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:

Monday:

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.

Tuesday

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.

Friday

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.

Saturday:

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.