Monday, November 13, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, November 1, 2023


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

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

From Brad Steiner

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

End of written words by Brad.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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




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

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

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

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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:

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Vintage Bodybuilding Literature
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