Sunday, September 27, 2009

10 Bulk Routines That Work - Fred R. Howell

Gary Aprahamian

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10 Bulk Routines That Work

by Fred R. Howell (1974)

Somehow in the past few weeks the word leaked out that I had at least a ton of weights in my cellar. All of a sudden every kid in town that owned a barbell or was going to train someday showed up at my door asking to see this old man’s collection of iron.

Talking with the kids I learned that each and every one of them had, as their goal, a desire to gain weight. Some of them, I’m sorry to say, will be very lucky to gain a few pounds with the type of courses they follow. Their training routines are far from weight gaining routines. I was able to convince one super enthusiast not to train every day and expect to add on the pounds. Not when he’s just a beginner.

Nature plays a horrible trick on the human male. When a male needs the weight most to excel in some head-busting sport it’s hard to put it on. Then a few years later when we have no use at all for extra bodyweight, we can add it just by looking at food. I had to smile to myself as they talked about their routines and how they wanted to weigh a certain amount in a couple of months. And here I am fighting the battle of the double bulge.

Let’s take a look at some of the bulk courses that have been used over the last 35 years with outstanding results. In the early thirties a guy by the name of Joseph C. Hise was stuck at 200 lbs. bodyweight. Having used all the standard routines, Joe read about the squat in Mark Berry’s magazine. Hise figured anything was worth a try and used his own ideas to formulate a bulking routine.

He did the squat, press behind the neck, and curl. In just one month he gained 29 pounds. When he wrote Berry about this super fast gain, Mark couldn’t believe it. Joe had to write to Berry a couple of times before he would print the news! Hise continued his experiments and finally reached a bodyweight of 298 lbs. His arm hit 19” with a chest of 56 and thighs that measured 39.

In this routine the curl and press behind neck should be done for 10 reps, using one set of each exercise only. The squat in this routine the squat done for only 20 reps each workout. The first 10 reps of the squat should be done in the usual way. After the 10th rep, however, take three or more deep breaths between each squat. After doing 20 reps this way your breathing should be rapid and take two or three minutes to return to its normal level. Be sure to train no more than three alternate days per week.

Mark Berry, mentioned earlier, weighed around 130 lbs. and had been doing squats without any fancy breathing and was still known as the thin man. Hise talked in his ear and Mark built a squat rack to prove Joe was all wet. He started doing sets of 20 deep knee bends with the three breaths between reps, a few curls, presses, plus a set of pullovers. This simple routine, plus a fair amount of food, gave him a gain of 50 lbs. and Mark was tipping the scales at 180.

Notice that Mark Berry used the pullover. Hise wrote me that the one mistake he made was to neglect doing the two arm pullover. He said, “The use of the two arm pullover will perch the upper chest high. Never neglect the two arm pullover, preferably the straight arm version. Then faster, better looking gains will be your reward.”

Then around 1940 Roger Eels started to give some publicity to a new twist on the exercise called the squat. Before becoming a gym owner and publisher of a magazine he called “Vim,” Eels made some cash teaching beginners how to fly planes. In those ancient days a motor was primed by spinning the propeller. The ignition is turned on with the throttle closed and one good yank will start the motor. Alas! a pupil had the throttle open and the propeller sucked Eels into it. A tendon on the external vastus of his left thigh was sheared off. This plus a bout with TB led Eels to try barbells. At first he did 20 reps in the squat in rapid fashion without any special attention to breathing. The results were average and Eels wrote Hise that squats are just another exercise without magic. Hise went out and visited Eels, unannounced, as he did many of his friends and pupils and explained the way to big gains. Eels felt bodyweight poundage was enough to use in the squat. Now, his leg condition may have been a factor in this idea, but no matter why, it worked. The breathing squat (plenty of breathing between each rep), a set of curls, deadlift, pullover, bench press and you have a routine Eels printed many times in Vim.

Harry Paschal once wrote me about Eels, saying, “I remember very well the month Roger gained 35 lbs. HE DID BREATHING SQUATS WITH 125 LBS. FOR 3 SETS OF 20 REPS EACH DAY. He ate as much as he could, including three quarts of milk, a lot of honey for energy, peanut butter plus several boxes of raisins each day.” Rumor had it that Harry and Roger had a bet as to who could gain the most weight in a month. Eels won and Harry said he “cheated” by being able to stomach so much peanut butter.

The very same Harry Paschal in one of his great Bosco barbell booklets gave his version of a weight gaining schedule. Here it is:

1.) Breathing Squat – 15-20 reps.

2.) Pullover – 15-20 reps.

3.) Press on Bench – 8-12 reps.

4.) Breathing Squat – 15-20 reps.

5.) Pullover – 15-20 reps.

6.) Curl – 8-12 reps.

7.) Breathing Squat – 15-20 reps.

8.) Bent Arm Pullover – 8-12 reps.

Do just one set of each exercise, three alternate days a week. Never use more than bodyweight in the squat with at least three deep breaths between each squat. Be sure to get plenty of food including meat, potatoes, eggs, whole wheat bread and cereal.

Both Eels and Paschal believed in light squats for gaining weight. They claimed heavy weights compressed the rib cage. When you enlarge your rib cage your bodyweight will go up, and deeper breathing is only possible with no more than bodyweight squats.

Now we come to a bulk, chest and leg routine recommended by John C. Grimek. It incorporates the good use of BOTH HIGH AND LOW REPS. John has written about this type of course many times. It has produced excellent results to those who gave it a fair trial.

In a letter John said, “Training three times a week should be sufficient. Get enough sleep and rest and by including a variety of food in your diet you should experience an increase of bodyweight. Do about 3 sets per exercise for the upper body, about 8 to 10 reps to a

set. For the lower part, the legs, you should work as high as 15 reps in each set. Perhaps a squat schedule as listed below might prove beneficial:

First set – 20 reps, warmup with a light weight.

Second set – 12-15 reps, increase the weight.

Third set – 10-12 reps, increase the weight.

Fourth set – 8-10 reps, increase the weight.

Fifth set – 5-6 reps, increase the weight.

Sixth set – 3-5 reps, increase the weight for the

Last set – 1-3 reps.

“It is suggested that you do a chest exercise in between each set of squats, as well as a back exercise after the squats. It is imperative to start fairly low in poundage the first set to warm up the legs. Then increase the weight in each set and complete the sets mentioned. This routine plus plenty of good food will help anyone to add that magic bulk to his frame.”

Norman Fay made some amazing gains in bodyweight. A gym owner on the West Coast who wanted to gain weight to see just how big he could become without getting fat, at the start of his experiment he weighed 156 lbs. and at the end of 30 days he was tipping the Toledo at 186. Here is one of his favorite weight gaining programs. He had put all of his pupils on it at his gym and said he never had a failure. Here’s the routine:

1.) Clean & Press with a barbell – Do 12 reps and make each clean a dead-hang clean. Breathe as deeply as possible before cleaning and when pressing.

2.) Pullover on a round bench – Light dumbells should be used. Breathe in as deeply as possible as you lower the dumbells. Keep your elbows straight. Do 20 reps and be sure to force the air into your lungs.

3.) Bench Press – 12 reps

4.) Dumbell Curl – 12 reps.

5.) Rowing Motion – Be sure the bar touches your chest each rep – 20 reps.

6.) Lateral Raise on a bench – 20 reps with deep breathing on each rep.

7.) Deadlift – 20 reps. Breathe in as you raise the weight and out when you let the weight down, followed with a set of light pullovers.

8.) Breathing Squat – 35 reps. The Fay version will make it a real gaining exercise. With every squat take 3 deep breaths and really pack in the air on that third breath. If your chest doesn’t ache after the squats then you won’t gain like you should. After a set of these your ribs should feel like they’re going to drop off onto the floor. Follow with another set of light pullovers. This course never failed to put on weight for those who worked hard, ate enough and rested well.

Here’s another guy that used a brief course and gained 100 lbs. and got the first 60 of those pounds in the first year of training. Willis Reed, a barrel-chested Hollywood strongman, had a four-point program which he followed to gain this weight. First, sleep: You need 8 to 10 hours of sleep, according to the amount of energy you use during the day. If you work hard during the day or your day-to-day life is stressful you will need 10 hours to get the maximum gains. Second, nutrition: You need good solid food. Willis liked malted milk shakes and included plenty of them. Be sure to include green vegetables, meats, whole wheat products and a snack before bed at night. Third was not to worry. It wreaks havoc with the digestive process. Don’t invent worries. We all worry at times but you must understand and overcome this habit. It keeps bodyweight down. Worry will wreck the program and your body simply won’t assimilate the food you eat, no matter how much.

Fourth is the exercise program. The exercises are the squat, two arm pullover, regular deadlift, and bentover rowing. These four exercises work the large muscle groups of your body to the limit; the legs, chest and back. Train three alternate days a week. Here’s how:

1.) Squat – Do 10 reps. Place a barbell across the shoulders, feet flat with heels about a foot apart. Take a deep breath, descend, and exhale as you arise to standing position. Go easy for the first month and work on the breathing; it’s very important as this enlarges the lung capacity and the rib cage and triggers better health and assimilation of foods.

2.) Two Arm Pullover – Lie on a bench on your back. The weight is above your head, then allow it to move backward behind the head, keeping the elbows locked. Take a deep breath before lowering and try to get more air in by the time the bell is behind your head. Exhale as you return to the starting position for 10 reps.

3.) Regular Deadlift – Use 10 reps in this one. While standing, reach down and grasp the bar, being sure to bend your legs and keep a flat back. Take a deep breath as you straighten up and exhale as you lower the bar to the floor.

4.) Bentover Row – Breathe in as you pull the bar up to your chest, and exhale as you lower it. Don’t cheat. If you find yourself cheating, try holding the bar at your chest for a two count until strict form becomes second nature. 10 reps.

If you’re tired of many sets and few results why not give this course a try. Lifters were happy with the bulk they could gain but wanted a small waist too. Soon everyone was trying a low rep routine. A typical setup would include the squat, bench press, bent-arm laterals, pullovers, curl, press behind the neck, deadlift, situp, and side bend. The pullover, situp and side bend were done for 15 reps, 3 to 5 sets. The rest of the routine was done for 5 reps, 3 to 5 sets.

No matter how good the routines may be there are always a few men who cannot gain weight no matter what they do. Sometimes a one exercise routine will pull them out of their rut.

Years ago Jim Evans found himself with little time to exercise. Looking for one exercise that would give his body a complete workout he chose the Clean & Jerk. Evans took a weight he could handle for 10 reps as a warmup, cleaning each one from the hang position. Then he added weight in 10 lb. jumps doing 5 reps each set until he reached couldn’t get the 5. A few others did just the clean, feeling the jerk was a waste of energy. Jim worked out twice a week and yes, he did gain weight.

A closer look at these routines reveal them to be very close to what the beer garden lifters used to do in their workouts. None of them were known as skinny.

In the last course I’ll present we have the same brief training routine as J.C. Hise used, except here lower reps are used . . . and only two exercises.

A hefty guy by the name of Ron Ledas used such a workout routine and trust me, it sure worked for him. Workout just three times a week on alternate days. Do 6 sets of 6 reps of each exercise. Do only the squat and the bench press. Don’t cheat. Ever. Make the muscles do the work at all times. De sure to warm up first with a light weight for 10 reps. Get extra sleep and chow. You must work the larger muscles of the body to gain weight and size. Once you have enough raw beef go back to a regular routine.

Before you rush in and try out one of these routines, ask yourself these question: Have you been training for at least six months yet? Have you been using a good course? If not, give yourself a few months to get out of the beginner class.

All the routines mentioned here have proved to be great bulk builders. According to your mental attitude, physical limitations, personal liking for high or low reps they will produce added bodyweight. Physiological reasons such as superior metabolism and genetic background will make some men gain faster than others.

You must follow the basic rules of good health. Give any routine at least two months fair trial. It will take at least a month to get used to a new routine. So don’t give up after a few weeks. Persistence will win out. Stick with it and get big.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Wilbur Miller, Power Perfectionist - Art Smith

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15-year old Eddie Pengelly at 110 lbs.
repping with 300 in training.

Wilbur Miller, Power Perfectionist
by Art Smith (1966)

It had been raining a short time before teenager Wilbur Smith went on horseback after the mail. The horse slipped and threw Wilbur, injuring his back. This accident was to greatly influence his life by both hindering and helping him, as will be explained later.

During his high school day Wilbur lettered in football, basketball and track, and as a senior ran the mile in 4:33.6. Although he never accepted it, he was offered a track scholarship at the University of Kansas.

Wilbur was 23 and weighed a not-too-solid 205 lbs. when he first tried his hand at lifting and found that a 130 lb. press wasn’t too difficult. He then took up regular training in an effort to overcome the pain in his back. X-rays in recent years show an injured disc and occasionally his limit in lifting is determined by the pain he can endure, but here’s a most important fact: his back feels the best when he is doing deadlifts regularly and for that reason he seldom does much training without including some form of deadlifting. Now you can see why the accident has both hindered and HELPED him. He HAS to do deadlifts in order to keep his back in top shape. Other lifts won’t do the job.

Before we get down to exactly how Miller trains for the deadlift, mention must be made of his Olympic lifting for he has been ranked in the top ten of our heavyweights and is not a deadlift specialist in the sense of forsaking other types of lifting in order to spend more time on deadlifts. Wilbur puts a lot of effort on Olympic and totaled 1000 lbs. for the first time in 1964. His best lifts are press 315, snatch 315, and clean & jerk 385. He has his sights set on a 400 clean & jerk and should make it within the next year.

Now let’s discuss the training it took for Wilbur to become America’s best heavyweight deadlifter, on a pound for pound basis. In March, 1961, he set a new personal record of 584, but this was before he started training on the power rack. In less than 2½ years of power rack training he boosted his best lift from 584 to 700 lbs. His rack work consisted of doing 6 reps in a partial movement and then holding the last rep for 6 seconds.

After this, he didn’t seem to make much progress and felt he needed a change in routine. Around the first of 1964 he changed his rack work to 3 reps with a 12 second hold on the last one. This is the method that Bill March uses. Gains started almost immediately, both in bodyweight and strength, with most of his effort on Olympic lifting. On February 1, 1964, he entered a meet at Denver and totaled 950 for the first time. Then on March 25, less than two months later, he totaled 1000 at a meet in Cimarron, Kansas. This was a real gain, especially for a veteran lifter over 30 years old. His back was hurting besides, but he still managed a new deadlift record of 705 after the Olympic lifting. A few minutes later he said he wanted to try another one, so 725 was loaded on the bar. He did clear the floor with it but after already setting three regional records, and one unofficial national record, the desire was gone. It had been a great night.

Later in 1964 Wilbur pushed his record to 715 at the unofficial power championship in York, defeating the powerful Terry Todd for the deadlift honors. The following year saw Wilbur changing his training program once again and then lifting still heavier weights. At the 1965 national power championships at York Wilbur set a new personal record of 725 and came very close with 745, which would have won the deadlift event. As the reader may know the deadlift was won by Terry Todd, who did 740, but outweighed Miller by over 95 pounds!

Now let’s examine the training and the final poundages used that enabled Wilbur to do such outstanding deadlifting at the 1965 Power Championships.

His Monday deadlifting ay be summarized as follows:
245 x 5 (warmup)
425 x 2
520 x 2
580 for 3 sets of 2 reps
600 for 3 x 2
620 for 2 x 2

Wednesday was power rack day. He used 675 for 3 reps and a 12 second hold in the middle position, and then top deadlifts of 1 rep each using 800, 920, and 1000! It is worth noting that these were done WITHOUT straps.

Friday his schedule looked like this:
245 x 5 (warmup)
425 x 2
570 x 2
590 x 2
610 x 2
630 x 2
650 x 2

Bench presses and squats were also done with a similar routine. To help his starting power Wilbur did leg presses until about five weeks before the contest, and had earlier done low deadlifts on the rack and standing on a board to develop more starting power.

Here is one of the most valuable training tips I’ve ever hear. If a lifter is not progressing this one thing could mean the difference between success and failure. Wilbur suggests taking a short layoff every 4-6 weeks. He feels that a week’s layoff is too much so usually rest four or five days and then when he resumes training he is not only refreshed, but finds no decrease in strength and can start off where he left off.

Diet is of the utmost importance and so sometime ago Wilbur decided that he would have to have a better diet if he wanted to continue making gains. He drinks a gallon of milk daily when trying to gain weight and supplements with protein, vitamins, minerals and oils. He is also careful to eliminate the “foodless” foods from his diet.

A few words should be said about the importance of deadlifting positions. Some lifters go through terrible contortions in doing a deadlift. Enough to make even another lifter look the other way. But Wilbur is a real stylist in this respect and his deadlifts are a thing of beauty. In fact, at a meet in Dallas, Bob Hoffman came up to him and said, “I was always against deadlifts until I saw the way you do them.” After the 1965 Championships at York, John Grimek said, “He did all his lifts perfectly,” hence the appropriate title for this article – Power Lift Perfectionist! Wilbur starts the lift with his hips low, back flat and head up. It’s just like seeing a powerful spring uncoil.

Wilbur’s very positive mental attitude plays an important role in his continued improvement. Whenever he would hear of someone deadlifting heavier weights it just made it seem more probable to him that he could lift them too. And he has! But as he began lifting around the 700 pound mark there were no other active lifters doing this poundage in competition and this actually slowed Wilbur’s progress, as in his own words, “it was hard to make new records when no one else was lifting those poundages.” But now that there are other lifters handling record poundages this will only serve to stimulate Wilbur’s own progress.

Not only is his attitude positive toward weightlifting, but to all of life, and he combines this with a serious nature well tempered by a real sense of humor. It would be hard to find a person more dedicated to the sport than Wilbur is. His 240 pounds, well distributed over his 6’2” frame is a good example to the general public of what a weightlifter can look like.

After a weightlifting demonstration in high school, one girl said, “he didn’t look like I thought he would.” I couldn’t help but ask what she had thought he would look like. “Oh, short and fat with a bald head,” was the reply.

We have a few lifters of giant size around and while they may be wonderful people and even inspiring to other lifters, I don’t really feel they help weightlifting to grow in stature in the eyes of the general public or encourage a non-weight man to take up the game. We need more Wilbur Millers, not only in weightlifting but in all walks of life. It’s a privilege to be his friend and to be inspired by him.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Back Ailments, Part Three - Lloyd Garner

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Treating Back Injuries in Bodybuilders and Weightlifters

by Lloyd Garner

How can a bodybuilder or a skilled lifter injure his back? How can such a trainee who has carefully molded his muscles and developed his strength hurt himself in training?

Yes, this seems like a perfectly logical question. You see these trainees working out in a gym or walking down the street, their muscles bulging and their bodies a seeming symphony of strength. But I’ve found that just like a person who has entered a gym for the first time, these conditioned athletes can also hurt their backs.

Probably the major cause of back injuries among novices as well as among veterans of the game is improper warming up. Trainees often forget that every joint and muscle must be exercised gradually over their full range using moderate weights first before strenuous movements or limit lifts are attempted. In this way the natural oils in the blood can lubricate all working parts of the body before they are called upon for more difficult activities. This is particularly important among older athletes.

Just the same as a car must be warmed up for some time and then driven slowly before it is pushed into high speeds, so the human body must also reach its active peak gradually.

A second fault I’ve found among many bodybuilders is their tendency to improve only those parts of their bodies that will look best in a bathing suit or a T-shirt. They want bulging arms and legs but don’t worry about their backs. They’re too interested in showmanship to worry about their body’s health or its performance.

Too often they are unable to handle heavy weights when called on to do so because their backs cannot stand up to the strain. They forget that a strong back is more important in bodybuilding and weightlifting than arms and legs.

In this, my third of three articles, I would like to first outline the causes of back injuries among bodybuilders. Then I will turn to the reasons for these problems among weightlifters before I discuss treatments for both.

I have found in my gym that novice bodybuilders too frequently use excessive weight before their muscles are ready for it. They do not want to gradually work up to heavier weights, gradually toning the muscles and preparing them for harder work. They forget that the body must be coaxed, not forced.

The novice bodybuilder, who generally wants a strong pair of legs, usually turns to the squat but sometimes isn’t content to work up the scale. He wants to use heavy weights right at the start. And because the back is the connecting link between the upper body and the legs, he usually strains his lower back muscles, causing a variety of back ailments such as sacro-iliac and lumbo-sacro strains.

Because bodybuilders often do much of their training on their backs, they often are notoriously poor in overhead lifting. But too often they are coaxed into an overhead lifting contest or they try to match the weightlifters’ strength. Of course, you can imagine the result. The back, the supporting structure here, gets the strain and often the injury.

Care must be exercised in the squat, which is probably the greatest leg developer of all. Use of excessive weights in the squat forces the shoulders far forward of the hips and tends to round the back. This places considerable strain on the lower back and hips, especially for a person with a long back.

A full squat WITH EXCESSIVE WEIGHT AND BOUNCING OFF THE BODY WHEN THE LOWEST PORTION IS REACHED is one quick way to hurt the lower back because a muscle is always weakest when it is stretched.

This same procedure pulls sections of the tibia and femur apart and jams other areas of them together, often wrenching the knees, tearing ligaments and tendons and damaging cartilages.

For this reason I always suggest parallel squats in my gym, unless a trainee is mindful of the low position of a full squat and avoids bouncing and has learned to lower under control. Heavy weights should be used in all forms of squats only after progress is made gradually from lower poundages.

Care must be taken while squats are performed with an elevated heel or heels on a board. While this places the back in a good position, the knees are open to more severe injury because the lowest position can be reached more easily.

The deadlift, like the squat, is probably one of the greatest all-round exercises for both strength and development. But here again we must guard against too-rapid progression and use of excessive weights relative to the trainee’s level.

At numerous odd-lift contests I have noticed that trainees, when they approach their limit lifts, are inclined to straighten their legs during the movement and finish the exercise with a rounded back. This invites serious injury in most lifters.

For this reason, in my gym I never allow absolute limit deadlifting. We use a weight we are confident in succeeding with and gradually increase this over time. For bodybuilding purposes, we use only a moderate weight for 10-20 repetitions, and for strength we go heavier with sets of 3-5 reps. In this way there is no prolonged strained on the pelvic floor.

In the standing press there is a tendency for the trainee for the trainee to bend backwards when the weight is near his limit. And unless the joints of the lower back are firmly attached and strong, the lumbar and some hip muscles are shortened considerably, resulting in lower back spasms and pain.

No heavy overhead lifting should be performed until the trainee is positive through repetition and preparation that his back is fit for it. Too often in such lifts he tries to cheat, which as in the case of cheating curls, often injures the back. The advanced bodybuilder or weightlifter finds cheating advantageous at times but generally, he, unlike the novice, knows how far he can go.

I would like to offer two tips to avoid back strains during the performance of bentover rowing – slight bending of the knees and / or resting the head on a support.

TURNING TO WEIGHTLIFTERS, I would like to discuss a few errors novices, particularly, make during their exercises. They try their limit too often; they will “rip” the weight off the floor rather than lifting it slowly to the knees before applying the second pull; they will forget to hold their hips down and head up, and so, lift with a rounded back.

Weightlifters too frequently forget that a jerk also requires balance and coordination, rather than just brute strength. As a result they try to “muscle” the weight up, rather than learn to do the lift properly.

So often novices forget to use supporting exercises, many of which are performed with the use of a power rack. Practicing such exercises, using heavier weights than you can jerk, develops strength, balance and endurance so often lacking in lifters who repeatedly miss their jerks.

By strengthening the body far beyond what is required in lifting competition, the trainee can lessen the possibility of injury.

Many lifters never learn proper lifting techniques, even though they can eventually become very strong. This puts an unbalanced strain on the body and invites accidents and injuries.

I can’t stress too strongly that any movements that put the body in an abnormal position invite trouble.

Now that I have pointed out some faults of weightlifters and bodybuilders, I would like to deal with the exercises which can assist in correcting back ailments. Many of these movements will be familiar to the average trainee but in many cases the proper methods of performance are unknown to him.

These exercises, a progression of the movements I outlined in my second article, are broken down into three groups, which must be followed in the order given. These exercises make use of weights, the value of which I cannot stress too strongly. They are by far the best way of obtaining maximum strength and development. So if you do not own weights, buy some or go to a good professional gymnasium.

Before starting these exercises, the back should be thoroughly warmed up, preferably with a heat lamp, and a good muscle rub. A sweat suit will retain the necessary heat during the exercises. In fact, injured backs should NEVER be allowed to get cold.

The first exercise I advocate in Series 1 is the bench press (Fig. I-A) Because congestion is the basic cause of all pain, including lower back trouble, the bench press draws the blood away from the injured part and exercises the large muscle groups in the arms, shoulders and chest. You will notice on completion of this initial movement how the blood is drawn to the heavily worked muscles and how much more the back is relaxed.

In the second exercise, the pulley pulldown (Fig I-B), we are doing several things. While we are keeping the blood in mainly the same areas, the large muscles of the arms and shoulders, as we did in the bench press, we are stretching the spine and muscles in the spinal area. At the same time, we are providing the lumbar muscles with work through static contraction. Such static contraction exercises are movements in which the muscles are worked without being moved. The new isometric-isotonic method of training is a good example of this.

The third movement, the parallel bar dip (Fig. I-C), pulls the spinal vertebrae apart. This is accomplished by working the body up and down with the weight of the legs dragging on the spine. The blood here again is pulled to the arms and shoulders.

Having been relaxed by the two former exercises, you will feel, and maybe hear, little snaps in the lower back while performing this movement. These are merely adhesions breaking away. However, no additional weight must be added because this would contract the lower back muscles and cause spasm rather than relaxation.

The next exercise, the hip thrust with the weight on the abdomen, is merely a progression of a similar movement I outlined in my second article. Here weight is being placed on the abdomen. Here weight is being placed on the abdomen (Fig. I-D).

These exercises must be performed until all the back pain disappears before the next series is attempted.

In the series I have just outlined, the first two movements can be performed with fairly heavy weights in three sets, if desired. The third exercise should be done in fairly high repetitions. This provides a longer drag on the back and helps to break down adhesions. Hanging, without moving, will not obtain the desired results because without movement the blood is not being drawn to the working areas in sufficient quantities.

Only one set should be performed in the third exercise and one or two are sufficient in the fourth movement where fairly heavy weights can be used. Care must be taken not to arch the back in the latter movement unless it can be done without discomfort. In some cases, the lumbar muscles could be excessively shortened and cause spasm.

The first exercise I suggest in Series 2 is the modified stiff-legged deadlift (Fig. II-A). By performing it with a barbell on a bench or some other support, you do not lower the weight below the knees. I want this exercise done by bending from the hips with the head looking forward and the posterior (rear) neck muscles contracted. By lifting from the hip position, all the spinal muscles are contracted and injury is almost impossible. Gradually a lower position is attained until the floor is reached, but progress very slowly without pain. Never use a box to stand on.

As you know, strength comes only from contraction of a muscle. And throughout this movement, if it is done properly, the back muscles are contracted.

The modified leg press, the next exercise, works the hamstring and gluteal muscles strongly. Since they have a decided effect on hip tilting, it is imperative that they be well conditioned.

However, since the entire lower spine must be kept in contact with the platform throughout the exercise, the hips must not be farther forward than the feet at any time because this would raise the lower spine off the floor. This can irritate the lower back, since as we have mentioned, a muscle is at its weakest during complete extension.

As the illustration shows (Fig. II-B), the head and shoulders are raised and the abdominal muscles contracted strongly, thereby assuring tight contact between the lower back and the floor. It is wise to lie on an inclined board with the lower back on the higher portion because this enables full leg action with less danger to the lower back.

Any weak spots between the upper and lower sections of the body are detected in the next movement, the squat with the barbell over the head (overhead squat). In this movement, one of the greater back strengtheners, a comparatively light weight is used. The barbell is held at arms’ length overhead with the hands far apart, the heels a comfortable distance apart and the weight held overhead throughout.

Starting with the knees straight and bending only a few inches at first (Fig. II-C), the trainee eventually bends his knees until he is in a sitting position. But as soon as contact is made with the bench the upright position should again be taken. Graduating to a full overhead squat (Fig. II-D) is our ultimate aim but it should not be hurried. One set of 20 repetitions is good and after full strength is achieved the usual set system can be resumed.

The lumbar extension, the fourth movement, is done over a fairly high table. Unless the trainee is careless, complete lumbar extension (Fig. II-E) and flexion (Fig. II-F) are possible without any danger of back injury because gravity has been removed from the spinal discs. Here we have gravity working for us instead of against us.

In Series 3, I have included several abdominal exercises and several advanced back movements which I will alternate. This will balance the development as most of the abdominal type also work strongly on the back and sides.

Using the one-arm side press (Fig. III-A), the first exercise, the legs are held perfectly stiff at all times as the weight is pressed to arm’s length overhead. It is important to look at the weight throughout the movement to completely control it.

This probably exercises the entire midsection, the back, side and front more thoroughly than any other movement. In fact, it should be practiced occasionally by everyone, whether or not he has had a back injury.

My next exercise, the deadlift behind the legs, is performed with the head up, hips low, back completely vertical and the lumbar muscles contracted (Fig. III-B). All the movement is performed by the legs and hips. This is entirely different from the hack lift. This is a great leg exercise and a means of correcting any weak spots throughout the body.

The one dumbell over the head exercise can be performed by bending the knee of the non-lifting arm to facilitate touching of the toes (Fig. III-C). However, after more flexibility has been developed, both legs should be perfectly straight during the entire movement and the toe on the side of the lifting arm should be touched by the opposite hand. This brings into play for the first time most of the trunk rotators. Here again, watch the weight through this entire movement.

Of course, these one-arm movements must be done evenly with both arms. Progress must be slow and moderate with light weights being used first. Even with lower weights, if they are used properly for this particular purpose with 15-20 repetitions, all the muscles involved get a good workout.

In the next movement, the deadlift, the trainee should start with a light weight because some muscles are being used for the first time after injury. Relaxation is important in this performance because basically the exercise is a cross between a stiff-legged deadlift and the regular deadlift. The knees are bent about half way, the bend is more from the waist than from the hips, and the back is slightly rounded (Fig. III-E).

Twenty repetitions are good for our purposes in this exercise. After the first month, the regular deadlift can be tried but when a heavy weight is used, proper deadlifting rules should be observed.

The fifth exercise, the abdominal twist is performed on a fairly highly inclined board. With the feet hooked under a strap and the knees bent, a half-situp position is assumed and held throughout. Then, as the arms are extended to the sides, the trainee swings from the trunk trying to go further every time (Fig. III-F). Because this is an advanced movement, with the abdomen getting a tremendous workout, the maximum position should be reached gradually and never forced.

I have next chosen the good morning exercise, or bendover (Fig. III-D), rather than the stiff-legged deadlift, because it works directly on the spinal erector muscles. In the stiff-legged deadlift, much of the work is done by the lats, which have been given adequate attention in previous exercises.

At first this movement must be carried out by bending from the hips, not the waist, with the head held up and looking directly ahead. This contracts the entire back musculature. It is not necessary to bend too far forward at first but it is advisable later with a lighter weight when the back condition is corrected.

In the final movement, the leg thrust for the abdomen, a position is taken on the incline board entirely opposite to the abdominal twist position. The legs are slowly extended horizontal with the floor (Fig. III-G), held for two seconds and returned to the starting position. This ties together the lower abdomen and upper thigh muscles, leaving no weak spots.

A person with back trouble can always perform pullovers, lying laterals and shoulder dislocates safely by pulling the knees up as closely to the chest as is comfortably possible and by flattening the back against the floor or the bench in the tuck position.

Situps can also be performed by having the knees bent, with the feet held down, if necessary, and the situp movement, itself carried out with a rounded back. A straight back position here can often strain the lower back.

In this series I have tried to steer clear of technical medical terminology which might confuse the reader. I have attempted to outline the causes of back trouble and how such ailments can be eliminated. I cannot overemphasize the seriousness of these problems because the back is the lifeline of the body. At the first symptom of a sore back all straining movements should be substituted by rest, heat and massage. In fact all exercises should be dropped until they can be performed without pain. Any severe pain of numbness down the legs could indicate serious spinal injury; in such a case, self-treatment can be dangerous and expert medical advice should be sought, as your doctor can be your best friend at these times.

I have known many enthusiastic trainees who have made serious back ailments out of comparatively simple ones by being too bullheaded to quit or at least curtail their training until their injuries are corrected. Heavy exercise can never cure a back problem.

Most back problems, except for those few where surgery is needed, can be eliminated with the advice I have given in this series.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Back Ailments, Part Two - Lloyd Garner

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Treating Weak Back Muscles
by Lloyd Garner

In my first article I attempted to outline the common causes and effects of back ailments. I emphasized that most back troubles today are the result of too much sitting, bad posture and improper living habits. In short, weakness.

All are products, to some extent, or our modern way of life. We try to do as little standing and walking as possible. We’d rather sit.

There’s no need, we figure, to throw our shoulders back and sit and walk erect. Carelessness in posture, we assume, is only something our teachers harped about way back in our early school days. It couldn’t possibly hurt us, we think.

And our living habits – plenty of good food, rest and fresh air – well, that’s for the birds. Well, in my first article, I attempted to show – and I’m willing to argue the point with anyone – that these things aren’t for the birds. They are all necessary ingredients in a healthy body. And they are so important in helping to ward off back problems.

As I stressed in my first article, all three things – too much sitting, bad posture and improper living habits – lead to weakness in the back. And it’s weakness in the muscles and in blood circulation that cause ailments in this part of the body.

When the back is not strong enough, it cannot stand the many strains and stresses to which it is subject many times during normal life. You say, probably, that you don’t put it to this type of test since you don’t do manual labor. Yes, that may be true, You lead a quiet life, not too strenuous, and avoid heavy work. But tomorrow, if there’s a heavy snowfall, you’ll trot out with you snow shovel and start to clear your sidewalk and driveway.

Much of the strain in show shoveling is on the back. And if it’s not used to this type of labor, you could find yourself with a back ailment before the job is done.

Of course, you may be in a part of the country where snow is seldom, or never, seen. True, but you will get some cool weather which is often just as tough on a weak back as physical labor.

How, you say, can cold cause back ailments? Well, a person in poor physical condition and with a weak back has more toxic materials in his bloodstream. When he comes in contact with cold, his blood is unable to fight it and he falls victim to it. And cold will often attack the weakest part of the body, which in many cases, is a person’s back.

As in the case of an injury, cold working on these toxic materials in the blood causes congestion. And where there is congestion there is pain, because the oversupply of blood now in the affected area is unable to remove waste products. In addition, the blood cannot properly nourish this section.

Well, you probably say, this is only a localized injury which can be cured with a bit of treatment. That, too, may be true, but unless something is done fast other parts of the body can also be affected as a result of this so-called minor injury.

When this small ailment is near a main nerve, this nerve often becomes irritated because, as I mentioned, the blood is not able to supply the entire area with sufficient nourishment. And before long, because of the improper functioning of this main nerve, a larger area is affected, e.g., sciatica, lumbago, etc.

Then, as it generally happens in such cases of back injury, the person tenses, especially when moving around. His body becomes unbalanced.

Other muscles are strained because they act as a sort of splint to assist the injured member and compensate for its restricted action. Before long, these muscles, which also aren’t in top physical condition, give way and join the injured list.

As I noted earlier, congestion causes pain. Remove the congestion and the pain is on its way out, too. So the first step I always take in my clinic is to attack the congestion.

This I do first with a steam bath which removes toxic materials from the blood through the veins, lymphatic glands and the millions of pores in the skin. Just note, if you take a steam bath, how the skin on the entire body is “flushed.”

In addition to removing toxins which cause congestion and inflammation, steam baths increase circulation throughout the whole body, thereby helping to heal the injured part. You will find that TREATMENT OF THE WHOLE BODY OR A LARGE SECTION ASSISTS A SMALL INJURED PART.

But maybe you haven’t a steam bath available. In that case, a hard, hot shower can help. And I don mean “hard and hot.” Turn of the force of the water as far as you can comfortably stand it. Then let the shower play on that particular area for about 10 minutes.

A third choice in treatment is a heat lamp or even hot compresses.

Heat, preferably in a steam bath, relaxes the injured area and prepares it for the next step, the massage table, where the patient can further relax and undergo passive exercises. On the table we begin with effleurage, a flowing massage motion, from the gluteals (buttocks) to the neck several times.

In back injuries, you will often find thickness and tenderness on the affected side of the gluteals and a similar condition halfway up the back on both sides of the spine, but usually on the sore side only. These thick areas can be softened by using frictions and kneading (a deep rotary motion).

As these thickenings are broken down, they are directed to the nearest set of lymph glands situated in the groin. From there they are eliminated. But, I must emphasize, they must be eliminated. If they are only broken down, they will form again.

From here we turn to two sets of exercises – passive, performed by the operator and not by the patient, and active, in which the patient plays the leading role. The former, carried out first, are designed to break down adhesive materials and assist the patient to regain his full functions, whereas the latter strengthen the injured part and help to prevent future ailments.

Passive exercises I strongly recommend are:

1.) With the patient on his abdomen and fully relaxed (Fig. 1), the operator places both his hands on the sides of the spine opposite to the side of the body on which he is standing. Working from the gluteals to the neck region, he uses a pushing motion, stretching the muscles on this part of the body. Then he repeats this treatment, working from the opposite side. All these movements must be painless.

2.) The operator then places his left hand under the patient’s far hip and pulls toward himself (Fig. 2). With the right hand, he pushes on the back, starting at the neck and continuing down the spine to the hips. The left hand is in the same position all the time – on the hip. Only the right hand moves, as it travels back and forth down the back to meet the left. Then, as in the first exercise, the operator repeats this movement on the other side of the body. Above all, this must not be a jerky or strong, vigorous movement, which could cause pain. It should be smooth and painless.

3.) The patient is then placed on his side with the painful side up (Fig. 3). The operator, facing the patient, flexes the knee back toward the patient’s chest in a backward and forward motion, gradually bending it a little farther all the time. (Fig. 3-B). The shoulder is pushed away from the operator and the hip is pulled toward him. This is done several times in a stretching motion, not a jerking motion which can result in pain. Then the process is repeated on the other side.

4.) With the patient on his back (Fig. 4-A), the operator flexes one leg at a time toward the chest and then both legs at the same time (Fig. 4-B). People with lower back troubles find this position, with both legs up to the chest, often alleviates pain when all other things fail, but not always.

5.) In this exercise the patient sits and the operator stands in front of him, with one hand placed on the front of the patient’s shoulder and the other behind the opposite shoulder (Fig. 5-A). To prevent rotation of his hips, the patient places his knees between the operator’s knees. The latter rotates the patient’s trunk by pushing away with the hand on the front of the shoulder and pulling with the other hand. As the operator feels the muscles’ resistance lessening, he gradually slides the back hand from the rear of the shoulder down to the small of the back and then slowly up again to the starting position (Fig 5-B). He keeps the other hand at the front of the shoulder at all times. The process is repeated on the opposite side by changing the position of the hands.

6.) Here the patient sits and the operator stands behind him (Fig. 6). The patient clasps his hands behind the neck with the fingers interlaced. The operator grasps the patient’s wrists as in the illustration and lifts him with no assistance from the patient. The weight of the latter’s body gives a stretching effect to the spine and muscles of the spine.


I generally suggest a series of 10 active exercises which, as I said before, are performed only by the patient:

1.) The patient lies on his abdomen and links his hands behind the small of his back (Fig. A-1). He then raises his head and shoulders slightly, gradually increasing the height as the muscles strengthen. When 20 repetitions can be performed, he clasps his hands behind the neck with the elbows held back as far as possible (Fig. A-2). The head is then raised as high as possible, held for two seconds and lowered to the table. The feet can be held down. The process is repeated.

2.) Lying on his abdomen, the patient raises one leg with the knee straight as high as he comfortably can from the hip (Fig B). Hold for two seconds and return it to the table. Repeat six times. Repeat with the other leg the same number of times. Repeat in sets of six by alternating the legs as often as it is possible without any discomfort. In this way the patient does not tire the one side excessively and each side gets equal exercise.

I must inject a word of warning in this exercise. Both legs should never be raised at once unless the back is completely cured. If one leg isn’t stabilized on the table, the hips will be tilted forward and a lordosed condition, or exaggerated lumbar concavity, will result. Also, the lumbar muscles may become cramped and go into spasm.

3.) Lie on the back, the patient’s legs straight as in the illustration (Fig. C). Consciously force the lower back against the table by contracting the abdominal muscles. Relax and repeat. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat.

4.) Again lying on his back, the patient bends one leg and extends the other straight horizontally without touching the table (Fig. D-1). Pull the extended leg back as closely to the chest as possible (Fig. D-1). Repeat the exercise six times. Repeat with the other leg, at the same time holding the inactive leg in a bent position. This can be performed in sets of six repetitions. The patient should not, however, do all he can with one leg before carrying out the exercise with the other. This will make the movement unbalanced. Alternate six reps at a time as in Ex. 2.

5.) In this action, the single leg raise, the patient is again on his back with one leg bent (Fig. D-1). Straighten the other leg and raise it as high as possible (Fig. E). Lower it almost to the table, hold for two seconds, and repeat it six times. Then do the same movement with the other leg, always keeping the non-exercising leg bent. Repeat in series of six as with previous exercises.

6.) The patient is on his back, both knees bent and feet on the table, in this exercise, known as the hips thrust. Lift the hips slowly until the abdomen is in a straight line with the shoulders and knees (Fig. F). Hold this position for two seconds, lower them to the table and repeat. The patient should note by feeling with his hands, when he is in the higher position, how the lumbar muscles contract. This movement exercises the abdomen and the lower back.

7.) On his back, the patient flexes his knees, lifts his head and shoulders until a strong contraction is felt in the abdominal muscles (Fig. G). Hold for two seconds, lower them and repeat. This stretches the lower back and strengthens the abdominal region.

8.) Here the patient lies on his back straight out on the table. Keeping the legs stiff from the hips, alternately stretch each leg from the hip (Fig. H). The legs must not be bent at any time during this drill. All the movement is at the sacroiliac joints. This movement should be done fairly fast but always controlled.

9.) The patient now moves to a sitting position on a chair with his legs apart. Reach between the legs and touch the floor with both hands (Fig. I-1). Holding the arms straight, raise them to arms length over the head (Fig. I-2), then lower them and repeat. The sitting position is suggested because it stabilized the hips, thereby preventing any possible lordosed condition.

10.) In the final exercise the patient lies on his back and draws his knees up near his chest with his hands (Fig. J). Alternately pull them up to the chest and relax them a few inches. Repeat several times.

Again I must stress the importance of performing these active exercises only when all pain is gone or at least when they can be carried out without any pain or discomfort. Two further tips I could offer: always rub a painful area wit a good liniment so that it is well heated, and wear a good covering, possible a sweat suit, to guard against drafts and cold coming in contact with the muscles. A warm muscle is seldom injured.

No standing exercises, double leg raises, situps with legs straight of double leg thrusts should even be attempted unless the back is healed and strong again.

Some articles on back injuries suggest stiff-legged deadlifts and side bends. I am strongly opposed to these. Besides being nearly impossible for a person with back trouble, these exercises increase the pressure on the intra-vertebral discs. And if a nerve is pinched, the pressure and pain will increase. Even if there were no pain, an injured back leans to one side, making it impossible to exercise both sides of the body evenly.

As you may have noticed, at least one knee is bent in many of these movements. This keeps he pelvis tilted backwards, eliminating the strain on the injured part and keeping the lower back muscles relaxed.

I CANNOT OVEREMPHASIZE THE IMPORTANCE OF PERFORMING THESE EXERCISES IN THE ORDER GIVEN, ending with a movement which stretches the lumbar spine and muscles. Since, as I have so often stated, there is always pain in a congested and shortened muscle, stretching motions in the muscles will cut the congestion and with it the pain.

You may notice that these exercises affect the abdominal region strongly. As I said earlier, it is impossible to strengthen the back without also improving the abdomen.

In closing this article, I would like to stress that I do not want to work against any advice your medical doctor may have given you. These exercises are not meant to cure serious spine injuries, which are handled by a medical practitioner. In my clinic I work with doctors, not against them. And I have always found that our cooperation – their medical work coupled with my practice – has always worked to the best advantage of all – the MDs, myself and our patients.

In my next article, the final in this three-part series, I propose to deal with treatment for weightlifters and trainees who have injured their backs through improper training.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Back Ailments, Part One - Lloyd Garner

Benoit Coté

Bob Bednarski, age 17

Back Ailments, Part One

by Lloyd Garner (1962)

If you’re like most modern people, you probably drive to the office or plant in the morning, sit at your job most of the day, hop in your car again after work and speed home.

After dinner you slump back into an easy chair and spend most of the evening watching TV.

You walk little of the time. When you do, your posture is possibly punk. And your meals – well, you know the story.

Chances are, and I’d be willing to get on it, that such a life will bring you a batch of back troubles. Some 75% of my patients have back problems, many of these maladies resulting from the type of life I have just described.

It’s this 75% - and you – that I would like to help in a three-part series of articles, starting here and dealing with the prevention and cure of back ailments.

In this installment, I propose to deal with the common causes and effects of back complaints. In subsequent articles I will suggest specific exercises for the layman with weak back muscles, and then for the weightlifter and trainee who has injured his back through improper training.

As I indicated earlier, the common causes of back troubles are too much sitting, sloppy posture and improper living habits. In each case, the person guilty of these three is not solely responsible for his misdemeanors. He’s just a victim of today’s easier and sloppier type of life.

Who can blame him for aspiring to a job where he can sit all day and conserve his strength, where he can own a car which relieves him of walking and where he can buy a TV set which provides him with soft daily entertainment?

He’s also fallen unknowingly into the easier habit of slumping when he walks, and doesn’t realize how ridiculous he looks when his sloppy posture gives him a protruding abdomen, sunken chest and forward drooping head.

And with his busy life he doesn’t figure that missing a meal or two of substituting a quick hamburger for some nutritious “rabbit food” will do him any harm. He probably feels that he doesn’t need regular exercise which strengthens the postural muscles and relaxes him.

He thinks his coffee or the two or three drinks at lunch will relieve the tension. No, he doesn’t for a moment realize that all these habits are weakening his body, his back included, and may lead him eventually into a clinic like mine for back treatment.

Well, you say, what’s wrong with sitting, especially if we’re tired? It’s very simple. When you become tired while sitting, you slump, making the abdominal muscles flabby and cramping the abdominal organs.

At the same time, the spine is forced into an unnatural position, causing too much weight and pressure on the tailbone. And when you start to get up from this position, you may experience considerable pain.

If you were one of the 75% of my back ailment patients, you would probably hear me continually stressing the connection between the back and abdomen. They “sympathize” with each other. If you have a weak back, you have a weak abdomen and vice-versa. It is impossible to have one strong and one weak. They both are either one of the other.

In case you think sitting causes problems, let me tell you about sloppy posture. It can lead not only to back ailments but to problems in the stomach, intestines, neck, spine, legs and feet.

When your posture is poor, a chain reaction is set off. The knees are slightly bent and the pelvis tilted forward, which results on a pulling on the back of the legs. This, in turn, brings on a lordosis, or exaggerated lumbar concavity. A further development, resulting from this habit, is a forward or round-shouldered condition called a kyphosis (exaggerated dorsal convexity).

Just take a look at yourself in the mirror when you take on the posture. If you don’t resemble one of Africa’s apes, I miss my guess.

And in this awkward position, you’re a good bet for a splitting headache. It all starts when, with your head and shoulders drooping, you must lift your eyes to look in front of you. This cramps the posterior neck muscles, resulting in cervical tension and congestion with a headache to follow. This kypho-lordosis condition which you can avoid with scarcely any effort by improving your posture, is one of the major causes of headaches.

Pity the poor fast-growing boy, who. feeling conspicuous because he towers over his playmates, assumes this position to attract less attention.

But more than headaches can develop from this sloppy posture. Your heart and lungs are cramped, they lack sufficient space in which to function properly, and eventually heart and lung congestion result.

Other possible developments are indigestion, constipation and viseroptosis (falling of the abdominal organs) due to the weakness and subsequent sagging of the muscles holding them in place. Many of the so-called female weaknesses, such as fallen or tilted uterus, painful menstruation and difficult parturition (childbirth) often have their beginnings in bad posture.

Premature degeneration of the spinal discs, which sometimes brings on arthritis of the spine, is often a result of the lordosis we mentioned earlier. The weight of the body is not sitting on the bones of the spine as it should be when posture is proper. This promotes shortening of the lumbar muscles and congestion and pain in that area, leading eventually to spinal disc degeneration.

I said earlier that your knees and feet – seemingly a long way down from where your bad posture is most noticeable – are also affected. When the pelvis is tilted too far forward, as it is during this habit, the hamstring muscles are shortened. Straightening of the knee is then often painful and eventually can become nearly impossible.

Continued malfunctioning of the knee, in turn, affects the feet which are then not exercised properly. Herein often is the source of many of today’s common foot complaints – corns, calluses and bunions.


But nothing in this old world of ours should be carried to extremes. And that goes for good posture, too. If exaggerated, it can be detrimental to your health. When the body is not relaxed, and it isn’t when posture is carried too far, tensions build up.

I spoke earlier, too, of proper living habits. You probably figure I’m whistling in the dark to relate them to back problems. But there is a direct link.

To illustrate my comment, I must again emphasize one of the most significant points in my series of articles – the major cause of back complaints is weakness in the bones, muscles and ligaments. Strengthen them and you’re off to a flying start in preventing or curing your troubles.

And proper living habits are essential in eliminating these weaknesses. Our bodies need proper and adequate nutrition and rest. Without them we can’t even start to feel well and strong physically and alert mentally. Without them our muscles degenerate and cannot support our body properly.

Take it easy on smoking. I can’t stress that strongly enough. You need every bit of oxygen you can get to give your constitution strength and the ability to carry on normal living and fight the threat of back troubles.

And proper and regular exercise – and I must emphasize proper and regular – combined with good food and plenty of rest and fresh air, is the best cure for weakness and fatigue.

With this background, I will end my first article on prevention and cure of back ailments by active treatment. I will turn my thoughts in the next issue to specific exercises for the average layman. Following that, in my third and final article in this series, I will deal with treating the causes of, and the treating of injuries in bodybuilders and weightlifters.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bill "Peanuts" West - Earle Liederman

Bill "Peanuts" West
by Earle Liederman (1961)

The story of Bill West, the California strongman, is a revelation of what a special diet combined with weightlifting can make out of a thin weakling. Bill weighed but 102 pounds when his hands first touched a barbell; and after a few years this bodyweight soared to 218 pounds due to progressive lifting and living chiefly on peanuts. But let me go back to the time he began.

When Bill was 15½ years old in 1952, he associated with Gene Wells, who lived near him in Pennsylvania. Wells, at the time, held the physique title of Mr. Pennsylvania. And Bill at the time had never heard of health foods, vitamins, proteins or rightful living. Neither had he ever given a thought to lifting a dumbell or any sort of weight. He was just a thin kid who looked at sports rather than being one of the players. It was Gene Wells who prompted Bill West to try some weight training and to build up his scrawny body, and so Gene got him started with very light bells. Bill gives Gene Wells much credit for his start in the iron game.

In July of 1952 they both became very interested in a copy of Strength & Health magazine and were fascinated by an article about "Muscle House by the Sea" at Santa Monica, California. Both of them immediately decided to get to the West Coast pronto! They did, and right to this Muscle House they went!

Now, this famous abode is owned and operated by a lovely lady. Fleurette Crettaz, who is also known around her loyal following as "Joy". This is undoubtedly due to her friendly and optimistic disposition, as she is ever striving to help everyone along healthful avenues and rightful ways of living. Her large house is always filled with musclemen and health enthusiasts and is strictly vegetarian. This lady looks after her flock of muscleboys just as though they were her own children. A great many of the past Mr. Americas and other prize winners have lived there, as have numerous noted lifters. Bill West and Gene Wells felt right at home when they first entered her door.

The nickname "Peanuts" was bestowed upon Bill because he was given a rigid diet at Muscle House of proteins, chiefly peanuts. He ate one pound of raw peanuts daily, also a half-cup of peanut butter each day as well as six spoonfuls of raw peanut oil every 24 hours. Of course, in addition to all this peanut intake he had numerous protein drinks and raw milk as well as many assorted fruit juices.

Within 60 days he leaped from that 102 lb. mark to 132 lbs. bodyweight. At the end of the first year he went to 155 and kept right on devouring the peanut variations. He had also settled deeply into weight training.

His experiences during the second year with weights and peanuts were a trifle discouraging to Bill as he only went to 165 lbs. Perhaps he had expected too much. But during his third year of training he increased to the 180 lb. mark through heavier lifting.

It was now 1955. He became interested in lifting event. In his initial local experience Bill took second place in the Muscle Beach lifting meet and third in the odd lift meet. He was a novice, yet he managed a 230 press, a 205 snatch and a 280 clean & jerk. In that same year he won an A.A.U. odd lift meet with a 330 bench press and a 420 squat. But he was far from satisfied, and aimed at higher goals and greater power.

At this point Bill went on a heavy squat and press program and chanced to meet Ike Berger, who advised him to increase his bodyweight to 198 lbs. He then trained with Berger and Dave Ashman, lifting heavier and heavier poundages as well as increasing his peanut-based diet intake. He could almost see himself enlarging weekly at this point. Bill's aim was to get heavier, so he went on a more severe lifting program, until one day when chancing to weight himself he was amazed to find the scales showing 218 pounds! It revealed the benefits derived from heavier training and greater food intake; but Bill was actually far too heavy. He recalled how Ike Berger suggested an increase to that 198 lb. mark, and now Bill was 20 lbs. over the mark! But he felt powerful. Nonetheless, he dedided to reduce.

His next step was to eliminate excessive peanut eating and milk drinking. By controlling his protein diet and eating less, he began to reduce. It wasn't long before he was down to that desired 198 lb. class, and he has stayed there ever since.

"Peanuts" has absolutely no desire to train for muscular effect. His entire interest lies with lifting exclusively, and he especially enjoys the odd lifts. He is now performing in training, and with reps - 435 lb. bench presses; 525 lb. squats; and 175 lb. strict barbell curls. He can easily power clean 305, push-jerk 330, and that's without training for these latter lifts. Bill also presses 145 lb. dumbells at an 85 degree angle, and does 3 sets of 10 reps in presses with 100 lb. bells; presses 242½ lbs. behind the neck, collar to collar grip. He has also done bench sqauts from a 19" high bench with 770 lbs.

He likes everyone and everyone likes Bill West. I have found Bill to be a swash-buckling openhearted fellow with one of the most electrified dispositions I have encountered in years. He seems a mass of energy. One grand thing in his favor is his honesty and truthfulness. He speaks with authority and relates facts, especially about his lifting poundages. Bill's sense of humor is immense. Once I chanced to catch him standing and talking in the midst of a group of seven or eight fellows. Bill was gesticulating and smiling as he talked, and all the other guys were continuously enjoying a prolonged spell of laughter. He's a quick thinker and a very rapid talker; and yet remains true to himself, and that's really saying something. One example of his appreciation for what others have done for him was expressed when he emphatically requested that I kindly give full credit to Gene Wells and Ike Berger for his earlier progress, and also to mention the healthful and helpful benefits he obtained while living at Muscle House be the Sea.

Bill is a hearty eater, yet lives on but two meals a day. He trains every day, with the alternate system, performing all upper body work one day and all leg work the next. He tells me that he takes about three hours for his upper body training and one-and-one-half for his leg work. Bill has eliminated all milk from his diet at present in order to hold down his weight at that 198 lb. mark, and he only drinks water during his training period, not otherwise.

He prefers home training and finds he can secure better concentration than he could by working out in a crowded gymnasium. Bill has his own training quarters in the garage in back of his home, where he and a couple of freinds have their enthusiastic power workouts.

His ambition at present is to make a 600 lb. squat and a 500 lb. bench press in strict style at his present bodyweight of 198 lbs. Will he do it? I'll wager he will! Bill has learned that if anyone wants strength he must use strength to get it. And I am sure you will be reading and hearing more about "Peanuts" each year as he progresses with his odd lifts and attains his goals.

Bill is a shining example of how a once weak and skinny youth can transform himself into a full-fledged heavyweight with a body packed full of power though heavy weight training and the right diet. However, that peanut diet adds food for thought also.

My own personal opinion regarding such a forced, extremely heavy protein diet is that it should be supervised by someone who thoroughly understand the complete functioning of the organic system, and then also outlined as adaptable to each particular individual. Otherwise a beginner might overstuff himself with far too much "oily" protein and possibly have an unfavorable reaction. And yet again, there always remains something in life to contradict logic. If Bill West's experiences with such a peanut diet combined with heavy lifting can produce a body packed with power and filled with energy, well then it is worth acquiring by such methods. All barbells and other weights have been tried and proven through the years, therefore few "new" suggestions are realized concerning their usage. I merely caution a beginner against to oily a diet for long periods of time unless given under expert supervision.

Anyway, this frank and open account of Bill "Peanuts" West has given me great pleasure to impart to you. But let me repeat and make this clear: everyone likes Bill West and Bill West likes everyone. Such a combination is bound to make this world a happier place for all.

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