John McCallum, ‘Training for Gaining’, The Keys to Progress


A bunch of us went down to the gym one time to watch Reg Park work out. He was in town doing a show. We lined up along the wall with our eyeballs hanging on our cheeks and tried not to look too jealous when he started lifting.

Park walked in looking more like Hercules than Herc did. He was weighing around 235 and it all bulged. Every time he moved he looked like he was coming through his skin.
The kid standing beside me poked me with his elbow. “Check the arms,” he whispered.
I poked him back and whispered from the corner of my mouth like they do on T.V.

“Okay,” I said. “You keep the motor running.”

It went over his head. “Watch his arms,” he said. “Watch how he works them.”

Park warmed up his lower back with some prone-hyperextensions.

“He may not do too much arm stuff,” I said. “He was saying he just wanted to get his weight back up a few pounds.”

“On his arms,” the kid said. “On his arms. Watch!”

Park finished warming up and started on his legs. He loaded on weight till the bar bent slightly and did squats like his life depended on them. He had everybody pushing with him on the way up.

He finished squatting and did some front squats and a few calf raises.

“Now his arms,” the kid said. “Watch!”

Park did a few heavy bench presses. He bounced the big bar off his chest and jammed it up like a rocket.

“He spends a lot of time on his arms,” the kid said. “Forty-five minutes on the biceps and forty-five on the triceps.”

“Gee,” I said. “That’s an hour and a half. I shoulda brought a lunch.”

Park started his back work. He did power cleans and heavy bent forward rowing.

“He’s saving his arms for the last,” the kid whispered. “Watch!”

Park took the bar off the squat rack and did some presses behind the neck. You could see everybody’s lips moving when they added up the weight on the bar. It’s kind of discouraging. Park presses more weight than most guys squat with.

“Now,” the kid said. “Watch!”

Park picked up his towel and walked into the back.

I looked at my watch. “That took him an hour and four minutes. I think he’s finished.”

The kid curled up the corner of his lip. “Don’t be a nut. He hasn’t done any arm work yet.

Just wait.”

We waited.

The talking died down and I listened carefully. “That’s it,” I said. “He’s having a shower.”

“He hasn’t finished yet,” the kid protested. “He can’t be having a shower.”

“Well, if he ain’t,” I said, “He better lay off the coffee. That’s a helluva lot of water running back there.”

“Gee,” the kid said. “He didn’t do no arm work at all.”

“He did some,” I said.

“Not like he’s supposed to. All he did was leg and back stuff.”

“So what?”

“I thought he trained hard.”

“He does.”

“Legs and back? What the heck kinda training is that?”

“That,” I said, “is training for gaining. Advanced training.”

If you’ve been following this series, you’re just about ready for some advanced training yourself. Before we get into that, though, let’s review what we’ve already covered. Every item is important. Pick up some back issues if you’re just starting. You’ll slow down your progress if you miss anything.

We’ve covered the time factor. Keep your workouts short if you’re a beginner or trying to gain weight. Long, tedious workouts won’t help yet unless you’re a real easy gainer.
The guys who use long workouts are extremely advanced men. Even then they’re not intended for pure weight gains. Most of the long programs you read about are intended to define bodies that are already bulky. Don’t confuse building up with sharpening up. We’ll get into long programs eventually, but by then you’ll be big and you’ll be ready for them.

Training is a progressive thing. Any nut can sit down and list a pile of exercises. That doesn’t make it a program. Some of the programs you see advertised in other magazines and supposedly followed slavishly by hordes of grateful Samsons are right out of the authors’ dreams. That’s one of the troubles with claiming pupils who won’t even talk to you on the street.

There are essential rules for bodybuilding and you’ll get them in this magazine. Don’t be stampeded by a lot of commercial baloney.

I was talking to one of the big Mr. Winners one time. I had a program written down that I’d gotten out of a magazine. I asked him what he thought of it.

“Too long,” he said. “Way too long.” He looked at it again. “Is this your program?”

“Mine,” I said. “It’s supposed to be yours.”

He grinned. “Pal, if I spent that long working out I’d be in real trouble.”

“You mean you wouldn’t gain?”

“No, no,” he said. “I mean my old lady’d quit her job and I’d have to look for one.”

We’ve covered the importance of extreme concentration in your training. You’ve got to think about it. Keep your mind fixed firmly on whatever exercise you’re doing at the moment. You’re working at awfully reduced efficiency if you don’t.

A lot of guys got good results from concentration curls. You’ll get good results from every exercise if you concentrate the same way on them.

We’ve talked about auto-suggestion. You should be getting pretty good at it by now. Keep using it. Set goals for yourself. Use it to focus your subconscious on these goals. Use it as a stimulus for each workout.

You see a lot of self-improvement courses advertised in the back of pulp magazines. Most of the ads feature heavy black print and some nut with eyes like a bill collector jabbing his finger at you. The improvement offered covers a varied field, ranging all the way from how to make a million bucks peddling junk around the neighborhood to cutting up big with the opposite sex.

The courses all have two things in common. They’re all expensive and they all push autosuggestion in one form or another. You can get better results for the price of a Strength and Health and buy yourself a good protein supplement with the money you save.

We’ve touched very lightly on the value of the squat. Squats are still the big thing in a gaining program. Push them hard for overall bulk and power.

You don’t need to take my word about squats. Ask anyone in the muscle business. They’ll all tell you the same thing. More men developed more muscle on squats than all the other exercises put together.

You’re going to be doing a lot of squats in this series. Make up your mind right now that you’re going to like them and get good at them.

Finally, we’ve covered the need for a high protein, high calorie food supplement. You’ve got to boost your intake. You won’t gain weight on fresh air and apricots. Keep taking the supplement as outlined, or something very much like it. You can change some of the minor ingredients or the flavoring to suit yourself, but make sure you take the basic drink in sufficient quantities. Two quarts a day is about the minimum for really big gains.

A lot of beginners are staggered when they see how much food a big lifter stows away. Doug Hepburn used to pack food around with him like he was on a camping trip.
Doug was the first of the super-heavies. He revamped everybody’s concept of size and strength. A lot of people thought Doug was born that way. He wasn’t. He built up from an average looking kid into a World Champ. He trained on heavy exercises and enough food for a boy scout camp.

We’re going to gradually convert the workout into more advanced forms. The purpose will still be shapely bulk and power. These are the qualities you should be striving for at this stage. You’ll just hinder yourself if you start scratching around for definition or peaked biceps too soon.

We’ll be concentrating on the big muscle groups. That means very heavy leg and back work. And despite what commercial interests have claimed for him in the past, this is the type of training that built Reg Park. This is the type of training that builds bodies like Grimek and Pearl.

I had a lesson in the value of leg and back work over twenty years ago. Unfortunately, I was too dumb at the time to learn anything from it.

I was in the Navy, and a real bug on bodybuilding. I figured upper body work was the thing and that knotty biceps were the absolute end. I used to train my upper body all day and half the night. I weighed about 165 at 6 feet tall, and the only thing about me that wasn’t knotty was my eyebrows.

I got shifted to a small ship for a few months. The only thing to exercise with was a solid barbell too heavy for anything but squats and dead lifts. I figured I couldn’t train properly anymore but I could still show off a bit, so every other day I used to wander out on deck where the weight was and talk a couple of the crew into hoisting it on my back for me. Then I’d do as many squats as I could with it. If the men hung around long enough, I’d do a second set. After that I’d do dead lifts for a little while. All I tried to do was gradually increase the reps.

The only other exercise I did was a few dips between some pipes in the drying out room.

My body weight started to climb. So did my strength. I figured it was the Navy beans or the salt air or something.

A few months later I got shifted to a joint where they had a nice complete gym and I could do my old upper body routines again. That ended the squats and dead lifts. It ended the progress, too. And it stayed ended for a few years until I found out about leg and back work.

You don’t need to join the Navy to learn this. Keep pushing the high rep breathing squats, and next month we’ll start the first of the more advanced bulk and power programs.

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