Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Chest Training - Bev Francis (1988)

First of all, it's important to know that I don't always stick with the same routine. I use a very instinctive approach, varying my workouts frequently. In spite of this, there is a general format I follow for my chest training, and approximately every six weeks it changes.

I train chest twice a week, usually with shoulders. Normally, my initial exercise is a pressing movement, most likely the barbell bench press. For this exercise I'm not concentrating on doing a power movement or lifting a heavy weight but rather on working the chest muscles as thoroughly as possible, getting a full extension and contraction, keeping my elbows out from my sides and bringing the bar down to a point high on my chest -- to about the top of my tank top.

For the bench press I use a medium grip because I find that if it's too narrow, I use too much triceps, and if it's too wide I lose the full length of movement to properly work the chest; therefore, I use a grip where at the bottom position my elbows are approximately 90 degrees.

At the bottom of the bench press movement I make sure I feel a stretch, maintaining tension all the way without letting the bar sink into my chest -- it barely touches. Then I explode it upward to a full lockout at the top. It's down slow and up fast, although, of course, the heavier the weight, the more I think about exploding from the bottom position.

At the most I do five or six sets of bench, including a warmup set. When I was lifting very heavy, I used to do five warmup sets. Now, even a high-rep warmup set can be a workout set if you do it hard enough, which is why I count it.

For all other exercises, however, I only do about four sets each. Three or four exercises are all I do for chest. Repetitions will be as low as six for the flat barbell benches, but for all other exercises I stay between eight and 12.

On benches I pyramid the weight and decrease reps. On all other exercises I usually increase the weight only once throughout the set. For example, I might do one set with a moderately heavy weight, then go up for the next set and keep it there for the remaining sets. However, I don't like to go below eight reps. If I can only do eight reps on one set, I drop the weight so I do at least eight on the next set. Conversely, if I can do 12 reps on a set, I add weight for the next set to bring down the reps.

Occasionally, I'll begin my workout with dumbbell bench presses. For this movement I again keep my elbows out wide to the sides, the dumbbells linear, not parallel, and with my palms facing forward. I do not turn my hands as I perform the movement; it's as though I'm holding a bar -- I feel this helps me get more of a stretch at the bottom. The only reason I might choose dumbbells over the barbell would be to get that stretch.

My second exercise is always an incline movement, usually a press. Normally, I choose to use dumbbells, especially if I just did a barbell movement, because I like to maintain that variety. I use a low incline, since I feel the high incline brings in too much of the anterior deltoid. As a powerlifter I was a deltoid presser, so I find it too easy to bring my delts into it. Now I try to keep them out of the movement as much as possible.

As in the flat bench press, I keep my elbows pointed out during the incline. Dropping your elbows in close to your body brings your deltoids into the exercise more, even on inclines.

Next, I do an exercise that is not a pressing movement, usually pec deck or flyes, normally flat but sometimes inclined and occasionally even declined. These I do almost straight-armed. I don't believe in bent-arm flyes. That takes away the value of doing flyes at all; you may as well do another press. To me, the value of the flye is the stretch you get at the bottom position and the tension you get on the outer pec as you start the movement upward from the bottom, as well as the squeeze at the top.

Because the flye is such a long movement, pulling out of the pecs, I don't use heavy weight because in the bottom position you're very vulnerable to injury. You have no long bar across the chest as you are pulling the pecs apart, so you have to be very careful in avoiding a tear.

At the bottom of the flye I try to stretch the dumbbells down below horizontal as much as I can and still be comfortable. It should not be a position of discomfort, but you should feel a definite stretch. I resist the temptation to bend my arms; they are stretched out wide. At full extension the dumbbell is in the lowest point, not my elbow. I also keep my arm at the same angle -- almost 180 degrees -- throughout the entire movement, even at the top where, by the way, I do not lock out to get that extra crimp. That I save for the pec deck, which I feel hits the inner pecs better when done properly.

From the bottom position of the flye, I try to move the dumbbells upward quickly but somewhat carefully until about halfway up, when the moment of force is not so great and the exercise becomes easier; then I slow up so they don't crash together. But the whole point of attempting to move the dumbbells upward as quickly as possible it so stretch the muscles even more, even though the movement itself might not be so fast.

On the pec deck I concentrate on bringing my elbows rather than my forearms together. I feel this gets the inner pec much better than a flye movement. I do not grip the top of the pad with my hands; instead I try to push with my elbows. I also keep my elbows high, at about the center of my pecs.

For any flye or pec deck movement I like to imagine a line from my sternum straight out in front of me a the plane through which my arms move, rather than have the movement begin from my shoulders. In other words, as I contract, I try to imagine my arms and pecs as one muscle or lever, with the power coming from my sternum rather than from my shoulders. I pull out and in front of my body, not into my chest.

Cables are also one of my favorites. I bend slightly forward and lean into the cables with my arms slightly less than perpendicular to my body so I am working the middle to lower section of my pecs. Cable work I do in three different formats: top together, top-across-to-bottom, and bottom-across-to top. I do them one arm at a time, which enables me to concentrate more on the specific pec being contracted.

Another exercise I do quite often is dips. At my gym we have a dipping machine with selectorized weights, which makes it much easier. On regular dipping bars I lean forward into them, with the apex of the bars in front of me. I arch my shoulders forward. Your shoulders should never move up and down; only your elbows should bend, and all the power should come from your chest. Think chest at all times, not triceps, shoulders or back. My grip is slightly out from my body, not so close as to work my triceps and not so wide as to work my shoulders. I do not use weight for dips. I find that dangerous and awkward. Instead, I do burnouts -- as many reps as possible for each set.

Often I will superset dips with incline dumbbell presses or, occasionally, incline flyes.

Rest periods between sets of any exercise are contingent upon whether I'm on- or off-season and upon how I feel I've recovered from the previous set. When I'm trying to build mass I rest until I feel I've fully recovered from the previous set, which can be anywhere from 30 seconds to 2.5 minutes. When I'm preparing for a contest, the rest period is always very short -- no longer than a minute at the most, most likely 30 seconds. But I don't sit there with a stopwatch. Remember, I do everything by feel.

When I'm doing a movement, I like to think in terms of very direct aggression against failure. I don't like doing repetitions to failure because I hate the failed rep. Instead, I will struggle like crazy to do the last rep I can possibly do on my own, which on the bench press might take five seconds or so, then stop, rather than take two seconds to do my last rep and then have someone help me with a few more. When I have had someone help me do a rep, I haven't felt as if it did that much good. In other words, it wasn't me who did it. I may have done a "bit of a rep," but how do you do a "bit"?

I also keep a very detailed record of everything I do. I've kept a training record since 1977 of every rep I've done, including every shock session, every lap I've run.

My husband Steve trains with me, and he's the only satisfactory training partner I've ever had. I hate to sound like so many bodybuilders who say, "I keep burning them out," but that's exactly what happened. Even when I was powerlifting, I had to tendency to train too fast. But I like to get into a rhythm and keep going.

Some of this has to do with the fact that I train so instinctively. Most training partners like to know before the start what we're going to be doing, but once I get into it, if something doesn't feel right that day, I might want to change, and that doesn't go down well with most training partners.

Steve, however, knows me so well and understands, so he is fully tolerant of such things. Plus, he's a big guy who just trains for strength, not competition. And he's much stronger than me, so it's nice to have someone around in whom I have absolute confidence.

On-season I keep my sets and reps the same, occasionally going from eight to 12 reps as high as 15, but primarily all I do is decrease rest periods and add more supersets. Also, rather than increase sets or reps, I might add another exercise so that instead of doing three or four movement, I'll do four or five.

I might also want to add the Nautilus press machine and the Icarian flye machine, which I have in my gym. Sometimes I might do decline dumbbell presses or decline flyes, but I don't do decline barbell presses because they hurt my shoulders.

Instinctive training for the chest may seem like chaos for some people, but for me it's just the opposite. It's using your head. It's scientific. And I am working all the muscles in the pectoral region thoroughly and from all angles. And I'm doing it safely, even though I train very heavy. A decade of covering the gamut from powerlifting to bodybuilding brought me to this point, and I'm not about to argue with empirical proof.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Training Wisdom of Clarence Ross (1966)

In 1945 bodybuilding was still in its infancy. The Mr. America title was but six years old, and had been won by such distinguished nonentities as Roland Essmaker, Frank Light and Jules Bacon. But, in Las Vegas, Nevada, events were taking place that would change the physique world forever.

Those events were the coming together of two Army physical fitness instructors, their mutual training interests decided to make up some equipment and train together as a lark, and enter the forthcoming Mr. America contest for experience.  Those two instructors were Clarence Ross and Leo Stern.

"Leo Stern" by David Gentle

The equipment they fashioned included the then-revolutionary incline bench, lat pulleys and various other advanced apparatus that was just being developed on the West Coast at the time. For several months they diligently worked away, then traveled down to Hollywood for the contest.

The results of course, are history.

1945 AAU Mr. America Results:

Clarence took the title, Most Muscular, Best Chest and Best Back, plus placing 2nd in the Best Legs subdivision. His win was the triggering of the modern era of training, the portent of things to come. With Clarence's winning in 1945, the next few years title winners reads like bodybuilding's hall of fame: 1946, Al Stephan; 1947, Steve Reeves; 1948, George Eiferman; 1949, Jack Delinger.


And all during this time of the development of the modern physique, Clarence retained his preeminence in the field. He next took the Professional Mr. America title, and followed this with a win in the first Mr. USA contest, defeating Reeves, Stephan, Page and Pedersen for the title.

Over the years since, Clarence has retained his top position, in 1955 taking his height class in the Mr. Universe contest and losing only by a whisker to Leo Robert. Ross, coming from sunny California, wasn't in a good position to cope with the then damp, rainy climate of England and immediately upon his arrival developed a serious attack of the flu before the show, losing over 10 lbs of muscle, and so was not at his best. In 1956 he reentered the Mr. USA contest "for kicks" and came a close second to Bill Pearl, and then retired from competition. Bill Pearl went on to develop into one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time. Also in the early 1950s Clarence took the Mr. North America title as well.

Clarence the Man

More important than his titles and trophies, Clarence the man, the respected leader of the bodybuilding community , the pioneer of new training innovations has meant more to the Weight Game than almost any other single bodybuilder. He has always been above reproach. A story told to us by Ed Jubinville illustrates this point perfectly:

It seems that Ed has always idolized Clarence as number one in bodybuilding, and so went out of his way to meet and spend some time with him whenever circumstances permitted. One day as they were finishing an impressive lunch in a leading West Coast restaurant, Clarence, then in this 30s, calmly took out a pack of cigarettes and asked Ed if he minded if he smoked.

Ed, taken aback a bit, said, "Clarence, I never knew you smoked."

"Yes," he replied, "I like a cigarette now and then, but I never smoke when I know there are young teenage fellows around . . . it would be bad for their growth potential and for bodybuilding's image."

A man that would put the image of bodybuilding above his own personal pleasures is rare indeed, and there are too few of them around. And, this is a perfect example of why Clarence Ross is the respected man he is. No better representative of bodybuilding could be found.

Clarence's Training Experiences

In addition to the universal respect accorded him, Clarence Ross was one of the true pioneers of weight training, one of the first to own 19-inch arms and a 50-inch chest, one of the first to show what really massive yet defined development could be obtained from weight training. In his training, Clarence had dome very definite preferences, and he was what might be termed a "pec pioneer."

Here's a good 1951 article on Ross's training history and evolution:

Clarence's Thoughts on Chest and Back

If any one part of the body arrest your attention more than another on Clarence Ross, it is his magnificent torso, his chest and back area. Here he had no equal in his prime, and here he pioneered such "innovations" as incline bench work, lat machine pulldowns, power rowing and variety pullover work. Here are some of his comments on training this area:

In rowing, use as much weight as possible. Don't be afraid to cheat so you can use more weight. Perform all your upper back exercises at one point in your program. It is best to practice several varieties for one month and then change to several others. For general gains . . . higher repetitions when seeking definition, lower repetitions when training for bulk. Lower reps, 6 or so, and higher sets, 5 or 6, build bulk fast.

Bentover rowing is best when the weight is actually bounced off the floor, and there is considerable extra body motion. This is best done pulling the weight to the chest. Done in this manner, the exercise gives the maximum in power and bulk.

The one arm rowing exercise is made more advanced if very heavy weights are used and the bell is bounced off the floor. As you reach the final stage of the movement, pull the shoulder up and away from the weight with a side motion of the body, and try to give an extra burst of power to raise the weight really high. This exercise will bring great power and muscular density.

In a power rowing exercise, the weight is loaded while raised on two boxes . . . it is then pulled up and bounced off the boxes each repetition. The short range action gives tremendous power and thickness to the lats.

At the time much of the above was written, in 1953, concepts such as cheating exercise motion, forced reps and any amount of sets over three, flushing and the like were quite revolutionary. Though today just about every bodybuilder uses most all of the above in his workouts, at the time Clarence was instrumental in popularizing them he was sometimes greeted with hoots of derision by the "old school." But, how could you argue with a body like Clarence's? What can you say about a back as wide, thick and powerful as his, or about those "table top" pecs?

Here are some of his favorite back exercises:
Lat Machine Pulldowns
Barbell Rowing
One-Arm Dumbbell Rowing
Good Morning Exercise

Clarence on Chest

The modern trend in bodybuilding is for bigger, more perfectly formed chests. Yet, in my opinion, many bodybuilders who are fully aware of this train their chest incorrectly, ending up with both a measurement size and a muscular appearance which is far from ideal.

The most common error is in thinking of the chest as being solely a muscular unit. Bodybuilders specialize in bench presses, dips and flyes, pumping up their pecs with set after set of these exercises. However, for maximum chest building there is another type of growth which must be considered - structural alteration.

By this I mean, if the proper exercises are performed it is possible for anyone to alter their rib cage to make it wider and deeper. It is here that most bodybuilders fail. In their eagerness to bulk up the pectorals and make them full and thick, they neglect rib box growth and hold back their chest development progress.

The effect to strive for is a full stretching of the rib box. Do not use weights that are too heavy when doing this, for if you do you will be more concerned with handling the weight than obtaining the stretching effect. Deep breathing is important here. Take full, deep breaths between each repetition of each exercise.

Here are Clarence's favorite chest exercises:
Bench Press
Power Bench Press off Boxes
Incline Dumbbell Press
Around the World Lying Laterals
Barbell Pullovers
Decline Flyes
Decline Pullovers

Some Arm Comments

How tall do you think Clarence Ross is? If you have never met him, invariably the answer will be, "Oh . . . six feet, maybe six foot two or so. He's very tall and impressive."

Do you think so too? Then you're wrong. Clarence Ross is 5'8-9" tall! But, because of his exceptional development and his inherent bone structure, he seems much taller in photos. The big reason you might think this is because of his very long arms and legs. Take a look at his arms. The forearms are long and tapering, the arm is large in size but not chunky, on the contrary, the elbow gap is relatively large and this makes his arm seem even longer.

Because of this extra-long bone length Clarence needed sensationally large arm girths to offset his bone structure. On a shorter arm an 18 or 19 inch girth looks power packed and enormous; on Clarence it looks merely symmetrical and adequate for his structure. Only close up do you realize its immense it actually is. For this reason Clarence really had to work hard on his arms, and here are some of his interesting comments on arm training:

So you want to know the how and why of building championship arms? The answer is triceps. TRICEPS! Those who have them are champions. Those who don't, never make the grade.

The triceps is the potentially larger arm muscle . . . it is capable of being developed to the size of 15 to 20% bigger than the biceps. When fully developed, the triceps are larger than the biceps. This means that if we are to develop them properly, it can only be done by giving them more exercise than the biceps.

The recent advances in muscular arm size have been in part sparked by such training practices as super-sets, peak contraction, cheating routines and flushing, along with other methods that force maximum power and size into every bodypart.

Clarence's arm favorites:

Biceps -
Barbell Curls
Cheat Curls
Incline Curls, seated, alternate
Preacher Bench Curls
End-of-Bench Curls
Concentration Curls

Lat Machine Pressdown
Triceps Extensions, dumbbell
Lying Barbell Extensions
Lying Power Extensions

Clarence Ross on Deltoids

Clarence feels that deltoid work is fully as important as back and chest for torso impressiveness. His deltoid routines are always long and varied, but his comments of deltoid training are right to the point:

The bodybuilder owes it to himself to whip his shoulders into the absolute peak of size and powerful appearance. No other part of the body offers such opportunities for strength recognition. The stamp of every athlete, every man of exceptional power and unlimited endurance is a mighty, broad pair of shoulders.

Clarence's favorites for deltoids:
Barbell Press
Dumbbell Press 
Behind Neck Press
Lateral Raise
Rear Lateral

Leg Comments

As with his arm development, the long lengths of his leg bones made massive development of the thigh and calf a must, with an eye to symmetry as well. Clarence as usual equated strength and power with increased thigh size:

There are many ways to increase power. However, the one I prefer best, and the one that fits most readily in my regular training is the Squat.

For Clarence this was a perfect outlook, for his heavy power training in the squat and his other power leg movements - leg presses, front squats and the like - gave him perfect development for his long structure. Instead of having a chunky thigh, heavily muscled about the knee, which would call attention to their length and dis-proportion, the power squats thickened and developed the thigh at the top especially, with a a graceful taper to the knee. For his structure this was perfect development.

In the calf department, a slightly different strategy was called for:

Calves have always been my major physical problem. Like most bodybuilders, in the early days of my training I performed one or two calf exercises, pumping up my calves completely. My calves responded very slowly, in fact the tape registered only minor increases.

This of course was most discouraging and I subconsciously began to avoid calf training. I arrived at the conclusion that whatever I did for them was a waste of time. Therefore, out of habit more than anything else, I continued to perform a few calf exercises, not expecting much, if anything, from my efforts. Years after the rest of my physique had gained me some fame, I was ashamed of my calves and their weak, thin appearance. But, did I give my all to my calf training as I did with the rest of my body? The answer was NO!

So I revised my program. I started to include more sets, a larger variety of exercises and worked up to a more concentrated training drive. I worked my calves three times daily, each training session until they were stiff and sore. And I began to get results. Gains were not amazing, it took weeks and weeks to gain 1/4 of an inch. But gains did come and the quarter inches added up to inches over time, until today. My 17.75 inch calves are about as big as I want them to be to balance the rest of my physique.

Clarence's favorite leg exercises:

Thighs -
Full Squat
Half Squat
Front Squat
Leg Press
Leg Curl

Calves -
Calf Raise
Donkey Calf Raise
Toe Raise on Leg Press
Seated Calf Raise


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Time Under Tension Training - Dan Trink (2015)


Dan Trink Articles:

Dan Trink

There are lots of reasons to have an eye on the clock when you're training. Timing your workouts and rest periods will make sure that you aren't taking too long between sets for what you want to accomplish; it will guarantee you finish your training with enough time to get to work; and it will even get you back on track when you're staring too long at the cute girl wearing yoga pants in the squat rack.

But there is one aspect of timing in your workouts that you may be missing out on completely. One that will ensure that you are working your muscles in a way that optimizes growth. A method that has you time out the length of each phase (lowering, lifting, pausing) of each rep and, ultimately, each set in order to promote the greatest amount of muscle gain. This technique is simply called Time Under Tension (TUT) training.

TUT can be achieved in two ways. The first is to set a timer - say, for 40 seconds - and continue to perform an exercise for that amount of time without stopping. A more effective way, and the one this program will focus on, is to use a tempo prescription for each rep. Why is this more effective?  Because it allows you to specifically slow down the eccentric or lowering phase of each rep. And there is much research to back up that slow eccentric phases are an effective way to build mass.

In our program charts, tempo is laid out as a four-digit number. Each number correlates with a specific phase of the movement and represents the number of seconds you will spend in this phase. 

 -- The first number represents the lowering phase (for example, the descent in a squat, lowering yourself in a pullup, or bringing a bench press down to your chest). 

 -- The second number refers to any pause at the bottom of the movement. 

 -- The third is the lifting phase in which you are overcoming gravity to lift the bar or your body.

 -- The fourth number is any pause that might occur at the top.

So a 4-1-1-0 tempo for a back squat would have you lowering for a 4-second count, pausing for 1 second at the bottom, taking 1 second to stand up, and then not pausing at the top. 

Using tempo this way will force each rep to last 6 seconds (4+1+1+0 + 6). If you maintain this tempo for eight reps, then the entire set will take 48 seconds, which falls right in the middle of the ideal time under tension range to build muscle (40 to 60 seconds).

And while it may take a workout or two to get used to using tempo, the benefits are worth it. Here's how to shorten your learning curve:

 -- Most TUT programs (this one included) focus on a slow lowering phase and a fast lifting phase. So even if you lose count of the seconds for each, remember that you should go down slow and come up fast.

 -- You are going to want to cheat the rep speed and move faster as you fatigue. DON'T! Get a training partner to count the tempo for you if necessary. Three or four seconds is a long time. 

 -- Be conservative with your weight selection. While you may be able to bench 100 kg for 10 reps normally, the longer lowering phase will make things much harder. Cut 20% off the weight you use. While this may not be great for your ego, controlling the TUT will ultimately give you the size you want.

 -- You will likely be very sore the first week or two of training this way. Prepare appropriately.



Perform each workout once per week, resting on two non-consecutive days. Note that the reps shown in the layouts are for use in Week 1 only. Weeks 2 to 4 use the following guidelines:

 -- Week 1: all reps go to 8-10
 -- Week 2: all reps go to 10-12.
 -- Week 3: all reps go to 6-8
 -- Week 4: all reps go to 12-15

You will also need to choose your weights appropriately for each week. When the number of reps goes down, the weights should increase over the previous week's. When the number of reps goes up, the weights will have to decrease.

Week One, Day One

Barbell Back Squat, 4 sets of 8 to 10 reps, TEMPO 4-0-1-0, 60 second rest between sets (for all).
Dumbbell Step Ups, 3 x 8-10 (each leg), 3-0-1-0
Romanian Deadlift, 3 x 8-10, 4-0-1-0
Walking Lunge, 3 x 8-10, 2-0-1-0
Hanging Knee Raise, 3 x 8-10, 4-0-1-0

Week One, Day Two

Bench Press, 4 x 8-10, 3-1-1-0
One-Arm Dumbbell Overhead Press, 3 x 8-10 (each arm), 3-0-1-0
Cable Chest Flye, 3 x 8-10, 4-0-1-0
Seated Arnold Press, 3 x 8-10, 3-0-1-0
Pushups, 3 x 8-10, 4-0-1-0

Week One, Day Three

Pullup, 4 x 8-10, 4-0-1-0
Barbell Bentover Row, 3 x 8-10, 3-0-1-0
Cable Straight-Arm Pulldown, 3 x 8-10, 4-0-1-0
One-Arm Dumbbell Row, 3 x 8-10,  3-0-1-1
Rear Delt Flye, 3 x 8-10, 4-0-1-0

Week One, Day Four

Trap Bar Deadlift, 4 x 8-10, 3-0-1-0
Heels-Elevated Goblet Squat, 3 x 8-10, 3-2-1-0
Glute Ham Raise, 3 x 8-10, 4-0-1-0
Leg Press, 3 x 8-10, 3-1-1-0
Reverse Hyperextension, 3 x 8-10, 3-0-1-0

Week One, Day Five

Barbell Floor Press, 4 x 8-10, 3-1-1-0
Close-Grip Chinup, 3 x 8-10, 3-0-1-0
Decline EZ-Bar Skull Crusher, 3 x 8-10, 4-0-1-0
Incline Dumbbell Curl, 3 x 8-10, 3-0-1-0
Triceps Rope Pressdown, 3 x 8-10, 3-0-1-0

Monday, December 21, 2015

Frank Zane's Unity-Training Delt Specialization - Gene Mozee (1995)

Some years ago when I was the editor in chief of Muscle Builder magazine, I interviewed Frank Zane many times. The articles he contributed to that publication were always of the highest quality in terms of both information and result-producing routines. Zane was probably the most scientific bodybuilder of his era. He kept detailed records of every workout and routine that he ever used. He was constantly analyzing every facet of his training, including his diet and sleeping habits.

Zane's philosophy was that you don't have to have 20-inch arms and weigh 250 lbs to look impressive. He contended that most men become obsessed with obtaining huge size and making bodyweight gains. While he acknowledged that a certain amount of size and bodyweight are necessary, he believed that these are not the factors that determine a top physique. He rated muscle density, shape and symmetry and how those qualities are displayed as more important than who has the largest measurements or who weighs the most in competition. The person who looks the best is the one who wins the show.

Here, in his own words, is the shoulder specialization program that helped make Frank Zane one of the most popular bodybuilders of all time.

I've seen fantastic deltoids on fellows like Sergio Oliva and Larry Scott, but to me the all time champion of superior deltoid development was Don Howorth. I was awed by Don's width. Delts like that seemed preposterous, unreal -- except that they blended perfectly with his arms, chest and the sweep of his lats. It is my conviction that well-developed delts give any physique the stellar touch.

After I lost the Mr. America contest, I made a solemn vow. At any cost I would develop deltoids like those of Howorth, who shouldered me out of first place. I knew what I had to do, and I've been blasting them hard ever since, turning my defeat by a deltoid into many victories. I really believe that.

I like what my delts have given me. It took a lot of hard work and some fine-tuning of my workout program to reach my present degree of development and proportion.

I realized that if I wanted delts like Howorth's, that total development of all the parts -- front, back and middle -- I needed to use more than simple motion. Abstract contraction of muscle doesn't do it. I've seen too much failure coming from thoughtless exercise.

When I first started giving my delts priority, I was exerting tremendous effort. Each rep, each set seemed like a foreign entity, something that is tolerated for a necessary exchange. Gradually I began to feel that I was becoming one with the weight, uniting myself with it on each movement. In my opinion this is the trouble with the average bodybuilder's workout. He thinks of himself as being separate from the weights and must therefore exert a tremendous amount of effort to move a weight that he perceives as something outside of himself. That idea doesn't work for me.

Here's a tip that has paid off for me. I've learned the anatomy of each muscle, including its origins and insertions and how it functions. During workouts I close my mind to all else except the muscle I'm working. I envision it contracting and becoming pumped and growing larger with each rep. I try to think positively right through my training session, practically willing the muscles to grow.

I proved to myself that if my concentration was keen enough, I could close the breach between myself and the exercise apparatus. I riveted my attention on using proper form to the extent that no external environment existed for me. I became a part of the workout. Distractions were filtered out. You have to get into this process and work at it to experience what I mean. It transcends simple training. You feel like a baseball player who has just made the perfect swing and connected for a home run.

After experimenting with several different exercises and routines, I discovered that the following deltoid program really delivers the goods -- size, shape, muscle density and definition. I eased into it slowly and progressively intensified each workout by adding weight and shortening the rest periods. The program consists of five exercises, and I performed the first three -- dumbbell presses. lateral raises, and cable upright rows -- in tri-set fashion, one right after the another without pausing. I started fairly light and increases the poundage for each set, completing five tri-sets using the following reps and weights:

Tri-Set One:
Dumbbell Presses, 50s x 12
Lateral Raises, 25s x 15
Cable Upright Rows, 50 x 15.

Tri-Set Two:
Dumbbell Presses, 70s x 11
Lateral Raises, 30s x 14
Cable Upright Rows, 55 x 12.

Tri-Set Three:
Dumbbell Presses, 70s x 11
Lateral Raises, 30s x 13
Cable Upright Rows, 60 x 9.

Tri-Set Four:
Dumbbell Presses, 80s x 9
Lateral Raises, 32.5s x 12
Cable Upright Rows, 65 x 9.

Tri-Set Five:
Dumbbell Presses, 90s x 8
Lateral Raises, 35s x 11
Cable Upright Rows, 70 x 8.

I rested about two minutes between tri-sets. Gradually I reached the point where my endurance and willpower permitted me to go through all five cycles without resting at all. Those 15 nonstop sets, performed one right after another, became a real adventure in training. The pump is intense, and the muscles burn. You start to rise above the pain, and that's when you approach UNITY, the junction of yourself and the apparatus.   

The tri-set exercises primarily work the front and lateral-deltoid areas, so I followed them up with five fast sets of incline lateral raises for the posterior delts. These are bentover laterals performed while you're sitting backward on an incline bench with your chest resting against the incline. The following is typical of my sessions on this movement:

25s x 15
27.5s x 14
30s x 13
32.5s x 12
35s x 10

Then, to complete the program, I set the weight on the pulley machine at 20 lbs and performed five sets of one-arm pulley lateral raises for each arm without resting at all.

After I completed the full program, which totaled 25 sets, my delts were so pumped that I could barely raise my arms. The result was a remarkable increase in delt size, shape and definition in a relatively short period of time. 

Unity-Delt Specialization Program

Dumbbell Presses, 5 x 12, 11, 11, 9, 8
Lateral Raises, 5 x 15, 14, 13, 12, 11
Cable Upright Rows, 5 x 15, 12, 9, 9, 8.

Incline Bench Lateral Raises, 5 x 15, 14, 13, 12, 10.

One-Arm Pulley Laterals, 5 x 10-15.

This is a very tough program that's much too severe for anything except pre-contest training/peaking. Don't try to jump into it immediately. Instead, I suggest the following plan for a starter.

Basic Delt Specialization

Dumbbell Presses, x 3-4
Lateral Raises, x 3-4
Upright Rows, x 3-4
Incline Bench Lateral Raises, x 3-4

Use this program two or three times a week, depending on your training needs and schedule. You can intensify it by performing it in superset fashion, as follows. Remember that supersetting involves performing two different exercises, alternating them without pausing to promote a greater pump stimulate muscle growth in a specific area. One superset equals one set of each of the two exercises.

Superset Delt Specialization

Superset One:
Dumbbell Presses, x 4-5
Lateral Raises, x 4-5

Superset Two:
Upright Rows, x 4-5
Incline Bench Lateral Raises, x 4-5.

High-Rep Supersets - Sean Harley (2015)

Adding in several weeks of high-rep workouts into your training progression after you've completed a cycle of heavy lifting can leave you feeling looser and more recovered. It gives your joints a break and also allows your ligaments to heal and become more elastic. Working in occasional high-rep cycles wil also improve your muscle recovery.

The older trainer will find higher reps more forgiving, and combining them with in supersets can develop better conditioning, as well as a stronger desire to continue training.

The occasional high-rep split will prime the muscles to be more productive when you go back to your relatively lower-rep workouts. One way that it does this is by increasing the mitochondria, which are the energy source for most cells. Higher reps will also bring more red blood cells to your muscles, which will in turn deliver more oxygen.

When you get back to your heavy workouts, you'll be refreshed and ready to go. When training with high-rep supersets, make sure that, once acclimatized, you don't use weights that have you just going through the motions. For each set, try to find a weight that will have you close to or hitting failure at the prescribed number of reps.

A great high-rep training split is to break up your workouts into two days:

 - Back | Shoulders | Biceps | Forearms
alternating with
 - Legs | Chest | Triceps

Alternate back and forth between the two days for six days per week, which will have you hitting each muscle group three times a week. You're going to want to start with the larger groups (i.e. back and quads) and work your way down to he smaller groups. For each muscle group, pick two exercises that you will superset back and forth, trying to take no more than 15 seconds of rest between sets.

With each superset you are going to progressively decrease the number of reps by 10, in drop-set fashion, and (hopefully) increase the weight used. We want to use a weight that allows us to hold great form while failing at the desired number of reps. If you hit failure before the desired number of reps, you can set the weight sown and take five deep breaths, then continue from where you left off until you get all of the reps. Even if you have to take a break more than once, that's okay as long as you finish the set after your short, five-breath breaks.

The reps for these supersets will go 40, 30, 20, 10. So, you will do 40 reps of exercise one, 15-second rest, 40 reps of exercise two, 15-second rest, 30 reps of exercise one, 15-second rest, 30 reps of exercise two, 15-second rest, and so on until you've completed all the sets and reps. By the end of the last set your target muscles should be at maximum fatigue. It not, you are lacking in intensity. Next time,  up your effort level.

The examples shown below utilize same-bodypart supersets. You can also quite easily set up antagonist supersets in your high-rep superset training programs. The split would then be different. An example of the latter will also be shown.

Sample Back/Shoulders/Biceps/Forearms Day

Dumbbell Rows - 40, 30, 20, 10 superset (as described above) with
Supinated Bentover Rows - 40, 30, 20 10.

Dumbbell Overhead Press - 40, 30, 20, 10 superset with
Lateral Raise - 40, 30, 20, 10.

EZ-Bar Curl - 40, 30, 20, 10 superset with
Dumbbell Curl - 40, 30, 20, 10.

Reverse-Grip Barbell Curl - 40, 30, 20, 10 superset with
Barbell Wrist Curl - 40, 30, 20, 10.

Examples of Antagonistic High-Rep Supersets

Chest and Back:
Dumbbell Bench Press - 40, 30, 20, 10 superset with
Lat Pulldown - 40, 30, 20, 10.

Biceps and Triceps:
Barbell Curl - 40, 30, 20, 10 superset with
Pressdown - 40, 30, 20, 10.

You can also compose Tri-Sets here.


Low Incline Bench Press to Supinated Pulldown to Lean Forward Shrug

Hack Squat to Leg Curl to Seated Calf Raise


A Unique Method of Bulking Up - Ralph Kroger (1971)

What ever happened to Ralph Kroger? I'm sure this is a question many readers have asked when Ralph disappeared from the national scene. For those readers new to Iron Man, Ralph made a meteoric rise to physique stardom in 1966 when he first annexed the Mr. California, including all the bodyparts except abdominals, and taking the Best Legs award in the Mr. America contest, beating out such giants as Oliva, Gajda, Tinnerino and Haislop.

Ralph also took third place in the Mr. America competition in one of the most hotly contested events of the past decade. The following two years Ralph limited himself to only national competition in physique, taking 4th in the 1967 Mr. America competition and 3rd in the 1968 Mr. U.S.A. crown as well as the Best Chest subdivision.

For the past two years Ralph has stayed away from national competition due to business pressures and has limited himself to local power and Olympic lifting competition, with 1600 and 1035 totals respectively as a 242 pounder.

However, Ralph has had a long range plan in mind with the ultimate goal of winning the Mr. America contest. Ralph's previous philosophy in physique competition has been to enter the contest and do as well as he can and be content with the results. Lately he has reevaluated his thinking and feels he is going to train with the intention of winning, feeling that, after all, his competitors are only human too, and that if he never misses a workout and his workouts are an intensified effort, he will end up winning the title. Considering he almost upset the unbelievable Sergio Oliva for 2nd place in 1966 with his previous happy-go-lucky attitude, with his new philosophy his competitors had better watch out. 

For the past two years Ralph has trained without missing a workout and he feels that 1971 could be his year. He is currently in the process of bulking up which he will continue to do until two months prior to the Mr. America competition, when he will alter his diet for the maximum in muscularity. 

Since the thesis of this article is bulking up, the remainder of it will be devoted to Ralph's philosophy and methods of obtaining "muscular" bulk. Ralph feels that to gain an excessive amount of weight that isn't primarily a muscular gain is largely a waste of time and faulty thinking.

By no stretch of the imagination can Ralph be termed a hard gainer as far as bodyweight. He has gone from 205 to 235 lbs in one month's time when previously gaining weight. Even at this weight he carries a trim waistline and a great deal of muscularity. He feels that diet is the prime factor in gaining weight or achieving muscularity. However, as mentioned before, he doesn't let his waistline get out of control when gaining and works it hard on a daily basis which he recommends to every trainee who is in the process of bulking up. Ralph feels that the average weight trainee would make faster gains if he paid closer attention to his diet. In his quest for greater size he avoids fried foods, but copious amounts of his food broiled, and eats a great deal of meat, fish, eggs, cottage cheese, fresh fruits and vegetables. Rather than eat a great deal at each meal and stretch his stomach, he is constantly eating during the day. A great asset to Ralph in bulking up has been drinking raw milk in large quantities during the day, which he mixes with a commercial protein powder. Raw milk can be obtained in any health food store [ah, the '70s].

Note that very little has been said so far about his actual training when seeking bulk. Ralph feels that the training, if it is intense and the trainee has confidence in his method of training, will produce muscular gains regardless of the amount of sets, reps, or weight.

Ralph is currently training every body part, every day, seven days a week while he is bulking up. Now I realize this statement is in contrast to what most people feel is the most ideal way to train for bulking up, but it is working for Ralph. He feels that this is a beneficial way for anyone to train, and anyone in good condition could make gains from it. By doing fewer sets per body part, but more frequently, the trainee will stay enthusiastic and put more into each exercise, and also work the more neglected body parts more effectively.

As an example, how many trainees would do 15 sets of leg curls in a workout or a total of 30-45 sets of neck work in a week? Ralph does 6 sets of leg curls a day, which totals 42 sets a week.

Bulking up is, of course, a favorite topic of lifters because it is, after all, what most of them are after. This can really pose a problem for some fellows. Now, Ralph, as mentioned, is definitely not what would be considered a hard gainer in this respect, as few of the top men are. Other men, however, find it almost impossible to gain anything at all, no matter what system they use. Every man has a different metabolism, different energy level and different ability to recuperate. Some men can only bulk up on two-day-a-week training programs, while others can gain bulk very rapidly, adding many pounds of muscle quickly.

Now, because all men are different, each one having his individual pluses and minuses, it should be understood that what works for one man may not work for another. Likewise, if you are a powerlifter you will not have the same ambitions in bodybuilding or bulk building, for the powerlifter may care little for how he looks, but wants the most muscle bulk even if it might also include some fat.

Many advanced men make no changes in their training programs when bulking up but only change their diets, and can gain as much as 20 to 30 lbs in one month without adding much fat. To trim down they again stay on the same program, but again make a change in their diet.

 Many men, even advanced men, might find the every day training Ralph uses would exhaust them in two weeks. Study your own body and its responses to exercise and diet, and adapt programs to your individual needs.   

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Ab Bench Q and A - Fred Hatfield (1995)

Fred Hatfield (1995)

1) What's the key to achieving rapid abdominal development?

-- The answer to achieving that much desired washboard appearance lies in the study of the anatomy of spinal movement. The spine is made up of 33 vertebrae, only 24 of which form the flexible portion located above the sacrum. There are seven cervical vertebrae, 12 thoracic vertebrae and five lumbar vertebrae. With the exception of the first two cervical vertebrae, the extent of movement at any vertebral joint is slight, particularly in the thoracic spine, although the total movement of all joints is quite large. Within these anatomical constraints, performing crunches for abdominal development involves flexion at all of the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae. 

2) Do you believe the crunch is the best abdominal exercise?

-- The crunch is good, but so are a number of other exercises. There are many variations of abdominal exercises, and there are just as many abdominal devices. All of the good ones, however, have one thing in common: In one way or another bring the ribs (the origin of the rectus abdominus), and pelvis (the insertion), closer together through spinal flexion and abdominal-muscle contraction. Your internal and external obliques aid in this movement as well.

3) What other ab exercises are good?

-- Other than the crunch, you can do reverse crunches. This exercise has the same effect as crunches; however, your knees come toward your face instead of vice versa. Some bodybuilders believe that they can get better lower-ab development with this exercise, but I personally doubt it. The research tends to refute this age-old myth. Ever see a guy with great washboard upper abs but a saggy lower abdomen? Or vice versa? There's no such thing. The abdominal wall benefits equally from crunches and reverse crunches.

4) What about hanging leg raises?

-- Again, the myth is that hanging while raising your knees upward is going to selectively develop your lower abs. Actually, the hanging leg raise is the ultimate version -- the high stress version -- of reverse crunches. It's a very difficult movement to master, however, so your best bet is to do reverse crunches.

5) So you recommend crunches, reverse crunches and - for those who are strong enough and can do them correctly - hanging leg raises?

-- Yes, those are all good abdominal exercises, but the best way to train the abdominals is to first pre-stretch the muscle, then contract it against resistance. Which is exactly what the Ab Bench crunch does. This exercise allows you to stretch the rectus abdominus prior to contracting into a crunch position. Full range movements like this are generally more productive in improving strength, tone and mass. It has to do with the amount of work being accomplished on every set. Here's what happens at the cellular level.

When you stretch a muscle to its full length, the myofibrillar elements, actin and myosin, are fully stretched. That means the overlap between the actin and myosin myofibrils in minimal, and you're not capable of producing force. The cross-bridging going on between the actin and myosin strands is what causes contraction. Over a few weeks' time the actin and myosin myofibrils adapt to this new requirement of having to produce force while being stretched. They do so by growing longer in an attempt to increase the amount of overlap between them. This, of course, has the net effect of increasing the amount of force you can generate even while stretched.

6) Isn't this arching back into the stretch position dangerous?

-- Not a all. The curvature of the Ab Bench's back pad is precisely matched to the range of movement Mother Nature intended for your thoracic and lumbar spine. This ensures non-traumatic movement from an unforced hyperextended position to an unforced hyperflexed position. What's more, full-range crunches are 100% more productive than conventional on-the-floor half-range crunches because the amount of work you're accomplishing is virtually double.

7) And you believe it works the entire rectus abdominus, from rib cage to pelvis?

-- Absolutely. While electromyographic studies have demonstrated that the upper portion of the abs produces more activity when you perform crunches with no weight, when you add as little as 10 pounds the activity is equal throughout the muscle. The same studies demonstrated that reverse crunches can produce greater activity in the lower abs than in the upper abs, but they also produced activity in the obliques. The bottom line is that when resistance is applied to the crunch movement, as it is with the Ab Bench, differences in electrical activity disappear and contraction becomes relatively uniform throughout the entire rectus abdominus.

8) Do you favor high repetitions for ab training?

-- Like all other muscles in your body the rectus abdominus responds best to progressive resistance. You must train your abs as you do the rest of your muscles, but don't think that adding weight is going to give you a heavy waistline. The abdominal wall is a sheet of muscle, unlike, say, your biceps. Your rectus abdominus isn't prone to bulge like a biceps. People with large waistlines tend to have either a large pelvic girdle, a beer belly, lots of fat or a combination of the three.

9) So if the rectus abdominus is a sheetlike muscle, the segments we see aren't individual muscles?

-- Correct. I read somewhere that each segment moves or rotates a small part of the spinal column about a point known as a pivot point. According to this source, there are four pivot points, relating to the visible segments, along the spine, and as the ab muscles contract, the pivot point moves down. This is definitely wrong! While the lumbar vertebrae have a greater range of motion than the thoracic, it's a function of the anatomical structure of the spine and not the result of a small portion of the abs contracting. In fact, each of the movable vertebrae in the thoracic and lumbar spine is a pivot point, and there are many more than four.

10) So the best way to train abs is . . .

-- If you don't have an Ab Bench, use crunches and reverse crunches -- and try to get your hands on an Ab Bench as soon as you can. It's simply the best device for abdominal training on the market today.

        Ab Mat with Anti-Slip Tailbone Protection

Reverse Crunch using Abmat

Thursday, December 10, 2015

When American Weightlifting Went International - Jan Delinger (2015)

When American Weightlifting Went International
Jan Delinger (2015)

Maybe it's just me, but I've long had the impression that the 1936 Olympic Games provided an epochal moment in the sport of American weightlifting. Perhaps it's because a number of the faces on that year's Olympic lifting team enjoyed an amazing amount of protracted notoriety in the Iron Game, as well as the fact that they participated in the "Hitler Olympics!" In reality, though, it is just me, as the sport of Olympic weightlifting here in America began coming of age at the prior Games in Los Angeles in 1932.

Olympic Stadium, Los Angeles, 1932

"The essential thing is not conquering but fighting well."
- De Coubertin


Before getting into specifics about the actual lifting competition which was staged at the venerate Olympic Auditorium, a few facts in general about the '32 Olympics are worth noting: Very probably due to the worldwide economic depression which was engulfing the global economy of the day, as well as the fact that humanity as a whole was not that far removed from the ravages of World War I, the city of Los Angeles was the only bidder for the rights to hold the 1932 Games. In fact, many "knowledgeable" international sports insiders were pretty open about the fact that in their collective opinion the organizers must have gone mad to even bid on it as they would surely "lose their shirts."

And while prevailing conditions did cut the number of competing athletes by half as compared to the 1928 Games, contemporary newspaper accounts contend that the Los Angeles organizers easily reached "profitability", with some seemingly overly charitable reports claiming that they netted upwards of a million dollars!

As to the actual lifting competition itself, 28 athletes from eight nations vied for medals on July 30th and 31st of 1932, with France and Germany tying with three overall medals apiece. Note should be taken that the three won by France were all gold.

Likewise, American lifting got a fine "shot in the arm" by virtue of the fact that Henry Duey and Tony Terlazzo came away with bronze medals.

Weightlifting results for the 1932 Summer Olympics:

Against the gloomy backdrop of encroaching joblessness and the ever-widening dark business climate, the Los Angeles Olympics, along with its promise of showcasing the best athletes on the planet, provided a much needed distraction for many. Which explains why established lifting luminaries like David Willoughby and lifting luminaries in-waiting like Bob Hoffman were on the scene.

Frankly, Los Angeles was very possibly the most fitting place in America to hold an international competitive lifting event at the time. Why? The state of California in general, and L.A. in particular, were the hottest hotbeds of national competitive lifting when the Olympics blew into town. This situation, in no small part, was attributable to the Herculean organizational efforts of Willoughby, who was one of the power trio (George Jowett and Ottley Coulter were the others) who oversaw the American Continental Weightlifting Association (ACWLA), which was the sanctioning structure of competitive Olympic lifting activities here in the USA in the 1920s.

According to history, the ACWLA was formed to establish a uniform set of criteria by which the strength accomplishments of lifters could be accurately compared and rated equitably. Understand that prior to this organization's inception, America and the sporting press, such as it was, were treated to legions of performing professional strongmen professing to be "The Strongest Man in the World." Hence, true topflight, verifiable strength and power, and especially that of amateurs, was completely overlooked in favor of wild claims of questionable veracity and crass commercialism.

Enter the ACWLA which was very much patterned after the guiding policies of the British Amateur Weightlifting Association (BAWLA), which, by the way, was affiliated with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) or its counterpart of that era.

Suffice it to say that there are very interesting accounts available on the 'net which detail the byplay between Coulter, Jowett and Willoughby (especially in terms of striking a workable balance between the degrees of pure athletic idealism, desirable amount of tolerable commercialism and other objectives among them), as well as the ups and downs they encountered with established physical culture publishers like Alan Calvert, Bernard Bernard and Bernarr Macfadden in getting the ACWLA viable.

By the way, in reading some of these exceptionally detailed accounts, one gets a clear perception, warts and all, as to the state of American competitive lifting, as well as the existing mail order muscle and the physical culture magazine publishing businesses, when Bob Hoffman stepped into the field. Considerable insight about Bob and his "style" can be gleaned from these papers.

Getting back on track, in 1932 the presence of the Olympic Games here in America had to be viewed as a once-in-a-lifetime, must-see, sports spectacular of ultimate proportions. So, if you were an eligible competitor or coach, invited official, VIP type, enthused spectator, what have you, you were getting to L.A. by any means possible. In brief, that meant at your own expense for back in those days the governing committees of various sports were nowhere near as well-heeled as they are now, and could not afford to outfit and cover the expenses of their own athletes.

Undeniably, there was personal sacrifice involved for most. In the case of Bob Hoffman and some of the competing lifters, this meant a 3,000 mile cross-country car ride . . . and back home again. Comprehend this, the vehicular excursion precluded a lot of valuable last minute preparatory training, irregular meals and irregular sleeping accommodations, along with a lot of general discomfort from riding in a car hours on end.

Plus, and this I had impressed upon me by one old time York Barbell lifter, a cross country car trip back in the 1930s was more iffy due to the fact that the typical car, and especially the tires, were nowhere near as reliable as today. I was told that Bob and his traveling companions encountered disruptions with tires and engine breakdowns on both the trip to and from L.A.

Obviously, each man's correspondence offers terrific insights to his short term future plans in the mail order muscle business, or in Bob's case, the magazine/barbell manufacturing field.

One thing regarding Willoughby's announcement that he was on the verge of venturing into the commercial side of muscles drew my attention: It involved a comment Jowett made about Dave I encountered while researching the ACWLA. The former wrote to Coulter at one point complaining that Willoughby was too focused on the pursuit of idealistic adherence to rules and structure, and did not give enough consideration to the money-making side of the lifting experience. Perhaps Jowett won Willoughby over to the monetary side after all.

Come to think of it, if I have my dates straight in my head, Bob and George Jowett had established a working relationship prior to the Los Angeles Olympics. It is, therefore, conceivable that GFJ set up/initiated this meeting between Bob and David.

At the same time, Bob's reply denotes that a lot was going on in early 1933 with him and his transition from the oil burner field to the muscle business. Insights like he launched with a trio of companies - Strength and Health Publishing, York Barbell manufacturing per se and American Athletic Appliance (which I think was Jowett's suggestion to Bob), new offices were on the way, shortfall on his monthly subscription expectations, how many training sets (not Olympic) his concern had produced up to that point, and his experiences with dumbbell work.

Read and enjoy their correspondence and decide if your prior perception of each individual has changed at all.      

Click to ENLARGE

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Meditations on the Hip Joint and Pelvic Girdle - Max Popov (2011)


Max Popov


On Stability - Introduction to the Hip Joint and Pelvic Girdle

The standing human body is stable  when its line of gravity falls within its base of support; namely, our two feet and the area between them. Stability becomes increasingly precarious as our center of gravity nears the edge of our base. When the line of gravity falls outside our feet, we fall.

On Standing Up - Bent-Leg Hip Extension and Hanging Knee Raise

If we think about the mechanics of rising at all, it's probably because our ability to stand (or the ability of someone close to us) has been impaired or even lost. During the weight-resistance yoga session, when we reflect on what it means to be human, we consider how standing up is a critical aspect of not only our daily life and the evolutionary development of our species but also the biological development of the individual.

On Arrested Falling - Hip Abduction and Hip Adduction 

While not an act of derring-do, like that of a tightrope walker crossing a high wire, the simple of walking on the ground is, when you think about it, an amazing balancing act all the same. A rhythmical movement in which the center of gravity is swung forward, human bipedal gait places us in peril at every step.

By cultivating gladness for those who are happy, compassion for those who are suffering, delight in those who are kind-hearted and disregard for those who are selfish and mean, we habitually remain calm. - Patanjali

An object's center of gravity - the place where the Earth's gravity is considered to act on the object - is the point at which its mass is concentrated. Located within the object (say, a hard-boiled egg, a baseball bat, or an automobile), but not usually coinciding with its geometric center, the center of gravity can be approximated by finding the object's balance point, the place where the object can be twirled about (at least theoretically) on one finger.

In the standard anatomic position (standing upright with the palms of the hands forward), the human body's center of gravity - the point around which the body's mass is evenly distributed - lies approximately just in front of the second sacral vertebra. (The precise location depends on our height, weight, and frame - our unique proportions.) If our body is fixed in this position, then no matter how it's angled to Earth - whether standing upright, leaning, lying, or standing upside down - our center of gravity doesn't change. (Picture the prone, unbending silent movie comic Buster Keaton, quiet and dignified, seemingly gliding through the air as he grasps onto the back of a moving cable car.)

What produces a new  center of gravity is movement of a body segment (say, lifting a leg to give a ball a hard kick). The line of gravity - the action line of the force of gravity on an object - is like a plumb line attached to the center of gravity. Regardless of the orientation of the object on Earth (including its atmosphere), the line of gravity is always vertically downward toward the center of the Earth. 
For an object to be stable, the line of gravity must fall within the object's base of support. The standing human body is stable when its line of gravity falls within its base of support: namely our two feet and the area between them. Stability becomes increasingly precarious as our center of gravity nears the edge or our base. When the line of gravity falls outside our feet, we fall.
In everyday life, of course, we seldom stand rigidly for long. 
We move.
               And we're moved.

Gravity is the most consistent external force encountered by the human body, but there are others: objects that we're wearing, carrying, or using pull on us; strong winds, ocean waves, and other natural elements buffet us about; and people push or pull us. We can increase our stability (give our line of gravity more freedom to move without falling outside its base of support) in response to these external forces by lowering our center of gravity (by bending our knees) and/or by making our base of support larger (by widening our stance or by relying on the support of a cane, a walker, crutches, a ballet barre, or the like), heavier (by performing strengthening exercises for the lower body, including our hips).

The hip joint consists of the ball-like head of the upper leg bone (the femur) and the hip socket (acetabulum) of the pelvic girdle. The pelvic girdle consists of the right and left pelvic bones joined together posteriorly by the sacrum (the triangular bone at the base of the spine) and anteriorly by the pubic bones.

Although favoring stability over mobility, the hip joint is the second most mobile joint (after the shoulder joint) in the body. Routine movement of the hip joint usually involves movement of the pelvic girdle. For example, in walking, hip flexion (lifting the leg forward) is accompanied by pelvic girdle forward rotation (anterior tilt), and hip extension (bringing the leg backward) is accompanied by pelvic girdle backward rotation (posterior tilt).

Weight resistance yogins faithfully strengthen the four major groups of hip muscles: 
1) the flexors, which move the upper leg straight forward and up;
2) the extensors, which move the upper leg straight backward and up;
3) the abductors, which move the upper leg to the side and away from the midline; and 
4) the adductors, which move the upper leg from the side toward the midline.
Most of these muscles also act as external rotators (which rotate the upper leg away from the midline), or internal rotators (which rotate the upper leg toward the midline).    

As we age, we come to consider the importance of having strong and healthy hips. As we've seen, the hips (along with the other segments of the lower body) counteract the pull of gravity and the effect of other forces and allow us to be ambulatory, as well as act as a pillar that supports the trunk and head. But we who practice weight-resistance yoga also recognize hos an embodied practice that includes exercises that strengthen the hips, perhaps especially in their role as stabilizers, can help change our behavior - which means to say, shape the self.

Many of us are ruled by uncontrollable patterns of behavior that make us unhappy. Yet they seem to us to be rational responses to people around us and events out of our control. Put upon, we become irritable and fly off the handle. Feeling slighted, we sulk, nursing the desire to get even. Feeling unappreciated, we constantly seek acknowledgment. When expectations go awry, we lose heart or turn cynical and pessimistic. Our center is unstable. Through working on hip-strengthening exercises, weight-resistance yogins attain a physical stability that over time comes to correspond to an inner stability -- a stability that isn't a steady condition impervious to the world but an engaged response to the world. We embrace others. We seek their embrace. Yet we detach ourselves from their crazy talk. We retain our equanimity. When we're "pushed" and "pulled" by sudden, unforeseen events, large and small, we're not upended. We receive good news and bad news, success and failure equably. We remain calm and undisturbed. Sometimes we teeter. But grounded in the earth (through accommodation with gravity) and yearning for the heavens (through resisting gravity and standing upright), we soon move back to our vital center.

To know is accordingly the ability to stand in the manifestness of things that exist, to endure them. Merely to have information, however abundant, is not to know. -- Martin Heidegger

An Introduction to Metaphysics

Bring a leg back. This movement -- hip extension -- is performed by the large gluteal muscles, which make up the buttocks. Feel your buttocks. Although layered over with fat, the gluteus maximus, which forms most of the muscle of the buttocks, is easily palpable. That's because it originates on the posterior spine and pelvis and inserts on the upper leg. Bring the leg forward and up. This movement -- hip flexion -- is primarily performed by the iliopsoas, which lifts the leg beyond the normal standing position. Moving obliquely from the small of the back through the pelvic bowl to attach at the front upper leg, the iliopsoas, although large, is palpable only in the emaciated or in the thin who relax their abdominal muscles. These two dissimilar and opposing muscles -- the gluteus maximus and iliopsoas -- work together sequentially, sometimes in an alternating rhythm, to perform a variety of motions that require strong anterior/posterior action of the hips. They contract during jumping and leaping. They provide action to propel the body forward when walking up an incline, such as a ramp or a hill. When climbing stairs, while the gluteal muscles work to shift the body's weight over the supporting leg, the iliopsoas works to lift the swinging leg. Both muscles play critical role in running, not only in propelling the body forward but also in stabilizing the body to keep it from pitching over.

Although they aren't strongly contracted during ordinary walking, the gluteal muscles and iliopsoas are strongly brought into play in another common daily activity: standing up from sitting. In general, we prefer sitting to standing. The act of sitting down, especially as we get older, is a a pleasurable activity. It sometimes produces a sigh of relief. We're equipped for sitting. Compared to ape buttocks, human buttocks, human buttocks are quite large. Apes sit on their ishial tuberosities, sitz bones, which protrude through their fur; we're cushioned by prominent rounded buttocks. Aristotle observed: The posterior bottom of the trunk and the parts about the upper legs are peculiar in man as compared with quadrupeds. Nearly all these latter have a tail. But man is tailless. He has, however, fleshy buttocks, which don't exist in quadrupeds. His thighs are also fleshy. There is one explanation: of all animals, man alone stands erect.

Standing causes no fatigue to quadrupeds, and even the long continuance of this posture produces in them no weariness; for they are supported the whole time by four props, which is much as though they were lying down. But for man, it's no easy task to remain for any length of time on his feet; his body demands rest in a sitting position. This, then, is the reason why man has fleshy buttocks and thighs. But sooner or later, stand up we must.

In fact, rising to a standing position from a sitting position is one of the most critical activities of daily life. Just consider early morning before we go out in the world: we get out of bed, get up from the toilet seat, and leave our chair at the kitchen table after breakfast. Rising from a seat involves four phases. In the first phase, to initiate momentum for rising, we lean forward as we fix our upper legs, shifting the center of gravity of the trunk over our feet. In the second phase, in order to transfer momentum to the whole body, as we leave the seat we slightly bend our knees. In the third phase, we begin to straighten the knees, hips, and trunk as the body rises. In the fourth phase, we stabilize the body in the full upright position. The first and second phases recruit the iliopsoas; the third phase, the gluteal muscles; and the fourth phase, both. If we think about the mechanics of rising at all, it's probably because our ability to stand (or the ability of someone close to us) has been impaired or even lost.

During the weight resistance yoga session, when we reflect on what it means to be human, we consider how standing up is a critical aspect not only of our daily life and the evolutionary development of our species but also the biological development of the individual. In first standing up without support, the child has no concern for security. Failure -- falling down -- doesn't discourage the child one bit. The forceful urge to get up, to resist downward-pulling forces -- while in a state of precarious balance! -- overcomes any fear.

"In getting up," observes German phenomenological psychologist Irwin W. Straus, a child "gains his standing in the world. The parents are not the only ones who greet the child's progress with joy. The child enjoys no less the triumph of his achievement." There's no need for parental attention, yet applause. Fitness trainers regularly use the parenting model of "providing positive feedback" with their clients. This training philosophy of "bolstering self-esteem" fosters an inappropriate relationship: come semblance of parent/child and even lover/beloved or sadist/masochist.

In contrast, yoga teachers, including weight-resistance yoga teachers, don't shore up self-esteem and provide positive reinforcement. They don't get caught up in praise (and its implicit threat: the withdrawal of praise -- which means to say, blame. They don't provide motivation by cajoling, scolding, or goading students. They don't chitchat; there's too much to attend to. They simply demonstrate correct form to students and then correct students' form by making adjustments, thereby aiding students in moving deeper into an exercise. [Sounds a lot like a good weightlifting coach, don't it.] Of course, weight-resistance yoga teachers do much else. They set a tone -- from mindful to motivational -- for the session. They help us recognize how our movements reveal our habitual thoughts, emotions, and attitudes, so we can discard those that interfere with our spiritual path. They aid us in becoming fully absorbed in our movements as a means of accessing realities beyond everyday life. But no matter how much they guide us, we always know that it's through our own self-discipline that our life is transformed and that it's only we -- in part through our reverent and upright posture -- who can open ourselves up to the ground of Being.

In yoga we do well to avoid too much of the idea that we are bound to the earth, even physically. The earth pulls us towards it by gravity, but we also pull it upwards to us, also by gravity. We thus have a share of the original power, and when walking . . . we do to some extent float. -- Ernest Wood.

Between five and six million years ago, a new type of primate evolved in Eastern Africa -- one that walked on two legs instead of ambling along on all fours with its front knuckles to the ground. Bipedalism was literally the first evolutionary step that divided hominids from apes. To develop the ability to walk upright, the anatomy or our ancestors underwent complex changes that shifted the upper body over the pelvis and the lower body more directly under the pelvis. (Recent research has shown that some aspects of human anatomy may have evolved in order to accommodate running, not walking.) Among the changes that took place was the angling inward toward the body's midline of the thighbone (femur) as it slopes toward the knee. In apes, the femur runs straight down from hip to knee, which accounts for their boxy, side-to-side, swaying gait. Humans are wider in the hips than through the knees, which improves our balance. As is our want, we've used this mechanical advantage to individualize our gait.

As you walk down a sidewalk in a shopping area in springtime, notice how the sway of people's hips varies, depending on their frame, age, speed, and mood, as well as their status and personality. As Mabel E. Todd, one of the pioneers of bodywork [specifically Ideokinesis], observed in 1937: "Watch any man as he walks down the avenue, and you can determine his status in life. With practice, a finer discernment will have him placed socially and economically, and with a fair idea of his outlook on life."

A classic study of physiology and the effect of psychological processes on movement that has a
mind/body approach.

"The ability to improve a pattern of support and movement for the reduction of stresses comes, not through the development of bulk and power in individual muscles, but from the study and appreciation of the human body as a weight-bearing and weight-moving structure." (Page 33)


Even those of us with little discernment of body language have noticed (if only in some vague way) that a person's gait is expressive of his or her emotional make-up. A genial disposition, a touchy temperament, strong or weak character, a pinched or expansive personality, meek or overbearing behavior are all, we'd agree, expressed in gait. But whatever a person's unique gait, the mechanics of his or her walking are the same. Walking consists of a swing phase and a support phase. Slip behind a woman wearing tight jeans and take a dispassionate look, if possible, at the changes in the position of her hips made with each step. (Because women's hips are generally wider than men's, a woman's gait is more pronounced, making it a more advantageous subject of study.) Note that when her right leg lifts off the ground, during the beginning of the swing phase, she's standing on her left leg. The right side of her pelvis is unsupported, leaving her vulnerable to tipping over to the right. What keeps her from falling over?

During the swing phase, the abductors (the group of hip muscles that attach to the upper, outside part of the leg) of the supporting (left) leg contract to oppose the tendency of the pelvis to drop on the unsupported (right side). At the same time, the adductors (the group of hip muscles that attach to the leg on the inside of the thigh) of the swinging leg contracts to shift the pelvis over, moving the upper body weight over the supporting left leg. The right leg lifts (bends at the knee) and then straightens (extends at the knee). The swing phase ends as the heel of the right foot is placed on the ground. When the whole foot is placed flat on the ground, the hip adductors and abductors of both legs stabilize the pelvis. This support ends when the heel of the trailing (left) leg is raised in push off. 

While not an act of derring-do, like that of a tightrope walker crossing a high wire, this simple act of walking on the ground is, when you think about it, an amazing balancing act all the same. A rhythmical movement in which he center of gravity is swung forward, human bipedal gait places us in peril at every step. As we've seen, the whole weight of the body rests for a short time on only one leg, destabilizing the body, thereby putting us at risk of falling -- until the leg brought forward reaches the ground, once again rescuing us from the threatened fall. 

As phenomenological psychologist Erwin W. Straus observed: "Human gait is, in fact, a continuously arrested falling." For this reason, it can be said that walking is an assumptive act: upon taking a step, we take for granted that the leg brought forward will ultimately find solid ground, and that we won't fall. We might trip over an unseen obstacle or unevenness of ground. Somebody might knock us over. Our weak or frail bones might precipitate a collapse. But, by and large, we're not anxious when we walk. Most of the time, our experience of walking is pedestrian: we move from Point A to Point B without any worries. Which is all the more reason to keep the hip joints strong and healthy. 

A marvel of locomotive engineering, the hips lose their effectiveness as we age. By strengthening the hip muscles -- in particular, the two hip abductors, the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus, we can to a great degree retain the spring of youth in our step. This strengthening will allow us to continue putting one leg in front of the other to ambulate without giving a thought to it.

Not that attentiveness to walking is a bad thing. Hatha yoga praises the body -- not so that we can display it as a proud possession [after all is said and done you only rent the thing anyhow], but so that we can move with steadiness, ease, and strength when needed. Without a fit and healthy body we cannot know bliss. But the physical conditioning aspect doesn't benefit only the periods set aside from everyday life for achieving altered states or for enjoying the self-induced efforts of training; it also makes possible transportive experiences during everyday life, such as walking down a street, perhaps on one of those days when it's lightly raining and the fragrance of trees is strong. As we effortlessly stroll along, we turn our attention to our stride: the swing phase and the stability phase feel so secure and coordinated and elegant, they seem to be acting through us. By this I mean that we can identify the doer. We don't make decisions about taking steps. They just happen. "We" are no more doing the walking than "it" is raining. There's no will to move or submission to being moved. There's just serenely complete walking.

And wouldn't it be something to apply that to your lifting.      


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