Saturday, February 22, 2014

Setting Up A Specialized PHA Program - Bob Gajda

Bob Gajda, Sergio Oliva

Bones of Iron is a collection of articles by Matt Foreman that appeared in the Performance Menu journal between 2008 and 2011 along with a few new pieces of material. Foreman's background in Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting and coaching multiple sports gives him unique perspective and insights into a wide array of elements not only of strength training and competition, but all athletic pursuits and life itself. The chapters are rife with as much humor as helpful training information, and Foreman covers topics ranging from practical guidelines for designing training programs to personal experiences with training and competition.

 - From an interview by Peary Rader with Bob Gajda -

Knowing that most bodybuilders look forward to the time when they can start specialization on some body part or on the entire body for a special purpose, we thought we should get the expert opinion of how the reader could set up his own specialization program and use the new PHA system of training. Bob Gajda being an expert in this field, we asked him some questions and here is the taped result of this interview. We hope it will help you make up your own program to fit your own particular case.

Peary: Bob, when do you think a bodybuilder ought to consider a specialized program?

Bob: I think that, generally speaking, after a man has been on a basic training program for about a year he might consider specialization. Actually, when a man's weak points become obvious he should start considering specialization on these weak areas.

Peary: Bob, do you think that by specialization a man can make changes in his physical shape and structure? For instance, he might have small calves because his ancestors had small calves in proportion to other measurements. Do you feel that he can change his natural proportions through specialization?

Bob: There are things to consider. It is very difficult to change your physical shape, but one can increase the relative size by specialization. For instance, Bill Pearl and Mike Ferraro both had what we call high calves. However, by specialization these men did a marvelous job and by increasing the relative size of their calves they made corrections even though they still retained their natural shape, in this instance, high calves. The other things to consider are that men with small ankle bones may increase their calves a small amount and show greater taper, while men with thick ankle bones would have to increase their calf muscles a great deal more to show the same taper. So I don't believe the bodybuilder should be too concerned with trying to copy someone else's shape, but should do his best to perfect his own natural shape to complete development.

Peary: Is specialization always effective in all cases; can everyone, for instance, make satisfactory progress with specialization exercises? If one man has one arm that is smaller than the other and wants to bring it up - can he do this?

Bob: Yes, this is possible and I do think specialization is always effective. In line with this I want to comment that this principle of continuous circulation which you have been advocating for a long time is of tremendous value in specialization. I used it on my calves by working them all day long to keep the blood circulating in them continuously. You see, if you have two arms of different sizes, it usually because one has been used more then the other and for this reason there is a different muscle density in each arm. This means that you should try to keep the circulation stimulated constantly in the smaller arm until you get it to the size you want.

Peary: When specializing on one body part, do you recommend that you still follow a regular program for the entire body or should one cut down on the general program while specializing?

Bob: There are two ways of answering this. Some men have a higher energy level and more time, and they may want to work the specialized body part 6 days per week, with 3 heavy days and 3 light days. The light days would be just for circulation benefits - in other words, to keep the circulation active in the specialized muscles. If a man is low on energy or time, then he may find it necessary to work only 3 days a week. I would also recommend that he work his regular program for the rest of the body for 3 days per week along with the 6 day a week specialization. All programs, of course, would make use of the PHA system.  

PHA has many advantages for specialization. There is better circulation in that the circulation is continuous and never congested. There is greater "buffering" action and more work can be performed with heavier weights used, thus bringing more sacrostyles (myofibrils) into action. You also save time, but above all you are able to give more emphasis to the part being specialized. 

Peary: Let's use the calves as an example, for many people need specialization on this part.

Bob: We can go one step and say that everyone needs to specialize on calves and I don't think anyone ever overdeveloped them. I also emphasize the deltoids and the waist. Here is what I would do then, in view of this. In every sequence of exercising I performed I would take a calf exercise, a deltoid exercise and an abdominal exercise, then take one additional exercise that I'm specializing on and work it heavy in conjunction with the other exercises.

If I were specializing on the calves I would include at least three calf exercises in each routine. This would place a calf exercise in each of three groups or sequences.

This would be a heavy exercise - by heavy I mean heavy weights so as to stimulate as many muscle fibers as possible.

I have always recommended the split system. That is, you work the upper body three days and the lower body three days. I would work the upper body on Monday, Wednesday and Friday heavy, then I would throw in a light leg exercise just for the "buffering" action effect. We want to work the legs lightly but not deplete the nervous energy. Then you would work the legs heavy the other days and then perhaps a light upper exercise or two for the "buffering action."  You would add the specialized exercise or exercises to each sequence each day - in this instance the calf exercises.  

Here is another solution to the problem of the 3-day-a-week program. Many fellows try to include the heavy poundage, mass muscle workouts in every workout every day and this is fatiguing. I would suggest that instead of 3 days a week so heavy, you rather do 4 days a week and arrange the exercises so that you do not do all the heavy exercises any one day, but spread them over several days. For instance, the squats, bench presses, deadlifts and a few others are fatiguing exercises because they take a lot of energy. Instead of trying to do all these exercises in the same workout, do perhaps the bench presses one day, the squats another, and the deadlift yet another, then use some of the lighter type exercises along with them, such as the flyes, curls, triceps presses, situps, sidebends, forearm exercises, calf work, etc. There latter are all on the light side. In other words, don't try to work the large muscle areas every day. I don't mean they are not important, they are most important, but you must arrange them correctly. Dr. Steinhaus told me that it is better to work out 1 hour every day than to work out 3 hours 3 times a week.

On the regular pump system it takes longer to recuperate because of the buildup of fatigue poisons from the congested circulation so that it requires more rest and you can't work as much on specialization. Therefore there is a great advantage in the PHA system for specialization.

Peary: Now Bob, let's get back to a 6-day-a-week split system, that is, working the upper body 3 days and the lower body 3 days, with perhaps some leg work lightly on the upper body day and light upper body work on the lower body day. Let's assume again that wee want to specialize on the calves. Just where will you put the special calf exercises - let's assume you want at least 4 calf exercises.

Bob: First I'd like to make some remarks about calf exercise. Most fellows do nothing but toe raises with knees locked straight. This is good and it works the big gastrocnemius muscles. This however is only half the job,for we must also work the soleus muscle which is also quite large, or should be. You can only work this with the knee bent. With most fellows doing many sets of the donkey calf raise (and this is probably one of the more popular calf exercises), they only get the gastrocnemius muscles and completely neglect the soleus muscles. I prefer to use a lot of different exercises rather than one exercise for a lot of sets, and work the muscle from many different angles, so to speak.

I also feel that anyone doing calf work ought to finish off doing a mile run. This helps to take off any fatty tissue and assures you that you're getting muscle development, and it also helps the metabolism (that is, running does) and helps you have a well-defined physique.

When I specialized on my own calves I was in school and I used to run up stairs to the gym every 55 minutes between classes, and I would do calf raises on one foot at a time and then just stretch them for a minute or so at a time. This stretching is very important for calf development. Also, when walking, climbing stairs or running I would always try to use the calf muscles as much as possible by bending the ankle as much as possible each step. I also like to do jumps on the toes and bounce around. I always finish a calf routine with the stretches. At the end of the day I usually run about a mile and I run with full ankle flexion and come off the toes with a bounce. In other words, I give the calves a shock treatment while running. This is a rough routine and sometimes the calf muscles will cramp up. This is another reason for the stretching.

Peary: Well, Bob, I think this pretty well covers it. We have talked about a lot of things other than specialization, and it seems like we have dwelt on the calf work more, but believe readers will now have the information they need to set up their programs. Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Bob: Yes, there is one thing that comes to mind. In setting up the sequence or group of exercises, many fellows are making a mistake. You use about 5 or 6 exercises per sequence and I would always put a calf exercise at the last, then an abdominal about midway, and a deltoid exercise to start the sequence. In between these I would place the heavier exercises like the presses, squats, etc. This gives a sort of pause between the heavies and yet keeps the blood circulating and maintains the "buffering" action of the blood. When I speak of deltoid exercises I'm thinking in terms of dumbbell raises, front, side, or back (leverage exercises). This is a light exercise and of course abdominal work is generally considered light. Calf is not so light so I place it at the end of the sequence.

It is always wise to intersperse some upper body work with the lower body work to bring this blood up from the lower extremities. Now this may seem contradictory, but remember I mentioned doing some light upper body work when working the lower body heavy and vice versa.

Since so much extraneous material came into our conversation, let us summarize the procedure for setting up a specialized program. Again, because it is badly needed, let us decide to specialize on the calves in this example, the basics of which can be applied to other programs.

You will plan a 6-day a week split routine. Monday/Wednesday/Friday will be predominantly upper body work. You may want 3 to 5 sequences depending on your time and energy. Place your special calf exercises at the end of each sequence.

On Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday lower body work would be dominant, and again you would put calf exercises at the last of each sequence. This would give you quite a calf workout since you would be doing about 5 calf exercises each workout or each day, and then finish up with calf stretches and some 'toe' running.

A little light massage is also good for the specialized muscles. Remember it is important to keep the blood circulating through the muscles being specialized, without congestion - just a strong circulation.

Article courtesy of Jack Chrisomalis.    


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