Saturday, May 19, 2018

Super High-Rep Training

Here's an interesting training technique, one that might help you in several ways when applied appropriately and at the right time. I've used super-high reps, 50s and very occasionally 100's, but not for the reasons this unknown author from an undisclosed time and source lists. 

You may have trouble at times, and it comes and goes, with getting a good "feel" in some bodyparts, establishing a strong mental connection with the muscles in question. One well known way of training yourself to FEEL the muscle working is to s - l - o - w down rep speed, and to hold the contraction STRONGLY for a few counts. Forcing focus on the desired muscles don't come easy in some cases. Nor does it come easy in the land of proper grammar. It's worth the effort though, and if you're an older lifter (65 and up, well, that should read "down" I suppose, 'cause it's all a decline by then and you have to fight to slow it up and slow it down. Sorry to break the bad news to any gung ho forever-young pups here), ANYHOW . . . being able to really feel the muscles you're working as an elder lifter has a lot of additional application in your non-gym life. Declining propreoceptive abilities can be a problem, to put it mildly, and anything you can do to increase "awareness" of your body will be a plus. Also, those who experience that dead body feeling thanks to the wonders of clinical depression and/or slowing brain function (but not you, you'll never experience that thanks to your scientifically proven diet and lifestyle, eh) sometimes find it can be lessened through establishing a closer mind/body connection, when possible.   

Another way is to burn out the muscle with very high reps. Of course, you have to perform the exercises in a way that forces the desired muscles to do the brunt of the work, but once you have that down some super high rep sets can definitely help you feel the work in the right place, and after some effort you'll never forget how to get that mind/muscle link going right from the first warmup set.  Barring brain damage mishaps or potential mental illness you didn't count on, of course. I'll confess to saying a little prayer for you now and then, seriously. Who am I talkin' to! You, who else, idiot.

Bodybuilders, some, don't bother to count reps. It's all about feeling the muscle being worked in this case. I can honestly say it took me a little while to get out of the habit of constantly counting reps in all my physique training. Crazy, eh?  We get so used to relating the rep count to work done. Now, I'm not talking strength training here and if you don't know the difference between physique and strength training you shouldn't be reading this. It pretty much surprised the shit outta me to find out, after communicating with some seasoned trainers of the bodybuilding ilk, that counting reps went out the window for a lot of 'em. BUT . . . when doing super high reps, 50s and 100s, the rep count is an essential motivational tool. There's just too many ways to train and still see good results!  Why can't an "expert" who's never met me ignore 75% of 'em and tell me the "truth" and the right way so it's all easier!!! Wait a hot minute, here . . . I think that's already going on everywhere you look. Again, I'm assuming that people with less than a decade of lifting experience won't be reading this one particular post by now, and that all the strength trainers will have skedaddled as well. That is a great word. 

Numbers, Buddy! When did numbers start? 

"Duh, kindergarten?" 

Numbers, some say, originated in Sumeria somewheres between 3500 and 3000 B.C. This would be quite a deal, this realization that humans could store information outside of their brains. Quite a revelation, that one, and it changed human history to a huge extent. From written numbers came written words, and that next deal REALLY put humanity on a different level. This was all quite a while ago. In correct historical terms, a "wee while." Incidentally, did you know that up until around 1800 almost all governments were monarchies or aristocracies? Democracy is a very new governing method, relative to the length of human history. We still haven't seen all the potential screw-ups loopholes in this method will allow. Some of yer learned men truly believe this method of government was actually devised for the main purpose of building in loopholes that could be used. Some even say the charter of rights, the constitution and the bill of rights were designed with that same plan in mind.  Democracy. It's just a wee baby at this point. Not necessarily the greatest method, simply the latest. Personally, my favorite line about democracy at this point in our evolution is: Democracy can't work. Loosed from the leash, the dogs will devour one another. If a true democracy ever comes to be and survives without meddling and manipulation for any appreciable length of time I guess we shall see. 

This is all very depressing, I suppose. How 'bout a quick joke or three?

If a couple of cons set up an auto insurance scam with a fake accident could you call that a
Two Car Collusion? 

Does a vegetarian lifter listen to this tune for inspiration . . . 
It's the Eye of the Tater
It's the Dream of No Blight. 

A colonoscopy has gotta be the worst way to get free ginger ale. 

And Now . . . 
for a real treat, here's an exceptionally good new article by Dave Draper on Training Past 40 - 

I'm not putting a book reference here this time. Them other ones are taking longer than I figured to read. You know, going over certain parts and all that.

And that's one of the things I love about Dave's articles. You can go over them for repeat readings and . . . IT NEVER FAILS . . . you'll latch onto something you missed the last time through. One of the marks of a great writer is just that. That ability to pack so much into what at first appears to be a small article. And of course, to come up with a "subjective" creation. One that will be seen to address one thing for one reader and another for a different reader. And another. And another. Like I says,

Numbers, already. Related to training. You got your reps, right? They're much like letters. Sets, much like words. You see where this is headed, I'm sure. Tell a story next lifting session. Embellish on it the following workout. Edit that story. Too airy for ya? Move on. There's all kinds of lifting schtuff out there written with you in mind. But you know how the almighty IT in everything sometimes works. A guy studies the art deal after seeing a modernist painting, only to realize understanding the abstract quality of it gives him a deeper understanding of "primitive" cave paintings. Experiencing and understanding the ethereal qualities of physique training can lead some to a deeper experience of the visceral aspects of lifting. Or not.    

Okay, to the little article.

Start by forgetting everything you think you know about high-rep training. If you think high-rep training is for senior citizens in circuit training or for orthopedic rehabilitation, you're in for quite a surprise! Out of all the high-intensity, plateau-busting, muscle-shocking techniques used today (whenever that might be), this one just might be the most painful . . . and did I mention effective? It takes willpower, guts, stamina, the eye of the tater and maybe even a few aspirin afterward to get through this type of training. 

Super high-rep training (50-100 reps per set) isn't something you do on a day-to-day basis. In fact, I don't think you could. For one thing, long term use of super-high rep training will most likely never yield the results you're looking for. Not to say it doesn't have many useful applications when used judiciously. But, if used as your sole training technique, super-high reps won't build muscular strength and/or size like traditional overload training will. Used periodically, though. SHR training can break the most stubborn of plateaus. But be forewarned -- this isn't for novices. Blasting out rep after agonizing rep will give new meaning to muscle soreness. 

Shock Treatment

If you're still reading, I'll assume that you are ready to take the next step in your pursuit of higher levels of musculature, mental toughness, and hard fought mind/muscle connection. Continue reading to find out why, when and how you can incorporate HRP into your program. 

If you've been working out long enough, you know that using the same training technique or program over and over again for too long will eventually lead to staleness, a plateau and finally the complete cessation of gains. This kills motivation faster than anything; after all, you're putting in a lot of effort and not seeing any results! 

One of the most common reasons for a training plateau is simply a lack of variation. Too often, bodybuilders get caught up in doing the same routine without making the slightest change, thinking that it doesn't need to be modified because it was so effective thus far. Sure, it may have been, but what worked in the first place soon becomes stale, and all you end up doing is maintaining a certain level. If you're lifting weights to make changes to your physique, you must add some variety to your routine. You have to shock those muscles into responding, and SHR training is one way you can accomplish just that. 

Why Super High-Rep Training? 

You may already know a few other high-intensity training alternatives to shake up your program when necessary, so why should you use this particular technique? Most training variations involve heavy resistance for overloading the muscle; negatives, partials, forced reps and rack training all demand very heavy poundages that, if used for extended periods can eventually do damage to tendons, ligaments and cartilage. 

That's why many bodybuilders incorporate periodization into their training. Basically, for our purposes here, periodization involves using relatively lighter resistance from time to time to help rebuild and strengthen connective tissues while also improving local muscular endurance and vascularity. If you improve muscular endurance and vascularity,then your muscles can work harder and longer when you return to heavier workouts. That's exactly why SHR training can help you break new barriers. Boundaries? Barricades? Limits? Impediments? No matter the word selection, use it to shock your muscles. Use it to refresh your motivation. Use it to expand your pain threshold.  

Incorporating SHR Training in Your Workouts

As was mentioned, super high-rep training isn't something you'd do on a regular basis. Rather, use it as a tool to shock your muscles out of a training rut and back into progressing mode. Here are some of the ways you can incorporate SHR training into your training routine for better results. 

1) Last Set Burnouts: 
SHR training can be used during any of your regular workouts on your final set of a particular exercise to really get a good burn. This will totally fatigue, exhaust and flush each muscle being worked -- not to mention the tremendous pump you'll get. When it's done on your last set, your target muscle group will already be pre-fatigued from the previous work. While this will help you totally finish off a muscle, you won't be able to give it 100% if you trained a particular bodypart using just SHR sets that day. 

2) Shock a Lagging Muscle Group: 
Lets say your biceps haven't been responding the way you want them to. What next? Try using SHR sets as your sole biceps training method for a few workouts. For example, instead of doing 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps for a few biceps exercises, try doing 1-2 sets of just 1-3 exercises using the SHR method. By doing this you'll be able to really work these high rep sets because you'll be fresh, not pre-fatigued like you would be by using the burnout method explained above.

3) Blasting Your Whole System: 
The final and most intense method for incorporating SHR training into your program is to use it as a full body blast. This will, of course, shock your whole system. Do a full body workout 2-3 times a week for a week or two. Your workout should consist of 1-3 exercises for each muscle group. Start with major muscle groups . . . legs, back, chest . . . then move on to the smaller groups . . . shoulders, biceps, triceps etc. 

Start by choosing a weight that is 40-50% of your one rep max, and begin lifting it with a quick but controlled pace. Pause every so often when you feel that you can't force another rep out. Rest only a few seconds -- 10 tops -- then pump out some more reps. If your form begins to suffer too much and you find yourself bouncing reps or swinging the weight up, drop it and quickly take 20% of the weight off and continue on. You're want to rest a good two or three minutes between sets if you're attempting another set for the same bodypart. 

Some trainees find that using machines instead of free weights for SHR training allows them to get more reps without their form suffering. Experiment with this. Try both and find out what's best for you.       

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Still More Stuff From Paul Kelso

Okay . . . read on. 

As I said in the introduction, this book (it don't matter what book, just read on or go away) is not designed for complete beginners, but for people who have some training experience, whether five months or five decades. These courses are not designed for great champions, but just for maybe 95% of everybody who trains.

That's real refreshing to read for a change. 

I can't see you and don't know if you're a short-armed wonder, a natural physique type, a lanky, an average Joe, a "hardgainer" or what. I don't know your level of progress or if your technique is lousy or if you've got the weights on backwards. That is why I've not had much of anything to say about "progression." Whether working with a fixed weight for more reps or doing a fixed number of reps and adding weight, trying to add five pounds a week to the big lifts or inching up with half pound washers, it is ALL progression. 

The pattern you choose depends on your goal. 

For the most part, I recommend one or two warmup sets and two or more work sets. Warmups should be just that, and not so strenuous as to drain energy from the work sets. The last several reps of a work set should be gut-busters that can be accomplished without breaking form.

But no matter what scheme you pursue, sooner or later you will level out, hit a wall, get stale or just flat become bored

That is why cycling works so well. Nevertheless, I think any routine will become ineffective eventually, and a change of pace is required. 

On the other hand, I believe no routine will do much good unless it is given a fair chance to produce results, and that means sticking to it for three or four months so results may be gauged. It may take two to four cycles over the course of a year to make an accurate appraisal. But I do not believe any routine, set/rep scheme or poundage progression, or for that matter, any theory of training, should be followed exclusively year in and out.

Where is it written that training cannot be FUN?  

That is why over the years when I felt uninspired or bored, instead of a week layoff, I might just quit whatever I'd been on and devote a day to one-hand snatches, grip tricks or any movement I could think of that I hadn't tried lately. 

The resurgence of strongman and Highland Games competition suggest that a lot of people are bored with living in the gym and doing the same old stuff. 

A little variety is good for your head and maintains your interest as well as being positive for your body. 

Everybody please remember: General training to get bigger and stronger, and training specifically for and peaking toward competition of any kind are not the same things. The courses that I write, the methods etc., have all been proven IN THE GYM. 

The truth is that most people who like to train will never enter a contest. They're just gonna feel good most of their life. My hope is that more and more people will reach a point where they will compete, or if they never do, just get more satisfaction from their training, whatever their goal. 

1) 20 sets (or less) per body; not per body part. 
2) There is no one correct way to train.
3) It is useless to train for definition, shape or separation 
until you have some muscles to define, shape or separate. 
4) Showing up is the first rule for success in training or competition. 
5) What works for one may not work for another. 
6) What works for one many work "on" another.
7) Eat to gain, or don't bother to train.
8) It's not how you train, it's what you're training for.  
9) It 's not what you train with, it's how you train with it.
10) "Less is more." Stick with #1, except in special circumstances.

Kelso's Corollary: 
Anyone who thinks he knows all the answers in training
doesn't know what the questions are. 

The Book!

A tote full of new books came in at work tonight. I took a quick look at the schtuff and this one looked appealing. But I didn't get a chance to do much more than shuffle 'em around a bit to see the titles.

Some clearheaded, straightforward writing, as it always is from Robert B. Reich. And some interesting points made visible once again in the fog of ignorance and overly rewarded overt ambition. The common good. Ain't it strange how that ideal can get lost so easily!

"The Common Good" by Robert B. Reich. Published February 20 | 2018.

Man, I do like his stuff. He's great to see as a guest on the right kind of talk show. You know, Noah or Colbert. By the way, the last two weeks of Last Week Tonight had some outstanding writing. Points worth driving home, done up with a side of fine comedic writing. I wonder how many staff writers there on his staff. No matter . . . they're excellent. The Russell Crowe Gladiator Jockstrap -> Last Blockbuster Video in Alaska -> John Oliver Koala Bear Chlamydia Clinic Hospital Wing ongoing bit is something special.


Shrug Variations for Bodybuilders (Plus More! Bonus! Buy Now!)

Here's that Paul Kelso article I mentioned in the previous post.

Turns out I already transcribed it on the blog!
This damn thing's getting way too big for its britches.
A lot of that going around, isn't there. 


AND, that link above also includes the second part of Paul Kelso's article series. In Part Tooser he discusses using various shrug variations to increase your lifts and improve your power- and Oly-lifting numbers.


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

(Complete) Rib Cage Expansion and Overall Growth - Paul Kelso

Cease and desist with the blathering bilge I'm not interested in, You!
Stop all the
references and 
writing paraphernalia in those last two posts.

Note: Not long ago, a few posts back there, we were reading a three-part article series by Joseph Curtis Hise titled "Successful Methods of Increasing Chest Size." It reminded me of this, by Paul Kelso, training author extraordinaire. I highly recommend you seek out and read his two books and all his articles in Powerlifting USA, Iron Man, Muscular Development, Hardgainer and others. 

Paul Kelso: 
February 6th, 1937
July 11th, 2016. 

And in the very near future I'll be dancing happily after having posted "Shrug Variations for Bodybuilders" by Paul Kelso, thanks to the generosity of Liam Tweed.

Also of interest to some, possibly, highly unlikely with this crowd though, is a minor heads-up on an early French version of human somatic typing. Basically, it divides (divided? Is knowledge still knowledge when it's abandoned for the new version/explanation?), ahem, the theory divides humans into four somatic groups:

Muscular; and

I found learning more about this form of French morphology quite interesting.
"Now's where's the damn free wieght litfing article, arsehole," he heard.

Before I shut up now and bow out, I first gots to say that I've decided to omit the date, magazine source, and often the author from most articles or book chapters on this blog from here moving forward. It's come to my attention, from lurking about on various forums and "discussion" sites online that a whole lotta youse lifter folks discern the worth of training ideas by the date they were either written or published, and/or by the author, and/or by the magazine they came from. The word "quaint" is used by the wordier of the bunch when categorizing articles previous to the complete knowledge, total scientific illumination of the practice of lifting etc. that we believe we enjoy today. But not yesterday, eh. So, no more dates. And in some cases, no author will be listed or credited. Additionally no reference will be given to the magazine the article came from or the possible affiliation of a book to a magazine. That should give the original authors and their ideas a bit more of a fighting chance with this tough and thoroughly a-go-go modern crowd. But I doubt it. The herd will always be the herd, always perceive themselves as the latest and greatest en route to missing the boat and walking into the ocean oblivious to the fact that they're drowning in the viscous blue brain fluid of preconception and prejudice. That's a joke. Of sorts. Ha. Ha haaa. Ha-ha HA, ha ha hahaha! That ha ha poem reminds me of one I spent a couple late nights getting right, using only the words fuck, fuckie, suck, suckie, fucksuckie, and suckfuckie. It really had some strong movement, pronounced push/pull features and built to some real nice emotional highs and lows. Crazy what you can do with just a few sound-symbols when you set what's left of your mind to it, ain't it. I'm sure we're all familiar with that. Yet another bombastic crowdpleaser of a joke! Okay . . . two words walk into a poem . . . Also, we won't have to agonize over whether or not an article or book was in fact written by the author given as the author. All we'll have to go on is the training idea itself, which hopefully will strip a few of the filters off of our perception of these silly written things. No worries. No madness, No anger. Simply a huge, overwhelming weight of boredom with 99% of all conversations and communication lately. Might be getting old. Definitely getting annoying. By the way, a pair of Toronto men recently received a patent for their product. A marijuana infused beer. They figure on it being legal for sale about a year or so after pot legalization in Canada is in effect. No more multitasking for double imbibers if so desired! The 'new' ingredient in that bottle bores the hell outta me. There's also a date beer getting set to go into production and hit the shelves in North America soon. The already trademarked name is Hey Hey Hey Ale. It's a 5.5% IPA with added GHB.  

Almost forgot . . . The Book!

This one -- Where the Rivers Ran Backward by William E. Merritt.
A great read, and written with an individual voice that comes off as what they sometimes call "A Natural" or something. He puts his experiences together in a way that has you knowing him like a friend by the first 10 pages. This guy can write! Sound effects, humor, song lyric excerpts, horrors and the absurdity of war . . . you name it, he's got it goin' on in this one. And I don't want to think about how many long hours he spent agonizing over making that writing sound like he's a natural.
Highly recommended!


Enjoy the article, you crazy lifter!

The vast majority of folks training with weights will never enter a lifting or bodybuilding competition. They train to enhance their ability in other sports or for their health. Some train for T-short muscles and appearance and others to stave off the effects of time. Many want to improve their ability to do grip tricks and impress friends and win barroom bets, or to compete in strongman events, Highland Games, stone tossing or whatever. An immense unsung number of trainees are of the "garage" variety who enjoy getting together with pals and train only for their own satisfaction. Quite a few approach the "iron game" as a hobby and attempt a lot of exercises and out of vogue lifts from the "old days," collect antique weights and ancient courses, and are fascinated with the history of the game. 

What follows is a presentation of an older training principle that many say is not outdated and which is out of favor in some quarters. On the other hand, it still has a large number of adherents, myself included, and has made something of a comeback in recent years. In my experience it is both result producing and an exhilarating way to train.

The following principles are designed to make your chest wider and deeper and spread your shoulders. It's a great program for beginners and first year men to use in stimulating overall growth and building a basic foundation for the future. Getting wider across and thicker front to back by expanding the rib cage will allow for more muscular weight to be carried. The exercises are for the most part not secret or new, although some of them have been neglected. They are arranged here in an order that will give maximum results. 

In 1981, I copyrighted the "Bone Structure and Growth Course" in shorter form than this chapter. That title may be misleading, so I have dropped it here. 

In truth, not much can be done with the bones, except maybe to make them stronger and to prevent osteoporosis as one ages. Very young trainees might achieve some lengthening. The purpose of this method is not to change the bones, rather it is to spur changes in the costal cartilages and others that attach the ribs to the sternum and spine, and in the small muscles that support the rib cage and in the inspiratory muscles that function during breathing. 

Expansion of the rib cage will do two things for you. Your appearance and posture will improve. A larger frame allows for more muscular weight to be gained. I want to emphasize that overall growth is a real bonus with these methods. Your strength leverage should improve. Your overall conditioning and endurance will improve. A byproduct for bench press fanatics is that a larger rib cage and higher sternum will shorten the lifter's stroke. 

Note: See Chapter Three of my book "Kelso's Shrug Book" for more on that.  

For the routine to work best, the exercises should be performed as I explain them. Follow the instructions for three months (minimum) to six months. Results may vary from person to person, but from my own experience and that of my pupils, I would say that 1-1/2 to 3 inches of chest gain can be expected in that first time period. Reports in the literature from writers like John McCallum and John McKean claim more. 

Critics of these methods often state that they can only be effective for trainees under twenty-three or so years old, because the bones harden or set after that age. A number of recent articles state that older men cannot make any changes in their "bone structure," and suggest any noticeable improvements with these methods are just muscular weight gain. Yet the literature of training contains many stories of older men who claim success or at least satisfaction with this type of training. So, how can these differences in opinion be resolved?    

Easy. It's not about bones, except perhaps in the young. In an exchange of emails, Casey Butt, a graduate student in electrical engineering from Newfoundland, reminded me that J.C. Hise wrote fifty or more years ago that goal of rib expansion exercise is to place enough stretch on the costal cartilages to activate dormant mesenchymal cells that exist in the adult hyaline cartilage so that they differentiate into adult cells. Casey, who has written for MILO and has just started a new iron mag and website, The WeighTrainer, adds that these and the inspiratory muscles that expand the rib cage during inhalation will -- after some training -- aid in elevating and spreading the rib cage, lifting the sternum, and increasing lung capacity.

I do not claim any scientific expertise, but if Hise was correct, that explanation will do me until a better one comes along. Scientists are generally wary of gym wisdom, but let me add an anecdotal story of my own. I was a concert folksinger for many years. Many times when I was out of shape, or had fallen back into the clutches of tobacco, I'd get a call to perform in a few weeks. I would hike out into the woods and bellow the score to musicals like "Oklahoma" or "Carousel" one day and head to the gym the next to do set after set of high-rep squats, pullovers, and Rader chest pulls. Worked like a charm for my breathing in performance and made me feel great. I assume my diaphragm was strengthened. My shirts became tighter without weight gain.

That suggests to me a reason why many older trainees claim rib cage improvement with these methods. If an older person has never trained before, activating the costal cartilages and supporting muscles of the rib cage could produce noticeable results. For a trainee who has had a very long layoff, regaining at least the structure possessed in the past should be an obtainable goal. Atrophied muscle can be pumped back up when training is resumed, maybe ribcages have "memories" as muscles do.

While preparing this chapter I corresponded with a gent who does not want his name used. His remarks were like many of the naysayers on this subject. He pretty much scoffed at the idea of costal cartilage stretching or growth and even the existence of "inspiratory muscles" which he claimed would be involuntary muscles in any case.

They why, as I sit here at my desk pounding away at the keyboard, can expand my chest measurement and lift my sternum voluntarily without inhaling? If a muscle of body part can be triggered voluntarily, then some way can be figured out to train it. (I think I just wrote a new "Kelso's Law.")

I got flack for my suggestion in the original "bone" course that a beginner might want to use a board under his heels while squatting. The complaint is that doing this may put excess strain on the knees and set the lifter up for injury. In fact, that thinking has become almost carved in stone in the last ten years, and is rarely contradicted. These things come and go in weight training. For instance, the box squat was a very popular exercise when I was young. Then it was darned near illegal in gyms for decades because the "new" common knowledge held that they would injure the spine. But the box squat came back in the last five years or so and is again widely practiced by powerlifters.

Now think about this: It depends how you squat. If you squat completely straight up and down -- allowing your knees to get far ahead out over your toes -- then you are transferring stress to your knees. If you break at the hips first and sit back into the squat, there should be little problem. I used both the elevated heel and the box squat for many years and have never had knee or back problems.

I have been in gyms where the instructors will not permit use of a board or plate under the heels, but regularly encourage the use of the "sissy squat" or the Hack squat machine. Hacks kill my knees, no matter what stance I take. Again, a lot depends on the leverages of the trainee and the machine being used; this is another example where personal choice and need should make the decision.

Of course you have to learn to squat properly. I've been to two hundred-plus weightlifting and powerlifting contest and have yet to see  lifter walk out onto the platform carrying a two-by-four. But while learning to squat and developing flexibility along with the torso and shoulder girdle strength to support larger weights, a board, a small plate under each heel, or even strong-heeled shoes can help maintain balance and an upright position. But this won't work for everybody, since everyone has different leverages. 

Many weightlifters and powerlifters still insert a heel lift into their shoes, which they say helps them squat lower and positions them to start driving their hips forward earlier during the ascent. A widely circulated story is that Dr. Squat, Fred Hatfield, regularly puts two-inch lifts in his shoes and was wearing them when he performed his famous 1,014-pound squat. I competed in weightlifting in U.S. Army combat boots. They worked for me then; if competing now, I'd choose a lighter weight shoe. Others insist that no heel is best and squat in no-heel basketball shoes, which in my case would throw most of the stress into my hips and lower back and cause forward lean. A powerlifter using a very wide stance probably would not benefit much from a high heel.

One overlooked factor: if your shoe size is small in relation to your height and overall proportions, the more likely you'll benefit from a heel and stable shoe sole. 

Brooks Kubik, widely respected author of Dinosaur Training, came out against raised heels in squatting in a Hardgainer article about ten years ago. He has since changed his mind, as this April 2002 quote reveals: 

The stuff about squatting on raised heels being dangerous is tossed out by people who do not know how to do a proper squat. The exercise is perfectly safe. It's a lot safer (and more productive) to do a heels raised OL squat than to do the flat-footed "parallel" gut-it-up abominations that most guys do. 

Brooks is speaking here about the "Olympic"-style, high-bar, erect body, sink it to the calves squat as being preferable to the powerlifter's competition style for most trainees most of the time. Training for a powerlifting meet is another matter.

Heel height is an individual thing, although a 3/4 inch heel is widely accepted as best and is the most common on the competitive platform. Several manufacturers make shoes specifically for weightlifting and powerlifting. The rules of the International Powerlifting Federation state that no part of the underside of the shoe may be higher than five centimeters. two inches is 5.08 centimeters, so the IPF does not seem worried about lifters' knees. To end this, I'd say discard the board as soon as possible and get some good shoes with a firm heel that suits you.

As I have written many times, extremely wide hand spacing with any pressing or pulling movement, especially overhead or with the bench press, may result in shoulder injuries over the years. I believe that is especially true with long-armed individuals, or persons with a relatively long upper arm. Be careful, or find substitutes. In fact (and I am a long lanky type genetically), I did not put on major upper body mass until I included a lot of closer than normal hand spacing in my pressing and pulling movements. That's one reason I like the trap bar: the weights are in closer to the body. 

Note: See Chapter Five of "Kelso's Shrug Book" for explanation of the advantages. 

My first workout took place in the back yard of a pro wrestler named Joe Cassius, who lived near the SMU campus in Dallas. (Joe later became a famous psychologist and appeared on national TV talk shows.). He showed me how to row, squat, do pullovers, flyes, dumbbell bench presses, and behind the neck presses.

I've got to throw this one in. Joe was very short (5' 4") and prodigiously muscular. Weighed about 215. A friend once suggested that if he ever needed work he could paint himself red, white and blue and get a job as a mailbox.

I mail ordered a barbell and set up in my garage. I had no squat rack or flat bench. My squat weight was limited to whatever I could clean and jerk and shoulder on my back. I made up for this by doing as many reps as possible before dumping the bar off backwards onto the lawn. This set my father off swearing when the lawn mower wheels got caught in the holes and he threatened to use the plates for bass boat anchors. I had to mow the yard for years, but the high-rep squats were worth it. I could not have been doing any better exercise for a lanky, narrow-chested kid. 

I "incorrectly" used a fairly wide grip for bentover rowing and behind the neck presses. My bench work was limited to pullovers, flyes, and dumbbell bench presses on an old wooden Army ammunition box.

When I began training, I did not concentrate on t-shirt muscles, as so many beginners do, but on building the frame needed for overall development. I know things have changed a lot since the early fifties, but what good are "gladiator pecs" without structural strength and conditioning?

I had no workout partner to help with benching because weight training was frowned upon in those days. High school coaches taught that weights would make you "muscle bound" (a term that has no medical basis) and would ruin your heart. How times have changed.

My improper training paid off. Without knowing it, I was using a training method that many men have used over the years. In five years I increased my chest size seven inches before including the bench press in my program. Today my chest size is 48-50 inches, depending on by bodyweight.

"Breathing" squat programs for gaining bulk and power have been around a long time, the trail leading from Milo Steinborn in the 1920s to Roger Eells course in 1932 to Mark Berry's writing in 1936, and then on to Peary Rader, Bob Hoffman and others. Joe Hise is famous for using them and behind neck presses to achieve huge weight gains.

This type of training is making a comeback. It usually features a single set of squats for 20 reps with forced breathing (see below). You can find more information on this type of training quite easily nowadays.

But I'm talking about ribcage expansion as well as weight gain here. With that in mind, let's get started. First, measure your chest, both normal and expanded. Use a metal tape if possible. Write it down. It's a good idea to keep a workout notebook or log to record your sets, reps, and poundages at the end of every workout. This is an easy way to keep track of your progress and makes interesting reading thirty years later.

Second, measure the distance from the base of your neck to the outside point of your deltoid (shoulder) muscle. You will be amazed at how much difference a gain of 1/4 to 1/2 inch in width will make in your general appearance. Measure yourself again after three months and see what happened.

Third, EAT! (Unless you are over weight in which case you should use a common sense diet without fads. Chicken, fish, milk, eggs, cheese and canned, water-packed tuna are excellent choices for the protein and minerals you need for muscular gain. Eat vegetables every day whether you like them or not. Put fruit on your cereal. Eat a baked potato, pasta or brown rice three or four times a week for training energy. Drink a "blender bomb" made from milk and protein powder every day.

Stay off the soft drinks and bakery stuff for a while. They have too much sugar and too many empty calories. Do take a vitamin/mineral supplement.

Following is your suggested list of exercises. I'll explain them step-by-step.

1) Stretching and Trunk Twists
2) Breathing Stiff-Leg Deadlift. 1-2 sets.
3) Breathing Squat. 2 sets. Alternate sets with:
4) Light Pullovers or Dumbbell Flyes or Breathing-Style Hise Shrugs, Rader Chest Pulls etc.
5) Breathing Overhead Pulldowns Behind Neck, wide grip. or cable crossovers. 1-2 sets.       
6) Alternate between A and B:
A - Incline Bench Press and Bentover Rowing 
B - Behind Neck Press wide grip and Heavy Bent Arm Barbell Pullover. 2-3 sets.

(Do 'A' one workout day and 'B' the other.)

7) Rader Chest Pulls (optional). 1 set.
8) Calves, Curls, and Waist. No more than 2 sets each.

Yes, you can increase the number of sets when you feel ready.

You're probably thinking that this is a strange course because there are no bench presses, leg curls, or one-hand concentration curls. There is a sound reason for omitting these and other exercises. They don't fit the purposes of this course.

Neither does extending yourself on your work set(s) to the point of puking or maxing out regularly with low reps or singles. Instead of "no pain, no gain" I hold that "train, not strain" is the best axiom to follow with this program. 

Beginners, first year men, and most other trainees should remember that courses published in the magazines are usually written by advanced men for advanced men. Many, if not most, or the articles in the glossy magazines that are signed by "Mr. Wonderful" are actually ghost written.) I don't care if Arnold, Flex, and Ronnie recommend 20 sets per bodypart. They have been training hard for years and are "conditioned" for it. You probably haven't been.

This course is designed for people on the way up who want a good start. Specialization and training for other goals can come later.



Before beginning any workout session, warm up thoroughly. Do some freehand knee bends, toe touches, pushups, and wrestler-type stretches on the floor. Don't neglect the shoulders. I like to do some squat-style snatching movements with a light bar. Get loose first so you don't injure something later.

Trunk Twisting
 Place an empty bar or broom stick across your shoulders. Twist in a deliberate fashion back an forth from the hips up. Pick a spot on the wall in front of you and keep your face and hips aimed at this spot. Don't bend your knees. Twist around for enough so that your hands cross in front of that spot on the wall. Leaning forward or back slightly will stretch or contract different areas of your waistline and torso. Begin with about 20 counts each way, eventually working up to 50.

Do the same thing bent over from the waist. Your goal is to get loose enough so that the bar swings past the opposite toe. This works the love handle area. Try to contract your abdominal muscles on the down swing. Do the same number of reps as above.

Many bodybuilders and coaches are against this movement, claiming it thickens the waist and can lead to spinal injury. It can, if you use a lot of weight and swing the bar ballistically. I believe the entire waist column should be worked in order to better support heavy squats and overhead lifts. You can always cut back. After all, what are you training for, athletic power or the beach.


These exercises warm up your waist, hamstrings, and lower back, which leads to a great -- but little practiced -- breathing movement.

The Breathing Stiff Leg Deadlift

This exercise is well known for developing the lower back, hamstrings, and leg biceps. Our way will do the same, but it is also a heavy-breathing chest expander. If you've never done any toe-touching with weight before, start light. Use an empty 20-lb. bar, an Olympic bar, or more, depending on your strength. Try it first with a wide foot stance (which means you won't have to bend over so far). As you loosen up, move your feet closer together.

The first several workouts will stretch and contract your hamstrings and spinal erectors and you'll feel it the next morning. Bend your knees a little if you need to, but work toward keeping the legs almost straight. As you increase the weight over the weeks, I'd suggest keeping your knees unlocked but stable. This exercise also strengthens yo8ur hamstrings, glutes, and lower back; all are important in squatting.

The important part of this movement is timing your breathing with the motion.    

When the bar passes above your knees on the way up, breathe in. Keep your arms straight, roll your shoulders to the rear, and breathe out forcibly while contracting your lats and pecs and squeezing the sides of your chest with your arms. Your ribcage should be forced forward and upward at this point. The sternum or breastbone will be pushed out and up. Hold the pressure for a count or two. Then lower the bar and repeat.

This movement takes practice to master. it's all one smooth movement until you get to the exhale-and-contract point. To achieve maximum chest lift, there should be no air in your lungs during the contraction. For extra gains, inhale, exhale and flex again while in this position. Do this several times each rep. It's very important to use as much weight as possible so that the contraction and chest lift will be maximized. You can do this from a regular or conventional deadlift motion as well, using the legs and more weight. (You can do it without leg or lower back involvement -- see the "Sternum Shrug" in Chapter Two of Kelso's Shrug Book -- but some leg/hip use works best for the purposes of this course.) Try 12 reps per set.

Warming up the legs and lower back is necessary as it leads us to the monster move of the course:

The Breathing Squat

Most advanced men as well as trainees agree: They Hate Squats. There is nothing in the world so creative as a trainee inventing excuses for not doing squats. They pinch a nerve in my back. They aggravate my football injury, my old war wound, my car accident injury. Pick one, any excuse will do. One popular excuse is that they will make your butt big. And it's true that if you perform squats incorrectly for several years you can develop hips and thighs out of proportion to the middle and lower thigh.

However, doing powerlifting competition-style squats bar held low on the back, feet spread wide) isn't going to produce the thigh that 99 out 0f 100 mirror athletes want. Furthermore, most of you couldn't develop a big butt if you wanted one. Your heredity, or natural structure and shape won't allow it. In fact, if you do have a flabby seat, high rep squats will tighten it up!

The truth is, properly performed squats are the best single exercise known for overall growth and power. There is no getting around it.
The key is doing them properly for the purpose you have in mind.
Never, never attempt high-count, 15-20 rep heavy breathing squats in the style of a powerlifter's competition squat.

Here is how to do them for the goals of this course: 

Choose a weight that you can squat for 10-12 reps. The bar must be heavy enough so that the last 4 or 5 reps are serious. Now, what you are going to do is 15 reps -- by taking 3 or 4 extra breaths between the last 7-8 reps, and possibly a little help from your training partner. If you have never trained at all, I suggest starting with about 1/3 of your bodyweight. Not a few trainees have started with an empty bar.

Take the bar off the rack, making sure it rests across the trapezius, not high on the neck, but not down the back like a powerlifter either. If you don't have a squat rack then either build one, learn to clean and jerk real quick or join a gym, but do something. If the bar hurts your spine or shoulder bones try wrapping a thick towel around the bar. You'll soon get used to it,and the deadlift/shrug movement in the breathing stiff leg deadlift will soon thicken your traps. This is where you should start experimenting with heel heights. 

Shoulder the bar and back away from the rack. Your heels should be directly under you armpits and not placed wider than your shoulders. The very tall or long-legged may have to go wider. Use fairly wide hand spacing on the bar. Take a deep breath. Lower yourself into the squat while keeping your back and upper body as straight as possible. Stay under control. Don't just fall down and bounce back up. Lower yourself into the squat while keeping your back and upper body as straight as possible. Stay under control. Don't just fall down and bounce back up. Lower yourself until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor (a line from hip to knee joint) or just under, and then rise. Half squats as often practiced and too often taught at commercial gyms won't get it done.

Breathe out on the way up. Back flat, body erect as you come up. Keep your head up. Keep your chest up. Do not breathe in or out in the bottom position.

A well-known trick in doing squats is to pick out a spot on the wall in front of you that is about forehead height. Stare at it while squatting. Keeping your head up helps you stay erect and your back straight. Do not throw your head back and look up at the ceiling.

Don't neglect your ab work, ever! The abdominals balance the pull of your lower back and if one or the other is weak, you can injure yourself. It's my opinion that training belts are over-used. Rather than supporting your lower back, their real function seems to me to be to give your abs something to push against.

it's a matter of choice. I never use a belt while squatting unless using a weight I can handle for six reps or less, or with heavy overhead work. The lesson is clear: work on your abs.

The important thing about these squats is the breathing.  

Breathe in at the top, squat, and breathe out starting about halfway up. As you reach the 6th rep, take an extra breath and exhale before starting the next rep. After the 10th rep, take two or three extra breaths. By the 15th rep you may need five extra breaths. You must experiment until you find out how much extra weight to use to force this extra breathing and still do 15 reps.

Once you reach this level, add a little weight every workout or two. I don't care if it's only 1 pound on each end. (Some add half-pound "washers" on each end and scooch the poundage up a hair at a time; this method had made a comeback of late, but was widely used in the 1920s and '30s, especially in England.) Stay at 15 reps and slap on weight as often as possible. Do two sets of 15 reps. After each set of squats, go to a flat bench and do a set of straight-arm pullovers or dumbbell flyes.

John McKean has suggested doing a set of pullovers before squatting as a sort of ribcage warmup. As I recall, he stated that doing this might act as a trigger for growth. If he is right, then why not try a set of pullovers during warmups for benching for the same reason? 

Stick with this squat method for three months.
Your chest must expand and your overall condition improve.

Straight Arm Pullover and Flyes

Lie down on the bench lengthwise -- do not lie across it. You might put your feet up on the bench. We want to stretch the ribcage here, not the abdominals.

Hold a small weight (a 10-20 lb. plate or dumbbell should do) with both hands at arms' length over your chest. Keep your arms straight or slightly bent.

Lower the weight back over your head as far as it will go. Breathe in while lowering the weight. Stretch at the bottom. Then raise the weight while breathing out.

Repeat 12-15 times. I wait to breathe in until the weight passes over my face. This is not a muscle builder but an expansion exercise. A heavier weight turns this into a pec-lat movement.

The pullover tends to lift and deepen the rib cage. Dumbbell flies expand and widen the chest. Try them some workouts instead of pullovers. Lie on a flat bench while holding a pair of light dumbbells at arms' length. Keep your elbows slightly bent with palms facing each other. Lower the weights to each side while breathing in. Let the weight stretch your pecs and ribcage at the bottom of the movement. Exhale while raising the dumbbells back to the starting position. Repeat for 12-15 reps.

The legendary John Grimek used to do a decline flye including extending the bells well behind and below his head. (Upside down negative laterals?) A photo in an old Strength & Health showed him doing these hanging head down from a chinning bar, his feet strapped into "iron shoes" attached to the bar. How he got into that position I don't know. Those "inversion shoes" or hooks that were [Note: that photo was, or may still be somewhere on this blog. Some of the photo-host sites have folded up their tents and flown up to the great peace in the sky since this silly blog began in January of yer 2008.]

Remember, a set of pullovers or flyes is to be performed after each set of squats.

Rader Chest Pull

Peary Rader, founder of Iron Man magazine, developed the chest pull as another ribcage expander and sternum lifter. Simply grab on to any immovable object forehead height of slightly above. Pull down and in with both hands while exhaling. Your chest will rise up and out. I believe a palms-facing grip works best. Do sets of 12 reps.

Extra - The Hise Breathing Shrug

See Chapter Two of "Kelso's Shrug Book" for the explanation of this movement. I would do it instead of one of the other breathing exercises like the Rader Pull or the Breathing Stiff Leg Deadlift. Two breathing movements per workout should be enough. In fact, doing both the Breathing SDL and the Hise Breathing Shrug in the same workout is likely too much. Again, 15 to 25 reps are best for a breathing program.

Extra - Rack Raises

This is the exercise with which Casey Butt of Canada has been experimenting. I have never seen it mentioned elsewhere in the literature on this subject. He thought of naming the exercise after himself, but rejected that idea for obvious reasons. In this case, the "rack" referred to is the bones of the shoulder girdle and ribcage from which the muscles hang, not a metal power or squat rack.

The bar is held across the anterior deltoids as if setting up to do front squats. The lifter inhales and raises the bar upward with the shrugging motion as in the Hise Breathing Shrug. As the bar is not across the back, there is greater freedom of movement as the bar is over the rib cage and not pressing down on the spine. It is way to early to tell, but this expansion movement may prove superior to the old Hise style.

Extra - The Bench Shrug

Include this in expansion training if you wish, using your bench press hand spacing, but keep the weights moderate and use high reps, 15-20. See Chapter Two of "Kelso's Shrug Book" for the how-to-do-it.

Heavy weights with a wide grip may injure your shoulders. I worked up to some large poundages this way and once heard a big "FPOP" as the upper arm bone separated from the socket or whatever the heck you call it in the shoulder joint. Popped back into place on its own, but the shoulder was sore for a week.

Breathing Overhead Pulldowns

This is another "unknown" exercise. After your squats and pullovers of flyes, walk around a little and get your breathing under control. You should be puffing pretty hard; if not, you ain't workin' hard enough!

Next, go to the overhead lat machine. Find a weight you can use for 2 sets of 12. Beginners should try 1/3 of their bodyweight. Use a wide, but not ridiculously wide palms-away grip that you can handle. Sit directly under the bar, low enough that the weight will not rest or bounce off the plate stack.

Inhale. That's right. Breathe in while pulling the bar down to the back of your neck or to your chest. Try to touch your trapezius or sternum. Then exhale and allow the bar to rise to arms' length and stretch you out at the top. Breathe out while the bar is on its way up. (Yes, this is backwards of the normal breathing pattern). Lean forward and s-t-r-e-t-c-h. This move will spread your shoulders wider while working the upper back and lats.

This backwards breathing could be used with pullovers and flies as well. I recommend using the "normal" breathing pattern about half the time with the overhead pulldown; doing both styles adds to the eventual results.

If you train at home and don't own a lat pulldown, you have a problem. You could do wide grip chins, if you can do them. Some substitute moves include wide grip bentover rows, one hand dumbbell rowing, two hand snatches, the snatch grip standing shrug, shrugs while hanging from a chinning bar, and so on.
Crossover Cable Pulls and Shrugs 

I've found that doing pulldowns and shrugs "to the side" on a cable crossover machine are extremely good for getting wide and for carving out the smaller muscles of the upper back for bodybuilding purposes. Set the machine in the high position and stand or kneel in the middle. Pull the handles straight in while trying to touch the elbows together behind the back. Then, try it as a shrugging motion for a set, using straight arms to full stretch and then rotating and pinching the scapula together without bending the elbows. A word of caution: start light!

Note or Warning: Do not try all these movements in any one workout. Breathing Stiff Leg Deadlifts and Breathing Squats, plus pullovers or flyes and one other movement of your choice are plenty. Excessive stretching can cause an extremely painful condition where the costal cartilages attach the ribs to the sternum or breastbone. Anyone who has laughed while having broken ribs will understand. Nothing but a long rest can cure it that I know of, and that will set back your training.

That this condition can occur from this type of training tells me that the cartilages are being stretched and that these methods work.

I have divided the next part of the course. One day do Incline Presses and Bentover Rows. The second workout day do Behind the Neck Presses and heavy Bent Arm Pullovers. Alternate these two groups every other workout day.

Day One -
Incline Press, and Bentover Row: 2-3 sets of 6-8 each.

Day Two -
Behind the Neck Press, and Heavy Bent Arm Pullover: 2-3 x 6-8.

Incline Press

You may set the bench at a variety of angles to get different responses. Use a grip about one finger wider than your usual flat bench press. Inhale while lowering the bar to your upper chest. Exhale as you press up. Keep the bar above your nipples.

Start with about 70% of your flat bench exercise weight, not of your best single. Beginners should try about 33% of bodyweight.

This movement will work the upper and middle pecs and contribute to that slab-like tie-in with the front deltoid that improves your appearance so much. However, the vaunted "pec-delt-tie-in" bodybuilders seek often depends on genetic structure.

Bentover Rowing

Pick up the barbell as if you are cleaning, but use a wider grip, about the same as you would for the bench press. Bend over from the waist, feet spread for balance. Start with about 1/3 of your bodyweight until your lower back is used to the position. Bend your knees slightly. Pull the bar up to your belly button while keeping your elbows pointed out. Then lower the weight while breathing in and get a good stretch in the hang position.

Wide grip rowing will widen the shoulder structure and develop the rear deltoid, lower trapezius, and lats. Yes, wide grip shrugs for a set or two would be positive. Later on in your workouts, you will want to get more lat concentration by using a closer grip and angling your elbows in at about 45 degrees.

If you experience stress in the lower back with these, it may be that your lower back and hamstrings need work, or your leverages are not good for bentover rowing. I have short thighs and a long torso and that is not good for this movement, unless I keep the spine at a 45 degree or more angle above the floor and keep the bar very close to my legs. Using the wide grip on a seated rowing machine or other apparatus might be better.

Behind the Neck Press

The behind the neck press is regarded by many as one of the two or three basic deltoid exercises. The entire shoulder girdle is involved: upper chest, the three deltoid heads, upper back, and triceps. Some will argue that there are better moves for the side and rear deltoid, but this movement will spread the entire area as well as developing muscle.

Grab the bar with moderate hand spacing just a little wider than your military press grip. (Again, do NOT use an excessively wide grip.) Start with about 35% of your bodyweight or a weight that is a tough eight reps. Clean or snatch the bar overhead or take it off the rack. These can also be done seated.

Press the bar overhead to a full lockout. Breathe in while lowering the bar behind the neck. Look in the mirror and watch the bar to a point even with the bottom of your ears. Then explode the breath and push the bar up. Some lower the bar to the traps. This will bring the upper back into play more but I believe it stresses the shoulder joints.

Note of warning: There is a lot of concern in some quarters, and in my mind as well, that long term use of movements with extremely wide hand spacing can lead to shoulder injury or rotator cuff problems. That is why I have omitted wide grip bench presses to the collarbone (neck presses), which are popular with bodybuilders. I do not think that using the wide grip moves listed here for the purposes of this course will cause problems, because it is not my intention that anyone use this course exclusively for years.    

Bent Arm Pullovers

This is an "old" exercise that is not seen a great deal these days. The use of pulley lat machines and offset torso machines has taken its place in most gyms. Nevertheless, the bent arm pullover develops lats, upper back, pecs, serratus magnus, and expands the rib cage.

Lie flat on a bench. Hang your head over the end, Tom Dooley. Hold the bar on your chest. An EZ Curl bar works well. Start with 25% of your bodyweight or lighter until you get used to the movement. Then pile on the plates as you go along. Take a grip with hands about 10-12 inches apart. Pass the bar over your head and down toward the floor. Keep your arms bent so the bar passes close to your face. Breathe in going down and out as you pull the bar back to the chest.

I, and others, have flopped face-up on the leg curl machine with our  at the "wrong" end and used our arms to do bent arm pullovers. This John McCallum favorite works great but the problem is finding a machine that will let you get into this position. [I had one that was perfect for pullovers, 20 or so years I had it, and tossed it out into a bin 'cause of its size. It was way wider than most, nice and high, solid as a rock, and lying sideways on it worked great for reverse hypers with weights on the foots. It also worked perfect for lying barbell curls. Oh well. If you're out there red table/bench, I'm real sorry for treating you like garbage.] 

This movement is a great strength builder as well as body shaper. I understand that the official world record is around 400 pounds (by former Olympian weightlifter Steve Stanko) and that was pulling r from the floor to the chest! If you belong to a gym with a pullover type torso machine, use it for several weeks before going to the Bent Arm Pullover.

This is important:

Breathing Stiff Leg Deadlifts, Breathing Squats, Rack Raises, and even Rader Chest Pulls are Breathing Exercises. Pullovers, Flyes, Cable Pulls to the Side, etc., are Stretching Movements. Overhead "breathing" do a little of both. I suggest that TWO EXERCISES FROM EACH GROUP IN ONE WORKOUT ARE PLENTY. Be careful not to overtrain your rib cage. As I said above, excessive forced expansion movements can lead to over-stretching or even tearing the cartilages, causing a very painful condition only rest can cure. "A painful condition only rest can cure." I've had the occasional Sunday like that. Why did my Friday and Saturday subtract from my Sunday! How insensitive of them.

All the exercises listed under Day One or Day Two should be performed for two to three sets, six to eight reps, unless otherwise indicated. You should be breathing hard after squats and pullovers and walking rubber-legged. You will be pretty much worn out after the presses and pulls -- if you have been working hard enough.

Finish off your workout with one or two sets of moderate weight biceps curls and calf raises. Do some situps or other waist exercises. What's next? GET OUT OF THE GYM. Don't do much on your off days. Get plenty of food and sleep. You will grow.

How often should you train? There's a lot of argument in weight room circles about the correct number of days a week to train; almost as much difference of opinion as there is about sets and reps. If you are a beginner with less than three months training, or trying these methods for the first time, I suggest a three-day-a-week schedule as listed above. After you have been training a while, or if you are experienced, you will eventually want to increase poundage and add sets. When you get to that point, you might cut  to five workouts in two weeks or even to twice a week, using as much weight as you can handle properly. You should realize quick gains.

Some find that a single set of straight arm pullovers on off days is a big help. My high school pals and I would try a few Rader Chest Pulls wherever we were -- at the pool on the high dive ladder frame, the softball backstop, anything we could grab onto that gave us the right angle.

What about after the three month or more trial period? Use a regular workout for a while. Try some powerlifting or Olympic-style weightlifting. But once or twice a year, come back to this course and high-rep squats. When you can properly do several sets of 15-20 rep bodyweight squats you you will be on your way to real health, strength, and  powerful appearance. Reach 1-1/2 to 2 times bodyweight on the bar, still doing the squats properly, and you should have moved up a couple of weight classes. many men work up to a single set of 20 reps with 400 pounds done properly as a goal, and believe me, they are terrific specimens when they accomplish that.

At least twice a year I come back to the methods described in this course. They worked for me when I was a young man and they still work for me.

And there you have it.
Nice, eh. Real nice piece of training literature! 








Sunday, May 13, 2018

A Veiled and Far Reaching Training Tip from Larry Scott

Mining Gold From Dips
by Larry Scott

"Why do you place your hands and elbows in that position?" Paul Barlow, a future Mr. Utah, asked me. "I've watched you do those dips that way several times now and I have meant to ask you if there was some particular reason you are doing them that way." 

I had noticed Paul watching me closely while I was doing Gironda Dips, but I was hoping I wouldn't have to take the time during my workout to explain what I was trying to do.

Now that he had taken the initiative to inquire, I felt obligated to explain how this exercise was superior to many chest exercises. 

"The first thing you will notice, Paul," I said, "is that the bars are not parallel but form a V-shape. This is important because it allows the palms to be reversed so they face out, rather than facing in when one is doing conventional dips on parallel bars." 

We want the palms to face out because this allows the elbows to move through a much greater range of motion. Remember, chest works only when elbows move. This palm position also allows the elbows to be thrust forward to where they are even with the shoulders, rather than behind the body. As the body is lowered, instead of keeping the back in an arched position, the chest is held in a concave position and the feet are thrust forward rather than back.

Yes, I know it sounds strange, but once you place your body in this position on a properly designed set of dipping bars, you are about to strike a vein of pure gold.

Slowly lower the body, keeping the feet thrust forward, the chest concave, the chin on the chest, and the elbows forward. The moment you reach the bottom, you'll sense the joy of the pick biting into yellow metal.

To raise the body, do not press with the arms. Pry the elbows forward and at the same time pull the elbows together using the pulling power of the pecs rather than the pushing power of the triceps 

Don't push with the pecs. Pull with them, pull those arms to a straightened position. And remember to keep the chest concave and the chin down on the chest even on the way up. Don't be tempted to arch the body or let the elbows stray to the rear even when upward movement almost stops. Keep the elbows forward and pull yourself up. It's incredible! 

There are a few signposts I must point out to help you find the mother lode.   

First, this should never a beginning movement in your workout. Do this exercise after you have done 60-70% of your chest routine. You need blood already pumped into the chest for this to work. 

Second, doing dips in this fashion is an unusual exercise. The pecs won't quite know what to make of this movement so they must grow to avoid the extreme stress. And because it is so unusual, the pecs will quickly grow stale on it. Therefore, don't expect to experience this amazing pump and burn, or even more important the burst of growth, for more than one week. 

Switch back and forth using this exercise for about one week out of every six. 

Some nice tips in that short article! And an opportunity to realize the bodybuilding genius of Larry Scott, may his beatific soul rest in eternal peace. Advanced lifters of the bodybuilding persuasion never fail to amaze me. For a time, after training since the late '60s,  I thought I knew something about individualizing exercises for specific goals. Not even close to knowing most of what there is to learn yet! 

Elbow placement and arc of movement make a world of difference in chest training for the bodybuilder. Just as they do for the powerlifter's bench. One of the primary differences between strength training and physique training is of course . . . wait for it . . . drum roll . . . THE GOAL! 

It's highly probable that each of us would see our way sooner to that city named Succeed if we'd  bloody decide . . . What Do We Want From Our Lifting?

Varying the leverage points, the angles of attack you might call them, can lead you to realize some great gains in a much shorter time, in both of the basic lifting disciplines. Strength. Physique. Olympic lifters have the goal of increasing their Snatch and Clean & Jerk. That's it. Thar she be, Matey. The destination is clear from any distance. Row, row, row your boat closer and closer to that high total over time. They spend enormous amounts of time and energy dissecting and reassembling their form in order to get one step closer to perfection in the lifts. Similarly, the intelligent bodybuilder will likewise spend time refining his exercise execution, altering hand placement, leverage points, etc., in order to better isolate the muscles in an appropriate way. Mastery, Matey. Now where's them singin' sireens to steer we a bit off course.

Of course, and this still makes me laugh. Not "Hahaha" laugh, though. More of a bitter laugh, more along the lines described by Charles Baudelaire in "The Essence of Laughter . . ." Powerlifters, Oly lifters and Strongman competitors hone and tweak their technique, always looking for even the slightest edge/advantage in their form. However, it's rare to see bodybuilders spend much time or energy teaching themselves how to come to realize the form required in a specific exercise movement variation that will enable them to get what they're after with it. It's usually swept under the rug, due to laziness and/or frustration, and instead the goal becomes more . . . More . . . MORE weight on the bar.

The bodybuilder, without question, can use strength gained in positive ways en route to his dream physique. However, strength is a secondary goal. A form of strength that we might call "isolative" strength can help reach that goal. Gironda Dips are a perfect example of isolative strength. The body is intentionally placed in a very "weak" position in order to stress the pectorals in a specific fashion, and it takes a different kind of strength to reap rewards from an exercise such as this.

"Hooey, baloney and balderdash," you say? Remember, I can hear you. "A muscle works much like a door on a hinge." Really? "It doesn't matter what position you place yourself in or the angle of stress created by varying the leverage points. You cannot isolate a part of a muscle." The white labcoats and their ilk continue to pimp their papers, while time and time again industrious human examples willing to truly experiment ignore them and proceed to show the exact opposite.

Several decades ago, likely as a backlash to the Golden Era volume approach to bodybuilding, the short term popularization of HIT training, certain fictitious training routines in muscle mags, the false claims of supplement companies and finally perceiving the full impact of anabolic steroid use, the idea that strength-based training would result in a bodybuilder's physique for almost anyone become a popular belief. Again, the same mistake. There's that history deal with us humans again. We can't seem to stop believing there's one and only one right way to do anything. If THIS isn't it, then THAT must be. The one right way to train for a better physique, to eat, to be a "success" or to live life "properly" before we stop breathing and it all means naught. Each new generational wave realizes too late and hits the rocks, finding too late that yes, they were indeed stillborn and the illusion of a "new" generation birthing exceptional redemptive ideas was just that: illusory and destined for death on arrival. The most important thing in the Universe is life. Here's to life, Life, LIFE! More of the same in different guise. Cheers to cycles, Cycles, CYCLES! We're all dead but don't yet know it.

Bitter, bitter the path to insanity, eh. And, Oh Dear, decrepit the brain became! 

Where the hell was I. Oh yeah, sirens, waves, rocky shores, life's grand illusion of change and all that. When I type the word "sea" and you read it do you smell the sea? More's the shame if ye do not. Words, symbols that for most elicit only the image. Rose. The image of a rose. We do, after all, have five senses. Rose, The scent of a rose. Rose. Velvet to the touch. You see where I'm going here. Go there yourself. Or don't. 

Right! The appropriate and intelligent manipulation of our leverages, based upon the lifting goal, can lead to the improvement of our genetic placement on the totem pole.  

Makes perfect sense.  


Saturday, May 12, 2018

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

For a change, I figured this time I'd let you read an article post without deleting all my added crap.

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

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

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

The Industrial Grade Mass Baby Smasher!

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

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

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

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

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

Now, where were we?

Ah, Yes!

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

Intro by Terry Todd:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His name: Anatoly Bondarchuk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Squat Challenged

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

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

First chapter excerpt Here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How It's Done

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

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

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

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

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

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

Working Them In

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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