The Look of Power - Anthony Ditillo
The Power Look : What It Is and How To Get It
by Anthony Ditillo
Nothing is as impressive to the eye as the look of power. While many men come to mind immediately when discussing this phenomena, there are many, many more who are winning physique contest today, on the physique platform particularly, who do not, and will never, possess this physical trait. The look of power begins with the size and thickness of the neck and the deltoids. Without huge, thick, sloping trapezius muscles, you will NEVER obtain this power look. Heavy trapezius development comes from very heavy shrugs and high pulls; you will not obtain this kind of development using thirty pound dumbbells and doing sets of twenty repetitions – these muscles need both time and effort to start to grow, but the results will be well worth the sweat, blood and pain. Take a look at ANY top Olympic lifter in just about ANY weight class and you will see what I am talking about.
Along with proper trapezius development, we must also include the middle and lower back muscles for they are the hinge muscles connecting the upper torso with the hips and proper development of these upper, middle and lower back muscles with adequate muscle size in the buttocks will give the entire torso when viewed from the rear a compact, athletic, yet powerful appearance, not to mention quite a bit of strength throughout the entire body. Heavy bentover rowing movements will greatly aid you in developing the upper and middle back muscles.
Another hint would be to use the cambered McDonald bar for the bentover rows, so as to enable yourself to continue the movement without the bar stopping where you would normally hit your torso on the upward pull. David Shaw, a personal friend and one of the most massively muscular men, knows what he is talking about when it comes to pulling power and proper back development and he has been doing heavy bentover rows for years! Another favorite movement of his is the deadlift with feet on a block so as to incorporate the same principle of additional range of motion for added stimulation and the result is: world record deadlifts!
When discussing the look of power, we cannot ignore the legs, simply because most trainees do not look forward to the amount of work necessary for development and strength, not to mention the length of time it takes to get up to the heavy poundages some of the leaders are using today. Yet, we simply cannot ignore the lower body, for without adequate development of the thighs you will NEVER give the appearance to anyone with a trained eye of being a strong man. But I am going to give you one secret which may help you, should you care to take my advice. When it comes to development of the thighs, you CAN obtain adequate development without straining to back squat with six hundred pounds. All you have to do is change your squatting style to the style used by Olympic lifters and the results will be forthcoming.
Do NOT use a wide stance. Do NOT drop the bar low on your back. Do NOT wrap your knees and wear a thick belt. Do NOT stick your butt out as you lower yourself into the bottom squatting position, and finally: do NOT squat flatfooted, but use a raised heel. You will eventually find that you are squatting more upright, your buttocks will be somewhat tucked in UNDER you at the bottom position of the squat and you will feel most of the stress of the movement in the THIGHS, not in the buttocks and hips.
If you are of average weight and body structure, it will take you quite a long time to do these with double your bodyweight, but you will enjoy much in the way of attractive muscular development while aiming at this strength goal. Also, the strictness of the movement will alleviate the need for such heavy poundages since these heavy weights will be impossible for you to handle, in the beginning anyway.
Fred Hatfield has been advising his men to squat this way during their off season for powerlift competition since this style will develop great quadriceps strength which will enable them to power squat much more when they go back to their competitive style later in the year. His advice has recently been noted, but I and my coach Dezso Ban have been advocating this style of squat for the average trainee, be he bodybuilder or powerlifter, for YEARS and your OLYMPIC lifters have been squatting this way for many decades. This is the only way to squat without using your hips at the expense of your thighs!
Remember, to incorporate this squatting style, you MUST keep your buttocks under the bar, for without this proper bottom position, you will NOT be doing an Olympic squat.
So far we have mentioned the upper, middle and lower back muscles, and we have also gone into proper squatting for this power look. Now we shall get into the movements most of you enjoy doing the most. Now we will get into the chest and shoulders. All of us bench press. Ninety percent of us really enjoy the movement and in most gyms this movement and how much weight you can lift in it will either give indication as to whether you are a strong man or a weak man. This in not fair by any stretch of the imagination; yet it does exist.
“How much can you bench?” How many times I have heard this question. Do they ever ask, “How much can you press?” or “How much can you incline press?” No. It’s always “How much can you bench?” To be sure, bench pressing is the most popular movement in the weight training world today. Now, I am not going to try to downgrade its importance for the development of the look of power, but I must add that many of the finest, strongest Olympic lifters in the world do not do these bench presses to any degree, and yet they are quite strong and give an extraordinary appearance when on the lifting platform.
I think the answer lies somewhere between proper exercise performance of the bench press and the additional incorporation of the seated front press and/or the press behind neck. By working on all three of the movements with equal time and effort applied to each one, you will be assured of complete development throughout the entire chest and shoulder areas with the end result being a more complete, harmonious development and the look of an all-around strong presser. Not someone who specializes on one movement at the exclusion of others. Would this not satisfy the majority of you trainees? For the powerlifter who is or who will be competing, it is a somewhat different story. His success lies in performing the bench press with as much weight as possible, while keeping within the rules of the game. But even he will undoubtedly use these additional assistance movements while on a break from his competitive season.
And it is during this time in his training that he will actually be developing most of the lifting strength which will become apparent when he drops his assistance movements and gears down to his pre-competition cycling period, getting ready for his next competition. Take a look at the chest and shoulder development of David Shaw or Roger Estep. And what about “Cash” or “Kaz?” Do you think they got this development with bench presses alone???
A few years ago I did two or three articles on Mel Hennessy, a past world record holder in the bench press and all around powerlifter, a massively developed man. Some of the poundages he used in his assistance movements were astounding! And he had the physical appearance to show for it. And what about Pat Casey and Steve Merjanian? Casey’s upper body was as thick as it was wide, and big Steve was a regular tailor’s nightmare! Both of these men relied on many different assistance movements for the bench press and both men could bench with the best in world at that, and this present time.
For complete, massive and thick development of the chest and shoulders, do not bounce or thrust the bar when performing repetitions. Do not lift your hips off the bench. Try to perform your repetitions smoothly and correctly for best results musclewise. For those of you who can use a wide grip on the bench without running into shoulder problems, by all means continue to do so. But for the majority of us, a closer, medium grip is best, not only for a more complete development but also for minimizing trauma to the joints of the shoulders. The McDonald cambered bar is quite effective, not only for hitting the deeper fibres of the pecs and delts, but also for aiding the lifter to develop an easier, more powerful initial push from the chest when attempting maximum weights.
Weighted parallel bar dips are another good movement to incorporate along with heavy dumbbell bench presses and/or flyes. These movements will adequately work the pectorals as well as the triceps. While the competitive powerlifter must reserve adequate time and energy for the bench press itself, he could incorporate these movements as well as the following deltoid movements into his routine, choosing judiciously, of course.
For direct deltoid stimulation, we have been using a particular type of seated front press with very fine results. What we do is sit on a seated press behind neck bench, pulling it into the power rack, having the bar resting on the pins so that when you get into position the bar is at the proper pressing position, just off the clavicles and is resting on the pins just waiting for you to press it. By using this style, the bar can be pressed from a dead stop for each and every repetition and the steep angle of the bench used will cause this movement to be the most effective shoulder movement you've ever tried, if you work hard and regular on it.
We do the same for the press behind the neck, simply having the bar o the pins, resting on our trapezius muscles, with no bouncing possible for each and every repetition. While dumbbell side and front laterals are fine and they have the advantage of not necessitating the shoulder joints to additional stress along with the constant stress they go through with bench pressing, I, and to the best of my knowledge, most other men will respond better to these two mentioned pressing movements, for the dumbbell laterals are very easy to cheat with (unconsciously or otherwise) and this is what we are trying to avoid.
I might also mention, and will go into greater length later, that it is not necessary to use ONLY doubles, triples, or singles with these movements since there will be ADDITIONAL muscle growth without the joint trauma using lighter weights and higher repetitions like eights or even tens. These are assistance movements and should be treated as such. For both the press behind neck and the seated front press, I would recommend a medium or even close grip as this seems to hit the deltoids more fully than a wide grip and does not usually cause the shoulder strains regularly associated with pressing behind the neck. How many times have you seen someone hurt themselves while doing presses behind the neck or wide grip bench presses? Believe me, bring your grip in and save your shoulders!
Finally, we come to actual arm work. And while not meaning to let you down, I really don't have much to say in this regard. This is because most of you are already doing too much work for these small muscle groups anyway. From most of your letters, it seems that you will easily do as many sets of arm work as of chest work or shoulder work,and MORE sets than you'd ever want to do for the legs and back!!! All I am going to say is this: Of all the muscles we've mentioned, the arms are the least important when it comes to developing the look of power. First of all, if you work the exercises mentioned herein, you will necessarily be working the upper arms quite hard without even doing one set of curls.
Believe me, triceps pushdowns and concentration curls will NOT make you a powerful or event powerful LOOKING man . . . anyone with a trained eye knows what to look for. Don't take my word for it. Just look for photos of the following men and I will use three men from each of the three fields of lifting endeavor so as to show you that the look of power is not owned by only one facet of our sport. For bodybuilding look at Tim Belknap, Bill Pearl and Bertil Fox; for powerlifting look at Bill Kazmaier, Roger Estep and David Shaw; and for Olympic lifting look at Anatoly Pisarenko, David Rigert and Blagoi Blagoev. These men are among the strongest and best built athletes the world over and it was not through armwork that they got where they are. It was, for the most part, doing a LOT of work on basic movements, done strictly and correctly, for a LONG time. Any arm development which came along for the ride, so to speak, was O.K.
But I don't think "Kaz" is losing any sleep over how to increase his biceps by another inch. Do you get what I mean? Just do one movement for the biceps and one movement for the triceps and do these movements strictly and slowly without jerking and cheating and you WILL increase your arm size!
Training frequency and sets and repetitions are another set of topics which I feel too much is being made of. Simply put; if you are constantly sore, not improving in either bodyweight or poundage gains in your exercises and simply dread going to the gym each day, they you are overtrained. Take a few days off and when you begin, go on a three day routine. Work the entire body with one exercise per body part, picking one movement from the list we've just discussed and perform eight to ten total sets for the movement. Warm up with two or so sets and then pick a weight you can use from five to eight repetitions and try for around five sets with this weight. Cool off with two lighter sets. This means you'll be doing around two to two and a half hour workouts, three days weekly.
As long as you're recuperating and gaining slowly but regularly in size and power, leave yourself alone. When you begin to go stale, yet are NOT overtrained, I'd then jump to a four day week. This would allow you more time for each area, thereby allowing for additional work for each area while allowing you to still recuperate on your off days. Perhaps two or even three movements previously listed for each area will suffice. One movement for around ten or so sets and the other one or two for five sets each.
Once again, I would recommend medium repetitions for the most part. You also could include two or three heavier sets of triples or doubles periodically, for the one movement per area which would be your main lifting movement. For the most part, the important thing to remember is to make sure your performance is correct and your recuperation between each workout is adequate. The actual amount of sets, reps and number of exercise movements will have to be ultimately left up to you. Proper diet should guarantee proper recuperation.
Proper dieting, whether you are trying to gain weight or not, is of the utmost importance when on such a grueling schedule. Here again, most of you should know by now what to eat and what not to eat. It's only common sense - if you overeat with the wrong foods, you are going to get fat, and if you don't take in enough calories you are not going to grow larger. I have gained and lost one hundred and seventy-five pounds, so believe me, I KNOW what I am talking about. Simply let your diet revolve around fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, eggs, cheeses and fish, fowl, yogurt and low fat cottage cheese and you will be going in the right direction. If you want to gain weight check your daily caloric intake and simply add 1,000 calories to this amount daily while keeping your choice of foods from the aforementioned list of choices. This will insure regular weight increase with minimum bodyfat increases. If you don't wish to gain any more weight, gradually decrease your caloric intake until you are at an amount which will maintain your desired weight. Once again, keep to the aforementioned foods for best results. I don't think you need much in the way of vitamins or supplements while on such a diet. It is most complete, natural and well balanced.
What I have tried to do with this article is outline for you the types of exercise movements and the performance style which will give you this well-knit, well-balanced, rugged look. The men I have mentioned have to be among the most massive yet muscular in the world - men who not only look strong but ARE strong! This has not been simply an article listing for you a sample routine of five sets of this and ten reps of that; for by now, most of you should be able to figure these points out to your greatest benefit.
Until next time, train wisely and train well.
The Look of Power, Part Two - Anthony Ditillo
As we mentioned in part one or this article, the look of power is by no means easy to obtain, yet it is available for anyone who has the common sense to embrace the advice contained herein and make practical application of the basic rules of such training. by concentrating on developing key muscle groups to the limit of the individual’s capabilities, the resultant development will give mute testimony to the man’s ability to lift heavy weights in certain movements should he care to really exert himself and should he care to properly prepare himself physically, by ‘peaking out’ for a few weeks, as the powerlifters the world over do. By using weights within the framework of his capabilities, our lifter can properly execute each and every repetition of each and every set and thereby guarantee himself the fullest development of the muscles he is working with each exercise. In this way, our man will not be wasting any of his training time or training energy.
We have a very powerful young man who is part owner of the gym I train at. His name is Michael Gula and I will be doing an article or two on his training methods sometime in the near future. But for now let me mention something quite interesting and quite pertinent to the topic at hand. Michael is very massive and powerful looking, appearing more like a ‘bulked up’ bodybuilder than a dyed-in-the-wool powerlifter. Every muscle in his body is massively developed. If he cared to ‘train down’ I am sure he would place, if not win, just about any physique contest he cared to enter. Right now he is training for future powerlifting competition and is mainly ‘peaking out’ week by week on the three powerlifts.
Most of the fellows in the gym did not meet Mike until they joined here a brief time ago, so they did not see him training during his formative years when he was concerned with adding additional muscle size to his body and training more for gaining muscular bodyweight than solely for pure power. They did not see set after set of heavy (very heavy!) parallel bar dips, not did they see the presses behind the neck with almost 300 lbs. for repetitions, or the lying triceps extensions with weights most guys are satisfied to do bench presses with. All these new members are seeing is Mike doing bench presses and squats twice per week and one deadlift workout sandwiched somewhere in between. NOW his workouts take less than two hours to get through, but do you think this amount of work would have made him the physical specimen he is today? BEFORE he began to peak out on the powerlifts he was already VERY MASSIVELY DEVELOPED and QUITE STRONG from all the formative years of HEAVY POWER BODYBUILDING training that he did. Now the rest is easier, now that the size is already there, all he has to do is show what this size can do. So he adds a few pounds to the bar each week, never really extending himself, since he wants to save the real exertion for the competitions, not for the gym. Before this period, I saw him doing close grip bench presses with almost 450! Why did he choose this movement to work so heavy on? Simply because it was more productive for adding muscular development than the conventional style and it took some strain off the shoulder joints since the weight somewhat be reduced, while still working the muscles hard.
So now the new guys are watching Michael flirting with 500 or 510 every heavy workout and it boggles their minds how he can become so strong with such an abbreviated routine!!?? “He must be on some new secret growth hormone.” “Nobody can bench press 525 at a bodyweight of only 225 with only two short bench workouts per week!” “Why, the guy doesn’t even do any assistance movements!”
Do you get the picture? They’re putting the cart before the horse. They don’t know what they’re actually witnessing. They think the did didn’t have to work for whatever he got. They thing all it takes is to be a ‘natural’ . . .
So what we’re trying to do for you guys in this series of articles for the underweight man is to outline for you a course of action which will place you in the same setting, within a few years, that Michael now is in. What I want to do is to first help you gain as much MUSCULAR bodyweight as you want. Then you will be able to utilize that muscular weight in any competitive endeavor you care to do. And while only common sense tell us that not all of us have the genetic potential to equal a Michael, we can all improve tremendously, with proper training and proper mental attitude.
For developing as much muscular bodyweight as possible, you’d better acquaint yourself with proper exercise style, or all is lost. I’ve been harping on the style you perform these movements in for some time now, because for the most part, most of you DO NOT know how to exercise your muscles correctly for increasing size. What you wind up doing is eating like two starved men and swinging and jerking your barbells around and most of you wind up bigger, but FATTER, for all your misguided exertions. Or else, you rely so MUCH on technique to elevate heavier and heavier poundages that you don’t grow at all. This would be okay when you’re at the end of the road of your muscle building and weight gaining phase, then you could utilize all the legal techniques of competitive lifting to your advantage and elevate heavier and heavier poundages to your heart’s content. But to try this stuff now while you’re trying to add muscular bodyweight is just plain nonsense! Remember that we are NOT speaking about the Olympic lifter here, for these guys want to become as strong as possible without gaining much in the way of additional bodyweight, whether this weight be useful muscle or not. But the powerlifter and the bodybuilder came originally from the same camp and it seems that both of these guys are impressed with massive muscle size, wherever this size is applicable, for show or for power. And you are not going to have much in the way of muscle size if you do your lifts the easiest way possible using techniques which actually alleviate the stress on the very muscles you supposedly are trying to develop!
If you weigh 175 and your best bench press, done slowly and strictly, with control and ‘finesse’ is around 250 or 270, then you’ll probably be capable of quite a few repetitions with around 205. For increasing the development of the chest and shoulders, try to get sets of 8 or so reps, once again done slowly and strictly with complete control of the weight. When 5 or so sets of 8-10 reps are easily and REGULARLY performed, simply go to 225 and repeat the process.
On another training day your could use somewhat heavier weights, let us say for 5 repetitions and, once again, keep this same weight until 5 or so sets are easily and regularly done and then jump the poundage, but I really feel, all things considered, that sets of 8 or 10 reps will do more for improved appearance, and within a shorter period of training time, than sets of 5 or 4 repetitions. We are not speaking of a repetition below 5, since this DOES NOT build much in the way of muscle size and is more joint and tendon strengthening than anything else. What these higher repetitions do for us is teach us first and foremost how to CONTROL the raising and the lowering of the bar, so as to get the best results for our efforts. The higher repetitions also allow us to work the deeper fibers which the shorter sets of 3 or so reps do not. The burn while on these higher repetitions is quite severe and this alone should assure you of their physical effectiveness. Also, there is less chance of joint or tendon injury while on these higher repetition sets. You can work the muscles without further trauma to the joints should they be injured or overtrained to begin with.
Another advantage is the CONFIDENCE gained while on this type of training scheme. You never feel that the weight is too heavy because you know beforehand that at least a few repetitions are possible and you are limited with the immediate source of training energy and endurance at your disposal while performing the set. Notice that I am referring to SETS of 8 or 10 repetitions and not to ONE set of MAXIMUM reps which happen to fall between 8 and 10. In my opinion, such training may be all right for the truly advanced trainee, but it is MUCH too severe for you intermediates as the nervous energy broken down in this case would even more severe than the heavy doubles and triples we’re trying to avoid to begin with! What I am trying to get you to do is to TRAIN not STRAIN.
Isolation movements during this building up period are quite applicable, for the most part, enjoyable and very result producing. What I mean by isolation movements is not what is generally accepted as the term indicates. I am not speaking about he light dumbbell and cable movements which the bodybuilding contestant uses during his pre-competitive periods of muscle defining. The kind of assistance movements I am talking about are very closely related to the actual strength movements the powerlifters compete in and the rest of us compare each with when judging our strength. Fred Hatfield has mentioned a few of these movements in his training articles and I mentioned them even earlier, but to not as great an extent, in my older articles when I was a superheavyweight, training for size and power. We are talking about various types of squats and pulls which will work one set of muscles quite hard and these muscles are usually the “weak link” when the actual competitive lift is performed. So, strengthen these key muscles and the competitive lift is inadvertently increases without the additional stress placed on the joints and ligament attachments when the heavier, more loosely performance is attempted. It’s like doing close grip bench presses and working up to fairly heavy poundages for repetitions, and when you once again begin the regular grip bench presses, you find that the bar is much lighter than before because the smaller muscle groups have been improved and strengthened through the use of the assistant movement.
Right now I am doing bentover rows and stiff-legged deadlifts with an Olympic bar and using 25-pound plates on it so that the bar is just grazing my toes at the beginning of the movement. I am doing this to fully strengthen my entire back musculature so that when I begin to deadlift in the conventional manner again (should I ever care to!) the lift will be secured because of all the conditioning done beforehand. This also allows me to work the belly of the muscles without all the nervous energy being drained on attempting limit weights or repetitions with the heavier competitive movements. When I can pull 500 or so in this manner I will then begin to pull with the conventionally loaded Olympic bar. By then I will be ready both mentally and physically and hopefully somewhere along the way I will have built up some additional muscle size.
The squats we are pushing on our training partners are not very easy to do and hence, most will not follow our advice. This is to be expected because most do not have an adequate ego buildup which will allow them to use lighter weights in the eyes of others. In other words, they know we are right, but their friends will think they are weak if they are doing repetitions with maybe 225 when in the conventional power style they could rep out with 315. What they don’t realize is that by doing an Olympic type of back squat (ala Hatfield or myself) and NOT wearing wraps or thick power belt (ala Leistner), you actually get MORE conditioning and musclebuilding effects than in the conventional way of doing things. What usually happens when one of these guys do try and take our advice is that they squat with their heels raised but they stick out their buttocks when they come out of the bottom position anyway, so the entire effect of this type of stricter squatting is, for the most part, lost. Another thing they do is to continue to wrap themselves up when they do these squats just the same way they would if they were doing their usual power squats, so one again, the entire attempt of tightening up the squatting style is put off. When I see them doing these things I usually lose all concern for their continued progress and I let them go their own way . . . there’s no point trying to help someone who can’t face reality.
When squatting for this purpose, take off the knee wraps and the lifting belt use shoes with a raised heel. Use a medium to close stance and place the bar high on the traps. When lowering into the bottom position, try to make your upper thigh fold over the calves, so to speak. When you are in the low position, your back should be somewhat erect, your buttocks should be compactly squeezed against your calves, with your knees jutting out in front of you. Don’t try to use your usual squatting poundages for these types of squats because they will be much too heavy. Don’t stick out your butt and don’t wear those heavy wraps. Heavy doubles and singles are out of the question right now . . . do 6’s and 8’s and 10’s instead! Within a few months of this type of leg training your thighs will be larger and more muscular and when you go back and adapt again to your old style, you will find you are MUCH STRONGER.
For the chest and shoulders I would recommend either the bench press with a medium grip of the MacDonald cambered bar. I favor the MacDonald bar because it places the most emphasis on the bottom position of the lift where many guys have a lot of trouble. It also allows a greater range of motion, similar to that of dumbbells but easier to control and get in position. You could, if so desired, use both movements, simply cutting down on the amount of work done with each one so as not to overdo it. Just keep the repetitions strictly controlled without all the bridging and bouncing which usually occurs when one is trying to impress others with one’s pressing ability. Add weight carefully when using the Macdonald bar. The shoulders will respond quite well with either the press or the steep seated incline. Just remember to keep the handspacing rather close and do the repetitions slowly for the results we desire here. The various dumbbell lateral are also quite effective when used in conjunction with the press, and it is entirely up to the trainee to decide just how he should divide up his choices of training movements. Most guys enjoy parallel bar dips and therefore train them with enthusiasm, but I have found that when they try to use too much weight in the movement they change the exercise to one in which only HALF REPS are performed. Don’t let this happen to you. Do them right or don’t do them.
We have outlined an example of how you can work the major muscles of the body with lighter weights but stricter exercise form thus enabling you to build the weak areas of certain lifts without putting too much strain on the tendons, ligaments and joints, so that later on you can incorporate this new found strength, development and overall freshness to further lifting or physique endeavors. By choosing the right exercise movements and by training on them the way we have advised, you will eventually take on more muscular bodyweight and an entirely different physical appearance. You will begin to look “strong” and more “athletic.” You will take on the LOOK OF POWER.
Very interesting. I need to go back and read more thoroughly. The squat info seems to go against what most of the current day gurus say, but then when you look at photos of past lifters, they all seem to have a 2x4 under their heals.
Overall it is a very good article. There are a couple of items that I do not agree with though. One, saying that 5 reps builds strength and 8 reps builds size is not accurate. Parks built plenty of size and strength with 5 reps, and many others have too. Second, I believe in concerning yourself with building a strength base before you concern yourself with training for size. He seems to think a person should train for size first and then abreviate for strength. I always believe it is better to start simple and complicate things AS NEEDED.
I'm not saying that I know more than this guy, but there are some pretty smart trainers and lifters out there that seem to have the same view as I do; Christy, Iron Addict, Rader and McCallum just to name a few.
Ditillo is a legend.
Raised heels used to be normal in my day, I did them for a few months at one time in the 80s.
If you notice my videos I squat in boots with a slightly raised heel.
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