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The Vost Visit: A Personal Consultation with Clarence Bass
Many people have visited us here in Albuquerque, but Dr. Kevin Vost is the first to write about it in detail. The following article was originally scheduled to appear in the fall 2000 issue of Exercise Protocol magazine, but it now appears that publication will be delayed until next year. Happily, the postponement has accrued to our benefit, because EP publisher Brian Johnston has given us permission to preview Kevin's article.
That's good news, because Dr. Vost gives our readers a feel for what they might expect if they come to Albuquerque for an all-day consultation. We especially like the fact that Kevin took our advice and modified it to fit his personal interests and goals. That's what we hope everyone will do when they read our books – or come for a visit.
It's wonderful to have someone as experienced, thoughtful and perceptive as Kevin Vost write about his visit in such an engaging way. His marriage of our advice with his newly discovered interest in Highland Games throwing events is, we believe, especially instructive.
We are grateful to Brian Johnston for allowing us to share Kevin Vost’s article with our readers prior to publication in his magazine.
The Albuquerque Experiment
Veteran lifters will recognize my takeoff on the famous "Colorado Experiment," where Arthur Jones (creator of Nautilus equipment) rebuilt the mighty muscular architecture of former Mr. America Casey Viator in record time with brief, but brutally intense workouts. Casey's quest in 1973 was to rebuild muscle; mine, in 2000, was to maintain muscle and reduce fat. The Colorado Experiment was a controlled study; my Albuquerque Experiment is an ongoing personal quest. So how does the Colorado Experiment relate to my visit with Clarence Bass?
Well, I'm no Casey Viator, but, as many Exercise Protocol readers know, Clarence Bass, the man I sought for guidance in my muscular quest is, like Jones, a Grand Master of Training. What some may not realize is that Clarence himself, Mr. Ripped, was started on his decades long mastery of leanness and fitness by Jones, who in 1973 told Clarence that he needed to lose about 20 pounds, even though he weighed only 175 at about 5 feet 6 inches.
As for myself, a lifting veteran with 25 years experience, mostly in the HIT tradition, I had discovered Jones-protégé Mike Mentzer's Heavy Duty II and the IART (International Association of Resistance Trainers) at the age of 38. I grew so amazed at my ability to gain size and strength with increased intensity and reduced frequency that I threw dietary caution to the wind, said to Hades with aerobics of any kind, and ended up darn strong and darn fat! I learned invaluable lessons in building strength and size, but had allowed junk food and sedentary living to erode previous habits of healthy eating and regular activity.
Realizing near the end of 1999 that the time had come to seek total fitness, I completed a phone consultation with IART founder Brian Johnston, who endorsed inclusion of a sensible aerobic program. I was beginning to see the old light again. I understood my need for increased physical activity and dietary discretion, but my bulk also had its own rewards. (Veteran lifters can appreciate how nice and cozy it feels to fill out a shirt and load plate after plate on a bar or machine.) I knew the essentials of what I needed to do, but I needed something to change my goals and trigger a burning desire to become not just big and strong, but lean, healthy and fit as well. Then it came to me, why not actually do what I had considered doing for years, that is, go and see Mr. Ripped in person? My Albuquerque Experiment, then, is the quest that started when I spent the day with Clarence Bass. Read along and I'll tell you about it.
March15, 2000: Mr. Ripped in the Flesh
I arrived at the Bass's beautiful Albuquerque, New Mexico, home at 8:30 am to find Clarence himself preparing my breakfast, the famous and utterly humongous "Old Reliable." (The recipe is in Challenge Yourself. ) As I ate, we chatted about the world of weights as I marveled at the 62-year-old's trim waistline and the vascularity in his muscular forearms. We had plenty of time because the huge salad bowl in which my breakfast was served contained vast quantities of grain, beans, fruit, seeds, skim milk, and a sprinkling of protein powder (and Clarence recommends eating slowly to boot). In fact, though he was well aware of my goal to lose a lot of fat, Clarence stressed throughout the day that I should be sure to eat enough to avoid feeling hungry.
We continued talking diet and training, and at mid-morning snacked on one of Carol Bass' chewy and delicious cinnamon-raisin oat scones, before we took a walk of about 30 minutes. Now the Basses, mind you, live just blocks from the foothills of the Sandia Mountains and this walk was a bit more challenging than this flatlander's (Springfield, Illinois) strolls through the subdivision. Still, the walk was meant to be enjoyable (it was) and not an aerobic testing session.
Next, we were off to both the regular grocery store and a huge Wild Oats health food supermarket. Clarence really goes into detail during his day long seminars. As we strolled the aisles, he pointed out his regular purchases and why he chooses them over other items.
When we got back to the house, it was time for lunch. Challenge Yourself readers who might have felt distressed that Clarence had abandoned his decades-long practice of having a nut butter sandwich for lunch, can rest assured the he is having them again on a regular basis. I was served a raw almond butter sandwich on whole grain toast with just a touch of all-fruit jelly for sweetness. (Aye, and tasty it was.) Next, I partook of the yogurt/fruit mixture that Clarence has enjoyed for years. It was good, but I noticed an unusual crunch in one spoonful; then I remembered that Clarence had added not only fruit, but also mixed vegetables to our yogurt! As I told him, it was an unusual, and surprisingly satisfying combination. Back home, my co-workers, though accustomed to my unorthodox eating habits, were a bit taken aback when they saw me eating my huge mug of yogurt with cherries (so far so good), but also broccoli, corn, and red peppers!
Somewhere during the morning I mentioned to Clarence that a female co-worker had been effusive in her praise of Dorian Yates’ training video. Clarence asked if I'd like to see it, and after lunch we watched Dorian’s "Blood and Guts" video. It was an interesting experience receiving commentary on the workouts of the King of Mass's from the King of Leanness. ( Later in the day I purchased a copy of Dorian’s latest book, A Warrior's Story, from Clarence and Carol.)
In the afternoon, we were off to Ripped Enterprises for a tour of Clarence's office and impressive training facilities, and some hands-on assistance in designing my new training routine. The day ended with pleasant conversation and a delicious, home-cooked meal served to me and my family by Carol Bass (soup, salad, eggplant lasagna, wheat rolls, and fruit). I can report that I ended my day with the Basses feeling full and satisfied, but definitely hungry to get back to the gym.
Back Home: The Experiment Begins in Earnest
So, is this where I describe how I began to train like a Clarence Bass clone? Not at all. One thing that has drawn me to Clarence's writings has been that despite his encyclopedic bodybuilding knowledge, he encourages trainers to think for themselves, focusing on key principles, but adapting them to their own situation and goals. As Clarence stated in Ripped 2 (which my lifting partner and I refer to as "Exodus," the original Ripped being "Genesis"), "Don't blindly copy anyone's training regimen, including mine....Weigh my advice. If common sense tells you it's good advice, adapt it to your special situation." Actually, I believe all his advice to me made sense. It is the particular applications that I have adapted to my own situation and goals. Below I outline a few of the key principles I absorbed, a sample week from my lifting program, a typical day's diet, some short-term results, and long-term goals. I’ll start with the principles.
Nutrition: Emphasize whole foods in nature's packaging to maximize nutrition while minimizing calories. Eat frequently to avoid ravenous hunger and allow yourself an occasional planned splurge to avoid uncontrollable binges.
Lifting: At this point, my schedule and preference leans towards brief workouts four days per week, hitting each muscle once per week a la Yates, rather than the whole body routines Clarence has been using recently. My workouts bear some similarity to the routines Clarence used when he was around my age and competing in bodybuilding.
Aerobics: Intense aerobic activity to enhance aerobic capacity should be done briefly, with intervals, and infrequently (once or twice per week). Mild aerobic activity (including morning and afternoon walks at work or mild sessions on a bike or treadmill) can be done everyday (especially helpful to sedentary keyboard clickers).
Sample Week's Workout (06/12 - 06/17/00)
Power rack pausing squats 315 x 8 (breaking in) Nautilus Abdominal 220 x 10
Nautilus Super Smooth Leg Press 270 x 6
Nautilus Low Back 230 x 10
(one leg at a time - stack tops out at 410 lbs) . Dumbbell Side Bend 100 x 12
Nautilus Leg Extension 259 x 14 (with a
15-second hold at contraction on the last rep)
Nautilus Seated Leg Curl 180 x 9
Trotter Sliding Calf Raise 550 x 10
Hammer Strength High Row 360 x 10 Barbell Incline Press 240 x 7 (pauses)
Hammer Low Row 250 x 10 Low Incline Db. Flyes 85 x 9
Deadlift 365 x 6 (breaking in) Med X Press "400" x 10
Dumbbell Shrugs 115 x 12 Seated Dumbbell Curl 70 x 7
Neck Harness Extensions 60 x 8 Triceps Pushdown 120 x 10
Lying Neck Flexion 70 x 12 Barbell Wrist Curl 120 x 9
Lateral Neck hand pressure, 12 left & right Trotter Gripper 110 x 12
I am also taking two 15-minute walks at work on nice days and substituting 20 minutes of mild indoor biking or treadmill walking after the weights on inclement days. On back days, I do a Nautilus Pullover and Nautilus Row pre-exhaustion superset instead of the Hammer Rows on alternate weeks. I also substitute different exercises for the other body parts at will. With the exception of squats and deadlifts, which I am returning to very slowly to reduce any possibility of injury, my lifts are done to near failure, stopping at the last repetition or one shy of the last rep, rarely actually failing a rep, leaving just a little to exceed my performance next time. Clarence has referred to this as "coaxing gains," and I have found over the years that it works best.
Sample Day's Menu (What I ate on 04/21/00, while dropping weight.)
5:30 am 1 mug black coffee
6:30 1½ cups hot multigrain cereal with 1 cup skim milk, 1 tbs. flax seed meal,
1 tsp. raw sesame seeds, ½ tsp. creatine, 1 tsp. sugar
1 whole egg + 2 whites over easy with 1 piece wheat toast, 5 oz. OJ, multi-vitamin
9:30 1 oat-wheat scone & 1 orange
10:30 1 chocolate-peanut butter protein bar & black coffee
1:00 pm 1 almond butter and shredded carrot sandwich on whole wheat
1 cup fat free plain yogurt with 1 cup frozen mixed berries (thawed)
4:30 1 cup skim milk with 1 scoop protein powder
5:30 3 small bowls lettuce-tomato-carrot salad with fat free dressing
? (a vast number of small pieces) vegetable thin crust pizza
2 glasses diet soda
7:30 1 bowl multigrain cold cereal with 1 cup skim milk
Results and Discussion: Now and Later
I present no Colorado Experiment-like results, because my journey toward lifelong leanness has just begun. I dropped from 216 pounds to 209 and lopped off 2 inches of waistline blubber the first month home. (I had been up to 230 before reading Challenge Yourself.) Then I saw a demonstration of Highland Games weight-throwing. I guess I wasn’t too skinny, because one of the athletes spied me in my Exercise Protocol T-shirt and invited me to train with the local team. My goals were poorly aligned for a few weeks, as my quest for ultimate strength clashed with my desire for healthy leanness. (Some of those mighty Celts are very big boys!) With peaked enthusiasm for very heavy training, I increased my food intake through protein supplements and as of 06/17/00 I weigh about 214 lbs, but I have retained the 2 inch reduction from my waistline. I have discovered, however, that Highland Games also include a weight division for those under 190 lbs. Aha, another realignment of goals? Torn between dropping to 190 (I did compete as a powerlifter in the 198 lb. class years ago) or staying where I am, my plan at this point is to lift like crazy (very intensely, but sensibly, really), keep up some supplemental protein drinks (two per day with between 25-50 grams), follow Clarence's guidelines on lifting, diet, and aerobic activity, and let nature take its course in determining what I weigh as I train for the next leg of my quest -- throwing weights, stones and 160 lb. cabers for fun. A truly rounded strength athlete even in this area, Clarence has been of help, guiding me to MILO magazine (editor: see previous article, #49) which features Highland Games and all the major strength sports.
Clarence Bass has inspired me to challenge myself with a new endeavor that blends my quest for strength with my quest for leanness. Perhaps I'll tell you about it another time. (In fact, a cover story on Clarence is planned for the Spring 2001 Exercise Protocol magazine.) In the meantime, do read Mr. Bass' books, and visit him if at all possible!
Kevin Vost, Psy.D., a disability adjudicator for the State of Illinois and an adjunct assistant professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Springfield, has lifted for over 25 years and competed in powerlifting, Olympic lifting, bodybuilding, 10-man team tug-of-wars, and 5-man team human tractor pulling races. He can be reached at DrVost@aol.com for any questions or comments.
Ripped Enterprises, 528 Chama, N.E., Albuquerque, New Mexico 87108, (505) 266-5858, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. FAX: (505) 266-9123. Business hours: Monday-Friday, 8-5, Mountain time.
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