Saturday, January 2, 2010

Routines I Have Used - Clarence Ross

Routines I Have Used
by Clarence Ross (1951)

I have the type of mind which some would call methodical. I like to think things out and to plan each move, and I have always kept a careful record of my training programs as well as notes concerning what they have and have not done for me. In addition, my active work as an instructor has kept constantly aware of the various stages the lifter goes through, for in my gym I have members who are in all degrees of development, from rank beginners to real stars. Therefore, I have never lost touch with my past, even while thinking of the future. The exercise and developmental changes I went through are being reenacted before me by my pupils daily. I note that in each there is a similarity to the changes I went through, from beginner to advanced champion. In speaking to the various other advanced men I have found that they too went through stages which resembled my own, once I refreshed their memories with certain questions.

Therefore, for the first time, I believe it is possible for an author to present to his readers certain facts connected with the development of championship form which most of the stars went through, as brought out in the routines I followed myself. With this information at hand, the interested bodybuilder can pick up at the point in his own training which is approximately the same that my own was at a certain stage of my lifting career, and then, if he follow the PRINCIPLES and utilizes some of the workout IDEAS set down for that time he should be positive of making gains. In this way he will be able to eliminate programs which are too advanced for his level, and also be able to skip over those which are too elementary to do him much good.

It must be remembered that since I began my active career in 1940, there have been definite advances made in bodybuilding. Therefore, while I will give some of my actual programs, there will also be some comments added concerning these, based on my present experience with more modern methods. In this way, while the report of my training programs will be accurate, this report will also be brought up to current standards by my comments.

In 1948, weighing just 135 pounds, I began my training. At that time, sets were not very well known, at least not as we know them today, and the accepted training was the single set system in which a dozen of so basic exercises were followed, each 10 reps, never performing more than one set of any exercise, and never returning back to any exercise once you had completed a set of it.

At the very start, having practically no knowledge of weight training, I though like so many do, even to this day, that the exercise session consisted mainly of lifting weights above the head while in a standing position. For several months I did nothing but standing presses! I just lifted a weight to my shoulders, pushed it overhead, lowered it to shoulders, pressed it again and so on. Press, press and press . . . that was all! I got a little stronger in this particular exercise as a result, but didn’t have much muscle to show for my efforts after two months.

It was then that a training partner mapped out a more complete course for me, which was . . . one set, 10 reps each of the following: squats, shrugs, standing press, bentover rowing, bent arm lying laterals, barbell curl, upright rowing, repetition cleans to the shoulder, press behind neck, pullover, lying floor press and deadlift.

I trained three times a week and spent about 1½ years on this routine, or a very similar one, changing one exercise or so once in a while. In addition, I performed all exercises very stiffly and in rigid form which was the generally advised procedure at that time. I gained 30 pounds in that year and a half. Then I grew discouraged with my training for I had reached a sticking point, and gave up exercise for two years.

In looking back at this first routine I feel that for the beginner, with certain corrections such as grouping the exercises a bit differently, it was basically a good one. In fact it is quite similar to the ones given to the beginner in many systems of lifting. However, it was too limited. At first I made some nice gains, but then with no way to progress other than to add more weight to the various exercises I grew bored with the routine. It failed to continue to stimulate me and since there seemed to be no change possible to help me, I just gave up. Had I known about sets at that time, I would probably never have taken that long layoff. So by sticking to a beginner’s routine for too long I wasted about three years which could have been used to good advantage. This is one lesson every lifter can learn well – a routine must be changed from time to time to make it more progressive and interesting to avoid the sticking point in training and to keep enthusiasm going strong.

In 1942 I went into the service, weighing 155 pounds, having lost 10 pounds after giving up training. It was while in the service that I met my now good friend Leo Stern and recaptured my interest in the weights. The regular set system was still not well known at that time, but Leo mapped out a program which I will refer to as a split-set program. In it, there were 30 or 35 exercises and while more than one set of each exercise was not usually done one right after the other, a number of the exercises appeared more than once in the routine. This sample program will illustrate this: upright row, incline press, lateral raise, alternate curl and press with dumbells, pullover and floor press, rowing motion, dumbell curl, dip, upright row, incline press, lateral raise, dumbell curl, rowing motion, pullover and press, alternate curl and press with dumbells, dips, upright row, incline press, lateral raise, barbell curl, pullover and press, rowing motion, dip, situp, side bend, and then three sets of squats and two sets of leg raises.

As can be seen from the above routine, most of the exercises appeared more than once at various points in the program, but only in the squats and leg presses was a true set system practiced. The others were split up.

This method of training was popular at that time and was the forerunner of the regular set system as we know it today. It also combined a certain amount of flushing muscle principle as well as even a bit of the super set method. In addition, I relaxed my training style to some extent and included a form of moderate cheating in the movements.

I realized big gains in bulk, endurance and power from this program. Looking back that the program now I feel that better results would have been made if I had advanced right into a real set series as we now practice it. This split-set type of routine does not give the complete flushness of a regular set series, but it was such an improvement over anything I had done in the past that I made great gains. I continued to train three times a week as before . . . more frequent training was considered by most authorities at that time as being harmful, though rumors were beginning to get around about some of the stars who did more and who reported good results.

Now I went into the next advancement in my program. I noticed that my legs needed more work so I decided to specialize on them. While I did not train more than three days a week, in studying my own reactions to heavy leg work, I came to the conclusion that it would be necessary for me to split up my training and devote an exercise session entirely to them, with separate sessions for my upper body. I just didn’t have the energy to do it all in one workout. So on my three weekly workout days I performed all my upper-body work in the morning, and then this same day in the afternoon I did my squats and leg presses as well as calf raises. Basically, the exercises remained the same as listed above, with the exception that I did my leg work during a separate session devoted entirely to them. This plan is of course impractical for those who do not have the free time I was fortunate enough to have then, and based on my present experience I will say that it will work nearly as well for them if they do their leg work first in the training session when their energy is highest, and then follow this with their other exercises. This is a plan I follow to this day, for except before a contest I still train only three times a week, though my workouts are longer and harder than ever before.

At this time I once again hit a sort of sticking point in my training. I had made such great advances that there was now no question in my mind about continuing my training, but I knew that I needed a change. I felt as though I needed more power . . . that my strength had to be drastically increased so that I could extend myself more in future training. I reduced my repetitions in the exercises, used heavier weights and cut down the number of exercises in my program. I also included some weightlifting movements, such as heavy standing presses and repetition snatches and clean & jerks. The lifting movements were first on the program, and several sets were done of each. The balance of the routine had squats, shrugs, deadlifts, curls, pullover, bench press and so on. Not too many exercises and still not performed in regular set series style, though the same exercises did appear several times in the workout.

On this program I did indeed gain a lot of power and looked better. My enthusiasm was at a real high. Once again, the change did me good, and another training approach – Power Training – had given me another step forward.

It was then that a number of us on the coast, who were training together with similar methods, began to think about the 1945 Mr. America title. We planned for this well in advance . . . in fact, six months in ahead. The first three months I spent on a semi-specialized program. I trained the entire body, but paid special attention to one part, such as the arms, for several weeks, concentrating on these mainly, and filling in with other all around exercises. I still practiced the split-set program, with most of the exercises being performed several times at different points in the program. Every few weeks I specialized on another part until I hit all major body groups with specialized movements. I also used some cables and other pieces of apparatus during this time which added to my muscularity and general improvement.

I then made a change and went on a bulk course. I needed more weight. The way we trained for bulk in those days was to sort of “fatten” up. This was done by following a limited program, one set each of the following: standing press, barbell curl, upright row, bench press, incline bench press, deadlift, squat, leg press and calf raise. Each exercise was done for 10 reps and only for one set. In addition I drank a lot of milk, took life easy and gained weight.

It was then when personal temperament and physical type manifested itself to me. To this day I still find that a routine similar to the one above gives me more bulk, though today at my more advanced level I perform three sets of each exercise. However, I know that other advanced men find that lower reps suit them better, so all that we can learn from the above is that a curtailed routine, one in which less than the normal amount of exercises are performed is good for bulk. THE REPS AND SETS WILL DEPEND A LOT UPON THE INDIVIDUAL. It is important that you realize this.

Then, after the above routine for a month, I went into a definition program. In doing this I followed the same exercises, but increased the repetitions to 15 or 20 and shortened my rest breaks between exercises. Here too, such a plan has since always suited me best. But certain other lifters have found a different plan as being best for them when seeking definition, such as performing a greater number of exercises, or even using very heavy weights in their limit lifts. So the lesson to be learned from this is that FOR MORE DEFINITION YOU MUST WORK HARDER . . . either more reps, more exercises or heavier lifts . . . limit lifts. Exactly how you apply this principle depends upon YOUR REACTION FROM PERSONAL TESTS, but the theory will always work when used.

The last month before the contest I trained every day, pumping up every muscle in my body to the limit. I split up the program, performing all upper body training one day and lower body the next. A large variety of movements were followed, and my exact routine would serve no purpose other than to bring out that fact. I used weighted boots, headstrap, wrist roller, kettlebells and every exercise and apparatus known! This was the most advanced short-term pre-contest training known at that time, though today certain stars train three times a day before a contest, devoting a training session to one major part.

After the Mr. America contest, which I am proud to have won, I went into a regular set series program for the first time, performing this routine three times a week, 3 sets, 10 reps each exercise: squat, calf raise, bench press, bentover rowing, upright rowing, barbell curl, reverse curl, triceps curl and situp.

Since that time I have followed many routines and to set them all down would be meaningless. At times I specialized mainly on one part of the body, at other times trained for bulk, sometimes for power and often for definition. Any single routine I followed would not necessarily be of benefit to any other person, for each was devised expressly for myself and the results I wanted at the time. Except before a contest, I still train three times a week. Before a contest I train more often, sometimes several times a day, six days a week. I always perform sets of exercises and do not follow a strict exercise style, cheating in most of the movements. Without the set system and the cheating exercises I am certain I never would have developed as fully as I have.

So in analyzing the various routines I have followed, this pattern is formed . . . first a beginner’s routine until progress reaches a pause, then a more advanced routine which in my case was a split-set program, but which experience has taught me would have been better had it been a regular set series program as we know it today. Then, when there is a slow up in progress again, work for POWER to get a new drive. Then specialize for bulk, definition or improvement of any lagging part. Plan your peak well in advance, working up to a peak in training intensity shortly by working out more than three times a week, even several short and intense sessions per day. Finally – BE RECEPTIVE!

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