Strength Tips from Mike Brown
Read Mike Brown's Blog, Experimental Bodybuilding
Whey and Casein Protein
Our trainee Ted Roach was not gaining with whey protein and coconut milk. When he switched to Mits' Protein, which is made from sodium caseinate and powdered whole egg, he started gaining immediately.
At the time we had no idea why there was such a difference in protein utilization. Then, in tow different technical journals, we found the answer.
Whey protein stays in the system for 90 minutes.
Casein protein stays in the system for 7 hours.
I.e., in 90 minutes (or less) the whey protein quite working.
Sources: British Journal of Nutrition (1993) vol. 70, pp. 139-146; Strength and Conditional Journal (December 2003) vol. 25, pp. 70-71.
Health Balls for Grip Strength
The Chinese invented gunpowder.
The Europeans figured out how to put it in a tube sealted at one end, drop in an iron ball, light a fuse, and make a cannon out of it.
The Chinese invented the health balls, which help develop manual dexterity and mental concentration. John Brookfield, author of The Grip Master's Manual, came up with the idea of using weighted health balls and turning the hands upside-down to use weight resistence for grip development.
In 1993 at the Chinese National Games, the nine-member women's running team broke nine world records.
The team passed the tests for steroid abuse
Their coach gave the credit to a Chinese herbal mixture in which the main ingredient was the cordyceps mushroom.
Mushrooms extract nutrients from what they feed on, such as dead wood, apparently concetrating it for human consumption.
We strongly suggest you buy your cordyceps mushroom powder from a reputable source.
How to Buy Good Bodybuilding Books
There is a simple rule for buying bodybuilding books these days. Read a few pages, preferably out of the middle. If you see advice like "train to failure," six meals a day, etc., you can be fairly certain that the author is merely repeating the mistake of others who wrote earlier books.
Arthur Jones started the "train to failure" nonsense in 1970. Neither that training method nor his machines worked the way he ballyhooed them.
Vern Bickel came up with the "six meals a day" plan in the 1950s. Notice that he never won a major physique or weightlifting contest nor did he train anyone who did. Try it. Then notice also that, for most men, it doesn't work.
The 10-Set System
Back in the 1950s Vince Gironda, author of Blueprint for the Bodybuilder, devised a program he called the "10-set system." One variation of it consisted of doing 10 sets of one exercise in one workout, 10 sets of a different exercise in the next workout, 10 sets of a third exercise in the third workout, and so forth. On the fifth workout, you start over. All other exercises are done for 2 sets.
The body is given two weeks to recover from each exercise. Men have gained as much as 50 pounds in one year on this system.
Let's take this system one step further. Use this system with a cable set or a set of chest expanders. You will be able to do your 10 sets much more rapidly than you can with weights and you will get a much better "pump."
The down side is that, while your muscular size will increase, your ability to lift more weight will not increase at all. Cables build the ability to deal with an opposing human muscle, not the ability to lift weights.
Preacher Bench Curls--The Proper Way
You see a lot of men doing curls on the "preacher bench," in which the bodybuilder sits on a bench with a padded section designed to keep his arms out in front of him at a 45-degree angle. Almost everyone does it wrong, uses faulty equipment, or both.
First, you want a bench with curved, not flat, padding (where your arms rest).
Second, you put your elbows at the beginning (top position) of the padding and lower the bar from there. At extension you arms will not be at a 45-degree angle.
Third, do not go to full extension. This is a good way to stretch the tendons and ligaments in your elbow joint in a fashion they were not designed for. Full extension may cause permanent injury.
Larry Scott, Mr. Olympia, designed both the bench and the proper way to do the exercise back in the 1960s. If you want biceps like his, do it right.
Starting Your Workout
Start your workout by working your abdominal muscles. You can do one set each of leg lifts (with legs held straight) and hyperextensions for 20 reps. If you can't do 20 to start, work up to that many. Add weight once you can do 20 easily.
Alternatives to the Squat
Most modern "chrome and fern" gyms don't have much in the way of squat racks or power racks. Worse, a gym with one squat rack seems to attact the type of individual who uses a squat rack to "rest his weight on while doing his curls or upright rows.
You can do front squats with the bar resting on the deltoids as a substitute for the exercise you really wanted to do, squats on the power rack. You just have to use a lot less weight.
There is another alternative. It's called a Zercher squat. Have your training partner deadlift the weight. Rest the bar in the crook of your elbows and squat from there. Once you get used to it, you can lift a lot of weight in the squat this way.
Don't Neglect the Smaller Muscle Groups
A lot of men spend their time doing endless sets of curls and other "shaping" exercises in the mistaken impression that such exercise will add strength and bulk. It won't, even to your arms. Arms grow by working the shoulders.
More knowledgeable bodybuilders use muscle-man exercises for the large muscle groups. Such exercises include the bench press, the squat, and the deadlift.
Many of those more knowledgeable bodybuilders then neglect the smaller areas such as the neck, the hands and forearms, and the calves and feet. Don't. The strongest chain is only as strong as the weakest link. You may find that, in an emergency situation when you are called upon to use your strength, the area you neglected will "give way" and incapacitate you.
Back in 1919 a contract inventor named John Robert Fish, Sr. had a girlfriend named Olive. Olive had polio. She was bedridden. Fish reasoned that he could address her problem with a chamber that alternated vacuum and pressure, which in turn would cause her body to ingest nutrients and expel effluvia more efficiently.
In six months she was taking 300 yard walks with him, leaning on his arm. Fish then set out to raise the money to put his device into production, which at the time consisted of an old Turkish steam cabinet, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle engine, and a vacuum pump. No one with money was interested.
By 1929 Fish had invented the Fish carburetor, thinking to raise the money he needed with it. He didn't get the Fish carburetor into production until 1947. In the meantime someone else had patented part of his idea in 1941 as the Iron Lung.
Fast forward to 2003. All the major bodybuilding contestants are on steroids. One of the things steroids do is convert protein to muscle at a higher rate of efficiency than the body could normally be capable of.
Instead of steroids, let's try this.
First, build a cabinet that will allow you to alternately increase pressure and create vacuum. Air compressors and vacuum pumps are all over the place. Hook them up with on-off switches to your cabinet.
Second, install a facepiece hooked to an oxygen tank that will allow you to breathe a richer mixture of oxygen than you normally would. Oxygen, when inhaled is diatomic, the diagram (in chemistry a Lewis Structure) would look something like O - O.
This oxygen picks up waste in the lungs and bloodstream, winding up as a O - C - O, the C standing for carbon, as carbon dioxide.
The theory here is that the alternating pressure and vacuum with the increased oxygen supply will increase your ability to convert nutrients to muscle tissue, similar to steroids but without the side effects.
If you build such a device, let us know how it works.
The Grip Master's Manual by John Brookfield is probably the greatest book ever written on developing grip and hand strength. Brookfield is a professional strongman. One of the exercises he devised for grip development was to toss a 20-lb. weight (he sawed off one end of a 40-lb. cast iron dumbbell) from hand to hand. He worked up to over 50 pounds. What surprised him was that his upper arm measurement increased from 18.25" to 19.25" by doing this exercise.
In one month.
Exercise the Toes
Very few bodybuilders, weightlifters or athletes give their feet the attention they deserve. It appears that the further down the body one travels, the less training is given to that part of the anatomy.
Most men want a larger chest, broader shoulders, and bigger arms. Watch the men exercising in any given commercial gym and that's what you will see them exercising.
A few want "six-pack" abdominals.
Fewer still do squats for the upper thighs.
Very few men exercise their calves. Worse, the ones that do appear to make little or no progress on the machines they're using.
Exercising the toes is unheard of.
However, as Fred Hutchinson in his article, "No Calf Machine Required" (Milo, vol. 11, no. 2 September 2003) points out, exercising the toes strengthen the entire body and increases overall athletic ability tremendously.
Walter Payton, the greatest running back who ever lived, exercised his toes with a method most of you wouldn't consider. He took ballet.
Why? It works.
The Bent Press
At the turn of the 19th century (into the 20th) one of the most impressive feats of strength was known as the "bent press," or "screw press." The lifter got the bar to his shoulder with both hands and then "bent away" from it holding it with one hand. Arthur Saxon claimed this was "the" lift for training for all-around lifter. Arthur Saxon, at a height of 5' 10" and a body weight of around 220 pounds, could handle so much weight in this lift and was so well-balanced that he could pick up another weight with his other hand and put them both overhead, a combined weight of 448 pounds.
A lot of our modern strongmen have tried this lift with dumbbells and failed. What Arthur Saxon points out in his book, The Text Book of Weightlifting, is that, in order to shoulder a barbell for the bent press without wearing yourself out in the process, you need a long bar. The book is available from Bill Hinbern.
Exercise the Front and Back Muscles of Your Legs
While many lifters do exercises to strengthen the quads (the muscles of the thigh), they neglect the hamstrings. An overly-exercised quad with a hamstring that is neglected will eventually result in an injury. If you are not going to strengthen the opposing muscles, don't lift at all.
Carbs for Energy
Some people don't have the energy for a full workout because they are on a high protein diet. Look at the animal kingdom for the evidence. A cheetah, the fastest land animal, is a carnivore. The cheetah can reach a top speed of 71 miles per hour (114 kilometers per hour), but can only maintain that speed for only 200-300 yards.
To have the energy for a good workout you need carbohydrates. The best carbs to maintain a strong and healthy body are from whole grains, beans, legumes, young coconuts, and fresh vegetables. Carbs with the fiber still intact take longer to digest and help stabilize blood sugar.
Change Your Routine and Rest in Between
You should change your exercise routine at least every six weeks for maximum effectiveness. The muscle groups to be trained (based on your goals) should determine the type of exercises you perform. Take a week off at the end of your six weeks to give the whole body a chance to rest.
One Arm Overhead Lifts
Prior to World War II many lifters lifted some tremendous poundage overhead with one arm. It's an interesting and productive way to train.
However, look at the photo sequences of what they were doing very carefully. Notice that a man who appears to be curling a 150-lb. weight from the floor to his shoulder with one hand has the other hand placed firmly on the other leg, just above the kneecap.
What he's doing is curling the weight with one hand and using the other hand to push against the leg and engage the back muscles to assist in the lift.
Work into this one slowly.
Benefits of Strength Training
Strength training not only makes you look and feel better, it improves your body in many ways. Training twice a week is enough. Do pulling exercises on the first workout of the week and pushing exercises on the second workout of the week. This gives your muscles a week to recover.
Research has shown that strength training can benefit anyone at any age. The key is to keep it up and don't quit. Some of the benefits have been recently discovered.
Sore Muscle Treatment
Muscle soreness after a workout can be expected. If you have a particular area (such as a hip or shoulder) that doesn't seem to recover like the rest of your muscles, you may want to give that spot a little extra attention. You can rub on arnica gel, a natural herb, which can be used on sore muscles and bruises. You can soak in a tub with a cup of epsom salts and a cup of baking powder to help remove the soreness. You can have a massage therapist give the spot some extra attention. Alternative health care providers, such as a cranial sacral therapist or energy worker, may be able to locate and correct the reason for the problem.
Start Your Day Off Right
The "pump" you get from working out more often than not is determined by the food you have eaten earlier that day. For example, if you do handstands between each cable set exercise, you will find that you will get more of a pump if your first meal of the day consisted of complete carbohydrates, such as brown rice made into "oatmeal" or gruel.
Thinking Past Your Best
Mental attitude has more to do with making progress than you think. When you hit a "plateau," it is normally because of one of two things: either an injury or a mental attitude. Your subconscious can program you to fail.
For example, one of my trainees failed on the fifth rep with 195. After I explained to him that his problem was in his head, he did six reps with 220. This was the same day.
Sideways and Backwards
One of the best ways to strengthen your hips and increase your endurance and athletic ability is running sideways and backwards. You will strengthen and develop muscles you didn't even know you had.
The faster the recovery of your muscles from workouts, the sooner you are ready to make some serious progress. Taking a teaspoon of MSM daily can help the process. Unlike medical drugs MSM is a natural food component, which the body uses in many ways as part of its normal miraculous self-healing complexity. MSM is the most basic unit of sulphur--a mineral essential in many different mechanisms of life.
Sulphur is crucial to making and repairing "connective tissue" which includes skin, hair, joint cartilage, stomach and gut linings, the sheaths around muscles, ligaments, tendons.
While the causes of damage to these tissues may be many and various, the body is always trying to heal the tissues, so it is always helpful to increase the rate at which it is able to do this. In some cases this is the only cause of the disease, the failure of the body to repair itself at the rate at which natural degeneration occurs.
Damage may occur from burns, infection, auto-immune disease, stomach acid, wear and tear on joints, medicinal drugs and antibiotics, diet and many other causes.
Sulphur has many functions other than tissue repair. Cell walls require sulphur for their natural permeability, that is, their ability to ingest nutrients expel waste or toxins out--and to keep the fluid pressure even on either side. If this pressure equalizing ability is reduced then inflammation and swelling result--with associated pain. This may be a factor in headaches, rheumatoid arthritis, insect stings, and sprains.
The "empirical evidence" with this natural healing food consisted of people hearing about it and trying it for themselves--then telling others.
How to Look Your Best for Pictures
If you want to look like you just gained 15 pounds of solid muscle, you can do it in less than 30 minutes.
Use a cable set (chest expander) for your workout. In between each set, do a handstand (feet against the wall is okay).
Between the normal "pump" you get from using a cable set and inverting the blood flow in your body increasing the "pump," it will look like you gained 15 pounds in half an hour. Over a period of time you will even get to keep some of it as permanent muscle growth.
The abdomen is the core of the body. It's where most every movement originates, both in athletics and everyday life. If the midsection is weak, the rest of the body is not as strong as it could be. Well-conditioned abs also look good. A flabby midsection contributes to lower back impairment, constipation, and inferior power transfer in sports.
Abdominal training is either neglected or abused. The abdominals are primarily a fast-twitch muscle which indicates that all those low-load reps into the astronomical range are basically useless. The exercises that do work are leg raises and sit-ups (where the head is gradually lowered to the maximum setting on the sit-up bench).
Recover with Protein
The sooner you eat protein after you finish a hard workout, the quicker you will recover. The benefits of eating protein soon after you lift weights does not apply just to elite athletes. A study from the University of Arkansas shows that eating meat helps older people grow large muscles when they also lift weights. Muscles are made primarily from protein building blocks called amino acids. Muscles heal from a hard workout when amino acids and other nutrients travel from your bloodstream into the muscles. Eating food, particularly protein, immediately after you finish your workout helps muscles heal faster. This study shows that men between the ages of 51 and 69 recover faster and grow larger muscles when they include meat than when they eat only dairy, fruits, vegetable, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts.
When you lift a weight, the resistance remains the same at every point of the movement. That is a 100-pound weight at the beginning of a barbell curl still weighs 100 pounds at the half-way point of the movement and 100 pounds at the end of the movement.
However, a muscle has more potential the further it contracts.
A cable set (chest expanders) furnishes more resistance the further the muscle contracts. That is, a cable set actually provides increasing resistance for increasing potential power. One of the results of training with cables is that your muscle will develop with more "natural curves."
Balance is the single most important component of athletic ability because it underlies all movement. Balance is a component of all movement whether that movement is dominated by strength, speed, flexibility or endurance. Balance must always precede the generation of force. As the old saying goes, "you can't fire a cannon from a canoe!" Therefore, problems that appear to be related to a lack of strength, speed, flexibility or skill may be in fact balance related.
A major way to develop your balance is to use free weights and avoid machines. Some other ways to develop your balance is Pilates and ballet.
Bodybuilding is 80% nutrition. A nutrient that can have a major effect on the body is arginine, a complex amino acid. It can be synthesized in the body at adequate levels for maintenance in normal adults, but the body needs higher levels when exposed to injury, illness, malnutrition or stress. Arginine is most concentrated in skin and connective tissue.
Arginine has many benefits. For bodybuilding the most important benefits are:
Harness and Jefferson Lifts
Most men think of the squat as the exercise that is superior to all others in strengthening the lower body. It isn't. The squat develops the lower thighs. The seat of a man's power is in his hips. The old-timers strengthened their hips with harness lifts, Jefferson lifts, and the like. For more on how the old-timers trained, contact Bill Hinbern at Bill Hinbern's World Famous Super Strength Books
The theory behind partial movements is that a muscle has more potential power the more it contracts. For example, at almost full extension of the bench press, the triceps are almost fully contracted.
The body works best as a unit. Not only are the triceps providing maximum power at the top of a partial bench press, so are other muscle groups that attach to and/or aid the triceps.
Watch Your Form
Have someone you can trust critique your form when working out. Don't use a "yes man." You need someone who is honest and knowledgeable. You also need someone to correct you if you don't reach full extension during your reps. A digital camera that has a video mode can also be used to check your form.
Correction by Design
Norman Cantwell formulated Correction by Design. His system utilizes the same points that are used to cause damage in self-defense. In this system these points are used as beneficial tools in balancing the body's energies. Many people, especially athletes, live with pain every day of their lives. By removing blockages caused by injury or ailments, the body becomes balanced, allowing a natural restoration of wellness and performance. This method does not mask pain (as aspirin does) but encourages adjustment of the underlying problems, so the body is enabled to function as God has designed it.
This system is not designed to effect medical cures. It is designed for increased athletic performance, both for bodybuilders and athletes.
Edgar Cayce, the Sleeping Prophet, had a four-letter expression for health that applies equally to building a superior body. That acronym is CARE (C: Circulation, A: Assimilation, R: Rest or Relaxation, E: Elimination).
Correction by Design restores circulation and removes blockages that are so minor they simply do not arise to the level of a medical or chiropractic problem. For example, the first time I met Norman Cantwell, he used this system on me and told me that I had blockages in my right shoulder and on the inside of my right arm between the biceps and triceps. When I asked him how he knew that, he told me that he could feel it.
I knew he was right. Two days previously I had been doing dumbbell bench presses with 95-lb. dumbbells. I am right-handed, which means that my right arm is stronger than my left arm. On the ninth rep my right arm failed and the left arm kept going. The next time I went to the gym, I didn't have that problem.
If you want your body to reach maximum athletic performance or increased strength, contact Norman Cantwell and ask for Correction by Design at: [email protected]
Avoiding Aches and Pains
Exercising consistently and eating a diet of organic and minimally processed food will help you avoid aches and pains. Keeping yourself hydrated helps to clear the toxins from your body which will help reduce the amount of soreness and tightness.
Exercising consistently to keep your strength to a maximum without pushing too far past your limit will also help to avoid injuries. A small degree of discomfort can be expected. A sharp pain is a signal to stop doing what you're doing. Mild soreness after exercising is a given. Anything else means you overdid it.
Do your reps slowly. Fast and jerky repetitions build up momentum which can cause strain or injury to your muscles and joints.
Adding More to An Exercise
Add work to your exercises that work additional muscles.
For example, when doing an arm curl, as you raise the forearm, try moving the elbow forward at the same time. This will work the shoulder muscle.
Another way to add work is to do dumbbell presses while lying on a fitness ball.
Using a Mirror
Using a mirror helps to focus your mind on the exercise and to check to see if your form is correct. Doing an exercise improperly can increase your chances for incurring injuries and for all practical purposes is a waste of time and energy.
Exercises for Shin Muscles
1. Walk on your heels every day to strengthen your shin muscles. Walk on your heels for 30 seconds at a time. Repeat during the day 5-10 times.
2. Write the alphabet with your toes. No one has to see you do this. You can do it in bed before you go to sleep or under your desk at work. If you're really resourceful, get in a few letters in your car at each red light. See if you can finish the whole alphabet by the time you arrive home. Do this with both feet.
3. Flexing and pointing the foot at the ankle joint also will help strengthen the shin muscle. Put an ankle weight (one pound to start) on your bare foot. Sit where you can dangle your legs from a stool or table. Slowly flex your foot up and then point your toes down. Think of your ankle as a hinge. Do it for ten reps with each foot and do three sets.
Don't Hold Your Breath
Don't hold your breath when exercising or lifting heavy weights. Holding your breath makes the exercise more difficult and may cause excessive pressure in the chest and abdomen.
Exhale as you lift the weight or exert the muscles. Breathe in as you lower the weight or relax the muscles.
Build Both Sides of Your Body
Most likely you are stronger on one side than on the other. When you use a machine that involves using both arms or both legs, the stronger side always stays stronger. Instead of using the machines, use free weights to help the weaker side catch up to the stronger side. When doing alternate dumbbell curls or presses, always start with the weak side first (if you're right-handed, start with the left).
Boosting Your Bench Press
One of the best exercises to boost your bench press is the dip on parallel bars. Pat Casey, the first man to break the 600-lb. bench press barrier in the 1960s, used this as his primary bench press assistance exercise, 3 sets of 5 reps.
Bulking up with canned coconut milk and Mits' Protein is easily done. However, if it is primarily strength you are after, try fresh young coconuts, one a day. You will find that your strength will increase on a week by week basis even if you change nothing about your workout.
Read about Young Coconuts
Read about The Healing Miracles of Coconut Oil
Warm up your legs by doing "high knees." These are done by almost running in place and bringing your knees as high as you can in front of you and pumping your arms like you are running. This will warm-up/strengthen your hip flexors and warm-up/strengthen your calves. Do this for about 30 seconds.
Then do about 30 seconds of "butt kicks." These are also done by almost running in place (but slightly moving forward), pumping your arms and kicking your feet up behind you slightly clipping your butt. This warms up/strengthens your quads.
These are especially helpful if you arrive at your workout gym and the temperature is below freezing. You can do these by going forward in a small circle in the aerobic/stretching area of the gym for as long as it takes to take the chill off your body.
1. Warm up sufficiently to avoid injury. Warming up is especially important as you get older since muscle tissue becomes less flexible with age.
2. Increase your weight by a small increment after you can do 15 reps in an exercise.
Developing Thumb Strength
One of the ways to develop grip strength is to use a handgripper, one of those devices that provides resistance with a spring. What such a device will not develop is thumb strength.
To develop thumb strength, drill a hole in a 2" x 4" block of wood, 4" to 6" in length. Put a rope through the hole and attach it to a weight. Use this device held between the thumb and fingers to develop thumb strength. This is called a "pinch grip."
Preventing Knee Problems
There are a couple ways to prevent knee problems.
First, you prevent such injuries by exercising the supporting muscles under the kneecap (calf raises alone won't cut it). Notice that no one does such exercises.
Second, there is a way of dragging the thumb and fingers in front of, alongside of, and behind the kneecap after you do squats to "reset" the kneecap, a technique taught to me by a chiropractor, Dr. Tom Trimble.
The old-timers did some unusual lifts you don't see today, like the harness lift, in which a woman lifted 2500 pounds and several men exceeded 4000 pounds.
No on has that much weight to train with.
In Physical Training Simplified, by Mark H. Berry, he shows you how to build and use a wooden device that, because of the leverage involved, allows you to multiply 100 pounds of weight to 300, 600, or even 1200 pounds.
The book is available from Bill Hinbern at Super Strength Books
Routines prior to World War II
Prior to World War II bodybuilders used hundreds of different lifts. After the War, the introduction of the "set system" drastically curtailed the number of different lifts that could be used in a workout session (unless you wanted to train all day long). The irony here is that the old-timers had better routines than today's bodybuilders.
Bodybuilding is 80% nutrition.
Consider using yesterday's routines with modern supplements. You may be pleasantly surprised with the results.
A quick and easy way to strengthen your wrists is to do pushups on your knuckles. The proper technique is to rest your weight on only two of the knuckles (of the index and middle fingers). To do this, use a very clean surface that has some give to it (like a wooden or linoleum floor).
Powdered desiccated Argentine beef liver has done miracles for Lauren Laughlin,
Information on this web site is not to be construed as professional advice or medical recommendations. I do not endorse or guarantee references or sites listed, and no unfavorable inference should be drawn from failure of any resource to be listed here. Readers are encouraged to direct any questions concerning personal health care to licensed physicians or other appropriate healthcare professionals.
This page was updated on 8 March 2008