May 25, 2020

Sensible Training - A Logical Approach to Size and Strength

by Dr. Ken E. Leistner

With all the numerous changes that have taken place in the field of weight training over the years it has never been truer that "the more things change the more they remain the same". Armed with the accurate information collected over the years it is possible for anyone to improve their strength, their muscular endurance (to a certain extent), their cardiovascular endurance, and their appearance (a subjective evaluation) if the interested party is willing to take the brief time necessary to analyze the conditions necessary for inducing muscular growth stimulation.

The requirements haven't changed over the years, and the nonsense put forth by the commercially interested and biased parties hasn't changed either. But most importantly, the irrational approach taken towards training hasn't changed a great deal either, and has prevented the vast majority of weight trainees from reaping even a small portion of the possible benefits made available by the use of the barbell.

Robert Sizer, a former pro-football player, All-American at Richmond University and at one time the most outstanding high school football player in the state of Virginia, was perhaps the first successful athlete in the area to pursue weight training in an attempt to improve his athletic ability at a time that this was believed to make one "musclebound", slow and uncoordinated.

Sizer was an 180lb offensive lineman, that by accounts was stronger and faster than most men weighing 250lbs at the time. At 15 YEARS OF AGE he could squat with 450 lbs (for reps), and bench press 420 lbs.

Sizer trained with a barbell fashioned out of concrete wheels that his father made for him. In the beginning he admitted he didn't really know what he was doing. "All" he did was train hard and brief with heavy weights on the major exercises.

Remarked Sizer:

"Unfortunately, as I became exposed to more people who were involved with training, I left my old methods behind and became bogged down in a progress- stifling method, or more accurately, methods of training...No one showed me how to train; I just went at it like I did everything else, and the hard work on each and every set brought results. But when I saw the other fellows doing things a bit differently, I adopted many of their techniques, not to my benefit".

The point? There are basic considerations one has to take into account when inducing muscular growth stimulation, and this, of course, is the whole point of utilizing weights. Some of the necessary conditions that must be met for optimal results are:

- using heavy movements over a full range of motion - continuing every set of every exercise to a point of momentary but complete muscular failure - using "basic" exercises, i.e, compound movements that work the major muscular structures of the body, like the squat. - training at a level of maximum intensity - limiting the amount of work done - providing the necessary requirements for growth to occur - ensuring that the exercise is truly progressive

Much of this is so obvious that it needs no further explanation, but considering the almost unbelievable amount of false information available, without such a basic understanding the trainee will not be able to formulate a program that will bring results in a manner that is proportionate with the effort expended.

The only way to produce maximum possible increases in muscle tissue mass is by the production of maximum power. This can only be done by utilizing exercises that engage as much of the particular mass as is possible, and only when working over a full range of possible motion. And while it is almost impossilbe to engage 100% of the available fibers, much more growth stimulation will occur if the exercise is carried out over as great a range as is possible. This also assists in the development of increased flexibility, as a heavy weight will pull the involved bodyparts into a fully extended position at the beginning of the movement and will also provide "prestretching" of that involved muscle. It is now apparent that the most important requirement for inducing maximum growth is intensity.

Carrying an exercise to the point of momentary but complete failure ensures that one is training at a point of greatest possible intensity (assuming that the trainee is putting forth effort and "not going through the motions" and thus "failing" long before reaching a point of actual muscular failure). There is no way to gauge the amount of effort being put forth unless one goes to the point of failure. That implies, simply, that 100% of momentary possible effort was put forth.

Also, it is only by working this hard that one can engage the maximum possible amount of muscle fibers. And unless this maximum amount of fibers is worked, growth will be retarded, if not impossible. Many trainees fear this. They are afraid of working as hard as is actually required, and thus they often return to their prior methods of training improperly. It is much easire to perform 4 sets of 8 reps of a particular movement than it is to complete one set *correctly*; for example, doing 15 reps in proper form to a point where it is momentarily impossible to move the barbell with the involved bodypart.

I recently had the "pleasure" of training (for only one session, thankfully) with one of the leading bodybuilders in the United States. I convinced him to try "my way" of doing things, and he finally consented. I coaxed him through a set of leg presses, using approximately 300lbs, and he completed 18 reps. This was followed by a set of full squats, using a fairly light weight (approx. 185 lbs), and he terminated the set long before his strength had been taxed. We then did standing presses and chins, and he did manage to go to a point of failure, although he did take momentary "breaks" during the sets to complain that the "weight is just too light to feel so heavy" and other such gems of wisdom.

The result? He called me the next day to tell me that he was very sore but that he was going to return to his prior method of training because "your way is just too hard". He further admitted that he thought that I was correct - trainng to failure, using a weight, any weight that would allow a reasonable number of repetitions, was the proper way to train - but that he preferred an admittedly improper training method because it was "easier". I explained that while the human body could be damaged by doing "too much work," the body's defense mechanisms made it almost impossible to bring about injury by training "too hard. You'll regurgitate or faint before you cause any real damage to the body, *if* you trained even that hard," I said.

"Well, I'll just stick to what I'm doing," he said. "But, hey, thanks for the time you gave me." Indeed. (And I should of course point out that "my way" of training is not really *my* way. I had nothing whatsoever to do with the development of such common sense principles. I've just had the sense to utilize what is rational, correct, and result-producing).

Common sense would indicate that if one is training at the proper level of intensity, an increased amount of work would be neither desirable nor possible. ONE set of 15-20 reps in the full squat, performed with proper form and done until the trainee can no longer rise from the full squat position, will do more for building the strength and size of the involved muscles than any such number of improperly performed sets of any other leg exercises, including the full squat. And how many sets of full squats, done as described, do you think you could perform in a single workout? How many such sets would you *want* to perform? Thus it becomes obvious that the amount of work must be limited.

One also walks a very thin line in inducing muscular growth. You must work hard enough to induce growth, but not so extensively as to deplete a very definite (but unknown) amount of recovery ability. One can train properly in that all exercises are performed in correct style, taken to a point of momentary failure, etc., but if too much work is done, the system will not be able to provide the necessary factors for growth. Yet many trainees train four, five, six and sometimes even more per week.

Athletes who are preparing for a season of activity will express surprise that they progressed little while lifting weights three or four days per week, running distance and sprints on their "off" days and practicing the skills needed for their particular activity an additional two or three times per week. Their ability to recover has been depleted, and until that ability is restored, no amount of additional work will induce muscular increases. Thus training must be limited to no more than three days/week and in some cases only two/week. And for some extreme cases, training once per week will serve to induce maximal amounts of growth.

Why so-called compound movements? Before I actually knew anything about proper training (and this is not to imply that I know even a fraction of what there is to know now), I realized that there was something, an indefinable something, that wasn't "right" about a number of bodybuilders who trained in the gym where I also trained. (This is not to be misconstrued as a criticism of all bodybuilders. Many have a great deal of athletic ability and fine, athletic-appearing physiques.)

One such man was an advanced trainee (in the sense that he had been training a number of years and had won a number of local physique titles). However, he was missing a certain athletic quality, a harmonious look. My brother put the finger on it when he observed, "He looks like a bunch of bodyparts pasted together. He's all there, big and all, but the total picture looks awkward-no grace, no glow, no..." The point had been made.

The human body's muscular structures are such that I was amazed at the first autopsy I witnessed. After reading GRAY'S ANATOMY and seeing a number of anatomy charts, I had assumed that one could discern individual muscles. This isn't the case. They are so interbound and interwoven, it becomes obvious why so many years of medical training are necessary to figure the entire mystery out. Muscles work in conjunction with each other. Furthermore, greatest growth stimulation will come by working the largest muscles in the body. A secondary growth effect occurs when the major muscle masses are worked, and the statement that the "small muscles will take care of themselves if you work the big ones" is true because of this effect. Thus the greatest possible growth will occur if movements are employed that will engage the major muscular structures of the body. (More on the selection of exact exercises, later).

In addition to inducing growth stimulation, other factors are necessary for increasing the amount of muscle tissue mass. These include sleep, nutrition, and a number of psychological variables such as motivation, resistance to pain and "psyching up", amoung others. Each of these factors is important.

Though the term "progressive exercise" has been used as a catchall to describe weight training activities, most trainees rarely make any attempt to actually have progressive and productive workouts. The "theory" is so logical as to be almost ridiculous, yet it is so often, if not always overlooked. If one were to add 5 lbs to the barbell every two or three workouts, or add another repetition, performed in proper style, with the same weight one used in the preceding workout, growth would occur (assuming that all other previously mentioned factors were taken into consideration and those considerations met), as the system would be constantly exposed to an ever-increasing load. This is progression.

Arthur Jones stated that, with curls as the example when it is possible for a trainee to curl 200 lbs in good form *without* body swing, "then his arms will be as large as they need to be for any possible purpose connected with any sport just short of wrestling bears". This sums up progression pretty well.

I am fond of telling doubting trainees that it's just a matter of always adding weight to the bar, adding another repetition, "If you could get to the point where you're squatting 400lbs for 20 reps, stiff-legged deadlifting 400 lbs for 15 reps, curling 200 for 10 reps, pressing 200 for 10 resp, doing 10 dips with 300 lbs around your waist, and chinning with 100 pounds, don't you think you would be big - I mean awfully big? And strong?" Obviously!

Knowing the basic considerations, it is possible to construct a sensible weight-training program, one that will serve almost anyone's purpose. However, to further clarify matters, I will discuss the choice of the actual exercises. Some are more result-producing than others, and some are also less dangerous.

The available equipment should include a barbell, a squat rack (or some type of high stand that can be used to support a barbell), an overhead bar (or pipe) for the purpose of chinning and two pipes, heavy chairs or parallel bars for the purpose of performing parallel bar dips. If more equipment is available, fine; it will add variety to the program. But more equipment is not necessary to build one to his maximum possible size and strength. The best exercises for the major musculature structures of the body are full squats, stiff-legged deadlifts, standing presses, chins with the palms facing you, parallel bar dips, barbell curls, bent- over rowing motions, pullovers on a bench, shrugs and situps. (I include this exercise only as a means of covering the entire body. The abdominals will receive quite enough work during the performance of other exercises.)

A very productive program would look like this:

  1. Full Squats - 15-20 reps
  2. Pullovers - 10 reps
  3. Standing Presses - 10 reps
  4. Chins - 10 reps
  5. Dips - 12 reps
  6. Barbell Curls - 10 reps
  7. Shrugs - 15 reps
  8. Stiff-Legged Deadlifts - 15 reps

How many sets of each exercise? One. Two. Certainly never more than three, and if you are working properly, one set of most of these exercises should be more than enough for anyone. Why are these exercises chosen as opposed to some others? Very frankly, personal preference has much to do with this. However, some considerations may clarify my prejudices.

There are no bench presses recommended. Contrary to popular belief the bench press is not a very good exercise for the development of the pectoral muscles. It is fairly good for the development of the anterior deltoid and triceps, but the standing press develops these muscles as well or better (better being defined as more quickly, more directly, with the production of more power or work during an actual repetition of the exercise), as does the parallel bar dip. However, if you care to do bench presses or presses behind the neck in a standing position, feel free to do so. Perhaps you can alternate pressing movements every few weeks, every few workouts, every other workout. You will never suffer from lack of variety.

Why chins with palms facing (curl grip)? While some prefer chins to a behind-the-neck position with a palms-pronated grip, the curl grip gives a higher order of work to the biceps and a greater range of movement to the latissimus muscles. Why stiff-legged deadlifts as opposed to regular deadlifts or cleans? Again, substitute the regular deadlift on occasion, but bear in mind that the stiff-legged deadlift gives the spinal erectors and biceps femoris more direct work than the regular deadlift. The "power clean", while valuable for some purposes, is not necessary for the development of the muscles in question, and due to the speed of movement it places unnecessary demands on the connective tissue of the involved bodyparts.

Obviously there is room for deviation in the choice of exercises. One can at times substitute one pressing movement for another, use dumbbells instead of a barbell, etc. However, the basic routine should be utilized with little alteration, as all the major muscular structures of the body will receive maximal growth stimulation (and if previously mentioned points are taken into consideration).

How often should one train with this program? A maximum of three times weekly. For some, two sessions a week will provide the necessary stimulation without exceeding the recovery ability. Perhaps three workouts one week, two the following week. It is expected that the intelligent individual will be able to discern for himself what is necessary. (It does constantly amaze me, though, how many persons, "intelligent" in other areas, successful in their professions, are helpless in approaching their training and yet are perfectly willing to pursue a course that is unproductive for years). Any time that progress is not forthcoming analyze your approach and if any changes need to be made, it will probably along the lines of reducing the amount of work being done.

If the precepts put forth here seem simple, it is only because they are. Complexly so. Unfortunately, most trainees do not want to hear the simple truth. They feel safer looking endlessly for secrets, miracle potions - almost anything other than admitting that they are not willing to work *hard* enough for the results they desire (a rather common condition actually, but one most often denied).

An example? I was in a very well equipped athletic training center in Minnesota a few months ago and was approached by a young man of approximately 25 years of age. After speaking with him for a few moments, I recalled that I had instructed him in the use of proper exercise style while working with one of the [now defunct] World Football League teams. This athlete had been an outstanding player at a small Midwestern college but had been released by the professional club. We spoke:

"I haven't really been doing too well lately. I want my arms to be bigger," he said. I noticed that they were fairly large already and remarked that perhaps they were as big as they would ever get, in muscular condition, at his present bodyweight. "Well they were once alot bigger."

He told me that he weighed approximately 25 lbs more at that time than he did presently. I pointed this out and told him that his arms had been larger then, as had the rest of his muscular structures.

"But I was fat at that weight," he said. I repeated that perhaps his arms were as large as they were going to be in muscular condition, considering his height, and other hereditary factors, length of muscle, etc. "I won't accept that. They have to get bigger!" As it was, he refused to train his legs and lower back as "I think those parts are already big enough." This was a well-educated young man who had "been around" was doing graduate work in a related field (related to weight training) and yet displayed a somewhat less than rationale attitude to his training.

One more example? A former lacrosse and football player who had been, a number of years prior to our conversation, moderately successful in physique competition and, when initially beginning his weight training activities fairly strong (as evidenced by a bench press of a single rep of close to 400lbs).

"I'm tired of changing my routine every week. There must be some answer," he said. Unfortunately, he trained in a gym with a current Mr. Universe titleholder. "[blank] suggested that I do more chest work." I suggested he stop wasting his time and perhaps attempt a routine very similar to the one outlined above. He agreed and struggled through it, using 150 lbs for 12 squats, 30 lb dumbbells for his pressing and similar weights for the remainder of the routine.

"You mean to tell me that after 10 YEARS of fairly continuous training, that's your limit? You're using 1/4 the weight you used 8 years ago." I was incredulous.

"I know I'm having trouble believing it myself." was his response.

"If this is the result of so-called proper training, you ought to let it go and concentrate on becoming a millionaire." He was college-educated, was in possession of two advanced graduate degrees, and highly successful at his chosen profession.

"But Frank [blank, bodybuilder with some titles] told me that I didn't need to do any really heavy movements for development." I merely told him to look at the workout that he had just taken, compare the results of his efforts over the previous 10 years of training, and evaluate the validity of his method. "Well, I don't know. If I could just win one contest it would have been worthwhile".

Rational? What is too high a price to pay? It wouldn't be as absurd as it is if all of the wasted effort wasn't totally unnecessary. As Bob Sizer remarked:

"If I would have know what proper training consisted of, if someone would have been there to show me, I would have taken everything to failure, would have done a few basic exercises and probably would still be playing football. Even at my age." He smiled.

It's for Bob Sizer and the many people like him that this article was written.

May 24, 2020

Avoiding Injury and Preventing Injury

by Arthur Jones

Exercise should help to avoid injury...not cause injury. But it can do either. It can strengthen the muscles and the joints of an athlete to such an extent that the possibility of a directly sports- connected injury is greatly reduced.

OR...if improperly performed, it can cause an injury that might never have occurred on the playing field.

Exercise can CAUSE INJURY in at least two different ways...(1) an athlete may injure himself while performing an exercise, an injury that is a DIRECT result of exercise...or (2) an athlete may hurt himself on the field as an INDIRECT result of exercise.

Injury that is directly caused by exercise will usually be obvious, you will normally be aware of such an accident when it happens und will thus know where to place the blame. But INDIRECT injury may not be so easy to recognize...since it will not result from a single cause and effect type of situation that makes itself known immediately.

For example, if an athlete pulls a thigh muscle while performing squats in the gym, you will know exactly where to place the blame. But if, instead, he pulls a hamstring on the might not realize that the injury was an INDIRECT result of exercise. And it might not be...BUT IT COULD BE.

If an exercise program results in a disproportionate muscular development in antagonistic muscles, then it is almost literally asking for trouble. For example, if you develop great strength into the muscles of the frontal thigh, while doing little or nothing to increase the strength of the rear of the thigh...then you might actually cause an injury. An injury that would probably occur on the field, and that probably would not be blamed on exercise.

Unfortunately, since the blame for such indirectly caused injury is seldom placed where it belongs, it is utterly impossible to even estimate the number of such injuries with any reasonable degree of accuracy...but I am personally convinced that the number would be quite high.

Thus, the KNOWN injuries from exercise, when added to the UNKNOWN injuries equals a high but unsuspected total.

Balanced against this unknown total, we have only another UNKNOWN factor in the way of compensation...since, obviously, it is also impossible to estimate the number of injuries that were PREVENTED by exercise. After all, who can even guess just how injuries “might have happened?”

So on the surface it may well be appear that exercise merely causes injuries...while offering nothing in the way of value in return.

But in fact, simple common sense also makes it obvious that a stronger man is less likely to be injured in any given situation...and that a more flexible man is also less prone to injury.

Many years ago, when I first started flying, a student pilot was required to practice spins, and proper recovery from spins. Then somebody decided that more people were being killed as a result of such training than as a result of accidental spins. Whereupon, they stopped teaching students spins and spin recovery.

Now, somebody else has suddenly noticed that quite a large number of supposedly well-trained pilots are killing themselves as a result of accidental spins...probably because they don’t know what to do if an accidental spin occurs, never having been taught the proper procedure. In such situations, it is almost impossible to come up with anything even approaching a reliable set of statistics...and I will personally be very surprised if any meaningful statistics are ever produced to indicate the actual value of exercise for the purpose of preventing injuries. So, in such cases, we must simply rely on common sense, self-evident truth, obvious it what you may.

And injury is caused when a FORCE is imposed upon a muscular structure (or a joint) to the degree that the FORCE exceeds the BREAKING STRENGTH of the body part, the muscle or joint. That much is undeniable...and thus it follows that the injury would NOT have occurred if the breaking strength had been greater than the force.

If a rope has a breaking strength of 100 pounds, then it will not break as a result of 50 pounds of force. But if its breaking strength is only 40 pounds...then 50 pounds of force must break it.

You, as a coach, can do little or nothing to reduce the forces that will be imposed upon your athletes on the field. But you certainly can increase the breaking strength of their muscles and joints.

In some cases, the forces will be so great that no possible level of human strength would be high enough to prevent injury...but even in these cases, the extent of the injury may well be reduced as a result of exercise-developed strength. Thus exercise will reduce the level of damage in many well as preventing injury in many other cases.

So much for “preventing injury”...even in the lack of statistics to prove the value of exercise for the purpose of preventing injury, it is obvious that exercise does help prevent injury and that it also reduces the extent of damage in many other cases.

But we still need to look at the subject of “avoiding injury.” We need to be aware of the factors that cause most training injuries, the type of injuries that are directly caused by exercise. Almost all of which injuries could be easily avoided.

AGAIN...such injuries result when the force exceeds the breaking strength of a muscle or joint. So the force that is involved in exercise should be as low as possible without reducing the productivity of the exercise.

Which may, at first glance, appear to present a paradox...since exercise consists of exposing muscles and joints to force. But in fact, no paradox is easily possible to produce maximum-possible strength from exercise while avoiding at least a large part of the force that is usually involved in exercise. Un-required force that does absolutely nothing in the way of increasing strength, while causing almost all injuries that are a direct result of exercise.

Bad form, or style of performance, is the culprit in almost all such cases...and this usually involves sudden, jerky movement. Which jerking greatly increases the forces imposed on the muscles and joints.

But in practice, thousands of athletes train in a way that may well be the most dangerous manner...meanwhile believing that their style of training is quite safe. AND...meanwhile avoiding the most productive part of their exercises under the totally mistaken impression that they are thereby helping to avoid injury.

So they train in a dangerous manner, while considering it safe...and avoid an actually productive style of training, because they wrongly consider it dangerous. Most people are absolutely convinced that a “hard” exercise is a “dangerous” exercise...and sometimes, in a few special situations, this may be true. But in most situations encountered, in exercise, it is exactly the opposite of the is utterly false.

REMEMBER...force causes injuries.

It matters not at all how hard it “feels”...all that matters is the force in relation to the breaking strength. Since we are never aware of the exact, momentary breaking-strength, all that we can do is reduce the force as much as possible, while still working the muscles as hard as possible.

And again there is no paradox involved, as the following example will clearly prove.

If you walk into the gym with the momentary ability to curl 150 pounds...and if you actually curl 150 pounds...then you will be working as hard as you can at that point of time...and you will also be producing maximum-possible force.

And if it happens that the momentary breaking strength of your tendons is only 140 pounds...then you will injure yourself. Under those circumstances, injury is unavoidable.

But, if instead, you used a barbell weighing only 120 pounds...and if you performed several repetitions with this lighter weight...and if the form was good and the movement fairly slow...then you would probably never produce more than 125 pounds of force, which would be less than the breaking strength of your tendons...and the injury that was unavoidable with 150 pounds is thus avoided.

During the first repetition with this lighter weight, the resistance would “feel” lighter...because, at that point in the exercise, the resistance would be well below the momentary strength level of your muscles.

During later repetitions, the same resistance would feel much heavier, much “harder”...but in fact, the weight has not changed. All that has changed is your momentary strength, which has been reduced as a result of the first few, seemingly light, repetitions.

And when you reach the final repetition, it will feel very heavy indeed...but again, the weight remains the same.

In fact, if the exercise is performed from the first to last in good form, then the actual force will be lowest in the final repetition...because the speed of movement will be less at that point.

So the final, seemingly hardest repetition will feel very “hard”...and it is probably only natural for people to feel that it is the most dangerous repetition, because it feels that way. But in fact, it is the safest repetition in the exercise...because, at that point in the exercise, you are no longer strong enough to produce a force high enough to hurt yourself. Not, at least, if you avoid jerking.

As a result of the widespread misunderstanding that exists in regard to these actually very simple points...misunderstanding that has probably resulted from the fact that nobody ever bothered to consider the actually-involved factors in the light of physical law...most athletes avoid the final, seemingly hardest, repetitions. Mistakenly believing that they are thus avoiding injury...when, in fact, all they are avoiding is the most important and most productive part of their exercises. And the safest part as well.

Exercise builds strength by exposing muscles to an “overload” a level of work that is beyond the limits of momentary ability. Or, at least, well inside the existing level of reserve ability...far beyond the limits of normal ability.

But it is neither necessary nor desirable to expose a muscle to a maximum workload when it is fresh and strong...and doing so is dangerous. If, instead, the muscle is “pre-exhausted” by the performance of several repetitions against a resistance that is well below the starting level of strength...then, later in the exercise, when a point of muscular failure is reached, the forces involved will be greatly reduced.

Upon reaching a point of momentary muscular failure, the resistance will certainly feel much heavier than it did at the start of the exercise...but that is merely an illusion produced by the fact that your MOMENTARY ability has declined to the point that you are unable to produce enough force to move the weight.

In the example given above involving a curl with 120 pounds, 125 pounds of force might have been produced during each of the first few repetitions...but at the end of the set, when movement is momentarily impossible, you may be producing only 110 pounds of force, or less.

And if 125 pounds of force didn’t hurt you...then 110 pounds of force certainly won’t hurt you either. Regardless of how it “feels” at the moment.

The breaking strength of a muscle (or tendon, or joint) doesn’t decline during an remains unchanged during exercise. All that happens is that your muscles become progressively weaker until they reach a point where it is impossible for them to continue with the available resistance.

If an injury is going to be produced by an exercise, then it will usually occur during the first few repetitions...simply because the forces are highest at that point in the exercise.

With the exception of Olympic weightlifters, athletes should NEVER be required to lift as much weight as possible for a single, maximum-attempt repetition...such lifts are not required for building maximum strength, and they greatly increase the danger of injury.

May 23, 2020

Ellington Darden on high protein diets - Part 2

More on   Moron High Protein Diets

See Part 1 if you haven't

Q: Some of the sports scientists at the University of Florida recommend extra protein intake for their strength and power athletes. Do you disagree with them, too?

A: I’m not against a little extra protein in your diet. Just don’t go completely overboard and bump it up to three or four times the RDA. Consuming 250 to 300 grams of protein a day—whether it’s from food or supplements—is expensive, wasteful, and not the safest thing you could do for your liver and kidneys. There has been research—including one study from the University of Florida—showing that perhaps there are advantages for power athletes and bodybuilders to consume from 50 to 100 percent more protein than the RDA of 0.36 gram of protein per pound of body weight. I don’t buy into it—not completely, anyway. Here’s what I do believe about protein and muscle. Only intense exercise generates cellular messages (hormones) that stimulate the chemicals to begin the process of expanding muscle fibers. An excess of dietary protein or any other nutrients won’t generate these messages. Nutrition enters the picture only after the muscles are stimulated to grow. And even then, rest is at least as important as nutrition.

Q: Dr. Darden, what influenced you to consume so much protein earlier in your career?

A: The same thing that influences bodybuilders today was what influenced me back in the 1960s.It was muscle magazines—10 years of reading almost every one published. These magazines all contained cleverly designed collections of editorials, articles, and advertisements that promoted protein supplements and high-protein eating. The facts show that you simply do not require much protein to build muscle. Human muscle is at least 70 percent water. Only 20 percent of muscle is protein. Because muscle is mostly water, 1 pound of muscle contains only 600 calories. Calories and water are more important to the muscle-building process than is protein. But if you are the publisher of a leading bodybuilding magazine—from a promotional, money-making point of view—how much revenue could you produce from pushing calories and water? Calories and water are everywhere, at least in the United States. But as a sales pitch, “tasty calories and pure water” doesn’t have the magic of the following phrases: “premium micro”; “ultrafiltration, whey protein”; “advanced protein synthesis complex”; “100% enzymatically digested bioactive protein isolate.” It doesn’t matter what you call protein or how you promote the end result, the truth is that it’s only minimally important to building muscle.

The most impressive bodybuilder that I’ve ever seen in my life, a man named Sergio Oliva, who had arms bigger than his head and who was the last bodybuilder to defeat Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Mr. Olympia contest, trained with Arthur Jones in Florida during the summer of 1971. Oliva trained extremely hard and sweated gallons as Jones pushed him in an unventilated Quonset hut with no air-conditioning. Each of their workouts resembled an episode from the TV drama The Walking Dead, and I’m not kidding! What was Oliva’s favorite after-workout dinner? A large pepperoni pizza, washed down with 32 ounces of Coca-Cola—not exactly a high-protein meal but more than adequate in calories and water.

Q: I’m interested in bodybuilding. I’m sure you realize that just about everybody connected to bodybuilding says the opposite of what you say: They say that a high-protein diet is necessary for building large muscles. Are they all wrong in their beliefs?

A: Perhaps it’s better to say that they all have been misled, badly misled. I’ve told this story about my experiences with protein in some of my bodybuilding books, and it’s worth telling again. From 1970 to 1973, I studied nutrition at Florida State University with Harold Schendel, PhD, who had spent a number of years in Africa working with starving children. I remember him telling me about how his team of doctors rushed into a famine country, assembled the starving children, and tried to force-feed them high-protein diets. Rather than improve, their conditions got worse. They quickly realized that what these children needed were simple calories. What worked best was a mush mixture of water, sugar, and butter, with small amounts of protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Later in his career, Schendel had a hand in establishing the Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein. In 1970, he convinced me to do a 2-month study on my body to determine if massive protein intake was beneficial. Back then, because I was really into bodybuilding, I consumed more than 300 grams of protein a day. I kept accurate records of my food intake and activity for 60 days, and I even collected my urine during the same period. Afterward, I used the Kjeldahl method for determining nitrogen in my urine, which is a measure of protein utilization. To my surprise, anytime I consumed more than the RDA of protein, the excess was excreted in my urine. Schendel concluded that my kidneys were working overtime to metabolize the excess protein. He also explained that human kidneys and livers show overuse symptoms in the presence of massive amounts of protein. We know from long-term animal studies that high-protein diets will shorten life spans. So I stopped my massive protein diet and immediately felt a surge of energy from unburdening my kidneys and liver. Over the next 2 years, on a carbohydrate-rich diet, I won several of the bodybuilding contests that I’d been trying so hard to win. Adding carbohydrates and subtracting proteins had made a significant difference in my appearance. As a result, I haven’t consumed a high-protein diet since early 1970.

May 22, 2020

Protein Supplements - AKA Pissing Your Money Away

A quote from Dr. Ellington Darden on the subject of protein:

" In 1970, I had a story to tell. After being a competitive athlete and bodybuilder for 20 years, and after consuming tons of expensive nutrient pills, I clearly saw that most of the money I spent on food supplements was wasted. I realized this as a result of being challenged in my nutritional practices by Dr. Harold Schendel Professor in the Food and Nutrition Department at Florida State University. Here′s what happened.

For two months, I kept precise records of my dietary intake, of my energy expenditure, and of my general well-being. All my urine was collected and analyzed by a graduate research team in nutrition science.

Believe me, it was a real inconvenience to have to pee in a large brown bottle, which I carried around with me all day long in a paper sack. It was even more tedious to test my urine scientifically for various vitamins, minerals, and protein content.

But I figured it would be worth it. Once and for all I′d be able to prove to the doubting scientists of nutrition that most athletes require massive amounts of essential nutrients.

Boy, was I wrong!

The results of the study showed that my body was sloughing off, or excreting, large amounts of water soluble vitamins, proteins, and other nutrients. Worse than that, it was also determined that since I had been consuming massive doses for many years, I had forced my liver and kidneys to grow excessively large to handle the influx of all these nutrients. You may desire your muscles to grow excessively large, but you don′t want this to happen to your liver and kidneys. Physicians say that doing so can lead to several medical complications and eventually shorten your life span.

Anyway, after studying and understanding the implications of what I was doing to the insides of my body, I made a complete turnaround. I wanted to tell my story to other athletes like me. I wanted to get the word out especially to bodybuilders and weightlifters-who read the muscle magazines and flashy advertisements-and purchased the recommended food supplements and gobbled them down.

Protein Requirements

The biggest misconception 20 years ago, and still the biggest misconception today, is the belief that heavy weight training requires massive dietary protein intake.

When my urine was analyzed at Flordia State University in 1970, I was consuming 380 grams of protein per day. Approximately half of the protein came from a 90 percent protein powder.

Why did I consume so much protein? Because I had read repeatedly in muscle magazines that that′s what all the champions ate: from 300-400 grams of protein a day.

Yet, Dr. Schendel kept tellin me that the RDA for protein is .36 grams per pound of bodyweight. Thus, at that time at a body weight of 215lbs., my protein requirement was 77 grams per day.

The results of the study proved that Dr. Schendel was right, and that RDA was accurate. Most of the protein I was eating was being broken down and excreted through my kidneys.

Even though a few recent studies have shown that a slight increase in the RDA for protein may benefit some athletes, the extra calories that most athletes normally consume more than compensate for those additions."

May 21, 2020

Functional Vs Dysfunctional Strength

Much has been written on the topic of functional strength. Too much really. There is the argument of what that phrase even means.

Functional Strength

In general all strength is functional to an extent. I will cover why that is not always true a bit later. If you gain muscular strength. Anything those stronger muscles do becomes easier. if that is the case then more must be better. Well, that is typical muscle-head thinking. If some is good, more is better.

We are building athletes for sports other than powerlifting, and olympic lifting. In that way there is a “strong enough” destination wherein the athlete is fully strengthened for the sport she or he plays. In other words the acquisition of additional strength translates to no improvement on the court or field. In fact the acquisition of additional strength is a detractor. It detracts from the time that could be better spent on doing sport specific training or even just recovering from training sessions. Once an athlete is strong enough for their sport, they need only maintain their strength. One workout every 7 days or so will accomplish that.

Dysfunctional Strength

For the athlete dysfunctional strength is, as I said before, strength beyond what is needed. For the non athlete, dysfunctional strength is the pursuit of strength beyond which is healthy for the organism. There is the level of strength which allows one to merely do every day life. There is a level higher than that worth striving for that makes one more resilient to the demands of daily life and work. Beyond that there is another level of strength that actually detracts from one’s health.

Yes you may be able to lift a heavier weight to satisfy your ego, but at what cost? Higher blood pressure, unhealthy body mass, damaged joints. Remember, your heart works just as hard to haul 275 lbs of beef around just as it does 275lbs of lard. Just because you carry a low level of bodyfat does not mean you are healthy.

If you want to be a healthy adult and grow old, strong, and fit, you should emulate Clarence Bass, not some power-lifter or strongman competitor. Clarence is a model of health. The others are a cardiac event waiting to happen.

May 20, 2020

You Might Be A Steroid User If...

We thought a little humour might be nice at a time like this.

  • If you are 35 and still have acne on your back…
  • If your eyes are so far back in your head, you’re mistaken for the missing link…
  • You’re abs are ripped, but stick out further than most beer guts…
  • When you use the term “gyno” you aren’t referring to a gynecologist…
  • You’re not angry, it’s just that the rest of the world is so f’ing stupid…
  • The vet called and he wants his meds back…
  • You look like Tarzan, but play like Jane…
  • You think the discoveries of Einstein and Newton pale in comparison to Duchaine’s…
  • You’re wishing a service like the diabetics have existed to send you new needles…
  • You think everyone gets giant puss filled lesions on their ass…
  • All your friends are bouncers…
  • You have your mail delivered to the gym…
  • Feel free to comment with others you think of.
  • May 18, 2020

    Strength And Conditioning For Men's Lacrosse: Princeton

    Matt Brzycki Coordinator of Health Fitness, Strength and Conditioning Princeton University

    This is the unedited version of an article that appeared as Nothing Lax About It in /Training & Conditioning/ 9 #9 (December 1999): 35-38 With five national championships in seven years, the Princeton University Men's Lacrosse Team was the most successful college program of the 1990s. And they take their strength and conditioning seriously. "Our schedule is highly competitive every year," says head coach Bill Tierney. "Our strength and conditioning program is a key element in our preparation to play this type of schedule. When all other skills are equal, the stronger and more conditioned athletes will win."

    Long-time assistant coach David Metzbower -- who is responsible for their strength and conditioning program -- states, "We aren't trying to create a team of competitive weightlifters or bodybuilders. The main purpose of our strength training program is to prevent injury." It's felt that increasing the strength of a player's muscles, bones and connective tissue will allow him to tolerate stresses that might otherwise cause an injury. "The other purpose of our program is to increase a player's performance potential," notes Coach Metzbower. "Strength training won't automatically make an athlete into a better player but it will improve his potential to be a better player. An athlete must still learn how to apply his strength on the lacrosse field."


    At Princeton University, time is a precious commodity. Needless to say, a high priority is placed on academics. These academic demands have a tremendous impact on an athlete's time. As such, the design and application of the strength and conditioning program can be summed up in one word: efficiency. The coaches feel that the most efficient program is one that produces the maximum possible results in the minimum amount of time.


    Their pre-season training starts when the players return to campus in the middle of September and ends on January 31. This 4.5-month period is critical for developing the physical preparedness of the team.


    In order for athletes to play lacrosse at their full potential, it is important for them to be as highly conditioned as possible. At Princeton University, the lacrosse coaching staff assesses the readiness of their players with a simple conditioning test: Regardless of their position or bodyweight, all of the players must run 1.5 miles in nine minutes or less. The athletes are tested four times during the pre-season: (1) when they return for fall classes in mid-September; (2) in the beginning of November; (3) just before or just after the December holidays; and (4) the last day in January (which is the day before the season begins).

    Because lacrosse is a sport in which the players must run, most of their conditioning work is accomplished by running. However, the heavier players are encouraged to do at least some of their conditioning with low-impact, non-weightbearing activities -- such as pedaling stationary bicycles -- to reduce their potential for orthopedic problems that can result from the higher impact forces of running.

    During the pre-season, the players also practice their lacrosse skills and do position-specific agility drills. (During the fall, they are permitted 12 team practices as well as individual sessions with coaches.) Plyometric drills are not part of their conditioning program because they place too much stress on the body.

    During their pre-season conditioning, the lacrosse team incorporates the following guidelines:

    1. Frequency. The players do conditioning workouts three times per week on non-consecutive days (usually on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday). For the first two months of the pre-season, their three weekly conditioning workouts consist of long-distance running. After completing a long-distance run, the players occasionally do a series of sprints up the stadium steps.

    In the middle of November, they reduce the frequency of their long-distance running to twice a week (Tuesday and Thursday) and add an interval workout (on Saturday). Each interval workout starts with an easy 1-mile jog. Then, the players run a designated number of work intervals using a 1:1 work:rest ratio (e.g., two minutes of intense work merits two minutes of rest).

    2. Progression.

    In general, the purpose of their conditioning program is to progressively overload the energy systems that are specific to the sport of lacrosse. Like the conditioning test, their application of progressive overload is surprisingly simple. There are three ways that the players can provide progression from one conditioning workout to the next: (1) complete the same distance at a faster pace (i.e., in a shorter amount of time); (2) cover a longer distance at the same pace; or (3) increase both the distance and the pace.

    In the beginning of the pre-season, for example, the players run for either 20 minutes or 3.0 miles; at the end of the pre-season, they progress to the point where they run for either 30 minutes or 4.8 miles. The interval workouts are also progressively more challenging. For instance, their first workout calls for five work intervals of two minutes duration (i.e., a total of ten minutes of work) with a rest interval of two minutes between each effort. Their goal is to run 600 meters in each of the five 2-minute work intervals -- a total of 3,000 meters for the workout. By the end of the pre-season, their last workout calls for ten work intervals of 90 seconds duration (i.e., a total of 15 minutes of work) with a rest interval of 90 seconds between each effort. Their goal is to run 500 meters in each of the ten 90-second work intervals ñ- a total of 5,000 meters for the workout.

    3. Duration.

    More isn't necessarily better when it comes to conditioning (or strength training, for that matter). Excluding a warm-up, their conditioning workouts ñ- whether they be long-distance or intervals -- do not exceed 30 minutes. In fact, some conditioning workouts are completed in as little as 18 - 20 minutes. Keep in mind, however, that although the length of the workout is low, the intensity of the effort that is expected of the players is quite high.

    Strength Training

    Another vital component in preparing their players for the physical demands of lacrosse is strength training. The players are encouraged to use whatever type of equipment that they prefer, whether it be barbells, dumbbells, machines or manual resistance. Along these lines, the players do not attempt to mimic lacrosse skills in the weight room with weights or weighted objects.

    The players do not perform any type of strength testing. Instead, they are asked to chart their performances in the weight room on workout cards. Coach Metzbower periodically reviews the cards to monitor the progress of his athletes.

    The lacrosse team incorporates the following guidelines during their pre-season strength training:

    1. Intensity. In terms of effort, Coach Metzbower emphatically states, "We ask our players to train hard. We do not want wasted time." In the weight room, their athletes are asked to perform each exercise to the point of muscular fatigue: when they've fatigued their muscles to the point that they can't perform any additional repetitions in good form. To increase the intensity of the exercise, the players sometimes do 3 - 4 post-fatigue repetitions -- either forced repetitions or breakdowns -- immediately after reaching muscular fatigue.

    2. Progression. Their application of progressive overload is much simpler, more practical and less restrictive than that of an approach using periodization. In the weight room, the players can make progressions from one workout to the next two ways: (1) Whenever they achieve the maximum number of prescribed repetitions, they increase the resistance and (2) if they cannot do the maximum number of prescribed repetitions, they use the same resistance and try to perform a greater number of repetitions. After increasing the resistance in a subsequent workout -- usually by about 5% -- the players start at the lower end of their repetition ranges and increase the repetitions until they attain the maximum number again.

    3. Sets. A staggering amount of scientific and anecdotal evidence shows that there are no significant differences in strength improvement when comparing single sets to multiple sets of an exercise -- provided that the single set is done with an adequate level of intensity. In seeking the most time-efficient methods possible, the players are encouraged to perform one set of each exercise to the point of muscular fatigue. This is true regardless of whether or not they are in-season.

    4. Repetitions. In general, the athletes attempt to reach muscular fatigue within the following repetition ranges: 18 - 20 for their hips, 13 - 15 for their legs and 10 - 12 for their upper body. Anyone who reaches a plateau with these ranges is prescribed slightly lower repetitions.

    5. Technique. "How the weight is lifted is more important than how much weight is lifted," says Coach Metzbower. The players do not lift weights explosively. Rather, they are expected to raise and lower the weight with a deliberate, controlled speed of movement. Furthermore, the athletes exercise throughout the greatest possible range of motion that safety allows.

    6. Frequency. During the pre-season, the players do 2 - 3 total-body workouts on non-consecutive days. The athletes have the option of performing a split routine. In this case, the athlete trains his upper body on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and his lower body on Tuesday and Thursday.

    7. Volume. During the pre-season, the players limit the number of exercises to 19 or less in a total-body workout. Recent data from the NCAA Injury Surveillance System indicate that three bodyparts account for 45% of all injuries in men's lacrosse: the knee (17%), upper leg (17%) and ankle (11%). Accordingly, most of their exercises target the major muscles that effect these bodyparts, namely the hips and legs as well as the upper torso.

    8. Duration. The players are encouraged to complete their workouts in 70 minutes or less. It is felt that spending any more than 90 minutes in the weight room is an indication that the level of intensity is undesirable.


    The lacrosse team begins their season on February 1st the first permissible practice date allowed by the NCAA -- and can end it as late as Memorial Day weekend. The in-season training is very similar to the pre-season training with the main difference being a reduction in the volume and frequency of strength and conditioning activities.


    Once the season begins, most of the team's conditioning work is done during practice. Sometimes, the players do different sprint drills covering various distances during and at the end of practice.

    Strength Training

    The players lift twice a week during the season, usually Sunday and Tuesday. Athletes who feels as if they need more recovery after a Saturday game can lift on Monday and Wednesday.

    During the season, their strength training routine consists of six exercises that address the following areas: hips (1), chest (2), upper back (2) and shoulders (1).


    The off-season program -- essentially the summer months -- is basically the same as the pre-season program. Each player receives a summer strength and conditioning manual that is developed by Coach Metzbower. The comprehensive, 50-page manual contains sections on strength training, conditioning, flexibility, skill work and nutrition.

    In addition, the manual has monthly calendars that detail specific instructions on what the players should do on a daily basis in terms of strength training and conditioning. The manual also contains a conditioning diary for them to record their results from each running workout and several strength training cards to chart their performances in the weight room.

    Finally, the manual has three appendices that feature exercise options for free weights, machines and manual resistance.


    The lacrosse team's approach to strength and conditioning is summed up best by the coaching staff this way: "Successful seasons are not built on occasions of hard work or moments of brilliance; success comes from the consistency of effort at high intensity."

    May 15, 2020

    Coaches Workout

    Coaches need to stay in shape too. Coaches have a lot going on. Many teach in addition to coach, so obviously an efficient workout is one that might actually get done. You should be able to be done with this workout in less than 20 minutes even if you loaf.

    I say this is a workout for the coaches, but this will be effective for your athletes as well.

    To be done on two different days per week. Ideally with at least two days rest between.

    Day 1
    Overhead Press
    Chest Press
    Leg Press

    Day 2
    Calf Raises

    One set to failure. If you can't get at least 8 reps in a 3/3 cadence, decrease the weight. Or don't pay attention to reps at all. Just time your set and work to fail between 45 and 90 seconds. If you fail before 45 seconds, decrease the weight if it was before 30 seconds otherwise stay with the same weight. If you can go considerably past 90 seconds, increase the weight.

    This will give you all the stimulus you need for strength and muscle gains. Worried this isn't enough? Then you aren't working at a high enough intensity. Failure means you can't do another rep in good form no matter how hard you try.


    ***No Liability is assumed for any information written on the website. No medical advice is given on exercise. This advice should be obtained from a licensed health-care practitioner. Before anyone begins any exercise program, always consult your doctor. The articles are written by coaches that are giving advice on a safe, productive, and efficient method of strength training.***