Monday, January 31, 2022

Back Specialization -- Charles A. Smith (1954)


Originally Published in This Issue
January 1954

While it is praiseworthy to know the actual functions of your muscles, and while this knowledge will take you a long way to your goal of power and physique perfection, it isn't sufficient in itself to produce the best results. There are other and equally important things the advanced bodybuilder must be aware of, if he has any intentions of entering the ranks of the Champions. No longer is bodybuilding a hit or miss affair, but, thanks to the Weider Research Clinic / Cleaning Supply Closet, a science capable of effecting the most amazing changes in physical development. 

It is true that trial and error plays a large part in bodybuilding, but only insofar as experiment and experience are concerned. This is the reason why we have been able to build up such a large file of "cases" in the Weider Research Clinic. The top bodybuilders have sent us their training experiment results, what they have experienced during their workouts, and how they have benefitted in bulk, greater definement and strength from them. All this vast store of bodybuilding knowledge has been evaluated and then incorporated in the WEIDER CHAMPIONSHIP COURSE . . . 

Here, a skeletal summary of the training only:

or here:

 . . . so that every weight trainer, no matter what stage of the game he is at, can with sureness and the greatest possible effect, make the most of his potentials and arrive quickly at the peak of muscular form.

But what I want to point out is this . . . that those thousand and one tiny details, seemingly of no importance individually, are important collectively and are the success ingredients in the Weider Championship Course . . . details like positioning of the arms in certain movements . . . the effects of fewer repetitions and more sets . . . the temperament factor . . . the influence of the emotions . . . diet and relaxation . . . principles of flushing and split routines . . . irregular workouts . . . saturation points . . . power routines . . . special apparatus . . . food supplements . . . training aids . . . all discussed at length and thoroughly explained in the WEIDER SYSTEM . . . a claim no other course of barbell instruction can make. 

Just how important all these things are to the bodybuilder is quickly seen when he undertakes a course of specialization. For it is then that the basic rules of bodybuilding have to be supported, boosted by other factors that are part of the specialization program. But such a program places extra demands on the physique, demands which have to be met. Harder work, intense concentration and longer, more severe training periods must be offset by changes in diet and living habits. 

A specialization program contains factors which must be given undivided attention if the routine is to be successful. For instance, the personal preference of the weight trainer for a particular exercise or training principle has to be taken into consideration. it is possible that the body builder has up to this point, used the strict forms of exercising, because these have supplied his requirements. But when he wants to advance beyond a certain point, these rigid movements do not always produce the physical qualities he seeks, and he has to turn to other principles of exercising . . . cheating or peak contraction movements.

Then too the program which he has previously used may have been of such a nature that it even influences the type of specialization routine he is thinking of undertaking. This is true to a certain extent where strict or cheating exercises have been used. And it applies even more so where the muscles have been exercised in GROUPS

For instance, take the bench press. This works three major groups . . . deltoids, triceps and pectorals. Therefore it would be incorrect for a bodybuilder to use, say, incline bench presses in a specialization program, since they would be too much like the bench press to give him more than minor effects. In this case a wide variety of movements is needed for the group on which the bodybuilder is specializing.

Forming the foundations of any specialization program is this rule: "Specialization means training for proportionate development." 

There are too many weight trainers who undertake such a schedule, merely to make one section of the physique outstanding. Or is it possible that the arms, say, are far in advance of the rest of the development and the bodybuilder works on them twice or three times as much as on the other muscle groups, merely to make them even larger and more muscular than they re, or because they gain very quickly. The result is he appears all arms and nothing else, a gross distortion of all that is ideal in barbell training.

The type of program I'll describe later should only be followed if there is a decided need for it. If the upper back is lacking in muscularity, power, and form, then back specialization is needed. If you already have an outstanding back development, then you should closely examine your physique and see what sections of it detract from the whole. Then work on these! 

In my last month's article, I dealt with the functions of the muscles, the minor groups of the back that lend so much to the overall appearance of strength and development. You should now have a  good knowledge of the function of the muscles, exactly what they can do, and what exercises are good for them.

First note the formation of the program. There are two training principles used: CHEATING and RIGID FORM. The cheating movements have a more general effect than the ones performed in strict style. The looser exercising form produces bulk by getting at the deep fibers and keeping them flushed with blood. It also affects a much wider range of muscles than the rigid moves which are restricted practically to the individual groups. Thus the best features of each principle are used to obtain an overall effect of COMBINED bulk and muscularity. 

Byproducts of the program are stronger arms and shoulders. As you know from last month's (durn it, where it is it!) explanation of muscle function, the back muscles not only move the shoulder blades but also the upper arm bones and the shoulders. Larger triceps and more powerful front and back deltoids can be expected. These can be varied from workout to workout for maintenance of training enthusiasm and to combat physical and mental boredom. You can use the cheating exercises first and the strict ones next. You can reverse the procedure, performing strict first and cheating last, or you can alternate one strict and one cheating. Other combinations are possible, but these are the main ones.


EXERCISE 1. Bent Forward Kettlebell Swings. 

Take up the position shown in illustration 1. With a slight heave up of the trunk, swing the kettlebells up level with the shoulders, lower and swing them up again, arms horizontal, but take them back a little further with each swing as shown in the illustration. The first swing should be straight up to shoulder level and should progress back until the last swing finds the arms straight along the sides of the body and the kettlebells level with the buttocks.

EXERCISE 2. Forward Dumbbell Swings on Exercise Bench. 


Lie face down on an exercise bench so the head and upper shoulders are just over one end. Get your training partner to hold you down on the bench. Raise the upper back, head and shoulders with a sudden motion, at the same time using this momentum to start the dumbbells up and out to the front (position clearly indicated in Illustration 2). Lower and repeat. 

EXERCISE 3. Side Swings on Incline Bench. 

Lie face down on incline bench, with a dumbbell held in each hand, the arms hanging straight down. With a heave of the chest off the incline, start the bells on their way up and swing them until the arms are level with the shoulders. Palms of the hands should be facing down. Lower the dumbbells and repeat.


Exercise 4. Bent Forward Rowing Motions. 

In the illustration above you are looking down on the lifter in order to show the position of the upper arms and elbows. There is a definite reason for this. 

Start off first with the trunk bent forward at right angles to the thighs, the arms hanging straight down, holding the barbell. From this position pull the bar up SLOWLY and without any cheating assistance from the body, until it touches the chest. At the point the upper arms should be in the position shown, elbows pointing straight out. Here you must make every effort to SQUEEZE der shoulder blades together and PULL THE BAR TIGHTER AGAINST THE CHEST. Lower and repeat, rinsing as needed. 

Exercise 4. Exercise Bench Hold Outs.

Take up your position on the exercise bench as shown. The barbell should be held at the back of the neck. Lower the head below the level of the bench, then thrust the bar forward until the arms are straight out in front and LEVEL with the floor. Make the movement slow and steady and don't allow the arms to drop . . . the barbell must be kept level with the body and bench. Practice the movement with an empty bar first to get the feel of the exercise and then add on a couple of SMALL discs. 

Exercise 6. Bench Upright Rowing Motions.

Kneel at the end of an exercise bench and get your training partner to put his hand in the middle of your back. Keep the trunk upright during the exercise and don't allow it to sag forward at the hips. The bar should be pulled straight up the front of the body until it touches the chest. At this point pull the elbows back and squeeze the shoulder blades together. DON'T CHEAT! 

Start off with a single set of each exercise, 7 reps a set, and work up to 12 reps, using all the weight you can handle while keeping to the appropriate form required. After the first month, do two sets, same number of repetitions. The third month, cut two exercises from the routine and do three sets of the remaining three. From this point on, choose your own exercises, not more than three, and use them in combinations of 5 sets, 7 reps working up to 12 repetitions over time. 

Enjoy Your Lifting! 

Sunday, January 30, 2022

A Stronger Pull -- G.C. Robertson (1962)


To reach championship heights in Olympic lifting, a lifter,  must possess terrific power to push and pull with explosive speed the heavy weights needed to win a competition. To ensure that you have the necessary power to press and pull with equal ability, your training time must be divided with a specific aim in mind.

If you are weak in the press then you should at times in your career include specialized pressing routines. However, the press in most cases is the lift that receives more than its share of attention. In the many years of my association with weightlifting and weightlifters I have advised  changes in pressing routines but rarely have I had to advise lifters to do mo9re pressing, because the press is the most popular lift of the three. So much so that many lifters neglect training for a stronger pull in favor of mo9re time on pressing. This is good if you are a very poor presser and outstanding in the snatch and clean. Usually it is the other way and most good pressers have achieved their pressing ability at the expense of their pulling power.

We must not lose sight of the fact that two of the three lifts are dependent upon a powerful and explosive pull. It makes good sense to plan your training with thought to developing a stronger pull because you will have a two to one chance of obtaining a better total by improving the snatch and clean.

I am not suggesting that you cease training on the press but what I do suggest is that you plan your training so that you get at least 25% more training on the pull than you do on the press.

Power training on the pull is designed to develop more power and speed in the snatch and the clean. So this must be kept in mind when designing a routine and slow, laborious such as the slow dead lift must not be practiced over an extended period. However, a routine must be designed around the fast high pull which has become a must for all champions and would be champions. It can be adapted to both snatch and clean by simply changing the hand spacing and the amount of weight used.

The High Pull is performed as follows: 

1) Grip the bar as you would for the snatch or clean . . . arms straight, hips low, back flat, head high and hook grip to ensure that the bar does not slip from your grip before your have finished the reps.

2) Now pull with all your power and explode the weight upwards as fast as you can. As the bar passes the knees put in a full effort to accelerate the bar as you reach high on your toes with head up to gain every inch in the height of your pull. When pulling with the clean grip it may help you to pull high and close to the body by pulling the bar up onto a belt. 

3) The weight is then lowered to the floor for another rep or to the height of the knees for a dead-hang rep.

Because this is very heavy training and as power is what is sought, the reps should range from singles to five. Most lifters prefer to begin with their top snatch or clean and work up in 20-pound increases from three reps to singles with very heavy poundages. Also, the number of exercises should be kept to three and the training time should be divided into the number of minutes allocated to each exercise. Do not rush this type of training but take sufficient rest between attempts or sets. A suggested five day weekly routine follows: 

Monday -- Press 40 minutes; Power Snatch 40 minutes; High Pulls, Snatch Grip 40 minutes.

Tuesday -- Squat 60 minutes; regular, half and quarter.

Wednesday -- Press 40 minutes, Power Cleans 40 minutes; High Pulls, Clean Grip 40 minutes.

Thursday -- Same as Tuesday. 

Friday -- Press 40 minutes; Power Snatch 40 minutes; High Pulls, Snatch Grip 40 minutes.

Power training on a five day per week schedule cannot be extended over too long a period or staleness and loss of interest will result. The routine mentioned should be used for six weeks then changed for a three workout per week schedule employing the three Olympic lifts for three weeks then back to the six week power training routine. After two six-week sessions of this power routine you will show great improvement. When you feel that you have had enough of this power routine, continue with the Olympic routine with the inclusion of either the squat or high pulls in each training session. 

Train hard, rest well and sufficiently, eat well and success will be yours if you persist. 

Courtesy Vimy Athletic Club News Bulletin

Enjoy Your Lifting! 



Saturday, January 29, 2022

46 Intensity Techniques, Part One -- Nick Nilsson

A ton of Interesting material from Nick Nilsson here


This is the most popular and consequently the most abused intensity technique. A spotter is used to provide enough assistance for the trainer to be able to complete the rep. The abuse comes when the trainer relies on the spotter for assistance during most of the set. The most obvious example is the bench press. Forced reps should not be done every set like some trainers do. Spotters should also provide only just enough help to keep the weight moving; do not take the weight away from the trainer. Properly executed forced reps are very demanding. 


This is simply moving the weight through a partial range of motion (usually, but not necessarily, the strongest range of motion of the exercise, e.g., the top six inches of the bench press). This allows much more weight to be used if it is done as a separate set. Partials can also be done at the end of a set to extend it. Continue with the same weight but do partial reps, shortening the range of motion more as you tire until you are just doing lockouts. 

Partial squats, moving the bar only a few inches with a huge amount of weight on your back are a great way to build power, density, and confidence. Partials can be done anywhere in an exercise's range of motion. They can help you get through sticking points if you do partials at and through the sticking point. Sometimes when you hit a plateau, it is not due to muscle strength but connective tissue strength. Partials can help overcome this. 

Partials can be done in a continuous manner without taking tension off the muscles, or in brief reps, allowing the weight to be supported on the racks for a few moments before doing the next rep. The continuous style provides more muscle tension but reduces the amount of weight that can be used. Don't bounce the bar off the pins. Develop tension in the muscles gradually so you don't jerk anything out of the sockets. 

Partials in the contracted position can be very powerful. Examples include bentover row partials and curl partials in the top position. These are a great movement to finish off a muscle with. Conversely, stretch-position partials can be very powerful too. They will help recruit a large amount of fibers due to the extreme emergency situation created by using a greater than accustomed amount of weight in that position. Taking this concept to set design, try doing partials in the three basic positions of a muscle: mid-range, stretch, and contracted (in POF order). This will fire a ton of fibers using extremely heavy weight.

Another related technique is partial negatives. This is the same concept as negatives (see Negative Training section for greater detail), only instead of using the entire range of motion, you only use a part of it. This can be the strongest range or the weakest range. For example, if you're doing negatives on the bench press, about halfway down, the leverage changes and what you could control for the first half of the movement, you can't for the second half. The solution is to do them as two separate movements with two different weights. 

Partial drop sets can also be done to really burn out the target muscle. An example of this is the one for shoulders done on the shoulder press machine in the stretch position. 

If you use a lot of partial movements, it is very important to stretch after each set. It is also a good idea to finish with a set that takes the muscle through a full range of motion. A static hold and a negative is a good way to do this as it keeps a lot of tension on the muscle all the way through the entire ROM. Hold in the stretch position for as long as possible at the bottom of the movement. 


Do a set of an isolation exercise for a muscle group, then, with no rest, do a compound movement for it; e.g., dumbbell flyes then barbell bench press. This fatigues the target muscle and allows the fresher secondary movers to push the target muscle harder.

A variation of this is the pre-exhaustion giant set. A good example is triceps, shoulders and chest. This variation will push the triceps to the limit, and work the shoulders hard. Start with a triceps isolation exercise such as pushdowns. Go to shoulder press, which works triceps and shoulders. Then do bench press, which works the triceps, shoulders and chest. Each progressive set will allow another muscle group to continue assisting. 

For lower body, try it with hamstrings. Start with leg curls which isolate the hams, then move to stiff-legged deadlifts, which work the hams and glutes, then move to lunges which work the hams, glutes and quads.

The pre-exhaust concept can be extended to an entire workout. If you wish to push your triceps harder, try doing them first, followed by chest. You may limit your chest workout but your triceps will be pushed a lot harder by doing chest first. This can be applied to biceps and back, shoulders and chest, or calves and thighs. 

Pre-exhaust exercises need not be limited to full range, isolation exercises only. Pre-exhaustion with a heavy partial stretch movement followed by a lighter full range or contracted movement works very well.


This entails doing a set to failure with a weight then immediately doing another set to failure with a lighter weight. This can be done as a double-drop (reduce the weight once), triple-drop (reduce the weight twice), or down-the-rack (use every consecutive set of dumbbells down a rack) sets. As 

As a basic rule of thumb, reduce the weight around 10% with each drop. Another useful way to do drop sets is to pull 45 pound plates off if you're doing an exercise where several are being used (e.g. squats). It is also possible to load the bar with smaller plates to reduce the amount of weight dropped. This is one of the most time/energy efficient ways to train, especially if doing an abbreviated or maintenance program.

Down the rack drop set -- if you are doing lateral for your shoulders, for example, start with a weight you can get 6 reps for, then pick up the next lightest set of dumbbells and go again. Repeat this procedure until you get to the lightest dumbbells. This ideas works well with selectorized machines. Simply keep raising the pin to the next lightest weight. Don't feel confined to drop only one notch or dumbbell. You may drop two notches or skip a pair of dumbbells. This can depend on the exercise. You may finish a set with very heavy weight and may be unable to do another rep with the next lightest weight, as it is still very heavy. It is also not necessary to stick to a set number of reps during the drops. You can try doing one rep with each drop or do as many as it takes to fail at each drop. Obviously, the lighter the weight gets, the more reps you will be able to do.

Heavy-Light drop set -- do a set of heavy reps then immediately drop to a light weight and concentrate on form and squeezing the muscle. Another option is to do heavy partial movements in the power rack, then immediately move to a moderate to light full range movement. 

Negative drop set -- use a weight you can only do one or two negative reps under control. Do one or two reps, reduce the weight a little bit (about 10%) then do another rep or two. Continue this for a number of drops. This technique works well with single arm cable exercises such as cable laterals because of the selectorized weight stacks and the assistance you can give yourself with your other arm. This is a very powerful technique and should be used sparingly. To really burn out, finish with a static hold on the last rep of this.

Fiber sweep triple drop -- this type of triple drop set works three different ways. The first set of the drop, use a very heavy weight (about 85-90% 1RM) and do 2 to 3 reps with it. This will work on relative strength and connective tissue strength. For the second drop, use a weight that allows 8 to 10 reps. This builds muscle mass and circulation. For the third drop, use a very light weight and do 6 to 8 fast, explosive reps (one second up, one second down). This will work the explosive fibers and the neuromuscular system. Another option on the last set is to do a set of very high reps with a very light weight (30-plus reps). 

Constant triple drop -- this means you do each triple drop for the same amount of reps. Different rep ranges will work different aspects of the muscle. Low rep drops will boost strength (reduce the weight only a little with each drop). Drop sets using more reps will require greater reductions in weight.

Antagonistic superset triple drops -- do a superset for two antagonistic muscles groups (e.g., biceps and triceps) drop the weight, do another superset, drop the weight, do another. 

Variation triple drop sets -- do the first set with the your strongest variation and go for power. Do the second drop set with your next strongest variation and go for feeling the muscle. Do the third drop with your weakest variation and use very strict form. You can also do that backwards and start with the weakest variation first. 

Pre-exhaust drop sets -- do a set of isolation work for a muscle then do a compound drop set right after. Lateral raise -> Press drop set, for example.   

It is also possible to pyramid your drop sets. Do your first set as a normal set. Do the next set with only one drop Do your third set with two drops, etc.


This is a variation of the triple drop set. Do the triple drop (two weight reductions) then quickly go back and do the starting weight for a few reps. Usually you will be able to get one or two. The reason for this is that the last of the drop sets is using a lighter weight, which is recruiting different fibers. 


Do a triple drop set of an isolation exercise, e.g., flyes, then immediately use the starting weights for a set of a compound exercise for that muscle group, e.g., dumbbell bench press. You can also do barbell benches if you have it set up and ready to go. This is a type of advanced pre-exhaust training.


At the end of a set, when you can't do any more reps with good form, use a bit of body swing or momentum to get the weight past the sticking point. Do not cheat excessively or you may cause injury. Cheat only to work the muscle harder, not to make the exercise easier.


This is an advanced technique that allows you to get more reps with the same weight. Do a set to failure. Rest for 5 to 10 seconds then do a few more reps with the same weight. Do this once or a few times depending on your energy levels and how far you wish to push. With this technique you can take a weight you can only do for three reps and do a set of six or more with it. This technique works very well for high rep training as well when lactic acid burn causes you to stop a set. Do a set of calf raises until you can't take the pain, for example, then do more reps until you seize up again. Shake it out and continue. This allows you to push to muscular failure instead of lactic acid failure.


This is a good way to train if time is limited. Supersetting involves doing two exercises with no rest in between. There are a number of different types of supersets. 

The first is to do two different exercises that work the same bodypart, e.g., incline curls -> barbell curls. Isolation/compound supersetting -- this is simply pre-exhaust supersetting. 

Do a set of an isolation exercise then a set of a compound exercise, e.g., flyes -> bench press. 

Antagonistic supersetting -- do a set of an exercise for one bodypart then immediately do a set of an exercise for the antagonistic bodypart, e.g., barbell curls -> triceps pressdowns. Antagonistic supersets can help each muscle group recover while working the other muscle. Back and chest, or quads and hamstrings are other examples. 

Simultaneous supersetting -- do one rep of an exercise then immediately do a rep for the antagonistic bodypart. Keep going in this fashion. A good example is biceps and triceps. Try doing a low pulley curl rep followed by a kickback. This way you don't even have to let go of the handle. The less time between the exercises the better. 

Maximum simultaneous antagonistic rebound supersetting (whew!) -- using two heavy, compound exercises for antagonistic parts. Use 90-95% of 1RM on both. Jump back and forth between a rep of each with no rest (e.g., 1 rep bench, 1 rep bentover row, 1 rep bench, 1 rep bentover row, etc.). You will be able to get more reps on both. Go until you can't do anymore on your own. Use easy-to-get-to exercises, e.g., bentover rows and bench presses. This can also be done with partial exercises as well. You will use massive amounts of weight with this one. 

Upper body / lower body supersetting -- do an upper body exercise then a lower body exercise, or vice versa, e.g., chest then calves.

Strict / loose supersetting -- alternate sets of strict form sets with loose form (not sloppy). This can be done either way. Starting with heavy weight and using loose form, then going to less weight and strict form.

In set superset -- do two different exercises within a rep. You must be able to effect a smooth transition between the exercises in order for this to be effective. An example of this is doing a dumbbell bench press on the positive then a dumbbell flye on the negative on every rep. The Zottman curl, where you use a regular grip on the way up and a reverse grip on the way down is another good example of this. Others include regular deadlifts (up) and stiff-legged deadlifts (down); close grip bench press (up) and lying barbell extensions (down). 

Do not superset muscles that assist with the other exercises unless you do them second, e.g., do not do pushdowns then bench press -- triceps fatigue will limit your bench press work. You can, however, do the bench press first then do pushdowns. An exception to this is if you are doing it to push your triceps further with the assistance of the pecs and shoulders. Then do triceps first. This would be a type of pre-exhaust superset.

Partial / full supersets -- do a partial movement for an exercise, e.g., top range bench press, then do a set of full range reps, e.g., full range bench presses right after. To work the muscle even harder, try it with a partial movement in each the contracted and stretch position, them move to full range. You can basically mix it up however you choose, e.g., full then stretch then contracted, like a POF partial superset type of thing. 

Partial / partial supersets -- do a partial stretch position movement of an exercise, e.g., incline dumbbell curls, then do a partial contracted position movement, e.g., concentration curls. You don't necessarily have to use stretch and contracted movements but this will give you the greatest fiber activation. This technique allows you to use much heavier weights than normal.


Do several exercises for one bodypart in a row without resting in between exercises; e.g., chinups -> seated rows -> straight arm lat pulldowns -> lat pulldowns. You can do the same exercise more than once within the giant set as well. Try doing the exercises in the order of mid-range, stretch, then contracted position for a huge pump.

Alternating tri-sets -- this is a variation of the giant set. Use two exercises, but do one of them twice. Alternate it the next time, e.g., bench -> chins -> bench . . . chins -> bench -> bench. This is the antagonistic version. They can also be cone for the same bodypart, e.g., pushdown -> dips -> pushdown. 

Variation giant sets -- use variations of the same exercise starting with the weakest version and going to the strongest, using the same weight. An example is the wide grip pulldown to reverse grip close grip pulldown to regular close grip pulldown. 

Singe rep giant setting -- do one rep of a series of exercises for one muscle group. If you wish, cycle through it several times; e.g., 1 rep of bench press, 1 rep of flat flyes, 1 rep of cable crossovers, 1 rep bench, etc. Cycle through the exercises one rep at a time. You can use POF exercise order to increase the effectiveness. You may use near-maximal weights if you wish to go through once, or use sub-maximal weights if you wish to go through it several times. You can also rep out on the last exercise if you are using sub-maximal weights; e.g., take the last set of crossovers to failure. There are several different ways to set up the rep cycling within the above framework: 

1) Multiple rep cycling -- e.g., do two reps of each exercise rather than one. 

2) Pyramid rep cycling - first cycle - 1 rep; second cycle - 2 reps; third cycle - 3 reps.

3) Inverted pyramid - first cycle - 5 reps; second cycle - 4 reps; third cycle - 3 reps.

This type of cycle will necessitate starting with light to moderate weights. 

4) Variable rep cycling - 1 rep bench - 3 reps flyes - 5 reps  crossovers.

Pick a cycle and figure out your loads depending on the number of times through and number of reps. Go as quickly as possible between sets. You don't need to limit yourself to only three exercises per cycle, either.

Partial / Full within-set giant setting - this style of cycling uses the same ides as above but focuses on the useful parts of each exercise. Chest is a good example  . . . 
6 quarter reps in the stretch position of flat flyes
6 full range reps on the flat bench press
6 quarter reps in the contracted position of cable crossovers.

You don't necessarily need to use 6 reps. You can do more or less depending on how it feels. You can do just once cycle through, multiple cycles, or go up and down the cycle (flyes, bench, crossovers.)


This is a way of doing a large number of heavy sets for several muscle groups without losing as much strength from set to set. For example, if you plan on doing 5 sets of chinups and 5 sets of bench, start with 3 sets of chinups, then 3 sets of bench, then go back and do your remaining 2 sets of chinups and 2 sets of bench. The extra rest will allow you to be stronger on your last 2 sets than you normally would. 

Jumping between antagonistic muscle groups also seems to benefit strength. This can also be done going back and forth on every set instead of groups of sets. This is not a superset. It enhances recuperation by giving more rest to the bodyparts in the same workout time. This allows you to do more weight for each exercise. Jump sets are best used on antagonistic bodyparts such as back and chest, biceps and triceps, or hamstrings and quads.

12) BURNS  
These are typically done in the stretch or contracted positions. They are small, fast movements at the end of a set to  finish off the muscle. These are most often seen in calf raises. Just bounce up and down in the bottom position at the end of a set until your calves burn.


These are similar to burns in that they are small movements in the stretch position. The trick is to activate the stretch reflex with each one. This is the momentary relaxation of tension then the powerful reversal of direction.

14) 1 1 4 REPS

Do a stretch position or contracted position exercise, but instead of doing a full rep each time, do an extra quarter rep in target position in between each full rep. if you were doing flyes (stretch position), you would go down to the stretch, come up 1/4 of the way, then down, then a full rep. If you were doing concentration curls (contracted position), you would go to contraction, come down 1/4 of the way, then back up to full contraction, then down completely. 


These are done with barbells. Do a set, then, without racking the bar, get two spotters to pull off a pre-set amount of weight. Continue with that weight. Keep stripping as desired. This will thoroughly burn out a muscle. It is similar to drop sets, but there is absolutely no rest. 

Enjoy Your Lifting!  

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Overtraining - Jim Napier / Stress and Performance - Jed L. Harris

Excerpted from this book:

Jim Napier has several good books on weightlifting out:

You would have to look into his material a little deeper than this short extract to understand fully. 
Call it a teaser. 

Note: this is written for Olympic lifters, but don't let that stop you from learning and applying if you're a bodybuilder or powerlifter. It makes sense to know why you're choosing to lift the way you  currently do, right? What is it you're after? Once you make a conscious, concrete decision on WHAT you want from your lifting, the HOW will become much easier to determine. 

Some coaches and lifters believe it takes a certain amount of overtraining to reach one's goals; however, overtraining is somewhat ambiguous, until it actually happens. 

When lifters overtrain, they frequently don't take enough time off to recover by reducing the training volume and load or skipping a few workouts. This leads to fatigue or it causes an automatic reduction in the level of intensity, and the performance is involuntarily decreased so the longer and more frequent training sessions can be maintained. 

In extreme cases, stagnation can set in very quickly and the athlete can become frustrated because they are spending a great deal of time training but not making any progress. Another side effect of overtraining, is the training itself becomes the event the and actual events they think they are training for become noting more than part of the long and hard training routine. In this instance, doing muscle snatches and pushups become equal to the snatch and clean & jerk. The programming is rolled into one giant ball resembling a fitness class which is not substantially the same as the training regimen the weightlifter needs to make gains over several years or until they reach their full potential. 

The Overtraining Syndrome

Lifters who train long and hard without any emergency brake on the training intensity and volume, will eventually break down as the muscles get fatigued and small tears become larger until something gives, usually a tendon or ligament. This is called overtraining syndrome, where athletes become obsessed more with the addiction of training than increasing their performance. Lifters can also become addicted to becoming "stronger" and the emphasis is on exercises where massive weights are handled, such as the slower grinding squats and dead lift, pulls off boxes, supports with huge weights inside a rack and overloading a jerk out of the rack or doing cleans without jerks with weights in excess of what the lifter can clean & jerk successfully.

The belief that an athlete must overtrain to reach their goal or become an elite lifter is as old a belief as time itself, but overtraining has never been defined or quantified aside from being a buzzword, like getting strong, or moving fast. It would seem incomprehensible to most athletes that you don't need to overtrain, but in reality, an athlete must do the minimum amount of work that will produce the maximum amount of gains. If this type of system is not employed the lifter will not reach their full potential and they will experience bouts of overtraining, soreness and possibly minor or major injuries.  

Training is a delicate balance between knowing when to push and when to back off, when to attempt PRs and when to train for those PRs, when to use heavy weights and when to use medium or light weights, and when to rest and when to take time off. 

Any lifter that goes into the gym and trains at 90% or more of PR, or 100% of effort, will become overtrained sooner or later. It might take several months or even a year but it will be inevitable. some lifters enter the gym and constantly attempt PRs in whatever exercise or lift has been scheduled and they keep trying until they succeed or give up; a process that has no guidance or substance. 

So, what is the answer? 

I suppose the first thing we need to know is . . . what is the sport of weightlifting? The discus thrower or shot putter can generally throw at maximum effort every day and while this might not be ideal for making gains, it won't cause any problems with overtraining per se, because the thrower's implement is considerably less in resistance than the implement used by the weightlifter. Of course, the thrower can become overtrained if they train too long and hard in the weight room. In this instance, they run the same risk as the weightlifter of becoming overtrained or causing their primary event to become stagnant. For athletes other than the weightlifter, weight training is not substantially the same thing as training for the sport of weightlifting; however, the throwers might do well to train their squats and pulls (DL) the same way, with speed instead of ever-increasing weight using slower accelerated velocity (decelerated actions). 

For the shot putter or discus thrower the fun or thrill of the event is seeing how far they can throw their implement. They have the pleasure of being able to step into the throwing circle and see how far they  can throw more often than the weightlifter can, or should, see how much weight they can lift or try to lift, in their particular events. This can cause the weightlifter to contrive new events to set PRs in, like the muscle snatch, hang snatch, snatch off boxes, jerks from rack, curls, bench press, push press, etc., etc. Almost any lift can be switched from an exercise to an event where PRs can be established to fill in the time between PRs in the snatch and clean & jerk. The lifter should avoid using exercises, partial lifts, repetitions, and variations as events, where PRs are established. The energy stores and adrenaline reserves should be focused on the training of the primary lifts.

Overtraining is a symptom of overloading, either by handling too much weight, too slow, or doing too many reps (point of diminishing returns). 

For example, a lifter with a 120k snatch and 145k clean & jerk has a 1-second back squat of 170k. The following table shows how overloading effects the overall time in the clean & jerk (from platform to standing up) when the average monthly loading is 85% of PR or 115k incremental amount. 

The table above (Table 1001), although general, gives the reason for the slower than 2.5-second overall time in the clean & jerk. This was due to the back squat overloading.

170k average weight for the month @ 1.6 sec. average time for the month reveals the following: 

170 - [(1.6 - 1) x 50] = 170 - 30k and 140k - 170k = -3-k x 100 reps = -3,000k of overloading. If 50% of the overloading was performed with times of 1.5 seconds or faster, then that amount would be considered beneficial overloading (type 2 and 2b squats). The other 50% or 1,500k would be non-beneficial.

 The table above (Table 1002) shows why the overall times in the clean & jerk were faster than those in Table 1001:

140 + {(1-.8) x 100} = 140 + 20 = 160 and 160-140 x 100 = +2,000k (beneficial overloading), and if the times were distributed as follows: 

1/3rd @ 0.7-sec. (666) - type 2 squats
1/3rd @ 1.1-sec. (666) - type 2b squats
1/3rd @ 1.8-sec. (667) - type 1+ squats (irrational)

The mix of type 1, 2b and 2 squats should be scheduled so the overloading can be held at a minimum for the month. After the squats have been timed the top ending weight should be used to determine which type of squat was performed so the beneficial and non-beneficial overloading can be calculated at the end of each month or monitored during the month so adjustments to the weight or volume or both can be made. 

Whether or not a squat is beneficial or not can be predicted by the times-in-motion and the equivalent clean & jerk. There are several metrics that can be derived from lifts that have been times and recorded in a log book, but without those metrics the lifter and coach will not be able to accurately determine how those squats are affecting the lifter's performance in training and competition. Other factors, such as stress, should also be considered when planning workouts. The next chapter was written by Jed Harris and explains how stress can affect performance. 

by Jed L. Harris  

Stress is a term we are all familiar with, but not likely well-versed in. We hear about it every day. We talk about being under a lot of stress, or stressed out. That's the kind of stress we usually think about when the word is mentioned. Yet, most of us don't have a good grasp on cumulative stress, and accumulation of what I call unacknowledged or unrecognized stress.

Stress is addictive. We accumulate it from innocuous sources. These are what psychologists call "daily hassles": your car won't start, you forgot to pay a bill and incur a late fee, you overdraft your bank account by mistake, you ruin your favorite shirt in the wash, lose your phone, you're late to an appointment, get stuck in a long checkout line in a store, fail to get enough sleep, and myriad other inconveniences, mistakes and upsets. Yes, just part of life, but these stresses all add up and have a cost: a reduction of our coping resources. 

Then there are the bigger stressors like getting into a car wreck, relationship breakups, losing a job, and if you're an athlete, overtraining. 

Training takes a toll on our physiological and psychological resources. "But wait," you're saying. "That's why I engage in all sorts of recovery activities." And, "I train hard so I can adapt to the increased intensity and perform better." The problem with that philosophy, although it has its roots in the physiology of strength building, is that we don't work our muscles in a vacuum. Each thing that we do in the gym, especially training about about 80%, elicits stress hormone secretion. And, our adrenal glands that secrete these hormones do not adapt and get used to the stress. Neither do the intricate workings of other functions of our body. 

Since our mind and body interact intimately and inextricably, stress affects all aspects of our internal milieu. Stress takes a toll physically and psychologically. According to Hans Selye, who theorized the General Adaptation Syndrome, we resist stress for a time, but if it keeps up, we end up in exhaustion. The outcome of this is decreased physical performance and psychological dysfunction. Our immune systems become depressed and we get ill. We literally get sick and tired. 

There is no glory in pushing too hard since our systems are like finely tuned instruments, and abusing them can have very negative outcomes. So, if we want to be at our best for competitions (as well as daily life) it is paramount that we become more and more award of our personal symptoms of stress accumulation and waning coping resources and let this inform us of how to train and conduct our lives more thoroughly. 

To this end, I have developed a system that dovetails with traditional stress management. To be successful financially we must develop a budget. We make sure our deposits exceed our withdrawals, and choose wisely the things we spend our dollars on. I believe that same approach is relevant to physiological and psychological resources. And, following the financial analogy, we can conscientiously avoid coping overdraft by continually making coping deposits in the form of engaging in rest strategies. 

Recovering from system overtraining or overuse is much more inefficient than continually training within a safe, less taxing range while continuously replenishing resources. In weightlifting, the emphasis on PRs in the gym is counterproductive since it requires adrenalin and abuses the body, causing accumulation of micro injury and its accompanying muscle protecting. This compromises precision, thereby risking more serious injury, internalizing technique flaws (which come along with maximum effort), actually undermining confidence subconsciously by the brain associating executing the competition lifts with impending damage and pain. 

I've heard lifters chastise themselves for being afraid of a certain weight and balking at it when at the core of this is the lack of automaticity afforded by consistent repetition of less challenging poundages. If musicians constantly forced their muscles to PR when executing certain skills, they would cause similar damage and doubt their performance skills, but they don't do that. They seek automaticity through comfortable repetition while slowly increasing speed. Doesn't that sound like what Jim is advocating? 

So, in addition to training within an effective range of intensity, how do we use "precovery" preferentially instead of having to rely on cleaining up the mess of overtraining? The arbitrary system I have developed is based on what I call pre-emptive targeted rest (PTR) and may seem like a bit of a no-brainer. You probably do some of this already, subconsciously. You decide to read a good book, play an instrument, hang out with your cat or dog, or take a leisurely walk. You might like to sing, paint, draw or engage in other hobbies. The important criterion is not how good you are at these things, but how much enjoyment they give you, how they engage you, and how they calm your sympathetic nervous system (the "fight or flight" system that is activated in times of stress). 

Most of us don't use planning and intentionality doing this, however. I suggest looking at the stressful activities you know about in the upcoming days, weeks, and months, and assigning arbitrary stress values to them. These stressors can be small or large, routine, or rather random. While the impact of these is somewhat individual since different people an react to the same stressors differently, by and large, the tolls on people are fairly similar. For example, you may have a performance evaluation on Wednesday and give it a 6 on a scale of 1 to 10.  

Workouts all merit stress values. Unfortunately, the physiological tests currently available to measure the effects of stress on our bodies are fairly indirect, so stress and its impact are hard to quantify, but we can still hazard guesses. 

Maybe you have a commute to work or the gym. Give it a stress value. Work, depending on what's happening,  can be more or less stressful. Assign values to each upcoming day. Maybe you're in school. Rate exams and quizzes. Add all of these sources of stress that you  can forecast. 

Construct a list of rest activities and assign them arbitrary restorative values. Twenty minutes of journaling or drawing may be a 6, etc. A thirty minute walk in nature may be a 10. 

Then start inserting rest activities with values that offset the stressor values into your daily schedule previous to the stressors. The theory is that it's much easier to recover from a stress incurred at baseline (to which each of these rest activities allow you to return) than one you experience when you're already stressed. I call the strategy of utilizing pre-emptive targeted rest "continual return to baseline."   

Have you ever experienced temporary (or not so temporary) burnout? You notice you're more irritable and have less patience than normal? Perhaps you waste a whole day binge watching shows on TV or on the internet. Maybe you veg out on the couch for the whole day and then get angry with yourself for it. This is analogous to what Jim calls a forced reduction. You've pushed yourself to the limit and something has to give. As a psychotherapist, I can track a significant source of stress for myself by counting the sessions I have in any given week. Recently, I started to notice several symptoms of becoming really stressed that included a bit of binge spending and eating, increased irritability, sleeping difficulties and lack of motivation coupled with an overwhelming and depressed mood. when I thought about it I realized I had seen double my normal number of counseling clients in the previous two weeks. On top of that a new college semester was starting and I would be teaching a course I don't usually teach that would require extra preparation. In addition, I had a mountain of paperwork to complete and submit AND I was training at a pretty hard intensity as well. 

It hit me that I was experiencing what I preach avoiding. I was falling into the dreaded "stress pit." So I stopped and programmed restful activities into my days. Stress forecasting, utilizing pre-emptive targeted rest and refraining from training on all eight cylinders allowed me to routinely return to sympathetic nervous system baseline. 

As a result, my workouts improved as did my mood, patience, and enjoyment in life. My relationships became less strained. I really believe that if we do this enough, calm and serenity can become our norm instead of frenzy, and we will set ourselves up to be and do our best in all our endeavors including our lifting. 

Our relationship quality can improve. Our outlook on life can remain more positive. Remember, just because you can doesn't mean you should because you can until you can't anymore. But that is a pretty poor way to operate when you can back off, rest more often, waste fewer coping resources, focus on consistency, precision and effective speed, and experience more enjoyment in life and more athletic and personal success. 

Enjoy Your Lifting!  


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