Friday, August 30, 2019

The Bill Pearl Story, Part One - George Coates

Entire Series Courtesy of Liam Tweed.
Thank You!  


During the compiling of this biography, Bill and I would often sit in my house or his, drinking tea, and chatting with my tape recorder running. Some of Bill's remarks on certain individuals are so sincere and well-spoken I think it would be a shame not to relay these remarks just as he said them. Also, some of his observations on some facets of the game he finds disturbing. Consequently, I will be injecting into this story remarks by Bill taken right off the tape, but will always let the reader know when this is so.

Bill and I are very good friends and I feel honored to be allowed to do an article of this magnitude. Men of true integrity are a rarity these days I'm afraid. In fact, it seems a shame that a man's success is usually judged by the amount of riches he has amassed either by fair means or foul. If hard work, honesty and dedication brought about riches, I think Bill Pearl would rank with J. Paul Getty. 

Here then is the Bill Pearl story; I only hope I can do it justice. If I am able to pay him just a small part of the tribute he truly deserves, I will be happy..


Part I - The Early Years
(Photos by Leo Stern)

"George, I had known Bill for over 17 years at the time and had worked with him on his posing until the eleventh hour so to speak, but when he stood on the rostrum I couldn't believe my eyes. I was a awestruck as the thousands of others in that standing-room-only audience in London on that day in 1967. I mean I was really moved. I know Bill probably better than anyone else in the world but there was something extra on this particular, something I had never noticed before. It's kind of hard to explain but he seemed to "glow;" that's the only way I can seem to describe his appearance that day." 

It takes a lot to impress Leo Stern, particularly in regard to great physiques, as he has seen them all. John Grimek, Steve Reeves, Clarence Ross, Reg Park and any other star of the past 30 years. This includes the present crop of men such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Boyer Coe, Sergio Oliva, Dennis Tinerino, Dave Draper, etc., etc. You name him, Leo has seen him!    

Bill Pearl has a charisma that not many people can match. I can remember being at the judging of the 1961 Mr. Universe Contest and I swear a lot of the contestants could hardly concentrate on their own posing as all eyes were riveted on Pearl. John Grimek was a great attraction and had a tremendous stage presentation. Steve Reeves during his short run as a contestant also seemed to have crowd appeal. Reg Park and Clancy Ross were big crowd pleasers along with a few others, but when Bill Pearl appears at a show as a contestant or guest poser there appears to be an atmosphere unlike any other I've ever seen. It's almost as if the whole show revolves around this one man. "Can he be as fantastic as his pictures?" seems to be the most repeated question. Bill Pearl never disappoints them! Most people can only gasp and shake their heads in disbelief at first sight of Pearl. Even the old hands who have seen him many times always end up by remarking, "He's even greater than he was last time." 

The Bill Pearl story started 40 years ago in Pineville, Oregon where he first saw the light of day. He didn't stay there very long, though, as the Pearl family moved around quite a lot before finally settling in the town of Yakima, in the evergreen state of Washington.  

From an early age Bill had an intense desire to be strong and well built. The main reason for this was due to the fact that he has  an older brother and anyone who has an older brother knows what that means. There was an age difference of three years, and  when Bill was just a little fellow of 14 his brother was 17. As everyone knows, there is a world of physical difference between kids of these ages. You can probably guess the rest. Bill's older bother used to kick the heck out of him with alarming regularity. I understand the official term for this behavior is "brotherly love." Anyway, "little Billy" swore that one day he would get even and be big enough to knock his brother right on his "can!" He would carry all the heavy objects he could lay his hands on and offer to chop all the neighbors' firewood thinking this would make him big and strong. I guess it did help him keep fit, although he still wasn't a budding Hercules.  

Then one day a friend of his came to his house all excited and said, "Bill, I finally got the answer." In his hands he had a wartime copy of Strength & Health magazine. Bill couldn't believe his eyes when he looked through it and saw pictures of John Grimek. He figured this is it, this was the way! 

He and his friends worked all summer long and pooled their hard earned cash to send away for a York barbell set. Due to the war effort iron was in short supply and the kids had to wait two whole years for that set. When his hands first touched that lump of iron little did he know it would set up a chain reaction that would be a guiding force for the rest of his life. The end result being acclaimed the best build man in the entire history of the world.

During these early years when still at school Bill was so enthusiastic about the game he would write papers about strong men of the past such as Louis Cyr, Arthur Saxon and others. Bill was never a sickly child, in fact he was quite a stocky kid and interested in sports. He played basketball and ran track and was on the school swimming team. He admits, however, he wasn't a natural athlete and everything came only after much hard effort. In fact, the only two sports he made rapid progress in were wrestling and bodybuilding. 

 Bill can remember taking pictures when he was a lad of 17 or 18 and his arm hanging at his side measured 11.75", which is a pretty good measurement for a young kid. Unfortunately, he can't remember any other measurements apart from that, but admits that he had grown into quite a big kid at that age. Incidentally, Bill's brother started to work out many years later. He is a huge man and Bill thinks he could have done well for himself in contests had  he dedicated himself a little more. 

After Bill had been training for a while his one goal in life was to get his picture in Strength & Health magazine; in fact in any magazine.

I asked him if there was any particular physique of those early years that impressed him to the point he would wish, "If only I had a build like that." 

"Well, George, those of course were the years of John Grimek and I really admired him. I was torn between him and Clancy Ross, who at that time were the two most outstanding physiques, and they would still be even by today's standards. These two at their best would still be the greatest ever. I liked Clancy Ross's physique because it was a real flowing type of physique, I mean it was really radiant; whereas John Grimek had that massive ruggedness that I thought I could obtain because I was a fairly big boned fellow and I had some structural advantages. I would say that John Grimek has been the largest influence on my life as far as being a physique star is concerned. I look up to this man, and over the past 20 years any dealings I have had with John have always been one-hundred percent successful for me. I have never been steered wrong by the man and I really admire him as a person. Even today in his 50's the guy is super fantastic, and the amazing thing is that a person could stay in the limelight for so long. Especially when you see a person like Larry Scott (no offense meant here, but he was in and out in five years or so). He's gone, and so is Don Howorth, and there isn't one person in 50,000 who is around for any length of time at all in this game. So when you consider the shape John Grimek has been in over 35 or 40 years, it's just incredible. I would also like to mention that Steve Reeves was also a big inspiration for me during my early years.  

In 1950 Bill entered the service and consequently had very little time to work out. To use his own words, "We worked our cans off in those days, and I trained as best I could on the Navy bases and I never really got any help at all until I went to Leo Stern's gym as I was stationed in San Diego." 

Leo tells me that when Bill first started to work out at his gym he didn't pay too much attention to him. He was just another well built kid who seemed to be interested in becoming stronger to improve his wrestling. Bill was the wrestling champion of the 11th Naval District and had high hopes of representing the United States in the Olympic Games.

The big name at Stern's gym in those days was a fellow called Keith Stephan. He was a great big man of 6'2" and weighed about 240 lbs. When Bill first saw him he couldn't believe his eyes. Coming from a small town in Washington and being the product of home training he hadn't seen any physique stars in person. He didn't dream anybody could get that massive. I must agree because when you see a big man in the magazines, I mean a really big man like Reg Park, you get a shock when you see the same man in person. He will always look twice as big, especially when posing. Bill remembers he would go upstairs to the gym and ask Stephan if he wanted to work out. Stephan would say yes, but would always want to snooze for about five minutes on a big couch that Leo had in the rest area of the gym. Bill would do everything he could to keep the big fellow sleeping there, because he figured the longer he slept the faster Bill would catch up to him physique-wise. Bill vowed he would get as big as Keith Stephan come hell or high water! Stephan had some bad breaks in his personal life and gave up training, but Bill says at the time Keith was a great inspiration to him.

The real big inspiration to Bill when he first training at Sterns was a colored kid by the name of Hugh Cobb. He was Bill's training partner and they were real good friends. In Bill's own words, "Hugh was probably the most instrumental person in my early training, even in some respects more than Leo. I trained with Hugh and I'm not taking anything away from Leo who used to help me with my workouts and all, but I did train with Hugh and I got a lot of help from him. But always went, and will always to to Leo Stern, even to this day, for advice. I know I couldn't get any finer advice anywhere. It's awful hard to have eyes in the back of your head and Leo has been in my corner all these years, and I look up to him all the time. If it wasn't for Leo I couldn't have accomplished anything I had ever done in the game. In fact, if it wasn't for him I don't think I would be in the gym business today." 

It's nice that Bill feels this way because I know for a fact that Leo is Bill's number one fan. Whenever the name of Pearl crops up in a conversation Leo's there and wants to know what's being said and if it isn't right he almost has a fit. I've seen him jump all over people on account of conversations regarding Pearl. Bill speaks further of Leo: "He's a fine friend and I don't mind telling you he put out a lot of money and time to help me when I was a young kid in the service. He fed me for months on end and put out a lot of money to help me travel here and there. I mean money from his own pocket when he had absolutely nothing at all to gain from it. I haven't made enough from magazine articles and pictures to buy a good set of clothes and Leo is the same. It was a lot of hard teamwork to see if we could make the best out of what we had." 

By now Bill was training real hard and making some progress so he decided to have a go at a physique contest. It was the annual Mr. San Diego affair and he placed third. He was really pleased with this showing and it inspired him to work harder.   

I would like to inject at this point some of Bill's comments on things that were happening on the weight scene at this time. One of the places that always intrigued me was Muscle Beach which was the bodybuilders' so-called mecca. I can remember sitting indoors on those cold rainy evenings in Northern England reading about Santa Monica's famed Muscle Beach. The late Earle Liederman's gossip columns were always full of fascinating stories about the place. Alas when I finally did make it to the golden state of California, Muscle Beach was no more. The place I had read about and dreamed of visiting for so long was just another stretch of sand with winos and hippies walking the promenade where Steve Reeves and other immortals of the iron game had once strode. I have since found out, after talking to a great many people, that Muscle Beach was not the hallowed place it was cracked up to be by certain magazines. I would like you to hear Bill Pearl's impressions and I hope I'm not bursting too many people's balloons or dreams here, but truth will out, and Bill's opinion was and is shared by a great many people who knew the place well. 

"I was training at Leo Stern's gym at this time and Muscle Beach was going full blast. I can recall I had gone up there a few times to see what went on and at that time things had gotten really bad. There were a lot of new kids coming out from New York and other parts of the country and some of the things these guys were doing down there were absolutely degrading to the sport. The antics they were pulling on the boardwalk and some of the comments made to the young girls -- in fact most of the things that were taking place were just a little bit too much.

"I recall going to a physique contest one time and there were so many vulgar comments from the audience at the people up there posing. They were so loud and rude I was disgusted at the whole affair. I remember going back to see Leo and I told him I was going to quit training. He couldn't understand why and I told him I just wasn't raised that way and I was just going to continue on with my wrestling. In fact, I was doing so well at my wrestling I was hoping to make the Olympic Games team in 1952. Leo came up and saved the day by telling me that just because some of these clowns were acting this way it didn't mean that I had to be like them or get involved in any way. Leo said to me, 'Let them play their games; divorce yourself from these people. You don't have to associate with them.' I haven't even to this day, and I have never really been accepted by the crowd at Muscle Beach, and while I'm not on the outs, I'm on the other side of the track, so to speak. Not that I'm a goody-goody, it's just that my attitude toward the sport is entirely different from theirs. Some of these kids were on an evil kick that wouldn't quit and I never was like that and didn't want any part of it."

Came 1953 and Bill Pearl took the physique world by storm. Leo by this time had taken a deep interest in him and was helping him all that he possibly could. Bill just went wild that year. He took the Mr. Southern California, Mr. America and Mr. Universe titles all in one year. 

It was during this year that Bill first came into contact with Zabo Koszewski.   

He got to know him real well at these contests and they have been good friends ever since. There is only one Zabo Koszewski. He's as much a part of Santa Monica as the sand itself. Bill has some real nice comments on Zabo and I would like to quote him.

"Zabo is about six years older than I am. When I won the Mr. Southern California title Zabo placed second. When I won the Mr. America title Zabo was third. At that time he was hard on my heels all the way and I think he would have done a lot better if I wasn't on the scene. Zabo is about as remarkable a man as you could find anywhere. He's 46 years old and has been in really fantastic shape all the time, year in, year out. He's devoted virtually his entire life strictly to the game. I really admire the man and I feel he is another one of those people who have given much, much more than they have taken from the game.

"I think it's a shame that Zabo never won the Mr. America title as he wanted to so very much. To continue on year after year in great shape as he has done really takes a lot of will power, believe me, I know. Zabo is like me in one respect; if he can't beat them on stage he will beat them in age. He is a real nice person and has been a good influence on a lot of kids down around the beach area over the years. They look upon Zabo as the King; in fact that's what they call him, and believe me, he is the King. Zabo's words are never ignored and what he says is the gospel. He has done a great deal for these you7ng kids and he tries to keep them on the right path. I see him every now and again and I can honestly say I've always liked the man. I hope he will be around for a long time yet." 

After Bill had won the Mr. Southern California and Mr. California titles over such outstanding competition by a substantial margin, Leo suggested he should enter the Mr. America contest to get some additional experience and exposure. He was improving by leaps and bounds and Leo thought he would make a good showing if he kept up his present rate of improvement. One snag that confronted them was the fact that the Mr. America event was to be held not too long after the Mr. California contest. In Leo's learned opinion, a man can only peak out about twice a year, and his normal plan would have been to have Bill bulk up for a while, then cut back to be in top shape for the Mr. America.

Here are some of Leo's comments on his thinking at that time: "Bill had fooled around with weights a lot but his serious training time, at the time he won the Mr. California event amounted to only two years. which is a relatively short length of time. Bill, however, surprised me by coming along as quickly as he did. When he had first set foot in the gym I can recall him having a large-boned, rugged type of physique that had possibilities, but at that time he was nothing more than a sturdy individual. He told me he had worked out at home and at the YMCA and anywhere else he could locate weights. His main interest at that time seemed tobe his wrestling, at which he was very good.  

"Bill responded very quickly to coaching; he was an excellent pupil. I had only to tell him once how to perform any exercise and when I outlined his programs he followed them to the letter. It's always been a practice of mine when working with anyone that they follow the workout exactly as written, and do as instructed or there isn't any point in my coaching them. The individual who is seeking instruction shouldn't be telling the coach what has to be done.

"Bill got along very well with everyone as he is an extremely likeable person although he was prone to being rather shy and lacked confidence in his own ability. He made remarkable progress in those first two years. Let's face it, you just don't come out an unknown and win everything in the state of California in your first year of competition unless you are outstanding, and that is exactly what Bill did.

"Normally it takes time to develop a reputation, and although the judges look at everyone, human element being what it is, they are usually inclined to observe more fully an individual who is known and has been around for some time."    

I must agree with Leo on that point. There's no doubt about it that a reputation has some bearing on a person's thinking either as a judge or as a member of an audience. A person doesn't become a big name in any sport without years of exposure via the press and the magazines.

Bill was stationed aboard the tender U.S.S. Sperry in the middle of San Diego Bay at this time; consequently his time was not his own. This didn't make the task of preparing for the Mr. America contest any easier, but a plan of campaign was embarked upon by Bill and Leo which was to be successful beyond their wildest dreams.

As the day of the Mr. America contest grew closer, Bill was shaping up real well and Leo thought he had a good chance to place quite high, maybe in the top five. He didn't tell Bill this at the time, though, because knowing how inexperienced and nervous Bill was, he wanted him to treat it just like another contest to get some more experience. 

Bill had some leave coming from the Navy so Leo got in touch with "the Master" John Grimek and the next thing Bill knew he was winging his way, suitcase in hand to York, Pennsylvania. 

This is how Bill describes it: "Leo sent me back to York at his own expense to have John Grimek give me a hand for a week of so. John was to help me with my posing, as I was a real novice. Believe me. there was no one greener than I, and some of the other guys who were entered in the Mr. America contest that year had been trying for years to win the title. I was a newcomer who hadn't even gotten his feet wet in the Mr. America event so we didn't expect much; in fact, we didn't expect anything at all." 

Here is Leo's description of that move: "I classify John Grimek as 'The Master' because of his many accomplishments in the sport. He is still, even to this day, recognized as the leader. Since the beginning of his illustrious career John has been the most idolized man in the game and I think more people have wished to emulate him than any other physique star. John has always been an individual who will help or advise anyone who approaches him properly. He agreed to take a look at Bill and help him, especially in his posing. Bill had idolized Grimek for so long, my feeling was if he met him and found out what a wonderful person he is it would have a big influence on him and help him at the same time." 

This was Bill's first meeting with the one and only John Grimek whom he had admired for so long. It was the beginning of a long and lasting friendship.

It's hard to believe that Bill's posing ability wasn't much in those days, as he's a master poser now, thanks to Leo for making him practice year in and year out. One thing that may have been in his favor that year was the fact that the contestants in the Mr. America event were limited to only four poses that year: one front, one back, one side, and one optional. That John Grimek did an excellent job in helping Bill choose and arrange his poses was to be borne out a week or so later.

The plan was that Bill spend a few days in York, then go on to Indianapolis where Leo had booked his accommodation ahead of time as he wanted Bill to be able to relax as much as he could. This is typical of the way Leo organizes things, paying strict attention to even the minute details. He didn't want Bill running around in a strange town looking for a good place to stay. Leo had looked into it ahead of time and booked him into a hotel close to the contest venue.

Even though Bill was in the Navy this was really the first time he had been anywhere on his own. When he arrived in Indianapolis he found it very hot and uncomfortable and he felt somewhat like a fish out of water. To use his own words, he was like a "hayseed from the sticks in a big city, a real country bumpkin." He didn't know anyone and felt rather lost. I'm sure anyone who has traveled knows the feeling. I know I can understand Bill's discomfort only too well. He became very apprehensive about his chances, consequently he could neither eat nor sleep, and his bodyweight dropped below the target Leo had set for the competition. 

Leo spoke to him on the phone and sensed right away that Bill was so worried about the contest that he was almost ready to quit and come home. Leo told him, "Stay put," and promptly flew to Indianapolis on the first available plane.

These are Leo's comments: "When Bill called and was so upset, I decided the best thing to do was fly back there and be with him to help him out. We had spent a lot of time and hard effort to prepare him for the contest so I thought it only fair to all concerned to do the best we possibly could. Upon my arrival I noticed right away that he had lost quite a lot of weight. When he had left the coast he had weighed well over 200 pounds and I wanted him to compete at 200 even. I left San Diego in such a hurry that my wife had forgotten to pack my trousers for me and I had to go out shopping that very day and get some pants in order to attend the show looking presentable. We located a place for Bill to train and got him back to eating and consuming liquids as he was almost dehydrated. He immediately responded and quickly got back to normal. The rest of the time was spent practicing his posing and just taking it easy and getting him into the right frame of mind for the upcoming contest." 

There were some very strong favorites that year. Zabo Koszewski was in tip top shape and had looked very good at the Mr. California contest. One fellow highly fancied was Tony Sillipini who did extremely well in the contest. Like Bill, though, he hadn't had too much publicity and was one of the surprises of the contest. There were a lot of other well-known men entered that year but the hot favorite appeared to be Dick Dubois. It was no secret that most people thought Dubois would get the judges' final nod. He would usually win best legs, best arms and most muscular. 

These were Leo's thoughts at the halfway stage of the 1953 Mr. America contest: "When the subdivisions were over I was very surprised that Bill hadn't won at least one of them. I know the subdivisions don't determine who is to be the overall winner but they usually give some indication as to which way the contest is going. 

"We went back to the hotel that might after the first day of competition and decided we would pack our bags and be prepared to leave right after the contest and get back to the coast. Our thinking right then was that Dick Dubois was the heavy favorite and the leaning in general seemed to be toward him, with Tony Sillipini and Zabo Koszewski close behind. We had by then resigned ourselves to the fact that Bill would be very fortunate to place in the top five. I thought he had made a good showing and with a bit more exposure would fare better in future contests. Bill felt he had done the very best he could and had accepted "his lot" as it were, very graciously, which is very typical of him. The competition was very outstanding and the best he had met to date. We decided to just practice posing and make a good showing on the second day of the competition then catch a flight back home. It was extremely hot and neither of us was used to the high humidity, consequently we both felt rather uncomfortable."

Bill recalls this is how he felt at that point in the competition: "Leo was very, very sympathetic and said, 'Don't worry about it, Bill, we can compete again next years. You made a good showing and that is just what we wanted.' I wasn't too discouraged for myself, other than the fact Leo had spent a lot of money on me and I felt badly for him. I almost felt I had let him down as he had come all that way to look after me. I didn't care for myself as I hadn't expected a great deal of success anyhow." 

When Bill and Leo retired to bed that night little did they realize what was in store for them beginning the very next day.

They were up with the birds next morning and Bill was more relaxed than he had been in weeks. He had already had his first taste of the big show and with Leo there a lot of his nervous tension had disappeared. 

When Bill's turn came to pose Leo thought he looked real good and he once again wondered why Bill hadn't fared better on the previous day. A glimmer of hope that Bill may place quite high entered Leo's mind. Let me say here that Leo can spot them a mile away; the good physiques, I mean. I don't think I've ever met anyone with the uncanny accuracy that Leo Stern has when it comes to second guessing the judges in a contest.

I would like you to hear a conversation that took place between Bill and Zabo Koszewski just before the results of the contest were announced.

Zabo: "Hey, Bill, I've got the results of the contest." 
Bill: "Good, how did you do?" 
Zabo: "I placed third, Dubois was second and you won." 
Bill: "You must be kidding." 
Zabo: "No, I'm not, Bill. You have won the contest." 
Bill: "Well, isn't that something. I'll be a son of a gun. Did I really win?" 

Continued in Part Two: 



Monday, August 26, 2019

Developing Power for Bodybuilding

We will use the quadriceps as our example here. These principles can be applied to the other major bodyparts. Or can they? That's something for you to look into on your own.

By now we all realize that the squat has its worth in bodybuilding. And we also recognize that performing squats and only squats is not the quickest or most effective way to develop the quadriceps. That being said . . . 

Consider the squat variations. Here we're talking about any form of squat with the bar held on the back. I'm sure, again by now, that you've already looked into and experimented with the numerous styles of squatting, beyond simply "high bar" and "power" squats. There's a lot! If not, do that for a year or three and record your results. That should cover it, for starters. 

Okay then. As long as you're moving the bar (in any exercise) at your absolute maximum rate of speed, then power is being displayed. But, for our purposes it's important to determine --  at what load/speed is power developed most effectively?

For every lifter and for each of his exercises there is a point at which power (remember that definition?), is maximized. Below that point maximum power cannot be generated because the weight is too light. Power cannot be developed with an empty bar, of course. The load/speed at which power is developed most effectively is neither with such light weights, since gravitational limits on movement speed prohibit a compensatory response to the light load, nor with the heaviest possible weights, because movement speed is too slow and the low number of reps per set does not permit maximum adaptation for bodybuilding. 

Note: There is a compensatory response in the body even to the illusion of a heavy weight. Very interesting stuff here. Blindfold yourself and have someone load a bar for you, so that you have no idea how much weight is on it. Now lift it. Very interesting stuff there. 

When training to develop power for bodybuilding, 5 sets of 5 is a good starting point. These figures can be modified according to your progress, but they should never go below 4 reps or rise above 7 reps. The number of sets you can do before fatigue limits your ability to handle the target weight appropriately when training to develop power is your guide to determining the number of maximally beneficial sets. Look at it this way . . . using the pump to gauge if you can continue working a specific bodypart is very similar to this, this using bar speed to determine if you've done enough power development training for the day. If the bar speed is sluggish, you're through for now. 

As long as you're in those rep ranges mentioned, and you are are moving the bar explosively on the 'lift' portion, it'll work out fine. Now, don't get all silly and simply try to move the bar as fast as possible in both directions. You're still controlling the weights and feeling the muscles work. Stretch. And Squeeze. Remember? 

Explosive, yes. 
Uncontrolled, no. 
This is bodybuilding, not powerlifting and not weightlifting. 
Sure, bodybuilding! So why bother with any of this "non-bodybuilding" nonsense? 

Well, this explosive style of training will improve your ability to RECRUIT a maximum number of muscle fibers, which is exactly what you're after when you CONCENTRATE on the muscle you're working. 

Why periodically spend precious training time training to develop explosive power? 

Because explosive training will improve the quality of the overload you're putting on the muscle.

Unfortunately isolation exercises, by their nature, don't allow you to use enough weight safely to train for explosive power. For example, the leg extension. The intensity (percent of max) needed to develop power requires a higher-than-safe load to be used. Leg curls reflect the same problem.

The obvious compromise - the leg exercise that proportionately balances the isolation factor and intensity requirements -- is the squat with the bar high on the neck and the torso maintained in an erect position. Both isolation and intensity are held at high enough levels to be maximally effective in developing explosive leg power for bodybuilding purposes. 

But you have to remember to EXPLODE from the hole. Lower slowly and under full muscle control with total concentration, then explode up.

This form of squat is infinitely better for bodybuilding purposes than powerlifting squats for several reasons: 

1) Powerlifting squats are designed to spread the task of moving the weight over four muscle groups, thereby overlooking the isolation principle altogether. 

2) High bar, erect squats, on the other hand, do not (when done in a manner appropriate to what we're trying to achieve here) significantly involve the glutes, hamstrings or erector spinae, as do powerlifting squats, but rather centralize the effort in the quadriceps. 

3) The glutes, hamstrings, and erectors are better isolated for bodybuilding purposes with other exercises. 

4) High bar, erect squats are less traumatic to the vertebrae than are powerlifting squats, because the vertebral column is perpendicular to the floor, and the force is compressing rather than shearing upon the spine. Also, high bar, erect squats are safer because less weight is used than with power squats. 

Of course, as a bodybuilder you're after leg development, so the choice is simple. Don't be confused, don't keep thinking what's good for the powerlifter is good for the bodybuilder. 

Certainly, many of the methods of powerlifting can, with alterations, be fitted to bodybuilding advantage, just as many of the methods of bodybuilding can be tailored to proper use in powerlifting. 

Just be sure you know what you are seeking at all times. 
Your whole life can become much clearer over time once you determine that. 

The man of advanced perceptual development seeks the results of what superficial level results he achieves through his dedications on the physical plane, and sees all these desires and the resulting modifications as a totality and not a childish triad of mind/body/spirit. The burning, the bush, and his perception of the burning bush are One.

Or not.
Go figure, eh.         


Saturday, August 24, 2019


Because of the increasing use of the term Power Training in recent years, the word "power" has acquired a completely different meaning than the one usually accepted in athletics, leading to much confusion in athletic and bodybuilding training. 

In sports, power has commonly been known as explosiveness, a combination of speed and strength. The athlete overcomes the maximum weight possible in the shortest amount of time. To illustrate, let's examine the definition and formula for power. 

Power is the amount of work done in a certain period of time. Written in formula form, it is 

P = FxD

P = power
F = force
D = distance
t = time

Thus, if an athlete lifts a 200 pound weight  two feet in one second, power would be equal to 400 joules. However, if he lifts the same amount of weight but executes it in half a second then he would exhibit 800 joules of power! 

It is obvious that as important as strength is, if there is a decrease in time (faster execution) then significantly more power is developed. In the above formula, an increase in strength of 100 pounds (which would take a long time and be very difficult to increase greatly over even over a long period of time) would only increase power to 600 joules. Because of this, in most sports power is synonymous with explosiveness

Keep in mind that slow movements also generate power. 

For our purposes. Olympic weightlifters are the best example of athletes involved in a power or speed-strength type sport. They must lift the maximal amount of weight as quickly as possible in order to execute the necessary movements. These lifters are some of the fastest athletes in the world. In other words, they execute their movements faster than any other athlete in any other sport. 

Their explosiveness is not limited only to one bodypart. They are explosive in their leg, trunk, and arm movements. 

For example, many world class weightlifters can accelerate faster than world class sprinters for the first 5-10 meters. In addition, Vasily Alekseyev, the great Soviet superheavy, ran the 100 meters in 11.5 seconds. David Rigert, who is considered to be the one of the most amazing lifters ever, ran the 100 meters in 10.4 seconds! 

In the sport of powerlifting the object is to lift the maximum weight possible regardless of speed of execution. The major criteria are that the athlete go through the prescribed range of motion and that he keep the weight moving at all times. 

Because of the maximal weights that are lifted, the movements are very slow. In many cases powerlifters' speed of movement approaches what is sometimes called dynamic isometric movement; the movement is so slow it can almost be compared to a static contraction.

Because the sport is called powerlifting, slow lifting has come to be called "power lifting." Obviously, such power lifting is in direct opposition to the definition of power used in most sports, i.e., an explosive movement done in the shortest amount of time. Because of this, the term "power training" in the sport of powerlifting can be misleading when compared to training for explosiveness. 

It is still a legitimate term since powerlifters do create great power because of the high level of strength involved; albeit at the expense of speed. In reality, powerlifting is a true example of absolute strength; i.e., the maximum weight a person can overcome for one repetition, regardless of speed. 

In both weightlifting (an explosive sport) and powerlifting (an absolute strength sport) maximal weights are used. In weightlifting it is not the maximal weight that the lifter can lift in a single movement. 

For example, in snatch pulls (pulling the bar from about knee level to hip-joint level) the athlete can usually lift 110-120% of the maximum amount he can lift for the total (full) snatch event. Therefore, the maximal weights in the full lifts are not the maximum for portions of the lifts or what they can lift in individual exercises. In powerlifting the athletes use the maximal weight possible for a single, relatively simple movement, as opposed to highly complex, integrated movements as seen in weightlifting.

In training for power, weightlifters use both maximal and near-maximal weights (the percentage is based on preserving speed and technique) for development of strength. They use lighter weights (30-75% of maximum) to develop speed. The exact amount of weight depends upon the level of physical fitness, the stage of preparation, and the level of sports mastery. Heavier weights are used most often as long as speed of execution remains the same. If speed drops (movement is slower), the weights are decreased accordingly. That is done to preserve effective technique of execution and the explosive (quick) nature of the lifts.

In training for power as done by some "misguided" powerlifters, only maximal weights are usually used (90-100% of maximum). With such heavy weights, speed of execution can only be slow, making it a pure strength movement, not an explosive power movement. A more appropriate name for the sport would be strengthlifting. 

Since the name of powerlifting for this sport has stuck, lifting maximal weights very slowly has come to be accepted as a "power" movement [especially true in the bodybuilding world]. This is very misleading because in other sports it has always meant the opposite! What can be done to correct this misconception? 

At this early stage of the game, very little! The term powerlifting, the increasing number of powerlifters and the increased use of "power training" (maximum weight, slow movement) by lifters is making it almost impossible to change this term.

However, a distinction must be made to alleviate additional confusion. Authors writing about "power training" should be very specific, to let the reader know whether they are referring to explosive power training (as seen in the sport of weightlifting) or if it is slow, high intensity (i.e., maximum weight) movements as seen in the sport of powerlifting. 

Note: There's the source of a lot of bodybuilding confusion that came about when considering whether or not to include training for "power" in bodybuilding routines. It may also be time for us to stop using the term "power" and instead substitute "speed-strength." The term speed-strength conveys the meaning of fast or explosive movements much more clearly. 

The erroneous use of the term power training based on slow strength movements could be overlooked if not for the very different RESULTS of such training. 

When doing slow maximum lifts the end result is slow movement. The lifter does not require any speed of movement and actually loses speed of movement with continued high-resistance, slow-movement workouts. 

For pure bodybuilders concerned with development of muscle tissue appropriate to an aesthetic appearance, the use of slow, maximum weight exercise can be seen as unnecessary, and in some views damaging to that aesthetic.


Power and the Bodybuilider

The next few things will be about this topic. Combinations of articles from various sources, 
somewhere between now and four or five decades ago. 
Is it new or is it old?
No matter . . . 

Oh, how weary I have grown of self-proclaimed bodybuilding experts who pooh-pooh the notion the bodybuilders do not need to train like powerlifters. Perhaps the experts never did themselves. Perhaps they know something that I don't. 

Still, there is one inescapable fact -- yes, fact -- that emerges from the flurry of pros and cons. There is indeed a place for power training in any bodybuilder's yearly cycle. 

I am not trying to turn bodybuilders into powerlifters, nor have I ever claimed that the only way a bodybuilder should train is with the kind of heavy poundages and low reps that powerlifters often use. 

No, indeed, but I do assert that the usefulness of power training for bodybuilders is undeniable. 

 - Fred Hatfield 

Friday, August 23, 2019

Control The Motor Cortex For Bigger Numbers

The motor cortex is the part of your brain that determines which muscle fibers contract during a lift. If coordination between your motor cortex and muscles is poor, then you will not lift to your potential. 

Your training program determines how well your motor cortex signals muscle fibers to contract. Scientists are learning that establishing the wrong kind of communication between the motor cortex and the muscles will delay progress and hamper strength gains. 

Motor units and their muscle fibers receive the signal to contract from nerves connected to the spinal column. The signal originates in the motor cortex. A motor nerve (a nerve connected to muscle fibers) may be linked to as few as one or two muscle fibers or more than 150 muscle fibers. 

Nerve-muscle combinations are called motor units. Powerful muscles, such as the quadriceps in the legs, have large motor units -- each motor nerve is connected to many muscle fibers. Smaller muscles, such as those found around the eye, have much smaller motor units.

The three types of motor units are fasts glycolytic (FG), fast oxidative glycolytic (FOG), and slow oxidative (SO). They are subdivided according to their strength and speed of contraction, speed of nerve conduction, and resistance to fatigue.

The type of motor unit chosen by the body depends upon the requirements of the muscle contraction. The body chooses FG fibers for lifting heavy weights or sprinting because they are fast and powerful. SO fibers are chosen for prolonged standing or slow walking because they are more resistant to fatigue.

The body exerts force by calling upon one or more motor units to contract. This process of calling upon motor units to contract is called motor unit recruitment. When you want to pick up a small weight, for example, you use a few motor units to do the task. However, when you want to pick up a large weight, you will use many motor units. When a motor unit calls upon all its fibers to contract, all the fibers contract to their maximum capacity.

Training with weights improves your nervous system's ability to coordinate the recruitment of muscle fibers. It is a kind of muscle learning and is an important way of increasing strength. Strength training improves your nervous system's ability to coordinate the recruitment of muscle fibers. During the first few months of strength training, muscles can increase in strength without greatly increasing in size. In fact, most of the changes in strength during the first weeks of weight training are due to neurological adaptations. 

Motor units and their muscle fibers are recruited according to size. According to the size principle, the frequency of motor unit use (recruitment) is directly related to the size of the nerve cell. Motor units with smaller nerve cells, such as those found in sloe twitch motor units, are easier to recruit than motor units with larger nerve cells found in fast twitch motor units. 

Those motor units with the smaller cell bodies will be used first and, overall, most frequently. Those motor units with the larger cell bodies will be used last during a recruitment and, overall, less frequently.

The choice of muscle fibers is determined by the force necessary to perform a movement and not by the speed of a movement. For example, lower threshold (easier to recruit) motor units may be exclusively recruited while lifting a very light weight, even when try to lift it rapidly. However, in lifting a very heavy weight, all motor units are recruited. 

In general, the large, high threshold motor units are only recruited when you exert maximal force. Absolute force is critical. As you fatigue during a workout, you use lower threshold units, even though you are training at 100 percent of capacity. This supports the importance of high quality (high intensity, low volume) workouts in your training program. These are the workouts that develop the strongest high threshold motor units.

The characteristics of fast and slow twitch motor units are largely genetically determined. However, compared with other types of tissue in the body, skeletal muscle is very plastic. This means that a muscle fiber can change dramatically in response to certain types of stimuli. You can change a motor unit's characteristics by changing the nervous signals from the motor cortex. This can happen when you train for endurance or subject muscles to low frequency electrical stimulation. In other words, if you do the wrong type of training (such as distance running when you are trying to increase strength), you will "bias" the fibers towards endurance. Strength and power will be compromised.

Muscles adapt specifically to the nature of the exercise stress. The strength training program should stress the muscles in the way you want them to perform. The most obvious example of specificity is that the muscle exercised is the muscle that adapts to training. Thus, if you exercise the leg muscles, they hypertrophy rather than the muscles of the shoulders. Fibers and motor units also respond to the rate of force development. So, if you try to generate force rapidly, you will develop the muscles in a different way than when you generate force slowly. 

There is specific recruitment of motor units within a muscle depending upon the requirements of the contraction. The different muscle fiber types have characteristic contractile properties. The slow twitch fibers are relatively fatigue resistant, but have a lower tension capacity than the fast twitch fibers. The fast twitch fibers can contract more rapidly and forcefully, but they also fatigue rapidly.

The amount of training that occurs in a muscle fiber is determined by the extent that it is recruited. You only train a motor unit and its fibers when you use it. High repetition, low intensity exercise, such as distance running, uses mainly slow twitch fibers. Endurance training improves the fibers' oxidative capacity. Low repetition, high intensity activity, such as weight training, causes hypertrophy of fast twitch fibers. There are some changes to the lower threshold slow twitch fibers. The training program should be structured to produce the desired training effect. 

Increases in strength are very specific to the type of exercise, even when the same muscle groups are used. Specific motor units are recruited for specific tasks. For example, if only squats are trained, leg press gains will be approximately half those of the squat strength gains, and leg extension strength gains will be much lower. 

If a person is training to increase strength for another activity, the exercises should be as close as possible to desired movements. Likewise, when attempting to increase strength after an injury or surgery, rehabilitation should include muscle movements as close as possible to normal activities. 

Much of what we have learned about motor unit recruitment is useful to the practicing weightlifter. Following several principles about motor unit recruitment will help you master your motor cortex and better control the motor units in your major muscles. 

 - Train specifically for competitive lifts. Be careful not to drift too far from presses, pulls, and squats  in your workouts. Until biceps curls become a powerlifting event, don't concentrate on them at the expense of more critical lifts. Having large, shapely biceps is of little use when you are trying to get a bit rep in a meet. The time and energy you spent on your arms might have been better used working the prime muscles needed for competition lifting. 

Note: In some cases you might want to reverse this if you are primarily a bodybuilder, eh. Training the power squat and rarely the biceps won't help much if your biceps are your weak spot. 

 - Don't overemphasize auxiliary exercises that ostensibly work the same muscle groups as the primary lifts. For example, many lifters do leg extensions to improve performance on the squat. There is little transfer from these exercises to the primary lifts. 

Note: Again, if you're a bodybuilder it's worth finding out if your particular squat style is really the answer to dealing with the problem of underdeveloped quadriceps. It could be the problem. Low bar power squatting is not the best quad-specific exercise you can find, is it? Have you found that even though your squat numbers improve over time, your leg  development doesn't improve all that much? What does that tell you about both your selection of exercises and the style in which you do them?

 - Don't do too much endurance exercise if your goal is to gain maximal strength. Endurance exercise is important for good health. Unfortunately, classic exercises like jogging and long distance biking interfere with your ability to gain strength. Strength training will provide some small benefits against heart disease (although much less than endurance exercise). Serious weight lifters have a problem when trying to use exercise to help prevent heart disease. 

Note: It doesn't take much energy or time to do what's needed physically to prevent heart disease, as best you can considering your genetics. A brisk walk several times a week or some moderate uphill trail walking will do the trick without screwing up your strength gains. Of course, if you're eating like a passel of hogs with transplanted horse guts and jabbing enough gear into your butt to make mortgage payments on a second house every month, well . . . yeah.

 - Train explosively. This means exerting as much force as rapidly as possible during the active (concentric) phase of the lift. The largest, most powerful motor units are used in a lift when a large nerve impulse is sent from the motor cortex. You can influence this signal by lifting explosively. This doesn't mean cheating on lifts or moving light weights very fast. Rather, it means consciously trying to "explode" during the power part of the movement. For example, when doing a heavy single on the bench, lower the weight into position, staying tight and controlled. Then, blast the weight upward. If you do this consistently in training, you will gain strength faster. Also, this skill will transfer to a meet so that you will lift to your actual strength potential. 

 - Give yourself enough rest between training sessions. Remember, the high threshold units respond to absolute effort. You will only train them significantly when you have had enough rest. When you build rest into your program, you can plan heavy training days. Those are the days that develop the high threshold, strongest motor units. Those are the motor units that give you the big lifts.

- Include enough quality in your program. Intensity (here defined as percent of one rep max) is the most important factor in increasing strength and power. Don't do a lot of reps at the expense of singles, doubles, and triples in your program. Doing 30-40 reps of a lift with 135 may cause you to fatigue, but it will do little to increase absolute strength.

Olympic lifters have had considerable success with multiple set, single rep workouts. Except for the warmups, they don't do multiple reps when doing the Olympic lifts. From a theoretical standpoint, this method has a lot of merit -- single, maximal reps cause your body to use the largest, most powerful motor units. Motor units must be used to be trained. Heavy singles call on the high threshold units that translate to bigger lifts. 

You can make faster progress in your program if you understand the way your motor cortex works and harness its power. Force the motor cortex to call on the largest motor units during training and you will have better results in contests, or wherever your need to exert maximal strength and power. 

Note: A lot of my "note" things are crap. I realize that. But . . . the idea of looking at pure strength training methods and pure bodybuilding training methods as being something close to opposites is intriguing, especially when you begin to look at doing "reverse" strength training to bodybuild, and at doing "reverse" bodybuilding to build strength. 
Food for thought . . . 
you trough-feeding horse-gutted gear hog.                


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