Friday, July 31, 2015

Controlled Overtraining - Alexander Cortes (2015)


Articles by Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

Controlled Overtraining Can Lead to 
Dramatic Short-Term Results

Overtraining can beat you up and leave you injured. But done strategically, it can also get you into peak shape in record time, while making some of the best short-term gains of your life.

Building muscle is a long-term process. Tissue can only be added so fast, and muscular density is developed from thousands upon thousands of repetitions. For those who want an aesthetic physique, patience is part of the game. That said, there are times when planned overtraining can deliver phenomenal short-term improvements. While you cannot "train insane" every day, there are periods where absolutely blasting it in the gym can kick you out of a rut and spur improvements in both muscle mass and strength.

Within exercise science, the term for this planned overtraining is "overreaching" and refers to distinct periods of time in which training volume, intensity, and frequency are increased for the purpose of shocking your physiology into improvement.

Time to Triple Up

This program works on a compressed time frame. That means training is going to be put into overdrive. Specifically, we are going to utilize three different training methods all at once to push the intensity of the workouts. Over six weeks, you'll dramatically transform your physique through a carefully periodized plan that has you training all out every session, but which ceases before the point of burnout or injury.

These strategies we'll be using are compensatory acceleration training (CAT), relative strength method, and giant sets.

Compensatory Acceleration Training   

Formulated by sports scientist Dr. Fred Hatfield, this method focuses on moving weights with maximal acceleration on every single rep. Similar to the concept of the Dynamic Effort method created by Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell, CAT focuses on power an strength development with your working weights. CAT sets are all about speed and explosiveness. If you're doing a bench press on a CAT day, the bar will come down slowly but should explode off your chest and reach the end of its range of motion as quickly as possible. On these sets, you will always stop short of grinding out reps or using a weight that is so heavy it makes you slow.

Relative Strength

This simply refers to using your bodyweight as resistance. While bodyweight movements are sometimes dismissed as being ineffective for building muscle, they can have a hypertrophic effect. Since they're less taxing on the joints than free weights, you can also perform them at a higher volume and more frequently. Because they can also be done for very high reps, they can be used for HIIT (high intensity interval training) and have a metabolic effect when incorporated into training. To become stronger relative to your weight, your body must also shed extraneous tissue. Developing relative strength will also have positive carryover with all your traditional lifting exercises.

Giant Sets

Giant sets are performed in circuit fashion but are bodypart specific, designed to use complementary exercises for the same muscle group in sequence. Giant sets enable you to lift "giant" amounts of volume within a compact time frame. This elevates the metabolic factors of the workout, creating a powerful stimulus that can develop hypertrophy and help shed excess body fat.

Six-Week Assault

Over the next six weeks, you will be training six days a week, working a three-day bodypart split. Over the course of the week, every muscle group will be trained twice. You will alternate between CAT days for power and strength, and giant set days for massive metabolic disruption. Sprinkled throughout will be relative strength bodyweight work, along with regular repetition work.

The main concept here is to blast through every workout. Don't worry about increasing the weights. Rather, aim for moving the same weights for more reps and more quickly, with control and authority. The idea here is to maximize speed and volume. Add reps and sets before adding weight to any one exercise. Take as little rest as possible. Rest only as long as you need to perform the next set and then start again at full bore.

The Science of the Triple Threat

This training program is designed to create a powerful short-term anabolic effect, not a long-term change. With that in mind, this is not a year-round training program the repeat over and over. In exercise science terminology, we're creating an acute response. This will require intense exposure and application of stimulus. That means you're in for some punishing workouts.

Why does blasting hard work so well for building muscle? The initial response of a body to an increase in volume and frequency is to overcompensate its adaptive mechanism. For a short period of time, your metabolism will be highly elevated and your recovery will increase to accommodate the training stimulus. This is a natural response to stress. Instead of making you slow down, your physiology will focus upon surviving and overcoming the stress you're placing on it. 

This effect quickly subsides, however, usually when the stress continues past four to six weeks. And beyond the six or seven week mark, metabolism will start to gradually dip as your body tells you to slow down and stop expending so much energy.

This creates a window to build some muscle and opportunity to shed some body fat at the same time. That is why this program is six weeks in length.

By creating an acute effect through the right type of training, your physiology will be "shocked" into rapidly adapting. And you'll emerge looking the sharpest you've ever looked within such a short period of time.

Training Split

Monday: Quads/Hamstrings (CAT)
Tuesday: Chest/Back (CAT) 
Wednesday: Shoulders/Arms (Relative Strength + Giant Set)
Thursday: Quads/Hamstrings (Relative Strength + Giant Set)
Friday: Chest/Back (Relative Strength + Giant Set)
Saturday: Shoulders/Arms (CAT)
Sunday: Rest

Monday: Quads/Hamstrings (CAT)

Back Squat, 5 x 5 superset with
Double Kettlebell Swing, 5 x 10.

Barbell Jump Squat, 6 sets of 3 reps.
Stand in a conventional squatting position with a barbell on your back, your feet at shoulder width, and your hands gripping the bar tightly. Push your hips back and descend into a parallel squat with your head and chest up. Explode from this bottom position into a jump, then land softly and descend into another squat in a smooth, controlled manner.

Stiff-Legged Dumbbell Deadlift, 3 x 15.

 Leg Press Drop-Set, 5 x 40-20-10.

Explosive Standing Calf Raise, 4 x 5.

Tuesday: Chest/Back (CAT)

Incline Barbell Press, 5 x 5.

Bentover Barbell Row, 5 x 5.

Dumbbell Squeeze Press, 4 x 15 superset with
Hammer Strength Row, 4 x 15.

Dumbbell Bench Press, 3 x 12.

Bentover Dumbbell Row, 3 x 10.

Close-Grip Lat Pulldown, 2 x 12.

Incline Dumbbell Flye, 3 x 15.

Wednesday: Shoulders/Arms (Relative Strength + Giant Set)

Supinated Close-Grip Chinup, 4 x as many as possible, superset with
Close-Grip Triceps Pushup, 4 x as many as possible.

Giant Set: 3 rounds with movements performed in sequence - 
Seated  Machine Shoulder Press, 10 reps
Triceps Pushdown, 15
Seated Dumbbell Curl, 10
Dumbbell Lateral Raise, 20.

Thursday: Quads/Hamstrings (Relative Strength + Giant Set)

 Sumo Deadlift, 3 x 10.

Bodyweight Split Squat, 3 x 10-20.

45-Degree Hyperextension, 3 x 20.

Giant Set: 3 rounds with movements performed in sequence - 
Bodyweight Squat, 20 reps
Lateral Lunge, 12 (each leg)
Bodyweight Reverse Lunge, 10 (each leg)
Bodyweight Jump Squat, 15.

Friday: Chest/Back (Relative Strength + Giant Set)

Supinated Close-Grip Chinup, 5 x 6-12, superset with
V-Bar Dip, 5 x 8-15.

Giant Set: 4 rounds with movements performed in sequence - 
Pushup (moderate grip), as many as possible
Inverted Row, as many as possible
Wide-Grip Pullup, as many as possible
Deficit Pushup, 15.

 Saturday: Shoulders/Arms (CAT)

Single-Arm Dumbbell Snatch, 6 sets of 3 reps.

Strict Barbell Curl, 5 x 5.

Push Press, 5 x 4.

Close-Grip Plyo Pushup, 5 x 5 superset with
Bench Press, 5 x 6.

Barbell Hang High Pull, 3 x 12.

Seated Dumbbell Hammer Curl, 3 x 10.

Triceps Pushdown, 3 x 20.


Monday, July 20, 2015

Pause for Strength - Jay Ashman (2015)

Jay Ashman (2015)

What if I told you about a program that has had these results:

Increased a lifter's deadlift from 560 to 630 in 12 weeks.
Allowed a first-time powerlifter to win his class and set a national record for bench press.
Helped a man set a lifetime PR for his deadlift that he had been chasing for over a year.

You would probably be intrigued, as most of us would be who pursue strength in the weight room. The good news is that you are going to get a sneak peek into this program.

This peaking program makes liberal use of pause lifting work, the Rate of Perceived Exertion method, and targeted accessory exercises designed to build the supporting muscles to support bigger lifts. It demands effort, it asks you to be honest about your own lifting, and it requires the discipline to stay within the parameters of the daily workload. It has also been tested on dozens of real people who have sen impressive results from it.

Pause Lifting

Pause lifting is very simple to do, in theory. At a specified point in the lift, you will stop and hold the weight before you continue on the concentric path of the movement. With the squat, you will pause in the hole for the specified time, wither a one, two, or three count. The bench press will be paused on the chest, and the deadlift will be paused about two to three inches after breaking from the floor. It is absolutely critical that you maintain your tightness during these interludes. You cannot relax in the hole or rest the pause on your chest. When you relax, you defeat the purpose of the pause by not training the muscles to fire out of the lift.

Pause lifting is beneficial because it helps improve your strength by virtue of holding the weight in a static position for a short time. It can help improve explosiveness by erasing the stretch reflex and teaching your muscles how to 'pull the trigger' without the benefit of a rebound. It also builds core strength and body confidence because you're holding the heavy weight with sheer muscle strength. 

All of these are good reasons to utilize pause lifting in your strength program, but like any good concept, the timing is imperative.

RPE Method

RPE stands for Rate of Perceived Exertion. This is a concept that has been around for a while and is becoming  more popular as of late, as opposed to percentage-based training where every lift is predicated on your one-rep max. What RPE means is that you will lift according to you daily state in the gym, instead of trying to force a certain percentage that may be too heavy for that day. 

Here's a simple example:

You're tired from a long day of work, but your program calls for 90% of your one-rep maximum. You have it in your head that you have to hit these numbers or your workout is a wash. When it comes time to reach 90%, you need help getting the bar to move and it is a failed lift. Discouragement sets in.

Consider the same situation, but instead of using percentages, you have the RPE method programmed to determine your daily intensity. This day calls for a RPE of nine, which is leaving one rep in the tank. RPE 9 is similar to 90%, but it allows deviations as to how you feel for that particular day. Since the RPE is not based off a predetermined number, it allows some flexibility on days when you're not feeling up to par as well as on days when you feel like you can push more weight. 

The RPE scale is simple to follow:

An RPE of 10 will be a max-effort lift, the absolute most weight you can move that day.
RPE 9 is leaving one rep in the tank.
RPE 8 will have you stop two reps before failure.
RPE 7 is submaximal and often used for rep work or speed work when lifting.

The RPE method demands that you be honest with yourself. It requires an element of self-awareness because you'll be asked to judge how many more reps you can or cannot do. It's important to keep this in mind and constantly be self-assessing as you train.

If you do this correctly, the results you experience will be very comparable to the results you read about in that first paragraph. This is a proven program in which my clients run a personalized version according to their needs and where the testing groups for the upcoming book have all made tremendous progress across the three main lifts as well as with their overall muscularity.

The Program

To give you a sample of what to expect, the first week of the program is laid out for you here. Day one will center around the squat, day two will be a bench day, day three is for deadlifts, and the fourth day is a bodybuilding-style program day for hypertrophy. Each week has four days of training and three days of rest. You don't need more than that, and you won't want more than that in your quest for strength. Each phase of this program is broken down into three-week intervals followed by a deload week, for a total of three phases, each one with a slightly different focus.

The main lifts will utilize the pause technique and the RPE scale. (Note the parentheses next to the main exercises, which list the RPE number and the sets and reps). Perform accessory exercises like standard bodybuilding sets. 

Day One 

1) Pause Squat - RPE 8, 3 sets of 4 reps.
The goal today is to find your RPE for four reps and then repeat that for 3 sets of 4. You will use the same weight for all three sets. Perform a one-count pause in the hole for each squat rep.

2) Front Squat - RPE 7, 3 x 6.
The front squat is meant to be much lighter than the pause squat and designed to be a quad accessory lift.

3) Dumbbell Lunge - 3 x 10 per leg.
Unilateral work is often overlooked by lifters because it is so difficult. Learn to embrace lunges because they use muscles you don't often utilize much with squatting. These stretch your hips, work your stabilizers, and add more work to your quads, hamstrings, and glutes.

4) Leg Curl - 3 x 15.
As with all accessory work, do not train to failure. Performing clean, hard reps across the set will bring up weaker areas and allow you to gain muscle.

5) Romanian Deadlift - 3 x 10.
This is a complex lift, but it is still an accessory movement. Remember, all accessory work is to complement the big lifts, not take away from them.

6) Plank - Max effort for time.
Your abs can never be too strong. If you want to lift heavy weight, you need strong abs. This is not debatable. Suck it up and get it done.

Day Two

1) Pause Bench Press - RPE 8, 3 sets of 4.
Instead of the one-count pause, you will pause the bar on your chest for a count of three. You must stay tight on your pauses. Just because it's a longer pause does not mean you rest the bar. Keep your body tight and ready to push the bar off your chest.

2) Close-Grip Bench Press - RPE 7, 3 x 6.
The triceps are often a lifter's weak link when it comes to the bench press. You won't see too many lifts missed off the chest, but many lifters can't lock out their arms on a heavy press.

3) Dumbbell Incline Bench Press - 3 x 20.
The idea here is to include extra chest and shoulder work. Keep the weight light and get the reps in.

4) Cable Crossover - 3 x 20.
After performing three pressing movements for the upper body, I like to add in a stretching exercise at the end. No need to go heavy on these. Keep the weight light, and focus on the stretch and the movement of it. If you have to strain for the last few reps, you're doing them wrong.

5) Straight Bar Pressdown - 3 x 20.
This exercise develops size and strength in the triceps and mimics the position your hands are in when you bench press.

6) Hanging Leg Raise - 3 x 15.
You can use straps for the leg raises or even a Roman chair. Be sure to bring the feet above waist level on every rep.

Day Three

1) Pause Deadlift - RPE 8, 3 x 4.
This is a difficult exercise, so choose that RPE carefully. Once you break the bar from the floor, pull for a couple of inches, then pause for a one count before finishing the lift.

2) Deficit Deadlift - RPE 8, 3 x 4.
Standing on only a 45-lb plate makes this lift harder and helps you learn how to use leg drive without making the deficit too large and creating a movement pattern that is unlike the actual deadlift.

3) Barbell Row - 3 x 10.
Keep your back mostly parallel to the ground and don't cheat these reps by moving the weight with body English.

4) Leg Press - 3 x 15.
Perform these with your feet close together and in piston style, moving the weight quickly through the range of motion and without coming down so far that your lower back rounds. Piston-style leg presses help build quad strength to allow for a better leg drive on the deadlift.

5) Dumbbell Row - 3 x 12.
Perform these rows one arm at a time with your other arm and that same-side leg leg braced on a bench.

6) Plank - Max effort for time.
For a more challenging version of this exercise, brace your forearms into an exercise ball. This will demand that you stabilize your body to keep the ball from rolling.

Day Four

1) Dumbbell Front Raise - 3 x 20.
Day four is the bodybuilding day, dedicated to the reps and chasing that pump. Dumbbell front raises help build up the front delt so you can support a bigger bench.

2) Rear Delt Machine Flye - 3 x 25.
These not only protect your shoulders during bench pressing but doing them on a machine allows you to isolate the delt, control the reps, and focus on where you want to build the muscle.

3) Shoulder-Width Pulldown - 3 x 15.
The next two exercises represent 90 reps of back work. A strong back is a major key to your lifting. If your back cannot support a weight, you will not lift it.

4) Close-Grip Pulldown - 3 x 15.
Change the bar handle to the neutral-grip V-shaped handle for this exercise. Don't slack on training the back or your lifts will not progress.

5) Dumbbell Hammer Curl - 4 x 15.
We end the week with old-fashioned biceps curls. Yes, even when you're training for strength, you still need to hit your biceps. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Strengthening and Mobility for Overhead Movements - Robert LeFavi

Strengthening and Mobility for Overhead Movements
Robert LeFavi

Assessing Overhead and Shoulder Mobility

The first step is to assess your shoulder mobility. Try this common test of functional movement:

Stand with your feet flat on the floor and hold a PVC pipe directly overhead. Now, descend into an overhead squat. Optimal mobility, for which the highest score would be given on this movement, occurs when you can keep the bar over your feet, maintain heel contact with the floor and have your hips descend below horizontal level of the hip joint. In those with compromised mobility, the heels may rise or the PVC pipe may move either too far forward or stay too far behind the body; both positions are problematic and indicative of a shoulder-mobility limitation.

If your shoulder mobility is compromised, you should embark on a sustained program to increase shoulder range of motion. Don't labor under the impression that your shoulders can't increase in mobility -- the tissues limiting mobility can be stretched. It simply takes a sustained, intentional and smart program, along with effort on your part.

Proper Mechanics for Overhead Movements

Even though I am a proponent of training overhead, it's vital to understand the proper mechanics of the movements so as to minimize stress on the rotator cuff. Overhead exercises should be performed in such a way that the head of the humerus an maintain its proper position in the glenoid fossa.  

This is best accomplished when you start the exercise from the "rack" position (across the front of your shoulders). It's also best to use your legs and perform overhead movements (to the extent you can) from a standing position with the exercise initiated by the legs, as in a push press or jerk.

To maintain proper biomechanics for rotator cuff protection, ensure that the bar follows a pathway that moves in a slight arc in front of your body, around your face as the chin is tucked back slightly (don't throw your head back), and ending with your arms fully extended overhead and in line with your ears. Avoid leaving your arms in front at the end of the movement, as such a finishing position places undue stress on the rotator cuff. 

Finally, be very careful of rotator cuff fatigue. Remember, these muscles are small and tire out with repeated activity. Be vigilant about how much volume is included in workouts that feature multiple overhead sets. When rotator cuff muscles fatigue, the humeral head begins to migrate away from the glenoid because of the strong pull of the deltoids, and the likelihood of injury increases sharply.

Strengthening Your Overhead Movements

   The final step is to train specific exercises that will help you develop overhead strength and stability in overhead movements. Here are three great exercises that will do just that.

Kettlebell Turkish Get-Up

The Turkish Get-Up is a fantastic exercise to improve overhead movements for two reasons. First, it helps increase strength through a large range of motion and across multiple planes of movement. Second it's superb for developing mid-line and core stability, which further transmits rigidity to movements overhead.

The Perfect Turkish Get-Up with Gray Cook:

"I would have thought the perfect turkish getup would at least include a fez"
The comments aren't always simply hater on Youtube.

To perform, lie on the floor and, holding a kettlebell in your right hand, safely move the kettlebell into a locked-out position over your upper chest. Your right knee should be flexed with your foot flat on the ground and your heel near your buttocks, and your left leg should be straight and slightly abducted (away from your body). Perform a slight crunch to maneuver up by rolling onto your left hip and elbow. Think of punching your elbow down to the floor. Immediately following the crunch and punch, drive down hard with your right heel and push up onto your left hand, all while threading your left leg underneath you into a kneeling position. At this point, your left knee and right foot should be on the floor and the kettlebell should be locked out overhead. From this position, tighten your core and lunge forward to a standing position. Reverse these steps to return to the start position. Repeat on the other side. 

During both the ascent and descent in the Turkish Get-Up, work hard to keep your right arm locked out overhead. You'll expend more energy and fatigue more quickly flexing your elbow even slightly and re-locking it. Also, keep your eyes focused on the kettlebell; this will keep your active shoulder properly aligned for overhead stability and strength.

Note: The verbal explanation of this exercise makes it out to be much harder and more complicated than it actually is. The best approach is to get down on the ground and start practicing it. 

Behind-the-Neck Overhead Press with Snatch Grip

Step up to a rack and, with your hands at snatch width on the bar, position yourself underneath it with the bar on the back of your shoulders, as you would for a squat. With your feet at shoulder width, and without assistance from your lower body, perform a strict press upward and lock out at the top. Remember to squeeze your buttocks and abdominals so your hips stay underneath you and your core maintains rigidity. Return the bar slowly to the back of your shoulders. 

Because this isn't a push press or a jerk, the motion should be SLOW AND CONTROLLED. As a strength-building exercise (providing the basis for more power and endurance), this movement should be performed between the repetition maximum ranges of three to six. This means that you should rarely perform high-rep presses if your goal is to build strength overhead. An occasional one-rep maximum is a good idea as well, to improve your progress with this grip and position overhead.

The use of forced reps should be consistent here if possible, with a spotter standing behind you and assisting at your elbows only at your sticking point. The spotter can also help lower the bar to your shoulders when the weight is in the 1RM to 3RM range.

Overhead Shrug

In a power rack, place a weight (slightly heavier than one with which you can successfully perform a push jerk) at a height about two inches above your head. Make sure the rack is stable, with a god metal catcher holding the weight. Facing the bar, grasp it with your hands at a clean width and bend at your knees to position your body directly under the bar with your arms locked out and shoulders tight. Make sure to maintain a solid core. Slowly and carefully straighten your legs; stand up under the weight, keeping our elbows locked out. As you do, the bar may slide up the rack. That's fine as long as your arms stay straight and you move the bar away from the rack to an overhead position once you're completely rigid under the bar.

Next, while holding the bar overhead and locked out, elevate and depress your shoulder girdle slowly and completely three times. You're essentially performing a shoulder shrug with this heavy overhead bar. Don't bend your elbows or even move at the wrists; just shrug your shoulders.

This exercise increases shoulder-girdle stability and will keep the bar from moving forward through "soft shoulders" in movements like the overhead squat and jerk. In other words, it enables more force production in "active shoulders" to keep them active. As a high-intensity exercise, lockouts should be performed judiciously and not programmed too frequently. And they should always be done with weight that exceeds your push-jerk 1RM.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Powerbuilding - Don Saladino (2015)

Bill Pearl

When you've been in the iron game a while, you begin to ask yourself some tough questions: 

How do I maximize size without sacrificing strength? 
How do I get stronger without getting injured?
In short, how can a lifter have it all -- muscle, power, and pain-free joints to enjoy the benefits?

The answer is a combination of powerlifting and bodybuilding programming, colloquially known as "powerbuilding," blended in the formula we offer here. 

The Dynamic Duo

Our program is a mix of the Westside Barbell powerlifting template, and old-school, high-volume bodybuilding. The "Westside Conjugate Method," as it's known, is a system that incorporated heavy workouts and lighter ones. The heavy days are called Max Effort sessions, because you work up to a max, the heaviest weight you can use for reps in the one to five range. The lighter days can be done in two different ways.

Many lifters who powerbuild do the lighter workouts exclusively with higher reps and go for the pump, and that works fine to build muscle. Our routine includes plenty of pump work, but we're also making use of the "dynamic effort method" (DE) -- a technique whereby you lift lighter weights explosively. Even though the weight may not feel challenging, moving it as quickly as you can trains your nervous system to recruit the biggest, strongest muscle fibers an it helps you to overcome sticking points. If your bench press usually stalls midway through a rep with a heavy weight, DE can help you develop the speed off your chest to blast through.

Lifting for Life

Of course, building muscle and setting PRs isn't much fun if it wrecks your body in the process. Heavy training is hard on the joints, but by rotating your main lifts and generally changing up the workouts on a weekly basis, you can avoid the overuse and overtraining injuries that plague many lifters. The main lift in each max-effort workout should be switched every week. In fact, you can switch out practically every exercise in the program week to week if you like -- just follow the basic template we set up here. It includes two weeks of sample workouts.

On the first max-effort day, for instance, when you'll train your chest and biceps, stick to three to four chest exercises and three biceps movements per session, but the exact exercises you pick are up to you. The main lift can be a bench press one week, then an incline press the next, and a floor press after that if you'd like. Feel free to experiment and find exercises that work best for you and keep the workouts fun. 

List of sample max-effort bench exercises:

List of sample max-effort squat/deadlift exercises:

Directions: The Schedule

You'll perform two max-effort and two dynamic-effort workouts per week, rotating through a bodypart split of chest/biceps; back; legs; shoulders/triceps. Note that it will take two weeks to work each bodypart group with both the max- and dynamic-effort methods -- follow the template for how they fit together. Day 3 in each training week is for cardio and recovery. It will help improve your performance in the workouts as well as protect against injury. 

Strength: Max-Effort Training

Max-effort workouts focus on improving one main lift. To do that, you need to train heavy. Warm up thoroughly and then chose a variant of whatever the main exercise is (some type of squat, bench press, deadlift, or overhead press), and begin working up in weight slowly. Add weight in small increments and keep your reps to five or fewer until you reach a load that allows you only 3 to 5 reps. When you've maxed out those reps, move on to the next exercise. 

Speed: Dynamic-Effort Training

The goal of dynamic-effort work is to move a weight as fast as possible. (Note that when doing DE pullups on back day, you'll be lifting your bodyweight). Aim for 60-70% of your max on these exercises and keep the reps to three. If that feels too heavy or your latter sets get sluggish, reduce the weight. The point is to be as explosive as possible -- while maintaining perfect form -- so don't get too anxious to add weight.


Use the exercise of your choice to raise your heart rate to a moderate level (120 - 140 beats per minute) and keep it there for 30 - 60 minutes. Afterwards, foam roll and stretch.


Day One (Max Effort)


Bench Press (any variation) - 
as many sets as you need to work up to a 3-5 rep maximum.

Dumbbell Bench Press:
4 sets of 8 reps.

Flyes, or machine flyes:
5 x 12-15.

Seated Dumbbell Curl:
4 x 8.

Hammer Curl:
2 x 10.

Barbell Curl:
4 x 10-12.

Day Two (Dynamic Effort)


8 sets of 3 reps.
Simply perform reps as explosively as possible on both the positive and negative phases. 

Chest-Supported Row:
4 x 10-15.

Reverse-Grip Pulldown:
4 x 10.

One-Arm Dumbbell Row:
3-4 x 10.

Bent-Arm Pullover:
3 x 15-20.

Day Three (Cardio)

Day Four (Max Effort)


Squat (any variation):
as many sets as you need to work up to a 1-5 rep maximum.

Unilateral Leg Press (or one-legged squat variation):
3-4 x 10-12.

Goblet Squat:
2 x 10-12.

Leg Extension:
3 x 8.

Glute Ham Raise, back extension, or RDL:
4 sets of as many as you can.

Leg Curl:
3 x 15.

Day Five (Dynamic Effort)


Overhead Press (any variation, seated or standing):
8 sets of 3.
Rest 60 seconds between all dynamic effort sets.

Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raises:
4 x 10-12.

Rear Delt Raises:
4 x 10-12.

Close-Grip Bench Press:
4 x 6-8.

4 x 10-12.


Day One (Dynamic Effort)


Bench Press (any variation):
8 sets of 3 reps.

Incline Dumbbell Press:
4 x 10.

Pushup on Handles:
3 x as many as you can.

Dumbbell Flye:
3 x 8.

EZ Bar Curls:
4 x 8.

Hammer Curl:
2 x 10-12.

Incline Dumbbell Curl:
4 x 10-12.

Day Two (Max Effort)


Deadlift (any variation):
as many reps as you need to work up to a 1-5 rep maximum.

Lat Pulldown:
4 x 12.

T-Bar One Arm Row:
4 x 10.

One-Arm Pulldown:
4 x 12-15.

Straight-Arm Pulldown:
2 x 15.

Day Three (Cardio)

Day Four (Dynamic Effort)

Leg Press (or squat variation):
10 sets of 3 reps.

Hack Squat:
4 x 12.

Bulgarian Split Squat:
3 x 15.

Seated Leg Curl:
3 x 15.

Lying Leg Curl:
2-3 x 12-15.

Farmer's Walk:
4 x 45-90 meters.

Day Five (Max Effort)

Overhead Press (any variation):
as many sets as you need to work up to a 1-5 rep maximum.

Cable Lateral Raise:
4 x 10-12.

Face Pull:
4 x 12-15.

Lying Triceps Extension:
4 x 10-12.

Triceps Pushdown:
4 x 12-15.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

The 3 - 7 - 12 Layout - Paul Niemi (1979)

Many beginners who read the physical culture magazines are continually changing their routines almost weekly as they discover the various schedules the physique stars follow. Gains slow down and even stop with this constant shifting. And if you don't follow a particular routine with a positive mental attitude, progress can also cease. I know this is true because I've personally made better progress in three months of hard work on a basic routine than I did in a year of half-hearted routine changing.

A beginner (or any lifter at the appropriate time) should pick a basic all-around routine, stick to it for at least two months, and train hard. Don't spend your time searching for the "perfect" schedule.

Times will come, however, especially if you train alone, when you'll feel like skipping a workout, or after getting halfway through you'll feel as if you just don't want to change the weights again to do the next exercise. On other days you'll be full of energy and feel like working through a double routne.

One good solution is to use the 3-7-12 system, which will help you vary your training from workout to workout depending on how you feel on that particular day. Plan on training three days a week, and don't miss a workout. Use 7 exercises at most sessions. Pick one exercise from each numbered item in the following list:

Situp or Leg Raises (warmup) - 1 x 25-50.
1) Squats: front, back, or hack.
2) Heel Raises: donkey, seated, or standing.
3) Chest Work: barbell or dumbbell bench presses.
4) Back Work: chins, rows, or deadlifts.
5) Shoulder Work: regular or behind the neck presses, or lateral raises.
6) Arm Work: barbell or dumbbell curls.
7) Waist Work: crunches or leg raises.

Start with 2 to 3 sets of 5-10 reps for each exercise except waist work (25-50), and calf work (15-25).

On those days when you don't feel much like training, use just three exercises. Pick one exercise from each group of the following and do 5-7 sets of 3-5 reps each:

1) Legs: front, back, or hack squats.
2) Chest: bench presses, or dips.
3) Back: rows, chins, deadlifts, or power cleans.

If you have very little interest on a particular day, you can even use the same weight in all three exercises. For example, take 150 lbs and do front or hack squats, stiff-legged or regular deadlifts, and bench presses.

If you feel really ambitious on a particular day, use 12 exercises:

1) Situps: 1 x 50
2) Squats: 3 x 8-10, alternated with
3) Stiff-arm Pullovers: 3 x 10-15
4) Calf Raises: 3 x 15-25
5) Good Mornings, or Stiff Legged Deadlifts: 3 x 8-10
6) Presses, or Behind the Neck Presses: 3 x 8-10
7) Lateral Raises: 3 x 8-10
8) Bench Presses: 3 x 8-10
9) Rows, or Chins: 3 x 8-10
10) Curls: 3 x 8-10
11) Lying Triceps Extensions: 3 x 8-10
12) Leg Raises: 3 x 25-50

I'm not going to tell you that you should be squatting with 500 lbs or overhead pressing 300. This will only discourage you. Even many of the top men don't use the goal weights recommended by some authors. It's not so important what you are using now even if it's only 75 lbs. What is important is how you're progressing.You must try to increase your weights regularly even if you only add 2.5 lbs to the bar at a time.

It would be foolish for you as a beginner to set a 500- or even a 400-lb squat as a goal. What you should do is set a goal of adding 2.5 to 5 lbs to your squat every workout, or every week, but make haste sensibly, slowly, and steadily.

A good rule to follow in doing your exercises is to raise the bar rapidly (dynamically) and lower it slowly (with concentration). 

Try this routine and give it at least a two or three month trial.
I'm sure you'll be pleased with the results, and it will allow you to better learn how to deal with stronger and weaker days in your training.


Monday, July 13, 2015

Powerlift Training - Ken Leistner (1980)

Ken Leistner, Joe Weider, Fred Hatfield

Most Powerlifting USA readers are familiar with my approach to squatting and deadlifting. If one were to construct a routine to use over a lifetime, in order to accrue the benefits that weight training is supposed to offer, my suggested approach is the way to go, I feel. However, with only slight modification to the so-called and aforementioned pre-meet period, one could maintain and in fact, increase his muscular strength and cardiorespiratory capabilities for the rest of his training days. (Note, I said training days, not competitive days, although they could be one and the same.). If the proper foundation is built, the pre-meet changes are all that would be necessary to hone in for top contest performance. Let me elaborate.

I really enjoy Olympic lifting. It's a lot more interesting to watch than powerlifting and more aesthetically pleasing. The factors that make this so also cause me to view Olympic lifting in a jaundiced light. The procurement of the intricate skills needed to Snatch, Clean, and Jerk properly are not really applicable to much past the two Olympic lifts. True, many coaches will tell you that the lifts have a direct carryover to the football field, for example, but that same quality for football can be built without taking the time and effort needed to learn the lifts (and remember, to do the lifts properly, i.e., safely, one must put a lot of time into technique work). This always disturbed me. I felt that training for the lifts was somehow extant from the reality of life and in a great sense, the reality of other branches of athletics. Little cardiovascular benefits were to be had if one adhered to the usually suggested regimens proposed by the many "experts" in the field. Man, I'd do some power snatches and really wonder just what the hell I was doing them for. "Well, in order to Snatch better." That, of course, is fine and dandy for the Olympic lifter, but for one involved in track, football, street fights, and lots of running, as I said, I often felt lost in space.

Powerlifters, if they train as most recommend, are a bit closer to athletic reality, but also ten to be severely limited in application. The skill and technique necessary to perfect the powerlifts is considerable, but not to the extent of the biathlon. The raw power built can be immediately applied to other athletic pursuits. This is not to say that the strength built with squat cleans can't be applied as well, but if time is a factor, there will be a lot less time to make that application by the time you get done learning your cleans properly. Of course, if you adhere to a schedule of triples and singles, your heart and lungs will receive limited stimulation and again, my whole trip in training is to maintain the body, the entire body. Hey, once a body freak, always a body freak. How many guys watch a woman walk down the street and say, "Yeah, she's got a nice ass, but she also has good proportion between femur length and tibia length. Ankle shows good symmetry to the knee. I ought to hit her up for a date." This is my trip and any with a similar passion will understand. You know that one system (simply speaking), in this case the muscular strength system, holds no superiority to the cardio-respiratory system. They all count and my training covers all of those bases. I honestly feel that proper training can allow you to have your cake and eat it -- you can be strong enough to be a top powerlifter and still have all of the other attributes of a top athlete -- speed, coordination, muscular and vascular endurance, a paucity of excess body fat, good, coordinated, graceful movement.

My plan for Memphis on March 2nd was to follow my usual two days a week of training (two days of lifting, anyway. Every day is a "training" day), and then use an altered pre-contest preparation phase. Unfortunately, the efficacy of this approach will not be demonstrated too quickly as I didn't train for over eight weeks. To be totally accurate, I took two workouts and gave two lifting demonstrations (as part of an overall clinic on proper training and rehabilitation of injuries). As mentioned in last month's PLUSA, problems with my legs (sever enough to send me to the hospital for evaluation - the last place you could ever get me short of any police station in this country), an inability to walk for days at a time, did not allow me to train at all since the last week in November. The anguish the entire family went through in relation to my son's problems, two moves of the entire household in a six week period, and the usual round of exams, lectures, etc., added little to my plight.

Training days are Monday and Friday. Traditionally, Monday and Thursday have always been my days, mainly because Friday evening would find my cousin Tommy, my wife, and me meandering down to Chinatown or Little Italy after work to load up on all the food we could stuff down and generally run amok on the Lower East Side. As native New Yorkers know, a walking trip from 6th Avenue and Houston Street down to Chinatown via Forsythe or the Bowery is always good for any number of exciting incidents. Anyway, Monday and Friday is the same as Monday and Thursday (really, just write it out on paper), so it doesn't really matter.

Today is January 21st and it is at this point that the pre-contest phase begins. I intend to carry through on it, if I am able. Without the laying of the groundwork, the effects of this phase will be obviously limited, although the potential for injury will be increased. For the sake of reader interest, however, I'l lay it out day-by-day so that others will have a better idea of how I go about things. 

January 21

Squat - x 2
Bench - 225 x 1
SLD - x 6
Press Lockout - x 3
Upright Row - x 12, x 6

Squats are done with a warmup of 12 reps and then doubles, but only 3 or 4 of them to a top weight. Benches are done to see if I can in fact bench. My torn pec is not improving, despite pulling out all the rehabilitative stops, so I decided to ease into the bench to monitor my progress, but building benching strength off of overhead work. "SLD" stands for Stiff Legged Deadlift on a high block, doing a set of 12 and then an all out set of 6. Two sets, that's it and is more than enough (believe me) as long as you go all out on it. Press lockouts involve standing in a power rack and locking out the bar the last 3 inches of the overhead press. Only 3 sets here. "Abs" means heavy sidebends, one set of 30 reps, and one set of weighted situps, reps to vary from 15 to 50.

January 25 

Squat - x 8
Press - 3 sets, 5 reps
DL in Rack - x 4
Triceps Pressdown - x 12, x 6
Curl - x 12, x 6

Pretty self-explanatory. Only 3 sets of squat. For example, 205 x8, 315 x 8, 405 x 8. Deadlift in Rack is from bottom of patella and only 3 or 4 sets total. Only 2 sets on curls and the like. If each set is all out (or to "failure" as they say), it will be enough.

January 28

Squat - x 1
Press - x 2
Light DL from Floor - x 4
Low Press - x 3
Upright Row - x 12, x 6

Single in squat with wraps. Press is only 3 sets. Low Press is in rack, done from start to eye level.

February 1

Squat - x 7
Bench - 235-240 x 1
SLD - x 6
Triceps Extension - x 12, x 6
Curls - x 8, x 4

February 4

Squat - 430 x 2
Press - 3 x 5 reps
DL - x 3
Dips - x 12, x 6
Upright Row - x 8, x 4

February 8

Squat - x 9
Bench - 250 x 1
Shrug - x 8
Press Lockout - x 4
Curls - x 8, x 4

February 11

Squat - 440 x 1
Press - x 4
DL in Rack - x 4
Dips - x 12, x 6
Upright Row - x 8, x 4

February 15

Squat - x 6
Bench - 260 x 1
SLD - x 6
Low Press - x 2
Curl - x 8, x 4

February 18 

Squat - 440 x 2
Press - 3 x 5 reps
DL - x 1
Press Lockout - x 4
Upright Row - x 12, x 6

February 22

Squat - 460 x 1
Bench - 270 x 1
Shrug - x 10
Low Press - x 3
Curl - x 12, x 6

February 25

Squat - 430 x 4
Press - x 2
SLD - x 6
Dips - x 8, x 4
Upright Row - x 8, x 4

March 3 - Meet

I think the key points is that bench pressing strength is being built without benching. The singles are done only to give me a feel as to where my torn pec is on the continuum of efficiency. I made the statement that I would probably open my bench with 250 and if I didn't tear, go to 300. If I didn't tear on that, I'd finish with 330 to 350. Sounds absurd but if I don't tear, it'll go. If I do tear, it could go out at 250 as soon as it will 350 so why not shoot the wad?

Curls and uprights are done only for injury prevention, primarily that long bicep tendon. Ab work is done because I believe that the abs play a major role in stabilizing the torso in the two big lifts and it's necessary to keep some semblance of balance between flexion and extension strength in all muscle groups. In comparison to other squatting routines, note that there are no 15 or 30 rep days. Again, this is one of the pre-meet adjustments. It is expected that one should already have a firm base because he will have done the higher rep work in the preceding months. Obviously, I'm not suggesting that anyone do what I plan to -- lay off for two months after training for only four weeks, try to train for five weeks and then go all out. It is fairly insane and that's being done under the assumption that this training, as limited as it is -- in time, not in scope, you don't need MORE than this -- will be possible. As much as it will upset my wife and cousin, I've been known to compete without ANY preparation!

I hope this gives you a clearer look as to how Leistner gears up for the madness of a meet. I think that John Kuc made the statement that too many meets a year are counterproductive because they disrupt the training cycle. Amen to that.  


Sunday, July 12, 2015

I Booed the Hell Out of Him Many Times - Jan Dellinger (2015)

Maurice "The French Angel" Tillet

Jan Dellinger (2015)

Repeated experiences often bring one to certain conclusions. For example, after taking all manner of people around the York Barbell Museum/Hall of Fame over the years, I firmly believe that there is at least one exhibit therein which anyone, even if not interested in the Iron Game remotely, can relate to one some level.

One event  which helped bring me to this unshakeable contention was the day that a busload of Senior Citizens from Massachusetts arrived unexpectedly and were suddenly inside and all over the museum. Actually, I came to a couple of conclusions that day: the first was that there really wasn't that much difference between a group of 10-year-olds in a museum and a group of 75-year-olds in terms of noise and hubbub. The only constant was that the younger group could move around a bit faster, but the attention span was about equal.

On the upside, the Elderly Invasion gave me the opportunity to converse firsthand with two very colorful female live wires who actually saw Maurice "The French Angel" Tillet wrestle. When I approached them they were eyeballing the death mask of The Angel, reminiscing on all cylinders about being ringside numerous times at the Boston Gardens when Tillet headlined.

So, they saw him up close and still possessed vivid recollections of his bizarre countenance and general "other worldly appearance." Or as John Grimek, who associated with Tillet and his manager Karl Pojello a time or two, summed it up, "If you were three sheets in the wind and staggering down a dark street or alley, and the Angel came up on you, you would have sobered up immediately!"

Back in the day (1940s) when our "Boston Broads" thought a hot night out was burgers and taking in the matches at the Boston Garden, Tillet was the arch villain and top box office attraction of the mat world. Hence, as one of them relayed to me, "I booed the hell out of him many times at the Garden. He was beyond ugly and his foul tactics whipped the crowd into a real frenzy!"

Right off the bat, let's recognize that while I initially attempted to offer what little I knew about the French Angel (which I received primarily from Grimek), I, instead, got the education . . . and got it with gusto! Secondly, of all the various exhibits in the York Museum, Tillet's death mask consistently elicits spellbinding curiosity among those passing thru. And why wouldn't it? It is a rare sight to see up close a "melon" that (over)size and contemplate it being atop a human body. Why, the actual size of Tillet's ear is at least as big as the average man's fist. And the size of his nose isn't far behind.

 "Wild Bill Zim" (Wactau Zmitrovitz) with  Maurice Tillet   

And then when you tell onlookers that his head was on top of a 5-7, 270-pound body, you get more reactions. Once I had a person declare this plaster cast had to be a con. Then I showed him wrestling mag covers featuring Tillet from the 1940s. That shut him up!

Okay, pro wrestling has had its share of freaks and odd characters over the decades, but according to noted wrestling historian Mark Hewitt (in "Catch Wrestling, Round Two") . . . "the most bizarre character of all times had to be the French Angel." He was described as a "human gargoyle," "a throwback to prehistoric man," "the ugliest man in the world" and "all the seven dwarfs rolled into one."


Tillet suffered from acromegaly, an abnormality of the pituitary glands, which typically causes one to grow to enormous height and physical size (think Andre the Giant), along with vastly enlarged bone formations and features of the feet, head and hands. Tillet, who was also referred to as the Giant Dwarf by wrestling PR people (talk about oxymoronic contrasting), never got the extreme height, topping at 5-7 or 5-8. Moreover, the bulk of that 270-275 pounds he sported resided in his upper body, which was mounted on comparatively short and bowed legs.

Regarding Maurice's background and how he ended up in professional wrestling, he was born in 1903 in the Ural Mountains of Russia to French parents. His railroad engineering father was killed while he was rather young, and the outbreak of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 prompted his mother to take him and flee to Reims, France.

Prior to the age of 17, he exhibited no signs of acromegaly, and was receiving the necessary education to pursue a law degree. Then, the outlandish physical growth and distorted features began to appear. Believing that any hope of a law career was gone thanks to his appearance, he enlisted in the French Navy, perhaps in hope of finding a medical remedy. 

   Okay, bear in mind there can be an element of "carnyism" connected to pro wrestling and any stories handed down about its stars. It is at this point in his life that a couple of different narratives can be found. One (favored by historian Hewitt), contends that after serving a hitch in the French Navy his condition worsened to the point where he was discharged. From there, Tillet sought medical treatment from civilian doctors -- who were able to diagnose acromegaly but couldn't reverse or lessen it -- and after that proved a dead end, he wandered the streets of Paris destitute.

Hewitt further contends that one Paris evening in 193, while strolling along the sidewalk cafes, a touring master catch wrestler and combat artist, Karl Pojello, saw the huddled mass of despondent humanity (Tillet), barely able to amble along. "Pojello, well known as a Good Samaritan, immediately wanted to help the poor creature. The veteran wrestler began addressing him in various languages until he responded to Russian."

In contrast, Wikipedia states that Tillet and Pojello met in Singapore in 1937, with no explanation of how the former got there. Here again, we may have the create-an-illusion penchant of pro wrestling to thank for the contrasting stories as the early PR build-up of Tillet on the mt circuit specified that Pojello "found" his protégé while tiger hunting in Singapore.

Subscribe to whichever story you like, but Pojello recognized box office gold when he saw it, and he and the French Angel, as he quickly became known, began teaming up in 1937. The Angel embarked on his celebrated mat career in France and England the following year (1938), experiencing much success over the next two years. 

Maurice Tillet and Karl Pojello

 As an aside, the sole British wrestler who apparently wouldn't "go over" for Tillet, and whose name is familiar somewhat with iron folks of a certain age, was Bert Assirati. Aside from his well-documented strength, endurance and overall athleticism, Bert was a product of the ultra-tough Wigan Snake Pit in England where the stiffest forms of submission style Catch wrestling were taught. Very probably, Assirati did not feel particularly inclined to cooperate with other wrestlers who he didn't think were in his class on the mat. And especially, if they were receiving promotional opportunities that he thought he should be receiving but wasn't. 

Having said that, Tillet, over the course of his roughly 15-year mat career, met many, many of the great names of the mat world on both sides of the Atlantic.

After having a spectacular mat run as an undefeatable monster in Europe, and with WWII about to besiege Europe, Pojello and the Angel left for the United States, specifically, Paul Bowser's well established Boston promotion, debuting in January of 1940. Whether this is the notorious wrestling style of PR previously mentioned or just the facts, it was reported that women were said to have fainted at his first sighting. We do know of at least one who admits to booing him vociferously at every opportunity.

Right from the jump, the Angel was making serious moolah for Bowser's promotion, and every other wrestling promoter in the country wanted Tillet in his territory. Of course, such clamoring made Bowser still more money. Unquestionably, the record shows that The French Angel was the number one box office draw of the 1940s. Keep in mind that for the first half of that decade, huge numbers of Americans were overseas fighting a war.

Click Pics to ENLARGE:

Also significant is the fact that being the "face" of pro wrestling literally during the '40s, his dominance at the box office renders him sort of a historical bridge, and hence has terrific relevance to the evolution of pro wrestling, getting the activity "over the hump" of transitioning from newspaper/magazine coverage solely to the era of television.

By the way, who was the dominant box office wrestling attraction in the early TV era: The Anti-Angel . . . Gorgeous George!

Promo of Gorgeous George with Maurice Tillet

Another historical wrestling point which centers on Maurice Tillet's ring character: It possessed such name recognition and drawing power that promoters kept trying to catch lightning in a bottle by unveiling a number of other Angels -- Swedish, Super Swedish, Irish, Russian, Polish and Lady. None, however, matched Tillet's original for generating magic at the gate.

So how did the Tillet saga end? As is often the case with acromegaly sufferers, not as pretty as one might hope. Insiders contend that the first signs of the disease interfering with his ring capabilities began sometime in 1945, although they were not sufficient to force him into retirement for another eight years.

His final match came, ironically, in Singapore, and against, you guessed it, Bert Assirati. Retirement or not, old Bert didn't let up on him on this occasion either. 

Tillet passed away from the ravages of heart disease on September 4th, 1954 and is buried in the Lithuanian National Cemetery located in Justice (Cook County), Illinois.

Maurice Tillet/Karl Pojello gravestone

As to the various death masks of busts of Tillet residing in various venues, in 1950 Chicago sculptor Louis Linck made a series of plaster busts commemorating the life and career of The Angel, with one of his products displayed in the Chicago International Museum of Surgical Science.

Reportedly, Tillet allowed three separate death masks to be done just prior to his passing. Again, reportedly the process was performed by fellow grappler Bobby Managoff, who was reputed to have generous artistic skills and connections in that world. The "copy" residing in the York Barbell Museum was first given to Milo Steinborn, who in turn donated it to York.

Another copy of the Tillet death mask was donated to the Warren Anatomical Museum at Harvard by industrialist Patrick "Leonard" Kelly, who was a close personal friend of Tillet's. Few fans ever comprehend that Tillet was educated, quite intelligent, religious, and well-traveled with many outside interests.

Kelly also donated another death mask copy to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame -- Dan Gable Museum in Waterloo, IA.

According to certain internet sources, there was also a bronze death mask copy, which had been in the possession of mat promoter Paul Boesch. Seeming verification of its existence came via published pictures in a 1980s Japanese wrestling magazine depicting the inside of Boesch's Houston offices. Shown is a bronze Angel death mask/head . . . along with bronzed fists reportedly belonging to Primo Carnera on each side.

To my knowledge, to date the current whereabouts of the head once on Boesch's possession has not been ascertained. And as if to annoy us even more, there are implications by French Angel historians on the internet that a fifth mask might exist out there somewhere.    

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