I have been asked this a number of times by my phone consult clients. Growing up in a power lifting gym, you learn pretty quick that the squat is the king of exercises and if you want your body to grow, you better master it.
BIG EXERCISE BIG MUSCULAR GAINS
Any "big exercise" that employs that kind of muscle mass in the body is a growth exercise. See … although we all know that the quads are the main movers in the squat, it also works to a lesser degree the calves, lower back, hamstrings, gluteus and because of the nature of the exercise, meaning you have to really contract and lock every part of your body to perform this exercise, the squat stimulates growth in all the muscles groups.
Back over 30 years ago, in an area YMCA that I cut my teeth in, there was a man named George Minor. Back in that time bodybuilding was not as prevalent as it is today and the YMCA weight room was mainly power lifters, with only a couple of bodybuilders, myself and my mentor at the time, Roger being the couple. George stood about 5'3 "and weighed about 230 pounds. He was a massive man who was a power lifter. Well, talk about high intensity abbreviated training, George had the ultimate workout. I did not know back then until I was already into my bodybuilding career, but George was onto something that would later be utilized by the likes of Mike Mentzer and myself and others, to create growth, strength and mass in not only ourselves but our training clients.
GEORGE'S FIRST EXERCISE
George would come into the gym every 5-10 days around lunch hour for him. He worked in the iron mill, which of course added stress of a physical nature to his life. He walked in usually barefoot and in shorts, no shoes, he didn't like to squat with shoes on. The Y had some upright squat stands, very basic that fit George 'stature, just right! As you know by know, his first exercise of his workout was the squat. George did not like to use any belt either, or super suit, or knee wraps or anything else that would act as an aid.
George squatted with the bar below his traps, on his rear delts, the way most power lifters or those around power lifters learned to squat. Although many bodybuilders are taught to train with high bar squats, George's thighs were massive to look at … so his style of squatting did not hamper the growth of his thighs.
George also went what he called "Rock Bottom" and just did not know what a partial squat was all about and because of it, his development and strength showed it.
The Warm up was pretty basic … George did not believe that you should have to warm up with countless sets. He believed that it would take away from the ultimate effort set. George did sometimes one warm up, maybe two and most of the time none! He would put a couple of plates on each side of the bar if he decided to warm up that day, take it off the racks and do one maybe two reps, that is all he needed he said.
ARE YOU A MAN!
George's famous quote (he had a couple) and he would say to me, "Bill, your not a man unless you can go rock bottom with 600 pounds" and he would let out a half grunt half laugh sorta like "ha". Now George had one of the deepest voices I had ever heard, he was a true Hercules of his day.
George would load 600 pounds on an Olympic bar, a site to see. He would put collars on the bar and secure them tight to not have any accidents and as he unracked the bar, as it was bending over his shoulders, without any belt, straps etc, he would go ROCK BOTTOM for one rep with 600 pounds. Yep, ass to the floor, rack the weight and walk out of the gym! DONE!
A ONE SET WORKOUT?
Is this so hard to believe? We read all kinds of complicated articles and look at all types of workouts in the muscle magazines that have you doing 3 sets of this, 4 sets of that … keep it simple! George only added bench presses to his workout to re establish his benching form. George did this just a month before a power meet. George was a 400 pound bencher and was natural, no drugs! Except for one, I will tell you about later! George also did not deadlift, except about two weeks before the meet, again for style. So here you have a natural athlete, who is a 400 bencher, 600 squatter and a 585 dead lifter whose entire workout is ONE SET OF SQUATS!
MY THOUGHTS AND FINDINGS
In my bodybuilding career, especially in the beginning when I was a teenager and competing, I tried a number of routines. However, growing up in a power lifting gym helped me to get good and strong in the very basic of exercises.
Reading and studying the findings of Mike Mentzer also helped me to understand what productive anaerobic exercise was all about and aided me greatly to be a successful competitive bodybuilder.
Moving through into today and after training a number of clients as well as myself, I learned early on that it is all about intensity of effort. It is not how much you do but how you do it. It is the stimulus as the body is affected and then compensates systemically and then overcompensates, that matters. Sometimes this could take days and sometimes weeks.
My best gains of my career was when I trained with abbreviated routines and at the slightest sign of not being recovered yet, my training partner and I would go eat rather than train and would normally take a few more days off.
While on the road for two years as a musician some years back, I stayed away from the gym totally. In my house I had a home made leg press machine, a dipping bar and chin up bar. I would do 1 set of leg presses, one set of chins with my hands facing me (the conventional way) and one set of dips to failure, a couple of times a week. I not only maintained my existing muscle mass but increased my strength and size. Two years later I returned to the gym and the first day back, without ever benching in those two years, benched almost 400 pounds! The dip is the squat of the upper body.
I just had an RUSerious student, one of whom I am working to make a training video with, just gain 31 pounds of muscle in 13 weeks, while training once every 7-8 days for 15 minutes. He used 3 sets per workout, 2 separate workouts. His total training time was 3 hours and 15 minutes total in those 13 weeks. I am cutting him down to 2 sets every 8-10 days moving forward to insure further gains.
WHY? Because he has grown so strong and his contractions are so much more intense, (and although you can increase your strength by 300 percent, your ability to recover only increases 50 percent) that his workout volume must be reduced along with his frequency of workouts so that the compensation and then the over compensation can occur.
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? You can either train long or hard, but you can't train long and hard … compare the sprinter with the distance runner. Since he is stronger and bigger, what used to take him 8 days to recover then build added muscle will now take longer because there are only so many available resources allow. And, because of this, the least that can be done to stimulate muscle growth will leave more to go into the growth process. Training is always a negative. If we could stimulate without training, that would be the perfect scenario. If the volume and frequency of his workouts were not managed correctly, he would quickly move into a state of being over trained.
WHAT IS OVERTRAINING? Overtraining is doing anything more than is required to stimulate a positive gain.
The only thing that George really induldged in and he truly loved was not a drug. He loved McDonald's Egg McMuffins. He would say to me, "Bill, I love Egamuffins". Thank you George for your wisdom !! :-))))