Friday, March 9, 2018

Massive Forearms, Building Tremendous Arm Strength, Training with Arm Wrestlers, and Roscoe

A.K.A: Roscoe and His Backwoods Alabama Arm Power Program
Part ONE

     I told myself, when I first began writing this piece, that I would no longer do any multi-part series on this blog.  The main reason being that I never seem to get around to writing the 2nd or 3rd (or even 4th) parts.  However, this piece was going to be SO long that I had to go back on my original intention.
     I hope you enjoy.

     A few years ago, I took up the last sport I will compete in.  Unless my health improves, I seriously doubt competitive events are in my future, especially the kind that I have competed in over the years.  (Towards the end of this post, I will even tell you about my only—and final—competition in the particular sport concerned with here.)  Barring help from the Triune Absolute, I just don't see full-contact martial arts, bodybuilding, powerlifting, or arm wrestling in my future.
     But enough whining from me.  Here's a little snippet of what I learned about building arm strength and growing the biggest forearms I've ever had from training in arm wrestling with a guy named Roscoe and his motley crew of arm wrestling rednecks.

     When my son Matthew was about to turn 15, he decided, for some reason unbeknownst to me at the time, that he wanted to take up arm wrestling.  He read about a competition that was coming to Alabama in our local newspaper.  He thought it sounded cool, he told me, plus, it would give him something to compete in since he broke his right arm.  (Several months before this, Matthew broke his arm while swinging on a rope swing.  It saddened him like hell since it meant giving up powerlifting and football for a while.  And the strength in his right arm would never be the same afterwards.)  Ever since he broke the arm, he had focused on a lot of one-arm overhead work and curling work with his left arm.
     "I want to test my left arm strength," he informed me.
     What the hell, I thought.  Sounded as if it might be interesting.  In fact, I decided—almost on the spot—that it would also be something I could compete in.  After all, I'd had back and neck surgery which had kept me from getting fully back into powerlifting.  So training the arms really hard, and competing in something that only involves the arms might be good for me.  (I quickly discovered that arm wrestling involves a lot more than the arms.)  One problem, however: I didn't know anything about arm wrestling and training for arm wrestling.  I guess I should have known something.  After all, my Uncle Kirk—who I trained with for many years—was one of the best arm wrestlers in the state of Texas in the early and mid '80s.  But he did all of that before I was 15—the age when I took up lifting—and so he and I had never really discussed it since, when he put down arm wrestling, he took up powerlifting, and it was the sport of powerlifting that united me and my Uncle so closely.
     We needed a plan.
     "Here's what we'll do," I told my son.  "We'll go to this arm wrestling meet, and see if we can find some local guys.  Maybe one or two of them will even need someone to train with."
     He loved the idea, so when the Saturday of the competition rolled around, we headed to Bessemer—the city where it was being held—to see if we could find a local arm wrestler or two.
     And that's where we met Roscoe.
     Roscoe's real name was Rocky.  Which is weird.  Roscoe is a bull of a man, stands about 5'11" with massive, veiny arms, and a beer gut almost as impressive as his forearms from—you guessed it—drinking too many beers.  So you'd think Rocky would've suited him better, but, no, he went by Roscoe and only Roscoe.
     Roscoe wasn't young when we met.  He was 55.   But he was still strong enough that he made it through half a dozen arm wrestlers in his weight class, before finally losing in the semi-finals to a man even brawnier than he that ended up winning the whole damn thing.
     After the competition, he was holding court with—what I would come to discover were—several arm wrestlers from the same county I lived in when I introduced myself and my son.
     After a few niceties and chit-chat, we were invited to train with him in five days time.  "Once this blasted arm of mine heals up," he said, nodding toward his right arm that was wrapped heavily in ice.
     Looking at just how much ice was on his arm, I assumed that he must have pulled a muscle or injured something during the competition.  I would soon discover that arm wrestling would make you more sore than any other physical, anaerobic exercise ever.  But that day I didn't have a clue, so I didn't realize that he really needed that many days for his arm to heal enough that he could train or "spar".
     Matthew left the competition feeling pretty good about the new training we were about to start.  I simply thought it might be interesting after all.  Soon, however, I would discover a whole new world of arm strength, muscle growth, and pain.

     Roscoe was slinging big-ass tires into the bed of an old Chevy truck when Matthew and I pulled onto his gravel driveway after going half-a-mile down a dirt road.
     "You found it easy, boys?" he asked, as we stepped out of my Silverado.
     "Yes, sir," I said, spitting out the wad of Skoal accumulated between my cheek and gums, and then swigging on a Gatorade for hydration.
     "Don't call me sir.  I ain't that much older than you.  Only little punks call me sir, and you and your son don't seem like ones."
     "No problem, Roscoe," I said.  "I apologize for the insult," I added with a grin.
     Matthew didn't say anything.  He was a little intimidated, I think, by what he thought was a crazy old man.  (When you're 15, 55 seems ancient.)  In his mind, a man 55 just shouldn't be this jacked or strong.
     "What're you doing with the tires?" I asked.
     "Part of my training.  Not all the time, mind you.  I mainly just do my two other exercises, but ever so often I get a hankerin' to sling these tires in the back of this old truck.  It's the only use I get out of the truck these days."
    Two exercises? I thought that sounded like very few for building such arm strength as this guy had.  I should have known better, of course, since I used about that few myself over the years, even when competing in powerlifting.  To top it off, I've even written about using only two exercises many times in many articles.  But for some reason, I thought Roscoe would probably do more.
     "No need for y'all to sling these tires today," he added.  "Just do the rest of my regular workout with me."
     We began with fat-grip one-arm dumbbell deadlifts.  Roscoe had one weight, and one weight only, that he used for these: an old, rusty 150 lb thick bar dumbbell.  The dumbbell was really thick—thicker than when you put a pair of "Fat Grips" on a regular dumbbell.
     "At one time, this was the only exercise I'd ever do," he said.
     "How long did you just use this exercise?" I asked.
     Roscoe scratched his head.  "I dunno.  Probably 20 years.  Now, keep in mind, I worked on the ranch that whole time too, workin' cattle and haulin' hay, and a bunch of other crap that probably helped my arm strength."
     Still, that's impressive, I thought to myself.
     He continued, "Also, and this is a big also, remember that I was arm wrestling during that whole time about every two to three weeks."
     That doesn't seem like much, I thought.  I would discover how wrong I was shortly.
     Roscoe probably did 10 to 15 sets that day of one-arm deads for no telling how many reps on each set.  He just repped out each set until he began to tire slightly, never taking any of the sets close to failure.  At least, that's how it looked from my perspective.
     I had trouble managing one rep with his dumbbell, thinking, "damn, I've gotten weak!"
     I finished the rest of my sets—only 4 or 5—with a pair of 100s that he had.  Matthew worked up to the 100s as well.
     "Boy, you are strong," he told Matthew.  My son was proud of the compliment, I think.  And he was strong, considering the fact that he still had one week until he turned 15.
     Once the one-arm deads were complete, Roscoe took (what appeared to be) a leisurely stroll with the pair of 150s.  Just as with the deadlifts, whenever he appeared to get a little tired, he would stop.  After a few minutes, he would resume.  And, as with the deadlifts, he stopped after about a dozen sets.
     And that was the workout.
     I was a little surprised that one of the two exercises wasn't some sort of curling movement.  And I told him as much.
     "I don't think there's any need for curls.  There are plenty of guys in arm wrestling that do them, don't get me wrong.  But you get all the curling you need while arm wrestling.  Besides, the next day after arm wrestling, it's always your forearms, and everywhere around your elbows that are sore.  Not your biceps."
     At this point, let me tell you what I learned after several more weeks of training, and after really getting into the sport for several months: competitive arm wrestlers have the most varied, non-consistent training of any athletes you will ever find.  Period.
     Some arm wrestlers train like Roscoe with a lot of thick-bar work and carrying exercises.  Some train just like the average bodybuilder, with 4 to 5 exercises, performing 4 to 5 sets per exercise with reps in the 8-12 range.  Some just do one exercise at each workout for tons of sets and really low reps.  Some only do strongman-style workouts, lifting odd objects, and dragging a lot of crap.  Some actually do Crossfit-style workouts.  I even met a hell-of-a-arm wrestler who won every competition I saw him compete in, and he did hand-stand push-ups as his only exercise, aside from running and jumping rope.  And, as you may have guessed it, I met several who only arm wrestled in order to prepare for a competition.
     "Y'all want to hit the table?" Roscoe asked.  "Since y'all haven't really arm wrestled before, I can give y'all some tips before Monday, when I got some of the guys coming over."
     In his garage were several arm wrestling tables, custom built the same as the tables used in competition.  He and I dragged one away from the wall it was set against, and set it in the middle of the garage.  "Who's first?" he asked, putting his elbow on the pad of the table, grabbing the table's outside handle with the other hand, and pulling his body tightly against the side of it.
     "Me, I suppose," I said, feeling a little unsure at this point about what I had gotten myself into.  Just a few days earlier I had seen this man slam multiple men in only a couple of seconds—hell, maybe less—from the moment he clasped hands with them.
     But Roscoe wasn't in the least interested in slamming my arm to the table.  He demonstrated body position to me, placement of elbow on the table, and the two main "styles" or "techniques" used in arm wrestling.  He did the same thing with my son.
     After that, we "sparred" Roscoe, and then each other.  After only a few matches with both Roscoe and Matthew, I was already feeling a "burn" and a "pump" and a "tightness" in parts of my arm—particularly around the elbow—that were different from regular workouts.  Matthew and I could also tell that we were going to enjoy this training.  It was fun to test your strength against others.
     "Don't overdo it today," Roscoe said.  "Ain't no telling how damn sore you're gonna be on the 'morrow."
     I thought I might be a little sore, but I was never prepared for the pain when I woke up the following morning.  My arm was sore in a way it had never been before.  And it didn't feel as if it was just the muscle.  You could feel the soreness in the tendons and ligaments.
     When Matthew woke a couple hours after me (it was summer; he was out of school) he couldn't believe how sore he was.  "Daddy, I'm so sore I think it's gonna make me sick."
     I gave him 4 200 mg ibuprofen, which he promptly swallowed along with a pint or so of whole milk.
     About 30 to 45 minutes later, he said the pain was a little better, and that the anti-inflammatory must have helped some.
     "You sure you want to continue doing this?" I asked.
     He grinned what we call in the South a big "shit-eatin'" grin and said, "Oh, yeah.  I love it.  It'll be fun to see how we do against a bunch of other guys."
     "Okay," I replied.  "Sounds good to me."
     I had my doubts as far as just what we were capable of at this point, given the fact that arm wrestling Roscoe was about like arm wrestling an immovable object, but I also thought, along with my son, that it would be an enjoyable pastime, if nothing else.  And, as it turns out, it was pretty damn cool.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

What Makes You Good, Makes You Bad

This may be a bit of an odd post.  It's basically whatever is simply swirling around in my head at the moment.  I will try my best to make sense of it.  Not for me.  It makes sense for me, however abstract it might be.  But for you.

I've often felt that what makes us good, makes us bad, as well.  Let me explain...

A Saint Who Wasn't
When I was accepted into the Orthodox Church (or, as the Orthodox refer to it, the One Holy, Catholic, and Orthodox Church), baptized, and then chrismated, I took Saint Christopher as my patron Saint.  It made sense to me, since my parents had given me the name Christopher (after the very same saint, Christopher the Christ-Bearer).  (They also gave me two other middle names, one of them being Stuart, for those of you who actually give a damn.  Hence, the name C.S.)  But Christopher is not the saint I would have originally chosen.  No, that honor would have gone to Saint David, or the Prophet David, to be precise.  (Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, and forms of Protestantism that venerate saints, the Orthodox Church has always taken prophets of the Old Testament as saints).
The Holy Prophet and Saint David

You see, I always felt an affinity to David for one major reason: what made him good—nay, great—also made him bad.  In fact, it made him very bad.  The kind of bad that even gets one imprisoned in our world.

The Holy Prophet David had a love for the beautiful so strong that it made him write some of the greatest poetry the world has ever known.  He wrote ecstatic love poems to the Divine so beautiful that we still sing and chant them in the Church, as do all other churches.  But that same love for the beautiful (the Beautiful, we might say), caused him to look upon a woman while she bathed (an ecstatically beautiful woman), and not only did he commit adultery with her, but he had her husband killed so that he could have her all for himself.

Yep, what makes us really good makes us really bad,too.

I can relate to that.

On my best days, I'm capable of writing prose pretty damn good—even beautiful, I think, though I might be slightly biased.  And it's my love for the Beautiful that gives me that power.  (In theology speak, the Three Transcendentals—those very things that are God—are the good, the true, and the beautiful.)  But here's the thing: my love for True beauty also causes me to do that very thing that David did—maybe not to the same extreme, but it's still the same thing.  I may be married, but I still look upon a beautiful woman and want her, even if I don't take action upon it.  And when I was single, I often would take action upon it, much to my detriment, and to the other involved.

If you're a man, then I bet you can relate.

What makes you good, makes you bad.

I'm a bit OCD.  I think a lot of us are.  If I can channel my OCD into working out, martial arts, spirituality, writing, work (among other things), then that's fine.  But at times, I've simply channeled it into drugs, women, alcohol, and other vices.  And, trust me, I'm just as capable (maybe more so), into channeling it into the latter rather than the former.

What's All This Got to Do with Lifting?
I've found that almost everything in life has a correlation in lifting, and vice versa.  Lifting simply has many benefits to teach us about life that we won't know about unless we become serious lifters.

The very things that make you good at lifting will also make you bad at it if you're not careful.

Here's an easy example that a lot of you can probably relate to:  Let's say that you're a really good bench presser, a natural at it, then the chances are that you are going to pour a lot of energy into training it well.  But if you do too much of it, then you are going to suck at other lifts.  The overhead press, for instance, will suffer greatly.  Getting strong at overhead lifting will translate well to the bench press.  But the opposite is not true.  Not true at all.

A lot of the shoulder problems that lifters have these days, even serious rotator cuff damage in many cases, is caused from training the bench press while neglecting the overhead press.

What makes you good, makes you bad.  It can even cause serious damage.

And, trust me, this is not just true of younger lifters.  Even those with experience, such as myself, do it, even when I should know better.

Because I've always been naturally strong at lifts involving the back, hips, and legs, then I've trained these a lot—which is not the main problem.  If you haven't already figured it out, or read enough of my articles, then you should know that 3/4 of your training should focus on the back and legs.  But the problem was, because of my natural strength, I always trained heavy, even when I was still recovering from an injury of one type or another, or when I hadn't yet fully recovered from a seriously hard training session.

What made me good, made me bad.

So what's the answer?  After all, there are those out there that we can say of: "What made them good, made them really good."

The answer is to emulate those people as best we can—in life and in lifting—and for us to know ourselves.  Many of those that fail do so because they will simply not admit—once again, in both lifting and life—that they have a side that is bad.

So never forget: what makes you good, makes you bad.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Classic Bodybuilding: Pat Casey's Powerlifting Routine

Pat Casey: King of all Powerlifters

The massive Pat Casey performing shoulder presses.

When I first fell in love with powerlifting - and power training in general - in the mid '90s, I immediately had a few heroes.  Some of the early 19th century strongmen such as George Hackenschmidt, Arthur Saxon, and Louis Cyr were all fascinating to me.  As was my favorite power bodybuilder of all time, Marvin Eder ,and then, of course, there were guys like Bill Kazmaier, Don Reinhoudt, and Bruce Wilhelm.  But, once I discovered him, Pat Casey might have - just might have - been my favorite.

Several different things fascinated me about Casey.  First, was his strength (obviously).  He was ahead of his time when it came to the bench press and the squat.  Second, was his physique.  He looked as if he could - at any time - strip some fat and step onto the bodybuilding stage. And third was his training.  And it was this 3rd thing that I think I loved the most.  A lot of his training influenced my own training at the time, since I was trying my best to find the most innovative, effective, state-of-the-art forms of lifting I could.

What follows are a few snippets from different articles written about Casey back in the '80s - long after he was retired.  If you are a powerlifter - or just interested in increasing your bench press - you should find some interesting stuff here.

First off, here is a typical week of training that Pat would perform:


Bench Press Lockouts: . Singles from 4 inches off chest. 3 singles from 7 inches off chest. After lockouts, 2 sets of regular benches with 405 x 3.
Dumbell Incline: 3 sets of 5 reps warmup. 120 x 10, 200 x 3 sets of 5 reps. Best: 220 x 6 @ 285 bodyweight.
Lying Triceps Extension: 5-6 sets of 3-5 reps.
Chins: 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps.
Curls: 3 sets of 5 reps @ 100 pounds. I feel that I should have done more curling.


Squats: 135 x 5, 22 x 3, 315 x 2, 405 x 2, 585 x 2, 650 x 5 singles, 515 x 10.
Leg Extension: 3 x 20 reps.
Leg Curls: 2 x 12 reps.
Deadlifts from below knee: (working on sticking point) 315 x 5, 405 x2, 515 x 1, 565 x 6 singles.

Wednesday and Thursday

Rest. I worked an 8 hour job during the day.


Bench Press: 135 x 20, 225 x 10, 315 x 5, 405 x 5, 515 x 1, 560/570 x 5 singles, 405 x 10, 315 x 20.
Seated Military Press: I had to turn my head to the side to get the barbell past my face. 135 x 10, 225 x 5, 315 x 3, 400 x 1, 315 x 5, 225 x 8.
Dips: Bodyweight x 3 sets of 5 reps, then 10 sets of 205 x 5 reps.


Lockout Squats: above parallel, squat down and stop on pins. Dead stop. No bounce at the bottom. 135 x 10, 225 x 5, 315 x 3, 405 x 2, 515 x 1. 585 x 1, 650 x 1, 750 x 5 singles, finish with full squat – 405 x 5 with a pause at the bottom. These lockouts were mainly for the feel of handling heavy weight.
Leg Extensions: 3 sets of 20 reps.
Leg Curls: 2 sets of 12 reps.
I would also throw in some bodybuilding movements and neck work.

One interesting thing about Casey was his emphasis on performing dips in his workouts.  Marvin Eder, of course, was a huge fan of dips, and apparently Casey was influenced by Eder.  Here is what Casey had to say about dips when asked in an interview:

Marvin was the reason I did dips. This movement works every part of the body, but most importantly it puts special emphasis on the triceps and deltoids. As I’m sure you are aware, triceps make up 2/3’s of the arm and that explosion off the bottom and continuous follow-through, especially lockout at the end of the bench press comes from triceps strength. The last workout I did on dips was one of my marathon workouts. At a bodyweight of 300 and using a 250 pound dumbell I did 200 repetitions. I started with sets of 5, then 4, gradually descending all the way down to singles. I did this over a 7 hour period of time and I can readily attest to the fact that I was totally thrashed. I felt shot for the next two weeks. But for some reason at that time I felt that they helped. On several other occasions I did over a 100,000 pound workload dipping, working over a period of 8 hours. I might add that while I was in this pre-power phase I truly trained to exhaustion. I really had to drag my butt home. In addition, I would also go on these marathon binges with the press behind neck. In looking back now, it was total insanity. It caused numerous injuries and I stopped this type of training in ’65. I can probably trace many of my shoulder injuries to this type of workout. Looking at the situation today, if I were training heavy now I would cut the sets back to probably 5 or 6 sets. I would still do dips, but no marathon sessions.
Casey performing one of his insane dip workouts.

In an interview with Bruce Wilhelm, here are some tips that Wilhelm garnered from Casey:

1.) Train twice a week, cut the reps and sets back

2.) Get more rest.

3.) On diet, he probably wouldn’t have consumed so much. He did, and still strongly believes in supplementation. When he was training heavy he would drink 6 quarts of mild daily plus ½ dozen eggs with protein. He would also take numerous vitamins.

4.) On wraps and supportive gear: Feels that the equipment today must be extremely helpful. If the bench shirt is only for joint protection, then why don’t the athletes build up their strength through hard work and lockouts and innovative training? It looks like it takes 2 very strong men to just put the bench shirt on the lifter. That seems like a lot of work for a piece of equipment that is only used for protection! The same goes for the squat suit and knee wraps.

Pat may be somewhat envious here as he was never afforded the opportunity to wear such gear. It is beyond my mind to think what poundages he could have handled had he been afforded such opportunities. Also keep in mind that he never used a power belt, only a 4” Olympic lifting belt. I am sure that we could let our minds wander a little, and could really visualize some fantastic lifts. But then again, that is pure speculation and we want to keep away from that.

Bruce Wilhelm: Did you have any innovative or creative ideas?
Pat Casey: Not really, but I have always wondered why if they have a rule on 32” grip on the bench, why they don’t set a limit on foot stance for both the squat and deadlift. Hell, some of the squats, the lifter barely goes down. That is not really a squat. The same goes for the deadlift. I don’t really like the sumo style deadlift either. I don’t see it as much of a lift with that style.

BW: What is your opinion on performance enhancing drugs?
PC: I feel that it is a personal opinion and should be up to the individual. One has to weigh the potential side effects as well as the moral issue. Then there is also the issue of trying to be a role model for young kids. Kids should look up to you for the way you live your life. You want them to know that good things happen to those who work hard. Just remember – easy come, easy go.

BW: What do you think about the lifters of today versus the lifters of 20-30 years ago?
PC: That is a difficult question to answer. The one great thing that holds all lifters together is the pursuit of strength. The means and methods you use to get there vary as well as how you go about it. But most important, it is the quest for strength. It is really a great fraternity, but I feel that some of the lifters today are more self-centered. They have no respect for the past and the history of the sport. They are too self-centered.

Tips for Lifting
Bench Press: As far as performance on the bench, try and get everything into the start. Explode! Bring the weight down in a controlled manner, pause, then blast off the chest. This exploding, Pat felt, would carry you to the sticking point or a little past, and then the triceps would kick in. Position on the bench is also important. Feet tucked back, but not so far as to cause pain or cramping.

Squatting: Set up with the weight as quick as possible. Don’t waste time backing out and moving around. Inhale, descend under control, blast out of the bottom. Think explode. Head back as you fight through the sticking point.

Deadlift: Grab bar, drop hips and explode off the ground pushing with legs, keep arms straight like cables.

BW: I asked Pat about his heavy power rack lockouts. Why and how? What was the purpose?
PC: I needed something to jolt my body once I got past 500 in the bench press. I thought about doing the lockouts from two positions: 4” off the chest and 7” off the chest. The thought being that I would strengthen my tendons and ligaments. Then I could do more volume work in the other exercises without breaking down or getting injured. I was also after the psychological effect of lifting tremendous weights as well as thinking there might be some motor pathway carryover. (i.e. a muscle learning theory whereby the body takes a movement and incorporates it into a similar movement. For example: a partial movement in the bench press would correspond with a full movement. To reinforce such motor pathway transference, a last set would be done with a lighter weight doing the full movement.) When doing this type of rack training I would warm up very thoroughly, then go to doing 5 or so singles in these two positions. I felt that singles were best for building strength, but they also called on your fast twitch muscles to fire. So that was my theory and it worked well for me.

The 2nd exercise I used was the heavy incline dumbell press. I’d do a warmup set and then go straight to a heavy weight for 3 sets of 5 repetitions. The reasoning for this exercise was to attack the chest muscles from a different angle as well as working the deltoid and general shoulder girdle.

The 3rd exercise was dips. This developed tremendous overall body strength, especially when attaching a dumbell and doing reps. It really affected the strength of my triceps, but also worked deltoids and pectorals.

The 4th important exercise was the lying triceps extension. As I said before, I would lean forward and take an Olympic bar with a narrow grip and hook my feet around the bench, then lean back on the bench. I would then do a pullover/triceps extension. I would do 5-6 sets of 3-5 reps. My best was 365 x 3 in this pullover and extension movement. This exercise really strengthened my entire upper body.

The 5th and last exercise for improving my bench was the seated press. I would use a fairly wide grip and would press the weight, having to turn my face to keep from hitting it with the bar. This movement aided me in the bench press enormously.
These exercises plus the lockouts in some form were the key for me improving my bench. Almost all top bench press artists use some of them in improving their lift. These just happened to work for me and so did the sets and reps that I did with them. The great thing about training is that you can use ideas from other and “cut and paste” to get the “right” routine. So good luck in your endeavors to bench more.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Minimalistic Mass, October Q&A

Q&A for the Month of October

I have decided to do something slightly different starting with this month.

Over the last couple of weeks - since I switched over to my new email address - I've received multiple emails.  Not exactly an entire plethora, don't get me wrong, but enough that it's been hard - or, at least, very time consuming - to answer them all.  And, so, I'm afraid that I simply haven't answered some that I otherwise would have - I apologize, right now, if yours is one that I haven't answered as of yet.

Several of the emails, however, while not being exactly the same, are at least in the same ballpark.  Which got me to thinking: Why don't I return to writing a regular Q&A column (something I've attempted in the past).  If this is successful, and if it gets enough views (some of my posts, depending on popularity, get decidedly more views than others), then I will continue to do this sometime around the first of each month.

I've changed each question around from the original(s) to make it more precise, and I've also gotten rid of anything that might have been personal in the original questions.

In the future, if I get specific questions, and the questioners don't mind me using their names or initials, I will include more personal Q&As.

Now, on to this month:

Minimalist Mass
Q: I know that you regularly recommend frequent workouts in order to gain as much muscle as possible in the shortest amount of time, however, I only have enough time to make it to the gym 2X a week.  Can you give me a good workout program for someone with a limited amount of time to train?

A: Yes, I can.

But first things first, make sure that you really can't make it to the gym for frequent workouts.  I have personally known some guys who have complained to me that they don't have time to train, and have asked me to write out programs that require minimal amount of time for training.  (Which I, typically, never mind doing - I love discussing, and writing, about training.)  But when I actually looked at these guys' lifestyles, it was clear that they had the time to train, but they would rather spend that time doings things other  than training (taking naps, snacking while binging on Game of Thrones, hooking up with girls, or other fairly useless things).  Now, I'm not saying you should spend more time in the gym than you do with your family.  Your family, in fact, should be the one thing that takes precedent over training.  But I am saying that you should prioritize training over being lazy.  And you should, for the most part, prioritize it over work.  Too many men and women work too many long hours in this country, when there's often no reason to do so.  Many times, the extra hours are only in order to make even more money, or to climb the corporate ladder.  Chances are, if you're this person, then you have enough money - more won't make you any happier - and getting a promotion will, in all likelihood, just make you unhappy.  Work is important, yes - we all need a good work ethic - but make other things your priorities - namely, God, family, good friends, good food, good beer, and good, frequent training sessions.

With that out of the way, let's get down to the specific question being asked.

If you really can't find the time to train more than twice a week, and you have read my blog for any good period of time, then you probably have some idea the kind of training that I'm going to recommend.

First, make sure that the 2 training days per week are evenly split apart.  You can't train on the weekends, for instance, and just relax Monday through Friday.

Typically, the two most favorite days for the majority of people are either Monday and Thursday, or Monday and Friday.  Personally, I like Sunday and Wednesday.  Training on Sundays always felt good as a way to prepare my mind and body for the coming week.  And Wednesday was always the best for any sort of "mid-week blues" after going a couple of days without training.

Pick a handful of exercises (that means 5 of them) that you will train at each and every session.  This is not the kind of program to use a "full-body split" as I often recommend for high-frequency training.  My personal 5 favorite are squats, deadlifts, power cleans, chins, and bench presses.  If you're one of the few people (such as myself) who have more lower body and back development than you do upper body and arm development, then pick squats, power cleans, bench presses, overhead presses, and barbell curls.  Train each exercise for 5 progressively heavier sets of either 5, 3, or 2 reps.

Follow these guidelines strictly for several weeks, and you may just find that 2-times-a-week is plenty for building a nice combo of mass and strength.

Eating for Strength and Power
Q: You have a lot of recommendations for building strength and power in workouts, but what's your advice on eating when your goal is strength and power?

A: With this question, I am under the assumption that you only are concerned with strength and power, and not gaining muscle mass in addition to the strength.

As you may know, when it comes to strength and power athletes (powerlifters and Olympic lifters), the training is vastly more important than the diet.  Now, this is the opposite if your goal, for instance, was to excel at bodybuilding.  For bodybuilders, diet is 70-80% of the battle.  Without plenty of calories, in the right proportion of macronutrients, you can hang up gaining muscle at a fast rate.

When it comes to strength and power, I advise a lot of protein and fat, while keeping carbohydrates relatively low.  I'm not a hater of carbs - don't get me wrong.  I think carbohydrates are of paramount importance when trying to gain mass, or a combination of both mass and strength, but, when it comes to pure strength, you can't go wrong with a diet heavy in fat and protein.

On a side note, when I was competing in powerlifting, and wanted to get down to the 165 lb class for a meet, I would combine intermittent fasting with a high-fat diet, and I always lost the weight while getting stronger at the same time.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Classic Bodybuilding: Bill Pearl's Shoulder Training Programs

Bill Pearl is, without a doubt, in my top two or three list of "greatest bodybuilders of all time."  In my opinion, he was the first bodybuilder to look truly massive while in competition shape, not to mention massive in all of the photos that you saw in the magazines.

Pearl was before my time.  But maybe that's why I hold him in such high regard.

A lot of the bodybuilders and lifters that guys these days consider to be "old-timers" aren't old-timers to me.  Hell, I'm considered an old-timer by many.

And maybe that's why he's always been so mythic to me.

I can still remember (sometime in the late '80s) thumbing through a stack of old Iron Man magazines that my uncle had kept from the '60s and the '70s.  Many of the bodybuilders I first came across in those pages were impressive, no doubt.  But THEN I came across Bill Pearl.
Bill Pearl as I remember seeing him for the first time
Everything was large on Pearl - his chest, his arms, his thighs, his back, and his shoulders.  In the future, I'll add some articles detailing other bodyparts, as well.  For now, here are some of his recommended shoulder workouts.  NONE of them are for the faint-of-heart, but I have a good feeling that's exactly as it should be.


Follow each program for three days per week for a period of six weeks. The programs below are for individuals who have been training for a period of years. Beginners should do only one set of each exercise on Routine One. After completing the six week period, start Routine Two and do two sets of each exercise. Do not do more than three sets of each exercise until you have been working out for at least a year or more.

Work within your own limit.

Routine One

 1) Military Press  3 x 8-10.
This is the standard military press. Clean the weight to the chest, or take the weight from stands. Lock the legs and hips solidly. This will give you a solid platform from which to push. Keep the elbows in slightly under the bar, press the weight overhead, lock the arms out. When lowering the barbell to the chest, be sure it rests on the chest and is not held with the arms. If the chest is held high it will give a you a nice shelf on which to place the barbell and to push from. Inhale before the press and exhale when lowering the bar.

2) Upright Rowing 3 x 8-10
This is an excellent trapezius and deltoid exercise. Place hands on the barbell at roughly shoulder width. Keep the body erect and stationary and pull the weight to the top position at or above nipple height. Keep the barbell in close and pause momentarily at the top. Concentrate as you slowly lower the bar to starting position. Inhale up and exhale down.

3) Seated Dumbbell Press  3 x 8-10
Clean dumbbells to shoulders and sit on bench, placing one foot slightly ahead of the other to form a stable base. With the palms facing each other press the bells to arms' length overhead. Be sure to completely straighten the arms. Inhale before pressing overhead, exhale when lowering back to the shoulders.

4) Bentover Deltoid Raise 3 x 8
Lock the elbows and keep the arms straight. Bring the dumbbells to the top position and hold and contract the muscles. Do not swing the dumbbells up, keep the body rigid and strongly work the muscles of the deltoids and upper back. Be sure to bring the dumbbells straight out to the sides, inhaling up and exhaling down.

Routine Two

1) Standing Press Behind Neck 4 x 8-10
Stand with feet placed a comfortable distance apart. Use quite a wide grip, wider than shoulder width on the bar. Keep the elbows directly under the bar. Press the barbell overhead to lockout. Inhale as you press overhead and exhale as you lower to your shoulders. Maintain a solid foundation by keeping the legs straight and the hips flexed. Pause at the shoulder before pressing the barbell overhead. Make a full movement of the exercise by touching the barbell to the shoulders each time it is lowered and locking the elbows each time it is pressed overhead.

2) Bentover Barbell Row 4 x 8
Use a wide grip on the bar and a wide foot spacing. you can bend the knees or keep the legs straight. The important thing is to bend forward at the waist and maintain a straight back. Keep the arms straight, pull he barbell up to the chest and make a definite pause. Lower the bar back to arms' length. Be sure to work the muscle both ways when pulling up and letting the weight down. Do your repetitions slowly and smoothly. Do not drop the shoulders or round the back. Inhale on the upward pull to the chest. By keeping the waist drawn in and the chest out, it will be easier to touch your chest with the bar and maintain a flat back position. Exhale when lowering the bar back to arms' length.

3) Seated Alternate Dumbbell Press 3 x 8
Clean dumbbells and sit down. Start with bells at shoulders. Press dumbbell in right hand to arms' length overhead, keeping dumbbell in left hand at the shoulder. Lower right dumbbell back to shoulder and press right dumbbell overhead. Maintain a rigid body position doing all the work with the shoulder and arm. Do not lean from side to side while pressing. Inhale up, exhale down.

4) Barbell Forward Raise 3 x 8-10
Use a shoulder width grip on barbell and stand with it at arms' length. Rest bar on thighs. Keeping elbows locked and arms straight, raise barbell over head. Slowly lower bar back to thighs, keeping arms straight. Inhale at starting position and exhale as bar is returned from overhead.

Routine Three

1) Wide Grip Upright Row 3 x 6-8
This is a more difficult type of upright rowing exercise. The deltoids are worked more and much concentration is required to perform it correctly. Start with the barbell at arms' length, resting on the thighs, but with a wider than shoulder-width hand spacing. Pull barbell up to a position at or above the nipples. Pause while contracting strongly, then lower to starting position. Inhale up, exhale down. 

2) Seated Press Behind Neck 4 x 6-8
This is performed as the regular standing press behind neck, only in a seated position. Rest the bar on your shoulders between each rep and set yourself for the press.

3) Crucifix 3 x 6-8
To handle a substantial poundage, stand in a solid position and press two dumbbells to arms' length overhead. Slowly lower them with straight arms and locked elbows to the sides at shoulder height. Attempt to hold arms in position for a count of 5 to 10. The purpose of the crucifix is to use the deltoids as a support and this places a stress of a different nature upon the muscles. Inhale while pressing the dumbbells overhead and exhale as they are lowered.

4) Seated Alternate Dumbbell Raise 3 x 8
Sit with dumbbells held at arms' length at sides. With dumbbell in left hand in down position, raise dumbbell in right hand to arm's length overhead. Lower right arm to position hanging straight at side, raise the left arm. Inhale upward and exhale when lowering dumbbell.

5) Incline One Arm Lateral Raise 2 x 8-10

Routine Four

1) One Arm Military Press 3 x 5-8
Using a dumbbell when pressing can allow you to get a lower position and fuller range of movement. Clean the bell to the shoulder. Keep the heels together and extend other arm for balance. Keep the body straight, press dumbbell to arm's length overhead. Work should be done entirely with shoulder and arm. Inhale and press overhead, exhale as you lower it to shoulder.

2) Incline One Arm Lateral Raise 3 x 8-10

3) Seated Military Press 4 x 5-8
This exercise is done exactly as standing military press, only in a sitting position, and in a stricter fashion. First, clean the barbell to the shoulders, sit down, and place the feet in evenly. Do not stagger the position of the feet in this exercise. Keep the chest high and back straight and press the barbell to arms' length overhead. Do the press slowly and steadily, keeping tension on the muscles at all times, except when barbell is resting on chest. Breathe the same as the regular military press.

4) Alternate Standing Dumbbell Raise 3 x 8
Assume a solid stance with a dumbbell in each hand. Inhale and raise the right arm overhead and to the front, keeping arm straight. Exhale as you lower the bell back to starting position. Raise left arm, keeping position stationary. Do not lean forward or backwards. Do the work with deltoid muscle and work each arm, one repetition at a time.

5) Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raise 3 x 8
Sit erect with arms extended by the sides. Raise them to just above shoulder height. The angle of the raise should be between the position of the regular lateral raise and the forward raise. Inhale before raising the bells, exhale as they are lowered under control.

Routine Five

1) Seated Press in Front and Behind Neck 4 x 8
This is one of the very best shoulder exercises. It must be done properly to obtain the full results. First, clean a barbell to your shoulders and sit down on a bench. Press to arms' length. Lower barbell to behind neck to the shoulders. Do not relax or rest at the shoulder, press the bar back to arms' length, lower it to the chest and repeat again. Keep the bar in motion throughout the exercise. This is a compound exercise and four presses to front and four to back are performed. Inhale up, exhale down. 

2) Standing Lateral Raise 4 x 8
In a comfortable stance, start with dumbbells at arms' length, palms facing in toward the thighs. Slowly raise dumbbells to a position a little above shoulder height, pause and contract the deltoid, then lower back to starting position. Keep the arms straight and elbows locked throughout the execution of this exercise. Inhale when raising, exhale when lowering.

3) One Arm Rowing 4 x 8
Use a bench, placing one hand on the bench for support and spreading the feet wide. This will give you balance. Keep the back straight and extend the arm fully. Next, pull the dumbbell to the chest, keeping the elbow pointed outwards which will allow you to pull the bell higher and work the latissimus more fully. The dumbbell is pulled in a straight line. There is no rotating motion. Inhale on the upward pull and exhale when extending the arm to a straight position. 

4) Bent Arm Lateral Raise 3 x 6-8
This is a standing version of the seated dumbbell lateral raise, exercise number 5 in routine 4.

5) Incline One Arm Lateral Raise 2 x 8-10

Monday, September 11, 2017

New Email

Once again - as usual, it seems - it has been too long since I last posted here, but why I had a moment, I wanted to give a brief update:

If you are trying to email me at my old email address - - please don't!

Please direct all your questions, comments, or info you may have for me at

I love getting email, and answering questions, or reading how I may have inspired or made a difference in your lifting lives.  I will no longer be able to receive email at my old address, so make sure you send all of your stuff to my new one.

Keep the email coming!

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...