Thursday, September 29, 2016

For Size and Strength - John McCallum (January 1966)

Harold Cleghorn, both photos.

There's also video footage of Mr. Cleghorn here: 

On the left in this photo, 
Courtesy of Joe Roark: 

Originally published in the January 1966 issue of 
Strength and Health magazine. 

In 1954 they held the British Empire Games in Vancouver, B.C. The Empire Games, in case you've never seen them, are a kind of scaled down Olympics. They've got all the athletic events, but it's only open to competitors from within the British Empire.

You get a big influx of stiff upper lips for the Games. They puff their portly way up into the stands and watch the athletes and sit around in their gray flannels and crested blazers and mumble brave things about the colonial system and the thin red line and how the sun never sets on the grand old flag, chaps.

But you also get some awfully good athletes. In '54 they had two milers named Bannister and Landy who became the first men to run a sub-four minute mile in the same race. They called it the Miracle Mile.

And there was also a man named Harold Cleghorn.

Prior to the '54 Games, Cleghorn held a British Empire lifting title. He was a kind of lean and hungry looking heavy, not much bigger than a light-heavy and his lifts weren't really that good. Furthermore, he was no bare-faced boy. He was in his forties and it looked like he'd had the treatment.

Then he came to Empire Village and the rumors started floating around. The story was that he'd gained about 50 pounds of muscle and increased all his lifts 10 or 20%.

This is pretty sticky jazz for a man Cleghorn's age. I decided to check for myself.

I drove over to the Village and found the building the lifters were training in. The officials had them jammed in the basement as usual. I walked down a couple of flights of dusty stairs, along a cement corridor, through a big wooden door into the lifting room and there was Cleghorn.

You couldn't miss him. He looked like a big Grimek. And it looked like the rumors might even be true. He weighed about 250 of the most impressive pounds I'd ever seen.

He was doing some heavy squats. There weren't many visitors that day so I went over and talked with him.

He's very polite and friendly. He talks in a soft deep voice with a faint down-under accent.

"Harold," I said, "you've really put on weight."

"Yes," he said. "Finally." He was sweating hard and he wiped a big hand across his forehead. He's got wavy black  hair that's receding a bit in front.

"Did you find it hard to do?"

"Not really," he said, "once I found out how."

He loaded some more weight on the squat bar. "I don't want to cool off."

"No," I said. "Go ahead."

He dipped under the bar, stepped away from the rack and did five reps. He put it back on the rack and smiled at me. "Very tiring."

"I don't doubt it. That's a lot of weight."

He was puffing a bit. He strolled back and forth taking deep breaths. He looked like he could stroll through a cement wall.

He went back to the rack and put some more weight on the bar. It was over 500 now.

"Man," I said. "You're good at squatting."

He smiled politely. "Thank you. I didn't used to be."

"I know."

He did another set of five. He's got a chest like a boiler. Every time he inhaled it bulged out like he was going to pull a vacuum in the room.

I waited till he finished the set and got his breath back.

"What caused all the progress?"

He touched the bar on the rack. "This."


"Yes. And heavy exercise generally."

"Boy oh boy," I said. "You've really improved. I can hardly believe it."

He looked a little sad. "Thank you. It's a bit late for me, though."

"I'm a  little old to start a lifting career. I wish I'd known ten years ago what I know now."

"You mean about heavy exercise?"

"Yes. I think I'd have done a good deal better."

"You didn't always train heavy?"

"No. I used to squat with three to four hundred pounds. I thought that was enough."

"You mean you just stayed with that weight?"

"Yes," he said. "For years. I never tried to increase it."

"And all this improvement came when you started heavy squatting?"

"That's right. A bit late, unfortunately."

"Well, Harold," I said. "Late or early I think you've done a wonderful job. Furthermore, you're a real credit to the game at any age."

"Thank you," he said. Very polite. "Thank you very much."

Two nights later, with the overhead lights flooding down applause thundering around him, he stepped onto the lifting platform and broke the British Empire Heavyweight record with his first Press.

You're going to start now on the first of the more advanced bulk and power programs. It'll be based on heavy exercise.

You'll be concentrating on the big muscle groups. Someone said once that if you take care of the big muscle groups the little ones will take care of themselves. This isn't entirely true, but it's not too far off.

Wear a full training suit while you're working out. Buy one if you haven't already got one. You'll be working heavy and you've got to keep your muscles warm.

You'll be sweating a lot. Take milk or water during your workout. Drink all you want but don't take it too cold.

Your first exercise will be prone hyperextensions. You'll be using them as a warmup for your lower back.

Do them off a table or bench high enough to allow you to go all the way down. Arch your back when you come up and get the action in your spinal erectors. Don't worry about adding weight right away. Learn to do them properly first.

Prone hyperextensions are used extensively by Reg Park. He says they provide him with an effective warmup, protection for the lower back, nervous and circulatory stimulation and a psychological boost.

They also provide him with a set of spinal erectors like truck tires.

Do them for 3 sets of 10.

Next comes heavy squats. This is the exercise favored most by Reg Park. He's capable of squatting with weights in excess of 600 pounds. He's also one of the very few bodybuilders actually as strong as he looks. If you saw him in any of the Hercules movies you know how strong he looks.

You'll be doing 5 sets of 5 in the squats. Start with a weight 100 pounds below your best weight for 5 reps and do 5 reps with it. Add 50 pounds and do another 5 reps. Then add 500 more pounds and do 3 sets of 5 with that weight. Try to increase the weight 5 pounds on every set every workout.

Take three huge breaths between each rep. Suck in all the air you can and lift your chest.

Squats will be the big exercise in this program. Take a short rest between sets. Use the auto-suggestion trick we discussed before and drive your poundages up. Set your goals very high and don't settle for anything less. You've got to work up to around double bodyweight for 5 reps.

Stagger over to a bench and do light, breathing pullovers after each set of squats. Use 20 to 35 pounds for 20 reps and haul in air like it was going out of style.

Heavy squats and light pullovers are the combination for 50 inch chests.

Take a short rest before the next exercise. This will be front squats, or squats with the weight held in the Clean position. Put a 2 x 4 under your heels so you can stay erect and throw the work on the muscles just above your knees.

You can either clean the weight or take it off the rack to get it in position. If you're not used to front squats they'll probably hurt your wrists at first. Tough it out and your wrists will strengthen. Keep your elbows high and the bar well back on your chest and frontal deltoids.

Do the front squat for 3 sets of 10. Use your heaviest weight for the first set and drop it 10 pounds for each succeeding set.

The next exercise is the bench press. Most of you like these. Do them for 4 sets of 8 in a loose e. Use a slighter wider than shoulder width grip and arch your back a little when you're pressing.

Use 30 pounds below your best weight for 8 reps for the first set. Add 30 pounds for the second set and drop 10 pounds for each of the remaining two sets.

The bench press came on strong in recent years. It's probably the best all-round exercise for the chest and shoulder girdle. You should work up into heavy weights on it. Try for about 1.5 times bodyweight for 8 reps.

Do a lot of deep breathing between reps. Work it something like the squats.

You'll need a rest now. The next one is tough. Power cleans. Do them dead hang style for 5 sets of 5. Start with 50 pounds below your best for five reps. Add 25 pounds for the second set. Add another 25 pounds and do the final three sets with that weight.

Don't dip too much with your legs and don't move your feet at all. Get the pull with your thighs, hips, back and arms.

This is a pretty rugged exercise. Take it easy at first and work up gradually into heavy weights.

The next exercise is bent forward rowing. Do this for 5 sets of 10. Take your heaviest weight for the first set and drop it 10 pounds for each succeeding set.

Don't get into the habit of cheating on this one. No fair using the legs and lower back. Take a narrow grip and pull the bar all the way up to the lower abdomen. Arch your back high at the completion of each pull. Lower the weight all the way down and round your back with it. Let it hang dead and stretch your lats.

You can wind it up now with presses behind the neck alternated with incline bench dumbbell curls. Do them for 3 sets of 8. Use your heaviest weight on the first set and drop it each succeeding set. 10 pounds for the presses and 5 pounds each dumbbell in the curls.

If you have a tendency to get fat in the gut you can do one set of 25 leg raises and one set of 25 s. Don't do them with your workout. They're better done on your in-between days. Don't work too hard on them. All you want to do is keep your waist in hand while you're gaining weight.

The whole program, without the details, looks like this:

Prone Hyperextensions: 3 x 10
Squats: 5 x 5
Pullovers: (alternate with squats) - 5 x 20
Front Squats: 3 x 10
Bench Press: 4 x 8
Power Cleans: 5 x 5
Rowing: 5 x 10
Press Behind Neck: 3 x 8 alternated with
Incline Curls: 3 x 8.

You'll find this pretty stiff if you work as hard as you're supposed to on every exercise. Make sure you get lots of rest and sleep.

You're trying to gain weight. Make sure you eat enough. We'll get into diet another time, but for now eat all the good food you can and take the gaining supplement in large amounts. Spread your meals out. You're better off to eat five or six small meals than two or three huge ones.

When you're working this hard it's wise to take a germ oil such as Energol. Take at least the advised amounts. You'll also do better with a high potency vitamin supplement.

If you go at this program in a sloppy fashion, you'll only get partial results. If you want partial results you may as well do something easier. Properly done, the program will kick back big gains but you've got to work at it.

Make a challenge out of every exercise. Grit your teeth and jam the poundages way, way up. You can't expect a build like Grimek if you're handling weights your grandmother could lift.

Give it all you've got. You'll get big and be ready for the next advance in this series.   


Monday, September 26, 2016

Training for Gaining - John McCallum (December 1965)

Originally Published in the December 1965 Issue of Strength and Health

A bunch of us went down to the gym one time to watch Reg Park work out. He was in town doing a show. We lined up along the wall with our eyeballs hanging on our cheeks and tried not to look too jealous when he started lifting.

Park walked in looking more like Hercules than Herc did. He was weighing around 235 and it all bulged. Every time he moved he looking like he was coming through his skin. 

The kid standing beside me poked me with his elbow. "Check the arms," he whispered.

I poked him back and whispered from the corner of my mouth like they do on TV. "Okay," I said. "You keep the motor running."

It went over his head. "Watch his arms," said. "Watch how he works them."

Park warmed up his lower back with some prone hyperextensions.   

"He may not do too much arm stuff," I said. "He was saying he just wanted to get his weight back up a few pounds."

"On his arms," the kid said. "On his arms. Watch!"

Park finished warming up and started on his legs. He loaded on weight till the bar bent slightly and did squats like his life depended on them. He had everybody pushing with him on the way up.

He finished squatting and did some front squats and a few calf raises.

'Now his arms," the kid said. "Watch!"

Park did a few heavy bench presses. He bounded the bar off his chest and jammed it up like a rocket.

"He spends a lot of time on his arms," the kid said. "Forty-five minutes on the biceps and forty-five minutes on the triceps." 

"Gee," I said. "That's an hour and a half. I shoulda brought a lunch."

Park started his his back work. He did power cleans and heavy bent forward rowing.

"He's saving his arms for the last," the kid whispered. "Watch!"

Park took the bar off the squat rack and did some presses behind the neck. You could see everybody's lips moving when they added up the weight on the bar. It's kind of discouraging. Park presses more weight than most guys squat with.

"Now," the kid said. "Watch!"

Park picked up his towel and walked into the back.

I looked at my watch. "That took him an hour and four minutes. I think he's finished."

The kid curled up the corner of his lip. "Don't be a nut. He hasn't done any arm work yet. Just wait."

We waited.

The talking died down and I listened carefully. "That's it," I said. He's having a shower."

"He hasn't finished yet," the kid protested. "He can't be having a shower."

"Well, if he ain't," I said, "He better lay off the coffee. That's a helluva lot of water running back there." 

"Gee, the kid said. "He didn't do no arm work at all."

"He did some," I said. 

"Not like he's supposed to. All he did was leg and back stuff."

"So what?" 

"I thought he trained hard."

"He does." 

"Legs and back? What the heck kind of training is that?"

"That," I said, "is training for gaining. Advanced training."

If you've been following this series, you're just about ready for some advanced training yourself. Before we get into that, though, let's review what we've already covered. Every item is important. Pick up some back issues if you're just starting. You'll slow down your progress is you miss anything.

We've covered the time factor. Keep your workouts short if you're a beginner or trying to gain weight. Long, tedious workouts won't help you unless you're a real easy gainer.

The guys who use long workouts are extremely advanced men. Even then they're not intended for pure weight gains. Most of the long programs you read about are intended to define bodies that are already bulky. Don't confuse building up with sharpening up. We'll get into long programs eventually, but by then you'll be big and you'll be ready for them.

Training is a progressive thing. Any nut can sit down and list a pile of exercises. That doesn't make it a program. Some of the programs you see advertised in the other magazines and supposedly followed slavishly by hordes of grateful Samsons are right out of the authors' dreams. That's one of the troubles with claiming pupils who won't even talk to you on the street.

There are essential rules for bodybuilding and you'll get them in this magazine. Don't be stampeded by a lot of commercial baloney. 

I was talking to one of the big Mr. Winners one time. I had a program written down that I'd gotten out of a magazine. I asked him what he thought of it.

"Too long," he said. "Way too long." He looked at it again. "Is this your program?"

"Mine," I said. "It's supposed to be yours." 

He grinned. "Pal," if I spent that long working out I'd be in real trouble."

"You mean you wouldn't gain?"

"No, no," he said. "I mean my old lady'd quit her job and I'd have to look for one."

We've covered the importance of extreme concentration in your training. You've got to think about it. Keep your mind fixed firmly on whatever exercise you're doing at the moment. You're working at awfully reduced efficiency if you don't.

A lot of guys got good results from concentration curls. You'll get good results from every exercise if you concentrate the same way on them. 

We've talked about auto-suggestion. You should be getting pretty good at it by now. Keep using it. Set goals for yourself. Use it to focus your subconscious on these goals. Use it as a stimulus for each workout.

You see a lot of self-improvement courses advertised in the back of pulp magazines. Most of the ads feature heavy black print and some nut with eyes like a bill collector jabbing his finger at you. The improvement offered covers a varied field, ranging all the way from how to make a million bucks peddling junk around the neighborhood to cutting up big with the opposite sex.

The courses all have two things in common. They're all expensive and they all push auto-suggestion in one form or another. You can get better results for  the price of a Strength and Health and buy yourself a good protein supplement with the money you save.

We've touched very lightly on the value of the squat. Squats are still the big thing in a gaining program. Push them hard for overall bulk and power. 

You don't need to take my word about squats. Ask anyone in the muscle business. They'll all tell you the same thing. More men developed more muscle on squats than all the other exercises put together.

You're going to be doing a lot of squats in this series. Make up your mind right now that you're going to like them and get good at them.

Finally, we've covered the need for a high protein, high calorie food supplement. You've got to boost your intake. You won't gain weight on fresh air and apricots. Keep taking the supplement as outlined, or something very much like it. 

You can change some of the minor ingredients or the flavoring to suit yourself, but make sure you take the basic drink in sufficient quantities. Two quarts a day is about the minimum for really big gains.

A lot of beginners are staggered when they see how much food a big lifter stows away. Doug Hepburn used to pack food around with him like he was on a camping trip.

Doug was the first of the superheavies. He revamped everybody's concept of size and strength. A lot of people thought Doug was born that way. He wasn't. He built up from an average looking kid into a World Champ. He trained on heavy exercises and enough food for a boy scout camp.

We're going to gradually convert the workout into more advanced forms. The purpose will still be shapely bulk and power. These are the qualities that you should be striving for at this stage. You'll just hinder yourself if you start scratching around for definition or peaked biceps too soon.

We'll be concentrating on the big muscle groups. That means very heavy leg and back work. And despite what commercial interests have claimed for him in the past, this is the type of training that built Reg Park. This is the type of training that builds bodies like Grimek and Pearl.

I had a lesson in the value of leg and back work over twenty years ago. Unfortunately, I was too dumb at the time to learn anything from it.

I was in the Navy, and a real bug on bodybuilding. I figured upper body work was the thing and that knotty biceps were the absolute end. I used to train my upper body all day and half the night. I weighed about 165 at 6 feet tall, and the only thing about me that was knotty was my eyebrows.

I got shifted to a small ship for a few months. The only thing to exercise with was a solid barbell to heavy for anything but squats and deadlifts. I figured I couldn't train properly anymore but I could still show off a bit, so every other day I used to wander out on deck where the weight was and talk a couple of the crew into hoisting it on my back for me. Then I'd do as many squats as I could with it. If the men hung around long enough, I'd do a second set. After that I'd do deadlifts for a little while. All I tried to do was gradually increase the reps.

The only other exercise I did was a few dips between some pipes in the drying out room.

My bodyweight started to climb. So did my strength. I figured it was the Navy beans or the salt air or something.

A few months later I got shifted to a joint where they had a nice complete gym and I could do my old upper body routines again. That ended the squats and deadlifts. It ended the progress, too. And it stayed ended for a few years until I found out about leg and back work.

You don't need to join the Navy to learn this. Keep pushing the high rep breathing squats, and next month we'll start the first of the more advanced bulk and power programs.     




Sunday, September 25, 2016

SQUAT! - John McCallum (Oct. 1965)

First Published in the October 1965 Issue

We're only going to talk about one exercise this month. Just one exercise. But if you haven't got the size and strength you'd like, or if you aren't gaining like you think you should then read this carefully because it might be the most important thing you'll do in your weight career.

The exercise we're going to talk about is the squat.

And you've got to know one thing -- that squats are THE exercise  for gaining. They're so far out in front that second place doesn't even matter. If you want the absolute, utter maximum power and shapely bulk, then you've got to specialize in squats and there's no sense stalling it off.

About two years ago I had a kid training at my place. I gave him a squat program but he wouldn't go on it. Said he didn't like squats. I let him do what he wanted but he didn't gain much and then about three months ago something happened and I got racky with him. 

He was in the gym when I got there. He was lying back on an incline bench and waving two little dumbbells around like he was leading the Boston Pops. I walked over and spoke to him.

"Having fun?" 

"Not really," he said. "She's pretty rough." 

"That's too bad," I said. "Because I heard something else today that's pretty rough." 

"What's that?" 

"I heard a bunch of kids were going to start working out here, but they changed their minds because you haven't gained an ounce in the last six months."

He didn't look too concerned.

"Tell me," I said. "Why don't you do that squat program I gave you?"

"I'm gonna" he said. "I'm gonna" 


"Pretty soon." 

"You know you won't gain without it." 

"That's okay," he said. "Don't worry."

"Worry?" I snarled. "I don't care personally if you drop a weight on your Beatle haircut. But you're giving me a bad name."

He looked up and blinked.

"Now," I said. "I'll tell you what you're going to do. You're going to drag your fat tail off that bench and start squatting or you can go train someplace else."

"There isn't any other place to train."

"I know," I said. It's a convincing argument, isn't it?"

He was squatting ten minutes later and has gained more in the last three months than he did in the past year and a half.

Nobody knew much about squats twenty odd years ago. Nobody bothered with them and bodybuilding standards were way down. If you had a fifteen inch arm you looked like the village blacksmith and a forty inch chest would bring out the beast in your old lady. Those measurements wouldn't get you the heroine's part in a Steve Reeves movie.

Squats caused most of the improvement.

You can solve most of your gaining problems with squats alone. You can make gains you've never dreamed of before. You can build up unbelievable bulk and power. You can build up power to the point where you have to be careful with it.

I'll tell you about a guy who wasn't careful.

I used to work out in the YMCA years ago. The weights stuffed in a little room in the basement. It was cold and clammy and water ran down the cement walls and across the floor and into a big hole the rats had tunneled through. 

A friend of mine started training there. He was a skinny guy. He weighed about 140 and had a build like Whistler's Mother. 

He was trying to get on the Police Department heir weight minimum was 170. He wanted to be a cop real bad though, and he'd have done anything to gain weight.

I told him about squats and showed him how to do them properly. He went on the program you're going to find in this article.

He started squatting and after he'd gained enough he got on the Police Department. But he liked his new power and he kept coming down to the dirty little room and squatting and his weight and power kept climbing up and up.

He finally got to weight about 240 pounds of thick rolling muscle and the old exercise bars were all bent from being draped around his neck.

The department used him on the meat wagon because he could fire drunks into it with either hand.

One night he went all alone into a pub to take out a merchant sailor waving a broken bottle around. The sailor jabbed at him with the bottle and the glass punched into his face. My friend slapped the sailor once very hard with the back of his hand. The sailor went backwards over a table and on to floor and lay very still with his mouth all red and his head twisted around at a funny angle and when they got him to the hospital he was dead.

There's a moral to all that. You're going to build up a lot of power. Be careful with it.

You can do squats any number of ways. We'll discuss different styles in later issues. For now, do them 20 reps in breathing style with all the weight you can handle and then some

You're doing high rep breathing squats for a specific purpose. They'll stimulate your metabolism and force growth like nothing else you'll ever do. They're an absolute must at some stage in your training.

Here's how to do them: 

Warm up your knees and back with a few light squats and start the big stuff. 

Put your bar on the rack and load it heavy. 

You'll find a little bend in the bar lets it ride easier on your shoulders. If you haven't got a cambered bar, take a sledge hammer and slug your straight bar till it bends slightly in the middle. You'll need two bars for your workout because once you bend your squat bar it's no good for any other exercise.

Put padding across your shoulders or wrap it around the bar. Don't try to be tough and see how much pain you can stand.

Step under the bar. Straighten up. Back up two or three steps. Don't back up any farther than you have to. This isn't an afternoon stroll. Face the rack when you're squatting. If you work as hard as you're supposed to you'll be too beat to jockey around with it afterwards.

Keep your head up and your back flat as possible. Fix your gaze on an imaginary spot on the wall just above head height. This will help keep your back flat.

Take three huge breaths. All the air you can cram into your lungs. Hold the third breath and squat. Go down to parallel position and bounce back up as hard and fast as possible. Don't stay in the low position. Breathe out forcibly when you're almost erect. Take three more deep breaths. Hold the third breath and squat. Keep this up for twenty reps.

You've got to work hard enough that the 15th squat feels like your limit. Then keep going and dig out the rest of the twenty. Each one of the last five reps should be doubtful.

You've got to practically bleed on the squats. Work like you never worked before. When you finish the set you should be wiped right out. This is the hardest work you'll ever do but it's an absolute must for success.

As soon as you finish the 20th squat, stagger over to a bench and do 25 pullovers with a light weight. Suck in all the air you can. Concentrate on stretching your rib box.

Squat heavy. Try to add five pounds every workout. You've got to work up into the 300 to 400 pound range for anything really spectacular. 

Beat yourself into a mental frenzy before you start the set. Make it a life or death deal. You've got to make twenty reps. Know you can do it. Then do it. 

You're only going to do three exercises:

Press Behind Neck: 3 x 12
Squat: 2 x 20
Pullover: 2 x 25

That may not seem like much but if you work hard enough on the squats it'll be plenty. This is a straight breathing squat specialization program.

Work HARD. We're going to get into advanced bulk programs in later issues, but if you aren't squatting heavy you won't get anything out of them. For the time being, forget everything else but getting your squats up to professional heights.

Work to the absolute limit. You should need a 15 minute rest after each set of squats. If you don't you're not working hard enough.

Force yourself. Drive. Keep adding to the weight. Get your poundage up higher and higher and keep adding to it.

Get lots of sleep. Eat lots of good food. Take supplements. WORK HARD! You'll gain bulk and power and be ready for the advanced stuff to come.  

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Concentration, Part Three - John McCallum (1965)

From the Sept. 1965 issue of Strength and Health

Concentration, Part Three
by John McCallum (1965)

I remember the first time I squatted with 500 pounds. It was kind of a goal with me but I'd been stuck at three reps with 430 for months.

I'd just learned fractional relaxation and auto-suggestion. It was the first time I put them to work.

I went to the gym that night and squatted with my usual 430 x 3. Then I walked over and sat on a bench and did the concentration thing I'm going to show you. Then I went back to the rack and did singles with 450, 470, 490, and then three full consecutive reps with 500.

Everybody thought it was good except me. I thought it was terrific. I never even stopped for a shower. I boiled home, bounded through the door, threw both arms overhead, and flexed dramatically in front of the wife.

"I did it!" I shouted. "I did it!" I was a little out of breath.

She was reading. She didn't look up but she smiled politely. "Did you, dear?" she said. "That's nice." 

"Yes, indeedy," I lowered one arm and shifted gracefully into a three-quarter back pose. "Fabulous," I admitted to myself. 

She stifled a yawn.

I turned around again. I never liked back poses too much on account of I can't see myself in the mirror. 

"Well," I said. "There I was. I'd just done the 430, see? Everybody thought I had it. But not me." I dropped my voice to a tense whisper. "I went over to the . . ."

"Bring me a tiny glass of water on your way back, will you dear?" she said.

"Back? I ain't goin' nowhere. Listen, I don't think you . . ."

My daughter came into the room and said goodnight. I picked her up and put her  knee. She had her pajamas on. She was a real cute little girl even then, with big dark eyes and thick hair and already starting to act like her mother.

"Honey," I said. "Take your hand out of Daddy's pocket and pay attention. I want to tell you what I did tonight." 

She reached up and pinched my nose.

"Now," I said. "Get the picture." I was getting kind of choked up with emotion. "There's this gym, see? An' it's  of weights. Tons of weights layin' around all over the place. And . . ."

"And you lifted them all. How nice." She slid off my knee. "Goodnight, Mummy." 

You'd probably like to impress your family, too. I'll tell you how to do it.

Last month we discussed fractional relaxation. If you've been practicing faithfully, you should be getting good at it. If you're not, keep practicing.

You'll remember that you're most receptive to suggestion while you're in the completely relaxed state. Now let's talk about auto-suggestion. 

Basically, auto-suggestion is instructional data we give ourselves. We all do it. Usually we aren't aware of it. But if the suggestions are repetitious or pack enough emotional stimulus, then they penetrate to the sub-conscious level and govern our way of life. 

There are two basic types of auto-suggestion -- positive and negative. Broadly speaking, positive suggestion is good for you and negative suggestion is bad. 

You're probably already skilled at negative suggestion. Most of us are. It seems to be a byproduct of the stress of modern-day living. We load negative suggestions into our subconscious minds 24 hours a day and don't even know we're doing it. We gather up all our fears and our doubts and our worries and we drill them into our subconscious minds until failure becomes a conditioned reflex with us. That's why we approach our goals timidly with our subconscious pouring out a restricting stream of "I can't,' or "I'm afraid."  

We fail because deep down in our subconscious minds we want to fail. We've talked ourselves into it.

We're fear conditioned. We're afraid. We're afraid of failing. And strange as it seems we're even afraid of succeeding. We're afraid of success because we fear the attention and the responsibilities that go with success.

Fear oriented negative suggestion produces another solid reason for our failures. That's our mass juvenile acceptance of the hero figure. We idolize images. We do it because it gives us a crutch. A leader. Someone to follow. And despite all our yakking about forging to the front we'd rather follow because most of us are just too chicken-hearted to be in front.

The unsuccessful bodybuilder is a good example. Suppose he's trying to work up to 500 pounds as an exercise weight in the squat (and if you want anything really spectacular, this kind of poundage is a must). He claims he wants to squat with 500, but does he really?

He probably has an ideal. Let's say it's Reg Park. And just for the sake of argument let's say that Park uses 500 in the squat. If our bodybuilder belongs to the restricting image cult he's beat before he starts. His subconscious mind will see to it.

Reg Park gives him something to idolize. Someone to follow. It's an image for him. But if he equals the accomplishments of Reg Park, then he loses his image. And his fear conditioned subconscious would rather fail than lose the image. 

So he approaches the squat rack. He knows the weight is heavy. He knows he might hurt himself. He knows if he lifts it he loses his leader image. He knows these things because he's drilled them into his subconscious most of his life.

Friends, he may as well go back home and dry dishes for his old lady.He ain't never gonna squat with 500 pounds.

The hero approach is restrictive. You can be sure that trailblazers like Grimek, Anderson and so on weren't burdened by any heroes or any fear of leading.

We restrict and defeat ourselves with negative suggestion. If we're going to succeed we've got to change our thought processes. Negative suggestion must be changed to planed and positive auto-suggestion. "He can but I can't" must become "I CAN and to heck with anybody else." 

Let's go back to the completely relaxed state we talked about last month. Don't forget that in the relaxed state you're most receptive to auto-suggestion. The first thing you've got to do is learn to activate the relaxed state at will.

You can do this by making a conditioned reflex out of it. As soon as you reach the completely relaxed state, start instructing your subconscious mind to associate relaxation with the number TEN. Instruct yourself that in the future the relaxed state will be activated by simple counting to ten. Repeat to yourself over and over something like the following: "In the future when I wish to achieve the relaxed state, I will merely lay still and count to ten. On the count of ten I will drop immediately into the completely relaxed state." Drill this into yourself over and over again.
This may seem a little far out if you've never had any experience with it. I'll explain it further in another article. For now just take my word for it.

Every time you practice fractional relaxation start by counting to ten. If you don't drop into the completely relaxed state on the count of ten, then deepen the relaxation the usual way. When you get complete relaxation, instruct yourself to drop into this state next time on the count of ten.

You can start practicing auto-suggestion now while you're in the relaxed state. Pick one goal for the time being. I'd suggest you start by maximizing your squat poundage.

We'll dabble more with auto-suggestion in later articles. For now do this:

Let's say you're doing 10 reps with 250 in the squat. Pick a goal. Determine that you're going to add 5 pounds per workout for the next two months. At three workouts a week that comes to 120 pounds. Your  250 will be 370.

Drill this goal into your subconscious! 

Now take it one workout at a time. When you go to bed and achieve the relaxed state, tell yourself that you're going to do 10 reps with 255 in your next workout. There can't be any doubt about it. This 5 pound increase isn't what you hope to do, it's what you're going to do.

You've got to eliminate any mental blocks. Forget about who can lift such and such a weight and who can't. You're the only one that matters. Know that you can lift it. It isn't enough to hope you can lift it, or think you might lift it. You've got to know you can lift it. You've got to know it positively.

Form vivid mental images of yourself doing the last rep. Picture it as clearly and sharply as you can. Work up to a tremendous, driving optimism.

Tell yourself (and it's true) that 5 pounds on top of 250 isn't even noticeable. You can always do 5 pounds more if you have to. You could do 105 pounds more if your life depended on it.

Saturate your subconscious with this type of suggestion. Crowd out the possibility of any negative counter-suggestion. Keep it up until you have a burning confidence about your next workout, then forget it and go to sleep.

During your workout, when you come to the squats, sit down for a minute and take it easy. Lean back and get comfortable. Close your eyes, count to ten and activate the relaxed state.

Now repeat the instructions to yourself. Demand that you do the full number of reps with the increased weight. Know you can do it. Know you're going to do it. Form a clear mental picture and hold on to it. Visualize yourself completing the last rep in good style. Block off everything else from your mind. Demand a state of complete and utter desire. When you step up to the weight you should have one purpose and one purpose only, but that purpose should be screaming in your mind. You're going to do the full number of reps no matter what. No other thoughts should even enter your mind until you finish the last rep.

You'll gradually get better and better at functional relaxation and auto-suggestion. We'll be getting into more advanced programs pretty soon and we'll discuss how to use auto-suggestion as a concentration builder in more detail and for specific purposes.

Keep practicing in the meantime. You're going to work up into a herculean physique and great strength, but you'll need concentration.     

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Concentration, Part Two - John McCallum (1965)

Originally Published in this Issue

Part Two
by John McCallum (1965) 
If you followed last month's article, you're ready now to learn how to focus all your concentration when you're training. The trick will improve your progress 100%. You're going to do it in two steps. By learning first the technique of fractional relaxation, and then the technique of auto-suggestion. The combined process is very similar to self-hypnosis.
Don't be frightened by the term "self-hypnosis." It's not as sinister as it sounds. Actually, it's a powerful instrument for self improvement and used by many, many people. Basically, it involves little more than the deliberate planting of positive suggestions within the subconscious mind while under complete and absolute relaxation. All you're going to do is learn to achieve this relaxed state at will and use it once you've achieved it. 
It's too bad the whole process isn't better understood by the general public. Most people are scared silly by their own misconceptions.
I used to belong to a study group at the University. We worked with hypnosis. We had a visitor once. A big fat woman trying to lose weight. She looked like a Sumo wrestler. I tried to teach her the technique of auto-suggestion. 
She plunked 240 pounds of lard into a chair and I started the relaxation process. She was fighting me. You could tell right away and I asked her what the trouble was. 
She said, "I'm frightened." 
"Frightened?" I said. "Why?"
"You're trying to hypnotize me, aren't you?"
"Sort of," I said. "But there's nothing to worry about. What are you afraid of?"
"You," she said.
"Me? Why?"
"You might take advantage of me."
"Take advantage of you?" I said. "How do you mean?"
She dimpled up. "You know."
I stepped back in horror and took a good look to see if she was kidding. She had a face like ten miles of bad road. I said, "Madam, there are fourteen people in this room. Believe me, I'll resist your charm though it crush my trembling heart."
Fractional relaxation is the best method of increasing suggestibility in your subconscious mind. Auto-suggestion is the technique of implanting constructive and deliberate thought processes in your subconscious mind.
Let's simplify it a bit.
The process, as I said resembles self-hypnosis. Let's take a quick look at hypnosis proper by way of explanation.
The normal hypnotic process involves two people. The hypnotist -- usually called the operator; and the person being hypnotized -- usually called the subject.
The operator's job, stripped of all its mumbo-jumbo is simply to guide the subject along the proper channels and keep his or her attention focused on what they're doing. Depending on the subject's concentration, the hypnotic state can be light with nothing more than complete relaxation and increased suggestibility, or it can progress right through to the deep trance, or somnambulistic state. At any level of hypnosis, great improvement can be effected in the subject. Bad habits can be eliminated. Memory improved. Confidence developed. The list is almost endless. Under a competent operator, there can be a complete revamping of the subject's personality.
Contrary to popular opinion, hypnosis depends entirely on the person being hypnotized. No one can hypnotize an unwilling subject.
I was an unwilling subject the first time I tried it. I was jittery and I spoke to the operator. 
"Listen," I said. "Before we go any further -- what's that pin you're holding in your hand for?"
"Nothing," he said. "Nothing at all." 
"Nothing, my eye! You're figuring jabbing it into me, aren't you?"
"It won't hurt," he said. "I'll push it into your hand and you won't feel a thing." 
"I better not," I said. "Cause if I do, I'm gonna push your head right through the wall." 
You don't have to worry about anybody jabbing pins into you because you won't be using hypnosis proper. You'll be using fractional relaxation. You'll have to learn it. Some people learn the trick almost immediately. Others take longer. Anyone can learn it in a month if they're capable of learning at all.
What you're trying to achieve is absolute relaxation. Not relaxation as you normally know it, but the complete letting go of every particle of tension in your mind and body. If you've ever taken sodium-pentothol you'll know the feeling I'm talking about.
You'll have a whole month in which to learn this. Next month I'll show you how to incorporate auto-suggestion into the relaxed state.
The best time to practice fractional relaxation is when you're lying in bed just before going to sleep. Practice every night. If you can find time to lie down and rest for a few minutes throughout the day you can work in another practice session.
You're going to get a big bonus in the form of added rest if you learn this. You'll find that fifteen minutes in the completely relaxed state is like two hours sleep. There'll be a big surge in your energy level. 
Do it like this.
Lay on your back and get as comfortable as possible. Stretch your arms and legs a couple of times and then let them relax. 
Open your eye fix them on a spot on the ceiling. If the room is too dark then just imagine a spot. Keep your eyes on the spot and start suggesting to yourself that your eyes are becoming heavy and tired. Repeat over and over that your eyes are like lead weights and soon they'll close. Don't talk out loud. Just imagine the words.
I told my wife about this once. She was having trouble getting to sleep and I figured it would help her relax. I forgot to tell her to do the suggesting in her head. I was just getting to sleep myself when she started talking. 
"What the heck are you doing?" I said. "Have you flipped your lid?"
"Certainly not," she said. "I'm relaxing."
"You're supposed to do the talking in your head." 
"Am I? You didn't tell me that." 
"I didn't tell you to lie there and babble all night, either." 
"Was I keeping you awake?" 
"Awake?" I said. "Heavens, no. But there's a burglar in the basement and he's complaining about the noise." 
"Well, I tell you what, Fats," she said. "Get him to hang around till you start snoring and he'll really have something to complain about." 
Do the talking in your head. Keep repeating the suggestion that your eyes are heavy and tired. Make the suggestions monotonous. Keep repeating them. Over and over. Over and over.
After a minute or so you'll find your eyelids getting tired. Let your eyes close. Just lie there as limply as possible with your eyes closed and your whole body relaxed.
Now start relaxing your whole body. Start with your feet and ankles. Concentrate on dissolving every bit of tension. Suggest to yourself that your feet and ankles are limp. Relaxed. Explore their muscles. Relax them. Search out tense parts. Relax them.
Work up through your ankles into your calves. Relax them. Make them limp. Heavy. Soft as an old dish rag.
Next your knees. Then your thighs. Relax them. More relaxed than they've ever been before. Keep suggesting relaxation. Loosen your thighs. Make them heavy. Soft.
Work through your whole body this way. Take on section at a time. Don't let your mind wander. Keep suggesting relaxation. Work right through from the tips of your toes to the top of your head.
The whole process will take you about ten minutes.
Now lay there with your eyes still closed and as relaxed as possible and start counting to yourself. Count slowly and deliberately and suggest relaxation between each number. Something like this -- "ONE. Very relaxed now. Very tired and relaxed. Dropping down into a deep relaxing sleep. TWO. Very tired, Very heavy. Very tired. Very heavy. Completely relaxed now and dropping down into deep sleep. THREE. Drowsy now. Tired and drowsy. Heavy and tired and drowsy. Limp and relaxed and dropping down to deep, deep sleep."  

And so on. Don't try to memorize any definite patter. Just talk to yourself along that vein.

Count up to twenty-five. If you're successful, you'll be in the completely relaxed state and receptive to auto-suggestion.

You probably won't achieve the relaxed state the first time you try it. Very few people do. Keep at it and you'll get it before the month is up.

You'll know the relaxed state when you get it. Your body will be so completely relaxed you won't even feel it. The sensation is like having your mind alert and your body so limp it feels drugged. When you get this sensation, just lie there and you'll drift into a natural sleep. You'll have the best and most refreshing sleep of your life.

Next month I'll show you how to incorporate auto-suggestion into the relaxed state and how to achieve the relaxed state at will. You'll learn how to use auto-suggestion. You'll learn how to boost your strength and development. You'll learn how to use it to broaden and improve your day to day living.

This series is going to take you step by step to the most advanced methods of training. You'll end up the finished product. But you've got to want it and you've got to concentrate on it. Don't let anybody kid you that muscle comes easy. It doesn't. You've got to have strong mental drive to get what you're after -- muscles or anything else. If you expect a build like Grimek then you've got to want it and you've got to want it bad. You've got to want it so bad you can taste it.
There aren't any magic potions and there isn't any wonder system. You'll reach your goals one way and one way only. That's by intelligent planned physical effort backed by intense and consuming desire.
Practice fractional relaxation. Next month I'll show you how to build the positive mental drive you've got to have to accomplish anything in this world. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Concentratration, Part One - John McCallum (1965)

From This Issue

Part One
by John McCallum (1965)

You'd be surprised at how much better you could do if you put your mind to it. You could accomplish wonders. 

I took the wife to a hypnotist's show once. The posters outside showed the hypnotist as a tall, handsome man in a cape with lightning shooting from one of his eyes. We got there early and I went backstage to talk to him.

He turned out to be about five feet nothing with a nose like he was eating a banana. His dressing room was dirty and so was he and they both reeked of gin and mothballs. I asked him about self-hypnosis as a strength factor.

He looked me up and down like I'd come out of the woodwork. "Do you think, he said, "that I discuss my powers with every fool who wanders in here?"

"I dunno," I said. "Do you?"

He reared back and opened his eyes wide. We waited for the lightning to shoot out. "You have a colossal nerve, young man," he shouted. "Get out before I call the police." 

I went back out front and found the wife. She leaned over and whispered, "What's he like?"

"Nice," I said. "Real nice. Reminds me a lot of your mother."

Later he came on stage and worked with volunteers from the audience. One of his subjects was a little old lady. She looked like she couldn't have peeled a ripe banana but he put her under hypnosis and whipped her with his voice and then stretched her out rigid between two chairs and a 200 pound man sat on her stomach while she held him easily.

Hypnotism, basically, is concentration to the nth degree. The subject concentrates on what he or she is told to do to the exclusion of everything else. You'd gain twice as fast if you put that kind of concentration into your training. 

You can learn how to do it.

I used to work out with a lifter who was having troubles with his cleans. He was doing everything right but he just wasn't making progress. I showed him how to focus his concentration and his clean came up 80 pounds in two and a half months. 

I watched him work out one day. He went through the concentration routine and then gripped the bar. He was doing high pulls in sets of five. 

He started the high pulls and the palm of his right hand split on the second rep. Blood was squeezing out between his fingers on the fourth rep and dripping on the platform when he finished.

I went over and put a towel against his hand. "Gee, Harry," I said. "Why didn't you quit?"

He looked surprised. He blinked at his hand and said, "I never knew I hurt myself." There was a little blood on the platform. He dabbed at it with the toe of his shoe. "Sorry about that, Johnny," he said. "It doesn't matter, does it?"

'No," I said. "It doesn't matter. But three guys just gagged and went home and they may not come back and that matters. You better forget the cleans and start thinking about girls again."

You may not want to concentrate to the point where you hurt yourself, but most of you could stand to concentrate a lot more than you do.

Some of you don't concentrate at all. I've seen bodybuilders exercising with their minds fixed firmly on last night's date. I've seen them start a conversation in the middle of a set. I even saw a bodybuilder doing curls once and singing 'Love is a Many Splendored Thing' at the same time. He finished the tenth rep and the chorus at about the same time and grinned at me.

"Lovely," I said. "Absolutely breathtaking. You know, you got a lousy voice." 

"Thanks," he said. "Most people don't like it."

"You oughta use a baton instead of the weight though." 

"Why" You figure it'll help?"

"Why sure," I said. "You'll keep better time and it'll do almost as much good." 

You've got to think about what you're doing. If you're not going to concentrate on your training you may as well forget it. Weight training requires the ultimate in concentration for eventual success. If you're going to lift weights, then make up your mind right now that you're going to think about them while you're lifting them.

If you've been following these articles, you should be working right now to build up your squatting poundage. Keep working on your squats but start to give some thought to extreme concentration in in your training. You've got to learn to concentrate on what you're doing to the exclusion of every other thing. You've got to learn to concentrate on the exercise you're doing to the point where you don't see or hear anything else. You've got to learn to concentrate so powerfully that you're in a state resembling auto-hypnosis. You'll progress by leaps and bounds once you learn this trick.

Unless you've been blessed with phenomenal powers of concentration at birth, there's only one way to develop this ability. That's by learning, developing and using the trick of auto-suggestion. With properly applied auto-suggestion you can develop your powers of concentration unbelievably. And with properly applied concentration you can develop your body unbelievably. 

Every good bodybuilder or lifer uses auto-suggestion in one form or another. Some of them don't even know they're doing it.    

Watch a top lifter preparing himself for a lift. He'll stand above the bar. He'll either look at the bar or he'l have his eyes closed. He'll stand there so quietly and for so long you'd think he'd forgotten what he came for. He's concentrating to the limit. He's picturing the lift. He's telling himself he's going to explode every ounce of power he's got. He's picturing the lift being completed successfully. He's suggesting success to himself. He's using auto-suggestion.

If you've been reading Strength and Health for a few years now, you've probably heard of York's famous "Dream Bench." Harry Paschall used to write about it once in a while. He told of York lifters sitting on the bench while they pictured lifts they were going to make some day. Most of them eventually made the lifts they dreamed of. That's a form of auto-suggestion.

Here's a little parlor stunt you can try to demonstrate the power of suggestion.

Get a set of bathroom scales. Get a volunteer to squeeze them. You may have trouble getting a volunteer. Here's where your weight training comes in handy. Tell them you'll squeeze their head if they don't. Use someone that's never trained if you can. A woman is best. Use your wife if you're married or your girl friend if you're happy. 

Get her to sit down and hold the scale on her lap. Then have her squeeze them and note how far the pointer goes around the dial. Have her tilt the scales back so she can't just lean on them.

Now -- have her sit in the same position with her eyes closed. Tell her to relax for a moment while you talk to her. Tell her she is to squeeze the scales when you say the word -- "Squeeze." 

Now, tell her not to mentally dispute what you're going to say to her. Tell her she must firmly believe every word you say. She's got to cooperate. She's got to be serious.

Start talking to her in a low voice. Spend about sixty seconds telling her that she has the strength of a vise in her hands. Keep repeating the suggestion to her that she has a grip of steel. Drive home this fact. Make her believe it. Tell her she's going to squeeze the scales so hard the pointer will go clean around the dial. Tell her that when she squeezes the scales she's going to crush them to pulp. Tell her that every ounce of strength she's got is concentrated in her hands. Tell her she's going to produce power in her hands she's never known before. 

Keep talking like this, gradually letting your voice become loud and commanding. Work the suggestions to a peak, and then shout -- "SQUEEZE!"

Watch the pointer. It'll go twice as far as it did before.

Imagine the difference it would make in your training if you were putting that kind of exertion and concentration in every rep of every exercise you did.

You're going to learn how to do that. 

Next month I'll show you the trick of auto-suggestion. You'll learn how to apply it to your training. You'll learn how to focus your concentration and strength on whatever goals you have in mind. You'll learn how to apply it to your training. You'll learn how to focus your concentration and strength on whatever goals you have in mind. You'll learn how to use your mind to develop your body. You'll learn how to make progress.    





Sunday, September 18, 2016

Assistance Movements for Powerlifters, Part Two - Anthony Ditillo (1979)

Both Articles from this Issue

Note: I've tacked on an article on the proper use of assistance exercises (by George Elder) that was in the same issue of PLUSA. It follows the Ditillo one. 

Assistance Movements for Powerlifters, Part II:
Bench Press Specialization
as told to A. Ditillo by Dave Shaw (1979)
Dave Shaw

Real nice Dave Shaw article/tribute here:
 Dave Shaw is a remarkable deadlifter, holding the present ('79) Junior 275 Class record with a little over 800 pounds. It seems odd indeed that this man with a leverage benefit for deadlifting should also be a topnotch bencher and it is for this reason I've chosen to use Dave's method of training the bench in hopes his methodology will aid us lesser mortals in greatly increasing our bench press.

Dave Shaw: 

"Without a doubt, just about everyone likes to do the bench press. This is one exercise, when regularly practiced, that shows obvious results. Everyone who is successful in benching heavy weights has their own system of training that allows them to continually elevate heavier poundages. Regardless of the routine you use, bench pressing is the cornerstone of basic upper body power.

A beginner may find 3 days per week on the bench as quite adequate for continued power and gains, providing max singles are used once per week. On such a routine I gained 60 lbs. of bodyweight and registered 420 on the bench within four years. Here then was my first bench routine:

Mon - Wed - Fri:

1) Bench Press, 5 x 5
4 warmup sets and a final max set of 5 reps.

2) Dumbbell Pullover, 4 x 10.

3) Wide Grip Chin, 6 x 12.

4) Lateral Raise, 4 x 12.

5) Barbell Row, 4 x 10.

6) Barbell Curl, 4 x 8.

From here on in I've basically switched to benching twice a week - reps on one day and singles on the other - and I switched the assistance movements to continually maintain training enthusiasm and continue progressing. Example: 


Bench press - 7 sets of 5 up to a maximum 5.
Inclines - 5 x 5 up to a max 5.
Bentover Row - 5 x 5 up to a max 5.
Curl - 6 x 10.


Bench - to max single.
Incline - to max single.
Rows - 5's, try for a heavier weight than on Monday.
Curls - 5's.
I've also used Dumbbell Benches, Dumbbell Presses, and Triceps Pressdowns from time to time to stimulate deeper fibers as well as training interest.
When benching always try to use the maximum grip available (within legal limits), and use strict style without arching or bouncing. If done properly, the upper body will gain a thick muscular impressiveness which virtually ALL trainees desire. All that's necessary is patience and hard work."

Here's that George Elder article:

The Proper Use of Assistance Exercises
by George Elder (1979)

It is all too often that competitive lifters seem to spend an inordinate amount of time on assistance exercises. I know of one individual who did 4-5 sets of flyes, 4 sets of narrow grip benches, 4 sets of lockouts and 4 sets of wide grip benches as an adjunct to his bench workout. This comes out to 16 total sets. Assuming a rest interval of about two minutes between sets our lifter takes over thirty minutes just to complete his bench assistance exercises. It is small wonder that his bench has not improved for a long time.

This obvious excess of assistance exercises is, unfortunately, not all that common amongst many of our Power and Olympic style lifters. Too many times we see people doing these exercises for the mere sake of doing them rather than for the need to do them. This is not to say assistance work is unnecessary, but we should only do those exercises that work a particular weakness an individual might display at any given time.

Competitive lifters usually know where their weaknesses are in a particular lift. It may be at any one of numerous points throughout the range of motion required to perform that lift. What each lifter should do is analyze his lifts, figure out his weakness and design a specific assistance exercise arrangement to work this particular weakness. This can usually be achieved by doing one or two forms of assistance exercises for 3 to 5 sets each, twice a week.

Please note that this should be a dynamic process. As we advance in our lifting our weak points in any given lift might change. We should adjust our assistance work to meet that change. As an example, let us assume we have an individual who initially displays poor lockout in the bench. After two to three months of doing narrow grip benches and triceps extensions, he notices that his increased lockout has improved his bench by 30 pounds. Unfortunately, he is now having trouble starting the weight off his chest. It would be beneficial to have his start doing flyes or long pause benches to alleviate his poor starting ability. He should cut back on his triceps work and institute his pec work.

The reason he should not concentrate on both triceps and pec work is that too much work can be detrimental to his orderly progress. Very few people have the capacity to handle great quantities of work with regards to specific muscles or muscle groups. Indeed, we have all experienced the feeling of burning out a muscle group. This causes trouble because recuperation phases between workouts are often inadequate.

It makes little sense to attack a general area such as the upper body as in benching and then devastate it by doing so many assistance exercises so as to make recuperation before the next workout unlikely. Too much work can be as bad as too little. Remember, quantity of work does not predicate strength gains alone and can be a hindrance to good strength gains.

What it all boils down to is that we should only do specific assistance exercises that work a specific weakness. It is not practical to do work that we may not need and that can, indeed, hinder our progress rather than enhance it.

Let us also consider that assistance exercises should be designed in a most specific fashion. IF we have problems in any given range of a movement we should try to isolate that problem area and work it in such a way as to mimic how it is to be used while performing a particular lift. I have found close grip benching to be an excellent tool for increasing lockout in the bench press. The reason being that close grip benches tend to work the triceps in the proper benching groove so as to allow a more specific transfer of increased triceps strength potentials to the bench press movement.

This can also be done with many, but not all, of the other lifts. Deadlifts in the rack or on a box, partial squats or partial (upper portions, lower half only, bottom up etc.) range squats, high pulls and the like are but a few examples of what I call specific assistance exercises. They are designed to mimic a movement and isolate out one particular phase of that movement. All to often we do assistance exercises that do not really work us in the proper groove and this tends to limit their usefulness.

Another subtle form of assistance work that is all too often ignored is simply to 'clean up' movements. When benching use long pauses; it improves power off the chest. Good depth in the squat can help alleviate problems at the bottom of that lift. These are all forms of overcompensation that can help alleviate problems before they occur. The great benefit of doing 'clean' movements is that it takes little extra time to do in the course of a workout and can possibly save one from having to do an excess of time (and energy) consuming assistance work.

In closing, we should all remember that assistance exercises are merely a means toward an end. They are NOT an end in themselves. They are a necessary adjunct and should be treated as such. No amount of assistance work can ever improve any lift as much as the act of performing that lift properly can.           

Blog Archive