Classic Bodybuilding: John Grimek's "Congestive Principle"

 For many bodybuilders older than myself, John Grimek is often considered the greatest bodybuilder of all time.  I personally am unsure as to whether or not that is true - I tend to have Bill Pearl in the Numero Uno spot on that particular list.  But perhaps if I was a little bit older, and had been exposed more to Grimek in all of the bodybuilding magazines, I would feel different.  See, here's the thing: if you came of bodybuilding age in the late '80s, early '90s (which I did), then you read a lot about the legend of Grimek or you "heard" his name bantered about by a lot of the top pros, especially the pro and amateurs who themselves "came of age" in the '70s, but you never actually saw that much of Grimek in the magazines, other than occasional "blast from the past" pictures in Ironman Magazine.  But, whether or not he's in the #1 spot really doesn't matter that much to me because he is definitely in my top 5 - which one of those 5 spots I don't really know where I would put him, but when it comes to the 5 greatest bodybuilders of all time, you're really just splitting hairs at that point anyway.
John Grimek displayed tremendous size and power even when relaxed.

Grimek was legendary - and deserving of that top 5 - for one primary reason.  Sure, he was 2-time Mr. America, Mr. USA, and Mr. Universe (and this when those titles still really meant something) but he was - and IS - legend because he remained undefeated throughout his entire bodybuilding career!  That's damn impressive no matter what era the bodybuilder competed in.  Even most of your other "greatest bodybuilders of all time" lost plenty at either the beginning or the end of their careers.

But not John Grimek.

The one magazine that still offered plenty of Grimek exposure during my formative bodybuilding years was Robert Kennedy's MuscleMag International.  In the late '80s, early '90s, I pretty much bought every issue of Ironman Magazine and MuscleMag International that hit the newsstand.  And Grimek had a monthly column in MuscleMag called the "Wisdom of Grimek".

Grimek doled out plenty of good muscle-building information in his column, but one of the things that really stuck with me was his "congestive principle".  Now, he never said that it was his principle, but I couldn't remember reading that particular term mentioned before, so I always called it "his".

A reader wrote to him asking about sets and reps, and how much total volume a bodybuilder needed to use to achieve maximum muscle growth.  Grimek replied that the best way to train was to lift only until you achieved "total congestion of the muscle".  Grimek then wrote that this "would simplify the set and rep scheme and will promote better muscle mass results in the long run."  Here's how Grimek said it would work:

"Dismiss the concept of reps, sets, and how many exercises you should do.  Concentrate instead on working a particular muscle group until it becomes thoroughly pumped up and totally congested.  Once this state of total congestion is achieved there is no need to continue working that area - unless you are overweight and want to reduce that area.  That is the lone exception.  In any overweight condition, one should work beyond congestion until the area is completely fatigued.  For muscle and weight-gaining purposes, however, you can stop exercising each muscle section as soon as the congested condition is reached."

For Grimek, he personally did this by only performing one - or, at the most, two - exercises per bodypart.  That way, he could focus on achieving a great pump, and he could simply stop the exercise as soon as complete and total congestion was achieved.

Grimek continued: "Some days, you might be able to complete this goal with only half the repetitions and exercises than on other days... The more you concentrate on your training and the more effort you put behind each exercise, the faster you will obtain congestion. - and your training will, therefore, become more effective.

"Let's assume you have just finished your first set of 10-12 repetitions in the two-handed barbell curl.  The remaining portion of the workout using the congestive principle might appear something like this:
- Add about 20 pounds and curl for eight reps.
- Add an additional 10 pounds and curl for 5 reps.
- Add five pounds and curl for reps or
- use your maximum weight and go for a single rep.  (The single rep is optional and should only be employed when you feel that you want to step up your training and begin at a higher poundage.)

"The congestive principle involves deep-seated muscle-fiber action and this can't help but encourage greater density and induce greater strength as a result of the poundages handled and the reps performed."


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