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From the 1940s to the 2000s we’ve kept our readers ahead of the curve. Here, we present the 75 best pieces of advice we’ve ever offered, from Day 1 in 1940 to today.
In the 1940s, less was known about table sugar’s negative health impact, but we still steered readers toward natural sweeteners like honey, which is also a cough suppressant and today a top pick for endurance racers.
Joe Weider wrote “Don’t Be a Cigarette Slave” in August 1944 and “Do Cigarettes Cause Cancer?” in Dec. 1947. This at a time when doctors recommended cigarettes as a stress reliever. Today, tobacco accounts for at least 30% of all cancer deaths in the U.S.
The Bent Press
An oldie but goodie: Between 1948 and 1957 we frequently recommended the bent press: Start with a dumbbell on one shoulder, bend to the opposite side, and press the weight up with one hand. It’s a great way to build shoulder and core strength.
The Original Weider Principle
Your Physique introduced a training technique called supersets for the first time in 1951. Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find an athlete anywhere in the world who hasn’t used them to make workouts more intense and efficient.
SEE ALSO: The Weider Principles>>
Use the Force
Ever have your training partner help you finish a heavy set after you’ve hit failure? The benefits of going just a bit beyond your limits—increased pump and hormone release—were first noted in 1952 in Your Physique.
Preacher curls, rope pressdowns, cable crossovers, and other isolation moves owe much of their immense popularity to the introduction of this principle in March 1952.
Dating back to the March 1941 issue of Your Physique, we’ve preached the overall strength and aesthetic benefits of Olympic weightlifting. While these lifts fell out of favor, they reemerged with the popularity of CrossFit.
Keep On Pressing
In Jan. 1947, we published an article on the benefits of overhead pressing that holds up today; it’s perfect for building the delts and tri’s and even developing core strength.
Weider’s Compound-Set Principle supersetted the same muscle to instigate pump. Today, lifters use this to “finish” a muscle.
In Sept. 1959, we published “The Prone Chin.” Today, we just call that a pullup, but the article’s advice is sound: to hold the peak position of a pullup for a few seconds to force both your lats and biceps to grow.
In every issue in 1954, we published “Strongman Stunts You Can Do.” Strongman training, like Olympic lifting, has enjoyed a resurgence, though you’re now more likely to see it filed under “functional” training. In recent years, we’ve continued to extoll the benefits of Atlas stone lifts, which columnist Rob Orlando considers indispensable for building strength everywhere.
The box squat was a staple of this magazine during its early days. By squatting onto a box, you eliminate the rebound effect of the free squat, in which you can “bounce” out of the hole by quickly changing direction. The box squat (using a box or bench, as shown) forces you to come to a complete stop at depth and generate all your own power out of the hole. Powerlifting legend Louie Simmons actually learned the box squat from M&F and spread it to the powerlifting community.
Based on the three Muscle Builder articles about kettlebell training between 1952 and 1959, one of which was “Try Kettlebells for Supreme Sculptureof the Torso,” old-time lifters knew what bells could do. One 2014 Journal of Strength Conditioning study found two-handed swings coupled with sumo deadlifts provided more of a cardiovascular workout than hitting the treadmill. Widely credited with introducing the West to kettlebells, strength coach Pavel Tsatsouline recently shared his top tip for the KB overhead press: “Contract your abs, clench your glues, and use a crushing grip.”
SEE ALSO: 5 Common Kettlebell Mistakes>>>
Don’t Forget to Flush
Muscle flushing, or doing multiple exercises per body part to trigger maximum hypertrophy, was first reported by Weider in 1953 and remains a staple today.
That’s So Dip
The dip was the “Exercise of the Month” in Jan. 1955. Today, it remains one of the most effective exercises for building the arms, chest, shoulders, and core. For maximum contraction in your pectorals, lean forward as you dip.
Home Sweet Home
At-home workouts have been endorsed since our 1954 issue. Then, it was “deep knee bends.” Today, we offer body-weight workouts you can do anywhere.
If you train with someone else—and especially if you train with someone who’s stronger than you—you’re going to work out much harder. It has evolved today, but the truth of this statement is the basis for all group fitness classes.
Start heavy, finish light. Josh Bryant wrote about powerbuilding for us in Nov. 2014, echoing a Weider idea from the ’50s. Start your next back workout with four heavy sets for four reps, then lighten up with other accessory moves for 10 to 15 reps.
Squeeze at the Top
The Peak Contraction Principle says to squeeze the muscle being trained at the top of a rep for one to two seconds to apply max tension. Try it on every isolation move you do today.
The majority of muscle damage occurs during the eccentric, or negative, portion of the lift. Guys like Chuck Sipes found negatives particularly useful, telling us: “I concentrate as much on lowering the bar slowly as the curl itself.”
High-intensity training (HIT) gained popularity throughout the 1970s. As it did, Muscle covered HIT principles and training, as well as spin-offs such as Mike Mentzer ’s Heavy Duty. Mentzer’s training style called for using heavy weights with lower rep counts while using forced reps, negative reps, and rest-pause. Today, these techniques remain invaluable for gaining size.
SEE ALSO: Everything You Need to Know About HIIT>>
Tweak Tempo and TUT
The Weider Superspeed Principle wasn’t airtight. However, the suggestion to tinker with tempos and Time Under Tension to maximally fatigue muscle fibers was ahead of its time.
Articles from the 1960s like “How Supplements Revolutionized My Bodybuilding Program” did more than move Weider products. They radically changed many lifters’ nutrition plans—and their bodies—quickly.
Cheat to Win
Employing cheat reps—using a touch of momentum to squeeze out an extra rep or two—allows you to train beyond failure, overload the muscle, and move past sticking points. Just remember: Use it sparingly.
Just Say No to Plateau
Change your routine consistently and allow your body to determine how much rest you require between training sessions. By 1964, we were
encouraging readers to rotate exercises in and out of their programs and use exercises in which they weren’t proficient.
See It to Achieve It
One of Arnold’s secrets: visualization. He explained to us, “When I was burning out concentration curls, I imagined my arm filling the room.” Decades later, studies would prove this technique improves performance.
Squat for Size
We take it for granted today that the squat is the king of exercises, but this happened by slow discovery. Heavy squatter Tom Platz even admitted that he got “carried away” with upper-body work before discovering the squat.
Selfies weren’t a thing in the ’70s, but readers were instructed to get before-and-after photographs of themselves to track their training progress.
It’s common for beginners to want to go as heavy as possible, but getting big muscle is a marathon, not a sprint. In ’79, two-time Mr. Olympia winner Franco Columbu urged against letting the ego get in the way. He said joint soreness and muscle pain are never to be ignored.
The Weider Instinctive Training Principle told lifters to trust their instincts. If you’re convinced a different approach will trump conventional wisdom, follow your gut and test it out. Bill Grant refined the definition for us: “The single most important thing I gained from the multitudinous training techniques I experimented with is the knowledge of what works best for me.”
Because fruit contains sugar, many weightlifters, then and now, stay away from it. In moderation, however, fresh fruit is a healthy source of fiber, vitamins, micronutrients, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. As a pre- or post-workout snack, fruit aids muscle endurance and replenishes glycogen levels.
Unmanaged stress triggers spikes in cortisol, emotional eating, and loss of appetite or motivation, points addressed in a June 1960 article, “Your Greatest Muscle-Building Enemy.”
Educating lifters on the pros and cons, rather than outright demonizing anabolic steroids, gave readers the ammo they needed to make an
educated decision about why they should steer clear of steroids.
Sleep It Off
In 1970 we said, “Sleep is vital to tissue repair and the restoration of energy depleted by training.” Last year, the CDC said insufficient sleep is a public health problem. You won’t just hamper your gains, you’ll put yourself at increased risk for heart attack and stroke.
The Weider Split System started with a chest day, a legs day, and so on but evolved to the modern splits of chest/back, bi’s/ tri’s, legs/shoulders by the 1970s. The need for the modern man to get more done in less time made training more efficient.
Work the Whole Core
In Dec. 1979, we quoted Mike Mentzer: “Most bodybuilders spend more than enough time developing rectus abdominis—or the frontal
midsection area—while almost totally neglecting the oblique and serratus muscles.”
“Without proper technique— so well practiced it becomes completely automatic—added strength is of little use,” we said. Some 50 years later, nothing’s changed: Technique trumps weight. Always has, always will.
Most people place emphasis on the concentric and eccentric portions of the rep. But isometric contractions, without movement, provide an entirely different—and powerful—training stimulus.
Release GH with Compound Lifts
The squat, bench, and deadlift do more than get you big and strong—they release HGH, which has an anti-aging effect on the entire body. By the late ’80s, we began to herald these previously littleknown benefits. Today, we use these lifts as the basis of just about every program we publish.
Women Should Lift
The hormonal differences between men and women make it all but impossible for most women to begin resembling male bodybuilders. Ladies: Lift away!
Young Kids Should Lift
Kids need to drill form and perfect it before adding weight, but we’ve tried to bust the “stunted growth” myth for 30 years. Today, the N.S.C.A. has specific guidelines.
Whether youwant to bike, run, or play basketball, cardio is cardio—and fresh air has its own benefits. Moreover, if you keep cardio interesting, you’ll do it more often.
Powerlift for Size
Guys who train seriously for the big three—the squat, bench, and deadlift—have a leg up on guys who just train for a pump. A stronger muscle is always a bigger muscle.
Throughout the ’80s, wer ecommended the arm blaster for standing isolation of the biceps and couldn’t be happier with its recent (minor) resurgence. It’sa lot cheaper than a preacher bench.
Squat with your heels slightly raised—either on a wood plank or on some weight plates—to place more emphasis on quad development. This still works well. See page 134 to see how it’s done.
We’ve urged the use of creatine since it hit the scene. Along with caffeine and aminos, it’s perfectly safe and effective—and a staple of pre-workouts since the ’90s.
Training’s positive carryover effect into other areas of life became a prevalent topic in the ’80s as M&F’s favorite son, Arnold Schwarzenegger, branched out into movies. Arnold said bodybuilding teaches the discipline to master a new skill—whatever it may be—and we couldn’t agree more.
Posing as isometric exercise is actually quite intense and can help bring out definition. It gained prevalence when competitors noticed they were often in better shape after bodybuilding shows.
Long before the Paleo craze, we recommended “primitive” dieting: unprocessed meat and veggies and no grains. While you don’t really need to go Paleo, we still believe the closer to natural, the better.
Train to Make Sex Better
In the ’80s we used anecdotal evidence that “women prefer bodybuilders.” Today, we know training doesn’t just boost confidence but also increases hormone levels as well as blood flow to sex organs.
By the early ’80s, Weider was so convinced of the effectiveness of deadlifting for building muscle all over the body as well as grip strength that he recommended it for everyone, regardless of training goal.
Move to the Music
Back then, a lot of bodybuilders told us that they performed much better when listening to their favorite tunes. Today, we have studies that
prove the more beats per minute the tune, the faster your body will want to move.
Rise of the Machines
They keep you locked in a movement pattern—and for that reason they will always be secondary to free-weight moves—but machines have a place in your routine, allowing you to continue to safely overload muscles past normal fatigue.
Watch the Fat
A high-fat diet can cause a host of health problems. Whatever your diet, make sure fat is less than 30% of your daily caloric intake.
High-intensity interval training has been shown to improve endurance faster than aerobic training and burn fat. For cardio, alternate short bursts of all-out exercise with longer periods of light work.
Do Band Pull-Aparts
Hold an elastic band at arm’s length in front of you. Draw your arms out to your sides so you stretch the band as if pulling it apart. “All my clients have a band,” says Joe DeFranco, a strength coach to NFL athletes. “Every hour or so they’ll do 15 or 20 reps” to prevent shoulder
imbalances that lead to injury.
Fast For Fat Loss
Intermittent fasting, in which you go as long as 16 hours without eating and then feast, has been shown to boost growth hormone and promote fat loss.
Do 20 seconds of work with 10-second breaks. Do eight rounds for four minutes.
Use uneven weights to strengthen your core. Your abs will have to work harder.
Roll It Out
Use a foam roller to massage away knots, improve flexibility, and speed recovery.
Form Above All
End a set when your form breaks down. You can always add more sets later.
Eat coconut oil
It contains medium-chain triglycerides, which can increase growth hormone levels, burn fat, and boost your metabolism.
Use Blood-Flow Restriction
BFR training involves temporarily reducing circulation by wearing an elastic wrap around your arms or legs. BFR produces a range of
metabolic and hormonal effects that are associated with muscle growth.
Blow Up With Landmines
Use a landmine unit. (Or wedge a bar into a corner.) Pressing and squatting with the bar on an arc provides a joint-friendly alternative.
“Pre-pumping” the muscles you’re going to use on the main lift helps prevent injury. Dumbbell press before you bench and
do leg curls before deadlifts.
On the Casein
Because it digests more slowly than whey protein, casein keeps muscle protein synthesis turned on fo rlonger. Take it before bed to reduce muscle breakdown while you sleep.
Walk Like a Farmer
It’s the ideal “functional” lift, and it’s been around forever. Pick up the heaviest dumbbells you can handle and walk as far as you can to build
grip, core, trap, and shoulder strength.
Get a Stretch
Finish your workouts with a movement that stretches the target muscles under load to boost growth. Try dumbbell Romanian deadlifts at the
end of leg day to finish the hamstrings.
Branched-chain amino acids activate muscle protein synthesis and can prevent catabolism when taken before training on an empty stomach.
Using a Swiss ball (the big inflatable ball in your gym) trains your core by providing instability. Rest your hands or feet on it to challenge your balance, or use it to safely increase the range of motion on a situp.
Exercises like the box jump and plyo pushup train your body to be more explosive, helping you through sticking points on lifts. Do multiple sets of one to five reps.
Popularized by transgender powerlifter Janae Marie Kroc, the Kroc row is a one-arm dumbbell row—extremely heavy to failure. Kroc once did 13 reps each arm with 310 pounds.