It is only natural that, considering the wide variety of people involved in the Iron Game, opinions will vary regarding what constitutes a good physique, or, even a Great physique. I believe that everyone is entitled to his own image of the ideal, and that everyone has a perfect right to the opinion that John Jones is fabulous, and that Sam Smith is far from it. After all, if it were self-evident who had the best physique, what would be the use of physique contests? Think about that.
The general goal of MOST of Iron Man readers seems to be threefold:
1) To build great physical strength, health and power,
2) To build a solid, well formed, muscular body, and
3) To reach high level of attainment as either a weight-lifter (power of Olympic) or as a bodybuilder.
Now, the foregoing goals -- to be realistically set -- must be viewed by the trainee from his own unique, individual standpoint. No two people are exactly alike -- and what is a realistic goal for ME as a bodybuilder (say, 16" upper arms) may be for you -- who possess massive, thick bones and great natural strength -- an idiotic too easily reached goal. It might not stir up enough determination in you to even get out of bed! Too, if I a a slender, slightly built, small boned trainee can ever manage a good press with 200 pounds, I've turned myself into a living powerhouse! But you -- who possibly were BORN with the natural strength of a piano mover -- may well be able to shoot for a 270 or even a 300 pound press, before considering that you're "strong enough."
So the standards must be tailored to the man -- not vice versa. Strive always to develop YOURSELF into someone who is better than he was; forget about "competing" against others. That's a fool's game. Competition of the "I am better than you are" category breeds insanity, if, in fact, it is not a product of it. Competition with ONESELF breeds MANHOOD.
Happily there are several proven principles of effective physical training with weights that apply to everyone who exercises. This month I want to elaborate on one of them: THE AMOUNT OF ACTUAL TRAINING YOU NEED IN ORDER TO PRODUCE GOOD RESULTS. No matter if you're big or small, a bodybuilder or a lifter, this applies to YOU!
Fundamentally, weight training can be done in one of two ways:
1) By employing only light poundages -- or possibly moderate poundages -- and using many sets of whatever exercise one does. Usually, this type of routine employs the "little" exercises to a high degree (i.e., concentration curls, lateral raises, triceps kickbacks, leg curls, etc.), and great muscle PUMP and ISOLATION is sought from each workout. This is the currently popular method of training for, I would guess, 50 to 65 percent of the musclemen of the WORLD. The system requires up to 3 hours for a workout (sometimes even more) and is followed, usually, four to six days a week.
For the easy gainers who can keep up to such an exhausting schedule, the results, at least LOOK spectacular and very, very impressive. However, the sad and sorry fact of the matter is this: THERE IS NO WAY FOR ROUTINES OF THIS TYPE TO BUILD POWER IN PROPORTION TO SIZE OR APPEARANCE. And -- rather than building good health and stamina -- these routines can very easily have a detrimental effect on one's health and well being. After a sufficient period of this type of "training," I have known muscle fanatics to suffer states of physical staleness and exhaustion that require a doctor's treatment.
Why does this method fail to build POWER in proportion to appearance? Simple. The power muscle groups (legs, back, chest and shoulders) are almost totally neglected. Good, heavy weights are never (and CAN never be) used in this kind of marathon binge, so they never reach true development; they only get "impressive looking" via pump. Inferior exercises are used to the exclusion of the real body-BUILDERS (presses, squats, rowing, bench work, dead lifting, etc.).
2) The second fundamental way of training is by FAR the least popular, and, also by far, the MOST SENSIBLE AND EFFECTIVE. It calls for between one and three heavy sets of perhaps six to nine basic exercises. Under NO circumstances are more than four training periods a week used, since the trainee either works out thrice weekly or every other day.
Light, easy poundages have no place in this type of workout, and the trainee works to his utter limit for about an hour to an hour and a half.
Only when very advanced, will a trainee of this school begin to use a few muscle "shaping" exercises (like concentration curls). But even if they are used -- they are used sensibly.
The appearance of an advanced trainee who has followed this type of training is a well shaped, athletic, muscular body. He does not look like an anatomy chart; and he does not look like he is made out of big, inflated, flesh-colored balloons. He looks like a MAN. And, if anything, his muscles pack more than enough raw, solid power to back up their large, impressive appearance.
Now -- to relate the foregoing to our central issue: the correct amount of training.
Obviously, the second method of training is the superior (even if it is the least often employed) method. And you don't need to be Einstein to figure out why.
The trainee, when he employs the heavy, sensible type of routine, is perpetually BUILDING and DEVELOPING and IMPROVING his physique and his physical fitness and health. In the lighter type of training, the trainee is merely inflating the most conspicuous muscle groups and thereby making them showy. By doing this sort of thing to an extreme, he can TEAR DOWN his stamina, health and energy reserves. He does something that can be dangerous to the health: he depleted his vital recuperative powers.
The correct amount of training you need is the amount necessary to STIMULATE MUSCLE GROWTH. Good, solid GROWTH -- fiber thickness and power in the sinews. And when you train properly, you need very, very little training -- compared to the pumping methods.
I do not hesitate to say that ANY LIFTER (bodybuilder, Olympic competitor or power lifter) can get, no matter how advanced he may be, a complete, growth stimulating workout in one and a half hours -- if indeed, one hour is not enough.
During warm summer weather when is is only natural to train a bit more (for a truly advanced trainee) may be required. But in cool or cold weather, when adequate sleep and nutrition have been had by the trainee, it is never necessary to spend more than an hour and a half at a workout.
If you are taking more than one and a half hours to train, then you're definitely doing something wrong.
1) Using weights that are too light;
2) Doing too many exercises, and/or;
3) Doing too many sets.
So, get the following three points securely embedded in your head:
1) Use HEAVY WEIGHTS if you're serious about making good gains.
2) NEVER go over three sets on any one exercise, if you're training on a body-BUILDING program.
3) Restrict every program you set up to NEVER MORE THAN NINE, BASIC, HEAVY DUTY EXERCISES. Usually just five to six exercises if plenty.
Too many people have a QUANTITY FETISH. They always think that "more" equals "better." But they are wrong. The most fantastic, well made man's wristwatch will look outrageously ridiculous if even a movie star wears two of them. Why? Because ONE IS ENOUGH. And more than enough is always TOO MUCH. Ditto for physical training. No matter how good any exercise program or schedule may be, when you OVER-do it, you fail.
In bodybuilding, usually two sets is adequate in most exercises. In fact, if you're really putting out 101 percent when you train, it is very hard to imagine how you could do more.
EFFORT and CONCENTRATION on ONE set is better than five sets carelessly or halfheartedly done.
You should develop your level of concentration and mind-body control to the point where TWOSETS OF CURLS AND TWO SETS OF BENCH PRESSES gives you an adequate, more than enough type of arm, bicep-tricep and chest workout. If you keep trying your best, you CAN reach that stage.
You should never, never let a workout for bodybuilding or lifting exceed the equivalent of a MAXIMUM of nine exercises done for three sets each. That's 27 sets. 27 brutally hard, grueling sets that are enough for Paul Anderson. And anyone who thinks that only 27 sets can't possibly be a good workout isn't training the way I'm pushing training!
But try it MY WAY for a couple of months, not yours (or some 'Trainer of Champions") and SEE WHAT HAPPENS! Work each set until your muscle fibers practically scream for mercy, but STOP once you've adequately worked each major muscle group. I am willing to bet that after TWO exercises (each done for three sets) you'll truly feel like calling it quits and taking a shower. If you don't, you're loafing.
In each set you do the last two reps should be doubtful. They should call upon your will -- your deepest desire to MAKE IT -- your ambition, and your "grit." Think of it as a test, if you will -- to prove yourself to yourself. Any way you want to slice it, you'll have to WORK HARD for that build you're after. I'm all for you, and I want you to make it; but I can only tell you how to do it -- YOU have to "do" it.
Do not train more than three times a week if you want to build up considerably, or if you're a hard gainer.
I would offer the following routine to get you started on some REAL gaining:
1) Press Behind Neck, 2 x 10-12
2) Curls, 1 x 10-12
3) Bench Press, 2 x 10-12
4) Bentover Row, 2 x 12-15
5) Squat, 1 x 18-20
6) Pullover, 1 x 15-20
7) Either Leg Raises or Situps, 2 x 25.
An example of a good, basic routine for the semi-advanced trainee with several years' experience is:
1) Press Behind Neck, 2 x 8
2) Dumbbell Curls, 2 x 8
3) Bench Press, 3 x 8-10
4) Bentover Row, 3 x 10-12
5) Squat, 2-3 x 10-12
6) Flat Flyes (after each set of squats), 20 reps
7) Stiff Legged Deadlift, 1-2 x12-15
8) Situps on a steep incline, 1 x 25-30.
Please bear in mind that every set in such a program must be worked to the point of ABSOLUTE EXERTION-OUTPUT. Dilly-dallying won't do; now will simply 'running through" the exercises.
The representative INTERMEDIATE program has but 20 sets in all. Properly done, they should wipe you right out.
What sort of program might some thick boned, fairly strong, naturally well-endowed advanced fellow employ? Try this:
1) Military Press off Racks, 3 x 8-10
2) Incline DB Curls, 3 x 8-10
3) Bench Press or Incline Bench Press, 3 x 10-12
4) One Arm Bentover DB Row, 3 X 12-15
5) Squat, 3 x 12-15
6) Pullovers or Flat Flyes after each set of squats, 20 reps.
7) Deadlift off Blocks, 3 x 10-12
8) Calf Raise, 3 x 20-30
9) Hanging Leg Raise, 3 x 15-20.
Lest any man out there think the above isn't "Space Age" enough to produce results, let him simply try it; but remember -- MY WAY, not the "accepted" way. HARD. Really, brutally hard.
How much training time do you need?
Not too much, really.
And you get so much from every minute you give!
Enjoy Your Lifting!