Thursday, May 24, 2012

Traditional and Unique Approaches to Strength Training Programs - Jay Duval


Traditional and Unique Approaches to Strength Training Programs
Jay Duval (1998)

Many approaches are used in the design of strength training programs when sport-specific goals and objectives are targeted as the outcome. Strength and conditioning professionals have found they get the best results when applying scientifically based research. While sometimes implementing unique methods to achieve their results, most experienced coaches have developed a solid philosophy in their strategy.

This article presents some general concepts behind the design of various approaches to set/repetition schemes associated with basic core exercises. It also highlights some traditional approaches in the design of weekly regimens.

Set/Rep Schemes

Linear Progression 
For linear progression, repetitions remain relatively constant throughout the exercise. Generally the workload percentage increases from set to set, although during hypertrophy and preparatory phases the workload and intensity may remain constant. These rep schemes are often used with higher to moderate repetitions; however, this is not the rule. They may also be used in the strength/power phases, as the number of repetitions decreases to save energy for higher sets in the routine. Linear progressions are easily tracked.

15 x 55%, 15 x 60%, 15 x 63%
10 x 57%, 10 x 65%, 10 x 70%, 10 x 72%
8 x 52%, 6 x 65%, 6 x 75%, 6 x 78%, 6 x 80%, 6 x 83%
5 x 65%, 3 x 75%, 3 x 82%, 3 x 87%, 3 x 89%, 3 x 91%

Pyramid - Descending Sets (light to heavy)
The pyramid is one of the most common set/rep schemes. It provides an adequate warmup in the beginning, followed by a sequential progression from light to heavy workloads. It is usually applied with the large, multi-joint movements, and can be used throughout the training cycle from hypertrophy to strength/power without greatly modifying the initial sets. Athletes tend to become very comfortable with this progression as it evolves to heavier workload intensity from week to week.

10 x 50%, 8 x 60%, 6 x 76%, 5 x 83%, 4 x 88%
10 x 50%, 8 x 62%, 6 x 78%, 4 x 86%, 2 x 90%

Double Pyramid or Skewed Variation (light to heavy to light)
The double pyramid typically progresses in intensity and workload from light to heavy, then returns to light/moderate loads to complete the routine. A sequential progression in workload intensity is used, similar to the pyramid structure, with workloads then being reduced for several more sets. This method enhances technique, muscular endurance and hypertrophy, as well as being a simple way to increase overall workload.

10 x 60%, 7 x 74%, 4 x 86%, 2 x 90%, 5 x 78%, 10 x 65%
8 x 65%, 5 x 78%, 3 x 88%  1 x 94%, 5 x 80%, 8 x 67%

Ascending Reps
Ascending reps are sometimes applied through the power phase, ordinarily with Olympic-style movements in order to stimulate power production in the final sets of the exercise. They can be effective in stimulating the work ethic in the early training phases as well.

4 x 65%, 4 x 70%, 5 x 75%, 8 x 78%
3 x 72%, 3 x 77%, 4 x 80%, 6 x 83%

A positive aspect of this loading and unloading scheme would be enhanced neuromuscular stimulation. Alternating the loads from set to set improves force production and promotes the recruitment of fast twitch fibers. The lifter follows a heavier set with a lighter set. Lighter loads are performed dynamically with great speed. 

8 x 65%, 6 x 78%, 4 x 85%, 3 x 88%, 6 x 80%, 3 x 90%, 4 x 80%
6 x 67%, 4 x 80%, 4 x 88%, 3 x 82%, 2 x 92%, 4 x 82%

Single Set to Exhaustion
This is sometimes used with 2 or 3 sets. It is not often used as a method for strength training. Leading sport scientists have conducted valid testing and evaluation studies and presented evidence of the questionable results obtained for sport-specific applications. 

60-78% of 1-RM performed to muscular failure.


4-day/week Split Routine Variation Examples
1.) Upper body movements, Days 1 & 3
     Lower body movements, Days 2 & 4 

     Heavy, Days 1 & 2; Light, Days 3 & 4

2.) Pushing movements, Days 1 & 3
     Pulling movements, Days 2 & 4

     Heavy, Days 1 & 2; Light, Days 3 & 4

3.) Upper body pushing, Days 1 & 3
     Lower body and pulling movements, Days 2 & 4

     Heavy, Days 1 & 2; Light, Days 3 & 4  

4-day/week Full Body
     Heavy, Days 1 & 2; Light/moderate, Days 3 & 4
Note: Usually designed with Olympic-style movements and variations as daily core exercises. Power is emphasized as the ultimate objective in training.

2-day/week Full Body
     Heavy, Day 1; Medium, Day 2; Light, Day 3 - 
or  Heavy, Day 1; Light, Day 2; Medium, Day 3
Note: Daily routine will often stress different planes of movement for each major muscle group from workout to workout. 

3-day/week Total Body - Alternating Weekly
Workout A: twice during Week 1, once during Week 2, e.g., A-B-A
Workout B: once during Week 1, twice during Week 2, e.g., B-A-B
Note: Promotes great recovery and recuperation. Intensity and workloads can be maintained at higher levels for longer periods vs. the traditional total-body, 3-times/week plan.


The key to good results is strategic and logical progressions in the periodic training plan. Prescribing appropriate load resistance assignments in view of the individual's current strength/power levels is one of the most important factors in reaching the desired levels of performance. This includes manipulation of sets and repetitions to conquer specific qualities of strength and power the athlete may be lacking.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Remotivating the Motivated - Dan Wagman

Is Lifting Art?

Remotivating the Motivated
by Dan Wagman, 1997.

In sport, especially in the weight room, motivation is typically associated with trying harder, concentrating more, persisting longer, paying close attention, and choosing to practice longer. All of these behaviors help coaches assess an athlete's level of motivation [Maehr, M., and J. Nicholls. Culture and achievement motivation: A second look. In: Studies in Crosscultural Psychology (Vol 2). N. Warren, ed. New York: Academic Press, 1980.]

and distinguish between someone who is highly motivated and someone who isn't. [Maehr, M., and L. Braskamp. The Motivational Factor: A Theory of Personal Investment. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1986.]

Yet, motivation is sometimes misunderstood in the sport domain because it is often equated with arousal.
[Roberts, G. Motivation in sport: Understanding and enhancing the motivation and achievement of children. In: Handbook of Research on Sport Psychology. R. Singer, M. Murphey, and L. Tennant, eds. New York: MacMillan, 1993. pp. 405-420.]

Pregame pep talks or shouting encouragement in the weight room are used to psych up athletes in an effort to enhance performance. However, arousal and motivation are separate and independent constructs [Roberts, G. (ed.). Motivation in Sport and Exercise. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1992.] 

and too high a level of arousal can actually decrease performance. 

Another misunderstanding concerns the "positive thinking" that coaches seek from their athletes. it is thought that if you believe you can win, succeed, or execute a perfect hang-snatch, this will increase your level of motivation.

While there is some support for this contention, these expectations must be based on reality and current performance ability. If your athlete's best clean is 120 kg., even positive thinking won't make him get 150. It turns out that unrealistic expectations could actually undermine motivation. [Locke, A., and J. Nation. Sport Psychology: An Introduction. Chicago: Nelson-Hall. 1989.]

A third misconception is that motivation is genetically endowed and innate -- that some people are just naturally motivated and others are not. Hence, if an athlete is judged to be low in motivation, it is often believed that this cannot be changed. Motivation is a learned attribute, however, and one that can be enhanced if the athlete really wants to play a sport. [Ames, C. Competitive, cooperative, and individualistic goal structures: A cognitive-motivational analysis. In: Research on Motivation in Education, Vol 1: Student Motivation. R. Ames and C. Ames, eds. New York: Academic Press, 1984, pp. 177-208]


[Roberts, G. Achievement motivation in children's sport. In: The Development of Achievement Motivation. J. Nicholls, ed. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 1984. pp. 251-281.]

The fact that motivation can be learned and enhanced, given a fundamental love for the activity, is an important concept for the strength and conditioning coach to appreciate, especially since many athletes may not see strength and conditioning as a very important activity. An athlete's primary consideration will be his or her chosen sport ('sport' including powerlifting, weightlifting, bodybuilding).

The fact that the strength and conditioning process helps athletes perform their sport tasks more efficiently does not occur to many athletes. They view it as an activity secondary to their sport and one that does not require much motivation. Thus the primary concern for the strength and conditioning professional (or self-coached individual) is to confront these views and instill a sense of purpose into the athlete's (his own) training.


The late and well-known motivational speaker Bob Bale defined motivation as follows:

"Motivation is an idea, emotion, or need from within a person which incites or compels that person to act or not to act." [Hutson, D. Productivity through motivation. In: Insights Into Excellence (4th ed.) Harrisburg, PA. Executive Books, 1992. pp. 170-181.]

3rd Edition

4th Edition

The key term here is "from within," as all motivation is self-motivation. A person must first have drive, desire, and a deep sense of love for the activity. This drive and desire is an internal force that cannot be attained externally from someone else. Although some have had some success in motivating others, this type of motivation generally does not last.

In light of this, you cannot "motivate" your athletes to lift weights. But you can create an environment and an understanding of individual challenges that will induce your athletes to motivate themselves and see the benefits of the strength and conditioning process.

In this sense, then, motivation is a force that propels your athletes into action. This force defines the direction and intensity of their actions. [Silva, J.M., and R.S. Weinberg. Psychological Foundations of Sport. Champaign, IL. Human Kinetics, 1984.]

The direction indicates whether they will approach or avoid a given task. The intensity refers to the degree of effort they will put forth to accomplish the task.

Hutson [Insights Into Excellence, see above] provides a formula of motivation that identifies the multiplicative nature of skill and effort. Hutson explains that individuals with great skill who expend a high degree of effort will produce more and be more motivated than those who have less skill and/or expend less effort.

However, this formula does not account for individual differences. These differences become important when trying to ascertain why a person has the skill but does not put forth the effort, or why a person puts forth the effort but stops short of learning the skills needed to succeed.

In addition, some of your athletes might train with great intensity but expend their energy in the wrong direction (e.g., the wide receiver who devotes a lot of time and effort in increasing his bench press rather than working on his sprint speed, or the strength-seeking lifter who follows a strictly cosmetic routine). Furthermore, the constructs of intensity, direction, skill, and effort do not account for why a given athlete has not been able, lately, to muster his usual degree of motivation.

Theories and Models

Many theories have been proposed to explain motivation and how it is developed. In general these theories can be broken down into behavioral models and cognitive models. The focus is on achievement behaviors of intensity (trying hard), persistence (continuing to try hard), choice of action (playing football rather than tennis), and performance (outcomes). [Handbook of Research on Sport Psychology, see above, pp. 405-420.]

The most noteworthy behavioral model was developed by McClelland and Atkinson and is referred to as the McClelland-Atkinson Motivation Model. [McClellenad, D.D., J.W. Atkinson, R.W. Clark, and E.L. Lowell. The Achievement Motive. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1953.]

Essentially the model is composed of several mathematical constructs that, when added together, predict whether an individual would be likely to participate in an achievement situation, such as an athletic competition.

Cognitive models have focused on the concept of self-confidence as a motivating force. Arkes and Garske [Arkes, H.R., and J.P. Garske. Psychological Theories of Motivation (2nd ed.). Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole, 1982.]

noted that the notion of self-confidence is consistent with McClelland and Atkinson's notion of need achievement. They concluded that athletes who are high in motivation also display high levels of self-confidence.

Harter [Harter, S. Effective motivation reconsidered: Towards a developmental model. Human Development. 21:34-64. 1978.]

proposed a theory of motivation based on perceived competence. According to Harter, athletes generally are motivated to achieve success and to become competent in sport related tasks. For example, a linebacker may view his strength in the squat as being an essential component to tackling an opponent.

When the athlete experiences success in the weight room (e.g., by setting a P.R.), he will have feelings of perceived confidence, positive effect, and the desire to train even harder. Unfortunately, unsuccessful attempts in the squat may result in negative emotions and a loss of motivation for this athlete.

Vealey [Vealey, R.S. Conceptualization of sport-confidence and competitive orientation: Preliminary investigation and instrument development. J. Sport Psychology. 8:221-246. 1986.]

proposed a cognitive model purporting that sport confidence and motivation are functions of an athlete's personality trait of confidence, the situation, and his competitive orientation. As these three factors interact, they produce state sport confidence, which in turn influences the quality of an athlete's behavioral response to performance. Once again, success in performance enhances one's self-confidence, satisfaction, and motivation.

Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation

Sport psychologists differentiate between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Money, praise, medals, trophies, and other rewards are sources of external motivation. Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is composed of the degree of competence, self-determination, and feelings of self-worth that participation in a given sport may yield. [Deci, E. Intrinsic Motivation. New York: Plenum, 1975.]


Intrinsic motivation can be either decreased or increased by two external reward characteristics, namely, control and information. [Sport Psychology: An Introduction, see above.]

In regard to control, we are talking about the extent to which the athlete views the rewards of participation as residing internally and being a source of enjoyment. When a player perceives that the sport is no longer played for intrinsic enjoyment but rather for a trophy or medal, his desire to play may decrease, as will his drive in the weight room.

The informational aspect concerns feelings of self-worth and self-determination. When these coveted qualities cannot be realized, external rewards will decrease intrinsic motivation. [Sport Psychology: An Introduction. see above.]

Earning the distinction of being the strongest player on the team sends a powerful message in terms of competence and self-worth that will assuredly increase intrinsic motivation. Conversely, getting recognition for a personal record in the squat, when the athlete knows the record is meaningless because he did not go low enough, sends a different message. In spite of the recognition the athlete gets for the attempt, his self-worth and feelings of competence may suffer as a function of the extrinsic rewards.

Furthermore, this athlete may conclude that hard work and proper technique are not required for participating in the sport or for recognition. For this athlete, then, it may simply be enough to go through the motions of conditioning.

Nevertheless, external rewards should not be denigrated. They are potentially very powerful tools that can, in certain circumstances, increase motivation. Yet if sport can be enjoyed for internal reasons, one can expect an athlete's motivation to be a more enduring quality that will resist the ups and downs so often associated with external rewards.

Increasing Motivation

Weinberg [Weinberg, R.S. The relationship between extrinsic rewards and intrinsic motivation in sport. In: Psychological Foundations of Sport. J.M. Silva and R.S. Weinberg, eds. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1985, pp. 177-187.] 

identified several ways to increase intrinsic motivation, four of which are discussed here:

1.) Structure the workouts in ways that enable athletes to experience a certain amount of success every day. Even if an athlete improves in only one technical aspect of a lift, this should be enthusiastically recognized.

2.) Give athletes a greater role in goal-setting and decision-making. When the athlete has some control over his sport life, intrinsic motivation is increased. An easy way to increase intrinsic motivation would be to simply ask the athlete (if you coach yourself, that'd be you, pardner) what he sees as some of his performance related challenges. Once these areas have been identified, both coach and athlete (yes, they could both be you!) can determine how to improve them. A bit of a three ring circus in that head, being coach, athlete and mid-level raconteur all at once.

When proper goal setting strategies are followed, this can open the door to long-term motivation in that the athlete's awareness, dedication, and commitment to achieving strength and power have been increased as well. [Psychological Foundations of Sport, see above.]

3.) Give praise for a job well done. If you coach yourself, turn around fast and pat yourself on the back, all the while considering that a telescope with infinite magnification would reflect an image of the back of the viewer's head. For example, on max-out day recognize that the team did well and congratulate all, even those who did not set a new PR. After all, those who did not set a PR are still a vital part of the team.

Recognize that positive and technique oriented praise will increase intrinsic motivation more readily than overly negative feedback. [Vallerand, R.J. Effects of extrinsic reinforcements on intrinsic motivation in sport: Implications for coaches. In: Sport in Perspective. J. Partington, T. Orlick, and J. Salmela, eds. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1982. pp. 112-140.]

As an example, many an athlete seems to have trouble keeping his weight over the heels while squatting. That is, while performing an actual squat and not simply weakly convincing himself the combination of a poor, partial squat and a semi-good morning with the butt shoved out like a red flag attached to the back of a wide load on a lumber truck is a squat. Unfortunately, a rose is not a rose in this case. Unless a duck walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it is not a duck, no matter how many say it is. But then again, with genetic engineering and cloning what they are today we may be able to graft a good morning onto a squat and, even though the movement (owing to DNA-altered brain deficiency and a general condition of weakened thought) is rarely executed beyond a slightly above parallel position, we could rename it the squat-mourning and carry on from there. Nonetheless, when an athlete's heels pop up off the ground while attempting to mimic an actual squat, his back is near parallel to the ground, and the buttocks barely below the level of his head coming out of the hole something must be thought, said, and done. A 35-lb. dumbbell applied rigorously and repeatedly to the lifter's temple is a possible beginning, but you cannot simply tell an athlete that he is not squatting properly and just sit back while he continues to do so week after week. Likewise, the self-coached athlete cannot simply watch countless videos of proper squats and then continue to perform his own in the same old haphazard manner. He must apply what he studies, manifest this gained knowledge in the physical world and start getting up on tiptoes more and sticking that butt out even farther while leaning forward like a heron on a hotplate dipping for water.

A more efficient approach would be to first point out that what the athlete did well (e.g. showing up to work out, walking the bar out properly, retracting the scapula and racking the bar properly across the upper back, etc.). Then, address the technique aberrations.

Follow up with specific advice on how to achieve a position that will keep the heels on the ground and the weight over them. For example, instruct the athlete (you?) that the first movement should NOT be bending the knees but rather unlocking the hips and pushing the gluteus back, similar to sitting down on a chair. Give these instructions step by step and praise the components that were executed properly.

4.) Avoid boredom (exercise ennui). Performing the same drills or exercises in the same sequence will eventually lead to boredom. Simply reversing the order of exercises or making similar changes can be motivating and will increase the athlete's interest and effort. 

Addressing Individuality

As a coach, it becomes important to recognize and act upon each athlete's psychological make-up. You must realize that will bring his own background experiences, attitudes and opinions, interest and desires, ways of responding to coaching, and unique personal situations. It follows, then, that you cannot expect the same motivational strategies to be equally effective with all athletes. You, as a self-coached individual, can likewise not expect the first motivational method you happen across to be suited to your make-up. No different from training temperament, the approach to motivation you find to work will take some time in discovering, and will, like training itself, have to be altered and adapted to fit the changing you. I'm gonna learn this dance if it takes me all dang day! Maybe longer.

Sports scientists Vernachia et al. [Vernachia, R., R. McGuire, and D. Cook. Coaching Mental Excellence: It Does Matter if You Win or Lose. Carmel, IN: Brown & Benchmark, 1992.]

have summarized six motivational patterns identified through research. A brief discussion of these patterns may shed some light on the dynamics encountered in different people and their motivational challenges. Furthermore, by identifying an athlete's motivational pattern (or your own), one can directly address this particular challenge via pattern-specific interventions.

Learned Helplessness

Characteristics of the learned helpless athlete would include lack of effort, low intensity behavior, and attributing the success to external factors such as luck or the competitor's superior ability. It's as if the athlete believes, "No matter how hard I try, the outcome is out of my control." Thus, whatever the outcome, such a person has learned to attribute it to external factors.

1.) Redefine success. Success really equals improvement in one's own performance. Don't allow the athlete to only measure his strength against that of others on the team.

2.) Arrange of allow for success (albeit ever so small) on a daily basis. Every pound in strength gained spells success. Microload the athletes confidence with small, stated inputs, always being watchful that they do not become repetitive and lose their power.

3.) Chart performance and improvement. Here's where it becomes crucial to allow your athletes to view changes in their progress over the seasons.

 4.) Allow the person to feel that he earned the success. You might indicate that his hard work and commitment paid off.

Fear of Failure

Fear of failure constitutes the pursuit of success in order to avoid failure. This approach eventually takes the fun out of the activity and can be emotionally draining. It is really a type of "negative motivation" that brings with it a constant sense of fear and worry. This in turn will result in overanxiousness and decreased performance.

Such a person makes up excuses for lackluster performance, worries about what others think, is preoccupied with a competitor's reputation, is indecisive, perceives that he has no control, and lacks concentration and the ability to evaluate situations rationally. Also, this person's self-worth is completely dependent on winning or losing.

A cause that has been linked to this motivational pattern is that of conditional rewards (e.g., "you are a good son and I care for you -- if you win." ), and inappropriate use of rewards (e.g., rewarding for a PR even if the technique was abysmal).

1.) Separate identity from performance. The athlete should not feel he is only a good person when his spring drills are done well.

2.) Communicate your approval for a job well done, regardless of whether it was a winning or losing situation. If on PR day the athlete missed his attempts, surely he still did something right. Point that out.

3.) Encourage learning from losses and rationally evaluate what occurred. If the bar moved too far out in front of the athlete while cleaning, systematically analyze it and provide input on how to correct for this.

4.) Point out that success = effort x ability x preparation x will.

5.) Employ goal setting strategies that emphasize the process and personal improvement.

Fear of Success

Preoccupation with the perceived negative aspects of winning is on of the characteristics of fear of success. There can be a fear of the future consequences of succeeding. The overwhelming "baggage" that follow success is just too much for the person who fears success. Having to deal with what one perceives as others' unrealistic expectations, responsibilities as a role model, and others' jealousy and envy become too much of a burden.

This person is comfortable in the No. 2 or 3 position. He doesn't want to be No. 1, even though it is attainable. At the last moment he will do something to avoid success. A mental barrier prevents this person from continuing on the path of mastery and achieving the No. 1 spot.

1.) Advise adherence to personal goals and point out that others' expectations are to be put in perspective. Remind the athlete that they are others' expectations and that he can determine his own.

2.) Prepare the athlete for being No. 1 and help him anticipate what follows.

3.) Expand the athlete's comfort zone. Help him visualize being the best and what goes along with it.

4.) Help the athlete tune in to his own game and not worry about other people.

The Perfectionist

The perfectionist is viewed as the ideal person. He works hard, has high expectations, and is highly intense. However, like the athlete who is motivated by a fear of failure, the perfectionist equates his self-image with performance. He cannot enjoy success and is never satisfied.

When expectations are great, excess pressure and stress increase and this person will work harder, longer, and more intensely. He is a prime candidate for overtraining syndrome. To this person, hard work = success. Period. Physical and mental fatigue set in and the result is diminished returns. The response is even harder, longer, and more intense work. This leads to further failure, decreased performance, frustration, and hopelessness -- a never ending cycle.

1.) Point out the importance of physical and mental rest and describe this as something positive. After all, a tired body cannot be a strong and powerful body.

2.) Encourage the athlete to take the time to enjoy success. If he did well in the weight room, give him a break for a day.

3.) Focus on the process rather than the outcome of competition and training. If the athlete can learn to enjoy getting better in the technical aspects of the lifts, there need not be much emphasis on pounds lifted -- that will come along by itself.

4.) Teach this athlete how to enjoy the process.

5.) Avoid overtraining.

The Underachiever

The underachiever has enjoyed tremendous success without hard work and self-discipline. He was the star in high school, and was always praised for his talent and genetics. As a result, he has not developed an appreciation for hard work and has never experienced the sense of pride one feels after working hard and then succeeding. This person dwells on past successes. The competitive nature of achievement will catch up with him and he will never realize his potential.

1.) Get the athlete to verbally commit to change.

2.) Educate him about the effort-to-success ratio. The weight room especially lends itself to this.

3.) Set goals and chart progress. Explain the principles of periodization and develop a chart.

4.) Stress self-improvement. If the the athlete gets stronger, bigger, faster, he has done a great job.

5.) Expand the athlete's time orientation to include past, present, and future.

Learned Effectiveness

The learned effective pattern [Rotella, R. Learned helplessness: A model for maximizing potential. In: Sport Psychological Considerations in Maximizing Sport Performance. L. Bunker and R. Rotella, eds. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1981. pp. 93-123.]

is ideal in terms of motivation and performance. It is characterized by the following 10 traits:

1.) Making no excuses and blaming no one else.

2.) Accepting responsibility.

3.) Seeing weakness as a challenge.

4.) Having a healthy sense of pride.

5.) Employing proper preparation, fostering a high degree of confidence.

6.) Recognizing that performance, process, and personal goals form the basis to a well thought-out plan.

7.) Seeing internal factors as the basis for success.

8.) Working smart, not just hard.

9.) Recognizing that the job does not equal who one is.

10.) Valuing rest after a job well done.

Concluding Remarks

It is often up to the strength and conditioning coach to instill a sense of purpose and increase athletes' motivation in the weight room. It is always up to you yourself as a lifter to instill a sense of purpose and instill motivation in the weight room. At some point in your life there will be no one there to buoy you up and pat your back. In the gym it is on you and up to you.

It is important to recognize that motivation can be learned and enhanced depending on various individual factors. With this realization in mind, the strength and conditioning coach has a good chance of getting his athletes in the right frame of mind to reap maximum benefits from the strength and conditioning process.

By attending to individual motivational needs, the strength and conditioning coach can create a positive and performance enhancing environment that fosters success and high levels of motivation. But first, the coach must derive an understanding of each athlete's individuality, an ambitious undertaking. Yet this can be achieved by attending to the following:

-- When interacting with athletes,  be authentic, nondefensive, and genuine.

-- Do not attach any conditions to personal regard.

-- Try to provide accurate reinforcement for a given situation.

-- Ascertain what attracts the athlete to the sport (intrinsic vs. extrinsic factors) so you can provide the proper incentives.

-- Ascertain what repels the athlete (fear of injury, lack of success, pressure to perform, fear of failure) so you can decrease the likelihood of such occurrences.

Once you have this information, help each athlete understand why he or she needs to follow a strength and conditioning program. Explain how strength and conditioning benefits are derived (e.g., why one does plyometrics and how this affects power output).

By developing a complete profile of each athlete's motivational pattern, you are obtaining valuable information. This information should be recorded and become part of the athlete's training file. It will help the strength and conditioning staff in case they need to intervene to address an athlete's lack of motivation. (The objective lifter observes himself from a slight distance periodically and performs a self-intervention when needed. There is more to progress than poundages written on paper.) Moreover, in deriving an understanding of each athlete's individuality, one provides the athlete with a learning experience as well.


Homer Simpson 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

LIfting in the 5th Dimension, Part Twelve - Thomas Foote

"The There in The Here

The Fugue Steppes

Again the old man paused to scan the frustrating sameness of the plain. "How did we become separated?" Path Finder asked himself as he shielded his eyes against the glare. "But then," he thought, "that's how it always happens in these parts."

Crossing the Wastes of the Fugue could be treacherous, he had told his companion. An ancient spell clung to the area. It resulted in a recurrent pattern of events for hapless travelers. Even those, like himself, who were familiar with the Wastes could become mysteriously disoriented and wander dangerously away from their intended course. Though the source of the spell was now forgotten, its consequences were the stuff of legends.

'There are worse things than being lost," Path Finder had reminded The Kid before their separation.

"Like what?" the younger man asked.

"Like being found," Path Finder answered in an ominous tone," by someone, or something, other than a friend."

And now as the old guide stopped to recall that last conversation, he saw what he had hoped he wouldn't see. But the huge tracks were inevitable. They were part of the recurring fugue pattern.

Not fifty yards across the flat, baked plain lay the first print. It was huge! As big as a child's swimming pool, the print's depth spoke of the immense weight of its maker. Like a signature, the three splayed toes, which ended in the trailing marks of heavy claws, announced the saurian presence of the steppe of Pain.

Path Finder now realized that they must have awakened the terrible lizard when The Kid stumbled upon his den. It had happened just before the travelers reached the great Inner Door. The unsuspecting pilgrim had nearly stepped on the sleeping beast, who had become the self-appointed guardian of the 5th Dimension. While Path Finder had acted quickly to silence his clumsy charge, he now knew he had acted too late. And he remembered something else. Like when you're halfway to work and remember that you left your lunch on the table by the front door so you wouldn't forget it, in his mind's eye Path Finder could see that great door, gaping at him wide open.

"I'm gettin' too old for this sort of thing," the guide muttered to himself, shaking his head.

Pain, the sly old dragon that he was, must have been following them all along, just biding his time. The lizard's patience was as cool as his blood. Now Pain had them were he wanted them - out in the open, separated and lost. Path Finder would have to act fast.

Following the beast's trail was easy (if unpleasant). Quickly Path Finder found the faint, shuffling tracks of The Kid as they intersected those of Pain.

"Well," thought the old guide with a sigh, "I did my best to protect the young fool. Now I had better hurry and pick up the pieces."

Path Finder heard The Kid before he saw him. The quiet moans seeped from the depths of a dragon print. Stopping again, Path Finder held his breath as he squinted his eyes and reconnoitered the trail. A disheveled head and shoulders slowly rose above the lip of a near print. Dirt fell from the face, where it had left an imprint, under the weight of Pain's touch.

"Path Finder," the dirty apparition croaked, "is that you?"
"None other," the guide said. "Do you need assistance?"

"Yes," The Kid answered flatly. "Did you get the number?"

"Number?" said Path Finder.

"Yeah," said The Kid, "the license number of the semi that ran me down." 

"That was no truck," said Path Finder. "That was Pain."

"You're telling me," he said, reaching for the old man's hand. 

Standing on the edge of the print, The Kid slapped more dirt from his worn clothing. Path Finder seemed distracted and nervous as he cast his gaze about for further signs of company.

"One last thing, Path Finder?" he asked with a curious edge to his voice.

The young man's tone of voice caught the guide's attention and he paused to regard him more closely.

"Just one little thing," he reiterated, "is Pain supposed to be good for me, too?"

"He's real," said Path Finder. And with that he turned and strode off.

Ignorance is Bliss

Let's imagine The Kid after dragging himself from under Pain's mighty taloned feet.  

"Somewhere," the young pilgrim ponders, "There are people - fat and soft - who don't hurt."

While he remembers what Path Finder said about "Pain" becoming a companion, rather than an adversary, he is skeptical.

"If ignorance is bliss," he reasons, "there must be a lot of happy fat people." 

I can sympathized with him. Understanding pain was a task unknown in his previous existence. As a weight lifter, however, ignorance of pain is not an affordable luxury. Pain and injury are real and must be dealt with.

Many an unsuspecting pilgrim has awakened the beast and found it so alarming an experience to feed him that their journey came to an abrupt end - they quit. It is understandable, that people who don't exercise regularly have misconceptions about pain.

Types of Pain

One of the first distinctions they must learn is the "acute/chronic lesson". Acute pain might be described as your first encounter with the dragon. You awaken that first morning, after beginning the long awaited crusade to reshape your sagging flesh, and know suddenly that you can't sit up in bed without assistance. Pain, himself, has stepped on you while you were minding your own business and dreaming of your new body. It's not fair, is it? Unfortunately, ethics are beyond the capacity of Pain's cold, lizard brain. He steps on the just and the unjust equally hard.

Chronic pain is next. This task requires learning to ride the dragon. It is special knowledge, held by an elite few. Recently a guy at the gym asked me how I was doing. I replied, "Great . . . between injuries." To my surprise he nodded with a knowing smile. I found I wasn't alone. My wife put it a little differently. "You don't get over the 'owies', she said, "you just get used to them."

Like right now. My left shoulder is being visited by the dragon. Injury's great and urgent need for my company has become increasingly apparent. Maybe it's only a house call and he won't settle in for the duration. Injuries seem anxious to visit, but reluctant to take leave.

I've see "P.T.A." scrawled and scratched into weight room walls. The graffiti of sweat. To the initiate, the acronym announces "Pain, Torture and Agony". There have been mornings when my body was a map of pain. Lying still like an accident victim who fearfully and silently surveys himself seeking the as yet unknown extent of damage, I have transversed an inner map from dull aching left knee, to biting lumbar spine, to crippling shoulders, to . . . 


I don't mean to be discouraging, only honest. Not to discuss pain would be like sending you into dangerous territory, while withholding a key to survival. Pain is multifaceted. It can warn you to safety and generate new thinking.

As Path Finder once pointed out, "Pain is a four letter word". Usually I hate pain. It seems like a foretaste of what getting old is saving for me. It discourages and demoralizes.

There is another side to it. A painful injury has often motivated me to re-evaluate my goals and methods. This is a useful function. Pain becomes a harsh, impartial coach. When lifting weights, it usually signals one of two errors: (1) bad form, or (2) ego-intrusion. Of course the two can be combined. Squats represent a perfect opportunity for both errors and much pain -- lumbar, spinal, acute and extreme. Just put 50 pounds more than you can handle on the bar. Now lean a little too far forward when beginning the upward drive, and overbalance just a bit on one foot. Voila! Did you feel/hear that small, dull "thuck" in your lower back? What follows varies. For me it's much pain, crabbiness and reciprocal crabbiness at home, many dollars at the chiropractor, the loss of my training regime and (last-but-not-least) soul searching reevaluation of goals and means-end relationships.

Case Studies

I've seen a lot of victims upon whom pain has visited. Recently I was "working in" with a guy on the bench press. Spotting for him I noticed what looked like hesitation in his fingers as he went through that very familiar process of setting up his grip. His fingers kind of danced along the bar a little too long before the hands took hold. Then he raised the bar off the standards and, taking a deep breath eased the bar down to his chest. Just before the bar touched, during those last couple of inches when the shoulders -- still cold, were stretched for the first time -- well, his eyes squinched shut and his whole face paled a little.

It hurt! He did the warmup repetitions and then sat up shaking his head. He was mumbling more to himself than to me. "Got cortisone in both shoulders after that injury, don't wanna do it again.' He'd already laid off to two months hoping the pain in his shoulders would go away. It hadn't. With the pain still there and some strength missing, he was discouraged.

There are many others: the guy I could always smell coming because of the liniment, or the one I haven't seen recently with the ruptured lumbar disc.

Pain is real. It's natural. Usually it is a warning signal and you need to pay heed. If you listen to its hateful voice, you can learn valuable lessons. If you don't listen, you get some advanced lessons anyway.

It's Natural

I'm reminded of an event rather far removed from weight lifting. Working on a pasture fence, I was carrying a future corner post on my shoulder. The post happened to be a railroad tie, whose weight increased with every step. When I reached the final resting place I was anxious to be rid of the post. So, easing one end to the ground I pushed the tie off my shoulder just in time to see Rusty, our cocker spaniel, dashing nose down into the arching path of 100 plus pounds of descending, pressure treated, creosoted, scrub-oak railroad tie.

Lucky for Rusty his face got squashed into the mud. With more of a scream than a bark, he lay still. Well, we rushed him to the vet who found no major signs for concern. He even sent us home with no medication for what we presumed to be the canine equivalent of a massive hangover. The pain, the vet explained, would be nature's way of ensuring that Rusty would remain still and rest. Recovery could have been hampered by drugs, which would have masked the pain, and allowed him to move about prematurely. Pain is natural. It serves a purpose.

Ego Traps

One lesson, as I've said, is good form. Many if not all books on weight lifting stress this point. Less discussed is the pride problem. It's sad, but true, that the mind can go into overdrive and literally tear you apart. This is another symptom of the tyranny of the mind over the body. Because you are not sufficiently tuned into your body, your judgement is faulty. You're not listening!

Injuries which result from body-deafness are the most tragic. They shouldn't occur. In most of us the body and mind are neither balanced nor integrated and it is for this reason that we are taking the journey with The Kid and Path Finder. I'll have more to say about Ego-overdrive when we discuss getting lost and regaining perspective in a later chapter.

Semantics of Pain

Let's go back to the statement, "Pain is a four-letter word". It is also esoteric if Path Finder's dictionary is to be trusted. For the moment, we are going to delve into the psycho-linguistics of pain. Pain, like cancer, schizophrenia and intelligence, is a categorical term. That is, it represents a class of presumably related phenomena. We now know that it doesn't mean much, treatment-wise, to say you are suffering from cancer.

Similarly, being schizophrenic means you're messed up mentally in some serious and complex manner -- but not to what degree. Having words like schizophrenia around has been marvelous for the clinician who must mask his ignorance from the lay public. Intelligence is equally guilty as a word which lacks information. You try to pin a psychologist down sometime on a definition and the best you get is "Intelligence is what an intelligence test measures." It's enough to make you crazy.

Pain, unfortunately, is another term which has avoided specificity. Sometimes I hear people attempt to amend the paucity of terminology by qualifiers. "It hurts good or it hurts bad." There is supposed to be some sort of relationship between familiarity or necessity to describe the environment and the subsequent ability of the language to make distinctions. Hence the Eskimos are said to have something like a hundred words for snow. Probably stuff like "morning snow, evening snow, good tracking snow, stay-at-home snow". The Arabs probably have few words for snow, but are said to have in excess of 1000 words for "sword". I don't even want to pursue why this would be the case, but it might give some insight into their politics. I also heard about an African tribe which had 600 words for "cattle". They were nomadic herdsmen. Meanwhile, academicians argue whether language shapes reality or just reflects it. Not being a specialist I'll suggest it does both.

Now, back to pain. I checked our Webster's New World Thesaurus (1974):

pain, n.
1. (suffering, physical or mental) hurt, anguish, distress, discomfort, disorder, agony, misery, martyrdom, wretchedness, shock, torture, torment, passion.

2. (suffering, usually physical) ache, twinge, catch, throe, spasm, cramp, torture, malaise, sickness, laceration, soreness, fever, burning, torment, distress, agony, affliction, discomfort, hurt, wound, strain, sting, burn, crick.

pain, v.
distress, grieve, trouble; see hurt.

What about that "good-hurt soreness" you feel in your pecs the day after a really fine session of benching? Can you imagine saying, "I got a real laceration from those benches yesterday." It does have a sort of a colorful ring to it, but I don't think it conveys the real message very clearly. Aside from the questionable fits like "soreness" and "burn", the Thesaurus contained scant help for a lifter who wants to differentiate between "bad-hurt" (injury) or "good-hurt" (progress). I, for one, am not about to stroll into a weight room and announce that I have a "wretched martyrdom in my quadriceps."

Many of us lack the terminology to deal with the subjective states associated with exercise. It follows that our culture has become sedentary and avoids introspection. By now it has become clear that "self-knowledge" is far more than just a head game. It should also be clear that the word "pain" is a categorical fruit basket, containing many treats -- some good and some not so good. It also is clear why Pain is a dragon. Basically, I've always been fond of dragons, but you have to respect them. They can crush you under foot, as The Kid learned, or become a training partner.

Next: The Far Shore.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Inspiration from Enrique Hernandez - Grant Williams

Wrist Curls, The Bench Press, and Enrique Hernandez
by Joseph Horrigan, Soft Tissue Center

Barbell Crossover Stars
by Dresdin Archibald

Profiling World Champ Enrique Hernandez
by Grant Williams (1977)

"I don't have any kneecaps, and haven't had them since 1967," Enrique Hernandez told me. I stared at him in total disbelief. It simply couldn't be true, not with a man who was an Olympian in 1968, and a world champion at powerlifting. Nobody without kneecaps could possibly squat an official 472 world record at 132, or at a training weight of 136 do a triple with 475 totally without wraps.

"Yes, Bill, it's true. I was on my way to a weightlifting meet in 1967, when the driver of a jeep in which I was riding ran a stop sign. We were broadsided by another vehicle. The jeep flipped over on top of me after I fell out, and my legs were smashed. In my right leg alone, there were three compound fractures, and my kneecap was completely ripped away. After the accident they couldn't even find it.

"The damage was so extensive that for some time the doctors were going to amputate my right leg. The only thing that saved me was being on the U.S. Air Force weightlifting team and having somewhat more status than the average airman. Had I been a nobody, they would have cut the leg off. That day they transferred me to another hospital for a specialist to look at me, and the leg was saved. This happened in May of 1967, and in May of 1968 I made the Olympic weightlifting team for my native Puerto Rico, meeting the qualifying total for all nations."

The bottom line on Enrique Hernandez's legs is that he's been lifting for the last 10 years without a kneecap on either side. "It causes some limitations," he admits. "For example, I've been doing leg extensions for 10 years and haven't been able to improve 10 pounds in the movement. Nor can I do any sort of jumping. Still, I've worked my legs so hard that I've overcome the handicaps.

"My legs do hurt. In 1971 I was doing 475 for a squat triple, all the way down, with no wraps. It's deteriorated since then. The squat is still my best lift, but it's so hard to train. Usually my legs are dead after a workout."

Holder of a Master's Degree, Enrique is an Assistant Professor in the Physical Education Department at San Diego State University. His education and resultant knowledge of anatomy, physiology, kinesiology and biomechanics have greatly influenced his training. So have his studies of Soviet Olympic lifters.

Hernandez training in cycles, gearing his overall workout plan to peak at three to five meets a year. As competition approaches, his training gradually becomes more intense, a procedure which helps him peak higher each meet. He told me about his workouts . . .

"Right now I'm doing something entirely different than in the past. I train two days in a row and then take one day off, which gives me at least 48 hours of rest for each muscle group. If I do bench presses on Monday, I will do them again on Thursday and again on Sunday (this is not a 7-day, week-based repeating cycle). According to physiologists it takes about 48 hours to recuperate from a strength workout, and that's the reason I now use this system of  training.

"If benches are done on Mondays and Thursdays, squats and deadlifts will be trained on Tuesdays and Fridays. I often work out on a Sunday like any other day, because the regular three-day cycle hits that day too. Day One: Bench; Day Two: Squat and Deadlift; Day Three: Rest. Repeat.

"I use the same type of sets that the Bulgarians and the Russians do with their Olympic lifters -- no more than 2 or 3 repetitions, but a tremendous number of sets. Sometimes my workout will last a full hour and a half for each of the lifts, so you can see that I do many sets. This could be 30, 40, or 50 sets for each of the three powerlifts, because I do a lot of assistance exercises."

Enrique's deadlift has come up quite a bit in recent months. "To improve my deadlift I do pulls from above the knees, and plenty of negative movement deadlifts. I think the negatives have done it for me. In the power rack, using straps, I managed 750 from my knees, but that area of the lift is usually not my problem. Ordinarily I have trouble starting the weight from the floor."

With such training Hernandez has official lifts at 132 of 472 squat, 336 bench, 510 deadlift, 1296 total, and 275 Olympic press. His training performances are far more remarkable. At his normal bodyweight of 136, Enrique has done a single bench press of 370, double with 350, and 10 consecutive reps with 310. He's also done 500x1 and 405x10 in the squat, 310x3 incline press, incline dumbbell press 150x5,dips with 250, five pinch grip pullups on 2x12 rafters, a front squat of 405 and an Olympic press of 292! With such lifts in mind, it's easy to believe he'll do the 500-350-550 for a 1400 total that he's predicting at the '77 Senior Nationals.

Enrique Hernandez has won well over 200 trophies in Olympic lifting and Powerlifting during his 12 years of competition. In Powerlifting he was Pan-Am Champion in 1973, World Champion in 1975, and National Champion in 1970, 1973, 1974, and 1975. He was Olympic lifting champion in 1971 and has even won awards in freestyle wrestling and arm wrestling.

Since he has gained considerable success in both of the Iron Game's lifting sports, I asked Hernandez if he prefers one over the other. "No. To me they are not as individually important as simply being able to compete in one or the other. Actually, I've been told that I'm in the wrong sport and should be in wrestling. Experts say that I'm a much better wrestler than weightlifter or powerlifter."

Perhaps Enrique's approach to personal physical fitness has had much to do with his success in powerlifting, as well as in other sports. "I love to maintain my own physical fitness, and I believe all athletes should be fit. I'm 32, and very few can keep up with me in running, swimming, wrestling, gymnastics or powerlifting. Because of my fitness I can train with anyone for three or four hours and never run out of gas."

Hernandez runs between 20 and 30 miles per week, in addition to his powerlifting workouts. This is usually in the form of three to five miles per day at a six-minute mile pace (remember the kneecaps?). Such training has dipped his pulse rate down to the under 60 beats per minute range.

As great as his success has been, Enrique feels he will do better in the future. "From 1967 to 1970 I made extremely good gains because I was in the Air Force, had plenty of time to work out, good facilities, and fine coaching. Right now, my wife and I are trying to get ahead in life, and I have many debts from my schooling. As a result I have less workout time, it's difficult to concentrate on a good diet, and I have only a minimum of coaching.

"If I can find time to work out, I think I can keep making gains in powerlifting for 10 more years. I'm getting stronger and stronger, and am hardly training when compared to past years. As Gloria and I become more established in life, my training situation will improve and gains will come quickly."

Enrique lifts for the Thompson Power Team from which he receives travel support and equipment. The greatest influence in his life, however, has been his wife, Gloria. "When I met her I was a nobody and had no ambitions. My wife has been the best thing that has ever happened to me!"

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How Fast Should You Gain Weight and Size - John Grimek

Paul Love 1977

Paul Love
1980 and 2012

How Fast Should You Gain Weight and Size
by John C. Grimek (1976)

Just how fast should you gain bodyweight without such weight  becoming a liability? The question is asked so often and the answers obtained are debatable. Inexperienced youngsters (and some not so young), however, feel that they should gain several pounds a day so that within a month or two they should be as massive as they ever hope to be. That is not the answer, not the correct procedure . . . and even if one could gain weight that rapidly it is certainly not healthy. Any overnight increase of weight puts added burdens upon the organs and glands, but especially the heart, giving rise to one's blood pressure and further stress on the entire system. The only sensible way to put on weight is gradually . . . not more than 15 or 20 lbs. in a year. In this way the whole body acclimates itself to the process because the increase is so gradual there is never any great stress and the body continues to function normally. Consider that 15-20 lbs. in one year is about 1.5 to 2 lbs. a month.

Let's assume, as an example, that in one month you put on 20 to 30 lbs., and I might add, this is not so uncommon as you think. Swilling gallons of milk a day, along with several nutrient dense meals and snacks, sometimes covered with sauces and oils can put weight on just about anyone this fast. It's not that hard, not that uncommon and not that worthwhile. You'll gain mainly fat when you gain weight at this rate of speed, and if you think it's easy to pare off afterwards, just ask a lifter who's couldn't make weight for a competition.

There have been many weight lifting enthusiasts who gained that much and more. All this extra weight demands the extending of the capillaries throughout this added tissue, which causes the heart to work harder to supply that extra weight. Under such conditions the blood pressure within the body rises in order to meet these demands, and if for some reason a man had any fragility of his venous or arterial system, aneurysms and ruptures could occur, especially when the person was under stress, such as doing heavy weight training and straining at it. Now, think again about the men who have suggested, even shown you how to gain weight at this rate . . . 20 to 30 lbs. a month. Do you think they have your best interests at heart, or are they merely trying to make a dollar and a name for themselves in the game at the expense of ill-educated and green trainees?

If, however, this 30 lbs. was gained within months or even a year or two, the body would be accustomed to this procedure and carry on its function without any hindrance. The heart would grow stronger from the exercise done and from the demands put upon it, thus running into no strain or problems. The weight gained would be solid, mainly muscle, and not just fatty tissue that serves no real purpose for a lifter. Granted, additional weight (and here we are talking of fat not muscle) can increase a lifter's poundages in certain lifts. But think for a moment. Is that what you want? To add weight to the bar by adding weight to your midsection? There is strength, and there is leveraging heavier weights with added fat tissue. You choose.

A gain of a pound a week for a while isn't too much, although a pound (or two) a month is more compatible . . . and even that would amount to 15 to 20 lbs. a year, a lot of muscular weight in any man's language. The truth is that everyone wants to become a massive superman overnight, not realizing that it simply does not happen this way, and never seeing or caring how it affect's one's internal organs when weight is added rapidly and indiscriminately. So long as the scales show the gains . . . even though the body becomes bloated and weaker relative to its weight. That is wrong and should be avoided, regardless of how much you want to become big and heavy. It is the wrong approach.

Any weight gaining should be sensibly done and acquired thoughtfully. The weight that you do gain should be useful and not just be so much blubber.

Another folly of putting on weight too fast is that it is seldom permanent, especially if it's of the "forced growth" type that some lifters obtain. To prove a point, allow me to relate a true example and one that has remained deeply etched in my mind.

For a period of time I belonged to a YMCA that had no weights, but they did have the usual apparatus. I enjoyed doing dips on the parallel bars, dislocates on the flying rings, kips on the hi-bar, and to finish my session I swam a few laps in the pool. One day, however, I overheard a friendly argument between two men who worked out at the Y regularly. One was more inclined to gymnastics, and the other man was bodybuilding with whatever apparatus was available. The bodybuilder (Fred) was around 5'9" and had a fair physique with pretty well developed arms. The gymnast (Bill) looked like a gymnast, with heavier than average pectoral muscles. He was close to 6' with arms that measured a little over 15". In their discussion the gymnast said he could get his arms to match the bodybuilder's measurements in about two months. You can imagine what kind of argument followed. The bodybuilder was vehement in his doubtfulness, but after a half hour or more of the debate, a wager was made . . . a time limit of eight weeks was also made. In spite of this the gymnast insisted that his arms would measure 17" or more at the end of this period, although the bodybuilder was sure this increase was out of the question, judging by his own experience.

One afternoon while I was in the gym doing some bar work the bodybuilder came in to do his workout. We got to talking and the first question he asked was, "Do you think that Bill could put nearly two inches on his arms in eight weeks?" Since I was at that time little more than a rank beginner myself, I told him that in my opinion I doubted that the gymnast could attain his boast. I also added that I had been been training for nearly a year and in all that time had not made such a gain in my arms. To which he added, "Me neither."

Before I finished my dips, Bill the gymnast walked in and began chinning. This guy was a real fiend when it came to chins. He did chins with a narrow, wide, and medium grip, and then he reversed grips and repeated the same routine. Later he crossed his hands and did half-chins, one-quarter chins, and every conceivable variety I ever saw . . . and would you believe that within two weeks his arms began looking rounder and bigger? Just about every day he was working his biceps until they were red and swollen, and growing larger. The bodybuilder worked out about four times a week but, while he improved, his overall gain in arm size during the eight-week period was barely 1/2 an inch.

And would you believe that at the end of eight weeks Bill the gymnast sported a full 17" arm . . . it measured exactly 17.25 inches. The bodybuilder couldn't believe it. He had to check his own girth against the tape and found it to measure exactly as Bill's. You can imagine how frustrated Fred was. Here he worked in earnest and all that work netted him but a half-inch, while Bill's arm gained two inches. Fred was sick, sick enough to quit training and just do chins. Although, when both men stood profile to observe their arms in the locker room mirror, Fred's arm was bigger and rounder looking. No one could deny that Bill's arm wasn't vastly improved, and all who knew of the wager came over and congratulated him for the great job he did to prove his point.

But then something happened. The gymnast was by vocation a salesman, and this was a busy time for him. He was forced to leave on a short road trip for a period of 10 days.The amazing thing to us was that when Bill got back his arms had shrunk down to practically their former size. When some of the Y members asked what happened to make his arms shrink so, he nonchalantly shook his head and said, "Nothing. I haven't done a chin since the day I won the bet." He also added, "And because I was on the road I didn't have much chance to do anything, so I guess my arms went down."

Some weeks later, the bodybuilder got a virus that laid him up for two or three days. Even though it was another week before he got back to his regular workouts, no one saw any great change in his arm size. He admitted that he lost less than a quarter of an inch, but after a few training sessions he not only regained it but nearly added a further quarter of an inch. Fred knew from experience that whenever he lost any of his girths he could readily regain them after a few workouts. But for Bill to regain his lost measurement he would have had to undergo another siege of intensive training. Some of the members urged him to try again, but he seemed to want no part of it, only smiling and saying, "Well, maybe another time." But he never did.

The point I want to illustrate here is that this is a good lesson for all who seek to achieve fast gains. I know I never forgot the incident just related, and I never tried to force growth. I learned that growth of this type was never lasting, and if for some reason one had to lay off training for days or weeks, all that improvement disappeared. What's the percentage in having an 18-inch arm today that a week or two later would be down to 15. It just doesn't make good sense.

If you are out to build muscle because you want to improve your overall appearance, then take such steps as to assure yourself that once you develop it, it will remain, short of some drastic illness or accident. "Inflated" bodybuilders often find that their size disappears after they are forced to skip only a few workouts. Among others troubled by this are those who take large doses of steroid to gain some mass. When they are forced to lay off or they fail to ingest sufficient protein for a steroid user, their muscles literally disappear.

I have always felt that once you develop a good 17 or 18-inch arm it should stay with you for as long as you stay alive. Sure, some changes must take place; you can not expect to have the same measurements at the age of 60 as you did at 25. However, most of it will remain, even if you don't train as hard, and very few men train as hard at 60 as they did at 25. It may seem as if you're training as hard, but don't be misled. You have less ambition, less incentive, and less drive to train a you did before . . . unless you are willing to go down deep and create it.

The point I wish to clarify, however, is that when muscle and strength are acquired through sensible training, without drugs, or force feedings, or other incentives to induce fatty tissue or water weight, the results are more lasting and it takes less effort to maintain them thereafter.

How can you can gain weight and size that will last? Follow your common sense! Train regularly. Don't overpump. Don't force a massive change in food intake on your body suddenly. Even if you gain one pound a month of true muscle (and be honest here), just remember that in three years that's 36 pounds. Enough to completely alter the look of your present physique. The chances are at first you will gain more and faster, but as your body begins to level out you may not gain more than a pound or two of actual muscle in several months.

That shouldn't make any difference. It's the overall result in the long run that counts . . . not what you gain this week. Keep that in your mind's eye and you'll find that whatever gains you make will be healthful, beneficial and long lasting.

Moreover, gradual gains are superior to any overnight gains which don't impose the usual strain upon the heart. The heart develops and strengthens with these gains. You won't run into any problems such as heart palpitations, irregular beats, and high blood pressure if you gain slowly and surely, and here please don't confuse gaining strength and true muscle this way with an easy endeavor or laziness. To gain lasting strength and muscle without fat you will have to work, and work very hard.

We know that the heart is a muscle, and as any muscle that's constantly subjected to over-strain it is apt to renege eventually. It needs ample nourishment and it requires resting periods after any stress put upon it. Gaining a lot of weight in a short time causes the heart to work harder and this strain weakens it, rather than strengthens it. Forget those rapid and monstrous gains or mainly fatty weight and waist size. Be content to work hard towards gaining quality weight so your heart gains in strength as your bodyweight increases. This way, there won't be any problems, with your heart or eventually having to lose the fat.

When putting on weight, if you start experiencing chest pains, shortness of breath, or your blood pressure goes up, be assured these things are not conducive to your long term health, your ability to gain more size, strength, and power. They spell trouble, and this much should be obvious.

Again, anyone who gains rapidly is certainly not gaining solid tissue. Such gains are apt to be more fat than muscle. Who is so blase as to attempt to cultivate fat when knowing that fat ruins the man?

Train with a purpose and achieve those desired gains, but don't be led to believe that you can fool yourself or your body. It's a mistake.  

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Lifting in the 5th Dimension, Part Eleven - Thomas Foote

Free Play

Dogma Blues

I have a perplexing fondness for routine. Just now I remembered an early professor who took the care to label me "dogmatic". Unfortunately, he was right. It strikes me as one of many facets of a need for security and predictability. That's not so strange. But it is a tendency which can take a lot of the fun out of working out. 

I find I get very "either/or". For example, take a look at this note I once wrote myself:

Today I watched rigidity do its dogmatic walk across my mind. I decided to run rather than lift and felt it necessary to envision a whole career of jogging. Finally, I realized that I just felt like running TODAY. 

It sounds silly, but once I had decided to jog rather than lift, I felt a compulsion to redefine my identity as a "runner" rather than as a "lifter". I get like that.


As a treatment for this strange affliction (rigor mortis of the imagination), I have self-prescribed periods of "free play" with weights. To some extent, there is a parallel with dancing "just for fun". Being no dancer, I must accept on good faith that a lot of dancers have no destination on the floor. Rather, their "purpose" is to enjoy the dancing experience. Play is like that. As a kid, I was a marathon play freak. I mean, I played incessantly without goals, objectives or routines. The very idea of structure seems antithetic to play. I'm sure that statement will offend someone with good intentions to mold the clay of young minds, etc. . . but I can just imagine my utter lack of enthusiasm for "structured play activities".

Free play with weights is specifically the antidote for the Dogmatic Blues. for this purpose Path Finder chose to do a one-handed lift called a Snatch. I first saw this move demonstrated by a couple of guys who said they usually worked out at home. It seems appropriate that people who were outside the mainstream did something fresh. There's probably a tendency, around gyms, for a certain homogeneity of routines to set in. Well, the One Hand Snatch looked like fun. So I tried it.

It was!

The Snatch

Basically, the Snatch is much like the Clean; that is, it is a coordinated, explosive movement. It takes balance and concentration. For these reasons it is specifically suited to our 5th Dimension. It is crucial to calm and clear the mind before a snatch so that you can focus on the moment. It must be something like a shot-put as opposed to a tug-of-war. Instead of a long, slow pull you must bring everything to bear on/in an instant. Once you get the general idea, teach yourself the move, and don't over-complicate things. There are plenty of how-to and technical materials available for you later on. But for now, don't worry about doing it "right" with a bar or a dumbbell or turns with both if you so choose. That kind of thinking just defeats the notion of play.

Before Powerlifting became an organized sport in the late '60's, strong men used to do what they called Odd Lifts. To my mind they probably had much more fun than do competitors at modern meets. These guys would see who could do the heaviest or the most one-arm presses with a bar or dumbbell, or heaviest bent-press, or see who could fold the most beer caps in a limited time. There was no real set routine of odd lifts and some of the strength or endurance feats were both awesome and creative.

I don't really have a "routine" of free exercises. (Hey kids, you want some structured play!) You have to discover free play for yourself. So remember, next time you enter the weight room feeling burned out, give yourself some slack. Try fooling around a little with some odd lifts. See if it doesn't rekindle the fun you once knew. Simply suggestions here, not the dictates of some taskmaster bent on directly increasing your P.R's as rapidly as humanly possible.

Low-Tech Purist

Here we talk about sweat. Much maligned and misunderstood, sweat is the bane of the polished armpit and the odor profiteers. Once I read about a Zen master whose personal recipe for enlightenment was to work up a daily sweat. Sweat - the baptismal water of the weight lifter. It's messy. It stings my eyes. It wrecks my grip and IT FEELS GOOD.

Machine Masters

At the gym where I usually work out, they recently installed about 14 hi-tech contraptions. Hi-tech is the current buzz word that has been added to the training vernacular, as a prefix, much like new-improved was once tacked onto laundry detergent. First we had James Bond level sports watches and running shoes described in quasi-medical jargon, and now "hi-tech" weight training equipment. Soon we'll be reading about the new-improved hi-tech training equipment, because once the prefix qualifiers begin they gain the capacity to reproduce like cancer cells, as with new-improved, extra-strength, heavy-duty, cutting-edge laundry soap.

Hi-tech people don't know how to work up a clean sweat. They don't appreciate it. I went my gym's free hi-tech training clinic. From there I saw a lot of nice folks, dressed in designer sports wear who did not sweat. Nor did they toil, and not at all did they smile. Absent was the familiar huff-puff, grunt-groan, and clash-crash of people happy to lift weights. The machines whispered on the bearings as their gliding parts guided solemn-faced exercisers through their paces.

At the threshold of this converted weight room I was greeted by the attendant. Before I could know the joy these machines held for the faithful, I had to be indoctrinated. I would have to see an orientation film and relearn a proper training approach. Water bottle and clip board mandatory. "Station" is what the anointed call each of these exercise machines. And the rules! Thou shalt not get in front of thy brother at his next station, thou shalt not perform more than one set per station, thou shalt not . . . 

I never made it through the whole orientation. I never even made it past the door where the attendant stopped me. I must've smelled of low-tech and they picked up the scent. 

Free Weights

My favorite workouts were in my college field house before it was "improved". The old field house was poorly lit and had a dirt floor. It also had a smell all of its own. The part of our brain which responds to smells is very, very old, and the responses from it can be powerful. The smell from the old field house used to escape into the hallway and rise up to greet you when you left the locker room, so your juices were already on their way to pumping before you saw the weights.

In that dimly lit and steamy field house both the weights and our spirits were free. On that grungy and dusty old dirt floor you could let the weights drop or dig in your shoes for a good hold. You could spit and drip sweat on that floor in a primal rut that might disgust some people's sanitary preferences and I loved it.

Then hi-tech hit my personal heaven! The old dirt floor was replaced by some rubberized half-plastic composition that was poured in seamless beauty and hardened to form the anonymity of sameness. The free weights were safely enclosed within wire mesh like rabid, disease-carrying animals. Now, the once proud plates and bars sat under bright indoor lighting, on a shiny artificial surface, surrounded on all sides (and overhead) by a cage. But the improvements and humiliation weren't  over yet. Once the machines arrived the free weights were moved into a store room and the bright new creations invaded the cage. I abandoned the sorry place for my back yard and old iron plates. 

The Price

I knew there was no free lunch. Those machines didn't come to us like a fabled warrior, extending an open hand to show he carried no weapon. There was a price. One hand of hi-tech was ready to grab you like a puppet-master, while the other fastened a long train of baggage to your neck. Hi-tech demands that you consider your relationship with it. To be thorough, one must recognize that a thing includes what you "think" about it. Hence your relationship to a thing cannot be separated from the thing itself. I say tree and what do you see in your mind? Think Christmas and do you see the same tree? Your memory of 'tree' is not a singular thing. Go ahead. Sit still for a few minutes and think 'tree' and be sure to add yourself to these thought pictures . . . how many different scenes do you see while thinking of you and 'tree' . . . 

They're not just 'weights'. Your mind carries every relationship you've ever had with them along for the ride. You might say the weights 'contain' a piece of you, a very integral part of your being, if you're bent that way, and I can only hope you are. If not, feel free to move along now. Antiseptic hand rinse and overly-scientific data available at the exits. 

A given weight plate appears to be an indifferent hunk of iron to those still uninitiated. Drop it on your toe if that's what it takes to wake up. No longer do you feel indifferent about either your toe or the weight plate. It's a start. You have become involved in an intimate relationship with free weights. My own relationship with free weights is very special to me. They are predictable yet unpredictable. They are challenging to no limit, yet give the impression to some that they are inanimate. They are a means to an experience I cherish. They are intensely beautiful in their combination of simplicity and functional cleverness. Eleiko, will you marry me?

Iron, Transcendence, Lines & Design. 

Man is an ancient toolmaker and his best tools are his simplest. Long before we ever heard hi-tech jargon, like ergonomics or bioengineering, the graceful curves of a scythe handle had evolved to transfer a man's energy into effective work. Some tools, such as the scythe, transcend their function with an enduring beauty which grew from necessity. Its lines are an analysis of need. Its form holds the secret of its maker's form, who bent it to his need. 

Free weights with their interchangeable plates are such a tool. Their parsimony of form reflects their elemental purpose. One enters into a relationship of ancient simplicity with these weights that are so aptly called "free". You pit yourself against the bar with direct and single-minded aggression. When a man met his foe in single-handed combat, he also met the current measure of himself. In the same way, you have a measure of yourself each and every time you lift real weights, dependent on that combination of mental, physical and spiritual energy levels you rise or fall to on that particular occasion. Again, you can't put your foot in the same river or lift the same weights twice. But how does I get my biseps to groe?

I just don't see this kind of relationship being possible with machines or any other guided movement contraption. When you strap your body into a device that literally wraps around you and/or allows only a single isolated range of motion you lose the control. You have entered into a relationship which demands freedom of movement and choice as its price. If you love something, strap it into a machine and wait for its soul to die? And these machines don't come with a dowry and in-laws either. 

As I discovered at the gym where I used to work out, the machines and guided devices bring their rules, regulations and only one road of motion. No style, please, we're orderly. And like I said before, this new breed of 'lifters' don't know how to sweat properly. They have trouble even making noises from the gut. Their machines eventually rob them of a lifting soul, of all sense of play, and in an efficient 30 short minutes, just two times a week, you too can lose your training humanity.

As I discovered in the summer back yard and winter garage where I now work out, I can still grunt and sweat with my weight friends of choice to my heart's content. And what do I do with these friends of mine while we are both intensely alive? 

Why, we scale mountains and slay dragons, of course.

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