Friday, August 31, 2012

Conditioning Routines for Powerlifters - Charles A. Smith

Conditioning Routines for Powerlifters
Charles A. Smith (1968)

I remember a statement made several years ago by a well-known Olympic lifter, to the effect that the best way to build up strength in the press was to press. This makes a good deal of sense -- as far as it goes. Concentrating on the movement to improve the movement is a sound philosophy, but it's far from being the answer to the development and maintenance of great power. So many times we think of a move containing the force of specific muscle groups. We fail to realize that behind every move a whole series of coordinated events had to take place.

Certainly, one of the most important requisites to success in the field of athletics is the proper mental attitude. The nerve force generated by a controlled mental stimulus can exert a power that is almost beyond our imagination. How many times have you seen a lifter "psyching up" before an attempt. He literally forces strength into his muscles. He consciously controls the nerve forces in his body until all the electricity is turned on "go." Now as he grips the bar the "thing" becomes a contemptible adversary that has challenged his right to lift it. It is like the old saying that "faith can move mountains." 

I firmly believe that a man whose mind is disciplined through study, or just plain use, will have a greater opportunity of succeeding in projects where that mind will be needed. Too many people think of lifting as a purely physical endeavor, but I can't swallow that. The strong back and weak mind cliche has more holes in it than a piece of Swiss cheese. 

A good example of what I mean is Terry Todd, or "Big T" as he's known down Texas way. By any standard he's a giant of a man. Standing next to him is an overpowering experience. This massive man has carved out such lifts as a 500-lb. bench press, 760-lb. deadlift, 715-lb. squat, and a 225-lb. strict curl. He had also done 5 seated behind the neck presses with 300 lbs., cleaned and pressed 400 lbs., power snatched 300 lbs., and power cleaned 400 lbs. It's obvious that Terry Todd is a strong man in many directions.

To the casual observer, Terry Todd is just a big strong man with little else than lifting records to his credit. If that casual observer bothered to do some research he might discover that the muscles of Todd's brain are every bit as strong as the ones you see hanging on his frame. Recently, he earned his Ph.D. in physical education. I can safely say that when you see Todd lift, you are seeing the whole man in action -- and just look at the results.

This doesn't mean that I recommend you earn a doctorate in order to become a successful lifter, but it does mean that I feel that a strong, disciplined mind helps in any enterprise and that includes lifting. This, of course, is the emotional side of competition. The physical is something that is a little easier for us to comprehend. As I had stated earlier, very few moves are ever done without the help of several coordinated activities.

Training to reach and then keep in top physical condition is just as important as training for physical power. In fact the two are inseparable. On cannot exist in the full without the other. Tip-top condition is the sharp edge to the physical razor. It's the ability to react with maximum efficiency and give your finest possible performance at any time; that, to me, constitutes real power. I'll bet if someone asked you to define "top physical condition" you'd get about as many answers as there are people. Sure it takes such things as rest and proper nutrition, but it also takes joint flexibility, muscle elasticity, a strong heart and lungs and improved respiratory function. While power lifting builds raw strength, it doesn't give you the physical conditioning necessary for being the complete strongman. For better conditioning it is necessary to do "assistance exercises."

Yeah, sure, but, it's not right and I know stuff, eh.

The first time I came in contact with what are now called assistance exercises was during the period from December 1940 to February 1941. I was serving on a cruiser which had been badly damaged at the beginning of the battle for the island of Crete.


We had to be towed to the nearest port for repairs. That port happened to be Alexandria, Egypt. While there, I joined the famous Tramway Sports Club on a very "temporary" membership. For the few months I was there I received the reward of seeing one of the finest Olympic lifters in the world. Some of you man not be aware of it, but it wasn't too many years ago that the Egyptian lifters were just about the best in the world. Most of the lifters in the club were, or had been, world champions or record holders. Such men as Shams, Hussein, Ibrahim, Nosseir and El Touni would train there for all to see. It was a great thrill for a young strength fan like myself to witness firsthand the training of these amazing athletes.

Outside the Tramway Sports Club

I had always heard that they trained exclusively on the three Olympic lifts, so you can imagine how surprised I was when I found out differently. A substantial portion of the workouts would consist of free-hand movements such as turning, bending, rotating the trunk and the arms and legs shoulders. They didn't explain to me how they got their tremendous endurance. These men could go for hours and seem as fresh at the end as they were at the beginning of their training sessions. One day I found out the secret.

I arrived at the gym at a time when all the men were out on a nearby soccer field, so I went over to watch what they were doing. I might say that it was as hot as blazes, which made just walking a task, much less training. I was shocked by what I saw. One by one the lifters would take a light bar and snatch it, step forward, put it down and snatch it immediately again in a continuous set of reps. He would do this until he had worked himself the full length of the field and back.

Now it seems almost commonplace to read articles about the Russians and Japanese and so many others doing all types of conditioning training. They have found that by having endurance they can train longer and by having flexibility they can lift better. But, you might ask, to what degree does the powerlifter need these requisites? Just the same as the Olympic lifter. This is because he handles even heavier poundages, placing a greater strain on the joints and ligaments which, in turn, requires an even greater amount of energy.

Because a powerlifter needs far greater staying power than the Olympic man, and because speed is not as important in powerlifting as it is in Olympic lifting, the exercises a powerlifter must concentrate on must necessarily be different. The power man has to concentrate on those exercises that improve elasticity and flexibility and that build stamina and increase joint and tendon resistance to injury or strain. Here are some examples:

The Two Hands Swing:
This movement was a great favorite of such strongmen as Hermann Goerner, Ron Walker and Charles Rigoulot. Don't worry about style. The important thing for out purposes in this one is that you breathe deeply and heavily. It is also one of the finest exercises for the lower back and the entire shoulder girdle. First you take a fairly long dumbbell so that the plates won't cut into your wrists. Load it with enough weight to get out 10 repetitions. Now place the weight between your legs, which should be about 18" apart. With fingers interlaced around the bar, swing the weight overhead, breathing in at the same time time. Without a pause swing the dumbbell back to the starting position as you exhale. After you have completed the 10 repetitions immediately do the following ----

Door Frame Swings:
Stand about 18" in front of a door frame. Place your hands on the top or sides of the door frame -- depending on your height. With your body rigid and your knees locked, sway forward, inhaling deeply and your head thrust back. Push back to the starting position and do this for 10 repetitions or until the heavy breathing from the swings has returned to normal.

Power Cleans:
Most people think of this one strictly as a power builder, not as a great endurance builder. How wrong they are! First choose a weight that will cause you to breathe very heavily after 10 reps. Dip and clean the weight to the shoulders. Without a pause put the bar back to the starting position and clean it again, using only the lower back and arms and keeping the knees locked. Don't 'go under' the bar with a knee bend when the going gets tough and the breathing becomes heavy. Do 10 reps this way then go immediately to the following exercises ----

Straight-Arm Breathing Pullovers:
Lie on an exercise bench with the head relaxed over one end. RAISE THE KNEES -- this is important -- place your feet on the bench, flattening your entire trunk. In this instance you are not to arch your back. Keep your body glued to the bench in this position. Weight is not as important as correct performance and breathing. Grasp a barbell about shoulder width and lower it from an arms-locked-over-the-chest position until it is behind your head, level with the bench. While moving to that position it is important that you inhale deeply. As you bring the weight back to the starting position, exhale forcefully. Repeat for 10 repetitions.

Power Jerks:
Take a barbell loaded with your best pressing poundage. Now jerk the weight overhead by just dipping at the knees. As soon as the weight is overhead, drop it back to the shoulders and repeat until you are breathing very heavily, then immediately do the following ----

Bent Arm Breathing Pullovers:
This is the same as the straight-arm pullovers except that the arms are bent and the weight is lowered all the way to the floor. The minute it touches ground pull it back up to the chest, keeping the arms bent. Remember that while you are lowering the weight you must FORCE air into your lungs; as you bring the weight back over your chest you exhale vigorously.

Trunk Swaying:
Trunk swaying is designed to add flexibility and elasticity to the hip, lower back and leg muscles. Stand erect between the uprights of the power rack and grasp one post in each hand. Sink down into the maximum depth split, allowing your hands to stay at shoulder height. Now comes the best part. Sway the body back and forth as far as you can. After a few repetitions change the position of the legs so that the one that was forward is now behind and the one that was behind is now forward. Repeat the swaying moves. Remember that the object of the exercise is to move slowly and without jerking.

Full Body Circles With a Bar (Dislocates):
Take a 6' empty bar and grasp it as far apart as you can, so that it clears the top of your head. Standing upright with the bar held in front, raise it up over your head and behind your back. Return to the starting position and repeat for 10 to 15 reps. Nothing beats this one for keeping the shoulder girdle supple.

If a layoff from your regular training is indicated by a feeling of staleness, or a prolonged weariness from your last workout, or if stiffness repeatedly remains overly long in a worked muscle group, use conditioning exercises exclusively for a couple of weeks. Start off with a single set for each exercise and work up to three. Then take two or three days off and rest before you return to your regular power program.

If you would like to incorporate a few of these exercises into your regular power workouts, then perform them at the end of each workout -- start off performing only one set per exercise, and gradually work up to three.

Whether you completely substitute these exercises for your regular workouts for a short period of time, or perform a few each regular workout, you'll find that your lifting will improve, you'll experience less soreness or injury, and you'll be a more enduring strongman of supple might and sinew instead of a pile of pain-racked tissue.    

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Power, Cuts, Arms, and Calves - Norman Zale

Jim Williams, Bob Hoffman, John Kuc


For powerlifters, the acquisition of strength is of the utmost importance. We all realize this but how many power men train from day to day without making any long range plans? Even if you are not interested in competition you should plan and direct your efforts over a long range of period so that you may realize maximum progress from your efforts. In this way you can train from month to month with firmly established goals.

Think about goals that can be attained in relatively short periods of time, say 10 weeks. Determine what you would like to accomplish in this period of time . . . a 10-pound increase in your bench press or adding 30-40 pounds to your three lift total are not unreasonable. After you have reached your short term goal reevaluate your training, establish new goals and a new training program to help you reach these goals. Don't be discouraged if you miss your goals and don't be surprised if you surpass them. The human body is a very unusual and unique organism. It can't be programmed like a computer but if you don't plan to succeed in your training you shall surely fail.

Here is a general outline for increased strength in the three powerlifts.

During the first five weeks of your ten week schedule train six days a week. Devote three days to the bench press and any other upper body exercises which you feel will contribute to overall upper body strength. Dips, pressing, deltoid and triceps exercises are favorites of many powerlifters. Don't neglect lat and bicep exercises as they are synergistic muscle groups which help stabilize the arms during benching. 

On the alternate three days work on your squat and deadlift. Of the three days on each routine, one should be light,another medium, and the third heavy. Benches and squats should always be performed in the same manner each workout, except for the poundages and reps used. You should always do strict squats to a legal depth perform official bench presses - no change in hand spacing, foot position or timing. 

When benching, try to have someone hand you the bar. On your light and medium days use assistance exercises to enhance the strength of your arms and shoulders. After your regular benches do some wide grips, narrow grips without locking out and more benches with a cambered bar or on an incline.

Most men have found that it is not necessary to train deadlifts every training day. Vary your deadlifting from workout to workout. Do hyperextensions, cleans, and good mornings on your light day, shrugs and partial deadlifts in the power rack on your medium day, and save regular deadlifts for your heavy day. Along with your squats don't neglect leg extensions and leg curls. Some men use these as a preliminary warmup before squatting while others train these exercises after they have completed their heavy work. It doesn't really matter when you do them but make sure that you use them at least twice a week.

Vary the amount of work that you do from day to day, avoid stagnation and boredom by constantly adjusting your gross work. On light days use 5 sets of 5-6 reps after a warmup. A medium day might consist of of 5-6 sets of 3-4 reps. Your heavy day should be a limit session going up to your training max in 10 to 20 lb. jumps after a good warmup with light poundages and making a couple of big jumps to a reasonable starting point. You should emphasize a complete and thorough warmup on your second exercise as well as your first. On each day take plenty of rest between sets so you can make a maximum effort. There is no use rushing through your light and medium days, and leave them as optional work on your heavy days only if you feel strong and well rested. You should make reasonably good strength gains during this first five week period and be ready for the second half of this power program.

Reduce your workouts from six to three per week, performing the deadlift only once per week and benches and squats each day. On the first two days sets, reps and comparative weights similar to the former medium days should be employed. On your heavy day or limit day really go all out to make your best possible total. To enhance your deadlift you can use lifting straps on your heavier weights of on your rep work. It makes good sense to use these straps so that the power of your back is not determined by the amount of weight that your grip can handle.

After you have completed this ten week program you will be sold on the benefits of short term planning. If you are one of those who train from day to day, with no goals, no expectations and no definite perspective of what your body is capable of, try planning your training. It really works. ask a man who does.

 Danny Padilla


For the past few years,each physique contest in our area could count on one entrant being there. Not only would he be there when the posing started, he has always given a good account of himself a every show. His sharp, hard development earned him many most muscular and first place trophies. Never a massive man, hew has worked deliberately in a manner that would keep his muscles sharp and defined to the extreme. While most bodybuilders place a premium on bulk, they must simply hope that they don't lose all semblance of "cuts" as they grow larger while ingesting steroids or lose muscular size while reducing their food intake prior to a contest. Since this man has been so successful in actually training for definition, it might be wise to review his methods and modify your program accordingly when appropriate.

Two words are the key to his system -- moderation and speed -- moderation in all poundages in all exercises must be the first step. In spite of the trend toward heavy duty training it is impossible to work the muscles adequately if you are struggling with heavy or limit loads. Speed is required both in the actual performance of each rep and in the pace you follow as you proceed through your training. For example, here is our friend's method of performing the dumbbell press.

He begins with a pair of 60's, performs about 6 reps, without stopping he now picks up a pair of 55's and does another set of 6 reps, then immediately does 6 more with the 50's continuing in this manner until he completes 6 reps with the 35's. These 6 sets are completed in about 4 minutes. After a 2 to 3 minute rest, he again repeats the same procedure using the same weights, sets and reps for a second and then a third time. The emphasis is on speed and more speed. So as not to waste any time he may sometimes perform the same number of sets and reps of rear laterals while lying face down on an incline bench while he is "resting" between each 6 sets of dumbbell presses. Not only does this type of training eliminate fat since it is carried on for the full length of time that he is in the gym, approximately one hour daily, but it develops greater cardiovascular efficiency and endurance.

In addition to a high number of sets and speedy performance, he feels that you can get best results using a wide variety of exercises so that you can work the muscles from every possible angle. Although endurance may limit you in doing it, he believes that you can increase your endurance if you stick with a program like this and will soon be able to do a great number of different exercises each training day which does much to maintain training enthusiasm. The basic idea is to burn away excess fat as you would do if you were doing long distance jogging.

Proper eating habits must also play a role in your search for definition. As he says, "They say you should eat big if you want to get big. You'll get big, all right, and plenty fat, too!" Cut down on your food consumption, reduce your intake of all types of foods, eliminate junk food entirely, and when you think that you are about to starve to death drink a big glass of cold water. His big meal usually consists of broiled fish or chicken and a large salad. Those razor sharp cuts can come only from hard work and a lean diet which is low in both animal and vegetable fats and all types of carbohydrates both simple and complex. 

If you are a confirmed addict of the size at any cost craze, you will probably never change your aims. Common sense should indicate that must have cuts and striations no matter how big you are or hope to be. To reach the top in your chosen sport, or simply to look the best that you possibly can, it will be wise for you to adapt this system to your needs periodically. Try it seriously for a month and you may never return to your former method of training.

      Dave Draper


The arms are, by far, the muscular areas of the body that interest the greatest number of bodybuilders. Even with limited time and less training equipment both the novice and advanced trainer will somehow find the wherewithal to include some type of arm work in his schedule. As a result of this fascination with arms many new and innovative training layouts are constantly being brought to the attention of the arm-happy public.

A training system which allows a terrific pump, increases strength due to the use of heavy weights, and can be completed in a relatively short period of time is the "two and one" system. Here is how it works.

You perform 2 sets of 6 reps of an exercise, with one minute rest between them. Then immediately following the second set you do 1 set of another exercise for 10 to 12 reps. The first exercise should be of an isolated nature; the second one a compound exercise that uses both the muscle that you are training along with the assistance of other associated muscles.

This method is particularly effective on triceps that stubbornly refuse to pump up or grow. If you enjoy training heavy and light,then you will definitely like using the "two and one" method. Here is an arm  workout that has proven effective in overcoming many a sticking point:

1. Lat machine pressdown - 2 sets of 6 reps (one minute rest between)
immediately to
2. Dips - 1 set of 10-12 reps.
3. Same as number 1.
4. Same as number 2.
5. Lying triceps extension - 2 sets of 6 reps (one minute rest between)
immediately to
6. Close grip bench press - 1 set of 10-12 reps.
7. Same as number 5.
8. Same as number 6.

1. EZ bar curl - 2 sets of 6 reps (one minute rest between)
immediately to 
2. Undergrip bentover barbell row - 1 set of 10-12 reps.
3. Same as number 1.
4. Same as number 2.
5. Preacher bench EZ curl - 2 sets of 6 reps (one minute rest between)
immediately to 
6. Shoulder width pullups - 1 set of 10-12 reps.
7. Same as number 5.
8. Same as number 6.

There are many variations of this type of training which can be used to increase the intensity of of the workout. To greatly intensify the workload you can finish off your last set of each exercise by doing about 10 single reps with about 30 seconds rest between each one. After your last possible single rep, start reducing the weight on the bar and do descending sets for 3 or more reps until you cannot possible move your arms.

A short, fast, productive training session like this will leave your arms flushed, bloated and you will have a sense of accomplishment as you look forward to your next training session.

Dorian Yates


The most obstinate, stubborn and growth resistant muscles in the human body have got to be the gastrocnemius and related muscles involved in pointing the toes. Many solutions have been offered for overcoming "no grow calves." Some advocate working them every day, or every other day, or every third day, or every fourth day. Some suggest high reps and high sets, some lean toward low reps and low sets. Some people like to mix them up using high sets and low reps or low sets and high reps. Super-sets are quite common using a number of different exercises and some like to perform only one exercise. Obviously no one has yet found the "secret" for developing large and well shaped calves . . . most would settle for large calves and to heck with their shape. Hard work, easy work, no matter how you train your calves you must always keep your eyes and ears open for a new approach to calf development, since most calves seem to thrive on a variety of training systems.
A short term blitz program followed by a complete rest of the calves has done wonders for many men who had all but given up any hope of adding any size to their calves.
The program begins with a three or four day rest of the legs, a complete cessation of any exercise involving the calves and legs. This is followed by three days of intensive calf work, followed by complete rest of the calves for a week. This method usually results in a measurable increase in calf girth, possibly only 1/8" but evidence that you are on the right track.
On the first day do one leg calf raises while standing on a high block. Do only one set with each leg but repeat the exercise at least 5 times  during the course of the day and do as many reps as you can on each and every set. In the evening, when you are taking your regular workout, do calf raises on a calf machine, make them fast and concentrated and do as many reps as necessary to get a severe ache and burn so that you can not possibly do another rep, whether it takes twenty or one-hundred-and-twenty reps to get there! Immediately after your last rep jump high up into the air for about 20 reps. Make sure that you take off from your toes, jump as high as you can, and then land on your toes before immediately jumping again. After the jumping, go to a high board and stretch your heels as low as possible, alternating each foot in a prancing like motion for about 20 reps each. Walk around the training area for a few minutes concentrating on calves and trying to loosen them up. Repeat this procedure for 2 more sets of a total of 3 sets of this combination on the first day.
On the second and third days continue doing your one leg calf raises throughout the day and during your training session do 10 to 20 sets of the previously described calf raise-jumping-stretching combination. It is not necessary to do only the standing calf raise but you may substitute seated calf raises or calf raises on a leg press machine. The calves, being obstinate as they are, should be attacked with both heavy and slow, and light and fast reps. This can best be accomplished by doing 10 slow, heavy reps and then reducing the weight and immediately following with about 30 or more fast reps until you can no longer move your heels or the burn is past unbearable. If you can walk after your last rep you are not training hard enough, so add a few more reps before you begin jumping high into the air. To make the jumping part of the exercise more effective you can hold a pair of 25 or 30 pound dumbbells in your hands and sink down only about 6" before bounding high into the air.
After completing this three day blitz, take a seven day vacation from calf work and then begin again and watch your calves grow . . . Grow . . . GROW!

You Can't Shrug It Off - Paul Kelso

Note: if you're unfamiliar with the author of this article, Paul Kelso, well then my friend, you are in for a real treat. When it comes to training authors, the following comes from one of the the Iron Game's true treasures. Enjoy, and when you're done I urge you to hunt down, round up and bloody read the two books above and anything else you can get by Paul Kelso.

It was the kind of gym I like: older part of town, a deli next door and a laundromat across the street. Rooms to rent upstairs and a bus stop out front. Not a potted plant to be seen, no hanging ferns, no lavender carpets, child care pens or sprout sandwiches. No electronic gizmos from Bulgaria to measure the molecular viscosity of toenails. 

It was a black iron gym, before chrome, dating back to a time when meets were held on the basketball floor of the YMCA and lifters often hung around to enter the bodybuilding contest.

Wood. Iron. Leather. Lifting platforms. The place had that feel and smell of authenticity. There were posters on the wall touting boxing matches of long ago, old York and Jowett training charts, 8 x 10's that used to be glossy, autographed by Clancy Ross, Jack Dellinger and Argentina Rocca.

Sacramento has its memories: Bill Pearl had his first gym there, and Chester O. Teagarden and the young Tommy Kono trained at the now-vanished donwtown Y, back in the early fifties.

The main thing at this place was the gang that trained there. Older crowd, ex-competitors, has-beens, never-wases, guys doing their favorite movements. No small part of it was just hanging around and getting out of the house. The owner was burned out and had long since quit watching the floor and coaching the members. He spent his days next door at the deli having coffee.

It was early summer and the redheaded 148-pounder was finishing her B.A. back in Texas. We had partnered up toward the end of my tenure at Pine Woods, and I had come out West in advance to find a house before she started graduate school in late August. I was spending a hot Sacramento June working on some articles and doing a little light training. I was kinda burned out myself and swore I wouldn't get involved with any more clubs or coaching.

But I did. 

There were three college-age boys at the gym who had decided to get into their first power meet. Rich Peters was bringing his traveling circus around in the spring. No more driving hundreds of miles to contests; just wait, Rich would bring one by, hauling everything you needed in a big ole truck, hurtling through the Great American hinterland (Topeka on Friday, boys!), and if there's an off night, well, set up on the edge of town and start something.

Peters' NASA (Natural Athlete Strength Association) has become a formidable and popular operation, with classes for the ex-user, the pure, the never-touch-the-stuff, the three-years clean, the natural and the repentant. My impression is that it's a good gang to get started with because there's so many slots for those on the way up. A lifter might enter the novice, open and pure flights in the same meet when it's allowed. Is it true that one meet had 120 lifters and passed out 168 trophies?

The boys were arguing about how to set up a program. The heaviest built guy was lording it over the others. He knew that the best way to train was the way he trained. He was the strongest, wasn't he? There wasn't any need to do all those fancy routines and figure percentages, he opined. All a guy needed was to do the basics; if a person had what it takes, he'd succeed.

Now, there is much truth in that. The problem is, that attitude will win a lot of local meets, but won't do much good at state or national contests because everybody there has got what it takes. All other things being equal, the guy who uses his brain to set up his training is going to win most often in the long run. Then he said,

"With my squat and bench I oughta win easy."

There I sat in my Wampus Cat Club t-shirt. I couldn't take it. 

"What about the deadlift," I asked.

The local hero shrugged it off. 

"I just let my squat take care of it and do a few rows. All you need is to do them twice a month or so. Nothing to the deadlift, anyway."

Translation: "I don't like deadlifts, have made no progress in a year; I can smoke the squat and bench pretty good, buy my ego prevents me from facing up to the facts."   

I introduced myself and allowed that I had actually been to a couple of meets. Offered to help. Knew the rules. The boys bought in. Said they'd read some of my articles and such. (See listing at end of this article)

Every time I get in one of these situations I feel a little like the crusty but benign gym owner in the old "Keys to Progress" series written by John McCallum for. Veterans will remember the stories about the long-suffering coach and his charges that appeared in Strength & Health magazine back in the sixties. John generally called for basic workouts, primarily for the full body and without a lot of nonsensical frills. He used a cast of continuing characters to carry the stories and to present new plots. It's an old device, sort of like a sitcom, and was not unknown to Chaucer and the ancient Greeks.

McCallum is no longer with us, but his humor and surpassing taleeft a writing legacy that dozend of Iron Game writers have been influenced by, myself included. Too many try to copy his style but have neither his skills, originality nor ability to bring characters to life and sustain a series.

But the lads at the gym in Sacramento were not the knuckleheads usually found in these types of stories. They were average guys with varying training knowledge and experience. Plus the usual amount of misinformation and a tendency to peacock around the gym.

They all used the sumo-style deadlift. Furthermore, they practiced sumo fashion every deadlift workout. I told 'em that Lamar Gant, Sylvester Anderson, Ausby Alexander, world champs all, and dozens of other record holders used conventional style. The choice depends on body type and arm length, not the style itself. Secondly, doing sumo-style is not the best way to train for sumo-style.

Sylvester Anderson receiving his award as
Marine Corps Athlete of the Year
in Washington D.C.

The first deadlift session I had the gang max out and I wrote down the results. Said not a word. I went over to the lifting platform and commenced doing high pulls from the floor, clean grip. I set up like an Olympic lifter and pulled the bar up to the breastbone. Lots of leg drive, chin an elbows high, full body extension. The next set I added weight and pulled to the belt.

The gang trailed along as I went over to the incline bench and got on it face down.The boys handed the bar off the floor and I started shrugging up toward the chest, crunching my scapula together and a little down toward the tailbone. Not up toward the ears. Kept my arms straight and got a full stretch between reps.

The gym owner watched from his office. When the bar was back on the floor, he grunted and went out on the street.

"Okay, give me five sets of five on the high pulls and four sets of eight on the shrug," I said.

The big boy was confused. 

"Shrug? That don't look like any shrug I ever saw."

Then one of the others came up with a line I've been saving for years.

"Man, you think a shrug is an Italian mannerism."

I loved it. I went on.

"Increase the weight on the pulls every set and decrease on the shrugs. Use straps if you need 'em, but your grip will improve if you don't. Do these instead of your deadlift workout for a couple months."

"But Coach, when do we deadlift?"

"September . . ."

Six weeks later I walked in carrying a device about five feet long with plate sleeves on each end and two interior bars bent to make a diamond shape. The Gerard Trap Bar. The gang stared. Somebody in the back muttered that he'd seen one before and it weren't no good because you couldn't bench with it. Right. 

I stood in the middle of the bar and started doing a squat deadlift move with it, stopping and setting up at the bottom of each rep. I also showed them the shrug and high pull with the trap bar. Then I took 'em over to the power rack and put a straight bar in it, with the pins set about two inches below where the bar would be at the completion of a deadlift. Piles on maybe 85% of my max deadlift. Took a clean grip and a conventional stance and just straightened up like finishing a deadlift and pulled my shoulders back. Big deal.

"Coach, how come you're not using a competition grip, and ain't your hands too wide?"

"Because I want you to develop your grip, and the bar isn't heavy enough at this stage to pull out of your hands. You shouldn't have any trouble with that till you get way over what you can max now. This is a short range move. Change your grip when you tart droppin' the bar. Straps later, maybe. The grip's wide because I want to make the movement a little tougher. This is for strength building, not performance.

"I want 4 x 8 with the Trap Bar and 5 x 5 on the power rack. Use as much weight as you can at the top setting. When the reps get easy, lower the pins a notch. When you get to the bottom in a month or so, go back to the original setting and add some weight. When you've finished the rack pulls, go do 3 x 8 with one-hand DB rows. You do these on the same day as the Trap Bar lifts, which are going to build your hip and leg drive."

I told them to squat and bench the other workout day, using high bar squats some days and very wide foot stance squats another. I hauled in a cambered bar from the weight barn behind Teagarden's house near the northside Air Force base for these.

"These 'wide foots' will help your squat and your sumo deadlift. Plus, do a few sets of wide foot placement leg presses both days. Keep your feet on the upper half of the leg press plate. No regular benches at all for a couple months. Instead try close grip benches, thumbs touching the outer pecs, on the incline. Then some flat bench DB presses and finish with one or two sets of bench shrugs. In the fall we'll work in reverse grip benches for a cycle."

"But, Coach, what about triceps work?"

"That's what I just said."

As the months went by, I got to know the young men pretty well and often shared post-workout chow downs and bull sessions. One day we went next door to the deli and tried some of the yuppified Cajun cooking. The big boy eventually located a shrimp in his gumbo.

"Coach, how come everybody's stronger now than in the old days? Is it all drugs?"

I thought about it. It sure isn't nouvelle cuisine. Here's more or less how I replied.

I'm not sure everybody is. For one thing, there is a helluva lot higher percentage of the population training now. The number of people in the heavier classes is expanding. Growth in the size of the population and leisure time are related. Diets and training info are better, and sports medicine and nutrition are becoming a science. Performances in all sports have improved. Drugs and isolated compounds are a factor. But strangely enough, many drug-free records often rival or even exceed those of known drug users.

Today's equipment is superior, although any old-timer knows you can become hellacious with nothing but a barbell and a level surface to put it on. many old-timers' records are still on the books. They didn't have the support gear that lifters now use, the "nutritional" aids or the leisure that so many now seem to have. Don Reinhoudt and Jon Cole squatted over 900 more than two decades ago while wearing wrestling singlets and thin training belts. (Cole also benched 610 and made a 430 Clean & Jerk in that era.) The competitive lifts have changed. Few indeed are now trying to one-hand bent press 275 pounds, back lift 4000, or rack a standing bar of 500 lbs. on to the shoulders for a squats. On the other hand, the bench press is a new lift, historically.

There is a psychological factor as well. I've got a harebrained theory that there were "four minute mile" barriers in weight training. Remember that when the mark was finally passed, all kind of runners did it as well very shortly afterwards? When Hideki Inaba of Japan made the first four times bodyweight lift in competition over 20 years ago, it astonished everybody. Now such lifts are more or less commonplace. Lamar Gant and a very few others have made five times bodyweight lifts in powerlifting.

The theory could be applied to Steve Stanko's breaking of the "unattainable" 1000 lbs. total in weightlifting and Pat Casey being way ahead of his time in the bench press. Maybe the passing of 1000 in the squat and 700 in the bench by a handful of current guys is raising the level for all.

There are men now lifting who have Paul Anderson's 1200-lb. squat in the back of their minds. What women have accomplished and are reaching for is even more mind-boggling. When the impossible is reached, the possible becomes attainable. That's not a bad saying, is it?

One thing more. When I was a kid struggling in the Dallas YMCA with old York sets, watching Sid Henry working toward the National weightlifting title, I'd slap on four wide-rimmed 45-lb. plates with the big flanges (225 lbs.) and tell myself, "that thing ain't as heavy as it looks." But it did look as heavy when viewed from the front as a bar loaded with four 50-kilo plates does today.

Putting on a pair of fives may be "nothin'" to some, but there's a lot of difference between 10 lbs. and 10 kilos. The conversion to kilogram sets is a factor. Putting on a pair of fives now has become what it was long ago. Also, I believe that the advent of the streamlined Olympic barbell plate had a terrific impact on the psychologies of lifters everywhere. Plus, with the thinner plates, the balance of the bar was moved in toward the lifter to his advantage. These factors may have had as much to do with the skyrocketing poundages in recent decades as the proliferation of steroids at the same time. Am I nuts?

Well, yeah, could be.

With ten months to prepare, I set the gang up with three cycles of roughly three months each, allowing for holidays and school exam periods. We'd skip a workout or two if there was any sign of overtraining.

Remember, this is for people who have been training for some time, for a first-time competition well in the future. There is nothing mysterious about cycling. Cycles are begun with higher reps and moderate weights for three or four weeks, a middle period of six to eight weeks with a higher number of sets and lowered reps, and then three to four weeks with sets of two to five reps leading to a max-out day or contest. You then take a short layoff and resume by beginning the program over but adjusting all starting weights to approximately 5-10% higher than those used by begin the previous cycle. Older trainees may find shorter cycles and more frequent layoffs more effective.

If you have no Trap Bar available, a hip belt or Magic Circle or similar apparatus may be used. If these are not available, or you don't want to bother, then add more stiff-leg DL's, and do your leg presses on B Day with several foot positions and/or wide stance squats.

Many will yell at this point that this is too strenuous a program for a ten-week cycle. Hold on a second. If that's what you think, begin the second and third cycles with one or even two weeks of working back up with higher rep sets - and - take an extra day or two between workouts whenever you feel that you are not fully recovered from the last one. There is no rigid days-per-week schedule during the last cycle. I don't believe in excessively organized schedules based on complicated steps. Why? Simply because everyone is different, and most people leading normal lives have trouble sticking to them.

Everybody, please quit trying to set up the perfect training schedule based on a rigid order of so many workouts or increases a week for this of that lift or bodypart. For most people, bench or bench assistance workouts can be performed slightly more than squat sessions, and direct deadlifting less than either. (That last may be a myth of powerlifting: Olympic weightlifters often work the lower back hard two to three times a week.) 

It is your ability to recover that determines how often you train. Teens can bounce back faster than 32-year-olds. No two trainees are alike. A big recent trend is to train three days a week: squats - Monday, bench - Wednesday, and deadlift - Friday. Some would add a light bench day on Saturday, and some light leg work to the Friday session. Others, usually older, are squatting heavy as little as every 10 days, with some leg presses, Trap Bar work or high bar squats on DL day. But none of this is carved in stone.

"This shit is getting too complicated."

That is a direct quote from two-time world champion Ausby Alexander during a discussion of training methods in my apartment in Tochigi following his guest appearance at the Japan Men's National in 1991. Ausby is gentle-spoken for a Marine Gunnery Sergeant, but  his frustration with conflicting and complicated training theories is understandable. I'm with Ausby.

The powerlifting routine used by more people over the years than any other is a twice-a-week program calling for heavy squats and bench and maybe some rows one day, deadlift or DL assistance, light chest and light leg the other. "Light" means moderate weight on the lifts or assistance work, that is, 8 to 12 reps. "Heavy" is roughly 4 to 6. It shouldn't be complicated.



First Cycle:
Three workouts per week. Alternate workouts. All sets and reps listed are suggestions, not holy writ. 

Day A - 
1. High bar squat. 3-4 x 10-15 reps.
2. Leg press. 2 x 15-20.
3. Close grip incline bench press. 3 x 8-10.
4. Flat bench dumbbell press. 3 x 8-10.
5. Bench shrug. 1-2 x 8.

Day B - 
1. High pull off floor. 4 x 5 reps.
2. Kelso shrug/incline. 3 x 8.
3. Pulldowns/Chins. 3 x 8-10.
4. Stiff-leg deadlift. 1-2 x 10-12.
5. Tinkering: curls, calves.

Fifth week: Go for triples in the competition lifts. Take a break.

Tenth week: Max out lifts. Take a break.

If you are a sumo-style deadlifter, you may want to use that style for a few warm-up sets throughout the first two cycles.

Second Cycle:
Two days a week. First five weeks:

Day A - 
1. Bench press. 5 x 5 or 6 x 4 reps.
2. Reverse grip, or close grip bench press. 2 x 8.
3. Squat. 5 x 5, of 6 x 4 (squat starts in rack).
4. Leg press. 2 x 15-20.

Day B - 
Trap Bar leg lifts. 4 x 8.
2. Partial pulls in rack. 5 x 5.
3. One-dumbbell row. 3 x 8.
4. Tinkering: curls, calves.

Fifth week: Go for triples in the lifts. Take a break.

Second five weeks: first week, high reps, moderate weights, then:

Day A - 
1. Squat. Same.
2. Squats starts or box squats. Same.
3. "Touch 'n go" bench press warm-ups. 2 x 8.
4. Bench starts in rack. 3 x 5; lock-outs or pin pushes: 3 x 3.

Day B - 
1. Trap Bar lift off block. 4 x 8u.
2. Partial pulls. 5 x 5. 
3. Heavy rows or pulldowns. 3 x 8.
4. Tinkering: curls, calves.

Tenth week: Max out lifts. Take a break.

Third Cycle
 * Simplify - emphasize moves to competition form and performance.
 * Go to competition style in all lifts.
 * Fewer assistance sets and less "tinkering".
 * Drop the reps on the three lifts and increase the number of sets.
 * Begin with schemes of 6 x 4 reps one day and 3 x 6 for top weights the other, working the reps down to threes and fives over the length of the cycle.

You might try a workout at the third and sixth week marks with a weight equal to a tough triple, and do multiple single attempts with it. This is a confidence builder and trains your groove with more of less "opening attempt" poundages.


Remember, the more days per week called for and the more complex the routine, the less likely you'll be able to stick to it, and the more likely it is to have been designed by and for drug users. Yes, that remark will infuriate a lot of people. Sorry about that. Some drug-free lifters are known to train five days a week, but with very short sessions. But how many days a week anybody trains any lift or body part should be dependent only on recovery ability.

During the second cycle I utilized the power rack even more. Too often this great strength builder is used only as a squat rack. Far too many "instructors" in gyms haven't a clue how to use it. Sometimes you walk in and the locker attendant has towels drying on it.

I set the pins for the squat low so that the boys had to assume the deep position, thighs at parallel or a hair higher, to begin the lift. I noticed the gym owner was watching again. He stayed longer this time, grunting his way through a cigar.

I showed 'em that after standing erect, the bar is lowered onto the pins so that the weight is off the lifter briefly between reps. The same method is true for the bench; the pins were set so the bar was just off the chest on full inhale. If no power rack is available, this technique can be done with an extended pause in the bottom position in either movement. Start light, of course.

Other common uses for the power rack that we worked in were short lockout movements, and setting one pair of pins above the starting position so the movement could not be locked out. The trainee pushes against the pins for a count of five to ten and then lowers the bar down to the starting pins. All power rack training is tough, and I'd suggest that these exercises not be done more than once a week and then for only six to eight weeks several times a year unless you are a very advanced specimen.

The final cycle was also simple and more or less standard. I'll into more detail in the last chapter (of Powerlifting Basics, Texas Style), but it was primarily a rep scheme of five's and three's using contest style. I insisted on proper form throughout the ten months, pauses at the chest on first reps on the bench, and speed emphasis on the lifts through the first two cycles. On deadlift days we'd use sumo style for warm-up sets, just to practice form. We maxed out all lifts at the end of each cycle.

Toward the end of the last two cycles we had a single workout where we loaded our estimated opening attempts for each lift and tried to do five perfect singles with it.

I've been hearing a lot about "modern Bulgarian training methods" recently. Well, it isn't, and they ain't. Guys were doing 10 singles with a constant load for weightlifting training back in the thirties. Sticking with a weight for a high number of low-rep sets has been around and was revived in the sixties on the West Coast as "California sets," mostly using a high percentage of max singles in the 85-90% range.

Doing several heavy low-rep sets of a given lift every day, or even spaced out through the day two or three times is not new. Paul Anderson is known to have done this. It is interesting to watch some old routines coming around again, although they are sometimes claimed as new. Old-timers familiar with
Rader or McCallum may have tried doing a set of six to ten reps of curls and tricep work every hour or two - while glugging protein shakes - in hopes of adding a permanent half inch to their arms in a few days. I've done this myself with good results. (Many articles appeared over the years about this idea, always working the arms. Why not other body parts? Seems logical.)

A very recent development called "evolution training" calls for seven to eight short workouts a week with heavy doubles and singles on any given lift, arranged in an exotic scheme based on percentages. the idea is that this type of training might work well for many actually seems likely to me, but it tempered by the stone-cold fact that few are likely to get the chance to train this way unless on vacation, independently wealthy or riding a government subsidy.

Ed Coan, perhaps the dominant powerlifter of our time, has advocated long cycles of 5 x 5 and 8 x 3 constant weight rep schemes. I do not recommend this for anybody who has not been training consistently for several years unless he starts down around 60% and builds up. A slight problem is that many commercial gym owners hate this type of routine because it ties up equipment for long periods of time and discourages the less advanced.

When the contest week finally rolled around and we were loading gear into my van, the gym owner eased up to me and pressed fifty bucks in small bills into my hand.

"Thought you could use this," he growled, and shambled next door to the deli.

We spent the money on post-meet groceries. The boys came home with a couple of trophies, Class II and III rankings and big ambitions. All their lifts had gone up by 50-70 pounds since Day One. The big boy won his class by five pounds with his last deadlift. The gym owner took me to coffee.

Tried to sell me the gym.

Books and Articles by Paul Kelso, all worth looking for and studying:

"The Kelso Shrug Course" and "The Bone Structure And Growth Course"

"Powerlifting Basics, Texas-Style: The Adventures of Lope Delk"

"Variations of the Shrug Principle," American Fitness Quarterly, April, 1985.

"Shrug Variations for Bodybuilders," Iron Man, January, 1986, p 52.

"ZAP THE TRAPS," Iron Man, July, 1988.   

"A Shrugger'sGuide," Muscular Development, January, 1989, p 45.
"Shrug Variations tor Bodybuilders and Powerlifters," Iron Man, Dec, 1989.

"The Kelso File," Hardgainer, November, 1990, p 10.

"Bone Structure and Growth I," Hardgainer, January, 1991, p 21.

"Bone Structure and Growth II," Hardgainer, March, 1991, p 28.

"Bone Structure and Growth III," Hardgainer, July, 1991, p 39.

"Shrug Variations," Hardgainer, January, 1993, p 24.

"The Trap Bar - The New Basic," Hardgainer, July-August, 1993, p 30.

*Paul Kelso articles for Powerlifting USA*
Compiled by and courtesy of Joe Roark, Iron Game historian.
(Note: this is not the complete list. Only articles dealing directly with training have been included here.)

Mar 1984 p 22 The Kelso Shrug system

Jul 1988 p 33 How to start a PL club- and live to tell about it

Sep 1988 p 22 The BP and the hardhead

Oct 1988 p 14 Sin, squats, and Shakespeare

Nov 1988 p 41 Call me old-fashioned

Dec 1988 p 37 DL- a burning issue

Jan 1989 p 15 Dear Mr. KELSO, what should I do?

Feb 1989 p 13 Resolutions revisited

Mar 1989 p 32 Dead on in Dallas

Apr 1989 p 15 Using the Trap Bar for the DL

May 1989 p 34 Boxes, belts, and beer mines

Jun 1989 p 24 A strength legend: Jim Jicha

Jul 1989 p 20 First meet follies: a primer

Aug 1989 p 19 The stretchmark machine

Sep 1989 p 40 The Kelso Shrug revisited

Oct 1989 p 22 Power fun

Nov 1989 p 36 I visit the Yoshidas

Dec 1989 p 34 Culture shock

Jan 1990 p 23 Lunch with Inaba

Apr 1990 p 32 PLing on the ping

Jun 1990 p 33 The kilo and the kimono

Jun 1991 p 22 Power fun

Jun 1993 p 24 Kelso SHRUG SYSTEM

Oct 2000 p 11 That 'tako' not 'taco'

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Secrets of Bodyweight Manipulation, Part Nine - J.M. Blakley

Fluid Replenishment

This seems to be easy. Just drink. The problem is that the thirst mechanism is slaked well before full rehydration is complete. Drinking when not thirsty is uncomfortable to say the least. Athletes who are not watching the scale feel rehydrated but usually fall well short of recovery (and totally miss out on rebound). The athlete cannot trust his thirst. He can watch his weight and urine color and volume. An athlete can not be said to be fully rehydrated until his weight is recovered and his urine output reaches a point (usually mid-morning on the next day just prior to competing) where he is urinating 150-250 ml. every 15 minutes and the appearance of the urine is crystal clear. During this time (which should last only about 2 hours) the athlete can begin to slow and even stop pushing fluids. Blood pressure will be re-elevated from a low point the evening before (which followed a very high point just after the weigh-in and re-introduction of fluids) and body weight should be higher than the start point.

This is not any guarantee but it is a good sign that the job has been successful. This event is unmistakable. The athlete must be sure to keep drinking back the amount that is urinated for the first hour. Then the fluids can be consumed based on thirst until the competition.
Until this event the athlete can be thought of as dehydrated and must force fluids. As with food the first bouts of drinking should be limited to 32 oz. and then at regular intervals increased to the point where the athlete is drinking to full bloat of the stomach. This must continue under strict discipline. The athlete must not let up. 
As a rule of thumb, 4 gallons of Gatorade should be ingested for a 10 pound dehydration in the 24 hour period. Gatorade is a good choice because it has the best combination of electrolytes especially sodium. Other options include Pedialyte, Powerade, and equine electrolyte powders that can be added to water (yuck) or fruit juices. Water alone is not the best choice because the others offer calories and electrolytes. Drinking bouts should be between 32 and 64 oz. at a time. The duration between bouts will vary but the athlete must drink as often as possible.
The fluids will first refill the plasma compartment. Then over time leak into the interstitium. Only after these two compartments are replenished will any rehydration of the cells begin )with exception of water stored with glycogen). Every effort was made to avoid cellular dehydration, but doubtless some has occurred. The sooner the other two compartments are refilled, the sooner the cells will get theirs. And the sooner the better. 
Dehydration imparts a very fatigued and weak feeling to the athlete that can have serious psychological effects on confidence. The athlete feels bone-tired and weak as a kitten. The truth is that it doesn't matter how the athlete feels the day before the meet, just as it makes no difference how he feels after the meet.
What is important is how he feels at the meet. With full reconstitution, he will feel fine. And with a little rebound he will feel great. But some athletes are spooked by the extreme fatigue the day prior. They are certain in their minds that they will be affected. They can't let it go. They hold the memory of the weak feeling like a lost lover. The sooner the athlete begins to rehydrate and shake the fog off from the cutting process the better their spirits. They must understand that the feeling is temporary (unless they don't reconstitute fully . . . they they're stuck with it!) and will pass. The sooner they start to feel better the less the psychological ill-effects. Water must be replaced as rapidly as possible after an initial ramping.

Some athletes will use an I.V. to aid the speed at which they replenish fluids. This is fine as long as the blood pressure is not allowed to rise too quickly. A slow constant drip of dextrose solution or lactated Ringer's solution is preferable to straight sodium solution. The process is time consuming especially if more than one bag is going to be used (1.5 liters +). This process is a little creepy looking and requires lots of know-how. Many athletes find a nurse or paramedic to help them.

For a body weight loss of less than 13 pounds this process is entirely unnecessary. Full replenishment is easily accomplished without the added complications of an I.V. for moderate weight loss and restoration. Without proper assistance the procedure is full of risks and complications.

Some athletes will opt to take in extra salt and electrolyte tablets at this time in an effort to aid rehydration. There are preparations of sodium, chloride, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium. It is debatable whether these really help over and above the amounts seen in force feeding. However, they are inexpensive and low risk as long as they are taken late the first day or on the day after weigh-in. By this time the body has probably achieved a semi-normal balance of electrolytes and any excess will simply be excreted.

On occasion an athlete will use a prescription potassium supplement called Slo-K. The athlete must be positive they are not using a potassium-sparing diuretic and that their blood levels of potassium are not elevated to begin with. There are ways to formulate how much Slo-K to take (in mEQs) based on urine output during diuresis. A typical estimate is 20 mEQ of potassium lost per liter of urine. This is not a complete estimate because potassium is also lost by other routes such as sweating but provides a safe "low estimate". It is better to shoot low on this one. An overestimate here can really screw things up. The athlete must measure the urine output with a container each urination. Each Slo-K tablet is 600 mg. of which only 325 is potassium (the rest is chloride). Each tablet is equivalent to 8 mEQ of potassium. It can be thought of as two tablets per liter of urine (again a slight under-estimate) roughly. The dose is divided throughout the day.

As always athletes tend to be overanxious about everything and by their very nature do things to extreme. Lots of trouble can arise with high dose potassium drugs. Over the counter potassium tablets are available in 99 mg. per tab and would take handfuls to cause problems. Of course taking 4 OTC potassium tabs every one Slow-K would have the same effect. But an athlete is more likely to think twice when taking 16-20 pills of one medication or supplement (it doesn't stop some though). I suppose it could be overdone with bananas but the athlete would have to really like bananas as well as be a total idiot to pull that off.

In general, unless there is a real problem with cramping in the athlete's history, it is probably best to avoid potassium supplements altogether. It is a lot of work and effort. The risk is low but present. Most likely the potassium will easily be replaced by Gatorade and in the force feed.

Some athletes have used anti-histamines and anti-inflammatory drugs, claimed to cause water retention. While the use of Hismanal and phenylbutazone may affect water retention, it is most likely too late for real practical aid within 24 hours. Often the peak is 3 or 4 days later, well after it can contribute to the performance. I have seen athletes swell up on "bute" by several pounds (up to 6!) but never in time for the meet. This was invariably a day or two late. And it doesn't work for everyone. The risks are exceptionally high. A quick read of the Physician's Desk Reference section on side effect of phenylbutazone reads like a horror story. It is rarely used in humans! It is a last-chance anti-inflammatory drug for severe arthritis. Still many athletes are willing to risk it. The usual dosage is 250 mg. per gallon of fluid up to one gram (4 gallons). I have never heard of anyone taking more than one gram. Many only do 250-500 mg. and stop. I also have no idea where this dosing schedule came from. Veterinary dosing for dogs is 20 mg. per pound of bodyweight with a max of 800 mg. Some athletes swear by bute but the risk seems to high.

In general these methods may not impart much more fluid retention than forced feed and forced fluids. The small benefit is offset by the risk. If the result were more pronounced or reliable they might be more considerable. They are just another complication.

Glycerol is also a candidate to aid re-hydration. Glycerol pulls fluids into the plasma. It sounds great and seems sound on paper but the results are inconsistent and unpredictable. Under normal circumstances, this may be a decent way to hyper-hydrate. But after wide swings in body fluid volumes and reconstitution, it is hit and miss. It can elevate blood pressure if taken too early. It can peak too soon or too late. It is in general a tough nut to crack. However if an athlete were to sustain multiple trials and carefully note all the variables with different dosing schedules, it may prove helpful with little risk. A dosing schedule that I have seen that seems plausible is 5 ml. per kg. (20% solution) of bodyweight initial dose and follow up dosings of 5 ml/kg (4% solution). The first dose is taken over an hour and subsequent dosings may follow at a lower concentration and over several hours.

Blood pressure and hematocrit can be measured to evaluate the success of the procedure. Just how long its effect will last depends on clearance of the glycerol. Timing the administrations to correlate with the event is tricky. But even if the plasma volume begins to lose some of the hyper-hydration, it is still above normal hydration and during the time in which the plasma volume was filled the extra fluids taken in by mouth would have been pushed into refilling the interstatia. So all in all this is still a worthwhile endeavor for the athlete.

The procedure should begin late the day or weigh-in or early the day of the meet. Glycerol loading done too soon after severe dehydration may elevate blood pressure to dangerous levels.

There are medications that slow the urine flow (Detrol) in the kidneys. They may or may not be useful. This seems safer than bute but they may have other complications. I have yet to encounter someone who has used this medication to help re-hydrate. I can offer no insight into its value.

There are anti-diarrhea meds like loperamide (Imodium) which can slow the gastro-intestinal tract down a bit and also conserve electrolytes. 2 to 4 mg. at the onset of reconstitution and 2 mg. repeated several hours later is a common dosing regime. The athlete should never exceed 12 mg. This may cause a bloated feeling but other than that is very low risk. It has the added benefit of electrolyte conservation.

Full fluid replenishment is by and large a factor of willpower and forced drinking. Other things may help retain the water, but the fact remains that the fluids must be ingested in the first place.


The preceding work is meant to serve as a looking glass into the practices of some successful athletes. It was written devoid of actual advice. It explains the theory of the methods practiced by some. Outlining the training protocol for a world class squatter does not advocate the method nor should it encourage the reader to load a barbell to 880 lbs. on the next leg training day for an attempt at a double. But it is interesting to learn how some people do certain special things. It is important to realize that the things athletes do in the pursuit of sport are not always healthy (I can't imagine any health benefits attributed to running 26.2 miles in one afternoon) or safe. But still we marvel at feats of athleticism and discipline. This work is meant to chronicle the exploits of others to answer the question, "how did they do that?", not to serve as a recipe book for unsupervised experimentation.

I'm trying to avoid the "Evil Knievel Syndrome" whi9ch happened in backyards across America shortly after ABC's airing of every Wide World of Sports daredevil jump. Kids immediately got on their bicycles and set up makeshift ramps and went at it despite the admonition, "Kids, don't try this at home!"

If cutting weight is indeed an art, then sit back and respect the artwork. Going to the museum and viewing a particular painting by one of the masters does not prompt a person to set up an easel and buy a palette. This, too, would probably just make a mess of things.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Secrets of Bodyweight Manipulation, Part Eight - J.M. Blakley


Just as much work is involved in the process of putting weight back into the body as was involved in the removal of it. This is a concept that only too few athletes fully grasp. Performance will surely be compromised if all but full replenishment of body weight is not actualized. Performance can even be aided by close attention to replacing fluids to a point beyond the starting weight. This is known as a rebound effect and is very beneficial to the lifter.

Restoring Food

The food lost from the gut during fasting need not be restored at all. But the act of fasting does pull some stores of glycogen from liver and muscle depots. Also blood sugar levels may be low. The general energy state of the athlete can also be down. A diet high in carbohydrate for the next 24 hours will refill the muscle and liver glycogen stores as well as bring the blood glucose levels back to normal. The storing of glycogen has an added benefit as 2.5 to 3 grams of water will be stored along with every 1 gram of glycogen in muscle and liver. This has a true, deep hydrating effect at the cellular level. The plasma volume is raised if blood glucose is kept high by constantly eating of carbs every hour. The effect of carbohydrate ingestion along with fluids can have the very dramatic effect of expanding the blood volume and raising the blood pressure.

Blood pressure should be monitored closely. It is not uncommon for an athlete to eat and drink too much too soon after weigh-in and suffer headaches and nosebleeds. This can cause a risk of stroke also and can be easily avoided by keeping tabs on blood pressure andreplacing the fluids more gradually.

It is also not uncommon to see an athlete vomit the first round of foods and fluids back up. This moves the athlete in the wrong direction and the nausea can seriously impede further attempts to reconstitute. This, too, is easily avoided by exercising discipline with the first batch of reconstitution materals. Choosing to eat small amounts interspersed with rest periods will prove beneficial for the competitor.

A well tolerated volume of food must be established by each individual but it is best to start out with too little than too much and each trial begin to increase the amount. The type of food is also a major factor at this critical time. Potato chips and salty snacks are light in composition and heavy in sodium. A slice of sausage and pepperoni pizza may not be as well tolerated. Crackers, candy, or a small amount of a favorite food are good options. Too much of anything can be bad, so moderation and blood presure indicate how much will be tolerated.

Disciplined athletes will start out slow and easy and gradually eat more and more each meal. The meals also tend to get heavier and heavier. By the evening the athlete wants nothing more to do with food but will continue to eas as much as they can stand (truly forcing themselves to replenish even after they feel fine). Going this extra mile will ensure that all glycogen stores are not only brought back up to normal, but overcompensated and filled with more than was started with. This is true carbohydrate loading and can actually overfill the muscles with glycogen (and water!). Obviously this is a good thing for competiton.

The athlete continues to eat until a specified time prior to the event possible 1.5 hours pre. More if the athlete is particularly nervous or excited.

The best choices of food after the initial recomposition has begun are foods high in carbohydrate and high in electrolytes and salt. However, after a certain point, whatever the athlete can stomach will do. Every attempt must be made to consume an excess of 5,000 calories. The more the better.

A schedule should be set up and followed as closely as possible, especially at the beginning. The eating bouts should be at regular intervals and increase slowly in volume and calories. By about 6 hours post weigh-in, the reins should be let out and the athlete should eat as much as possible in each subsequent sitting. Every meal matters. The committed athlete will force the food even when they are full.

This presents a small problem. The feedings combined with the stress of the cutting process (not to mention possible sleeplessness the night before) can make the athlete a bit groggy and a nap is definitely in order. However, some athletes will take this too far and miss meals and fluids while they are napping. This puts them behind and then when they finally feel energized again and ready to eat, it's nearing time for bed. Restaurants are closing and food just isn't as easy to get ot prepare. They dismiss this and promise themselves that they will eat an extra big breakfast to make up for it and retuire with less than they should have eaten.

This is a big mistake for two reasons. First, they are unlikely to make up the missed calories. And even if they did, they're still behind the point they could have been if they had eaten at least something more the day before. Secondly, the food that is eaten immediately does not end up in the body absorbed, assimilated and transferred into the cells as food eaten the day prior would have been. Much of it is "on the way" but not yet incorporated into the muscles deep down. Food eaten the day prior has time to make its way deep into the cells where it can have the most benefit (stored as glycogen).

So if too much napping is a problem the athlete must set a timer to wake them at inervals and quickly eat the intended food and fluids and only then go back to resting and overcoming the fatigue of cutting weight.

To some degree this applies to the night's rest also. Some effort should  be made to eat and hydrate throughout the night. There is a trade-off between good rest and full recomposition, admittedly. The truth is that many competitive athletes are restless the night before a big competition anyway. It is the exception to find an athlete that sleeps deeply the night prior to a meet. It is very easy to have small amounts of food by the bedstand, along with fluids, to take every time the athlete wakes up. On a particularly restless night this can be a substantial amount of calories. It is not necessary to set an alarm to rouse the athlete from slumber to eat, but the opportunistic athlete will take advantage of the night hours by continuing to reconstitute if they happen to wake up.

Next: Fluid Replenishment and the Wrap Up.

Blog Archive