Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Is Your Training Program Properly Balanced? - A Review of Brad Steiner’s Article from Iron Man 1981 - By David Sedunary.

A quite common mistake that trainees make when planning and following their personal exercise routines is a failure to correctly balance their training programs or schedules of training. That is they neglect to plan workouts that thoroughly exercise the entire body, inside and out for the sake of, say pursuing super intensive concentration on bench pressing , and arm  work etc. Ultimately, such a style of training must lead to failure.

Now, I am not attacking specialization in training. This has its place in one’s training career at times; but failure to properly  balance a good  all round routine when one is not specializing, hardly has anything to do with the matter of specialization. Every good workout program should include a sufficient variety of basic exercises for each major body part . This exercise need not be done in any excessive number of sets, and they need not all require a maximum energy effort output all the time. But unquestionably, there should be enough work included in one’s routine to adequately tire and train ones whole body.

But suppose your main interest in training is a deep chest and big arms?  Is it necessary then to train your whole body? Sure, it is. And I will tell you a secret said Brad. You will make better, faster and more permanent gains in any  body areas , where you more especially want them. If you continue to maintain a good basic routine for all your body.

Remember the following facts:

1.Weight training is one of the most intensive and highly concentrated forms of physical exercise on earth. Even if you are only seriously interested in say big arms , there is only so much work the relative small arm muscles can take at any given time, and during any one given workout. This will be most frustrating and irritating and may even force you to give up weight training all together.

2. Muscles grow almost as much from indirect effort, as they do from direct effort. By this I mean the bent over dumb bell rowing exercise is about as an effective arm builder as curling. I built my arms once to 16 ½ inches by doing dumb bell rows, dips and trap bar deadlifts all for one set to failure. When I operated my own Gym In Broken Hill Australia I took a hard gaining beginner off all curls and watched his arms start to bulk up, from using only the dumb bell row, dips and trap bar deadlifts. Why because the row permits the arms to work in unison with the upper back, which is powerful enough to permit the handling of really heavy and productive weights. The principle of growth via indirect training applies in other instances as well.

3. One of the most important reasons for training even if you don’t now realize it is health and conditioning. To attain both these objectives the entire body must be worked properly and sufficient sweating and puffing and panting must be induced. Training for severe pump in any one area will not produce any degree of health benefits or conditioning. Even if you don’t care less about the fact you have leg muscles, do squats, leg presses or trap bar deadlifts. I say this fully knowing that many who read this article will be concerned only with gains or improvement on their upper body. I want to stress to these people the absolute need for balance in training. 

Work those body parts you are anxious about but never neglect to train the rest of your body.

There are two major ways in which one can assure , that one is training in a correct well rounded manner.

  1. Include a sufficient variety of good exercises for the entire body and for overall fitness.

  2. One can train on a limited schedule of exercises that because they work major muscles groups together, provide a good all -round routine. For example, Dumb bell clean and press, Squat and Chinning. Brad said his personal preference was a workout composed of between eight and twelve basic exercises worked hard in sets. Brad finished his workout with rope skipping usually  2 sets of 220 reps using ankle weights( very light ) to give extra benefit to the exercise.

Always do squatting in some form was Brad’s instruction for whole body growth. Always do abdominal work, some variant of standing overhead presses, and some basic back exercise. Work in sets of 2 or 3. Always do the major movements if for some reason you haven’t got the energy or time to complete your workout never neglect or cut back on the basic  movements, you need to ensure all round muscle growth, health and fitness.

Abbreviated type workouts are extremely valuable, though they are not all popular today. This is too bad.  I can think of many instances where an otherwise impossible case of hard gaining was corrected by the use of  a good abbreviated schedule. These schedules are what Peary Rader suggested for hard gainers to use to trigger gains by working muscles masses hard but never to excess, apparently what all hard gainers need.

For the advanced trainee, or the person in superb condition abbreviated routines maybe used from time to time for the sake of variety, or when one hasn’t the time to get in your full routine.

Here are some of Brad Steiners abbreviated workouts:

Workout 1#

  1. Stiff legged deadlift 3x12

  2. Squats 1x18 light, 1x 10 medium, 1x6 heavy

  3. Chinning 3x12 no weight

Workout 2#

  1. Chinning 3x10 weight tied to waist.

  2. Squats 3x12 medium to heavy weights

  3. Dips 3x10

Workout 3#

1 Deadlift 3x12

2. Dips 3x6 weight tied to waist

3. Dumb bell row 3x6 heavy

4. Waist work

Brad Steiner has given you more programs than you are likely to need, so that you may select the program best suited to your needs. What matters is you follow a good schedule, which consists of a compound movement squat, deadlift. And/ or a vertical push, vertical pull, horizontal push, horizontal pull, and tinkering work as Bob Whelan suggests. Add a barbell curl if you want. Tinkering work would be abdominal work, neck work , calve work, and grip work. That will round out a properly balanced program.

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Saturday, January 28, 2023

George Hackenschmidt: The Russian Lion That Defined Wrestling & Weightlifting - By James Athanasiou

George "The Russian Lion" Hackenschmidt: A man that redefined what is naturally attainable, a pioneer that shaped physical culture as we know it today. A presence so strong in physical culture, George Hackenschmidt was a man of sheer, unmatched strength, incredible athleticism and – above all – a kind spirit paired with a highly intelligent mind. Few men get the chance to define a sport, let alone two different ones. Georg Karl Julius Hackenschmidt possessed the physical prowess to dominate nearly 3,000 matches in the heavyweight division through his astounding 15-year Wrestling career, all while being one of the greatest innovative minds in physical culture. It's high time we explore this Incredible man's journey.

Part 1: The Early Beginnings

Born in 1877 in Tartu, Estonia, George was one of the three children of an Estonian - Baltic German family. While his parents did not possess any special physical characteristics, George claims his genes were passed down to him by his maternal grandfather, described as a huge and powerful man.

As a student, Georg got hooked on physical development. A true sportsman, he excelled in swimming, jumping, cycling, running, gymnastics, weightlifting and a then-popular sport called gorodki, similar to bowling. Many of these activities would accompany him till the very end of his life. It didn't take long before he astounded his teachers and peers with his surreal strength feats, as he was able to lift a small horse off the ground, 200 pounds overhead with one arm.

After graduation, he entered a local cycling club, where he picked weightlifting as a training  alternative during the winter months. At the same time, he worked at the Lausmann factory as a blacksmith's apprentice when one day a fellow Greco-Roman wrestler by the name of Georg Lurich toured through the area. Hackenschmidt took the opportunity to challenge him, but was beaten due to his limited experience. Despite that, the mere fact that George finally met a man that could rival his strength ignited his competitive spirit.

While at work, an accident occured that slightly damaged his hand. Doctor Krajewski was astonished by George's build as he examined the injury and invited him to St. Petersburg to train and live with him, recognizing soon after that he had the potential to become the strongest man in the world. Although his parents remained very much against it, George left to join the St. Petersburg wrestling club in spring of 1898. It wouldn't take long before Krajewski told George that he could "become the strongest man in the world".

Part 2: The First Steps To Conquering Wrestling

In terms of weightlifting, George surpassed all his team members. A pivotal point in his career occurred during a competition held by the Reval Athletic Club, where he went on to Snatch 256 lbs, Jerk 251 lbs and Press 269 lbs in his right hand. Soon after his 6 month weightlifting focused training, George broke Sandow's one handed press record at 116 kg by lifting 122.25 kg (270 lbs), almost 15 lbs more! Sadly, when time  came to treat his arm injury, the electrotherapy methods proved to do more harm than good, forcing him to take a full year off training to recover. 

Later on in his career, a shoulder injury occurred – so serious that it almost paralyzed his tricep. Understanding how this meant the end of his weightlifting career, Hackenschmidt dedicated his soul and effort to conquering wrestling. It took George less than five years to win his world title and almost all major wrestling events – at one point having to wrestle with 3-5 opponents a day!

Part 3: A Unique Personality And An Appaling Loss

His rise to fame didn't take long to occur. George was described as a handsome and beautifully built young man, possessing a soft spoken personality, great charm, an intelligent mind that allowed for a philosophical and innovative spirit, as well as admirable eloquence. All these traits made him adored by women and admired by men, but had little to do with excelling in wrestling and strength training. However, his tendency to give into depression and irascibility truly hampered his growth from time to time.

George got exposed to this negative mentality when he suffered the loss of his trainer and mentor Krajewski in 1901, a man he considered to be his second father. Even though he was devastated, he found the courage to compete after 9 months in the World Championships of Wrestling, receiving two gold medals. Having dropped down too much weight due to the heavy training, George seeks the guidance of a famous trainer by the name of Siebert in Alsleben, going through strenuous training methods, such as jumping over a table with his feet tied together for over 100 times, or climbing up the tower of a church with two 20kg kettlebells!

Part 4: A Goodbye To Wrestling - A Rivalry For The Ages

After defeating the American heavyweight champion Tom Jenkins in the Royal Albert Hall and winning several bouts in England, George traveled to the United States in order to fulfill the promise of wrestling with a fierce rival, a lightning fast and strong athlete by the name of Frank Gotch, as his lightning fast reflexes would allow him to match Hackenschmidt's superior strength.

Unfortunately, it was during the preparation for their first match that George's training became sluggish and his mental health started to decline. No one knows exactly what led him to "quit" – maybe his injuries and the loss of his coach began to take a toll on him. On the day of the match, Goth was accused of using dirty tactics like excess oil on his body and punching to control the first two hours of the fight. George surrendered in the second half of the bout, realizing that he was fighting a lost battle.

Their second encounter gathered a massive 30,000 spectators on September 4th  of 1911. However, people saw a similar result, with Gotch exploiting George's knee injury early on. This loss marked Hackenschmidt's retirement from professional wrestling, with a 3000-2 record. Yet, it was this very defeat that would spark a new era of greatness.

Part 5: The First Two Brilliant Innovations

As soon as George devoted himself to strength training again, his innovative mind never stopped working wonders. Amongst his greatest discoveries are the Bench Press – pressing 300 lbs the first time he attempted it. This exercise descends from the Supine press, a movement similar to the floor press which Hackenschmidt used to perform by starting off with a pullover. This made the exercise way more difficult – yet George was able to lift 335 lbs this way! This exercise was utilized by many Silver Era greats, as it "tied in" together the activation of the chest, shoulder and tricep muscles, building tendon and ligament strength while allowing for huge poundage to be used.

George's second invention came in the form of a brutal exercise called the Hackenschmidt Squat, better known today as the Hack Squat. The first version of the lift was performed with a barbell lifted behind the back in a similar position to that of the deadlift with the heels raised, first curling the bar to the hip and then lifting it. With this variation being way more difficult than it sounds, George set a record at 187 lbs.

Part 6: The Training Methods Still Used To This Day

Hackenschmidt also established the poundage progression, as he believed that "Health can never be divorced from Strength". His advanced athleticism was proof that weightlifting did not stunt sports performance, thus influencing the modern standard of strength and conditioning used in almost all sports.

George understood early on that specificity is a huge factor in one's training, and thus poundage progression is required for the sake of growing stronger – as well as the fact that stronger and bigger muscle groups require very high intensity to be forced to grow, something that light-weight repetitions cannot achieve. Being one of the first pioneers to suggest progressively increasing the weight to achieve higher strength and intensity, George had this to say about his methods:

"Some trainers recommend to their pupils for the training of all muscle groups one and the same (light) weight and believe they are able to obtain the same effect by frequent repetitions. My experience has taught me that this is wrong, for the muscles of men or animals who are distinguished for certain feats of endurance are by no means over-developed. A long-distance runner or long-distance cyclist always has comparatively thin legs, as have a racehorse, stag, or greyhound. Nature does not act without aim and purpose. Hence there is a great difference between feats of endurance and feats of strength. One must consider that, although it is quite possible to enlarge muscles by certain light, prolonged exercises, at the same time the development of the sinews may be neglected, and it is the sinews which transport the action of the muscles to the bone x frame. The sinews can only be exercised and strengthened by correspondingly heavy muscle work. Besides, to take a paradoxical example, it is quite impossible to improve strong muscle groups, as, for instance, the hip muscles, with light-weight exercises. A further illustration of the fallacy of attempting to develop the muscles by frequent repetitions with the same light exercises may be found in a comparison with any and every other form of athletics, in which a man would never think of merely repeating his training programme. In order to improve himself either in pace or distance, he must set himself a steady progression of arduous effort".

By incorporating the principles he learned through his years as a wrestler, George promoted an increasingly more difficult way of training as the only way to build muscle and strength beyond a certain point – something quite contradictory for his era. He was also a big proponent of improving one's flexibility and mobility alongside his strength, thus securing a healthy and high performing body. This led him to train in creative and varying ways, including the jumps, climbs and outlandish lifts we previously talked about. As a result, he was one of the first people to introduce various exercises for targeting specific muscle groups, including the neck.

Part 7: A Deep Philosophical Spirit and "The Way To Live"

With Hackenschmidt devoting himself to training and writing soon after his retirement from wrestling, we are now gifted with the collection of physical training and philosophy, some of which include "The Science of Wrestling" and "The Three Memories and Forgetfulness". In his greatest book titled "The Way To Live'', the barbell and dumbbell training methods introduced principles like the 5-15 reps per set and progressive overload still used to this day – almost exactly the same way, while the book itself is a complete manual including the proper way to sleep, train, eat and think in order to acquire health, longevity and fulfillment – as well as personal information.

Perhaps the most important fact, however, was that his books made physical fitness accessible to all ages, with countless exercise demonstrations for each body part and limited to no equipment. With numerous illustrations of bodyweight and weighted exercises that stressed every muscle of the body, any person could pick exercises corresponding to his own capabilities and get really good training done at home. Within "The Way To Live'', George put great emphasis on proper breathing and aerobic conditioning to not only enhance one's athletic ability, but also his overall health. In his words: "Run as much as you can and as often as you can. Whenever you come across a hill, run up it… I cannot lay too great a stress upon the great usefulness of proper breathing, by which means we introduce into our system the essential oxygen and discharge a quantity of waste matter."

There's also reports of George hosting lectures in Harvard and Yale on philosophy, debating well known professors on varying subjects. He always treated the body and mind as a union, with one complimenting the other. In fact, he was so admired for his noble and kind character that president Theodore Roosevelt famously said "If I weren't the President of the United States, I'd like to be Georg Hackenschmidt".

Regarding his diet, George always supported eating natural foods and avoiding processed products. His diet shifted greatly over the years, as it's reported that he ate a lot of animal products and meat during his prime – even though the exact amount of meat he consumed is debatable. In fact, he went into a 6 month program under Krajewski where he consumed 5L of milk a day in addition to his normal meals! After retiring from wrestling, Goerge became a big advocate for natural and uncooked food, including nuts, eggs, legumes, fruit and vegetables. He was heavily against the consumption of processed foods, smoking, drinking and sugar, as he believed they were all toxins that should be avoided. Some of his suggestions included eating at a ratio of ¾ plant based food and ¼ meat (including the organs and – if possible – uncooked), while also securing a high protein intake from natural foods like milk, eggs and legumes.

Part 8: A Crazy Strong and Lifelong Athlete

Throughout his career, George set world records in almost all lifts, with highly notable that of the Iron Cross, where George managed to hold 90 lbs in each hand. Perhaps more astounding was the fact that he did all his lifts with strict and near perfect form! One of his most impressive feats was accomplished around 1898, when George managed to get a 335 lbs barbell to his chest and overhead… in a wrestler's bridge, while lying on his neck!

It is perhaps his balanced and active routine that allowed George to stay strong and active well within old age. When asked about it, he suggested the following daily schedule: Rising up at 7am, taking a bath (cold if possible) and drying out with 15-20 minutes of light exercise. At 8am there was breakfast, followed by a long walk until 11am. The main and vigorous training for the day took place between 11-12 am, followed by lunch and an hour of sleep (if needed) at 1:30. At 5-6 pm, George would do the second workout of the day, this one being muscle focused, followed by dinner at 7:30 pm and recreational activities (preferably outdoors) up until 11 pm: bedtime. Lastly, he recommended taking Sundays off, keeping room for a good brisk walk.

More than anything, George stuck true to his teachings until the very end of his life. It is said that even through his mid 80s, George was able to jump over a chair 100 times a week, Bench Press 150 lbs and run 7 miles in 45 minutes! His perseverance to remain athletic provided him a healthy and long life until he passed away in 1968, at the age of 90.

Part 9: The Russian Lion's Legacy

Despite the fact that he stopped his professional weightlifting career at the young age of 25, George put up some incredible numbers, including a 361 lbs Power Clean, a 330 lbs Jerk, a one arm overhead press of 286 lbs and a 280 lbs standard press. During his peak, George weighed in at 204 lbs, with a height of 5 ft 9.5 inch, a 22 inch neck, 19 inch arms, 18 inch calves, a 32 inch waist, a 52 inch chest and 27 inch thighs.

Needless to say, George's contribution to the advancement of physical culture and competitive wrestling is alive to this day. I can hardly find any strength training practitioner that doesn't utilize the Bench Press or the Hack Squat on a regular basis. His revolutionary training methods like poundage progression, emphasis on heavy compounds and well rounded athleticism and recovery shaped today's physical culture – not to mention how Wrestling would have most likely never been the same without his astonishing career.

However, I'd like to argue that his greatest impact came from his writing and his philosophy. By always keeping things simple, George was training in a balanced but intense way, promoting intensity and heavy loads with proper recovery and general athleticism. He proved that anyone can reach their peak self by sticking to the basics, while showing the world the necessity of a physically strong and healthy body for retaining an equally bright mind. 

George truly believed that many mental and physical illnesses derived from a weak body. By inspiring people to get physically stronger, he boosted the willpower and shifted the life of numerous readers and pupils of his for the better. A true pinnacle of what's naturally attainable, George Hackenschmidt was a wrestler, an incredible strongman, a pioneer, an intellectual and – above all – a passionate athlete and a generational role model.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Heavy Weightlifting as an Exercise - By Jim Duggan

The April 1953 edition of Strength and Health magazine contained the usual complement of quality training information.  A casual glance at the Table of Contents would reveal several informative articles that would be of benefit for not only anyone who was training back then, but also anyone who hoists the steel today.  That’s the best part about a lot of these old magazines. They illustrate the fact that quality training information is timeless.  

     In this particular issue, there is an article about “Modern Expander Training,” as well as an article titled “”The Lower Back- Trouble Area” ( it seems that even sixty years ago, people who lifted weights were experiencing problems with lower back pain).  Harry Paschall had his monthly “Behind The Scenes” although he did not have a Bosco cartoon in this particular issue, which is probably just as well since someone would probably find offense with it today.  John Grimek’s “Your Trainng Problems” was devoted to the question of what is the best time to train.  And there were a couple of nice articles devoted to the benefits of lifting for “older people.”  Older is a subjective topic.  Back then anyone over the age of forty was considered an older lifter.  Today we are smart enough to realize that age is only a number.  

     The article that immediately caught my eye was “Heavy Weightlifting As An Exercise’” written by a gentleman named C.M. Douthitt, MD.  Now, I had never heard of Dr. Douthitt before, but the title of his article intrigued me, as does any article that has the words “heavy’” or “weightlifting” in the title.

     The author states that there seemed to be considerable, but unnecessary, fear of heavy weightlifting.  I suppose, back then, that it was perfectly natural to have reservations about lifting weights, especially the use of heavy weights.  It’s natural to be wary of the unknown, and in the early 1950s, lifting weights was certainly not a mainstream activity.  One of the biggest misconceptions was the fear of getting “muscle-bound.”  Today, we realize the foolishness of that sort of thinking.  But back then, it was a common misunderstanding.  I remember, back in 1977 when I was thirteen years old and trying out for my Junior High School baseball team, the first thing the coach told us was that if anyone was on a weight training program, to discontinue it immediately.  No lifting weights.  So, even in the late 1970s, there was still a lot of ignorance regarding progressive resistance.

     “No form of exercise will produce a limit to muscular motion, it is only muscular inactivity that will do that.”  Dr. Douthitt hit the nail on the head with this simple statement.  However, years before this article appeared, Bob Hoffman was extolling the virtues of lifting weights and attempting to dispel the myths of becoming muscle-bound.  

     Apparently, back then there was a widespread misconception that lifting weights would also damage your heart.  Like most false ideas, it picks up momentum when it spreads.  Nothing could be further from the truth, obviously, but I’m sure back then there were a lot of leery parents who did not want their kids lifting weights under the fear of damaging their hearts.  Thankfully, the author took the time to discredit this falsehood.  

     “It is a physiological law that the body tends to adapt itself to do better than that which it habitually does.”  This is the whole idea behind progressive resistance training.  But the author breaks down the idea of progressive resistance in a way which makes it very clear.  “ When you practice weightlifting for a considerable time, “Nature will do all she can to conform the body so that it will become more proficient for this kind of work.”  If you think about it, it makes perfect sense.  As you get bigger and stronger, you will be better able to handle heavier and heavier weights. 

     The good doctor also makes a statement, especially insofar as it relates to drug-free strength training.  “Each individual has a limit to his gain, depending upon his inherited capacities and his persistence.”  I’m sure he did not foresee the proliferation of steroids, but his words carry a lot of meaning.  You can only do the best you can.  Do not attempt to follow the bogus routines commonly found in the today’s muscle magazines.  If you can develop your strength and size to its fullest potential, then you have succeeded.  On the other hand, if you have given in to weakness and resorted to the use of steroids, then you have failed to achieve all that lifting weights will allow you to accomplish.  No matter how massive, or what kind of numbers you put up, you are a bogus athlete.  

     “Much, too, will depend on his diet, rest, sleep, relaxation, avoidance of tobacco and alcohol.  There is a lot of material that has been published over the years about these topics. You will never reach your full potential for strength, and health if you do not practice good habits.  A proper diet and adequate rest is especially important for drug-free strength athletes.  No need to beat a dead horse.  And if you’re foolish enough to smoke then you probably would not get much from this article in the first place.  

     “Even the way an individual thinks has its effect upon physical development.  One who is constantly anxious or worried will have a hard time to gain great strength.”  This is not to suggest that you should go through life blissfully ignorant of everything around you, but there are things that are simply out of your control.  But I think this last quote also underscores the importance of a positive mental attitude.  If you don’t believe in yourself, then nobody else will.  If you approach a heavy barbell without a confident belief in your ability to lift it, then you will probably fail.  Never yield.

     The article ends with the author’s summary of the benefits of heavy weight exercises:

  1. They require relatively little time. 

  2.  Rightly practiced, they promote health, and develop strength and endurance.

  3. Good posture and body poise are improved.

  4. They add to the personal appearance, and self-confidence.

  5. They cultivate self-discipline, fortitude and will-power. 

Anyone who has been hoisting the steel for any considerable amount of time already knows the many benefits of lifting heavy.  But the most appropriate way to apply these points is to adhere to the final two sentences of the original article:  “Like everything else, weightlifting can be overdone.  Let common sense and moderation be your guide.”  These two points cannot be stressed enough.  I’ve often lamented that commons sense is not very common, especially when it comes to strength training.  But, for drug-free lifters, especially older drug-free lifters, common sense, along with moderation, should be foremost among your thoughts when developing a strength program.         


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Does modern bodybuilding make you sick? You should write for Natural Strength! I always need good articles about drug-free weight training. It only has to be at least a page and nothing fancy. Just write it strong and truthful with passion! Send your articles directly to me: bobwhelan@naturalstrength.com

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