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Old 06-13-2007, 07:40 PM
Darkhorse Darkhorse is offline
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Default All Too Familiar Story

We've been getting a large influx of new members here. Most seem concerned with hypertrophy training w/ a weak strength base. So I'm posting an article I wrote in my spare time about my experiences. This is not specifically for any one person here, just something I've thought about as I was reading all my old journals



Just how important is squats and deadlifts you ask? VERY!

I had some pretty bad habits since joining the Marine Corps back in 1999. Most notably, I never really worked legs, and never deadlifted in favor of different rowing variations. I had two theories back then. One was that I didn’t want to work my legs since I was always running and hiking every day being in the infantry. Being a non commissioned officer, if I was to fall out of a hike, I didn’t think the excuse of doing squats the day before would fly lol. The second reason was what I’m sure 90% of trainees think in the back of their minds: Girls pay more attention to the guns than quads!

So what happens when you don’t focus very much on the squat and deadlift? Well, all my lifts hit a plateau. So did my weight gain. I’ve always had some good genetics, and weight gains for me would come in bunches. I’d have three pounds gained in one week, check the scales a few weeks after that and be five pounds heavier, which was always followed by a long dry spell before magically gaining again. Mind you, I’m talking about after I got back from Iraq weighing a very unnatural and undernourished 160 lbs, so the gains were almost entirely muscle.

Back then, it wasn’t unheard of to have my spotter pick up the heavy dumbbells and hand them to me to rest on my knees before a hardcore incline set. A lot of my lifts suffered because of my weak links. Most notably among my muscle groups was my back days. My lower chain couldn’t handle the weight my upper body could pull. Barbell rows, T-bar rows, ect. I’d have to continuously lower the weight in favor of dropping my upper body lower to the ground.

Almost two and a half years ago, I started doing Max-OT. I figured some low volume would be a good way to start really working my legs beyond doing some leg extensions and curls. I opted out of heavy machine usage such as the leg press as my main exercise because just like all machines, they have no carry-over. Whoever says they do probably has a bridge for sale. Back then, I could stack plate after plate on the leg press and rep out. Yet when I free squatted, I was struggling with 250! After a few weeks, I was “almost” parallel squatting with 275 lbs. Ugh.

Here is a piece of my journal I found back in 2005.


March 2005

1.Squats: 225 x 6, 275 x 6, 275 x 6
2.Front Leg Extensions: Used the stack for 3 sets of 6
3.Stiff Leg Deadlifts: 225 x 6, 275 x 6, 275 x 6

March 2005

1.Flat Bench Press: 315 X 6, 335 X 5, 335 X 4
2.Incline Barbell: 275 X 5, 275 X 5, 275 X 5
3.Decline Barbell: 275 X 5, 275 X 5
4.Weighted Dips: 45 X 8

If you cannot see a major discrepancy between upper and lower, then you’re lost in the sauce.

That’s the point when I really started reading the forums. I came in thinking I was the bomb benching 365 x 1 staying 100% natural when many others were struggling with 315 lbs mid cycle! However, I had a dark secret: My squatting sucks and deadlifting was almost non existent. First time I tried deadlifting, I was able to get 315 x 8 if I remember correctly. So I wasn’t in terrible shape, but knew that if I TRULY wanted that barrel chest and 20 inch arms, I’d have to seriously address those deficiencies.

Where to go from here? Well, I started doing some heavy reading. One article I remember more than most was from Brawn called, “Squatting for Big Arms”. I thought it was bullshit until I really thought about the MESSAGE it was trying to convey:

Big full body lifts = Big full body growth response!

I came to the ultimate conclusion that I needed a program that was completely modeled around the squat and deadlift. I chose the 5 x 5 which was a three times a week, full body workout program. The programs themselves were modeled by Bill Starr. To me it just made sense to invest some serious time into squatting three times a week to bring it up. Of course NOW I’d never hang with that, but back then it was perfect.

So, I remained on Bill Starr’s 5 x 5. My first full run through was a big success. I still have my old journal for that as well. Here’s the totals:

Week Four: Max 5x5, 1x5

Olympic squats: 245 (5x5), 275 (5x5 pyramid)
Deadlifts: 345 (5x5)

Week Eight: Max 3x3, 1x3

Olympic squats: 290 (3x3), 315 (1x3 pyramid)
Deadlifts: 440 (1x3)

Upon completion of the program, I continued addressing my weak points with an upper/lower setup. After that, I went back to the dual factor 5x5 and ran back to back volume phases which saw my A2G squat go up to 315 x 6 butt sitting on calves. From then on, I was in the zone. I had developed such a liking for squats and deadlifts that I spent the next year conjugate training. Shortly thereafter I’ve found my way to working with ironaddict trying to continue increasing my lifts while cutting down the fat.

All of which brings me to today. I have seen an incredible amount of carry-over to all my lifts. All my plateaus were shattered. I increased my muscle mass substantially, my old favorite bench pressing went from 365 x 1 to 405 x 1 no problem. My ass to the grass squatting hit an all time high of 440 lbs, and just a few days ago I nailed 515 x 2 deadlifting raw (belted only). And remember me mentioning the “Squatting for Big Arms” article? Well, in my case I added another 1 ¾” to my arms bringing them a shade under 20”.

Now, if you ask yourself, “Well, doing 1-3 reps with a lot of weight won’t do anything for hypertrophy”, then you’re looking at this all wrong. Say you increase your squat from 300 x 3 to 350 x 3. I guarantee you’ll end up doing your 3 sets of 8-10 reps with a lot more weight than when you had the 300 for a 3 RM. Follow me? You’re taking those strength gains and applying them to hypertrophy work.

Why write this testimonial? The reason is because back then, I didn’t have access to something like this. The message is simple: Had I been set on the right path from the get-go, addressing the need to increase strength in squatting and deadlifting versus just the bench, I’d be where I am today FIVE YEARS AGO! I cannot imagine how much easier I’d have it now if I read these kinds of books back then and got started early on paying my dues!

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Last edited by Darkhorse; 06-14-2007 at 01:53 AM.
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Old 06-13-2007, 08:35 PM
Darkhorse Darkhorse is offline
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Originally Posted by 0311
Well, I started doing some heavy reading. One article I remember more than most was from Brawn called, “Squatting for Big Arms”. I thought it was bullshit until I really thought about the MESSAGE it was trying to convey:

Big full body lifts = Big full body growth response!
Incidentally, I found the Stuart McRobert article I was referring to that made a lot of sense to me.

“How to squat for HUGE ARMS”

By Stuart McRobert

Adapted from his best-selling book BRAWN

To build muscle mass, you must increase strength. It’s that simple. You
will never get huge arms, a monstrous back, a thick chest, or massive
legs without lifting heavy weights. I know that probably doesn’t come
as a revelation to anyone. But despite how obvious it seems, far too
many people (and not just beginners) neglect power training and rarely
make increasing the weights lifted in each successive workout a
priority. You must get strong in the basic mass building exercises to
bring about a significant increase in muscle size. One of the biggest
mistakes typical bodybuilders make is when they implement
specialization routines before they have the right to use them.

It constantly amazes me just how many neophytes (beginners), near
neophytes, and other insufficiently developed bodybuilders plunge into
single-body part specialization programs in the desperate attempt to
build big arms. I don’t fault them for wanting big arms, but their approach
to getting them is flawed. For the typical bodybuilder who is miles away from
squatting 1 ½ times their bodyweight for 20 reps (if you weigh 180
lbs., that means 20 reps with 270 lbs.), an arm specialization program
is utterly inappropriate and useless.

The strength and development needed to squat well over 1 ½ times bodyweight
for 20 reps will build bigger arms faster then focusing on biceps and triceps
training with isolation exercises. Even though squats are primarily a
leg exercise, they stress and stimulate the entire body. But more
importantly, if you are able to handle heavy weights in the squat, it
logically follows that the rest of your body will undoubtedly be
proportionally developed. It’s a rare case that you would be able to
squat 1 ½ times your bodyweight and not have a substantial amount of
upper body muscle mass.

This is not to say that you don’t need to train arms, and squats alone will cause
massive upper body growth. You will still work every body part, but you must focus on squats,
deadlifts, and rows—the exercises that develop the legs, hips, and
back. Once you master the power movements and are able to handle
impressive poundages on those lifts, the strength and muscle you gain
will translate into greater weights used in arm, shoulder and chest

In every gym I’ve ever visited or trained in, there
were countless teenage boys blasting away on routines, dominated by arm
exercises, in the attempt to build arms like their idols. In the ‘70s,
they wanted arms like Arnold Schwarzenegger, in the ‘80s Robby Robinson
was a favorite and currently Mr. Olympia, Ronnie Coleman, has set the
standard everyone wants to achieve. Unfortunately the 3 aforementioned
men as well as most other top bodybuilders have arm development far
beyond the reach of the average (or even above average) weight trainer.
But arm size can be increased. However, not in the way young trainers,
with physiques that don’t even have the faintest resemblance to those
of bodybuilders are attempting to make progress. Thin arms, connected
to narrow shoulders, fixed to shallow chest, joined to frail backs and
skinny legs, don’t need body part specialization programs. Let’s not
have skewed priorities. Let’s not try to put icing on the cake before
the cake has been baked.


Trying to stimulate a substantial increase in size in a single body part, without
first having the main structures of the body in pretty impressive
condition, is to have turned bodybuilding upside-down, inside-out and
back to front.

The typical bodybuilder simply isn’t going to
get much meat on his arms, calves, shoulders, pectorals and neck unless
he first builds a considerable amount of muscle around the thighs, hips
and back. It simply isn’t possible—for the typical drug-free
bodybuilder, that is—to add much if any size to the small areas unless
the big areas are already becoming substantial.

There’s a knock-on (additive) effect from the efforts to add substantial size to the
thigh, hip and back structure (closely followed by upper body pushing
structure-pecs and delts). The smaller muscle groups, like the biceps,
and triceps will progress in size (so long as you don’t totally neglect
them) pretty much in proportion to the increase in size of the big
areas. It’s not a case of getting big and strong thighs, hips, back and
upper-body pushing structure with everything else staying put. Far from
it. As the thigh, hip, back and upper-body pushing structure grows, so
does everything else. Work hard on squats and deadlifts, in addition to
bench presses, overhead presses and some type of row or pulldown. Then
you can add a little isolation work—curls, calf raises and neck work
(but not all of this at every workout).

The “Driver”

The key point is that the “engine” that drives the gains in the small areas
is the progress being made in the big areas. If you take it easy on the
thigh and back you will, generally speaking, have trouble making gains
in the other exercises, no matter how hard you work the latter.

All this isn’t to say just do squats, deadlifts and upper back work, quite
closely followed by some upper-body pressing work. While such a limited
program will deliver good gains on these few exercises, with some
knock-on effect throughout the body, it’s not a year after year
program. Very abbreviated routines are great for getting gains moving,
and for building a foundation for moderately expanded routines. They
are fine to keep returning to on a regular basis. The other training
isn’t necessary all in the same workout but spread over the week. This
will maintain balance throughout the body and capitalize upon the
progress made in the thigh, hip and back structure.

Just remember that the thigh, hip and back structure comes first and is the
“driver” (closely followed by the upper-body pushing structure) for the
other exercises. These other exercises, though important in their own
right, are passengers relative to the driving team.

Big Arms

To get big arms, get yourself on a basic program that focuses on the leg,
hip and back structure without neglecting the arms themselves. As you
improve your squatting ability, for reps and by say 100 pounds, your
curling poundage should readily come up by 30 pounds or so if you work
hard enough on your curls. This will add size to your biceps. While
adding 100 pounds to your squat, you should be able to add 50-70 pounds
to your bench press, for reps. This assumes you’ve put together a sound
program and have worked hard on the bench. That will add size to your

If you’re desperate to add a couple of inches to your
upper arms you’ll need to add 30 pounds or more over your body, unless
your arms are way behind the rest of you. Don’t start thinking about
17” arms, or even 16” arms so long as your bodyweight is 130, 140, 150,
160, or even 170 pounds. Few people can get big arms without having a
big body. You’re unlikely to be one of the exceptions.

15 sets of arm flexor exercises, and 15 sets of isolation tricep exercises—with
a few squats, deadlifts and bench presses thrown in as an
afterthought—will give you a great pump and attack the arms from “all
angles”. However, it won’t make your arms grow much, if at all, unless
you’re already squatting and benching big poundages, or are drug-assisted or
genetically gifted.

As your main structures come along in size and strength (thigh, hip and back
structure, and the pressing structure), the directly involved smaller body parts are
brought along in size too. How can you bench press or dip impressive
poundages without adding a lot of size to your triceps? How can you
deadlift the house and row big weights without having the arm
flexors—not to mention the shoulders and upper back—to go with those
lifts? How can you squat close to 2 times bodyweight, for plenty of
reps, without having a lot of muscle all over your body?

The greater the development and strength of the main muscular structures of
the body, the greater the size and strength potential of the small
areas of the body. Think it through. Suppose you can only squat and
deadlift with 200 pounds, and your arms measure about 13”. You’re
unlikely to add any more than half an inch or so on them, no matter how
much arm specialization you put in.

However, put some real effort into the squat and deadlift, together with the bench
press and a few other major basic movements. Build up the poundages by 50% or more,
to the point where you can squat 300 pounds for over 10 reps, and pack
on 30 pounds of muscle. Then, unless you have an unusual arm structure,
you should be able to get your arms to around 16”. If you want 17”
arms, plan on having to squat more than a few reps with around 2 times
bodyweight, and on adding many more pounds of muscle throughout your
body (unless you have a better-than-average growth potential in your
upper arms).

All of this arm development would have been achieved without a single concentration curl,
without a single pushdown and without a single preacher curl. This lesson in priorities
proves that the shortest distance between you and big arms is not a straight line to a curl bar.”
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