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From Bruce Lee to the Hulk
Big-5 Workout Success
About two years ago (see Success Stories #10) I reported on a simple body weight exercise program that my son Joshua embarked upon after he told me that he wanted to have abdominals like Bruce Lee. Recently, Joshua, now 15, started working out in a Planet Fitness gym. In developing his resistance training program, I was informed greatly by the recent book by Dr. Doug McGuff and John Little entitled Body by Science. In this book, the authors advocate what they refer to as the “Big 5 Workout.” The “Big 5” involves performing single sets to positive failure (until you can no longer lift the weight in good form) on five compound exercises: Leg Press, Seated Row, Pulldown, Chest Press, and Overhead Press. The repetitions are performed slow, lifting and lowering, and there is little rest between exercises. The workout takes 12 minutes or less. Workouts are recommended once every 7 days. Let me share with you Joshua’s progress after one month on the “Big 5". (Editor: Get these results; they are truly amazing.)
After an introductory workout to learn how to use the exercise machines, Joshua took all exercises in subsequent workouts to positive failure (when he could no longer lift the weight he continued trying to do so for another few seconds). He performed the repetitions taking 3 seconds to lift the weight and 3 seconds to lower it. In one month, March 2009, Joshua increased his strength by 150% on the Leg Press, 88.8% on both the Seated Row and the Pulldown, 85.7% on the Chest Press, and 120% on the Overhead Press (see the chart for the actual poundage increases over the month). Even though a portion of these increases were likely due to improved neurological efficiency in muscle fiber recruitment, the magnitude of the changes in strength is remarkable (especially when you consider that he was already quite strong from the bodyweight exercises). As a function of the increased strength, Joshua’s bodyweight increased from 128 lbs to 139 lbs.
180lbs x 8 reps
90lbs x 8 reps
90lbs x 8 reps
70lbs x 8 reps
50lbs x 8 reps
450lbs x 8 reps
170lbs x 8 reps
170lbs x 8 reps
130lbs x 8 reps
110lbs x 8 reps
The accompanying photos confirm that Joshua’s increased strength is translating into greater muscular development. The greatest difficulty I am having, apart from keeping enough food in the house, is restraining Joshua from working out more often. He reasons, falsely, I believe, that since he has made such good progress working out only once a week, then surely working out more often will produce even greater gains. It takes constant reassurance and even some stern lessons in logic to convince Joshua that high-intensity strength training stimulates growth ONLY if the body is given sufficient time to repair and recover. He won't like it, but, as he gets stronger (and therefore taxes his bodies recovery ability to an even greater extent), I may have him workout once every 9-10 days. Moreover, eventually, when his gains in strength slow, I will have to consider cutting the volume of the workout from 5 exercises to 3 (using McGuff and Little’s Big “3” Workout: Leg Press, Pulldown, Chest Press).
Kevin Fontaine, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University Medical School
Editor: For more on the Body by Science training plan, read “Aerobics, Do You Need It?” http://www.cbass.com/AerobicsNeedIt.htm
Ownership Principle Sparks Norwegian Lady’s Success
(See inspiring progress report below)
The first time I saw Clarence Bass was on the front cover of Challenge Yourself. My husband had bought the book and thought it might interest me since I was looking into ways of making our diet healthier and restarting my training routine. I remember being amazed at the way Bass looked at age 60. How could this be? Well, the truth seemed to be much simpler than I had expected. There were no gimmicks, no funky diet techniques, just common sense.
That was ten years ago. Although my road to fat loss and fitness has had its ups and downs, Clarence has been there all the way through his books (my husband bought all nine), encouraging me to do what feels right.
Clarence is adamant about the ownership principle--read, learn and adapt. Read the details of his journey, learn the lessons, and then adapt the parts that make sense to you into your lifestyle, one step at a time.
I've never been one to follow in someone else's footsteps. The combination of Clarence's sound advice and what I feel is right for me has carried me through a wonderful journey. What is remarkable is that each time I stray—and I do—Clarence’s books are always there to guide me back onto my path.
Years ago, I thought I wanted to be a body builder and did weight lifting for about 3 years, with very good gains, but finally came to realize that my total enjoyment lies in activities that require a combination of strength and endurance. I engaged in a variety of physical activities, hoping to find one that fit into the strength and endurance category, while providing a promising future based on my true abilities. At the end of October 2008, I rediscovered indoor rowing (we have owned a Concept 2 Rower for a few years) and felt like a spark had been ignited. Again, Clarence Bass was an inspiration. He was (and maybe still is) an avid Concept 2 rower. The 5000 meter row was the first competitive distance I tried, landing me at #29 on the Concept 2 World Ranking List (Lightweight Women, 30-39). After a few months of rowing workouts (walking on off days), I've managed to progress to 12th place. I hope to be in the top ten in a couple of months. So it seems like I've found my sport.
On diet, I have also adopted the ownership principle. Whole grains for breakfast have never agreed with my digestion. My own “Old Reliable” is a delicious smoothie, make with kefir, banana, frozen berries and flax seeds. I do, however, use whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables daily (Clarence’s latest breakfast combination). My husband and I even invested in a grain mill a couple years ago, so that I could have fresh, whole spelt flour for my bread making.
Clarence Bass has taught me, amongst a host of others things, that you simply can't go wrong using fresh, whole foods. I have also found that consuming “good fats” in measured amounts agrees with my body.
I never tire of reading Clarence's books. I read them over and over again! I was very lucky to receive his latest book, Great Expectations from my husband for my 37th birthday last year, along with two autographed pictures of Clarence Bass. Those photos now hang in our office, over our Concept 2 rower. They are a constant reminder that aspiring for good health and fitness is an endless and worthwhile journey!
Deborah looking terrific—and 24 pounds lighter—with her C2 Rower, and the “Fab Ab” photo in the background
My journey to good health and fitness will always have its ups and downs, but I've never given up and don't ever plan to. I'm happy to report that I am currently at my lowest weight since my early 20s and feel very fit and healthy.
I look forward to my workouts, knowing that I don't have to go all out; I can leave some effort for next time—another good tip from Clarence Bass' books (which he adapted from Bill Pearl), a tip which always improves my performance at my next workout.
After years of procrastination, I finally summoned up the courage to write Clarence Bass, my hero, a fan mail. I'm glad I did.
The mission statement on his website says: To inspire and help motivated people achieve lifelong leanness, health and total fitness
Mission accomplished, Clarence and thank you!
Deborah Nyberg, Grimstad, Norway
Editor: For more information on the ownership principle, see http://www.cbass.com/SELECTIO.HTM
(See below for follow-up one year later.)
Saving Johan’s Hip
Fifty and living in Sweden, I’ve been into physical training for about 30 years, since the late ‘70s—running , weights and Chinese Wushu (Kung-Fu). I really like to train and probably would call myself a ‘trainaholic,’ just love to train. Unfortunately, I started to get diffuse problems with my joints and was diagnosed with bilateral osteoarthritis in 1995, when I was 36. I had to have my left hip replaced in 1996. The rehab was tough; I was on crutches for several months to allow the prosthesis to grow into the bone. The final result was good, however.
My right hip also started to show signs of wear. I was getting more pain and had to use a cane from time to time for support. I also had to take painkillers. Furthermore, my right shoulder started to bother me. I began to think I would never be able to train anything again. Doctors couldn‘t really give me any advice, except to keep moving my hip to keep it flexible.
Eventually someone talked me into trying Chinese Qigong, a form of exercise to promote healing. It seemed to help. I started to practice, once, twice, even three times a day, inside, outside for a year. Slowly my body loosened up. I developed balance, as well as some strength.
I also went to an osteopath who helped me to stretch and did some manipulations. I got to feeling so well that I returned to the gym, beginning with some simple exercises and learning by trial and error what I could and couldn’t do.
The fact that I could do some training again was very encouraging. Training with weights was what I had always enjoyed most, so I spent a lot time in the gym, feeling my way along and trying not to train too heavy.
I also went to a podiatrist (foot doctor), who made some inlays for my feet; he explained that an imbalance could contribute to the wear in my hip. I soon noticed improvement in my feet and hips. My shoulder pain was also relieved.
Now, after 12 years, my left hip replacement is working perfectly; the last check showed absolutely no wear. My doctor was impressed with the condition of my replacement—and how I have managed to preserve my other hip.
My right hip (the natural hip) may have some small increase in wear, but the function is better than it was ten years ago.
I have found that there are many things you can do to protect and preserve the function of your hips. As related above, I tried many things and learned as I went along.
I believe in movement. Even a damaged joint should be worked—carefully, of course, to avoid pain. Water exercise is very good, riding an exercise bike is good, and walking is almost universally recommended.
I‘m now doing what, for me, is a full weight training routine. I usually go to the gym 3 days a week, trying to cover the whole body in three workouts. For legs I do (after a general warm-up and some stretching) leg-extensions, leg-curls, sissy squats [grasping a bar or other support, with hips and waist straight, bend knees to allow body to fall backwards as knees come forward; isolates the lower quads without flexing hips], squats with back supported against a rubber-ball, then again stretching.
I also train Qigong as often as I can; it gives me energy and balance, and in my opinion, is really good for the joints. If I didn‘t do anything else, I would still practice Qigong. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qigong]
I was lucky that I like to train. I turned my rehab into a full training program.
If you can get rid of most of the pain, half the battle is won.
One crucial thing is to moderate the pressure on the hip joint. Some pressure is good, but not too much. The hip is a weight bearing joint, and heavy pressure is likely to cause wear and tear, especially on a damaged joint. The other thing is to keep up flexibility—riding a bike is good—doing exercises that keep the joint moving. And yes, some weight training, carefully planned, is good, to keep the surrounding muscles strong.
Above all else: Don’t give up. If there is something you can’t do, try something else. Concentrate on what you can do, not on what you can’t do.
Johan—looking muscular and thoughtful—in the gym with his wife, Liselott
A Truck Driver’s Story
On the Road to Fitness
I am an over-the-road, cross-country truck driver. Forty-nine years old and sitting behind the wheel of an eighteen wheeler for nine to 10 hours a day, and being away from home 10 to 12 days at a time, you can imagine that a horrible cycle of inactivity and poor food choices could make me unfit, unhealthy, and fat. The majority of truck drivers are just that, overweight, inactive, and suffering from myriad ailments.
only are we sitting most of the day, truck stop food is mostly buffet style and
truckers are notorious for eating only once or twice a day because of scheduled
deliveries. Eating proper portions does not enter into the average drivers
mind when he does get to finally sit down and eat a meal. Being away from home
and family, comfort food is on your mind, and lots of it.
Be that as it may, I have found my way to a very fit lifestyle by using the principles in Clarence’s books—and my own ingenuity.
I eat four small meals a day and
find a way to exercise almost every day. I drive a Peterbilt with a sleeper
behind the cab. There is plenty of room for two electric coolers and a microwave
oven. I can pull into any rest area, prepare and eat a healthy meal in 30
minutes. Here is what I eat every day (notice I am using Clarence’s uniform
Breakfast (my version of Clarence’s "Old Reliable"
Half cup cooked grains (I precook grains at home: oat groats, barely, rye, buckwheat and kamut)
Half cup light vanilla soy milk
One chopped apple
Tablespoon chopped walnuts
One hardboiled egg (split) between two whole wheat tortillas (50 cal each), along with chopped peppers and onions, mustard, grape tomatoes and bean sprouts
For dessert, I have .5 cup of fat free cottage cheese with .5 cup of chopped cantaloupe or honeydew and a heaping tbs. of ground flax seed
A whole wheat pita (60 cal) with hummus, black beans (home cooked, no salt), Pico de Gallo, broccoli slaw, and hot sauce
Dessert: same as meal 2
I alternate between three different dinners:
1. Half-cup egg beaters, onions
and peppers, yellow squash and zucchini, plus three corn tortillas (I have
found a brand that has only 25 calories each)
2. Pizza, consisting of two whole wheat tortillas, pizza sauce, onions and peppers, squash and zucchini, pineapple chunks, low fat mozzarella cheese, and a few chopped black olives
3. Stir fry veggie mix, tofu, pineapple chunks, 1-2 tbs. Thai sauce (low sodium) served on a bed of Quinoa (.5 cup)
Dessert: 3/4 cup of plain fat free yogurt, with a .5 cup mixed berries, and ground flax seed
[Editor: Note wide variety of
vegetables and fruit, and careful attention to seasoning, both very important to
I am never hungry on this whole-food diet, but it’s quite a scene at home the day before I leave on my next trip. My wife and I are chopping peppers and onions, cutting up melon, cooking grain, boiling the eggs. Preparation is half the battle.
Truck stops can also be a road block to exercise; they are quite often situated outside of large cities, along highways where walking or running is prohibited or unsafe.
I carry a couple of adjustable dumbbells, which permits me to do a complete lifting routine. I have also found wonderful and inspiring places along my travels for hiking or running. For example:
The rest area on top of Donner Pass in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains is great place for a high altitude hike--wonderful for your attitude.
I like to run on a stretch of old route 66 in Arizona that runs parallel to Meteor Crater.
I have also climbed rock piles in west Texas and Wyoming, and hiked the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania.
I make my home in a small town where everyone knows everyone. It's a very friendly place to live and raise a family. When I’m home, I love to walk around and checkout the parks or visit Main Street.
As you can see, I get around and try to make the best of every situation. I have even found myself under the trailer on a rainy day doing push ups and prone pull ups.
I started on this road to fitness in 2002 when I felt myself living a little too loosely, as in too little exercise and a lot of poor eating habits. With two of my children entering their teens, I decided it was time to set a good example.
I pulled out some back issues of Muscle and Fitness and reread some of Clarence’s columns from the early nineties. I then found his web site and ordered some of his books, which often contain excerpts from other great books.
One in particular was Dr. Ken Cooper’s classic Aerobics. I started running and found that I enjoyed it. Cooper’s book has a fitness test where you see how far you can run in 12 minutes. I persuaded my son and daughter to try it with me; they both did poorly, while old dad was in the good category. They would have none of that, and kept at it until they passed the test and then some. They both joined the track and cross country teams in high school and have excelled. My daughter Stephanie is now a three sport college athlete and Tyler made the varsity squad as a freshman. With my youngest, Teague, nine, now lifting weights with me--it's one of his favorite activities--Clarence's inspiration has reached two generations in my family so far.
Dad, daughter Stephanie, and son Tyler, alongside Steve’s magnificent new Peterbilt truck, make a happy—and very fit—threesome.
I have been at
this type of lifestyle for five years and counting. I have no problem dealing
with the stress of driving in heavy traffic in strange cities.
I am 5-10, 165 pounds, with a fairly low body fat %.
I make my home in SW Minnesota.
To your health and well being,
Norwegian Lady One Year Later--Building on Success
(See above for original story)
It's a little over a year since I sent in my success story to Clarence Bass, and I still have the same solid, common sense approach in place. As I mentioned in my original story, this approach has accompanied me through over a decade of training and goes hand in hand with my way of thinking. It's a lifestyle - a long-term approach you build on day after day, celebrating successes, large and small, along the way.
Weight: I'm now about 2kg (4.4lbs) lighter than I was a year ago and one size smaller in clothes. A year ago, my fat percentage measured on my Tanita body composition scale was 24.6% (adult mode) / 19.6% (athletic mode). As of the 15th of May, this year, the readings are 22.1% / 17.6. In addition to losing fat, I have also gained a good amount of muscle. I would still like to lose a little more weight, but I've come to the point where even my hardest critic (me) has to admit that I look slender, with good muscle tone. [This is excellent--sustainable--progress for someone who was already relatively lean.]
It's very motivating to look in the mirror and see a body that reflects my healthy lifestyle.
Meals: My meals have varied slightly. For example, I now use soy milk in my breakfast smoothie, instead of kefir. I'm still consistently eating a healthy diet. I enjoy what I eat and look forward to each and every meal. Like Clarence, I often fine tune what I eat, continually learning which foods work best for my body.
Training: I've had some good results during the 2010 rowing season and managed to set new PRs in all of my selected distances. The goal I set myself last year, to be in the top ten on Concept 2's World Ranking for the 5000 meters, was accomplished. My official place for the 5000m at the end of the 2010 season was 8th out of 100 entrants. Out of my six distances in the 2010 season, I ended up in the top ten for five and in the top 25 for the hardest distance, the 2000m, which had a total of 116 entrants. [Moving up across six distances took effort and planning--a great example of using the performances of others to motivate yourself to do your best. You don't have to win--come first--to be a winner.]
The 2011 rowing season has just begun and I'm looking forward to new PRs in all of my distances.
I balance my rowing with off days to ensure adequate recovery. I do mostly walking on off days, but have done biking or running when the weather and my energy levels permit. I like the variation these other activities add to my training.
I've recently added Kettlebells to the strength aspect of my training and am already enjoying the challenge this new addition brings.
Challenging Myself: As Clarence said in his book Challenge Yourself, setting goals is a major key to staying motivated. I thrive on the small successes. However, I've learned that challenges can't be undertaken at the cost of the long term goal, so I continue to value and respect rest days. If I'm too tired to give that extra bit, I usually don't. If a muscle doesn't feel right (for example I recently strained a back muscle indirectly through a non training incident) then I back off for a while and lighten the training load. After all, my goal is be active in training for the rest of my life, so knowing when to back off is as important as being brave enough to push hard when the time is right. [So true]
A friend of Bass mentioned that people should start "running" and never look back. I totally agree. Sometimes I've had to slow down, but I understand that the key is to keep going, while setting realistic goals along the way.
Like Clarence Bass, I have great expectations. I want to look good, feel great and challenge myself, year after year. That's why the approach I've read, learned and adapted from his books will always play a major role in my lifestyle.
Thanks once again, Clarence, for giving me a lifetime of inspiration.
Your dedicated student, Deborah Nyberg.
Checkout those abs. Sensible training and eating are working beautifully. Way to go, Deborah!
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