Thursday, June 26, 2008

Size Increases With The Rack - Anthony Ditillo

Anthony Ditillo

Size Increases With The Power Rack, Parts One and Two
by Anthony Ditillo

Part One

When mentioning power rack training and its relationship to the increasing of muscular bodyweight and muscular size, we must mention the discretionary habits necessary for success in this type of training venture. Since power rack training uses the deepest lying fibers in its functioning training scope, it stands to reason that it will be very easy to overtrain while using the rack. To avoid this is not as easy as at first it may seem. There is something contagious about power rack work which invades your soul and you are apt to go overboard while working on the rack with the end result being a decrease of performance potential and a lack of bodyweight and muscular size increase. You simply cannot overtrain on the power rack and expect to continue to make gains. You will have to learn to meter out your training enthusiasm when working on the rack if additional muscle size is what you are going after. Also, the generally accepted theory of working the sticking point, the hardest position of any exercise you do. does NOT apply in this case, since we are not particularly interested in the sole acquisition of power, but more into gaining than much desired powerful, bulky physique with body size and massiveness being paramount in our considerations.

One method used in the rack for the acquisition of size and strength is the Theory of Maximum Fatigue. For lifters, it aids them quite quickly to increase their lifting performances. For the bulk fanatic, such a training method will aid you in gaining additional size throughout the entire body. You would have to go a long way to find a more effective method for gaining useful muscle size. This Theory of Maximum Fatigue will enable you to utilize and develop the size of the deepest set muscle fibers, which would otherwise lay dormant with the sole training methodology used being basically accepted exercise performances.

Since you will be training to gain in muscle size, the set and repetition scheme will have to be updated for the use of a size seeker, not merely a power seeker. This means that the repetitions will be somewhat higher than previously accepted. Let us use a repetition scheme of between six and eight repetitions. The number of sets for each section of each movement will depend upon many factors. Take into consideration the total workload and evaluate the amount of rack training from that point. Naturally, if you are going to depend solely on the rack work, then you will be able to stand more volume of work done in the rack. If, however, you wish to combine rack work with regular movements, then the overall amount of the rack work will have to be reduced in order not to overtrain yourself to a point of nervous exhaustion. This can, and has happened to many an overenthusiastic trainee. It is very easy to overdo this kind of training due to the likeability of the performance of basic movements with extremely heavy weights. Finally, we must take into consideration the previous experience of the trainee before assuming this training methodology. Naturally, the more experienced the trainee, the more he will be able to handle without becoming completely exhausted.

What I would advise you to do is surmise just how much work you will be able to realistically handle and formulate your training routine around this fact. As time goes by, you will be able to add a set here and a set there, and as long as the gains are coming your way you will know you are on the right path. With a little patience and some thinking on your part you will find the right amount of work which will work for you personally. In this and my next article I will outline for you various schemes utilizing the power rack for size increases.

The first rack routine I am going to outline for you will be a basic, three-day-per-week training plan with emphasis on the power rack. This fundamental routine will allow the majority of you fellows to begin to get used to rack work and will allow you to also begin to grow from its application. Further on down the line, as it becomes harder and harder for you to continue to gain in both size and strength, I will outline more advanced methods of using the power rack which will require greater effort and training time, but which will aid you in continuing your aims and goals of increasing size and strength.

With this first routine we will have to be interested in the amount of work as well and the intensity of this work, since we do not want the intermediate trainee to become overtrained for this is a real consideration in the beginning of any intense weight training program. Later on, after the trainee has become used to such workloads, he will be better able to adjust his volume suitable to his training energy and level of recuperative ability, which is as it should be for continued progress. Up until this point, however, do not deviate from the foregoing introductory routine. Try to be regular in your training habits and in your living habits, for these play a major part in achieving your goal of adding muscular bodyweight. Also, do not add anything to this routine, save some calf or abdominal work done for a few sets at the end of each workout, but not to any great extent.

Here then is your primary three-day power rack routine:

Full Movements –

Bench Press:
One set of ten repetitions for a warmup, then a set of seven with heavier weights, then a set of three and finally three to five single attempts with around 90% of your one repetition limit. Finish up with four sets of four to six repetitions using all weight possible.
Bentover Row:
One set of ten for a warmup, then jump to five of so sets of four to six repetitions with a heavy weight.
Parallel Squat:
One set of ten for a warmup, one set of seven, then work with a weight hard for five sets of five repetitions.

Power Rack –

Bench Press:
Use three positions. From the chest, midway, and lockout. Perform three sets of between six and eight reps for each of these positions. On the last rep of each set, old and push against the top pin for around six seconds. This will activate the deeper muscle fibers, and the higher rep scheme will cause greater muscle pump.
Power Squat:
Use three positions. Form the bottom, midway, and from a quarter squat position. Perform two sets of between six and eight reps from each position and be sure to push against the top pins on the last reps of each of these sets. Your parallel squat will surely improve from going this route!
Deadlift From Below The Knees:
Go for six or seven sets and work up to a maximum set of three with all the weight you can properly handle. This movement will greatly strengthen your lower back as well as building great deadlifting power and confidence.

Power Rack Work Combined With Full Movements -

Incline Press:
Five sets of between five and seven repetitions using a fairly heavy weight.
Bench Press:
Press from the sticking point in a power rack using five sets of threes and working up to a maximum set of three repetitions. This movement will immediately increase your bench pressing ability.
Leg Presses or Front Squats:
Four sets of six to eight repetitions. Use a heavy weight, one which makes you work, and work hard!
Power Rack Squat:
Place the bar at your sticking point and stand up with the weight from a deadstop for each and every repetition. Go for five sets of threes, working to a maximum triple.
Shoulder Shrug:
Five sets of eight to twelve reps, using a very heavy weight, pulling the bar as high and as fast as you possibly can. The weight should be so heavy that you MUST use straps.

With this first routine we have been interested in coupling full movements with partial movements in order to maintain a necessary maintenance of lifting ability as well as well-roundedness of muscle structure and flexibility. While the brunt of the work will be done in the rack, there are also corresponding movements used in which standard barbell exercises have been utilized to bring about the desired results. The combination of these two types of training procedures should enable you to gain in an all-around way without losing any basic muscular qualities which were originally developed through standard exercise methodology. As you can see, if you look over this routine most carefully, it is quite complete in its training volume and intensity, yet it is not as severe as some of the other rack programs which I will be outlining for you in my next article, which you will be able to incorporate with time and persistence. I have coupled the full movements with the rack work so as to incorporate the good points of both systems of exercise, and to utilize the best that both have to offer. This is a most complete way to fulfill your aims.

Upon further consideration you will discover that the smaller muscle groups have been given adequate work to carry them through this intensive training period, yet the brunt of the work has been placed on the large muscles of the shoulder girdle, legs and hips. This is so that the amount of size gained will be put in the right places with the bodyweight going all over the entire body, giving it a well-rounded look with symmetrical development being the end product. This workload is also suited for increasing body power and this is another basic requirement of any weight gaining routine – for it makes no sense to gain additional size if this size is not accompanied by additional power. By working the major muscle structures of the body quite hard you are guaranteed to build usable power along with your increased physical size. The arms and calves will grow somewhat, from the intensity and volume of work placed on the larger muscle structures.
As long as we work the basic muscle group exercises the hardest with the most consideration, the smaller groups will coast along and go for the ride, so to speak.

In my next installment I will endeavor to outline for you a few of these more complicated, more demanding power rack routines.

Until then – work, and work hard!

Part Two

Of all the types of training available to the trainee today, to me, none is more important and beneficial than work done in a power rack. If the same trainee is trying to gain muscular bodyweight while working in the rack, gains will come to him all the faster. This is due to a multifaceted situation which encompasses rack work in general. First of all, the use of the rack for heavy partial repetitions is just about the most severe form of overload possible. Also, this severe overload training will force the trainee to gain useful bodyweight, due to the stimulation of the deeper muscle fibres and the overall stimulation to the muscular system and the metabolic system such heavy workloads bring with them.

I have never met a man who trained on the power rack for any length of time who has not gained greatly in size and strength and since this article deals with just this same goal and situation, you can be sure power rack training will aid you greatly in your quest for additional size and strength. This goes along with the theory that the proper diet will be followed during this training scheme. Without the proper diet, size will just not be possible to develop. You need the proper diet to maintain a positive nitrogen balance to stimulate bodyweight gain.

Just as there are a multitude of movements you can perform on the rack, so too there are quite a few different methods of using the rack for best results in gaining bodyweight. It would seem at first that the basic training theories which powermen follow for gaining power would also help you in gaining size, but this is not always the case. If it were, we would have no smaller men in the lighter classes, since they all would have outgrown themselves before they were through competition. Gaining bodyweight and size with a power rack will require somewhat of a different repetition and set scheme than what is customarily used for gaining power in the body. For one thing, the set scheme is decreased somewhat and the repetitions are increased to stimulate more muscle fibers into growth contraction.

We should also mention at this time the ability to couple various movements together for he pumping effect, and the growth effect such a coupling will produce. For regular power rack work, this would be out of the question, since the main idea would be to gain in strength, not bodyweight. However, in this situation, you will be trying to cause the muscle groups to respond with additional growth and so the inclusion of two or more movements for the same bodypart, both full and partial, will be of utmost helpfulness and availability.

It is possible to combine various partial movements in a rack with full movements done in the standard way, with the end result being a thoroughly congested, fully worked and pumped up muscle. Another way of combining these two distinct types of training is to work in the rack once or twice weekly and for the other workout do full movements. This way both types of work will be adequately used with enough training time and volume of workload to produce most favorable results, given enough time and sweat.

The following routine is advanced and will be performed in four days per week training. It will require a sound nutritional basis for complete success. You are going to be expanding immense amounts of nervous and physical energy and the end product is meant to be increased bodyweight as well as increased power, so be sure to maintain a sound diet. If at all possible, try to find the time each day for a half-hour nap, or a few fifteen minute breaks throughout the day. Also, try to maintain a tranquil mind, a positive mental attitude toward the amount of work you are going to have to do, because there is going to be plenty of it to get used to.

We are going to couple the movements so as to maintain a fine balance between partial movement proficiency and actual lifting finesse, but in this routine the rack work will be of optimum importance. The free movements will be only for muscle stimulation and not for the acquisition of strength. For this, we will depend on the power rack. I would also advise additional stomach work on the off days when you are not training on the rack, so as to strengthen the abdomen and maintain a trim waistline while gaining in size and power. I would not advise any additional barbell work beyond the amount of work I advise here in this routine. If given a chance, it will prove to be most complete within itself. Here then, is your four day routine:

Monday and Thursday

Partial Standing Press:
from below the chin to the top of the head. Perform 8 sets of 5 to 7 repetitions, working up to a maximum of 5 repetitions. On the final rep of each set, push against the top pin for 6 to 8 seconds.
Bench Press Lockouts:
from three-quarters off the chest to lockout. Perform 6 to 8 sets of 4 to 6 repetitions with the last set being the heaviest weight you can handle for 6 reps. On the last repetition of every set push against the top pin for an additional six to eight seconds.
from below the knees. Perform six to eight sets of three repetitions working up to a maximum set of three repetitions on the last set.
five to seven sets of eight to twelve repetitions using bodyweight as resistance and later adding weight behind the neck.

As you can see, this first half of our four day routine is quite complete in the amount of work performed for the chest and shoulders with additional work being included for the lower back region.

Tuesday and Friday

Partial Squat:
position the bar at your sticking point and work up to eight sets of three to five repetitions, using all the weight possible for the final set of five.
Front Squat:
perform between five and seven sets of three to five repetitions with the final set being the heaviest weight you can properly handle in strict Olympic style.
Bentover Row:
perform five to seven sets of six to eight repetitions using all the weight you can properly handle.
Cheat Barbell Curl:
five to seven sets of six to eight repetitions using all the weight possible, slowly lowering the bar on the lowering part of each repetition.
Close Grip Bench Press:
perform five to seven sets of five to seven repetitions using all the weight possible for each and every set after warming up for the first set or two with a somewhat lighter weight.

What we have tried to do within this routine is to activate the deepest fibers with an overbalance of rack work, while at the same time adequate amounts of work are included for the adjacent muscle groups so that muscle shape is maintained. We have made sure that this power work in the rack would be sure to carry itself over to the regularly performed movements, so we have even included the close-grip bench press to maintain a certain amount of bench pressing familiarity. Coupling this with the heavy partial bench presses in the rack should cause not only size gains but a carrying over power effect as well. For the squat, while we have not included the actual full squat, we have concentrated on the sticking point of the movement in the rack, and it would take a very short time to acquaint our muscles back to the competitive manner of squatting with the back log of work which we have performed here in this routine. Let us not forget that the front squat is quite a leg developer, and I am sure by including this movement along with the sticking point squat the effect on the power squat should more than make itself felt. Since the sticking point in the deadlift for most people is just below the knee, we have concentrated on this position for our rack work on the deadlift. To be sure, your deadlift will increase with enough training time and patience. If you check out the routine more closely, you will see that the number of sets have been increased in comparison to the first routine I listed for you earlier, and it is just this increase in workload which will make you more advanced and better conditioned by the time you have fully adapted to this routine.

Upon graduation of this routine you will be ready for an advanced power rack routine. When this conversion time comes around I want you to first and foremost get yourself set for the most demanding and severe type of work you have ever asked your body to perform. Be sure that the dietary end of your lifestyle is most complete, for you will need all possible energy at your disposal to enable you to further yourself along the goals and aims of this article. The kind of work you will be doing will be the hardest and most tiring of all.

This routine will require five training days per week. Before undertaking this routine, reread my past articles concerning rack work and the theory of maximum fatigue. Most men will shy away from this routine saying it is too intense and voluminous for the average man to make gains on. THEY ARE RIGHT! This routine is not for the mediocre lifter, but until you allow yourself an honest attempt at such a routine you will never know just how far your particular potential will take you. Besides, you will be trying to gain weight and eating in quantity with this routine, so it will not be as hard as it may seem at first. Just give it a solid try and see how your progress comes along after the first six weeks or so.


Partial Press in Rack:
press from he clavicle to eye level. Perform ten sets of three to six repetitions, using the heaviest weights possible and pressing against the top pin for six seconds on the last rep of every set.
Eye-Level Press in Rack:
press from eye-level to completion. Five sets of five to seven repetition
Steep Seated Press:
place a deeply inclined bench in the rack and press from pins set at clavicle height. Perform five to seven sets of five to seven repetitions
Seated Press Behind Neck
Perform five to seven sets of between five and seven reps.

Half Squats in the Rack:
perform eight sets of three to five repetitions from halfway to completion. Do each rep from a dead stop off the pins. Work up to very heavy weight.
Quarter Squats in the Rack
perform five or so sets of three to five repetitions with extremely heavy weight. Many years ago I handled over 1.000 pounds in these for a few repetitions while weighing around 230. No wraps. Place the bar at the midpoint between parallel and upright. This is the quarter squat position
Olympic Back Squat:
perform five to seven sets of five to seven repetitions working up to a max set of five each workout. These are done outside the rack wearing no belt and no knee wraps.
Front Squat:
five to seven sets of five to seven reps just as in the back squat above.

Upright Row:
five sets of five to eight repetitions done outside the rack.
Shrug Pulls:
perform these in a rack and place the bar just above the knees. Use a shoulder width grip and use lifting straps. Work for eight to ten sets of six to eight repetitions using very heavy weights.
Deadlift Below Knee:
once again you are in the rack. Perform five of so sets of three to five repetitions working up in weight.
Stiff-Legged Deadlift:
do these outside the rack. Five or so sets of three to five repetitions working up in weight.


Bench Press:
outside the rack, work up to eight to ten sets of four to ten reps working to heavy weight with repetitions done slowly and strictly.
Close-Grip Benches:
outside the rack, place two fingers inside the knurling and perform five or so sets of four to six repetitions.
Dumbell Bench Press:
work for five sets of five to seven reps with the heaviest weight you can possibly handle.
Bench Lockouts:
these are done in the rack, using a rep scheme of three to five and working for five sets with a heavy weight. The bar is placed on pins just above the halfway point and pressed from here to completion.

eight to ten sets between eight and twelve repetitions, adding weight whenever possible.
the same as the dips above.
Full Squats:
no wraps and no belt, five sets of eight to twelve repetitions.
five sets of three to five reps working up to a heavy triple.

As I mentioned earlier, this is quite a routine! Do not be afraid of it, nor become too complacent in your attitude towards it. It WILL work if it is coupled with intensive dietary consideration, rest, proper mental attitude and TRAINING BELLIGERENCE. Work your way into it very gradually and see what you can do with it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Carlin Venus Interview - Bob Green

Carlin Venus Speaks on Training with Ahrens, Davis, Reeves and Others.
Interview by Bob Green

As luck would have it, I ran into an old friend of mine, Carlin Venus. Carlin is a ‘tiny’ little fellow who around 270 pounds to this day. A former bodybuilding champ, weightlifter and pro wrestler, he had forsaken the posing dais for the pulpit and gone into the ministry. Meanwhile he had become a physical therapist and a health educator. Quite a variety pack. Make no mistake, this man of letters is a man of iron. I’ll never forget what happened last year at my gym. We had a guy in there that was big, had awesome power to go with it and was quite a sports buff, but you never met a more rapacious cynic. This fellow had overheard Carlin and I talking about some of the old-timers we had known in the game and had trained with. This guy kept circling the area between sets and scoffing at the stories – bulling his way around the gym expressing his ‘doubts’ about the truth of these tales openly.

One day Carlin drove up to the gym after a business meeting and had just walked in when our friend started cranking on him again about some of HIS accomplishments. Carlin laughed good-naturedly and then eyeballed a pair of old 135-pound bells stashed under the dumbell rack. He smiled at our friend and asked him if he could lift one of them with one hand. Before the guy could even get out another smart remark, Carlin cleaned one of the bells to his shoulder and began nonchalantly pressing it all over the place while carrying on a conversation with me. People in the gym stopped what they were doing and stared in disbelief. He hadn’t even warmed up and here he was, wandering around in his street clothes talking to me while he pressed the old bell over and over, like it was nothing. Needless to say, the gym cynic let us be after that.

Carlin: Remember Bomber Kokavich – Sandor Szabo? Argentine Rocca? I wrestled them. Lord Blears, Baron Leone ( I could still see him jogging along the beach when I was a kid). We did pretty good. I eventually got out of it, but my brother kept at the wrestling game for some time afterwards. I went into the ministry and he kept travelling all over the U.S.A. During our wrestling days we often could only train intermittently due to all the travel. But we had developed a good foundation and when we trained we would follow the idea that Grimek projected, the 6-3-1 rep scheme with increasingly heavy weights. This kept our power and size up. That way you only had to workout once a week to stay in some semblance of condition. Years later, at 36, I decided to make a comeback in my training and got into the best shape of my life. Isn’t that wild? 36! You see, if you have the foundation it lies dormant waiting to be rekindled. It must have been a wrong era for me, because personal commitments once again precluded my entering any real big contests. I’m kind of sad I didn’t, but I know what it is to win a contest and I know what it is to lose. When I was younger I entered a lot. Leo Stern got me into plenty of contests. Yet it was all fun.

Bob Green: When you were at Bruce Conner’s gym in West L.A. you didn’t see anybody using steroids, did you?

Carlin: Oh, nobody did over there back then. This was the early to mid-sixties, so we knew about them, but none of the animals there were taking them. Far from it. These guys were healthier than anything you could imagine. The way Charlie (Chuck Ahrens, Carlin’s training partner) and I felt, if you wanted more steroids . . . just eat more meat! After all, the beef was so loaded down with that junk for breeding and raising. Hahaha, we determined one time just how much was being pumped into chickens and beef at the time and it blew our minds. I guess you could say that we were on steroids. Indirectly. I mean, we got a big laugh out of that, but there was something to it. Now I feed my family only meats and poultry I know isn’t tampered with. The only thing that got to Charlie, I think, was all that paint thinner. He was a house painter, you know.

You know, another thing Charlie and a lot of the really big, powerful guys I knew really believed in was the power of sleep. In fact, it was a real crack-up with Charlie. He’d even sleep right in the middle of the gym if it was time! Can you imagine? Hahaha . . . I’ll never forget. Guys like Sidney Sheldon and other movie producers and moguls would come into the gym and have to step over Charlie who might have decided to take a noon nap near the door. I mean, if it was time for a nap, it was time. Everybody was cool, though. They respected Charlie and didn’t disturb him. After awhile no one thought anything of it.

Bruce was one of those rare gym owners: he loved strength so much he allowed Charlie and I to do some stuff, you know . . . try things with heavy weights and drop them if we couldn’t get the lift. Of course, we had an area to do this in, but a lot of gym owners go nuts if you drop weights. Sometimes you couldn’t even hold the weight because there wasn’t anyplace to grab it. For instance – we would have 325 lbs. on a dumbell. We did a lot of heavy dumbell work. But 325 on this dumbell and it took two guys to hand it to him! In some lifts he would say that he couldn’t do it if two guys handed it to him, so I’d have to hand it to him by myself!

It was one thing getting the weight to him to start, but at the end of the set he would yell for me to grab it. Forget it! It was freaky just getting the weight in position to start, let alone spot him!!! I’d have to do a cheat-clean to my knee, then set it on a bench, get it ready and ask him if he was ready for one big concentrated effort on my part to get this darn thing in position so he could do a lousy set. Can you imagine how hard it was finding guys to spot us?

So after jockeying the weight in position I’d yell, “You got it?” and this is what would blow your mind – he’d yell, “Yeah!” and then proceed to press this 325 lbs. with one arm for 3 or 4 good, clean reps!!!

I thought I could get up there, too. I mean, I trained with John Davis years before in San Diego at Leo Stern’s and now in L.A. with Ahrens and I was always hitting it with these super strong guys. I never did max out with my one-arm DB press, but I could do reps, seated, with 210 pounds, which I thought was pretty good. I did a side press with 265. The 265, by the way, was not a bent press so it became a world record. I had actually beaten the world’s record by 15 lbs. in the side press and it was notarized in front of witnesses. The bad thing about practicing the side press is it gives you obliques which you don’t need for the V-shape in bodybuilding.

Bob Green: Yeah. In a way, it’s almost like doing heavy side bends. Yet, for lifting, the powerful obliques really help!

Carlin: I had never had large obliques and once you get them they are very hard to get rid of. Lot of power though.

Bob Green: Tell me more about your early training at the beach in San Diego with Leo Stern.

Carlin: My brother had actually started out as a boxer and used weights to help him there. That was unheard of at the time. He became the heavyweight champ in the San Diego area as well as that part of Southern California. I was younger and more into weights. He weighed between 190-200 pounds at the time and I could press him overhead with one arm on any given day.

I learned to do stunts like that from some of the old time weightmen around the area. Frank Shofer taught me that particular trick. He was a great big guy and was a tailor. He had to be! I studied muscle control from the time I was 11 years old. I’d spend hours every day on that. I won a contest that Clancy Ross and Leo put on and even beat Ed Jubinville.

Another guy that would come into the gym was the great Isaac Berger. One of the premier weightlifters of all time. So I could press 210 ten times with one arm – so what! Here was a guy who was pressing double bodyweight, and he looked like a muscular, little guy. Front squats with 400 for endless reps. He weighed 132 and would press 265! I looked at this guy’s body and wondered what he had. Well, he had big glutes, thighs and traps, but his arms were small . . . huge traps and very heavy back development. Other than that you’d swear he couldn’t lift a thing. A great guy, too.

It seemed that all through my training career I was surrounded by guys who were super-human. Of course, that spurs you on to greater heights. During tough times I actually lived in Stern’s gym. One day John Davis came in and ended up living down there too. John Davis was the strongest lifter in the world at that time. Funny thing, he had small hands, but was able to lift the Cyr bell and do many other phenomenal stunts.

So here I am training with the strongest guy in the weight game. I was just a 19-year old kid. Training with Davis got my squat up to 500 for reps. Milo Steinborn had the record at the time at 550 pounds, so I was getting close. Of course, John Davis worked up to 550 just in his training, but didn’t specialize on the squat.

Another guy that trained with us was Bill Lorantz, the featherweight lifting champion. George Eiferman would come into the gym, too, and he was super strong: 250-300 seated press behind neck and the whole bit. In those days, if you weren’t strong, there was no use in having a body. That’s just the way it was. All the top guys had a claim to fame in the strength area or in an endurance feat that involved above average strength. Even Steve Reeves was stronger than people gave him credit for. I know. I trained with him. During lean times he slept in the gym too.

I think the guys that live in cold weather climes, or states that have real winters appreciate this more. We were originally from Michigan and usually had to have heavy clothes on; at least long-sleeved shirts. So, the strength was more important most of the year. I hadn’t seen many great physiques until we moved to California. Just in the magazines. What good was it for sports and work if you didn’t have any power?

I remember even in high school, the coach really frowned on weights and would actually lecture my brother and I on getting muscle-bound. And I would ask him why I had just won the 440? And I’m throwing the shot put at the same time. He used to brag about me to the coaches at other schools. “Hey, I’ve got a shot putter that runs the 440.” I even ran the hurdles regularly. I would at least try to compete in every track and field event. He would tell me I was doing pretty good and I would tell him it was the weights. Boy, his ears would burn. He hated weights, I don’t know why, but most coaches did until the late 60’s.

He would harp on the old bit that I was going to get muscle-bound and ruin his chances at a winning track team. Finally I got so ticked-off I practiced muscle control ten times as much and gave an exhibition at my school. The coaches wanted to know how I could be so flexible!! “Weights,” I told them, over and over. I then went out for wrestling and wrestled the Pacific Coast champion, and finally the coaches left me alone. I beat the champ once and he beat me twice. His name was Jimmy Hansen.

You know, it’s funny. I’m 52 now and I did that one arm press for six reps with the 135-pound dumbell and can do 6-8 reps with 300 in the bentover row, and I hardly have a chance to train these days. The weights give you a heck of a foundation. I don’t think any of us have ever reached our maximum potential.

A prime example was John Davis. If he’d been able to compete against Alexeev or Rachmanov he would’ve kept going. But he was a very encouraging guy; always a good word for one of us in the gym, and he really kept me going with encouragement. Never negative. That was one of the keys to his success. One time I told him I felt really rotten and didn’t feel like training. He told me he didn’t feel like training half the time anyway, laughed, and we proceeded to have one of the best all-time workouts. He told me he had to psych himself up for almost every workout, but once he got going he loved it.

Davis would always warm up very lightly; never lifting heavy to start and not until the last few sets of a given exercise. He would always start with 135 on the Olympic bar. By the way, he never had injuries. At least not when I knew him. He would take this “light” bar do some high pulls, cleans, squats and all kinds of stuff. You thought he was never going to get into his real workout. Then, and here’s the mind blower, after this extensive warmup he’d go over and take a nap! He’d go to sleep! He’d go over to the ab board and crash.

While he was relaxing he’d psych up and picture the next lift in his mind. Visual imagery. He would picture the lift completed in his mind. He would start with a weight he could get 6 reps with and then add weight each set while dropping the reps down to singles. After each heavy or near-maximum lift he would go lie down again. Charles Ahrens would do almost the same thing. I understand Nubret does too. I got to thinking – there must be a common denominator here. Something to do with the endorphins produced by the brain.

Something was happening with these guys, because there strength was almost inhuman. Davis once told me that if I ever watched Olympic lifting champions they were always leaning against a wall or lying down with their feet propped up. The policy is: you never stand if you can sit – and you never sit when you can lie down. You never should lie down unless you can go to sleep. I asked him why and he said it was very simple. You need to conserve your energy for those tremendous lifts.

Bob Green: what was the most significant form of supplementation that worked the best for you guys back in those days?

Carlin: We had the old Hoffman proteins and a couple of other brands. Sometimes I would take a third of a can a day to bulk up. If I didn’t have my regular supply of goodies and my protein drink, I would try something that turned out to give me better gains than anything else I ever tried – grapefruit juice and around 200 brewers yeast tabs a day. My weight shot up, energy was max and I made solid size gains. The grapefruit acted as a catalyst.

I was hardly eating at the time and the brewer’s yeast gave me enough calories and protein (combined with the one or two meals a day I was eating). After about four weeks of trying this my bodyweight dropped down to 212 pounds from about 235, but my size was up and that’s when I started all these lifts that I did so well. Of course, my one main meal a day was a smorgasbord and we’d clean out the joint. As big as Charlie and I got, you’d think we ate all day long. Charlie would eat three squares a day and hit the raw milk, but no more than that. Me? It was the smorg or two regular meals and those yeast tabs with grapefruit or grapefruit juice. Man, I made terrific gains then.

We told the poor owner of the Smorgy that we were only ‘training down’ and it was a good thing we weren’t trying to get bigger. I think he thought about giving us passes to the little cafe across the street. Charlie was tipping the scales then at a trim 325. You know, my brother and I wrestled a lot of guys in our time and for several years were the tag-team champs of North America (the Venus Brothers), but when he met Charlie he couldn’t believe it. My brother said Charlie was the biggest, widest ‘mass of humanity’ he’d ever seen. Bar none. And we’d been all over the country and in every little nook and cranny where some big boys come out of the mountains.

It’s funny how incentive works. I was working at Bruce Conner’s as a therapist when I saw Charlie doing these 180-pound concentration curls and side lateral with the 150’s. That ‘s what got me going again. I hadn’t trained in years. This was around 1965. It’s amazing what your environment can do. The funny thing was that Charlie had been inspired by some lifting exhibitions I had given when he was just in high school. Now he was the one getting me going.

I kept asking him how he did it, maxing out with such awesome power. He said, “Think it.” I’m convinced that the most powerful tool is THE MIND. You see? Davis said the same thing. Of course, heredity plays an important part, gut you still have to work for it.

Bob Green: Before I sign off I would like to list some of the accomplishments this unsung hero of the weight game accomplished. Many of these feats were done at age 36 after a layoff of more than ten years due to Carlin’s ministerial duties and such. Carlin feels that auto-suggestion, more so than self-hypnosis, and a positive outlook are the real keys to progress. Here is a partial list of his accomplishments:

Situps with 320 pounds behind the neck for several reps.

Good mornings with 395.

Deadlift – 625 for 12 reps.

One-legged squat with 305.

One-arm dumbell press with 210 for 10 reps, either hand.

Full squat with 705 for 2 reps, 765 for a single.

Press from the racks with 475 for 2 reps.

Strict barbell curls with back against the wall with 245.

Reverse curl with 205.

Handstand presses with 175 pounds around the waist for 6 reps.

Walked one half mile on his hands.

78 strict dips done cold, off the street when Bruce and Al Hinds were having a contest one day. 43 dead-hang chins immediately after.

Ran the mile at a 212 pound bodyweight, after a workout in 5 minutes, 25 seconds.

All of the above were done at age 36 and notarized in front of witnesses at Bruce Conner’s gym.

Here’s a guy who says the above lifts were nothing when compared to Chuck Ahrens – who could do this stuff, according to Carlin, “cold.” He’s humble. I had to really draw this stuff out of him. An old article by late, great writer Ray Van Cleef tipped me off. I had known Carlin for years and had no idea he was the same guy Van Cleef touted as being the next Mr. America in the mid-50’s. At that time he’d won the Mr. San Diego, Mr. YMCA, World’s Greatest Muscle Control Artist awarded by Leo Stern and Clancy Ross, winner of the Symphony of Strength in 1949, the guy you would have read about in Strength & Health that did the one-fingered chin, the guy that did bent-arm pullover and presses with 440 while entering the high jump and getting a clean six-foot jump in competition while still in high school. I could go on and on.

Before I finish I must relate a bit I left out earlier in the story when his coach had admonished Carlin for lifting weights. He went out to the track and ran a 100-yard dash BACKWARDS in 11.2 seconds.

Muscle bound, eh?

Shoulders - Charles A. Smith

Clevio Massimo

by Charles A. Smith

We all admire broad shoulders – whether we have built them ourselves or even if the tailor puts them there. Looking at wide shoulders often gives us the feeling that we have something lacking. It might be that our muscular strength leaves much to be desired, or our physical appearance is way below par. Broad shoulders have always been accepted as hallmarks of the strongman. Strength and width of upper body are synonymous. It is generally recognized that wide shoulders often depend upon the length of the clavicles – or collar bones. It could also be said that the power of that region more than depends upon deltoid development. Your shoulders might well be wide, but if the triangular shaped muscles which “cap” them are deficient in development, then your spread of the upper torso means nothing.

I shall never forget the powerful appearance of Ronald Walker – one of the all time greats of the weight world. His back and shoulders were truly titanic. The deltoids were each as large as a baby’s head. They appeared to jump in one huge wave, right round from the front of the chest – where they met – to the back of the neck and the trapezius muscle. As all other champions do – Walker had his favorite exercise for deltoid and shoulder development. I will quote this exercise further on in the text.

The only man I have personally seen who tops the musculature – pure muscle – of Walker, is Melvin Wells. This man’s development is in the “no such animal” class. You just can’t believe the evidence of your own eyes when you see him. Nothing which can be said about Melvin does him justice. Far beyond the power of this poor pen to portray, a personal appearance, or a good physique shot, is necessary to give you a fair idea of the truly impressive grandeur and majesty of Melvin’s muscular definition and development. Wells has obviously worked more than “somewhat” to gain such terrific body sculpture and definition – altho the latter quality is, with him, a product of his weight work. Strength is what Melvin possesses, not only of the deltoids, but of the whole shoulder region. Again we have an athlete who favors a certain exercise – in this instance it is the alternate dumbell press, or to call it by its other name, the see-saw press.

The deltoid is one of the body’s most curious muscles. It can stand an amazing amount of work – as the muscles of the forearms can – and it readily responds to the resistance of weights. Functioning on its own, it is limited in amount of poundage. Used within a group of muscles – with the triceps, serratus magnus, etc., truly impressive poundages are raised overhead. The deltoid is fully contracted and functional when the arms are raised at an angle of 90 degrees to the body. Above that angle, other muscles are called into play and a partial or full rotation of the shoulder blades occurs. As its name implies, it is a triangular shaped muscle, and it is itself divided into three portions – the anterior, the lateral and the posterior deltoid. Each of these three subdivisions of the deltoid need special attention.

To the Olympic lifter, the deltoids have special significance. In the old days of the strict military press, when the athlete had to keep the heels together and with the arms shoulder width apart – and the body strictly upright throughout – the main pressure or resistance was thrown directly on the lateral deltoids, those right on each side of the shoulders. However, with the evolution of the present day Olympic press, the anterior and posterior parts of the muscle gradually played a more prominent part. The wider hand spacing and the pointing of the elbows forward made the lifter use the anterior section more, and then further advances were made and it was discovered that a weight could be kept moving past the so-called sticking point – by rocking it back into the fingers and allowing the barbell to travel in a backward direction over the head – and so the posterior section became an important part of the press. Thus it behooves all Olympic men to strengthen the whole of the deltoid.

With the bodybuilder, the muscle we are discussing is just as important as it is to the Olympic lifter. In the far of days of weight work – ten years ago – people were more impressed by spreading the lats or bulging biceps. It is no longer sufficient to have good arms and/or back to be labeled excellent. The would-be Mr. America must possess ­all round development. It naturally goes without saying that of all the muscles of the upper body, there are none that can set off a physique, give the finishing touches, as can the deltoids.

The following weight movements can be used by both Olympic lifters and bodybuilders. They are unorthodox in the sense that they are rarely used because they entail the output of a heap of energy. They are exercises which are hard but which will more than repay the time spent in performing them correctly. Some are dumbell movements and others barbell, but all of them are guaranteed to provide an increase strength, shape and endurance – three qualities which are requisites.

The Olympic man will find an increased power in starting his pressing weights from the shoulders, and in carrying his presses to a successful conclusion. His jerks will pack more dynamic quality – the space on which he rests the bar when he has cleaned it preparatory to jerking the weight will have more sustaining strength. The weight will feel lighter, will give him confidence to take the weight overhead in a smashing climax of power – in short, he will be a better lifter.

The bodybuilder is by no means in the back of the picture. There lies in front of him a glorious path to powerful and yet more powerful training sessions. The inclined presses, the bench work he makes so much use of, the various deltoid inducers he uses to develop his physique, will seem productive of commonplace results alongside of the exercises he will now be using.

Before I quote these deltoid developers, I will emphasize that they will not be subdivided into Olympic and bodybuilding exercises. These movements can be used by everyone and to an all embracing benefit. These are strenuous exercises and are not for those of you who think there is an easy path to power. If you are willing and able to work hard, then they are for you and success will attend your efforts.

Exercise One.

Take a weight equal to your best press. Jerk it over and behind your head so that it rests on the shoulders as if you were about to perform deep knee bends. With the hands spaced one or two inches wider than shoulder width, jerk the weight to arm’s length, and then slowly fight the weight all the way down until it rests on the back of the shoulders again. Make every effort to lower the weight as slowly as humanly possible. As soon as the weight touches the shoulders jerk it overhead again and then repeat the slow fight against the weight until it rests on the shoulders once more and repeat the jerk and lowering. Commence with 4 sets of 5 reps and work up to 4 sets of 10 reps before increasing the weight by ten pounds and starting again with 4 sets of 5 reps. Again I will repeat – lower the weight as slowly as you can. This exercise was a favorite of Ron Walker and it was his opinion that not only did it increase deltoid development, it also improved jerking power. He also held that lowering a weight was twice as beneficial as jerking it there.

Exercise Two

With a weight you can comfortably handle 8 to 10 reps, perform the press behind neck – but of course there’s a difference. These presses are performed while seated, and with the hands spaced right out to the collars. Seated and with such an extremely wide grip it will be found hard to start the weight away from the shoulders, but by testing one’s capacity one will soon find a weight suitable as a commencing poundage. Important points to be remembered – don’t look up at the weight and don’t enable yourself to lean back. Keep the body upright at all times while using this wide-grip seated press behind neck. Begin with w weight you can comfortably handle from 8 to 10 reps, 4 sets. Work up to 4 sets of 15 reps before increasing the weight ten pounds and dropping the reps back to 8 or 10.

Exercise Three

This exercise is a favorite with the great strength athlete, Sig Klein, and I first saw it used in his gymnasium some few years ago. With a dumbell held in the hand, lie full length on a bench or on the floor. Stretch the arm along the side of the body so that the hand holding the dumbell rests on the hip. Lock the elbow and then raise the weight until the arm is upright – pointing straight up and forming a 90 degree angle to the body. At all times keep the elbow locked and do not bend it. At all times keep the palm of the hand facing to the feet and down at the start of the exercise. Commence with a weight you can handle comfortably for 3 sets of 10 reps and work up to 3 sets of 20 reps before increasing the weight by 2 ½ pounds and dropping back to 3 sets of 10.

Exercise Four

This is another exercise in which the muscles are worked eccentrically. With the same weight you used to perform exercise three, load up two dumbells. Press them overhead and then slowly lower them out and down until the arms are level with the floor, forming an angle of 90 degrees to the body, resembling a cross. Hold them there for a slow count of 2 and then raise them to arm’s length overhead and repeat. This exercise must be performed slowly so that the full benefit is obtained from the muscles resistance to the weight. Commence with 4 sets of 8 reps and work up to 4 set of 12 before increasing the weight of each dumbell 1 ¼ pounds.

Exercise Five

In this exercise, cheating is out. The best method of doing the movement is with the back kept flat against a post or a wall and refusing to allow the slightest sway of the hips forward or the smallest hollowing of the lower back. A particular tendency will be found as you try to squeeze out the last two or three reps. It is then that you must concentrate every effort to keep as upright a stance as is possible for you. With a barbell loaded up to a weight which will permit you to correctly make 8 to 10 reps, slowly raise the weight until it is at arm’s length straight in front of you at shoulder level. Take a count of 2 before lowering to the hips, and then repeat. Start off with 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps and increase reps until you are able to make 3 sets of 15. Don’t cheat with this exercise.

Exercise Six

This last movement is designed to give you increased sustaining power in the anterior deltoids. Take a weight equal to the one you use in exercise five. Take the weight to arm’s length overhead. Keeping the back at all times against a wall or post, slowly lower the barbell until it is at arm’s length and at shoulder level. Take a 2 count here and then raise it again to the overhead position while keeping the arm’s straight. From arm’s length overhead, lower it slowly again and repeat. Commence with 3 sets of 8 reps and work up to 3 sets of 15. Don’t forget to let me know how you are progressing. I am entirely at your service.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Training Proficiency Simplified - Anthony Ditillo

Training Proficiency Simplified
by Anthony Ditillo

A few days ago the two owners of my gym and I had a very interesting discussion concerning the fellows training there and the seeming lack of gains they made recently, though all of them were training regularly for quite some time. We came to the conclusion that the men who looked pretty good, when compared to the average guy, looked that way for the most part two years ago when my two friends took over management of this gym. In other words, these guys looked the same as they did two years ago. And they had been coming in six days a week and training for close to two hours each day for all this while.

Now something must be wrong. But what could that something be? All these guys ate pretty good, most of the time, and many of them were taking protein supplements to supposedly aid them in their gains. Yet they were not growing in size or strength nor were they becoming leaner or more muscular. A few of the other guys did gain muscular bodyweight but they were no stronger at the heavier bodyweight.

So, in reality did these men gain anything either? And if the truth was that they did not, then that meant that the majority of the men training at my gym for the last two years were simple maintaining what they already had. Ad this mere maintenance was taking twelve to sixteen hours per week training time, not to mention the additional time to and from the gym and the added expense of food and supplements. Something was definitely wrong and something had to be done to help whichever of these men had the ears to hear and the mind to decipher what had to be learned.

After much debating on the subject we came to some pertinent conclusions which I shall pass on to you in this article, for these mistakes are the very same mistakes the majority of you are making in your training, and that is likely why you are not progressing as far and as fast as you would like to. I am sure if you take the time to read and reread what I have outlined here for you and apply it, the results will be pleasing.

First and foremost, the major mistake you men are making is incorrect exercise style. You simply will not perform the movements correctly. In the beginning, when your body is not used to much in the way of physical exertion, any lifting, no matter how incorrectly performed, will increase the muscles to a certain degree. But this will not continue forever. There comes a time when all such progress will come to a halt, unless you cut back on the excessive cheating and heaving, lighten the poundages somewhat and begin to actually feel the movements.

Muscles do not just grow overnight and they do not grow in response to vague stimulation. In order for the muscles to greatly increase in size, you have to place direct, intense demands upon them. Intensity can either be obtained through performing as many repetitions per set as you humanly can, using heavy weights, or you can increase this intensity by decreasing the rest time between sets thereby performing more work in a shorter period of time, or you can greatly increase your training volume and neither decrease your training rest periods or perform any set to maximum burnout and still increase your intensity due to the great increase in volume. All three will work. As my coach used to say, “There is more than one way to Rome.”

You men with heavy bone structures will undoubtedly enjoy using rather heavy poundages and forcing the reps to the max, burnout for each set. Your heavier constitution will allow you to do this and still recuperate, while the lighter-boned man will probably enjoy further success by greatly increasing his workload for each muscle group and performing each exercise slowly and strictly with great concentration. Both will work for either type. And no matter which style you decide upon you must remember to perform the exercise movement with correct, slow, grinding repetitions in order for the muscle fibers to receive the growth stimulation they need to further respond.

Every time you bounce a bar when doing any kind of press you are robbing the pressing muscles of the very thing they need to further respond. You cannot increase muscle size by working the joints using excessively heavy weights with heaving, thrusting movements, since such exercise style will totally neglect the muscles and favor the tendons and the joints and this throwing and swinging around heavy barbells will not increase muscle size to any degree. Your repetitions, whether high or low, should be performed with great control for best results. I mean great control on both the raising and the lowering in these kinds of movements done for this purpose. The lowering is just as important as the lifting, for they both work hand in hand in increasing your muscular development.

I would also suggest that you attempt to make any movement a full range movement. What sense does it make to use an exaggerated wide grip on your pressing movements when this wide grip will actually decrease the length of the movement and the amount of contraction that can take place? If all you wish to do is to show how much weight you can lift, such techniques might be excusable, but if you desire to build muscle size such antics are a complete waste of time.

I would advise all of you who seek to increase muscle size to use a medium stance when squatting, with no wraps of any sort until you can perform six to ten repetitions with double your bodyweight in this style, and only then begin to use knee wraps, belts, suits etc. By this time the muscles will already be large and strong and the lifting aids will enable you to quickly increase your limit poundage for a single rep, should you care to see just how you compare to lifters in your weight class. But for increasing your muscle size, use a medium stance and do not use wraps.

Another movement which many of you fellows are performing incorrectly for the results you seek is the bench press. In fact, I would venture to say that for the most part all of your pressing movements are done with the same silly mistakes. First, you try to use weights far too heavy to be used correctly and your style is actually an eyesore to behold. Why would you want to use a collar-to-collar grip on the bar when this wide a grip will undoubtedly sooner or later injure your shoulder joints due to the unnatural stretch and strain such a grip implies. The wideness of the grip will also cut down on the length of the movement to such an extent that it will only be half-performed. And half movements done with a bounce and kick will get you nowhere fast in the muscle size department.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to simply use a medium grip and weights light enough for you to PRESS and not PUSH or THRUST to completion? Do you think that the top powerlifters of today got their strength and development from continuously cheating in their competition movements? Well, if you do think that, then you’re wrong. For the most part, especially during the off-season, these men are doing lots and lots of heavy bodybuilding/assistance movements and this means relatively lighter weights, higher reps and strict, slow, correct exercise form. This, combined with the heavier power movements, is where they get their size from. It works for them and it can work for you if you have the sense to try it.

In ALL your pressing movements use a medium shoulder width grip on the bar. Your muscle size will increase and the development will go hand in hand with greater usable strength. Use a repetition scheme that goes somewhere between six and ten for the most part. Use as many sets as are necessary to thoroughly congest the muscles before going on to the next exercise or bodypart. These repetitions should be done slow and steady with continuous tension on the muscles being worked for best results.

I notice a lot of you performing your pulling exercises entirely wrong for what you desire. What sense does it make to do a bentover row with weights so heavy it looks more like an exaggerated deadlift than a row? You are supposed to feel the movement in the lats and somewhat in the biceps, but most of you complain of feeling this movement mainly in the lower back. This is because you are ashamed to use 135 and slowly work up to a heavier weight, so you load the bar up and away you go, jerking and pulling the bar around like you’re engaged in a wrestling match with it. You’re NOT supposed to fight with the bar, you’re supposed to exercise with it.

Another movement almost always done incorrectly is the seated cable row. Why do you use so heavy a weight that you have to use every muscle in the body just to get the movement started, and in reality the arms are bent to such a small degree that the lats are barely utilized, it at all. For the most part, the lower back and the hips get the brunt of the work when done in this style and is it any wonder that your gains in lat size don’t come around with such a foolish way of performing the thing? Why not lighten the weight and keep the torso inclined to the front, kept stiff and tight as a support, pull with the arms and upper back and perform enough reps to fully work and congest these areas? Doesn’t this seem to make more sense? Who cares how much weight you can’t use properly? Are you actually interested in developing muscle size?

Your dumbbell work also gets adulterated somewhere along the line. You perform lying flyes as if they were dumbbell bench presses and fail to see your purpose in doing the exercise. There is no sense in doing flyes with a weight you can barely press. And the dumbbell bench presses are no better. Most of you do them with such a shortened range of movement, quickly work up to the 100’s and are confused when no development results.

When performing dumbbell laterals for the shoulders, why do you use such heavy weights that the movements are nothing more than rapidly swinging up and down with no hope of or attempt to control them on your part. Do you think that if you can swing 50 lb. dumbbells you are going to increase your shoulder development? How can you, when you would have a hard time using 30’s, done slowly and correctly. You have got to reach a point in your exercise where the muscles are taxed to the limit. This is intensity. You can get to this point with light weights and higher reps or you can get to this point with much heavier weights and lower reps. It’s up to you. But you must reach this point! What most of you do is try to stay away from this point by cheating through the movement and the discomfort. This is your basic mistake and you are avoiding the very event which will give you what you want. You are trying to avoid muscle fatigue, and you cannot obtain much in the way of continued progress without this fatigue. You can’t have one without the other.

Some of you try to cheat your way to continued improvement. Some of you fatten yourselves up as a way of getting heavier and thereby obtaining larger size and, inadvertently, heavier poundages. Some of you do absolutely nothing and remain absolutely same, year in and year out. And what I have tried to do is to show you some simple examples of your precious self-deceit.

You guys who are trying to ‘bulk up’ had better take a long range look at what you are trying to do, for the majority of you will end up only fattening up and in five or so years will be trying to lose this now-precious, then-excess weight. You can get much heavier and less muscular – at the same time. You can overeat and look bigger and more massive to the eye, but with your shirt off the truth comes out. You are smoother and filled for most part with fat and water.

I would advise the majority of you to follow a high-protein, high-carbohydrate, moderate-fat diet for most of the training year. Eat small meals throughout the day so as not to tax the digestive system to any great degree. Figure out your ideal training weight and simply determine the amount of food you consume to maintain this weight without too much difficulty. If you add more to this amount, do it in small increments and wait for the results to show, and here I am talking not to underweight beginners, but to intermediate trainees.

Work your muscles with your training until they are thoroughly fatigued and train each bodypart as frequently as you can and still recuperate from the exertion. Train as long as you can and as often as you can, keeping recuperation in mind. Pick a repetition scheme that your mental attitude and body can tolerate. Perform each and every movement with proper form, with no exaggeration in the performance and let the training poundages take care of themselves, and they WILL increase in time, providing you do not bounce, or cheat, or heave . . . you have nothing to lose but your mediocrity.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

My Training Philosophy - Jon Smoker

My Training Philosophy
by Jon Smoker

My basic philosophy concerning the iron game is that it should be used as an adjunct to help slow the aging process and prolong one’s life. After all, the main cause of accelerated aging and a shortening of one’s life span is an improper lifestyle. Any weightlifting devotee can tell you that his favorite hobby and a destructive lifestyle do not mix.

If one is to succeed at lifting weights as opposed to just piddling with them now and then, one must first of all not train heavy all the time. It taxes the joints too much and does not train the cardiovascular system. A well-rounded weight program should always include some phases (if not all the time) where the trainee is using lighter weights, higher repetitions and non-stop workouts, so that the body gets a rest from heavy lifting and receives life supporting cardiovascular work. Running, too, is a good addition to this type of training. In fact, for the person who merely lifts weight to improve their health, this type of training would not be bad year round, as long as some variety in the exercises and workouts was used.

Of course, exercising with weights is not an end in itself for improving one’s health. When someone constantly tears muscle tissue down from weightlifting, the proper nutrients must be taken in or the rebuilding process will not be complete. The kind of diet which seems to fulfill this requirement best is one comprised of natural, unprocessed foods (fruits and vegetables, preferably raw), rich in fiber, free from salt. sugar, caffeine and other irritants, containing a minimum amount of fat, including that found in red meat, and plenty of water.

One must include plenty of rest. The body cannot be torn down constantly from lifting and then not given time to recuperate without it eventually breaking down in some capacity.

All of the above require discipline, or the effort to arrange one’s priorities in such a way as to maximize the possibility of achieving whatever goal it is that the individual has set for himself. And this bringing to order of one’s lift should also include the effort to minimize stress. One cannot be successful at lifting weights when there is too much stress in their personal of business life. And there are many methods available now to minimize stress, whether it be through meditation, self-hypnosis, yoga or something else.

Minimizing stress is integrally related to the other four items. If one has an ordered lifestyle, gets plenty of rest, eats properly and does cardiovascular exercising regularly, the management of stress becomes much easier. In fact, the five items combined represent a basic formula that most health experts would recommend to avoid heart disease, minimize the chance of contracting cancer and promote the longevity of one’s life.

Enter the competitive lifter. I there any place in this little scenario for him? Naturally, it depends on what branch of the iron game one is talking about. I think there can be no question that natural bodybuilding does have a place; and notice that I used the word natural. If one’s stated goal is to increase the possibility of longevity, it would seem that any drug, foreign agent, irritant – whatever you want to call it – would be counterproductive to such an end. And I am sure we are all familiar with pictures of natural bodybuilders, particularly those in age group competitions who appear to be glowing examples of good health. And it is no illusion. If they are eating properly, and they almost have to be, then they must fell as great as they look. One need look no further than John Grimek for a perfect example. Although chronologically he is at an advanced age (1984), he still works out and has enough physical conditioning and vitality to put men half his age to shame. The editor of this magazine is another good example. After a lifetime spent in the iron game, he is still vigorous enough to be editing this magazine full-time, although he is at an age when most people have retired. Personally, I find such examples very inspiring. They certainly take some of the chill from the thoughts we have of growing old, thoughts we are taught to dread by popular culture. They are living proof that old age does not have to be dreadful at all. It need not be feared because it can be just as productive as any other period in our lives.

Now, what about powerlifting? I certainly have a vested interest here, being a competitive powerlifter myself, and I think the answer is a qualified yes; it can be an aid in the quest for longevity, depending on how the sport is approached. If the athlete is totally obsessed with winning and throws all caution to the wind, then, unless he comes from an incredibly strong hereditary background, I think it is safe to assume that he will not be lifting much past thirty, let alone into middle age. But, it the athlete sets modest foals for himself and is patient with minor injuries, choosing to work around them instead of through them until something breaks or snaps; then, I believe powerlifting is compatible with the stated goal of this article.

You see, I have believed for a long time that up to a certain point, which varies for each individual, the body gets stronger as one gets older, well past 40. In fact, I can remember when Gordie Howe came out of retirement to play hockey again around 45, he remarked that his reflexes and timing had slowed, but he felt stronger than when he was younger. I think it has something to do with accumulated life stresses. If one has encountered a normal amount of stress in one’s life, and has been able to overcome it, then the accumulated effect is that one gets stronger. Thus, the task of the powerlifter who wants to prolong his career is not so much to push and push, but to not set up obstacles in the way of this natural force coming though his body which continues to get stronger.

Whenever one has a nagging injury, one should work around it. If, for example, one has a shoulder injury that bench pressing aggravates, one should cut way down in the amount of weight used or eliminate bench presses altogether for awhile. Then, experiment with various shoulder exercises from different angles, use the ones that do not irritate it and work toward rehabilitation. This is what it means to work around an injury. You will be amazed at how much of your strength will be maintained in the meantime. I have used a program like this and found that I could go to a competition and still press 95% of my best. It does not take that much to maintain that kind of percentage. It is getting that last 5% and more that requires a lot of hard, heavy lifting. Eventually the injury will work itself out and you can begin heavy training again. It just takes thought and patience.

Now, is this not preferable to working it to the point where the rotator cuff is damaged and requires surgery? Apparently not if one is only concerned with winning. This is what lifters mean when they say listen to your body. It will tell you when it wants to move forward and when certain parts need a rest. And, if you listen to it carefully enough, you will find an inexorable movement toward greater strength. Powerlifting is dotted with examples of what I am talking about. Ernie Frantz comes immediately to mind. I have heard him say more than once that he pays attention to the stiffness of his joints and that will indicate when he can train really hard. And so his career has been checkered with ups and downs, but inevitably, when his body is ready, he still hits personal bests sometimes, even though he is now approaching 50.

I think it is also quite important for the powerlifter to take time off for “working-rest” periods, as I like to call them. This would be a time when the athlete takes a few months off from heavy lifting. While the younger lifter can get away with doing nothing and pull it back together, I think it is a mistake for the older lifter to become inactive during these phases. He needs to get out and engage in other sports that he likes and engage in some light bodybuilding. That way, his body has a chance to heal up from heavy lifting, but the muscles do not atrophy form lack of use.

No matter how many precautions one takes or how sensibly they might train, there will come a time when progress stops and Father Time catches up. What then?

At that point the lifer must make a decision to retire and lift weights for the fun of it, or compete in age group competitions. Thank goodness there are such tournaments for those who don’t want to quit! And those who choose to go on lifting must begin to look at things in a relative fashion, rather than in terms of progress: “How am I doing in comparison to other lifters my age?” Or for a real ego boost, in comparison to the average person their age. Or, in a particularly good year they might be able to compare how they are doing compared to last year, rather than twenty years ago. After all, isn’t that what competitive lifting is always ultimately about anyway – setting realistic goals for oneself and then striving to achieve them?

When a person hits the point of “no return” surely varies each individual, depending on their genetic background. And so we witness a person like Jim Lem, who is still making progress in his mid-50’s. In fact, I think that theoretically a person might come along who will be able to make progress right on into old age. If their genetic background were strong enough I do not see any laws of physiology that would prohibit this from happening in some rare individual. It is a law of nature that if enough stress is applied to a muscle and it is given sufficient rest and nutrition, it will respond by getting stronger. Thus we see a few powerlifters over 60 who got into the game late who progress. Whether of not they could be stronger than they were when they were younger had they gotten into lifting when they were younger is for now a moot point, until further evidence comes in.

All I know is that I have been in the game long enough to see some amazing things – people crippled from polio or paraplegics lifting impressive weights – to come to an unshakable faith in the indomitability of some human spirits. They have overcome physical defects, loss of limbs – why not old age? Consider Curd Edmonds, who made a lifetime (and world) record of 117 chins at age 67, and Roy Mason, who made a 529 deadlift at 148 when 64 years of age.

What about longevity and the third branch of the iron game, Olympic lifting? Here we have a horse of a different color as success in Olympic lifting certainly depends on many athletic qualities that seem to diminish as middle age approaches, such as flexibility, speed, timing, reflexes, etc. It is also a sport notoriously hard on the joints, especially the knees. It is no wonder that in communist countries they have the expression, “You die for the Olympics.” It is not meant to be a sport of longevity. It is meant to be a one or two shot deal, and that is usually just what their athletes are once their careers are over – shot. But, basically, the Olympic lifter will have to make the same decision that the powerlifter of bodybuilder has to make; what to do when progress stops. Once again, thank goodness for the age group competitions which allow Olympic lifters to go on competing.

In conclusion, I have to admit that I have a secret admiration for the “garage” weightlifter, the guy who is content with not to project his ego onto a weightlifting platform or posing dais, a guy who merely lifts weights because he enjoys it and knows it is contributing to his overall health, I guess, here we are in the area of quality of one’s life. Competitive powerlifting enriches my life in a way that nothing else quite does. Those brief moments on the platform seem to allow me to transcend all the grief and misery and stresses that life can sometimes throw at a person, and maybe lifting even gives me a vision of a Higher Power. To me, it is a little bit of heaven this side of earth. Yes, it is always a bit of a religious experience for me as I am always praying that I will not get hurt and that through God’s grace I might be able to impart a little inspiration into the lives of the few people who follow my career.

In the end it is a calculated risk. It is always in the back of my mind that sometimes I might experience a debilitating injury, that for health reasons I would be better off not competing and pushing myself. Yet, some of us have egos that force us to dare to be different, to strive to do things that the average person cannot and maybe in doing this inspire someone, or uplift them to do greater things in their personal lives. But, does this quest necessarily have to be mutually exclusive of a long and healthy lifespan? If one puts enough planning, patience and common sense into their lifting career, hopefully not. And I am glad this desk is made of wood because I am knocking on it, for a little bit of luck is the final ingredient that never hurt anyone, regardless of their goals in life.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Deadlift Training - Tony DeFrancisco

Deadlift Training, Technique and Lifting Styles
by Tony DeFrancisco

Like the squat, regular heavy deadlift workouts will do wonders to develop total body power. Bodybuilders need only look at the fantastic back development of Mr. Olympia winner Franco Columbu to realize what deadlifts and power bodybuilding can do. Another good example is four-time world powerlifting champion John Kuc, whose back development borders on the unbelievable.

In talking to many powerlifters and bodybuilders who do not deadlift I have found two different rationales – those who avoid the deadlift like the plague for the same reason they avoid the squat ( HARD WORK), and those who damn the deadlift due to slow or no gains and/or have suffered injuries due to improper application of the lift.

It has been my observation and opinion that the vast majority of lifters train the deadlift incorrectly. They overtrain by taking two to three deadlift workouts a weekly, generally working up to heavy singles at least once per week, followed by heavy rack lockouts, and then their problem is further compounded by paying no attention to proper technique.

Technique? What technique? Isn’t the deadlift the simplest of all movements? After all, all you have to do is bend down and pull and hope that you can finish, right?

Wrong? Dead wrong! It’s this type of thinking that is responsible for so many lifters having trouble increasing their deadlifts and suffering chronic back injuries. First of all you have to understand that the deadlift is the easiest exercise to overtrain on due to the poundages that can be lifted, which in turn place a lot of stress on the entire body – the lower back in particular. Also, there is an enormous amount of physical and mental energy used.

The program that follows enabled me to make more gains in four months than I had in the previous three years. The strength gain (over 70 pounds in four months) was not nearly as important to me as the health gains I made. Prior to starting on this program I was advised by my chiropractor to give up weight lifting permanently or suffer permanent back damage, to the point where I would eventually need surgery. Understand that he was referring to weight training in general – heavy lifting and any competition was completely out of the question. The upshot of the whole story? Not only did I make tremendous gains on my deadlift, but those agonizing lower back pains disappeared, plus the twice weekly chiropractic adjustments were no longer necessary.

I believe the two key exercises to my program were the extended deadlift (a.k.a. box deadlifts) and heavy good mornings. These two exercises created a surge of blood from my lower back all the way down to my buttocks like no other exercises could. I will get into the actual program a little later.

It is my contention that no lifter, except the rank beginner, need practice the deadlift more than once or twice per month. Incidentally, I made my biggest gains in the four month period mentioned above when my training consisted entirely of assistance exercises. The only time I performed the regular deadlift was in meets. The beginning powerlifter needs to practice the conventional deadlift more frequently in order to assess the technique that is best suited for him.

Since I have short legs, the best style for me is legs very close together (almost touching), hands just outside the knurling, legs in a parallel squat position with my knees just over the bar, back perfectly straight and head tilted upward. I begin the lift by simultaneously pushing down with my feet (mentally I imagine myself pushing my feet right through the floor) and pulling with the back, not the arms. As soon as the weight goes past my knees I throw my head back as far as possible which pulls the shoulders up and back and lock out. Always remember that you will never complete a maximum deadlift if you look down. When you pull your head back you make maximum use of your trapezius muscles. Hence an easier and stronger lockout.

A variation of the above style is the hump back style. This approach decreases the distance that the bar has to be pulled. The disadvantages are that it is harder to get your shoulders back and it does not lend itself well to some body structures.

Another style, probably the most popular and most used by lifters, is hands and feet spaced about evenly apart (about shoulder width). The disadvantage here is that most of the pressure is placed on the back.

Finally, the last style, which on the surface seems to be the most practical and safest is the sumo style. Here the feet are placed wide apart with the hands close. This movement substantially decreases the distance the bar has to travel but is also harder to lock out since the hands are so close together.

So, there you have the four most practiced deadlift styles. Which is the best for you? There is only one way to find out – P-R-A-C-T-I-C-E.

Regardless of which style you find yourself best suited to, always remember the following points. Keep the head up, knees over the bar, hips low and bar against the body. Proper technique can make the difference and help you to avoid injury.

Your mental attitude will also determine whether or not you make a lift, especially in getting the bar off the floor. You have to think success at all times before and during the lift and have a firm conviction that you are going to complete it. The deadlift is definitely a psychological lift and your attitude can and will make the difference between success or failure.

Setting Up a Training Program

My philosophy is different from most lifters in that I prefer higher reps (6’s, 5’s and occasionally 3’s). The time for lower reps is a few weeks before a maximum lift. Lower rep training will help you acquire the motor skills needed for maximum single rep performances and build confidence. Bodybuilders who want to follow this program should realize that singles and doubles are not necessarily required.

Following is the training program that gave me the best results to date. This routine was done twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays right after my power rack bench workout.

1) Power Cleans – this exercise simulates the motion of the deadlift with the added advantage of speed and explosion (very important for maximum deadlifts). The turnover at the top develops the traps and the lighter than deadlift weight helps prevent overtraining.
135x10 (dead hang, first set only), 186x6, 205x6, 225x5, 250x2-3 (only occasionally when the feeling of extra strength is there), 205x8 or 185x10 depending on energy levels.

2) Extended Deadlifts – done on a platform 6 to 7 inches high, bar should be on toes at the start of the movement. I regard this as the best power-building movement in the book. This exercise works the muscles deep down the lower back and glutes and offers a fuller range of movement than the regular deadlift. Since less weight can be handled it is possible to train this lift twice a week without burning out.
135x15 (10 bent-legged, 5 stiff-legged), 225x8, 335x6, 425x6, 455x6, 335 or 385x10.

3) Extended Rowing or Pulley Rowing – extended rowing is like extended deadlifts – done on a platform, wide-grip pull to chest.
135x8, 155x6, 185x6, 205x5.

4) Shrugs – Pull shoulders up as high as possible and roll back and then down.
135x12, 185x10, 225x6, 275x6. 275x6, 315x5.

On Tuesdays and Fridays after squats I would do heavy good mornings. My performance is as follows: Bar high up on the neck, feet wide (same stance as squat), bend knees slightly, bend over while keeping the head up and back straight, go down to parallel position and come up.
135x8, 185x6, 205x5, 225x5, 245x5.

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