Well, another year is in the books. And I am sure you have a set of strength and health goals for the coming New Year.
But do you really?
The reason I ask is while most of you most likely have strength or muscular development targets, I don’t know if all of you have made these goals with improved health in mind.
Over Christmas I read a series of articles written by John McCallum in the Sixties with just this topic in mind and it got me thinking about my health in relation to my strength
William Bankier who was most famously known as “Apollo, The Scottish Hercules” was a well known strongman and physical culturalist of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Bankier is not well known today because his star often fell under the shadow of Eugen Sandow whose fame was prolific at the time and in the subsequent years.
That said, it could successfully be argued that Bankier’s athletic prowess and strength exceeded that of Sandow. While Sandow, a very strong man in his own right, specialised in attaining the “Grecian Ideal”, Bankier was a generalist strength trainer, boxer and professional wrestler.
He was born in December 10, 1870 in Banff, Scotland to parents who were school teachers. When Bankier was young, he was not drawn to the sedentary academic life of his parents; rather he was fascinated by the circus.
Much has been made of the benefits of thick bar training.
Thick bar training is a true old school muscle building method.
Whereas it was a commonplace training method in the past, it has fallen by the wayside in more recent times.
By far the most famous thick bar in history was the Thomas Inch Dumbbell that foiled the attempts of many famous strongmen – including Arthur Saxon.
A native of Scarborough in the north of England, Thomas Inch was born on December 27th 1881.
Inch's interest in strength and bodybuilding began at a young age, when his parents told him that manual labour would help him to grow up to be big and strong.
This lead to Inch using the family garden as his initial training ground, repeatedly digging ditches in an effort to build muscle mass.
Inch's passion for strength increased steadily from there, and at the age of 16 he was crowned Britain's Strongest Youth. Later he went on to win the title of Britain's Strongest Man on June 11th, 1910.
Every teen whoever picked up a barbell has always wanted to know how to get bigger arms. I know I did.
The usual response to this was to go curl crazy in the gym in the pursuit of the mythical 20” arm.
The fact of the matter is even bodybuilding champs were a little loose in the measurement department and never really made this number.
In the HGH and anabolic steroid era the 20” benchmark has been exceeded at the expense of health.
But what does the average trainer do to seriously build up the size of their arms?
A lot of people (including myself) have been bandying the term “old school” when referring to strength training. But this term is not that definitive when it comes to what it actually refers to in our workouts. The phrase “old school” seems to bring to mind more of an emotional response than it does an actual way of training.
To me, when I hear the words “old school muscle building”, I get distinct images in my mind of 19th Century dudes in stripey one-pieces, bent pressing shot loaded barbells, while simultaneously twirling their handlebar moustaches. Or alternatively, mid-20th Century guys benching, squatting, dipping and posing down on Muscle Beach while the “ordinary” folks gawk at them like monkeys at the local zoo.
What is the best way to gain muscle?
The fact is that there are many legitimate old school ways to build muscle fast but many trainees never achieve this task.
The road to muscle growth is paved with the emaciated, undernourished bodies of those who fail to achieve it.
And while there are many different good old school programs out there that will lead you to the holy grail of muscle growth and a herculean physique, they all share common traits that must be followed if you want to succeed in your goals.
There’s a young man down the street from me who trains with weights. He’s been at it for about three years now but you’d never know to look at him. He’s got no build at all. My grandmother’s been dead for twelve years and she probably still look better that he does.
These are the words that first drew me into the world of John McCallum – and what a world to be drawn in to. He was a bit of a mysterious figure in the strength world but wrote a series of compelling articles for “Strength and Health” in the Sixties and early Seventies that fuelled a generation of young bodybuilders and strength enthusiasts and defined the modern day strength article.
5×5 training is an age-old weight training program. Its greatest benefit is that it is a great balance between gaining real strength and building serious muscle.
The first person of significance who actively promoted this type of training was Reg Park. That he invented this form of training is unlikely, but he was certainly the man who first famously built a herculean physique by training in this way exclusively.
Since then a number of notable strength athletes and trainers have promoted this minimal but intense form of training to construct huge slabs of muscle on their frames. This type of training is perfect for building relative and total strength and you should be able to move from a beginning to an intermediate level of lifter in a linear way without any periodization factored in.
This is a guest post by Jason Ferruggia
Q: Can you give us some background about yourself?
JF: Sure. I have been in the fitness industry for nearly 15 years. During that time I owned my own private training facility in central New Jersey for ten years where I worked with over 500 clients from over 20 different sports and all walks of life, helping them get bigger, stronger, faster and leaner.