Strength & Fitness
Tuesday, December 7, 2004; 12:00 PM
Around the curve came a passenger train,
Heard somebody yodel in a hobo moan
Roy Orbison is dead Lord he's just now gone'
Iron Vic is just now gone. Wish I could've said goodbye. It was a bad week. I had two old friends die. One was 59 and died of liver cirrhosis, a closet alcoholic crushed by life and circumstance. Unable to deal with his existence of quiet desperation, he chose slow suicide, destroying his body an inch at a time and wondering about the unfairness of it all. The other was a firebrand and a rebel, railing against all things orthodox, bland and predictable a fitness freak ultimately betrayed by the body he had molded and sculpted into near perfection. Vic Sussman was an odd combination of intellectual and athlete, equally at home discussing the subtleties of Emanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason or sharing Aikido flow throws with a gathering of no-neck bruisers. Vic was a restless eclectic in the truest sense. He was funny as hell and once when I introduced him to a famous professional athlete of limited intellect (who had had a few too many cocktails) the jock asked in a tone designed to intimidate normal civilians, "So, what's your deal?" Vic didn't bat an eye and relied deadpan, "You sir, may call me the carefree psychotic." I knew the Dorothy Parker reference and burst out laughing, much to the confused consternation of the no-neck moron. That was Vic, always poking a stick in hornet nests.
I was introduced to Vic by one of my mentors, Dr. Len Schwartz, medical doctor, psychiatrist and inventor of Heavy Hands. Len, at age 70 could do 31 pull-ups while holding his legs at a 90-degree angle. "Hey, there's a sharp fellow in your area that you need to meet." Len said. Since the good doctor threw compliments around like they were manhole covers, I uncharacteristically made the call. Vic and I hit it off immediately; he liked my Irish attitude and always prodded me to relate stories and tales of things I'd seen and done and he loved my choice of women and friends. Soon he became a regular at our powerlifting training sessions. He had the right attitude and though he was a rookie power man he was accepted by the national and world champions that participated in our blood-on-the-floor, profane and profound training sessions. The Iron Brotherhood is a tough fraternity to crack but Iron Vic paid his dues and kept his mouth shut. After a year I told him I was entering him in a competition, his jaw hit the floor. He began to protest but I waved him into silence and said, "You've got ten weeks. Best get your ass in gear." He gulped and nodded.
A man only thinks he's training hard until someone enters him in a national competition. The mere thought of performing in front of steely-eyed coaches and blood brother peers is enough to cause a person to either fold or rise to the occasion. It was during the ten weeks leading up to the USPF national master powerlifting championships that Victor Sussman metamorphosed into Iron Vic Steel. Over the next ten weeks he was always the first to arrive and the last to leave our brutal, take-no-prisoner training sessions. We had a squad of seven lifters that would be traveling to compete and Iron Vic trained with a controlled fierceness that continually bumped up against the limits of his physical capacity and the limits of sanity. Finally the day arrived and nerves and travel began to eat at him. After we weighed in and ate, I did what I could to distract him from his impending personal Armageddon. At the competition he settled down and after eight lifts he had maneuvered himself into an outside shot at medal contention. I was extremely doubtful; in order to place third in his first national championship he would need to deadlift 400-pounds, fifty pounds more than he'd ever lifted. I thought it best that relax and be satisfied with 8th place - one hell of an accomplishment for a 60-year old man in his first national competition and with only eleven months of hardcore powerlifting under his belt. I told him as much and he blew a fuse
"NO WAY! Load the damned bar and I'll lift it!"
It was the first and only time he'd ever yelled at me. I smiled a wry knowing smile and complied; its your funeral, I thought. On the other hand he was confirming every positive instinct I'd ever had about the guy. As I told the meet expediter the lift Vic wanted on his third attempt, I had a brainstorm. We had about ten minutes before he would march onto that lifting platform and in front of three judges have to haul that weight to completion, from floor to lockout, in absolutely perfect fashion. The slightest bobble, hitch, hesitation or miscue and the judges would turn the lift down - that was assuming he could even break the weight from the platform at all. My idea was to enlist the services of one of my old protegees to fire up the firebrand: in attendance was Kirk Karwoski, six-time world champion, seven time national powerlifting champion and holder of multiple world records. I would get Kirk involved. Karwoski was the Lawrence Taylor of powerlifting and at 280-pounds was dense as a brick of gold bullion. He knew and liked Vic. Kirk was sitting in the audience surrounded by his usual gaggle of power sycophants, groupies and fans when I motioned him over for a pow-wow.
"Kirk, Vic has one deadlift left and if he makes it he can grab third place." Kirk asked how much. "400-pounds." He burst out laughing. He knew what Vic was realistically capable of.
"No freaking way he makes that!"
I shrugged my shoulders. "Okay - but so what - can you go over and give him a pep talk?"
Kirk thought for a second, "Nah! That'd be a total waste of time and I'm getting the inside track on taking Ms. Maryland back to my hotel room." He paused, looked over at a curvaceous blond. With a wolf grin he jiggled his fingers with a wave that dripped with sexual innuendo. She grinned back.
"KIRK! Snap out of it! This'll take five minutes!" I said.
"Alright alright let's do it ." He was temporarily compliant but clearly irritated. We made our way to the stage where the lifters sat waiting their turn to be called to the platform. I could see by the faraway look in Vic's eyes and the manic way he was bouncing on his legs that nerves were starting to eat him up. Something needed to be done quick or he would be in danger of self-destructing. Walking with Karwoski at a powerlifting competition was like walking with Ray Lewis into a Baltimore bar. All eyes followed us as we strode up to nondescript Vic. I was sure Karwoski would deliver the goods, an impassioned pitch like Knute Rockne invoking the Gipper or Leonidas addressing the 300 Spartans at the pass of Thermopylae we came to a dramatic stop in front of Vic and after a long pregnant pause Karwoski began to sing while doing a slow rotational grind dance, complete with arm flails and suggestive hip bumps
"VIC, VIC, HE'S OUR MAN, IF HE CAN'T DO IT then we'll find somebody else who can!"
With that Kirk wheeled and walked away. I was slack-jawed stunned and the entire group of athletes in the general vicinity where likewise shocked stupid. You could have heard a proverbial pin drop. All of a sudden, Vic began to laugh. It was a deep belly laugh and it was contagious. I began to laugh, everyone began to laugh and Vic laughed so hard it bought tears to his eyes. His nerves evaporated and when his name was called a composed and determined Iron Vic strode onstage and pulled the poundage to completion in an eye-blink. That effort bought a tear to my eye and after he collected his third place trophy he told me that the whole experience had been as satisfying and gratifying as anything he'd ever experienced, excepting the birth of his children.
Modest to a fault, you had to pry information out of him. Once he and I happened to be watching TV together and Larry King came on with some guest who interested me. I watched and halfway through the show I said I thought King was letting the politico off the hook easy.
"Larry's okay." Vic said.
"Do you know him?" I asked.
"Yeah. I was on his show once."
Really? I wanted to know more.
"Yeah, I was on Larry King Live with Vice President Al Gore. It was a little weird; we were crammed together behind this little desk and every time Larry asked Gore a question the Vice President would start to jiggle his leg - his left leg was up against my right leg and it was distracting as hell."
Iron Vic crammed one hell of a lot of living into his 64 years. He was by fits and turns a juvenile delinquent, a Vermont goat farmer, a vegetarian, an author and writer who wrote like an angel after three bourbons, an internet guru, a public speaker so spellbinding he commanded $20,000 for a forty-five minute after-dinner speech - he flew all over the world to give these big buck corporate pep talks Vic was a bon vivant, a martial artist, a powerlifter, a free-thinker, a friend of captains of industry and political movers and shakers, a live on-line innovator, an amazing magician, a champion of the underdog and destitute, a college professor and a Man with a capital M.
He'll be missed big time.
Marty Gallagher is the current AAU national and world powerliftng champion in his age and weight division
I am now training for the N.C. State Championships -- masters level of course ... one day I will start entering these meets Open ...
When is your meet in Vegas?
Thanks for your chats. A couple of friends of mine asked me to design a lifting program for them. They're pretty new to lifting, but are naturally strong guys. As far as goals, they're looking to just get stronger, fitter, and be better rugby players.
Here's what I'm thinking:
Flat bench 3x10
Incline bench w/ dumbbells 3x8
Arm extensions 3x8
Lat. pull down 3x8
Military press 3x8
Lateral raises 3x8
Forward raises 3x8
Some minor should rotating exercises to prevent rugby injuries
Romanian Deal lift (straight leg) 3x8
Leg extension and curl with low weight, super slow to build up knee stabilizing muscles
Calf raises 3x8
2. Other than that, it looks pretty good - take a look at my answer to the previous question about deads stop reps and full range of motion.
3. deadlifts are dangerous if done incorrectly and fantastic if done correctly - do you train with them? If so show them how to do it right and insist they do every single rep properly.
What they don't take into account is size. So a 100-pound gymnast and a 300-pound offensive lineman are going to have the same protein assimilation rate?
Pleeeze! How ludicrous...
My second favorite is John McLaughlin - his nylon string acoustic stuff is unbelievable - 'good by pork pie hat' is without acoustic peer - his Mahavishnu phase is the last word in electric technique - I grew up listening to local legends Roy Buchanan and Danny Gatton...so I was spoiled early on...now someone ask me about jazz pianists...
What are you looking for? One book is all about doing progressive resistance training without equipment and quite different than 'power to the people' which is a more eclectic mix...Pavel is a former spetnaz commando trainer who knows which way is up...he and I have vastly different approaches but many roads lead to rome...
2. didn't I just answer the guitar question?
place your forearms on a bench letting the hands and wrists hang over the end of the bench...take light weight and let the bar roll way down the fingers, until the bar is just about to roll out of your grip; now curl the weight all the way up and hold it at the topmost position for a beat. Reverse wrist curls are identical except the hands are turned over. Two sets of 20-reps each will pump forearms to the max. Between sets stretch the fingers backward.
Have any good workout routines to get the traps growing? Thanks!
I'm planning to start working out again. My immediate goal is to lose weight(20 lbs?) and get back in shape when I go home in Feb. After that I want to gain strength.
Problem is, I work two jobs and I don't get enough sleep. I wake up -- 4 a.m. and won't get home after 8 p.m. Usually go to bed -- 10 p.m. The only possible time for me to go to the gym is at lunch break but I'm usually very sleepy around 3 p.m. I want to work out as hard as I can, but I'm afraid to fall asleep at my desk afterwards.
Do you think I have a chance to succeed?
Male, 35, 183 lbs., high % body fat.
Thanks for your help!
sat - legs, chest, shoulders, triceps
sunday - back, biceps, abs