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Bill Starr I picked up Uncle Buddy at BWI Airport just after noon. He was flying in from an extended stay in Iceland. I’d been stationed there in the Air Force and was curious to know what he thought of the country and its people. “Hey, I liked it,” he said. “More than I thought I would. Went hiking in the mountains a couple of times and saw some of the most impressive scenery I’ve ever encountered in all my travels. Reykjavik is one of the cleanest cities I’ve ever been in: Even the air is clean. Went swimming in a huge pool heated by hot springs. The people were nice, at least to me. Drinking seems to be their favorite pastime, so I fit right in. Never saw people read so much. They read while they’re eating, riding in cars and buses—even when they’re walking. Bookstores on every corner. Everyone I met could speak at least three languages and some of them even more. Amazing.” “What did you think of the women?” Iceland is renowned for its beautiful women. I certainly saw plenty of stunning blonds on my trips to the capital, and Uncle Buddy has an eye for the ladies. “They’re fabulous,” he muttered in honest appreciation. “Kinda sorry I had to stay with just one of them.” I chuckled under my breath. His Icelandic sweetheart was a vision. I’d met her the year before when she came to Maryland for a visit. Face of a goddess, flawless milk colored skin, golden hair and athletic legs that ran up to her neck. A walking dream. Her first name was Anna, and her last I didn’t even try to pronounce. “Yeah,” I said with a laugh, “that must have been tough, having to spend all your time with someone who just stepped out of a Victoria’s Secret catalog.” That brought a hearty laugh from Uncle Buddy. “Guess it wasn’t all that bad, now that you mention it. The only drawback to the place was the price of food. A decent meal cost double what it would here.” “Is that why you lost weight?” He grinned. “Well, that and Anna. She sure is spunky. By the way, she has a sister who wants to meet you. I told her all about you. You’ll like her, trust me. She may be even prettier than Anna. Next time I go over there, why don’t you tag along?” My vivid imagination was working overtime. “How old is she?” “Kat, short for Katarina, is in her mid-40s, I think, but she looks more like she’s 30. A young 30.” “I’ll think about it,” I told him. In truth, I was ready to call my travel agent right away. “Planning on training today?” he asked as we neared Aberdeen.
” “Nah. squat rack and pulling station. and I haven’t moved any of my top-end numbers up at all.“I was. He’d do a set and then answer Lonnie. I wanna take you to the neat restaurant in Chesapeake City that looks out over the canal. we could finish before the crowd arrived at four o’clock. Not that I am complaining. In almost every case they brought me in not so much to educate their athletes as to reinforce what they’d been preaching for some time. My uncle did relish being the center of attention. Not having to deal with questions enabled me to concentrate on my training. Lonnie saw Uncle Buddy’s visit as a golden opportunity and started bombarding him with training questions. but if you want. and when the gym got busy. He knew that I had a key to the weight room in the old Aberdeen High School. Lonnie came in. “and things were moving along really well. They make great crab cakes. Even though I’d given Lonnie precisely the same ab routine. It was what Tommy Suggs and I dub the outside-expert syndrome. I just shook my head and loaded the bar on the squat rack. we were pleased to find the gym empty. But these last three weeks have been awful. coffee up and get to the gym before it gets packed. After shaking Uncle Buddy’s hand. which was to my advantage. On his last visit he’d given Lonnie a ton of information on how to get a sixpack. Training helps get the kinks out from sitting for so long.” At my apartment while the coffee brewed. “Good. incline bench.” Uncle Buddy declared. Uncle Buddy presented me with a flag of Iceland for my collection and a handsome sweater of Icelandic wool. I can wait until tomorrow. Lonnie beamed. “Could wash clothes on those abs. Uncle Buddy was delighted. I’m fine. My squat and bench have dropped back down. Our elation at having the gym all to ourselves was short-lived. Kenny’s been training with me and has the same problem. In case you’re worn out from traveling. If we hurried. except for one thing—he hated to pay to train. That was part of the reason he stayed with me when he was passing through. “I’ve been working out really hard for the past four months.” Uncle Buddy commented. Lonnie lifted his shirt and proudly displayed the results of his efforts. and I know that I won’t be getting any on the ship. He’d drive 50 miles and spend more on gas than the gym fee in order to lift for free. I’ve made a decent amount of money holding clinics for coaches in high schools over the years. and we set to work. he’d listened to my uncle because he was an outsider.” Lonnie told him. There was only one bench press. Before I finished my warm-ups. Let’s drop my stuff off at your place. there were long waits between sets.” “Sounds like a plan. Carrying mugs of extra-strong Chock Full o’Nuts. Any words of wisdom?” . He was extremely generous.
Lots of times it’s the length of time you hang around a gym that’s causing the tiredness. “On our squats and benches. when we do skip a workout. but those who make steady gains know how to deal with the situation.” “Well. “Light days help the body recuperate. . When you determine that you’re really fatigued from a workout. don’t skip the next one. instead of doing three heavy work sets. You don’t lay off just because you’re tired. gone through a light workout and left feeling great?” “More times than I can remember. If you start skipping workouts every time you’re droopy. How many times have you walked in here sore to the touch. “If you’re planning to hit the gym three times a week. tendons and ligaments as well as the vital organs— not to the same extent as a strenuous workout but a lot more than laying off would. All trainees of every strength level have days when they feel like something the cat dragged in. The light day is what makes the program work. Of course. not your program itself. frowning darkly. rip through it and get on out of here. our lifts start to suffer. do whatever it takes to get in here.” “How’re you going about increasing your workload?” “By doing more heavy sets.“Have you been increasing your workload?” Uncle Buddy asked. but you get the idea.” “How’s that?” asked Lonnie. “here’s lesson number one. Nothing is more important. make that workout a light day. “Yeah. you’re never going to make any significant strength gains. A cornerstone of success in strength training and bodybuilding is consistency. Just make some adjustments. and that’s our main problem. On more than one occasion I’ve done three workouts back-to-back on three consecutive days. We were so fatigued that we decided it would be best if we took a few days off to help us recover.” Lonnie admitted. we tried doing five. the best deal is to be consistent with an excellent program. it’s always a light day.” Lonnie answered. Keep in mind that you don’t have to take a day off between workouts. Missing workouts can turn into a bad habit. carrying nutrients to the muscles.” Uncle Buddy began in a stern tone.” “What adjustments?” “When you come to the gym and know you’re off. never a heavy one. Another good idea is to set up a circuit.” “Didn’t that wear you out?” “Not as much as you might think. The exercise flushes blood through the body. We just can’t recover from the added work. I’m not sold on how important a light day is anyhow. The middle day was always a light day. You’ll make more progress using a poor routine and being consistent than using a great routine and being inconsistent.” “Whoa! You’re wrong about that big time. but it was too much. Every time we try to add more work. “Okay.
“That light day adds to your weekly workload. drop back to 315 or even 295 and knock out as many reps as you can. until you’ve built a really strong base. That’s considerably less than what I use on my other two days. perform most of the effort. They just get more fatigued.” “All right. I know that when I miss a workout. of course. if you keep pounding away at the attachments with multiple heavy sets. You can knock out lots of reps. which shouldn’t be that hard. they’re not going to get any stronger. you’ve added a ton and a half to your workload. So how can we keep adding to our workload if we can’t deal with those extra sets?” “There are several ways. Just on the medium and heavy days. If you can do a dozen with 295. after you do your top weight for five. Then add a small amount of weight. and I can’t seem to get in a rhythm nearly as well. but you’re not in that class yet. That is. but you can work your legs on the machines and add to your weekly load. If I skipped the light day and tried to make up that lost tonnage on my heavy and medium days. They aren’t nearly as stressful as heavy topend sets. I go up to 257 for three sets of five on the squat. are what you’re after. Start with just one back-off set of 10 to 12 reps. I think one set is enough. The tendons and ligaments take longer than muscles to recover.” “You said there were several ways to add to our workloads without getting overtrained. fives or less. short and sweet. staying with the same weight until you reach 20. The reps. but it’s dropped back to 400. are you?” “No.” “Another way. it’d be too much. More is usually too much. “They won’t because your muscles are doing the bulk of the work on the high-rep sets. Back-off sets are good.” “What if the back-off sets start tapping into our next squat sessions?” “Trust me.” “Should I add back-off sets at every workout?” “Not on your light day.” Uncle Buddy answered. and they really do add up. You should be in and out of here in 20 minutes—30. Advanced strength athletes like international Olympic and power lifters can get away with doing multiple sets with heavy weights. rather than the muscles. for example.” Uncle Buddy told Lonnie. Besides. the bar feels relatively light. not the weight. and since you’ve already handled heavier poundages. Three sets of . “is to do a fourth workout during the week. Makes sense. and you don’t want that. When you do lower reps. tops. Slowly increase them. What’s your best five in the squat right now?” “I was up to 415. except for very advanced lifters. adductors and maybe leg extensions and leg curls. Come in on Tuesdays and do calf raises.” “You’re not saying that we should squat four days a week.” “I see what you mean. yet those three sets—along with my warmups— add up to more than two tons. Reps are a good way of increasing workload without putting too much stress on your joints. On my light day. your attachments. the next time I come in here the weights feel heavier. and that’s what you have to keep track of if you want to get stronger. That will be a really light day.
One other thing you need to realize as you get stronger: It’s all right to become overtrained. Sometimes the only reason people get overtrained is that they’re not getting enough sleep.” Lonnie said. A half mile isn’t at all taxing and sets them up nicely for their next serious run.” . I’ve found that it’s helpful in the long run for me to pull back on my workload every few months. pull back a bit.” I said. On his off days he’d do a series of deltoid and triceps exercises with dumbbells at home. “That’s a good idea. With some coffee. When you decide you’re overtrained.” “Even though it’s a very short session. even when I don’t think I’m doing too much. “I lifted heavy yesterday. “When that happens. the light exercises will take the soreness out of your legs after the heavy session the day before. seeing that Uncle Buddy was about to leave. You could also use the extra day to hit some muscle groups that you’ve been wanting to hit but can’t include in your regular workouts. the numbers add up. Over the course of a month he added thousands of pounds to his workload.” Uncle Buddy looked my way. and not for very long. So they slip in a half mile run on their off days. you’ll have plenty of juice for a good workout. just not for an extended period of time. And get some extra rest when you’re feeling overly tired. John Gourgott used to do. That’s what Dr. Just wanted to get some blood flowing.” Uncle Buddy did a set of inclines. nephew?” “Overtraining means you’re not recovering properly. the brief change helps. Protein does wonders for recovery. it’s necessary. “I’m finished. Up your intake of vitamins C and E. Still. In fact. “Training at home on off days is an excellent way to up your volume. Uncle Buddy concurred. Just be sure to keep the workouts short. “I have some equipment in my garage. start drinking a protein milk shake right after you finish working out. “It’s not always easy for me to make it in here four times a week. and move your workload back up slowly. though. “Think of anything else. In fact. It’s like runners who want to add to their weekly mileage but know that extending their training runs will be too much.” “I’ve been wanting to do some biceps and triceps exercises. Otherwise you’ll never know your limitations. I answered the question.30 on the calf machines and a couple of sets of 20 on the others aren’t going to tap into your reserves.” Finishing his set.” “Anything else?” Lonnie asked anxiously. Couldn’t I just do the extra workout there?” Since Uncle Buddy was straining to get a few more reps. and pop a few high-potency B-vitamins an hour before you train. I don’t pull back much. but I’m always out of gas after I do the basic stuff.” he announced. Being overtrained for a short period is okay.
My thoughts weren’t on training but rather on an island in the North Atlantic. . We said quick good-byes so as not to get caught up in extended conversation. On the ride to my apartment Uncle Buddy was charged up from the exercise and his spirited lecture to Lonnie. “When do you think you’ll be going back to Iceland?” I asked. In response.Members started arriving. Uncle Buddy let out a booming laugh. He loved being the expert.
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