Monday, February 26, 2018

Variation - Bill Starr

One of the questions I’m asked most frequently is, “How can I fit all the exercises I want to do into my program?” Sometimes their lists take up most of the page. If they did all those movements in a week their workouts would last three hours or more, which is certainly not a wise approach. 

I have a couple of suggestions. One way to resolve the problem is to select a reasonable number of exercises from your list, do them diligently for a specific period of time – say, six weeks – and then change your routine and do the other exercises. That works well for many people because they thrive on frequent change.

Another effective method is to organize two separate programs and do them on alternate weeks. I simply call one routine A and the other routine B. I always make one a bit more difficult than the other, which gives me a heavy weekly workload alternated with a medium one. That’s the best arrangement. Otherwise you’re putting two heavy workouts back to back, and you don’t want that. It doesn’t matter which program is which, but it does help you to know the total amount of work you’re doing in each of the programs. So you’ll have to take the time to do some figuring – or you’ll just be guessing. Figuring workload doesn’t take that much time. You can do the math during the commercials while you’re watching TV.

Setting up two different workouts offers many advantages. The most obvious is that it gives you lots of variety. That’s a good thing, as variety increases motivation. Doing many exercises rather than a few also helps you build more balanced strength and lets you spend more time on the weaker and smaller groups. For example, you may want to include good mornings and stiff-legged deadlifts, but it’s difficult to do both during the same week, especially if you’re doing many other movements that involve the lower back. With two programs, however, you can do good mornings one week and stiff-legs the next and get the benefit of both. For some inexplicable reason the body seems to forget how miserable an exercise is after two weeks. So you don’t dread good mornings or those heavy deadlifts if you only do them every other week. In fact, you start looking forward to them.

Those who want to include some Olympic lifting in their routines find that having two different workouts helps a great deal. If lifters work clean and jerks hard along with heavy squats on Monday and come back the following day and do snatches, the snatches won’t be as productive as the clean and jerks. With a two-week plan, however, they can do snatches every other Monday and the two quick lifts will stay in balance. When gains come consistently, motivation soars.

Whenever people ask me to set up a program for their specific needs, the first thing I have them do is list all the exercises they want to do. Often, the number of exercises is extreme, and I eliminate some, but usually I can deal with them. Recently, I received a request that was a bit unusual in the lifter wanted to do Olympic lifts but also many other strength movements, including benches, inclines, deadlifts and a host of auxiliary work.

It was an extensive list, including bench presses, incline presses, overhead presses, push presses, front squats, back squats, good mornings, stiff-legged deadlifts, clean and jerks, power cleans, clean high pulls, hang cleans, power snatches, snatches, snatch high pulls, hang snatches, shrugs, calf raises, pullovers, triceps pushdowns, weighted dips and curls.

The only exercise I nixed was curls. Adding biceps size isn’t a good idea for anyone who wants to do heavy cleans. A large biceps will interfere with racking the weight properly. Besides, with all the pulling exercises in the program, the trainee’s biceps would get plenty of work. I told him that if he absolutely had to include a specific exercise for his biceps, he should substitute chins for curls. Chins also strengthen the back, so they’re useful to any lifter. Note that I put them at the tail end of the routine. I told him that the only way he could get all the exercises in would be to train four days a week. He agreed, since he was, in fact, a rather advanced strength athlete.

Week A

Clean and jerks
Clean high pulls
Front squats
Weighted dips

Power snatches
Full snatches
Snatch high pulls
Overhead presses
Calf raises

Back squats
Good mornings
Bench presses
Straight-arm pullovers

Back squats
Hang clean or Hang snatch
Push press

Week B

Snatch high pulls
Back squats
Weighted dips

Power cleans
Clean high pulls
Jerks from the rack
Calf raises

Front squats
Stiff-legged deadlifts
Incline presses

Back squats
Bench presses

It is, indeed, a great deal of work, but I’ve had many athletes who could carry this load and recover. Obviously, some lifts, such as the deadlift, which I have him doing at the end of the week, won’t move up as fast as those performed earlier. In that case, however, he does the deadlift to benefit his clean and snatch. People who are more interested in improving their deadlift will have to move it into a more prominent position in the week.

Since this person’s primary interest is in improving the two Olympic lifts, he must regard the bench press differently from the way he’d look at it if he wanted to make gains on it. The bench press is often troublesome to people who do overhead exercises such as jerks because they tend to tighten the shoulders. There are two ways to keep that from happening. One is to stretch your shoulders after every set of bench presses and do more stretching at the end of the workout. The other is to avoid high reps. You don’t want to stimulate your pecs as much as hit the attachments, so do triples, doubles and even singles.

I recommend that Olympic lifters shun the flat-bench press altogether, but that doesn’t sit well with collegiate athletes because they’re always tested on the bench at the end of their off-season program. Using low reps and doing lots of stretching will prevent problems.

In the program listed here, I kept the auxiliary exercises in the same order in both workouts. That works out fine, since none of them are high-skill movements. Also, as you would use relatively light poundages on them, they don’t require the same mental concentration as the core exercises.

It may appear that there are far too many exercises on some days – Tuesdays, for example – but the power cleans and power snatches are warmups for the full movements. And since you do the power snatches in sets of threes and power cleans in fives, you can do them quickly. The few warmup sets add to the total volume for the day, help warm the body and set the correct line of pull for the more complicated full clean and full snatch.

All the workouts take an hour and a half or less. On week A you have the choice of doing either hang cleans or hang snatches. Which of the two quick lifts you choose will depend on which needs more work. If they’re balanced, alternate them each time they come up.  

I didn’t list the sets and reps because they’ll change every time on most of the exercises, like the clean and jerks, snatches, high pulls, front squats, push presses and jerks from the rack. You’ll do 3 cleans and 2 jerks and do all the rest for 3 reps – although you can do warmup sets of 5. You can also vary the sets and reps on the good mornings and stiff-legged deadlifts, but the change will be slight: 4 sets of 10 to 5 sets of 8. It’s not much of a difference, but it does stimulate the lumbars in a different way. 

For the power cleans, inclines, overhead presses, push presses and deadlifts I recommend alternating the sets and reps on a three-week cycle:

1) 5 sets of 5
2) 3 sets of 5 plus 3 sets of 3
3) 3 sets of 5 followed by 3 singles

It’s not a good idea to end up doing singles on all of those exercises in the same week, unless it happens to be a test week, so juggle the cycles around.

I’ve already addressed how trainees wanting to do the Olympic lifts should deal with the bench press, but if you aren’t interested in overhead lifting, use this three week cycle for your bench. If you bench twice a week, do the cycle on your heavy day and perform 2 sets of 8 and 2 heavy doubles on your other bench day.

I use this for the back squats: 5 sets of 5 followed by a back-off set of 8. If you handle 350 for 5, at the next workout you use 360 for your final set – and so on.

Another subtle change that helps overall progress is to alter the order of the exercises. I generally encourage people who are trying to get stronger to go to the squat rack first, but if I see one of their other primary exercises falling behind, I have them do the weaker lifts first. So if your squats have moved way ahead of your pulls, do power cleans or deadlifts first for a while.  

The two exceptions to that idea are good mornings and stiff-legged deadlifts. If you work your lumbars first, you can kiss your squat goodbye for that day. Lower-back exercises fit best right after squats. If you feel you need more upper-body strength, though, you can do inclines, squats and good mornings.

It’s also important to remember not to tax the smaller muscles before moving on to the larger ones. That would seem to be common sense, but many people don’t comprehend it. On numerous occasions I’ve noticed athletes doing their calf raises before squatting. When I asked them why, they said they wanted to get their calves out of the way. That’s understandable, but if your calves are fatigued, the core lift will suffer. I’ve also stopped others who were doing lots of triceps work before going to the incline or bench. Big muscle, then small muscle – a basic rule when you’re creating a routine.

Speaking of small muscles, you can vary the sets and reps on the auxiliary movements as well. As a general rule I stay with high reps on calf raises – 30s for 3 sets – but it’s beneficial to change that every so often. Do 5 sets of 15, for example, and there’s really no reason why you can’t do low reps once in a blue moon, providing you warm up properly before the work sets. See if doing 10 sets of 5 makes you sore.

Weighted dips are excellent for enhancing the upper-body power, and they thrive on change. I like this schedule for dips:
1) 4 sets of 8
2) 5 sets of 5
3) 2 sets of 5, and then
4) Max out with a single about once a month

Although I adhere to the 40-rep rule on most auxiliary movements, that’s a guideline and not carved in stone. So for curls, pullovers, pushdowns, incline dumbbell presses and seated dumbbell presses, periodically change the sets and reps. Instead of 2 sets of 20, do 3 sets of 15 or 4 sets of 12. The slight variation is enough to stimulate growth and enthusiasm.

Another option is to revamp your current routine completely, changing from a pure strength program to one that emphasizes higher reps. That’s certainly not a new idea. It was a common practice among the top bodybuilders when I first started lifting weights. They’d spend several months packing on weight and doing a pure strength routine. Some even entered weightlifting competitions. Then they’d switch their routines and start doing higher reps as they dropped the extra bodyweight. The strength they gained enabled them to run the reps way up and also work longer and faster.

You might try doing basic exercises like squats, deadlifts and bench presses in sets of 20 and see what happens. Be creative. If the new routine doesn’t bring the results you desire, you can always go back to the old one. But you’ll never know unless you try something different. You may just stumble on a program that works wonderfully for you.



Reg Park Cable Course, Part One (1955)

From This Issue (January 1955)
Courtesy of Liam Tweed

Click Pic to ENLARGE

Note: It's come to my attention that so far this blog only has one Cable Training article! 

Thanks to the generosity of a few true Iron Brothers, we can repair that lack of info.
Hope you enjoy! 

Expanders are used all over the world. Famed strongmen such as Eugene Sandow, Charles Atlas and John Grimek have used them to great advantage in building their world famous physiques. However, the big drawback to expander training in the past has been the fact that almost all expander exercises were for the upper body -- particularly the arms and shoulders. This obstacle is still evident, in men who have built their physiques with expanders -- but in this and following articles I am going to illustrate how expanders can be used to develop all parts of the body -- even the legs. 

In the January issue, 1953 [turns out it was '54], I wrote an article entitled "The Importance of Cable Training"  which dealt with the advantages of expanders for home training and some of the exercises that can be performed with them.


Of course the great advantages of expanders are that they take up so little room and space, they can be put in any corner of your room. The amount of space required to perform the exercises is so small that everyone could use them practically anywhere. Further to this there is the question of finance and affordability.

Chest expanders (to use the more commonly used name) which consist of expander strands and handles do for the most limit your exercising to shoulders, triceps and chest. Exercises 1 to 5 as illustrated can be performed with any set of cables and are performed as follows:

Exercise 1.
Starting with the deltoids, which from the point of view of physical appearance are one of the most important groups, the first exercise is the alternate one arm press. Hold the cables as shown with the left hand as low as possible, and the right hand held at shoulder level. From this position keep the left arm straight and push the right hand press overhead to arms length, then lower and repeat another nine repetitions. Perform the same number of reps with the left hand. For shoulder development. 
Exercise 2. 
For the chest I prefer to start with the pullout in front, an exercise which I am sure you are all familiar with. The cables are held in front of the body at shoulder level and from this position, keeping the arms straight, pull the expanders outwards until they are touching the chest and return to the starting position. For chest and shoulders.
Exercise 3. 
The next group to be worked is the triceps, and the first exercise is the archer's movement which is one of the best triceps developers which has yet been found. From the starting position as shown, keep the left arm straight, pull the right arm outwards until it is also at arms length, then return to starting position. Be sure to keep the arm performing the movement at shoulder as this throws more work on to the triceps. For triceps development. 

Exercise 4. 
The second triceps exercise is the one arm triceps curl. From the starting position as shown keep the left arm straight and extend the right hand until it is overhead and lower to the starting position. For triceps development. 

Exercise 5. 
For the back the pull down from overhead is excellent. Hold the cables at arms length overhead, and keeping the arms straight, pull downwards until the strands are extended across the back, and return to starting position. For back and shoulder development.

The above are of course only the main exercises which can be performed.

Fortunately, the possession of a pair of foot stirrups -- so called because of the likeness to the riding stirrup -- permit you to perform further exercises for the shoulders and back but also exercises for the biceps, forearms, waist and neck. Some of the exercises you can perform with a set of expanders and foot stirrups are: 

Exercise 6.
The forward raise either with one or both arms. The expanders of one end are attached to the stirrup (or stirrups) which is under the foot -- with the handle (or handles) in the hand (or hands) resting in front of the thigh (or thighs). From this position keep your arms straight and raise your arm forward to shoulder level, then lower. You can do it one arm at a time or both together. For the shoulders.
Exercise 7.
Upright Rowing. Place the foot stirrups under both feet and rest the hands in front of the thighs. From this position pull the expanders, holding the elbows high until they are in line with the chin and lower. For shoulders and back.
Exercise 8.
Side Bends. This time you use only one foot stirrup, with the arm resting by the side. From this position bend the body to opposite side (keeping the hand with the expander in straight) using only the strength of the waist -- and then slowly return to the upright position. Remember to do it to both sides. This is for the waist. 
Exercise 9.
The Curl. This can be done with one hand or both. Place both feet in the stirrups with the hands resting in front of the thighs in the underhand grip. From this position  curl the hand or hands to shoulder level only and lower to starting position. If this is done with one stirrup remember to change hands. If it is done with both foot stirrups you can either curl them together or alternate, making for a little variety. For the biceps. 
Exercise 10.
The Reverse Curl. This is very similar to Exercise 9 but the hands are in the overhand grip. For the forearms.
Perform each of the exercises for 4 sets of 10 repetitions, using as many cables on each exercise as possible. Remember to breathe in before each rep and exhale on the completion of same. This routine should be performed 4 days per week for the best results, but if you are training with weights then only follow it twice a week.
You may argue that foot stirrups are not essential and that you can perform exercises 6-10 with expanders only by placing one of the handles under the foot -- but this restricts to performing them one arm at a time. I do not advocate performing exercises with handles under your feet as I have seen some nasty accidents caused by the round handles slipping out -- whereas with a foot stirrup this is very uncommon. 
In Part Two of this series I will tell you how to use expanders as a wall pulley and how to use them for specialized exercises.  


The Importance of Cable Training - Reg Park (1954)

Click Pic to ENLARGE
Thanks Again to Liam! 

The barbell is aptly called the "KING" of all physical culture apparatus, for it is the barbell and dumb-bell which give the best and quickest results both in strength and development.

The advantages of barbells and dumb-bells over any degree of "free exercising" is that it is progressive, for whenever you can lift a certain weight with ease and by doing so feel that your muscles are not getting the correct amount of exercise, this can easily be rectified by adding more weight.

Unfortunately, however, there are many of us who do not have access to weights, or if we do, it may be that from time we find ourselves unable to get down to the gym in order to take a work-out. This has happened to me on several occasions in the past, many times when I have had to take part in shows, several thousands of miles away from home, I have not known whether or not I would find a gymnasium in the town, and being desirous of maintaining TOP CONDITION, I have made it a practice to take along a set of CABLES or a JIFFY GYM.

Note: This was 1954. A time before there were three story gyms packed with every imaginable form of resistance training gear on every second street in every Podunk town. Really! I kid you not. In some cases picking your toes in Poughkeepsie was the only form of workout available back then. Just ask Gene. Check out his YouTube Watch Me Watch People Picking Their Toes in Poughkeepsie channel. Spreadsheets for Maximum Toe Picking Efficiency Programs also available. I sorta kinda miss the naivete of the older eras, a far cry from ours of today where every dipshit bald-headed social misfit lifter with a tattoo, an eating disorder and a drug dependency . . . retired, beer on porch in afternoon, get off my lawn, you know the drill, etc.  

I mapped out a schedule which I considered would give me the best results, and worked on it diligently. Strange to say the results were very gratifying, for not only did my muscles maintain their size and development, but they also took on a fuller appearance due to the pressure being exerted on the muscle over the complete range of motion.

I have given the question of training with cables a great deal of thought and in all sincerity I confess that my genuine opinion is that cables can be utilized in such a way as to make them as efficient as weights. I say this because when one exercises with cables the strain is put on the muscles the moment they are stretched even a couple of inches and remains at such until they are allowed to return to their natural form; whereas when one trains with weights there are many lifts which have what we term "sticking or slack points" and once this position has been reached, little or no muscular benefit is achieved from the rest of the movement. The benefit is achieved from the rest of the movement. Cable sets can in fact be used along similar lines as weights, and the same movements can also be performed.

Do not run away from the idea that I am disparaging the use of barbells, for I confess that I am one of those muscle-heads who are primarily concerned with "HOW MUCH CAN YOU LIFT." My aim in writing this article is to emphasize the importance of cables, for I feel that many physical culturists do not realize the extent to which cables can be used.

Perform each of the following exercises, 4 sets of 10 reps, using as many cables on each exercise as possible. Remember to breathe in before each repetition and exhale on the completion of same. This routine should be performed 4 days each week for the best results, but if you are training with weights, then follow it only twice a week.

Exercise 1.
Starting with the deltoids, which from the point of view of physical appearance are one of the most important groups, the first exercise is the alternate one arm press. Hold the cables as shown with the left hand as low as possible, and the right hand held at shoulder level. From this position keep the left arm straight and push the right hand press overhead to arms length, then lower and repeat another nine repetitions. Perform the same number of reps with the left hand.

Exercise 2. 
The next deltoid exercise is the alternate raise. From the starting position as shown, keep the left arm close to the body and keeping the right arm straight raise it to shoulder level and lower to starting position. Repeat another nine reps and then change hands.

Exercise 3.
For the chest I prefer to start with the pullout in front, an exercise which I am sure you are all familiar with. The cables are held in front of the body at shoulder level and from this position, keeping the arms straight, pull the expanders outwards until they are touching the chest and return to the starting position.

Exercise 4.
The next chest exercise is the single arm pullout in front. The starting position is as shown. Keep the left arm still and pull with right hand until the strands are once again touching the chest then return to starting position. Remember to keep both arms straight when performing this exercise. Change hands and repeat.

Exercise 5.
The next group to be worked is the triceps, and the first exercise is the archer's movement which is one of the best triceps developers which has yet been found. From the starting position as shown, keep the left arm straight, pull the right arm outwards until it is also at arms length, then return to starting position. Be sure to keep the arm performing the movement at shoulder as this throws more work on to the triceps.

Exercise 6.
The second triceps exercise is the one arm triceps curl. From the starting position as shown keep the left arm straight and extend the right hand until it is overhead and lower to the starting position.

Exercise 7.
For the back the pull down from overhead is excellent. Hold the cables at arms length overhead, and keeping the arms straight, pull downwards until the strands are extended across the back, and return to starting position.

Exercise 8. 
Now we come to the one arm curl with the palms up. Place one foot in one handle of the cables and grasp the other handle with your hand. From this position curl your hand to shoulder level ONLY and lower to starting position with the other arm.

Exercise 9.
The last exercise is the alternate reverse curl. It is performed exactly as the above exercise only the palms are turned downwards and the wrists are kept bent throughout the entire movement. This is an excellent forearm developer.

Well, there you have it, but don't wait to go on a journey before you try it out. DO IT NOW and I am sure you will be as pleased as I was with the results obtained THROUGH CABLE TRAINING.       

Sunday, February 25, 2018

"Crude and Mindless Sports" by John Bender (2009)


"Crude and Mindless Sports" 
Aesthetic and Epistemic Aspects of Iron Games
by John Bender, Ph.D. Ohio University (2009) 

My essay title accurately expresses many individuals' view of competitive sports with weights "from the outside," so to speak. There may be some justification for this. It is simply massive amounts of weight being grunted into the designated position. 

Or so it can seem. 

It may be true of every sport that it can only be fully appreciated through participation, but it is also true that the beauty and concentration involved in some sports is worn more on the sleeves of competitors (if there are any sleeves) than is the case in sports with weights. Athletes that compete in golf, tennis, the high bar, or the balance beam make their beauty and their incredible mental difficulty manifest. Perhaps that is not so much the case with lifting weights, which seems brutish and short in comparison.

So I am, for the most part, going to comment on the aesthetics and epistemology of lifting weights from the internal perspective -- from what the lifter feels and thinks. We shall find, I argue, that the aesthetics is not crude and the epistemology is not mindless. 

Perhaps the best place to start is with questions of knowledge. Lifting weights is not only a sport but a skill, and skills are a kind of knowledge -- a knowing how. Of course, anyone can lift a five-pound weight over his head, but we would not likely call that a skill rather than a simple physical ability. Knowing how to lift 300 pounds over your head is obviously an entirely different matter! 

Interestingly, skill-knowledge or knowing-how involves or requires another kind of knowledge: knowing that. To have lifting skill requires that you know many things -- e.g., that your grip should not be too narrow during the snatch, that your weight should be on the back of your heels as you deadlift, or that the best time to begin exhaling during the bench press is as the bar nears completion. You can't have the skill unless you also have this kind of knowledge. It's interesting that it doesn't work the other way around: You may know all the correct principles, yet not be able to bench even 200 pounds.

It must be admitted that this knowledge of principals may be implicit in some cases. Some lifters are naturals and figure out quickly what needs to be done. But notice that we still talk about knowledge here: They know that their hands must be placed wider than their shoulders, that they should not bend their back, or that their forward foot should be angled inward during the lunge in the clean and jerk. So, again, skill-knowledge implies or involves knowledge that, either explicitly, through coaching and learning, or implicitly, through natural endowment. 

We have so far been talking about knowledge and its connection to technique. But there are other forms of knowledge that are equally important. One example is a lifter's knowledge of his own body, its strengths and limitations. As in other sports, technique interfaces with, and gets altered by, what the athlete brings to the table. He must know what his back, knees, pecs, and triceps can do and how their power interrelates in order to have control of his total strength. This involves both analysis and synthesis. Analysis can be seen most easily in the secondary exercises that are part of any powerlifter's or Olympic lifter's regimen. Each uncovers physical facts of strength (e.g., are my biceps much stronger than my triceps, my lower back tends to cramp, my quads get lactic more quickly than my glutes, etc.). This knowledge can then inform the lifter's style. Do I move fast through the clean and rely on my shoulders, or slow, relying more on my legs? That depends on my shoulders and legs. 

Synthesis occurs when, with this analytic knowledge, one takes maximum advantage of one's strengths and minimizes the effects of one's weaknesses in a particular lift. And this is a matter of knowing what you want to do -- i.e., how you are going to execute the lift -- and that is another kind of knowledge, which is different from the skill itself, and is more than mere knowledge of principles.

Although there are many additional forms of knowledge involved in lifting weights, I will mention only one more -- knowledge of the nature of competition and its dynamics. You can see the power of this knowledge clearly in Olympic competitions when a lifter will pass over a certain, sometimes incredibly high weight with the confidence that he will make an even higher weight. That is definitely a competitive "move," but notice how it also depends on the lifter's self-knowledge, as we spoke of above.

One might argue that competitive sports with weights are really only competitions between the lifter and the weight. In a sense that is true, perhaps more true than in golf, e.g., where you might also conjecture that the competition is between the golfer and the course. But we all know this is ultimately not true in golf, because there is so much strategy involved in the play, and that strategy takes into account the performance of other golfers.

I think we must admit that things are, in fact, more straightforward in lifting, and it is preponderantly a matter of the lifter succeeding over the weight. But there is a sense in which you can compete with the weight, and you certainly can compete with yourself: "I lifted this last Friday; I should be able to lift it again this Friday." So, knowledge or understanding of the competitive spirit is surely possible, even in what sometimes seems a wholly individualistic sport like weightlifting. 

The feeling of competing with yourself and the weight is central to the phenomenology of lifting weights. Much more of that phenomenology is constituted by experiences that have significant aesthetic dimensions. 

Of course, there are external aesthetic features to lifting. One can surely appreciate the sense of power, speed, balance, or timing that one experiences from observing a beautiful lift. Yes, sometimes the sport can strike us as crude and brute, but it also can be awe-inspiring to see the combination of confidence, strength, will power, and athleticism involved in an exceptional lift. Consider watching Iranian weightlifter Hossein Rezazadeh digging out of the squat portion of a clean and jerk, when it can initially seem that he is buried by the weight.    

But, again, I believe that the most significant aesthetic dimensions of lifting weights are internal to the consciousness of the athlete

What I mean is that the lifter can become aware of and appreciate the aesthetic properties of his own movements during a lift. 

There are analogies here to the aesthetics of dance. 

One can sense the smoothness of one's movement, feel the continuous power of one's muscles throughout the move, realize that the various parts of your body are working equally in unison or not, experience a sense of control or a sense of abandon or recklessness and so on. These reactions are a kind of internal observation of one's body and its movements, but the aesthetics of lifting weights can go at least one further step.

Lifting weights embodies one in a way that, for example, writing does not. Here, as I now write, i am sitting, thinking, and typing. I am sedentary. I certainly sense my body, but I am not at present involved with it as I will be when I leave for the gym in the next hour.

Embodiment doesn't mean that you become nothing but your body, but that your awareness becomes focused on your body in a more intense way than usually occurs in daily activities. It is an important sensory difference. One can move and hardly be conscious of it, but one also can move so that the movement is a distinct part of your current awareness. Lifting weights is a form of this embodiment, because it forces your attention on to your body and how it is reacting to the lift.   

There is pleasure involved here, too. "Feel the pain" is really an indirect reference to the pleasure one feels from an extremely intense and successful bodily motion. One feels the pleasure of the lift, which, of course, is how it should be, since we are talking about embodiment. The pleasure involved lasts beyond the lift in many cases. One feels "pumped," in both literal and metaphorical ways, quite some time after the workout is over. This implies that the pleasure one feels is a result of the awareness one has of one's body and its condition.

So there are both aesthetic and epistemological components the "crude and mindless sports," I think. They are major reasons why I lift and, I hope, why many others do also. Surely, there are brutes who have never given a thought to these ideas, but there are brutes everywhere. That does not mean that there is nothing to appreciate in weightlifting other than a grunt. 

Pay attention next time you lift. 
It is an experience.

Warming Up - Bill Starr

As I watch the members of various health clubs and gyms go about their routines, one of the things that strikes me the most is just how few bother to do any type of warmup. The majority walk into the weight room, drop their gym bags and proceed to lift. What’s more, only a very few do any stretching before they lift, or afterward, for that matter. Once they complete their workouts, they grab their bags and rush out the door.

Proper warmup and stretching are certainly neglected principles in strength training. Many believe the two are the same, but they’re not. They actually serve different purposes, and while stretching may indeed be a part of the warmup process, it’s not the same. some people think that doing some stretches before they start training is sufficient warmup, but it’s not.

Athletes are well aware of the importance of warming up thoroughly before practicing or competing in their sports. Football, basketball, lacrosse and soccer teams spend considerable time going through a series of stretches and warmup maneuvers prior to each practice or contest. Nevertheless, the same athletes think nothing of walking into a weight room, flopping down on a bench and starting in.

Warming up the body has a great many benefits for those who lift weights. That’s even more true for people who lift in cold climates to who are about to do explosive movements such as power cleans, full cleans, snatches or clean and jerks. Those dynamic exercises requite that all the muscles, attachments and joints be prepared, and that is accomplished by getting an adequate warmup. Warming up properly not only cuts down on the risk of injury, but it also helps the body perform at a higher level.

One of the ways it does that is by allowing those enzymes that are responsible for the many chemical reactions that occur during exercise to be activated. The energy system depends on those enzymes, and folks who begin their routines without taking the time to trigger them will be more sluggish than if they’d warmed up.

A warmup routine helps transport more oxygen to the muscles. Hemoglobin is responsible for delivering oxygen to working muscles, and it does its job much more effectively when the muscle fibers are warmed up. The slightly higher temperature also creates a positive pressure between the muscles and the bloodstream, which enables more oxygen to get to the working muscles.

In addition, the elevated body temperature assists the entire cardiovascular system, helping the arteries, veins and capillaries deliver nutrients and carry away the unwanted negatives in the process. An often overlooked advantage of warming up is the benefit to the nervous system. It’s been shown that the higher core temperature facilitates the transfer of nerve impulses. That’s most critical to those who plan to do explosive lifts. While weight training may not be considered a cerebral activity, concentration is certainly a key factor in the success of any workout.

Perhaps the main reason that sports coaches make sure their charges do some warrmups before practices and games is to reduce the risk of injury. I was scanning a fitness newsletter someone gave me when the title of an article jumped out at me: “Warmups May Not Prevent Injuries.” Naturally, it was of great interest because I’d always thought just the opposite. Well, it turned out the researchers had performed their tests on rabbits. How ridiculous, I thought. I never knew of a rabbit that did heavy squats or clean and jerks or ran full tilt into another rabbit.  

There are really two stages in the warmup process. The first is to do some movements that will raise your body’s overall temperature and enhance the muscles’ elasticity before you do any serious exercising. The second stage s more specific to the activities ahead, and the same individual will warmup differently before a run than for a heavy squat session.

You can accomplish the first stage of warming up in a number of ways. Calisthenics are effective. Some people like to jump rope or ride an exercise bike to get the blood moving. I’ve found that if I do several exercises for my trunk, midsection and lower back, I get thoroughly warmed up rather easily. I do one set of situps for 200 reps and then one set of hyperextensions for 100 more reps. Then I do a set of standing or bent-over twists with a stick for 100 reps and one set of side-to-side bends for 50 reps. In colder weather I do a bit more if I don’t feel sufficiently warmed up, and in hot weather I abbreviate the stick work.

The second stage is equally simple. If I’m going to squat, which I always do first in my program, I do one set of leg extensions and a set of adductor work. I use a light weight and perform reps until I feel my legs responding. In case you’re wondering why I skip leg curls for my leg biceps, the higher reps on the hypers hits them nicely. Again, if the weather is cold, I’ll spend more time on this preparation stage – until I start sweating. The stage should also include some stretching to prepare the muscles for the upcoming work; for example, performing some hurdler stretches for the hamstrings before squats or using a towel to stretch out the shoulders before doing benches. As mentioned above, warming up assists the nervous system, and I use that to help me prepare for the workout. The warmup movements are repetitious and monotonous, so while I do them, I think ahead to my workout. By running the planned numbers, along with some key points, through my head I set myself up for a better workout. At the same time I let my body know that it’s time to go to work. Once I begin my warmups, my body knows from experience what’s coming next: “Get the juices flowing, he’s going to squat!”

There’s a truism in weight training that you can never start too light, but you can start too heavy. Unfortunately, many people don’t heed that piece of wisdom. For some reason they find it difficult to understand. They want to get right to the heavy weights and believe that doing too many warmups will tap into their energy stores. That’s a mistake, however. Doing a few reps with a very light weight, even an empty Olympic bar, is never the wrong course.

That’s really the final phase of the warmup process. It’s generally built into the program, since most people train with progressive resistance – which simply means that they start with a relatively light weight and move on to heavier ones. That warms up the muscles and attachments thoroughly, which, in turn, enables them tot be stretched out. It also gives you the opportunity to sharpen your technique.

One of the best bench pressers I ever trained with always did at least one set with an empty Olympic bar, and sometimes he did two or three. I do the same for any movements that bother an old injury. As we grow older and start to accumulate a host of problems, it imperative that we move to the heavier poundages quite deliberately. For anyone who’s nursing an injury, the process is even more critical – even if the exercise you’re about to do doesn’t seem to hit the injured area.

Sometimes it’s necessary to warm up an area that seemingly isn’t involved in the lift at all. Each year several of my athletes come to me complaining of experiencing shoulder problems at the end of their squat workouts. Since, as has always been the case they all do squats first in their programs, I know the problems aren’t the result of any prior shoulder work. I explain to the athletes that they are, indeed, involving their shoulder girdles during the squats, especially if they work heavy and set the bar low on their backs.

When you lock a loaded barbell snugly on your back, you’re doing an isometric contraction for the shoulder girdle. It’s similar to what happens when you try a maximum bench press without the benefit of a warmup. The remedy for my students is merely to take some time to warm up their shoulders before they squat, which can be accomplished with some light dumbbell presses. I also have them stretch out their shoulders using a towel or stick. The problems disappear right away.  

A similar thing happens to a few athletes who like to do deadlifts first in their programs. They too get aches and pains in their shoulders until they start doing warmup movements and stretches.

There are three types of stretches: static, passive and ballistic. Passive stretching occurs when someone assists you with an exercise in order to help you gain flexibility through forced motion. An example for a lifter is to have a partner help you loosen your shoulders, elbows and wrists prior to doing front squats. While you grasp a barbell, your partner gently elevates one arm, then the other, then both together. In another example you sit on the floor as someone steadily pushes against your back to stretch your hamstrings and lower back.

Ballistic stretching involves a rhythmic, bouncing motion. It’s really not recommended, for it is potentially harmful. The best of the three types of stretching is static. You perform static stretching by placing some part of your body in a stretch position and holding it there for a certain length of time. Some experts say that 20 seconds is plenty, but I like to hold for a full minute, as I can feel the muscles loosen during those final 15 seconds.  

Static stretching could also be called gentle stretching, for it’s never forced. When place the muscles in a locked, contracted state, you activate the stretch reflex, which is a built-in safeguard against overextending and injuring the muscles. Rest assured, injuries can and do occur during stretching. How can you tell if you’ve triggered the reflex? If the stretched position is unusually painful, most likely you’re overstretching and the stretch reflex is telling you to back off. That’s all you have to do: Ease up just a bit, allow the muscle or muscles to relax and hold the more comfortable position for the desired count.

Static stretching benefits the weight trainer in a number of ways. Quite obviously, it gives you a better range of motion, which is critical for certain lifts. The shoulder girdle must be flexible enough to hold a barbell properly on your back or be able to rack a power clean correctly. Stretching also helps the body re-synthesize the accumulated lactic acid and remove harmful waste products from the tissues. That’s the reason stretching helps alleviate muscle soreness.

You should do some stretching prior to your workout, in conjuncture with your total warmup routine. In addition, one of the very best times to incorporate stretching into your program is during the workout itself. The dead time between sets is the ideal time to stretch those muscles that you’re putting under stress. By doing some stretches for your hamstrings between sets of squats, for example, you enhance your flexibility and keep those muscles from shortening before you put weights on the bar. The same principle applies to doing some stretches for your shoulders between sets on the bench press or incline. The muscles are most conducive to being stretched during exercise, since they’re warm. Another good time to stretch the body is after the workout, when it’s flushed with blood, but I seldom see anyone doing that. When most people finish their last set, they leave the gym, in which case I recommend stretching later on that night. It may not be as productive as stretching immediately after the workout, but it’s a more realistic goal. If you take some time to stretch while you’re watching television after a tough session, you’ll greatly reduce your soreness the next day.

Many of my athletes say that if they remember to do a bit of stretching right after they get out of bed, they’re better prepared for their workouts than if they don’t. It’s a fine idea. Notice that the first thing a cat does when it wakes up from a nap is to stretch. When it comes to stretching, more is better than less.

Older athletes have to pay closer attention to warming up and stretching than their younger counterparts. Older muscles and attachments aren’t as supple as young ones, so they need more time to prepare for the work ahead. In addition, anyone who has weight trained for a number of years has accumulated a number of injuries. It just goes with the territory, and you must care for former injuries by warming up the areas thoroughly, even if you’re not going to work them directly that day. As everyone knows, when you reinjure an old injury, it takes 10 times as long to bring it back to normal as it did when you hurt it the first time.

So, if you aren’t taking the time to warm up before training, start now. If you haven’t been doing any stretching, start now. Both will enable you to train harder and for a much longer time. After all, isn’t strength training a lifelong quest? 

Power & Bulk Training For You - Doug Hepburn/Ray Beck (1957)

Taken From This Issue (November 1957)
Courtesy of Liam Tweed

How the Champions Do It
by Ray Beck (1957) 

 - In this article, Ray Beck, one of the instructors and managers of Hepburn's Gym, tells how Doug applies his methods for giving sensational gains in size and power to pupils at the gym. 

Power training. Mention these two words around Doug Hepburn's Gym and watch what happens. Eyes will brighten and voices will be heard eulogizing the "miracle of power training."

You don't have to push power training on the boys at Hepburn's. Most of 'em have used it. And they are, to put it mildly, convinced of its merits in respect to weight gains and strength gains. Take Rudy, for example. Rudy Richer came to Doug's Gym weighing 160 pounds. He said he had done a bit of training "about a year ago," and now he wanted to train more seriously for strength and bodyweight gains. He said he didn't care how pretty his muscles looked. He just wanted to get big and strong FAST. 

It was fairly evident after a month's training that this guy was a natural. Already he could bench press 200 and squat with 250. So Hepburn took him off the standard beginner's course and put him on a Power Training course. What happened? 

In two more months' time Rudy weighed 185, could squat with 440 and bench press 350. 

Good bodyweight and strength gains were recorded by almost everyone who used the power training system. The only exceptions were a few beginners who, against our advice, went straight into power training. They soon complained of sore muscles and went back to the standard beginner's course. Three months of hard basic training is the prerequisite for power training. The muscles, respiratory system and the metabolism should be ready by then. A longer period of conditioning may be required by some individuals. 

A definition of power training might go like this: 

Power Training a weight training system that incorporates heavy weights, a minimum number of exercises and repetitions, and a maximum number of sets. 

Its purpose is: 

Firstly, to develop physical strength in the major muscle groups, and 
Secondly, when desired, to increase the bodyweight of the trainee. 

Now, other systems of barbell training do these two things BUT NONE CAN DO THEM SO FAST.
This, of course, is my opinion, and it is shared by most of the lifters at Hepburn's Gym.

The history of power training is open to controversy. However, it can be generally agreed that for a long time power training was the property of Olympic weightlifters and strongmen. But, to my mind, it was Doug Hepburn who first showed us how power training could be best used for strength development and bodybuilding. He put his ideas down in a booklet called HOW TO DEVELOP STRENGTH AND BULK.   

Here, some examples of Doug's booklets: 

The people who used the course outlined in the booklet reported fantastic results. Here is one such letter: 

Dear Doug,

For the past two months I've been following your course . . . I am training at Merv Miller's Gym in Calgary. In two months I have gained 20 pounds bodyweight . . . did a 500 pound deadlift and a 400 pound squat . . . increased my bench press from 150 to 250 in that time. 

Ed Thomas.

Now, these are fantastic results, and I wish to make a statement that you may find hard to believe. Of all the cases known to me of individuals who followed such a power training course, only three trainees reported less than a 10 pound bodyweight gain in the first month. We will now pause five minutes for scoffing, sneering, and laughing. 

Finished, doubters? 

Okay then, let's get down to the instructional meat of this article.

First of all, let's examine the important essentials of a power training course designed for quick strength and bodyweight gains. A good power training course should satisfy these four points:

1) A minimum number of exercises are performed during a workout day. Usually not more than three. These should be strength developing movements that exercise the large muscle groups of the legs, back, and chest. 

2) Repetitions are kept to a minimum, averaging out to 3 reps a set.

3) A maximum number of sets are performed on each exercise, usually from 8 to 10 sets. 

4) The amount of food and also the amount of rest the trainee gets is PROGRESSIVELY INCREASED little by little each day during the duration of the power training course. 

Now, you may ask, why such low reps? 

Aside from the fact we know they work, consider these points. You must utilize heavy weights in your training in order to develop larger, quality muscle size. Power training lets you use heavy weights sooner than any other system of training. We know that once a trainee breaks through the "barbell barrier," you might say, and begins exercising with heavy weights, his whole system seems to awaken and respond. 

Trainees at Hepburn's Gym found that power training shook up their whole physical self. Day by day they felt more strength come into their muscles. They found that, even when doing the bench press, their whole upper body was exercised as never before. During the first few weeks of power training their exercise poundages went up at an amazing rate.

Another significant factor explaining why low reps do the trick was brought out in the May '57 issue of Iron Man in an article by Ray Beardsley. He states that only by using heavy weights are all the fibers of a muscle called into action. The number of fibers activated is dependent on the resistance of the weight and also the mental concentration of the trainee.

Here's that article: 

And now, here is the Basic Power Training Course we use at Hepburn's Gym. 

Squat, 8-10 sets of 3-5 reps.

High Pullups, 8-10 x 3-5 reps.
Same starting position as a deadlift . . . overhand grip, take a deep breath, pull weight up . . . as in a deadlift but pull higher . . . up to the region of the pectoral muscles, throwing the head and shoulders back . . . lower the bar and exhale. Pull the weight up quickly but lower it as slowly as possible, fighting the bar down. Do not turn the hands over as in the clean to shoulders. 


Cycle begins again with the Squats. 

The repetitions and poundages used should go something like this. First of all, warm up with a light weight for 10 reps, then take a weight you can move easily for 3 or 4 reps. The second set should see you using at least 10 pounds more, and in the third or fourth set you use your maximum poundage for 3 reps. Decrease the weight 5 pounds and complete the remaining 4 to 6 sets (depending on how you feel). Sometimes you will only make 2 reps in the last one or two sets but that's acceptable. When you can do 5 reps in all the last sets increase the weight by five pounds. This doesn't apply to the first two sets. 

Rest 5 minutes between sets, and rest at least 20 minutes between exercises. 

Drink a quart of milk (or more) during the workout. Use one, or better still, two spotters. This will remove fear of being stuck with the weight. Get your spotters to yell verbal support when you're pushing out the last rep . . . it is better to under-strain than over-strain. 

Your workouts should never make you feel nervous or exhausted. You should be able to relax completely one hour after the training session . . . become conscious of the fact that you are on a weight gaining/strength building program. In that I mean you should, whenever possible, live in a manner advantageous to bodyweight/strength gains. This means extra rest and relaxation, extra food, and a good mental attitude.

Extra attention to your diet program is very important here. And here I refer you to "The Amazing Story of Bruce Randall" in the May 1957 issue of Iron Man. 


This truly amazing story shows what progressive increase in food intake, along with appropriate exercise, can do. Each day Randall would eat a small portion more of each class of food. He drank prodigious amounts of milk. With certain modifications you can adopt this method of increasing your food intake. Just remember -- your diet must be a balanced one.     

All lifters should familiarize themselves with the fundamentals of proper nutrition. A short perusal through library books on diet can be educational and very useful to you. 

Here, then, are the important rules to remember in your diet while on a Power Training course of action:

1) Daily progressive increase in food intake. 

2) Food supplements such as healthy oils, vitamin/mineral supplements and first class protein supplements. 

3) A balanced diet containing meat, various kinds of potatoes, whole wheat products, cooked and raw vegetables, fresh fruit, milk, eggs and other dairy products. 

4) Gradually work up to drinking three or more quarts of milk per day.

5) Endeavor to eat five or six meals per day instead of the customary three. 

Rest and relaxation are where most bodybuilders fall down. Try this power training course on for three months, and during that time be as lazy as possible outside of the gym. Become really active physically only during workouts for the three months. But don't be a boob about it and wind up losing your job, family, friends, place to live and other sundry non-training parts of your life. "Strongest Lonely Man Without A Home" is not a championship title you really want to win. 

Some final words for those who want to make up their own power training routines. Remember that the exercises used in power training are those which work the large muscle groups. The most popular are: 

Bench Press
High Pullup
Heavy Clean
Cheat Rowing Motion

Some trainees have also used barbell curls and standing presses for their deltoids and arms. However, adding these two exercises isn't conducive to best bodyweight gains. 

Other suggested routines [check those links to Hepburn booklets above] could be: 

Squat and Bench Press
Squat and Heavy Clean
Deadlift and Jerk Press (or Push Press)
Squat, Jerk Press and Cheat Barbell Row
Clean & Press and Squat
Deadlift and Bench Press

You can see there are many ways to construct basic power training routines. 



Saturday, February 24, 2018

Žydrūnas Savickas Interview - M. Andrew Holowchak (2009))

Andrew Holowchak is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Wilkes University, Pennsylvania, USA. He is the author or several books, including "Philosophy of Sport: Critical Readings, Crucial Issues", "The Stoics: A Guide for the Perplexed," and several on Thomas Jefferson.

I conducted the following interview with the legendary Lithuanian strongman Žydrūnas Savickas on Saturday morning, March 7th of 2009, just prior to the final day of the Arnold Strongman Classic. Though he did not compete in 2009, Savickas had won the previous six ASCs. He is also a two-time winner of the International Federation of Strength Athletes (IFSA) World Strongman Championships (2005 and 2006), the 2009 Fortissimus challenge, and numerous other strongman contests. He is regarded by many to be the strongest man who has ever lived. The interview was conducted through a Lithuanian translator. 

(MAH) M. Andrew Holowchak: Žydrūnas, I'd first like to thank you for taking the time to be interviewed. My first question is this: Do you have a philosophy of life? If so, how is strength related to that philosophy of life:    

(ŽS) Žydrūnas Savickas: First, it is important for me to do better with each competition and each competition is a competition with myself -- not against anybody else. I need to compete with myself -- that's most important. 

MAH: So this self-competition, is it because you have elevated yourself above the other athletes so much that you cannot compete with them anymore or merely that you do your best in contests when you forget about others and focus on and compare yourself with yourself? 

ŽS: This competition with myself helps me be hard to beat. That's because I know my strengths. I'm always going to make myself better and that makes it harder fore other guys to beat me. It makes me more difficult to compete against, because I always try to improve with each competition -- to be better than I was before. I put the mark higher, and that's why everyone has to catch up to me. 

MAH: So it's an internal source of strength mainly that drives you -- there is something inside of you that drives you as opposed to something external like fame, money? 

ŽS: Yah, I am always looking for better results with each competition -- to be better than previous competitions. That's the single aim for me. 

MAH: How did you become interested in strength sports? When did you start getting the bug, as it were, to want to lift weights and want to be in strongman? 

ŽS: When I was 13 years old, I started going to the gym and that's when Lithuania was starting -- getting interested in strongman competitions. That's when I got interested. At 16 years, I was in my first competition.

MAH: Wow, at 16 years of age? 

ŽS: Yes. 

MAH: What makes you wish to continue in the sport of strongman? What is it about the sport of strongman, what is it about lifting -- about being strong? 

ŽS: I feel like I have room to grow -- that's why I don't want to stop now and that's why I continue to lift. As soon as I feel there's not going to be room to grow, I'm going to stop immediately. 

MAH: So, as soon as there's no more progress? 

ŽS: Yes. 

MAH: What are your favorite strength events and do you have any one event -- is there any one event that you like best? 

ŽS: The most? I like most -- um, I like all the events. It is very hard for me to decide which event I like the most, but one of my favorites is the (overhead) log press. 

 MAH: Hmm.

ŽS: I like doing competitions with more weight involved. With more weight involved, I feel that that's my strength and I can be better than everyone else. That's how -- I mean, all these strength competitions with heavy weights -- that's my power. I'm not very strong at long distances and stuff (i.e., events where strongmen have to carry heavy objects for long distances and endurance and strength are being measured equally), but I still make progress in those events. 

MAH: Along those lines, I was talking with someone yesterday about some of the events in the World's Strongest Man Contest, events where -- you remember O.D. Wilson -- when he lost to Jón Páll Sigmarsson (four-time winner of the World's Strongest Man Contest, between 1984 and 1990), on the very last event of some contest, which was an endurance contest?

ŽS: Yes.

MAH: Anyway, you know that I don't consider the World's Strongest Man Contest to be a good contest for deciding the strongest man in the world -- that something -- something like the Arnold Classic is better. Do you agree with that? 

ŽS: Yes, there are too many, like you said, endurance events and not enough pure strength events. I agree that being the strongest man in the world is more about strength and not about endurance. At the Arnold Classic, the contest is balanced, so that you really decide who is the strongest. The contest is set up so you can be strong in one event and you can be weak in another, but there is balance to the contest. 

MAH: Overall? 

ŽS: Yes, overall balance where you can really find out who is the strongest.

MAH: Okay, I'm going to turn to the history of strength sports. Out of all the people who have lifted, who are some of your favorites -- who are some of the athletes you have idolized, or you have looked up to and have drawn inspiration from? 

ŽS: When I began to lift, I had no idols -- not anybody. I didn't follow anybody. I didn't have any favorites, until recently. [Pause] Louis Cyr is kind of like an idol to me, because I got a lot of ideas from him and I agree with a lot of his training philosophy (legendary Canadian strongman and one of the world's first inordinately strong humans. Cyr is reported to have lifted a platform on his back with 18 men, performed a dumbbell push-press of 273 pounds with one hand, and resisted the pull of four draft horses, two in each arm, by being a human link between each team of two). But now, in more recent years, Bill Kazmaier (three-time World's Strongest Man winner from 1980 to 1982 and one of the strongest men to have ever lived), but there was no one, when I started.

MAH: As someone who has watched you over the years, the person who comes to mind is Bill Kazmaier -- especially when it comes to brute shoulder strength. Let me ask, do you think that you have the strongest shoulders ever? 

ŽS: It's hard to tell. I don't want to be boastful -- to be stuck up. Most of the shoulder-press records are mine and I press more from strength, not from technique. 

MAH: Yes, like Bill Kazmaier. You too press mostly with your shoulders and arms and not with your legs and that's very impressive to me.

ŽS: Yes. 

MAH: Okay, who are the five strongest men who ever lived in the sport of strongman? How would you rate them -- including yourself? I understand there's modesty involved here, but . . . 

ŽS: I can perhaps give you the top five, but not rank them. I won't say who should be first, or second, or . . . 

MAH: Okay. 

ŽS: I just want to give five names -- the ones who are now the best, not from the past.

MAH: That's fine. 

ŽS: Bill Kazmaier [slight pause], Magnús Ver Magnússon (from Iceland and a four-time World's Strongest Man winner from 1991 to 1996), [slight pause], Rico Kiri [slight pause], me [with short laugh], and, um, [very long pause] . . . 

MAH: You've got Vasyl Virastyuk (Ukrainian strongman and the only person to win both the WSM Contest - 2004 -  and the IFSA contest for the strongest man in the world -2007 -)., Pudzianowski . . . 

ŽS: Ah, Virastyuk is not a good deadlifter, so I cannot put him in the top five. And, uh, maybe, [very long pause], and Mikhail Koklyaev, maybe, he could be . . . 

MAH: He looks strong in this year's contest, doesn't he! 

ŽS: The last place is maybe for Koklyaev or Poundstone, but it will be decided in a couple of years -- maybe after this contest (Savickas later indicated to me in an email - Apri21, 2009 - that Poundstone, with his win at the ASC in 2009, deserved the fifth spot. Savickas did not compete.). 

MAH: Okay. I'm going to turn now to strength and philosophy -- some of the questions that are more important for my book. What have -- this is a question that is very similar to the very first one -- what have you learned about yourself from strength training? What has it taught you? 

ŽS: That I'll reach whatever goal I set for myself -- that if you want something in life and you work hard for it, you'll always reach it. So, that's my philosophy.

MAH: Let me ask you a question about efficiency -- that's something I'm very interest in.

ŽS: Efficiency is very important, because being a great strongman is very hard and it takes several years and you have to work hard for it. It's not just something that you decide to do and then do it in a day. It's a lifestyle, basically. And if you have an injury, it won't happen. 

MAH: Let me ask -- say something more about efficiency. One of the things I'm pushing towards is linking up efficiency with beauty in sport. For instance, I don't consider Pudzianowski to be one of the all-time strongest lifters, but I do consider him to be a very efficient lifter and I think that he is technically a very beautiful lifter. He doesn't waste energy through unnecessary motions and he's only 300 pounds. That's the sense of efficiency that I'm getting at. How important is efficiency as something beautiful? Do you think of efficiency as beautiful at all, or is it something different? 

ŽS: If you aim is beauty, then efficiency doesn't matter. If you want beauty, then you do it for beauty, not just for the result. You're never going to be the strongest and the most beautiful . . . (here there was a misunderstanding about "beauty." I was thinking of efficiency as aesthetical, While Savickas was thinking about having a good-looking physique, while competing. This confusion was most likely the result of his lack of proficiency with English and my complete ignorance of Lithuanian). 

MAH: I don't mean that sense of beauty. Let my try to explain better, with help of our translator. I mean by "beauty" a sense of efficiency or economy -- economy of movement. Do you know -- is that a better word, economy? By economical, I mean something like "not wasting energy" -- not wasting energy when one does something. Doing something very economically, efficiently . . . 

ŽS: I lift everything efficiently, not just because I try to save time, but because I have limited energy in any competition. But I always have enough time to reach whatever goal I have. In any competition -- well, I've never had a weight in an event that was too heavy -- that was too much for me.  

MAH: So, the weight's never beaten you yet. You've always had something left.

ŽS: Yes, always something left -- something -- 

MAH: And that's what drives -- 

ŽS: That's why I'm coming back and coming back stronger. Yes. That's why I feel like, when there'll be no more steps on the ladder left . . . 

MAH: Okay, you said in an interview after last year's Arnold Strongman Classic -- someone interviewed you and it went on YouTube -- and you mentioned "luck." And I thought that it was a very, very interesting comment. You said, "I owe some of my lifting success to luck." What did you mean by that? 

ŽS: Every competition -- and it doesn't matter how strong and ready you are -- it's all . . . if you get injured, you know, it's very heavy, so at any step, at any moment you can get injured and that will set you back and that's why it is . . . [pause]. At the first couple of ASCs, I got injured, though I was strong enough, ready. I still won -- even with the injuries. That was luck, truly luck, because with those injuries I had, most others wouldn't have competed. And I have had competitions in the past where I was stronger than everyone else, but I still lost, just because I was unlucky.

MAH: Unlucky, is that sometimes because of the -- 

ŽS: Mostly I've made mistakes (technical or deliberative mistakes that impacted the outcome). It was a mistake that cost me. That's why I lost. 

MAH: Okay, this question is related to the last one: How much a part of your sport is pain? Do you have a philosophy of pain, if that makes any sense? 

ŽS: It's a lot of pain, basically -- legs, back, hands, shoulders. Basically, it's a lot of pain. All sports -- they're mostly about pain.

MAH: Ah, I would say this sport [strongman] more than other sports. Is that way -- 

ŽS: I agree.

MAH: Being able to excel, being able to accomplish in the sport of strongman, being able to overcome pain and setbacks -- are those things that make you think that you can do anything you want to? Is that what's driving you to want to do things like politics in the future? 

ŽS: This sport makes you mentally strong and basically prepares you for anything. In the future you can get ready for anything, you know, when you are successful -- have overcome the setbacks of strongman.

MAH: Along those lines, I consider the sport of strongman to be a very, very dangerous sport -- in terms of the possibility of very serious injury and -- let's be honest, when you get men who weigh from 300 to 400 pounds -- men who weigh 140, 150, 160, 170, even 180 kilos -- when your bodyweight gets up, the risks are even greater. Some people have even died in the sport of strongman. How long can you continue in such a dangerous sport. 

ŽS: Both of my knees have been surgically repaired. I get through the sport almost on a day-to-day basis. Before my knee injuries nothing could set me back. But after the surgeries, I am much more careful about lifting. I don't jump over my head, so to speak. If I plan to do something [in training], I no longer try to do too much more than what I planned -- kind of, living day-by-day, puting on more weight later, leaving something for next time.

MAH: Uh-hum.

ŽS: You don't have to you know -- mentally you can't be thinking about all the dangers, because it can set you back.

MAH: No, you can't. You can't. Certainly. Okay a couple more questions. What are the limits of human physical strength? More specifically, what do you think your limits, as a strongman-athlete, are? Where do you see yourself ending up? what lifts do you see yourself doing before you're done? What are the limits of Žydrūnas Savickas in strongman?  

ŽS: In general, there are no limits for the human body. For me, on the log press, I can do 10 more kilos. I've done 210 (462 pounds). I can do 220 (484). 

MAH: What do you think you'll be able to do on the [Hummer] tire deadlift? 

ŽS: I think I can lift 525 or 540 kilos. (1,157 - 1,190 pounds).

MAH: 540 kilos -- that's astonishing! What was the most lifted yesterday? 

ŽS: Yesterday was 462 kilos.

MAH: Two more questions -- one more question, actually. Who do you think will be the next great strength athlete in the sport of strongman? You mentioned a couple -- 

ŽS: Okay, okay.

MAH: Who will be the next person to replace you? 

ŽS: I think that Poundstone will be [a case of] wait-and-see. After last year, he didn't really bring anything to the table. In the next year or two, we'll see how it's going to be decided. The year before last, he made a big jump, but after last year, he hasn't done much. We'll see. Twenty years in the sport, I have been able to add kilos to every lift, but he has had a big jump, and then nothing. (In response to my email comment about Poundstone's record-smashing 15 reps with the circus dumbbell, Savickas replied (April 21st, 2009) that the record was more the result of Poundstone's purchase of a similar dumbbell, with which he practiced abundantly prior to the contest. I would agree as I saw Poundstone pop out 10 reps with a similar dumbbell in training on YouTube).   

MAH: Will you be competing in the World's Strongest Man, or is that a contest you will be avoiding? 

ŽS: I would like to compete in World's Strongest Man one more time. Maybe this year.  




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