- 4 Jul 2011
10 Bulk Routines That Work
by Fred R. Howell (1974)
Somehow in the past few weeks the word leaked out that I had at least a ton of weights in my cellar. All of a sudden every kid in town that owned a barbell or was going to train someday showed up at my door asking to see this old man’s collection of iron.
Talking with the kids I learned that each and every one of them had, as their goal, a desire to gain weight. Some of them, I’m sorry to say, will be very lucky to gain a few pounds with the type of courses they follow. Their training routines are far from weight gaining routines. I was able to convince one super enthusiast not to train every day and expect to add on the pounds. Not when he’s just a beginner.
Nature plays a horrible trick on the human male. When a male needs the weight most to excel in some head-busting sport it’s hard to put it on. Then a few years later when we have no use at all for extra bodyweight, we can add it just by looking at food. I had to smile to myself as they talked about their routines and how they wanted to weigh a certain amount in a couple of months. And here I am fighting the battle of the double bulge.
Let’s take a look at some of the bulk courses that have been used over the last 35 years with outstanding results. In the early thirties a guy by the name of Joseph C. Hise was stuck at 200 lbs. bodyweight. Having used all the standard routines, Joe read about the squat in Mark Berry’s magazine. Hise figured anything was worth a try and used his own ideas to formulate a bulking routine.
He did the squat, press behind the neck, and curl. In just one month he gained 29 pounds. When he wrote Berry about this super fast gain, Mark couldn’t believe it. Joe had to write to Berry a couple of times before he would print the news! Hise continued his experiments and finally reached a bodyweight of 298 lbs. His arm hit 19” with a chest of 56 and thighs that measured 39.
In this routine the curl and press behind neck should be done for 10 reps, using one set of each exercise only. The squat in this routine the squat done for only 20 reps each workout. The first 10 reps of the squat should be done in the usual way. After the 10th rep, however, take three or more deep breaths between each squat. After doing 20 reps this way your breathing should be rapid and take two or three minutes to return to its normal level. Be sure to train no more than three alternate days per week.
Mark Berry, mentioned earlier, weighed around 130 lbs. and had been doing squats without any fancy breathing and was still known as the thin man. Hise talked in his ear and Mark built a squat rack to prove Joe was all wet. He started doing sets of 20 deep knee bends with the three breaths between reps, a few curls, presses, plus a set of pullovers. This simple routine, plus a fair amount of food, gave him a gain of 50 lbs. and Mark was tipping the scales at 180.
Notice that Mark Berry used the pullover. Hise wrote me that the one mistake he made was to neglect doing the two arm pullover. He said, “The use of the two arm pullover will perch the upper chest high. Never neglect the two arm pullover, preferably the straight arm version. Then faster, better looking gains will be your reward.”
Then around 1940 Roger Eels started to give some publicity to a new twist on the exercise called the squat. Before becoming a gym owner and publisher of a magazine he called “Vim,” Eels made some cash teaching beginners how to fly planes. In those ancient days a motor was primed by spinning the propeller. The ignition is turned on with the throttle closed and one good yank will start the motor. Alas! a pupil had the throttle open and the propeller sucked Eels into it. A tendon on the external vastus of his left thigh was sheared off. This plus a bout with TB led Eels to try barbells. At first he did 20 reps in the squat in rapid fashion without any special attention to breathing. The results were average and Eels wrote Hise that squats are just another exercise without magic. Hise went out and visited Eels, unannounced, as he did many of his friends and pupils and explained the way to big gains. Eels felt bodyweight poundage was enough to use in the squat. Now, his leg condition may have been a factor in this idea, but no matter why, it worked. The breathing squat (plenty of breathing between each rep), a set of curls, deadlift, pullover, bench press and you have a routine Eels printed many times in Vim.
Harry Paschal once wrote me about Eels, saying, “I remember very well the month Roger gained 35 lbs. HE DID BREATHING SQUATS WITH 125 LBS. FOR 3 SETS OF 20 REPS EACH DAY. He ate as much as he could, including three quarts of milk, a lot of honey for energy, peanut butter plus several boxes of raisins each day.” Rumor had it that Harry and Roger had a bet as to who could gain the most weight in a month. Eels won and Harry said he “cheated” by being able to stomach so much peanut butter.
The very same Harry Paschal in one of his great Bosco barbell booklets gave his version of a weight gaining schedule. Here it is:
- Breathing Squat – 15-20 reps
- Pullover – 15-20 reps.
- Press on Bench – 8-12 reps.
- Breathing Squat – 15-20 reps.
- Pullover – 15-20 reps.
- Curl – 8-12 reps.
- Breathing Squat – 15-20 reps.
- Bent Arm Pullover – 8-12 reps.
Both Eels and Paschal believed in light squats for gaining weight. They claimed heavy weights compressed the rib cage. When you enlarge your rib cage your bodyweight will go up, and deeper breathing is only possible with no more than bodyweight squats.
Now we come to a bulk, chest and leg routine recommended by John C. Grimek. It incorporates the good use of BOTH HIGH AND LOW REPS. John has written about this type of course many times. It has produced excellent results to those who gave it a fair trial.
In a letter John said, “Training three times a week should be sufficient. Get enough sleep and rest and by including a variety of food in your diet you should experience an increase of bodyweight. Do about 3 sets per exercise for the upper body, about 8 to 10 reps to a set. For the lower part, the legs, you should work as high as 15 reps in each set. Perhaps a squat schedule as listed below might prove beneficial:
- First set – 20 reps, warmup with a light weight.
- Second set – 12-15 reps, increase the weight.
- Third set – 10-12 reps, increase the weight.
- Fourth set – 8-10 reps, increase the weight.
- Fifth set – 5-6 reps, increase the weight.
- Sixth set – 3-5 reps, increase the weight for the
- Last set – 1-3 reps.
Norman Fay made some amazing gains in bodyweight. A gym owner on the West Coast who wanted to gain weight to see just how big he could become without getting fat, at the start of his experiment he weighed 156 lbs. and at the end of 30 days he was tipping the Toledo at 186. Here is one of his favorite weight gaining programs. He had put all of his pupils on it at his gym and said he never had a failure. Here’s the routine:
Clean & Press with a barbell – Do 12 reps and make each clean a dead-hang clean. Breathe as deeply as possible before cleaning and when pressing.
Pullover on a round bench – Light dumbells should be used. Breathe in as deeply as possible as you lower the dumbells. Keep your elbows straight. Do 20 reps and be sure to force the air into your lungs.
- Bench Press – 12 reps
- Dumbell Curl – 12 reps.
- Rowing Motion – Be sure the bar touches your chest each rep – 20 reps.
- Lateral Raise on a bench – 20 reps with deep breathing on each rep.
- Deadlift – 20 reps. Breathe in as you raise the weight and out when you let the weight down, followed with a set of light pullovers.
- Breathing Squat – 35 reps. The Fay version will make it a real gaining exercise. With every squat take 3 deep breaths and really pack in the air on that third breath. If your chest doesn’t ache after the squats then you won’t gain like you should. After a set of these your ribs should feel like they’re going to drop off onto the floor. Follow with another set of light pullovers. This course never failed to put on weight for those who worked hard, ate enough and rested well.
Fourth is the exercise program. The exercises are the squat, two arm pullover, regular deadlift, and bentover rowing. These four exercises work the large muscle groups of your body to the limit; the legs, chest and back. Train three alternate days a week. Here’s how:
- Squat – Do 10 reps. Place a barbell across the shoulders, feet flat with heels about a foot apart. Take a deep breath, descend, and exhale as you arise to standing position. Go easy for the first month and work on the breathing; it’s very important as this enlarges the lung capacity and the rib cage and triggers better health and assimilation of foods.
- Two Arm Pullover – Lie on a bench on your back. The weight is above your head, then allow it to move backward behind the head, keeping the elbows locked. Take a deep breath before lowering and try to get more air in by the time the bell is behind your head. Exhale as you return to the starting position for 10 reps.
- Regular Deadlift – Use 10 reps in this one. While standing, reach down and grasp the bar, being sure to bend your legs and keep a flat back. Take a deep breath as you straighten up and exhale as you lower the bar to the floor.
- Bent-over Rows – Breathe in as you pull the bar up to your chest, and exhale as you lower it. Don’t cheat. If you find yourself cheating, try holding the bar at your chest for a two count until strict form becomes second nature. 10 reps.
No matter how good the routines may be there are always a few men who cannot gain weight no matter what they do. Sometimes a one exercise routine will pull them out of their rut.
Years ago Jim Evans found himself with little time to exercise. Looking for one exercise that would give his body a complete workout he chose the Clean & Jerk. Evans took a weight he could handle for 10 reps as a warmup, cleaning each one from the hang position. Then he added weight in 10 lb. jumps doing 5 reps each set until he reached couldn’t get the 5. A few others did just the clean, feeling the jerk was a waste of energy. Jim worked out twice a week and yes, he did gain weight.
A closer look at these routines reveal them to be very close to what the beer garden lifters used to do in their workouts. None of them were known as skinny.
In the last course I’ll present we have the same brief training routine as J.C. Hise used, except here lower reps are used.. and only two exercises.
A hefty guy by the name of Ron Ledas used such a workout routine and trust me, it sure worked for him. Workout just three times a week on alternate days. Do 6 sets of 6 reps of each exercise. Do only the squat and the bench press. Don’t cheat. Ever. Make the muscles do the work at all times. De sure to warm up first with a light weight for 10 reps. Get extra sleep and chow. You must work the larger muscles of the body to gain weight and size. Once you have enough raw beef go back to a regular routine.
Before you rush in and try out one of these routines, ask yourself these question: Have you been training for at least six months yet? Have you been using a good course? If not, give yourself a few months to get out of the beginner class.
All the routines mentioned here have proved to be great bulk builders. According to your mental attitude, physical limitations, personal liking for high or low reps they will produce added bodyweight. Physiological reasons such as superior metabolism and genetic background will make some men gain faster than others.
You must follow the basic rules of good health. Give any routine at least two months fair trial. It will take at least a month to get used to a new routine. So don’t give up after a few weeks. Persistence will win out. Stick with it and get big.