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Jimmy, Pass The Chalk!
There has been a lot of discussion in the High Intensity Training community and HIT Forums about shortened workouts. performing a one or two set workout. At first hearing this, the layman not trained in HIT fashion would consider it a ridiculous claim. I guarantee this type of training is not something to be taken lightly if you understand the body’s limited resources and what it takes to build strength and muscle.
Over the past couple of days, I’ve had the pleasure of talking to two people, one from my bodybuilding past, a close friend, and one I recently met through a friend of a friend, who brought me back to reminisce about the old days when I first started out. bodybuilding.
Alex, who is a high-energy presence at Nautilus Exercise Equipment, and I reminisced about the hard core gyms of old, where men extremely strong even by today’s standards would do crazy things before a set because their souls were very much in their set. Alex talked about a gym called BG gym… BG stands for Blood and Guts… where there are still holes in the wall next to the squat rack where one of these extremely strong men, after picking up chalk and smelling good. an ammonia capsule, rammed his head into the wall, hit a nail, and with a bleeding head proceeded to squat hundreds of pounds to exhaustion. How many sets do you think one could do? (no bleeding of course!)
I have memories of a picture floating around somewhere (maybe still) in Upstate New York of a guy named Bill, on a rack, in a military helmet and shirtless, with a thousand pounds on his shoulders after doing half squats with it. There were no hundred-pound plates in the gym, so observers strapped 45-pound plates to the locked collars to bring it up to thousands of pounds. The bar was bent around his shoulders. Crazy right… only one set could be interpreted, it’s all he wrote!
You can tell what I’m into. After performing sets like this, how many more sets to failure do you think the body is capable of doing without using all the necessary resources to not only compensate but overcompensate for the exhausting effects of training. Let me put it another way… how many 10 second exposures, three feet from the sun can you take before your body breaks down? Remember that exercise is just the stimulus. we grow muscle outside the gym!
Talking to my close friend Jimmy last night, who I grew up with, it was apparent that even today, many of those who train in gyms these days do not have a full understanding of how muscle gains are achieved. However, Jimmy and I do, and I’m going to share it!
Jimmy was and still is an amazing athlete. Years ago, when we were in our twenties, Jimmy and I used to train in the same dungeon together. I call it a dungeon because that’s what it looked like. There was no fancy equipment unless you call a plate leg extension machine and a lat pulldown machine flashy. It was about strength for us because we knew that strength was always followed by size. The stronger it gets, the more muscular you will become.
Jimmy stood 6’3″ and weighed 310-320 naturally, unmedicated. Although what I’m about to tell you wasn’t his normal routine, he sometimes enjoyed a change working up to 400 pounds for a back-of-the-neck press, 315 pounds for barbell curls, 500 or 600 pounds for shrugs. But that wasn’t his main training; that’s not how he got to his amazing size and strength.
THE BASIC ROUTINE
His basic routine was bench press, squat, row and deadlift…just three exercises. He didn’t waste time on small exercises that usually didn’t matter. Back then we didn’t even use wrist wraps, we used chalk! You know, hand chalk? Or you? It would always be, “Jimmy, pass the chalk!” before a heavy lift as it was grip strength and you are only as strong as your weakest ink!
While we were talking last night, Jimmy shared a story. While deadlifting at his regular gym, another younger man was deadlifting next to him, he was in his early twenties. Jimmy, the gentleman that he is, offered his chalk to this young man before doing his deadlifts. The young man replied…”What is this?”
In the days of wrist wraps and shiny gear, elevator music in corporate gyms, and little noise or yelling or grunting in the gym before a set, I reflect a lot on what laid the foundation for our success. It was the basics! It was the desire and it was the mentality, that “whatever” mentality! What we did worked. We trained with concise routines, we trained for strength and our physiques showed. We ate well and weren’t worried about a little fat around our middles. Our motto was “Don’t make your waist smaller, make your shoulders wider”. Because it’s the illusion in bodybuilding that makes all the difference, that’s why a man with the right symmetry and body type looks pounds heavier than he usually is. Remember Dorian, stories say his waist was almost 40, but you’d never know!
MICK MENGER, THE PERFORMER OF THE THINKING MAN
Mike Mentzer, my bodybuilding hero to this day, years later, validated what we already knew worked. Not because we put thought into it like Mike did, but because that’s how Jimmy and I trained as bodybuilders in a power lifting gym! It was all about strength. We never worked down. right down to our “working set” as we called it. We did almost nothing except long exercises and didn’t want to waste energy. When we still felt tired when our next workout was scheduled, we went and ate and didn’t worry about it. We would come back stronger the next day.
Mike taught us why it worked so well. Mike established the true theory of High Intensity Training and with this theory he reasoned and experimented without a doubt, that a shortened routine is the most productive step towards achieving your muscle goals. I am very grateful for his work and contribution to bodybuilding. I don’t think anyone has had such a profound impact on the bodybuilding community until now.
WHAT EXERCISES MEASURE
The next question is which exercises are best. Well, with strength in mind, Paul Anderson, who is my strength hero, knew and understood that strength really comes from the legs and back. So this is where the focus should be. The basics…squats, deadlifts, rows or high pulls and to round it out, a push movement with the bench press, bench press or dip. Where is the arm work, shoulder work and calf work you ask? You don’t need to. Trust me if you do it right it’s not necessary. Both Jimmy and I, having done no direct arm or shoulder work for months, experienced huge arms even by today’s standards. Jimmy’s stuck over 20 inches and mine 18 ¾ inches. Without curling for months, I could curl 225 or more for reps! My calves responded similarly, as did my shoulders with a 275 press behind the neck without doing it!
I’m currently experimenting with such a program and once I’ve perfected it in the gym, I’ll release it on my website, but in the meantime, stick to the basics for best results.
Jimmy, pass the chalk! And the ammonia capsules! 🙂
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