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.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Return from Exile...

...Enter Phase 3 of Integral Strength

     It has been too long since last I published an entry here at Integral Strength—the end of February to be precise.  Before that, I think things were rolling along.  I always tried to publish quality material, not just from myself, but from my son, and from Jared "JD" Smith.  And I think the last year has seen some of the best material since I first started this blog—primarily as an outlet for my writings that many of the magazines wouldn't touch—perhaps some of the most informative training articles you will find anywhere on the internet.
     But something happened to me a few days after our last entry, at the beginning of March: I was rushed to the emergency room.  I had lost all control of my arms, my legs, and my ability to speak. As I was being transported to the hospital in the ambulance, I thought I was going to lose consciousness.  And I thought, if I did, then my life had come to its end.
     I was prepared to die.
     I have regrets, sure, but my life is not my own.   It belongs to the God beyond all being and knowing—He may do with me as He pleases, and if He chose for that day to be my last, then so be it.
     But apparently He has other plans.
     Slowly, at the emergency room, I began to regain feeling in my extremities, and my ability to speak.
     I left the emergency room about 10 hours later.  The doctors were confounded as to what had happened to me, but they were pretty sure that I wasn't about to die in the next 24 hours.

     My E.R. visit was not a complete shock to me at the time.  What you don't know is that, over the last year or two, I have had many episodes of extreme pain, severe lethargy, and severe spasms in my arms and legs.  It has made lifting weights difficult at times, not to mention even basic things, such as getting ready for work in the morning, or doing my work once I arrive at my office.  It has affected my life and my family.
     The good news is that, after my E.R. scare, I was sent to a neurologist (I was sent to every damn sort of doctor you can imagine, to be honest, but that's besides this point) who has deduced that I have some sort of severe neurological disorder.  They are continuing to do tests.
     In the meantime, they have finally put me on a neurological drug that works — it has almost completely changed my life the past week.  I have been lifting weights harder this week than in the last two years.  I have also been training my sons hard in The Way of the Empty Hand—traditional full-contact Karate-Do, to be precise.  In the weeks before this week, I could instruct, but I could not truly teach (and by "teach", I mean whooping their asses in kumite).
     All of this is not to whine or "bitch and moan" about my health recently, it is simply to tell you that Integral Strength is ready to get back on its feet, and, hopefully, better than ever!

     I vision what you are about to witness is what I would call "Phase 3" of Integral Strength.  "Phase 1" included all of the stuff I wrote when I first started the blog.  There was plenty of good training pieces at the time, but I also wrote stuff dealing with more "New-Agey" or Buddhist stuff (not all of which is "bad", I might add, especially the more training-centric pieces).  "Phase 2" was after I had taken almost a year off from writing, and had converted to Orthodox Christianity in the meantime.  When I returned to writing, Phase 2 focused on some traditional philosophical writings, but it also focused on primarily serious, hardcore strength-training and bodybuilding.
     "Phase 3" will continue the work of "Phase 2", but with even more "hardcore" training pieces, geared toward the powerlifter, strongman athlete, the older strength athlete who still wants to move some serious iron, and just the average weight lifter who takes what he or she does seriously.  In addition to the serious training, the other pieces will be ones focused on real martial arts training—traditional full-contact karate-do for the most part.  Also, I will consider writing philosophical pieces that deal directly with power training or budo.

I hope you will enjoy what's coming.  Look for the next piece within a few days.  Until then, train hard, and stay strong.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Two-Barbell "Plus" Program

High-Frequency Training for Muscle and Strength with the Two-Barbell "Plus" Program

Matthew Sloan demonstrates more lean muscle built with HFT

     This is part of my on-going series on how to build muscle and strength fast by using low-rep, multi-set, high-frequency training.  If you haven't read my other, recent posts on the subject, you may want to do so before continuing with this article.  If not, then this article certainly stands on its own two feet.

The Two-Barbell "Plus" Program
     This program begins with its starting point something that I have, in the past, called the "two-barbell rule".  (Others, such as Dan John, have certainly written about it as well.)  The two-barbell "rule" says this: at the start of any workout, begin with two barbell exercises before proceeding to anything else.  I recommend using it in conjunction with my "Big 5" rules.  In summary, even though I have discussed this a lot lately, the Big 5 rules go something like this:
  1. At each workout, squat something heavy.
  2. At each workout, press something heavy overhead.
  3. At each workout, pick up heavy stuff off the ground—barbells, dumbbells, sandbags, kegs, you name it.
  4. At each workout, drag or carry stuff for time or distance.  This generally means farmer's walks, sandbag carries, sled dragging, or the like.
  5. Eat a lot of calorie-laden, nutrient-dense food each and every day.
     If you were to combine the two-barbell rule with the Big 5 rule, a couple of workouts might look something like this:

Workout A: barbell squats, power snatches, dumbbell overhead presses, and sandbag carries

Workout B: power cleans, deadlifts, one-arm dumbbell snatches, farmer's walks

     Of course, a couple of workouts in a row would look the same way even using a "3 to 5" style program as discussed in my previous HFT post.  The key with the "two-barbell workout" is this: at each workout, the beginning two barbell exercises are going to be performed for multiple sets of each exercise.  After they are performed, feel free to stop the workout with these two exercises, or add another one, two, or (at the most) three exercises.  But the third exercise (onward) would all be performed with minimal sets.
     This program is great for those of you who like to spend more time in a workout doing more quality sets per exercise, and those of you who generally like to do one or two exercises in a workout anyway.  I, for instance, personally favor this kind of program.  Especially if I'm trying to focus on getting really strong on just one or two exercises.  (All of you powerlifters out there, or, especially, you push-pull lifters, this would mean you.)  This is also the kind of workout that would generally be favored by Olympic weightlifters, who need a LOT of work on back squats, front squats, and the two Olympic lifts themselves.
     Keep the first two exercises at an average of 8 sets each if you decided to utilize this program.  Take your time in working up in weight to a top set, or a top sequence of sets.
     Here is what I have in mind for an example workout:

1. Squats: 5 sets of 5 reps (adding weight with each subsequent set), followed by 3 sets of 3 reps with a weight slightly heavier than the top 5-rep set.
2. Power Cleans: 5 sets of 3 reps (adding weight with each set), followed by 3 sets of 2 reps, with a weight slightly heavier than the top 3-rep set.

     At this point, you could certainly stop the workout, or feel free to add an exercise or two at the end of it.  Any additional exercises performed would only be done so for a couple sets of each exercise, with rep ranges in the 6 to 8 range.  None of these sets should be taken to failure, but they should be close, within a rep or two of reaching momentary muscular failure.
     Train as many days in a row as you want before taking a day off.  As with most HFT programs, you want to train a minimum of 5 days each week.  If you don't mind being spontaneous in your training, then just take the day off whenever you feel as if you need it, or just whenever "life" gets in the way of things.  If you prefer a more regimented training schedule, then I recommend beginning with a 3-on, 1-off system, and just adjust things from there.  (It could be a 4-on, 1-off is better for some people, whereas others—low-volume lifters, as I refer to them—would benefit more from a 2-on, 1-off schedule, but the 3 day program is a good starting point for most.)
     Here is an example of 3 days of workouts to give you an idea of what a series of workouts should look like:

Day One: 
1. Squats: 8 sets of 5 to 3 reps
2. Power Cleans: 8 sets of 3 to 2 reps
3. Chins: 2 sets taken almost to failure, using bodyweight
4. Dips: 2 sets of 6 to 8 reps

Day Two:
1. Deadlifts: 8 sets of 3 to 2 reps
2. Bench Presses: 8 sets of 5 to 3 reps
3. Farmer's Walks: 2 sets for distance

Day Three:
1. Squats: 8 sets of 5 to 3 reps
2. Push Presses: 8 sets of 5 to 3 reps
3. One-Arm Dumbbell Rows: 2 sets of 6 to 8 reps

     Your strength level would depend on just how high you push your first two-barbell exercises in terms of sets.  For those of you who are really strong, you may need 12 or more sets before you are finished.
     Also, advanced lifters may want to eventually do some "back-off" work with this kind of program. If, for instance, you work up to a max triple on an exercise, and that takes you 11 sets, then you might finish off with 5 sets of 5 reps, or 2 sets of 8 reps—something such as this.  But save this for when you have the strength to make it worthwhile.  Otherwise, it will just cut into your recovery ability.

In the next HFT post, we will look at a program that uses multiple exercises (6 or greater) per workout.  Until then, come back to Integral Strength often for other, different articles, and don't forget: train hard first, eat big second, and read a lot of articles here third!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Big 3

Manipulating the Three Primary Training Variables for Awesome Results and Quick Muscle Mass Gains

by Matthew Sloan

C.S.'s note: While editing this short article of my son's, I resisted the urge to make a few changes.  I will let Matthew's thoughts speak for themselves, and, in the future, he and I will both write a more in-depth article—or a series of articles—on styles of workouts that "work" when the 3 variables are properly manipulated.

Matthew Sloan demonstrates the lean muscle mass he has developed while practicing what he preaches.

     Anyone who is serious about getting real results from training(whether it’s strength or muscle gains), should be following an effective training program.  (As my father has often written—quoting the late, great Vince Gironda: "Are you on a training program, or are you just working out?") There are countless programs out there, and they are all different in their own unique ways, but they all have one thing in common if they are to be effective. All effective training programs manipulate the three main training variables for specific purposes. These three variables would be Volume(the amount of work), Frequency( how often a lift or muscle group is being trained), and Intensity( how much weight is being lifted). All of these variables are important, and should be manipulated, depending on the results one wishes to achieve. So here are some advantages, disadvantages, and differences in each one, and how to correctly implement these three variables for optimal results.
      Let's talk volume first. High volume training is often used by bodybuilders and especially the “pros”. You often see guys in the gym training on a “bro split”( a program in which you train one body part a day, once a week). Guys will come in on Monday, better known as “national chest day”, and completely annihilate their chest by doing anywhere from 20-30 sets. Unfortunately, for natural lifters (especially beginners) this type of training is very ineffective due to the inability to recover, resulting in a very low frequency of training (training a body part or lift once a week). As the great Lee Haney once said, “Stimulate, don't annihilate”.  Inability to recover quick enough is the main disadvantage to high volume training, but what if you could recover quickly from a lot of volume? That question brings us to the effectiveness of high-volume training. High-volume training is very useful—and effective—for those who have high work-capacity or good genetics. Not all of us will have “good genetics” but all of us can increase our work capacity, allowing us to progressively increase the volume of our workouts. This is the key to the variable of volume, it is simply just a “weapon in your arsenal” to progressively overload your muscles. Progressively increase your volume over a span of time, give your body time to recover, remember to stimulate a muscle and not always annihilate it, and you will have the variable of volume mastered.
     The next main training variable is frequency. Frequency goes hand in hand with volume because when one of them is high, the other is usually low. You rarely see a program training high frequency, high volume, and low intensity. Using a high frequency training program is what I personally believe to be the most effective way for most people to train. It is very effective because of one key reason: muscle protein synthesis. Whenever a muscle is stimulated, protein muscle synthesis is “started” and lasts for 48-72 hours. This is very important because muscle simply grows during this process, so wouldn't it be beneficial if your muscles were undergoing muscle protein synthesis all the time? This is possible if you are training a muscle 3-4 times a week, in other words: high-frequency training! It is simply better to stimulate the muscle more frequently rather than “annihilating” a muscle less frequently. 
     The intensity variable is the most difficult variable to master, in my opinion. It is difficult because there is only one way in which you can ensure that you are using the correct amount of weight your program calls for based off of your set/rep scheme. This is by using a percentage-based program (this system uses percentages of your max lifts to determine the amount of weight that should be used).  (C.S.'s note: I generally loathe percentage-based systems—for more on reasons why, search some of my past articles that deal with H-L-M training, or Westside-style workouts.)  This system is effective, but very complicated, and unless you're an advanced lifter, your max lifts can change often (I will do an article purely dedicated to percentage-based training in the future). So what would a high-intensity training program look like? Something such as this: 10 sets of 3 reps with 85-90% of your max, or it could be something such as a double-ramp style of training with the set/rep scheme like this: 2sx5r,3sx4r,4sx3r,5sx2r. Although this style of training is used by almost all powerlifters and strength athletes—predominately in Eastern European countries—it can also be used by bodybuilders if programmed correctly. (My father has multiple articles on Integral Strength about this type of training for bodybuilding.) The primary advantage to correct manipulation of the intensity variable is it allows you to easily overload your muscles. Simply increasing weight used on your lifts every 1-2 workouts is a simple and effective way to progressively overload your muscles. Monitor your intensity and manipulate it in accordance with your volume and frequency, and you will continue to grow and make “all kinds of gains”!

Monday, February 15, 2016

It Came From the '90s: Brooks D. Kubik's Dinosaur Training

Build Massive Arm Size and Strength with this Singles-Oriented Dinosaur Program

The great Bill Pearl demonstrates just the kind of mass that is built with classic, basic "Dinosaur-style" training.

     It really doesn't seem that long ago.  The '90s, though seemingly in a distant past for many younger lifters these days, seems as if it was just yesterday for me.
     In the late '80s, early '90s, I got serious about weight training, and I spent the first seven years of the decade, or so, performing bodybuilding workouts.
     I was a bodybuilding addict.  I tried almost every form of bodybuilding training under the sun, while also attempting a hell of a lot of different diets and supplements.  (Supplements, for the most part, didn't get "advanced" until the early '00s—when creatine came on the scene mid '90s, it was absolutely revelatory, and it relegated all other supplements to sub-par status.)  (Some of those other forms of training and dieting, I've already mentioned in other "It Came from the '90s" posts, so please pilfer through this blog if you're interested in them.)
     But in the late '90s—1997, to be precise—it all shifted for me.  I began training at a hole-in-the-wall, hardcore, chalk-slinging "lifters" gym in backwoods Mississippi, where my wife and I had just moved due to her job relocation.  (I made most of my money at the time from training others, and from writing, so it mattered not where, geographically, I lived.)  At this new gym, I had no intention of ever doing anything other than bodybuilding, but the gods of power-building, powerlifting, Olympic lifting, and strongman training saw my Fate as something other than that—and from seemingly nowhere was bestowed upon me the desire—and, soon, the knowledge—to move some seriously heavy iron, with physique aesthetics soon a distant memory.
     The gym had very little other than heavy barbells and dumbbells (it had a pair of 180-pound "homemade" dumbbells that I was dead-set on benching for at least a triple), paired with more than a few lifting platforms and heavy-duty squat racks.
     The lifting gods were kind in their quick grace—a veteran lifter handed me a copy of Brooks D. Kubik's "Dinosaur Training: The Lost Secrets of Strength and Development", published just a year before in 1996, and a binder full of "Westside Barbell" articles photocopied from magazines, and printed off the internet.  (The internet was in its infancy.  I didn't even have access to the internet at the time, and, in a few months, when I finally did, everything was slow as hell—it was all "dial-up.")
     I hardly ever looked back.  Although I "played around" with bodybuilding training off-and-on, and continued to write some bodybuilding articles, I have, more or less, been a serious strength trainer ever since.  I competed in multiple powerlifting meets for the next 10 years or so, and published more articles than ever before due to my "innovative" strength articles, which were really nothing more than re-hashed stuff from old-time lifters, bodybuilders, power-builders, and strongmen.

Enter the Dinosaur
     As the years went by, I achieved the most results by using "hybrid" Westside workouts, and, eventually, Russian-style programs that I found to be hands-down the best for elite, and advanced, lifters.
     But for the first two or three years, until around 1999, I built all of my base strength and power with programs decidedly similar to, and inspired by, those found within the pages of "Dinosaur Training."  This training is the best "style" for the vast majority of beginning and intermediate lifters.  In fact, if you're not going to use Bill Starr's basic programs, then you can't go wrong using one of Kubik's basic-as-hell, but also tough-as-nails programs.
     Actually, there are quite a few programs that fit under the guise of "Dinosaur Training", but one of my favorite programs of his is the "Dinosaur Arm Training" that was first featured in the May, 1998 issue of IronMan Magazine.
     Use as written, and I can guarantee bigger, thicker, stronger, and more dense arm muscles as a result.
C.S. does some farmer's walks—one of the mainstays of all of Brooks Kubik's Dinosaur Training programs.

Dinosaur Arm Training Program
     Here is Kubik's advice, in his own words, from the pages of IronMan:
     "Unless otherwise indicated, do three progressively heavier warmup sets, followed by three work sets with your top weight.  Train on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday."

Day One
Aerobic warmup x5-10 minutes
Parallel Squats  6x5
Bench Presses  6x5
Lat Pulldowns or
   Weighted Chins  6x5
Bottom-Position Close-Grip Bench Presses  6x5*
Sandbag or Thick-Bar Curls  6x5

Day Two
Aerobic warmup x5-10 minutes
Bottom-Position Close-Grip Bench Presses  5-6x1*
Thick-Bar Curls  5-6x1
Sandbag or Barbell Overhead Presses  5x failure
Sandbag or Thick-Bar Curls  5x failure
Hang from Chinning Bar  1x failure

Day Three
Aerobic warmup x5-10 minutes
Deadlifts, Stiff-Leg Deadlifts, Partial Deadlifts,    Dumbbell Deadlifts, or Power Cleans  6x5
Incline Dumbbell Presses, Flat Bench Thick-Bar    Presses, Flat Bench Dumbbell Presses, or Dips  6x5
Hammer Curls  6x5**
Bench Press Lockouts  6x5*
Farmer's Walk  1-2x failure
  or Sandbag Walk  2-3x failure
C.S. lifts over 500 pounds—and the pain shows!

*Performed with a thick-bar in a power rack.

**Preferrably using thick-handled dumbbbells.

"Dinosaur Training: The Secrets to Building Jurassic Size and Strength," by Brooks D. Kubik.  May, 1998 issue of IronMan Magazine

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Where Pharaohs Go to Die!

My Dramatic Transformation Principle Experience

by Jared Smith

Jared demonstrates some of the mass he's built using the principles in this article.

There are things in this world that can never be eclipsed. Upon the sands of a fallen empire—and in the ruins of rust-covered gyms around the world—they will forever be. The pyramids have been a symbol of power and mystique not just for the Pharaohs of old, but for every gym rat and serious bodybuilder to ever grasp a barbell. Though some things stand the test of time and cannot be replaced, they can be learned from and, thus, improved upon.

Most bodybuilders who have trained for even a short period of time, have performed a standard pyramid. Starting with a higher number of reps and building up to an apex, the pyramid usually ends there. Unfortunately, this is short changing potential gains in hypertrophy. Once the apex is reached, the nervous system is primed and ready for intense muscular contraction. The heaviest set serves as the "switch" that turns on the machine. With the nervous system excited, you can now squeeze that muscle as if it owes you money. After all, a pyramid doesn’t have only one side.

For a long time I used “heavy drops” to get more out of my heavier workouts. During these sessions, I would build up to my apex set, drop the weight after a sufficient rest period, and perform higher rep sets—this worked like a charm for a while. Like anything else, this does not work forever and, so, must be tweaked. Thanks to a man named Kris Gethin, I found a program that would allow me to (a) flood the muscle with blood and (b) move some intense iron at the same time.

If you are familiar with some of my other articles here at Integral Strength,you know that I am a huge proponent of priming a muscle then pumping it into oblivion. The style of training I am about to describe will do just that—and then some! This will promote sarcoplasmic expansion (cell swelling) like you wouldn’t believe, and test your threshold for pain.

Welcome to DTP! 
DTP, or Dramatic Transformation Principle, is based around picking just a couple of exercises for antagonistic body parts, and working them into the ground. You will construct one side of the pyramid, starting with anywhere from thirty to fifty reps and building up to an apex of ten to five, while increasing rest periods after each successive set. Upon completion of that, you then build the other side of the pyramid, starting with another heavier set, then going back down in weight with each set, decreasing the rest periods as you go.

Why it works!
The harder the contraction the better, and without a primed central nervous system, this will never be maximized. The first set will act as a "wake-up call" to the nervous system and it will activate neurotransmitters. In addition to waking up the body, this will also promote blood flow to the connective tissues which will prevent injury. After the initial set, I guarantee your joints will feel "like a million bucks", so to speak, which will amp you up even more for the heavier sets to come. Though you may be sucking wind after performing a set of fifty, the pump will make you almost forget about the gasping, thus, making you want to tear into your next set!

There are some who will argue that the pump does not cause muscle growth, and they are correct. Yes, I said that! While they are correct, they are also wrong. There is not one singular mechanism that causes growth. Cell swelling is correlated with hypertrophy, but, then again, so is mechanical trauma. With this program, you get both, and the added safety of having the joints well prepared for the sets that will cause the trauma. The pump indirectly will cause growth due to the fact that it enhances your enthusiasm about training. Nothing will make you want to pound out some hard, heavy reps like feeling “swole’’!

Details of the Devastation 
Each of these “complete pyramids” will be performed with minimal rest between sets. After the first superset, you will rest for thirty seconds, then forty five, then a minute, then ninety seconds, and, finally, two minutes. Upon reaching the apex, you will rest two minutes, then begin going back down the other side, reversing this order. This will make it tougher as you go along. The lactic acid surge will be agonizing, and the pump will be almost unbearable, but if you get through it, you will experience a euphoria that can only come from completing a grueling session!

The Meat and Potatoes
Workout 1:
Superset one: Incline Dumbbell Presses/bent over dumbbell rows (to the waist)8x 30,20,10,5,5,10,20,30

Superset two: Flat dumbbell Presses/bent over dumbbell rows ( arms bent and raising out to your sides squeezing your scapula together torching those traps!) 8x 30,20,10,5,5,10,20,30

Decline sit-ups 5x Failure. The number of reps here is not important at all. Squeeze until they cramp on each set, regardless of how many reps that takes!

Workout 2: 
Leg Presses (feet low on platform and around 9 inches apart)/ calf raises 5x 50,40,30,20,10

Leg Presses (feet high on platform and shoulder width)/Calf raises 5x 10,20,30,40,50

Leg Raises 5x Failure. Performed in the same as previous ab workout.

Workout 3:
Behind the neck barbell Press(or in front, whichever you prefer.)/ Upright rows 5x 40,30,20,10,5

Seated dumbbell Arnold Press/Dumbbell Shrugs 5x 5,10,20,30,40

Workout 4:
Cable pushdowns/cable curls 5x40,30,20,10,5

Skull crushers/barbell curl 5x5,10,20,30,40

If you cannot complete the number of reps designated, don’t sweat it. Simply "rest-pause" until you’ve hit the numbers. You may have to go beyond failure a couple of times, and that is perfectly fine! This is not meant to be easy. Like the building of any monument, it will take tons of sweat and effort. The epic tombs of the Pharaohs weren’t built easily, and neither is a massive physique.

It is now time to go build your own monument. Approach this pyramid with the determination of a warrior-king riding into battle. Leave your sweat and blood upon the sands of the gym, and let any weakness within you die and be forever buried within this place…..where the Pharaohs go to die!

Friday, February 5, 2016

High-Frequency Training with the 3x5 Program

Build Muscle and Strength With This Basic 3x5 HFT Program!
Matthew Sloan—at just 16 years of age—has built plenty of lean muscle and an aesthetic physique using HFT programs almost exclusively

     After my last several posts on HFT, I thought it would be good—based on several emails that I have received, with readers pondering how to properly apply the HFT principles—if I did a few posts with specific methods of training.  These posts will take out more of the guesswork from planning, and then implementing, a HFT plan.
     Keep in mind that these programs are just examples.  You may need to make your own adjustments based on genetics, past training history, etc.  But, for the average lifter, these programs—as examples—will be good on setting you on the correct path.  Some of you may need more training, and some may need to be less, but stick with the programs as I recommend them before deciding that you need to make personal changes.
The 3x5 Program
     I like to (generally) begin a lifter on what I call the "3x5 program" when they first embark on HFT.  It's easy to program compared to some of the other programs (we will get to the other programs in future posts), and, for the most part, the lifter has less questions when employing it, and seems to "get in the groove" of training fairly quickly.
     The 3x5 program is simple.  Here are my "rules" when using it: 
     Train a minimum of 4 days per week, 5 to 6 will be even better.  When first starting on the program, I think that the easiest thing to do is train on a three-on, one-off program.  Once again, this takes all the guesswork out of training.  But, if you prefer more flexibility, then do as I recommended a few posts ago: just take a day off whenever "life" gets in the way.  The important thing, however, is to train frequently.  You will not be doing a whole lot of work at each training session—no matter what form of HFT you are using—and so it necessitates very frequent training.  4 days minimum, period.
     Use 3 to 5 exercises at each training session. Choose 3 to 5 exercises that work a wide range of movements and muscles.  I generally recommend a lower-body pulling exercise, a squatting exercise, an upper-body pulling exercise, an overhead pressing exercise, and an upper-body pushing exercise when using 5 exercises.  So, for instance, this might mean squats, deadlifts, chins, military presses, and bench presses on one training day, and front squats, power cleans, one-arm dumbbell rows, behind-the-neck presses, and weighted dips on another.  If you choose 4 exercises, then drop the upper-body pushing exercise, and if you do 3 exercises, then drop the upper body pushing exercise and the upper-body pulling exercise (but keep in mind that this is not a "hard" rule).  I would much rather one of my lifters—if he is using just 3 exercises—choose push-presses, deadlifts, and squats over deadlifts, bench presses, and chins, as an example.  (Feel free to throw in some barbell or dumbbell curls on some days, but just don't make direct arm training a daily thing.)
     Perform 3 to 5 sets, of 3 to 5 reps, on each exercise.  These sets should include "warm-ups".  Let's say that your first exercise of the day is the bottom-position squat, then your sets may look something such as this:
     The last set is the only one, in this instance, that is close to being all-out.  Use the same scheme, or something similar, on the other exercises.   Depending on how "big" the exercise is, however, depends on whether all of your sets are "ramps" (as above) or whether you fit in some "straight" sets as well.  So, let's say that your second exercise is chins, and, since most people can't use much weight on the exercise, your set/rep scheme may look like this:
bodyweight x 5
25 pounds (via weight belt) x 5
50 pounds x 3
50 pounds x 3
50 pounds x 3
     Also, keep in mind that you could do all of your sets with 5 reps—you don't have to go down to 3 reps on each exercise.  In fact, if you're after more muscle than strength, then it would probably be best to stick with 5 reps.  Keep in mind as well that you don't have to do 5 sets, either.  On some exercises, 3 will be plenty.  Program according to how you feel on each particular training day.
The Program on Paper
     Pretty simple and easy to program, huh?  However, just to make it even easier to understand, here is what several days of training may look like (please keep in mind, however, that this is just an example, too):

Squats: 5x5
Deadlifts: 5x3-5
Behind-the-Neck Presses: 5x5
Weighted Dips: 5x3-5
Weighted Chins: 5x3-5

Goblet Squats: 5x5
Power Cleans: 5x3
One-Arm Overhead Presses: 4x3-5

Front Squats: 5x3-5
Power Snatches: 4x3
Military Presses: 5x3-5
Behind-the-Neck Chins: 3x5


Repeat Monday's workout

     At this point, you could repeat Tuesday and Wednesday's workout on the next couple of training days, or you could begin mixing in other exercises, or mix and match which days you do the above exercises.  But don't use too many different exercises—the less advanced you are, then the less exercises you need to use.  You should be constantly pushing for heavier and heavier weights on the last set of each exercise, and too many different exercises makes it hard to do that.
     If your goal is to really increase the weight on a certain exercise—as competitive powerlifters would need to do—then feel free to perform each exercise on each training day.  The more often you perform the exercise depends on the nature of how your body adapts to it.  You could squat at each training session, bench press at every-other training session, and deadlift at every third training session.

     In the next couple posts on HFT, I will go over a program that only uses one or two exercises in a training day, and another program that uses as many as 10 to 12 different exercises on each training day.
     Until then, train hard and frequent!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

High-Frequency Training Trouble

Telltale Signs That Your High-Frequency Training Might Be Causing You Trouble!

     In my previous post, I listed some of the benefits of HFT (high-frequency training).  The benefits are great—trust me, and I don't want to discourage anyone from setting foot on the HFT path.  But, to be honest, this kind of training is always best utilized by lifters who know their bodies well, who understand when to push it hard and when it's time to back-off.
     This is not to say, of course, that HFT shouldn't be done by any lifters who are not advanced.  While it's not the form of training I recommend for the beginner—that would typically be 3-days-per-week, heavy-light-medium training—its perfectly fine for intermediate lifters.  (While I'm on the subject of "beginners" and "intermediate", realize that you are still a beginner if you haven't built an appreciable amount of muscle and/or strength, no matter how long you've trained—even if it's years.)  However, when lifters who are not advanced take up this form of training, I've noticed one of two things sometimes happen.  Either the lifter (a) doesn't push him/herself hard at all because he/she is concerned about "overtraining", performing such little work that they might as well not even train, or (b) the lifter goes overboard, and does too much training, leading to possible overtraining and/or injuries.
     What follows here is for our "b" lifters:
Bradley Steiner to the Rescue
Bradley Steiner on the cover of his training booklet "12 Keys to Bodybuilding Success".

     When I was younger—and when Iron Man Magazine still kicked ass in its sheer amount of training information—Bradley J. Steiner was one of my favorite authors to read.  His column, and occasional articles, were all informative in the pages of Iron Man, and were frequently entertaining to boot.  While I didn't always agree with the man (and probably disagree with him even more as I grow older and—hopefully—wiser), a lot of his opinions held a great deal of validity.
     He once wrote that there were 5 "telltale signs of training trouble"—warning signals that you were headed towards serious problems if you didn't make adjustments to your program.
     Here are the 5 training problems (in Steiner's own words) that must be nipped in the bud, and I find these to be highly applicable when it comes to HFT:

1. "You experience deep-felt fatigue and exhaustion following your normal workout.  Proper training should leave you with a pleasant muscle fatigue, and no more.  Within an hour, you should be feeling exhilarated and vibrant."

2. "You lack the desire to train.  The idea of a hard workout appeals to you about as much as that of painting your house or mowing the grass on a football field.  Rather than looking forward to a good workout, you look for ways to avoid the gym or to slide through the exercises with less than top effort."

3. "The weights seem extraordinarily heavy.  They feel so heavy that you have to use very sloppy form to get out the desired number of sets and reps.  This should happen occasionally, as there are times when you have more or less energy.  When it happens frequently, however, look out."

4. "You feel totally wiped on your non-training days between workouts.  In this case, your recuperative powers are not working right, and you're probably overtrained."

5. "You make zero progress for long periods.  If you stop making gains or find yourself regressing, your training is definitely off base."

     If you are going to set off on a course of High-Frequency Training, you would do well to always keep these 5 signs of training trouble in the back of your mind.

"Telltale Signs of Training Trouble" by Bradley J. Steiner, published in the November, 1991 issue of IronMan Magazine.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

HFT Benefits

The Benefits of High-Frequency Training for Size and Strength Gains!

     If you haven't done so, please read my previous post on High-Frequency Training (HFT) before reading the following.  It will be of more benefit—no pun intended—if you do so.
     Now, on to building more muscle, strength and power...
George Hackenshmidt—the "Russian Lion"—built a massive physique, with the massive strength to boot, using High-Frequency Training tactics in the early 1900's.

     Different training strategies provide different benefits.  For instance—as an example of a training paradigm completely counter to HFT—if you were to follow a 2-days-per-week program of full-body workouts, focusing on the 3 powerlifting exercises, then you would reap the benefits of having more free time than usual during the week, and of being able to get good strength gains out of minimalistic training.
     High-Frequency Training has more benefits, in my book, than most other training strategies.  Here are some of the best benefits of this style of training:
It's Easy to Properly Regulate the "3 Variables"
     In the past, I've discussed what I consider to be the "three variables" of training.  For any program to be successful, these 3 variables must be properly regulated, controlled, and even manipulated.  The 3 variables are intensity, volume, and frequency.  As a general rule of thumb, two of the variables should always be high, while the other variable should be kept low.  The exceptions to this rule are either (a) highly-advanced lifters who have the ability to train intensity, volume, and frequency at a very high level, or (b) a program that is focused on keeping all 3 of the variables at a "moderate" level.
     The sort of HFT that I generally recommend here is one where you regulate the 3 variables by keeping intensity and frequency high, while keeping volume relatively low.  As the lifter gets more advanced, he/she can slowly add volume, but not until sufficient and regular strength gains are maintained.
     And that's really the beauty of HFT: it makes regulating the 3 variables relatively easy.
     You are training almost daily.  This keeps the frequency high.
     You are using relatively few sets for each exercise, while only using a handful of exercises.  This keeps the volume relatively low.
     And you are working up to a fairly high percentage of your one-rep maximum, which, in turn, means that your intensity is also going to be high.
     It's simple, and that's what makes it so effective for a great majority of lifters.
Training Motivation Stays High
     For lifters or bodybuilders who use any kind of low-frequency training, one of the hardest things is remaining motivated while on the program.
     Generally, this isn't a problem for lifters on HFT programs.  The daily training makes it more "addictive" for your body, so that your nervous system and muscles will actually be "craving"—for lack of a better word—to train each and every day.  In fact, most lifters reach a point where they feel really weird when they take a day off, and they are usually dying to get to the gym on the day after an off-day.
     And once you reach a point where you are not looking forward to the daily training, then you know that you are doing too much, which means that all is needed is a few "back-off" days to renew and re-energize the body and the muscles.
Better Hormonal "Response" on a Daily Basis
     Each and every time that you train, a host of good things happens to your muscle cells and the hormones that control/regulate them.
     Training increases output of growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1).  So, obviously, the more frequently you can train a muscle group, the more frequent is the anabolic response.
     Bodybuilders—and researchers to boot—have long known about these anabolic responses to training, but many really didn't know how to take advantage of them.  The idea just to "train more" obviously was not the appropriate response.  The beginner or intermediate trainee doesn't need to increase his/her frequency without regulating volume and intensity.
     The sort of HFT I have written about regulates volume and intensity rather nicely, and the daily training really does make a difference in the anabolic response.  When performed properly, you should feel more "full" in your muscles, and feel more "aggressive" than usual in your mindset—both indicators that your hormones—and your muscles—are getting adequate stimulus.
Take More Advantage of Peri-Workout Nutrition
     Consuming the appropriate macronutrients and supplements before, during, and after your workout (peri-workout nutrition) can have a big influence on your muscle growth.  Bodybuilders who take advantage of peri-workout nutrition know that doing so makes their muscles grow larger and stronger in a shorter period of time.
     It only makes sense that more frequent training, combined with always using peri-workout nutrition will result in the largest, strongest muscles possible within a particular training cycle.