Friday, May 18, 2012

John Paul Catanzaro - The New Old-School Circuit Training

This is a great article on making circuit training more effective by has just released his new book The Elite Trainer: Strength Training for the Serious Professional. The book features 55 programs, dozens of training methods and cutting-edge techniques, and over 100 exercise illustrations. Pick up your copy today at

Summer is here (at least it is in Arizona), so this is the time of year to be a little more lean and go swimming to beat the heat. Why not look as fit as you can? This kind of arse-kicking circuit work will get you very lean . . . but only if you eat well, too.

The New Old-School Circuit Training

The New Old-School Circuit Training

I love books written by the iron-game pioneers. For every newly-released book I read, I read at least one or two that are decades old. It's fascinating to discover where many of today's training concepts originated and reaffirm that there truly is nothing new under the sun.

As an example, consider the apparently novel that you see periodically in muscle magazines. Iron legend Harry Barton Paschall wrote about this "unique form of rest-pause training" that was practiced by Peary Rader, the founder of Iron Man magazine, ages ago. It's not a new method by any means.

Paschall exposed many of these original concepts. A professional cartoonist by trade, he served as a longtime contributor to Bob Hoffman's Strength and Health magazine and authored several classic training books.

Case in point, Paschall's first book, Muscle Moulding, was published in 1950 and is considered one of the best bodybuilding books ever written. In fact, this book inspired one of the most effective training programs that I've ever designed.

Below is the first weight-gaining routine from that book, and the one that stimulated some creative thinking on my part. See if it has the same effect on you:
  1. Seated curl: 10 reps
  2. Seated press: 10 reps
  3. Squat: 20 reps
  4. Bent-arm pullover: 15 reps
  5. Squat: 20 reps
  6. Bench press: 10 reps
  7. Squat: 20 reps
  8. Straight-arm pullover: 15 reps
Notice the frequency and sequencing of squats – they appear three times in the workout, while every other exercise appears only once or twice. There's good reason for that. Besides the deadlift, no other "non-Olympic" weight lifting movement stimulates as much muscle mass as the squat, and no other movement gives you as much in return for your training effort.

This is why old time bodybuilders like three-time Mr. Olympia Sergio Oliva said squats made the whole body grow. was a favorite Oliva quote, and when "The Myth" talked about big arms, people listened.

The emphasis on squats wasn't just for building size. was Paschall's motto, who also felt that "Most people do not give their legs enough work to do."

Performing multiple sets of squats will give your legs plenty of attention, but certainly performance will suffer if each set is taken to the limit, especially if straight sets are conducted.

But what if you sequenced squats after an upper body movement, or better yet after two upper body movements, in a circuit fashion similar to the weight-gaining routine above? In theory, that should help improve recovery and performance – and I can tell you from experience that it works!

The New Old-School Circuit

The New Old-School Circuit Training

Most people associate circuit training with muscular endurance and fat loss, but it can also be a powerful hypertrophy protocol if performed correctly. And with the size comes some serious strength.

All right, let's get to it. Here are some effective programs that use the concepts discussed above. Pick the program that suits your training level and give it an honest shot. I think you'll be quite impressed with the results.


The New Old-School Circuit Training

This is a three-program beginner progression. Each program lasts four weeks and workouts are conducted three times a week on nonconsecutive days (e.g., Monday, Wednesday, and Friday).

Go read the whole article for his workout programs - designed for beginners and also for intermediate/advanced lifters.

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