Thursday, April 22, 2010
Bodybuilding for the Man Over 40
by Joe Nista (1977)
The average North American male over 40 years of age is in nothing less than pitiful physical condition. He’s too fat and too weak too manage anything more strenuous than mowing his lawn, if that. A three block run would reduce him to jelly. He can’t sleep, lacks regularity and his nerves are in the type of shape a banjo’s E-string should be. Some picture!
As we in the iron game know, this is not the case for a man over 40 who weight trains on a regular basis. Hard, flat bellies are in. So are firm, functional muscles, clear eyes, sound sleep, youthful skin texture and a tranquil approach to life. I ask you, how could anyone settle for the type of existence described in paragraph one when he could have such health and fitness?
As yet, there are so few men interested in bodybuilding after 40. I have been somewhat of a pioneer in this area during my era, but far too many individuals tend to give up at age 40. They think it’s all downhill from that point on, and they can’t see any point in training hard or watching their diet. They couldn’t be making a bigger mistake, because this combination of diet and exercise is the closest thing we have to a fountain of youth.
The aging process is insidious; it’s always there, and although we can slow it down a bit, age inevitably gets us all. Up until about 18 years of age, we are growing and every cell that is broken down through exercise or general daily stress is replaced by more than one new cell. That’s growth.
From about 18 to 30, the dying cells are replaced on a more or less one to one ratio. After 30, however, everyone is aging. The dying cells begin to be replaced at a less than one to one ratio. Aging – you can’t beat it, but you can slow it down with the fountain of youth I’ve been talking about.
I’m 48 and feel great, but I’d be a fool to say I’m the same man I was at 38 . . . or 28 . . . or 18. Physically, I’m better; I’ve never had a better physique, and I’m still improving, but I’m more prone to injuries and I don’t recuperate as readily as I used to. Strength doesn’t dissipate as quickly as most people think but I must use it more judiciously than in my youth.
At 18 I’d never heard of protein. None of us really had. We were told we must drink milk, but we had no idea why it was necessary. I detested milk because it bloated me and gave me gas. at 18 I was only getting about 30 grams of protein and next to no calcium. It is my contention that most injuries incurred after 30 are a result of improper eating habits as a child. The effects of this in my case didn’t show up until after 35, but they did come.
Contrasting my present condition with that of age 28, I can see that my current mental attitude is much better. I can adhere to the dietary plan and training regime better now, whereas 20 years ago I trained in a very helter-skelter manner. One week would feature super-hard training and the next would be a big zero. I healed and repaired immediately, so I felt better than now, and I made gains.
If a man of 28 could look at training and diet as a harmonious way of life instead of something to be endured, he’d be miles ahead of where I was. At 28 or 30 a bodybuilder doesn’t need many shortcuts, because he’ll grow and remain healthy, but as time goes on he will search for shortcuts. He’ll need to find the little nuances in each exercise that give him the most, and the training techniques that produce the greatest results in the least time.
I hate to talk about injuries, but if you’ve followed the gist of this article so far, or if you’re already over 40, you know that this is a very real concern for veteran lifters! I’ve had all of the major muscle and joint injuries during my 35 years of bodybuilding, so perhaps you can benefit in some way from my experience in solving such problems.
Shoulder injuries are particularly common, because we are somewhat driven by our egos and try to bench press the same weights we could handle in our youth. We could probably still be handling those heavy poundages safely if we had taken better care of ourselves as youths, but really . . . who does? We can still come close if we consume very high levels of calcium, magnesium, pantothenic acid (which releases the cortisone hormone in our bodies) and vitamin C (which repairs collagen and other connective tissue).
To fight shoulder injuries, most chest work should be preceded by shoulder work. No matter how much you warm up on bench presses, you can’t hit the little shoulder muscles with that movement. They stabilize and can become strained. In turn the joint is damaged. Working shoulders first can often forestall this. Your bench press might suffer at first, but in the long run it will go up.
I’ve even had two spurs on my shoulders and chronic bursitis, but by eating better and continuing with light to heavy exercise I have retained the suppleness of my youth. By being careful I’ve experienced no extraordinary shoulder difficulties for some time now.
Elbow pain is not so much a result of aging as it is of improper warmups, especially before doing triceps work. Always do your triceps exercises at the end of a workout, by which time the elbows will have been thoroughly warmed up through shoulder and chest exercises. As an added precaution I also do triceps pushdowns before triceps extensions, because the hands are maneuvered through a more normal arc of movement with that exercise. Unnatural movements are what kills you and your joints.
Sore knees and squats also can go together, but I have evolved a method to keep doing squats even at my supposedly advanced age. There are small tendons and ligaments over and around the kneecaps, and these need to be gradually stretched. Just jumping into a set of full squats is murder on these structures.
Before you squat, do a light set or two of leg extensions. Then do only one-quarter squats for a couple sets, followed by a few sets of half-squats. Finally, you are ready for full squats and adding some weight to the bar.
Back injuries can often be alleviated by strengthening the surrounding lower back musculature, especially if the back is weak. You can, however, further weaken the back if you do too much. Keep the reps low, sets to a minimum and weights light. With a normal back, of course, you can do much more. I prefer hyperextensions and light stiff-legged deadlifts.
On back exercises and ALL exercises for that matter – I believe in maintaining full control over the weight at all times. Do the first repetition in a very slow, controlled manner, and then gradually accelerate the movement’s tempo as the set progresses.
Cardiovascular fitness is essential, but the method chosen by many nowadays can be fraught with potential injury. Running is being pushed as one of the prime activities but it tends to become boring and tedious, also very hard on muscles, tendons, etc., on the feet, ankles, knees, hips and back. Swimming would be much better, because the body is virtually weightless in the water and there is much less strain on the joints and connective tissue.
Most individuals can’t get in a good cardiovascular workout with weights because they don’t work the legs hard enough. You have to accelerate the pulse up to 120-125 or more beats per minute and keep it there for at least 12-20 minutes. You can do this with weights by doing squats, leg presses, lunges, sissy squats and the like.
Personally, I prefer to play racquetball a few times a week. You can burn off a lot of calories doing this very intense form of exercise.
Individuals over 40 at Nista’s Gym often ask me about doing limit singles. They want to test their strength occasionally. This can be safe, but only if three guidelines are followed:
1.) Don’t do it sooner than three months after a layoff.
2.) Use spotters.
3.) Do an extensive warmup first.
Diet is also a very important factor for lifters over 40, but that in itself would take up another article. Study nutrition, find your own individual needs, but most importantly – keep drawing from our fountain of youth.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Zane Grey was born in Zanesville, Ohio. Honestly. In 1908 he made a journey to the West with Colonel C.J."Buffalo" Jones, sometimes called Arthur, who told him tales of adventure on the plains and directed the young Zane to some of the best hardcore bodybuilding gymnasiums. The trip was a turning point in Grey's career, and he began writing Western novels while training for, and eventually winning the IFBB Mr. America, Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia titles.
Phase Period Training
by Frank Zane and John Carl Mese
One of Frank Zane’s major contributions to the art of bodybuilding is phase period training. This method is not for beginners, however, it can be adapted to individual lifting or physique goals and the ideas herein are of course, open to interpretation and application over various lengths of time.
In the past, bodybuilding competitors trained the same way all year round until the contest season, then frantically, one month before their intended peak the hectic definition training would begin. The concept for phase period training is that you train specifically with a goal towards no more than one or two peaks per year.
The training is broken down into ten phases with the final phase being the peaking weak. Each phase contributes to the attaining of maximum possible shape and conditioning. After defining the ten phases, I will comment on the theoretical advantages of this system and how each phase contributes.
Phase 1 – Starts right after the last peak period. A two-week to one month complete layoff from training.
Phase 2 – Lasts two weeks to one month. Simple, fun workouts twice a week with emphasis on pumping blood to the muscles, and staying lean by running a mile twice a week.
Phase 3 – Lasts for one month. Train three times a week. Start to emphasize weak areas. Ten sets (three exercises) per body part; full-body workouts. Training time approximately 1½ hours.
Phase 4 – For two months. Train four times a week. This is the beginning of the gain phase. Two hours an exercise period. Heavy weights with two or three minutes rest between sets. Fifteen sets per bodypart (three exercises). Increase poundages as soon as possible.
Phase 5 – For two months. Train five times a week with two hours an exercise period.
This is the gain weight and strength phase. Two or three minutes rest between sets. Five workouts per bodypart in a two-week period (three one week, two the nest). Still fifteen sets per (three exercises).
Phase 6 – For one month. 2½ hours total training for each of six days. This is the maximum size phase. Twenty sets per bodypart (four exercises), each bodypart trained twice a weak. Weakest bodyparts get thirty sets. Use the increase weight/decrease reps approach, i.e. 200 lbs. x 15 reps, 230 x 12, 250 x 10 . . . Rest 1½ minutes between sets.
Phase 7 – For one month. Still six days a week, the shape and muscularity phase. Two workouts per week per bodypart, increase sets from twenty to thirty per bodypart, decrease rest period between sets to 45 seconds. Add running to the program and change exercise style to first set warmup, add weight and use the same poundage for sets two, three, four and five.
Phase 8 – For one month. Definition phase, eight workouts per week. Work weak bodyparts three days in a row. Special attention to abdominals. Same set/weight system as in phase 7. Keep running and rest only 30 seconds between sets.
Phase 9 – For one week. Maximum definition training. Nine workouts with increased abdominal work. Stop running but work calves every day.
Phase 10 – Final week. Work out Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday under Phase 9 system (30 seconds rest between sets, work weakest bodypart all three days, 30 sets per bodypart. Rest Thursday, Friday and Saturday with maximum sleep. Peak on Sunday.
The theory of the phase period system is that you start from zero and then build up to the maximum intensity necessary to reach a peak. This system provides for the psychological needs of training along with the physical requirements.
In Phase 1, a layoff is needed from the previous intensified training. This phase not only allows you the physical relaxation but also the mental. This also gives time to allow injuries to heal and some much needed time to spend with your family or non-lifting interests.
Phase 2 is really a conditioning phase where you start to get both your mental and physical ready to train. During this period emphasis should be on the fun workouts. In other words, do what you feel like doing, try exercises you have never tried before. By using high repetitions and light weights you will also be helping the healing process by pumping blood to the area.
Phase 3 is the real start of preparation. During this time you are warming up your body for the rigors of reaching a peak. At the end of phase three your body should be ready; your ligaments, tendons and muscles conditioned for the goal ahead.
Phases 4, 5 and 6 are the gain phases for not only strength but also for size. Training poundages should be increased as fast as possible and still permit the proper form and desired repetitions. Phase 6 emphasizes getting the body more well proportioned and starts shaping the physique. In addition, phase 6 is also the level to increase if phase 1, 2 or 3 are less than the three-month period and the level to return to if more than one peak is planned.
Once you have the size, shape and balance, the next step is the muscularity phase. Phase 7, 8 and 9 represent this aspect. It is at this level the posing or held contractions should also be practiced, since this will increase separation of the muscles. You will also note that in phases 8, 9 and 10 the emphasis is also balance between bodyparts. The key being WORK THE WEAK BODYPARTS THE MOST. SYMMETRY is extremely important, or in the case of strength-training, balanced and fluid function of the body’s aspects as a whole.
Phases 8, 9 and 10 take maximum concentration for the trainer since workouts are more than once a day. These phases drain the lifter and maximum sleep is needed (up to nine hours or more) to help the body recuperate.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Triceps and Lockout Strength
by Charles A. Smith (1950)
There is a situation in the iron game which always fills me with commiseration. It can be bet with in a contest, and it is seen in the training room. It is common to both bodybuilders and lifters. I never witness it without feeling a great deal of pity for the victim – yet at the same time I get a sense of exasperation mingled in with the sympathy. I ask – “Why in the heck doesn’t he DO something about it!”
Ever see a lifter fail to lock out in a heavy jerk? Every see a bodybuilder fail to get past sticking point in a prone press or a bench press? Of course you have, and I am willing to bet a steak dinner the YOU have been the central character in a like drama. The powerful group of muscles which take a weight overhead are many, and of the group the two most important are the TRICEPS and the SERRATUS MAGNUS. In fact, without the latter it would be impossible to press or jerk a weight no matter how powerful your thighs, deltoids and triceps were. You might get it to arms’ length but you would be unable to hold it there. This article will give you special exercises to develop triceps and locking out strength – exercises which can be performed with accessories, exercises which will be eminently successful.
None of these movements are new in the sense that they have just been developed or discovered. They were used YEARS AGO. They are in use today, and I guess as long as fellows “pick em up and put ‘em down” they will be good old standbys to help build that little extra bit of power, and make the successful lifter just that little bit closer to his goals. I will divide these exercises into two parts – specifically for the lifter, and particularly for the bodybuilder. Altho I have divided the movements which the lifter and the bodybuilder must use, you will find that these exercises can be used with advantage by both sections of weight trainers.
For the Lifter
Take two training partners and weight 10-15 pounds more than your best clean & jerk. With the aid of two friends, or safe use of the power rack set at proper height, get the weight to lockout overhead. Make every effort to stretch the arms higher WITHOUT ALLOWING THE ELBOWS to come out of lock. It is important to make certain that your commencing poundage is supported FIRMLY overhead. The knees should be locked and the thighs tensed. DON’T look up at the weight. Look straight ahead. When this position is gained, start your STRETCHING efforts. The usual method is to make 3 reps with a short rest of a few minutes and then repeat for 2 more sets, making 3 sets of 3 reps. Work up to 6 reps and then you are ready to commence . . .
With the identical weight you used on your overhead stretching movement, take the weight to the finish of the jerk position overhead. This time however, you don’t stretch, but allow the elbows to UNLOCK SLIGHTLY and then PRESS out the weight. As with the stretch exercise commence with 3 sets of 3 reps and work up to 3 sets of 6 reps. Once you have reached this goal, add 10 pounds to the bar and start off again with the STRETCHING movement, then when you have AGAIN progressed to 3 sets of 6 reps, go on to the press-out exercise. The lifter will readily observe that the two exercises are “interlocked” as it were, that it is a matter of steady progression from ONE to the OTHER. That the stronger one becomes at exercise one, the more efficient he is going to be with exercise two. The important rules to follow in these two movements are – NEVER LOOK UP AT THE WEIGHT. MAKE SURE that the weight is fixed firmly overhead. Have confidence in your spotters or catching setup or don’t practice the above two exercises. It may interest readers to know that the late Ronald Walker used the first exercise to develop some of his jerking and locking powers. He was capable of using 500 pounds and could support this enormous weight overhead without any difficulty.
The third exercise for lifters will doubtless cause no little comment. The bodybuilding boys will exclaim, “Why, this is what I use for triceps development.” And so it is. It is certainly an excellent triceps developer, but it is an even better producer of elbow locking power.
Take a bench, a dumbell you can handle COMFORTABLY for 6 to 8 reps and seat yourself on the bench. With the weight held in either the right of left hand, raise it to arms’ length overhead. Hold the UPPER ARM firmly against the side of the head. Now allow the forearm only to move, bending the arm at the elbow so that the weight drops behind the head. Raise the dumbell to the overhead position again by raising the forearm. Note that the upper arm does not move in this exercise but is held firmly against the side of the head throughout the movement. Commence with 6 to 8 reps and work up to 10 to 12 for 3 sets each arm.
For the Bodybuilder
For this exercise you will need adjustable squat stands or a power rack. Adjust the stands so that, when you are seated on a bench, the arms will be holding onto the bar just an inch above the top of the head. The position of the bench, of course, should be directly beneath the bar resting on the stands. From this position press the weight off the stands to arms’ length overhead and return it to the stands. Use a light weight until you are accustomed to the movement. Look straight to the front and do not look up at the weight. Your main concern is to develop triceps strength that will take the bar up past the sticking point. Looking up at the weight will place, or distribute, the stress of getting the bar overhead on the anterior deltoids, the pectorals and the triceps, when it should come mainly on the triceps and serratus magnus. Commence with a weight which you can use comfortably for 8 to 10 reps and work up to 12 to 15 reps, 3 to 5 sets.
Exercise Two: Supine Lockouts
Here you will need two benches, boxes, or a rack. The bar should be placed so as to bridge across the boxes. You will lie beneath the bar and press it to a locked out position. A quite short range of motion is employed in this exercise, allowing for the use of very heavy weights. The elbows must point towards the feet. They must be “tucked” in. Don’t allow them to point to the side. As I said, you will find it possible to handle very large poundages in this movement. Take a weight you can handle comfortably for the usual 8 to 10 reps and work up to 12 or 15 for 3 to 5 sets.
Exercise Three: One Arm Dumbell Push Press
I believe this exercise is unexcelled in the development of triceps power. All you need is a heavy dumbell. Clean it in to the shoulder, and using a slight, quick drive with the legs push the bell past the sticking point. With legs straight and back erect continue pressing to full lockout, using mainly triceps and shoulder strength. When the bell is completely overhead, hold it there for a moment, making a few very short lockouts by bending the elbow very slightly. Try to stretch and extend the arm as far as possible.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
More About Bruce White
by Peary Rader (1983)
Bruce White is the young man in Australia who has long been known for the tremendous grip strength he has developed. Along with this update we have many photos of some of the many feats Bruce performs consistently. Along with his regular training program Bruce has been specializing on gripping feats for many years and we would say he probably has one of the strongest grips in the world today. At least as strong as anyone that we know about, and if you know of somebody who can exceed all of Bruce’s feats, we would like to hear about it.
Along with the many photos shown here, we have several lists of the feats of strength Bruce performs with his hands. Wherever you go among weightlifters, you find some man with extremely strong gripping power capable of performing great feats of strength. We believe, however, that the oldtimers had better gripping powers and were able to perform feats of strength that the present day barbell men can not come even close to. This is largely due to the fact that they specialized in lifts and feats of strength that required amazing gripping power. Today most lifters will perform the snatch and clean & jerk, and the bench press, squat and the deadlift. Most of these do require considerable gripping power to hold the bar in the hands but this is a sort of specialized type of grip.
I believe that when I was a young man the most effective grip developer that I knew anything about was the one-hand snatch and the one-hand clean & jerk. I was able to clean 240 pounds with one hand and almost had 260 and even got a start with 300. We also used to do a lot of deadlifts with one hand and this gave you amazing strength. I think that my being able to do a one-hand deadlift with around 380 pounds had a lot to do with the gripping strength that I developed for a period of time. At one time I was able to tear three decks of playing cards at one time without any trickery – just plain strength. I used to do a lot of iron bending and spike bending and so on. This also tended to develop he forearms and wrists and the hands.
We also enjoyed doing chins from rafters with a pinch grip. We enjoyed collecting Sears/Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogs just so we could use them to tear in exhibitions. I still have a big stack of these catalogs stored here that I never got around to tearing.
Bruce is not a big man and usually weighs somewhere around the lightweight class of 148 to 150 pounds. It is sort of a family trait to have a lot of gripping power as Bruce’s father is an outstanding man in this respect and you will see a picture of him above.
In September of 1978, Bruce was still able to hold a hundred pounds of smooth plates off the floor for six seconds. He could deadlift a plate of 115 pounds and move off the floor around 140 pounds. He also deadlifted a ¼” thick plate of 90 pounds and he could lift 77 pounds of a 4” thick plate with one finger and his thumb. He did a bathroom scale squeeze with 308 pounds – you might try this feat as it is an interesting one and very few people have even approached this figure. Of course, the thickness of the bathroom scale makes quite a difference and how you do it also makes a difference. If you do a straight squeeze, then 300 pounds is a tremendous amount, but some fellows will squeeze and squash inwards with their hands and get a bigger figure.
Bruce also did 16 repetition chins on 2” rafters with a pinch grip. He could also do chins with a total weight of 260 pounds. Any time you can do chins on a rafter with a pinch grip or even hang onto it for any length of time, you have a pretty good grip. But chinning with a pinch grip and 260 pounds is great.
Bruce has also done a deadlift with an anvil while holding onto the round horn of 147 pounds. If you haven’t tried this, it is an outstanding feat and I recall I used to do it this way with only 100 pounds and struggle. He has also done a deadlift hanging onto a 2” vertical pipe or bar with 270 pounds. Bruce has a large assortment of very thick bars which he lifts with. This not only helps him to perform certain feats of strength but it also greatly strengthens his grip and he also has a special bar made with a 2” thick plank of wood fastened to it and he uses this to do deadlifts with a pinch grip.
Bruce’s father, Harry White, can also do a pinch grip deadlift of 180 pounds on a 2” pipe and he is 80 years old.
Bruce practices lifting an Olympic plate by the hub which isn’t much to grip on and he also stacks more plates on this as can be seen in one of the pictures. He has worked up to a total weight of 60 pounds in this manner. Bruce has done a pinch grip deadlift on the wooden plank bar with 250 pounds using two hands, and 130 pounds (pinch grip) with 130 pounds. He has done a deadlift of 93 pounds with a 4” thick plate with thumb and two fingers.
Bruce, who was born and grew up in Western Australia, was born in 1934 on the 14th of August. Most of his life he has been a farmer, raising wheat and sheep and when he was 31 years old he married Maureen Jones. He has Scots/English ancestry. He is 5’ 7½” tall and weighs around 150 pounds most of the time. Even though he is enormously strong he does not have tremendous measurements: 42” chest, 12½” upper arm, 11 ½ forearm and 7½” wrist. He says his hands are 7¾” long and 4” wide. Man people feel that the size of the hand has a lot to do with the gripping power, although we have not found this to be necessarily so.
He has a brother, Harold, who is also quite strong and has pinch gripped and lifted 100 pounds as a middleweight. His dad, as we mentioned before, has pinch gripped 65 pounds as a middleweight at 80 years of age.
Bruce says that he started on his pinch gripping in 1960 and has been at it ever since. In training for gripping, he will usually specialize on one feat for a considerable period of about three months or so. He doesn’t do any other type of gripping feat during that period. He says he does not mix pinch gripping on a 1½” bar with gripping on his 4” plate. Bruce usually goes to his limit on his pinch gripping every three to six days with plenty of rest between.
He usually starts with a lighter weight and works up to 5 to 8 single attempts on up to his maximum, then sometimes works down to lighter weights that can be held for 5 to 10 seconds before having to let them go.
This story has covered material in letters for the past four years and in most letters we read that Bruce has about reached his limit and will not train anymore for greater gripping strength. However, in the next letter he remarks that he has been training again and has improved his gripping stunts above what they were before. Once a strongman, always a strongman.
Bruce has a dumbell of 172 pounds with a very thick handle that was used by the famous oldtime strongman Thomas Inch. He has one-hand deadlifted it 9” clear of the floor. Only three people in the world have deadlifted this dumbell. They were Thomas Inch, Henry Gray and David Prowse.
Below is a summary of Bruce White’s gripping feats as lightweight. Some of the feats we have commented on in the story may seem different than what he is showing in the summary but the letters we have used to compose this article were written over a period of four years and there is some variation in his ability and this summary is his feats as performed in July of 1982. Some of them have probably improved beyond what we have recorded here.
July 1, 1980.
Summary of my best gripping feats as a lightweight.
One hand pinch grip deadlift:
1½”x18” straight sided plate of 115 pounds. I consider this to be my best lift.
One hand pinch grip move off floor:
15” straight sided plate of 140 pounds.
One hand pinch grip deadlift:
¼”x15” straight sided plate of 90 pounds.
One hand pinch grip deadlift:
4”x6” thumb and one finger lift of 77 pounds.
One hand pinch grip deadlift:
4”x6” thumb and index finger lift of 60 pounds.
One hand pinch grip deadlift:
¼”x15” between thumb and clenched fist lift of 75 pounds.
Two hands pinch grip chin up on rafter:
total weight of 200 pounds.
Two hands pinch grip deadlift:
1½” wooden plank lift of 250 pounds.
One hand pinch grip deadlift:
1½” wooden plank lift of 130 pounds.
Two hands bathroom scale squeeze:
One hand deadlift:
Olympic plate and added weights by hub, lift of 60 pounds.
One hand deadlift:
2” vertical bar of 270 pounds.
One hand squeeze hand grip dynamometer:
One hand deadlift:
2½” bar, lift of 300 pounds.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Powerlifting, Part Eight
by Bradley Steiner
Of the three basic power lifts the one with the greatest potential for overall poundage lifted off the floor is the deadlift. Power men with no particular outstanding record of lifting in competition often routinely work out with 400-500 pounds in this movement. In time, you will probably be able to do so too, if you work hard and intelligently.
The reason why such incredible poundage lifts are possible the deadlift is not only because of the particular muscles that are called upon to work – but because, in addition, they are called upon to work from their strongest possible point of leverage. No lift, except perhaps the harness lift, permits a man to so favorably bring into play the strongest lifting muscles of his body.
Surprisingly, the deadlift works almost the exact same muscles as the squat – but in a much different manner. The simple difference of not having to support the weight on the back and shoulders, and instead being able to let it be pulled up off the floor, enables much more weight to be hoisted in the deadlift. Now I am not saying the deadlift is the same as the squat, and I am not indicating that all of the movements and exertions made in both of these lifts are 100% alike; but I am saying, at least in regard to leg and hip action, that the squat and deadlift are in many interesting ways much the same.
One critical difference between the two is the fact that squatting is a push action lift, while deadlifting is a pull action lift. Regardless of the degree of similarity between squats and deadlifts, or regardless of the dissimilarity between squats and deadlift movements, the fact remains that both have great merit, both as physical developmental exercises and as power lift feats.
My experience in training both myself and others has pointed one very definite fact out about why many encounter problems with their deadlifting (injuries, never can achieve limit lifts, etc.): in more than 75% of the cases where men work seriously at powerlifting they overtrain in the deadlift. That’s right. The vast majority of well-intentioned lifters, in their zeal to do as well as they possibly can, often do too much deadlifting, too frequently, and thus end up defeating their ultimate purpose of maximum power-output in this lift. Possibly this is because the deadlift is a relatively simple lift – yet so much more satisfying, poundage-wise, than say, the bench press. It’s always nice to leave the gym feeling, “Hey, I lifted 500 pounds tonight!” One can do this quite honestly, and just neglect to mention that one lifted that “500” in the deadlift, not in the overhead press, the squat or the bench press. It sounds good to someone who doesn’t know the difference.
Seriously, don’t overwork the deadlift. The lower back area can be the real weak spot in a man’s anatomy, and it can be as fickle as a woman! One day you can train your lower back for two hours and hit a 600-max deadlift, then leave the gym feeling fine. You wake up the next day and feel like training again. Yet, some athletes have seriously wrenched their back by sneezing! So, respect the crazy nature inherent in your lower-back structure. The low back can, with patient, steady work, be built up to levels of truly phenomenal strength. But take your sweet time about it. Any injury or strain to this critical area will put you painfully out of action, possibly for a month or more.
For all persons breaking into heavy power training, I advise giving the back a full 4-8 weeks of patient, steady break-in training before going all out. This may seem like an overly cautious approach, but I’d rather be careful with a person about his back rather than be negligent. We have plenty of time to go for world deadlift records!
Daily Moderate Exercise Desirable
It is advisable to work your lower back every day, if possible, with some mild form of freehand stretching or calisthenic movements. The Yoga Cobra exercise, Hindu cat stretches and Tiger bends are all very good for this purpose. Also, there is one extremely simple and relaxing movement that, in my opinion, should be an integral part of every heavy lifter’s regimen: hanging from a chinning bar.
Hanging, without moving or chinning one’s body at all, from a high bar, with arms straight is a cheap, simple, enormously beneficial natural traction movement for the lower and upper back and for the spinal column in its entirety. Doing this every day for a few minutes can, by itself, alleviate minor back soreness, and often, when done immediately following a workout, can prevent the onset of any soreness. I cannot commend this movement too highly. Everyone should do it.
Aside from the above, there really are no “assistance” exercises suitable for deadlifting. You could arrange to practice deadlifting off low boxes, or you could build deadlift hoppers to slightly assist the movement. But these little gambits are effective only to a certain extent. When it comes to the actual deadlift and attempting a limit you cannot use any such assistance, so perhaps it is better to train the actual lift. You avoid strain simply by not doing the deadlift too frequently. Instead, work the lower back with a different movement . . .
Stiff-Legged Deadlift or Power Clean?
The stiff-legged deadlift is, for those who find no problems from doing it, the finest single basic EXERCISE for the lumbar muscles of the body. It is also a tremendously effective overall conditioner, having overlapping effects on the entire body – with special benefits to increased flexibility. The stiff-legged deadlift with moderate to moderately-heavy resistance rates as a super exercise for the back in lieu of the standard deadlift.
No attempt need be made to go to extreme poundages in the stiff-legged deadlift. Bodyweight on the bar can provide an exceptionally fine developmental workout. Those who find that they have a special liking and propensity for the movement may go as heavy as they wish, of course, with enormous gains to be carried over when the standard deadlift is attempted.
Some few individuals can do their stiff-legged deadlifts off the end of a sturdy block or bench, allowing the bar to actually be lowered below the level of one’s feet! This is okay if you can do it, but I’d be careful, especially with heavy weights.
For those who enjoy the stiff-legged deadlift it can be used for 95% of one’s deadlift training – provided one is able to go heavy on it. Otherwise, simply use it as a light substitute for the standard deadlift after going all-out during a workout or a meet.
For those who find deadlifting a necessary evil, there is (in my judgment) the more valuable power clean exercise, that, whenever one wishes to do back work, can be used as a deadlift substitute. This exercise builds the low back quite well.
Never fear that your capacity to deadlift will be weakened if power cleans are used in most workouts to hit the low-back area. This is not so. As long as you power clean heavy you’ll be able to deadlift heavy.
Don’t use more than 5-rep sets in the power clean. Sets of 3 or as little as 2 are oftentimes effective when sheer power is the goal.
If you wish you may alternate between stiff-legged deadlifts and power cleans in your training, and use the standard heavy deadlift perhaps once every two or three weeks in a somewhat heavier training session. This is an effective way to train, and the deadlift numbers you achieve this way may surprise you.
Spend most of your time on squats; spend pretty much your balance of time on bench presses. Every now and then see what you can do on the deadlift.
While that rule might seem too casual and not at all in accord with many of the publicized deadlift training methods, I assure you it is a very sound rule. It is used my many of the top powerlifters who have learned from their years of experience that the lower back’s power is something to be maintained by moderate exercise and tested only occasionally by heavy lifting.
Suggested Deadlift Training
What might be a good beginner’s deadlift schedule? Here is a suggestion:
Workout Monday and Thursday on the back area.
For FOUR workouts do the following –
Power clean: 4x4, heavy weights.
Stiff-Legged deadlift: 2x10, light weights.
On the FIFTH workout do –
Stiff-Legged deadlift to warmup: 1x10.
Deadlift: 1x5, 2x3, 1x2, 1x1, 1x1 (weight increase after each set to ultimate all-out lift).
Follow the above training – after each workout – with about 5 minutes of simple hanging from a strong overhead bar.
More Advanced Training
Largely, how you train as you become a more advanced lifter will be your own decision, born ultimately from your own gradual experience and understanding of your body. However, the following is a good advanced deadlift workout suggestion. I recommend that it be followed only ONE DAY A WEEK AT MOST.
1st set: EITHER stiff-legged or regular deadlift to warmup, 1x12.
2nd set: EITHER stiff-legged or regular deadlift with about a 30 lb. increase, 1x8-10.
3rd and 4th sets: REGULAR deadlift, 6 reps each set, very heavy.
5th set: REGULAR deadlift, 3 reps.
6th set: REGULAR deadlift, 2 reps.
7th set: REGULAR deadlift, 1 rep.
That’s a lot of work, but an advanced, powerful lifter can benefit from such a routine if it is not performed too frequently. If you find once a week to be too much, do it less often. Think for yourself. The goal is to hit that new limit poundage, and the back needs to be fully recovered and thoroughly warmed up before the try is made. The object, once again, is not to see how often you can lift the same weight, but to show how much weight you can deadlift. Remember that always!
It is a very common practice for many men to train by starting off light, adding weigh and dropping reps in the sets they do, and then, once they hit their limit they start decreasing weights again, and they begin to do progressively more reps again. If I were to TRY, I could not invent a more wasteful way to train! Don’t train this way. It serves only the questionable purpose of aiding in PUMP. And if you train properly you’ll get all the sane pump you need to grow without spending twice the necessary time on workouts and without burning up 6,000 extra calories and several nerve endings each workout. Be sensible. It actually works.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Powerlifting, Part Seven
by Bradley Steiner
The Competition Squat
The squat is definitely one of my favorite exercises – and although I’ve never myself competed with it, I’ve trained many men who have, and I respect a top squatter more than any six bench pressers you can bring around. The squat is truly the King of exercises, and in my opinion, the King of the powerlifts.
If there is one movement that both builds AND tests one’s overall rugged body power more than the others, it is the squat. And this fact is so evident to those who understand weight-training it is not even debatable.
If I were coaching you personally – whoever you are – I would, unless you simply refused to listen, persuade you to put the bulk of your efforts toward the attainment of power and powerlifting excellence in the squat. Yes, it is that good a lift.
You see, squatting does it all. Honest. It builds one’s capacity for strength in the bench press and deadlift. It builds muscle. It builds character. The squat has built more solid men than all the other bodybuilding exercises put together. It is a fabulous overall health builder and it will build an armor-clad heart, lungs like mighty engines, the all-round robust well-being of a lumberjack and it can turn empty beer cans into ascended beings who order the universe secretly while we sleep.
So, concentrate hard on squats.
While it is true that certain exercises assist squatting (like straddle lifts, front squats, etc.) and isometrics can be used sometimes to build power in weak areas of the lift, it is better, I’ve found, to simply GET GOOD AT SQUATTING BY SQUATTING. It produces more excellent results when one varies his sets, reps and poundages, rather than works on assistance exercises.
The squat hits the following areas heavily:
Back (lower especially).
Carry-over work is distributed throughout the body, and as I said before, squats when performed hard and heavy work everything.
The problem with using the squat in all-out limit training (as you will for powerlifting) – is that you must be extra-careful to avoid using near-maximum weights too often. The hip and leg muscles can take it, of course, but the lower back area cannot. If one trains to excess in heavy squatting (going to a limit attempt too often) he will experience almost perpetual low-back soreness. On the other hand, if training is properly done, taking care to only hit the heavy, limit lifting say, once every three weeks to a month, steady and often incredible gains can result. Not all people can reach stupendous squat poundages, but given a body free of serious structural defects and starting in reasonably good health and condition, three to four hundred pound squats and beyond are highly likely in time. I have never met anyone who, with training, would have been incapable of a 300 pound limit lift. Not even honest-to-goodness physical wrecks.
So there you have it. The squat should be your key exercise and lift, and it will reward you, providing you give it a 100% chance, with more power and muscularity than you ever hoped for.
How to Squat
To go all-out in heavy squatting you must have squat racks, and you will need either spotters or a power rack. Also, you will do well to obtain a stout lifting belt. Good lifting shoes will help, and you should find the ones that suit your style of squatting. Do not elevate the heels on a board.
Warming up is vital. Freehand squats are good, but the key thing to warm up is the lower back. I’d advise hyperextensions or light good mornings prior to squatting heavy weights. Get the back loose, limber and warmed up. Then, work on loosening up the legs. Spend five to ten minutes stretching and limbering before the real lifting.
The correct position for effective power squatting is one that will permit you to feel naturally solid, well-balanced, and strong throughout the movement. To a certain extent the correct position varies with individuals. Let me suggest, however . . .
Keep the head up when squatting.
Try to keep the back as flat as possible.
Let the bar ride as low as is comfortable. The lower, actually, the better for an all-out lift. Study the bar position of some successful squatters.
Keep the feet comfortably spaced, but wide enough to allow for maximum power.
Drive hard out of the bottom position. Never pause.
“Think” up when squatting, so your mind is psyched to drive you upward when you reach bottom.
Never simply drop or fall into a heavy squat.
Squat to at least the parallel position.
Let me dwell momentarily on the last point – the one about going to at least parallel. Actually, your mind must be “set” to stop when the body hits parallel, and you should have your concentration focused on that muscular rebound upward, just as the body reaches that parallel position. This will, in practice, more often than not result in you just breaking parallel position before starting to come up. Learn to feel and know instinctively when you have squatted to the proper depth. Don’t feel around for it. Know it.
Again, never drop and bounce out of the bottom position.
Squatting is extremely depleting when done for high reps. Therefore, I urge you never to exceed 6 reps, even for warming up when going for a limit lift. Power-output will be greatest when one drops quickly to low, low reps in one’s sets, and piles on the weight. Frequently, one can actually lift do five or ten pounds more in the squat – if he just tries, and puts the weight on the bar – than he thought he was capable of from prior training experience. Naturally, as you advance it becomes more and more difficult to continue adding weight to the bar.
There is much self-learning to be done in this art of powerlifting – make no mistake about it. The learning is just as important as the training, since the more you learn about yourself, the more intelligently you will be able to direct your workouts and tailor them to your own personality. The fundamentals are tools that can be given to you, but the use of those tools varies with each man.
Let me say again that as you progress you should listen increasingly less to others and more and more to that inner voice gained only from personal experience. Nothing will serve you better. Systems vary among weight-men, and this is because weight-men vary as people. Don’t make the mistake of following instructions or individuals dogmatically. in the beginning you will need help. Books and articles like this will give it to you. As you become more advanced you might need professional assistance, but be very careful who you attain it from. Better by far to work things out on your own after study than to follow the misinformation of a pseudo-instructor.
I say all these things to help you gain a clear and understandable view of the road ahead. It is not all that difficult, certainly not beyond your power to travel, and not in need of one-half the help some would have you believe absolutely necessary. Study, then think for yourself. If you do that, and are willing to work very, very hard, you will progress and succeed. Now, here is a good basic program for training on the squat . . .
Add considerable weight: 1x4 or 5
Add still more weight, enough to cause real fighting: 1x4
Do another set of 1x3-4 with the same weight.
Go close to maximum for 1x2.
Do not go for a limit lift too frequently. Every three or four weeks, when you wish to see how heavy you can go in your squat, try this . . .
1x1, near limit
Gradually add weight following each set. The last set should be the only one that sees you working brutally hard.
I shall now close this out by outlining a possible advanced squat schedule for those who believe themselves ready to handle it.
I knew a very good lifter who used this program twice a week and made outstanding gains in one 5-week period. But he was a “natural” and you cannot imagine how hard he was able to work and still recover from it. The low reps might not seem like much, but use heavy weights with each set and it is murder.
Hand & Wrist Strength in Athletics
by Chuck Coker (1962)
One of the most important aspects of athletic conditioning is often overlooked by most athletes. This important phase of the well trained athlete is hand strength. There are very few sports that are played in competition in the United States in which the hands don’t play a major factor in the outcome of the overall performance. Strong hands are certainly needed to play football; in tackling, on defense, supporting the body in the charging position, passing, receiving, etc. Basketball is a sport in which hand strength and dexterity are extremely important. In baseball, catching and fielding, throwing and batting all require excellent hand strength. In track the field events such as the shot, discus, javelin, pole vault, hammer throw; and in running events such as the hurdles and sprints strong hands are needed to support the body weight easily in the starting position. In golf and tennis hand strength is of great importance in gripping the racquet or golf club, plus being able to put all the power of the body and arms through the hands with power and accuracy. In swimming strong hands are needed to pull through the water to complete the power of the arms, back and shoulders during the stroke.
In the past decades when we were a nation of hardworking physical people and we did many things with our hands, there was no particular concern for this phase of training. Every schoolboy had to milk the cows, chop wood, pitch hay, etc. However, the times have changed and the toughest thing most young men have to do today is hang on to the steering wheel of a car. Have you noticed when shaking hands with most young men today it is like shaking with a dead fish! It’s high time we did something to strengthen the very important hands that are so needed in all aspects of life. The abilities of the human hand are fantastic when you consider the handiwork of man. The following program should be one of great value to you in building up your hands and wrists for all phases of athletics, or simply for the pure joy of possessing greater hand strength.
The program can be done three times per week and some of the exercises can be done daily.
1.) Hand and wrist curls: 3 sets of 10 reps, palms up.
2.) Hand and wrist curls: 3 sets of 10 reps, palms down.
3.) Wrist rotations (clockwise and counter clockwise) 10 reps each direction. Use a dumbell bar with weight on one end only. Support the forearm on the thigh while seated, palm up and rotate the weight while gripping the bar tightly.
4.) Plate gripping: grip two 25-pound plates together with one hand, hold them together for 5 minutes with each hand. This will take you some time to progressively build up to, so in the beginning use smaller plates, or do several sets if necessary to make the full 5 minutes with each hand.
5.) Wrist roller exercise: 2 sets of 10 reps up and down.
6.) Following are several things you can do at odd times or incorporate into each workout:
Paper crusher: place a double sheet of newspaper out flat on a table. Starting at one corner with the heel of your hand in contact with the table pull all the paper into the hand using the fingers. When you have it crushed into a tight ball squeeze it 10 times hard and then do the other hand. 3 sheets is a good start. When you can do the entire Sunday Times you posses a strong grip!
Ball squeezing: you have to really work at this one to gain any benefit. Put something into it.
Hand grippers: Try doing a wrist rotation with these at times.
One hand deadlift: use a barbell and work up to a considerable amount of weight. Treat it like a real lift and not a novelty, using similar set/rep schemes.
Swinging a sledge hammer: an excellent exercise for the wrist and hands. Muscle-out feats with a 12- or 16-pound sledge are excellent exercises for strengthening the grip and wrist.
Tearing paper and old phone books, bending nails and spikes.
Rope climbing and hanging from a horizontal bar for as long as possible are good tests of hand strength and will build gripping endurance.
Tug-of-war with a rope is also excellent for the grip.
In conclusion, if you work hard at hand strength, as with any other training, you will be pleased with your improvements.
Powerlifting, Part Five
by Bradley Steiner
The bench press throws its heaviest burden of effort upon the triceps, pectorals and frontal deltoids. There are overlapping demands made upon the forearms, hands, grip strength, abdominals and, to a degree, the neck, legs and back. This might be difficult to imagine, but that’s only because you’ve likely never seen how tremendously hard some lifters train on the movement. All-out benching definitely approaches being a total body exercise.
For training purposes it is only necessary to work on the actual bench press schedule, and on a couple of supplementary exercises that will assist the primarily affected muscle segments.
Sticking points in the bench press occur because the muscle fibers involved in the movement do not all develop consistent power at the various levels or stages of the lift. Some people find the initial start off the chest to be where they bog down – others get stymied half-way up – some are unable to lockout fully. Whatever the problem and wherever the sticking point may be, isometric contractions definitely help. They should be used specifically at the point where drive in the bench has become impossible. In this manner the weak area of the involved muscles will quickly overcompensate the added effort and the needed additional strength will result. But it must be a true, full, hard contraction. Not a half-hearted attempt.
Dumbell Assistance Work
Dumbells have a knack for reaching “hidden” muscles and muscle fibers that barbell exercises sometimes fail to develop. One of the best dumbell exercises you can do to help improve bench pressing is the HEAVY lying dumbell flye movement. I stress the word heavy because doing the movement any other way will only be a waste of time and effort.
Dumbell flyes are preferably done as a flat, rather than an incline bench movement, when they are employed to help bench pressing. The heaviest possible weights should be used and during the exercise THE ELBOWS MUST BE BENT. Do full range movements, but never stretch beyond the natural point. You’ll feel the natural stop point in the descent. Don’t go beyond it thinking somehow that overstretching and possibly doing damage to your chest and shoulder assemblies will miraculously improve your bench or give you a deeper chest. That’s simply ridiculous, and you should be using enough weight that an idea like this never enters in. I’d suggest using the dumbell flye every third or fourth workout, in the following manner . . .
1st set: 8 reps, warmup.
2nd and 3rd sets: 6 reps each, very heavy.
4th set: the maximum you can handle for 4 or 5 perfect form reps.
That’s it. In training it will be perfectly acceptable for you to employ only 3 or 4 reps in a very heavy set if that’s all, on any given Al Pacino, an all-out effort honestly permits. But shirk nothing! You absolutely must go all-out on lying flyes or, as I said before, you’ll be wasting your time.
Close-Grip Barbell Bench Presses
There is one excellent variation of the bench press that is a tremendous help to many in building added triceps power. It is the flat bench press done with a narrower than normal grip. Use about a shoulder or slighter wider grip on the bar. Don’t bother with any one or two inch grip benches. They will not help you find what you are seeking, but if you have the overwhelming urge to trash your wrists, elbows and shoulders please feel free to load up the bar and go nuts. A few well-placed hammer blows following one of these sessions should satisfy any deluded masochist’s desire for self-punishment. I generally recommend an attentive and like-minded training partner if you have trouble holding your wrist stable while applying the 400 Blows.
The close-grip bench press can be used profitably from time to time, when needed, on a schedule similar to this suggestion . . .
3x8, as heavy as possible.
Press to the chest, then right back up again, in very good form. Don’t cheat. The object here is to hit the triceps strongly.
Now, what about the bench press itself? It’s a great lift even though it has become the stopping by woods on a snowy evening of the iron game. It seems every green lifter who finds you have an interest in strength training feels obliged to ask, “How much can you Robert Frost?” Even in the dungeon-style gyms it’s the same old thing . . . “Bro, how big’s your Bukowski?” But how might one go about training on it, the competition Frost-Bukowski? This is the question we will now answer.
The bench press in competition is judged for style as well as amount of weight lifted. Of course a minor degree of cheating is permitted, but the lift must be done in essentially good form, and through a full range of movement. Almost locking out doesn’t count, in bench pressing and in bank vaults, so horseshoe-throwing hand grenade enthusiasts please take note. Lowering the bar halfway to the chest instead of touching it prior to the signal to commence will not be counted.
A degree of arching is permissible but the buttocks must remain in contact with the bench. The arch will shorten the stroke of your bench press, enabling you to handle greater weights. Here we are not talking about power-bodybuilding with the bench press, we are discussing successful maximum single attempts. So there.
NEVER press to the neck. Ask yourself why.
Keep a comfortably-distant handspacing on the bar. Remember there are many more muscles groups involved in a successful bench attempt than just pecs. Floppers, hangers, hairholders. Nipshelves.
Keep the feet braced, balanced and on the floor. Don’t, if you want to try for a limit bench press, bend your knees and prop them up on the end of the bench. Establish a solid base with your feet and legs as they are a necessary part of the drive needed to succeed with a lift.
There are two ways to grip the bar. The first is to fully encircle the bar with the hand, thumb on one side and fingers on the other. Another style is the thumb and fingers both on one side of the bar. Don’t.
Don’t get in the habit of bouncing bench presses off your chest. Just don’t. Watch some of the most effective bench pressers alive and note the slow, coiled-spring descent. Consider the fact that they may know some small thing about just what it is they’re doing. Possibly even more than your high school football linemen did. Study the greats.
Aim to raise your bench press total by steady, intelligently planned hard work. Don’t try to rush things or they’ll slow down. Is your bench press a stubborn mule? Stop beating your ass and get a carrot.
There is really no absolute way to insure that an injury won’t take place, and, I’d say that MINOR pulls and strains will have to be accepted over the course of your powerlifting training, just as they are in struggles involving other physical arts. The best way to be reasonably sure that your injuries are minimal is to learn more about what goes into performing these lifts. Don’t just plop yourself down on a bench and belly-bump a bar. Study. As in all endeavors except binge-drinking, good judgment and common sense are necessary to succeed.
One thing is certain: when an injury does occur, DISCONTINUE TRAINING. See a physician just to set your mind at ease. Serious injuries can be avoided 100% of the time simply by being careful and thinking before you act. Weight training is one of the all-round safest sports in the world, and there are more than likely a higher percent of injuries in numerous other more popular sports.
A good rest can sometimes be the solution to training injuries of a minor nature. Don’t idiotically try to “work out” a pulled or injured muscle. Be sensible.
Overtraining, as I have mentioned numerous times, should be avoided. Not only in bodybuilding but especially in lifting. There is a simple, practical reason for this, and that is because too much training will be certain to keep your strength down. If sheer power is your goal you are better off doing too little training than too much. many famous lifters and strongmen have gone for long periods of time on one or two workouts a week – and they gained beautifully.
A Good Bench Press Schedule
Always start out by warming up on the bench. A warmup set can go as high as 20 reps for some men and as low as 6 for others. You’ll just have to experiment to find the best for yourself. Once the warmup has been done, drop the reps back drastically if you did more than 6. The trick in hitting good maximum lifts is to carefully channel available energy and avoid depletion during initial, build-up sets. Go right into the heavy stuff after your warmup.
Your first work set should go very heavy, and 5 reps is plenty. 4 is enough, but it should be with a weight that really makes you fight.
Rest a few minutes and get your strength back. Now do a set of 3 or 4 reps with the same poundage you used in the previous set.
Add weight to the bar. Do a fourth set of 3 reps in good form. The weight should require very, very hard fighting.
Rest as long as necessary to get your oomph back, and add still more weight to the bar and see if you can do one or two final near-limit reps.
Properly done, that schedule will serve the purpose of building muscular power and helping you increase your ultimate limit single lift.
Most men will recuperate rather quickly from a schedule of sets and reps like I’ve given, since there is a careful check against overwork in the set/rep/poundage arrangement. This is all to the good. Perhaps a more lengthy schedule will be suitable as you mature with experience, but the one given is foolproof.
When going for an all-out single attempt (which ought never be attempted more than once every three or four weeks) you can use a schedule like this . . .
1x12 – warmup.
1x1 – attempt at limit single.
You can see that no excessive amount of work precedes the limit attempt, yet a thorough warmup is done. This is necessary to avoid energy depletion and to insure that the body is fully ready to make that all-out attempt. After working on the lift for some time the basic principles will fall naturally into place, and I dare say that you’ll find your strength gaining in a manner that may surprise you, considering the simplicity of the program suggested.
So, if you really want to see how much you can bench, and if developing tremendous benching power is important to you, you now have one of the keys that will open the door to the treasure you seek.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Powerlifting, Part Five
by Bradley Steiner
Perhaps your own years of training have provided you already with a firm base upon which to build strength, power and a well-developed physique. Or, possibly, you’re ready for the more advanced type of training necessary, having completed the beginner’s course set down previously. In any case, the following provides one of the finest advanced power-bodybuilding programs you can do.
Don’t try to follow the routine herein presented if you’re a beginner. It’s just too severe. The only person who can gain on this schedule is the individual who has already achieved some degree of success in his attempts.
The objective of this program is to serve the lifter who aspires to increase his size and power development. Size is NOT thought to be of greater importance than power, and this is why no attempt is made to encourage pumping type exercise or any excessive quantity of “shaping” movements.
This program is intended as a SKETCH, rather than a definite, specific dogma presentation of the “only right way” an intermediate or advanced man should train for power and muscularity. If the trainee regards it in this light, and comes to think of this course as the thinking man’s program, then his progress is sure to continue.
GENERAL RULES OF TRAINING
As stated previously, no definite rules can be said to apply to all trainees at all times, since every case is uniquely different – and the final trainer is the individual himself. However, there are helpful guidelines that can be followed, and I present the following as such, to be considered in light of your present stage of development and current goals . . .
1.) It pays to include jogging, running, some form of conditioning work in your schedule at least twice a week. This adds that final edge to an intermediate lifter’s development, and helps in developing your ability to recover quickly from lifting. Consider the health benefits of getting out and doing some conditioning work two or three times a week. Now do it.
2.) Overtraining is the bane of many lifters’ existence! Avoid this by training sensibly for periods of time that are not excessive. Take periodic layoffs and back-cycle regularly. A two-hour workout employing rugged barbell exercises is plenty for anyone who gives fully of himself, no matter how advanced – and many will benefit more by a workload reduced to less than this. If the RIGHT method of training is used there is not a great need for a great quantity of time. 2 sets of 3 can often be more effective than 6 sets, especially if the 2 sets are worked HARD.
3.) Heavy weight is the main key to strength gains. 20 minutes of heavy lifting will build more strength than 3 hours of light pumping.
4.) Strong concentration is vital for your success. Problems should be left outside the training area.
5.) That LAST REP, the one that feels impossible to make, is of much greater importance than the next set.
6.) If you neglect your nutrition you cut your own engine.
7.) Good form PLUS heavy weights is what gets benefit from your endeavors.
8.) On days when you just cannot “get up and go” even after fifteen minutes of training, take it easy. Just do some stretching and light leg work, then call it quits for the day.
9.) High energy days call for harder work. Not longer workouts, HARDER work.
10.) Sometimes the best way to overcome a sticking point or staleness is to layoff entirely or lighten up on your training for a week. If you’ve been training hard without a break for two months (or more) there is no question that you need a break. Learn to deload. It’s not complicated. It works.
11.) Don’t be too quick to give up on a new program that starts out feeling difficult or awkward. Give your body at least two weeks to break into a routine, a new movement or an exercise variation. Take a tip from Reid Fleming. Try to milk a routine as long as you can. Learn to deload. It’s not complicated. It works.
12.) As you become more experienced try to discover what your own unique style of training is.
Finally, remember the importance of persistence. Keep at your training. If you start and stop, hem and haw, you’ll never actualize your potential, no matter how great it may be. Do not expect quick results. Do not resent the effort required of you for the attainment of your goals. Once you accomplish them they may appear unimportant when compared to your next goals. In the doing lies fulfillment. The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the waterspout. Down came the rain and washed the spider out. So the itsy bitsy spider climbed up the waterspout. Face it. Life is Sisyphean.
Use flip snatches as your basic warmup. I suggest a set/rep scheme of 1x6, 1x5, and 1x4, while adding weight for each of the three sets. Try to work up to bodyweight, eventually, for that final set of four reps!
2.) Press Movements
Here you must do both presses and presses behind the neck whenever energy permits. Do sets of 6 reps, even the warmup sets. If you do work sets of 3x6 military and 3x6 behind the neck presses, you’ll achieve a very good workout for the entire shoulder assembly.
Do squats with all the weight you can properly handle. They are one of the keys to all-round body power. I suggest you use 4 or 5 sets of about 6-8 reps. Use 8 reps in the starting warmup sets and 6 or 5 in the really heavy sets. You will know by now how many work sets you can handle without going stale too quickly.
Do calf raises either between each set of squats while you rest or following completion of the entire series of sets. Omit calf work if energy or time is short. 2 or 3 sets of 20-30 reps is plenty.
4.) Bench Work
When energy permits, superset your heavy bench presses with either flat bench or incline bench lying laterals. This will produce extremely fine upper body development. BUT THIS IS ONLY FOR YOUR OCCASIONAL HIGH-ENERGY TRAINING DAYS, and, if you’re a relatively easy gainer. Do 4x8 bench presses and 4x8 lying flyes. For the last set or two of bench presses you might want to drop down to 6 or 5 rep sets.
If you prefer to do your bench presses first, then your flyes, that’s fine. Also, if the two-exercise combo is just too severe do EITHER flat bench presses OR incline bench presses. You can alternate these two exercises over the weeks so that some form of variety and balance are included in your training. Do 4-5 sets of 6 heavy reps with either variation.
5.) Deadlifting OR Power Cleans
You may work either on regular or stiff-legged deadlifts, OR you may work on power cleans. Don’t train on two or these exercises in one workout, however, for that would be too much.
I think the best plan is to find your favorite variation of the deadlift (i.e. stiff-legged or regular) and use this for a week’s training, then switch for a week to heavy power cleans. The power cleans are very good as an alternate to deadlifting, since they benefit the back but do not cause quite as much stress in the lumbar area as deadlifting can. These set/rep schemes are suggested . . .
Stiff-legged Deadlifts: 3x8 or 2x12
Power Cleans: 4x6 or 5x5
6.) Heavy Rowing
Either the bentover barbell row or the heavy dumbell one-arm version are suitable. Rowing with the loaded end of a seven-foot bar is also used in some quarters to good effect. The variation you pick is not as important as the hard work you apply to the movement. 3 sets of 6-8 reps are good for all forms of heavy rowing.
When you feel a little tired of the standard rowing, try a few high pulls in their place. You’ll find this deals with the back muscles differently, and when worked heavily will produce great results. Heavy repetition high pulls can make returning to bentover rows a pleasure! Use the set-rep scheme discussed earlier, for high pulls. If you have a workout where your rows are feeling weak and abnormally awkward, and it will happen, switch to the high pulls for that workout. A change like this can often save the workout. Be flexible. A successful hard workout should be the goal.
7.) Arm Work:
This is optional, to be done when energy is high, time is abundant and you have the inclination to pump up those popular little biceps. Heavy barbell or two-dumbell curls. You can stand, sit or even lie back on a bench . . . get the workout you want! The weight should be heavy enough to make you work, but never so heavy that you cheat. Do 2 sets of 8 reps. Then, if you feel like it, do a little tricep work. One arm triceps extensions with a dumbell, lying, seated or standing. Again, 2 sets of 8 – per arm – are plenty.
8.) Abdominal Work
This is always important. There are two basic ab exercises, situps and leg raises. They are simple, effective, and have many variations that will get the job done. I suggest relatively high reps in all abdominal work. 12 or more reps are sufficient. Hold a weight plate behind your head, use plate loading health shoes, but add resistance when you can. With no weights to make the abs struggle you should be able to do 50 or more reps easily. That is boring. Very boring.
Again I suggest ending the workout by hanging for a while from a chinning bar. Topping off a workout with a short jog, walk or period of easy rope skipping isn’t a bad idea either.
You can see that the schedule I have outlined for you is broadly adaptable to all types of trainees, and it lends itself to accommodating many types of special interests within the bounds of a basic power-bodybuilding goal. This is, I am convinced, of far more use to the trainee than a rigid, “do it this way” approach to training.
The course suggestions above will produce strength and muscularity until it comes out your bleedin’ ears – but it is not, I remind you, a pure powerlifter’s course. It will develop great strength when used three times a week, and I certainly can endorse it fully as a schedule used to build you up for eventual powerlifting. What happens if and when you decide to devote your energy to the powerlifts? How can you combine powerlifting with power-bodybuilding for the best results? These are the questions, and others, that I will begin to answer next. So let’s start out to examine the powerlifts themselves more closely. The bench press, deadlift and squat. For some ardent barbell men these three basic lifts constitute an obsession. An obsession that challenges their very fiber and spirit in the wonderful sport of POWERLIFTING.
INTRODUCING THE POWERLIFTS
The basic power lifts, those used in competition, are: squat, bench and deadlift. Practically everyone who has ever trained even briefly with weights is familiar with these lifts, since they are all fundamental weight-training exercises. Why then use them as competition lifts?
Those three cornerstone exercises actually do serve as a remarkably accurate gauge of one’s overall physical power, when applied in weightlifting competition. And people are interested in power! What is more, because the power lifts are actually common bodybuilding exercises, they also serve to develop the physique of the lifter quite well, and to blend in comfortably with any additional bodybuilding movements the trainee wishes to do. Many powerlifters are physique-oriented trainees, as well as lifters. Bill Seno, well known a few years ago as a top man in powerlifting circles was a fantastic lifter AND a superbly built athlete. He found it easy to combine his powerlifting with physique cultivation. So will you!
When using the power lifts as LIFTS, instead of exercises, you are naturally concerned with attaining great single attempts – limit lifts. Otherwise, you aren’t training as a lifter. Since it is never desirable for almost all of us to push for limit singles at every workout, the training you do in sets and reps on the powerlifts (as exercises) helps materially to boost your maximums when you do try for them.
Generally, as a powerlifter – or even as a bodybuilder concerned with power – you will train for more sets than usual, with relatively few reps. I regard 6-rep sets as generally quite effective for lifter-bodybuilders. There are enough reps there to BUILD muscle as well as INCREASE strength. Too often, one finds that training exclusively on 2. 3, or single-rep sets builds strength but not a great deal of muscle. There are plenty of rather slender but extremely strong men participating in power and weightlifting meets.
There are those who desire ONLY strength, or who are concerned exclusively with the kind of power that lets them win contests, and they could care less about how they appear so long as they stay in their weight class. But it is the assumption of this book that that the trainee seeks not only power and strength, but a muscular and impressive physique to go with it. This is what the instruction is aimed at achieving.
When you are training for you limit lift in the bench press, squat or deadlift, you won’t be doing sets of as many as six reps, except to warm up. It is necessary, above all else, to drop reps fast if a limit single is to be tried, since reps more than anything else depletes energy. You cannot sap your strength on reps when the goal is a new squat single. Okay. You normally use the following set/rep scheme in squatting on your general training days . . .
1x8, 2x5, 1x3, increasing the weight after each set as the muscles warm up. That schedule is fine for a general power-oriented workout, but it cannot serve you well as a buildup to a limit attempt. Instead, something like this would be much more suitable . . .
1x6 (warmup), 1x3 (increased weight), 1x2 (approaching heaviest weight), 1x2 (near maximum), 1x1 (limit try) and, if the limit failed or if it succeeded and energy is high that day, 1x1 (second limit attempt).
Can you see the logic there? No excessive buildup with too many reps, so no energy and psychological depletion. Not too much work – but enough to build up to a new trial limit attempt without neglecting to warm up to it.
The foregoing illustrates the essential difference, come workout day, that using the lifts as LIFTS makes, over using them as them as EXERCISES.
Should you be a powerlifter?
Only one person can really answer the question of whether or not to actively compete in power meets, and become a powerlifting devotee. It is certainly a great sport. It is worthwhile too, since anyone who participates in any way achieves a great outlet for his love of the iron game. There is challenge aplenty in powerlifting, and there are good friends to made, as well as, if you become good enough – records to be broken. But don’t go into powerlifting thinking that the only reward is to be victorious over others. This would rob you of the greatest genuine reward, namely. your own self-improvement.
Powerlifting records today are incredibly high, and the top men are incredibly strong people. Therefore the power champions of the future will have to be even stronger – and this can limit the top spots in the game to those fortunate few hard workers who were blessed with a high degree of inherent strength. Training, diet and attitude can do tremendous things for a man, but given two men with the same effort in training, similar attitudes and similar dietary habits, and you can bet your money on the one who was born with better natural strength potential.
I point these things out because I don’t like to delude people. It is wrong and very unfair to mislead students into believing that they possess potential that they do not in fact possess. Great gains, I repeat, can be made by anyone, and anyone will receive nothing but hearty encouragement from me to work hard at developing himself. But the objective fact remains, and it is pointless to deny it, that only a relatively few individuals can ever hope to become champions.
Don’t let poor potential deter you in the slightest from actively participating in lifting – either privately, purely for your own self-development, or publicly in lifting meets. But do let extremely poor potential serve as a guide to accurately determining your place in the sport and the way you will achieve it. If two years of regular, hard work, a good diet coupled with adequate rest and a positive outlook sees your best bench press all of 250 pounds at 185 bodyweight, then you probably aren’t a natural strength athlete. You ought to continue to try and improve, develop and enjoy the activity, but you shouldn’t lose any sleep worrying about the competition you’ll be fighting on your way to the top.
On the other hand, if you were born as a human Hercules, and almost every day sees your strength growing by leaps and bounds during your formative years, and if at a bodyweight of 160 pounds you’re correctly benching 300 pounds within a year’s time and squatting with close to 400 on the bar, then seriously consider trying for an upper spot in powerlifting.
The idea is to be realistic and to be honest with yourself. I have always had very little respect for the ego-centered person who must be the best or he won’t participate at all. What nonsense! And what a shame to impose such limitations on the possibility of one’s enjoying so much in life – simply because you can’t be number one. Enjoyment and self-satisfaction are two of the most significant things you can ever hope to derive from participating in anything, and if these two very sane goals are important to you, then you can participate happily in, and continue to enjoy throughout your lifetime, almost anything that happens to appeal to you. Just be realistic if your thoughts turn to competition. Enjoy competing, strive with all your might, just don’t demand of yourself that which is too close to impossible. Never let your ego rob the thing of its pleasure. Remember, getting there might be the goal itself. Think of it this simple way. If you own a house and that house needs painting, gnawing away like a rat at the walls will not bring you what you desire. As your teeth wear down to tiny nubs, the gums start in with all that bleeding, your vital fluids gradually drain out over the years and the neighbors begin to consider wondering just what in hell is going on over there, you will have accomplished nothing and your dentist will most certainly agree. It’s that simple. Dentistry is an old and much-respected profession, its study considered by some to be the most important step a young man can take in his early years. For God’s sake, think before you make a long-term sacrifice to any endeavor, and that includes setting yourself on fire and seeing how long you can survive. Consider these things before committing. And buy a paint brush.
If you wish to improve as a powerlifter you must be willing to work intensively, foregoing some other physical activities and even a few social outlets. At least two savagely hard workouts a week are necessary, with a lighter training day included. In addition, conditioning work is indicated, and you may be surprised when you learn how little time this can take. By the way, if you keep making excuses to yourself that “you don’t have the time” it is more likely a matter of your refusal to make the time and your own ignorance of how to train effectively when pressed for that time.
So, decide what you want to do in and with powerlifting. Whatever your decision, stick to it and give it your best.
Training on the powerlifts as exercises has been thoroughly covered in previous chapters. You must make those heavy exercises the core of your training, since they are quite demanding, and only by total concentration can you ever hope to achieve the success you desire.
The Olympic lifts, which are also marvelous, produce fine physiques just as powerlifting can, but the two disciplines do not produce or require the same musculature. As said previously, a perfectly harmonious blend of powerlifting and bodybuilding is possible, and the same can certainly be said for Olympic lifting.
You will find it quite easy to set up your own schedule of actual training once you know more about it. You’ll see in the remainder of this book how to do the powerlifts as LIFTS, and how to increase your own limit lifts – whatever they may be.
THE COMPETITION BENCH PRESS
The bench press is the single most popular power lift. One can go all-out on heavy benching and not be left depleted for five days, as is the case when one goes ahead full steam with the squat or deadlift. Also, the bench press works the currently “popular” muscles and thus demonstrates their efficacy when it is used as a lift.
“Easy” as the bench press may seem to some, relative to the other lifts, attaining your top performance in it is no small job. It takes great effort to bring your bench press up to an impressive high poundage. However, there is probably little need to convince you that the effort is worthwhile, or you wouldn’t be reading this, would you.
Let’s take a loo at what parts of the body require maximum power and strength in order for you to achieve a top bench, and then let’s discuss possible supplementary ways of building these bodyparts, in conjunction of course with heavy training on the bench press itself. I will detail suggested power programs for training the bench as a lift, and I’m sure you’ll feel well able to take your training effectively into hand after you have studied more and built up more lifting experience.
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- Powerlifting, Part Two - Bradley Steiner
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