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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