In July of 1973, Bruce Lee was scheduled to be interviewed at the WGN radio studio here in Chicago, as part of a promotional junket tour preceding the release of his film ENTER THE DRAGON, by nationally known newspaper columnist and radio/tv talk show host, Irv Kupcinet.
At the time I was doing undergraduate work on a degree in radio & television production at the University of Illinois (Chicago campus). Several of my professors at UIC had connections with the production crew at WGN. Knowing how much I idolized Bruce, I had the habit of always doing studio production work wearing a t-shirt picturing "Kato" from "The Green Hornet" television show. They were kind enough to arrange it so that I could be present in the studio at the time of the interview. I had planned to present Bruce with a handwritten 100 page manual on weight-training for martial arts titled "MUSCLEBUILDING FOR JKD." The manual included a great deal of never-before published information on getting the most out of a weight training system that Bruce personally held in high regard; the PHA (Peripheral Heart Action) System that one of my early mentors, Bob Gajda, created, developed, and refined back in the mid-sixties. I worked as one of Bob's assistants at Duncan "Y" in Chicago when he was refining the PHA system (and using it in his training to win the 1966 Mr. America bodybuilding title). I knew a lot about PHA that was never revealed in print (I also knew that most of the articles published on PHA were seriously flawed in many respects). I was sure that Bruce would really appreciate my gift of knowledge.
Unfortunately, Bruce passed away a few days before the interview was to have occurred. I was devastated by his passing, just like everyone else in the world who was a fan of "The Little Dragon." With a great deal of sadness I put away the manuscript, only giving copies to a few individual martial arts students I trained privately and at UIC. I never planned on doing any further work on the manuscript, or publishing it, until several years later when I came into contact with two of Bruce's original group of students here in the USA; James DeMile and Jesse Glover (Jesse was Bruce's first American pupil, and the first student Bruce designated as his assistant instructor).
Jim Demile's approach to martial arts training intrigued me because of not only because of his impressive fighting skills, but because of the way he had designed and structured what he called the WING CHUN DO system as a whole, dynamic, and easily teachable art. It was a system that could be taught within a college course curriculum (I was an instructor in the UIC Physical Education Department at the time we met, so the structure of WING CHUN DO was quite impressive to me at the time) over the span of series of quarters or semesters. I seriously considered the possibility submitting a course proposal for creation of a credit-bearing course teaching WING CHUN DO at UIC. Also, Jim's interest in some of my ideas on "strength conditioning as adapted for martial arts training" caused me to dig up my old manuscript notes and seriously consider publishing them in book form.
Jim DeMile introduced me to Jesse Glover (Bruce's first american pupil, and Bruce's first designated assistant instructor). Soon after being exposed to the incredible strength, power, and devastating martial arts skill of Mr. Glover (courtesy of an "enlightening" backfist to the forehead during "sticking hands"), I scurried to dig up the manual that I had written for Bruce.
Jesse Glover had inspired me to not only begin anew on writing the book, but expand the material included in the original notes. I had planned on presenting it to Jesse in appreciation for the small portion of his art that he taught me. I also wanted it to serve as further thanks for the martial arts seminar he gave at UIC at my bequest.
In 1981, I sent Jesse an unedited copy of the expanded manuscript (I had tentatively titled it THE TAO OF POWER: Bodybuilding and Strength Training for Martial Artists) to get his opinion as to whether I should publish it. He read it, suggested I publish it, and was even gracious enough to write a brief introduction for use in the book.
Little did I realize at the time that a number of personal setbacks in my life outside of the martial arts sphere would delay the publication of this manuscript for over 20 years!
Finally, in the year 2001, I published the book under the title MARTIAL ARTS MUSCLE-ZEN AND THE ART OF BODYBUILDING. It includes not only the material I had intended to give to Bruce back in 1973, but the additional material I had planned to give to Jim DeMile and Jesse Glover 20 years ago, as well as an added "twenty years worth of articles I have written on the subject of" MARTIAL ARTS MUSCLE.
The book you hold now is truly the essence of what I have learned from four decades of hands-on investigation, endless study, on-going experimentation, and wide-ranging research into the most time-efficient, result-producing, and safe methods of strength conditioning and bodybuilding for anyone involved in personal performance enhancement and muscular development.
For the fighting arts specialist it is book of knowledge that can complement any style or system of combative training. It is your key to making what you do more powerful, effective, and lethal. For the weight training enthusiast it is the book that will open the doors to progress that are not easily accessible in this day and age. Use this knowledge wisely.
I truly hope that MARTIAL ARTS MUSCLE proves to be a widely read manual on the subject of bodybuilding and strength conditioning within the martial arts community and the weight training communities around the world.
I am especially proud of being able to present an timely explanations of the little know and forgotten ways to use progressive resistance training in general, and PHA training in particular, to those in the martial arts community who seek to find ways to enhance their overall performance capabilities in training, competition and combat survival.
I like to think that Bruce would have smiled a bit (and gained a bit) if he had been able to read it.
-Exerpt from the Kenjutsu Fushiki Hen ("The Unknown in the Art of Swordsmanship") written in 1768 by Kimura Kyuho.
I have long felt that the study of certain aspects of "Zen" can be very enlightening to anyone who is in pursuit of optimum physical performance enhancement. One does not have to become a Buddhist in order to reap tremendous benefits from Zen principles and concepts of "right-action" and "non-action."
Most trainees in physical activities spend so much time "scheming" and "plotting" and looking for "secrets," that they fail to comprehend the simple fact that "scheming," plotting," and in the blind pursuit of "secrets" only leads to further pursuit of the same. In the zen lexicon this is known as "circular thinking." In order to progress, one has to get off of the "merry-go-round" and go forward (or left, or right, or even backwards!).
The answer lies not in emphasizing technique, or in emphasizing "just do it," but rather in training in such a way that technique and principle are taught in unison. That requires a mentor...a very experienced and skilled mentor.
Unfortunately, most human beings prefer to waste time "re-inventing the wheel" by assuming that all they have to do is want something badly enough in order to get it. A perfect example of this human mental "flaw" was never more clear than when I heard a caller denigrate Tiger Woods incredible golfing skills by stating that, "anyone, including me, could be as good as Tiger Woods if we spent as much time practicing golf like he does!" Well, gee whiz, there are quite a number of people on this planet who practice just as much as Mr. Woods, but they are unable to match his performance on the greens. Tiger has mastered (knowingly or unknowingly) mastered the "inner art" of his sport. He is beyond scheming, plotting, and secrecy. He is in touch with the TAO/WAY.
How does one develop "internally?" Lets look for a moment at the world of Chinese Kung-Fu as it is taught in asia (which is radically different from the watered-down versions of asian martial arts as taught in commercial studios here in the west). For one thing, the most skilled Chinese martial artists are all products of long term, one-on-one, training under the wing of a master teacher. Such teaching is often far from codified and systematic because the master teacher teaches according to what the pupil is ready to absorb (usually without any tacit understanding on behalf of the pupil). There is an "art" to this type of teaching that cannot be duplicated by "scientific" schemes, plots, and secrets. That is why there is such an easily discernible difference between asian martial arts masters and those here in the west: The inner way is the path and the goal in the east. In the west, the external way is the path, even though the "inner way" is more often than not the desired goal!
In the iron game I have often noted that the best lifters and the best bodybuilders tend to have an "inner-approach" to training that clearly sets them apart from their peers in more ways than just the amount of weight lifted and the amount of muscle developed. In fact, many of the iron game greats of the fourties, fifties, sixties, and seventies, that I have had conversations with over the years, have intimated that they learned how to access greatness by changing "mindsets" while training. They all either consciously, or unconsciously, but usually with the help of a mentor (or mentors), were able to successfully "play" with the esoteric concept of "doing without doing" while training. Again, this is an example of the "art" of training having an effect on the overall achievement of high level iron game participants that literally cannot be attained by the mere application of scientific strictures.
I realize that the lab-coat set in research facilities, and the "suits" in academia, will pooh-pooh all of my statements so far. And, why not? They have too much invested in the "way of science" to let me, and others, get away with saying that there is more to the attainment of physical prowess and strength than sets of rules. And the beat goes on, and on, and on! Of course, one would have to be blind not to realize that the greatest martial artists of any age were not trained by academics or scholars. The strongest, most muscularly developed (not that tremendous huge muscular development is predictable indicator of athletic ability or prowess, because in most cases it isn't), and most successful athletes throughout the ages were not the products of laboratories or test tubes (The East German Olympic athletes of the sixties and seventies were the obvious exceptions to this, but even they couldn't create athletic "automatons" that could win everything).
When you can understand what Kimura Kyuho meant when he wrote, "You may read all the books there are on the subject of ... training and attainment, but the culmination is to realize the mystery of being, and the realization is from within yourself, for it cannot come from anywhere else (If it does, it is not yours but somebody else's)," you will be on a completely different level of training and achievement as both a martial artist and as a bodybuilder/srength athlete.
This book is about nothing, more or less, than revealing the boundless simplicity that underlies implementing bodybuilding as a supplement and complement to any sort of physical activity including martial arts and athletics, so that you, the reader, can realize that the so-called "mysteries of training" are not really mysteries at all.
Many weight trainees today think that developing an impressive physique and acquiring a large amount of "functional strength and power" is a complex activity that requires extensive knowledge of the nuances of physiology, anatomy, and nutritional science. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth! There are simple, direct, paths to outstanding physical improvement which will work for anyone who uses it properly-ZEN AND THE ART OF BODYBUILDING is one of those paths.
This approach is the culmination of my 40 years of involvement in progressive bodybuilding and martial arts training. It will give anyone who uses it the knowledge needed to obtain whatever results are desired within a relatively short period of time without having to resort to daily training, the use of dangerously heavy resistance, costly overuse of food supplements and/or growth drugs, and without having to believe that long, exhausting, and psychologically taxing workouts are the only answer to physical improvement..
I have trained hundreds of pupils over the past four decades using the concepts, principles, and techniques outlined in this manual. I have not had a single failure. That's right...not a single failure!
The material in this book will at first appear to be far too simple and obvious to elicit the results that you may be seeking from your progressive resistance training, but, if you follow the material as outlined in a chosen chapter for a 6-12 week period of time, you will be pleasantly surprised with the progress you make. You will find that by continuing to experiment with my approaches and concepts, your physical improvement gains will continue for not just weeks to come, but many years and decades.
Since most readers of muscle magazines and weight training publications believe that the only way to gain muscle and strength is by long workouts on a 5-7 day per week schedule, I realize that it is difficult to convince most bodybuilders to believe that there are indeed more ways to "skin a cat" than one. The ZEN AND THE ART OF BODYBUILDING approach is a unique, novel, and extremely effective way to train and gain if studied and implemented correctly.
On a daily basis here in Chicago, I have long conversations with trainees who are dissatisfied with the results they are getting from their current training. They tell me that they are punping iron for hours at the gym, taking every supplement available, and trying every system espoused in the popular magazines...without making gains! They are at wits end about the "problem," but, when I tell them a few of the basic concepts of my ZEN AND THE ART OF BODYBUILDING approach, they invariably say that it can't solve their "problem" because it does not involve stressing using more resistance, more sets, and working harder than they (thought) they were working previously. I am tired of telling those types that if they are not gaining what do they have to lose by trying a different approach?
ZEN AND THE ART OF BODYBUILDING is an openminded approach to progressive resistance training that will jumpstart your muscle growth in ways that will amaze you. It is a template for bodybuilding success that will prove to be increasingly more valuable as time passes. In other words, it is an "evolutionary" musclebuilding training template that will grow and evolve as you grow and evolve.
Many of my former pupils use the ZEN AND THE ART OF BODYBUILDING as a key to making any system of physical training more efficient, more practical, more progressive, and safer! How many systems can make that claim?
As you read and absorb each chapter (and you can read the chapters in any order you wish), keep in mind that you should always "absorb what is useful, and reject what is useless." Consider each chapter to be the proverbial "finger pointing at the moon (if you get caught up in focusing upon the pointing finger you will never see the moon)."
Herb April-August 15, 2001
If the truth be told, there are perhaps as many bodybuilding training systems as there are bodybuilders. I say this because most bodybuilders tend to improvise on even the most basic and effective training systems...even if they are gaining while using those systems! It is as if "re-inventing the wheel" was a genetic imperative within every single male bodybuilder.
Even rank beginners fall quickly into the trap of trying to use as much weight as possible, as many reps and sets as possible, and as much time as possible training in the false belief that "more is always better."
It is difficult to convince the average trainee that the most basic underlying concept of progressive resistance training is to stimulate muscle growth rather than force muscle growth. Both approaches "work," but if you focus on "stimulation" you will find that growth can continue indefinitely and without the spectre of constant injury that continual "forcing" always creates.
Take heed here to understand that I am not saying that one should not train intensely and hard. What one needs to learn is the subtle difference between "training" and "straining."
The training systems that I have found to be productive for 99.9% of all of my pupils are;
You will find basic desciptions of those training systems elsewhere in this book, and in my first book, HIT PHYSIQUE.
While most weight trainees seem to believe that the more exercises they perform, the more rapidly they will grow, the intelligent weight trainee "instinctively" senses that if one chooses the "correct" exercises that will stimulate the muscular system to grow, rapid growth is assured rather than merely hoped for.
Certain exercises effect the major muscle systems in ways that simply cannot be duplicated by any amount of work performed using less effective movements.
For example, a single set of chinups or standing barbell curls will stimulate more muscle growth than any amount of seated dumbbell concentration curls. a single se of parallel bar dips or barbell bench presses will stimulate more muscle growth than any amount of dumbbell flys. A single set of leverage leg presses or barbell squats will stimulate more upperleg growth than any amount of leg extensions and/or leg curls.
A simple way to choose the correct exercises for optimum muscle growth stimulation is to choose "compound exercises (exercises that require multiple muscle groups simultaneously)" rather than so-called "isolation" movements whenever possible.
Since the turn or the century there have been innumerable weight training supermen who achieved most of their development by working hard on little more than compound exercises coupled with a small number of isolation exercises for variety.
Some of the best and most productive exercises are:
It has been my experience that most bodybuilders do not have the slightest idea as to how to properly use the various bodybuilding tools (barbells, dumbbells, pulley machines, leverage machines, cam machines, etc.) that are available in commercial gyms today. If you doubt my veracity on this point, simply go to any gym in the country, find a comfortable seat, and then observe all the variations on even the most basic movements that the trainees will be demonstrating. The variety will both amaze and astound you. You will be lucky if in the span of an hour or two you observe two or three individuals performing simple movements like barbell curls or bench presses using basic, safe, and productive form for proper muscle growth stimulation.
Bodybuilders are notorious for spreading the "barbells are far superior to exercise machines as musclebuilding tools" gospel. Which of course is patently ridiculous in light of the fact that most bodybuilders cannot even use barbells correctly in the first place. Then, when you see those same bodybuilders attempting to use exercise machines in the same illogical ways that they use barbells, you can understand why they "think (a real oxymoron in this context)" exercise machines are far less productive than the traditional barbell and dumbell set when it comes to building muscle.
Let me state here and now that proper use of any well-designed and well-constructed exercise tool will result in muscle growth stimulation. Of course I must add that many of the most widely known and popular exercise machines in commercial gyms today are indeed inferior to barbells and dumbbells.
The bodybuilding tools (besides conventional barbells and dumbbells) that I really like are:
*(The distance between the parallel bars on the Nautilus Multi-Purpose Machine is too wide for a person of average height and shoulder width)
If you know how to properly use a barbell and dumbbell set, which few do, then learning how to use the tools listed above (as well as many other well-designed exercise tools) is an easy process.
When training on exercise machines of any sort, high-tech or low-tech, follow the instructions regarding body positioning and/or the necessity of using restraining belts. Don't try to "invent" a unique way to use a complex training tool until you have mastered its basic format of usage. Most bodybuilders never learn how to correctly use exercise machines...thus limiting their potential for progress on those machines (the same goes for barbells and dumbbells).
If you can "feel" a barbell or dumbbell movement "groove," you can easily "feel" a machine (or other exercise tool) "groove." If you can find the tool's "groove," you will stimulate muscle growth. It really is as simple as that.
Unfortunately, most trainees have no idea as to how to find a training tool's "groove," let alone how to use the tool correctly in the first place. If you cannot find a "groove" or rhythm with the tool within the first 3-4 reps (of a 8-12 rep set), you won't be eliciting optimum growth stimulation. Think deeply about this point and you will eventually learn many "secrets" of muscle growth stimulus using "any" tool available.
Until I began training at the Gajda Sports Performance and Rehabilitation Center (SPRI) in Carol Stream, Illinois in the early eighties, I did not really understand the proper way to prepare both my mind and body for a ruly productive workout. Yes, I had trained for over twenty years without having knowledge of how to optimally prepare my mind and body for a hard workout!
Sure, I had been making remarkable and relatively injury-free progress in my resistance training from 1961 until the early 80's, but my warmups consisted of some martial arts stretching movements and a bit of easy jogging to get the circulation going. The "focused warmup" that I learned from Bob Gajda in the early 80's gave me a really incredible way of preparing my entire body and mind on the workout to come within a few short minutes while either standing, lying down, or seated in one spot.
Once I memorized the sequence of movements Bob taught me, I found that the only time I had a "poor" workout was when I neglected to perform the"SPRI" warmup. The same holds true two decades later.
Don't be put off by the simplicity of the movements illustrated below. This simple and powerful sequence of movements is an excellent warmup routine "template" for any type of "pre" and "post" workout warmup or cooldown. You can use it alone with great results, or you can add some of your own favorite warmup movements to the mix. Either way, the effects of this warmup/cooldown sequence will soon be a part of your workout regimen that you cannot do without. If you do the movements correctly your mind will be totally focused on your bodily movements. That total focus will quickly lead to a mental acuity and awareness that will prepare you for anything in the arena of athletic training and/or participation.
The Gajda SPRI Warmup Sequence:
*4-8 reps per side, alternating sides, left side first, smooth/controlled movements.
Very few individuals involved in progressive resistance training of any sort take the time to think about developing overall physical symmetry and balance as they progress in training. Needless to say, that is precisely why so many trainees end up with physiques that look incredibly flawed to even the most casual observer.
How many times have you yourself seen bodybuilders who have tremendous arm development, but with little in the way of chest or upper-back development? How about those fellows who develop "breastlike" pectoral muscles, and have absolutely no upper or lower back development? And who amongst us has not chuckled at the "shortsighted" trainees who have developed huge amounts of muscle from the waist up, but whose legs resemble twigs in comparison (to say nothing of the really oddlooking chaps whose birdlike calves are so out of balance with the rest of their physique, that people wonder if they suffer from a disability of some sort...lots of pro wrestlers suffer from this "problem," thus the high boots and full length tights on so many of them)?
The usual excuse for lopsided, unsymmetrical, and unbalanced physical development usually revolves around the trainee not having the time to properly (???) train their entire body at each workout. Or, they will chalk their freakish non-symmetry as simply "bad genetics." Of course some will offer the old, "I had a knee (or back, or calf) injury playing sports in high school, and to this day I cannot train my thighs (or or back, or calves) without incredible pain, so I just skip that stuff and train my biceps, triceps, and chest!"
Oh, the poor babies! Their little kneecaps, ankles, and lowerbacks ache so much! How sad.
How pathetic! That kind of drivel is precisely why most bodybuilders are unable to think beyond the end of the nearest dumbbell. Weak physiques created by weak minds and excused by even weaker excuses.
The truth of the matter is that far too many bodybuilders don't work their back muscles simply because they can't "see" the back muscles during training like they can "see" their chest, shoulder, and arm muscles. Likewise, far too many bodybuilders can't "see" their thigh or calf muscles while training simply because they are too enamoured with their chest, shoulder, and arm musculature. I'm serious!
Most readers might not believe this, but even bodybuilders who actually spend a good measure of training time performing hip, thigh, and calf exercises, do not concentrate on the muscles being worked in the same way that they focus on upperbody movements. What they usually end up doing is "concentrating" on their facial expressions and upperbody image as they struggle to lift as much weight as possible in squats, leg presses, leg curls, standing calf raises, and seated calf raises (under the "false" impression that the amount of resistance used will absolutely determine eventual development).
This may be too obvious and clear for most bodybuilders to comprehend, but when you turn your bodybuilding training into "weightlifting," you are no longer bodybuilding. If you use bodybuilding stategies to develop your upperbody, and weightlifting strategies to develop your lower body, just what are you attempting to do?
In light of the fact that the exercise technique used by most bodybuilders is atrocious at best, what does that say about their "weightlifting" technique. Obviously weightlifting (or powerlifting) requires more "technical precision" during performance due to both the skills and the amounts of resistance involved (for safety's sake if nothing else).
That said, there are perhaps more powerlifters with symmetrical and balanced physiques than there are bodybuilders with the same. Powerlifters focus on fewer movements per workout, but their focus on form, progression, and concentrated mental focus far outstrips anything the average bodybuilder ever does in the gym.
Am I saying that bodybuilders should train like powerlifters? In some respects, yes! However, there are other ways to acheive a symmetrical and balanced physique without having to become a card carrying powerlifter. In fact, those "other ways" are actually not far removed from basic powerlifting concepts and principles.
The late, great, nutritionist and bodybuilding guru, Irvin Johnson (aka Rheo H. Blair of "Blair's Protein Powder fame in the 60's and 70's), was the first to point out in print that human beings "see" only three areas of the body when observing a person with a good looking physique; 1) the width of one's shoulders, 2) the trimness of one's waistline, and 3) the presense, or lack therof, of some measure of calf development. In other words, Irvin Johnson outlined the classic v-shape physique.
Such a physique is visually impressive, and not that difficult to achieve if one knows how to properly train for symmetry and balance.
Please take note that Johnson did not say anything about bulging biceps, tremendous triceps, "barndoor wide" lats, or huge thighs.Of course, Johnson was interested in teaching individuls how to develop visually pleasing, athletically functional, and healthy bodies rather than gargantuan, freakish, "steroid nightmare caricatures" of the physical beauty that each of us can develop to a greater or lesser degree.
I have written in-depth about Irvin Johnson's training methods in several of m other publications. Please refer to them for more on Johnson/Blair.
If you wish to have a "complete" physique that is symmetrical, strong, and capable of functioning at any level of performance you may set your sights on, it would make sense to always put the same mental focus and intensity in your lowerbody, upperback, and lowerback exercises, as you put into your "show-off" muscles (biceps, shoulders, triceps, pectorals, and abdominals).
Lowerback, hip, thigh, and calf training is not as much "fun" as pumping up your upperbody muscles. At least it isn't until you include it in your regular training regimen without fail for a protracted period of time (1-2 years straight should do the trick). Make it a habit, and you will reap the reward of a markedly better looking overall physique.
You might also want to keep in mind that hard hip and thigh work will stimulate all of your muscles, from head to toe, to grow bigger and stronger. Yes, thats right, leg training will enhance upperbody growth stimulation! In fact, it is possible to make gains in chest and arm size from nothing more than a brief period of intensive lower body specialization. More on that elsewhere in this book.
When most bodybuilders talk about "specialization" in training, they immediately begin to list routines in which most of the exercises in a particular workout (or workouts) will involve the muscle or muscle group that is chosen for intensive (???) stimulation. For example-a "chest specialization workout" might consist of flat bench presses, incline bench presses, dips, dumbbell "flys," "pec-deck flys," leverage chest presses, etc., along with a few back, arm, and leg movements to round out the routine. In short, most bodybuilders conception of training specialization consists of "flogging" the object of specialization into "forced" growth stimulus.
Such "flogging" may work...for a while. But, eventually the body simply refuses to respond positively to such abuse and overtraining. That is why I always tell my private pupils to only resort to specialization routines on an occasional basis. I also tell them to always consider what I call "paradoxical specialization" in place of conventional specialization training.
"Paradoxical specialization" involves creating routines that creatively employ exercises that don't at first appear to be specialization exercises at all. For that matter, "paradoxical specialization" techniques and routines often don't even require the muscle or muscle group being focused on to be the "primary mover" in the exercises being performed.
I will only hint at the possibilities of "paradoxical specialization" in this article, as I am currently writing an entire training manual on just this concept.
Play with the following workout possibilities:
Another form of "paradoxical specialization" is to use either a PHA or a PHASE TRAINING template. I have never know either of those two "systemic templates" to fail when it comes to eliciting rapid, remarkable, and permanent physical change in a specialization context. It is hard to beat the efficiency, simplicity, adaptability, and productiveness of PHA and PHASE TRAINING in true progressive bodybuilding.
I have always tried to look upon an injury as an opportunity to "rest and recuperate" a particular bodypart or body area, while experimenting with ways of stimulating continued growth in other parts of my body, and enhancing the blood flow/circulation in and around the injured bodypart/body area so that healing and recuperation time is lessened considerably.
Injured your arm? Spend a week or two (or more) performing hip, thigh, calf, and lower back movements.
Pulled a thigh muscle? Chart out a 2-4 week routine that consists of:
When I used to collect bodybuilding literature back in the early sixties, I noted early on that a large percentage of the best developed and strongest "bodybuilders" and "weightlifters" of the past (from the 1800's up to the late fifties) appeared to have at least dabbled a bit in the art of handbalancing as an adjunct to their normal weight training.
Handbalancing was quite popular on the beaches in California during the forties and fifties. The crowds at Muscle Beach and Venice Beach (to name just two west coast popular "muscle scenes" during that period) were appreciative of bodybuilders who could actually do something out of the ordinary with their "larger than life" barbell built muscles.
Few, if any bodybuilders today can perform a handstand, let alone do a handbalancing routine solo or with a partner. And they wonder why people snicker at them when they waddle down the promanades at beaches across this great land of ours. Show us something fellas!
I was personally intrigued by the photos in old issues of Strength & Health magazine showing the late, great, handbalancer, Bob Jones performing handstands on blowling pins using only his thumbs! And, I cannot tell you how dumbfounded I was by photos of the immortal bodybuilding legend, John C. Grimek, performing all types of handbalancing "tricks" while boasting a physique for the ages. My mind was totally blown at the age of fourteen when I first saw those photo, and read stories about those men.
Iron Man magazine carried handbalancing articles from time to time throughout the 40's, 50's, and 60's. The editor of that magazine, the late Peary Rader, always had good things to say about handbalancing being a great adjunct to regular bodybuilding training.
Although I was able to build quite a collection of iron game publications and memorablia over the past four decades, I was not able to procure a copy of a book that Bob Jones had written on the art of hand balancing until the late eighties. When I did procure it I found that the course was harder than any type of physical exercise I had ever attempted in my life!
The mental and physical difficulty of succeeding at even the basic movements that Bob Jones taught in his book took my upperbody muscular development to another level (mainly because I have large hips and thighs...a no-no for handbalancers and gymnasts, but it didn't appear to effect John Grimek's handbalancing and gymnastic abilities!). I have yet to get through more than the beginning chapters of Mr. Jones training manual because I have not made the decision to put all other training aside and master as much of the Jones material as possible for me at this point in my life. One day I will be able to perform a one-arm handstand!
Handbalancing and gymnastics of any sort are extremely difficult to learn and perform. But, if you are interested in becoming all that you have the potential to be physically, you may find that the art of handbalancing will give you a muscle challenge that will stretch the limits of your physical and mental potential far beyond what mere weight training can do. Plus, it will enhance your overall functional strength in ways that are otherwise impossible. All of which adds up to taking you one step closer to becoming a true superman!
I have to mention that learning how to perform a simple two-handed handstand is a humbling experience for a bodybuilder. Yet, if you persevere and learn a variety of handbalancing and gymnastic skills over a 1-2 year period of time, you might become as "addicted" to the art of handbalancing as I am.
Good luck turning your bodybuilding world upside down!
See Appendix 1 for more information on Bob Jones Hand-Balancing Course
One of the major problems in progressive bodybuilding is the fact that the overwhelming majority of musclebuilding trainees are hell-bent on "re-inventing the wheel" at each and every workout. By that I mean most trainees quickly fall prey to the illusion that the ultimate secret to bodybuilding gains is complex in nature.
I can't begin to count all of the longtime iron-game participants I know who are so lost in so-called "space-age training techniques," and "scientifically proven mumbo-jumbo research," that they have forgotten how simple it is to elicit muscle growth stimulation anytime, anywhere, and with virtually any tools.
Some of the scientifically based newsletters and magazines on bodybuilding read like nothing more than academic snobs trying to impress one another with training methodologies that make bodybuilding out to be akin to advanced physics.
I have to admit that even though I have two college degrees, and have taught physical education at a major midwest academic institution, I find the theoretical observations and conclusions of most articles written in such publications (and on the internet) to be boring, pretentious, elitist, and usually unprovable in the real world. It may not all be bull, but it sure does elicit a bull-like odor!
Another thing that bothers me about the academic types is that most of them will never submit photos with their "incredible new research findings." Those that do send in a photo have me scratching my head in disbelief as to why they would want the world to see their less than spectacular physiques!
I developed a outstanding physique due to learning how to train in a simple, practical, safe, and productive manner from three of the greatest minds in the bodybuilding world (Jim Smith, Bob Gajda, and Irvin Johnson). My methods have evolved from over four decades of experimentation and improvisation upon the theories and concepts of my mentors. My methods work 100% of the time for anyone who I personally teach. I teach each and every student in a way that is designed to elicit the optimum results for him or her. I always give my pupils the results they seek.
You would think that I would have people lined up outside my door for this knowledge. But, no, the academics keep on regaling me with letters stating that "according to the latest research from...your methods can't possibly work." The non-academics (regular, nine to five guys) seem to be taken aback because I tell them that I charge a fee for instruction. People who visit my websites from around the globe want me to download the contents of my publications to them for free so that they can "review" them. Sometimes I think I am stuck in some kind of alternate universe populated bu demented muscleheads.
Hey, to everyone out there who wants the secret of secrets in bodybuilding, here it is:
Yes, it is the proverbial K.I.S.S. principle. And, you know what? It's a fact! Having said that, I can't wait to see all the permutations and convolutions of my theories and concepts that will appear after the publication of this book. Invariably they will all miss the mark simply because they are trying to find a complexity that doesn't exist (if you want a perfect example of how people will misconstrue and erroneously re-construct simplicity, check out the articles on PHA training that appeared in Iron Man
magazine circa 1966-68 after Bob Gajda explained the remarkable training system (PHA, Peripheral Heart Action training), which he created and developed in the early 60's, clearly and succinctly in three brief articles that appeared the Iron Man in 1966...or, better yet, rent the movie Rashomon by the late Akira Kurosawa).
When most bodybuilders consider setting up a "home gym" they immediately think of purchasing an adjustable barbell/dumbbell set, a multi-station, adjustable pulley, exercise machine, adjustable squat racks, a doorway chinup bar, and perhaps an assortment of abdominal, lower back, and calf training devices. All of which is put in either a basement, a recreation room, or, as is most likely, in a corner of a garage.
Is it any wonder then that most home gym setups are seldom used and quite often are sold or given away after a year or two of gathering dust and rust in whatever dark corner they are relegated to?
If you are going to invest in home taining equipment, the first thing you should do is to spend some time about creating a home training environment that is conducive to "luring" you into it on a consistant basis.
The motivation required to go out of the house and train in a sweltering garage during the dog days of summer, or in a oversized "icebox" in the middle of the winter, requires a mindset and singleminded dedicatio that the average bodybuilder will never have. It is also extremely difficult to get into the proper training mindset when you have to walk around a sofa, a big-screen television, a pool table, video-game setups, and other distractions that one often finds in indoor recreation rooms (not to mention that most single family recreation rooms also double as playrooms for the kids).
So, just how does one create the proper environment? And, how does one go about selecting the equipment that goes into such an envoronment?
Although I design home training environments for athletes and professionals here in the Chicago area, I usually suggest that bodybuilding hobbyists start building a home training environment by purchasing a "single piece" of equipment and putting it in a quiet area of the home (the laundry room will do the trick in most cases).
That "single piece" of equipment should be something that you really enjoy using, such as:
Note that while many of the training tools listed above require the additional purchase of a variety of weight plates, none of them takes up very much in the way of space even with a weight plate "tree" nearby.
I did not list a "flat (or adjustable angle backpad) bench/ Olympic style adjustable barbell set" combination simply because it would take up too much space. However, there is nothing wrong with starting out with such a unit if you really love bench pressing (Milo Enterprises makes an excellent set of "safety racks" that would be superb complements to a barbell bench press setup...getting trapped under a heavy barbell while training alone can be a scary experience if one does not employ "safety racks."
Once you get into the habit of using your "single piece" of equipment on a regular basis for a few months, you will quite naturally begin to want to expand your number of available training tool. That is when you should begin to seriously evaluate exactly what would be the perfect piece of equipment that would "complement" the original "single piece" in your chosen training area/environment. Thus, you begin a step-by-step process in which both the equipment you use, and the area in which you train, will evolve into an extension of both your personality and your own unique bodybuilding needs.
I have had many clients who progressed from a "single piece" in an unused bedroom, to a regularly used, full-blown, 8-10 (or more!) piece "personal workout environment" over the course of a 3-4 year span of time.
To paraphrase an old saying; "The journey of your physical evolvement begins with a "single" step." Amen!
Also, keep in mind that using the above approach to "test the waters" of home training will probably not leave you suffering financially should you discover that training in a commercial training center is more suitable for your lifestyle and personality.
I hope that your initial "single" step proves to be a productive one.
As an individual who has been fascinated by martial arts training as much as by bodybuilding training since the early 60's, I have always spent a lot of time thinking about how best to combine both activities more efficiently so that I they would better complement one another, and so that I would have plenty of extra time for other pursuits in both my physical and intellectual life.
Luckily for me, I found out in the mid-sixties how to successfully "interface" and integrate bodybuilding training and martial arts training by placing both activities within a training template shaped by Bob Gajda's PHA (Peripheral Heart Action) system of exercise.
I vividly recall a conversation I had with Bob at Duncan YMCA, where he as the athletic director, and I was one of his assistants, in 1966, in which I asked him how he would design a PHA program for a karate enthusiast.
Bob's seemingly cryptic answer was as follows: "Once you understand PHA in concept, theory, and actual practice, you can experiment with using kicking techniques in between upperbody weight training movements, and arm techniques in between lowerbody weight training movements. Do that for a few months straight and then begin to experiment with injecting segments of karate "forms" in between weight training movements. Eventually you will arrive at a point where you can structure your PHA workout so that a casual observor would think that you were doing some sort of extended martial arts form that just happened to include the use of progressive resistance tools."
That was a bit too much for me to comprehend in it's entirety at first, but as time passed I finally "got it!"
What I "eventually" discovered was that by filtering bodybuilding training and martial arts skill training through a PHA template, I was able to develop a prize winning physique, remarkable "functional" strength, powerful martial arts kicks and punches, enhanced physical mobility and balance, and, to top all of that off, the kind of cardiovascular conditioning that I used to maintain while running cross-country and track in high school!
It was not until the early eighties that I found out to achieve similar exercise interface results with Jim Smith's remarkable PHASE TRAINING system. Jim sat down with me and pointed out how simple it was to interface progressive bodybuilding training with progressive martial arts training within a PHASE TRAINING template. I was floored by this revelation because Jim was my first bodybuilding mentor. I thought I knew all the nuances of his PHASE TRAINING system, but was I ever wrong!
Both Bob Gajda's PHA training system, and Jim Smith's PHASE TRAINING system are surefire paths to ultimate interfacing of bodybuilding training and martial arts training. They far outstrip any other training systems available today.
Look in the appendix section for more information on PHA and PHASE TRAINING books, manuals, and articles.
A good number of todays bodybuilders are interested in interfacing their "pumping" methodologies with the types of training (powerlifting, weightlifting, and odd-lift training) that lead to the development of "functional" athletic strength and power.
Yes, there are quite a few bodybuilders out there who, while maintaining their "addiction" to a bigger is always mentality, recognize that in most cases, freakish amounts of muscle tissue usually amount to functionally useless muscle tissue. Individuals who can realize such obvious "facts" are usually involved in competitive athletics. In the athletic arena sheer size has to be coupled with skill and conditioning in order to stand out, and to survive.
We all know many so-called athletes who are "built like Tarzan, but fight like Jane!"
The solution to addiction to the development of useless muscle tissue is really quite simple. All one has to do is train in a more or less "classical" bodybuilding style. Train for strength and health, and the functional muscle will develop naturally. In other words, if you train sensibly, progressively, and with intensity, you will "automatically" develop functional muscle tissue and a superior physique.
Those who train for nothing but size end up looking ridiculous to all the world as they waddle from side to side, flexed from head to toe, in public places. You don't ever see them in the athletic arena simply because they would not be able to compete due to both a lack of skills, and limited range of functional motion in their overdeveloped limbs.
I vividly recall a noted winner of the WORLD'S STRONGEST MAN title who was a pretty good football player in high school and college. His attempts at making the roster of the Green Bay Packers fell far short, and his attempt at becoming a professional wrestler was a complete failure as well (topped off by the humiliation he receive in the ring from a "real" wrestler/judo expert in The Netherlands...what a fiasco!). Obviously it takes more than massive muscle size and prodigious physical strength to be a real athlete. Yet, many of the early pioneers of the "iron game" were renowned as "strength-athlets" who were formidable in a number of sports including "real" wrestling (Geroge Hackenschmidt, for example).
What has happened over time is that the practice of bodybuilding has been turned into a method of muscle "pumping" that has nothing to do with the development of strenght and health, and everything to do with combining growth drug abuse with mindless overtraining on a daily basis.
The only way to return to a natural interface of bodybuilding with strength training is for each individual trainee to resist the slavish following of training trends and fads, while at the same time continually studying the methods of both the past and the present that produce results. This is not a call to "go back to the good old days," or to resist the onslaught of so-called "high-tech" training equipment and food supplementation. Not at all! I merely challenge you, the reader, to avoid believing things just because they are in print and supposedly authored by "experts and champions." The truth is indeed "out there," but it is seldom that you will find it in todays wacky world of bodybuilding.
Study how powerlifters train. Study how Olympic athletes train. Study how professional athletes train. Compare your findings with the illogical and self-serving babble you usually hear from your bodybuilding peers. Then make some sensible modifications in your personal training regimen and begin to improvise upon those modifications from time to time.The end result should lead to a lifetime of enjoyable and productive bodybuilding that encompasses both classic bodybuilding and progressive strength training.
All I am proselytizing here is a return to the use of progressive bodybuilding to it's original focus-BUILDING STRONG PHYSIQUES, STRONG MINDS, AND ENHANCING FUNCTIONAL CONDITIONING FOR SUCCESSFUL ATHLETIC PARTICIPATION. What more could anyone want?
When you have been actively engaged in the "iron game" for as long as I have, you don't know whether to laugh out loud or cry when you listen to longtime bodybuilders lamenting their inability to gain muscle tissue despite trying every new twist and turn of the "experts" research updates. They take all the supplements (and quite often dabble in the groth drugs) that are touted as "secret weapons of the champions." They use all of the trendiest equipment. They train at the same gyms where the "champions" train. They sweat buckets of perspiration into their designer training gear (the same training gear that the "champions" are always pictured wearing in the muscle mags). They are at wits end.
It is interesting to contemplate why so many earnest and hardworking individuals can be so caught up in searching for what Moishe Feldenkrais called, "the elusive obvious."
They remind me of gerbils on treadmills in cages. Pump, pump, pump. Heave, heave, heave. Haul, haul, haul. If progress were merely a matter of endless muscle pumping, the average bodybuilder would be bigger than a pro football lineman within a year or two.
To that end there have been a number of entrepeneurs who have published training manuals and books focused at what they call "hardgainers." "Hardgainers" are presumed to be the average Joe who has tried everything imaginable to develop muscle mass and strength...without success!
The entrepreneurs claim that the only way that "hardgainers" can stimulate muscle growth is through using maximum resistance, and working each set of each exercise to momentary muscular failure.Strain, strin, strain. Struggle, struggle, strugle. Suffer, suffer, suffer. And they still don't gain the sought after muscle mass and strength.
Several years ago I wrote to the editor of a magazine geared toward "hardgainers." I wanted to know if he would consider publishing some of my articles on bodybuilding. He was very enthusiastic about the idea until he got to read a couple of sample articles. He admitted to me that his "readers would not believe that my approach to training really worked," and, "they would think that my gains were due to genetic gifts." In other words, he had too much invested in his "you have to strain, struggle, and suffer all of the time in order to make even the smallest gains in size and strength" philosophy.According to him there is only one way to train for everyone. Since my approach differed from his, I was branded as either a genetic freak or someone who would "confuse" his flock of true believers.
The only way to get through to his followers would be to have them spend a bit of time training "without a net." by that I mean training without a lockstep, one-way as the only way. approach. Unfortunately that will never happen. I am confident about this because I have never been able to convince a brainwashed "hardgainer" into taking off the blindfolds and seeing the light of day about anything.
The absolute worst individuals to try and enlighten are the academic types who have been training without gaining for decades. You would think that such well-educated and (seemingly) intelligent individuals would not be stupid enough to keep banging their head against the wall fruitlessly for decades while seeking a "mass of muscle at the end of the rainbow." No such luck. The more educated they are, the more they think they are always on the cusp of monumental muscle growth breakthroughs and discoveries.
I once had a long conversation with a physics teacher at Southern California University, in which we discussed various training methods for bodybuilding. I concluded by sugesting that he forget about meticulously structured workout routines for a few months, and just go in the gym and have fun training.
The professor had been lifting weights since the mid-fifties. He had a collection of just about every bodybuilding publication in print since the 1800's. He had trained at the best gyms on the west coast. He knew all of the top trainers and bodybuilders. He had a closet full of notebooks detailing every rep of every set of every workout dating back to the first workout he engaged in at a Vic Tanny health club. Still, he had a physique that was mediocre by any definition.
Needless to say he disagreed with my suggestion of training "without a net" for a brief period of time. Hey, even if he had tried my approach and failed, which he wouldn't have, he would not be any worse off than he was when we were conversing. He was determined to go to the grave still struggling to get results from an ineffective approach to training.
I offered to train him for free for two weeks just to prove how effective training "without a net" can be. He refused the offer. I can imagine that the gains he would have made in those two weeks would have been psychologically devastating to him. His ego would slide right down the drain.
If you, or someone you know, suffers from the "hardgainer illusion," try the following;
The results of this very simplified example of training "without a net" may shock you into turning in your "hardgainers" life membership card.
(AUTHOR'S NOTE: This article was originally printed in my internet newsletter, MODERN RONIN JOURNAL in 2001. It was intended to generate reader interest in the potentials of the study of hand percussion study as an adjunct to martial arts training. For bodybuilders it (hand drum study or music study of any sort) is a powerful means of "manipulating and controlling one's personal rhythmic PULSE for enhanced stimulatory effects during training and during recuperation from training." This article touches upon the true inner-game of advanced level training. Read it carefully, purchase a hand-drum, find a teacher who has learned "In The Tradition," and you may discover, as I did many years ago, that mastery of "The Forgotten Powers of Rhythm" can lead to stimulation of muscle growth and strength increase that even supplements and drugs are incapable of.)
Latinos like to use the words "in the tradition" when referring to "authenticity" in a cultural context. I first heard the saying in the late 1950's when a nextdoor neighbor's father told me that the wonderful rainbow of tones that he was able to elicit from a bongo drum and timbale set were "in the tradition of his afrocuban teachers and ancesters." I told him that I thought his drumming was great and that I would like to learn how to drum like him. He laughed, shrugged, and told me to "learn what you can, when you can."
The family (I was enamoured of his daughter who wanted to teach me spanish so that we could play card games together...I was only 12 years old at the time) soon moved out of the building nextdoor leaving me with little more than a "broken heart," a bongo set which the father gave me as a going away present, and a beaded necklace which his daughter told me was a symbol of "Shango" that I should keep for the rest of my life.
I never realized the importance of those childhood memories until I began hanging out on occasion at the drumming area at the 63rd Street Beach in the mid-sixties. I learned a lot about "Shango," Drumming, and the meaning of in the tradition from some of the drummers who frequented that area every summer.
Then, while working security at a Carlos Santana concert in 1970 (not sure about the date, but it was his first gig in Chicago at the Electric Theater on north Clark street), I had an epiphiny of sorts after hearing the Santana Band's set; I realized all at once how the power of pulse and percussion could "awaken the gods (Shango included)!" I recall walking up to Carlos after the set (it was just before B.B. King's set) and telling him that he had opened my eyes, ears, and mind to the power of latin percussion infused music. I realized that the percussion base in his latin-rock music was "in the tradition.
It was about that time that I had a revelation about the time I had spent around the great Cuban bodybuilder, Sergio "The Myth" Oliva, while I was on the staff at Duncan YMCA when he trained there in the mid-sixties. I didn't know it at the time, but the best way to explain the difference between Sergio and everyone, and I do mean everyone else around him would be to say that Sergio was always "in clave, and in the tradition.. Hell, like one latino said after seeing Oliva for the first time at Duncan YMCA just standing around shooting the breeze en espanol, "el hombre" is Shango! That's what I thought too. Sergio was one cool, happy, and physically unbelievable individual. My only regret is that I could not converse with him en espanol about Cuba, Cuban music, "los santos," and his memories of the country he fled. I also wanted to know his impressions of the USA even though I know in my heart that Sergio had to struggle each day with the problems of race and culture that permeate this great land of ours. It's a far sight better than living in a socialist or communist state, but being black in America was, and remains to this very day, a societal "ball and chain." But, Sergio was THE MAN!
In the early seventies I taught many latino students. The best of the bunch was a young man named Jose Valdes. He was also a very good conga player. He clued me in on some great Afro-Cuban Jazz music that inspired me to drag out the bongo set yet again. Another of my pupils sold me a set of conga drums to get the ball rolling even faster. Then one of my latino pupils gave me a copy of a recording titled "" that totally changed my life around. Now I really was closing in on being in the tradition.
In 1975 I journeyed out to Torrance, California to train at the Filipino Kali Academy and learn some of the rudiments of the Filipino fighting arts. the first thing I saw in the training area was two conga drums and a set of clave sticks in a corner of the room. I knew that I would be right at home the moment I saw those percussion instruments in the room. And, as soon as the firs class began with Guro Richard Bustillo tapping out counts on the clave sticks, I knew that "Shango" was watching over me in California.
The use of percussion as a "tool" for making training sessions more productive was perhaps the most valuable concept that I brought back with me from my experience at the Filipino Kali Academy (that and the sense of comradeship that was shared by all of the guys who were training there with me at that time...a great bunch of like-minded people). It was cool to know that Filipinos were as "percussion oriented" as latinos when it came to physical movement and dance. Somehow I felt a great affinity toward training with sticks after finding out how to enhance the experience with "percussion pulse" in the background.
That was in the seventies. Since that time I have learned the value of using "percussive pulse" as a means of inducing training entancement for "workout enhancement" at "every" workout. It is my belief that martial arts training (and all forms of truly progressive exercise training...at least the type I like to engage in and teach) is something that must be engaged in with a ritual mentality. The best way to secure a ritual setting is to control the "pulse" of the workout from start to finish. The easiest way to do that is to incorporate drumming in some way, shape, or form-"authentic" drumming rhythms, rhythms in the tradition are the key (as long as they are "in clave" if you know what I mean...and if you don't, do some research). And please, don't get the idea that I am into some sort of mind control jive. No way; I don't play with the Gods, or with other people's minds! If you really understand the meaning of the contents of this article, you should know that it tells you about a certain "path" that can allow you to control and pace your workouts in your head without the necessity of taped music or a boom-box. That is real self-empowerment! Insidious and evil "mind control" is what happens when you enter a training center and let the gym owner's selection of "background music (?)" control your mood and energy output at every workout. Think deeply on that point!
The inimmitable Arthur Jones (the inventor of Nautilus exercise equipment) was once quoted as saying something to the effect that, "by and large, there has been nothing new added to the nuts and bolts of productive training since the 1950's." I tend to agree, except I would go even further by saying that perhaps the nadir of "productive progressive resistance training science" was achieved in ancient Greece by the legendary Milo of Cretona, of whom it is said that part of his preparation for Greek Olympic competition involved walking around with a young calf draped across his shoulders for certain distances each day. As the calf grew into a full-grown bull over time, Milo's strength and physique increased accordingly (or so legend goes).
Assuming the calf was well-fed and docile enough to go along with Milo's "lifting program," the subtle simplicity of Milo's strength-conditioning "program" was actually more "scientifically progressive" than most of the so-called "research-study backed" training methodologies that keep on appearing in most of today's exercise related publications.
Milo (or perhaps some of his coaching mentors in ancient Greece) was a genius when it came to understanding the potentials of truly progressive exercise as a means of enhancing strength and fitness. Sure, it could get messy (calf excrement isn't something you want to deal with), and bloody (a recalcitrant animal is also something you don't want to have to deal with), but, if one could put up with the, uh, shortcomings, it was as foolproof a method as there ever has been for evolving physically.
If the truth be told, Milo's approach to progressive resistance training is "space-age" in comparison with the training methods of the vast majority of exercise enthusiasts I observe milling about mindlessly in modern health (?) clubs.
Right now, most of the readers of this article are probably thinking that the above comments are proof-positive that I have lost my mind. I know you are wondering how I can possibly ignore all of the advances in exercise theory, exercise science, and exercise equipment since Milo's day. You're probably laughing out loud, and saying that there is absolutely no way that Milo's system could stack up against all of the experimentation and innovation that has occured since his passing. Laugh on! By the way, why would you be reading this publication if you were able to get the training results you desired from all of the currently available "modern" musclebuilding methods?
Actually, you could get the results you desire from the "intelligent" application of today's training knowledge in conjunction with today's advanced training tools. However, I have serious doubts that the average trainee today could duplicate the results of Milo's training by using modern training methods and tools; Primarily because words like "progressive, patience, and perseverance are not in their vocabularies. There is so much emphasis on fast muscle mass, fast strength gains, fast "everything," that the most basic keys to physical change and growth (progression over time) have been lost in the mad rush for overnight muscle.
What really amazes me is that the modern iron game enthusiast will go to any lengths to circumvent the simple approach, the logical approach, the Milo approach, to virtually surefire gains. They prefer to lounge around gyms mumbling the modern musclehead mantra, "I gotta' train harder, I gotta' train longer, I gotta' train more often, I gotta' take more supplements (i.e. drugs), I gotta' get bigger, I gotta' use more weight, I gotta' grow faster!"
Please, try to understand just what I am trying to get across to you here. I am not suggesting that the best way to train is to go back to the obviously crude methods that Milo used.
Hey, if Milo were around today he would be the first to develop a close relationship with a squat rack and a powerlifting bar (I doubt if he would like a power rack because it would not allow him to "walk a few blocks" with a half-ton or more draped across his shoulders)! Milo would be a comrade-in-arms with "iron gurus' such as Dr. Ken Leistner, Arthur Jones, and Kim Woods.
My point is that Milo's method of progression was, and remains to this very day, the root, the core, the essence, the NUMBER ONE KEY TO MIGHT AND MUSCLE DEVELOPMENT! It doesn't matter if you train alone in a cramped apartment, or in the best equipped training facility in the world-If you don't understand the real definition of progression in training, you will NEVER BECOME WHAT YOU HAVE THE POTENTIAL TO BECOME IN THE IRON GAME! Would someone please tell me how much intelligence it takes to understand something so incredibly simple?
A wacky metaphor just flashed into my mind a few moments ago: I envisioned a 100-meter sprinter so worried about improving his speed that he was constantly looking down at his watch in an attempt to check his time during his sprint training. Does that sound ridiculous to you? Its not any more ridiculous than the "gotta, gotta, gotta, faster, faster, faster" mentality that the overwhelming majority of weight trainees display in every gym in the world on a daily basis.
Some readers of "-------------" e-mailed me in response to my last article in that publication, and took me to task for not passing on more SETS, REPS, WORKOUT SCHEMES, and WORKOUT ANALYSIS information. Several felt some dismay at my seeming "disinterest" in subjects like TUL("time under load") and CADENCE (rep pacing).
In my opinion there is nothing new, radical, or revolutionary, about TUL, CADENCE, PERIODIZATION, "SUPER-SLOW," or many of the other concepts currently in vogue. The great Bob Hinds, a bodybuilding competitor back in the late fifties/early sixties, was known to sometimes perform reps that took from 45-60 seconds each to complete, during sets. I knew a few individuals here in Chicago during the early sixties who trained so slowly that they looked as if they were training in a jar ofmolasses! I experimented with Bob Hind's approach on occasion back in the 60's. I distinctly recall that I was bored by that type of training, therefore I never used it as anything more than a "break" from the regular grind of training. My slow reps usually took about 5-10 seconds each to complete. My "sets" consisted of 3-5 slow reps.
At any rate, what is the value of slow training, TUL, CADENCE, or whatever, if you don't have the intelligence needed to apply basic principles of progression to such training, and/or you lack the discipline necessary to stick with those principles? Answer that, and you will perhaps begin to "see" where my articles are pointed at. Answer that, and you will understand why, even if I were to put in print the MOST EFFECTIVE AND RESULT PRODUCING WORKOUT OF ALL TIME, it couldn't make up for your inability to apply the basic principle of progression in conjunction with it.
I also want to say that I am not "anti-science, anti-research, or anti-innovation!" I enjoy reading and talking with others about innovations in training systems, techniques, and equipment. However, what I do have an issue with is the false notion being promoted within some quarters of the iron game community which implys that the average person cannot get remarkable results from training unless accompanied by a personal trainer attired in a lab coat, holding a clipboard in one hand, a pencil in the other, and having a combination stethoscope/stopwatch draped around the neck. The iron game will always remain a bit too primal to fit comfortably within that sort of image. At least I hope so.
In closing I would like to offer a couple of workout tips that you might wish to explore:
I was training some Chicago police officers in the UIC Physical Education Building one evening in the fall of 1984 when I was approached by a UIC student who was known around the gym as a top local physique contest competitor. He excused himself and asked if I would be able to talk with him for a few minutes after I finished taking the police officers through their paces. I told him that it would be no problem.
I figured that he wanted to know something about the training methods I espoused, and perhaps he wanted to hear some of my stories about the iron game personalities I knew in Chicago during the sixties and the seventies.
To make a long story short, when we finally got to talk, the fellow told me me to, "skip the memory lane crap, and tell me your thoughts on how to use oral and injectible steroids!" I laughed and told him that I never used the stuff, so he was asking the wrong guy about that sort of info. He jumped up in a huff, and called me a liar because, in his opinion, there was no way I could have won all of my regional and national level bodybuilding titles without using Dianabol or other drugs! That was the last time we ever spoke, though I saw him occasionally on campus many times after that little conversation.
That brief "conversation" has remained vividly in my memory ever since. I knew right then and there that the modern bodybuilders were coming at the iron game from a completely different angle than I did during my formative years in the iron game back in the early sixties. The idea that drugs are a "normal" part of what it takes to be a bodybuilder, irregardless of the potential side effects, implies that with drugs there is no need to ever "LEARN HOW TO TRAIN," and that is very troubling to me. I sensed several decades ago that I was seeing an entire generation of bodybuilders and lifters burst onto the scene without much interest in first learning how to train properly so as to elicit great gains "without" the necessity of having to experiment with growth drugs. I knew, by the time the eighties had rolled around, that the name of the game, even for beginners, was now BETTER GAINS THROUGH CHEMISTRY!
The main reason why I found the CHEMICAL BODYBUILDING GENERATION so troubling was because I could see that drug information was usually the casual topic "du jour" amongst even teenage trainees. The "chemical conversations" were seldom balanced with much talk about learning how to perform even basic weight training movements in a way that would spark muscle and strength gains on a consistant basis. I could look around a gym, any gym, anywhere, during the 80's and see what amounted to a multiple-ringed circus in which poor technique, bizarre technique, and dangerous technique, was the order of the day. Now, in the year 2001, things are even worse! I hear locker-room and gym floor conversations that cover everything form needle-exchange info, down to "stacking" nuts and bolts (stacking is the use of multiple drugs simultaneously for "enhanced (???)" effects). I even hear women chiming in with jargon that would make a medical doctor's eyes spin in his head.
You go in a gym today and you will see all of the "normal" looking trainees heaving and hauling away with free-weights, and on machines, without rhyme or reason, while casually glancing in the mirror (or out of the corner of their eyes) at the BIG GUYS in the room (who are usually strutting, or waddling, around the room with every muscle flexed so as to keep their "top dog" image "24/7"). At some point in time, during their initial weeks or months of training, the "normal" guys eventually come to the conclusion that it's not the training that creates big muscles, because haven't they been training like dogs for weeks with little in the way of results to show for the effort? The idea of there being some "secret" that only the BIG GUYS know of, begins to grow. Eventually, the trainee tries to elicit the "secret" from the BIG GUYS through friendly chatter and locker room conversations. The next thing they know, they have the name of a source for the "secret" supplement. Then they are faced with the choice of playing dice with their health, or going back to doing the "normal" guy thing.
Anyone who understands the mindset of the average weight trainee will understand exactly why most of them would choose to experiment with drugs without a second thought. Since there is little chance of finding a knowledgeable training "mentor" who can show one how to master the "art" of bodybuilding in most training environments today (this in spite of the droves of personal trainers and "experts" who over-populate commercial training centers and gyms), drug use appears to be a viable option which beats the alternative of continuiing to get nowhere in training, or giving up training altogether. Most would call the decision a "no-brainer." A "no-brainer" indeed! Talk about your oxymorons!
The truth of the matter is that you have to be in the right place, at the right time, and have a bit of luck when it comes to finding a training "mentor" who can show you how to stimulate remarkable gains in size and strength "without" having to resort to drug use. After you find out how to get the gains you want through intelligent and focused "effort," you will be in a much better position from which to make a personal decision regarding drug usage. Once you know how "simple (but certainly not easy)" it is to develop jaw-dropping strength and a standout physique through a combination of proper technique and EFFORT, you will probably be "less inclined" to dabble in absurd training methodologies or drugs.
An acquaintance of mine in the late sixties, with the assistance of a relatively modest intake of steroids (relative to what his generation's top physique competitors were using, and absolutely miniscule in comparison to what even "non-competitive" bodybuilders use today), developed a physique that enabled him to win Mr. America, Mr. World, and Mr. Universe titles. While conversing with him about the insane drug abuse proclivities of today's generation of musclemen, he casually remarked that, in his opinion, the only really "sane and relatively safe" way to experiment with growth drugs of any sort would be to take them in low dosages "under medical supervision" for a 3-4 month period of time just to get a glimpse at what kind of muscle size and strength "potential" an individual has genetically. Then, again under medical supervision, gradually taper off of the drugs completely over a 4-6 week period of time. The next logical step would then be to refine one's training and nutrition so that one would develop the size and strength attained at the peak of the medically supervised experiment "without" having to resort to drugs! In short, you would let the drugs give you a "peek" at your potential. You would then use that "peek" as a goal to strive for without having to resort to potentially dangerous side-effects from long-term hormonal manipulation."
His approach came across to me as more intelligent than what most bodybuilders or lifters would say publically. Still, I've always felt that there was a big stumbling block in what he proposed- human nature!
I firmly believe that most trainees would find it psychologically difficult to get off the drugs after achieving even the smallest amount of rapid and impressive gains. It would be tough to slowly watch many of the gains slowly "disappear" as one tapered off the drugs.
Most trainees would be tempted to continue taking a "maintenance" dosage rather than taper off the drug completely and thus revert back to square one.
Also, even if the trainee did willingly and patiently taper off of the drug, they would probably forevermore be in a bit of a quandry when it comes to making a choice between hard training over a protracted period of time versus quick gains from drug use.
All I can say is that I am glad that I was personally never really interested in experimenting with steroids. Knowing what I know today about my individual reactions to steroidal drugs (I had some really amazing size and strength gains, coupled with some really negative psychological side-effects, while on low dosage "Prednisone" therapy for a stress-induced gastrointestinal illness that I suffered with for a five year period), I truly believe that my instincts to avoid growth drugs were correct. I got everything I ever wanted from weight training by just doing it with heart, soul, and common sense, workout after workout, year after year, over a 40 period. I have serious doubts as to whether or not I would be around to publish this book had I went the drug route. That said, I have no doubt that I would have been an international "star" if I had done the Dianabol trip, but I never really cared that much about winning bodybuilding or lifting competitions. Athletic competitions and martial arts tournaments were always quite a few notches above any "Mr."title. Still, my love for actual bodybuilding "training" has always been equal to my love for athletics and martial arts.
If "you" decide to use growth drugs, hey, its a free country. I would only hope that your decision to do so is backed with some equal measures of wisdom, common sense, and balancing the pros and cons of the decision. But always keep in mind the fact that it is easily possible to attain literally mind-boggling levels of muscular strength and development using simple tools, good nutrition, and living a sensible lifestyle, if you really learn how to use the tools correctly, how to eat correctly, and how to live sensibly. Drugs are absolutely not necessary for physical improvement.
Think twice before you let some gym rat, or some drug dealer (who has no interest in anything other than your attention, your wallet, and your "addiction" to size and strength), make decisions "for you" that may very well affect the the future well-being of not only yourself, but also your family and friends. Whatever you decide to do in regards to physical performance enhancemement, make sure that "you" control "your" decisions! Remember, even if you win the Mr. Olympia title, you will still have to stand in line and pay just like everyone else at the local coffee shop. The big winners of bodybuilding contests are not the competitors! No, it's the contest promoters, the "muscle media" hacks, the food supplement manufacturers, and the competitor's personal physicians (not to mention their "dealers").
One final comment on this subject. I have noticed that whenever I ask an older individual who has to take prescription drugs on regular basis for health problems, if they would mind being on drugs of any sort, they invariably curse the day that they had to begin taking whatever drug it is that they are on.
I know that when I was on Prednisone for a severe, job-stress induced, gastrointestinal illness from 1995-1999, I often wondered if the drug was not, in its own way, even more insidious than the problem that it was supposed to alleviate. Although the Prednisone did indeed save my life during that dark period of my life, I recognized the physiological and psychological dependency effects that the drug was in the process of enslaving me to. It took me almost a year to wean myself off of that poison.
That personal struggle invariably makes me think of a number of close friends who today are still suffering from physical problems that are directly related to their indiscriminate use and abuse of steroid anabolics back in the 60's and 70's. Most of my bodybuilding peers from the 60's are physically unable to train today because of some poor choices in the past. I was lucky, I guess.
You always have to pay the piper eventually. Look before you leap!
Recently I had the opportunity to train in one of the larger commercial training facilities here in the Chicago area. I had a free workout pass, so I decided to see if I could get some kind of decent workout in the "fitness lifestyle palace" that it proclaimed itself to be.
It was loaded with Cybex, Bodymaster, Hammer, and a few other currently "popular" pieces of training equipment, but I decided to begin my workout with a "blast from the past;" the seldom seen barbell pullover and press.
I warmed up with the 45 pound olympic bar, then jumped to 95 pounds for another warmup set (I haven't performed this movement in over a year, so I wasn't about to let my ego lead me into an injury by using too much resistance). But, as I slapped on a 45 pound plate to each end of the bar to make the resistance 135 pounds, an employee of the club came over and told me that I couldn't continue what I was doing because he felt I was performing a "non-exercise" in a "potentially dangerous manner." I asked him what he was talking about, and he replied that I obviously did not know how to properly use a barbell because what I was doing was not the correct way to exercise with a barbell.
It turns out that he had no idea whatsoever about what a barbell pullover is, or what it is supposed to be used for (in terms of strength and growth stimulation), despite the fact that he held a masters degree in kinisiology, and has been a "ACE" certified personal trainer since 1996!
I gave him a brief history of the movement, its purpose, and an explanation as to why it can stimulate some spectacular strength and size enhancement within a relatively short period of time if performed correctly. He was unimpressed and unmoved by my "unsolicited" commentary about an exercise that he did not believe is an exercise even after I educated him about it. His final comment to me was, "a pullover is what you do on a Cybex Pullover machine, not that, that,....whatever you call it."
Not wishing to push the arrogant and pompous fellow into a "fit of fey indignation," I simply unloaded the bar and began to search for a leverage row machine. That was when "Mr. fey personal trainer" decided he was going to ask me if I might be interested in taking advantage of his services as a "personal instructor" at $55 an hour! I declined his offer politely, and did my best to ignore his pushy, prissy, and smarmy presence for the remainder of my workout.
What I learned from that infuriating experience is that, A) I am a dinosaur, and B) that I will never set foot in another "Yuppie Pump and Stare" health club/fitness center if I can help it. I like facilities where I can do the things that I want to do rather than fall in line with the trendy, ever-changing jive, that is the norm today. I honestly believe that had I been performing the movement while draped across a "Swiss/Swedish Exer-ball," that fellow might have simply said, "hey, thats a great movement isn't it?" Maybe if I had worn some snazzy "chic" workout gear I would have been treated differently (ha, ha, ha!).
Lets get into the exercise I was performing; The barbell pullover and press. It was a standby exercise movement in the 40's, 50's, and 60's until Arthur Jones created his Nautilus Pullover machine. Arthur's pullover machine was a magnificent invention that made the pullover movement easier to perform, and much, much, more comfortable to do. Still, it is not as productive as the traditional barbell pullover, nor is it as productive as the barbell pullover and press movement.
Make no mistake, the barbell pullover (and the pullover and press) is difficult to perform correctly. It is not a comfortable exercise by any stretch of the imagination. It is tough to do, especially when you start to use resistance past the 200-250 pound range. But, if you perform it consistantly for a few months, you will understand why many old-timers will tell you that it is possible to develop an unbelievable physique using only the pullover, the barbell squat, parallel bar dips, overhead chinups, and deadlift variations! Of course it would take a REAL MAN to work on those movements for any extended period of time (In this day and age there are few REAL MEN training in trendy fitness spas...REAL MEN tend to be drawn to more "reclusive" training settings). The average trainee today studiously avoids anything that smacks of discomfort in the realm of exercise.
Let me be perfectly clear here; There are certain simple compound exercise movements that stimulate the body to change radically no matter who you are, or what your genetic makeup happens to be. If you perform those certain simple compound exercise movements (alone, or in conjunction with a variety of other more "conventional" movements) correctly, with effort, and progressively, YOU WILL GROW! If you overdo it with these movements you will just as surely get injured. So, you have to use even simple, compound movements intelligently.
Any attempt by me to describe how to perform the barbell pullover (or the pullover and press) beyond saying that it is performed on an exercise bench with your head extended over the end of the bench in such a way that the bar can be pulled past the head/lowered past the head sithout either bopping yourself in the head, or tearing your nose off, would be an exercise in futility. You need an experienced "mentor" who can demonstrate it, and teach you how to position yourself properly for safety and maximum muscular stimulation.
I have seen photos layouts purporting to illustrate proper barbell pullover performance, but the majority are literally a joke-a joke that could leave you with a rotator-cuff injury, or a "knurling mark" running down the center of your face. Find a "mentor" and learn how to do this valuable movement the correct way. And, if you find a "real mentor," have them show you how to "correctly" perform the squat, the chinup, the parallel bar dip, and the deadlift.
In terms of sets and reps, I would suggest a light warmup set, followed by 2 sets of 12-15 reps per set, until you get the hang of the movement (usually it takes about a month to get comfortable with this movement, assuming you do it twice per week).
Please, do not attempt to teach yourself how to do this movement without the assistance and experienced eye of a "mentor." You will only end up frustrated and disillusioned if you are not taught the little "nuances" that are few in number, but almost impossible to figure out by yourself within a short period of time. And, believe me when I say that if you can't figure out the subtle positioning and movement speed "nuances," you won't stick with this movement for very long unless you are a very, very unique individual indeed.
Work up gradually until you can perform 185-205 pounds for 6-8 smooth reps, and you will have an upper-torso development that will be radically different from 99% of your training peers in terms of strength and looks.
Interesting variations to keep your mind "fresh" while progressing with this movement are dumbbell pullovers, Dumbbell Pullover and Press, the Nautilus Plate-Loaded Pullover (A machine built and sold by the original Nautilus Industries in the mid-seventies), and the MedX Pullover (If you are lucky enough to find a set of "JUDSON TORSO STRAPS" and a JUDSON TORSO MACHINE, you will find that it is the perfect counterpoint to the barbell pullover).
If you don't mind developing a mind-boggling upperbody along with an equal amount of functional upperbody strength, the barbell pullover/barbell pullover and press is hard to beat even with all of the high-tech devices available today. Try it; You won't like it, but you will love the results!
There is one other barbell upper-torso development exercise movement that I feel is superior to the barbell pullover and press. That "special exercise" will be the subject of a future article on this site if there is sufficient interest (That "special exercise" is described in detail in my first book, HIT PHYSIQUE, just in case you're interested).
There are some simple concepts that every exercise enthusiast, athlete, and martial artist should know well, and understand completely. One of the most important of the basic simple concepts is that of understanding that without roots, there is no tree! By that I mean that it is absolutely necessary to have a base upon which you can grow and develop physically, intellectually, and spiritually over time.
In bodybuilding training there is seldom any root development because everybody is so lost in the idiotic belief that the more exercises they do, the faster they will gain, and the larger they will become. One would think that if the average bodybuilder would simply open his eyes and look around at all of the other trainees around him who are training in the same manner, and also not gaining and growing, he would realize that something is wrong with his approach.
Unfortunately, bodybuilders are not big on observations (except for constantly checking out their perpetually flexed images in the mirror). If they were, they would be able to recognize that powerlifters routinely grow stronger and bigger by performing simple basic, "roots" movements such as squats, bench presses, deadlifts, and other equally simple compound exercises. The powerlifters develop a strong physical base upon which to grow stronger and bigger almost at will, while the bodybuilders usually run around the gym like headless (mindless???) chickens in pursuit of more "rinky-dink" exercises that they can add to the pile of time and energy wasting "infinite improvisations on muscle pumping movements" that they are "addicted" to. Just how intelligent does one have to be to realize that the only, I repeat, only, way to build optimum functional muscle strength and size that lasts a lifetime, is to heavily involve yourself in simple, basic, "roots building," compound esercises that always stimulate growth if combined with good nutrition and proper rest.
Martial arts practitioners, since the late 70's in particular, have fallen into the same tiny brain abyss as bodybuilders. They tend to believe that the more techniques and systems they can learn, the better fighters they will become. Some pundits like to call it the "Jeet Kune Do Syndrome" in honor of the impact that the late Bruce Lee's philosophy of "using all ways that work" has had on the commercial martial arts scene. Like the average tiny brained bodybuilder type, the average martial artist is too busy trying to collect bits and pieces from "every style and system under the sun," to recognize that the best martial artists are always the ones who spend several years (at least!) mastering the basics of one style or system. The best martial artists on the planet, to a man, first developed strong roots before eventually adding branches;improvisations on the "roots," and additions from the study of other styles/systems. It's a truth that is so obvious that Ray Charles could "see" it!
Fitness enthusiasts (the overweight, runners, joggers, cyclists, aerobics fanatics, etc) are just as narrow-minded. Show me a fitness enthusiast who does not believe that MORE IS ALWAYS BETTER, and I will show you an individual who is happy, healthy, and fit for life. But, show me the average fitness enthusiast, and I will show you a worried, stressed-out, and usually grossly over-trained person whose conceptualization of "fitness" revolves around self-imposed masochism. Perhaps the only difference between fitness enthusiasts and bodybuilders is that bodybuilders have a tendency towards heavy use of growth drugs and/or huge amounts of food supplements that claim (?) to mimic growth drug stimulation. Fitness enthusiasts may dabble in food supplements, but generally they exchew drug use in favor of natural and organic foodstuffs. Still, the wacky tendency toward overtraining by fitness enthusiasts will only lead to eventual muscle, ligament, tendon, and joint problems somewhere down the training road. The roots they are developing are strong only if they are based upon intelligent, progressive, and "fitness for life" principles.
I have grown used to individuals telling me that my ideas about "building roots," and my emphasis on "intelligence in training" are not workable in this day and age. They believe that only large amounts of exercise, and large amounts of supplements (and drugs), and large amounts of "high-tech research" mumbo-jumbo, will produce the results that they desire. And, just like with voodoo, what they believe is what ends up dooming them to less results than they have the potential to achieve. I don't argue with them. I just let them say what they will, and then say goodbye. If folks want to "re-invent the wheel," or are happy following trends, fads, and the perpetually changing cow-manure that personal trainers and exercise gurus' espouse, then god bless them one and all.
With all of the available tools, great facilities, availability of practical training knowledge, it is amazing that anyone can claim to have difficulty in training, gaining, and consistantly surpassing goals! So, if you are not getting what you desire from training, perhaps you should slow down and take a moment or two to consider whether or not what you are doing is root "building" or root "inhibiting." What kind of training are you doing? Are you planting the roots for an oak tree, or for a crop of weeds?
In the early sixties, while I was a "young pup" training at the BBF youth center on the westside of Chicago, there were a lot of memorable occurances in the gym that have remained etched clearly in my mind to this very day.
One of the most memorable was seeing an older gentleman, who loved the "sweet science" of boxing so much that he would get in the ring with anyone available for a few rounds of sparring two or three times per week, die of a heart attack in the boxing ring that occupied a center location in our facility. It was a tough club, in a tough neighborhood, and the ring was right where it needed to be in my opinion.
A bell announced that a round had ended, he turned to go back to his corner, and he collapsed face first onto the canvas!He was in his late fifties, he was a warrior, and he died a gladiators death. What more could he ask for?
I'll tell you what more he could have asked for- He might have been able to live many, many more healthy and productive years had he been able to recognize that there comes a time when it is better to "fold 'em, rather than hold 'em! In other words, if he had been smart enough to have "alternative physical activities" that he could explore (beyond getting punched in the head and body on a weekly basis), he might have lasted a lot longer on this earth.
Sure, he went out on the mythical shield, but it was so unnecessary. I've always felt that if he had taken up something like Karate, or even "hoops," he would have had a better chance of living longer.Getting hit in the head on a regular basis can only be continued for a relatively brief portion of one's life before one either slowly "fades away from reality," or the grim reaper takes his toll.
What does this have to do with the iron game, or strength conditioning, or bodybuilding, or even fitness training? EVERYTHING!
We all know fellow iron game enthusiasts who continue to use humongous weights, and maintain or continue to seek massive bulk, until it either destroys their health to the point where they can't train anymore, or it kills them (usually because of complications from the pharmaceuticals needed to "keep up appearances").
They do the "Duracell Bunny" trip until the battery runs out (and it always does, only we humans can't buy replacement lives at the local drugstore).
What is the difference between someone who kills himself by taking unnecessary blows "upside the head" in a boxing ring, and someone who kills himself trying to "keep up appearances in a weightroom? In my opinion, not much at all.
Don't misunderstand me; There is nothing wrong with being an iron man for your entire life (Doug Hepburn and the late John C. Grimek come to mind as perfect examples). But, perhaps there is something wrong with continuing to try and always "impress others" in the gym after you reach a point in life where your body is trying to tell you that its time to scale back a bit for survival over the "long haul."
Ever notice how much bodyweight former college and professional football players (especially linemen and running backs) shed after their careers end? With that shedding of extra bodyweight comes a lowering of poundages in the weightroom exercises. However, unlike those whose idea of "athletic activity" consists of pumping pecs, delts, biceps, and triceps, former athletes realize that "maximum size doesn't make the man," so they seldom train to become massive for the sake of being massive. They also realize that how much you can lift in the gym is irrelevant as an indicator of athletic ability, health, fitness, or how "tough" an individual is. They know that lifting heavy weights is a "skill." Nothing more, nothing less.
Make no mistake, many ex-collegiate and ex-professional athletes do train HARD when they lift weights after their competitive days are gone. In fact, they tend to train a lot HARDER than the average iron gamer (especially if the former athlete comes from a first rate "high intensity" strength conditioning environment). They also tend to train more efficiently, and they spend more time involved in non-gym recreational athletic activities such as basketball, swimming, jogging, tennis, volleyball, or even martial arts, to add balance and variety to their training.
Therin lies the key to former athlete's "longevity enhancement" approach to physical training. Their high level competitive endeavors took a lot out of them physically and psychologically, and they know it. Therefore, they instinctively have a sense of how much to put out in the gym for life-fitness and longevity enhancement.
Ex-athletes are very much aware of their bodies. After all the punishment they had to endure during their competitive days (and the accompanying conditioning training), they usually have an acute awareness of exactly when to "back off" in a workout. They have nothing to prove to anyone else in the gym, so they don't waste time trying to train for the entertainment benefit of others.
Middle-aged iron gamers usually ignore aching joints and muscles in their ongoing quests to "keep up appearances" for the benefit (???) of onlookers in the gym. For some reason (usually ego) they do the iron game equivalent of the fellow who passed away in that boxing ring so many years ago. they don't know, or care to know, the difference between sensible hard training and abusive hard training. Nor do they know how to integrate other athletic activities into their life-fitness regimens (If, indeed, fitness for life has any meaning to them at all).
In my consulting practice I usually suggest that long time iron gamers experiment with the Moishe Feldenkrais "AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT" approach to functional movement enhancement. If they don't want to do that, I advise them to take a martial arts class.
Depending upon their individual physical capabilities and personality, I direct them toward martial arts such as Tai Chi, Ba Gwa Zhang, Karate-Do, Tae Kwon Do, Kendo, Iaido, Filipino Kali/Escrima, Hsing-I, Wing Chun, or grappling arts.
Sometimes I even recommend that a middle-aged iron man enroll in a jazz dance class for adults. Whatever I suggest, it is a lot better than beating a dead horse and abusing oneself with a monolithic, masochistic and illogical approach to weight training or competitive sports that only results in more injuries, less flexibility, and a gradual lessening of the ability to fully enjoy daily life as one grows older!
Am I saying that an older iron gamer should not train HARD, or HEAVY, or INTENSELY? No, not at all! What I am saying is that it is only logical that as you become more experienced in your training over the span of, lets say, several decades, you should be able to train more efficiently, more effectively, and more intelligently. You should be able to listen to what your joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments are trying to tell you as you grow older and more experienced.
All of us eventually reach the point in our training careers when we have to make a choice between training to "keep up appearances (and probably end up being continually injured, if not totally debilitated, in the process)," and training "for ourselves, and within ourselves."
If you make the "right" choice, you may be able to sip from a real world "fountain of perpetual youth and vitality." If you make the "wrong" choice, you may vary well end up at the bottom of an abyss that is a creation of self-induced illusion.
Do you know when to fold the cards that you are holding? Odds are you don't, but if you start to give it some thought, you may very well eventually end up with a "hand" that will keep you "in the game" for many years to come.
My private clients (and quite a few interested parties on the internet) often ask me to describe in detail exactly how my first two training mentors, Jim Smith and Robert Gajda, taught me back in the early sixties. When I explain how simple the process was, they inevitably think I am either pulling thei legs, orall I'm trying to hide something from them.
In my books, HIT PHYSIQUE and MARTIAL ARTS MUSCLE, I go into great detail about the methods that my mentors used to teach me how to "learn how to learn." So, if you want exacting detail, you might do well to read those publications.
The truth of the matter is that both gentlemen taught me "without teaching me." By that I mean, neither mentor walked me through workouts, spotted me, or spent an inordinate amount of time critiquing what I was doing in the gym. They just made suggestions when I asked their help. They knew that I would do whatever they told me to do "to the letter" because every (EVERY!!!) training suggestion they gave me over the past four decades resulted in progress for me.
Yeah, you read me right; they gave me suggestions, and I did "exactly" what they told me to do! It was the iron game equivilent of the martial arts "student/master" relationship that you see in the movies, except I never rebelled or doubted. They pointed to the moon (my goals), and I took off along the path in the direction in which they were pointing. There was never any chance of me mistaking their pointing finger for the moon. Sure, some of the training approaches they suggested seemed "odd" on occasion (I once asked Bob Gajda what would be the result of my experimenting with a certain unusual variation on the chinup exercise that he had developed. Bob simply said, "I have no idea!" "Play with it for a few weeks and let me know what happens."), but I just filed the suggestions in my head for future implementation (usually within a day or so).
Jim Smith would show me old back issues of Iron Man to pique my interest in training methods of the past. I would then ask Jim what he thought of certain methods, and he would give me a brief comment or two that would inspire me to "play with the past as tempered by the present (by the present I am referring to Jim's updating, or improvisation upon, the methods of the past). One of the most important things I learned from Jim was that once you start experimenting with a new approach to training, you should carry out the experiment for the period of time that you initially planned on (unless, of course, you get injured). The value of "sticking it out no matter what" has proven to be extremely valuable in my progress over the years. There have been many training methods I have experimented with over the years, that I lost interest in after only a few workouts, or a few weeks. By "sticking it out" for, lets say, 8 weeks, come hell or highwater, I have always learned something valuable from even methods that did not at first "seem" productive, because I "stuck it out" for a protractedperiod of time. Please note that I am not saying that all training methods "work," or that all training methods are productive.
Bob Gajda and Jim Smith both knew that I was intelligent enough to "learn" and "adapt" to whatever suggestions they might give me. Bob's approach may have been tempered by the fact that he had achieved the rank of black belt in Judo while in the military. Couple that "asian martial arts training" influence with his tuteledge from the one and only Irvin Johnson, and you can understand why I considered Bob to be a "Physical Alchemist!
Jim Smith was simply a combination magician and wizard. He saw all, and he knew all...he still does today. I have never known him to fail in improving others radically through bodybuilding.
Both men passed on to me a unique ability to "teach without teaching." No, I don't use their subtle suggestive approach. In fact, I tend to take the exact opposite approach by "overloading" their minds during training with barrages of information that, while important, should be ignored on the "conscious" level. For example: I have one student who trained with me for over ten years. If you were to observe me "training" him, you would think that I was still trying to refine his basic technical skills. That is just "appearances." I can easily do the subtle suggestive approach, but todays trainees are usually not intelligent enough to learn that way. They are always asking questions and ignoring answers in a mad race to accumulate what they think is "knowledge."
The funny thing about all this, is that my martial arts teachers taught me the same way; None of them taught me with all of that "smiley face, pamper, pamper" personal trainer jive that is the coin of the realm today. I would never have been able to have made the achievements I did in the iron game and in martial arts had I been taught (???) the way people are taught in training centers today. I'm serious! And, I'm pretty sure that you won't be able to find mentors like Jim Smith or Bob Gajda in any training setting today unless you are very lucky, and very, very perceptive. "When you are ready, the master will find you!"
Both Bob and Jim still actively consult a chosen few privately. They are well worth seeking out if you want to learn at least a bit of what I learned from them. Their methods are still amazingly effective, and why not, both were at least 50 years ahead of their peers back in the sixties! The iron game still hasn't caught up with either of them.
I recall reading an article by Dr. Ken Leistner (my all-time favorite iron game writer and public speaker) a few years ago in which he mentioned something about there being nothing that goes with an all-out set of HEAVY barbell squats like blasting Jimi Hendrix's PURPLE HAZE over the gym sound system.
Right on, Dr. Ken! I had long thought I may have been the only iron gamer still alive who noted that the intro to PURPLE HAZE covers just enough time to let one get one's hands set on the bar, and then smoothly get set under the bar on the rack for liftoff.
If its a good day, the intro will give me enough time to automatically grasp the bar with both hands, step under the bar, lift the bar from the rack, and casually step back into position for rep #1.
If all goes well, by the time Jimi sings, "'scuse me while I kiss the sky!," I am usually right at the cusp of the "groove" of the set (which means that I can't really hear the song anymore until the end of the set when I am sprawled out in a supine position and 'scusing myself while "I" kiss the sky!).
After reading the above lines, you might think that I am a big advocate of music in the gym. Not at all! In fact, I am pretty much "anti-music" when it comes to piped-in music of any sort. Sure, I do like to get aurally "jacked-up" when I do a 20-30 rep set with 350-400 pounds in the barbell squat. But, I don't use music as a stimulator for any other exercise except, on occasion, when I do high-rep MedX Leg or Hammer Leg Presses.
I don't like to be distracted by loud music when performing pressing movements such as bench presses or overhead presses because I really have to focus on keeping my rotator cuffs from self-destructing after four decades of what has amounted to self-imposed use and abuse. Also, I have a old pectoral injury that requires my undivided attention whenever performing chest exercise movements. To get into a "musical groove" while doing a pressing movement, might just lead to some pretty severe shoulder or chest injuries for me.
I have a hard time convincing todays trainees that when I was cutting my teeth in the iron game back in the sixties, there were no boomboxes or piped-in music/muzak. Back then, circa 1962, a transistor radio was the only portable "sound" around. If someone were to set up a turntable and speakers, and play a record (45rpm or LP) in the gym, he would have been beaten to a pulp and dumped in the alley out back. Like one of my training pals used to say back then, "we came to train, not to dance."
Here are some of the valuable attributes I "assimilated" from training in "no-music" settings:
A few years ago I got into a rather heated argument with a "tiny-brained" owner of a personal training consultation business here in Chicago. The argument revolved around the validity or productiveness of training in silence versus training in a loud-assed contemporary health club where piped-in music is the order of the day. The tiny-brained one, his name is Josh, thought that I must be out of my mind. But, just to prove his point, he told me that he was going to train in an empty gym without any music pumped in. He was going to see how long he could train before he would have to at the very least put on a headset attached to a cd-player in order to be inspired to pump iron.
I saw Mr."tiny-brain" several weeks later, and he couldn't resist telling the truth about his experiment with the "sounds of silence." He said it was a great experience, He also said that he couldn't believe how much easier it was to get a muscular pump (ah, bodybuilders never change) when training with no music or other distractions. He even told me that he was going to try to get in at least one workout per week in a "silent" gym each week. He wanted to know if I knew any more "old-timer secrets." I just laughed and said, "no!"
Todays trainees have a hard enough time trying to concentrate on what they are doing while training, without the added distraction of piped-in "music-mixes" solely designed to create an artificial sense of enthusiasm in their brain. It is not unlike the music piped in during the 10-15 minute period preceding the featured act at a rock show.
ARE...YOU...READY...TO...RUMBLE? Not me, baby! Not if "someone else" is going to set my rhythm and play games with my mind in a weight-training setting. It's no wonder that so few of todays trainees learn how to really "love" training. Instead of spending time getting used to the various knurlings on the bars, or adapting to the "feel" of thick-handled dumbbells and barbells, they worry about the "rap/hip-hop/techno jams on the sound system," and "what color spandex tights won't clash with their fuschia string tank-tops. Phew!
More on this subject in my book, HIT PHYSIQUE, and my martial arts training manuals.
THE ART OF TEACHING MARTIAL ARTS TO BODYBUILDERS
Over the past 35 years I seen the number of martial artists who have incorporated progressive resistance training into their training regimens increase tremendously. On the other hand, I have seen very few bodybuilders jumping into the deep waters of martial arts training. This is in spite of the physical and spiritual "gold" that martial arts training can offer the iron game enthusiast.
The main reasons why iron men tend to avoid studying martial arts are:
There is a lot more involved in becoming a lean, mean, fighting machine, than there is in becoming a lean, mean, "flexing," machine. And you had better believe that weight trainees know it. It is almost as big a difference as that between a bodybuilder/lifter and a professional football player or boxer. Warrior sports are not where you find the muscleboys spending very much time (at least not successfully).
Iron gamers are usually pretty good at "looking" intimidating (and the drug-induced "attitudes that many of them wear like chips on their shoulders is quite amusing to those of us who know what "real" aggression, and "real" physical destruction is all about), but the fact that you seldom find them playing hockey, playing football, boxing, wrestling, or studying martial arts, reveals the sorry truth.
That's all cool I suppose, if only there was less posturing and posing in every gym on the planet. It is very irritating to have to deal with blown-up (with drugs of course) clowns who waddle across the gym intimidating people away from the equipment they want to use. It's as if they were wearing a sign around their neck saying, "I'M BIG, YOU'RE SMALL, SO GET THE HELL OUT OF MY WAY!" That kind of crap goes on in gyms everywhere all over the planet.
Personally, I prefer to train in athletic training facilities at universities. There are yahoos there as well, but they are not as numerous as those in commercial facilities. Most martial artists that I know who are into weight training tend to gravitate toward school training facilities, or home gym set-ups as well. Hell, most athletes, real athletes, prefer to train in private facilities, or school gyms, rather than the circuses that commercial facilities represent. I love training, and being around, real athletes! But bodybuilders are in a really "amazing universe" of their own making-OUTSIDERS NOT ALLOWED IN! Unfortunately they tend to impose on those of us in the "real" world.
Sorry for that rant, but, due to a few altercations that I have been drawn into over the years in gyms by yahoo bodybuilder types (I'm proud to say I am "undefeated" in weightroom altercations, but that is nothing to be proud of-I should have just walked away every time), I am sick and tired of idiots who play ego games with everyone they come across in the gym. Even powerlifters (most of them) and Olympic-style lifters have much more class around others than bodybuilders.
Studying a so-called "internal" martial arts style like Tai Chi, Ba Gua, or even Aikido, would go a long ways towards teaching bodybuilders how to "chill out" a bit. However, they don't want to "chill out." Therefore, one would think that bodybuilders might be inclined toward studying an aggressive and tough martial art like Karate or kickboxing. But, nope, there is no way a bodybuilder is going to involve himself or herself in an activity that requires facing off with "competitors" who wouldn't back down from a match with a grizzly bear. So, that automatically also knocks out Muay Thai (Thai Kickboxing), Judo, and Ju-Jitsu (not to mention wrestling) because those martial arts are even fiercer and more rugged than Karate and kickboxing. When the going gets tough, bodybuilders don't fight, they pump!
Japanese swordsmanship arts such as Iaido and Kendo are too structured and "rigid" for the bodybuilders mentality. Plus, getting hit continuously by 70 year old instructors no matter what you do to avoid their blows is not something that a bodybuilder would want to suffer (and the bruises would really strike fear in their hearts). Filipino stick, blade, and hand/foot training might appeal to some bodybuilders, but as soon as they learn that a 60 year old, 120 pound, master "guro"(instructor) can slice and dice them into tiny little pieces in seconds, they scurry back to the health club where they can bluff and intimidate through appearances only.
Now that I have exposed "some" bodybuilders for the phonies that they are, let me take my hat off to the few, the proud, the rough and tumble "iron men" and "iron women" who have studied and mastered a martial art while at the same time continuiing to advance in their progressive resistance physical superiority enhancement training. It takes a real warrior to engage in, and achieve mastery of, both a martial art and strength training. I'm not just talking about those who enter martial arts and lifting or bodybuilding competitions. I know quite a few individuals who have "mastered life" through their involvement in both weight training and martial arts without ever once entering a competition. Trophies and medals are not the TAO!
If you are a iron man who is really ticked off by the contents of this article, why don't you refute it by joining a martial arts class and showing the world (the one outside the miniscule world inhabited by muscleheads) how athletic, how coordinated, how skillful, how fluid, how..."gifted" you are physically, by attaining a black belt or instructor ranking in a martial art. I think that if you take me up on this challenge, and progress to a high level, you will end up thanking me in the long run for having laid down this gauntlet.
Here is a PHA (Peripheral Heart Action-Read more about it in my book HIT PHYSIQUE) workout program that many of my private pupils have used for rapid conditioning when they had to get in better aerobic and strength condition within a matter of weeks, but they didn't have much time in which to train (such as before or during holiday seasons).
This type of routine is best performed in an uncrowded private training facility during non-peak hours.A track encircling the training area, or a treadmill, is a prerequisite for the routine I am about to describe. You want to be able to jog or run 100 yards in between performing sets of resistance movements. This will make sense to you when you see the workout written out as it is below:
That is one "cycle." Repeat the "cycle" until you begin to tire and your "form" or "technique" begins to change. When that happens, STOP! When you reach the point where you can perform 3-5 "cycles" before tiring, you will be truly getting in-shape.
Perform this workout no more than twice per week. You also might want to increase the resistance in the PULLOVER, the PARALLEL BAR DIPS, and the CHINUPS, on each cycle "after" the third week of this type of training. Another effective variation would be to increase the resistance on one movement several times within a cycle before eventually switching to another resistance movement (think this one out and it becomes crystal clear!).
The PHA system is one of the most versatile and productive training and conditioning systems ever devised. If you study this system deeply you will find that it offers a key to enhancing most of the other proven bodybuilding and strength-building systems in existance today. It is the training equivalent of a computer "plug-in" with universal adaptability in the iron game.
Play with PHA and you'll like it!
The first really "unorthodox" training system that intrigued me in the early sixties was the rest-pause approach as created by Charles Ross in the fifties.
I was first exposed to the theories of Charles Ross in some back issues of Iron Man magazine that my first training mentor, Jim Smith, let me take home and read.
Ross was interested primarily in finding a simple, efficient, practical, and result producing training method for individuals who were too weak, or too old, to train for strength enhancement and muscle development using conventional training methods. He performed numerous research studies over a period of several years in the process of creating what he dubbed "rest-pause" training.
Basically speaking, what he found out in his research studies and experiments on himself and others was that performing single reps with "rest-pauses" of up to one minute between each rep, was extremely productive in terms of rapid "strength-conditioning" in individuals whose physical condition negated conventional multi-repetition sets.
After reading the original three articles Ross wrote describing and detailing the system, I immediately began to realize that perhaps most conventional strength-conditioning and muscle-building systems were grossly overbalanced in the direction of "over-training!" It was obvious to me that any training method that could elicit great strength and muscle growth improvement in physically debilitated or extremely weak trainees would be more than worthy of further study and personal experimentation on my part.
I dabbled with both the basic rest-pause approach, and with a few PHA-influenced variations on the method, with considerable success in the late sixties and early seventies. I have gone back to the rest-pause method, in it's most basic form, numerous times throughout the past three decades. It has never failed to "jump-start" my body toward muscle and strength gains.
I was amused when I read about Mike Mentzer's inclusion of a portion of the rest pause system in his "Heavy-Duty" approach to bodybuilding. Mentzer's variation on Ross' system was to have the trainee do what amounts to "heavy-singles" training. Each Heavy-Duty Rest-Pause "set" consisted of perhaps 5-8 "all out" reps with maximum possible resistance. It works, but one usually hits a sticking point pretty fast using this variation on the original rest-pause system. But, make no mistake, the Heavy-Duty version of Rest-Pause does work. Careful resistance selection and psychological support (in the form of a like-minded training partner or mentor) are a necessity when using any "maximum resistance" variation on Ross' system.
I have never "burned out" while training with the rest pause system. Then again, I seldom used the Heavy-Duty variation on the Ross system. I found that I was always able to get great gains by using the rest-pause system as a physical improvement "stimulating" tool rather than as a "sledge-hammer" tool to my system. I have always felt that the reason why so many weight trainees complain about not getting gains is because they cannot comprehend how "subtle stimulatory" training methods can quite often produce gains that "go-heavy, or go home" true believers claim can only come from HEAVY training!
I have never been an advocate of "light-weight pumping" training as a path to the eventual development of quality muscle and strength that will not disappear after taking a few weeks off of training. That said, I feel that a mixture of moderate resistance training and heavy training is the way to go, simply because a smart trainee will always evolve and "morph" from the moderate to the heavy in training as one's routines and workouts "cycle" throughout the training year (I am not talking about "periodization," or, at any rate, the "periodization" that training "geeks" are so fond of...the same types who are searching for the perfect rep "cadence"...uggghh!).
Several articles on Charles Ross, his theories, and his rest-pause system appeared in the earliest editions of my book in the early eighties, and in my martial arts "zines" (Modern Gladiator and Modern Gung-Fu Journal). It is still a very valuable training method that the intelligent trainee should read in order to start thinking "outside of the box" that 99% of all trainees are locked into from day 1 of their introduction to progressive resistance training ("The more weight I can lift, the more exercises I can do, the more times I can train, the more supplements I take, etc., etc, the faster I will gain!"). Do yourself a favor and check out the original articles and research papers that Charles Ross wrote back in the fifties. That material will really make you think "obliquely" about exactly what makes the human body change.
Always keep in mind that your primary goal is to become the best martial artist you can be, not the best weightlifter or bodybuilder you can be. If you confuse your priorities you will end up becoming mediocre or run-or-the-mill in both activities.
Make sure that you learn the correct basic techniques before you spend time trying to add a wide variety of "isolation" and "unusual" exercises to your strength conditioning workouts.
Start out with routines that consist of no more than 5-6 "compound" movements that stimulate the entire body to grow stronger and, if desired, bigger.
Start out with no more than 3 sets of each exercise (12-15 reps per set for leg exercises, and 10-12 reps per set for upperbody exercises).
Regarding creating basic routines, you will find that if you just think about balancing "pushing and pulling" movements (YIN/YANG), it is difficult not to be able to create a productive workout routine. For example:
Stick with a routine as long as it is producing the results you desire. Keep in mind that it is possible to elicit continual results from a single basic routine, with only minor changes from time to time in order to avoid psychological burnout, for a year or more. There is really no need to perform either a large number of exercises, or a constantly changing workout regimen in order to make spectacular gains in your first year or two of training.
KEY #7 Don't be misled into thinking that the more you workout (or the more sets and reps you do, or the more supplements you take, etc.), the faster you will gain. Whenever you are tempted to leap into the MORE IS BETTER mentality, ask yourself exactly how much time and energy do you really have available to put into any activity outside of intensive martial arts study, making a living, and having a somewhat normal life amidst the rest of humanity? Unless becoming a "musclehead" is your desired goal in life, I suggest you always keep your activity priorities in order so that you can always evolve into what you have the potential to become.
Avoid steroids and growth drugs if you want to "live long and prosper!" Whatever rewards you might obtain from drug usage, I doubt if the rewards are worth the potential adverse effects such drug use might have on your long-term health. Check out older people who have to take drugs because of serious ilnesses; all of them will tell you that they would give anything in the world to get off of those drugs. If you take something now that might increase the possibility of your having to take even more drugs later in life, you might just want to seriously contemplate just why you feel your future is so meaningless. When you glance down at a trophy you've won with the assistance of drugs, think about the fact that the promoters of the event are getting more glory and reaping the real gold from your folly (not to mention the drug companies, the physicians, the dealers, etc.). Long after you are suffering side-effects and finding that no one remembers who the hell you are, the people who "set you up for destruction" will be toasting their bank accounts while you are on Medicare and in a hospital. Think about that for a while...then do what you wish.It's your life, and your health, my friend.
Most bodybuilders today have never heard of Irvin Johnson, aka "Rheo H. Blair" despite the fact that Johnson was the man who practically invented "scientific nutritional supplementation" as an integral part of the intelligent weight trainee's overall physical superiority enhancement scheme. What Johnson did was take many of the nutritional theories of Carlton Fredericks (a well-known "nutritionist" and writer of books on the subject of nutrition) and apply them to progressive resistance training with barbells and dumbbells. After a long period of consulting with exercise "experts (?)," intensive study, and personal research, he eventually learned exactly how not to train, Johnson then went on to develop a "scientific" approach to weight training that allowed him to gain 50 lbs of muscular bodyweight within a 12 week span of time in the late 1940's.
Yes, your read correctly.He gained 50 lbs of muscular bodyweight without "designer" supplements, without growth drugs, and without the high-tech equipment that is found in even the most low-end training facilities nowadays. How many of the "iron-gurus," personal trainers, and "advanced degree holding exercise experts (???) can give you those kind of results today, more than 50 YEARS after Irvin Johnson first accomplished it?
After finding personal training enlightenment, Johnson then opened a training studio in downtown Chicago where he went about proving that his nutritional and training innovations and discoveries worked for everyone. His studio was successful beyond his wildest dreams, and, coupled with a series of articles that appeared in Peary Rader's original 'IRON MAN" magazine, created a nationwide interest in Johnson's training system and his nutritional supplement line. His notoriety was enhanced even more when one of his pupils, Jim Parks, won the Mr. America title.
All of the publicity turned sour when Johnson submitted some articles to Peary Rader that claimed nutrition was more important than actual training when it came to making great progress. IRON MAN readers were up in arms, so Rader had to do a fast about-face and refuse to publish articles or ads from Johnson for about 15 years.
Irvin Johnson moved to Califorinia, and legally changed his name to Rheo H. Blair in the early 60's, Johnson's supplement line was endorsed by a large number of popular west-coast bodybuilders including such IFBB luminaries as Larry Scott, Frank Zane, and even "ARNOLD." Rader published ads for "Rheo H. Blair" nutritional supplements, and a few "promotional" articles touting the "Blair Approach" to scientific bodybuilding. But, aside from his highly publicized work as the nuritionist for Bobby Riggs in preparation for his "battle of the sexes" tennis match with Billy Jean King, and his reputation as a "nutritionist to the stars of Hollywood (Regis Philbin and Clint "Cheyanne" Walker were satisfied customers among many others), he spent the remaining years of his life helping people who had absolutely nothing to do with bodybuilding or the iron game. It was bodybuildings loss.
One of my early mentors, Bob Gajda, was at one time a pupil of Irvin Johnson here in Chicago. Many of Bob's nutritional concepts (that led to his developing a Mr. America/Mr. Universe title-winning physique in 1966-67) were based on things he learned from Irvin Johnson. I have also trained with a number of former Irvin Johnson pupils over the years. All of them have given me valuable and result producing training information that Irvin had originally taught them back in the 1950's. Irvin/Rheo was indeed a man far ahead of his time.
I have written an entire chapter on "Irvin Johnson/Rheo H. Blair" in my first book, HIT PHYSIQUE. If this article has raised your interest in Mr. Johnson, you may very well find the information on him in my book to be valuable.
One final comment regarding the training manual he wrote in the ealy 50's. The book contained many "doors to physical progress" in each chapter. But, unless you knew a lot more about where Johnson was coming from in terms of advanced training technique and nuritional advice, there were a lot of "traps" behind each door that were easy to fall into. I think it is a valuable little manual, but in order to get the most out of it you have to know a lot more about his ideas and concepts. To that end I will say that, in my humble (?) opinion, the PHA training system which Bob Gajda created, developed, and refined in the early 60's, is perhaps the logical conclusion towards where Irvin Johnson's concepts and theories were pointed. Bob may well have been the best student Johnson ever had!
I am a firm believer in the power of the mind and the imagination as a contributor to making great progress in the realm of physical superiority enhancement. I have had too many meetings and conversations with "champions" whose "mindsets" were the only demonstrable differance between them and their peers. Champions do not think like the rest of humanity, let alone their fellow competitors. They have a certain vision and way of seeing life from what might be called an "oblique" angle. Unfortunately, most champions are incapable of articulating their "oblique" views to others simply because few of them are masters of "lip service" and "long-winded jive talk" as are the gurus, experts, and pundits.
I learned long, long ago to ignore virtually everything that "champions" said publically. I "knew" that the only way to learn anything from a "champion" is to watch them performing and let your mind decipher the essence of those performances. If you can "grok" the essence, you will have internalized something that you will never be able to recognize in your conscious mind.
What I'm trying to say is that it is basically a waste of time to want to "be like Arnold," "...be like Bruce Lee,"...or, be like Bill Kazmier." Be awed, be amazed, be inspired, but try to avoid being bamboozled into becoming a clone of any "champion!"
Stop for a moment and think about friends and acquaintances you have personally known who have spent months and years mimicing the training routines, diets, training gear, grooming habits (or lack thereof), and even speech patterns of "champions" they idolize. Think about how much more better developed, powerful, confident, and capable of infinite progress for as long as they continued to train, had they simply "saw the light within" that their idol had given them the momentary vision to see! Think about how far they could have gone in their chosen athletic path had they used "champions" and "idols" as individuals who in some way pointed toward the true Tao of physical superiority enhancement.
I alway like to tell my pupils that I don't want them to want to be like me. Rather, I want them to go far beyond any achievements that I have attained. I want them to work always toward evolving toward their own unique poential in every aspect of their lives. How hollow it must be to hold a cup filled with only the water that someone else has drawn for you. It is so much more exciting to become what you have the potential to be. Remember, there is no one else in the world exactly like you. So, why not mine the gold that lines the walls of that uniqueness.
My first four years of progressive resistance training were quite unusual in that the first year was completely solitary training with only a steel spring chest expander set as a resistance training tool (I gained 50 pounds of bodyweight over the first nine months "without" using barbells or taking food supplements...its described in my books). The next two years I joined a community gym (The Better Boys Foundation of Chicago, where the imcomparable Jim Smith shared his wealth of training knowledge with one and all) and used free-weights exclusively in a very supporting and non-intimidating setting where everyone was truly "family." In year #4 I got a job at the fabled Duncan YMCA where Sergio "The Myth" Oliva was (along with the builder of that MIDWEST MUSCLE MECCA, Bob Gajda). There I got to greet and meet all of the weightlifting and bodybuilding luminaries of the sixties (including a 19-year old Arnold S.). By the time I began working and training at Duncan YMCA, I had already forged my own personal "iron will" and "vision" regarding where I wanted to go with my training. Therefore, I was not tempted to dabble with "Dianabol" or engage in any of the patently ridiculous training methodologies that were only productive if done in conjunction with drug use. What others did was fine by me. I just did my thing and they did theirs. I was achieving my goals, so I was happy.
I vividly recall sitting down and having a few words (very few, as his comand of english was limited back then) with the GREAT Sergio Oliva every now and then. He was a fun dude to joke around with because he was usually in a jovial mood. I used to look at his forearms and say to myself,"I would really like to develop my upper-arms to the size that Sergio's forearms appeared to be." Alas, I would then look at the size of Sergios bone structure and realize that some things will never come to pass! Hell, Sergio was so physically impressive at about 190-200 pounds that I would often just break out laughing while watching him train. If I had been idiotic enough to think that any type of training or growth drug ingestion could take me to even a fraction of his development, I would have been a total fool! I could just as well believe that if I played enough basketball I would become as big as Wilt Chamberlain. No, I watched him train on occasion and came away with the inspiration I need to keep on doing "my" thing (please note that Oliva was also a world-class light-heavyweight olympic style lifter as well as one of the true immortals of the physique world...and he was a damn good streetfighter too! Sergio was truly a strong and powerful all-around ATHLETE, not just a bodybuilder). He was always quite open with training tips and words of iron wisdom. Still, I never had any urge or inclination to try an emulate his incredible physique. I realize today that if I had made the mistake of trying to become a "mini-myth" I would have probably destroyed my health to the point where I wouldn't be around to write these words. Nor would I have been able to train and be physically active in sports and martial arts for 39 years and counting.
I never developed a mindset that would perpetuate midiocrity at any point over the past four decades simply because I was luck enough to have started out in settings where I was only competing against myself, and I had great teachers (Jim Smith and Bob Gajda), fantastic inspirations (Sergio Oliva and Olympic-lifting great, Russ Knipp, among others), and steady progress over the years despite not having a "genetic proclivity" toward huge muscles or superhuman strength. That is why I am writing books on training, and posting this website; so that intelligent individuals of this day and age can have the benefit of the knowledge I have gleaned over so many years from so many great sources and from my own experimentation.
Every day I run into personal trainers and "experts" who claim to know it all. They tell everyone within earshot that they have all the answers to training success. Their "knowledge" is usually built on the evershifting sands of trendiness and fads (Swedish Balls and Pilates Machines for instance...those Swedes and dancers are going to rule the sports world very soon, right???). Latch onto that crapola and you will end up bruised, abused, and used. If you want great results, permanent results, and the positive mindset that comes with those results, I suggest you seek out a mentor with many years of experience and an open, progressive, mindset. If you can't find one (it is not unlike finding a good martial arts instructor-like looking for a needle in a haystack), just keep checking out this website for the kind of tips and ideas that the other websites only give passing reference to (in place of knowledge that will lead you to "think" better so that you can train better, and, ultimately, gain better, they flummox you with research paper trends/fads, periodization, cadence, and other bullshit that does little more than take away your precious time and energy. The simple truth of the matter is that anyone, ANYONE, could probably get as big as a horse if they just worked hard on chinups, parallel bar dips, and squats,two or three times weekly for a year. Couple that with three square meals a day and a good nights rest every night, and you would be SUPERMAN within 9-12 months IF you worked with true EFFORT and a
focused mindset. No supplements are needed. No high-tech machines are needed. No glitzy 24/7 health clubs are needed. No convoluted routines are needed. Just chinup, dip, and squat your way to PHYSICAL SUPERIORITY ENHANCEMENT (of course I assume you will be doing plenty of martial arts and/or competitive sports training as well)! That seemingly crude and low-tech methodology would make a dead man wake up and walk!
It is possible to get any desired strength conditioning results needed for enhancement of your martial arts and/or athletic performance using only barbells, or only high-tech machines, or only rubber/steel spring cable set-ups, or even by means of certain calisthenics oriented training methodologies that only require bodyweight resistance. My various publications all describe how anyone can get truly extraordinary result production from any of those training "tools" or any combination of those tools. But, if you really want to get the BEST results, you will find that there are "style-specific" uses and adaptations that are truly a "cut-above" single tool, or single methodology, approaches. I hope that this article will point you toward a better understanding of the possibilities and potentials of "style-specific" approaches to progressive and productive bodybuilding and strength conditioning.for the martial arts.
In my first book, HIT PHYSIQUE, I explained why I believe that the various training tools complement one another in ways that can only be defined as synergistic in the sense that certain combinations of tools create results that are more than one would assume possible from the basic "blending." The same goes for the synergistic effect that results from certain "blendings" of progressive resistance training systems or methods (I like to call the resultant effects PHYSICAL ALCHEMY).This article will only focus on the effects of integrating training tools for superior results.
Barbells, dumbbells, and simple weight-pulley type devices (remember the old "universal" jungle-gym set-ups?) are useful and productive tools for building strength and muscle. But, as researchers and experts have known since as far back as the turn of the century have known, they are not the most efficient, easy to use (correctly), or safest tools for the stimulation of physical change. Gustav Zander invented and built the equivalent of modern-day Nautilus machines in the 1800's. Many european "iron game" notables back in the 1800's experimented successfully with rubber and steel cables as a source of "super strength development." No one knows who first toyed with the use of rock and boulder lifting to become brutally powerful and well-developed (we do know that the Scots spent a lot of time developing rock lifting to complement their caber and weight throwing sports that are still impresing us today), but we know that at least one legendary Greek Olympic champion of antiquity, Milo of Cretona, used the lifting of "growing" animals as a means of progressive resistance training. They all work if the trainee puts in the requisite EFFORT and PERSISTANCE.
That said, The majority of the training tools available to the general public today are far superior to rocks, cables, pulley set-ups, dumbbells, and barbells, in many respects. Not only that, if you combine todays equipment with rocks, cables, pulleys, or freeweights with modern equipment, you will have at your fingertips physical superiority enhancement potential that strongmen of the past would literally drool over. I'm sure the old-time strongmen and physique men would not get lost in any of the "barbells are superior...no, machines are better" hot-air arguments that "ignorant muscleheads, iron-game idiots, and self-appointed training guru/expert types love to regale the world with. The old-timers would simply use the tools and grow from that use.
I like to tell my pupils that once you learn how to integrate the various available training tools effectively, you will be able to garner results that far outstrip what could be attained from the use of only one type of tool. You might want to think of Martial Arts Muscle integration and blending of tools as akin to being the iron game equivalent of Bruce Lee's JEET KUNE DO approach to martial arts systemic synthesis.
Here are some examples of MAM training tool "blending" variations that "synergize" more change than you might believe.
Sets, reps, exercise order, and related specifics necessary to make the above "blendings" work effectively, are dependent upon the individual trainee, the trainees goals, and the actual availability of the listed tools ( or their equivalents). I go more in-depth with how to figure all this out in my books, but, if you give the above basic "possibilities" some careful thought and consideration for a few days, I am sure you will come to some unusual and effective variation conclusions of your own.
I highly reccommend that you spend a considerable amount of time contemplating about just what constitutes adequate growth and change stimulation in "your" unique physical make-up. There are quite a number of ways to elicit physical "alchemy" besides the conventional "pump, pump, pump" or "pile on the plates to the max" approaches. What I am implying here is that you learn how to use training tools, techniques, and approaches more as stepping-stones than as "final word/ultimate answers." Blockheaded, narrowminded, and shortsighted thinking is the norm in the iron game. Openmindedness and serious introspection are not qualities held in high regard in most weight training settings (for reasons that are best left to study by psychologists in my opinion). Perhaps that is why so many SUPERMEN tend to pop up out of nowhere (the SUPERMEN usually train in a more solitary setting than can be found in commercial gyms...the better to avoid the less focused amongst the masses so that the developing SUPERMAN IN THE MAKING can find the beat of his own unique drummer-think DOUGLAS HEPBURN or JOHN C. GRIMEK).
Ah, but as a hard training martial artist, you will have to effect certain 'sub-modalities" of the "blending" concept I suggest. Here is one possibility that is extraordinarily effective in terms of "total" conditioning for a Muay Thai kickboxing practitioner:
I call it nine rounds of hell! I had one pupil who reversed the procedure and made the bagwork into the rest period work (I had him do 3 (three) resistance movements over the span of each 3 minute round-60 seconds per exercise). He turned out to be a pretty tough customer in the ring, in part due to the effort he put into this type of training.
There are an infinite number of ways to integrate resistance training into martial arts training. You can put emphasis on footwork, endurance, power, quickness, etc., and evolve amazingly fast. Just remember that a condition approach should be designed specifically around "your" style, "your" goals, "your" abilities, and "your" available tools.
Want more? Surf on over to my website, "http://members.spree.com/health/modernronin," and consider buying one of my Style-Specific Training manuals.
There comes a point in any lifelong endeavor when optimum performance and amazing achievements start to decline. I hit that wall sometime in the late 1980's, after 25-26 years of non-stop iron-pushing. The most obvious evidence of my physical decline was the fact that for the first time in my life I could actually feel the stress of heavy weights in my joints. My knees screamed when I squatted heavy, my rotator cuff area and elbow joints sent out red flags whenever I performed heavy bench presses, and my whole body said, "NO MAS!" whenever I got down and dirty with deadlifts. Even light weight "isolation" movements began to give me immediate aches.
At first I thought it had something to do with my daily diet. I tried various food supplements touted as joint-pain relief panaceas (including shark cartilige). None of them worked. So, it finally began to dawn on me that what I was experiencing was something called "getting older and wearing down!"
Like any self-respecting iron man cum martial artist who is suddenly faced with intimations of mortality, I had to either continue training as I had always done (and suffer, suffer, suffer), or re-evaluate and re-structure all of the elements of my physical activities so that I could train and gain for the next 50 years of my life. I realized that if I were to continue using heavy resistance all the time, I would eventually break-down completely at some point within the next decade. Self-destructing is not a part of my plans for the immediate future. And never-ending joint pain (self-enduced no less!) is something I would not wish on anyone. So I chose the path of, ha, ha,ha, "least resistance(sic)," and started to re-think my previous approaches to training in both resistance training and martial arts.
In regard to my martial arts training, I decided in the late 1980's to put more training time focus on Chinese "internal" systems (T'ai Chi and Pa Kua) and Filipino Escrima/Kali. My Karate-Do, Tae Kwon Do, and Muay Thai studies became relics of my memory. I did continue to practice Non-Classical Gung-Fu techniques just to keep a step ahead of the thugs on dark streets. I learned how to appreciate what the Chinese "internal" martial arts have to offer in terms of life-long physical conditioning, health-building, and self-defense, through my many correspondances with internationally renowned martial arts instructor Ray Van Raamsdonk, who lives in Victoria, B.C.. I have learned how to really enjoy practicing T'ai Chi over the years. It really serves as a counter-balance to resistance training and athletic participation. I love it!
As for my progressive resistance training, I have always been a stickler for proper form, changing exercises and routines on a regular (and irregular) basis, and only performing the productive movements that were biomechanically comfortable relative to my body structure. Therefore, I came to the conclusion that what was making my joints ache was the amount of resistance I was using. I had to choose between appeasing my ego, or using some common sense and using less resistance. I'm a big fan of common sense.
I still train hard. I still call upon maximum EFFORT. I still get great results. I just don't slap on an inordinate number of plates anymore in order to impress others, or to try and trick myself into believing that, "I'M STILL THE STUD I WAS BACK IN THE 60's & 70's." The truth is simply that, "things ain't what they used to be (who stole my Ch'i?)." In order for me to continue to train pain-free and productively for the next few decades, I have to focus on what can only be called "mindfully." By that I mean I have to focus on "being here now in the moment," as opposed to struggling and straining "mindlessly." I will post an article on MINDFULNESS IN WEIGHT-TRAINING next month.
Keep in mind that although I do not use HEAVY resistance levels anymore, I still find ways to elicit mazimum muscular effort during each set. This requires a mind/body interaction that cannot be achieved in a commercial training facility due to the distractions and totally inappropriate "vibes." I love to train in a empty gym where I have me to push me! I can train anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes and get a great workout everytime.
Not having to worry about the "survival factor" that HEAVY training entails, is another plus in my current training landscape. I don't even have an urge to crank out gut-busting reps with vein-swelling weights anymore (I do miss the sounds of six to eight 45 Lb. plates on an Olympic bar while bench pressing or squatting...what soothing sounds!).
I recently heard a great song that sums up where I'm at training wise after 39 years of working out:
The answer of course is sensible weight training
and a daily dose of Chinese martial arts.
There are many ways to approach the art of progressive bodybuilding and strength training. There is no "one best way" to achieve great results from exercise programs. Anyone who tells you otherwise is ignorant, a liar, or a fool! In fact, it is possible to make some rather impressive gains as a result of routines that literally fly in the face of common sense and logic. However, for most human beings, there is indeed a finite number of training methodologies that can virtually assure impressive physical improvement. In other words, when it comes to finding a training method that can serve as a blueprint for iron game goal achievement, there is no need to try and reinvent the wheel; the methods are out there for you to find.
Whatever training method you gravitate toward, try to make sure that it is a method that has heart. By that I mean you will find that some systems of training have the potential to help you develop not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. Some methods and approaches to muscle and strength enhancement require that the trainee delve deeply into wells of commitment that forge the the spirit, the will, and the heart into an indomitable force that can topple any and all obstacles that arise in a training or competitive context.
Paths to power attainment that lack heart are exemplified by training systems that over-intellectualize every aspect of training to the point where it becomes quite literally a depersonalized activity that is not far removed from what one would expect from an automaton rather than a living, breathing, and fully functioning human being. Paths lacking heart are essentially lifeless. A system of training that requires a "lock-step" mentality may indeed work for a certain period of time, but eventually such a system literally sucks the life-blood and vitality out of the training process to the point where training becomes routine drudgery bound up in mindless repetition of the futile and the banal.
Paths with heart spawn a sense of internalized "joy" that is as intoxicating as adrenalin and endorphin rushes. Paths with heart "connect" reps, sets, exercises, workouts, and effort into a self-sustaining, ever-evolving, TAO (way) of individual self-expression. A path wiht heart is an extension of the individual. A path with heart exploratory, improvisational, fun, and, above all, full of LIFE!
If you have no plans whatsoever in making progressive resistance exercise regimens a "permanent" part of your "lifelong" fitness and total-conditioning programming, you can most certainly choose a heartless, soulless, dronelike approach to training that is totally lacking in heart simply because you have no interest or need for a method that requires the "total-committment" that is part and parcel of paths with heart.
A path with heart is a path that winds on for a lifetime. It is not something that poseurs and the faint of heart find intriguing or enticing (too much effort over too much time). A path with heart is a crown of thorns, a veil of tears, and a stairway to personal enlightenment all rolled up in one fantastic trip.
Here is an easy way to find out if your training has heart or not. Pick out a workout from a journal or a workout notebook from, lets say, 5-6 years ago. Look at the routine as written for a few seconds. If you can immediately place yourself back in that exact time and place completely (the sights, the sounds, the equipment, friends present, etc.) then you have been on a path with heart for quite som while. If, on the other hand, you can only see the ink on the paper in front of you describing date/exercises/sets/reps, then you have been on the path of superficiality that is the norm for the majority of your peers.
You probably think that it takes quite an imagination to look at a workout from the past and relive it on a moments notice. Not really. If you are on a path with heart, everything you do in the gym (especially the injuries and the personal records) is like an ever-present "hologram" in your mind that is always "on-line" for instant recall.
We are living in a day and age where everyone wants instant gratification and immediate results. A lot of people would like to reach the peak of Mt. Everest in a heliopter rather than making the attempt to climb it. Any paths to achievement for this generation have to be brief if they are to be accepted or even acknowledged. A path with heart is therefore "unacceptable!" That is why such a path is virtually "obsolete" today. That is why a path with heart is the path for the loners, the reclusives, and the solitary types who every now and then come down from their "condo-caves" and shock the rest of humanity with the results of their chosen "life-focus." Then, everyone wants to become a follower, a true believer, a proselytizer...everything except a follower of a path with heart.
What kind of path do you want to tred?
A number of years ago I sent a series of articles to the publisher of a magazine that was devoted to the ever whining (and thankfully wuite small) segment of the iron game community that calls itself "hard-gainers." Although I never considered myself to be an individual who had any extraordinary problems regarding getting gains from training, I felt that since I was a "normal" guy genetically, and I had been lucky enough to learn from a number of iron game "geniuses," the publisher might want to share some of my insights with his "woe-begone" readers who, in my opinion, were in need of all the advice they could get from any source (especially any source that could get their "mental" approach to training on the right track).
Imagine my surprise when the articles were returned with a letter in which the publisher stated that he, "couldn't print the things "I" wrote because his readers wouldn't believe them!" You can read the entire letter if you have a copy of the first edition of my book HIT PHYSIQUE.
After a bit of thought on the matter, I figured out precisely why my articles were rejected: The training advice I was giving was the anti-thesis of the publishers "one-way is the only way" dogma. By intimating that learning how to train "smarter" was as valuable a training key as learning how to train "harder," I would have been inviting his readers to think! If they started to actually "think they might realize that his little publication only presented one facet of the formula for training success! Hell, if merely training harder was the answer to the problem of gaining strength and muscle, you would only have to buy one issue of his publication, read it, hit the iron, and you would soon have your desired development. Right?
Ah, if only life, or training were that simple. Unfortunately it isn't. But the publisher had found his little niche by figuring out how to "stroke" and "tease" so-called "hard-gainers" into believing that he could "feel your pain!" He "knew your despair!" And beyond all that, he could give you a magazine devoted to "people just like you!" Hey, that's cool by me. The only problem I see is that he has blinded many otherwise intelligent trainees into becoming true-believers of the "I can't gain" mantra.
This might sound too simplistic, but if you repeat a mantra of any sort in your head enough times, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. "I can't gain!" "I can't lose weight!" "I can't learn how to dance (imagine a "two-left feet" dancing school)! I think you get the drift. A "losers" path to flopping and failing.
I can usually watch a person training for about five minutes and figure out precisely why they are not gaining. I can then ask them a couple of questions about their training and I usually have them figured out in terms of their training problems. And believe me, training "harder" is usually not the answer to their training problems. If you are using poor technique, training harder is not the answer. If you are training too much, training harder is not the answer. If you are not training enough, training harder is not the answer. If you are not doing the "right" exercises, training harder is not the answer.
Learn how to train smarter "before" you start putting your nose to the grindstone (the late Malcolm Forbes used to say, "he who keeps his nose to the grindstone ends up with a short nose!").
When I suggest training smarter to iron game "experts," personal trainers, writers, etc., they always end up telling me that my results from training were due primarily to genetics rather than "scientific training" such as they espouse.What a crock of crap! I have a "medium" bone structure, and all of my training success has come from a combination of using my brain in conjunction with a "when I start something, I'm going to finish it" work ethic. That is why I gained 50 pounds of muscle over the span of one academic school year back in 1962 using only a steel-spring cable "chest expander" set. No barbells, no exercise machines, no food supplements, no training partner, no health club, I played "hoops" outside every morning before going to school, and I played football. I grew. four years, and an additional 35 pounds heavier, I won the Mr. Illinois physique title and went on to compete on the national and international level for a few years before focusing more on my education and martial arts training.
If you are looking for a "secret" in that little synopsis of my early days in the iron game, here it is upfront: I learned early on how to train "smart" and with "total focus and concentration" over the course of my first few months of solitary training. In fact, I will always remember the time when I ended up with a handle of my cable set hitting me square in the chops one day when I "forgot" to keep my foot pointed down to keep the handle on the floor while I was curling the other handle upwards. The impact loosened all of my front teeth in an instant. I became enlightened on the spot. I dubbed it my SMASHMOUTH SATORI experience. Needless to say, I never let that happen again over the course of that year. It taught me a lot about always being "in the moment" when training.
When I moved back to Chicago I was lucky enough to learn how to train even smarter through my tuteledge from Jim Smith and Bob Gajda. I was also lucky enough to get lots of help from Robert Kelly, Oliver, "J.T. Ferguson, Monroe Saffold, Ed White, Bob Byrd, Sergio Oliva, Russ Knipp, and so many other IRON MEN whose paths crossed with mine in the Windy City in the sixties. It was through the help of those IRON MEN that I have been able to continue to train and refine my approaches to progressive exercise right on up to this very day. My private pupils don't have many problems gaining muscle or strength either. Young or old, strong or weak, male or female, they all gain whatever size and strength they desire (I don't train people whose goal is to become a professional bodybuilder: professional athletes are no problem to train, but those who aspire to become, say, Mr. Olympia, are usually too far gone "mentally" for me to get through to them in regards to either training methods or training techniques...they don't "listen."). I train everyone differently according to their needs and goals (something that the "cookie-cutter" routines laid out in the "gosh-darn, I find it so hard to gain" publications seldom take into account).
Recently I received a letter from someone who read one of my articles on another website. He wanted to know more about my views on "cadence" and "periodization." He was "offended" by the fact that my article did not spend more time exploring the application of those concepts. I wrote him a reply letting him know that I don't think "cadence" and "periodization" are worth any longwinded comments from me because there has already been reams of worthless writing on the subject by the "experts." I told him that if he quit worrying about all the trendy jargon and theoretical mumbo-jumbo, he might, just might, be able to get back to the simple "roots" of productive training. But, the gentleman is not interested in productive training-he is interested in more theory and conceptual complexities to jumble around in his head in lieu of getting in the gym, slapping some plates on the bar, and finding out the TRUTH through the crucible that is filled with efforts blood, sweat, and tears. Ah, but he probably wouldn't want to stain his lab-coat with sweat, now would he?
Anyway, that same individual also asked me what would be the easiest way to gain 50 pounds of muscle in less than a year. Hmmmmm! The "easiest" way to gain 50 pounds of muscle in a year. I know plenty of "hard" ways, but, the "easiest?" Well, here it is! If you don't care about your health very much, and you don't mind putting on a bit of adipose tissue as well, give this program a try for 6-10 months:
There it is in barebones format, the lazy geeks way to 50 pounds of muscle in less than a year. If you do it as outlined, it will get tough eventually. It will be up to you to decide whether or not to work progressively harder in order to keep the gains coming. If you are a true "hard-gainer" (excuse maker), you will quit when the going gets tough because, after all, if you start gaining you won't be a "hard-gainer" anymore would you.
One last thing. I don't care how strong you are, start out with really "light" levels of resistance when you begin this (or any) new routine. If you start out too heavy you will end up stuck and burned out within a matter of weeks. So, sit down and think about how you plan on progressing (in terms of resistance) over an extended period of time. This is a very important, and often overlooked, aspect of creating a productive workout routine. Also, I am not quite sure how the government mandated addition of bht to our nations milk supply affects human beings. With that in mind, I would be wary of ingesting 3 (or even 1) quart of milk to my daily diet today. If you can find milk untainted by bht treated cows, great, drink it like water and you'll grow. I really have some reservations about the milk products on the market today. You should be wary too!
Recently I received an e-mail from a former student of mine named Johnny Williams (who, by the way, is a serious Bruce Lee historian who has published several fine articles on the Bruce Lee legacy in prominent martial arts publications) requesting my comments on a commercial website on the internet. He specifically wanted to know what I thought about the "product" being sold on the site; an abdominal crunch device that was priced at an exorbitant (in my humble opinion) $170!
A lean, trim, and muscular appearing waistline is the most sought after bodypart by men and women these days if one is to believe the media advertising bombardment everywhere. And, yes, it's true that a muscular abdominal area is not only visually appealing and "sexy," but it is also "supposedly" a sign of a strong and "combat-ready" mid-section. I say "supposedly" because there is a wide gap between "visually appealing" and "combat-ready" in the real world. If you think not, try to recall the last time you saw a bodybuilder in a boxing ring absorbing bodyshots with glee.
I'm going to cut to the chase right here and say that anyone who pays $170 (or even $20) for an "abdominal crunch" device is either a very ignorant person, or someone who has far too much disposable cash in their bank account.
The blunt truth is that it is possible to develop an impressive "six-pack" (the current trendy name for muscular abdominals) without spending a single dime toward a so-called "abdominal isolation" device. In fact, you can get a trimmer waistline without actually spending much time performing abdominal "isolation" movements within your training regimen.
The abdominal muscles are perhaps the easiest muscles to develop outside of the pectoral area of the body. A short period of focused and concentrated emphasis on the abdominal area will usually result in rapid development. And once the development is there, it requires very little in the way of actual abdominal training to maintain that development
Of course what I have just said flies in the face of all the "go for the burn," and "bop til you drop" approaches to waistline training that fill the airwaves, the radiowaves, and the printed page these days. You can't turn on the television without seeing some pony-tailed "fop," or "skinny female model" touting the benefits of "abdominal crunch-machines." It is a big buck business that keeps raking in dinero from the rubes out there in tv-land. Ain't America wonderful?
Stop for a minute and ask yourself how people were able to develop and maintain trim and muscular waistlines before the advent of those new-fangled devices? Then, while you're contemplating that, ask yourself exactly what is the value (if any) of having an ultra-lean waistline 365 days a year unless you are paid to maintain such an obviously "overtrained" condition?
The fastest and easiest way to develop a muscular waistline is to simply perform sets of abdominal exercises in between either your resistance training exercises, or your martial arts "sets" instead of resting. That is the PHA (Peripheral Heart Action) approach to progressive resistance training and physical conditioning that was created and espoused so successfully by my mentor Robert Gajda while he was turning the bodybuilding and physical education communities on their ear as he use the PHA training philosophy and methodology to win the Mr. America, Mr. Universe, and Mr. World bodybuilding titles in 1966.
Contrary to how it sounds at first, the "no-rest between sets" PHA training methodology actually had built in anti-fatigue factors that gave it's practitioners the capability of training harder, heavier, and in less total training time, without running out of gas in even the toughest workout.
Even Bruce Lee had an interest in the PHA training system back in the sixties, but he was never able to get in touch with Robert Gajda to discuss how to really apply the system to really productive training. Bruce had to go by what he read in the muscle magazines, and what he was able to garner from second-hand sources in California. (Which is precisely why I wrote a training manual for Bruce in 1972, MARTIAL ARTS MUSCLE that he unfortunately never got the chance to read due to his passing. Suffice to say, Bruce, like countless other weight-training enthusiasts of that period, confused PHA training with "circuit-training." PHA training is to "circuit-training" as a Rolls-Royce is to a VW Beetle. Read my books to find out more on PHA training and it's the incomparable Robert Gajda.
It only requires a small number of what Robert Gajda calls CORE exercises, interjected correctly within a properly structured workout format, to stimulate the waistline development of anyone's dreams.
Before I conclude this article I would also like to dispel some common fallacies about abcominal training that will prove invaluable to anyone seeking to avoid what I call ABOMINATIONS in abdominal training:
Armed with the information listed above, you should be able to approach waistline training in an intelligent and productive manner that 99% of th training public cannot grasp at all due to all of the dis-information that they are supplied with from others who surround them daily, and from media manipulation of training facts.
If you are still perplexed, or if you want to learn more about how to use PHA training concepts for optimum results...check out my books, and keep coming back to this website for more information on the entire spectrum of MODERN RONIN methods of "physical superiority enhancement!"
At this point in my life I find it amusing that so much time is wasted arguing the pro’s and con’s of various approaches to bodybuilding, strength, and fitness conditioning training. When you get right down to it there is no difference between any of the multitude of training approaches if the trainee "enjoys’ what he or she is doing. I’m being serious when I say that the only thing that matters in the end is that the trainee gets some measure of physical and/or psychological solace from what he or she is doing.
I know most of the readers of this publication are already up in arms and frothing at the mouth because of the above statement, but stop for a moment and give some reasoned thought to what I am trying to say here. There are many reasons why an individual will take up resistance training as a leisure activity. Some want big muscles, some want optimum strength and power, some want to be big, strong, and powerful (the so-called "total package"), some want to rehabilitate injuries, some want to become more "fit for life," and some just like to hang out with the "fitness lifestyle" crowd. Hey, different strokes for different folks. It takes a lot of different instruments to make up an orchestra.
No truly intelligent person can seriously say that there is ONE BEST WAY FOR EVERYBODY TO TRAIN, simply because everybody has different needs, goals, and attitudes that are fulfilled by training. Of course those training for competitive athletic excellence should have two primary goals to reach through progressive resistance training (namely optimum conditioning of the primary and secondary muscle groups needed for high level activity performance, and developing a mind/body coordination through resistance training that allows one to both fear nothing and be able to survive physically while competing with other highly conditioned and motivated individuals who also fear nothing), but for the majority of people who take up progressive resistance training there is little need to do that sort of training in order to reach relatively high levels of muscular development and strength enhancement.
The problem that most people have is resigning themselves to the fact that they do not need to train like a elite level amateur or professional competitive "athlete" in order to become physically superior to the vast majority of humanity. Look, if you have the genetic makeup to be an Olympian or elite level amateur or pro in a sport you would probably have discovered that "gift" early on in life. That may sound cold to some, but it’s the truth. I’ve spent decades training and being around both "normal" and "genetically gifted" athletes/weight trainees. I’ve also seen the vast majority of those trainees beating a dead horse when it came to intelligent, result-producing, and safe training-they were usually doing the exact opposite of what was necessary for them to achieve literally mind-numbing improvements in both strength and development. Yet those trainees actually seemed to enjoy their (ultimately futile) ongoing battles with what I call "DNA Reality." You could confront them with all the scientific research in the world showing how futile their efforts were, but they wouldn’t care. It’s almost as if the average "John Doe" has a sort of "genetic imperative" to struggle with impossibility in order to give meaning to life.
One of the more hilarious scenarios that one can see in a gym is replicated time after time, day after day in training centers all around the world; a "genetically gifted" or growth drug enhanced (or a genetically gifted individual who also uses growth drugs) individual enters a training area and creates a stir that leaves others in the room gawking, or glaring, or giving furtive glances in their direction. Then you’ll see some "beginners" over in a corner of the gym imitating every move that the SUPERMAN is doing…as if imitation will turn into replication. The scenario is always good for some memorable gym humor memories.
But, you’re asking, what does this have to do with you, the reader of this publication. Well, everything! I will flat out state that if you can understand the rules of the game before you start playing you will stand a 100% better chance of coming out on top in the end. Yes, you can get all the results you want if you just use your intellect ahead of your "limbric brain" instincts while going for the brass ring in the iron game (boy, does that ever sound like an oxymoron).
So, how should you train? Should you do the typical "heave/haul/hump/pump" 2 hours a day, five days a week route. Or, how about the "brief/brutal/super-slow" way? There’s always the Power-lifter and Olympic-lifter approach to be considered. So, which method to choose, which path to physical superiority should you follow? The answer, believe it or not, is to simply follow the one that intrigues you. It may not be the most logical, the most scientific, the most efficient, or the most practical method, but it will be the method that you are drawn to either subconsciously or by necessity (the only gym you can afford to join, or the only training center in your neighborhood). Go ahead, jump into the fray and learn by doing. Forget about what the so-called "experts" and nay-sayers have to say about the training approach you choose…just get in a gym and start to educate yourself to the fundamentals of what it takes to become an iron man. Sure, in all likelihood you are going to be given training methods that you will look back on with either humor or anger in years to come, but you will be "in the water and learning how to swim." Experience and an ever-expanding training "vocabulary" will be gained in this manner. Make sure that your continue to supplement your regular learning/training with outside reading, questioning, contemplation, and a "spirti of improvisation" and you will GROW both physically and intellectually over time.
Ah, but you’re asking, "what about the "experts" that say HIT (or any other method) is the best and only way to train?" I say "listen" to the "experts," "play" with their concepts and principles from time to time, and always keep in mind that there is no ONE BEST WAY to do anything (what’s the best way to have sex, or eat, or sleep, or cry, or have fun, or meditate, or push something, or pull something…???). Don’t just laugh off the training methods of others out of hand if for no other reason than that you can’t walk in their shoes, and you don’t know what makes them "tick" physically or mentally.
Over time, if you persist in your training, you will come to realize that it takes time and practice to get a grasp on the "fundamental art" of resistance training movements (technique). It then takes even more time to juggle the applications (developing effective training "routines") of those movements so that they will give you the sought after results on a consistent basis (I’m assuming here that your goal is to improve in observable ways year after year for as long as you continue to train). There is no quick or easy path to iron game superiority unless of course you want to throw caution to the wind and take the growth drug route-if you do that you’re taking your health and future physical well-being in your hands like a set of dice…is the "possibility" of obtaining "freakish musculature or strength" worth the potential downside?…remember, a Mr. Olympia medal and a couple of bucks will get you a couple of shots of espresso in hot water at Starbuck’s! To say that someone can get maximal physical improvement in "less than a year" as some "muscle guru’s" so often state is absurd if you really think about it. If you can reach the top of the mountain within 9-12 months what else is there to strive for? The very idea of having to struggle like a dog continuously for years to come just to "maintain what you have" sounds ominously like Sisyphus pushing the world up a slope that can never be conquered. Better to continually "evolve" over time like a fine wine.
I have tried many methods, systems, and training modalities over the past 37 years. Some worked well, and some worked less well, but they all worked believe it or not. I learned and gained something from ever approach that I studied and worked with over the years. The results (or lack thereof) of my personal experiments have given me a wide-ranging perspective on progressive resistance training that I have been able to effectively pass on to my many pupils over the years. The essence of what I have taught them is that "everything" works, but not everything "works" the same way for everyone. How can one grow and evolve over time without having the spirit of open-minded freedom of physical expression that theoretical and conceptual improvisation offers?
Look at many of the "experts" and their "true-believer" lock-step followers-where are the results of their BEST WAY TO TRAIN? Where are the pictures of the results? Like you, I keep reading glowing reports of incredible results and gains…but where is the proof of the pudding? If an individual has made great gains in terms of strength and physique I find it hard to believe that he or she does not want the world to see and acknowledge those results. Like they say in Missouri-SHOW ME!
I weigh the same today as I did back in the mid-seventies when I was actively competing in bodybuilding competition. I am able to maintain this weight and condition through a training regiment that consists of only 15-18 minutes of total time spent per week training with weights. I also do quite a bit of martial arts training four or five days per week. Nothing more, nothing less, save for interjecting a bit of basketball or touch football on occasion. I do not look like your normal 53 year old ,and I’m sure I don’t feel like your normal stress ridden, gut aching, life whipped 53 year old). Yet, I don’t teach my pupils that my type of once per week training is THE BEST WAY TO TRAIN. On the contrary, I feel morally obligated to teach them from the very beginning of their training a variety of basic compound exercises that "stimulate" large areas of muscle mass. Once they have mastered those movements I add and subtract various other exercise "variations (what some might call "isolation" movements, but, since there is no such thing as an "isolation" muscle movement, why use the word?)" so that over perhaps a years time they have a basic "training vocabulary" that allows them to "create and structure" their own result-producing workout routines that become more refined as time (and their development) progresses. I feel that my role as a teacher is to make each of my pupils the "master of their own personal training universe" as soon as possible. Without that attitude I would simply "doing their thinking for them." You won’t ever be able to go beyond your teacher/mentor/guru if you allow them to always do your thinking for you. I have found that this approach results in pupils who can confront, analyze, and conquer any and all training "problems" or "sticking points" with ease.
Here is an example of how one of my pupils recently achieved some fairly remarkable results using the MedX biceps machine: The pupil was performing one set of 12 repetitions in the MedX curl twice per week (in conjunction with other exercises of course). He reached a point where he was unable to either do a 13th rep in perfect form (which would signal a need to increase the poundage by 1 pound), or to do 12 strict reps consistently during both workouts. He asked me what were a few possible ways to address the "problem." I told him that he could do only one set per week or he could switch to barbell or dumbbell curls for a while. He mulled that over and asked what I thought of perhaps simply staying with the MedX biceps curl, maintaining the same resistance, and dropping the reps down to 6 per set. I told him to give it a try. To make a long story short, he took that route for a few months and ended up performing 145 lbs for 6 strict reps at which time he went back to the 12 reps per set regimen with 120 lbs and found that the weight felt "light." He is currently doing 136X12 strictly in that particular exercise. A simple answer to a simple problem. The great thing is that he solved the problem on his own and the solution worked (I would have suggested that he only do curls every other week instead of weekly…but, hey, he came up with a winning solution…that’s the name of the game isn’t it?).
What I feel sets me apart from 99.9% of all the "teachers" around is that I don’t care what kind of routine you follow. If you ask me for help in improving the results you get from a particular routine I will guarantee that you will improve provided you follow my instructions to the letter. After you start improving better than you ever dreamed possible with the methods that you currently use you might just be interested in letting me create a training approach that will be designed for you and you alone…a routine that will give you immediate results and help you "learn how to learn" how to train and gain for the rest of your life. Sounds impossible right? Well it’s not impossible unless of course you are possessed with a narrow, closed mind that will keep you chained to mediocrity for years to come. No one can help an individual with a loser attitude. By that I mean someone who is not physically impressive, is not very strong, and who espouse the current "hot" training fad even though it is evidently not working for him/her. Such individuals like to call themselves HARDGAINERS. I like to call them HARDHEADS. You can seldom get anything across to such people because they are too busy trying to point out that my more "eclectic" approach "can’t" work because "so and so has stated in his recent bulletin that …blah, blah, blah." I’m always tempted to tell yahoos like that to take off their shirt, turn around, look in the mirror, and SHOW ME SOME RESULTS! I don’t want to hear what some geek in a lab coat, or some overweight clown who is never seen without a sweatshirt (or two, or three, or…), or some "gym-rat" with the ubiquitous towel around his pencil thin neck, or some obvious growth drug abuser (the huge fellows or gals who tell you that, "I don’t take drugs but I do take "supplements"…right?) has written or espoused if you can’t show me that it has worked on you! Give me a break! My mother did not raise a fool for a son. Lip service doesn’t stack up very well against RESULTS!
The next time you walk into your local gym stop for a minute and look around. Most of the people you will see are not getting results. Most of the people you’ll see are training incorrectly. Most of the people you’ll see are obviously spinning their wheels and going nowhere fast. It’s a fact. Yet I contend that for some perverse reason they are getting "something" out of their efforts. Maybe not the kind of "results" that you or I would want, but results nevertheless. I could work "miracles" with those HARDGAINERS (???) so fast that it would have your head spinning. Instead I let them go merrily (?) on their way to whatever destiny is preordained for them. But do watch them and learn how "not" to train from their demonstrations. Once you know how "not " train you are at the very least halfway on the way to understanding "how" to train.
Sorry I haven’t included any nuts and bolts training routines in this article. My approach to training is perhaps too eclectic for most iron gamers to understand anyway. HIT "true-believers" will really be left scratching their heads by my training methods.I know how to train my body to keep up a visually pleasing appearance at this point in my life. Right now, I enjoy my martial arts training more than "heavy" weight training. Therefore, I go with the "flow" like a true Taoist. If I ever get the urge to train heavy again (it will happen), thats when I will push myself harder. Until then...I am happy and healthy right where I am physically. But, just to keep you guys out there intrigued I will tell you exactly what I did on Friday, December 3, 1999:
It took me fifteen minutes to complete. It also has no real value to anyone other than myself in terms of either the exercises performed or the resistance/rep figures. For those of you laughing at the routine or the resistance used, or the reps-I will get someone to take a picture of me during a workout in a week or two (I train alone so picture taking is not easy to set up) so that you can see just how effective my little workout is (you can see a photo of me at my website, "http://www.modernroninjounal.com").
I will state right now that most of you readers will be very impressed with what you see. I know upfront that my present physique at the age of 53 is perhaps better than most weight trainees in their teens and twenties. I’m still quite strong for my age and weight, but I can’t bench press 400 lbs or squat with 550 lbs anymore, and I don’t miss being able to do so. There comes a point in one's training career when you realize that technique and mental focus are the tools you have to focus on in order to "survive and thrive" in the arena of lifelong involvement in the iron game. My martial arts training keeps me in superb butt-kicking form. My Fender telecaster ("Sweet Sue") keeps my fingers nimble and my ears ringing. I’m doing fine at 53…can you say the same?
December 4, 1999