Are Fitness Pros Making Weightlifters And Bodybuilders Wimps? (Part 2)

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Are Fitness Pros Making Weightlifters And Bodybuilders Wimps? (Part 2)
© Doug Champigny,
All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

In the first part of this series, ‘Are Fitness Pros Making Weightlifters And Bodybuilders Wimps?‘, I reviewed the massive weightlifting workouts Arnold Schwarzenegger did back in the 1970’s and 1980’s to build his incredible physique. Before continuing on with today’s installment, let me deal with one issue that arose…

Some people thought it was ONLY Arnold who trained like that, leading him to be such an outstanding icon of the bodybuilding scene. So I pulled out a copy of the November 1980 edition of MuscleMag Magazine, the late Bob Kennedy‘s excellent bodybuilding magazine. In it was an article on Ernie Santiago, a Mr. America contestant that year… In it, Santiago described his training regime as:

I work each body part 3 times a week. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays – Legs, Arms and Shoulders. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays – Back & Chest. Six times a week – abs and calves.

The keyword there is work… Ernie was doing 8 exercises for legs, doing 4 sets of 15 – 30 reps for EACH exercise. 8 Exercises for upper arms and 2 exercises for forearms, with 15 – 20 reps for all 40 sets. Then 16 sets of 15 – 20 reps for shoulders. That’s 88 sets and still counting… Add in the Ab work at each workout (5 exercises, each with 3 sets of 50-55 reps!) and you’re at 93 sets. The article doesn’t detail his calf workout, but even if it was only 8 sets he’d still have done 101 SETS THAT DAY.

His ‘easy’ day, training back, chest, abs and calves, was ‘only’ about 70 sets. Put it all together, and Ernie Santiago’s pre-contest workouts for the Mr. America show saw him doing a massive 513 sets a week, spread over 6 days with just one day off before starting it all over again the following week. Compare that torturous routine to today’s recommended bodybuilding workouts – quite the difference, eh?

But even in those days, not every expert agreed. In the same issue, Kennedy himself laid out his suggested workout based on training the entire body in each workout, 3 times per week on non-consecutive days. But even his routine involved 56 sets per workout. Still very long and strenuous compared to today’s workouts, but nowhere near the training schedules of those like Schwarzenegger or Santiago. Mike Mentzer also loudly disagreed, promoting his ‘Heavy-Duty’ training style, which featured much shorter workouts with much heavier weights. Today we know that style of training as a powerlifting routine that builds strength much more than muscle in most trainees, but Mentzer’s genetics let him use it to build a champion-level body.

But any of those routines and training schedules took a toughness that’s missing from weightlifting, sports and indeed society itself these days. “Fatigue makes cowards of us all” was one of the mottos given voice by Vince Lombardi, famed football coach from Notre Dame. What would famous hockey players like the Richard brothers, Frank Mahovolich or Larry Robinson think of the NHL today, where entire seasons are skipped while millionaire players dispute contracts with billionaire owners? How much has football changed as the NFL kept changing the rules to protect quarterbacks and receivers from injury?

Being tough, and especially mental toughness, just doesn’t mean what it used to for all but a few people here and there.

Now I personally do NOT recommend training 6 days a week, or doing 100’s of sets per workout, but either can be of use to advanced bodybuilders on an occasional basis, especially during periods of over-reaching and super-compensation. The truth is that I DO believe most weightlifters, bodybuilders and other athletes will never get the results they could, simply because they’ve been told all too often that their bodies can’t handle any more intensity than their current level. When that happens, ask yourself if you’re in the iron game to live up to their expectations of you or to be all you can be, given your own unique genetics – good or bad?

So let’s look at some of the factors that have led to this situation… starting with the major bodybuilding and weightlifting magazines. Often you’ll see the major magazines vilified as only interested in pushing their supplement lines (many of the mags are owned by supplement companies or people with major holdings in a supplement company). They ARE an easy target, but does that make these claims true?

The Major Weightlifting & Bodybuilding Magazines

Look at the careers of Ben and Joe Weider, founders of the huge Weider line of supplements, training equipment, magazines, etc. No one can deny that they dedicated their lives to our sport, and brought the iron game out of the training dungeons and into the collective societal consciousness. And having personally met and chatted with Bob Kennedy on at least 3 different occasions over the years, I can personally attest to his sincere intent on helping EVERY weightlifter and bodybuilder to be all they could be. Yes, Weider’s Muscle & Fitness magazine and Kennedy’s MuscleMag magazine sell products and advertising in every issue – you expect to get paid for your 9-5 too, right? So should they. But their intent is first and foremost to get the right information out to their audience.

And therein lies the issue… To get the latest bodybuilding research to YOU, they need to get you to buy their magazine and read it. So now the ball’s in your court – when you look at magazines on the rack, which ones have YOU bought? The ones that promise ‘6-Pack Abs in Just 6 Minutes A Day’, ‘Massive Muscle Growth In Just One Month’ and ‘Triple Your Strength With This 3-Minute Trick’, or one that says ‘Sweat, Swear and Strain For Hours A Day Until You’re Completely Fatigued, Your Balls Or Ovaries Are Laying On The Floor And You Can’t See Straight, Eat A Cow & Five Chickens, Sleep For 12 Hours… Then Repeat That Process 4 Or More Times A Week For The Next Year And You Just MAY Add 5 Or 10 Pounds Of Muscle This Year – If You’re Lucky”.

Two quick questions for you… Which of those two types is the truth? Now, which type of headline caught your eye and got you to buy the last bodybuilding magazine you bought? Still think THEY are the problem? Or is it maybe society’s drive to get everything faster with less effort?

Your Solution…
Pick up your favorite bodybuilding magazines each month or get a subscription to each. When you get it home, read the REAL information they all carry – the columnists, the interviews and the latest research findings. Read the ads – all of them – so you’re up to date on what is available. Then if you want and have the time, read the ‘6 Minute 6-Packs’ type of articles as your monthly dose of gym humor. Just be sure to read them with a critical eye so you know what to absorb and what to laugh off. When you finish, go to their web site and read their blogs for even more legitimate help.

Current Or Former Bodybuilding Or Fitness Stars

Asking a top Bodybuilder what their training routine is, with the hope of using it to match their physique is much akin to a public school hall monitor asking a Navy SEAL how they prepare for covert operations. At that level they’ve already built their magnificent body and their workouts are designed to maintain and refine their mass. Year after year they compete at or about the same weight, right? Would you be happy with that little new muscle each year? And remember, they have to have great genetics to start with, then a ton of chemical enhancement to get to, and stay at, that level. Since you most likely have neither of those, what results would you expect to get from following their routines?

Your Solution…
Whether it’s at a bodybuilding show, an in-store promotion or your local gym, never pass up an opportunity to meet and talk with a pro bodybuilder, whether a natural athlete or otherwise. If you can, buy their photo or poster and put it up for inspiration. Congratulate them on their achievement – as an iron athlete yourself, you know how much work and sacrifice went into attaining thier lofty position in the sport. Don’t bother asking about their training routine, but ask instead how long it took them to go from the point you’re at now to the point they’re at today.

One of the biggest reasons people get upset with their progress is they have unrealistic expectations of just how long it takes to build a top body. One of the reasons Dorian Yates is so revered in our industry is that he was able to make it to the Olympia with ONLY 10 years of serious weight training – for most it takes much longer. Don’t expect to hit your genetic max in only 5 or 6 years of training, no matter HOW seriously you train!

Most Local Gyms

What it costs to operate a properly-equipped gym in any major city is a sin – almost a crime. Start-up costs for all that equipment, the mirrors, etc, is only part of it – many times they also have to structurally re-enforce the building itself before the city will give them an operating permit. Then there’s the spiraling cost of electricity, ridiculous property taxes on buildings that large, etc, and the insurance monkeys that shake that tree for all it’s worth, charging a fortune for liability insurance.

All in all, it leaves them with a huge nut to cover each month just to keep the doors open and the lights on. But unless they’re the flavor of the month, they can only get small, 2-figure fees for monthly dues. High-level golf courses and racquet clubs can charge $25,000 or $50,000 for membership on top of $10,000 annual dues, yet most gyms can’t get much more than $100 a month from their members, with many getting even less. So to keep the facilities available to you they need to ‘oversell’.

If you’ve been training for any length of time you’ve witnessed the overselling yourself. Every January millions of people sign up for gym memberships as part of their New Year’s Resolutions. Suddenly your club is packed for the month of January, with waiting lines for each piece of equipment or free weights workout station. The gym knows they can’t continue to support that many people, as serious trainees will eventually leave if their workouts are too difficult to schedule. But fortunately for both the gym and it’s serious members, every year the majority of the newcomers will drop out in the first 6 weeks, while being contractually obligated to keep up their payments for the full year. There’s a smaller blip again just before summer, as the naive plan to build a beach-ready body in 3 or 4 weeks.

Ever try to do super-sets or triple-sets in your gym during prime time? Often impossible to tie up 3 machines long enough, isn’t it? Now imagine if everyone there was sending twice as long working out… So obviously it’s not in the gym’s best interest to advise all of their clients to train for 2 or 3 hours per workout, is it?

Your Solution…
First, get off the backs of those new members each January. They’re paying the same thing you are, and have just as much right to be there using that machine as you do. At this point you don’t know which few will become gym rats like yourself and which ones will flake off in a few weeks. And remember that those who do leave will be subsidizing YOU the rest of the year with their payments. Just go about your own workouts and stay focused on YOU, not them.

Second, if you’re a truly dedicated iron athlete, make sure you’re training in the right gym. More and more gyms are of a flavor we call ‘butt-floss and hairspray’ gyms, where the members are more concerned with being seen at the gym than in serious workouts. Usually you can spot these gyms right off – if it’s part of a major chain and has all the latest machines but their free weights area is smaller than the treadmill area, you’re in the wrong gym. Often you don’t even have to step inside – if the members coming out post-workout look as fresh and ‘unmessed’ as those going in, don’t even cross the threshold.

Instead, ask around or search online to find a gym in your city that’s run by a current or former competitive bodybuilder or powerlifter. Better to train in a dingy basement gym with other serious lifters than a glossy ‘plastic’ gym. And don’t worry about the decor in hardcore gyms ladies – you’ll find the eye candy in them to be far sexier and superior to those wannabees trying to build a 6-pack in most gyms. Whether you’re male or female, you’ll look a lot better – tighter, stronger and sexier – on the beach next year once you adopt the training mindset you’ll find in a gym like Bev Francis‘ Powerhouse Gym instead of Fluffy’s Exercise & Hair Salon – even if Fluffy offers free French manicures with each workout session! 😉

Or, if you truly have Iron Motivation, consider building your own home gym or going in with a couple of other serious lifters to build a garage gym. You can set it up perfectly to suit your training, add to it as your prowess grows and train at any hour for as long as you like. But it’s not a solution for everyone, or even most – just those of us who will stay motivated when training on their own or with only one or two others. It takes a LOT of self-motivation to always show up, not be distracted by others or things in your home, and to keep going hard til the end when no one’s watching or will know any different if you slack off.

In my late twenties and early thirties I trained mostly at home, and never stuck to it for more than 6 months or a year at a time, so in my late 30’s and 40’s I trained at Mark Kehr‘s Training Room gym in Toronto. Being in my mid-fifties now I have a much more patient motivation and have outfitted my ‘underground training lair’ the way I want it, both for my training and to train my wife TC and son Devon – both of whom are also certified personal trainers. Finally ‘getting’ the whole Health-Fitness-Longevity triangle and still being ‘addicted’ to the feeling of personal physical power coursing through my body, I haven’t missed a workout in the last two years and don’t envision missing any for years to come. And as a dyed-in-the-wool Type A personality, even at 57 I still care about how I look when I walk down the beach each year, whether it be Wasaga Beach or South Beach. My hope is that I can help motivate and educate YOU to help you be able to get in shape, stay in shape and be able to say the same at ANY age!

The next installment in this series will be the conclusion, where we’ll look at ways to ‘de-wimpify’ your training and see results you’ve never been able to achieve before – see you then! Please leave your comments below or contact me if you have any specific questions and if you are enjoying this series please share it on Google+, Facebook and Twitter using the buttons above and below this post, ok? Then until next time, keep fit & keep flirting! 🙂

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6 Responses to Are Fitness Pros Making Weightlifters And Bodybuilders Wimps? (Part 2)

  1. MattToronto says:

    Great series Doug. Not exactly on point with what you are discussing, but somewhat related is that the ‘big bodybuilder’ used to be the look that most guys sought, and now the majority seek ‘men’s health’ instead. I’m not exactly sure that is the reason that training has changed, but it’s interesting how as times change, so does the way we see the ideal physique.

    Regarding todays pro bodybuilder’s, the pharmacology is so advanced that I believe that is what dictates the training plan, and nothing else. It used to be an addition, now it is the entire process. Those in that class just do what works best with the chemistry. I’m not knocking it-it’s fascinating, but that’s the reality.
    MattToronto recently posted..Physique: A Different Kind of Cross TrainingMy Profile

    • Great seeing you here, Matt – Thanks for taking the time to comment… As always, you’re right on all points. Not sure if the Men’s Health’ look prevails now because it takes a lot less work to achieve it, or simply that not everyone can build 19″ arms no matter how they train, but everyone can look healthy with enough effort. Either way, it’s unfortunate that we still see so many guys building their chest, arms and abs while ignoring the rest of their body and women training with 5 pound weights for fear of ‘bulking up’. But at least they’re IN the gym, instead of a drive-through or sitting on the couch watching TV…

  2. Interesting insights! I have enjoyed reading your articles. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas. This is very informative!

  3. Olivia says:

    How you write this type of helpful and informative post, Doug? I think a beginner should follow your writing on bodybuilding issue. Now, I am going to share this on my twitter page to see my followers. Anyway, keep up the good work.
    Olivia recently posted..Best Protein Bars ReviewsMy Profile

  4. Muscle Man says:

    Super sets work. If you can find a way to squeeze them. Grab a set of dumbells and find a corner were no one will bother you.
    Muscle Man recently posted..Ramping vs Straight Sets For StrengthMy Profile

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