Friday, April 28, 2017

A Complete Leg Workout, Part Three - Bill Starr

Doug Hepburn down in the U.S.A. 
Original Photo courtesy of Jan Dellinger

A Complete Leg Workout, Part Three
by Bill Starr

Parts One and Two are here:
And there:

"How long should I stay with this routine?" 

"As long as you're satisfied with it. I've had some athletes use it year round while others do it for only three months. Then they want more variety. The best program is one that works for you." 

"Let's say I'm a more-variety-type. What would I do?" 

"You could start doing some lunges, front squats, and leg presses. If you want to stay with the three days a week idea, substitute one of these on your light day. Or you could substitute a couple of sets of leg presses for your back-off sets on Monday or Friday. Front squats and lunges make ideal light-day exercises because you can't handle nearly as much weight as in the regular squat, but they are very demanding. Front squats and lunges have to be done correctly, though, or they will not be useful.

"Correctly on the front squat means raking the weight on the front deltoids as in the conclusion of a power clean. The current trend of using the cross-arms method just isn't effective because when the weights get heavy the athlete cannot control the bar correctly. And the weights have to eventually get heavy or the exercise isn't going to get the job done. It's merely a matter of spending some time stretching the shoulders to gain the necessary flexibility. Many find, to their surprise, that they are quite proficient in the front squat. You have to go low in the front squat and stay perfectly erect. This technique activates some different muscles from those used in the back squat - particularly the glutes, hips, leg biceps and the medial part of the quads.

"One reason so many of the old-time bodybuilders had such amazing quad development was that they did front squats as a regular part of their programs. They competed in Olympic weightlifting competition, so they did the front squats to help recover from the heavy cleans. It makes an ideal light day. If you are using 325 in the back squat, you're going to be hard pressed to use 245 in the front." 

"I can rack the weight all right. I used to do lots of power cleans. Still 5 sets of 5 in the front squat?" 

"No, the sets and reps are different because the bar tends to slide on the shoulders with heavy weights, no matter how firm the rack. Do 2 sets of 5 as warmups, the 3 or more sets of 3 to limit. For you, do 135 and 185 for 5, 205, 225, 235 and try 245 for 3. No back-off set for a couple of weeks, but after that you can add in one back-off set of 8 with a fairly light weight.

"Lunges are also useful for a complete development, for they, like front squats, hit the leg muscles in a slightly different manner from back squats. Most feel lunges the most in their leg biceps. But for lunges to be a true strength exercise they have to be done differently from the way they are demonstrated in most magazines. Typically the model is shown merely bending his real leg toward the floor. This is not nearly as productive as keeping the trailing leg as straight as possible and forcing the hip into a low position. The dipping, bent-leg method is no more than a poor excuse for a partial squat, while the straight rear leg method activates a great many muscles very directly. 

"Lunges fit in the light day nicely as well. You'll find 6 sets of 4 reps per leg work best, but these have to be thought of as a strength movement, not just a token exercise. You should plan to be using 225 for 4 reps on each leg once you master the form."

"Where would I fit in leg presses?" 

"Do them behind your squats on Monday or Friday in place of your back-off set - 4 sets of 5, working moderately heavy. That will be enough. Don't hammer a full leg press workout after a hard squatting session or you'll overtrain."

"How can I possibly fit all these into a week's program?" Gene wondered. 

"You don't have to," I replied. "You can select a few different exercises for variety, do them for a month or so, then switch off and try something else. If an exercise gets you sore, that's a good exercise for you because it tells you you're hitting some weaker muscles. Or you can alternate exercises every other week. Do front squats one light day and lunges the next."

"And this program will make me bigger?"

"If you gain weight. There's no way you're going to get bigger if you don't increase your caloric intake. It's simply not possible." 

"Should I start taking any supplements?" 

"That's an economic consideration. Sure, if you can afford them, try one of the newer designer supplements like creatine monohydrate, but they don't come cheap. A basic milk-and-egg protein powder might be worthwhile or, if money is very tight, just use dried milk solids. They provide ample protein in a milkshake for a very small cost. 

"I've seen lots of athletes pack on 15 extra pounds merely by eating more of what they usually eat. More milk, an extra sandwich at night, and fruit snacks all add up. But you have to eat the best you can and make sure you are getting plenty of rest. Rest is one of the more important factors in gaining size and strength- and it's free." 

"I have no trouble with that one. I love to sleep. Well, you gave me plenty to work with. Think I'll come up here for a few weeks so you can show me the correct form on some of these lifts. I'll bring some Gatorade." 

"Deal. If this weather keeps up, you'd better buy a case."  

A Complete Leg Workout, Part Two - Bill Starr (1998)

A Helluva Good One: 
Check it Out! 

Continued from Part One:

Your first step to increasing your workload will be to add in one back-off set on Monday and Friday - One set of 8 reps with 50 pounds less than you handled on your final heavy set. 

"No back-off on my light day?"

"No back-off because you want to keep that a relatively light workout. The two back-off sets, which you can start on your second week, will push your workload up, in your case, another 4,000 pounds, and that's enough of an increase.

"Should I also do more work on the machines?"

"Not yet. The increases in workload need to be incorporated gradually. Do too much too fast and you've become overtrained." 

"I'm assuming that when you say squats, you mean full squats?" 

"Absolutely. Full squats are much more beneficial than partials. Full squats involve so many more muscle groups, including those of the hip, leg biceps and adductors. And, contrary to what most people believe, full squats are much less harmful the the knees and lower back. Do the full movement from the very beginning and you'll avoid problems later. Also, you'll get a lot stronger in the long run because you have strengthened all those muscles that are neglected with partial squats."

"All right," he said, "let's see if I've got this. Run my top-end weight up steadily and at the same time increase my total workload. That it?"

"Not quite," I replied with a laugh. "If it were that simple, there would be lots of people squatting over 500, but I'm sure you've noticed that in most gyms no one even handles 315. The next step is to identify your weaker areas and do something to strengthen them. Two groups which typically fall behind and hurt the squat are the lower back and adductors. About half the people I put on programs have inadequate adductor strength. Those are the muscles situated on the insides of your thighs. They are often taken for granted, but they are extremely critical to building strength and size in the legs. It's rather easy to spot a weakness in the adductors. Your knees will turn inward on the heavy squats or the final reps on the back-off set. If this weakness is not corrected, not only will the squat stop improving, but you will also experience knee problems - not because of the squat itself but because of a disproportionate strength factor. The adductors play a major role in stabilizing the knee joint and if they are relatively weaker than the quads and leg biceps, the knee will move from its normal position during any exercise that involves it. This included heavy pulling movements like the deadlift and bent-over rows as well as the squat."

"The obvious question is, how would I go about strengthening my adductors?"

"The very best way is to use an adductor machine. There are two machines that I am very high on, the calf machine and the adductor machine. If you do see that your knees are rotating inward on your squats, start doing 2 sets of 20 on the adductor machine three times a week. In most cases the adductors respond very quickly, in a matter of a week, but it's still a good idea to include them in the program. You know they got behind strength-wise once, so in all likelihood they will again."

"There no adductor machine in here. What would I do if I'm training here?"

"Wide-stance squats also work, You have to use a moderate poundage at first because balance is a factor and you have to make sure you go very, very low since the deep bottom position is where the adductors do their work. A moderate weight for high reps, 12s or 15s."

"So would I substitute these wide-stance squats for my regular back-off sets?"

"That's right. You wouldn't do both, just one or the other."

"But never on the light day," he added with a grin.

"Yes and no. No high-rep work on the light day, but you can incorporate wide-stance squats in that workout.

"Eventually you'll be doing 3 work sets with the same weight on Wednesday (the light day),  instead of just one. For example, using your current starting numbers, you would be doing 135, 225, 275, 275 and 275 for 5 in your light-day workout. Again this allows you to move your workload up a bit without too much stress. Now, if you feel the need to add the adductor work, do all three sets with 275 using a wide stance. Even if you don't need additional adductor work, still do at least one of the top-end light day sets with with a wide stance. Do one with a normal stance, one wide, and one narrow. This plan provides a very complete leg development session.

"The other area that needs special attention from the very onset of this program is the lower back. Without strong lumbars you will not be able to maintain correct position on the heavy squats. The lower back is really the cornerstone of strength for the entire body.

"The three best exercises to strengthen the lower back are back hypers, good mornings and stiff-legged deadlifts. I suggest you do one set of back hypers before you squat. Most people can do 20 right away. Then try to move the reps up to 50. This may sound like a lot, but all you have to do is add 2 reps per week and you'll reach your goal.

"Good mornings are the most hated exercise of all, but they do work. Do 5 sets of 8 and slowly increase the weight. To maintain proportionate strength, the good mornings need to be done with half the weight you plan to squat with. This means if you are doing 325 for 5, you shoiuld be handling 160 to 165 for 8 in the good morning. Once again, you may not be able to do this right away, but you should move them up until you meet that ratio. Once you do that, moving the good morning up along with your top squat should be easy."

"I remember those," he grumbled. "We called them 'tomorrow mornings.'"

"If you do them right, you will be reminded the following morning. Now, there are several variations of the good morning, so you can switch around or pick the one form you find the most beneficial. You can do them with a very flat back, a rounded back, or while seated on a bench. They not only hit the lumbars very directly, but they are also great for strengthening the leg biceps. This is another area that falls behind on some people, and nothing works better than good mornings in bringing them up to par.

"You might want to alternate good mornings with stiff-legged deadlifts. They are also great for lumbar and leg-biceps development. By alternating the two exercises every other week, you'll find that neither is so hateful."

"I always liked stiff-legged deadlifts. I did them standing on a bench, but they wouldn't let us do them in that way at the gym I trained at. Couple of guys dropped the bar and it bent on the bench."

"I don't allow my athletes to stand on a bench either. Or on a block for that matter. It's not necessary. I have them use 25-pound plates on an Olympic bar and do them on the floor. Much safer and very effective. One thing to keep in mind when doing these: Stiff-legged is a misnomer. You should never pull a bar off the floor with stiff or straight legs. Slightly bent deadlifts is more correct."

"Any number guidelines for these?"

"The stiff-leg deadlift should be right at 75 percent of your top squat for 8 reps. That translates to 245 for 8 for you since you're at 325 in the squat. Like the good morning, if you move the stiff-leg deadlift up at the same rate as your squat, all the important muscles will stay in proportion."

"I follow. Any other smaller muscle groups that need special attention?"

"The abs, especially the lower abs, take a great deal of stress during a heavy squat, so they should be worked from the very beginning. If they are allowed to fall behind, they can get pulled, and pulled ab muscle is an absolute bitch to get back in shape. Simply do an exercise for your abs as part of your warmups and you'll be fine.

"I mentioned calf raises earlier, but I need to elaborate a bit more on those.Do them twice a week. Start with 3 sets of 30 and move up to 6 sets. One day use the seated calf machine and the other day use the standing calf. The standing version hits the gastrocnemius more directly while the seated isolates the soleus more. Both are important for strength and size. Also, try to vary your foot positioning at least slightly on each set: toes in, straight ahead, and out. The subtle change will force the muscles to work differently and result in a more complete lower leg."

 - In the next and final installment, Mr. Starr deals with squat varieties and spends a little time on nutrition.      

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Leg Training - Greg Zulak (1992)

Wicked Wheels
Lethal Leg Training 
by Greg Zulak (1992)

Go to any gym and check it out. You don't see many bodybuilders whose leg development  matches what they've achieved with their upper bodies. This may be partly due to genetics. It does seem that with legs, especially calves, you've either got 'em or you don't. 

Of course, a lot of these lifters have poor leg development because they don't work their legs enough or don't work them hard enough, and this can be due either to laziness, neglect or misinformation. 

It's easy to understand why people neglect their legs. Leg training is hard work, at times brutally hard. It's not as much fun to train your legs as it is to work the showier arms or pecs. Basically, the legs contain the largest and strongest muscles of the body. It takes heavy weights, high intensity and tremendous effort to make them grow. Consequently, leg exercises are the hardest to perform. Remember that nobody ever lost his breakfast doing concentration curls or triceps kickbacks, but heavy squats or high rep leg presses to failure can make you lose your breakfast, lunch and dinner all at the same time.

When the Going Gets Tough . . . 

When the going gets tough, the tough get going, and the weak leave the gym. There are lots of lazy lifters who just can't be bothered with leg traini8ng. These are the "tank top" trainers, the guys who wear long pants to the beach to hide their skinny and underdeveloped legs. All they train is upper body and arms.

Neglecting your legs is a big mistake because it not only ruins your balance, symmetry and proportions, but it actually limits your upper-body gains as well. If you've hit a sticking point with your upper body, heavy leg and back work will get you growing again. 

John McCallum on Leg and Back Specialization:

Anthony Ditillo on Leg and Back Bulk Training: 

Chester Teegarden on Louis Abele's Leg Specialization Training:

Soviet research indicates that not training legs can hold back upper-body gains by up to 15 percent. 

If having good proportions and proportionate strength is important to you, then you're going to have to bring up your legs to match your upper body. And keep that match in sync throughout your lifting life. To do that you have to train your legs hard. What's more, you've got to train them so that the calves are in balance with the thighs.

If your thighs get too big, they make your calves and upper body look too small. The leg biceps should measure up to the quadriceps (in size and relative strength), and your quads should have good sweep and separation as well as size. This takes planning and attention to detail. And, of course, it also takes a lot of sweat and hard work.



Advantages of the Genetically Elite

Not everyone can develop great legs. Some folks just don't have the genetics for it. For example, a seven foot basketball player would have a hard time filling out to where he's got the overwhelming thigh mass of a 5' 5" heavily muscled bodybuilder. Others may not have the constitution for it. After all, not everyone has the high pain threshold - or the drive, determination and desire - of a Tom Platz or an Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

Besides having a high pain threshold and a superior recovery ability, an easier gainer will invariably be gifted with a superior metabolism; more mental drive and focus; longer, fuller muscle bellies; small, compact joints and more muscle cells in their legs than the rest of us have. Typically they are mesomorphs - naturally thick and muscular specimens who gain muscle easily. Such people find that their legs respond to standard rep schemes - say 6 to 12 reps per set - and that they don't have to do anything out of the ordinary to make them grow. Often they have to stop squatting heavy because their thighs grow too fast relative to their upper bodies, or they don't train their calves much, if at all, because theirs are naturally large and well-shaped. 

Chris Dickerson
1982 Mr. Olympia

Former Mr. Olympia Chris Dickerson has admitted that his calves were huge and well-developed before he ever took up bodybuilding. At one point they were actually bigger than his thighs. He often went for long stretches without training them. Once on a six-week tour of South Africa with Boyer Coe - and much to Coe's chagrin - Dickerson didn't train his calves at all. 

Juliette Bergmann  
Ms. Olympia 2001

Juliette Bergmann, as gifted a bodybuilder as there ever was, never trained her calves. In fact, once at a photo shoot in New York we had to tell her how to use the calf machine because she had never used one before! If only we were all so fortunate. 

Most of us aren't, however. We're the ones who sweat bullets when we train legs but still can't get them to respond the way we want them to. Ectomorphs, those long, skinny folks, re the ones who have the most difficulty building leg mass. 
Lou Ferrigno on the Tall Bodybuilder's Training:

What the Rest of Us Need

It should be fairly obvious that different types of physiques have different training requirements. An ectomorph can't train like an endomorph and expect to get good results. For the thin ectomorph, who has trouble putting on mass, the obvious answer is to boat-load in the calories and protein and try to add badly needed bodyweight so he can fill out. But that's only part of the solution.

After 23 years of training and observing in the iron game, I believe that many people find it so hard to build leg mass because they haven't developed the neuromuscular and metabolic pathways to their leg muscles. These are the nerve paths that allow you to feel and contract your leg muscles properly. 

Much, much more on this in Greg's free 150 page book:

Many bodybuilders fail to respond to achieve increased blood flow to their legs - via larger veins and more blood vessels and capillaries - which is why it is difficult for them to get a good leg pump. In my opinion it is not possible, except in the case of genetically gifted bodybuilders, to develop the neuromuscular and metabolic pathways and increase the blood flow to the leg muscles using low- and medium-rep schemes like 6 to 10 reps per set. The bottom line is, your legs need higher reps.

Again, that book above, being more recent, lays out ways to increase the neuromuscular connection. 

Pumping Iron Means Pumping Blood

Back in the 1970s, Dennis DuBreuil published a series of articles in Iron Man magazine concerning his theories of muscle growth. At the time I considered his ideas to be revolutionary - and they still hold true. DuBreuil believed that there is a definite relationship between the amount of blood flow, or circulation, to a muscle and the growth of that muscle; that is, the more you increase circulation to a certain muscle, the better its growth potential. To put it another way, the better - or easier - a muscle group pumps, the faster it will grow. 

Haven't you found that to be true already? Aren't your fastest growing muscles the ones that pump up the easiest? Let's follow that theory back to my point about the rep ranges.

How do you make a muscle grow faster? By increasing its ability to pump up. And how do you do that? By increasing blood circulation to the muscle. Okay, so how do you increase blood circulation to a muscle? By doing high-rep work; pumping sets; volume work, or a lot of sets; and, especially, high intensity work. Oh, and by the way, it just so happens that high-rep work, pumping sets, volume work and high intensity work are the best techniques for improving neuromuscular and metabolic pathways to the muscle.

If you've been training your legs with low sets and reps and if you're not getting a decent pump (or any pump at all, which indicates poor blood flow), and your legs aren't growing, you now know what what you have to do. Increase your reps, increase your sets, pump the hell out of your leg muscles and train with high intensity. Believe me, as long as you eat properly, this type of training will get your legs growing when all else fails. 

A strong word of caution, however: This program is not suitable for relative newcomers. It's for people who have a couple of years of consistent heavy training under their belts. Beginners should stick to low-rep power workouts to build basic strength and mass and then stay with that as long as they can. In other words, if you respond to heavy, basic training, keep doing it; i.e., if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Only when you reach a plateau or just can't get your legs to respond should you advance to these techniques.

The Fatigue Product Theory

Another of Dennis DuBreuil's innovative ideas was the so-called fatigue product theory.
More on Dubreuil's ideas:
He believed that the fatigue products, such as lactic acid, are byproducts of hard training and have a function in rebuilding a muscle and helping it recover. Therefore, it is important that these substances remain in the trained muscle for a certain amount of time - at least 20 minutes and preferably several hours or longer. If they are flushed out before they perform their important chemical duties, as will happen if you immediately begin to train a new muscle group, your muscle growth will be reduced and your recovery hampered. Thus, ideally you should work only one muscle group per training session and do two or three workouts a day.

Few of us have the time to train several times a day, so DuBreuil said that the best compromise is to train muscle groups that are close to each other in the same workout so the blood remains in one area of the body. For example, biceps with triceps, chest with delts, lats with traps, and quads with hams. To accomplish this you might split your body over four days and have an all-leg day, a back day, a chest and shoulder day, and an arm day.

The benefit in terms of your leg development is that by training your legs on a legs-only day, you keep the blood and fatigue products in them for many hours, producing the maximum effect. Schwarzenegger and many others have trained this way. To further take advantage of the fatigue product theory you could split the body over five days, performing three upper-body workouts and two leg sessions, as follows:

Day 1 - quads
Day 2 - lats, traps and lower back
Day 3 - calves and hamstrings
Day 4 - pecs and delts
Day 5 - biceps and triceps

There are several advantages to this five-day split. First, you can get in more work on the three separate leg areas - calves, hams, and quads. This takes care of the requirement that you should do volume work. Second, you keep blood in the quads only on quad day and in the hamstrings on calves and hams day. The result is a bigger pump in all leg muscle groups. Finally, you have more energy, enthusiasm and strength, as well as concentration, so you can train your separate leg muscles with more intensity.

So, based on DuBreuil's ahead-of-his-time concepts, we have two basic guidelines for putting together a program to accelerate leg growth:

1) Do high-rep sets, pumping sets and volume work, along with high-intensity technique, to increase blood circulation and develop the neuromuscular and metabolic pathways to the muscle.

2) Train the different leg muscles separately from each other and/or the upper-body muscles to take full advantage of the fatigue product theory.

Heavy Weights and High Reps? The Heavy-Light Solution

It may seem like a contradiction that I've told you to use both heavy weights and high reps to develop your legs. "How can you train legs with heavy weights and high reps?" I hear you asking. "Aren't the two mutually exclusive?"

The answer is yes and no. To begin with, the idea of what constitutes heavy is relative to the style you use to lift the weight and how hard you do the set. If you perform a 20-rep set of squats in constant tension style, never locking out, your legs will burn and ache a lot more than if you lock out and rest-pause on each rep. At the same time you won't be able to use as much weight when you train constant tension style as you would doing full lockouts with pause. Either way, though, if you take a set to failure, as far as I'm concerned you're going heavy - regardless of the actual weight you use.

I don't care if you're doing 50 reps. Heavy is heavy. If the last rep is all you can do, that's going heavy as you can for 50 reps.

The best way to train legs and incorporate both heavy weights and high reps is to apply the heavy-light method. There are two basic ways to do this:

1) Include both heavy-weight, low-rep sets and lighter-weight, high-rep sets in the same workout.

2) Alternate heavy-weight, low-rep sessions with lighter-weight, high-reps workouts.

Both of these approaches are effective. In the latter case you might do all your leg exercises for 6-8 reps on your heavy day, and switch to reps in the 15-50 (yes, 50!) range on your lighter day. Another variation is to start the workout with one or two heavy exercises, holding the reps down, say, to 4-6, and follow that with either high-rep work, supersets, tri-sets, or triple drops.

The triple-drop method is especially effective for including heavy and light training in the same set, particularly for those who train alone. You use it on machines that have easily accessible weight stacks, such as leg curl, leg extension, and calf machines. You simply drop the pin to a lighter weight on the stack and continue with the set. Three drops in a set, reducing the weight about 10 percent each time, is enough to maximally tax the muscle. A hard triple-drop set can range from 15 to 30 intense reps. Now, that's intensity! And to think you're using both heavy and light weights in a single set.

Heavy-Light Workout One


Standing Calf Raise, 4 x 10
Seated Calf Raise, 3 x 20 superset with
Donkey Calf Raise, 3 x 20.


Leg Curl, 5 x triple drop
Parrillo Deadlift, 3 x 10-12
 - John Parrillo showed me this movement, and it definitely stretches the hamstrings more than regular stiff-legged deadlifts. The regular version is little more than a toe-touch with a barbell in your hands. When you do that exercise, your low back rounds convexly. In order to stretch the hamstrings, however, you have to lower to your toes or beyond, which is why stiff-legged deadlifts are normally done from a high block or off a flat bench. This can hyperextend the lower back and cause injury.

With Parrillo deadlifts you use less than half the weight you would use for the stiff-legged variety and rarely lower the bar beyond mid-calf level, yet your hamstrings are truly stretched to the maximum. How can this be? Because when you do Parrillo deadlifts you BEND FROM THE HIPS, not the lower back. You also arch your back concavely and keep it in that position throughout the exercise. The lower back is never rounded.

You perform Parrillo deadlifts as follows:
Hold the bar at the mid-thigh point to start the exercise and arch your lower back, thrusting your buttocks out. Maintain this position as you lower the bar to full stretch, which will probably occur between knee and mid-calf level depending on your flexibility. Come up three-fourths of the way to keep tension on your hamstrings, and lower again. Your hamstrings will burn and stretch like never before - and without any stress on the lower back.
 - Note: I first saw this as part of a Dan John Oly weightlifting tutorial video. Here:

He had a great way of getting beginners and those new to Oly lifting to get that killer hamstring stretch mentioned. If you train alone, just grab an empty bar and stand a little ways in front of a post  with your knees slightly bent. Then, concentrating on hamstring stretching, PUSH BACK your butt until it touches the post behind you. You'll be surprised if this is the first time you've done this. After you get the hand of getting that real strong stretch, move forward a little and once again try to touch your butt to the post, all the while attempting to stretch your hamstrings for all you're worth. After you get getting that feel down, you'll never go back to regular stiff legged deads. Beautiful!!! And so's that video.

Back to the routine -


Squat, 5 x 5
Leg Extension, 4 x 5-20 superset with
Incline Leg Press, 4 x 20-25.

Heavy-Light Leg Workout Two


Standing Calf Raise, 4 x 12, 10, 8, 6, triple-drop last set
Toe Press on Leg Press, 3 x 20-25 tri-set with
Seated Calf Raise, 3 x 20-25 and
Donkey Calf Raise, 3 x 20-25
Lying Leg Curl, 5 x triple-drop
High Foot Position Leg Press, 3 x 20 superset with
Parrillo Deadlift, 3 x 12
Leg Extension (warmups), 2 x 20
Squats (or Smith machine squats), 7 x 10, 8, 6, 6, 4, 3, 1-2
Hack Squat, 3 x 15
Incline Leg Press, 6 x 15, 12, 10, 20, 35, 50
I find that performing high reps on the leg press is very effective for training my thighs. By doing up to 50 reps to absolute failure, I was able to pump up my quads like balloons and finally get them growing after years of stagnation on low-rep heavy sets. For a guy who had stork legs all his life, this was gratifying, to say the least! 
The same is true for hamstrings. If like most people you've been training them with 3 to 5 sets of lying leg curls and a few sets of stiff-legged deadlifts and getting poor results, hit them with volume sets and triple-drops, as described. As for the highest-intensity combinations, however, I recommend you save those routines for when you're doing a five-day split in which hamstrings are trained with calves, on a separate day from quads.

Stretching the Benefits of Heavy-Light

As effective as this type of training can be, you'll get even better results if you do exercises after every set to stretch out your facial tissue, which is the protective sheath that covers all the muscles of the body.

Here's  a little more on fascia:
And Tom Myers book "Anatomy Trains" :   
James Earls' book "Born to Walk: Myofascial Efficiency and the Body in Movement:

I have found fascial stretching to be particularly effective for bringing out quad and ham separation and for improving shape. Done properly and consistently this kind of stretching will increase flexibility, reduce injuries and lower your Golgi tendon reflex organ's threshold, which means you can train heavier and with more intensity for more reps before your Golgi tendon reflex organ fires and shuts the muscle down.

Fascial stretching was made widely known to lifters by John Parrillo, the Cincinnati-based trainer and nutritionist. This is not the gentle, bend over and touch your toes type of stretching that's often done for a warmup or cool-down. It is an aggressive, forced and often painful stretching of the fascial tissue, with specific stretches designed for specific muscle groups.

 - Steve Holman on Fascial Stretching:
The idea of stretching the muscle fascia, the fibrous encasements that surround muscle fibers, has been around for a while. The original method had you use a rigorous, painful stretching regimen after you trained a bodypart. For example, after working hamstrings, you’d sit on the floor, legs straight and together, and your trainer would force your torso forward to fully elongate the hamstrings—it brought tears to the eyes. Fascia stretching makes sense because the encasements are made of tight tissue that can constrict the muscle and restrict growth. Stretching those sheaths gives the fibers more room to grow. It’s comparable to stretching a balloon before you blow it up; the prestretching enables you to fill the balloon with air much more easily, without collapsing a lung or forcing your eyes to pop out of their sockets.

 - More on Parrillo's FX Stretch Ideas, with a tie-in to John Grimek:

The fascial tissue can become toughened and thickened, making it difficult for your muscles to grow, expand and separate.When the tissue is stretched out, however, the muscles underneath get more room to grow and more convolutions are made in the muscle, which increases the separation.

Try performing the following stretches after each set of leg work - I mean, literally, after each set. 10 sets for the quads means 10 sets of quad stretches; and the same goes for calves and hams. (Golden era bodybuilder Frank Zane advocated stretching between each set.).

 - Calf Stretch:
Stand on a high block (the platform of a standing calf machine will do), and drop into the low position of a one-legged calf raise. Stay in that position, really throwing your weight back onto the leg to make your calf stretch to the max. On the first few sets hold for a count of 10-15 seconds, but add a few seconds on every set. By the last set you should be holding for about a minute. Alternate legs, of course, and be prepared for a lot of burn and pain.

 - Quad Stretch:
Stand in front of a sturdy piece of equipment with your back to the apparatus; a hyperextension bench is ideal, for example. Bend your right knee, grasping your right ankle with your right hand. Tuck your knee behind you, holding it against the bench, and lean back as you press your heel into your glute, pushing the quad down and back. Hold for a count of 10-15 seconds and repeat with the other leg.

 - Hamstring Stretch:
This is a ballet-type stretch. Place your right foot on a high railing or piece of equipment. Keeping your leg straight, lean forward and try to touch your head to your knee, really feeling the stretch in your hams. Hold for a count of 10 and repeat with the other leg.

To Squat or Not to Squat?    

That certainly is the question. Everyone knows that squats are the key thigh exercise, the one you supposedly need for ultimate mass and development. All the best bodybuilders, the ones who had great leg development, were squatters - despite what Vince Gironda says about squats overdeveloping the glutes and upper thighs, widening the hips and ruining symmetry. Even so, not everyone's structure  allows them to do heavy squats. If that's honestly your situation, you don't have to give up hope.

If you find that you always end up injuring your lower back whenever your squats get to a higher poundage, then do your squats on the Smith machine. This lets you place your feet ahead of your body and lean back slightly into the bar as you go down. It helps keep your back straight and throws all the stress onto your quads, not the hips, glutes and lower back. It's a safer, stricter way of squatting one that requires less weight than regular squatting. Also, you'll develop more muscle closer to your knees instead of higher up on your thighs, which can give the quads that ugly turnip look.

If you don't have access to a Smith machine, then stick with front squats, belt squats, hack squats and leg presses. To relieve stress on the wrists and clavicles when doing high-rep front squats, hold the bar with your arms crossed, or use straps.

Three, Count 'em, Three! 
Clean Grip, Crossed Grip, Straps

The Trick to Changing Foot Positions

When you do any type of squats or leg presses, your foot position influences the muscle development. To create thigh sweep keep your feet wide apart and your toes pointing out. The movement should feel as though you are pushing from your heels, not the balls of your feet. To build the front quads place your feet closer together with your toes pointing straight ahead. This should feel as though you are pushing with the balls of your feet, not the heels.

 - High-leg Presses:
This variation is great for developing the hamstring-lower glute area. Position your feet very high on the leg press, with just your heels touching the top of the platform. Your toes and part of the balls of your feet should be completely off the platform. Lower the weight as far as you can into your arm pits and push to within an inch or two of lockout. Really focus on the hamstrings and feel the pump there.

The Final Frontier - A Mega-Intensity Blast

Give some of these techniques a try and see if your legs don't respond better than they have been. Here is a highly specialized leg routine, designed to be used on days one and three of a five-day split schedule, as described earlier.

Advanced Heavy-Light Routine

 Day One - Quads Only (do a fascial quad stretch after every set)

Leg Extension, 3 x 15-20
Squat, 6 x 15-20, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4
Hack Squat, 3 x 15, 12, 10
Leg Press, 8 x 20, 15, 12, 10, 20, 35, 50, 50.

Day Three - Calves and Hamstrings (Do a fascial calf or hamstring stretch after every set)

Standing Calf Raise, 4 x 12, 10, 8, 6
Toe Press, 4 x 20 tri-set with
Seated Calf Raise, 4 x triple-drop, and
Donkey Calf Raise, 4 x triple-drop.

Standing Leg Curl, 4 x triple-drop
Lying Leg Curl, 4 x triple drop
High-leg Press, 4 x 12-20
Parrillo Deadlift, 4 x 10-12.

After several months of this kind of volume training reduce the number of sets, increase the weight you're using, while trying to train with even higher intensity.  

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Power vs Pump - Eddie Avakoff (2017)

 May 2017

50 Years Ago:

80 Years Ago

Power Versus Pump:
How to Use the Big Barbell Lifts to Improve Aesthetics and Strength
by Eddie Avakoff, owner of Metroflex LBC

I love the sport of powerlifting because it makes so much sense. 

You strengthen a system (your body) and test that system under weight. If the applied weight is successful, then increase the weight and continue to do so until the system reaches failure. Upon failure, determine what component of the system caused failure (let's say weak hamstrings). So you isolate the weak component and hammer the hell out of it until it's stronger. Go back and test the system. Then, good lift!

So increase weight and test again. Let's say failure again, but this time it's because of grip strength. So go isolate the grip (maybe some  heavy-ass farmer walks) until your grip gets stronger. Then go back and test the system.

Like I stated, powerlifting makes sense.

I like this way of thinking in the weight room because it really allows a strength athlete, otherwise monopolized by the barbell, to branch out into the "bodybuilding" world. Hypertrophy builds muscle. Volume builds size. So 3 sets of 10 reps followed by a down set of 2 x 20 still has its purpose even among one-rep-max guys. Obviously, the purpose of the proposed dumbbell hypertrophy wouldn't be for aesthetic gain (although that is a subsequent benefit), rather it remains consistent with the ultimate goal of improving power.

At Metroflex LBC (Long Beach, California), our world-class powerlifters spend a solid 90 minutes to two hours on the barbell for a squat day. And following that, they begin an entire workout for that particular muscle group of the day. For example, after two hours of squats (free squats, high-box squats, low-box squats, pause squats, static squats), our lifters then set out for an entire leg workout (leg press, quad extensions, hamstring curls, calf raises, weighted lunges, and glute ham raises). 

All in all, it makes for a long day at the office.
But it's also a foolproof plan at getting world-class strong. 

Deadlifts are the same format: 90 minutes to two hours of pulling (deadlifts, down-sets, rack pulls, deficit deadlifts, static deadlifts, and sometimes snatch-grip pulls). Then, as if your spine wasn't already about to snap in half (and believe me, your erectors will be pumped), you begin an entire back workout consisting of shrugs, cable rows, lat pulldowns, plate-loaded high-row and low-row machine, hamstring curls, reverse hypers, biceps curls and occasionally some tire flips, farmers carries, and prowler pushes. You know, the fun stuff.

Bench day is no different. When we bench press (either heavy or volume), we overload with board presses, pause bench presses, static bench presses (where you pause and hold in the sticking point), and close-grip benches. Then comes the chest and triceps workout, usually consisting of incline dumbbell presses (sometimes single-arm versions), triceps pullovers, weighted dips, dumbbell flyes, triceps cable pushdowns, behind the neck presses, and face-pulls. 

So there is certainly an applicability for a powerlifter to incorporate bodybuilding movements - even in a bodybuilding type format (meaning higher volume sets and reps, and using various intensity techniques, such as drop sets or rest-pause). On the flip side, I also believe a bodybuilder should use powerlifting movements, although to a lesser degree. 

Powerlifting movements (squats, benches, deadlifts) are great because they've been proven to aid in building size and even naturally raising testosterone. Powerlifting movements incorporate lots of muscles, so a bodybuilder looking to make sure he doesn't miss a single muscle fiber in his legs would want to perform these exercises. Powerlifting movements require a lot of core stability, which in turn melts fat from the core and tightens it. 

So that's all well and good, but one thing a bodybuilder needs to consider is that powerlifting movements not only build muscles, but they also build tendons. And improved tendon strength usually means increased size. The excess weight will even make your joints larger and your bones denser and stronger. Normally, that sounds kind of nice. But as a bodybuilder, where the goal is to create an illusion of massive muscle (aided by small joint size), excess barbell work could ultimately undermine your training. So using powerlifting rep schemes (3 to 5 reps with heavy load) in moderation is the key here. 

Wrist, Knee and Ankle Size - 
Vince Taylor

Squatting builds your knees (contrary to the popular belief that it ruins them, it doesn't), so knee size will diminish the proportions of one's hamstrings and calves. And benching can grow your elbows and triceps, so guys whose goal it is to get onstage also need to watch their proportions and symmetry.

Moderation, then, is important for bodybuilders exploring power movements, since aesthetics are a dictate of the sport. Powerlifters, on the other hand, have it a bit easier here, as they can lift what they want, how much they want, and even go out and eat what they want after. 

And it doesn't get much better than that.
Lift big weights and eat big steaks!      

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Complete Leg Workout, Part One - Bill Starr (1998)

From This Issue (December 1998)

For Much, More More Bill Starr Related Training Info: 

Note: This article was published in 1998, well before 5 x 5 style training had become as popular as it is today. Hard to believe, isn't it. But here was Bill Starr, preaching lifting truth in the bodybuilding literature of the day, just as he did throughout his entire adult life.  

Not many people realize that Bill Starr, apart from being a coach and trainer with an amazing depth of knowledge and experience, was also a highly skilled writer with an individual, recognizable voice and a pristine technique. Here below, notice the correct use of "quotes" and 'quotes' . . . the proper use of a colon before spoken words . . . the numbers from one to nine spelled out and 10 and over numbered in all non-training layout segments . . . as well as a few subtle uses of scene setting and change to make accessible and accentuate the internal occurring during narrative sections (e.g., "a cooling breeze rolled over us, making me feel much better" when it becomes clear the prodigal squatter has returned to the fold). He held to and maintained a high level of writing in all his articles, and I've yet to find one that was not interesting, informative and easy to understand. We as lifters really owe a great deal to this man. Thank You Bill Starr!

A Complete Leg Workout for Gaining Size and Strength
Part One
by Bill Starr (1998)

It was one of those three-T-shirt days in the shed. Sweat ran off me in a steady stream, and I rushed to the open doorway after each set for a breath of air. I was trying to hurry through my routine since I had promised Gene that I would talk to him about his program. He wasn't due for another 15 minutes, so I slowed my pace, drank the rest of my water, and decided to skip my beach work (two or three higher rep sets for triceps and biceps). 

I was sitting on the grass with my back to the shed when he arrived. He laughed and observed: "You look wasted. Tad warm, isn't it?" 

I hadn't seen Gene in over a year. He had gone to Los Angeles to do graduate work at UCLA. It seemed to me that he had grown a few inches in height and he had certainly put on some bodyweight, especially in his upper body, but I quickly noticed that his legs were much too small for his large chest and shoulders.

"It's like tempering steel," I returned. "Not for the weak of heart, that's for sure." I got up and we shook hands. "Nice tan. Makes you look out of place in Maryland." 

"You have to have a tan in California or pay a heavy fine," he replied with a chuckle.

"Obviously you've been training." 

"Glad you noticed. Put on some weight, mostly here," he said, patting his chest. "But," he added meekly, "I know I need more lower-body work. That's why I wanted to talk to you." 

"What brought you to that conclusion?" I asked teasingly.

He actually blushed. "I know, I deserve to be kidded, but I really didn't think I was letting my legs get that far behind until about two weeks ago. A bunch of us went to Venice Beach for the day. We were playing volleyball on the sand and I overheard a couple of girls talking about us. Naturally I figured they were impressed with our physiques because we all work out, but then I realized they were mocking us. I heard one say, 'They can't be athletes. They don't have any legs.' That really hit me. I played football for four years and always took pride in the fact that I looked like an athlete. I always hated that top-heavy look a lot of bodybuilders have, and now I end up in the same way." 

"How did you get so out of proportion?" 

"The gym I trained at was the main reason I guess. Everyone specialized on chest, arms and shoulders. I had never seriously trained like that so I decided to give it a try. We also hit out backs pretty hard, but no one did heavy squats. The most I ever saw anyone use was 315, and then he didn't go low. Besides, training the upper body is fun." 

I nodded. "This is typical of most gyms. Seldom do I ever see anyone even trying to squat more than 315 and, as you said, they don't bother going low. The reason most people have sorry leg development is that the exercises which bring the most results are difficult. Leg work, to be productive, is very hard work. Most of the modern-day trainees are looking for an easier route to greater size and strength with elaborate machines, scientifically formulated nutritional products or shortcut systems. But the bottom line remains: Tease the lower body and nothing happens, but attack those muscles and they will respond.

"I remember starting with you right here in the shed. You got me doing full squats at the first workout, and I thought I would die. I was sore for four days, but I made gains in them right away. And they helped me a lot on the football field. They were also the main reason I put on 20 pounds that first year. I definitely know I need to get back to a hard lower-body program. That's why I came to see you. I'm more than willing to do the work. Just tell me what I should do." 

A cooling breeze rolled over us, making me feel much better. "First tell me what you've been doing for your legs." 

"I've been working them twice a week, but never really heavy. Squat one day and do leg presses on the other day. On both days I've been doing leg extensions, leg curls and calf raises on the machines. But in all honesty, I've just been going through the motions. They put a lot of emphasis on 'maintaining' out there." 

"Not just out there. Everywhere. Maintaining is another word for loafing. Your first step is to put heavy squats back into your program. By heavy, I mean you should be seeing the White Buffalo on the final few reps of your last set. Any less effort and you're back in the maintaining mode.' (seeing the "White Buffalo” - those spots, stars and sparkles you see when you've pushed yourself up to a high level of exertion). 

"I remember the White Buffalo. Haven't seen him in years. All right, I'm game. So squat heavy twice a week?"

"Not exactly. Go back to squatting three days a week until you build a solid foundation. Then, if you want to squat only twice a week, that will be okay. Squat heavy on Monday, light on Wednesday and medium on Friday. Figure out your workload at the very beginning and slowly add to it. Once you've reached a fairly high level of strength on the squats, you can build in some variety, like front squats, lunges and leg presses. But just use full squats as your core leg exercise for two or three months." 

"No calf raises, leg extensions, leg curls?" 

"You can and should be doing these also, but they are auxiliary movements, not core exercises. Concentrate all your energy into improving your squat and you will build a solid strength foundation. Working the squats hard is also the very best way to pack on muscular bodyweight. No other single exercise stimulates growth like the squat."

"What about sets and reps? And how much weight should I use at first?"

"You start from where you are now and work up. Tell me what you can full squat now and I'll outline the numbers for each workout." 

"I'm pretty sure I can do 315 for 5 right now." 

"So that will be your top-end set for your first heavy day, Monday.
Do 135, 185, 225, 275 and 315 for 5."

"Just 5 sets?" 

"That's right, because you can't get ahead of yourself, regardless of how motivated you are. You have to slowly establish the strength base. If you try to do too much too fast, you'll run into trouble. On Wednesday, light day, do 135, 185, 225, 245 and 265 for 5."

He was writing the numbers down on a yellow pad. He chuckled and commented: "I thought you said this was a hard workout. This will be easy." 

"The light day was designed to be a relatively easy day. But it's a very important day, for it allows you to increase your total workload, without a great deal of stress and it also helps you perfect your technique. After a few months the light day will not be a walk in the park, but it will always be easier than the other two workouts. On Friday, medium day, you'll use a different set and rep sequence. Do 135, 185 and 225 for 5, then 275 and 325 for 3." 

"That's more than I used on Monday. Wouldn't that make it a heavy day too?" 

"No, because the heavy, light and medium concept is based on total workload and also on intensity. Your workload and intensity are both higher on Mondays. 

On Mondays and Fridays, do 2 sets of 20 on the leg curl, leg extension and adductor machines. Also do calf raises, 3 x 30. That's you leg workout."   

"That doesn't sound like very much," he mumbled.

"It's plenty, believe me, because you're going to be constantly pushing those top-end numbers on Monday and Friday. Your second week will have you doing your final set of 5 with 325, the same amount you used for your last set of 3 on Friday. The second Friday will have you handling 335 for 3. You'll continue like this for eight or 10 weeks or until you hit a sticking point. If you're eating lots and packing on weight, you'll be able to add 100 pounds to your squat in that time." 

"That would be fantastic!" 

"But very realistic. I've had athletes at John Hopkins who put 200 pounds on their squat in a matter of three months following this routine. One of the keys to progress is consistency. Miss a workout, even the light day, and you've disrupted the rhythm. Getting three sessions in a week is very important, even if you have to do two back to back. As you continue to increase the weight you use for your final set of 5 and 3, you will also be improving your total workload. This is necessary in order to establish a more solid foundation. I compare it to building a pyramid. Widen the base and the top end will take care of itself. 

Later on we'll look at steps to increase your workload, add variety once you're squatting heavier weights, identifying weak spots and a few more points. But for now, work hard on upping your squat numbers."

Friday, April 21, 2017

To Cheat or Not to Cheat - Charles A. Smith (1988)

Harriet Smith, Charles A. Smith, Bert Goodrich, Earle Liederman, Unidentified Woman

To Cheat or Not to Cheat
The Use and History of the Cheat Training Principle 
by Charles A. Smith (1988)

If you'd been around in the 1950S, you would have had a good chuckle over the fiery feud between York Barbell President Bob Hoffman (self-named "The Father of Modern Weightlifting" and the ever ebullient Joe Weider, who were waging war against each other. 

What they said in their mags about each other was acidulous. What they said in private would have corroded the carvings off Mount Rushmore! The reason for this war of words? Joe's espousal of the "cheat" training principle, which many said he "invented" but which Hoffman said was "worthless, dangerous, futile and useless." So there!

Joe did not invent the "cheat" principle; hell, it's been around as long as there have been barbells. But what Hoffman failed to realize was that the weightlifting and strength movements he advocated in his magazine - the snatch, the clean and jerk, the bent press - were all cheat movements. Bob Hoffman, fond of showing himself in his own magazine and boasting about his own weightlifting feats one time wrote an editorial about the evils of cheating and then in the same magazine exhibited his powers by bent pressing a shiny International barbell, a movement he forgot to mention was the cheatingest movement of the lot, a movement in which everything except the platform you are standing on moves!

Those in the know recognized all the fussing and arguing for what it really was. Joe was treading a little too heavily on York Barbell's turf and too many weight-trainers were turning away from Hoffman's beloved Olympic weightlifting to Weider's cursed bodybuilding. The bottom line was dollars so the war was on.

Strangely enough, the businesses of Joe Weider and Bob Hoffman boomed and the only sufferers were the poor bloody typesetters, proofreaders and yours truly who had to deal with the noxious effluvium, since I was Editor at the time of Joe's ever growing Muscle Builder/Power magazine. 
It must be admitted that while Joe Weider did not "invent" the "cheat" training principle, he did give it great exposure in his mags to get it accepted and into weight-training as a valuable and result-producing way to "pick 'em up and put 'em down." And it must also be said that there are not too many around today who know anything about the "cheat" training principle, its history, what it can do and how to use it. There are even some who think the principle is curling 150 pounds and telling someone you made 200.

First, what is cheat training? Putting it in simple terms, it is using a looser style to perform an exercise for which performance rules have been established. As an example, let's take the two hands military press. Performed correctly, the press should be done with no back bend, no jerk from the shoulders, no bending at the knees and with the proper foot placement. But in training, a slight back bend, a slight dip of the legs and heave from the shoulders is used all the time - especially when the last few reps become tough going.

That's what cheating is all about, allowing you to handle heavier than normal weights, putting a greater overload on your muscles and allowing you to do extended sets.

If for example you could curl 100 pounds 6 times strictly, with some cheating you can perform several extra reps, so there is the possibility of more intensity. It's like performing forced reps by yourself. Thus any "cheat" movement is an easier way to lift a weight that should, according to the rules, be performed strictly. By using this cheating style, one can lift more weight. That much is obvious.

An example? In a one-arm lift, the hardest way to get a weight overhead is the one-arm military press.
Rules, and methods of training for and with the lift can be found here:

In this lift, performed according to the rules, no side bend of the body is allowed and the trunk must remain erect at all times. In contrast to this lift we have the side press (or "Devisse"), in which a side body bend is permitted, although the legs must remains straight.

One Arm Side Press:
The side press progresses to the bent press in which any amount of side bend is allowed and the legs are allowed to bend at the knees.

Secrets to Mastering the Bent Press by Walter J. Dorey (FREE . . . THANK YOU, WALTER!)
This is a great 111 page book on bent pressing. A true contribution to the lifting literature.

Check out Bill Hinbern's Site for two books on bent pressing.
One by Sig Klein and one by Harold Ansorge:
To find more on any given subject here on this blog, just Google your topic with ditillo2 added. 
For example, Barbell Curl:

Back to the article . . .

It is obvious that in these latter two lifts, the one arm side press, and the bent press, much more weight can be lifted than in the one arm military press.

You young people reading this article may say to yourself, "So what? Who does these lifts anymore?" But you should know that, with the possible exception of the bench press, all of our so called "modern" exercises were being used 100 or more years ago (written in 1988). And even the bench press was being used in the very early 1900's.

In England, at one time  42 different lifts were in use for contest purposes and record breaking.
And they still are.

International All-Round Weightlifting Association Lift Rule Book:
And here's a PDF conversion of it I made:

And among the Niagara of weightlifting books that have been written, none is as valuable as Bill Pullum's book, "Weightlifting Made Easy and Interesting."

Published in 1920, it gives each lift then in use a full explanation plus it helps anyone reading it realize just how the "cheat" training principle was evolved.

For example, we used an exercise we called "standing flies". Modern weight trainers perform it with arms bent at the elbows and considerable body movement. In Bill Pullum's day it was known as the "lateral raise standing" and was done with the arms dead straight and locked at the elbows, no body heave, no bend either forward or backward, with trunk held erect throughout the lift. So we can see a cheating movement has evolved out of a lift for which strict rules existed. Today the name has reverted back to the "standing lateral raise" or "side lateral".

Perhaps the two men who have had the greatest influence on the cheat principle are Bert Assirati, strong-man/wrestler:
and Joseph Curtis Hise:
 - Note: J.C. Hise is my all-time favorite lifting author. What a guy and what a mind! 

Bert was, in the late 1920's and early 1930's performing feats of strength that were by the standards of those days impossible. Assirati was cleaning and jerking 365 pounds when that poundage was more than the amateur world's record! He was also capable of ONE LEGGED SQUATS WITH 200 POUNDS FOR REPS! His two hands curl, strict, British contest style, was 200 pounds and his straight-arm pullover of 200 pounds was 60 pounds greater than the British amateur record at that time.

Bert used "cheat" training in most of his workouts. He did cheat curls, for example, before they were ever mentioned in this country. In fact, it was this author (Charles A. Smith) who first mentioned Bert's curl workout in a training advice column in a 1947 edition of The Iron Man magazine ( - that's what it was called back then, and the column Smith wrote was titled "Help With Your Problems", or Solving Your Problems" at times).

Reading Bill Pullum's book, you will see that the two hands curl was performed with no body movement and the upper arms kept tightly against the body, with only the forearms moving to curl the bar to the shoulders. In training for the curl, Bert used a slight body heave and a slight back bend. His training method enabled him to set a curl record of 200 pounds in strict style.

Bert also used the cheat in the two arms pullover.
In this lift, you lie on your back, hands gripping the bar with a shoulder width spacing, arms stretched out fully behind your head. The bar is then pulled up to arms length above the face with no arching of the lower back and arms kept locked and absolutely straight. Bert would start the lift with the bar at arms length above his face as he lay supine. He would then drop the weight onto the floor, bouncing the bar off the mat on which he lay, catching it on the rebound and use momentum to complete the lift.

 By establishing a record that so far as I know remains unbeaten to this day (1988), Bert showed that a loose style did build power and size and caused no harm.

 - There's a lot of 'rebound cheating' movement in these two books, divided over several posts. I'm willing to bet dollars to donuts that Smith wrote them both and Weider put his own name on them:
There's seven parts to this one.
There's 11 parts to this one.

Joseph Curtis Hise's contribution to the "cheat" principle came from his deep knee bend style and his "hopper deadlift". Both of these exercises, as Hise performed them, were his "brain children". In the squat, Hise used a cambered bar (a bar with a bend in the middle) which made it easier on the shoulders when using heavy weights and stopped some of the 'rolling' forward on the ascent. Hise would "collapse" under the weight, hit rock bottom and rebound to an upright position. He would take three d-e-e-p breaths between each rep and continue squatting for 15 or 20 reps. Between sets of squats Hise flopped on his back and performed bent-arm breathing pullovers, forcing in a deep breath as he lowered the weight to expand his rib-cage and forcing out his breath as he raised the weight. The results? Fast gains in bodyweight, leg and chest size. By the way, those three deep breaths between each squat are now known as the "rest pause" system. Hise was using the system in 1932.

Typical development of the power training addict
as exemplified by one of the first monsters.
No name provided. 

Perhaps the most result producing contribution to weight-training by Hise was his "hopper" deadlift. Joe took two large pieces of timber, rested his barbell on the so the body was level (parallel) with the ground when it was bent over. Hise started his hopper deadlifts by taking the bar off the timber in normal deadlift manner to the erect position. Then, with legs held straight (no bending at the knees) and kept that way throughout the set, Hise dropped forward, bounced the weight off the timbers to gain momentum and then recovered to an upright position. In other words, a bouncing stiff legged deadlift. The value of this exercise lay in its ability to allow the lifter to move quickly while using a heavy weight and without risking injury to the lower back. There was a drawback however. The "hopper" deadlift raised so much racket the neighbors thought World War II was breaking out ahead of schedule!  

Let's look at another exercise that can be used as a "cheat" training method, the Upright Rowing motion. Used in the so-called "strict" or correct style, you do not bend forward or back but keep the upper body motionless while raising the bar to the chin. But by using a little body heave to start the bar on its way up to the chin, one can handle more weight for more repetitions. The greater the body heave, the more weight can be handled.

By using an ever looser style, the exercise can change, and evolves into "high pulls". For shoulder girdle muscle development, upright rows, "cheat" or "strict" are hard to beat.

How should the cheat principle be used and what are its benefits? Benefits are not only physical but mental as well. Gains in size and power come as a result of using heavier and heavier poundages. Mental benefits come from the mind becoming accustomed to using heavier poundages.

After a period of time using the cheat principle, upon returning to a stricter style of lifting you will find the bar feels lighter. Any weight trainer who uses support exercises knows that after taking three of four hundred pounds off the rack and holding it for 30 seconds your normal press poundage can feel feather light.

If it is possible for you to squeeze 10 reps out of a given poundage in the press, curl or any other movement, then all you have to do is add 10 or 15 pounds to the weight, curl or press as strict as you can for as many reps as you can and then when further reps appear impossible, start to "cheat". Bend forward and use a body heave in the curl. Bend back or use a slight heave from the shoulders in the press, and bend your knees a little to use leg power to help drive the weight up.

The idea is to do as many reps in strict style as you can and then bring in a "cheating" phase for the remaining reps. On some sets (say the last set when you are well warmed up and in the groove on a movement) you can up the poundage you normally use by 20 or 25 pounds and cheat all the way through the set. Or raise the training poundage to a weight that only allows you two or three strict reps and then cheat the rest of the reps.

Much more could be said about the "cheat" principle; what it can do and what its place is in modern weight lifting. The principle isn't new. It is as old as weight training itself, and the history of our sport goes back at least two thousand years!

No man living today can claim the cheat training principle as his invention. Cheating is a natural way to lift a weight and outright beginners do it without even knowing. It's knowing how and when to use it that makes it so valuable to the weight-trainer.

Over a hundred years ago (written in 1988), lifters were bent pressing, side pressing, jerking barbells and dumbbells overhead and one only has to look through Bill Pullum's book to see just how many "cheat" movements were used in 1920. One only has to witness a modern Olympic weightlifting contest to9 see how "cheat" movements are being used today.

So "cheat" and console yourself with the thought that it is the only "cheating" you can do that won't land you in the joint.

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