My Advice to the Beginner
by Keith W. Wassung
I know a gentleman who went to work for a large privately held corporation that did hundreds of millions of dollars in annual sales. After many years of hard work he was asked to become the next Chief Executive Officer of the company, but only after completing an extensive hands-on training program with the current CEO. Each day he spent nearly every minute at work with the CEO, watching and observing.
The entire training program lasted nearly ten years. This man related that after six months he learned virtually all there was to know about the administrative details and tasks of the position. The remaining 9.5 years were spent learning the history and culture of the business. The CEO would spend hours with him, relating stories about the historical successes, failures and challenges of the company. The reason that he spent so much time listening to company stories was that they wanted to ensure he knew the culture and heritage of the corporation. This would ensure that he also knew the standards and values of the corporation and would always be able to make decisions that reflected those values.
My advice to the beginning weight trainer is to learn and appreciate the history of the iron game. Whether you consider yourself a bodybuilder, powerlifter, weightlifter, or an athletic weight trainer, please realize that we all have common roots and heritage. The iron game has produced countless numbers of athletes who have achieved outstanding strength and muscular development without the use of fancy equipment, complicated routines, and engineered nutrition.
Many had to overcome numerous obstacles, challenges and hardships. Henry “Milo” Steinborn was a prisoner of war during WWII and despite the harsh conditions; he continued to train using a bar with logs secured to the ends. The logs became heavier as they were soaked with water enabling Steinborn to increase the weight he was lifting resulting in strength and development gains. Milo was reported to have squatted over 400lbs at the age of 70!
Doug Hepburn was a small, skinny child who was born with a clubfoot and with eyesight problems. Nonetheless, he was the world heavyweight champion 1953 and is still considered by many to be one of the strongest men of all time.
Learning the culture and heritage of weight training will allow you to make quality decisions about your training. It will teach you that training is a life-long pursuit and not just some way to look “buff” for the beach. It will teach you the proven principles upon which all successful programs are built. It will teach you the importance of hard work, the importance of using overload and progression with the basic exercises. It will teach you the importance of a positive mental attitude, of focus, commitment and persistence. It will teach you that money spent on fresh produce and meat is usually better than money spent at GNC.
You may have heard statements such as “We have learned all there is to learn about weight training, there is nothing more and nothing new.” I don’t believe that statement and neither should you, but if you know the track record of the past, it will allow you to differentiate between valid training information and information designed to make earn somebody a profit.
Too many weight trainers today are like reeds in the wind-they are easily swayed by whatever direction the wind is blowing. These folks are always looking for the latest and greatest exercise, routine, supplement etc. instead of dedicating their time and energy to doing what history has shown to be effective. It’s no wonder they are frustrated with their lack of progress. Too many trainees ask “how” something should be done, when they should be asking “why” something should be done. When you discover the “why”, you will always figure out the “how.”
There are numerous resources to use when learning about the history of weight training. Some excellent books on weight training history include The Iron Game, by David Webster, Anvils, Horseshoes and Cannons, Vol. I and II by Leo Gaudreau and The Super Athletes by David Willoughby. Get your hands on some old Strength and Health Magazines or some of the original Iron Man magazines when Peary Rader was the editor and publisher.
Use a search engine and look up some of the following names: John Grimek, Marvin Eder, Tommy Kono, Paul Anderson, Ike Berger, David Rigert, Milo Steinborn, Bill Pearl, Clarence Ross, Apollon, Norbert Sch, John Kuc, Larry Pacifico, Lamar Gant, Ed Coan, Bill West, John Cole, Barton Hovarth, Harold Poole, Chuck Sipes, Steve Merjanian, Hans Beck, Karl Abs, Jseof Steinbach, Ernest Cadine, Norbert Schemansky, Pete George, Chuck Ahrens, Larry Scott, Pat Casey, Don Reinhoudt, John Davis, Bill March, Tony Garcy, Jack Delinger. Pudgy Stockton, George Hackenschmidt, Dave Draper, Joe Hise, Mel Henessy, Doug Young, Phil Grippaldi, Arthur Saxon, Bill Starr, Reg Park, Karl Norberg, Doug Hepburn, and many others. As you read their stories, you will no doubt discover the stories of even more men and woman.
Study and learn from the collected experience of these amazing athletes. Find the common principles of success in their stories and apply this to your own training.
“The wise learn from the experience of others, and the creative know how to make a crumb of experience go a long way.”
Eric Hoffer, American Philosopher
Keith W. Wassung