Sunday, January 30, 2011

Jon Cole: A Forgotten Legend? - Ron Fernando

John Grimek

Click Pics to ENLARGE

Ron Fernando, one of the finest writers in the current Iron Game, recently passed away. His work with Powerlifting USA formed the backbone of the magazine, and he will be remembered.

For an article by Mr. Fernando on Doug Hepburn, see this link -

Link courtesy of Powerlifting Watch

And the mostest poetic version of the song mentioned

Jon Cole: A Forgotten Legend?
by Ron Fernando (1982)

In an age where such mammoth poundages as 900 plus squats and 500 plus bench presses are becoming the rule and not the exception, people, especially some of the younger lifters, tend to forget some of the true giants of the sport who were hoisting that type of iron when NO ONE was doing it. Certainly George Frenn was one of them, but someone who in my opinion stood above even Frenn, not only because of his higher PL totals but due to his overall excellence in Olympic lifting and track, was the Arizona Titan, Jon Cole. Cole was, during the early 1970’s, THE premier strongman in the world. I remember a piece that the Arizona Register did on him some ten years ago – during the time when he was claiming to be the ‘World’s Strongest Man’. Ridiculous, I thought as I read it – who in their right mind could claim to be stronger than Alexeev or the immortal Paul Anderson? I was soon to be proven wrong when Cole set the strength world back on its ears with a world-shattering 2,370 lb. total. He wore the equipment of the day, but remember, there were NO supersuits, superwraps or powerbelts back then. For those purists who decry individuals such as Frenn, Cole, etc. – who were trailblazers for modern powerlifting – let me remind you that there are few if ANY lifters today who push the REALLY big numbers without the use of so-called supportive aids. Hey, let some of the armchair experts get under a 600-700 lb. squat and I’m sure they would change their minds. At any rate Jon’s lifting style was nothing short of EXPLOSIVE. I dug up an older copy of Powerlifting USA (remember when they used to look like the TV supplement in the newspaper?), and the print on Cole in the HIPC article read “despite a tendency to crash and bounce out of his squats, Cole seemed to absolutely RIP the weights up – he was worried more about maintaining his image . . .” Yes, Cole has always had an aura of mystery about him and perpetuated this by cultivating a very dramatic beard which set off his tremendous physique (good God, his arms had veins like battery cables!).

Additionally, Jon posted an incredible 1200 lb. total in Olympic lifting with only a few contests under his belt (this was broken down into a super-easy 430 press, 340 snatch which was blasted up, and a 430 jerk which was nothing more than a push-jerk) during a period of time when Ken Patera’s 1300 total was numero uno in the USA (don’t forget, Patera was a specialist in Olympic lifting. Peary Rader of Iron Man magazine said . . . “After many years of looking we finally may have a man to challenge the might of the Russians in the superheavyweight class. This is a man of enormous bodypower - a true champion in another field – Jon Cole.”

I even had the nerve to write to Jon when I was 19 to ask him advice. To my great surprise I received a letter with the Arizona State Sun Devil logo on it (at that time Jon was the head strength coach at ASU) stating that I should call him COLLECT and talk to him about a training schedule (more on that later). His coaching position was not some hokey job invented by a promoter to give Jon credibility outside his lifting. During the years when Jon was associated with A-State, they produced such athletes as Danny White (Dallas’ quarterback), Woody Green (1973 consensus All-American in football), Mark Murro (300-plus feet javelin thrower), Ben Hawkins, Calvin Demery, Windlan Hall, John Jefferson, Bob Breunig, etc. . . the list could go on forever, sounding like a Who’s Who for the NFL and NBA, not to mention ‘Mr. October’ Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Rick Monday, Gary Gentry, Bump Wills and a host of other fine baseball players. Jon’s methods were BRUTALLY simple. Basically he advocated free weights over machines (this was also the time when Arthur Jones’ Nautilus machines were spreading like wildfire through the country) and, unlike other so-called strength coaches who derived most of their information from the library, Jon was living, breathing testament to his athletic principles. He had the AAU football players so psyched up on the iron that they would actually train DURING the season. I remember talking to Benny Malone at a contest in Arizona some time ago and he told me that Cole had them doing two pressing movements and one leg movement the night prior to a game. They literally MASSACRED their competition. Scores like 48-6, 60-0, etc. were commonplace to Sun Devil fans. It was largely due to the fact that ASU totally dominated football and the University of Arizona did the same number in basketball that the two Arizona schools left for the PAC-10.

Cole emphasized strict form in all of the movements: paused benches, deep squats, etc. If you couldn’t do the moves correctly and didn’t want to learn, your butt was booted out of the ASU weight room pronto! Basic moves such as squats, bench presses, inclines, upright rows, triceps presses (lying and standing), power cleans, military presses and calf raises were the staple of Cole’s programs for the ASU athletes. He outlined a program specifically for each event in track (i.e. a program for the sprinters, throwers, jumpers, vaulters, etc.). I firmly believe that it was because Jon left ASU that for a few years their total athletic program suffered.

Of course, there is the subject of his own training. I have never seen Jon train, but have know others who have. Would you believe two days per week for six to eight hours a crack? Yep, Jon would train twice per week with the likes of Pat Neve (former 181 lb. BP record holder and Mr. USA), Jack Barnes, Mike Matousek, Mike Civalier, Billy ‘Superstar’ Graham, Marvin Allen and teenage phenom Randy Collett at Granny Thorbecke’s double-car garage gym in Scottsdale (a stone’s throw from ASU). Jon would usually start his workout with the bench press and perform around 12 sets (2-3 warmups, 5 sets of 2-3 reps with heavy weight, and some flush sets). Following the benches he would attack the squats, and do mean ATTACK. To see Cole squat is to witness the true athletic explosion personified.

He advocated the pyramid system in all of his lifting, which he would cycle according to personal ‘feel’. Additionally, Jon had a lot of his lifters and ball players performing true power squats. At that time, people were still squatting using the old Olympic stance. Jon proved that one could handle significantly more weight by changing the stress points from the knees to the hips and back. Jon was the first man to officially squat 900 and for years had the highest superheavyweight total around. Actually, Jon was not a natural super. Standing 5’10” he hadn’t the height necessary for carrying 330 lbs. plus like Reinhoudt, Jo-Jo White, Kenady, Kaz, etc. His deadlifts were awesome, especially since he worked them but ONCE PER MONTH. On the other days, Jon would do either power snatches or the clean & press movement (where each rep is cleaned separately an then pressed). The incline bench was another favorite of Cole’s, who reportedly inclined over 500 in his prime. He would usually follow a workout with several sets of triceps presses (he was capable of an OVERHEAD triceps press with 315) and curls, plus several sets of toe raises. Jon would usually work out on Tuesday and then again on Friday. This is the same system that many of the lifters in Arizona are using today.

He became a successful businessman with his own health club (Jon Cole Systems) in Scottsdale and is now strength consultant to the Phoenix Suns, Phoenix Roadrunners and many professional athletes residing in the Phoenix area.

As for the system he passed along to me – I still use a lot of the same methods and heartily advocate it to anyone. Basically it involves viewing the workout cycle as not being on a weekly cycle, but that of a bi-monthly one. “People think too chronologically – that’s why they feel old at a certain numerical age when they felt great the year before” At any rate, the two week cycle goes something like:


Day 1 –
Bench Press, medium heavy – 10, 8, 6, 5x5.
Full Squat, medium heavy – 10, 8, 6, 5x5.
Upright Rows – 5x8 adding weight with each set.
Standing Barbell Curls – 5x8.
Calf Raises – 6x20, 2 sets with toes out, 2 with toes, 2 with toes straight.

Day 2 –
Power Cleans – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
Lying Triceps Presses – 5x8.
Standing Barbell Curls – 5x8.
Incline Presses, heavy – 10, 8, 5x3.

Day 3 –
Bench Press – same as Day 1.
Full Squats, heavy – 10, 8, 5x3.
Arm work same as Day 1.


Day 4 (second week)
Front Squat, medium heavy – 10, 8, 6, 5x3.
Inclines, medium heavy – 10, 8, 5x5.
Curls – 5x8.
Lying Triceps Presses – 5x8.
Calf Raises – 6x20.

Day 5 –
Deadlifts, heavy – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
Bench Press, heavy – 10, 8, 5x3.
Standing Triceps Presses – 5x8.
Barbell Curls – 5x8.

Day 6 –
Full Squats, heavy – 10, 8, 6, 5x3.
Inclines, medium – 10, 8, 5x5.
Barbell Curls – 5x8.
Upright Rows – 5x8.
Lying Triceps – 5x8.
Calf Raises – 6x20.

As seen, a very interesting mixture of the Power Three and key assistance moves. Jon liked to cycle the inclines and the benches as well as the front squats. Lost of arm work but strangely enough, no direct delt or lat work. Oh well, you can’t argue with the results.

A cagey Las Vegas promoter offered Jon somewhere in the neighborhood of 18 grand a week to ‘lift’ in a show a platform loaded with a bevy of Vegas showgirls. The catch was that he HAD to be a bonafide World Champion. Unfortunately, Jon sustained a mysterious injury to his right knee prior to his departure for the World’s Championships in York, Pennsylvania. Controversy still surrounds Cole, because some say that he ‘ducked’ competition (Jim Williams and John Kuc specifically), and only performed his record lifts on his home turf. He did officially win the 242s at HIPC I with a 2085 total against McCormick, Phillips, Ulf Morin, etc. I do believe that those gentlemen can be classified as fine competition.

Anyway, Jon is in ‘semi-retirement’ now, but still has that tremendous physique. He has little time to train due to his business commitments, yet, I was told that not too long ago he was able to come out of his office and ram up an easy set of 5 with 450 in the bench press, and this after a seven month layoff! The legend of Jon Cole lives on . . .

Friday, January 28, 2011

The ABC's of Weightlifting, Part 12 - Tommy Kono

Click Pics to ENLARGE

The ABC’s of Weightlifting, Part 12
by Tommy Kono (1972)

For more detailed information, and several useful weightlifting products,
see here - click >> << click

The ABC’s of Weightlifting, Part 12
by Tommy Kono (1972)

Every lifter aspires to be a good snatcher just like every bodybuilder desires to possess large, shapely arms. The ability to snatch heavy poundage sets the lifter off more as an athlete for no other lift requires more balance, timing, speed, correct judging of space (height), flexibility and exactness.

The majority of lifters are quite efficient in the press and jerk lifts but because of poor technique in pulling they fail to lift impressive weights in the snatch.

Here is a simple test to perform in training which should give you an idea whether you are snatching in proportion to the power you have for pulling. Work up as heavy as you can in Power Cleaning but make sure you don’t go deeper than a quarter-squat to catch the weight on your chest. Don’t jump your feet apart sideways if possible and don’t use straps in performing this movement. Also, catch the bar at the chest while maintaining a flat back (no hunching). Whatever weight you can Power Clean in this manner you should be able to Snatch in competition; especially if you are a squat-style lifter.

Another simple method of checking to see if your snatching poundage is in proportion to your pulling power is by comparing the Snatch record in relation to the Clean & Jerk lift. If your Snatch is 80% of your best C & J record then you are using your pulling power efficiently for snatching. Of course, there is a possibility that you have very faulty technique in cleaning and this can give you a false index.

I have mentioned in previous ABC articles the importance of starting your pull correctly. We’ve also covered the Theory of Acceleration. In this short article I will explain an exercise which should be a boon to 95% of the “poor” snatchers. Working on this single exercise should teach you to pull correctly with control and accuracy. This, in turn, should help you correct many of the mistakes you make in performing the Snatch lift.

This exercise is the ordinary High Pull using the wide (Snatch) grip but with a little twist added, figuratively speaking, making this a truly effective exercise for developing the “feel” for the correct pulling technique.

Correct Height

In this exercise one of the most important points to remember is to determine the right height the bar must reach for the lifter to make a Snatch. To find this height, have your training partner or coach measure accurately the distance from the floor to the mid-point of your sternum bone while you are wearing your lifting shoes and while standing as tall as possible without going on your toes. Study the accompanying diagram for a better idea of how high this should be. For example, at my height of 5’7” (while wearing shoes) the exact mid-sternum height would be 52 inches high.

The next thing is to suspend a wooded stick approximately 4½ to 5 feet in length between a pair of adjustable squat stands so that the BOTTOM level of the stick measures exactly the height that is the mid-point of your sternum. By now, I believe you have an idea of what we are trying to accomplish.

The stands and stick should be located at ONE END of the bar so when you have performed the High Pull exercise with the correct weight you should be able to strike the stick, You can weigh down the stick on one end by sliding on a 2½ or 5 pound plate close to the squat stand. The other end of the stick will then be free to fly up when you strike the stick too hard with the bar.

Keep an accurate record of the maximum poundage you can use in this exercise and be able to strike the stick for 5 reps. Keep records of the various poundages and repetitions while using the normal (Snatch width) grip, hook grip and while using straps.

It is quite common for a lifter to work up to his record Snatch weight for 2 reps while using straps. On a normal training day a lifter can strike the bar for 3 reps with a weight 90 to 95 percent of his best Snatch weight while using straps. On a really good day, a lifter might be able to get this same weight for the same number of repetitions while using the hook grip.

There are several advantages in using this suspended or bridged wood system of practicing the High Pulls. I list them so you can see the advantages of this method of performing the High Pulls over the conventional High Pull without the bridged stick:

1.) It teaches the lifter to stretch his body to get the maximum height in his pull. Too many lifters, in performing the High Pull, think they are pulling the weight to chest height when in reality they are pulling their chest down to meet the bar.

2.) It teaches you to start the pull with your legs while maintaining a flat back and straight arms. A lifter cannot explode at the start of the pull with a weight 90 to 100% of his best Snatch weight and expect to strike the stick for 3 reps because the lifter would dissipate all his pulling power at the beginning of his pull.

3.) It teaches you to control the output of your power so that the maximum pulling power comes smoothly. You cannot start the pull slowly and then explode at the knees if you only have two gears (slow and fast).

At the beginning when you first start using the suspended stick High Pull exercise it is essential that a training partner or a coach watch you from the side so he can see you extend your body. If you exaggerate this extending position you may actually be bowing your body, which shortens your height )and pull) instead of lengthening it. Some lifters try to throw their heads violently back and drive their hips too far forward to extend their body (see photo No. 3). This is just as bad as the lifter performing the High Pull and bringing his chest down to meet the bar.

Once the lifter gets the “feel” of extending his body instead of bowing or pulling his body down to meet the bar, he will feel the muscles of his deltoids and trapezius contracting vigorously at the end of the pull.

Study the accompanying photos very carefully. Photo one shows the lifter stretching his body and he is striking against the suspended wood very hard. He has a slight bow in his body but not so bad as to affect his pull. His second repetition is the second photo and he shows more of a bow and he is not striking the bar as hard. The third photo shows the third rep and you can see that there is too much of a bow in his body and he has actually shortened his pulling power by bowing too much. He was barely able to strike the stick with this pull.

A lightweight stick was struck for almost 1½ years with a Snatch record of 260 pounds. I had been trying to help him for the past two years correct his mistake of starting the pull too fast. One day I had him work on the suspended stick High Pulls. He found that he could strike the stick with the barbell loaded to 265 lbs. (using straps) only if he started to pull slowly and used the idea of acceleration. It was the first time in two years that he got the idea clearly that starting with a controlled pull meant a stronger pull. Anyway, in two weeks he officially snatched 265 lbs. Two weeks later he snatched this weight in an international competition.

You can adapt this suspended stick High Pull idea also to the Clean grip High Pulls but naturally in this case you’ll have to locate the lower level of the stick at your navel height.

If your pulling technique isn’t what it should be a month’s work on this suspended stick method of High Pulls should bring about a new personal Snatch record.

Give it a good try and see.

Series made possible with the help of
Regis Becker and Reuben Weaver.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The ABC's of Weightlifting, Part 11- Tommy Kono

Bednarski begins his pull. Note the position of head and shoulders. The arms are used as hooks.

Click Pics to ENLARGE

K. Kangasniemi pulling on a 430 clean. The pull is not yet completed for the legs will extend more and the trapezius muscles will come into vigorous play at this time.

The ABC's of Weightlifting, Part 11:
Head and Shoulders
by Tommy Kono (1970)

For more detailed information, and several useful weightlifting products,
see here - click >> << click

Too many lifters try to use only the momentum created by the back and leg extension to succeed with a heavy Snatch or Clean and thereby fail to complete the pull. The last couple of inches of required height necessary to flip the hands over for a success-catch in the squat appear to be missing, as is the height (and the time) required to give the lifter a chance to sweep the elbows up in catching the bar on the chest in the squat clean. They lack the powerful finish in the pull.

A careful study of a lifter's movement in a world record attempt Snatch will bring to light the tremendous finish pull he achieves by the action of his head and shoulders. In cleaning, the head action is not so pronounced as in the Snatch lift but nevertheless the slight action of the head has a bearing on the finish of the pull and what head action is lacking is usually made up by a more vigorous use of the shoulders.

I like to think of the head and shoulders action as the movement for the third pull or the finish pull; i.e., the first pull would be limited to the bar moving to knee height and the second pull would be the action of the torso and legs extending to accelerate the bar and the third and final pull would be the proper action of the contraction of the trapezius muscles (and other related muscles which go into elevating the shoulders) and the tilting of the head so the line of sight is upwards.

Head Action

Many coaches do not stress the importance of the use of the head action in lifting but I feel that this movement has a profound effect in putting the finishing touch on the quick lifts and particularly on the squat Snatch. Dave Sheppard, onetime world record holder in the Snatch lift in both the lightheavy and midheavy class and almost in the middleweight class too, was the first lifter I saw with pronounced head action in all pulling movements for Snatching.

The more recent record holders who consistently WORK on the head action to the point of exaggerating it are both the Kailajarvi brothers and Kangasniemi brothers.

The head action performed correctly in the squat Snatch can add an inch or two to the height of the pull and at the same time place more emphasis on the hip action to extend the body. This in turn places your body in a better descending position for the lift. However, you can easily fall into the wrong type of head action so permit me to clarify what is correct and what is not. The wrong type of head action is that of just violently throwing back of the head from the very beginning of your pull. The correct head action is that of restraining yourself until the bar has at least reached your knee height and even then the action is that of upward movement of the head rather than throwing the head back violently. (Study the sequence photos of Bednarski's Snatch.) It is important too that even your LINE-OF-SIGHT is upward to achieve maximum effectiveness of this head action. Many lifters will tilt their head upwards during the final phase of the pull but their line of sight would be downwards which indicates that they are thinking of trying to "sneak" under the weight rather than completing the pull to make the lift. This type of attitude and condition actually sets up a negative reaction in the pull so a 100% extension of the body and maximum height of the bar will not be achieved.

In my early years of lifting I practiced the head action so much that it became an automatic part of my pull. A novelty lift that used to stump me even when I held the world record in the middleweight class was that of power cleaning 135 lbs. while balancing a two-and-one-half lb. plate flat on top of my head. Each time I tried to flip the bar onto my chest my head would jerk backward at the last second thereby flipping the plate (my lid) far behind me.

Shoulder Action

A real good technician in snatching and cleaning calls into violent play the trapezius muscles hence the effects of a contest may be felt a day or two later in extreme soreness or tenderness in these muscles more than an other muscle groups. During my real active years when it was common for me to be away from Hawaii for a month at a time for various international competitions and exhibitions, I recall how often my friends in the islands used to comment on my pronounced trapezius development each time I would return. All the lifting and pulling movements I would execute in training and in competitions and exhibitions used to heighten and thicken m trapezius muscles so the slope of the muscles would end abruptly at the origin of my deltoid muscles.

By using the powerful trapezius muscles in pulling you will achieve the following results:

1. The pull is more upright (straighter); not swung.
2. The leverage for the pull will be stronger at the finish. (Weaker muscles like those of the arms are less employed.)
3. Since the arms are not used (arms serve only as connecting links to the bar) the tension is not created in the shoulders and arms so a "whip-like" action takes place in the elbows in shouldering the weight in cleaning. For the Snatch the arm lockout becomes snappy and the shoulder is not tight when the bar is caught overhead.

When the trapezius muscles are contracted upwards the elbows automatically fan sideways away from the body during the pull. Or, if this is hard to follow then try to think in terms of lifting your elbows up sideways which will then work the trapezius muscles in the same way.

Masashi Ouchi, the world lightheavyweight champion and the fantastic snatch specialist, performs many sets and reps of pulls with 440 lbs., performing the movement rapidly like the shoulder shrug exercise. It is no small wonder that the finish of his pull in the Snatch and Clean is so ridiculously easy. Ouchi informed me in Mexico during the Olympics that he practices this movement almost exclusively and performs very little actual snatching in training.

Coordinated Head and Shoulder Movement

The head and shoulders must work in unison so as the trapezius come into play the head pivots upward (as with the line of sight) too. The head and shoulder action must be coordinated with the movement of the hips and spine so the whole affect is a smooth (not jerky), flowing, accelerated movement of the bar.

A good way to develop the correct feel for this head and shoulder movement would be by performing the standard Upright Rowing Motion exercise with either a narrow or normal grip. Begin the exercise by taking a weight about half the poundage of your best snatch weight and let the weight hang at arms' length while standing as tall as possible. With your head and EYES looking STRAIGHT AHEAD commence the exercise by concentrating on lifting your elbows up. Don't flex your arms to lift the weight up but rather concentrate on lifting your elbows up sideways until the bar comes up to the base of your neck. Perform from 8 to 10 repetitions so that by your last 2-3 repetitions you would be automatically tilting your head up and your line of sight too (and perhaps go on your toes) to complete the exercise.

If you have previously not put any emphasis on the head and shoulder action you should notice a decided improvement in your pulling technique which will give you a stronger finish pull once you acquire the feel for this action. However, if you are an "arm puller", the head and shoulder action may actually limit your record poundage. I might add here that an arm puller (one who flexes his arms a lot to pull) develops a good pair of biceps but lacks real good trapezius development simply because the arms are used more than the trapezius muscles. The arm pullers are strong in power cleaning and power snatching but lose a lot of fluidity in movement in performing top cleans and snatches hence their best quick lifts are not in proportion to their ability to power clean and power snatch.

Series made possible with the help of
Regis Becker and Reuben Weaver.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Why Do You Seek Greater Bulk & Power? - Anthony Ditillo

Why Do You Seek Greater Bulk and Power?
by Anthony Ditillo

Just what is a power lifter?

He does not possess, generally speaking, the graceful lines of a champion bodybuilding enthusiast. He does not have the overall flair and speed of foot of the average Olympic Weightlifting champion. No, the power enthusiast is a very special, different type of man. Physically speaking, the average power lifter is a very, very dedicated athlete, the type of man who has the urge of creative power embedded in his very soul. There are no worldwide competitions in which he has a chance to win for himself some glory; in fact, most international coaches are a bit wary of allowing such international competitions to ever take place. They feel, some do, anyway, that such incredibly heavy lifts may damage the body, internally as well as externally. So you see, we power trainees cannot claim ourselves as internationally known athletes, in the strict sense of the word. Moreover, these very lifts with which we are so happy to perform are not in themselves a true indication of good health, coordination, speed of reflex or flexibility; yet we are absolutely dedicated to training on such torturous movements as the full squat, the half squat, deadlifts, etc., and all for the sheer joy of it. What is the motivation behind this apparent fanaticism? Just how can one enjoy placing such physical stress upon oneself? Why not sacrifice some body bulk and obtain a more pleasantly proportioned physique, one which would create comments from friends, relatives and neighbors? These questions are very intricate and self-involved to answer and they only go to show you just how involved and intricate the power trainee really is.

Generally speaking, the average weight trainee was once a sickly, weak, individual who, is a last attempt rose up from the depths of physical, emotional and psychological distress to his well-deserved 'place in the sun'. If this be the case, why, then, would there evolve from the quagmire of training drives, a type of enthusiast who would be willing to ostracize himself from the rest of his fellow weight enthusiasts and alone, and solely on his own seek to develop in himself those qualities in which he alone can perceive any worthwhile socially redeeming value?

There is something about bulk and power training that invades your very soul. It is extremely hard to put into words. The exercise movements themselves are quite simple to perform. The routines one must utilize in order to gain rapidly that much sought after strength are not especially interesting or dynamic in appearance. All in all, power lifting and bulk training is a rather mechanical robot-like procedure, which is performed methodically, yet undoubtedly with great zest and enthusiasm running rampant in the minds of its devotees. There are many en who will do absolutely anything in their quest for greater muscular bulk and power, and when I say anything, I mean anything. Special foods, special diets, special routines, 'the championship way to train', the cheating principle, the power overload principle, these are a few of the many varied thoughts which run through the average power trainer's mind. They are part of his 'bag', so so speak. They make him what he is, that no one can deny.

I became interested in bulk and power training, surprisingly enough, not too long ago. In the beginning of my athletic career of using weights, I, too, was a young ambitious bodybuilder in my early teens, who thought Steve Reeves and Clancy Ross were the living end. I ate, drank, worked, slept and strained for bodybuilding. I had all the various pictures of various champs pasted all over my little cellar walls. I would wear nothing but formfitting tee shirts in winter and summer. When walking around in public I would continually spread my little lats and swell out my 'massive' chest. As you can see, I was a perfect example of a 'musclehead'.

As I now recall my early training years, I realize I was not at all odd or unusual in my emotional desires or my physical makeup. There are even now, in this day and age, literally thousands of young trainees walking around, their heads in a daze, seeking an extra half-inch on their calves and greater definition in their upper pectorals. This is really nothing unusual. Rather, this occurrence is something to be expected; I mean, bodybuilding is such a popular type of pastime for the young physical culture devotee. Since most young men are very concerned about their physical appearance even before they may actually begin bodybuilding, you can see how it would only seem normal and in perfect accord with the average adolescent's mind and emotional makeup to put the preferred interest they show in a kind of sport which would most assuredly improve their own self-image, as well as the image they would constantly see in their training mirrors.

After my relating to you the vast interest there is in bodybuilding, not only in America, but all over the world, it may shock some of you now when I tell you that the majority of power lifters come from the ranks of those young teenage bodybuilders mentioned in the last paragraph. What happened? What made them change so drastically? Why and how such an acute transition? Like all intricate and involved things, the answers are great and many.

I changed over to strict power training not too long ago. I had been bodybuilding for some time, and just as I have already related to you, I followed all the rages of the day. Then something happened; a dark wind came blowing up from out of my future and after reaching me, left me with such an indelible memory that it managed to change, for the most part not only my training, but my entire life as well.

One Friday evening I was down in my cellar as usual, awaiting the arrival of my training partner who, as usual, was a little bit late. I was really 'hopped-up' for this workout, so I decided I had waited long enough and began the workout without him. The first exercise movement on our agenda was that ever-popular bench press. The routine called for five sets of twelve reps, using 200 lb. I got through the first set all right. The second was a little tougher an the third was positively fatiguing. Now, since I was a young and reckless fool, and since my training partner had not yet arrived, I began that fateful fourth set all by my lonesome. I did pretty well up until the tenth rep; then in the middle of the eleventh repetition something strange began to happen. All at once my arms began to tremble and ache; they twitched and shook as is they had a well of their own. And all this happened while the barbell was overhead and I was lying on the bench! Frightened and surprised, I tried cautiously to replace the infernal bar back on the bench pressing rack. Inch by inch I strained my way to the rack, and just when it seemed I was safe and out of danger, the bar came crashing down on me, hitting full force, my mouth and teeth. All at once I realized I must, at all costs, remove the bar off my face and somehow force myself to my feet. Don't ask me how I managed it, but the next thing I knew I was standing upright, holding a towel to my face while the bar which had seemed so ponderous to me only moments ago, was lying five or six feet away, where I had thrown it, in the corner of the cellar floor. Outside of a quick rush to the local emergency ward and the terribly pinching sound of the stitches being put in, and later the insidious pain of having four teeth capped, there is nothing left for me to relate to you concerning this little episode except perhaps a brief explanation of how such an unfortunate occurrence could shape my entire life.

A short while after the accident, whenever I would begin to train again, a short but nauseous felling would leave my mental and physical state in total upheaval. You see, it had finally dawned on me that something that I had wholeheartedly loved and respected had 'turned its back on me' so to speak, and left me with scars and psychological doubts concerning the accident itself, the aftermath (being stared at by parents, by friends, teachers at school, etc.), and also, in this particular case the most important, it left me with the knowledge of my physical weakness in time of sore need and dire necessity, and it was at this time that I first began to doubt the effectiveness of my particular type of physical training.

Being quite honest with myself, I came to realize that although I had drastically altered my physical appearance, strength-wise I was just a little stronger than the average untrained man. This hurt. It meant that for all the hours I spent super-setting, tri-setting, cheat-curling, and all the rest, I was still basically a weak fellow. What was I to do? Should I give up weight training altogether? If I became a weightlifter in the true sense of the word, would I lose all semblance of a symmetrical physique? These questions were very puzzling and had me worried for quite a while. During this time of my life I took my first layoff from training. I spent my days looking though back issues of various magazines in search of an answer to my problem. How could one develop superior strength and a superior body at the same time? Just what type of training was necessary in order to insure your body of adequate physical strength and muscular bulk and impressiveness? These were only a few of the many questions which were in my dark and dreary mind at the time.

It was around this time that I made one of the most important discoveries concerning my future in bulk and power training. It was at this time that I began reading articles concerning Paul Anderson. Shortly afterward I found a few of my back issues which contained some articles about and by Doug Hepburn. And it was by using the example of these two great strong men that I was able to instill within myself my basic power training philosophy.

After reading and rereading the various stories and adventures of both these strong men, I began to notice very many new and interesting things. First and foremost was my initial interest and fascination, so to speak, in their huge physical measurements; why, Hepburn's chest was at least 55", and he almost bench pressed 580 pounds! Outside of a slightly large waist (compared to a bodybuilder's), he was very impressive, physically speaking. What huge bulky arms, and what a deep broad back! This man was a proverbial giant in power musculature. In fact, his fleshy physique actually suited him! No, I just could not realize his appearance with a bodybuilder's type of physique and the ability to lift all those huge weights like he did.

While on the subject of my initial motivations to dedicate myself to bulk and power training, it would be frail indeed not to mention the other part of this dynamic duo, Paul Anderson. Now here was, and is, most assuredly, the strongest man who ever lived. There is no need to try and exaggerate his physical abilities; the lifts speak for themselves. A full squat of over 1200 lbs., a press off rack of nearly 500, a deadlift of over 1000 lbs., a bench press of 600 with little training on the lift and with a narrow grip! As you can readily see, there is no reason to exaggerate the feats of this "monster". And let's not forget his physical measurements altogether either. Now I believe Mr. Anderson will himself admit he is not very pretty to the eye; for one thing his hips and thighs are enormous, and all over he carries quite a bit of fat. But there lies, under this layer of fatty tissue, the largest muscular body in the world! There is no doubt in my mind that if Mr. Anderson ever decided to train down his bodyweight somewhat, although he would never develop into what one would call a champion type of physique, he would still be able to carry 260 lbs. of solid useful muscle quite easily. Even at his huge bodyweight of 360 to 380 lbs., there is still visible muscle all over his arms and shoulders and back, and those muscles of his appear quite firm to the touch! Truly, here were two of the greatest power lifters who ever lived. And all power lifters, both young and old, should be thankful to both these men for their sterling example of just how far the proper training motivation and dedication can take one is his quest of body bulk and greater power.

While I did not want to go all out for strength and therefore pattern Anderson's method of adding bodyweight for the purpose of adding greater power, I was, however, interested in Doug Hepburn's method of greatly adding to his body bulk. If you care to follow his athletic career as I did, by using refernce to the old issues of various magazines, you will also find, as I did, that at the beginning of his career Doug was by no means a large, strong fellow. On the contrary, he was quite normal in every sense of the word, outside of an injured ankle and calf. But somehow, by using a power and bulk routine he was able to greatly add to his bodyweight and measurements and also he became an Olympic weightlifting champion and one of the strongest men in the world.

So it was by using the training principles outlined by both these men that I began my initial attempts at developing a bulky and powerful physique.

So you see, it took an almost critical accident to turn my mind's eye from adolescent bodybuilding to finally advanced power training. And I feel that by relating to you the changes in my emotional and physical development into its present state, that somehow along the line I have enables you to answer the question I first asked at the beginning of this rather wordy dissertation: "Just why are you seeking greater body bulk and power?" Was it due to a sudden realization that you had no real 'future' in the bodybuilding field? Did you somewhere along the way realize you were heading nowhere in your training? Did the whole rigamarole of spread lats and inflated chests begin to disgust you too? Or perhaps you were inspired by some well known star as I was. Or was it the local lifting champ at your neighborhood YMCA? Did you see him literally toy with weights that you could hardly budge? Was there something physically 'attractive' about his musculature? Did you secretly begin to admire his massive proportions?

The answers to these questions belong to you and me alone. No one else could possibly understand the power lifter's enjoyment in lifting heavier and heavier weights, in seeing his massive proportions become bigger and more huge. "Why are you a power lifter?"

If you do not know, who does?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

What Every Greenhorn Should Know, Part Two - Joseph Curtis Hise

Click Pics to ENLARGE

Harry B. Paschall

What Every Greenhorn Should Know, Part Two
by Joseph Curtis Hise (1940)

The advantages of early training are of great magnitude. it may change the youth's physique type from a very unfavorable specimen into an ordinary or fair specimen. Grimek changed his slow gaining type of carcass into a rapid gainer through persistent exercise from 18 to 21 years of age. 18 may be too late for the eelskin physique. He will, of course, gain great strength in proportion to bodyweight but his looks will be neither shapely nor massive. If his specimen can be started correctly as young as 14 he will change his type into a more shapely looker for the bystanders. If your skin is stringy looking and the small muscles show no sign of shapely curves . . . you will NEVER have a shapely physique unless you start extremely young. No adult has ever succeeded, although they may increase their chest 15 inches . . . none o their muscles have either CURVES or BULK and yet this type of flesh is the most superior of all in quality. What experts think about it is poor balm to a party who shows on the bathing beach. Ordinary people are the majority . . . experts are the minority!

A beginner's judgement of what constitutes proper physique grading is absolutely worthless. For instance, when I set out to stimulate the manly art of making man I sees the advertising catalog and picks out my champion. One Harry Paschall who is by no means unheard of in these days. He outweights "them days" maybe sixty-seventy pounds and if he looks at that picture now . . . or saw it entered in a contest he would rush out and and buy a demijohn to get rid of the bad dream. It was beyond my hereditary power to ever duplicate in looks Paschall in his more miniature days. So, Mr. Beginner, don't think that your former idols are going to park so high after three or four months experience and study on your part. Unless, of course, you choose some institution like Grimek.

If you are born to develop into a Clydesdale instead of a thoroughbred or Arabian . . . don't join the mob. In the eyes of an expert a Clydesdale is just as wonderful as a thoroughbred. Small wrist bones arer no bar to great size. The writers who prate otherwise are addled over getting the stringy fleshed, shapeless muscled type mixed with bone size. One of my friends totes a six and five/eighth inch wrist and has a chest close around fifty inches. It may be added that he never wasted much time to get it either . . . moreover, he had a six and one quarter inch wrist to start with.

The strongmen of the present day are by no means strong compared to the training methods that many of us know. Very few or our greats owe theirs to unfailing favorable environmental conditions over a long period of time. Those that have spent months or years at persistent exercising are usually the slow gaining type . . . although in many cases it comes from unbalanced exercise.

When one buys a set of bar bells the first thing he should do is bend the bar slightly in the center so that it is not straight . . . this is called cambering. Bar-bell manufacturers should never sell straight bars with their exercise sets. No one can lift record poundages on an exercise set and about 48 out of 50 cannot squat with a straight bar on their shoulders for the reason that the straight bar rolls up and down the skull, neck and backbone, and about the fifth rollover on a poor fellow's neck he swears off all squats and all hope of future improvement at the same time.

There is only one other exercise that is anywhere near the class of deep knee bends at 20 repetitions and has to be used as the last hope for those who donate their knee joints to Deal Old Siwash and are unable to set on their heels. This is the repetition Jerk from the shoulders. This is probably the exercise to which the great Austrian and German giants owed their size and strength. It takes far more energy than does the 20 rep squats and the gains are slower . . . but for a man who has donated his kneecaps to the alumni it is his last remaining hope. Perhaps, as has often happened, his exercising will bring his knee and elbow joints back to normal. The only cures I know of arer among the weight exercisers who turned to this form of exercise in hope of curing their trick joints. One of my friends ha a kneecap split in an auto accident and it took him two years of weight exercise before he could sit on his heels from a one-fourth squat to a full squat.

Almost every proselyting enthusiast for weights that I know was some form of cripple who would have never had improvement through any other means than the curative effects of weight exercising. These "renewed" cripples are the high powered apostles of aggression against the enfeebled humans who form the majority of every continent. The lazy strong philosophers give nothing but advice . . . but these "renewed" cripples force it down as many willing and unwilling throats as they can live to reach.

Good habits are an excellent investment. They pay heavy dividends with a healthy body in middle age and old age. Good care never hurt anyone and bad care has stunted, ruined and killed billions. The advantage of adopting good habits young is that it is one more thing you won't have to learn when it may be too late to do almost anything about it. A strong man may expend much time and energy on unpraised things and still not suffer because his biological power is far above those that go under at an early age from doing the same things. The strong men who are no saints re so few in nubmer that the exceptions are traditions instead of being quite common as among ordinary people. It seems miraculous to the bystander when they see some party who is the talk of the town,the pest of the sherrif and Don Juan of the morons, change in a few short weeks to become what his ex-anxious parents consider a model young man. The stronger and more intelligent a man becomes the more he prizes himself and the more care he takes of his present and future. Psychologists find that the more healthy and alert a person is the higher is his intelligence. Observers of college teams strongly doubt this. This is because intelligent students prize their kneecaps and elbow joints more than the cheers in the stadium. The exceptions who get the publicity and hardknocks never learn the value of good kneecaps and joints until almost thirty years too late. It is an unvarying rule that the duller a man is the more fearless and careless he is. He fears nothing and is willing to learn the same.

Only the wise prize their bodies. As a result, only the enlightened and easy to learn ever take up weights . . . if they have poor instruction they are most likely to never learn any better. If the beginner is properly started on the magic ten-twenty repetitions for beginners, if his diet is generous enough and his leisure is suitable, he will surely gain . . . some fast . . . some medium . . . some slow . . . but GAIN he will!

No beginner is competent to hastily adjudge that he is a "slow gainer" or "hopeless." Many change from one type to another and then back to the first type. As a rule, his "speed of growth" accelerates as he grows older.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Free Will and Free Weights - Dan John

See here for more -

An open, chapter by chapter discussion on the book
"Never Let Go" is currently being held at

Consider picking up the book and joining in.

Never Let Go, Chapter One
by Dan John

Free Will and Free Weights

I’ve said it a million times: There aren’t any secrets to training. I would’ve stood by that, too, until the single greatest moment in the history of strength training and fitness happened to me. I finally discovered the secret.

I tend to joke about secrets and gimmicks quite a bit. You know what I’m talking about:

• Lose ten pounds overnight with the diet of the stars!
• Instantly increase your arm size!
• Use psycho power to get women and money!

True, I bought all those products, and I decided to use them all at once. They all worked! I lost my money overnight. Whoops.

No, I’m not talking about a real secret here, the answer to a lot of the crazy issues that plague probably everyone. The funny thing is I’m serious.

There’s something you have in short supply that you need to cherish. It’s the difference between making your fitness, strength and body composition goals and not making those goals. Before I divulge it, let’s look at a few examples.

New Year’s Eve – A drunk walks over to you, spilling a glass of merlot down your arm and on the Persian rug. “You know what” he slurs. “Tomorrow I’m laying off the booze, going on Atkins, and I’m going to work out every day, just like I used to. Stopping smoking, too. This is probably one of the last times you’ll see me smoking.”

We all know what’s going to happen. Most of us (raise your hands, please) have made a New Year’s resolution that didn’t exactly work out as we planned:

“I will eat low carb.”
“I will work my legs first every workout.”
“I will stop looking at internet porn.”

What’s strange is resolutions are usually good ideas. Let’s be honest, saving the first ten percent of a paycheck, cutting back on carbs or sweets or whatever, exercising more, or being kinder to humanity are all pretty damn good things to try to do.

Next example: With my old job I did a lot of prison ministry. Prison is nothing like the movies or television shows, at least in my experience. Sure, there are deep dark bad places in every prison, but most of what I saw wasn’t unlike hotels I stayed in while visiting New Jersey and Florida.

I sat on a coach once and had a long conversation with a very nice guy without any bars or guards nearby. I later found out he’d killed six people one night . . . the last just to see someone squirm. He seemed like a wonderful guy.

One of the things people talk about is how buff prisoners are. “Ah, to have the discipline of a multiple offender,” you might think. And there it is. That’s the insight I had recently. All of the connections finally linked up and in a flash . . . I got it.

Got what? The secret to success in all of our goals. Don’t laugh, don’t undervalue, and certainly don’t underestimate what I’m about to say. The secret to success is free will.

Free will? Sure, call it what you want: self discipline, habits, free agency, or my personal favorite, no other damn choice. Now listen, this isn’t a religious discussion, but there’s a great story that illuminates the concept. By the way, the story is absolutely true. I verified it.

There was a very religious man who lived in a flood plain. One year, a big flood hit and he stood on his porch watching the water go by. A neighbor came by driving a motorboat. “Hop on, friend, and I’ll take you to safety!”

“No, thanks,” the pious man said, “The Good Lord above will save me.” Later, while sitting on his roof, the sheriff came by in a rowboat. “Here you go, hop in!” he said.

“No, thanks. The Good Lord above will save me,” the man replied. As the water rose higher, a helicopter dropped a rope ladder down to him and offered him a lift off the top of his home.

“No, thanks. The Good Lord above will save me.”

He drowned.

Standing in line waiting to get into heaven, the Good Lord walked by him. The man said, “Why didn’t you save me?”

The Good Lord answered: “I sent a motorboat, a rowboat, and a helicopter. What did you want?”

This is a true story and I’m standing by it.

What’s the point? We all know we need to take the bull by the horns, pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, or add any cliché comment you were told as an adolescent to spur you to get off your damn computer chair and walk over to the gym and spend the next hour doing nothing but every exercise you hate.

Or, you can keep reading this article and eat some of those chips that are bad for you, but since they come from Hawaii must be pretty good after all, so eat a few more, then sneak over to those websites that have panting college coed in pasties. Or whatever.

Every great motivational speaker from Napoleon Hill to Earl Nightingale to Anthony Robbins will always dedicate a large amount of time and energy to the concept of self-discipline. My college coach, Ralph Maugham, had a saying for his athletes: Make yourself a slave to good habits.

And you know, to a group of Division one track and field athletes who all have at least a 3.0 GPA, that’s a nice bit of advice, especially worthy of discussion. Of course, that audience was a little different than maybe most of us deal with during a typical day.

So, why does the guy in prison have a better body than you? It’s because we have just a little bit of free will. How do I know? People actually research this stuff and then I steal it. Let me take a quick detour for a second and see if I can explain it.

I shave daily. I recently changed from shaving cream to shaving gel, but I’m going back to cream. Why? Well, with shaving cream, as you get to the bottom of the can, it splutters and spats and spits cream for about a week before it goes absolutely empty. The first time you get shaving cream spit in your eye, you mentally note, “I need to buy more shaving cream.” In that week, you have three or four opportunities to get spat on as a reminder to buy more cream.

With gel, you’re standing in the shower and you press the button and . . . nothing. Yesterday, a face full of gel; today you’re trying to shave with Dial soap lather and all day your friends comment about your dry, bleeding face. Your coworkers might think you got into another bar fight, like you told them last time.

You see, free will is like shaving gel. It seems you have a one-can allotment and it just runs out without warning. Researchers did an interesting test on people: Everyone was asked to do a series of complex tests without any chance of success. They timed how long people would try the task before giving up – like maybe a Rubik’s cube that had been made impossible to finish.

When the next group came in, they offered everybody cookies. Those who said, “No thanks, watching my diet,” or whatever, would quit the impossible task far earlier than those who said, “What the hell, give me a damn cookie.”

Why? My friends, you basically have about one can of Free Will. It you use it saying no to cookies, you won’t have any left for impossible tasks, quitting smoking, or whatever resolution you picked in a carb-induced haze sometime during the holidays. Sorry. One can.

That’s why our friend in prison has a better body than you. When your alarm goes off, do you basically get up? Why? Could you miss class if you’re a student? Maybe. Well, then, getting up out of your toasty bed will eat up some of your free will.

Can you miss work? Sure, but then, you know, something happens, like you miss the Henderson Report and the Dingwinglies fall of the Schimshank and whatever the hell else bad happens to you at work.

Do you have kids? Now we’re really talking about losing free will, fast and furious. Children will drink every ounce you have before you send them off to school. Trust me, I don’t have any personal choice at all!

Who makes your meals or chooses what place you’ll eat? You. There goes some of that decision-making ability.

As decision after decision hits you throughout the week, the reservoir of free will you’ll have on hand to spend at the gym begins to fade. When I originally wrote my Four Minutes to Fat Loss article, which you’ll read later in the book, a number of people asked me, “If it’s so good, why don’t you do it every day?” My answer was always clouded: You do it and get back to me.

Why wouldn’t I do it every day? To push myself that hard after a long day of commuting kids back and forth to school, choir and volleyball, while the dog is puking next to the broken toilet, while the lady from the reunion wants to know if I can get there early to help hang crepe paper, after I get the truck back from getting new tires, before I mow the lawn, and while the boss still needs that report . . . I’m happy to hide in the gym.

Lots of us know these workouts. We go into our gym and hide. I call it arm day! Our buddy in prison? Does he decide when to go to bed? No. Get up? No. Eat three times a day? No choice. Not only no choice on what to eat, but usually our friend doesn't have to do anything to prepare the meal. Quiet time? I don't even know what that is.

Day after day after day, decisions I take for granted are just not a part of the prisoner's life. What does he have control of anyway? His workouts. That whole can of Free Will - literally bottled up inside of him for days, maybe even weeks, months and years in some cases - can be used for training. And train he does.

You decide on ten New Year's resolutions. Here' s my unsolicited gambling odds: no chance. If you only make one resolution? Maybe you'll achieve it. It could happen, you know, with the right motivations.

Why am I confident you'll fail? My point: You have only so much in the can of Free Will, and most of us waste the bulk of our self-determination, grit, or free choice long before we can muster up the energy to deal with nicotine fits, carb cravings, and the three-minute wait to get on the treadmill.

Listen, it's easier to just eat the damn cookie. I know, I've been there. Hi, I'm Dan and I'm the guy who knows cars are bad for me, but I eat them anyway so leave me alone in my corner to sob.

How can we save more of the can of Free Will so we can focus on our workouts or really push that diet? Let's be honest, look at Chris Shugart's Velocity Diet. Just look at it. Pretend for a moment you could do that for a month. Just pretend. I did and immediately came up with 400 events I couldn't bring a protein drink to, even one mixed with flax seeds.

Here are three ideas to help you get more Free Will out of your can.


Camp. I'm serious. Each year, I spend up to four weeks in training camps. Somebody wakes me up, somebody makes my meals, somebody else pushes me to work out, somebody else tells me when to put the lights out. You know, I work hard during those weeks.

How can I reinvent camp for my normal life? A couple of things leap out at me. First, if nutrition is so important, and it's my biggest trouble spot, is it possible to sublet my meal planning? One day a week, should I do all the cooking and bag and freeze some meals? Can I hire someone to do all the cooking? Should I buy a lot of pre-made meals? Or, should I just stock all my shelves with really good things, and only eat in appropriate places?

Really, none of these ideas are bad. Not great, but not bad either. In the area of training, we all know what the value of a personal actually is: It's someone making sure you do something in the allotted training time. I'm not ripping on PTs here; I'm just pointing out the single greatest value of a personal trainer is someone else's will replacing your own. That psycho, whistle-blowing high school coach you had might've been on to something.


I'm working with a young woman, Edna, who recently did a pretty impressive thing: She quit smoking, lost a lot of bodyweight, stopped partying so much, and decided to recommit to her lifelong goals. As of this writing, she hasn't smoked in a long time, has lost a lot of weight, and is in the fog of love with a very decent guy.

Her secret? She took on one task at a time, but only with a large community effort behind her. What does that mean? It means she told everybody her goals. I mean that, gentle reader, -- everybody. Friends, people at parties, coworkers and people in the mall looking for a new microwave all heard the same chorus.

"Hey, I'm quitting smoking, so if I say I need a smoke, tie me down and don't let me smoke 'cause I'm quitting and I'm not going to smoke, so don't let me smoke." Hey, you aren't going to let that person smoke. Leave, yes; smoke, no.

Next, Edna joined Weight Watchers. She goes to the meetings. She talks about things. She talks to other people in Weight Watchers and she lets everybody know she's in Weight Watchers.

I'm telling you, you can save your precious free will by recruiting a vast army of people willing to give up their free will to bolster yours. How? Tell them, ask them, beg them for help. Does your family know your goals? Coworkers? Professionals? Mailman? Start putting it out there.

There was a time in my youth where I could go to a party filled with booze and an assortment of products from Columbia and no one would offer me a share. Why? I was dumb enough to let everyone know I was going after something that drugs and booze would only hinder.

I was joking about the dumb-enough part. I'm damn proud of those decisions.


I don't like this one, but it works: Whittle down your life a little. I've always told my daughters you can measure a good relationship by the way you expand rather than contract. What am I saying? Maybe you do too much.

I'm guilty; I love leaping into things. In fact, it's a rare fall that I don't have a conflict on a weekend between a Highland Games, flag football or Olympic lifting!

Whittle. I was at a party with a guy recently who told me he couldn't get back into training. Six minutes later he asked me about a list of television shows I'd never watched, and a few I'd never heard of. By God, this guy watched Joey!

Whittle that TV habit and the time will appear for training. Don't TiVo a bunch of crap so you can watch it faster without commercials! When I was growing up, we never watched CBS; we didn't get the station where we lived. You know, I never missed a thing. Now, we have 10,000 stations and think there's always something better on another channel.

Whittle. Drunk all weekend and go to work hung-over? Whittle away a little there. Whittle away your workouts, too. Why does anybody do the innie and outie thigh machines? Really, why?

There you go, friends. Once again, I offer some basic ideas, but the problem isn't so easy. Be very sparing with your little can of self-discipline, Free Will, or whatever word you want to toss around.

You have thiree options to help you make better choices:

ONE: Be proactive and try to find someone or some way to cut back on the options, all those deadly choices and decisions . . . especially in nutrition and training.

TWO: Bring everybody onboard to keep an eye on you. The more personal trainers, mentors, gurus, Yodas, and Gandalfs in your life, the better. Tell everyone you know your goals and watch how much easier it is to stay on track. The crazy lady on the 814 bus might be the one person who stops you from munching on that muffin.

THREE: Whittle away at all the extras. Better yet, chop away. I'm not saying disconnect with humanity, but I'd like to see you turn off the damn television set. Chop. Chop. Chop.

Hey, like the knight in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade said, "Choose wisely."

And not very often.

Size and Strength - Fred Koch and Tudor Bompa

Brian Buchanan

John Davis

Size and Strength
by Fred Koch and Tudor Bompa

For more detailed information,
see here:

Periodization Training: Theory and Methodology

Tudor Bompa

Fred Koch

One of the great advantages and unique training aspects of bodybuilding periodization is the way Size and Strength phases are integrated into the program. After the initial phase of Growth Activation and Adaptation (see previous articles), you go into the Size and Strength I phase, then the Maximum Mass phase and then Size and Strength II. The main training goals in the Size and Strength phases are to increase both strength and muscle density and to continue improving your cardiorespiratory levels.

In Size and Strength I the focus is on building strength that will help you meet the demands of the Maximum Mass phase. Then, when you get to Size and Strength II, you’ll be building a strength foundation for training gains in the following year. Remember, we’re after long-term planning, leading to long-term training success.

During Size and Strength I and II the weight loads vary between 70 and 95% of your one-repetition maximums. A one-rep max is the heaviest weight load you can handle for one rep of a given exercise. You determine your one-rep maximums at the beginning and close to the end of each phase.

Since you are using high weight loads during the Size and Strength phases, it is important to understand what happens at the beginning of the annual plan – during the Growth Activation and Adaptation phase. Remember that each phase builds upon the next as if you were building a house. If you skip over Growth Activation and Adaptation or if you don’t take it seriously, it will handicap your ability to make improvements in the Size and Strength phases and future years. You must adapt and prepare your muscles, tendons and ligaments for the added demands of strength-building cycles.

Research shows that lifting weight loads in the 70 to 95 percent range leads to progressive improvements in strength levels. Gains in strength are the direct result of neuromuscular adaptation, which is an improvement in the nervous system’s ability to stimulate the target muscle, accompanied by a physiological adaptation, which is an increase in the protein content of a muscle (an increase in density). The neurological adaptation that occurs in Size and Strength I not only increases your strength levels, but it also sets the stage for increased muscle density in Size and Strength II.

Higher weight loads, such as those in the 75-to-90 percent range, stimulate the muscle to work harder, which recruits more muscle fibers in order to overcome the weight loads. The central nervous system and the neuromuscular system react to meet the challenge, which improves the coordination between the two systems and thereby fires up more muscle fibers.

Heavy loads are also necessary to create a high level of tension within the muscle. This is an important requirement for building maximum strength. If you don’t create the highest level of tension possible, you will not make maximum progress in developing size and density.

The Size and Strength phases follow a step-load approach, which means you alternate rhythm of progression weeks with time for regeneration so your body can be reenergized. This step-load progression is an important element in all the phases because if you don’t allow time for regeneration, your body cannot adapt to the stress you’re putting on it. Ignoring this need for regeneration is what leads many bodybuilders into overtraining.

The number of sets per bodypart generally varies from four to six during the Size and Strength phases. You won’t necessarily be limited to that number of sets, however. Variables may include your background and genetic potential as well as the number of exercises in your individual program. The most important factor is the number of exercises which often dictates the number of sets. If you perform more than 12 to 15 exercises per workout, you may find it difficult to finish six or more sets per exercise. On the other hand, if you do fewer exercises per workout, you can perform more sets and in doing so expose the same muscle to more repetitions and thus more work.

The rest interval between sets represents another important element in the Size and Strength phases. Many trainers who use traditional bodybuilding methods do not understand the importance of the rest interval, or they misinterpret its meaning. As a result they prescribe short rest periods between sets – sometimes as little as 30 seconds – for trainees using maximum weight loads.

Strength loads of 70 percent or more of maximum capacity are extremely taxing on both the central nervous system and the neuromuscular system. Physiologists believe that nervous system recovery from these loads is incomplete if the rest between sets is under two minutes. And if there are fewer signals to the nerves to fire up the muscles and move the weight load, which results in the target muscles working at an inefficient rate. When this happens, overtraining is not far behind.

Therefore, in order for you to be able to get out the required number of reps at the prescribed weight loads in your Size and Strength phases, the rest intervals must be longer than two minutes. Otherwise your nervous system will become fatigued.

This discussion is a simplified explanation of complex physiological and neuromuscular adaptations. You must be very patient and disciplined and follow the set, rep and rest intervals that work best in the Size and Strength phases.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The ABC’s of Weightlifting, Part 10 - Tommy Kono

Click Pics to ENLARGE

The ABC’s of Weightlifting, Part 10
by Tommy Kono (1970)

For more detailed information, and several useful weightlifting products,
see here - click >> <<

In the last installment we spoke about the action of the hips in lifting. This month I want to stress the importance of keeping your spine fixed in all pulling movements in the Olympic lifts for efficient lifting technique.

Probably the most obvious thing a person notices when he views a weightlifting competition for the first time is that the good lifters all seem to appear stiff in the back when they lean over to grasp the barbell or when they commence their lift. The back appears extremely flat of even exaggerated and concaved in the middle.

In the sport of weightlifting it is extremely important that we cultivate a certain amount of flexibility in the joints such as the ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, and wrists if we expect to have very efficient lifting technique and be able to lift respectable poundages; however, this does not apply to the forward flexibility of the spine. Without going into the use of technical and scientific terms let it suffice to say that the vertebrae which comprise the spine should be held fixed so that the back becomes inflexible from the base of the skull to the hips during the pulling and supporting phase of the lifts. It would be well for lifters to imagine their 24 loose, individual vertebrae as being fused together and with an unbendable iron shaft running right through the middle of the vertebrae to form a solid column.

When I first began competitive lifting I used to think of the individual vertebrae as being round balls with a hole running right through the middle of them. And, like beads strung on a string, an unbreakable cable ran through the middle of the balls (vertebrae). When I exerted tension on the "cable" from the hips my spine would align properly, and like the little toy animal made from wooden beads mounted on a wooden paddle with strings, the tautness of the cable would bring about the required stiffness to keep the balls stacked one on top of the other. Any slackening of the cable or string would make the balls (vertebrae) or beads give in to the effect of gravity, causing a limping or drooping of the mass.

When the lift is commenced in Cleaning of Snatching, the flatness or arched-in appearance of the back must remain the same and this tension to keep the back fixed must be maintained throughout the lift. (See Illustration 1-a.) If at any time there is a buckling effect of the back during the pull the efficiency of the body is lost for an accelerated pull. (See Illustration 1-b.)

The aforementioned method of starting a pull is harder than just starting with a hard yank but with the correct flat back or concaved position, the second and more important phase of the pull becomes stronger. (Refer to Part Two of the ABC's series.) The idea behind starting the pull in such a manner is so that the in initial pull is begun with the legs and the action of the back is delayed until the bar has at least reached the knee height.

Should your back buckle while in the process of pulling, whether in the initial or second phase of the pull in quick lifts, the leverage for the finish of the pull and the correct receiving position is lost.

Maintaining a flat or arched-in back gives you several advantages over the "just pull harder" type of movement:

1.) To avoid the buckling affect of the back the start of the lift is begun slowly; not with an all-out-yank.
2.) The control of the bar is maintained over a longer range.
3.) The Acceleration Theory can be put into practice.
4.) The back is fixed to go into the correct receiving position for the lifts (Cleans or Snatches).

Retaining a flat or arched-in back in the pull is not so easy when you are not accustomed to fixing the back position but it can be learned by constant practice and by being aware of this position at all times when working out with weights and doing the pulls.

You can acquire the correct feeling of having a flat back position by sitting as tall as you can on a stool or a bench and then get the exaggerated position of arching the back in by taking as deep a breath as possible without attempting to lift your shoulders up. In other words take a deep breath and try to lift your chest up as high as possible and try to lift your chest up as high as possible if you can raise your breast bone (sternum) to touch your chin. This will automatically contract the muscles in the back so your spine and back feel fixed like it is one solid piece.

Back in 1959 or 1960 Sports Illustrated magazine interviewed me and mentioned that when I grasped the bar and took a deep breath I would assume a "pouting pigeon" position before I began my pull. This description caught the imagination of quite a few lifters at the time and helped them improve their quick lifts.

A point to remember in the pull is that ANY UPWARD MOVEMENT OF THE HIP, BACK OR SHOULDERS SHOULD BE ACCOMPANIED BY AN EQUAL MOVEMENT OF THE BARBELL. If this is not achieved the back has buckled under the exertion and the good mechanical advantages have been lost.

There are some lifters who are anatomically unable to achieve a flat-backed APPEARANCE even though they can achieve the FEELING of a flat back. This is usually the case with lifters with extremely long legs in relation to their torso or with lifters who have extremely long thigh bones in relation to their height. Some lifters may have an unnatural curvature of the spine which makes it impossible to acquire a flat APPEARING back. It is important for these lifters to maintain the feeling of a flat back so the back remains fixed in its position throughout the lift.

A lifter who retains the flat back or arched back when the weight is received on the chest in the squat Clean can get added advantage of "bouncing out" of the bottom of the squat Clean. (See illustration number 4.) If the back buckled or humped over at the impact of the bar on the chest in the Clean (a sign that the spine relaxed at the peak of the pull or before it reached the peak), the balance of the lifter and the weight is shifted toward the heels, throwing all the work on the back muscles for the lifter to come out of the squat Clean. This is also true for a lifter catching the weight in the Snatch. (Study illustrations 2-a and 2-b.) A good technician can literally bounce out of his Cleans and Snatches in the squat or split style IF the back is fixed and the balance is correct for the lift.

Notes on Accompanied Drawings.

Illustrations 1-a, 2-a, 3, 4 and 5 show the spine (back) fixed flat or arched-in for greatest lifting proficiency.
Drawings a and b of illustration number 1 show what happens when the back is not fixed in the initial pull.
Drawings a and b of illustration number 2 show the affect of relaxing the back when going into a deep squat snatch. The back bows and the balance of the lift transfers to the heels making the lift more delicate in balance.
When the back is flat as in illustration number 3 supporting heavy weights overhead is much easier.

Series made possible with the help of
Regis Becker and Reuben Weaver.

The ABC’s of Weightlifting, Part Nine - Tommy Kono

Click Pics to ENLARGE

The ABC’s of Weightlifting, Part Nine
by Tommy Kono (1970)

For more detailed information, and several useful weightlifting products,
see here - click >> << click

The Hip Action

In the accepted present style of pressing used internationally, the action of the hips probably has more influence on the success or failure of heavy presses than the additional power developed in the deltoid and triceps muscles.

When former world and Olympic lightheavyweight champion Rudolf Plukfelder of the USSR was able to press 330 pounds in competiton, I asked him what he was capable of pressing in strict style. I recall exactly what he said. “Strict, strict 286 pounds. Ahhh, but Lopatin’s best strict press is 220 pounds!” Serge Lopatin, the Soviet lightweight was then the holder of the world record press with 297! The key to their high press is not so much in their pressing power but rather in their pressing technique. And the secret, if you choose to call it such, of the technique lies about 80% in the action of the hips.

The accompanying drawing “A” helps to explain more clearly than verbally how much hip action takes place when a top lifter employs good technique in pressing. The lifter’s starting position is the bold-line, unshaded figure. He then starts the upward motion of the bar by a quick backward movement of the hips so his body comes out of the “bow” (see rear shaded area). As quick, if not quicker, the lifter goes back into the bow by shoving his hips forward (see shaded front area) before the bar has a chance to slow down from its initial drive from the body. There is a tremendous amount of hip “play” for a world record press but it is performed so fast and so smoothly that usually the vase amount of hip action and (and many times the knee action too) goes undetected by the naked eye.

By bowing or wedging into the weight you shorten the height of your physical structure so your arms are able to bypass the “sticking point” of the lift.

Generally speaking, while the American lifters work toward developing greater pressing power to improve their competiton press, the European lifters strive to develop greater speed of movement (hip action) so they can “bow” into the weight easily and spend less time on developing power for pressing.

In snatching or cleaning, your hip action (or lack of it) determines whether you will jump back to catch the weight and/or your pull will be incomplete. In illustration “B” the unshaded figure (starting position for the pull) shows the body at an extremely bad mechanical disadvantage for the pull. The hips are farthest away from the bar horizontally than at any other time in the execution of the lift. The idea in pulling must be to try to get the HIPS TO MOVE IN as close as possible to the vertical pathway of the bar.

Figures 1 (starting position) and 2 (shaded figure) of illustration “B” shows that the hips have moved only in the vertical direction, but from Figure 2 to Figure 3 you can see the great sweeping forward and upward movement of the hips. This key movement of the hips is what creates the surge of power in the second phase of the pull.

If the lifter is to go into a clean or a snatch in either the split or squat technique from the Figure 3 position (maximum extension position), the hips of the lifter drop straight down into the squat or split for a perfect technique lift.

The hips are the center point of the body and the power and body movements radiate from this area. Fluidity in lifting technique can be attained only if there is good action in the hips.

Series made possible with the help of
Regis Becker and Reuben Weaver.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Deadlifting Theories of George Frenn - Ron Fernando

Tom Henderson

Deadlifting Theories of George Frenn
by Ron Fernando (1981)

As older followers of Powerlifting will recall, PL in the early 60’s was popularized by George Frenn of North Hollywood, Ca. Frenn has always been outspoken regarding his theories and their application.

Indeed, he has every reason to be, since his 2100 lb total (853 [actual weight] – 520 – 740) was years ahead of his time. There are some who may argue that there were excessive wraps – even ‘bed sheet technology’, used in the squat and that the depth was not what it should have been, and in the bench press the use of elbow wraps (a legality in those days) might give a rather distorted view of his total.

Regardless of these arguments, few can voice any doubt as to the authenticity of Frenn’s deadlifting and back power. The 775 he pulled was a record, and in addition, Frenn exhibited awesome displays of back power in Olympic lifting movements which enabled him to be a success in that field as well.

Oh, and let’s not forget that he was a bonafide Olympian, who for a time was the ranking hammer thrower in the United States and one of the tops in the world.

Reliable sources indicate to me that he still has the ability to throw better than 225 feet in the hammer and 42 plus in the weight throw (an event in which he still holds the world record!). His powerful back has enabled him to successfully bridge the three rather diverse worlds of powerlifting, Olympic lifting and weight throwing. I had a chance to speak with George at length about back training and here are some of the pertinent points of the interview.

PLUSA (Powerlifting USA magazine): George, from the years of experience that you have described, would you give your views on the deadlift.

FRENN: Basically, there should be one main philosophy behind deadlifting, something that I have shown countless times and that many of the other great lifters have shown. That is, the willingness to continually lift heavy weights. You have to mentally, emotionally train yourself to pull those big numbers, regardless of the time of year it is. A good analogy would be that you cannot train yourself to throw a 16-lb ball 230 feet until you can throw a 14 lb 230 feet. Peter Karpovich was very succinct in his theories – in order to get stronger, you have to lift progressively heavier weights.

PLUSA: Well, what about cycling – that seems to be the most logical approach towards peaking out and avoiding overtraining.

FRENN: From what I know about cycling, I personally don’t believe in it per se. Yes, of course, I realize that one can not (especially in the beginning stages of his career) lift max 100% weights every session – however, even a beginner can respond well to utilizing 85% of max for a certain number of reps. Cycling is fallacious to me because it seems that the environment controls the lifter – you have to control the environment. By building up a physical ‘bank’ of strength and emotion by simply doing the lift with heavier and heavier weights, one can always ‘peak’ for any given meet. For example, I entered (and won) the YMCA Nationals in 1976. Prior to the meet the very best that I had pulled in the deadlift was 585x5 reps. Yet by drawing on these reserves in my ‘bank’ I was able to pull a 765 that day.

PLUSA: Isn’t it true that you don’t do deadlifts that much as a part of your normal power schedule?

FRENN: You bet. If you perform religiously the following four exercises – power cleans, snatch-grip and clean-grip high pulls, and good mornings – your actual deadlifting can be limited to once every ten days. Then you should take a weight about 100-120 lbs less than your maximum and try to get 10 reps with it. I venture to guess that a fellow like John Kuc who can pull 870 plus can easily take around 730-745 and perform 10 solid reps with it. Hey, that in and of itself is one hell of a feat. As far as reps go in the assistance moves, 4-9 sets of 3-5 reps would do nicely.

Notice that the pulling movements give a great workout to all of the muscles involved in the deadlift. Also, lat pulldowns are an excellent finishing movement.

PLUSA: There are some who would concur with that theory, but I can see others who would disagree simply because of the lack of form work in the actual deadlift.

FRENN: I’m glad you mentioned form, because the form on the pulling movements, at least the start of the pull, is, or in my opinion should be, the SAME. That is, close stance, hands outside the knees, flat back and head up. That style helped me break out of the doldrums in the 660-670 range to where I was knocking on the door of 800 lbs. The rounded back move or humpback style throws too much of the pull on the upper back and arms, where the pull should be taken on by the logically stronger muscles – the hips and legs.

PLUSA: Older pictures of yourself have always shown that you used your normal lifting boots even when deadlifting. Any comments?

FRENN: Well, I had an ‘informal’ agreement with Jon Cole during those years when he and I were nip and tuck in our totals that we would not at any time change our lifting costume – so as to have a little uniformity between us when comparing totals – especially when they were done in separate locations. Actually, I believe that a good solid ¾ heel will help the initial leg drive. Hell, I cannot buy the fact that that much space would make any difference in the height of the pull.

PLUSA: Any comments about the Sumo-style deadlift?

FRENN: Forget it. You can print it exactly like that. Guys who use that are fooling themselves into thinking that they can build back power. Sooner or later their gains come to a grinding halt. I have the greatest amount of respect for guys who try to lift heavy, heavy weights with proper style. Take Waddington. Imagine what would have happened if he had slipped during his 1000 lb squat. Hell, powerlifters are literally taking their own lives into their hands. Guys who try to do this with less than 100% style are fooling themselves and will pay for it.


1.) The proper style (in Frenn’s opinion) is with the feet close, head and eyes up and with a flat back position. Reasoning – so that the hips and legs can bear the brunt of the pull, not the upper back and arms.

2.) Reps with heavy weights are the foundation to a long career of deadlifting heavy weights. Utilizing reps of 5-10 is optimal and n this way the lifter is building a sense of long-lasting power.

3.) Using the pulling movements will not only condition the deadlifting muscles but actually preclude deadlifting more that once in every 10 days. The movements are:

a. Power Clean
b. Snatch- and Clean-Grip High Pulls.
c. Good Mornings.

4.) In a so-called ‘Cyclical’ phase, try to use 100-120 lbs less that the max for 10 reps. In this way when one rep is tried, the mind can draw on the physical ‘bank’.

5.) You control the environment – NOT the other way around!

6.) Always allow at least eight days rest between your last deadlifting workout and the meet.


Blog Archive