Go into the gym you train at and ask the members there (or better still the trainers) if they know anything about breathing squats, heavy singles, rack work, the 5x5 system, or one-exercise-per-muscle-group
training. Ask if they are familiar with the names Joseph Curtis Hise, Paul Anderson, John Grimek or Peary Rader. Chances are not one person will be able to tell you much - if anything at all - about any of
these workouts or iron-game originators. That's a shame considering the workouts are among the most effective to be found anywhere and these people some of the major contributors to the sport of bodybuilding.
By now you're probably wondering: 'What the hell is so good about these workouts? What do these old-timers have to offer me that Mr. Everything with 22-inch arms doesn't?' Look for your answers in the
following paragraphs and judge for yourself whether most modern-day bodybuilders, drug-free mind you, could perform these feats in this new age of high-tech supplementation, nutrition, and "improved
scientific" training methods.
Joseph Curtis Hise
In the 1930s J.C. Hise had been training for a number of years but weighed only 180 pounds at a height of 5'9". He was unsatisfied with his results until he took up a regimen of heavy, high-rep squats (20
reps a set). Hise gained a whopping 29 pounds of muscle in only one month. His results were so phenomenal that scarcely anyone of the day actually believed his progress. No one would have ever imagined a man was
capable of gaining such muscle. After that Hise went on to develop and follow regimens based on heavy squats (of course), heavy high-rep shrugs, and high-rep deadlifts until he had transformed himself into one
of the first 300-pound giants of the iron game. And this was before the use of any "growth drugs."
Considered by many to be the strongest man who ever lived and definitely the strongest man on Earth during his day, Anderson started training as a high-school football player to add more strength for his sport.
Within several years he had shattered tons of records. Paul became the last strongman whose name was a household word in this country as he went on tour doing strength exhibitions. Some feats: In 1957 at Muscle
Beach in California he push-pressed 500 and then did 800 in the squat for 8 reps. He did an amazing squat of 1230 pounds in his hometown in 1957. On The Ed Sullivan Show he did a hip lift with a weight that he
estimated to be around 5,000 pounds. And he was the first man to break the 400-pound barrier in the clean and press. The most impressive part of all this is that Paul Anderson trained at home mainly with equipment
he had built himself. All Paul needed was a barbell, plates and a squat rack.
A strongman during the 1920s, Goerner performed many amazing feats of strength. For instance, he did a one-arm barbell clean with 297 pounds and a strict barbell curl with 220 pounds. Most impressive, however, is
the fact that he executed a one-arm deadlift (that's right, only one arm) with 727.5 pounds. Amazingly, Goerner was not an incredibly huge man, weighing only 220 when he accomplished these feats.
Founder of the original IronMan magazine and publisher of it for over 50 years, Rader was the quintessential hard gainer, standing nearly six feet tall and weighing only 128 pounds. Take a look at some old
pictures of him in his pregrowth days and you'll see that your weight-gaining problems aren't so bad. Rader trained for 12 years on countless routines and hardly gained an ounce. Then he read about J.C. Hise's
program and began corresponding with him. Within a month of using Hise's routines, he gained 10 pounds and ended up gaining almost 100 within a year. Peary Rader became a champion lifter-no drugs, no gimmicky
machines, no long routines.
These are some examples of men who benefited greatly from old-time training methods. They used the type of workouts we are going to discuss. Actually, I could have gone on and on with a list of multiple lifters
who got fantastic - awesome in fact-results from the type of basic training outlined here, but I think you get the picture. Let's get to the regimens.
HARD AND BASIC
Fifty years ago almost everyone who worked out with weights obtained results and built phenomenal strength. There were no steroids, no "top-of-the-line" supplements, no gimmicky machines, and no "scientific"
theorists sitting in their La-Z-Boy chairs pushing their babble, yet almost every person who lifted weights got good results. Why's this?
In the good old days trainees often worked out on their own and had to discover for themselves what worked. Most of them found they got the best results when they trained very hard on a limited number of exercises.
When they discovered these routines, they stuck with them. They weren't reading every month about the latest, greatest routine the newest drugged-up pro cobbled together on his latest stack of Anadrol, HGH, and who
knows what else.
If you gain only one truth from this article, let it be the fact that to obtain the fastest gains in muscle mass or strength, the type of gains that the old-timers used to make, your training must be basic and hard.
The following routines incorporate these principles.
A BASIC STRENGTH AND SIZE PROGRAM
Whether you just started or have been training for ten years, the following program can work near-miracles on anyone who gives it an honest try. A lot of people would call it a beginner's program, but that
just ain't so. It works equally well for the intermediate or advanced trainee who's been spinning his wheels on long routines and multiple exercises.
This program incorporates some of the best tenets of the old-time strength-building regimens, ideas such as the 5x5 system, heavy singles, and one-exercise-per-muscle training. Don't be fooled by its simplicity. Just
go to the gym and do it.
This is a three-day-a-week program where you train on Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. Don't worry-it'll be plenty of work if you're training hard. In fact, you won't even be capable
of doing any more than the prescribed amount if you train as I say.
Squats - 5x5
: After some type of light warmup such as riding on the stationary bike or several light sets of cleans and snatches, it's time for your first exercise of the day, the squat. We're going to use
the 5x5 system that will be incorporated into several of our exercises. Let's say you can squat 400 pounds for 5 reps. Do one warmup set with 200 for 5 reps, rest a few minutes, put 300 on the bar and do one more
warmup for 5 reps. After a couple more minutes of rest you proceed to your first working set with 400 pounds. Shoot for 3 sets of 5 reps with this weight. Once you're capable of doing 3 sets of 5, add some weight
to the bar the next workout.
Dumbbell Clean-and-Presses - 5x5
: Lots of modern bodybuilders are weak in their overhead pressing movements. If you want to be as strong as the old-timers, you need to reverse that problem. For this workout
we'll use the dumbbell clean and press. Simply clean a pair of dumbbells from floor to shoulders and press them up. Use the same 5x5 system as on the squats, working up to 3 heavy 5s.
Barbell Bent-Over Rows - 5x5
: Same poundage progression and rep scheme as for the previous two exercises. Do these with a reverse grip to hit your lats hard, and work up to some serious poundages on this
seldom-used exercise. Forget about lat pulldowns, cable rows and all that other nonsense until you've built some mighty impressive development with bent-over rows and deadlifts.
Floor Presses - 5-6x1
: Get in the power rack, lie on your back, and set the pins so that you are doing only the last three to four inches of your bench press. In other words we're doing bench-press lockouts
here. Lying flat on the floor with your feet level with your hips makes this movement harder than regular bench-press lockouts in the rack. Work up over several progressively heavier sets to a near-maximum single.
Don't discount the use of heavy singles in your training. They build tremendous strength in both your muscles and your tendons and ligaments. They'll also make you incredibly big. The old-timers knew these
facts as well.
Bench Presses - 5x5
: The second workout of the week starts with everyone's favorite exercise, the good ol' standard bench press. Once again warm up with 2 progressively heavier 5s, rest a few minutes, and
give yourself 3 maximum sets of 5 reps. Deadlifts - 5-6x3: Here you're going to work up over several progressively heavier triples until you hit the maximum weight you can handle for 3 all-out repetitions. I don't
just mean hard -1 mean all-friggin'-out. That third rep of your last set should be complete torture-no, make that sheer hell- to finish.
Barbell Curls - 5-6x1
: On this traditional biceps exercise that is in serious danger of becoming extinct, you are going to work up in weight over several progressively heavier singles until you reach a
near-maximum effort of one single. If you've never tried singles for your biceps, you're in for a real surprise and will probably be about as sore as ever the next day.
Wide-Grip Chins - 5x5
: Same set and rep plan as previously. Work these chins extra hard without using wrist straps of any kind and not only will you build an impressive back but you'll build one hell of a
grip as well.
Squat-and-Presses - 5x5
: For the first exercise of our last workout you're going to be using a movement you've probably never even seen before, much less ever used-the squat and press. You do this exercise
as the name implies, combining the traditional squat with a behind-the-neck press. Squat deeply with the weight and ascend as fast as possible. Before you reach lockout with your legs, keep the bar moving by going
straight into an overhead press. Lock out the weight, lower it slowly to your trapezius muscles, and repeat for another 4 reps.
For your 3 working sets of 5 reps load the bar with a weight with which you could get only about 2 reps in the traditional behind-the-neck press. The ascent of the squat helps to increase the weight you are
capable of pressing by the momentum it generates.
Dumbbell Bench Presses - 5x5
: Do 2 progressively heavier warmups followed by 3 sets with your top weight.
Stiff-Leg Deadlifts - 5x5
: Lots of the old-timers were amazingly strong on this exercise. John Grimek used to crank out reps with over 400 pounds. Work these deadlifts very heavy on your 5 sets, not with
that stupid high-rep crap that most folks doing the exercise use nowadays.
Bottom-Position Bench Presses - 5-6x1
: Here is another one you're probably not used to seeing at your local gym. Get in the power rack and set the pins so that the bar brushes your chest. Start each rep from
this bottom position. Lifting in this manner makes the exercise a bit more difficult than your standard bench press. It also provides you with complete safety, allowing you to try maximum singles at each workout
without a spotter.
Work up over several progressively heavier singles until you hit your top weight. This is the last exercise of your week. Afterward you'll have two days to go home, rest and grow, so give this one all you've
got and try for a new record every time.
HEAVY AND HIGH
I believe this routine represents practically the ultimate in three-day-a-week, whole body workouts. It gives you a well-rounded program that will build enormous strength in all your muscle groups and it does
this through brief, hard workouts. It also introduces the trainee to a whole new system of lifting weights if he has been spinning his wheels on multiple exercises and too many workouts a week. I would recommend
sticking with the routine for at least eight weeks before changing it. At that point you would probably benefit from going on another eight-week cycle of the same type of routine. Maybe you could switch around the
exercises you use for single reps to 5-rep sets and vice versa, or you could introduce some new, albeit still basic, exercises into the routine. Eventually, however, you have to try something completely new.
Another absolutely fantastic way of working out, one that produces equally good results, is to reduce the number of sets you do for each bodypart but crank up the intensity by going to failure on all your work
sets. Increase the reps to a moderate range on your upper-body exercises and even higher for your lower body. Throw a few "breathing sets" into each routine and you're almost guaranteed of renewed muscle growth.
These types of workouts were what produced such phenomenal results for J.C. Hise and Peary Rader. Plenty of other old-timers used them and also got fantastic results. Randall Strossen wrote an entire book-Super
Squats - on training this way. These workouts produced great results in the olden days, and they still work wonders for anyone who's willing to give them an honest try.
Try the following routine for several weeks -1 mean really give it all you've got-and I assure you you'll be a believer. This program has two workouts, not three like the last one, simply because it puts more
stress on your recovery system. Most folks like to do it on set days twice a week, say Monday and Thursday (the favorite), Tuesday and Friday, and so on. Some people, me included, prefer to just train whenever
they feel completely rested from the last workout. You might find that when you start on the program you get best results with two days off after each workout. So you would do workout one on Monday, rest two days
and do workout two on Thursday, rest two more days and repeat workout one on Sunday, rest two more days and do the second workout on Wednesday. Every once in a while you might need an extra day off, or sometimes
you might even feel recovered after just one day of rest. The main point is to make sure your body has recuperated for the next workout.
Squats - 3x20
: Here we're going to do 2 warmup sets of 20 repetitions followed by l set as heavy as you can go for 20 reps. What's a good weight to be using? Here's what the old-timers recommended: Load the
bar with what you can usually do only 10 reps with, but do 20. Even if you have to take 15 minutes to complete the set, get the 20 reps. The superhard work of this regimen is the key to its success.
Take at least one deep breath after each repetition, sucking in all the air you can.
Probably by the tenth repetition you'll be taking several deep breaths before you begin another rep without even thinking about it. Many of the old-timers believed they got the best results only when they
incorporated heavy breathing into the program.
Do not -1 repeat: do not - try to get by with anything less than a maximum effort on these squats. The heavy breathing exercises in this program are essential to its success. I've heard of plenty of people who
tried this routine and didn't get out of it what they thought they would. That's because they just didn't work hard enough. Be a man and train hard enough to put the rest of the wannabes in the world to shame.
Bench Presses - 3x10
: Do 2 progressively heavier warmups with 10 repetitions and then 1 all-out set to total muscular failure with the most weight you can use in good form. Make sure your warmups are not
too taxing. For instance, if you're going to do your 1 work set with 225 pounds, use 135 and 175 for your 2 warmups. If you wish, do only 5 or 6 reps with the 175. If you don't have a spotter for these presses,
try doing the bottom-position benches in the power rack instead.
: Do 2 progressively heavier warmups followed by 1 gut-busting set of 10 repetitions.
Barbell Curls - 3x10
: Same set/rep pattern as above. All out.
Breathing Holds - 2x1
: Get in the power rack and set the pins as if you were about to do a top-position deadlift. Load the bar with 225 pounds (less if you haven't been working out very long). Grab the bar
in an overhand grip with both hands and lift the weight off the pins. Hold for as long as you can, taking as many deep breaths as possible. Count the number of deep breaths you take until the bar literally slips
out of your hands. Rest a few minutes and repeat one more time. If you were able to get 15 deep breaths with the first set, add some weight.
Heavy grip work like these breathing holds is the key to developing awesome forearm strength, mass and power. Absolutely forget about the high-rep, baby-weight wrist-curl nonsense most people espouse when
they talk forearm-training.
Deadlifts - 3 x20
: After doing the squats in the first workout, you might have thought they were the hardest work of your life. Now you get to decide whether deadlifts done in the same manner are any
harder. Once again do 2 progressively heavier warmups and then one all-out breathing set of 20 reps, loading the bar with what you normally use for 10.1 can't stress enough: Work hard! Work harder than you ever
have worked a set before. I don't care if your lungs feel as if they're on fire and you think your back's about to explode ... get those 20 reps! Push Presses - 3x10: Do these presses as you would a standing
military press, except start by initiating momentum with your legs. As in the first workout, do two progressively heavier warmups of 10 reps and then 1 set to complete muscular failure.
Wide-Grip Dips - 3x10
: Same set and rep plan as above. If you're not strong enough yet to add weight to your own body, do 2 sets to complete failure with just your body-weight.
Thick-Bar Hammer Curls - 3x10
: These curls will work your grip harder than any curls you've ever done before. If you don't have access to thick-handled dumbbells, wrap some tape around your dumbbells until
the handles are at least two inches thick. Farmer's Walk - 2 to failure: For the last exercise of the day walk as far as possible holding a pair of heavy dumbbells. After 2 sets you should be totally spent. And
by the way, don't stop until those damn bells fall out of your hands!
After several weeks on the above routine, you should know the meaning of hard work. Make that really hard work. Stick with the routine for at least eight weeks, bare minimum, and then switch back to the first
workout or some slight variation of it.
THE RESULTS YOU CAN EXPECT
I think these two routines are better than most any crap that is out there today circulating as gospel truth in many gyms and in some publications. Stick with these two routines, alternating back and forth every
eight to 12 weeks, and within a couple of years you will have surpassed everyone else at your gym in terms of strength and muscle mass.
What can you expect after one or two years' training on these routines? Let's say you weigh 155 pounds when you start the program and can bench press only 150, squat around the same weight, deadlift about 225,
and curl a 60-pound barbell. After a year or two (the quickness of your results depends on your genetic predisposition to gaining strength and muscle), you should weigh around 185 to 205 and be benching at least
three plates per side (that's 315 pounds), squatting 400, deadlifting about 500 and curling 150. Most guys will do even better than that in at least one of the lifts, and several will be generating higher numbers
in all four.
CLASSICALLY ADVANCED LIFTING
Once you have built enough muscle mass to bench 300, squat 400 and deadlift 500 (you might be lacking a bit in one movement or a lot stronger in another), then you can consider yourself an advanced lifter - that
is, unless you weigh 220 or more and should be handling much heavier weights. At that stage there are some more good routines to use. Don't attempt more advanced routines until you are at this level of strength.
I don't care if you've been lifting for ten years. If you're not yet strong enough, go back to the basics before attempting the routine below. If you have reached this advanced level, read on!
This routine incorporates many of the concepts that were popular for such great old-timers as Paul Anderson, Doug Hepburn and John Grimek. It's a split routine in which you train one-half of your body on day one,
train the second half on day two, rest a day, do another workout for the muscle groups trained on the first day, and then, on day five, do a different workout for those muscle groups trained on day two. Take a look
at it and then go to the gym and enjoy the thrill of what will be a very innovative workout to the uninitiated, despite the fact that its concepts have been around for a half-century or longer.
WORKOUT 1 (UPPER BODY, ARMS)
Bench Presses - 3-8x1,5x5
: This little bench-press goodie was stolen from Doug Hepburn, one-time world's strongest man and one hell of a strong bench presser. After several light warmup sets load the bar
with a weight that's about 90 percent of your one-rep maximum. Do 3 single-rep sets at this weight, resting about two minutes between sets. At each subsequent workout 1 add another single-rep set using the same
weight. Once you can handle 8 singles, increase the weight and repeat the process.
After the singles drop the weight to around 70 percent of your one-rep max. Here you're going to attempt 5 sets of 5 repetitions, resting one minute between sets. Once the 5 sets of 5 are relatively easy, increase
the weight at the next workout and repeat.
Wide-Grip Chins - 5x5
: Nothing fancy on this one. Same set and rep pattern as in the earlier workouts. There's no reason at this level, however, that you shouldn't have some major weight strapped around your
waist for extra resistance on your work sets.
Barbell Curls - 8x3
: Warm up on this one with 2 progressively heavier triples. Now pick a weight for your 6 sets of 3 that allows for explosive repetitions. You want to forcibly move the weight from resting
position to the top position in the fastest time possible. This explosive action enhances your ability to recruit muscle fibers for more regular sets. Every couple of weeks increase the weight by 5 to 10 percent. Just
make sure you're still capable of moving the weight in a very explosive manner.
Bottom-Position Close-Grip Bench Presses - 5-6x 1
: As in the earlier workouts, do several progressively heavier singles until you reach a weight that's around 95 percent of your one-rep maximum. Knock off one
or two singles at this weight and then call it quits.
WORKOUT 2 (LEGS, LOWER BACK/HIPS)
Squats - 3-8x1
: Same set scheme of ever-increasing singles as for the bench presses in workout 1. For this workout, however, drop the hypertrophy work of 5 sets of 5 as you'll be doing additional exercises
for your legs and hips.
Leg Presses - 5x5
: If you have access to one, use a vertical leg-press machine. It more closely mimics the squat, translating into strength on that movement as well. Do 2 warmups and then 3 sets of 5 with all
the power you can muster. Top-Position Deadlifts - 8x2: Get in the power rack and set the pins so that the bar rests just over your knees. After 2 progressively heavier warmups try 6 sets of 2 very explosive reps.
Move the weight as fast as you possibly can on the ascent, same as with the barbell curls in workout 1. Weighted Ab Crunches - 5x10: Warm up with 2 sets of crunches using just your body-weight, followed by 3 sets of
10 with as much weight as you can comfortably hold on your chest. Ab work helps to improve the strength of your lower back and the strength you need for a strong squat and deadlift.
Incline Bench Presses, Bench-Press Lockouts, or Flat-Bench Dumbbell Presses - 5-6x1
: Pick one of these three exercises (alternating every week) and warm up with several progressively heavier singles. Rest a
few minutes and then try for a max single. If you hit the single on your first set, rest a few minutes, add some weight to the bar, and try another maximum attempt. Go for a new record on the exercise-of-the-day
If you are an advanced bodybuilder, you don't need to constantly try maximum singles on the same exercise. Doing so could actually make you weaker. This is the reason for alternating exercises. It keeps you from going
Bottom-Position Bench Presses - 5x5
: Same set and rep scheme as in the previous workouts.
Overhead Lockouts - 5-6x3
: Stand up in the power rack and set the pins so that you're doing the last three to four inches of an overhead press. Warm up over several progressively heavier triples until you reach
the maximum weight you can handle for 3 reps.
This movement was a favorite of the immortal John Grimek, who could handle more than 900 pounds in it. You might not ever develop that kind of strength, but you can build up to some impressive poundages.
Barbell Curls - 5x5
: Same system we've used throughout.
Nose-Crushers - 5x5
: Same set and rep scheme. For best results alternate each set of your barbell curls with your nose-crushers in what is essentially a form of very slow supersetting.
Wrist Curls or Reverse Wrist Curls - 5-6x1
: Pick one of these two exercises and warm up over several progressively heavier singles until you hit your max weight. You've probably never, ever tried single reps for
forearms, but I assure you they work better than any other rep scheme for forearm and grip work.
Partial-Rep Squats - 5x5
: Here is a trick that Paul Anderson used. It will really jack your strength up over the long haul. Using the same 5x5 system, position the pins in the rack so that you are doing only
the last several inches of the movement. Once the 5 sets of 5 are relatively easy, drop the pins to the next lower notch at the next workout 4 and repeat the process with the same weight. As soon as the poundage is
easy at this rack height, drop the pins another notch and repeat. Continue in this manner week after week until you are doing full-range squats with the weight you were using only for lockouts at the beginning.
Another way to use this technique is to do box squats instead of working in the power rack. Use an increasingly lower box week after week until you can go ass to the floor. Either way builds tremendous strength.
Stiff-Leg Deadlifts - 5-6x1
: Same system of progressively heavier singles we've used throughout.
Dumbbell Squats - 8x2
: After 2 warmups go for 6 sets of 2 explosive reps. After each repetition rest the bells on the floor momentarily. This method helps you work more on your power from the dead position.
You rarely see this exercise done, but it can be highly effective. It correlates well with your squats and deadlifts and really jacks your numbers on both of those exercises.
Hyperextensions - 5x15
: After 2 warmup sets hold a plate behind your head that allows you 15 reps. Repeat twice. A lot of people lack squatting and deadlifting power because of weak abs and lower back. This
exercise is one in your arsenal that will help correct that problem.
SUMMING IT ALL UP
The above three programs are all fairly simple, though probably different from what you're used to. They all incorporate some of the greatest techniques that the old-timers used for maximum gains in size and
strength. Definitely they can help you in your quest to build the strongest, biggest physique on the block.
Stick with the first two routines for at least your first year of training. Work them hard and you can expect some big gains. After that switch to the advanced routine and you'll keep on gaining, especially in
So there you have it-three very good, old-fashioned training regimens. Some people would call them "outdated," but in my book outdated and old-fashioned are sometimes the best ways to go. Don't be afraid to try them.
Give the modern world some workouts that Paul Anderson, Herman Goerner, Peary Rader and J.C. Hise could still be proud of.