Sunday, April 14, 2019

Dr. Ken Leistner Workout

This tape was made for the enjoyment of the Leistner children and friends of the family, with a special "Thank You" to Steve Baldwin, Pat Casey, and Sean Kelleher for their insistence that it be made. 

Check this out. 
I believe Mr. Leistner was around 160 lbs. 
Not sure of his age in this workout, around 52.
Prepare to be humbled.
And very inspired.

Overhead Press - 253 x 4 
Full Oly Squat - 407 x 22
Stiff Legged Dead on a Box (full lower with round back) - 347 x 14
Log Clean (from Hang) & Push Press - 216 x 3
Shrug (strapped) - 347 x 13
Nautilus Pullover (slow eccentric) - 160 x 9
Farmer's Walk Bar Shrugs - 119 x 11
Strict Barbell Curl - 154 x 4 plus 2 with a wee swing
And . . . putting all the plates back where they belong. 

Right crazy stuff! One after the other.  

Getting Started on a Strength Program - Bill Starr

Taken from This Issue (September 1996) 

Note: This is the second installment of Bill Starr's Only the Strong Shall Survive series he wrote for IronMan magazine. The first installment is here

The very first step in getting started on a strength program is to have a well-organized plan. Sit down and take some time to lay out your routine so that you know exactly what you're going to do for the next few weeks. You don't have to plot out the exact weights you'll use, for it may take a few workouts before you know your upper limits, but you should write down the lifts you want to do, along with the sets and reps for each.

Most people like to sets aside a few months during the winter or summer for pure strength work, leaving the spring and fall for more specialized training. By cycling their training in this way, they stay motivated and can move up their top-end weights more effectively. Others, however, enjoy strength training and do it for longer periods, often switching to a different routine for only a few months each year.

In any event, a strength cycle should last at least six weeks. Longer is even better, but any less than six weeks won't be nearly as productive.

Start With The Basics

A strength program should be geared to increasing your strength and also your size. You accomplish this by focusing on the larger muscle groups - the shoulder girdle, back and legs. The smaller muscles, such as the biceps, triceps and calves, will take a backseat to their larger brothers for a time. They'll get some attention but not nearly on the same scale as what the larger groups get. Force the big bodyparts to grow and the smaller ones will follow.

For anyone who's starting out on a strength cycle for the first time - or who's just getting back after an extended layoff - I recommend a three-days-per-week routine. I fully understand that the split routine is very much in vogue, but it's not the best system for building a solid strength base. You can switch over to a split routine after each strength cycle. For now you work all the major muscle groups at each session. Then you can spend some time exercising the smaller muscle groups or some area that needs special attention.

Three days a week works nicely for a great many people simply because it's easier to get to a gym three times a week than it is to make four trips. It also gives you adequate rest between workouts, which is critical to making progress.

Strength training is concentrated training. You attack the larger groups, add some auxiliary work for the smaller muscles, then leave the gym. In too many programs the trainee lingers in the facility doing set after set of a specific exercise - usually one that's rather fun to do like curls or pushdowns. As a result, gains come more slowly because the extra work taps into the energy supply. More is not always better when it comes to strength work, especially in the earlier stages.

For the first couple of weeks the three-days-per-week routine might be rather demanding, since you're working all the major groups each time. The body will adapt quickly, however, and then begin to thrive on the big muscle movements.

Select Exercises That Are Productive

Note that I didn't say select exercises that are fun. That's because there are some exercises you must include in a strength program that really aren't fun at all. In fact, they're downright ugly at times. Squats, deadlifts and good mornings aren't usually placed in the fun category, especially when they involve serious weights. I happen to believe that if you enjoy every exercise there's something missing in your routine. I realize that this is completely against the philosophy of most experts, but hitting a weak spot with a difficult movement isn't going to be enjoyable, at least not at first. If an exercise is productive, though, it suddenly becomes much more palatable.

The emphasis on getting stronger is aimed at making progress, not just having a great time in the gym. The enjoyment factor comes directly from the gains you make, and believe me, that's sufficient. I understand that it would be terrific to be able to build a program around flat-bench presses, inclines, curls and maybe a few token sets of squats and pulls and accomplish significant gains in size and strength, but, unfortunately, it just doesn't work that way

The main reason that so many trainees in those high-priced, machine-loaded la-di-da gyms across the country remain so embarrassingly weak is that they just don't want to do the hard work or the difficult exercises. The problem is, merely showing up in the right outfit and going through a routine a cheerleader could do without breaking a sweat isn't going to bring you the desired results. In order to get stronger, you have to exert yourself and do some exercises that make your eyes cross. 

One of the main criteria in the selection of your exercises should be your weak point - or in the case of most trainees your weak points. That's not always an easy thing to do, since no one really likes to do exercises in which he or she is particularly weak. That's especially true when people train with friends. It's a great deal more satisfying to work on those lifts in which you're at least semi-strong. In order to achieve a higher level of strength, you have to suck up your ego and lean on the weaker movements.

The exercises selected must be serious ones, not token movements performed on machines. If, for example, you have trouble picking up a full bag of groceries, you need to start doing deadlifts and good mornings and not be content with merely doing lat pulls by the hour.

If this is your first pure strength cycle or you're about to start back after a layoff, your program should revolve around free weights, not machines. The reasoning is basic. Free weights involve your tendons and ligaments much more than machines. The attachments are the sources of pure strength. You'll use machines in the overall program but strictly for the auxiliary work.

Emphasize the Three Major Muscle Groups

In order to become stronger, you have to do a primary, core exercise for each of the three major muscle groups: the shoulder girdle (or upper body), back, and legs. In the beginning the more basic the core exercise, the better. Full-range movements are also better than partial movements.

As you grow stronger and discover some specific weaker areas in those major groups, you can turn your attention to bringing them up to standard. For example, after doing squats for three weeks and steadily moving up the top-end weight, you notice for the first time that your knees have a tendency to turn inward when you use heavy weights. This is an indication that your adductors are lagging in strength, so you must spend time building up that group. Working on the adductor machine or doing wide-stance squats will remedy the problem. Recognizing and remedying your weaknesses will speed the rate at which you are able to gain strength, as well as saving you from some major injury-based setbacks later on.

There are quite a few productive exercises to choose from, which provides greater variety in any program. Some people even prefer to plan two separate programs, doing one during one week and the other the following week. This is particularly useful after you establish a solid base.

For the shoulder girdle the best core exercises are bench presses, incline presses, dips and overhead presses. Because they require different ranges of motion, you must include them all in your strength program. Of all the areas of the body the shoulders are actually the most vulnerable to injury. Why? Because the joints are relatively smaller than those of the hips and legs and cannot tolerate the amount of work those potentially stronger joints can.

There are many productive strength exercises for the back, including deadlifts, bent-over rows, stiff legged deadlifts, good mornings, clean high pulls and shrugs. The back is the most neglected bodypart for most trainees. This occurs partially because back exercises are really demanding, but it’s also due to the fact that the back is seldom seen. Out of sight, out of mind, out of strength. 

Yet the back is typically the fastest of all bodyparts to respond to strength training. That’s because it’s so potentially powerful that once those large, overlapping muscle groups are sufficiently stimulated, they grow rapidly. In many cases the back muscle have never really been challenged, so they lie dormant, waiting for the right stimulus.

When organizing your program, keep in mind that the back is fashioned in three separate parts: upper, middle and lower. There are, of course, several groups that overlap, such as the traps and lats, but for the sake developing your program, the concept of three separate training areas works nicely. Shrugs and high pulls hit the upper back, pulls hit the upper back, bent-over rows and deadlifts hit the middle, and good mornings and stiff-legged deadlifts hit the lower back.

You only need one core exercise for legs - full squats. I know there are other leg exercises, but none can really match the productivity of full squats. Later on, if you want to add some variety to your leg routine, you can include lunges or even leg presses, but initially you want to stay with full squats - not partial squats. The full movement activates so many more muscle groups - especially in the hips, glutes and legs - that you should do only the full movement from the very beginning.

Auxiliary Exercises

After you complete the three core exercises in a workout, you can spend additional time working the small groups. Again, you should give attention to the weakest groups, not just those that are showiest.

The auxiliary exercises will take a backseat to the primary movements until you establish a solid strength foundation. Then you can include more auxiliary work in the program. It's a mistake, however, to do too much auxiliary work in the early stages. The few extra sets may seem harmless, but they are in fact detrimental to your progress. You should use higher reps and adhere to the 40-rep rule. This translates to two sets of 20, three sets of 15 and so on. Don't do any auxiliary movements for fewer than 12 reps in the beginning. Later on this is permissible.

Sets and Reps for the Core Exercises

The sets and reps formula for increasing strength was established many years ago, and it's still quite valid. Four to six sets of six reps gets the job done nicely. I use the mean and stay with five sets of five. That makes the math so much easier. For a few of the primary exercises, however, especially those targeting the lower back, I find that slightly higher reps are better. Good mornings and stiff-legged deadlifts are more productive when you do them for eight to 10 reps. This gives you a higher workload but without undue stress. The same idea holds true for any exercise in which you're particularly weak.

Form is the cornerstone of any strength program. You should never let yourself get sloppy in any exercise just to elevate more weight. Resorting to rebounding the bar off your chest or excessive bridging while bench-pressing or letting your back round too much in the deadlift will eventually deter progress. The exercises are only effective when done correctly. There are, of course, variations in individual technique, and it's acceptable to alter the form to some degree, but you must take care to learn proper technique from the beginning.

I have listed two basic programs to get you started. You may decide to stay with one of them for a month or so, then switch over to the other, or you might decide to do both, alternating them every other week. It's most important to be consistent and not miss a session, as consistency is really the key to making gains. If you're forced to miss a workout, make it up the next day.

In any event, warm up before training and stretch thoroughly after each session. Do an abdominal exercise like situps or crunches before lifting and end the workout wit another one, like leg raises.

Next time I'll discuss how to develop the program further and explain more strength training principles.

Sample Beginning Routine A

Monday (heavy day):

Squats (to limit) - 5 x 5 
Deadlifts (to limit) - 5 x 5
Bench Presses (to limit) -5 x 5
Incline dumbbell presses - 2 x 20
Calf raises - 3 x 30

Wednesday (light day):

Squats (50 pounds less than Monday) - 5 x 5
Good Mornings - 4 x 8
Incline Presses - 5 x 5
Straight arm pullovers - 2 x 20
Curls - 2 x 20 

Friday (medium day):
Bench presses - 4 x 8, 2 x 2
Squats (20 pounds less than Monday) - 5 x 5
Shrugs - 5 x 5
Overhead presses - 5 x 5
Chins - 4 x failure

Sample Beginning Routine B

Monday (heavy day):

Squats (to limit) - 5 x 5
Bent-over rows (to limit) - 5 x 5
Bench presses (to limit) - 5 x 5
Incline dumbbell presses - 2 x 20
Calf raises - 3 x 30

Wednesday (light day):

Squats (50 pounds less than Monday) - 5 x 5
Stiff-legged deadlifts - 4 x 8
Overhead presses - 3 x 5, 2 x 3
Dips - 4 x failure
When you can do 20 reps, start adding weight and
drop the reps back to eight.
Curls - 2 x 15

Friday (medium day):

Squats - 3 x 5, 2 x 3 (10 pounds more than Monday on last set)
Clean-grip high pulls - 5 x 5
Incline presses - 5 x 5, backoff set - 1 x 8
Close-grip bench presses - 3 x 12
Chins - 4 x failure

Eight Sets of Eight - Tom Venuto (2002)

Note: I'm going to include a short article by Steve Holman on his opinion and uses of Gironda's 8 x 8 method.
It will follow this article by 

Tom Venuto:

Vince Gironda's Radical Muscle-Building System
by Tom Venuto (2002) 

When Joe Weider brought Arnold to America, the first thing Weider did was to send the over-bulked Austrian to Vince's Gym in Studio City, California, to whip him into top shape. Legend has it that when Arnold walked in the door, he introduced himself to owner Vince Gironda by saying, "I am Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mr, Universe." The inimitable Vince replied, "You look like a fat fuck to me." 

Yes, Gironda had way with words. He was also known for his mercurial temper and complete intolerance of anyone who refused to follow his rules. The list of reasons for expulsion from his gym included such offenses as laziness, back-squatting, bench pressing, taking steroids, mentioning the word jogging and asking for advice and not following it.

Personal foibles aside, Vince Gironda may have been the greatest bodybuilding trainer who ever lived. He was brilliant - decades ahead of his time - and some of his ideas about training and nutrition were controversial, of not downright bizarre. But no matter how peculiar his methods seemed, the results spoke for themselves.

In his heyday Vince was credited with turning out more Mr. America and Mr. Universe champions that any trainer in history - and that record may still stand. Two of Vince's most famous pupils were Larry Scott, the first Mr. Olympia . . . 

and Mohamed Makkawy, twice runner-up at the Olympia (behind Samir Bannout in 1983 and Lee Haney in '84) . . . 

Vince himself achieved an amazing level of muscularity and definition long before being shredded was in vogue. It's speculated that the reason he never won a major physique title was because he was too ripped for his day and age.

Trainer of the Stars

Before he closed his doors after nearly 50 years in business, Vince's Gym was the number one destination for Hollywood stars who had to get in shape in a hurry. Movie execs sent their flabby leading men and women to Vince so he could work his magic on them. Although it was located conveniently on Ventura Boulevard near several movie studios, Armand Tanny once said, "If Vince had his place on a Tibetan mountaintop instead of near the major motion picture studios, his followers would make the pilgrimage." 

Vince had the ability to get movie stars in shape so fast, it was almost uncanny - not in months but in weeks or even days. Cher, Erik Estrada, Clint Eastwood, Denzel Washington, Michael Landon, Kurt Russell, Burt Reynolds, Carl Weathers and Tommy Chong were just a few of the names on his star-studded client roster.

Vince was one of my first influences in bodybuilding. When I was a teenager just starting out, I saved every one of his articles from the mags.

Check this out - 

I purchased all of Vince's mail order courses and studied every word as if my life depended on it. I experimented extensively with his techniques and came to the conclusion that Vince possessed esoteric knowledge about the art of bodybuilding that few others will ever have.  

Vince's Most Powerful Training System

Gironda was known for his unusual training methods. His unique exercises included the bench press to the neck, the sternum chinup (touching the chest to the bar), drag curls, and sissy squats with what he called a burlesque bump. His training systems included 15 sets of 4 . . . 

I'm tellin' ya, check out this site for an incredible amount of Vince info: 

3 sets of 12 (go on, check 'em all out), 6 sets of 6, 10 sets of 10, and four exercises in a giant set - one for each "side" of the muscle . . . 

Of all Vince's techniques the 8 sets of 8 program was his favorite for advanced bodybuilders. "I have a definite preference for the  8 by 8 system of sets and reps," he wrote. "I come back to this high-intensity honest workout more often than any other for maximizing muscle fiber growth in the quickest possible time for the advanced bodybuilder."

Eight sets of eight might be the most effective set-and-rep combination ever developed for rapidly building muscle fiber size while simultaneously shedding bodyfat. Vince called it an "honest workout" because of the pure muscle fiber size that can be achieved on it. "Keep to 8 x 8, and your muscle fibers will plump out, giving you a solid mass of muscle density as a result," he promised.

8 sets of 8 is so effective that, a a 20-year old novice competitive bodybuilder I was able to gain 17 pounds of muscle drug free - contest weight from one show to the next - in less than nine months using this system. To this day I still use it whenever I need a shock program to bring up a lagging bodypart.

Vince warned that this combination is not for beginners: "You have to build up to the stage where you can benefit from this extremely advanced form of training. I doubt if anyone with less than two years of consistent training experience could benefit from it." 

How It Works

8 sets of 8 is a fast-tempo, high-volume, size-building workout. It's not designed for strength development - it is purely for bodybuilding or cosmetic improvements. 8 sets of 8 will also help you get leaner, as the short rest intervals stress the cardiovascular system to the point where calories are rapidly burned, the metabolism is stimulated, hormones are stirred up, and fat is melted away.

Here's one of the ways it can be worked: 

You select three or four exercises per muscle group and perform 8 sets of 8 on each exercise. Yes, that's up to 32 sets per bodypart! You work two or three muscle groups per session, rest only 15-30 seconds between sets and complete each workout in approximately 45 minutes - never more than 60. 

Although the apparent excessive volume might seem reminiscent of the Steve Michalik, John Defendis intensity-or-insanity style of training, it's not the same thing. There are no two-to-three hour marathon workouts. You complete each session in less than an hour. The reason the high set count doesn't constitute over-training is that you don't exceed the time at which a negative effect on recovery and anabolic hormones sets in. You simply overload the muscles by condensing more training into less time. You also don't take all those sets to failure, as you'll see in a moment.

Why It Works

Many people are under the impression that the only way to make a muscle larger is to increase the amount of weight you use. That's not true. Overload is an absolute requirement for building muscle, but the overload can come in more ways than one.

Progressively adding weight may be one of the best ways to provide an overload, but it's not the only way. Vince was all in favor of adding weight to the bar, provided you maintained good form, but he believed that performing more work in less time was a better method of overload for the bodybuilder. 

The Iron Guru's advice: "To acquire larger muscles you must increase the intensity of work done within a given time. That means minimal rest between sets. Push yourself. I feel workouts should be timed, and you should constantly strive to shorten the time it takes to get through your routine. That's another form of progressive resistance and it's more important than increasing your poundages. The overload principle explains why sprinters have bigger muscles than distance runners. Although it's more work to run a mile than it is to run 100 yards, the sprinter is doing more work per second. Consequently, his muscles will become larger."   

8 Sets of 8 vs. Conventional Training 

The most popular method of training for advanced bodybuilders is to choose between 2 and 4 exercises per muscle group and do 3 or 4 sets of 6-12 reps on each exercise. The rest intervals range from 60 seconds to 4 minutes, depending on the goal. So why bother with such an outrageous program as 8 sets of 8? 

The answer is because honest, high-volume, fast-tempo training will be a complete shock to your body, especially in the beginning, when you're unaccustomed to it. An advanced bodybuilder will adapt to any training program within a matter of months and often within weeks. Once adaptation occurs, you must seek out new types of stress to coax your muscles into continued growth. Although Vince didn't advocate over-training in any way, shape or form, he did advocate using muscle confusion for stimulating gains, even if that meant temporarily over-training. 8 sets of 8 is simply an unusual and effective method of overload and muscle confusion.

Obviously, the program is not intended for year-round use. It's a shock routine you can use for brief periods to kick-start a new growth spurt. After completing a cycle of 8 sets of 8 you can go back to more conventional methods. 

How long should you use 8 sets of 8? 
As long as it keeps working. 

Another advantage to 8 sets of 8 is that it can be used to work around an injury. Heavy training with 5- to 6-rep maxes is impossible when you're babying a strain, pull, of soft tissue injury, but you can do 8 sets of 8 because you get such an honest workout with a fraction of your usual weight on the bar.   

8 sets of 8 is a fantastic method for pre-contest definition training, because doing 50-70 sets in less than an hour is decidedly aerobic. You can easily count each weight training session as a cardio workout. Fast metabolism types may not even need any other aerobic work. 

How Much Rest Between Sets? 

Vince advocated "a very businesslike approach toward tempo." He said that using the 8 sets of 8 format is not enough to ensure muscle gains. What's more important is the speed with which you get through the program. "Minimum rest between sets is a must," said the master. When Gironda was training Mohamed Makkawy for the Olympia, he had him conditioned to the point of doing 8 sets in as short a time as 5 minutes or less. 

Your goal is to reduce your rest intervals to 30 seconds or less, ultimately cutting them down to just 15-20 seconds between sets. Once your conditioning adjusts to the demands, you'll need just 5-10 deep breaths after each set . . . then it's on to the next set. 

If your rep speed on each exercise is 2/0/2/0 - two second eccentric, no pauses and two seconds concentric - then each rep will take you 4 seconds. 8 reps per set means that each set will take you 32 seconds. With a 15-20 second rest interval, 24 sets should take only 18-21 minutes, and 32 sets will take 25-28 minutes.

Tempo Tips

The proper tempo combined with the correct resistance is the key to the success of this program. Vince defined optimal tempo as "the evenly spaced sets (time-wise) without any distractions and with complete concentration on when to pick up the next weight and do the next set." 

That means no magazine reading, no walking around the gym, no changing your music and no going to the bathroom. The program requires 100%  total concentration. If you get interrupted or distracted, you might as well pack up your gym bag and go home. 

Don't put the dumbbells down between sets. Rest them on your knees, but don't put them put them down or re-rack them. Also, don't release the bar between sets; rack it, but keep your hands on it. If you using straps, don't unwrap them. Stay on the bench or machine until you complete all 8 sets of 8. take no rest between bodyparts. When you finish the last exercise for the first muscle group, move directly into the first exercise for the next muscle group.

By the way, to follow the tempo guidelines, you'll have to do the program solo. 

How Much Weight? 

Using 15-20 second rest intervals will limit the amount of weight you can use, but that's okay. Initially, you'll experience a large drop in your normal training poundages. Most people will need to reduce their normal 8-rep max by about 40% to successfully complete 8 sets at the correct tempo with such brief rests. For example, if you normally perform dumbbell flyes with 55's for 8 reps with a 60-90 second rest interval, you're going to have to reduce your dumbbells to about 35's to successfully get through the 8 sets taking 15-30 second rests.

As you become more conditioned you will be surprised at how much weight you'll be able to build back up to while maintaining the short rest interval. You may even get close to your original poundage. At that point some serious growth will begin to occur.

Proper weight selection is critical. You should intentionally make the first workout easy. If you attempt too much weight too quickly, you won't be able to complete 8 reps on the last several sets, nor will you be allowing room for progression over a period of weeks. Vince cautioned that it's imperative to use the same weight for all 8 sets. If you fail on the 6th or 7th rep on the last set or two that's fine, but if your reps drop below 8 by your 4th or 5th set the weight is too heavy.  

Whole-Body Training or Bodypart Specialization? 

8 sets of 8 is excellent for bodypart specialization or whole-body training. You can use it very effectively on one bodypart at a time. For example, if your chest is lagging, you would do the 8 sets of 8 routine to specialize on chest, and do conventional training for the rest of your body.

If you decide to use the technique for large muscle groups such as legs and back, be warned: It's brutal beyond belief. It's extremely difficult because cardiovascular failure may limit your performance. Prepare to be huffing and puffing. You may have to start with longer rest intervals - about 30 seconds - and work down to 15-20 seconds. Alternatively, you could start with very light weights and build up gradually.

Which Exercises?              
Select your exercises carefully to hit the aspects of each muscle you want to target the most. For example, if your after big side delts and shoulder width, you should select side-delt movements such as lateral raises and wide-grip upright rows instead of front raises and military presses.

Machines and single-joint movements are easier, but don't shy away from the big compound movements just because they're more difficult. As with any training program, the basic exercises will always produce the best results. So, if you want a massive back, think rows and chinups, not one-arm cable pulls. 

8 sets of 8 works as well for calves, abs, and forearms as it does for any other bodypart. Vince was always partial to 20 reps for the calves. He often suggested staying with 8 sets but upping the reps to 20.

"Training Over Your Head" 

Most of your sets will not be taken to failure, and none will be taken beyond failure. On your last set or two of each exercise it's normal to fail on the 6th or 7th rep. When you can easily complete a full 8 sets of 8 reps increase the weight at the next workout.

Although you won't be reaching failure on most of your sets, make no mistake: This is some of the most difficult training you'll ever undertake. Training large muscle groups and doing multi-joint free-weight exercises are especially difficult. You'll face the burn of local muscle fatigue, the challenge of oxygen debt, and the difficulty of maintaining concentration. 

This method is a test of strength, endurance, and mental toughness. Gironda called it "training over your head." At times you won't be sure if you can go on, but once you start, you can't stop.

How Many Sets and Exercises? 

As a general rule Vince suggested limiting your total sets to no more than 12-15 per bodypart. He said that if you can't get a workout in 12 sets you're not concentrating properly; however, he also said there are certain occasions when the rule could be broken. The 8 sets of 8 program is one of them.

Gironda recommended anywhere from 1 to 4 exercises per muscle group, depending on the circumstances. For this particular variation of the program you will perform 8 sets of 8 reps on 2-4 exercises per bodypart. Generally, you will aim for 3-4 exercises for large muscle groups and 2-3 exercises for small muscle groups. 

That's the way he had Makkawy do it when he was training for the Olympia, but Vince was quick to point out that Mohamed was a true genetic superior and that not everyone can handle that kind of volume. The optimal number of exercises and total sets per muscle group will depend on your experience, your tolerance for stress and your recuperative abilities. The most important point os to do only as many exercises as you can fit into the 45-minute limit. 

What Type of Split? 

The number of exercises per bodypart will also depend on the split routine you use. Vince advocated different types of splits for various purposes. Sometimes he had his pupils train 6 days in a row, working each muscle group 3 times per week. More often, he was partial to 2- and 3-day splits, where each muscle was trained twice per week. He advised advanced bodybuilders to use a 3-day split with 72 hours of recuperation between maximum intensity workouts.

These days it's more popular to split up the bodyparts over 4 or even 5 days. with a 4- or 5-day split you work each muscle group once every 5 to 7 days. If Vince were around today, he would surely give me a verbal beating for saying this, but I've discovered that 8 sets of 8 works with nearly any split routine, whether you train each muscle group once a week of twice a week. The important thing is to adjust your volume so you can observe the tempo and time limit rules. If you have a split routine that works well for you, by all means stay with it.

For example, if you're on the popular 4-day split where you train two days on and one day off, you'll get great results on 8 sets of 8. With that type of split you can do 7 or 8 exercises for 8 sets of 8 and fit it all inside of 45 minutes. If you're on a 2- or 3-day split, as Vince often recommended, you may have time for only 1 or 2 exercise per muscle group. 

The sample routine I'll be giving is based on a 4-day split. 

8 sets of 8 is a little known and largely misunderstood program. That's partly because Vince never explained it in great detail - not even in his famous mail-order courses. Even whey they fully understand it most people don't attempt the program because it seems like too much volume and the weights seem too light to get anything out of it. Too bad for them. The real reason most people never finish a fully cycle of 8 sets of 8 is because it's too damn hard. 8 sets of 8 performed in 5 minutes for a large muscle group can test the grit of even the toughest bodybuilder.

You don't have to agree with all of Vince's teachings to use the program. It's natural to resist concepts that are so radical. Gironda was used to it. Nearly all of his ideas met with a certain degree of skepticism initially, yet eventually - sometimes two or three decades later - many of them became accepted as bodybuilding truths.

When questioned, Vince replied, "If in doubt, try these concepts and try others. Results count.
Examine. Test. Then make up your own mind. The secret to success is to believe that the course I give will work, and it will. If you have doubts, you'll find it won't work." 

Regardless of whether you think Vince was the greatest trainer of all time of just a crusty old curmudgeon, I urge you to give this honest workout an honest try.

8 sets of 8 Routine

Day 1

Decline low-cable crossovers (touch handles at waist), 8 x 8
Bench press to neck, 8 x 8 . . . all exercises are 8 x 8
Incline dumbbell press (palms facing each other)
Wide grip V-bar dip

Drag curl
Preacher curl
Incline DB curl

Barbell wrist curl
Reverse wrist curl

Day 2

Seated lateral raise
Wide grip upright row
Front-to-back barbell press
Bentover lateral raise

Behind-the-head rope extension
Lying extension
Two DB kickback

Day 3

Sternum chinup
High-bench two DB row
Low cable row on 18" pulley
Medium grip pulldown to chest

Double crunch (pull in elbows and knees at the same time)
Weighted crunch
Lying bent-knee leg raise

Day 4

Front squat
Machine back squat
Sissy squat
Leg extension

Leg curl
Seated leg curl machine

Standing calf raise
Seated calf raise

Here's Steve Holman's take on the 8 x 8: 

Tom Venuto did a fine job of analyzing Gironda's  8 sets of 8 program, and providing a routine based on it. I found the article very intriguing and wanted to comment. I haven't tried the technique for every bodypart, but using it for only one muscle group or one exercise can build size quickly; more proof that the Iron Guru knew what he was talking about.

The 8 x 8 protocol has you choose a weight for each exercise with which you can get 8 reps on all 8 sets with a 20-30 second rest between sets. Your last couple of sets are the hardest and to failure. That has a number of advantages:

You don't use extremely heavy weights, which saves your joints from trauma.
Your first few sets are fairly easy, so they act as a warmup.
You get a lot of work done in minimum time thanks to the short rest periods. 
Your workouts last less than an hour if you hustle properly.
You get an incredible pump.

The negative is that it's not a strength-building program. 

As you can tell, you have to use lighter poundages to get 8 reps on all 8 sets, although your poundages move up quickly as you build up a tolerance to the short rests and fatigue accumulation. Vince never claimed it was a strength-building program; he said it was purely a cosmetic-oriented routine for building large muscles fast.

He suggested using up to four exercises per bodypart, which translates to 32 sets. That's a lot of volume, especially if you're using 8 x 8 on every bodypart. If you decide to try it, you may want to use it on only one or two bodyparts at a time and train others in a more conventional manner. Or you may want to apply it using POF instead of randomly choosing four exercises. With POF you train the muscle through its full range of motion - from midrange to stretch to maximum contraction - which should make the 8 x 8 system even more precise and effective. 

For example, let's say you want to specialize on your delts. Here's an 8 x 8 POF delt program that will make you feel like you have bowling balls for shoulders: 

Midrange: Smith machine presses, 8 x 8
Stretch: One-arm incline lateral raise, 8 x 8
Contracted: Dumbbell upright row, 8 x 8. 

Remember, for each exercise you pick a poundage and use it on all 8 sets. If you get only 6 or 7 reps on the last two sets, that's okay, but if you stall at rep 6 on set 4, you know the weight you chose was too heavy.

Be forewarned: 8 sets of 8 may not sound that tough, but it will wind you. You'll be gasping for air, especially on leg and back exercises and any one-arm movements. For example, you'll be breathing hard on incline one-arm laterals because you'll have to go back and forth from arm to arm without rest. You're only supposed to rest about 20-30 seconds - and that's just enough time for a quick 8 reps with one arm. Then it's on to the other arm.

If you have a bodypart that's lagging, an 8 x 8 blast will get it to respond with new growth and muscularity, guaranteed. You don't even have to do it on all exercises. In fact, I found it effective to use it on the last exercise for a bodypart. For example, I'll use it on lateral raises to end my delt routine, which takes about 5 minutes for all 8 sets. I'm just starting to integrate that protocol into our routine, so watch for more on it in the next installment of Train, Eat, Grow.   




Thursday, April 11, 2019

I'm Married to a Weightlifter - Sandy Cantore

Mr. Sandy Cantore, er, Dan Cantore

From This Issue

Bob Hise and Sandy Cantore
Bob Hise at USA Strength & Conditioning Coaches Hall of Fame: 

This article is dedicated to all the wives, girlfriends, and lovers of men who are athletes, those in particular who are Olympic Weightlifters. My name is Sandy Cantore, and I am here to sympathize with all of you who have been set aside at one time or another for a set of weights.

I met my husband Dan in high school (Eagle Rock - a Los Angeles school). At that time he was into track and field, and cross country. If anyhow would have told me then that my 110-lb. boyfriend would be a national champion, and of all things, in weightlifting, I would have laughed in their face! Running track was a full time thing, even then I spent many hours at a time waiting for him to finish a workout. I followed him all over to see him in meets, stopwatch in hand. I guess, due to all that early training I had in track and field, it has become my second love to weightlifting. 

When Danny first started lifting weights, at the L.A. "Y" under capable coach Bob Hise, I was really surprised. He was so skinny, weighing a heavy 115 pounds! It hardly seemed possible that he could move those weights around, but he had an amazing amount of natural strength and coordination. He became very interested, and began by entering novice meets. Winning most of these along with Coach Hise's encouraging words gave him incentive to go on to bigger things. This all led to more workouts, longer workouts, and less time with me. I thought he'd outgrow lifting, but instead it became an obsession. It soon came before school, his family, and me. 

When we got married, Danny's coach, Bob Hise, told me I'd become a "Weightlifter's Widow." At first I didn't understand, but it didn't take me long to catch on. By being married, I thought I would see him all the time . . . no chance! When we got back from our honeymoon, the honeymoon was over, believe me. He even brought his workout bag on our honeymoon. Adjusting to married life was no easy task. Danny worked from four to midnight, so I didn't see him evenings, and he trained during the day, so I didn't see him then, either. He began traveling to meets. It seemed like he spent more time away from home than he did at home. I wanted to be a good wife, so I tried to keep my gripes and complaints about lifting to myself, but it was really hard.

Over the next few years I grew to really hate lifting, and everything and everyone associated with it. Socially our lives revolved around other lifters; doing things with them, day in, day out, seven days a week. I shared him, and deeply resented it. It seemed to me that all the lifters got together to support each other's bad habits, and egos. 

Drugs entered our lives, too. At first we were socially accepted, but drugs almost destroyed us, along with everything else. At the time I didn't want to have anything to do with weightlifting and completely ignored the fact that Danny was well into the national rankings. So many people in lifting had come between us that we soon found ourselves divided. 

Oddly enough things took a turn for the better when we moved to San Francisco. Being in a new place with only a few friends and acquaintances, we drew from and depended on each other. We reevaluated our lives, and ourselves. Danny met new friends at the gym, then Alex's Sports Palace. Being away from our friends and Coach Hise in L.A. was difficult at first, and Danny had a hard time adjusting, but I loved it. It was the first time in three years that I saw him with any regularity. It was easier for me to get into lifting now, knowing that I didn't have to share him with his friends. His training that first year in San Francisco was steady, not terrific, but okay. He lost the Senior National title in 1970. I felt guilty.  I thought I had done this by taking him away from his friends, training partners and his coach. We both were looking for some kind of direction and order in our lives. We found our answer in Jesus Christ, and living and believing in God. It was when our faith turned to God instead of other people that our life together had some kind of meaning.

I became more involved in lifting. It was easier for me to help my husband now. I began attending meets regularly, keeping score, selling tickets, etc. I was actually a part of it all now, rather than an outsider. I really felt good about helping Danny, and supporting him in lifting. Despite my efforts and good intentions, Danny bombed out at the '71 Seniors. I got my first taste of politics in lifting, and it proved to be an educational experience.

1972 was a big year, it was an Olympic year. I never really thought about it much, the Olympics; something too big and too fantastic to let creep into my mind. As the year began, Danny really concentrated on planning his workouts; cycling and peaking for the season. By early April he had finished school and graduated from the University of Cal-Berkeley. This left nearly two months of good training before the Olympic tryouts. With no school to worry about he spent the time to train. From this time on, we both became super psyched.

Danny trained four times a week with Roger Quinn, which was really beneficial.

There's an article by Roger Quinn, from this same issue, here:

Danny added 50 pounds to his total in 10 weeks time! We were a pretty good team . . . Danny trained and rested, without working or going to school, and I worked full time and supported the three of us - Danny, myself and our five year old daughter, Jami. Everything paid off . . . proper diet, rest, and a lot of psyche . . . and the results were fantastic!

I really wanted Danny to make the Olympic team, and tried to do everything I could for him. I actually felt like a part of Danny now. When he went to the Seniors, part of me would be with him. I didn't go to the tryouts with him, I was too nervous. Besides, he didn't train and work so hard just for me to go along and make things complicated. To this day I still won't go to a Senior Nationals with him for that reason. When Danny finally called to let me know he had won, and had broken four American records while doing it, I could hardly believe it. The best part of all was that we both were going to Munich . . . to the Olympics!

Going to the Olympics made everything worthwhile. This was my reward for being, as Pa Hise had said, a "Weightlifter's Widow." Munich was a great experience for us both. We were nervous about the competition. This was Danny's first time in an International meet, and what a way to start - at the Olympics.

The competition was stiff, but I thought he did very well, 9th overall. The important thing was that he didn't bomb out. He proved himself worthy of International competition. We really had a great time sightseeing in Munich, but meeting people from all over the world was the greatest thrill. What we learned and experienced from our trip to the Olympics is something we will never forget.

Last year, 1973, was a good year. Danny won the Senior Nationals, and went onto the World Championships. He placed 7th, and won the Pan American Championships, bringing home three gold medals. I am so proud, and at times I'm really impressed with myself when I think of who I'm married to!

Weightlifting has now become a very real part of my life. I really love the sport, and enjoy good competition. I feel I've really stood by my man and encouraged and helped him to do something he enjoys passionately, and I must admit it hasn't been easy. I've had to give much of myself and sacrifice a lot of my own personal ambitions. There's been many a time I've stayed at home while he traveled to really great places. Selfishness and jealousy creep in, and aren't easy to cope with. I've really had to be mature about these things, but I realize that all I can do for Danny makes things a little bit easier for him, and believe me, I'll do anything I can to make him a champion.

At a weightlifting banquet in Los Angeles, Coach Bob Hise introduced Danny for an award, and he added, "Behind every great man is a great woman."

Not great, just patient . . . very patient.              

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Building a Solid Foundation - Bill Starr (1996)

Taken from This Issue (August 1996)

Note: This is the first article Mr. Starr wrote for his Only the Strong Shall Survive series for IronMan magazine. There followed several years of coherent, experience-rich gems, a treasure we should all take a moment to be thankful for. Yes, I'll go so far as to say the series is a thing of great beauty, created by one of the lifting world's geniuses. 

Let's begin . . . 

The initial goal of everyone who seriously takes up weight training is to get bigger. Getting stronger usually comes second, but bigger is almost always the priority. This quest for SIZE takes trainees down the wrong road, however, because the key to attaining greater size is to build a foundation of strength. Strength is the basis for all development, whether it's an infant learning to walk, a patient coming back from a prolonged illness or a conditioned athlete seeking a higher level of fitness.

"Strength undergirds all other factors when one considers the total functioning of the body movements. Without sufficient strength, factors such as endurance, flexibility and skill cannot be used effectively." This quote may sound like something that came from the mouth of a strength coach, but in fact the words are from a professor of physiology, Dr. Gene Logan, author of Adaptations of Muscular Activity.   

Many who write about and teach weight training are of the mistaken opinion that any form of strength training is directly opposed to the principles of bodybuilding - and vice versa. In truth, the two activities are not mutually exclusive. When programmed correctly, they go together quite nicely. 

Every bodybuilder should use some form of strength training during the year, and every strength athlete would do well to incorporate some bodybuilding exercises into his or her routine. 

When I first got involved in physical culture, all the bodybuilders I met were as strong as they looked. Over the years this concept has somehow gotten lost. Part of the change was due to the massive influx of steroids into the gyms across the country. In the past people who considered using some form of anabolic steroid had to visit a doctor and follow some sensible guidelines to ensure their health. Once it was discovered that black market steroids were big business, they suddenly became very easy to buy in locker rooms. A few gym chains became notorious for distributing them, and they could also be had through the mail.    

The issue of health isn't the only reason that the drugs are detrimental. They make a person lazy. It's so much easier to get bigger and stronger, but at some point progress comes to a halt. That's just the natural process. Before steroids came along, trainees had to learn how to break through the plateaus. They were forced to analyze their routines, make modifications and then work a great deal harder in order to get to the next level.

Drug users, on the other hand, are unaccustomed to dealing with the challenges through serious study and more effort, so they merely increase their drug intake, sometimes to absurd limits. Unfortunately, the result is similar to what happens when someone builds a house on a foundation of sand. Eventually, they can't up the doses anymore, as the pharmaceuticals start acting like poison. All progress comes to a grinding halt, and the gains that were achieved via drug use vanish because the trainees have absolutely no idea what to do. 

The second reason bodybuilders have lost the habit of building a solid strength base is the tremendous number of machines that have flooded the market since the 1980s. Today there's a machine for every imaginable bodypart. Now, I'm not anti-machine. Not at all. I believe they serve an important function in strength and fitness training. I also believe, however, that when they're used exclusively of used in place of a more difficult exercise, they deter progress. Simply put, it's easier to work on a machine than it is to use free weights. It's less stressful to do leg presses or squat inside a Smith machine than to perform full squats with a barbell, and it's more fun to work on a T-bar row and the lat machine than to grind out the final few reps of a heavy set of deadlifts or high pulls. In other words, anytime an exercise is made easier, apart from improving technique, that exercise is going to be less productive. The body responds to stress, not to comfort.

Training for strength is currently considered the exclusive domain of Olympic lifters, powerlifters and those engaged in scholastic, collegiate or professional athletics. This was not always the case. The top physique men of the '40s, '50s and '60s were often among the strongest people in the world. These older champions fully understood the necessity of strength work and spent a great deal of their training time on pure strength movements. They built their physiques on strength, and many were extremely powerful. John Grimek, the grand master of bodybuilding, could clean and press 350 pounds at a bodyweight of 180. Vern Weaver may have been the strongest Mr. America ever. He once power cleaned and jerked 380 in an Olympic lifting contest. Val Vasilef was also impressively strong. So were Sergio Oliva, Bill Pearl and Dennis Tinerino. Many of the best in the world of bodybuilding put on strength exhibitions.

The change in training philosophy came about when Joe Weider assumed control of physique competition in the early '70s. When the AAU ran the sport, the contestants were awarded athletic points, and these were absolutely critical for success in the major contests. Since the AAU bodybuilding contests were always held in conjunction with weightlifting meets and bodybuilders generally trained with weightlifters and did many of the same exercises, they found it convenient to compete in the meets in order to obtain the athletic points. In the process of doing clean & presses, snatches, clean & jerks heavy front and back squats, plus lots of heavy pulls, they developed the massive powerful physiques that we don't see on today's bodybuilders.

When Weider took over the sport of bodybuilding, the athletic points were dropped. This really made perfect sense, but as a result, the newer wave of competitors stopped doing the difficult exercises and turned to the easier ones. Why wear yourself out doing heavy pulls off the floor when there's a T-bar row just aching to be used? Bench presses and incline presses are certainly more enjoyable than clean & presses. The baby got thrown out with the bathwater.

One final reason that today's bodybuilders don't do strength training is, they really don't know exactly how to do it. There's some information in some of the magazines, but for the most part it's fragmented and presented in a way that overwhelms the timid trainee. In the event a strength program is publicized, readers often skip over it, since they quickly understand that it involves lots of hard work. There's no question that grinding out a max set of squats is much more demanding than doing countless sets of bench presses or curls. And that's basically why so many people who train are so pathetically weak.

During the blizzard that socked the East Coast last winter, I was forced - and forced is the correct word - to train at the local la-de-da club. In two workouts, which took a total of maybe three hours, I didn't see a single person do squats or heavy pulls. College-age trainees were straining on 95-lb. inclines and 155-lb. benches. The machines, however, were so popular that there were actually lines of people waiting to use them. The concept of trying to be as strong as you look certainly didn't apply in this facility.

Many who are primarily interested in improving their physiques are confused about the role of strength training. Those who only want larger arms and a thicker chest cannot always see why they should bother with squats or deadlifts. "I never plan on entering a powerlifting meet, so why should I do those lifts?" is something I hear a lot. "All I'm after is another inch on my biceps."

If I'm in a patient mood, I take the time to explain that doing the big-muscle exercises, such as squats and deadlifts, will give someone a much better chance of adding that extra inch or two to his upper arms than if he just continues to work his biceps directly. I once observed two high-school age trainees spend an hour and a half doing nothing but curls: standing barbell curls, preacher curls with an EZ-curl bar, then set after set with the dumbbells. Two months later I saw them again. They went through the exact came routine, so I assumed they'd been doing it steadfastly over the past eight weeks. Amazingly, after all that work their arms weren't a millimeter bigger. Admittedly, they were well-defined, but a 13-inch arm, defined or not, is still not all that impressive.

On the other hand, I've put several youngsters on a pure strength routine who packed two to three inches of muscle on their upper arms in less than a year. In many cases they only did a couple of sets per week for their biceps. The strength exercises gave them all they really needed to add size to their arms.

How can that be? How is it possible to get bigger arms without doing lots and lots of specific exercises for your biceps? The secret - if one can be so naive or presumptuous to call it a secret because the concept has been around since Milo first lifted his calf - is that when you stimulate the larger muscles of the body with heavy workloads and force them to get stronger and grow, there's always a corresponding positive effect on the smaller muscles. Simply stated, if you pack on 20 pounds of bodyweight by performing heavy squats and deadlifts, you're automatically going to add size to your upper arms.

Strength training is primarily aimed at enhancing attachment strength. The tendons and ligaments are the body's sources of strength. Make the attachments stronger and it's so much easier to increase both strength and size in the various muscles. One of the reasons that many trainees are able to increase upper-arm size without doing any curls whatsoever is that they do pulling movements with heavy weights. Exercises such as power cleans, high pulls, bentover rows and shrugs all activate the attachments in the elbows as well as the prime movers, the brachioradialis and brachialis.

After handling 500-plus pounds in the shrug, those attachments and prime movers are forced to get stronger. That means you can use a much heavier weight for curling.

When performed correctly, strength training is fun training. Nothing is quite so addictive as getting stronger. Progress comes quickly in a properly administered strength routine, and this makes it self-motivating. I've placed a number of aspiring bodybuilders on strength programs, and they've all responded most favorably. Contrary to what some believe, bodybuilders do thrive on hard work. In most instances they just haven't been taught correct form on some of the strength movements or been given a concise program to follow. Once they learn proper technique and understand the principles of strength training and how it applies to bodybuilding, they work as hard as my most dedicated strength athletes.

In future issues I'll present a precise course on how to organize and implement a strength program. I'll also explain the various concepts of strength training, such as overload, figuring workload, the heavy/light/medium system, plus several other principles intrinsic to the science of strength training.                  

Blog Archive