the Muscle and Might and Getting it Right
June 24, 2003
it’s best to just sit back and listen to the inquiries and
mumblings of everyone else, the faded and unoriginal dilemmas that
keep us scratching our heads and saying, “Wha.”
is a bunch of Q&As I’ve recently fielded with the speed
of a bullet and the accuracy that goes with shooting from the hip.
You won’t learn much, but it’s good for the heart to
hang out with us common folk who simply will not stop trying. It’s
not in the question. It’s not in the answer. It’s in
the effort, intense, focused and consistent.
a volume of these pointed pleas covering a broad range of uncomplicated
subjects and you might skim them till something rings a bell. The
first letter is a cool insight from a soldier doing his best in
Iraq. Thought you might get a kick out of it.
"This year I am in Baghdad which is just like the wild west
again. Last year you sent me a couple of books. I think you will
be happy to know I have gained about 15 pounds of muscle on my 6.1
frame -- was 190 now. I am 210 at 8% body fat, thanks for your help.
place is even worse than Afghanistan. Our gym equipment consists
of truck axles from republican guard vehicles, one 40-pound dumbbell,
a pull-up bar, a metal bar with sandbags attached and heavy objects
taken from blown up tanks and aircraft. It's amazing what we can
do when the desire to lift burns inside us. Temp at our gym is 104
degrees. Ground is littered with explosives, usually somebody dies
every day; food sucks and I supplement my diet by killing gazelles
and eating the meat. We make no excuses, nor ask for sympathy, we
attack the weights like crazed dogs on a kill. All the air-conditioned
gym rats have bowed out. No supplements or steroids here, no protein
drinks or showers. You are an inspiration to us; I write this in
hope that we can inspire those gym members who have all the tools
before them but no motivation. I hope to be home soon, Dave, and
someday I would like to meet you. Your friend…"
Sarge, is that you?
admire and often envy you guys who find yourselves in the midst
of life demonstrating its maximum chaos and unknown, hardship and
sacrifice, reward and fulfillment. You're in a danger zone, it seems,
where you meet yourself for the first time every day. It's good
for the soul to be stripped raw to the bone while creating a new
and better thing. But who would choose the course? You guys and
gals are the rare and few who know what you know and dare to undertake
for me to talk. Wish we could trade places for a week or an hour.
The frustration must be difficult to deal with -- the mixed reception,
the ongoing war at every turn and doorway, the slowness to putting
the confusion to rest and restoring a smart government, fixing what's
broke in hearts and minds and power and communications and water;
separating the good from the evil, longings for that other world
with overflowing refrigerators and clean sheets. I have a picture
from the offerings of TV and newsprint and the internet and my own
imagination and conversations with friends of the conservative camp
and observations of the more liberal thinkers, God bless them.
have our hands full, and yours and your comrades are the hands at
work today. And to think you wrap them around the iron and lift
them over your head as the sun hidden from my sky this morning beats
down on you, bright, scorching and exhausting... 105 and humid in
that tent. One more rep, another MRI packed with protein, one more
land mine, one more sniper, one more victory.
rock, Sergeant. Sandbags, axles and God's speed...
hi to the gang from the Bomber...
So what, they don't know me...
I represent America, the land of the courageous and free.
I have been stuck on my maximum lift on the bench for ages, a couple
of years in fact. I can press 250lbs and l want to be able to press
300lbs just once before I go to the big gym in the sky. I’m
45 years old now so time is running out. Dave, do I have a chance
of achieving my goal or am I too old?
Forty-five… gee, you’re just about ready for the old
pine box. However, if you’re healthy today and train smart,
eat right and rest appropriately you have 10 to 15 years of good
n’ tough, progressive weight training in you. That is, you
will be able to absorb the typical pains that accompany aging and
the minor injuries you can expect to sustain in pursuit of your
healthy, aggressive workouts. And you can expect to make reasonable
gains in mass, muscularity and might. That’s good news.
aware that pushing the heavy weight on the bench is notorious for
causing shoulder injuries that make the grand sport of musclebuilding
a misery and a disappointment to many a good man. Be wise and diversify
your chest and shoulder exercises, using dumbbells and cables regularly,
for growth, shape and strength. I love to blast it, but that bench
press and those single-rep personal records are a risk.
the above reason, how to strive for the 300-pound bench is no longer
part of my repertoire of counsel. There are power lifters older
than you on the IronOnline discussion group who could direct you
toward greater power on the bench.
on and take good care of yourself.
I just want to know, how do you operate your gym? Do you have other
personal trainers who work for you and when it comes to the membership,
does it include personal training for those who may not know how
to really work out well? Is your club sales oriented with the sales
staff to the degree that the only question asked is "Did you
just got a job at [enter popular chain gym name here] and am appalled
at how their only concern is the sale. I thought that a parttime
job at a major gym would be good, but it has been tough because
I am honest and can't manipulate people. I don't mind sales done
properly, but I am just wondering if this is widespread and perhaps
in this arena, I am just a bit naive. Thank you.
Our gym is small (7,000 sq. ft.), clean as a whistle, not oversold
and thus never crowded. It serves the members as a serious training
gym and a refuge. No clubby atmosphere, no social boy-meets-girl
scene and not a tough-hardcore obnoxious freak house. It's not perfect
but it's close. One staff person on the clock at a time, no sales
pressure whatsoever, personal trainers for hire (our capable friends)
and training advice as asked or needed by me or Laree or the attending
staff person. The mingling on the floor usually takes the form of
sharing gym knowledge and co-training.
major chains dig deep for the bucks and I view them as creepy exploiters
of good. Man in his search for fitness can be misled and soaked
by these factories. This style of gym has been around since the
chains formed 50 years ago (Vic Tanny's, American Health Studios).
World Gyms and Gold’s need to sell and make a dollar to keep
the doors open, but they are nothing like Bally or 24-Hour Fitness...
I’m 5'11," 194lbs, about 10% body fat and have been training
for almost 3 years now. I have one lagging body part, though, which
is starting to get me down: my biceps! I also have the 2" gap
between my biceps and the bend at the elbow -- this seems to be
where my weakest point is, especially the outer part.
currently train my arms in full once a week and have started to
do biceps on Fridays, which is my priority training day concentrating
on the lower biceps and outer which are the poorest parts. I would
be very grateful for any helpful hints.
Keep training with all your might and don't despair. Structure and
tendons and muscle attachments (inherited factors) often define
the shape of the biceps and their fullness. If standing heavy barbell
curls (full range of motion, resisting the eccentric motion) done
regularly and with monster effort and a degree of acceptable body
thrust does not bring the biceps into their potential fullness,
no trick curl will. Of course, for some of us this takes years of
confident and honest commitment.
in seated dumbbell alternates with power and completeness of movement
has great big-arm-building advantages. Low-incline dumbbell curls
with full extension, full contraction and intense focus in performance
for three-, four- and five-week runs might add to resolving your
train the bis and tris together twice a week, adding forearms to
mix to set the pace. Do this: Work the forearms by tri-setting with
focused wrist curls (4x12-15 reps) with hard working thumbs-up dumbbell
curls or bent-bar reverse curls (4x 6-8 reps) and -- for a little
triceps action -- dips or pulley pushdowns (4x12-15 reps). This
will add to your arm impressiveness, help fill in gaps and add to
the weekly arm load for bigger and better arms.
I am currently in the US Navy on board the USS Kitty Hawk. I am
into working out a lot but am having trouble getting broader shoulders.
Is there anything you suggest or any tips you have as to getting
Keep training and don't despair. Wide shoulders have a lot to do
with bone structure and thick shoulders might just be your specialty
front presses with the bar or dumbbells are the best for power and
shoulder muscle size, standing or performed on a steep incline.
Press-behind-necks with a bar and the back supported is a good alternative
to the front presses. Hefty side-arm lateral raises will add to
the side delts or anterior deltoids. Add bent-over laterals as well
to develop and secure the oft-neglected rear shoulder, upper back
areas. When width is tough to achieve, completeness in development
will forgive the shortcoming (4sets of 6-8 reps is a good working
range on all exercises).
wide-grip chins or pulldowns to your routine and wide-grip bent-over
rows for back width (lats). They tend to widen what is widenable.
Two favorite supersets are the press-behind-neck followed by wide-grip
chins and the wide-grip bench press followed by wide-grip bent-over
rows (4-5 sets x 10, 8, 6 reps).
Any suggestions on how to deal with tendonitis? In my case it's
where the biceps joins the elbow.
Nothing for your problem you haven't heard before. Ice, Ibuprophen
and laying off are the usual treatments, the latter being an unacceptable
choice. Deep massaging the region surrounding the afflicted area
bears results for some types of injury and pain. I wrap the elbow
with each set and warm up slowly... I avoid the real bully movements
that are the abusive culprits (you know the ones) and endure an
unfair amount of pain of the non-destructive variety. You hear of
anything worth relating, tell the gang on the discussion group,
IronOnline. They'll be pleased to hear from you.
I'm a fifty-year-old home trainer and injuries from weights and
martial arts have me returning to weight training exclusively and
with a high-rep program (25-rep range). My question is this: to
build muscle size and shape, what is the best system of high reps
to use? I've read where some people do sets of 100 reps, doing 40
reps the first set, resting 90 seconds, then trying for 30 reps,
resting, then 20 and then 10 reps. Others do more of a muscle-spinning
routine where they do, say, 15 sets of 20 reps with short rest periods.
What do you recommend to get the most out of high-rep training?
I'm not trying to be Mr. Olympia, but I do want to look good on
the beach. Can you help?
Consistently high reps throughout the routine can drive a good man
nuts and lead to training ennui and a puny mind and body. My answer
to gaining hardness and re-training muscle size comes from right-eating
(protein high, carb low), supersetting and mixed reps (15, 12, 10,
8, 6, 4), and keeping up some single- and double-rep quasi-power
training once every three weeks. Attitude and consistency are majors.
I’d give this a try with a slight rep alteration (suggestion:
20, 15, 12, 10, 8 reps). I do 4-5 sets per exercise for sufficient
muscle saturation and overload. Find a program and stick to it for
4 to 6 weeks with only minor, intuitive changes. Random training
is not effective and those high reps you speak of are good once
in a hundred years when you get the burning urge for a change.
I have been getting muscle twitches in my arm and latisimus on my
left side. There is no pain, and it only occurs when I relax. It
has started only recently, and it usually occurs once I finish lifting
in that area. For instance, the back side of my deltoid was twitching
following a really good shoulder workout. Are you familiar with
such things, and have you ever experienced this?
I get those twitches, but only occasionally. They're annoying but
not frightening... some sort of neural response or temporary unevenness
in electrolytes reacting to the increased muscle load, I suspect.
I ignore them and they're gone before I know it. As long as you
have a decent intake of vitamins and minerals and oxygen and there
are no other adverse reactions (coma, bleeding from ears, convulsions),
My oldest son has joined the iron game (actually, this is probably
his first serious year of lifting). His freshman year of football
has passed and now he's training regularly at a local club. He wanted
me to ask what to concentrate on during the off season, sets, reps,
good exercises to increase his bench & squats.
kid wants to be in the 700 Club (bench/squat/incline).
His smartest and most beneficial training approach for overall strength
and performance and long-term training interest is to choose a good
bodybuilding routine with moderate weight, hitting each body part
two times a week with 2 or 3 exercises for 4 sets (sometimes 3)
and the reps ranging the pyramid of 12, 10, 8, 6. Stay with the
basics and go for some power sets/reps every three weeks. Don't
be brutal on the bench press or the shoulders will surely pay. Stick
with the squats and throw in deadlifts once a week for body power
and muscle thickness. In other words, the basics for total musclebuilding
will assure a ready and healthy skeletal/muscular structure for
all seasons and reasons. Brother Iron, Sister Steel says it all,
Train hard, eat right and be confident.
I wanted to know your thoughts on creatine. The creatine that I
have tried only seems to bloat me with water and nothing else. Do
you use creatine and if so which brand and how do you use it? If
you use it, do you use it with protein? Is it truly all that it
supposedly is cracked up to be?
have always tried to get the maximum amount of size, strength and
muscularity with the least amount of supplements as I try to get
my nourishment from whole foods. Honestly, one could spend thousands
of dollars a month on supplements, but I really don't believe that
is necessary. I am 53 years old, stand 6'0" tall, weigh 215
pounds at this writing and have been training regularly since 1969.
I don't bench press anymore, but I am able to hack squat over 400
pounds, deadlift over 500 pounds and stiff-legged deadlift over
400 pounds. Would creatine truly improve what I have already? I'm
always trying to improve my size and strength.
I don't press well anymore -- elbows and wrists -- but the pulling
ain't bad. I continue to squat and dead a fair amount and generally
feel very good if I don't get carried away.
make things work on the Super Spectrim vitamins and minerals, the
Bomber Blend protein powder, and the glucosamine, chondroitin and
MSM mix. The creatine by Anabol Naturals is a regular, 2-3 teaspoons,
and I respond well to it (pump, intensified muscle contraction).
It’s fair and legal and moral. I respect the company and their
product and pay the price. They acquire the purest form of the highest
quality creatine available, which comes from Germany. Quality doesn't
come cheap and when the money-hungry merchants put out a product,
something's got to give, like the acquisition of the least expensive
and least pure ingredient from China. Quality in sups in numero
take it AM and PM and before a workout. The idea is to keep your
system loaded, like topping your gas tank. When you top it is not
really critical, though taking creatine with a protein with a short-chain
molecule (whey protein concentrate) is said to aid in the transportation
of the nutraceutical into the cells (better absorption, faster acting).
A warm liquid with sugar is also claimed to improve efficiency of
the creatine uptake.
don't load and I don't cycle. Been taking it for five years, I guess.
It's an edge for the mind and body, you know how that works.
don't bloat but might gain a pound or two of intracellular water,
which is the preferred anabolic environment and which we all want.
A second rate, cheaper product higher in impurities, some of which
might be toxic, may be the cause of the gastric discomfort or bloat.
Muscle density vs. body fat may also play a factor in positive or
negative response. Don’t bother supplementing your diet with
the white powder unless you intend to train good n’ hard.
It’ll just pass on by the local travelers like an express.
At 53, do you think hitting the legs two days straight with heavy
deadlifts is developmental, or at least twice to three times a week?
The above training strategy is something you might apply periodically
or for several weeks at a time, rationalizing the method of operation
(MO) as a blitz routine to shock the muscles. After that I expect
you'll want to revise your approach as the body becomes fatigued
or unresponsive or you get tired of it. I'm good for one super-hard
leg workout a week (squats, leg press, extensions and curls) with
a hard session of bent-over barbell rows or deads later in the same
week. This is my regular and preferred method of operation at my
increasing age and accrued development. Works great.
sets of extensions (12 -15 reps) supersetted with standing calf-raises
(15 – 20 reps)
sets of leg curls (8 – 10) supersetted with seated calf raises
(15 – 20)
of leg press (20 – 25 reps – incrementing weight) supersetted
with stiff-arm pullovers (10 – 12)
– 5 sets full squats (15, 12, 10, 8, 6 reps – incrementing
lots of pumping thigh work and ham string and glute work in these
– 5 sets deads x 8-10 reps done during mid-section program
– same moderate weight
5 sets bentover rows x 12, 10, 8, 6, 6 reps – incrementing
I said, nothing profound. Just a pile of odd shaped stones which,
when pieced together, make a strong foundation. While the house
is under construction, the questions and answers arise.
let a question absent an answer slow you down. Persist and the path
will be made straight.
much for the hard hat area, bombers, let’s put some air beneath
here to order Dave's new Top Squat
here to see the previous week's column
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