipment, are applicable to most strength training programs, such as the program the West Football Club are using.

Buttocks/lower back ----    Squat /Trap Bar Dead lift, Leg Press,                    Hyper extension

Quadriceps-------------- Squat, Leg press, Leg Extension.

Hamstrings ------------Squat, Leg press, Leg Curl.

Calves-------------------Calve Raises, Leg Press

Latissimus dorsi----------Chin up, Pull down on lat machine, rowing

Deltoids --------------------Press, forward raise, side raise.

Pectorals -------------------Bench Press, Parallel dips,

Biceps--------------------- Curl, chin up.

Forearms ----------------Wrist curl, wrist roller

Abdominal muscles--------------------------Sit up, side bend, leg raise.

Neck-- Neck harness, tension using ball.

 Principle 5.

Increases in strength are best produced by very brief and infrequent training.

 High intensity training must be very brief. It is impossible to have both high intensity exercise and a large amount of exercise. Many Footballers / Athletes make the mistake of performing far too many exercises, too many sets, too many workouts in each period. (Total recovery between workouts becomes impossible)

 Seldom perform more than 1 set of any exercise in the same training session.

 A well supervised, (as we do) properly conducted, strength training session should not exceed 30 minutes.

Can look like below:

 Program 1# of B Press, or  Dips, Chins,   or Dumb bell rows , Squats,

 calve raises, crunch sit up , and neck  exercises performed to the limit, of one all out set per exercise will take no longer than 30 minutes and covers the whole body.

Program 2# Overhead press, Lat pulldowns, Trap bar deadlift, barbell curls, side bends, neck, c raises.

There should be at least 48 hours rest between high intensity workouts, sometimes longer. Strength training breaks the muscle tissue down and you need give it time to replenish and grow. Do not exhaust the nervous system by training to hard and too long. Less is always best.

An advanced trainee does not need more exercise than a beginner; he needs harder exercise and, in most cases, less exercise.



During a hard football season of 20 matches a player trains his skills twice a week and plays once a week.

He needs to rest and is prone to overtrain, therefore less is best during a season in regard to weight training.

I found when I played Football at the highest level for 14 years weight training for 30 minutes twice one week and once the next week was plenty.

And after 6 weeks I had a week off, when I came back, I attempted to get stronger.

Strength training: advantages for football

  1. Increases all round physical toughness and hardihood.

  2. Supreme health builder.

  3. Correct training improves flexibility.

  4. Strengthens joints and connective tissue.

  5. Improves speed (muscle can contract quicker).

  6. Improves balance and c o ordination.

  7. Improves performance on the field.

  8. Reduces and protects against injury.

  9. To intimidate a strong, strength trained Footballer, who has reached his potential in strength, is not a good move.

David Sedunary in his Playing days.

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