Sunday, November 27, 2016

Power Training - Jerry Scalesse (1989)

Here's a later Muscular Development article. I found it 'by accident' while looking around for some of the MD issues from around that slightly earlier time frame. It's part of a Three Part series titled "Phase Training" that dealt with three phases of training for bodybuilding competition -

Power Training, using basic exercises, heavy weights and lower reps.
Interphase Training, continuing with the big movements and adding refining techniques.
Contest Training, more intensity techniques added, higher reps, more use of isolation exercises.

I liked this three-day-per-week, heavily hyphenated layout.

by Jerry Scalesse (1989) 

Most people think about three exercises when you mention Power Training: bench press, squat, and deadlift. What I mean here is really Power/Bodybuilding - for building size, thickness and mass. Any bodybuilder, new or veteran, can grow from it. Prior to winning my class in the 1987 NABBA Mr. Universe, I did this routine for three months, training only three days a week with great success.  

My style of power training requires doing 8 to 4 reps, sometimes more, with as heavy a weight as possible once you are adequately warmed up, pyramiding up with the weight until you can get just 4 reps on the last set. Since you are expending lots of energy in each set and building lactic acid, you must take adequate rest time between sets to recuperate.

I realize that you may have been told to rest no longer than 45-60 seconds between sets, but I'm now telling you that you have to rest 3 to 5 minutes between sets in this routine. If you don't your efficiency and gains will not be maximal. What do you do during this time? Squeeze, tense, and pose the muscle a few times! 

Too many overwork. Training 6-days-a-week all year round is not the most efficient way to grow.

Give this style of power training a good three month try. 



1) Bench Press - 

5 sets, no less than 4 and no more than 8 reps. As in this and most of the following exercises, you have to experiment to find a weight you can handle. Select the weight that enables you to just get the minimum number of reps as designated on the last set. Use a weight that allows you to get no more than 8 reps on the first set and no less than 4 on the last. For example, you might get the maximum 8 reps on the first set, but by the last set getting 4 reps will be tough. As your strength goes up over time, gradually increase the top set poundage. Keep your back flat and don't arch. This is power bodybuilding and not powerlifting. Use a slightly wider than shoulder width grip. Do two warmup sets of 20 reps to get the blood going and the shoulders and elbows warmed up. Now go right into the heavy lifting. After the 2 x 20 light sets you will have 3 work sets of between 8 and 4 reps.

Lower the weight slowly down to the chest just above the nipples, and raise it up again in a slow, controlled, rhythmic manner, locking out at the top on each rep. Don't just pump out the reps and don't rest the bar at your chest. You might say that benching this low - and not to the neck - does not get the entire chest area, but don't worry, we'll be doing inclines next. The biggest problem with benching to the neck in this type of power training is that you can't use heavy weights . . . not for long before there's a problem. 

2) Incline Press -

3 sets, 8 to 4 reps. Take a slightly wider than shoulder width grip. Head up. For the beginning set you might want to get 10-12 reps but the last set should be 4 reps. You could do all three sets heavy, between 8 and 4 reps, since you're already good to go from the bench presses. One idea is to judge your energy and strength levels for the day with the bench, and decide from that.

Raise the bar overhead and lower it to the neck. At this point, your elbows should be out to the sides. Raise up and lower rhythmically. You might want to lock out only after every second rep.


1) Close Grip Bench Press -

4 sets, 10 to 6 reps. Warm up with a set or two of light pushdowns. Then, lying on the bench, then, take an overgrip on the bar with your hands about 6" apart. Keeping the elbows in to your side as close as possible, lower the weight and then press it upward, making sure to lock out every rep fully at the top and squeeze hard. I consider this the best mass-building exercise for triceps and you'll also find that it helps strengthen your bench press.

2) Bench Dips -

3 sets, 6 to 8 reps. Set two benches so they are parallel. Place your feet on one, an with your hands in back of you, fairly close in (a little less than shoulder width), palms on the other bench from behind. To begin, try this unweighted, then with a 45-lb plate resting on your thighs. As your strength increases, you can add plates. Keep the weight constant for each set. You will need someone to put the plates on your thighs [or just pick a substitute movement].

Lower Back:

Hyperextensions -

3 sets, 20 reps. Try this unweighted first. Go up as far as you can comfortably, hold at the top, and come down as slooooooowly as you can. As your lower back strengthens, you can do these weighted by holding a plate on your chest or a barbell behind your neck. This works the lower back muscles and helps with any mild stiffness or soreness heavy squats and deadlifts might bring on.



Warm up for 15 minutes by stretching and hanging from a chinning bar.

1) Regular Deadlifts (off the floor/or on alternate weeks Regular Deadlifts in the Power Rack).
4 sets, 8 to 4 reps.

Off the Floor: In order to handle heavy weights so I don't burn out my forearms early in the workout, I like to use wrist straps. With my feet about 6" apart [close stance], knees bent, using an overhand grip [straps], I bend over with my back flat/slightly arched. As I come up I lock my legs, straighten my back fully and pull back my shoulders. I squeeze the back for a second and then lower the weight to the start position in a rhythmic manner. These are slightly different than a pure powerlifting regular deadlift in which the only goal is to lift your highest poundage.

In the Rack: Standing inside the power rack, position the pins so the bar is just below the chin. Now, raising first the right leg so that the foot is at a height equal to the forehead . . . Standing inside the power rack, position the pins so the bar is just below the knees. Feet are a little less than shoulder-width apart. The movement is the same as from the floor. The advantage of using a higher start position in the rack is that it puts you past the sticking point, that of having to get the bar started off the floor.

I consider deadlifts (regular style) to be the best mass building exercise for the back. You might want to wear a belt for this movement, but I only use it on the last heavy set(s).

2) Low Cable Rows, 6 sets, 8 to 4 reps. Use straps to grasp the handle (I prefer to use a V-handle). Stretch as far forward as you can and with your shoulders and back, pull the bar to your stomach. In this position your back should be upright and you should not be leaning backwards.

Squeeze the back for a second, and slowly release, stretching as far forward as you can without losing the tension. (I might do a few partial movements on the last heavy rep, but try to keep the movement as strict as possible.)

3) Pulldowns, 3 sets, 8 to 4 reps. With hands positioned a little past shoulder width, using wrist straps, grasp a straight bar and pull down as low to the back of the neck as you can go. Hold, squeeze for a second, and let the bar up slowly. Don't cheat on this movement! At time you might want to alternate reps - one to the back and one to the front - for a different feel, but I think pulling to the back of the neck is more effective. When the weight gets very heavy, I might have someone help me pull down on the last rep.


1) Shrugs, 4 sets, 8 to 4 reps. Here, wrist straps are a must. Using an overhand grip, I lift the bar upwards from a squat rack and, using my traps, shrug straight upwards. I do not roll my shoulders backwards nor forwards. I raise my traps as high as they will go, squeeze at the top, and let the bar down.

2) Behind Neck Press, 4 sets, 8 to 4 reps. By this time your shoulders are warmed up from the deadlifts and cable rows. Taking a grip slightly wider than shoulder width, lower the bar as far as possible behind the neck, the raise it to the lockout position, squeezing at the top. Repeat in rhythm until the reps are completed.


1) Standing Calf Raise, 3 sets, 10 to 6 reps. Wednesday is heavy calf day. Keep your toes pointing forward in a normal stance, knees locked slightly back. Raise up, hold for a second, then come down to a full tendon stretch. Repeat. You can try varying the toe position - toes pointing in, toes pointing out, toes pointing forward - each set.

Seated Calf Raise, 3 sets, 8 to 6 reps. Keeping the toes pointed forward, raise up to flex the calf muscles, hold for a two-count, then lower the weight, stretching the heel down as far as possible. This works the soleus muscle, while the standing gets the thicker gastrocnemius. 


Saturday is a "main" day - leg day. Having had two days of rest, you should be ready. Warm up doing a lot of stretching movements - not only your legs but your back also. Hang from a chinning bar for several minutes, twist from side to side, stretch your hamstrings, do splits, put your head between your knees, if you can. Do anything to stretch your back and hamstrings. 


Back Squat, 6 sets, 8 to 4 reps. I will do a warmup set of 15 reps which I don't count. With foot position a little less than shoulder-width, I go down as deep as possible trying to get my butt as low as I can while keeping my back flat. I don't pause at the bottom but come right up, lock out, and go right down again. When you are going heavy, you have to concentrate on every rep.

I do not use a board under my heels nor wrap my knees. Sometimes I will do sets of 4's keeping the weight constant. Back squats are probably the best exercise for building overall quad thickness. Make sure you take the full 5 minutes rest between sets. 

Partial Stiff Legged Deadlifts, 4 sets, 8 to 6 reps. This helps to stretch and thicken the hamstrings. Standing on a 6" block, feet together and knees slightly hyperextended backwards, raise the bar just past the knees and let it down slowly. Use wrist straps for the heavy sets.

Leg Curl, 3 sets, 12 to 10 reps. I prefer to use an angled leg curl machine, of if the bench is flat I raise my back up, grasping the sides using my arms. When the weight gets too heavy, I will lie flat on the bench for the last few reps.  

Raise the weight all the way up, squeeze the hamstrings, and let the weight down slowly to near lockout position, so the muscle is still under tension. You might need the occasional assist at the top from your partner. 

All too often I see lifters just banging out the reps. Don't. Let your muscles work and feel the weight. 


Barbell Curl, 3 sets, 8 to 6 reps. Using a straight bar, with your elbows close to your sides but extending slightly forward, curl the bar upwards so it reaches under your chin. Squeeze your biceps at the top, and let down slowly. Raise up faster than you lower. The last few reps can be "cheated" by throwing the bar up but letting it down slowly.

Alternate Dumbbell Curl, 3 sets, 8 to 6 reps. 

Curl each dumbbell alternately by positioning your elbow slightly in front of your body. As you approach the top (full biceps flex position), turn your thumb out. Squeeze the muscle and let down slowly.


Donkey Calf Raise, 3 sets, 20 to 10 reps. Saturday is your lighter calf day, with more reps and less weight. If you have access to a donkey calf machine, use it. Otherwise, get a partner to sit on your pelvis as you pump out the bent over reps. If this is not possible, use the standing calf machine and pump out the reps.

Toe Press, 3 sets, 20 to 10 reps. Using the leg press machine, do the presses on leg at a time until the calves burn. 

This concludes the Phase One Program. 

What about ab exercises? Most of the bending and heavy movements work your abs indirectly. Specific ab exercises will not be used until Phase Two.





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