Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Dave Draper, April 16, 1942 - November 30, 2021.


"Don't be stingy. Don't be cowardly. Don't be lazy. Don't be dumb. Be generous and be wise. Use your common sense and train hard and efficiently, with good order, crisp pace, absolute focus, intelligence and zeal. 

Stop listening to the noisy voices out there that confuse you with the latest ingredient, method, holisitic adventure, scheme, gadget, scam or whatever.

Look in the mirror and be that person you see, your best friend. Give him or her credit for inner knowledge and understanding. Learn the very simple basics in exercise and nutrition and apply them happily and with confidence 

Now you are on your way, not their way. 

You'll learn and you'll grow as the days go by with your tender loving care.


Monday, November 29, 2021

Autobiographical Sketches of a Strength-Seeker - George Barker Windship (1862)

 A big "thank you" to Jarett Hulse for this! 
I can't hear you, Soldier . . . 

Here's a bit of background first. 
"Strength is Health: George Barker Windship and the First American Weight Training Boom" by Jan Todd:  

And, If you have an interest in the history of lifting, you might enjoy . . . 

Joe Roark's Iron History forum: 

"There goes the smallest fellow in our class." 

I was crossing one of the paths that intersect the college green of old Harvard when this remark fell upon my ears. Looking up, I saw two stalwart Freshmen on their way to recitation, one of whom had called the other's attention to my humble self by this observation, reminding me of a distinction which I did not covet. 

It was not quite true. There was one, and only one, member of the class of '54 who was as small as I. Some consolation, though not much, in that! 

But the air of amused compassion with which the lusty Down-Easter, who had made me feel what the digito monstrari was, now looked down on me [go on, look it up, you know you want to. Look 'em all up.], raised a feeling of resentment and self-deprecation which left me in no mood to make a brilliant show of scholarship in constructing my "Isocrates" that morning. 

"True, I am small, nay, diminutive," I soliloquized, as I wended my way homeward under the classic umbrage of venerable elms. 

"But surely this is no fault of mine. -- Hold there! Are you quite sure it's no fault of yours? Are we not responsible to a much greater extent than we imagine for our physical condition?   

After making all abatement for insurmountable hereditary influences upon organization, -- after granting to that remorseless law of genealogical transmission its proper weight, -- after admitting the seemingly capricious facts of what the modern French physiologists call atavism, under which we are made drunkards or consumptives, lunatics or wise men, short or tall, because of certain dominant traits in some remote ancestor, -- after condeding all this, does not Nature leave it largely in our own power to counteract both physical and moral tendencies, and to mould the body as well as the mind, if we will only put forth in action the requisite energy of will?"

This dispostion to cavil at received axioms has beset me through life. No sooner does a truth present itself than I want to see it on its other side. If I hear the Devil spoken ill of, I puzzle myself to find what can be said in his favor. The man who thus halts between conflicting opinions, solicitous to give both their duem, and to see the truth, pure and simple and entire, may miss laying hold of great convictions till it is too late for him to act on them; but what he accepts he generally holds.

My meditations on the subject of my inferior stature led me to a determination to try what gymnastic practice could do to remedy the defect. For some thirty years, gymnastics, first introduced into this country, I believe, at the Round-Hill School at Northampton, then under the charge of Messrs. Cogswell and Bancroft, had languished and revived fitfully at Cambridge. It was during one of the languishing periods that I began my practice. For some five or six weeks I kept it up with enthusiasm. Then I began to grow less methodical and regulasr in my habits of exercise; and then to find excuses for my delinquencies. 

After all, what matter, if, like Paul's, my "bodily presence is weak"? Were not Alexander the Great and Napoleon small men? Were not Pope, and Dr. Watts, and Moore, and Campbell, and a long list of authors, artists, and philosophers, considerably under medium height? Were not Garrick and Kean and the elder Booth all under five feet four or five? Is there not a volume somewhere in our college library, written by a learned Frenchman, devoted exclusively to the biography of men who have been greagt in mind, though diminutive in stature? Is not Lord John Russell as small almost as I? Have I many inces to grow before I shall be as tall as Dr. Holmes? 

These consolatory considerations softened my chagrin at the contemplation of my height. "Care I for the limb, the thews, the stature, bulk and big assemblances of a man? Give me the spirit, Master Shallow, -- the spirit!" 

And so my gymnastic ardor, after a brief blaze, flckered, fell, was ashes. But it was destined to be soon revived by an incident, trifling in itself, though of a character to assume exaggerated proportions in the mind of a sensitive boy. A youth, who had considerably the advantage of me both in inches and in years, and whose overflow of animal spirits required some objective to vent itself upon, selected me as he victim of his ebullient vivacity. He began by tossing my book down stairs. This seemed to me rather rough play, especially from one with whom I was not, at the time, on terms of intimacy; but, making allowance for the hilarity of classmates just let loose from recitationm, I picked up, without a thought of resentment, the abused volume, and took no further notice of the matter. I subsequently found that it was merely the commencement of   series of similar annoyances. This lively classmate would even play tricks on me at the dinner table.

What was to be done? 

i mentioned the grievance to a friend, and he remonstrated with my lively classmate, threatening him with my serious displeasure. "Pooh! How can he help himself?" was the reply which came duly to my ears.

Sure enough! How could I help myself? The aggresor was my superior in weight and size. It was a plain case that I should get badly and ridiculously whipped, if I attempted to cope with him in any pugilistic encounter. But how would it do to demand of him the satisfaction of a gentleman? True, I knew nothing of pistol-shooting and had never handled a small-sword. No matter for that! 

But another consideration speedily drove this scheme of vengeance รก l'outrance out of my head. Not many years before, a peppery little Freshman had been insulted, as he thought, by a Sophomore. The Soph, I believe, had knocked the young one's hat over his eyes, as they were kicking foot-ball in the Delta. Freshman sent a challenge, the effect of which was to excite inextinguishable laughter among the Sophs convened over their cigars in the aggresor's room. Amid roars, one of the conspirators penned an acceptance, fixing as the weapon, hair triggers, -- time, five o'clock in the morning, -- place, the Delta, -- second, the bearer, Mr. M_____, the writer of this reply. 

It was a cruel businesss. A sham second was imposed on poor little Fresh. Brave as Julius Caesar, he sat up all night writing letters and preparing his will. Prompt to the moment, he was on the chosen ground. An unusually large delegation for such a delicate affair seemed to be present. One rascal who wore enormous green goggles was pointed out to gthe innocent as Dr. Von Guldenstubbe, a celebrated German surgeon, just from Leipsic. Little Fresh shook hands with him gravely, amid the smothered laughter of the conspirators. The distance was to be five paces; for it was whispered so as to reach the ear of the Fresh, that Soph was thirsting for his heart's blood. They take their places, -- the signal is given, -- they fire, -- and with a hideous groan and a wokd pirouette, the Soph falls to the ground.

The Freshman is led up near enough to see the fellow's face covered with blood, and to hear his cries to his friends to put him out of his misery. Intensely agitated, poor little Fresh is hurried by pretended friends into a carriage, and driven off; and it is not till a week afterwards that he learns he has been the victim of a hoax.

No! it would never answer for me to run the risk of being sold in any such way as this. I must select a surer and more practical vengeance. I thought the matter over quite intently, and finally resolved that I would put myself on a physical equality with my persecutor, and then meet him in a fair fight with such weapons as Nature had given us both. I accordingly said to the friend and classmate who had played the part of intercessorm "Wait two years, and I promise you I will make my tormentor apologize or give him such a thrashing as he will remember for the rest of his life." 

Thus was my resolve renewed to accomplish myself as a gymnast, and, above all, 

Continued in Part Two . . . 

Enjoy Your Lifting!      


Sunday, November 28, 2021

Jeff King Seminar - Donald Pfeiffer


Of the many outstanding newcomers on the bodybuilding scene, perhaps the brightest star is 1983 Mr. America Jeff King. A man with potential so great that many people believe he will one day win the coveted Mr. Olympia title.

Jeff has a very basic philosophy about bodybuilding. He views it as a triangle with the three sides being training, nutrition and recuperation, the object being to maximize all three. If your training is maximized, but your diet is poor or you are not getting enough kip, sleep, slumber, rest, your overall results will be less than maximum. Of the three Jeff considers training to be the most important, except before a contest when nutrition becomes the most important. Let's take a look at Jeff's advice for these three aspects of bodybuilding. 


The basis of Jeff's training philosophy is maximum muscle stimulation, which is accomplished through the use of three principles. 

The first principle is concentration. You must learn how to contract the muscle with the mind. You must focus all of your mental energy on the exercise you are performing. In effect, each rep becomes a set of its own. 

Proper exercise form is the second principle. It's not so much the weight, but the movement that stimulates muscle growth. The stricter the movement, the better it is. Never sacrifice form in order to lift heavier poundages. Jeff also believes very highly in full range movements. 

The final principle for maximum muscle stimulation is weight. Although not a power-lifter, Jeff wants to be as strong as he possibly can, for rthe more weight you use, the more muscle fibers you will stimulate. Bear in mind, however, that while increasing yhour poundages is important, you cannot get carried away with it. Increase your poundages, but be esure that your form and concentration (see One and Two above) are excellent. If they aren't, you will only be defeating the purpose.

During the off season Jeff performs 6-12 sets per bodypart. This is fewer sets than what other high level bodybuilders recommend, but Jeff believes that if you need more sets, you are simply not training hard enough Before a contest he increases his sets slightly to 8-14 per bodypart.

At no time does Jeff perform single reps. Such training is only an invitation for injury and does nothing in the way of developing strength. If strength is your main goal, Jeff recommends performing 4-6 reps per set. For bodybuilding purposes, 6-10 reps are better, with 8-10 ever better. 

Most bodybuilders plan their training schedules using a seven day or one week cycle. Jeff, however, plans his training around an EIGHT DAY CYCLE. That is, Jeff trains each bodypart twice every eight days. Here are two training shedules Jeff uses to accomplish this.

The first is the three days on, one day off approach. For example one day one you would work chest/triceps/shoulders. Day two would be biceps/back/abs, with day three being legs. Day four would be a rest day and then the cycle would be repeated. If you find that you are starting to over-train, take a two day rest at the end of the second four day cycle each time; in this instance you would be working each bodypart [directly] twice every nine days. Bear in mind that the bodypart breakdown above is just an example, feel free to use whatever combination you have found works best for you.

The second method is to TRAIN EVERY OTHER DAY. Presently, this is the approach Jeff is using, mainly because of his rigorous schedule which requires considerable travel and rarely leaves him in one place for more than a day or two. For this method you will have to break your workout into two parts. You might, for example, do your upper body one workout and your lower body the next. Another method is to differentiate between your pushing and pulling muscles.   

Possibly the best advice Jeff gave those of us attending the seminar was to TRAIN SMART. Training hard is not enough and, in fact, can be dangerous. We have to learn when to train all-out and when to hold back somewhat, to use restraint. 

To become more intelligent bodybuilders we must learn to listen to our bodies. Our bodies will tell us everything we need to know: when to eat, when to drink, and when to sleep. Our bodies will also tell us when to train and how hard. Many bodybuilders, however, fail to listen to what their bodies are trying to tell them and as a result overwork and fail to make the progress they desire. 

With a little practice, selfawareness and effort we can all learn to become more instinctive bodybuilders.

Although Jeff trains very hard, he does not train to complete muscular failure. At one time he trained in this way, but found that doing forced reps and negatives at the conclusion of almost every set resulted in over-training. Instead of getting stronger, he actually became weaker. 

As a general rule Jeff trains to a level of positive failure over a period of several sets. 

When doing bench presses, for example, after warming up Jeff may do 4 sets of 10 with a constant weight for each set. Ideally on the fourth set he will only be able to do 10 reps, he will fail on the 11th rep. At this point he has reached positive failure, over the course of four sets, accumulating fatigue. 

When he finds it "easy" to perform 10 reps for all 4 sets, he increases the poundage. 

Occasionally Jeff will still train to failure, but very infrequently. Never more than once every two weeks and oftentimes much less. The important point to remember is that when you are going to train hard, train as hard as you possibly can. Give everything you have, don't hold back at all. Then allow your body to completely recuperate. 

Although he seldom performs negative reps per se, he does concentrate on the negative part of the movement. He lowers the weight slowly and controls the resistance at all times. Normally Jeff rests from 60-90 seconds between sets, and before a contest reduces this to 30 seconds. Cheating movements are also used sparingly and only done after no more perfect reps are possible.

Jeff did not give us a blow-by-blow . . . 


. . . description of how he trains each bodypart. Instead, he gave us this very simple and logical advice: Perform only the exercises which work the bodypart the best. Obviously, you'll have to experiment to determine which exercises are best for you, but the results will be well worth the extra effort and monitoring.   

Jeff has incredibly well developed legs, and we were all amazed when he said that he does not perform back squats. I found this even more surprising when a few days later I read in a leading bodybuilding magazine that Jeff regularly performs high-rep squats, doing 30 or more reps with 350 pounds. According the Jeff-in-the-Flesh, however, he does not do any back squats. Instead, his leg routine consists of front squats, leg presses, and hack machine squats. 

When doing front squats, Jeff goes down as low as he possibly can and believe me, he really goes down low. Each exercise is done for 4 sets of 8-10 reps with minimal rest between sets.

At the end of the seminar Jeff trained his calves for us. He only does two exercises: standing calf raises and leg press toe raises. Once again, he does 4 x 8-10 on each. Needless to say we were all very impressed by his calf development, especially when they started to pump up. One exercise that he rarely performs is seated calf raises. He believes they are considerably inferior to the two exercises mentioned above.

Jeff is also a strong advocate of using free weights as opposed to machines. And given the choice between barbells and dumbbells, Jeff definitely prefers the latter. In virtually every instance, he believes that exercises performed with free weights are superior to the corresponding movement done on machines. Two exceptions to this are leg curls and extensions. Jeff prefers standing leg curls. Essentially he believes that machines make an exercise easier, not harder as their inventors often claim. 

NUTRITION: After watching Jeff eat several oranges, nectarines and handfuls of grapes before the seminar began, I wasn't the least bit surprised when he said that 60% of his caloric intake is in the form of carbohydrates. This is broken down even further. Complex carbs such as pasta, potatoes, bread and cereals comprise 60% of his carb intake. The remaining 40% of his carbs are in the form of simple carbohydrates such as fruit and simple sugars.

At one time Jeff was eating 400-600 grams of protein a day. Besides making him tired and lethargic (even with the juice!) this practice was also very costly. Nowadays Jeff tries to eat about 20 grams of protein every three hours. For protein sources Jeff recommends egg whites, meat, chicken, yogurt, cheese and cottage cheese. In fact, he currently eats two dozen egg whites per day, not raw. 

Fats are the least important part of Jeff's diet, comprising approximately 10-15% of his caloric intake. Two main sources are nuts and wheat germ oil. Before a contest this percentage becomes even smaller, around 8-10%. 

According to Jeff, the best way to tell if you're eating too much is to look in the mirror. Before a contest he reduces his intake to 3,000 calories a day. This allows him to lose a pound or two aday. If he went on a 1,000 calorie a day diet as many bodybuilders do, Jeff would probably starve to death.    

RECUPERATION: This was already touched upon earlier. By working each bodypart only twice every eight days, he is helping to ensure proper recuperation. Also, by training to failure very infrequently he is also helping his body to recuperate properly.

One individual attending the seminar mentioned that he slept four hours a night and wanted to know if that was enough. Jeff replied that it depends (Arrrrrrrr dang it!) on the individual. Personally he likes to get 8-10 hours a night, although sometimes this is not possible. Your body will tell you if you're not getting enough sleep of if you're getting too much sleep. The point to bear in mind, however, is that if you are not getting sufficient rest your progress will be delayed or even reversed.

Finally, Jeff mentioned the importance of determination. Determination can sometimes enable you to surpass individuals who have been blessed with superior genetics. You must be willing to work hard and make a commitment to succeed. 

Enjoy Your Lifting! 

Thursday, November 25, 2021

The Odds for a Super Physique - John McKean


What excitement for an enthusiastic young trainee! 

I was 16 at the time and about to witness my first physique contest. As a home-based practitioner I'd never yet had the opportunity to meet anyone in the "real" Iron Game, but felt that the big annual Mr. Pittsburgh show would allow me to eyeball local stars.

As the contestants marched on stage for the introductory lineup, I was impressed by their shape and definitioin, but disappointed in their overall body size. Well, this wasn't the big leagues of California or New York, I thought . . . 

but just then a tremendously thick fellow, with the largest thighs I'd ever seen on a human walked into veiw. Moments later another absolutely awesome individual, equally impressive in the leg area but possessing unbelievably deep total body cuts strode onto the platform. To my young wide eyes these two men were far better than anyone I'd ever seen pictured in mags. It was no surprise to see one win the contest and the other copping the most muscular award.

What was a surprise was to hear the announcer mention that these two were actually weightlifters, and that each had just won a major award in something back then (early 1960's) called an "odd lift" meet. In fact, it seems the first fellow had just achieved the milestone feat of performing a 500-lb. squat -- almost unheard of in those pre-powerlifting days. Immediately, a 500 squat and those huge thighs became a personal goal -- well, at least I eventually achieved the squat. The second guy was a state champion Olympic lifter in addition to being an "odd" lifter. 

The odd-lift meets proved to be unofficial contest that a few years later evolved into powerlifting. Since Olympic lifting was the only game in town bah then, the odd lifts offered variety and a chance for men strong in other areas to strut their stuff. And these meets were usually more diverse than the three eventual powerlifts -- sometimes such things as curls, bent-arm pullovers, barbell hack lifts, presses and other lifts were contested. Even bodyweight chins and dips for reps were featured. These affairs were very similar to out present daay IAWA all-round events. 

USAWA Rulebook listing soooo many odd lifts:

IAWA Rulebook:

I've always maintained that the most powerfully built men I've seen through the years were always those who concentrated on strength with basic exercises. Some really strong guys don't look too impressive to the average eye, yet whenever I actually witness aa slimly-built lightweight push 250 pounds overhead, or deadlift 500 plus, he immediately looks as good as any Mr. Universe. 

Conversely, I once watched a local physique contest star struggle to press 140 pounds overhead (he weighed 180). Instantly, my mind reduced his big arms and cuts to absolute zero. All his formerly impressive bulk might just as well have been pure fat.

But for the most part, when I run into someone who has devoted years to acquiring strength, he looks genuinely rugged and impressive to everyone -- you can always tell he's a lifter.

With this in mind, come down memory lane with me as I recall some fantastically builit "odd" lifters and the key exercises which helped form them. The approach that helped build them may help build you. Just choose odd lifts that you can perform safely and in consistently good form.

Odd lifts always had a way of surfacing at the famous York Barbell Club picnics, which Bob Hoffman hosted the day after big lifting meets in his home town. Generally, the staff of the old Strength & Health magazine would circulate and ask those in the visiting crowd if anyone would like to demonstrate any strength feat on the big open-air stage. We were always treated to amazing performances by unknowns as well as the current lifting stars. It was a rather loose atmosphere amidst the picnic -style eating and drinking. And it was always amazing to see a few of those super staunch heaalth food advocates grabbing a hot dog and aa beer. But such relaxation often led to world record (but unofficial) performances.


At one of these picnics we coerced a few of our hometown buddies to take the stage. Neither had ever been in anything but small Pittsburgh events. One of them, whose nickname as "Pig," stood 5'6" and weighed nearly 300 pounds. When he warmed up with more weight than any superheavyweight had done at the previous night's National Powerliftinbg Championship, the normally boisterous picnic became very quiet. Oblivious to the attention, Pig quietly called for heaver and heavier singles, casually approaching the then-current world record held by Pat Casey. Each lift was done in perfect form complete with a long pause of the bar at the chest. Never breaking a sweat, he ignored the enthusiastic chant to attempt a world record, instead quietly commenting to his buddy, "Say, Doug, I'm gonna take a break. Why don't you do something easy for the guys like a strict curl with 250 or so?" 

Doug, dressed in his longsleeved plaid shirt, was as huge s the mythical Paul Bunyon who he resembled, and could have curled such a weight with ease, but was painfully shy. 

Both Pig and Doug always trained hard on their favorite odd lift -- the incline bench press. They acquired huge upper body size by merely performing five or six progressively heavier singles on this lift each workout. 

Amazingly, they both achieved weights in excess of 500 pounds on the incline press. Pig did some regular benching burt very limited work (almost never) on the squat or the deadlift, and therefore he never made much of a dent in the annals of powerlifting. 

On the other hand, big Doug used some of his huge fram to bull up high poundaages in the squat and deadlift, entered one naational power meet, took the superheavyweight division easily, then disappeared from the scene. 


One guy I occasionally saw training during my late teens was a bonafide physique star. Charlie would suddenly appear, do several very heavy sets of half squats, weighted dips, or bent arm-arm pullovers, then leave -- usually just one exercise per session. We often wondered when he did his "actual" bodybuilding routine with all the supersets, pumping, and concentration-style movements. After all, the guy was phenomenal. Though only 4'11" tall he had superb muscle size in all major areas, long muscle bellies, and mindblowing definition. His arms were especially impressive.

As it proved over several years of observation, Charlie never did standard pumping routines, only the quick heavy moves we go to see every so often. His favorite exercise seemed to be the bent-arm pullover. I once saw him load an Olympic bar to nearly 300 pounds (close to double his bodyweight) for a couple of sets of 2 or 3 reps. What was hilarious that day were the taller boidybuilders who were performing pullovers, but with a "toy" barbell -- off the fixed weight rack and a weight of perhaps 60 pounds. 


Another intense individual trained at our large downtown YMCA. We nicknamed him "Nasser." We young trainees were afraid to ask this huge unsmiling Syrian for any personal details. This wide shouldered man never seemed to push himself but easily handled sets of progressively heavier bench presses, and bit seated PBNs with around 275 pounds. Most impressive was his unusual closing exercise -- the one-arm barbell clean. Nasser did this so easily gthat he required no collars to keep the pair of 45's on each end of the Olympic bar. That's right, he used 225 pounds! He flipped up a few quick singles with about the same effort with which modern bodybuilders upend their preworkout drinks and concoctions. Of course, Nasser's upper forearms were about the circumference of an average 16-pound bowling ball. 


In an unusual twist of fate, the benefits of an odd lift possibly saved my life one time. A local young lifter who I know only as "South Side Stan" competed in a little of everything but specialized on the reverse curl. He got big all over from squats, military presses, pulls and the Olympic lifts, but had especially striking forearms from the strength he built from palms-down curling.

A bunch of us teens who trained together ventured to a popular lakeside resort during a summer holiday one year. We were joined by 75,000 other teens, college people, bikers, and general party goers. My small group of friends ran into South Side Stan and his lifting buddies one evening. While bar hopping we spotted on of those sledgehammer, ring the bell carnival towers and Stan couldn't resist it. Using those masive, reverse-curl-built forearms, he one-armed the hefty sledge and proceeded to ring the bell about a dozen times in quick succession. A crowd formed and Stan kept noticing that the rest of us were lifters (rare, back then) and requested us to flex and show off in general. We were all a little tipsy and had a good time obliging them.

About a year later I visited a buddy in a neighboring big city, not too far from the small resort town. The friend called some college chums and we eventually located a neat looking little bar. As we sat in the club talking for a while, everyone else suddenly grew quiet. It seems this nightspot was the main turf of of most rugged street gang in the city, and they had just arrived. Their leader promply came to our table, started jawboning to the biggest guy among us, a football player, with the general theme being that out peace loving group was about to be escorted out for a very bad time. We were outnumbered about three to one. Then one fellow began vigorously pointing at me and talking quickly to his leader. I was petrified. The two approached me and asked, "Hey, aren't you the guy who did that big chest pose in Geneva-on-the-Lake last summer?" After coercing me into an impromptu demo (yeah, like I was going to refuse) they forgot all about fighting and just wanted to talk lifting. So, Stan, a much belated thanks for working so hard on your reverse curls. Your acquired hammering strength indirectly saved me from being reall hammered. 


Another outstanding Pittsburgh odd lift competitor may be well known to many readers. Professional wrestling's long time world champion, Bruno Sammartino, lifted in many of those early events. 

2019 Documentary:

"Behind the Championship Belt" - 

Every now and then I get the opportunity to discuss his lifting days with him, because he lives about a mile away. I've taught his sons in junior high school, and often see him jogging the local roads on my way to work. Incidentally, at nearly 60 years old, he still looks like he can bodyslam a bus. Of course, Bruno always was, and still is, a huge proponent of total body conditioning exercise prior to actual lifting. Even from his humble beginnings as a thin frail teenager his flair towards athletics saw him doing extensive road work, calisthenics, and wrestling. 

But when he got to lifting it was rarely lightweight stuff -- just fierce determination to always pick up something heavy, then heavier. He established records in all of our locally contested odd lifts -- squats, curls, bench presses, deadlifts, presses, etc. As his strength moved up he acquired unbelievable muscle density on a 260-lb. frame. 

A facet of Bruno's early strength-conditioining training was an unusual exercise that can be termed an odd lift . . . 

He'd get a heavy training partner to sit on his back and then he would perform as many reps as possible in the standard floor dip (push up). I still recall a photo in a local newspaper showing a 19 year old Bruno supporting five pretty ladies in this manner. 

Note: I found a photo from the Pittsburgh Gazette with four of 'em on board:

The weighted floor dip is almost a forgotten exercise these days despite its huge potentijal. For interesting variety from bench pressing, with much more total body involvement, try a cycle of these, having partners stack progressively more 45-lb. plates on your back. You may not build the ability to shoulder and slam a 600-lb. wrestler as Sammartino did, but weighted dips will add slabs of muscle to your triceps, pecs and delts.  


Speaking of dipping, 

let's not forget the benefits offered by the parallel bar version. One of my friends, Antonio Fratto, used this as his only "official" bodybuilding exercise. 

He was also a top caliber powerlifter who won the National and World Championship at 198 pounds back when powerlifting was one big happy organization and the supersuits hadn't yet been invented. I'm sure Fratto's routine of super-heavy singles on the three lifts, and a youthful preoccupation with the clean & press (he did over 300 lbs. officially at 181) had a great deal to do with his muscularity. still, he always snuck into the "Mr." events scheduled directly after his meets. He felt his thrice weekly 4 sets of 50 reps in freeform (bodyweight) dips kept his upper body sharp.


Perhaps the most heralded odd lift practicioner was mighty John Grimek. Seems, in his building years, whenever there was any strainge form of seriously heavy barbell, dumbbell, apparatus or chain lift even remotely mentioned, John would train with a vengeance to best it. In fact, for his pioneering efforts and prowess on so many odd lifts, Grimek was awarded the first lifetime achievement award granted by the IAWA. A permanent plaque verifying this award resides on the wall of the famous End Zone Sports Hotel in Foxboro.  


One time I was competing at a large powerlifting meet in Buffalo, New York. As was customary during the 1960s, a major physique contest was to be held directly after the lifting. Powerlifters and bodybuilders shared the warmup room. At that time Buffalo was famous for physique men, with several having acquired top placings in the Mr. America contest. 

The guys pumped and chattered, wondering aloud who among them would take the title that night. I was surprised to spy what I knew would soon spell their doom. A little guy dressed in shabby, cheap, plain gray sweats sat quietly in a dimly lit corner, half asleep. It was Federal Street Tony -- another training mate from the early days at the Pittsburgh YMCA. 

Tony was unknown outside the Pittsburgh area and at 151 pounds was not real noticeable, being without the genetics to ever become muscularly huge. Though short, Tony was blessed with perfect symmetry. The late Peary Rader once described Tony as having the best shape and razor sharp definition he'd ever seen in his long career as a top official. I'd have to agree -- even in all the time since, Tony would make my top five list. Oh yeah, Tony easily dominated the Buffalo event. 

Tony's training was as unconventional as his show prep. A true bodybuilder by anyone's standards, he nevertheless preferred heavy, low rep, basic movements for the bulk of his training. He employed Olympic lifts, powerlifts, and odd lifts, not for competition but for muscular enhancement through strength training. 

Once, he was unjustly accuse by jealous local lifters as being nothing more than a wasp-waisted weak bodybuilder. So, he entered an Olympi meet, just once. Though he could hardly deny that his waise measured a paltry 26 inches, he shut up cirtics with a magnificent 235-lb. clean & press, and an easy victory in a tough middleweight division. 


My wife and I traveled to Columbus, Ohio some years back, mostly to see the pro Mr. World contest, which was to be contested directly after the World Weightlifting Championship. We were anxious to see the superstars who were entered in the physique show, but the superb Olympic lifting captivated our attention. This was the meet where Alexeev became the first person to officially clean & jerk 500 pounds. When we got a glimpse of the gigantic muscle bulk of Belgium's superheavyweight, Serge Reding, we instantly forgot any need to watch mere bodybuilders. This man's shoulders, arms, chest and thighs were huge beyond belief. Seeing him deftly move in the snatch and the clean & jerk sure topped any static muscle pose. Marilyn and I left exhilarated at seeing the largest muscular human we could ever expect to see. 

We didn't bother staying for the physique meet. 

I remember reading that Reding concentrated on very heavy front squats, high pulls, and various strict forms of presses -- odd lifts in the truest sense. Magazine photos of him performing these exercises with wide stacks of 45-lb. Olympic plates on the bar demonstrated clearly exactly what it takes to really develop size. 

Do you want the best shot at achieving your ultimate physique? 
Well, train for peak strength -- you just can't beat the odds. 

More by John McKean: 

Enjoy Your Lifting! 


Wednesday, November 24, 2021

R.O.B.: The Unified Theory of Working Out, Part One - Rob Thoburn (2003)

'Higher volume' (more sets), 'low volume' (fewer sets), higher reps, lower reps, drop sets, forced reps, supersets, eccentric only training, isometric training,j plyometric training, etc., etc. 

In fact, just about any method of resistance training you can imagine can build muscle to some extent. However, some will work better than others. Furthermore, your muscles may grow more rapidly in response to any given approach than will those of the guy down the street (damn him). Or, the reverse could be true. 

Why is this? 
What's the common thread? 

The 'common thread' is The ROB Concept, the culmination of my 17-year obsession with answering the question "What makes muscles grow?"

To the extent that any training approach progressively satisfies the ROB Concept, it will build muscle. The better your workouts satisfy it, the more quickly your muscles will increase in size. 

"Think Lamppost"

That's me -- the 'lamppost'. Or, at least, that's how I started out back in the summer of 1986. I've added a fair bit of muscle tissue to my scrawny frame since I began bodybuilding some 17 years ago Right from the first workout -- conducted in the seclusion of my parents' basement, I had enourmous difficulty putting on size. I hindsight, it appears that I inherited a less-than-average number of muscle fibers. The muscle fibers I did receive, moreover, weren't all that interested in getting any bigger. They were 'growth-resistant'. Thus, every set and every rep i performed at the gym stimulated less muscle gowth than might be the case for a more genetically 'gifted' souls (Dorian Yates comes to mind). 

Take a look at my parents, and you'll see why. Neither my mother nor my father is, nor ever has been, the least bit 'buff' (don't take that the wrong way, Mom and Dad). Indeed, the Thoburns have always to work very hard to stay in shape; much, much harder still to builid muscle (the same goes for intelligence, it seems). 

Yes, when it came time to hand out the 'skinny genes', I must have thought they said 'pralines' and asked for several servings. I weighed just over 145 pounds at 6'1" in height when my battle for 'buffness' began.


Lots of people  experiment with their workouts. Some take it to an obsessive extreme. I'm one of them. In fact, I've yet to meet anyone who has experimented quite as excessively as have I. Some of my workouts have been frighteningly bizarre. 

I have tried virtually every method of weight training imaginable, and a few that aren't. Isometrice, partials, eccentric-only, concentric-onlyh, low sets, high sets, 1 workout per day, 2 workouts per day, 3 workouts per day, 4 workouts per day, yes . . . 5 workouts per day, high reps (including sets of over 100 reps), low reps, everything-in-between reps, stretching my muscles with ridiculously heavy weights for several minutes, 'slow motion' training, and much, much more.

Ridiculous, perhaps, by my 'Ripley's Believe it or Not' type workouts taught me some truly invaluable lessons. This article is about the most important of them all.

Ignoring Conventional 'Wisdom'

It was in about 1993 that I undertook a workout routine that started every morning at 4:30 a.m. and carried on, in essentially nonstop fashion through toe 8:30 a.m.

Each muscle group got hammered with a total of 30 sets, three times per week (yes, three). I rested 30 seconds between all sets (I used a stopwatch to enforce this rule). Each set was performed to momentrary muscular failure using a weight that permitted 8-10 reps.

'Over-training', right 

Right. Maybe that's why I grew muscle like never before.

I didn't keep that workout routine up for more than a few weeks. During that time, however, I experienced muscle growth at a pace I have never experienced before. My body ballooned up to 212 pounds, and I was shredded. Even my pectoralis minor could be seen bursting out from my torso, clear as day. This, on a guy that started out with a 33" chest and 10.5" arms! 

After several weeks of this routine I decided that if this is what it takes for me to build muscle, then . . . well, okay . . . but I'm not willing to do it. I guess I'll just have ot settle for being a dork. 

Of course, I didn't stop training. Quite the contrary, I have continued to experiment with my training extensively -- and frequently extremely -- over the years, as I have wigth diet. 

In regards to training, two things stick out time and time again: If I want to mask my 'skinny genes' and actually build muscle at a satisfactory rate, then I will have to do more sets than conventional 'wisdom' (i.e., that which touts 'less is more') dictates. Further, I will have to rest quite a bit less between sets than is typically prescribed (e.g. 2-3 minutes). Simply stated, my workouts cannot be overly brief, nor can they be leisurely paced. Neither will it suffice to train each muscle group one time a week. 

Talk about 'anti-conventional'! 

Indeed, when I finally started doing what others considered 'over-training', and when I finally stareted Resting Only Briefly ("ROB") between sets (in many cases, not at all), I finally started to add muscle to my lamppost-like frame. 

Thus, at least for this exceptionally hard gainer, more is . . . more.

The ROB Concept

It's taken me over a decade and a half to assemble the pieces of the puzzle. I've still got a few spaces to fill. Most of the clues have come from my own, admittedly crude, 'self-experiments'. Some have come from training 'extreme ectomorphs' like me, and watching how they respond. Still other insights I have derived from studying the basics of neuromuscular physiology, biomechanics, and physics, among other scientific disciplines.

In other words, the ROB concept has NOT been proven, and probably never will be. It may be wrong (way wrong), and it may be right. I can tell you this, though: It sure does explain an awful lot. 

Let's see what I'm talking about. 

The "ROB" Concept

To the extent that any workout makes your muscles and their consituent fibers sustain a 'critically high' product of Internal Work Rate x Duration it will make them grow. Doing so will cause those muscle fibers to sustain a 'critically high' product of Depolarization Magnitude x Duration immediately afterwards. This is the ultimate trigger of the cellular events responsible for producing muscle growth in the recovery period (i.e., hours and days) that follows. 

Now let's take a moment to define some of these terms.

Energy = the capacity to perform work (Adenosine Triphosphate, or ATP, is the ultimate source of energy for your muscle fibers and all other cells). 

Work = a force generated over a distance. in order to lift a weight, for instance, your muscles have to generate enough force to overcome the force of gravity acting on it. 

Thus, when you perform a full repetition of the squat, you are performing work. Let's assume it takes you 2 seconds to perform one complete squat. If the next time you do squats you lift a heavier weight in the same 2 seconds, then your quadriceps muscles will have sustained a higher overall work rate. Work rate is also known as 'power', by the way.

Now, if the weight is so heavy that your muscles can't overcome the force of gravity acting on it, the muscles are still working, aren't they? Indeed they are. The muscle fibers can't shorten, and the contraction is said to be isometric ('same length'). During an isometric contraction, no external work is done, but the muscle is still working internally. That is, its constituent fibers are sustaining membrane depolarization, consuming energy (ATP) and progressively fatiguing. 

'Relative Workload' = the amount of force generated by the recruited muscle mass relative to what it is capable of at that instant (as opposed to in the fully rested state). Though absolute workload, i.e., the actual amount of weight your are lifting, is important, it is only important insofar as it determines how hard the recruited muscle fibers are working relative to what they are capable of at that very moment.

"Duration" = how long the workload is sustained (i.e., how long the target muscle mass is trained for). 

Why a 'high internal work rate'?

In order for that lamp sitting on your desk to turn on, an electrical current needs to be transmitted from the power source to the light bulb. Then, presto, you will have light. 

Likewise, in order to turn your muscle fibers 'on' -- in order to make them generate force (contract) -- your nervous system needs to send them an electrical current. This particular current, in fact, is both electrical and chemical in nature. It is made up of impulses flurries of which bombard your muscle fibers aand signal them to contract.

Generally speaking, the more force that is required to perform a given task (i.e., the heavier your set of barbell squats), the greated needs to be the frequency and size (magnitude) of the electrochemical impulses transmitted to your muscle fibers.

Trains of impulses are carried down to your muscles via nerve cells, or neurons. Each muscle fiber is controlled by, or under the 'jurisdiction' of, at least one so-called motor neuron. When a motor neuron receives an impulse train of sufficient magnitutde, all of the muscle fibers it controls contract; the muscle fibers are thereby 'recruted' into action. A motor neuron plus the muscle fibers it controls is called a motor unit. 

It's All About Depolarization

When an electrochemical impulse reaches the surface of a muscle fiber, it causes the muscle fiber membrane to depolarize. Like the battery in your car, the membrane surrounding each muscle fiber carries aan electrical charge. If the charge in a car battery is dissipated, it can be eused to run the starter motor which in turn starts the engine, ultimately causing the drive train to rotate the wheels of the car. Thus, electrical potential energy (represented by the charge stored in the battery) is ultimately converted into mechanical (kinetic) energy -- the capacity to turn the wheel of the car.

The muscle fiber membrane behaves like a battery, too. During depolarization, the charge across the membrane is dissipated via its connection into the mechanical work of muscle contraction. Cross-bridges form between actin and myosin protein filaments, the filaments alongside one another, and force is generated as the muscle fibers attempt to shorten. (At least, that's how contractions is thought to happen.) 

This is What Triggers Muscle Growth

If you want your muscle fibers to generate a lot of force relative to whaat they are caapable of at that instant, then your nervous system needs to recurit a lot of muscle fibers, and it needs to signal each one to depolarize with a high frequency of impulses. If you don't rest much between sets (or not at all, as in a 'drop set'), the muscle fibers won't have much time to repolarize their membranes, and a sustained state of depolarization may be achieved in the period immediately following. THIS is what triggers muscle growth.

The last paragraph is extremely important. 

The last paragraph is extremely important. Indeed, if you understand its contents, then you can understand why it is NOT the absoulute load that matters most here, but the relative load; i.e., how hard you make your muscles work relative to what they are capable of right then and there. 

It's the relative load after all, that ultimately determines the maginitude of membrane depolarization -- which is ultimately the origin of the signals I believe lead to exercise-induced muscle fiber hypertrophy. It's the COMBINATION of the relative workload and the AMOUNT OF REST you give the recruited muscle fibers -- the rest between reps (barely any) and between sets (Rest Only Briefly - ROB) -- that determines the extent to which those fibers repolarize. These factors determine the extent of depolarization that the muscle fibers sustain after you're finished hammering them (i.e., once you're done training that particular muscle group). 

Continued in Part Two . . . 

Enjoy Your Lifting!   




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