by any example of common sense.
CHAPTER ONE: THE DINOSAUR ALTERNATIVE
If a million people say a foolish thing, it is still foolish thing.
Weight training is a very simple activity. However, commercial interests, arm-chair theoreticians and well-intentioned but misguided "experts" have complicated things to the point where virtually no one knows how to train productively anymore. Instead of gyms filled with people taking productive, result-producing workouts, we see gyms throughout the world filled with members whose wild gyrations and frenzied flailing will not build an ounce of muscle or develop any greater level of strength than would be built by a slow game of checkers on a lazy summer day.
WHY DOESN'T ANYONE TRAIN HARD ANYMORE?
Consider the following. Properly performed barbell squats are one of the most productive exercises that anyone can do. But how many gyms are there where more than a small handful of members regularly squat hard and heavy?
Trap bar deadlifts are one of the very best exercises you can do. The trap bar-which runs less than $150--permits you to train deadlifts harder, safer and much more productively than does an ordinary bar. But how many gyms have a trap bar? How many trainees even know what a trap bar is? How many people who lift weights are more concerned about purchasing the latest accessories--brand name shoes, designer label shirts and shorts, "sharp" looking workout gloves and a color coordinated sweatband or baseball cap--than they are. about purchasing a trap bar?
With a handful of exceptions--primarily, plate loading equipment manufactured by HAMMER STRENGTH--exercise machines are almost always a total and complete waste of time. But how many are jam-packed with "the latest" high tech training gizmos and chrome plated wonder machines? How many trainees devote virtually all of their energy (I can't say "effort") to pushing or pulling against the padded handles of the aforementioned miracle machines?
To develop the ultimate in rugged power and brutal, ferocious strength, you need to include plenty of thick bar training--upper body exercises with a barbell that measures 2" to 3" in diameter. But how many gyms offer such bars? How many modern trainees have ever even seen one? Thick handled barbells used to be one of the standard tools of the trade for any strongman worthy of the name. Nowadays virtually no one who lifts weights has ever even considered the possibility of using a thick handled barbell.
Maximum muscular size and strength throughout the entire body can only, be developed if you devote tons of effort and gallons of sweat to specialized grip movements--primarily those that involve lifting, carrying and holding enormous poundages with various types of grips and using handles of different shapes and thicknesses. Who do you know who trains that way? How many readers can name even a single member of their gym who regularly practices pinch grip lifting, the Farmer's Walk, thick bar deadlifting or reverse curls with a 3" diameter bar?
Single rep training is one of the most effective ways to develop an outstanding degree of muscular size and strength. But how many people regularly do singles? How many use a program that consists of NOTHING BUT single reps--including warmups?
Real results require real effort. You need to work so hard you almost pass out when you do a heavy set. You need to drive yourself to the point where, many times, you literally collapse after the set is over. You must train so hard that one heavy set can make you sore for days. You need to yell and shout and sweat and hurt when you train. But how many people train this way? How many people do you know who take a set of barbell curls and work the set until the bar literally drops out of their hands? How many people do you know who work a set of squats or deadlifts to the point where they go down and stay down-sometimes for 10 or even 20 minutes? Compare the number of people who train THAT hard to the number of people who regularly spend two hours in the gym without breaking a sweat.
Let's get even more basic. To get bigger, stronger and better conditioned, you need to add weight to the bar whenever you can. Progressive poundages are the name of the game. If you are not adding weight to the bar on a regular basis, you are kidding yourself. But how many people actually try to increase their training poundages? How many members of your gym are content to waltz their way through the same workout, with the same exercises, sets, reps and poundages, year after year after year? I once belonged to a gym where one guy used the same poundages for 12 years. He got married and divorced at least three times during that period. He changed wives more often then he changed exercise poundages. Any of you who go to commercial gyms can doubtless identify half a dozen members who suffer from the same sort of passionate devotion to their exercise poundages.
THE AMAZING ANTICS OF MODERN TRAINEES
The reason why most modern training is non-productive is simple: most people who train with weights nowadays are not interested in serious results. Most people who lift weights do so for reasons that have nothing to do with developing ferocious muscular strength and raw, terrifying power. These are the type of members the modern gyms go out of their way to attract. In fact, they are really the only type of members the modern gyms are interested in having.
Most gyms want members who will be content to play around ,with aerobic exercises, machine movements and light, light poundages. They cater to members who use the gym for socializing or as a pick-up bar. The LAST thing they want is someone who is interested in serious training.
The typical gym is crammed with non-essential machines, most of which are less than half as functional as if they were designed by a baboon and assembled by an orangutan. The purpose of the machines is to entice members of the public into shelling out their cash to join the establishment and reap the "benefits" of training on what the instructors (who are nothing more than glorified sales-people) tell them are the "latest" and “most scientific and high tech" machines on the market. Ninety percent of the equipment in the average gym could be melted down or sold for scrap without diminishing the value of the place one iota.
What else takes up space in the typical gym? The typical instructor--a mindless goofball who doesn't have the faintest beginning of a glimmer of a shadow of a clue about what productive training is all about. My golden retrievers, Sam and Spenser, could do a better job of training gym members than does the average instructor, manager, or gym owner.
Ask the average instructor or gym owner to demonstrate the one arm deadlift. Ask him about breathing squats. See what he knows about Olympic lifting. Check out his form in the one arm snatch. Watch him try to clean and press bodyweight. Ask him about round back lifting, Joe Hise, the 5 x 5 system, rack work, Hennan Goerner, heavy singles, Clyde Emrich, indian clubs, the farmer's walk, the roman column, hip belt squats, barrel lifting, or Arthur Saxon. You'd be amazed at what the guy DOESN'T know. As a group, modern weight training instructors and gym owners are clear proof that some people use the air hoses at gas stations to inflate their heads every day.
Then you have the typical gym member--who is usually young, spoiled, pampered and far more interested in looking pretty than in training hard. In fact, the average gym member would run in terror if you tried to make him train HARD on even a single set of a single exercise. A set of breathing squats would kill him. In fact, a hard set of curls or presses would be more than he could handle. Even WATCHING hard work would make him sick. He'd toss his cookies if he saw a dinosaur train!
Put them all together and you have an institution that promotes mass insanity instead of rational weight training. The idiot machines are designed to let people PRETEND they are lifting weights. The instructors prepare workout programs that let members PRETEND they are training. And the members are perfectly content to go right along with the whole scam.
Weight training today is NOT about getting bigger and stronger. Its entire emphasis is on developing a certain "vogue" look: people train for the sole and exclusive purpose of looking "buff," "pumped," "sculpted," "toned" and "cut." Everything they do is designed to gain peer approval, Nothing is designed to build the things that really count--the tendons, the ligaments, the skeletal structure, and the all-important but non-showy muscle groups that are the true keys to strength and power (such as the spinal erectors). Appearance is everything, function is nothing.
Modern day trainees base their training almost exclusively on public opinion. They forget that in weight training, as in everything else, public opinion is never to be trusted. Sir Robert Peel said it best: "Public opinion is a compound of folly, weakness, prejudice, wrong feeling, right feeling, obstinacy and newspaper paragraphs. Those words describe perfectly the training information available to modern trainees.
THE DINOSAUR ALTERNATIVE
Fortunately, there IS an alternative to the mixed up mess of modern weight training. I call it "the dinosaur alternative. I chose that name after a friend whose training ideas parallel my own referred to the two of us as "dinosaurs." He was right--that's exactly what we are. To the modern denizens of the chrome and fern pleasure palaces--to the little boys with the "buff" and "sculpted" sun-tanned bodies that lack the power to squat with bodyweight for even one rep--to the arm-chair theorizers with their "modern" training systems--we are doubtless so old fashioned as to be objects of scorn and derision.
THE DINOSAUR CHALLENGE
That's perfectly fine. When all of the "modern" trainees can lie down on a flat bench and push a 400 pound barbell three inches in diameter from chest to arms length--and do it without a bench shirt, wrist wraps or drugs--then I'll worry about being old fashioned. When everyone in the chrome and fern crowd can do a strict curl with 160 pounds on that same three inch diameter bar, then I'll think about going to chrome and fern land. When the buffers, pumpers, shapers, sculptors and toners can handle 250 pounds in the seated press with a three inch bar, 400 pounds for five reps in the HAMMER Row, 300 pounds in the two finger deadlift with a 2 1/2" diameter bar and 500 pounds in the parallel squat (starting from the bottom with the thighs parallel to the floor, with no super suit and no wraps), then I'll look into this "modern" training stuff. When the armchair brigade can walk 200 feet holding two 180 pound "steel suitcases" (one in each hand), clean and press a 220 pound sandbag or lift a 270 pound barrel to the shoulder, then I'll stop reading courses, books and magazines from the 40's and 50's and check out the latest "modern" ideas. But until then, I'm happy to be a living fossil.
BACK TO OUR ROOTS
DINOSAUR TRAINING is basic training the way it used to be done before steroids, arm-chair theorizers and commercial interests got things off track. It is like General Patton's philosophy of war: "simple, direct and brutal." It is rugged, it is tough, and it is demanding. It also is incredibly result-producing.
Dinosaur training will be very familiar to some readers, particularly those who are well versed in Iron Game history. It is not "modern" and it is not new. However, there are many aspects of dinosaur training that run the risk of being lost forever in the face of all the glitz and glamour systems publicized and followed by modern lifters. Some aspects of dinosaur training already have been lost or nearly lost, and that makes the job of putting things back together enormously difficult. As Goethe said, "Everything has been thought of before, but the problem is to think of it again.
Dinosaur training involves several inter-related principles. Fundamentally, it is a system of strength training. STRENGTH IS EVERYTHING IN DINOSAUR TRAINING. To be a dinosaur, you must literally become obsessed with the idea of adding more and more weight to the bar in every exercise you do. You must revel in the battle against heavier and heavier poundages. You must view the acquisition of raw, pulverizing power and brutal strength as your most important physical goal.
Dinosaurs believe that strength is developed by working with barbells, dumbbells, bags, beams and barrels. Forget about all of the pretty chrome plated machines at the local spa. They weren't necessary 50 years ago and they are not necessary today. More importantly, they are counterproductive. With very few exceptions, machines simply do not build the type of strength that interests a dinosaur. The plate loading equipment manufactured by HAMMER STRENGTH is an exception, but the HAMMER machines are really nothing more than redesigned barbells. Aside from HAMMER machines, drop machines completely out of your training if you want to be a dinosaur.
Dinosaurs train incredibly hard. Many follow the "high intensity" training approach espoused by Dr. Ken Leistner and others. Some follow the time-tested and time-honored breathing squat program popularized by Hise, Berry, Rader, McCallum and more recently by Randy Strossen in SUPER SQUATS. Others use multiple sets of low reps with heavy, heavy poundages. What all dinosaurs have in common is this: they squeeze every last drop of effort out of their bodies on every heavy set they do. They work so hard that to work harder would be impossible. They drive themselves far beyond the outer limits of mere effort. Their training sessions are barbaric, brutal, and homeric.
Some dinosaurs train so heavy that they use single reps in their training. That's right-- they regularly and consistently, week after week, without any "conditioning" programs, "peaking" cycles or "periodization" use weights so heavy they can only do one rep. Hardly anyone trains that way anymore because the research scientists have "conclusively established," that single reps do not build size or strength. Besides, none of the modern-day "champions" do singles! But wait a minute. Forget about the pencil neck with the slide rule, the pie-charts and the eight week study of half a dozen college freshmen. Forget about the "champion" who owes his size to a pill bottle and a hypodermic needle. Go back to our roots. Look at how guys did it before the days of steroids, science and bull crap. They did singles! There was a time--and it wasn't all that long ago, and it was well documented by contemporaneous accounts--when the biggest and strongest men in the world did lots and lots of heavy singles in their training. How can the trainee of the 90's discount a training system that-a mere 50 or 60 years ago--produced scores of drug free supermen?
Dinosaurs train without wrist wraps, elbow wraps, knee wraps, super suits or bench shirts. Why? Because this type of "support gear" is intended to REMOVE stress from the joints and muscles you are trying to exercise. Our goal as dinosaurs is to impose as much stress as possible on our bodies. The body responds to stress by growing bigger and stronger. Why sabotage your training efforts by using artificial aids that make your training EASIER when your goal should be to make your training HARDER?
Dinosaurs make their exercises more difficult--and more productive--by training with thick handled barbells and dumbbells. A dinosaur will do all of his presses, curls, bench presses and grip/wrist/forearm work with thick handled barbells or dumbbells. He will use bars that are at least two full inches in diameter, and include even thicker bars for many movements--2 1/2" or even 3" diameter bars. An advanced dinosaur will develop the ability to do CURLS with a thick handled bar that most men could not even lift off the ground.
Dinosaurs believe in plenty of specialized work for the forearms, wrist and grip. And I'm not talking about a few high rep sets of wrist curls with a weight so light any grandmother would sneer at the bar! I'm not talking about rolling a piece of newspaper into a ball and squeezing it for ten seconds (an "exercise" touted in a recent publication for toners). I'm talking about RUGGED stuff--pinch gripping, two finger deadlifts, two finger chins, one finger lifts, thick bar deadlifts, thick bar power cleans, thick bar curls, thick bar reverse curls, vertical bar lifts, one arm deadlifts and the Farmer's Walk. You can recognize a dinosaur by his forearms, wrists and hands--they are thick and hard. The hands of a dinosaur bear no resemblance whatsoever to the baby-soft hands of a "toner," a "shaper" or a "pumper."
Dinosaurs use the power rack to train their squats and bench presses from the bottom position. Normally, you start a squat or bench press from the top position and lower the bar to the bottom position. A much more demanding way to perform the movements is to begin from the bottom. In the bench press, a dinosaur begins with the bar resting on pins set so it brushes against the lifter's chest. From this position, the dinosaur drives the bar up and back to arm's length overhead. In the squat, a dinosaur carefully wedges himself under the bar (which rests on pins set at parallel or slightly above) and then drives up to the standing position. It is much, much more difficult to do your squats and benches in this fashion--which is precisely why dinosaurs do them this way.
Dinosaurs like to lift heavy, awkward objects--logs, barrels and heavy sand bags. Anvils are also great. Any big slab of stone--any enormous log--any heavy steel barrel--any heavy bag of sand or lead shot-will be a dinosaur's delight. Why? Because lifting heavy, awkward objects builds muscle in ways that barbells cannot duplicate. If you don't believe this, take the strongest guy you know and see how he does at cleaning and pressing a 150 pound water filled barrel, or a 200 pound bag of sand. Ask him to shoulder a 250 pound barrel or a 250 pound bag of sand. Both of you will be astonished at how quickly and thoroughly a heavy bag or barrel can humble even a strong man.
Dinosaurs are very aggressive when they train. They battle the weights. They don't merely lift the bar, they murder it inch by inch. They view training as personal combat. "Me against the bar. No quarter asked, and none given." The rest of the world can combine their exercising with socializing, political debate, idle gossip, chit-chat, shooting the breeze, and trying to score with members of the opposite sex. That doesn't bother a dinosaur. Dinosaurs intuitively understand that the gym is the place for one thing and one thing only: ferocious, brutal, backbreaking, mind-numbing savage training.
Most dinosaurs train in home gyms, They are the “cellar-dwellers," and proud of it. The idiocy of the modern gym scene is sheer torture for them. The modern mess causes them deep and unrelenting torment. They MUST stay away from the nonsense and the silliness or it will destroy them. They have to retreat to their subterranean hideaways and escape the madness of the modern muscle scene. But don't let any of that fool you. Contrary to what the gym chains would have you believe, the strongest people who train with weights are the ones who train in basic, almost primitive home training quarters. The average results of the cellar-dwellers are so far ahead of the average results of the chrome and fern denizens that a comparison would be laughable. Don't think a dinosaur is a weakling because he trains at home--he might very well surprise you.
Dinosaurs don't follow the crowd. Period. Little boys need peer approval. Little boys need a constant barrage of ego pumping from Madison Avenue. Little boys need constant reassurance that they are "doing it right." Modern trainees cannot do anything unless they do it with the rest of the crowd.
Dinosaurs do it with iron, sweat, blood, toil, and grim determination. It takes character, conviction, courage and strength of mind to lift heavy weights on a regular, sustained basis over a period of years. It takes the same qualities to turn your back on the type of training that everyone else does and train like a dinosaur. Dinosaurs don't NEED peer approval. If they seek any sort of approval, it is the approval they would receive from the MASTERS of the Iron Game if they were present at the dinosaur's training session: Harold Ansorge, Thomas Inch, Apollon, Arthur Saxon, John Y. Smith, Herman Goerner, Louis Cyr, Doug Hepburn, Bob Peoples, William Boone, George Hackenschmidt, Peary Rader, Joe Hise, John McCallum, John Davis, Norb Schemansky and dozens of others too numerous to mention.
Dinosaurs compete with the greats of the past. A dinosaur can tell you exactly how HIS squat compares to that of Milo Steinbom, exactly how HIS bench press compares to that of John Davis and exactly how HIS reverse curl with a three inch bar compares to that of Clevio Massimo.
In short, dinosaurs have the courage--and it DOES take courage--to say "no" to all of the modern bull crap that passes for training advice in today's computerized, televised, homogenized and lobotomized society.
DARE TO JOIN US
Dinosaurs do not fit into the world of modern weight training. We are fossils--relics from a bygone era. The glitz and glitter of the modern muscle mags is not for us. The politics (on stage and off stage, board room and bed room) that control bodybuilding contests hold no interest whatsoever for us. Drug bloated “champions" do nothing for us. We turn our backs on the modern mess. We go back to an earlier era--and a better one--an age when men had honest muscles, honestly developed. We leave the rest of the world to continue its insanity. We realize we are a dying breed, that our numbers are few, that our numbers will always be few, that very few kindred spirits will ever join us and that we can never be more than an island of sanity in a sea of nonsense. We are the dinosaurs. Dare to join our ranks.
There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world.- and that is an idea whose time has come.