Sunday, December 24, 2023


Your success and making your body as good as possible, so that it better serves your needs is within your reach. It is yours to attain providing you follow the means to success and the selection of exercises as follows. 


The meat of your program is the selection of exercises you select and organize into your workout program. If you are tall and have long legs and find it very difficult to perform barbell squats, you may be better suited to trap bar deadlifts. The trap bar deadlift is a fine exercise and will work the legs, gluts, lower and upper back. I once trained a hard gaining footballer who was six feet six inches in height, who found it difficult to squat. I changed him to trap bar deadlifts, overhead press, lat machine pulldowns, bench press using dumb bells, and curls all for on hard set. and he progressed. This exercise selection was productive for him, it took time to find the right selection of exercises. Once it was found, his effort improved greatly as he was making gains in strength and size. There will be exercises that work you hard, but unfortunately do not give you the results you are looking for. 

To determine what exercises to use and exercises which work the major muscle groups first break down your body into the following muscle groups:

Arms --Barbell curls, dumb bell curls, alternate dumbbell curls standing dumb bells incline dumbbell curls there are lots of varieties one can use to build and strengthen the arms. My arms grew most when I did not curl just dumb bell row and press. Triceps make up most of the size of the arms, but triceps can be worked indirectly from all types of pressing movements. Triceps push downs or extensions are not basic exercises, they are shaping exercises.

Shoulders---Overhead presses using Barbells or dumbbells whether standing or sitting build and strengthen shoulders. I preferred the seated press behind neck, it never injured my shoulders, there are seated shoulder press machines which mimic this movement of behind the neck press.

Chest--- For chest expansion light barbell or dumb bell pullovers. For chest development and strength building bench press barbell or dumbbells, flat, incline or decline. I also enjoyed and got benefit from weighted dips, the dips strengthened and built chest, shoulders, and triceps. Primary basic upper body builder dips done with great form and focus. Research and view Marvin Eder and you will fully understand the value of dips.

Upper Back ---- Barbell cleans, Dumbbell rows, barbell rows ensuring to keep a strong and fixed in position lower back. Lat machine pulldowns, machine rows. I had remarkable success using the dumb bell row, it was a good arm builder for me, as well as building and strengthening my latissimus dorsi muscles and trapezius muscles to a lesser degree.

Lower Back ---- Stiff legged deadlift, Deadlifts good mornings, barbell cleans and hyper extensions. I used hyper extensions at times to strengthen and rehab my lower back after injury from football and it worked fine.

Thigh Quadricep and Hip Area -----Squats, back or front squats. Trap bar deadlifts from a parallel position.

Calves ---- Calve raises standing or sitting, using a machine or one leg at a time using a dumb bell is quite effective.

Abdominals--- Sit ups and leg raises. Side raises with heavy dumb bells for the side obliques.

Select one exercise from each muscle group, the exercises listed are basic compound exercises which have a rebound effect upon other smaller muscles.

Or another straightforward way to determine what exercises to use to work the whole body is as follows:

Pick one basic exercise which benefits you for vertical push, and vertical pull.

Pick one exercise for horizontal push and horizontal pull.

Pick one compound exercise such as the deadlift and squat done on alternative days.

 A curling exercise.

Add 1 abdominal exercise, 1 grip or forearm movement and a calve movement. And if you play contact sport add 1 neck strengthening movement. Having a strong neck can be the difference between becoming a paraplegic or not.

A smart trainer will use one basic exercise for each major muscle and train hard on it at each workout. I see at times in the gym where I train, some trainees are using 4 exercises to work their back for instance. They use dumb bell rows, lat machine pulldowns, machine rows and shrugs. All for 3 sets each giving them a total of 12 sets, too much work for my likening. If they concentrated and performed, lat machine pulldowns for 2 work sets and machine seated rows for 2 sets, using total concentration, good form and focus with lots of effort, they would gain and benefit. That is a total of four work sets plenty for the non-drug using trainees. Or if they still find it hard to gain size and strength just perform one basic movement for the upper back at each workout performed twice a week.


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Friday, December 15, 2023

A Man of Iron Speaks - By Jim Duggan

Last month, I wrote about an article which first appeared in the June 1972 issue of Strength and Health magazine.  As I had mentioned, there were numerous quality articles in that particular edition of Bob Hoffman’s flagship magazine.  To underscore that point, this month I am going to write about another article which caught my attention.  The article is about the former Soviet weightlifter and coach Rudolph Plukfelder.  His name may or may not be instantly recognizable to many readers, but his most famous pupil, David Rigert, is one of the best known- as well as one of the very best- weightlifters of all time.

    “A Man of Iron Speaks” is the title of the article, and it was reprinted and translated from a Soviet magazine at the time.  If the title doesn’t grab you, then the opening words of the article should: “Weightlifting is a sport in which man pits his strength against iron.”  I can’t think of a better way to describe the process of lifting weights.  Whether your goal is weightlifting, powerlifting, or simply to get stronger, these words will resonate with you.  Unlike team sports, when you lift weights, it is simply you versus the weight.  Whether that weight be a barbell, kettlebell, stone, or anvil, there is nobody there to help you.  It is a struggle against the force of gravity, according to the article.  

     “Man’s muscles must be made of iron if he is to win over real iron.”  I believe this to be true.  However, I also believe that you must have a will that is made of iron, as well.  Your mind must be focused and you must possess determination as well as courage to conquer a heavy weight.  

     I have always believed that the sport of lifting is one where you compete against yourself.  Your opponent is your potential.  So in addition to the poundage to be lifted, you must also compete against what you are capable of doing.  You do not have to be a competitive weightlifter to feel this way.  Any person who has “hoisted the steel” knows this feeling.  

     “When an athlete is hoisting a weight, it is best if he is calm and in complete control of himself.”  This stands in stark contrast to what you see in a typical commercial gym.  How many times have you seen someone attempt a heavy poundage and he is surrounded by his retinue of “gym bros” and other assorted useless hangers-on?  Since when is lifting weights a team effort?  What good does it do to have a bunch of guys screaming at the tops of their lungs?  If you need an entourage to succeed, then perhaps it is time to reevaluate what your goals are and how you’re going to achieve them.

     Then there are the ranting, screaming lunatics.  I’ve seen this particular type of “lifter” in contests many times.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone carry on like a crazed maniac, only to miss a lift.  I’ve seen guys break blocks of chalk on their heads ( this must get expensive at some point), have their handlers punch them in the face, and carry on like a mad banshee.  A famous football coach once said that emotion can only take you so far.  Truer words were never spoken.  If you have to depend on emotions, then you are doomed to fail.  

     “When a weightlifter trains his body, he also trains his spirit.  And the main psychological struggle is fought not during the actual competition itself.”  I interpret this to mean, that the hard work should be during the workouts themselves.  It’s like any athlete who trains for a competition.  The hardest part should be the training.  So that the actual contest should seem easy, and therefore lead to a positive mindset.

     “All beginners should recognize one thing:  There is a very wide gap between desire and achievement.  One has to have strong willpower to train day-in and day-out, month after month, and year after year.”  Everybody who lifts weights has an desire to get either bigger or stronger.  While everybody may have the desire, how many have the will to work brutally hard?  I remember one day, years ago at Iron Island, there was a young guy who approached Dr. Ken and asked him to spot him on his squats.  He told Dr. Ken that he wanted to go “to failure.”  I happened to be near the power rack, and Ken asked me to help spot him.  I kind of knew what to expect.  The kid did about nine or ten squats before trying to give up the set.  I say “trying to give up the set” because Dr. Ken was not letting him quit.  He told him that he had to reach twenty at the very least.  When he finally made rep number 20, Doc had him stand with the barbell on his shoulders.  At this point Doc asked me to move the safety pins from the low position to about the halfway point.  He then had the kid do partial squats, one at a time until he did another ten half-reps.  The kid could barely move, but he received an education in hard work.  Come to think of it, I don’t think I ever saw him at Iron Island after that.  

     There will be times when your workouts will be monotonous, exhaustive, even a drag at times.  But is the act of pushing through and staying consistent that will lead to progress.  Most of the time, results will not be immediately visible and, naturally, many people will not have the patience to wait.  

     “From the point of view of psychology, there is no limit to man’s strength and energy.  The trick is to develop them.”  I think that this type of thinking only comes from years of training.  Constantly setting goals, working towards those goals, and achieving them will only strengthen your ability to set further goals.  But it is important to set reasonable goals, especially if you are a beginner.  

     “To win over your opponent is a great feeling, but to win over yourself is even greater satisfaction.”  I mentioned before that when you lift weights competitively your opponent is your potential.  Yes, it’s nice to win a trophy, but to reach new personal bests is much more satisfying.  Many years ago, when I was relatively new to the sport, I competed in a local meet against a former world champion powerlifter.  Naturally, if you looked at the numbers from that contest, I got throttled.  But I achieved new PRs in all three lifts, and achieved my elite ranking for my weight class.  So, while I may not have won my weight class, I did win over myself.

     On the other hand, there are guys who pick and choose what contests they enter.  They only enter those meets where it is assured that they will come out on top.  They may win some cheap awards, but in the big picture they are losers.  If you’re lifting puny weights against minimal competition- or no competition at all- and win a trophy or a medal, then what have you really won?  You may fool people into believing you are a champion, buy you can’t fool yourself.  At least not for long, anyway.

     “Weightlifting means health, and it will add years of life and that it will improve your willpower.”  It would be great if this were an absolute fact.  Unfortunately, this is not always the case.  But one thing is for certain, if you lift weights, and you do it the right way- the drug free way- and you combine it with proper nutrition then you have a better chance at improving your life than someone who does not.  

     I’ve included many references to competitive lifting, but the fact of the matter is that you do not have to enter contests to benefit from advice various lifting coaches.  Getting stronger is an intensely personal endeavor and however you pit your strength against the iron, the goal is to come out on top.

York Barbell Co.
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Monday, November 13, 2023

Priority Training - or Training Your Weak Areas - By Jim Duggan

I love looking through back issues of the classic muscle magazines.  Today’s muscle magazines, at least those that are still around, have absolutely NO appeal to me.  Pumping, steroids, split routines, and other silly ideas are everywhere today.  Even if there are few, if any, actual magazines around, there is no shortage of foolishness being disseminated online and via various video channels.  I certainly don’t want to see a tiktok tough guy bragging about the drugs he uses, or some yo-yo bouncing a barbell off his chest and claiming a new world record in the Bench Press.  

     But the old magazines from the earliest days up until the seventies sure do offer a lot of useful information for anyone who is interested in getting stronger.  I can’t mention all of the good magazines from year past, but three that I thoroughly enjoy are Peary Rader’s Ironman, and Bob Hoffman’s Muscular Development and Strength and Health.  I could look through these old issues forever and never get bored.  And, no matter how often I may have perused a particular issue, there always seems to be some new idea or training tip from which to learn.

     The June 1972 issue of Strength and Health is one such magazine.  If you are a dedicated fan of Olympic weightlifting, the cover alone, which was Gennadi Ivanchenko snatching 325 Lbs, was worth the price of the magazine ( which incidentally was 75 cents!).  But the Table of Contents featured some real quality articles by some of the great Iron Game authors of the time.  Bill Pearl, John McCallum, Hugh Cassidy are but a few of the contributors that month.  But the article I’m going to write about was written by the legendary Tommy Kono.  

      Tommy Kono’s ABCs of Weightlifting this month focused on priority training.  When I refer to “priority training,” I am definitely not talking about the silly training principle of the same name that was supposedly created by a huckster who called himself the master blaster.  The article which appeared in S&H was written by one of the greatest weightlifters of all time, who was not only a great lifter but also a prolific author and coach.  The list of people who have learned and been influenced by Mr. Kono is long and prestigious.  But when it comes to training your weak areas, you do not have to be an Olympic champion, in fact, you don’t have to be an Olympic weightlifter at all.  Anybody who hoists the steel and desires t get stronger can benefit from the wisdom the Mr. Kono shared over fifty years ago.

     One of the first valid points brought up in the article is the fact that “Too many lifters try to improve their totals without ever trying to correct their weaknesses.”  In a way, it’s human nature to want to concentrate on your strong points.  If you’re a gifted squatter, but not as proficient in the deadlift, naturally you’re going to do that which gives you the most pleasure.  Or, in the case of an Olympic weightlifter, if you have plenty of power but your technique is lacking, then it would be fruitless to spend time building strength at the expense of your technique work.  

     “The modern day lifter cannot be a specialist in one lift, or be good in two of the three lifts and expect to become a world champion.”  How many times have you seen someone show up at a contest and have one really impressive lift, while his/her other lifts are weak.  Granted, today there are any number of “single lift” contests in which to compete, but if you want to be a complete lifter, then you must dedicate yourself to becoming good on all three lifts, and have no weaknesses.  

     Mr. Kono made an interesting observation about the state of American weightlifters.  Keep in mind that this was written in 1972, when American weightlifting was in the midst of a downward spiral that would see the USA lose prestige in a sport in which it once dominated.  He felt that American lifters lacked a certain “wholeness” that only comes from being proficient in all three lifts and having developed both power and technique.

     “A champion is a champion because he works on his weak areas rather than specialize on his strong point(s).  A champion keeps improving because he is willing to work on the exercises he dislikes intensely for he knows that it is necessary.”  This quotation should be written in bold, capital letters on the walls of every gym.  

    Doing set after set of heavy squats is no fun, and it is certainly not as pleasant as doing lots of bench presses.  But if your squat is weak, then you had better dedicate yourself to the unpleasant task of bringing up your weak point if you expect to succeed.  Naturally, this way of thinking is not limited to lifters.  If your goal to gain mass and develop a muscular physique, then you must not allow yourself to focus on your strong points to the exclusion of those bodyparts which do not respond so easily.  

     “Many times even a very short, intensified specialization program can bring a lift right up simply because you put your mind to it.”  Truer words were never spoken.  If you ever want to achieve a certain goal- whether it is a certain poundage or other athletic goal- you have to be dedicated, and focused.  Part of this focus is the fact that you have to be honest in the first place.  If you are looking to improve your total, you have to make an honest appraisal of your strong points as well as your weak points.  Once you have decided what to focus on, then you must put in the necessary work to make the improvement that you are seeking.  

     I remember years ago, Larry “Bruno” Licandro was looking to improve his bench press.  He was honest with himself and decided that he had to dedicate extra time and effort on his weak lift.  He developed a program of heavy rack work, focusing on the initial push off the chest, which was where he would usually get stuck ( incidentally, I had the opposite problem, I was strong off the chest, but would lose a lift on the lockout).  By being honest with himself, and dedicating himself to improving his weak point, he was able to add a substantial amount to what had been a weak area for him.

     “One of the secrets to becoming an outstanding athlete is to recognize your weak point and correct it by mapping out a program to erase this weakness.  You must ‘Plan the work and work the plan’ as one success axiom goes.  To be a champion you must be a tough-minded , hard-headed realist.  Know your priorities!”

     This final paragraph by Mr. Kono sums it up very well.  To get bigger and stronger , you must have all those qualities listed above.  You have to be tough and hard-headed ( Larry certainly was hard-headed, but I’ll save that for another article), especially if you plan on doing it without the use of steroids or other PEDs.  I’ve always felt that lifters- and other athletes- who accomplished great things are some of the mentally tough people you will meet.  Not many people are willing to work, sacrifice, and deal with the ups and downs that come with trying to build great strength.  Likewise, there is a unique satisfaction that comes with working for and achieving a lifting goal.  Whether it is a specific poundage ( like a 400 Lb Bench Press), or a repetition goal ( 315 Lbs for twenty reps in the Squat), being mentally tough means being brutally honest about your weak points and dedicating yourself to overcoming them.

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Wednesday, November 1, 2023


Having just moved home, and unpacking all my many educational books, and weight training diaries and filing them on the new bookshelf, I came across notes I have taken over my years of training in Broken Hill.

Of late with all the confusion and upheaval of moving to a new home 400 kilometers from my home of some 51 years, I have not had the inclination to write for Natural Strength. Reading these diaries and some of the books has inspired me once again to write, as writing is a passion of mine.

From Brad Steiner

Since man became aware of the fact that he had a body, he has been interested in cultivating it, developing it, and training it, so that it would better serve his needs and further his capacity to enjoy his existence.

End of written words by Brad.

I intend in my writings to look at the means to weight training success which have helped me, based upon well over 56 years of study, involvement and enjoyment of weight training, participation in sports such as Australian Rules Football and physical training by myself. Which would enable every natural weight training devotee to reap greater rewards from the hours he or she spends working out. I enjoy offering what help I can to others who choose to train with weights. It is important when one starts out to get help and instruction, from people who have earned their dues and have been natural throughout their training life.

Just recently my 14-year-old grandson asked me to train him in weight training, with the goal of acquiring strength and conditioning for Australian Rules Football. He had 12 months training under his father, my son, whom I trained for many years. I said to my grandson without bragging, you are fortunate to have a coach such as me training you, as I at your age had to ask others and read, I had no coach, oh yes, I did it was me.

When I started at 16 years of age most were against weight training, with derogative comments such as “it will make you muscle bound.” It will slow. you down,” also my mother would say you will strain or injure your heart. All the above comments were and are wrong. Since age 16 I have always studied, always trained, and always attempted to expand my knowledge. From 1979 till 2000 I trained many people in my back yard gym where I also trained. I taught them the correct form, focus and always the basics, usually 2 sets and twice to three times a week. I always taught there is more to lifting weights, one needs adequate rest and sleep and the correct diet. If you eat like a bird, you will look like a bird.

It took me many years to get strong and reach my peak in size and strength. When I was at my  peak after many years of discipline at a body weight  of  187 pounds I was able to squat to parallel 300 pounds x 15 reps, Trap Bar Deadlift 352 pounds x 15, Dip with 95 pounds hanging from my waist for 6 reps, Bench press 252 pounds x 6,  Chin with 52 pounds hanging off my waist for 6 reps. Overhead Press 122 pounds  x 6 and barbell curl 120 pounds for 6 reps. As you can see starting at 16 and reaching these goals took many years of dedicated and disciplined training and using all the means discussed in my writings. Even at nearly 72 years young, finding the time to expand my knowledge, strengthen my body and improve my health are still my three major life goals.

There are many sides to weight training, there are those who work out to improve their performance at sports, as I did in Australian Rules Football. There are those who seek ultimate power in Olympic and Power lifting. Also there are those who are overweight or underweight and wish to normalize their bodies. Weight training is also used in the rehabilitation field for strengthening injured muscles, tendons, and ligaments. 

At one particular stage it was noticed that American Football players who were rehabilitating from leg injuries were far better off to train in high rep squats than to run and run .The running it was found wore down the ligaments and tendons, whereas the high rep squats gorged huge amount of blood into to the legs, healing and strengthening the muscles , tendons and ligaments, and also providing cardiorespiratory improvement and benefits. Your success and making your body as good as possible are within your reach and yours to attain providing you follow the Means to Success as follows.


I love this saying and have it on my wall in my office it reads.




There are 168 hours in a week, 56 of those hours you sleep, 40 hours you work sometimes more, leaves 72 hours of play and family time. Surely you can devote 3 hours a week to training. Plan to train no longer than an hour at your weight workouts, sometimes a good workout can be had in 30 to 45 minutes. This is providing you are training and not wasting time on mundane activities when you are supposed to be training. Therefore two days a week of an hour at a time weight training, equals two hours.

 Twice a week for 30 minutes a time exercising your heart and lungs. Total time 3 hours maybe sometimes four hours. Still leaves 68 hours a week or nearly 10 hours a day over a 7-day week. Use those hours wisely, make the time to train, read and expand your knowledge, strengthen your body, and improve your health, mental and spiritual. Plan your training days and times, tell your wife, or loved one when you are training, you do not want to be disturbed, that is your time.

Get yourself a notebook, no telephone, just a notebook with your workout for the day written down. Once planned just do it no excuses, make every rep, and set count, use concentration and full intensity for that period of training time. Your training needs to be continual and persistent, the man or woman who trains this way does not need a lot of training time, just needs to keep doing it repeatedly. One can imagine how we would look after 12 months of consistent training twice a week for an hour at a time, covering the full body. That is 104 workouts, if you subtracted 4 weeks for layoffs and illness that is still 96 workouts. If you want success dedicate the time and the consistency.

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Saturday, October 21, 2023

In Praise of Folly: 2023 - By Jim Duggan

I would like to start out by saying that this article is in NO way an attempt to summarize, comment on, or review the essay of the same name written by Dutch satirist Desiderius Erasmus in the 16th century.  I will attempt to write about lifting and getting stronger, so just be patient.  To be perfectly honest, I know next to nothing about Erasmus or any of the writers of his time ( I must have been absent during Renaissance literature.)  But what I AM writing about is an article which appeared in the May 1953 issue of Ironman magazine.  The author of article in question was the late, great Harry Paschall.  Mr. Paschall was a well known writer for Strength and Health and was one of York’s greatest advocates during the 1950s.  If you’ve ever seen issues of S&H from that time period, you will instantly recognize his articles along with the famous Bosco cartoon character.  I’ll leave it to the individual to judge the merits of Bosco and his monthly adventures, but Harry Paschall was a well-respected Iron Game writer who strongly believed in the use of weights and progressive resistance to build all-around strength and health.

     While looking through the May 1953 edition of Ironman, I came across an article titled “In Praise of Folly,” and after looking at the byline, I figured that it just had to have some interesting opinions.  Harry was not shy about stating his opinions about lifting, and his thoughts about bodybuilding are well known among those of us who have studied the old publications.

     In the opening paragraph, Mr. Paschall  explains, briefly, that the original essay by Erasmus was written with the intent of making light of obsolete customs of the period in question ( early 1500s).  He then stated that In Praise of Folly could easily describe the world of muscle at that time.  He specifically referred to some of the magazines that were popular at the time.  “In what other line is so much completely silly propaganda published?”  This was written over seventy years ago.  A time that we ruefully refer to as the “good old days.”  I can’t imagine what Harry Paschall would have to say about some of the silly stuff that gets published today.  

     It was no secret that Harry detested bodybuilding, and those who sought to merely pump, instead of lift.  Harry followed the York/Hoffman system of building strong, useful, athletic bodies.  Training for the sake of gaining size was anathema to Harry and the York gang.  He lamented the fact that “LUMPS are the be-all and end-all of existence.”  

     When I read this, I immediately thought back to my days at Bruno’s.  Larry “Bruno” Licandro HATED bodybuilding and bodybuilders.  Pumped up muscles meant nothing to Larry, and he especially hated those who used steroids to pump up their bodies to laughable proportions.  I can’t repeat the term that he actually used to describe bodybuilders, but I have always believed that Larry would be a proud contributor to  He definitely would be proud to wear some of “Maximum” Bob’s old t-shirts (No Toning. No Chrome. No Bull).  In fact, I’ve often discussed this with Bob, and we both agree that he and Larry would have been good friends.  Both gentlemen were raised on the York method of training, both men believed in heavy, basic workouts, and both detested the use of drugs, steroids, and other performance enhancers.

    Getting back to the Ironman article, what Mr. Paschall is trying to get across to his readers is the fact that while lifting weights and seeking to get bigger and stronger are desirable and worthwhile goals, there comes a point where the average trainee will start reading the mainstream muscle mags and that will be his downfall.  It is difficult to talk sense into a novice lifter who falls for the bogus articles that so many of these magazines use to advertise their worthless products.  Trying to build 20” arms, or “cannonball deltoids,” or “barndoor lats,” are some of the problems that caused lifters to fall of the beam and into the world of abnormalcy, as he described it. 

     According to the article, there is a simple method to determine if your training has caused you to become “abnormal.”  Simply stop exercising for about ten days.  If, after ten days of inactivity, your measurements have decreased considerably, then you have entered the ranks of the “abnormal.”  If you remain basically the same, then you are on the right track.  

     Pumping to gain size, isolation movements to get bigger bodyparts, training to the exclusion of strength are all concepts to be avoided.  This is nothing new under the sun, even back in 1953.  Training heavy on the basics, likewise, is nothing that has been published many times over the years.  And abbreviated workouts have been used successfully for decades.  

     At the very end of the article, the is an Editor’s Note which states that they ( Peary Rader ) agree with many of Paschall’s points, there are other points with which they do not.  To be honest, I feel the same way.

     To begin with, Harry condemn the Bench Press and those who practice it.  I couldn’t disagree more.  The Bench Press is a fine exercise, in addition to being a competitive lift.  Naturally, in the early 1950s, powerlifting was not a sport, while Olympic weightlifting was still very popular in the United States.  Over the years, Olympic lifters would look down upon powerlifting and powerlifters.  I’ve always felt that this was unnecessary and even silly. Yes, today in 2023 powerlifting has been reduced to a joke, overly reliant on equipment, supportive gear, and ridiculously lax judging.  But the movements which make up the sport- Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift- are some of the most effective exercises for building strength.  Not all people who practice the Bench Press are interested in simply pumping their pecs.  Some very strong individuals have built great upper body strength by incorporating bench presses into their workouts.  The key is to not overdo it.  Unfortunately, due to the popularity of the lift, many people do just that.  

     There is another paragraph where I strongly disagree with Harry.  “The wrestler with a 20 inch neck is not an object of admiration.”  This quote jumped out at me.  I’ve always felt that a large, strong neck is extremely important for everyone.  Lifters, wrestlers, ALL athletes should train their necks.  A thick, powerful neck is crucial for anyone who participates in any sort of contact sport.  But other than its usefulness, a large, well-developed neck is just damn impressive.  I can think of few bodyparts that are more impressive than a thick, powerful neck.  So, sorry Mr. Paschall, I have to disagree with you on this one.  

     One more point with which I disagree is his statement that anything over 12 reps is unnecessary ( except for breathing squats).  I think that there are several movements where high-reps can be quite beneficial.  I’m thinking of Deadlifts, but there are other movements where high reps can build strength.  Anyone who has had the pleasure of training with Dr. Ken will attest to the efficacy of high reps, from time to time.

     So, after reading this article, I understand that there was a great deal of folly in the world of weights back in the early 1950s.  There is a great deal of folly and misinformation today, in 2023.  I suppose there will always be folly, bad ideas being disseminated through various forms of media, and outright lies about training.  But as long as there are people who still like to lift hard, heavy, progressively, and drug-free then there will always be hope.  And there will strong men and women to ensure that the tradition continues.

Editor's Note: Thanks Jim! I agree. Me and Larry would have been great friends for sure. 
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Monday, September 18, 2023

Appreciation Through Discipline - By Jim Duggan

The May 1969 edition of Muscular Development magazine was definitely one of the better issues.  The Table of Contents reads like a Who’s Who of Iron Game legends.  Vic Boff, Reg Park, Jim Witt, along with regulars Bob Hoffman and John Grimek, all contributed articles for the doubtless benefit of the readers of this fine York publication.  When this issue first appeared, I was not even five years old.  To provide further perspective, the Apollo 11 moon landing was still two months away, the “Miracle” Mets were just beginning their improbable season, and legendary football coach Chuck Noll had yet to coach his first game for the Steelers.  But whether you’ve seen this issue before- or this is your first time- it is definitely worth perusing.  I’ve often said that if you can get your hands on quality, vintage magazines they are worth their weight in gold.  The information contained within is definitely better than what you find in the magazines – or on the web- today.

     While just about all of the articles are top quality, there was one in particular that caught my eye.  It was titled “Appreciation Through Discipline,” and it was written by a gentleman named John Decola.  Back in the 1960s, Mr. Decola was a prominent bodybuilder and won the Mr. America contest before retiring from competition.  Even though he stopped entering contests, he never stopped bodybuilding and the physical culture lifestyle.  I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Decola in 2015, when he was honored by the Association of Oldetime Barbell and Strongmen.  He proved to be a worthy honoree, because during his acceptance speech he took off his suit and proceeded to strike a front double-biceps pose that would be the envy of any young man who lifts weights.  Except that he was in his mid 70s at the time.  His youthful appearance, impressive physique, and energetic enthusiasm proved that age is only a number.  His speech was the highlight of the evening, and it was my memory of him from AOBS that caused me to take a closer look at the article he wrote for MD over 54 years ago.

     Over the years, the subject of discipline has been discussed, with many authors offering their own connotation of the word.  Mr. Decola’s definition is as follows: “Discipline is no more than doing what we should do even when we don’t feel like doing it.”  You would be hard-pressed to find a more meaningful definition of the word.  The only quote relating to discipline that I would consider better comes from legendary basketball coach Bob Knight,  “Discipline is recognizing what has to be done, doing it as well as you can do it, and doing it that way all the time.” 

     Anyone who has trained for any length of time can relate to the fact that there will be times when training may become a drag.  Enthusiasm may fade, or you become physically and/or mentally overtrained.  As drug-free lifters, there will be times when the weights feel like a ton.  The inevitable lousy workout will occur and you have to decide what to do.  Do you walk away and live to fight another day? Or do you force yourself to do something- anything- to salvage your training session?  Like many questions regarding training, there is no one correct answer.  If you are physically beat up from a previous lifting session, then ditching the workout and going after it on another day just may the best thing to do.  If it’s simply a matter of being lethargic or lazy, then that is the time when discipline comes into play.  It is under such conditions, according to the article, that it takes discipline to perservere to train.

     In the article, Mr. Decola makes a very good point regarding discipline and success.  Victory is not merely scoring more points, or lifting more weight, than your opponents.  Rather it is the culmination of hard work and sacrifices.  Anyone who has ever conceived of a goal, and then worked towards that goal, and sacrificed, and dealt with the ups and downs that come with any difficult endeavor knows the feeling.  

     Getting bigger and stronger is the goal of most- if not all- persons who hoist the steel.  If you wish to deadlift 500 Lbs., you have to make out a plan, and then do it.  There will be days when the weights feel heavy and you may feel like skipping your workout.  Or you may feel like flagging the assistance movements for that day.  But you must be committed to achieving your goal, and doing what has to be done, even if there are other things you’d rather be doing.  If you stick to your workout routine, and keep pushing the poundages and making progress over the course of weeks and months, then you will succeed.  

     An appreciation of the hard work required to build greater strength can only come to those who have made the commitment to discipline.  According to Mr. Decola, “Champions are molded from perfection, and perfection comes from hard work, hard work is the handmaiden of discipline.  That’s your road to success.”  If you look around, you will find many people who have achieved their lifting goals.  There are no secrets, no miracle routines, no magic supplements.  Only hard work, commitment, and discipline.  If you have trained long enough, you have probably acquired a great amount of personal discipline.  I can’t think of anyone who has lifted for many years who hasn’t demonstrated such qualities.  When you take into account everything that a natural lifter has to overcome, it’s no surprise when he/she inevitably has success.  

     Many years ago, a lifter from the former Soviet Union was asked about his approach to training.  The gist of his response is that it takes a brave man to lift heavy weights alone.  I agree with him completely, but such bravery can only come from discipline that has accrued over many years of hard work.  If you have access to back issues of the York magazines, I highly recommend the May 1969 edition of Muscular Development.  You will derive a great deal of reading pleasure- and training knowledge- from this great magazine.

The picture is from Steve Weiner's 60th birthday last week. Half a ton of beef, left to right Steve Abramowitz, Steve Weiner, Dave Lemanczyk, Jim Duggan. 
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Sunday, August 20, 2023

In Search Of A Small Pond - By Jim Duggan

I stopped training in a commercial gym several years ago.  Fortunately, it was before Covid so I didn’t have to scramble to find a place to train when everything shut down during the Spring of 2020.  I have never regretted my decision to do all of my lifting at home.  Being a “cellar dweller, “ even though I have no cellar, or a “garage gorilla,” even though I don’t have a garage,  has enabled me to avoid a lot of the silliness that takes place at the typical commercial gym.  Of course, I am not totally immune from the craziness.  A casual glance at various videos that have gone public has confirmed what many serious strength athletes have known for years:  If you want to train seriously and progressively, then you will definitely be in the minority if you train at a gym.

     Years ago, “Maximum” Bob Whelan used to sell a t-shirt that read as follows:  “No Toning. No Chrome. No Bull. Just The Workout of Your Life!”  This was in reference to his great training facility in Washington, DC.  I had the pleasure of visiting his place on two occasions, and I can tell you that even though it was considered a “small” facility, it was one of the best equipped gyms I’ve seen.  Some basic machines ( Hammer Strength mainly), some bars ( Olympic, trap bar, thick bars), and lots of free weights.  YORK weights.  This was the kind of place where the inspiration and motivation was palpable.  If you couldn’t make gains in a place like that then you should have been embalmed.  I particularly remember one of the signs hanging on the entrance door.  It went something like this:  “ If You Train Here You Are Not Normal.”  I’ve always remembered this because it is true on so many levels.

     Today, as it was back then, the desire to get bigger and stronger seems to fly in the face of current training.  When I first began to lift, most people who went to the gym wanted to get brutally strong.  Most lifters also sought to get massive, too.  Size and strength were the hallmarks of most training routines.  Nobody wanted to get “buff,” or “jacked,” or “cut up.”  Incidentally, I still don’t know what buff or jacked means, and I really don’t care to know.  But I’m fairly certain it has to do with mirrors, posing, and/or shirtless selfies.  

     Now trying to gain size and strength is still a goal, especially for younger trainees, but how many people will do what is needed to get stronger?  Everybody may have the desire to make progress, but how many have the will to work brutally hard on the basic movements in order to make progress?  Years ago, Hall of Fame Basketball Coach Bob Knight was quoted as saying “Everybody has the will to win.  Few people have the will to PREPARE to win.”  Whether your goal is becoming a great basketball player, or a successful lifter, you must be willing to train brutally hard, on a consistent basis, while forcing yourself to push the poundage progression so that gains in strength will accrue.  

     I think when Bob said the people who trained with him were not normal, he was stating an obvious truth:  Most people do not want to put in the work.  Heavy Squats, brutal deadlifts, and strict movements are not glamorous.  Nor are they always fun.  Getting sufficient rest in the form of adequate sleep and recuperation between workouts requires discipline and sacrifice.  If you are considered a “hard gainer,” then you will have to pay strict attention to your diet to ensure that you are adequately fueling your body so as to make gains.  Eating four or five meals per day, training heavy three days per week, going to bed early are not considered to be “normal” for most people.  But if you’re serious about getting stronger, you will do whatever it takes to make progress.  

     Naturally, when I say “whatever it takes” I mean doing it without the use of steroids, PEDs or any other drugs.  It should go without saying that on this website, “natural strength” should be unequivocal.  That’s another advantage of training at home.  I don’t have to be witness to some steroid-bloated druggies taking up space in a commercial gym trying to impress themselves.  But that doesn’t mean that I can totally avoid some things that are unsavory, silly, or outright dangerous.

     I’m referring to the endless videos that some of these yo-yos love to post.  These yahoos, and their ever-present retinue of “gym bros” put out a lot of material for the public consumption.  I’ve written about some of these clowns before.  The guy who is wrapped to the gills in a supersuit, knee wraps, while squatting with the bar half-way down his back, lowers himself into a quarter-squat, then comes up to the deafening cheer of his cheerleaders ( “All You Bro!), and then claims it as a raw squat.  Or the guy wearing a double-denim bench shirt, then letting the bar bounce off his chest and claim an unequipped bench press.  However, lately I have noticed something that has been happening with increasing frequency.  After performing these dubious, even bogus lifts, they have the nerve to claim it as some sort of world record.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a video where the title is something like “New World Record Squat,” or “So-and so just broke the world bench press record.”  Obviously, most experienced  lifters know the real deal when they see it, and more importantly, they know when someone is pretending to be something they’re not.  Performing a bench press or a squat with a four inch range of motion will not cut the mustard. Neither will using a trap bar with raised handles and claiming that you have broken the world deadlift record.   Yes, you may be a hit with a gym full of impressionable beginners or others who may not know better, but in reality, who are they kidding?  The answer to that is quite simple, they are only kidding themselves with their bogus lifts.  If these people are that desperate for attention that they have to make false claims on their videos, then where will it end?  Yes, they seek smaller ponds in which to dominate, but is that really the goal of lifting?

     Recently, I had the “pleasure” of seeing an instructional video that dedicated to teaching lifters the correct way to hitch their deadlifts.  Yes, I realize that deadlifts performed in strongman contests are different than those in powerlifting meets, although I honestly don’t know why there has to be a difference.  I also realize that not everyone is a purist when it comes to the lifts.  But when you throw away the rules, who really benefits?  Does the end always justifies the means?  Has the world of strength become so Machiavellian that we overlook simple, common sense?

     Pulling a bar off the floor to the tops of your knees, then bending your knees and riding the bar up your thighs is many things, but it is not now nor ever will be a legitimate deadlift.  Just like wearing a sling-shot device and wrist wraps and elbow sleeves will never be a “raw” bench press.  What happens when rules ( and laws for that matter) are not enforced? Nothing good.

     Recently, I remember seeing something on the IWF website about considering making major changes to Olympic weightlifting.  No more press-out rule, fewer referees ( one instead of three), and new formats of competitions.  During the last few years, while powerlifting has become more and more of a joke, it was refreshing that Olympic lifting had maintained their standards.  Indeed, it even appeared as if they were getting even more strict about the rules.  It would be a damn shame if these changes were to take place.  

     I’ve mentioned the late Rudy Sablo in previous articles.  Mr. Sablo was one of the most respected figures in international weightlifting.  He was one of the most respected figures in the sport.  He was also known for being one of the most strict referees.  “Red Light Rudy” was known for being a stickler for the rules.  That may sound petty and mean, but the bright side was that if you got a lift passed by Mr. Sablo, then you knew it met the highest standards of the sport and that there would be no question as to the legitimacy of your accomplishment.  What good does lowering the standards do?  What kind of lifter would want to compete in an “anything goes” type of contest?  I would hope that the great majority of lifters would like to compete in a strictly run contest, with rigid adherence to the rules.  Yes, your total may go down, but your legitimacy and integrity will remain intact.  I understand that there are those who thrive in loosely run contests where the rulebook is “thrown out the window.”   Sadly, judging by the videos, this number seems to be growing.  For those, I say again, keep looking for that smaller pond.  You will eventually find your niche, and your  world records.

     Last month, on July 27, was the fortieth anniversary of my joining Bruno’s.  I remember that day as if it were yesterday.  I can remember the sights, the smells, the sounds ( The Eurythmics were on the radio ) from when I first walked through the door.  One of the many things for which I am grateful was the opportunity to train in an environment where you learned to lift “the right way.”  Not only was drug use strictly forbidden, but those who trained there were taught to perform the lifts in a safe, effective manner.  Those of us who went on to compete were taught to do the lifts in a strict manner.  Larry, and many of us, were accused of being purists.  Perhaps that is so, but in our defense, I don’t ever remember a contest when any of us came close to bombing out of a meet.  We always put up a total.  There were times when that total was good enough to win, and even set some local and state records.  But we were content to swim in a big pond and let our lifting do our talking for ourselves.  Win or lose, our lifts were always legitimate and above reproach.   

Left to right: Dr. Rich Seibert, Tom Tedesco, Bill Mannino, Chris Newins, Bob Sailor, Mike Doucette, Jim Duggan 

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Friday, July 28, 2023

59 in 59 - By Jim Duggan

When I was growing up, there used to be an electronics company called “Crazy Eddie.”  Like many businesses during that time, it was their commercials that stood out.  The commercials featured an actor, I forget who it was, who the role of Eddie.  The loud, energetic ads would always end with “Eddie” loudly exclaiming “Crazy Eddie’s prices are INSANE!”  They must have known what they were doing because decades later, I still remember it.  One thing that I particularly remember are Crazy Eddie’s annual Christmas Sale, which took place in July of every year.  That’s right, every July Crazy Eddie would have his annual Christmas Sale ( there’s a reason they called him crazy), during the hottest month of the year.  

     Unfortunately, Crazy Eddie went bankrupt, and shortly after the company went “el foldo’” Eddie himself ( the real Eddie, not the actor who portrayed him in the commercials) was busted for fraud.  So much for entertaining commercials.  But all these years later, something has replaced Crazy Eddie’s Christmas Sale as a reminder of the Summer heat and craziness.  Something that I’ve been doing for a number of years now, and which I enjoy sharing.

     High-rep stone workouts on my birthday have become something of a tradition for me.  I actually look forward to the yearly challenge for several reasons.  I’ve often mentioned my admiration for Jack LaLanne over the years.  His birthday challenges were the stuff of legend, and I would never for one minute compare myself with him, but I will readily admit that he was- and is still- an inspiration.

     Another reason for challenging myself each year on my birthday is that it is  only natural for any real strength athlete to challenge himself ( or herself).  Where would we be without challenge? And when I talk about challenge, I do not mean against other people.  I mean competing against yourself.  I’ve always felt that real lifters compete against themselves.  Your opponent is your potential.  And I truly believe that you are never too old to challenge yourself.

     One of my all-time favorite strength athletes in Al Oerter, the first man to win four Olympic gold medals in one event, the discus.  The fact that Mr. Oerter came from Long Island was one reason I gravitated to him.  But there were others, not the least of which is that at the age of 44, he was in the process of making a comeback in the Olympics.  He was making great gains, and throwing the discus further than he ever had, and was well on his way to making the Olympic team, until politics intervened and he, like all the other athletes on the 1980 team, had to endure a boycott of the games.  

     Another reason for my admiration of Al Oerter was that he was able to express his feelings on competition in a way that resonated with me, and I’m sure with many others who have hoisted the steel.  “Competition in its best form is a test of self.  It has nothing to do with medals.  The winner is the person who gets the most out of themselves.”  The next time you find yourself obsessed with the accomplishments of others, remember these words.  

     There is another quote that is especially appropriate for anyone who is engaged in heavy training:  “To exercise at or near capacity is the best way I know of reaching a true introspective state.  If you do it right, it can open all kinds of inner doors.”  

     On the morning of July 20th, on my 59th birthday, I was definitely not thinking of reaching an introspective state.  I wasn’t contemplating opening any kinds of doors ( inner or otherwise).  I was simply focused on the challenge I set out for myself.  I would test myself on the Ironmind “Crushed to Dust Challenge,” after which I would attempt to lift and shoulder my 180 Lb granite atlas stone 59 times in 59 minutes.  

     For those unfamiliar with the “Crushed to Dust Challenge,” it would be just as easy for you to look it up, than explain all the rules and requirements.  I had no illusions ( or delusions ), I simply wanted to see where I stand on this well-known grip challenge.  The three movements- closing a Captains of Crush #2, Lifting a max weight with the Rolling Thunder revolving one-arm deadlift handle, and a max weight with an Ironmind Hub Pinch Grip- were not exercises that I did on a regular basis, except for the gripper.  Closing the CofC #2 was actually pretty easy that morning.  I actually did two easy reps.  Perhaps the ease with which I closed it was because my hands had not been overtrained .  Sometimes we enjoy grip work so much that we overdo it.  But I was very happy with what I did with the gripper.  That happiness was short-lived because I immediately went to the Hub Pinch and was humbled.  I barely lifted 26 Lbs off the floor.  You read it right, I was nearly twenty pounds off the qualifying mark for the challenge.  I immediately went to the Rolling Thunder ( there is a three minute time limit and I wanted to give myself enough time in case I needed to add or subtract weight).  I lifted 166 easily enough for my first attempt, then I went to 176 and again, I was barely able to hold it for more than a second in the finish position.  It was at this point that I realized that if I wanted to seriously make a run at completing the challenge, I would have t devote more time to my open hand strength.  But that’s the subject of another article.

     On to the fun part:  Lifting a 180 Lb stone off the ground and shouldering it.  In years past, I would lift my stone for the same number of repetitions as my age.  I realize that, as I get older, I will eventually reach a point of no return, but hopefully that will be a few years down the road.  

     I set a time of 59 minutes simply to push myself and make it more challenging.  I didn’t want to make it a leisurely event, although nothing about lifting a granite stone should ever be construed to be leisurely.  The first several reps went smoothly.  Even though I warmed up with my lighter stones ( 100 and 145 pounders ), it wasn’t until the fifth or sixth rep with my 180 stone that I felt myself truly warmed up and in a groove.  I started out trying to do one rep each minute.  This is not always as easy as it looks, because sometimes the stone will roll, and getting set up for each rep can be tricky, because as the reps pile up, the stone creates holes in the lawn and I have to be careful not to slip/trip in a man-made crater.  

     The reps continued in a relatively smooth manner.  Sometimes I would do two or three at a time and take a correspondingly longer rest, but as I reached the mid-forties, I was starting to slow down.  I didn’t “hit the wall,” in runner’s parlance, but I was definitely feeling the effects of high reps in the Summer sun.  As I hit the fifties, I accepted the fact that I would not be able to finish in 59 minutes.  With time running down, I just wanted to keep going.  When the 59 minute mark expired, I was still four reps short, but I was determined to hit my goal number, but then I decided to do sixty.  An extra rep for good measure, so to speak.  So instead of 59 in 59, I was able to accomplish “60 in sixty-seven.”  I know it doesn’t have quite the same ring, but I still did sixty reps with my 180 stone, and I was proud of that.

     The final thing I did was to do a few sets with my York Krusher.  I wouldn’t want to let a birthday challenge go by without at least one reference to York Barbell, and my York Chest Krusher is still a great tool for getting stronger.  It may be considered vintage or an antique, but it still works.  

     Whether you seek an introspective state, or you just want to simply challenge yourself as you get older, there is only one way to do it, and that’s all out.  We’re all getting older, there’s no getting around it, but it doesn’t mean we have to settle for not getting the most out of ourselves.

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