Sunday, March 19, 2023

Proper Spacing of Exercise Periods - Harry Paschall


All men were created equal, but each one has his own individual reaction time, just as there are race horses and plow horses, and never the twain shall meet. 

Marvin Eder, 320 press at 187
in good style. Can you imagine
what he could have accomplished 
had they not screwed him over? 

Do you recoup beaucoup? 

Pardon the French, but what we are trying to say is, briefly, how long does it take you to recover after an exercise session? 

If you can check this with reasonable accuracy, you are well on your way to assuring better results from your training. A great many guys are simply knocking themselves out with overtraining while they think they are doing the thing according to the book.

The whole trouble arises out of the difficulty in writing schedules for everyone at one time. Magazines and books of necessity set up somewhat arbitrary programs. Mostly the book says work out thrice a week, with rest days in between. For most people this is okay, but a considerable number of our customers may find themselves some day in the same boat with old Bosco himself. 


Three big workouts a week for us, at this later date, would amount to murder. As you get older, you don't snap back quite as fast as you used to as a beardless youth. Some people say, as my Uncle Ben used to say, are "born tired and  never get rested." 

We used to have tremendous energy; we could lift every day and enjoy it. We will never forget good old Mark Berry and his astonishment on several all-night lifting sessions we put in at Sig Klein's N.Y. gym back in the mid-twenties. Mark's eyes used to start sinking into his head at twelve o'clock, and by dawn he looked like a walking zombie. Yet we could lift within ten pounds of as much in the gray dawn as we did when we started the previous evening. Even in our forties we still possessed this to a great degree, but very suddenly, at 43, the zing went away, and we have been looking for it under the bed, like an old maid hunting burglars, ever since.

This is not to say that now, in our middle fifties, we are a doddering member of the Iusta Club. [I used-ta . . .]. We can still lift fairly respectable weights and throw flip-flaps, but we find that our exercise periods are getting wider apart. Twice a week seems better for us than thrice, and at this late day we realize what we overlooked before, that many people do not have the energy quotient we were fortunately born with. This is as true for many lads of sixteen as it is for men of mature years. 

Some people simply get a bigger hunk of cake when they are born than others, and don't let any Socialist tell you differently. We are all for the betterment of the Common Man, but we reserve a great deal of admiration for the Uncommon One. Fact is, what weight training is trying to do is to make Uncommon Men out of Common Ones. 

We have finally smartened up to a point where we think we know what we are doing when we exercise. We used to give ourselves a bad time by forcing the issue many times when we felt like a wrung-out dish rag. In youth this doesn't matter too much, for you can stand almost anything, but during the last dozen years we have learned a lot of lessons. 

Now, we take a workout whenever we FEEL like it. This may sometimes be thrice a week, and sometimes a great big NOTHING. It averages up to about twice. But we are through forever with browbeating our weary bones into heavy exercise just because it may be Monday or Wednesday. 

This, of course, is a mature attitude, and is not at all recommended for beginners. Most newcomers to bodybuilding are so lazy then need the touch of the whip and three workouts a week should be the minimum, for several very good reasons. One, because they use starting weights so low as not to unduly tax their strength, and two, because the first several months of barbell training should be as regular as possible. Irregular training is only for the advanced man.

For the most part this book goes to men of experience, and our personal findings may be interesting to such exercisers. One of the recent discoveries was the usefulness of the tape measure. Throughout our weight lifting career we have been want to speak disparagingly of this adjunct of the sewing basket, with the feeling that many muscleheads attached too much importance to measured girths. We still feel that this is true, for many become so obsessed with their desire to sport and 18" biceps, that they measure it ten times a day, and any slight loss in the bulge drives them to a few sets of cramp curls to get back instantly the 1/4 inch deficiency. But we have found the tape may be used constructively.

The barbell bug who takes all-round workouts may wonder sometimes why he feels so lethargic on an appointed workout day. He feels that he would rather loll in an easy chair and read a book . . . 

. . . than spend an hour or two in slinging iron, and this causes his conscience to get up on its hind legs and whisper sweet nothings in his ear, "So -- you big slob, you're backing down. You haven't got the guts to take a good workout. Come, come, shirker, this is Wednesday -- it's barbell time. Are you a man or a mouse?" 

So you take the workout, and your first exercise tells you that you're in for trouble. You have difficulty squeezing out 7 or 8 reps instead of the usual 10. You determine to slug it out, however, and you go on through the whole weary routine, and as you drag your aching bones to the shower, you have at least the satisfaction of knowing that you saw your duty and you done it -- just as a certain poet advised in a poem which has caused more sore heads than anything ever written in the English language -- "Beneath the bludgeonings of Fate, I YAM the Master of my Fate -- I YAM the Captain of my Soul!" 

Now, if you had consulted your tape measure you would have had no horrible experience of this type, for its readings would have told you when it was time to take a workout. We have passed this stage ourselves, and no longer need to consult the tape, for our muscles themselves speak to us, and tell us quite audibly when they are "ready." But, for a time, we found the tape quite a help in making decisions, and we will outline out "technique."

You are all familiar with the "pumping-up" effect of exercise. If you put the tape on your arm, for instance, before working out, it may read 16 inches. This is what blabbermouths call "cold" measurements. Now, you do 8 or 10 heavy two hand curls, and follow this with 3 sets of muscle-molding curls while seated, using the swing bar for 12, 10 and 8 repetitions. Now slap on the tape . . . 

Oh Happy Day! It now reads sixteen-and-a-quarter! Now rest a moment till respiration returns to the norm, and do a two hand press with a fairly heavy barbell for 5 or 6 reps. Then take two light dumbbells and perform three sets of triceps raises while bending forward. Your arms feel tight as a drumhead. You slap on the tape again . . . 

This time, because the triceps are bigger than the biceps, the reading may even go to sixteen-and-a-half! 

Oh Happier Day! 

This same increase in size may be noted in greater or lesser degree for every portion of the body as you do squats, calf raises, chest and shoulder exercises. You swell up all over . . . sometimes even around the head. This is the Key to growth in weight training. When you reach a point where your measurements no longer increase during concentrated exertion, you are at a dead end in your progress. 

So this swelling must be encouraged, if you are to continue to grow. You can easily check this with a tape. If you continue (we are speaking now to advanced pupils) to take thrice-per-week workouts, there will come a daay when this swelling is less than before This is a warning signal from mOther naTure; she is getting tired of being pushed around. 

If you have been training steadily for six weeks or more, this is the signal for a week of rest -- no barbells at all [and no dumbbells, kettlebells, etc.]. But sometimes this happens at other times as well, and controlling it is the problem of the intelligent exerciser. It may be spotted in advance of the usual training time by use of the tape. 

We have found that our measurements AFTER a good workout are DOWN slightly. For instance the 16 inch biceps we previously mentioned may drop to 15.75 inches on Tuesday after a Monday exercise session. Other girths suffer a like fate, and even the scales may show a pound loss. 

On the second day AFTER the workout (Wednesday), we note a gain. If this is up to or slightly exceeds our previous HIGH, we will take a workout on Wednesday evening. But sometimes the measurements are still down on this second day -- and if so, we have learned to wisely forego any exertion. 

The next afternoon we measure again. The arm is back to a strong 16 inches -- so we take our next workout with two days of rest between. Sometimes this recovery takes longer -- we have sometimes waited five days between sessions, and this was not our normal "Holiday" between changing routines.

The way you feel will enable you to check on this. If you are full of (soya) beans and rarin' to go, the chances are that you will find, by the tape check, that your muscles are ready too. Exercise time should be a happy time. If you begin your workout in an aura of gloom, there is something wrong. 

You should feel eager -- as full of anticipation as when you sit down to a tasty dinner. Barbell exercise, normally, is stimulating and pleasurable. We have found it much more pleasant since we found out how to regulate it so there are no wasted sessions -- and WASTE is a good word for these periods when the effect of growth is missing. They are not only wasted, but they may do damage and hold you back.

The use of the tape to check our exercise sessions has resulted (for us) in a feeling of continuted growth. Now we are better able to use the Principle of Progression -- that is, to add either weight or reps at EVERY workout. And this, also, is an indication as to properly spaced exercise sessions. If you can add a rep or two somewhere along the line in your workout -- for instance I mean 1 more rep in the curl, 1 in the squat, 1 in the calf raise -- you have a feeling of progress. 

We have NEVER failed to do this since we started taking workouts when we were READY, instead of forcing them at certain predetermined intervals.

We have come to the belief that overwork is as bad as no work at all, and that a lot of this wild talk about "forcing" exercises is the blabbering of incompetent muscleheads. After all, the purpose of barbell training is primarily better health [Ah, the good ole days], that super feeling that only we weightmen know. Grinding out reps with our tongues hanging down to here is not the way to strengthening heart and lungs. 

Conversely, we are not for cream puff exercises either. The weights must be heavy enough to tax our muscles, and they must be consistently increased.

How much exercise is enough? This varies with the individual. We like to work out leisurely, and generally take about two hours for a workout -- resting between exercises until respiration returns to normal. We use the HEAVY and LIGHT system ourselves, for the most part -- doing one heavy exercise for strength, and following it by three sets of molding movements for shape. We even do one set of some 15 reps with a pretty heavy bell in the flatfoot full squat with back straight, and then following with three sets of "hack" squats for shaping, with a much lighter bell, and running the reps on this around 12, 10, and 8. After this our thighs are usually swollen from .5 to .75 inches. If they aren't, we know we have been training when we should have stayed in bed. 

When our pal John Grimek reds this, he is going to have fits because he will think old Bosco has deserted him in his battle against the "tape-happy" pseudo-scientists, because nobody would have ever figured that we would come to recognition of a tape measure as a useful article. But, as we have so often told you, we reserve the right to change our minds whenever we find a better way of doing things. And now we have got to a point where the tape is innecessary, so maybe JCG will forgive us after all.

But we believe all of you advanced lads will find this method of properly spacing exercise periods very much worthwhile. Remember, we are always trying to find ways to make barbells easier to use; muscles easier to acquire; and in general make life happier for our fellow iron fans. 

Enjoy Your Lifting!      


  1. Paschall had a writing style all his own.

  2. Hi Jan! This gear seems to let me post comments on my own blog, but only from work. No worries. Yeah, that article had a photo of a fella, and it went a little like . . . "Author So and So, also a . . . " I figured, well, maybe this is the author, seeing as they didn't give Harry P's name on it, just the Bosco character in the corner. Once I got to "Do you recoup beaucoup?" there was no question. Great muscle writer. Literate, well read, a wider than just lifting scope, and really, if it came down to a write-down for the Mr. O-Yes-I-Can title between Paschall and Charlie Smith . . . it'd be a helluva battle!


    1. Whoa! My repeats are starting to have less and less time between them. I catch 'em most of the time, but it's increasing. Naturally! 2,596 posted so far. But still, I shoulda checked more thoroughly. Thanks for finding the double, John. Now, if there's an author that warrants double posts, it's Harry Paschall. What a strange positive view I have today!


  4. Agreed. Your blog inspired me to search out his publications. I am waiting to receive in the post the four book Bosco collection (reprints) plus the 3 issues of the Strength Notebook. From memory, I think he was one of Bradley J. Steiner's favourite writers.

  5. That sure is great to hear, John! I am still surprised when I find out this blog deal has some small impact on the way a couple people look at their lifting. Man, Harry Paschall had it all going on. Great writing, outside-of-lifting references, humor and of course, sound training methods. I shouldn't say this, and most people prefer hard copy material over the digital with this stuff, but some guy, sheesh, get a life buddy, scanned or typered out a lot of the Bosco material and buried it online, where it resurfaced and became easy to find. I know this guy! Very well.

  6. I'm finding the "repeat post" thing to be fun. Spend an evening or so typering and picture posting, and then the next morning realize it's already there! Makes me laugh at myself every time. Good stuff. Lack of organization, serendipity, near enough to chaos to be alive . . . sounds good to me!

  7. One of Dan John's best pieces of advice is to re-read great books. I think that also applies to great articles.

    1. You bet! I'm so silly I re-read single lines over and over sometimes. I find it great!


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