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The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter, Issue #287 Old School Advice
November 15, 2020

November 15, 2020

In this newsletter . . .

Old School Advice

I think a lot about starting out at the iconic Yarick’s Gym (in the 1950s) and then later on at Walt’s Gym (1960s) and their influences.

The Gray Iron Fitness beginners’ exercise routine isn’t much different from the beginners’ program at Yarick’s, from way back in the ’50s.

Superstars like Steve Reeves trained at Yarick’s, and some of the strongest men in the world lifted there. You might wonder though: hasn’t training been revolutionized since then? Oh, there have been some tweaks here and there. But mostly it has not.

Your first workout at Yarick’s was really an orientation, doing one set of about 12 reps of two exercises per body part. You learned to exhale on the push or pull of a movement; you inhaled on the return. (More about that later.) And you controlled the weights in a steady up and down motion.

In the many years since Yarick’s, I’ve never discovered a better way to introduce beginners to weight training. Some call it “old school,” which I guess must be the opposite of “cutting edge.”

What are the “tweaks” I mentioned? In the old days, cardio usually wasn’t a part of the training. Seventy years ago, most new gym members were skinny young guys who just wanted to put on muscle. So you pumped iron and ate like a horse.

There are still skinny guys today. But these days far more beginners have the opposite problem: they’re overweight, often very overweight. The sedentary life has taken its toll. Reasonable cardio, when added to pumping iron, helps trim them down.

Another tweak is that in Yarick’s day the vast majority of beginners were young men and a few young women. Because of their youth, they could be pushed faster and harder. At Yarick’s your first workout was one set per exercise. The second workout, it was two sets. Then three at the third session. That ended the first week. Starting week two, your quest began to lift ever-heavier weights and pack on muscle.

Today, many beginners are seniors. Pushing them like you would a 16-year old would be crazy. You’d likely discourage or even injure them. But allow their progress to be gradual and they blossom. Push, but push gently. See what I mean here.

More on Yarick breathing

Have you ever heard of the “Valsalva maneuver”? Even many fitness buffs may not know what the term means, but unknowingly practice it, or something like it. Example: picture a guy (it’s usually a male) doing a heavy bench press. He is holding his breath, red in the face, looking like his head is about to explode, in a struggle to get that very last rep. He may not know the term for it, but he is practicing the Valsalva maneuver.

When we lift or push something heavy there is a natural tendency to hold our breath. Some coaches even teach it as a way of increasing abdominal pressure, thereby providing more back support. But it can have dangerous consequences — especially for seniors.

Blood pressure skyrockets when chest cavity pressure increases as you hold your breath. Dizziness, fainting, or even a stroke, cerebral hemorrhage, or retinal detachment are possibilities. Some lifters will tell you the dangers of Valsalva are exaggerated. And I’m sure there are younger lifters who use it to their advantage and get away with it. But my advice is don’t do it. Breathe!

Ed Yarick showed you the basics. He would say to beginners: Don’t hold your breath. Exhale as you push the weight away from you or pull it toward you. Inhale as you return the weight to the starting position. This developed a rhythmic breathing pattern.

Most trainers today tell their clients not to hold their breath, which is good. But many don’t make as much of an issue about exhaling during the pushing or pulling phase of a lift. They just say, “Don’t hold your breath.” Ed Yarick emphasized exhaling during the exertion part of a push or pull, and that was even better.

Breathe the Ed Yarick way. Make it a habit.

Stay healthy. Stay Fit.


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Newsletter Policy

The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter is a free publication sent twice monthly to subscribers. The purpose is to provide honest and realistic fitness information for people age 50 and above.

I have never been paid or received compensation of any kind to write a positive review or endorse a product. If I say that I personally use a product or service, it is because I find value in it and have paid for it with my own money.

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The newsletter and web site provide information to help users establish and maintain a fitness lifestyle. But fitness information is not the same as fitness advice, which is the application of exercise and dietary practices to an individual's specific circumstances. Therefore, always consult with your physician for assurance that fitness information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate for you.

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Logan Franklin
The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter

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