Saturday, February 26, 2022

Step-Ups - Angel Spassov and Terry Todd (1989)


There was a mention made by a couple of folks in the comments about some of the "add ons" I put in articles. A few actually seem to enjoy the nonsense! 

Here's a post I originally put up in May of 2018 that has some of that. Also, I'd like to state that when I use step-ups, and I did yesterday after a long time away from them, the "box kicking" deal didn't state much about the heights. First height of the box I use is right around high box squat, above parallel, and giving you a well below parallel step-up.  Of course because you're steppin' on up on it and not sittin' back on it, the whole thing reverses. The higher the box the harder the step up. The second height is around your low box squat height, making a slightly less than parallel step up. Any person with a brain in their head can see that it'd be easier to just use two boxes, and I have two, but it's just such a great feeling to work the high step-up hard and get the reward/carrot stick of kicking the box over and continuing at the lower height. 

Nuff a'ready . . . have a laugh if you feel like it . . .  

Note: There was a period of time, not too long ago, when the Step-Up was being given all sorts of credit for all manner of things lifting. Pardon? Yep and yup, them step-ups were being hailed by experts for a while back there as better than, more effective than and safer than squats for athletes and other seekers of the coveted cereal box contract. The whole thing came and went and came again in the form of a spike in the popularity, no, the necessity of single leg training, with the "bilateral deficit" debate tacked on to give the appearance of innovation. This stuff happens. And still does! Not to worry, though. One arm dumbbell curls? Are you mad, my good man? Barbell curls are soooo much better. They weren't any sillier back then than people now. A large number of folks in the lifting community are still falling head-over-heels for the latest, greatest innovation to come down the pike. And there, my friends, is one of the strangest things about history. It comes with its own eraser designed with humans in mind! 

But don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, Buddy! Same story here as the one that went along with isometric contraction work. Man, if you could just put lessons learned from lifting history in a vial and inject people in the butt with it, eh. Nonetheless, Step-Ups are still a damn fine exercise. I danced with 'em a few decades ago in a very serious and determined manner a couple-two times per yer week for about a year. Even had a sweet little deal worked out with one of my patented Rectangular Multi-Purpose Incredibly Strong Boxes (stolen from various construction sites). Those things are still on my favorites list when it comes to two-bit gear I use. Personally, I prefer training on garbage. Dirty, worn down, bent, rusted out trash. It's like lookin' in a mirror, Baby! To each his own. It takes all kinds and too many of some. Where there's a will there's a dead guy.

That baby with the bathwater thing. I've been working on the patent for an invention that might make me rich and infamous later in time. It's dependent on human population growth getting way, way out of control, along with a marked shortage in food, water, breathable air and all those other incidentals we currently don't give a shit about. Okay . . . for the first time I'm making it public . . .

The Industrial Grade Mass Baby Smasher/Compacter!

This thing's sure to change the course of human history, I figure.
Depending on how we behave down the line. 

Ahem and Harumpah, continuing on. A rectangle, of course, has a long side and a short side. I would place the box in the "high side" position, take a barbell off the squat racks, get set up in front of the box and proceed to do alternating leg step-ups. When I was close to toast, I'd kick the box over onto the "lower side" position and continue on doing them craaaaazy step-ups. The cows would come home not long after; I'd re-rack the bar, rest with some desperate breaths . . . and then do it again. Bro. Worked out real well, too. But I was also squatting at the time, not replacing the Trusty Squat with the Secondary Step-Up.  You've probably seen some of Bruce Lee's training journal pages. They're all over the place online. I love the way he wrote "Squats: To Infinity." Yep, that was the set/rep scheme. Now, this shows his personal Eastern spiritual influences. Had he, had Lee been instead born a Westerner, let's say reborn and raised as the son of an Idaho farmer, the training log would've read "Squats: Till the Cows Come Home." But I'm sure the intensity would've been identical. That's en-ter-tain-ment, as they say. And I do enjoy it. A far cry from the run-of-the-mill lifting dross often prone to boring one to suicide. You know the schtuff, I'm sure. Especially some of the forum nonsense. "My barbell won't fit through the front door. Should I superset the hinges or go with kettlebells?" I kid you not! Scraping beneath the bottom of the barrel for participants at times it would seem. 
Comment sections anywhere on any topic are always a joy to read. A real font breakdown goin' on here. Call the word doc and book this 'puter a room in the psych ward immmmmmmmediately! These here symbol deals simply do not fit in. 

I figure in a couple more years when I'm 70 or so, and maybe if my knees are starting to get too hot, I'll bring back step-ups on a regular basis. Until then, though, at this time and for my needs The Squat Is Impossible To Top.  He said emphatically. I said emphatically, Soldier! You can do all sorts of cool things with the Step-Up. Train it all sorts of different foolish yet wondrous ways. There's no one "right" way. I've seen some real wrong ways to use an exercise, but this one's got a pretty wide variation span when it comes to various intensity techniques. So, it's not just a strength-training movement exercise lift thing. If you're a bodybuilder, enjoy the huge array of training variations strength trainers and other lifters of the intellectual Luddite persuasion will never experience, and apply all the usual methods, ignoring those few that are suspect. Possibly dangerous. Superset with. Tri-set. Rest pause. Pyramid. High reps. As many reps as possible in a chosen time frame. Working down in reps to a sweet-n-sweaty heavy poundage. Slow controlled step-ups. Step-ups done dynamically in a room with a real low ceiling. Did I mention the football helmet with Velcro patch firmly fastened and attached to its toppermost section. Apply similar in like fashion to ceiling. Once you're stuck up there start running. It's like a weightless treadmill!  No matter. No reason you should ever go stale with these babies. The spaced quadruple repeat of a select word or phrase in writing, Bra. Taken from the ancients.

Before I forget and regret it . . . a right-leg only step-up supersetted with a regular two legged squat is quite something. You do right-leg only step-ups till that leg's crapped out, then rack the bar, put a heavier (but not all that much, you'll find) bar on your back and do two-legged squats. Rest, and follow with left-leg only step-ups supersetted with more of the regular two-legged squats. Something weird happens. Once you go to the two-legged squats the fatigued leg seems to have more strength again real fast and it continues to put out real nice. White labcoats tested this out on a group of mice that had been given desiccated liver and they had 50% less dandruff than mice in the group that didn't brush their feet with Pestodent. Assholes. And I don't mean the mice. Hey, what is this stuff. Is this a personal blog with opinions or is it just a mass of free lifting stuff not available elsewhere online being offered to complete strangers at cost to the people behind it. And then dragged over to for-profit sites to boot! Sweet!!! I don't care, honestly. Use it all for whatever you choose. Hell, print it out and use it for toilet paper. It's not meant to be some kind of historical archive. Really. I just get a kick outta sharing things I find interesting. And voicing my deficient, dysfunctional opinions with occasional humor at less than tepid levels as my mind gradually deteriorates into the gift of dementia.

Anyhow . . . onward, upward, and outward. Rising, falling, ho-hum hovering.

Now, where was we and what is we gonna do?

Ah, Yes!

And now . . . on to the article . . . "Bulgarian Leg Training Secrets" from 1989.
"How Did the Bulgarian Weightlifters Shatter World Records -- Without Squats?"

Intro by Terry Todd:

I first met Angel Spassov in 1984, when I was in Vittoria, Spain to do a story for Sports Illustrated on the teenage lifting phenomenon from Bulgaria, Naim Suleimanov, from Bulgaria. Suleimanov was there to represent the Bulgarian team in the European Championships and Professor Spassov (Professor of Power Training at the Bulgarian Higher Institute for Physical Education and Sport Education in Sofia, Bulgaria) was there as one of the team's national coaches.

Spassov spoke English and so he was my primary interpreter in Spain. Also, when I spent a week of so in Bulgaria, he continued to help me understand the country and the amazing athletes on the lifting team. In the course of many long conversations, we became friends. I saw Angel later in 1984 in Los Angeles before the Olympic Games, and I took him to Gold's Gym and down to Venice Beach. Recently, it was my good fortune to spend several days with him in Denver at the annual convention of the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

Later, in Colorado Springs at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, Angel and I decided to write an article for a mainstream weight-training magazine; and we chose Muscle & Fitness because we wanted our article to have the widest possible circulation, as well as paying enough to cover all those drinks in L.A.

The article deals with a form of leg training currently in use in Bulgaria and Eastern bloc countries. Although the exercises we describe were primarily designed to increase strength and power, they might be of considerable benefit to those of you who would like to increase the size, shape and definition of your thighs and hips.

Almost a decade ago, a retired Soviet hammer thrower came to the conclusion that traditional forms of squatting were not the best way to strengthen the muscles of the thighs and hips. Many in the Soviet Union considered this heresy, as The Squat was the King of Leg Training in that country, just as it was, and still is, in the U.S.A.

Ten years ago, the full squat was the foundation of the exercise programs for almost all elite athletes in the Soviet Bloc nations, whether they were weightlifters or not. Soviet athletes -- be they wrestlers, runners, fencers, soccer players or swimmers -- all squatted. But because the retired hammer thrower had won the gold medal in the 1976 Olympic Games and because he was a respected graduate of the Central Institute for Physical Education and Sport in Moscow, his opinions were taken seriously.

His name: Anatoly Bondarchuk. This is where there should be some form of intensity-increasing music effect. Maybe that Clunk-Clunk from Law & Order. "The Clang!" Something like that.
Try it . . .

His name: Anatoly Bondarchuk.

His studies led him to conclude that a particular form of what we'll call the High Step-Up had two significant advantages over the standard back squat. Bondarchuk concluded that high step-ups:

1) produce greater gains in thigh and hip power; and
2) cause fewer injuries.

Bondarchuk does his research and coaching in Kiev. His fellow Soviet coaches and sports scientists were skeptical about his conclusions. However, as time passed and he was able to convince a few athletes and coaches in a variety of sports to drop squats from their routines and adopt the high step-up, it became clear that he had made a significant breakthrough. Many of the athletes using his "new" exercise began to make gains in power that were well beyond what they had made using only the squat.

We qualify the word "new" because, in one form or another, the step-up has a fairly long history herstory it'sstory. A review of dozens of pre-1900 books in the Physical Culture Library at the University of Texas revealed that the step-up was commonly practiced before the turn of the century. In fact, Dr. Dudley Allen Sargent, who was for years the directer of physical training at Harvard University, used a form of the step-up as he was devising one of the first known methods of cardiorespiratory training. Sargent's method, first used over 80 years ago, is called the Harvard Step-Up Test. It involves stepping up, at a timed pace, onto a bench or chair approximately 20 inches high for a set period of time and checking the pulse rate at predetermined intervals.

A short yet wondrous presentation on Sargent by Aaron Kaiser is Here:

This guy, this Sargent, did one helluva lot for weight lifting.
You should know about him. Or not.

But the step-up was also used to strengthen and develop the hips and thighs. As weight training grew in popularity in the 1920s and '30s, the step-up with extra weight began to appear in books and magazines of that era. However, the squat with added weight was also given an enormous boost in America during this same era thanks to several crucial factors:

1) The wonderful lifting of the young German immigrant "Milo" Steinborn, who could do a full squat with more than 500 pounds.

2) The publicity given to Milo's world-record-breaking abilities in weight lifting; and

3) The career of Joseph Curtis Hise, who not only gained a great deal of strength and muscle size with high rep squats, but also had the ability to fill other bodybuilders with enthusiasm for this arduous but effective form of training.

Absolutely! Hise, along with Charles A. Smith, make up the two man army of my all time favorite muscle writers. Yes, true elite authors who at times limited themselves to lines written on the pursuit of might and brawn. Of course, in the case of both these personal faves, there was much more inserted into each article. Hise, especially, used his notoriety and publishing opportunities to further his own secondary cause . . . that of realizing a strange deaf-eared and blind-eyed quality among the majority when it comes to looking over the self-imposed wall of ignorance we choose to build around ourselves. Had Hise, and Smith as well for that matter, existed in the digital, all hands on internet era, I doubt they would've lived as long as they did. How do you spell suicide, anyhow. I know there's a rope in there somewhere.

Squat Challenged

When the Eastern European nations, led by the Soviet Union, began to assert themselves athletically after World War II, one cornerstone of their success was The Squat.

 -- Before I forget . . . "An Intimate History of Killing" by Joanna Burke. Great book I'm currently reading. Deals with the kill experience of soldering in the three great wars of the last century, WW I, WW II and Vietnam. The main thrust of the text aims at delving into the rarely considered "dark"underbelly of pleasure we as humans derive from killing in the agentic soldier state, and how this pleasure rarely speaks its name upon return to the homeland. Includes letters from men and women from many countries, prose, conversations and poetry written on the topic, as well as analysis, examination and discussion of the act of sanctioned killing and the excitement, incomparable joy and existential release it brought a large percentage of 20th Century warriors involved. Excellent book by an accomplished author of several fine books.

First chapter excerpt Here:

Samuel Wilson Fussell's (author of Muscle: Confessions of an Unlikely Bodybuilder) father Paul has a mention in there, and one of his books is in the bibliography, if you have an overwhelming need to believe there's any coherence or a thread of connection going on up there. You tiresome musclehead. 

For a time, they turned to the West, particularly the United States, for training theory; but as the years passed and they developed their own coaches and sports scientists, they began to rely more and more on their own research. It was this tradition of self-reliant research that led Anatoly Bondarchuk (Law & Order Clang optional here) to challenge the supremacy of the squat.

One thing Bondarchuk concluded was that the heavy back squat was potentially dangerous to the structure of the lower back. In fact, according to his studies, it can be demonstrated that the back squat places a load on the structure of the lower back that -- in the bottom position -- is at least twice as heavy as the load on the bar.

In other words, if you are lifting 300 pounds in the full squat, your lower back is stressed to an amount equaling at least 600 pounds, usually more. The actual amount depends on the speed of descent and ascent. The faster you descend and the faster you reverse the direction and begin to arise from the bottom, the greater the load on the lower back and, according to Bondarchuk, the greater the chance of injury.

Bondarchuk also noticed that athletes who were pushing for those few extra reps on a set of squats almost always sank an extra inch or so at the bottom in order to get a bit of "bounce" to push them through the sticking point of the exercise. For this reason, and because he observed that in no sport did the athlete ever find himself in the full-squat position. Bondarchuk concluded that it would be safer to use a form of weighted step-up.

When he began his research, he was unsure of several things. He wasn't sure how high the bench or box onto which the athlete would step should be. As he began to experiment with different heights, he soon realized that he could achieve complete development of the thighs and hips by using varying bench heights, depending on the needs of the individual athlete. Being well-schooled in anatomy and physiology, he understood that the higher the bench, the more stress would be placed on the hamstring muscles. You know this . . . higher box height can be considered in the same way lower squat depth is. Conversely, he understood that a lower box would result in more work being required of the quadriceps muscles.

Finally, he concluded that the ideal position generally occurred when the athlete was standing on the toes of one foot with the other foot flat on the bench and the top of the raised thigh parallel to the floor. If, however, the athlete was weak in the hamstring area, he should use a slightly higher bench. According to research done by Osse Aura, a professor of biomechanics at the Finnish Institute of Physical Education, the hamstring muscles should be approximately 75% as strong as the quadriceps. If that ratio is maintained, the chance of injury increases while the chance of maximum performance decreases.

Bondarchuk agrees with Aura's figures and uses a form of the leg curl and leg extension to determine the relative strength of those two muscle groups. If he finds the quadriceps to be too strong, he will instruct that athlete to use a higher than normal box height and thus place more stress on the hamstrings. If, on the other hand, an athlete's hamstrings are too strong, the box height will be lowered so that the quadriceps may be stressed more completely.

Obviously, since an athlete cannot do a high step-up with even 50% of the weight he can use in the full squat, the problem of the "double loading" stress on the lower back is greatly reduced. The lower back experiences far less stress when an athlete does a high step-up with 100 pounds than when he does a squat with 300, assuming that both of these lifts are maximum efforts. Also, since it would be impossible for the athlete to "bounce" out of the bottom position in the high step-up, this exercise completely eliminates the problem of the bounce. This is an important consideration since the complete full squat, especially when done with a "bounce," is potentially harmful to the structure of the knee.

How It's Done

The high step-up starts out similar to the regular squat. The weight is placed on a squat rack and racked across the back. But then things are different. Before squatting, you would normally step backward, but with the high step-up you move forward, toward the box onto which you will step. Be careful as you position yourself for the step-up. You may need to construct a box if you can't find a bench of the proper height. And don't forget that you can use pieces of plywood under your feet to change the height range of the step-up if the bench or box is a bit too tall, or if you want to experience exercising this movement with a greater number of small height variations. You should also be careful to keep your shoulders more or less over your hips as you step up onto the box or bench. Don't bend forward at the waist in order to do the step-up. Also, slightly bend the knee of the leg onto which you lower yourself. It takes some of the shock out of the descent and is a bit safer.

Several years ago the Bulgarian weightlifting team began to drop all back squatting in favor of the high step-up. By that time, many Soviet lifters had abandoned squats and made higher lifts in the snatch and clean and jerk than ever before. Perhaps the most dramatic example of this involves the career of Leonid Taranenko, the current holder of the world record in the clean and jerk in the super-heavyweight class. Taranenko has done a 586-pound clean and jerk. Think of it! Almost 600 pounds lifted from the floor to full arms' length overhead and his neighbors couldn't care less. Until they have to move a fridge or piano up to the fifth floor.

But to many longtime lifters in this country, it is perhaps even more amazing that it has been at least four years since Taranenko has done a back squat of any kind. Besides his practice on the snatch and clean and jerk, the only form of heavy leg training that Taranenko does is the high step-up with weights. Heavy weights.

His best in this exercise is 396 pounds for a triple with each leg.

Taranenko's coach, Ivan Loginovich, one of the foremost trainers in the Soviet Union and star of the 1970 film One Day in the Life of Ivan Loginovich, was one of the coaches who worked with with Bondarchuk to perfect the high step-up and use it as a replacement for the back squat, and one of the proofs found in this particular pudding is Taranenko's many world records. Hey Hey Hey! Ouch. That phrase brings bile to the back of the throat now. Best go with an unrelated joke. Help! I'm trapped in a horse costume at the track and little men keep whipping me! The food's not bad, though, and I'm putting on all sorts of muscle mass thanks to the drugs they keep giving me.

One thing coaches in the Soviet Union and Bulgaria noticed was that those athletes -- both lifters and those in other sports -- who dropped the squat and used the high step-up developed more complete muscularity than those who simply squatted. Bodybuilders take note. Many of the coaches say that the legs of those who work hard on the high step-up look more like those of someone who did sprinting and jumping as well as squatting. So bodybuilders, who often have a desire to possess legs with the musculature of a sprinter if viewed in a fun house mirror should take note. Apparently, the balance required in the high step-up calls more muscles into play producing fuller, shapelier development.

Working Them In

As far as how to work the exercise into your training routine, one way would be to simply eliminate squats and replace them with the high step-up, using the same sets and reps and handling as much weight as you could in the step-up. Another way, if you have a desire to push your strength levels up several notches, would be to do the high step-ups as the Bulgarian National liftinG teaM does them, which is as follows (assuming that the athlete can do a maximum of two reps in the high step-up with 170 pounds:

1 x 8-10 reps with no weight
45 x 6
110 x 3
132 x 3
150 x 3
160 x 3 x 3 sets
135 x 6 x 3 sets
115 to failure.

The Bulgarian team uses the pulse rate to let them know how far to take the sets

They believe that each of the moderate to heavy sets should produce a pulse rate 162-180 beats per minute. The lifter doesn't begin his next set until his pulse has dropped to between 102 and 108. That's interesting, isn't it. There's things that this could be applied to. The metabolic ramifications of exercise pulse rate and muscular weight gain in previously trained white mice not using anabolic drugs and all that.

The Bulgarian team does virtually this same workout five or six days a week, along with quite a lot of other leg work that goes with the snatch and the clean and jerk and injecting steroids to increase recovery ability and expand capacity to train long and hard and come back and do it again right quick. As they don't say. 

If these low repetitions don't appeal to you and you'd like to stick with a more traditional approach for step-ups, you might simply do several sets of progressively heavier warmup sets, go to 3 heavy sets of 6 reps, and finish off with 3 lighter sets to failure, aiming for 15-20 reps per set. Whew, that oughta do it. And if that doesn't give you a super pump, you need to have your oil checked!

If you do adopt either of these routines, we suggest you drop all other heavy lower body exercises such as leg presses, front squats, and hack squats. You could continue with leg extensions and leg curls, and of course with calf work, but you should be careful not to overwork.

The trick in all exercise programs is to do enough to stress the muscles so that they become larger and stronger, but not so much that they can't recover in time for the next heavy session. Give this result producing exercise a try. It has literally worked wonders with the strength and power athletes in Eastern Europe, and with their bodybuilders as well, most of whom swear by the high step-up.

Make no mistake, squats are a wonderful, effective exercise, but perhaps the high step-up can allow you to make even more gains than you could with squats. It's worked out that way behind the Iron Curtain, now home to oligarch puppeteers and lower priced potatoes.

One additional thought. You should try, if your schedule allows, to do the above high step-up routine within an hour, doing no other exercises at that time unless you can fit it into the 60 minutes. It worked for Morley Safer and it can damn well work for you.    

Enjoy Your Lifting, and Have the Balls to Laugh at Yourself Along the Way!  
Find your path and try to stay in the positive lane . . .               

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Weight Training for the Athlete - Jim Murray (1957)

Norbert Schemansky 

Thank You to Bob Wildes, and Joe Roark's Iron History website. 

Here's an article from '57. Oddly enough, there were people behind weight training finally being accepted as a method of improving athletic performance. It did not just happen on its own, there were plenty of struggles I am certain. 
Here's to the real pioneers in this field.

Jim Murray is one such shining example . . .  

Among the young men using weight training at Varsity Barbell Club in Morrisville, Pa., are several who are developing into stellar performers in various sports. Operation of the club is giving us an opportunity to try exercise methods on groups that have previously proved successful for individuals.  We feel that group success carries more weight, however, than the individual, because the question always arises, "Did the athlete succeed BECAUSE of what he did . . . or IN SPITE of it?" 

Certainly the great individual success of nationally known weight trained sports stars shows the weights did not prove too great a handicap (!), and of course these men are themselves boosters for barbell training. 

Although our Varsity Club athletes are just arriving at the threshold of national recognition, we can show that weight trained athletes have surpassed the best performance of others in a given area.

Note: I did not transcribe a section here on some of Murray's young charges, choosing to move forward to here: 

The writer is especially proud of these fellow who excel at various "major" sports. This phase of weight training has been one of my biggest interests, resulting in my co-authoring a book on "Weight Training in Athletics" with Dr. Peter Karpovich. 

Of course, we have a number of fine lifters and bodybuilders, and we won the team trophy in the first lifting contest we entered, at the Trenton YMCA last year. Dick Landis became our first member to clean & jerk 300 lbs. this yhear, and he won the Middle Atlantic AAU Jr. championship in the heavyweight class. Frank Montero copped the fourth place trophy in the accompanying "Mr." contest. 

We feel that these fellows help inspire the barbell man who is already interested in the Iron Game, but believe our other athletic stars do more to convince the skeptics of the benefit of weight training. 

It is interesting to note the similarity in the training programs of these young athletes. The variations in achievement seem to me more secondary. They did the same exercises for the most part, taking turn about, and got excellent results despite different specialties. 

The following exercises are done by all our members: 

Barbell and dumbbell presses standing
Barbell and dumbbell presses lying supine
Barbell and dumbbell curls
Rise on toes
Leg extensions
Lateral raises with dumbbells

These are not always necessarily included in a day's workout, but appear from time to time in the programs of all our outstanding young athletes. There are those who advise the athlete to practice snatches, or the clean & jerk, to improve coordination. We feel, however, that these are good power builders primarily, but that they involve a specific skill with questionable transfer value. Instead, we stress basic strengthening exercises and encourage our boys to learn the specific sports skills in which they are interested. Practice is the only way to do this.

Incidentally, we do not discourage practice of the Olympic lifts, either. If any or our athletes are interested in learning them, we try to help them, because they are the type of young men who have the potential to become champion lifters as well as excel in other sports.

As the the actual amount of training done, mainly on the basic exercises listed, we try to get the athletes to think for themselves. As anyone who really understands the field will know, each individual reacts differently so it is ridiculous to have everyone train exactly the same way. We start them off on "average" programs of proven good results and encourage them to learn and set the pace for themselves. Whereas one man will thrive on 3 or 4 sets of low repetitions, 3 to 5, another will want to "warm-up" with a set of 10 and another of 8 before working into heavier poundages with low reps. Thus one man will thrive on a total of 15-20 movements in a particular exercise, while another will do better on a total of 30-40 reps (in sets). 

Aside from the results achieved by our regular members, we were interested to meet Ed Stowe, a powerful football player and wrestler from New Jersey, who starred as guard for the University of Pittsburgh and later was a tackle and linebacker in the Canadian professional league. In a workout at our gym, Ed did low reps presses behind the neck with 225 pounds, and worked up to 350 in the bench press. Weighing about 240 at approximately six feet, Ed warmed up by squatting 8-10 reps with 300 and worked up to a couple of sets of 6 with 465. Here again we have a topnotch football player thriving on heavy basic weight training exercises. 

Maybe there IS some correlation between strength and sports success! 

Enjoy Your Lifting!     

46 Intensity Techniques, Part Two -- Nick Nilsson


A ton of Interesting material from Nick Nilsson here


This technique focuses on the negative portion of muscle contraction (the eccentric or lowering phase). Use about 10% heavier than your 1RM. Use a spotter to give you a lot of help with the positive then lower the weight slowly on your own. Each negative rep should take about 6 to 10 seconds to lower. To really get the feel for a proper negative, you must not allow the weight to lower, you must actively push (or pull) against it, fighting it all the way down. It is like you are trying to do a positive rep but aren't. 

Another way to do negatives is to do the positive normally then get your spotter to add to the resistance on the way down by leaning on the bar or pulling down on it. 

Do focused negative work at the beginning of our bodypart work when you are at your strongest. See the Negative Training section for a more detailed look at negative training.  


This is a variation of negative training that is best done with machines. Use two arms or legs for the positive phase then lower it using only one arm or leg. This type of negative training is useful if you do not have a partner to work with. See the Negative Training section for a list of exercises that can be used productively with this technique. When using this technique you can alternate arms/legs or do the complete set of reps with the one arm/leg, then the complete set of reps with the other arm/leg. 

To really max out, follow the negative sets with a static hold with both limbs.  


To do this, simply stop the motion at different places along the range of motion and do an isometric (non-moving) hold. This can also be done at the end of a set. Hold the weight in the lockout position for as long as you can. This is very demanding when done after full reps then partials.


This is similar to the drop set and strip set technique but doesn't require changing weights or using spotters. The example will be barbell curls. Load a barbell then put a collar on. Add a few more pounds outside the collar. Pick up the barbell and hold some cables or bands in addition to the bar. Go to failure with all that, then let go of the cables. Go to failure again and then allow the loose plates to slide off. Go to failure with the rest.

20) 21's

This technique utilizes partial ranges of motion. Using barbell curls as an example, do 7 reps in the lower half range of motion, then immediately do 7 reps in the top range of motion, then finish with 7 full reps. 


Hang heavy chains from either side of a barbell. As you lift the barbell, you will be lifting more links of chain. This makes the weight heavier during the phase of the lift where you can do more weight. This works for bench, deadlifts, squats, curls, shoulder presses, etc. It is essentially a homemade variable resistance setup. 

Another trick you can use is to hang weights from the end of the chain so you have to lift those as well when you lock out (the strongest part of the movement). Set the chain so that the weight will be raised just before lockout. 


The idea with this is to superset two exercises that have one muscle in common. This will make that muscle the limiting group and will work it harder. Use two compound movements that both indirectly stimulate the same part of a muscle group. An example would be upright rows and behind the neck presses for the lateral head of the delts.


With this technique, you will use two different exercises alternated with each rep; e.g., lying triceps extensions and close grip bench presses; dumbbell flyes and dumbbell presses; rows and deadlifts. You should use exercises that are easy to switch from one to the other within a set. To take the set even further, when you fail on one exercise, continue with the other one until you fail on that one, too. This should be done when you use an isolation and a compound movement. You will be able to push further on the compound. 

For example, when combining rows and deadlifts, your legs will help push your back further. This whole technique is like an extended pre-exhaust superset. 

Some more examples include pullovers and presses for chest -- barbell or dumbbell; stiff arm pulldowns and regular pulldowns for back.   

Combination sets can also be done with exercises for two different muscle groups to enhance the tie-ins between them and create a smooth flow of muscle groups. Some examples include dumbbell curls to dumbbell shoulder press; stiff arm pulldowns to pushdowns for triceps. 


This is an incredibly demanding technique. Do a maximum positive rep then a maximum negative rep. Reduce the weight by 15% then go again. Repeat this three to four times. 


Well what the fuck and pardon me? That's a lotta words. This technique can instantly increase your neural drive by 10%. To do this, you train the agonist muscles simultaneously, e.g., train left triceps while training right biceps. Use the same tempo. Here is an exercise example: 

One arm pushdown and dumbbell curl. Rest up to 2 minutes and do it the other way. 

Another example could be done for back and chest using the cable crossover setup. Kneel between the two stacks facing one and your back to the other one. You will do a one are cable row with the cable from the front stack and a press/flye with cable from the rear stack. This can be done sitting on a vertical bench.

Here are some possible cable variations for your biceps and triceps using the cable crossover setup.

Use a lighter weight in the biceps exercises.

Another option is to do both on the same weight stack (as long as it has a high and low pulley on it). Do a facing curl and a facing pushdown at the same time. Set the pin to a much heavier weight than you would use for either one separately. The feeling is like spotting yourself with both arms on two exercises.

You can also try doing one, then the other, e.g., curl up (hold the handle there) then do a pushdown (moving the weight up a little more from there). Lower the pulldown then lower the curl. You can do it in the reverse order as well, e.g., pushdown then curl. This type of setup works for cross-body curls and cross-body pushdowns as well. Look in the cable sections of the Biceps and Triceps chapters for more exercise combination ideas. 

Okay! Now that the same old preliminary ideas are over, he's getting into some fresher things.

Enjoy Your Lifting!  


Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Super Strength, Part Two -- Doug Hepburn


Deep Knee Bend

Place the bar on the supports and load up the desired poundage. Your poundages will be explained in the Sets and Repetitions section. Place the hands on the bar between the inside collars and to the point where the bar is resting on the stands. I prefer to have my hands in contact with the inside collars when squatting. 

Always FACE the bar when removing it from the stands; this makes it easier to replace as you can SEE what you are doing. This is important when handling a heavy weight if fatigued. 

When the hands have been positioned on the bar bend the legs and position the bar on the shoulders. Make sure the bar is well back on the shoulders and not on the neck. Squatting leverage is enhanced in proportion to the distance the bar is positioned away from the neck on the shoulders. If discomfort is experienced when placing the bar on the shoulders place a towel or piece of sponge rubber between the bar and the shoulders prior to removing from the supporting stands.

When the bar has been correctly positioned on the shoulders extend the legs and step BACKWARDS approximately three to four feet. 

Space the feet approximately fifteen to eighteen inches apart at the heels -- toes pointing outwards to the degree best suited to the Trainee. 

Take a deep breath, filling the lungs to capacity, and then assume the low squat position whilst maintaining the back as erect as possible. When assuming the low squat position allow the weight to force the body downwards as far as possible. Throughout the squatting movement force the head upward and center the line of vision away from the floor surface. 

The breath is to be maintained from the commencement of the squatting movement and until the body is in the process of returning to the original erect position Exhale as soon as the body has risen beyond the difficult phase of the upward movement. In most cases the difficult phase of the upward movement has been passed when the legs are at a 45-degree angle.

When performing consecutive repetitions inhale two or three times when the erect position has been reached, holding the last breath as explained above. 

Always squat flat footed keeping the heels in contact with the floor at all times. The Trainee will possibly have some difficulty managing this at first as the large tendon situated in the back of the heel must acquire sufficient flexibility to allow the heel to remain in full contact with the floor when the extreme low squat position has been assumed. This problem will disappear after several training sessions.  

This 1959 edition of Homer's Iliad, retold with authority and grace by Robert Graves using a combination of prose and poetry, takes a revered classic back to its roots as popular entertainment.  Strongly recommended by the ghosty soul of D.I. Hepburn.

Author Note: When squatting do not place a board under the heels or use shoes with an elevated heel. The above practices hinder squatting leverage and direct unnecessary strain on the lower back. 

Bench Press

In my opinion the greatest single exercise for the upper body is the Two Hands Bench Press. This outstanding exercise effects all the large muscles affects all the large muscles effing affects all the large muscle groups of the chest, shoulders and upper arms. Almost without exception a person who possesses a large and well muscled chest has at one time specialized in bench pressing. 

It is important that the bench press apparatus contains supports or stands so that the barbell can be held in an elevated position over the chest without the assistance of the Trainee. This will prove an invaluable assert when training alone as heavy poundages can be handled without the aid of a training partner. 

Place the bar on the supports and load to the desired poundage. It is always a good idea to attach the outside collars to the bar to prevent the plates from moving during the performance of the bench pressing movement. 

Position the body on the bench so that the shoulders are in contact with the supports -- the back and buttocks in full contact with the bench top. The legs are to be EXTENDED before and during the exercise movements. [You read that right, not-oldtimer]. This is extremely important as the raising of the hips is counteracted during the difficult phase of the pressing movement.

To ascertain the correct handspacing grasp the bar so that the arms, when completely extended, are approximately at a 45 degree angle to the floor surface. 

Immediately prior to removing the bar off the supports inhale deeply and then quickly center the bar over the chest.

Lower the bar in a CONTROLLED manner until it contacts the chest at a point slightly below the nipples. Allow the bar to rebound off the chest surface (read that right too!) and continue its upward progress by pressing to arms' length. 

Do not, under any circumstances, exhale until the bar has been elevated beyond the difficult stage of the pressing movement. In most cases the "sticking point" of the bench press movement will be encountered when the bar has elevated halfway to arms' length.

For consecutive repetitions repeat as explained above. 

Olympic Press From Stands

Place the bar on the squat stands and load to the desired poundage. Position the stands so that there will be ample room for handspacing.

Face the stands and position the bar on the chest just as in the Olympic press and grasp the bar so that the forearms are vertical to the floor surface. Straighten the legs and remove the bar from the stands. Step backwards and away from the stands three or four feet then position the feet fourteen to fifteen inches apart at the heels. At this point make sure that both knees are forced backward and locked. This practice will alleviate strain from the lower back during the pressing movement. 

As soon as the legs and upper body have been correctly positioned, inhale, immediately after which, commence pressing the bar to overhead. When the bar has almost attained the completed press position overhead exhale and finish the pressing movement. 

Lower the bar to the starting position on the shoulders and repeat.

The Two Hands Curl

Place the bar on the floor and load to the desired poundage. Step forward to the center of the bar and then space the feet 12 to 14 inches apart.

Grasp the bar with the "thumbs around grip" with the forearms at approximately right angles to the floor surface and the palms facing upwards. While maintaining the hand grip raise the upper body to the erect position; the arms should be completely at the sides.

Take a deep breath and then commence curling the bar to the shoulders. During the curling movement concentrate on keeping the upper arms and elbows close to the sides throughout the entire movement. At the completion of the curl the elbows should be forced forwards and upwards to allow the bar to contact the upper chest. Exhale when the bar reaches the area of the upper chest. 

NOTE: Be sure that the arms are completely extended before commencing the curling movement.

For repetitions lower the bar from the upper chest and repeat as instructed.

The Two Hands Deadlift

Place the bar on the floor  and load to the desired poundage. Approach to the center of the bar and position the feet approximately 12 inches apart, toes pointing slightly outwards.

Position the hands on the bar using the "Reverse Grip". This method of gripping will substantially strengthen finger leverage thus facilitating the deadlift movement with heavy poundages. The utilization of the "Hook Grip" can be coupled with the reverse position of the hands to further improve gripping leverage and is recommended for those whose fingers are long enough to utilize this method of gripping. 

The correct hand spacing for the Deadlift is approximately shoulder width. The position of the body at the commencement of the Deadlift should be:

The back should not be rounded but as flat as possible. The knees well bent and the head up as much as possible. 

Inhale immediately before commencing to deadlift. Strive to straighten the legs proportionately with the erection of the back so that at the completion of the movement both the back and legs complete the movement simultaneously. One of the most common causes of back injury is the attempting to lift a heavy weight from the floor with the legs straight and using the back only.

The breath is to be held from the start of the deadlift movement and until the bar is in the vicinity of the waist.

Magnesium chalk should be applied liberally on he palms and fingers to improve the handgrip. 

Next: Sets and Repetitions

Enjoy Your Lifting! 

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