Sunday, March 24, 2019

Steve Knight - Ken Leistner (1980)

Steve Knight [a.k.a. Gilardi; Little; Smith; Jones]

Ken Leistner using the Draper Top Squat.

For those who have read Bill Starr's The Strongest Shall Survive,  Steve Knight is the dinky looking 165-pounder psyching to make a big squat. The squats he now psychs for re much heavier and thankfully, that average looking lifter in the Starr book photo is now monstrously muscles, the physique of a national caliber bodybuilder with the strength of the Nationals champion that he is. "The obvious questions are, of course, how did he get so strong, so well developed, and just what is that fellow's name anyway! 

Steve is another of the long list of Bill Starr proteges, an arm-wrestler who wandered into the University of Hawaii weight room and had his life changed forever. Although he already possessed good strength and a load of athletic ability, it was hard to foresee the fine future that is rapidly becoming his present. 

Before delving into Steve's philosophy, it's important to understand the respect that he has for Bill Starr and the many lessons taught to him by the old master. One look at Steve's routines and his approach to diet and supplementation clearly yields the Starr influence. In addition to the guidance, Bill has shown great patience in leading Steve towards the proper path, and those associated with Steve can tell yu that he can be difficult once he decides to be.

Over the course of a year, Steve does two different programs, each 12 weeks long. Each particular cycle is repeated twice, thus, the training year is actually divided into four segments. Two of the cycles are undertaken with 'maximum supplementation', while two of them are done without such aid. 

Steve pushes very heavy, make that maximum weight, for sets of 5's in all cycles. The subtle difference lies in the following point and one that allows him to avoid overtraining. While supplementing, Steve pushes the weight up as heavy as possible, trains for maximum poundages on all reps in each exercise. When not supplementing, he attempts to maintain his strength training to keep all of the strength he gained on the previous cycle. Thus, segment one of the year has Steve supplementing his diet, pushing up maximum weights. The segment to follow has him attempting to keep any gains made, not necessarily pushing to exceed them. Thus, when going into part three of the training year, the one usually preceding the big meets, he has a solid base from which to work from, one that has seen strength gains come and then consolidate in the two previous cycles.

Another change is largely mental in nature. During his non-supplemental cycles, Steve pays close attention to picking up his weak points with carefully selected assistance exercises and makes any changes in technique that the three competitive lifts call for. As he told me, "I work technique every rep, every set for both cycles. I'm mentally training myself twice as much as physically."  Thus, he does not forego technique during the heavy cycles, he's just totally concerned with moving new numbers, pushing up his maximum 5's as much as possible without bringing on injury.

To know Steve is to know that the sets and reps of it are the most uninteresting part of his existence. Of course, you would have to spend some time tracking him down to find this out, a feat not easily accomplished. Rumor has it that Steve wound up in Jack King country because the light was always on in the refrigerator!

Ironheart: Jack King's Story, by William Crawford: 

Jack King: How to Leave a Legacy, by Travis Mash:

Okay . . . to sets and reps we go. On the competitive three, Steve sticks basically with heavy 5's, going to 8-12 for assistance work. When things get sticky in the bench press, for examply, he may go to the old Doug Hepburn routine of five singles and five sets of 5's rather than straight sets of 5's.

Here's how Bill Starr implemented the Hepburn progression:

"Start by doing a series of warmup sets. You don't want to do too many because they'll tap into your reserves, and you're going to need all your reserve strength to complete this workout. Three or four sets are usually enough. Once you're warmed up, select a work weight that's a bit lower than your best single and proceed to do five singles with it. After you finish that, drop back 50 pounds and do five sets of five."

As Steve related recently, he got tired of the deadlift. Changed to heavy rack pulls below the knee, 5's of course. Steve's outstanding squatting ability is legendary, and one may feel that there's a secret routine involved, but he trains those like the other lift. He's a machine. His warmups at El Dorado were as picture perfect as the ones done on the platform and everybody just had to shake their heads at his seemingly perfect execution of near-record lifts.

A typical program looks like this:

Monday - 
Bench, 6 sets of 5, heavy
Close Grip Bench, 2 x 8-10, heavy
DB Inclines, 3 x 8-10, heavy
Flyes, 3 x 8-10, heavy
Triceps Extension, 3 x 8-10, heavy
Triceps Pressdown, 3 x 12-15, heavy.

Tuesday - 
Deadlift, 6 sets of 5, heavy
Shrug, 3 x 8, moderate weight, done from above the knee, check Strongest Shall Survive
More on these from Bill Starr here
The section on dynamic shrugs, a.k.a. Hawaiian shrugs
Squat, 4 x 10, heavy
Leg Curl, 3 x 20.

Wednesday - 
Bench, 5 x 5, light
Bentover Row, 3 x 8, medium
One Arm DB Row, 3 x 8, medium
Lat Pulldown, 3 x 8, medium
Hammer Curl, 3 x 8, medium
Alt DB Curl, 4 x 8, heavy
Supination Curl, 4 x 12, heavy.

Friday - 
Bench, Hepburn routine per Starr (see above), 5 singles, 5 x 5
Same assistance as Monday.  

Saturday - 
Squats, he really gets to it for 6 sets of 5 with a backoff of 10, all out here
Shrugs, 3 x 8, medium
Leg Curl, 3 x 20
Alt DB Curl, 4 x 8, heavy
Supination Curl, 4 x 12

Situps, Leg Raises, Twists, Side-bends done every day as a warmup with lots of stretching.

Steve's contest preparation is as meticulous as his appearance. He feels that he can best perform if he is properly nourished, so he brings his own food to meets. At El Dorado his room was filled with hard boiled eggs, lots of  fresh fruit, and loads of various vitamin and mineral tabs ala Bill Starr's suggestions in The Strongest Shall Survive. When we ate in Madison, Steve was careful to stick to eggs (boiled, poached or lightly scrambled), broiled fowl and beef, fresh fruit and juices, milk, and of course, his ever present bottles of vitamins and minerals. We discussed at great length his training results and computed his exact warmup scheme, rep for rep, second by second. His stretching routine was assiduously planned and timed. By the time Steve walked onto the platform, his body was fine tuned to perform the exact poundages selected. He cruised at El Dorado, but made what were limit attempts on all lifts in Madison, and his 677 DL was a classic case of going to the well and bringing up all that was in there, a great gut lift, and one that few others would have pulled to completion.

Much has been made of Steve's appearance, first, because he always looks immaculate, even in the heat of battle, and two, because of his hugely muscled, exceptionally defined thighs. His legs look as if they belong to a 220-pounder, but the cuts say 'Sergio' at the same time. All of those heavy squats done at Bill Starr's urging have certainly paid off. His upper body doesn't suffer either and as more than one onlooker at Madison remarked, "He looks like a bodybuilder."

I've talked about Steve's future before and it's all ahead of him. No reason why he can't with more time, be Senior National champion. And time he has, and yes, a fine future . . . 
Steve Knight, 1984. 
In 1982 at the US National Powerlifting Championships, while lifting in the 181 lb. weight class, Steve Knight set an Oregon state record in the squat of 722 lbs. that still stands today. 

In 2002, Steve went back to school to study communication theory with the express purpose of acquiring visual-storytelling techniques to help explain how to handle pressure. He eventually earned a BA in communication studies (with honors) from Portland State University.  

Winning  State books by Steve Knight: 



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