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Thread: John McCallum - Power Training

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    John McCallum - Power Training

    In an effort to provoke a little conversation around here I'm going to post up a few old John McCallum articles.

    He was a writer for Strength and Health back in the 60s and his no nonsense approach apparently put a lot of muscle on a lot of young men. He's also the best writer in the field that I've encountered. He normally communicated his training lessons through stories and they are often entertaining. These articles are collected in a book called Keys to Power which I bought earlier this year and which motivated me into starting training again, so if you like the articles, go buy the book - it presents a complete course of development for the beginning lifter.

    I don't know much else about the man, but in his articles he mentions that he worked for the police and used to be in the Navy, before running a gym business. He seems to have met every lifter of the day, states he squats over 500 and bulked to 300 before trimming down to 240.

    His approach may seem a bit old-fashioned, so if you disagree with him, point out why! Let's talk about what might have changed since his day and what modifications could be made. The first one I'm posting up is Power Training. He didn't advocate this all the time, but it's a slightly unusual one to start with, so I'm hoping for some response.
    Last edited by J.C.; 10-03-2011 at 01:47 PM.

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    Power Training

    You're ready now for another advance in your bulk and power training routines. This new program will be aimed at developing great strength as a foundation for further bulk development.

    There's a tendency among uninformed bodybuilders to minimize the strength factor. I remember a fellow I used to train with years ago. He was a tall good-looking kid with a slim, willowy build. He trained on light weights. He had a top press of 140 pounds and couldn't have cared less.

    "Harry," I explained to him. "You oughta do some power training and bulk up."
    "What for?" he asked. "The girls think I'm terrific already."
    "Terrific?" I said. "You're weak as a kitten."
    "Yeah," he said. "But the girls don't know that."
    "Girls?" I shouted. "You got nothing on your mind but girls?" I tapped him on the chest. "Get this! Suppose you're walking home with a girl tonight. And suppose some big lug steps out of an alley and drags her away. What do you do then?"
    "Easy," he said. "I slip down to the beach tomorrow and get another one."

    There may be a few bodybuilders who developed a nice looking build on light weights and never acquired much strength, but all the really greats emphasized power in their training. If you want a herculean body, don't overlook strength.
    Steve Stanko was a Mr. America and the first Mr. Universe. He was also the first man to officially total 1000 pounds on the Olympic lifts.
    John Grimek is the most famous bodybuilder of them all. He went to Europe as a lifter on the Olympic team.
    Reg Park is certainly one of the best developed men of all time. He won both the amateur and professional Mr. Universe awards among other things. He squats with over 600, bench presses over 500, and can do a press behind the neck with over 300.
    Bill Pearl has won every major physique title possible. He squats with 600 pounds and bench presses around 500.
    If you want a development like these men, then emphasize strength in your programs. Spend some time at power training.

    If you've been following this series from the start, the time for some power training is right now.
    As a group, weightlifters are the strongest athletes in the world. No one can match the sheer power of a top lifter. This program, then, will borrow freely from exercises used by lifters in their training.
    Remember though, you're not becoming an Olympic lifter. This is a bodybuilding series. You're simply developing great strength as an aid to further muscular development.
    You'll be using the split system of training. Work out four days a week; preferably Monday, Tuesday, Thursday', and Friday. This gives you Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday to rest up.

    Split training is a tough grind. Don't add any exercises to the program and don't train more than four days a week. Keep each session relatively short, but very, very heavy.
    Don't forget--you've got to really put out to succeed.

    On Mondays and Thursdays do the following:
    Military press. Warm up by doing six or eight reps with a very light weight. Increase the weight and do five reps. Increase it again and do five more reps. Now jump to your best exercising poundage and do five sets of three with the same weight.
    You'll probably find you can't make the full five sets of three at first. Stay with it even if you're only getting one or two reps out of the final sets. As soon as you can make the five full sets of three, increase the weight and start over again.
    Do the presses in Olympic style – that is, with some backbend. Study back issues of Strength and Health for detailed information on proper pressing. Use every bit of information you can get and concentrate on developing a respectable press. You'll have to eventually work up to at least body weight for your sets of three.
    Pressing is still the best all-around shoulder exercise. You won't find deltoids much bigger than Jim Bradford's.

    Curl. Warm up with six or eight reps with a light weight for a couple of sets, then jump to your best exercising poundage. Do five sets of three with your top weight.
    Use a reasonable style when you're curling. Don't fall into the habit of excessive cheating. There's no point in making a poor back exercise out of what should be a good arm exercise.
    One of the best curlers I know is Maurice Jones of Vancouver, B.C. Maurice has arms around nineteen inches and curls enough weight to sink a small boat. We were watching him curling one day and I spoke to the guy beside me.
    "Amazing power," I said. "He must have a secret."
    "He has," he said. "His arms bend easier than most people's."

    Squats. Again, this is the key exercise. You've got to get your squats up heavy if you're going to make it. Use auto-suggestion to stimulate your mental drive and push the poundage. Try to increase it every workout.
    Start out with a light set of five reps. Add weight and do five more reps. Add more weight and do another five. Now jump the poundage and start doing sets of three. Add ten pounds to the bar every set and keep doing three reps. Work up until you can't make three reps. You should get in eight to ten sets altogether.
    Do eight or ten pullovers with a very light weight after every set.
    Keep your head up and your back as flat as possible when you're squatting. Don't go all the way down. Squat till the top of your thighs are roughly parallel to the floor and bounce back up. Take three huge breaths between each repetition.
    A burning desire is more important in squatting than in any other exercise. Whip yourself into a positive frenzy. Force the weight. Get a couple of guys to spot for you if you can and push to the absolute limit.
    Doug Hepburn spent a lot of time on low rep squats. So did Paul Anderson. They settled any remaining doubts on its value as a bulk and power exercise.
    You can finish off the workout with one set of twenty-live leg raises.

    On Tuesday and Fridays do the following:
    Bench press. Push this one hard. Warm up with a light set of eight. Add weight and do another warm up set of six. Add more weight and do a set of three. Now jump to your best exercising weight and do five sets of three.
    Use a normal pressing width grip and don't cheat too much. Use a little arch on the last couple of sets if you have to, but don't make a belly bounce out of it.
    In one of his instructive articles, John Grimek told about a man who just missed an attempt on the bench press.
    "I'd have made it," he said, "but my foot slipped."
    Reg Park is an avid bench presser. He usually gives a demonstration of his power just before his posing display.
    I saw Park bench press around 500 in his street clothes. He was wearing a big blue V-necked sweater and looked almost beyond belief. He absolutely oozed power. Work hard on your power training and you might end up something like Park.

    The next two exercises are actually Olympic lifts. Don't be frightened by that, they build power rapidly.

    Snatch. Most of you probably haven't done much work on this. You're in for a pleasant surprise. It's a terrific exercise for developing explosive power.
    Warm up carefully with a very light weight. Add weight and do another warm up set. Add more weight and do another warm up set. Now go to your top weight for five sets of three in dead hang style.
    A top lifter of a few years ago used to refer to three dead hang snatches as two quiet ones and a loud one.
    Try and develop as much polish as you can in this exercise. There's no reason why you can't learn to do a passable snatch with a heavy weight.

    Power cleans. Do these in the same style as the snatch. Three warmups with increasingly heavier weights and five sets of three with your best weight in dead hang style.
    Don't move your feet. Just dip a little to catch the bar on your chest. You should be able to work up quite heavy on this one. A lot of top bodybuilders are good on the Olympic lifts. Sergio Oliva is an example.

    Dead hang dead lifts. Start light on these and do two reps. Add twenty or thirty pounds and do two more reps. Progress in jumps of twenty to thirty pounds to your limit, doing two reps each set. Use a reverse grip. Keep your head up and your back flat. Don't be afraid of the weight. You should be able to work up to over double body weight for two reps.
    The dead lift is hard, but supreme for developing raw power. Work at it.
    Finish off the workout with one set of twenty-five sit-ups.

    Stay on this program for two months. Make up your mind right now that you're going to be using heavy weights at the end of it.
    Two months from now you'll he heavier and a lot stronger. You'll have the necessary power to go into the next advance in the series.
    Last edited by J.C.; 10-03-2011 at 03:13 PM.

  3. #3
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    It was entertaining, thank you for the read.
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    I love reading McCallum's stuff, thanks for posting it.

    I agree with general idea of the "power training", but I don't really like the Oly lifts. I think there are replacements that are easier to learn, so the turn-around is quicker, and will also have a good effect on "power". Also... Curls for power?

    For myself, I'd rather spend the time on Roamanian DLs, Stiff Leg DLs, Good Mornings, etc. I could go heavier and the lifts are easy to learn. I would also put some time in with chin-ups instead of curls if it was "power" I was after. Other's milage may vary.

    Olympic lifts are a noble pursuit, I just don't see them as being something a bodybuilder would put the required time into.
    Last edited by Off Road; 10-03-2011 at 08:31 AM.
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    Westside Bencher Travis Bell's Avatar
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    I'm with OR on this one. I like the idea of building a strong base before specializing in bodybuilding

    But when it comes to Olympic lifts, I really just don't see the point. They take a lot of work to get right and I just feel all that time could be spent elsewhere doing more simple but just as foundational lifts

    Actually as I was reading it, I got to thinking that it's somewhat contradictory to recommend Oly lifts if your approach is meant to be super simple. You are keeping things simple with basic power lifts and then you throw pretty technical Olympic lifts in there? Doesn't make sense to me.


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    Moderator joey54's Avatar
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    Oly lifts are anything but simple, that is for sure.


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    I suppose it was just a sign of the times. It seems like most gyms that had weights in the 50s and 60s were used by people who did oly lifting, so it wouldn't have seemed so unusual. He's also advocating the hang version which isn't as hard, so if you skipped the snatches you'd have hang cleans as an exercise, which is not at all unreasonable, and would definitely help develop a quick strong pull.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Off Road View Post
    Also... Curls for power?
    Ha! I kind of like that he has curls as an exercise. If you're going to be body-building it makes sense to develop some strong arms before doing the higher-rep specialisation stuff later. And if you're working as hard as you're meant to on the other exercises, pull-ups might be a bit too much. Or maybe McCallum just really liked curls?

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    Quote Originally Posted by J.C. View Post
    If you're going to be body-building it makes sense to develop some strong arms before doing the higher-rep specialisation stuff later.
    Good point...abbreviation is always a good thing when pushing it really hard.
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    So the whole routine summarized is:

    Monday & Thursday
    Military Press: 5x3
    Curl: 5x3
    Squat: 8-10x3 (ascending)
    Leg Raise: 1x25

    Tuesday & Friday
    Bench Press: 5x3
    Hang Snatch: 5x3
    Hang Clean: 5x3
    Deadlift: 8-10x2 (ascending)
    Sit-up: 1 x 25

    I think we can all agree we can ditch the snatch. I think the hang clean is worth keeping in.

    What do people think about deadlifting heavy twice a week, the day after squatting heavy twice a week? I think that for only eight weeks, consuming a lot of food, it could be awesome. You'd grow some serious balls by the end of it, take a week off, then go into something else with a greatly increased work capacity.

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    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    I enjoy his articles as well.

    The pulling twice per week while squatting is pushing it for 8 weeks in my opinion. I would not do it more than 4 weeks in a row.


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    Moderator joey54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by J.C. View Post
    I think we can all agree we can ditch the snatch.
    Thats your perogative, but I think I will keep it.


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    Quote Originally Posted by joey54 View Post
    Thats your perogative, but I think I will keep it.
    Wait...What? Snatch?
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    I think ill try this in the future. Chris, I see you said pulling twice a week might be too much. I am pulling and squatting twice a week for the HCT-12 routine. Have I misinterpreted the program? I used to be of the opinion that pulling more than once a week was too much.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gooby View Post
    I am pulling and squatting twice a week for the HCT-12 routine. Have I misinterpreted the program?
    Yes. According to the articles on HCT-12; if you are squatting, don't choose the deadlift as your hip dominant movement.
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