One hundred and four workouts in a row-every Wednesday and Saturday like clockwork, and no injuries or illness. To give you a little idea of how his strength improved, his deadlift went from 45 pounds (yes, an empty Olympic bar) x 15 to 300 x 5, bench press went from 185 x 5 to 259 x 5, and he's gained 45 pounds and even though these numbers aren't "world beaters" yet, as you can imagine he looks like a different person. Not bad for his first year of sensible training.
Stay tuned because Part II is going to tell you the rest of the story - how this guy, utilizing the simple approach that is presented in this article, spent his second year of training turning himself into a massive, powerful guy.
I challenge you to compare your results over the last year of training, with what Craig has achieved. I'm not saying this to add to your frustration because your training has gone nowhere in the last several years, but instead to help you - to show you that there is a way to accomplish your dream of a well-developed physique and great strength - without the use of drugs.
At the time of writing (early April 1998), I have been consulting with Craig Rasmussen for exactly 57 weeks. Notice that I said "consulting." Craig does not live in Indianapolis. He resides in California. I have not coached him through every workout. As a matter of fact I have only personally coached him through one workout - Craig flew in for a day last November. Even though I set up and monitored his program, Craig had the desire to train 104 times in one year without missing a single workout. So don't try to use the excuse that you don't have a strength coach watching over you every workout - Craig didn't.
In His Own Words
When I informed Craig that I would be writing an article on him I requested that he write a biographical sketch of his training journey and send it to me so that I could use parts of it to write this article. Well, Craig tells his story better than I could, so I'm including it as it is. It's good material. I'm sure many of you can relate to it.
Here It Is
"My first experience with weight training began when I was in junior college playing
basketball; at the age of 19, I was 6-foot-1 and about 160 pounds. I had always been extremely skinny and the coach really stressed how much I needed to get bigger and stronger. Once the season was over I signed up for a weight-training class and started to work out for the first time.
"There was no guidance in this class and I basically did what everyone else was doing, focusing most of my efforts on the bench press, struggling to push 135 pounds for 1-or-2 reps.
I then began to seek some information on weight training, and found some books at the local bookstore and some old bodybuilding magazines that my dad had stored in the garage. I constructed some routines from these books and magazines. Somehow I was able to gain about 15-20 pounds in my first year of weight training, as many novice trainees often do.
"For the next couple of years I trained semi consistently at a local Gold's Gym with a friend who had also begun to train during his freshman year in college. We mainly used routines that were six days per week, 10-20 work sets per bodypart, and I trained each muscle group two times per week. When we skipped a workout we skipped our leg day.
"My strength increased for a short while on these programs, but progress quickly came to an end and I had a long period of stagnation when I used the same weights over and over again. During this time I began to spend a lot of money on weight gain powders, metabolic optimizers, and aminos. I also began to collect every kind of book and magazine to add to my ever-growing collection of confusion and misinformation.
"The next few years of my training life were spent when I was in college. I actually cut back my training to four days per week and focused on basic exercises, though I was still training each exercise two times per week. I made some' progress during this time because I was able to combine this training with good nutrition. My bodyweight climbed to 190 pounds and my strength increased once again.
"I continued to be sold on supplements and the routines of steroid users. I followed Arnold 's six-days-per-week routine from his book, and various routines of others I would read about in magazines. I spent over a year following a 3-days-on and 1-day-off routine without making hardly any progress in terms of strength and size.
"Following my graduation from college I began to be exposed to some radical training methods through the pages of HARDGAINER magazine but never paid much attention to them since the information seemed so radical compared to what I had been exposed to previously. I moved back to a 4-days-per-week routine and then to an every-other-day split routine for the next year or so.
"I was focusing mainly on basic exercises such as the squat, bench press, row, etc. I tried to add weight on a regular basis but I was doing it in too large increments. My patellar tendons (in my knees) were starting to really hurt me because in the squat I was using a too narrow stance, pushing through my toes, and positioning the bar" way too high on my I neck.
"It is a wonder that I didn't seriously injure myself. My bodyweight fluctuated between 180-and-190 pounds, since I did not eat consistently even though I had a strong grasp on how to eat properly.
"After this year or so of training I took some time off to let my knees heal. I decided that I needed to learn how to squat properly because I had to be doing something wrong. I had some material that mentioned BRAWN as a book that contained a good description of the squat.
"I went out and bought a copy and ordered the free copy of HARDGAINER using the coupon from inside the book. I read only the chapter on the squat and continued to train on an every-other-day split routine.
I then began to see some mention of BRAWN and HARDGAINER on the internet. The information intrigued me so I sat down and finally read the whole book.
"Now I didn't know what to do. Could this style of training really work? It seemed logical yet I had been so programmed to work out a minimum of four days per week for at least 8-10 work sets per bodypart that I had trouble accepting any other approach. I resolved to give this radical approach a try.
"I gathered as much information as I could from the internet, and began to experiment with sound routines. I noticed that I really I enjoyed training this way but I was still making major mistakes in application. I was jumping around every 2-or-3 weeks from one routine to another. I was down the right path but lost on which specific way to go.
"I then received HARDGAINER issue #46 which contained an article by John Christy called "The Only Way." This article was excellent and answered many of my questions, but I still needed guidance.
I immediately began to follow the routine in this article and resolved to improve my squatting form and learn how to deadlift (since I had never deadlifted before). It was at this point that I gave John a call to get the extra guidance I desperately needed.
"In the subsequent year of proper training I learned many lessons. The most important of which was that of consistency. My training cycle has continued for over a year without a plateau, and I'm still getting stronger.
Adding a small increment of weight on a regular basis has accomplished unbelievable results in terms of size and strength gains.
"I have gained over 40 pounds of bodyweight in the last year, and increased my strength greatly. It was great to have the opportunity to go to Indianapolis and learn the important lesson of how to put out effort. That is, instead of just going in and lifting, I learned how to approach each set and rep with maximum seriousness and intensity. I would greatly recommend John's article entitled "The White Moment". It describes exactly how to get yourself "up" for every rep that you perform.
"People are amazed when they learn that I train only two times per week. They just cannot believe it can be done. I remember getting strange looks and questions in the gym when people saw me doing squats, benches and pull-downs in the same workout. They wondered what the small weight plates were that I was using. I'm sure they thought I was an oddball.
"It didn't bother me a bit as I continued to see the weight grow on the bar every workout, while the others at the gym remained unchanged, pushing the same weights over and over. I now have my own home gym and it is awesome. I can now let loose and concentrate on putting out maximum effort every workout.
"My goals are to continue on this same basic program as long as possible, hopefully for another year. My short-term goals are to bench 300 pounds, squat 400 pounds and deadlift 500 pounds. I would specifically like to bench press 300 x 5 by the end of 1998, squat 405, and get my sumo deadlift well over 400 pounds.
"Eventually I hope to achieve the elite numbers of 400-500-600 and maybe try some powerlifting. I would mainly like to continue to get bigger and stronger. This is something that I truly have a passion for and plan to continue for my lifetime."
Craig's Training Program
Craig's story is not unusual. It's a common path many of us have walked. Let me tell you, Craig's bone structure isn't anything special. He's just a pretty much average guy genetically, but he has a burning desire to succeed, and lots of patience. Try that anabolic combination on for size.
Here's The First Program I Put Him On.
- Supported Crunch: 1 x 15 with 35 lbs
- Squat: 2 x15 with a 45-lb bar
- Stiff-legged deadlift: 1 x 15 with 65 lbs
- Bench press: 2 x 5 with 185 lbs
- Supinated pulldown: 2 x 5 with 115 lbs
- Static grip: 1 x 60-90 secs w/ 100-lb 'bells*
*Craig is gifted with long fingers relative to his forearm length. This helps him to excel at gripping. Most trainees have to start with 35- or 40-pound dumbbells in the static hold.
- Side bend: 1 x 15 with 30 lbs
- Sumo deadlift: 2 x 15 with a 45-lb bar
- Standing military press: 2 x 5 with 95 lbs
- Barbell curl: 2 x 5 with 75 lbs
Pretty simple stuff, isn't it? As Craig developed I added a few exercises, and adjusted his warm-up sets as he got stronger. 52 weeks later he completed the following.
- Lying L-fly (for the external rotators): 1 x 20 with 11 lbs
- Supported Crunch: 1 x 10 with 101 lbs
- Squat: 2 x 5 with 280 lbs
- Stiff-legged deadlift: 1 x 10 with 257.5 lbs
- Bench press: 2 x 5 with 259lbs
- Supinated pulldown: 2 x 5 with 231 lbs
- Wrist curl: 1 x 20 with 78 lbs
- Reverse wrist curl: 1 x 20 with 22.5 lbs
- Lying L-fly: 1 x 20 with 11 lbs
- Side bend: 1 x 10 with 90 lbs
- Sumo deadlift: 2 x 5 with 302.5 lbs
- Military press: 2 x 5 with 149 lbs
- Barbell curl: 2 x 5 with 112 lbs
- One-legged dumbbell calf raise: 2 x 10 with 40 lbs
- Static grip: 120-lb dumbbells x 72 secs
Workout A (started 26 February 1997 )
Workout B (started 1 March 1997 )
Workout A ( 22 February 1998 )
Workout B ( 25 February 1998 )
As you read in Craig's biography, he said that he learned how to put out maximum effort on every rep of every set when he came here to train. Craig's previous approach was to just grab the bar and lift, without any mental preparation. What he learned when he came here was to take the few moments before the set and get himself "excited," "fired-up," or flat-out "pissed off". As was mentioned, I've written an article titled "The White Moment." It'll elaborate on this subject - the importance of mental intensity. I suggest that you get it and read it carefully
I'm not saying that you have to get mad to do a set (although it sure doesn't hurt), but you absolutely need to summon up all the effort that you can, and you can't do this by casually entering a set. This is a quality that is hard to put into words and it is hard to teach using written language. It is best learned through seeing it in action.
For me, it is very simple. I am a warrior - just like everyone of you are - whether you know it or not! I enjoy the battle. It doesn't matter if it's a 500-pound barbell, a 260-pound linebacker from Ohio State University, or a pitcher throwing 95 mph fastballs; it gets me fired up. I enjoy the challenge.
I can honestly say that I could teach Craig everything he needed to know about how to get strong and big via correspondence, phone consultations and video recordings except how to train as hard as he is capable of. He learned how to put out more effort than he had ever done before, but to really understand how to get the most that he was capable of he had to come here and see it first hand.
I just can't stress it enough. Consistency is as important as progression when it comes to the strength game. Heck, it is actually more important! For if you don't train consistently how can you expect to be progressive - i.e. add weight to the bar? The major reason I wrote this article in the first place was to demonstrate via Craig how the body can be transformed if you don't miss workouts and if you simply add a little iron to the bar every workout.
You know, it's not rocket science like many would have you believe. And, I'm not implying that any of you would miss workouts for no reason. The reasons that I am speaking of for missing workouts are injury or illness brought about by not training properly - i.e. training too often, using too many exercises, poor exercise technique, improper weight selection, and not eating or sleeping properly, etc.
What do you think Craig is going to look like at week 104? He's already getting accused of steroid use. You get rewarded for your patience - eventually. There were times during Craig's year of training when he couldn't add even a pound to the bar. So I had him repeat a certain weight a couple of workouts. All of a sudden a weight that was once very difficult became easy. As long as you are working as hard as possible it is okay not to be progressive all the time - but you must be consistent.
You will get strength gains by repeating a weight that is difficult to do. It's much better on certain occasions to repeat a weight several workouts than it is to add weight. If you add weight when you're not ready for it, slowly and subtly your form will deteriorate.
The Bottom Line
So what's the bottom line? To get the maximum results out of your training you must not miss workouts due to injury or illness. (I figure I'm not speaking to the unmotivated trainee who will miss a workout because he has an early date with his girlfriend). You must work up to using weights that challenge you to make your prescribed reps, but you must make them while maintaining great form! You must add weight on a prescribed basis until, for example, that one workout arrives where you fail to make 5 reps (you failed at 4).
Then stick with that weight till you complete the 5 reps in good form. Then add a pound and go to battle again. Wage war on the bar. Don't mess around. The bar won't get any lighter to try and help you out. No one is going to help you out. You're alone under that bar. You must rely on your own strength. You must have the courage to face a heavy weight every workout, and have the will to summon up all your strength for every rep of every set. And if you can train without missing a single workout for a long period of time, you can expect to win every time.
Check in next time for Part II - you won't want to miss what happens in the next year of Craig's journey.
Till then, Train smart, train hard, and dream big.