Thursday, March 22, 2018

And Now . . . An All-Time Favorite Dave Draper Workout

For a Near-Infinite Number of Training Ideas, Feel Free to Visit
Dave & Laree Draper's Website: 

Okay, I'll admit to hitting a patch of the blahs with those weights a while ago. If Sartre had been one of us, he'd have called it Nausea, no doubt. Camus, too, might've realized quickly that I had become an Outsider to all forms of lifting . . . bars, plates, collars . . . people . . . the whole universal deal of it had become far from uplifting. Most listless.

It was rough. 

She flew away and I feared that sweet bird was never comin' back! 
My Being lacked Liftingness. Could this be All She Wrote? 

Ah, Hell No! All's I did was take a wee breather for a couple-a two or so weeks, scrap all the inner 'n outer crap and nonsense that sometimes grows its mold on things we love, and . . . well . . . I dug around for a layout that'd hit the target. Funny how that target tends to be mobile. 

So . . . I remembered seeing this layout, way back when . . . 
done, designed and lovingly handed down online by Dave Draper. 
Yeah, it's one of those ones. Actually, after some time dancing with it, it may the THE one. If such a thing exists
and please don't tell me if it don't. 

Now, aside from the genius visible in the way it's laid out magically, there's the feel of it. I kid you not, after each workout I'm feeling better by a mile than I did before starting. Ha! You got me. I lied. Make that a mile and a half.  It gets that warmth flowing, lets you go up to a burning ache (when you're up to it) and leaves you feeling . . .

Aww, twas a perfect, bodypart-friendly reentry. There's the ticket. This one'll likely be on my dance-card for quite some time. 

All things willing. 


Variation of crunches, incline and weighted, leg raises, hyperextensions, hanging leg raises 


Seated Front Press (3-5x12, 10, 8, 8, 6)
tri-setted with
Wide Grip Pulldowns (3-5x12, 10, 8, 8, 8)
Standing Bentover Lateral Raises (3-5x6-8)

Dumbbell Press (4-5x12, 10, 8, 8, 6)
tri-setted with
Dumbbell Pullovers (4-5x12, 10, 8, 8, 6)
Seated Lat Row (4-5x12, 10, 8, 8, 6) 


Leg Extensions (3-5x10-12)
tri-setted with
Leg Curls (3-5x8-12)
Calf Raises (3-5x15-20) 

Squats (5-7x15, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 6)
Deadlifts (5x10, 8, 6, 6, 6) 


Rubber tubing rotator cuff work,
5 sets x 20-25 adductor, 5x abductor 

Wrist Curls (3-5x20, 15, 15, 15, 15)
tri-setted with
Thumbs Up curl (3-5x10, 8, 8, 8, 6)
Pulley Pushdowns (3-5x12-15)

Bent Bar Curls (3-5x6-8)
supersetted with
Dips (3-5x12-15)

Dumbbell Alternate Curls (3-5x6-8)
supersetted with
Overhead or Lying Triceps Extensions (3-5x12, 10, 8, 8, 8) 

Be good to yourself. 


Seated Front Press (4x12, 10, 8, 6)
supersetted with
Pulldowns (4x12, 10, 8, 6)

Dumbbell Inclines (4x12, 10, 8, 6)
supersetted with
Pullovers (4x12, 10, 8, 6) 

Dumbbell Rows (4x8)

Dumbbell Alternate Curls (4x12, 10, 8, 6)
tri-setted with
Dips (4xMax)
Pulley Pushdowns (4x12) 


Same as earlier leg day 

Light Deadlifts (5x8)
supersetted with
Rope Tucks (5x25)

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Psychological Approach to Lifting - Doug Hepburn (1961)

Note: Doug Hepburn was greatly influenced by author Paul Brunton.
If you're interested, here

All matter is shaped or directed by force. Force precedes matter and therefore is of the greater importance. This principle, when applied to the weightlifter, simply means that the body (matter? when exercised correctly will strengthen and develop proportionately to the degree of force (mind) directed toward this end.

Thought or intelligence must precede material alteration and change; who could possibly perform any act, however small, before first consciously or unconsciously conceiving the idea. It follows then that the greater the degree of force or thought power expended upon a certain definite objective or goal the greater will be the end result or accomplishment. 

Not only is the intensity of mind force all important, but also its constancy, for if the force of thought is directed away from the objective, even temporarily, then the efficiency of matter change is impeded. 

If this mind force is removed and redirected not temporarily but permanently from the objective then the matter will change pertaining to this objective will cease, even retrogress. If, for example, the reader sincerely desires a large biceps muscle then mind force compels one to curl. The effected matter (in this case the biceps muscle) is in turn compelled to enlarge and strengthen in accordance to its inevitable biological process. Conversely, if this mind force is directed and focused, through redirection, not on the acquisition of a large biceps muscle but rather a new car, then the process of biceps enlargement will be impeded or will cease entirely. 

One's personal sense of values has a direct bearing on the motivation and directing of mind-force. The degree of will-drive application to the objective-goal is dependent upon the degree of desire. If there is no sincere desire there can be little power of will. The desire for the objective must remain constant for the attainment of a worthwhile goal-objective is brought about cumulatively of in other words, as a result of regular unvarying training and living habits. If one's desire or desires remain in a perpetual state of fluctuation between one objective and another; if, so to speak, one is forever running "hot and cold" then there cannot possibly exist "singleness of purpose" and consequently little or no progress toward any one objective. This, in my opinion, constitutes the pitfall of the majority of aspiring strength athletes. 

Some of our more prominent weightlifting authorities have often stated that "if our lifters are to continue to win, then weightlifting must be their first consideration." In other words, all other things must assume a secondary importance in the life of a dedicated weightlifter. Those who aspire to become top ranking lifters must be willing to make such a sacrifice and must do so without regret. The aspirant would do well to indoctrinate himself with the ideology that the attainment of a world weightlifting record is of a greater value to him or to the world than the attainment of material wealth. to minimize the importance of material-sensual satiation and must strive to elevate one's self and thought to the artistic and creative plane can very well result in the elimination of mediocrity and an entering into the realm of the exceptional.

There are some who will regard even the entertainment of such an outlook as naive or eccentric. I have never thought so, nor, I am convinced, do any lifters of world championship caliber. Here then is the "proof of the pudding," for these men their accomplishment is the sum product of their ideation. Again there are some who will dispute this statement. On what grounds, may I ask, is their argument based, unless they have accomplished something exceptional themselves.

A dedicated athlete, in order to be assured of realizing his or her own goal, must be selective and desire to take no more from the world other than that essential to the process of attainment. Superfluous material possessions and the maintenance of same tend to complicate and disorganize a simple existence; such an existence is the prime prerequisite of the potential outstanding athlete.

There is one, and only one road to a world or Olympic gold medal. This road contains no sidetracks or detours. It is a road moistened by sweat and the air above sweetened with the perfumed Zephyrs of inspiration. It is indeed a worthy road to travel.  


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Strengthening the Ankles - Bill Starr

I’ve observed over the years that most people, athletes and non-athletes alike, take their ankles for granted – that is, until they injure one. Then they fully comprehend just how vital ankles are to their well-being. Simple everyday tasks such as walking and climbing stairs suddenly become very difficult, and participating in any type of physical activity is out of the question.

Whenever strength athletes hurt an ankle, they discover how great a role that joint plays in a wide range of exercises in their routine. Obviously, ankles are involved in squatting and every type of pulling movement, but who would have guessed that a dinged ankle would also have a detrimental effect on inclines and flat benches? When lifters are unable to establish a firm base with their feet before benching or inclining, they can’t bring the power up from that base into the bar. Of course, overhead work is also not feasible when someone is nursing an injured ankle.

Basically, movement depends on sturdy ankles. We need them to walk, run, jump and move in a variety of directions. When I approached 40, I decided that I needed to do more for my cardiovascular and respiratory systems. After moving to York, Pennsylvania, I made a point of doing some cardio for my Olympic lifting training regimen. I regularly played racquetball and volleyball at the York Y and practiced with the York College soccer team. Later I ran on the wide, sandy beaches of Santa Monica and on the track at the University of Hawaii, although never more than a couple of miles.

My goal was to run 10 miles a week, six on Sunday and four on Thursday, my nonlifting days. That’s when I became aware of the importance of strong ankles. During my first six months of running I sprained my left ankle three times. It puzzled me why it was always my left ankle because both were doing the same amount of work. Finally it dawned on me that my left ankle was weaker than my right one. I think that’s true for everyone. One leg and one arm are generally stronger than the other leg and arm, mostly because we unconsciously give it priority. I added some strength work for my left ankle and didn’t sprain it again.

Those minor injuries made me aware of how dependent I was on my ankles and how much they were involved in my strength training. All my lifts fell off while I was rehabbing a sprain, and it took another six weeks to move back up to my former numbers once it was fully recovered.

The ankle is a marvelous structure. It with the talus, a knoblike bone that sits atop the calcaneus, or heel bone. is responsible for stabilizing the lower leg and foot and for all movements of the foot. It’s a hinge joint formed by the articulation of the two bones of the lower leg, tibia and fibula, along

The ankle is structured with an interlacing network of ligaments, tendons and muscles, which enables the foot to be lifted, turned downward and rotated from side to side. Its design is amazing, extremely complex yet simple in purpose. Because there are so many tendons and ligaments in the ankle, size isn’t a variable in terms of strength. That’s why we’ve all seen powerlifters of strength athletes with puny ankles squat huge poundages as well as athletes who seem to be able to soar upward almost effortlessly with ankles the same size as their wrists. The size of your ankles is determined by genetics, but it is within your power to make them considerably stronger, and that’s all that matters.

Late one night I was flipping through the channels seeking some program worth watching when I came across a PBS station out of Camden, New Jersey, that was running a show dealing with rehabbing athletes – my cup of tea. It was about preparing Chinese athletes for the upcoming Olympics, and all the subjects had some type of lower-body injury. Most were dealing with some kind of hip or knee problem, but some had pulled hamstrings and adductors. What caught my attention was the very first thing the therapist did in every case: exercise the athlete’s ankle on the injured leg. None had hurt their ankles, yet that was where the therapy began. The therapist or trainer would flex and rotate the ankle for quite a long time. After a brief rest, he’d do it again.

That intrigued me because I knew that when someone in our country is rehabbing a knee or hip or injured leg muscle, nothing is done directly to the ankle. In fact, the ankle is left to fend for itself. It dawned on me that what the Chinese were doing made perfect sense. Exercising the ankle vigorously did two positive things: 1) It brought nourishing blood to the injured area as it passed down through the leg on its way south, and 2) it helped strengthen the ankle joint. Making it considerably stronger in the very early part of the rehab process enabled the athlete to move on a stable joint during the other phases of his recovery much sooner.

So now, whenever I feel as if my knees, hips, quads, adductors or hamstrings need some direct attention, I begin exercising my ankles at night, while reading or watching TV. All I do is extend my foot, rotate my ankle and extend it up and down until it gets tired. I rest and do it again, often a dozen times. At my next workout, I make sure to hit the groups that are connected to the ankle. I’m referring to the muscles that form the lower leg: soleus, gastrocnemius and tibialis anterior.  

Since I’ve done articles on the calves previously, I won’t go into detail how to strengthen them, but I will review the main points. The calf is formed by the larger, more prominent gastrocnemius and the smaller yet no less important soleus. The gastrocnemius originates above the knee, at the rear of the femur, the long bone of the upper leg. Two tendons extend down, to where they help form the Achilles tendon, and insert at the posterior of the heel bone. The gastrocnemius is a prime mover of the foot, and it assists in flexing the knee.

The soleus lies directly behind the gastrocnemius and originates at the upper parts of the backs of the two bones of the lower leg, the tibia and fibula. Then it extends downward to aid in forming the Achilles tendon and attaches to the heel bone. It also takes part in all foot movement.  

The two calf muscles work in harmony, forming a functional unit known as the triceps surge. However, similar as they are to one another, there’s a difference between them, and understanding it will enable you to make them both a great deal stronger. Observant readers may have already spotted the difference. It has to do with where the two muscles originate. 

Because the gastrocnemius originates above the knee, it’s strengthened when you do exercises with locked legs, as in standing calf raises. In contrast, you hit the soleus directly when you do calf raises while seated, as it originates below the knee. That’s why it’s so helpful to learn some basic anatomy and kinesiology. Little points like the ones I just mentioned can make a huge difference in overall gains.

Knowing about the two calf muscles is why I recommend doing both versions of calf raises – seated and standing. You can do one type in a calf workout and the other the next time you work your calves. Or do two sets of each at the same session. If you want results, you have to punish your calves. Staying in the comfortable range just doesn’t work for those weight-bearing muscles. Higher reps are in order – 30s for no fewer than three sets. The final dozen reps should make your eyes water. Be sure to always stretch immediately after each set and again later that same night.  

If calf machines aren’t available, you can still do standing calf raises by placing the barbell on your back and fixing the front of your feet on a two-by-four. The movement requires a certain bit of balance, but with a bit of practice you’ll be able to make your calves scream. That’s how all weight trainees and bodybuilders built their impressive calves before the machines came along. To do seated calf raises, sit on a bench or chair, place a towel or pillow on your thighs, and stack some plates on that. Again, fix the front of your feet on a two-by-four or phone books. That will give you a greater range of motion. Others prefer to hold a dumbell in one hand and work one leg at a time, standing or seated.

Note: Or, try this. One legged standing DB calf raise with right leg to near-failure; immediately go to two legged standing calf on machine. Reverse. Make sure you're using a nice heavy poundage on the two leg raise. The body's pretty much its usual idiot self in this case. The already baked leg simply has to keep working once you go two-legged. It's designed to do just that for self-preservation. It can't ask questions and will just keep on going until the baked leg is pretty much screaming. A couple sets of these and your calves will be pumped like never before. Try the same thing for something like wrist curls. Again, the body can't stop once you go to the two armed version. Strange deal, eh. Okay, get all warmed up and try this with some quad-based squats. One legged using dumbbells with the right leg immediately to the rack and some two-legged quad squats with an erect back. Take a breather and reverse. Tell your friends, impress your pets, email your dead loved ones. They still have meaning, right? Did any of us ever? Start another useless YouTube channel and get likes from losers along with ugly comments from loafers. Please be my friend and respect me. Caress my ego. Relieve the stress of not knowing if I am worthy of living. Alleviate my aloneness, okay? Let my perceived successes in life separate me from the absurdity of existing. Anyhow . . . how did "fill-in-the-blank" commit suicide? Ready? By jumping off his ego onto his I.Q.   

To really put a jolt into your calves, get inside a power rack and set the bar at a height where you’re standing fully erect. Now place the second set of pins three to four inches higher. Extend up on your toes, lock the bar against the higher pins, and do an isometric contraction for 10 to 12 seconds. As you get stronger with the movement, increase the weight on the bar, but keep the contraction for 10 to 12 seconds. Although I’ve never done a seated iso for calves, I can’t think of any reason it can’t be done, so you might want to give it a shot.  

Any pulling exercise that requires you to extend high on your toes is also good for strengthening the calves. Power cleans, power snatches, full snatches and full cleans, snatch and clean high pulls and shrugs come under that heading. 

While all the exercises I’ve discussed will certainly take care of the gastrocnemius and soleus, the front portion of the lower leg also needs direct work. That the tibialis anterior. I’m aware that many more muscle groups run down the front of the lower leg and extend into the ankle and foot, such as the peroneus tertius, extensor hallucis longus and extensor digitorum longus. The tibialis, however, is by far the largest, and when you work it, you hit the rest.

I’m frequently called retro in my selection of exercises, and I’m guilty as charged. Some of the very best exercises have been forgotten, or the equipment is no longer available, yet many are tried and tested out and still useful. I’m going back to the ‘30s and ‘40s for this one. Older athletes will remember the Iron Boot – I’m betting that they all used it at one time or another. I did too, although only long enough to see how to perform a number of exercises with it. It was effective. The trouble was, it took time to attach it to my shoes and make sure the weights were secure. I didn’t want to spare the time when I was younger, but that isn’t a factor now.

I believed that the device no longer existed, yet I was proven wrong. Last Saturday on a visit to the York Barbell Museum with Daryl Goss, I ran across them in the store. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, the Iron Boot is basically what the name implies – a piece of metal that attaches to your shoe onto which weights can be added. It’s a very simple but effective device that you can use to work every part of your legs, including your tibialis.  

Secure the boot to your shoe or over socks, extend your leg, and move your foot up and down, up and down until the front of your lower leg tires. Rest and do it again. You can do both legs at the same time or one at a time. I believe one at a time is more beneficial because you don’t have to worry as much about balance.

The Iron Boot is also useful in strengthening the ankle itself – just rotate your foot in circles. You’ll find that you need only very little weight added to the boots for them to work. Sometimes the boot itself is sufficient.

Ankle weights that are attached with Velcro are easier to use and accomplish the same purpose. Their only drawback is that you need quite a few of different poundages if you want to increase the resistance. Adding more resistance to the Iron Boot is no problem. If you use ankle weights, don’t attach them to your ankles. Attach them to your foot. Then you can attack your tibialis and the rest of the groups in your ankle quite readily.

Those two pieces of equipment are great for use at home. If you train in a gym that has a leg press, you can readily overload your tibialis and neighboring groups in the front of the leg. Position yourself in the machine so that your leg is straight. You should start off using very light resistance until you get the feel of what you’re trying to do. The resistance needs to be light enough to give you complete control yet heavy enough to work the target muscles thoroughly. Keep the reps relatively high – 20s to 30s for 3 sets per leg. You can do them with both legs at the same time, but I’ve found that working only one leg at a time is more productive.

While many gyms don’t have a leg press, nearly all have leg curl machines, which you can use to strengthen your front leg and ankle. Sit on the end of the machine, hook your toes under the pad and proceed to lift them up toward your knee. Same deal on sets and reps: 3 x 20-30.

There are also machines designed specifically for exercising the ankles. They’re generally found in rehab and physical therapy facilities, but I’ve come across a couple in commercial gyms. If you happen to have one at your disposal, by all means put it to use. It’s most effective because it works the front, back and both sides.

These exercises are also very useful for anyone who’s rehabbing an injured ankle. Keep them in mind if you happen to ding an ankle in the future.

Many of the basic exercises in any strength routine help strengthen the ankles. Front and back squats, deadlifts, heavy shrugs and lunges involve the ankles to a large extent, so they’re strengthened during the performance of those lifts. Any exercise that requires a heavy poundage to be supported by your body is going to work your ankles. I’ve found walking lunges to be especially good in that regard. The balancing factor forces the ankles to extend themselves more than in conventional lunges or even squats. I know that’s the case because after I’ve put athletes through a vigorous session of walking lunges with heavy dumbells, a majority of them tell me that their ankles got as sore as their hamstrings and glutes. Soreness means that the muscles and attachments were hit directly.

I was recently asked if partial squats had a place in a strength program. They do because you can handle a great deal more weight, which forces the lower legs and ankles to work much harder in order to maintain control and balance. Instead of doing half or quarter squats, which I believe breeds bad habits, I prefer heavy supports inside a power rack. By heavy I mean working up to a weight that’s twice as much as you can use on a full squat.  

The week following the strength test at the end of the off-season strength program was when I had my advanced athletes do those. Primarily, I wanted them to learn what was involved in supporting a massive amount of iron. Plus, it gave them a certain amount of prestige with their teammates: I allowed only a few athletes to take part in the exercise. They quickly discovered the importance of staying rigidly tight. Let on area of the body relax even slightly, and the bar will jump off your back. That’s why I had them work inside a power rack, which meant there was no danger of their getting injured. With that amount of weight I don’t care to risk using spotters.

You should position the bar to a height where you have to move it three to four inches to lockout, then control it for five to six seconds. I have athletes do a light warmup set of squats, then begin the supports with their best back squat. To qualify to do the supports, the athletes must be using 500 pounds or more. So they would start with that number, them jump 200 pounds. If that’s easy, they move another 200, but if it’s testy, they take a 100-pound increase – and so on until they find their limit.

Besides staying extremely tight, lifters have to learn to ease the bar off the pins. Most try to jerk it upward. That invariably results in the bar’s being a bit too far back or too far forward, and it crashes back on the pins. The body has to be perfectly erect, and the eyes have to be forward. Looking up or down adversely affects the line as well. I tell them to think about grinding their feet down into the floor to establish a solid base, then to bring power up from that base into their legs, glutes, hips, back, shoulders and, finally, into the bar. All the while they must be sure that every muscle is tight before they squeeze the bar off the pins.

If the bar moves out of the proper alignment, it will either feel as if it’s been welded to the pins or run forward or backward. When someone is handling close to a half a ton, the weight doesn’t hang around long enough to allow for any adjustments.

I had several athletes who handled more than 900 pounds and three who exceeded 1,000, which is heady ground for any strength athlete. After they’d limited out, I’d lower the weight considerably and have them support that poundage for a 20-to-30 second count. At their next squat session they always improved, stating that the weight that used to feel so heavy actually felt rather light. That’s because they’d overloaded all the groups responsible for supporting a heavy poundage, and the most important areas of all were the lower legs and ankles. Without that stable base, nothing else really matters.

What else can you do to strengthen your ankles? Get in motion. Sit less, stand more. If you’re still young – and some 45-year olds are – participate in activities that force your ankles to work harder, such as basketball, soccer, volleyball, tennis, racquetball or cycling and running. If you qualify for a senior discount, just walk. Long hikes over rough terrain make your ankles do extra work to maintain balance, and that’s a good thing.  

Keep in mind that an ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure. Keeping your ankles strong will help you live an active lifestyle as you grow older. So make a place in your strength routine for at least one specific exercise for your lower legs and ankles, along with lots of other exercises that include them in the execution of the movement. The long-term benefits are well worth the effort.




Bill Howard, Training for the Classic Physique - Gene Mozee (1974)

Bill Howard: A Classical Study of Physical Perfection
by Gene Mozee (1974) 

At a time when most athletes are retiring from competition, and their talent is rapidly diminishing, the bodybuilder is often just hitting his full stride. One very important reason why this is so is that the serious bodybuilder is continually striving to improve. In his quest to reach his goals, he constantly searches for a new and better way to make progress. He is always willing to learn something new. Just ask Bill Howard, who says, "I trained for twenty years until I recently discovered that I make better progress and faster gains by not overworking. I do less sets and exercises now, but everything I do works my muscles to the maximum." 


Bill had just finished his workout at Vince's Gym and was starting to practice his posing routine, which he had learned from the acknowledged "master of posing" Vince Gironda. As I stood there watching Bill glide smoothly from pose to pose, I was amazed at the sensational improvement he had recently made. His deltoids appeared rounder and fuller, his biceps more peaked, his thighs more shapely, and his abdomen rippled with terrific definition. When he finished his posing routine, which was a carbon copy of Gironda's famous classic routine, Vince said, "Isn't that guy great? I've never seen anyone who could duplicate my poses so perfectly." Vince was elated. So was Bill. I was impressed! 

Having known Bill Howard for years, I remarked that this was by far the best I had ever seen him look. Bill agreed with me. I asked him how he had made such terrific gains since I last saw him a few months before. He replied, "I owe it all to Vince. For years I have admired him and always wanted to become associated with Vince and train under him. I was just plodding along year after year in the same old bag, staying in shape, but not really advancing. I decided to go see Vince and ask his advice on getting in shape for the Mr. International contest which was less than a month away. Vince evaluated my physique and then planned a special workout program and diet for me. It was completely different from anything I had ever done before . . . less exercises, less sets, but more concentrated. It amazed me at how fast I improved! In just three weeks I was more cut up than I had ever been in my life, and went on to win 2nd place in the Tall Class at the Mr. International contest against some very tough competition." 

Vince Gironda is famous for getting people in top shape fast. I asked Vince how he was able to do this. Vince replied, "I can't take credit for Bill's development. He was already well built when he came to me. What I did was to have him cut down on his overall training program, but work his weak points harder. Bill was like most advanced bodybuilders who work each muscle group with lots of sets, but don't really work the weakest part of the muscle hard enough. For example, if your arms are big, but lack a good biceps peak, you should work exclusively on trying to build more height to the muscle by concentrating on the outer head of the biceps. If there is one specific area of a muscle that needs improvement, it should be worked instead of the stronger area. This method of isolating each muscle group's weakest point, and concentrating exclusively on it, results in a remarkable improvement in an individual's overall physique in a very short time." 

 The Compiled Works of Vince Gironda: 

Big Thanks to Gregory Taper! 

Bill was in complete agreement with Vince. "I look better at age 40 than I ever have before," said Bill, "and I know that I can continue to improve for some time to come." He believes that he will be able to reach his full bodybuilding potential now that he has found this new method of training.

"I bulked up to 240 pounds a few years ago," said Bill. "I never felt so good as when I trimmed back down to 200. Not everyone can get the massive muscle density of Arnold or Sergio. I prefer classical and symmetrical lines of men like Gironda and Zane. That's what I'm striving for in my training." 

Bill Howard is no stranger to the readers of Muscle Builder. He has won over 60 trophies in physique competition. Among his other weight game accomplishments re a 425 bench, 625 squat and a 645 deadlift -- all done in competition. He formerly held the Wisconsin State record in the squat with a 599 at 198 pounds. 

After moving to Southern California ten years ago, Bill has trained with many of the top men like Arnold, Franco. Zane, Draper, Waller, Zabo and others. He is also close friends with Armand Tanny, Dick Dubois, Bill Pearl, George Eiferman and many other greats who have given him training tips over the years.

In h of 1974, Bill graduated from the Cleveland College of Chiropractic in Los Angeles. He feels that his bodybuilding background will prove a real asset when he goes into practice. He is very knowledgeable on the subject of nutrition, which he plans to stress with his chiropractic patients. Bill has a unique philosophy which he plans to implement when he hangs up his shingle. He plans to be a doctor who is concerned with health rather than disease. His patients will pay to stay healthy -- and if they become ill, there will be no fee until they are well again.

Bill disagrees with people who say you can't put in long hours and still find time to train. He attended Chiropractic college six hours a day, and also worked six hours daily as the director of the Ocean Towers Health Club in Santa Monica, California. He trained at 4:00 a.m. on weekdays before he went to his 7:00 a.m. class. Now that's what I call true dedication! 

In addition to his training, Bill did two other things which helped bring about his remarkable improvement: 

1) He practiced his posing routine at least an hour a day (30 minutes with Vince and another 30 to 60 minutes at home at night).

2) He modified his diet. 

The diet that he used was Vince's special high protein/low carbohydrate diet. Vince believes that you must eat one carbohydrate meal every third day to keep your body functioning most efficiently. He and Bill both agree that this carbohydrate meal every third day helps you get definition faster without losing too much energy and muscle size. Another aspect of the diet was that bill laid off all supplements on Sunday on his only non-training day. Here is his pre-contest diet: 

Breakfast - 3 hard boiled or poached eggs, 1" thick slice of butter, 2 oz. of liquid amino acids and supplements*. 

Lunch - 1/2 lb. broiled beef patty, supplements.  

Dinner - 1/4 to 1 lb. of beef (usually steak), supplements. 

*Supplements: (divided up with each meal) - Multi Vitamin/Mineral formula, liquid amino acids, concentrated germ oils, B-complex, 1000 mg. of Vitamin C, 1200 units of Vitamin E, 60 desiccated liver tablets, 30 kelp tablets. 

The only liquids consumed were black coffee and water. Although this may seem severe, the consumption of carbohydrates at one meal every three days kept his energy level high and broke up the boredom of the low carbohydrate regime.

When not training for a contest, Bill will eat about 60 to 80 grams of carbohydrates a day. For instance, he'll have seven-grain toasted bread with breakfast and add a baked potato and have a salad with the evening meal. He prefers foods that are organically grown without preservatives or pesticide spray residue. He never eats white flour products, sugar products, or highly processed foods. He neither smokes nor drinks.

Pre-Contest Training Program

This training routine can be used to get in shape fast, whether it is for a contest of just to get defined and polish up to a peak condition. It is a true split routine -- upper body one day and lower body the next. Each workout takes about 1-1/2 hours or less. Quality training is used -- no more than 30 seconds rst between sets.

Monday/Wednesday/Friday - Upper Body

1) Pulley Short Lat Pulls - 

This is a great exercise for adding sweep to the lats for a better spread. From the semi-squat position, the bar is pulled into the upper abdomen; it is then lowered to the starting position with care being taken that the upper back is under continuous tension throughout. This is repeated until 8 sets of 8 reps have been completed.    

2) Wide V-Bar Dips - 

This is the best exercise to add shape and cuts to the lower and outer portions of the pectorals. The body is lowered as far as possible with a double bounce on the bottom; the upper body is thoroughly contracted and slightly compressed at the top. Again, 8 sets of 8 reps. 

3) One-Arm Cable Laterals - 

Unbeatable for building a cap on the delts by developing the lateral head, which is great for increasing the width of the shoulders. While seated on a low bench, or kneeling, the cable handle is raised across the body to about ear level. The little finger is turned up at the top to peak the deltoid. 8 x 8 with each arm.

4) Long Cable Triceps Extension - 

All three heads of the triceps are thickened and shaped with this exercise. While kneeling and supported on a low bench, extend the arms to a complete lockout with the elbows facing outwards at all times. 8 sets of 8 reps.

5) Scott Bench Curls - 

This is probably the best exercise for building up the outer head of the biceps, which improves the peak. With the hands wide and the elbows in close, lower the barbell as far as possible before returning toe the starting position. Do 6 full reps with as much weight as you can handle in proper form. 

Then, without resting, step back from the bench and stand erect and do 4 more reps in the following manner: 

Curl the weight up as high as possible with the elbows well back so that the bar barely grazes the chest on the way up. This peak contraction movement is done immediately after every set of Scott Bench Curls (done as described). Do 8 sets of this biceps superset.  

Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday - Lower Body

1) Hip-Belt Calf Raise - 

A unique exercise that really works the calves thoroughly. The foot positions are varied on each set (toes in, out, and straight) to get all sections of the muscle. Rise all the way up and lower all the way down on each rep. This is done for 8 sets of 20 repetitions. The knees are rotated inward in a kind of circular motion on the way up on every rep. 

2) Sissy Squat -

This is probably the most effective exercise known for building and shaping the quadriceps muscles just above the knee. The exercise is done in three parts: 

(a) With the heels elevated, the hips are thrust forward as the body is lowered; return to the starting position and repeat for five reps. Then, without pausing . . .

(b) The second part of the exercise is done from the bottom position of the squat. The hips are thrust upwards until you are in the 3/4 squat position; then lower to the bottom and repeat for five reps. Then, without pausing . . .

(c) The third part of the exercise is a combination of the first two movements. Thrust the hips forward as you lower the body, then go down by lowering the hips until you are in the full squat position; return by thrusting the hips forward while rising to the 3/4 position, then bring the hips back and stand up straight again. Repeat for five reps. This is  total of 15 "reps" on the exercise, done for the usual 8 sets.

 3) Isolated Leg Raise/Squeeze -

Here is a really superb abdominal exercise that must be done with intense concentration. With hands placed under the hips and the back propped up against a wall with the chin resting on the chest, slowly raise the legs as high as possible while trying to squeeze or crunch the abdomen. Exhale as the legs are elevated, inhale as they are lowered. Repeat for 8 sets of 8 reps with just a few seconds pause between sets. This will give your abdominals a terrific workout if done properly.

Well, that's Bill's contest training program. It hardly seems like enough work to get results! But that is its secret. It doesn't overwork you and cause you to lose muscle size like those endless sets and reps that some guys use in training down for a peak. In combination with diet, it burns up subcutaneous fat without reducing muscle size. The result is great definition with more size.

The only regret Bill has is that he didn't get started on Vince's routine sooner.   


Shape Training the Total Leg - Steve Davis (1979)

This Article, from Musclemag International (January 1979)
Courtesy of Liam Tweed

Sure, it's easy for me to talk about training the legs for shape since my mother's calves are an easy 17 inches. With heredity like that it's no wonder my sister Nancy has been a featured performer with many of this country's top ballet companies, including the New York City Ballet Company. 

After years of track, football, and snow skiing my calves measured an easy 18 inches and my thighs 25, without any serious weight-training for those areas. Once I did start training my legs in earnest, my calves hit the 20 inch mark and my thighs 27. So I certainly had no real trouble achieving size, but in my early competition days I was never a consistent "Best Legs" winner. Invariably, my legs had more size and better shape than the other competitors, but I wasn't winning this subdivision. What I needed was actually a reduction in mass and more obvious clarification and muscularity. This realization, that it was quality and not quantity that wins contests, would have saved me the time I wasted training my legs for size at the expense of quality. 

The point of this article is the old cliche: Train for shape, and size will surely follow. 

A smaller but more shapely leg will win out over leg size without quality, and the aesthetic appearance of such a leg needs no defense or explanation, I am certain.  

To begin, let's examine the qualities that make up the ideal leg. The frontal thigh of quadriceps should have the following characteristics:

First, when seen from the front, the width of the upper thigh should be only slightly wider than the area just above the knee.

Second, the inner and outer frontal thigh should have as similar a "sweep" as possible.

Third, the innermost part of the thigh, the sartorius area, should be developed to match the muscularity of the side of the thigh. Usually this area of the thigh is totally neglected, but not so in my routine.

Finally, the frontal and side thigh should exhibit maximum separation.

The leg bicep, or femoral bicep, should balance the frontal thigh, even if you have to stop training the quadriceps while the leg biceps "catch up" to them. Once balance is achieved  between these two areas of the upper thigh, your efforts should be directed towards developing the leg bicep "sweep", which gives the upper thigh that quality look from the side.

There are three main areas of concern when describing the ideal calf:

First, the inner-calf or gastrocnemius should be developed to the maximum. When a high level of development achieved in this area, your calves will take on the "diamond shape" when viewed from the front or rear.

Second, the outer calf must show maximum separation. The outer calf, or soleus, is a muscle you can train directly, but is an area often neglected. By developing the outer calf's separation, your whole leg will look more finished when seen from the side.

Third in my list of requirements is the noticeable development of the tibialis muscle which starts below the knee and sweeps to the side and down the middle of the lower leg. By contrasting the sweep of the tibialis with the mass of the inner-calf you will create the ultimate diamond-shape.

So much for the "ideal." Now let's examine the routine I have designed to create the ideal leg. I suggest you implement this routine for a least a year before gauging its effectiveness.   

A quick note on the "off season" may be of use here. The name itself is a mystery to me, since 99% of the muscle gains you make are during the time when you eat more carbohydrate for added training strength. Obviously, you will sacrifice some muscularity during this time, but it is impossible to maintain maximum definition and training strength at the same time.


It is during the "off-season" that the bodybuilder specializes on his weakest bodypart links. If you can plan one year in advance, and spend the first nine months pounding your weak points, the last three months before peaking can be spent dieting and creating overall muscular balance instead of worrying about weak bodyparts. Doesn't this make sense?

The total leg routine is formulated for the kind of specialization I mentioned above. You may want to perform this routine three times per week the last three months before peaking, in which case you should drop the sets from 5 to 4. However, during the specialization period use it twice weekly.

I recommend you warm up with some abdominal work, but do not train any other body parts on leg days when specializing on them. This will allow for maximum energy on the days you work them, and optimum recuperation time between leg training sessions. You may consider the following routine split:

Monday/Thursday: Chest, Back and Lower Back
Tuesday/Friday: Shoulders, Biceps, Triceps and Forearms
Wednesday/Saturday: Abdominals, Thighs and Calves.

Spend at least two weeks perfecting your form and breath pattern in each exercise, then begin to add weight. Maximum gains are made by using as heavy a weight as you can in strict form, not by cheating with huge, inappropriate exercise poundages. So concentrate on learning how to train before you ever start adding weight. Remember, you are training for quality shape, not random size. Emphasize isolation and purity of movement in your training.

I begin leg days with an abdominal tri-set consisting of Hanging Knee-Ups, Bent-Knee Incline Leg Raises, and Roman Chair Situps. I go through six complete tri-sets with no formal rest between either specific sets or the tri-sets themselves. I use a minimum of 20 reps, and a maximum of 30 reps per exercise. I perform the reps in a smooth, but moderately fast tempo. Also, I exhale as fully as possible as I contract the abs on each rep. This practice enhances the creation of the smallest possible waistline.  

With the completion of my abdominal work, my entire body is warmed up and ready for resistance training.

To avoid unnecessary hip and buttock development I limit my squatting to the Hack style. My first hack squat movement is done on the hack squat machine with my feet in a toes out position. Doing the movement with my feet in this position develops the sweep of the outer thigh. Rather than do regular reps, I do a half-rep followed by a full-rep, which amounts to 1-1/2 reps. Of course, I never extend the thighs to complete extension (lockout) since this practice will reduce continuous tension on the muscle. Instead, I raise up to the two-thirds position on the full rep and the one-half position on the half rep. I do 5 sets of 8 one-and-one-half reps.

My next hack squat movement e with a curved 4 inch block and a pulley. I position my feet 8 inches apart and parallel. I go down to the lowest point and extend upwards to a maximum two-thirds position. I do 15 reps, then without resting I drop the weight 10 pounds and do 15 more, and then again drop 10 pounds and do 15 more reps. That makes 45 consecutive reps. I go through this cycle three times. Doing hack squats with my feet in a parallel position develops the area just above the knee, and balances the inner thigh sweep with that of the outer section.

Leg Extensions are next. This exercise is the best I know to separate the muscles of the frontal thigh. To get the absolute most contraction on each rep, I extend the legs to the full lockout position and then without letting the weight drop back a fraction of an inch I hold this position for two long counts while contracting strongly. Leg extensions should be done slowly and in strictest form. If you use the old style leg extension table, place a 2 x 4 under your legs to improve the leverage. I do 5 sets of 15 reps.

The most direct leg bicep exercise is, of course, the Leg Curl. However, when you train your lower back by doing stiff legged deadlifts and hyperextensions, this area will receive some indirect work. As you do leg curls concentrate on these two points:

One, do not let the bar roll up and down on your leg, keep it in one place.
Two, keep your hips flat on the bench; do not raise your buttocks as you8 contract on each rep.

To finish off the inner thigh, I do Cable Squeezes. This is a fantastic way to bring out the separation of the sartorius muscle. The only requirement is to have access to two "low" opposing pulleys. I slowly squeeze out 5 sets of 30 reps.

For complete calf development, I do both Standing and Seated Calf Raises. In the standing raise I position my feet with the toes apart 12 inches in a "V" position. This stance directly focuses the work on the inner calf. One word of caution applies to any calf raise done in the standing position. You must keep your knees locked in the straight position or the thighs will share some of the work that should be reserved for the calves. Lower your heels to the maximum "down" position, and then with the majority of the pressure on the balls and toes of the feet, press the heels to the highest position and repeat. I do 8 sets of 20 reps.

The Seated Calf Raise is the best exercise available for the development of the soleus or outer calf. The toe position should be between parallel and "pigeon toed" depending on what is comfortable for you. The problem inherent with the standing calf raise obviously does not apply to the Seated Raise (i.e., keeping the legs locked straight), but you must nevertheless seek a maximum stretch and extension with each rep. Again, I do 8 sets of 20 reps.

As a "polisher" to my calf work, I perform 4 sets or Toe Swings. This movement works the tibialis muscle of the lower leg that I mentioned earlier. Stand on a 6 inch calf block, resting the weight of the body on the heels only. Grasp a stationary object for balance as you swing the toes up to the highest position from the floor. I do sets of 50 reps.

Change is necessary if you are to develop the body to is muscular potential. But once you begin to this routine, stay with it it for one full year without any basic alterations, save those I mentioned with regards to pre-contest training for a peak. I have complete faith that in one year's time you will see the kind of improvement in your leg development that may have otherwise taken up to three years.          


Saturday, March 17, 2018

Thigh Tri-Bombing (1964)

Tri-Bomb Your Thighs to Massive Size
From Muscle Builder, March 1964

Command decision! That's what it takes to build the big, powerful legs you desire. It can't be done with half-measures or through "when I feel like it" workouts. The thigh muscles are some of the biggest in the human body; they need a lot of work; they thrive on heavy work; and there is no way to supply that work without draining your energy reserves to a great degree. 

The Tri-Bombing technique I am going to describe works on any body part, but can be especially productive for the thighs. 

What is Tri-Bombing? 

In case you missed last year's August issue that featured an article on Triple Range Training, I shall fill you in quickly. It will not only build bigger, stronger legs, but it will also produce better shape because it attacks them at different points of contraction, and it can help you to reach more fibers in a shorter period of time. 

Your Unused Muscles

If you don't make a rugged demand through exercise on ALL your muscle fibers, the unused sections of a bodypart can lag behind. Remember this: No matter how long, how hard or how often you exercise a muscle group, only those fibers which are stimulated will grow larger. 

As an example . . . you may do the standard Two-Arm Barbell Curl for innumerable sets and reps, until your arms feel as though they are dropping off . . . 

 . . . yet this exercise is so circumscribed in its overall effect that many thousands of muscle fibers in your biceps remain unused, untouched, unexercised! 

Why Your Legs Don't Grow

Your legs fail to acquire their fullest development, just as your arms do, when you limit your exercises to the standard movements done in a never-changing manner which works the muscles in a general, overall way. 

Just doing regular Squats will get a lot of the muscle fibers, that is true . . . but a lot more remain unexercised. When these unused fibers are at last attacked with other exercises from unusual angles, which means working them from different points of contraction . . . then, and only then will they grow to their greatest size, power, and shape. 

How Tri-Bombing Works

Let me now show you how the Tri-Bombing method works in terms of the Squat. Under normal usage, following accepted squatting technique, you load a barbell with a weight heavy enough to permit 10 to 12 reps per set with hard work. You place the weight across your shoulders, and squat until your buttocks are well below parallel position. 

Fine . . . you will have activated many hundreds of thousands of muscle fibers. But though you do set after set you will still be exercising only those initial fibers . . . hundreds of thousands more lie in wait. So far you have exercised the frontal thighs. 

Now the remaining fibers wait . . . 

. . . but to their disappointment nothing happens. 

They didn't even get into the act at all, because the next thing you do is lie prone on a leg curling machine and exercise the legs muscles . . . the backs of the thighs. Then you do several sets of leg extensions which again work the frontal thigh muscles. 

You may have done lots of sets, heavy poundage reps, you may have worked until you almost dropped from exhaustion, but still you will only have a partial leg development to show for your efforts! 

Now, it is not only that you used just standard movements done in the usual ways that failed to engage the unused muscle fibers . . . it is the fact that you can handle just so much weight in these movements. There are many factors that prevent your handling heavier poundages, and as long as you continue to exercise in this anachronistic way you will experience the same difficulties and your muscles will grow only through those fibers that you regularly attack.

Angle Squats

If you do Hack Squats in addition to regular Squats, countless thousands of other thigh muscle fibers are worked . . . and your legs improve considerably. Do the Front Squat, with the bar held at the front of the shoulders instead of across the back, and this angle enables you to engage even more thigh muscle fibers. 

But no matter which form or forms of the Squat you do, you soon reach a limit in the amount of exercising poundage you can handle in each variation, and once again you reach a sticking point in thigh muscle development.

Here is where the Triple Range of Tri-Bombing method comes to your aid. It is designed specifically to help you handle more weight in whatever style squat or squats you choose to do (and you should do a variety of different style squats). 

Partial Movements for All-Muscle Development

How can you increase your barbell poundages? One way is by doing PARTIAL movements of the exercises you seek to perform with heavier weights. Now this doesn't mean doing just Half Squats or Quarter Squats with a much heavier weight. It means that, but a lot more. It means doing even shorter-range Squats . . . even Eighth Range and Sixteenth Range Squats, for essentially that is what they are. 

Perhaps you use such a heavy weight that you can only descend two or three inches. But this is excellent, for you engage muscle fibers with such a heavy weight, fibers that you may have never reached before. 

Remember this: you are also getting your muscles "accustomed" to handling these heavier poundages, and also your mind, for there are mental sticking points as well as physical. 

It may seem to you at present that short-range partial movements are but a drop in the bucket, but consider that many drops fill the pail, and it takes the first drop in the pail before the last one can be put in. 

Here Are Some Tri-Bombing, Triple-Range Squat Examples

Tri-Bombed Regular Squat 

 - Use all the weight you can handle for 10 reps of the Regular Squat. Now load the bar with 20 pounds more and descend in the same Squat as far as you can safely go . . . try to go as near parallel-to-floor position as possible. Use spotters or a safety device, and do 5 or 6 reps here, always returning to the fully erect position. 

Now add another 20 pounds and attempt a Regular Squat just half the distance you did in the previous set. Do 5 or 6 reps, and continue adding weight as you decrease the range of the Squat. Jump in 20 pound increments and always go as low as you can in each progressive set, and always keep an erect back. We are working the thighs here, not the lower back. 

Tri-Bombed Seated Squat

Now since you could obviously not squat with a heavier than limit poundage -- that is, you could not squat as low as you did with your limit exercising poundage -- in this squat you make possible the impossible! 

You begin at the Half Squat position with a barbell loaded again at 20 pounds more than your usual limit. But you sit on a sturdy bench or box to start the movement, the weight held across your back as before, and you attempt to rise just a few inches, to as high as you can . . . do 5 or 6 "rises" and load on another 20 pounds . . . try another few rises to as high as you can with this weight . . . and continue like this until you can't rise at all.

The first set of rises should find you ascending just as far as you descended in the Tri-Bombed Regular Squat. So what has happened? Already you have equalized the poundage up and down . . . you have brought thousands of muscle fibers into play . . . you have begun to strengthen the tendons and ligaments to an incredible degree that will eventually permit you to do the full Regular Squat with poundages you never dreamed you could handle. You have also trained your mind to see that this is possible over time. You will also be forcing new growth into your thighs. 

You can practice this technique with any kind of leg exercise. In Front Squats the overloaded partial movements (both standing and seated) will give you strength to use far heavier poundages in COMPLETE movements and you'll develop new muscularity in the muscles just above the knee. You will also increase your ability to confidently hold great poundages in the clean to shoulders racked position. 

Try this in the Hack Squat as well . . . this Squat variation invariably suffers from a lack of increased exercising poundage. Partial movements will help you to do them with 40 or 50 pounds more weight, thus engaging different muscle fibers and stimulating growth. 

Work it in with your Leg Curls and Leg Extensions. You can work them the same way . . . making partial movements until you gain the strength to do full and complete range movements. Always take care when using this technique with Isolation Movements such as these. 

Here is how I recommend doing a Tri-Bomb style Regular Squat within the power rack:

First, load the bar with an exercising poundage that will permit you to do 8 to 10 reps of the Full Squat, or Parallel Squat, or Half Squat, whichever full movement you prefer to do at this particular workout. Perform one set of these.

Now, load the bar (which should be placed on the top hooks of the rack) with 20 to 30 pounds more than your limit exercising poundage. The bottom catchers should be adjusted in height so that you well go no lower than half the distance you would descend in the Squat you have chosen for this workout. Do 6 to 8 reps with this weight, just touching the bottom pins before quickly rising to the erect position again. 

Add still more weight and adjust the pins so that you can descend only 1/4 of the way before touching them and rising to the erect position. Do 6 reps like this.

Add even more weight and set the pins so that you can descend only about 1/8 of the way before touching and rising, for 6 reps.

Now, adjust the pins much lower so that while seated on a box or bench you can rise about half way to the erect position. 6 more reps.

Keep adjusting the pins, lower and lower so that in the final set you can only rise a few inches with the weight. Each time try for 6 reps. Add a smaller amount of weight as the going gets tougher.

You will find that by attacking your thigh muscles at different points of stress and weakness, you will be strengthening your tendons and ligaments to a point where you can do full range movements with a far heavier weight than you have ever handled, and that your thighs will grow as well as become stronger.

Apply this method to all your thigh exercises at different times . . . first doing a set of full reps and full movement . . . then putting extra weight on the bar and doing half, quarter, eighth, and sixteenth movements.              

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Tailoring Your Program - Bill Starr

Tommy Suggs and I have known each other since we were collegiate lifters in Texas. When he brought me to the York Barbell Company in 1965 to be his assistant editor at Strength & Health magazine, we started training together. It didn’t take Tommy long to figure out that I was an overachiever in the gym. He quickly determined that he didn’t need to do as much work as I did in order to be successful. He made it a rule to do half of what I did.

Which program produced the best results? On paper it appears that I would make the higher lifts, since more work translates to progress. At the end of our lifting careers, however, we’d posted the exact some totals for the three Olympic lifts – 1,035 – and our bests on the press, snatch and clean and jerk were nearly identical as well.

Tommy’s condensed program worked well for him, and he was smart enough not to be lured into a more extensive routine. On the other hand, had I done the abbreviated program that worked so well for him, my strength would have suffered. We simply had different training requirements. We still do, in fact. This basic variation in individual needs is one of the most difficult aspects of strength training for many people, especially beginners, to understand.

Any program that is publishes in a magazine or a book is no more than an outline – a list of suggested exercises – and not a magical formula. The main reason it takes several years to achieve a high level of strength fitness is simply because it takes a great deal of experimenting before you finally come up with a routine that fits.

In addition, we all discover to our dismay that the program that lifted us up to one level may not be nearly as efficient in moving us to a higher one. Needs also change as you get older, although the basic principles of strength training don’t. That’s why you must incorporate them in any program, no matter what changes you’re making.

I’ve repeatedly expressed my belief that the best strength program is one in which you work all the major muscle groups in each session. Older trainees and those who are no longer involved in sports can often use some form of the split routine. My philosophy, however, is based on doing a core movement for the shoulder girdle, back and legs at each workout. That said, it’s time to elaborate a bit on the selection process.

Some people are perfectly satisfied to do the same core exercises year-round. My friend Jerry Hardy has been doing the exact same routine for 20 years. It brings him the results he wants, so he’s never altered it. Most people, though, feel the need to change their routines every so often. They grow tired of doing the same exercises. Plus, they often hit sticking points on certain movements an start to make gains again when they change to others. Using different exercises also lets them hit some neglected muscle groups, and this is a good thing.

The main point to keep in mind if you do decide to change your exercises is to make certain the new movements are as demanding as the ones you were formerly using. In far too many cases people substitute a much easier exercise. Part of the reason for this is that health clubs and spas encourage the practice. They’d much rather hurry their members through a battery of machines than have them do heavy training, which takes a couple of hours. I believe that a fitness facility that promoted strength training would make out extremely well. When done properly, strength work doesn’t take all that long, and it’s my opinion that those who put hard-earned money into memberships are growing tired of being given weenie routines that don’t require them to break a sweat. Get them stronger, and they’ll become so addicted that renewal won’t be a problem.

I watch many people switch from deadlifts and bent-over rows to T-bar rows and lots of sets on the lat machine, and from full squats to leg presses and a circuit on the leg machines. I’m not suggesting that T-bar rows, lat pulls and leg presses aren’t useful, for they are. If you use them in place of more demanding exercises, however, you’re not going to get as strong.

Take a step backward in strength training and you’re suddenly caught in an insidious trap. People say they change exercises because they want more variety, but in truth it’s because they want an easier routine. Unfortunately, any exercise that’s easier is less effective.

On the other hand, it’s perfectly permissible to substitute clean high pulls for deadlifts or snatch high pulls for bent-over rows, for both are very demanding. They’re more dynamic as well, and they do stimulate different muscle groups. You can also do lunges instead of squats on the light day, for lunges are very tough when you work them hard. Or you can do jerks instead of overhead presses for a few workouts

When changing your routine, always maintain the heavy, light and medium concept. That means you substitute a difficult exercise for a difficult one and a less demanding one for another of equal effort. You just want to make sure the substitute exercise is as least as exacting as the one you’re dropping.

Another factor to consider when you alter your routine is workload. The problem usually arises on the light days – not so much because the exercises are too demanding but because the total amount of work performed is too much for the light day requirement. That’s particularly true when trainees are on a four-day-a-week routine and use Tuesday as the day they throw in lots of auxiliary exercises. Over time they add increasingly more light movements, to the point where the total amount of work performed actually exceeds that of the heavy day. The intensity may be lower than it is on the heavy day, but if they continue with the program, progress soon comes to a halt.

There’s a school of thought that it’s better to do only two core exercises on the heavy day and work the third muscle group lightly. The folks who believe this feel that if they squat and pull heavy, they just don’t have enough energy left to fully apply themselves to a hard upper-body exercise. They prefer to come back on Wednesday and do their heavy upper-body workout. I’ve had some trainees who did best when they only worked one core exercise per session: heavy squats on Monday, benches on Wednesday and pull on Friday. Then they filled in with light and medium exercises for the other bodyparts accordingly, always putting the light workout after the heavy one.

I also suggest that trainees have one special routine they use when time is short. I have a great deal of control over my training time, but I still end up using this abbreviated workout, which I call a Bridget Fonda, a couple of times a year. It’s short and sweet – but far from easy. My Bridget Fonda routine consists of squats, power cleans or high pulls and some form of pressing, depending on what equipment is available. I do five sets of each in a circuit, without resting between sets. I can complete the entire workout in 15 minutes if I have to. If I decide to do something extra, I add some beach work and ab exercises.

I use my Bridget Fonda workout when I’m pressed for time and also for my light day when I’m on vacation and not really motivated to spend a lot of time in the gym. It doesn’t really matter what routine you use, but if you don’t have one ready and merely attempt to hurry through your regular program, you’re going to leave the gym in a negative-state. With the Bridget Fonda routine, however, you leave completely happy because you did exactly what you set out to do.

I receive quite a few inquiries concerning the best formula for sets and reps in a strength routine, as well as how to jump weights from the beginning to the final set. Strength training is, in fact, a science, and the recommended sets and reps are based on research. Studies have proven conclusively that four to six sets of four to six reps produces the best results. I always use the mean, five sets of five, because it makes the math so much easier. This is especially true for any coach who works with a large group of athletes.

The above formula applies to the majority of the core exercises but not all of them, which I’ll explain below. Five sets of five is very beneficial for beginners and some intermediates, as it helps to establish a firm strength base. When you use five reps, you work the attachments and also hit the muscle bellies in a balanced manner. Five reps is also a good number for teaching technique. Sometimes when people are learning a new exercise and try to do 10 or 12 reps, their form begins to falter on the last few reps because of fatigue or lack of concentration.

Once trainees move to the intermediate or advanced levels they need to vary their set and rep sequence. For example, they should do some lower reps so they can overload their attachments. If you only do five reps in the bench press and decide to test yourself with a max single, you’re going to be disappointed simply because your attachments aren’t adequately prepared. The lower the reps, the more the tendons and ligaments are involved. Consequently, any successful strength routine will change constantly so that at various times you do fives, threes, twos and singles.

As mentioned above, there are exceptions to the five-sets-of-five-reps guideline for core exercises. The two lower-back movements, good mornings and stiff-legged deadlifts, are best performed for slightly higher reps – eights and 10s. On those exercises I believe it’s better to increase the workload by lifting less weight for more reps. That way you can perform the exercises more correctly, with less stress to an easily injured area. For example, if you can handle 220 for eight on good mornings, you can probably use 250 for five. The extra weight would force you to alter your mechanics to counterbalance it, however, and that changes the nature of the exercise. It also increased the stress potential, as this is a very direct lumbar exercise. Using 315 for eight reps is certainly tough, but it’s not nearly as tough as trying 350 for five. What’s more, you actually lift a greater workload when you use the lighter weights and higher reps.

High-skill movements are also exceptions to the five-sets-of-five rule. You can do the fives on warmup sets for such exercises as power snatches, full cleans, hang cleans, jerks off the rack, front squats, clean and jerks, snatch high pulls and clean high pulls, but once the weight gets heavy, you should lower the reps to triples at the most.

I include front squats in this group, although they’re not really in the same category as the other exercises. I recommend using lower reps for front squats because the rack always starts to slip just a bit after only the first rep. That makes the second and third even harder, and, if the bar is allowed to slip farther and farther, it places a tremendous amount of stress on your wrists. It’s better to do a few extra sets with lower reps so that the bar remains firmly on your front deltoids.

You should also do auxiliary exercises for much higher reps. You perform these at the end of the workout, when your energy is waning, so low reps are not recommended. In this case high reps stimulate the muscle bellies, which is what you're trying to accomplish. I use the 40-rep rule for all the auxiliary exercises, with the exception of calf work, on which I run up the reps even more. Forty reps translates as two sets of 20 or three sets of 15 or 12. The rule applies to all biceps triceps, deltoid, lat and leg exercises, including leg extensions, leg curls and adductor work. For calves I do three sets of 30 because I think you have to abuse your calves if you want them to get stronger.

What about those exercises you perform with bodyweight, like chins, pullups and dips? Basically, I stick with the 40-rep rule. In the beginning stages, though, many can only do five or six chins, so in that case I allow them to cheat a bit. Eventually they’re able to do at least 10 reps in a set, at which point they can satisfy the rule.

What about ab work? I recommend one set of ultra-high reps, doing at least one exercise for the lower abs and another for the upper abs at every session. The hyperextension is another movement you should do for high reps. I’ve observed that trainees who use resistance in the form of a plate held behind their head on this movement start to twist and break form when they get tired. That’s potentially harmful to the lower back, so it’s better to use no weight and run the reps up.

The procedure for selecting the poundages you use on an exercise seems to confuse a great many people. I receive more inquiries on that facet of organizing a program than any other. Perhaps it’s so basic that people believe they’re missing the point by keeping it simple and logical. Here’s a few helpful guidelines.

Always begin with a light poundage. The truism is that you can start too heavy, but you can never start too light. One of the greatest bench pressers I ever trained with always did a few warmup sets with the empty bar.

You should balance the jumps from the first to the final, heavy set as best as you can. The first few sets are warmups to prepare you for that last set. They not only prepare the muscles and attachments physically, but they also let you hone your form and feel the progressively heavier weights. For example, let’s say you’re planning to do 225 on your final set of bench presses. Your sets would look like this: 135, 165, 185, 205 and 225, all for five reps. If you plan on squatting 315, you’d do these jumps: 135, 185, 225, 275 and 315, again for five reps.

Why not use the pyramid approach, I’m often asked, where you start with 10s and go to eights, sixes, fours and then hit your final set for the required number of reps? That technique is not as effective for most people, because it requires too much work before you attempt the final set. The idea is merely to warm up the muscles without tiring them, and that’s best accomplished with five reps. You can do higher reps after the heavy max, but if you do it the other way around, you’re going to adversely affect your last set.  

Some trainees prefer to do the fourth set with a weight that’s fairly close to their final set. The smaller jump to the max feels better to them, and in the above squat example, they’d take 295 on their fourth set rather than 275. Others like to handle a lighter weight on the fourth set and take a big jump to their max, feeling they need to conserve energy for that main effort. They’d take 225 or 265 on the fourth set, then go right to the heaviest poundage. Which works best? Only trial and error can supply you with that answer, because, once again, everybody is different. 

What about warming up for a max single? Start light, the same as you would if you were going to do a heavy set of five or three. Do at least three warmup sets of fives, then go right to singles. Typically, I find it’s best to take the first single with a weight you can triple, then proceed from there. If that attempt was ridiculously easy, take a large jump. If it was hard, take a small one. Some folks thrive on big jumps, swearing they get geared up better that way. Others like to creep up on their personal records with small increases. Both methods can be effective – just as long as you don’t take so many intermediate sets that you tap into your strength reserve before attempting a P.R.

One final work of wisdom. Once you have a program that brings you results, stay with it. 

The very best program in the world is the one that works best for you. 


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