For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a fan of strength. Even today, at 58 years old, there is nothing I enjoy more than lifting weights. Like any respectable drug-free lifter, I usually lift two or three days per week. One might think that the “off days” would represent a substantial void that would remain unfulfilled. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I love reading about strength, especially vintage books and magazines. I love talking about strength and training, especially with those who share my fascination with the world of weights and strength. I love writing about strength, and have been doing so for a long time. In short, when it comes to the Iron, I can’t get enough!
“Rock, Iron, Steel” was written in 1998, so I don’t think you could accurately describe it as “vintage,” but in many ways it is a classic. It was written by a gentlemen named Steve Justa, from Harvard. No, not THAT Harvard. Steve was from Harvard, Nebraska. Published by Ironmind Enterprises, Inc, it soon became a favorite of the many readers of MILO magazine. No less an authority than Dr. Ken Leistner described the book as a “must read.”
If you can get your hands on a copy of this book, I highly recommend doing so. Now, I want to make it clear that I don’t completely agree with everything in the book ( pitchfork lifts, shovel lifts, barrel lifts) but that’s alright because the wonderful thing about reading about other strongmen is that you can pick and choose what you feel is important, and that with which you do not wish to spend your time and effort reading. Besides, there is enough quality information to satisfy any strength fanatic.
There are fourteen chapters in the book covering a range of topics like “Lifting for Strength and Endurance,” “Partial Movements,” and “Carrying Weight,” to name just a few. However, I’m going to focus on Chapter 12, “Training Philosophy and Attack Plan.”
Everyone who has ever hoisted the steel has his/her own training philosophy, and Steve Justa was no exception. My own opinion is that it is impossible to be exposed to a surfeit of information from which to pick and choose. I will describe some of his personal philosophy with the exception of the information relating to diet and eating. If you are seeking nutritional advice, consult a registered dietician or nutritionist. Don’t listen to medical or nutritional advice you hear in the gym, unless of course you are fortunate enough to train with doctors and other medical experts.
“Positive attitude, will power, consistency, belief, visualization, sacrifice.” These are the tools that will build strength. This should come as no surprise. If you’ve been around the Iron Game for any length of time, you have probably employed most if not all of these concepts. The harder you work, and the more consistently you train, the better your chances of achieving your goal of greater strength. The power of belief is crucial in building confidence. However, I’ve always felt that the key to developing a belief in yourself lies in demonstrated ability. You have to prove that you are capable of doing something before you have the right to have self-confidence. There are no shortcuts.
“Training includes experimenting; learning to listen to your body; setting long range and short range day-to-day goals.” There have been many articles devoted to the importance of persistence in lifting weights, and in the achievement of goals. The importance of staying focused cannot be overestimated. Various authors have endorsed the idea of “Conceive, Believe, and Achieve,” over the years. While this might seem trite, it’s important for anyone who has experienced the ups and downs of trying to achieve a seemingly difficult goal. It’s also important to remember that everybody is different, so don’t blindly follow someone else’s training program. Additionally, don’t compare yourself to others. The only person you’re competing against is yourself.
“Listen to Your Body.” This concept is important to anyone who lifts weights, but it is especially important for older, drug-free lifters. You can save yourself a lot of frustration, overtraining, and injuries if you just follow this often repeated warning and listen to your body. If you’re not sufficiently recovered from your last workout, take an extra day to allow your body to recuperate. A missed workout here and there will hardly matter in the grand scheme of things.
“Think smart.” This goes hand in hand with listening to your body. It also ties in with consistency. Small improvements in each training session will add up to great gains over the course of months and years. Let’s face it, most of us are in this for the long haul.
When you set a goal for yourself, and then develop a strategy for achieving your goal, you must apply yourself by means of a consistent and progressive program of workouts. Every once in a while you will have that “lousy workout,” but you have to stick with the program and believe in the system. But never ignore the signals your body is sending you.
What exercises work best for you? Which ones don’t? Steve Justa has his own exercises- most of them are familiar, some are unique- but all of them work for him. While it is beneficial to “change things up” occasionally, for the most part you must stick with the movements that bring the most success. Spoiler alert: Tricep pushdowns and cable crossovers are NOT exercises that are covered in the book!
It should come as no surprise that a lot of thought should be devoted to your workouts, but there is such a thing as overthinking something. A simple warning from chapter 12 “When it comes time t lift, then lift, don’t talk. You’ll never get stronger thinking about training. You must train.” This is just plain common sense but, as has often been stated, common sense is not always common.
If you’re patient and give it time, you will adapt to- and succeed with- any type of sensible workout program. It’s when your body begins to adapt that you’ll begin to see progress. “All great lifters learn to generate consistency and patience.” Consistent, progressive workouts over time are the “secret” to getting stronger. Another salient point that he makes is that it’s better to do less work on a consistent basis than to do a lot of work from time to time with no order or consistency to your training.
I realize that most of these ideas are not new. They have covered been covered in other articles, sometimes even by me, but they are worth repeating. After reading the book, you will find that the training philosophy followed by Steve Justa is similar to that of many lifters and strength athletes. He may use different methods and exercises to achieve his goals, but the general idea is remarkably similar to that which has been used by many lifters through the years.
I recommend reading this book to one and all. While I don’t endorse the idea of carrying sections or railroad track in mud, or building makeshift backlift platforms, by following the lifting philosophy set forth in the pages of the book, you will find that they reinforce the ideas that have been promoted by various authors.
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