Basics are still the best

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Recently, I read an article in Men’s Journal. The article is about fitness and the author’s attempt to find what real fitness was. He’d been suckered into the world of complicated and relatively ineffective means; things like stability balls and light weights for moderate repetitions, and the belief that aerobic fitness is the king of physical abilities. He’d fallen prey to the human need to over-complicate issues. When he found a trainer who used classic forms of strength training–deadlifts, squats, bench press, pushups and pullups–the author found out just how weak he was. Doing squats with 30 lb dumbells while balanced on a rubber ball had not made him strong.

Strong--Arthur Saxon, The Iron Master, would swat Cross-Fitters and metro gym rats away like flies.
Not Strong--Off to the gym for an hour of balance boards, and 15 lb, rubber coated weights. Then it's time to get his ass kicked by my sister.

There are few magic short cuts. You cannot fake the intensity required to build strength, just as in life, it’s only difficulty that makes you better. Read all the self-help books you want, but in my experience, it works like this: stress; recovery; super-compensation; the ability to handle more stress. You must introduce more stress in order to stimulate adaption. Whatever kinds of stress you should introduce are  dependant on your goals.

The author, in ending, comes to the conclusion that strength is in fact the key factor in true fitness. Even in his 40s, he ends up benching, squatting and deadlifting more than he ever had before. He’d never performed a deadlift before his recent transformitory routine. He looks 10 years younger than when he began the classic training. Want to get old quick? Just get weak and you’re that much closer to death. Control the feedback loop; old people are weak, therefore, by getting strong you slow the aging process.And as he points out, he can now have some damn respect for himself as a man. No more rubber balls, girlie weights, elliptical machines. All he did was increase slightly the weight lifted in each exercise on each day that he lifted. He kept his reps to 5, since this allowed him to use heavier weights. He’d try to get in 3 sets, and would take 2 days off between workouts. So he may begin a  day with 185 on bench press, do a set, then add weight, until he could no longer do 5 reps in a set, trying to end the day with more than he did in the last workout.

I first learned the power of uber simple routines after I read Power To The People, by Pavel Tsatsouline. Using that program, I was able to deadlift 485 lbs at only 175. Enough to probably win a state, drug-free,  championship had I entered. I’d added in some kettlebell lifting but that was it.

Whatever your fitness goals, I strongly recommend introducing some basic, old-school strength training to your routine. Many of the old-time strongmen were capable of things no modern athlete is. Athletic feats so incredible that they seem absurd in their scope. Feats such as maintaining a hand-stand while jumping (on hands)  from 30 inch tables, one-arm hand-stands while holding a 100 lb dumbbell in the other hand, three-hour long wrestling matches, all-day wrestling competitions at local state fairs, in which star strongmen wrestled all-comers, the biggest and baddest that dared step in the ring–at a time when physical labor made everyone strong. One reason these men were capable of such feats is that they used heavy weights, something which is discouraged now. These men were stronger in their 70s than, I’d approximate, 90% of our current population.   In those days there were no fitness magazines. There was only experience which either made one stronger or did not. And the easiest way to get stronger is to continuously use heavier weights.

The metro-sexual movement didn’t just make  men more sensitive and spend more time on their hair. It made them weaker in more ways than one.

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One thought on “Basics are still the best

    Amos Volante said:
    November 14, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Amen!

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