Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tom Platz Talks Leg Training - Lara McGlashan-Volz

How Tom Platz Built Those Legs

Just starting out, I trained with Olympic lifters who taught me a reverence for the squat. They taught me that this is where life and death passes before your eyes, that this is the altar of weight lifting. But when I first came to Gold's in Venice the squat rack was cluttered and shoved in the back, an nobody used it. Sure, Arnold and Ed Corney used it in Pumping Iron, but that was more for show. When I started squatting a lot, people said I shouldn't because it would throw off my balance and symmetry. I did it anyway.

Because it was so taxing, I squatted only twice a month. It was like you were attempting something superhuman. To prepare for it, I'd get up at 5 a.m. and mentally talk to myself as encouragement and that helped make it easy in my mind. It never turned out that way, of course. It was always brutal, to the point where I'd go, "I think I felt the muscle tear off the bone. I think we should stop, Tony (Martinez)." And he's say, "You'll be okay. Rub it a little bit and you'll be fine." But I was good at talking myself into the idea of squatting, even though I knew the reality."

I'd put on my lifting shoes - I wore Adidas weightlifting shoes with a higher heel that tapered down to a thin sole - and they were part of my experience, physically and psychologically. I mean, would you go ice-skating without blades? Lifting shoes were that for me: an important piece of the puzzle that made my workout the experience that it was.

So I'd put on my shoes, grab my gear and drive from Malibu to Venice in my 1960 Corvette. As I pulled out of the garage the throaty rumble of the powerful engine would blend  into my psyche and become part of my preparation as I drove. I'd purposely drive by the ocean to watch the waves smash powerfully against the rocks. If I thought about the workout too much, I'd get sweaty palms on the way to the gym and couldn't grip the steering wheel. Watching the ocean helped distract, and prepare me. 

I'd pull into Gold's in Venice. It wasn't busy like it is today. There were only a few of us there, especially that early. And, of course, Tony would be there waiting for me, ready for the workout. 

We'd go to the squat rack and I remember always stretching in front of the rack. I'd take the hurdler's position on the floor - one leg bent, the other straight - then lower my nose to my knee. As I stretched out I'd try to ease my mind, convince myself I was there to have fun, to just do one or two sets and call it quits. Sometimes we'd even cover the mirror with newspaper because I didn't want to see myself squat. I just wanted to feel it and experience it within my own being.

Of course this pre-workout time wasn't only about the stretching; it was also about emotionally and physically preparing for what was about to come. I'd touch the weights, the rack, the bar, and I'd have this almost religious reverence for them. I liked to use an old battered bar, slightly bent just enough so that it didn't roll off my shoulders when I was standing erect. I'd marked it with a plate, banged the plate on the collar so that I could remember which one it was, and I always wrapped a towel around the bar before I started my sets.

Done stretching, I'd put on my lifting belt - a little loose so that I could breathe - and Tony and I would warm up real slow. A set at 135 for 10 easy reps. Add another plate, nice and easy. Then we'd listen to Motown and we'd start progressing with the weight. Now 315. I'd leave space between the plates on purpose so when I came up from the squat, a real quick rep, the plates would jingle. The sound was very important to me. The music, the Motown and the plates jingling against one another - big, thick, 45-pound iron plates. That sound helped me time the reps and my movement. I liked to come up quickly with such speed that the bar would bend over my shoulders and the plates would crash together, and I relished that sensation! I'd do a quick 20 reps with 315 with all my senses focused.

One more 45 per side and Tony would put the collars on, knowing the exact space to get that sound. Tony would count off my reps . . . 10 . . . 20 . . . 30 - let's see how far we can go! When I'd get to the point where I couldn't do any more reps, Tony would say something like, "You OWN this exercise!" or "Go after it and GET IT!" He would conjure up six, eight, 10, 20 more reps out of me. Then I'd literally fall into the squat rack and jing! The plates would rattle and I'd fall to the floor. I'd take the belt off and all of a sudden I was gasping for air and I couldn't breathe. It felt like someone was driving knives into my legs, and my heart rate went through the roof. I couldn't see, I was sweating profusely, but eventually I'd come back.

Sometimes it took me 20 minutes, but I always came back. When I could see properly again I'd go outside and breathe some fresh air, then come back in and say, "Okay, Tony, one more set!" And we'd go again.

On those days when I left the gym I was high. I thought, "I lived through this. I got through this. I can do anything in life." I'd keep my belt on loosely and walk to the car, thinking victory. I was one with my spirit and with God.

I trained legs every week, but the squats were so exhausting that I couldn't walk afterward and doing another exercise was simply out of the question. So I squatted twice a month and did other 'accessory' machine movements like leg extensions, leg curls, and hack squats on alternate weeks.

Leg Extensions

Back in the mid-80s this guy named Magic, who lived in a yellow school bus behind Gold's gym, made me a  special lifting belt to strap myself into place onto the old leg extension at Gold's - the original one Joe Gold had made that Arnold, Draper, Zane, Corney and all of my mentor figures had used. I'd hurt my arm - I tore the biceps tendon off the bone - and although it had been repaired, hanging onto the leg extension machine put a lot of stress on my arm. The old machine was just a seat with no back and a bicycle chain attached to the weight stack. It was antiquated, even at that time, but I liked it because I felt Draper's fingerprints on it. A lot of people had no idea how to use the machine because it didn't have a back on it, but I knew. All I had to do was look at that machine and my legs grew.

I'd lock myself into the machine (using the belt Magic made), and hook my feet under the pad. I'd warm up with some light weight, like half a stack for a set of 10. Then I had this old, bent, beat-up pin that I'd put underneath the whole stack and hand a 100-pound plate off. Tony's job was to make sure that plate didn't fall of while I was doing my reps! Then I'd start: I'd pull this weight stack with the 100-pound plate as forcefully as I could up in the air, accelerating through the whole movement. Because the machine had to back, I'd lean forward, grab the back of the machine and at this point I was almost parallel to the floor! Then I'd lower the stack and plate back to the start, controlling its descent as I sat back up. A jackknife. Rep after rep, I'd feel the tension accumulating in my muscles. And when I dropped the weight at the bottom it'd bounce on the springs of the machine. I'd lift it again and my legs would light on fire. The intensity and the tension were indicative that growth was imminent. Separation, clarity, distinction, quality -- all the freaky stuff I lived for would be forthcoming.

I'd get 8-10 reps for the first 5 sets, then maybe 2-5 reps for the next 5. When I say 8-10 or 2-5,that's reps done on my own; I'm not counting the 15-20 forced reps -- baby reps, partial reps, negatives -- that Tony would assist me with. I'd raise the machine arm as high as I possibly could so that my quads were fully contracted. Then Tony would push down, in pulses almost, on the machine arm and I'd resist his pressure. He'd repeatedly push down,then let go, and I would bring it back up as high as I could. The weight would slowly get lower and lower because I was getting fatigued,and finally about 6 to 7 minutes later the set would be done. It was like a long, extended negative set with little pushes and pulls throughout. And that was just one set.

When the set was over I'd be in extreme pain, writhing around. And it was like an operation to get me out of that machine as a few guys unbuckled me and took the chains and straps off. Then I'd get up and hang onto the machine and gasp for air. But after a minute or two, Tony would look at me and say, "You ready? Let's go." And he'd lock me back into place again and I'd do 6-10 more sets. 

Lying Leg Curls

I'd always do lying leg curls at the completion or our workout. We used the old Nautilus leg curl machine -- the one with a bicycle chain that made a ton of noise -- of course! Again, a very antiquated machine but the most effective one of all time, I believe. It's long gone but I still remember how it used to feel. 

Because we did leg curls at the end of the workout, I was pretty tired and could only do like 1-4 sets, but I'd change it up to achieve failure. Sometimes I'd do 50 reps with moderate weight, or I'd use tons of weight for only 3 reps. The workouts depended on my mood and my level of exhaustion.

For the curls I'd do a number of reps on my own, then I'd have Tony grab my ankles and push down very, very slowly. I'd fight back the whole time and the negative part of the set might last a whole minute. Two sets like that and I was finished. 

Hack Squats

Hack squats were very, very meaningful in terms of bringing out the sweep in my quads. Initially when I was developing my training protocol I tried to do hacks after my barbell squats. But because I could barely walk after squatting I had no strength to do them, so I did the hacks on alternate weeks, too. 

In the machine, I was taught to put my heels together and point my toes out. That way you primarily squat on the lateral edge of your foot, putting tension on the vastus lateralis, which gives the thighs a sweep.

I'd do a warmup set with a few plates on each side to get my head on right -- of course leaving some space between the plates so they'd jingle and give me that sound I loved -- then I'd do hack squats until I couldn't do any more. Sometimes I'd have four 45-pound plates on each side for 8-10 reps. Other times I'd have a quarter or a dime on their for 50 reps. The weight didn't matter. I'd go for that mental connection to my body and my legs. I wanted to feel and grow that tension to the point where I knew it was going to be effective in the muscles becoming larger, more striated or more substantial.

I'd do several reps on my own, then I'd have Tony push down on the machine while I'd do partial reps. Or sometimes I'd have Tony sit on the machine, hang onto it and pull, and I'd do baby reps, partial reps, isometrics and negatives. Whatever it took to completely exhaust the muscles to the point of absolute failure -- then go beyond that into the red zone. We'd do a total of about 6-10 sets of hack squats. 

Calf Raises

We would actually go to World Gym down the street to do calves. That's where Arnold and Frank and a lot of other guys were training at the time, and since our hard, focused work was through we could spare a little energy and joke around there. Plus they had better calf machines!

We'd change our routine a lot and sometimes we'd do standing calf raises. I'd have Tony and a couple of other guys hanging off the machine, and I'd be holding the weight as high as I could for as long as I could. Other times I'd do as many reps as I could for one set and call it a day. We also did seated calf raises. I'd have as many as 15 100-pound plates stacked on there. I'd do my reps then have Tony push slightly, pumping it with baby movements until I couldn't sustain the tension.

One time the seated calf machine actually broke! It shot me out of the machine like a bullet. Joe Gold was freaking out and yelling at everybody and I'm like, "What happened?" This was two weeks before the Olympia in 1981 and after a few moments my ankle started to swell up. I iced it and it was okay, but it was still a little swollen. If you look closely at the '81 Olympia photos you'll notice a difference in my ankles. One looks swollen. That's what it's from.   


I wasn't the most genetically gifted bodybuilder, but my attitude prevailed. I attribute my physical success to my dedication and my training. It really started in Michigan, the craziness. In college, we'd plan a yearly squat-off to see who could do the most reps. We'd plan it for a whole year and I dreaded it for a whole year. I remember when the day came I did 225 for 10 minutes without stopping at all. I don't remember how many reps it was, but I do remember vowing never to do that again! But I just went there. It was part of my mentality.

When I first moved to California I actually trained with Arnold for a while. I figured if his training system worked for him and Franco, it should work for me, too. But it didn't! I got smaller and fatter training with Arnold. He trained twice a day, six days a week, sometimes seven, and used lots of sets and decent weight. I got depressed because I was shrinking and took a few weeks off. When I came back I decided to train four days a week, and I grew. Arnold responded to high frequency and high volume; I responded better to less volume and frequency but much higher intensity and heavy weights. Later I realized I was doing a primitive form of periodization, working both types of muscle fibers. But back then all I knew is that I was growing!
I did, however, borrow the idea of extending my sets beyond the standard from Mike Mentzer. I'd watched him and his partner training on the leg extension machine one day: Mike would lift the weight to the top then his partner would push down slowly as Mike would resist. So I tried it and Oh My God! I felt like I'd never trained before! My quads were burning and my muscles were firing and I simply had to incorporate this concept into my training.

I discussed it with my training partner Tony and we came up with our own version of that kind of extended set. We incorporated their ideas with some of my powerlifting background where you'd do partial reps in a power rack. We came up with a set that included negatives, forced reps, partner-assisted reps, isometrics -- everything came into play in the course of one single set. We moved the weight until physically, absolutely, neither one of us could move it any more. The longer the set, the harder it became and the more I knew it would work. Of course, there was a huge benefit-to-risk ratio. I had to ask myself, "How far do I want to push a contraction before it becomes detrimental?" I was willing to toy around in that red zone.




Staggered Sets in 1942 - John Grimek

Sean Connery Mugging for the Camera

Let's Get Chesty, Part Two
by Jay C. Gee (1947)

Note: This article by John Grimek gives an easily adapted example of the use of staggered sets. I see no reason this format cannot be used in many varied ways using an appropriate movement of your choice, and for many different reasons other than chest development. As always, Grimek goes beyond the stated topic, touching on other subjects throughout. 

In studying and applying the ideas presented on this blog and from other sources we are not attempting to blindly follow random 'programs' in hopes of eventually finding the single 'right' one. Rather, our goal is to know ourselves, and to realize that after the introductory stages of training we are our own masters and best analysts of our endeavors. 

Duh, buy my shitty spreadsheets. I'll even change your diapers if ya pay me to, 'cause 
I'm a perfessional. 

Undoubtedly there are many theories relative to chest enlargement, but whether they are based on sound facts remains open for debate. However, anyone knowing something about physiology can easily debunk several of these theories by pointing out the natural functions of the respiratory organs. Basically, chest enlargement or expansion does not result from light calisthenic movements, arm waving or deep breathing, but from such movements which activate the large muscle groups of the body and in turn create an unusual demand for added oxygen. This enforced breathing comes most natural when the legs are vigorously pressed into action, since not only are the legs exercised, but the lower back and hip region are strongly affected. The muscular tissue all over the body needs more oxygen as a result of this vigorous physical effort and the blood must discharge the carbonic acid into the lungs from whence it is exhaled, and at the same time absorb the life-giving oxygen which in turn carries it back to the tissues of the working body for energy and reconstruction. A fair degree of strenuous leg work is needed or should be a part of your training if a deep chest is desired. This does not mean that one should plunge into heavy, high repetition squats, or other leg exercises, but a gradual increase to heavy poundages and a definite scheme of repetitions should follow. 

Light exercise will naturally increase blood circulation and respiratory action to some degree, but by means of heavy leg work the entire respiratory system is stimulated to a faster but more natural form of deep breathing. There is no reason to inhale a lot of excessive oxygen where there is no need or demand for it as in the case of practicing deep breathing. By creating an unusual demand, by exercising the largest muscles in the body, the air cells in the lungs inflate more fully and increase their size, and so contain more air. They take up more room in this expanded state, which results in a larger and fuller chest. More blood is supplied to them and their network of capillaries become richer and more abundant. Under ordinary activity the great number of regular working air cells remain inactive, but thorough heavy exercises of the largest muscular masses rapidly increases the lungs and lung action. 

The foregoing is sufficient to prove a point so often overlooked in chest enlargement; for it is not only the movements which influence the muscles of the upper body which are responsible for chest increases, but also the natural enforced breathing caused by heavy exercise. Chest exercises which conform closely to natural functions of the body are more desirable in acquiring a larger and fuller chest. Naturally, leg exercise will not develop the muscles of the torso, but it does produce a natural state of expansion from inside and , as mentioned before, this is at least as important as the muscles covering it. 

Chests which are well developed, structurally and muscularly, have very slight differences between their normal and expanded state. This is due to the fact that the muscles are strengthened sufficiently to hold up the chest structure, likewise the lungs have greater capacity from natural enforced breathing. Those having weak lungs, as in cases of consumptives, will have a surprising difference, which is due to their weakened condition. Of course there are numerous athletes who have remarkable chest expansion from a contracted position. It's quite common to find six to eight inches in this position and there are claims for such expansion in excess of 12 inches. This, however, is the result of muscular control rather than a normal existing condition.

There are numerous muscles which help to shape the chest, and chest contour is controlled mainly by the pectoral muscles, major and minor. Another group, the serratus magnus, helps to give the chest depth and space by interlacing between the ribs on each side of the chest. The large back muscles, the latissimus dorsi, give width to the body and because of their peculiar lower formation indirectly add space to the lower chest connected with the costal spaces which gives more room for the stomach to function. Included in this back group of important reacting muscles which add chest size are the trapezius and rhomboidus group, all part of the intricate network of muscles influencing chest size and lung action.

Many the exercises given in this article will not only help to develop the muscles covering the entire torso, but aid materially in expanding the rib cage when preceded and followed by leg work which will exert demands on the heart and lungs. These movements do not involve one muscle at a time, but activate them in large groups; the entire shoulder assembly, the top, front and side portions of the chest, and the entire muscular construction of the upper back, all part of the chest scheme.

Muscles activated in this manner have better coordination and prove more enduring when tasks of great physical exertions are tackled. They can stand more exercise. By MORE exercise is not meant one should go on to execute endless repetitions or handle weight in excess of their respective strength so as to affect the actual performance of the exercise or injure the shoulders, but chiefly refers to as being capable of doing more movements; a larger variety of exercises.

A large number of body builders lament over the fact that they receive no beneficial reaction or size from the exercises they perform, no matter how diligently they set themselves to the task. I wonder. Should this be the case, something is radically wrong and steps should be taken to remedy this. The fault may lie on one or two causes. One, the performance of the movement itself, and two, the number of repetitions involved. If the cause lies due to lack of concentration and the proper application of the movement, then some knowledge of perfection of performance should be taken into account.If, on the other hand, the task becomes a long drawn out event and tires the body without bringing some noticeable gains, a thorough calculation of repetitions suitable to your recuperating ability should be studied. Physical strength and muscular increases are based on natural principles that every new day reconstructs the body tissue with new life. Thus, the movements should not be performed with "rhythmic swings" but with deliberate action to extend and contract the muscles more forcibly. Swinging the weights in rhythm fails to supply the full contraction and extension the muscles are capable of, making the movement easier but less effective. Adding more weight does not solve the problem in any case, rather one runs the risk of suffering injuries or torn muscles. One is better of to perform the exercises with less weight, in leverage movements, and employing fewer repetitions but doing the exercise correctly. Forcing one's self to handle heavier weights without proper performance neglects to concentrate the action of the movement on the muscles involved. This is particularly true for those seeking to add muscular gains and added bodyweight. Such movements can be termed "cheating" through the exercise. There are those who already have fine development whose main intention is to preserve their form, to keep fit and to retain their muscular elasticity, whose movements sometimes denote a cheating attitude. This is permissible in such cases because they are not striving for added muscular bulk, but primarily to retain their present shape and fitness, and such movements can keep the fitness . . . and such movements can keep the muscles shapely and strong. But for those whose main interest lies in acquiring larger and shapelier muscles, the performance of the exercise and the number of repetitions is indeed paramount.

Perhaps at this time it is appropriate to clarify to some extent the matter of repetitions. To be sure those who follow almost identical exercises for the same part of the body (though slightly varied) need less repetitions than those who include but one or two. The repetitions should be slightly less in cases where one incorporates several such movements for the same functional portion of the body. For example, if one has five or more exercises for the chest in his schedule which basically involve the same muscle groups, the repetitions should be less than where only two or three such exercises are employed. Those who insist or prefer to repeat the same exercise in multiple sets should not exceed 10 repetitions, this depending on the number of exercises included in the program for that particular movement function of the body.

Years ago, and I am referring to 20 or more years (before the late 1920's), exercising in sets was practically unknown in the manner as it is known today, but phenomenal results were registered nevertheless. Certainly, parts of the body were exercised and then re-exercised it is true, but not employing the same exercise . . . rather, it included almost the same movement in a varied form, thus stimulating the same muscles from a slightly different position. It would be folly to advise anyone to perform each of these many exercises in three or more sets of 10 repetitions each. While it would consume too much time it would also prove a drain on the system. If you choose to do your exercises in multiple sets then by all means select only the few which suit your condition best, but don't try to include all those mentioned later in this article. Should you attempt to include them all in multiple sets you will soon discover that your muscles will become wiry and stringy in appearance. However, if you are of the overweight variety and can stand a lot of exercises and sets and repetitions, such a schedule will burn up a lot of the excessive adipose tissue which has accumulated. For those it is recommended.

I've mentioned often that heavy leg work is the keynote to increased chest size, and exercises for the muscles surrounding it should conform naturally to normal functional body movements. The main idea then is to create that demand for additional oxygen, more, much more than you experience during your ordinary daily routine by exercising the legs vigorously. Then, to supplement this demand the exercises listed should be done as an aid for lifting and spreading the chest to its fullest capacity by inhaling all the oxygen needed. Such movements will inflate all the little-used air calls in the lungs and result in larger and stronger lungs, and in turn a larger chest. Many of these movements are favorites with the York champions who often practice them. Strong men require large roomy chests to produce unlimited strength, and chest exercises combined with a heavy leg routine bring results.

Perhaps the routine you devise does not have to be as elaborate as the one given here, but should be based on the same principles. It will be noted that several series of leg exercises are repeated, but THESE DO NOT HAVE TO CONSIST OF ONLY THE SQUAT. It can be altered with a straddle lift or some other variety of non-leverage leg movements. The idea is to increase respiratory action, stimulate it more than usual so as to create an added demand for oxygen. This specialization can take place during any part of your program if you want to include it, but preferably near the completion of your schedule as it demands a great deal of energy. Doing it at the start may leave you without enough ambition to complete your program, but much depends on the individual, too.

Here's the set-up:

Start with a squatting weight that you can comfortable handle for 15 to 18 repetitions, allowing the body to sink into the lowest possible position while keeping the back flat or straight. When this has been completed, one of the chest movements listed should be done, breathing deeply while executing the movement. A brief rest may be required by some between each of these exercises . . . if this is your case rest a few minutes before returning to your second set of squats. However, before taking the bar, an additional 15 pounds (depending on your level of development) should be added and this time the squats are repeated from 10 to 12 repetitions. When completed, another variety of chest exercise is done. None of the chest exercises should be repeated beyond 12 repetitions nor less than 10. Once more the squatting bar is increased by 10 pounds (again depending on your ability) before performing the third set of this leg exercise with repetitions ranging from not less than eight and not more than 10. A chest exercise is again performed using the same repetition scheme as mentioned before, 10 to 12. This is continued until the squatting repetitions are lowered from 1 to 3. A summary of this is as follows:

Squat -
- 15-18 repetitions with the starting poundage.
 - add 15 pounds (depending on ability) for 10-12 reps
 - add 10 pounds for 8-10 reps
 - add 10 pounds for 5-6 reps
 - add 5-10 pounds for 1-3 reps

Sample List of Chest Exercises:

Pullover -
An exercise designed to help lift the chest and develop the muscles supporting it. Its primary use in this instance is to practice complete full breathing while still exercising the muscles. Its use can be varied with dumbbells or else a barbell. In either case the hands may be held in a wide or narrow grip, or both. Two forms, stiff arm and bent arm, can be utilized, the latter which relieves the leverage imposed ou the arms and shoulders. This variety is valuable not only as a means for chest expansion but for the muscular development of the entire upper body as well. The bench should be narrow enough to allow unrestricted shoulder and back action.

Supine Press -
Notably known as the "prone press" which has fine developmental values. Two varieties of this exercise can be employed: using fairly heavy dumbbells, depending on your strength, gives the chest, arms and shoulders added work, although a barbell is easier for the novice to handle, employing either the narrow or wide grips, preferably both at different times. The actual press can be performed two way also: keeping the arms close to the sides, and by holding the elbows away from the body while using a wide grip.

Pushup -
A variety of floor dips. The feet can be raised to throw more weight towards the parts being exercised. A set of floor dipping bars can be utilized to allow the chest do dip beyond the point of the hands. Additional weight applied to the top of the back naturally taxes the muscles more. The body should remain quite rigid, avoiding the tendency to sag in the lower back.

Lying Lateral Raise -
This exercise and the pullover are two of the best known movements employed for chest expansion using weights. and are result-producing if perfection of performance is observed. An important detail is maintaining the arms straight during the exercise when used for this purpose. A slight incline can be utilized for variety. The bench should be narrow enough to allow freedom of movement in the shoulders. The arms can travel in a straight line sideways, or another variation has them moving down and overhead, stretching the pectorals and upper back muscles more vigorously.

Stretching with Dumbbells -
The movement helps to impart flexibility to the rib cage. In the supine position on a narrow bench, the bells begin on the thighs and are then swept overhead in a straight line with the shoulders and to a full stretch behind the head. Arms should remain as straight as possible during this exercise. Excellent for the entire shoulder and chest structure. Needless to add, however, light weights should be employed at first and allow your progress to be slow but gradual.

Seated Lateral Raise -
While this exercise appears to be mainly a deltoid exercise, it has effects on the muscles which lift the chest and should be included at times in a training program. Most body builders bend forward at the start and raise the arms well in front of the body. Actually, to exert its best influence on the chest and its muscles, the arms should be brought overhead in a position in back of the head and then returned in a cross-armed position in front of the body, keeping them straight throughout. One will feel a different effect on the muscles than when it's done the ordinary way: swing overhead with arms not directly to sides but slightly in front.

Front Raise -
A standing pullover. Its reactions are entirely different from the lying form. Here, the anterior part of the shoulders are vigorously pressed into action and by their movement are capable of aiding in lifting the chest. In fact, all overhead movements, lifting and exercises, are beneficial in building the chest.

It will be noted that a maximum of 49 repetitions can be completed and not less than 39 being the minimum. This should provide excellent leg work which should bring about a rapid action of the respiratory system proving most valuable in increasing the chest.

Since many fellows prefer to specialize only in pullovers and lateral raises for the chest, these may be repeated between the squat sets which, if you will count the sets of squats recommended, a number of five chest exercises are needed to complete this leg and chest program. There are other exercises listed here which do not affect the chest as directly as the pullover and lying lateral raises but which are nonetheless helpful in building the muscles that hold the chest up, and therefore can be employed anytime during your training period.

There are, of course, considerably more advanced types of chest exercises which can produce results even in veteran exercising enthusiasts, but these will not be listed at this time. Anyone who will take the time and trouble to follow this leg and chest schedule or one similar to it can't help but notice some degree of improvement after following these exercises for a three month period. In fact, after the first one or two workouts some stiffness is likely to develop. To avoid too much of this make your progress gradual. Use weights which will not tax your physical powers to their limit at the start, but as the muscles become toughened and accustomed increase the poundage to match your increased strength and watch the results.

A short word about breathing during your exercises. Much has been stressed in connection with this important detail, but a lot of it has been overdone, too, I think. The natural thing to do is to breathe as freely and fully as possible when there is a demand for it. Naturally, the more vigorously you exercise the body the more rapidly will acceleration of the respiratory system take place. This is simply complying with nature's law. Holding the breath is not advisable under any conditions, let alone when there is intense physical motion. Breathe naturally but fully.

As a concluding remark I might add that the leg and chest program given here is one I have followed many years ago and found it to be beneficial in my case. In 1942 I outlined this program in an article titled "My System of Heavy Training" appearing in the October and November issues of Strength  & Health for that year. Others derived much benefit from this system and I feel quite certain that it can produce results in the toughest and most obstinate cases. All that is needed is patience, persistence and the ability to win over any obstacles which might turn up to hinder your progress. With this frame of mind how can you fail to gain your objective? As they say, mind over matter. By putting your mind to the task and backing it up with some physical effort you can't lose.        

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Two Hands Snatch, Part Three - Dave Webster and Al Murray

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A full extension in necessary not only for working muscles in their inner range, etc., but also to make full use of IMPULSE. The speed of the bar does not depend only on the amount of force applied but also upon the time for which it operates (its IMPULSE).

This is another reason why caution must be observed when comparing times of various performers during the pull. One lifter may be faster than another in the second stage of the lift only because he has not extended as fully as he ought to. This is a fault which at first sight would not be apparent and actually the relative time would look good on paper.

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The average speed of those timed in this phase (see Table 11) was just over 1/4 second. Garcy and Tamraz were fastest and Palinski slowest but without the reader knowing all the facts regarding time and distance it would be wrong to draw conclusions. For example, Tamraz did not do a complete extension and therefore did not move as far as the others.

It is suggested that in a good lift, the pull of the bar from the knees to the top of the pull MAXIMUM force should be applied for MAXIMUM distance and time. This last factor (maximum time) is apt to be misleading.The movement should be as fast as possible but force applied for as long as possible.

Sometimes hip thrust and body extension is completed after the feet have left the floor - THIS IS WASTEFUL AND INEFFECTIVE. Power comes from the ground, and when the feet leave the floor, the flight path of your combined center of gravity is already determined and whatever movements you make while in mid-air will not affect it.

The Third Key Position

Around 40 lifters were examined and, being top men in world competitions, most of them were squat stylists. 

The position traced was the position of full extension before either foot broke contact with the ground. If the feet remained in contact during a squat, then the maximum extension position was used. Two lines were then drawn:

Line 1: From the center of the base to the hip joint (approx.). 

Line 2: From the center of the base to the curve at the back of the neck.

Where the lifter had a good extension Line 1 was ahead of Line 2. Generally speaking the greater the distance in advance the greater the hyperextension.

The lifters were divided into three groups. Group I (13 lifters) where Line 1 was ahead of Line 2. Group II (12 lifters) where the two lines were virtually together. Finally Group III (11 lifters) with Line 2 ahead of Line 1, indicating an incomplete extension. Table 5 shows the positions of the lifters concerned. 

In order to get a rough estimate of the position of the center of gravity and for other comparisons, the AVERAGE ANGLE of Line 1 and Line 2 was calculated. Obviously with Group II this was not necessary. The resulting figures are shown in Table 6. 

This shows that the amount of hyperextension is not so great as many people imagine and secondly the combined center of gravity of the bar and body is not so far forward as it first appears. Table 7 gives an analysis of the lifters mentioned earlier. We again emphasize that the AIM should be to get the body extended as much as possible and the personal center of gravity traveling rapidly forwards and upwards prior to moving below the weight.

When in a comfortable standing position with the arms hanging at the side, the subjects personal center of gravity is at the level of the first three sacral vertebra. This is the location to which reference is made but naturally the center of gravity shifts as movement takes place. For example, it will rise as the arms are lifted and can even move outside the body mass if the subject bends forward from the waist and pushes the hips backwards.

The position of the combined center of gravity will be somewhere between a line from center of bar to floor (90 degree angle) and the lifter's personal center of gravity, but for the purpose of discussion it is thought that the figures in the average column will give a near enough position.

The weight of the bar in relation to the lifter's bodyweight must be kept in mind, e.g. Miyake lifts almost double bodyweight so that the combined center of gravity will be approximately one-third distance between bar and personal center of gravity whereas the club lifter snatching his own bodyweight will have the combined center of gravity of approximately halfway between the other tow centers of gravity.


The flight path of the combined center of gravity is determined by the instant the body breaks contact with the ground and nothing the lifter does after this time will alter this flight path until the body once again makes contact with the ground.

The action of the head should not be overlooked although only about one-thirteenth of the total bodyweight, its position at the end of the spine can have a considerable effect on the body. The head is truly the rudder of the body.

Although the combined center of gravity is over the base, the line of action can be changed by the line of thrust. This is diagonally indicated by a line from hip joint to heel or hip joint to ball of foot as the fulcrum. Whether to ball of foot or to heel seems to be a debatable point. In any case the direction of travel can be judged by plotting the downward pull of gravity, combined with the eccentric thrust, giving the reaction. See illustrations.

 The amount of travel will largely depend on the amount of hip thrust employed.

Next: Parallelograms of Force and Transference.        

The Two Hands Snatch, Part Two - Dave Webster and Al Murray

Click Pics to ENLARGE

Hints for Coaches

Although  rules are altered and new techniques are introduced, the basic principles of learning never change. To acquire knowledge or skill the opportunity to practice must be given and this applies to coaches as much as it does to lifters themselves. When stimulated to learn we learn more quickly, so cultivate this trait. When your charges learn effectively, encourage them by showing your approval. Develop an eye for movement so you can correctly evaluate time and distance during a lift. Train yourself to spot where a fault originates rather than where it eventually becomes very obvious. Learn to distinguish from what is cause and what is effect.

Fianlly, and extremely important, gain an appreciation of relative positions of bar and body and feet placings so that you are at all times aware of exactly what is happening. Let us elaborate a little bit.

Very often after a failure, we hear a comment to the effect that the bar was too far forward. More often than not the truth is that the bar was correctly placed over the base, but the body was too far backwards. This is not splitting hairs. If the lifter believed the bar was too far forward and next time pulled it back, he would be in worse trouble, as both bar and body would be too far back. This is only one example of faulty diagnosis during a lift.

A good coach's eye can be a valuable asset but it is again emphasized that to bear out these theories of snatching instead of relying on the naked eye, thousands of feet of film were minutely studied to ascertain the facts given.

We heartily recommend all coaches to study film when possible, not only of the champions but of your own personal charges.

Movement Patterns of the Champions

First of all we must clarify our aims. 

Why should we study the various movement patterns and positions?

We believe this is necessary to give a clear picture of what really happens. So often mental images are completely wrong. You can prove this for yourself by getting a training partner to draw what he thinks is a good position to be in as the bar passes the knees and another of the lowest position in the squat snatch. We are quite sure that the majority will not come very near the positions we describe in this book.

Secondly, there is much to be gleaned from a close study of the methods of the champions especially when we get down to distinguishing between what is cause and what is effect.

Lastly,  not until we have at our disposal properly measured information about the extremes as well as the averages, can we base our teachings on fact rather than speculations.

By studying movement patterns of the champions with films, tracings, electromyographs, etc., we can spot significant statistics and find out what is good, what is bad, what is acceptable and what should be avoided.



To commence building up movement patterns of the best known lifters, the angle of the back was measured in two positions to discover relative hip and head heights. The first position was as the bar was lifted clear of the floor and the second position was when the bar reached knee height. The angle was measured in relation to the floor.

Measurements of the angles were taken from as near as possible to the 5th cervical vertebrae running down ot the flat part of the sacrum just above the curve of the lifter's buttocks as he lifted the weight. The contours on the back were ignored and if, for example, a lifter rounded his back (e.g. Huska) the line passed right through the curve.

In a study of over 30 top lifters in World Championships, it was found that the angles varied between 8 degrees and 54 degrees as the bar left the floor - a terrific variation, but close scrutiny showed that the majority of the best lifters were between 16 to 25 degrees. (see fig. 1)

Here is the breakdown of the lifters involved:

On comparing this initial measurement with the position of the back as the bar passed the knees, it was possible to calculate the amount of back movement with the lifters divided into three groups as follows:

Group I
Those whose backs were more vertical as as the bar left the floor than they were as the bar passed the knees, i.e. leg movement without a corresponding back movement thus apparently 'giving to the weight' although the shoulders may indeed have been raised slightly.

Group II
Those who maintained the starting angle until to bar passed the knees, i.e. leg movement only.

Group III
Those whose backs were more horizontal when the bar left the floor than it was as the bar passed the knees.

The following measurements were recorded:

The figures show that Group I start more VERTICAL than average, Makinnen being an exception, but if we eliminate the two Japanese lifters, whose style was definitely unorthodox, we find that they are now more HORIZONTAL than average, as the bar passes the knees.

Group II. This must be the smallest group as it is virtually impossible to lift without changing to some small degree the angle of the back. Their backs tend to be more horizontal than average with the exception of Berger and Lopatin who are more vertical than average. Generally speaking an average group.

Group III. The largest group and large rthan the other two put together. This is the group which used some back movement in addition to leg work to bring the bar to knee height. Most of them start with their backs more horizontal than average as the bar passes the knees.

Group I - 6 squat lifters, 3 split.
Group II - 5 squat lifters, 2 split.
Group III - 9 squat lifters, 9 squat.

Those whose hips are fairly high in the starting position generally used back as well as legs. Although it is difficult and perhaps dangerous to generalize, it seems largely a case of those with a higher starting position use more back work at first. There is no doubt that those with low starting positions use more leg work. It would seem that splitters tend to favor leg and back work slightly more than the squatters, who tend to favor more leg work.

The position of the body as the bar passes the knees is most important and with this in mind, numerous calculations have been made to study this from various points of view. Table 2 shows the "raw" details of different lifters. The average angle of the back in 32 lifts at world championships was 23.6 degrees. This figure however is a trifle misleading and it is more accurate to saythat the standard deviation (calculated mathematically) is 7.07 degrees. In other words, anyone whose back is at an angle of between approximately 17-30 degrees will be in the same range as the majority of top lifters. It is our view that the lower degrees of this range are best for the average person.

It seems likely that the positions adopted depend on the comparative amount of leg and back strength. It could be said that owing to the fact that inertia has to be overcome and body mechanics are less effective, the strongest position should be adopted at the start. However, we do not subscribe to this view. We believe that it is more important that the lifter is in the strongest position as the bar passed the knees or a little later. We would like to see lifters tested in this position to find the exact angle of back and legs at which the maximum force can be applied. This angle could then be noted and if necessary, minor adjustments made to the starting position. Naturally, any alterations made as a result of these tests should keep in mind the overall movement and not just this part of the pull.

In all groups, regardless of the angle of the back, the spine should be extended. If the spine is flexed and during the lift extended against the strong resistance of the bar, the back muscles are less effective and more liable to injury; this is because they are engaged in two conflicting tasks at the same time. They are trying to move the bones of the spine upon each other and at the same time trying to stabilize the back in order that it may act effectively as a lever. Furthermore, with a round back stress is imposed and transmitted through the intervertebral cartilage discs. With a straight back, the main function of the muscles is stability and any stresses are more directly transmitted from bone to bone.

A study of these figures shows that "Classic" positions, generally considered correct, with low hips and upright backs, are not always adopted by the champions of 1961064. There is also less movement of the back in the early part of the movement than many people imagine.

Table 3 shows that in the vast majority of lifters there is less than 5 degrees alteration to the angle of the back. We believe that it is best to maintain the starting angle of the back or increazse the angle slightly rather than make the angle more acute.

Summation of Forces

There are many different ways of pulling.

In the pull some lifters use mostly legs, other mostly back. Some use legs first, back later, others the opposite. Some try to share the load evenly.

Theoretically, it does not matter in which order the muscles are used providing they are all worked to the maximum. In practice, however, several points must be carefully watched. Different body parts have different weights, strength and speed. It is suggested that in weight-lifting, as in other heavy athletics, the stronger, slower body parts should be used first (hips, legs and back) and the weaker, faster parts later (calves, shoulders, arms and wrists). The movments in this summation of forces should be linked so there is a smooth and overlapping changeover, e.g. the arms and shoulders should come into play JUST BEFORE the final extension. The common and comparatively unpublicized fault is the overuse of the legs while the angle of the back is reduced during the first part of the pull.This reduces the angular momentum of the back. The aim should be maximum acceleration of the bar as the feet are leaving the floor.

We have advised that the arms be brought into play just before complete extension and because the fully extended position is one of the "key positions" it is necessary to give some guidance as to how much the arms should be bent at this stage. Here is a simple and accurate method to ascertain the position we advocate.

Stand erect and mark on the gym wall the height of the center of your belt. Make another mark 3-4" above this. Now grasp the bar in your normal snatch grip and standing erect bend the arms till the bar is at a height between the two marks.

This will show you the amount of arm bend you require at this stage and incidentally also shows the approximate height the bar should be at before you begin the split or squat.

This procedure is suggested after study of the top lifters filmed at the World Championships in Stockholm, 1963. This survey showed that the champion lifters pulled the bar to around 103% of standing belt height before going under the bar.

Table 4

The lifter's standing belt-height was measured when the bar was held overhead at the completion of the lift. This figure was taken as 100%.

Column 1 shows the height to which the bar was pulled before the lifter started to go under the weight. This is expressed as a percentage of the standing belt-height.

Column 2 shows the height of the bar in the lowest position off the lifter under the bar either squatting of splitting. This too is noted as a percentage of standing bar-height.

It is interesting to note that in the low position of the lifts most pleasing coach's eye were those of Nagy and Martin. Column 2 shows these to be the two lowest positions. The other two Hungarians (Veres and Huska) however were splitters and did not go nearly so low.

In the low position the average height of the bar is lower with squat lifters than with those who split.

Next: Maximum Extension 



Friday, October 5, 2012

The Tall Bodybuilder - Lou Ferrigno

No one over seven feet has ever been a successful bodybuilder because, to my knowledge, no one at that height has ever tried to be a successful bodybuilder. Other than that, there's nothing that should prevent developing a bodybuilder's physique at a taller than average height. Our bodies grow proportionately according to our height. You see so many 5'9" men onstage because that's the mode for males: there are simply more of them than there are in other height groups. However, if you analyze the statistical distribution of bodybuilders you will find that all height groups are proportionately represented.

I am 6'5" tall, which puts me a lot further up the height scale than the average bodybuilder, and that didn't stop me from building a powerful looking body. Based on my experience, there are four fundamental keys to gaining mass when you're tall and thin:

1.) Train as hard and intensely as you can when you're in the gym, then get adequate recovery before doing it again.

2.) Emphasize compound movements over isolation movements; the latter are virtually useless until you put on some muscle.

3.) Eat like a horse. Don't even think about fat/carb/protein percentages at this point.

4.) Don't skip workouts. Create momentum and stay focused in the gym.

Here is a sample workout program for the tall, thin man.

Day One
Dumbbell Press (standing, clean the first rep) -
12 (warmup), 10, 8, 6, 4 (work sets).

Standing Barbell Press -
8, 6, 4.

Upright Row (barbell or dumbbells) -
12(warmup), 10, 8, 6, 4.

Barbell Shrug -
10, 8, 6.

Decline Triceps Extension -
12 (warmup), 8, 6, 4.

Standing Overhead Extension -
10, 8, 6.

Close Grip Bench Press -
10, 8, 6.

Day Two

Seated Alternate DB Curl - 
15, 15 (warmups), 10, 8, 6.

Standing Barbell Curl - 
10, 8, 6.

Hammer Curl - 
10, 8, 6.

Seated Cable Row - 
15 (warmup), 10, 8, 6.

Bentover BB Row - 
10, 8, 6, 4.

Deadlift (conventional) - 
10, 8 (warmup), 8, 6, 4.

Chins or Pullups - 
3 x failure.

 - At the start of each set have your objective for that set clear in your mind. Whenever you do a lat exercise arch your spine so that your lats can achieve a full muscular contraction. Make a mental effort to pull with the power of your back, not your arms. Squeeze and stretch. Squeeze your lats at the midpoint (contraction) of every rep and then let them stretch fully at the conclusion of every rep. If you can't pause with a weight in the fully contracted position you're using too much weight. Explode on the positive phase of each rep, control on the negative. Don't let momentum be the force that moves the weight. Use wrist straps for all your heavy back sets. Your back muscles are stronger - or should be - than your grip. Don't compartmentalize your back. Most back movements hit all areas of the back to some degree. Concentrate on mastering technique as well as adding weight. Don't toss around ego-massaging poundages in half and quarter reps. -

Day Three


Day Four

Bench Press - 
10, 10 (warmups), 8, 6, 4.

Incline Bench Press - 
8, 6, 4.

Decline Bench Press - 
8, 6, 4.

Day Five

Power Squat - 
10, 10 (warmups), 8, 6, 4.

Front Squat - 
8, 6, 4.

Glute Ham Raise - 
10, 10, 8, 6.

Calf Raise - 
15, 12, 8, 6.

Day Six and Seven


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bruce Lee's Training - John Little

"The Lost Interview"

Warm Marble: 
The Lethal Physique of Bruce Lee
by John Little (1996)

"If you're talking about combat - as it is - well then, baby, 
you'd better train EVERY part of your body."
 - Bruce Lee

There's an anecdote that has endured some 23 years concerning the muscles that adorned the physique of the late martial arts pioneer and philosopher Bruce Lee. It concerns a lady named Ann Clouse, the wife of Robert Clouse, who directed Lee's last film, "Enter the Dragon" for Warner Bros. It seems that she had ventured onto the set and was mesmerized by Lee's incredible physique as he choreographed the fight scenes, stripped to the waist and perspiring under the hot Hong Kong sun. Between takes Ann approached the young superstar and asked if she could "feel his biceps." 

"Sure," Lee said, responding to a request he'd received on numerous occasions. He tensed his arms and invited her to check it out.

"My God!" she exclaimed, drawing her hand back instantly. "It's like feeling warm marble!"

It's fascinating that more than two decades after his death in July 1973 from a cerebral edema people are still talking about the physique of Bruce Lee, although it is by no means surprising. Even more fascinating is the fact that almost everyone gets something different out of Bruce Lee.  

Martial  artists revere his physical dexterity, power, speed and the genius he displayed in bringing science to bear on the world of martial arts. Moviegoers are impressed with the man's animal magnetism and the fact that he single-handedly created a new genre of action film, opening the door for the Stallones and Schwarzeneggers who followed in his footsteps. Philosophers, on the other hand, are impressed with Lee's ability to bridge the philosophical chasm separating East and West and synthesize the best aspects of both cultures. 

Even so, there's another pocket of humanity that sees something else in Lee. Bodybuilders young and old know from one quick glance at his physique how much labor went into its creation, and they are very impressed.   

Bodybuilding luminaries like Flex Wheeler, Shawn Ray, Rachel McLish, Lou Ferrigno, Lee Haney, Lenda Murray and Dorian Yates - that is to say, the best in the business - all pay homage to the impact Bruce Lee's physique had on their bodybuilding careers. Some of may find this difficult to believe. After all, Lee was only 5'6" and checked in at a weight that fluctuated between 126 and 145 pounds. What could a behemoth like Dorian Yates, for example, see in Lee's physique that would inspire him? The answer, in a word, is quality.

We have seldom seen - shy of a jungle cat - the incredible quality of muscle displayed by the martial arts superstar. Unlike the physiques of many bodybuilders, Lee's muscles were not simply for show. To quote his first student in the United States, Seattle's Jesse Glover, Lee was "above all else concerned with function." Leaping eight feet in the air to kick out a light bulb (as he did in the movie "Marlowe"), landing a punch from three feet away in 5/100 of a second or catching grains of rice that he'd thrown in the air - with chopsticks - were feats Lee trained his body to accomplish. In fact, during his famous "Lost Interview" he referred to his self-actualizing philosophy as "the art of expressing the human body." 

Perhaps never before - or since - has such an incredible confluence of physical attributes come together in one human being. He combined lightning-fast reflexes, supreme flexibility, awesome power and feline grace and muscularity in one complete - and very lethal - package. Furthermore, his physique was balanced and symmetrical, and  while not everyone admires the massive musculature of our Olympia contenders, everyone admires the total  package that was Bruce Lee.

The fact that he influenced so many champion bodybuilders is no small accomplishment when you consider that Lee never entered a physique contest in his life. He wasn't interested in becoming massively muscled. As Ted Wong, one of Lee's closest friends and most dedicated students recalled, "Bruce trained primarily for strength and speed." The physique came almost as a by-product of the training.

Those who met him, from Hollywood producers to his fellow martial artists, said that Lee's muscles carried considerable impact. Taky Kimura, one of his closest friends and the best man at Lee's 1964 wedding, observed that his friend was never loath to remove his shirt and display the results of his labors in the gym, and he often did it just to see the reactions of those around him. "He had the most incredible set of lats I've ever seen," Kimura related, "and his big joke was to pretend that his thumb was an air hose, which he'd then put in his mouth and pretend to inflate his lats with. He looked like a damn cobra!"

Lee's physique remains an ideal simply because it featured what many considered the perfect blend of razor-sharp cuts, awesome muscularity, great shape and onion-skin definition. The muscles that bulged and rippled across it were thick, dense, well-chiseled and above all functional. 

 Click Pics to ENLARGE

 Danny Inosanto, another one of Lee's  close friends and the man Lee chose to impart his martial art of jeet kune do (which translates into English as "the way of the intercepting fist") to students at Lee's Los Angeles school from 1967 to '69, added that his friend was only interested in strength that could readily be converted to power. "I remember once Bruce and I were walking along the beach in Santa Monica, out by where the Dungeon used to be [a gym originally owned by famed Muscle Beach denizen Vic Tanny], when all of a sudden this big, huge bodybuilder came out of the Dungeon," Inosanto related. "I said to Bruce, 'Man look at the arms on that guy!' I'll never forget Bruce's reaction. He said, 'Yeah, he's big - but is he powerful? Can he use all that extra muscle efficiently?'"

Power, according to Lee, is demonstrated by an individual's ability to use the strength developed in the gym quickly and efficiently for real-world purposes. His feats of strength are the stuff of legends, from performing one-finger or thumbs-only pushups to supporting a 125-pound barbell at arm's length in front of him with elbows locked for several seconds to sending individuals who outweighed him by as much as 100 pounds flying some 15 feet through the air with one of his famous one-inch punches. The power that he possessed at a bodyweight of 145 pounds was absolutely frightening - not to mention some of his other nifty habits like thrusting his fingers through full cans of Coca-Cola and sending 300-pound heavy bags slapping against the ceiling with a simple side kick.

Strength and its acquisitions were Lee's primary concerns in his weight training, and eventually his weight work evolved to the ultimate limits of intuitive knowledge - what some refer to as instinctive training. According to those who worked out with him from time to time, such as martial arts actor Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee may pound for pound been one of the strongest men in the world.

Lee's Road to Weight Training

Certainly his background in physiology and kinesiology imbued Bruce with the ability to discern a useful exercise from an unproductive one, so he was able to avoid wasting time in his workouts. Lee believed that the student of exercise should aim at nothing less than physical perfection, including great strength, quickness and skill; exuberant health and the beauty of muscular form that distinguishes a physically perfect human being. To Lee the secret of success in bodybuilding lay in the word "progressive," but he also recognized the importance of another word in the vocabulary of physical culture - "persistence." 

Lee was nothing of not persistent in his quest to express the full potential of his body. Given the physiological fact that a stronger muscle is a bigger muscle, it was only natural that he would in time come to appreciate the superior health-building benefits of bodybuilding, but it took a violent encounter to bring home the merits of a regular and dedicated approach to progressive-resistance training. 

According to his widow, Linda Lee, her husband was preparing to teach a class in San Francisco one evening when the door to his school flew open and in walked a group of Chinese martial artists led by a man who was their best fighter and designated leader. Linda, who was eight months pregnant with the couple's first child, Brandon, recalled that the leader presented Lee with an ornate scroll that issued him an ultimatum in bold Chinese characters: Either he stopped teaching gung fu (the Cantonese version of kung fu) to non-Asian students, or he would have to fight, right then and there with their top man.

Lee disdainfully handed the scroll back to the leader. "I'll teach whomever I choose," he said calmly. "I don't care what color they are." While such non-racist views are generally applauded today, in San Francisco's Chinatown of the mid-1960's teaching Oriental "secrets" to non-Orientals was perceived as the highest form of treason among the martial arts community. Though Lee had many virtues, it is well known among his friends, family and students that suffering fools patiently wasn't one of them. By his words and demeanor Lee effectively threw the gauntlet back at the feet of his would-be challenger.

A fight immediately broke out, and in a matter of seconds Lee had the previously bold and self-righteous kung fu expert running for the nearest exit. After considerable leg work Lee was able to throw the man to the floor and extract a submission from him. He then tossed the entire group off the premises, cursing them in Cantonese. To his shock, however, Lee discovered that he'd expended a tremendous amount of energy in the altercation.

"He was surprised and disappointed at the physical condition he was in," Linda said. Although it took all of three minutes, "he thought that the fight had lasted way too long and that it was his own lack of conditioning that made it such a lengthy set-to. He felt inordinately winded afterward." This fight caused Lee to thoroughly investigate alternative avenues of physical conditioning, and he concluded that he needed to develop considerably more strength - in both his muscular and cardiovascular systems - if he was ever to become the greatest martial artist of all time.

Knowing that the muscle magazines were the only existing source of health and strength-training information, Lee immediately subscribed to all the bodybuilding publications he could find. He ordered courses out of the magazines and tested their claims and theories. He frequented secondhand bookstores, purchasing books on bodybuilding and strength training, including one written by Eugen Sandow titled Strength & How to Obtain It that was originally published in 1897. 

 Books by Eugen Sandow:

 His hunger for knowledge was so great he purchased everything he could get his hands on hot off the press - courses to back-list classics. No price was too high for knowledge, particularly if applying it resulted in increased strength, power and muscularity.

During his lifetime Bruce Lee amassed a tremendous library, including tomes on philosophy, martial arts and some 140 publications that dealt extensively with physical fitness, bodybuilding, kinesiology and weightlifting. "Bruce used to come into his school in Chinatown with an armful of articles from the muscle magazines," recalled Inosanto. "He'd say, 'Look at this. These bodybuilders all say they do this in order to increase their strength - it's a common denominator running through all of their writings.' He'd look for consistency in things like that and would compare and eliminate the data he felt was superfluous."

The Routine

After much research and with the help of two of his closer friends and students in the Bay area Lee devised a three days per week bodybuilding program that he thought fit his needs perfectly. According to Alan Joe, "James Lee and I introduced Bruce to the basic weight-training techniques. We used to train with basic exercises like squats, pullovers and curls for about three sets each. Nothing really spectacular, but we were just getting him started." This program served Lee well from 1965 until 1970 and fit in with his philosophy of getting the maximum results out of the minimum - or most economical - expenditure of energy.

The every-other-day schedule he used allowed for the often neglected aspect of recovery. Lee coordinated his bodybuilding workouts so they fell on days when he wasn't engaged in either endurance-enhancing or overly strenuous martial arts training. The program worked like magic, increasing his bodyweight from 135 pounds to at one point just over 165.

Lee geared his training for function rather than sheer muscle size, however, and he incorporated the three core tenets of total fitness into his bodybuilding routine: stretching for flexibility, weight training for strength, and cardiovascular activity for his respiratory system. In other words, he was the original cross-trainer.

Here's the weight routine he put together and performed on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Clean & Press - 2 x 8 reps
Squat - 2 x 12
Barbell Pullover - 2 x 8
Bench Press - 2 x6
Good Morning - 2 x 8
Barbell Curl - 2 x 8

He was a huge influence on me. I had posters of him all over by bedroom walls. I watched all of his movies I don't know how many times each and even studied karate for a couple of years when I was about 14. I like a lot of things about Bruce Lee; he was far superior to anybody else in his field. Also, it may sound kind of funny now when you consider the size of the people I compete against, but I really admired his physique. He had great definition and superb abdominals. I really admired his absolute dedication to his training. He used to do that thing where he spread his scapula and then tensed every muscle in his body. He had an incredible physique!

 - Dorian Yates

Going Beyond Routine

According to Inosanto, Bruce Lee didn't just train with the above-listed exercises, but he also incorporated weight training into his martial arts workouts. "Bruce always shadow-boxed with small weights in his hands, and he did a drill in which he punched for 12 series in a row, 100 punches per series, using a pyramid system of one, two, three, five, seven, and 10 pound weights - and then he reversed the pyramid and went 10, seven, five, three, two, one, and finally zero weight. He had me do this drill with him and man, what a burn you got in your delts and arms!"
It didn't stop there, however. When Lee wasn't training with weights in his martial arts workouts or during one of his whole-body weight training sessions he could be found curling a dumbbell that he kept in the office of his house.

"He was always using that dumbbell," Linda Lee recalled. "Bruce had the unique ability to do several things at once. It wasn't at all unusual for me to find him watching a boxing match on TV while simultaneously performing a full side split, all the while holding a book he was reading in one hand and a dumbbell he was curling in the other."

Incredible Abs

By far the most impressive of Lee's bodyparts were his abdominal muscles, which he trained daily. "Bruce always felt that if your stomach wasn't developed you had no business getting in the ring," Wong said. Linda Lee added that her husband "was fanatical about ab training. He was always doing situps, crunches, roman chair movements, leg raises and V-ups."

Chuck Norris has gone on record recalling the time he went to visit Lee and saw his friend bouncing young Brandon on his abdomen while simultaneously performing dumbbell flyes for his pecs and doing leg raises for his abs - all while lying on the floor watching television.

Forearms of Steel

In order to improve his gripping and punching power, Lee became an avid devotee of forearm and grip training. While many champion bodybuilders shy away from direct forearm work, Lee made it a point to train his every day. "He was a forearm fanatic," Linda Lee said, laughing. "If ever any bodybuilder - such as Bill Pearl - came out with a forearm course, Bruce would have to get it." Lee even commissioned an old friend of his from San Francisco, George Lee (no relation), to build his several gripping machines to which Bruce added plates for additional resistance. 

Although Lee is no longer with us, his teachings live on. His enduring impact is nothing short of incredible, and that's certainly true in the realm of exercise science. Lee epitomized the athletic ideals of diligence, hard work, bearing up under adversity and refusing to short-change either yourself or your potential. 

Man's life, even though he lives it not long, is long enough if he lives it right.
 - Seneca      





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