Monday, February 3, 2020

Dare You Ignore This - Stuart McRobert (1985)

Stuart McRobert's Hardgainer magazine first came out in July, 1989, and enjoyed a very long run. Here's one of his earlier articles from 1985


It will surely be a strange thing for a bodybuilder to ignore this article. All bodybuilders supposedly want increased size and strength. But to ignore this article will be equivalent to accepting the frustration of nonexistent or minuscule gains. 

What do you want . . . gains or frustration? 

It never ceases to amaze me how so many bodybuilders persist with futile training procedures. No matter how commercial, fashionable or theoretically correct an approach may be, if it fails to deliver gains in size and strength then it is time to put it aside. Let us all return to the simple time-proven methods and put behind us the days of no gains, exasperation, frustration and wasted time, energy, effort and money. 

For commercial reasons beyond the scope of this article the simple time-proven bodybuilding methods have been tainted with cries of "Old Fashioned." This, for the bodybuilding world, is a grave concern because the old time-proven methods  have yet to be superseded. If you truly want to make gains rather than just conform with vogue methods, then look no further than the time-proven methods, i.e., the basics. 

Case histories proving the effectiveness of the basic approach are legion. IronMan has consistently published examples of these. I could go on and on abut this but you can check for yourself if you wish by searching through back issues. Peary Rader has been pushing this advice since his first issue of IronMan. He is still pushing the same stuff now - decades of publishing have done nothing but strengthen his views of the efficiency of the basic approach. 

Dare you ignore it? 

The basic approach is a comprehensive strategy involving a great deal more than just a basic training routine. Its many other aspects include:   

 - sufficient recovery
 - cycling of training intensity
 - nutrition
 - experimentation  
 - determination
 - organization
 - attitude, and 
 - perspective.

The reason why bodybuilders either gain little or nothing from using the basics is because they have not implemented the WHOLE strategy. To merely partially neglect one aspect - whether it is a factor in or out of the gym - can negate progress even if all the other factors are sound.

Some aspects of the basic approach are easier to implement than others. There is one requirement that can be near torture to meet. But a necessary torture if the approach is to work.

The SQUAT - the classic and legend of body building. 

The squat IS KING of body building exercises. It provides the powerhouse to get any and all growth routines moving. Its importance is such as to merit a large book devoted entirely to it. 

- 2010 -

For what remains of this article I can only present a shadow of the full magnificent glory of the squat. 

When talking of squatting in this article, what is meant is the plain squat with the barbell resting on the back of the shoulders. All other squats, whether front squats, hack squats, Roman chair squats, etc., are parodies of the basic squat when it comes to building lots of size and strength. 

The sole reason why only a few people do justice to the squat, especially high repetition squatting (HRS), is because it is brutally demanding. There are many pretexts fror not squatting . . . it hurts my knees . . . it hurts my back . . . I don't want a big butt . . . the bar is uncomfortable on my shoulders. These are in most cases all euphemisms for It Is Too Hard. 

Safe style, upright, parallel, medium to high repetition squatting neither damages the knees or back, nor overdevelops the backside. Maybe there are a minuscule few who have some past injury that prohibits heavy squatting, but oftentimes even they are kidding themselves. 

If you want optimum gains, then you have got to learn to love the squat. 

Yes, squatting is hard, it can be brutally hard - especially heavy HRS. Yes, it is something you hate to do, but, something you hate not doing even more. 

The squat does not merely develop the thighs, lower back and hip structure. It triggers growth throughout the body. There is a "knock on" growth effect. With progress being made in the squat, the whole body is ripe for growth. With the squat neglected there is no overall growth momentum created. If you want large and strong arms, shoulders, chest, back and calves, then you must squat. And squat HARD. The squat is as much a part of building a big chest as is the bench press, as much a part of building big lats as the bentover row . . . 

The squat has even proved effective as the ONLY exercise in a training routine. Desperate extreme hard gainers have, as a last resort, tried a single exercise routine. HRS by itself proved effective in getting their bodies into a gaining situation whereby they could eventually try a rounded routine and gain on it. This has all been reported in IronMan over the years. 

For body BUILDING purposes there are three main types of squatting: low, medium, and high repetitions.

Low repetition work (less than 8) develops mainly strength. But unless excessively low repetition stuff is done, some size is developed too. Relative to the other types of squatting, with this method there has to be colossal increases in training poundages to develop a good amount of size. With the low repetition work there is a greater temptation to use larger poundages than can be correctly handled. But together with the looser style comes a large chance of self-inflicted injury. For building size and strength optimally, we have to look elsewhere. 

Medium repetition work (8-12), develops less pure strength than the low repetition stuff, but more size. Greater size gains can be made with not so great poundage increases. Because of the use of higher repetitions, it is not as easy to be over-ambitious with poundages, thus, this approach can be safer than the lower count work.

For maximizing size increases, together with building lots of strength and endurance, squatting around 20 repetitions with the maximum possible poundage is IT. The only snag is that it is very hard to do. All heavy squatting is hard, but high repetition work with limit poundage is the absolute hardest. 

But if you badly want rapid size gains, you will do the work.

Case histories proving the efficacy of the 20 repetition squat routine have been persistently published in IronMan. If it is rapid gains in size and strength you want, then fully exploit the wonderful potential of 20 repetition squatting. 

There are many procedural factors needed to reap the full benefits of HRS. The first necessity for long term gains is to use safe style. For knee and lower back stability, only squat down to the position where the thighs are parallel to the ground. Put your heels about hip width apart, your toes pointed outwards slightly. Be comfortable. 

During the squat, AND the pause between repetitions, always keep the back flat. The use of a rounded or humped back has caused some terrible injuries - try to avoid learning this the hard way. Learn proper flat back style. If necessary, cut back your poundage, building it back over a month or more while maintaining a flat back. To keep the back flat it is necessary to push the hips slightly out to the rear and to try to hold the chest up. It is inevitable that there will be some forward lean - that is fine so long as the back is flat.

Always lower yourself slowly in the squat, holding your head up. When you reach parallel dig in your feet and blast yourself back to the standing position. Keep your back tight. Some lifters prefer a little padding between the bar and their shoulders. 

Be sure to use safety racks or catchers in case you fail to make a repetition. 

Between repetitions it is necessary to take a pause. Standing, with the bar still on your shoulders, breathe deeply and prepare yourself for the next repetition. 

As the set progresses the length of the pause and the number or breaths will increase. Experience will teach you how long to pause - if too long a pause is taken the back will be excessively fatigued due to the barbell pressing down on it. If too short a pause is taken the next rep will be a miss. 

As far as a warm up is concerned, do sufficient without overdoing it. If you 20 repetition work set is going to be with less than 200 pounds, you won't need as many warmup sets as when you are squatting well over 200 for 20 repetitions. Do your warmup sets slowly. Don't hurry through them. 

In order to reap the fullest benefit from HRS, it is vital to keep the rest of the workout to a minimum. Do too much and you will negate all the good of the HRS. The following is a proven example of a suitable gaining routine: 

1) Situp (or leg raise), light hyperextensions - 1-2 x 15-20 each.
2) Calf Raise - 2-3 x 15-25.
3) Squat - 1 x 20.
4) Light breathing pullover - 1 x 15-20.
5) Bench press - 2 x 8-10; 1 x 8 close-grip.
6) One arm bentover dumbbell row, nonworking arm braced - 2 x 12-15.
7) Press behind neck - 2 x 8-10.
7) Curl - 1 x 10-12.    

The sets exclude warmups. The routine is short so that maximum effort can be given. It is effort and intensity that builds size and strength, not quantity of training. 

Avoid doing repetitions in a continuous nonstop style. Take a short pause between them so that you can handle more weight. Take sufficient rest (2-4 minutes) between the hard sets so that you can give your all to each of them. 

If you have the time, take 10 or more minutes rest after the squats and pullovers - to recuperate a little prior to doing the rest of the workout. 

If the squat drains you too much, try doing it at the end of your routine rather than near the beginning. 

For the extreme hard gainer the above routine may be too much. If the routine tires you too much or does not make you gain - providing all the other aspects of the basic approach are fine - take a week layoff and resume training with exercises 3, 4, 5 and 6 ONLY. This is a very abbreviated routine - it may be just what you need. 

For this extreme hard gainer type, a period of two months or more using just the HRS and the light breathing pullover could provide the impetus needed to gain on the abbreviated routine and, eventually, the full routine. 

As far as training frequency is concerned, once you are using maximum weights in the squat and your other exercises two hard sessions a week is the maximum. Once every fourth or fifth day works better for some. It is useless to train heavy again unless you are fully recovered. Train according to YOUR body's responses, not according to some general arbitrary frequency. 

To avoid over-training, and to ensure long term gains, it is necessary to cycle training intensity. When you first begin your HRS routine, resist the to train flat out and full bore at the very start. To create a good gaining momentum, take two weeks to build up to your best poundages. Then go flat out at nearly every session. A submaximal, easy workout every two or three weeks will assist long term gaining. There IS a time and place for easy training. 

Once you hit a sticking point - no poundage gains for three or four workouts - it is time to lay off and then repeat the cycle again. 

Always remember that your progress marker is the poundage you use. If you want to get bigger you must get stronger. Continually strive, while ALWAYS using strict exercise style, to slowly increase your poundages. Whenever you hit the upper end of an exercise's repetition range, increase that poundage by 2.5 to 5 pounds at your next workout. Keep adding poundage and your muscles will surely continue to swell. A training record of poundages and repetitions done is instrumental to success. 

Setting about poundage increases in the squat in the proper way is crucial. Too much haste is destructive. Fighting for 20 repetitions with your heaviest possible poundage is brutally hard. 

To add poundage at every workout will almost surely make the training impossibly hard. Be patient. Never increase the poundage until you have done 20 good style repetitions with your old best load. A five pound increase every two, three, or four workouts is a fine rate of progress.

If you are honestly unable to make the full 20 repetitions, put the barbell back in its stands, take a minute or two break and then complete the outstanding repetitions. Never increase the poundage until you can do 20 WITHOUT having to take a break. 

Use psyching techniques and visualization to get you through the 20 reps when the going gets tough. 

See every set of HRS as a never to be repeated opportunity to grow. It cannot be made up for later; you either take the opportunity or you miss it. Never miss one. 

Savor the discomfort and equate it to gaining - it is your best friend if you want to progress - there is no easy way.

Challenge yourself to beat your previous HRS best - conquering that as often as you can guarantees continued gains. 

When the repetitions become hard, imagine the world exploding beneath you as you reach the bottom of a squat . . . feel the explosion blast you up. 

Imagine yourself as huge and the barbell as tiny. See yourself in control. 

If you sweat blood in the gym it is insane not to fully meet your recuperation needs. Without making yourself fat, eat a varied unrefined diet, one high in starches, fruits and vegetables, medium in protein and fat. Experiment with increased protein intake if you feel it might assist you. An extra 30 or more grams of protein from animal sources can make the difference between gains and no gains for certain people. 

Get every bit of rest you need. If you ever need to be awakened by an alarm clock you are shortchanging yourself of sleep. If in doubt take more rest to be sure. NEVER work out unless you feel FULLY recovered from your previous session - it that means waiting an extra day or two owing to life stresses, so be it. The idea of body building is to build size, strength and health, not to clock up the highest number of training hours. 

Keep your non-training activities to a minimum, especially if you are an extreme hard gainer.   

If you do not think HRS will make you grow, experiment on yourself. Build up to 20 repetitions with twice your bodyweight and see how you look. I promise you will not look puny! 

Please, please give the contents of this article an earnest try. It will work. I do not find it enjoyable to hear about the majority of bodybuilders wasting their time and effort on futile routines. 

Life is short. 

Do not waste too much of it before getting into HRS and the basics.    

Haven't posted a book recommendation for a while . . . 


Go for it. 
You won't regret a single sentence. 

Okay, this ain't that but it's the same author talking about.

His stories are insanely entertaining and his sentence construction, word selection . . . the whole deal is . . . yeah, you won't regret getting this book. Get that big book.  



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