More on the 5 x 5 System

More on the 5 x 5 System
Hi John,
I’ve been using the 5x5 system as my ‘base workout’ for a number of years now. Whenever things slowed down a bit, I did one (or more) of the following variations.
1.) Reduce the frequency of the workouts. i.e. from 3 times a week to 2, or even 2 workouts one week and just 1 the following week. This was usually enough to spark continuing progress.

2.) Keep the weight the same on the final working 5th set, but focus on adding reps. When able to add 2 or 3 more reps with that weight, return to 5x5 and continue with advancing the weight on that last 5th set.

3.) Take a week off and begin a 5,4,3,2,1 rep scheme with the higher weights this would allow. Start with 3 workouts per week. When progress slows, I would apply one (or both) of the above strategies, or return to a straight 5x5 program and go on from there as before.
These very simple adjustments have kept my progress steadily chugging along. Using this method I accomplished two main goals that I had set a year ago in hopes of achieving them by my 65th birthday. One of them was to get my working set on deadlifts to double bodyweight (360), and my squats over 300 on my 5th set. I managed to achieve both ahead of schedule by 6 weeks.

I know these poundages don’t mean much compared to younger and bigger men, but having reachable goals that can be measured from workout to workout keeps me encouraged and reaping the related benefits. What I find especially interesting is continuing to make improvements in performance at an age where I’m also collecting my old age pension. Geez, whoda thought?

All the Best,

-Michael Dumas-
Really excellent stuff, Michael. One of the keys to successful training is to always have plenty of options. In this case, when one program goes stale, just switch to the next and keep moving forward, but clearly you are already doing that.  Keep it up!

Train hard,
John Wood

P.S. The 5x5 system is the "go to" for a number of strength champions through the years.
Reg Park, for example, used it to win the Mr. Universe title multiple times.  You can read more about Reg's training in his great course Strength and Bulk Training.
You'll also find the 5x5 program discussed in greater detail in several of Brooks Kubik's books, including "Gray Hair and Black Iron" and "Strength, Muscle and Power.

Heavy Supports and "Normal" Training

Heavy Supports and "Normal" Training
Here's an interesting question from the mail bag:

Hey JW, I was curious as to how you would integrate bone strength training into a normal training program.Seeing as it's a long term project to do it right I'm presuming you would need to keep training strength, cardio etc.

Dan Crockett

Dan, an excellent query, thanks for sending it my way. Initially -- I'm talking for the first year or so of heavy supports workouts -- I did no other full range movements.

Part of this was due to practicality, since I didn't want to extend my workouts any longer but the other part of it was that I wanted to isolate this type of training to see if it by itself did what I thought it would do.

I figured that once I had the medical tests to back up that it did I could start to reintroduce "normal" training back into the fold with the idea that since I had made more "room" by increasing bone mass, I would now be able to fill it readily.

I resumed *some* normal training just before my last DEXA scan, which occurred last fall.

Just as I had hoped, it indicated that I had not only reduced my bodyfat percentage by 3%, I had also gained three pounds of solid muscle mass -- which is a lot.

My protocol clearly works, but it also created a lot of questions and other interesting directions to take this discussion...

* What exactly is the mitigating factor here. mechanical load... or frequency?

* Is there a minimum (or maximum) threshhold for either (or both)?

* How heavy is too heavy?

* ...and what about the influence of "normal" training once that becomes more a part of the schedule?

* Does heavy supports translate to "functional ability?" If so, how?

These are the kinds of things that I'm still wondering myself. I don't necessarily have all the answers, but I can certainly tell you how things have been so far for me.

I'm still doing two heavy support workouts a week, although the reason is pretty elemental, -- things have been so busy lately that it is just easier to do them since I don't have to think as much.

When things slow down a bit, perhaps later this month, I intend to keep with the supports, but to devote only one session a week to them, with the other being "normal" full range movements.

Is that enough of a "dose" to work?

I think so.-- which is one very simple way to answer Dan's question but I'll be able to tell you a lot more in a few months once I get a bunch of workouts under my belt with that particular scheme.

Now, how about "cardio" and "functional ability?"

What I can tell you is that in addition to the heavy supports, I have been on a regular diet of using the rowing machine, in fact, in 2016, my goal has been to get in a session every day, something which I have stuck to nearly without fail.

These are my current seasonal bests -- notice that they have all been set recently.  Yes, I know I'm a little soft in the middle "third," but that's only because I haven't gotten around to going for those records yet, I still have two months left in the season to do so. Several of those scores are all-time PRs, and on several others I am within 10 seconds or so.

The more importantpoint which I think this data illustrates is that it is not often that you find someone who is 90+ percential across the board, from sprints all the way to long distances, which counts for something. For the last year and a half, I have done no other leg work but heavy supports and a set of bodyweight squats once in a while. Interestingly, my legs are just as sore the day after a heavy support session as they are after doing a heavy squat workout. I dont know what that means exactly but I certainly can't argue with the results.

It should be noted that I have made a recent change in my initial protocol which I discuss in the video on support training which we recently posted in The Iron League:

And also, in case you are interested, we just posted this extremely rare course which offers even more grist for the mill on this subject:

If you want to learn all you can about this intensely fascinating topic, it would be a great idea to join us.

Otherwise, the only way to find out the answer to all those questions which are bouncing around in my head is to do exactly what I'm doing: stick with it. My next DEXA scan will be in a month or two and I have little doubt that the results will be even more eye opening...

Stay tuned.

Train hard,
John Wood

Muscletown USA by John Fair


We recently came upon a few copies of Muscletown USA which is an excellent history of the York Barbell Company by noted strength historian John D. Fair. This book is over 400 pages and was originally published in 2008, if you can find any copies on the rare book sites, they will usually fetch a high price tag, our copies, however, are pried to move asap.

If you're into strength training, one of the topics that you should know about is the history of the York Barbell Company. You see, from the 1930's to the 1980's, the capital of weightlifting in America was Muscletown USA: York, Pennsylvania, the home of the York Barbell Company. It was here that Bob Hoffman, the founder of York Barbell, propagated an ideology of success for Americans seeking physical improvement and taught several generations the value of getting stronger. Often called the "Father of World Weightlifting," Hoffman was a pioneer in marketing barbells and health foods.

Hoffman popularized weight training and inaugurated a golden age of American weightlifting. He elevated weightlifting from being just a circus performance to being a standard part of every young American's workout routine. Muscletown USA - part biography, part business history, and part sports history - chronicles how Bob Hoffman made York, Pennsylvania the Mecca of Strength culture for millions of followers worldwide.

This story should be read by anyone who has ever touched a barbell.

John D. Fair's Muscletown USA covers the entire history of Bob Hoffman and the entire York Barbell experience. You'll learn of Bob Hoffman's humble beginnings in a small town in Georgia, his upbringing, how he first became interested in physical training and how he made it through the "Great War."

You'll find out what first brought Bob Hoffman to York, Pennsylvania and how the York Oil Burner Athletic Club first came to be... the founding of Strength and Health magazine... the original "York Gang"... John Grimek... the York Picnics... the "Golden Age" of weightlifting... the Broad Street Gym... Hoffman's Hi-Proteen... Paul Anderson... Isometrics... and a whole lot more!

The York Barbell Company was more than just a business selling strength training equipment - it was a fitness phenomena that inspired and mentored millions of people around the world in their quest for strength. This book will help you learn all about it.

The Strength Archive: a Taste of Things to Come

The Strength Archive: a Small
Taste of Things to Come

Our good friend Brooks Kubik made a good suggestion recently, he thought that since many people might not be as familiar with some of the items that I've mention that a short video clip showing a few of them in real time would give a better idea of whats in store. I agree! -- so I grabbed a pile of stuff from the "to add" queue and shot this clip: hit the play button and check it out.

Fired up yet? You should be, we're talking dozens of courses and hundreds of pages of rare strength knowledge -- the kind of knowledge that will take your training to the next level! I believe this particular selection ranges from 1890 through the late 1960's, there's Indian club courses... wrestling courses... weightlifting... bodybuilding... gymnastics, a few rare Russian physical training books and plenty more. No matter how you want to train, we'll have something for you.  And these are just the tip of the iceberg! Doors open at 9am (est) on Wednesday, 13, May, 2015 - mark your calendar.

All About Strand Pulling by Syd Devis - NEW EDITION!

All About Strand Pulling by Syd Devis

All About Strand Pulling by Syd Devis ~ 2nd edition

____________________ $29.99 plus shipping and handling

Bob Karhan's Custom Barbell Podcast Interview

Bob Karhan's Custom Barbell Podcast Interview
John Wood: We have Mr. Bob Karhan from Cleveland, Ohio on the line. Bob, thanks for joining us.

Bob Karhan: Thank you for having me, John.

JW: Bob, a lot of people are not familiar with you, so before we get started in the barbell information, can we have you tell us a little bit more about yourself and how you got started training.

BK: Sure, I got interested in training because I knew this kid in fourth grade who used to be a total wimp and who ended up getting a lot stronger. I asked him about it and he said someone had given him a set of barbells; back then nobody knew what the heck they were. I’m 66 now so this would have been back in the 50’s. I went to his house and saw barbell training for the first time was impressed for what it did for him, so that’s how I originally got interested. I kept at it and got a little obsessed with it over the years.

JW: Seems like a lot of people have a similar story, they get turned on to lifting by a friend or a classmate and it builds from there -- and then here we are fifty years later.

BK: Yeah, exactly. Back then a lot of people who wanted to discourage you if you wanted to lift weights. My father always said that if I trained, I’d get so muscular that the muscles around my heart would get so strong that they would crush my heart. This was a constant belief back then but obviously I haven’t died yet. Or maybe they just didn’t get muscular enough, I don’t know. So from there, I just really got into it and had almost an adrenaline high to train. That’s really how it felt a lot of the time, I got really excited to lift barbells. The thought of fighting it out and grinding out reps was something that I really enjoyed.

JW: …and eventually you were able to become a performing strongman.

BK: Right, I started out doing some work for the York Barbell Company for two years until their management changed. Dennis Rogers really helped me out with some training ideas and so did John Brookfield. I used to go around to a lot of schools to talk and did a lot of shows at prisons. With the assistance of John Black, a powerlifter of note, I traveled around speaking and demonstrating feats of strength. This kind of thing always went over really big in the prisons, I will say. I used to perform some strongman feats and do some heavy barbell lifts. We went to a lot of prisons all over the Midwest.

JW: What kinds of feats did you perform at the prisons?

BK: A lot of times, I’d bend a steel bar in my mouth. I’d take a piece of half inch hot rolled steel and cut it down. I think the shortest bar I ever bent in my mouth was 38 inches and that would just rattle my jaw something awful. Normally I’d stay at about 42 inches. Through all the times I have done this feat, I broke five crowns in my mouth. Thank God I know a dentist who owed me some favors who took care of me. Breaking teeth gets annoying after a while, bending stuff in your teeth just destroys everything in your mouth. I don’t do that kind of stuff today, but I did it for a good 15 years.

One of the other things that I used to do was to break a set of police handcuffs - that was the hardest feat I ever did. It was brutally difficult to do. Dennis Rogers helped me out a lot with that, not that I was as proficient as he was with that feat but I could do it. I could roll frying pans into tubes, like he does, doing the 3-pan roll and all the other stuff was one of my favorites. The bed of nails feat was also a good one. That wasn’t a strength thing obviously but it always went over really well and the crowds loved it. I used to drive nails with my hand through boards, like you’ve seen Dennis do. I used to drive a nail through two 1-inch boards but I never did it through a frying pan like Dennis. I had a few physical issues with my shoulder which eventually had to be fixed through surgery but anyhow, that’s the stuff that I would normally do for a show. I’d also sometimes do some heavy barbell presses behind the neck or something with dumbbells, et cetera.

JW: Not many people can say they have ‘performing strongman’ on their business card…

BK: Yeah, I suppose not (laughs). I performed up until I was around 58 years old, or so. I did a full program until I was 56 or 57 but after that, I’d arbitrarily pick things like rolling frying pans mostly so we didn’t have a lot to carry in. That’s a big objective, when you perform in a prison or elsewhere, whatever you drag in you have to drag out. Eventually I had to have a shoulder surgery; my supraspinatus was just hanging by a thread. After the surgery, I’ve been able to come back quite a bit which is pretty good for a 66 year old guy.

JW: Why don’t we switch gears a little bit can you tell us about how you got started making your own barbells?

BK: Sure, in 1972, if you watched the Olympics, the great Alexeev got out there and pressed like 521 or something like that. As I watched this, I was looking at the bar and I said, “my god, the bar just takes off like a rocket off his shoulders.” I watched the thing bend and snap right up. I didn’t press 521, but I was in the 300’s then and I never had a bar take off like that one did. I figured there must be some way metallurgically to make a barbell that could do the same thing. I worked in a met lab at the time and started working on different things over the years. I was in no particular hurry but I experimented with different heat treating and types of steel and came up with some interesting results. When you perform, you want to make the lift as easy as you can on your body, sometimes you have back to back performances and when you’re older, you have to push a limit to make it impressive for the audience.

JW: So your goal was to come up with a barbell that had a lot more whip to it, that was more “live” so you could catch it on the bounce and allow you to lift a little more weight on certain lifts.

BK: Exactly, that pretty well sums it up.

JW: We’ve got several of your prototype and custom barbells available which are made of different types of steel, different factors involved. Bob, can you give us a little more detail on what makes these bars unique?

BK: Basically every bar I’ve ever done is made with aerospace stainless steel and heat treated in an aerospace furnace so everything is very precise, about as precise as you can get. I’ve messed with different heat treats, different steels, sometimes different diameters and that’s how those bars came about. These are the same firms that do work for Lockheed and Boeing and those kinds of places. Anything that they would do for a barbell would be way beyond what is normally expected.

JW: The bars we have here from you are all a little different. I know the diameters vary between 1 inch to 1-1/8 inches and as far as how they behave during some lifts and the overall feel you are talking about barbells that you are definitely not going to find at your local sporting goods store.

BK: Exactly, these bars are extremely durable. Besides being extremely flexible, they can also take a beating. I’ve certainly never had one bend. They are made to really whip. It depends on the weight you have loaded up, but the ones in the 200,000 pound tensile have a whip a little bit less than an Eleiko bar. I’ve seen a lot of bars dumped in very odd fashions and they always stayed straight. The bars that are 300,000 pound tensile have a tremendous amount of whip to them. If you learn how to handle the whip, the bar will take off like it’s jet propelled.

JW: It also seems like, at least to me, and I’ve trained with one of these bars for over a decade now, that part of the appeal is the feel of the bar, which is pretty unique especially when compared to any other bar, and it’s also just a lot of fun to train on something so different.

BK: Yeah, that’s why I love lifting on a these bars. There’s other bars I like too, not just my own but I know that what I’ve done is to get the best I could out of these different steels. So that’s what makes these barbells rather unique, the durability and flexibility. It also depends a lot of the type of lifts you are doing. Barbells can be heat treated to do anything I’d want them to do, I mean, if I wanted a stiffer bar I could have done that, if I wanted more flexibility, I could have done that. Everything I did was for the lifts I really worked on.

JW: The bars with a lot of whip to them would be very beneficial if you are going to lifts like cleans, push presses, jerks, that type of thing. These bars really lend themselves more to the quicker, explosive lifts.

BK: It depends on the individual and how explosive you are, let’s put it this way, if you use one of these bars for squatting, you are just going to get driven into the ground. They are way too whippy for any of that type of lift with a heavy weight. I know I’ve made eight, nine and ten footer custom barbells for your dad. Those things are all over the place but once you learn how to control the whip and handle it, you can make everything look easy.

JW: Those bars are definitely a whole different experience from anything anyone else has ever done with a normal barbell, as I’m sure you know.

BK: Those long bars took a long time to do.

JW: At least one of your bars that we have you said is more of a Powerlifting barbell because it is stiffer than the others.

BK: Yeah, the bar that you have which is an inch and an eighth is more of a bar for multiple types of lifts than the other bars. Some are an inch and a sixteenth inch thick, some are right at one inch. Any bar that is 1-inch thick is really going to have a live feel, of course, the others ones will too depending on what kind of weight you have on them and the lifts that you do.

JW: One of your bars has stainless steel ends and needle bearings which is not a combination that you see very often.

BK: Right, that’s the 28 millimeter bar. We’ve tried that one with a lot of Olympic lifters and it was well accepted. Because of the machining, the cost is very high. It puts it out of the reach of the normal trainee.

JW: That bar would kind of like a high end set of golf clubs, above and beyond what the typical guy would need but if you are looking for a barbell that is pretty special, this is one of the only examples of such a bar in the world.

BK: Right. That is a very unique bar with the ends being stainless steel. Sometimes I just made something just to make it and see how it turned out and that was a good example; with the stainless ends and bar. I never worried too much about the weight of the bars. All those bars were tested for flexibility first, not like trying to make them for production or having them weight a specific poundage. That would have been a bunch of extra unnecessary work, we only focused on the flexibility.

JW: And because they are custom and prototype bars, they really aren’t certified with any federations but that is beyond the scope of what you were trying to accomplish.

BK: Right, exactly, the bars I made up were mostly just for my strongman performances but there were other guys who did deadlifting and all kinds of other lifts too.

JW: Also, because you put these bars through their paces, some have a few dings.

BK: Yeah, a few here and there.

JW: Because they are prototypes and got tested, this is pretty well expected.

BK: They have all been tested in several ways just to see how they perform when we drop them or do whatever with them.

JW: Ultimately, if someone is looking for a unique feel, one of these bars will be right up their alley.

BK: I would think so. The guys that I train with thought that the feel was totally different than anything else they had tried before. I’ve trained on Berg barbells out of Germany, Schnell barbells out of Germany, Eleikos and everything else and these bars are different than any of those.

JW: I know you’ve got some guys who train with one of your bars who keep it in the closet and only takes it out for Olympic lifts just because of how unique it is.

BK: Yeah, they do that. There’s all kinds of lifts and lifters out there. Somebody is always going to use a unique bar for certain things only.

JW: It’s not every day that you have the opportunity to train with a bar of which is the only one like it in existence.

BK: Sometimes I’d heat treat one or two at a time, it’s not economically feasible to do that but I tried all different values to see how they behaved with different times and temperatures. We fooled around with all kinds of variables. The guy I worked with the guy in the aerospace industry and I’d ask him his opinion on different things. He wasn’t in the barbell business, they usually make jet parts but they have a certain amount of knowhow about some of the steels I used. We’re talking about types of steel that are not familiar to most people but they are well known in the aerospace industry.

JW: This is definitely a unique opportunity and what we are going to do on the website is to go through each of the bars and highlight their specs and people that want to take action will have the opportunity to do so.

BK: It would be good for people to tell you how they want to train with the bar so they can be fitted to the right thing. You don’t want someone to end up with a barbell outside of what they are training for.

JW: We will be very upfront and forthcoming on the specs of each barbell so people will know exactly what they are getting. We will also make some suggestions, like the thicker barbell for more of a powerlifting emphasis. The whippier 300,000 pound test bars will be more conducive to Olympic style weightlifting and explosive lifts.

BK: Right, and if anyone has any questions on the bars, please let me know. I’ll be happy to answer them any time.

Tyson's Neck

I wrote an email yesterday about neck training and it received many great responses (although one was a little disappointing, which I'll share with you later on next week.)

Above you'll see an iconic photo for several reasons:

1.) There is no question who is is, even when seen from the back, which I find pretty awesome.

2.) Mr. Tyson made many bad decisions in his life, but one of the good ones was to make a point to build a big, strong neck. Genetics undoubtedly DID have a had in it, but he also did specific training, as you'll see in the rare video clip below. Obviously this is pretty important if your occupation is boxing (or any other full-contact sport.)  

3. This photograph was pinned to the bulletin board of my home weightroom as I was growing up. Aside from the many benefits that neck training brings to any high school football player (especially one with a long neck, like I have) an aspect that should not be overlooked is that "image" is pretty important to young folks, and this photo "got over" the idea that a bigger neck was a relatively easy way to "look strong," ideally for the purpose of picking up girls --  Inspiration (and motivation) often comes from unusual sources.   Whether or not this was the intended result is unclear, but I certainly benefited greatly onfield and off in either case.

Dr. Ken on the Top Squat

Dr. Ken on the Top Squat

A number of years ago, bodybuilding legend Dave Draper offered a product to his many followers and readers of his books and blogs, called the TOP SQUAT.

Dave and I have been acquainted since 1962, have remained in contact for many years, and unlike most in the business, he and his wonderful wife Laree are as honest as the day is long.

Bodybuilding legend Dave Draper, gettin' it done with the Top Squat in a recent training session.

If one used the appropriate adjectives to describe either of them, it would read like a list of desired character traits because it would include words like: honest, sincere, considerate, well-meaning, helpful, passionate, and committed. These are also traits almost never found in the business world but the Drapers have brought many equipment and supplement products to their dedicated training followers which they believe are helpful and useful.

When the TOP SQUAT was introduced many years ago, I wrote:

"All of my trainees found the Top Squat very easy to use, convenient and comfortable, even while using weights in excess of four hundred pounds. The handles made control of the bar a non-issue. For those with shoulder problems and an inability to externally rotate the arm, the Top Squat is an extremely useful piece of equipment."

I was one of the first to purchase a TOP SQUAT so that my trainees could utilize it and we were impressed, especially with those athletes and specifically large football players, with existing shoulder problems.

I recall that I made a recommendation or two that led to the purchase of a second, TOP SQUAT, one that also secured better to the trainee. Now the latest version is available through John Wood and this is a winner.

For the purist who always scoffs at utilizing anything other than a barbell to squat, the TOP SQUAT should be considered a very comfortable alternative to use when something "different" is desired. For those who are more open minded and seek progress in training, using the TOP SQUAT provides a more comfortable squatting position.

For those who are just uncomfortable when squatting because of current or previous injury, the TOP SQUAT can be a true savior and we have had a number of players and former players who could no longer benefit from the squat as a regular part of their training program because they could not hold enough weight to make the movement productive. The TOP SQUAT resolved this issue with its balance, hand position, and dissipation of compressive force on the upper back.

From the day we received and first utilized, our crew has given the TOP SQUAT compliments and for some of our trainees, it is essential.

Dr. Ken

Instant Incredible Gains With 5x5 Training!

Instant Incredible Gains With 5x5 Training!

Got another good one to share with you on the 5x5 training system.  Check it out;


I'd like to share some of my 5x5 experience and also a question I need answered.

I'm 62 and since I was 19 I've trained in the four set, 6-12 rep range. I often used drop sets too. I never used 5x5. I don't really know why. But my standard pyramid just hasn't really worked well in years.

Last year I started 5x5 training just on a lark.  (I was rehabbing a knee injury, and had to go light and easy.) I started making incredible gains instantly with 5x5!

Here it is almost a year later and I'm stronger now than ever before in my life. Please note that part of my progress must be due to a lot of bodywork that I've added.  For example, I'm doing chin ups 5x5 and dips 5x5.

I'm a firm believer that 5x5 works wonders! 

My question is this: Let's say it's back day and I'm going to do chin ups, bent over rows, t-rows and lat pulls. I am blessed with good recovery and high tolerance. Sometimes I do 5x5s on three or four of these exercises. That doesn't seem to be too much. It is exhausting however. Do you think it's too much? 

Should I just 5x5 on one exercise per body part?  Or should I do 5x5 on every exercise all the way through the workout? 

Bob Long

P.S. Here's a picture of me with Boyer Coe:

Thanks for sending this my way Bob, glad to hear the 5x5 system is working so well for you.  In my opinion,  one of the reasons behind *why* it worked so well is something you mentioned that you may not have have realized: your knee injury. Having been around strength training for a while, I can't help but notice that many, MANY people jump into just about every program several steps above and beyond where they should, and consequently, end up burning out quickly. 

Thanks to rightly and smartly taking it easy with your knee injury, you began at a very manageable level, which gave your body (and mind, for that matter) a chance to acclimate to the program accordingly.  A slower build up makes it much easier to build from there.  This, of course, is an important take home point for anyone getting started with a training program, the challenge is fight human nature and restrain from jumping ahead too quickly.

Now, as far as your question: you hit the nail on the head as far as another important coaching point. The impulses of human nature will often lead someone to reason that if a little is good, then "a lot" must be better. As you know, the 5x5 system is pretty intense, you will be moving some fairly heavy weights and since the goal is to get stronger every workout, it aint exactly a walk in the park. You've only got so much "gas in the tank" from a physical and mental standpoint to devote to your training, and it would be unreasonable to expect that you could do so with too many exercises. My "rule of thumb" is to implement the 5x5 system in no more than two movements per workout. A 5x5 session with any one of the exercises you mentioned ought to be plenty.  

As usual, the results of your training will tell you what the best choice is.  The key is to do whatever will allow you to keep getting stronger.   

Keep at it, and let us know how it goes.

Train hard,

P.S. If you'd like to learn more information on the 5x5 training system, it is covered in greater detail in the following courses:

Results of Ellington Darden's Body Fat Breakthrough Program

Hi John,

Here's something that you'll be interested in. I read your email today on "bulking up for football."

Have a look at this before-and-after example. Jordan Rapport came to me on January 4, 2014, wanting to get bigger and stronger to play football this year. Jordan is 16 years of age and weighed 184.5 pounds at a height of 6'2".

I put him on my 30-30-30 style of negative-accentuated training, which consists of 8 exercises, performed only one session a week. As you know, the 30-30-30 style is thoroughly explained and illustrated in my new book, The Body Fat Breakthrough.

Ten weeks later, Jordan weighed 206.5 pounds. His percent body fat went up slightly, from 9.8 percent to 10.3 percent, so he actually gained 19 pounds of muscle and 3 pounds of fat -- but look at the difference in his before-and-after photos.

Jordan increased the size of his chest by 2.5 inches, his upper-arms by 2.5 inches, and his thighs by 4.5 inches. Jordan is only one exemplary example among many who have gone through the program. Your readers may be very interested in these results and some may wan to to try out the program for themselves.

Thanks, John.

P.S. Your readers can order copies of The Bodyfat Breathrough Program from

Recommended Reading: Rethinking Thin by Gina Kolata

Recommended Reading:
Rethinking Thin by Gina Kolata

Gina Kolata first showed up on my radar about ten years back thanks to her excellent book ULTIMATE FITNESS which should be required reading for anyone with an interest in the history of the fitness movement from the ancient Greeks through the 18th and early 19th centuries and up through some of the crazy things that are commonplace today.

A few years later, Kolata decided to tackle nutritional topics with the same fervor, in RETHINKING THIN.

As you might guess, we get a lot of questions about diet, nutrition, losing body fat etc. and this book should be a perfect place to find some answers in an industry that is, to use a technical term, "nuts."

In order to understand the ideas and rationale behind many of the nutritional beliefs that are commonplace today, it is necessary to analyze how and where they came from in the first place and this is the type of information that you'll find in this book.

For example, how does the results of the Atkins diet compare with the traditional, standard, low-calorie, low-fat diet? You'll find the some of the surprising results of that analysis in the Prologue.

Here's a look at some of the other interesting topics that are covered in its pages:

CHAPTER I: Looking for Diets in All The Wrong Places

The results of the first federally funded diet study at the Universities of Pennsylvania, Colorado and Washington University in St. Louis ... Where the current dietary guidelines came from ... How spousal involvement can affect weight loss ... An in-depth look at how Dr. Atkins and his diet got started ... A brief history of weight loss drugs (and the unfortunate aftermath)...

CHAPTER II: Epiphanies and Hucksters

Dietary Fads ... A look back at 19th century dietary advice ... What the Ancient Greeks had to say about diets and nutrition ... Unusual (albeit non-recommended) weight-loss advice from the 1800's ... The simple technique that one man used to easily lose over 50 pounds of fat back in 1884 ... The rise of Fletcherism ... The cautious beginnings of the Vegetarian diet ... A look at early diet and cook books and the advice they contained ... The first weight loss contest... The beginnings of Weight Watchers,  Jenny Craig, the Beverly Hills Diet, The Scarsdale Diet and the South Beach Diet


One month into the Penn Study ... The good weeks and bad weeks and good ideas and bad ideas ... Willpower ... Solutions to common problems?

CHAPTER III: Oh, to Be as Thin as Jennifer Aniston (or Brad Pitt)

American ideas on body image ... A look at cultural ideals and the realities of beauty pageant winners through the ages ... The University of Florida obesity study ... Popular media and attitudes on the overweight ... Ideals ... The Gibson Girl ... Bernarr MacFadden jumps in 


Two months into the Penn Study ... Behavioral modification "tricks" ... Dealing with stress

CHAPTER IV: A Voice in the Wilderness

Obesity research ... The mental side of weight loss ... "Is obesity a mental disorder?" ... Attitudes in and out of North America ... The role of emotional content


Three months into the Penn Study ... The "Magic" Number for weight loss success ... Results of the low-calorie group ... Discipline ... Does counting calories really work?

CHAPTER V: A Drive to Eat

The results of the WWII-era Minnesota Weight-Loss Study ... The origin of the Mediterranean Diet ... SHOCKING results ... "Are vegetarian diets good for preventing heart disease?" ... What happens to fat cells as people lose weight? ... The prison study ... What determines whether someone will be fat or thin? ... Identical twin studies


Five months into the Penn Study ... "Are there social cues that trigger eating?" ... Planning ahead

CHAPTER VI: Insatiable, Voracious Appetites

What makes you want to east? ... What goes on in the brain ... A unique case from 1901 ... The eating control center ... The roles of the pituitary and hypothalamus ... A breakthrough from an unlikely source ... Genetic factors ... Calories over the long term


Six months into the Penn Study ...  Free will ... Struggles ... "What went wrong?" ... The mind-brain divide

CHAPTER VII: The Girl Who Had no Leptin

An unusual case of obesity "lore" ... The discovery of Leptin ... Why some people are naturally fatter than others ... Other adventures in hormones ... Problems with common methods ... Obesity in children


Ten months into the Penn Study ... Thin clothes and Fat clothes ... Stalled weight loss ... Losing the iron will ... Why exercise alone is not enough


Answering the "Why?" question ... What kind of control you have-and don't have ... What scientific truths are ignored? ... Society, politics, hopes and dreams ... A meta-analysis of the obesity world ... West Virginia and obesity statistics ... What is and is not making a difference in American body weights ... Sounding the obesity alarm ... Cultural resonance ... The National Institute of Health study ... The social pressure to do something ... Debating the health risks of being overweight ... Liposuction


Two years into the Penn Study ... Atkins diet aftermath ... "Normal" weight ... Lessons


Drumbeats ... Weight loss psychology ... "What have we gained/learned" Misconception and other diet book tactics ...  Soft drinks ... End notes

As you can see, RETHINKING THIN is a journey through an amazing number of topics. Whether you are a fitness professional,  have an interest in the history of nutrition or are looking for straight talk on how to drop a few pounds, it will be a fantastic resource and a worthy addition to your strength library. It is time to to end the confusion and get answers to the questions that you have been wondering about when it comes to nutrition. Highly recommended!

Click here to get  your copy of RETHINKING THIN from  (at an amazingly cheap price, I might add.)

The World's Baddest Barbell ~ Beginnings: Part III


Dave Pasanella on the cover of the August, 1987
issue of Powerlifting USA magazine.

"If I remember it right, it was a Tuesday morning when I got the call from Dave Pasanella. He was about to begin his training to set a new squat record in the 275-pound class at Gus Rethwisch’s Hawaiian Classic Invitational and Dave was tired of messing around with the barbells that were available at the time. 

Dave was calling to ask if I could design and build for him a special bar that would handle in excess of 1,000 pounds without flexing or whipping. As Dave was a very big guy, and since it was not exactly easy to wedge himself into a normal-sized barbell, at the top of his wish list for this new bar was an increase in the width between the collars.

Immediately I remembered a special steel used for bulldozer drive shafts from my days working for my dad’s excavating business, and thought that it would be a perfect material for this new barbell. The "dead" feeling of the bar due to this special steel, was and is an extremely important feature when working with limit weights in the squat which, of course, Dave would be handling.

The blueprint that I eventually drew up had an increased bar diameter of 1-1/4 inches, an additional six inches inside the collars, and longer sleeves to accommodate more weight. 

Having witnessed Lee Moran’s catastrophic squat attempt at 1,003  pounds where one outside collar blew off, weight plates slid all over the place, and the whole mess scattered around the Senior National’s platform, it was clear a positive collar-locking mechanism was needed.

Taking my design to Bob Johnson in the R & D  shop of Universal Gym, we built the first Pasanella Bar prototype. The sleeves had a series of 7/16-inch-diameter holes running along the linear axis, one inch apart. The collar itself had a knurled spinner to tighten against the plates, with a heavy spring-loaded plunger that dropped into the holes and locked everything into place.

Dave was pleased with the results and this system worked very well. Dave took the bar with him to Hawaii. in fact, I made him a carrying case out of PVC pipe and he took the bar on the plane with him  as checked luggage!

At the meet,  Dave squatted 1,032 pounds, at 275 pounds body weight, in front of three international judges. As the bar was thicker, longer, and heavier than all the other power bars in the world, some lifters cried foul but Dave graciously allowed that anyone who wanted to could use the bar. Gus sanctioned it for his meet, and a sample bar was sent to England with the recommendation that it be sanctioned by the International Powerlifting Federation. Ultimately the bar, which became known as the Pasanella Bar, was approved by the IPF for the 242-pound, 275-pound, 305-pound, and unlimited classes.

Unfortunately, Dave was killed in a car accident just off campus in Atlanta a short while later. Dave was a great guy, a terrific friend, and totally world-class in every way. His work at GT was carried on by his assistant Jim Lathrop, a top-notch guy in his own right."

                                                             --Jim Sutherland

So, now you know most of the story behind the Pasanella Bar aka "The World's BADDEST barbell."  All that is left is the grand unveiling (we're talking pictures, a LOT of pictures, specs, details and anything else you would possibly want to know about it), which is at last coming your way next...

Our story so far:

Site Tags Updated

We've been doing a lot of site updates in regards to the "tags" throughout all our website pages. There is still a great deal of work to do, but ultimately our goal is that every page will be tagged according to the content that it contains. Tags can be found at the bottom of each post and page, and each individual tag can be found through our site search engine.

In regards to our books, courses and other products, people, places exercises, workouts and training techniques are all tagged, making them easily findable for anyone who wants to know more aboutthat specific topic.  So, for example, if you wanted to know all the pages which contain information on John McCallum, you can click on the tag at the bottom of this post.

We are proud to report that the page for The Complete Keys to Progress by John McCallum has been fully tagged with all relevant topics.

Front Page of

We made the front page of Pretty cool!

Custom Indian Clubs

The last of our custom Indian Clubs:

The clubs in set "K" are 19 inches tall, and roughly two pounds each.  I believe these clubs are made of Ash and feature a beautiful, sanded natural finish.

Our regulsr selection of Indian clubs can be found HERE

**Note: These offers are for the pair of clubs *only* ~ the training DVD and poster are not included but they can be purchased separately if you wish.

The World's Baddest Barbell ~ Beginnings: Part I

There are two events which led to the creation of "The World's Baddest Barbell."  The first occurred in Dayton, Ohio, at the 1984 Senior National Powerlifting Championships. 

It was there that Lee Moran was to go for (and hopefully achieve) the first official 1000 pound squat in competition.  

Moran achieved 953 pounds in his first attempt, but it was a real battle. In his second attempt, the bar was loaded to 1003 pounds - a new world record if he made it.  The crowd was whipped into a frenzy at possibility of seeing the heaviest squat on record...Moran took the weight on his back, paused...and as soon as the referee gave the signal *SQUAT!* all hell broke loose. 

Lifts in the four-figure range were a whole new animal and the equipment at the time wasn't quite ready for it. The collar failed on the right side of the bar and popped off. Plates started dropping to the platform.  Of course, now that one side of the bar was nearly empty, basic physics took over and the other side catapaulted across Moran's back.   

As you'll see, it was a miracle that no one was seriously injured.  Here's a rare photo sequence of the event as it unfolded:

Lee Moran's Squat

After all the commotion died down, Moran was somehow able to regain his focus and made the historic lift.


Now, what does this have to do with "The World's Baddest Barbell?"  Jim Sutherland happened to be sitting in the front row when this event occurred.  Jim reasoned that with heavier weights swiftly becoming the norm, it was important (not to mention a safety issue) that the equipment should be able to stand up to it.

Jim set to work... (to be continued

Chest Expander Training Guides

Chest Expander Training Guides

Interest in chest expander training has been growing steadily-and for many good reasons:

Expanders will make a fantastic addition to any training program because they can serve so many different purposes.  You can train the small (but important) muscle groups that don't get nearly enough attention as well as the larger, multi-joint POWER exercises that really contribute to impressive gains. 

A set of expanders will help you regardless of your training goals...whether you want to add 50 pounds to your bench press or get a quick pump up before hitting the beach--and everything in between.

All About Strand-Pulling
by Syd Devis

_____$29.99 plus s/h

Now, a few people had some questions on the chest expander tricep exercise that I mentioned recently. Thanks to our art department and the wonder of Adobe products, an animated gif is worth a thousand words:

Take a position where your upper arms are outstretched to the sides, parallel to the ground with forearms upright, perpendicular to the ground, almost like you are signalling "touchdown!" - or the top half of an "H"

Now grasp the expander with your palms facing outward and "press" or otherwise straighten your arms while bending only at the elbows--the finish position will be with each arm out straight out to the side like a "T".

This movement is effective for two reasons:

a) the tricep muscle is trained through a full range of motion in a perfect right-angled bio-mechanical position

and b) thanks to the nature of the stretched expander, the greatest resistance is in the contracted position and remains so-the tension doesn't "drop off" like it does with free-weight tricep movements.

This exercise is a fine one all its own but you can also use it fantastically well to pre-exhaust your triceps for other movements.

It hits the muscle fibers so efficiently that I should warn you that, after an all-out set, it will be several minutes before you will be able to comb your hair.

Sutherland Utility Rack Launch!

After several months of buildup, we are now taking orders for the Sutherland Utility Rack, and unsurprisingly, the phone has been ringing off the hook all morning. 

As it should be, since the Sutherland Rack is the greatest advancement in strength equipment since the barbell since it will allow thousands of people to stop compromising their results and be able to perform the most Result-Producing exercises is a safe and productive manner.

The limitations of "I don't have enough space" or "not having a gym nearby" etc etc are no longer valid.

The Sutherland Rack can easily be put up in a spare bedroom, your back porch, the local park, an apartment or town house, your driveway or any where else with enough room, allowing you to get in a world-class workout quickly and easily.

We've got high schools who are going to put a row of racks right on their practice fields, and a personal trainer, who is going to keep a Utility rack in the back of his SUV to be able to train his clients on the road (thus no longer having to give a gym a cut of his paycheck.)

To cut right to the chase, if you are ready to grab a new rack immediately, the quickest way to place your order is to give us a call at 1-800-978-0206


The price of the the Sutherland Utility rack is $999.99 and price is reflective of the time, effort and quality of the piece.  As it is heavy duty, the shipping cost will vary slightly based on your location so please let us know your zipcode  when you contact us, otherwise, you'll be good to go.

YES, we do ship to Canada, and internationally, contact us for details.

Now, we are still working out an order page hence the reason it is easiest to give us a call, but here's a few more details on the Sutherland Rack that people have been asking about:


1. The Sutherland Utility Rack consists of nine main pieces: four posts, two safety rails, two bar cradles and a cross bar holding everything together. Furthermore, there are six adjustment "pins" and a tightening knob at each adjustment point.

The Sutherland Rack in Deconstructed Form

In Less that three minutes, the rack is now ready to use ~ no tools required.

2. Each of these pieces can be assembled by one person quickly and easily in less than three minutes without needing tools of any kind.

3. Three aspects of the rack are adjustable to suit the preferences of the user: the height of the bar cradles on the tall posts can go from 50 inches to 62 inches, the height of the bar cradles on the short posts can go from 40 inches to 52 inches the height of the safety rails can go from 17-3/4 inches to 37-3/4 inches and the overall width of the rack can go as wide as 56 inches.

There are 11 adjustment levels in each post, with one inch between each hole.

4. A thirty five inch long, quarter-inch thick strip of high density plastic is adhered to the top-most surface of the safety rails to protect your barbell during heavy partial deadlifts or any other time the bar comes in contact with that area.

5. As far as exercise selection, with the Sutherland Utility Rack you can squat, front squat, press, push press, good morning, deadlift, lunge and bench press in ease and comfort.

6. That's right, I said "bench press" the bar cradles can be moved to the shorter posts, and with the addition of a flat bench (not included) you can bench press by yourself without worrying about getting pinned under a heavy weight. You can also perform "dead stop" bench presses, an exercise that Brooks Kubik used to push his bench press up over 400 pounds.

7. Unlike squat stands or other racks, the cross bar of the Sutherland Utility Rack is specifically located far enough away from the training area as to not get in the way or otherwise interfere with the lifter during use.

We have loaded the rack up with well over a ton, which you can see here

Otherwise, if you have any questions on the Sutherland Rack, please feel free to hit reply and send them my way.

I talked with Jim yesterday and he was very excited to hear that the rack was getting such a great response.

We'll have more from Jim on the history of the rack and some if the best ways to train with it very soon.


Several people have written in to ask whether the bar cradles on the Sutherland Utility Rack have space for "thick" bars.

The answer is yes, a choice that was made by design.  In the top picture, you'll see a 1-3/8ths inch bar, a 2-inch bar in the middle picture and a 2-1/2 inch bar in the bottom picture.

As you can see, there is plenty of room regardless of what type of bar you happen to train with.


Can the width of the Sutherland Utility Rack be adjusted?

Again, the answer is yes, The Sutherland Utility Rack can be adjusted width-wise from 36 inches wide to 56 inches wide - so you can, for example, use a Trap Bar for heavy partial deadlifts or an EZ curl bar for close-grip pressing work if you so desire.  

The Muscle Control Collection

The Muscle Control Collection

We finally had a chance to put together a new and upgraded page for 'The Muscle Control Collection."  Now you can get your hands on three classic courses: Muscle Control by Maxick, Professor Matysek's Muscle Control and Muscle Control by Walt Baptiste. Please visit this page for more information and to check it out: 

The William Pullum Collection is now available!

The William Pullum CollectionBoth of William Pullum's Classic training guides are now available! If you have ever wanted to know the finer points of all the oldtime lifts, then you need to add these books to your strength library.  Get your copy of "Weight-Lifting Made Easy and Interesting" and "How to Use a Barbell" right here:

The William Pullum Collection >>>



New page for Dinosaur Training

We have a new and updated page for Dinosaur Training by Brooks Kubik.  Click here to see it for yourself.

New and upgraded Indian Clubs Page is Now Live

We are giving each and every product a facelift.  New pages will have more content and better graphics than anything that was possible on the old website.   To give you a quick example, our updated Wooden Indian Club Page is now live, click here to check it out.

We're Live!

We are proud to announce that our website is now live! Please have a look around -- we do, however, have many pages and areas of the site which are still being worked on.  All products (which we still carry) are available though many do not have product pages yet.  Please contact us if you have questions or can't find something that you are looking for.