John McCallum Routines
Routine 1 - The Time Factor (1965)
There’s a young man down the street from me who trains with weights. He’s been at it for about three years but you’d never know it to look at him. He’s got no build at all. My grandmother’s been dead for twelve years and she probably still looks better than him.
He came over to my house to talk one night. He brought an arm-load of magazines with him.
I told him to sit down. He dumped the magazines on the coffee table. He’s a thin jittery type. He sits on a sofa like his back pockets were full of broken glass.
I asked him how he was doing with his training.
“Not too good,” he said. “I can’t seem to gain weight.”
I asked him what program he was doing.
He rattled off a jumble of exercises like a tobacco auctioneer milking the crowd. I never even heard of half of them.
“Gee,” I said. “That’s an awful lot of work. How long does it take?”
“About three hours.”
“Six days a week.”
“Man, oh man,” I said. “No wonder you’re not gaining weight. Why don’t you go longshoring? You’d work about half that hard and they’d pay you for it.?
He looked a bit hurt. “I wouldn’t gain weight if I went longshoring.”
“You’re not gaining a heck of a lot training either.”
“No,” he said. “I’m a bit thin.”
I took a good look at him. You could open milk tins on his knee caps. “Yeah,” I said. “You are a bit.”
He squirmed around like he’d been kicked and I began to feel sorry for him.
“Look,” I said. “Where’d you get the idea you had to train that hard?”
He picked up one of the magazines and started thumbing through it. It wasn’t from York. I turned page after page and they looked the same and finally I said, “What in heck is this? A catalogue?”
‘No, no,” he said. “Keep going.”
I kept going and about half-way through the book I came to a story about a guy who was double bumping his pecs or something. I recognized his picture. He built up at Yarick’s and he looked better then than he does now.
I passed another half dozen pages of advertising and came to a story about a guy who said the wonder system produced his “thrilling legs.”
I closed it up at this point. I’ve seen lots of good looking legs but the only ones that thrilled me were on girls.
I handed the book back. “Not bad,” I said. “Slip it under your coat when you’re leaving, will you? The postal authorities may be casing the place.”
He looked a little puzzled. “Don’t you read them?”
“No,” I said. “I read ‘Peanuts.’ It’s not quite as funny but it makes more sense.”
“Well, I dunno,” he said. “There’s lots of stuff in there about gaining weight.”
“Do you follow it?
“Did you gain any weight?”
“Well, no,” he said. “But I’m gonna stick with it. I got lots of starch in my spine.”
“You got lots of rocks in your head. You could put muscles on a lamp post in three years.”
“You think there’s a better way to gain weight?”
So I told him.
I said, “Gaining weight isn’t that complicated. It’s the easiest thing in the world. But there’s certain principles to follow and you’re not following any of them.
One of the most important items is the amount of time you spend working out.
You don’t need to spend very long at it. If you’re trying to gain weight you’re better off doing too little than too much. Three workouts are fine for an advanced man with nothing else to do but they’re suicide for a guy building up.
Let’s be reasonable about it. Anybody who works for a living and spends three hours a day working out is making a social outcast of himself. Keep that up and the next sound you hear will be your old lady cackling as she runs off with the milkman.
You can gain all the weight you want and still lead a normal life.
The heaviest muscled man I ever met is Maurice Jones of Vancouver, B.C. You wouldn’t believe anyone could have that much muscle and every ounce of it was built with weights. I asked Maury how often he figured a man should work out.
“About an hour.”
I watched Reg Park work out once. I timed him. His workout took and hour and four minutes.
Gaining weight is a building process. Don’t tear it all back down again.
You only have so much energy. If you exceed it you won’t build up. You might even lose weight.
I was down in Chula Vista last summer. I dropped in to see Earl Clark. He’s a real friendly guy and built like nothing on earth. We spent a lot of time talking and I asked him how much time he spent working out.
He said, “From an hour to an hour and a half.”
“Three times a week.”
I said, “Do you think that’s enough?”
“Sure,” he said. “Plenty. Most of the guys spend too long at it. They do way too much. They’d look better if they did less.”
If you can’t gain weight you’re doing something wrong. You’re probably overworking.
The late Harry Paschal published a weight gaining routine once. I tried it. The workout took forty minutes and I gained eleven pounds in a month.
Peary Rader said he could never see any difference in the development of an advanced man who took about an hour and a half workout and those who spent half the day doing it.
The extra time is largely wasted. If you’re trying to gain it can even be detrimental.
Weight training is concentrated. You reach the point of diminishing returns very quickly.
If you want to gain weight quickly and easily – good solid muscular weight – then cut down on your long workouts. Never, never, never spend more than an hour and a half at a workout.
A good basic weight training program for beginners and intermediates would be the following:
#1 Press behind neck: 2 sets of 12 reps
#2 Bent-rowing exercise: 3 sets of 15 reps
#3 Bench press: 3 sets of 12 reps
#4 Curls: 1 set of 10 reps
#5 Squats: 2 sets of 15 reps
#6 Pullovers: 2 sets of 20 reps
#7 Stiff-legged dead lift: 1 set of 15 reps
#8 Leg raises: 1 set of 25 reps
You can get through this in an hour or less. That’s plenty. If you can’t gain, work on this for a month or two and see what happens. You’ll gain weight, I guarantee it.
Do the exercises like this:
#1 The best single exercise for the shoulder girdle. Take a wider than shoulder width grip and drive the bar up hard. Don’t pause at the bottom when you lower it. Get a rebound and drive it back up hard and fast. Don’t handle it like a crate of eggs. Be rough.
#2 The best all-round back exercise. Round your back when the bar is in the low position. Pull up to your abdomen and arch your back. Try to contract your spinal erectors.
#3 For chest and arms. Use a normal press width grip. Don’t pause at the bottom. Arch your back a very little bit and fire it back up again. This will thicken your arms and shoulders and put slabs of meat on your chest. Work up into heavy weights.
#4 Not too important for gaining weight. Use a fairly close grip and do them in strict style.
#5 The granddaddy of them all. Squats are the best single exercise for putting on weight. Do them in breathing style. Three monstrous breaths between each rep. Don’t pause at the bottom. Go down to slightly below parallel and bounce back up as hard and smooth as you can. Push hard. Fight. Drive. You should work up to about 150% of your body weight for 15 reps.
#6 Alternate pullovers with the squats. Use a light weight and stretch your rib-box.
#7 The best lower back exercise. This works everything from your heels to the back of your head. Work up to at least 10 pounds more than your squatting poundage. Use a reverse grip. This exercise will increase your power and bulk beyond belief. Work hard on it.
#8 This will keep your gut down while you’re gaining. There’s no point to getting fat.
Breathe as deeply as possible between reps in all the exercises.
There aren’t many exercises in the program. Work hard on every one.
Don’t touch the weights at all on your in-between days. When you finish your workout have a shower and forget about it till your next training day.
Get plenty of sleep and rest and eat lots of good food.
You’ll gain weight.
Routine 2 - Squat (1965)
We're only going to talk about one exercise this month. Just on exercise. But if you haven't got the size and strength you'd like, or if you aren't gaining like you think you should then read this carefully because it might be the most important thing you'll do in your weight career.
The exercise we're going to talk about is the squat.
And you've got to know one thing - that squats are THE exercise for gaining. They're so far out in front that second place doesn't even matter. If you want the absolute, utter maximum in power and shapely bulk, then you've got to specialize in squats and there's no sense stalling it off.
You're going to build up an awful lot of power.
Squats can be done in any number of ways. For now, do them 20 reps in breathing style with all the weight you can handle and then some. You're doing high rep breathing squats for a specific purpose. They'll stimulate your metabolism and force growth like nothing else you'll ever do. They're an absolute must at some stage in your training.
Here's how to do them:
Warm up your knees and back with a few light squats and then start the big stuff.
Put your bar on the rack and load it heavy. You'll find a little bend in the bar lets it ride easier on your shoulders. If you haven't got a cambered bar, take a sledge hammer and slug your straight bar till it bends slightly in the middle. You'll need two bars for your workout because once you bend your squat bar it's no good for any other exercise.
Put padding across your shoulders or wrap a towel around the bar if you want. Don't try to be tough and see how much you can stand. The squats will cause enough discomfort on their own.
Step under the bar. Straighten up. Back up two or three steps. Don't back up an farther than you have to. This isn't an afternoon stroll. Face the rack when you're squatting. If you work as hard as you're supposed to you'll be too beat to jockey around with the bar afterwards.
Keep your head up and your back as flat as possible. Fix your gaze on an imaginary spot on the wall just above head height. This will help you keep your back flat.
Take three huge breaths. All the air you can cram into your lungs. Hold the third breath and squat. Go down to parallel position, and come back up as hard and fast as possible. Don't pause in the low position. Breathe out forcibly when you're almost erect. Take three more deep breaths. Hold the third breath and squat. Keep this up for 20 reps.
You've got to work hard enough so that the 15th rep feels like your limit. Then keep going and dig out the rest of the 20. Take as many extra breaths as you need to get the final reps. Each one of the last five should be doubtful.
You've got to practically bleed on the squats. Work like you never worked before. When you finish the set you should be wiped right out. Working this hard on the squat is an absolute must for real success.
As soon as you finish the 20th squat, stagger over to a bench and do 25 pullovers with a light weight. Suck in all the air you can and concentrate on stretching your rib box.
Squat heavy. Try to add weight every workout. You've got to work up into the three to four hundred pound range for anything spectacular. One step at a time, one session after the other.
Beat yourself into a mental frenzy before you start the set. Make it a life or death deal. You've got to make all 20 reps. Know you can do it and then do it.
You're only going to do three exercises:
Press Behind Neck - 3 x 12
Squat - 2 x 20
Pullover - 2 x 25
That may not seem like much but if you work hard enough on the squats it'll be plenty. This is a straight breathing squat specialization program.
Work HARD. We're going to get into advanced bulk and power programs later on, but if you aren't squatting heavy enough you won't get anything out of them. For the time being, forget everything else but getting your squats weights up.
Work to the absolute limit. you should need a 15 minute rest after each set of squats. If you don't you're not working hard enough.
Force yourself. Drive. Keep adding to the weight over time. Get your poundage up higher and higher and keep adding to it.
Routine 3 - For Size and Strength (1966)
You're going to start now on the first of the more advanced bulk and power programs. It'll be based on heavy exercise. You'll be concentrating on the big muscle groups. Someone once said that if you take care of the big muscle groups the little ones will take care of themselves. This isn't entirely true, but it's not too far off.
Your first exercise will be prove hyperextensions. You'll be using them as a warmup for your lower back. Go all the way down and arch your back at the top. Don't worry about adding weight right away. Learn to do them properly first. Do 3 sets of 10.
Next comes heavy squats. You'll be doing 5 sets of 5 in the squat. Start with a weight 100 pounds below your best weight for 5 reps and do five reps with it. Add 50 pounds and do another 5 reps. Then add 50 more pounds and work up to 3 sets of 5 with it over time. You may get 5 reps in the first set and only 4 and 3 on the last two sets. Keep plugging until you can get 5 reps on all three sets and then add weight to all five sets. Take three huge breaths between each rep. Fill your chest with all the air you can cram in. Set your goals very high and believe it. You've got to work up to around double heavyweight for 5 reps.
Stagger over to a bench and do light breathing pullovers after every set of squats. Use 20 or 30 pounds for 20 reps and suck in air like it was going out of style.
Take a short rest before the next exercise. This will be front squats. Take the weight off the rack. If you're not used to front squats they'll probably hurt your wrists at first. Tough it out and your wrists will strengthen and become more flexible. Keep your ELBOWS HIGH AND THE BAR WELL BACK. Do the front squats for 3 sets of 10. Use your heaviest weight for the first set and drop back 10 pounds for each succeeding set.
The next exercise is the bench press. Do them for 4 sets of 8 in a loose style. Use a slightly wider than shoulder width grip and arch your back a little when you're pressing the bar up. Use 30 pounds below your best weight for 8 reps in the first set. Add 30 pounds for the second set and drop 10 pounds for each of the remaining two sets. Work up to heavy weights. Do a lot of deep breathing between reps. Work it something like the squats.
You'll need another rest now. The next one is tough. Power cleans. Do them dead hang style for 5 sets of 5. Start with 50 pounds below your best for 5 reps. Add 25 pounds for the second set. Add another 25 pounds and do the final three sets with that weight. Keep struggling over time until you can get 5 reps on all three sets, then add weight. Don't do too much with your legs and don't move your feet at all. Get the pull with your thighs, hips, back and arms. This is a pretty rugged exercise. Start off easy at first and gradually work into the heavy weights.
The next exercise is bentover rowing. Do this one for 5 sets of 10. Take your heaviest weight for the first set and drop it 10 pounds for each succeeding set. Don't get into the habit of cheating on this one. No fair using the legs and lower back. Take a narrow grip and pull the bar all the way up to the lower abdomen. Arch your back high at the completion of each pull. Lower the weight all the way down and round your back with it. Let it hang dead and stretch your lats.
You can wind it up now with presses behind the neck alternated with incline bench dumbbell curls. Do them each for 3 sets of 8. Use your heaviest weight on the first set and drop it each succeeding set. 10 pounds for the presses and 5 pounds each dumbbell in the curls.
If you have a tendency to get fat in the gut you can do one set of 25 leg raises and one set of 25 situps. Don't work too hard on them. All you're trying to do is keep your waist in check while you're gaining weight.
Routine 4 - Power Training (1966)
You're ready now for another advance in your bulk and power training routines. This next program will be aimed at developing greater strength as a foundation for further bulk training.
As a group, weightlifters are the strongest athletes in the world. No one can match the sheer power and speed of a top lifter. This program, then, will borrow freely from exercises used by weightlifters in their training. Remember though, you're not becoming an Olympic lifter. This is a series of bodybuilding routines. You're simply gaining greater strength as an aid to further muscular development.
You'll be using the split system of training. Work out four days a week. For example, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Split training is a tough grind. Don't add any exercises to the program and don't train more than four days a week. Keep each session relatively short but very, very heavy. You've got to really put out to succeed at this.
Mondays and Thursdays do the following:
Overhead Press. Warm up by doing 6 or 8 reps with a very light weight. Increase the weight and do 5 reps. Increase it again and do 5 more reps. Now jump to your best exercising poundage and do 5 sets of 3 with the same weight. You'll find that you can't make the fill 5 sets of 3 at first. Stay with it even if you're only getting 1 or 2 reps on the final sets. Increase the poundage when you get 3 reps on all 5 sets for two consecutive workouts. Do the presses with some back bend. Study what you can find on pressing and pressing styles.
Curl. Warm up with 6 or 8 reps with a light weight for a couple of sets, then jump to your best exercising poundage. Do 5 sets of 3 with your top weight. Follow the same plan as the presses. Use a reasonable style when you're curling. Don't fall into the habit of excessive cheating. There's no point in making a poor back exercise out of what should be a good arm exercise.
Squats. Again, this is the key exercise. You've got to get your squats up heavy if you're going to make it. Push the poundage. Start out with a light set of 5 reps. Add weight and do 5 more reps. Add more weight and do another 5. Now jump the poundage and start doing sets of 3's. Add 10 pounds to the bar every set and keep doing 3 reps. Work up until you can't make 3 reps. You should get in 8 to 10 sets altogether and don't get lazy and fake missing a 3rd rep.
You can finish off the workout with one set of 25 leg raises.
On Tuesday and Friday do the following:
Bench Press. Push this one hard. Warm up with a light set of 8. Add weight and do another warmup set of 6. Add more weight and do a set of 3. Now jump to your best exercising poundage for 3 reps and do 5 sets of 3. Follow the same plan as the overhead presses. Use a normal press-width grip and don't cheat too much. Use a little arch on the last couple of sets but don't make a belly bounce out of it.
The next two exercises are Olympic-based lifts. Don't be frightened. They build power fast and powerful speed.
Snatch. Most of you probably haven't done much work on this lift. You're in for a pleasant surprise. The snatch is a terrific exercise for developing EXPLOSIVE power. Warm up carefully with a very light weight. Add weight and do another warmup set. Add more weight and do one more warmup set. Now go to your top weight for 3 in dead hang style. Two quiet ones and loud one. Try and develop as much polish as you can. There's no reason why you can't learn to do a passable snatch with a heavy weight over time.
Power Cleans. Do these with the same layout as the snatch. Three warmups with increasingly heavier weights and 5 sets of 3 with your best weight in dead hang style. Add weight when you can get 3 reps on all 5 work sets. Don't move your feet. Just dip a little to catch the bar on your shoulders. You should be able to work into some heavy weight on this one in time.
Dead Hand Deadlifts. Start light on these and do two reps. Add 20 or 30 pounds and do 2 more reps. Progress in jumps of 20 to 30 pounds to your limit, doing 2 reps each set. Use a reverse grip. Keep your head up and your back flat. Don't be afraid of the weight. You should be able to work up to double bodyweight for 2 reps over time. This is not a full deadlift with each rep taken from the floor. Think of a partial deadlift done without the rack and think shrug. Work hard at it.
Finish off with one set of 25 situps or leg raises or ab roller or hanging leg raises . . .
Use each of these programs for two months with a deload on the fourth week of each month.
Make up your mind right now that you're going to conquer the heavy weights.
Routine 5 - Bulking the Upper Body (1966)
You're now ready for the next advancement in your training. And you'll like this one. It's designed for pure and simple upper body bulk.
Let's stop at this point and discuss briefly the bulk and power I keep referring to in these articles. What I mean by bulk, and what this series is designed to produce, is your maximum MUSCULAR size. Not fat! At this stage we're not worried about maximum definition either, but enough separation should be maintained so that you can lean out with a short period of specialization afterwards.
Regarding power - you're not training to be an Olympic lifter, but you should have about the same degree of all round strength. It's a sad fact, but some bodybuilders have built their physiques without ever getting very much stronger than the average man. The goal here is to be every bit as strong as you look, and then some.
If you've followed this series as written, you should have some of your foundation by now. You should have enough power and size in your legs and back to warrant a short session of straight upper body bulking. The degree of foundation you've built will determine the results you get from this program. But remember - this program is based on the assumption that you've followed the series to date. Don't try this program if you haven't. You'll be wasting time that could be better spent on squats and back work. If you're just starting, start at the beginning. Build the foundation needed, then you'll make the gains you want in your upper body.
You'll be working out four days a week. Don't work out any oftener. It isn't necessarily true that six hours of exercise are six times as productive as one hour. There's a happy limit. Don't exceed it.
And now we come to the program itself. Do the exercises as follows:
Prone Hyperextensions. Don't worry too much about the poundage on these for this program. Increase the weight very, very gradually. Work at developing style. Concentrate on a flawless performance with complete extensions and contractions. You should be able to isolate the action almost completely to your lower back. Do 3 sets of 10.
Breathing Squats. You be doing 2 sets of 15 on these. Do the first set as heavy as you can. Put out to your absolute limit. Drop the weight a full 100 pounds for the second set and step up the effort on breathing. 3 to 5 big breaths between each rep. The weight won't be heavy so concentrate on your lungs. Make each breath as big as you can. Lift your chest and shrug your shoulders a couple of inches. Keep your head up, your back flat, and your chest high. Work at making your chest ache from the heavy breathing.
Pullovers. Do 20 pullovers with 20 or 30 pounds after each set of squats. Keep your lower back on the bench during the pullovers. Don't just arch up. You're supposed to be expanding your chest, not practicing the wrestler's bridge. You can take five now and get ready for the upper body work.
You'll be doing these exercises in pairs. Supersets. We'll call each half of the pair A and B for now. Alternate back and forth between A and B with 30 to 60 seconds rest between them for the required number of sets. Start your upper body work with chest and shoulders.
Alternate Dumbbell Forward Raise. Do a set of bench presses first. Take 30-60 seconds rest and do the alternate forward raises. Keep this up for 5 sets of 10 reps each.
Flat Bench Flyes
Side Lateral Raise. Five sets of 10 reps each. Same layout as above.
You can take a rest now. Sit down and put your feet up for five or ten minutes.
Bentover Lateral Raises. 5 sets of 10 reps each.
Press Behind Neck. 5 setts of 10.
Now take another five or ten minute rest and we'll wind it up with arm work.
Dips. 5 x 10.
Incline Dumbbell Curl
Triceps Pressdowns. 5 x 10.
Don't go poundage crazy on this program. Work for a nice smooth performance on each exercise. Use all the weight you can but perform the exercises in a steady, even manner. Pick a weight that will allow you to get 10 reps out of the first 2 sets of each exercise. You should only be able to make 8 or 9 reps on the fourth and fifth sets.
Do the above program on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On Saturday do the following:
Upright Row. 1 set of 10 reps.
Curl. 1 x 10.
Dip. 1 x 10.
Take a one minute rest and repeat the above three exercises in the same order. Take about 30 seconds rest between sets. Use very light weights. From half to two-thirds of what you normally use in those exercises is plenty. You don't want to tire the muscles with this workout, just put a mild pump in them. If you can, do the three-exercise series three times on Saturday. Once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and once in the early evening.
Don't forget - this routine is designed for people who have a fair degree of bulk and power in the legs and back. Don't waste time on it if you haven't been working properly on the power exercises. Go back and build a solid foundation first.
Routine 6 - Leg & Back Specialization (1966)
On Mondays and Thursdays you'll be doing the leg work:
Squats. Do them for 5 sets of 5 reps. Use a light weight for the first set to warm up. Add weight for the second set. Jump to your top weight for third set and stay at that weight for the fourth and fifth sets. Add to the poundage when you can get 5 reps on all 3 sets for two consecutive workouts.
Barbell Hack Squats. Don't confuse these with hip lifts. Do 4 sets of 12. Put a board under your heels and go all the way down. Start light until you get used to the movement, then increase the poundage rapidly. Your last rep should find you stuck at the bottom.
Front Squats. Take the weight off the rack, keep your back flat, your head up and your elbows HIGH. Use all the weight you can handle for 5 sets of 10.
Do a light set of 20 pullovers after each set of the squats, front squats, power cleans and deadlifts.
Thigh Curls. Do Glute Ham Raises. This ain't 1966.
Donkey Calf Raises. 5 x 20. You can rig up a way to do these on your own if you train at home. One legged so the weight doesn't mess up your lower back.
Standing Calf Raises. All the way down and all the way up. 5 sets of 20 and don't just bounce about dreaming of beer, cars, women, work, bills, kids, alimony, rent and remembered melodies.
Work your calves just as hard as you work the rest of your body.
That completes the leg workout. Put out as much as you can. Give it all you've got and get what you want.
On Tuesday and Friday do the back work:
Prone Hyperextensions. 4 sets of 10 with all the weight you can handle. Push the poundage.
Power Cleans. 5 sets of 5. Put a real effort into the second pull.
Deadlift. Start light and do 3 reps. Add weight and do 3 more. Keep adding weight until can't make 3 reps. Plan around about 8 sets.
Rowing. Take a close grip and pull the bar up the the lower abdomen - about to where the legs join the trunk. Arch your back when the bar touches your body. Do 5 sets of 12.
Chins. Use a palms-front grip, slightly wider than shoulders. Pull up all the way to the top and stay tight in the dead hang at the bottom. 5 x 10 and add weight as soon as you can.
Pullups. Use a palms-facing-you narrow grip. Pull up until your chin extends over the bar. 5 sets of 10. Don't make this an acrobatic event complete with lower leg kicks and swinging hip thrusts. Build up the reps to he required number as quickly as you can, then add weight.
Determine that every workout is going to be better than the one before it. Use all the available energy you have that day. Determine that you're going to completely revamp your entire conception of what hard work is. If you don't do it for yourself, who will?
It's always cool to read the old stuff and see where the basic priciples came from. I see so many in his writings too; Building a strength foundation, simple routines at first and getting more complicated as you progress, heavy eating, recouperation, specialization, etc...
I wonder if anybody around now has done the routines in order and what their gains have been like?
I would have loved having access to something like this as a teen. I am sure that a program came with my concrete weight set that was close to routine #1, but it wasn't very detailed. Just a list of exercises.
I need to find an open-minded new lifter to talk into trying this out...just to see how it would all work. That would be a fun experiemnt to try on the forums.
Sometimes I wish I was 18 again so I could try new things. I wasted so much time back then on exercises that were pointless.
I remember once that Brooks had a body/lift transformation contest, but you had to use the York courses. That brought the awesome!
I do not have an account over there any more.
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