By Dennis B. Weis
We shall now look into the training wisdom that Chuck Sipes has shared with me by letter and long distance phone conversation. One of the things that really impresses me about Sipes is this: he has never neglected to write a reply to my letters. He always answered immediately and his solutions were very well thought. The point that makes this a great effort on Chuck’s part is the fact that at the time I was in heavy correspondence with him (the late 1960’s) he was a youth counselor at a California reformatory, was doing strength shows worldwide and was in heavy competition for such titles as Mr. World and Mr. Olympia. He was also training to bench press 600 lbs. at a bodyweight of 230. It is hard to see where he could find the time to answer my letters as well as those of countless others he was in regular contact with.
The one thing that I have noted about all the training advice from Chuck is his constant belief that one should include heavy supporting movements to build up the tendon and ligament strength.
From the beginning of correspondence with Chuck he always stressed taking germ oils, sunflower seeds, papaya, peanuts and lots of milk. He always advised me to constantly add weight whenever I could for maximum stimulation of growth and strength. He once mentioned that I should use a jump rope for 4 sets of one minute all-out jumping at the end of my workouts. The one advantage to using the rope is that it only takes a small area in which to use it. Here in Alaska it’s not always possible to run outdoors! During one of my letters to Sipes, I was very interested in obtaining better strength and development of the forearms, as well as increasing my bench press. This is one of the routines that he suggested I use for the forearms. It can be followed three times a week and no more. This is because of the great amount of recovery time needed after the workouts.
Chuck Sipes Recommended Forearm Training Routine:
Reverse Curl (slowly) – 4 sets of 8 reps.
DB Wrist Forearm Curl (off knee) 4×15.
Cable or Pulley Reverse Curl – 4×12.
Rubber Ball Squeeze, Newspaper Roll-up, etc.
* Perform 3 times a week, no more.
Chuck Sipes recommendation on Increasing Bench Press Strength:
For the bench press routine he said to begin at least 6 months before a meet. This is a five days per week routine which is very intense. There is much direct effort stimulating the ligaments and tendons.
Monday & Wednesday
Warm up Prone, regular grip – 2 sets x10 reps.
Bench Press – 2×6; 2×4; 2×2; 4 singles.
Tuesday & Thursday
Heavy Supports – 5×8. (100 lbs. over best press from ¼ way down to lockout)
Prones – Close to maximum poundage.
Heavy Supports – 150 lbs. over best press, holding with a slight elbow bend.
Prones – close to maximum poundage.
Incline Press, wide grip, slowly – 4×6.
Dumbell Incline Press, slowly – 4×6.
Pullovers, very light weight, deep breaths following 1 minute skipping – 2×20
Flat Flyes, very deep breaths – 4×8.
At this point I shall detail some more powerlift routines by Chuck and some special bodypart specialization for the physique man. After these routines I’ll relate some of his general maxims for training.
Squat Routine - Recommended by Chuck Sipes
Full Squat – 2 sets of 8 reps. 2×6, 2×4, 2×2, 2×1.
Quarter Squat – 6×10.
Leg Press – 8×6.
Chuck mentioned that it is very dangerous to do any type of heavy support or ¼ movement without the aid of a power rack or competent spotters. The weights used in these heavy movements should always be properly warmed up to and done under control at all times. You can never afford sloppy form in heavy movements. The older one gets the longer it takes to recover from an injury.
Deadlift Routine - Recommended by Chuck Sipes
Regular Deadlift – 2 sets of 8 reps, 2×6, 2×4, 2×2, 2×1.
Rack Deadlift from below knees – 6×4. Use the same position as for your regular deadlift at this height.
Deadlift Holds – 6 sets of 1 minute each.
Chuck mentioned that to deal with tender calluses, soak the hands in a tuff skin solution.
Bench Press Routine - Recommended by Chuck Sipes
Speed Bench – 6 sets of 10. Use a light weight and accelerate the bar from the chest as rapidly as possible.
Heavy Let Downs – 4×8. Fight weight slowly to chest. Use about 100 lbs. over best lift.
Supports – 6 sets of 10 seconds each. No movement, just hold the weight in top position for the required time.
I will now conclude with some strength training advice from Chuck Sipes and a few miscellaneous powerlift tips.
I once asked Sipes what he thought of using knee bands or wraps in training. I was using knee wraps at the time and felt great doing full squats with 425 lbs. for sets of 6 reps. He advised me never to use wraps in training, saying that wraps have a tendency to weaken the muscle areas of the legs. Chuck said that my poundages would drop when I discontinued the use of wraps, and he was certainly right. The very next workout I couldn’t even do 2 reps with the 425. I think a little bit of the problem was in my mind. He did recommend using them in competition.
I had trouble coming out of the bottom of my heavy squats. Chuck recommended incorporating jumping squats with a barbell or a dumbell in each hand, using a light weight. He mentioned 4 sets of 10 reps. The last 2 reps should feel hard but you should still be able to spring up forcefully. When you can do 8 out of 10 reps the weight is probably just right. When you achieve 10 proper reps it is time to add 20 lbs. to the squat bar or 10 lbs. to each dumbell. This exercise will build the initial driving power. It corrected my problem when I used it.
Chuck recommended trying for a limit on the powerlifts in training in meet style every two months. I realize that not everyone is going to agree with this advice on strength training. This is only natural but don’t be so set or preconceived in your ideas that you can’t have an open approach to different concepts on training, providing they seem sensible and have been shown to produce real results.
Here are four specialized bodypart routines Chuck suggested I use at different times during our correspondence. Remember that these routines weren’t designed to be performed all at the same time. To some of you they may look ordinary or very common. As I have mentioned before, these routines were tailored to correct my own problem areas. Upon closer examination you will find that a lot of thought and preparation went into designing them.
Arm Specialization Routine - Recommended by Chuck Sipes
To be done three times a week. Always try and add weight to the exercises and work hard to cut your rest periods down to an eventual 45 seconds or less between sets and exercises.
Cheat Curl – 4 sets of 4 reps.
Concentration Curl – 6×8. 2 sets with palms up, 2 sets with palms with palms in (dumbell will be sideways). In these positions you will be seated and bent over with tricep resting on the forearm which is stretched across the legs. 2 sets with palms facing you, bent over a table with forehead on forearm (which is on table), touch dumbell under armpit.
Preacher Curl with EZ curl bar – 3×10.
Wrist Curls – 4×20. 2 sets with palms up and 2 sets with palms down.
Lying French Press to Nose – 4×6.
Pressdown – 3×20.
Pullup superset with
Dip – 6×6 each with no rest.
6 Day Per Week Ab and Oblique Specialization - Recommended by Chuck Sipes
One thing I must mention is that in order to see the results of your ab work you will have to study your diet and correct anything causing a layer of fat to accumulate around the midsection.
Front Bends – 2×100. This exercise is performed like a good morning. The only difference is that you perform it with only an unloaded exercise bar and tense the abs strongly as you bend forward, making sure to go to parallel with the upper and hold the ab contraction for a moment.
Side Bends – 2×100. Work each side separately. Hold a dumbell in one hand only.
Sit Ups – 4×20. Use an incline board and add weight when possible.
Leg Raises – 4×12. Use an incline board and add weight when possible.
Hanging Leg Raises – 4×10. Done from a chinning bar.
Jog – ½ mile.
Body Twists – 2×200. Use an empty bar behind the neck and contract hard to each side, trying to cramp and lock up the muscles.
Do not rest more than a few seconds between sets.
Calf Routine No. 1 - Recommended by Chuck Sipes
Calf Raise on Standing Calf Machine – 5×20.
One Leg Calf Raise – 4×20. Hold a heavy dumbell in one hand.
After you have done the above, lean against a wall and rise up on toes, flexing the calf muscles very hard. Do this 4 times and hold each flexed position for at least a 10 second count.
Heel Raises on Calf Machine, again – 5 sets of 10 full reps, followed by 20 burns in the upper position.
Calf Routine No. 2. - Recommended by Chuck Sipes
Calf Raise on Standing Calf Machine – 4×20. Very slow and concentrated.
One Leg Calf Raise – 4×60. Use only your bodyweight and slowly do the first 30 reps concentrating on the downward stretch. Do the next 30 reps of the set in a bouncy fashion concentrating on the high flex position.
Iron Shoes – 2×20. Sitting on a high bench so that the legs are free to hang without touching the ground, raise toes high and work feet back and forth with the legs slightly out. You may add weight to the boots when the reps are too easy. Do not sacrifice form for the added weight.
You may do either of these two routines 4 days a week.
Chuck mentioned several times that if your diet is right you don’t need to take much in the ways of supplements and added protein concentrates.