Clarence Bass' Prescription for Success: Goal
Setting Across a Lifetime
by Richard A. Winett, Ph.D.
This article by health psychologist Richard Winett
first appeared in the February, 1998, issue of Master
Trainer and is reproduced here with
Dr. Winett's permission. It contains details on Clarence's
current training which we believe you'll find interesting. Bold
emphasis and editor's insertions are ours.
Many people seem bewildered about the central processes
involved in maintaining a high level of motivation for training
even across short periods of time, such as several months to a
year. In contrast, Clarence Bass has stayed motivated and has
trained hard for 45 years! At 60, Clarence is just as
enthusiastic about training and just as interested in improving
as he was many years ago.
Clarence's accomplishments include national recognition as a
young Olympic lifter, over-40 Mr. America titles, and
international acclaim for his series of training books and long
standing Muscle & Fitness
column. Clarence was clearly one of the first, if not the first,
person to develop programs to effectively combine weight training
and cardiovascular training with sound nutrition to produce
strong, fit, and very lean physiques. He also saw how high
intensity training in both weights and aerobics could be enhanced
by the intelligent addition of some strategies from
periodization. Indeed, within our field, Clarence has two sets of
accomplishments that truly distinguish him. His razor sharp
definition and great musculature was achieved naturally, showing
that bodybuilding can be a supremely healthy activity and
lifestyle.[Editor's note: Clarence discusses his
early experimentation with steroids in Ripped,
his first book.] Clarence's books detailing the evolution of his
training are classics that I and others have described as simply
the best training books ever written. So, what has kept Clarence
going after all these years when many other people would be
either resting on their laurels or wondering how they can top
what they did five years ago?
In his books, Clarence recounted how early experience with
setting and meeting goals seemed to set the course for his life
and that all that he has done is take the insight achieved as a
15 year old and apply it to a succession of possibilities. While
that is in many ways the case, early on Clarence also realized
that goal setting and channeling one's efforts were somewhat more
involved. Perhaps, the most valuable insight that Clarence
achieved a little later is best expressed in this quote from a
recent conversation with Clarence: "A goal achieved is a
goal lost". Quite simply, once a goal has been achieved, a
primary source for motivation is gone. Just reaching the same
level again and again is not very rewarding or exciting. In fact,
many athletes become disheartened, depressed, and literally
disoriented after reaching a long sought after goal. Their
"raison d'etre" is lost.
At different junctures in his life, Clarence has been able to
take stock and develop a new set of goals and achieve them. The
Olympic lifter became a power lifter, the power lifter became a
champion bodybuilder, and the bodybuilder became a great
all-around athlete and health promoter. But where is
Clarence now headed and what about training at 60?
Long-term readers will recall that one of the yardstick's that
Clarence has used for evaluating his health and training progress
is the rigorous preventive medicine exam given at the Cooper
Institute in Dallas (see February, 1993). Besides being inspected
from head to toe, the exam also features tests of strength,
flexibility, balance, and cardiovascular fitness. Obviously,
Clarence would far surpass men half his age on strength tests,
but flexibility and balance are attributes often undermined by
inactivity and aging. Clarence not only wants to do well in these
areas but actually demonstrate that his abilities and performance
have remained stable from 50 to 60, a period generally marked by
a large physical decline.
The best known part of the exam is the standard Balke
treadmill test, the gold standard test of cardiorespiratory
fitness. While closely monitored, you walk on a treadmill at 3.3
mph, but after the first minute the angle of the treadmill
increases one percent a minute. After 25 minutes, the speed of
the treadmill increases by 0.2 mph each minute.
It is a test to exhaustion. Ten years ago, Clarence's time was an
astounding 28 minutes. Clarence's overall condition was judged to
be simply outstanding and a real testimony to the balanced
training and healthy lifestyle he follows and advocates. At 60,
Clarence would like to equal where he was ten years ago,
something that most health experts would consider impossible.
Sixty year olds are supposed to show physical decline. Now,
there's a challenging goal!
Notice, and quite importantly, Clarence did not set the bar
too high and pick an unrealistic goal such as beating 29 minutes,
his all-time best. The pressure of reaching an extremely
difficult goal can take much of the joy out of the process and
the probability of success is small. Picking hard but
reachable goals is one of the real keys to success.
So how is Clarence training and preparing for this latest
challenge? Has he abandoned all reason and taken to training day
and night? Since he wants to do well on the treadmill test, does
he do hours per week of aerobic training?
Through carefully reviewing the latest developments in the
field and his own responsiveness to different training regimen's,
Clarence has evolved a training program that could be followed by
any reader. Here's the surprise. Clarence trains with
weights once per week and does one cardiovascular training
session in a week! On most days, when he is not formally
training, Clarence walks for about and hour. He also has
continued his healthy,"magical" way to reduce bodyfat
and increase muscle.
Generally on Sunday, Clarence's weight training session lasts
up to two hours. After a 20 year hiatus from Olympic lifting,
Clarence returned to working on the quick lifts about five years
ago. In one routine, Clarence does power cleans and squats. The
next week, Clarence works on power snatches and deadlifts. Each
lifting part of the workout is followed by a few minutes break,
and then Clarence does a whole-body bodybuilding session similar
to the routines described in his recent books. So, Clarence has
an "A" and "B" workout with each workout
performed twice per month. Despite the two weeks between each
workout, Clarence reports he is able to consistently increase on
most movements from workout to workout. He also varies the
repetition range he uses for different movements using a
periodization model he developed about 10 years ago.
Returning to quick lifting after almost 20 years of shying
away from such movements has been a special treat for Clarence.
Of course, he had been a terrific lifter and lifting has always
been a first love. He went back to lifting not to see if he could
match what he did years ago, but rather to present himself with
new challenges and goals and for the sheer thrill of performing
perfect lifts. Clarence is not attempting to surpass the 35 year
old Clarence but rather to see what he can accomplish at this
point in his life. Again, this is a good illustration of
realistic goal setting.
Clarence also pointed out that there may be some important
benefits of performing quick lifts as one gets older. Balance,
coordination, and quickness seem to lessen with age, and
performing quick lifts may help to forestall, and perhaps, remedy
this problem.[Editor's note:
See "Keep That Spring" on this site] Note also that
balance and coordination are tested as part of the Cooper Clinic
Clarence has chosen to train with weights one day per week
primarily because he believes it takes him that long to recover
from this one super workout. Moreover, he has been able to
consistently increase strength and muscle and is 5 to 7 pounds
heavier than a few years ago.
After three days for recovery involving rest and walking for
about an hour each day, Clarence is ready for a cardiovascular
workout. He notes that he would not be adequately recovered to do
another weight training session at this point, but can
effectively do cardiovascular training.
For many years, Clarence advocated and performed brief, high
intensity interval protocols on a variety of cardiovascular
pieces and creatively developed challenges and goals. For
example, at one point he was ranked in his age and weight class
on the Concept ll rower 's standard event and competed in a
number of meets. Clarence was looking for another high intensity
kind of protocol that would enhance fitness but in some ways
compliment high intensity weight training.
Clarence is now doing his own variation of the Tabata interval
protocol (Editor's note: See articles on this
web site). Following a warm-up, Clarence does a very hard steady
state piece with the duration varying between workouts. He then
"relaxes" at an easier pace for about five minutes and
then launches into 6 to 10 maximum effort 20 second repetitions
with 10 seconds of rest in between the repetitions. The steady
state part of the routine and the number of repetitions vary
following a planned periodization scheme. Clarence, as usual, has
put his personal touch to a training protocol, something he
believes is extremely important to do. The special protocol plus
some specialized training for the treadmill test will constitute
his only cardiovascular training during the last several months
(off-day walking is done at a comfortable pace). When Clarence
again performs terrifically well on the treadmill test, all of us
may reconsider our more frequent cardiovascular training programs
and ask ourselves a simple question: "Why
am I doing this several days per week when Clarence has shown
that one very hard session per week is all that is
While Clarence's goals have changed over the years, for more
than 20 years one thing has remained constant. Through a low fat,
high complex carbohydrate, moderate protein, almost vegetarian
diet, Clarence has been able to maintain an exceptionally low
body fat. Years ago, he found the one best healthy approach to
controlling body composition and has stuck with it. When he wants
to decrease weight and primarily body fat, he simply eats
slightly less, walks a bit more, and creates the slight caloric
deficit needed to produce the change. It truly is a sure-fire
prescription and in any rational context would replace the more
than 800 diet books currently in print!
In his willingness to constantly evolve, take on new
challenges, and pursue new goals, Clarence provides an inspiring
model. The point is not to do exactly what he has done, but
rather we need to insure our own personal growth and development
pursued in a way that suits us. Developing new goals to achieve
is clearly the surest way to stay motivated across a lifetime.
Editor's note: For information about Richard
Winett's newsletter, Master Trainer, go MT.
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