Thursday, October 21, 2010

Training Can Be Different - John Grimek

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Exercise #2, lower right corner


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Training Can Be Different
by John Grimek (1959)


Have you tried any different exercises lately? I mean something really different that would still work the muscles vigorously but not in the usual manner to which they have been accustomed. Has such an idea ever occurred to you?

I’m quite certain that most everyone has, at one time or another, though about doing something different in the way of exercise and may have even tried it. This seems to be quite natural for any real dyed-in-the-wool enthusiast who is always seeking new ways of improving his development.

I recall in my earlier training days I was always seeking new and better exercise that would provide shortcuts and help me to reach my physical goal faster. Some of these “brain storms” I had then still remain and are considered excellent exercises even today: the jumping squats and the upright rowing or high pull-up exercise. I first used them in my training during the early part of 1930. Of course, I performed the high pull-up in two ways: the one hand pull-up was used mainly for developing power, while the two-hand variety was included chiefly as a muscle developer. I always did these exercises quite fast and pulled the weights from the floor to shoulder or chin height. Today, however, the exercise is considered more valuable when it’s not pulled too fast and started from the front of the thighs.

In preparing the Simplified System of Barbell Training, Bob Hoffman recommended another, almost similar, exercise which he called the rapid high dead lift. In this exercise the weigh was pulled up from the floor to about chest height. It is a very good exercise for developing the strong pull needed to lift heavy weights. Exercises of this type not only develop the strong, powerful muscles of the back along the spine, but the shoulders, arms, trapezius, and latissimus dorsi muscles also are strongly activated as well. The use of such exercises will improve any bodybuilder so that he will have a more rugged and powerful structure in this region, as the champion weightlifters have. Most bodybuilders lack the ruggedness of any champion weightlifter, in this area, and therefore improvement in this region would help them a lot.

The exercises illustrated here, with the exception of the leg raise situp, are some of the ones I employed during the early ‘30s in hopes of finding something new that would speed up muscular development. Yet I must admit that this idea of combining fast, contracting movements as a means of inducing faster development wasn’t entirely my own idea. It started to formulate after I read a brief story in one of Earle Liederman’s books which he wrote in the late ‘20s. In this volume the author related a story about a man who sought to improve his chinning ability even though he could chin with either hand easily. He devised a scheme whereby he could further his progress in chinning by fixing a ladder at a rather steep incline. Grasping the lower rung he would pull hard and catch the rung above it. He acquired the ability to skip at least two rungs, and then he began to work on single-hand chins. Eventually he was able to skip two rungs while doing a one-hand chin with either hand, and anyone who has ever tried or succeeded in doing a one-hand chin knows the amount of power it takes to propel the body upwards high enough and fast enough so that two rungs can be skipped. I became so intrigues by with this idea that I decided to contrive a similar arrangement. However, I neither had the ladder nor the place to install it. Later I did try nailing several crosspieces across the joists in the basement but this proved impractical and caused me to bump my head against the crosspieces every time I pulled myself up too vigorously, possibly an explanation for some of the run-on sentences I wrote for Boho back during that era. But this experience gave rise to other ideas, some if which have just been mentioned – the jumping squats and the high pull-up. Applying the same logic once my head injuries subsided, I reasoned that if regular squatting was so beneficial, how much better might it work if one would leap up from the low position instead of just recovering. A few experimental attempts convinced me that this movement imparted stronger contractions and gave more spring to the legs. Later I convinced others when I exceeded the world indoor standing broad jump record even though I didn’t practice it. And even though during this era not many multi-million-dollar running shoe or cereal box promotions were offered to record breaking athletes, I was happy in the doing and quite certain that this exercise was responsible for my improved ability.

It was about this time that I saw a very impressive picture of Clevio Massimo, then an extraordinary showman and fabulous performer, in a pose that revealed his massive trapezius development. I wanted similar trapezius development, but the regular shrugging I was doing didn’t bring me the desired results fast enough – or it may have seemed that way to my young and impatient self at that time. I started analyzing other movements that would hasten the development of the trapezius and hit upon the one-hand pull-up, which I did exactly as a one-hand snatch except I didn’t get under the weight to complete the lift. I could note improvement after only a few weeks of using this exercise. The trapezius began to thicken, the hollows around the clavicles began filling out, and the arms, shoulder and particularly the erector muscles of the spine got heavier. During this time I studied all available courses and books by the hours in hopes of finding new and different exercises that would exercise the muscles more vigorously and hasten development. Of course I believe any interested barbell man is inclined to do the same thing if he is keenly interested in furthering his strength and development. Therefore, if any of you have found any exercise which hasn’t been publicized before and you want to make this exercise known, drop me a line explaining the details of it, and if possible, enclose a photograph showing how it should be done. If it has any developing merit at all I’ll be happy to make use of it in the Training Problems section and give you credit. I must add, however, that I get letters frequently from fellows who submit exercises which they feel are new, and when I tell them that this exercise is not new and has been used before, they feel hurt. Sometimes I refer them to certain issues in which a similar exercise appeared, if I can remember the issue, and then they realize they must have seen it within these pages before.

On the other hand, I am not trying to sell you the idea that any of these are new and unpublicized exercises. I feel sure that if you have been a steady reader of lifting information for any length of time you may have seen most of these exercises mentioned. But take it from me, some of these are different enough to challenge your ability and provide the muscles with a new kind or workout.

Let’s start with the easiest first, the forward raise and jump with dumbbells (Figure 1). Some strongmen were capable of doing a somersault while holding a dumbbell in each hand. The dumbbells in this exercise will provide momentum and help to increase jumping ability if proper timing is acquired. Begin with light dumbbells and don’t try to jump to your limit at first. Acquire the “knack” and time your forward jump as you raise the dumbbells. You’ll be able to make a fine jump and improve your coordination with practice. Do at least 6 or 8 repetitions, and increase the weight of the dumbbells only after you have mastered the movement.

(2.) Swinging barbell from floor to overhead position with straight arms. This exercise is especially for the erector muscles of the back. Swing the weight semicircularly in one sweep from the floor to overhead and with arms straight. If the legs are kept locked the exercise becomes twice as difficult, bringing the muscles of the calves and back of thighs into action. Use a light weight. Repeat 6 to 8 times.

(3.) Side bends and curl combination. Use a dumbbell that you can curl properly. Hold the weight hanging at the side. To start the exercise first bend towards the side you’re holding the weight, then bend at the waist towards the opposite side and curl the weight under the arm at the same time. Return to starting position and repeat 10 to 12 times. Use heavier weights and also perform lower reps as you become accustomed to the movement. Repeat with the other hand.

(4.) One-hand high pull-up. Use barbell with about the same weight you can do a one-hand snatch with. It’s exactly the same movement except you don’t have to dip under the weight as you do in the lift itself. But try to pull the barbell up to shoulder height at least. Increase the weight when 6 repetitions become easy.

(5.) One-hand lateral raise on incline. Assume a position so your body is on an angle. From this position raise the dumbbell slowly to an overhead position and lower slowly and repeat. This exercise provides terrific action to the entire deltoid muscles, but especially to the lateral section of this muscle. Repeat at least 10 counts, working up to 12 or 15.

(6.) Incline forward, arm extended curls. This may sound complicated – it’s not. Bend forward from the hips (the more the bend, the more difficult the exercise) and extend arms which should be kept almost straight while holding the barbell. Curl the weight up while holding this position and without bringing the elbows closer to the body when curling. Holding the elbows away from the body makes the exercise more difficult because it imposes greater strain on the shoulders while exercising the biceps in this manner. Use light weights until you begin to get the feel of the exercise, then use heavier weights. Do 6 to 8 repetitions and repeat in sets if you like.

(7.) Resting head on floor while doing laterals. Ever since the neck development article by Frank Leight (May 1959, Strength & Health) I’ve had numerous inquiries whether this position can be utilized for other exercises. This one is similar and works the lats, shoulders, neck, triceps and other upper back muscles. Place head on mat with feet spread apart for balance. Raise dumbbells from floor to hip, keeping the arms well back. Repeat two or three sets of 10 reps.

(8.) Jumping squats. This exercise has been featured numerous times within these pages so there is little point in illustrating it with a photo yet once again. However, it is necessary to use a light enough weight that will permit a fast rebound from the full low squat. One should leap up as high into the air as possible and continue for at least 10 counts. Attempts should be made to work up to 15 counts. Increase weight only when it is needed to produce more resistance.

(9.) Combination leg raise and situp. This may prove more difficult than it looks, but it works the abdomen like nothing else. Lie in supine position on the floor and begin to raise the legs, and as the legs are raised thrust the body forward in an attempt to touch the toes with the hands. Lower and repeat. No need to specify any number of repetitions. Do as man as you are able to or until the abs begin to ache and tire. Iron boots on the feet and weights held at the shoulders can make the exercise much more demanding.

(10.) To induce flexibility of the shoulders, hips and body in general, hold a light barbell behind the hips (palms facing away from the body, arms straight and feet comfortably spaced. Start bending forward and at the same time raising the barbell overhead. At this point the head is bend quite low and the bar forward and away from the body. Lower the weight and straighten up and repeat the exercise for as many repetitions as you like.


There you have 10 different exercises that should provide you with a bit of variety. But I’d like to issue a warning to those who are overzealous in their training. Start out by using light weights only until you get the feel of any new exercise before increasing the poundage. Instead, it would be wiser to at first increase repetitions before dropping back and increasing the weight. Don’t try handling more weight than you can use – CORRECTLY!

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