Normal Body Weight For A 14 Year Old 5 7 Muscle Building is Not a Social Ritual

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Muscle Building is Not a Social Ritual

I remember it like it was yesterday… the first time I saw the dungeon.

I was about 14 years old and had just joined the YMCA. My parents thought it would be a great place for me because there was a pool, billiards, ping pong and many other things. Lots of lectures etc going on but I had other ideas. It was the first time I saw Roger DeCarlis.

Roger was a bodybuilder of the caliber of Mr. America with a phenomenal figure. To me, a mere youth, he seemed larger than life.

The gym at the Y could be considered a dungeon. No heat in winter and no air in summer. Temperatures reached nearly 100 degrees on some summer days and it was wise to get in and out early.

You had to go down concrete steps and enter a 14 x 14 room. The walls of the room were block… painted yellow. Another room with a size of approx. 20 x 14 was connected to the first room, in which there was additional equipment. It was legitimately a gym and all you saw were 100kg plates, olympic bars, weight racks, squat racks, benches and lots of dumbbells with absolutely no visual value…again it looked like a dungeon. Along with it was loaded a leg extension machine that worked as a leg curler. There was a pull rope, a leg press machine, not a sled… and a set of dip bars. They were all dressed in rust. That was the extent. The windows, only on one wall… I think three, were about shoulder level and pointed out onto the street where passers-by would peek. There they could observe shouting, grunting, rattling, chalk everywhere and the smell of ammonia capsules. before a record squat, deadlift or bench press was to be performed. It wasn’t some namby pamby gym you’d find today that has alarms when you hum! In any case! This was serious business!

At that time we were considered a different culture, we hardly understood why we had to subject our bodies to such physical stress. Little did they know that in the deepest parts of our souls we compete with ourselves.

Roger got up from the leg extension machine and I couldn’t believe my eyes. He looked like superman to me. The first thing I saw was a huge chest, thick shoulders and massive arms. His slim waist added to the symmetry of his figure and made everything look even bigger.

Roger normally weighed about 190 at 5’7 but was always rock hard. About 30 inches in the waist with arms close to 19 (yes, I’ve seen them measured) he was amazing. His legs were large but not that developed and with a muscular upper body separation, but certainly not because he wasn’t working hard on them. I witnessed him doing 20 reps with 640 pounds squatting under parallel with each rep. Think of that in a 190-pound bodybuilder! Roger literally went through hell throughout his bodybuilding career trying to get his legs to develop his upper body. His back was also a sight, huge thick erectors and a thick broad lat spread and square trap. Roger was all business, as I soon found out. He didn’t say a word in the gym and focused on the possessed man. You always thought he was just crazy, but the funny thing is, he really didn’t care what you thought… all that mattered was his mission for the day… exercise! I learned focus and discipline from this man.

It didn’t take long for them to discover that this was no social ritual. I must have been a real pest in those days because Roger finally got tired of all my questions and hanging around and agreed to let me train with him. Our training sessions were exactly what I had witnessed when I first met Roger…all work. There was absolutely no scrapping during training. Each repetition was intentional, without momentum, and I learned to focus on each repetition with my mind, visualizing and feeling the repetition. Roger moved with very little rest, despite using pounds in exercises that were almost ridiculous, he was extremely strong. He’s built an entire physique with dumbbells and barbells, but his strength is his mind and focus.

Fast forward a few years… it’s no longer about 1971, but about 1977. Roger and I, even though we no longer train together, are still great friends… just like we are today. By this time I had been introduced to high intensity training by people like Mike Mentzer who had taken the bodybuilding scene by storm. He called his version Heavy Duty and that it was. Mike turned bodybuilding upside down after working with Arthur Jones. He showed bodybuilders how to use their critical thinking skills while proving that the more-is-better theory doesn’t apply in bodybuilding. More proof that we don’t have to be our own scientists as the muscle magazine suggests… searching in the dark for what works for us. His theory of High Intensity Training lives on to this day and his rational approach to bodybuilding is a guide for all. He was considered a thinking man’s bodybuilder.

Although I was unfamiliar with the theory of high-intensity training prior to this, my training was by necessity short, infrequent and intense. At the time, my goal was to get the biggest and strongest possible. The only way to do this was to strip my workout of all the fluffy exercises that got in the way and robbed me of my energy and focus, and just do the movements that strengthened me. And I’m strong.

It was and is all about focus! I only did one work set…ie one set to failure for each exercise. I just did the basics… bench presses, squats, rows, deadlifts, leg presses, close grip bench presses, dips and partials. I completely removed all direct biceps, shoulder, calf, chin ups, fly barbell movements, etc. from my training. I only did what helped me get stronger. And knowing that muscle strength and size are relative… what do you think happened? You got it! I grew up to become the strongest ever and also the greatest ever. At the time I was training maybe three days a week… sometimes two… which I later learned was still too much. I did about three sets of exercises… period… but with immense focus… it was all business, as I learned early in my career.

Oh yes, others came to the gym and went through the motions without mental focus… true… but they never changed, they lacked the same focus and vision to lead them to their goals… it was a social ritual for them. They were happy there. Maybe their goals and purpose didn’t exist or maybe they didn’t know how to focus on them… I guess we’ll never know, it doesn’t matter.

My preparation for each practice was like a planned mission. I focused and actually saw what I was going to do. I would keep a journal and go through the scales. I did a self-hypnosis visualization routine every day in preparation for the next training session, which in itself helped tremendously in reprogramming my mind for success. When I came to the gym, it was all business. I never spoke to anyone and everyone knew it. It was like in the movie “Over the Top” with Sylvester Stallone, when he’s ready to arm wrestle and flips his cap with the visor facing his back like he’s flipping a switch, his sign that it’s time to start trading. I actually still have the shirt I got 35 years ago with the Tasmanian Devil on it…you know, the Looney Tunes character that spins around! The twin brothers who gave it to me told me that’s what I looked like when I walked into the gym and started working out… like an obsessive.

I still train this way today. It’s all business and certainly not a social ritual. Of course, I have a very good understanding of anaerobic exercise these days and now understand that training is only a stimulus and always a negative point in the equation because it takes away from growth reserves. Looking back like the wise man in the movie, I think… “If I had known then what I know now”, I would have trained less often with more rest.

My personal workouts today are about 7-15 minutes long… I do them once every 6-8 days, again thanks to the wisdom of Mike Mentzer and his work on high intensity training theory.

I often see trainers (not all) wasting valuable time with clients at the gym…burning an hour easily…probably because that’s how they charge. The sad thing is that it is really a social ritual. They have them do barbell curls while balancing on a ball (only half exaggerating)… stand on their heads and talk about how the weekend was as they throw the weight up and down. Their understanding of anaerobic exercise is thus limited and their focus transferred to their clients is less than desirable to achieve the intended goal. My clients train for no more than 7-15 minutes, because more than that is impossible.

As Greg (Anderson, another HIT coach and colleague in Seattle) said in his article High Intensity Strength Training: More Aerobic Than Aerobics… “it usually takes a few workouts for a client to understand the depth and range of cardiovascular engagement that strength training can As he recently noted one of my trainees (after a series of squats to complete failure followed by 20 seconds of effort against the bar in the bottom position): “Oh my god! (gasp, gasp…) that’s more aerobic than aerobics…”

In fact, when we were talking just a few weeks ago, we were laughing about how little practice is enough if you focus and work hard, not long. One in particular involved another athlete in Seattle I believe… HIT who trains minutes every 9 days.

Building muscle is nothing more than a stimulus. Stimulate the muscles with intense training and then leave the gym to allow adaptation… ie the whole body to lay down more muscles for the next attack. This requires focus and vision and is the furthest thing from a social ritual there is. And the most important thing to remember, as the body has the ability to increase strength by some 300%, while its recovery capacity will increase by at most 50%, then as you get stronger, you need to decrease both volume and frequency to continue progressing towards your genetic potential . . There is never a need to fire for overtraining because overtraining never happens if it is properly managed.

If you’re serious about your progress, KEEP at it, 7-15 minutes is all (H)IT takes! And don’t forget to focus and prepare for your mission!

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