It became a custom we would both regret but also yearn for, so many years ago.
Long before the glimmering machines and the ever-present workout attire that seems more suited for a fashion statement than for driving into another torrid set of callous-ripping exercises, the iron game was a different world. Though we thought little of it at the time, we implicitly assumed "the iron" would always relate to the classic notions of "physical culture."
While my loaded bar waits for me each day for another turbulent battle between muscle, time and iron that I will wage until my last breath, this "exercise world" of today has little similarity to the past. Where once stood behemoths ready to balance the world of being "healthy" with an enchanting date with cold metal, now the quaint gleaming machines and chemists have taken over. This was not the case, nor should it be now, but like many positive changes, the answers lay in the past.
When do you stop referring to training sessions in the loose timeline of "during the Johnson Administration" or simply give into what will eventually be a dated expression itself of "back in the day?" Simply stated, all those years ago the iron game was vastly different compared to what we have today.
In Pursuit of a New Golden Era of Bodybuilding
", it was noted how the traditional vision of the classic male form from its ancestral heritage of Ancient Rome's Galata Morente or the work of fifth/fourth century B.C. sculptor Polykleitos of Greece, is no longer the template in the modern "game." While I have been harshly critical of how these changes took place and what they meant for traditionalists, many areas in the direct training sector have simply disappeared for the new generation without any fault of their own.
Oddly, this goes directly to the root of the modern bodybuilding game as while they have the benefit of remarkable supplementation, they have stripped the "iron" from the "game." Though the publishing arm of the modern game pounds the drum with plenty of bravado, when it comes to training, it is sugary-sweet and lacking venom. Though readers are likely to enjoy tales of training, make no mistake much of the past was not for the weak of heart.
Luckily, some of my memories of the grand old training days come alive through my training journals. Though I have noted on countless occasions that the iron game begins in the squat racks, when it comes to forgotten training protocols, arm work is one area that equally has seen detrimental changes.
To take a step back and look at this regime, it is first best to understand how this came at the end of a long arduous workout and was not the basis of a day's training. In fact, this session is pulled from a day that among the four guys in our training group, two were competitive bodybuilders and the others, including myself, were focused on team sports. This first point should send up a flare because while the present bodybuilding culture rarely uses them enough, the focus of our training was explosive compound lifts. In this day, the mainstay of our program was cleans (full cleans) from knees, front squats and clean pulls with considerable supplemental work rarely performed today.
The second point to consider is that this was a "reward" for a good training session that our coach put us through at our urging. Though some might find inverted sit-ups in a sauna (a standard a few times a week) not quite the "reward" in the present training world, for a young athlete coming of age in the iron game, this type of challenge was welcomed. Effectively when one of his lifters wanted to train biceps, he put them (us) through a mind numbing session that purists will note greatly borrowed upon the cutting-edge training from Vince Gironda, John Grimek and Larry Scott. Whether it is a "perfect" training routine or not is a matter of discussion but at the time of this writing, it serves as illustration of the vast differences in the iron game and equally has served the test of time. In other training sessions, we would equally break up movements into 1-2 sets and add considerable other exercises so we may be performing two sets of six different movements for twelve total sets.
The third point is energy and pacing and though it is easy to overlook, we barely had our hands off a weight for thirty seconds. As you will quickly notice, these are long, tough sets that will challenge even the most dedicated lifter.
From my notes:
done, speed on Cleans good, no pain in knee and easy drop in Squat. Pushing faster, faster, must be over 100° in here today and everything felt great, even after sprints. Guys want to do biceps after and coach is laughing. He brings out the mop, "anyone makes a mess you have to clean it up"
As an aside, the humorous point to share is that my lifting partners at the time enjoyed the "payback" in the Bicep training session because while I had to push them in Squats and Olympic movements, they revelled at the chance to do the same in this session. Though I do not think my explanation does justice to the event, what was happening was that each of us were urging on our friends with our own expertise in an effort to aid them.
A brotherhood, with only the iron as a commonality, driving each other on towards their goals.
Grafted from my notes with explanations, our added biceps session was as follows:
(refers to hands facing away, thumb width apart): From an absolute dead-hang, pull up until chest and hands meet at high bar. Squeeze biceps for "two count" and lower with control at tempo twice to three times the speed of concentric action. Perform two sets.
A rarely performed exercise in today's training world but a tremendous bicep builder. Holding a straight bar, pull the bar upwards along the abdomen, as high as possible on the chest by pulling elbows back with a very slight lean forward. At the apex of the lift squeeze biceps for "two count" and lower with control at tempo three times the speed of concentric action (other referred to 3:0:1). Perform three sets of 16, 12 and 8 repetitions.
Using a 45 degree angle bench, perform single arm dumbbell curls over the bench making sure hand comes directly over shoulder and avoid twisting upper body. As in other lifts, squeeze biceps as hard as possible for "two-count" and lower with control at tempo three times the speed of concentric action with three sets of 16, 12 and 8 repetitions.
Dumbell Rack Curl:
Without a doubt, this exercise came from Vince Gironda and was a particularly nasty feature as a "finishing" exercise with a few little interpretations. Starting from the lowest section of a dumbbell rack, hold a dumbbell with the forefinger on the handle, against the weight and the small finger off the bar. This gives an unbalanced feel to the weight. With palms facing thighs, curl right dumbbell up whist slowly turning palm up and bending to the right with hand to the right (outside) of deltoid at peak position. Squeeze bicep for two-count, turn head to opposite (left) side and start curling action with other arm while simultaneously lowering dumbbell. Repeat four repetitions and go to next higher weight, repeating four repetitions up rack until you hit the heaviest weight you can muster and then begin dropping back down to starting position. Pace again is quick with only a few breaths between each change of weight and you will want to shake your arms out between each. It does not take much to see that this is a very long set that left your arms "blown up" and in-fact this movement was used typically as a "total" bicep routine. However, from our little dungeon setting where we were thirsting for more work, this answered the call. Though at times, blame it on youthful exuberance, we attempted Forearm Curls after but they continuously fell short as we were physically drained.
In future installments of "
In Pursuit of a New Golden Era of Bodybuilding,"
we will go through additional lost treasures as we look to resurrect the iron game. For our modern day
, now seven weeks out of competition, these classic training protocols are reaping enormous benefits.