Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Bodybuilding Specialization

Article Thanks to Liam Tweed

Having exhausted the possibilities of all-round schedules, the advanced man usually finds there are parts of his physique that have lagged behind the rest; or he may find it impossible to stand a length all-round (full body) routine with the necessary poundages and sets required to force further growth. We know that really heavy weights are required to ensure physical gains, but the advanced man would need such drawn out and strenuous schedules to work every part of the body sufficiently on each occasion that, unless he were endowed with exceptional powers of recuperation the ultimate result of willing his way through such workouts would be staleness and a complete standstill. The "1001" exercise system (research Bob Hoffman for an explanation if you don't yet know what this is) might produce results in the case of a person able to withstand long workout sessions, but realistically there are few men able to handle top poundages in a fully comprehensive routine. The many sets of each exercise required to give every section of the body adequate stimulation puts this method beyond the powers of an average bodybuilder. The solution to the problem therefore is to specialize on those parts that require extra work, concentrating on giving each main group, such as the chest, back, arms, legs, etc., individual treatment by the use of brief routines of about four or five exercises, worked in several sets of 8-10 repetitions for the upper body and between 12-15 for the legs. Of course, it is advisable to switch the exercises around every so often so that the whole body eventually requires adequate treatment.

In the light of my own experiences, I know it is impossible for me to increase my measurements without adding bodyweight. Therefore, I usually include the Squat in these programs. Whenever this exercise has been omitted, progress has just come to a standstill, or I have even lost bodyweight. However, after gaining in bulk and increasing the measurements required, it is usually possible to work off any slight surplus without an appreciable reduction in girths. Of course, there are those fortunate people who are able to increase their muscular size without putting on too much bodyweight, but they are usually of a high mesomorphic content.  

After the consistent use of standard weight gaining and bodybuilding routines, I decided to employ the above remedy and work exclusively on the upper arms. From a large collection of arm exercises, I finally worked out the following schedules.

Mondays - 

1) Dumbbell Bench Press, 5 x 10 reps
2) Bentover Barbell Curl, 5 x 10
3) Dumbbell Concentration Curl, 5 x 20
4) Lying Triceps Extension, 5 x 10
5) Three Way Laterals (deltoids), 4 x 8 each (side, front, rear).

Tuesdays - 

1) Breathing Squat, 1 x 20
2) Heavy Squat to Box, 3 x 10
3) Front Squat, 3 x 210
4) Breathing Pullover, 15 reps after each set of all squats.

Wednesdays - 
1) Incline Barbell Press, 5 x 10
2) Lean-Forward Dumbbell Curl, 5 x 10  
3) Standing Triceps Extension, 5 x 10
4) Press Behind Neck, 4 x 8
5) Rebound Barbell Curl, 5 x 10 (some tips on variations of rebound curls here:

Thursdays - 
1) Full Squat, 3 x 10
2) Breathing Squat, 1 x 20
3) Medium Heavy (slow) Squat, 3 x 10
4) Pullover, 15 reps after every set of squats.

Fridays - 
1) Three Way Laterals (deltoids), 4 x 8 each (side, front, rear).
2) Dumbbell Bench Press, 5 x 10
3) Seated Alternate Dumbbell Curl, 5 x 10
4) Dumbbell Curl Over a Fixed Bar (DB spider curl), 5 x 10
5) Triceps Pressdown, 5 x 10.

I started work/play with moderate poundages and endeavored to increase the weights as often as possible, with the idea of forcing improvement through more concentrated work on the arms. This policy resulted in well pumped up arms and sore muscles for a few days after; soreness was especially noted in the case of the legs. After a month of this system I eliminated the leg work altogether in order to concentrate more fully on the arms. The length to which the schedules had grown, by the progressive addition of more sets and heavy weights being handled, forced me to cut down the workouts to three per week. I have come to the conclusion that too much leg work is detrimental to the success of specialized work on the upper body, and 3 sets of 10 or 2 of 15 squats are ample for such purposes. A further month on this schedule found the poundages considerably increased on practically all exercises. However, there was a tendency towards a careless execution of the exercises in an effort to complete the movements with such heavy weights. It is probably better to keep to a poundage that permits a reasonably correct performance of an exercise for most of the repetitions, although it is sometimes necessary to relax the style somewhat when squeezing out the last few. It is a good plan to do, say, two sets with the heaviest weights possible and then to revert to a lower weight for the remainder of the sets, which should be performed in strict style. In this way one gets used to handling heavy weights, and at the same time it gives the muscles some very direct work, which is most essential for the arms. Plenty of sets are necessary to tire the biceps and flush them with blood but the type of curl attributed to Floyd Page is an excellent method of working the arms to their limit without using too many sets. Take a fairly light dumbbell and do five half reps from the bottom of the curl to the 90-degree angle, and then without stopping do five half reps from the 90-degree angle to the top of the curl; follow immediately with five complete curls. This will cause a severe cramp in the biceps and really make them ache.

The two months I put in on this resulted in an increase of about a half inch on the upper arms and there was a marked improvement in shape. 

I then changed to a system of three specialized and two general workouts a week consisting of the following exercises.

Mondays - 

1) Seated Barbell Curl, 5 x 10
2) Swing-Bell Curl, 5 x 10
3) Barbell Curl Against Wall, 5 x 10
4) Lying Triceps Extension, 5 x 10
5) Triceps Pressdown, 5 z 10.

Tuesdays - 

1) Bench Press, 6 x 5-10
2) Lateral Raise, 5 x 10
3) Pulldown to Waist, 5 x 10
4) Pushups, 5 x 10-15
5) Swing-Bell Curl, 5 x 10
6) Squat, 2 x 15.

Wednesdays - 
1) Seated Barbell Curl, 5 x 10
2) Swing-Bell Curl, 5 x 10
3) Dumbbell Curl, 5 x 10
4) Press Behind Neck, 5 x 10
5) Overhead Triceps Extension, 5 x 10
6) Reverse Grip Bench Press, 5 x 10.

Thursdays -
1) Standing Lateral Raise, 5 x 10
2) Bench Press, 6 x 5-10
3) Lat Pulldown, 5 x 10
4) Squat, 2 x 15
5) Swing-Bell Curl, 5 x 10
6) Pushups, 5 x 10.

Fridays -
1) Seated Barbell Curl, 5 x 10
2) Swing-Bell Curl, 5 x 10
3) Barbell Curl Against Wall, 5 x 10
4) Lying Triceps Extension, 5 x 10
6) Leaning Forward Triceps Extension, 5 x 10.

This time I made a special effort to cramp the muscles with extreme contractions and extensions of the arms, with only 10 seconds rest between each set. This method pumped the arms up until they were almost numb. However, rather lighter weights were made necessary and the poundages did not increase so rapidly as in the last schedule. The same method was used in the squats and was found most effective; the legs ached severely, even though a reduction of 30 pounds was made in the poundage usually handled.

Eventually I became stale and began to feel tired after each workout. After two months I found my measurements unchanged, and now realize that too many exercises and workouts were used. Also, the inclusion of too many leg raises, situps, and side bends in the schedule contributed to the failure of the experiment. When 'blessed' with a thick waist it is necessary to include abdominal exercises in every workout, but only as supplementary work. In my desire to maintain a trim midsection I tended to overdo this part of the schedule, as it almost became the main part of the routine.

The two months work did, however, result in improved shape and definition of the arms, giving them an appearance of greater size. My abdomianl region also improved, as did the shoulders and thighs. The lesson learned from this experiment was that the whole body was fatigued through too much work and insufficient sleep. When working out so frequently the schedules must be of brief duration, consisting of about four exercises, including the squat, with ample sleep and diet. I find my powers of recuperation do not allow for any more.   

Monday, August 13, 2018

Two Day a Week Compressed Heavy/Light Power-Bodybuilding Routine

Yeah, quite the title there. 
No worries, it's a cool routine regardless.
Great if you're lifting time is quite limited.
It's got, er, what's the 'new' name for it . . . 
auto regulation in there. Give it a name, eh. 

Instead of mainly concentrating on specific sets and reps, the focus here is on auto regulation. You choose whether to lift heavy or light depending on how you're feeling that day. 

You'll only lift twice a week.  

The accessory work is done circus style, I mean CIRCUIT style, and is made up of pulling and pushing compound exercises to aid your main lifts while also building some muscle. 

By checking the speed of a power movement you can determine and adjust how heavy or light you'll lift that day. For example, if your first handful of sets of working-up-to-it back squats look and feel slow, train lighter that day; if the weight in those sets is moving quickly and all strong and confidently, then you can push it harder. Pretty simple stuff really. The sets and reps depend on how you feel and how your reps look, but generally one day is heavy, the next day is light. Come On! This ain't complicated. Work harder on your good days and lay back on the heavy stuff when you're less than great. Duh. I'll lay out a 50-page explanation and a wad of charts to explain it at a later date. Okay then! To the laboratory, Batman!!!

Here's the progression for the Heavy Day: 
First Heavy Workout: 5 x 5
Second: 6 x 3 reps
Third: 4 x 3 reps

Every fourth week or so work up to a max single or double.
P.R. Bro. 

Take a down week and start over. 

You won't necessarily be doing a heavy workout every week. You have to decide that depending on your energy level each training day. Same goes for the light workouts. You might wind up getting woke up in the middle of the night by your screaming third child two nights in a row one week and do two light workouts that week. Or, everything might appear bright, shining and glistening with the epiphany of unlimited energy, so you'll be good for two heavy workouts one week. You know this already. Right? Unless you're a kid who still lives in his parent's basement and haven't yet realized shit about what it means to have a varying daily level of commitment, stress and responsibility to things much greater in the long run than playing with the iron.  

Here's the progression for the Light Day: 
First Light Workout: 4 x 10 reps
Second: 4 x 8
Third: 5 x 5  

Okay, here we have a sample layout.
You know that you can create ones of your own based on this example, right?
Two days a week. One type of day is heavier and one type of day is lighter.
There's an emphasis over the three weeks on a specific power movement.
You know the drill . . . the deadlift; bench press; squat; press. The power movements.
Of course you can sub in any of the variations of those four in different 3 "week" layouts. 
Ask someone who wants to take your money how to do that. Actually, if you don't know how to do that you belong on a basic. strictly laid out beginner/intermediate routine still. It'll give you the chance to learn stuff and, wait a durn minute . . . build your poundages up! Up to the level where 6 heavy sets of 3 will take enough out of you to make those days off a necessity. Or, you could just jam oodles of stinking roids into your stupid ass and grind away like your noodle-brained heroes. Man, do some guys have bad taste in heroes or what. I was looking at a newspaper today and a good third of it was filled with these boobs in uniforms kicking, dribbling, catching, hitting balls around. Quite serous stuff, it would seem. Like I said, bad taste in heroes or what. Sure, it builds team spirit and the ability to work as a group, granted, it's brought down to an absurdly low level of actual worth and does little or nothing for the common good of a society. Come to think of it, it might even do damage to the society. What the hell! All that energy devoted to following what? Schports, Bra. Yes. Sports Bra! Hey, I don't care. It's bullshit. Get the fuck out there make and things better in society. Or . . . kick, dribble, catch or hit some assinine ball around like a fool. Even worse, sit around and WATCH other people kick, dribble, catch or hit some damned ball around. Come to think of it even more, I guess we could add "lift" to that list. Food for thought, ain't it. Go on a food for thought bulking diet and learn something other than how to build swollen tissue and lift ridiculously large weights for no reason other than to make yourself believe you have meaning, however small. Sure. The Get Big Intellect Drink. Guaranteed over time to alienate you completely from the mass of Idiocracy headed motherfuckers slithering around everywhere you look out there. Look Out There, You's, the sky be's falling. Again. Yawn. Some say the gods at times smile down from above on us. I highly doubt that in this case. More likely they turn their eyes away in disgust at the wasted potential, blighted lives and sorry excuses for existence we let ourselves become, down through time, over and over and over again. But fear not! Hope, she's on the horizon! Not really, not at all. We fucked up over thousands of years and now we're stuck, our descendants and their descendants are forced to live in this shadowy miasma of our own creation. Holy smokes, we're unholy smoke! Vicious vapors! Viscous effluvium and damnable dew! Bleak our perceived future in the eye of this beholder, eh.

Well then, that wasn't very nice of me, was it.
Okay . . . 
"My rage is gone,
And I am struck with sorrow."
(Tullus Aufidius, Coriolanus Act 5 Scene 6)

This example will focus on the regular deadlift. 

Heavy Day: 
Deadlift - follow that three step progression for the heavy days above, working down over three heavy days to the four triples and then going for a single or double P.R. or your fourth heavy workout. 
You remember . . . 5x5 . . . 6 x 3 . . . 4 x 3 . . . single or double P.R. attempt.
You should have to take some pretty hefty rest breaks between each of those sets. 

After the deadlift, do a cycle something like this example.
Use your head and create a better one, one more suited to YOU: 

10 reps each, 2 times through the cycle 
with a rest between each circuit (giant set? sorry, that's a frowned upon bodybuilding term, isn't it) 
but none between exercises . . . 
One Arm Row
One Leg Romanian Deadlift
Dumbbell Pullover
Glute Bridge. 

Here's a Light Day example. 
It's based on using the deadlift on your heavy day as the main movement.
Need I tell you that those heavy day deadlift sets are the ones you pour all of yourself into? 

 -  Follow the set/rep progression for the light days above on these two:
Overhead Press
4 x 10 . . . 4 x 8 . . . 5 x 5.

Now, take a wee breather and go on to 
2 tri-sets, er, circuits of these three:
Dumbbell Bench Press
Goblet Squat
Band Pull-Apart
15 reps each.  

Clear as mud. 
Stop being such douchebags and treat this thing for what it is already.
You'll be glad you did once you're all growed up and not a child anymore.

Squat Variation - Bill Starr

Most lifters want to  make continuous progress and move their top-end numbers up on a regular basis. Change is an excellent method of achieving these goals. Changing a routine, even slightly, can instill enthusiasm for your workouts, and anything that helps you look forward to your next session in the weight room is a positive thing.

Some people get along just fine doing the same routine for a long time. Jerry Hardy and I coached together at the University of Hawaii. When he returned to California he installed a gym in his garage and asked me for a program. He wanted to train six days a week. I sent him a routine and he followed it exactly for nearly 20 years and was more than content to do so. There's something comforting in doing the familiar exercises in the same order, sort of like spending time with an old friend.

Now, Jerry's goal was to maintain a reasonably high level of strength fitness. He also ran two miles every morning after he completed his weight training. He wasn't lifting to prepare himself for any sport, and he wasn't interested in testing himself with max attempts, so the consistent routine fit his needs.

Most of the inquiries I receive deal with the squat. The writers tell me either they're bogged down and not making any progress or that they have lost their zest for doing squats. My reply is always the same -- try something different for a time. Quite often a variation in squatting technique or a change in sets and reps is just what the doctor ordered. In many instances the trainees write back to tell me they're using the suggested changes on a permanent basis because they brought the desired results.

I’ve found that it’s also helpful, motivation-wise, to change from the conventional set and rep sequence every so often, even if you’re doing well with your current routine. Subtle changes enable you to establish a more solid foundation and help you strengthen a weaker area that may have gone unnoticed, such as the adductors.

One variation is the 20-rep squat routine. Since that program has been discussed in many articles an books, I won’t spend time going over it, other than to say that it does get the job done, primarily because 20-rep squats are extremely demanding. As Iron Man founder Peary Rader aptly pointed out may decades ago, they can trigger growth in people who have difficulty adding functional bodyweight and overall strength.

A few years ago I received a request to write a chapter for a book that has yet to be published. My topic was “The Hardest Routine I Ever Did.” The thought that immediately crossed my mind was TIMED SQUATS. They were, without question, the most physically and mentally demanding routine I ever got involved in, and they came about as an experiment. The competitive season was over, and Tommy Suggs and I were trying to improve our aerobic base, since that was an important attribute to have during long, drawn-out lifting contests. We played racquetball, volleyball and some soccer but got the notion that we could accomplish something on the same order in the weight room. In 1968 all the authorities on the subject said it wasn’t possible. We believed differently.

We chose the squat because it was the most taxing on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems and because we could still do high reps, even if we were fatigued. At that time we were both capable of a 500 lb. back squat and were handling in the mid-400s for five reps. Our form was good, which is an important consideration. I never put trainees on this grueling regimen unless they have perfect technique. The reason will soon become obvious.

The routine consisted of 5 sets of 10. The kicker was that on each subsequent workout we increased the weights on the 5 sets. We went through a trial workout, moving fast but not full-bore, and decided that we should be able to finish with 275 and do the 5 sets in 12 minutes.

We did these at our noon session, and it was all we did at that time. Later, at four o’clock, we would do our other work. After taking ample time to make sure we were thoroughly warmed up, we started in, keeping track of how long it took us to do a set from the moment we took the bar out of the rack to the moment we reracked it, as well as our resting time and weight on the bar. Out sets for that first session were 135, 175, 205, 155 and 275 for 10 reps each. That may not seem like much for mid-400 squatters, but we rarely did more than 5 reps. 10 rep sets were very high for us. Plus, we were conservative to make sure we made it through.

We completed all our sets in 10 minutes, then collapsed to the floor. Our plan was to check out pulse rates, but we were unable to do that until about 15 seconds had passed. Both over 180, which was all right for our age group. When we finally recovered, we concluded that we were on the right track and would continue with the timed squats. we did agree that twice a week was enough for them. Any more and they’d hurt our other training – and having to consider doing them more than twice a week was too much for us to handle, as they weren’t fun. In addition, we only planned to do them for a month. After that we would have to start handling heavier poundages in preparation for the upcoming season.

At the 8th session, our last, we used 355x10 on our final set and completed all 5 sets in 7 minutes. It was an increase of 80 lbs. on the bar, but more importantly we had cut 3 minutes off our time. We felt that was as far as we could go, as there was only so much time we could eliminate due to the necessity of reloading the bar after the sets, coming out of the rack, doing the reps and replacing the bar. Of course, as the weights got heavier and we became increasingly fatigued, it took longer to do a set.

While I’m sure the timed squats had a positive influence on our aerobic conditioning, the unexpected plus from doing the routine was the way it affected our mental states. Prior to embarking on this program, we always took five or more minutes between our heavy sets. Timed squats taught us that we didn’t need much rest. On those final two heavier sets of timed squat I was unable to feel my legs, and tiny spots would appear in front of my eyes, yet I still went up and down – as did Tommy. At the conclusion we flopped to the floor, elevated our feet on a bench and gulped in air, marveling at our madness. Even so, we agreed that we hadn’t tapped into our reservoir of strength like that before, and that understanding of what the body can withstand under dire stress gave us a tremendous boost of confidence on the lifting platform. If we got rushed between attempts, it no longer mattered. It also helped us move through our regular sessions at a much faster pace, which enabled us to do more work in less time.

I’ve put a number of athletes on this routine, and it’s proven to be especially useful to those engaged in endurance activities, such as long-distance runners, triathletes and mountain bikers. Very few pure-strength athletes I’ve put on timed squats could handle them, regardless of the amount of weight on the bar. They’ve simply given out or tightened up. Anyone who’s using any tissue-building substance cannot do them either. When Tommy and I did this program, we were off steroids. This was during the infancy of drug use in weightlifting, and we took long periods of abstinence, got liver-function tests and were checked by a physician.

One strength athlete who was able to do timed squats really blew my mind because he far surpassed anyone I’ve ever trained before – or since. Werner Krueger of Columbia, Maryland, was an All-American lacrosse midfielder at Johns Hopkins and one of my favorites. Unlike many of the other lacrosse players he never shirked the hard stuff I gave him. In fact, he invited it. Just before the season started, he asked if I had anything in my repertoire to help him improve his aerobic base. What else but timed squats? He breezed through the first session and wasn’t all that winded when he finished. Werner, whom I nicknamed “Possum,” for no reason other than my warped mind came up with it, only weighed 170, but I started squeezing the time and loading more weight on his final sets. To my utter amazement, he used 295x10 at his last session and did all his sets in less than 6 minutes. I really didn’t think it was possible to do 5 sets that quickly. In addition, he ran four miles before coming to the weight room.

It’s a good idea to have someone around to do the loading and unloading. That will save you valuable time and energy. No more than two people can do timed squats at the same time. Otherwise, you’ll too much of a delay between sets. I wouldn’t even think about doing these unless you’re very fit and can endure pain. In short, they’re not for the timid. On the other hand, if you’ve been doing the 20-rep program for a while and would like a change, these might fit into your schedule very nicely for a month of more.

A variation of the conventional squat that I use with a great deal of success is the PAUSE SQUAT. It’s especially useful for people who have trouble going low or exploding out of the bottom position. There’s nothing complicated about them. You simply pause at the lowest position in your squat and stay there for a 3 or 4 second count before recovering. Don’t do the counting yourself unless you train alone because you’ll always cheat. Have someone else do it and give you a clap when it’s time to recover. For lone trainers, a clock mounted in the right place will help avoid cheating or speedy seconds. Do pause squats with relatively light weights for high reps, say 10s and 12s, or heavier poundages for 5s.

For them to be helpful, you must go below parallel and concentrate on using your power pack to drive the bar upward, rather than recoiling out of the hole. Paused squats force you to stay extremely tight, which is critical when you’re attempting heavy weights, and they also help you to learn to maintain the correct posture throughout the lift.

I generally incorporate them into athletes’ programs in the form of one or more back-off sets of 10. One is usually enough for most people. 600 lb. squatters have crumpled to the floor after handling 315x10 on pauses. As with timed squats they teach you that you can still make those final reps even though you’re exhausted and all feeling has left your body. If I see lifters who are having lots of difficulty going deep, I have them do all their sets with a pause for 5 reps until they improve.

Wide stance squats are great for a change and are particularly beneficial for people who display a weakness in their adductors. If your knees turn in during a heavy squat or a heavy pull off the floor, your adductors are relatively weak and need some direct attention. Wide stance squats involve the adductors to large extent and are the very best way to strengthen that group if you don’t have an adductor machine available.

How wide should they be? At first move your feet out a bit to make sure that the wider stance doesn’t aggravate your hips or knees. It if doesn’t, gradually move them out as far as you can while still being able to go below parallel and maintain your balance.

Even if athletes don’t show any signs of adductor weakness, I still include some wide-stance squats in their program. On the light squat day I have them do two warmup sets, then three sets with the same weight. For example, 135, 225 and then 275 for 3 sets, all for 5 reps. They do the first set with 275 using their normal stance but move to a wide stance on the 2nd set and a narrow stance on the 3rd. Eventually, most are able to do the last set with their heels touching. It takes some time to master the balance. The slight variation in stance helps build a firmer base and ensures proportionate strength. It also makes the otherwise uninteresting light day more challenging and fun.

A program that many bodybuilders used to do, usually just before a contest. was NONSTOP SQUATS performed WITHOUT LOCKOUT at the top. They were screamers because your legs definitely let you know that they didn’t approve of your foolishness – but they were effective at eliminating unwanted fatty tissue in your legs and helping you to achieve more cuts. Moat bodybuilders who used them kept the reps high – 15s and 20s – and constantly pushed for higher weights. You can only do them for a short time, since they start wearing on your brain even more than your body.

Nonstop squats are excellent for someone who’s getting ready for ski season. Do them for three or four weeks, and you’ll be able to handle the toughest slopes. When you do them, just remember that if you stop, the set is over. The same goes for locking out. Find a number that you can perform correctly, and then build on it. These also work well as back-off sets. If you do them right, you should be spent when you finish.

Like everyone else, I sometimes find myself in a situation where I have very little in the way of equipment and have to improvise. On one occasion all I had was 100 pounds of plastic weights. So I did ULTRA-HIGH REP SQUATS, 2 sets of 80. They got the job done. I’ve also used dumbbells for very high reps, and they were most effective. True, the tendons and ligaments aren’t involved to any great extent, which means that pure strength is not enhanced, but the basic lower body conditioning is. In some cases taking a break from pounding the attachments is a smart move. One thing I like about using dumbbells for ultra-high rep squats is that once I’m exhausted, I can drop them. That isn’t an option when you have a bar on your back – at least not a good one.

You can use dumbbell squats in addition to regular squats and do them on the days when you don’t go to the gym. Vary your stance and work them hard enough and you’ll find that they get your entire leg sore.

There’s a truism in strength training that the best program for you is the one that brings results. At the same time change is also helpful, so if you feel as if you’re ready for a break from what you’ve been doing, try one or more of the ideas I’ve presented. Somewhere down the line you’ll have the opportunity to teach someone else how to do one of these variations.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Bulking Up - John McCallum

Originally Published in This Issue (November 1968) 

John McCallum

There's a kid on our block who plays rhythm guitar in a little rock and roll group. He's got definite ideas about music.

"Like if it ain't soul," he says, "it's nowhere." 

We got to talking about guitars and guitarists one day. "What about Peter Yarrow?' I asked him. 

He gave me a blank look.

"Or Paul Stooky?" 

"And like who," he said, "are Peter Yarrow and Paul Snooky?" 

"Stooky," I said. 'Paul Stooky. They're two-thirds of Peter, Paul, and Mary." 

"Oh, yeah," he said. "Pizza, Pooh, and Magpie." 


That's what the Beatles call them." 

"Never mind about the Beatles," I said. "What do you think about Stooky and Yarrow?"

"Nowhere," he said. "Old fashioned."

"Old fashioned? What are you talking about?"

"Just that," he said. "Man, their axes ain't even wired up."

"So what. Guitars don't have to be electric to be well played."

"Dad," he said. "It's like nowhere. The flat top box went out with the Keystone Cops. They're old fashioned."

About six months later, Peter, Paul, and Mary came to town for a concert. I bought two front row seats and talked the kid into going with me.

It was their third number that got him.

It's a thing called "A-Soulin'" They start quietly with Paul picking the melody. Halfway through the introduction, Peter comes in with some nice clean syncopation and they start building on it.

I looked at the kid. He was watching intently.

The vocal part starts and Stooky and Yarrow increase the volume. They're working all around the melody and the notes are rippling out and you can feel the crowd picking it up. It's an absolutely perfect display of guitar virtuosity. They hammer up to the finale and chop it off clean. You can hear the guitars ringing for a split second and then the audience explodes.

I looked at the kid again and he's clapping loudest of all. I leaned over and shouted in his ear. "Old fashioned?"

There's a thing these days (and these days too) about being modern. It's a hang-up, really (I woulda went with the F-up selection myself). It doesn't seem to matter if a thing is good or bad, just so long as it's not old fashioned. It doesn't matter how goofy you look in your 'new' clothing, at least it's new.

The whole concept, of course, is crazy. If a thing is good, then it's good and it doesn't matter how old it is. Hey, this ain't me writing this stuff . . . it's McCallum . . . but it sure sounds identical to what's in my head most of the time. 

The truth is the truth no matter when it originated. It's true if you're playing a guitar, and it's true if you're playing tiddly-winks. And it's also true if you're trying to gain weight.

About 20 years ago (in the 40's), a foolproof method of bulking was discovered. And yet gaining weight is a major problem with a lot of lifters today because the old method somehow got lost in the shuffle. It's too bad, because gaining weight is really no problem. Bulking up is far and away the easiest part of bodybuilding. 

If you want to make use of some old gold and really apply yourself, you can gain lots of weight. If you want to quit scratching around for something new for a couple of months, you can get as bulky as you want.
Let's review the old method, and then we'll outline a program for you.

We can sum up the essentials very quickly.

Squats and milk. That's the gist of it. Heavy squats and lots of milk and never mind how old the method is.

Here McCallum spends some time on the Get Big Drink. You can find out what that is all over the internet without me spoon feeding it to you. There's also lots of similar concoctions you can find if you want to.

Okay. on to the bulking routine . . .

You should start your program with a BRIEF warmup. Spend about five minutes bending and twisting, doing light repetition snatches or cleans, situps, running on the spot,  and so on. Don't wear yourself out in the warmup, just get your blood moving, get a good feeling about what's to come, and get your head into it.

Your first exercise is the press behind neck. Do 3 sets of 12 reps. Don't frightened by the relatively high reps, and don't be stampeded into using low rep stuff. The value of low reps has been greatly exaggerated when it comes to bulking. Moderately high reps, properly used, provide umpteen times the growth stimulation, and are so much better for your health that comparisons become ridiculous.

Do the presses behind the neck in strict style with a medium grip. Work hard on them and try to force the poundage way up. There's no use kidding yourself on this or any other exercise. If you use baby sized weights, then you can expect baby sized muscles. It's as simple as that and there's no way out of it.

If you want respectable deltoid, trapezius, and triceps development, then you've got to work up to about 3/4 of your bodyweight for the twelve reps. That means 120 pounds for a 160 pound man; 150 for a 200-pounder. Nothing else will do. If you think it will, forget it.

The biggest fallacy in weight training today (and today too) is the foisted notion that you can build big powerful muscles without hard work on heavy weights. You can't do it, and you're wasting your time trying.

If you're not gaining like you should, GIVE YOUR TRAINING POUNDAGES A LONG HARD LOOK. The fault may be entirely yours.

Take a short rest after the presses. The next exercise is the big one, the KEY to the whole thing, the SQUAT. You'll do one set of 20 reps, in puff and pant style, with all the weight you can handle.

Just take my word for it. 20 rep squats are the solution to everybody's weight gaining problem. They'll stimulate all the growth you want IF YOU WORK HARD ENOUGH ON THEM.

Warm up with a few warmup sets to get your head on right and then start right in on the heavy stuff.

Take three huge gulping breaths between each rep. Hold the last big breath and squat. Blast out the air violently as you come erect.

Hold your head up and keep your back as flat as possible.

Don't go below parallel position.

You should use a weight so heavy that the last five reps are doubtful. I continually get letters from trainees complaining about their slow gains in bodyweight. Eventually I find out they're using weights in the squat that an old lady with arthritis could lift.

You've got to FORCE THE POUNDAGE. 150% of your bodyweight is rock bottom minimum. That means 240 for a 160 pound man. 300 for a 200-pounder. And remember, that's a minimum goal figure. You should figure on going well above that.

As soon as you finish the squats, do 20 pullovers with a light weight. 20 pounds or so is plenty. All you're after is a good rib box stretch.

The next exercise is the bench press. It gets enough publicity so you won't be needing any special instruction on it. Do 3 x 12 in a rather loose style.

Next if bentover barbell rowing. 3 x 15 in very strict style. Rest your forehead on a block or lean it against a post or something to make sure you don't cheat. Use a medium grip and pull the bar to your lower abdomen.   

The next exercise is the stiff-legged deadlift. 1 set of 15. Do the deadlifts standing on a bench or high block so that you can go all the way down without the plates hitting the floor. Concentrate on full extension and contraction of your lower back.

Don't set the weight down when you finish the 15th rep. Stand erect and do shoulder shrugs until your grip gives out. You should be able to get at least a dozen shrugs out of it.

Do another set of light pullovers, 20 reps, after the deadlifts and shrugs.

That's the bulking program.

It looks like this . . .

1) Press Behind Neck: 3 x 12
2) Squat: 1 x 20
3) Pullover: 1 x 20
4) Bench Press: 3 x 12
5) Bentover Row: 3 x 15
6: Stiff-Legged Deadlift (and shrugs): 1 x 15
7) Pullover: 1 x 20.

Work hard on all the exercises, and work to your limit on the squats. Take in enough food to bulk up. Get lots of rest and sleep. Maintain a calm, tranquil mind and start saving your money. You'll need it to buy bigger clothes.


Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Mid-Range - Bill Starr

Middle, that is.
Make yourself more at  home there, Sport. 

Whenever someone starts on a strength program, his primary objective is just to get in the work on a regular basis. How the various exercises are done isn't usually a great concern at this stage, just so the form is adequate enough to complete the workouts. And that's okay. In the beginning, when relatively  poundages are used, form mistakes don't matter all that much. A power clean that runs too far out front can be pulled back into the correct line. An overhead press driven backward can be compensated for and saved. Adjustments can be made in poorly aligned squats or flat benches. So it's only natural for the athlete to assume that as he gets stronger and lifts heavier weights, technique won't matter; he'll continue to be able to redirect the misguided bar on any exercise.

But it's not so. 

As a person gets stronger and the numbers start to climb, more attention must be given to technique. This is fairly obvious for large-muscle exercises like squats, power cleans, high pulls, flat and incline benches, and overhead lifts. But the form must also be refined on those auxiliary movements for the smaller groups as well -- calf raises, shins, triceps and biceps work, plus all those done on machines, because . . . in strength training as in life, the small points make a difference. 

The very first rule of technique is that every exercise consists of THREE, not two parts -- the start, the middle, and the finish, each of which must be done correctly to handle max attempts or set personal records.

Unfortunately, the middle -- the mid-range of an exercise -- often gets overlooked. That's a big problem because the middle takes on a different significance as the poundages go up.

This form mistake can be difficult to notice at first, often because of a powerful start. Example: An athlete with really strong hips can propel the bar upward with such intensity that it zips right through the middle range. The result: All he thinks about is getting that explosive start and then locking that bar out at the top. That is, until the weight is heavy enough that he can no longer jack it up through the middle. Then it "sticks" -- and since those muscle groups responsible for elevating the bar up through the middle ranges are relatively weak, the bar comes crashing down.

Yet even then, quite a few athletes misinterpret why they're failing with limit attempts. They decide their start isn't strong enough and spend time trying to correct that weakness. And that does solve the problem for a short period of time.

But unless they do something to strengthen those muscles and attachments used in the middle range, they're never going to improve to any great degree.

The middle is not brought into the mix by those who cheat to start an exercise. This is particularly evident on the flat bench where athletes rebound the bar off their chest with such force that there is no need for them to involve the middle. This version of the bench press consists of an aggressive, incorrect start and a lockout. On those occasions where the bar does stall out in the middle, they simply resort to another cheating tactic: bridging.

These athletes don't really care how they perform the exercise, just so the numbers keep moving higher. Eventually, however, that ugly form becomes a huge problem. They can no longer rebound a max poundage with sufficient force to drive it high enough even to utilize a bridge. Since those groups that are normally used to bench press a weight through the sticking point have only been used fractionally, they provide little assistance and the lift is a failure.

The same thing happens when athletes use a knee-kick to start their overhead presses instead of keeping their knees locked. This sends the bar through the middle and bypasses those groups that need to be involved in the movement. It also occurs to a lesser extent when an athlete who is using rubber plates on his pulling exercises rebounds the weights off the platform. Once more, those groups normally needed to bring the bar up through the middle range aren't called upon nearly as much as they would have been if the athlete had started from a dead stop.

I've also found that even if athletes don't employ any kind of cheating, they frequently ignore the middle and think in terms of a start and finish, period. That means the bar will float free for a brief moment; if it's a heavy weight that usually spells a missed attempt.

While the middle range is a critical factor in any exercise, it's especially true for any pulling movement because most of them have a longer range of motion than pressing and squatting. This means that when athletes forget to concentrate on the middle range of power cleans, power snatches, full cleans, full snatches and high pulls, the shortcomings are going to be much more evident. This is even truer for any athlete trying to master the more complicated quick lifts: snatch, and clean.

Tips for Involving the Middle

Understand the "smooth blend" concept: 
The very first step is to be aware of the role that the middle plays in the execution of an exercise. Then, understand that while there are three parts, they are actually a smooth blending of all the segments; not three separate moves. Think of the middle as the extension of the start. When the start and middle go together in one continuous motion, the finish is a great deal easier and often takes care of itself.

There should be no hesitation between the start and the middle, and the middle and the finish. The three are linked in a harmonious manner. Once this notion is firmly established, it's much easier to put the theory into practice.

Incline Benches: 
I've found that the best way to teach a smooth transition is to have the athlete do incline benches. The incline is a controlled exercise and is much harder to cheat on than flat benches or overhead lifts. It provides excellent visual feedback since the bar is directly in front of the eyes during the start-to-middle transition. Plus, the athlete is firmly locked onto the bench so balance and body position aren't a problem. I have the athlete get set and I tell him to put as much juice into the start as possible; then as soon as he does that, I want him to lean back into the bench and drive hard into the moving bar. When he gets the feel of that, it's not difficult to utilize the same idea for flat benches, overhead presses, and even weighted dips.

Dead Stop on Squats: 
Since the athlete cannot see the bar during a squat, it's a bit more difficult to learn this move. But it can be done if I have the athlete come to a dead stop at the bottom of the squat. This forces him to drive upward in a more controlled fashion than if he didn't pause at the bottom of the squat and allows him to connect the start with the middle more easily. In addition, pausing for a brief moment on either back or front squats makes the athlete stay extremely tight, a necessary component in order to transfer power up into the middle range. With a bit of practice, the athlete learns how to explode out of the hole and instantly apply more pressure to the upward moving bar. Once this is achieved, the dead stops are no longer needed.

Do High Pulls in a Mirror: 
I use clean high pulls to teach the concept for pulling exercises. Since heavier poundages can be used on high pulls than on power cleans and power snatches, or full cleans and snatches, the form flaws display themselves more readily. So any hesitation from the start to middle can be spotted. I've stated before that I don't encourage my athletes to train in front of a mirror, but it helps to do so when they are trying to learn to make this transition properly. High pulls are good in this regard because all the athlete has to think about is pulling the bar just as high as he can. He doesn't have to be concerned about racking the bar or locking it out overhead. His full concentration can be centered on blending the start with the middle. When this is done without a hitch, the top will follow along nicely.

Get in a Power Rack: 
In many cases, the start-to-middle transition isn't done correctly because the muscles needed to move a weight through that range are simply not strong enough. Which brings me to the often-asked question on this topic: "How do I know if my mid-range is relatively weak on a certain exercise?" The answer, "Get in a power rack."

I'll use the back squat to illustrate. Set the pins inside the rack at a position that would be the lowest you go in the squat. Start out light, then add weight until you find you max. Now move the pins to a spot where the middle range begins. For most, this is where the tops of the thighs are parallel to the floor. Follow the same procedure used for the rock-bottom starts. Only do 2 or 3 reps. That's plenty for you to find out what you want to know. Very few athletes are able to handle nearly as much in the middle as they can from the bottom, but this is to be expected since there are so many large muscle groups utilized in the start. Although there will always be a disparity, what you're looking for is a large gap between the starting and middle strength levels. Starting Strength!  No sir, you can't fool the likes-a me with this type of subliminal advertising, Buster.

This same procedure can be used to isolate and identify weaker areas on any pulling and pressing exercises as well. Once the athlete knows where he stands in terms of relative strength, he can then take steps to improve the lagging areas. And the very best way to do that is to get back into the power rack.

I'll stay with the back squat as my example exercise. Set the pins in the rack at the spot which has shown itself to be relatively weak; just below that spot is good. Squeeze under the bar, get set, and knock out three reps. Add weight and do another set, and so on until you find your limit. These can be done in place of your regular squat workout or added to your session. If the middle is really weak, it's best to work the rack although it's a good idea to do some full squats first to warm up the muscles and establish a groove.

Switch to Isotonic-Isometric Holds

After doing squats starting from the middle for several weeks, switch over to the Big Dog of pure strength training: isotonic-isometric holds in the power rack. The starting pin position will be the same, but now there will be pins positioned just a few inches above the bottom pins. Because this takes a bit of learning to master, start out with a light poundage. Get under the bar, making sure your feet, back, hips, and shoulders are where they're supposed to be, then squat the bar up into the top pins. Lock it tightly against those pins and do two more reps in the same manner. Add weight and repeat the process. The third set will be the final work set. Tap the pins twice, then fix the bar against the top pins and apply 100% effort against the bar for 8-12 seconds.

Selecting the correct amount of weight for that final isometric hold will take some trial and error. The main thing to keep in mind about this exercise is that holding the bar in the isometric contraction for the required count is more important than how much weight is on the bar. If you can't hold the weight for a minimum of 8 seconds, it's too heavy. Conversely, if you still have something left after 12 seconds, you need more resistance.

After you have been doing these for a while, you can skip the two warmup sets and just do one work set. This can be done right after you finish your squats. That way, everything is warmed up and ready for a maximum exertion. Only do one work set per position, and if you decide to do isotonic-isometrics for two or three squat positions be sure to go light on your squats that day. This is highly concentrated work, and if you put every ounce of strength into that max exertion your attachments will be spent for the day.

Isos can, of course, also be used to strengthen weak areas in any pulling or pressing exercise as well. Usually, these are in the middle range. First, find out exactly where they are, then attack them in the rack. When done correctly, the isotonic-isometric contractions produce results quickly, but the key is to assume a perfect body position while locking into the top pins. Should you use faulty form, then the strength gained will not be convertible to the exercises you're wanting to improve.

Visualize an Explosive Middle That "Whips" the Bar

As you gain strength in the weaker middle, you also have to utilize it better. This means thinking middle. For those who have been only concerned with a strong start and solid finish, this change takes some concentration. This is especially true for long movements such as power cleans and power snatches. The athlete needs to blend that strong start into an explosive middle, and this is best done by focusing on picking up the speed of the bar once it leaves the floor, maintaining perfect body mechanics all the way. The analogy of a whip is useful in this regard. The higher the bar climbs, the faster if moves, so at the very top of the pull, it's no more than a blur. Practice makes this happen.

Build-up With Specific Exercises and Dumbbells

Besides working in a rack, you can attack the weaker middle with some specific exercises, such as bentover rows, partial deadlifts where you start the bar from mid-thigh, and either good mornings or almost-straight-legged deadlifts. To build a stronger middle for any form of pressing, I like dumbbells. Unlike a bar, dumbbells cannot be jammed through a pressing motion. They have to be more involved, even when the start is strong. There's also more balance needed to press heavy dumbbells than is required with a bar and this, too, builds more strength in the muscles being used in that exercise. Another reason I like dumbbells is it's difficult to cheat with them. Try rebounding them off your chest or shoulders and they run amok. They have to be guided through the proper range of motion and this deliberate action builds a different sort of strength.

Slow Down and Deliberately Work the Middle

I mentioned that the middle is a vital part of any exercise, even those in the ancillary category. The reason why many are not obtaining the expected gains from doing biceps, triceps, or calf work, is because they aren't bringing the middle range into the exercises. Take standing calf raises, for instance. The majority of athletes I see doing them are just jamming up and down in herky-jerky fashion. The solution: slow down through the middle. Make those muscles work harder than normal and they will respond favorably. Some even go so far as to pause in the middle on some upper arm or shoulder exercise. It's a small thing, yet it bears fruit.


Very few strength athletes pay as much attention to the middle portion of an exercise as they do the start and finish. Yet, that part is one-third of the equation for any exercise. Without a solid middle, the finish will not be nearly as strong and on max attempts this spells failure. So here's what I recommend: Give the middle more prominence in your training. This can be accomplished by coming up with a short key that will remind you to involve the middle while doing a lift.

This works for me: Do a perfect start, then follow through behind that momentum immediately. This will eventually be condensed to: Start-Middle. Next, identify the weaker areas in that middle range and get to work strengthening them. When this is done, all the exercises in your program will benefit, and rather quickly.

Ultimately, improvement is the name of the game in strength training. In order to make consistent progress and achieve a higher level of overall strength, the middle must be given equal status and not treated like an inconsequential stepchild.     



1) Strengthen middle-range muscles and attachments.

2) Visualize a smooth blend between the start and middle of the exercise.

3) Practice on incline benches, which are much harder to cheat on than flat benches or overhead lifts, and provide excellent visual feedback.

4) Practice a dead stop at the bottom of the squat, which keeps you tight and forces you to drive upward in a more controlled fashion with more power transfer power. Master this, and you sonn won't need to stop at all.

5) Do clean high pulls in front of the mirror; this will clearly display your form flaws. 

6) Test your mid-range strength in a power rack, then eventually switch to isotonic-isometric holds. If you find a large gap between the starting and middle strength levels, you can take steps to improve the lagging areas.

7) Use specific exercises and dumbbells. Bentover rows, partial deadlifts starting from mid-thigh, good mornings and near-straight-legged deadlifts all work the middle. Dumbbells, unlike a bar, are hard to cheat with as they cannot be jammed through a pressing motion, and require constant middle involvement and balance. 


1) Rebound the bar off your chest on a bench press with such force that there is no need to involve the middle.

2) Bridge in the middle of a bench press when the bar stalls out.

3) Use a knee-kick to start an overhead press instead of keeping the knees locked.

4) Bounce rubber weights off the floor on pulling exercises.

5) Forget the middle, particularly on pulling exercises, as most of them have a longer range of motion than pressing and squatting. Letting the bar float free for a brief moment could result in a missed attempt. 

Thanks, Bill Starr, for all you did. 




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