Monday, October 22, 2018

Sergio Olive Seminar - not complete - Roger Metz (1980)

Big Thanks to Liam for this one!

Little has been written on the amazing Sergio Oliva in recent years. So when the opportunity presented itself to have a seminar at the Iron Man's Gym conducted by the former My. Olympia and Mr. Olympus [that'd be Dan Lurie's contest before the ambitions of the Weider Empire overflowed and drowned pretty near everything else], the only man to hold both titles, I jumped at the chance. Let it be known at this point, I am a Sergio fan and have known Sergio for 16 years and have yet to see anyone - in my opinion - equal him in his prime.

I first saw Sergio as a fellow competitor in the Mr. Mid-States contest in Whiting, Indiana in 1964 and all the other contestants might as well have stayed at home. He stole the show! 

Early 60's. 
Wait a minute, he doesn't look a day over 59!

 He has a rare combination of having a large bone structure yet extremely small hips and a waist with an incredible flair at the joints that puts him in a class by himself.

Sergio came into the Iron Man's Gym in the strong arms of the law. Nope, he wasn't under arrest but escorted by Oceanside Detective C.C. Sanders and the guns C.C. was carrying were 19-inchers hanging from his shoulders. C.C. is a respected competitive bodybuilder as well as a top promoter and was co-sponsor of the Iron Man Muscle Classic at which Sergio would guest pose after the seminar. 

To accommodate all the Sergio fans three seminars were conducted over two days so the following info is compiled from all three seminars. Let's pull up a bench and get the straight scoop from the man they call The Myth. Take it away Sergio! 

Sergio (S): Well, I'm going to tell you the story of my life, Sergio Oliva! Don't be afraid. Just ask me anything you want to know.

Q: Can you tell us about your early days in powerlifting? 

S: I never did that! I was in Olympic lifting. I never was a big guy to start with but I was always real powerful. I competed in the 148, 165, and 181 pound classes. This was the way I got out of my country of Cuba and came to the United States in Miami. I started to bodybuild there and I was more powerful from the weightlifting. Three months later I was in the Mr. Florida contest. From there three months later I was beating guys that had been training five and 10 years! So I started training real good and training for the big contests. It was funny! When I was in the A.A.U. I was competing in Olympic lifting and physique contests at the same time. So this is the way it started.

Q: How old were you when you started? 

S: I started in bodybuilding at what I consider a late age. I was 22 at the time. To me the right age to start is around 16. I started late but I made it. I was working hard! I wanted to be the top one and I made it! What really makes me happy is that nobody gave me those titles. I was the winner! Lot of those guys I don't know but those days you had to win it. There were no deals! 

I was working real hard in a factory. It was a foundry and when it was 85 degrees outside it was almost 500 degrees inside! I saw guys twice my size pass out on a regular basis because of the heat. I worked there 12- and 14-hour days and from there I'd to to the gym and work out for three or four hours. Even in those days when I was the top one I didn't make a penny from it. I was the best but I didn't make a penny from it. 

I'm a phony bodybuilder! I eat anything! Now I know my physique and my potential. I don't say you can do it. For you should know yourself and know your limits! I'm the kind of guy that does anything he wants and I don't want you to tell me what to do. How can you tell me what to do when I know my own body better than you do!

I drink Coca Cola. I eat peas and beans and rice, chili, hot dogs! I don't care! I eat anything! Now I don't say I eat like that all the time. When I prepare for a contest I drop all the garbage and eat good but I'm not going to tell you that I spend all of my life eating vitamins and protein because that's bullshit! If I tell you that and one day you see me in a Pancake House eating pancakes you're going to wonder what's going on.

You're the only one that's going to find out the right way for yourself. Nobody has to tell you! 

They used to tell me no way you can eat like you do and improve. You can ask anyone that was against me. How about that crazy Cuban! They'll say he eats any kind of junk! They know! I don't care. This is me! I know what I can do. I know my limits. 

Q: What's your opinion on the use of steroids? 

S: I'll tell you what it is. When I started in this game we didn't use any of that stuff! Nothing! I didn't even know what it was then. Now all the top guys are using it. I see guys come in the gym and only work out for three months and start using steroids. It's wrong! In my personal opinion it's wrong! How can you know how much development you can get on your own without the drugs? You should see the maximum development you can get without it. Maybe some day you'll get to the point where you're going to get into a big contest and have a decision to make about taking the drugs. Some people really don't need it! There's a lot of ways to take it. You can take it through a doctor where you have a thorough checkup and the doctor will show you exactly how to use it and and how much, or you can go out and take it on your own. I don't believe anybody that's only been in the bodybuilding game for one or two years should use it! 

Q: Have you used it? 

S: Oh yeah! But I don't believe in the stuff. I only prepared for this show for seven weeks. I was doing squats and pulled the ligaments in my leg. So I needed something to prepare myself quick. However, I know my limit. But I've been in this game a lot of years. You get in the gym and one year later you're using the stuff. You don't know your potential this way! You might find you can have the same development without it. 

Q: What do you believe in sets and reps? Say, like an arm routine? 

S: My routine! It all depends! If I'm trying to gain weight I do less sets and increase the weight and eat anything! Now as a show gets closer I quit eating the garbage, I drop the heavy weight and train light. I increase the reps because I'm trying to burn! Say for instance I'm doing 12 sets when I'm trying to gain weight. Maybe I keep the 12 sets but not heavy anymore. I used light weights and when I used to do 10 reps; maybe I did 30 or 40 or 50 reps! So I work two different ways. Do you follow what I'm saying? I know some guys can go to the gym and do 3 sets and get pumped like hell. All right? Now this guy knows what he has to do. He knows his limits. He doesn't need to do 10 or 20 sets. It's just like vitamins; you only need to take so many. But people think the more you take the bigger you get. Your body can only handle so much protein and vitamins at one time.

I know some guys that 3 sets is all they need. For some guys 3 sets is just a warmup. They have do do a lot of sets to get the same benefit. The sets and reps, training heavy or light all depends upon the individual and how he responds to it. It doesn't make any difference how Mr. Magoo trains! You might never get to look like him. Find out what works for you! It doesn't make any difference if someone else has 23-inch arms. Maybe you can kill yourself for years and never get to look like him with his routine. You follow what I'm saying? Do what works for you! 


Continued. This is, YES!!!!!!!!! - a bit of a longish article.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Ed Coan: A Candid Conversation, Part One - Tony Fitton

Article Courtesy of Liam Tweed

Powerlifting has seen many super athletes, lifters that challenge the established standards and records. Every once in a while, that extra spice is added to powerlifting by a lifter who ignores such established standards, and instead, challenges reality itself. In this real "fantasy land" of strength has been a Collins, a Bridges, a Kazmaier; but it is presently (article 1988) ruled by the most incomparable lifter of all . . . Ed Coan.

It is often the case with human nature, when trying to comprehend an eighth wonder of the strength world the likes of Ed Coan, to misconceive rather than conceive. A 215 pound man squatting deep, and with little apparent effort, 964 pounds, is more Kafkaesque than real. Somewhat dogmatically, such abilities are often attributed to superior genetics. Ed Coan, apart from being undeniably STRONG, also proves to be one of powerlifting's cognoscenti, as this question of his superior strength in relation to personal genetics forms the prelude to an interesting and insightful conversation.

Ed Coan (EC): I may be regarded as being genetically gifted, but I don't really believe that I am, except perhaps in some minor aspects. For instance, I have big hands and long arms and deadlift more than anyone else at my weight. But Lamar Gant and Gary Heisey are the same at their bodyweights. I also bench press 555 with long arms, not a record, so what is gifted? My genetic make-up, code, whatever, is no different from others'. Any special talent that I might have, I believe, is more mental than physical. I get myself into a good strength condition, then have no fear or reservations about the weights I'm going to attempt. Failures with weights are mental errors (or mishaps beyond your control, like suits blowing out), mental either in poor commitment, lack of concentration, or mental in choosing weight beyond your present physical condition. Developing this perfect relationship between body and mind, I feel, is my key to lifting heavier and heavier weights.

For instance, when I did my 964 squat

I'd done 942 on a second attempt and discussed my next attempt with George Hechter, a respected friend and lifter. "Should I take 959, 964, 970, what do you think?" (In contests it's natural to need some reassurance or guidance). George said it really didn't matter with me, I could take 975 or 981, "Just choose a poundage that you can be 100% committed to." I chose the 964 and could have done more. In similar circumstances I'll probably choose the 981 next and and be 100% convinced I can do it.

I have a good powerlifting frame, but so do thousands of others. My form is generally good, but not exceptional. I don't have big legs, so when I squat I rely on my hips and back a little more than, perhaps, I should. My deadlift is really a compromise between sumo style and conventional, I just can't go perfect sumo, it feels terrible. In the conventional style I don't feel confidently strong either, though I have pulled 750 for 3 stop reps off two inch plates, after a sumo workout. So, my style's a hybrid. It suits me personally. A lifter should know how to adapt to obtain the best advantage.

Tony Fitton (TF): This year you were a member of the APF contingent that visited and competed in Russia. This was a first for powerlifting, for the many lifters that went, and for yourself. What impressions of that trip did you come away with?

EC: The Russians do not yet have the usual national endorsement or organization behind powerlifting, but there is intrigue and definite interest there. The contests were not of the standards we have come to expect of the major meets in America. The warmup room was really crowded with people just watching everywhere. The bars were Olympic and not Power bars, making it hard to do big squats. In warmups a took 815 out of the racks and was like a Mexican jumping bean, I couldn't stand still or set up properly, but you make do. The rules were rather liberally adhered to, but for a first time I feel it served a valuable purpose.

The Russian lifters that we met and lifted against were real nice and friendly, but not generally strong. There was only one strong guy on the Russian team; we were told, not very convincingly, that their strongest powerlifters were on vacation! I feel that they wanted to see, observe, learn, and adapt their techniques and so on. Their one strong lifter, a 242-pounder, did a 733 squat (bar high on the neck, no wraps, and no suit), a 551 bench, and a 771 deadlift. Lifting like that he was especially impressive, and it makes you wonder what he could do taking powerlifting as seriously as we do.

There were two other meets held over there, I only lifted in the first one; I just wanted to be able to say I lifted in the first powerlifting meet ever with Russia and won. I just took openers and wanted to total 2000, and did with 815-451-738; they were all easy obviously.

TF: Were the Russians impressed with your lifting even at that level?

EC: I think they were. There were a couple of older guys there, obviously powerlifting fans, I think they said they had written books or articles on powerlifting. One of these had the results of every meet I had ever been in recorded, meets even I'd forgotten about. I got the impression that in private they definitely respected me, and other powerlifters, but in public they don't give a whole lot of credit. Regardless of politics, there's always respect between athlete and athlete, and they were impressed with many of those who went over, and were definitely curious about the equipment worn to improve performance.

TF: What other impressions did you get of Russia, the powerlifting situation there?

EC: There were tours planned by Dr. Enos, the person who coordinated the trip, but myself and a couple of friends who had also gone along, made our own way around. A lot of the team were moaners, they wanted king-size beds, down pillows, five meals a day whenever they were hungry, things that weren't available and you just had to accept that fact. We took taxis all over the place, investigated, and tried to get into our own "trouble" . . . we found no restrictions.

I definitely got the impression that the athletes there like powerlifting. If the system accepted and promoted powerlifting there would certainly be a bunch of very strong lifters who would choose to be powerlifters. From the athletes who do Olympic lifting, there would be some tremendous squatters and probably deadlifters; their bench press abilities would develop.

TF: I know what you mean. In 1978, when we were in Finland we went to see some of the Russian Olympic lifters doing an exhibition. We saw David Rigert, the great Russian 198-pound lifter at that time, squat 672 deep, for 3 reps, bar high, no tight suit or wraps, flimsy belt, easy lifts. What were the actual contest like, were they well run?

EC: They were run reasonably well, but there were some strange goings on. The first meet in Leningrad we won fairly and squarely, no problem, and it was accepted. At the second meet in Moscow we had a couple of our lifters bomb, and a lot of missed attempts. We certainly won most of the classes regardless, yet they claimed we lost, they won! Apparently they invented a special point system. With every attempt missed, points were deducted. Bomb outs, even more points were deducted. Under their "house rules" they won and it was reported as such in the papers. If if encourages their powerlifting, I guess it's okay. I didn't lift in the second meet, I coached, wrapped lifters, judged, everything. In the second meet a lot of the Russians were trying tight knee wraps, wide belts, suits, etc. They were getting into it. They'll duplicate them, or they might buy from America, but they'll find that training with these aides takes a big load off the body, they'll learn quick. All in all it was a good trip, and worthwhile.

TF: 1988 saw your return back to the USPF and IPF, winning Senior Nationals and Worlds respectively. What prompted this?

EC: Basically, I wanted to legitimize myself and lifting. A lot of lifters a few years ago accepted the standards and philosophies that prevailed then. It's changed and is different now; I wanted to compete and win under drug tested conditions, and I have and will continue to.  

TF: I understand that there are opportunities with Joe Weider and "Muscle & Fitness" for you, that Joe is very impressed with you, and the two of you may sign some agreement for the future. Did this influence your decision to "legitimize" yourself?

EC: Somewhat, I guess. It certainly does no harm with Joe to be a drug free representative, but I wanted the challenge anyway. Drug testing is the way the sport has moved, and I want to be with all aspects of the sport. If you're in the public eye these days, I feel you have more credibility lifting under drug tested conditions, especially with the newcomers. Times change and you change with them; it's no big deal.

TF: It's been three years since you've lifted in the USPF Senior Nationals. Your last year, in fact, was when there were all the dissensions, and criticisms of the USPF. How did you find lifting the USPF again?

EC: I really enjoyed the USPF Seniors. I didn't especially like the platform, a rubbery substance overlaid it and you felt like you sank in. It made it hard to explode on the squat and deadlift, like you need to. The refereeing was strict and fairly consistent, and that's good, though this first year back I felt imposed upon by the pressure of it, but that was just within me; now I can settle myself into whatever's required. I will reproduce my best lifts, and more next year, even, hopefully, on the bench press where you're not permitted a bench shirt. I went seven for nine on my attempts and set five IPF world records, never felt my groove on the squat because of the platform, lifted for the first time in a while without a bench shirt, and was conservative on the deadlift. As I said, just give me another year.

TF: How do your thoughts compare about the IPF World Championships?

EC: The location and conditions in Perth were first class. Bruce Waddell, and the Australian Powerlifting Federation organized an excellent meet. The refereeing was something else. I had heard about the IPF refereeing standards from the Women's Worlds this year and was prepared for less than sympathetic reffing. However, it seems to me that powerlifting refereeing has become something like bodybuilding judging, the emphasis on what's acceptable change. In bodybuilding, sometimes the judges wanted size, other times symmetry, others again wanted a ripped physique. In powerlifting the squat depth used to be the major disagreement factor; this year there seemed to by very, very few conditions about this. It's as though the majority of squats were low enough so the judges had to look very closely for other rule infractions If the bar was considered an eyelash too low on the back, or the knees not locked rigid and the back bolt upright, or the bar moved fractionally on the back while squatting, red lights appeared. Any person handling maximal weights is going to transgress one of those rules; a person just can't squat without the bar moving just slightly, and many good, solid lifts appeared to be turned down as a consequence. They're discouragi8ng heavy lifting in my opinion, when the object should be to encourage it. Be strict, but be sensible.

I try not to pay attention to anything but the lifts I'm doing, otherwise I lack the mental commitment I need. Strangely, I felt more intimidated at the USPF Seniors by stepping back into stricter lifting than in Australia. I like the World Championship hype, being up on a stage to lift, with lights, a big crowd, a prestigious occasion. The Worlds in Australia I enjoyed, but I did reduce my mental expectations. I got my feet wet again, so to speak, but I was really a whole lot stronger than my total suggests.

TF: How do you account your lifting at these Worlds?

EC: I felt strong, but I only weighed in around 212. My squats just got screwed up. My suit completely blew on my opener with 832, I pitched forward and the bar almost tore off my head as it went over. I pulled a hamstring slightly with the sudden straightening of my leg, but I couldn't allow myself to pay attention to it. There were only eight, I think, in my flight; so I cut the suit off and put on a loose one and repeated the 832. I followed with an easy 859, but I guess the referees considered that it rolled slightly on my back. That kind of weight has to move slightly if you bend over at all to squat. I went six for six after that, really just cruised making final attempts of 496 and 815. It was enough to easily give me my second IPF world title; I won my first at 181 lbs. in 1984.

TF: What had been your training lifts before going to Australia?

EC: Three weeks before, I hit a 900 double on the squat with the lifting suit straps down. Two weeks before, I hit a strong 520 paused bench, and pulled an 840 in my last heavy deadlift workout. I lost six pounds bodyweight from leaving the U.S., plus I was a little nervous, even though I don't like to admit it. Next year I'm going to weigh at least 230 when I leave the U.S. I'm fired up to get back into the dog fight; I'm more familiar with the terms and have gained experience from this year. I want to beat the highest total ever made in an IPF World Championships; I think that's 2375 at superheavy.

TF: Were there any other memorable aspects of this year's IPF World Championships, good or bad?

EC: I was really disappointed in the banquet after the meet. Everyone had to pay, but that's not too unreasonable. Very few athletes showed up to support a function that was really held in their honor. A lot of the lifters had sponsors, and were not hurting for bucks. Awards were presented there, and absence looked bad for the particular country. America was not represented in one instance of a special award. I thing that lifters should accept some obligation apart from just competing. It just seemed unreasonable. I got an award, and was proud to receive it, it's important to show that you care in my opinion.

I was sorry to see Inaba suffering with a sore back, but he still pulled out another Words and some good lifting, an amazing lifter. Isagawa's bench was just phenomenal at 123 lbs., also Lamar's 683 deadlift. Danny Austin cruised right through, didn't even strain himself. Ausby Alexander, on a good day, would have ended up with a whole lot more than he got. Randy Smith has probably got the best body I've seen of any powerlifting in a long time. He lifted very impressively under pressure for his first World Championships. He had a 694 squat he had to re-rack, take out again, and still got it. He's tough. Gene Bell is exceptionally strong. He had a 777 squat turned down that went up real easy and was a close cal. He'll make a substantial mark in future IPF meets. Dave Jacoby had a ton left in the squat. He's cool, looks to be without any kind of nerves, and has the best form I've ever seen on the squat. Tony Stevens from Britain, in my class, was the victim of some poor coaching. He should have come second. Calvin Smith, the U.S.'s 275-pounder, got screwed. His last squat was picture perfect, not a thing wrong with it, but it was failed. I don't feel that he bombed out, more that he was bombed out. It was an unfortunate sour note for the U.S. team. I hope he comes back and proves himself, he deserves it. Bruce Takala, I think, did a great coaching job for our team, as did all who helped him. We had a good team. Tony, you've got to find some good rejuvenation medication for Conrad Cotter, he needs preserving not embalming, and something to stop him snoring and howling in his sleep. He kept our coaches awake! Conrad said nice things about me, didn't he? Well, I tell you, Conrad almost made it to the nude beach a couple of times, we took taxis, he walked, so he's not in too bad of a shape.   

TF: The WPC World Championships are fairly certain to be in England in 1989, after the IPF Worlds. Would you be interested again in this title?

EC: I'd like to lift in everything, and would really like to lift in England, I've never been there. If you get both world titles, then there's only really one world champion. To me powerlifting's about lifting big weights, and proving to yourself, your peers, and to an interested public that you can lift the biggest ones. I'm a man for the sport.

Continued in Part Two.          


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Assistance Exercises - Ken Leistner

Mike Bartlett

In the last issue of IRONMAN, I made the following points about assistance exercises for the three competitive powerlifts: 

1) Training time and energy are limited, thus each movement must be chosen in accordance with each individual's needs.

2) One must realistically evaluate their strengths, weaknesses, leverage factors and impact from previous injury before choosing assistance exercises for each lift.

3) One must choose assistance exercises within the context of available equipment.

General Considerations

Some exercises are more popular than others for both positive and negative reasons. Certainly there are those movements that have a long history of bringing results and are thus widely utilized. However, some of the most popular powerlifting assistance movements are not very productive and in some cases may not bring any results. The fact that "everyone does it" is poor rationale for choosing an exercise that one is not suited for or which could be dangerous based on a lifter's physical proportions. Some exercises, in the truest sense, have been and continue to be overrated and are done only because trainees simply perpetuate them.

There is a tendency to do too much assistance work.

A competitive lifter must demonstrate his "strength" via three specifically prescribed movements; the bulk of the work must go into learning and refining those three lifts. This is not to say that one should overtrain those lifts. But it is senseless to boast of skyrocketing poundages in assistance movements if the three primary lifts remain stagnant or are fraught with technical errors.

The Bench Press

Although I do not consider the bench press the "most important" of the three lifts, the majority of lifters, even those who should know better after years of competing, have a certain reverence for it. Make no mistake, ego enhancement has contributed considerably to the popularity of the bench press especially since both athletes and the non-lifting public equate great strength with a good bench press. Because of this and the fact that the musculature stimulated by the bench press is "obvious," most lifters tend to devote more time and training energy to the bench press and its assistance work.

If one diligently pursues the bench press, the assistance work does not have to be extensive. An excellent movement is to follow the regular bench press with a close grip bench press (one or two sets) which stimulates the triceps in particular. Using a thick bar for this movement makes it even more effective as it then becomes impossible to press "in the groove" that is used during the competitive movement. One has to rear back and shove!

Dips and overhead presses with a bar, machine, or dumbbells will work the primary musculature used in the bench press. There are advantages to using these very basic and effective exercises as an adjunct or substitute for the bench press. But it must be kept in mind that adequate pre-meet time must be spent honing the skills of the competitive lift itself.

Triceps Involvement

If one relies on dips and/or presses as one of the major pressing movements in any particular weekly workout, direct triceps work may or may not be needed. I do not care for the triceps extension movement - lying, seated, or standing - because of the stress placed upon the elbow joint. Even with "moderate" weights, the elbow tends to demonstrate an inflammatory response over time. Many lifters who demonstrate a relative weakness in the triceps, mistakenly believe that they should do extensions because "heavy weight" can be used relative to pressdowns or other specific triceps movements. One trains the specific skills of the bench press by doing the bench press. Assistance work will contribute to the development of increased muscular strength and/or size; but it will not, and in fact, should not contribute to the skill aspect of the lift. Thus, one should choose a triceps movement or movements that are safer.

The triceps pressdown, using any type of overhead pulley, is an excellent choice because the triceps is taken through a relatively complete range of motion, and forearm extension can be achieved without calling upon the intervention of other muscle groups. The pressdown is also easier to control than most other direct triceps movements, making it an effective assistance movement. There is ample opportunity to handle heavy weights during the performance of the bench press, dips, close-grip bench press, and pressing movements. Thus, it is hardly necessary to use relatively heavy weights in the triceps movement, for many it would be dangerous to do so.

Other Pressing Movements

Some lifters utilize dumbbell bench presses, incline dumbbell presses, and barbell incline presses, although the dumbbell movements are not quite as popular as they were in the late '60s. If one is benching heavily once a week, doing another heavy pressing movement on another workout day, attacking dips once or twice a week in an all out moaner, er, manner, and perhaps including at least one direct triceps movement once per week, or even per workout, I feel it is redundant to do dumbbell bench presses. They can be valuable and enjoyable during those times of the year when the bench press is eliminated from the program. But they will most often lead to overtraining when also performing the competitive movement.

The incline press is almost always included in the "bench press program" of football players and is often used by many lifters. I believe that it is only effective if done at an angle of approximately 30 degrees. If additional deltoid strength is desired, one should put the effort into overhead pressing movements. I often recommend the barbell decline press as a "major" pressing movement because it affords most lifters a greater range of motion than the incline or regular bench press exercise. And since it's not done that often, it will add variety and enjoyment to one's program. Try it for a six to ten week period. A surprisingly heavy weight can be used in this underrated movement.

Raises and Flyes

Because most athletes and lifters feel that the general public, as well as their peer groups, are favorably influenced by heavily muscled pectorals, flye-type movements are a popular part of most programs. One needs a certain amount of pec strength to bench well, but it is more important to fully develop the anterior deltoids and triceps. The inclusion of flyes into most powerlifting programs is usually the most common factor leading to overtraining. Most lifters' weaknesses in the bench press can be improved by concentrating on areas other than the pectoral muscles. For this reason, I do not believe most lifters can benefit from flyes especially considering the other exercises that can be performed.

Lateral raises are excellent for developing the deltoids, primarily the lateral head. But more benefit for the bench press will come from using the front raise. I recommend the use of some sort of

I just can't resist this . . .


 And After
Yes! Gain Weight to Build Your Arms.

I recommend the use of some sort of back support to prevent excess swinging of the weight and undue stress upon the lumbar spine. Machines, barbells, dumbbells, or a pulley can be uses as long as the emphasis is on proper form, using muscular contraction instead of momentum to increase resistance. A sensible program will give adequate work to all of the major muscle groups involved in the bench press. The primary emphasis will to into learning the skills of the competitive lift, and learning to perform it with "heavy" weights, although the majority of one's bench press training should be low-force/high intensity. The specific assistance movements should be chosen to overcome weaknesses in those muscles that inhibit the expression of one's full strength in the lift while avoiding the common error of overtraining.

Another Deadlift Program

The deadlift is perhaps the most dreaded of the three competitive powerlifts and is often avoided by the casual fitness enthusiast. Improvement comes with very hard work on a limited deadlifting program, a limited amount of "assistance work," and a lot of time for recovery.

 Deadlifts Can Be Fun

I have known few men or women who actually looked forward to their deadlifting workouts. Ray Rigby, a former Olympic team member from Australia, and one of the world's finest powerlifters, impressed me with his desire to improve his deadlift and the enthusiasm that he brought to each deadlifting session. I can honestly say it was contagious.

I had corresponded with Ray for approximately a year and had given him some training advice. In order to best prepare for the World Championships, Ray moved into our home for four weeks. The training sessions we enjoyed were intense. Ray trained two times per week for most of the year preceding the World Championships. He deadlifted once a week, employing one or two top sets per workout. Ray's drive and dedication certainly allowed him to make great improvements in this lift, but it was his attitude that brought him above the level of most other great lifters. He enjoyed his rigorous training because he enjoyed the satisfaction that comes with improvement. His deadlifts, though brutal and tough while actually being performed, gave him a very positive feeling because of continuous improvement and eventual level of achievement.

I have always tried to keep this image in sharp focus. The discomfort that comes with a great deadlifting effort in sets of 10, 15, or 20 reps is more than offset by the gains in upper and lower back musculature and strength in the hips and thighs. Knowing what the results of intense deadlifting can be, it became the one exercise that I most looked forward to doing. This is as it should be. The movements that "hurt" the most, in that they bring about those telltale feelings of nausea, dizziness and exhaustion, are signs that an intense set has been completed - that the athlete has made a great effort towards improvement in his or her strength and muscle tissue mass. I thank Ray for serving as a reminder to enjoy each and every difficult exercise each and every time I do one. The eventual results of consistent, intense training bring rewards that make the discomfort worthwhile and yes, almost fun!

Concentrating the Effort

The key to deadlifting well is to have the proper body mechanics for the lift. As most people don't, the only other way to foster improvement is to "attack" the deadlift. Because it takes so much out of the lifter to do so, it is important to understand that one must limit the amount of deadlift assistance work and leave enough time to recover from the work that was done.

Previous deadlift programs from The Steel Tip relied upon the deadlift and the stiff-legged deadlift performed on alternating weeks for varying repetitions. The following program offers a bit more in the way of adjunctive movements, but it must be remembered that the major effort must go into the deadlift itself.

This is a 13-week program that will require a week of rest before either beginning another program that includes the deadlift, or competing in a powerlifting meet. In fact, we usually suggest a ten day rest after the last deadlifting session before lifting in a meet. During the first six weeks of the routine, the stiff-legged deadlift is the only form of deadlift to be done. During weeks one through three, the stiff-legged deadlift is to be done two times per week for one set of 15 reps each session. This one all-out set should follow a brief but adequate warm up. During weeks four through six, the stiff-legged deadlift is done once per week, for one all-out set of 15 reps.

Weeks seven, eight and nine find the athlete shifting to their regular deadlift style. It's suggested that one use the conventions or sumo stance based only upon their own particular leverage factors and limitations produced by previous injury. During this three week period, one set of six reps will be done. The following two weeks will have the lifter reduce the reps to three for two top sets. These two sets should be performed with no more than two minutes rest between them. The final two weeks of the program will also find the lifter doing two top sets, but these will consist of two reps each, and only one minute will be taken between these two sets. the deadlift will be performed only once per week during all but the first three weeks of the entire routine.

The Deadlift Program

Week 1:
Stiff-legged Deadlift (SDL), warmup, then 1 x 15 two times per week.

Week 2:
SDL, warmup, then 1 x 15 two times per week.

Week 3:
SDL, warmup, then 1 x 15 two times per week.

Week 4:
SDL, warmup, then 1 x 15 once per week.

Week 5:
SDL, warmup, then 1 x 15 once per week.

Week 6:
SDL, warmup, then 1 x 15 once per week.

Week 7:
Regular Deadlift, warmup, then 1 x 6 once per week.

Week 8:
Regular Deadlift, warmup, then 1 x 6 once per week.

Week 9:
Regular Deadlift, warmup, then 1 x 6 once per week.

Week 10:
Regular Deadlift, warmup, then 2 x 3 once per week.
Note rest times between sets are given above.

Week 11:
Regular Deadlift, warmup, then 2 x 3 once per week.
Note the change in rest time between sets given above.

Week 12:
Regular Deadlift, warmup, then 2 x 2 once per week.

Week 13:
Regular Deadlift, warmup, then 2 x 2 once per week.

Follow with one week of abstention from the deadlift before beginning another program which includes the deadlift.

Assistance Work

In a properly designed program, one will be working all of the major muscle groups. Included in the program will be high-intensity exercises for the hips, thighs, trapezius, and other major muscular structures. But it is recommended that the leg press (preferably using the Nautilus Leverage Leg Press) be done at least once, but no more than two times per week, for 10-12 repetitions during the first 10 weeks of this program if one is a competitive lifter; and for the full 13 weeks, otherwise. In addition, using the shrug in some form should be done once per week, for 1-2 sets of 12-15 reps.

For those with excellent recovery ability, deadlifts in conventional style should be done from the power rack or blocks on weeks four, seven, and 11, immediately following the regularly scheduled stiff-legged or regular deadlifts. After a brief warmup, one intense set of 5 reps should be done. If the rack deadlifts are done, it is suggested that shrugs be eliminated from the program that week.

There are a number of ways to increase the deadlift, but patience and perseverance are the keynotes with this particular movement. As important as the actual training is, one must budget adequate recuperation time in order to prevent injury and/or overtraining. 


Monday, October 15, 2018

Hip Belt Squats - John McCallum

Originally Published in This Issue (March, 1970) 

On May 11th, in the year of our Lord Nineteen Hundred and Thirty-Eight, Vancouver, British Columbia, was a lean and hungry city. Actually this wasn't too unusual, for in the closing years of the great depression and just before the economic stimulus of the great slaughter, most of the world was pretty lean and hungry. Some areas, however, were harder hit than others.

British Columbia is Canada's most westerly province, and Vancouver is the biggest city in it. It is a highly urban, congested seaport, and for the people of Vancouver the depression was no abstract concept of economics. It was real and it was earnest. Business and industry lay idle. Mothers fed watery oatmeal to children who cried for milk. Block long lines of ragged, listless, hollow cheeked men stood before empty soup kitchens and hunger walked the streets of the city. 

Early in the spring, 2,000 men were cut off the relief rolls - the bare, subsistence dole that kept enough food in the belly to support a measure of life. For a month these men pan-handled around the city - "tin canning," then called it - until a further ban made begging illegal. The men went hungry for a few days longer and then, on May 11th, 1,600 of them under the leadership of a man named Steve Brodie jammed into the Government Post Office in a desperate attempt to bring attention to their plight.

Letter to Today's Unemployed, written by Brodie in 1996: 
The men stayed in the Post Office for forty days, existing on what little food was passed through the windows by sympathizers. They resisted all attempts to dislodge them, including the reading of the riot act by the mayor. 

Then, at 5:00 A.M., on June 20th, a battalion of mounted police stationed themselves a block away from the Post Office. Other police lined up in front of the Post Office and fired tear gas grenades through the windows. The blinded men poured out and the mounted police swept down Hastings Street. The men stumbled into the middle of the street and the horsemen, swinging long hardwood clubs, hit them and went through them and over them like a giant lawn mower. 

Not all of the men came out meekly.

One of them - a big, dark haired man - came bounding out the door and into the middle of the action. He scooped a policemen off his horse, dropped him, and reached for another. 

The man's name was Harvey Farrell, and he spent most of his life fighting for what he believed in. He was doing that at Dieppe when a German machine gunner stitched him up the middle.

Harvey Farrell used to lift weights with my Uncle Harry. He had an enormous chest, incredibly thick shoulders, and as good a set of legs as I've ever seen. His thighs went around 28" and were about as strong, shapely, and defined as legs can get without being paired up with a needle-riddled butt. I used to watch him training when I was a kid and I can still see his legs. 

Harvey Farrell's favorite exercise was the hip belt squat. 

He gave it full credit for his strength and development. He had a special bar for his hip belt squats. He kept it loaded and ready and it was never used for any other exercise. He had a hip belt that he'd made himself out of old harness leather. It was thick and crude and heavily padded, but it did the job and Hercules couldn't have broken it.

Harvey considered the hip belt squat to be in a class by itself when it cam to development potential. He never left it out of his workouts and sometimes it was the only exercise he did. He'd built up his power enormously over the years. He could handle more weight in the hip belt squat than most men could in the dead lift.

Harvey Farrell's teachings weren't wasted. My Uncle Harry still works hard on hip belt squats, and if any man ever stood as a finer example of sensible weight training, I've yet to see him.

Hip belt squats are pure leg work. They've got a lot of advantages you won't find in any other exercise. There's none of the lower back strain or the breathing restrictions associated with regular squats. You can focus 100% concentration on your thighs and forget about everything else. There's no danger if you can't complete a rep. If you can't make it up, then just settle all the way down, let the bar rest on the floor, undo the belt, and crawl away. You can work to your absolute limit, and if you do, you may rest assured you'll benefit accordingly.

Hip belt squats might be the answer to your gaining problems. If you're not gaining as well as you think you should, give them a try and see what they can do for you.  

Figure on working them hard for a couple of months. You may even want to try a little specialization. Just remember that any effort you put into them will be repaid many, many times over. 

Let's take a closer and more detailed look at the whole process. A lot of trainees confuse hip belt squats with hip lifts. The two are not the same thing. Other than the fact that both involve a belt of some sort they have practically no similarity at all.

Scott Schmidt, Hip Lift

Hip lifts are more of a feat of strength than an exercise. The weight is lifted only a few inches and the reps are usually kept low. It has some value as a power builder and can be used to strengthen ligaments and tendons. As a muscle builder, however, it leaves a lot to be desired.  

Schpeakin' of Elvis, last night I watched the Eugene Jarecki ("Why We Fight") documentary on, sort of on, Elvis. Very disappointing ramble without much of a goal in mind. Well, other than the usual blather about the death of the American Dream, yawn, and all that crap. This stuff really gets loved on by critics. YAWN. 

HIP BELT SQUATS are a different animal entirely. They're intended to be an exercise, not a lift. They're done in relatively high reps over a full range of movement, and they're practically unequaled as a muscle builder.

Hip belt squats feel a bit awkward at first. It usually takes a week or two of training before they get really comfortable (comfortable enough to be painful?). After that, though, gains come rapidly.

You can work out your hip belt squatting procedure any way you want. The method I use and recommend is as follows:

Place a bar on a bench. The middle of the bar should be resting on the bench and the bar should be at right angles to the bench. In other words, if the bench is running north and south, then the bar should be running east and west.

Next, load up the bar and put on collars. You should use small plates. Large plates will prove unsuccessful because they'll hit the floor before you've squatted low enough. When the bar is loaded, put on the collars and cinch them up good and tight.

Now you can strap on your belt. The hip belt is an important piece of equipment. It doesn't have to look good, but it has to be strong and it has to fit. An ordinary belt like you hold your pants up with won't do. The belt has to be at least three inches wide and a quarter inch thick with as sturdy a buckle as you can find. The belt should preferably have been safe-tested so you know it'll stand the strain.

The IronMind Hip Belt. 
No problems ever with one of these, and 
it's good to go on arrival. 

You need a lot of padding under the belt. Use padding at least an inch wider than the belt. Almost anything will do - foam rubber, heavy towels, an old blanket, anything that'll stop the belt from cutting into you. Don't chintz on the padding. The exercise is tough enough without making it painful.
Now, straddle the bar and sit down on the bench. You should be facing along the same line as the bar. If the bar is running east and west, you'll be facing either east or west and sitting astride the bar as though it was a horse.
The next thing you'll need is something to fasten the bar to the belt. I suggest you get two pieces of nylon rope a half inch in diameter and about three feet long. Nylon rope is a lot stronger than the hemp variety. It'll stretch a bit at first, but after that it'll be fine. 
Now, tie the middle of one piece of rope to an onion and swing it vigorously overhead. Now, tie the middle of one piece of rope to the bar immediately behind you. The only type of knot that will hold without sliding on the bar is a clove hitch. The clove hitch and nothing else. No onion! If you don't know how to tie a clove hitch, ask an onion or an olive, call any vegetable, Friendo. 
Tie the other piece of rope with a clove hitch to the bar immediately in front of you. Once you become accustomed to where the ropes tie on the bar you can tie them on before you sit down.
Next, take the rope that's tied to the bar behind you. Tuck the ends up between you and the belt and pull them down on the outside of the belt. Lean back slightly and cinch the rope up as tight as you can get it. Now wrap the ends around the belt and tie them in a reef knot. If you can't tie a reef knot, see vegetables above when they're not too busy.
Now tie the rope in front of you the same way. Get it as tight as you can. The bar should be pulled up to your crotch till it almost hurts. You need it that tight because it'll sag down a couple of inches when you stand up.
When you've got the bar cinched up as tight as you can, get up with it and walk to where you're going to do the squats. Don't go any farther than you have to, just get away from the bitch, er, bench. 
You'll need a 2 x 4 under your heels to maintain your balance during the squats. You may even need something thicker. Whatever you use, put it in place before you tie yourself to the bar.
It's essential that you get a full range of motion out of the hip belt squats.    

If you have small enough plates on the bar you'll be able to get right down. If you haven't got enough small plates you'll have to build a little platform to stand on while you're squatting.

It's important that you get into a DEEP squat position.   
We're out of space . . . and I blame the add-ons for that. Practice the hip belt squats with fairly light weights for this month. Progress gradually and try to get the hang of it. We'll lay on a heavy program next month and you'll want to be ready for it. 



Sunday, October 14, 2018

Softening Up for Weight Gains, Part Three - John McCallum

Originally Published in This Issue (February, 1970)

For the past  two months we've been outlining a program that's designed to soften you up and force weight gains. The procedure, in brief, is to ease up on your normal routine for about three months and do a few of the fattening things normally considered taboo. Actually, once you try it you'll like it. The fat cat life feels pretty good once in a while. And the change, strangely enough, will do you a world of good. It takes a little while to get over the guilty feeling of watching your old lady cut the lawn, but once you manage it you're home free.

Some people are inclined to look down their noses in contempt at the lazy man type of weight gaining program. These are the puritans of weight training, and quite often they're heaping scorn on something they haven't even tried. They're the critics who attach more importance to antiquated theory than to constructive suggestion; the pseudo-academics more interested in preconceived opinion than in visible results. If someone like this is influencing you they'll probably talk you out of even trying the program. But if you do your own thinking, and I suggest you should, then you might want to give it a whirl. And you'll be pleasantly surprised if you do.

Once you decide to give the routine an honest try, you can figure on a few nice things happening to you. You can plan on a tremendous surge in your energy supply, greatly increased training enthusiasm, a whole new outlook on living, and, most of all, a big boost in your body weight. 

The principle of getting as lazy as possible for a short period of time isn't new. The idea of conserving your energy has been around for a long, long time. The old-timers, in fact, had a saying that became almost a cliche. "Never run when you can walk," they said. "Never walk when you can ride. Never stand when you can sit. Never sit when you can lie down."

Bodybuilding, at least in recent years, is a pretty positive thing. Most of the paths have been well explored and charted. Years ago bodybuilding failures ran high. More men failed, in fact, than succeeded. Guys beat their brain out for years and never got their arms past fifteen or their chests past forty. But today any trainee can make good progress. Everyone can't be Mr. America, of course, but everyone can build a strong, shapely, herculean body. And most of all, everyone can gain weight. There's no excuse for staying thin. If you're trying to gain weight and you're having trouble doing so, then you're doing something wrong and it's as simple as that. If your gains aren't coming, then you're making one or more of several clearly defined mistakes.

Probably the most common mistake in bodybuilding, and the one you're most likely to be making, is frittering away your energy on a multitude of projects. Versatility is a great thing in most endeavors. It's a positive asset if you're a professional handyman. But it's no help in bodybuilding, and particularly not if you're a hard gainer.

A lot depends, of course, on how much you want to accomplish. Almost any form of training will develop you a little bit, but if you want to gain a lot of weight, if you want to really bulk up, then you've got to dedicate yourself to that goal. You've got to channel all your energy into adding pound after pound of solid muscle to your body.

Gaining a lot of weight in a hurry is clearly a form of specialization. You must realize this. If you want to add twenty, thirty, or forty pounds of muscle, then you've got to put your mind to it. You've got to dedicate yourself. You've got to make a few sacrifices. You've got to conserve your energy and direct it towards a great and rapid increase in muscular bulk.

If you're dashing around and doing the million and one things that burn up energy then you're making a big mistake. Don't forget that gaining weight is specialization, and during the period of specialization you've got to restrict your outside activities. You can do anything you want to after you gain the weight, but while you're gaining it you've got to devote yourself to that one basic purpose.

My Uncle Harry is a good example. He put me on to the softening up thing in the first place. Uncle Harry packs around more shapely muscle than any man is really entitled to. He's got a lot of things going, like blonds, brunettes, and redheads, and he leads an incredibly active life, but when he decided to gain weight, he restricts everything else for that one purpose. He goes on bulk sprees from time to time, and when he does he gains weight like a herd of elephants.  

I was over at Uncle Harry's apartment a while ago. I asked him about some of the changes he makes in his normal way of life when he's on a bulk kick.

Uncle Harry stretched and yawned. He had on an enormous sweat shirt with a big button pinned to the front of it. The button read, "J. Edgar Hoover Sleeps With A Nite-Lite." "Well," he said, "I sleep a lot more than usual. I get nine or ten hours per night and a nap in the afternoon or early evening."

"Every day?" I asked him.

"Sure," he said. "I just wallow around and take it real cool."

"And that's one of the secrets, eh?"

"That's it," he said. "The nitty gritty."

"What else?" I asked.

"I get real lazy," he said. "I don't play any other sports, or jog, or do anything that burns up energy. I save everything for gaining weight."

"Doesn't it get boring?" I asked him.

"No," he said. "Not really. In fact, it's kinda nice for a change. It might get boring after a while, but don't forget this is only a three month deal. After the three months are up I go back to my normal way of life."

"That must be nice for the girls," I said. "They'd be getting pretty lonely by then."

"Uncle Harry polished his nails on his sweat shirt. "They are," he said, "but I'm worth it."

Let's get on with the exercise routine. It's a three month deal, you'll remember, and the routine for the first month looked like this:

Seated Press Behind Neck - 3 x 12
Squat - 1 x 30 with six deep breaths between each rep
Breathing Pullover 1 x 30
Stiff Legged Deadlift - 1 x 20

The squats are the most important exercise. They're to be done in puff and pant style with all the weight you can handle. Take about six deep breaths between each reps, and if you can walk properly afterwards you're not working hard enough.

The routine for the second month was a little longer, and looked like this:

Seated Press Behind Neck - 3 x 12
Standing Side Lateral Raise - 3 x 15
Rear Lateral Raise - 3 x 15
Squat - 1 x 30 with six deep breaths between each rep
Breathing Pullover - 1 x 30
Hip Belt Squat - 3 x 15
Stiff Legged Deadlift - 1 x 20
Shrug - 3 x 15
Lat Machine Pulldown - 3 x 15

The routine for the third month is different again:

The first exercise is the One Arm Military Press. This exercise can cause deltoid strains if you're not careful. Warm up well before you tackle it. Spend at least five minutes doing light presses, presses behind the neck, and lateral raises. Use very light weights for the warm-up. Just get your shoulders ready, don't wear them out.

When you've got your blood circulating well, do the one-arm presses. Maintain a very erect position. Don't sway over any more than five or ten degrees from the upright. You can hang onto a post or something with your free hand if you like. It'll help you to hold a strict military position.

Do the presses 5 sets of 12 with each arm. Alternate arms. Use a moderate weight for the first set, your heaviest weight for the second set and drop the poundage five pounds per set for each of the last three sets.

The second exercise is the Breathing Squat. Do 1 set of 20 reps with all the weight you can lift. If you've been working hard enough, this should be a pretty impressive poundage by now. TAKE THREE HUGE, GULPING BREATHS BETWEEN EACH REP AND LET IT ALL HANG OUT. As soon as you finish the last rep do 20 breathing pullovers with a real light weight.

You can have a five minute rest now, and you should need it badly. Some of you, I'm afraid, haven't grasped the concept of hard work on squats. You can figure as a rough rule of thumb that if you're not totally wiped out on the 20th rep then you're not working hard enough and you're not going to gain properly.

After you've rested up from the squats, you can go on with the rest of the program. The next exercise is the Hip Belt Squat, the same as in last month's program. Do 3 sets of 15. Hip belt squats, properly employed, will do more to bulk up and shape your thighs than any other single exercise. They don't have the overall growing effect that regular squats do, but for pure leg work they're unbeatable. Some of you seem to misunderstand the exercise, so we'll devote a little more space to it in another article.

The next exercise is the Stiff Legged Deadlift. Do them as in last month's routine -- 1 set of 20 as heavy as you can.

The next exercise is actually two exercises combined. You alternate Parallel Bar Dips ->with->  Concentration Curls. Do a set of dips and then a set of curls for each arm. Then another set of dips and another set of curls for each arm, and so on. Do 15 sets of 10 reps in each exercise.

Start the dips with as much weight as you can handle tied around your waist. Cut the weight down each set and keep the reps up to 10. When you get down just your body weight you may have to drop the reps a bit. Do your best with it and keep working at it. The weight isn't too important in the curls. Use a moderate poundage and reduce it as you have to. The important thing is to get a good pump. You should be blown right up when you finish the final sets of the sequence.

The whole routine, then, looks like this:

One Arm Military Press - 5 x 12
Squat - 1 x 20 with three deep breaths between each rep
Breathing Pullover - 1 x 20
Hip Belt Squat - 3 x 15
Stiff Legged Deadlift - 1 x 20
Parallel Bar Dip - 15 x 10
alternated with
Concentration Curl - 15 x 10

That completes the program. Keep your supplement intake very, very high and follow the dietary suggestions from last month.

I'm running out of space. Give it all you've got -
surprise your friends and confound your enemies. 

Softening Up for Weight Gains, Part Two - John McCallum

Originally Published in This Issue (January, 1970) 

I went to visit my Uncle Harry the other night. He's got a one bedroom thing on the 12th floor. He met me at his door.

"C'mon in," he said, "and I'll be with you in a minute. I'm on the phone."

He went into his bedroom. I walked into the living room but I could hear him talking on the phone. "Listen, Shirl," he said, "call me some other time, will you? I've got company."

Uncle Harry's living room is right out of Playboy. The furniture is black leather and the floor is three inches of crimson wall-to-wall. He's got deep toned semi-abstracts on the walls, and a professional looking bar in the corner with enough booze eon the shelf to float a small boat.

Uncle Harry came out of his bedroom.

"What's with all the sauce?" I asked him. "You don't drink that much of it, do you?"

"I don't drink at all," he said. "The girls do, though."

"They're not very smart girls," I said.

The phone rang and Uncle Harry went back into the bedroom. "Not tonight, Bev," I heard him say. "I've got company."

He walked into the living room again. He had on cowboy boots, checked flares with a three inch belt, a tan turtleneck, and a creamy colored cardigan. 

"You know, Uncle Harry," I said, "this is a real groovy pad."

He stifled a yawn. "Just four walls and a roof."

I squinted at him but he looked serious.

"Uncle Harry," I said. "You're unreal. How do you do it?"

"How do I do what?" he said.

"You know what I mean," I said. "How do you stay so young?"

He frowned. "What do you meanay so young? I ain't that old, you know."

"How old are you?" I asked him.

He looked up at the ceiling. "Around forty."

"Sure," I said. "Second time around."

He grinned at me. "How old do you think I am?"

I thought for a moment. "About a hundred and seven."

"Fifty-eight," he said. "Fifty-eight and not a day more."
The phone rang and he went into the bedroom. "Sounds good, Alice," he said. "Not tonight, though."

He came out again.

"What I mean is you look like about twenty-eight," I said. "How do you do it?"

The phone rang again.

"Sorry, Flo," he said. "Not tonight. I've got company."
He came out of the bedroom.

"Listen, Uncle Harry," I said. "Would it be better if I went home and phoned you?"

"It's okay," he said. "I took it off the hook."

"Jeez, Uncle Harry, you didn't have to do that," I said. "I'm not that much company."

He sat down. "You're not company at all. I got somebody else coming over tonight and you got exactly one half hour."

"Okay, Uncle Harry," I said. "I'll be gone. I just wanted to find out some more about that softening up thing you do."

"What do you want to know about it?" he said.

"Everything," I said. "Like why it works, for example."

He thought about it for a minute. "The big thing, I think, is that it's such a change. You do the minimum amount of training -- just a few growing exercises. You eat a lot more. You burn up fewer calories. You change your mental approach. You have to gain weight."

"Isn't there a danger of getting fat?" I asked him.

"Some," he said. "You gotta watch it. I usually put on a little fat when I'm doing the thing, but it's easy to work off afterwards and the extra surge is worth it."

"Gimme some more details," I said.

"Well, first, of course, there's the workout," he said. "I make a few changes in that."

"Like what?"

"I already told you what I do the first month, didn't I?"

"Yeah," I said. 'You did. Seated press behind neck, 3 x 12. Squats, 1 x 30 with six big breaths between each rep. Breathing pullovers, 1 x 30. And stiff-legged deadlifts, 1 x 20.
"Right," he said. "That's for the first month. Now, for the second month, I make a few additions.

"I still start with the press behind neck," he said, "for three sets of twelve. But, when I finish them, I go straight into lateral raises for the deltoids. I do them standing erect for three sets of fifteen, and then bent forward at right angles to the floot for another three sets of fifteen.

"The big thing," he said, "is to pump the deltoids. Don't worry too much about how much weight you use. Do them in very strict style, with as little rest between sets as possible.

"I take a short break," he said, "and then do the squats and pullovers, both with plenty of heavy breathing. One set of thirty each.

"Then," he said, " I do hip belt squats. I cinch the bar up real tight under the crotch, use small plates on the bar, and put a 2 x 4 under my heels. That way I can squat right down until I'm practically sitting on the floor. I do three sets of fifteen and my thighs pump up like balloons.

"Now," he said, "I do the stiff-legged deadlifts the same way as the first month. But, when I'm finished them, I do shrugs. Three sets of fifteen as heavy as I  can. I try and get a full range movement out of it so that my shoulders raise and lower three or four inches.

"And finally," he said, "I do pulldowns to the back of the neck with the lat machine. I use a medium width grip, not too much weight, and concentrate on getting a good pump."

"That sounds like a pretty short workout," I said.

"It makes you grow," he said. "That's the main thing."

"What else do you do that's different?" I asked him.

Uncle Harry got up and turned on the stereo. It's a thousand bucks worth of mahogany and gold mesh with more controls on it than a rocket ship. The whole thing is faintly illuminated by a dark green swag lamp hanging right above it.

"Anything you'd like to hear?" he asked me.

"Anything," I said. "It doesn't matter."

"How about a little Deanna Durbin?" he said. "Or maybe some Nelson Eddy?"

I ignored him.

"Just kidding," he said. "Camp is out."

He put on a Gordon Lightfoot.

"Well?" I said.

He sat down again. "I change my diet a bit," he said. "I'm always on a supplemented, high-protein diet, you know, but I loosen up a bit for the gaining thing. I still take the supplements and proteins and all, but I add a few things I don't usually eat."

"Like what?"

"Desserts," he said. "But it's a change, and that's the idea of the whole program. It gives you a load of extra calories so you can soften up and gain weight."

"Anything else?" I asked him.

"Oh, sure," he said. "I eat potatoes and bread, too. Normally, I hardly ever eat them, so it's a real treat for me. I bake the potatoes and slather them with butter and grated cheese and eat them skins and all."

"Do you eat white bread?" I asked him.

"Oh, no," he said. "Just whole wheat. I prowl through the European stores and the delicatessens and buy the darkest, heaviest bread I can find. Bohemian rye and pumpernickel and so on. I make it into big, thick sandwiches with cheese or meat or something and wash them down with milk."

"You still drink milk, eh?"

"Sure," he said. "More than ever."

"How much?"

"When I'm on this program," he said, "I drink at least four quarts a day. Sometimes more."

"That's a lot of milk," I said.

"Sure," he said, "but it does the trick. It's really great for softening up and gaining."

"Okay," I said. "Buy any time you see a bull coming, you better brace yourself."

"Don't worry," he said. "I will."

"Anything else?"

"Supplements," he said. "Take a lot of supplements."

"You always do, don't you?"

"Yeah," he said, "I do. But I take about twice as many on this program. It makes all the difference."

"What do you take""

"Practically everything," he said. "I use protein powder, vitamins and minerals, good oils, anything I feel like. I just take an abundance of everything and don't worry too much about it."

"It sounds like a pretty creamy deal," I said. "What else do you do?"

Uncle Harry opened his mouth to speak, but the intercom buzzed and beat him to it. He went over and spoke into it.

"Great," he said. "C'mon up."

He walked over and put his hand on my shoulder. "That's it," he said. "Split."

"What d'ya mean?" I said. The half hour ain't up yet."

"I know," he said. "But Trixie got here a little early."

He took my arm and ushered me to the door.

"Listen," I said. "I want to talk about the rest of your progarm."

"And we will," he said. "Some other time."

He opened the door and pushed me out into the hall. The elevator doors opened and a redhead stepped out. She came down the hall with her lips parted and a walk that would have been censored out of an Italian movie. Uncle Harry took her arm and guided her through his door.

"Okay," I said. "But I want to know about the program. I'll phone you."

He stepped into his apartment. "Not tonight," he said. "I've got company."

Softening Up for Weight Gains, Part One - John McCallum

Originally Published in This Issue (December 1969) 

Brandyside is four and a half miles of tawny sand fronting the blue Pacific. It's the best beach in the area. Every morning, sun worshippers by the thousand pour on to the hot sand and eat candy bars and picnic lunches and prostrate themselves before their god. And every night, man being the sloppy beast he is, the big machine from the city lumbers down the beach and scoops up the day's collection of wax paper, beer cans, Popsicle sticks and Hershey bar wrappers abandoned by the multitude in blithe defiance of the "No Littering" signs posted every five hundred feet. 

I go down to the beach every chance I get. I like to lie around and practice my guitar. My friend Ollie comes along quite often and we sit on the sand and soak up the sun and argue about everything.

We were down at Brandyside about three months ago. I was hacking away at "Eleanor Rigby" and Ollie was staring through a set of 15X zoom binoculars at a dozen teenage girls in bikinis playing volleyball a hundred feet down the beach.

"Tremendous," he muttered.

"Ollie," I said, "if your old lady comes down here and catches you ogling those bubblegummers she'll punch your head in."

Ollie snorted his indignation. "For a healthy interest in the game?" he said. "For a spartan appreciation of the fine points of sport?"

"I'm sure you appreciate the fine points," I said. "But I doubt they've got much to do with sport." 

Ollie swung the glasses around and looked up the beach. He jerked and his mouth dropped open.

"My god," he blurted.

"What is it" I said. "More bikinis?"

Ollie dropped the glasses and pointed. "Look!"

I turned and looked. About two hundred and fifty pounds of muscle in hippie sandals, curly black hair, bright red jogging shorts, dark glasses, and Buddhist prayer beads was swaggering up the beach with a reasonable facsimile of Raquel Welch on one hand and a monstrous ice cream cone in the other. Every woman for a straight mile down the beach was standing up.

I waited until they were almost up to us. "Hey, Uncle Harry," I yelled. "Careful where you kick that sand."

He walked over. The frames of his sunglasses were shaped like hearts and the glass had a reddish tinge.

"That's a pretty cool set of shades," I said.

"Nothing, really." He adjusted the glasses.

I looked him up and down. "Uncle Harry, you must have gained fifty pounds."

"Forty," he said. He shook his arm and the muscles rolled like truck tires.

"You know Ollie," I said.

"Sure." Uncle Harry grinned at the girl. "This is Bibsy."

Bibsy popped her gum and took a deep breath.

Ollie made a strangling noise.

"What have you been doing, Uncle Harry?" I said. "You're as big as a horse."

"Not much," he said. "Just a little thing I do every year or so."

"What d'ya mean?"

"Gaining weight," he said. "I soften up and gain a lot of weight and then I trim it down for definition. I always end up looking a lot better."

"What do you mean, soften up?" I asked him.

"Just that," he said. "I soften up and gain weight."

Bibsy whispered in Uncle Harry's ear. He smiled and patter her shoulder. "Bibsy wants to know if I can hold your guitar a minute. She wants to take my picture with it."

"Of course," I said. "I'll even snap the picture."

I handed Uncle Harry the guitar, took the camera, and stepped back ten feet. He put the strap around his neck and hit the strings with a dramatic flourish.

"Take it easy, Uncle Harry," I said. "That ax is worth five hundred bucks."

Ollie leaned over. "Does your uncle play a guitar?"

"Are you kidding?" I said. "The old lecher can't even turn a radio on properly." I sighted through the view-finder. "O.K."

Uncle Harry placed a paw delicately on the strings, flexed his lats, and beamed at the camera. "Fess up," he said. "Do I or do I not look like half of Simon and Garfunkel?" 

I stepped farther back. "You look like three-quarters o the Norman Luboff Choir," I said. Deflate a bit so I can get you all in."

I snapped the shutter and Bibsy squealed delightedly. There was a spatter of applause. I glanced over my shoulder. The girls had stopped playing volleyball and were looking at Uncle Harry. He bowed graciously and they gave him another little hand.

"Listen," I said, "tell me more about this softening up thing."

"There's nothing to it, really," Uncle Harry said. "I find if I boost my body weight way up once in a while, it pays off in the long run. When I train down, I look better than ever and I'm all hopped up on training again."

"What about the softening up part, though?" I asked him.

"Well," he said, "You know when you've been training for a long time you kinda get into a rut. The gains come slow and you get pretty bored with the whole deal."

"Almost like going stale?" I said.

"Yeah," he said. "Something like that. Anyway you need something to spark your interest and bring some big gains. That's why I do the softening up thing."

The volleyball players had wandered over for a closer look at Uncle Harry. They were bunched up about twenty feet away with their eyes bugging out. Bibsy moved in a little tighter.

"Tell me more, I said.

Uncle Harry put his arms over his head and stretched slowly. There was a big murmur. I looked about. There were at least forty people, mostly women, standing in a big circle around us.

"Well," he said. "The first thing I do is get as lazy as possible. I stop all outside activity." 

Bibsy cleared her throat.

"Almost all outside activity," Uncle Harry said. "I quit swimming, jogging, sports, anything that burns up calories." He paused for a minute. "There's quite a bit to it," he said, "as well as the exercise part. Which do you want first?"

"The exercise part," I said.

Uncle Harry flexed an arm very casually and beamed at the crowd. The volleyballers gasped and moved in closer.

"That's one of the secrets," he said. "That's where I make a big change."

"Like what?" 

"It's a progressive thing," he said. "It takes three full months, and I use a different program each month."

I looked around again. We were attracting more people all the time. "Listen, Uncle Harry," I said. "Either put on some clothes or else talk faster, will you? If this mob gets any bigger, the cops'll come down and spray Mace on us."

Uncle Harry smiled at everybody. He's got teeth like a toothpaste ad. The volleyballers were within touching distance now and Bibsy was looking worried. 

"The program's strictly for gaining weight," he said. "Softening up and gaining weight. It's usually good for at least twenty-five pounds." He took off his sunglasses and peered at me. "You might think the programs are odd, though."

"Try me," I said.

"Well, the first month I only use four exercises," he said. "The whole workout only takes about fifteen minutes. It's really a lazy man's program."

"I start off with the seated press behind neck," he said. "I do three sets of twelve in very strict style. I use a moderate weight for the first set. Then I increase it twenty pounds for the second set, and finally drop it ten pounds for the third set.

"Now I take a little rest," he said, "and then I do the most important exercise in the program -- the breathing squat. I use all the weight I can handle for one set of thirty reps with about six deep breaths between each rep."

"That's a lot of reps, isn't it?" I asked him.

"Yes," he said. "It's a helluva lot of work, too. I'm absolutely gassed when I'm finish. I puff for five minutes afterwards. But it's essential. The program won't work without it."

"Okay," I said. "Then what?"

"Then I do a set of light pullovers," he said. "For thirty reps."

"That's three exercises," I said. "What's the fourth one?"

"Stiff-legged deadlifts," he said. One set of twenty reps with all the weight I can lift. I do them standing on a block so I can lower the bar right down to my toes." 

"And that's all?" I said. "That don't seem like a heck of a lot."

"It's not," he said. "But that's only for the first month and it's only part of the bag." He cleared his throat. "I'll give you the other parts of the program and tell you why the whole thing works." 

Uncle Harry tensed a thigh and there was a big murmur from the crowd. I looked about. There was a solid wall of people around us, all gawking at Uncle Harry.

"Listen," I said. "I think I'll just take your word for it right now and you can give me the details some other time. "This crowd's getting ridiculous." 

"Whatever you think," Uncle Harry said. He bounced his pecs and grinned at the commotion it caused. He took Bibsy's hand, pushed through the crowd, and sauntered away. The volleyball players watched him go. They whispered and giggled to each other till he was out of sight. Finally they went back to the game, but their hearts didn't seem in it anymore.

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