From my daily mail I arrive at the conclusion that many barbell bugs have been considerably confused by the numerous super duper four-hour workout schedules credited to the prominent physique specialists in some of the muscle magazines. I have at least a dozen recent letters bearing the same complaint, ‘These terrific workouts may be all right for young men who don’t have to work for a living, but when I try them they do nothing for me but make me tired. Doesn’t anybody ever think of the man who works a full eight hours or more every day?”
Checking the top 1/2 doz. letters on my desk at this minute, I find that there are a lot of varieties of “working-men”. These letters come from a doctor, a lawyer, a country store keeper, a labourer, a garage mechanic, and a college student carrying a heavy schedule who also has to work after hours to help pay his way through school. Many of us may think of the working man only as the man who toils with pick and shovel, but anybody who works hard all day under pressure be the work mental or physical expends a considerable amount of vitality through his daily effort and cannot hope to find enough extra energy to profitably take four-hour exercise periods three or more times per week.
All of us in the Iron Game have a great admiration for the top physiques but we must be practical and realistic enough to realise that most of the big names who compete in contest after contest across the country are pure and simple professional athletes. Anybody who puts in an average of four hours a day in bodybuilding has graduated from the amateur class. If you can afford to do this well and good. You can stop reading this piece right now, for it is not for you. But there are many, many enthusiastic barbell devotees who must work for a living who also want to derive the utmost benefit from the limited time they have available for exercise. They work out merely to feel better, but want and deserve to get worthwhile results in bigger measurements and greater strength. Their problem, therefore, is to find a workable exercise program that will build them up instead of tearing them down.
One of the big discoveries in this field during the early 1930s was Mark Berry’s abbreviated heavy deep-knee-bend combined with a curl, a press and a pullover, to help the thin man to gain bulk. This has been used since by thousands of exercisers who found the usual 15 or more general all-round exercises too stiff a workout for their energy-quotient. This simplified system, with improvements in posture and breathing, is still an effective way of acquiring bulk. However the letters that have come to me recently are from men who have been through all this, and who want considerably more than such a simple program will give them. They want to get shape as well as bulk, powerful enough to breeze through their strenuous hours of toil. “I feel I have come to a standstill”, they write. “How can I exercise so as to really progress and improve both strength and physique?”
I have another letter from a 14 year-old schoolboy which goes directly to the heart of this problem. Perhaps we grown-ups cannot see the woods for the trees. He writes, “I have been trying to combine basketball with weight-training and find I am losing weight. I don’t seem to have enough ‘hustle.’ Are there some exercises I can do that will charge my battery?”
This lad has hit upon the essential quality a workingman needs in his exercise program… something to re-charge his battery that will raise his energy-quotient. What is the key exercise that we have found for this purpose? Unquestionably the squat. So we will build our workout program around this basic growing, energy building exercise. But there are other requirements as well; the dye-in-the-wool color-fast barbell bug wants to get in shape, size and some definition to his muscles too.
Therefore we must add shaping exercises. The workout period must not be too long; and it must not be too frequent. Perhaps you are one of the men who will find so simple a thing as cutting down your workouts from thrice a week to twice a week the solution to your problem. Our old friend Joe Hise once told us that he found three workouts in two weeks quite sufficient. This, however, is the extreme other end of the picture, and Joe was more interested in building bulk and power than in shape and fitness.
We have the feeling that frequency of workouts may depend upon age. We used to like 4 or 5 exercise periods a week, but we found as we grew older that three-a-week, then two a week suited us best in order to leave us with sufficient energy for other things. Some of the top-level muscle boys have told us that they feel all out of shape if they miss even two days between workouts. I think this largely a mental quirk; nobody could get out of shape in two days of idleness surely. But the man who works hard will find that two or three workouts a week are plenty and that a routine he can go through within one hour’s time will suit him much better than a two-hour session.
Most of my readers want practical advice, not theory. Since I fall into the classification of a working-stiff myself I am going to be extremely generous with all you other slaves and share with you my personal program. This schedule combines the merits of the old and proven barbell program with some of the newer movements, some of which are Bosco’s own private exercises. It can be done easily in one hour’s time, but we are somewhat slow in going from one exercise to another, and it generally takes us a littler longer, roughly about 1 1/2 hours from the start through the shower. I have watched an energetic youngsters go through all the exercises in 30 minutes.
Here are the exercises:
- Squat with bar held overhead
- Heavy two-hand curl
- Seated swing-bar curl
- Bosco Deadlift and Shrug
- Press on Incline Bench (Or Alternate DB Press)
- Triceps exercise with dumbbells.
- Twenty heavy squats
- Bosco chest-lifting breathing exercise
- Pull-up with barbell
- Side bends with dumbbell
- Leg Press
- Bosco Zottman Exercise
You will see this course provides some one arm specialisation and some elements of the set system and the heavy and light method. The regular two-hand curl standing (done eight to ten reps) is immediately followed with the shaping specialisation biceps and triceps movement of the seated swing-bar curl which is done 15 repetitions. The incline bench press is followed by a triceps specialisation movements. And the final touch – to leave the arms well wound-up, the Bosco reverse Zottman circle curl with light dumbbells, that leaves the blood in the arms as you shuffle wearily to the shower. No matter how much we talk down about big arms – I guess we all would like to have them.
Those of you who own the various Bosco Books will recognise all these exercise, but for the benefit of those who came in late, we will detail the method of performance because this is very important. A considerable number of these movements are what we term ‘muscle-moulding’ exercises and unless you get the right ‘feel’ of contraction, you will not get full value from the program. Let us go down the list, one at a time:
Exercise One: Squat with Barbell Overhead.
This is sort of a warm up, yet it is a very strenuous exercise. It is one which loosens and stimulates all the muscles of the back and leg and shoulders. You stand over a light bar (I use 100 lbs.) in the regular position of lifting, heels fairly close together, and bending with the legs instead of the back, you go down and snatch the bar to full arms length overhead. Now holding the bar in place (well back of your head), you go steadily down into the complete deep-squat position and then arise to erect posture again with the weight still overhead. I do this more easily by rising on my toes as I go down. Another help is to put a two inch board under the heels, or to wear high-heeled leather shoes. I do about 8 reps usually and by the time I am finished I am warmed up. Pete George and Dave Sheppard both use this exercise to warm up. It is a dandy. You will be surprised to find how vigorously the lower back muscles work to keep you in balance.
Exercise Two: Heavy Two-Hand Curl.
We are all familiar with this one, the Number One Exercise of the Milo Course. The present-day performance is a little different however, in that instead of standing erect you bend slightly forward to throw more weight on the biceps at the end of the movement. Use a good heavy weight that you can handle for 8 or 10 reps.
Exercise Three: Seated Swing-Bar Curl.
A muscle moulder and favourite with Steve Stanko (who has 19″ biceps). Sitting on a stool with feet well apart, you bend over retaining the bent position all through the exercise and taking a swing-bar in both hands, you curl it until it touches the chest. As you lower the weight you consciously flex and lock-out the triceps. This position, and the use of a bell that will go between your legs without touching, enable you to place the biceps in a position of extreme contraction and builds a high ‘lump’. You will do this with a fairly light bell, concentrating upon the arms and repeating until the arm fairly ‘cramps.’ I usually do 15 or more reps. Do it until you are more than slightly tired.
Exercise Four: Bosco Deadlift and Shrug.
This is another excellent muscle-moulder yet it is a splendid conditioning exercise as well. It combines the best elements of the old fashioned shoulder shrug with the bendover or stiff legged deadlift. If this movement is done right it will build up the ‘lat-spread’ as well as any exercise we know. You bend over with back straight (using the legs) to pick up the bell, then lock the legs for the balance of the exercise. Now bend over as far as possible, it isn’t necessary to touch the floor, and consciously spread the back muscles as you go down. The arms are loose and form merely a connecting link to the barbell. Now you straighten up, and as you come erect you SHRUG the shoulders high, then as you lean slightly back at the end of the movement, you lock-out the lat muscles of the back. You can definitely ‘feel’ this lock if you do this right. Keeping them locked, you go forward again, until the final stretch unlocks, and you start rising again. Ten reps, not too heavy a weight is used, but one you can feel. I commonly use about 150 pounds.
Exercise Five: Press on Incline Bench.
This is one of the newer exercises, and I definitely prefer it to the flat bench. I do not have a barbell handed to me, I clean it, sit down on the bench, roll back and then press. I like to do it with the hands wide, but it may be well to vary the grip. Breathe in deep as the bell goes up; out when it comes down. I use 150 lbs. ten reps. As an alternate to this exercise, in case you haven’t an incline bench, I like the alternate dumbbell press, either standing or sitting. Most men are familiar with this oldie, commonly known as the ‘see-saw’ press.
Exercise Six: Triceps Exercise with Dumbbells.
This is an old exercise, first used to my knowledge by Henry Steinborn, and later by Sig Klein in building a pair of very fine triceps. You take a pair of light dumbbells, bend forward at right angles from the hips, leg spread and locked. The arms are straight and hanging directly down. Now bring the hands up and back to their fullest range in a wide spread movement. If you d this right you can get a ‘cramping’ lock at the top directly upon the triceps. It helps at this point to consciously try to force the arms back still further, as though you were going to make the hands touch behind (or rather above) the back. I do this 15 times, with 20 lb. bells. The last few reps are definitely tough going.
Exercise Seven: Heavy Squats
This one you know about. The bar must be taken from a rack, because otherwise the weight wouldn’t be enough. Breathe in deeply at the top and go down briskly and ‘bounce’ right up again, breathing out as you come to the top. Sometimes you will find it necessary to breathe several times between squats, which is all to the good. One caution – keep the air HIGH in the chest, and blow out hard as you exhale. Some of you complain that you can’t do 20 of these. If you can’t, you are missing the BIG benefits. We personally never gained until we got the reps to twenty. We use about 250 pounds on this, sometimes up to 300.
Exercise Eight: Bosco Chest-Lifting Exercise
We like this better than pullovers, and a number of others, including John McWilliams, say they like it too. We do it by utilising the bar lying across the squat rack when we finish our squats. We place our feet right under the bar, grasp the bar with hands wide in the overripe, lean back so there is a definite pull on the latissimus, and then press down on the bar, which flexes the pectorals and lifts the chest. In that position we breathe in deeply, then relax the whole body as we breathe out. This is a trick that requires a little practice, but is worth trying. We do about 20 deep breaths, and it feels wonderful, you can just feel the chest lift and grow.
Exercise Nine: Pull-Up with Barbell
Everyone knows this one, although it really is one of the newer exercises. Stand erect, bar hanging at arms length in front of the legs, hands very close together. Now pull the bar straight up, close to the body, until the centre of the bar touches the chin. Lower and repeat. A wonderful deltoid and arm exercise. We use 125 lbs. on this one, ten times.
Exercise Ten: Side Bends with Dumbbell
Another oldie, but necessary. A better reducer than sit ups. Hold medium weight dumbbell in one hand, stand erect with feet about 10 inches apart, and bend direct to the side as far as you can. Do about 15, then take dumbbell in other hadn’t and work the opposite side.
Exercise Eleven: Leg Press
This is about the same thing as the squat except that it is easier to do lying down. IT is necessary to have a leg press machine if you really do this right, for you can handle a lot of weight this way. By pressing out with the toes at the top of the leg press, you can give the calves a good workout as well as the thighs. Because you have control of the weight all the way (with a leg press machine) you can make this a real muscle moulder for the entire legs. I have a lot of fun with 400 lbs. in this position.
Exercise Twelve: Bosco Zottman Exercise
Because I was an awfully dumb kid I started out doing the famous Zottman exercise with dumbbells just the reverse of the way the teacher told me, and surprise! I got better results than teacher. This is one where you stand erect, holding two dumbbells, hands at sides. Now you bring the hands up alternately so they describe a flat circle in the front of the body. Zottman said the circles should be outward; I do em’ inward, and twist the wrists as far as they will go. We used to do this exercise at the old Marion YMCA, with a pair of 20 pounders and everybody got 16 inch or better arms, although this was the ONLY arm exercise we did. (Everybody was a weightlifter there!) I do this about 40 or 50 circles each arm to finish up, and it leaves the arms swelled and tight then I skedaddle to the shower.
There you have the program. I think any working man can do this a couple or three times a week and get added energy and growth. But don’t forget to add some weight progression – preferably just a little each week. Many people fail to gain because they forget the element of progression, and just go along doing the same exercises with the same weight for months on end. I also believe in taking a rest of a week every six weeks or so, and slightly altering my program to add interest and to attack the muscles from a slightly different angle.
Great piece. I couldn’t help but laugh about the overhead squats. I did them last night for the first time in about 6 mos. This morning my lower back felt like I did good mornings all night. 🙂 … Always a good read
Thanks so much! They’re a tricky exercise aren’t they? I always wonder why I neglect them until the morning after!
The OHS will let you know in a hurry if you have any mobility/flexibility issues, that’s for sure.
Falling flat on my face the first time I attempted it was humbling!!
HA! I just spit water on my computer!
I’m completely enthralled with Paschall’s writings. He added such character didn’t he?