“But what does Socrates say? ‘Just as one person delights in improving his farm, and another his horse, so I delight in attending to my own improvement day by day.’”
Time to Grow
I had my ‘back day’ outfit on! It’s funny, we all had particular clothes we wore on certain body part days, especially legs and back; leg day was a pair of Platinum baggies, a Golds Gym rag top which was around 6XL and a vest underneath which I never got down to and Otomix trainers. I had on my back day outfit which was again a pair of baggies but NPC one’s, another rag top (It read ‘HUGE BY CHOICE’ on it, I had seen Vince Taylor wear one in flex and loved it so when I saw the same one in Workout World I snapped it up, and a vest and an NPC jacket which was beautiful; it wasn’t one of the leather one’s but the material one which was available in great colours; Doz had a great red one but I had a grey and black one and walking along the street to Temple road my mind was already in the zone….I don’t think I noticed anyone who passed me, any of the stares or the parting of the crowds as I walked along but before I knew it I was outside the locked door of Temple Gym and stood leaning against the wall waiting for the big BMW to turn up with the plates DAY … on; it was the only treat Dorian had given himself and Debbie after winning the Olympia, he had bought themselves both matching BMW’s and nice watches each, his a beautiful Rolex which I always admired!! One day, I knew….one day!! Actually that reminds me of the time Dorian had to go and pick up something either from the chemists of from Boots, it may have been photos from his last weekend’s prep photos he took each week leading into the O, anyway, he had to rush through town and I remember seeing him leave Temple Street and it was like the parting of the Red Sea! The street was packed , yet there was a parting of the sea of people as this huge 315lb bodybuilder walked quickly through like a steam-train rushing to get to Boots the chemist!!
I had had a few training sessions, mostly leg day when Dorian had wanted a third partner in the mix alongside Kenny but we’d also trained chest and biceps and shoulders and triceps but I had yet to train back with him and back was a lagging body-part for me so I was chomping at the bit to get the nod to join him for back day anyway so I was beginning to adapt to their heavy duty, high intensity style of training; well, when I say adapt, you never quite get used to High intensity training, which is kind of the point really!
But, I was getting used to understanding that I had one chance, once a week to make each muscle grow and that meant only 50 weeks a year, if you counted in possible holidays and sickness. So, I always banked on 50 workouts for each body-part a year, well, this is how I did that: I knew that we trained each body-part every six or seven days depending on how much rest Dorian wanted so I equated that it was roughly one workout a week for each body-part which gave me the 50 workouts a year, or one chance per week to get it right and grow, which when you break it down like that makes getting up and ready to give your all, your every living breathing growing fibre a massive jolt of insane adaptation signals to every working set easy!! I couldn’t waste one set, let alone one workout so my mind-set changed immediately in the way I was approaching my training, and it still hasn’t quite left me after all these years; still, to this day I find I can’t talk to anyone while I’m training, I move around the gym with my baseball cap down so I make no eye contact with anyone, subtly giving them the message, ‘don’t talk to me, I’m training’ or if I do talk to someone I find it difficult and it feels’ wrong to do.
This might be a good point at which to explain how I prepared for a workout back then when I was competing. Originally it was a case of just turning up at the gym knowing what I was going to train and getting to it but by the time I was training with Dorian and Kenny, I had learned that in order to maximise the success of the workout then I was going to have to treat the workout as the most important part of the day and with due respect prepare for it as though it was that significant meaning that just turning up wasn’t the optimal way to approach it; I had to start preparing for it as though it was an event worthy of preparation, just like I would have a business meeting or a date…..I was going to have to sit down and plan it, get my mind-set right and ensure I was both physically and mentally prepared so from the moment I walked through the gym doors I was already within the process, in the workout itself. This is how I used to do it:
But before we do so, what do the stoics tell us about preparation, victory and moving on to your next goal, “Such a person, having done a good deed, won’t go shouting from rooftops but simply moves on to the next deed just like the vine produces another bunch of grapes in the right season.”
Firstly, I would ensure as far as was possible I would train at the same time of day, each and every workout; not only would this make the preparation process easier but it also got my body in the habit of habituating when I was training with regards to my circadian rhythms. What I found over the years was that if I trained at the same time of day on training days, my body gradually became accustomed to preparing itself for that extreme work by beginning to produce an endocrine response at the same time of day, for example if I was training at around 10.30 which I always have done (except for the years I was in Australia when I trained at 6am, due to the heat. I trained at Terry Mitsos’ gym in Sydenham, Sydney back then and what a great but hot gym he has there. Terry is an ex NABBA and IFBB Pro and has the best gym in that area of Sydney at the time….more on that gym in a future blog post! Anyway, so training at 10.30 every day meant that over time my body began to pre-empt the hormonal response it would be produce during the workout to cope with the effort, aggression and physical intensity; which is why if you normally train at a certain time of day and then change to a different time you often don’t feel quite right, it’s a true physiological response that your body is giving so I made sure I was going to take advantage of it.
Knowing I was training at 10.30 meant that, back then, and still to this day actually, I had time for two meals before the training session began and still leave a good hour to an hour and a half for the meal to go down before training; eating or drinking any time sooner would of meant that I would have lost the meal by throwing it back up, or simply feeling very uncomfortable during the session…not the way to maximise your workout! So Waking at 5 or 6am, depending on off season or contest prep, I either did half an hour of cardio on an empty stomach, if I was pre-contest; or prepared my meals for the day if not and then eating my breakfast of a bowl of porridge oats with two scoops of protein powder for my breakfast. This has been my breakfast for well over 30 years and I still love it today, even though the quantity of oats is much smaller today as I’m holding a much lower bodyweight, it’s gone from a mixing bowl size of porridge to just a normal cereal bowl size today. After breakfast and food preparation for the day I would then go down to open my gym or go to work (this was the period where I transitioned from working in an office to setting up my first gym so was still working some days at the office until mid-day or opening the gym) or, which was three a week at that time, get ready to drive to Birmingham to train at Temple. Regardless of whether at my gym, at work or parked in the multi-story in Birmingham, I would have my second meal at 9.30 which was just chicken and rice and broccoli, the amount, again, depending on where I was in my season but always light enough to clear by 10.30 and my stomach would feel empty when the workout would begin. The big eating always happened after the workout was finished normally at the food court in the Bull-ring juist 5 minutes from Temple where Kenny and I would re-fuel after leaving Dorian who always drove home to eat! Now, from 9.45 to 10.15 I would either lock myself in my office at the gym, sneakily take a cigarette break’ if in the office (I didn’t smoke but anyone who didn’t smoke was allowed to take an extra 5 minutes here and there to compensate…changed times eh?!) or sit in my car and mentally prepare myself for the workout to come. This was always a combination of visualising the workout ahead, imagining the weight I was going to use that day, even try and mentally ‘feel’ how heavy they would feel like when I picked them up and re-played the set through my head a couple of times so that by the time of the real workout, it almost felt though I had already done it so I convinced myself that I knew it was possible to get the number of reps I had imagined in my head beforehand, on great days, those especially with Dorian and Kenny, I would exceed both the weight and the number of reps I managed to get with it, that’s how inspiring their presence was.
I would then sit and think about the last workout, had I given my all, did I leave anything behind then? If so, then it was time to repay the debt to myself and ensure I was going to grow from this one workout, remember I only had 50 chances a year to get this workout in and grow that body-part. Then I would often sit and flick through some old bodybuilding magazines, FLEX OR Muscular Development and look at the Pro’s and get even more inspired, these were the guys I wanted to be competing against one day so to see them in colour looking freaky and contest ready was always inspirational, but no more so than reminding myself I was about to take the 10 minute walk from the car to Temple Street to train with Mr Olympia and that was sure to get the butterflies going in my stomach. If it was a back or leg day, I would take two ephedrine tablets, four pro-plus and half an aspirin at 1.15 then slowly make my way to those beckoning red doors or outside into my own gym where everybody would be aware that Mr B was training today so there was going to be some electricity and aggression around, the music would be pumped up even louder and they were going to witness some insanity for a while!! Otherwise, it was a case of waiting outside the red doors for Dorian and to arrive in his car and for Kenny to walk round the corner. Well, that’s how I prepared for my workouts, now let’s get back to the story of my first back day with the king of backs, Mr Yates.
“Life without design is erratic. As soon as one is in place, principles become necessary.”
I was resting in my bedroom one evening, as was usual after a hard day’s work and training, when I heard the telephone ring downstairs. I didn’t have that many people call me back then, some good friends, a few women friends and buddies in the industry up North but I knew my mother or father would likely be the recipient so I just relaxed and carried on with my ‘growing/resting/snoozing’ (!!)
My father had answered the phone (yes, we didn’t have mobile phones back then just landlines!) and he called from downstairs, ‘Paul, it’s Dorian for you….’ DORIAN?!!!! The last time I had trained with him and Kenny he had asked for my phone number as he said Kenny occasionally had to miss sessions due to his work as a security guard in one of the stores in Birmingham but I never thought he would actually call me…..I was wrong! My brain was in overload and for a second I was in shock but I quickly got myself together and ran (as well as a 21 stone man can run) down the stairs and picked up the receiver….’Hi?’
‘Hi, Paul, it’s Dorian; can you train tomorrow, it’s back day?’ I had work the next day but I wasn’t going to miss this and work were getting used to me taking my annual holiday a day at a time to go and train in Birmingham anyway, so I answered, as coolly as I could, ‘Yes, sure. Normal time?’ ‘Yes, thanks Paul, around 10.30; I’ll see you there, see you in the morning.’ And that was it. Back day was ON….and this time it was just me and the Shadow, Kenny wouldn’t be there to hide behind or take of any of the pressure, this was time to grow and help Mr O grow.
Before we do, let’s remind ourselves of what Musonius Rufus said about behaviour, virtue and how to conduct yourself always, “For I believe a good king is from the outset and by necessity a philosopher, and the philosopher is from the outset a kingly person.” I’ll remind you of those words at the end of today’s post as we all go out into the world to live our lives.
I called my boss, at the office, and explained the situation and fortunately he was a great guy who understood how passionate and serious I was about my training; he also never, ever had any pre-conceived concepts as to my personality or intelligence, simply taking me as he saw me and how I performed at work, so I really respected this man and suffice to say we’re friends to this very day. I told my parents and my dad said he’d like to come along for a look around the shops in Birmingham while I trained and to keep me company on the drive (which was great as looking back those drives back from Birmingham after training were bordering on the dangerous!! On leg days, I remember nearly every single time my legs would start cramping and feeling your quads or hamstrings about to cramp doing 70mph on the M5 isn’t a very nice feeling (trying desperately to pull across to the hard shoulder to wait for the cramps to kick in and lie there in agony but laughing, as cramp makes me do, and waiting for it to wear off), as well as the tiredness which would kick in a couple of hours after the session and the meal Kenny and I would always eat afterwards in the food court in the Bullring. So, I got an early night and got plenty of sleep ready to set out early enough to get there in plenty of time for the workout.
The drive up was easy enough, which wasn’t always the case on the M5, I’ve been told is still as bad if not worse today, but we arrived in the multi-story and I arranged to meet my dad at around mid-day in Temple Gym, thinking if we kicked of around 10.45am we’d be done in an hour at the most; the training sessions normally lasted 45-50 minutes except leg day which could take an hour to do. I took my normal pre-workout stack for the days I trained legs and back (the ephedrine, caffeine and aspirin mix) and walked to Temple knowing the mix would kick in around the time we were kicking off.
The big black car turned the corner into the side street, there was parking available for only two cars and you can bet no one else was going to park their car there knowing Dorian was in the gym!! And then a second pulled around the corner, Debbie had come in too today as she often did to man the reception when there was no cover available and she also made sure we weren’t interrupted by anyone!! Back then, there were people who came from all over the World to Temple to see Dorian and although I understood some had travelled from Japan or the States, Dorian wasn’t going to have his workout interrupted by anyone, not even to be watched!! He got out of his car, nodded his head, unlocked the door and he walked down with me following afterwards with Debbie waiting for us to descend into the dungeon before she went down to get the reception in order. The gym didn’t officially open til 12 anyway but a few regulars would come in around 11 and 11.30 and that was fine as they all knew the rules and etiquette but it was really just in case any strangers came in she was there. Now when I had trained on my own there I obviously had always paid, but when I had come in with Dorian and Kenny we had all just carried on as though it was our own gym, but with Debbie at the counter I didn’t want to disrespect anyone by assuming I didn’t have to train.
I dropped my bag off and went to the desk and said good morning to Debbie and to pay her for training, she smiled and said, ‘Paul, when you train with Dorian you stop paying.’ I guess that meant that I was officially on the team then! Dorian was already stretching so I began to get warmed up too; he used light dumbbells for some bicep curls, some side laterals, some rear delts and stretched his upper and lower body; he was surprisingly flexible for a man close to 315-320lb, he was able to go into a full hurdle stretch easily and his shoulder flexibility was very good too, it was a lesson to me who rarely stretched back then but you can guarantee I began stretching after that!!
The Workout – Back Day
I noticed that Debbie has put the tape player on and today was another one of his favourite albums that we often had played on chest days, it was ‘Keep the Faith’ by Bon Jovi, the first track, ‘Believe’ was cranked up loud and the workout was about to begin……time for war, again. Here we go, B, I was thinking it’s time to give everything you’ve got, don’t leave this gym with anything left in the tank. He then began loading up the old Nautilus pullover machine; I’d seen him use this before and I had attempted to use it too and was surprised how heavy a relatively small amount of weight felt on it, the cams and pulleys were super-efficient on this old bit of kit but, in all honesty, I’ve never yet used another one even close to the same effectiveness as the this the original plate loaded one ever since, it was a sensational piece of kit, why no one has tried to replicate the machine today I’ll never know, unless the machines pulley system is perhaps under a patent or something like that.
He loaded up a couple of 50kg plates and another couple of smaller ones but I didn’t bother to ask what was on there, it didn’t matter; if Dorian thought that you could handle the weight then it was being done whatever the weight was!! He looked at me, gave me a nod and just said ‘first warm up, don’t go anywhere near failure or exhaustion, just get the muscles warm and the mind engaged.’ He sat in and repped out an easy 12 or 15 with ease and very fluid, very smooth like he had done the movement a million times over, which he probably had! I sat in and he helped move the bar into position and away I went, it felt fairly heavy but nothing I couldn’t handle with relative ease for a good 10-12 reps…it felt really good and my lats were getting a pump already! The muscle almost seemed to cramp in the fully contracted position where you squeezed your elbows backwards and in to your stomach, I was hitting my back muscle like never before and this was the first exercise!! Back had always been a body part that I had always struggled with to get good growth out of and a good feeling in, so I had a feeling that this session was going to change everything. I wasn’t wrong!
The next set was also a warm up and he added another couple of plates to the machine and once again his form was perfect; a smooth but powerful concentric portion of the rep with a slower controlled eccentric part under full control, you could tell he was building his mind muscle connectivity for the full working set to come when full power would be exerted and a very explosive positive part of the movement would be employed with a peak contraction with the same controlled negative, but that was all to come. It was my turn, I took a plate off and again followed his example but this time it did feel VERY heavy but I worked through the set getting a full 10 reps and making sure I didn’t get anywhere near failure, although to be honest it wasn’t far away!!
The working set was ON. Dorian chose his working weight, it seemed an ungodly amount of weight on that Nautilus machine but he squeezed himself in (that wasn’t easy considering the mass of the man!) and he called out ‘3…2…’ and I finished the countdown as I helped him bring the bar to the starting position, where the lats are fully stretched and then he exploded downwards, the forces involved was frightening; literally potentially muscle tearing, tendon splitting explosive power but it was so fully on the belly of his muscle you could tell there was nothing at work but those lats; a huge contraction at the bottom of the rep with a milli-second hold and squeeze before lowering back down under total control to a full stretch, absolutely mind blowing intensity and strictness of form, it was truly awesome.
After 7-8 reps or so he was slowing down near the fully contracted position so I just kept my hands on to make sure I was ready to give a slight touch should the machine stop moving…..he got the eighth then the ninth with the last two inches needing assistance and then I could see in his eyes that the tenth was on so I let him take the machine fully back and then stayed close to give the tiniest of touches to complete the full ten reps, exhausted he was happy…and I was relieved I hadn’t messed up his spotting!
There wasn’t any time to think back then, though, these were thoughts that came to me afterwards; it was my time to go balls to the wall and get my working set done. In I went, squeezing down into the machine and with just an extra 10kg plate loaded on top of my last set I had in my head a full ten reps of perfect form was the goal; I attempted to mimic his form and his style of controlling the negative and then explosively transitioning into the concentric part of the rep and squeeze the lats with everything I had in the peak of the movement as the bar was at my waist. The first five reps seemed very heavy, the change in style, doing the rep properly I mean, meant that my lats were performing all the work, which was what we both wanted, the sixth was even tougher and then on the seventh and eighth I found he had to assist me on the last couple of inches or so, but he said ‘TWO MORE”’ and I followed and did them, giving everything to the movement and just when I felt my lats begin to lose their power and connection I saw that the bar was at my waist and the set had been completed.
Over we walked to the ‘leg room’ which was the back end of Temple where the squat rack and most of the leg equipment was kept, including where we did stiff legged deadlifts, but it was also where we did barbell rows; underhand grip at that time. Later, after he tore his bicep he would change his grip to an overhand grip as it put less stress on the bicep tendon but back then he had found under-hand grip rows had helped him develop his lower lats incredibly so that’s how we did them. I have also now changed too an over-hand grip as I’ve got older to take the stress of my bicep tendon also and it still feels a great exercise but underhand grip style did definitely feel it much lower in the lats.
Time for Humility….and to learn
Only one warm up set of these as the lats and biceps were already warm so it was simply getting used to the movement again and preparing the body for the huge amount of weight he would use in his working set. He began with 3 plates a side for 8 easy reps and I took a plate off and did a set of 8 reps but they weren’t easy, my lats were already exhausted by that pullover set! Anyway, into the working set and Doz loaded up four plates and a biscuit, that’s a 5kg plate as well and did somewhere around 8-12 reps, I really can’t remember exactly but they were awesomely powerful and at a 70 degree angle he powered the bar into his waist with a squeeze at the top of the movement that I could even visibly see from the outside of the huge rag-top he was wearing. I Loaded up three plates and a 10kg each side, as that was what I was using at home for these but as I got upright and began my first rep, he stopped me and said ‘take the weight down lad, probably half it and do it right’; SHIT…this was embarrassing, but was it?!! No, for sure, I felt a little humbled by it but he was helping me do the exercise correctly, TO HELP ME GROW!! So, for any of you out there who are advised by people more experienced than you and who have got results that you want then listen to them…they’re trying to help you, it’s not an ego contest, lose that at the front door and take advise and when you try it and it works then thank them for their interrupting you to show you; they could have just walked past but they stopped went out of their way to help you change what was wrong to help make you grow. I’ve done it myself and the person has either stood blankly at me as though I’m from Mars or they say thanks and then continue doing it the same way they did before…..oh well, you try!!
Anyway, I did what he said and dropped my weights in half and then made sure I was at the 70 degree angle and pulled with my elbows engaging the lats and pulled the bar into my waist just as he had done. ‘Good job, lad’ he said. My body was shattered and we were just two exercises in! ‘I’ll sleep when I’m deead was now playing so the music was rockin and blasting out of the speakers, it’s amazing how good those old cassette tapes were back then before we had cd’s!! The interesting thing about that change of form was that within a month I was pulling three and a half plates again bit this time with the form that he had showed me, it wasn’t that I had got THAT much stringer, although I had quite a bit, but it was also getting used to doing the movement correctly and once engaged my lats took the work and they started growing big time, a weak body-part into a strong one, all it took was a little humility and some gut-wrenching effort!!
Then it was over the gym to the new Hammer Strength seated iso-lateral row machine; the machine had been sent over from the states where Dorian had first used one with Mike Mentzer and had loved it so had ordered one for Temple, it was a sensational machine; it’s strange but the newer models today don’t seem to have the same feeling or hit the lats the same as the first models…I don’t know why, I’ve tried a few in different gyms, all Hammer Strength and all seated iso-lateral rows but the arc that the handle pulls through seems to be different than that original one we had back then. It’s the same with the stack loaded Nautilus pullover, the stack ones never felt the same as that plate loaded original that we had in Temple.
You’ll have guessed the formula by now, yes, it was one warm up set followed by one working set; A superb machine; this allowed us to focus completely on each lat at a time with a handle to hold onto with the alternating free hand to support you during the set. Working sets were four plates and a biscuit for Dorian each arm with a steady, explosive positive part of the rep followed by a peak contraction squeeze at the very top part of the rep where you squeezed the lat back as far as possible then steadily return the negative under control to go again with the same arm until that side was exhausted and then complete the other arm before switching turns and it was me in the seat. I had to take a plate off and the 5kg as my max was only three plates each arm for 8-10 good clean reps, full force, full intensity and maximum power and muscle contraction until every fibre had been exhausted on each side.
My body was feeling like it had been hit by a freight train by now but we moved only a few feet over to where the lat row was and fixed a pulldown bar to the carabiner clip and instead of a V-pulley handle we did seated rows with a long pulldown bar with a grip where the bar angled down so roughly a shoulder width apart. Temples pulldown stack was crazy heavy then but had a superbly smooth action (we did tricep pushdowns from this machine as well as lat pulldowns also), but today seated rows were the order of the workout. Seated upright, we allowed the weight to bring us forward at the hip stretching the lats under control before again explosively pulling the bar towards the stomach pulling the arms back as far back as they would go, driving with the lats so the elbows finished back behind our bodies. It wasn’t easy to get to know the weight stack so took a few visits to know what weight was roughly right for each exercise on here, but after one quick warm up it was full on for a punishing set of heavy seated rows with a wide grip engaging the lats fully as we did so. We would try and get a couple of forced reps on this one as well so a tiny touch on the bar at the point of the carabiner did the trick with a small touch enough to allow an extra inch or two of movement on two last reps.
Our lats were blown but there was more to come; on back day we made sure we hit the lumber region of the lower back as well as rear delts and deadlifts too!
It’s not Over til it’s Over
Dorian felt that the rear delts were so heavily engaged in every back movement that it made sense to finish them off and do them on back day rather than on shoulder day like most people did back then; so firstly it was bent over dumbbell raises; stood ben at the waist we did rear lateral raises to annihilate the fibres of the rear delts. I had done these seated before but Dorian had us stood bent over and raise the dumbbells as far behind our delts as possible and then down to gently touch at the bottom; he did these HEAVY!!! I can’t remember the amount of weight he sued on these but it was something ridiculous like the 65lbs dumbbells or something near it. I was down at the 45’s and even they seemed super heavy by this point but down I went and raised those 45’s for as many reps as I could manage with extending the set by going for half reps and then even quarter reps when the rear delts couldn’t give any more.
We were done , oh no we weren’t. Hyperextensions next to finish off the lower back to the leg room where the hyperextension bench was next to the hamstring curl machine. Two sets of weighted hyper’s ’id the job; controlled descent as with everything and then drive the upper body up to horizontal and a squeeze at the top while we were holding a weighted fixed barbell, not super heavy but maybe 30lb or so, the details are gone sadly on exactly how much we used on some exercises but the sound, the force and the feel of the intensity never leaves me. Holding the barbell behind your head you lifted yourself up to horizontal and squeezed the lower back for a millisecond and then controlling the weigh down you went again until the lower back was exhausted and blown. My back from the traps to the lumber region was in pieces by now but the we walked just four feet to the platform where we did our barbell rows from and loaded up the barbell with four plates a side where he did his warm up set for 8 reps of deadlifting!!!!
I’m not sure where about in the workout it was played but my favourate song on that ‘Faith’ album by Bon Jovi was ‘Blame it on the love of rock and roll’ and I’m sure it was near the end of the workout, prbbaly timing it perfect for doing these deadlifts!! It may seem strange that Bon Jovi was on our play-list then (at home I was playing everything from Slayer, to AC/DC to pre-army Elvis to Metallica) but that was a superb album, even the slower song were emotionally packed so every song just worked perfectly with this insanely intense, heavy duty workout.
Now, It’s important that I try and make it clear how he did deadlifts as I’ve seen people deadlifting for many years and never has anyone deadlifted with as much control as Dorian did them with. A powerlifting movement for many that they BEGIN their back workout with, we finished our back workout with them; thereby limiting the amount of weight we were able to life (as we were exhausted by then) but still getting the maximum gins from the movement for our back and we made sure the movement was on the back for as long as possible, only at the very start did we use our quads and glutes to get the weight into position and from then it was back under tension from the bottom to the top, never touching the platform base, instead keeping the back under tension from the very first rep to the very last rep. These were proper bodybuilding deadlifts and if I saw more people doing them this way, I’m sure we’d see better backs on stage as a result. Why on earth would a bodybuilder try and see how much he can deadlift for for one or three reps when we’re trying to get the back muscles to grow not gain strength!! Again, it’s an ego thing; yes, you can lift nig weights on this exercise if you do them first in your workout but are you building a better back? Show me a better back than Dorians and then I’ll ‘go ahead and do them first and for low reps!!!’ but I don’t think you’ll find me someone….
Just remember this, as Marcus Aurelius the ROMAN emporer and stoic philosopher said, “You get what you deserve. I nstead of being a good person today, you choose instead to become one tomorrow.” Wise words, we all get to choose to be a good person tomorrow, be one; don’t follow the rest, society is breaking down in front of our eyes, we need great men and women like never before; and each one of us who chooses to be a great person will make a difference no matter what anyone else may do, be virtuous, hold integrity dear, be honourable, be noble and tell the truth…..if we all do this then at least our tiny pieces of the world can be worthy, good places to live and bring up the next generation.
Ok back to deadlifts…..Dorian’s form was perfect on these, with an overhand grip with both hands on the bar he lifted the weight smoothly and controlled from top to bottom for every rep but when I say bottom , he never touched the platform ever; he always brought the bar down to about mid-shin to keep the tension isolated completely on all of his back muscles and away from his legs. I used just three plates a side for my warm-up set (I used to do stiff legged deadlifts with three plates a side to show you how exhausted we were by this point, and where Dorian used 5 plates and a half on his working set, I could only manage four plates with a ten each side. But to see how he did those reps, his back was under massive tension and stress from the very first rep until the every last. If you ever get a chance to watch Blood and Guts then you can see his form training with his full time training partner who took over form Kenny in 1994, Leroy Davies. If you do the reps this way, you’ll soon realise you don’t need 7 or 8 plates a side to get massive muscle development in your back with deadlifting that way; do them this way and if you can do 5 plates a side then you’ll already have a strong back I guarantee you!! And last in your workout, don’t forget!!
It’s Over – time to relax
And that was it, another back workout in the bag but one that taught me many things and made my back sore like it never had been ever! I had engaged the muscles properly for the first time in my training career in that workout so from that moment on I would always use the same form and intensity and suddenly my back no longer was a lagging body-part but one that I was ready to present to the judges each year afterwards.
At the end, that’s when we crashed down onto the bench seat and relaxed, got a drink and chatted; as much as the training was sensational, those moments of relaxing with Dorian after a huge workout like that were moments that I’ll never forget. It’s funny but I think the last track on that album was A Little bit of Soul’ and I always seem to remember crashing and relaxing when that song was being played, it was a relaxed song so was quite appropriate. It was in these chats that the Mr Olympia title fell from his persona and we would talk about many things, mostly bodybuilding related but we’d talk about which show I was looking to do that year to supplements and that would always include what he was taking as his post-workout drink then. If you remember, when I first trained with Dorian or saw him in Temple, he always took a spoonful of Musashi amino acid powder with a carb drink as his post-workout drink but by this point he had been given some new powder already in a sachet which he invited me to try and which I ended up getting from him in a black dustbin bag as it had been imported from the States. It was a new drink protein/carb powder mix from a doctor that had specialised in burns patients and who had developed this formula for them to try and keep them as anabolic as possible and reduce the amount of muscle loss they encountered during their recovery from the burns unit, it was called Met-RX.
New to me, and to anyone else in the UK at the time, Dorian had been sent some over and had found it had noticeably improved his physique taking it as a post-workout drink…now for a supplement to actually have a noticeable effect on your body was rare then most supplements were placebos or just basic milk and egg protein powder mixes but this with its 2:1 protein to carb ratio, I think it had 42 grams of protein and 23 grams of carbs with a tiny amount of maybe 3 grams of fat, it actually did aid in our recovery and not only that but it tasted fantastic!! I couldn’t believe how good it tasted, every powder back then tasted terrible or just barely drinkable but this was like drinking vanilla desert! I don’t know if the product around today is the same as it was back in 1993, but the original formula was outstanding in performance and in taste. I remember I used it right up to the last two weeks before my British qualifier that year and it really helped knowing I was going to have one of these every day as part of my diet. I remember I used to mix it with very little water so it blended up really thick and then I would put it in the fridge to set like a desert and it kept me sane whilst I got shredded for the Wessex show in September that year.
In fact, Dorian gave me a nice present to help me with my prep the following year, I’ll put it on the screen for you now, its one of the photos from his 1993 prep with written in gold pen, ‘Get Freaky Shredded, Dorian’; thanks Dorian, I did and it got me through to the British finals where you guest posed just after winning your third Mr Olympia victory in Georgia.
Anyway, back to the chats and post-workout drinks; he said he had tried using just a carb drink, then had tried the Musashi amino acids with a carb drink which he felt had been an improvement but he said that even he had noticed a difference with this new Met-RX powder since he had started taking it as his post-workout drink; the only problem was that Dorian, obviously, was sponsored by Weider at that point so could not be seen to be endorsing anyone else’s product so he couldn’t tell anyone about it, be seen in a photograph with it or be seen by Weider to be using it so Met-RX had sent black bin-liners of bags through to him for free, as a gesture of goodwill, because they would not be able to get anything from him drinking it, except that once we all knew then we started to get word around about this great new drink from America and once it arrived here, it took off really quickly and blew the competition away for a couple of years before they caught up with them. Dr Scott Connelly, I’m sure, was the name of the doctor who had come up with the formula and though I’m sure it’s not the same anymore, it once was the product everyone wanted but couldn’t get hold of!!
Crazy Rumours and the Reality
We would chat for as long as he felt like it; some days it was for well over an hour but at if it did go on too late at some point he would always get a call from home if he wasn’t back for his first solid post-workout meal as Debbie would call him to tell him it was ready and to make sure he was back in time to at it and then to sleep!! This day though with Debbie there we all chatted together, she’s a lovely lady and I was surprised when they separated after he retired they seemed to work like the perfect team, but maybe him being forced to retire through them both a lot and who know? Whatever it was I hope she is still very well…..well, More about what Dorian did in his afternoon’s in another blog post, as it was the subject of rumour and gossip for years. You see, he would disappear for two hours every afternoon, when no one could contact him and he was never available for any one. What was he doing? Some magic or special ritual or medical treatment or supplement protocol that was kept highly secret and under guard, well, stay tuned and I’ll tell you exactly what he was doing for those two hours every day after his workout back in those days.
Well, I can’t leave you dangling on after telling you all that now could I? O.k. the rumours were rife; he was hooking himself up to an I.V. drip with a mixture of Growth Hormone and blood was one suggestion; another one was that he had to have dialysis every day for two hours because his kidneys had failed; then there were the one’s suggesting a new ‘secret’ product was being fed into him through an I.V drip….I wonder what the fascination was with I.V. drips back then?!!! Strangely enough, I had the same rumours going around about myself back then; I can’t remember the number of times I’m supposed to have died, had liver failure, kidney transplants or heart attacks but sadly for them and luckily for me, I was happy and healthy and so was Dorian. What was he doing after his post-workout meal at home every afternoon? He was taking a two hour nap, that’s what he was doing!! The best thing he could have possibly have done for his recovery was the thing he was doing, he was sleeping for two hours that and his 8 hours at night meant that he was getting a good 10 hours of sleep each day on training days and boy was he growing!!!
Ah, sorry, I forgot to tell you something that had happened just before we finished our workout that day that was funny but also gives you an insight into how seriously we were taking our training back then. Earlier I had said my father had said he would accompany me to Birmingham to look at the book shops, as he loved going through second hand book shops for novels he had never read or rare books that he was looking for and had never found. Well, he left me at the car and we had arranged to meet each other in Temple Gym at mid-day as I had assumed we would be all finished by then; starting at 10.30 normally an hour was all we needed for back; but that day, Dorian and Debbie had arrived a little later than normal so we kicked off a little later. Just another few words about Debbie, she was lovely; a lot of people found her a bit protective of Dorian in terms of not letting anyone near him; well, that was just her looking out for her husband as she knew many people would want to try to get to him for business offers or trying to ask him questions not even considering he was working out so she was just protecting him and making sure his training environment was always perfect and that no one bothered him or distracted him in any way; anyway, that day we were still training at mid-day when my father arrived and as he walked down the stairs all he could hear were our screams and the sound of weights clanging together, he got to the bottom and obviously because he was in casual clothes and obviously not going to train, Debbie quickly got up from behind the desk and ran up to him and asked him not to look at us or distract us from our training as we were getting ready for the Olympia and still training. My father explained who he was and that he was just coming in to wait for me at which Debbie apologised profusely explaining that people come from all over the world, even Japan and Australia just to try and watch Dorian train and she was just looking out for us. My father I think was taken aback a little as I don’t think he had thought much of this bodybuilding business up to then but maybe that moment made him realise I was pretty serious and perhaps pretty good as well; who knows? Sadly he passed a number of years ago now but he got to see me do a whole heap of things and hopefully I haven’t disappointed him too much.
That actually is a very good point to thread out a little; to others outside of our industry, bodybuilding may appear a very strange and ego-centric sport. From the outside all you think you see is men and women parading themselves on a stage in a funny tan, wearing a swimming costume hitting pose after pose lined up against other men and women who are also doing the same pose after pose. Thinking about it like that, heck, it even seems odd to me!! But, that really is what I think the public envisage when they think of bodybuilders or perhaps they think of someone who’s a meathead, I’ve certainly had that presupposition given to me at times. Why do people think because we enjoy lifting weights that we are unintelligent? Well, that’s judgement for you and before you start saying how bad it is, remember that we all judge others all the time. Ok not always consciously, but I guarantee you, your brain is subconsciously making judgements about the people you meet all the time, it has to!! We have evolved to be able to make snap judgement decisions on whether someone is a threat or not; back on the Savanah or in medieval times or even now, we have to make instant decisions and judgements about people for safety and for how we try to plot the world around us. And a huge guy, historically we would have given a ‘warning’ signal to the brains of many people if they were in unknown territory as that huge man may be about to rob you, attack you or even kill you; evolutionary biology explains many of these so-called preconceptions and although they are often very wrong and most people are smart enough not to take their first impressions as ‘the informed truth’ , we can be generous enough to them to understand why they may feel that way initially, then it’s down to us to show them the errors of that preconception. I remember when I first started university after my accident; ok I was disabled but I still had a body that was difficult to hide; although I had intentionally lost a lot of weight to reduce the pain in my hips and spine, but if you saw my forearms even you would know there was something under this shirt that was not ‘normal’ for most body’s. So, to avoid being preconceived as unintelligent and a meat-head, I wore a suit to university every day, always long sleeve shirts and a jacket and waistcoat as well, it worked beautifully although some people did still ask me if I trained and was I a para=-athlete, I was accepted into the world of academia as any newbie would be. Now 10 years later and after two degrees and the start of my PhD shortly, I will now show up to an on-line lecture with a short sleeve shirt on very daring, although I don’t think I could go all the way to a t-shirt yet!! It’s funny I hadn’t thought about it but I am still doing it now, I don’t think I’ve worn a t-shirt yet for a blog post; oh well, for those of you who are interested in how I do look today I will put up a few training videos to show you.
And For those of you interested in how I train today; being disabled and with my mobility issues then I will be posting videos of me in the gym, training; yes, I still train hard-core, still heavy duty (although not so much of the heavy anymore!) and I still only do one set to failure. I don’t think I could ever go back to volume training again now and considering how much I’m not able to do, I think I’m holding up ok. I’m still breathing and that’s the most important thing to me these days; do I care what my body looks like? Not in the slightest, I haven’t for years; I found that even when competing I was analysing my physique in a way a judge would not caring about how another person may view my body; so, does my body look good or nice? I couldn’t care less, obviously I’d like to think other people thought I looked well and friendly and a nice person but whether I’VE GOT abs or not, please, those days are long gone; though the abs aren’t funnily enough!!
It’s like Aurelius said, ‘In your actions, don’t procrastinate. In your conversations don’t confuse. In your thoughts , don’t wander. In your soul, don’t be passive or aggressive. In your life, don’t be all about business.’
Don’t be all about one thing friends; I learned early on in life that I was of a obsessive nature; whatever I did I had to do to the best of my abilities or not at all; now some would say, ‘oh, that’s great; it will make you so good at what you choose to do.’ …..but what if I choose a behaviour or an action that’s negative, well then I’m in trouble, for I can guarantee you I would be the best at whatever is negative there is; if I got into drugs, I’d be in the gutter before the year was through; if I got into telling lies, I’d be the biggest loser in town; if I was into playing around, I’d have more women than I could handle. So, what to do? If you think you are of an obsessive personality then just ensure that everything you do and choose to do, EVERYTHING!! Is positive. Then whatever you get obsessive about can only have positive consequences and results.
For example, I am obsessive about my work now; when I research a piece of work or an article I am writing then I will read everything there is to read about the subject; if it’s a person then I will research to the point where I want to write a biography about that person because I’ve found new information that results in the latest biographies being out of date. I love my work but I have been trying to trim my research down a little, especially now there is the website and the videos to produce and write and record…but, then again, it may also give you confidence and faith in that whatever I SAY to you about a subject then I would have researched it or have experienced it first hand; it will never be something I haven’t given a lot of thought about.
Life and Philosophy
For example, relationships are something that I have always been able to have easily with people; I get on well with people, nearly everyone…and I love people; but I observe also and I see a lot of unhappy people around..why? I don’t know for sure, but I think I may have some clues as to the answers or where the answers may lie. So, in-between this and next weeks blog post, I will share with you another video of my thoughts on relationships, especially those between husband and wife or boyfriend and girlfriend or whatever significant other is in your life and some thoughts as to how they can go wrong, how to choose the right ones, why men need to consider very carefully how they behave in life and with women and why women need to consider very carefully how they behave in life and why and what can result if mistakes are made that needn’t have been made. I’ve got a lifetime of relationships behind me and a successful (well up to this video anyway! Marriage of nearly thirty years so I’ve made mistakes and learned some lessons and answers, maybe, just maybe I can save you from making some of the mistakes I made and perhaps explain some of the things I’ve learned and why I THINK they are so vital to a successful long-term union. You know I will say this, I do believe marriage is the best way of joining two people together in a way that hopefully holds them together for life but, that one relationship should not just be staying together for the sake of your children or because you’re too afraid to not be together; all marriages will have their ups and downs but communication is the key to working through issues and disagreements and differences it can’t always be magical and mystical but it really sould be at times no matter if you’ve been married for thirty years! and it should present you with challenges and uncertainties!! who wants to be with someone who is a pushover where they agree with everything you do? Oh you would? No, Seriously, you would be bored with that relationship within weeks!! You want someone who will challenge your word, your actions , hold you to account, hold you to your best, your absolute very best; that, my friends is the partner you should seek. But more on that during the week; remembering back from my years through gyms I’ve traied in for forty years and the nightclubs I worked for over 10 years, boy, let me tell you you see some of life’s very worst behaviours in nightclubs at times, I always worked them and never went to them as I never wanted to, after what I saw and had to resolve working it was enough to put me off ever going to a club. Well, that and life over 55 years, I can tell you the very worst and the very best of human behaviours, tune in and listen to what those years in gyms and clubs have told me.
Whether we know it or are aware of it or not, evolutionary psychology has shown that there are particular patterns to what is involved in the mate choosing decisions of a man and for those of a woman, many of them won’t surprise you but I think you’ll find them interesting to hear and possibly helpful to consider if you are single and wish to be in a long term relationship. Short terms relationships are not good for either men or for women; why? I’ll explain more in the next video but it’s not that I’m some religious prude but more because I am a man who wants other people to find true success in their lives and by that I mean living out your true purpose here on this planet. You, me , each of us are all capable of great things, do them , please….let us make a choice to be the best of who we can be this day and tomorrow and each day after, as Seneca told us many years ago, “Anything that must be done, virtue can do with courage and promptness.”
I choose to read the Stoics because their philosophies have always worked for me in my darkest times; when I’ve been in hospital, in pain, my body broken and my mind numb; when I thought what was my purpose in life was taken from me, I read them and they showed me that it was always my choice how to react and to think; no, I couldn’t change what had happened to me but I could change what it meant to me and my thinking, so instead of thinking my career was over, it was simply a case of thinking, ‘oh no, that’s wrong; a new one is just opening up.’ Of course, it wasn’t that easy, I had many dark months but the reading did seep through eventually, and now I wouldn’t change what I’m doing for anything.
You are the project, “The raw material for the work of a good and excellent person is their own guiding reason, the body is that of the doctor and the physical trainer, and the farm, the farmers.”
So before I discuss relationships with you this week, I’ll make a start by offering you this one piece of advice so I’ll leave you with the beautiful words from Marcus Aurelius, “Do not argue what a good man is. Be one.” And I don’t have to say if you are female you simply switch the words to, ‘Do not argue what a good women should be. Be one.’ Do I? Let’s raise our bars friends and aim higher,
Thank you for listening and watching, I’ll see you again for another memory from the golden era of bodybuilding next week. Stay true, stay virtuous, be a leader and remember friends…there are always three more reps in you!!!!