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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Old-School Weightlifting Gym Etiquette

rack-your-weightIf you dont follow my rules, Ill personally drag your butt to the front door and out to the sidewalk!

Larry Been, gym owner (1963)

In recent years, there has been a lot of focus on old-time strongmen and bodybuilders, trying to discover how their training and nutrition developed high-quality physiques and tremendous strength without the drugs and expensive supplements of more modern times. This search for the secrets and wisdom of the weightlifting past spans decades, and even generations, dating back to the late 1800s and early 20th century and coming forward to the pre-steroid ’60s, my generation of lifters.

I started lifting weights when I was 10 years old in 1957. My uncle brought home pieces of scrap steel from his factory job that I used for dumbbells and barbells. When I was 12, I got my dad to buy me a 110# York Barbell set (which, of course, I added to). I made do with that until I turned 16 and was finally able to drive to downtown Indianapolis and join my first weighting gym, Larry Been’s Olympia Club located at 16th and Alabama.

Larry’s gym was the home for such characters as Peter Lupus, the actor who played the strongman on the Mission Impossible TV series; Dick the Bruiser and friends (professional wrestlers), noted local bodybuilders of the day; and strongmen who were competing in a new sport called powerlifting.

It didn’t matter your race, wealth (or lack of it), age, or lifting ability. It was a small, eclectic group of societal misfits who shared a passion for weight training and strength. Larry Been was the ringmaster.Such a group of strongmen with egos to match required rules that were fair and simple to understand. Everyone knew that they had to share the space and equipment by being conscious of how their actions affected the others around them. Here were the rules:

1. Unload your bars and re-rack your dumbbells and weight plates.

It just makes sense. For safety reasons, weights, bars, and dumbbells could not be left laying around on the floor for people to trip over. But more importantly it was a shared courtesy to not force someone to have to unload your bar or put your “toys” away. If you moved a bench, you moved it back. If you took dumbbells from their rack, you returned them to their proper spot. Weight plates had their own horns on the weight tree. This was simply the gym version of the Golden Rule.

My first day at the gym, I was used to training at home with no one else to answer to. I left 45# plates on each end of a bar and started to walk away from the bench. I felt the crushing grip of Dick the Bruiser grab my shoulder; his arm slipped around my neck and I found myself being walked back to the bench in a headlock, being told to unload the bar. Yes sir, Mr. Bruiser! Needless to say, I never left plates on any bar, anywhere, ever again.

2. Between sets, watch others lifting around you in case they would need a spot.

The experienced lifters knew that when limits were being pushed or beginners were just learning to lift, things could go wrong very quickly. The sense of brotherhood grew when you knew you could count on those around to help keep you out of trouble. Safety was a shared group responsibility. If someone didn’t assist, they would find themselves stuck under a bar for quite awhile if they missed a bench press rep. No one would help them, just to make a point, for some people have to learn the hard way.

3. Weights are not allowed to be dropped.

It was believed that if you were strong enough to lift a weight off the floor or out of the rack, you should be strong enough to return it to its place of origin. If you couldn’t, then the weight was too heavy for you and that was a rookie mistake that should never happen again. Therefore, if you dropped a weight, you were looked down upon as a lesser man in the gym. This rule served to protect the equipment, the floor, the safety of other lifters, and the lifter himself. In fact, the appearance of rubber-coated weight plates and dumbbells, and rubber flooring, occurred in gyms for those rare times a weight was accidentally dropped—not to encourage lifters to drop weights because they were either too lazy to lower them correctly or as a sad cry for attention. “Look at me, I just lifted a really heavy weight!” Don’t be that guy, for that would be headlock time.

Old-school lifters knew that lowering the weight under control improved strength and muscle growth. They couldn’t explain it, but after years of trial and error it became a “gym truth.” Arthur Jones, the inventor the Nautilus equipment and the Nautilus training system, expanded the research of “negative reps” during the ’80s. Recent research has shown that the negative portion of muscle action produces greater gains in strength and muscle size than just focusing on contraction. Therefore, the decision to drop weights makes one miss an important opportunity for greater gains for the time and effort spent lifting.

4. Do not tie up equipment. Allow others to work in.

Again, the logic is simple. If you want to tie up equipment, go home to your own gym. If you don’t have your own gym, you’d best learn to share the “toys” in the sandbox. The answer to the question, “Can I work in?” was “Sure.”Any other answer was frowned on, and good luck working in with anyone else in the future.

There were a few other rules about lockers, food and drink out in the gym, guests, and monthly payments, etc., but these rules were the biggies, which simply boiled down to respecting the lifters around you, not being a pain in the ass, and knowing what it meant to be a responsible man in the gym.

In today’s gym environment, it is amazing how a just few irresponsible people can spoil the gym experience for everyone else. In fact, they are just spoiled brats with an attitude toward others that will adversely affect them in other areas of their lives. Old school gyms had an immediate and very effective correction: headlock and out the door.

I heard something the other day that I found very interesting. The X-Box generation has their own problems with online gamers causing similar problems for others and that they have their means of chasing them off. Sort of an X-Box version of Dick the Bruiser: “Hey jerk, GAME OVER!

We can learn a lot from old school about training and nutrition. But it starts with understanding the gym culture and the individual’s responsibility to fellow lifters; to the owner, who provides the equipment and the space to train; and most important to themselves, for gym environment allows them the opportunity to grow physically, mentally, and in a sense, spiritually as well if they use it correctly.

Thank you, Bruiser!

Rick

For beginning weightlifting tips, see this post.

This blog was written by Rick Huse, NIFS Health Fitness Specialist. To find out more about Rick and the other NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

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Topics: equipment muscles weight lifting weightlifting Indianapolis

Do You Even Lift, Bro? Weightlifting for Beginners (Part 2 of 2)

Episode #2: Have a plan, ink the plan, and work the plan.

Tony-weightsIn the first episode of “Do You Even Lift, Bro?” I concluded with the notion of absolute strength as the foundation to fitness. The stronger you are, the more things you will be capable of across the fitness continuum. World-renowned coach Dan John explains this best for me with a bucket analogy: The bigger your bucket is (your absolute strength), the more room you have to put in things like mobility, power, speed, and endurance, among other things. To get stronger, you have to lift heavy things--bottom line.

So now I hope you all understand how important strength is, and the weight room is where you can really develop your strength. The key is having the proper progression in the program that will overload the system, causing adaption and ultimately strength in the major movement patterns that we live in. Now, I can talk about programming for 8 hours straight and still barely scratch the surface. My hope in this post is to give you a few super-important facets that should be a part of your weightlifting program. I’m going to work fast here, so try to keep up!

Master These Movements

Human movement can be broken down into six major movements. When planning your assault in the weight room, be sure to include these movements in your attack:

  • Squat: Bending at the knees and hips as if sitting down and standing up
  • Hinge: Bending at the hips to pick something up from the floor, like a Dead Lift
  • Push: Pushing weight away from your body either vertically or horizontally, like a push-up
  • Pull: Pulling weight toward the body, like a pull-up
  • Lunge: Lifting legs in a split stance
  • Rotary/Core: Spine stabilization and rotating

Pairing movements is one of the best ways to get the most out of your time in the weight room. To reduce residual fatigue, I recommend pairing movements that complement each other, such as a Squat with a Pulling movement. The Squat is an anterior (front) lower-body movement, while the Pulling exercise is a posterior (back) upper-body movement. Simply put, one can rest while the other is in motion, maximizing effort and making recovery time more efficient.

Plan in Four-Week Blocksweights

Again, I could spend hours discussing the different parameters of the “block system” of programming, but I’m not going to. All I want you to keep in mind when planning is to keep it to a month-long (four-week) cycle. After you have completed a workout four times, it’s time to reevaluate and progress. We can define progression as increasing the weight used in an exercise, increasing the number of reps, or adding something to the exercise that makes it more demanding. Changing all these things at once is not the best idea, but making some changes is key to providing the overload principle necessary in strength gain. You have to change it up!

Reps, Sets, and Weight Selection

I know I sound like a broken record, but there is so much that has be taken into account when discussing these three key aspects of your program. Goals, fitness level, and timeline just to name a few, are all things that need to be considered when designing your plan, and I can’t cover all these details in one small blog post. As a safe and beneficial rule of thumb, 2 to 3 sets at 6 to 8 reps of each movement will do the trick. The weight should be challenging enough to complete all reps, but not sacrifice the form of the movement. If you know your predicted 1RM (hyperlink to fitness assessment) of each movement (which you can find in a free assessment with an HFS here at NIFS), you can use percentages of that weight in your sets and reps. Use the “first and last” rule: the last rep should look like the first rep. I would also recommend starting at a lower weight for your first set, and increasing weight every subsequent set. Again, this is the overload concept that is the cornerstone of building strength.

I can’t stress enough the importance of having a plan and working that plan. Having a sound plan of attack will keep you on track, provide accountability, and show you where you were and where you are now. I urge you to seek out the advice of a qualified fitness professional when beginning or tweaking your strength-training program. I’m talking to the veteran lifter, too; you can always improve on something you are doing. Implementing the preceding strategies is a great first step.

If you are interested in setting up a personal fitness program with Tony click the button below:

Free Fitness Assessment

Tony Maloney is the Fitness Center Manager and leads group training Sunday through Thursday.

Topics: fitness center workouts weight lifting weightlifting strength

Do You Even Lift, Bro? Weightlifting for Beginners (Part 1 of 2)

Episode #1: 5 Game-Changing Tips for the Weight RoomTony-1

I spent a great deal of time in a weight room growing up, and still do. The “Iron Church,” “The Metal Shop,” and “House of Pain” were all names I used to reference a place where I saw so much growth in myself, both physically and mentally. I remember watching one of my brothers train to power lift with the U.S. team when I was pretty young, and couldn’t wait to get my hands on all the stuff. Flash forward a few years and I was the one on the training side preparing for high school athletics. Man, there was nothing like the weight room! The feel of it, the smells (not always pleasant, but part of the charm), and the clanking of metal on metal were all rushed to the senses, signifying that a lot of hard work was about to go down!

I learned so much during that period of my life when I was in the gym every day; I definitely thought I had everything figured out on how to get strong and stay injury free. As I got older and wiser (okay, older and after many mistakes), I needed to find a way to lift so that I could lift another day. As fitness evolves, we learn bigger and better ways to get the most out of every workout.

5 Game-Changing Tips for the Weight Room

In the first installment of this beginner’s guide, I would like to share with you 5 game-changing tips to rock the weight room like you never have before. In future episodes, I will dig a little deeper into each of these tips (along with a few extras) and outline a guide that will allow you to get the most out of it.

1. Have a plan, ink the plan, and work the plan.free

Going into a place full of things to do without a plan will usually result in meandering around and wasting time, extinguishing the metabolic fire. Get a workout log and write down your plan of attack for the week. This will keep you focused as well as give you a means to track your progress. I highly recommend consulting a fitness professional to help you set up your first program. 

2. Get a super friend.

The benefits of working out with one or more partners are substantial, emotionally, mentally, and physiologically. Find a likeminded individual and link up your training times to provide support for each other and accountability. And if you are using the room for what it is intended (to GET STRONGER), you will eventually need a spotter.

3. Pair exercises.

If you want to get the most out of your time, not only from the clock, but from your ability to get stronger and lose fat, you must pair exercises. You may know this as “super setting.” No matter what it is called, DO IT! I prefer to pair exercises in this fashion: Push/Pull/Upper/Lower. We will spend more time on this in later posts, but here is a basic example:

  • 1a. Front Squat
  • 1b. Chin-ups
  • 2a. Dead Lift
  • 2b. DB Bench Press

4. Work unilaterally.

There are many fitness pros, me being one of them, who believe you are stronger unilaterally than you are bilaterally. I jokingly say that you have nothing to hang onto when you are working one side at a time. The core stability necessary to work unilaterally is also a huge benefit of working one side at a time. So next time you are planning to do a squat, try it on a single leg. You will love the feel and the results.

5. Utilize many different modes.

Many of us can get stuck using the same tools to perform the same exercises, and wonder why you continue to get the same results. Packing your workout with many different pieces of equipment and varying the movements themselves is similar to why your salads should have a bunch of color in them. It’s because different ingredients provide different nutrients, nutrients that we need. Lifting weights is the same thing; your body needs the different benefits that come from different movements using different pieces of equipment. Some refer to this as “muscle confusion”; I think that’s an industry term made up by those who like to dance around the living room and sell DVDs. I don’t really care what you call it; you just have to do it! Change up the movements and modes of training from time to time so you can taste all that a weight room has to offer and your body can enjoy the benefits of the different ingredients.

This is just the start of what will be a pretty handy guide to getting the most out of your weight room as you begin to lift weights. Keep your eyes open for the next episode, where I show you how to put together a program. Until then, I leave you with one more piece of advice to get you going. Absolute strength is the foundation to your fitness. The stronger you are, the more things you will be capable of across the fitness continuum. Bottom line: to get stronger, you have to lift heavy things. Do it right.

Tony Maloney is the Fitness Center Manager at NIFS in Indianapolis and leads group training on Sunday through Thursday.

Topics: fitness center injury prevention muscles training weight lifting strength core dumbbell personal training

Accommodating Resistance: The Benefits of Using Bands and Chains

NIFS has recently updated the weight room, including seven new half racks. Each rack has lower band pegs, and almost all of the racks have chains on the hooks at the top of the rack. Several people have asked why you would ever need the band pegs or chains to do your everyday squat or bench. In this post, I cover what accommodating resistance is and the benefits of using this form of chainstraining.

The Force-Velocity Curve

Before going into what the chains and bands do, I first have to set the groundwork and explain what the force-velocity curve is. As you see below, when force (weight lifted) increases, velocity (bar speed) decreases. So at the top where force is high and velocity is low, it is considered maximal strength. As you work down the graph, strength-speed is next. In the middle of the graph, you see power (the rate of force development, or RFD). As you continue down the graph, it becomes speed-strength and finishes with speed, where force is at its lowest and velocity is at its highest.

The reason this is important is that chains and bands give you the ability to develop explosive strength. So instead of benching with high weight and slow velocity (maximal strength), or low weight with fast velocity (speed), you can work in the middle of the graph and accelerate the bar in both the lowering and raising phases of the movement. Without the bands and chains, you have to decelerate the bar about halfway through the raising phase of a bench press, or the bar will fly out of your hands. Bands and chains ensure that you drive the bar as hard as you can, generating a high rate of force through the full range of motion (more on this below). The bottom line: Using bands and chains increases your rate of force development (RFD) and forces you to not let up after you get past your sticking point.

How Bands and Chains Workbands

Bands and chains do an excellent job of matching your leverage. The bar is lightest when your leverage is at its weakest, and the bar gradually increases in weight as leverage improves. Let’s break this down even further. You are getting ready to bench with 200 pounds on the bar. You add chains that each weigh 30 pounds. So now the bar total is 260 pounds. However, at the start position, half of the chains are lying on the ground, bringing you to a total of 230 pounds. As you bring the weight down to your chest, the bar gets lighter because more of the chains are lying on the ground. So when the bar is at your chest, you bring the weight down to the 200 pounds that you started with. As you press the weight up, more of the chains come off the floor, gradually increasing the bar total back to the 230 pounds at the top. This idea forces you to drive the bar out into full extension without letting up.

The Benefits of Accommodating Resistance

Bands and chains train acceleration and rate of force development, which is great for the development of power. If you are an athlete, the key to improved sport performance is producing more force in less time. This results when an athlete can absorb more force eccentrically (lowering phase), allowing you to apply higher levels of force concentrically (rising phase) in less time. Sport performance is about which athlete can absorb more force, enabling the athlete to produce more power. The biggest improvements that you will see by using this method are increased power, speed, and explosive strength.

Whether or not you are an athlete, using this method is definitely a game changer if your goal is to move a lot of weight and be explosive. I hope this post answers your questions on whether this type of training is right for you. If you are interested in trying this, be sure to ask a coach to make sure the setup is right, and always have a spotter to ensure safety.

This blog was written by Josh Jones, MS, CSCS, USAW, NIFS Athletic Department Trainer and creator of the NIFS Barbell Club. For more information contact Josh by email. Learn more about the NIFS bloggers.

Topics: fitness center equipment resistance weight lifting weightlifting