Seven things I re-learned in 2019

by Paul Leonard

1. Everybody Wants Some, the title of this quintessential 80s rock song from Van Halen brings back pleasant memories of driving too fast and the movie Better Off Dead, a great snapshot of teenage angst. The song also contains the line…”Yeah that’s it, a little more to the right…”. David Lee Roth crooned that line to paint the picture of woman who was the epitome of sensuality, while a male enjoyed the view. I am here to tell you fellow ironslingers that an inch or so can make a huge difference in the gym.

This past year, I read an article by Louie Simmons that the great Doug Heath cured his shoulder ailment by placing a ten pound plate under either the head of his flat bench or under the feet of the bench, creating either the smallest incline or decline. I did this for 2 months and my shoulder inflammation disappeared. I should have remembered that an inch or so can make a big difference.

2. Regarding Louie Simmons, this year I saw the documentary Westside bs the World. If you look closely at the ten minute mark you will see my arm putting up the great Art Labare’s squat suit strap at the inaugural WPO meet in Daytona Beach, circa 2000. I was heavily influenced by Louie and the Westside content that he created in the 1990s, specifically his articles and video tapes. I recently found an entire box of these old articles and they are filled with training gold. In my opinion the conjugate principles that these articles contain are a great way for a raw lifter such as myself to train. If you can find these materials, I highly suggest you study them for very useful information on training percentages, volume, and unique exercises to implement. One gem Louie wrote in an article from that era was “At Westside we do a lot of a few things.”

3. Rack work is great for my squat and pressing exercises. I have come back from numerous surgical repairs of my pectoral tendons as well as a tricep reattachment. I did this by utilizing power rack training as described by Josh with the dead bench, Anthony Ditillo, and Brad Gillingham. What I regret doing is stopping rack lockouts and partial range of motion pressing once I got back to my pre-surgery level of strength. When you press from a rack position it is pure concentric exercise with no eccentric stress. I really enjoy training with partial overload work and from a dead stop position. Eric Fiorillo of the Podcast Motivation and Muscle recently described power rack training as proving the trainee with infinite opportunities to progress. My sentiment exactly!

4. I enjoy listening to podcasts and there are many to chose from in you seek great training information. The great John Welbourn recently stated on his podcast that most trainees fail to improve because they ignore the three pillars of training which are to implement Hatfield’s compensatory acceleration, incorporate isometric work to increase stability, and utilize the medicine ball plyometric exercises recommended by Ben Johnson’s strength coach Charlie Francis. I read and study any content from Hatfield and you should too. No man on earth ever got more out of his body than Dr Squat.

5. The book Dinosaur Training which was published in 1996 is a great book which needs to be read by every garage gorilla, cellar dweller, raw power lifter and drug free trainee. I have seen some of Mr Kubic’s more recent work but I much prefer the classic Dinosaur book which will soon be a quarter of a century old. Rack work, thick bars, sandbags, finishing moves, mindset training, grip work, and attitude are what you will re-learn if you have not visited this book in too long.

6. Stiff leg deadlifts should always be done. I am writing this article on the 19 year anniversary of George Brink’s epic 804 lb deadlift at the USPF Nationals in Burbank at age 51! George had a back of steel and a torso like a Grizzly bear. He would do extensive cycles of stiff leg deadlifts off blocks for 5 sets of 10 reps. George was a good inch taller than me at over 6’3” and his back was as broad as an axe handle or two. I leave a slight bend in my knee and I squeeze the weight off the floor with my posterior chain. I slow the eccentric down to between 3 to 5 seconds to build as much muscle as possible. Wear straps and use a front grip so the emphasis is on building your erectors and nothing else.

7. Life is fleeting and should be enjoyed while you try your best to leave a legacy of sharing your passions with others. When I heard that the world had lost Franco Columbo, I was shocked that he could die. There is a video online from a few years ago of Arnold describing how Franco’s muscle tissue was unlike anything Arnold had ever seen on another human. He was, pound for pound, one of the strongest men to ever grace the earth. By all accounts he was also one of the most beloved members of the Golden Era bodybuilders.

Franco died doing what he must have loved doing-swimming off the coast of Sicily this summer. What a fitting way for him to pass as only the power of the ocean could overcome his physical being.