NATURALSTRENGTH.com – Old School Weight Training Strength Strongman Power Vintage Bodybuilding: Muscular Weight


By the Spring of 1981, Strength and Health magazine had seen its best days ( the magazine would fold five years later) but it was still capable of putting out some quality articles.  The May 1981 edition certainly qualifies as one of the “good ones.”  

     To begin with, Bob Hoffman’s editorial was devoted to the brand new Weightlifting Hall of Fame at York’s new headquarters, located on Interstate 83.  When this issue was initially published, the museum hadn’t yet opened, but you could feel the anticipation and excitement while reading through Bob’s  editorial.  As someone who has visited the Hall of Fame on several occasions, I can tell you that it is all that it is cracked up to be.  Every person who has “hoisted the steel” should make a pilgrimage to York Barbell.  It’s even more imperative than ever to get over there because I have heard from several people that there is a major overhaul planned for the Hall of Fame.  It seems that in order to generate more interest among the general public, the museum plans on concentrating more on marketable subjects like Hugh Jackman and Sylvester Stallone, and others like them.  What a shame!  I would hate to think that the legacies of athletes like Dave Sheppard, Tommy Kono, and John Davis will be replaced by a bunch of actors.  Hopefully, the “powers that be” will reconsider such a shameful attempt to “modernize” a hallowed place like the York Hall of Fame.  Some things should be left well enough alone.  Why sell out to a bunch of people who could never hold a candle to the likes of Grimek and Davis.

     Speaking of John Grimek, the May 1981 issue of S&H includes a fine article written by the “Monarch of Muscle” himself.  “Muscular Weight: Some Gain It, Some Don’t.  How About You?”  What’s interesting is that the subject of gaining muscular bodyweight is, has been, and always will be one of the most important topics among those who take up weight training.  Some things never change, and I don’t suppose interest in getting bigger and stronger will ever diminish.  

     “Why do some individuals begin to show impressive gains in just a matter of weeks while others fail to show any improvement?”  This is the question that Mr. Grimek asked at the beginning of the article.  It is perfectly normal for someone who begins to lift weights to question himself, as well as the methods he is utilizing.  The important thing is to not become discouraged.  For most people, results do not come overnight.  Even if you are seemingly stuck in a rut, if you stick to your program and keep going, according to Grimek, you are “probably causing some vital changes to be brought about within your body.”  

     Perhaps the biggest mistake most trainees make is trying to copy the training routine of an experienced lifter or, worse, the steroid-fueled bodybuilders featured in most of the muscle magazines.  By continually trying to follow a so-called advanced routine, a beginner will be subjecting his/her body to too much work.  Too many sets, too much weight, and most importantly, not sufficient recovery between workouts.  This sort of condition is not limited to beginners.  Drug-free lifters who try to follow routines used by steroid users will suffer the same consequences.  

     “Common sense dictates that when one continually does more than he can recover from, he is not going to achieve results.”  You could possible say that these are the foundations of abbreviated training, but I think it goes back before that time.  But it’s interesting to know that over forty years ago, the legendary John Grimek was urging readers to cut down on their training in order to recuperate sufficiently.  

     Doing more exercises and training longer hours in NOT the answer.  For most drug-free lifters, this should be common sense.  Unfortunately, as we have learned, common sense is not always very common.  Adequate rest between workouts is vital to all lifters, but especially for those who want to increase the muscular bodyweight naturally.  Training every day is definitely something to be avoided.  And by all means, do not subscribe to the ridiculous idea of training “bodyparts” on separate days.  Bodypart training was developed by steroid users because it is only by using artificial strength aids that you can lift heavy every day. Don’t follow a misguided routine simply because a steroid-bloated druggie trains that way.   

     The “Monarch of Muscledom” goes on to describe another obstacle in the quest for more muscular size.  Performing too many exercises in a workout.  “You should provide only as much work as your body can totally recover from without experiencing any prolonged fatigue.”  How much is too much?  That is a question that each individual must answer for themselves.  But according to Mr. Grimek, the absolute maximum number of exercises to be performed is ten.  Here is where I might have to disagree.  I think most drug-free lifters can benefit from less than that and still build impressive size and strength.  I remember years ago, that Larry “Bruno” Licandro once went an entire Summer doing only three movements- Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift- to the exclusion of all other movements.  Naturally, Larry was competing in powerlifting at the time, but so it should come as no surprise that these are the exercises that he chose to do.  What’s interesting is that Larry gained weight on this routine, in addition to improving his competitive lifts.  I’ve always been a believer in the value of “assistance exercises” for the three lifts, but Larry’s progress by doing nothing but the lifts themselves proves that you can make great gains by just doing the lifts.  The key is that Larry listened to his body and was able to determine that such training would work for him.  

     It should be clear that the biggest obstacle to gaining muscular weight, insofar as training is concerned, is doing too much and not allowing your body to adequately recover from your workouts.  

     There is a way to determine if your workouts are productive and beneficial, and Mr. Grimek provides an answer that is- or should be- utilized by everyone who trains.  Chart your recovery.  The only way to do this is to keep a training notebook or journal and keep track of your workouts.  This is the best way to measure your progress, and make no mistake, that is the goal of all trainees.  PROGRESSIVE resistance means just that.  By keeping track of the exercises you do, the sets, reps, and poundages, you will be able to easily measure the productivity of your workouts.  Some people like to keep track of things such as food intake, resting heart rate, and other things, and if you want to be especially thorough, then by all means go the extra yard.  But for most trainees, just being able to see the weekly poundage progression is enough.  

     If, after looking at your training records, you find yourself stagnating, or if the weights seem heavy, then you should re-evaluate what you’re doing.  Cut back on your exercises or sets, or give yourself extra rest days between workouts.  Listening to your body and heeding the warning signs of overtraining are important factors in getting bigger and stronger.  Obviously, patience plays a role in size and strength, too.  A few years ago, I wrote an article about persistence in training.  If you train hard, progressively, and persistently then you will achieve your goals.  

     The methods of gaining muscular weight as described by Mr. Grimek are nothing new under the sun.  In fact, these ideas were not new forty-two years ago when this article first appeared.  People have been gaining muscular size and strength since the invention of barbells and dumbbells, but every once in a while it good to receive a reminder, and I can’t think of a better person to remind us of how to do it than John Grimek.  Especially in light of the fact that in a few days – June 17th– will mark the 113th anniversary of the birth of the legendary Monarch of Muscledom.



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