Thursday, January 18, 2024


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

It is important to pick the right exercises, but what is needed is the right use of the right exercises. Therefore picking a suitable set and rep scheme is the secret of your success. Arthur Jones once said it only takes one shot to kill an elephant, so therefore he advocated 1 set to failure. A lot of trainees who have had years of experience lifting weights can use the one set to failure with satisfactory results. What is failure is it when your goal is 8 reps, and you get to 8 compete the rep and attempt to move it and the bar edges forward an inch in good form and focus and you are unable to move any more.

 I believe one must first know what set and rep scheme works for them, and this takes time to work out and experiment. Are you suited and can gain from high reps, low reps, and multiple sets? Having trained and spoken to many people who weight train 6 to 8 reps is about perfect for general strength and development. I preferred 15 to 20 reps for deadlifts and squats one set and for the rest of the exercises it was 6 to 8 reps. Calves and abdominals 15 to 20 reps as the calves being so far from the heart needed more reps to encourage blood flow to that muscular area. 

The main reason I preferred higher reps for squats and deadlifts was the heart and lungs had to work extra hard and this suited me greatly for improving my metabolic and endurance conditioning for Australian Rules Football. The result being I rarely suffered injuries. I have always preferred and advocated for people whom I trained to perform 2 to 3 sets per exercise. One warmup set, and two hard work sets. Or one warmup set, and one work set or hard set. Do not wear yourself out warming up, the aim of the warmup sets is to recruit the muscle fibers for one all-out effort.

During my twenties and thirties I had success using the 5x5 five sets of exercise, Reg Park used this 5x5 system often. One can use the same weight each set, and complete five sets with that weight or progressively use more weight each set of five, your lasts set is an all-out effort of five. With this system of 5x5 I only used three exercises per workout, Workout 1# deadlift, dips and dumb bell rows, Workout 2# squats, press behind neck and barbell curls simple, short, and effective. Whatever rep and set range you use; you need to ask yourself did that rep or set range satisfactorily work my body to ensure I get results. Not just a pump but actual results, if we are honest with ourselves, we will know.

Now that I am 72 years young, I vary between normal speed reps of one set to failure and slow speed reps or 8 x 8. Please let me explain the above in further detail. Normal speed is taking 2 seconds on the positive part of the rep under control, and focus with a 1 second hold, and 4 seconds on the negative part of the rep, with a 1 second hold before you start to positive part of the rep.   For example in the seated machine chest press, one takes approximately 2 seconds to push the weight away from the body, hold the weight for 1 second and lower the weight back to the chest taking 4 seconds under control and focus. My goal is 10 reps before I increase weight.

The 8x 8 speed using the seated shoulder press machine for example, I take 8 seconds to raise the weight above my head under control and focus, hold for 1 second at the top and lower in 8 seconds, hold for the count of 1 second and raise again in 8 seconds. With this version of rep cadence obviously I use less weight. My goal is 5 reps before I increase weight. These two versions of reps and speed of reps was an excellent suggestion from coach Bob Whelan, and it works fine, never had an injury.


Just last week in the gym I train at; a young bloke came up to me while I was doing standing barbell curls using 55 pounds for a set of 9 reps and said, “that weight looks hard for you even though it is only light.”  I said to him “It may appear light to you, but it feels heavy to me.” What is important is not the weight used, but the weight you select to use for the exercise that works the targeted muscles, without cheating or throwing the weight about. Therefore using excellent form and focus.

After a planned lay off a week, whenever I came back to training, I always started my weight at 70 % of my final workout weight. I would gradually increase so over two to three weeks I was back where I was before or maybe a bit heavier. I noticed the two weeks when I was using lighter weights with perfect form, I looked bigger and felt stronger. I said to myself is the rest, giving my body a chance to rejuvenate and grow or is it the lighter weight used enabling me to use better form, focus and target the muscles with intensity. Now I realise it was the latter, use a weight that you can lower in 4 seconds, rest a second at the bottom, get it up in a controlled 2 second rest 1 second at the top and lower in 4 seconds.

One of the great experts in weight training was George F Jowett whom I read a lot about. Jowett had an ultra / rugged, muscled shapely body and was athletic to back it up. One of the main things Jowett taught when working with students who wanted to build muscles using weights was: DON’T LET YOUR DESIRE TO LIFT MORE GET IN THE WAY OF YOUR NEED TO LIFT CORRECTLY. One would be wise to learn from Jowett’s teachings.

 I can recall from the very first issues of Stuart Mc Roberts hard gainer magazine , Stuart wrote numerous times that after several years of hard consistent training a drug free lifter of 5 feet 9 inches in height with a muscular bodyweight of 182 pounds  with a 7 inch wrist, should aim for a 300 pound bench press for 1 rep  a 400 pound squat for 1 rep and a 500 pound deadlift  for 1 rep .To achieve these poundage’s in good form is impressive lifting in my eyes.

If you were able to achieve the above at the same bodyweight or even 8 pounds heavier you would be barbell curling 120 to 130 pounds for reps ,   standing barbell pressing 150 pounds for reps , or pressing  66 pound dumb bells overhead with each hand for reps , bench pressing 220 pounds for reps, deadlifting 250 pounds for reps,  dumb bell rowing with 120 pounds in each hand for reps, Using 170 pounds on the lat machine pulldown machine for reps. This is all drug free lifting, for a man who trains twice a week, has a family, and works at a full-time job. Compete against yourself, no one else, remember you will always be as good as most and better than some. Be better than you were yesterday, not as good as or better than someone else.

Stick to the above, continually attempt to lift more weight in good form and focus, and you will need to buy bigger clothes.

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Sunday, January 14, 2024

The Most Valuable Tool In The Training Arsenal - By Jim Duggan

Over the years, there have been many articles written about the importance of keeping a training notebook.  I’ve even mentioned it a few times myself.  If you’re serious about your workouts, then it only makes sense that you should keep a training notebook, journal, diary, whatever name you want to apply to the written records of your workouts.  

     I’ve been recording my workouts from the time I was a teenager.  Fortunately, at that time, most articles and books devoted to lifting encouraged people to log their workouts.  I’m glad that I followed the prevailing advice of that particular time.  I’ve benefitted greatly from keeping track of my workouts.  Being able to look back and review training sessions has proven to be an invaluable asset not just for me, but for countless lifters over the years.  Probably the only disadvantage is the accumulation of all these notebooks!  They take up a couple of large cardboard boxes, and while non-lifters may classify these books as clutter, I can’t help but think what will happen to all these books when my time on Earth has passed?  I’ve considered contacting my local congressman and inquiring if the Library of Congress would be interested.  Perhaps I should start my own library of lifting, I certainly have enough material between my books, magazines, and training notebooks.  Enough speculation, this article is about training notebooks.

     There is one important point that I would like to make.  The title for this article came from my good friend Steve Weiner.  A couple of weeks ago, on New Year’s Day, I texted him a picture of my most recent training logs.  One from 2023, and the new one for the new year 2024.  Kind of like saying good-bye to the old, while welcoming in the new.  Only there were no celebrations, no confetti, and Guy Lombardo definitely was not playing Auld Lang Syne ( for you younger readers google Guy Lombardo to find out about his association with New Year’s Eve).  Anyway, when I texted the attached picture to Steve, his response was classic: “ The Most Valuable Tool in the Training Arsenal.”  Truer words were never spoken!  Luckily Steve, like me, was taught at a young age to record his workouts, and agrees with me about the importance of maintaining a written record of lifting sessions completed.  I think many readers will agree with Steve’s assessment of training notebooks and their importance.

     As you can see by the picture, I prefer to use a daily planner.  I just like to keep things organized by date.  The are many other effective- and cheaper- alternatives.  The most basic approach would be simply using a notebook that you can purchase from any office supply store.  It doesn’t have to be fancy, that’s for sure.

     When I trained at Bruno’s, Larry used to use a simple spiral notebook.  There was one member of Bruno’s who took it a little further.  This guy was an older lifter, about ten years older than Larry, and he was a competitive powerlifter for a while.  He was well known because he used to bring his own, personal Olympic bar to the gym.  He drove a van, and would have the bar in the back of is van and bring it into the gym and use it.  Nobody understood exactly why he did that, since his personal bar was the same, exact bar as the ones used in Bruno’s ( York ).  This guy liked to draw attention to himself, and I guess that was reflected in his approach to his workouts.  In addition to his own personal bar, he would bring his training notebook with him, and carry it from exercise to exercise.  His training journal was a large, blue loose-leaf notebook, like the ones we dreaded in high school.  He would make a big show of sitting down after every set, opening up his notebook, putting on a pair of reading glasses, then jotting down his most recent set.  He would then place the book down with great care then proceed with his next set.  It seemed like a carefully choreographed show, to say the least, and we used to get a kick out of it.  I mean, he could have simply just remembered his poundages, or at least remembered the warm-up sets without writing them down.  What a rip!

     This brings me to an important point.  Just what SHOULD you write down in your training journal?  My answer to that is that there is no wrong answer.  Obviously, you will enter your exercises, poundages, sets, reps.  That’s self-explanatory.  You can also comment on the relative ease or difficulty of each individual set.  For example, Bench Press 315, 3 Sets of 10.  First set easy, last two hard.  Or all three sets easy, time to add weight.  You get the point.  

     Some guys like to record the reps that they didn’t make.  I never liked that approach.  I’ve always felt that a training notebook should only reward those reps which are completed satisfactorily.  Missed reps don’t deserve to be recorded.  Obviously there will be those who adamantly disagree with me, and that’s fine.  

     There was a time, when I was trying to gain muscular weight, like most young lifters.  During this time, I would also record my meals that were eaten that day.  Additionally, I would also write down those supplements that were consumed during the course of the day.  Needless to say Desiccated Liver used to appear regularly back then!  Seriously, if you are trying to gain or lose weight, keeping track of your meals and your caloric intake can be of great assistance in making sure you reach your goals.  

     I have heard of some lifter who even take the time to record their resting heartrate upon waking up in the morning.  Their reasoning for this is that since an elevated resting heartrate is a sign of over-training, it makes sense to keep track of this important marker.  Again, it is a matter of individual preference.

     As for recording your weight, if you are trying to add or drop some weight then it wouldn’t hurt to track your bodyweight.  However, if you are going to do so, I wouldn’t do it every single day, since there will inevitably be variations.  Maybe weigh yourself two or three times per week?  And obviously make sure you utilize the same scale for each informal weigh-in.  Using a bathroom scale one day, then using a Toledo gym scale another day is a good way to drive yourself crazy.

     Many Olympic weightlifters used to record the total amount of tonnage lifted in each individual training session.  The theory being that it is easy to measure your progress by comparing total tonnage from workout to workout.  I even tried doing something like this a few times.  It works well with the lifts.  But when it gets to assistance movements, especially dumbbell exercises, then it gets increasingly more difficult to get an accurate picture of your progress when tonnage is the only yardstick.  

     The most important part of utilizing a training notebook is that it allows you to look back and compare yourself at various phases of your training.  If you are preparing for a contest, then you can look back at old journals and compare your progress.  When I was competing, I felt it was very important to “check the numbers” at various times throughout a training cycle.  It is especially important for drug-free lifters because of the inevitable days when the weights “feel heavy.”  Those doldrum days when you just don’t have it can be compared to similar workouts for the purpose of getting yourself out of a rut.

     If you are serious about your lifting, then do yourself a big favor and make sure that you take advantage of the most valuable tool in the training arsenal.  You’ll be glad that you did.

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