Thursday, March 29, 2018

Squats, Part One - Jim Witt (1984)

Note: This article is taken from the book "The A B C's of Powerlifting" by Jim Witt (1984)
It was provided courtesy of Bob Wildes . . . THANKS AGAIN, BOB!!!

Here, a tribute to Jim Witt from Iron Game History, Volume 2 Number 6:


If I had to do only one exercise to develop the basic power and muscular bulk of my body, I would, without a moment's hesitation, choose the squat or deep knee bend. One of the reasons for picking the deep knee bend over the bench press, deadlift or other powerlifting, weightlifting or bodybuilding movements is that this movement will work the greatest amount of muscle as compared with any other exercise. Squats require more total body effort than any other exercise, but the results you get make the effort well worth it. 

If I have convinced you of the importance of squatting, here are some tips that you will find helpful. the deep knee bend or squat should have number one priority in your routine, whether in search of above average strength or a Mr. Physique, weightlifting or powerlifting title. No other exercise can come close to giving you the results you can achieve with a good squat program.

In the following course I am going into detail regarding various styles and techniques of squatting in the hopes that the reader will acquire maximum results in minimum time, without wasting time and effort.

Your Equipment

In squatting for maximum results, the type of bar used is of utmost importance. There are two definite kinds of bars on the market being used by lifters. The power bar is preferred by the men who handle the heaviest poundages. This bar has several advantages. Being stiffer than the Olympic bar, heavier poundages can be handled when squatting without the bar whipping up and down. This whip the bar causes more strain on the vertebrae and should be avoided when possible. The power bar is ideal for those who would increase their poundages to he maximum.

With the Olympic-type bar, which is more springy, you can still train and handle heavy poundage. Just approach the bar with a bit more caution. Up to 900 pounds can be safely handled on the Olympic bar. Over 900 pounds, the power bar should be used. You will find that when squatting with poundages from 300 to 700 the Olympic bar will work well. 

People who work out alone need to buy a power rack or 3-level step squat rack. 

It would be to a trainee's advantage to obtain a bar used for squatting only. This will save much time, as you can have a bar on the squat stand always ready to go. I suggest you unload the bar when not in use. Safety should be practiced at all times. A loaded barbell should never be left on a loading rack where people, especially children, are in and out. Other safety devices and apparatus will be explained later in this course. 

You should obtain a pair of outside collars and use them at all times when squatting. There is a normal tendency when squatting for the bar to tip, causing the plates on the low end of the bar to slide outward and, at times, completely off. When this happens the other, heavier end tips downward, causing the bar to whip off its resting place on your shoulders or back. This usually will result in some form of injury either to you, your training partners, or a bystander if you are training in an overcrowded gym. 

There are several kinds of outside collars on the market that are made to lock on the bar, without the use of a wrench. Wrench-less collars save time and simplify the changing of plates. If you can see your way clear to it you should purchase a set of these collars at the earliest possible time.

The basic needs for power training are a good, well-balanced Olympic barbell or Olympic power bar, a sufficient amount of weights, a good strong squat stand or power rack and, of course, collars. If you are using heavy weight when doing your squats, and the bar does not rest comfortably on your shoulders, you might purchase a piece of sponge rubber approximately one-half inch in thickness and fourteen to eighteen inches in length. This can be rolled on the bar, and comes equipped with a cover made of vinyl or imitation leather that has fasteners. These may be purchased at a bicycle shop or bicycle supply house.

You will make gains and increase your poundage very quickly when specializing on the squat, so in addition to your bar or bars you should buy at least two 100 lb plates, eight or more 45's, six 35's, four 25's, four 10's, four 5's and four 2.5 pound plates. Later, as you progress, you can gradually add to your weights, so that if you have three or four training partners you will have plenty of weight available for the use two bars, and in this manner you can save valuable training time.

When you have bars and an adequate amount of weight, the next piece of equipment to be purchased should be the correct type of squat stands. The squat stands are very important and should be of the right height, so that you or your training partners can remove and replace the bar from the rack without wasting time or effort. The squat rack should be build out of strong material and so constructed that the bar rests solidly on the supports, avoiding any chance of the bar rolling off the support, or sliding to one side once the bar has been replaced back on the rack. Your squat stand should be level and constructed in such a way that each side of the rack is the same height. The size of the bases and the strength of the supports should should also be considered when constructing or purchasing equipment. I have seen many squat stands for sale . . . were some of them offered to me free of charge, the gift would have to be declined.

A pair of spotter racks will be a very useful piece of equipment when squatting, especially when training alone. These racks make it possible to use heavy poundages when training by yourself. If you cannot arise with the weight you are using, all that is necessary is to lower your body 3 to 4 inches and allow the bar to rest on the safety spotter racks. If the rack does not adjust to the right height, whether it be too high or or low as the case may be, you can obtain a sheet of 3/4 or 1 inch plywood, some 2x4s, nails and hammer and build a small platform to rest between the safety racks. With this added piece of equipment you may work out without fear, and in comparative safety. In my case, the height of the position needed was too high by 2.5 inches. I built a small platform using 2x4s placed flat with 3/4 inch plywood placed on the bottom, as well as the top of the 2x4s correcting the rack's height for my particular needs. At this height, if a lift was missed, no problem. All I had to do was relax the legs and allow my upper torso to bend forward. This would allow the bar to come to rest on the safety racks. The use of safety racks when training alone will allow you to specialize on the squat and will increase confidence and promote faster gains.

A much needed piece of equipment which came to the attention of lifters in the 60s is the power rack. Although the power rack was not new, many athletes used some form of power rack training in the past. Harry Paschall wrote about it in the 50s. In the middle '30s Bob Peoples built and used his own power rack. This piece of equipment can be built of purchased can be of tremendous help in training for great strength. When using the power rack you can perform various partial movements from different positions inside the rack with much more weight than you can handle in regular full-range movements.

For the person who trains alone, the power rack is an absolute necessity, if you are to make the greatest gains your body type will allow. You can train for sheer power using the power rack. You can train for increased muscle size, but keep in mind when using the power rack that you should know what your goals are, so that your training routine can be geared to enable you to realize the full result of your power routine. The power rack allows one to make use of much more weight than with barbells alone. Whether you train alone or with one or two training partners, or with a team, you will make great gains in strength with judicious use of the power rack.

The majority of new trainees, and some who are not so new, do not realize that the wearing of the right type of training shoe is important when squatting. The greatest amount of weight can be lifted when squatting flat-footed. If you are working toward lifting highest possible poundage within the rules then you should wear training shoes without raised heels. These shoes should have a top notch rubber sole, as this will prevent the feet from slipping or sliding when you have a heavy weight on the shoulders. Regular running shoes can be used, but they have their disadvantages for this kind of use as they do not give proper support to the feet. The arch and ankle suffer from this lack of support. There is also too much "give" in the soles. This "give" makes the feet have a tendency to rock when squatting. It must be kept in mind that the combined weight of the person squatting and the loaded bar will often be from five to seven hundred pounds and more. One does not have to be a genius to see the amount of strain placed upon the feet.

The type of training shoe that I have used throughout my lifting career is a regulation basketball tennis shoe manufactured by Converse. this shoe has a heelless rubber sole and is supported at the arch. York Barbell sells a lifting shoe used by their fine Olympic lifters that is ideally suited for squatting and Olympic lifting as well. Adidas has a good lifting shoe. It would be to your advantage to buy a pair of these shoes when you can afford them. If treated and and cared for properly they will last a long time and make your lifting more secure.

Always be sure to wear a clean pair of good, heavy socks, as they will add extra support to the feet and ankles. Socks are more comfortable on the feet and also help to absorb sweat, which will help preserve your shoes and aid in the prevention of athletes foot. I never lace the top eyelet in my shoes, and this seems to hamper ankle flexibility. The lower leg must be able to move forward. This forward momentum allows freedom of movement when going into the low squat position. Be sure to keep an extra pair of good strong laces on hand at all times. You want to be sure to lace your shoes tightly, as this is another aid to ankle and foot support. Unfortunately, laces will wear out and break, so it is a wise lifter who prepares for such untimely incidents.

We will talk about lifting belts. If the trainee is in the habit of wearing a lifting belt when training, then there is no reason to discontinue the use of the belt. There is no great advantage given by a belt when squatting, and it is possible in some cases that it could weaken the development of the muscles of the back. If this belt is drawn too tight it could restrict the breathing process. To test this, try tightening your belt very tight and then see how much air you can take in. Remember, when you are squatting with a heavy weight, you get all the air in your gut as well as your chest, as this will help you handle a heavy weight with less discomfort. Nuff said! To my way of thinking, the abdomen should be distended at the low position of the squat, as it will then contact the upper thighs, giving the trainee extra support. Most beginners who see a top notch lifter or a good local lifter using a lifting belt immediately come to the conclusion that a belt is very necessary and must be a big help in lifting. Personally, I always have been of the opinion that the use of the belt has been oversold. Over the years, I have seen a number of Olympic lifters -- top men, world class lifters -- who do not use belts, and they seem to do as well as the men who use belts. America's Norbert Schemansky, National champion, lifted in World Competition and set many records without a lifting belt.

Olympic lifters use their belts reasonably snugly, but some or most powerlifters pull their belts as tightly as possible. The powerlifter seems to believe that such extreme tightness helps him lift more weight and also protects him from injury. I cannot for the life of me see how this can help. I have watched men black out and pass out, if for some reason or another they could not get their belt loosened at once. At an exhibition in Dallas in the early '60s I saw Paul Anderson do eight full reps in the squat with 700 lbs without a lifting belt. I offered him the use of mine but he turned it down, saying he doubted if my belt would reach around one of this thighs. This at least made me feel good, as my wife had been bugging me about my girth. When a belt is pulled so tight around the waist, as some powerlifters do, there is a tremendous displacement of the internal organs from this severe pressure of the belt. The circulation in the area is almost cut off, or there is very little during the time the belt is so tight. What happens next? The lifter goes out and takes the bar for his next lift. This is very dangerous for either lift, be it squat or deadlift. The area the belt is cutting into is a vital area and good circulation is important. If the lifter pulls on a heavy deadlift, there is a terrific increase in blood pressure throughout the body, and especially the chest and abdominal cavities. (This enormous pressure is present during a heavy lift without a belt.) With the belt cutting so tightly around the waist it becomes much greater in certain areas. There is also danger above the belt, not just to the waist muscles but to the vital organs, particularly the heart and lungs which are working, or trying to work, under almost impossible pressure during the lift. Today we have the Masters Lifters who vary in age from 40 to 75 years of age. Should an older man be lifting who has high blood pressure (or elevated blood pressure, as your family doctor might call it), the tremendous effort and added pressure of a heavy lift could trigger a stroke from a burst blood vessel in the brain. So the older lifter should use sound judgement and allow room for body and organs to expand when using the belt. Should the novice, Class I, II, III and lifters on up to the Master rating decide to use a belt and feel that the advantages are great enough, they should consider tightening the belt only a reasonable amount. If you do not have a belt and intend to buy one, purchase one with a double tongue buckle and two rows of holes in the leather.

In addition to the right kind of training shoes and belts, the clothing worn during a workout session is very important. Sweat pants do not hinder leg and body movement when squatting. A good pair of sweat pants also assures that the lower body will be kept warm when resting between sets and exercises. If you keep the regions of the knees and lower back warm there is less chance of injury when working out. An injured back, knee, hamstring or quadriceps will be very slow to heal, and any one of these injuries could set you back weeks or months in your training progress. There are many kinds of trunks and shorts on the market today that many trainees prefer to wear in the summer months. Whatever you wear, you must constantly be on guard so as not to get cold or let the muscles cool off too quickly. When this does happen you are very susceptible to strains, pulled muscles or other injuries of one kind or another. To guard against these injuries I always wear a sweat suit at all times when training, thus taking no unnecessary chances.

Correct Breathing

The breath will be held from the time the bar is removed from the squat stands until the body is properly placed between the safety racks. Just before commencing to lower the body into the low squat position exhale the air from your lungs, and then inhale just as deeply as possible. Really force a great amount of air into your lungs, and then inhale just as deeply as possible. Really force a great amount of air into your lungs. The breath is held throughout the complete squatting movement and is expelled just as the body passes through the sticking point, which is almost to the erect position at the last part of the squat. Most lifters will hold their breath until they come completely erect. You must experiment and find what is best for you.

Exhaling at any point of the low squat position will take away from maximum efficiency. When your chest is inflated to the fullest this keeps the lower body from collapsing and buckling forward. This would put you in an awkward back position, with a lot of strain on your lower back which is very hard to pull out of and stand erect. Even though you experience problems maintaining the breath during the low phase of the squat, you can correct this by constant practice. As you work out and practice with heavier loads, your technique will improve. Take heart and do not give up. You are in select company for this is a problem encountered by the advanced lifter as well as the beginner.
 Always concentrate on holding our breath to the best of your ability and as you work out, you will improve.

When doing repetitions and because of the increasing demand for oxygen it will become necessary to take more than one breath between reps. The number of breaths taken will depend on the individual. However, if too many deep breaths are taken hyperventilation can cause dizziness due to an overdose of oxygen. If and when this happens to you, you can adjust your breathing to fit your physical needs. When doing one single repetition with a maximum poundage, one breath will never do. I have yet to see a lifter able to get enough air by trying to take in a large volume of air by nose. The good lifters take the air through the mouth in one or two large gulps.

In Part Two:
Placement of Squat Stands
Good Squatting Technique
Things to Remember When Squatting With Heavy Poundages

In Part Three:
Your Training Routine     




Sunday, March 25, 2018

Dumbbell Training - Bill Starr

Bodybuilders always include plenty of dumbbell exercises in their routines, but quite a few strength athletes avoid them completely. If they use them at all, they relegate the dumbbells to auxiliary exercises and use light weights. I'm a big fan of dumbbells, both light and heavy. They're most useful to all serious strength athletes, as well as those who only train for general fitness, and they're invaluable for rehab. What's more, for people who train alone, they're extremely beneficial, since you don't need a spotter. 

Ideally, you'd train at a facility that features a long row of dumbbells, which allows you to select the poundage you want easily. There are lots of different types of dumbbells. The solid-iron models come in various shapes: round, square, hexagon and rectangular high-tech versions that you grip inside the weights. There are models that use plates secured with bolts or welds, and I guess we've all used the adjustable ones and ended up dumping plates on the floor, or our feet, when we didn't fasten the collar tightly enough. Those made like small Olympic bars are my favorite because you can add Olympic plates to them. They revolve like an Olympic bar, which makes them so much easier to handle. They're great for people who have home gyms and don't want to invest in an assortment of dumbbells.  

I incorporate dumbbells in all of my strength programs, on both auxiliary and primary exercises. Two strength exercises that Olympic weightlifters used to do with heavy dumbbells were cleans and clean and presses. They used them to improve pulling and pressing power, and the dumbbells really got the job done. It was a true test of strength to be able to clean 200-pound dumbbells and press them. It still is, although I seldom see anyone doing that exercise anymore. In my 15 years of strength coaching at three universities, only four of my athletes managed to clean and press the 100-pounders. That's four out of almost 2,500, which makes it a rare feat indeed. 

More often than not it's the clean that keeps them from making the lift. I believe that athletes have to be able to power clean close to 300 in order to clean a pair of 100-pound dumbbells and have enough juice left for the press, unless they're exceptional pressers, and there aren't many of those around.  

When I trained at the York Barbell Club in the '60s, the overhead press was still required in Olympic weight lifting, and there were quite a few who could clean and press 100-pound dumbbells. That's as heavy as the dumbbells went, so when we wanted a real challenge, we rolled the Cyr dumbbell out of the Hall of Fame into the gym. It weighed 220. Now, that isn't a great deal of weight, but it wasn't the weight but, rather, the density of the monster that made cleaning and pressing it difficult two thick spheres connected by a thick, stumpy handle that was too short to grip with two hands. You had to clean it with one hand, and then the spheres were turned and set in position for the press. Because of its bulk, there was no way to cheat-start it. You had to elevate it overhead with raw power. 

Barski and Bill March were the only two lifters I ever saw press the Cyr dumbbell. I never did, though it wasn't for lack of trying. One afternoon Gary Glenney and I got into a contest. With a protein shake at stake we applied all our energy to the task. We cleaned it 13 times, but neither of us could lock it out. I determined that a person had to be able to press 350 off the rack in order to handle it. March and Barski were both doing that and more.  

Whenever I write about pressing heavy dumbbells, I think about Jim Witt, one of the pioneers in the sport of powerlifting and a very strong individual. We trained together at the Dallas Y, and he told me this story. For a time he worked as a traveling salesman in east Texas, and when he came to a new town on a training day, he would seek out the local gym. He carried a pair of 60-pound dumbbells and a pair of 80s in the trunk of his car, and before going in the gym, he'd pull them out and do few warmup sets in the parking lot. Then he'd walk into the gym, go directly to the dumbbells, grab the 100's and proceed to clean and press them. He said he was never asked to pay for training. And in the event that some small town didn't have any sort of training facility, he'd carry the dumbbells into his motel and use them for his workout. 

After the overhead press was dropped from Olympic lifting, interest in pressing heavy dumbbells waned. In fact, trainees stopped doing almost all forms of pressing, which in my opinion was a huge mistake. Cleaning and pressing dumbbells or a barbell is an excellent way to build size and strength in the shoulders. No other upper-body exercise can really match it, and I think using heavy dumbbells is even better than using a bar because it's so much harder. The dumbbells require much more control than a bar, which forces different muscles to get into the act, especially the ones that have to stabilize the dumbbells to keep them from running into each other or to the side.  

Another nice thing about cleaning and pressing dumbbells is that you can do it in a limited amount of space, even in an apartment, and, as mentioned above, you don't need any assistance. 

Cleaning and pressing dumbbells can also be beneficial for those who lift weights as part of their total conditioning program and not primarily to gain size or strength. You don't need heavy weights. If you only have light dumbbells, just run up the reps. You can clean the dumbbells and press them 30 or 40 times, or you can turn this simple exercise into an excellent cardio workout. Clean the weights, press them overhead, set them back on the floor and repeat: clean, press, clean, press. Do that for 20 or more consecutive reps, and I guarantee that you'll be blowing at the end even if you only use 15-pound dumbbells.  

Some lifters at York only cleaned the dumbbells. They didn't bother to follow with any presses because they were more interested in enhancing their pulls. Cleaning heavy dumbbells is very effective and much more difficult than cleaning a barbell. Dumbbells have to be guided in the correct line from start to finish, and unlike what happens with a bar, you have to control them laterally. If you start a bar off the floor and keep it in the proper position through the middle of the movement, the top will generally take care of itself. Not so with dumbbells. You have to pull them all the way to your shoulders. There's no float time, as there is with a bar. You also have to pull dumbbells a bit higher than a bar, since it's extremely hard to dip under them as you would a bar. In addition, the traps don't play nearly as much of a role at the finish with dumbbells. It's the deltoids more than the traps that provide the final punch at the top. That means your delts receive more attention than they do on cleans performed with a bar, which is good. Increase deltoid strength while maintaining strong traps, and when you go back to cleaning a bar, your top pull will be more dynamic. 

You also have to deal with two weights in motion rather than one. If your arms aren't in perfect coordination, you'll have trouble racking the dumbbells at the same time. If one arm is weaker than the other, the disparity will show up once you get to the heavy weights. The same thing holds true for pressing heavy dumbbells, but that's a plus. Discovering a weaker area is always good in strength training because then you can do something about improving it. When I see an athlete with a glaring weakness in one of his arms, I have him do several sets of presses or pulls using that arm. Over time the weaker arm catches up with the stronger one.  

A few of us at York did one-hand snatches with dumbbells, though not nearly as much as we did two-handed cleans. Power-snatching dumbbells works well for the same reasons that dumbbell cleans do. You're forced to pull the weights higher and control them all the way to the finish. While the line of fire is precise, as it is on cleans, since you're only using one dumbbell, the exercise is a bit easier. There can be no hesitation or period of relaxation, or the weight will crash downward like a guillotine. And as with the power cleans, power snatches done with dumbbells build stronger deltoids, particularly the hard-to-hit rear delts. 

Heavy dumbbells are great for improving the start of the flat bench. You can go lower using dumbbells than you can with a bar, and that involves the muscle groups that are responsible for driving the weight off your chest. I prefer dumbbells to a cambered bar. The amount of weight used with dumbbells is restricted because you have to clean them, lie back, get positioned on the bench and then do the presses. Even if you have two people hand you the dumbbells, you're still not going to be able to handle a great deal of weight. Quite often lifters can use as much weight with a cambered bar as they can on a straight bar the very first time they do them, and that ends up being harmful to their shoulders. It's too much too fast. The shoulders are really rather delicate and need time to adapt to new stress.  

Aside from the pure-strength exercises, dumbbells are useful for enhancing overall fitness. They're especially beneficial for older athletes who have accumulated a host of injuries over the years and may have had surgery on one or more joints. Using light-to-moderate dumbbells for higher reps will feed blood to the joints while strengthening the muscles without aggravating the joints. And even if you haven't had surgery, switching to a dumbbell routine for a short period is a smart idea if you've been pounding your joints with heavy weights and low reps for a long time. Using dumbbells for higher reps will give your joints a much needed rest, and when you go back to a pure-strength routine, they'll be better prepared for the work ahead. 

One of the reasons I decided to write about dumbbell training was that several months ago I received a letter from an older athlete asking for some advice. Arthritis in his shoulders prevented him from racking the bar on his back, which meant he could no longer do squats or good mornings, two of his mainstays. He wanted to put off surgery as long as he possibly could and asked if I could suggest a program that would work his entire body. He added that flat benches hurt his shoulder a great deal, but he was able to do deadlifts if he didn't go too heavy.  

He listed the equipment in his home gym: squat rack, combination flat and incline bench, slant board, Olympic bar, 500 pounds of weights and three sets of dumbbells: 20s, 30s and 40s. 

I assured him that he had more than enough equipment to get in a full-body workout and recommended that he try using dumbbells for all his exercises for a while, with the exception of deadlifts. For legs I suggested squats, using a variety of stances, wide, regular, very narrow, walking lunges and one-leg calf raises. For the shoulder girdle it was flat-bench, incline and overhead presses; dips holding a dumbbell between the legs; standing lateral and front raises; bent-over lateral raises; straight-arm pullovers; triceps kickbacks; a variety of curls, regular, hammer and reverse, performed while standing, seated or on the slant board. For back I listed cleans, one-hand snatches, upright rows, bent-over rows and shrugs. 

I told him to try all of those, and if any of them hurt his shoulders or any other bodypart, he should drop it and substitute something else. He didn't have to do all of them. If walking lunges hurt but squats didn't, that was fine because he could still work his hips and legs. He had mentioned that he wanted to train six days a week, since exercise helped his arthritis. I suggested that after he found out what exercises he could do, he should set up two programs and alternate them from workout to workout. Each routine was to have at least one exercise for the three major muscle groups: shoulder girdle, back, and hips and legs.  

A month later I received another letter from him. He said he was really enjoying his new program. One routine consisted of deadlifts, inclines, pullovers, curls, front raises, bent-over rows, back hyperextensions and situps. The other included squats performed with the three stances, flat benches, overhead presses, dips alternated with triceps kickbacks, calf raises, lateral raises, reverse hypers and leg raises. He did everything for three sets of high reps and moved through them in a fast circuit. He was pleasantly surprised to find that he could do flat-benches with dumbbells without hurting his shoulders. He simply turned his hands to a position that didn't bother his shoulders. All his shoulder pain had disappeared, and he believed the bent-over rows were the most responsible for that. He said he planned on staying with the dumbbell routine, since it was providing him with exactly what he wanted. 

Keep in mind that any exercise you can do with a barbell you can also do with dumbbells. The only exceptions that I can think of are full cleans and full snatches. I guess you could do them, although I've never seen it.  

Dumbbells fit into every strength and fitness program. They allow you to get in extra work, add to your weekly workload and improve weak areas without tapping into your strength reserves too much. You accomplish that by doing one or two dumbbell exercises at the end of the workout, just a couple of sets for higher reps. If you try to hit the major muscles with more than one core exercise, you'll become overtrained in a hurry; that is, unless you happen to be very advanced. You can, however, get away with working the smaller groups with lighter weights and higher reps. That activates the muscles more so than the attachments, which is what you want. 

It's a smart idea to have some dumbbells at home even if you train at a commercial gym. On your non-gym days you can hit a couple of areas that might benefit from extra work. That's what Dr. Gourgott did. On the days he didn't go to the gym, he would run, then do a series of arm or shoulder exercises with dumbbells. The auxiliary work added to his weekly load without affecting his next workout in the gym.

So, if you haven't been using dumbbells, give them a try. And if you happen to be in the mood to change your entire program, dumbbell training may be the way to go.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Concentrate for Bigger Arms - Frank Zane (1968)

Frank Zane's Latest Book and DVD: 

If You Want Bigger Arms!
by Frank Zane (1968)

A pair of big, shapely, muscular arms is held in esteem by all bodybuilders, for big arms are the most visible area of the male physique, and are a symbol . . . a sign of muscular might and male virility. Big arms are in

Moreover, the recent trend in bodybuilding favors outstandingly massive arms such as those of Larry Scott, Dave Draper, Sergio Oliva and Bill Pearl. I have seen them all, and can truthfully say they possess incredible arm development. 

My Arm Limitations

I do not number among this group of fabulous arms. My arms have never measured more than 18 inches cold. Of course, they are 6" larger than the 12" arms with which I began bodybuilding, and, since I have not reached the ultimate arm potential I possess, I hope to further increase their size and muscularity. However, for me, muscularity and shape come first . . . before size. I have a strong, natural limiting factor in my arm potential and that is my small wrists which have always measured less than 7 inches.

At the same time, being small-boned can be a distinct advantage, for although I may never acquire 20-inch arms, my 18-inch arms, if properly shaped and muscular, will look larger on my small bone size than a pair of 20-inchers! One cannot change one's inherited structure, so it is wise to use it, and I am doing, to your advantage and work for the best possible physique within your structural limits. For this reason I believe the tape measure is less a criterion of what great arms really can be than are sculptured shape and chiseled definition.

Directing my thoughts toward shapely and well developed arms that would appear much larger contrasted with my small wrists, my are training routines have gradually changed from heavy weight/low rep routines to training schedules with a great degree of concentration. With this concentration motif I have used two basic principles to get full-height, high-peak  and perfect shape in my arms. They are Peak Contraction and Continuous Tension methods.

Before explaining them I want to mention that beginning bodybuilders whose arms are not fully developed . . . who have not remotely approached their development potential . . . should concentrate on cheating movements -- handling the heaviest possible weight and doing the movements fairly rapidly. The idea is to handle the heaviest weight and do no more than 8 reps for 5 sets. This will bulk the arms. However, at my stage of training, my arms are large enough and therefore need no greater bulk. So I concentrate on shaping them, sculpting them and defining them more sharply. Such an effect, as that on my present 18-inch arms will produce the quality look of championship muscle density.

How the Peak Contraction Method Works

When performing an exercise, contract fully up to the top of the movement . . . no partial movements. Then, when you reach the top of the movement, tense and contract even harder for a second or two, putting in more effort to mentally and physically contract the muscles to force in the last ounce of tension from the exercise. You will feel a small cramp, or ache (or "burn" as the West Coast bodybuilders call it) after doing each set with this method . . . a sign that you are doing it properly and effectively.

How the Continuous Tension Method Works

As you perform the exercise, you must continuously tense the muscles in movement. From the start of the rep do the movement fairly slowly, concentrating on the muscle in action all the way to the top of the movement . . . tense and peak at this apex . . . then lower the weight slowly to starting position, tensing all the way. Repeat. You must tense the muscles in action from the very beginning to the very end of the rep; this is the essence and importance of Continuous Tension.

I combine these two training methods to get the full benefit of concentration into my exercises and to make sure I get the fullest peak and shape from the muscles. Make these two methods the basics for your own concentration work, and, to repeat, use these methods only when your arms have grown to fairly large size, and need shaping, peak-height and definition . . . for the muscular density look and first class arms.

In line with this new approach to arm training I would also apply Quality Training, which indicates as little rest between sets as possible. In this way I work the muscles to the maximum, burning off every bit of intra-muscular fat and working for maximum shape and impressiveness, not just beefy size.

To me this type of training is vastly superior to the old, heavy-weight/plenty of rest, strain and puff kind. Some people have told me that lack of big arm size has been preventing me from taking the top IFBB titles, and if I can remedy this, while keeping shapely development in harmony with my bone structure and overall symmetry, this routine will be the one to do it! 

Arm Work Should be Divided Into Three Parts

Your biceps, triceps and forearms each should get equal consideration in your arm training routine. In my present workouts I work biceps along with legs and back on one day . . . triceps with deltoids and chest on he next day . . . and I conclude each arm workout with some forearm exercise. I also utilize Instinctive Training in that I instinctively vary my arm exercises whenever I feel I have derived full value from the routine. I choose exercises of diverse character that work the arm muscles from every angle. But I firmly believe that the most important thing in arm exercise is not the exercises chosen, but the way exercises are performed.

My Exercise Routine

 - All exercises are performed with peak contraction and continuous tension methods.

Biceps Day:

1) Incline Dumbbell Curl - 5 sets of 6 reps.
This movement works the entire biceps with special emphasis on the lower biceps when performed correctly. Make sure to begin the curl slowly, placing great stress on getting the weight started slowly, and to lower the dumbbells slowly and fully until the arm is extended and locked each and every rep.

2) Scott Bench Pulley Curl - 5 x 6 reps.
I use a light weight, 90 pounds, for peaking and shaping the biceps. Slowly and with great concentration is the rule of the day for this movement.

3) Alternate Dumbbell Curl - 5 x 8.
For a super finishing pump, this exercise is great. I use 45's with strict deliberate, concentrated form.

Alternate Biceps Routine

1) Flat Bench Dumbbell Curl - 5 x 6.
This exercise, done by Lou Degni (Mark Forest), Leroy Colbert, and Larry Scott, is particularly good for developing  biceps peak because it enables you to concentrate solely on the biceps, stretching and developing its full length.

2) Scott Bench Barbell Curl - 5 x 6.
Do this one for the lower biceps area. Extend the arms fully at the bottom and perform the movement slowly.

3) Barbell Curl - 5 x 6.
Do this movement strictly and slowly, concentrating fully and keeping tension on the muscle throughout.

Triceps Day:

1) Pulley Pushdown - 5 x 10.
I use these both to warm up the triceps as well as get a good pump going. Do full range movements and lock out fully at the bottom. Work up in weight gradually over the five sets. I prefer a V-Grip handle for these.

2) One Arm Overhead Extension - 5 x 8.
Using one arm allows my to concentrate fully on the action of the triceps. I go back and forth from arm to arm with no rest.

3) Close Grip Bench Press - 5 x 8.
Do these slowly, hands about 12 inches apart, elbows pointed out to emphasize the outer triceps. Lower all the way to the chest but don't quite lock out at the top to keep continuous tension on the muscle.

Alternate Triceps Routine:

1) Bench Dips - Higher Reps to warm up.
I do these between two benches with just my bodyweight, going through the movement slowly and carefully. Press up with triceps strength only. I gradually increase from a partial movement to the full range on the first few sets.

2) Lying Pulley Pressouts - 5 x 8.  
This movement is basically a triceps pressdown while in the lying position on the floor. I find that the variety here enables me to concentrate more fully. Lock out strongly at the "bottom" position.

3) Bent Forward Triceps Kickback - 5 x 10.
Stand with the upper body bent forward parallel to the floor, place non-exercising hand on opposite knee for support. With dumbbell in other hand, raise the arm backward and upward as far as you can, tensing strongly all the way, plus a few little extra "squeezes" (burns) when your arm has reached the very farthest it will go.

At the conclusion of each of my triceps workouts I do 4 sets of 10 reps of Triceps Dips on the bars. I do these fast, as a final pump, and they are quite effective!

Forearm Workout:

Wrist Roller - 5 sets of 5
I believe there is a definite relationship between the adjacent development of muscular parts; that is working the forearms helps the arms, working the deltoids helps the pecs, etc. By working the one area you indirectly strengthen the adjoining muscle group, thus receiving supplementary benefit. This, along with increased size and definition, is another reason to working the forearms, besides keeping the lower arms in symmetrical development with the upper arms. 



Thursday, March 22, 2018

And Now . . . An All-Time Favorite Dave Draper Workout

For a Near-Infinite Number of Training Ideas, Feel Free to Visit
Dave & Laree Draper's Website: 

Okay, I'll admit to hitting a patch of the blahs with those weights a while ago. If Sartre had been one of us, he'd have called it Nausea, no doubt. Camus, too, might've realized quickly that I had become an Outsider to all forms of lifting . . . bars, plates, collars . . . people . . . the whole universal deal of it had become far from uplifting. Most listless.

It was rough. 

She flew away and I feared that sweet bird was never comin' back! 
My Being lacked Liftingness. Could this be All She Wrote? 

Ah, Hell No! All's I did was take a wee breather for a couple-a two or so weeks, scrap all the inner 'n outer crap and nonsense that sometimes grows its mold on things we love, and . . . well . . . I dug around for a layout that'd hit the target. Funny how that target tends to be mobile. 

So . . . I remembered seeing this layout, way back when . . . 
done, designed and lovingly handed down online by Dave Draper. 
Yeah, it's one of those ones. Actually, after some time dancing with it, it may the THE one. If such a thing exists
and please don't tell me if it don't. 

Now, aside from the genius visible in the way it's laid out magically, there's the feel of it. I kid you not, after each workout I'm feeling better by a mile than I did before starting. Ha! You got me. I lied. Make that a mile and a half.  It gets that warmth flowing, lets you go up to a burning ache (when you're up to it) and leaves you feeling . . .

Aww, twas a perfect, bodypart-friendly reentry. There's the ticket. This one'll likely be on my dance-card for quite some time.

All things willing.  

I'm certain you'll notice there's less pec-pressing going on here than the usual, whatever that might be in your view. And I'm also sure you won't need to be reminded that we are all individuals. Right? 


Variation of crunches, incline and weighted, leg raises, hyperextensions, hanging leg raises 


Seated Front Press (3-5x12, 10, 8, 8, 6)
tri-setted with
Wide Grip Pulldowns (3-5x12, 10, 8, 8, 8)
Standing Bentover Lateral Raises (3-5x6-8)

Dumbbell Press (4-5x12, 10, 8, 8, 6)
tri-setted with
Dumbbell Pullovers (4-5x12, 10, 8, 8, 6)
Seated Lat Row (4-5x12, 10, 8, 8, 6) 


Leg Extensions (3-5x10-12)
tri-setted with
Leg Curls (3-5x8-12)
Calf Raises (3-5x15-20) 

Squats (5-7x15, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 6)
Deadlifts (5x10, 8, 6, 6, 6) 


Rubber tubing rotator cuff work,
5 sets x 20-25 adductor, 5x abductor 

Wrist Curls (3-5x20, 15, 15, 15, 15)
tri-setted with
Thumbs Up curl (3-5x10, 8, 8, 8, 6)
Pulley Pushdowns (3-5x12-15)

Bent Bar Curls (3-5x6-8)
supersetted with
Dips (3-5x12-15)

Dumbbell Alternate Curls (3-5x6-8)
supersetted with
Overhead or Lying Triceps Extensions (3-5x12, 10, 8, 8, 8) 

Be good to yourself. 


Seated Front Press (4x12, 10, 8, 6)
supersetted with
Pulldowns (4x12, 10, 8, 6)

Dumbbell Inclines (4x12, 10, 8, 6)
supersetted with
Pullovers (4x12, 10, 8, 6) 

Dumbbell Rows (4x8)

Dumbbell Alternate Curls (4x12, 10, 8, 6)
tri-setted with
Dips (4xMax)
Pulley Pushdowns (4x12) 


Same as earlier leg day 

Light Deadlifts (5x8)
supersetted with
Rope Tucks (5x25)

Be good to another. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Psychological Approach to Lifting - Doug Hepburn (1961)

Note: Doug Hepburn was greatly influenced by author Paul Brunton.
If you're interested, here

All matter is shaped or directed by force. Force precedes matter and therefore is of the greater importance. This principle, when applied to the weightlifter, simply means that the body (matter? when exercised correctly will strengthen and develop proportionately to the degree of force (mind) directed toward this end.

Thought or intelligence must precede material alteration and change; who could possibly perform any act, however small, before first consciously or unconsciously conceiving the idea. It follows then that the greater the degree of force or thought power expended upon a certain definite objective or goal the greater will be the end result or accomplishment. 

Not only is the intensity of mind force all important, but also its constancy, for if the force of thought is directed away from the objective, even temporarily, then the efficiency of matter change is impeded. 

If this mind force is removed and redirected not temporarily but permanently from the objective then the matter will change pertaining to this objective will cease, even retrogress. If, for example, the reader sincerely desires a large biceps muscle then mind force compels one to curl. The effected matter (in this case the biceps muscle) is in turn compelled to enlarge and strengthen in accordance to its inevitable biological process. Conversely, if this mind force is directed and focused, through redirection, not on the acquisition of a large biceps muscle but rather a new car, then the process of biceps enlargement will be impeded or will cease entirely. 

One's personal sense of values has a direct bearing on the motivation and directing of mind-force. The degree of will-drive application to the objective-goal is dependent upon the degree of desire. If there is no sincere desire there can be little power of will. The desire for the objective must remain constant for the attainment of a worthwhile goal-objective is brought about cumulatively of in other words, as a result of regular unvarying training and living habits. If one's desire or desires remain in a perpetual state of fluctuation between one objective and another; if, so to speak, one is forever running "hot and cold" then there cannot possibly exist "singleness of purpose" and consequently little or no progress toward any one objective. This, in my opinion, constitutes the pitfall of the majority of aspiring strength athletes. 

Some of our more prominent weightlifting authorities have often stated that "if our lifters are to continue to win, then weightlifting must be their first consideration." In other words, all other things must assume a secondary importance in the life of a dedicated weightlifter. Those who aspire to become top ranking lifters must be willing to make such a sacrifice and must do so without regret. The aspirant would do well to indoctrinate himself with the ideology that the attainment of a world weightlifting record is of a greater value to him or to the world than the attainment of material wealth. to minimize the importance of material-sensual satiation and must strive to elevate one's self and thought to the artistic and creative plane can very well result in the elimination of mediocrity and an entering into the realm of the exceptional.

There are some who will regard even the entertainment of such an outlook as naive or eccentric. I have never thought so, nor, I am convinced, do any lifters of world championship caliber. Here then is the "proof of the pudding," for these men their accomplishment is the sum product of their ideation. Again there are some who will dispute this statement. On what grounds, may I ask, is their argument based, unless they have accomplished something exceptional themselves.

A dedicated athlete, in order to be assured of realizing his or her own goal, must be selective and desire to take no more from the world other than that essential to the process of attainment. Superfluous material possessions and the maintenance of same tend to complicate and disorganize a simple existence; such an existence is the prime prerequisite of the potential outstanding athlete.

There is one, and only one road to a world or Olympic gold medal. This road contains no sidetracks or detours. It is a road moistened by sweat and the air above sweetened with the perfumed Zephyrs of inspiration. It is indeed a worthy road to travel.  


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Strengthening the Ankles - Bill Starr

I’ve observed over the years that most people, athletes and non-athletes alike, take their ankles for granted – that is, until they injure one. Then they fully comprehend just how vital ankles are to their well-being. Simple everyday tasks such as walking and climbing stairs suddenly become very difficult, and participating in any type of physical activity is out of the question.

Whenever strength athletes hurt an ankle, they discover how great a role that joint plays in a wide range of exercises in their routine. Obviously, ankles are involved in squatting and every type of pulling movement, but who would have guessed that a dinged ankle would also have a detrimental effect on inclines and flat benches? When lifters are unable to establish a firm base with their feet before benching or inclining, they can’t bring the power up from that base into the bar. Of course, overhead work is also not feasible when someone is nursing an injured ankle.

Basically, movement depends on sturdy ankles. We need them to walk, run, jump and move in a variety of directions. When I approached 40, I decided that I needed to do more for my cardiovascular and respiratory systems. After moving to York, Pennsylvania, I made a point of doing some cardio for my Olympic lifting training regimen. I regularly played racquetball and volleyball at the York Y and practiced with the York College soccer team. Later I ran on the wide, sandy beaches of Santa Monica and on the track at the University of Hawaii, although never more than a couple of miles.

My goal was to run 10 miles a week, six on Sunday and four on Thursday, my nonlifting days. That’s when I became aware of the importance of strong ankles. During my first six months of running I sprained my left ankle three times. It puzzled me why it was always my left ankle because both were doing the same amount of work. Finally it dawned on me that my left ankle was weaker than my right one. I think that’s true for everyone. One leg and one arm are generally stronger than the other leg and arm, mostly because we unconsciously give it priority. I added some strength work for my left ankle and didn’t sprain it again.

Those minor injuries made me aware of how dependent I was on my ankles and how much they were involved in my strength training. All my lifts fell off while I was rehabbing a sprain, and it took another six weeks to move back up to my former numbers once it was fully recovered.

The ankle is a marvelous structure. It with the talus, a knoblike bone that sits atop the calcaneus, or heel bone. is responsible for stabilizing the lower leg and foot and for all movements of the foot. It’s a hinge joint formed by the articulation of the two bones of the lower leg, tibia and fibula, along

The ankle is structured with an interlacing network of ligaments, tendons and muscles, which enables the foot to be lifted, turned downward and rotated from side to side. Its design is amazing, extremely complex yet simple in purpose. Because there are so many tendons and ligaments in the ankle, size isn’t a variable in terms of strength. That’s why we’ve all seen powerlifters of strength athletes with puny ankles squat huge poundages as well as athletes who seem to be able to soar upward almost effortlessly with ankles the same size as their wrists. The size of your ankles is determined by genetics, but it is within your power to make them considerably stronger, and that’s all that matters.

Late one night I was flipping through the channels seeking some program worth watching when I came across a PBS station out of Camden, New Jersey, that was running a show dealing with rehabbing athletes – my cup of tea. It was about preparing Chinese athletes for the upcoming Olympics, and all the subjects had some type of lower-body injury. Most were dealing with some kind of hip or knee problem, but some had pulled hamstrings and adductors. What caught my attention was the very first thing the therapist did in every case: exercise the athlete’s ankle on the injured leg. None had hurt their ankles, yet that was where the therapy began. The therapist or trainer would flex and rotate the ankle for quite a long time. After a brief rest, he’d do it again.

That intrigued me because I knew that when someone in our country is rehabbing a knee or hip or injured leg muscle, nothing is done directly to the ankle. In fact, the ankle is left to fend for itself. It dawned on me that what the Chinese were doing made perfect sense. Exercising the ankle vigorously did two positive things: 1) It brought nourishing blood to the injured area as it passed down through the leg on its way south, and 2) it helped strengthen the ankle joint. Making it considerably stronger in the very early part of the rehab process enabled the athlete to move on a stable joint during the other phases of his recovery much sooner.

So now, whenever I feel as if my knees, hips, quads, adductors or hamstrings need some direct attention, I begin exercising my ankles at night, while reading or watching TV. All I do is extend my foot, rotate my ankle and extend it up and down until it gets tired. I rest and do it again, often a dozen times. At my next workout, I make sure to hit the groups that are connected to the ankle. I’m referring to the muscles that form the lower leg: soleus, gastrocnemius and tibialis anterior.  

Since I’ve done articles on the calves previously, I won’t go into detail how to strengthen them, but I will review the main points. The calf is formed by the larger, more prominent gastrocnemius and the smaller yet no less important soleus. The gastrocnemius originates above the knee, at the rear of the femur, the long bone of the upper leg. Two tendons extend down, to where they help form the Achilles tendon, and insert at the posterior of the heel bone. The gastrocnemius is a prime mover of the foot, and it assists in flexing the knee.

The soleus lies directly behind the gastrocnemius and originates at the upper parts of the backs of the two bones of the lower leg, the tibia and fibula. Then it extends downward to aid in forming the Achilles tendon and attaches to the heel bone. It also takes part in all foot movement.  

The two calf muscles work in harmony, forming a functional unit known as the triceps surge. However, similar as they are to one another, there’s a difference between them, and understanding it will enable you to make them both a great deal stronger. Observant readers may have already spotted the difference. It has to do with where the two muscles originate. 

Because the gastrocnemius originates above the knee, it’s strengthened when you do exercises with locked legs, as in standing calf raises. In contrast, you hit the soleus directly when you do calf raises while seated, as it originates below the knee. That’s why it’s so helpful to learn some basic anatomy and kinesiology. Little points like the ones I just mentioned can make a huge difference in overall gains.

Knowing about the two calf muscles is why I recommend doing both versions of calf raises – seated and standing. You can do one type in a calf workout and the other the next time you work your calves. Or do two sets of each at the same session. If you want results, you have to punish your calves. Staying in the comfortable range just doesn’t work for those weight-bearing muscles. Higher reps are in order – 30s for no fewer than three sets. The final dozen reps should make your eyes water. Be sure to always stretch immediately after each set and again later that same night.  

If calf machines aren’t available, you can still do standing calf raises by placing the barbell on your back and fixing the front of your feet on a two-by-four. The movement requires a certain bit of balance, but with a bit of practice you’ll be able to make your calves scream. That’s how all weight trainees and bodybuilders built their impressive calves before the machines came along. To do seated calf raises, sit on a bench or chair, place a towel or pillow on your thighs, and stack some plates on that. Again, fix the front of your feet on a two-by-four or phone books. That will give you a greater range of motion. Others prefer to hold a dumbell in one hand and work one leg at a time, standing or seated.

Note: Or, try this. One legged standing DB calf raise with right leg to near-failure; immediately go to two legged standing calf on machine. Reverse. Make sure you're using a nice heavy poundage on the two leg raise. The body's pretty much its usual idiot self in this case. The already baked leg simply has to keep working once you go two-legged. It's designed to do just that for self-preservation. It can't ask questions and will just keep on going until the baked leg is pretty much screaming. A couple sets of these and your calves will be pumped like never before. Try the same thing for something like wrist curls. Again, the body can't stop once you go to the two armed version. Strange deal, eh. Okay, get all warmed up and try this with some quad-based squats. One legged using dumbbells with the right leg immediately to the rack and some two-legged quad squats with an erect back. Take a breather and reverse. Tell your friends, impress your pets, email your dead loved ones. They still have meaning, right? Did any of us ever? Start another useless YouTube channel and get likes from losers along with ugly comments from loafers. Please be my friend and respect me. Caress my ego. Relieve the stress of not knowing if I am worthy of living. Alleviate my aloneness, okay? Let my perceived successes in life separate me from the absurdity of existing. Anyhow . . . how did "fill-in-the-blank" commit suicide? Ready? By jumping off his ego onto his I.Q.   

To really put a jolt into your calves, get inside a power rack and set the bar at a height where you’re standing fully erect. Now place the second set of pins three to four inches higher. Extend up on your toes, lock the bar against the higher pins, and do an isometric contraction for 10 to 12 seconds. As you get stronger with the movement, increase the weight on the bar, but keep the contraction for 10 to 12 seconds. Although I’ve never done a seated iso for calves, I can’t think of any reason it can’t be done, so you might want to give it a shot.  

Any pulling exercise that requires you to extend high on your toes is also good for strengthening the calves. Power cleans, power snatches, full snatches and full cleans, snatch and clean high pulls and shrugs come under that heading. 

While all the exercises I’ve discussed will certainly take care of the gastrocnemius and soleus, the front portion of the lower leg also needs direct work. That the tibialis anterior. I’m aware that many more muscle groups run down the front of the lower leg and extend into the ankle and foot, such as the peroneus tertius, extensor hallucis longus and extensor digitorum longus. The tibialis, however, is by far the largest, and when you work it, you hit the rest.

I’m frequently called retro in my selection of exercises, and I’m guilty as charged. Some of the very best exercises have been forgotten, or the equipment is no longer available, yet many are tried and tested out and still useful. I’m going back to the ‘30s and ‘40s for this one. Older athletes will remember the Iron Boot – I’m betting that they all used it at one time or another. I did too, although only long enough to see how to perform a number of exercises with it. It was effective. The trouble was, it took time to attach it to my shoes and make sure the weights were secure. I didn’t want to spare the time when I was younger, but that isn’t a factor now.

I believed that the device no longer existed, yet I was proven wrong. Last Saturday on a visit to the York Barbell Museum with Daryl Goss, I ran across them in the store. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, the Iron Boot is basically what the name implies – a piece of metal that attaches to your shoe onto which weights can be added. It’s a very simple but effective device that you can use to work every part of your legs, including your tibialis.  

Secure the boot to your shoe or over socks, extend your leg, and move your foot up and down, up and down until the front of your lower leg tires. Rest and do it again. You can do both legs at the same time or one at a time. I believe one at a time is more beneficial because you don’t have to worry as much about balance.

The Iron Boot is also useful in strengthening the ankle itself – just rotate your foot in circles. You’ll find that you need only very little weight added to the boots for them to work. Sometimes the boot itself is sufficient.

Ankle weights that are attached with Velcro are easier to use and accomplish the same purpose. Their only drawback is that you need quite a few of different poundages if you want to increase the resistance. Adding more resistance to the Iron Boot is no problem. If you use ankle weights, don’t attach them to your ankles. Attach them to your foot. Then you can attack your tibialis and the rest of the groups in your ankle quite readily.

Those two pieces of equipment are great for use at home. If you train in a gym that has a leg press, you can readily overload your tibialis and neighboring groups in the front of the leg. Position yourself in the machine so that your leg is straight. You should start off using very light resistance until you get the feel of what you’re trying to do. The resistance needs to be light enough to give you complete control yet heavy enough to work the target muscles thoroughly. Keep the reps relatively high – 20s to 30s for 3 sets per leg. You can do them with both legs at the same time, but I’ve found that working only one leg at a time is more productive.

While many gyms don’t have a leg press, nearly all have leg curl machines, which you can use to strengthen your front leg and ankle. Sit on the end of the machine, hook your toes under the pad and proceed to lift them up toward your knee. Same deal on sets and reps: 3 x 20-30.

There are also machines designed specifically for exercising the ankles. They’re generally found in rehab and physical therapy facilities, but I’ve come across a couple in commercial gyms. If you happen to have one at your disposal, by all means put it to use. It’s most effective because it works the front, back and both sides.

These exercises are also very useful for anyone who’s rehabbing an injured ankle. Keep them in mind if you happen to ding an ankle in the future.

Many of the basic exercises in any strength routine help strengthen the ankles. Front and back squats, deadlifts, heavy shrugs and lunges involve the ankles to a large extent, so they’re strengthened during the performance of those lifts. Any exercise that requires a heavy poundage to be supported by your body is going to work your ankles. I’ve found walking lunges to be especially good in that regard. The balancing factor forces the ankles to extend themselves more than in conventional lunges or even squats. I know that’s the case because after I’ve put athletes through a vigorous session of walking lunges with heavy dumbells, a majority of them tell me that their ankles got as sore as their hamstrings and glutes. Soreness means that the muscles and attachments were hit directly.

I was recently asked if partial squats had a place in a strength program. They do because you can handle a great deal more weight, which forces the lower legs and ankles to work much harder in order to maintain control and balance. Instead of doing half or quarter squats, which I believe breeds bad habits, I prefer heavy supports inside a power rack. By heavy I mean working up to a weight that’s twice as much as you can use on a full squat.  

The week following the strength test at the end of the off-season strength program was when I had my advanced athletes do those. Primarily, I wanted them to learn what was involved in supporting a massive amount of iron. Plus, it gave them a certain amount of prestige with their teammates: I allowed only a few athletes to take part in the exercise. They quickly discovered the importance of staying rigidly tight. Let on area of the body relax even slightly, and the bar will jump off your back. That’s why I had them work inside a power rack, which meant there was no danger of their getting injured. With that amount of weight I don’t care to risk using spotters.

You should position the bar to a height where you have to move it three to four inches to lockout, then control it for five to six seconds. I have athletes do a light warmup set of squats, then begin the supports with their best back squat. To qualify to do the supports, the athletes must be using 500 pounds or more. So they would start with that number, them jump 200 pounds. If that’s easy, they move another 200, but if it’s testy, they take a 100-pound increase – and so on until they find their limit.

Besides staying extremely tight, lifters have to learn to ease the bar off the pins. Most try to jerk it upward. That invariably results in the bar’s being a bit too far back or too far forward, and it crashes back on the pins. The body has to be perfectly erect, and the eyes have to be forward. Looking up or down adversely affects the line as well. I tell them to think about grinding their feet down into the floor to establish a solid base, then to bring power up from that base into their legs, glutes, hips, back, shoulders and, finally, into the bar. All the while they must be sure that every muscle is tight before they squeeze the bar off the pins.

If the bar moves out of the proper alignment, it will either feel as if it’s been welded to the pins or run forward or backward. When someone is handling close to a half a ton, the weight doesn’t hang around long enough to allow for any adjustments.

I had several athletes who handled more than 900 pounds and three who exceeded 1,000, which is heady ground for any strength athlete. After they’d limited out, I’d lower the weight considerably and have them support that poundage for a 20-to-30 second count. At their next squat session they always improved, stating that the weight that used to feel so heavy actually felt rather light. That’s because they’d overloaded all the groups responsible for supporting a heavy poundage, and the most important areas of all were the lower legs and ankles. Without that stable base, nothing else really matters.

What else can you do to strengthen your ankles? Get in motion. Sit less, stand more. If you’re still young – and some 45-year olds are – participate in activities that force your ankles to work harder, such as basketball, soccer, volleyball, tennis, racquetball or cycling and running. If you qualify for a senior discount, just walk. Long hikes over rough terrain make your ankles do extra work to maintain balance, and that’s a good thing.  

Keep in mind that an ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure. Keeping your ankles strong will help you live an active lifestyle as you grow older. So make a place in your strength routine for at least one specific exercise for your lower legs and ankles, along with lots of other exercises that include them in the execution of the movement. The long-term benefits are well worth the effort.




Bill Howard, Training for the Classic Physique - Gene Mozee (1974)

Bill Howard: A Classical Study of Physical Perfection
by Gene Mozee (1974) 

At a time when most athletes are retiring from competition, and their talent is rapidly diminishing, the bodybuilder is often just hitting his full stride. One very important reason why this is so is that the serious bodybuilder is continually striving to improve. In his quest to reach his goals, he constantly searches for a new and better way to make progress. He is always willing to learn something new. Just ask Bill Howard, who says, "I trained for twenty years until I recently discovered that I make better progress and faster gains by not overworking. I do less sets and exercises now, but everything I do works my muscles to the maximum." 


Bill had just finished his workout at Vince's Gym and was starting to practice his posing routine, which he had learned from the acknowledged "master of posing" Vince Gironda. As I stood there watching Bill glide smoothly from pose to pose, I was amazed at the sensational improvement he had recently made. His deltoids appeared rounder and fuller, his biceps more peaked, his thighs more shapely, and his abdomen rippled with terrific definition. When he finished his posing routine, which was a carbon copy of Gironda's famous classic routine, Vince said, "Isn't that guy great? I've never seen anyone who could duplicate my poses so perfectly." Vince was elated. So was Bill. I was impressed! 

Having known Bill Howard for years, I remarked that this was by far the best I had ever seen him look. Bill agreed with me. I asked him how he had made such terrific gains since I last saw him a few months before. He replied, "I owe it all to Vince. For years I have admired him and always wanted to become associated with Vince and train under him. I was just plodding along year after year in the same old bag, staying in shape, but not really advancing. I decided to go see Vince and ask his advice on getting in shape for the Mr. International contest which was less than a month away. Vince evaluated my physique and then planned a special workout program and diet for me. It was completely different from anything I had ever done before . . . less exercises, less sets, but more concentrated. It amazed me at how fast I improved! In just three weeks I was more cut up than I had ever been in my life, and went on to win 2nd place in the Tall Class at the Mr. International contest against some very tough competition." 

Vince Gironda is famous for getting people in top shape fast. I asked Vince how he was able to do this. Vince replied, "I can't take credit for Bill's development. He was already well built when he came to me. What I did was to have him cut down on his overall training program, but work his weak points harder. Bill was like most advanced bodybuilders who work each muscle group with lots of sets, but don't really work the weakest part of the muscle hard enough. For example, if your arms are big, but lack a good biceps peak, you should work exclusively on trying to build more height to the muscle by concentrating on the outer head of the biceps. If there is one specific area of a muscle that needs improvement, it should be worked instead of the stronger area. This method of isolating each muscle group's weakest point, and concentrating exclusively on it, results in a remarkable improvement in an individual's overall physique in a very short time." 

 The Compiled Works of Vince Gironda: 

Big Thanks to Gregory Taper! 

Bill was in complete agreement with Vince. "I look better at age 40 than I ever have before," said Bill, "and I know that I can continue to improve for some time to come." He believes that he will be able to reach his full bodybuilding potential now that he has found this new method of training.

"I bulked up to 240 pounds a few years ago," said Bill. "I never felt so good as when I trimmed back down to 200. Not everyone can get the massive muscle density of Arnold or Sergio. I prefer classical and symmetrical lines of men like Gironda and Zane. That's what I'm striving for in my training." 

Bill Howard is no stranger to the readers of Muscle Builder. He has won over 60 trophies in physique competition. Among his other weight game accomplishments re a 425 bench, 625 squat and a 645 deadlift -- all done in competition. He formerly held the Wisconsin State record in the squat with a 599 at 198 pounds. 

After moving to Southern California ten years ago, Bill has trained with many of the top men like Arnold, Franco. Zane, Draper, Waller, Zabo and others. He is also close friends with Armand Tanny, Dick Dubois, Bill Pearl, George Eiferman and many other greats who have given him training tips over the years.

In h of 1974, Bill graduated from the Cleveland College of Chiropractic in Los Angeles. He feels that his bodybuilding background will prove a real asset when he goes into practice. He is very knowledgeable on the subject of nutrition, which he plans to stress with his chiropractic patients. Bill has a unique philosophy which he plans to implement when he hangs up his shingle. He plans to be a doctor who is concerned with health rather than disease. His patients will pay to stay healthy -- and if they become ill, there will be no fee until they are well again.

Bill disagrees with people who say you can't put in long hours and still find time to train. He attended Chiropractic college six hours a day, and also worked six hours daily as the director of the Ocean Towers Health Club in Santa Monica, California. He trained at 4:00 a.m. on weekdays before he went to his 7:00 a.m. class. Now that's what I call true dedication! 

In addition to his training, Bill did two other things which helped bring about his remarkable improvement: 

1) He practiced his posing routine at least an hour a day (30 minutes with Vince and another 30 to 60 minutes at home at night).

2) He modified his diet. 

The diet that he used was Vince's special high protein/low carbohydrate diet. Vince believes that you must eat one carbohydrate meal every third day to keep your body functioning most efficiently. He and Bill both agree that this carbohydrate meal every third day helps you get definition faster without losing too much energy and muscle size. Another aspect of the diet was that bill laid off all supplements on Sunday on his only non-training day. Here is his pre-contest diet: 

Breakfast - 3 hard boiled or poached eggs, 1" thick slice of butter, 2 oz. of liquid amino acids and supplements*. 

Lunch - 1/2 lb. broiled beef patty, supplements.  

Dinner - 1/4 to 1 lb. of beef (usually steak), supplements. 

*Supplements: (divided up with each meal) - Multi Vitamin/Mineral formula, liquid amino acids, concentrated germ oils, B-complex, 1000 mg. of Vitamin C, 1200 units of Vitamin E, 60 desiccated liver tablets, 30 kelp tablets. 

The only liquids consumed were black coffee and water. Although this may seem severe, the consumption of carbohydrates at one meal every three days kept his energy level high and broke up the boredom of the low carbohydrate regime.

When not training for a contest, Bill will eat about 60 to 80 grams of carbohydrates a day. For instance, he'll have seven-grain toasted bread with breakfast and add a baked potato and have a salad with the evening meal. He prefers foods that are organically grown without preservatives or pesticide spray residue. He never eats white flour products, sugar products, or highly processed foods. He neither smokes nor drinks.

Pre-Contest Training Program

This training routine can be used to get in shape fast, whether it is for a contest of just to get defined and polish up to a peak condition. It is a true split routine -- upper body one day and lower body the next. Each workout takes about 1-1/2 hours or less. Quality training is used -- no more than 30 seconds rst between sets.

Monday/Wednesday/Friday - Upper Body

1) Pulley Short Lat Pulls - 

This is a great exercise for adding sweep to the lats for a better spread. From the semi-squat position, the bar is pulled into the upper abdomen; it is then lowered to the starting position with care being taken that the upper back is under continuous tension throughout. This is repeated until 8 sets of 8 reps have been completed.    

2) Wide V-Bar Dips - 

This is the best exercise to add shape and cuts to the lower and outer portions of the pectorals. The body is lowered as far as possible with a double bounce on the bottom; the upper body is thoroughly contracted and slightly compressed at the top. Again, 8 sets of 8 reps. 

3) One-Arm Cable Laterals - 

Unbeatable for building a cap on the delts by developing the lateral head, which is great for increasing the width of the shoulders. While seated on a low bench, or kneeling, the cable handle is raised across the body to about ear level. The little finger is turned up at the top to peak the deltoid. 8 x 8 with each arm.

4) Long Cable Triceps Extension - 

All three heads of the triceps are thickened and shaped with this exercise. While kneeling and supported on a low bench, extend the arms to a complete lockout with the elbows facing outwards at all times. 8 sets of 8 reps.

5) Scott Bench Curls - 

This is probably the best exercise for building up the outer head of the biceps, which improves the peak. With the hands wide and the elbows in close, lower the barbell as far as possible before returning toe the starting position. Do 6 full reps with as much weight as you can handle in proper form. 

Then, without resting, step back from the bench and stand erect and do 4 more reps in the following manner: 

Curl the weight up as high as possible with the elbows well back so that the bar barely grazes the chest on the way up. This peak contraction movement is done immediately after every set of Scott Bench Curls (done as described). Do 8 sets of this biceps superset.  

Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday - Lower Body

1) Hip-Belt Calf Raise - 

A unique exercise that really works the calves thoroughly. The foot positions are varied on each set (toes in, out, and straight) to get all sections of the muscle. Rise all the way up and lower all the way down on each rep. This is done for 8 sets of 20 repetitions. The knees are rotated inward in a kind of circular motion on the way up on every rep. 

2) Sissy Squat -

This is probably the most effective exercise known for building and shaping the quadriceps muscles just above the knee. The exercise is done in three parts: 

(a) With the heels elevated, the hips are thrust forward as the body is lowered; return to the starting position and repeat for five reps. Then, without pausing . . .

(b) The second part of the exercise is done from the bottom position of the squat. The hips are thrust upwards until you are in the 3/4 squat position; then lower to the bottom and repeat for five reps. Then, without pausing . . .

(c) The third part of the exercise is a combination of the first two movements. Thrust the hips forward as you lower the body, then go down by lowering the hips until you are in the full squat position; return by thrusting the hips forward while rising to the 3/4 position, then bring the hips back and stand up straight again. Repeat for five reps. This is  total of 15 "reps" on the exercise, done for the usual 8 sets.

 3) Isolated Leg Raise/Squeeze -

Here is a really superb abdominal exercise that must be done with intense concentration. With hands placed under the hips and the back propped up against a wall with the chin resting on the chest, slowly raise the legs as high as possible while trying to squeeze or crunch the abdomen. Exhale as the legs are elevated, inhale as they are lowered. Repeat for 8 sets of 8 reps with just a few seconds pause between sets. This will give your abdominals a terrific workout if done properly.

Well, that's Bill's contest training program. It hardly seems like enough work to get results! But that is its secret. It doesn't overwork you and cause you to lose muscle size like those endless sets and reps that some guys use in training down for a peak. In combination with diet, it burns up subcutaneous fat without reducing muscle size. The result is great definition with more size.

The only regret Bill has is that he didn't get started on Vince's routine sooner.   


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