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.