Saturday, September 30, 2017

P.H.A. for Definition - John McCallum (1968)

Originally Published in This Issue (April 1968) 

If anyone gets lucky enough to find a copy of this book by Terry Strand
I'd be real interested in it.

About forty years ago, in a little town on the west coast, there was a large, rambling, frame building surrounded by a high board fence. The place looked like a concentration camp, but was actually a factory and storage warehouse where barrels were produced and sold at considerable profit. The owner was a pinched, balding little man who looked like Ebeneezer Scrooge and was known locally as "Old Stickyplaster."

"Old Stickyplaster" ran his business like a nineteenth century mine owner. He paid wages a rat pack couldn't live on and he expected the labors of Hercules in return. He looked on trade unions as a Bolshevik plot and figured Samuel Gompers was in league with the devil.

Old Sticky considered himself a religious man. He plastered the walls of his warehouse with placards announcing the saving grace of hard work. Any worker whose stomach was empty or whose children needed medical care could console himself by reading of the virtues of thrift.

One Sunday, with a great deal of fanfare. Old Sticky donated a large stained glass window to the church. On Monday, he quietly cut the wages at the factory three cents an hour to pay for it. Shortly after, a quiet middle aged man began conferring with the workers on their way home, and two weeks later he walked into Old Sticky's office and announced that the factory was unionized and the men ready to negotiate. Old Sticky leaped to his feet and denounced collective bargaining at the top of his lungs. Three days later there was a picket line around the factory.

Shortly after, two large gentlemen in black overcoats were seen leaving Old Sticky's house late one evening. The next morning the union business agent was found in a vacant lot with severe concussion and two broken legs. It was a week before he could talk, but as soon as he could he made several phone calls. At three o'clock the next morning an explosion blew the front half of the factory across the street and several waxed bags full of gasoline let go with a roar in the warehouse. By daylight the place was flat and Old Sticky was out of business.

The lot grew weeds for several years until a retail food chain built a store on it. The building changed hands several times and underwent various renovations with each change of ownership. Finally it was converted into a small commercial gym. In place of angry workmen, it is now frequented by numerous large and muscular gentlemen actively engaged in getting even larger.

One of these was a chubby man with a gut like a washtub and hair like an unmade bed who never strayed more than ten feet from the squat rack during his whole workout and thought the abdominal board was something you rested on.

One day the chubby man finished his workout and shower. He wrapped himself in a large bath towel with PLAZA HOTEL printed on it and waddled into the gym owner's office.

The gym owner was putting new laces in his lifting boots. "That's a stunning outfit," he said.

"Thank you." The chubby man young sat down. "Just a little something I picked up."

"You realize," the gym owner said, "that if a couple of old ladies happen to wander in and see you like that I'll lose my gym?"

"Don't worry" said the chubby young man. "If the front door opens I'll dash for the locker room."

"That's very comforting," the gym owner said. "Don't forget to take the towel with you. And don't trip," he added as an afterthought.

"Never mind the towel," said the chubby young man. "I got a real problem."

"Indeed?" said the gym owner. "And what is it?"

"It's this definition thing," the chubby young man said. "I'm running a bit and I'm on the definition diet, but I ain't trimming down fast enough."


"So I need help. Or maybe a magic wand. There ain't one laying around, is there?"

"Well, as a matter of fact," the gym owner said, "there is."

The chubby young man blinked his eyes. "You're kidding."


"A magic wand?"

"Well, not exactly a magic wand," the gym owner said. "But something almost as good."

The chubby young man looked interested. "What is it?"


"Right. What the devil is that? A new political party?"

"No," the gym owner said. "It's a new training system."


"Sure," the gym owner said. "It means Peripheral Heart Action."

"That's nice," said the chubby young man. "And what does that mean?"

"I'll tell you some other time," the gym owner said. "Just take my word now that it's the ideal training system for definition."

The chubby young man looked interested again.

"There's lots of pros and cons about PHA," he gym owner said. "But one thing's for sure. It'll bring out the definition faster than any other training method known."

"Good," said the chubby young man.

"There's other good points about it, too," the gym owner said. "It'll improve your health, increase your endurance, and strengthen your heart like nothing on earth."

"And take off fat?" asked the chubby young man.

"And take off fat," the gym owner agreed.

"How does it do all that?"

"It's pretty complicated," he gym owner said. "I'll tell you in detail some other time. Right now I'll just skim it quickly and give you a program to work on."

The chubby young man shifted around in his chair. "Lay it on me."

The gym owner blinked. "Pardon?"

"Gimme the program."

"Oh." The gym owner straightened up. "Well, to start with you can forget about pumping while you're on this program. You don't pump. And you can forget about multiple sets in the ordinary sense of the term."

"The idea," he continued, "is to increase your circulation enormously without congesting your muscles. You pump blood through your muscles rather than just into them."

"No pumping," said the chubby young man. "That's odd."

"I know," the gym owner said. "And I'll explain why some other time. Just take my word for it."

"Now," he said. "You don't do your exercises in sets the way you usually do. You do them in groups. Five exercises to a group. You do a set of exercise one, then a set of exercise two, then a set of exercise three, and so on until you've done one set of every exercise in the group. Then you go back and do a second set of exercise one, a second set of exercise two, and so on right through the group again. Then you go back and do a third set of each exercise in the group."

"Now," he said, "when you finish the first group of exercises, you go and do the same thing with the second group, and then the same thing with the third group."

"Do you understand?" he asked.

The chubby young man ran a hand over his eyes. "Not quite," he said. "Do you mind running through it again?"

"Here," the gym owner said. "I'll write it out for you." He took a pencil and paper and scribbled for a while. "Now," he said. "Look at this."

"Your first group of exercises will be squats, sit-ups, concentration curls, side bends, and a resistance exercise for your neck, in that order.

"You do a set of squats, 10 reps. Then a set of sit-ups, 25 reps. Then a set of concentration curls, 10 reps. Then a set of side bends, 25 reps. Then a set of resistance exercises for your neck, 10 reps.

"Then," he said, "you go back and do a second set of them all in the same order, and then a third set in the same order. That completes the first group.

"Now," he said, "you go on to the second group. You do bench presses, 10 reps. Leg raises, 25 reps. Chins behind neck, 10 reps. Seated twists, 25 reps. And donkey calf raises, 15 reps. Do one set of each in that order and then go back and do a second set of each, and then a third set of each.

"That finishes the second group," he said. "Now you go on to the third group.

"You do stiff-legged dead lifts, 10 reps. Cuddle sit-ups, 25 reps. Press behind neck, 10 reps. Bent forward twists, 25 reps. And French presses, 10 reps. One set of each, then a second set of each, and then a third set of each.

"That finishes the workout," he said. "And how does it grab you?"

"It's different," said the chubby young man. "But I don't quite understand it."

"You don't have to understand it," the gym owner said. "Just do it. I'll explain the reasons why when I've got more time."

"You think it'll work, though?"

"I know it'll work," the gym owner said. "You'll shape up real fast."

"Good," said the chubby young man. "Anything else I should know about it?"

"A few things," said the gym owner. "First of all, you should warm up well before you start. Spend at least five minutes doing light repetition snatches and running on the spot. Then do a warm-up set of every exercise in every exercise in group one with about half your exercising weight.

"Also," he said, "wear a full track suit during your workout. You've got to keep warm all the way through."

"I ain't got a track suit," said the chubby young man.

"Then get one," said the gym owner. He looked at the PLAZA HOTEL towel. "Only buy it, won't you?

"Now," he continued. "The key to this program is to keep moving all the way through it. Don't sit down and rest between exercises. As soon as you finish an exercise walk back and forth for a few seconds and then go right into the next exercise. Just pause long enough to do let you do the next exercise. You should be puffing very slightly right through the whole workout.

"Don't forget that," he said. "It's very important. Finish an exercise, walk around till your breathing rate drops a little, and then do the next exercise. Don't sit down and rest at any time. Keep moving."

The chubby young man blinked his eyes again. "That sounds a little rough," he said.

"Not really. You won't have any congestion to slow you down like you do when you're pumping. You can do it all right."

"I'll try," said the chubby young man.

"And don't drop the other stuff," said the gym owner. "Stay on the definition diet and run two or three days a week."

"I will."

"Good," said the gym owner. "And remember, this is just a break-in program to PHA training. Stay on it for a month or so and I'll give you something a little more advanced."

"Okay," said the chubby young man. "I'll give it the works."

He got up and grabbed his towel just in time. He hitched it higher and walked out and the gym owner went back to lacing his lifting boots.

 Note: Here's few more articles on Peripheral Heart Action (PHA) training, by Bob Gajda:



Friday, September 29, 2017

The Mysterious Hise Shrug, Part Two- Fred R. Howell (1986)

The Author, Fred Howell

Part One is Here: 

 George Kelling: 
 "I feel the shoulder shrug can help because everyone  can do it. Even those sitting in a wheel chair. You can use hand pressure downward on their shoulders. Any combination for circulatory improvement. The blood is moved by thoracic suction and it will help the lower limbs. Many of my patients who could not stand or walk have used this as a great start on exercise.

"The shoulder shrug can give you the confidence of a powerlifter. It can stimulate the body muscles, glands and circulation without full exercises, if you, for some reason, can't do them.

"You may not look like a Mr. Winner and few exercisers do, but you will fell like a winner and have less joint problems as you get older. But correct performance is a must, for without it you can't expect the fine results you can get from the exercise.

"Everyone can use better posture and that's one thing the Hise Shrug can help you maintain. When I had perfect posture, I was immediately 20% stronger. If I got careless and lost it, I went back to normal strength. Hise used to say that Grimek had perfect natural posture and could gain muscle throwing spit balls." 

Today at 61 years of age, Dr. Kelling is hale and healthy. Spinal X-rays show him to be free of arthritis and other trauma to his spine from all his heavy exercise. He always wondered how it would affect him in later years and now he has the answer. It didn't harm him at all as he has advanced in age.

All good things, must, they tell me, come to an end, so it's time to leave 9559 Winner Road and head west to Monticello, Utah and visit with James E. Douglass, a long time friend of Joe Hise. He is a typical harder gainer who had to struggle to gain muscle, strength, and some bodyweight. 

Jim is a wonderful man, and he will happily introduce you to two new ways of doing the shrug if we can coax him out of his garden or away from his shrug machine long enough to talk with ut.

When we arrive, Jim is busy exercising with his secret shrug machine, with Ebenezer the cat and Buster his dog-pal as his training companions. Jim had polio of the throat, neck, shoulders and left arm as a teenager. In desperation he turned to exercise to regain his health. You can read his full story in the March 1982 issue of Iron Man. Here: 

Once he regained his breath and glad for the rest, Jim was ready to tackle my questions about his shrug history and inventions. In reply to my questions about how he met Joe Hise he replied, "Like so many others I first read about Hise in the pages of the old Strongman magazine. We corresponded for about five years and then finally met when Hise came to pay me a visit. I hadn't been making much progress and in his first letter to me he cut down my exercise routine to 10 basic exercises and I began to gain weight and muscle. 

Joe Roark's IronHistory forum has several pages of letters from Mr. Douglass to Joe R. 

"When Hise first wrote me about the shoulder shrug, I tried it with a barbell bar as he had been doing. When I worked up to fairly heavy weights, I decided the movement using a bar just wasn't worth the torture. I had invented the Magic Circle when looking for a method to do squats and expand the upper chest to deeper dimensions. A friend had made a device to do squats because he didn't like the heavy bar across his shoulders. I didn't like his contraption, so I experimented with my own ideas. 

Note - Note those two words used in that one paragraph: invented and experimented

First I made one of pipe and then evolved to a flat steel circle with a harness just like the one for sale now by Peary Rader in Iron Man.

"One day I tried using my Magic Circle for shrugs and it worked great. Gone was the discomfort of the bar across the shoulders and my chest was free to really expand. Also, the guys and gals that try the magic circle at my home gym live it for it's so easy to use. You can really 'stand tall' in a circle!

"To keep my interest high I like some variety, and with this in mind I tried other methods of doing the shrug. The squat harness worked fine, but I wondered if the further out the weight was suspended from the shoulder joints, the less weight you would have to use.

"I tried dumbbells, but they tended to slip out of my grip when doing high reps or using extra heavy weight, and in addition they rubbed against my legs. I got to thinking about the old time Irish laborers who years ago pushed a wheelbarrow all day and the stories about how rugged they were. They had to breathe as they pushed huge loads around during the work day. For those of you who have never tried pushing a wheelbarrow with 500 or 600 pounds of concrete, bricks, or rocks, try it sometime. It will give you an idea of what strength and power it took to run it all day. What power they must have had in their legs, back, hands and shoulders!

"So I made a pipe frame with hinges at one end and one inch diameter handles on the other. A bar was fastened across just in front of where one gripped the handles. This frame was fastened by the hinges to another frame with four legs which supported the handles. The handles could be made closer together if you wanted, but I made it so any size person could use it, wide or narrow shouldered. At this height the weight could be shrugged as high as necessary.

"This was very similar to gripping the handles of a wheelbarrow except that all the weight was on the cross bar just in front of where my hands gripped the handles. I find this is just right for me. It is really no better for results than the magic circle or barbell, but it is easier and handy to use. I enjoy training outdoors, but there is no reason why you couldn't set up my shrug machine indoors on a platform.

"It's a lot of fun to just walk outdoors during my regular workout or whenever the mood strikes me and use my shrug machine. Now I have the choice of shrug methods and never need to become bored"

The shoulder shrug originally came from the puff and pant squat. Charles Tiffin, a pal of Harry "Bosco" Paschall, was working with it at the Eells gym in Columbus, Ohio.

The True Story of Roger Eells, by Harry Paschall, here:

Tiffin used light weights and went as high as 150 reps while 'breathing up' the weight being shrugged. He was called a genius by Hise and both Tiffing and Eels gained and lost large amounts of bodyweight using the shrug.

When J.C. heard about it from friend Eells, he began to experiment with it using heavy weights and see if it would cause an increase in bodyweight the same as the puff and pant squats. Some self-made experts jumped in later and suggested Hise was looking for an easy squat without the squat part of the exercise, which just wasn't true.

As Hise said, "When on a shoulder shrug program don't worry about breathing with your squats. Do a few sets of squats with heavy weights for 5 reps and about 5 sets. Let the breathing when you breathe and shrug the bar up take care of the chest expansion. Also, to get the gain in chest expansion be sure to do some light stretching pullovers."

Yet there were times when Hise would do the 20 rep squat and then take the same poundage and do 60 reps in the shrug. But for the most part he seemed to favor the squat for leg power in low reps and his shrug to give you a super chest expansion.

The equipment used during the shrug is very important for both your safety and in getting maximum results from your efforts. Dr. Kelling mentioned to me he felt the cambered bar was a great help to him when doing the shrug. Cambered bars have been out of style for a long time except those used for deep bench presses. I have no idea if those would be good for squats.

But no matter what bar you may use, straight or cambered, you will need to pad the bar. Do not put too much padding, towels or whatever you may use for it will push your neck forward and far out of line. This will nullify any gains you will get from this breathing shrug exercise.

Do not go to the other extreme and try to do the exercise with little or no padding for with the bar hitting into your vertebrae the only thing you will be able to think about is the discomfort the bar is causing you. Dr. Kelling showed me a one inch thick vinyl foam type of pad he wraps around the bars in his gym for this purpose. It has a lot of give to it, yet it is stronger than soft foam rubber you can buy in a local store.

Shop around and you may find something even better. Kneeling pads used by gardeners, if thick enough and the right size, might make an ideal bar cover and can be cut down to proper size.

Those of you who are lucky enough to have a magic circle will avoid this problem entirely. I myself during the formative years used a straight bar, for I needed to use that bar for deadlifts, too! If I may add a few words about my own use of the Hise shrug before we talk about the best type of rack to use.

I stared to use the Hise shrug when I picked it up from the bulletin I mentioned before and found it gave me a better appetite. As a kid with asthma and arthritis  -

more on Mr. Howell's history here:

 - I needed all the help in that department that I could get for I would much rather skip a meal and eat what we call junk food today. With the use of the shrug all this changed and meals were important for I was hungry! Later when reading back issues of Iron Man, I found out from Dr. J.S. Van Wye this exercise that wasn't an exercise was the Hise Shrug.

Here's that article by J.S. Van Wye:

As the poundage climbs you will need a good strong power rack. Do not use a normal squat stand. Using regular squat stands makes it hard to place the weight back into the supports. If, for some reason you must use regular squat stands, be sure to have a training partner standing by when you do the exercise. Be sure to check out just how much weight those stands are capable of handling. Remember we are talking about 500 pounds or more and safety should be your first priority.

Shrugging with a heavy poundage, Dr. Kelling almost had a serious accident when his rack pulled away from the wall and collapsed. Doc had the good fortune to have help close at hand and was able to unload the bar. His solution to this problem was to dig a large pit in his garage. At the bottom of the trench were graduated steps, so no matter what your height, by using the right step all you had to lift the bar was up an inch and you were ready to shrug. Here Doc, his brother Bud, Frank Regan and the late Foster Mays and his wife June were the guinea pigs working out the best way to do the Hise shrug for best results.

We all can't rush out and dig a pit in our garage [the dang wife came home after dark and drove her car into that pit in the garage], but we can make sure we have solid. strong equipment to use. If at all possible, make sure all you have to do is lift that bar an inch or so and you are ready to shrug. Having to step back with such a heavy poundage is not only dangerous, but wastes a lot of energy!

The poundage you should use when first doing the Hise shrug should be light and easy. It will feel strange at first and you need to build up your coordination so you can breathe in as you shrug and out as you relax.

I personally feel after watching many people do this exercise, that any poundage up to 675 pounds will build a large rib cage. You can in time learn to handle this weight with ease and it's not so heavy that your mind must fully concentrate on holding the weight. Also, as the weight goes beyond 675 it will compress the chest and there will be a loss of rib cage expansion. It may be fine for body power and strength, but you will not be able to expand the chest enough to gain size in the rib cage. Of course, this problem only occurs when using a barbell bar on your shoulders.

Weights over 700 pounds might cause a sore neck area if you don't have thick trapezius muscle padding, for the barbell descending quickly as you relax after shrugging upwards can act just like a hammer on your vertebrae. I will leave it up to our mathematician readers to calculate the amount of force a 700 lb. barbell would generate, but by feel I would say it is considerable.

The number of times per week will best be gauged by your own personal energy level and reaction to exercise. Dr. Kelling worked out twice and sometimes three times a week. Hise told me, "For maximum strength twice a week is best. If you're looking to gain weight and the time and energy, three times a week might be best for gaining bulk." I myself found, like Hise, that because of my great interest in strength, twice a week was best for me.

Nutrition, as you know if you're a steady reader of Iron Man, is an important factor to consider. I have seen many men fail to get results from the shrug and other exercises because they insist on eating junk food and refuse to eat enough nutritious food. If you have a small appetite, eat six small meals a day. No one says you must eat till you fall off the chair, but you can't eat like a tiny sixty year old female and expect to gain strength and muscle from your efforts.

Hise believed in lots of meat, but in 1938 it wasn't as full of hormones and drugs as it is today [1986]. I much prefer chicken, turkey and fish such as tuna as my protein sources. As added benefit will be a lot cleaner arteries and better health in later years. A full range of vitamins and minerals should put all the odds in your favor so that this exercise will work for you.

You may add the Hise shrug to your present routine or use this type of exercise course. The good part about this shrug is that it will blend into any type of routine. A good course for example would be:

after a warmup ,
do the squat 5-8 reps for 4 sets.
Hise shrug, 25 reps for 2 sets, Pullover 15 reps after each set of Hise shrugs.
Barbell press, 10 reps for 2 sets.
A set of leg raises would complete the routine.

If you have the time and energy, go to 3 sets for the exercises listed as 2 sets.

Kelling, because he was such a tough nut to gain, used only the Hise shrug in some of his routines. But it is better to have a fully rounded exercise routine for we all look for a full coating of muscle. This exercise is not designed to make anyone a flabby hulk, but to increase your chest measurement, gain weight for those who need it and that is controlled in part by your food intake. By cutting her food intake, June Mays found she could lose weight by using the Hise shrug. The exercises will, of course, trigger muscle growth but only if there is adequate nutrition. There is no mystery to the Hise shrug as long as it is done correctly, and then it will give you results far beyond your expectations.


Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Mysterious Hise Shrug, Part One - Fred R. Howell (1986)

Joseph Curtis Hise

More on the Hise Shrug Here: 

These Three Will Give You a Nice Sample of Hise's Writing.
From Roger Eells' "Vim" Magazine (1940-1941): 

The Author, Fred R. Howell

Article Courtesy of LIAM TWEED

It was mentioned briefly in a few issues of Iron Man back in 1948 and 1949. 
  - Note: these articles might be useful -
The Iron Man magazine: 
Vol 8, No 2 - "Cartilage Mass Theory of Growth" - Joseph Curtis Hise
Vol 8, No 3 - "Cartilage Mass Theory of Development" - Joseph Curtis Hise  

Later it was borrowed by a leading barbell company and put in their bulk gaining bulletin. Harry 'Bosco' Paschall thought enough of it as a power builder to include 'the exercise' in his book "Development of Strength."   

Yet, in the past few years it has faded out of sight, a hidden gem put far on the back shelf again. 

THE HISE SHRUG, which doesn't even seem like an exercise at all has the magic to turn a hard gainer into a barbell success and the power to put muscle and measurements onto a broomstick.

Before we go on and tell you what it has done for others who had given up ever gaining muscle or bodyweight, it might be a good idea to explain just what this mysterious exercise is and how it is done. In order to do 'the exercise' you need a solid, safe power rack capable of supporting plenty of weight. The height should be at a point where you only have to lift the bar up an inch to be fully off the racks. Standing firm and tall, lean very slightly forward so your toes grip the floor. As you breathe in, shrug your shoulders up by the power of the trapezius and then exhale as you relax. The barbell will travel from a 1/2 inch to an inch or more according to the amount of weight on the bar. 

But before we go into the mechanics and technicalities of the shrug let us first journey to Independence, Missouri and visit with one of the original guinea pigs of the Hise Shrug, Dr. George W. Kelling, D.C. 

Note - A quote from Jim Douglass: "I was always sort of a guinea pig for his (J.C. Hise's) ideas, and as Dr. G. W. Kelling once said, 'People may think he is crazy, but when he is right, he is so right.'”

Doc had been using weights for over two years and had gained a grand total of three pounds! Doc, at the time was a musician and had irregular sleeping hours. Plus, as Doc said, "Worry was my hobby!" 

He became acquainted with Joe Hise thru the pages of Iron Man and Joe soon had him doing the shrug. At a height of 6 feet and weighing about 155 pounds, Doc was an ideal candidate for shrug experimentation. 

Note - Hise, as was true of Roger Eels, had a tendency to use the harder gainers as his guinea pigs. He knew what applying his ideas had accomplished on his own body and was interested is helping those who were not 'ideal' candidates for gaining strength and bulk. In his articles and in developing his methods, the genetic superiors were not the object of determining success or failure of his new developments. We should remember, looking back from our time in history, that his ideas were new, individual, and were not simply plagiarized versions of what came before him. A close reading of even just those three articles from "Vim" will give you some indication of his 'standalone' thinking, and a look at how he incorporated more than just the lifting of weights in his published writings. It is so, so very easy for us today to take for granted the mountain of training knowledge that's available to us. This was not the case in Hise's day.

At first because he just didn't know how much it was possible for anyone to use in the shrug, Doc Kelling took it easy and used 135 pounds working up to 150. In all fairness to Doc, little was known about how much to use on the bar, and it was such a strange exercise there was nothing in print about it.

Hise learned of the poundage in a letter from George (Kelling) and had a fit! He wrote back to George saying he should be using at least 300 pounds for 20 reps. Hise went on to say, "This exercise can be a real exercise if you use the proper weight and that means as much as you're capable of handling at the moment."

As Doc explained, "My best gains were from using 400 pounds and working up to 650. I did one set of 25 reps with 400 pounds. Then one set of 25 to 27 with 450, 25 to 27 with 500, 25 with 550 to 575, and a final set with 600 to 650 for 25 reps.

Later, when his strength increased, Doc started with 500 pounds, then 600, 700, 800 pounds for reps and finally worked up to doing 10 reps with 905 and 5 with 950. As Doc said, "The extra heavy weight was mostly an ego thing to prove that a 6 foot tall, 174 pound skinny guy could at least in one exercise lift a heavy weight like the big boys! If I could stand up with it, I could shrug it! This used to drive the heavyweights crazy for they just couldn't understand where I hid all that power!"

His reward for all that hard work with the Hise Shrug was a 22 pound gain in bodyweight, 3.75 inches on his chest, a thigh gain of 1.5 inches and a .5 inch gain on his calf in just nine weeks. Doc worked out twice a week. Besides the Hise Shrug, he did breathing pullovers for 20 reps; slide lift deadlifts, 4 x 20 off a knee high bench using 80 to 120 pounds; 3 x 10 with 80 pounds in the upright rowing; the reverse curl using 90 pounds for 3 x 10 and a neck exercise for 3 x 20.  

Now a chiropractor with a full time practice and a health studio, Dr. Kelling has had some remarkable results using the Hise Shrug in his work. As he explained, "One case I will never forget was a baseball and football player 15 years of age. He was about 6'4" tall and weighed 210 pounds. He was a very good athlete but he had no stamina. He could play about half a game and then would run out of steam. Along with very low energy he had asthma to add to his troubles.

"We really had a problem with him and he wasn't too thrilled with exercise. He thought he got plenty of exercise playing the two sports and didn't need more burning up his low energy. The one break we had was that he wanted to play a full game so bad he was willing to try anything!

"So we started him doing 4 sets of Hise Shrugs, and pullovers for 4 sets of 20 reps. He worked up to using 350 to 400 for 20 reps and his asthma became low key, then said goodbye. To our joy and his surprise, he could now play the entire game of baseball and football with energy to spare. In just two summers, four months each, his vertical jump went from 17" to 27.5" via trunk extensions.

"Then I will long remember a young lad 15 years old that was 6'3" tall, weighed 140 pounds, and was an extreme introvert. Before he came to us he wanted to quit high school. He jut would not socialize and had a bad inferiority complex.

"The school principal and coach sent him to me. I started him on the Magic Circle shrugs with an empty circle. I guess the one we use tips the scale at about 85 pounds. I had him do 4 sets of 20 reps. 

 Photo From this article by Carl Miller on using the Magic Circle for Olympic Lift Training:

"In three months he was using 300 pounds for 4 sets of 20 reps and in six months had progressed to using 400, doing 4 x 20. This type of work helped the glands normalize themselves and by the time he had reached 400 pounds, the young man had a different personality.

"Today he is a high school teacher and has an outgoing personality. He coaches the debating team plus the girls' softball team and is married to a great person.

"This is one of my greatest shoulder shrug successes. How much did he gain in pounds and inches? I don't know and couldn't care less. It wasn't important. His life changed and he enjoyed high school. He never cared to become a bodybuilder or get into the barbell game in any way, but just wanted to be a normal kid!

- Note - And isn't this interesting, this view of lifting as yet another way of helping others do more important things, the view that lifting is a useful tool, something of an 'accessory' and a supplemental action adding to our lives. We have traveled so far from this perception of what we do with the bar. The belief that a certain level of strength or a specific body size, type, and quality will in itself have great impact on our lives. And it's sold to us everywhere, we who don't quite yet see what it is that truly draws others to us, that quality beyond, inside, that doesn't necessarily come with the gaining of muscles and might. Interesting, isn't it. From what little I have been able to learn about J.C. Hise I see a man who, yes, enjoyed building himself up physically (as well as intellectually), enjoyed it immensely. But I also perceive a person who knew that, just that building up, that alone, was not the answer to a well lived life of fulfillment. Hence, his strong desire to share what he learned, and the need to see others change themselves in and out with what little he could offer in that regard. There are still many people in the lifting game (or is it called a business now) who reflect these very same qualities, and I recommend that you seek them out, harvest what they have to offer, see the wheat and scrap the chaff.

Part Two will continue from here.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Sergio Oliva, Part Two - Norman Zale (1975)

Continued From Here:

Wednesday/Saturday - Arms

So as not to be repetitious, it might be well to point out that here that Sergio does all of his triceps work in "non-lockout" fashion; keeping tension on them and not locking out the elbows. 

Triceps work begins with pulley triceps pressdowns. Kneeling in front of a lat pulley, with a 45-degree handle attached, he begins an hour and fifteen minutes of concentrated arm work. Arms held tight at the sides, he extends them until they reach the 3/4 position. No pause, and he bends the arms and 'straightens' them again, over and over until he has completed 25-30 reps for his first warmup set. A couple deep breaths are taken, weight is added, and 15 reps are done. A few more deep breaths, weight added, and another 10 reps. Weight is added for each of the next 3 sets of 10. 

Without hesitation he goes into French curls (overhead triceps extensions), using 135 lbs. for 10 reps. 10 pounds are added to the bar and four more super-strict sets of French curls are performed with less than a minute between sets. 

Next comes an Oliva favorite, a series of four different triceps exercises, each done for 5 sets of 10-15 reps apiece, one arm at a time, all done without pause until all 20 sets with each arm are completed. 

With his back to a wall pulley, he grasps the bottom handle with his right hand. Standing upright, bracing his right arm against the side of his head, he proceeds to perform one arm overhead triceps curls for 15 reps. After the last rep he immediately switches the handle to his left hand and performs 15 reps for that side. With no pause or break in the rhythm he keeps alternating arms until he has completed 5 sets of 10-15 reps with each arm.

Next, with his left arm stretched out to the side and holding onto the pulley machine for support, he grasps one of the high handles with his right hand and stretches it out to the right side so he appears to be crucified. From this starting position the right upper arm is kept parallel to the ground and the forearm is bent so that the hand comes in back of the neck - a one arm tricep curl out to the side rather than overhead - and then straightened to the crucifix position again. This is repeated for 10-15 reps, then the handle is switched to the other arm and the same is done. 5 sets of 10-15 reps. 

Facing the wall pulley, and bending from the waist with the left hand on the leg leg for support, Sergio grabs the bottom handle with his right hand. Pressing the right arm to side, he extends the arm to the rear in a fast, jerky-type motion, bends the arm and repeats for 10-15 reps, switches the handle to the left hand and keeps going without a break until 5 sets of 10-15 reps have been completed with each arm.

For his last triceps exercise for the day, Oliva usually does one arm triceps pressdowns. Some days he may do dips between triceps exercises as well. 

Now he is ready to perform his biceps workout. 

First, 15 reps of barbell curls with an Olympic bar, 25 reps with 105 lbs.,. then 135 x 15. Four more sets follow, each set means an increase in weight, but the reps stay at between 10 and 15.

Next for biceps is spider bench curls. He uses full range of motion in these. 10 sets of 10 reps. 

Last exercise is curls on the biceps machine. Again, 10 x 10. 

Workout Routine

Monday/Thursday - Chest | Back | Shoulders | Calves

Bench Press - 1 x 50, 12 x 6 - 15 superset with 
Dips - 13 x 10 - 20.
Bent Arm Laterals - 1 x 25, 4 x 15 superset with
Wide Grip Chins Behind Neck - 5 x 15.

Pivot Bar Row - 1 x 15, 5 x 10 - 15 superset with
Lat Pulldown Behind Neck - 1 x 15, 5 x 10 - 15
Decline Dumbbell Pullover - 5 x 15 superset with 
V-Handle Pullup - 5 x 15
Lat Pulldown to Chest, using handles - 5 x 10.

Press Behind Neck - 1 x 15, 9 x 5 - 10 superset with
Alternate DB Forward Raise - first 5 sets x 20
Side Lateral Raise - last 5 sets by 20.

Seated Calf Raise - 10 x 20 superset with
One Leg Calf Raise - 10 x 20.

Tuesday/Friday - Legs | Calves | Abs

Squat - 1 x 50, 1 x 25, 8 x 10 superset with 
Leg Curl - 1 x 20, 1 x 15, 8 x 10
Leg Press - 5 x 10 - 15 superset with
Standing Calf Raise - 5 x 20
Leg Extension - 1 x 15, 4 x 10 superset with 
Seated Calf Raise - 5 x 20.

Crunch Situps - 3 - 5 x 30 superset with 
Leg Raise - 3 - 5 x 30.

Wednesday/Saturday - Arms

V-Handle Pulley Pressdown - 1 x 35, 5 x 10 - 15
French Press - 5 x 10
Pulley One Arm Overhead Triceps Extension - 5 x 10 - 15
Pulley One Arm Crucifix Triceps Extension - 5 x 10 - 15
Pulley One Arm Kickback - 5 x 10 - 15
Pulley One Arm Pressdown - 5 x 10 - 15.

Barbell Curl - 1 x 25, 5 x 10 - 15
Spider Bench Curl with EZ Bar - 10 x 10 
Curls on Curling Machine - 10 x 10.



Friday, September 22, 2017

The Hardstyle Kettlebell Challenge - Dan John (2017)

The Hardstyle Kettlebell Challenge: 
A Fundamental Guide to Training for Strength and Power
by Dan John (2017) 

 - As always, Dan John's insights and approaches can be applied to all forms of strength training, strength sports, and life as a whole. Highly recommended. Check it out, the you of the future will be thankful for it! 

A small excerpt from very early in the book:

What is the HKC?

The longer I am involved in the Dragon Door kettlebell community, the more I take away from the simple concept of "Hardstyle." Understanding Hardstyle was a bit of a journey for me. 

From my education background, I know that "both/and" answers tend to be a bit more elegant and encompassing. But, in coaching we face "either/or" answers all the time - either we win or we are out of the playoffs. So, when it came to something like Hardstyle, I really wanted someone to just tell me,m "This is it!"

At first, complex things are rarely that simple. But later, complex things are that simple! 

Yes, Hardstyle is from the Martial Arts tradition of "Force meets Force." 

And it blends the softer movements of the restorative movements of Tai Chi.

And it teaches us to understand tension and relaxation.

And, yes, Hardstyle includes the Yin-Yang relationship between the ballistic movements and the grinding movements. (Ballistics are the snatch and swing: Examples of grinds are squats and presses.)

Learning to turn on extreme tension has value for planks and perhaps the powerlifts (squat, bench press, and deadlifts). Becoming as loose as possible has great application in restorative work, flexibility, and mobility training.

But, the ability to snap into high tension from relaxation is the master quality of sports.

It's called many things: from stretch-reflex to "bow and arrow," but the ability to apply the right amount of tension and relaxation at the appropriate moments is the secret to elite performance.

I can explain this by simply snapping my fingers. With the right tension in my thumb and middle finger along with the appropriate release, I will make a nice little popping sound. If I totally relax, no noise comes from my palm. If I totally tense, nothing happens! 

The Hardstyle Kettlebell Three - the swing, goblet squat, and get-up - are the gateway to understanding this crucial concept in fitness and performance. Athletes who snap, win. Those of us who can still pop up, leap into the fray, and bound into the office do better in life, living and everything else. 

If you are interested in living longer, knowing how to roll on the ground will save your life in some situations, while leaping away will be the survival key to other life or death moments. Sometimes, you might just need to duck down - in that moment you will be glad to have been doing squats in your training.

The HKC Three introduce us to the concepts of elite performance. Frankly, I think anybody who trains on  regular basis is pretty elite since most people don't do any exercise at all. So, if you are training, then you are elite! Sometimes juggling life and training is a feat worthy of a superhero.

While we have named this method Hardstyle, it also goes by other names. When I was first introduced to throwing, the concept of "Bow and Arrow" was the standard method of teaching the finish of the throw. For the discus, shot and javelin we were told to drive our hips and chest into the direction of the throw and then let the "bowstring" - the energy in the body - snap the arrow/implement off into the sector. If one had the patience to let the implement stay back until releasing the bowstring, then amazing things happened. 

Forty plus years later, I still can't think of a better way to teach the throws. We have tried to "science it up" with phrases like "pre-stretch" and "lateral chains" among many others, but the image of the bow and arrow is practically perfect "in every way" (with a nod to Mary Poppins). The body releases the elastic energy built up during the momentum-gathering phase (turn, glide or run up) and transfers it to the throw.

When done correctly, throwing, kicking and punching almost seem effortless when compared to the results. It's like simply pulling then releasing a rubber band that snaps over several rows of school desks to hit your best friend's earlobe.

Teaching the feeling of melding tension and relaxation is the cornerstone of the Hardstyle kettlebell method. And, we have a secret to teaching it. And like most secrets in life such as "buy low, sell high," it is sadly obvious. It is a painful truth much like Chris Jami quoted, "Never hide things from hjardcore thinkers. They get more aggravated, more provoked by confusion than the most painful truths." 

The secret is no secret. It is a painful truth.

With the kettlebell swing, the hinge is the "bow" and the finish is the "arrow." When I first started doing swings correctly - please make sure you understand that, I said "correctly" - I immediately noticed an improvement in my throws. My first article about kettlebells noted this "What the Heck Effect" as I added nearly seventy feet to my javelin throw. 

In all honesty, I wasn't much of a javelin thrower, but the difference astounded me! Suddenly, instead of trying to "huck and chuck" the javelin, my inner Spartan was snapping it off.

That's the power of the kettlebell swing. Performed correctly, the swing mimics the key to athletic success. However, there is another layer to sports performance. It took me three years to understand it, but the journey was worthwhile.

Doctor Stu McGill is a legendary back researcher and all around good guy. He understands athletics and athletes because he studies them - he is also unique because he listens to them. He never rushes to judgement on corrections, regressions and progressions. Instead, he takes his time to make sure the answer actually fits the question.

I have sat in his lectures on many occasions, but only recently grasped his insight of the "hammer and stone." When he studies athletes, especially after they begin to struggle, he has observed that they often maintain high levels of power, hypertrophy and strength. Yet, their performance still begins to lag. 

It took me a while to appreciate his insights about performance. The "hammer" is the explosive drive off of the ground, the hit, or the punch. The "stone" is the athlete's body. As we age, we might not lose our hammer, but we lose our stone!

Now, some caveats - keeping the stone is not necessarily maintaining six-pack abs, lean body mass and toned, tight and tanned buttocks. Instead it is the ability to hold together "in one piece," as I say in one of my three key principles of training:

1. The body is one piece.

2. There are three kinds of strength training: putting weights overhead, picking them up off the ground, and/or carrying them for time or distance.

3. All training is complementary.

Stone training is the connecting point of three concepts crucial to performance. Performance is the moment they call your name, turn on the spotlight, and the maestro taps the baton. You might be the best in your gym or garage, but performance happens on the stage. A good set of stones are crucial in more ways than one when it comes to performance!

I've identified three types of stone training . . .

 - Okay . . . you're now at the middle of page four of the book.
There's a hundred and forty and more pages, each equally illuminating, and hey,

Get One, get some light on the path, and as always . . . 

Enjoy your lifting! 




Thursday, September 21, 2017

Sergio Oliva, Part One - Norman Zale (1975)

Liam, gracious gentleman and Iron Brother that he is, has provided SO MANY great things lately to put on this blog that I'm going to forego Mr. Zale's intro to Oliva and head straight to the heart of this article. I really want to get to a lot of the others. Thanks Liam!

Sergio Oliva - A Legendary Superman
by Norman Zale (1975) 

Article Courtesy of Liam Tweed

Previous to coming to the U.S., Sergio had been a member of the Cuban National Weightlifting team. His training in those days was much more strenuous than that of other members of the team. Like other Olympic lifters, the three Olympic lifts plus squats and pulls were practiced three days a week in sets of one to five reps, but because he was also interested in bodybuilding Sergio would perform the usual bodybuilding exercises in sets of 15 to 20 reps on his "off" days.

Upon arriving in Chicago after seeking political asylum in the U.S., he came to know Bob Gajda at the Division St. YMCA. When Bob got transferred two miles away to the Duncan YMCA, it was only natural that Sergio would switch his training headquarters to Duncan.

It was here that Gajda transformed a whole YMCA into a weight training club. With his wit and charm he was able to induce the YMCA officials to enlarge Duncan's weight training facilities to the largest in the world. The bodybuilding area at Duncan measures 50' x 90' and is loaded with all numerous Olympic sets, heavy duty equipment, two platforms, power racks, etc. With tons of equipment and publicity, many national lifting and physique champs such as Russ Knipp, Mike Huszka, Alan Ball, Phil Grippaldi, Joe Puleo, Larry Scott, Chuck Sipes, John Tristam, and Hank Zarco began to train at and put on exhibitionsa at the Duncan YMCA.

Surrounded by all this talent, Sergio trained harder than ever. He was bitten by the bodybuilding bug and though challenged many times to train with the lifters he never accepted, but worked twice as hard with his bodybuilding routines, seeming to forget that he was once an Olympic lifter of international caliber.

Though Gajda and Oliva were the best of friends, Sergio could not be induced to follow Bob's example for long and train according to the PHA (peripheral heart action) or sequence-circuit style of training. Oliva preferred training in the conventional pump system and usually included many supersets.

It was after Sergio won the 1966 Mr. America contest (Gajda placed first, Oliva received second place and the Most Muscular award) that he decided to greatly intensify his training. We couldn't bring you all the exercises and routines used by Oliva, as he has in his long lifting life used most of the known exercises in various routines.

On Monday and Thursday Oliva trains chest, back, shoulders, and calves. He begins his chest work with bench presses, 135 lbs. on the bar, and he goes at the iron like a hungry vulture after meat. He pumps out 50 fast reps, never fully locking out his arms, except on the 25th and 40th rep. After this first grueling warmup set he hops up to the dipping bars and, using bodyweight only, pumps out 20 fast dips, going deep and low but again not locking out the arms at the completion of each rep. Now he is in his element, it's him against the iron. He performs six more sets of benches, adding weight for each set and cutting back on the reps until he is in the area of 6 reps with 325, pausing only long enough to do another set of 20 dips and add more weight to the bar.

When he reaches his goal for this day the procedure is reversed. The weight of the bar is decreased and the reps are increased, but on the way down he does dips with a heavy dumbbell strapped around his waist for sets of 10. The man with the gigantic chest completes 12 sets of bench presses, 7 on the way up and 5 on the way down, and an equal number of sets of dips. He will vary the amount of reps and weight used from workout to workout, but always does about 12 sets and works up to and beyond 300 lbs. in strict, fast reps.

Next for chest is bent arm laterals. Sergio grabs a pair of moderately heavy bells and lies back on a flat bench, positioning himself so that his hips and legs arch down below the level of the bench with his chest stretched to the utmost. The first set is done for 25 reps with four more sets of 15 to follow with heavier dumbbells. Each rep is performed with a wide fling of the arms so that the pecs are stretched maximally. At the completion of each rep the bells are touched over the chest so that the inner pecs receive full stimulation. Between sets of flyes, Oliva performs sets of 15 reps of wide grip chins behind the neck, using bodyweight only and never completely stretching out his arms at the bottom of each chin.

At this point Sergio begins loading plates on one end of a bar which has a hinge attached to the floor at the other end. Bending over from the waist he takes a wide grip on the crossbar and slowly pulls the bar to his chest, lowering it moderately slowly and spreading his lats with each rep. The procedure is completed 15 reps for a warmup. He then goes to the lat machine, kneels down on the floor, sets the selector pin and with a wide grip pulls the bar down behind his neck for 15 reps. He adds weight to the pivot bar for another set of reps and immediately goes to the lat machine for another set of pulldowns. After his initial warmup sets are completed he proceeds to do 5 sets of 10-15 reps in each of these exercises.

Next, he goes to a decline bench and sets a 100 lb. dumbbell on the floor at the head end. Lying back on the bench, he grabs the inside, underside of the plates and performs 15 reps of pullovers with his elbows slightly unlocked. Four more sets of 15 reps are performed, and after each set of decline pullovers he does a set of V-handle pullups, arching well back, and pulling his chest up to the bar and stretching way down at the end of each rep. Sergio finishes his lat work by doing pulls to the chest on the lat machine, 5 sets of 10 reps. He attaches two handles to the lat machine cable, places one in each hand, kneels on the floor and proceeds to pull the handles from the overhead position straight down to his chest, spreading his broad lats with each of the 5 sets of 10 reps.

Now, with just shoulder work to do, he starts moving into the home stretch of today's workout. He places a pair of squat stands on either side of a flat bench and flips a 135 lb. loaded Olympic bar on them. Sitting down in front of the bar and using a slightly wider than shoulder width grip, he hoists the bar off the rack and pumps out 15 fast presses behind the neck, never quite extending his arms all the way or locking out the elbows. He adds 10 lbs. to the bar and does 10 reps, then continues adding an additional 5 or 10 lbs. to each of the next 8 sets, keeping the reps between 5 and 10, performing a total of 10 sets. He supersets the first 5 sets with alternate front lateral raises, 20 reps per set, and the last 5 sets with side lateral raises, also 20 reps a set. In each of these dumbbell lateral exercises the bells are only raised to parallel with the floor and the weights are kept light for a deep pumping effect.

10 sets of 20 reps of seated calf raises are done on a modified vertical leg press machine, supersetted with one legged calf raises while standing on a high block to finish off his Monday/Thursday workout.

Tuesdays and Friday workouts are not as long as the previous day's sessions. Legs, calves, and abdominals are on the schedule. He begins his leg work by doing 3 fast sets of 20 reps of leg extensions as a warmup. Squats will consume the major part of today's activity and as Sergio goes about the task of setting up the squat racks you can see that he is psyching himself up for another bone-crushing, teeth-straining session.

With 135 lbs. on the bar, he clasps it with hands wide apart, steps forward, tucks his head under the bar and lets it come to rest on his trapezius. He straightens up, takes two steps backward, plants his feet on the wooden gym floor and proceeds to pump out 50 fast reps. With his chest heaving like wheat in a shifting breeze [oh hell yeah, that's a nice one!], the big man replaces the bar on the racks and immediately walks to the leg curl machine. He sets the weight at the appropriate poundage and does 20 leg curls. Very shortly after, as soon as his breathing has returned to normal, 25-lb. plates are added to the bar and he does 25 reps, followed immediately by another set of leg curls, this doing only 15 reps with additional weight added. Back to the squat rack where the 25s are replaced by 45s, for 15 reps pumped out in non-stop non-lock fashion and then over to the leg curls for another set of 10 reps. And so it goes through another seven sets of squats, increasing the poundage with each set until 405 lbs. is on the bar and 10 back breaking, man-killing reps are completed. Between each set of squats 10 leg curls are done with increasing poundage. So, 20 sets total of squats and leg curls. [Are you longing to lift yet?]

Now Sergio moves to the leg press. 300 lbs. for 15 reps are pushed out smoothly and effortlessly and he rises, sets himself under the calf machine, points his toes slightly outward and does 20 heel raises, keeping the knees perfectly straight and stretching the heels to within inches inches off the floor with each downward thrust. Alternating between leg press and calf machine, he does a total of five sets each, adding weight for each set, working to 500 lbs. for 10 reps on the leg press and 315 for 20 on the calf work.

Oliva now sits down on the leg extension machine again, forces out 15 reps and then goes to the seated calf, and does 20 calf raises. Weight is added to the leg extensions and he does 10 more reps, and the calf machine, where he repeats for another 20 reps. The procedure continues until a total of five sets of each exercise are completed, 1 set of 15 and 4 sets of 10 on the leg extensions and a straight 20 reps on all the seated calf sets.

Blessed by Nature with extremely small hips and a waist which has no more fat on it than the amount of fat on the back of the average man's hand [don't you hate this guy!], Sergio still does sufficient waist work to keep his abdominals looking sharp, though not extremely well-defined until before a contest. His waist training usually consists of two exercises, situps and leg raises done on the abdominal board.

Setting the slant board at the desired height and holding his hands clasped behind his head, the big man with the tiny waist does 30 crunch situps, stopping on the way down before his back touches the board. He supersets these by turning around on the slant and doing 30 reps of leg raises, stopping on the way down before his legs touch the board. It's a tense, continuous situation for three to five supersets, depending on the available time, and the height of the board is adjusted according to his desires at the particular time.

I think it'd be a good idea to leave the arm sessions to a separate post here. And include all three workout examples in regular simplified format.

Next . . .     



Monday, September 18, 2017

The Isotron as a Bodybuilding Tool - Bill St. John (2017)

Bill St. John

The Isotron as a Bodybuilding Tool
By Bill St. John (2017)

The 1965 Strength & Health Picnic was a seminal moment in my career as a competitive bodybuilder because on this occasion Val Vasilef pointed out Dr. John Ziegler to me. My curiosity regarding the doctor began when Val, who was also my training partner and good friend, had made previous mentions that Ziegler, " had a machine which grew muscles!" So, on the basis of that "thought seed", I had attempted to read all I could about the doctor offered in the pages of Strength & Health magazine.
Actually, good fortune struck twice at the aforementioned picnic as there was an after-party at Bob Hoffman's house, and thanks to my close ties with Val I also got invited to this shindig. There were a number of Iron Game notables present, including the Raders and Dr. Ziegler among them.
Holding "court" at one of the social circles was Dr. Ziegler, talking in his inimitably unapologetic and animated way about a variety of mind-bending topics, including time travel. While listening to him expound, my first impression was, "Wow! this guy is out there" eccentric.
Funny thing, though, the longer I listened, the more I sensed his genuineness, so that by the end of his oratory, I was ready to sign up for extended time travel. Of course, the Ziegler creation I was more interested in was his Isotron, or as Val described it, the "machine which grew muscles."
And fueling this personal curiosity all the more was a revealing conversation Bob Hoffman and I had on the way to my car when leaving for home. Sensing my growing interest, Bob spoke effusively and very descriptively while praising Dr. Ziegler, and especially his Isotron. One statement the major domo of Olympic weightlifting made to me then which I never forgot was, " Bill, Ziegler's machine is just unbelievable!"
Think about the implications of that endorsement for a minute: here was the number one advocate of barbell-dumbbell (weight) training talking up this machine so glowingly to a dyed-in-the-wool weight guy! Quite progressive of Bob, all things considered!
Before continuing on, I want to put a finer point on the doctor's personality, thought processes, and especially his genuineness, which was mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago. As my association and rapport with Dr. Ziegler reached a level of extreme mutual trust over time, he would occasionally reveal pieces of himself and his innate complexity, such as his limitations with the ordinary, while juxtaposing his familiarity with the extraordinary. For instance, he once remarked, " I can't make coffee or fix the toaster, but I am involved in electronic medicine." 

John Ziegler 

Perhaps it should also be mentioned that Dr. Ziegler's unique look at the world was also shaped in part by weekly Thursday night "discussion groups" which assembled at his residence featuring exceptionally forward-thinking scientific minds and Mensa-level professionals from a wide variety of fields. Suffice it to say that these back-and-forths centered on topics far above standard newspaper editorials, radio call-in shows or even Sunday morning political talk shows.
Back to my gradual journey toward a relationship with Dr. Ziegler. In the spring-summer of 1966, I shared a car ride to a major lifting event in Newport News, VA with Bill March and Sam Bigler. It goes without saying that since I knew of March's working relationship with the doctor, I picked his brain for every shred or detail of information that encompassed that working relationship, but with special focus on the Isotron application.
Some months went by, and again thanks to being friendly with Val, who Dr. Ziegler liked personally, I got invited along for the ride to his Olney, MD residence in March of 1967. This was a Sunday, but this was not a quiet day at the Ziegler residence with W.R. Grace bigwigs visiting, Doc's L-lysine dispensing machine spitting out tablets at a loud and frantic rate, neighbors also stopping by, etc. When the uproar died down a bit and Val and I got a bit of face time with the doctor, as politely as I could I asked Ziegler if I could experience the Isotron? Whereupon,he asked his assistant Andy Turnbull if they had any conducting solution left. When the affirmative answer came back, he interrupted the show-and-tell of his gun and Civil War memorabilia collection long enough to pad and wire up my right femur. Then he turned up the current for a few seconds, cut if off and then went back to expounding on his Civil War artifacts.
Was the experience all that I had hoped it would be? While even at that point in my life I recognized that sometimes the reality of things did not live up to their hype. However, in this case that few seconds of sensation got my attention. I thought my thigh bone was going to snap! Nevertheless, and perhaps in defiance of common sense, my fascination with the Isotron peaked even more.
Perhaps this would be the appropriate point to mention that intense electrical muscle stimulation (especially via the Isotron) is not for everyone. While Bill March, Russ Knipp, Ernie Pickett, and eventually myself thrived on it, guys like Lou Riecke and Bill Starr did not like being involuntarily contracted. Pickett once offered a very plausible anecdotal defense to explain their dislike: "In war time, if the enemy had the Isotron, all a soldier taken prisoner would give them would be his name, rank, serial number...and the current position of the 7th Fleet!"
Before moving on, there is one point of history I would like to offer regarding my initial Isotron sampling: the model Dr. Ziegler used on me that day was the suitcase model he took with him to the White House when treating President Kennedy.
After that March, 1967 Sunday visit, I wrote Dr. Ziegler a personal letter, which resulted in an actual dinner invitation on April 2, 1967.Dick Smith was also a dinner companion that day.
Apparently, I was growing on the doctor as around that time, I found out later, he asked Tom Suggs for his assessment of me. So, in late May of 1967, Dr. Ziegler began administering Isotron treatments to me. Of course, I would do everything in my power to ingratiate myself with the Ziegler, including his wife Lillian, who was a very highly regarded physician in her own right. Hence, whenever I was invited to their home in Olney, I would stop at New Jersey fruit stands along the way and bring them tomatoes, berries or what have you.
By January of 1968, Ziegler's personal interest in me was blossoming. In fact, he took my family up on an invitation to stay at our home, and simultaneously assess my bodybuilding progress at the Mr. East Coast Contest which was held at the Philadelphia YMCA. Ziegler and my parents really hit it off. My mother, in particular, really liked him.
Ironically, while I won the physique contest, Dr. Ziegler only saw a fraction of it as he and Joe Mills, the famed New England Olympic lifting coach, found a local watering hole to their liking.
Not withstanding that incident, thanks to Ziegler's guidance and Isotron treatments, things were really starting to come together for me as the 1968 Mr. America approached. Earlier in the year, Dr. Ziegler prompted me to clamp down on my diet, stressing that I consume more eggs, in particular.
Subsequently, I dropped from 208 to 188 over a couple of months. It was sheer agony to me, plus I thought I lost everything else with it. However, my own mother offered this approving comment, "Well, you finally lost those love handles." Aside from this being a necessary reverse step to build toward a better physique, in retrospect, this was also probably a partial Ziegler test to see if I would continue to do what he instructed.
Clearly, all of the Ziegler-inspired assistance was working as even Val Vasilef began commenting on the physical transformation I was undergoing. My overall muscular hardness was off-the-charts. Even in casual clothes, my musculature looked like it was alive but solid as granite. I began getting admiring stares much in the way Val got them.
Perhaps the ultimate compliment I ever received was from the great Tommy Kono, who took me aside at a major national contest in 1972 to say, "Bill, you look like the strongest guy up there in the line-up."
Honestly, prior to the 1968 Mr. America Contest I had no business competing in a national level physique contest. Again, clearly, Ziegler's expert guidance made all the difference as I took sixth place overall at this contest. I have already mentioned the nutritional side of things, but my pre-contest training regimen consisted of two-a-day workouts (upper body session at one, lower body at the other) daily, along with two full-body Isotron treatments daily. This was the regimen in the final 12 day run-up to the event. Of course, I had to build up to that volume of combined workouts and Isotron treatments over the course of a few weeks, nor could one keep that schedule up endlessly either. But unquestionably, the intense Isotron sessions imparted a degree of muscular separation and hardness that no combination of diet and voluminous exercise had given me before.
My physical improvement, as well as the Isotron's reputation was pulsating through the lifting world by this time, even among non-York affiliated lifters. I think it was at the 1970 Nationals that the very fine West Coast lifter Dan Cantore came to my hotel room, noting my progress and asking questions about Ziegler's machine.
Taking the merits of the Isotron in another direction, the conventional wisdom holds that it is nearly impossible to promote strength/power gains and muscular endurance in the human body simultaneously. My experience with the Isotron says otherwise as the combination of fast paced, high volume bodybuilding workouts six days per week and fairly regular Isotron treatments imparted both in fine measure. While working out once with the late Dr. John Gourgott, himself a fine bodybuilder and Olympic lifter, a curling challenge was issued: Barbell curls for reps with 150 pounds, back against the wall. I cranked out 10 reps at which point Gourgott remarked that my last rep was performed with as much control and rate of elevation as my first rep. Oh, and by the way, 400-pound full squats for 20 or so reps was also a routine thing for me.
Still, had it not been for Dr. Ziegler's uncanny medical expertise my personal moment of glory at the '68 Mr. America would not have happened. If this story sounds familiar, Bill Starr referenced it in his classic training book “The Strongest Shall Survive”, but it bears repeating in any discussion of Dr. Ziegler's medical rehab skills.
Six weeks out from the '68 Mr. America, I badly injured my ankle (on a Wednesday) at my Philadelphia Naval Shipyards job. That same day, the Navy doctors determined via X-rays that I had chipped a bone in my instep and had ligament tearing. So, they put me on crutches (which I needed desperately) and told me to come back in 6 weeks.
Being desperate, I hobbled to the car, barely able to drive, got home and called Dr. Ziegler; advised him of the siutation and was instructed to “get down here!” At that point, driving a car was no small feat as the edema, discoloration from ankle to knee and overall pain had reached an excruciating apex, which was aggravated all the more when depressing the clutch to shift gears.
Immediately, Dr. Ziegler got diuretics and blood thinners in me and performed some ultra sound treatments, which then gave way to Isotron treatments. In a nutshell, he worked on my ankle intensely, primarily with the Isotron—10 individual treatments total-- from that Thursday evening when I arrived through the following Monday when I went home in no pain, with no swelling or discoloration, no need for crutches, and with full mobility restored.
In fact, I felt so back-to-normal that I naively visited the Navy doctors bright and early Tuesday morning to report my progress, as well as my desire to return to work, figuring they would be keenly interested as to how my speedy recovery came about. As I said, I naively thought that. Their immediate reaction was to disavow any responsibility for me since I had received treatment from another physician. Not only did I go back to work, but that Tuesday night I full squatted 400 pounds for reps at the Philadelphia Athletic Club.
Most likely, a lot of lifters would have thanked Dr. Ziegler for the astounding ankle recovery, as well as the startling physical transformation and kept in touch. Learning more about the range of capabilities that the Isotron possessed became a unflagging quest for me. Perhaps the “ aha “ moment was when Dr. Ziegler informed me that he was using the negative-pulse feature of the Isotron—which was a different modality than he employed for pure muscle stimulation-- to heal my ankle. Suddenly, it dawned on me that the machine had a range of functions and uses, so my inquisitiveness was maximally stirred.
Massively helpful, too, was the fact that the doctor did not interact with me as though I were just a dumb bodybuilder, but more like something of an understudy in the Isotron curriculum. It goes without saying that the quality and quantity of information about not only the Isotron, but many other medical-topics he imparted over time was head-spinning.
Of course, this close rapport also provided me the opportunity to serve as his primary test subject when he gave Isotron demonstrations to movers-and-shakers. Typically, it was educational to see the reactions of these power types when watching me take some serious stimulation. Very frequently, the doctors and administrators, such as those from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), just could not wrap their heads around the whole process.
Moreover, it could be equally educational to take in Dr. Ziegler's reactions to these educated eggheads. For example, when the folks from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) did not appear to be warming up to the Isotron demonstration as Doc thought they should, midway through he started berating them with this sarcastic bromide: “Aren't you the same guys who spent $6,000 on a mattress last year!”
These examples notwithstanding, the brilliance of the Isotron could not be kept “under a rock.” Due to the fact that Dr. Ziegler was located near the country's seat of federal power, and he had friends in high places, word of mouth about his creation reached the local professional sporting world rather quickly. During one of my numerous visits to Doc's, someone from the Washington Redskins brought over their quarterback Sonny Jurgenson, who was suffering from elbow and shoulder miseries enough to adversely affect his on-field play.
Jurgenson, who because of his lengthy football career, had been through the athletic training mill and was,hence, skeptical in general, took one look at the Isotron and sort of disparagingly remarked, “One of those muscle jumpers, huh?” Nevertheless, he took a treatment on the machine. The following day his attitude had changed toward the unit as he called Dr. Ziegler to thank him and report that his shoulder and elbow were feeling much better.
Even big names from professional non-contact sports came to Ziegler because of the WOM about the Isotron. Golfer Deane Beman was not as physically powerful as his main rivals Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino. In brief, his “short game” was on par with theirs, but his driving was where he came up short. A period of time on the Isotron, and the sporting press was commenting on how he was suddenly breathing down the necks of Nicklaus and Trevino. In fact, there was an article in our local “Philadelphia Evening Bulletin” at the time showcasing Beman and his improvement. However, at the request of Dr. Ziegler there was no mention of him or the Isotron in the article.
Admittedly, in an effort to express the versatility and effectiveness of the Isotron, I have hopscotched somewhat from the theme of this article: basically, the Isotron as a pure muscle building tool. All I can tell you is that I was a veteran bodybuilder who would have NEVER risen above regional caliber had it not been for Dr. Ziegler's remarkable counsel and assess to his Isotron. Granted, I never won an overall Mr. America or Mr. USA title, but if you check the record, beginning in 1968, I never placed out of the top five or six at these events, and on a couple of occasions was second overall at the Mr. USA.
The bottom line is that my metamorphosis as a bodybuilder began at that 1965 Strength Health Picnic, which I mentioned at the outset. I really miss those S&H Picnics. And I'll finish waxing nostalgic with another obvious admission: I also really miss my friend Dr. John Ziegler.

Note: This is the third in a series of related articles on Doctor John Ziegler.

Part One:

Part Two:  

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