Monday, January 30, 2023

Developing Power with Kettlebells - Dave Bellomo (2003)


As a drug-free powerlifter of fifteen years, I have developed a good foundation with the basic lifts: squat, bench and deadlift. Around that core, I'd do a lot of rows, overhead presses, and various other assistance work in my program. 

Over the last few years, however, life happened. 

I now own a small gym and have three beautiful daughters. I no longer have the time or the ability to recover from super-heavy squats or deadlifts. Still wanting to compete in something with some guts, I started practicing judo. Though my powerlifting foundation gave me a strength advantage a strength advantage over my opponents, I lacked speed and stamina. That's when my coach turned me on to kettlebells. 

After he gave me a quick lesson on kettlebell cleans and snatches, I was HOOKED! My grip strength increased dramatically, as did my hand speed and overall body power. I was able to execute throws and pickups with much more explosiveness than ever before. 

A few of us at the Judo club started experimenting with different workouts. I reasoned that since a tournament would consist of three to five matches each lasting three to five minutes, our kettlebell training should be comparable to that over time. 

I started out working with a 48-pound kettlebell throughout the day and tried to accumulate around 200 cleans and snatches total. This helped, but I later moved to what I'm currently doing, and the results are unbelievable. 

Without dieting, the fat started dropping off me. My stamina is better than ever, and I've got speed and athleticism that I haven't had in 10 years.

My current program is as follows. 

Three Days Per Week, with 66-pound kettlebells: 

15 cleans each hand
20 sumo deadlifts into a row to chin
15 one-hand presses overhead with each hand
20 sumo deadlifts into a row to chin

Repeat 5 times with a 5 minute break in between each set. 

Two Days Per Week: 

Dumbbell bent row
Standard military prress
Ab workout

Work up to a heavy set of 5 on everything except abs. 

If you are a grappler or if your body is in need of a drop kick, kettlebells may be the answer. Many a strong man build his physique with kettlebell training. Give it a try and who know, you might just reawaken a lost art and renew your zeal for training. 

Enjoy Your Lifting!  

Friday, January 27, 2023

Deadlift Comp Report - Ted Sobel

Courtesy of Jim Duggan

'Twas 3 weeks before Christmas,
And all noon and eve,
Gents made like Clark Kent
Like you wouldn't believe.

First came Roy Maxwell,
With shoulder-length hair
And a Sumo-style deadlift
Au extraordinaire.

Burt Rosenfield weighed in at 191
And yanked a cantankerous one-quarter ton
This grandmaster blaster may never be bested
at least not in meets where all lifters are tested.

Then Ralph Robustelli, a 20-year vet,
set a Master's World Record
Sans breaking a sweat! 

Hacksaw Jim Duggan made matters quite weighty
When he easily seized a World Record 680.
Jim's a National Champ and a likeable guy,
And he'll pull 700 . . . Hey, reach for the sky! 

Thanks to Alex Abay for helping keep score
And our tester - Bruce Brinker - el gran limpiador
And to all the meet's lifters and drug-free amigos,
For their fabulous efforts sans steroids or egos.

So reflect on the past year and cherish the Lord
For supremely clean shows and a bro like Troy Ford.

And to menfolk and maidens
of muscle and might . . . 
Merry Christmas to all, 
and to all a good night! 

WNPF 2nd Annual Lifetime Drug Free Atlantic Supernatural Deadlift
2 Dec 90 - New York, NY

Enjoy Your Lifting! 

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Hardgainer Training Guide, Part Two -- Stuart McRobert

Much more here: 


If what you are doing in the gym is not delivering the size and strength goods, it's time to devise a productive program and explore what may seem revolutionary relative to the conventional methods you have been using. Part Two will lay out your training for the next six months or more. 

It's a step by step plan of what to do! 

This will teach you a lot of what is never taught in gyms because so many people have got themselves wrapped up and confused amidst the abundance of distractions that exist today. 

If what you're doing is delivering the goods for you -- great -- keep doing it. 

For the typical person to become physically impressive he has got to train as a hardgainer should. For genetically blessed and/or drug assisted bodybuilders the business of getting big and strong is a straightforward endeavor. These easy gainers visit the gym, sweat a bit, eat, rest, have a little patience, and grow. Easy gaining! 

For the hardgainer, life as a bodybuilder is in another world, another time, another dimension. With average of below average genetic potential, and the common sense and STRENGTH OF CHARACTER not to use body"building" drugs, even modest success can be denied to hardgainers; and denied to us despite great diligence and commitment. The hardgainer is usually destined to meet massiv3e frustration and even misery. Destined to follow popular size-building routines and yet lose size, to get so little from having given so much that you could weep. 

It need not be this way. 

You have to have actually lived through the huge pile of frustrations and disappointments of a hardgainer floundering on inappropriate training routines before you can fully appreciate what it's like. To battle through all that and finally to win through, is what produces a prime source of advice for fellow hardgainers. 

It is true that some of the best bodybuilders are amongst the most fiercely determined people around. However, plenty of hardgainers have the determination that EXCEEDS that of most successful easy gainers. Determination is only part of the picture.

Coming out of past frustrations nd difficulties of countless hardgainers are critical lessons -- lessons that can prevent more wretched marriages of desire with inappropriate routines and strategies. Such marriages produce a degree of failure that drives all but the massively motivated to give up bodybuilding. The crucial lessons are available for all hardgainers to learn. Learn them you shall. This department is dedicated to the specific needs of the hardgainer.

Dedicated to developing impressive (non-competitive) size and strength levels for even the hardest of hardgainers. 

Part Two, Three, and Four will provide you with a program for growth that delivers medium-term, substantial progress while teaching you how progressive resistance training works. This will teach you some of what to do in future cycles -- more of the same or use of a similar format but with new nuances, variations and twists -- thus setting you up for a long-term transformation.  

By medium-term progress I mean, for example, around 30 to 40 pounds on your 8 rep squat, deadlift and bench press, and 10 pounds or more of muscle. Not much? How many drug-free, NON-BEGINNERS do you know who've gained more than this over the last six months? 


The program is aimed at bodybuilders who have trained for long enough to be able, AT THE MINIMUM, to squat 250 pounds for 8 or more reps, bench press more than 215 for 8 reps, and deadlift at least 280 for 8 reps.

Forget about training full-bore for month after month. Always to have to do more and more, when you're already at the zenith of your current capacity, is too much. Your mind and body will rebel, you will stagnate or, worse, you will wear yourself down so much that injury and sickness are inevitable. Hard training is an irreplaceable part of getting bigger and stronger, but ONLY if it's correctly applied. 

Drug-free and genetically typical bodybuilders must plan to take two steps back in order to make three steps forward. There have to be slack periods. 

Start off training comfortably -- reduced poundages and training intensity. This does NOT mean reduced poundages and repping out in high numbers; it means you regular reps with less poundage. Pick up the intensity and poundages over the final leg of the training cycle. That's the basic structure, but there are many interpretations of it. There are short cycles, medium cycles and long cycles, cycling within cycles, periodization, and other interpretations. This article and the next two will just give a single interpretation, in depth, so you can immediately have all you need to put into productive practice.

Some see intensity cycling as a waste of time because they think that the more hard workouts they have, the better. They are so eager to get training flat out, or very near to it, that they never develop the gaining momentum needed for long-term progress. While you absolutely MUST push yourself to the utter limit for some of your workouts, "some" does not mean "all." You simply must leant NOT to push yourself to the limit during some periods. This is very difficult to accept if you have been locked into the "hard all the time" philosophy. 

Change your philosophy! 


There's nothing fancy here for one reason only. It's not necessary. You need to use the big exercises to get big and strong. That means squats, not leg extensions; bench presses, not cable crossovers; overhead presses, not laterals, etc. 

If you try to mix both types of exercise you won't have the energy to train hard even when called upon, and you won't have the recovery ability to grow even supposing you stimulated any growth. 

Just look at how many underdeveloped guys knock themselves out on the little exercises and never get big. Few people successfully mix the two types of exercises, but they're not typical bodybuilders. Do not imitate those who don't share your particular lifestyle and genetic inheritance.

1) Choose two short (abbreviated) routines to be alternated on a Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule (3 days per week), of alternated on a Monday/Thursday or similar schedule (2 days per week). With the former, you train each routine three times every two weeks (NOT each routine three times each week). With the latter, you train each routine once each week. Only use the former if you recover quickly from training, have a restful life, and can guarantee quality sleep every night. If you can't, or if you find yourself dragging your feet on the thrice weekly schedule, use the twice a week schedule. 

Don't force yourself to train more than you can cope with. While the more productive workouts you have the better, you can't have productive workouts if you are not recovering fully between workouts. If in doubt, take more rest rather than less. Be sure you go to each workout with zeal. So many people go to the gym out of habit and go through the motions because they never fully recover between sessions. 

You could train more often if you wanted to, but as the most likely result will be reduced gains, why do it? You're trying to get bigger and stronger, not train yourself down for competition. You need more rest days than training days. If you can't accept training only two or three times a week, ask yourself whether you're packing on the muscle with your current 4 day, 5 day or even 6 day a week training schedule. 

What matters is what works. 

If you're not gaining on your current schedule, then simply change it! 

Forget the notion that muscle atrophies if you don't train it within 96 hours. So many people have actually gained size and strength while resting more than 96 hours between workouts. 

If you squat one day a week, and deadlift another, you're training your lower back, thighs and hips twice a week anyway. 

If you bench press only one day a week, and overhead press on a second day of the week, you're working your upper body pushing structure twice a week. 

If you deadlift one day a week and do the chin or pulldown on another day, your back is getting a good working over twice a week.    


1) Abs, crunch style situp.

2) Squat, to just below parallel (between safety supports or stands).

3) Bench Press, NOT a very wide grip and NOT to your neck or clavicles. 

4) Chin OR pulldown using the most comfortable grip for you. 

5) Barbell Curl.

6) Calves, standing calf, donkey, or one-legged holding a DB. 


1) Abs, crunch style situp.

2) Deadlift, regular bent-legged style, using straps is your grip limits you. Remember, deadlift only once a week. 

3) Overhead Press, military or behind the neck, seated with back support. 

4) Close-grip Bench Press, using 15 inches grip between the thumbs. 

5) Barbell Curl.

6) Calves, as in Routine A. 

4) Some neck and grip work should end each workout, or be done at another time. This work should stay in the program unless you are just too exhausted to do it. However, when the program nears its end, and you are really pulling out all the stops, then by cutting out all exercises other than the squat, bench press, deadlift and (perhaps) overhead press, will enable you to apply the focus needed to get another few weeks of progressive training, and more gains on the most important of the building exercises. 

5) Too little exercise? Only if you don't take the program seriously, you don't apply yourself to a graduated scheme of poundage progression, and you don't work up to adding more iron to the bar than you have ever used before. 

6) Study correct lifting technique for all the lifts, especially the squat and deadlift. Use and perfect perfect lifting form. 


If you haven't been squatting and deadlifting recently, then no wonder you haven't been growing! DON'T relax your exercise style as you increase the poundage. Study technique, because poor exercise style will doom you to stagnation and even injury. Correct technique is imperative. Resolve to find all the magazine articles you can find on technique, and read up in the books too. Find someone knowledgeable at your gym who can supervise your technique. 

I'll give you the gist of safe performance in the key lifts in the Part Three. 

7) Plan your workouts, and write down what you need to do. Start this sometime during the 10 days you lay off from ALL weight training before getting started on the new program. 

First, though, you need to know your best poundages for rep targets. So, before you lay off, test yourself for an 8-rep set for each of the exercises listed earlier (15 rep set for your calves). Warm up before, of course. You're unlikely to get it spot on for each exercise and may have to adjust what you did to determine your list of 8-rep bests. 

If you get 8 reps with 280 in the deadlift, with at least 3 more reps in you, then make 290 or 300 your 8-rep best. Do this for all the lifts and you will have your base lifts upon which to base your training over the medium term. 

For calf and abdominal work, your repetitions should not be done continuously. Take a breath or two between reps, especially as each set nears its end. 

8) Following the 10-day layoff, resume training using 80% of your 8-rep best poundages, performing 3 x 8 for each exercises, except calves (15 rep sets). For example, say your previous 8-rep best for the bench press is 225 pounds. So, your starting poundage for this cycle is 80% of 225, i.e. 180 pounds (.8 x 225). 

Do warmup sets of 5 reps for each with 60% of your "working" poundage of 180 (110 lbs.) and 80% of 180 (145). Then, (comma implying a rest first) do 3 sets of 8 reps, and ONLY do the scheduled 8 reps. In other words, though at the beginning of the program you will be able to do more than 8 reps for each of the 3 sets, you stick to the 8 reps and stop there with each set. 

The intensity of the training will pick up later on in the cycle, so don't go short-circuiting gaining momentum and poundage progression by using bigger poundages than given or by repping out to failure in each set. Remember, to gain well later on, it's necessary to cut back now and get a running start. 

Take just enough commas, er, rests between sets to be sure that you get all three work sets of 8 reps. As the intensity of work increases over the program, you will definitely need to take more rest between sets and exercises. 

After this first workout, evaluate what you did to ensure that each exercise was "easy" to the same extent. You want each one to involve the same degree of effort. If any exercise seems out of step with the others, cut back on the poundage (or increase it, as the case may be), so all exercises start out using the same (comfortable for now) degree of effort. 

With adjustments, get out your training program and make the necessary corrections. Add 2.5% of your 8 rep best poundage each time you do the same workout. Example: Bench press 8-rep best = 200. 2.5% poundage addition: .025 x 200 = 5 pounds. 

The next section explains the PROGRESSION scheme you'll need to keep making this program work. 

Enjoy Your Lifting!     

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Strength and Power Training -- Ernest Cottrell


In bodybuilding, there are many approaches to the acquisition of strength and power. One of the best ways I know of to develop deep-rooted strength is to plan your training around an upcoming powerlifting competition. You will not only gain tremendous strength from such a plan, but by demonstrating it as a competitor at a powerlifting meet you will gain the attention of the spectators, and they will realize that a bodybuilder's physique isn't necessarily just for show. 

For those of you bodybuilders who would like to dedicate your training to perhaps one powerlifting competition a year, I would like to share this very workable strength and power training program. 


 -- Regular Deadlift: 
1 x 10 with 50%
1 x 8 70%
1 x 3 80%
1 x 3 90%
3 x 3 80%
Rest 4 to 5 minutes between sets. Concentrate on form and pull and squeeze the shoulder blades back and together throughout the entire motion of each rep. 

 -- High Pull: 
3 x 6 60%
Rest 3 minutes between sets; explode on the pull to belt-high position, then lower rather slowly in negative fashion.

 -- Dip: 
1 x 10 30%
1 x 6 50%
3 x 3 80%
Rest 3 to 4 minutes between sets. Explode from the low dead stop position. 

 -- Bodyweight Dips: 
1 x As Many Reps As Possible (AMRAP)


20 to 30 minutes of assorted midsection and neck work, your choice. Hanging knee ups, lying leg thrusts, crunches for the abs. Harness work, manual resistance, and various bridges for the neck. 


 -- Power Squat: 
Use the same set/rep/percentage schedule as described for the Deadlift. 

 -- Bodyweight Squat Jumps: 

 -- Barbell Curl, slight cheat: 
5 x 5

Rest 2 minutes between all sets. 


 -- Bench Press: 
Again use the same set/rep/percentage schedule as described for the Deadlift and Power Squat. 

 -- Chinup: 
Use the same set/rep/percentage schedule as suggested for Dips. On this exercise, use a fairly narrow grip. Do these with a curl grip (palms facing you) one workout, then with the hands pronated (palms facing away) the next, etc. 



Every third week, do your 1 x 3 (90%) training slot for the barbell: Deadlift, Power Squat, and Bench Press in this manner: 

1 x 3 at 90% of max
1 x 2 95%
Four single attempts, resting 5-7 minutes between each and increasing the weight whenever possible. Only do this EVERY THIRD WEEK. 

Three week before the competition, do only 2 sets of High Pulls with 60%, 3 x 6 in the Power Squat with 50% Continue doing the Bodyweight Squat Jumps for only 2 sets to failure. One the Barbell Curl do 3 x 7. On the Chins, do them for 4 x 6. Also at this point (3 weeks before the contest), do your barbell Deadlift, Power Squat, and Bench Press sequence (note the difference from the one suggested every third week above) in this manner: 

1 x 20 30%
rest 2 minutes
1 x 10 50%
rest 2 minutes
1 x 8 60%
rest 3 minutes
1 x 3 70%
rest 5 minutes
1 x 3 90%
rest 5 minutes
1 x 1 95%

Now do 3 more single attempts in 5-pound increments, with 5 minutes of rest between each of the attempts (hold 2.5 pound plates in each hand and "heft" them to show yourself that the additional weight is very light before adding them to the bar for each single attempt. If you have an abundance of energy,l do 1 to3 more single attempts this way to break your record. 

50% of something is HALF, so when I say 50% of your current maximum single effort, and your best single is 500 pounds, 50% is 250 pounds, etc. Percentages are easy to compute in 100 and 10 pound increments: i.e., 80% is 8 of the 10 pounds, or 80 of 100, and for proper warming up and progressive neuro-muscular performance use a weight that corresponds to these percentages to avoid over-training in this sequence. 

400 squat example: 
30% = 120 (.3 x 400)
85% = 340 (.85 x 400) etc. 

You should want desperately to do more lifts after your workout is done . . . 
DON'T, since this reserve of energy at contest time, along with the adrenaline flow will allow you to express much more strength in your lifts. 

On all the exercises within this program, try to add 10 lbs. per workout to each set. If this is simply not possible, don't settle for less than 5 lb. increases. This complete training cycle can be followed 10-12 weeks prior to a competition. 

Note: In the "Power Squats" in the Wednesday workout, there are four points to keep in mind:

1) Bar rests low across back and shoulders.
2) Torso is bent forward. 
3) Feet are wider than shoulder width apart. 
4) During the descent, buttocks go back and knees stay directly over ankles; lower leg remains perpendicular to the floor. 

Enjoy Your Lifting! 

Monday, January 23, 2023

Going for a Walk - William Mosher (2002)

The author, Bill Mosher, with his rail and chain suitcases. 

My own philosophy of training focuses on the development of strength and power at the exclusion of appearance. These goals are achieved most effectively through the use of power and Olympic lifting methods and systems. 

However, to supplement one's training, there are many other activities one can engage in for greater strength gains. 

One activity that is popular with many strength athletes from different sports is the FARMER'S WALK. This article covers a training system along with a few ideas that will assist you in developing and improving on this event. 

The core exercise for this program is the classic 20-REP BREATHING SQUAT. The benefits of heavy high-rep squats are of key importance in obtaining a serious result in the farmer's walk. Those who have trained on the walk will quickly agree that it requires a great deal of strength in the back, hamstrings, traps, calves, legs, and grip. 

Another requirement is the ability to breathe deeply and and to sustain strength as long as possible. Breathing squats are ideal as a building block for this type of all-around strength development. Through my own experimentation, I have discovered that 20-rep breathing squats provide better results on the walk than squatting with heavier weights and lower reps. For the best results, the trainee should strive for 1.5 times body weight for a full 20 reps.  

Farmer's walk implements may be purchased or homemade. The materials to make your own are easily obtained and available from many sources. Local junkyards are a good source along with railroad companies or local farmers. Railroad rails are ideal for this purpose: find a good length of rail and cut it into four equal pieces. Have two sections welded together one on top of the other for each "suitcase." Next, have a handle welded onto the top, making sure that it is centered well. 

The length of the handles is optional but a longer handle makes carrying the suitcases more comfortable. Short handles are fine, but the suitcases may rub against the outsides of the knees, causing minor scrapes. The diameter of the handles is also discretionary, but I recommend something close to Olympic barbell size. Some may prefer to purchase handles to which weight plates can be added with little difficulty, allowing for more flexibility. 

The weight of the implements for training should be at least 200 pounds each. They should be weighed to determine an accurate reading. Many welding shops or local farmers have scales that could be used for this purpose. 

Chains can also be added for extra weight during training. 

During the walk breathing is very important, along with keeping your head up and eyes straight ahead. Breathe deeply while inhaling and slowly and forcefully while exhaling. Do not hold your breath during the exercise. 

Momentum is another important aspect of the walk. Some prefer to cover as much ground as possible in the shortest amount of time. Others walk more slowly, concentrating on breathing and momentum for a longer period of time. You will need to experiment to determine the best method for you. 

A lifting belt and wrist wraps are items that may be helpful. If a belt is used, make sure it is not too tight, which could restrict breathing. Wraps are optional and chalk is helpful if used properly. The chalk needs to be applied to the thumbs and tops of the fingers where they lock together when gripping each handle. Chalk should also be applied to the palms and undersides of the fingers. Shoes should have a firm sole with no heel; some support is a good choice, and either a high or low cut. Running shoes are out of the question: a large cushion is not desirable when walking with heavy loads. 

Check over the training area and competition course carefully. Stepping into a hole or stumbling on uneven places could ruin your day. If competing, train in as close to competitive conditions as possible. Analyze the course on which you will be walking. Deep grass is far different from asphalt. Is the course uphill or downhill to any extent? Will turns be required? 

The last training day for the walk should be six to seven days prior to the competition. Weight training should be dropped at least three days out. Get plenty of rest the night before the competition and eat a good breakfast upon rising in the morning. Eat throughout the day to maintain energy. About one to one and one half hours prior to the walk, eat again to give your energy a burst. 

When your turn comes, go for a nice long walk. 

A suggested training program would look like this: 

Day One 

Squat, warm up, then 1 x 20 reps as heavy as possible
Snatch Grip High Pull, 5 x 3 reps 
Barbell Row, 5 x 5
Calf Raise, 4 x 8
Barbell Shrug, 5 x 3
Back Raise, 1 x 50
Abs, 2 x 50
Farmer's Walk, one or two sets, as far as possible

Day Two 

Squat, warm up and do 1 x 20
Clean or Snatch Grip High Pull, 5 x 3, or 5 x 5
Deadlift, one or two heavy singles
Barbell Row, 5 x 5
Calf Raise, 5 x 8
Barbell Shrug, 5 x 3
Back Raise, 1 x 50
Abs, 2 x 50, 4 x 25
Farmer's Walk, one or two sets, as far as possible

Enjoy Your Lifting! 


Sunday, January 22, 2023

Hardgainer Training Guide (Part One) - Stuart McRobert



Part 1:   Priorities
Part 2:   Training
Part 3:   Progression
Part 4:   Nuts & Bolts
Part 5:   Dedication
Part 6    Overtraining 
Part 7:   Destructive
Part 8:   Facts of Life
Part 9:   Specialization
Part 10: Girth Goals
Part 11: Aerobic Goals 
Part 12: Body Fat

Much more here: 

From personal painful experience I know about bodybuilding failure and frustration, despite following conventional training advice for year after year. Hardly any typical gym member can squat 400 pounds, bench press 300 and deadlift 500. For most typical people, bodybuilding simply does not work. 

The lack of adequate application and persistence only account for a part of this general failure. The lack of effective information geared for the hardgainer is what is mostly to blame. 

What is a hardgainer? A hardgainer is the genetically average drug-free guy that typifies a gym member, someone who responds poorly, or not at all, to conventional training methods. The number of people who have the genetic capabilities to sprout extraordinarily big muscles (rampant easy gainers) are very few and very far between. Drugs (plus training) can make almost anyone grow muscles but, to get to the top level of development, a mix of drugs and terrific genetics is needed.

I've spent years of my life consumed with doing everything I possibly could do, to become a top competitive physique; everything, that is, except use drugs! I've religiously followed advice laid out by the top guys, from Scott and Oliva, to Arnold and Zane, just like millions of others have. Not only did I not get big muscles from following this instruction, I never even got medium sized muscles. Effort and dedication only deliver the goods if they are correctly applied. 

At school, I sought as big a supply of bodybuilding literature as I could afford. Everything I earned from my newspaper rounds and gardening jobs went into bodybuilding in one way or another, with food, supplements and training literature being the main outlets. Of course, my parents provided me with food, but I had to help out with the provision of the extra fare I needed. 

Bodybuilding magazines, books and courses provided me with an abundance of routines. An abundance of confusion accompanied this plentiful supply. The more literature I got, the more confused I became. The arguments that accompanied each routine seemed cogent to me as a neophyte, especially if the name on the article was a top physique. 

What I didn't know then, but I know now, is that it is useless for me to copy the routines of the top guys because, first, I don't have their genetic propensity for building big muscles, second, I don't use drugs, and thirdly, I don't have the luxury of an optimum lifestyle for training, eating and resting.

In my ignorance, how I tried those top stars' routines. When I say try, I mean try! No wishy washy halfhearted attempts. I'd pour myself into them, and not just in the gym. I was very disciplined out of the gym: I went to  bed early every night, had no social life, cut myself off from strenuous sports, neglected my school work in the interests of bodybuilding, ate well with no junk food, consumed lots of supplements, believed in the routines, had a great attitude, and maintained motivation with mental imagery of future greatness. 

Total commitment. 

I was an utter zealot. 

Every new magazine or course I purchased was read with the hope that perhaps this one was the one that would provide the "secret" I needed. I truly lived, slept, drank and ate bodybuilding. I had become a bodybuilding recluse, refusing to do anything and everything that would not help my progress in the gym.

If muscle and strength were determined simply by dedication and effort in the gym, and quality of food supplements consumed, I would have been one of the best. However, dedication, effort in the gym and food supplements are only a part of the picture. All I got from my application and devotion was state-of-the-art overtraining and state-of-the-art over-nutrition. That I did not have the genetic advantages to emulate the champions I used to read about did not find its way into my consciousness until after about six years of slogging away in the gym. 

I don't have the physique to convince those who need me, of have a mega-star's muscles to get them to try hardgainer routines. No true, typical drug-free hardgainer has. Hardgainers who have made it to the 300 pound bench press, 400 pound squat and 500 pound deadlift, or thereabouts, have tons to say that is of practical help to fellow hardgainers. That they haven't won any contests is irrelevant. The genetically gifted simply can't for a moment understand the plight of the hardgainer, no matter how hard they may try to. It's a different world. Draw inspiration and motivation from the top achievers, but for goodness sakes do not imitate training advice that works for them.

I'm an utterly typical gym member, an archetypical hardgainer. Most gym members are akin to me, people who can't grow much, it at all unless they are on a hardgainer's routine. Had I been an easy gainer I wouldn't have the nitty-gritty "I've been there too" sympathy with the plight of the confused and the misled. It's only someone who has slaved away for years on conventional routines, and yet made little or no progress, who can truly understand the plight of the hardgainer. The majority of all drug-free gym members are hardgainers.

Over the years there have been some top physiques who have claimed to have been "hardgainers." To have trouble adding another inch to an 18 inch arm is not hardgaining. Having trouble just building a mere 15 inch arm is hardgaining. Having trouble turning a 430 bench press into a 450 pound one isn't hardgaining. Having trouble just building a 250 pound bench press is hardgaining. No one, and I mean no one who has a spectacular, top amateur or professional physique is a hardgainer. Sure, some find gains harder to come by than do others, and some have to use more drugs than do others, but absolutely none of them are true hardgainers.

Never having had the genetics needed to grow muscles easily, and never having taken steroids to compensate for genetic shortcomings, I had the choice of either giving up bodybuilding or of searching for an alternative approach that would work. I chose the latter. Once I changed my training frame of mind, the investigation of alternative training methods opened a vast area of study. Once I got into applying this alternative view of training, I finally started to make reasonable gains, but I made them despite not having bodybuilding consume me like it had during my youth. 

With conventional advice I could never even squat 300 pounds and bench 225, not even after years of effort and tons of food supplements. Following the alternative advice, I was able to work up to being capable of benching, squatting and deadlifting in the 300-400-500 bracket (all without knee wraps, super suits or drugs). Yes, these are modest relative to the top guys; however, for a drug-free and genetically typical person they are respectable. How many lightly boned (under a 7 inch wrist) and drug-free people do you know who can move this sort of poundage? 

I am not alone in my experiences -- there are plenty of other people around who too have proved that even "average" people can get big and strong without drugs.

In August of 1992, I deadlifted 400 pounds for 20 consecutive reps with my hands on the bar during the entire set, pausing for a few breaths before each rep. With conventional training advice I'd have trouble building up to a few reps with 300 pounds. While the alternative approach can't build a top competitive physique out of a genetically typical set of ingredients, it can build a level of achievement way beyond that of 95%+ of the members of most typical gyms. While 400 pounds x 20 reps deadlifting is not going to raise any eyebrows with today's elite, it should raise eyebrows among the genetically typical hard gaining crowd that populate most gyms. As unpleasant a reality as it may seem, 99%+ of drug-free gym members have not even got a chance of getting spectacularly big and strong. All willing hardgainers can become very impressive, so long as they train using methods appropriate to them. 

I will be providing the whys and the wherefores of training methods needed by hardgainers, together with the nuts and bolts of how to train, guiding you through what you need to be doing in the gym. There are so many interpretations of hardgainer training and a great depth of knowledge in this area. This realm of training is deeper and broader than almost everyone thinks, and offers the opportunity for the masses of gym members to achieve bodybuilding success rather than just a small minority as at present. I will be sharing some of this depth and breadth of training wisdom with you. And, always remember though, the number of people who possess the necessary rare genetic attributes together with the drug support to be able to compete with today's top stars, are so few and far between that you can safely count yourself as being one of the typical many that comprise the mass of bodybuilding gym members. 

By getting your training in order, you can achieve a level of development and strength that will set you apart from almost anyone at your gym while staying healthy and drug-free, and whilst having only average genetics (or below average): while you can never become spectacular like the top contenders, you can become very impressive. 

For the great majority of readers, get yourselves as immersed in the current bodybuilding scene as you wish but for goodness sake distinguish between those training methods that work for the elite and those that will work for you. You should apply the methods that are appropriate to you and then start to get some impressive gains for yourself in the gym rather than just watching the achievements of others.         


Having been through the mill of frustration and failure from following conventional training advice, I have learned a few things. I wish someone had rammed those "few things" into my skull from the first stirring of desire that motivated me to turn my bag-of-bones body into something reasonable. 

Here are the dictates I wish had been rammed daily into my skull from when I was fourteen through my entire teenage years, to keep me riveted to sensible training: 

1) Bodybuilding and strength training are simple, but immensely demanding activities because they demand very hard work. There are no easy ways. Simple ways, yes. Easy ways, no. 

2) Being repetitive is vital in promoting sensible weight training. If you do not have the essence of effective training for drug-free typical people drummed home, and then be reminded of it again and again and again, you are sure to get diverted by other material and lose your resolve to stay on the tried and tested. 

3) This section hammers away at the most important matters you need to irrevocably, permanently and stubbornly hold to, for as long as you want to make the most of your training. Very few people may only need to be told something once, and they grasp it for life. Most people need to hear the same message and nuances of explanation many times, and in different contexts. Only then will they receive the full force of the message, and make it one with them. Then they need to keep hearing the basic message regularly to prevent them from forgetting about it. 

4) Bodybuilding and  strength building are almost laughably simple. All that really matters is focus, and progressive in good form. Pick a handful (as in no more than five) of the biggest and best exercises FOR YOU and dedicate YEARS of your life to getting stronger and  then stronger in them. Yes, you can use variations of the basic moves for variety, but you don't have to.

5) There are countless novices and intermediates who are swimming around is a sea of marginal issues while neglecting the cardinal considerations. There are people who have been training for over ten years and yet still cannot squat much over their bodyweight for 20 regular cadence reps. Yet they are agonizing over anything and everything related to training, except for the need for progressive poundages year after year in the big lifts. 

6) There is no need to search for the "definitive word" on basic gaining training. Once you have found something that works, and so long as it does keep on working, why spend time trying to find something else? Just apply one certainty.

7) If I had chosen the squat, deadlift (alternating the bent-legged and stiff-legged variations from cycle to cycle), bench press (or dip), seated press, and the pulldown (or row, or supinated pullup), and dedicated myself for five years to progressive poundages on those five basic movements as the mainstay of my training, I would have gotten quite near to realizing my full size and strength potential BEFORE the time I was twenty years old. 

8) My training life should have revolved around adding a little bit more iron to the bar each week. A little does not just mean 5 or 10 pounds. It means 1 or 2 (except early in a cycle when you can add a larger increment each week for a while). 

9) Dependable training for regular people with regular lives is about doing things slowly, safely, steadily and surely. It is not about trying to do in two months what needs six months or more. It is about patience and know that getting there the slowly is the quick way, in the long run, because the chance of injury and mental and physical burnout is much less. Quick gains bring a higher chance of injury and burnout. And if you cannot maintain the enthusiasm to train over the long term, how can you keep the gains you have made over the short term?  

10) I should have stuck with straight sets on my favorite fivesome of the standard squat, deadlift, bench press, seated press, and lat machine pulldown. (Of course, a different fivesome may better suit you). I was a walking encyclopedia of information about such stars as Arnold, Scott, Zane Colmubu, Viator, Mentzer, etc., but knew so little about that which I really needed.   

11) At least in the beginning and intermediate stages of training, misoneism and being old fashioned and bloody minded are desirable characteristics. Once you are already big and strong you can explore other options if you have got time to risk wasting, but not before. But even then, once you are advanced, if you venture too far into the myriad options about training you risk losing sight of what matters for typical people. 

12) Personal achievement is where it is at for those who lift weights, yet the masses get so little out of their own training, largely because they are too preoccupied with the achievements of others

13) My life, more specifically should have been geared around the 10% gain (initially, and the 5% gain later on). Nothing (except good exercise form) should have entered my training mind other than achieving the next percentage gain on my exercise poundages. Yes this is crude, primitive and basic. But THIS is what is needed. 

14) When I started training I used about 50 pounds in the squat and bench press, but unfortunately I never deadlifted for many years. Though the deadlift is now starting to get its deserved respect, it is still not getting enough. The deadlift, properly done, is a wonderfully productive exercise, and for some people it is a more productive exercise than the squat. So, pay your dues on the deadlift. Moving close to 100 pounds in the bench press and squat was rather straightforward and linear, but  then it just started getting difficult.   

15) With over 100 pounds reached in the squat and bench press and deadlift (which should have been included), I should have concentrated on adding the next 10 pounds to the bar (and proportionately the same in the other two exercises I should have been focusing on). Once I got to 110 pounds, I should have lived for the next 10 pounds (10%). Once at 121 pounds I should have concentrated on getting to 132 pounds, and so on. Once I got to 200 pounds for repetitions in the squat and deadlift, and a bit less for the bench press, I should then have switched to a 5% gain mentally. 

16) Going from 100 x 6 in the bench, 100 x 20 in the squat, and 150 x 20 in the regular deadlift (with the other two members of the mighty fivesome progressing in proportion) to 150 x 6, 150 x 20, and 200 x 20 respectively (moving there in 10% shots), would have made a big difference to my physique. 

17) Spending the next six to 12 months moving to 200 x 6 reps, 200 x 20 reps, and 250 x 20 reps would have made another significant difference. 

18) Then investing focus over the next six months, and using the 5% mentality to build up to 240 x 6 reps, 245 x 20 reps, and  300 x 20 reps would have made tons more impact on my physique. Investing another six to 12 months to work slowly up to 265 x 6, 275 x 20,and 340 x 20, and I would have been going places (for a drug-free hardgainer). Then STILL centering on the 5% gain mentality and the same key exercises, had I concerned myself with nothing other than getting to 285 x 5, 300 x 20, and 365 x 20 I would have experienced another important step forward. By now I'd have become bigger and stronger than nearly all drug-free trainers in any gym anywhere, and I would have done it before my 20th birthday. This is how it should be done. And if I had wanted to get bigger still, I would have had to keep the 5% gain mentality going and going and going. 

19) Don't you think that focusing solely on moving from, for example, 145 x 6 in the bench, 150 x 20 in the squat, and 175 x 20 in the regular deadlift . . . to 290 x 6, 300 x 20, and 350 x 20 reps, respectively, is going to make you bigger, I mean MUCH bigger! If you're already near to being advanced and can bench 250 x 6 reps, squat 275 x 20, and deadlift 300 x 20, you must understand with crystal clear clarity that dedicating your training life to working to 315 x 6 reps, 350 x 20, and 390 x 20 respectively will TRANSFORM you. And not just bigger in the thighs, chest and back. I mean bigger all over! Forget the notion that you have to do a variety of exercises to get big all over. 

20) Body BUILDING is not about trying to hit individually all the bits and pieces of the body to ensure complete and balanced development. That way only gets typical, drug-free people into the complete underdeveloped physique. You have to apply yourself to get stronger and stronger in the basic exercise, then you have a chance of getting big all over, and even the little areas will come along too. Once you are big and strong, then you can really focus on fixing the relatively minor imbalances, but you have to be big and strong in the first place.  

22) Where's #21?  I do not know what happened there. 
I'd not have solely concentrated on the mighty fivesome. Another fivesome of areas would get some specific attention too, at least some of the time. Crunch situps and side bends would be done almost every week, once a week for each. Specific work for my shoulder external rotators, using a dumbbell, would be done once or twice weekly, when I was experienced enough to be benching about 200 pounds for 6 reps. Calf work would be done twice weekly for most of the time. Some prudent grip work would be included, together with some regular pinch gripping and other specialized hand and finger exercise. Barbell curls would only be done if I wasn't doing supinated pullups or pulldowns in the current routine. Direct neck work could get in too, some of the time. 

23) Some 90% of my training focus and dedication would go on the primary fivesome, and the remaining 10% would cover the secondary fivesome. All the secondary areas would not be trained each workout, and only after doing the scheduled exercises from the major fivesome. When intensity was so high on the primary fivesome that I would have little left for anything else, I would cut back elsewhere. I would conserve energy, and keep demands on recovery ability to the minimum, by just maintaining the secondary exercises, and even drop them (temporarily) if necessary.

24) With progression being the key, I would not have got myself hung up on sets and repetitions. I would have stuck with the repetition number that I preferred at the time for each exercise, changing it a little from cycle to cycle if I felt like it. 

25) In this Utopian projection I am basically looking at doing sets of 5-7 reps on everything except work for the calves, midsection and shoulder external rotators that would have higher reps, and squats and deadlifts that, in some cycles, would be worked in sets of 15-20 reps.

26) With adding poundage in good form being the sovereign priority, the number of sets used would be a secondary consideration. So long as I added a little iron to the bar each week, all would be well. I would do one, two or AT MOST three work sets per exercise, reducing the number of sets at the end of a cycle when the intensity is highest. 

27) I would stick with the same exercises for year after year, and tend to persist with the same productive formula.

28) My motto would have been, "less is more" and "less is best." Whenever I was in doubt, I would always choose less rather than more, less sets, less exercise, and less workouts (but lots of effort). 

29) I would have trained only twice a week. The deadlift would be training just once per week. The other major four exercises would usually be trained twice a week or three times every two weeks. But I would not hesitate to train each lift only once a week in order to increase recovery time. (At this stage I would be doing two of exercises of the mighty fivesome workout, and the other three on the second workout of each week). 

30) Everything I would have done would have been geared for making my whole body able to withstand another small dose of iron on the bar for each exercise, every week or two, and in good form, even if it was just a few ounces.

31) I would have done a moderate amount of stretching a few times a week. I would not have gotten hung up on it, but neither would I have neglected it. I would have ignored aerobic work until I was well into my thirties, preferring to keep almost total focus on what meant the most to me, the weights.

32) I would have been a stickler for good exercise form. The weekly or bi-weekly poundage increments would have been gradual enough, however, so that I'd never feel an increase in load, and never have to loosen form to compensate for excessively-sized increments.

33) I would have eaten a diet mainly composed of ordinary nutritious food and rich in protein, and enough of it to grow on, the most food I could eat without getting fat.

34) In this Utopian scenario, never, EVER would my attention on focus and progressive poundages have wavered. But oh, the terrific and unwavering results I would have obtained. 

35) Of course, everything just cannot be plain sailing, not even in this Utopian training world just described. There would have been ups and downs, I would still have gotten colds and minor injuries. My motivation and body would not always be 100% on target. I would still have had out of the gym and training constraining factors to cope with. But to have all these constraints together with a sound training program, then it is just a case of slower but certain progress toward the full realization of strength and size potential. To have these constraints together with the sort of training program that most people have, is to guarantee little or virtually no progress, no matter how much money and persistence is invested. The basic training program has to be sound or nothing else matters.

36) These points may seem rather dictatorial. It is not the definitive word on training. It does not have to be. But is this was written in stone, in all gyms, all over the world, it would just work for so many people for so much of the time that it would be the most miraculous and important contribution to the Iron Game history. 

Something does not have to be the "last word" for it to be of benefit to the masses. Apply something that really does work, that works well and you may never want to look for "the perfect routine" again.

Continued in Part Two: Training. 

Enjoy Your Lifting!             


Blog Archive