The Growing Workout
upon a time there was a tall, skinny young man who trained in a
well-equipped basement gym in his parents’ house and who wanted, more
than anything else in the world, to look like Lou Ferrigno. The young
man trained very hard. He had lined the gym with pictures of Ferrigno.
He had cut out and pinned up every routine of Ferrigno’s ever printed
and he followed them slavishly. Unfortunately, however, other than
having the same number of arms and legs at the various four corners, the
young man looked nothing at all like Lou Ferrigno.
morning the skinny young man stood in his underwear shorts, gazing sadly
at himself in the full length mirror. The week before he had gone to
see Ferrigno’s movie, “Hercules”, which was playing at a downtown
theatre. The young man had already seen it seventeen times, but this
time he made the mistake of taking his girlfriend. When Ferrigno
appeared on the screen, the young lady gave a strangled gasp and sank
her nails into the back of the young man’s hand. On the way home, over
hamburgers and milkshakes, the young man confided in her that he had
been striving for years to look like Lou Ferrigno. She cocked a cynical
eyebrow at him and murmured that one would have never known.
young lady declined a second hamburger but remarked that it would be a
good idea if the young man ate a dozen or so. She also declined a stroll
through the park, pointing out that it was dark in there and might be
dangerous for her what with the caliber of protection young women had to
rely upon with these days.
She said goodnight quickly at the
door, and for the rest of the week a series of hair-washing
obligations, blinding headaches and unforeseen events rendered her
totally inaccessible. Furthermore, she observed regretfully, there
appeared to be little probability of change in her tight schedule in the
The young man dressed and ate breakfast – two
bowls of cereal, six eggs, a quarter pound of bacon, four pieces of
toast and a glass of milk – while he poured over the yellow pages in the
phone book. Then he put on his raincoat, got into his car and drove
downtown. He parked and walked half a block in the rain until he came to
a window filled with pictures of astonishingly muscular men in various
stages of tension. He walked through the front door.
bulky man in a blue track suit was standing by the counter eating a
sandwich. He beamed cheerfully at the skinny young man. “How are you,”
he said. “Lovely day, isn’t it?”
“Are you the owner?” the young man asked him.
am indeed,” the large, bulky man assured him. He peered over the
counter at the young man’s feet.
“You’re dripping water all over the
“It’s raining outside” the young man told him.
the gym owner said. “That’s probably why you’re dripping water all over
the floor.” He put on his friendliest smile. “Anyway, what can I do for
“I’d be interested in training here,” the young man said. “Under certain conditions.”
The gym owner broadened his smile. “Step into the office, my boy, and we’ll talk about it.”
walked into the office. The gym owner laid his sandwich on the desk and
shook hands with the young man. “Sit down,” he said. “Please.”
The young man wiped mustard off his hand and sat down.
gym owner opened a desk drawer and whipped out a contract. “We have the
ever-popular single life membership,” he said. “Or, if you care to
bring your wife or someone else’s, we have what we term the joint life
and last survivor plan.” He rummaged through the drawer and brought out a
pen. “Cash is preferable, of course, but since we operate in an
atmosphere of complete trust and harmony a certified cheque will
The young man held up his hand.
“Just a minute,”
he said. “I told you there were conditions.” He leaned forward and
looked the gym owner in the eye. “Have you ever,” he said slowly, “seen
anyone who looks exactly like Lou Ferrigno?”
“Actually, no,” the gym owner said. “But I have a mother-in-law who looks like Raymond Burr.”
“Well, that’s the condition,” the young man said. “Guarantee me that I’ll look like Lou Ferrigno and I’ll train here.”
gym owner closed his eyes and thought about what he would say to the
young man. Everyone, he thought, has his own potential and his own
individuality and the important thing is to develop that potential
without regard for outside comparisons. He cleared his throat.
“Everyone,” he said, “has his . . . “
“And don’t give me any of that
crap about individuality,” the young man barked at him. “I want to look
like Ferrigno and that’s that.”
The gym owner closed his eyes
again and weighed the slight monetary advantage of the young man’s
membership against the enormous emotional satisfaction of throwing him
through the window. What the hell, he thought, we were all young once.
“Take off your shirt,” he said, “and let’s see where you’re at.”
The young man peeled off his shirt and took a deep breath. “Anything like Ferrigno?” he asked.
The gym owner coughed slightly.
“Your hair’s about the right colour,” he said. “But other than that . . .”
The young man flexed his arm. “What does that look like?”
Actually, the gym owner thought, it looks like a piece of unthreaded gas pipe. But he said, “How have you been training?”
“On Ferrigno’s routines,” the young man said. “I’ve done them all.”
been your mistake,” the gym owner told him. “It’s the most common
mistake in bodybuilding. You’re not ready to train like Ferrigno.”
“Why not?” the young man asked him.
“What do you weigh?” the gym owner asked.
“About a hundred and fifty-three.”
“Ferrigno weighs around two-eighty,” the gym owner said. “How do you expect to look like him?”
The young man gritted his teeth. “Then I’ll weigh two-eighty.”
“But you won’t,” the gym owner told him. “And you never will. At least, not the way you’re training.”
metabolism isn’t right for it yet,” the gym owner said. “And you don’t
assimilate your food properly. You don’t gain weight easily. Lou
Ferrigno can probably gain weight just thinking about it.”
The young man sagged in his chair.
“So what do I do?” he said. “Quit?”
“Not at all,” the gym owner said. “Just train differently for a while. Learn to gain weight. Work on a growing routine.”
The young man brightened. “And then I’ll look like Lou Ferrigno?”
gym owner looked up at the ceiling. Strange, he thought, there must be
an echo in here. He leaned toward the young man. “Understand this,” he
said. “I can’t guarantee you that you’ll look like Lou Ferrigno anymore
than I can guarantee Lou Ferrigno that he’ll look like you.” Not, he
thought to himself, that he’d ever want to. “But what I can guarantee
you is that if you train like I tell you, you’ll gain lots of weight and
someday, if you’re lucky, you might look like Lou Ferrigno.”
gym owner took a blank workout sheet out of the drawer. “I’m going to
give you a workout to do. Don’t do any more and don’t do any less. Give
it your best shot for three months and then, if you’re satisfied, come
back and we’ll talk some more.”
The gym owner filled in the sheet:
Bench Press . . . . . . . . . . 3 sets of 15 reps
Rowing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 sets of 15 reps
Curl . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 sets of 10 reps
Press Behind Neck . . . . . . 2 sets of 12 reps
Squats . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 sets of 15 reps
Light Pullovers . . . . . . . . . 2 sets of 20 reps
Stiff-legged Deadlift . . . . . 1 set of 20 reps
Crunches . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 set of 25 reps
“Don’t rush through it,” he said. “Take your time. Drop the weight about 10% for each of the second and third sets.”
He handed it across the desk.
The young man looked at it. “It doesn’t look like a Lou Ferrigno workout.
not,” the gym owner said. “It’s far too basic for him. But it’s just
right for you. You’ll gain weight and improve your assimilation. Then
you can start training a little more like Ferrigno and you might even
start looking a little bit like him.”
The young man thought it over.
“I’ll try it,” he said. He wheeled around and, remembering to keep his lats spread, marched out.
Three months later he came back. He’d gained thirty-one pounds, his old girlfriend was begging him for a date, and four new ones were keeping him awake with obscene phone calls. He burst through the office door and yelled, “Guess who!”
The gym owner bit the end off the pencil he was chewing and leaped to his feet. Then he smiled and put out his hand.
“Lou Ferrigno,” he said. “Nice to see you.”
The Big Chest Program
My daughter used to go around with a kid called Marvin.
He trained a little bit with weights once in a while just to butter me up.
He was skinny back then and as lazy as a treeful of South American sloths.
I was sitting at home one Monday evening, working with some papers at
the dining room table. I was trying to put the finishing touches on a
fast, big-chest program I wanted to conduct at the gym and wondering who
I could get for a guinea pig when Marvin came slopping in all loose and
easy, snapping his fingers and humming to himself. He pulled out a
chair and sat down.
“Dad,” he said, “I’d like to marry your daughter.”
I thought about it. “Have you seen my wife?”
“Yes, he said. “But I prefer your daughter.”
I closed my eyes and muttered a little prayer my mother had taught me.
“Have you asked my daughter?”
“No, he said. “I figured since it was your daughter’s hand I’d get an understanding with you first.”
“Good,” I said. “Then understand this. The chances are absolutely nil that you’ll ever get my daughter’s hand or any other part of her anatomy.”
He looked hurt.
“Like why, man?”
I opened my mouth to tell him and then I had a thought.
“Because you’re too skinny,” I said. “And your chest is too small.”
“Chest too small?” he screamed. “Man, I don’t figure on being no flipping gladiator.”
“No,” I said. “But if you were my son-in-law you’d be a constant embarrassment to me.”
He blinked in surprise.
“On the other hand,” I told him, “if you were a little heavier and your chest was about six inches bigger,
you’d be a tad more acceptable.
“Six inches?” he said. “Man, that’d take forever.”
“Three months,” I told him. “Three short months.”
“Positively.” I took some papers off the table. “Marvin, I have here the
quintessence, the absolute ultimate in chest building programs. I guarantee you’ll gain a lot of weight and put abut six inches on your chest.”
He brightened. “And then I get to marry your daughter?”
‘Marvin,” I told him, “I don’t think my daughter or any other woman this
side of the banana factory would ever marry you. If they do, that’s up
to them. Personally, I don’t think you’ll even remember it this time
“Wrongo, man,” he said. “When do I start?”
“Right now,” I told him. “I’ll get you a set of sweats and we’ll drive over to the gym.”
When we got to the gym I said to him:
“Now, Marvin, you’re going to embark on an exciting three month journey.
An adventure that will make you heavier, broaden your shoulders and
increase your chest about six inches.” I beamed paternally at him. “What
do you think about that?”
“Great,” I said. “I knew you’d be excited.”
I turned him around so he faced me directly.
“Now pay attention, Marvin. Watch my lips.”
“This is a foundation program for guys who are not gaining fast enough.
It’s a foundation program for guys who haven’t learned how to grow. It’s
not designed to build definition. It’s not designed to peak your
biceps. It’s not designed to get you into Mr. Universe condition. But if
you don’t mind the foundation I’m talking about, none of those other
things will ever happen. It’s as simple as that.”
Marvin turned and walked to the window.
“You’ll never build a really big body until you expand your rib cage. Do you understand that?”
Marvin leaned out the window.
“Crazy, man,” he muttered.
I dragged him back in.
“Will you pay attention?” I yelled.
He winced. “I got perfect pitch, Dad. You’ll ruin it.”
“Have you been listening?”
“Of course, man,” he said. “Of course.”
“What did I say?”
He coughed slightly. “Run it by me again.”
I closed my eyes and thought about early retirement.
“Never mind, Marvin. Let’s just do it.”
I got out a tape measure and put it around his chest.
He yelped and jumped away.
“Man, he said, “that’s cold.”
I dragged him back, put the tape around him and peered at it.
“Marvin, I said, “have you ever had a chest x-ray?”
He squinted down. “How much is it?”
I walked him over to the scales. “Get on.”
I fiddled with the counter-weight.
“How much?” he asked.
I looked closely at the pointer.
“You sure you got both feet on the scales?”
“One thirty-two,” I told him.
I walked him to a bench, made him sit down, and put a light bar across his shoulders.
“Now,” I said, “ten presses behind the neck.”
He did ten and I said, “There, that wasn’t so bad, was it?”
“I guess not, man.”
He got up and started for the door.
“Like maybe some time we can do it again.”
I grabbed him and dragged him back.
“We’re not finished yet,” I said. “There’s two more sets.”
He looked shocked.
“Two more sets? Man, I’ll get all sweaty.”
I clenched my teeth and said, “Marvin, pick up that goddamn bar and get moving or I’ll wrap it around your neck.”
He did two more sets and I said: “The next exercise is incline dumbbell curls. Three sets of ten and don’t work too hard at it.” He did the curls and I said: “Now, Marvin, we come to the start of the chest work. The key to the whole program.
The key to all your future progress.”
I took him over to the squat rack.
‘You’re going to do breathing squats. One set of twenty reps. We’ll
start off light today and gradually build up to all the weight you can
handle. Take three big breaths between each rep of the first ten and six breaths
between each rep of the last ten and the first time I see you take a
breath that isn’t the deepest you can take I’m going to pull your legs
off. Is that clear?”
“Explicit, man,” he said. “Lucid, even.”
He started squatting. After five reps he began humming the scale each time he exhaled. He went up one note on each breath. When he started into the second octave he sounded like fingernails on a blackboard and I reached for his neck.
“Marvin,” I snarled, “this isn’t La Scala and you’re not Pavarotti. Just do the goddamn things and do them quietly.”
He finished the squats and I made him do a set of twenty pullovers with a light weight to stretch his rib cage.
“Now,” I told him, “we go to the next exercise.”
He looked up at me from the bench.
“Of course,” I said. “If you’re going to look like a married man you’ve got to work like one.”
I coaxed him through three sets of parallel bar dips, twelve reps per set.
“Now, I said, “you’ll like this. We’re going to do another set of breathing squats.
Won’t that be great?”
“Marvelous,” he said.
He looked furtively at the door.
“Just bloody marvelous.”
“Twenty reps,” I told him.
“Twenty. Thirty.” He giggled. “A hundred and fifty. What does it matter?”
“Squats, Marvin,” I told him, “are the key to a really big chest and fast weight gains.
Nothing can take their place.”
“You could take mine,” he muttered.
He did the squats and another set of light pullovers.
I took him over to the lat machine.
“Now,” I said, “three sets of Pulldowns to the back of the neck. Fifteen reps each set and a medium width grip.”
After the pulldowns I said: “Take heart, Marvin. You’re almost finished.
Just one set of stiff-legged deadlifts for fifteen reps and one more
set of light pullovers for twenty reps.”
He gave me a sickly look.
“It’ll kill me, man.”
“Marvin,” I said, “will you stop that infernal whining. We’ve all got troubles to bear.”
I made him do the deadlifts standing on a block and lowering the bar down to his toes.
He groaned through each rep.
He did the final set of pullovers.
“There,” I said, “That’s it. Any complaints?”
He opened his mouth and I said: “Good. I knew you’d like it.”
He struggled to get off the bench.
“We’ll do the workout three days a week for the next month,” I said, “and then
we’ll make it a little more advanced.”
I slapped him on the shoulder.
“You’re going to make a fine son-in-law, Marvin.”
He coughed nervously.
“Actually,” he said, “ I may have been a trifle premature about this whole marriage thing.”
I gave him a cold look.
“Marvin,” I said, “are you considering jilting my little baby girl?”
He gulped and headed for the door.
“See you Wednesday, Dad!”
The Big Chest Program, Part II
There is a street in a large city which runs parallel to and six blocks
west of the main business section. Zoning regulations call it a
secondary commercial area, which means that fire insurance premiums are
twenty percent higher than they should be and parades go by a different
route. Although the details were never listed in the municipal archives,
the street has an enchanting historical background. Many years ago, a
complete renovation project was conceived at City Hall. The motivating
force was a lady alderman with the measurements of a sumo wrestler and
the disposition of a starving pit bull. She was chauffeured to the
street for a personal tour headlined to be the greatest media event
since the parting of the Red Sea.
She started down the street. In the first block she received several
lewd suggestions from the residents of the vacant lot on the corner and a
six stitch bite on the hip from the doberman guarding the premises of
the Coastal Iron Works. The lady was whisked away in an ambulance and
the renovation project was dropped from council agenda. The street
settled back to its normal routine and time wended its weary way.
The man who ran the dry goods store went broke and was replaced by two
French widows who sold pastries in the front part of the store during
the day and a much more popular commodity in the back part of the store
at night. The furniture store was observed unloading small wrapped
packages from an unmarked van at three in the morning and was replaced
by a company the imported Chinese furniture. The man who owned the
clothing store guessed wrong on summer shirt stylings and was shortly
relieved of his sales problem by an early morning fire which leveled the
building with speed and precision. Insurance investigators probed the
rubble for several weeks and the shirt merchant was eventually given six
to ten on the rockpile to contemplate the error of his ways. The ruins
were cleaned up and replaced by a commercial gymnasium specializing in
fast weight gains or losses for those in need of either.
One sunny afternoon, a young man walked briskly down the street. He had
on blue tennis shoes with the toes cut out, an old pair of army pants
with hearts sewn on both knees, and a bright green sweat shirt six sizes
too big with the words WORK IS A FOUR LETTER WORD emblazoned on the
front. He stormed into the gym, roared through the office door without
knocking, and pounded his fist on the gym owner’s desk.
The gym owner gave a strangled shriek and leaped to his feet. His
fingers clawed convulsively at the papers on the desk while his heart
hammered in his throat.
“I’ve had it,” the young man screamed. “My patience has run out.”
The gym owner eased himself back into his chair and held his head in his hands.
“I want a big chest,” the young man yelled, “and I want it right now.”
He grabbed his sweat shirt and held it out from his body.
“When do I fill this shirt?”
The gym owner raised his head slowly and opened his eyes.
“Marvin,” he said, “Reg Park couldn’t fill up that shirt if he took Bill Pearl in with him.”
He smiled brightly. “However,” he said, “you are in luck.
Today we change to the second phase of your chest program. He beamed at the young man. “What do you think about that?”
The young man curled his lip. “Not much.”
“Great,” the gym owner said. “A positive attitude always helps.”
He pulled a sheet of paper out of the desk drawer and began writing on it.
“Now,” he said, “today we start on a program that’s a little more advanced.
One that’ll really fill out your rib cage.”
“Rib cage?” the young man shouted. “I got enough ribs already.”
He leaned over the desk and pounded on it.
“I want muscles,” he screamed.
“Muscles! Muscles! Muscles!”
The gym owner put on his most sincere look.
“Marvin,” he said, “a rib cage is essential for a big chest. You can’t do it any other way.”
He smirked wisely.
“You can’t put the cart before the horse, you know.”
“And what’s that gotta do with my chest?” the young man snarled at him.
“Actually” he said, ‘not that much when you think about it.”
He picked up a pen and wrote on the paper.
“I have a program designed especially for you, Marvin. It’ll expand your
chest and pack on the muscle. And best of all, it doesn’t take any
The young man leaned forward.
“I didn’t get the last part.”
“I said, you’ll make big gains,” the gym owner told him. “Now listen up.”
“You’ll do a split routine. Two days on your chest and two days on the rest of your body.
“Now,” he said, ‘here’s the chest routine.
Take a little warmup and then do one set of heavy breathing squats for
twenty reps. Take three huge breaths between each rep and work to your
absolute limit. Try to add weight every workout.
“When you finish the last rep lay down on a bench and do twenty breathing pullovers with about twenty pounds.
”Stretch way back and suck in all the air you can.
“Take a five minute rest and then do another set of light breathing squats.
Twenty-five reps with the bar loaded to your bodyweight and then another
set of light pullovers. If bodyweight squats don’t feel light, then
you’ve got a long way to go.”
“Hold it,” the young man said.
“Bodyweight squats don’t feel light to me. How far have I got to go?”
“Quite a ways,” the gym owner said. He dropped into a gentle fatherly tone.
“But don’t forget,” he said, “the longest journey begins with a single step.”
The young man kicked the desk.
“And don’t forget I want big muscles, not a stack of stupid clichés.
The gym owner nodded approvingly.
“Exactly,” he said.
“Next,” he said, “take a short rest and then five sets of bench presses
with all the weight you can handle. Ten reps per set and drop the
poundage each set.
“Next is the flying exercise on a flat bench. Do five sets of twelve,
get a stretch at the bottom, and drop the poundage slightly each set.”
“Now,” he said, “ a short rest and then one more set of bodyweight breathing squats and light pullovers. Twenty reps each.”
He smiled at the young man.
“Are you with me?”
The young man stared coldly at him.
“Marvelous,” the gym owner said.
“Enthusiastic cooperation.” He scribbled on the paper.
“The final exercise is three sets of stiff-legged deadlifts. Do them on a
block and stretch down until the bar almost touches your feet. Do
fifteen reps the first set, twelve reps the second set, and ten reps the
third set. Do a set of light pullovers after each set.
“Now,” the gym owner said, “do the chest routine on Mondays and Thursdays. On Tuesdays and Fridays, work the rest of your body.
“Start off with three sets of presses behind the neck, twelve reps per set.
“Bent-over rowing comes next. Five sets of twelve with a narrow grip.
“Next, do three sets of dumbbell incline curls, ten reps per set.
“And finally,” he said, “pulldowns to the back of the neck on the lat machine for five sets of fifteen reps.”
He finished writing on the paper and handed it across the desk.
“What do you think?” he asked.
The young man frowned, “ I think it’s a lot of work.”
“It is,” the gym owner said. “It is indeed. But,” he gazed up at the
ceiling and put on his most serene expression. “If a man’s reach does
not exceed his grasp, what is heaven for?”
He smiled fondly at the young man.
“Do you know who said that?”
“No,” the young man said. “Nor do I give a damn”
“Great,” the gym owner muttered.
“Nothing so stimulating as a good literary discussion.
“Is that it?” the young man asked.
The gym owner steered the young man to the door.
“Next month I’ll change the program and tell you about a supplementary exercise that’ll generate big gains.
“Tell me now,” the young man said.
“No,” the gym owner told him. “One thing at a time.
He searched his mind for something convincing to say . . .
The moving finger writes, he thought to himself, and, having writ, moves on.
He looked at the young man and changed his mind.
“Work hard,” he said.
The Big Chest Program Part III
I was eating breakfast when Marvin walked in. He sat down beside me and peered at the toast and omelet.
“Eating breakfast?” he asked.
“Yes, Marvin,” I said. “I’m eating breakfast. I’d hoped to do it alone.”
He took the fork out of my hand and scooped a large chunk of omelet into his mouth.
He handed back the fork.
I wiped it on my napkin.
“Little too much pepper,” he told me.
I heard the toast pop in the kitchen and got to my feet.
“Would you drink a glass of milk?” I asked him.
He beamed cheerfully. “Matter of fact, I would.”
“Good,” I said. I pointed to my glass. “Don’t drink that one.”
I brought the toast back and jerked the fork out of his hand.
He took a piece of toast and spread butter on it.
“Delicious,” he mumbled.
“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” I said. “You’re spraying crumbs all over the table.”
He took a deep breath and swallowed.
“Actually,” he said, “this is the day you’re supposed to give me the last part of my chest program.”
“I know,” I said. “I’ve got it ready.”
I studied him for a moment.
“You’re looking pretty good already. You’re sure you want to do the third part?”
He took the fork and piled omelet on his toast.
“Absolutely, man,” he said. “When they’re kicking sand next summer, I’m gonna be doing the kicking for a change.”
I thought about it.
“Marvin,” I said. “I’m getting the uneasy feeling I’m creating a monster here.”
He picked up the milk and drank it.
“However,” I said, “I have the last part of the program.
“You’ll do a four-day-a-week split program,” I told him. “Two days on
chest specialization and two days on the rest of your body.”
“On Mondays and Thursdays start off with bodyweight breathing squats.
That means the equivalent of your bodyweight on the bar and three huge
breaths between each rep. Do one set of twenty-five reps, one set of
twenty, and one set of fifteen. Do twenty light pullovers after each set
“Next,” I said, “do bench presses for five sets of eight reps. Use a medium wide grip and work to your limit.”
“After the bench presses, do incline dumbbell presses for five sets of
six. Let the weights go well out to the side and keep your elbows back.”
“Finally,” I said, “do flying exercises on a flat bench for five sets of twelve.”
Marvin ate another scoop of omelet.
“That’s all for the chest workout,” I told him. “Do you think you can handle it.”
He picked up another piece of toast and bit into it.
“I think so,” he said thoughtfully. “Provided I eat well.”
“Don’t worry about it,” I said, “You will.”
“Now,” I told him, “On Tuesdays and Fridays do the rest of the program.”
“Start off with regular presses. Do five sets of five in good style and not too much back bend.”
“Next, do standing lateral raises in very strict style for three sets of twelve.”
“Now,” I said, “we move to the back with five sets of eight on the
standard bent-over rowing exercise. Use a close grip and pull the bar to
your lower abdomen.”
“Next do chins with a close grip for five sets of eight.”
“After the chins, do pulldowns to the back of your neck on the lat
machine. And remember,” I told him, “you’ve gotta work up into heavy
weights on all these.”
I looked at him closely.
“Can you do that?”
He thought about it for a while and then opened his mouth.
“I know,” I said.
“Provided you eat well.”
“Next, the arms,” I said. “Alternate incline dumbbell curls with French
presses on a flat bench for five sets of eight reps each.”
“Then alternate standing barbell curls with triceps extensions on the lat machine for five sets of ten reps each.”
“And finally, “I told him, “do prone hyperextensions for three sets of
twelve. Get to where you can hold weights behind your neck as soon as
He pushed a piece of toast into his mouth with his forefinger and then licked the finger carefully.
“I’ll have to eat a lot,” he told me.
“Marvin,” I snarled at him, “you eat like a hammerhead shark now. Pay attention to me.”
“Finally,” I said, “we come to something a little different. It’s a
supplementary exercise you can do half a dozen times throughout the day.
Every day,” I added. I looked at him carefully.
“How does that grab you?”
He wiped egg off his chin.
“An exercise I can do half a dozen times every day?”
“Marvelous,” he said. “Just marvelous.”
He picked up the last piece of toast.
“Isn’t there something I can get up and do three or four times during the night?”
“No,” I said. “That’s not necessary. But it’s not that much work.”
He got up and walked into the kitchen. I heard the fridge door open. He came back with the peanut butter and the milk container.
“Now listen,” I said. “The supplementary exercise is a sort of chest
pull that was invented a long time ago by a man named Peary Rader. It’s
called the Rader chest pull.”
Marvin looked at me.
“It’s a chest pull invented by a guy called Rader, so they call it the Rader chest pull.
I put on my friendliest smile.
“Marvelous,” he said. “Just incredible.”
He spread an inch of peanut butter on his toast.
“Let me guess.”
He bit into the toast and wiped peanut butter off his mouth.
“You lay on the floor and someone pulls the squat rack on to your chest. Right?”
“No,” I said. “It’s a great exercise guaranteed to lift your sternum,
expand your rib cage, and give you a nice high foundation for a really
He mumbled something
“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” I said.
“You can stand and use the top of a door, or sit and use the door
handles, or kneel and use the top of a chair. Almost anything will do”
“Get in front of the solid object and grab it. Anything from shoulder
width to hands touching is fine. Blow all the air out of your lungs and
then inhale to the count of three. At three your lungs should be
completely filled. Now, hold your breath and start pulling as though you
were trying to form a letter ‘V’. Pull in and down as hard as you can
for a count of three. You should feel your sternum lift, your rib cage
expand and your pecs contract. Use the muscles in the front of your neck
and try to lift your sternum even higher.”
“Now, relax and exhale to the count of three. Blow out all the air you
can. Pause for a count of three on empty lungs and then do the cycle all
over again. Inhale, tense, exhale, pause. One cycle counts one rep. Do
I looked at Marvin.
“Have you got it?”
He patted my wrist.
“I’m with you.”
I wiped peanut butter off my hand.
“Good,” I said. “And don’t forget to do the exercise five or six times throughout the day.”
A month later, my wife invited Marvin for breakfast. He came slopping in
wearing a ripped T-shirt, cut-offs with threads dangling past his knees
and torn running shoes with a shredded black shoe in one of them and a
shredded white shoe lace in the other. She put a bowl of whole grain
cereal in front of him. “Eat up, Marvin,” she said.
“You look a lot better,” I told him. “How much did you gain?”
“About six inches on the chest,” he told me. “And twenty-one pounds.”
“Good,” I said. “And when are the nuptials?”
He stirred the cereal and raised a dripping spoon to his mouth.
“She turned me down.”
He sucked the cereal off the spoon. It sounded like a gumboot coming out of the mud at low tide.
“Really?” I said. I peered under the table at his shoe laces. “I wonder why.”
He pushed another load of cereal into his mouth. “Beats me,” he mumbled.
I drank the last of my milk and got up.
“Can you come for dinner next Sunday?”
He gulped down the cereal and nodded.
“Good,” I said.
“I’ll be out of town that day.”
Developing Great Legs
I’ve got a mountain of muscle magazines dating back to about the time of
the Napoleonic Wars. The other night my old friend Ollie and I sat down
and thumbed through a stack of them.
“Yes, indeed,” I waved a 1945 classic at him. “They had some pretty great men back in those days.”
Ollie pored over his 1942 collector’s item. “Frank Leight, Gord Venables, Jules Bacon.”
“Bert Goodrich,” I said. “Tony Sansone, Sam Loprinzi.”
Ollie heaved a sigh.
“And nostalgic,” I said. “Where blooms the rose of yesterday?”
Ollie gazed thoughtfully at the ceiling. “That’s Omar Khayyam, isn’t it.”
“No,” I said, “it’s me. I just made it up.”
He rooted deeper in the pile and brought out a yellowed 1937 edition.
“Tremendous.” he murmured.
I picked up the current MuscleMag and a very early Iron Man, opened them up and laid them side by side on the coffee table.
“Do you see the difference?” I asked him. “The one essential difference?”
He frowned at the magazines.
“Bigger,” I told him. “Much bigger.”
“Much, much bigger.” I nodded.
“And colour,” he said. “And better quality paper. And . . .”
“Not the books, Ollie,” I said. “The men in them. The musclemen of today
are way bigger than their counterparts of thirty or forty years ago.”
“Right,” Ollie said. “That’s why the magazines have to be bigger. Otherwise the pictures wouldn’t fit.”
QUESTION: What do I need for a prize winning body?
ANSWER: You need a lot of things. You need shape. You need muscle
density. You need definition and skin tone and a hundred and one other
things. But most of all you need size. Sheer, unadulterated size.
Size! That’s the thing that separates the bull from the calves. Big
muscles. Big like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Big like Lou Ferrigno. Big like
QUESTION: I train hard. Why don’t I get bigger?
ANSWER: Probably because you don’t train properly for the stage you’re at now.
There are three areas of your body that promote bulk. Your legs, back,
and rib cage. These areas determine whether you’ll have a Herculean body
or a slender one. If you want a slim body, train normally. If you want a
massive body, specialize on your legs, back and rib cage very early in
your bodybuilding career and at various times throughout it when gains
are lagging. Your legs, back and rib cage are your growth stimulation
areas. Hard, proper training on them will force gains over your entire
body. They also determine your potential for size at any given point in
your career. None of your muscles will ever get much ahead of the
potential determined for them by your legs, back, and rib cage. If
you’re not making reasonable fast gains in muscular bulk, if your
measurements aren’t moving, if your muscles aren’t getting any bigger,
then you’ve almost certainly reached the potential set by the present
development of your growth stimulation areas.
QUESTION: So what do I do?
ANSWER: Increase your potential by short periods of specialization on your legs, back, and rib cage.
QUESTION: How do I specialize on these areas?
ANSWER: Do three months of INTENSIVE leg work. Then do a regular growing
routine for a month or two. Then wind it up with three months of
equally intensive back work. The leg and back routines force enormous
amounts of deep breathing. Supplement the deep breathing with special
exercises to expand your rib cage. After that you can go back to your
regular routines and grow like a baby elephant.
You’ve got to understand one thing. Intensive means you do every set of
every exercise to complete failure, till you can’t budge the weight the
slightest fraction of an inch. It means you work harder than you’ve ever
worked in your life.
It means you put out every last ounce of your strength and will power
each and every time you work out. If you’re not prepared to work that
hard, don’t bother doing the program.
Start with your legs.
The program will be in three steps. Do the break-in routine the first
month, the middle routine the second month, and the full routine the
third month. The full routine is so intense that if you started right in
on it, you wouldn’t be able to walk for a week.
Your primary exercise will be squats . . .
If you work out with a couple of other guys there’s no problem. They can
spot you. Squat till you can’t come up and then they help you. If you
train alone it’s a different ball game. Sticking on the bottom of a
heavy squat is like getting hit by a gravel truck. You need a safety
device. If you don’t have a power rack or safety catchers on your squat
rack, try this:
Hang two ropes from the ceiling about three feet apart and a couple of
feet out from your squat rack. Make sure they’re solid. If you train in
your basement, screw two heavy-duty hooks into the joists. Put a loop on
the bottom end of the ropes big enough to hold your squat bar. The
ropes should be an inch or two longer than the distance from the hooks
in the joists to the bar when you’re in the parallel position of a
squat. In other words, if you go a couple of inches below parallel, the
ropes are stretched tight.
Put the loops over the empty bar just outside the inside collars. Load
up the bar. Now, if you get stuck on the bottom, just sag a couple of
inches, let the ropes take the weight, and crawl out from under.
Here’s your first month’s routine:
Warm up carefully. Anyone who does heavy squats with their muscles as cold as a landlord’s heart is completely certifiable.
Wear a full sweat suit. You can show off your muscles after you finish
the workout. Do some free or very light squats. Do a couple of sets of
prone hyper-extensions with just your bodyweight. Do a little loose
running on the spot. You should be sweating slightly when you finish
Your first exercise is squats. Do them in puff and pant style. Three
huge breaths between each repetition. Do about twenty reps. I say ABOUT
twenty reps because you squat till you can’t do another rep.
We’re going to talk more about hard work next month when you start the
middle routine. Just take it for now that work to your limit. Grind out
what feels like your last squat and then do five or six more.
QUESTION: How many sets do I do?
ANSWER: Hah! If you can even consider a second set, you haven’t been
working anywhere near hard enough. When you finish the set, crawl or
hobble – you shouldn’t be able to walk properly – to a bench and do one
set of light pullovers. Twenty pounds or so is enough. Do twenty reps,
take in all the air you can and really stretch your rib cage. Now take a
five minute rest.
Your next exercise is leg curls. Two sets. Do each set for as many reps
as you can – somewhere between twelve and twenty. Grind them out until
you can’t budge the weight. Drop the poundage about ten pounds for the
Your next exercise is leg extensions. Same procedure as with the leg
curls. Two sets of twelve to twenty reps. Each set until you can’t move
the weight. Drop the weight about ten pounds for the second set.
Your last exercise is calf raises on the calf machine. Do them to your
limit for three sets of fifteen to twenty-five reps. And that’s all the
legs work for the first month. It may not seem like much, but if you
work to your limit on each set it’ll be plenty.
Do the leg workout on Mondays and Thursdays. On Tuesdays and Fridays do the following:
Bench Press - two sets of twelve reps
Rowing - three sets of fifteen reps
Press Behind the Neck - two sets of ten reps
Curl - two sets of ten reps
Stiff-legged Dead Lift - one set of fifteen reps
Make up your mind whether or not you want to complete the leg
specialization. Make up your mind whether or not you’re willing to work
harder than you ever have before. If you’re not, there’s really no point
starting. If you are, then jump on and watch for big gains.
Leg Specialization, Part II
QUESTION: Why do Mr. Olympia’s arms grow when he exercises them?
ANSWER: Because Mr. Olympia’s arms have the potential for further growth.
QUESTION: Why do they have this potential?
ANSWER: Because Mr. Olympia has attained sufficient development of his legs, back, and rib cage.
As we discussed last month, your legs, back, and rib cage are the growth
stimulation areas of your body. Properly exercised, they force gains
over your entire physique. They’re the only muscle groups that do this.
Your deltoids don’t. Your biceps won’t. You can do biceps exercises till
the roof falls in and they won’t do anything for the rest of your body.
They won’t even do much for your biceps unless your growth stimulation
areas are well developed.
Training routines have changed a lot in recent years. The human body
hasn’t changed at all, though. It still responds to correct training
methods. It still flunks out on incorrect methods. If you’re not gaining
rapidly, you’re probably training incorrectly. Do the correct thing.
Specialization on your growth stimulation areas.
We started leg specialization last month. The program was intended to be
a break-in for this routine. If you’ve been working as hard as you were
supposed to, you’ll be ready now for the next routine. If you haven’t
been working hard, then get with it. Don’t try doing this routine
without at least a month’s hard work on the break-in.
Start off with a good warm-up. Wear a full set of sweats and get your muscles ready for the heavy stuff.
The first exercise is heavy squats in puff-and-pant style the same as in
the break-in routine. Do one set of approximately twenty reps. Use
spotters. Work until you can’t complete another rep and then let the
spotters take the weight.
The squat is the KING of the growing exercises. There’s more value in
one set of heavy squats – done properly – than all the other exercises
in a program put together. Squats are your key to success. Squats are
your route to a massive, shapely body. Get on the band wagon and ride
with the big boys.
Squat till the tops of the thighs are parallel with the floor. There’s
absolutely no advantage going any deeper. Going to rock bottom doesn’t
do anything more for your growing muscles, but it puts a lot of strain
on your knees and lower back. If you crock them up, you won’t be doing
any heavy squats for a long time.
Don’t stay in the low position. Come up like you sat on a hot stove.
Dawdling in the low position eliminates all of the growing benefits from
The one factor that can’t be stressed too much is hared work. You’ve got
to psyche yourself up and squat like the fate of mankind depended on
As soon as you finish squatting, do twenty pullovers with about twenty
pounds. Do them while you’re short of air. Breathe in as the weight goes
back and out as you raise it again. Concentrate on the depth of your
breathing and on stretching your rib cage to its maximum.
Take five minutes’ rest after the pullovers. If you worked hard enough
on the squats it won’t be a second too long.
The next exercise is leg presses. Load it up heavy and do two sets of
about twenty reps. Fix the safety supports in the low position and work
at each set until you can’t budge the weight off the supports. Do a set
of light pullovers after each set of leg presses.
You have to work into extremely heavy weight to make the leg presses
effective. Don’t fool around with light weights. Your gains will come in
direct proportion to the poundage you use. Don’t be misled. Big muscles
are built one way and one way only – hard work with heavy weights.
The next exercise is calf raises on the calf machine. Do three sets of
about twenty-five reps, each set to complete failure. Use a high block
under your toes so that your calves are completely stretched when your
heels are in the low position. Calf exercises don’t have a growth
stimulation effect. They do, however, draw blood into your legs and that
helps your thighs. In any event, you’ll need big calves to balance the
rest of your physique.
The next exercise is step-ups on a block. Step-ups aren’t done much
these days which is too bad, because they’re a tremendous exercise. They
work the big thigh muscles beautifully, force enormous amounts of deep
breathing, and stimulate growth like nothing on earth.
Use a foot-high block. The block should be wide enough so that you can
stand on it with both feet at the finish of each rep. Set it close to
your squat rack. Take the bar off the rack and do as many step-ups as
you can – about twenty – with one leg.
Then, without putting down the weight, do as many reps as you can with
your other leg. Dump the bar back on the rack as soon as you finish and
do a set of light pullovers.
For your second set, start off with the opposite leg to the one with
which you started the first set. Drive up real hard. You can get a push
from the toes of the leg not being exercised.
You’ll find the breathing is something else. When you finish with the
first leg you should be literally gasping for air. Keep going and do the
other leg no matter what it feels like. Do another twenty light
pullovers at the end of the second set.
The next exercise is hack squats on the hack machine. Hacks are terrific
for your frontal thigh muscles, particularly the ones just above your
knees that give bodybuilders’ legs that unique look. Do two sets of
hacks, about twenty reps per set. Again, do each set to complete
failure. Do them until you’re stuck in the low position with your thighs
Do a set of light pullovers after each set of hacks. Twenty reps with twenty pounds and suck in all the air you can.
Now you go back to the calf machine again. Do three more sets of calf
raises, about twenty-five reps per set, each set done to failure.
Calves, despite moans to the contrary, can be built.
The last two exercises are thigh curls and leg extensions on the
machine, the same as in the break-in routine. This month, however, do
them in super-set style. Three sets of each, about fifteen reps per set.
Hang on to the machine, grit your teeth, and force each set until you
can’t squeeze out another rep.
Do a set of thigh curls first. Then, without any rest at all, do a set
of leg extensions. Your legs should now be begging you to stop. Take a
one-minute rest and then do another set of thigh curls and extensions
with no rest between them. Your legs should now feel like they’re
dropping off. Ignore them. Take another one-minute rest and then do
another set each of curls and extensions with no rest between them.
And that’s it. Your legs should be like rubber. If you worked hard
enough, you shouldn’t be able to walk normally for at least an hour.
It’s impossible to describe to you the absolute necessity of hard work.
Hard work means everything. You can develop the body of a Hercules with
it. You’re nowhere without it.
Do this routine for the next month. Work the leg routine on Mondays and Thursdays.
On Tuesdays and Fridays do the following:
Parallel Bar Dips – 3 x 12
Pulley Chins – 3 x 12
Press Behind Neck – 3 x 10
Incline Curls – 3 x 10
Triceps Press On Pulley – 3 x 10
Prone Hyper-extensions – 2 x 12
Crunches – 2 x 15
QUESTION: What results can I expect?
ANSWER: Unless you’re an extremely advanced bodybuilder, you can expect
to add about two inches to your thighs, about four inches to your chest,
gain ten to twenty pounds, and increase your strength twenty-five
percent during the entire specialization period. When you go back to
regular training, you can expect your other muscle groups to register
improvement almost from workout to workout until you again reach the
limits of your growth potential.
Pour everything into this program.
You’ll get out of it exactly what you put into it. Next month we’ll look
at the third and final segment of the growth stimulation program.
Leg Specialization, Part III
The other night I got woken up by a phone call about 2:00 A.M. I rolled over but it kept ringing. My wife sat up.
“Get the phone,” I told her.
“Are you crazy?” she said. “It’s on your side of the bed.”
“The walk around the bed.”
“I’ll walk on your head,” she said. “Answer it.”
I picked up the phone.
“Is this McCallum?” a voice snarled at me.
“I think so,” I mumbled. “Who’s this?”
“So you write for MuscleMag?”
I cleared my throat.
”Yes, indeed.” I said. “And I’m proud to do it. I want to shine the
light of my experience on the problems of the struggling bodybuilder.
But no thanks are necessary. Just knowing that there’s someone out there
. . .”
“You moron,” he screamed. “Are you trying to kill me? My legs are so sore I can barely walk on them.”
I hung up the phone and rolled back into bed.
“Who was it?” my wife asked.
“A grateful fan,” I said. “Sounded like your father."
One thing the growing bodybuilder has to learn is that if you work hard
in the sense that I mean it, your muscles will occasionally get sore.
There will come a time in your career when no amount of work will make
them sore, but that may be a long way off for most of you. For now,
figure on occasional soreness or lower your expectations and switch to
The average bodybuilder doesn’t know ships from shinola about hard work.
He confuses quality with quantity. He performs endless sets with baby
weights, trying to pump up like the Goodyear blimp. Walk up to one and
ask him how his mother is.
“Gotta get a pump,” he’ll mutter. “Gotta get a pump.”
He thinks he’ll end up looking like Hercules.
The cold hard fact of the matter is that he won’t. Light, prolonged
training doesn’t induce growth. It eleven reps with 150 pounds in the
bench press is your absolute limit, then one set of twelve reps will
make you grow. Fifteen sets with 100 pounds won’t do anything except use
up your time. If you’re working hard enough, it isn’t necessary to
spend all day in the gym. It isn’t even desirable unless you want to be a
squat rack junkie.
Despite all the commercial claims to the contrary, there really aren’t
that many secrets to success in bodybuilding. Hard work is one of the
few, and the only reason it’s a secret is for commercial reasons. You
can’t sell it in a bottle and you can’t make it into a pill. You can’t
put it up your nose and you can’t shoot it in your hip. If gym owners
told the truth about hard work, they’d scare away 90% of their
clientele. Nevertheless, and perhaps unfortunately, hard work is and
will always be the major factor in your progress.
A long time ago, a man named Louis Abele specialized with incredible
intensity on his legs for three months. Then he specialized for another
three months on his back. Then he went on a general program. He did this
several times during his training career. He was so impressed with the
results that he wrote it up in detail a good many years before most of
you were born.
Remember, there were no steroids in those days. There was no
sophisticated equipment. No one knew a gram of protein from a lump of
sugar. Abele couldn’t spend long hours every day in the gym. He wasn’t
being subsidized by a magazine or an equipment manufacturer. He earned a
living as a carpenter. The only thing Abele knew about was hard work,
but he knew all about that. He said he worked so hard when he squatted
that his teeth ached from the heavy breathing.
Results? Abele set new records. He became the world’s heavyweight
lifting champion. He built 18 ½ inch arms on 7 ¼ inch wrists way back
when 15 inch arms got you membership in a muscle club. It was called the
15 inch arm club, believe it or not. He built 28 inch thighs on 9 inch
ankles when 22 inch thighs got you over a tall building in a single
bound. He built a 52 inch chest when all the 44 inch chest men in the
world wouldn’t have filled two tables at a bridge tournament. Where did
he lay the credit? On unbelievably hard work on the growth stimulation
If you learn nothing else from this series, learn about hard work.
Do the following on Mondays and Thursdays.
Start off with squats. You’re going to do eight sets of about eight
reps. Use the first three sets as warm-up sets. Do a very light set.
Then add some weight and do the second set. Then add some weight and do
the second set. Then add some more weight and do the third set.
The fourth set should be with your maximum poundage. If you make the
full eight reps, add ten pounds and do a fifth set. If you make eight
reps on the fifth set, add ten pounds and do the sixth set. Try to add
weight for the seventh and eighth sets. Anytime you can’t make the full
eight reps, drop the weight about ten pounds or so for each of the
Do a light set of pullovers after each set of squats. Ten reps with
about twenty pounds is plenty. Just concentrate on stretching your rib
You’ll notice that the reps are considerably less than the ones used in
the first and second months of the specialization routine. That doesn’t
mean you don’t work as hard. It means you use heavier weights.
You’ve got to grind. You’ve got to squat with very heavy weights. If you
want to look like Platz, you’ve got to lift like Platz. Don’t think
you’ll grow on light work until you look like Platz and then you’ll be
as strong as he is. That’s not how it works. It would be nice if it did,
but it doesn’t.
You’ve got to lift weights like Platz and then, if you’re lucky, you
might look something like him. Following the superstars program won’t
make you look anything like him unless you’re also lifting his
There’s a right way and a wrong way to do heavy squats. Get spotters if
you can. Step under the bar, lift it clear of the rack, and then back up
two steps. Just get clear of the rack. If you feel like a long walk, do
it some other time. For now, save your strength for the squats.
Pad the bar heavily and ride it low on your shoulders. The padding will
take the pain out of it, and riding the bar low will cut down the
leverage against your lower back.
Space your feet comfortably. Your heels should be a foot or so apart
with your toes turned out about thirty-five degrees. Some men squat in
their bare feet, but it’s not a good practice unless you make a living
treading grapes. You’ll do a lot better with your feet tucked into a
sturdy pair of boots.
The next exercise is leg presses. Do five sets of ten reps. Every time
you make the ten reps, add ten pounds for the next set. Every time you
don’t make ten reps, take off ten pounds for the next set.
Do another set of light pullovers after the final set of leg presses.
The next exercise is squats on the hack machine. Do five sets of twelve
reps. Use the same weight adjustments as in the squats and leg presses –
add ten pounds for the next set every time you make he full twelve
reps, and take off ten pounds for the next set every time you don’t make
the full twelve reps.
Do a set of light pullovers after the last set of hack squats.
Finish off the workout with calf raises on the machine for five sets of twenty-five.
On Tuesdays and Fridays, do the following.
Incline Bench Press – 3 x 10
Long Pulley Rowing – 3 x 12
Upright Rowing – 3 x 10
Close Grip Barbell Curls – 3 x 8
Seated Triceps Press – 3 x 8
Stiff Legged Deadlift – 1 x 15
Bent Knee Sit-up – 1 x 25
This is the last month of the leg specialization program. Don’t forget,
you’re not doing it just for your legs. You’re also doing it for the
growth stimulation effect it will have on the rest of your body. You’ll
never get truly Herculean until you develop the maximum potential of
your growth stimulation areas.
Give it your best shot. Give it everything that’s in you.
Back Specialization, Part I
There is a young man named Terry who lives in a badly cluttered
one-bedroom apartment overlooking the beach. The apartment looks like it
received a direct hit during a civil war. The guarantee of free rent
for five years wouldn’t have dragged a Trappist Monk eight feet off a
In the disaster area known as the kitchen, one is treated to a panoramic
vista of moldy egg shells, empty milk cartons, bones form which the
steak has long since been gnawed and a grease-covered stove, one burner
of which holds a pot filled with a greenish, cotton-like substance which
has started working its way slowly down the outside.
The bedroom, which would have registered about a 8.2 on the open-ended
Richter, contains a full-length mirror and enough clothing on the floor
to stock a small boutique.
The area known laughingly as the living room contains a collection of
furniture that might be catalogued as Early Canadian Castoff, covered
with old muscle magazines and three inches of dust. There are sliding
doors on the end wall leading to a small balcony. Any time the
temperature rises significantly above the freezing point, Terry stands
on the balcony in his bathing suit hoping for a sun tan. Terry is
twenty-six years old. He stands five feet ten inches tall except when he
is lying down which is most of the time. He weighs about 220 pounds of
solid muscle and wants to weight thirty pounds more.
Terry spends two hours a day, four days of the week, working out in a
small commercial gym. He spends half an hour a day, seven days of the
week, standing in front of the mirror in his bedroom wishing he looked
like Lee Haney.
Early one Monday morning, Terry squeezed into his tightest muscle shirt
and went down to the gym where he trained. He walked into the owner’s
office and spread his lats in front of the mirror on the wall. The gym
owner looked up from his desk and smiled pleasantly.
“Morning, Terry,” he said. “How’s it going?
Terry turned sideways to the mirror, flexed his arm, and studied his image silently and intently.
“Always nice to have these cheery morning chats with the clientele,” the gym owner said. “I’m just fine, thanks.”
Terry turned his back to the mirror and craned his head around to look
over his shoulder. “Can’t you get double mirrors in here?”
“That’s a tailor’s mirror,” the gym owner told him. “You’re supposed to look into it when you’re fully dressed.”
Terry turned to face the mirror again.
“Why would anyone want to do that?”
“In here they wouldn’t,” the gym owner muttered. “It’s something I’ve never fully understood.”
Terry looked critically at his reflection. “Do you think I’m big enough?”
The gym owner pursed his lips. “For a mountain gorilla, yes.
For Mr. Olympia, maybe no.”
“That’s the problem,” Terry said. “You’ve hit it right on the head.”
The gym owner beamed. “Naturally,’ he said. “That’s where my years of experience and my blinding intellect come in to . . .”
Terry walked over to the gym owner’s desk and hammered the top of it with his fist.
“Then how do I get bigger?”
The gym owner picked the calendar off the floor and set it back on the desk.
“Did you do the leg specialization program?”
“Yes,” said Terry. “I did.” He walked back to the mirror and peered at his legs.
“The trouble with leg muscles,” he said, “is you can’t see them through your pants.”
The gym owner looked at him for thirty seconds.
“You could sell your pants.”
“Sell my pants?” Terry repeated.
“And wear panty hose on the street.”
Terry frowned and then turned to face the gym owner.
“That would look funny, wouldn’t it?”
The gym owner closed his eyes for a moment and thought about joining the navy.
“If you did the leg specialization, then you’re ready for the back specialization.”
Terry peered at the gym owner.
“The next of the growth stimulation areas.”
Terry wrinkled his forehead.
“Growth stimulation areas?”
The gym owner looked at the ceiling. What is this, he thought to
himself, a ventriloquist act? “We talked about it,” he said. “Remember?
Now you specialize on your back for three months.”
“I think my back is big enough,” Terry said. “I want my arms to be as big as Lee Haney’s.”
The gym owner beckoned him over.
“Sit down, Terry,” he said. “Watch my lips. For you arms to be as big as
Lee Haney’s, you’ve got to have that kind of growth potential. So what
do you do?”
Terry opened his mouth but the gym owner lifted a finger.
“What you do,” he said, “is increase your growth potential with
specialized work on the growth stimulation areas. Your legs, your back,
and your rib cage. Specialize properly on those areas and then, when you
go back to regular training, you’ll grow to the limit of your new
potential.” He smiled pleasantly. “Doesn’t that sound like fun?”
“It sounds like a lot of hard work,” Terry muttered.
“It is, indeed,” the gym owner said. “But think of all the money you’ll make when you’re Mr. Olympia.”
“And think how happy I’ll be,” the gym owner said. “You can pay your dues on time..
But enough of this little chit-chat,” the gym owner said. He dug a
workout sheet out of a drawer and scribbled on it. “Here,” he said, “Do
this on Mondays and Thursdays:
Bench Press – 3 x 15
Curl – 2 x 10
Seated Press Behind Neck – 2 x 12
Squats – 1 x 20
Light Pullovers – 1 x 20
Crunches – 2 x 20
“Use all the weight you can in first four exercises. Do the squats in
puff and pant style. Three huge breaths after each rep. Try to add
weight every workout.”
“Now, he said, “the back work is the important part of the program. Do it on Tuesdays and Fridays.
“Start off with prone hyperextensions,” he said. “Do one warmup set of
fifteen reps with just bodyweight and then jump into the heaviest weight
you can handle for one set of fifteen reps. Add some weight and do
another set of ten reps. Then add more weight and do one set of six
“I’ve never been really crazy about hyperextensions,” Terry said.
“Then get crazy about them,” the gym told him. “They were a favorite
with Reg Park and if you ever look anything remotely like him you won’t
have anything to complain about.
“Next, he said, “warm up with a very light set of fifteen wide grip
pulldowns to the back of your neck on the lat machine. Then use all the
weight you can for another three sets of fifteen reps. Drop the weight
each set so you can keep the reps up.”
He smiled at Terry. “How does it grab you so far?”
“I can handle it,” Terry beamed.
“Good,” the gym owner said. “There’s a little more.”
“When you finish on the lat machine do five sets of twelve reps on the
regular bent-over rowing exercise. Take a close grip on the bar, thumbs
about six inches apart, and pull the weight to your lower abdomen. Don’t
set the weight down between reps. Round your back when the bar is at
rock bottom and arch it when the bar is touching your abdomen.
“Finally,” he said, “you do stiff-legged deadlifts. Three sets of
eighteen reps. Use all the weight you can handle on the first set and
drop the weight each succeeding set so you can get the full number of
“Do the deadlifts standing on a good solid block so you can lower the
bar down near your toes. Don’t put the bar down right away when you
finish the set. Hold on to it and do shrugs until you do another set or
you can’t hold the bar any longer whichever comes first. Then set the
The gym owner leaned back in his chair. “And that’s the routine for the first month. It doesn’t sound so tough, does it.”
Terry frowned,” It sounds tough enough.”
The gym owner leaned forward and slapped him on the shoulder.
“Nonsense, my boy. Nonsense,” he chortled. “When I was your age I worked twice that hard for the sheer joy of it.”
The gym owner rose out of his chair and walked over to the mirror.
“And look at the results,” he boomed. He took a deep breath and flexed both arms.
“Sterling craftsmanship,” he murmured. “Grown fine and mellow with age.”
Terry got to his feet.
“Which?” he said.
“You or the mirror?”
Back Specialization, Part II
Early one morning, the radio announced the weather at 12 C, with a brisk
wind and a cold rain falling. A mean day, as the old Newfie trawlermen
used to say. The kind of day when only graduates of Fantasy Island
Secondary School and advanced bodybuilders go out without a coat and
normal people don’t go out at all if they can help it. In the rubble of
his bachelor apartment, a young man named Terry slipped on his designer
jeans and cowboy boots, struggled into his tightest T-shirt and headed
downtown to work out.
Terry passed up two spaces in front of the gym and parked three blocks
down the street. He headed back on foot, remembering to keep his lats
spread and his triceps tightly flexed. At the first corner he passed a
group of teenage girls huddled together under umbrellas. They stared
open-mouthed as Terry paraded by and then giggled little fantasies that
would have horrified their mothers.
In the next block he passed three old men standing in a doorway assuring
themselves that, when they were young, they looked exactly like Terry
only more so, and an elderly lady who gawked with bulging eyes at Terry
for a full minute and then blushed for the first time in forty-seven
In the final block, Terry smiled politely at a young woman in a nurse’s
uniform. The young woman stared at Terry’s chest and walked into a
Terry wheeled into the gym. His body was turning blue from the cold and
his face was turning purple from holding his breath. He walked into the
gym owner’s office.
The gym owner was standing by the window looking gloomily out at the
rain. He threw a crumpled sheet of paper to the floor. “Do you know what
that is?” he snapped.
Terry coughed nervously. “Not really,” he said. “Perhaps a . . .”
“It’s a tax increase,” the gym owner snarled. “A great big, goddam, totally unreasonable, seventeen percent tax increase.”
Terry picked the paper off the floor and laid it on the desk.
“Why me? A simple, honest, God-fearing businessman who never cheated anyone except perhaps the government.”
He hammered the window ledge with his fist. The plaster cracked under
the ledge and an autographed picture of Reg Park fell off the wall.
“Maybe I’ll come back later,” Terry said.
The gym owner turned around and looked at Terry for a long minute.
Then he sighed. “It’s not your fault” He walked over to his desk and sat down.
“I’m ready for the next step in the back program,’ Terry told him. “And I
gotta admit I’m gaining weight and my strength is increasing.”
“Good,” the gym owner said. “How much?”
“About seventeen percent.”
The gym owner leaped to his feet.
“Are you making fun of me?” he screamed. “Are you so goddam totally
insensitive to the plight of a kindly, poverty-stricken old . . .”
“Wait,” Terry said. “Wait. It’s just a coincidence. Sit down, please.”
The gym owner held a trembling hand to his forehead and eased himself back into his chair. “OK.” he said. “Where were we?”
“We’re in your office,” Terry told him.
“I don’t mean that, you idiot. I mean where did we leave off?”
“My back program,” Terry said. “I’m ready for the second step.”
“Right,” the gym owner said. “The second step.”
He pulled two sheets of paper out of the desk drawer and scribbled on the first one.
“Here’s your Monday and Thursday routine,” he said. He handed it to Terry.
Incline Bench Press – 3 x 12
Upright Row – 2 x 12
Incline Dumbell Curl – 2 x 10
Standing Triceps Extension – 2 x 10
Puff and Pant Squats – 1 x 20
Light Pullover – 1 x 20
Crunches – 1 x 25
“That’s a simple program,” he said. “In isolation, it’d outlive its
usefulness pretty quick. But, coupled with the back specialization
routine, it’ll keep your body growing while you’re increasing your
Terry glanced at the paper.
“Don’t try for maximum poundage,” the gym owner told him. “Just feel the weight and get a little pump.”
Terry laid the paper on the desk. “It doesn’t look too taxing.”
The pen snapped in the gym owner’s hand. His face turned blue and he lurched to his feet.
“Wait!” Terry yelled. “Hold it!” He patted the desk. “I didn’t mean that.” He held up a hand. “Take it easy. Please.”
The gym owner clutched at his chest. “I think I’m having a heart attack.”
“You’re not,” Terry said. “You’re just upset. Anyone would be.”
The gym owner sat down again.
“You think so?”
“Of course,” Terry said. “Why don’t you write them a nasty letter?”
“I was thinking of hanging myself in the mayor’s office,” the gym owner said. “That’d be nasty.”
“No,” said Terry. “That wouldn’t . . .”
“Or maybe hang the mayor,” the gym owner muttered. “That’d be even nastier.”
He wrote carefully on the second piece of paper.
“Here,” he said. “Your back routine.”
Long Pulley Row – 5 x 12
Lat Pulldowns – 5 x 12
Prone Hyper-extensions – 3 x 15
Power Cleans –
1 x 12
1 x 10
1 x 8
1 x 5
1 x 3
Stiff-Legged Deadlift and Shrug – 3 x 12
“Lean well forward on the pulley rows,” he said. “Get a good stretch.
Pull the handles into your lower abdomen at the contraction end of the
movement. Pull them hard against your skin. Drop the weight each set and
keep the reps up to twelve.
“Take a fairly close grip on the pulley chins. Hands about eight inches
apart. Work through the full range of the movement. Try to pull the bar
down to your upper chest area.
“Start working hard on the hyper-extensions. You should be holding a
light bar behind your neck by now. Keep trying to add weight to the bar.
“The power cleans are very important in this routine,” he said. “The
higher rep sets should leave you gasping and the lower rep sets should
take everything you’ve got. Don’t set the bar down between reps. Stand
upright and hang on to the bar while you take a couple of deep breaths.
Then lower the bar almost to the floor, give a huge pull and clean it
again. Don’t split or squat when you’re cleaning the bar. Don’t move
your feet at all. Just power it up as fast and as hard as you can.”
He looked at Terry.
“Are you getting all this?”
“Of course,” Terry said. “I’m hanging on every word.”
The gym owner pushed his chair back.
“Listening to every word,” Terry said. “Sir.”
“Good,” the gym owner said. “Now pay attention. The last exercise is
stiff-legged deadlifts. Do them the same way as last month. Stand on a
block and let the bar down to the tops of your feet. Pull it up smoothly
and arch your back at the top. Don’t set the bar down at the end of the
set. Stand up straight and do shrugs with it until your hands or your
traps give out. Drop the weight each set so you can keep the reps up.
“The deadlifts are a key exercise,” the gym owner said. “But they really pay off if you work hard enough at them.”
“How hard is that?” Terry asked him.
“I know a guy who used 425 for eighteen reps years before you were
born,” the gym owner told him. “His name is Maurice Jones. He was
five-foot-eight, weighed about 240, and was unquestionably the
best-built man in the world at that time.”
Terry frowned, “I never heard of him.”
“They didn’t have the contests or the media in those days,” the gym
owner said. “And it’s too bad. Maury had the most Herculean body I’ve
ever seen. There weren’t any drugs or supplements and they didn’t worry
too much about definition in those days, but for sheer, awesome, shapely
muscular bulk and incredible power, he was in a class by himself.”
“He was my idol,” the gym owner said. “Someday I’ll tell you all about him.”
Terry looked at the paper.
“Anyway,” he said, “I’ll make good progress on this program, eh?”
The gym owner nodded.
“You can’t fail,” the gym owner said. “It’s as sure as . . . As . . .”
He searched his mind.
“Death and taxes?” Terry suggested.
The gym owner sprang to his feet and his chair crashed against the floor. He pointed to the door. “Out!” he screamed. “OUT!”
Back Specialization, Part III
One cold Monday morning Terry put on the cleanest of his dirty shirts
and drove down to the gym. He parked his car, walked through the main
door and into the gym owner’s office.
The owner was tilted back in his chair with his feet on the desk, looking at an old Playboy
which he had inserted between the pages of the current MuscleMag.
He closed the magazine quickly and tossed it on to the desk so that only the MuscleMag showed.
“Great magazine,” he said.
“Inspirational,” Terry agreed.
Terry walked over to the mirror.
“Terrific,” the gym owner echoed. He stole a glance at the MuscleMag to see if the Playboy was showing.
Terry took a deep breath and spread his lats. “Great bodies in there.”
“Great bodies,” the gym owner agreed. He scooped the magazines off the desk and tossed them into a drawer.
“Indeed,” Terry said. “Thought-provoking.”
The gym owner pressed his fingers to his temples. “I’m getting a feeling
of deja-vu,” he muttered. “Shall we run through it again?”
Terry studied himself in the mirror.
The gym owner waited.
Terry swung into a side chest pose.
“What the hell are you doing?” the gym owner said. “You’ll wear out the mirror. Aren’t you supposed to be working out?”
“I’m going to,” Terry told him. “But I got a problem.”
Terry peered at his reflection. “Who do you think I look like?”
“You look like Godzilla on his day off,” the gym owner told him. “Who did you think you looked like?”
“I was hoping for Lee Haney,” Terry said.
“My boy,” the gym owner said in his most fatherly tone, “you’ve got a
long way to go.” He smiled. “On the other hand, you’re making great
progress. And when you finish the back specialization program and go
back to regular training, you can expect some big gains.”
“Will I look like Lee Haney?”
The gym owner closed his eyes.
“My son, you may never look like Lee Haney. But you’ll have increased
your potential for growth. And someday, who knows, you may look like
Terry walked over to the desk and sat down. “Just one month to go on the back routine.”
“I know,” the gym owner said. “And I’ve got a program all ready.”
He handed a sheet of paper to Terry.
“There’s your Monday and Thursday workout.
Terry studied the paper.
Parallel Bar Dips – 5 x 12
Lateral Raise – 3 x 15
Curl – 3 x 10
Pulley Triceps Extension – 3 x 12
Puff-and-Pant Squats – 1 x 20
Light Pullovers – 1 x 20
Crunches – 2 x 20
“It looks like hard work,” he said.
“It is,” the gym owner told him. “But don’t forget that’s the key to success. All great men know the secret of hard work.”
Terry cocked an eyebrow. “Like who?”
“Like my uncle Freddie,” the gym owner said. “A truly remarkable man.”
“Was he a bodybuilder?”
“No,” the gym owner said. “He was an accountant.”
Terry sneered. “That doesn’t sound like hard work.”
“Normally it wouldn’t be,” the gym owner sighed. “But they found his
other set of books and gave him three to five on the rock pile. That’s
He handed Terry another sheet of paper.
“Here’s your Tuesday and Friday back specialization workout.”
Long Pulley Rowing – 5 x 12
Bent-Over Rowing – 5 x 10
Prone Hyperextension – 3 x 10
Stiff-Legged Deadlift – 3 x 10
Power Cleans –
2 x 8
3 x 6
High Pulls – 5 x 5
1 x 8
2 x 6
5 x 3
“This is the last month of the growth area specialization,” the gym
owner said, “so give it all you’ve got. All your future progress could
depend on how hard you work this month.”
Terry nodded. “When I’m Mr. Olympia, I’ll see that you get free tickets
to all the shows. Would you like an autograph now or later?”
“Later,” the gym owner told him.
“Now,” he said, “do the pulley rowing the same way as last month, but
try to add weight every workout. Go to the absolute limit. Let the
weight pull your arms straight out and round your back. Pull the handles
hard against your lower abdomen and arch your back. Drop the weight
each set and keep the reps up.
“Rowing is the basic lat exercise. Do it much like the pulley rowing – a
good stretch at the bottom, then pull the bar to your lower abdomen and
arch your back at the top.
“You should be getting pretty good at prone hypers by now. Don’t forget,
you gotta add weight whenever you can. The Russian lifters work hard at
hypers as a major supplementary exercise.”
Terry mulled it over.
“I wouldn’t want to look like a Russian weight lifter, you know.”
“Neither would I,” the gym owner told him.
“But I wouldn’t want to argue with one either.”
“Now, he said, “we come to another of the great basic exercises –
stiff-legged deadlifts. They’ll build muscle from the back of your neck
to the back of your ankles. Drop the poundage each set and keep the reps
up to ten.
“And finally,” he said, “we come to the cream of the crop – the really hard work.”
“Just a minute,” Terry said. “Just a minute. What do you mean, the
really hard work? What in hell have we been doing up to this point?”
“Coasting, my boy.” The gym owner beamed his friendliest smile.
Terry got to his feet.
“Of course, the gym owner said, “you’ll also generate bigger gains than you ever have in your life.”
Terry sat down again.
“This is where we really separate the wheat from the chaff,” the gym
owner said. “This is where we build the growth potential to be a
“The first two sets of power cleans are sort of a warm-up. Go all out on
the last three sets. Don’t set the weight down between reps and don’t
move your feet during the cleans. When you finish, you should be puffing
and panting like a circus calliope.
“Do the high pulls in much the same way, but don’t clean the weight.
Pull the bar up to your lower chest area. Again, don’t set the weight
down between reps and don’t move your feet. Drop the poundage each set
and keep the reps at five.
“The final exercise is the deadlift – probably the most basic exercise
of them all. Very few bodybuilders do them because they’re such hard
work, but, if you’re willing to work hard enough, they’ll do phenomenal
things for your growth potential.
“Do a fairly light set of eight reps. Then add weight and do two sets of
six reps with a medium weight. Then add more weight and do five sets of
three reps as heavy as you can. Try to add weight each set. Don’t set
the weight down between reps. Keep your back flat and work up to very
Terry looked carefully at the gym owner.
“That’s one helluva pile of work.”
The gym owner nodded.
“And hard work is the secret of the whole thing. Don’t forget what I
told you about Louis Abele’s teeth aching from the heavy breathing and
tearing calluses from his hands in the deadlifts. Years ago one of the
biggest guys I ever worked out with split the palm of his hand doing
high pulls. He finished the set with blood oozing between his fingers.”
Terry leaned forward in his chair.
“It could be a lot worse.”
“It could be me doing it,” the gym owner chortled.
“Hilarious,” Terry snarled. “Did you ever try it?”
“Years ago, my boy,” the gym owner said. “Years and years ago.
Fortunately, I have now reached the jolly state of mature perfection and
no longer find it necessary.”
“So you tell guys like me to do it?”
“Right,” the gym owner said. “And that’s the jolliest state of them all.”
“I’ll give it a good shot,” Terry said.
He got up and left the office.
The gym owner pulled the MuscleMag and the Playboy out of the desk
drawer. He leaned back in his chair, put his feet on the desk, and
opened the Playboy.
Terry stuck his head in the door.
“Forgot my workout sheets.”
The gym owner pulled his feet off the desk and fumbled with the magazines. The Playboy dropped to the floor.
Terry walked over to the desk and looked down at the Playboy.
The gym owner smiled sheepishly.
“Great magazine,” he said.
“Inspirational,” Terry agreed.
The gym owner closed his eyes and laid his head on the desk.
“And thought-provoking,” he muttered.
The Hard Gainer’s Solution
The gym owner was in tilted back in his chair with his feet on the desk,
a piece of fried chicken in one hand and a copy of ‘Immortal Poems of
the English Language’ in the other, when someone knocked on the office
door. He bit off the last of the meat, threw the bone into the fast-food
bucket on the desk, and yelled, “Come in” through a mouthful of
The door opened and a tall, bony young man walked in.
The gym owner wiped his hands with a paper napkin and got to his feet.
He put on his most endearing smile and held out his hand.
The bony young man looked at the gym owner’s hand.
“Sorry,” the gym owner said. He pulled shreds of the napkin off with his
other hand and tried to shake them into the waste basket.
“Sticky little devils.”
The bony young man stared at him.
The gym owner pulled the paper off with his teeth, rolled it into a
crumpled ball, and dropped it into the basket. He cleared his throat
“Sit down, my boy,” he said. “Sit down.”
The gym owner straightened his note pad and flicked a mound of crumbs onto the floor.
“Normally,” he said, “the cleaning lady is here first thing every
morning. Today, unfortunately, the poor old soul couldn’t make it. A
train wreck of a flood or a dead aunt or something.”
He took six old MuscleMags off the desk and threw them into a drawer.
“We will, of course, honor her collective agreement. Full bereavement
leave entitlement, shift differentials, accumulative seniority benefits
and so on.”
The young man looked over his shoulder at the door.
The gym owner sat down again and put on his most interested look.
“But enough of that,” he said. “The important thing is what can I do for you?”
The bony young man looked at the door again.
“I can see that you’re busy. Maybe if I came back in a month or two . . .”
He started to his feet.
The gym owner waved him back down again.
“My boy,” he said, “men of dedication and devotion are always busy.
But,” he placed a hand over his heart, “never too busy to comfort a
fellow traveler.” He cleared his throat. “Make that a weary traveler.”
He put his elbow on the desk, cupped his chin in his hand, and looked the young man in the eye.
“Tell me, my son, what is it you need?”
The young man stared back at the gym owner.
“I need to gain weight,” he said plaintively. “I need muscles.”
The gym owner stared at the bony young man for a long time.
“Exactly,” he said. “Muscles.”
There was a long silence. The young man and the gym owner stared into
each other’s eyes. Gradually the gym owner’s eyes glazed over and his
chin slid off his hand.
The young man coughed slightly.
The gym owner jumped and gave a strangled gasp.
“Tell me about it.” he said.
“All my life I have been skinny,” the young man said.
The gym owner nodded sympathetically.
“Have you ever known the pain of that?” the young man asked him.
The gym owner gazed reminiscently at the ceiling.
“I used to weigh ninety-eight pounds,” he said.
The young man brightened. “Really?”
“Really,” the gym owner said. “Mind you, I was only five years of age at the time.
The young man’s face fell.
“Is there any hope for me?
The gym owner put on his most encouraging smile.
“Of course there is, my boy. Of course there is.”
He pushed the bucket across the desk.
“Have a piece of chicken.”
The young man leaned over the bucket and probed around in it.
“There’s none left,” he said.
The gym owner raised his eyebrows.
He rummaged around in the bucket and pulled out a bone.
“There’s a little chicken left on this one.”
The young man closed his eyes and clenched his teeth.
“Or, if you have any money we could send out for another bucket.”
“Listen,” the young man said. “Never mind the chicken. What about my problem?”
“Exactly,” the gym owner said. “Your problem.”
He thought for a moment.
“What was it again?”
“Muscles,” the young man snapped. “And gaining weight.”
“Right,” the gym owner said. “And gaining weight.”
He leaned forward and put on his most scholarly look.
“Let me see your wrist.”
The gym owner took the young man’s wrist and rolled it in his fingers.
“Very small boned,” he said. “Relax your hand.”
He jiggled the wrist so that the young man’s hand flopped loosely.
“I think we’ve discovered part of your problem,” he said. He dropped the young man’s hand in the chicken bucket.
The young man jerked his hand back and looked at the door again.
The gym owner leaned forward.
“Tell me about your training so far.”
The bony young man closed his eyes. “It’s been a nightmare,” he said.
“I’ve done every program in the book and nothing works. I work my buns
into the ground and I just don’t gain weight.”
He looked plaintively at the gym owner. “What am I doing wrong?”
“Are you eating enough?’ the gym owner asked him.
The bony young man closed his eyes again. “Enough?” he muttered. “I go
through the kitchen like a horde of locusts. I eat anything that doesn’t
bite back. Last week my cat hired a Doberman to guard her food dish.”
He opened his eyes. “And still I can’t gain an ounce.”
The gym owner nodded. “I think I know the answer,” he said, “but how do you feel all day long?”
“Tired,” the young man said. “Totally exhausted. I wouldn’t walk a block to watch an earthquake.”
“Okay,” the gym owner said. He leaned back in his chair. “We’ve solved your problem.”
“Really?’ the bony young man said, “It didn’t take long.”
“It’s the most common problem in bodybuilding,” the gym owner said.
“You’re working too hard for your type of metabolism and growth
He leaned forward and spoke seriously to the young man. “You won’t be
hearing this, but I’m going to be very honest with you. You’re one of a
rare type of individual for whom gains are almost impossible.”
The young man’s face fell.
“You need a special approach to training,” the gym owner told him. “At
least for the time being. And you need an awful lot of patience. Regular
programs just won’t work for you at this stage of your development.
You’ve gotta do it differently or kiss the whole thing goodbye.”
He paused for a moment and looked at the young man. You don’t have the
genetic metabolism for heavy training at this point. All the heavy
training in the world isn’t going to put an ounce on you. You’re the
forgotten man of bodybuilding.”
The gym owner put on his most encouraging smile. “But,” he said, “there
is, fortunately, a way to solve your problem. A special approach for
guys like you.”
The young bony man stared thoughtfully at the chicken bucket.
The gym owner leaned forward.
“Did you understand what I said?”
“Tell me,” the young man said, “did you eat the whole bucketful?”
The gym owner took the bucket and peered into it.
“Not really,” he said. “Once the lid comes off there’s a tremendously
high evaporative phenomenon. Something to do with the thermal
convergence or background radiation or whatever.”
The young man pursed his lips and nodded his head. “I see,” he said vaguely.
The gym owner put the bucket back on the desk. “Never mind the chicken,”
he said. “I want to give you a full explanation of your dilemma and how
to overcome it. I want you to understand why regular programs don’t
work for you at this point. And finally,” he beamed, “I want to give you
a training program that’ll put some meat on your bones.
The young man looked sadly at the chicken bucket.
The gym owner sat up in amazement. “Meat on your bones, he said. “A Freudian slip if I ever heard one.”
He took the bucket and put it on the floor. “Now listen up,” he said.
“You are the forgotten man of bodybuilding,” the gym owner said to the
bony young man. “Regular programs don’t work for you at this stage of
your career. You need a specially tailored program and, unfortunately,
that approach isn’t popular with the business interests in the field. It
isn’t viable for them. They can’t spend too much time on guys like you
and you can’t really blame them.”
“So what does that make me?” the young man snarled . . . “a leper?”
“No,” the gym owner said. “But you’re the kiss of death to anyone trying to earn a living in the muscle business.”
He leaned forward and gripped the young man’s upper arm. “No
bodybuilding magazine is going to run an issue with you on the cover.
They couldn’t afford to. They’d never publish another issue if they did.
They couldn’t even hide you in the back pages. They’d be toes up in a
week. People buy muscle magazines because they want to look like the
bodybuilders in them. Nobody would buy a magazine with pictures of guys
like you in it because nobody wants to look like you.”
The young man’s face got long and gloomy. “Nobody?” he asked.
The gym owner thought for a minute. “Perhaps my father-in-law.”
“Really?” said the bony young man. “What does he look like?”
“It’s hard to tell,” the gym owner said. “He’s been dead for nine years.”
The young man’s face got longer and his head dropped.
“It’s the same with the gyms,” the gym owner said. “They like to have
the big guys for members because it’s good for business. If they can get
a Mr. Universe or a Mr. Olympia to train there, then they fill the
place with dues-paying members. Guys like you just don’t attract the
paying customers. You could train for ten years and gain twenty-five
pounds and you’d never be as valuable to the gym as some Mr. Winner who
looked almost as good the first time he picked up a weight.”
The bony young man sagged in his chair. “I feel like an abandoned child.”
“Don’t,” the gym owner said. “It’s just that most of the professionals
in the business don’t have the time to devote to guys like you.”
“Do you?’ the young man asked him.
The gym owner cleared his throat and scuffed his feet on the rug.
“Actually,” he said, “you couldn’t have caught me at a worse time. My
plate is filled right up.” He thought about it for a moment and then
pushed the chicken bucket under the desk with his foot.
The young man looked at him forlornly. “Then what can I do?”
“Do?” the gym owner said. “Do? Train at home for one thing. Or, better
yet,” he smiled a wicked smile, “go see this guy.” He rummaged around in
a desk drawer and brought out a competitor’s business card. He handed
the card to the young man. “This guy’s great. He claims he’s trained
every man since Hercules. Tell him you came to train at his place.”
The bony young man studied the card. “What if he won’t let me in?”
“No problem,” the gym owner said. “Stand outside his gym in your bathing
suit and tell everyone you train there. Tell them he’s your father and
he won’t give you enough to eat. I’ll have the TV crew there in half an
The young man thought about it. “I’d much rather train here. You’re the first person that’s been kind to me.”
The gym owner coughed and looked away. “That’s very nice of you,” he
stammered. “Very nice, indeed. And perhaps some other time we might be .
The bony young man looked at him with sheepdog eyes. “Please.”
The gym owner looked at the floor and weighed the prospect of imminent
fiscal disaster against what his mother had told him about being kind to
passing strangers. He heaved a sigh. “Okay,” he said. “We’ll try it. Be
here at six o’clock Monday morning and bring a full sweat suit. We’ll
work out before the gym opens to the regular customers.”
“Six o’clock in the morning?” the young man asked.
“Right,” the gym owner said. “It’s very important.”
“For me to gain weight:”
“No, For me to stay in business. I don’t want anyone to see you.”
At six a.m. the following Monday, the bony young man put on his sweat suit and followed the gym owner into the weight room.
“Now” the gym owner said. He leaned against an incline board and the
whole thing fell over sideways. He crawled out of the ruins and
muttered, “Cleaning lady. Silly old fool was supposed to bolt that thing
to the floor.”
He sat on a bench. “Now,” he said, “pay attention. This is the most
important part of the whole workout. You’ll be doing a very, very light
program until you develop the ability to gain weight. It’s a special
program designed for that one purpose. It wouldn’t do a thing for a
normal bodybuilder. It’d be a complete waste of time if you could gain
weight any other way. If you think this program is going to change you
into a Lee Haney in three months or something, then do yourself a favor
and forget it. Take up chess and you’ll be a lot happier in the long
He pointed his finger at the bony young man. “But,” he said, “if you’ll
realize how difficult your case is, if you’re wise enough to do exactly
what I tell you, if you’ve got the patience to persevere through very
trying times, then you will eventually change your metabolism and your
ability to grow. Then, and only then, will you start gaining on regular
and more advanced programs.”
“I’m ready,” the young man said. “Lay it on me.”
“You’ll work out three times a week,” the gym owner said. “No more than
that. And if you don’t gain on three workouts a week, then you drop it
down to two. The whole idea is to stimulate you, not wear you out. Your
type has to conserve energy to grow on, not waste it on long workouts.
Working out like the average bodybuilder would simply exhaust you and
guarantee your failure.
“The first exercise you do is one set of light puff-and-pant squats for
twenty reps. You’ll start off real light and then add weight to the bar
every workout until you get up to the equivalent of your bodyweight as
soon as you can.
“Bodyweight squats are supposed to feel light,” he said. “If you don’t
get to that point you’ll never make any substantial gains.”
“You make it sound hopeless” the young man said. “Isn’t there anything else I can do?”
”No,” said the gym owner. “There’s not. But it’s not hopeless. Not at
all. Every hard gainer I ever heard of who followed this program gained a
lot of bulk and power and eventually got to the point where he could
gain weight virtually on any kind of program.
“What’s giving you a problem at the moment is that I’m not selling
anything. I’m telling you the cold truth because I have no commercial
interest in you at all
He looked at his watch. “And if we don’t get you finished and out of
here before the early shift shows up I won’t have any commercial
interest in anything.
“The next exercise,” he said, “is bench presses. Two sets of twelve reps with a medium grip.
“Next,” he said, “is bent-over rowing. Two sets of fifteen reps with about a six inch grip.
“And, finally, one set of the stiff-legged deadlifts for fifteen reps.
Use the same weight for the dead lifts that you do for the squats.”
“And that’s it?” the young man asked.
“Lee Haney trains a lot harder than that.”
The gym owner closed his eyes and made a mental note to start reading
the want ads more carefully. “We’ve been through this fifty times,” he
said patiently. “I know Lee Haney trains a lot harder than that. This
program wouldn’t warm up Lee Haney’s grandmother. That’s the point of
the whole thing.”
The bony young man considered it. “I didn’t know Lee Haney’s grandmother worked out.”
“I don’t even know if he’s got a grandmother,” the gym owner snarled.
“Forget about her and do the workout. Next time I’m going to explain
everything to you in detail”
Hard Gainer’s Solution, Part II
At quarter to six on Friday morning, the bony young man stumbled into the gym owner’s office and slumped into a chair.
“Something wrong?” the gym owner asked him.
“No, no,” the young man said. “Just that the chickens won’t be up for two more hours.”
The gym owner got up off the couch and threw a travelogue magazine onto the desk.
The young man picked it up. “Do you do much traveling?” he asked.
“My boy,” the gym owner said, “you are talking with an extensive and
sophisticated traveler, a man who has voyaged to the four corners of the
earth.” He dragged himself into an erect, military posture reminiscent
of the late Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson and braced his feet apart to
combat the surge of the open sea. He gazed distantly out the window
until he realized it was still pitch black outside and he couldn’t see a
“Yes, my boy,” he rumbled in his best Gregory Peck voice. “From a long
and brilliant naval career as a younger man, supplemented as I grew
older by danger-filled treks to far-flung exotic regions, I stand today
as the epitome of the handsome, well-seasoned, global adventurer.”
The bony young man stared at him with wide eyes and an open mouth.
In truth, the gym owner had once served two years in the navy as a
clever ploy to stay out of the army, and had risen to the lofty height
of able seaman. On one occasion, when his ship was anchored in the
Mediterranean, he had stood with a large half-eaten pepperoni sausage in
his hand, gazed at the statue of David and reflected the glory that
once was Rome until the tour guide told them they were in Florence.
Another time, he had sat on a bench in the city of Pisa with a half of a
three-pound chunk of roast pork in his mouth and gawked at the
principle tourist attraction under the impression it was the Eiffel
Tower falling over.
“But enough of me,” he said modestly.” “Let’s get back to things of lesser importance. Come.”
He led the young man into the weight room. They stopped at the incline
bench, which had recently been repaired. The gym owner slapped the
“What does that remind you of, my boy?”
The young man thought for a moment. “An ironing board?” he said.
The gym owner stared at him. “An ironing board?”
“An inclined ironing board?” the young man said. “An inclined ironing board leaning against something?
The gym owner slapped the board again. “Have you no romance in your
soul?” His voice got soft and his eyes took on a faraway look. “The high
slopes of Kilimanjaro,” he whispered, “where I once hunted the savage
The young man looked at him nervously. “I don’t think there are any elephants on Kilimanjaro.”
The gym owner looked at him. “No?” Well, maybe it was the savage
rhinoceros.” He rubbed his hand across his eyes. One’s memory tends to
fade with age. “Anyway, it was savage, white, and awful big.”
The young man coughed slightly. “Speaking of big, you were going to explain the program to me.”
“Right,” the gym owner said. “I knew that.” He sat down on a flat bench and spoke to the young man.
“Squats are the most important exercise in any bulking program. The
squats are done for twenty or more reps with three to six huge breaths
between repetitions. There is no other effective way. You can go into
any gym and see top guys doing squats for lower reps and without all the
puffing and panting. But these are guys who have learned how to gain
weight almost at will. They’re not just packing on raw bulk. They’re
looking for isolated muscle gains. You’re not there yet.
“For guys like you, guys who can’t gain easily, twenty-rep, puff-and-pant squats are the only way.
“The only variation in twenty-rep squats is the amount of weight you
use. Either squat with all the weight you can handle, or squat with the
equivalent of your bodyweight on the bar. For 99% of the adult male
population, squatting with all the weight you can handle is far and away
the best. There is no other exercise to compare with it.
“In the beginning, however, there are some men who simply can’t gain on
heavy squats. They have such limited growth potential that heavy
programs just deplete them further. The y just won’t grow on regular
programs and that’s the truth of the matter.
“For guys like that, the answer is bodyweight breathing squats.
Bodyweight squats means loading the bar to the equivalent of your
bodyweight . Breathing means to take three to six huge breaths between
“You stand erect with the bar across your shoulders and take three to
six huge breaths and then squat until the tops of your thighs are about
parallel with the floor. Don’t go any lower than that.
“Don’t stay in the low position. When you hit parallel, rebound right
back up, take three to six more huge breaths, and then squat again.
“Do twenty reps. When you finish you should be puffing and gasping like a
floundered fish. Go immediately to a flat bench and do twenty pullovers
with about twenty pounds. The light pullovers aren’t designed to build
muscle; they’re designed to stretch your rib box. Take a deep breath as
the weight is going back and exhale on the way up. Get a good stretch
The gym owner peered at the bony young man. “Are you listening to me?”
The young man jumped and opened his eyes. “Yes. The great white mountain goat. Fascinating.
The gym owner glared at him. “Your nest exercise is the bench press. It’s one of the two most effective upper body exercises.
“Don’t try anything fancy. Just plain old-fashioned flat bench presses.
Take a grip a little wider than shoulder width and do the presses smooth
and even. Bounce the bar a little bit when it hits bottom and drive it
right back attain. Don’t linger in the low position.
“Take three deep breaths when the bar is on the top. Hold the last
breath, drop the bar and then press it up. Exhale just as you reach the
top position. Start with a light weight and gradually build it up.
Remember – squats are the major exercise for you.
“The next exercise is bent-over rowing. It’s the second basic upper body
exercise. Bend forward to about parallel with the floor and grab the
bar with a close grip. Pull the bar up to where your abdomen and thighs
meet. Arch your back a little at the top.
“Don’t set the bar down between reps. Take a couple of quick gasping
breaths when the bar is in the low position and then pull it up again.
“Start low and gradually increase the weight as you get stronger.
“Last of all is stiff-legged deadlifts. This is a fantastic, very
underrated exercise. Do the deadlifts standing on a block and lower the
bar to the tops of your feet. Don’t set it down between reps.
“Stand erect with the bar and take three big breaths. Lower the weight
and come right back up again. Lean back slightly and take three more
deep breaths. Take three breaths after each rep.
“Use the same weight you’re squatting with or about ten pounds more. Don’t try anything heavier at this point.
“And that’s it,” the gym owner said. “Can you do it?”
“Can do,” said the bony young man. “Can do.”
The gym owner’s mouth dropped open.
“Katmandu.” He closed his eyes and extended an arm dramatically.
“There’s a little yellow island to the north of Katmandu,” he said in
his best Richard Burton voice. “There’s a marble cross beneath the town.
And a broken-hearted women tends . . .”
The bony young man got up.
“Katmandu,” the gym owner whispered intensely.
“The hordes of savage pygmies with their scout knives and blowguns pouring across the hot white sand.”
The young man started for the door.
“And you killed them all with your bare hands. Right?”
“Marvelous,” the young man said.