Sensible Training - A Logical Approach to Size and Strength by Dr. Ken E.


Preface by Rob Spector Reading this article which was published about 25 years ago, it is interesting to note that things are the same now, as they were 25 years ago. Some of the anecdotes you might say to yourself "hey, that sounds like so-and-so". Ironic that after all these years, IMO things have gotten *more* confusing in strength training. It seems that people for whatever reasons, have made things much more complicated than what they really are. But enough of my commentary, it is just my opinion and only that. With all the numerous changes that have taken place in the field of weight training over the years it has never been truer that "the more things change the more they remain the same". Armed with the accurate information collected over the years it is possible for anyone to improve their strength, their muscular endurance (to a certain extent), their cardiovascular endurance, and their appearance (a subjective evaluation) if the interested party is willing to take the brief time necessary to analyze the conditions necessary for inducing muscular growth stimulation. The requirements haven't changed over the years, and the nonsense put forth by the commercially interested and biased parties hasn't changed either. But most importantly, the irrational approach taken towards training hasn't changed a great deal either, and has prevented the vast majority of weight trainees from reaping even a small portion of the possible benefits made available by the use of the barbell. Robert Sizer, a former pro-football player, All-American at Richmond University and at one time the most outstanding high school football player in the state of Virginia, was perhaps the first successful athlete in the area to pursue weight training in an attempt to improve his athletic ability at a time that this was believed to make one "musclebound", slow and uncoordinated. Sizer was an 180lb offensive lineman, that by accounts was stronger and faster than most men weighing 250lbs at the time. At 15 YEARS OF AGE he could squat with 450 lbs (for reps), and bench press 420 lbs. Sizer trained with a barbell fashioned out of concrete wheels that his father made for him. In the beginning he admitted he didn't really know what he was doing. "All" he did was train hard and brief with heavy weights on the major exercises. Remarked Sizer: "Unfortunately, as I became exposed to more people who were involved with training, I left my old methods behind and became bogged down in a progress- stifling method, or more accurately, methods of training...No one showed me how to train; I just went at it like I did everything else, and the hard work on each and every set brought results. But when I saw the other fellows doing things a bit differently, I adopted many of their techniques, not to my benefit". The point? There are basic considerations one has to take into account when inducing muscular growth stimulation, and this, of course, is the whole point of utilizing weights. Some of the necessary conditions that must be met for optimal results are: - using heavy movements over a full range of motion - continuing every set of every exercise to a point of momentary but complete muscular failure - using "basic" exercises, i.e, compound movements that work the major muscular structures of the body, like the squat. - training at a

" he said. using approximately 300lbs. was the proper way to train . and he finally consented. It is much easire to perform 4 sets of 8 reps of a particular movement than it is to complete one set *correctly*." the body's defense mechanisms made it almost impossible to bring about injury by training "too hard. "Well. "But.but that he preferred an admittedly improper training method because it was "easier". thankfully) with one of the leading bodybuilders in the United States. There is no way to gauge the amount of effort being put forth unless one goes to the point of failure. for example. Carrying an exercise to the point of momentary but complete failure ensures that one is training at a point of greatest possible intensity (assuming that the trainee is putting forth effort and "not going through the motions" and thus "failing" long before reaching a point of actual muscular failure). and result-producing)." Indeed.limiting the amount of work done . using a weight." I said. We then did standing presses and chins. thanks for the time you gave me.level of maximum intensity . and he completed 18 reps. as a heavy weight will pull the involved bodyparts into a fully extended position at the beginning of the movement and will also provide "prestretching" of that involved muscle.ensuring that the exercise is truly progressive Much of this is so obvious that it needs no further explanation. The only way to produce maximum possible increases in muscle tissue mass is by the production of maximum power. Common sense would indicate that if one is training at the proper level of intensity. He further admitted that he thought that I was correct . growth will be retarded. The result? He called me the next day to tell me that he was very sore but that he was going to return to his prior method of training because "your way is just too hard". I recently had the "pleasure" of training (for only one session. This was followed by a set of full squats. I'll just stick to what I'm doing. correct. I explained that while the human body could be damaged by doing "too much work. (And I should of course point out that "my way" of training is not really *my* way. and he did manage to go to a point of failure. *if* you trained even that hard. using a fairly light weight (approx. doing 15 reps in proper form to a point where it is momentarily impossible to move the barbell with the involved bodypart. it is only by working this hard that one can engage the maximum possible amount of muscle fibers. and he terminated the set long before his strength had been taxed. without such a basic understanding the trainee will not be able to formulate a program that will bring results in a manner that is proportionate with the effort expended.providing the necessary requirements for growth to occur . hey. It is now apparent that the most important requirement for inducing maximum growth is intensity. that 100% of momentary possible effort was put forth. 185 lbs). You'll regurgitate or faint before you cause any real damage to the body. if not impossible. I convinced him to try "my way" of doing things. They are afraid of working as hard as is actually required. although he did take momentary "breaks" during the sets to complain that the "weight is just too light to feel so heavy" and other such gems of wisdom. simply. This can only be done by utilizing exercises that engage as much of the particular mass as is possible.trainng to failure. Many trainees fear this. I coaxed him through a set of leg presses. and thus they often return to their prior methods of training improperly. I've just had the sense to utilize what is rational. any weight that would allow a reasonable number of repetitions. I had nothing whatsoever to do with the development of such common sense principles. but considering the almost unbelievable amount of false information available. much more growth stimulation will occur if the exercise is carried out over as great a range as is possible. This also assists in the development of increased flexibility. That implies. Also. And while it is almost impossilbe to engage 100% of the available fibers. And unless this maximum amount of fibers is worked. an increased . and only when working over a full range of possible motion.

Their ability to recover has been depleted. most trainees rarely make any attempt to actually have progressive and productive workouts. Each of these factors is important. Yet many trainees train four. but not so extensively as to deplete a very definite (but unknown) amount of recovery ability. including the full squat. amoung others. This isn't the case. five. Many have a great deal of athletic ability and fine. yet it is so often. performed in proper style. Muscles work in conjunction with each other. A secondary growth effect occurs when the major muscle masses are worked. and until that ability is restored. an indefinable something. And for some extreme cases. the system will not be able to provide the necessary factors for growth. no amount of additional work will induce muscular increases. My brother put the finger on it when he observed. that wasn't "right" about a number of bodybuilders who trained in the gym where I also trained. if not always overlooked. You must work hard enough to induce growth. I had assumed that one could discern individual muscles.amount of work would be neither desirable nor possible. If one were to add 5 lbs to the barbell every two or three workouts. In addition to inducing growth stimulation. taken to a point of momentary failure. And how many sets of full squats... Thus training must be limited to no more than three days/week and in some cases only two/week. and a number of psychological variables such as motivation. After reading GRAY'S ANATOMY and seeing a number of anatomy charts. (More on the selection of exact exercises. training once per week will serve to induce maximal amounts of growth. a harmonious look. Thus the greatest possible growth will occur if movements are employed that will engage the major muscular structures of the body. but the total picture looks awkward-no grace. do you think you could perform in a single workout? How many such sets would you *want* to perform? Thus it becomes obvious that the amount of work must be limited. etc.) One such man was an advanced trainee (in the sense that he had been training a number of years and had won a number of local physique titles). These include sleep. resistance to pain and "psyching up".. it becomes obvious why so many years of medical training are necessary to figure the entire mystery out. he was missing a certain athletic quality." The point had been made. One can train properly in that all exercises are performed in correct style. I realized that there was something. with the same weight one used in the preceding workout. nutrition. or add another repetition. no glow. but if too much work is done. ONE set of 15-20 reps in the full squat. (This is not to be misconstrued as a criticism of all bodybuilders. Why so-called compound movements? Before I actually knew anything about proper training (and this is not to imply that I know even a fraction of what there is to know now). Though the term "progressive exercise" has been used as a catchall to describe weight training activities. six and sometimes even more per week. One also walks a very thin line in inducing muscular growth. Furthermore. However. The "theory" is so logical as to be almost ridiculous. later). greatest growth stimulation will come by working the largest muscles in the body. will do more for building the strength and size of the involved muscles than any such number of improperly performed sets of any other leg exercises. The human body's muscular structures are such that I was amazed at the first autopsy I witnessed. He's all there. . They are so interbound and interwoven. no. big and all. Athletes who are preparing for a season of activity will express surprise that they progressed little while lifting weights three or four days per week. other factors are necessary for increasing the amount of muscle tissue mass. done as described. "He looks like a bunch of bodyparts pasted together. and the statement that the "small muscles will take care of themselves if you work the big ones" is true because of this effect. running distance and sprints on their "off" days and practicing the skills needed for their particular activity an additional two or three times per week. athletic-appearing physiques. performed with proper form and done until the trainee can no longer rise from the full squat position.

15-20 reps 2) Pullovers . Some are more result-producing than others. heavy chairs or parallel bars for the purpose of performing parallel bar dips. and if you are working properly. it is possible to construct a sensible weight-training program.10 reps 4) Chins . Arthur Jones stated that. standing presses. but the standing press develops these muscles as well or better (better being defined as more quickly. Certainly never more than three. and some are also less dangerous. "then his arms will be as large as they need to be for any possible purpose connected with any sport just short of wrestling bears".I mean awfully big? And strong?" Obviously! Knowing the basic considerations. curling 200 for 10 reps. shrugs and situps. and chinning with 100 pounds. adding another repetition. feel free to do so. one that will serve almost anyone's purpose. the curl grip gives a higher order of work to the biceps and a greater range of movement to the latissimus muscles. as does the parallel bar dip.15 reps How many sets of each exercise? One. pressing 200 for 10 resp. However. don't you think you would be big . I am fond of telling doubting trainees that it's just a matter of always adding weight to the bar. if you care to do bench presses or presses behind the neck in a standing position. it will add variety to the program. substitute the regular deadlift on occasion. bent. fine. There are no bench presses recommended. but bear in mind that the stiff-legged deadlift gives the spinal erectors and biceps femoris more direct work than the regular . as the system would be constantly exposed to an ever-increasing load. pullovers on a bench. This is progression. a squat rack (or some type of high stand that can be used to support a barbell). an overhead bar (or pipe) for the purpose of chinning and two pipes. This sums up progression pretty well. stiff-legged deadlifting 400 lbs for 15 reps. one set of most of these exercises should be more than enough for anyone. Why are these exercises chosen as opposed to some others? Very frankly. parallel bar dips.over rowing motions. every few workouts.) A very productive program would look like this: 1) Full Squats . "If you could get to the point where you're squatting 400lbs for 20 reps. I will discuss the choice of the actual exercises. Perhaps you can alternate pressing movements every few weeks. However. The abdominals will receive quite enough work during the performance of other exercises. You will never suffer from lack of variety. every other workout. personal preference has much to do with this.10 reps 5) Dips . If more equipment is available. with the production of more power or work during an actual repetition of the exercise). But more equipment is not necessary to build one to his maximum possible size and strength. Contrary to popular belief the bench press is not a very good exercise for the development of the pectoral muscles. with curls as the example when it is possible for a trainee to curl 200 lbs in good form *without* body swing.12 reps 6) Barbell Curls . (I include this exercise only as a means of covering the entire body. more directly. to further clarify matters. The best exercises for the major musculature structures of the body are full squats.10 reps 3) Standing Presses .15 reps 8) Stiff-Legged Deadlifts . some considerations may clarify my prejudices. Two. The available equipment should include a barbell.growth would occur (assuming that all other previously mentioned factors were taken into consideration and those considerations met). doing 10 dips with 300 lbs around your waist. barbell curls. Why chins with palms facing (curl grip)? While some prefer chins to a behind-the-neck position with a palms-pronated grip. Why stiff-legged deadlifts as opposed to regular deadlifts or cleans? Again. However. chins with the palms facing you. It is fairly good for the development of the anterior deltoid and triceps.10 reps 7) Shrugs . stiff-legged deadlifts.

two the following week. I repeated that perhaps his arms were as large as they were going to be in muscular condition. I pointed this out and told him that his arms had been larger then. a number of years prior to our conversation. Complexly so. Obviously there is room for deviation in the choice of exercises. We spoke: "I haven't really been doing too well lately. They feel safer looking endlessly for secrets.deadlift. he trained in a gym with a current Mr. "I won't accept that. most trainees do not want to hear the simple truth. Unfortunately. "[blank] suggested that I do more chest work. at his present bodyweight. but one most often denied). while valuable for some purposes. as had the rest of his muscular structures. After speaking with him for a few moments. and due to the speed of movement it places unnecessary demands on the connective tissue of the involved bodyparts. Perhaps three workouts one week. For some." he said. the basic routine should be utilized with little alteration. is not necessary for the development of the muscles in question. and other hereditary factors. If the precepts put forth here seem simple. use dumbbells instead of a barbell. length of muscle. "I'm tired of changing my routine every week. An example? I was in a very well equipped athletic training center in Minnesota a few months ago and was approached by a young man of approximately 25 years of age. I noticed that they were fairly large already and remarked that perhaps they were as big as they would ever get. They have to get bigger!" As it was.almost anything other than admitting that they are not willing to work *hard* enough for the results they desire (a rather common condition actually." he said. he refused to train his legs and lower back as "I think those parts are already big enough. in muscular condition. This athlete had been an outstanding player at a small Midwestern college but had been released by the professional club. it will probably along the lines of reducing the amount of work being done. Universe titleholder. "But I was fat at that weight. The "power clean"." I suggested he stop wasting his time and perhaps attempt a routine very . it is only because they are. One can at times substitute one pressing movement for another. are helpless in approaching their training and yet are perfectly willing to pursue a course that is unproductive for years). miracle potions . successful in their professions. I recalled that I had instructed him in the use of proper exercise style while working with one of the [now defunct] World Football League teams. Unfortunately." This was a well-educated young man who had "been around" was doing graduate work in a related field (related to weight training) and yet displayed a somewhat less than rationale attitude to his training. Any time that progress is not forthcoming analyze your approach and if any changes need to be made. moderately successful in physique competition and. (It does constantly amaze me. However. How often should one train with this program? A maximum of three times weekly. when initially beginning his weight training activities fairly strong (as evidenced by a bench press of a single rep of close to 400lbs). though. One more example? A former lacrosse and football player who had been. "Well they were once alot bigger. two sessions a week will provide the necessary stimulation without exceeding the recovery ability." He told me that he weighed approximately 25 lbs more at that time than he did presently. etc." he said. I want my arms to be bigger. how many persons. "intelligent" in other areas. It is expected that the intelligent individual will be able to discern for himself what is necessary. as all the major muscular structures of the body will receive maximal growth stimulation (and if previously mentioned points are taken into consideration). considering his height. etc. There must be some answer.

bodybuilder with some titles] told me that I didn't need to do any really heavy movements for development. "But Frank [blank. "You mean to tell me that after 10 YEARS of fairly continuous training." He was college-educated. If I could just win one contest it would have been worthwhile"." I was incredulous. As Bob Sizer remarked: "If I would have know what proper training consisted of. that's your limit? You're using 1/4 the weight you used 8 years ago. "Well. and highly successful at his chosen profession." I merely told him to look at the workout that he had just taken. 30 lb dumbbells for his pressing and similar weights for the remainder of the routine. He agreed and struggled through it. I don't know.similar to the one outlined above. I would have taken everything to failure. Even at my age." was his response. you ought to let it go and concentrate on becoming a millionaire. if someone would have been there to show me. It's for Bob Sizer and the many people like him that this article was written." He smiled. compare the results of his efforts over the previous 10 years of training. was in possession of two advanced graduate degrees. Rational? What is too high a price to pay? It wouldn't be as absurd as it is if all of the wasted effort wasn't totally unnecessary. and evaluate the validity of his method. . would have done a few basic exercises and probably would still be playing football. "I know I'm having trouble believing it myself. using 150 lbs for 12 squats. "If this is the result of so-called proper training.