Resorteras, Rehab, and Records

by John McKean

John McKean in the shooting position with his resoteras. A strong pull is needed, which works both the triceps and delts.

“THWACK!!!” A golf ball left mighty Paul Anderson’s tee after a typical set of ten with 800 pounds on the squat. You see, it is said that ole Paul had a three hole golf course set up on the grounds of his famous youth home, and he’d play the holes in between sets! This proved to be ideal “active rest”, well deserved fresh air, and much needed recuperation for the strongest man of all time.

“THWACK!!!” This is the noise that my nosy next door neighbor may hate worse than the clanging weights resonating from my open garage door. No, I’m not a golfer, but get this similar sound effect while target shooting my “resortera”, a Mexican term for a homemade, powerful, hunting-capable slingshot. Last year I renewed my acquaintance with slingshot target work, and find it a very relaxing, yet exercise oriented way of calming down from heavy, home gym lifts. The outdoor few minutes, alone ( I don’t rest quite as long as Paul Anderson did!) seems to energize me into better lifting efforts! Certainly the equipment is easy to acquire – the “resortera” concept dictates that you build your own slingshot from tree branch “Ys” (or cut from board or metal- a hunter/lifter/builder like Al Myers would probably weld one from thick steel to keep it HEAVY !), basic office rubber bands, and stones,marbles, or hexnuts for “ammo” (easy instructions for building lots of variations can be goggled at rebelslingshotforum ). I can attest to an actual increase of tone in my arms, delts, lats, and pecs from this unique band work (With the powerful hunting set up of seemingly simple office type rubber bands, a slingshot pull can get rather intense. You should see the wild game that my friends Jamie, Nico, Chepo, and Xidoo acquire with their homemade killing machines!) and nutrition habits (pizza!) of son, Rob,keeps me well supplied with cardboard boxes that serve as targets on my outdoor ” range”!

John demonstrating a band back press

Now in terms of bands, always a favorite subject of mine, the slingshot was not my only rubber training tool during this past summer. I’d been having really spirited productive lifting sessions early on, but was out fishing (another favorite outdoor activity- I tease Big Al by telling him that the fish I catch are so big & plentiful that I should apply for a “fish lift” category in the USAWA!)  and once found my foot shifting quickly on a hill over loose gravel; well,both the right knee and left lower back went into sudden ache mode,and stayed that way. Even a few days off, and a serious visit to my chiropractor didn’t give much comfort. But,  heck, there were meets approaching and records to set, so I just couldn’t take a long layoff!! While limping out to fire my nifty, homemade driftwood resortera one morning, I began to formulate a plan as the fresh air did its usual magic to invigorate me. I’d simply start all lifting sessions with Dr. Len Schwartz’ “Longstrength” concept, via Jumpstretch’s medium strength “mini-monster” bands. I did 50 reps with 2 bands over my shoulders for braced squatting, cable pulldowns while lunging toward my wounded knee for 35-45 reps, back presses while lunging over the other knee, high pulls along with wide squats, lying cable flys with leg pull-ins, and good morning bends + tricep pushes with the band over my neck. All light resistance, high rep combination style movements (which is the Longstrength concept) that really “gave an excuse” for blood to flush into the wounded areas. The fast paced  250+ reps also served as the best lifting warmup I’ve ever done!

My main workout,of course, had to be treated with “kid gloves”. The slingshot breaks kept me from getting really crazy (all you who know me, keep the laughter down and continue reading!!) , with restoring fresh air allowing time for common sense to intervene. So I’d take some of our most stable all-round lifts and do them in as perfect form as I could, adding control and slower tempo by placing a flex band over the bar (as I’ve displayed in past articles). With a single “mini-monster” band, I needed only to do a few singles up to about 60-70% of an anticipated record lift, that I was planning for the Fall meets. Often, especially if the knee or back started hinting that they were uncomfortable, I’d do the lighter build up singles without a band, then place it over the barbell to repeat the final top weight for the day for just that set. Usually a lift was completed in 4 easy sets (singles), and the five lift workouts were performed quickly with minimum agony.

John performs a "Longstrength" upright row and partial squat combo with a band.

As an aside, Dr. Schwartz often warned me that his Longstrength system was potent medicine. Shortly before his death (he was still exercising daily at 84 and could perform 35 consecutive, perfect chinups!), we’d had numerous spirited discussions on the great value of flex bands to supply constant tension during the fitness building, combination exercises.We even concluded that rubber cables fit in perfectly with his “moving isometrics” strength-aerobics concept. Yet I was still totally shocked to discover that my rehab program, seemingly quite mild, had reduced me to the middleweight division!

As I write this, I’m now mostly pain free and all set to try those records at Art’s Birthday meet in a few short days! Recent workouts, still with the same minimal approach, have been going great with emphasis on the prime commandment for Master’s lifting -” Thou shalt not injure thyself during training, ever! ” Now, if only I don’t go outside and catapult  a 200 fps rock into my thumb, I’ll be in fine shape!

Art’s Big Hook

by John McKean

John McKean demonstrates a band hookup for the 2-Bar Deadlift using a big S hook that attaches to his belt.

“SPROOOONG! SPLAT!!”  Those two sounds had Art Montini and the rest of the gym in stitches -complete howling laughter throughout the Ambridge VFW Barbell cavern!  The object of their mirth was this ever experimental author proving once again that some flex band set ups don’t adapt too well to certain all-round lifts!

You see, I’d looped each end of a band around the bar (braced from around my upper back) and attempted to do a pullover and push with the set up.  Overestimating the combined resistance, the push went halfway up then ROCKETED back down, the barbell being vigorously propelled by the stretched flex band!  Looking back, I think it must have appeared pretty darn funny, but at the time I felt like one of Al’s shotgunned ducks!

A close-up view of Art's Big Hook.

After that awkward episode, I became a bit more cautious toward THINKING how to best apply the advantages of bands to the individual mechanics of lifts!  And I determined that some moves can be done with a SECTIONED approach (not actually involving a wrap around the bar) to applying extra resistance.  For instance, in certain balanced moves such as one arm deadlifts, Zerchers, and two bar deadlifts the regular grips and positions can be taken, but the band pressure -sometimes considerable extra band pressure- can be simultaneously applied to just the thighs and hips. All that is necessary is a BIG “S” hook to attach the middle of a band to one’s lifting belt, leaving both ends of the band to wrap securely around the feet.  So, in a constant vigil to keep me from killing myself on our gym platform, good ole Art ,the man of steel, made one for me!

Recently I’ve been using this approach toward training the two bar deadlift.  As the above photo shows, I am free to grab the bars in a normal manner, with the bars’ delicate balance unimpeded by extra forces.  The band pressure goes just to the thighs and hips, not adding a lot of extra work, but certainly adding to the chore without necessity of hitting max poundage or leading to burn out.  Really , it’s like doing two exercises at once.  All the usual band advantages are there -this set up thwarts acceleration,yet encourages speed & finishing strong; concentration on the extra stress actually TEACHES proper form and channels power for two bar deadlifts.

OK, get yourself a big hook and add this” harnessed leg lift” into some of your pulling movements & deadlift types! Remember, you don’t want to ever shoot for an overburdening extra resistance, just enough to make the combined exercise “interesting”!

Band Set-Up for Squat Training

by Al Myers

Scott Tully, of the Dino Gym, reps out a set of 8 with Band Squats (450 pounds on the bar, plus 150 pounds added band tension at the lockout).

John McKean’s recent USAWA Daily News story about how he uses bands in training got me thinking about one of the biggest uses of JumpStretch Bands in the Dino Gym.  Bands are VERY beneficial in adding resistance to many different exercises – but I believe the best exercise they “assist” is the squat.  This is nothing new as Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell has been preaching the benefits of bands for many years now!  However, we have a band set-up for squats that is very unique, and something I would like to share with other lifters. First of all, there are two DISTINCT ways bands may be attached to a squat bar.  One is overhead, where the band tension is added at the BOTTOM of the squat.  The other is at the base, where band tension is added at the top of the squat, or at lockout.  Both have there uses, but after experimenting with both set-ups I prefer the bands to be attached LOW, so as you ascend out of the bottom of a squat the bands stretch and give you added resistance at the lockout.  I think it is best for the bands to go completely “slack” as you hit the bottom squat position and “kick in” immediately after initial ascent.  I like the feeling of “pushing against” the bands instead of the bands “pulling you up”.  I feel good squat technique is ENHANCED when “pushing against” the bands.  By the weight on the bar being lighter in the bottom position, it allows you to maintain good form in keeping your hips back and shoulders up.  By starting in the correct position, you are better able to maintain good form throughout the rest of the squat. Another reason I like the bottom attachment is that it just doesn’t seem right to me to use bands to make an exercise easier!

The top 3-prong hook band attachment, which has three different bar attachment points to adjust band tension for lifters of different heights.

Much has been written about what is the best tension at the top position, or lockout.  I feel around 25% added resistance (compared to bar weight) with bands  is about right.  This can be accomplished with two Blue JumpStretch Bands, one attached on each side.   Others have different opinions on this.  When I designed a band attachment set-up for the Dino Gym Monster Cage, several things I wanted to achieve.  First, I wanted an easy set up that could be changed quickly between lifters who may be of different heights while maintaining the same band tension at the top end for everyone.  Second, I wanted a band set-up that would “roll” out with the lifter as they set up for the squat to make band squatting safer.  Most band attachments on cages have a distinct concrete points where they attach, which makes setting up for the squat difficult. Third, I wanted to make the band set-up to achieve a 150 pound “overload” at the top position (approximately 25% increase since most of the guys in the gym squat over 600 pounds).   I spent a little time thinking of these problems, and designed a set-up that solves all of them! We have been using this band attachment set-up for several years now and couldn’t be happier!

The bottom band attachment. Notice the roller the band attaches to that "rolls back" as the lifter sets up for the squat.

The bottom attachment problem was solved by attaching the bands to a roller that “rolled back” as the lifter steps back with the bar on the back.  The problem of attaching  the bands to the bar was solved by designing a 3-prong hook which could easily be “looped” over the bar next to the inside sleeves not interfering with hand placement.  It can easily be changed between lifters. Our Monster Cage has bar hooks that adjust with hydraulic jacks so each lifter can have an optimum start height.  This allows all gym members, regardless of height, to be able to work out together.  We can change the bar height and re-adjust the band hookup in less than 30 seconds.  The length between each three-prong band hook was initially based on the heights of three gym members – Lon at 5′7″, myself at 6 foot, and Scott at 6′5″.  Lon uses the bottom hook, myself the middle hook, and Scott the top hook.  Each hook set-up yields EXACTLY 150 pounds added band tension at the top!  It couldn’t work out any better than that!!

I hope these ideas will help others in properly setting up a band attachment for their squat training.  If anyone has more specific questions, please contact me a amyers@usawa.com

All-Round Approach – Part 2

by John McKean

Positioning for a band/bar deadlift. Notice the stepping on bands to yield initial tautness. Also note the thick bar for increased grip strength development.

Recently, a friend from England named Eddie Quinn used his long years in martial arts to develop an amazing, condensed self defense system that he calls THE APPROACH (http://the-approach.com/).  Eddie has asked me to create a strength routine that would benefit his many students around the world. Of course, I’d like to share it with our all-rounders as well!  I can think of nothing better than a few key all- round lifts using my minimum equipment oriented, energy conserving band/bar moving isos.  I’ve included some photos to show how I place the bands over a barbell and how to anchor these strands of stretch rubber by merely stepping on them.  Originally Mr. Quinn requested I make a DVD of the actual lifts, but my grubby face and strained expression would probably scare off any and all future students – we have much better looking all rounders demo-ing these mechanics in our ever growing library of You-Tube videos here on site!

Midway into the pull. Note that band tension will increase resistance toward lift completion. Fight this - try to ACCELERATE!

So, Eddie, here are the lifts to search, off to the right of this main page: JEFFERSON (for all important thigh and hip drive, to thrust in with authority on an opponent), BENT OVER ROW (immense straight in pulling power development to rip an attacker right off his feet), CLEAN AND PUSH PRESS (explosive arm thrusting via leg drive, for major league hammerfists and elbows), and 2” THICK VERTICAL BAR LIFTS (absolute best for gripping strength, when you need to hold-on, to literally tear a limb off!).  For each lift, place a medium strength rubber band (I suggest Jumpstretch.com “mini monster bands”) over the bar and perform a set of three reps, adding a bit of weight to go to a second set of two. Do this every other day, starting with relatively “easy” weight at first – you won’t FEEL fatigued, but it sure takes a toll on the musculature and requires 48 hours recuperation.  Be dynamic for each rep (which should be done as singles with slight pauses between each attempt) by starting with control and power then accelerating throughout the movement (try to “beat the bands”).  When the weight becomes too easy, be progressive and add just a bit more – over time this builds way up, with genuine functional strength developing that sticks with you for a lifetime!

Bands doubled and affixed to a Jump Stretch base stand.

Oh, by the way, this routine is not limited to martial artists.  Every wrestler, football player, track man/woman, and all rounder can experience huge gains with this 15 minute workout! And a quick, intensive strength workout leaves plenty of time for an athlete’s main skill development training. Just as Eddie Quinn preaches economy of movement for optimum personal protection, gym time should also hammer directly to the core of your power base.

All-Round Approach – Part 1

by John McKean

Bill March pressing 390# in strict style.

During the 60s renowned York Barbell Club weightlifter Bill March set national and world press records, won major Olympic lifting championships, took a Mr. Universe title, and was even invited to pro football tryouts.  At his most efficient, Bill completed his actual daily power rack lifting in 24 SECONDS!  His York teammate, Lou Riecke, did similar isometric routines, total training time of less than a minute, to break a world snatch record.  Later, Lou took his methods to the NFL as one of the first pro strength coaches – he helped a then mediocre little team known as – AHEM – the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowl rings!  In this same time period, a rather large teenage track & field star named Gary Gubner used short range rack moves to build such phenomenal strength that he established world indoor records in the shot put AND earned himself a spot on the U.S. Olympic Weightlifting Team.

Unfortunately power rack routines didn’t quite stick.  Sessions seemed over before they began, movement range was too short, lifts were way too intense when done correctly, and, for the vain, no “pump” created.  Well, they did work very well for me, but even I got bored (and you guys know what a slug I am!).  So, some years ago (long after my original heavy weight power rack experiments) I started placing rubber flex bands over the barbell, did full range all round lifts thus “handicapped,” and termed them “moving isometrics.”  Like Bill March’s short range isos, momentum and acceleration were thwarted to yield solid, pure push through every inch of an exercise.  Yet the bands encouraged more SPEED and finish (actually, “pushing through” the top rather than “braking,” which somewhat discourages total effort).  Best of all, maximum results came from band/bar lifts that were NOT total, all out, explode-your-arteries, max weight killers.  In fact, from my findings, these work best with a comfortable barbell weight of 60-70% of one’s best single.  Even now, as “early middle age” (65!!!) approaches, these moving isos are giving me substantial gains on most lifts.

Coming Tomorrow

Part 2 of the All-Round Approach of properly using band resistance in your training.