Monday, April 25, 2022

Abbreviated, Once Again - Ken Leistner

In the past, I've demonstrated to readers that I prefer intense work on what are considered by most in the iron sports to be limited amounts of volume and frequency. 

I am guilty as charged! 

For many who begin lifting weights as a teenager, or in my case, at the age of twelve, enthusiasm is high, the desire to what one hopes is immediate improvement is high, and the absolute certainty that one has to do "everything," or at least as much as possible, to progress is definitely present. 

Like most, I began like a house on fire, and while my commitment and unwavering focus have never changed, not even almost five decades later, I learned that for me and for most, doing too much is a lot worse than doing too little. 

A recurring theme in my writings has been a remains that the foundation of successful training must be hard work. I don't care how that hard work is defined, but it's a lot like that very well-known and oft-repeated statement about the legal system and pornography: "I may not be able to define it, but I know it when I see it." 

Some define hard work by the number of sets they complete in any specific workout. Others name it as the number of workouts per week. Still others call it total volume or tonnage, yet few would agree with my admonition that any of the parameters related to volume or amount remain secondary to actually showing up and working truly hard on whatever exercises are chosen in a particular workout. Again, I may not be able to define it but I know it when I see it.

If one is truly working hard -- let's term it "as hard as possible" at least within the context of a specific workout -- common sense then dictates that one is not going to do "a lot of" hard work. A lot of hard work is the equivalent of manual labor, and this is a conversation that becomes almost dangerous around some enthusiasts. 

Olympic lifters for the past number of decades have seen high volume and high frequency as hard work and that is the end of that conversation. The context of training doesn't really matter, if you're an Olympic weightlifter, you have to do a lot of work and do it a lot of times within any week or defined period of time. If you don't, you're not truly training hard.

Does this approach work? 

Absolutely, if you are one of the many foreign lifters who consistently wins world or Olympic titles, but I'm not sure that our lifters, and this is said with the utmost respect for the time and effort each one does put into the sport in order to improve, can say the same. Even the Olympic Training Center, designed to provide an atmosphere that is supposed to allow for nothing but training for selected athletes so that they can focus completely on preparations for a world championships or Olympic Games, has failed to produce the projected results.

In powerlifting circles, only someone who has had his head in the sand for the past fifteen years of so could deny that the type of program advocated by Louie Simmons and his many associates (and it's out of ignorance that I note only Dave Tate and Jim Wendler as those who seem to espouse some, if not all, of Louie's theories as I am sure there are many others who are just as well known) seems to be the basis of an inordinate number of powerlifting routines. To those in the sport, the results and records that this philosophy has produced justify its rightful place as the way to go, and many would also turn around and state that it should also be applied to Olympic-style weightlifting.  

Many successful strength coaches, meaning coaches who work with collegiate and professional teams that manage to keep their injury rate under some semblance of control and win more than they lose, tend to do a little bit of everything in their weight rooms. You would be hard-pressed to find any coach at the upper levels who is a one hundred percent advocate of one specific training system. It's a mix and match approach for in season, winter preparation, spring ball, and summer camp preparation when talking about football, for example. 

Examination of any of the strength programs at the levels we are referring to will reveal different "things" being used at different times of the year, and one would find it impossible to pigeonhole any of these man or women as an XYZ type person, for example. There may be a basic underlying philosophy, but most, if not all of the time, there will be as much from outside of that system as there is from inside it.

For many decades there was infighting among the coaches and athletes who used weight training as a means to improve athletic performance, and also, of course, among the various factions of the iron or lifting sports. Powerlifting of weightlifting? Bodybuilding and tissue enhancement or pure speed movements in the weight room? The reader could compile a list of antagonistic positions that could fill a whole book. In the mid to late nineties, most strength coaches at least, and a number of athletes from the lifting sports, realized that it was more productive to look at the various philosophies and search out the common threads of success rather than the obvious or even subtle differences in approach. 

Not surprisingly, hard work, highly intense work, and training hard on a consistent basis, as well as supplying the various factors needed to support effective training, like adequate nutrition and recovery, truly covered all the bases. It wasn't volume or frequency or absolute weight or any of the other bandied about factors that for years dominated conversations. The cornerstone of any successful program was hard work done consistently -- and a program design that allowed hard work to, in fact, be done consistently. Illness, injury, and any other interruption of consistent, hard training hindered progress or success. 

Returning to common sense, it's obvious, if only to me, that hard work -- truly hard work -- and "a lot of" hard work are and remain mutually exclusive. 

If you're training very often or attempting to do a lot in every workout, you're not truly training as hard as possible because the body isn't a machine, there is a breaking point. 

Some who advocate high volume and frequency work will state that there is a waxing and waning of intensity and load so that one can continue to progress over time. They also might want to consider that a more efficient way of arriving at the same place is to work much harder, but within the confines of volume and frequency that allow for continuous hard work and subsequent and simultaneous recovery. 

Perhaps this abbreviated alternative is something to consider for now. 

Enjoy Your Lifting!   

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Trap Specialization -- Don Ross


Chicago To build or not to build -- that is the question. Trap building is somewhat controversial among trainers. Some argue that giant traps can detract from shoulder development and create the illusion of narrow shoulders. For those bodybuilders who have problems with shoulder width, excessive trapezius development can be detrimental to winning contests. On the other hand, it is most undesirable to have a wide shoulder structure with no muscular development between the deltoids and the neck. Many bodybuilders, even those winning contests, have this problem. 

Of course, it's next to impossible to win a Most Muscular trophy without spectacular trap development. The popular trap pose known as The Crab is considered the standard most muscular pose. Bodybuilders showing exceptional trap development are referred to as having "Herculean" physiques. Large traps are indicative of tremendous strength. The strongest weight lifters and wrestlers have massive development in this area. Of course, giant traps should be balanced with giant arm, chest and shoulder development. 

To train or not to train? Build those traps by all means, is my answer. If they respond faster than surrounding muscle groups, cut out specific trap training and they will be maintained by deltoid work. I now use barbell front raises to develop my frontal deltoids, but I find that they also maintain my traps and, in fact, create muscular gains in that area.

The program I am about to disclose is designed to create maximum development in a short period of time! Follow it with all your effort and your traps will swell with solid gains in just weeks. 

Do this program following your deltoid work. Use wide grip press behind the neck, dumbbell presses or side laterals for your delts -- then go on to your specialization program. 

The primary function of the traps is to raise the shoulder blades. These muscles start at the back of the neck, down the neck and across the shoulders to the deltoids, creating a mound of muscle on either side of the neck. The line of these muscles then proceeds down the center of the back, tapering off in sort of a heart shape, bisected by the spine, ending in the middle of the back. Combined with the rhomboid, and teres major muscles, the trapezius form the muscular detail of the upper back above the latissimus dorsi. 

These muscles respond best to heavy weights and low repetitions. The trapezius are vulnerable to muscle pulls, so train in a sweat shirt and don't neglect your warmup exercise! 

Do the following program three days a week: 

1) Upright Row Warmups - Use a moderate weight. Unlike the upright rows you use for deltoid development where you'd use a narrow grip on the bar, hold the bar with your hands spaced shoulder width apart. Keep your back straight and pull the bar to your chin. Get those elbows up as high as you can. Do 2 sets of 12 reps. 

2) High Pulls - Load up the barbell to where you can barely make a 6th rep on your first set. Start by gripping the bar as though you were about to clean it to your shoulders, rear end down and head looking straight forward. Stand, and at the same time pull up on the bar, pulling it to mid-chest, then lower it back to the floor and begin your second rep the same way. Use the same weight for 3 sets. By the third set you should be down to around 3 reps. Try to force an extra rep out. 

3) Dumbbell Upright Row - Use dumbbells that you can do only 6 reps with. Grip them, with palms facing you, with the inside ends of the dumbbells touching each other. Pull upward and you did with barbell upright rows, keeping from leaning back. Get your elbows high and as you pull up, the dumbbells move apart from one another. Lower the dumbbells at half speed. Do two sets. 

4) Shoulder Shrugs - Use a heavy weight on this one. It should be a good 20% higher than the weight you used for high pulls. Grip the bar with palms in and dead lift this weight in good form. As the weight pulls your arms downward, shrug your shoulders high. Try to touch your shoulders to your ears. Then move your shoulders back and then down. Do 3 sets of 6. Aside from bringing out those traps, this exercise will help correct faulty posture. 

5) Dumbbell Shrugs - For a final pump, hold two heavy dumbbells at your sides, palms facing each other. Bring both shoulders high as in the barbell shrug. Hold in the shrugged position for two seconds - then slowly lower. Do 8 reps. Rest only a few seconds and do a final set of as many as possible. 

Two or three months of diligent training on this program should create some very pleasing results. 

Enjoy Your Lifting!  

Clyde Emrich


1200-pound 1/4 squats at 198 bodyweight 

First Middleweight at 198 to Clean & Jerk 400 pounds.
Here, with 409. 

At 90, strength coach for the Chicago Bears.

A Bear on Strength
by Paul E. Young

In the relatively few years that I have been involved in the strength training profession, I have had the good fortune to visit with some of the top people in the field. At one time or another, they have all mentioned Clyde Emrich as someone who has has a profound influence on them, not only professionally but personally. 

As a weightlifter, Clyde's career extended from 1947 to 1968. During those years, Clyde competed nationally and won internationally. He won numerous state and regional titles, set national and world records, competed in the Olympics, and was one of our country's top weightlifters in his day. 

Clyde's coaching career is no less impressive. He has been with the Chicago Bears for 23 years. He was one of the first strength coaches in the NFL. He is regarded as many as the elder statesman in the strength coaching profession. His advice and counsel are continually sought by his peers.  

Question, Paul E. Young: How did you get started lifting weights? 

Answer, Clyde Emrich: My first exposure was when I was 10 or 11 years old, watching some kids lift in a basement. I thought it was quite interesting. When I was 15 or so, I bought some stretch cables and started making my own weights out of weighted cans of sand and cement. I started performing the exercises that I saw in Strength & Health and other magazines at the time.

Q: Did you have a coach that helped with your training? 

A: No . . . never had a coach. 

Q: What about later in your lifting career?

A: No, I was always self-coached. I knew that if I wanted to develop certain muscles I had better understand how they worked, so I would go to the library and read and study books on kinesiology and anatomy. I knew if I wanted to make my muscles stronger and bigger that diet was important, so I read everything I could on nutrition. I taught myself how to lift by trying to copy the pictures in the magazines. Sometimes I would wonder how they could get into such position. Later I would see a photograph sequence of the exercise, which would then answer my questions. 

I trained in my basement, performing snatches, clean and jerks, presses and squats. Even right up to the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, my training was done in my basement. Also, all my training was done with an exercise bar, not an Olympic bar with revolving sleeves. I feel that this actually helped my pulling power as I had to have greater strength to elevate this stiff non-revolving exercise bar as opposed to a springier Olympic bar. I also never used lifting straps of a hook grip. I remember one time performing jerks off a rack in my basement with health shoes hanging on the ends of the bar for added weight. Since the largest plates I had were 25 pounds, I had to place bricks or boards under the weights to get the bar to approximately the right height to perform my lifting. 

I have always loved lifting weights. I think that I enjoyed training just as much or maybe more than competing. On days that I was to train, I remember waking up in the morning and thinking to myself, "All right, I get to train today."

Q: Did you have any lifters that you looked up to or tried to emulate? 

A: John Davis, of course. I really admired his lifting ability. Pete George was outstanding. Great technique. I was impressed with Pete because he was so strong for not being excessively muscular. Stan "The Flash" Stanczyk had incredible pressing power and great technique. Tommy Kono was an outstanding lifter and a good friend.

John Davis was a real hero. I remember a lifting contest I was at in New York -- in the training hall were all of the great lifters of the day. John Davis walked over to me and said, "You're Clyde Emrich, aren't you?", and we visited briefly. What a treat. Here was the great John Davis coming over to talk to me, Clyde Emrich. That made a lasting impression upon me -- what a great person.

Q: Did you participate in any other sports or were you strictly a weightlifter? 

A: Just a weightlifter. I was always quick and played neighborhood games, but I only competed in weightlifting. I have a son who has run 100 yards in 9.93, so I think there is some speed and quickness in the family.

When I started out lifting I didn't start out to be a weightlifter. I didn't know the difference between bodybuilding and weightlifting. I performed the snatch for the same reason as anyone else would perform arm curls -- it was an exercise I used to get stronger. 

Q: How did you get into strength coaching? 

A: In the early 1960s when isometrics were coming into use, I was training at the Irving YMCA. Six to eight of the Chicago Bears players worked out there, and they asked me if I could help them. Word got back to the Bears' staff and George Halas got a hold of me and asked if I could set up a training program for the team. George Halas was always looking for an edge. I set up a training program for the team in 1963, and coincidentally the Bears won the championship that year. Now, what role that played I don't know but it's fun to speculate. 

Q: How would you describe your strength coaching philosophy? 

A: Athletes should train how they are asked to perform on the field. The multi-joint explosive lifts are the best to achieve this. I believe in what I call the body core exercises. The areas of the body that we need to train are the legs, back and shoulders. Something that I think is very important is that you should do as many exercises as you can while standing on your feet. I don't know of a sport where you push up while lying on your back.

It is important to remember that you cannot substitute strength for skill. Your good athletes have a genetic gift for performing movement skills. You cannot spend more time getting stronger in the hopes that it will automatically improve your performance on the field. You have to have the athletic talent first. 

Q: How would you describe the difference between weightlifting and strength training? 

A: You use the weightlifting exercises or their variations to increase an athlete's strength, to prevent injuries and improve their performance on the field. You do not peak strength as you would with weightlifting. Technique may not be as sharp as a weightlifters. 

Q: What are your feelings regarding free weights and machines? 

A: Free weights are the best. But I like to think of exercises, barbells, dumbbells, and machines as tools of the trade. Just like a carpenter has a different tool for a specific job. Machines don't allow you to isolate a certain muscle or movement, which you may need to do to work around an injury, to rehabilitate an area, or to correct a specific weakness.   

Cleaning 400 pounds, en route to a world record clean & jerk in 1957.

Ideally, I think you can do the best job in strengthening an athlete with free weights, but in reality when a player has had four or five knee operations and other injuries over the years, you need to be flexible in your strength training program. It has been interesting in my years with the Bears to watch the evolution of a player's strength training program. He may start his career with primarily free weight exercises, and by the end of his career his program may be primarily machines.

I like to make the comparison of multi-joint free weight exercises to a football team. They are both a collective and coordinated effort. For both of them to be successful, all those involved must function as a unit. One can't do it without the help of all the others.

As a general rule of thumb, I use 1 to 5 repetitions on barbell exercises, 5 to 10 reps on dumbbell exercises, and 10 to 20 on machines. 

Q: How do you feel about the so-called "training secrets" that some people purport? 

A: I haven't seen anybody do anything that I hadn't seen John Grimek do. 

The super sets, giant sets and master blaster routines are nothing more than variations on multiple set training. The biggest change that I have seen has probably been the use of steroids. I feel that some of the weight training cycles and periodization used in strength training today have their roots in steroid cycling. I cannot and will not ever condone the use of steroids. 

If you want to know the secret to training, it is this -- to get strong you have to lift heavy weights. You must work the legs, back and shoulders. All the strong men like Doug Hepburn, Paul Anderson, Charles Rigoulot, Hermann Goerner and others used basic movements and trained them heavily in order to get strong. 

Q: Do you train the skill positions (quarterback, running back, receiver, defensive back) any differently than the rest of your team? 

A: No. There may be some minor variations, but basically I train them all the same. The weights used will obviously be different from athlete to athlete, but what I am trying to accomplish is the same. 

Q: Are there any trends that are disturbing to you as a strength coach?

A: I feel there is too much bodybuilding in strength training. Bodybuilding is fine for bodybuilding, but if you are going to perform on the field, you had better train in a manner that complements this. This is why your multi-joint lifts and explosive lifts are the best. Bodybuilding has some application for rehabilitation, but your multi-joint athletic lifts should be your foundation.

If bodybuilding was the correct way to train for sports, you would see a lot of bodybuilders out there on the fields and courts. And you don't see that. This is not to knock bodybuilding, but if you are going to be asked to perform as an athlete, you had better train as an athlete. 

Q: If you could design the ideal training program for an athlete (whose sport requires speed, quickness, agility, strength, and power), what would it look like? 

A: Again, getting back to the core exercises that I have mentioned earlier, you must strengthen the legs, back and shoulders. Power cleans and snatches, overhead pressing, squatting, bentover rowing, bench pressing, basic plyometrics, and running. I would use dumbbells as much as possible. THE DUMBBELL POWER CLEAN is a particularly great exercise for football players. 

I try to use the push/pull method in my programs. Something we as strength coaches have gotten away from, but what I think we need to work more on is direct pressing overhead. We have incline, decline, and flat bench presses that we work on but I really believe that we need to do more overhead pressing. 

I think uphill running is a good exercise. I think some over-speed running on a very slight decline is quite good. An exercise that we used in the past which was quite effective was jumping up onto a 32" table while holding dumbbells. We would work up to holding 45 pound dumbbells and then we gradually increased the height of the table to 42". 

Q: Do you cycle your players' workouts? 

A: I have not been one to follow a heavy, light, medium type of training. My feeling toward lifting is to "grab the moment." I can't see using a light weight on a day that I feel strong. I always trained ins this fashion as a lifter, and I use the same basic principle with my athletes, but with some modifications. I think that you should use as heavy a weight as you can for the prescribed number of repetitions during a workout. 

Now for our strength training purposes, we don't take the weights right to the limit as I would as  weightlifter because our goals are a bit different. If an athlete is feeling strong, we may keep the reps constant and pyramid the weight up to a good hard effort on the last set. If he is not quite up to going this heavy, we will perform what I call a muscle workout, sets and reps with a constant weight, for example. I always talk with my athletes and get their feelings on how they feel before and during a workout. I feel that it is important to get the players involved in their workouts. This gives them some input into their program, and this input gives them ownership and with ownership comes responsibility. 

Author's note: Clyde used this method of heavy training back in the 1940s through the 1960s. It is interesting to see many of the top Olympic lifters in the world today using these very same methods in their training, and these very same methods are what some people are calling a "new and revolutionary type of training." 

Q: Is every workout the same? 

A: No. Using the guidelines I mentioned earlier (1-5 reps with barbells, 5-10 with dumbbells, and 10-20 with machines), we do a different type of workout each day of the week. For example, over the course of our four day per week lifting routine, we might perform a barbell exercise on Monday, a dumbbell exercise on Tuesday, and do some type of machine exercise on Friday for the same body core part. I also try to mix things up by changing exercises, sets and reps, pyramiding weights, constant weights and so forth. Always with the athlete's input and always flexible. 

Q: Do you do any strength testing? 

A: No, not really. We do the NFL bench press test of 225 pounds for reps, for whatever that's worth. We may do some other testing depending on the wishes of the coaches. In 1985, when we won the Super Bowl, we did no testing. 

I know if a player is getting stronger by observing him during his workouts. Some absolute number is not going to tell me something that I don't already know. 

Remember, we are strength training athletes, not training weightlifters. 

The only time numbers on a board mean anything is at a weightlifting contest. I will never compare athletes as far as how much weight they can lift on an exercise. I don't say this athlete can only handle 205 on this exercise and another athlete handles 425. If the 205 athlete was handling 200 a week ago, I will give him a pat on the back and tell him, "great job, you're getting stronger." 

Q: What role does genetics play in the grand scheme of things? 

A: Oh, without question, genetics is the most important factor. Everybody can be made stronger. We all have a special genetic gift, and the athletes that I get to work with are certainly blessed. What makes them good athletes is that they possess the gift of athletic ability. 

Something that I feel is important in dealing with athletes is that we need to strengthen their strengths. We should not spend a great deal of time trying to improve their weaknesses. They made it to this level due to some inherent ability. It's like the old saying, "You gotta dance with the one that brought you to the dance." 

Q: You deal with athletes who come from varied strength training backgrounds (experience and philosophy). How do you handle this unique challenge? 

A: I never discourage or discredit what somebody else does or what another coach does. I observe an athlete train and I will give my advice if I feel that they may benefit from a modification in their training. I like to sit down with the athlete and explain to them why  modification may be of help to them. Teaching is a very important aspect of coaching. 

Q: What do you like best about being a strength coach? 

A: The think that I like the best is seeing an athlete progress and get better. 

Q: What would you say to someone who is thinking about going into the strength coaching profession? 

A: I feel that it is an outstanding profession. Education is very important -- learn as much as you can. You must be flexible in your program design and you must remember that you are strength training athletes and not training weightlifters. 

It is my feeling that strength training has had the greatest effect on the improvement of athletic performance more than any other variable. This holds true for track and field, basketball, volleyball, and every other sport. 

Make the training experience a positive one for your athletes, especially the ones who are not real big on strength training. 

Always encourage your athletes, never put them down. You need to get along with your athletic trainers and your other coaches. After all, you re all working toward the same goal. It's not that tough to get along with everyone. 

Q: Do you still work out? 

A: Yes, I try to work out some. I do some deadlifting and overhead presses. 

Q: You have had some health problems in recent years; how are you doing? 

A: Several years ago I was in a weight room accident. I was spotting an athlete and someone walked behind me and bumped me, as our weight room is somewhat cramped for space. As I stepped back to catch my balance, I caught my foot on a hyperextension bench and fell and ruptured my quadriceps tendon. It was surgically repaired, but I still do not have full range of motion and strength. 

A year ago this past February, I had been having some neck problems which were thought to be degenerative joint changes. I was told to have an MRI to determine the extent of these changes. The MRI showed that I had a tumor growing in the middle of my spinal cord. This is a very rare type of tumor, I was told. I underwent extensive surgery on my cervical spine and spinal cord. They had to cut into the middle of my spinal cord to get to the tumor.   

I was left with some paralysis on my left side. I am improving, but it is slow going. Being left handed, the paralysis on the left side has me unable to write, which is frustrating. Without the surgery, the doctors said I would have been dead within six months. Other than that, things are going quite well. 

Q: Looking back on your life as a competitive lifter and a strength coach, would you do it all again? 

A: Oh, absolutely! Without a question. It has been great!

Enjoy Your Lifting! 


Saturday, April 23, 2022

Strength Circuits - Ken Best

Time is a very important thing. I'm sure you've all heard the sayings -- time is money; time is of the essence, you can't turn back time, and so forth. 

Time spent during your workout is just as important. I don't have much time to train so I don't like wasting time during training. As far as I'm concerned, conventional strength training wastes a lot of time. 

Conventional strength training dogma requires you to perform many sets of low reps with a lot of rest between sets. I don't like this approach. I get bored training this way, and it's not taxing enough for me. Supersetting is better but still not enough to keep my heart rate up and my body primed for performance. However, I still want to build lots of muscle and a ton of strength. So what do I do? 

Strength circuits. 

Circuit weight training isn't new. Some systems, like PHA and kettlebell programs, have been around for decades. Circuit training conducted in gyms has also been around for years. What I did was borrow from each training approach and modify it for my strength training. I don't think I've invented anything new by doing so, but I thought other readers would benefit from my approach. 

Conventional circuit training (CCT) has you doing one exercise after another without rest periods and for a set time at each station. Aerobic exercises like skipping, step-ups, and star jumps are added into the circuit for cardio benefits. Compound and isolation movements are included and machines are frequently used. You do as many reps as possible on each exercise until it's time to move along. CCT is good for gymnasiums and group sessions and increases cardio output and muscular endurance. It can build some muscle and burn fat. It is best suited to beginners and regular health enthusiasts. 

Peripheral heart action (PHA) has you doing a number of weight training exercises in a row, with no rest between exercises and minimal rest between circuits. Isolation and compound movements are included and many weight training movements are used, which may or may not be done on machines. Exercises are grouped together and high repetitions are used to increase the heart rate, hence the name. It is best suited to bodybuilders and gymnasiums, and is good for muscle endurance and definition.

Strength circuits (SC) has you doing compound movements using barbells, dumbbells, and odd objects for low reps and heavy weights one after another, with minimal rest between circuits. Heavy compound movements for the legs, back, chest, and shoulders are interspersed with heavy isolation movements for the neck, grip, and abdominals. Odd object lifts are included at the end of each circuit. Strength circuits can be done in the gym or at home. 


Let's elaborate . . . 

Warm up thoroughly and do some stretches. 
A sample workout might look like this: 

1) Squat, 5 x 5
2) Weighted situp, 5 x 8
3) Bench press, 5 x 5
4) Neck harness, 5 x 6
5) Bent row, 5 x 5
6) Grip work
7) Sandbag walk, 3 x distance

The first two sets of each exercise (excluding the sandbag walk) are warmups. For your first circuit, do exercises 1 to 6 with about 60% of your working weights. Use the next minute while adding weight to your bar as a rest period. 

Then do a second circuit with about 80% of your working weights.

Add weight again. Now do exercises 1 to 6 with all the weight you can handle for 3 circuits. Rest one to two minutes between circuits. 

The beauty of interspersing the isolation exercises for the smaller muscle groups is that it allows you to recover somewhat between the big exercises. If you find the odd object lifts are too taxing at the end of each circuit, then do three circuits of exercises 1 to 6 and use the odd lift as a finisher. 

If you want to do arm and calf work, do them at the end of the circuits. You don't want to pre-exhaust the arm and calf muscles before returning to the big exercises in the next circuit. 

A good rule of thumb when putting a strength circuit workout together is to do a major lift for the legs and lower back, one for the upper body pushing muscles, and one for the upper body pulling muscles. Alternate these lifts with an exercise for the abs, neck, and grip as outlined above. 

Sometimes odd object work lifts can clash with grip work, so use one of each that works different functions of the forearms and grip. Keep the reps lower for the big lifts and higher for the smaller ones.  

A strength circuit like the example above should only take you half an hour at most to complete. There is no wasted time, and your body stays humming like a Spartan warrior for the duration of the workout. Even though you're doing big lifts back to back, the design of the workout provides enough rest between muscle groups and alternates intensity levels, much like sprint training or fartlek running. I have found this type of training to be beneficial for strength and muscle gains. It also keeps your heart rate up without taxing the anaerobic system -- a win-win situation.

The only drawback may be the amount of equipment you need to complete the circuit. One way of getting around this problem is to use the same weight and equipment for upper body work, e.g. barbell bench presses and rows, or dumbbell one arm presses and rows. Another way is to group exercises like chins and dips together. You're probably need a separate bar for squats or deadlifts, but most of you can manage that. Just use your imagination and improvisation skills, and you'll come up with something workable. 

Strength circuits are for strength athletes. They build strength, muscle, wind, and functional power. There is no downtime until the end. They are interesting to construct and fun to do. You know you've had a real workout. 

So what are you waiting for -- time is of the essence! 

Enjoy Your Lifting! 

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Vince Gironda's Raw Beginner's Workout - Callum Mahoney


When you think of the major contributors to the iron game, you come up with names like Ben and Joe Weider, Mike Mentzer, Arnold and even newer theorists such as Paul Cribb and Steve Holman. 

Not many would think of the legendary Vince Gironda, but Gironda's influence is almost unsurpassed. He trained at some stage in their careers, most of the all time greats, including Larry Scott, Sergio Oliva and Arnold, just to name three. Gironda invented the preacher curl, and we know how well that worked out for Scott. Some of Gironda's greatest legacies, though, were his "crazy" theories. He challenged everything about the iron game.  

In fact, he altered some of today's most popular exercises with slight variations that improved the result. 

For example, Gironda never used or prescribed regular bench presses or barbell curls, instead opting for neck presses and body drag curls. He felt that those more common mass builders recruited too much front delt and not enough of the target muscle group.

He was also 100% against drugs and believed training each muscle group just once a week worked only for "juiced" athletes. 

Even Vince's beginning programs were controversial, but they were designed to transform a trainee's body in the shortest amount of time. Vince's programs worked. Movie stars -- including Denzel Washington, James Garner and David Carradine -- trained under Vince for roles, and most used his beginning routine. 

By today's standards, like most of his theories, it is controversial . . . 


Decline pulley hugs - 12 reps. Also known as decline cable flyes. Because most beginners are weak, Vince believed this was the only exercise that successfully hit the lower pec line to improve the overall chest appearance. 

Seated cable rows - 12 reps.

Lateral raises -  10 reps.

Triceps pushdowns - 10 reps.

Barbell body drag curls - 10 reps. Drag curls are just like barbell curls, only you keep the bar in contact with your body and drag it up to your neck. That removes the front delt recruitment. 

Seated wrist curls - 12 reps. 

Leg extensions - 12 reps.

Leg curls - 12 reps. 

Standing calf raises - 20 reps. 


Do the above six days a week. 

Remember, this is a month long program for getting in the best shape in the shortest time. The progression is as follows: 

Week 1: One set of each exercise, six days a week.
Week 2: Two sets of each exercise, six days 
Week 3: Three sets. Six days. 
Week 4: Three sets. Six days. 

After one month, for those who aren't preparing for a movie role, Vince recommended dropping back to a three or four days a week schedule, but the choice is yours. 

Don't dismiss this routine -- 
it's worked for hundreds, perhaps thousands of people. 

Enjoy Your Lifting! 

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