Category: Training

Anthony Ditillo, ‘The Single and Double Progression Method’, The Development of Physical Strength (Wm F. Hinbern, 1982).

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When beginning a book on physical training, I feel it is only natural to begin with the most basic concept used in any barbell endeavor. We all use this training aid in one form or another and its use makes possible the goals of which our dreams are made.

By single and double progression I mean the basic way we arrange our sets and repetitions with a given weight, which will enable us to do so many things in our training, that its usefulness cannot and should not be overlooked when discussing barbell training, in general.

All trainees use this method for keeping track of their progress as well as preventing injury and over-training. In fact, I would go as far as to say that most of today’s problems concerning progress with the weights stem from a mistaken notion of the use of this single, double and even triple progression system and all it pertains to.

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Doug Hepburn, ‘The Challenge’ (c. 1999)

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The below text is something I’m rather excited about. Earlier this month, I stumbled across Doug Hepburn’s website from the late 1990s and early 2000s. Hepburn was one of the strongest men of the mid twentieth century, famed for his seemingly inhuman feats of strength.

You can imagine, then the joy I felt when I began reading Doug’s articles on his now defunct website (I’ve included the source at the bottom and would encourage you to check it out!).

I don’t want to give away too much but Hepburn’s ‘Challenge’ was a shot fired at modern lifters to match the feats of strength of gear fear lifters. I’ve published it in its entirety below (including the ALL CAPS text). It’s provocative but shows Doug’s love and promotion of pure strength. Enjoy!

Guest Post: Steroid Use through History

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We all know how competitive humans are, especially when it comes to sports. Athletes are pushing themselves harder and harder every day to be the best and achieve what nobody has achieved before. Sometimes they resort to various substances to enhance their performance, but many of those substances are actually quite harmful and forbidden.

Still, this has been happening ever since people discovered that some substances help them improve their athletic performance. The ancient Greeks used sesame seeds, while the Australian Aborigines chewed the pituri plant. On the other hand, Norse warriors were fond of hallucinogenic mushrooms and we there is a lot of evidence that many other ancient cultures had similar traditions.

Eugen Sandow on Heavy Weightlifting

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A point previously discussed on this website was the regularity with which early physical culturists promoted light weight training as opposed to heavy lifting. The reasons for this are numerous. In the first instance, light weightlifting is easier to promote to the general public than heavy weightlifting. It requires less equipment, can be done in the comfort of one’s own home and can be done with relative ease. It was for this reason that individuals like Eugen Sandow, Professor Attila and a host of other physical culturists promoted light weightlifting for their followers. A few, like Arthur Saxon, bucked the trend and argued that heavy lifting was needed to build a strong physique.

With that in mind, today’s brief post examines the brief words Eugen Sandow gave to heavy weightlifting in his seminal book, Strength and How to Obtain It. Published by Sandow first in 1897, Strength was, for many, Sandow’s most important work. It came at the height of his popularity, sold widely and was more accessible than some of his later works which were far more medical in composition. Thanks to the British Library in London, I was able to consult Sandow’s 1897 edition, as well as his third edition published in 1905. Sandow did not expand greatly on how to lift heavy but nevertheless provided an insight into the progressive training practices of the late 1890s and early 1900s.

W. A. Pullum, ‘Great Strenth’, How to Use A Barbell (London, 1932), 21-24.

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To gain great strength one needs to consider the factors that unite to produce it. For until this is done one cannot be sure upon what lines to work.

The things that make for outstanding physical strength are great vital force, a high degree of nervous energy, and superlative quality of muscular tissue. Contrary to the belief that still persists in some quarters, the mere quantity of muscle that a person possesses is not a decisive factor. And at the beginning the student of this section would do well to understand that clearly.

The History of Resistance Bands

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A recent spate of travel has made access to heavy weights a near impossibility. Hotel and College gyms with dumbbells up to 30 kilos and in some cases, with not a barbell in sight have forced me to be inventive with my training. In the past such occurrences would have caused me a great inconvenience but thanks to the advice of a friend, I finally capitulated and bought a set of resistance bands.

Admittedly I’d been sceptical. Resistance bands for me, conjure up images up Charles Atlas-esque resistance training that although promising much, could not compete with actual weights. Nevertheless, my head has been turned, and although not a fully fledged convert to resistance training, I can’t deny how useful they’ve been recently. My very unexotic travels have however spurred my interest in the equipment. So in today’s post we’re going to examine the history of resistance bands. Where they came from, who popularised them and some useful tips on how to use them should you be stuck on your own travels.

The History of the Pull Up

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There are some exercises so basic, so ubiquitous and so difficult that their origins are often taken for granted. Previously when detailing the history of the squat, we encountered the difficultly of tracing a movement found in every culture and arguably every human movement. The Chin Up and the Pull Up exercises offer a similar problem.

The purpose of today’s post is not to discover the inventor of the pull up, if such a thing is possible, but rather to discuss its evolution over the past two centuries from gymnastic exercise to Crossfit controversies. As will become clear, even a simple movement carries a lot of history.

Andreas Munzer – The Ideal Way to Massive Legs (1995)

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Forced Rep, Negatives, Free Weights & Machines – People have called me mad. They say no sane man would inflict my degree of discipline on himself. Perhaps they’re right, but I feel that extremism in the quest of your best is no vice.

If I seem to be in be in the iron grip of Spartan self-denial, it’s only because I’m convinced that’s what it takes for me to compete with the greatest bodybuilders i the world. The monsters out there today strain the very definitions as to what constitutes a human being, so I simply have to lift myself that much further beyond mortal effort just to stay with them, not only in training but in diet and lifestyle. If I can discipline myself more than the next guy, I will someday beat him.

Forgotten Exercises: Cyclist Back Squats

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Just this week we spoke about Dr. Karl Klein and his 1960s research on the back squat. As a quick reminder, Klein found that squatting below parallel or pushing the knees over the toes was detrimental to the knee’s stability and long term health. Klein and those following in his wake advised against full range of motion and stressed the fact that knees were not to go over the toes when squatting.

Though discredited in later decades, Klein’s ideas are still prevalent and are perhaps the cause of contemporary fears surrounding the back squat. Disregarding everything that Klein fought against, today’s post looks at the Cyclist Back Squat, an often neglected exercise that not only requires squatting below parallel, it necessitates bringing knees over the toes (Gasp!). Today we’re going to examine what this exercise is, what its origins are and why you should include it into your own training.