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  • Writer's pictureJulian Molteno


TRAIN HARD — LAUGH HARDER!!! Lifting weights is fun! I know this because Arnold has decreed it so! Any article you read, or video you see of the Great Man pumping iron, will show you two things — he is always training super hard, and he is always having a great time!!! It is in fact quite amazing that an activity that is so painful, exhausting, and energy-sapping could be so enjoyable — and yet it is! How could lifting weights not be fun? It is the most positive, life-affirming, happy and glorious activity known to man.  

Arnold personifies the work hard, play harder, ethos.  How often do you hear, in a full gym packed with dedicated members, all sweating and straining away, great roars of laughter coming from the various groups of hard-working guys? It always makes me grin, it just makes me want to grab a heavy barbell, and get lifting! It is one of the main reasons I have continued to train, and continued to love to train, for nearly 40 years. I savour the whole atmosphere of hard physical work, the bodybuilding camaraderie, and the joyful celebration of muscle!! So train hard, and laugh harder! EFFORT TRUMPS STYLE What sets the successful gym-goer apart from the vast majority of not-so-successful lifters? I spend a few thousand hours in the gym each year, either working out or instructing clients, and as I do, I watch people train. And what do I see? I see all sorts of training styles and programs, and all manner of exercises being performed. And what do I observe? I observe that some people get bigger and stronger, and some people don’t! And what do I conclude? I conclude that no matter what the program is, no matter what the exercises are, there is one critical factor that makes the difference — and that is effort! Exercises performed with perfect form using light weights may look good, but actually does very little! What does work however is lifting with maximum effort! And that involves a heavy weight, lifted in an energetic, focussed and determined way! To make gains, don’t train pretty, train ugly, because effort trumps style — every time! 

I seem to have spent a fair bit of my life inside one gym or another! BOMB — AND MOVE ON. Every decent workout has a shape — it has structure and coherence. It is not just a random group of exercises, lumped together and plonked down in the middle of the gym! One of the skills of designing a workout is to obtain maximum stimulation for the muscle concerned. On any given exercise, once you have warmed up, reached your top weight and done a killer drop-set or some grinding forced reps, you have achieved maximum stimulation, maximum pump. Another set will not give the same returns and a new stimulus is required, it is time to move to another exercise, to attack the muscle from a different angle or in a different style. Don’t waste time on a movement that has already done its job. You’ve dropped the big bomb — now move on! PUT SOME BLACK ON THE BAR — and ring the Full Stack Bell!! My client and training partner Shane, used an expression recently that I had never heard before. He said, “There’s a lot of black on that bar!”, meaning there is a lot of weight, as weight plates are generally black. I liked the expression and now use it all the time, mostly because we love heavy weights and enjoy any new weight-lifting jargon that reflects that. We also love to push or pull the whole stack when doing cable exercises. Generally, the manufacturers of bodybuilding cable machines have to accommodate some big strong chaps so they make the stack pretty heavy. It goes to reason that if you can use the full stack, you must be rather beefy, and this is cause for celebration!! And how better to celebrate than to ring the Full Stack Bell??? Whenever a client uses the stack I take the stack pin out and loudly and insistently “ding!” it against any chrome surface, making a loud, annoying bell ringing sound. Just to rub salt into the wounds of the more puny gym-goers (and for the avoidance of doubt) I also yell out, “Full Stack! Full Stack!” 

Ringing the Full Stack Bell with Shane!  SOGGY SOCKS Any serious bodybuilder will be well acquainted with the dreaded . . . cardio!! As with lifting weights, cardio has to be done with oomph, it has to make your lungs want to burst, your throat burn like hell, and for you to feel somewhat light-headed and vommy. Another client I enjoy training with is Joy, and she and I have done some tough old cardio sessions together — normally at 6:30am!! We have rowed until we have felt sick, and crosstrainer-ed until we have felt faint. By the way, as I once explained to my very good friend and client Mike, (who is a shit bodybuilder, although that in itself represents progress, as he used to be a super-shit bodybuilder!) bodybuilders can legitimately feel faint, but never feel giddy, that being the prerogative of school girls!  

Anyhow, back to cardio with Joy. Mostly, we like to go at it hammer and tongs, bashing out some high intensity stuff, really enjoying the physical battle between us. At the moment we are using the Assault Bike, doing either 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off, or a minute on and 2 off. We do 10 rounds and finish with some high intensity Skierg, which is pretty grim, making us both feel sick. However, when I undress afterwards to have a shower, I am disappointed to see that although my vest and shorts are soaked with sweat, my personal benchmark for a tough cardio session — soggy socks — has not been met.  

Same exercise, totally different mind-set! (She loves it really!) The only time I do have sweaty socks after cardio is when I do an hour on the stationary bike. So while high intensity stints are valuable and worthwhile, these need to do be married to some longer cardio sessions, to really burn the mega calories required to get your socks, and the rest, all soggy. MOMENTUM DOES NOT BUILD MUSCLE — sitting down is not a rep I wrote a post on Marginal Gains a while back, and every day I see so many small examples of how trainees are constantly denying themselves the opportunity to achieve their best results. Over time this sort of “micro-cheating” starts to add up and will definitely hamper your bodybuilding progress. Almost more important though, is the negative affect it has on your attitude to working out — which should be about gleaning everything  you possibly can from every rep and set, not just moving the weight from A to B. Not training in some thoughtless, robotic way. Feeling every rep you do, being proud to make the movement as tough as possible. Sitting down is not a rep — don’t be lazy! When doing a Pulldown or Pushdown, don’t use the momentum created as you sit down (or pull the bar from the start position) to start the first rep, thats only half a rep! Sit down, extend your arms, and then start the set with a full, honest, pukka rep! Do a proper job! On the subject of sitting down, it is my absolute pet hate when people remain sitting between sets!! They just sit there motionless, lolling on the equipment, staring into space. (They remind me of my old Afrikaans master at school who, when he caught a pupil staring out the window, would say, “Sometimes I sit and think, and sometimes I just sit!”) Stand up between sets, it keeps you physically active and helps clearly define the beginning of the next set. On your feet!! The same applies to the last rep of any pressing movement. For goodness sake, lock-out on the last rep! Time and time again my clients press the bar up on the last rep, and as they reach the height of the uprights, they abandon the last few critical inches and swerve the bar onto the catchments, missing out on the critical last few inches to fully lock-out! This is the sort of behaviour we expect of sneaks and rotters. Next thing we know these characters will be letting off a stink-bomb behind the Health and Fitness Manager’s office!!! As you can well imagine I have plenty more loud-mouthed options on the general subject of training, but you will be mightily relieved to know that is most certainly enough for now.

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