Muscles of Iron

Strength, Health, and Might

Train as a Unit

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When I first starting training, I believed almost everything I read in popular bodybuilding text of the day. Worse, I tried whatever I was told works. It wasn’t until I shed my short pants and started training in earnest for sports that logical methods to improve one’s strength and conditioning led the way to the truth. When aiming to gain another 10 to 15 pounds on my press or squat overshadowed my attempts to build 20–inch arms in three weeks, then everything took care of itself quite nicely.

Photo 1

Cartoon drawing of skinny young man reading a muscle magazine and seeing himself in his mind as a superstar bodybuilder two weeks later.

Drawing by Chris “Sticks” Bostick. All rights reserved.

I still read bodybuilding magazines, but now strictly for amusement. And, 45 years after reading my first bodybuilding rag, I see that the muscle comics remain largely the same. While standing in the grocery store line the other day I snagged one of the latest “fitness” magazines and flipped through it. Sure enough, the publication template was set 40 years ago. It was another case of Mr. Expert publishes his training routine.

Up until the mid 1960’s, at least most training routines in the muscle mags consisted of six to eight basic compound barbell and dumbbell movements done in three progressive sets two to three times per week. That was reasonable. But, then, some publisher got the bright idea to not only sell his monthly muscle mag, but also to sell training courses devoted to individual body parts — supposedly based on how Mr. This or Mr. That built his massive muscles. Most of these courses offered insane advice, such as instructing you to train one body part per day with 25 sets worth of exercise. Advertisement for one such course even promised that you could add four inches to your arms in a month by following their arms specialization program. Yea right.

The truth is, you eat as a unit, you sleep as a unit, and you should train as a unit. You cannot duplicate the muscle size of some genetic superior unless you have a similar genetic/physiological footprint — even if you ingest a ton of pharmaceuticals every day. Most guys in the muscle ads are genetic freaks, not products of hard training alone. Steve Reeves, for example, built great legs by delivering newspapers in Montana when he was a kid — far before he ever heard of a barbell.

So, its time to go back to the 60’s, Homer. For best results, concentrate on doing a limited number of compound movements (four to eight) two to three times per week, two to three sets each. And, also focus on making measurable strength increases. Finally, when progress slows, kick back a week and read a muscle mag, FOR LAUGHS! The rejuvenation will do you some good.

Chris “Sticks” Bostick,
MOI contributing writer