Thursday, November 26, 2009
My Experience with Weight Gain
by Anthony Ditillo
Since I first began writing these articles, I have always wanted to write one up on gaining weight. To me, gaining weight is a relatively simple matter. You merely ingest more nutrients than you use. This results in a backlog of unused matter which results in an increase in bodyweight. The more good, high-quality food you eat, the more you weight you gain. It’s as simple as that. And yet somehow many of you fellows fall by the wayside somewhere along the line. There are many different reasons for this, which in the course of this small article I hope to point out for your benefit.
Many, many times I have received a request from an interested trainee who is desirous of gaining additional weight and claims that he is willing to do anything that is necessary to make such gains. Nine times out of ten, after I go through the trouble of writing up a weight gaining routine and diet, I never receive a reply from this fellow again. What happens? Where did I go wrong?
Well, fellows, I believe it is the lack of training drive, the lack of ability to change one’s daily patterns or work, recreation and rest, and also the lack of drive to work really hard and long at the task at hand that is responsible for most of these trainees giving up and calling it quits.
To gain weight you must force yourself to continually ingest more and more nutritious food. Whether you prefer liquids to solids is up to you. I myself like prefer to combine both these methods of force-feeding in order to guarantee a steady increase of nutritious material constantly coursing through my body. The good points involved in an increase of liquid nutrition are that the body can absorb this form of food more easily and quickly and it does not bloat the body to too great an extent. Since I have always had a good appetite, I mainly prefer solid foods to liquids. But if you do not have an appetite which will allow you to eat enough food to gain on, I would greatly advise you to use one of the many concoctions regularly featured in this magazine.
While it is of the utmost importance to be sure that you get enough protein in your diet, we must not do away with the importance of carbohydrates and fats, which must be used also in a gaining diet. You see, if you eat only protein foods you will not have enough energy producing nutrients in your body for everyday normal needs, let alone your workouts. This means that the proteins your body should be using for building muscles will be used for producing energy. This is not too good a situation. How then will you be sure that you are eating enough protein to grow on? The answer is: You won’t!
In my opinion, the best sources of natural carbohydrates would be the following: fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, legumes, beans, whole grain products and milk (which is a great combination of fats, carbohydrates and protein, in itself). When trying to gain weight be sure to eat frequently of these foods every day. But don’t forget, the most ingredient in your diet would be protein; you simply will NOT gain in size without it.
When discussing the factors involved in gaining useful bodyweight, we must also include the saturated and unsaturated fats. There are also energy producers and are needed by the body in order to insure a steady production of energy to last through those hard workouts you must take. Butter, margarine, vegetable oils, etc. fall into this category, along with heavy and light cream. Be sure to include some of these foods in your diet each day when trying to gain weight. This will insure a constant supply of energy for the body.
So, we have come to the conclusion that both liquid and solid nutrition are necessary in order to constantly increase the amount of food we can consume. We have also come to the conclusion that we need protein, carbohydrates and fats, all three in order to have proper body functions.
Today the physical culture world is enveloped with training systems most of which are not worth the paper they are printed on. You hear all kinds of reasons for not being able to gain weight: high metabolism, low metabolism, high energy level, low energy level. What is all the ballyhoo about? If you have low metabolism than your problem would not be one of being unable to gain weight, but of controlling this weight and keeping reasonably lean. If, on the other hand, you have a high metabolism you must perform mass muscle movements in low sets of repetitions twice a week. You also must continuously force yourself to eat more and more good wholesome food. Drink lots of milk. It can really make you grow. Eats lots of lean meat. It’s good for you. And don’t forget the fruits and vegetables. They’re ALL important.
So you see, it’s not all that involved when it comes to gaining weight. All you have to know is what category you fit into, and train and eat accordingly. Instead of taking one multi-vitamin per day, increase to three. Three to four quarts of milk per day, fortified with some protein powder and powdered milk can go a long way in increasing your weight. Six to eight meals a day (solid as well as liquid included) may be necessary to jolt your system to adaptability for gaining weight.
All Italian foods are high in calories and loaded with carbohydrates for energy along with quite a bit of protein in the form of grated cheese, pizza cheese, meatballs, veal, according to the ingredients.
Our editor, some time ago, wrote an article on gaining, and in it he recommended the use of fortified, thick, rich soups. Well, my own experience on the subject agrees with him completely. Such a meal is easy to prepare, costs little, tastes fine and is very easy to assimilate. Within it you get a great deal of vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, fats; the very things which we have already discussed and proved necessary for rapid weight gains.
High potency, fortified protein drinks are also very necessary for full weight gains. IronMan has carried many such drinks in the past and there are many to choose from. You merely suit your own palate. These drinks are invaluable in your quest for a more massive form.
I am now about to introduce you to two meals that I have used when extensively when trying to gain weight. They enabled me to weigh at one time 258 lbs. at a height of 5;6”. I hope they work as well for you.
Sample Weight Gaining Soup
Three cups prepared vegetable soup.
One cup peas.
One cup corn niblets.
One pound precooked lean beef.
One cup pork and beans.
One cup lima beans.
One cooked potato, cut up.
Do not add any water to the above recipe.
Sample Weight Gaining Drink
One quart whole milk.
One pint light cream.
One pint heavy cream.
One pint ice cream.
Two packets gelatin.
One cup skim milk powder.
Three tbsp. honey.
One cup fruit salad.
One cup protein powder.
Blend the ingredients together. I would recommend drinking half this mixture an hour before a workout, and finishing the other half one hour before retiring for the night. Coupled with all the information and suggestions in this article I can’t see why anyone can’t gain all the weight he wants.
A Straightforward Gaining Program
by Michael Caravlho (1971)
The quest for ultimate muscularity is achieved by a combination of various routines throughout the span of many years. NO ONE program will produce the finished product.
Simple, but hard-worked programs, are one of the keys to success. One can gain just as well and often many times more but using an abbreviated program. I will relate to you a program that can prove most beneficial to the underweight person, or the man who wants to gain a lot of weight in a short time.
First, and foremost, consider your diet. You’re probably sick of hearing this but you won’t gain up to your potential if you don’t have a nutrient-rich diet. A good gaining diet contains plenty of dairy products, meats, grains, fruits and vegetables. Supplements are a fine addition to this. Vitamins B, C, and E are the ones most people need more of.
One of my favorite gaining drinks is as follows: 1 to 3 eggs, 1 cup of skim milk powder, 1 or 2 scoops of strawberry ice cream, a banana and whole milk. Mix this in a blender and drink two or three times a day between meals.
Now to the training part of the program.
Only four exercises are to be performed. The parallel squat, bench press, stiff-legged deadlift, and the clean & jerk. That’s all! This can be a very result-producing program if followed thusly:
Do the bench press first, doing 5 sets of 6 reps using heavy poundages for the last 3 sets, resting a couple of minutes between sets. Really push this exercise, cheating if necessary on the last few reps of each set. 1½ times bodyweight will start producing really good gains. Remember, the first 2 sets are a warmup so do about 8-10 reps on each. Then do the last 3 sets for 6 reps, jamming out every repetition.
The squat is next and don’t be afraid. Add weight even if you think it seems impossible. Concentration is one of the most important factors in performing heavy squats, and you will find that out after a few hard yet successful sessions. Again, do the same 5 x 6 as the bench.
The clean & jerk is next and you should try to work up and over 1½ times bodyweight. Do 1 clean and 1 jerk, then 1 clean and 1 jerk, for 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 warmups, 3 work sets. This exercise stimulates the upper body tremendously, and combined with the bench press, this duo is hard to beat.
The final exercise is the stiff-legged deadlift. It will not only work the lower back but the upper back as well. You lower back, lats and traps will know they have worked after a hard session of stiff-legged deadlifts. The grip also gets a decent workout with exercise. do 4 sets of 10 reps, 2 warmups, 2 work sets and try to get those poundages up to 1½ times bodyweight.
Do these four exercises, eat a nutritious diet and work out hard. You’ll gain.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Hip Action in the Pull
by Charles A. Smith (1954)
A famous philosopher and teacher close to 80 years of age was once asked what was the most valuable piece of knowledge gained from his experiences during a long and fruitful life. He replied humbly and modestly, “The more I learn the more I realize how little I know.” Each new piece of information, each theory pushed to a logical conclusion had opened up new fields of thought, new paths of knowledge to explore, and had in turn given birth to new theories and discoveries and had filled him with a fresher and greater lover for Life. Here was a man famous and wise because he knew enough to realize that no one is ever finished learning, that an intelligent curiosity is the key to all knowledge.
I have often wondered how much farther advanced our Sport would be if authorities and instructors adopted the same attitude. Instead of sitting back, boasting of the champions they had produced, reproaching others for failing to do so, insisting that they and they alone were the sole source of weightlifting knowledge, that no one else knew a thing, that he style they taught, their methods of training were the greatest, they had said: “We are on the right track but we have so much more to learn. Perhaps we do not have a complete picture of what is right. Others may contribute something,” then I am sure that all the bad feeling and the slinging would never have occurred. Men only hate when they FEAR. John Fulton pointedly remarked in a recent edition of a British magazine . . . “The truth is not the possession of a small group of men but is to be found, in part, IN ALL MEN!”
The greatest enemy to American Weightlifting is self-satisfaction, a “know it all attitude.” A contempt for what others are doing is dangerous. To reason that because we have always ruled the roost we’ll continue to do so is stupid and futile. to argue that because our lifting champions have won title after title, then our methods and lifting techniques are in advance of all others, is narrow sighted. No matter how good we think we are, and no matter how much we think we know, we can always be a whole lot better and know a heck of a lot more.
Each weightlifting contest I attend, I do so with eagerness, not entirely because of the kick I get from watching good lifting, but because of what I hope to learn . . . and I’ve got a lot to learn. I have yet to see explained by certain authorities why it is that some men can use a wide grip in the snatch, while others have to use a relatively narrow handspacing. I have yet to see them explain what part the trapezius, serratus, and pectoral muscles play in the press. In my stumbling way I’ve attempted to explain these things, yet without claiming I was right, freely admitting I could be wrong, trying to check my theories by watching men lifting and discussing their experiences with them after the meet. My thought is that out of the many mistakes I might make, one grain of truth will emerge and will help some lifter among thousands improve. If that happens then I’ll consider my time well spent and my words unwasted.
The sole idea behind these articles, as I’ve said before, is not to set myself up as any sort of authority, but to explain certain ideas of mine, to present the ideas of others, with the hope that the information will help the beginner better understand the basics of lifting technique. I am not trying to push over any particular style but merely endeavoring to help lifters UNDERSTAND LIFTING!
With that off my chest, let’s get onto the subject for this article – Hip action in the Snatch. Now, you have already learned the two-hands snatch is a coordinated effort of the thighs, back and arms . . . that the power of the thighs and back take the weight off the ground and its velocity is boosted by the power of the arms. At a certain point the split or squat is started and by thus getting under the weight, the bar is successfully locked to arms’ length.
You have already gone through the stages of learning the correct position for the start of the snatch (see illustration 1), and how after what seems to be a slow start off the floor, the pull is accelerated as the bar passes the knees and moves into the region of the hips. To gain full and explosive force, to enable the arms to give the greatest possible boost to the power of the legs and back, the hips must correctly extend, in conjunction with the straightening of the thighs and raise on toes. But it is HIP ACTION that adds that extra “flip” to the bar and enables the muscles of the arms and shoulder girdle to act to better advantage.
When you are in the get-set position (illustration 1) you cannot get as powerful a contraction of the leg muscles as you can in the position of illustration 2. The closer the buttocks are to the floor, the less weight you can handle. You can prove this by observing how easily you can handle a weight in the half squat, when the same poundage takes plenty of effort to recover with in a full squat.
When the weight passes the knees, the power of the pull should grow greater since the knees and hips are working at a greater advantage. At this stage, every effort should be made to drive as fiercely with the thighs as possible. In fact there should be a conscious effort to “punch” the feet through floor. By constant practice, this fierce leg drive is made simultaneously with a straightening of the trunk (hip extension involving the muscles of the lumbar region), and it too is made with all the force you can muster. At this point the body is in a straight line.
Power at this point comes from three areas . . . the rise on toes from the ankles . . . the straightening of the thighs from the knees, and the straightening of the trunk from the hips. Thus these three “JOINTS” are giving speed and velocity to the bar and if made correctly should pull that bar along a straight “line of flight.”
You can see what is happening if you take a look at illustration 3. The bar is approaching the navel. The lifter is up on his toes and the trunk is upright. The arms are coming into the picture here and are boosting the speed of the bar with their power.
But there is another important point to remember and that is you are, with this deliberate effort of the hips (straightening of the trunk) preparing yourself for the split. Take at look at Illustration 3 again. Notice that the head of the lifter is flung back slightly. He has led with the head throughout the lift, the action itself aiding in keeping the back flat and thus obtaining a more powerful contraction of the erector muscles.
But when the body is upright, the head represents one end of a lever with considerable force applied at the other end (base of the spine and hips). The result is that there is a SLIGHT thrust forward of the hips, thus giving them momentum in the right direction for the split . . . FORWARD AND DOWN. Failure to add to the force of the pull by straightening the trunk (extension of hips) adversely affects the snatch. The result is the lifter may mistime his split and fail to put the full force of the arm pull into the movement.
So it is easily seen that an extra “flip” or boost is added to the bar by hip action. If you want to get the most out of hip extension, the body must be pulled UPRIGHT. The buttocks and the immensely powerful muscles of the spine, the erector spinae group, pull the back into upright position, and if you learn to use them with explosive force you will add considerably to the speed of the bar which is initiated by the thighs and ankles. In combination with hip action comes the pull of the arms which further boost the speed of the bar and give you a greater chance to get it to arms’ length.
It is not too important to visualize this hip action in the mind. Just picture the bar moving as close to the body as possible and as straight as possible, the raise on toes, the press back of the head and the straightening of the body into erect position. Follow out these instructions and in the deep split the bar will be exactly where it should be for perfect balance and recovery from the split, directly above the hips.
And don’t forget that while it is good to pay a lot of attention to technique, you mustn’t forget the building of power. Include in your schedules such basic strength movements as squats and dead lifts. All the style in the world is useless without the strength to back it up.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Increasing the Press
by Brooks Kubik
In the old days, most men who lifted weights in a serious fashion practiced the standing press – and most of them were reasonably good at the lift. Let’s work together to bring that aspect of training back to the Iron Game. Make it a belated New Year’s resolution: “This year, I WILL get serious about my standing press numbers.”
Having said that, let’s discuss some basic points about getting started on the standing press and increasing your poundage in the lift. Here are twelve tips for lifters who are starting to re-discover the standing press:
1.) Practice Makes Perfect
There is a very precise pressing groove. You learn “the groove” through practice. To become a better presser, you need to press way more often than once a week or once every 10-14 days of heavy pressing. In the old days, Olympic lifters trained the exercise three, four or even five times a week. Personally, I think that four or five times a week would be excessive. But there’s nothing at all wrong with doing standing presses two or three times per week. In fact, many will find that it’s the best way to improve the lift.]
2.) Train Heavy
If you do high or medium rep sets in the standing press, you probably are not going to develop exactly the right groove for heavy presses. With light and medium reps, you use light weights, and with light weights, you can easily push “close” to the right groove, but not “in” the groove. Close only counts in horseshoes, folks. In lifting, your goal should be to make an absolutely perfect lift on every rep you do.
As noted above, the standing press requires you to develop a very precise pressing groove. In this sense, it is both a “skill” lift and a “strength” lift. You MUST train the lift with heavy weights and low reps in order to learn how to do it properly.
Think about how lifters train cleans and snatches. Do they do high reps? No. They do singles, doubles and triples. If you do higher reps in a “skill” lift your form breaks down and you actually teach yourself the WRONG groove.
3.) Select the Proper Rep Scheme
To use heavy weights, you MUST use relatively low reps. Anything over five reps is too many. Doubles, triples and singles are great. The 5/4/3/2/1 system is excellent. And remember, you don’t need to do 50 presses in every workout. a total of 7 to 15 presses is fine. (5/4/3/2/1 equals a total of 15 reps, which Bob Hoffman considered to be ideal.)
4.) Train the Lower Back
Always remember, the standing press builds works, trains and conditions the lower back. That’s one of the most important aspects of the exercise – indeed, it may be the MOST important aspect of the exercise.
But the other side of the coin is this: if you have not been doing serious work for your lower back, you are NOT ready to train hard and heavy on standing presses.
Unless your lower back is strong and well conditioned, the FIRST thing to do is to go on a specialization program for the low back. After six to ten weeks of concentrated lower back work, you will be ready for standing presses.
This is especially important for anyone who has been avoiding squats and training his legs with leg presses, hack machine squats, dumbell squats, wall squats or any other exercise that takes the lower back and hips out of the picture.
Ditto for anyone who does trap bar deadlifts as his exclusive lower back exercise. The trap bar deadlift is not as effective a low back builder as are deadlifts performed with a regular bar. It’s more of a hip and thigh exercise. Many lifters injured themselves by using trap bar deadlifts as their exclusive low back exercise, not realizing that it really does not work the low back as effectively as other movements. Then they hurt the low back doing squats, rows or curls, and wonder what happened.
Anyone who has been training with bench and incline presses (or dips), back supported overhead presses (or machine presses), leg presses and trap bar deads -- a schedule I mention because it is highly popular and similar to that used by many modern lifters – should devote serious attention to training his lower back before he tackles standing presses. Such a lifter may have fairly strong shoulders and triceps, and may THINK that he can go out and start doing standing presses with BIG weights. He can’t. His lower back will not be anywhere strong enough and well conditioned for serious work on the standing press.
Let me also note that one of the very best exercises for building STABILITY throughout the lower back and the middle of the body is the wrestler’s bridge. Try 3 sets of 30 seconds per set (with no weight) and work up slowly and steadily until you can do 3 sets of 3 minutes each. You won’t believe how much stronger and more stable you are when doing your barbell exercises. In this regard, don’t forget that I started to do bridging in the Spring of 2000, and by the Fall I had worked up to 12 reps with 202 lbs. in the “supine press in wrestler’s bridge position.” At about the same time, I hit a personal best of 270 in the standing press. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
If you ask someone to list a few good “assistance exercises” for the press, they’ll usually say, “dumbell presses, side presses, incline presses, push presses, jerks, upright rowing, etc.” – in other words they’ll think of “shoulder exercises” and different types of pushing movements. That’s lazy thinking. The shoulder, triceps, traps and “pressing muscles” get plenty or work from pressing. The most beneficial “assistance exercises” for the press are those that strengthen the middle of the body.
All of the foregoing points apply to training the waist and sides. Unless you already have been doing this, work hard on these areas for six to ten weeks BEFORE starting to specialize on the standing press.
With regard to the waist and sides, the big problem is the crunch. The exercise gurus who have promoted the crunch for so many years have done nothing but develop a generation of lifters who lack any reasonable degree of strength and stability in the middle of their bodies. Scrap the crunches. Replace them with bent-legged situps (with weight, 3x8-12), lying or hanging leg raises, heavy sidebends and the overhead squat.
The overhead squat?
Kubik, have you lost your mind?
No, not at all. The overhead squat builds tremendous strength and stability all through the middle of the body. It hits the inner abdominal muscles that lie BENEATH the “abs.” When it comes to strength and stability, these are the muscles that count.
And while we’re talking about core strength, let’s talk about the power wheel. Paul Anderson used a simple cart type of this apparatus, described in an earlier press article in IronMan.
6.) Start Your Day With Presses
Many lifters train their presses after doing heavy squats or heavy back work. That doesn’t work very well, because your lower back is tired and you are less stable. Do the presses first. That’s the way Olympic lifters did their training in the old days, and remember, those guys were all specialists in the standing press.
7.) Be Aggressive
Every single one of you can develop the ability to do a standing press in perfect form with bodyweight. I mean that. Dead serious. Every single one of you . . . bodyweight . . . in perfect form.
That should be your long-term goal.
For the younger guys, and for the stronger, more experienced lifters, bodyweight is just the beginning. Once you hit bodyweight, set your sights on 110% of bodyweight. When you can do that, shoot for 120% . . .
Anyone who can handle bodyweight in the standing press is STRONG!
Anyone who gets up to 130% is handling weights equal to some of the very best Olympic lifters in the world back in the pre-steroid days.
Norb Schemansky, in the 198-lb. class, handled 281 pounds. If you do the math you’ll see that Schemansky was pressing 142% of his bodyweight. These numbers show what a strong, determined man can achieve with years of proper, hard training.
8.) Try Cleaning for your Presses
Many lifters find they can press more if they clean the weight than if they take it off racks or squat stands, because the bar is better positioned for a heavy press. So learn how to clean, and try cleaning the bar before pressing it. You might find it adds a little more zip to your pressing.
9.) Dumbell Pressing
From Saxon to Grimek, from the beer halls of Austria to Davis, Hepburn and Anderson, many, many old-timers specialized in heavy dumbell pressing. And guess what? The best dumbell pressers usually turned out to be the best barbell pressers! You see, heavy dumbells are very hard to balance. To improve your overhead pressing, you need to do plenty of overhead pressing. Heavy dumbell exercises, however, are a tremendous assistance exercise for the standing press. Keep them in mind, and when your progress slows down, work them into your schedule. Harry Paschall used to swear by them; heavy dumbell pressing is one of the “secrets” in his 1951 classic, “Development of Strength”.
10.) Handstand Pressing
Another excellent assistance exercise for the standing press is the handstand press. Grimek used to do plenty of handstand presses and gymnastics work, and he became one of the best overhead pressers of his generation. Sig Klein used to specialize in handstand presses and tiger bends, and he managed an amazing record in the military press – a heels together, letter perfect military with 150% bodyweight. Paschall, who was good buddies with both Grimek and Klein, swore by the movement. Give them a try!
11.) Keep the Back, Abs and Hips Tight
For proper pressing, you need to “lock” your low back, abs and hips. Most lifters will do best if they also tense the thighs. The entire body must be tight and solid. Pretend you are doing a standing incline press without the incline bench. Your body must support the pressing muscles and the weight of the bar exactly the same as would an incline bench. (This is NOT to say that you lean back and try to press from a 60 degree angle or any similar foolishness. I don’t want you to lean back as if you were ON an incline bench, I want you to understand that your back, hips and abs have to give you that same level of support that a solid bench would provide.)
12.) Specialize for a While
The standing press is an exercise that responds very well to specialization programs. Try a schedule devoted to very little other than heavy back work, squats or front squats and standing presses. Remember, the great Olympic lifters of 30’s, 40’s and 50’s devoted almost all of their time to cleans, snatches, presses, squats and jerks, with a significant amount of their training being devoted to the press. They built enormous pressing power and tremendous all-round strength and power. You cannot do better than follow their example.
The foregoing tips will help anyone become not just a good, but an EXCELLENT presser. And remember one more thing – pressing is LIFTING. The standing barbell press is one of the most basic tests of strength ever devised. It has been a standard measure of a man’s physical power since the invention of the barbell. When you become a good presser, you can rightfully claim your place among the lifters of the past and present. Do it!
by Anthony Ditillo (1978)
After several years of weight training, in order to assure continued progress, advanced training principles will have to be used in order to further work your muscles and thereby continue their growth. In the formative years of training, muscle growth comes in fairly regular spurts, provided your training is systematic and your metabolism is at a normal rate of operation. At this time, a well supplemented diet, regular sleeping habits and a positive mental attitude will see you quite far. However, should you continue to train PAST this intermediate stage (most men don’t) you will soon discover that in order to continue on to further physical heights, some changes are in order. For you will have to increase BOTH your training load and intensity or you simply will not continue to gain.
During the past two years I have greatly added to my overall size and power, but it was not until I completely revamped my concept for what constituted hard work and advanced work that I thereby began to gain quickly and steadily, and I hope with this article to explain to you just what is necessary to continue your progress.
It was close to two years ago that my coach began to discuss with me his opinions and experiences with advanced training methodology and by incorporating his theories and examples in my own training, I have gained to a point I had never believed possible beforehand. It is also quite evident to both of us that the stronger and more muscular you become, the HARDER it is to become even STRONGER. This is not due to any ‘secrets’ of the champions being withheld, rather it is due to the time factor in your training and the ability of the trainee to recuperate after great muscular exertion.
By time factor, we mean the length of time it takes to finish your workout. In my opinion, this HAS to increase as you become advanced, unless you strictly bodybuild, are not concerned with strength gains and use multiple sets ad light weights. It only stands to reason – the more heavy sets performed, the longer the workout, the greater the gains. You can, however, find ways to cut down on wasted time. Let us say you can perform 10 sets of 3 to 5 repetitions with a certain weight. In preference to increasing the weight, OR the repetitions, you can slowly reduce the rest between sets until only 30 seconds is the time used. This is making TIME the intensity factor. Then you can increase the weight by twenty pounds or so and begin the process once again. As far as warmup sets are concerned, this too is an individual matter. Dezso Ban prefers 20 lb. jumps on most presses and 50 lb. jumps on squats and heavy pulls. Usually, I use the same. However, when feeling exceptional, I may take larger jumps to get to my working weight. By working weight I mean a weight you will use for many sets (10 to 15) of 3 to 5 repetitions for power or 4 to 6 repetitions for gaining size. Such a training concept is not new at all. Reg Park used this same theory and method during the 50’s and would perform as many as 15 sets of each movement for between 5 and 7 repetitions. What worked for Park should also work for you in time, if you’ve got the intestinal fortitude for it. If you can train 5 times per week each workout should take in the neighborhood of 2 hours. If only 3 training days are available, expect to be training for 3 hours at each one. Remember, we’re talking about advanced men who want to go still further in their strength and development. Should you disagree with my requirements, possibly thinking them excessive, then I advise you to contact the various lifters you’ve been reading about and you’ll find them all following similar schedules when it comes to training volume and intensity.
This type of training would KILL a beginner. He should think of himself as a child beginning his journey into life. He should stick to brief, basic routines which will build the FOUNDATION for future gains that have yet to come. But sooner or later such a routine is just NOT going to do the job. Then it is time to incorporate my suggestions. THEN you will be ready.
Proper recuperation is a process which you can adapt the system to accept. With regular increases in workload, saturating the tissues with Vitamin C and various minerals will improve recuperation as the system adjusts to the stress. This theory of adaptation is founded in physiological and psychological fact. It is this theory which enable you to continue to progress. When necessary, the body can produce miracles in recuperating after trauma or stress. The law of adaptation makes use of this phenomenon.
The rate at which you recuperate has a lot to do with the amount of INTEREST you have in your training and how much you are willing to sacrifice in order to go further with it. Some men are incapable of accepting even minor physical discomfort and for them advanced training is simply out of the question. Advanced training is not for the weak and it is certainly not for the lazy.
The amount of sets and repetitions, choice of exercises and training frequency are personal matters and require personal attention. These points differ greatly from lifter to lifter, since no two lifters recuperate exactly the same. However, I have come to certain conclusions regarding basic requirements for successful advanced training and I am sure that by using the following recommendations as a GUIDE, you will IN TIME find what works best for YOU.
I have found that it is not enough to work each set ‘into the ground,’ for strength is an ACCUMULATIVE process. In my opinion, the answer lies in increasing BOTH training load and intensity. By working long and hard with many, many sets with heavy weights, you are assured of continued progress. I press EVERY DAY for between 15 and 20 sets including warmups, using heavy weights and 3 to 5 repetitions, and since I started this severe type of schedule my presses have gone up and up and UP, to the point where I recently pressed 350 for a double, only not being able to lock it out the last two inches on the second repetition. This was due to improper position and lack of flexibility. I intend to remedy the situation very shortly. The reason I can continue to press day after day is THAT SINGLES ARE RARELY DONE, so nervous energy is not drained. Heavy pulls and squats are performed on alternate days, but in severe situations could also be done DAILY for some time with no ill effects other than muscle soreness.
All in all, you should for the most part perform 3 movements per workout, between 15 to 20 sets per movement, between 4 and 6 repetitions per set and between 3 and 5 training days per week, depending upon your availability of time. The following is the type of schedule I am presently using:
Overhead Press, Power Clean, Bentover Row.
Press From Eye Level, High Pull, Full Squat.
Seated Press, Shrug, Power Clean.
Press Behind Neck, Full Squat.
Repeat Monday’s workout.
Just remember to use basic movements, reps of 3 to 5 for strength and 4 to 6 for size, and in regular jumps increase BOTH the poundage and total sets until your mirror and the weight on the bars you are lifting begin to tell you that you’re training at your optimum level of ability.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
How Big is Your Chest?
by Father H.B. Lange, C.S.C. (1921)
Perhaps the admiration the man with the large, roomy, deep chest excites and commands is even more universal than that which the man with the powerful biceps receives, and this, all things considered, is only naturally so. The person with such a chest is, MUST necessarily be healthy, whereas the individual with merely a large biceps cannot be assured with that same degree of certainty concerning the state of his health. The chest, the upper-chest, contains, as everybody knows, that most vital of organs, the heart; it contains the lungs and the lower part contains the stomach, the liver, the kidneys and the spleen. The man possessing a large chest, a roomy chest and a deep chest gives all these aforesaid organs more opportunity for a like increase in size, and also a consequent increase in health and vigor. If our chest-box is small, if it causes the tape measure to record a circumference of but between thirty to thirty-six inches, is it not reasonable and logical to conclude and to maintain that these vital organs contained in that chest-box are correspondingly small, have they not less chance to cope with the attack of their specific and various ills? An army that is large, an army that is well coordinated, it is self-evident, will outlast and conquer an army that is small and not so well trained. So, likewise, the chest-box that is developed, that is perfectly and properly enlarged, has a much better, much surer advantage in withstanding ills, and also in recovering and recuperating after ills than has a weak and underdeveloped chest-box.
Then, too, it should be the source of much interest and enthusiasm to know and to remember that the chest is about the easiest and quickest part of the body to develop. Two months devoted to the earnest, regular, interested and intelligent practice of a few simple movements will make changes in one’s chest appearance that are astounding! Two months devoted in upper-arm developing exercises, if executed properly, are also bound to produce marvelous results, but these results cannot compare with the results obtained in the exercises for the chest. Personally, I believe this difference in rapidity and in the size of results can be attributed to he fact that even among persons living the most sedentary of lives the arm muscles are used more, are called into play more than are the chest muscles, and consequently the arm muscles are already better developed, in comparison and in proportion than are the chest muscles; which being the case, as soon as the almost dormant muscles of the chest region are stirred up and brought into play by proper exercise the inevitable result follows – newer and better blood circulating avenues are opened, the cells are rejuvenated, are exhilarated, are expanded and muscular tissue is bound to grow and increase.
So far the writer has confined his remarks to merely prefatory words. It will be best perhaps to try and define descriptively just what is meant by the chest. This is thought very advisable because the writer has found by personal experience that only one out of fourteen persons could correctly tell him what is meant by the chest. Ask the first acquaintance or friend you meet what is meant by the chest and note his reply. Generally, said reply will consist of a gesture made with either the right or left hands or both by tapping the region covering the lungs. Is that the correct answer? No! Why not? First of all, it is too general, it is not specific; and the definition of anything to be a good definition must be concise and specific. It must be to the point.
It will be the best, perhaps. to describe what the chest is not. The chest is not that part of the trunk covering the lungs. Neither is it that region under the armpits. Nor is it that larger plot covering the shoulder blades. It is, however, that larger part of the body made up of ALL these previously mentioned parts. All these different sections harmoniously assembled. Look into your dictionary. Find there the word “Chest.” What do you read? The answer is “a box.” A box, as everyone knows, is composed of four sides, to say nothing of the top and bottom. Speaking anatomically, the human chest is that section of the body made up of the breastbone and the ribs on the front, the ribs on the two sides and the shoulder blades forming the rear. The backbone also plays its part in the general scheme. That represents the framework. This framework is covered with muscle. Some of the most important muscles of the entire system, and muscles, too, that are woefully and miserably neglected in the bodies of the vast majority of human beings.
In the beginning of this article the reader read what organs are contained within the walls of the human chest. It is self-evident, as has already been said, that if the muscles controlling and guarding and covering these organs are not healthy are not strong, are not vigorous, the organs lying underneath are very liable to be in a similar condition; and it is just as self-evident that if the muscles controlling the guarding and covering of these various parts of nature’s human mechanism are healthy, strong and vigorous, then also said various parts MUST likewise be in the same robust, efficient condition. Accordingly and consequently, the individual desiring to possess health, REAL health, should develop the muscles of the chest – not just one or two, but all of them – for in doing so he will also develop all the vital organs contained in the chest-box.
There are various exercises performable that will develop the chest, but there is no one special or particular exercise that will develop this part of one’s anatomy better, more uniformly and quicker than the exercise known as the complete, or full two-arm pull-over. The writer’s own personal experience, along with the observational experience gained in directing various students, cause him to speak with so much enthusiasm in regard to this exercise and its beneficial an result-producing efficiency. Most chest exercises broaden the chest, chiefly the upper part, while little influencing the lower part. The two-arm pull-over not only broadens the chest, but likewise deepens it. In fact, it is the only exercise that will effectually deepen this part of the body. It just naturally makes one use his diaphragm. The pull-over likewise acts on the deltoids of the shoulders – gives them that perfect roundness that is absolutely necessary if a person desires to lay claim to the distinction of having really well-shaped shoulders. It is better to measure 8” than 6” through the chest from backbone to sternum or front chest-bone. It is better still to measure 9 and 10” through than 6 or even 8, and that is what is meant by increase in DEPTH of chest measurement. This increase is produced by the combined use of the proper muscular movements and proper regular breathing, inhalation and exhalation. Coordination is the secret of correct exercise. Moreover, the complete two-arm pullover will also develop the triceps of the arm and most of the muscles of the forearm. It will likewise strengthen the wrist and fingers. The muscles of the chest that are directly and indirectly called into play, exercised and developed, are as follows: The right and left pectoralis major and minor – these are the two large muscles comprising the upper front part of the chest and the ones generally referred to and had in mind when the term chest is used. The external and internal oblique abdominal muscles, which are found on both the right and left sides of the body forming the front part covering of the abdomen. Directly on the front part of the abdomen and in between the two oblique muscles just mentioned, is situated a thin, wide muscle called the rectus abdominus. Just below and to the side of each pectoral muscle is a set of muscles called the serratus magnus, or great saw muscles, a name taken from their peculiar shape. They look, when well developed, like the ribs and they are used in drawing the shoulder blades forward and in rotating them, and they are very important in inspiration, in inhalation, a point to bear in mind when performing the two-arm pullover; that is, when returning the weight to position back of the head. These muscles just enumerated are the ones covering the front of the chest and part of the sides. The muscles comprising the back and remaining side muscles of the chest are as follows: The latissimus dorsi, or very wide muscle of the back and which extends under the armpits. When fully and highly developed it gives a man’s back the appearance of a wedge tapering from the hips upwards to the armpits. These two muscles have for their duty the depressing; that is, the lowering downwards and backwards of the arms and also in rotating the arms. And in extraordinary breathing – deep breathing – it elevates the lower ribs. Above the latisimus dorsi muscles and having its pointed end rising from the middle of the back, or in between the aforesaid latisimus dorsi muscles, and then continuing outwards and upwards and on over the top of the shoulder and then becoming pointed again, forming the back part and the base of the neck where it is fastened to the occipital bone, is the trapezius muscle. The whole muscle rotates the shoulder blades. The upper part raises the shoulder girdle, while the lower part depresses the vertebral margin. Such, in part, roughly, are the chief muscles involved in the two-arm pull-over.
The technique of this particularly interesting and highly beneficial exercise is as follows: For the purpose of illustrating we will suppose the use of a barbell. The reason for using a barbell instead of a dumbell is obvious. Even if there were just enough space in between the weights on a dumbell for gripping with two hands, this would necessarily be more or less cramped, and any cramping or any other style of unnatural position should be zealously and carefully avoided in any kind of exercise. Therefore, use a barbell or long handled bell; at least three feet should be the distance between the weights, so that the arms be outstretched on the front or the back over-head position the natural width of the shoulders. Having taken the barbell, always remembering to use one that can be easily and comfortably handled, place it on the floor, taking care that there will be enough room to perform the movements without striking either the walls or objects in the room. The next step consists in, or rather, regards the position of the performer. Having placed his barbell in the desired position, he lies flat on his back on the floor so that his head will be on a straight line with the middle of the bell handle; that is, perpendicular to it. Now, reaching back over his head, he firmly grasps the handle of the bell, making sure that it is perfectly balanced and then keeping elbows perfectly stiff – do not bend them in the least, as this would spoil the efficacy, the good of the exercise – he raises the bell up till it is straight above his face; keeping his arms still perfectly rigid at the elbows, he lets the bell descend until it strikes his thighs. Now, what has been done? If done strictly according to the directions just given, the performer will have described or made a complete half circle. That is, in raising the bell from the position in which it originally was back of the performer’s head, up, up, then letting it down slowly until it touches the thighs, the course followed by the firmly grasped bell would make a half circle. Be sure that you have gotten this understandingly. Read it over again and then again to be sure.
Now, having completed the first part of the movement, the second part is easier – by that is meant, easier to understand – perhaps more difficult to do. Still grasping the bell firmly – the palms of the hands are down now, whereas when beginning the lift they faced upwards – you slowly lift the bell, with elbows held perfectly rigid, up, up overhead and then backwards and down till it once more lies on the floor back of your head. That completes the two-arm pull-over – that completes the lifting part of it. There yet remains another part and a very, very important part – breathing.
On the proper performance of the pull-over, whether one does the one-arm or the two-arm style, it should be borne in mind that the lungs are called upon to work vigorously. The diaphragm is expanded and depressed according as one inhales and exhales. When you bring the bell to the position from back of the head downwards to the thighs, then exhale all the air out of the lungs, thereby depressing the diaphragm. When you begin to raise the bell upwards from the thighs to return it to its original position back of the head, then slowly and fully fill the lungs with air, that is, inhale all you possibly can, thereby expanding the diaphragm.
You hear so much about the deep breathing. In the practice of the pull-over one gets all the deep breathing one wants and of the most beneficial kind, because it is most natural since your lungs are really called upon to take in and to expel air vigorously, and since their deep breathing is induced by violent and vigorous action and therefore in accord and in perfect harmony with such action. You have a real, sound and natural reason for inhaling deeply and for exhaling forcibly, a reason such as you do not have in merely standing before an open window, with your hands upon your diaphragm, and then taking the proverbial ten deep breaths. In this latter instance you are taxing your lungs to perform an action which has not been induced by a proportionate amount of physical exertion, since you are merely standing still. Did nature intend that man should breathe deeply when in repose or when almost in repose? Should he breathe as deeply then as when performing or just having performed some violent action or exertion? It is obvious that he should not, and it has been the writer’s experience, in his work as director of physical education, with boys and young men, that many who have become deep-breathing enthusiasts have complained of a dizzy sensation after having persevered in this practice of stationary deep breathing for some time. The writer always discourages the practice of stationary deep breathing. If you wish to practice deep breathing, then do something, perform some act, like running, exercising, the two-arm pull-over, etc., that will make you breathe deeply. Bear in mind that this form of deep breathing, that is “stationary deep breathing,” as I have named it, is more or less harmful, because it is unnatural. If the reader has carefully and attentively read the preceding lines he will know just why it is more or less harmful. The writer’s statements are not made indiscriminately or without warrant; they are based upon the answers to hundreds of questions on this practice of stationary deep breathing. He himself was an enthusiastic devotee of this form of so-called chest expansion for almost a year, and the noticeable feature at the expiration of that time was the very noticeable one of dizziness. The writer does not say that deep breathing will not develop the lungs, because it does, since it forces them to stretch, so to speak. What he does maintain is this: That no amount of stationary deep breathing alone will develop the larger muscles covering the walls of the chest. The man does not live who has imagination enough to make him believe that by deep breathing alone he can develop those large muscles comprising the back of the chest, the latisimus dorsi and the trapezius. Nor will anyone be found so foolish as to hold that the pectoralis muscles can be increased by deep breathing alone. And since increase – real, solid increase in chest measurement can only be acquired by the development of all the muscles, that is, by exercise so graduated and regulated that it is vigorous enough, without danger of strain, to gently and growingly and progressively coax these aforesaid muscles to an ideal stage of perfection, why waste time, why endanger one’s system BY practicing and IN practicing mere stationary deep breathing?
There is more than one point in connection with the practice of the two-arm pull-over, a point that is, it can be said without exaggeration, more important than any other, as important as the exercise itself, and that is, proper ventilation. NEVER practice this exercise in a room that is not properly ventilated. Have your exercise-room well aired before you begin. Keep the window open top and bottom – a foot above, a foot below; if you re fortunate enough to have two windows, keep them both open. Even in the winter have plenty of fresh air; remember you will never catch cold in fresh air, You will catch cold from the lack of fresh air. You will never catch cold while you are moving – but while loafing or sitting around. If you want a real chest do this – get an adjustable bar bell, clear a space in your room open the windows, follow the directions given; use a comfortable non-straining weight; work WITH A WILL and work JOYOUSLY, and inside of a short time your coat will be too small. There is NO exercise better than the two-arm pull-over for all-around chest and shoulder developing.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
by Terry Todd/Charles Smith
During his career, Hermann Goerner varied his training sessions, usually training five times a week with two days of complete rest, during 1905-1913. In the summer months these five training days per week included two days in the open air on the Sporting Beach of the Germania Bath in Leipzig. After beginning his professional career, Goerner trained daily, but by the time he had reached the age of forty, he trained only three times per week.
In an interview with Charles A. Smith, a former editor of “Muscle Power” and a noted lifting authority, I was able to gather some information which, when added to what I already had from previously published sources, allows me to provide readers with the approximate routine Goerner used during the years before and just after the first World War. These were the years when he made the most astonishing progress in the King of brute strength lifts – the deadlift. Smith saw Goerner lift in England and was present the night he was paid today’s (1977) equivalent of almost $1000 by the late J. Paul Getty for making a right hand deadlift with 602 lbs. While Goerner was performing in England, Smith was able to collect much of the data which follows.
1.) Two Hands Snatch: After loosening up with calisthenics he would work up in 8 or 10 sets of between 1 and 3 reps from around 125 to 300 lbs. on a good day.
2.) Two Hands Clean & Jerk: Beginning with 220 lbs. he would work up slowly to near his limit, which was almost 400 lbs. It should be noted that he used a very shallow split style on both the snatch and the clean & jerk, barely dipping under the weight.
3.) Two Hands Continental to the Shoulders: When he felt really well, he would put more weight on the bar after his heaviest clean & jerks and do several single continental lifts. He did them by taking the weight from the floor to his belt, then boosting it from there up to his shoulders. His best was around 450 lbs.
4.) Two Hands Curl: Goerner usually did 4 or 5 sets of this, working up to a maximum super-strict rep or two with 220 lbs.
5.) If the weather permitted, he usually ended his sessions with either some slow running or some swimming.
1.) Curl & Press with Kettlebells: Approximately 10 sets, going from 55 lbs. to 110 lbs. in 5½ lb. jumps (2½ kilo) jumps. These were done very strictly – usually only 1 or 2 reps with each arm, working up quickly to the 110 lb. bells.
2.) Clean & Military Press: Approximately 8 sets of 3 to 5 reps, going from 198 to 264 in 22 lb. jumps, doing 2 sets with each weight.
3.) One Hand Swing with Kettlebells: Approximately 8 sets (4 with each arm) beginning with 110 and sometimes going as high as 254 (using two kettlebells grasped in one hand).
4.) Deadlift: Usually 6 to 8 sets, never exceeding 3 reps. He usually began with 440 lbs. (200 kilos) and worked up to almost 800 lbs. Often he would do his lighter sets without a hook, or with only three fingers on each hand, or two, or only one.
1.) Curl & Press with Kettlebells: Same as Tuesday.
2.) One Hand Snatch: Usually, he would work up slowly in this lift, going from 110 to 220 with each hand.
3.) One Hand Clean & Jerk: As in the snatch, he would do quite a few sets, always using low reps (usually just one), working up to a best of 265.
4.) One Hand Deadlift: Alternating hands, Goerner would work up gradually in poundage from around 220 to over 700 lbs. on his good days, doing 10 to 12 sets.
5.) Squats: During this period, he usually squatted once each week, never more, and he would begin with around 220 and work up to approximately 600. He never really concentrated on this lift. Again, he favored low reps, 3 to 5.
1.) Clean & Press: Same as Tuesday.
2.) One Hand Swing: Same as Tuesday.
3.) Muscle-Outs with Kettlebells: He usually did these with “light” (up to 65 lbs. in each hand) weights and higher repetitions as a shoulder developer.
4.) Grip Work: Often, Goerner would practice lifting heavy barbells and dumbells with one, two or three fingers.
1.) Curl & Press with Kettlebells: Same as Tuesday.
2.) Two Hands Snatch: Same as Monday.
3.) Two Hands Clean & Jerk: Same as Monday.
4.) Front Squat: From time to time he did these, going up to a best of over 500 lbs.
5.) Two Hands Curl: Same as Monday.
The Leg Press, Part Two
by Jan Dellinger (1995)
Part One is Here:
Dr. Ken Leistner has for some time now advocated the leg press exercise, especially on leverage-style machines for the sake of injury avoidance. In fact, his fertile and thought-provoking “The Steel Tip” during the eighties abounded with routines featuring the leg press as a cornerstone, triggering gains in overall strength and lean muscle mass.
Nor did the leg press-deadlift connection escape Leistner’s frame of reference. In the Volume 2, Number 3 edition of “High Intensity Training Newsletter” he outlined the great success football players had training at his facility during 1989. They utilized one all-set of 15-25 reps in the deadlift followed immediately by a set of 15 leg presses. As he put it, “This is a difficult and intense grouping of movements, and will produce quite a bit of huffing and puffing from even the most well-conditioned athlete . . . Invariably, the athlete reports muscular soreness throughout the upper and lower back regions, the buttocks, and both hamstrings and quadriceps.”
Because of his considerable knowledge of physiology and strength training, Dr. Leistner was among the first to recognize that not everyone has the leverage to, as he puts it, “squat well,” and that certain types of physical construction are prone to repeated injury should they persist in continual heavy back squatting. Of course, so long as such people don’t harbor ambitions of being powerlifters, there’s no problem. Productive alternatives such as leg pressing, deadlifting on regular and trap bars, or squats on the “Safe Squat” apparatus, among others, were open. His only proviso was that they had to be practiced with great effort.
Likewise, at college and high school strength coaching clinics, I increasingly encountered heads of strength programs who used the leg press with regularity. Let’s face facts. Strength and size are two of the prime physical components most sought after in athletes (along with speed), especially in regards football players at all levels. If the leg press was not contributing toward getting the job done, it, as well as the strength coach, would be dismissed.
Even if your passion is competitive bodybuilding, there are some staunch proponents of the leg press among this circle. Both Lee Haney and Dorian Yates have expressed decided preferences for this exercise. Also, Franco Columbu stated that nothing replaces the established standbys for maximum muscular improvements. In his estimation, in the case of the thighs and hips, the clear choices were squats and leg presses.
Leg Press Machines
It’s worth noting that both Haney and Columbu favor leg pressing on the conventional vertical-type. Actually, the latter is rather adamant in this recommendation. I bring this side topic up in order to pave the way for a brief discussion of the popular types of leg pressing apparatuses, and the relative safety quotient possessed by each broad group. Be advised up front though, there won’t be a unanimous verdict. Rather, each reader is left to make up his own mind relative to individual body type and some careful experimentation.
As to the “up-and-down” machine, Columbu, who is a chiropractor by profession, contends it is superior to the array of machines at angles currently on the market. His rationale is that his years of experience with the traditional types of machine gave him the results he sought while proving “less damaging to the knee and ankle, and allowed you to train heavier.” Columbu goes on to say that during his competitive days he consistently did the vertical leg press with 600-700 lbs. and never developed an injury in any joint. Moreover, he contends that most of the modern leg press machines promote injury because they do not conform to established “biomechanics and the leverage of the muscle.” And, lastly, he says the vertical units are more productive because they do not attempt to defy the natural pull of gravity as most of the modern machines do.
On the other side of this biomechanical coin are a number of sports medicine authorities who caution to leave the vertical leg press units alone because, in their opinion, most of these models generate excessive compression on the user’s spine, and shearing forces on the knee structure. Having noted Columbu as being “pro” the vertical style, I offer Dr. Leistner, another chiropractor, who has come down four-square against them.
Exactly who is in which camp is not the crux of the question in my mind. But it’s worth remembering that along with enhanced muscular action, isolation and efficiency, one of the standard selling points of machines in general is the claim of greatly reduced likelihood of incurring injury from resistance exercise. This is not to imply that machine manufacturers have fallen short, or exaggerated claims, either individually or as an industry. Frankly, this question is part of a larger debate that has surfaced from time to time for years, one that is well beyond the scope of the issues here. Still, if practical usage and acceptance is a barometer, machines have found plenty of friends among contemporary gym goers. Back and forth the argument goes.
The advent of the angled leg press machines seemed to circumvent most of the alleged risk factors posed by the vertical models, or so I thought. Columbu has not been taken by this category, contending that many of these hurt his joints even while employing half of the resistance he formerly used. Leistner, likewise, does not rave about them either, although his reasoning is in a different vein. Because these angled sleds are constructed so as to afford the user a very favorable leverage advantage, one is required to use a lot of weight, especially very strong lifters and bodybuilders. Is this bad? According to Leistner, this capability to use excessive resistance exposes the soft tissues of the lower body to undue and incredible forces, the kind which can often create painfully prolonged or downright chronic injuries.
These considerations notwithstanding, walk into most commercial gyms across America – from those of renown in Southern California, to the one in your home town – and you will probably see plenty of people shoving the carriage of these angled sleds loaded with a great many 100 and 45-lb. plates. As I said, back and forth the argument goes.
There is, however, a leverage-style of leg press unit available which seems to have passed muster among those who oppose the 45 degree sleds and the vertical machines. I’ve been told by knowledgeable people in a variety of capabilities in this strength game that the design of the leverage-style leg press units definitely reduces the amount of shearing stress focused on the patella tendon, as well as the crushing forces on the spine. Further, their construction is not intended to encourage the usage of ego-boosting amounts of resistance, thereby lessening the damage to the soft tissues while still maximally attacking the hips and quadriceps.
My initial contact with regular leg pressing was on a conventional “up-and-down” apparatus, which I used without repercussions. Come to think of it, I went to leg pressing in the first place because of injury limitations, and stayed with it because it didn’t aggravate existing knee problems. Perhaps I was fortunate not to incur additional damage of any kind. At any rate, these days, in deference to the fragility of my knees, and a desire to train regularly and consistently without incident, all my leg pressing is done on a leverage-style unit.
Leg Pressing Technique
I hasten to add that proper form is imperative in leg pressing, as indeed it is in any exercise. Treat the leg press with great respect and care. Here are some key technique pointers:
1.) Keep your lower back in constant contact with the machine’s back support.
2.) Never round your lower back.
3.) Use a controlled speed of movement throughout the exercise.
4.) Build up the weights carefully and progressively; never let your ego get in the way and rush the progression.
5.) Push through your heels, not the balls of your feet.
6.) Never jam into the locked out position.
7.) Apply force evenly between you two legs; never favor one of them.
8.) Never twist your body or turn your head as you press or lower the resistance.
9.) Never use an excessive range of motion that puts your back or knees at risk.
The Big Three
For my two cents worth, there are three major movements powered, in the main, by the prime movers of the lower body, all with the ability to profoundly influence the comprehensive muscular development and strength of the human body. Of course, the trio is the squat, deadlift and leg press. And please understand that endorsement of all three is couched in the context of their practice as REPETITION exercises, not lifts. Again, in my experience, the leg press in particular yields optimal overall results when executed in moderate to high repetitions per set (8-20), although there’s always room for exercising individuality in a commonsense manner. With these provisos in mind, hard gainers would be well advised to include at least one of the “big three” in any routine they attempt.
Despite much available evidence in the form of documentable cross-generational support by accomplished might and muscle personalities, ascertainable preference among various factions of the strength coaching fraternity, and demonstrable value as an assistance exercise for improved general lower-body power, the leg press still doesn’t command much respect in certain circles. In particular, those of this persuasion chafe at the suggestion of grouping the leg press with the squat and deadlift when it comes to productive returns.
Pardon me, but I fail to comprehend how one can designate the deadlift as a first-rate growth exercise, and then turn around and trivialize a movement which obviously has the wherewithal to enhance the deadlift’s performance. This facility alone gives the leg press “worth” in my mind.
Similarly, some criticize the leg press on the grounds that it is supposedly incapable of matching the same degree of far-reaching muscular and cellular stimulation as the squat and deadlift, even when worked as a repetition exercise. Bear in mind, that progressive resistance exercise is an art, not a science. Trends and common practices emerge, but precious little ever really gets “written in stone.” Merely refer back to the “bane-benefit” controversy on the vertical leg press machine earlier in this piece.
By no means are these questions the only point-counterpoint issues simmering in the realm of weight training. For example, should high-velocity Olympic movements be avoided by all but competitive lifters? Does high-intensity, single-set training build strength commensurate with multiple-set low-rep training? And so on.
Why can’t these debates ever get settled? For one thing, in dealing with physical performance, an incredible number of variables must mesh, with any one possibly having sufficient presence to override the others, and produce an exception.
A more germane example would involve deviations due to leverage variations. A very tall trainee, as well as one of more average height but blessed with proportionately long legs and short torso, who feels it’s squat or bust, may be in for a long and frustrating haul. With obvious leverage disadvantages for the squat, what level of poundage could such a lifter fitting either scenario realistically expect to reach over time? Probably not sufficient to radically enhance his physique or strength levels. On the other hand, such individuals might very well blossom by focusing on the deadlift, complementing this lift and his lower body development with leg pressing.
Conversely, a trainee with a naturally stocky build and short levers will grow like gangbusters via squats, although Columbu’s example indicates that leg presses may augment this person’s leg development and body power as well. Frankly, such physical types often find that their deadlift never goes much beyond their squat from a poundage standpoint. In such cases, all the deadlift really does is test the grip and upper back muscles, and retest the prime movers.
The point is, there are no absolutes in training. Each trainee is responsible for determining which exercises and combinations of sets and reps work best for him, providing this trial and error process is kept within the confines of the basics.
And for those who may still question whether the leg press is a viable exercise, I offer this simplistic and, hopefully, illustrative analogy: If you see someone lying on his back pressing weight off his chest, you probably consider it time well spent in pursuit of upper-body development. However, if you see this same person lying flat on his back pressing weights with his legs, you suddenly think this person is wasting his time?
My question is, where’s the logic?
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Heavy Dumbbell Training For Size and Strength
by Anthony Ditillo
Since the beginning of training with barbells, heavy dumbbell movements have played their part in developing the majority of the world’s strongest men. The forerunners of today’s powermen used dumbbells in their training routines to the point of obsession.
Heavy dumbbell training coupled with an all-around effective barbell routine will literally revamp your physical ability and muscular development both quickly and adequately, given enough training time and training energy. Dumbbell work really adds the finishing touches on the already massively developed physique and the over-all strength development effect of such dumbbell work will easily incorporate itself into the average all-around training routine, with the end result being a more effective training mode for all of you to follow. The muscular development afforded with this kind of training will aid both the power trainee and the would-be bodybuilding champion in their search for the more densely developed physiques.
Dumbbells really mold the physique, both in its muscular development and in its ability to aid the trainee in gaining further increases in lifting proficiency. This twofold ability will see most of you men quite far in your particular lifting and/or bodybuilding aspirations. All that is necessary for you to do is to incorporate this methodology into the proper balance with regular barbell work. This is because of the simple fact that this dumbbell work must be coupled with sufficient barbell work for irs developmental value to really show itself, since most of the recognized lifts today are performed with a barbell. If we were to try to develop sufficient strength without barbell work incorporated into our routine, we would not be able to carry over the strength potential which the dumbbell work would normally afford us. The two must be combined for best results.
What makes dumbbell work so effective is its ability to intensify and isolate the effort put forth from the affected muscles. ability to “home in” on precise sections of various muscle groups can be most effective from both the standpoint of strength training and muscle training. The developmental aspect of this kind of training is most complete in its ability to thoroughly congest and “pump” up the involved muscle groups. Along with this ability to localize the developmental effect of the working muscles, these movements will also stretch out the muscle groups somewhat, which will allow for a more powerful contraction when lifting limit or close to limit poundages.
The ability of dumbbell work to isolate the affected muscle groups which in turn will increase their strength and development potential is accepted fact not training theory. This ability of isolation is one of the major reasons for the increases in development of today’s physique men, who literally form the brunt of their training solely on the use of heavy dumbbells. When looking at the development of today’s muscle men, remember that their physiques were shaped primarily through the use of a combination of heavy barbell and assistant dumbbell movements.
While we are on the subject, there is an unmistakable difference in the quality of the champion powerlifters over the past few years and along with the physique men, the reason (drugs) for the majority of these increases is through the use of properly performed and properly balanced dumbbell movements and training programs. This method is one of the quickest ways of isolating the involved muscle groups which will be used on the lifting platform and the intensity of such work will greatly develop the muscles along with an overall increase in the lifting strength.
What separates the lifting champions of today and yesterday is their muscular appearance as bodybuilders, coupled with the lifting proficiency of the great strength champions that they are. This hearty combination of development and super strength is impossible without a scientific application of techniques and styles as well as pertinent training equipment and it is this last point which we will be thoroughly discussing.
While discussing dumbbell training in general, we must also mention the fact that such training offers greater muscle fiber stimulation through greater range of movement. This means that the greater range involved with this type of training will stimulate greater amounts of muscle fibers and this, in a round about way, will cause a greater growth of muscle size. There is a world of difference between the kind of dumbbell work we are going to describe here and the type usually utilized by the average trainee the lifting world over. For most of us, the weight of the dumbbells we usually handle comes nowhere near the amount we could handle if we really so desired to specialize on this type of training for any length of time. In fact, one of the chief reasons thy such training has not grown in popularity to the extent that its effectiveness warrants, is the difficulty in handling such heavy dumbbells without having two helpers to give the weights to you, to lighten your burden, as it were. Most men begin to incorporate this work for a brief period of time and when it becomes obvious that they will be shortly handling much heavier weights than ever before, the problem of getting these weights into position becomes quite a problem and for most men, there ends the period of dumbbell specialization.
For the men who are truly interested in reaching the zenith of their powers with this type of training, it will be necessary for helpers to get the dumbbells into position when anything really heavy is to be done on either a flat or an incline bench. For the other movements, if there is any real problem, then only one arm can be worked at a time, thereby giving both arms the opportunity to get the weights into position, thereby not requiring the assistance of anyone.
The difficulty of such work with heavy dumbbells will astound you! There is a world of difference between using two one hundred pound dumbbells and using a barbell weighing two hundred pounds. First of all, the balance is more precarious ad this will develop in you better motor pathways for the heavier lifts, and also, a better degree of muscular conditioning and finesse through the balancing of these heavy short-handled weights for reps and sets of the various exercises. The extra stretch provided from the use of these short bars will undoubtedly develop additional muscle size due to the increase of range of exercise motion and this is a fact, not mere unfounded opinion: anyone who has used heavy dumbbells for any length of time will agree with me!
When you isolate a muscle and work that muscle from a greater range of motion than ever before and when that muscle is subjected to further stress than it has ever had to compensate for in the past, common sense will tell you that this muscle has to grow! Furthermore, when attempting to strengthen any particular muscle group for competitive lifting, the addition of this assistance work is sure to make itself felt when this additional work is cut down and the main lift is specialized for any length of time. We should also mention that one other good point of dumbbell training is the intensity of the movements and how they stimulate muscle size while at the same time the actual amount of weights lifted in these dumbbell movements is actually much lighter then what could be registered in the barbell method of performance. In other words, because the dumbbell moves are so much harder and more intense, they will aid you in increasing your physical development although the actual weight of these dumbbells will be much lighter than the actual amount of weight you will be capable of lifting in the barbell version of the lift worked upon with this method. You are almost getting something for nothing, or so it would seem. Actually, your sweat and time exertion will pay your ease of accomplishment with these advanced methods of training.
Bench presses may be fine for all-around massiveness in the upper body, but for further development of the pectorals, without additional bodyweight being gained, you would have to go far indeed, to find a more effective movement than the Flat Bench Flying Motion With Dumbbells. For the deltoids, the Press Behind Neck is fine if what you are primarily going after is bulk or size, but to further deltoid development, the Heavy Standing Laterals to the Front and to the Side and the Rear will work wonders for fully capping out the deltoid muscles with additional muscular shape and density. Heavy Dumbbell Rowing will localize the stress of the movement and will further the development of the latissimus muscles without interference of the muscles of the hips and lower back, which can become a problem with the barbell version this lifting motion. Made no mistake about it, heavy dumbbell training will literally transform your physique if given enough time and patience and work on your part.
One only has to look at the development of today’s bodybuilding champions to see the developmental value of dumbbell work in the acquisition of muscular size and shape. This effect is not localized to bodybuilders only, but the entire lifting world, with powerlifting in general, can gain immediate benefits from adapting this method of training, coupled with the basic, heavier barbell movements so used and cherished for so long. The reason for the popularity of this training in the bodybuilding field is because barbells spread the stress of an exercise throughout the various muscle groups and throughout the various muscle groups and throughout the entire body, to a certain extent, whereas with dumbbell work the movements are quite localized and the intensity of effort is not spread out, but on the contrary, it is precisely positioned wherever you wish to feel the tension the most. This alone would lead to further degrees of muscle stimulation, but when you combine this with the fact that such will work the muscles from previously untouched areas due to the limited range of movement barbell work brings with it, you can then plainly see as to just why this kind of training is felt to be so indispensable to the majority of bodybuilding champions who utilize it. For the power men who are somewhat hesitant to try dumbbell work in their training routines, I can only mention that some of the strongest lifters the world has ever known have used and still are using heavy dumbbell training interspersed throughout the regular training periods of the lifting year. Men like Paul Anderson, Steve Marjanian and Melvin Hennessey have done a great amount of dumbbell work in their training careers. And what about Bill Kazmaier and the immortal Chuck Ahrens? Their strength borders on the unbelievable and both men have used dumbbells for quite some time. The first man to bench press 600 lbs. officially, the immortal Pat Casey, would do set after set of unbelievably heavy Incline Dumbbell Presses during his great lifting career and this assistance work gave him and Incline Barbell Press of over 500 lbs. Quite a bit of weight wouldn’t you say?
It is a mistaken notion to feel that this dumbbell work is for the bodybuilder alone, for nothing could be further from the truth. Dumbbell training can be satisfactorily utilized by anyone who is interested enough to break away from incorrect preconceived opinions which have no real basis in fact.
At this point in our discussion, I would like to list for you the various dumbbell movements which will offer you the most return in additional strength and muscular development, when combined with regular basic barbell training routines. These listed dumbbell movements are not solely the only dumbbell movements that exist but I feel they are among the very best we have to offer you and when utilized as assistance work for the basic barbell movements, the results will be quick, regular and quite impressive. While it would not be complete madness to substitute with these dumbbell movements for a short period of time, and during this period of training to use solely dumbbell work in place of the barbell kind; however, I would not recommend this to anyone interested in future or present competition in powerlifting, for let’s admit the truth – to be a good powerlifter you must perform the power lifts. Therefore, try to maintain somewhat of a balance between the barbell work and the specialized dumbbell work, for guaranteed overall best results for your sweat and exertions.
Since dumbbell training will, for the most part, be limited to the muscles of the upper body and the lower back, we will not at this time be discussing any work for the thighs, or recommend any methods for squatting proficiency. The use of dumbbells for leg work, while possible, is quite impractical due to the necessity of handling such heavy poundages that the total tonnage prohibits the use of this work for any real length of time. However, there will be more than enough work to discuss for the entire upper body and you should have quite a workload to choose from, in finally formulating your particular assistant dumbbell training routine.
We shall begin with the muscles of the chest and shoulders. There will be two lists of dumbbell movements to choose from, depending upon whether you are working towards a heavier bench press through the use of these movements as assistance to your heavy lift, and the second situation in which you will primarily be interested in knowing which movements to choose from for developing additional muscle size throughout the chest and shoulder region. This way, both the powerlifter and the bodybuilder will have more than enough work to choose from, in order to gain at the quickest rate possible for him with applied work and intelligent choices.
For those of you interested in increasing the amount of your bench press, I would recommend the following heavy dumbbell movements:
Dumbbell Bench Presses: this movement is best handled with both light and heavy weights with the repetition scheme going from high to low with each set.
Flat Bench Flyes: this movement seems to be best performed with very heavy weights and the rep scheme fairly low, with the sets medium to high.
Incline Dumbbell Press: this movement should be done with both light and heavy weights and a mixture of repetitions will both pump and strengthen the muscles into a greater developmental state.
Standing Dumbbell Press: this movement will really build strong deltoids with power to spare! Try to work into very heavy weights for sets of threes and fives after a suitable warm-up.
Forward Dumbbell Raises: using relatively heavy weights, you can develop a bit of useful muscle with this movement which will have a carrying-over effect on the strength of the entire shoulder girdle.
Side Lateral Raise: while this movement is primarily a muscle builder, not a strength builder, with high sets and low repetitions the deltoids get both a growth stimulus and a strength stimulus all in one.
The following movements, whole not primarily for building additional strength into the upper body, will develop quite a bit of muscle size in the affected muscle groups:
Flat Bench Laterals: using relatively straight arms this movement will work wonders for the pectorals, using medium resistance and a high number of sets and repetitions.
Incline Laterals: using strict, straight arm style, using medium resistance and high repetitions, this movement will reshape the upper pectorals to a new degree of development for you.
Decline Laterals: this is a great movement for reshaping the lower pectorals with new size and density and for overcoming the flabby, hanging pec look.
Bentover Laterals: this movement will reshape the entire rear deltoid area, giving a pleasing shape throughout this area, using medium resistance and high repetitions with a moderate amount of sets performed regularly.
For those of you interested in developing additional back power, I would recommend the following movements incorporated into your present training routine:
Dumbbell Bentover Rowing: using two dumbbells, work into fairly heavy weights after a thorough warm-up with lighter poundages. This will add size and strength throughout the upper back area.
Dumbbell Upright Row: this movement, while clumsy and difficult in the beginning, will greatly add to your size and strength in the trapezius muscles and the muscles of the upper back and shoulder girdle. Begin with relatively light weight and in time work into fairly heavy dumbbells with heavy resistance.
One Arm Dumbbell Row: by using only one arm at a time, you can really handle some heavy weights and this should stimulate additional growth and strength with persistence and time. Keep the weight heavy and the repetition scheme rather low for best results in power.
Dumbbell Shrugs: for this movement you will have to use lifting straps to hold onto the bars for any length of time, since the weight potential of this movement is immense and the amount of weight you will ultimately be handling will be very heavy. Keep the repetition scheme rather high so as to be able to congest the muscles without undue strain due to the over-bearing heaviness of the weights involved in this exercise movement.
Dumbbell Deadlift: using primarily the muscles of the back without bending the legs to any great degree will allow you to work the back muscles without the inclusion of the muscles of the thighs. The freedom of movement in this exercise due to use of the dumbbells will make it quite a successful movement for building additional size and strength in the lower back muscles. Be sure to use lifting straps in this exercise due to the amount of weight capable of being lifted with time and patience.
For building of shapely muscle without the thought of the strength aspect of the exercises being performed, I would recommend the following movements for you to use:
Bentover Lateral Raise: while this is primarily a deltoid movement, it will also shape up the entire upper back with emphasis on the middle section. Keep the repetition scheme rather high and the resistance rather light, depending upon proper execution of the movement for best results.
Prone Laterals: by lying face down on an exercise bench and raising the dumbbells sideways out to the side, you will also be working the entire musculature of the upper back without the lower body or torso muscles coming into the picture and this will localize and intensify the effort of such work for additional muscle growth.
These two movements coupled with a few of the dumbbell movements for the shoulder girdle and the upper back will work wonders for your muscular development as well as your lifting strength, if followed correctly for any length of time. This is not mere conjecture, it is pre-accepted reality.
It is not my purpose or intention to formulate for you particular routines in which these dumbbell movements could be incorporated, for this would be taking away from your creativity in formulating your choices and preferences, and such a situation would not be constructive for you in the long run, for in order to become the ultimate of which you can become, you must learn to think and to decipher for yourself. This applies to all of us trainees, no matter how advanced we may become. What I would advise you to do is first of all decipher first what your particular goals are and then formulate the routines you will be using
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