Thursday, December 13, 2018

Powerlifting Foundations and Methods - Boris Sheiko



Chapter 1. Classification of Powerlifting Exercises 

1.1. Historical overview
1.2. Principles of physical exercise classification
1.3. Classification of basic and additional exercises in powerlifting
1.4. Barbell squats exercises
1.4.1. Group 1 – competitive exercise
1.4.2. Group 2 – exercises for specific purposes
1.4.3. Group 3 – general developmental exercises
1.5. Bench press exercises
1.5.1. Group 1 – competitive exercise
1.5.2. Group 2 – exercises for specific purposes
1.5.3. Group 3 – general exercises for bench press Basic exercises for the chest muscles Basic exercises for the development of the shoulder girdle Basic exercises for the development of the triceps muscles Basic exercises for the development of the biceps muscles Basic exercises for the latissimus dorsi muscle
1.6. Deadlift exercises
1.6.1. Group 1 – competitive exercises
1.6.2. Group 2 – exercises for specific purposes
1.6.3. Group 3 – general and developmental exercises Exercises for the back muscles development General exercises for the abdominal muscles development

Chapter 2. Basic Concepts of Biomechanics and Technique in Powerlifting 

2.1. Technical structure of competitive exercises
2.1.1. Period and phase structure of exercises
2.2. Biomechanical video analysis of complex movements in powerlifting
2.2.1. Hardware-software for biomechanical analysis of motor actions in powerlifters
2.3. Squat Technique
2.3.1. Rules and regulations for the squat
2.3.2. Squat phase structure
2.3.3. Technique and structure of squats
2.3.4. Squat techniques of advanced athletes K. Pavlov’s squat technique E. Koval’kov’s squat technique Alexey Serov’s squat technique
2.4. Bench Press Technique
2.4.1. Bench press rules and regulations
2.4.2. The phase structure of the bench press
2.4.3. Technique and motor structure of the bench press
2.4.4. Biomechanical analysis of the bench press
2.4.5. The influence of the arch on bench press
2.4.6. The transfer of the mechanical impulse from the legs to the bar
2.4.7. Bench press techniques of advanced athletes K. Pavlov’s bench press technique Y. Chistyakova’s bench press technique A. Babin’s bench press technique
2.5. Deadlift technique
2.5.1. Deadlift rules and regulations
2.5.2. Deadlift phases structure
2.5.3. Technique and structure of deadlift
2.5.4. Comparative analysis of deadlift styles
2.5.5. Deadlift techniques of advanced athletes A.Belyaev’s deadlift technique M. Baruzdin’s deadlift technique V.Sheglova’s deadlift technique Deadlift mistakes of Stephen Prichard

Chapter 3. Methods of Teaching Competitive Exercises Techniques

3.1. General Training Principles
3.1.1. Methods of Teaching
3.1.2. Formation of motor skills
3.1.3. The Structure of Teaching Motor Activities
3.1.4. Typical Mistakes in Exercises
3.1.5. Motor Error Factors
3.2. Fundamentals of teaching competitive exercises techniques
3.2.1. Squat Technique Training
3.2.2. Common mistakes in competitive bar squat technique
3.2.3. Bench Press Technique Training
3.2.4. Back Arching in the Bench Press Technique
3.2.5. Common Competitive Bench Press Techniques Mistakes
3.2.6. Deadlift Technique Training
3.2.7. Most common deadlift errors

Chapter 4. Powerlifting Nutrition

4.1. Physiological basis for the development of muscle strength
4.1.1. Biochemical basis for the development of muscle strength
4.1.2. Anatomical characteristics of powerlifting
4.2. Importance of adequacy and balanced diet
4.3. Algorithms for calculating an adequate diet and its components
4.3.1. Short-term and long-term requirements
4.3.2. Calculation and adjustment of energy requirements
4.3.3. Tools for conclusions about the adjustments
4.3.4. Balancing the daily diet
4.3.5. Protein balance
4.3.6. Carbohydrate balance
4.3.7. Fat balance
4.3.8. Vitamin and mineral balance
4.4. Food for a balanced diet
4.4.1. Food groups and their properties
4.4.2. Optimum daily nutrition scheme
4.5. Methods of objective control over diet quality
4.5.1. Nutrition in preparatory period
4.5.2. Nutrition in pre-contest period
4.5.3. Competition day nutrition
4.6. Fundamentals of body weight regulation technique

Chapter 5. The earliest studies in the field of muscle strength training

5.1. Modern Methods and Means for Strength Training Athletes
5.2. Training methods of Foreign and Russian Powerlifting Specialists
5.2.1. Training Methods of Foreign Specialists
5.2.2. Training methods of Russian specialists

Chapter 6. Powerlifting training structure

6.1. Single training session and micro cycles’ structure
6.2. Distribution of training loads to weekly cycles and training sessions
6.3. Mesocycle Training Structure
6.4. Long cycles (macrocycles) training structure
6.5. Principles of long-term (multi-year) planning
6.6. Training volume and intensity planning
6.7. Load distribution by zones of intensity

Chapter 7. Powerlifting Programs

7.1. Three lifts: squat emphasis
7.2. Three lifts: bench press emphasis
7.3. Three lifts: deadlift emphasis
7.4. Bench press only
7.5. Three lifts. Medium volume for experienced athletes


377 pages. 


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Power Snatch - For Developing Real Power

Article Thanks to Liam Tweed!

Tommy Suggs and the Author, Bill Starr.
Photo courtesy of Starting Strength: 

I had just finished a set of presses and was seated on a bench just outside the "pit" at world Gym Marin. I filled my time between sets observing Steve perform some clean & jerks in the pit. The pit is a rather unique creation of the gym's owner, Dr. John Gourgott. His facility has an upstairs-downstairs arrangement, with numerous machines on the upper level and the free weights downstairs. The pit was dug out so as to allow overhead lifting, an area approximately 10' x 20' on the lower level.

Dave came over and sat next to me. We both shouted encouragement to Steve as he fought to steady a jerk overhead. Then he turned to me and said, "I see you giving advise to some of the people here, would you mind if I picked your brain a bit?"

"What's on your mind?" 

"I've been doing power cleans since I was in college. I really enjoy the feel of the exercise. But for the past few months they have been hurting my shoulder. I stopped doing them last week, just to check, and my shoulder quit hurting. I miss doing them."  

"So what's your question?" I asked as I stepped in the pit and took the bar off the rack and did my presses." 

"Well . . . should I go back to them, or should I drop them from my program?" 

"If you are positive that they are damaging your shoulder, then don't do them, at least for a time. Any exercise that injures you should be dropped. That's only common sense." 

"I know, I know, but there's no other exercise like power cleans." 

"How about power snatches?" 

He looked at me and blinked for a moment to let the words seep in.

"Power snatches. I've never done those. Do you think they're as beneficial as power cleans?" 

"Let me do this final set and I'll answer your question." I had, in my usual fashion, almost bit off more than I could chew. I grinded the bar overhead, but turned three colors of crimson in doing so and almost blacked out in the process.

Dave was chuckling at me as I held onto the squat stands to gain my composure. "Nearly whipped you didn't it?" he said.

"Some days the bar wins." I sat on the bench, caught my breath and began. "There are many advantages of doing the power snatch over the power clean, especially so for powerlifters, bodybuilders, and strength athletes. Olympic lifters must do both. Powerlifters and bodybuilders have problems with the power clean as the size of their upper arms. most notably the biceps, prevents them from racking a power clean correctly. Most of them finish the lift holding the bar with their arms, rather than supporting it on their frontal deltoids. As a result, they usually end up jamming their wrist, elbows, or shoulders." 

Dave was nodding his head in agreement. "That's what happened to me. When my bodyweight went over 200, I couldn't rack the bar like I used to. That's when I started getting the shoulder pains." 

"This is not the case with the power snatch. Since you're pulling the bar all the way overhead, the racking is not traumatic to the wrist, elbows, or shoulders. It is an excellent teaching lift for all the other pulling movements also. Because a much longer pull is required, the line of the bar has to be more precise and the body mechanics more exact. Any deviation and the bar doesn't get over your head. Steve is about to do some now. Why don't you jump in and do some behind him." 

Steve had the yellow 15-kilo bumper plates on the bar and since Dave could power clean 250 this was a good weight to begin with. Steve did five smooth reps.

"Now just try to imitate what you just saw Steve do." 

On his first few reps the bar wandered and waved everywhere but where he wanted it to go. He wasn't finishing his pull, so the bar just cleared the top of his head and died.

"They're tough, aren't they?" he said breathlessly. "Steve makes it look so easy. I think I can do better this set." 

Which he did. Two out of the next five reps were good. The others were pulled too far forward and he couldn't lock them out.

"Yeah, I like those." He was blowing and puffing as he  came and sat on the bench next to me. "I've missed that feeling of being winded. That's why I enjoyed power cleans. I knew that they were working for me." 

Steve had loaded the blue 22-kilos on the bar for his next set. Dave looked at me and asked, "Think I can handle 132?" 

"Sure. Just do three reps from now on. On a high skill lift such as this, you will want to keep the reps low so that you don't get raggedy and practice bad form." 

The 132 flew over his head like a twig. He was keeping the bar close to his body and pulling it to arms' length with authority on his set. He was grinning like the Cheshire Cat as he walked over to me. "Hey, those are fun! I like that feel. They're athletic. Should I go up?" 

"Go ahead. Your form looks very good. You learn fast. The mark of an athlete. Triple on up and let's find out where you max out. I must warn you that these do hit a ledge rather quickly. Sometimes, you can add 10 pounds over what you had just tripled and not be able to do a single. It is a very high skill lift." 

He worked on up, doing 143, 154 and 165 for three with relative ease. But 176 was his Waterloo as the bar only got as high as his nose and he had to press it out to arms' length.

"Stop there. Don't do them when your form gets bad. Remember, for your needs the power snatch is an exercise, it is not a strength test per se. You'll benefit more by doing the sets correctly than by trying to force bigger weights overhead in improper style. If you decide that you want more work, merely do two or three sets at a weight that taxes you, but also allows you to maintain good form." 

"I'll go back to the 154 and do a couple more. Hey, I can really feel those in my lats. They're really pumped!" 

"Pulling with the wide grip works the muscles of the back quite differently than any movement where your hands are closer. That's also a good reason for any powerlifter or bodybuilder to include them in his program. Even those trainees who can perform power cleans without any problems will benefit from the variation in pulling position." 

I went about my workout, doing some dips and calf raises while Dave did two more sets with 154. He zipped both sets overhead and he appeared quite pleased with himself. He strolled over to me and stood beside me as I did my final set on the calf machine. 

"Baby Cow Day?" he asked. He knew it was one of my pet words.

"If it's Tuesday, it's Baby Cows."    

"One thing about the power snatches does trouble me. When I was power cleaning, I used 225 for 5 reps. Now on the power snatch, I only got to 165. I realize that I'll improve that number somewhat, but I can also understand that I'll never be able to handle the same amount of weight in it as I did in the power cleans."

"This is true, but what you are stating is just another plus for the power snatch."

"How so?"

It's a perfect lift for a light pulling day. For example, I have my powerlifters do heavy halting deadlifts on Monday. It is a very demanding workout. There's no way for them to come back on Tuesday and do another heavy pulling movement. But in order to increase their weekly workload, they need to do some pulling on this day. Enter power snatches. While they may be halting 450 x 8 on Monday, they will only handle 165 to 175 for reps on the power snatch. Relatively, it's a very light weight and since it is a quick, flat-backed, wide-gripped movement, it stimulates an entirely different set of muscles and strength growth. And when you add the additional work, you'll find you've increased your load for a month by some six tons. It all adds up."

"Anything else besides the power snatch today?" He had pulled an entry blank off the bulletin board and was scribbling notes on the back.

"After a couple of weeks of doing the power snatches, I have my trainees add 4-5 sets of snatch hi-pulls in just behind them. This is an excellent overload movement and, once again, you can increase your weekly work load without a great deal of stress."

"How much should I do on the hi-pull?"

"Your first set should be approximately 50 pounds over what you power snatched for three. You did 165, so if you were doing snatch hi-pulls today you would start with 215. Do these in threes also and strap on so you can get lots of final snap. Do the hi-pulls mechanically, just as you did the power snatches. But, because of the higher poundage, the bar will not get as high. Jump 20 pounds or 10 kilos if you are using a kilo set, on each successive set: 235, 255, and 275. If you follow this, you will be working your back with the same, or greater, poundage than you were when you were power cleaning. The numbers I just gave you will add yet another six tons to your monthly load."

Dave had most of the sheet filled with numbers and notes. "Okay, I think I have it, but let me read it back to you to be sure. Power snatches, 2 sets of 5, then 4 more sets of 3 followed by 4 sets of 3 in the snatch hi-pull, starting with 50 pounds over what I finished with in the power snatch."

"That's correct." Now write down some definite numbers for your next workout so I can see them."

"All right, in the power snatch I'll go: 110x5, 121x5, 132x3, 145x3, 165x3, 170x3. Then in the snatch hi-pull: 220, 242, 264, and 286, all for 3. How's that sound?"

"It sounds okay. If the top end of the hi-pull is shaky at first, then just stay with a lighter poundage until you feel like you're getting a good snap at the very end of the pull. Then work the numbers on up."

"Great! I sure like the feel of the power snatches. I had really missed doing a quick movement. Thanks for you help, I've got to run. "I've got a live one lined up for tonight and don't want to be late. Are you training tomorrow?"

"Sure. Wednesdays mean good mornings. I can't miss those."      

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A Program for Functional Mass - Ken Leistner

I loved to read the articles of the late John McCallum in the journal Strength & Health. Wittily written, they offer the reader simple and at the same time extremely effective training programs. From my experience I can say that most athletes never make the progress which they hope for because of the following reasons: 

1. They do not train with the necessary intensity.
2. They do not believe that the program can be effective if there's little exercise.
3. They do not train with the necessary intensity.
4. They do not believe that they can become big and strong.
5. They do not train with the necessary intensity.

I have used some of the programs proposed by McCallum, or a little cheated them by reducing the number of sets. I did a basic, polyarticular [involving many joints, as opposed to monoarticular, involving a single joint] exercises, as all my "room" in the garage was just out of the boom, the two dumbbell bench for bench press, squat two frames and two tubes with pushups and I was tightened. As a few 50- and 75-lb.  pancakes and several tractor wheels and a bit of pancakes of low weight.  

A Pair of York 50's. Pancakes!   

As McCallum, I found that I was progressing better if I carry on training no more than 3-6 exercises. Because of the meager equipment, I decided that I would do squats, deadlifts and other relatively heavy and basic movements.

I was lucky - there were no local "experts" next to me when I trained. I had to learn by trial and error. I did many things wrong, but I have laid a base not only physical, but also developed a training philosophy, which focuses firmly on one principle: HARD WORK. 

Luck, chance and common sense helped me to find out what works for me and what does not work. At the time when I most wanted to improve athletic performance through developing functional muscle mass, I was able to gain 18.6 kg. in five months. And this was at a time when no one had ever heard much, if anything about such things as protein supplements, extracts of glands, amino acids, and anabolic steroids. Here's a program that worked. It will benefit any athlete if heavy regular training will be limited to a few heavy, basic exercises. 

I have performed this program 2 times a week. At first I thought that I would train 3 times a week, but was always so tired and my muscles ached so much that the third planned workout of the week would not bring me any good. During this program I was running short and long distances 4-5 days a week; however, I gradually did increase my muscle mass.

I have not used any vitamin, mineral, or protein supplements, just like steroids, or unusual foods and diet. I ate 3-4 times a day, regular food and occasionally drink milkshakes consisting of whole milk,  eggs and chocolate syrup. Nowadays I recommend only drinking skim or low-fat milk, using only the egg whites instead of whole eggs, and, OF COURSE, chocolate syrup! It makes the whole mixture taste good, which will help when it comes to getting just plain sick and tired of eating and drinking foul tasting shakes. At a height of 168 cm., I was able to build from 67 kg. to 85 kg. using this program, which many thought was unscientific and "too primitive" to work. But . . . 

this program meets almost all of the conditions of effective training, and as has been stated repeatedly, it is extremely intense exercise that can stimulate the most muscle growth throughout the entire body. 

The Program

1) Squats: 
Warm up with some 10's, and then 1 x 8 (once a month do 1 set of 50 reps). 

2) Straight Leg Deadlift: 
1 x 15-20 (once a month do 1 x 30).

3) Overhead or Bench Press (alternate each workout). 
Warmup followed by 2 x 6-8 (once a month do 1 x 1-3 reps).

4) Barbell Shrug: 
1 x 15-20. 

5) Barbell Curl: 
1-2 x 6-10 (once a month do 1 x 50).

6) Pushups: 
1 x 6-10 (once a month do 1 x50). 



Keep Your Head in the Squat - Les Cramer

Article Originally Published in This Issue (November 1972)
Larry Scott's arm, eh. 
Whoa Daddy!

 Les Cramer, Master's National Olympic Lift Champion, 2017

Les Cramer Training Center

With 455 in the early 1970's. 

A 290 lb. Zercher Lift in 2011.

324 Jefferson Lift at 70 years of age.


by Les Cramer (1972)

We discussed the head position while deadlifting in the July issue of Muscular Development
Note: MD - July 1972: For the Deadlift . . . Heads Up!
This month we'll pick apart the squat. 

Many new lifters go to meets and hear a coach yelling, "Heads up!" and they get the impression that the head must be kept looking up all the time. This is not true. By keeping the head up throughout the squat you can lose your balance. By letting the head go into a more natural position, you have a better chance of maintaining your balance.

Probably the best know squatter on our team, the Allegheny Mountain Weightlifting Club, is Don Reinhoudt (below). Don held the American record in the super-heavyweight class at 832.75 pounds. Don's strength lies in his legs; this is very evident by his comparatively low deadlift. So he uses more of a straight back style than I would like to see. His head position is held too high at the bottom of his lift. 

Coach Les Cramer, Don Reinhoudt, Tony Fratto.

Tony Fratto (below) probably uses his head position as close to perfect as anyone I know. 

Photo above from
Photo below from the article. 

He has officially squatted with 620 in the 181 lb. class and at the Great Lakes Championships early this summer, he squatted with 700 in the 198 class. Tony starts with his head slightly down and as he descends, his head follows the flow of his body an in the bottom position he is looking down, not up.

In no way can you extend your buttocks, stay tight, stop at parallel and keep your head up. While coming up with the weight, the secret is to again follow the flow of the body. The head moves up slightly till you reach the half-squat position, then the hips should move forward.

Force the head up as high as you want. This will help pull you through the sticking point.

Both Photos: George Crawford


I remember the first time I saw George Crawford squat. It was in Circleville, Ohio, and I was the meet director. George was only 17 and he listed his starting squat at 410 in the lightweight class. This came as a big surprise to me, as a few weeks before I set the Ohio State record in this class with 365. This was in 1964. George now holds the American record in the middleweight class and won the 1971 World's Championship. If you ever get a chance to watch George lift you will see that he looks down throughout the entire squat. For George to keep his head up would certainly ruin his squatting position.

Hugh Cassidy, 1971 World's Champion in the super-heavyweight class, is another squatter who never looks up. More here:

I think the idea of keeping the head up is a carry-over from the Olympic weightlifters. Let's remember, powerlifting is a different sport. In Olympic lifting, squatting is done as an exercise and all-out single attempts are rarely used. An exercise squat and a power squat are two completely different lifts and can compare in partial name only.

An Olympic squat is done in a more relaxed state, to simulate the bottom position of the squat clean. In the power squat, more attention is placed on head position, and staying tight on the way down. By that I mean keeping all the muscles of the back, hip, and legs tense so that you can descend into the parallel position slowly enough to have complete control of the weight.

The head position plays an important part here. It helps you throughout the sticking point. By forcing the head up and pushing the hips forward, you can drive right through your sticking point. But had the head been held up throughout the squat, there is nothing extra to rely upon when you hit the sticking point.

Gary Hain, our team's best 123-pounder, has fine form in the squat. Gary has totaled 975 and squatted with 350. We were at a meet inside the walls of Pittsburgh prison. Gary started his squat with 335. I thought it was a little too high, but the judging was loose so it seemed a reasonable weight to start with. Gary came out, head down, hips back, perfect form but he just couldn't make it through the sticking point. He came out for his second attempt. Another miss. What now? We checked the barbell and found it loaded to 340 instead of the 335 he had called for, so Gary got his first attempt again. He squatted with it but was turned down for lack of depth. For his next try he had to get up with the weight as he was pretty well zapped at this point. I knew if he went into the low position in the squat, he would never get up. The object now was to stay tight. Hang it a little high and hope the referee and judges pass it. I felt by a slight change in the head position, Gary could hold the squat higher. He had to decide by the feel of the weight how low he could go and still get up with it. At this point he was to lift his head to stop his downward movement. It worked. He made the lift though sad to relate two officials turned it down. We learned a lot there about head position. Gary had bombed out of his first meet after 29 straight wins. 

Gary has played a big part in our team compiling one of the finest powerlifting records in the nation. Since 1967 we have won 35 meets and lost three. Losing twice to the Surf Breakers from Barnegat, New Jersey, and once to Jim Williams' team from Scranton, Pennsylvania. 

Squatting has played an important part in our wins, and head position plays an important part in squatting. Remember, keep the head down and squat more. 

Later we will tell you the secret of all squatting . . . 
How to Beat the Center of Gravity.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Five Classic Workouts

34 Years Ago

65 Years Ago 

Arnold Schwarzenegger

At the 1968 Mr. Universe contest in Miami (above), a show won by Frank Zane, Joe Weider came face-to-face with 21 year old runner up Arnold. Standing nearly 6'2" and weighing in at 250 pounds, the Austrian native was a sight to behold. Joe Weider had an eye for potential, and he saw the future of bodybuilding in this kid. Weider's instincts couldn't have been more accurate, as Schwarzenegger went on to win seven Mr. Olympia titles and became one of bodybuilding's most well know and admired characters. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger's Biceps/Triceps Routine

Standing Dumbbell Curl, 5 x 8 
superset with
Lying Dumbbell Extension, 5 x 10.

Incline Dumbbell Curl, 4 x8
superset with
Overhead Triceps Extension.

Preacher Curl, 4 x 8 
superset with
Dip, 4 x 10.

Ed Corney

Often training at Gold's Gym Venice, Ed Corney was a star in the 1977 iconic film Pumping Iron, alongside Schwarzenegger, Columbu, Lou Ferrigno, Mike Katz, and Serge Nubret. Ed and Arnold became training partners for the 1975 Mr. Universe and Olympia, respectively, and Corney was one of the few guys who could match Arnold's intensity in the gym. Although he never won an IFBB Pro League title, Corney did take top honors at the Masters Olympia in 1994-95.

Ed Corney's Back Routine

Barbell Row, 5 x 10 
superset with
Wide Grip Pulldown, 5 x 10.

T-Bar Row, 6 x 8.
Chinup, 5 x failure. 

Frank Zane 

 After being inspired by Bodybuilding magazine, Frank Zane started lifting as a teenager and moved west in 1967, taking to California's Zen aesthetic like a bodybuilder to a barbell. Zane racked up one of bodybuilding' most impressive résumés, including multiple Mr. Universe and Mr. America titles, as well as becoming a three-time Mr. Olympia (1977-79).

Click to ENLARGE

Frank Zane's Shoulder Routine

Press Behind Neck, 6 x 8-10
superset with
Alternating Front Raise, 6 x 8-10.

Lateral Raise, 6 x 8.

Bentover Lateral Raise, 6 x 8.

Dave Draper

By age 21, Dave Draper earned the Mr. New Jersey bodybuilding title and then arrived in California in 1963. Big, blond, and boyish, Draper looked as if he'd been born straight out of the Venice surf, and, for a period of time, he was the face of Weider's publications. He went on to win Mr. America in '65, Mr. Universe in '66, and Mr. World in '70, as well as placing fourth at the 1967 Mr. Olympia. 

Dave Draper's Leg Routine

Leg Extension, 3-5 x 10-12
superset with
Leg Curl, 3-5 x 8-12.

Calf Raise, 3-5 x 15-20.

Back Squat, 5-7 x 15-6.

Deadlift, 5 x 10-6.

Franco Columbu

After a few months in California, Arnold asked Weider if he could also bring his former training partner from Munich over. Enter 5'5" powerhouse Franco Columbu, who remains Arnold's best friend to this day, and a man who has earned two Sandows of his own in '76 and '81. Pound for pound Franco was one of the strongest bodybuilders of all time, and despite being nine inches shorter, he was as wide and thick as his best buddy Arnold. 

Franco Columbu's Chest Routine

Bench Press, 7 x 6-8 reps.

Incline Barbell Press, 4 x 6-10.

Flat Bench Flye, 3 x 8-12.

Dip, 3 x 10-15. 

Tommy Kono

Article Courtesy of Liam Tweed.

Originally Published in This Issue (October 1956) 

How 'bout that strict Press form! 

Tommy Kono was born twenty-five years ago (June 27, 1930) in Sacramento, California, but he now lives in Honolulu, where he manages a physical culture equipment and health store. In Honolulu he lives with Dr. Richard You, that very famous dietician, who supervises Tommy's diet. Dr. You has just been appointed one of the two physicians for the U.S.A. Olympic team to Melbourne, and as regular readers will know, two of his articles have only recently appeared in the pages of this journal.

Kono started his weightlifting career in 1948 and in those days he lifted in the 148 lb. class, but by 1952 he had graduated into the 165 lb class in which division he captured the Olympic title in Helsinki, Finland. In 1953 he again lifted in the 165 lb. class and won the world title. In 1954 and '55 he lifted in the world championships in the 181 lb. class and annexed both titles.

In the 165 lb. class he holds the world's records for the press, 295.5 lbs.; the clean & jerk, 371.25 lbs.; and holds the accepted total record of 903 lbs., although he has totaled 935.5 in the class unofficially. The only other two men ever to total over 900 lb. in the 165 lb. class are Bogdanovsky and Duganov of Russia, who have done 914.5 and 909 respectively.

In the 181 lb. class he pressed 317.5 lb. on March 9th this year in Honolulu to break the longstanding world record of 315.25 set on July 26th, 1949, by Gregory Novak of Russia. He has also snatched 290 lb., as compared to the world's record of 299.75 held by Vorobyev of Russia; and his best clean & jerk is 380 lb. compared to the world record of 381.25 by Lomakin of Russia. He holds the total record in this class at 958.75 but he has totaled the almost incredible 977.5 lb. via press 317.5, snatch 290 and 370 clean & jerk, but since this was not made in competition with two other countries it cannot be accepted as a world record total. He also totaled 964 lb. in the Pan American Game held in Mexico City in 1955. Although Tommy lifts in the 181 lb. class his heaviest recorded weight is 175, which needless to say is a considerable disadvantage when lifting against men five pounds heavier.

Kono's normal weekly training schedule is currently as follows: 

Sunday: Rest
Monday: power clean, clean, squat
Tuesday: press, bench press
Wednesday: power clean, snatch
Thursday: press
Friday: power clean, clean, squat
Saturday: press, bench press.

His sets and reps are as follows: 
Power clean: 4-6 sets of 3 reps
Clean: 4-8 singles
Squat: 3-4 x 3 reps
Press: 7-8 x 3 reps
Bench press: 3 x 3.

Aside from those already listed his best lifts are: 
Press: 300 at 165 in Hawaii
Bench press: 380
Front squat: 420 x 2

He has also standing pressed a pair of 115 lb. dumbbells. 


Training Articles From a Single Magazine - Part Seven

Skip LaCour

Happiness is Victory

Do you ever feel like an oddball when you're around people who don't train or work out? Do you find that, no matter how hard you try to explain the happiness you get from your disciplined lifestyle, they just don't get it? "Why in the world would you subject yourself to such torture?" is a question you've probably been asked.

Bodybuilding's bad reputation in the eyes of the general public doesn't help you get the respect you deserve either. Most "regular" people incorrectly assume that you're a bodybuilder because you're narcissistic or are making up for some inadequacies in your life. People don't always realize that you simply enjoy the physical and mental challenges of our sport.  

Many people around don't understand why bodybuilders or fitness enthusiasts would dedicate so much time and effort to depriving themselves of life's pleasures. "That working out stuff is not my priority in life. I'd rather be having fun with my friends" and "I couldn't eat the way you do - it's boring and I love food too much!" are comments you've probably heard more than once or twice.

Why do we even care what those around us think or say? To some degree, we as humans need to be accepted by others. It's much easier to do what everyone else is doing and simply go with the flow. In the short run it's often more comfortable to adapt to the lower standards of those around you.

Nevertheless, we also need to feel special, unique or important in some way. I'm sure that being a model of health and fitness makes you feel great, doesn't it? If you're lucky enough to accomplish your goal of becoming something special in some way, you'll surely disconnect yourself from some of the people around you. Even if that's not your intention, some folks will become uncomfortable in your presence and shy away - if you're lucky. If you're not so lucky, you can probably expect a few verbal jabs directed at you and what you're passionate about in life.

By choosing to live the bodybuilding lifestyle, we are often faced with an unfortunate dilemma. How can we enjoy our passion for training and fitness without feeling out of sync with the rest of the world? Those two human needs always seem to battle each other. You're often forced to make a decision between working toward your passion or being accepted. That dilemma can ruin the happiness you get from your bodybuilding efforts if you let it.

If you experience that type of pain from time to time, you aren't alone. I've struggles with those feelings on many occasions throughout my life. Let me try to offer a point of view that can help you work through the challenge.

In life, you have pleasure and you have victory. Pleasurable events are things like going to movies, parties or out to dinner with friends. Receiving great gifts for no reason at all is something that brings pleasure.

As a hardworking bodybuilder you often feel victory. Victory comes when you string a series of good training weeks and eating habits together and earn the satisfaction of seeing what you've created in the mirror. Victory comes when you've worked hard at your job or studied diligently at school and are rewarded with a raise or an outstanding grade.

Pleasurable events don't necessarily make you happy. Studies that have followed lottery winners have shown that many of them are less happy after winning a tremendous amount of money, despite the vacation, cars and other extravagances that newfound wealth affords them. Maybe if they earned the money to purchase those luxuries they would feel victory.

Training at 5 a.m. is one decision I made years ago that has had a tremendous impact on the quality of my life. The greatest benefits I enjoy have nothing to do with my natural growth hormones supposedly being at their highest at that time or the fact that I'll burn more calories throughout the day. The feeling of accomplishment, or victory, that I've earned after an awesome workout gets my day off to a great start. Simply knowing that I've already accomplished something that 99% of the population knows they should do but don't gives me the feeling of being unique. It's a mental boost that gives me momentum for the rest of the day.

Pleasure is a much more passive pursuit than victory. Most of the time, all you need to do is sit back and be entertained. Pursuing victory is the road less traveled. Why? Victory requires virtues such as courage, patience, persistence, discipline and faith. Victory demands hard work. Pleasure is instant gratification. In order to experience victory, you must first pay the price.

Don't get me wrong. I believe you should spice up your life with as many pleasurable events as possible. There's definitely a place for balance in life. If, however, you make attaining pleasure your ultimate goal and expect it to bring you happiness, you'll be in for a rude awakening.

There are many people who spend most of their time avoiding defeat. What they don't realize is that they're also cutting off all possibility of victory. The possibility of failure is always present when you're pursuing victory, but you must exhibit courage, confidence and faith if you ever want to be happy. You need to sacrifice short term safety for long term happiness.

Choose the people you associate with wisely. Can you imaging spending the majority of your time with people who don't understand or who reject the one aspect of life that brings you so much happiness? I had the unfortunate experience of having someone very close to me say, "Skip, you don't know how to have fun!"

Don't know how to have fun? Me? My work is my play. I have the opportunity to live my passion. I also have the opportunity to share my passion and knowledge with others. How can I not be having fun?

The truth is that it's not the discipline and self-sacrifice of bodybuilding that brings me the most unhappiness. It's trying to fit into a world that has no idea what makes me happy. It's individuals who want to force me into their definition of happiness.

The incident with the friend who said I don't know how to have fun made me realize something that I probably already knew. Happiness is not pleasure. Happiness is victory. The epiphany was kind of freeing in a way. I hope it has the same effect on you.

Do you ever see little kids who have mastered video games? They're fearless. They're jumping over flying objects, destroying evil villains and racking up awesome scores.

One little guy I know was playing one of those games. I pushed him aside and jokingly said, "Hey, give me a chance! I'll show you how to play this game!" I grabbed the controls and started maneuvering. I started jumping and wildly shooting. The kid was laughing his head off as I was annihilated within seconds.

"No, no, Skip!" he screamed. "You don't want to run away from that type of monster!"

"What are you talking about?" I said. "I thought I was supposed to run away or kill the monsters."

"Not those ones," he said. "When you eat those monsters, they make you stronger and you get to play longer. You'll win if you eat enough of those monsters!"

There was little chance of my winning at that video game. Although I was smart enough to know I was supposed to avoid monsters, I didn't know which ones would help me.

Too many people play the game of life that way. They know happiness is what they're supposed to be after, but they have no clue as to how to attain it. They're running away from the "monsters" that they perceive as potentially harmful. They don't understand that if they face the challenge, they'll become stronger and have a better chance of being happy. Instead, they spend their time seeking pleasurable events and can't figure out why they're unhappy.

So maybe you've had the right ideas all along with this disciplined bodybuilding lifestyle. Maybe you understand something about life that they don't. Maybe you should take even more pride in what you're passionate about doing.

One last point. As you hope the people around you understand your passion for bodybuilding, be sure you give that understanding back. They, too, have passions, whether it's politics, computers, reading, fixing up old cars or basket weaving. Don't ever force your ambivalent or negative feelings on anyone else. Those vehicles may provide them with some awesome victories. You could be lessening their happiness in life - and you know how that feels.


Training Articles From a Single Magazine - Part Six

Steve Holman

Question: Help! I need abs fast. Can you give me the perfect routine so I don't waste time?

Answer: Getting abs is more than just using the perfect routine. You also have to have a bodyfat level that's below 10%, which can be difficult. With that said, let's focus on a routine.

Working your rectus abdominus through a full range of motion is key. That means from a position at which your lower back is arched, to where your torso is crunched forward, completely contracting your abs. The easiest way to accomplish that is with an Ab Bench.

It trains your rectus abdominus from full stretch to complete contraction - but you must be careful not to jerk or heave your torso forward. Make your reps smooth and fairly slow so you feel your abdominals working. Also, you may want to hold the crunch position and blow the air out of your lungs to force an even harder contraction.

Ab Bench From Ironman

 The Bodysolid Ab Bench.

Rogue Ab Mat

Rolled Up Towel

The Ab Bench crunch pull is an exercise that very concentrated and isolated. Most of us know, however, that you need compound movements for complete development. It's the reason squats build more muscle than leg extensions. Therefore, I suggest you do two sets of regular situps or incline or hanging knee-ups before your Ab Bench crunch pulls. If you choose the latter don't forget the hip curl at the end of each rep so you're not just working your hip flexors.

If you don't have an Ab Bench, you can do a similar movement a bench press bench (or lying belly up on a hyperextension unit). Lie on your back, place your feet up on the bar and scoot back until your upper back is hanging off the end of the bench. Don't go too far with the angle of the back when it's hanging like this. Once you need to add weight, you'll have a small problem. That's why the Ab Bench was invented - comfortable, progressive resistance, full range exercise. If you can get one for home or talk your gym owner into getting one, use it.

Question: I keep hearing I should train a muscle from "all the angles" if I want it to be its biggest and fullest. How can I find out what "all the angles" are for every muscle?

Answer: I don't think I've ever received such a perfect question for reviewing the Positions of Flexion mass-building concept - so here goes.

Just about every muscle has what I refer to as an arc of flexion. It's a range with a number of points at which a muscle can contract. For example, you can work your triceps with overhead extensions, lying extensions, and pushdowns, so the arc of flexion is from an arms overhead position to an arms at your sides, or slightly behind your torso, position. It would be like doing a machine pullover but being able to bend your arm at the elbow and extend the lower arm anywhere along the range of motion to work your triceps.

What you have with the above example is three different exercises to cover "all the angles" for the triceps:

Overhead extensions: Stretch position
Lying extensions: Midrange position
Pushdowns: Contracted position.

Stretch, midrange, and contracted POF (Positions of Flexion) exercise designations for each bodypart, that enable you to train the muscle through a full range of motion. Another example is for biceps:

Incline dumbbell curls: Stretch
Barbell curls: Midrange
Concentration curls: Contracted.

The biceps and triceps are probably the easiest to understand as far as arc of flexion is concerned, but if you think about it, you can probably figure out the three positions for each bodypart. Some muscles require only two exercises to cover the three positions.

for example, for hamstrings you use stiff legged deadlifts to hit the midrange AND stretch positions - stretch is near the bottom and midrange is near the top, where the glutes and lower back exert the most power - and leg curls to work the muscle in the contracted position.

For chest you divide it into upper and lower sections, but it's still not complex. You do incline cable flyes to work the upper-chest stretch and contracted portions, and incline presses to train the midrange position. For lower chest you do decline cable flyes to train the stretch and contracted positions and bench presses to work the midrange position.

You may think back is a bit more complex, but once you divide it into lats and midback, the positions become clearer.  

Midrange: chins or pulldowns
Stretch: pullovers
Contracted: stiff-arm pulldowns.

Midrange: behind the neck pulldowns
Stretch: close-grip cable rows
Contracted: bent arm bentover laterals.

There are a number of variations of the above. I've included a complete Positions of Flexion overview in the training section at the IronMan website. Some exercise selection examples for the three positions can be found here:

The book "Critical Mass" gives a good introductory exercise-by-exercise POF description for each bodypart along with a number of complete routines. There's lots of books out there relating to POF training variations.

By the way, the standard working order to the three positions is midrange first, stretch, then contracted. That's the straight-set POF approach, but there are many hybrids, such as Hypercontraction (stretch position first) and Compound Aftershock (various superset combinations).

If you're interested in building the fullest muscle structures as quickly as possible, I suggest you become familiar with POF's full-range concept for each bodypart. You'll cover all the angles and make gains with that simple yet powerfully effective muscle-building approach. 



Saturday, December 8, 2018

Training Articles From a Single Magazine - Part Five

Note: There were also two other relevant articles in this one issue (Iron Man, May 1999). Unfortunately, I won't be posting them due to possible copyright issues that may potentially arise with the authors. No worries!

The "theme" of this issue was a nutrition-based one, yet it still contained plenty of training info. 

Peter Thorne.

Zero to 575 Pounds in Four Years

Fifty-four and getting better describes big bencher George Nelson perfectly. In 1998 the 54-years-young, 275-pound lifter powered up an incredible 575 pounds at the WABDL Southern Regional Bench Press Championships in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

George is having a lot of fun dispelling the myths about aging. He loves to compete with the younger generation - but he's not just competing with them, he's beating most of them. Time seems to make George stronger. In fact, he didn't start lifting until he was 49.

Before he began powerlifting, he was a hard drinking, hard working Oregon logger. As he built a successful logging company, his substance abuse grew, and his life began to get out of control. He eventually found himself in the Betty Ford Clinic, trying to take charge of his addiction.

As fate would have it, there was a small gym at the clinic that had been donated by Elizabeth Taylor. George decided to take advantage of it as part of his program to get his body back to a healthy state, and soon his addiction was no longer a substance but the bench press.

As he exercised, he focused more and more on the bench press portion of his workouts. He could see himself getting stronger and stronger. 

When he left the clinic, he hired personal trainer Steve Geaudoin. George liked the fact that Steve had been involved in powerlifting and still competed as a masters lifter - with a 534-pound bench at a bodyweight of 220.

Steve quickly recognized George's potential in the bench press and suggested that he try powerlifting competition. At 49 George got third place at his first event, the '93 USPF Masters. He remembers the excitement of getting ready for his first competition lift. It started with putting on his Inzer bench shirt and wrist wraps. Next, he was doing warmups, and then all of a sudden the announcer said, "The bar is loaded."

Five years later he still feels the same excitement when he puts on his wrist wraps and gets into his Inzer bench shirt for what are now record-breaking lifts. Since that first contest George has averaged an additional 48 pounds a year on his max bench press.

He enjoys going for records in different weight divisions, so he gains and loses weight for competitions. When asked what his short term bench press goal is, he confidently says, "Six hundred pounds." As for his long term goals, one is to keep competing. It's quite apparent that he's having lots of fun with his lifting. At one point he competed in four meets in six weeks, which took a bit of a toll on him. One was the Arnold Classic in March 1998 in Columbus, Ohio. More than 5,000 excited fans watched as Nelson benched 540 at a weight of 250. He's looking to do even better at that event in the future.

George does have a life outside of powerlifting. He only trains two days a week for about two to three hours per session. He works out with a group of about 10 lifters who go by the name of Team Oregon.

He usually handles very heavy weights with the help of a spotter, which gives him the necessary familiarity with handling bigger poundages - heavier than what he could handle on his own. 

There's risk to this style of training, but so far he hasn't had an injury. He attributes much of that accomplishment to his Inzer power gear and a mandatory weekly massage.

When it comes to diet, George is meat-and-potatoes guy.

While he has a full head of gray hair, his eyes twinkle like a teenager's when he talks about benching. Why shouldn't he have a twinkle in his eye and a big smile! His Oregon company, Nell-Log Inc., is doing very nicely, and his bench press just keeps getting better. In other words, George Nelson keeps turning back the clock.

Training Schedule

Tuesday: 6:30 to 9:00 p.m.

He begins with supplemental exercises, varying them from week to week. He uses high reps to get a burn. He uses no supplemental exercises after week 6 in his 9-week cycle.

Weeks 1 through 5
Bench press with spotter's help:
435x10, 505x6, 545x5, 575x3, 615x5, 615x5.

Weeks 6 through 8
Bench press (spotter assist):
440x6, 515x5, 545x1, 565x1, 675x1.

Week 9 (warmup same as meet day)
Tuesday - Bench press:
440x6, 515x5, 565x1 (opener)
Saturday - Bench Press:
415x6, 495x5, 525x1*, 545x1*, 565x1*

*Increase single-lift poundage after week 4.

Lockouts in a power rack as follows, each day:

With pins set one or two inches below full lockout, he loads the bar to 865. He does seven reps with a spotter's help. After the 865 he removes one 45-lb. plate from each side of the bar - to 775 - and lowers the rack pins one hole. He does seven more reps with a spotter's help. He drops two more plates - to 685 - and does seven more reps with a spotter's help. His last set of lockouts is with 595 for 10 reps, again with a spotter's help. 



Training Articles From a Single Magazine - Part Four

Bill Starr.

The Light Day

I receive a steady flow of mail from people who want me to check out their programs. Some want specific exercises to help them improve a weak area, while others want my opinions on their exercise selection, exercise sequence and sets and reps. High school coaches are often looking for substitute movements, since they don’t have the necessary equipment for certain exercises.

There seems to be more confusion setting up a light day routine in the weekly program than any other strength-training principle. The problems generally take two forms. Either the poundages are so ridiculously low that the lifter might as well stay home, lie on the couch and watch TV, or he performs far too much work.

The idea of doing a light workout after a heavy one is certainly not a new one. The old-time strongmen used it even if they weren’t aware of it at the time. Bob Hoffman and Joe Weider have both taken credit for formulating the idea, but it was around before either of them got into the publishing business. In the mid-1930’s Mark Berry explained the principle of heavy, light and medium training days in his book Physical Training Simplified. Nevertheless, – and even though it’s been expounded on as one of the Weider Principles as well as one of the York Training Principles – most beginners still overlook its importance.

Strength programs should always include a light day. When you set up a program, it’s important to keep in mind that what constitutes a light day depends to a very large extent on the lifter’s strength level. In other words, a light day for an advanced strength athlete is entirely different from that of a beginner or intermediate. Not only will the exercises be different, but the amount of weight will also vary considerably, as will time spent in the gym.

Usually, ambitious beginners learn about the heavy, light and medium system by chance. Beginners typically go all out at every session, training to the absolute limit on every exercise. For a while that system works nicely, for growing, enthusiastic bodies will respond to the work and be able to recuperate sufficiently. Eventually, however, the weights and the total amount of work being done in a session reach a demanding level. At that point progress grinds to a halt. Trainees plateau on the lifts and/or their numbers drop off. If at that point they don’t learn to incorporate a light day into the total scheme of things, they’ll most likely become discouraged and stop training altogether.

Some stumble onto the idea of having a light workout by accident or due to circumstance. They may or may not have as much time as usual to go through their entire routine, so they cut it short and discover, to their surprise, that the abbreviated session allowed them to rest enough that the following workout was considerably above par. Another frequent scenario is that they start including a light day out of necessity. They’re so tired from the heavy session that they decide to stay with light weights and cut down on the number of movements the next time they go to the gym.

Why is the light workout so critical to long-term success in strength development? Why not train just as hard as possible until overtraining sets in, then take a layoff? Or why not simply rest for extended periods between workouts? That would ensure that you don’t become overtrained and you could push each workout to the limit.

The answer is that neither of these methods of training will lead to a high level of strength fitness. I’m talking about functional strength development, for I deal with athletes. I don’t know of any sport in which participants are allowed to rest extensively during competition. Maybe the field events in track would qualify, but even then the better conditioned athletes will come out on top. Athletes who can come out of the box strongly and sustain that intensity for the duration of the contest are going to emerge as victors. That applies to wrestling, football, basketball and any other sport. In any athletic endeavor the game is usually won or lost at the finish.

While it’s certainly true that people who take five or six days’ rest between workouts will have plenty of energy the next time they go into the gym, it’s also true that they won’t develop the kind of conditioning needed to excel at the athletic arena because they aren’t really building a solid foundation of strength. Their total workloads aren’t expanding enough.

The light day serves several purposes. It allows you to add to your total workload without becoming overtrained. A light workout after a heavy one also facilitates recovery, and, especially in the early stages of strength training, it’s valuable in helping you to learn correct technique on all the exercises.

There are different phases of light days, depending on your strength level. When it comes to beginners, I start all my athletes on the same routine, unless they have some physical problem and cannot do one of the exercises. The workout includes the big three – the bench press, squat and power clean – for 5 sets of 5 reps on all. That not only makes the math easy, but it helps beginners concentrate better on each rep as well. The lower reps will keep them from getting tired and sloppy with their form. That may seem like a trivial point, but for beginners it’s extremely important to keep matters very basic.

For the first two or three weeks I don’t bother with a light day. The athletes do all three workouts with about the same top-end weights. That’s fine, as beginners haven’t developed their form enough to handle any big weights yet. They can recover easily, for they’re only doing three exercises. I don’t include any auxiliary work during this period; however, I do start adding some after the third week.

That’s also when I have the athletes start using the heavy, light and medium system. Many object to it, for they don’t like the idea of using a much lighter weight than they know they can handle. After all, they ask, what’s the value of handling 50 pounds less on an exercise.

The value is that you prevent overtraining and hone our technique on the exercises – two very important variables in terms of continuous, consistent progress. On the subject of overtraining, it isn’t possible to gain strength without becoming overtrained at some stage of the process. Lifters have to push into some degree of overtraining, or they’ll never be able to push their limits any further or know for certain just how much of a workload they can actually carry. The key is to be able to identify that state of overtraining and pull back on the amount of work being done so that the condition doesn’t become chronic. Long periods of overtraining are detrimental to anyone who’s trying to enhance his overall strength.

How much work should beginners do on their light day? Approximately 60 to 85% of what they handle on their heavy day. Any less is a waste of effort. That means a beginner who has advanced to where he’s squatting 205x5 will use 175x6 on his light day, which is in no way, shape or form taxing. I use a rather simple method of selecting the weights for the light day: The third set on the heavy day becomes the final set on the light day. In the example of the lifter who squats 205, his heavy-day progression looks like this: 135, 155, 15, 195 and 205 for 5 reps. The third set, 175, becomes his final set on the light day. So the progression looks like this: 135, 145, 155, 165 and 175 for 5 reps.

That simple method is most useful for coaches who set up programs for lots of athletes. Once you explain it to them, the athletes can easily determine their weights.

The first time beginners do a light-day routine, they usually feel cheated. They can’t understand the purpose of handling less than maximum weights. Because they don’t feel tired when they finish the workout, they don’t think they did enough. That’s a dangerous stage, for in far too many instances the beginner will then add increasingly more auxiliary work to their routine – so much that it completely destroys the concept of having a light day.

There are ways to make the light day taxing. In fact, it can be the most demanding of all the workouts. You can move especially fast through your session, taking short breaks between sets. For the first three sets you should barely take any rest time at all. Compressing the time spent doing the exercises forces your body to respond in an entirely different way, and it’s beneficial to strength development. Better yet, set up three stations and move through your workouts in a fast circuit.

Once beginners learn correct form and build a firm foundation, they’re ready to do more work and also to start including more exercises in their program. For the back there’s a variety of movements to choose from: deadlifts, bent-over rows, good mornings, stiff-legged deadlifts, snatch- and clean-high pulls and shrugs. The list for the upper body includes inclines, overhead presses ad dips, which complement the flat-bench presses nicely. At this stage of development, however, I don’t let athletes vary from squatting. They need to do it three times a week, period.

With the inclusion of auxiliary exercises, the concept of the light day changes somewhat, as the exercises determine whether it’s a heavy, light or medium day. Squats are the easiest to figure. My basic rule of thumb is to use 50 pounds less on the light day than you used on the heavy day. I make subtle alterations as lifters get stronger. Until they reach the high 300’s, I stay with the 50-pound-less idea, but once they start flirting with 400 for reps, I have them use 315 for their light day. In order to increase the total amount of work for the light day without making it too demanding, I eventually have them do three sets with 315. They do two warmup sets with 135 and 225, then jump to 315 for 3 sets of 5. After that I add a final twist: I have them change their foot positions on each of the heavy sets, performing the first set with a regular stance, the second with an ultrawide stance and the third with a ridiculously close stance. As their squats advance, so do their poundages on the three work sets.

The sequence for the shoulder girdle, or upper-body, exercises is usually the following: flat-bench presses on the heavy day, overhead presses on the light day and inclines on the medium day. The exercises themselves satisfy the principle, since lifters who bench 300 pounds will have their work cut out for them in doing a 200 pound overhead press and a 250 pound incline.

The same idea holds for back work. Schedule the most demanding back exercise on the heavy day. By that I mean the one that ends up producing the most workload. I mention this because the light day back exercise in my program is the good morning, which may be the most demanding exercise in all of strength training. Since the weight used on good mornings or even stiff-legged deadlifts is much lighter than what you use on the heavy day, however, it fulfills the requirements of a light day exercise.

I have my athletes do shrugs on their medium day. Since they handle more weight on shrugs than they do on any other back exercise, it would seem that he exercise violates the conditions of the heavy, light and medium concept. It’s a short-range motion, though, so it’s much less taxing than a great many back movements, such as bent-over rows, high pulls or even power cleans when you work them hard and heavy.

Once lifters start to make progress, you can alter the sets and reps on the various exercises each week. That, too, helps to stimulates strength increases, for it keeps the body from falling into a rut.

I’ve observed that there are two ways in which most people abuse the light day concept. The first is that they run the reps up, thinking that since the bar is relatively light they have to do more reps in order to make gains. So, instead of doing the suggested 80 to 85% on an exercise for 5 reps, they double up and do 10. You can see how that throws the numbers off. Our 205 squatter is scheduled to handle 175x5 on his light day. He feels as if it isn’t enough work, so he knocks out 10 reps. In the process he does a workload of 1,750 pounds total. On his heavy day he only did 1,025. It doesn’t take a genius to see that his light day workload will eventually cause problems.

The other way many disrupt the flow of the heavy, light and medium program is to add increasingly more exercises on the light day. Once again, since the routine is relatively easy, they feel as if they need to do more – and more and more. The extra work is almost always some form of beach work, and their attitude is, “How is working my arms going to hurt me?” The harm is that all those sets and reps add up, just as a runner’s mileage does. If you do too much on the light day, in the middle of the week, it will adversely affect your next session the medium day. Now, the medium day may not seem all that important, but it’s the setup for the upcoming heavy day session. The three workouts serve each other and fit together in an orderly fashion.

The very best way to determine if you’re adhering to the heavy, light and medium principle is to write down your poundages and calculate the amount of work you do at each session. The numbers don’t lie. Naturally, intensity is a factor as well, but a quick check of your workload will give you all the feedback you need.

As you advance to a higher level of strength, you’ll need to make further minor adjustments in your program to satisfy the principle. For example, you may want to increase your weekly workload but know that you cannot carry much more work in the three days, so you add another day. Tuesday fits best, but it has to be a light day, since it comes right on the heels of the heavy day. What does that make Wednesday and Friday? Medium days. Again, the selection of exercises is the determining factor.

Here’s the way that schedule might work. On Mondays you do squats, deadlifts or power cleans and flat-bench presses. On Tuesdays it’s overhead presses, power snatches or high pulls and some auxiliary work. On Wednesdays you do squats as usual or start substituting front squats or lunges, along with inclines and good mornings. On Fridays it’s squats, flat-bench presses and shrugs.Finally, for very advanced lifters there’s a way to use the light day concept with a different angle. Some people find they do well by performing two heavy exercises on Monday and the third with lighter poundages. They hit that third exercise heavy on either Tuesday or Wednesday. For example, there are lifters who don’t find they can get much out of deadlifting when they do it on the same day as they do heavy squats, which is Monday, so they do power cleans on Monday and heavy deadlifts the next day. That lets them handle more weight on the deadlift, which is a plus.

While the above may seem a bit complicated, it really isn’t. All you have to do is keep track of what you did and periodically do some math to figure your workload. If you find that you’re doing more on your light day than you should, cut back, for it will eventually be counterproductive. By constantly monitoring your routine and making adjustments, you’ll be able to consistently add to your overall level of strength fitness. 

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