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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Tuesday, July 18, 2023

What motivates you and me to train - By David Sedunary

I am often asked “what motivates you to train David, you have been at it for 56 years, aren’t you sick of it, why aren’t you bigger? Are you stronger? You do not look like the modern body builders, what do you get out of it ?" It goes on and on. There are only some people such as Bob Whelan my mentor and coach, who gives me inspiration. So they are the people you look forward to talking to and listening to with the greatest of concentration and listening powers. You not only listen and read, but you also put this knowledge into practice, and you do it repeatedly. Repetition is the mother of skill.

Why? Because they are true to you and want the best for you. Surround yourself with people who want the best for you, that is one of my major philosophies in life. Not only do we talk and listen to people who want the best for us, we also surround ourselves with reading and listening knowledge from those who want the best for us weight trainers and strength athletes. Share knowledge and gain wealth which improves your health.

Read all you can by such great writers as Brad Steiner, Peary Rader, John Christy, Brooks Kubik, Bob Whelan, Jim Duggan, Ken Leistner, Jocko Willink, Stuart Mc Robert. Also young blokes such as RJ Hicks who has learnt off the drug free natural weightlifters, and body builders. These men preach the truth they are true to themselves and to you the reader. They are drug free trainers, who remain healthy throughout their lives. 

So above is just a small portion of what has motivated me for 56 years, it is not so much the motivation to keep training, it is the discipline one has acquired to keep training, repeatedly, because the results far outweigh the failures. Results such as internal and external strength and wellbeing, we not only strengthen the muscles one can view we also strengthen muscle tissue which holds our organs in position. When you do a hard set of abdominal crunches, barbell squats or weighted side bends think of the amount of blood you squeeze into the abdominal cavity area and muscles which support the lower body. 

What about your heart muscle, it is also strengthened. The connective tissue is strengthened, which holds the joints together, stabilizes us and supports us if we fall and are injured. If you play sport and weight train you will get less injuries and the ones, you get are less traumatic. I played Australian Rules Football from the age of 10 till the age of 33, never damaged a knee, or an ankle, never pulled a hamstring or quadricep muscle. I once damaged my right shoulder playing football. Immediately after the football match, I applied wet heat to the shoulder area, and pressed a dumb bell overhead all week for rep after rep and played the following Saturday.

That is why I am not sick of weight training and what motivates me to continue it twice a week, workout after workout, month after month. Training gives me results, some hidden and some you can see. As I get older it is more beneficial to me. 

You will get as big as your genetics permit you to get naturally. Once you reach your genetic potential in strength and size, it is then only a matter of maintaining it. This may take you 3 to 4 years of consistent progressive training, sometime times longer. It is not so much the result it is the journey along the way. The mental strength you gain, the physical appearance and the feeling of being stronger than most. Also being equipped to handle most physical situations if necessary.

Every time I train, I write 3 or 4 short sentences in my training diary alongside my workout. I have the discipline to get to the gym, which makes me feel great, these short sentences motivate me to improve and keep going back.

Below are some of the short motivational sentences I have used this year:

Strengthen the body, use good form, keep your muscle, be strong, believe in yourself, do it today, improve your health, strong body and mind, tough times never last but tough people do, improve strength and stability, focus on your form, challenge yourself.

So there you are, all by yourself with the iron, just you and all the above motivators, and the discipline you have instilled into yourself. All this has given you physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing and health, that you can never acquire from anywhere or any other activity.

The God father of fitness the great Jack LaLanne was once asked the following question:

“What motivates you Jack to get up each morning and train “

Jack said.

“God doesn’t knock on Jack LaLanne’s and say get up Jack.”

“Jack LaLanne gets up and does it himself.”

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Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Muscular Weight - By Jim Duggan

By the Spring of 1981, Strength and Health magazine had seen its best days ( the magazine would fold five years later) but it was still capable of putting out some quality articles.  The May 1981 edition certainly qualifies as one of the “good ones.”  

     To begin with, Bob Hoffman’s editorial was devoted to the brand new Weightlifting Hall of Fame at York’s new headquarters, located on Interstate 83.  When this issue was initially published, the museum hadn’t yet opened, but you could feel the anticipation and excitement while reading through Bob’s  editorial.  As someone who has visited the Hall of Fame on several occasions, I can tell you that it is all that it is cracked up to be.  Every person who has “hoisted the steel” should make a pilgrimage to York Barbell.  It’s even more imperative than ever to get over there because I have heard from several people that there is a major overhaul planned for the Hall of Fame.  It seems that in order to generate more interest among the general public, the museum plans on concentrating more on marketable subjects like Hugh Jackman and Sylvester Stallone, and others like them.  What a shame!  I would hate to think that the legacies of athletes like Dave Sheppard, Tommy Kono, and John Davis will be replaced by a bunch of actors.  Hopefully, the “powers that be” will reconsider such a shameful attempt to “modernize” a hallowed place like the York Hall of Fame.  Some things should be left well enough alone.  Why sell out to a bunch of people who could never hold a candle to the likes of Grimek and Davis.

     Speaking of John Grimek, the May 1981 issue of S&H includes a fine article written by the “Monarch of Muscle” himself.  “Muscular Weight: Some Gain It, Some Don’t.  How About You?”  What’s interesting is that the subject of gaining muscular bodyweight is, has been, and always will be one of the most important topics among those who take up weight training.  Some things never change, and I don’t suppose interest in getting bigger and stronger will ever diminish.  

     “Why do some individuals begin to show impressive gains in just a matter of weeks while others fail to show any improvement?”  This is the question that Mr. Grimek asked at the beginning of the article.  It is perfectly normal for someone who begins to lift weights to question himself, as well as the methods he is utilizing.  The important thing is to not become discouraged.  For most people, results do not come overnight.  Even if you are seemingly stuck in a rut, if you stick to your program and keep going, according to Grimek, you are “probably causing some vital changes to be brought about within your body.”  

     Perhaps the biggest mistake most trainees make is trying to copy the training routine of an experienced lifter or, worse, the steroid-fueled bodybuilders featured in most of the muscle magazines.  By continually trying to follow a so-called advanced routine, a beginner will be subjecting his/her body to too much work.  Too many sets, too much weight, and most importantly, not sufficient recovery between workouts.  This sort of condition is not limited to beginners.  Drug-free lifters who try to follow routines used by steroid users will suffer the same consequences.  

     “Common sense dictates that when one continually does more than he can recover from, he is not going to achieve results.”  You could possible say that these are the foundations of abbreviated training, but I think it goes back before that time.  But it’s interesting to know that over forty years ago, the legendary John Grimek was urging readers to cut down on their training in order to recuperate sufficiently.  

     Doing more exercises and training longer hours in NOT the answer.  For most drug-free lifters, this should be common sense.  Unfortunately, as we have learned, common sense is not always very common.  Adequate rest between workouts is vital to all lifters, but especially for those who want to increase the muscular bodyweight naturally.  Training every day is definitely something to be avoided.  And by all means, do not subscribe to the ridiculous idea of training “bodyparts” on separate days.  Bodypart training was developed by steroid users because it is only by using artificial strength aids that you can lift heavy every day. Don’t follow a misguided routine simply because a steroid-bloated druggie trains that way.   

     The “Monarch of Muscledom” goes on to describe another obstacle in the quest for more muscular size.  Performing too many exercises in a workout.  “You should provide only as much work as your body can totally recover from without experiencing any prolonged fatigue.”  How much is too much?  That is a question that each individual must answer for themselves.  But according to Mr. Grimek, the absolute maximum number of exercises to be performed is ten.  Here is where I might have to disagree.  I think most drug-free lifters can benefit from less than that and still build impressive size and strength.  I remember years ago, that Larry “Bruno” Licandro once went an entire Summer doing only three movements- Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift- to the exclusion of all other movements.  Naturally, Larry was competing in powerlifting at the time, but so it should come as no surprise that these are the exercises that he chose to do.  What’s interesting is that Larry gained weight on this routine, in addition to improving his competitive lifts.  I’ve always been a believer in the value of “assistance exercises” for the three lifts, but Larry’s progress by doing nothing but the lifts themselves proves that you can make great gains by just doing the lifts.  The key is that Larry listened to his body and was able to determine that such training would work for him.  

     It should be clear that the biggest obstacle to gaining muscular weight, insofar as training is concerned, is doing too much and not allowing your body to adequately recover from your workouts.  

     There is a way to determine if your workouts are productive and beneficial, and Mr. Grimek provides an answer that is- or should be- utilized by everyone who trains.  Chart your recovery.  The only way to do this is to keep a training notebook or journal and keep track of your workouts.  This is the best way to measure your progress, and make no mistake, that is the goal of all trainees.  PROGRESSIVE resistance means just that.  By keeping track of the exercises you do, the sets, reps, and poundages, you will be able to easily measure the productivity of your workouts.  Some people like to keep track of things such as food intake, resting heart rate, and other things, and if you want to be especially thorough, then by all means go the extra yard.  But for most trainees, just being able to see the weekly poundage progression is enough.  

     If, after looking at your training records, you find yourself stagnating, or if the weights seem heavy, then you should re-evaluate what you’re doing.  Cut back on your exercises or sets, or give yourself extra rest days between workouts.  Listening to your body and heeding the warning signs of overtraining are important factors in getting bigger and stronger.  Obviously, patience plays a role in size and strength, too.  A few years ago, I wrote an article about persistence in training.  If you train hard, progressively, and persistently then you will achieve your goals.  

     The methods of gaining muscular weight as described by Mr. Grimek are nothing new under the sun.  In fact, these ideas were not new forty-two years ago when this article first appeared.  People have been gaining muscular size and strength since the invention of barbells and dumbbells, but every once in a while it good to receive a reminder, and I can’t think of a better person to remind us of how to do it than John Grimek.  Especially in light of the fact that in a few days – June 17th- will mark the 113th anniversary of the birth of the legendary Monarch of Muscledom.

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Sunday, May 14, 2023

Deadlifts In The Grass - By Jim Duggan

     I was going to title this article “Deadlift Variations,” because it’s basically about different ways to provide variety to doing deadlifts.  However, the song “Grazing In The Grass” has been playing in my mind ( thank you Sirius XM) and I thought that it would be a nice title for a Deadlift article.  Incidentally, the version to which I am referring is the one performed by The Friends of Distinction, although the instrumental version by Hugh Masekela will work just as well.

     Over the years, I’ve written several articles pertaining to the Deadlift.  There are several reasons for this.  To begin with, the Deadlift was my favorite competitive lift.  There used to be an old saying, “The contest doesn’t start until the bar is on the floor.”  At most contests, the deadlift was always the portion of the meet with the most drama.  Many times, a contest would be won or lost depending on who was the better deadlifter.  Sometimes strategy would come into play, but, for the most part, the simple fact that the deadlift was a basic test overall body strength, the stronger lifter would win the meet by virtue of pulling more weight off the floor.

     Additionally, I’ve always found the deadlift to be fascinating.  This may sound strange, because it is certainly not a “glamorous” lift.  One need only look at the strained expression on someone doing a limit deadlift to realize that the deadlift is certainly not glamorous.  It’s not a very technical lift, although it is far more technical than most people realize.  I guess a better way of phrasing this would be to say that the deadlift does not require years of technique like a Clean and Jerk, for example.  

     There is no need for any special equipment, either.  You do not need a squat rack, power rack, or bench.  Spotters are not necessary.  All you need is a good bar, some weight, and a lot of desire.  A willingness to work hard would also be beneficial.  Because that’s what training the deadlift is all about:  Hard, heavy work.

     It is because of this hard, back-breaking work that you will feel as if you were run over by a truck after a heavy deadlift workout.  If you were to go to a typical commercial gym, you will find any number of pumpers and toners doing set after set of curls, pushdowns, or other baby exercises.  These yo-yos usually stand out, for all the wrong reasons.  But you can easily spot the person who lifts heavy.  It is the “look of power” which Dr. Ken so accurately described years ago in The Steel Tip.  A Lifter who has devoted a lot of time to heavy pulls from the floor will have a certain capacity for brutally hard work.  He/she relishes the beat up feeling following a heavy deadlift workout.  It’s hard to describe in words, but unmistakable in recognition. You will know it the day ( or days ) after.

     For a while, I was using my thick-handle trap bar for my deadlifting.  It is one of my favorite movements.  But as much as you may enjoy doing something, the body needs change in the form of variety.  Even if you are feeling good physically, mentally you may need to change things up to prevent from going stale.  For some reason, I’ve always found it easy to burn out on deadlifts if I don’t give myself proper recuperation between workouts.  Also, if I do too many sets, it will catch up with me in the form of overtraining.  Perhaps it is because of the lift itself.  The bar is on the floor, motionless.  Unlike the Squat, or Bench Press, there is absolutely no movement or momentum to stimulate movement of the weight.  I think for that reason, it is necessary to approach the bar with a positive mental attitude.  I always try to think of the great Soviet lifter David Rigert where he was quoted as saying “When you are alone with a great weight, you must be very, very brave.”  But this constant, relentless psychological battle can take toll.  You can only psych yourself up so many times in training, especially when you are doing the same movement repeatedly.  This is why I’ve tried to incorporate some form of variety in my deadlift workouts, while still dedicating myself to training hard and heavy.  

     In previous articles, I’ve talked about Dumbbell Deadlifts, and also doing Deadlifts off a block ( deficit Deadlifts), as well as partial Deadlifts.  Most of the time, I do them in the comfort of my living room/gym.  However, with the arrival of Spring, and the accompanying warm weather, I decided to take my workouts outside.  And instead of using a bar, trap bar, or dumbbells, I decided to use a piece of equipment that I’ve had for a long time: my Farmer’s Walk handles.  

     I originally purchased these handles about 25 years ago from Drew Israel.  Each one weighs 70kgs ( 154 Lbs.).  These are definitely not implements to be trifled with in any way.  Because I keep them in my shed, and because I didn’t feel like hauling them to my deck and back, I decided to do my Farmer’s Deadlifts in the grass.  Due to their heavy weight, they are a perfect workout all by themselves.  The low position required to pull them from the ground with no weight makes for a great range of motion.  

    I also have a supply of 25 Lb plates for the purpose of increasing the poundage.  Yes, the range of motion is decreased slightly, but not by much.  And the added weight makes for a challenging movement.  One thing that I didn’t account for was the ground being soft on the days after it rains.  April showers bring May flowers, but they also cause your weights to sink into the ground.  Perhaps larger plates would prevent this from happening, but the increased diameter would decrease the range of motion even further.  Yes, this is a quandary experienced only by those of us who are dedicated to our beloved Deadlifts.

     In all seriousness, using the Farmer’s Walk handles is an interesting variation.  It’s kind of a cross between dumbbell Deadlifts and trap bar Deadlifts.  Can I stand on a block and create a deficit?  Perhaps.  But right now, I’m content to use these implements as a means of doing Deadlifts without a bar or conventional dumbbells.  

     Incidentally, if you are doing any sort of Deadlift, I recommend that you not use a belt.  I’ve discussed this before, and I firmly believe in the value of training without any sort of lifting aids.  This is something that I first learned while training at Bruno’s many years ago, and I have never wavered in this opinion. 

     While I’m on the subject of lifting aids, I can’t rightfully discuss their use without mentioning something that never ceases to amuse me.  I’m referring to the numerous videos that are posted by people claiming to be “raw” lifters.  Now, I have nothing whatsoever against raw lifting.  I even competed in a few raw contests in the past.  But what passes for “raw” today leaves a lot to be desired.  I’m talking about people wearing wrist wraps, knee wraps, elbow wraps and lifting straps.  If you are bench pressing with wrist wraps and elbow wraps, then you are NOT lifting “raw.” Likewise, if you are deadlifting with lifting straps then you are NOT a raw lifter.  From the looks of these “figure eight” straps, it appears as if you don’t even have to wrap your hands around the bar to pull it off the ground.  But what always leaves me feeling puzzled are the people who use an axle ( or thick bar), strap their hands to the bar and deadlift it off the ground.  Somehow they feel it is a grip feat worthy of recognition.  What a joke.  What’s the sense of using an axle if you’re just going to use artificial means of attaching your hands to the bar?  I fail to see how that is impressive.

     Now that I’ve finished ranting, I would like to say that I will continue to train outside, and that includes incorporating my Farmer’s Deadlifts into my routine.  Naturally, there are many movements which can be done outside, and since we are only in the month of May, I’ve only scratched the surface insofar as outdoor training is concerned.

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Saturday, May 6, 2023

Peary Rader: The Iron Man - By RJ Hicks MS, CSCS

Peary Rader was an early bodybuilder, weight lifter and strength training writer who left a huge impact on the Iron game. As a young, undersized boy he built himself up with heavy, high repetition back squats. In just a few years of training his weight shot up 80 pounds as he focuses on lifting heavier and heavier weights in high rep back squat, eventually earning local success in competition as a lifter. This sparked Rader’s lifelong passion for weight lifting and bodybuilding, which he shared with others through his writings, publication and promotion for natural training methods.

Rader’s interest in weight training began in his teenage years when started training with homemade weights made from scrap metal. Frustrated with his size, he became fascinated by the idea of building his own strength and sculpting his physique through weight training. He would supplement limited sets of; the deadlift, clean and jerk, military press, barbell row, bench press, barbell curl and sit-up to his 20 rep squats. It was not long after his success in weight lifting and bodybuilding that Peary Rader took up writing for various bodybuilding publications. His articles were well-received by his few readers and he soon established himself as an expert in the field of weight training and bodybuilding. Rader used this platform influence other like-mind fitness enthusiast, leaving many everlasting contributions to the field. Going down in history as one of the greatest figures in the Iron Game.

One of Peary Rader’s most significant contribution to the Iron Game was his publication, Iron Man magazine. The magazine originated in 1936 at his own dining room table. As a small newsletter and quickly grew to become one of the most influential publications in the field of strength training for 50 years. Through Iron Man, Rader was able to reach a large audience of weightlifters, bodybuilders and weight training enthusiast, providing them with training tips, workout routines, nutrition and spiritual advice. It was an educational tool to people interested in weight training.

It was one of the first magazines to promote twice a week training, women training with weights, Arthur Jones training ideas and at the time his new nautilus machines. Similar to Bob Hoffman’s Strength and Health magazine, Rader didn’t just cover weight training. He promoted overall health, character and spiritual health in his editorial section. Dr. Ken Leistner, Stuart McRobert and Bradley Steiner were just some of the great past writers for Peary Rader’s publication. The magazine was known for its innovative approaches to training and its emphasis on natural bodybuilding methods. A true godsend at that time to counter the rampant drug training found in the Muscle and Fitness magazines.

Another important contribution that Rader made to the iron game was his emphasis on proper form and technique in weight training. Rader believed that proper form and technique were necessary for achieving optimal results and avoiding injury. He stressed the importance of starting with lighter weights and master proper mechanics before progressing to heavier weight. Rader encouraged trainees to focus on maintaining proper form throughout each exercise from start to finish. He believed you must earn the increase in weight through your performance rather than sacrificing form to continue to lift heavier loads.

Rader was a strong advocate for natural bodybuilding and weightlifting, which focused on achieving strength and physique goals through hard work and dedication, rather than through the use of performance-enhancing drugs. His philosophy of drug-free training was based on his belief that using performance-enhancing drugs was not only unethical, but dangerous to trainees. He knew that the use of drugs could lead to serious health problems and that the risks outweighed any potential benefit.

Instead, Rader promoted the importance of natural training methods, such as progressive overload, good form and a focus on nutrition and recovery. He believed natural training methods were not only heathier but also more sustainable in the long run, allowing athletes to achieve their goals without putting their health at risk. Rader advocated for a holistic approach to strength training, which not only weight training, but proper nutrition, and recovery.

Training Philosophy

One of the key principles of Peary Rader’s weight training philosophy was the importance of progressive overload. Rader believed that the body needed to be challenged progressively with heavier weights (not volume, exercise variations or training frequency) in order to continue making gains in muscular size and strength. He advocated a gradual increase in weight overtime, as opposed to sudden jumps, in order to minimize the risk of injury and ensure the body could adapt to the new stresses being placed upon it.

Rader also believed that nutrition was an important factor of any effective weight training program. He stressed the importance of consuming a balanced diet that provided the body with nutrients it needed to recover from workouts. Rader recommended trainees consume a sufficient amount of protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats, while minimizing their intake of processed foods and refined sugars. He pushed natural foods for protein such as milk, eggs and animal proteins. There were no large advertisements, no hidden agendas or selling garbage products like most of the muscle magazines today.

In addition to nutrition, Rader also believed rest and recovery were necessary components of a successful weight training program. He encouraged trainees to get plenty of sleep, take rest days as needed, and allow their bodies time to recover between workouts. Rader was the first to promote twice a week strength training during a time that three whole body workouts was the norm. Long before Arthur Jones or High Intensity Training practitioners established it as general doctrine. He already figured out overtraining and lack of rest would lead to injury, burnout, and stalled progress in the gym for natural trainees.

A basic template of the training he promoted twice a week:

Squats or Deadlifts 1x20 Military press or behind the neck press 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps Barbell curl or chin ups 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps Bench press or dips 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps Bent over barbell rows 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps Sit ups or leg raises 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 12 rep

Peary Rader was without a doubt one of the best and truly ahead of his time. He was the most honest guy ever, disciplined in his craft and extremely admired by the people who knew of him. His training philosophy never veered centering around poundage progression full body workouts with basic exercises, twice a week with plenty of rest and recovery between workouts. Though Peary Rader is gone, his legacy lives on in the pages of his original Iron Man magazine, which has some of the greatest training advice ever recorded.
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Saturday, April 29, 2023

A Few 'Old School' Success Principles - Message from Rich Sadiv

In my experiences as the head performance coach at Parisi Speed School Fair Lawn, I regularly receive questions related to my overall coaching philosophy. These discussions often gravitate around a central theme: the concept of so-called “old-school” training methodology in a modern setting. 

This approach can be jarring for athletes at first, as they aren’t always used to these enduring principles – usually through some lack of prior exposure. The reality is that many coaches subscribe to a fully modernized training mentality, implementing various trends and bodies of research as they emerge. While aspects of this approach are inevitably important, I also strongly believe in structuring training on timeless fundamentals related to both the training itself and the necessary behavioral adaptations required to maximize output. 

In this sense, the “old-school” term really isn’t necessary; quality training is quality training, and throughout the years, that has boiled down to time-tested values inextricably tied to competitive success. 

One of these values is adherence, which is sometimes that is easier said than done. That said, regardless of your sport or goal, you should be firmly committed to your purpose and beliefs – and compromise will actually come naturally. Trust me; as you probably already realize, there are a lot of people out there trying to make you do something you don’t want to do. A lot of times, these people are your friends – not really sure how. But regardless, you should approach these situations prepared to make necessary sacrifices to bolster your ability to achieve long-term success and balance. 

Adherence is a value I not only instill in my athletes – but practice daily in my own life. For instance, I stopped drinking alcohol 35 years ago – not a drop – and I felt it would be better to have clearly defined boundaries and eliminate any grey areas. I felt it was better to go all or, in his case, nothing. The strategy has proven to be very effective for me – not just with drinking, but with a lot of things I have either eliminated from my life or, on the flip side, that I have gone all in on. People would almost take it personally that I wouldn’t take a drink, almost get angry with me. I would finally end up saying, “ I don’t tell you not to drink, so I would appreciate you not telling me to drink.” I think the message has gotten across as people in my inner circle stopped being so persistent.

Another so-called “old-school” fundamental is routine. Through the years, I’ve developed a lot of positive routines; my most beneficial is getting up way earlier than I need to. What I found is it’s the only way to truly control time. Once you step out of your front door and start your day, you are at the beck and call of what the day brings. My day starts off at 3:00 AM with a large black cup of coffee. It’s just me in my rocking chair and my thoughts. No emails, no voicemails, no one looking for me. It gives me a great opportunity to review the past day, plan the current day, and sight my mind's eye on the future. 

Timeliness is also crucial in this regard. I cannot stand tardiness; it’s a quick path to bad habits and complacency, and I actively work to eliminate such tendencies in those I train. You could argue that all other training aspects revolve around being on time.

By fostering and developing such foundational values, athletes are better equipped to turn off the outside world, properly focus on their goals, and proactively put the necessary steps and training approaches in motion. These are facts that even many modernized, supposedly “new-school” methods actively put in motion – even if they aren’t fully aware of it. In almost all cases, success cannot advance beyond flash-in-the-pan unless these crucial commitments are made early and often. 

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Saturday, April 15, 2023

Forty-Six in Six Minutes - By Jim Duggan

Four years ago, on April 6, 2019, the Iron Game lost one of its finest people, with the passing of Dr. Ken Leistner.  Quite often, when we lose someone special, the years that pass seem to play tricks on our sense of time.  There are times when it seems like only yesterday when we received the sad news.  Other times, is seems like it happened decades ago.  Yet four years is not a long period of time.  I think that the pandemic which began a year later kind of changed the way we all deal with the passage of time.  

     This year, perhaps due to the lifting of restrictions brought on by the covid pandemic, Kathy Leistner decided to hold a special challenge in an effort to honor the memory of one of the great figures in the world of strength, and additionally to raise money for the Dr. Ken Leistner Memorial Scholarship at Logan University.  The challenge was called “46 in 6 Minutes,” and was developed by Kathy along with Steve Weiner.  The idea was pretty simple: 46 reps of Trap Bar Deadlifts ( with bodyweight) to be completed within 6 minutes.  “46” comes from the date of Dr. Ken’s passing ( 4/6) and the challenge was open from the beginning of the month until Sunday, April 9.  

     The idea of performing 46 reps in the trap-bar deadlift in less than six minutes is something that Dr. Ken would have wholeheartedly endorsed.  High repetition deadlifts were something that was foreign to me until I joined Iron Island Gym in the Winter of 1992.  As a competitive powerlifter, anything over 5 repetitions was considered “high reps.”  It did not take long for me to realize that I was wrong.  Wrong in my idea of what constituted high reps, and very wrong in not realizing the benefits of high rep Deadlifts and Squats.  The popular saying “Live and learn” definitely applied to me because I soon learned to embrace the idea of training in a high-intensity fashion.  It certainly helped to improve my powerlifting, as well as my overall strength and conditioning.  And, of course, meeting and training with Drew Israel and Bob Whelan and reading The Steel Tip and Hardgainer magazine,  certainly helped win me over to the idea of high reps on the basic movements.  

     Even though it’s been more than thirty years since I first trained at Iron Island, I still like to use high reps for my Deadlifts from time to time.  At various times throughout the year, I will do multiple sets of ten reps, or more recently, one set of twenty.  For a change of pace, I’ve been using my Farmer’s Walk implements to simulate dumbbell Deadlifts.  

     I distinctly remember reading an article in The Steel Tip about doing dumbbell Deadlifts for high reps.  The increased range of motion, coupled with the high reps, make for a brutal exercise.  It’s definitely not for the faint-hearted.  And, since my Farmer’s Walk handles  weigh in at 70kg each, they’re heavy enough to make for an effective workout.  Since they’re heavy enough on their own, the fact that I don’t have to use plate makes for a very low starting point.  I actually prefer the increased range of motion.  I’ve often done Trap Bar Deadlifts off an elevated block as per the Finnish Deadlift routine, which I wrote about a couple of years ago.  The Farmer’s Handle Deadlift provides a similar effect.  

     If I could offer one piece of advice, it would be this:  Don’t cheat the reps by using a trap bar with raised handles.  This has become something of an obsession with me.  I see so many videos of people bragging about their deadlift, then you see them lift with a bar with raised handles.  Obviously, the raised handles make the movement much easier.  And incidentally, you are NOT performing a deadlift.  You are doing a PARTIAL deadlift.  Don’t cheat yourself by making the movement easier.  Dr. Ken would often say that that which makes the exercise more difficult is more effective.  Lift with a full range of motion.  You will make better gains in strength as well as feel better about yourself.

     Back to the “46 in 6” Challenge.  Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to Kathy’s house to do the lift in person due to my work schedule, but I definitely wanted to honor Dr. Ken and participate. I chose to do in on April 6, and I was lucky that the weather cooperated and I was able to do it outside.  Even though I weighed in at 225 Lbs., I decided to lift 231 Lbs for my challenge.  Six pounds mean very little, but 231 is a significant number for me.  Engine 231 is the company to which I am assigned as a Captain in the NY City Fire Dept., and I wanted to honor my company as well as Dr. Ken.  So my goal was 231 Lbs for 46 reps in less than six minutes.

     After a brief warm-up, I loaded my thick-handled trap bar and set my watch.  I wanted to break the forty-six reps into segments depending on how I felt.  I did 17 reps right away, and they felt pretty good.  I then rested for about forty-five seconds and banged out another 16.  I was still feeling pretty good, and I knew I would make the required number of reps, so I rested for another forty-five seconds or so.  I did 14 reps to finish the challenge.  By the time I checked my watch, it was just under five minutes.  Challenge complete.  Incidentally, I realize that the reps added up to 47.  That was intentional, I wanted to do an extra rep for good measure ( lest anyone think that I don’t know how to count!).  

     There were a lot of participants in the “46 in 6” challenge, and some very impressive performances.  Dr. Ken’s influence was so far-reaching that it is difficult to imagine just how many people he has inspired over the years.  I know that I am still benefitting from his knowledge and wisdom.  My collection of Hardgainers, Steel Tips, High Intensity Newsletters, MILO magazines, Powerlifting USA magazines will ensure that I have access to his words of wisdom for many years to come. 

      If you want to donate to a worthy cause, as well as honor one of the all-time strength figures, consider donating to the Logan University’s Dr. Ken Leistner Memorial Scholarship.  The best way to honor Dr. Ken is to remain strong and commit ourselves to being the best we can possibly be, and to answer the call to excellence.  And some high rep Deadlifts wouldn’t hurt!

Editor's Note: Great article Jim!

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