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Weight Training and Powerlifting Questions

2008 - 2009

Below are emails I received in 2008-09 about various aspects of training with weights and powerlifting. The emailers' comments are in black and enclosed in greater than and lesser than signs. My comments are in red. These emails are being published in early 2010, so some of my comments needed updating. These updates are bracketed.

The most important update is that my book Starting and Progressing in Powerlifting was published in May of 2009, after most of these emails. As will be seen, many of the questions being asked are addressed in my powerlifting book. Other issues are addressed in my God-given Foods Eating Plan book. Those two books together will go a long ways in giving proper direction in regards to both training and a proper eating plan, not just for powerlifters but for anyone looking for sound exercise and dietary advice.


>Subject: help, I am 45 and don't know which way to turn.

I have lifted for many years but am finding myself so flooded with information that I really don't know where to start after being away for several years. I have several books by Stewart McRoberts (Brawn , Beyond Brawn to be exact), and feel he has a pretty good hold on things, but he does not go much in depth on powerlifting.

I look around and see many people doing isolation exercises but they have no mass to start with and know that is not going to do them much good. I would like to start a powerlifting plan but really don't know the inn's and the out's of it all.

Several years ago I was squatting 600 lbs. for reps, but only about 265 lbs. on the bench. I really enjoy your web site and have a feeling you probably have just as strong a spiritual life with God as well. That is refreshing in this day and age.

What I am looking for is where to start and how to continue to grow further down the line (how to change up routines effectively). Thank you in advance for your time and advice, if you could let me know where I can go for strength training ideas for supplements and nutrient plans as well.

Bob
2/27/08<

I'm 46 [at least I was at this time], so we about the same age. The routine I am currently using is working very well for me. I haven't written up details for it as yet, but you can check out my most recent workout logs for a general idea of what I am doing: [This log started at Full Workout Logs: Starting 1/13/08: Off-Season; Weeks 1 - 5 of 10. Excerpts from both the off- and in-season part of that log are included in my powerlifting book].

My basic plan is to lift four days a week, alternating through four different workouts: Squats/ Benches/ Deadlifts/ Bench Assistance. But I am also using a two week rotation, doing different exercises each week. So I actually have eight different workouts

You'll see these workouts are marked as being my "off-season." So I am not doing the actual powerlifts. Instead, I am doing "look-alike" lifts like DB benches and reverse band benches. Once I switch to the "in-season" part, I will stop such exercise and do the actual powerlifts.

I will still use a two week rotation, doing the powerlifts completely raw (without any gear) the first week for higher reps (3 x 8-5) the first week, then the powerlifts with the belt and wraps I will be using at my next contest for lower reps the second week (3 x 4-1). [I used this routine to prepare for NASA NE States Powerlifting Championships - 2008, which went very well. The routine is detailed in my book.]

However, since you are just starting to powerlift, it might be best to use a basic cycle. Do the powerlifts every week, starting with higher reps and gradually increasing the weights and dropping the reps over a period of about 12 weeks. Do 2-3 sets for 7-8 reps to start and 1-2 reps at the end of the cycle. [This "basic cycle" is also detailed in my book.]

You'll note also that I am trying to keep my workouts to about an hour or so, which I think is best [as addressed in my book]. So the number of exercises and sets are very limited.

On nutrition, I go into much detail on this in my Eating Plan book [plus in a chapter in my powerlifting book].

On supplements, they are mostly a waste of money. But some are worthwhile. See the Supplements section of the site for reviews of many different products. [Those that I think are worthwhile are also discussed in my powerlifting book.]

And yes, I am a Christian. I just posted a detailed autobiography that you might be interested in. [This bio is now posted on my Zeolla.org site at: My Life Story: Long Version.]

I hope that helps. If you have any specific questions after checking out that info, feel free to write again.


>Subject: Thanks Gary

Hey Gary,

My name is Chuck ____, and I live in Omaha.

About a year and half ago, my dad, who is a powerlifter who had been out of the sport for 20 years or so, went to a meet here in town and left inspired to start lifting. We were both in pretty bad shape and were looking for info on how to get started. It had been so long for Dad that he had forgot what it was like to work from the ground up. We searched the net and found your site. Dad recognized your name, said you were lifting back in his day.

Anyway, we started doing a three-day a week beginners' workout you outline in your log. Results came fast and we have since moved to more advanced -- and heavier -- workloads, but our workouts still resemble those you layout in your logs.

Last week, we lifted in a meet, my first ever and my dad's first in a long time. We lifted raw and had a blast. We both took home some trophies and are looking to do another meet in November.

I read your recent blog entry on the NASA NE meet. I couldn't agree more with your comments on gear. Dad and I went and watched the steroid/gear monsters lift in the APF Senior Nationals, which were held here in Omaha earlier this month. Sure the numbers were impressive, but it was just crazy how many lifts were missed because of gear. There's something wrong when lifters can't get 600-plus pound bench presses to touch their chest. We didn't have that problem raw.

Anyway, this a note to say thanks for posting your logs and blogs. We find them useful and they've helped us have a very productive powerlifting year.

Thanks Gary,
Chuck
6/20/2008<

Thank you very much for letting me know how my site helped you get and your dad gat back into the sport. It's encouraging to me to know my writings are helping someone.

On the gear, what really floored me was when I read about a lifter that could not touch with a grand! It was an exhibition during a break at a bodybuilding contest. I just cannot image what people in the audience (who were probably not familiar with powerlifting) were thinking when half a ton was not enough to get the bar down. Powerlifting should not be about getting the bar down but about getting it up!

[Note: I address what is meant by "raw" versus "equipped" powerlifting in my powerlifting book, including presenting the various opinions both pro and con in regards to each of type of lifting. See Strength Training Routines for the beginner's routine mentioned. A slightly different starting program is detailed in the chapter on exercise in my Eating Plan book. More advanced training programs are presented in my powerlifting book.]


>Subject: Alternate 4 Day Per Week Routine

Hi Mr. Gary,

Greetings from Singapore.

I found your website to be immensely useful and inspirational. I am currently following your Alternate 4 Day Per Week Routine. I have only been training seriously in powerlifting for 2 months....

My question is would you recommend using a belt while doing Squats and Deadlifts at this stage?

I have been reading conflicting information on the Internet regarding the pros and cons of using weightlifting belts. For instance, belts may cause injuries or delay core abdominal development.

Thank you in advance for any feedback.

Winston

9/29/2008<

Glad to hear my routine is working for you. I try to use a belt as little as possible, usually only when I do less than five reps, but I am also always sure to include some sets without the belt. With my current routine, my entire ten week "off-season" will be done without a belt, along with the first half of my ten-week in-season. Only the last five weeks of the whole routine will be done with a belt, and then only for two of my three work sets.

My reasoning here is as you say, wearing a belt too much will prevent torso development, but it does need to be worn when doing max singles and thus at a contest. And you need to get used to wearing it so it needs to be worn some during training. Quality belts are available from APT Pro Gear.

[Note that the above refers to those lifting raw or unequipped. Equipped lifters should always were a belt whenever wearing a suit, due to the greater weights utilized.]


>Subject: powerlifting training...

Saw an article by you on the Internet...

Is doing each lift once a week, on a three-day-a-week program, enough work? Seems like a long time before one hits that muscle again? What about doing a basic, totally-body program, twice-a-week?

Wythe
10/22/2008<

The three day a week program does work, but not quite as well as doing basically the same schedule four times a week. That is my routine now:

Day One: Squats
Day Two: Benches
Day Three: Deadlifts
Day Four: Bench Assistance

With this schedule, each body part is worked two days a week, but in a slightly different fashion. Squats and deadlifts, for instance, both work the entire lower body. However, there is a different emphasis. Squats work mainly the quads and hips, with the lower back and hamstrings being used in a more supportive role, while DLs are the reverse. This pattern seems to work well for other muscle groups as well. [My powerlifting book discusses how to arrange Bench and Bench Assistance day for a similar pattern, along with for other muscles groups.]

A full-body, twice a week program can work, but it has some drawbacks. First off, I have found that working out only twice a week is not often enough to keep me in "lifting shape." Even with some aerobic exercise on in-between days, I end up dragging on the lifting days. And second, twice a week does not leave much time for a variety of exercises to be done. [My powerlifting book outlines a two-day a week program for those who only have such a limited time to train.]


>Subject: post workout recovery

Hi Gary, recently I was able to gain access to a full gym after many years of sparse access and limited home equipment and time. When I say many years, the last time I spent significant time in a gym lifting weights was in 1997.

Anyway, long story short I spent some time lifting (what I felt was pretty conservative), and of course experienced the normal soreness and stiffness post workout (although I went fairly light, it was pretty tough to negotiate going down stairs for a couple days). Are there any techniques you recommend to minimize this effect?

Thanks,
Randy
1/19/2009<

It's good to hear you now have access to a full gym and are making a commitment to working out. Since you are doing "new" things in the gym, then soreness will be inevitable. But after a few workouts, it should mostly clear up, so stick with it. I still get sore myself when I try any new exercise. But this can be lessened by easing into things. Whenever I do a new exercise or one I have not done in a while, for my first workout or two I will not work very hard.

A good pre- and post-workout drink or meal will help in this regard. My Eating Plan book discusses post-workout nutrition. Taking glutamine post-workout also helps with post-workout soreness. [My powerlifting book addresses this subject in even more detail, with an entire chapter devoted to "Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition."]

>Subject: RE: post workout recovery

Gary, appreciate your feedback here. Thanks! Also, I enjoy referring to your ALT [Analytical-Literal Translation] as I study God's Word. Appreciate that very much.

Thanks,
Randy
1/21/2009<


>Subject: powerlifting advice

Mr. Zeolla,

My name is Rodney ____. I'm 41 and just started back powerlifting a couple of years ago. You are one of the few that are older, smaller, and stronger than me. So I thought you would be a good person to ask for advice....

I really think I can be as strong as I was. Question--Do you mind giving me some advice on how to get there at 41 years old? My mom and dad foot the bill for a Centurion squat suit, so looks like I'm back in equipment. I've got a Frantz bench shirt from like 1990. I've also got the first suit I ever got in 1988, an elite. It's as thin as a t-shirt but I squatted 335 in it last week. I haven't got the Centurion yet, but excited to see what I can do in it.

I guess I've rambled a bit, but really would appreciate any tips you might have on powerlifting especially for the master lifter.

Thank You,
Rodney
3/16/2009<

Good to hear you're getting back into powerlifting, and it sounds like you are doing very well. I am just finishing up a book on powerlifting. It should be out by the end of next month. You might want to check it out when it is available. In the meantime, I would suggest you check out my workout logs. They can give you some training ideas.

You do need to make a decision if you are going to lift raw or equipped. I discuss in my book that going back and forth is counter-productive and could even lead to injury. If you decide to use gear, then from what I have heard of it, a Centurion is good, but you should get a new shirt. Again, from what I have heard, and if you like Titan, their new Katana is supposed to be great. Crain's new CX gear is also top of the line. ATP also recently came out with a bench shirt that sounds good. So check out these different options.

At your age, diet is extremely important. I address proper diet for both athletic performance and general health in my Eating Plan book. My forthcoming powerlifting book will more specifically look at nutrition for powerlifters.

Also very important is workout length. I am finding it is best for a workout to last between 1:00 – 1:15. Shorter than an hour doesn't seem like enough work, while anything longer than 1:15 and I get too tired. As for volume, doing 2-3 work sets of 3-4 exercises seems to be about right. [Again, my book provides details in this regard]

If you have any specific questions, I'd be happy to try to answer them.


>Subject: Re: FitTips for One and All - Vol. VII, No. 3

I so enjoy your newsletter. It brings me up to speed and this one happened to hit three subjects I was trying to find time to look into. Amazing. I have daughters that I would like to get into the sport on a limited basis as they do several other very heavy duty. Perhaps women lifting as teens could be a future subject or is there a book you could suggest? Oldest is 16 and likes to lift, but we have not found our way to any contests yet.

Thank you for the news letter and what you do. We love it.

Ron
4/1/2009<

Glad to hear you enjoy my newsletters. If you're asking about a book on powerlifting for your daughters, my book should be out within a month. It is geared towards those just like your daughters, those just starting in the sport. So if you can wait a month, it should be what you want. Most other books are more for advanced lifters.

As for them being teen women, I don't believe women should training any different than men, while the main difference with younger lifters is there needs to be an even greater attention to proper form.


>Subject: gaining weight info

Hello, Gary,

I want to gain weight in the form of muscle mass--I was wondering if you could help me with a few items.

I'm following a basic weight training program, what sort of diet program should I be following? Are there any other things that I could/should be doing to gain muscular weight? How much cardio should I be doing? What kind of cardio is the best kind to do?

If you could help me out with any items or ways/ideas of gaining weight in a healthy way, any help/information would be very appreciated.

Thank you.
J.H.
5/13/2009<

As I write in my new powerlifting book, "The old adage for gaining muscular bodyweight still hold true today, ‘Lift big, eat big, sleep big.'"

I discuss proper eating in general in a chapter in that book. It is summarized from my Eating Plan book. In the latter, I have a section that discusses "Gaining Muscular Bodyweight." One point I raise is that you can drink more calories than you can eat, so I provide some recipes for homemade MRPs [meal replacement formulas].

My powerlifting book is obviously geared towards powerlifters. However, you would find much benefit from the book as well, but a few modifications will need to be made. These benefits and modifications are detailed in the article Powerlifting Book: Beneficial for Non-powerlifters.

In regards to cardio, I also address that subject in my books. So the best I can suggest is to pick up copies of both of my books. They will provide much greater detail than I can in an email in terms of proper diet and training methods. [For what I am currently doing cardio-wise, see Cardio Logs - 2009 and Cardio Logs - First Quarter 2010.]


>Subject: How important is the daily diet when weight training?

Hi Gary.

I must say that the information you have put together on your website is the best source I have found when it comes to putting science and experience into perspective regarding weight training. Your section about post-workout drinks is really detailed and well researched!

So reading that, and a lot of the other things about nutrition in general -- also great material -- I was thinking: How important is it really to eat so and so many carbs, protein and fats in your daily diet compared to a post workout meal after exercise? I am tracking my intake, but obviously carbs isn't just carbs and neither is protein, so when one states that you need a specific amount of each based on bodyweight to gain weight...must one not also take into consideration of what types (like carbs there is really several types -- fructose, glucose and so on)? And does it really make a difference that is worth the trouble of meticulously tracking everything?

On a second note, most of the famous bodybuilders of old such as Reg Park, Bill Pearl and John Grimeks diets considered mostly of orange juice, milk, eggs and red meat, which is interesting compared to the scientific approach which as you explain is far from optimal and in some cases even completely ineffective. What's your thought on that? Have you thought about it?

You wouldn't have all the info in your webpage in a book? It would be very great to have it in hardcover since the info is so dense.

Sincerely,
Jabberdau
5/28/2009<

I am glad my site has been of help to you.

I think daily diet is very important for long term progress. And you are correct that the type of carbs, protein, and fat is important as well as the amounts and proportions.

I do have this info and much more in two books: my God-given Foods Eating Plan book and my brand new Starting and Progressing in Powerlifting book. The latter includes an updated and expanded chapter on pre- and post-workout nutrition.

As for the old-timers, yes they did get big and strong for their day, but they would not fare so well in today's bodybuilding world, where the guys are much larger and even more ripped. That is due in a large part due to better nutritional methods.

The above emails originally appeared in the free FitTips for One and All email newsletter.
They were posted on this site January 31, 2010.

Powerlifting and Strength Training
Powerlifting and Strength Training: Weight Training Questions

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