Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Britain's Super Strong Man - Bert Assirati -- "Pop" Assirati (1948)


A week of so ago we hit the 13,000,000 page view mark. 
Yikes. Wha' happened. 

More here: 

and here: 

Bert Assirati can rightly claim to be one of the world's strongest men as well as Britain's heavyweight champion professional wrestler, and a worthy contender for the World's title. 

Owing to his name his nationality has been queried. To enlighten the skeptics, I will inform them that his grandparents were of Northern Italian stock. Both his father and mother were born in London, and Bert first saw light of day a stone's throw from the Angel, Islington.  

From his early boyhood days his ambition was to be a strong man. He was a good listener to the stories I told him about the famous Eugen Sandow, Arthur Saxon and the other prominent strong men. He delighted in the stories of Hackenschmidt, Gama, Yukio Tani and other famous wrestlers popular on these shores. And thus were sown the seeds -- an ambition one day to emulate the great men.

So, at the age of 12, he started training. In the beginning he juggled with any old weight or heavy object in an unorthodox fashion. He was (and still is) his own trainer, but always had a listening ear to those better informed in the Iron Game. 

He came under the influence of Alan P. Mead, the famous physical culturist and muscle control expert, who saw great possibilities in the boy and generously presented him with an up to date barbell and dumbbell set. From that moment Bert never looked back, but continued in a more orthodox fashion weight lifting, strand pulling, muscle contracting and deep breathing, always working in a dour fashion and with perseverance.  

About this time he joined the Ashdown Wrestling Club and laid a foundation for his later career. By the age of 17 he had built himself up and was a splendid specimen of early manhood. 

It was then he came in contact with a well known professional acrobat called Mello. They teamed up and toured the world as Mello and Nello. So, as well as being strong, Bert became a first class acrobat. The experience gained stood him in good stead in his later wrestling career; he knows how to hit the floor and bounce back without turning a hair. 

Whilst touring on the stage he always sought local clubs where he could lift, wrestle and exercise according to the facilities afforded there. Breaking from Mello, he joined a troupe of wrestlers managed by Jack Carrol and Peter Gotz. He improved tremendously under the expert tuition of the grand wrestlers and toured the country challenging all comers. Desiring to be a full sized heavyweight, he specialized in barbell and dumbbell training, and built himself from 13st 9 lb to 16 stone. [191-224pounds].

A few years later he again specialized with this form of training, and went from 16 to 19 stone [224-266]. During the past 12 or more years he has successfully beaten all opponents. He recently won a tournament at Harringay, London, which was open to all the world. 

Today he is ready to meet all comers -- no one barred. Had he persevered as a strongman his career in that game would also have been assured. He has performed feast, both in public and private, that have astonished onlookers. Among his many feats are: 

Right Hand Military Press (heels touching) - 160 pounds
Left Hand      "            "                  "                - 145 
Lateral Raise Lying                                         - 160
Pullover at Arms' Length                                - 200
Ditto, 17 reps                                                    - 140
Two Hands Strict Curl                                      - 180
Two Hands Press                                              - 285
Two Hands Clean & Jerk                                  - 360
Two Hands Continental Jerk                            - 380
Full Deep Knee Bend                                        - 550

He is a great believer in open air exercises and deep breathing, and is a sun worshipper. He claims his strength was mainly built up with weight training. For light work he likes swimming, running and cycling. 

His advice is: "Work hard at any form of training in which you are engaged, rest plenty and eat of the best food obtainable -- such as meat, eggs, milk, fruit and vegetables. Don't be a faddist, but eat as much as you can healthily digest. 

His motto -- "I fear no man" -- is no idle boast; yet all who know Bert can verify his extreme modesty towards his fellow man, both in and out of the arena.

His present measurements are: \
Height - 5 ft 6 in
Weight - 234 pounds
Neck - 19.75 in
Chest (normal) 50
Upper Arm - 18.5
Forearm - 14.75
Wrist - 8
Waist - 38
Hips - 43.5
Thigh - 29
Calf - 17.5
Ankle - 11.25

Enjoy Your Lifting! 

Monday, December 5, 2022

The 4-Power Exercise -- Donald V. Clarkson (1977)

Sergio Oliva

Note: I wonder if this is the same author as the last article, using a pen name. I'd bet bucks to baloney, maybe even dollars to donuts it is . . . 

Generally, working together synergistically in any exercise for the upper body are the upper pectorals, the deltoids, and the triceps. The neck, often neglected in generalized training, usually does not figure in with the foregoing bodyparts. 

I have found an exercise that will pump all four bodyparts at once. Because I have done much of my training during the past seven years at home, experimentation was often called for; sometimes the resulting exercise was merely useful, but in the case of the 4-Power exercise the effect was amazing. 

We all know the benefit of neck bridging exercises. 

While in the wrestler's bridge position, plates are held upon the chest and the upper body rocked forward and backward. This is excellent work for the muscles of the neck, though in nearly total isolation. 

Now, if a barbell is pulled over and pressed while in the bridge position, some deltoid and triceps work is done, plus work for the pectorals. Generally, however, the barbell is too light while pressing in the bridge position to work any part very strenuously other than the neck.

Allow me to reconstruct the bridging experiment. Taking an EZ-Curl bar, I loaded it with two 25-pound plates and the little outside collars -- approximately 62 pounds. The weight you choose may be more or less. Tucking my feet and legs well under, I arched into the bridge position, the EZ-Curl bar behind my head (be sure to cushion the head). Grasping the bar at the position of the narrow angled grip, I pulled the EZ-Curl bar over and up to a position over the chest. I lowered the bar behind my head into a form of half bent-arm pullover and half triceps press, barely touching the floor and returning the bar to the starting position.

Performing 12 repetitions on the first set, I noticed a definite flushing in the neck, deltoids, triceps and pectorals. After three more sets the pumped look and feeling were phenomenal. I realize that my experience with this exercise may not be unique, but from its use I can report that it resulted in the aforementioned flushing. The 4-Power exercise is highly adaptable to weight increases. I believe it to be a great upper torso builder, possibly even in the area of the upper back much like that standard bent-arm pullover. 
The body seems to work efficiently in this bridging position, with no element of joint or ligament-tendon strain being noticeable. Those not accustomed to the wrestler's bridge position, must begin with a very light weight in this exercise. I've been bridging for years, thus the experimental weight I employed did not tax my neck muscles too much. 
The important part of the 4-Power exercise [giving something a new name gives it new clout!] is that a relatively light weight brought the desired flushing to those parts described above. It may not be an answer to those who cannot afford the very expensive Nautilus machines, especially the torso-pullover machine. 
Note: Is he comparing a torso-pullover with EZ-curl bar pullovers in a wrestler's bridge position there?
In other areas of weight training, the most aerobic exercise I have found is the SNATCH WITH TWO DUMBBELLS. 12 repetitions with two hefty dumbbells and your rate of respiration will soar. 3 sets of 12 and your entire body will start to quiver. 
Keep the snatching movement rhythmic and continuous. lowering the dumbbells up and using momentum to complete the desired number of repetitions. Keep in mind that bodybuilding means good conditioning as well as beauty of physique.  
Other exercises of this conditioning genre are the Clean & Press, and the Deep Knee Bend and Press Behind Neck. I have obtained the best conditioning barbell workouts employing these exercises, plus the dumbbell snatch, and the straddle hop with barbell held tightly across the back and shoulders. 
Many bodybuilders go through entire routines consisting of isolated movements, never working up even a constant 120 beats per minute for any length of time. Those who insist on training this way must either run or swim. I would advise the use of the conditioning workouts for the benefit of the heart muscle, and do not be too surprised when your muscles begin to work in ways you hadn't expected. That means shape and symmetry, which we all want to develop.
THE FOREARMS are difficult propositions, as are the calves; and for years I have struggled with the best means with which to effectively train the forearms. Usually in performing the reverse curl, the premier forearm exercise, it is too easy to give in to cheating; we attempt to use weights that require swinging the barbell up. Again, I have nothing revolutionary here, but I wonder how many trainees have thought to use the preacher curl bench with which to perform the reverse curl.
Taking a mere 35 pounds on a straight barbell, I did 12 reverse curls on a preacher bench in the strictest style. I was able to do a second set of 12, but on the third set only 9 were possible; 7 on the fourth set. So great was the pump and the work on the wrists that a fifth set burned like fire and I failed to perform even the seven that I had made on the fourth set. 
Your ego will not inflate over the light weights this strict form forces you to use, but the idea is to get down to the deepest forearm muscle fibers and preacher reverse curls will do the job. Each individual must find his poundage level.
Keep in mind that what I tell you about bodybuilding and physical conditioning does not come from a champion bodybuilding practitioner. I have never had the genetic makeup to win titles, neither have I had the time nor the inclination. When I speak, it is as a durable, experimental trainee of more than 30 years. I love to train, and what I learn from bodybuilding and conditioning is for everyone who wishes to be stronger, better developed, and healthy.
Enjoy Your Lifting!  

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Four-Day Training -- Major Donald V. Clerkin (1985)


No, it's not what you're thinking, it's a small audience inside joke. 

During a week, how many training periods should there be? 

For the beginner it is generally thought that three periods are conducive to progressive muscle growth and strength increases. Most compilers of professional course material on weight training offer systems consisting of ten to twelve barbell and dumbbell exercises, with variations of each schedule making up a three-day schedule. 

Such is the method by which I began my training thirty-one years ago. Over the years, however, there has developed a second school of bodybuilding thought and practice. It comes from the rage to build the greatest bodybuilding proportions in a minimum of time. In the gyms where the bodypart system of training will be employed, contrasted to the older, more traditional exercise system. 

The bodypart approach defines each separate muscle group and offers exercises to develop it. The purpose of the exercise approach is to build strength and muscle by becoming proficient in the performance of specific movements. 

In the one, the emphasis is on the body part. In the other, the emphasis on building up weight poundages in the exercises. Both build muscle, though by themselves they are incomplete training systems. 

From the bodypart system will come a more sculptured look, though there will be flaws in evidence due to a lack of compound movements. 

From the exercise system will come strength and a greater degree of general fitness than that which can be obtained by utilizing the bodypart system. The sculptured look will generally elude the exercise system trainee, even though he will possess the greater evidence of power in his physique.

The bodypart system, therefore, is vital, if the bodybuilder desires to mold the type of physique which can be competitive in bodybuilding. 

The problems arise when the beginner decides that he is going to train the way the champs train. He makes up a loose program consisting of too many exercises for this favorite bodypart or that, leaving the way most assuredly open for an unsymmetrical physique. 

When the bodypart system is employed to the total exclusion of the exercise system, the training becomes choppy and unbalanced, tending not to develop interconnecting sections with more general movements. We have all seen the young bodybuilder who goes through an entire two hour workout without ever breathing heavy or breaking a sweat. The first thing to be neglected by this form of isolated muscle training is the heart, a muscle of prime importance which without an aerobic effect will soon begin to atrophy. Short, cramping movements do not force the lungs to respirate or the heart to pump more blood about the body. 

Recently I saw a young man in the gym who required a "spot" for everything he was doing, even for seated triceps presses with one dumbbell! How the old lifting, hand-balancing body men like Klein and Grimek would sneer at this type of training. 

A bodybuilder should strive to be vital, fit and healthy looking, as well as merely big and ripped. Obviously the best way to obtain the optimum in gains and fitness is to combine the two systems, bodypart AND exercise. On a three-day system that is almost impossible, unless one trains more than once a day. In addition, most advocates of the bodypart system utilize some variation of the "split" system: certain sections of the body worked on alternate days, which would be fine were it not that what we in general see in the gyms among young fellows who use the split routines is 

 - too much emphasis on the upper body,
 - no real power or strength work, and
 - absolutely nothing in the way of aerobics. 

What should be put together, then, is a four-day schedule, during which both the exercise AND the bodypart system can each be used twice. Each muscle gets four days of work in a week, but in differing manners and on different levels of intensity. 

Keep in mind that there are general as well as specific body areas and parts to be worked, and whether one uses the bodypart system or the exercise system he must do a sufficient variety of exercises to get the desired results from his training. 

In my article for Iron Man last year [Note: Vol 42 No 5 - July '83] entitled, "Concentration Training," I offered a three-day program consisting of three courses of basic exercises. They were to be done in sets of 3 to 5, depending on the trainee's time and level of energy. What we shall do herein with a four-day schedule of compound training is to take the best of those exercises, using them on two days as a system by which we can build strength and performance technique, then take two days of alternate training on body parts, utilizing the SUPERSET, and for certain parts the TRI-SET. 

On the two alternate bodypart system days, you may use any of the prevalent bodybuilding principles, such as flushing, peak contraction, heavy and light, etc. But on the two days of the exercise system, use the PYRAMID method of adding weight and reducing repetitions, much like weightlifters and powerlifters do. Start light and work up in five or 10 pound increments. A sixth set may be used to decline the pyramid, that is, reduce the weight 20% or more from your peak of that day and work the exercise strictly to failure, thus giving your muscle a final pump.

Here is a four-day routine, giving you everything you seek, plus sufficient rest to recuperate and grow bigger and stronger. Each routine should take no more than an hour and a half, possibly two hours at the most.

MONDAY (exercise system)

Bench press
Calf raise (standing)
Situps - Side bends - Leg raises

Sets: 3 to 5 or 6 pyramiding weights upward and reducing repetitions. Begin at 12 for the upper body, 15 for the Squat and Deadlift. The calves will always have at least 15 strict repetitions. The abdominals, at least 20. 

TUESDAY (bodypart system) 

Arms: Reverse curl - French press
Shoulders: Upright row - Dumbbell laterals
Back: Pulldown, One DB row
Thighs: Hack squat - Leg curl - Leg extension
Chest: Wrestler's bridge and press - Flyes
Calves: Straddle hop - Seated calf raise
Situps - Side bends - Leg raises

Superset and tri-set to desired number. Keep reps moderate to high. Weights should be moderate. 

THURSDAY (exercise system)

Reverse curl
Press behind neck
Front squat
Incline press
Calf raise (standing)
Situps - Side bends - Leg Raises

Same agenda as Monday. 

FRIDAY (bodypart system)

Arms: Incline DB curl - Lying triceps press
Shoulders: Seated DB press - Forward raises
Back: Pulldown - Repetition cleans
Thighs: Hack squat - Leg curl - Leg extension
Chest: DB bench press - Wrestler's bridge and DB pullover
Calves: Straddle hop - Seated calf raise
Situp - Side bends - Leg raises

Same agenda as Tuesday.

It will be seen that even the forearms and neck are covered in these four courses. I would again advise everyone to practice and learn the wrestler's bridge, that is if you want a powerful neck to go with your other well-developed muscles. 

The important thing is NOT TO OVERDO THE BODYPART DAY

You will be properly tired after doing the heavy basic exercises in pyramid fashion on Monday and Thursday. Tuesday and Friday should be your muscle pumping days, the days on which you refine your muscle training, thus bringing out the highlights and shape. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday you will rest completely, which you will have earned if you worked these courses as written.

I believe that here we may have helped a most pressing bodybuilding problem: how to train for greatest results [!!!]. 

These courses are not for the beginner. But the middle to advanced bodybuilder who has wondered which way was best may now see that he can benefit from the best of both bodybuilding worlds. 

Enjoy Your Lifting!   


Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Reefer Madness, circa 1977 -- Vince "Buzz" Gironda


Not nearly as funny as I had hoped but there are moments here, providing you get high first. I enjoy reading articles and books from dead seekers of health and longevity fans! 

The active chemical in marijuana (THC) acts directly upon the nervous system when taken into the lungs as schmoke. The residue, like found in a pipe stem or cigarette paper is taken into the lungs in the schmoke absorbed directly into the blood stream and carried to all nerve cells of the body. 


Not only does the schmoke go into the lungs, but also the residue which is the remaining part of the schmoke separated from the carbon monoxide and the THC and left in the lung sacs. This residue is many times more to the lungs than cigarette nicotine and tar. It also takes much longer to clean out after use has stopped. 

This is the reason behind the so-called . . . wait for it . . . "spacing out" or drifting out of consciousness . . . 

As the nervous system becomes more degenerated, the amount of THC needed to produce the euphoric feeling must be increased because the nerve cells lose sensitivity as they degenerate (Yes, twice in one line. Go Buzz!) from the accumulation of the toxic drug. 

 -- I believe Buzz is referring to tolerance levels here, but doesn't know what he's talking about. No, the nerve cells do not degenerate. In fact, a shit ton of research tissues, er, papers have shown that THC slows down nerve degeneration and dementia, that wunnerful, naturally built-in to the system rotting out we all know and love so much! Take a knee and give thanks! 

As a result, one must increase the amount of marijuana as time goes on and use it more frequently to feel "high"  -- in quotes no less.
 -- Buzz wasn't too into cycling, but then, few physique artistes are. Lay off for a spell to lower tolerance and come back rarin' to go. It don't take long really. 

This is the nature of addiction or dependency on the drug, as even habitual marijuana smokers must go through withdrawal symptoms if they wish to stop smoking it. 

Withdrawal what, Buzz? Oh, you're spewing horseshit again! 

As the nervous system accumulates the toxic wastes of marijuana schmoke and as the overall nervous system degenerates, the less the individual is able to cope with the ordinary stresses of life. Sounds of machines, cars or unpleasant situations cause overreaction. Simple stress becomes unbearable. The hallucinations and consciousness changes experienced in the "euphoric high" -- ah, the seriousness implied when quotes get stuck on randomly -- are also results of the effect the drug has on chemical balance. 

 -- And . . . he's got it backwards. Just reverse everything Buzz pontificated on up there in that wee paragraph-pile of. Ya gotta love it! 

The drug also degenerates [Buzz musta loved this word] the highly sensitive pineal and pituitary glands, and can alter basic body functions such as hormone secretion and regulation of other glands in the endocrine system. Ya mean like roids, Buzz? Let's ask any of your clean physeek champeens. No wait, perhaps Buzz's awareness of his surroundings degenerated to the point where he believed Scott et al were blah blah, yawn. Clean as little whistles the lot of 'em! 

Because of the upset of the chemical balance, the user has an overreactive nervous system that can bring nervous breakdown.  -- Fuck off, Buzz. 

The dangers inherent in the use of marijuana cannot be overestimated

 -- Coulda fooled me after reading the above there. 

Besides the effects on lungs and nervous system, there is a vital organ which also is damaged from the bloodstream and I don't mean the dick. The liver, silly! Because the liver works as a filter, the THC residue gets trapped in the liver's filtering lobules and accumulates along with other toxic particles that have been absorbed. 

 -- Yes, the liver is in many ways a filter and in some ways a mammalian toilet of sorts. Now, where'd I put those desiccated liver tabs taken from the bovine among us? I still can't understand why they never flavored those rabbit droppings. Fruity Pebbles of Goodness brought to you direct from the finest cattle carrion!   

Habitual smokers have degenerated [that's it, Buzz, keep it up!] and weakened livers. This accounts for much of the jaundice and hepatitis epidemics among hippies [you really can't make this stuff up, and damnit, it's hard to create anything funnier than reality in so, so many instances, ain't it just!]. It can also lead to cirrhosis of the livre, a hardening of pages in texts. 

All these disorders prove marijuana is a dangerous drug. 

 -- Not quite as dangerous as getting two years less a day for a roach during that era, of having a good friend hang himself at 19 on his first night in jail for what was scheduled to be a couple years via possession of less than a gram of leaf. Fucking leaf. For a time I believed lifting weights was a gateway activity to blunt stupidity and pompous blind ignorance, but got over it by lifting weights. 

Under influence of the drug, the mind is unable to function normally . . . 

 -- Odd, Buzz, considering I would appear to be functioning normally at this very moment and getting paid for it at work here. Go figure! 

. . . and the consciousness is drawn away from intellectual and spiritual perception and pulled into sensory perception, says Great Spiritual Enlightenment Seeker Buzz, no less. The mind becomes dull and its activity is reduced to  the sensuous, emotional level of body awareness. 

 -- This from a fella who made his living focusing on piddling about with muscle development and creating an illusion of width blah, yawn, blah. If there's anything funnier than the childlike excuses and rationale behind bodybuilding, Buzz style, the anal, ego-driven hoo-ha baloney and unrealized stupidity of even attempting to claim some great epiphany while pumping and fluffing your floppers, well, I anxiously await it. 

The brain, too, is affected so that such things as walking and talking become impaired temporarily. Oh fer fucksake, adapt and enjoy the high while doing anything and everything you choose too, once you've adapted at various levels to the thing. The toxic THC accumulates in the brain cells and causes damage. The "spacing out" that smokers feel after they have stopped smoking for a while is the THC that has accumulated in the brain which gets activated again when the body tries to eliminate it from the system. 

 -- Why certainly. One can, by experimenting with quantity/potency, find just how much one needs in the p.m. to carry over to the following a.m. in a nice, mild way, if one so desires, right Buzz? 

The fact that anyone should believe marijuana is anything but harmful is a good example of how perverted the values of so many people are in this era of civilization. 

 -- Of course! Why leave out the usual conservative judgmental view from on high . . . not high? . . . on high! These scabs of humanity, these do-right asshats, these non-Johnsons, these sappers of energy, these pathetic "god"-goggled miscreants and their boring minds, average I.Q.s and redundant beliefs are pretty much unbearable to be anywhere near, physically and in psychic ways, Pot can, of course, make them a little more tolerable when forced into contact with the lot to make a buck. 

I believe any tendency to legalize marijuana because of the profit motive or inability to enforce the law is the price civilized (civilized? oh, really?) society has sold itself for. If marijuana is not curbed by law, which doesn't seem likely, the whole moral structure of society is undetermined --

 -- finally starting to get funny near the ender. 

If children can no longer be protected from exposure to this harmful drug, nothing can prevent their deterioration at ages when growth and maturity (a subjective term in this context?) are of the utmost importance. We need somehow to at least protect the young. 

This is the only hope of the future. 

There, a great punchline at the end that has me spewing coffee at work! 

Fuck all these Buzz-types and Enjoy Your Lifting!     

Tailoring the Workouts -- C.S. Sloan

Tailoring the Workouts to Suit Your Needs and Body Type

We are now going to look at ways you can tailor the programs discussed, so that you can accommodate such things as age, training experience, body type, and goals.

If you are new to training, make sure you haven't skipped ahead to the advanced approaches without laying a solid foundation first, thinking you need to better understand your body type when at the early stages of training. 

You Don't! The first thing you need to do is perform progressive workouts in a systematic fashion to establish that foundation. 

You will have noticed how some exercises make you grow faster than others. For example, you may have discovered that sumo deadlifts really cause the muscles of your back and hamstrings to grow, while conventional deadlifts just don't do that much for you. Or you may have discovered that incline bench presses, dumbbell bench presses, and dips do wonders for making your chest grow, while flat benches seem to do little other than give you big shoulders and arms. 

Everyone who has used the earlier routines should know two things: First, you should know whether you respond best to full body programs or to two-way split training. Second, you should know whether you do best on a program that uses only a few basic exercises, or whether you do best by routinely rotating exercises and repetition ranges. 

Keep in mind, too, that once you reach a more advanced level, all of the programs should only be considered as outlines. After I write these programs and you start using them, I'm not there to make changes based on how your body responds -- or doesn't respond -- to the workouts.  

Here we will take a look at four key components in all good strength programs in general. they are: 

 - core exercises
 - sets and reps
 - weight progression, and
 - workload at each workout. 

Core Exercises 

There are plenty of lifters -- especially competitive powerlifters and Olympic lifters -- who are perfectly satisficed with doing essentially the same core exercises year-round. Other lifters need constant change in order to either 1) stay interested in the workouts they're doing, or 2) to continue to make progress. 

For the most part, I would put myself, for example, in the former category. I'm happy training the squat and deadlift year-round without rotating much to other exercises. I enjoy both of these exercises more than just about any other, and I can increase both of them by just, well, training both of them.

The difference for myself is the bench press. In order to make progress in this exercise -- and other upper body pressing movements -- I need to rotate exercises on a fairly consistent basis in order to progress. If I don't rotate bench exercises, then my progress will soon start to stagnate on the lift. 

For a vast majority of you that are reading this (assuming you have built your foundation over time), you will need to change routines every 5-6 weeks, and exercises every 1-2 weeks in order to not grow stale and hit sticking points. 

Now let's take a look at the kind of training I typically utilize in order to keep my lifts continually moving upward in terms of raw strength and power. Remember, I need to rotate bench exercises regularly, and I can just train the squat and deadlift in order to keep those lifts moving. Keep in mind, as well, that this is the kind of training I need to do. But it should give you a good example of the kind of variety you need in order to continue to make gains.

First, I would (typically) begin a training cycle by performing 4 weeks of advanced-style full body training. After that, I would switch over to 4-6 weeks of Russian-style two-way split training. At this point, while my squat and deadlift should be consistently gaining in strength, my bench would start to stagnate (keep in mind that variety is build into the above two programs, but my bench needs even more than what those two programs offer). Now, it's time for me to utilize 8-10 weeks of Power Volume Training. With the PVT, variety is already built into the system -- how much variety is up to the individual lifter. For myself, I will rotate bench exercises on a weekly basis, in addition to rotating assistance exercises for the bench at least every two weeks. 

For my squats and deadlifts, however, I have to do little more other than just squat and deadlift. In fact, all I really need to do is rotate two weeks of squatting with two weeks of deadlifting. Throw in some bottom position squats and some deficit deadlifts on occasion and my squats and deadlifts, for the most part, will continue to gain strength. 

The biggest problem I run into when lifters change exercises is that they pick easy lifts instead of hard ones. The new exercise has to be as demanding as the one you're trading it out for. Also, if you're using Power Volume Training or the Westside-style program [comin' up], not only do you need to rotate exercises on a regular basis, but you also need a large number of exercises to rotate from. The more advanced you are, the more exercises you need in your arsenal. The important thing is that you must trade a heavy exercise for a heavy exercise, a medium exercise for a medium exercise, etc. 

Sets and Reps 

While strength training is an art in addition to being a science, let's keep in mind that is is a science as well, and there are optimum numbers of sets and reps to use. 

When deciding which program to use, or how you might need to alter the number of sets and reps in one of the programs you've already performed for a certain length of time, you need to take into account your goals. If you are solely interested in building strength, then there is no reason to do a lot of sets, or as much "extra" work in a session. This means, for instance, that if you're following Power Volume Training and you're just trying to gain strength, there is no need for as many progressively heavier sets until you reach your max weight (more on this later), and there is no need for as many sets of "assistance" work. 

If you're trying to gain strength and muscle mass 
more on this from Anthony DitIllo here: 
then the opposite is true. You need additional work. The more you train, the harder you train, then the better your body gets at adapting to stress. For the most part, at least; some lifters do better with lower volume when aiming to gain muscle mass than other lifters. 

As with core exercises, you need some variety built into your program. Just how much variety will, once again, depend on your body type and lifting temperament. Here's an interesting thing to keep in mind when coming across any programs you want to try:

When training for strength, rotating exercises is more important than rotating different set and rep sequences. 

When training for muscle growth, rotating different set and rep sequences if more important than rotating exercises.  

This is because for strength and power, you need to stick with sets of really low reps (5 would be considered high if strength is your goal). However, since a certain amount of variety has to be built into your program, you must rotate to different exercises. The variety for strength, then, entails rotational exercises. 

Muscle growth is different. Of course, you already know I'm a big fan of heavy weight, low rep training for muscle growth, but you can certainly have weeks where you rotate to more high-rep workouts. In fact, I believe that kind of training is paramount for advanced lifters to continue gaining muscle mess, er, mass. When it comes to hypertrophy, you can really do the same exercises almost year round and get good results. However, rep ranges must be altered. 

To explain how you might choose to rotate sets and reps, let's use the Program 2 from here . . . 

. . . the more advanced program, as an example of what a month of training might look like for a more advanced lifter. For this, I will use myself, and my body type, as an example. If I was trying to gain muscle, while also keeping my core lifts increasing, the following is what I would do during four weeks of training. 


Heavy Day

 Squat, 7 x 5 reps
 Bench press, same
 Deadlift, same

 Wide grip dip alternate with 
 Wide grip chin, 4 x 5 each

 BB curl alt with
 Pullover and press, 4 x 5 each

Incline situp, 3 x 30.

Light Day

Oly style pause squat, 5 x 5

One arm DB bench press, 5 x 5

Round back good morning, 5 x 8

DB curl superset with
Lying DB extension, 5 x 8 each

Crunch, 3 x 60

Medium Day 

Bottom position squat, 7 x 5 reps

Incline bench with pursed lips, 7 x 5

Deadlift off box, 7 x 5

Reverse grip chin, 5 x 5

Lying BB extension, 5 x 5

Hanging leg raise, 3 x 20


Heavy Day

Squat, 2 x 4, 2 x 6, 4 x 8 no wait that's the lumber I need
Squat, 4 x 8

Bench, 4 x 8

Deadlift, 4 x 8

Wide grip dip alt with
Wide grip chin, 2 x 10 each 

BB curl alt with 
Pullover and press, 2 x 10

Incline situp, 3 x 30

Light Day

Oly style pause squat, 3 x 8

Incline one arm DB bench press, 3 x 8 each arm

Round back good morning, 3 x 12

DB curl superset with
Lying DB extension, 5 x 12

Crunch, 3 x 60

Medium Day

Bottom position squat, 4 x 8

Weighted Dip, 4 x 8

Deadlift off a box, 4 x 8

Reverse grip chin, 4 x 8

Lying barbell extension, 4 x 8

Hanging leg raise, 3 x 20


Heavy Day

Squat, 8 x 3

Bench, 8 x 3

Deadlift, 8 x 3

BB curl superset with 
Pullover and press, 10 x 3 

Incline situp, 3 x 30

Light Day

Front squat, 8 x 3

Incline one arm bench press, 8 x 3 each arm

Round back good morning, 5 x 8

Crunch, 3 x 60

Medium Day

Bottom position squat, 8 x 3

Three board bench press, 8 x 3

Sumo deadlift, 8 x 3

Reverse grip chin, or, what a barber does when shaving your neck, 8 x 3

Lying BB extension, 8 x 3

Hanging leg raise (when people get strung up they superset these with 
running on the spot), 3 x 20


Heavy Day

Squat, 3 x 12

DB bench press, 3 x 12

Deadlift, 4 x 8

Wide grip dip alt with
Wide grip chin, 2 x 20

BB curl atl with 
Pullover and Press, 2 x 20

Incline situp, 3 x 30

Light Day

Oly style pause squat, 3 x 12

Incline one are DB bench press, 3 x 12 

Round back good morning, 3 x 12

Crunch, 3 x 60

Medium Day

Bottom position squat, 3 x 12

Dips, 4 x AMRAP with bodyweight only

Deadlift off a box, ahem, 3 x 12 

Reverse grip chin, 3 x AMRAP bodyweight only

Close grip bench, 3 x 12

Hanging leg raise, 3 x 20

Weight Progression

One of the most important yet often neglected components of strength training is weight progression. The kind of weight progression you utilize should be based on your goals, your body type, and the number of repetitions being used on an exercise.

When beginners start on a heavy/light/medium, 5 sets of five program [note: my error there, that should read five sets of 5], for instance, one of the first things they need to understand is how to program in weight over the course of the 5 sets. For most lifters the 5 sets should be evenly spaced apart in poundage steps. The 4th set, however, is often the "tricky" set for lifters. A lot of lifters, myself included, like to take a 4th set that is very close in weight to what will be used on the 5th set. When I do this it actually makes my 5th set stronger.

Using squats as an example, here is what 5 sets of 5 would look like for myself: 

135x5 | 225x5 | 315x5 | 405x5 | 425x5. 

To be honest, I would use more than 5 sets on squats. The amount that I use, and my age, entails that I do do so. Otherwise, I would be risking injury. Here is an even more "realistic" version of what my squat would look like if I were using 5 reps: 

135x5 | 225x5 | 315x5 | 350x5 | 405x5 | 425x5.

Other lifters who are just as strong as I am, prefer to take a 4th set that is not so close to their 5-rep max. Assuming one of these lifters was using 5x5, this is what his weight progression might look like: 

135x5 | 225x5 | 315x5 | 350x5 | 425x5.

Another factor here is the number of reps that are going to be used. Generally speaking, the higher the number of reps in sets, the fewer sets that need to be performed. Let's assume that a program calls for sets of 10 in the squat. Let's stick with squats as our example here. The number of sets for 10 reps will depend on the level of strength-fitness of the lifter. Generally, for sets of 10-12 reps, there is no need for more than 3 or 4 sets. Possibly more for advanced lifters who are both well conditioned and have a high level of endurance-strength. And it would possibly be less for J. Arthur rank beginners who reach their 10-rep maximum on the second set.

If I was doing sets of 10 reps in the squat, my progression would look something like this: 

135x10 | 185x10 | 225x10 | 275x10.

Obviously this is a pretty good squat session, even though only 4 sets are involved. 

Okay, now let's say that I am going to do sets of 3 reps for my squats. Here, my weight progression would be different. For one, not only would I be using a lot more sets, I would also begin with a few sets of 5 in order to warm up properly. Here is an example of my weight progression for 3's: 

135x5 | 225x5 | 275x5 | 315x3 | 405x3 | 450x3 | 465x3 | 495x3.

Now, keep in mind that all human thought processes are disturbingly inefficient endeavors based on protecting mental ruts and end in short circuits. Don't believe me? Yes! See how well those ruts hold. No! -- that all of the programs incorporate progressively heavier sets, as in the examples above. Several of the programs entail "straight" sets where you use the same weight on all of your work sets. 

Let's say that I am going to use a squat workout that requires 5 x 5 using the same weight on all sets. Here is what my hypothetical progression would look like: 

135x5 | 225x5 | 275x5 | 315 x 5x5.


Another component that you need to have an understanding of is workload. When a program here calls for 3 days a week of heavy/light/medium workouts, what makes a workout "light" or "heavy" is its workload, workload being the amount of weight lifted x number of sets x number of reps.  

I have had lifters write me or talk with me requesting that I outline a program for them. If they're at the beginner or intermediate level with regards to their goal (strength, muscle growth, or a combination of both), then I always have them perform a heavy/light/medium, full body workout. Invariably, several of these lifters will call me or write back wondering why they aren't making enough progress. When I have them write down what they're doing in order to assess the problem (even though I've already guessed what the problem is), they're usually surprised to hear that they're simply doing too much work on their light and medium days. 

The extra work is usually because they don't feel as if they've had enough of a "workout" on the light days, so they do a bunch of sets of curls, or chins, or, well, you name it. Because they're doing these assistance lifts with such light weights, they assume it makes them perfect for the "light" training day. But when we look at their total workload throughout the week, it's clear that their "light" day is actually heavier (more total workload)  than their "heavy" day. While training with such a workload is fine for a week or two -- in fact, I require it from some lifters, I work with -- it can lead to overtraining if done persistently over the course of several weeks. 
Let's take a look at two of the hypothetical squat workouts I used in our "weight progression" discussion to further understand just how workload affects your training. If you look at the workout I used for 10 reps of squats:
135x10 | 185x10 | 225x10 | 275x10
and the workout I used for 3 rep sets of squats: 
135x5 | 225x5 | 275x5 | 314x3 | 405x3 | 450x3 | 465x3 | 495x3 
you would probably assume that the 3 rep workout was the "heavier" session, using more total workload. But is this the case? Well, actually it is, but not by much. Despite the fact that heavier weights were used and twice as many sets, the workload for the 3 rep workout is 9,565 pounds, and the workload for the 10 rep workout is 8,200 pounds. If I had performed 5 sets of 10 reps instead of just 4 sets of 10, then the 10 rep workout would have been heavier. 
In case you haven't already figured it out, this is what makes "straight sets" so particularly demanding on your muscles and nervous system. Sticking with the squats and using my straight-set "5 sets of 5 workout" above:
135x5 | 225x5 | 275x5 | 315 x 5x5
the total workload for that workout is 11,000 pounds, more than either of the previous squat workouts. 
One more thing about workload: AS you become more advanced, your total workload should consistently go up. The more workload you can tolerate (up to a point, obviously), then the bigger and stronger you are going to be. 
Enjoy Your Lifting!    

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