History of Powerlifting, Weightlifting and Strength Training – Number 26

Posted by in Dr Ken Leistner on July 1, 2014 Comments off

The Philosophy of Abbreviated Routines.

One of the long standing debates running through the powerlifting community was noted in a Powerlifting USA Magazine monthly column of mine many, many years ago. I discussed the use of what I termed “an abbreviated routine,” one that consisted of limited exercises and volume. On one side of what has at times been a contentious argument, are those that believe that abbreviated routines will only work for a drug free lifter. The reasoning is that without drugs, one cannot “stand” a great deal of very hard, stimulating work and will be unable to efficiently recover workout to workout or week to week throughout the course of a pre-contest preparation cycle or long term training cycle to receive much benefit. A drug free lifter will only, some think, be able to benefit from a limited amount of hard, heavy lifting.

The other side of that coin is that an abbreviated routine will only work well for a lifter who is using anabolic steroids and/or other performance enhancing drugs. These individuals believe that curtailed volume, frequency, and numbers of specific exercises may provide a minimal amount of total-inflating stimulation but drug use insures that it is in fact, “enough” and if one were to go all out on an extended program while using drugs, they would quickly overtrain or become injured. From my perspective, both interpretations are limited because my philosophy of training is built around extremely hard and demanding work. Common sense as well as some knowledge of human physiology dictates that extremely hard work and “a lot” of hard work are mutually exclusive. You can either have extremely hard work but you can’t have “a lot” of it, at least for an extended period of time or the average trainee will not make progress.

Rather than fall into the province of “less motivated” or “lazy” workouts, relatively abbreviated routines were very much the norm for vast numbers of powerlifters throughout the early days of the sport. The demands of doing heavy squats and deadlifts for example, take an enormous toll upon the biochemical system that directs the body’s functions and too much done too frequently is a recipe for over training and/or injury. In Western Pennsylvania there was a very successful group of national caliber lifters who did little more than the three competitive lifts as the basis of their training. The great Mike Bridges spent years training three times per week, squatting twice, deadlifting once or twice, and benching two and sometimes three times within any week. Assistance work may have consisted of a few sets of curls and little more yet in the opinion of many, me included, Mike can be crowned as one of the top few lifters of all time.

Currently, anyone following high school and collegiate football knows that Florida and California are the primary recruiting depots for every major and mid-major school in the nation. It may come as a surprise that prior to the early 1990’s, Florida did not yet garner the reputation as “the” place to snare the best of the best high school players. Until the 1980’s, the Universities Of Florida, Florida State, and Miami went to Pennsylvania and Ohio for most of their players as the population of their home state did not yet support enough high caliber high school athletes to fill their rosters. The population explosion in all parts of Florida in conjunction with cooperative weather and high school rules that allow for spring football practice, out of season 7-on-7 league competition, and the proliferation of instructional camps changed the face of college football. As the mills and mines of Pennsylvania and Ohio closed down and the economy shifted to a computer and electronics based industry instead of one consisting of physical labor related employment, the overall population of Pennsylvania and of course, the high school football playing population dried up to a significant degree. However, in the days when Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Texas football, all still very relevant, ruled the nation, these states were also hot spots for weight training in general and the sport of powerlifting in particular.

Many of the early faces featured in Muscular Development Magazine and Peary Rader’s Iron Man Magazine and lifting newsletter were Pennsylvania men and most had at least a high school football background. The equipment that adorned the early high school weight rooms, hole-in-the-wall gyms, YMCA’s, and lifting clubs built around local VFW, Masons’, and Elks Club halls were conglomerates of rudimentary, often homemade pieces. The programs the men utilized two to four times per week were just as rudimentary, basic, and often tailored to men who already spent much of the week in very physically demanding, labor intensive jobs.

Specifics to follow next month!