Monday, January 24, 2011

Jack Lalanne: Strength and Endurance


One of my all-time heroes, Jack Lalanne, died yesterday.

I'm not sure if—as popular as he was—Lalanne ever got his just due. Modern "fitness" experts (and I use that term rather loosely considering a lot of the current crop of "experts") couldn't hold a candle to old Jack. If you don't believe me, then ponder this: What current "expert" could do a 1,000 push-ups and a 1,000 pull-ups in just over one hour? The answer: not one. But Lalanne could.

He's due more respect among bodybuilders, as well. (And if you don't believe that, just look at the picture above.) His physique in the '40s was as good as anyone (though, admittedly, not as large as others.)

In honor of him, I thought I would post the article below. It's from 1949, but it's words ring as true now as they did back then. (Maybe even more true, considering the fact that so few lifters want to work hard these days.)

Strength and Endurance
by Jack Lalanne


The question of strength versus endurance is a question asked of me hundreds of times. Some fellows will train for just strength, others train strictly for endurance. It is impossible to develop maximum strength AND endurance. If you are trained for strength alone, your endurance will suffer. If your objective is weight lifting alone, your interest in developing a lot of endurance may be negligible, but on the other hand, if you are interested in attaining close to a perfect body developed for efficiency’s sake, you will be surely be interested in strength PLUS endurance.

Our bodies are called upon to perform numerous tasks and duties. Some require strength, some endurance. Therefore, the sensible thing for the average trainer to do is to hit upon a happy medium and strive to develop both.

You might say, “Why develop all this endurance, I’m not a distance runner or swimmer?” No, you might not be, but do you realize the tremendous amount of energy it takes to work eight hours on your job, then train several nights a week? If you haven’t the proper endurance, your job and your training will be very unpleasant tasks. For example, we’ll say your job requires 100 units of energy and you have 150 units of energy in your body. At the end of the day you haven’t much reserve left for your workouts or even the ordinary pursuit of life. The greatest complaint of Americans is, “I’m always tired.” Sure they’re tired. They have no reserve to fall back on. If you have only 150 units of energy in your body, why not build the 150 units to 300, 400 or even 500 by the correct exercise and diet? If you develop this endurance your job will be much easier than before, and at the day’s end instead of feeling depleted you will have an adequate reserve from which to draw when you are training or enjoying yourself in other ways. The whole idea may be summer up thusly: If you have a heavy load to haul that requires 75 horsepower to move, and your truck has only 80 horsepower your motor hasn’t much reserve and the strain on it would be enormous. Wouldn’t it be better to get a 150 horsepower motor with which to pull the load? There would be far less strain on the engine and it would work more efficiently and last longer. That body of yours is exactly like the truck engine. If you put too much stress on your body it will wear out quicker and function less efficiently. It would be wise to develop this strength and endurance to the utmost so the things we like and want to do will place no great strain on us. Then we can finish a full day’s work and still have a reservoir of energy stored away ready to use.

Strength and endurance can be developed. Anyone beginner can double the strength and endurance he possesses. The only thing it takes is proper guidance and persistence.

Another thing I would like to dwell on for a moment is the effect age has on one’s endurance. It has been my observation that, among my own students, the older fellows develop more endurance than do the younger ones. By older fellows I mean men in their 40’s or early 50’s. This holds especially true in the fields of marathon running and swimming. The winner of the Boston A.A.U. 26-mile marathon this year was a man in his forties, and the greatest distance swimmer in the world today is Frenchman in his 50’s.

The reason more of the older fellows haven’t strength and endurance is due to the fact that they never make use of them. Inactivity plays no part in the development of either. The more you use the body properly, the better it becomes. If you put demands on your body what happens? All the internal organs are stimulated, the heart is called on to pump more blood through the body, the lungs are called on to rid the body of waste products and to furnish it with plenty of fresh oxygen to work with, all the other organs and glands are called upon to do their part in the functions of the body, the elimination is sped up to take care of the increased manufacture of poisons and waste, your assimilation becomes more efficient, in fact you become so efficient that all of the nourishment in your food is utilized to a fuller extent. The harder you work the stronger you get and the more endurance you develop.

Remember this: It is extremely hard for a healthy, well-trained person can overwork his body! The ability to handle more work than you ever imagined was possible can be attained.

Now you want to know how to develop all of this strength and endurance. First, you have to lay out a program for yourself. Developing strength and endurance together takes a lot of self-discipline. When you think you are tired you can always do more. In fact, you’ll be surprised at how much you are capable of doing after you think you have reached your limit. To start a program for yourself, though, you have to start out quite gradually.

Keep doing your regular training, but instead of resting say, 3 minutes between sets, rest only 2½ minutes. Do this for a couple of workouts, then, for a couple more rest only 2 minutes between sets. Reduce the rest periods by 15 seconds each week until you are doing 1 set every minute including rest. In other words, you will be doing 10 sets in 10 minutes.

You may have to drop some of your poundages slightly at first, but the whole idea behind this is to be able to use heavy weights and not rest much. You will no doubt say, “I can’t lift decent weights unless I rest more.” We are strictly creatures of habit and adaptation. Why not get into the habit of shorter rests during workouts? You will be amazed to see, with hard work and persistence, how fast you can work and how much weight you can handle after a couple of months of training this way. Some of the numerous advantages of this approach are listed below:

1.) Keeping the blood in strong circulation.
2.) Building up nerve force.
3.) Accomplishing more work less time.
4.) If you are planning to, or already do participate in a sport, your condition will improve immensely.
5.) The quality of strength and musculature will be much better.
6.) The stimulation you get from a fast workout is far greater than from a prolonged one.

After you have mastered doing a hard set a minute, try doing a set, resting 10 seconds, then doing the next set. A program this intense should not be followed for more than three consecutive weeks. After the three weeks train for a week with lighter weights, longer rests and fewer total sets. Then return to the more intense work for another three weeks.

Everything we do is judged to be difficult or easy by comparison with some other movement or exercise we perform. For example, if you are lifting 100 pounds, but you are capable of lifting 200 pounds in the same exercise, the 100 pound weight will never seem really seem easy until you have lifted the 200 pound one. If, after lifting the 200 pound weight, you again try the 100 pounder, it will seem ridiculously easy. This applies to everything we do, including the length of time we choose to rest between sets. Always make new and harder demands on the body and the results will be most gratifying.

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