The most recent articles in this series have been related to abbreviated programs. The columns have generated quite a bit of inquiry, most of it from younger lifters, and centers on the question, “How can this be possible?” Every competitive and “wanna be” lifter of today has trained in facilities chock full of equipment where the norm is to use as much of it as possible within any specific week. They came into the sport decades after the first real strength training machines and multitudes of different benches had been installed with no concept of the limitations placed upon training if one has no more than a barbell and a squat rack for example. Even those who have chosen to train at home with only a barbell and power rack, or at a well equipped gym but with programs calling for no more than the use of a barbell and dumbbells, have been exposed to the vast array of available equipment. It was less a misunderstanding of human physiology than it was a belief that the performance of certain, specific exercises could stimulate meaningful changes in one’s body, leading to enhanced strength and muscular size that dictated many of the training routines of the past as I have described them. In my opinion there is a mind-set that the current generation of lifters possesses, one that can be applied to many if not most areas of existence, that dictates a rapid reward, most often a relatively significant reward, and what I will term “something tangible for the neighbors.”
It was understood and accepted in “my day” that one would have to go into the gym, be physically and often emotionally uncomfortable during the workout and sometimes, throughout an entire workout, and that gains would frequently come slowly and in rather small increments. You knew and accepted the deal going in: “I am really going to have to bust my ass, suffer, do stuff that really is difficult, will either feel like throwing up, will throw up, or will believe that I’ll feel better if I force myself to throw up at some point during or after many of the sessions, and that moving more weight in the squat, bench press, and deadlift is going to have to be earned, step by step, inch by inch, as the old saying goes.” There was never going to be a magic formula to change this nor was one expected. Boards, chains, and bands could be found in most of the high end sex parlors but not in gyms. Monolifts, specialized suits and shirts as well as the oversized tlhick belt were not yet in anyone’s mind. An effort was made to first figure out what might help one to become larger and stronger, the primary purposes for training for almost any man who walked into a gym facility in the 1950’s through the early 1970’s, then figure out a barbell or dumbbell exercise that would help to accomplish that task. Almost by definition, any of the chosen movements or certainly most of them, would if performed at a high level of intensity, be quite uncomfortable both during the exercise and immediately afterward. This was viewed for what it was, productive, not problematic. With all respect due to those who put the hard work into improving their lifts, many young lifters don’t want to be uncomfortable and often look for an approach to training that would yield that result. In addition, gains would not usually be swift and noticeable. They would come slowly, gradually, progressively, and often those gains remained the knowledge only of the individual lifter and/or his training partners. For most, the obscure sport of powerlifting was their private indulgence, not the common knowledge of internet surfers or one’s neighbors and friends.
It should be understood that once a commitment had been made to any specific program, that was “the program” for whatever period of time one had made the commitment for. The standard way of doing things usually meant the use of a strictly dictated routine with “Monday – Wednesday – Friday” for example being completed as written on those days. Even if one suspected a bit of over training or felt that some additional rest from one of the specific lifts was needed, it most often would not be taken, nor built into the program. The only rest came on non-training days unless one was involved in another sport. One of the ways in which additional rest could be built into an abbreviated program was a rotation of workouts that St. Louis based lifter Warren Salade latched onto in the mid to late -1970’s. One of the bigger name lifters wrote a number of articles about this approach a few years later, giving it a scientific name and implying that he had developed this methodology. He did not. Simply put, the typical bodybuilder trained four to six days per week, dividing the exercises in a way that gave direct work to targeted muscles or muscle groups on alternate days, and either indirect work or an absence of work on the other training days.
Of course, much of this was unintended or completed through a lack of awareness. When bodybuilders of the ‘60’s worked “Chest, Back, and Biceps” one day and “Shoulders and Triceps” the next, they were often ignorant of the fact that the triceps and deltoids were receiving work on all of those training days. The typical powerlifter would train three to five days per week with the former frequency more commonly seen than the latter. Still, Monday’s workout was done on Monday and often repeated later in the week. Tuesday or Wednesday’s workout was done on its specific day, and if the program called for certain exercises, one did them as it was written. During any week, one would squat on “squat day” or “days,” plural, deadlift on “deadlift day,” and bench press on “bench day” or days.
Warren was perhaps smarter than some of us because he believed one should train very hard, but also believed that for himself at least, more rest was required than the usual program set-up provided. Warren did a lot of bicycle riding. As a heavier class lifter, usually around 220 pounds, he had an awareness of maintaining his health and lower body fat levels and he noted that this often left him fatigued for what might be an upcoming “squat day.” He continued to adhere to a three day per week lifting program but he did something that was rather radical thirty-five years ago. Warren had an “A” workout and a “B” workout. The first routine incorporated squats and whatever assistance work he was doing for the squat and/or lower extremities and low back, at that particular point in time. If he was due to deadlift, which was not done every time the “A” workout was performed, he would however do it on this day. The alternate workout or what I referred to as the “B” session, focused upon the bench press and any assistance exercises or “upper body work” he would choose to do. Like most intelligent lifters, Warren would pick and choose specific exercises as his progress or lack of progress dictated. These would be incorporated into the workout but he insured that the squat, its assistance work, and any deadlifting be done on days that upper body work was avoided. He would then rotate the “A” and “B” workouts, doing these on alternate training days.
Thus, what was typically done was:
Monday – “A” workout; Wednesday – “B” workout; Friday – “A” workout; Monday – “B” workout; Wednesday – “A” workout’ Friday – “B” workout; etc. Any of the specifically defined workouts were done twice in a week and but once on alternate weeks.
Looking at this more closely, and for the purposes of example only, each session may have been detailed as follows:
Monday of week one: Squat, Deadlift, Ab work
Wednesday of week one: Bench Press, One Arm Dumbbell Row, Dumbbell Incline Press, Lat Pulldown To Chest
Friday of week one: Squat, Leg Press, Ab work
Monday of week two: Bench Press, Chins, Close Grip Bench Press, Barbell Curls
Wednesday of week two: Squat, Deadlift, Partial Deadlift in rack, Ab work
Friday of week two: Bench Press, Barbell Row, Dumbbell Overhead Press
By alternating routines in this manner Warren insured that each lift and the musculature involved with each of the competitive lifts, received maximum rest while still providing “enough” stimulation. When squatting or benching twice in any week, one of those days would usually be “lighter” or a bit easier relative to the amount of resistance, training volume, or both. This was done at a time where “everyone” squatted more than once per week, “everyone” deadlifted weekly, and “everyone” bench pressed at least once and usually two times per week, thus it was seen as very different. A number of the area lifters adopted this approach with good results, in part because they had otherwise been over training and/or doing at least one of the competitive lifts too frequently. This is still a template that can bring progress.
History Supplement: Lee Moran and the exploding barbell (one more time); Part One
One of the most famous and infamous incidents to occur on a powerlifting platform involved Lee Moran and all of the individuals, including me, that were present on that platform at the 1984 Senior National Powerlifting Championships. Though I’ve told the story in print quite a few times, I always believed there were enough lessons buried in the tale that any redundancy is outweighed by its value as a “how-to primer” or perhaps as a “how-not-to primer” about powerlifting. I always thought it was also a pretty entertaining tale. Here is the background information, here are the facts and no matter what anyone else has written or stated, as the one pretty much in the middle of things both physically and behind the scenes, our TITAN SUPPORT SYSTEMS readers are getting the unvarnished version.
My wife Kathy knew Lee’s wife Charlene, I didn’t. Kathy knew a lot of the Oakland area lifters, I didn’t. I knew many of the guys from the previous generation of Southern California lifters, Kathy did not. I had a prejudice, believing that the original Westside garage gym guys, the earlier crew from the Santa Monica Dungeon (some of whom wound up at Bill West’s garage in Culver City), and of course the fellows I knew and trained with from Zuver’s Hall Of Fame Gym on Hamilton Avenue in Costa Mesa were “the best of the best.” I respected the Pasadena area lifters which to us, was pretty much “north” and the lifters from the Bay area but my contact with them, especially relative to those in Southern California, even through many years was very limited. Lee Moran was from the Oakland area and while Kathy raved about his lifting, he was little more than a name and some very big lifts in the squat and bench that I had heard about.
At the 1983 Senior National Championships in Austin, Texas, it was hot and if any of our readers know the habits of the old time supers, most of the fellows did not seek to move around much in extremely hot weather. Meal time was always an exception and I had gone to dinner at Austin’s Spaghetti Warehouse restaurant on two consecutive evenings with a rather large contingent of very large lifters. Hanging out with the 242’s through Superheavyweight guys was not a new experience for me but Spaghetti Warehouse was. The Dallas based restaurant chain had started in 1972 but had not yet reached the Northeast and to this day hasn’t made it to the New York City metropolitan area. They served what was surprisingly tasty Italian fare at a very reasonable price, the latter factor being the primary attraction for our group. One of the 300-plus pounders at our table had a conversation with the waiter that more or less went as follows and was then repeated by every other lifter at the table. After being asked, “And sir, what would you like for dinner?” the reply was, “Well, I’d like, uh, the lasagna dinner and yeah, with the salad.” The waiter’s response was “Thank you” as he moved to the next individual at our table but he was interrupted by the first lifter’s addition of “Oh, excuse me, can I get the spaghetti with meatballs, the dinner? No salad with that.” The waiter politely stated, “Absolutely sir, so you’ll have the spaghetti with meatballs, no salad and that would be instead of the lasagna.” Our lifter sort of smiled and said, “Well, no, actually, uh, that would be just what I said before, the lasagna dinner with the salad, and then the meatballs and spaghetti in addition to the lasagna and as long as I have your attention, can I get some of the linguini with clam sauce?” The waiter had to summarize and I believe, make sure he had the order taken correctly. After assuring the waiter that yes, he was ordering three distinct dinners and yes, they were in fact all for him, to be eaten in this one sitting, the waiter really couldn’t even blink because every huge guy at the table ordered three or more full dinners. Having ordered but one measly dinner plate, I sort of felt like the weeny-boy freak everyone was staring at but when a parade of servers marched to our table carrying what looked like a feast for sixty, perhaps I didn’t stand out as much from the crowd I was with.
Though the September 1997 issue of Ironmind’s MILO Magazine carried a very informative article about Lee Moran’s life as written by Bruce Wilhelm and Randy generously included my write-up of Lee’s successful 1,003 pound squat, I hope I can add some more information to it. I had been in Austin a few days prior to the lifting, hustling around with Mike Lambert as we gathered information for future POWERLIFTING USA Magazine articles, attending Athletes’ Representative meetings, planning warm-ups and opening competition lifts with the fellows I was coaching/handling at the contest, and doing some work with TITAN SUPPORT SYSTEMS founder and owner Pete Alaniz. Though the TITAN suit had already revolutionized the sport and the market for lifting attire, the company was only two years old and there was plenty to do in order to spread the word and allow exposure to this great new product. Kathy flew in the day prior to the lifting and as we walked across the huge lobby of the lifting venue, she spied Lee Moran on the other side of the hall. Lee was with some of his California buddies and as I noted in the MILO piece, appeared to be as powerful as Kathy and some of the West Coast lifters had stated he was, but also nervous. Frankly, Lee made a number of the other lifters nervous. His reputation as a bad ass had preceded him to Texas and he certainly looked the part. As he was explaining the placement of the Swastika tattoo on his forearm (“See, its right side up when I’m holding the bar when I squat…”) and how an individual who was part Mexican-American would hang with the Hell’s Angels, someone came up to Lee and handed him a telegram. I cracked up as he read, “…and all of the guys in the cell block wish you luck in the national championship lifting contest…” I know that Lee did in fact become a member of the Hell’s Angels and that he did “hang” with them during this period of time but he may not have been a full member until a later date. However, his physique, his demeanor, and his reputation had a lot of guys sort of watching him out of the corner of their eye. Lee lifted considerably below his expectations but in part, this was due to attending his first major meet outside of California and truly not yet knowing how to either prepare, warm-up, or plan his lifts for competition at this level. Reviewing my 1983 Senior National Championships meet report in POWERLIFTING USA, I was reminded of the backstage spectacle surrounding Lee who had dropped down into the 275 pound class. I handled John Gamble in this same class so obviously kept close tabs on Lee’s warm-ups and warm-up room activities. Those who recall John as a competitor know that he was quiet, focused, and very intense. Lee’s “camp” was in my estimation, costing him valuable points and again, I don’t want to seem disrespectful or negative but the handlers were friends of his, not necessarily experienced powerlifting competitors nor coaches. The subtotal following the squat and bench press looked like this:
John had gone six-for-six, no easy task in any meet and an “almost impossibility” at the Seniors during this era where the top five or six men in the world were usually fighting for the trophies and a place on the World team. He stood at 1466 via an 892 squat and 573 bench press, the latter a nice improvement over the previous year’s performance. Lee was ahead with 1504 but not “comfortably ahead” as he only made an opening squat with 903, missing 953 two times, and then coming in with two good bench presses, 573 and 600. His miss at 617 was unexpected. I told John that we would win on the first or second deadlift and to relax and focus. John looked at me quizzically and asked, “What’s going on?” I told him that Lee’s warm-ups for the deadlifts looked like a “third grade fire drill. They’re all over the place” and indeed they were. His handlers were high-fiving and hooting how their guy was going to kick ass, that the win was in the bag, and statements similar to that. Meanwhile, Lee was not a strong deadlifter, seemed very fatigued and unfocused, and I did not believe, based on past performances, that he would do more than 700 or so. John of course was one of the best deadlifters in the world so I had little concern although I was impressed with Lee’s raw strength and what I believed was great potential. As I expected, the final showdown unfolded with Lee making only his opener at 705 while missing 744 twice. Though hampered by a torn hand, I didn’t think he had it in him. John did an easy 777, jumped to 804 to seal things, and passed his third deadlift attempt, winning 2270 to 2210.
Let me be clear that no matter what Lee’s effect on other lifters might have been, those who knew him liked him and enjoyed his company. I liked him! He was funny, “regular,” and despite appearances, quite nice and certainly polite around my wife and other women. I liked him enough that when we discussed his lifting results and he asked me to handle him at the following year’s Senior National Powerlifting Championships, I readily agreed. To paraphrase a comment made in the MILO article noted earlier, I was never a great lifter and perhaps, no more than a fair-to-middlin’ lifter but I was a lot better than a middle of the road coach and earned a reputation for being able to analyze and closely predict what the majority of the guys would be capable of on meet day, and then squeeze the most out of any lifter I was handling on that day. My comment in that 1983 meet report stated:
“Lee has great potential and as he learns the nuances of the sport, and prepares more diligently and systematically for next year’s go around, he will be a top contender, and I for one would like nothing better than to see just that.”
I made a promise to Lee that no matter who else I would be working with in Dayton, Ohio in ’84, I would in fact handle him too.