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Multi-Poundage System

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Bodybuilding and Fitness Newsletter 3/30/2022

The Multi-Poundage System of Bodybuilding

by Henry J. Atkin

This article first appeared in the July/August 1949 issue of IronMan Magazine.

It all happened as a result of a broadcast to schools by an eminent professor who explained the physiological effect of muscular energy used against resistance and how a muscle became fatigued as a result of continued pressing and relaxing whilst in constant contact with resistance.

I disagreed with certain of his explanations and proceeded to prove my points by testing my own reaction and the reaction of selected pupils to the fatiguing of certain muscle groups. The broadcast was on a Friday morning. I made the test on Friday evening and proved myself correct.

During the next day (Saturday) I found my mind wandering back to theories regarding muscular fatigue as explained by several physiologists, including the broadcaster of the previous day. Now there are some bodybuilding authorities who insist that a muscle must never be fatigued in bodybuilding, and that exercising should be discontinued when it is felt that 3 or 4 further reps could be performed.

I have always felt that when performing 10, 15 or 20 reps, it was the last 3 in 10, the last 4 in 15, and the last 5 in 20 that had the greatest bodybuilding value, and that if one could perform those last few reps without the first reps that are normally performed easily, a much quicker result could be obtained with less work.

My discussions with physiologists, many of them famous, suggest to me that no one really knows what makes a muscle grow. We know, of course, that a muscle grows through exercises, but not what chemical reaction builds muscular tissue or increases the size of muscular fibers. It is fairly well established that the number of muscle fibers never increases - it is the increase in size of the fibres that develops muscular bulk.

One of the leading physiologists in this country recently made a series of tests on developing the muscles of rats. He anaesthetized these rats and at regular intervals sent electrical impulses through their systems. This caused muscles to react violently against one another without any movement of the limbs. In a short period of time, approximately one month, the muscular bulk of the rats had increased by a third. This is very interesting because it seems to bear out a theory of the experiments that muscular tissue is developed by isometric contraction. If this is so, it means that you can develop muscles by attempting to move unliftable weights far beyond your physical capacity. In fact to develop your biceps muscles, for an example, you can have a bar set into two concrete posts, then simply attempt to curl with the bar fixed in the appropriate central position of a normal curl, and by straining against the weight, develop the muscle. Such a theory as this is difficult for me to believe, but it will be put to the test at some date in the future, and I will inform readers of our findings (This has since been proven to be a VERY effective way to build muscle size and strength, especially when simply statically holding a heavy weight in one position.). Meanwhile I will get back to my explanation of the Multi-Poundage System.

As I explained earlier, I believe in using muscles until not another rep can be squeezed out of them. During the conflicting thought and theories that flashed through my brain on this Saturday, was a theory that maybe I could incorporate certain ideas of physiologists, regarding the building of muscular tissue, with theories of my own. "Wag" Bennett had asked if he could train at the club on the Sunday morning following. I had agreed that he could and decided that I would map out a special experimental program of training incorporating my new ideas. These ideas kept me awake most of Saturday night, and on Sunday morning I was so excited and confident of the scheme that I was unable to wait for "Wag" to arrive -I commenced experiments alone. This saved a certain amount of time, for when my training partner arrived I had decided the commencing poundage for us both on most exercises.

We commenced with the press on back with a poundage that we cold both normally perform about 7 reps. At the end of 5 reps, and without stopping - one 20 pound disc was removed from each end of the bar, making a total reduction of 40 pounds in the weight being used. It was then possible to perform another 6 reps. At the end of five of these, the weight was again reduced by 40 pounds, and it was found that another 5 or 6 reps could be performed, but with the last 2 reps, although the weight felt very light in the hands, great difficulty was experienced in locking the elbows because of the apparent chocking of the muscles with lactic acid. It was discovered that a slightly longer rest than normal was required between sets. At the end of 3 sets the pectoral muscles of the chest and the anterior deltoids really felt as though they had a terrific workout and were flushed with blood to the extent that they appeared abnormally large and very shapely.

From the press on back we proceeded to the standing curl, and we adopted the same procedure, but owing to the somewhat lighter weight being used the reductions were of 30 and 20 pounds (an approximate 20 percent reduction between each set seems to be ideal). Again we performed 3 sets of between 12 and 15 reps and again the muscles were worked as the had never been worked before. No matter what the poundage was for the various reduced reps, it always felt as heavy as the weight used for the previous reps. Consequently, we used what appeared to be maximum poundage all the time while performing 15 reps.

We then tried a similar test with the pulley-weight machine on latissimus developing. The reaction here was so unusual and the flushing of the muscles so extreme that I personally felt uncomfortable when trying to place my arms straight down the sides of my body.

From the pulleys we switched to the pullovers to arm's length on bench for triceps, performing 3 sets with a similar flushing reaction.

The deep knee bend proved the effect to be the same, and for our last exercise we performed the press behind neck seated. This was the toughest of all exercises, and although the weight was reduced by 20 per cent at the end of each 4 reps, great difficulty was experienced in completing 12.

The result of the first test of the new method of training was extremely exhilarating and gave as a new zest for bodybuilding. WE agreed to plan a schedule and practice it four nights a week for a month to see what sort of result could be obtained. At the time of writing we have completed three weeks with excellent results, but although the gains in muscular bulk have been good, the increased in strength have been remarkable. In the first fortnight of training we increased the poundages on the first few reps on press on back by 50 pounds, in the curl by 40 pounds, in the pullover to arm's length by 40 pounds and in the press behind beck by 30 pounds.

I have switched several of my pupils to this method of training on two or three exercises of their schedules. The results being obtained are excellent and prove that the system is efficient and effective. It will most likely prove too intense for newcomers to bodybuilding, but advanced men will find that they will get remarkable results from its practice. It takes an evening or two to get accustomed to knowing just when to reduce the weight; this should be when it is felt that another rep could be squeezed out.

The unfortunate part about the system is that on many exercises it is necessary to have one or two training partners working with you. This is possible in clubs and ideal where three men can work together - they can continue training and helping one another with just about the right amount of rest between sets - but the main training on his own at home would be restricted. Naturally, he would have no one to slide the weights off for him. One or two of the lads have overcome this in exercises such as the curl, in which they have lowered the bar to a bench, slipped the discs off quickly, and carried on with their reps with very little pause. In the dumbbell curl it is possible to put one pair of dumbbells down and pick up another pair immediately. On the press on back one is stymied unless one has someone to assist him.

Incidentally, I would point out here that it is extremely uncomfortable when handling heavy poundages on the press on back to have one end reduced in weight before the other - always try to whip them off quickly and together.

Three sets of 4 or 5 exercises with three men working take approximately 1 1/2 hours to perform. This is quite sufficient, and I would not recommend that anymore exercises. be used.

The feeling at the end of a workout, although you have been working to your maximum the whole time, is not one of unusual fatigue, buy rather a pleasant feeling of having really worked hard and gotten the best out of your program.

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