Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Hard Work On Basic Exercises
by Bradley J. Steiner
I happen to believe that Reg Park is the best example and single representative of what proper training with weights can do for a man. He's got everything: huge, almost superhuman muscles, the strength of the most powerful competitive lifter, and the perfect, well-balanced physique that one sees on Greek statues in museums. Whether or not you agree that Park is the Greatest -- if you've seen him, then you've GOT to admit that he's good, to say the very least. OK. so who cares about my opinion anyway, and what in heck does this have to do with how you can get the Herculean build you're after?
The best physiques (and Park's is one of 'em), were all built by hard work on the basic, heavy duty exercises. There are NO exceptions to this statement. Even easy-gainers who (like Park) build up very easily, never get to the Hercules stage without the ultimate in effort. Park worked up to squats with 600 pounds, behind the neck presses with 300 pounds, and bench presses with 500 pounds! Hereditary advantages or not, Park sweated blood to earn the massive excellent physique that he has. And so did every other human Superman whose muscles aren't merely bloated, pumped-up tissue. The problem of WHAT these basic exercisers are, and HOW HARD one must work on them for satisfactory, or even startling results, is one that every bodybuilder, at one time or another during his career, is confronted with. This month we're going to solve the problem.
To begin, let's sift through the thousands of possible exercises, and variations of exercises that confront every barbell man, and set down a principle by which the trainee can determine the BEST among them; those upon which he should be concentrating his best efforts. Here's the principle: An exercise is worthwhile if it allows you to use very heavy weights -- brings into play the BIG muscle groups -- and causes lots of puffing and panting.
From the simple formula stated above, it is quite easy to see that fully eighty or ninety percent of the exercises followed by most barbell trainees do not come up to the standards required for maximum physical development. Concentration curls, Hack squats, lateral raises, thigh extensions, triceps "kickback" movements, etc., all followed slavishly by thousands of misinformed bodybuilders, are a waste of time. My very bitter apologies to the high-pressure ad-men, and the authors of all the super Space-age courses, but their stuff is strictly from hunger. If you've been sucked into following any such routines, drop 'em! In all honesty, fellows, that garbage won't do a thing for you, aside from bringing discouragement and disillusionment. Save your time and money, and put your effort into THESE exercises:
The Squat - Regular, parallel, breathing style, or front style
The Press - Military or behind neck, seated or standing, barbell or heavy dumbbells
Rowing - Bent over, barbell or dumbbells, one or two arm
Power cleans and High pulls
Bench pressing - barbell or heavy dumbbells, Incline or flat bench style
Stiff-legged dead lifting and heavy barbell bendovers.
In essence, those are the exercises that you ought to be killing yourself on. We're concerned with the development of SIZE, POWER and SHAPELY BULK, so we've eliminated all supplementary abdominal and calf work. This you can do at your leisure, or you can omit it entirely, with no consequences to your overall development. The stuff we've enumerated above is what you need in order to turn yourself into a Human Hercules. And, lest you believe that this writer has a vested interest in this, let me say that he HAS. I derive personal, private, selfish satisfaction pushing the truth about sensible barbell training, and seeing those guys who are willing to work for their goals, achieving the builds they desire. The muscle heads, the "muscle-spinners," the drug-takers, etc, are no concern of mine. They can go their own way; I'm concerned about the rest of you.
Honest muscles, like honest men, are rare. But they can be attained, and the only way to do it is through HARD, HARD work, and an honest approach to training programs. So if you're willing, you can get the physique you're after; if you train as I have discussed on the Basic Movements.
There are reasons why these basic exercises are best. Let's talk about them.
It isn't generally understood, but the easiest way to build the small muscle groups is by exercise on the big ones! For example, it's impossible to build a broad, powerful back, and thick pectorals, along with terrific shoulders via the heavy cleaning, pressing, rowing and bench work that I advocate, without building enormous arm size and strength. You couldn't do it if you wanted to! Yet, aside from weight-gaining, building big arms is a giant headache for most barbell men. How simple a matter it would become if only they would forget about the ridiculous pumping, cramping and spinning-type isolation exercises, and just train hard on the basics! The big arms would come naturally.
John Grimek once had arms that taped close to 19". They were so big and powerful that they didn't look real! Grimek at the time was an Olympic weight-lifting contender, and he had trained for a long period without doing a single curl or triceps "pumper." His big arms got the way they did from the Heavy Lifting Training. You can do the same by working hard and heavy. And you don't have to enter Olympic competition!
The trapezius and neck muscles are impressive and too often neglected by many weight-trainees. But your traps will grow like crazy if you push your cleans hard, and if you get your presses up to really impressive standards.
Ditto for your neck muscles. The huffing, puffing, and muscular work and exertion caused by ALL heavy work will make your neck muscles grow.
Forearms - "stubborn forearms" will respond like obedient, trained seals to heavy rowing, cleaning and pressing. And just try to keep your grip on a super heavy barbell while doing a set of stiff-leg deadlifts, without forcing the forearm muscles to ache and grow beyond belief!
Heavy squatting will build heavier calves. Sounds impossible? Well, just try working your squats like you're supposed to, and you'll see your calves begin to grow no matter how they've refused to respond to toe raises.
Power cleans are fine for the calf muscles too. Incredible as this statement may sound, it's absolutely true. The coordinated effort of leg and back movement in heavy cleaning DOES work the calves! Try it for a few months and find out for yourself.
Nobody wants to be fat around the middle. Yet, unless you're drastically overweight, you don't need more than one set of one abdominal exercise (done in high reps, with resistance) to keep a rock-hard, muscular mid-section. The hard work on squatting, cleaning, and ALL heavy exercises will inevitably keep you trim and hard. And make no mistake about this: you are far, far better off with a thick, powerful waist than you are with a "wasp-waist pretty body." A man should be BIG. He should be strong and powerful. And he can't be if he tries to blow his biceps up to 20" and keep his waist down to 30". Use your head! If there are any real supermen around who have waistlines below 33" or 34", then they've got 'em only because they're SHORT, and, the small waist is proportionate tot he rest of their husky muscles.
Training on the big exercises builds HEALTH and LASTING muscle size. These two factors are very important. Today, men like John Grimek, Reg Park, Bill Pearl, and another lesser-known Hercules, Maurice Jones of Canada, all possess builds and physical power comparable to that which they had during their prime. The reason? They built REAL MUSCLE, Sig Klein must be around seventy, yet he's got the build of a twenty-five year old athlete. The reason? He built REAL MUSCLE. The same holds for scores of others in the weight game who got their physical development by hard, hard work with heavy weights on the best exercises.
If you're a young man now, then you're probably more interested in what you can look like on a posing platform, and in how fast you can get piles of muscle - but don't, no matter how great the temptation for an "easy way out" via pumping routines or muscle drugs, follow any system of training except the good, heavy, teeth-gritting type routines that build pure, strong, big muscles. I say this as a sincere warning against charlatans who would rob you of your money and your health - and do it gladly - to sell you on their own private "miracle systems' or methods'. Keep clear of them, and remember, please, that you've got a long life ahead of you after any physique competitions you might enter or win within the next few years. You want health, well-being AND big muscles that will stay with you for the rest of your life. You will only get them if you train HARD and HEAVY!
Here's a sample program that you can follow. It will give you every desirable physical quality. IF you work to your limit on it.
Warm up with one set of twenty prone hyperextensions.
Do two progressively heavier warm up sets in the squat, using five reps in each set. Then load on weight until the bar bends, and do three sets of five reps each with this limit poundage. Push! Fight! Drive! The SQUAT is the builder of SUPERMEN!
Go to your flat bench and do two warm up sets, as you did for your squats, of five reps each in the bench press. Then do a final 3 sets with all the weight you can properly handle. In this, and in every other exercise in the program, REST WELL BETWEEN SETS!
Now do power cleans, stiff--legged dead lifts, or barbell bendovers. Same sets., same reps and the same forced poundage attempts as in the preceding exercises. Your lower back is a vital body area. Turn it into a SUPER POWER ZONE by intensive back work!
Do heavy, bent-over barbell rowing. Two warm up sets - then three limit sets - five reps in each set you do. Reg Park (I always seem to come back to mentioning him, don't I!) used this exercise along with the power clean in order to build the unbelievable back that he possesses. He considers this bent-over rowing exercise the best single upper back movement a man can do.
Do some form of HEAVY pressing. If you read my stuff then you already know that I practically sneer at any shoulder exercise but the press behind the neck! But of course you can old military barbell presses, dumbbell presses, or any form of heavy seated pressing with excellent results sure to follow - IF YOU WORK HARD. Same set-rep scheme for your pressing as for the other exercises, and a tip: May guys have complained to me that I don't understand (a-hem!) their difficulties when it comes to heavy pressing behind the neck. It seems that the effort of cleaning the bar up and behind their necks before each set tires their poor little bodies out. What to do? Do your presses right off the squat racks! Load the bar up. Get set comfortably under it. Get a good, solid grip on the bar and set your feet firmly. Now go to it. Press the weight right off the racks. Then, after each set, return the bar to the squat racks. Simple? you'll get wonderful results this way - since you'll be saving your energy and concentration exclusively for the pressing action, and all of the work will be thrown directly on your deltoids...so, better and bigger muscles!
End your workout with an abdominal exercise. Do any one that you happen to like. I prefer leg raises off the end of a flat bench, with iron boots on my feet, but it's really only a personal preference, and you can work your midsection with any 'ab" exercise that you happen to like. Just do one set, and run the reps at around twenty or thirty.
Here's the routine written out:
Warm-up - 1 x 20
Squat - 5 x 5
Bench press - 5 x 5
Stiff-leg dead lift - 5 x 5
Bent-over rowing - 5 x 5
Press behind neck - 5 x 5
Leg raises 1 x 25
Do that routine - or a similar one - as described in this article, and your muscles will bulge through your clothing after a year or so of training!
The watchwords are BASIC EXERCISES and HARD WORK. Remember them when you walk into the gym next time. You'll be grateful for the rest of your life that you did!
Monday, June 29, 2009
My First Quarter Century in the Iron Game
by Siegmund Klein
A synopsis of what happened last chapter:
Sig received a phone call from a woman who requested his appearance as a “strong man” on the “Go Get It” radio program over WOR. Since the lady had never seen Sig, as a practical joke Frank Leight was introduced as Sigmund Klein. However, at the last moment and to the bewilderment of everyone present, Sig appeared on the radio stage ready to proceed with an impromptu strong man act. Continue the story from here.
When I made my appearance on the stage clad in my lifting costume there was considerable excitement and many faces looked askance to Frank Leight who, laughing to himself, had taken a seat quietly in the rear.
First, I was asked several questions by the announcer for “Kruger’s Beer.” Then I bent a spike. This was followed by hand balancing and finally I lifted the announcer overhead in the Two Arm Press, while he kept talking to the radio audience telling them what I was doing. I judged he weighed about 175 pounds. I think my act merited first prize for the lady, except that the judges gave the first prize to the couple that were married fifty years. We had lots of fun that evening. No one was more surprised than our lady friend, who kept telling me she would never in a million years believe that I was the individual that would give that exhibition and not Frank Leight. As for Frank, he enjoyed this little incident about as much as anything he had ever heard of, and laughed about it for weeks afterward.
In looking over the various articles that I have just written, I believe many readers have been wondering about my training at the present time (1945). Three workouts per week are still practiced by me regularly, and often on a Saturday I do specials. Occasionally I practice a little lifting, showing partially to the Military Presses. I change my training program from time to time, something I have always done so that the muscles will obtain the proper amount of work from various angles. At the present time my program, which I have now been following for the past year, is as follows:
1.) Two Arm Curl, 80 lbs. – 15 times.
2.) Calf Raise, with weight on knee while sitting on bench, 75 lbs. – 25 times, 2 sets.
3.) Lateral Raise with two 25 lb. dumbells raised a bit higher than height of head – 15 times.
4.) Side Bends, 60 lbs. – 20 times.
5.) Supine Presses (on bench), 150 lbs. – 20 times.
6.) Deep-Knee-Bends, 150 to 185 lbs. – 20 times, all on toes.
7.) Deltoid (front raise over head), 25 lbs. – 15 times.
8.) Triceps-Push-Away (leaning forward, keeping elbows at sides), 20 lbs. – 20 times.
10.) Rope Climbing or Chinning – 15 times, if chinning I use the over-grip.
11.) Abdominals on the incline board, 10 lbs. – 25 times.
12.) Handstand Dips on bench – at least 15 dips or more.
13.) Roman Board – 15 times.
14.) Criss-Cross, standing, 20 lbs. – 15 times (dumbells).
15.) Leg Raise on bench with 12 lbs. between feet – 25 times.
16.) Bench dumbell drills (chest and pectoral, deltoid exercises, three movements), 20 pounds – 10 times each.
17.) Wrist Roll, 10 lbs. – twice each way.
18.) Side Bends (second set), 60 lbs. – 20 times.
19.) Lateral Raise standing (starting position with palms up, weight at shoulder level, raising weight overhead, then lowering to starting position), 25 lbs. – 15 times.
20.) Teeth Lift, towel around 50 lb. weight, raising head forward and back – 15 times.
21.) Tiger Bends and Hollow Back Press Ups – 10 times.
22.) Double Shoe Thigh Curl, 75 lbs. – 15 times, then special calf exercises while in same position.
23.) Two Dumbell Curls, palms front, 25 lbs. – 20 times, followed immediately with Floor Dip (holding on to barbell with palms front) – 35 times.
24.) Iron Boot exercise for front of thighs, 20 lbs. – 20 times.
25.) Foot Press, with 185 lb. barbell – 25 times.
This is about the regular workout that I am practicing today, and it takes about one and a half hours.
I train usually on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and if I do any exercising on Saturday I usually include Roman Column exercises, besides several others that I do not practice on my regular training days. How long I will adhere to this program I do not know at this writing. I have found that it suits me very well, and have actually improved in musculature in the past couple of years, and since I have shown satisfactory improvement with this, I may just as well continue on it until such a time when I feel I should change again.
My measurements have stayed practically the same for the past fifteen years or so. I must make a confession here. When I first mailed in my photographs to the Milo Barbell Company, I informed them that my height was five feet five inches, feeling always that by the time the pictures would be published I would certainly be of that height. Actually my height is five feet four and one-half inches, and so when one asks me my height I usually ask if they want my official or unofficial height, and hasten to tell my official height as 5-5 and unofficial as 5-4½. I am the shortest male member of our immediate family, and had always expected that I would be at least as tall as my oldest brother, whom I resemble both facially and in figure. He is 5-7½, another brother who is two years older than myself is 5-11, and my father was 5-7.
Our family was quite a large one. There were five girls and three boys. Like so many other large families, hardly two members had anything in common with each other as to hobbies, likes and dislikes. Outside of my father, no other member of the family was ever interested in great strength, though I believe that my oldest brother, had he the time or inspiration, would have made a good weight lifter. He had the proper frame-work for weightlifting, having inherited from our father quite large bones, whereas my bone structure was, as my measurements will show, quite small. I was a smaller edition of him. My measurements follow:
Weight – 150 lbs.
Neck – 16 inches.
Upper arm (flexed) – 15¾.
Forearm (straight) – 12 ¾.
Chest (normal) – 44.
Chest (expanded) – the same.
Waist – 32.
Thighs – 22.
Calf – 14½.
Ankle – 8½.
Hips – 36.
It seems as though this brings us to the year 1942, just three years ago. In reviewing this briefly, I wish to say that I do not know of any work or profession that I would have preferred doing or that would have given me the pleasure, the satisfaction and the great number of friends. The hundreds of people whom I have helped to improve physically, so that they too can enjoy the better things in life to the utmost, have been a great source of satisfaction to me. And now I wish to thank Mr. Bob Hoffman personally and the entire York Bar Bell Company staff for their splendid cooperation and interest in making these articles possible. If the reader will get a little pleasure and encouragement from them I feel that all my efforts in preparing this series will not have been in vain. It is eight o’clock again and my last pupil has just bade me “good-night.” I have returned my scrap books to their proper resting place, and since I intend to continue in this profession for a good many years, I have already started another scrap book which will be consulted when I write my series on “A Half Century in the Iron Game.”
Squat, Bench, Deadlift
by Bradley Steiner
Of the three powerlifts, the squat is the most difficult to excel in, and is the lift most indicative of overall body strength in the lifter. The squat requires unbelievably hard work if one wishes to reach his true maximum lift with the movement. Many, in fact the vast majority of strength lifters, manage to achieve outstanding lifts in the squat without ever really hitting their full potential.
Of all the things heavy squat training is, I readily concede that “pleasant” is not one of them. However, to achieve a truly record-breaking squat (even if the only record broken is one’s own) is more rewarding than you can imagine.
The fantastic overall strength gains obtained from hard work on the squat are such that other lifts will improve in proportion to your improvement in the squat. This does not hold true in reverse. If the trainee were to become a “one lift power specialist” then he would, by far, be advised to make the squat his “one lift.” It is just that excellent.
Bodybuilders have always recognized how crucial the squat – as an exercise – is to their success. Just as squatting triggers all-round power gains, it triggers all-round muscular gains. Of course, the bodybuilder does not employ weights approaching what the powerlifter handles, but he does work for a greater number of repetitions with a greater weight. The squat is also important for power trainers who also want a great physique.
The method of training for an outstanding squat that I will outline herein will be aimed at developing all-round muscle as well as all-round power. The only way to build a powerful body is to lift heavy weights. Therefore, it is essential in becoming a powerful squatter to continually add weight to the lifting you do. Always strive to handle a greater and still greater poundage.
It is relatively unimportant how much weight you are capable of lifting when you begin. You might be so weak that you can barely work with the empty bar. That’s all right, so long as – even if only once every two or three weeks – you put a little more weight on that bar. 2½ pounds is okay, if that’s all you can manage to add. Generally, though, ambitious, hard-training beginners with no health problem can at first add ten pounds a week to their squat bar. (If only this rapid increase continued beyond the beginner stages!) It requires pushing, but the nature of the muscles being worked is such that strength build-up is rapid during the first few months, and it’s perfectly alright to pile on the iron.
More advanced trainees will of course find it difficult to add weight as rapidly as beginners. Their muscles are more “mature” and have already gone far along the road of development. Gains, however, are always possible.
A power program aims at one-lift maximums. This means that sets generally consist of fairly low reps, building up to that “one rep” effort which will, hopefully, be a new “record” fro the trainee. Training with high reps and moderate or light weights will not build power as effectively as training with low reps, many sets, and heavy, heavy weights.
Always follow good form in the squat, and always warm up properly before heavy squatting.
The following is a recommended course in squat training for the beginner once he has developed adequate form in the lift. Train three days a week, on alternate days. Add weights at about every third or fourth workout. Stay on this program for two months.
Warm up – Do 2 sets of up to 15 hyperextensions or light dumbell swings between the legs, then do thirty free hand squats.
Set #1 – Light set of 12 reps.
Set #2 – 8 reps with a moderate weight.
Set #3 – 5 or 6 reps, fairly heavy (last rep of this set should require some fighting).
Set #4 – 2 or 3 reps, very heavy.
Set #5 – 2 reps, very heavy (to be done only on high energy days)
Once every two weeks, follow this set/rep scheme:
Warm up – Same as before.
Set #1 – 1 x 12 reps.
Set #2 – 1 x 6.
Set #3 – 1 x 4 or 5.
Set #4 – 1 c 2 or 3.
Set #5 – 1 x 1. (new maximum)
Set #6 – 1 x 1. Do this sixth set only if you failed to hit a good limit rep with your new maximum. That is, take two attempts at the new weight if necessary.
Here is a squat program aimed at the more advanced lifter:
Warm up – 3 sets of 12 hyperextensions.
1st set – 15 reps, light.
2nd set – 12 reps, add about 20 pounds.
3rd set – 8 or 9 reps, with heavier weight.
4th set – 6 reps, heavy.
5th set – 4 reps, more weight.
6th set – 2 or 3 reps with maximum weight.
Train this routine two days per week. Add weights for a maximum lift once every four weeks. When you are going for a new maximum lift, use the following set/rep scheme:
Warm up – same as before.
1st set – 12 to 15 reps, light.
2nd set – 8 reps, moderate.
3rd set – 5 reps, heavier.
4th set – 4 reps.
5th set – 3 reps.
6th set – 2 reps.
7th set – One rep maximum attempt.
Rest very well between sets, and be sure to add weight for each set. Do not use maximum poundage on any but the 7th set.
As experience is accumulated by you, you may discover certain things about how you train that can help in improving your program. What I have imparted here are the basics. Stay with them until sufficient power and experience have been developed by you to justify going off on your own.
The Bench Press
We start with the mind. To say that concentration is important for lifting success and to state that you must apply full, intensive mental effort to lift respectable weights is a gross understatement. Let me embed, for all time to come, the following in your mind: Your mind is your master!
Determine to lift more.
Concentrate when you lift.
Want (and Want Badly) to lift more.
Persist in your efforts.
Powerlifting and Bodybuilding
Is it possible to combine a powerlifting program with bodybuilding?
Yes it most definitely is! In fact, it is worth noting that powerlifting is bodybuilding, as the powerlifts are actually three basic exercises for the development of the largest muscle areas. One great powerlifter, Bill Seno, comes to mind when answering this question. If you are interested in bodybuilding AND powerlifting, follow a course similar to the Bodybuilder’s Powerlifting Program outlined later. Also, you will have to follow a somewhat more controlled diet.
The following is a recommended schedule of bench press training for the individual who has had relatively little lifting or training experience and seeks to develop a powerful bench press. It will provide excellent gains and induce confidence in the inexperienced trainee.
Begin by setting a goal. Let us say that you can now bench press 150 pounds once, in good form. Set a goal of 200 pounds. Aim to reach it by a definite date. I suggest giving yourself about eight weeks.
Work on your bench press three days a week, on alternate days. As a raw beginner can gain quite rapidly and train more frequently, I suggest going for a new “limit” bench press at every third workout, preferably on the first training day of each week after two days rest.
1 x 12-15 reps warmup, very light.
1x10 reps, adding some weight.
1x6 reps, again adding weight.
2x4 reps, more weight.
2x2 reps, adding.
1x2-3 reps maximum.
On your maximum single workout do the following, adding weight on each set without overtaxing yourself for the final limit attempt.
1 Limit lift.
The foregoing schedule allows two power-producing days of training, and advocates a once-weekly all-out lift. This applies only to the raw beginner.
You must adjust the weights you use so that you work with poundages you can HANDLE. Your goal is a good. one-rep LIFT; but to improve that one-rep maximum you must do the additional sets of reps as instructed. This will condition and build the muscles involved, and eliminate the chance of injury.
I suggest that an increase of at least 5 pounds per week be tried at this stage – and most trainees will find, at least for the first three weeks, that it will be possible to increase that final one-rep attempt by a full 10 pounds! Increases become more difficult as one advances, and it will be impossible to train like this beyond a certain point and still make progress. The beginner should not use assistance exercises.
The following is a fine basic bench press program for advanced or semi-advanced men to follow. It is severe, but highly productive, and it can be continued for long periods of time without staleness or a need for a change.
Train two days a week. Go for a new one-rep limit lift once every four weeks. Permit at least two full days between bench press workouts.
Warm up set – Use a very light poundage and do about 15 strict, fairly FAST REPS.
2nd set – Add enough weight to make 10 or 12 reps feel comfortably hard to complete.
3rd set – 6 reps with a heavy weight.
4th set – 5 or 6 reps with more weight.
5th set – 3 reps, with added weight.
6th set – 2 reps, try for a 3rd if you are feeling energetic.
That’s your basic plan. Do not do single reps each time you train. On days when energy is high, do a 7th set, like this:
One rep. Not your absolute limit, but a good, hard rep that makes you fight with about 85-90% of your capacity.
Once every four weeks, WHEN YOU FEEL STRONG, follow the workout this way:
Warm up – same as before.
1st set – 8 reps, with heavier weight.
2nd set – 5 reps, with added weight.
3rd set – 4 reps, with added weight.
4th set – 3 reps, with added weight.
5th set – 2 reps, with added weight.
6th set – 1 rep, all out limit attempt. Give yourself 2 chances here, if your first 1-rep set fails to allow your new and heavier maximum. Relax for a full 5 or 10 minutes, concentrate, and TRY! If the second attempt misses, CALL IT QUITS THAT DAY – do not do more.
A Bodybuilder’s Powerlifting Program
Bodybuilding and powerlifting go hand-in-glove. This was mentioned before, and I should now like to outline a basic plan of training for the benefit of those who wish to combine a powerlifting program with some bodybuilding.
First, you must remember that powerlifting must remain a good 75% of your overall effort output. This is because you would not make much powerlifting improvement with less effort, and also because the powerlifts are, themselves, the basic cornerstone bodybuilding exercises. You are advised to train on a brief and basic type of routine, consisting of primary powerlifting work, and secondary bodybuilding exercises.
The following recommended course outline is to be followed if you seek to combine your total powerlifting schedule with bodybuilding work:
Bench Press – 1x12, 1x8, 2x5, 1x2*
Bentover Rowing – 1x10, 2x8.
Barbell Curl – 2x8.
Squat – 1x15, 1x8, 2x5, 1x3, 1x1, 1x1.
* work to limit once every three weeks.
Deadlift – 1x15, 1x6, 1x6, 1x4, 1x2, 1x2*
One-arm Triceps Press – 3x8.
* work to limit once every three weeks.
Same as Monday.
On three of your rest days, skip rope, jog, run, do some form of aerobic exercise.
“Tell me what a man can deadlift and I’ll tell you his level of basic body power.” The simple deadlift is just that accurate as a gauge of one’s basic physical strength.
The lower back (lumbar region)is a vital area of mans’ anatomy. A sedentary, basically “soft” average Joe can put his back out of whack by coughing mildly or sneezing once. But a seasoned power trainer can lift over 500 pounds, even a small man, largely through the power of his back muscles alone.
These facts lead us to some conclusions. First, we can appreciate that the lower back area is a critical zone, and that reasonable care must be taken in training it, so that no injury results. Second, we see that the POTENTIAL for the development of power in the lower back – and notably deadlifting and pulling ability – is all but unlimited, if we go about it right.
Mental power, concentration, goal-oriented visualization of your training aims, or whatever you want to call it, is the single most important factor for success in lifting. I have known persons to overcome every type of handicap – physical and psychological – through the use of their iron will and their resolute determination to succeed in attaining their goal. The Mind is what does it!
Truly, the greatest obstacle to the attainment of achievement as a lifter lies within your mind. Gravity is overcome by persistent physical training, but the task of doing the training, in good times and bad, remains a mental problem; and it can be satisfactorily overcome only through the proper employment of your mind power.
We can easily compare the mind to the role of the General or Commander in Chief of an army, with the physical body being army itself. The body, just as in the case of an actual military force, functions efficiently only in direct proportion to the efficiency of the commands issued forth by the General. If that General lacks ability in directing his army, then the troops, no matter their potential excellence, cannot achieve the objective. So too with the mind and the body.
A beginner can have two workouts on the deadlift per week. As you advance with your lifting, you may find it better to limit deadlifting to once every week, even every two weeks. Too-frequent deadlifting can easily lead to staleness and injury, especially when the strain of other power-based lifts are considered.
Here is a recommended sample beginner’s routine:
Train twice a week. Train super-heavy on one day, and at about 85-90% on the other day.
Concentrate! Never let your mind waver or wander when deadlifting or during any form of pulling exercises.
Try to add some weight (I suggest 5 to 10 pounds) after every fourth workout.
Stay on the beginner’s course for at least eight weeks.
Warm up – Do Good Mornings with a very light weight for 2 sets of 10 reps.
1st set – Light deadlifts for 10 reps.
2nd set – 8 reps, add weight.
3rd and 4th sets – 6 reps, adding weight each set.
5th set – 3 or 4 reps.
6th set – 2 reps.
Every fifth workout use this set/rep scheme and try to reach a new one rep maximum.
Warm up – same.
1 x 8.
1 x 6.
1 x 4.
1 x 3.
1 x 2.
1 rep maximum.
Increase the weight after each set but do not deplete yourself before the max single attempt. Do not attempt to hit a maximum single lift more frequently than every two weeks, as a beginner.
Advanced Deadlift Routine
Deadlift once a week, no more. Work hard each time you train. Try for a new one-rep maximum every four weeks.
Warm up – Same as beginner’s.
1st set – 1 x 8-10, light.
2nd set – 1 x 6, adding weight.
3rd set – 1 x 6, add weight.
4th set – 1 x 6, add weight.
5th set – 1 x 3 or 4, adding weight.
6th set – 1 x 2 or 3, add weight.
7th set – 1 x 1, if you feel up to it that particular training day, otherwise, skip the 7th set.
Every four weeks let your workout be an exceptionally hard one, and try to hit a new limit lift by training as follows:
1 x 8.
1 x 6.
1 x 4.
1 x 3.
1 x 2.
1 x 1.
1 x 1, if first max attempt is a miss.
There is a tremendous sense of accomplishment and release attendant to lifting a personal best. Remember this when lacking drive in your training.
Best of Luck in your endeavors!
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Combine Weightlifting with Bodybuilding
by Ash Kallos
Too many present day physical culturists specialize on the showy muscles and develop inefficient, out of proportion bodies. Weightlifting movements like the snatch, clean & jerk, power clean, and power snatch can add a strength, speed and cleaner lines to the lifter’s physique.
Most bodybuilders are weak in the areas that weightlifters are strong in. Many bodybuilders have good arm, pectoral and lat development, but usually lack deltoid, trapezius and lower back development. Snatching, cleaning, etc. will do wonders for these areas, and it is not necessary to devote more than 30% of your training to lifting movements.
Power cleans and power snatches can be incorporated into your workouts immediately, as can many of the great variety of “assistance” pulls. Weightlifters generally employ lower rep sets, but for bodybuilding purposes you can increase the reps to between 5 and 7. Once you have mastered decent snatch proper and clean & jerk performance you can include them in your routine.
As your workouts may prove lengthy when covering the whole body, concentrate either on the snatch or clean and jerk. One training period power snatches and snatches can be done; another period power cleans and clean & jerks.
Most bodybuilders are inclined to spend much of their training time doing lying down or seated exercises. That is why their physiques in general give an appearance which lacks the look of power. Do more standing movements like the clean and press, standing dumbell presses, power cleans and snatches, and all forms of deadlifting to change this.
If you are to weightlifting movements these exercises will leave you very tired and muscle weary at first, especially in the back, traps, spinal erectors and even forearms. Don’t overdo it in the beginning, and continually work on your technique. You will rapidly adapt to full body lifts.
Here is a simple suggested routine to be done three times a week. Remember, this is only an example to give you a framework for developing your own routines.
1.) Standing Press – 5 sets of 5 to 7 reps.
2.) Power clean or snatch – 5 x 5-7. These two lifts can be alternated each workout.
3.) Snatch proper or clean & jerks – 5 x 3-5 reps. Again, these lifts can be alternated.
4.) Barbell Row.
5.) Bench Press (flat or incline, barbell or dumbell).
6.) Curl (barbell, dumbell, standing, seated, etc.).
7.) Triceps Extension (barbell, dumbell, lying, standing, seated, pulley etc.)
8.) Squat (front, regular, power, Olympic, etc.)
9.) Calf exercises.
10.) Abdominal work.
You will find it necessary to adjust the bodybuilding part of your workout as the poundages on your lifting movements increase. Consider the two sections in totality when planning workload. Make no mistake, weightlifting is tough, but wonderful for all-round development and wellbeing. I have seen so many bodybuilders who were strong in the bench press or curl and weak in pressing and cleaning, and so few who were strong in both disciplines.
Incidentally, snatches, clean and jerks, and other pulls done with light weight in high reps will help in reducing bodyweight. Combine them with a short-rest bodybuilding program and a sound abdominal program and you will be surprised how quickly you harden up.
Friday, June 26, 2009
A I recently wrote in Man’s World, you will find it most difficult to increase your arm size to any noticeable degree unless you increase your bodyweight, and the only way to increase your bodyweight is to eat and drink a little more each day. Make sure that you consume an adequate amount of protein, which is necessary for increased muscular growth.
Single repetitions do not increase blood supply to the muscle being exercised to any marked degree, consequently, not enough nourishment is carried in the blood to overload he muscle with food for increased growth. Single repetitions greatly activate ligaments and tendons, but not the muscle fibers in the belly of the muscle which is necessary to create hypertrophy of the muscle fibers.
Experience has shown that five repetitions or more activate the muscle fibers which determine increases in muscle size. However, experience has also shown that around 10 repetitions are best for beginning bodybuilders, because 10 repetitions enable the lifter to use a weight he can handle comfortably without any excess effort, and also because the greater number of repetitions also activates the willpower and respiratory system as well as the muscular system to an ideal degree. Beginners should therefore perform an exercise with weight which will enable them to perform 10 repetitions comfortably without any undue strain, and yet not so light as to be ridiculously easy.
Since this article is concerned with developing bigger arms, let me first deal with beginners. Experienced trainees or instructors usually start beginners with one exercise for each of the major muscle groups, with the exception of those beginners who are heavy around the stomach and waist, being given more than one exercise for this area. I also subscribe to this policy. If your waist and stomach is fat or flabby, you would be wise to start your exercise routine with exercises for that part of your body. Beginners are then given thigh, chest and back exercises in that order, because these areas are usually stronger than the arms and shoulders, and therefore allow beginners to use heavier poundages if done first, thereby building up a beginner’s confidence.
As regards arm exercises for the beginner, I believe that the barbell biceps curl and dumbell triceps curl are, if not the best, at least as good as any others. Select weights which will allow you to perform 10 repetitions of each exercise, work up the sets until you are doing four sets of 10 repetitions for each exercise, at which stage increase the poundage on the two exercises 5 pounds each, and on your next workout come as close as possible to 4 sets of 10 reps. Each time you are able to perform 4x10 on either the barbell biceps curl or dumbell triceps curl, increase the poundage by 5 lbs. for your next workout.
After a few months of bodybuilding, depending upon your aims and ambitions, your instructor would usually give you a completely new course, and with it not one biceps and one triceps exercise but two exercises for each group. This intermediary group I would normally give sitting two dumbell curls (4x8) followed by middle incline dumbell curls (4x8). The biceps exercises would be followed by two triceps exercises, firstly lying on flat bench barbell triceps curls (4x8), and then triceps pressdowns on lat machine (4x8). Again, each time you are able to perform four sets of eight repetitions of each exercise increase the weight by 5 lbs. for your next workout.
As your bodybuilding aims become higher, obviously you have to work harder, until, believe it or not, you are performing from 20-30 sets of both biceps and triceps three workouts per week. You can, if you wish, perform biceps and triceps at the same training session. Personally, I prefer to work back and biceps together in one workout, and shoulders and triceps together in another workout, but this is purely a matter of preference. If you are really ambitious, try the following biceps and triceps exercises three sessions a week.
1.) One dumbell curl over bench – 10 sets of 8.
2.) Lying on back dumbell curl – 6 sets of 8.
3.) Barbell curl – 5 sets of 5.
4.) Two dumbell curl over bench – 6 sets of 8.
1.) Triceps pressdown on lat machine – 6 sets of 8.
2.) Flat bench EZ triceps curl, head off bench – 6 sets of 8.
3.) Decline bench barbell triceps curl – 6 sets of 8.
4.) Standing one dumbell one arm triceps curl – 6 sets of 8.
5.) Triceps dips – 6 sets of 8.
Keep your arms warm when exercising, with either a track suit top or long sleeve T-shirt, but make sure they are not too tight. If your gains are not as good as you expect, increase your bodyweight by eating more protein.
The rest period between sets should be sufficient to allow your breathing to return to normal, then immediately perform the next set. Use as much poundage as you can, but be sure you can complete the required number of reps, and if you are unable to do so do not be afraid to drop the poundage for the remaining sets. I personally prefer to use heavier poundages on each set, so obviously I start fairly light, but on the lighter weights I make sure my performance is very strict. Having completed the one dumbell curl over bench, I still start the lying on back two dumbell curl fairly light and build up each set, because each exercise has a varying affect and strain on the muscle being exercised, and by starting each exercise light I am able to avoid any muscular strain.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
by Jim Halliday
The lifts to be discussed in this article are the Swings, both single and double-handed. On the surface, these do not seem to have much to offer the bodybuilder, but I think some modification of the one-handed lift can be of value.
First of all, we will examine the movements as lifts, and, once more, we find a few points that can make a lot of difference in performance.
With the single-handed lift, as with the Snatch, full use of the disengaged arm should be employed. Any number of preliminary swings are allowed (I feel it is best using only one) and the important thing is to keep the opposite hand on the knee as long as possible, adding the thrust of the arm to assist the leg-drive and at the same time assisting to maintain the proper body position.
Most lifters make the mistake of interpreting the name of the lift too literally, attempting to swing the bell right out in front of the body, both during the preliminary swings and for the final action.
At no time during the lift should the bell be more than a foot or so in front of the body. The thing that causes people to take the bell way out in front is to visualize the lift as consisting of arm action only and to try, as I said before, to literally swing the bell.
Actually the initial effort is comparable to the one recommended for the snatch. It consists of a powerful leg-drive, the disengaged arm playing its part as advised, no conscious effort is made to swing, the bell is merely directed away from the body by the action employed, which is as follows.
As the pull proceeds, the body is brought completely erect, the Trapezius working to absolute limit to bring the deltoid as high as possible, and a full rise on the toes is made. This is sufficient to bring the bell clear of the body, the disengaged hand travels up the thigh, retaining contact. The bell is then allowed to return until it almost touches the ground; it should retrace its upward path as near as possible and be under full control the whole time.
The final pull is made in exactly the same way, advantage should be taken of the reflex action of the legs, the disengaged hand should have been replaced on the knee to again assist the pull, and the lift is concluded by splitting the feet in the regular fashion.
The two-handed lift is basically similar, except, of course, that a more balanced position is available.
For lifters, the usual type of training is sufficient. Single reps are best, actually a single consists of reps because of the construction of the movement. 3 sets of 6 should be the maximum, the bells being returned to the floor after each completed movement.
As a bodybuilding movement I suggest the first part of the lift is used only. For the single-handed lift, the assistance of the opposite hand is eliminated, this remains free at the side. The pull is made as directed, full effort is enforced, and the reps are done in rhythmical fashion, the bell being kept clear of the floor until the set is completed.
Another exercise arising from the movements is to do what I told the lifter not to do. That is to SWING the bell. Commence forward as for the lift proper and swing the bell forward until the arm is perfectly straight. Now, keeping the legs as straight as possible, allow the bell to swing back in between the legs, check and re-swing it forward once more, continuing in rhythmical fashion.
This movement can be performed with two hands by using a swing-bell. It can also be extended by carrying the swing through, to take the bell to arms’ length overhead. Naturally, for best results, the arms must remain perfectly straight throughout.
These two movements can be of benefit to the bodybuilder, and can be used as assistance exercises to aid the lifter.
The only point left to make is to warn the novice that both the lifts and the accompanying exercise are very severe, and that light poundages should be used until proficient.
Friday, June 12, 2009
by Ivan Dunbar
The term power training has, if only by its constant and continuing use over the years, now found a regular place in bodybuilding jargon. Often a bodybuilder when discussing training problems will announce – with sudden and mysterious aplomb – that his next schedule will be a power course. It seems he has at last found the true secret of strength and musclebuilding success.
Power training – what does it mean?
Put in simple terms, merely the use of heavy weights and selected movements which impose an extra demand on the muscles which (if the application is right) respond by getting stronger and larger – though the latter condition need not necessarily occur. In this respect it might be said to be a companion of bodybuilding, as it follows that if a muscle becomes stronger (via the power training), a return to normal bodybuilding will enable the lifter to use heavier weights in his movements and thereby gain muscular size from his newfound strength.
What then is the complete definition of this elusive power? Is it an increase in strength on such movements? Not quite, though this will certainly help. But power in the true sense belongs to the privileged few. This can best be illustrated by the example of the bodybuilder who could Bench Press 400 lbs. yet failed to support half this weight overhead. No, power in the true sense is all round-strength that enables the lifter to engage in all forms of strength from pressing (both flat and overhead) to curling and deadlifting, to snatching and jerking, to chinning and grip strength.
What basic principles then should the lifter apply when embarking on a power program? The first and most obvious is that he must strive to use increasingly heavy poundages. This can best be achieved by doing high sets and low reps. He must also exercise the muscles from many angles. And it will be necessary to include half and quarter movements – sometimes referred to as short range movements. However, before detailing a sample program, a word of caution. If you are about to begin a power training program give yourself a two to three week period of adjustment, and at all times be in control of the weight. Do not sacrifice exercise form in your anxiety to increase poundage. If you do, it may lead to injury.
Now, for a sample program :
1.) Jerk Behind Head – Place the bar on your shoulders as in the squatting position. Start with a weight equivalent to your best pressing poundage. Begin by bending the legs to the quarter squat position and then thrust the bar upwards with leg and shoulder drive. Stay tight. When the bar has moved approximately three-quarters of the movement range dip below it to get the final lockout. Do 5 sets of 3 reps, working up to 5 sets of 6 reps before increasing the weight. Aim for a target poundage 70 of 80 pounds above your best press. Use a medium – wide grip.
2.) High Pullups – Use a clean or snatch grip (medium to wide) starting with 20 to 30 pounds below your best press. Pull the bar from the floor towards you, moving upwards as you do so – rather like a heavy upright rowing motion. Return to floor and repeat. Same sets and reps as above exercise. Pull as high as possible, to at least belt level.
3.) Bench Press – 2 sets of 6 reps, without cheating. Then 3 sets of 3 reps, lowering the bar to chest and pausing for two seconds between each rep. Finish with 3 sets of 3 reps of half-press lockouts in the rack, lowering to about midpoint and pressing out. Work up to 6 reps before increasing the poundage.
4.) Squat – Begin with 2 sets of 8 reps, full squat. Next, 4 sets of 6 reps to the parallel position. Finish with 4 sets of 3 on the quarter squat, working up to 4 sets of 6 before adding weight. Always be careful to adopt the right get-set position before doing the quarter squats.
5.) Barbell Curl – 6 sets of 3 reps with the heaviest poundage you can handle. Work up to 6 x 6 before increasing the weight and beginning over again.
6.) French Press – Begin with 1 set of 8 reps, the 6 sets of 3 working up to 6 x 6 before increasing the poundage and dropping back to 6 x 3 again.
Adapt this sample program to your own needs, give it six to eight weeks of hard work, and then return to a regular bodybuilding routine for two months. You will be pleased with the results!
Monday, June 8, 2009
My First Quarter Century in the Iron Game
by Siegmund Klein
All arrangements were made for the show to be held Saturday evening, October 20, 1933. Scales were tested by the City Weight and Measure Department. Officials were present in the persons of Dietrich Wortmann, Mark H. Berry and Sam Oldstead. Bernarr MacFadden was the guest of honor this particular evening. We had, as can be imagined, a distinguished group of famous culturists. I was ready now for the first lift, which was the Supine Press, also known as the Press Flat on Back. I accomplished 288 pounds, and then tried 300 pounds, but failed to succeed, though I have pressed this much in practice. M next lift was a Two Arm Military Press from behind neck, and I succeeded with 206 pounds. Muscling out two kettlebells was next on the list. The weights weighed 63¼ pounds and 63½ pounds. These were pressed over head, then lowered from above and held to the referee’s count. This lift too was done with the strictest of form, the body was held in military position throughout the whole lift. There was not the slightest leaning back, the heels were kept close together throughout the lift. A Right Arm Side Press was next on the list. The barbell was first lifted to the shoulder with two hands, then letting go with the left hand, and getting firmly braced, making sure that the right elbow did not touch any part of the body, legs perfectly straight at the knees, I pressed 174¼ pounds. I followed the English rules on this lift, they being the strictest.
Next I performed what I considered the greatest lifting feat of my career up to that time. Two One Hundred Pound dumbells were placed on the platform. I cleaned them to the shoulders and then performed what is known as the See-Saw press with these weights, doing alternate pressing and repeating the same ten times with each hand. Mr. Berry was strict about a certain technicality, making sure that one bell would not be pressed out until the other was lowered to the shoulder, which made it all the more difficult to execute. I weighed in at 153¼ pounds that evening purposely, and I may mention that it was the heaviest that I had ever been up to that time.
Now with these records to my credit, I thought I would “coast” along for a while and get back to the body-building exercises once again, which always gave me so much pleasure and delight. I may mention that there were other performers that evening, but suffice it to say that my pupil, Jack Long, Jr., who also weighed in at 153¼ pounds, created a record in the One Arm Curl, 72 ½ pounds with the right arm and 70 ¼ pounds with the left arm, and 149¾ pounds in the Two Arm Curl.
Another artist, Mr. Bert Wilder, whom I had met some time ago, asked me to pose for him, he wanting to make a statue of me in bronze. He decided that the pose he would like to model me in was the pose I took while doing my Two Arm Continental Press. This I agreed to, and posed for him several times each week. He insisted that I press a heavy weight during each posing period, so that he could catch the muscular tone and reality of actually pressing a heavy weight.
The year 1934 was now approaching, and one morning a very handsome, powerful young man visited me and made inquiries about training here at my gymnasium. He was destined to become one of the greatest physical specimens of modern times. Suffice it to say that he won the Mr. America contest in 1942. His name – Frank Leight! I am happy to say Frank has been training here at my gymnasium now for ten years and we have become not only training partners but very close friends.
In the year 1934 Mr. Carl Easton Williams asked me to prepare a series of articles about Sandow for Physical Culture magazine. This I did with great interest. The article was entitled “Sandow the Magnificent” and it ran for three installments. I obtained the Attila scrap book, consulted files in public libraries, and went to newspaper offices for old clippings. Books too were consulted, and I spent many days looking up facts in order to make the story interesting. It was a pleasure for me to do all this, not for the remuneration that was given to me, but because I considered it an honor and a privilege to write the life story of the man responsible for inspiring so many thousands, yes, millions of people to interest themselves in barbell and dumbell training. Many of my original photos of Sandow were used to illustrate the articles and also a photograph of the Sandow Statue that I now possessed. I also obtained another fine bronze statue of the magnificent Sandow.
This series of articles was followed by several others that I wrote for Physical Culture. One was on “The Art of Lifting Human Weight,” “Handbalancing Stunts,” “Feats of Strength” and several others that had to do with the “Sport of the Strong.” I had started a mail order course too, but this took up so much of my time away from the work that I really enjoyed, conducting the barbell gymnasium, that I decided to discontinue it and allow others, who I felt could devote the proper time and effort in this branch of the business, to do so.
One afternoon I received a phone call again from the artist, Mr. C. Bosseron Chambers, whom I have mentioned before, and for whom I posed when he painted “Strength Victorious.” He asked me if I was ready to accept his offer to paint a large portrait. This I naturally agreed upon, and an appointment was made with Mr. Chambers to have some photos taken in various poses so that we could select the pose which would be later selected for the portrait. I believe about 24 pictures were taken, and then the elimination started. Finally, two were selected. Mr. Chambers asked me which one I liked the best, and as I did not want to select a pose which he did not like the best, I asked him to make the final choice. This he did not wish to do, for he informed me that since I was to be presented with the painting it would be no more that fair that I select the pose. After a bit of a discussion, I finally selected the pose that I liked best. When I did so, Mr. Chambers’ face beamed with delight. He too liked my choice for the best, and it was not long after that the painting was finally finished and we had the unveiling in his beautiful Carnegie Hall studio. We invited Bernarr MacFadden, Charles Atlas, Tony Sansone, Sam Olmstead, Elmore Cole, and a few friends of Mr. Chambers. It was thrilling to see this beautiful painting, three-quarters life size, unveiled. much favorable comment was passed by all present, and both Mr. Chambers and myself were congratulated, he for his magnificent artistry, and I for being so fortunate in having posed for such a distinguished artist and being presented with such a masterpiece. I may mention that Mr. Chambers is considered one of the greatest religious painters of the present age.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
by John McKean
Paul Anderson, Louis Cyr, Arthur Saxon, Hermann Goerner, Doug Hepburn, and John McKean. The question behind this answer is, “Name five all-time superstars of strength who extensively employed heavy dumbells in training, and one other guy!” Of course, yours truly is the lowly other guy, but I do enjoy standing on the shoulders of these giants to seek some of the progress they found through brutally-intense dumbell work.
Unfortunately, most dumbell work nowadays is relegated to lightweight shaping movements, or, at most, relatively high-rip, non-goal oriented exercise with poundages that are “comfortable”. I don’t even like to recall how many gyms I’ve visited where the heavy half of the dumbell rack is as dusty and untouched as their bench uprights shiny and worn.
Why is this? Simple – dumbells hurt. That is, in exactly the opposite manner to how exercise machines ease and rob the work of a similar barbell move, dumbells call for even more total bodily involvement than a long bar. Where machines isolate, dumbells, on the other hand, require extreme control, utilization of many stabilizing muscles, coordination between muscle groups, and total concentration. They have a longer range of motion than barbells or machines, and bombard deep-lying muscle fibers from many different angles. Most importantly, with some intense effort, seriously-heavy dumbells eventually adapt to our own personal groove – we’re forced to learn to control the weighty little beasts, and best compensate for out individual leverages. Eventually, then, we discover (perhaps even subconsciously) our own optimum angles of push or pull, to capitalize on innermost strengths.
Many of the old-time strongmen never seemed to lack incentive to go to limit poundages on dumbell lifts. Of course, back then they regularly contested dumbell clean & jerks, presses, snatches, swings, and the crucifix. A look at U.S. and British record lists printed in magazines from the 1920s and 30s will show a slew of dumbell marks which were recorded under official conditions. Do we have any such incentive today? You bet! Under the auspices of the IAWA we currently have 27 registered dumbell lifts to go after. And, brother, if you thought my insistence on training barbell limits in past articles was taxing, I’m really setting you up for a wonderful world of pain this time.
No, you may not be interested in jumping into one of our dumbell competitions – the British would call these “single arm championships” – but you sure can obtain huge overall strength gains while bringing out previously unnoticed lumps, bumps and strands of muscle. All that’s required is the desire to see just how heavy a single rep you can eventually achieve with one or more dumbell lifts. Specialize if you care to, or build a total routine on 4-10 dumbell moves per week.
A Lesson in Abbreviation
A good friend of mine – our U.S. National All-Round President, Howard Prechtel – relates how he once specialized for a one-year period on the dumbell clean & press as his only upper-body exercise. His only other exercise was the half-squat in a power rack. He stayed away from his regular gym at the time to increase his concentration on these two movements (and to avoid unnecessary “advice” from training partners who would have chided him for such limited training). When the year was up, a muscularly massive Howard Prechtel confidently strode into the training hall to easily clean and strict press over 300 pounds on a barbell – at least 50 pounds more than he had ever done before. Teammates were literally flabbergasted – this was absolutely without steroids, and they couldn’t figure out how this gym drop-out pulled it off. You can bet, tho’, that ole Howie didn’t wave around lightweight bells during his escape time from conventional stale routines.
The Nuts and Bolts
Sort of a surprise for any who have read my previous articles expounding the use of heavy single-rep lifts, but dumbell strength training is best done is sets of 3-6 reps. At least a triple seems necessary to develop coordination and groove, absolutely essential to successful dumbell work. In many gym experiments I’ve discovered I could take a particular poundage and do three good but fairly taxing reps with the dumbell, then go but 5 pounds heavier only to find the stubborn ‘bells just wouldn’t budge an inch. Friends related exactly the same experience. So, if a “gym limit” can usually be pumped for 3-4 reps instead of only one, you might as well shoot for this number.
Singles can be attempted on widely spaced occasions – you need something to shoot for. But with dumbells there’s a lot more control factors against you, and conditions won’t always be regulated as with a barbell. Your mood, drive, groove, coordination, incentive, and a well-rested, ready body has to be exactly in tune for that new dumbell record. Plus, as any experienced dumbell aficionado will tell you, it’s all too easy to mentally burn out on the short bars if you attempt too many maxes too frequently. Sad to report, misses with even previous marks occur a lot. Seems you must lose a little occasionally before your body allows you to advance. But take heart. When you do hit a new limit you’ll discover a unique exhilaration, ‘cause the dumbells will let you know that you’ve really worked for and deserve it.
Many of us find that our top dumbell weights are most easily achieved when done for a single set of 3-5 reps performed directly following a short session of singles with a similar barbell move. For instance, we work a standard barbell press for 70% x 1, 80% x 1, 90% x 1, then finish – almost a “backdown set” – with a dumbell press for, say a set of 4 reps. Since the dumbell move is tougher and always lighter than its big brother barbell exercise, the body, and especially the mind, are better prepared (tricked) for dumbell intensity when backing down to it instead of progressively building up in sets. It’s just so important to allow that first dumbell rep to go smoothly and seem fairly light. Following that, reps 2, 3, 4 and, maybe 5, almost always flow easily. But there’s no second chance if the first one sticks.
A few barbell-up, dumbell-down combos you may wish to try include snatches/swings, barbell hack squats/dumbell deadlifts, push presses/one arm jerks, cheat curls/incline dumbell curls, power cleans/dumbell pullups, etc. Again, not that dumbell lifts can’t be trained by themselves – some, such as all-rounds torturous two-hands anyhow, can’t be trained any other way. It’s just that quicker advances in poundages and better quality training come when the dumbell lifts are combined with heavy single barbell movements. Just remember the formula of 4 sets of 1 with the barbell, 1 set of 4 with the dumbell.
Progression can best be summed up this way – don’t be in too much of a hurry. Keep plugging at that set of 3-5 reps with a consistent poundage, workout after workout, until it starts to feel light and easy. Then just nudge the dumbells up by 5 pounds the next session. Some may prefer to gradually raise reps, starting at 4 and eventually achieving 7 with a given weight before upping the poundage and starting over at 3 or 4. Regardless of which progression you prefer, always be a bit cautious during that next workout with the weight jump – attack it, because that addition of a mere 5 pounds per hand may prove far heavier than you expect. Smaller weight increases with loading dumbells can be achieved by off-loading, or adding a single plate to only one side of the bell.
My all-round cohort and good buddy from Cleveland, 45-year-old Bob Karhan, has done more dumbell home training than most. Very few trainees these days can match big Bob’s pure pressing power, the result of many years of concentrated work with various forms of dumbell pressing. He’s kindly agreed to share some of his findings:
When training dumbells I usually do 1-2 sets after my barbell exercises. For example, after a heavy press behind neck session I take a heavy pair of dumbells and do a set of 5-6 reps in the dumbell press. If this is fairly easy, I’ll add weight and go for on more set of 3-5 reps. If the first set proves to be a gut-buster, I’ll skip the second set.
I prefer sticking to a rep scheme of 3-8. The first rep always proves to be essential to jockey for ideal dumbell positioning and establish coordination between muscle groups. Repetitions eventually enable one to discover a personal groove and fine tune it over the course of time. Only dumbells permit this minute adjustment of positioning. In fact, I seriously doubt whether any two individuals could have the exact same degree of push.
In IAWA competition, the center of the ‘bell handles for presses can’t be higher than the clavicles. This presents a new level of difficulty because the initial drive requires a shoulder and elbow rotation to get the ‘bells started. This motion has a tendency to get the dumbells out of one’s groove. By doing the exercise this way, the amount of weight is reduced by about 10-15% while shoulder aggravation is increased by 50%. It’s always important with dumbells to work a lift in the most comfortable manner.
One other way to develop dumbell power is to employ 2” dumbell handles. These are hard to control and they’re tremendous for developing the grip. Mostly, when you go back to the standard 1” handles they feel like mere toys in your hands.
Here are a few principles of pressing dumbells I adhere to:
1.) Principles of cleaning and pressing barbells apply. You need an easy clean. If you’re stumbling all over as you rack the dumbells, or have to muscle them in over the last few inches, your chances of making a maximum single, triple, or even a set of five are slim.
2.) Concentrate on speed when you clean dumbells. You have to turn the dumbells over fast which requires getting the elbows to move rapidly. Remember, you’re not doing hammer curls.
3.) Dumbell cleans are easier if one uses ‘bells with thin, flat-style plates. I prefer 12½’s myself, the fewer plates the better. Hexagon-shaped dumbells are noticeably harder to clean, at least 90’s and up.
4.) For home training, spiral-lock dumbells are best. They can be changed quickly, and you never have to worry about the collars falling off and causing potential injury.
5.) For pressing heavy dumbells it’s essential to have a solid base. Total-body work comes into play here as you must maintain tight thighs and hips.
6.) When pressing the heaviest dumbells, I prefer palms facing each other, with elbows facing forward and angled slightly outward (as opposed to elbows to the sides).
7.) Keep dumbells directly over the shoulders and concentrate on driving them straight up, always being attentive to prevent the ‘bells from wandering out to the sides.
Now for some comments on dumbell curls:
1.) I prefer them to a barbell primarily because the hand position can easily be altered to affect a different feel on the biceps.
2.) Any noticeable pain can be easily eliminated with a simple change in wrist position. Neither barbells nor machines provide this unique advantage.
3.) Dumbells supply almost endless curl variations – alternate curls, cheat curls, one-arm curls, seated curls, etc.
To finish with, two comments on hammer curls:
1.) They give the forearms fantastic work.
2.) They have a positive effect on the dumbell clean.
A Sample Routine
Here’s a sample routine which you might enjoy. Substitute similar exercises if you cannot safely do the ones listed – in particular, the cheat curl and the power clean are not suitable for everyone.
Barbell Press: 70% (of day’s maximum) x 1, 80% x 1, 90% x 1, 100% x 1.
One Arm Dumbell Press: 4 reps each arm.
Cheat Curl: same as Barbell Press.
Hammer Curl: same as One Arm Dumbell Press.
Dumbell Deadlift: same.
Barbell Row: same as Barbell Press.
One Arm Dumbell Row: Same as One Arm Dumbell Press.
Power Clean: same.
Dumbell High Pull: same.
Barbell Hack Lift; same.
Dumbell Hack Lift: same.
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