John Emerson's Weightlifting Page

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History and Training Philosophy

I have weightlifted on and off since high school. I began with my friend Kent Linder, who became Mr Teenage Saint Petersburg, FL, in 1981.

I have been doing it religiously since 1994. I combine progressive resistance training with bodybuilding. I incorporate the strength aspects into my competitive sport/martial arts/active lifestyle. Naturally, I benefit from the look it produces. I believe that consistent strength training lies at the root of all daily actions. The more strength you have, the easier come the chores of life. Accordingly, I proscribe to the all-out blast form of training (failure, high intensity, HIT, call it what you like). Strict form is mandatory (slow movements, no jerking). If you ever see a guy in the gym jerking a lot of weight up or down (my favorite: lat pulls), I don't care how big he is, DON'T DO IT!!! This is a sure prescription for injury. I don't believe in wasting time in the gym either. After a light warmup set I usually do one or two INTENSE sets to ALL-OUT FAILURE (not ALMOST failure) and then quickly move on to the next excercise. STUDIES HAVE PROVEN THAT MULTIPLE SETS DO NOT PRODUCE ANY GREATER RESULTS THAN ONE EXTREMELY HARD SET. So why waste time and energy? This might be hard to get used to at first, but believe me it works! I usually do 2 or 3 exersises per bodypart per workout. That makes me sore for 2 days. To SHOCK my muscles to grow, I often mix up the exercises each workout. I use a combination of barbells, dumbells, pulley machines, Nautilus and Hammer Strength equipment, as well as calisthenics (pushups and pullups are greatly underrated!). I do each bodypart ONCE per week. On average, my workouts take about 30 minutes or less.

Typical Week:
Monday: Legs and Lower Back (no Deadlifts)
Wednesday: Arms, Shoulders and Traps, Deadlifts
Friday: Chest and Back

Lately I have been doing a pullup, pushup and dip workouts. I have one of those pushup/pullup/dip towers at home that I got for free. I use it and I suggest you invest $100 in one. You won't regret it. In my opinion it's the best piece of home training equipment you can buy, and one of the cheapest! Even after lifting weights for years, you might be surprised to find out how many push ups and pullups you can do. To me, this is the essense of fitness. This is reality. No matter how much you can lift in the gym, if you're hanging off a cliff with a backpack on, can you pull yourself up? What if you're hanging by one arm? Or could you save one of your children? Perhaps not...Anyway, I do a set of wide pulls, followed by pushups, then narrow curl pulls, then dips, then tricep pushups (no rest after dips) one minute between sets, all to failure. I try to do AT LEAST as many reps of each as I did the previous week, if not one more.
Click here for a picture of one of these "workstations": Pullup/Dip machine

NOTE: I always do Forearms with Biceps, and sometimes again on another workout day. They recover fast, and I need the extra strength and conditioning for Martial Arts.


Currently I rely heavily on the PRE-EXHAUSTION PRINCIPLE. This principle has you perform an isolation exercise with the target muscle in order to "pre-exhaust" or fatigue it, followed IMMEDIATELY with a compound movement exercise which incorporates other muscles to "help" the fatigued target muscle work beyond failure. For example, to target thighs you would perform leg extensions to failure and then immediately follow them with an exercise like leg press or squats. It is extremely important to perform the compound exercise as quickly as possible after the isolation movement to prevent the target muscle from recovering.

There are 2 exercises that I have to comment on regarding their positive total body enhancement: the Squat and the Deadlift. These 2 exercises will produce more overall body wellness and balance than anything you can imagine. I cannot begin to describe how much I have benefitted from them. Since I have been doing them, my leg strength has increased exponentially. Meanwhile, my body weight has gone up without any loss of cardiovascular fitness. My overall strength has increased, too. I warm up with a light weight on each, perform one moderate to heavy set, drop the weight and rep out to failure. That's it. Done. Normally I Squat at the beginning of my Leg workout and Deadlift at the end of my shoulder workout. Form is the most important thing when performing these exercises. YOU CAN SEVERELY INJURE YOURSELF IF YOU CHEAT OR JERK WHEN DOING THESE EXERCISES. Both exercises require you to ARCH your back. BOWING your back is incorrect. LEARN THE DIFFERENCE. I have never seriously hurt myself doing either of these exercises (only a little stiffness/soreness). Get yourself some literature WITH PICTURES showing correct form. Many people Squat regularly but the Deadlift is a dying breed. Many gyms have their "deadlifter." Give them a try. Start out light and work your way up. BE CAREFUL.

NOTE: I have to use straps on my heavy Deadlifts. I'm sorry, but I have a wimpy grip and simply CANNOT hold the weight long enough to perform the entire set. I'm working on that, and do not use straps on the warmup or drop sets.

COMMENT: If you are afraid you will hurt your back doing a proper Deadlift, you are an IGNORANT PUSSY. The Deadlifting motion is perfectly normal, indeed COMMON for the human body. How many times a day do you bend down to pick up something? You can hurt yourself doing ANYTHING, if you do it incorrectly. For those of you who don't Deadlift for this reason, try not to hurt your chest while Benching..........

ONE LAST THING: If possible, use a Trap Bar.

I find that swimming in between upper body workouts helps me recover quicker. Spinning, cycling or rollerblading help my legs to recover. Needless to say, they will also enhance your cardiovascular fitness, and help you to get "cut". Keep in mind, strength training will increase your endurance, but too much cardio will hinder your strength gains (ever seen a runner with big arms?).


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This was me at the time of my 10 Year High School Reunion in 1990. My 25th just passed...

click here for the "rear" shot of the picture above


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Weightlifting Links

Clarence Bass' Ripped Page
Cyberpump, Home of HIT: Hardcore Training
Ironman Magazine: My personal favorite muscle mag
The Gerard Trap Bar Info
The Arnold Fitness Weekend Site


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Please come back and visit me soon.

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Copyright 1998-2004 John B Emerson
Last Updated 6/03/2008

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