Monday, December 1, 2014

A Novice Looks At Training - Ken and Gil Leistner

Jim Windus and Ken Leistner

A Few of the Chapter Headings:
    Attitude And Effort: Keys To Success           
    Focus Your Training Energy                     
    Want Real Results? Just Train For Strength     
    It's How You Train That Counts!               
    The Camaraderie Of Effort                      
    Total Commitment Required 
    Dinosaur Women                                 
    Balanced Training Routines                     
    Sets From Hell! 
    Forget Labels-Just Train Hard! 
    Be Prepared To Train!                         
    Effort And Dedication Make Many Methods Work 
    Commando-Tough Intensity                       
    Training Strategies                            
    You're Not Aging You're Youthing!              
    "Common Sense" Periodization                   
    Mental Aspects Of Strength Training: Part I    
    Mental Aspects Of Strength Training: Part II 
    Dedication & Doing                             
    Arch Enemies Of Physical Culture               
    Miscellaneous Thoughts: Part I                 
    Miscellaneous Thoughts: Part II                
    Miscellaneous Thoughts: Part III               

 -- In a very unusual move, I have included here an article within my column this month, one written by a cousin of mine, Gil Leistner. It was originally done for IronMan back in 1975 but never printed for a number of reasons. Read it, consider it, and then we will expand upon it because it directly relates the use of Nautilus machines to the powerlifting program, although you will not see the word Nautilus once in this particular piece. Without further ado, here is that piece . . .


A Novice Looks at Training
by Gil Leistner

My ascent from mediocrity began later than most. Oh sure, I went out for sports in high school (soccer, swimming and lacrosse), but the training programs were primitive. Unless you were one of the coach's 'stars' workouts seemed to consist mostly of endless running. The one-to-one advice, weight lifting, and Tiger's Milk weren't lavished on me. Even later, when I attended college, except for stair climbing, running across campus when late for classes, and occasional ski weekends, most of my exercise consisted of turning pages in text books. Summers, which were always spent doing office work, weren't much better; you can't get much of a forearm pushing a pencil across a paper. Now, I wasn't exactly weak, but I can't honestly say that I was particularly strong either.

That's changed now. 12 weeks ago I moved to New York City. This did two things for me. First, it showed me how bad my physical shape was. Carrying boxes and furniture was an ordeal that left me aching for days. Second, and most important, I ran into Ken Leistner, who I hadn't seen in five years.

We met again quite by accident. I had gotten a job in a brokerage house not far from Ken's gym. We ran into each other on one of my lunch hours and thereafter met a couple of times a week. After catching up on five years, we gradually settled into a new friendship.

Ken told me about his gym and asked me up several times before I finally went. It's located on the top floor of a 19th century building that now houses an iron works. It isn't much to look at, but it's well-equipped, offering everything needed to ensure a good workout.

Initially, I watched Ken train while I ate lunch. It seemed that he was really 'killing' himself for someone interested in 'only maintaining his present status and increasing cardio-respiratory ability'. I laughed at the grunts and groans he let out with the lifts, but I was impressed by what he could do. With the grace and ease of a pro, he played with 185-lb snatches, 250-lb cleans, and 300-lb squats (for reps). Being approximately the same bodyweight (140 lbs), I decided to try some of the lifts and found that they were, in fact, not easy, even after unloading most of the weight from the bar. Very frankly, when Ken said, 'Let's see what you can do,' I found that I couldn't even do 10 chins without straining on the last two. I was embarrassed. I thought anyone could do at least 10 chins.'

My lunchtime meal was supplemented with chins until I could complete 10 in good form. Following that was a complete change of diet. Lunch for me used to be a meat sandwich on white bread ('white bread is completely useless,' said Ken. 'Skip the meat, too.'), a cola drink ('It destroys your body's supply of pantothenic acid.'/'My what?'/'You need it to make adrenalin. Your bowels don't work well without it either.'), and a piece of fruit ('The fruit's okay.'). Ken suggested I read a number of medical journals and books to find out something about nutrition. I did and changed not only lunch but breakfast and dinner as well.

Emphasis was placed on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and some dairy products. Though I had heard of things like unhydrogenated peanut butter before, I never really thought I would ever eat it! I will admit, though, that the effect was immediate. My energy levels soared, and my workouts became a challenge to my physical state, rather than the assault I had envisioned.

After working up to 10 chins, Ken suggested taking a complete workout after working hours. Then he told me that I needed a goal and to think about what I wanted from training. 'They're not mutually exclusive, but you can go in one of two directions. You can be a lifer and the concentration will be on strength, technique, more strength, and a physique that will be muscular. As muscular as you'll ever want. You can also concentrate solely on your physique. If you train properly, and you'll about die the first few times you actually do, you can have both, but a lot of these yo-yos just pump and pump and look pretty good, but can't lift much over their bodyweight. Think about it.'    

I compared pictures of lifters and bodybuilders. Though both types of physique had a certain appeal, I chose to pursue 'lifting' over the 'pumper' look.

The reason for my choice was simple and grew out of a conversation I had with my father several years ago. During the student demonstrations of the late Sixties and early Seventies, when many of us were busy shouting about how much power we had, my father said the following to me, when I told him I was involved: 'Son, the screaming isn't necessary if what you're talking about is real. The people who scream the loudest are in the biggest fog. It's quiet power that walks tallest.' To me, bodybuilders seemed to shout, 'I'm strong,' whereas the 'quiet strength' of the lifter implied the presence of sheer power.

With that settled, I began training.

Ken was right. Proper training (we visited another workout establishment so that I could witness 'improper training') almost killed me. Three times per week I went to failure on one set each of squats, stiff legged deadlifts, presses, shrugs, cleans from the hang, chins, and special ligament exercises. I followed this with stretching. Sometimes the exercises were done in an 'eccentric' manner.

After seven weeks of workouts, three times per week, I have attained results that satisfy me immensely. Having no background in this activity, I perhaps am not aware that my results have, as Ken has told many people, 'bordered on the amazing'. My bodyweight increased from 140 lbs to 174, and gain of 34 lbs. My lifts have gone up enormously and though I can't be sure exactly what I was capable of doing before the beginning of the program, I can now do 15 deep squats with 230 lbs and 11 presses with 135. I have also purchased a new wardrobe and all of my gains have been gains in solid weight. To my surprise, I didn't get fat.

I intend to continue training, but, now that I now that I can gain quickly, I intend to follow Ken's advice and trim down a little bit ('Efficiency is the key. Keep your bodyweight as low as possible while being able to do everything you want to do. Make sure the majority of your mass is muscle tissue, eat sparingly, and think of your internal organs. They'll appreciate that approach.')

Though training was a difficult uphill battle over a depleted physical condition, horrendous food habits, and even Ken's strictness with respect to schedule ('There are no I don't feel like it today days.') I'm glad I began. Beyond the weight gains has come an unexpected and new self confidence, a self confidence I have never known before and that I wouldn't trade away for anything.


As I said, no mention of Nautilus. The point that this article makes is that one very eager individual (admittedly with the Leistner genes and propensity for weirdness) trained his rear off and got big and strong very quickly. The key was hard, brief, intense work, intense again referring to something that brings you close to the edge of your momentary ability.

Does any of this apply to a powerlifting program? 

Yes and no.

In order to lift heavy weights, which of course is the key to our particular sport, one has to use heavy weights in training, although not necessarily all of the time. So, one must put the weight on his back and hump it. Secondly, one should limit the actual quantity of work in terms of actual sets, repetitions (be they light, moderate, or heavy reps), and days spent in training in order to fully and correctly recover from workout to workout, week to week, month to month, meet to meet. Thirdly, one has to have impeccable technique in the three competitive lifts and the only way to do this is to use heavy weights in impeccable style and obviously not go so light that you don't learn proper form, nor so heavy that you don't learn proper form.

If the above is understood, one realizes one set of 15 all out reps won't make it when you get to the platform, but as importantly and as obviously (or at least it should be), sets of fives, threes, twos, and ones won't make it either if almost every one of those reps is well within one's ability to do those particular reps. What one has to do, as a general rule, is get some heavy reps in once per week, doing only singles or at most doubles, stressing form, form, and more form, conditioning the proprioceptive apparati and the mind, then use a backoff set, and perhaps another day where one uses higher reps (high intensity/low force - less chance of injury, more ability to recover), and goes all out for one or two sets.

The real key in this, and the cause for all the disrespectful moans from all of the so-called experts, is that it is tougher than a New Year's Eve subway ride in NY City to go all out, truly all out, for one or two sets. Almost everyone saves a little something for later, or as a means of self-protection, and the discipline needed to go in knowing that you're going to about kill yourself is above most, even national level track and field men (I have a few as patients) who reputedly work harder than almost all other athletes. It is infinitely easier, as Arthur Jones told me repeatedly, to do two, four, six, or seven sets of ten, six, or three reps if none of the sets/reps are all out. Of course, your technique suffers and you won't have contest preparedness if you train this way exclusively but an intelligent program will allow for this and also allow you to make the greatest possible gains in strength, size, and powerlifting ability.

A photo at the top of this article shows what this type of training can do. Jim Windus is one of the real up-and-coming bodybuilders in the country, having recently placed 5th in his class in the Mr. International (IFBB) the night of the Olympia contest. He too, is a patient of mine and has completely transformed his body due to his own drive and intellect. He trains as we have discussed, a light warmup followed by one or at most two heavy sets. Jim is one of the few lifters/pumpers around who can push himself to the limit each training day, each set, each 'final' rep and the results have been great. Here, at about 210 lbs, he is deadlifting 505 for a number of reps. He's no Bridges, but awful good for a true blue bodybuilder. In fact, he and Gil trained exactly the same and Gil too paid the price, primarily because I jumped his butt every every workout. Where do the miracle machines fit in? Next month for that end of it, and the usual commentary.

Train hard, train briefly, rest hard and often, be sensible.    

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