Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Simplicity(?) of Shoulder Training - Tom McLaughlin (1982)

Everybody knows how to train the shoulders, or so most powerlifters, bodybuilders and weight trainers think. After all, the classic 'hand me down' exercises for shoulder training are there to see in nearly every weight room in the country. Classic pressing movements (military, behind the neck, incline, dumbbell, etc.), as well as dumbbell raises (front, lateral, back, etc.), usually constitute the majority of the typical shoulder training menu of exercises. The question here is whether shoulder training is as simple as it should be.

If we all do know the total story on shoulder training, then logically one would expect there to be no serious problems where shoulder development, shoulder pain and shoulder injury are concerned. Is this the case in powerlifting today? I would argue strongly that it is quite to the contrary. I have begun to realize in recent years that heavy powerlifting not only can aggravate the low back and other regions but the shoulder is a 'key' problem area as well. Probably no two areas require more thoughtful training and 'injury proofing' than the low back and shoulder.

It is amazing to me how many powerlifters and weight trainers whom I've talked to have sore or injured shoulders. Typically, the shoulder problems they have are related to a variety of activities, including bench presses, throwing and racquet sports, classic shoulder weight training exercises etc. It is evident that not many people in or outside of powerlifting are really doing the job when it comes to shoulder training. Maybe we all need to do a bit of re-evaluation of our classic shoulder training 'menu' of exercises after all. [written in 1982]

A) What's Involved in the Shoulder Complex

Specifically, there are three bones involved: the scapula, clavicle, and humerus; eight ligaments: coraco-humeral, sterno-clavicular, etc.; seven joints: achromioclavicular, etc.; and believe it or not, 17 muscles, including deltoids, pectoralis major/both sterno and clavicular portions, the four rotator cuff muscles, teres major, latissimus dorsi. biceps, triceps/long head, serratus interior, pectoralis minor, levator scapula, rhomboids, subclavius, and trapezius.

Anatomy and Physiology, OpenStax College Free Textbook:

It is easy to see that the shoulder complex structurally is by far the most complicated part of the body. As a direct result we also have a much greater range of motion possible in the shoulder than in any other joint of the body. Unfortunately, however, this very complex range of motion possible at the shoulder joint makes detailed quantitative biomechanical analysis incredibly difficult. Indeed, making the exact measurements of shoulder biomechanics of muscle activity such a hard task that the research that does exist necessarily involves only estimates for the motions and forces involved with the shoulders.

One important point to be made here about the shoulders is that the important muscles and ligaments crossing the shoulder joints ARE the shoulder stability. Unlike many other joints of the body (like the hip, for example) the shoulder must heavily rely on muscle and ligament activity rather than skeletal strength for its stability. Therefore development of the important muscles of the shoulder complex is extremely crucial for preventing problems in activities involving shoulders. Let's examine the shoulder musculature more closely.

B) The Simple (?) Muscle Activity of the Shoulder

By now you have no doubt guessed; there is nothing simple about the shoulder muscular system. In fact, there are a number of very unusual features that characterize the muscle action of the shoulders. First of all, there is an unusually high amount of contraction where two or more muscles are contracting simultaneously. Since the shoulder joint lacks stability without muscle action, any muscle that acts to move the arm must work harmoniously with other muscles in order to avoid causing a dislocation. In other words, a large number of shoulder muscles are involved in probably every shoulder motion.

Observations on the Function of the Shoulder, Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery:

The second factor distinguishing shoulder muscle activity is the number of two-joint muscles. Depending on the position of the arm, scapula, and clavicle, these two-joint muscles will have different effects on shoulder motion. As the position of the bones changes in exercise, for example, muscle activity changes dramatically. This has been demonstrated in several 'classic' studies of shoulder biomechanics.
[for example] -

Force Analysis of Individual Muscles Acting Simultaneously on the Shoulder Joints during Isometric Abduction:         

In other words, small changes in arm or shoulder positions will have significant effect on which shoulder muscles are involved and when and how much these muscles work in a given weight training exercise or sport motion.

While it is beyond the scope of this short article to try to explore all aspects of the shoulder muscle activity, a few points can be made concerning the deltoids and 'rotator cuff' muscles. The three major muscle fiber populations of the deltoid muscle (most often referred to as anterior, lateral and posterior 'heads; or front, side, and rear delts) are apparently each capable of contracting fairly independently of the other heads. In other words, bench presses can conceivably involve anterior fibers of the deltoids while the other two heads are largely inactive. It is, however, overly simplistic to view the activity of the deltoids only in this sense (by saying for example, that anterior deltoid lateral raises work only the anterior head of the deltoid, lateral raises work only the lateral head, etc.). What really happens is much more involved and probably not remotely as clear cut. Many muscles of the shoulder are involved in any shoulder exercise.

As for the four 'rotator cuff' muscles, the major action of these small muscles is to pull the head of the humerus (the upper arm bone) into the glenoid (the shoulder). In doing this, the deltoid muscle has better leverage and is able to elevate and move the arm more efficiently.

C) Food for Thought

First of all, my personal feeling about shoulder training is that until a more detailed biomechanical study is done and completed on the shoulder, 'variety' and 'instinct' should be the two key words. 

 By 'variety' I mean that one should experiment with a greater number of exercises for shoulder motion than simply the 'classical' menu. One suggestion is to visit a good physical therapist or anyone knowledgeable in shoulder exercises to see the type of exercise they use for shoulder training. Some excellent non-classic exercises are available to try out.

By 'instinct' I mean you should attempt to 'tune in' as much as possible to the body's response to shoulder movements and exercises. Most top powerlifters (Bill Kazmaier, particularly) have a great knack of evaluating exercises in this manner. This is something we all need to at least try to be aware of in our training.

Let me finish by giving a short list of observations that I hope will primarily serve as food for thought regarding shoulder training.

1) I am particularly fond of dumbbell presses. This motion seems to activate, at least to some extent, most parts of the deltoid muscle and unquestionably brings into play other parts of the shoulder musculature. Dumbbell presses also reduce the excessive low back loading associated with normal barbell presses.

2) We have found in our biomechanics lab work here that the anterior deltoid is massively involved in all types of bench presses. Until we can do further work it is hard to identify which type of bench press works the anterior deltoid the most, but the anterior deltoid is unquestionably used a lot in bench presses of all types. It is an interesting question whether the anterior part of the deltoid muscle requires any extra auxiliary work above and beyond bench presses. I tend to think that many powerlifters seriously overtrain it.

3) I don't recommend pressing while seated (refer to my four articles in Powerlifting USA on abdominals and low back pain), since the stress on the low back region tends to be higher than when standing.

4) When and if you experiment with new exercises for the shoulder use light weights. Don't be overly ambitious and pack on the weight. The proportional increase is much higher when you try to increase your weight in dumbbell work. Be sure also that you are able to maintain the proper motion pattern whenever you add weight.

5) Machine training for the shoulder region should be treated very cautiously. Generally, some of the muscles that stabilize the shoulder are probably eliminated in activity (or reduced significantly) since the degrees of freedom are limited by machines. Thus, shoulder exercises when done on machines can often lead to incomplete development of shoulder joint musculature. I strongly recommend hat one use primarily free weight motion for a complex region like the shoulder.

Well, it's time to put my pen down (and get back to a workout). I hope this month that I have provided some food for thought regarding shoulder training. Above all, don't be afraid to experiment and learn from your own body's responses to training. Shoulder training, like weight training, in general, is anything but 'simplistic.' Instead of blindly copying everyone you see, instead of believing without research that 'simpler' is 'better,' try to tune in to your actual responses to varieties of exercise. The long term rewards are well worth it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Shoulder: Sue Falsone (2015)

The Shoulder: Implications for the Overhead Athlete and Beyond

More info here:

With bonus material from:
Gray Cook
Lee Burton
Phil Plisky
Mark Cheng

Hacking The Hinge:
Hip Mobility to Swings and Deadlifts

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Case for the Power Clean - Kim Goss (1996)

The Evolution of Strength Coaching, by Kim Goss:

Kim Goss (1996)

As bodybuilders and strength athletes, we're obsessed with finding new and exotic exercises, and the manufacturers of exercise equipment have been happy to indulge us. In the '60s, they gave us the Universal jungle gyms. Then came Nautilus, Hammer, and a virtual tidal wave of computerized circuit training machines which have bright, blinking lights and calculate our calories burned per hour, bio-rhythms, and stock market dividends.

Although all this high-tech glitz and glitter has distracted even the wisest of the iron gurus, serious athletes have always come back to the basic free-weight exercises that have proven track records, exercises like the squat and bench press -- lifts that separate the men from the boys, so to speak. The one lift, however, that nobody has quite figured out what to do with is the power clean.

In the pioneering days of bodybuilding, many of the best physique stars also doubled as Olympic lifters -- they were, literally, as strong as they looked. Exercises like the power clean were a mainstay of workouts, building backs of such legends as Bill Pearl, Sergio Oliva, Jack Delinger, and John Grimek. The typical training session would begin with 8 sets of power cleans and 5 sets of squats, followed by about an hour devoted to benches, bentover rows, and a few 'curls for the girls.' The emphasis on such heavy training was evident by the tremendous development of the trapezius and erector spinae, muscles that would fare well even by today's steroid-infested standards. But as bodybuilding evolved, something happened that made us forget our roots: we got lazy.

Heavy lifting with free weights is hard work -- and it's tempting to imagine there's an easier way. Yes, it's much easier to slap a ton of 45's on the leg press machine and pretend you're Tom Platz, but it's not the same as squatting. Just ask Tom. And when the few, the proud, and the brave do squat, they rely on wraps, belts, and other wet-dream supportive gear. As for the squats that are actually performed, they're usually this quarter-squat nonsense that does as much to build your legs as power aerobics. Such pathetic exhibitions lead me to believe that if we can't get the Arnold wannabes to perform something as basic as a squat, how can we ever get them to power clean?

Facts, Fallacies, and Fanatics

Much of the reason valuable lifts like the power clean have fallen from our grace is due to the marketing efforts of equipment manufacturers. The power clean's foremost enemy is, unquestionably, Nautilus inventor Arthur Jones. Jones was a man on a mission, and that mission was to replace our precious free weights with his so-called 'time machines.' His efforts nearly succeeded in killing off the sport of Olympic lifting, which survives by the thinnest of threads today. In fact, our Olympic Team of '72 could hold its own against today's best. In retrospect, it appears that many of Jones' ideas about strength curves, sports specificity, and training in general did more to set back resistance training than to push it ahead.

One of the ways machine companies brainwashed us against the power clean was by talking about the subjectivity of research -- except, of course, when it came to their own research and testimonials. As a strength coach for the Air Force Academy from 1987-1994, my job depended on finding out what was effective. The power clean works, and there's a preponderance of evidence to support my conclusion.

For example, in 1989, the Air Force Academy conducted a study to determine the most effective exercises for football. Our purpose was to find a mathematical relationship between performance on the field and our weight training and field tests. What we found was that the best way for predicting talent for linemen was the power clean. The reason is simple: linemen need to be able to quickly express a high level of strength. Because the power clean allows you to accelerate your limbs over a greater range of motion, it's one of the best exercises for improving this 'rate of force development'. In contrast, with conventional heavy lifts, much time is spent decelerating the weight -- the only time maximum force can be exerted is at the beginning of the exercise.

Another testimonial for the power clean was our success against the Army football team. There's probably no better test for examining the success of a conditioning program which includes the power clean than comparing the Army and Air Force. Both are military academies, recruit similar athletes, are drug-free (as far as I know), and the students live in similar high-stress environments. What's more, both football teams fun the same type of wishbone offense. Despite these similarities, Air Force beat Army in 1987, barely lost to them in 1988, then only allowed them to score one touchdown in the next six games -- in fact, last year the Army only passed the 50-yard line once!

The big difference was conditioning. The Army trained extensively with machines and performed no power cleans -- the Air Force used primarily free weights and performed power cleans regularly. Our emphasis on this lift was so intense that last year I gave 15 of our players motivational T-shirts for hoisting 325 pounds or more in the lift. Was it a coincidence that we dominated the Army team? I don't think so.

As for injuries, Jones and his sidekick Ellington Darden frequently claim -- without the facts to back it up -- how dangerous the power clean is. From a scientific perspective, the safety was examined in an excellent position paper by he NSCA. Also, the trainers at the Academy showed me that from 1988 to 1993, the total number of injuries during that five year period dropped by 60%! If these lifts were as inherently dangerous as Jones and Darden claim, why did our number of injuries go down?

What do other elite athletic coaches think about the power clean?

I posed this question to Charles Poliquin.

When I asked him how many of the top world Olympic coaches used Jones' methods or machines, he couldn't think of one. For that matter, what top bodybuilders (who were not on Jones' payroll) endorse the Nautilus philosophy? So maybe Jones and Darden can brag about a high-school football team that made great gains on Nautilus and his Captain Kangaroo training protocols, but he has no frame of reference when talking about elite athletes.

From a bodybuilding standpoint, there are essentially two types of fast twitch muscle fibers. Type IIa and the more powerful Type IIb. The Type IIb fibers respond better to heavy weights and lifts like the power clean, whereas the Type IIa respond best to higher reps. Much of the heavy development of the traps, back, and hamstrings on Olympic lifters is due to Type IIb fibers -- can you imagine the physique possibilities if you were to combine both types of training?

Before You Begin

The first thing you need to perform the power clean is proper equipment. If the gym you train at doesn't have a sturdy platform and Olympic bars and has a stupid policy that you can't use chalk, you're probably better off forgetting about the power clean. As for the barbell itself, it should be straight, have spring, and rotated smoothly -- Eleiko is the industry standard. Sturdy footwear is a must, so consider investing in a weightlifting shoe or at least a good cross-training shoe.

The next thing you need is a conditioning base. To prepare for the intensity of Olympic-style lifting, a base of general conditioning will enable athletes to progress faster and will prevent injuries. In addition to squats, presses, and rows, special emphasis should be placed on the abdominal and lower back muscles.

My final suggestion is if you're serious about lifting heavy weights in the power clean, try to get a strength coach to teach you -- a single session may be all you need. Also, there are several excellent video tutorials on this lift available.

The Power Clean Made Simple

I can teach the average athlete how to perform a safe power clean in about ten minutes. The most remarkable teaching performance I ever experienced was with figure skater Veronica Chojnacki, whose extraordinary sense of body awareness enabled her to demonstrate virtually perfect technique after performing only one set!

The secret is to break down the power clean into its component parts and then piece it together. It's quite simple.

The best approach to learning the lift is to teach it from the top down, so as you master one phase of the lift, you go into the lower, more difficult positions.

The first step is to grasp the barbell with a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip and place in on your mid-thighs. Your feet should be approximately shoulder-width apart, and your legs should be slightly bent. Arch your back, and slightly curl your wrists under (so your elbows flare out). Now position the barbell so the majority of your body weight is on the middle of your foot -- this is your power position. If you make a serious effort but find that you simply can't master the technique from the floor, you can still enjoy positive results by only performing it from the power position.

From the power position, straighten your legs, and follow through with an upright row so the bar touches the bottom of your ribcage. When you have that mastered, perform this motion again, but this time continue the movement by powering the weight up and over by turning your wrists over at the top and catching the weight on your shoulders. At the catch position, you need to thrust your elbows forward and keep your hands relaxed.

The last lesson in this phase is to start the lift from a fully erect position (but with knees slightly bent), raise the bar to the power position, then 'kick' the weight to the top position using your legs, almost as if you were doing a jumping jack. This counter movement will create a plyometric effect that will increase the velocity of the barbell.

Now you need to know how to get the bar from the ground to the power position. Place your toes a few inches in front of the bar, less if you're taller. Arch your back, bend your legs, and grasp the bar. Place your head in line with your spine, so you're looking at an object on the floor about six feet ahead of you. Your hips are in line with your knees and the bar is touching your shins (or about an inch away if you're taller).

From this starting position, straighten your legs until the bar reaches knee level or slightly above without extending your back significantly -- this is different from the conventional deadlift style where you straighten the back almost immediately. Only when the bar passes the knees will your back begin to fully straighten. Continue pulling back until you're at the power position. Repeat this several times. When you feel comfortable, perform the complete deadlift: when you reach the power position, kick the weight to the shoulders. Do this slowly, especially at the start of the lift. As you perfect the movement, you'll get less of a kick and more of a brush when you hit the power position. You'll also be able to perform the lift faster.

Practice all the components of this lift with just the bar until you master it. After you get the hang of it, you'll progress quickly.

The power clean is not the secret exercise that will transform mediocre athletes into Olympic champins and pencil necks into Dorian clones -- training's just not that simple. As Coach Poliquin says, "The power clean is a great tool for the athlete, just like the hammer is a great tool if you're going to build a house. But you can't expect to be able to saw with it."

With that thought, let's get back to the basics and train hard with lifts that really count.  

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Not So Boring Rep - Will Brink

The Compiled Work of Scott Abel:

If you think about it, the rep is the most basic concept in all of bodybuilding, yet it's also the most important concept for growth. There are numerous theories on what the best routine is, volumes of research on how muscles grow and what the most effective number of reps for muscle growth is, and, of course, there are countless ways to increase intensity to stimulate the muscles. 

In the end, however, it comes down to the rep itself. If you reps are done incorrectly, what does it really matter which routine you're using? If each rep is done incorrectly, does it really matter which exercise you choose, theory you adhere to, or guru you follow in your quest for new muscle? If a person only gets a few "good" reps per set and the rest are a waste of time, could this slacker dramatically improve the efficiency and effectiveness of his workouts by making every rep a "good" rep?

I think you know the answers to these questions, so I won't answer them here. If you don't know the answers, then, friend, you're in the wrong sport, and your hands might be better suited for a large crayon and a Little Mermaid coloring book than a dumbbell.

With that introduction, let's get into what the ultimate growth rep is. I've also sandwiched in a little scientific mumbo-jumbo.

What Actually Causes Muscle Growth?

I a nutshell, to make a muscle grow larger, we need to apply the correct level of stimulation, right? Too little stimulus and the muscle won't grow. Too much stimulus and the same thing happens (or rather, doesn't). Or, worse yet, this leads to injury, and the muscle gets smaller. The proper stimulus within a given period of time is what we're looking for.

This brings me to another point. It isn't the actual amount of weight used that's the most important factor to muscle growth but the total amount of stress or tension the muscle has to endure during the rep. But some might say, "Doesn't using more weight mean more stress on the muscle?" The answer is, not necessarily. If you take 405 pounds off the rack when bench pressing and bring it down quickly without control, give it a little bounce off your chest and lock the elbows out hard at the top for one rep, are you creating more of a stimulus for growth to the muscles of the chest than if you took 300 pounds off the rack and brought it down with full control, pressed it up without any bounce or momentum, and didn't lock your elbows out at the top for 10 reps? Again, I think the answer to that question is obvious, and we'll examine this particular topic in the upcoming sections.

The point I'm trying to make here is, weight is only one factor among many variables regarding how the rep itself is performed. All things being equal (i.e., each rep is performed correctly using proper form for that exercise), weight does matter. The more weight you can use in a given exercise, with correct form, in a given period of time, for a specified number or reps, the more stimulus for growth. However, using more weight for the sheer sake of using more weight, not taking into account how the rep is performed, does not equal more stress on the muscle. More on this later.

When we train with weights using sufficient loads and intensity, we cause micro-trauma in muscle fibers. That is, at that level of the fiber itself, we've caused a certain amount of controlled damage to the fibers involved. However, eliciting muscle growth is far more involved than that.

This is the point in the article where we need to look at the concept known as "the metabolic cost of exercise." This concept, as  complex as it is if you map it all out, can still be reduced to its most basic and fundamental definition: muscle growth is not a local event that happens exclusively at the muscle fiber level. Rather, it is ultimately a systemic response to exercise that leads to muscle growth. So what exactly does all this mean?

When we lift a weight, several things happen. Within the working muscle, there's controlled damage to the myofibril during muscular contraction.[a basic rod-like unit of a muscle. Muscles are composed of tubular cells called myocytes, also known as muscle fibers, and these cells in turn contain many chains of myofibrils.] during muscular contraction. This particular type of damage (microtrauma) which leads to remodeling (growth) of the muscle takes place predominantly during the eccentric (negative) part of the rep. Simply put, it's the lowering part of the exercise that's responsible for most of the damage to the fiber that, hopefully, leads to muscle hypertrophy and increases in strength.

From this information we can conclude that the controlled lowering of a weight is a particularly important part of a properly executed rep. So this is what's happening at the local level of the muscle fiber, but as I said before, muscle growth is ultimately controlled by the effects exercise has on the entire system.         

For example, as any bodybuilder knows, growth hormone is one of several hormones that is essential for increasing muscle mass and shedding bodyfat. Growth hormone is a key anabolic and lipolytic (fat-mobilizing) hormone that many bodybuilders are injecting pre-peak and during the off-season to build additional mass and burn fat. However, growth hormone (GH), insulin, insulin-like growth factor one (IGF-1), and, to a lesser degree, testosterone can be partially manipulated by diet and exercise, so don't think an elephant pituitary extract is the only way you'll add more muscle!

When we lift weights, we cause lactic acid levels to elevate. It just so happens that the signal to the body to release growth hormone in response to exercise is related to the level of lactic acid in the blood. This is an example of the metabolic cost of exercise. It's a system-wide response to training (i.e., the increasing level of lactic acid in the blood) that causes growth hormone to be released. In fact, the body produces many metabolites and metabolic byproducts in response to weight lifting that are directly and indirectly responsible for the growth of the muscles being trained.

What does this tell us?

It tells us that the way we perform a rep for bodybuilding purposes shouldn't just cause controlled damage to the muscle fiber to stimulate growth, but it should also have a high metabolic cost that stimulates the entire body to respond to the exercise in a positive way. Growth is clearly not a local event. The metabolic cost of exercise probably plays as crucial a role in muscle growth as does the local stimulation to he muscles (i.e., myofiber damage caused by intense muscle contraction).

How Do We Improve the Quality of the Reps?

What style of rep causes an adequate stimulation for growth (i.e., microtrauma) and has a high metabolic cost? It would be the continuous tension non-lockout rep. It really isn't all that sexy or high-tech, but like I said earlier, it is the one of the most fundamental concepts in all of bodybuilding.

Our goal of using continuous tension, non-lockout style reps is to keep, as the name implies, the most amount of tension (stress) possible on the muscles being targeted. Continuous tension, non-lockout reps (let's just call them CTNL reps from now on) are probably the most metabolically costly reps you can do, especially if they're done in moderate to high numbers. The systematic effects (the amount of exercise-induced metabolites such as lactate) are generated more quickly and at higher levels with this than with any other style of training. The amount of actual time the muscle is under tension is greatest when the reps are done in a CTNL fashion. Many people slop through, chop through, rush through their workouts, totally lacking intensity for most of the reps in each set of an exercise. If you think about it, how much of the time is the muscle under tension when you train like this? 30% of the time? 50? At most, possibly 80%? Sure, training like that will allow you to use more weight, but is the muscle truly under more stress? Is the muscle and the entire system being stimulated to a greater degree when you slop and hack through your reps in an attempt to use 'big' weights? No.

The amount of tension and the length of time the muscle is actually under that tension are key. When CTNL reps uses properly in a set, the muscles are under tension 100% of the time in every rep of every set. It's one of the most grueling ways you can train.

Incorporating CTNL Reps into a Workout

So how do we use this seemingly simple rep style in a workout?

A properly executed CTNL rep has a cadence or rhythm to it. When a person is doing CTNL reps the right way, the first rep looks almost identical to the last. When doing the CTNL rep, you should take about three to four seconds for the eccentric (negative) part of the movement and two seconds for the concentric (positive) part of the movement. And, as your body adapts to this type of training, you can even vary the cadence, perhaps taking up to five seconds for the eccentric portion of the lift and three seconds for the concentric.) If you look at the typical sets of typical aspiring bodybuilders, you will notice they usually start the set out by doing the reps one way, and as the set progresses, the reps get faster and faster and looser and looser in form. This is the result of their brains going into a self-preservation mode, trying to force them to finish the set as fast as possible. You have to override this natural response to get the most benefit from a set.

The real challenge of doing an entire set in the CTNL-rep fashion is to keep the same pace or rhythm on each and every rep. This is a lot easier said than done. As the lactic acid starts to build up your mind starts to scream at you to speed up the reps or to use some body English to take the stress off the muscle and make the task of moving the weight as easy on your system as possible. As the pH of the blood drops (from the rise in lactic acid), it becomes more and more difficult for the nerves to fire. Practice, however, makes perfect.

Being able to do the reps in the CTNL style, aside from dramatically improving nervous system efficiency, forces other adaptations as well. People usually notice a big drop in their poundages when they first begin using this style of training. However, as time goes by, their nervous system, buffering systems, and enzymatic pathways rise to the challenge, and in a short time they're able to use their heavier weights again. Only now they're putting far more stress on the targeted muscles. People who train this way find they need to do fewer sets per bodypart and are sore for several days after their workouts quite often.

Now let's take a look at an exercise like the Squat and see how a typical set done in CTNL rep style would be performed.

CTNL reps are best done for moderate to high reps because this causes the greatest metabolic demand and greatest generation of exercise-induced metabolites (along with the damage at the muscle fiber level). One additional note: CTNL reps are most effective when full-range movements are performed.

Okay, back to the squat.

After warming up, pick a moderate weight -- one that you could normally do 10 reps with. Descend into the rep, concentrating on keeping full tension on the muscles of the legs, taking three to four seconds. After bottoming out, come back up strong but controlled over the course of two to three seconds. Obviously you won't be using a clock or stopwatch while doing this, but you get the idea.

This is where we come to the non-lockout portion of the rep. When you approach the top, don't come up all the way to an upright position and stand holding the weight. Why? Because this takes the tension off of the target muscles. You'll basically be resting! Instead, as you approach the top of the rep, in a controlled fashion, immediately reverse direction, and again descend to the bottom. For a fleeting second you get close to standing upright with the weight, but you never quite do it.

Now this might seem amazingly simple, but as the set continues for 5, 8, 10, or 12 reps your muscles will start to scream at you to either speed up the tempo of the reps, stand up fully with the weight and rest, or just dump the weight and end the set. This is where you have to dig down deep and force yourself not only to complete the required reps, but also to maintain the tempo you started with, never releasing the tension on the target muscles.

This is where things get tough, and CTNL reps have a way of making larger people out of smaller people. When you get good at it, you should be able to get 12-15 reps in this style. Most people fail miserably the first time. Their nervous systems just conk out on them. Their lactic acid buffering systems aren't up to the task yet, and their brains won't tolerate it. However, as time goes by you'll be amazed by how strong you'll get, but don't look for monster poundages when training like this, at least not in the beginning. CTNL training is a skill that must be practiced regularly to be mastered, so be PATIENT.

CTNL reps aren't best suited for increases in strength, although you can get quite strong using them. They are, in my view, best suited for increasing muscle size. CTNL reps are a very focused and mentally demanding way of training, but the results are well worth it.

Some of you may be saying, "Damn, how could something as simple as changing the way I do my reps have evaded me for this long?" while others might just blow off this article, assuming what I've said here is too basic to be of any use to them. Let me offer a little advice . . .

The stupidest bodybuilders are the ones who think they know it all.
Don't be a blockhead.
Give this idea a try!
Use it always, or from time to time when your workouts need an intensity boost.

Tips for Success Using CTNL Reps

1) Always strive to use progressive resistance; that is, try to achieve a personal best whenever possible. Many people misinterpret the concept of progressive resistance to mean constantly using more weight. Obviously you won't be able to add more weight to every workout indefinitely. Sometimes progressive resistance means 2 sets of 10 with a weight you could only do 1 set of 10 with previously. Sometimes it's doing 11 reps with a weight you could only get 10 reps with the week before. Or it can mean doing 2 sets of 12 with less rest between the sets than before, thus increasing the stress on the muscles.

Weight is important, but making it your one and only focus will ultimately lead you down the road to bodybuilding disappointment. There are so many ways to increase the stress on the targeted muscles. For instance, what do you do at the end of the set, when you absolutely, positively cannot do one more rep in the CTNL fashion? At this point you can do several things:

- just be done with the set
- do a few forced reps
- do a few negative reps
- do a few cheat reps, depending on the exercise
- reduce the weight and continue with the set in CTNL style

Most of the time you'll just be done with the set, because this kind of training can be quite intense. However, throwing in one of the above intensity-enhancing techniques once in a while is fine. Just be sure not to overdo it.

2) For the upper body, 8 to 12 reps in this style seem optimal for muscle building purposes. For lower body exercises higher reps can and should be used. After getting a few sets of 8 to 10 reps on, say, squats in this style, a set or 2 at 15-20 reps will definitely do the trick. Believe me, you haven't lived (or rather, died) until you've done a set of squats for 15-20 reps in this style with maximum weight!

3) This style of reps works equally well with any exercise: deadlifts, leg extensions, overhead presses, you name it. I wouldn't recommend any more than 8 to 10 sets per body part on the larger muscle groups (legs, back, chest), and no more than 6 to 8 for smaller groups like biceps, triceps, and delts. This style of training is very intense when done correctly, so keep recuperation in mind.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Rack Training for Massive Muscle Size - Anthony Ditillo

Anthony Ditillo

For the purpose of bodybuilding I have worked out two very result producing routines which can be used by most fellows to the best advantage.

Routine One consists of the following exercise movements:

Bench Press
Press Behind Neck
Bentover Barbell Row
Upright Row
Parallel Squat

We shall begin the routine with the bench press because of its great popularity and also because it should be the cornerstone of any bodybuilder's routine along with the squat. A medium grip should be used and there should be no back arching during the performance. Begin with 1 set of 10 repetitions for a warm up, and then increase the weight and perform 7 reps. Increase the weight once more and now you jump to 5 reps. Keep at it with a weight you can't possibly handle for more than 5 reps, and perform 3 additional sets with this weight. When this becomes too easy, merely increase the weight for the 5 rep sets. 

The press behind neck is next, and in this movement you should use a rather wide grip. The bar should be placed at just about your hairline in the back of your neck, and I would advise here the same set and repetition scheme as in the bench press, that is, 1 x 10 warmup, 1 x 7 with more weight, and finally 4 x 4-5 reps. 

The next movement, the bentover barbell row, should not be performed in the power rack. It simply does not feel very comfortable using the rack and so I suggest you switch to the conventional 'free type' of movement. Just be sure that you don't revert to sloppy style because you are not using a rack. To be fully effective as a muscle building medium, the movement must be performed slowly and correctly. Don't hunch your back while pulling the weight up. Don't swing the weight up in an attempt to use more weight too soon, for this will not build your back any faster but it might give you a nasty back strain which you will not soon get over. Use a close grip, and pull the weight into the lower abdomen; it seems to activate the lats better.

The last upper body movement is the upright row. This is a very important movement for the skinny bodybuilder, for it enables him to fully work the arm muscles without having to sacrifice additional time and sweat in arm specialization. Also, it will work the back muscles and deltoids quite strongly and is certainly rewarding in that respect. The bar should be placed at crotch height and a close grip should be used. The bar should be pulled up to the height of the upper pectorals. The should be no kicking of the thighs during the operation and no hunching forward of the upper body. To fully feel and appreciate this movement, a strict performance is a training necessity. As I mentioned earlier, the same repetition scheme should be used for all the exercises in this routine.

The final movement is the parallel squat. You have never squatted if you have not squatted out of a power rack! This must be the severest type of repetition squatting in existence. First of all, you place the squat bar at parallel height. Then you squeeze yourself under the bar. You are now ready for squatting!

You will find that you can't even come close to your usual squatting poundage. This is because you usually squat from a standing erect position so that there is a slight 'rebound' at the bottom and this muscle rebound helps to overcome the hardest part of the lift, getting up with the weight when coming out of the bottom position. And I also guarantee that your legs will respond like they never have before. Additional thigh shape and size can be realized in a very short time if you are willing to work regularly and very hard. The repetition and set scheme should remain the same, and once again I urge you to try to use the heaviest weight possible for each set of required repetitions.

The Second Routine is a takeoff of the first, only we have reduced the exercise movements down to just three:

Bench Press
Bentover Barbell Row
Parallel Squat

This routine can be most effectively performed on the power rack and its simplicity and its ease of operation shall save the bodybuilder much time. The rep scheme should be somewhat more severe in its scope since you are only using three movements, and by doing so you will be able to recuperate much quicker than when spending your energy on more exercises.

You should begin with 1 set of 10 reps for a warmup. Now increase the weight to a poundage you can barely handle for 6 reps. Once more increase the weight of the bar so that 3 reps are all you can possibly manage. You should try to perform 5 sets with this weight. When this is possible, you then should increase the amount of weight in each of your sets so as to keep a close watch on your up-and-coming muscular power.

After this, set the pins and the bar at the exact height of your particular sticking point and perform 3-4 sets of 3-5 reps from this position so as to force additional work on the involved muscles just where they need it the most.

You should use a medium grip in the bench press, a close grip in the bentover row, and a medium foot stance in the parallel squat. This is because you are using the power rack primarily for bodybuilding results and not merely to see how much you can possibly lift, as is the case of the powerlifter and Olympic lifter.

Let me repeat, these two routines are geared for bodybuilders, primarily the ones who are underweight. I am sure that if a weight gaining diet is followed while undertaking these routines, the trainee will produce the greatest weight gain of his entire life and his power will jump to its all time high. Such is the value of power rack training.

It goes without saying that the powerlifter and the weightlifter will gain tremendously from the correct type of training on the power rack. However, the power rack work must be of a specialized nature. For quite a long time, most fellows thought that a basic bulking routine would suffice. That is, they would use heavy weight, high sets and low reps just as in the two routines I have just outlined for the bodybuilder. However, the strength lifter requires a different training scheme.


Because he is interested in increasing mainly his three competitive lifts and cannot possibly dissipate his energies on various movements, such as incline presses, half squats and high deadlifts, which will hamper his three-lift potential.

Instead, why can't the trainee simply use the same movements but use sectional training?

For instance, Jim is a powerlifter. He uses the power rack two times per week and once a week he works up to his one rep limit on the three power lifts using the 'free' competition style. On Monday Jim performs the three power lifts on the power rack. He places the bar dead on the chest for his bench presses and he adjusts the bar to parallel position for his squats. The deadlift is performed in the usual competition style since this lift begins with the weight on the floor, hence it begins in the bottom position (the hardest part of any lift). On this training day Jim follows the 'increase the weight on the bar and decrease the repetitions performed per set' training method. His highest poundage will find him using approximately 80% of his true one rep limit.

On Wednesday Jim still continues to train on the power rack. However, on this day he will place the bar for each lift at his most difficult position, at the sticking point. He will perform 1 set of 10 reps to warm up and then jump to 1 set of about 7 reps. Then once again he jumps the weight to a 3-rep limit and finally he will perform 5 singles with a weight that is 90% of his one rep limit. By working out of the power rack and starting from his sticking points, Jim has still used his three competitive basic lifts but he has used them in a different way and hence is not bored in performing them.

On Friday, Jim will not use the power rack. He will again perform his basic three lifts but this time his workout will consist of mostly single attempts with a limit weight and possibly an attempt at a new record.

By incorporating both regular and rack training in his weekly regime, Jim does not have to worry about the rack possibly destroying his coordination or his lifting timing. Also he has used only the three main lifts which he competes in, yet the power rack has enabled him to turn the lifts into 'assistance exercises' to combat training boredom.

Using both the power rack and conventional methods for training for the three power lifts or even the two Olympic lifts should aid just about anyone in increasing his lifting or bodybuilding potential. For the bodybuilder, the rack work is most effective when combined with a bulking up period of increased caloric intake. He should make his training schedule relatively short but very, very heavy. For his particular usage the 'sliding pole' rack is best.

So, as you can plainly see, rack work will aid just about anybody. And any initial difficulties you may have when first becoming initiated into this specialized type of training will prove itself well worth the suffering when you realize that in the long run you are going to become very heavily muscled and exceptionally strong in a very short while.      

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Inch in 24 Hours Redux - David Sandler (2015)

Some 20-plus years ago, a never-before-seen arms routine was created to provide maximal growth in a single day. The famous "Inch in 24 Hours" training program has since seen dozens of iterations and applications -- 

 -- Here is one version, "The Nine Hour One Day Arm Blitz"

There are, as mentioned, many others that will give you an idea of what it's about -- 

Taking that knowledge and the foundations from which it was built, we have evolved the basics of the legendary program to give you a new, month long, less time intensive approach.

The key to serious size is to take that 'only in the gym' pump and turn it into permanent muscle. Sure, you can do some fast back-to-back exercises and push your pump through the roof -- but just a while later that pump will be gone, and you won't have the muscle to show for it. One answer to this dilemma is to combine pump-type training with more permanent strength and size building exercises, then allow for maximal recovery before beating your muscles into submission in the next workout.

There are two likely mechanisms for the dramatic increases seen through using this type of training program:

1) The first has to do with the natural process of protein synthesis. However, with this specific type of stress, it appears that the process is enhanced, likely due to the increased volume of training and our better understanding of the importance of supplementation and good nutrition.

2) The second is the process of cellular swelling which appears to maintain its overall characteristics without affecting muscle function. We know that when injured or suffering from severe DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) he damaged tissue area swells significantly, generally limiting function, and as the swelling goes down, function is restored. The current thinking here is that if we catch the swelling at the right moment -- somewhere after the pain subsides and full functionality returns -- and we continue to train, we reap the benefits of the added tissue swelling. As has been proven time and time again using serious volume weight training programs like this, if you hit those muscles regularly with proper rest, you maintain the size from both swelling and tissue development. So, we continue to drive the size of the muscle upwards if we:

a) tear down the tissue by enhancing the muscle building process,
b) provide just the right amount of rest, and
c) attack the muscle again with an appropriate volume that it can handle.

Rules of Engagement

This program is split into two segments. The first is the initial three-hour workout (yes, three!), and the second is the ongoing training for the next four to six weeks, or even longer if your arms let you keep going. The rules are simple: follow the first workout to a T and take the appropriate rest, and then throew the rule book in the garbage and to get down to some serious arm training each and every time arm day cycles around. But before you start, heed the following:

 - Keep the load on the target muscles by using good exercise mechanics at all times.

 - Tame your urge to cheat until you are at least 80% of the way through your set.

 - Lift lighter loads, focus on the reps, and squeeze tight when you get to the top of each rep.

 - Since the biceps compromises two almost equally functioning muscles, and the triceps are composed of three, it is imperative to target each head in every session.

 - Adopt the mantra that "no one exercise is better than another." Why? Because you need them all in order to fully develop every last fiber within your arms. By specifically calling out one exercise over another, you may mistakenly omit something that limits your growth potential.

Part One

The first day of this program is an offshoot of the larger single-day "Inch in 24" routine -- and it's ridiculous. You pair one set of both a biceps and triceps exercise every five minutes for three hours. Effectively, you will get 36 sets per side, or 72 total sets. You'll then take five to six days off -- but no more than seven -- before you begin the second part of this program.

Initial Set-Up Day:

First Hour, every 5 minutes, 1 set of each -
Skull Crusher, 12 reps.
Standing Barbell Curl, 12 reps.

Second Hour, every 5 minutes, 1 set of each -
Triceps Pressdown, 10 reps.
Cable Curl with Straight Bar, 10 reps.

Third Hour, every 5 minutes, 1 set of each -
Single-arm Dumbbell Extension, 12 reps.
Alternating Dumbbell Curl, 12 reps.

Part Two:

You will hit your arms twice a week. Day One will focus more on strength and size. You'll take slightly longer breaks between sets thus enabling you to use heavier weights and establish that solid foundational muscle and build strong bonds between the connective network and the overall cellular protein structure. Day Two will be more about emphasizing the peak, developing clean contractions, and focusing on muscle shape. But let's get something straight: neither day should be a walk in the park -- light or heavy, your effort should be maxed.

Day One -

Skull Crusher, 4 x 8, 2 minutes rest.
Close Grip Bench Press, 4 x 8, 2 min.
Dip, 4 x 10, 90 sec.
V-Bar Triceps Pushdown, 4 x 10, 90 sec.
Barbell Curl, 4 x 8, 2 min.
Preacher Curl, 4 x 8, 2 min.
Cable Curl, 4 x 10, 90 sec.
Incline Dumbbell Curl, 4 x 10, 90 sec.

Day Two -

One-Arm Cable Curl, 4 x 12, 90 sec.
Dumbbell One-Arm Preacher Curl, 4 x 12, 90 sec.
Alternating Dumbbell Hammer Curl, 4 x 15, 75 sec.
Cable Rope Curl, 4 x 15, 75 sec.
Dumbbell Skull Crusher, 4 x 12, 90 sec.
Rope Triceps Pushdown, 4 x 12 90 sec.
One-Arm Dumbbell Overhead Extension, 4 x 15, 75 sec.
One-Arm Reverse Cable Pushdown, 4 x 15, 75 sec.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Heavy Training - Fred Hatfield (1982)

       Doug Furnas, Ed Coan, Fred Hatfield, 
Mike Bridges, Doyle Kenady.

Many people have experienced dreams in which an extraordinary idea or concept passes through their mind. Awakening in a startled state, often excited to near hysteria, they reflect on the idea and promise themselves that they’ll write it down the next morning. Sun up, they find to their dismay that they can’t remember what they dreamed! I had such a dream once and determined not to forget, wrote it down before going back to sleep. The next morning, I read what I had written during the night and it was nearly unintelligible. The meaning of my sleep-writing has only recently become clear to me. It is an idea I would like to throw out at the weight training world.

Almost all powerlifters follow some kind of weekly training schedule that involves a light, moderate, and heavy workout. Until recently (a year or so), I used a similar schedule. Then came my revelation. Why not train heavy all the time? What possible benefit is derived from training loads that are so light that no significant overload is accomplished? The revelation came to me in mathematical form. If I trained for 10 weeks following the traditional light and heavy system, I’d get in 10 heavy workouts. These workouts would be the only ones out of the total 20 that would yield significant gains. However, if I trained heavy every 4th or 5th day, I would be able to get in fully 15 significant workouts in 10 weeks. My nimble brain quickly calculated the advantage – on such a system I would be able to make gains fully 50% above what I used to get!!!

Many questions arise.

What’s light?

What’s heavy?

Is four or five days enough time for full recuperation?

Is the ideal physiologically sound?

Psychologically sound?

Is there any reason under the sun why I should train light?

Is there any reason under the sun why I shouldn’t train heavy all the time?

I’d like to answer the last question first.

It works and it works better than the old method! It worked for me and it’s working for the guys who train with me. But, let’s take a look at the concept more systematically and objectively.

When lifters talk about training loads, there are no magic numbers, no holy percentages – only ballpark figures that experience and research tells us are good guidelines. The critical threshold (on the average) for strength gains to occur maximally is with training loads in excess of 80% maximum. The average lifter can pump out at least 10 good reps with such a load – usually closer to 15 reps, but most strength-based lifters deal with lower reps than that. Off season training generally should involve 6-8 reps at loads in excess of 85%. Peaking cycles generally include heavy triples with loads in excess of 90% of max. Both research and experience tells us that such training loads yield the best results for strength and power. So, ‘light’ (for our purposes) means below the critical threshold of 80% , and ‘heavy’ means doing the appropriate number of reps with a weight that is heavy enough to make you fail if you go beyond the required number of reps.

Recuperation time is a variable that must be determined by the individual. There are some rather objective methods to determine whether you are recuperated sufficiently to engage in another heavy workout (blood pressure, white blood cell count, blood lactate concentration tests), but the most practical method is trial and error. Younger and smaller lifters generally recuperate faster than older and/or bigger lifters. 3-5 days is generally enough time for the in-shape lifter. The big guys sometimes need 5-7 days for full recuperation. The short and long of this fact is that if you engage in a moderate or light workout before recuperating from the last heavy workout, you are actually slowing down the recuperation process – you are not enhancing it.

Let me reiterate an important point – maximum benefit is derived from your heavy workouts, and light workouts only serve to hold you back. The only reason ever given to me for doing light workouts (besides the old standby response, ‘this is the way everyone does it’, or ‘it helps me to recuperate’) is that an overpowering feeling of guilt forces lifters to work! If they’re not in the gym almost every day, lifters feel that they’re not working hard enough, or that they’re lazy. They become overwhelmed by the need to excel and want to do everything they can to get better! Noble, but I submit, nearsighted.

When the gains begin to come more rapidly, the guilt feelings go away. The extra time spent home with the family, or out with friends will, I suspect, be a welcome relief to them, and it certainly won’t hurt in allowing the lifter to become a bit more attuned to life around him (oddly enough, there actually IS life outside the gym!)

My experience with such a system has been nothing but positive. I now love to go to the gym! The drudgery is gone. I love to handle the big weights – it’s good for my head. The guys I train with have become infected with the same kind of enthusiasm and our training sessions are ALWAYS nothing less than great! I even have time on my hands so that I have been able to sit down and write this article.

Maybe it’s an idea whose time has come.

Give it a try!  

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Frank Zane on Training 1967 and 1979 - Rick Wayne

Books by Rick Wayne

Frank Zane (1967)

I started on sequencing three weeks before the 1966 Mr. A., and have been on it since. My training partner at the time (Craig Whitehead) and I are pleased with it, because we can get in a great workout in a shorter period of time, and have more time for outside activities and our professional duties. 

The weights I use in all exercises are as heavy as possible, as I'm trying to gain some more muscular bodyweight. The only rest periods are between sequences, and I generally finish off with a little extra ab work and some rope skipping for a few minutes. Here is one version of a sequencing routine I'm currently using.

Calves, Chest, Abs, Biceps

Sequence #1
Calf Machine, 4 x 12
Incline Barbell Bench Press, 4 x 6
Half Situp, 4 x 20
Incline Dumbbell Curl, 4 x 6.

Sequence #2
Donkey Calf Raise, 4 x 12
Bench Press, 4 x 6
Leg Raise, 4 x 20
Lying Pulley Curl, 4 x 6.

Sequence #3
Hack Machine Calf Raise, 4 x 12
Incline DB Press, 4 x 6
Oblique Situp, 4 x 20
Scott DB Curl, 4 x 6.

Sequence #4
Leg Press Calf Raise, 4 x 12
Decline Flye, 4 x 6
Hyperextension, 4 x 15
Alt. DB Curl, 4 x 6.

Calves, Lats, Abs, Triceps

Sequence #1
Calf Machine, 4 x 12
Front Pulldown, 4 x 6
Half Situp, 4 x 20
Triceps Pressdown, 4 x 6-8.

Sequence #2
Donkey Calf Raise, 4 x 12
Low Pulley Row, 4 x 6
Leg Raise, 4 x 20
Lying DB Extension, 4 x 6.

Sequence #3
Hack Machine Calf Raise, 4 x 12
Triangle Chin, 4 x 8
Oblique Situp, 4 x 20
Long Pulley Extension, 4 x 6-8.

Sequence #4
Leg Press Calf Raise, 4 x 12
Chin Behind Neck, 4 x 8
Hyperextension, 4 x 15
Triceps Bench Dip, 4 x 10.

Delts, Forearms, Abs, Thighs

Sequence #1
Side Laterals, 4 x 6-8
Reverse Curl, 4 x 6-8
Half Situp, 4 x 20
One Leg Extension, 4 x 15 each leg.

Sequence #2
Press Behind Neck, 4 x 6-8
Wrist Curl, 4 x 12
Leg Raise, 4 x 20
Leg Curl, 4 x 10.

Sequence #3
Rear Laterals, 4 x 6-8
Wrist Roller, 4 sets
Oblique Situp, 4 x 20
Leg Press, 4 x 10-15.

Sequence #4
Dumbbell Press, 4 x 6-8
Reverse Wrist Curl, 4 x 12
Hyperextension, 4 x 10
Hack Squat, 4 x 8.

Notice in this routine that I'm using the muscle priority principle by working my calves first in my routines, and working them four times weekly. Note also abdominals on all six training days, while the main bodyparts I work really hard twice a week. I work bodyparts that are generally antagonistic together: pecs and biceps; thighs and delts; triceps and lats. I feel this enables me to handle more weight in each movement as I go through the sequences.  

Rick Wayne (1979)

It is not all that difficult seeing Frank Zane as the Muhammad Ali of bodybuilding. Oh, I know Frank is just about the quietest person you'd care to meet; a listener, if you will, rather than your Ali-type ear-bender. But let the facts speak for themselves.

Remember how everyone laughed when Ali, then Cassius Clay, told the world he was "gonna whup that ugly Bear . . ."? Remember how they said he was scared plumb out of his small mind when he threw his little tantrum shortly before he and Sonny Liston got into the business of the weigh-in ritual? Hey, even the Boxing Commission's doctor was afraid for Clay. But then we all know what happened a few hours later, don't we? Liston ended up on his rear end, stuck tight to his stool; refused to come out for the seventh round.

And a whole new type of boxing champion had arrived.

Now do you see the point? Somehow Frank Zane seems to inspire all kinds of fight metaphors. Can you conceive of his as the David of bodybuilding's David and Goliath encounters? I mean, who'd have thought little 185 pound Frank Zane would have Robby Robinson sucking salt (tears)? Who'd have imagined our hero stopping Ken Waller dead in his Mr. Olympia tracks? Bill Grant had promised to blow him away.

But that's exactly what Frank Zane did to everyone on the 1977 Mr. Olympia battleground. 
Blew them away. No wonder the Robby fans and the Waller satellites and the Bill Grant quartet blew their stacks afterwards. They never expected to be hit that way. Sonny Liston might have warned them of the folly of underestimating the enemy.

[Here is a great two part article on the 1977 Mr. Olympia contest, written by Natural Mr. Olympia John Hansen, filled with photos and wonderfully written. 

Frank Zane had to try four or five times before tasting victory in the Mr. Olympia contest. He would say afterwards that he always knew he could do it, no matter that very few other bodybuilding pundits would have bet money on a Zane Mr. Olympia knockout. I mean, even though everybody acknowledged the man had just about the most beautiful body in the world, the consensus was that Frank's was the kind of body girls swooned over on the beach. Not your regular monster-type Mr. Olympia scourge.

Hear him on the subject: "I have always known my critics were wrong when they figured I didn't have what it took to be Mr. Olympia. The way they saw it, Sergio Oliva had set the standard. There there was Arnold. You had to be a cross between Schwarzenegger and Oliva, say something like Franco, if you were serious about taking the Mr. Olympia title. But I knew better."

Sure he did. Indeed, what Zane has always . . . well, maybe not always, for he did make his mistakes along the way. What Zane has known for a long time is this: "You have to take what you have, none it to as near perfection as possible and then put it up there before the judges."

Which is what he did finally. He'd lost trying to look like Arnold, trying to sport 20 inch arms at a bodyweight of 200 pounds. He'd lost trying to make the Mr. Olympia on part-time training. But his losses had set Frank's head on straight, finally.

Defeat in 1976 was hard to take. He was sure he'd done enough to switch off Franco Columbu's lights. His loss a year earlier, in South Africa, had spurred him to have one last go at the title and now he was better than he had ever been in a  career spanning nearly 20 years. He was, in the language of bodybuilding, ripped to shreds. Which is to say his muscular definition couldn't have been sharper. His posing was, as always, superb. And the fans were there en masse to keep his ego buoyant. Everything had seemed so right . . .

. . . Until the MC announced the results: Franco Columbu, Mr. Olympia 1976. Zane's world crashed into a billion tiny pieces at his feet. Exactly what did he have to do to win the title? Were the others right after all? Was it true that he simply did not have what it took to be Mr. Olympia? Simply would never have it? Was it a fact that you had to have simian characteristics before Mr. Olympia judges took you seriously?

The fact is, the decision had been close. so close that for months afterwards Franco was still dazed by it all. He had skimmed past Zane by the skin of a point. Too close for comfort, Franco had figured on putting Zane in his place with at least a five point clear margin between them.

But coming so close to being Mr. Olympia, while it might have satisfied a thousand other lesser aspirants, did little for Frank Zane. Say it straight, for a while he decided that was it for him. He'd had enough of the Mr. Olympia war that only gorillas could win. He thought about his career and decided there was nothing more to be gained from participating in another Big O event. His mail order courses were doing fine, his calendar showed he was just about fully booked for the year 1977 and there were the seminars that he had already contracted to do for George Snyder. A book was in the offing too. And then there was the project that he planned to work on with his wife, a series of courses with the women in mind for a change.

Yes, to the slightly biter Frank Zane it seemed there was nothing more to be gained from winning the Mr. Olympia title.

But then came January, 1977 and little second thoughts began to tingle his mind. Why not, he heard the little voice in his head ask, why not one more time? At first he refused to consider the thought seriously. But then his ego began to offer its own possibilities. Franco had stepped down; he had announced his retirement from competition after taking bodybuilding's biggest accolade. It was a beautiful way to go.

Now Zane began to see his own retirement as as cop-out. A man should not retire in defeat, he told himself, and his ego agreed. Oh, how his ego agreed! How nice it would be to go in there again and destroy all those predictions. Yes, there was a nice thought. Winning against Robby Robinson would be like winning against the very best.

By the end of January Frank was well into his Olympia frame of mind. More than that, he had decided exactly how he would prepare for his final attempt at grabbing the title from the grasping hands of Robby Robinson. He had mapped out the training program via which he fully expected to land on rostrum number one on Olympia Day.

He took a year off from teaching, after deciding he could not prepare properly for the contest on a part time basis. He had taken full account of himself and decided which little flaws required special attention. In his mind's eye he saw himself as he intended to be on the day of the competition. Yes, he would be ripped, as defined as he was in 1976, but he would be at his heaviest contest-ready weight ever at just under 190 pounds.

Frank had also taken to meditating before every workout. Why?

"Well," he says, "at a commercial gym there are always little things that distract you during a workout. I remember I was well into a workout the year before, my mind was really screwed into what I was doing and I was completely oblivious to the other nonsense activities going on around me. But then John Balik had come in to see me about something about other and although I knew I should have ignored him until the end of my workout and John would have understood, I stopped to talk to him. Our conversation lasted only a few seconds but I just couldn't get back into my training afterwards. A whole workout had done down the drain because of that little interruption. It's nuts allowing anything to penetrate your concentration during a workout. So now I meditate before each training session. I do so either at home or in the dressing room before each workout.

Four booklet set by John Balik (1979).
Not shown: You Can't Flex Fat.

As Zane sees it, many bodybuilders believe they are concentrating well during a workout when they are not. He says: "It's not good enough merely to keep your mind on each set you do. I try to visualize each rep doing exactly what I want. I don't take mental pauses between sets. My mind is deep into my training even though I might be resting my body between sets. I am always preparing myself mentally for what's coming next and so I cannot allow irrelevant thoughts to steal into my head. Long after my workout is over my mind is still in contact with the training session."

Here is how Zane practices his meditation: "The plan is to empty your head of all thoughts for as long as you wish. You sit down and try to get your mind to go blank. They you take a deep breath and think one; you breathe out, breathe in again and think two, and so on till you get to ten. Try to get up to 30 without a foreign thought coming into your head. When you can count to that figure without your mind straying to some other subject you'll have mastered the art of concentration. You'll do your reps without the possibility of interruption by outside influences. And you can take it from me, the ability to keep your mind on your training will make your workouts one hundred percent more effective."

But Zane's Mr. Olympia training phase was not all meditation. Not by any means.

The phase comprised, depending on bodypart, 12 to 15 sets, three exercises each. That is to say, he might work his arms with cheat barbell curls, concentration dumbbell curls, and alternate dumbbell curls, four sets per exercise.

He trained each bodypart twice a week, one workout a day. In the first phase of his prep, Zane trained at a fairly leisurely pace, employing as much weight as possible in all exercises. He did no more than 10 reps per exercise, except in the case of calves and thigh extensions when he did sets of 25. His squats, that is to say, hacks, sissy, and parallel squats were all done in the non-lock style. He believes this style places much more stress on the muscles involved. His leg presses were also done in that fashion.

This phase lasted about three months. The purpose here was to increase bodyweight and measurements. It should be pointed out here that while other bodyparts were trained twice a week in phase one, Zane worked his calves four times per week.

On Mondays and Thursdays he did his delts, chest, triceps and abdominals. It should be noted here that the only muscles trained here are what Frank refers to as the extending and pressing muscles of the body.

Says Zane: "The traditional method among most bodybuilders is to train chest and back in the same workout. You find them doing chest and back one day, delts and arms the next, and thighs and calves on the third day. Well, when I trained that way my shoulders became very sore and stayed that way. If you have any kind of shoulder injury it seems this popular combination does not work too well. I find that when I do all the pressing work on one day my shoulders recover better."

His pulling muscles are trained on Tuesdays and Fridays. "I start with calf work, actually. Then I follow up with my back, biceps and forearms.

On Wednesdays and Saturdays, two easy days, I did calves, thighs and abs."

It is Frank's contention that you can't be at your complete best more than once a year.

"It was somewhat different when I was starting out," he allows. "In the beginning I think it might be wise to reach several peaks a year so as to gain experience in doing it. But after you have reached a certain standard you should be careful about attempting to hit top condition too often. Peaking out takes a hell of a lot out of you and I personally believe it is too much to put the body through more than once annually."

His phase one workout usually lasted just under two hours. He tended to do more sets for the larger muscle areas, like the back, for instance.

"Phase one is my foundation phase," Zane Said. "Here I don't do supersets, I take my time trying to handle heavy poundages, making every rep of every set count. It's the sort of routine you could stay on for quite a long time and still make gains before getting down to the actual peaking."

Frank refers to phase two of his preparations as "my separation phase."

He explained the difference between separation and definition. "In the first instance the word is used when referring to separations between muscle groups. Say, between your triceps and biceps. Now, with definition we are talking about the striations in the biceps; the striations in the triceps. So, in fact separation is the condition you get before you reach clear-cut definition. To explain further, if you have clear demarcation between triceps, biceps, and deltoids then you can say your separation is good. But unless you can also see the fibers in the various muscle groups then you can't say you are defined or ripped."

So phase two is designed to bring out muscle separations. "This can be achieved by intensifying your workouts. What I do is train each bodypart three times a week. You will recall I trained them just twice a week in the previous phase. Now I'll be doing around 15 sets per bodypart, as in phase one, but you should note that there is added stress with the one extra day in phase two. To elucidate, in phase one I might be doing 15 sets for my chest. In phase two I do not increase the number of sets for my chest; instead, I do a third day. One day more of chest work. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday I work delts, chest, triceps and abs. On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings I work back, biceps, forearms and abs. In the late afternoon I return to work my legs."

Zane figures he gained much muscularity following phase two, without losing any appreciative muscle size. He continued to train reasonably heavy in order to maintain the muscle mass that he acquired from following phase one.

Phase three lasted four weeks. Here the accent was on gaining definition. "The idea here is to try to use the same weights as before but the twice daily training (double split). This can be quite exhausting and ou should not feel too badly if you have to drop a pound here and there.

"Here I go into supersets and forced reps. I also add cable movements and other peak contraction exercises to my routine. I practice posing before, during and after workouts while I am still pumped up.

"On Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings I trained chest, triceps and abs. I case I forget, I want to say here that each workout ended with abdominals. I did 200 reps in the morning and evening. None of that thousand reps stuff. Your diet will take care of the rest. In the afternoons I did delts and abs.

"You will notice in the workout that I have taken my phase two workout and split it into two sessions. I am therefore doing more for delts, more for triceps and so on. My sets rise to 20 or 30 per bodypart. On my smaller areas, like biceps, triceps and forearms, I do just about 15. For my delts I used about 6 movements and up to 25 sets. I work calves every day in this phase.

"On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings I worked my back, biceps, forearms and abs. In the afternoon, thighs, calves and abs."


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