Tuesday, August 16, 2011


"Physical culture is about what you do in the dark. It’s about how hard you train when there is no one to impress. It’s about what you eat, how you think, and what you do on a daily basis. It’s about doing the right thing.

The philosophy comes ahead of the end result. I don’t care if they don’t know anything and can’t bench press an Olympic bar without any plates. That’s not important. What’s important is attitude. It’s not how strong you are now, but where you are going that’s important as far as attitude is concerned… They must be interested in doing the right thing."
--Bob Whelan

And just what is “the right thing” when it comes to true conditioning? Does anyone really possess the answer to this emotionally charged, commercially-loaded question? Bob Whelan is man enough to step forward and make his case within the pages of his latest publication, “SUPER NATURAL STRENGTH.” To Bob, “the right thing” is simply the fortitude in conducting a training ethic that is natural, hard and progressive. In fact, “natural, hard, and progressive” would serve as a definitive motto for Whelan Strength Training. His T-shirts bear the words, “No Toning,” “No Chrome,” “No Bull,” “Just The Workout” which also reflect the essence of this man’s exercise constitution.

Bob has definitely built his own philosophy and sticks to it. He refers to himself as a coach over that of a personal trainer, the latter being a faction of the profession that he finds highly questionable. He feels that the vast majority of personal trainers have prostituted themselves due to lack of education, fundamentals, and a core philosophy. Whelan at heart is a pure strength coach. He does not believe in a fountain of youth, but feels that strength training is the closest thing to it. And Bob certainly has a set of strong core beliefs when it comes to strength development.

The readers are indebted to Stuart McRobert, the publisher of Hardgainer, a magazine from which the contents of this book were drawn. McRobert let a breath of fresh air enter the stuffy Iron Game hall in July of 1989 with the release of his first issue of Hardgainer. The compact, comparatively commercial-free publication steadfastly catered to the hardcore, natural men and women of iron for 15 years..

It was through the editorial craftsmanship of Stuart McRobert that Whelan was introduced to the Hardgainer audience in the September, 1994 issue. Stuart had cut and spliced a number of email exchanges between he and Bob to compile an inaugural article titled, “Maximum Bob.” From that point onward, Bob would compile his own material and be a constant contributor to Hardgainer until its finale in the spring of 2004. It was from that decade of contribution of articles and extensive Q&A columns, Maximum Bob Whelan brought a wealth of knowledge to the Hardgainer readership.

Although Bob holds a master’s degree in exercise science and health from George Mason University and a master’s degree in management from Troy University, academia alone could not give to Bob what he in turn shares with his fortunate clientele. What shines from his Iron Game soul he was born with and naturally cultivated on his own beginning as a youth. It was then that Bob mastered the heavy demands of pushups and pull-ups his father forced upon him.

Like so many die-hards of the game, he became hooked on training at a very young age. Bob continued with his pushups and chins, added cement blocks and copper tubing, dips between chairs, and everything else he could come up with until he attained his first York barbell set at the age of 13. With the York influence, he began purchasing Muscular Development and Strength and Health, followed later with Iron Man magazine. Bob captured the exuberance of so many youths that had both preceded and succeeded him through the decades:

I was a fanatic and devoured everything related to training I could get my hands on. I was sad when I'd read all the articles in a new issue. I couldn’t wait ‘til the next month so I could ride my bike to the apothecary in Sherborn, Massachusetts, and buy the next issue. I can remember the smell of the ink in the new issues. I had to hide the magazines because my father thought all the bodybuilders were “musclebound,” but I knew better. My biggest heroes were Bob Hoffman and, especially, John Grimek.

From these early publications, his fundamentals were cast. Bob was already mentally equipped to build strength and muscle with the most basic of equipment as demonstrated from 1976 to 1979 at a “small, dingy, minimally equipped gym” at Bitburg Airbase in Germany. He went on to both coach and compete for seven years as a natural powerlifter setting several military records on his way. His raw lifts are as impressive and extensive as the rest of his vast array of credentials too numerous to mention.

With such levels of education, depth of knowledge, and breadth of experience, Bob Whelan became one of our prominent modern day Physical Culturists: a hybrid of old and new. wise enough to endear the old, yet open to what the new era offered. He does not get stuck in the mud squabbling over pure traditions if common sense clearly shows that the old could benefit from the new. In his own words:

"I see myself as a tradesman with a shed full of tools... I see the various modes and methods of strength training as tools in a tool chest. A craftsman can collect and use many tools to perform his art. Only a fool would throw useful tools away and insist on using just a few tools. Different tools can be used for different people."

You will see this tradesman at work through the pages of “SUPER NATURAL STRENGTH” as Bob shares his arsenal of conditioning wisdom from the first installment of “Maximum Bob” in the fall of 1994 until the spring of 2004. For those 10 years, Bob remained loyal to the concepts of his trade with some minor evolution in areas where technology and further research had enlightened us all. However, you can’t help but respect him even more when he uses his own experience, intellect, and common sense to draw the line on some of the modern day fads, gimmicks, and crazes that constantly sweep the fitness industry.

What you will get from these pages is serious tried and true strength and muscle building techniques and advice from one of the most passionate trainer/coaches in the world. Bob’s mission is to bring the best out of everyone even if it means screaming encouragement at a young training enthusiast as he/she struggles to carry a 100 to 200 pound bag of sand around a building or simply accompanying a first time client for a gentle walk around the block. As hardcore as Bob is, that Marine-based drill ethic is still governed by intellect and a rationale. As he says:

"Deaths are not good for business! ...A good coach must be a good judge of effort. Not everyone can give the same amount of effort. There are huge differences in ability. Nonetheless, whatever they can give, I want it all. You must be smart enough to recognize the differ-ences in individuals, and be a good judge of effort…. Extracting effort is an art form…. There are some coaches who don’t think you’ve had a good workout unless you use the bucket. This is wrong. I view the bucket as getting a “purple heart” medal. You get a purple heart when you get wounded, but you don’t want to get wounded…. You can’t fake passion. You either have it, or you don’t. If you’ve got it, it makes your job a lot easier, and a lot more fun. Everything flows from passion."

And it is passion that drives Whelan Strength Training. It was that same passion that led Bob to leave a lucrative job as a government agent, sleep only feet from the barbells of his burgeoning gym, and stay the course right to the top of the field. Passion ruled over silly arguments such as which was superior, free weights or machines. As Bob notes, “strength training is similar to religion as far as strong opinions go.”

And with Bob, you will get in this book a solid philosophy on how to get the best from your body without drugs, powders, pills or any other magic potion outside of hard training and real natural foods. Much of the content of this publication is an extensive Q&A collection that spans many issues of Hardgainer from 2000 to 2004. Bob answers a myriad of questions including how to successfully build a personal coaching business plus much, much more.

I was both honoured and happy to write this introduction to Bob’s book, “SUPER NATURAL STRENGTH.” I agreed to do it out of gratitude for the years of work and effort he has put into his craft. So much of what constitutes Bob actually became manifest in his website, naturalstrength.com years before I had the privilege of meeting him. Naturalstrength.com was a godsend to me during my early years working on my own historical project. Only a man with true passion would put such effort and thousands of dollars personally into bringing so much of Physical Culture to the mainstream free of charge as Bob has done.

“SUPER NATURAL STRENGTH” is just the beginning of what will come to print from Bob Whelan’s shed of tools. His first book, “Iron Nation,” was an excellent compilation of training strategies from heavyweight players within the lifting industry. This second publication is “naturally” a compendium to his first. From what I understand and would expect, there is much more to come in the ensuing years from this super-charged, extremely positive, and highly motivating personality.

In the meantime, prepare to reap the benefits of a 10-year romp with Bob Whelan through Stuart McRobert’s successful publication, Hardgainer. Bob will definitely take your training to the “Maximum!”

Randy Roach,
Author of “Muscle, Smoke & Mirrors"


Monday, July 4, 2011

How to Transform Your Physique #84 - Bro Science

Happy July 4th for those out there celebrating. I recently came across a video on the Internet that had me shaking my head in disbelief. I have been around for a long time in the weight game (over 30 years), and to date I have never seen something so utterly stupid.

There is one universal truth about strength training and that truth is "it is simple stuff!" In fact, nothing has really changed in 30 years since I started lifting. What has changed is there are more people doing it. It is now fully accepted for sports and we now know people of all ages can benefit from strength training. These are all obvious positives.

However, what has come along with it is more Bro Science (BS) aimed at putting a spin on every little nuance of strength training. We have all sorts of useless buzz words. We have all sorts of useless spins on exercises. We have all sorts of "special" routines that promise magical results. We have all sorts of supplements that promise magical results and at minimum some perceptible advantage for gains. The Internet has all but amplified the whole Bro Science Industry.

Back in 1995 when I started Cyberpump the mission was to provide people with common sense training information. At that time, there was wasn't much to dispel on the Net. In fact, an old feature that you can read in the archives called Muscle Mag Follies was an attempt to address some of the mainstream Bro Science directly one on one. Today, it is literally an impossible mission to dispel all the misinformation on the web. However, the mission here at Cyberpump remains the same.

What is the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen in 30 years? Ok, here it is. Watch for yourself. Listen to what he says in the video.

We do appreciate the support for all our dedicated readers over the years to keep the site going. There is a HUGE amount of information that has been gathered since 1995 on this web site. And, we continue to add to it on a weekly basis to help counter all the BS out there. Thanks again for your continued support!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Goals are an End, Not the Journey

I thought I would share this with readers because I really resonate with what is written here. Goals are great if you actually have a plan to obtain them. You can still have great discipline to be in the gym when you need to be or be there consistently but if you have no plan for how to get there your efforts will not be as effective as they could be. You need a PLAN for how to get there. And, it needs to be reasonable. For example, if you are student athlete and you are working 40hrs per week during the summer you better figure out when and how the workouts will be scheduled and exactly what you will be doing related to your goals.

Hard work is great but without having laser like focus with a plan you might find yourself disappointed when it comes to reaching your goals.

Goals are an End, Not the Journey

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Body is a Whole

The body is connected. It is not a sum of body parts slapped together. It is a total system. So, why pray tell would you "split" the body up when performing strength training. For an athlete, splitting a strength training program by body parts makes even less sense. Does an athlete use only certain body parts in competition? Hardly. There are many athletes and trainees who are always riding the overtraining train. In my opinion, injuries are a direct consequence of overtraining. The problem with separating by body parts is that this type of training taps into the most important system that governs performance -- the central nervous system. Training the body as a whole allows the WHOLE system to recover. Not some piece meal "recovery" which is absolute bro science (BS). Now, I am not saying you cannot make gains treating the body as a bunch of separate parts. I just do not think it is efficient nor optimum.

Athletes need to spend the majority of their training on skill development not spending every day in the weight room doing certain lifts/body parts. Most trainees do not have time to spend 4-5 days in the gym for hours at a time due to having busy lives with job and family responsibilities. Well, the good news is that you CAN make gains with far less training. I have trained athletes who have made great gains performing two full body workouts a week. One of them is less intense than the other that also aids in recovery.

These full body workouts should cover all the muscle groups. One exercise for chest/shoulders, one exercise for the back, and one exercise for the legs. Throw in some ab work and you have it pretty well covered. Simple and basic. Obviously you can use more than one exercise, but in reality you could pick just one and HIT it for 1-2 sets and make sure you use proper progression. An example would be bench press, chins, and squat/leg press.

I have been able to correlate some common data with respect to nervous system burnout over my years of training myself and others Performing sets of 3 or less for a length of time greater than 3-4 weeks and most will go stale. This would be a true set of 3 or less. It would not be using a sub-max weight nor would it be multiple sets adding up to 1 or 2 higher rep sets (e.g., 10 sets of 2). This "peak" such as that used by powerlifters cannot be held by a natural athlete/lifter without going backward or the nervous system rebelling and the perceived result being "getting weaker". The lifter will feel her "snap" so to speak leave them. Or, they will get injured or leave themselves open to injury. Then, when returning to normal rep ranges what typically happens is EXTREME muscle soreness even with a moderate rep count increase. I experienced it and those I have trained experience it so a "ramp up" in rep range is needed.

The human body is not a sum of separate parts. It is a total system. Treat it like one in all respects.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Comparison of My Diet of Today to Nearly a Decade Ago

The following piece below I wrote back in 2002. It's now 9 years later. Time sure flies by, but my diet hasn't changed all that much. However, my total calorie count has. I just cannot eat as much. And, frankly, don't seem to need to. Here is today's sample diet in a day:

4 egg white omelet with no fat cheese.
Oatmeal or Uncle Same Cereral
1 tablespoon of Carlson's cod liver oil

Maybe 2 hard boiled eggs

Blackened Salmon and one cup of rice and mixed veggies.

Maybe a protein drink or a small serving of various nuts.

Turkey or chicken and one cup of rice and mixed veggies.

Nothing at night.

As you can see, lower calories overall. I have my major cheat day on Friday's and also cheat at dinner on Saturday night if we go out.

It's really interesting to look back in time and see just how little or how much things change!

In my last entry, I told you I would share with you what I exactly eat during a typical day. First, don’t bother getting out your calculators because I have no idea how many calories it is. If I did count the calories, I would probably be shocked and go gorge myself with cheesecake. Wait, no I wouldn’t. Anyway, I think that’s part of the problem with some people in losing fat. They get some number in their mind for what they feel their calories should or should not be. This number may also be arrived at after counting for a few days and then be called gospel for “maintaining weight” and it just needs to be reduced to lose fat. First, that’s too much work. Second, I don’t think it will be that accurate. I won’t go into why I think this is the case. Let’s just chalk it up to too many variables. I believe most people just plain eat too much. Regardless of whether it is junk or good food. “Hey, I only eat fruit. No junk food. I eat more than George the Zoo Gorilla, but it’s ‘no fat’ so I shouldn’t gain weight.” Really? I don’t think so. Why do we eat in the first place? The real reason is to provide fuel for the body to function. Somewhere along the many centuries this got twisted where the majority of people seem to “eating for pleasure”. No wonder we are a bunch of porky pigs running around. You laugh, but just go sit on a bench at the mall or go to the local beach and you tell me what percentage of people are fat and out of shape. Most people fall into that category.

There was some discussion on EFA’s after my last post on getting ripped. I get my EFA’s mainly from EFA oils. The two I use are Cod Liver Oil and Flax Oil. Cod Liver Oil has a bad rap for being yucky. It’s not. I don’t like fish and a tablespoon of Cod Liver Oil is less fishy than a bite of most fish you might eat. The Flax tastes and smells “wheaty” and that’s the best way I can describe it. It’s no biggy either. I’ve slammed powdered Aminos back in the old days and that was like gagging a maggot (holding my nose), and taking EFA’s doesn’t even compare to that nastiness. So, don’t let the taste or smell put you off. It is much more convenient for me to get them this way. My guess it would be for you as well.

So, let me cut to the chase. Actually,, I have to thank the Dole Company. Why? Their products have allowed me to eat fresh veggies. To have a salad used to be a pain in my arse. In fact, too much of a pain. Who has time to sit there and cut and chop? Some may say it doesn’t take much time, but with cleanup involved too I have to disagree. Thank you Dole! Here’s a typical day’s diet for me:

6 egg whites, one yolk (scrambled)
Bowl of Oatmeal

Mid Morning
6 egg whites, one yolk (scrambled)
Apple or other piece of fruit

Half Pound of a lean meat. During the summer BBQ’d. Chicken, Ground Turkey Breast, Lean Red Meat
Salad (I use the Dole Products Here) with homemade Olive Oil and Vinegar dressing. Carrots, broccoli, etc are included in these veggies.

Mid Afternoon
Liquid Feed ( half banana, 3 scoops Whey, tbls Flax oil, water)

Same as lunch

Late Evening
Serving of lean meat or more scrambled egg whites
Bowl of Oatmeal or small bowl of Uncle Sam Cereal

All during the day I am drink ice water. On training days I add in more carbs through a piece of fruit or more oatmeal. On Friday nights, I have pizza. On the weekend would be where we might go out to dinner on occasion. I eat whatever I would enjoy. Note that the oatmeal serving is limited by the amount that’s in the packet. I eat the plain stuff so there is no added sugar. The reason I don’t get the big oats container is that it is convenient that the serving is already measured out and it keeps it consistent.

Remember, this is the eating lifestyle that is working for me personally.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

More on Sled Pushing

This week I performed another comparison test with jogging to sled pushing. Again, sled pushing came out on top due to less time involved and of course the big one for me which is less stress on the joints.  Running can pound your joints.  Today I did 4 trips up and back.  This time I pulled out my video camera so you could see that I am literally walking behind the sled.  Even though I can easily run a mile right now and not breath anywhere near this hard. Yes, run too. I upped the pace two days ago after some sled pushing to see if my body adapted such that the running would be easier. It was.  Once the weather gets consistently better, I'll be able to drop the running completely in favor of pushing the sled.

Here's the video from tonight of my sled pushing:

Friday, March 18, 2011

Running versus The Root Hog - No Contest! - Part II

Fred Fornicola and I had a good dialogue by e-mail regarding my first post.  I think I need to make a few more points to clarify things a bit. 

First off,= my goal is never to feel totally gassed after cardio. In fact, I hate the feeling.  Fred mentioned the following:

"It would be interesting (and a good experiment)  for you to only do the root hog for a couple month's and zero running then go back to running and see if you can bang out the same mileage and pace your first time out."

I've actually done this experiment before and found that running becomes very easy after doing the Root Hog. I keep my pace on the root hog quick and with little rest between trips.  Overall, as Fred also pointed out, it hits the overall body differently than just running.  What I have found though is that after running, and then going back to the root hog, it feels I have not done much cardio wise during the period of time I did the running (in this case, the winter months).  Now, this again does not say you need to blast yourself doing cardio to get the benefit of cardio.  That's never my goal doing the root hog either.  I like the low impact nature of the root hog compared to running.  So, for me, running is not very good in comparison.  My right knee was injured my junior year of high school and it always "talks to me" when I go back to running after awhile.  So, running is just fine and dandy. It's just not my favorite due to the impact it has versus the root hog. And, I can get more done pushing a sled in a shorter time period too.  The bottom line again is due cardio and enjoy what you do!

I mentioned in another post about the body just loves to "stay the same".  What if I told you that you could work your upper body 4-5 times a week (yeah, I know who has time!?) but with a couple caveat?  And, that you just might find you can use the body's alarm response to jolt some new gains or it might be used coming back from a layoff. Yes, it is tricky. And, yes it takes more time. Think about how new people to lifting make fast gains.  Think about it and I'll explain more in my next post.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Running versus The Root Hog - No Contest!

As I mentioned in another post, during the winter I am forced to jog/run for my cardio.  Especially now since I purchased a new Sorinex Root Hog last summer.  I did not want to wreck it in the winter weather. Plus, the ice and snow make sled pulling/pushing an adventure.  My right knew of course finally started to rebel due to the running.  I've had this knee soreness off and on.  It stems from an injury my junior year of high school when I had a scope done on it.  Too many scopes were performed back in the 80's based on what I read.  Anyway, the weather finally broke this week and I pulled the Root Hog out from under the sheet.  Of course since it is early spring all the sand and salt on our street is still there from the winters. That increases the friction considerably making the Root Hog much harder. I used one plate (25lbs) and on the first trip down I could tell it was going to be an adventure.  The bottom was sticking like glue of course due to the sand and salt.  I made the trip back and I could already feel my lungs start on fire.  My legs were indicating "Not good Bill!".  The next trip up and back and I was smoked and breathing like a chimney.  I had increased the pace quite a bit.  I had to remove the plate to make the last up and back.  I was blown out.  Only 3 trips up and back.  I was gassed.  Now, the Root Hog has LESS impact than running because I am basically fast walking.  Keep in mind I could run a mile at a pretty fast clip and yet it was like I had done NO cardio for months.  Needless to say, running yet again sucks for cardio.  Let's see if my knee starts to feel better in the next month as well.  Man, I hate feeling gassed!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Alarm Response - Manipulating it for Quick and Significant Gain

The body likes to stay in equilibrium.  There is no doubt about it.  The body will adapt only when forced to adapt.  The body reacts to stimulus which is why we get stronger and bigger muscles when we use resistance training. Yeah, Bill, no a brainer. Duh!  Well, I have been experimenting with "alarming" the body to adapt quickly and make quick gains using the body's alarm response.  In fact, my KTA grip program hinges on this very concept of manipulating the body's alarm response.  It is very tricky and you tend to have to ignore the more normal signs related to physical training response (soreness, etc).  My theory is that most people can stand what would be the equivalent of training like a steroid user for a very short period or cycle of time.  And, then wait for the body to react.  I've experimented both with some cardio and lifting (besides grip programs where I have proven it works and works very well for a lot of people: The KTA Program).  The muscles for grip are a bit more tolerant to what would be considered radical training for a short period of time.

I'll talk about my first observations with respect to cardio and one of my experiments with myself as the guinea pig in my next post.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Not Enough Mayo

"You can't make chicken salad out of chicken s#!t."

The above statement is definitely words of wisdom by P.J. Striet.   Another oldie but goodie is "you are what you eat", and a favorite of mine from Dan Martin is, "garbage in, garbage out". Hey, there are probably dozens of these you can refer to but the truth of the matter is you need to eat nutritiously to reach your true physique/strength potential. Of course, there will be some exceptions to the rule, but for the most part these statements will hold true.  Obviously, there are some genetic freaks that can eat Taco Bell and “have their cake and eat it too” and still obtain a ripped physique. However, everyone has an Achilles heel and these people have their own genetic weaknesses to deal with. Although their physiques are not negatively altered, that does not mean that they aren’t being detrimental to their health.

I knew a guy in college who was shredded and could eat crap and responded well to any training program. His name was Peter Helton.  Peter was also naturally super strong.  He was 175 pounds and 5'7" of solid rock.  Within a few months of powerlifting, he was doing over 400lbs easily in the high bar squat with just a belt.  Peter knew only one way to squat.  And, that was as low as possible.  In fact, I had to tell him to not go so low because we had planned on him competing in a contest.  Peter could eat anything and not gain an ounce of bodyfat.  He had defined abs at all times no matter what he ate in the dorm cafeteria.  Peter ended up just missing a 600 pound squat and deadlifted 585 in his very first powerlifting contest.  I believe that was his first and last contest.  Peter had his weaknesses though.  His arms were hard to develop.  His calves were non existent.  Both were glaring weaknesses of a body most would point to and cry "genetic freak."  Discipline for working out consistently was a glaring weakness.  This will be the downfall of ANYONE regardless of their genetic potential.  I touched base with Peter recently (I found him through the magic of Google) and sure enough he never reached his potential in the Iron Game.  He was not even lifting anymore.  He had his weaknesses, just like everyone else - regardless of genetics.  He had a key weakness that would sabotage anyone's game plan in the Iron Game regardless of genetics.  He never stuck with it and persisted and stayed dedicated.

You must have discipline in your eating and training to maximize YOUR potential.  Some people THINK they have it when they really don't.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

When was the last time you missed a training session?

Could you go for 2 months straight without eating sweets or junk food?

Could you go a week without eating junk food?

Are you constantly changing your routine to "make gains"?

Do you go on a "diet" at various times?

Do you come off a "diet" at various times?

Do you make excuses for your lack of gains (to yourself and others)?

Do you constantly compare yourself to others?

Do you consider what others are doing in their training more than assessing what you are doing wrong in your training?

Do you need to be "motivated" at times to train?

Do you think you can make chicken salad out of chicken s#!t?

Here's a challenge until next time.  Cut out all sugar and processed sugar for ONE week.  Make sure you read the labels because processed food is notorious for sugars galore.  

Sunday, February 13, 2011

How To Transform Your Physique #90

Once again, I made a prediction and it came true. There is a thread on the GripBoard under the Strength and Power  sub-forum on one-arm dumbbell rowing.  Various videos are posted there of people performing the exercise.  Some of them have literally huge weights with the weights often exceeding 200lbs.  I watched the videos and just had to comment.  I tried to be diplomatic about it because I figured I would be accused of being....drum roll...an exercise cop.  I even mentioned it myself so people would not get all up in arms.  Remember, the EGO plays a big part in strength training. And, some tend to be very fragile. I got over this a long time ago both as an individual and realizing people aren't going to react in a positive manner in general when providing any feedback.  Here is the video that prompted me to give some feedback:

As you can see, there range-of-motion (ROM) is pretty small.  It's more of a shoulder hump than a row.  You should strive for a proper range of motion on every exercise and not just rows.  Shortening the range of motion is another method of what I call "false gains".  I have used this term in the past as long time Cyberpump! readers know.  People cut the ROM as they add weight.  Squats is one of the most abused for false gains.  A common abused term in macho land is Ass to the Grass (ATG).  In reality, most are FAR from ATG squats.  In fact, I've seen a LOT of lifters not even half squat a weight and they take credit for "parallel".

Here is a video with what I would consider ATG squat depth.  Keep in mind, the bouncing, etc. is not something I would recommend to anyone. I am just showing you the video for the depth of the squat:

Rows is another.  In the bench press, it's harder to do because everyone knows you "must" touch the chest.  What happens in the bench press is the bounce or hump up with the hips off the bench.  These are two techniques for "false gains" in the bench.  In curls some common technique of "false gains" are cutting the range of motion at the bottom, leaning back with the body and rocking (for machines), or just plain power cleaning the curls (dumbbell or barbell curls) instead of actually curling the weight in strict form.

I posted this video in response:

Just ignore that the guys have no shirts, etc. :) Watch the one guy do one-arm rows in the video.  I would consider this using much better form than the previous video. :)  Your back should be straight and neutral by the way.  Arching it per say is not necessary as the guy states. I also do not agree with the use of a belt or going for any big "stretch" in the bottom.  

When all is said and done, people are more likely to go for the lack of form and "false gains".  That is just a fact and I realize it.  But, that doesn't mean all is loss and I am going to stop providing the feedback such as what I did on the forum and writing this article!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Role of Genetics

I haven't really talked much about the role that genetics play in strength training.  A big reason is because a lot of people think I am being negative when I talk about genetics and that I am somehow putting a damper on their goals. That could not be further from the truth.  I am going to be honest though and not blow smoke up anyone's behind about what I believe are realistic goals.  First, it is great to have goals.  Yes, you can have what are called  stretch goals too.  But, I do not believe your stretch goals should not be your only goals.  I have posted on message forums many times in the past about unrealistic goals and again the response is that I am being "negative".   So, here's my take on genetics using the bench press as an example.

A person states that they want to bench 400 pounds as a goal.  I then ask them their stats.  The first items I look at is their body size.  Are they 6'6" and 200lbs?  Are they 5'6" and 150lbs?  My first thought on these two would be skepticism right out the gate, but I need more data.  The next item I would ask is how long have they been training and what is their current bench press max.  The first guy has super long levers and is obviously thin.  The second guy might have good levers, but a double bodyweight bench is 300lbs.  And, that would be a very good lift (we are of course talking RAW here).  So, 400 might be a stretch when 450 is triple bodyweight!  The next item I would ask is how long have they been training and what is their current max.  So, there is the deal....to reach the 400 level, you better reach the 300 level fairly quickly without any special routines, etc.  If both of these lifters tell me they have been training for 3 years and they are yet to hit 300, then my take is 400 is a pipe dream.  It is just not realistic.  I am assuming in these examples both are natural lifters and over 21 by the way.  So, my statement that the goal is unrealistic would get a response that I was being negative.

I have watched a lot of lifters on YouTube.  Recently, I saw a lifter bench 655 raw with a very strict pause.  So, I decided to give my theory a little test.  I hypothesized (you'll have to take my word for it!), that he had hit the 400 level of the bench with great ease.  Probably the 500 level as well.  So, I decided to message him via the YouTube Message system.  First, here is his 655 lift.  His name is Ben Brand by the way.

I asked him what role genetics had played in his benching ability. Here is what he wrote below in response. Note how easy he made it to 400 and when!  He was only a high school senior and did it in 2 months!  At 14, he punched up a 315 with what appeared to be little to no training!

I have always had a good bench. I do believe genetics has a lot to do with it. My father was a bodybuilder and when I was young I always remember his arms looked like bowling balls. My mom’s side of the family they were all stocky big men. Every one of my uncles on that side were all state football players and very good athletes. So I've been blessed with some good genetics. I can remember when I was around 14 my dad would take me to wrestling practice early at the high school in my town and the weight room would be open. One day he said let’s see how much you can bench. I did 315. I never really stuck with weight lifting in high school though until my senior year there was a bench meet at the school. I trained for about 2 months for it and I made 405. I didn't get into powerlifting though until I was 20 and didn't really progress in strength from when I did 405. I think I did my first 500 when I was 25 and my first 600 was when I was 29. Ever since I started powerlifting seriously I've trained really hard to get where I am but I do believe genetics have played a big part in it.

You will note he had to obviously work hard, but if I had known him back when he did the 400, and he said his goal was 500, I would have said it would almost be a lock as a goal. I would not have ruled out 600 either as a goal. Heck, he was a high school kid and reached 400 in 2 months for goodness sakes!

Be happy with your genetics.  Everyone has their strengths and it might not be super strength. BUT, you can significantly improve yourself and get a lot stronger through training.  Be happy with that.  Be real with yourself with respect to goals.  Work hard and work consistently.  Slow and steady will definitely win the race when it comes to building strength to your genetic limits.  Do not look for short cuts. There aren't any.  And, performance enhancing drugs aren't a short cut either.  They won't make up for lack of genetics.