Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Pushing For Power Part Five - Bill Seno

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Bulking Up

“If you want to get big you have to eat everything.” Those are words I recall from Sergio Oliva, a Mr. Olympia. Even though he is a bodybuilder, the words still apply, whether it pertains to power, bodybuilding, Olympic lifting or the sport of sitting.

This is, of course, not earth shaking news, but there have been some confusions because of protein diets and supplements; and everyone knows that protein is what muscles need to grow. But protein alone can only cause a body to lose weight, for without the needed amounts of carbohydrates and fats, the body will lose weight.

Now, if a bodybuilder of lifter is fat (excess fat is useless to the athlete) then he will want to take in a higher amount of protein and less of the other two. There is one problem, though. He will most likely lose strength because not only will the fat go, but so will some muscle size.

So dieting is one thing, but using supplements is another. One must restrict certain foods and amounts from the diet if one wishes to lose weight or “diet.” On the other hand, the use of supplements are above and beyond the normal food intake to make certain the body is getting everything it needs.

Youth has a better way of handling weight loss than age does. A younger lifter will retain more strength with weight loss than an older lifter will. Both will lose strength, but the older lifter will lose a higher percentage of strength. Again, none of this is earth shattering news, but it in necessary to lay the foundation for size and strength by eliminating the attraction for losing weight for the lifter who wants to get stronger. I have never witnessed a gain in strength that accompanied a loss in bodyweight, unless the person was not developed as a lifter or was doing no exercises to begin with. This type of individual would gain strength if he increases any kind of workload, providing that the weight loss wasn’t too magnanimous.

The point of too much weight loss brings us to the concept of how much is too much. For the lifter it is too much if the lifts stagnate. When the squat, bench or deadlift level off and weaken, it is either due to inadequate recuperation or inadequate bodyweight for the tonnage that a particular body is lifting.

Many cardiologists and other health practitioners would disagree with the direction of my proposition, and it is understandable. The heart, unless made strong enough, must handle a heavier load and pump more blood more often through more miles of vascularity. I know what doctors intend is healthier than what I do, but they and I also know what I say is fact. More strength comes with more bodyweight. This cannot be disputed. Besides, many athletes sacrifice pieces of their health for attainment of goals in their sports: chronic joint injuries in football, baseball, basketball, etc., chronic tendonitis, broken bones and disfigurement. Some greatly conditioned athletes have even died of cardiac arrest on football fields and basketball courts. In twenty four years I have never experienced a death of cardiac arrest due to this sport. I have read of a few deaths of older ex-lifters, but I have heard of more deaths within the lifting populace in the same age range and younger. I doubt if there is much difference between the two groups; however, a doctor once told me that the inception and current use of testosterone cypionate will demonstrate harmful effects in the coming years, especially atherosclerosis.

I am not forcing or advocating that gaining bodyweight be done by anyone. Adults can make up their minds in terms of priorities, and children are under the authority of their parents. I am strictly stating the facts as they are.

It does depend on many individual differences anyway. If some people gain weight, in spite of exercise, they will have a rise in blood pressure or heartbeat or cholesterol; others get no side effects from weight gain. These are some of the considerations when one makes a decision in terms of priorities.

Now, we can become involved in how to attain size and strength. Getting back to the first statement of this section, eating much and often is necessary. It is called force feeding which can be done in many small meals a day or in two or three very large meals. I suggest the former if you have the time because it is easier on the stomach; however, eating constantly gets old fast, and the lifter might feel sick or have nightmares about food and, in fact, even begin to lose weight. Before this happens, take a break and allow hunger to reenter the picture. When hunger returns and food is again enjoyed, be on top of your appetite before it disappears again. Give it a break and get hungry.

If solid foods become too overbearing, the possibility of large caloric intake is not over. The lifter can still drink his intake, which is another approach: fill 1/3 of a blender with milk, add fruit, ice cream, eggs, and a few packages of instant breakfast. Cottage cheese and/or soya powder can also be added. Drink it slowly, and you easily have another 2000 calories in one drink.

Of course, if the lifter does not lift heavily, the forced feeding will not show proper muscular results; the results will be too much excess fat.

Some lifters who want to gain weight are under the impression that they are already eating vast amounts. There are degrees of everything and we soon discover that there is always room for more, just as there is always room for more knowledge, speed or size. The stomach is capable of stretching, and in time the larger food intake becomes normal to the newly adjusted stomach and body size.

In regards to the type of foods to eat with this type of program, eat all good food from the basic good groups: meat, eggs, fish, cheese, bread, milk, vegetables, potatoes, and cereals. Pastries and refined sugar products will only be harsher on the body and increase the triglycerides in the blood. Triglycerides are that fraction of cholesterol which shows up in the low density lipoproteins – most harmful.

The body will get all that it needs from regular food, so health foods and supplements are not really necessary. They satisfy the mind more than the body; however, Vitamin C is excreted from the body each day and is an important catalyst for tissues so at least 1000 milligrams of it should be taken every day.

Many individuals are capable of lifting at the same bodyweight and gaining strength. Some of these people adjust with a higher protein diet to maintain a stable bodyweight, and others can consume huge amounts of food and gain no weight. The large intake keeps the energy level high and is good for a lifter’s constitution: he feels less physical and mental pressure. These latter individuals are lucky and usually approach a good lifting formula.

This is the world of the powerlifter who desires bulk and power. A regular physical examination and a very important and thorough test called an SMA 26 of chem screen should be taken periodically.


In this text I have tried to gather some of the most important principles that I have learned through experience and observation in 24 years of competitive lifting. There are more points of interest and maxims that many of us discover and apply in training, but it is only through observing the mistakes and accomplishments which we and others do in the lifting laboratory that eventually makes us learned veterans of the iron game.

Each individual is a separate issue, thus the principles: follow the body and be comfortable in lifting – go with your natural tendencies. What works for one may not for another, so whatever your strong points are, whether they are strong out of the bottom position of the squat or strong off the chest in the bench press, use that power and speed to advantage and make the second half of the lift come alive.

Many lifters disagree with some of the principles mentioned, but the fact remains that we must find poundages, sets, rest period, environments, and daily living which will apply only to ourselves. No one can dispute this.

So many lifters, young and old, lost in a confusion of reading matter and opinions constantly complain. They must start to look inward rather than outward, for this is the nature of our sport.

In spite of individual differences, we all have a common denominator also. Science gives us certain basic principles by which the body responds. Rest, good food, positive attitude, the overload principle and a few others, for example: use speed in lifting because speed x work = power; also, it is medically sound to incorporate light pumping and periodically because it aids healing; therefore, lifting longevity is likely. In the same medical sense it is unwise to push an injury, so work around it as much as possible.

Being too eager can, of course, cause injury, but for most lifters it causes staleness which means inability to recuperate. Don’t be insecure by always having to lift your record poundages. This can’t go on forever; it needs a break, so lighten up ad go down for higher reps. Your body will tell you when you are ready to take on heavier weights once again. Likewise, too many exercises make recovery difficult. We get most of our power from a few to several exercises, so limit the number of exercises to the three power lifts and a few auxiliaries – no more. Remember, also, the three powerlifts cannot be treated the same for best results, but gains can always be assured by a gain in bodyweight.

I love the sport of powerlifting. I was a pioneer during its inception and was doing the powerlifts before there was a sport, federation or rules. I want to see the lifters always get a fair shake and hope that commercialism and politics do not hurt the sport.

We are all unique – explore – find out what works for you and light the fire and keep it lit.

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