Jack King's Blog
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Non-Apparatus Training: Dispelling a Myth about My Career

Jack King's trophy collection

Following a 1991 article published in Iron Man magazine, I received a ton of calls asking how it was that I was able to win the Masters Mr. America using the push-up alone for upper body development. The first problem is that I did not do only push-ups for upper body development. Unfortunately, the way the article was written led many to this false belief. I would be quick to set them straight. I did use push-ups, but used them along with other apparatus-based upper body exercises. Push-ups were a great addition to my routine when I was unable to do bench presses and other apparatus-based chest exercises due to an injury.

My conversations with people about the Iron Man article typically led to me sharing my repertoire of “non-apparatus training” techniques for the entire body. I believe in the power of non-apparatus training techniques when you cannot perform apparatus-based exercises due to injury, lack of equipment, or any other valid reason. However, you have to have to perform non-apparatus techniques at a level of intensity that would emulate what you would perform on an apparatus. You have to use appropriate set and rep counts to challenge your body in such a way as to create parallel gains to what you’d see using apparatus. I would not recommend replacing an apparatus-based training routine with a non-apparatus-based routine. Use non-apparatus training to supplement an apparatus-based routine, not replace it. The bottom line is that non-apparatus training is helpful when you don’t want to give up your training routine altogether due to circumstances which prevent you from using an appartus.

Now that we’ve set the fact straight, I would like to share my recommendations for a non-apparatus training routine should you ever find yourself in a situation where you would need to implement one. I’ll highlight some upper body techniques in my next post and lower body techniques in the following post.

Until next time, keep training hard.

Jack King

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14 Responses to “Non-Apparatus Training: Dispelling a Myth about My Career”

  1. mr. king, can you tell me what other exercises you used for
    your upper body along with pushups.
    also what did you do for the legs.

    thank you

    alex

  2. Hi, Alex. Thanks for your question.

    My routine for Mr. America training consisted of chest work on Wednesdays and Saturdays. On those days, I did only push-ups for chest and I devoted about 1 1/2 – 2 hrs to training. I would rest for maybe about 2 1/2 minutes between push-up sets. See some of my other blog posts for details on push-up routines. After my chest days, I would have nothing left.

    On Tuesdays, I would perform bent over rows and chins. I never used weight with my chins. Here’s why. Several years earlier I would do a set of 10 chins between every set of incline and flat bench presses. Someone asked me how much weight I could add to my chins. I’d never tried to find out before, so I did it. I was able to perform 8 reps with 50 lbs., 3 reps with 75 lbs., and 2 reps with 100 lbs. From this exercise, I learned that having been doing my chins with no weight was making me stronger. I just had no idea how strong. So, personally, I think that having extra weight hanging around my waist during chins requires the use of too many extra muscles. You have to call on other body parts to help with the extra weight. When extra body parts/muscles are used, I don’t feel that I am isolating and working the muscles that I intend to. So, I just don’t use weights with chins. I hadn’t been using weights for years, but I was seeing the effects of my work.

    As far as legs go, I did a lot of lunges and sprinting up steep hills. Refer to my blog post on the correct way to do lunges and recommendations for lower body work for more detail.

    If you have any other specific questions, just ask. Thanks again for your question.

    • Hello Mr. King! I read about your pushup sessions that you performed 2 days per week. During the 1 1/2 to 2 hrs. each session, how many sets of pushups would you typically perform?

      • Hi Rob,

        Thanks for the question. In each training session I would typically perform about 2000 push-ups in sets of about 150. I just put up a video demonstrating proper push-up technique along with my commentary. Check it out if you have a chance.

  3. thank you very much mr. King.

    i first read about your training in ironman from an article written by bill star. i was very interested to learn that the pushups can be a great all around upper body builder.
    now i learned about the other half of the story, chins and rows.
    i see that you did no shoulder and biceps/triceps.

    on the sprinting up the steep hills:do you think it is the same if i use the treadmill?

    do you mind if i share your answer with my friends on the forum.
    they are very aware of your blog?

    again thank you very much mr. King

    • Hi Alex,

      I appreciate your readership and comments. Of course, please share my answers with those who you feel would benefit from them.

      In response to your questions, I didn’t discuss my bi/tri work previously, but yes, I did do it. However, with the chins and pull-ups I was doing, I didn’t need a whole lot of extra bi/tri work.

      In terms of sprinting uphill vs. a treadmill: No, they are not the same mainly because with the treadmill you’re not moving your body. However, I do know firsthand that the treadmill is extremely valuable. I trained on a treadmill for 8 weeks prior to winning the Masters Universe. This experience sold me on the idea of performing sprints before a contest.

      Hope these answers are helpful. Let me know if you have anymore questions. Keep training hard!

  4. thank you,mr. king

  5. Thanks for the fast response! Great video and congrats to you and your students for all your hard work and success!!

  6. Hi Jack,

    I’ve read in the Web your success story, your accident and your determination for build the upper body by push ups.
    Congratulation!

    I have some question about your training:

    do you train by push up 2 time per week?

    Why do you use a restricted range of motion during push up?
    This tecnique is more effective for size gain?
    How many set of push up per session?

    i wait your answers!

    Mauro.

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