Saturday, June 18, 2011

George Frenn, Powerlifter - Armand Tanny

Bill West, left, spotting Steve Merjanian
photo courtesy Laree Draper

George Frenn, on the left

George Frenn, Power Lifter
by Armand Tanny (1966)

“Group Firing”, “Receptor Principle”, “Body Leverage”, “Change of Heart Syndrome”, “Base of Support”, “Labyrinthian Principle” – these dazzling terms tossed around by a far-out athlete characterize the space age technique of weight training. Exalted by enthusiasm, bursting with facts, figures and muscles, saturated with education, possessed of a fiery ambition that seems the natural outcome of bubbling health, George Frenn, Power Lifter, Hammer Thrower and student of Physical Education, is the happy and precise combination of all things that go into making a space age champion. At 5’11”, weighing 244, he has the compact look of featherweight and moves with a coordination and speed directed by a soft of built in electronic circuitry. Hal Connelly, Olympic Hammer Throw Champion, who gave George his start six years ago, says this about his precocious student: “After seeing all the other I would say George Frenn has the best chance of being the greatest hammer thrower in the world.” But when George is not training for the hammer, he is totally involved in power lifting. “My whole purpose in power lifting is to improve my hammer throw,” says George. In the process he won the Southern California Power Lift heavyweight title for 1966, and is aiming for the bigger contests. A practical competitor, however, he views the behemoths of power lifting with alarm: Gene Roberson, 280: Pay Casey, 280; Terry Todd, 345. “How can I compete with these big men,” he says. “The heavyweight classification is ridiculous. Unless they establish a two hundred and fifty pound class, I will probably wrap up power lifting when I make an eighteen hundred total.” It is more of a lament than a complaint, and it is justified. But when one studies the nature of this man a bit closer, one realizes with a strong hunch that he just might five these heavies a very bad time of it.

Before he started to train with the power lift group West Side Barbell Club operated by Bill West – that was a year ago – he had trained mostly alone for four years in his own garage. But he was dogging the ’64 Olympics then, and hammer throwing occupied him. For long stretches he didn’t power lift at all. Only in the past year has his great potential become apparent. By the time his best training lifts reach print – Bench Press 430, Squat 705, Dead Lift 665 – he will probably have made ancient history of them. Still growing at 24, he honestly believes he has found the secret of power lifting. Part of it could be his heavily structured frame. His thigh measures 28 ½ and just above the knee, 23, uncommonly large, a kind of structure that supports his “Body Leverage” theory. Mainly his success combines hard work with applied physiological and psychological principles.

The “Receptor Principle” particularly fascinates George. It puts lifting on a higher level of awareness he believes. Only a small percent of available muscle fibers that make up a particular body of muscle are activated in a simple muscle contraction. The strength of the contraction depends on how many fibers contract at the same time. “Group Firing”, as it is called, can be controlled largely by conscious thought. It becomes a confidence game. Simply telling yourself the weight is heavy and that you must lift it doesn’t usually work. The muscle must be tricked. Take the classic case of the 120 pound woman who lifted the end of an auto off her injured child. Fierce motivation propelled her. Muscle can be tried into making super lifts. The available nerve channels are there, but discovery takes searching. Conscious searching. Discovery is by chance. Take the case, as another example, of the man who saved twelve thousand dollars over a period of years from money he had found on the streets, only because he looked for it. How does the brain receive the impressions (Receptor Principle) that will send out the message to the muscle to contract stronger (Group Firing)? One was is the touch system developed by chance by George and Bill West working together. The hand of the training partner on the bar or the body during a limit attempt offers the additional “power of suggestion”. Once when George was struggling to deadlift 710 off the blocks Bill got him past a sticking point by lightly placing his fingers under the bar. A sharp slaps on hips in the low positions of a heavy squat will also work wonders. They have named it the Assistant Method. Then, of course, there are cheating movements, less delicate than the power of suggestion method, in which you take the muscle by the collar and force and overload on it.

By applying these systems, George is continually outdoing himself. The old equation where 450 – 5 is automatically equal to a single with 500 ceases to be valid. In his own case a wide breach exists between his maximum repetitions and a single heavy lift. Reps act primarily as warm ups or as a finishing flush. His workouts are made of single attempts, the accepted cannon of all power lifting these days. George has done 600 – 8 reps squat, a phenomenal display of power itself; however, his best single is far superior 705.

George analyzes that a heavy lift is based on three considerations: 1. Leverage; 2. Size; 3. Number of group firings. He has the fire power of a battleship, but he has not yet determined whether better leverage come from bigger muscles or blued up bodyweight. It appears he will pursue whatever is necessary to make greater lifts. Obviously 5’10” Gene Roberson, at 280, is well endowed with what George categorizes as “Body Leverage”. Roberson’s lifts bear that out: Bench Press 490, Squat 731, Dead Lift 720. Even at his own 5’11”, 244, George considers himself a slim Jim among power lifters.

He didn’t start as a weakling, however, for at 18, after brief training he deadlifted 510. Connelly taught him the basic exercises – bench press, squat, high pull, military press, power clean. He practiced reps at first, good for size and shape, also necessary for hammer throwing, but they did little to increase his strength. He was only gaining about five or ten pounds on each lift every year. Up to the time of the ’64 Olympics it didn’t matter, he was too concerned with the hammer. He practiced heavy squats on the assumption he would throw the hammer 210 if he could make a 550 squat. He was correct. Early in ’65 he started to train the West Side Barbell Club and under the guidance and encouragement of Bill West he began to learn the meaning of training on single attempts. Bill had the empirical experience. He understood the value of low reps with heavy weights. George, in his school work, saw how medical and physiological experiment confirmed this experience, and from then on they were given to endless discussions and revisions of methods. They can now sup it up with one evident truth: Under the right conditions anything is possible. One of these conditions concerns the individual’s mood. Called the “Change of Heart Syndrome”, mood effects performance. Mental depression hinders effort. Peace of mind, then, becomes as important as the act of training. Nor is peace of mind static. Like heavy single attempts, peace of mind comes hard, but with continual striving, it comes.

Voluable and articulate, a natural talker, George will monologue with himself when under a heavy weight. He apparently is two people, one the easy going human, the other the hard driving athlete. The former needs a lot of persuasion. So huffing and puffing, like the proverbial choo-choo train climbing the mountain – “I think I can . . . I think I can. . . ” – George mutters all kinds of blandishments to that self. So convinced is he that state of mind governs performance, he will start thinking a month in advance of a contest on an intended lift. Although he may use only 600 in training, his mind is on the projected 700 of the contest attempt.

To be on the safe side he prefers group training, having three spotters on his heavy attempts and two on the lighter ones. His own secret is not day to day progress because his own nature is such that his strength varies widely at times from one workout to the next. He refers to single heavy attempts. Other than that he abides by a rule: Break a record every workout. Become conditioned to successful attempts. This can mean an added rep or an added pound almost anywhere where you have never done it before. He cites as a delicious example of total mental blackout Dave Davis’ recent workout, a record of failures, the inability to do a single squat with as little as 400 making a 555 squat in a contest the week before. “That should set Dave back three months,” he laughs. But Dave is a contest lifter, and anything can happen.

To go even farther on the conditioned response idea, a competition atmosphere, a George’s insistence, was set up at the West Side Club where now they use only standard Olympic barbell plates for training. Bill had to discard all his exercise plates. “It’s strictly a mental thing,” says George. “You must remember that emphasis is on maximum lifts at all times. You have to channel not only effort but also training conditions to the maximum effort and conditions that exist in and at a contest.”

Never easy, he fights to avoid foolish training challenges. They only end up in torn muscles and bad backs. He has tantalizing knowledge of training research. For example, five repetitions with two thirds maximum weight will maintain maximum strength. Also that running is an absolute necessity in any kind of training. Not long runs, but rather short 50 yd. sprints. George does 10 – 50 yd. sprints twice weekly. The reason: the cardio-vascular system must be kept elastic. The intra-thoracic pressure is enormous in heavy single weightlifting attempts. The heart and blood vessels must be ready for this force. He also swims and does stretching exercises, convinced that full flexibility helps rather than hinders strength. To be sure, strength is a product of the mind. Strength is triggered in the brain, not in tight muscles.

Another piece of applied physiology is the “Labyrinthian Priciple”. Medical research indicates that when the head is forward, the face down, an upset occurs in the middle of the ear that causes relaxation of the spinal muscles. By forcing himself to look up George can maintain the arch and rigidity of his back, the form necessary for both the squat and deadlift. He recalls the time at a contest when his final deadlift stuck half way, and suddenly realizing his head was down he threw it back as hard as he could which gave his spine arch, and the weight moved up again steadily to completion.

Another principle he makes full use of is the basic “Base of Support”. For example, he wraps the full length of a folded bed sheet around his waist before putting on his lifting belt. This, he reasons, increases the diameter of his midsection and gives him a more solid base of supporting the heavy squats and deadlifts.

At the moment he shares power lifting with school and hammer throw practice. He is working toward his master’s degree in physical education at Long Beach State College. He has made two hammer throwing tours of Europe. A rumor at large says he has made several foul throws over 240 feet. If he can straighten them cut, the world record could soon be his.

He makes heavy power workouts seem almost like play, a quality characteristic of big men with great strength who make heavy lifts seem effortless. To a certain extent this is due to an effort on his part to eliminate strain, to make all lifts as effortless as possible. “Lift as much as you can as easy as you can,” he says. “Success begets success.” This all seems to be part of the endless mental conditioning he strives for. George has hit the jackpot in strength, and he is making a frantic effort to hang to the ringing, magic flow.

His schedule:
Saturday – heavy
1. Bench Press
135 10 reps
225 5
295 4
320 2
360 1
285 5 flush
With pads
405 2
425 2
440 1
450 1
460 1
470 1
295 10 flush
2. Squat
135 10
225 5
325 5
425 4
525 3
565 2
600 1 or 2
635 4 singles
655 1
500 10 flush

3. Deadlift
225 6
315 5
415 4
500 4
550 3
575 2
620 1 or 2 singles

Note. For every squat rep he does one calf rep from the floor before returning the weight to the rack. A muscular calf gives leverage and strength to the squat.

Tuesday – light
Warmups same as Saturday
No deadlifting
1. Bench Press
After warmup sets
375 5 singles
295 10 flush
2. Squat
After warmups
575 5 singles
No flush

On either Wednesday or Thursday, on what he calls piddling days, he does special light work:

1. High Pulls with barbell
225 10
275 10
325 4 or 5
2. Tricep extensions – a few of any kind.
He has done 10 reps high pulls with 405 using wrist straps.

Article courtesy of Adrian Gomez

Change of Pace Power Training - Armand Tanny

Change of Pace Power Training
by Armand Tanny (1966)

Power lifters have now established the fact that two days of training a week fully satisfy the work requirement for ultimate gains. Daily training doesn’t work. Not yet, at least, not at this stage of the game. They certainly tried daily training, but where the mind willing, the flesh was usually weak. Desire became an overrated virtue. What they wanted and what they got were two different things. In daily training, either the mind was out of focus or the strength was off. They found it took time, several days of rest between workouts, to generate enthusiasm and strength in a way that they would converge, both of them fully developed and ready.

Furthermore, full movements on the power lifts comprise one of these workouts; whereas the second workout of the week consists in a large part of assist movements and supplemental exercises. Partial movements with heavy weights is now a growing choice among power lifters who find that a reserve of energy exists in an area that formerly was of only marginal interest. The developmental of the power rack followed. It opened the gate of a whole new reservoir of strength. The fearsome grind of full movements is not easy on the joints of power lifters who mush work in that “no man’s land” of heavy weights and single reps. A change of pace is necessary. Let the deeper areas recover while you occupy the muscles with short movements. The incline bench press off the power rack not only flanks the bench press itself, but offers a nice diversionary tactic as well. A brief recap of a weekly power lifting program goes like this:

Saturday- all the lifts in regular style starting each lift with about four sets of low repetition warmups followed by five heavy singles and concluded with one flush set of ten reps.
Tuesday- Change of pace training. Bench press and/or incline bench press. Bench squat. High dead lifts – off blocks
The same system of reps is used in power rack training as on the regular day.+

First of all you must have a moveable incline bench to place under the power rack. Set the incline at 45 degrees. There are three positions, or sticking points if you will, to work from. In the first position the bar is at chin level, in the second position at nose level, and in their position at the level of the hair line. The workout follows (the weight designated weight is arbitrary):

Position 1. Chin level
135 10 reps
175 10
225 3
255 2
270 singles – 2

Position 2. Nose level
270 1
285 1
300 1
310 1

Position 3. Hairline level.
310 1
320 1
330 1
340 1

Back to position 1 with the bench adjusted to 80 degrees.
225 10
205 10
170 10 – *elbows forward

*Notice that on this last set the elbows are brought forward placing all the resistance on the front deltoid.

This offers an additional change of pace and will give the delts a nice pump. Also notice the regression of weight in the last exercise. The high reps are muscle builders and they act as a digestive aid for the heavy low reps of the previous positions.In all the other sets the elbows are in the same vertical plane as the bar. They are wide out away from the body. This is the most advantageous position for them, where the arms can exert the greatest power, where both the delts and the pecs are in action, a necessity at the 45 degree incline.

The pins that support the bar should not be used to bounce the bar during repetitions. Each rep must be done from a dead stop, which is the whole purpose of power rack lifting. The power rack gives muscles a chance to fully exert themselves in positions that the full movements never get. Very heavy weights can be used. These short movements lend the priority principle to power lifting. Muscles are extremely strong in the partially extended position. Partial movements from this point to the fully extended position can contain a heavier than normal weight even though momentum is lacking. Sticking points usually develop from fast starts in full regular movements. The muscle becomes dependent on momentum, and its real potential is forgotten. The power rack makes a muscle a dynamic force through an entire range of motion.

The power rack has established this fact: Partial power movements have trapped hidden sources of energy in muscle groups. That is why a power rack program once a week fills in an energy vacancy that formerly didn’t seem to exist. Although you may be too tired for full movements, you will find the power rack and shorter movements brining you back to life. It is the reason why heavyweight Pat Casey bench presses 570, and 198-pound Bill West Squats with 600.

Weightlifter Bill March and bodybuilder Vern Weaver use the power rack extensively in their respective training. Heavy full movements, they reason, done continuously soon become impossible. March at 210, can press 375. At the West Side Barbell Club in Venice, California incline bench pressing is a highly developed lift practiced by some of the mightiest weight tossers in sports. Dave Davis does 390, Dallas Long 430, and Perry O’Brien, 345. The unpassable power lifter Pat Casey has done three reps with 220 pound dumbbells on a 40 degree incline. He has also done seven reps with a pair of 200’s.

On a steep incline at about 80 degrees, Casey has done 385. John Gourgott, primarily a bodybuilder, has pressed 325 from the No. 1 position off the power rack on the 80 degree incline. Gourgott also practiced an extremely heavy tri-sets system which includes inclines. He did 10 repetition curls with 80 pound dumbbells, followed by 10 reps double dumbbell presses standing with the 100s. This high quality training accounts for his great strength and development. He can also clean and press a pair of 135s.

When Zabo Koszweski resumed training after a shoulder operation, he went directly to power rack incline presses. It offered limited, safe movements, the only ones he could have done. These movements hastened his rehabilitation, and what might have taken a year or two for someone else, took only a few months for him to fully recover.

It is fully apparent now that short movements have become an indispensable part of training for power. The power rack has made short movements possible for every exercise. Also it facilitates solo training. You can handle big poundages without assistance. Above all, the rack offers a change of pace in training that gives joints and tendons a chance to recover while the muscle itself is occupied with overcoming the very sticky sticking points. Use the power rack once a week for your incline presses and watch your poundages increase.

Article courtesy of Adrian Gomez

Touch System for the Deadlift - Armand Tanny

The Touch System for the Deadlift
by Armand Tanny (1967)

As power lift training continues to progress, the individual is becoming less subject to his own devices, less a victim of his physical weaknesses, and now enjoys the steady hand, the moral support and the standby intelligence of a partner, who himself is actively physically involved in a joint effort at making a lift. Some years ago when the great heavyweight lifter, Dave Ashman, was getting perilously close to a 500 pound squat clean, he had a training partner, a kind of muscular elf, who used to squeeze himself under the hunched-over hulk of the big lifter to give the bar an initial boost with his hand. The mischievous sprite’s name was Bill West, Ashman was his idol. Together they had doped out a touch system for getting Ashman’s heavy cleans off the floor. By and by the elf himself grew, and today towers as the national middle heavyweight power lift champion. “If I had used the touch system then as we have developed it now,” Bill surmises, “I think we could have put Ashman over the five hundred mark.”

The touch system as Bill West’s power lift group now practices it is strictly a “hands on” policy. When Bill was tinkering with Ashman, he never thought of touching anything but the bar. As time went by, he thought why be so conservative --- get in there and really help the guy trying to make the lift. Get hold of him bodily when necessary, apply the pressure. The closer the contact, the more realistic the assistance. The idea started getting clearer when Bill used the heavy touch on the power rack bench squat. How was a man going to get that first squat started from a sitting position on the bench with the bar resting on the shoulder level on the cross pins, loaded to two or three hundred pounds more than his best regular squat? A helper on each end usually results in an uneven spot. A steadier and more practical way proved to be method of getting directly behind the lifter, bear hugging him under the arms, and simply boosting him to a standing position. Once started, the continuing action of repetitions became possible.

A different situation presented itself on the deadlift. He could have used the method he once practiced with Ashman. But cleans are one thing and dead lifts another. Furthermore he was beginning to see the effectiveness of spotting the body rather than the weight. The full squat touch system, where the hips were given a spank upwards, worked to a questionable degree on the dead lift. How could you bet by that common sticking point just above the knee? If you touched the bar at that stage, the timing was usually off and it might scatter the effort. Again, a position directly behind the lifter offered the best possibility for control. Attempting to use the bear hug method as in the bench squat proved awkward. But there it was, the whole engine, exposed, and he was the mechanic to do with it what he could. The problem was to apply pressure and at the same time preserve the lifter’s balance. Then in the manner of a bouncer giving a recalcitrant the old heave-ho with the collar and the seat of the pants, he found the way to bring the lifter to the erect position.

Actually more than exerting an upward force to bring the lifter erect, the spotter applies, rather, a fort of leverage. He grasps the trapezius of the shoulder with one hand, and the other hand he places flat on the butt. By exerting a forward thrust on the butt and a backward pull against the trap the resultant action is an upward movement of the body. With this touch system the spotter himself gets the feel of the lift. He doesn’t have to apply pressure until he feels the lift reach a sticking point. This point may vary according to the individual lifter and the kind of deadlift he is doing- extended, regular, or high.

The method of putting one hand on the trap and one hand on the butt works for both the extended dead lift and the regular deadlift. The high deadlift requires a different approach. Since the upper body is nearly erect at the start of the high deadlift, a pressure on the butt seems to push the lifter off balance. Therefore, a method was devised to grip both traps with both hands and exert a backward pull. The resultant action is also an upward movement of the body.

The method may prove awkward at first, but after a bit of practice, the spotter gets to know the lifter’s particular sticking points and the amount of help he really needs. The whole idea of the touch system is to transfer power past sticking points. Complete movements can be made with heavier than regular limit lifts. The lifter gets the opportunity to use very heavy weights. His strong areas are not limited by his weak ones. The strong areas get the chance to work at nearer full capacity, and when the sticking point is reached, auxiliary power is used. In effect, the touch system belabors a point, keeps hammering into the mind the muscles the need to exert greater and greater effort. Eventually the point gets across. The lifter no longer faces the hopelessness of sticking points. He can now get across the points.

Where does this touch system begin? How much of it do you use? First of all it is used in an area that transcends your regular best. It starts in where you limit lift leaves off. The extent of its use is limited by the precariously heavy weights involved. Take the case of a man who can do a regular limit dead lift with 575. How many dead lifts training sessions go by where he may never handle any poundage near that figure? Too often it is too many. Now with the aid of the touch system his schedule goes like this:

225 1
315 1
385 1
435 1
490 1
525 1
555 1
580 1 Touch system
605 1 Touch system

He was assisted on only the last two dead lifts, both of which were in excess of his regular limit. That’s all he needed. He has broken a barrier. He might have had the capability of lifting the 605 off the ground maybe eight inches unassisted. The rest of the lift remained in the dark. With assistance the picture changes. He completes the lift, he activates new muscles, and additionally, he makes a mental hurdle that, by its positive nature, remains as a new and willing force.

Middleweight Leonard Ingro, with an official 580 deadlift, had been trying 600 unsuccessfully for months. In a very few workouts with Bill West behind him applying the touch system on single high deadlifts with poundage ranging from 615 to 630, he made a regular full deadlift with 600. Regardless of the lifter’s caliber or experience he should allow for a breaking period. The lift is new, the weight is heavy, and there are unforeseen strains. He would wisely practice repetitions for at least thirty days. Let’s say a man whose best deadlift is 500 wishes to start using the touch system. A starting schedule would go like this:

135 10
205 10
305 4
355 4
385 4
415 4 Touch system
430 4 Touch system
450 4 Touch system

On this kind of a schedule he would also tend to preserve his maximum regular deadlift by training his limit twice a month. Take note of the fact that where repetition touch lifts are practiced, the sets leading up to them compare in number of reps. The lighter reps burn a groove for the heavier reps to follow. It makes better lifting sense to practice this way. Sudden changes, from high to low reps, or vice versa, break a continuity that disturbs intensity and coordination of effort. A glaring aspect of power schedules is the single heavy rep for many sets. Effort remains essentially constant.

Bill West, himself, was averaging 575 from the deck in every deadlift workout. But for some reason- and it went on for a whole year- he could not make 600 high deadlift. The secret eluded him. He knew if he could high deadlift heavy, his regular deadlift would go up. In a very brief period, using the touch system, it happened exactly that way. His high deadlift program went like this:

405 5
505 5
555 1
575 1
605 1
615 1 Touch system
630 1 Touch system
655 1 Touch system
670 1 Touch system

His regular deadlift shot up to 630. Now he is aiming for 740 high deadlift which will have him orbiting close to 700 regular deadlift form the deck. Joe DeMarco, another heavyweight training mate of West’s with the touch system, brought his deadlift from a hopeless 425 to a hopeful 575 in 60 days.

For all its basic power building quality the touch system offers a side feature that might be half the answer to better deadlifting- stronger forearms and a tighter grip. The next time you see a deadlift observe the length of pulling time and the arch in the bar before the plates ever start to leave the deck. It is often long. What at first seems a failure, somehow turns into a triumphant success- with Oscars for the grip and forearm at that.

Article courtesy of Adrian Gomez

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Vegan Bodybuilding Nutrition - Robert Cheeke

Excerpt from Vegan Bodybuilding Nutrition
by Robert Cheeke (2010)

Creating a nutrition program as a bodybuilder is a lot different than creating a nutrition program as a non-bodybuilder. Constructing a nutrition program for a vegan bodybuilder is a whole other story – something quite foreign to most people, including vegans and up-and-coming vegan bodybuilders.

From the onset, one might ask a vegan bodybuilder where he or she gets their protein. Protein consumption is just a singular issue that is given a lot of attention, when really there are many components to a sound nutrition program. Protein is at the forefront when it comes to importance and interest among bodybuilders for good reason: it delivers results, time and time again. But not to be overlooked are the important roles that carbohydrates, fats, and total calories play, not to mention specific vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants as well. Even some non-essential amino acids become “essential” for optimal bodybuilding results based on their functions and contributions to muscle gain, fat loss, and overall health.

Like any quality nutrition program, variety is a major key to overall success. Granted, there are some bodybuilders who eat a very simple, very basic diet for prolonged periods, but I believe that true success in bodybuilding nutrition comes from some variety in diet. It allows for more creativity, enables a bodybuilder to enjoy diversity, and causes less stress emotionally and mentally compared to a very basic diet, which a bodybuilder will lose enthusiasm for over time.

Even though variety is an important key to any nutrition program, there are some keys to bodybuilding nutrition that are somewhat unique to the sport and lifestyle. Quantity of food becomes a major factor, for example. In a time when many people are looking to cut calories, reduce food intake, cut food costs, and lower their bodyweight, bodybuilders are looking to pour it on. Bodybuilders look to quality and quantity when it comes to their nutrition. I’ll be direct right up front. No bodybuilder is going to make any respectable gains on a low protein or low calorie diet. It just doesn’t work that way for the majority of athletes, especially bodybuilders. We require a lot of protein and calories to allow ourselves sufficient recovery material and to give our bodies ample opportunity to grow. Unless someone is amazingly genetically gifted and can gain mass and grow muscle without a lot of calories and with only moderate amounts of protein, an aspiring bodybuilder or strength athlete will need to pile on the food in championship style.

I had to learn this the hard way, because when I started bodybuilding on a vegan diet, I didn’t know anyone else in the world doing it. I had to just put ideas into practice and conduct my own trial-and-error education as a vegan bodybuilder. Like everyone else who lifts weights, I wanted to maximize my gains and give myself the best chance to succeed. Naturally, I turned to standard bodybuilding books and mainstream magazines. I took their advice and “veganized” them. When meals called for high amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and fats, I was there with my vegan food options to answer the call. Luckily there were some things in my favor. I noticed right away that many of the most popular bodybuilding foods among professional bodybuilders were vegan foods, meals that I could eat without having to compromise any of my morals or ethical decisions to do so. That was highly encouraging, and I was thrilled to realize that some of the absolutely most popular foods among top bodybuilders included oats, rice, broccoli, yams, potatoes, and vegetables in general. The other foods that topped the list were red meat, fish, eggs, and whey protein, but two of the top three foods were oats and rice. All I had to do was find some “alternatives” to those common high-protein foods frequently recommended to would-be bodybuilders in plant-based form.

For ten years soy was my answer to everything. Soy protein was my answer to whey protein, tofu was my answer to meat, and soy foods in general were my answer to everything from protein powders to protein bars, meals to desserts. It worked well. Aside from the bloating and gas which were annoying by-products, I did gain a lot of strength, put on a lot of muscle, and transformed myself into a bodybuilder. I went from a 120-pound vegan teenager to a 190-pound vegan bodybuilder in a relatively short period. I gained 19 pounds over a 12-week period. I kept adding weight and looked like a completely different person from one year to the next as I continued to evolve as a bodybuilder.

Along with the consumption of other popular bodybuilding foods like oats, rice, veggies, and my own favorite foods like fruits, nuts, and pastas. I made a lot of progress. Those who knew me as a skinny teenager were impressed with my gains. After only a couple of years of lifting weights I was squatting over 300 pounds, pressing 100-pound dumbbells in each hand whether on a flat or inclined bench. I went from a very skinny and thin frame to a much thicker frame closing in on 200 pounds, all built on plant-based vegan foods.

I didn’t know a lot about nutrition or bodybuilding nutrition back then, but I knew what seemed to work well. I knew that I needed to eat . . . a lot. I knew that eating a lot of calories and being consistent with my training would allow me to reach specific goals that I had for myself. I knew that following the basics that I DID understand and doing them well would allow me to overcome some of the things I didn’t quite understand about bodybuilding nutrition. I picked what I knew best and did it the best I could. Of course, I had a lot to learn. I was eating as many as 18 tofu hotdogs in a day, trying to get as much protein as possible. My diet wasn’t the most exciting it had ever been, but it did work. I ate a lot of pasta, breads, peanut butter, beans, rice, tofu, and up to seven Clif bars a day. I rarely ate green vegetables. I chose to sit rather than stand and didn’t like walking or running long distances because I didn’t want to burn calories. I was in the game of gaining mass, and I was going to do whatever I could to make it happen, even if it meant years of stomach aches, bloating, and bypassing social activities so I could eat, rest, recover, or train at any hour of the day or night. I worked hard to be my best and wanted it so badly that I did it no whatever it took, even if it meant stuffing my face full of food until I was sick. I learned a lot from those experiences and not just mistakes that I made. I learned a lot about myself, my willpower, my determination, and my passion for excellence.

I ate this way for a long time, from the moment I started bodybuilding to the time I met professional Ironman Triathlete and fellow vegan Brendan Brazier in 2005. Brendan is the formulator of Vega, the plant-based whole food health optimizer and full line of nutrition products, and he was the person who introduced me to foods I hadn’t heard of, though they were common among many plant-based eaters. Brendan had an approach to nutrition that was focused around the consumption of plant-based whole foods. Because of Brendan’s influence, I started eating flax seeds, hemp seeds, kale, seaweed, quinoa, some exotic “super foods” like açaí, and a variety of plant-based whole foods I had never tried before. It was a nice change of pace to have some alternatives to soy, which was really my only alternative to meat. After spending some time with Brendan and then getting hired by Sequel Naturals, the manufacturers of Vega, I learned more about plant-based whole foods as an approach to eating. I had a lot more variety in my diet as a result. Brendan later wrote “Thrive” and his most recent book “Thrive Fitness”. He has been a great inspiration for me, and his books have been outstanding resources for thousands of people.

We learn by doing, or we learn from other people’s influence. In my case, I learned in both ways. I found my own way to success on a vegan bodybuilding diet, and I enhanced it by learning from another vegan athlete who had years of experience and lots of tried, tested, and true knowledge to share. I went from never eating salads to actually wanting to eat salads and even buying them when going out to dinner, even though many other options for sandwiches or wraps were available. I stopped drinking natural sodas, something I had been doing for ten years, and started drinking more water, natural and soy-free protein drinks, teas like yerba maté, nutrient-dense smoothies, and real fruit juice. I even started drinking coconut water. I began to buy avocadoes, seaweed, quinoa, and other healthy foods with names I didn’t even know how to pronounce before I met Brendan. Having a friend and a role model who was able to have this kind of influence and impact added so much value to my life and ultimately made me a better athlete, a healthier person, and a better role model for others. I stopped eating soy foods for breakfast, snacks, lunch, dinner, and desserts. I still eat some soy foods. In fact, I like many of them, but I found so many other things to include in my diet that are healthier, more natural, and whole in their unaltered state, which I think is very important for overall health.

I don’t regret the nearly all-soy diet I followed for ten years because it gave me incredible muscle-building gains and it taught me a lot about getting by and making due. Now I eat a wide variety of whole foods, organic foods, fresh foods, soy foods, super-foods, and pretty much anything that is vegan. Though I have cut back dramatically on junk food, I still have some every now and then, and it is enjoyable. But the more my diet improves, the more junk foods become less appealing. Even if there is soy ice cream in front of me or even coconut-based ice cream in the freezer, I’ll often pass. I prefer to eat fruits over junk foods any day. I often ask myself, “What will eating this food do for me?” If the answer is a negative or lacking positive benefits, I usually won’t eat it.

I give the example of my early vegan bodybuilding diet to show that there are plenty of ways to get to a specific destination, even if your knowledge or resources are limited. If you understand some basics and work hard to apply them every day, you’ll be ahead of most people who are trying to do the same thing. Someone could have an outstanding comprehension of a bodybuilding diet and a background in nutrition but not have the work ethic and desire to put it into practice. That person won’t be as successful as the person who understands some basics and puts them into action regularly. Just as you can add muscle eating meat, dairy, and eggs, you can add muscle by eating soy foods or plant-based whole foods as I did. There are many more styles of eating that can also lead to positive results. As long as the proper amounts of calories are consumed with right ration of proteins, fats and carbohydrates, and a weight training program is in place to consistently support it, results will follow. The questions to ask are what is moral to you, what do you consider ethical, what is in line with YOUR belief system, and what seems to make the most sense and cause the least amount of harm in your opinion. Eat the foods that are in line with your own sincere answers.

Within a vegan nutrition program, there are still many diet options including processed plant foods, whole foods, raw foods, and a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, grains, and seeds. Those foods consumed with specific quantities and varieties will provide your body with the healthy nutrients it needs to thrive and grow. In fact, many will argue that it provides the most powerful form of nutrients, because the nutrition is coming from plant-based, whole food original sources. We know the body needs vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, and glucose to function, and all of those aspects of nutrition are found in abundance in plant-based whole foods. You wouldn’t eat a steak for Vitamin C; you would go to the plant-based whole foods sources of Vitamin C to get it. And that can be said for all other vitamins. Fresh plant foods contain everything essential for life and in their best sources. That is just the way nature works. If it comes from nature, such as a grain crop, a garden, or a fruit tree, it is a natural form of food and will contain the highest amount of nutrients which will support any nutritional lifestyle.

The reason why a lot of people discover that a vegan or vegetarian does not work for them is that they don’t make “whole foods” the foundation of their nutrition program, but rather a lot of processed foods like breads, pastas, processed soy foods, chips, and other junk foods that don’t provide much positive nutrition. There is a very clear reason why it doesn’t work. I fell victim to this way of eating in my early days as well. When I first became a vegetarian at 15, my idea of eating a vegetarian diet was having cereal with soymilk, bread rolls, candy, natural soda, chips and salsa, and other junk foods. I nearly gave up on my vegetarian/vegan diet when I was in high school, but stuck to it anyway because of my personal ethics. I learned as I got older that to eat healthier foods. I am absolutely convinced that the reason people give up on a vegan diet is because they are not eating healthy foods; namely, they are not eating whole foods. As a result, they may not feel very well, get scared, and go back to eating the poor diet they had before.

Focusing on whole foods gives any diet a better chance for success. A whole food is simply something in its original state. An apple is a whole food; a carrot, a potato, broccoli, cucumbers, tomatoes, berries, etc. are all whole foods. If it grows in the garden, in a field, on a bush, or on a tree, it is a whole food. Foods like bread and potato chips are not whole foods. They are a combination of many food extracts and ingredients, are processed, and not nearly as healthy as something that comes direct from the ground, a bush, or a tree, naturally.
Another reason a vegan diet may not work for someone is if they simply don’t eat enough food. Many vegans will cut all animal products out of their diet but fail to replace those calories with plant-based foods. Therefore, their caloric intake is reduced, they get thinner, they feel weaker, and decide that a vegan diet isn’t for them. In reality, they weren’t giving veganism a real chance by eating adequate amounts of proper foods.

If more vegans will incorporate more whole foods into their diets, I guarantee they will feel healthier, feel better, feel more energetic, and feel like a vegan diet is sustainable and worthwhile. Take time to learn on your own. Make a real, honest effort to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, legumes, and seeds every day. You will likely be healthier than most people on the planet, assuming you are getting adequate calories throughout the day from sufficient quantity of those whole foods and you are exercising regularly.

Though my diet has changed significantly over my bodybuilding career, I always respect and appreciate each phase I go through and each experience I learn from. Some phases have been healthier than others, more expensive than others, more bizarre than others, more beneficial than others, more cost-effective than others, or more responsible than others. My job is to learn from ALL my experiences, choose the most beneficial aspects of each phase throughout my nutrition programs, and incorporate them into new programs today. As I extract the benefits from each program, I carry them over to future programs and continue to experience successful results. That is by design, to take what works, discard what didn’t work, and try new things along with what has proved to be successful in the past. As 8-time Mr. Olympia winner Ronnie Coleman says, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you always got.” Sticking to what works and then discovering new things that work well and incorporating them regularly is a recipe for success. I suggest doing “more” than what you have “always done” to get superior results. That goes for training as well as nutrition.

Vegan nutrition and bodybuilding nutrition can be complex on their own, and when you combine the two it becomes even more foreign to most people. When I travel around North America talking to about vegan bodybuilding nutrition as I understand it, I talk in very basic terms, because I believe it is the basics that are most important. You don’t need to understand the intricate details of a cell or have full comprehension of how carbohydrates get used as fuel or know the conversion rates of specific nutrients. You don’t need to name all the steps in ATP transport or recite the Kreb’s cycle, but if you know what foods to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat them, you will likely find success when you put it into action and follow through with accountability. The further you get into bodybuilding the more scientific you’ll probably want to be, but you’ll also find out that a lot of it is still the same; it still comes down to the basics.

There was a time in my life when I knew quite a bit about nutrition, and I loved it. I loved studying it, understanding it, and having intellectual conversations with people who also understood intricate details of human nutrition. For a time it was a strong interest of mine. Now I rely on the basics of nutrition and rely on conversations with other bodybuilders, or those studying nutrition. Listening, asking questions, talking, and watching those who understand it and put it into action is how I learn about nutrition today. I share from my experiences because I have had some success as a vegan athlete, even with my limited knowledge of sports nutrition. I eat every 2-3 hours and focus on consuming healthy foods, and find success in my approach. That is all the time and energy I have to devote to it at the moment because of my hectic and often excruciatingly busy lifestyle. I also know that pure hard work and application of intense effort will trump knowledge that isn’t applied, every time. Would I have more success if I had every aspect of my food consumption carefully calculated? Perhaps. But not to the degree that I am willing to take on the additional stress in my already stressful life. Some bodybuilders love the scientific approach to weighing and calculating each component of nutritional intake. Some bodybuilders thrive in that environment, carefully measuring just the right amount of rice or oats or protein powder. And to their credit, some have had a lot of success following these methods. I’ve also used my common sense approach and have placed ahead of these neurotic, compulsive, calculating bodybuilders in competition. It all depends on how far you want to go in the sport, what other passions you have in life, and how you find a way to balance them all out effectively. When it comes to the scientific aspect of bodybuilding nutrition, it is up to the personality of the individual as to what approach they will take. With hard work and dedication, all roads can lead to some form of personal achievement in the sport.

When you become more serious about your bodybuilding program, you’ll probably become more serious about your nutrition program too. I’m experiencing this at the very moment. I competed more times in 2009 than any other year in my career, and I’m training more consistently than ever. I crave new knowledge to become better, and I seek it out. You’ll gain more enthusiasm for the nutrition aspect of bodybuilding just as I am experiencing now. It can become fun and something to really look forward to learning more about.


A mass-building vegan bodybuilding program can be a lot of fun! Of all the areas of bodybuilding nutrition, bulk-building is probably my favorite. I can lift much heavier weights simply because I am eating much more and have more overall mass to move the weight with. The increase in my bodyweight along with my total calorie and protein consumption allows me to get bigger and stronger. Here are some general tips for bulking up on a vegan diet:

Eat Plenty of Protein – You will need to eat lots of protein. That is all there is to it. Forget what the agencies and administrations say about recommended daily intake; that is for average people and certainly doesn’t apply to lifters and bodybuilders. You will need to consume 1-2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight if you have any aspirations of adding muscle or even maintaining the muscle you’ve worked hard to build. If you are a 200-lb. bodybuilder, consuming 35-50 grams of protein at a time, six times a day should easily keep you on course for muscle growth. Combine that with adequate consumption of carbohydrates and fats and you will be well on your way to adding mass, bulking up, and achieving your goals. Once you figure out the best food to eat to reach those targets it won’t seem difficult or challenging, but will soon become second nature. If you work ethic and training programs support your sound nutritional programs, your results will be all the greater.

There is a lot of talk about low-protein diets in the general community and especially in the vegan community. This focus on low protein consumption is sound advice for the typical inactive person and non-athlete, people who dimply don’t require large amounts of protein to be healthy. I support this notion of a low to moderate protein diet for the average inactive or low activity person. But when we’re talking about bodybuilding and the strength and power sports a high protein diet is required for success.

Every time my protein intake has been at its highest, I have experienced the best strength and musclebuilding results. There is no question about that. I have over 100 pages of documented nutrition journals to back up my results. Conversely, every time I have lowered my protein intake to a standard amount, I experience inferior results, and in some cases I wasn’t even able to hang onto the muscle mass and strength I already had.

In this section I have included five mass-building nutrition programs. I will also list my all-time favorite mass-building vegan foods, which may serve as a good resource for you to extract some ideas to incorporate into your own nutrition program.

Be Prepared to Defend Yourself – As always, when you’re on a high-protein/high calorie diet, be prepared to properly defend yourself among those in the general health community. You will need to be able to express the personal fulfillment benefits you get from this kind of diet clearly so it is easily understood by others without a similar goal.

Keep Your Total Caloric Intake High – Just as important as ingesting large amounts of protein is the consumption of a high total calorie diet. Bodybuilding and the strength sports are physically demanding and once engaged in them you will need calories to recover from the exertions of your training, plain and simple.
A 200-lb. bodybuilder will likely want to consume 4,000 to 6,000 calories a day to add mass. It may seem like a lot of food, and it is, but for an athlete of that size such an amount of calories is necessary to improve athletic performance. Don’t be afraid to eat big. If you work out enough, and hard enough, you will be hungry and eating won’t seem like a chore. When you eat smaller meals throughout the day the calories really add up!

Mass Building Meal Program #1.

Meal 1 – 3 large vegan pancakes with maple syrup and vegan butter, 12 ounces of orange juice, protein drink.
Meal 2 – 2 protein bars, 2 whole fruits, protein drink, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 3 – 2 large burritos, 12 ounces of fruit juice, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 4 – 2 whole fruits, Vega meal replacement drink, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 5 – 2 tofu sandwiches with avocado, 16 ounces of fruit juice, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 6 – Bowl of quinoa, broccoli, carrots, peas, peppers, and tofu. Large green salad with nuts and seeds and omega 3-6-9 EFA oil. Protein drink, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 7 – 2 almond butter sandwiches, 16 ounces of hemp milk, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 8 – A collection of vitamin supplements (B-12, Omega 3 and 6, multivitamin, etc.), 2 whole fruits, green smoothie with fruits and protein.
Estimated Totals – 6,850 calories, 300 g. protein, 1200 g. carbohydrates, 80 g. fat, 150 ounces of water (factoring water for protein drinks too).

Mass Building Meal Program #2.

Meal 1 – Plate of tofu scramble with potatoes, peppers, broccoli and other veggies, 2 veggie sausages, 2 slices of bread with almond butter or jam, 12 ounces of orange juice, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 2 – 2 pieces of whole fruit, 2 cups non-dairy yogurt, protein drink, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 3 – Bowl of whole wheat pasta with pinto beans, large green salad, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 4 – Plate of vegetables with hummus dip, 4 slices of pita bread with lentil pate, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 5 – Bowl of brown rice with broccoli and asparagus, avocado and sprout sandwich, large green salad, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 6 – Protein drink, 3 yams, large bowl of vegetable soup, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 7 – Rice and vegetable stir-fry with baked tofu, small bowl of kale leaves, 16 ounces of hemp milk, 16 ounces of coconut water.
Meal 8 – 2 pieces of whole fruit, green protein smoothie with Vega Smoothie Infusion, bowl of coconut ice cream.
Estimated Totals – 7,000 calories, 350 g. protein, 1,100 g. carbohydrates, 130 g. fats, 150 ounces water.

Mass-Building Meal Program #3.

Meal 1 – Breakfast burrito, bowl of fried potatoes, 16 ounces of grapefruit juice, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 2 – 2 high-protein food bars (Vega Bar, PROBAR, Clif Bar, Organic Food Bar, others), 3 non-dairy yogurts, Fruit smoothie with protein and greens, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 3 – Large plate of Pad Thai with noodles, veggies, tofu and peanut sauce, 2 cups of brown rice, small green salad, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 4 – Protein drink, 3 pieces of whole fruit, 2 servings of walnuts, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 5 – Five slices of vegan pizza, small green salad with 3-6-9 EFA oil, 16 ounces of hemp milk, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 6 – Green protein smoothie, 2 almond butter and jam sandwiches, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 7 – Large spinach pie, Middle Eastern food platter with garbanzo beans, lentils, hummus, rice, etc., 4 slices of pita bread for dipping in the platter, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 8 – 2 slices of vegan chocolate cake with vegan ice cream, small bowl of assorted fruit, protein drink.
Estimated Totals – 8,000 calories, 315 g. protein, 1,200 g. carbohydrates, 200 g. fats, 130 ounces of water.

Mass-Building Meal Program #4.

Meal 1 – Large bowl of oats with meal replacement protein smoothie, Whole wheat bagel with vegan cream cheese, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 2 – 2 tofu sandwiches on sprouted bread, medium green salad with 3-6-9 EFA oil, protein drink, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 3 – Veggie taco platter with beans, tomato, avocado, lettuce, rice and tortillas. Green protein smoothie, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 4 – Green salad with Field Roast Grain meat, bowl of dates rolled in coconut flakes, protein drink, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 5 – Tempeh Reuben sandwich, bowl of chips and salsa, small bowl of lentil soup, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 6 – Large bowl of assorted fruits, green protein smoothie, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 7 – 2 baked potatoes with seitan, broccoli, carrots, and almond gravy. Green salad with hemp seeds, seaweed and Omega 3-6-9 EFA oil, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 8 – Bowl chocolate tofu pudding with strawberries, 12 ounces of rice milk, 2 pieces of fruit, 8 ounces of water.
Estimated Totals – 7,500 calories, 300 g. protein, 1,100 g. carbohydrates, 200 g. fats, 170 ounces of water.

Mass-Building Meal Program #5.

Meal 1 – 3 pieces of French toast with maple syrup, Bowl of cereal with rice milk, 2 pieces of whole fruit, 16 ounces water.
Meal 2 – Vega meal replacement drink, 2 pieces of whole fruit, 1 protein bar, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 3 – 6 Vegan corndogs, medium green salad with Omega 3-6-9 EFA oil, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 4 – 1 large cucumber with hummus, 3 large carrots, Green Protein smoothie, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 5 – Plate of steamed vegetables and tempeh, green salad with seaweed and hemp seeds, an assortment of nuts, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 6 – Celery sticks with almond butter, 2 pieces of whole fruit, protein bar, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 7 – Kale salad with dulse and pumpkin and hemp seeds, Green Smoothie, 16 ounces of water.
Meal 8 – 2 oranges, plate of flax crackers with almond butter, 12 ounces of water.
Estimated Totals – 7,750 calories, 300 g. protein, 1,275 g. carbohydrates, 160 g. fats, 170 ounces of water.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Super Sets for Super Size - Armand Tanny

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Super Sets for Super Size
by Armand Tanny (1951)

It was tape measure night. It’s not often that advanced bodybuilders will resort to that little yellow and black annoyance as a measure of their progress. It is more a matter of feel than linear proportions to them. The advanced man can take a workout and say to himself that he either felt the workout or he didn’t. Measurements don’t mean a thing at that stage of the game. He knows that regardless of how hard he had worked a particular night there will be little apparent gain is size.

On the other hand, sometimes it’s interesting to see how much pump a muscle will take with a specialization routine. A pumped measurement is temporary and usually within a few hours the muscle will be back to normal. But it is that demand made on the muscle that the body tends to compensate for. The additional supply might be minute but a lot of a little adds up.

Anyway, the four of us, Gomez, myself, Eiferman and Walge were debating the fate of our measurements. We all agreed that an increase would naturally follow a gain in bodyweight. But with all of us having reached the weight that seemed maximum for our body types, the question arose as to how we could increase our measurements without the additional bodyweight that would kill our definition and look.

I suggested that we try the system of super set series. But with one alteration. Instead of going by the number of sets we set a time limit of 10 minutes in which we would do as many sets as possible of alternating exercises. We figured this way we could pump to the absolute maximum. It wouldn’t be wise or hardly possible to work every muscle group this way in a single workout owing to the terrific effort involved, but for the sake of experiment we decided on the biceps.

The super set series is essentially the alternating between two exercises that involve different muscle groups. This permits one to rest while you work the other. There is little or no rest between sets. It is back and forth alternately about three sets for each muscle group or six all together. Only after the completion of this series do you take somewhat of a rest before starting on the next two exercises. In this manner you can go through an entire workout as long as you limit the sets to three for each group.

Our object that night, however, was to see how much pump we could actually get out of our biceps. This meant working the triceps also. We would alternately do two exercises, the biceps curl on the incline bench and the triceps curl with a dumbbell either sitting or standing as we chose. With no rest between sets we would alternate between the two exercises doing anywhere from six to 10 reps a set. The effect was startling. At the end of the ten-minute period we had dropped way down to light dumbbells in order to keep up the grind. It would have been impossible to use the same weight we had started with. At the end of that period we waited a few minutes for the full effect to settle in and then taped our arms. Gomez, myself and Eiferman had gained almost an inch, while Walge, our 270 pounder, over an inch.

It was a matter of specialization on the upper arms and we worked as fast and hard as we could. The demand placed on the arms in that short period or time was terrific and I noticed that my arms still felt a bit oversize the following day. A system like that could be extended in time to perhaps 15 or 20 minutes, once the trainer grew to become used to it. The output is enormous, and the arms might not be too efficient for the remainder of a workout that involved pulling or pushing. It’s a good specialization course and could be handled effectively three times a week.

Where other muscle groups are concerned, this rapid-fire system will be more difficult. Since the biceps and triceps are two distinct muscle groups they fit this pattern nicely where you are out for measurement. Now, if you were to work two different exercises for the latissimus in the same alternating manner you wouldn’t gain as much in chest expansion as if you did one exercise for the pectorals and one for the lats alternately. Try the latter and see just how much expansion you will get out of your chest measurement.

Where you are doing alternating exercises as in the super set series it might be wise to follow a system of opposite motions as we did on the upper arms. In that routine one motion was flexion and the other extension. Pick out any exercise at random and try to think of an opposite motion.

Take for example the two-arm press. That is purely a pushing motion where the deltoids and triceps are involved. The opposite to this could be the two-arm chin where the lats and biceps come into play. Now each exercise involves entirely different muscle groups and permits one to rest while the other is in action.

If you are going to use this timed super set series as your pattern for work I’ll suggest an example schedule where the first and second exercises are worked alternately, then the third and fourth, and son on.

1. Deadlift
2. Abdominal Raise
3. Two Arm Press
4. Two Arm Chin
5. Deep Knee Bend
6. Leg Curl
7. Bench Press
8. Bentover Rowing Motion
9. Biceps Curl
10. Triceps Curl

For each of the above exercises there are many variations that can be used. For almost any other exercise you can think of there is one that has the opposite motion. This system has many advantages in time saved, development of endurance, and muscle growth itself. If you are taking five-minute rests between sets you are on the wrong road to speedy and maximum overall development. The only condition where long rests apply is where you are working for strength alone. In that case it is necessary to fully recuperate to have all your faculties and reserve ready for the next effort. Where you are striving for overall quality muscular growth it isn’t necessary to put out maximum nervous and muscular effort. It seems like you are but if you were to actually explode all your nervous energy on every set you’d be fatigued before the halfway mark was reached in a workout. the characteristic of excess nervous output is peculiar to some athletes. I find that when I am working along steadily on a workout with what seems to be maximum effort on each set, I am capable of putting out 50% more effort if I had to. If I was struggling along on six or seven reps on a particular exercise and suddenly determined to do ten, I could do it, but the nervous depletion would be too great. I might even keep up that pace for a few more exercises but then I would falter. On the other hand, you can’t be lazy and stop on five or six reps when you could easily have done ten. It is best to extend yourself to your muscular limit on each set but never your nervous limit unless you are striving for strength. All of the top bodybuilders I know have the capacity for nervous explosion but they seldom exercise it in a regular workout.

I have always maintained that it is advantageous to perspire through a workout. I don’t mean the kind induced by wearing rubber or heavy cloth sweat suits. These may be necessary where your gym is cold and drafty. It is a common and erroneous practice with those who are inclined to be fat to resort to these hindrances of natural ventilation with the impression that they are sweating off excess pounds. That doesn’t break down the fat cells. It merely drains the water from them which will be rapidly replenished at the first fountain. The fat itself is stored up as extra energy and unless you tap the supply with the demand created by hard work the cells themselves will remain very much alive and active.

Perspiration induced by work is best. It means the body processes are stepped up with a consequent gain or loss in weight as the case may be. In either case you are building muscle whether you are fat or thin or even highly developed. Atmospheric heat in itself is of no consequence. The warmer the better unless you are spending summer in Death Valley. If it’s Siberia in winter, which I hope it won’t ever be, sweat clothes are advisable. Many of the boys who worked out on the steaming islands of the South Pacific during the last war made remarkable gains. They gained more weight than they would have in cooler climates.

The business of keeping warm is a body function in itself and requires energy. When this is solved by ready-made atmospheric conditions it is that much additional effort saved that is applied to muscle action itself.

With the proper surrounding warmth a steady level of perspiration can be maintained as long as you work hard enough. And that is accomplished by doing many sets on every exercise. When you hit a fairly rapid pace this way, you will definitely perspire!

The question arises as to how many sets are optimum for an exercise. A lot depends on your capacity, and willingness to work. At first, three sets may be best, but as you progress and your recuperative powers increase you will be able to extend them to five. However, it is common practice now among top bodybuilders who are specializing on a part to get the fullest pump from an exercise regardless of the number of sets. They let the pump determine their set-numbers for each session. But more often their schedules are worked out in a definite number of sets because they have gauged their strength and endurance to what is best for them. In that way they won’t do too much or too little.

Every individual must figure out his own capacity. No one can do it for him.

In the mighty project of training for a physique contest I have found it best to work with a partner. They say that misery loves company. Perhaps so, but the psychological effect was always better for me. Looking forward to a ponderous, fast-paced three-hour workout alone taxes one’s already flimsy diet-weakened emotional makeup. Three hours is a long grind and by alternating with a partner a favorable pace is set and maintained.

Where the super set series is more on the order of a blitzkrieg, this way is a slightly slower and steadier march. Where you blitz your muscles you will have to travel light, that is, use a little less weight. But with time on our hands and one purpose in mind we were satisfied to slow it down somewhat.

We did five sets for most of the exercises. On the others, seven to 10 sets. Where we were doing 12 to 15 different exercises so that three hours was still going to be rather crowded.

First I’d do a set, then my partner would jump in and do his. We’d keep on each other’s tail all the way. The conversation was limited to a few scattered monosyllables. We’d go through five full sets of the particular exercise before we’d take a breather, and that was only long enough to set up the next exercise. On exercises that took too much time rigging equipment we used live resistance instead, each of us taking turns bearing down on the other.

It was a lot of work and the tendency to go stale was great, so quite often we’d split the schedule and work it every day.

We were in fine condition and five sets was not too much. Our strength varied from day to day but we never relented in our efforts. Many times we’d arrive for work entirely indisposed, wishing and looking for a reason to skip just this one. Perhaps we hadn’t fully recovered from the previous session. How nice it would be to take in a show or head for a desert weekend or have an evening of soft entertainment for the effort it took to dial the phone! But the preface to every workout was the same.

“How you feel?”

”Ready to hit it?”
“Got nothing better to do.”
“Okay, let’s try it, see how it feels.”

And we’d be deep into it again in no time.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Analysis of Deadlift Assistance Movements - Roger Benjamin

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Analysis of Deadlift Assistance Movements
by Roger Benjamin (1985)

The value of performing assistance movements and the change in their importance through the competitive cycle are among the most misunderstood of all training concepts. Time and time again I will answer the same questions of aspiring lifters concerning when to “drop assistance movements” while peaking. I know many top lifters totally exclude assistance movements during the final peak, but I feel they are making a mistake that will show in their performance.

A clear analogy is drawn in examining the strength regimen of a collegiate or professional football player. During his off season, he tears down hard with large amounts of assistance movements and running, foundation work all the way. As the season gets underway, changes must be made in the tear-down process, as recuperative powers are needed to heal up from the weekly punishment his body receives. He still needs assistance movements, but in a different way. Poundage and time will be adjusted down as rep load is moved up. The athlete must, at all costs, maintain his explosive power, but to lift heavy at this time is counterproductive. On the other hand, to drop all strength and conditioning work at this time encourages an injury-laden season. He must use circuit type movements in season to keep strength, muscle tone and oxygen intake capacity up to par without reaching into the healing powers needed for his weekly gladiating.

The powerlifter, by nature a stubborn fellow who often disdains team sports in order to become an individual sportsman, will often disregard any advice that requires him to back off in training intensity.

During the first 10 weeks of a 15-week cycle, one wishes to strengthen all the assistance movements. Work them hard, never less than 4 or more than 8 repetitions. Work for personal records on leg curls or calf raises. Keep the primary movements going but realize that when you tear down that hard with assistance movements, little explosive power will show up in the Power 3. Don’t be alarmed. It is supposed to happen that way. Most young lifters (and some older ones that should know better), will choke at this point and either:

1.) Do assistance work harder because “I’m getting weaker!”
2.) Drop all assistance movements because “I’m getting weaker!”

This is the time to critically examine the role of assistance work during the peak. First of all, nobody gets a trophy for heavy rowing strength in a powerlifting meet, but if you drop the heavy rowing (the lift BEHIND the deadlift!) entirely, you’ll lose lat strength which keeps the arm close to the torso in the initial pull from the floor. Keep the movement, but back it off to 4x10 with 60% to pump the muscle and keep tone. The lats get plenty of recuperative work the last four weeks from deadlifts anywhey protein now on sale. Get great deals on mega-power supplement combination offers! The concept of peaking your lifts properly must contain the notion of going into a circuit program of sorts on assistance movements, 35-40 reps at 60-70% of normal poundages for the purpose of tone and conditioning. At the same time you will notice explosive power coming in leaps and bounds as your recuperative powers are totally focused upon the Power 3.

So much for “Power Philosophy 201”. Now let us analyze the deadlift movement itself, and see what movements will assist in building pulling strength. The nature of the lift is such that you must not only lift the weight but you must control your center of gravity as well. Physics will tell us that for every inch the bar drifts out front during the pull, the leverages change dramatically in favor of the bar. Most deadlifts are missed because position is lost at or near the knees. If we know this, then why does it still happen? Because lifters still do shrugs to the lock, rather than full range movements on the erector spinae and latissimus dorsi.

The erector spinae group functions to straighten the thorax, so the most logical way to strengthen that segment of the lift is to do ‘hospital reps’, as Don Blue used to call them. Others have called them round-back deadlifts. This movement is done stiff-legged, with emphasis on raising the ribcage at the top. Do not shrug, you don’t need to, just raise the ribs at the top and the shoulders go back when the upper erectors fully contract. The lower erectors must be conditioned also, and the finest movement for that, bar none, is the hyperextension. As in the previous movement, allow the spine to round out, as the essence of an assistance movement is to isolate a muscle group through its full range of motion.

I mentioned earlier that heavy rowing was the lift BEHIND the deadlift. Analyze it. When the lower lats are strengthened, they keep the elbow close to the torso when the critical point, knee level, is reached. Without lat strength, the weight pulls you forward, and out of position. With proper lat strength, the bar stays against the legs during transition. The best lat movement, therefore, is one that requires the elbow be brought to the torso from a forward position. Heavy bent rowing with a dumbbell or seated pulley rowing allows stabilization of the torso, reducing or eliminating any cheat, while bent rowing with a bar generally involves cheating and a reduced range of motion.

The squatting one does will suffice as supplementary work for the thighs and hips, but seldom do you see any strength work go beneath the knees. Proper pulling position dictates a good bit of flexion at the ankle, so why do so many ignore the major joint involved with both supportive movements.

Calf work is absolutely essential for the deadlift. The calves take seven to 10% of the weight from the floor during the initial pull, and aid in stabilizing as the bar rises above the knee. Two things are necessary for this assistance movement – range of motion must be total, paying particular attention to the stretch at the bottom, and the knee should be slightly flexed during all standing calf work.

The legendary Russian super, Vasily Alexeev, was once quoted as saying “the stomach of a great lifter must be able to stop a bullet.” Unfortunately, the writer wasn’t able to see V.A.’s tongue in his cheek as he uttered this pearl of wisdom. The abs should really be trained as any other muscle group and trained twice weekly for strength. Resistive situps seem to have a definite relationship to keeping the torso straight while doing supportive movements. To train the abdominal wall daily is to place vanity before function and long-term safety.

The leg bicep receives very little attention from some powerlifters, and may contribute to some knee problems because of the tremendous imbalance of strength that occurs between the front and back of the thigh. When doing leg curling movements keep the hips down in the manner pictured. When the hips are allowed to rise, much of the work is transferred from the biceps femora to the gastrocnemius.

Full range movement in a fast twitch exercise is foreign to most lifters, but will aid them tremendously. Fred Hatfield has done a ‘bit of research’ on the value of conditioning the nervous system as well as the muscular system. Sprinting is the logical choice of full range conditioning movements. This should be done twice weekly on your active rest days – a total of 10 forty-yard sprints will do nicely.

Stationary bike work or swimming would be the activities of choice for cardiovascular efficiency. In case you feel that it is not necessary for the powerlifter, might I remind you of the numerous triple-bypass operations performed on lifters who thought the opposite.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Exercise Bench Triceps Specialization - Charles A. Smith

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Exercise Bench Triceps Specialization
by Charles A. Smith (1951)

It wasn’t so many years ago, when I got into an argument over the merits of the exercise bench. Certain members of the Weight Studio held that in company with the incline bench, it was a “lazy man’s” apparatus, and the methods of exercise used in conjunction with it were strictly for the daydreamer. An old daydreamer from way back, I naturally supported the use of this piece of equipment, now recognized as one of the most valuable in the field of weight training. A bodybuilder nowadays will refuse to train in a gymnasium unless it has at least six benches and all of us except for the usual lunatic fringe – use it as it should be used. Its praises are sung by all – except the lunatic fringe again – and I doubt if, even among Olympic men, there is a single weight trainer who doesn’t make use of it somewhere in his training program.

This month’s article is concerned with triceps specialization. It has long been my opinion that the only exercises that will help both advanced men and those of comparative recent entry into our sport are the type best described as “unusual”. The vast majority of weight lifters use orthodox exercises and both beginner and advanced men stick to the customary movements even when undergoing a course of specialization . . .

It is also generally recognized that the one stumbling block to regular or continued progress is becoming overtrained or stale, and it is just as common an opinion that BOREDOM, mental lassitude, is just as big a cause of a bodybuilder failing to make headway. It is relatively easy to figure out. If you eat nothing but bread day after day, week in and week out, you would hardly be surprised if your weight started to drop and you exhibited other signs of physical deterioration. Your appetite would fail, you would look forward to meal time with dread and loathing and at last you would become sick at the very sight of bread . . .

Why it is that some people think they can continue to gain in strength and size using the same old schedule every workout they take is beyond me! Let’s say for example they use the press, curl, and squat. How long CAN a man use such a schedule before he gets everything out of it in the way of development and power – ? Well, that would depend on the man himself, the kind of life he had led, the reserves of vitality and energy at his command and his mental attitude. He might be able to use this program for nine months . . . a year at the outside if he was possessed of unusual will power. But after that period, his interest would wane and his workouts would no longer be a pleasure, but something he did as a duty. Using the three exercises over such a prolonged period would see him dreading the time to press, curl and squat, and at last, fed up with them, he would drop exercising altogether!

No weight trainer should keep on a schedule of exercise after he fails to gain from it. That very day he starts to lose interest in an exercise and a schedule, then he should drop them without delay. The correct way to exercise and make CONTINUED progress is to use a program REGULARLY. As soon as you slow down in exercise progression, CHANGE THE EXERCISES. Let us suppose again! You are using, say, the standing press, the two arm curl, the upright rowing motion, the deep knee bend and breathing bent are pullovers. You get quite good results from these but after a while things start to slow up. You have to work harder for that extra fraction of an inch measurement or five pound increase. Once you could put half an inch on your arm in a month, and “up” your deep knee bend 20 pounds in a like period . . . Now, gains are slow in arriving. Most lifters continue to batter away with their schedule, but the man who uses his head at once effects changes in his training program. He switches to a set of exercises that, while they differ, are yet akin to those he has been using. He might substitute the seated press behind neck for the standing press; use the seated curl or alternated curls with dumbbells; the bent forward rowing motion for the upright style; bench squats for deep knee bends and the flying exercise for the bent arm pullover. You see, it’s simple, EASY to train and gain. All exercise is COMMON SENSE.

It’s the same when you undergo any specialization program. You can make progress only for so long on any one given schedule. The moment progression slows up, then it would be wise for you to drop the old program and start a new one. You can make use of all the customary movements and work hard ‘till the sweat runs off your brow, but you won’t do yourself one bit of good once you no longer have faith in what you are doing . . .

Most fellows start off an arm specialization program by curling for hours at a time. Granted that the arm you obtain will appear imposing and shapely, yet it will not compare with the development that can be yours if you exercise the triceps with as much fervor as you cheat curl. The greater bulk of the arm – roughly two thirds, lies in the triceps. Despite the very good appearance the biceps gives to the arms, it is merely a muscle for show. The triceps is the one that can really give forth with POWER. When you get bored with pressing – bench presses – triceps curls – and other orthodox movements, try these bench triceps exercises.

This is how the program is to be used. First, use your regular workout program. After this is completed, take a rest of 15-20 minutes and then start your triceps specialization program. With each exercise, concentrate strictly on form and the actual function of the triceps muscle – extending the arm. As you raise and lower the weight, visualize in your mind the muscle getting bigger and stronger. When the arm is extended or straight, try and lock the elbow even more fiercely, contracting the triceps tighter and tighter. After each exercise, massage the muscle. Rub and knead it with the fingers, keep the circulation increased by mental contraction exercises. Just stand in front of a mirror and bend and straighten the arm, observing the action of the muscle. When the workout is through, massage the arm with a little warm olive oil . . . If your arms are stiff the next day, a warm bath, followed by another massage with embrocation or athlete’s rub will help to relieve the soreness.

Exercise 1.
One of the most popular movements of recent years is the French Press. Popularized by John McWilliams, it is performed with a barbell. The trainee stands up with a “curl” grip on the bar which is held at the back of the neck. From here the arms are straightened. Here is a bench version of that popular exercise. Lie on a bench with a barbell held in the hands – a little less than shoulder-width – the palms of the hands should be FACING YOU, knuckles to the feet. Hold the barbell at arms’ length above the face. From here lower the weight until the forearms are JUST BELOW the horizontal position. Hold there for a short count of three, then raise again. It is best to have a training partner hold your upper arms throughout the exercise so that they do not assist in any way. ONLY the FOREARMS MOVE – the upper arms are kept still throughout the exercise. Start off with a weight you can handle for 3 sets of 8 reps, working up to 3 sets of 15 reps before increasing the weight and returning to 8-rep sets.

Exercise 2.
Here is an unusual version of the Dip. It is great for building size in the triceps inner head. Take up the position indicated in the illustration. Your arms should be straight at this point. The thighs should be stretched out in front of you. From here dip down until the upper arms are at right angles with the forearms. Straighten arms to commencing position and repeat. Resistance is provided by hanging a barbell plate around the neck. The important part of this exercise is dipping down as low as you can, holding the position and then STRAIGHTENING THE ARMS FORCIBLY. PRESS UP as the arms reach straight position. Start off with 3 sets of 10 reps, working up to 3 sets of 20 reps before you increase exercising resistance, going back down to sets of 10.

Exercise 3.
Another wonderful exercise for the triceps inner head is the following. Lie face down on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Raise the upper arms so that they are flat against the sides of the body. From this position raise the forearms until the arms are in a straight line, THEN raise the WHOLE arm UP. As soon as you feel the triceps tighten, hold the position for a short count of two, then lower and repeat. Commence the exercise with a poundage you can handle comfortably for 3 sets of 7 reps, working up to 3 sets of 12 reps before increasing the poundage and returning to sets of 7 reps.

Exercise 4.
The finest exercises one can use on the latissimus machine are those that build the upper arms. It is possible to handle a fairly heavy poundage for a high number of reps, building not only endurance, but strength in the muscle. Here is another of those “novel” movements that are becoming so popular of late. Lie on a bench with your head nearest to the lat machine. You should be on your side with the exercising arm – the upper arm – resting along the lat. Have a training partner pull the handle of the lat machine down to you so it can be grasped. From this position straighten the arm and then when straight pull it DOWN the back. As soon as you feel the triceps “cramp” hold the position for a slow count of three, then raise the arm and repeat. Start off with a weight you can handle for 2 sets of 10 reps and work up to 2 sets of 20 reps before increasing exercise poundage and going back down to sets of 10 again.

Exercise 5.
Here’s one of the favorite Triceps builders of famous Steve Reeves. You can handle fairly heavy weights in this one, too. Lie on a bench . . . on your back. Take two dumbbells. Hold them above your chest at arms’ length. Bend the arms at the elbows and rest the ends of the dumbbells on the chest. From here – and DON’T move those upper arms – raise the weights to arms’ length again by straightening the forearms. Lower and repeat. When you lower the weight, stop short about an inch above the chest and then raise the dumbbells. Start off with a poundage you can handle easily for 3 sets of 7 reps and work up to 3 sets of 12 reps before you add weight and drop down to 7 reps again.

Exercise 6.
The final movement in this program is a “power” exercise. You need a bench, of course, two training partners, and a HEAVY barbell. Take a narrow grip. Get your partners to lift the weight overhead to arms’ length. From here, lower the barbell a couple of inches then press it out to arms’ length again. The partners should stand by in case you are unable to control the weight. A good gauge of the poundage to be used is to take a weight you can just get three bench presses our of. Press this weight out the two or three inches you lower it . . . start off with 3 sets of 5 reps, increasing to 3 sets of 8 reps before adding poundage and dropping the reps back to 5. Don’t forget the massage of the triceps.

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Strong Foundation Over Forty - David A. Nixon

Ernie Franz in his early 50's.

Clarence Bass

A Strong Foundation Over Forty
by David A. Nixon (1989)

This article is for the older trainees who are at the beginner stage in weight training. It is also for those who have been plying at the weights for some months or even years without direction, motivation or appreciable gains. You will be given sound direction (in the form of a comprehensive training regimen), a spark for your motivation (which, however, can only last as long as it is self-sustained), and guidance on how to intelligently tax your muscles (which should trigger some substantial gains).

As this article is geared for the older trainees (male and female, who I will collectively at times refer to herein as “seniors” out of an appropriate sense of respect and for ease of reference), I will offer my insights or at least my perspective on the mistakes that appear characteristic of a sizable segment of us, and my proposed corrective action.

In the gyms where I regularly train, as well as in the many where I have visited while on trips, I have always made it a point to closely observe the programs of the seniors, out of feelings mixed of kinship and curiosity. This study offers a great practical course in the different responses to the aging process. What I have learned from the observation is that the seniors as a class show a great tendency to employ approaches that are ill-designed for the achievement of success; the use of too many easy, intricate isolation exercises that nonetheless burn energy, with too few compound mass movements that build muscle, as well as resorting to too much social chatter with too little passionate effort.

Looking first at the last symptom, it often seems as though the older trainee has a misguided sense of accomplishment derived from merely making an appearance at the gym at his or her stage of life. The kudos that we draw from the youngsters just for showing up at the iron pit can indeed be beguiling, as we find ourselves the subjects of spontaneous favorable comparisons to their poor, derided, self-indulgent parents who, we are told, would never bestir themselves to put in a training session. Well, yes, without impolitely referring to members of anyone’s family, there are far too many of us elders who have abysmal attendance records for “gym class”. The fact that you go to a gym is a vital step in the right direction. But it’s what you do there that spells the difference between success and stagnation. Showing up alone is not enough.

If you want to achieve success, the place to start is your head.

Get it “right”, adopt a motivated mindset, analyze the ingredients needed for success and determine how you can incorporate them into your lifestyle.

Those success ingredients are the worst kept secret in creation. Along with that positive mind frame, you simply add sound nutrition and recuperation along with demanding exercise. We all know this, but for various reasons most of us fail to practice it. With but a few basic changes, you can turn that around.

For the exercise part of the equation, turn to the basics – squats, presses, bench presses, dip, rowing, curls, standing calf raises and ab work. For those who are new to the intensive demands of rigorous bodybuilding, one set each for two weeks followed by two sets each in an all-body workout three sessions a week for a month will suffice. The program thereafter will be increased to three sets each for the following three months. After that, you’ll be ready for the intermediate course, to be detailed in a future article. You’ll notice that I advocate here an approach that has fallen into disuse is this space age of technological wonders: full-body workouts. Nowadays, everybody seems to start with split programs that form the regular training systems of competitive bodybuilders vying for the big titles. We must stop and realize that many of these men built their foundations on full-body sessions. And even for those who leapt right into more advanced split programs, that they nonetheless made progress is largely attributable to superior genetics, as most of their contemporaries who followed suit in similar overachievement courses have long since turned into disillusioned quasi-spectators in the gym (seen a lot of them) or, worse, couch potatoes.

The full-body workout has served well for many, many years as the route to building the sound foundation for an impressive physique because it affords an ideal mixture of regular, systematic training with sufficient recovery time. For those whose bodies are not yet accustomed to the rigorous demands of hard weight training, three sessions a week are sufficient to greatly tax the muscles and spur growth – assuming that the other elements of proper nutrition, rest and attitude are present. The thrice-weekly (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) full-body routine enables one to get the proper recuperation time given an application of prudent judgment. Thus, any senior who chooses to be constantly on the go, with a crammed calendar, recreational activities and other athletic endeavors can kiss off any hope of attaining a body that fits the bodybuilder’s mold. You have to husband your physical resources more wisely than that if you want to build muscle.

Let’s look now at the components that comprise our fundamental routine. Alternate exercises are also provided for occasional use to combat feelings of tedium. The central focus, however, should be fixed on the main exercises detailed below, with use of the alternatives forming the exception.

1.) Squat – We start with the kingpin of the program: squats. Henceforth, think of leg extensions as simply a warming-up movement. For upper legs, we squat, going down to parallel or lower depth, using a raised heel if desired. Squats are a great exercise, packing muscle on the quads, hams and glutes, while also inducing growth throughout the entire body by inducing a hormonal and metabolic spur. Use a weight taxing you to get 8 to 12 reps, striving to progressively increase your poundage. Alternate exercises, front squat and leg press.

2.) Press Behind Neck – It is preferable to do this exercise in a seated position, on a bench with a back support. This is an excellent shoulder girdle exercise, hitting all three deltoid heads while also working your traps and triceps. Go for a weight that produces failure after 6 to 10 reps, seeking – as in each movement in this program – to continually increase the weights. Alternate exercises, standing barbell press and two-dumbbell press.

3.) Bench Press – Another super compound exercise, which will produce muscle growth in the pecs, shoulders and triceps. To accentuate the development, use a wide grip. To concentrate more stress on the shoulders and triceps, employ a narrower grip, approximately shoulder-width, for 6 to 10 reps. Alternate exercise is the incline bench press with barbell or dumbbells.

4.) Dips – An underrated gem that will give tremendous development to the pecs and triceps, as well as to the shoulders. To emphasize pec development, lean into the movement. For more triceps involvement, maintain a perpendicular posture, 6 to 10 reps. Alternate exercise is the weighted bench dip.

5.) T-Bar Rowing – Another wonderful movement, one that will thicken your lats and substantially work your traps and biceps, while also indirectly hitting your glutes, 6 to 10 reps. Alternate exercises are lat machine pulldowns and chins.

6.) Curls – The granddaddy movement for biceps, still the best exercise for that showpiece muscle. Use strict form, keeping your elbows against your sides and back straight, 8 to 12 reps (looser, slightly cheated form is permissible for the last couple of reps). Alternate exercises are preacher bench curls or incline dumbbell curls.

7.) Standing Calf Raises – Be sure to get a good contraction at the top, holding it for a slow moment, as well as getting a good stretch at the bottom, 20 to 25 reps. Alternate exercise is the seated calf raise.

8.) Crunches, Side Bends, Planks, Leg Raises etc. To beat boredom when training your abs, use various exercises.

Warm up well before each session. Work hard, maintaining a firm resolve to progressively raise the weights employed while still using good form. Start out with 5 sets or each exercise, adding weight each set up to a top set. Over time work up to 3 work sets with the same poundage, then add weight and go back to a single set with your top weight, and repeat the cycle.

Adopt a sensible lifestyle, getting ample rest each night and a short nap in the day if possible. Eat a well-balanced diet including fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, wild rice, eggs, dairy products and meat. Adjust your caloric intake to your objective with respect to body weight. Even when maintaining such a wise nutritional program it’s advisable to supplement with at least a good multi-vitamin-mineral combination.

No program is a foolproof map for success; however, this one – tailored of the tried and true basic exercises – comes as close to providing that elusive guarantee for the neophyte as any yet devised in our sport. You senior beginners and others who have heretofore been mired at the starting gate – give it a strong try and develop that all-important foundation before moving on to other approaches.

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