Friday, November 11, 2011
The Look of Power, Part Two - Anthony Ditillo
The Look of Power, Part Two
by Anthony Ditillo (1983)
Part One is here -
As we mentioned in part one or this article, the look of power is by no means easy to obtain, yet it is available for anyone who has the common sense to embrace the advice contained herein and make practical application of the basic rules of such training. by concentrating on developing key muscle groups to the limit of the individual’s capabilities, the resultant development will give mute testimony to the man’s ability to lift heavy weights in certain movements should he care to really exert himself and should he care to properly prepare himself physically, by ‘peaking out’ for a few weeks, as the powerlifters the world over do. By using weights within the framework of his capabilities, our lifter can properly execute each and every repetition of each and every set and thereby guarantee himself the fullest development of the muscles he is working with each exercise. In this way, our man will not be wasting any of his training time or training energy.
We have a very powerful young man who is part owner of the gym I train at. His name is Michael Gula and I will be doing an article or two on his training methods sometime in the near future. But for now let me mention something quite interesting and quite pertinent to the topic at hand. Michael is very massive and powerful looking, appearing more like a ‘bulked up’ bodybuilder than a dyed-in-the-wool powerlifter. Every muscle in his body is massively developed. If he cared to ‘train down’ I am sure he would place, if not win, just about any physique contest he cared to enter. Right now he is training for future powerlifting competition and is mainly ‘peaking out’ week by week on the three powerlifts.
Most of the fellows in the gym did not meet Mike until they joined here a brief time ago, so they did not see him training during his formative years when he was concerned with adding additional muscle size to his body and training more for gaining muscular bodyweight than solely for pure power. They did not see set after set of heavy (very heavy!) parallel bar dips, not did they see the presses behind the neck with almost 300 lbs. for repetitions, or the lying triceps extensions with weights most guys are satisfied to do bench presses with. All these new members are seeing is Mike doing bench presses and squats twice per week and one deadlift workout sandwiched somewhere in between. NOW his workouts take less than two hours to get through, but do you think this amount of work would have made him the physical specimen he is today? BEFORE he began to peak out on the powerlifts he was already VERY MASSIVELY DEVELOPED and QUITE STRONG from all the formative years of HEAVY POWER BODYBUILDING training that he did. Now the rest is easier, now that the size is already there, all he has to do is show what this size can do. So he adds a few pounds to the bar each week, never really extending himself, since he wants to save the real exertion for the competitions, not for the gym. Before this period, I saw him doing close grip bench presses with almost 450! Why did he choose this movement to work so heavy on? Simply because it was more productive for adding muscular development than the conventional style and it took some strain off the shoulder joints since the weight somewhat be reduced, while still working the muscles hard.
So now the new guys are watching Michael flirting with 500 or 510 every heavy workout and it boggles their minds how he can become so strong with such an abbreviated routine!!?? “He must be on some new secret growth hormone.” “Nobody can bench press 525 at a bodyweight of only 225 with only two short bench workouts per week!” “Why, the guy doesn’t even do any assistance movements!”
Do you get the picture? They’re putting the cart before the horse. They don’t know what they’re actually witnessing. They think the did didn’t have to work for whatever he got. They thing all it takes is to be a ‘natural’ . . .
So what we’re trying to do for you guys in this series of articles for the underweight man is to outline for you a course of action which will place you in the same setting, within a few years, that Michael now is in. What I want to do is to first help you gain as much MUSCULAR bodyweight as you want. Then you will be able to utilize that muscular weight in any competitive endeavor you care to do. And while only common sense tell us that not all of us have the genetic potential to equal a Michael, we can all improve tremendously, with proper training and proper mental attitude.
For developing as much muscular bodyweight as possible, you’d better acquaint yourself with proper exercise style, or all is lost. I’ve been harping on the style you perform these movements in for some time now, because for the most part, most of you DO NOT know how to exercise your muscles correctly for increasing size. What you wind up doing is eating like two starved men and swinging and jerking your barbells around and most of you wind up bigger, but FATTER, for all your misguided exertions. Or else, you rely so MUCH on technique to elevate heavier and heavier poundages that you don’t grow at all. This would be okay when you’re at the end of the road of your muscle building and weight gaining phase, then you could utilize all the legal techniques of competitive lifting to your advantage and elevate heavier and heavier poundages to your heart’s content. But to try this stuff now while you’re trying to add muscular bodyweight is just plain nonsense! Remember that we are NOT speaking about the Olympic lifter here, for these guys want to become as strong as possible without gaining much in the way of additional bodyweight, whether this weight be useful muscle or not. But the powerlifter and the bodybuilder came originally from the same camp and it seems that both of these guys are impressed with massive muscle size, wherever this size is applicable, for show or for power. And you are not going to have much in the way of muscle size if you do your lifts the easiest way possible using techniques which actually alleviate the stress on the very muscles you supposedly are trying to develop!
If you weigh 175 and your best bench press, done slowly and strictly, with control and ‘finesse’ is around 250 or 270, then you’ll probably be capable of quite a few repetitions with around 205. For increasing the development of the chest and shoulders, try to get sets of 8 or so reps, once again done slowly and strictly with complete control of the weight. When 5 or so sets of 8-10 reps are easily and REGULARLY performed, simply go to 225 and repeat the process.
On another training day your could use somewhat heavier weights, let us say for 5 repetitions and, once again, keep this same weight until 5 or so sets are easily and regularly done and then jump the poundage, but I really feel, all things considered, that sets of 8 or 10 reps will do more for improved appearance, and within a shorter period of training time, than sets of 5 or 4 repetitions. We are not speaking of a repetition below 5, since this DOES NOT build much in the way of muscle size and is more joint and tendon strengthening than anything else. What these higher repetitions do for us is teach us first and foremost how to CONTROL the raising and the lowering of the bar, so as to get the best results for our efforts. The higher repetitions also allow us to work the deeper fibers which the shorter sets of 3 or so reps do not. The burn while on these higher repetitions is quite severe and this alone should assure you of their physical effectiveness. Also, there is less chance of joint or tendon injury while on these higher repetition sets. You can work the muscles without further trauma to the joints should they be injured or overtrained to begin with.
Another advantage is the CONFIDENCE gained while on this type of training scheme. You never feel that the weight is too heavy because you know beforehand that at least a few repetitions are possible and you are limited with the immediate source of training energy and endurance at your disposal while performing the set. Notice that I am referring to SETS of 8 or 10 repetitions and not to ONE set of MAXIMUM reps which happen to fall between 8 and 10. In my opinion, such training may be all right for the truly advanced trainee, but it is MUCH too severe for you intermediates as the nervous energy broken down in this case would even more severe than the heavy doubles and triples we’re trying to avoid to begin with! What I am trying to get you to do is to TRAIN not STRAIN.
Isolation movements during this building up period are quite applicable, for the most part, enjoyable and very result producing. What I mean by isolation movements is not what is generally accepted as the term indicates. I am not speaking about he light dumbbell and cable movements which the bodybuilding contestant uses during his pre-competitive periods of muscle defining. The kind of assistance movements I am talking about are very closely related to the actual strength movements the powerlifters compete in and the rest of us compare each with when judging our strength. Fred Hatfield has mentioned a few of these movements in his training articles and I mentioned them even earlier, but to not as great an extent, in my older articles when I was a superheavyweight, training for size and power. We are talking about various types of squats and pulls which will work one set of muscles quite hard and these muscles are usually the “weak link” when the actual competitive lift is performed. So, strengthen these key muscles and the competitive lift is inadvertently increases without the additional stress placed on the joints and ligament attachments when the heavier, more loosely performance is attempted. It’s like doing close grip bench presses and working up to fairly heavy poundages for repetitions, and when you once again begin the regular grip bench presses, you find that the bar is much lighter than before because the smaller muscle groups have been improved and strengthened through the use of the assistant movement.
Right now I am doing bentover rows and stiff-legged deadlifts with an Olympic bar and using 25-pound plates on it so that the bar is just grazing my toes at the beginning of the movement. I am doing this to fully strengthen my entire back musculature so that when I begin to deadlift in the conventional manner again (should I ever care to!) the lift will be secured because of all the conditioning done beforehand. This also allows me to work the belly of the muscles without all the nervous energy being drained on attempting limit weights or repetitions with the heavier competitive movements. When I can pull 500 or so in this manner I will then begin to pull with the conventionally loaded Olympic bar. By then I will be ready both mentally and physically and hopefully somewhere along the way I will have built up some additional muscle size.
The squats we are pushing on our training partners are not very easy to do and hence, most will not follow our advice. This is to be expected because most do not have an adequate ego buildup which will allow them to use lighter weights in the eyes of others. In other words, they know we are right, but their friends will think they are weak if they are doing repetitions with maybe 225 when in the conventional power style they could rep out with 315. What they don’t realize is that by doing an Olympic type of back squat (ala Hatfield or myself) and NOT wearing wraps or thick power belt (ala Leistner), you actually get MORE conditioning and musclebuilding effects than in the conventional way of doing things. What usually happens when one of these guys do try and take our advice is that they squat with their heels raised but they stick out their buttocks when they come out of the bottom position anyway, so the entire effect of this type of stricter squatting is, for the most part, lost. Another thing they do is to continue to wrap themselves up when they do these squats just the same way they would if they were doing their usual power squats, so one again, the entire attempt of tightening up the squatting style is put off. When I see them doing these things I usually lose all concern for their continued progress and I let them go their own way . . . there’s no point trying to help someone who can’t face reality.
When squatting for this purpose, take off the knee wraps and the lifting belt use shoes with a raised heel. Use a medium to close stance and place the bar high on the traps. When lowering into the bottom position, try to make your upper thigh fold over the calves, so to speak. When you are in the low position, your back should be somewhat erect, your buttocks should be compactly squeezed against your calves, with your knees jutting out in front of you. Don’t try to use your usual squatting poundages for these types of squats because they will be much too heavy. Don’t stick out your butt and don’t wear those heavy wraps. Heavy doubles and singles are out of the question right now . . . do 6’s and 8’s and 10’s instead! Within a few months of this type of leg training your thighs will be larger and more muscular and when you go back and adapt again to your old style, you will find you are MUCH STRONGER.
For the chest and shoulders I would recommend either the bench press with a medium grip of the MacDonald cambered bar. I favor the MacDonald bar because it places the most emphasis on the bottom position of the lift where many guys have a lot of trouble. It also allows a greater range of motion, similar to that of dumbbells but easier to control and get in position. You could, if so desired, use both movements, simply cutting down on the amount of work done with each one so as not to overdo it. Just keep the repetitions strictly controlled without all the bridging and bouncing which usually occurs when one is trying to impress others with one’s pressing ability. Add weight carefully when using the Macdonald bar. The shoulders will respond quite well with either the press or the steep seated incline. Just remember to keep the handspacing rather close and do the repetitions slowly for the results we desire here. The various dumbbell lateral are also quite effective when used in conjunction with the press, and it is entirely up to the trainee to decide just how he should divide up his choices of training movements. Most guys enjoy parallel bar dips and therefore train them with enthusiasm, but I have found that when they try to use too much weight in the movement they change the exercise to one in which only HALF REPS are performed. Don’t let this happen to you. Do them right or don’t do them.
We have outlined an example of how you can work the major muscles of the body with lighter weights but stricter exercise form thus enabling you to build the weak areas of certain lifts without putting too much strain on the tendons, ligaments and joints, so that later on you can incorporate this new found strength, development and overall freshness to further lifting or physique endeavors. By choosing the right exercise movements and by training on them the way we have advised, you will eventually take on more muscular bodyweight and an entirely different physical appearance. You will begin to look “strong” and more “athletic.” You will take on the LOOK OF POWER.
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