Sunday, July 16, 2017

Building Impressive Strength in the Older Athlete, Part One





Dr. Kevin Fast is a 54-year old priest who once pulled a plane weighing 188 tons—a then world-record.

There are several different methods, workout programs, and tricks of the trade you can use to build an impressive amount of strength.  Most of them I've written about here on my blog, so it's not that hard to find a good method or program to use.  When you factor in not just this blog, but the rest of the good blogs and sites that are available these days, well, you have a plethora of methods at your disposal.

Maybe too many.

The problem is not in finding the right program, but in finding the right program for you.

The gist of this article is going to be about methods of strength training for the older athlete—along with an example program—but the methods employed could also be used for the younger athlete, as well, especially one who develops strength well on lower-volume programs (this would typically be larger athletes) or one who has a 9-to-5 job that is especially strenuous and physical (such as construction worker).  But I think the majority of younger guys and gals would do better on a more voluminous routine composed of much more frequent workouts.  If you are in your 20s, in good health, and basically sit on your ass most of the day, then you would be better off with Sheiko-style workouts, Bulgarian-style methods, or one of the "workout-every-damn-day" methods that I have written about extensively at Integral Strength.  It's not that that this program wouldn't work for the younger athlete—it most certainly would—but the fact would remain that it wouldn't produce results as quickly as volume-oriented, daily training programs.  Some of those programs produce such quick results that it shocks the lifter who uses them for the first time, and the lifter, in many cases, is incredibly surprised at the strength produced, especially if all that lifter has done—up until that point—are Western-style programs, and if the lifter has drank the Kool-Aid of American bodybuilding that still often claims—for no good reason other than ignorance—that the best results are obtained with low-volume, infrequent training.

Having said the above, let me emphasize this: the methods I recommend in this article are not the only methods that can be used for the older strength athlete.  This is just one of a few.  Now, keep in mind that, if you're an older athlete, you don't have the option of a multitudinous amount of programs at your disposal, but you do have the option of a few very good ones.  This one just being one of those.  In future posts, I'll give you what I think are the other two great ways for building strength in the older lifter.  Keep in mind, too, that this is for the older lifter who still wants to strength train.  If you are interested in bodybuilding or just looking good, then there are still several more good programs at your disposal.

The Art of Building Strength

Any good program available will always properly manipulate the three key variables of any program: volume, frequency, and intensity. When it comes to building impressive amounts of muscle, or a combination of impressive amounts of muscle with a boatload of strength to boot, then, typically, the program does well by always keeping the frequency high, and then properly manipulating the other two variables to suit its goals.

If strength, and only strength, is your goal, then the most important variable is intensity, with the other two manipulated properly depending on the style of program that is being used.  To put it another way, the workout itself is what matters when your only goal is strength, not the volume or frequency of the workouts.  It's not that muscle won't grow with these style of workouts, but when hypertrophy occurs, its simply a side effect, not a bi-product of the methods employed.

As a matter of fact, in the past, if I ever trained a lifter who had trouble staying in a weight class because he gained muscle too easily (yes, this is a problem for some lifters, believe it or not, all of you self-proclaimed "hardgainers"), then I would have him do a very high-intensity workout, with low to mid-volume and low-frequency.  (For those of you who haven't figured it out at this point or who haven't read my past articles/posts, "intensity" here refers to the amount of weight lifted not how "hard" the workout is, so in no way does "high intensity" refer to "momentary muscular failure" or some other absurd Mentzerian nonsense that I pretty much abhor, mine and Jared Smith's recent "Cemetery Circuit Training" aside.)

For the sake of this particular program, we are going to employ high-intensity workouts combined with low-frequency and a volume methodology that will oscillate.  (And for those of you familiar with both my early writing in the mid '90s—when I wrote tons for Iron Man magazine and MuscleMag International—and with my more recent ideas over the last couple of years, you may—or may not—find it a breath of fresh air that I still recommend, when the situation dictates it, low-frequency programs.)

The Methods of Low-Frequency Strength-Building

First things first: these are the methods of building strength that this program employs.  These are not the only methods for building impressive amounts of strength.  Do not see what I am writing here as contradicting other methods I have recommended.  The situation, and the lifter himself, dictates the methods employed.

in Part Two of this series, we'll pick up right where Part One leaves off, with some specific methods, followed by an example program to begin putting the methods into practice...

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Death and Iron

It's been almost six months since my last post.  Three months ago, if I am honest, I didn't think I would be sitting here now, typing these words.

I thought I would be dead.

I am not going to get into all of the details - not yet, anyway.  I will save all of that for another post, when I am feeling more of a combination of elegiac and poetic, and when I think I'm ready to write about my declining health, and how it has affected my life in ways - often, amazingly - better, but bitter, as well, than I imagined such declining health could.  

But my health has caused some real problems.  Until only a few weeks ago, I haven't been able to write, and I haven't been able to do the one thing I almost love more than anything else I do on this green Earth of God's: lift weights.

But I am writing again.

And I am lifting again.

Hopefully my health will continue to improve even more, which means even more writing and more lifting.  Often, the more I lift, the more I write.  Or maybe it's the other way around.  I don't really know.  But I know that somehow the two are intrinsically intertwined with one another.  It doesn't even matter if I'm not writing about "lifting matters" at the time - the two are still interconnected.
My son Garrett, taken a few month's back.

Last night - while my eldest son Matthew was at the local gym "priming" and "pumping" his chest and arm muscles with a cascade of cacophonously glittering machines - Garrett, my youngest son, and I decided to do nothing but an old-fashioned "grease-the-groove" deadlift routine in our dungeonous garage gym.  It was hot as hell - to use a much cliched term - outside, and one of the overhead lights went out in the garage when we stepped outside, casting an eerie glow over the whole bar-bending event, as we quickly broke into high-humidity-induced sweats.

Iron Maiden serenaded us in the background as the deadlift bar clanged more times than I could count.  Occasionally, the dog next door howled over the proceeds, whether it was from the iron, or the "new wave of British heavy metal" screaming through the speakers, or simply mine and my son's presence, I don't know.

The bottom line: it was good to be alive.  And it was good to be lifting weights.

And it is good to write once more.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Cemetery Circuit Training

C.S.'s Note: The following is a training program that Jared Smith and I have had in the works for some time.  It's Jared's brainchild.  He came to me with an article that outlined the program.  I made a few tweaks here-and-there, added some notes on classic bodybuilders, and what you are reading here is the end result.

In honor and promotion of our new program, the template here at Integral Strength has changed—as you may have noticed—to a more ghoulish and ghastly image.

If you have any questions or comments regarding the program, please post them in the "comments" section instead of emailing me.  That way, Jared can reply as well.

And just why are we calling this program "Cemetery Circuit Training"?  Read on, discover, and (hopefully) enjoy!


Cemetery Circuit Training
Pump-Inducing, Hellish Training for Muscle Building Heaven!
C.S. Sloan and Jared Smith

     Most of us who have attempted to build muscle for a significant length of time can attest to the fact that muscles often respond to a variety of methods. There will come a time when simply adding weight to the bar will not work.  There are also times when increasing volume is an awesome, kick-ass way to get your muscles to start growing again.  And, there will inevitably come a time when you realize that one cannot spend every-waking-moment in the gym. The point is that nothing will make you grow forever, no matter how efficient or scientifically sound you think the workout regimen might be. With that in mind, the following is an 8-week program designed to shock you into new growth if you have stalled or have simply become bored with what you’re currently doing.
     First, however, we’ll have to walk you through the various methods behind the madness!
King TUT
     Before you get the bright idea that we’re going to rant about ancient Egyptian rulers, allow us to explain. (First, and foremost, we just thought that “King Tut” sounded awesomely cool!)  To understand how this program works, you must first understand the mechanisms we will be “tapping into” that make this program effective. The first of these is muscular damage.  You will be using a 6-count negative and positive in some sets of this program. This portion— especially the negative phase—is where the vast majority of muscular damage is caused. The increased time under tension will cause the muscle damage essential for making gains. The small micro tears in the muscle will have to be repaired so that the muscle can grow back thicker and stronger. This portion of the workout will also burn and it will like the fires of hell. This painful feeling needs to be embraced if you intend to push past any plateau you have reached and/or you just want to induce maximum hypertrophy. Because, when it comes to hypertrophy, time under tension is king!
The Nile Runs Red
     Blood volume is also a huge contributor to growth. Nutrients and oxygen are carried to the muscles via blood. The more blood one can force into the muscle, the more volumized the cells will become, which in turn will cause hypertrophy. As a matter of fact, cell swelling is more correlated with growth than muscular damage.  Here, we have in mind old-time bodybuilders such as Sergio Oliva, Reg Park, John Grimek, or Serge Nubret (the list could go on-and-on).  They understood the importance of pumping—or flushing a muscle, as it was often called back then.  They knew that a muscle that pumped up easily was more likely to grow than one that didn’t.  It was nothing for bodybuilders of the ‘50s and ‘60s to do 30 sets of bench presses or barbell curls—whatever it took to get their muscles swollen like balloons.  In our Cemetery Circuit Training, we want to induce just such a mind-blowing pump, only we’re going to achieve it with far less sets.  (In fact, this workout program might even make the likes of Mike Mentzer proud—we envision him smiling down at us from his Ayn Rand/H.I.T. training heaven!  [C.S.’s note: I always like to imagine that God has reserved a special place in hell for Ayn Rand and followers of her “objectionist” ilk, and perhaps Mentzer, tormented by real philosophers such as Plato, Plotinus, Aristotle, and Epictetus there in that little corner of Hades, can find some measure of amusement and relief by this article.  But one can only dream.])
     While doing this type of training, it is important to stay hydrated and keep nutrients flowing to the muscles during your workouts. When you are utilizing a blood-volume style of training, your intra-workout nutrition is extremely important. When at rest, there is very little blood in skeletal muscle, but the amount is increased tremendously during training. So if your blood is saturated with nutrients, you will shuttle them directly to where they need to go. While training, consume some simple carbs, as they will get into your system quickly, and—if possible—utilize creatine and BCAAs. This combo will make certain that you will expand your cells and saturate them—priming them for the pump.   
     There are other theories associated with blood volume training such as hyperplasia or cell splitting—the forming of multiple muscle cells from a single cell.  Another thought on blood volume work is that it will fill the muscle with blood to the extent that the fascia—the connective tissue that keeps the muscle fibers in bundles—will be stretched, allowing for expansion and growth of the muscle.
     You may wonder why we are pointing out theory rather than fact. The reason is that if you look at the evidence, you begin to realize that it is a real possibility. German Volume Training—Charles Polliquin’s ten-set-per-bodypart program that he first popularized 20 years ago in the old Muscle Media 2000 magazine—is an example—brief rest, lots of volume, and plenty of time under tension. Training programs such as Hany Rambod’s FST-7 is another example of the validity of such programs. Could it simply be the added volume? Sure. However, one cannot look past the fact that there are plenty of people who do the same amount of work but do not achieve the same fullness and density to the muscles than those bodybuilders who focus on engorging the muscle with blood.
The Training Dark Ages
     The next eight weeks will be miserable, yet you will feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment upon completion of the workouts. Keep a workout log to track progress.  Odds are, the first couple of sessions will leave you gassed if you haven’t been using such a system, and you may not be able to finish the last required reps.  When you are able to complete all reps for all sets, then increase the weight.  Although strength is not the cornerstone of this program, nor is it the goal, knowing that you have surpassed your previous performance will let you know that you are on the right track to growth! This is not the dark ages, so write it down and keep up with the progress you make.
Number of the Beast
     For the first set of all exercises, perform them with a “normal” cadence—a controlled negative, followed by a fairly “explosive” positive portion of the rep. The next set will be done with a 6 second negative, followed by a 6 second pause, then ending with a 6 second positive. Put it all together and you have the devilish scheme of 666—Iron Maiden would be so proud! These workouts will be done in giant set fashion—or circuits, if you will, hence the title of the program. That means no rest between movements, and ponderous amounts of lactic acid, which will lead to maximizing hypertrophy gains. You will rest for 3 minutes between each of these hellish giant sets!
The Cemetery Circuit Training Program
Brace yourself!
Weeks 1 through 3
Day 1
Squats: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Bench presses: 1x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Deadlifts: 1x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Standing Military Presses:  1x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Chins: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Dips: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Note: If you are unable to complete designated number of reps for dips and chins, simply cheat on the positive phase and do negatives until you can no longer control the negative phase of these movements.
Day 2: Off
Day 3
Bulgarian Split Squats: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Dumbbell Bench Presses: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Stiff Leg Deadlifts: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Skull Crushers: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Barbell Curls: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
 Day 4: Off
Day 5:  Repeat Day 1
Day 6: Off
Day 7: Off 
Weeks 4 through 8
Day 1: Chest/Back
Bench Presses: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Dumbbell Flies: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Dips: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
One Arm Dumbbell Rows: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Chins: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme (If unable to complete all reps, cheat your way up on the positive and do negatives until you lose control or have a negative that lasts less than 3 seconds.)
Deadlifts: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
 Day 2: Off
Day 3: Legs
Squat: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Bulgarian Split Squats: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Stiff-legged Deadlifts: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
 Day 4: Off
Day 5: Shoulders and Arms
Standing Barbell Shoulder presses: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Dumbbell Lateral Raises: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Barbell or Dumbbell Curls: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Reverse Curls: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Dumbbell Skull Crushers: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Dips: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Day 6: Off
Day 7: Off
     After week 5, increase the circuits to 3 at each workout for weeks 6 and 7.  On week 8, perform a total of 4 circuits!  After week 8, take a week off from training, rest, recover, and grow bigger than ever!  At this point, you can switch over to an entirely different program, or have another go at one more 8-week training cycle.

     This program might feel like hell on earth, but we are positive that your results will feel as if hypertrophy manna has rained down upon you from the bodybuilding gods!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

2016 Year in Review

It has been far too long since I last posted something here at Integral Strength.  For those of you who have enjoyed reading my blog over the years, please forgive my dereliction.  Hopefully, starting with this post—and God willing—things in 2017 will be different.

I usually don't make this blog too much of a "personal" thing.  At least, not to the degree that you see on many blogs.  But, I thought, "what the hell", maybe I can make more "journal" entries at IS, ones that are reflective of not just my physical growth—as in strength and muscular development—but ones that also reflective my personal growth: mental, emotional, spiritual.  Not just body, but mind and spirit (or even Spirit, if you will).

Don't worry, I have not stopped training, or even writing, since my last post, though both have been more haphazard than I would like them to be.

Writing first: I have been fairly hard at work on a memoir-esque book dealing with my life as an Orthodox Christian over the past 5 to 6 years, and, more specifically, my spiritual life as it has been influenced by Orthodox saints.  The tentative subtitle of the book would be something along the lines of "Living with the Orthodox Saints," or "My Life with the Orthodox Saints".  The Saints of Orthodoxy are a bit different than what you tend to find in the saints of the West.  They are ones defined more by a spiritual "interiority"—a life lived in the "cave of the heart", one of humility, asceticism (some of the asceticism is of an heroic extreme), and spiritual warfare.  This kind of ascetic spirituality produces a different kind of "person" than what you often find in western religion.

For me, personally, my Eastern Orthodox spirituality has allowed me to get through some of my struggles of 2016, struggles that have largely been physical, but have also allowed emotional pains to enter in because of the physical pains.  My writing has become a sort of spiritual therapy too, as I learn myself—not just teach—about the Orthodox saints.  And, trust me, the saints of the Eastern Church have a lot to teach modern western man, who has become more and more susceptible to psychological, emotion, mental, and spiritual ills than at any time in the west's past.

Training: Because of my physical health, my training has been more limited than it has been in any year before 2016.  Further down in this post, I will give you my current training "split", along with my plans moving forward.  (As a note, this will also include quite a few posts in 2017 dealing with "Training After 40—And Beyond!" sort of entries.)

I have trained significantly less in 2016 than in any other year that I can remember.  Yes, I did have the year—about a decade ago—when I had surgery for several herniated disks.  Although that year prevented me from training for almost six months straight, I trained consistently for the six months afterwards, and I was able to get back to hard, frequent, regular training—even if the training wasn't always as heavy as before—for many years after.

Year in Review

The BAD Stuff First

2016 started in one of the worst ways I could have ever imagined.  My beloved priest—Father Demetrius Edwards of Saint Gregory's Orthodox Church in Tuscaloosa, Al—passed away (or "fell asleep in the Lord" as we say in Orthodoxy) at the very beginning of the year.  I loved him like a father.  In fact, he was a father to me.  He was my spiritual father, and had become equally as dear to me as my earthly father.
Father Demetrius marrying me and my wife Tara


Starting in 2015, and even some in 2014, I had quite a few physical pains.  Severe joint and back pain, primarily, but also lethargy that increased as the months of 2016 progressed.  Father Demetrius was always there for me during these times, guiding me spiritually as my health declined.  With his death, I felt lost and bereft of the guidance I had trusted since becoming Orthodox in 2011.

For the first quarter of 2016, my health continued to get worse.  Extreme lethargy, combined with some extreme back, stomach, and chest pain.  Toward the summer, I got a little better once I had surgery to remove my gallbladder.  Apparently, it was so inflamed that it should have been removed at a considerable time prior to the surgery.  It was infected, which also caused me issues before and after the surgery.

I was hoping that the surgery would make things better.  And, yes, it did, in that it eliminated much of my pain.  But I knew that things were not "right", so to speak, with my health.  As the year went on, I developed more and more lethargy.  Some days, I could hardly get out of bed.  When I did, I would be exhausted with the simple act of showering, brushing my teeth, or putting on my clothes.  It affected my work—I have never been one to miss days of work in my "regular" job as an Industrial Engineer.  I have always valued a good, strong work ethic.  But there were days that I could hardly function, and would have to miss a day or two of work at a time, or I would often have to go into work late once my lethargy subsided.  On weeks where I did work my regular 8, 10, or 12 hour shifts, I was so exhausted when I returned home that it made training or writing damn-near impossible.

I am not going to lament my pain at length in these pages—I won't no sympathy, only prayers for those of you who believe (or know) that there is a Power That Knows the Way.  I will only say this: as it turns out, I have a severe neurological disorder that attacks my central nervous system, and this affects both my brain and my muscles, to greater or lesser degrees on certain days.  Some days, I feel perfectly fine, as if I could train for hours at a time, whether in martial arts, or when lifting weights.  Other days, simply moving my body is more laborious than a two-hour-long training session.

Now the GOOD Stuff

There is always a "silver lining", as they say.  My health has allowed me to enter into a deeper prayer life.  One that is marked by a deep, abiding sense of serene joy and peace.  My pain has been a gift, as simple as that.

My health has also allowed me to focus on training others during this time, particularly my sons and some of their training partners.  As I have always said on this blog, you won't learn much about training if you have only ever trained yourself.  This is the reason some of the largest, strongest, most muscular guys in the gym suck at training others.  What works for themselves, won't necessarily work for others.  Especially those not as genetically gifted.
My son Garrett doing a set of dumbbell curls

My son Matthew demonstrates his arm development after a biceps session

It's safe to say that my son Matthew is one of the biggest, most well-developed 17-year old bodybuilders you will ever see.  My son, Garrett, is not far behind him.  Garrett is not near as big, but he is "ripped" and "shredded".  He is also on his high school's track team, which is one of the most elite in the state, and runs one hell of a 100-meter dash.
Garrett's impressive back development can be seen during a set of barbell curls


Looking Forward

In posts to come, I will have several entries dealing with both of my sons' training styles.  Matthew is pure, old-school bodybuilder—get as massive as humanly possible, while also having the strength to boot.  Garrett is all about building the most strength and power as can be built, while maintaining a lean, good-looking physique.

Matthew will get back to writing some posts, on occasion, while I will write others dealing with his training.

Jared Smith—long-term contributor here—has had some life transitions which have limited his training, and his writing, but he has recently told me that he has some stuff in the works, and he would send me plenty of new material soon.  In addition—and this might be one of the most exciting things here at IS—Jared and I have co-written an article outlining a new, unique form of training we have developed that is specifically for building muscle.  It will be first in an on-going series between the two of us.  I think it will be both instructional, and entertaining.

My writing for 2017 will focus on four areas: old-school bodybuilding and power training (per the usual), training for the over-40 crowd, journal entries that outline my life as it pertains to diet, exercise, and spiritual practices, and, lastly, some posts that are pure integral philosophy.

2017 is going to be one for both erudite learning and bad-ass training here at Integral Strength!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Soul of the Lifter

To truly be a lifter, lifting must get into your bones, it must live in the marrow of your being, and it must enter into the depths of your soul.

I think it's safe to say that Doyle Kennedy was a real lifter.

Lifting is an art—and it's this way with any artist.  One can paint without being an artist, but that doesn't make the man a painter.  One can write without being an artist, but that doesn't make the man a writer.  One can practice religion without being an artist, but that doesn't make one a religious.  And so it is with lifting.  One can always lift without being an artist—many do that very thing—but those who do so will never truly be lifters.

At one time, I practiced bodybuilding.  I enjoyed it to no ends—I still do when it's good.  I enjoyed the love, perhaps even the art, of "chasing the pump."  At the time, I would have even called myself a bodybuilder.  But then, it happened.  I discovered lifting, real lifting, and I realized what I had been all along, and just never truly knew it.  I was a lifter.  I am a lifter.

Last month, I was writing about some of the health issues that have kept me away from lifting for far too long.  After I wrote a couple of entries, it got even worse: I had to have my gallbladder removed a couple of days after the last entry here.  Finally, two days ago, I was able to resume normal training.  It didn't even take a single set—hell it didn't even take a single rep of a single set.  I gripped the bar, felt the knurl upon callouses that are still there—diminished but there—and in that single instant the lifter in me returned.  Not that it had every really truly gone anywhere.  Possibly it had laid dormant, but never truly gone.  For, when it lives in your soul, it can never be extinguished.  You can avoid it, you can pretend it's not there, or that somehow it never truly existed in the first place, but the soul of a man never lies.

A few weeks ago, I was giving a presentation at a conference that in some ways consisted of the role of Eastern Orthodox spirituality within the larger Christian spiritual framework.  After my talk, a participant asked me when I "converted" to the Orthodox faith.  I don't know if she really understood my answer, but I told her that I didn't convert to the Orthodox Church.  I walked into a Temple one Sunday morning for the Divine Liturgy—inhaled the thick incense, witnessed the gold and blue of the ever-present iconography, listened to the Russian chants from a language I had never heard, yet, somehow, had never not known—and knew that I was Orthodox.  That moment only made me aware of what my soul had always yearned and hungered for—its home.

When I lace on my belt, when I chalk my hand for a big pull, when I squeeze my shoulders into the bench for a heavy set of max bench presses, it is the same thing.  My soul knows its home.  I have the soul of a lifter because I was never not one.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Building Massive Forearms


Plus a Bonus "WOD" to Boot

     When I was younger, and first starting in bodybuilding—I'm afraid I often refer to, and think of, the '90s as the "good ol' days" here on the blog—I read quite a few articles on building muscular, large forearms.  They were often accompanied by pictures of some of the '90s bodybuilding superstars with the best forearm development—Lee Priest comes to mind.  These articles often featured workout routines for the forearm muscles that were similar to workout programs for other muscles.  In other words, they were programs with multiple sets of multiple reps, featuring multiple exercises.  Sure, the authors of these articles didn't recommend as much work for forearms as they did chest, back, legs, or arms,  accepting the adage that the forearms got plenty of work from a lot of back and biceps training, but, on the whole, the programs were pretty much the same.
     The kind of programs I am remembering are ones where you would do 2 to 4 sets of reverse curls, followed by 2 to 4 sets of barbell wrist curls, followed perhaps by 1 or 2 "burnout" sets of cable wrist curls—you know, just for the "pump."
     In case you had any doubts in your mind (despite my love for '90s bodybuilding), no, I decidedly do not think these are good programs for building massive—not to mention strong and powerful—forearms.
     I developed my forearms through one thing and one thing only—years and years of heavy deadlifts of various sorts, not to mention other heavy "pulling" movements.  It worked, but it took a long time, so I think there is a better, quicker way to massive forearms, but not a way that looks anything like those '90s training articles.  (One must keep in mind that my forearm development was simply a side-effect of my strength training.  I wanted a strong grip, but I could have cared less what my forearms actually looked like.)
C.S. Sloan's current forearm development, despite minimal training due to health issues.
     The quickest way to massive forearms in my book are core pulling and carrying lifts—deadlifts, chins, farmer's walks, etc.—using thick-handled bars.  The forearms get a great workout, but it also carries over to the strength and development of your back, legs, and arms to boot.  (By the way, purchase a pair of "Fat Gripz" so that you don't have to actually purchase numerous thick bars.  They are an awesome piece of training equipment for such a low price.)
     And now for your bonus "workout-of-the-day", so to speak, but please keep in mind that I think the idea of just doing a "WOD" as its currently used in some strength "training" communities is downright stupid.  Unless you are a more "seasoned" (I don't want to use the word "old") lifter such as myself, then there is no way you can just randomly do whatever-the-hell it is you choose to do and ever expect to get great results.  With that being said, here goes:
     This is a workout I performed just 2 days ago.  It is a good example of the sort of workout I have in mind for building massive forearms.  

  • Conventional deadlifts (with a "regular" Olympic bar): 10 sets of 5 reps.  For these, use a relatively "light" weight—let's say 70% of your max, roughly—and move as fast as possible between sets while still not turning it into cardio.
  • Thick-bar chins: 5 sets of 3-5 reps
  • Thick-bar one-arm dumbbell deadlifts (note: I love these): 4-5 sets of 6-8 reps.  These will work you very hard.  A weight you can typically get 20 reps with will probably be difficult at the 6-8 rep range.  (For my workout, I actually alternated these with knuckle push-ups on concrete to improve the strength and power of my fists, but I'm not recommended that here.)
  • Thick-bar farmer's walk: 3 sets to distance (pick your poison) using the same weight as the one-arm dumbbell deadlifts.
     I finished this workout with 10 minutes hitting the heavy bag, and another 20 minutes of steady martial arts work, followed by a few sets of sprints with minimal rest between sets (the doctor told me to get more conventional cardio, and this is as "conventional" as I ever plan to get).  There is no need for you to do that if you try this workout.  Word of caution strongly needed: If you haven't performed some thick-bar work before this, be very careful about just "jumping in", otherwise, your forearms will be very sore the following days after the workout.
     Until next time, stay strong and lift something heavy!


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Martial Arts and Bodybuilding: Can the Two Co-Exist?

Can One Be Both a Martial Artist and a Bodybuilder?

     Both of my sons have recently taken more of an interest in martial arts—or, perhaps, I should say, just "fighting" in general.  My oldest son, Matthew, who writes regularly enough here, has gotten pretty serious about his martial arts training, with plenty of bag work, sparring, and conditioning, with a fairly high workload to boot.  (If you are going to take anything serious, then your work load should be high, by the way.  As in the above caption from the great Masutatsu Oyama—one must "train more than one sleeps".  That is Mas Oyama in the picture.)
     Yesterday, as we were finishing a sparring session, he remarked, "I just don't think I can do it."  And he seemed rather frustrated when he said it.
     "What can't you do?" I asked.  I generally don't like comments that are in the "negative" from my offspring.
     "I can't train in both martial arts and bodybuilding," he replied.  "It's just too much work."  I knew he was tired and exhausted.  His punches and kicks lacked their usual "snap" during training.
     Before our sparring and bag-work, Matthew had finished a hard "pull" session of back and biceps training, performing a more traditional bodybuilding workout comprised of 16 to 20 sets for both biceps and back.  This, of course, was one of the reasons his movements while sparring and hitting the heavy bag lacked "snap."  He had performed a lot of work not just yesterday, but throughout the past few weeks, not cutting down on his bodybuilding training, while also adding a lot of bag work, while practicing the basics for an hour or more each day.  His solution to all of this added work was to dramatically increase his caloric intake.
     "I ate over 7,000 calories yesterday," he said.  "And I've eaten a good 5,000 so far today, but I'm still tired.  I just don't think it can be done."
     And so the question is put forth: Can one be both a serious bodybuilder and a serious martial artist (whether traditional Karate-Do or more non-traditional fighter such as an MMA practitioner)?
     In short, the answer is NO!  I'm not saying you can't take one of them seriously while dabbling in the other, but what I am saying is that the amount of weight workouts it takes to be a really good bodybuilder, with the kind of physique one could compete with, cannot be combined with the amount of training it takes to be a great fighter.  Sure, there are some genetic anomalies, but for 99.9% of the lifting population, it just wouldn't work.  And this is coming from me, a trainer who often recommends, well, a crap-load of work for advanced guys.  I even let my son get away with hour-long workouts six to seven days each week, and he thrives on those workouts from a muscle-building perspective, and he's the one that also says it can't be done!
     Now, all of this is not to say that a martial artist shouldn't also do a lot of weight workouts.  He or she most definitely should.  But those workouts are going to be quite different from the kind of bodybuilding sessions my son is currently engaged in.  In fact, one could be a great powerlifter while being a great fighter.  The powerlifting and martial arts training actually compliment one another, and the amount of work it takes for many lifters to be a great powerlifter is in stark contrast to the amount of work it takes to be a great bodybuilder.
     Strongman training would also be an excellent choice of "training-style" for the fighter.  Once again, the strongman workouts would greatly compliment the sort of strength a martial artist needs in order to dominate in kumite or MMA matches.
     Honestly, most of the training I write about here at Integral Strength is also perfectly fine for the martial artist, not that I wouldn't make minor adjustments if I was working with an individual, depending on the style of martial arts the practitioner was performing.
When this picture was taken, C.S. was also routinely squatting and deadlifting around 600 lbs—the martial arts obviously didn't "hurt" his powerlifting regimen, which was his primary focus at the time.

     Personally, for the average lifter who is also interested in martial arts, 3 to 4 tough weight workouts each week, combined with 3 to 5 days of martial arts training—some days more intense than others—would be a perfect fit.
     In future posts, look for some serious "warrior workouts" that are just what I have in mind.