June 2010: Jim Seitzerby John Meadows on June 24, 2010
For our first “cutting edge” article, I would like to introduce you to a guy named Jim Seitzer, who has been around the bodybuilding and powerlifting world for quite a while, though he’s normally found quietly working in the background. Jim has a long and experienced pedigree in both sports and used his knowledge to pioneer many other things such as his Vocal Fitness program that was developed for singers to enhance the muscles used when singing. The program produces terrific results by greatly improving vocal quality and performance. He also happens to be a pretty bright inventor. The inventor part is what we’re going to drive at in this article, but first, I have to ask him a few other questions..so hang tight.
JOHN: Jim is it true that you kicked Lee Haney’s butt back in the 80’s (or was it late 70s). Tell us about how you sent him home with his tail tucked between his legs.
JIM: Hahaha! Yeah, I guess you could say that. It was the 1979 Jr. Mr. USA contest in Memphis, TN. I won the title that day, but I sure remember this young kid who looked pretty awesome. At the time, Lee had only been training about a year or two, not really sure, so I was darn lucky to be able to compete against him just before he launched himself into the stratosphere. He’s a great guy – I love him – so you can imagine the fun I’ve had teasing him about that show, especially after he goes on to win 5 or 6 Mr. Olympia titles.
JOHN: Well, you are probably what motivated him to go on to win his string of Olympia titles! What are some of your best memories about competing back in your day?
JIM: Bodybuilding back in the 70’s and 80’s was really more like an underground ‘club’ environment. It had a strong fraternal feel to it and there were few, if any, bitter rivalries. New ideas in training and diet were always out on the table and openly shared, for the most part. Heck, it was barely out of the closet, so to speak, and at the time there were only two places in Columbus to train: The OSU Weightlifting Club and the downtown YMCA gym. Can you imagine that today? Twenty five years ago, the best move anyone could of possibly made would of been to get on board the fledgling fitness industry. But at the time, who would have thought there was any future in it because it was so stigmatized and misunderstood. I won the Mr. Ohio contest at a time when Woody Hayes forbid anyone on his team to lift weights. He thought it made you slow and clumsy. All-American Pete Cusic and Ed Tripanya used to sneek into the weight room at night just to bench press. I know because I let them in. People under 35 just don’t understand that a little more than a generation ago, bodybuilding, powerlifting and weight training, in general, was not the accepted norm and strongly marginalized. Today, of course, everything is so much further along. But still, you can’t get too far away from the basics that dictate real power and size.
JOHN: How about powerlifting.I have heard you put up some very impressive numbers working with Louie Simmons?
JIM: Bodybuilding led to a lot of success for me – I won nearly fifteen shows in my career – but it was powerlifting and Lou Simmons that made it all possible. Lifting big weights is what allowed me to compete with the taller, bigger guys because it added so much more size and mass than just straight bodybuilding alone. In fact, the one problem I see with today’s bodybuilders is that they just don’t do enough heavy power training. With all the advances in diet and training technology that have evolved, every serious bodybuilder should really be training with the best powerlifters he can find. I was part of the orginal five that started Westside Barbell long before it got its name. It was the most exciting and unbelievable experience you could ever imagine. I was there the entire time when Lou began to pioneer new ideas like box squats, rack bench and deadlifts, percentage training and on and on. Along the way, I picked up a couple of Elite ratings and was the only national-level bodybuilder to do this. It was a time of incredible innovation and discovery. I’m sure his level of genius will never be seen again in the world of power and strength training. I remember the night he came up with the idea for the reverse-hyper extension exercise. We all laughed like hell and busted his chops, big-time. Then, six months later, after I had put nearly a hundred pounds on my squat, I decided right then and there that I would never again prejudge any of Lou’s “crazy” ideas. That decision served me well, because it was always a constant stream of brilliant and incredible thinking coming from this man. And even today, he continues to come up with new and avant-garde training concepts that baffle the Ph.D’s and strength coaches of the world. He’s been a friend, a mentor, and a constant source of inspiration for 35 years.
JOHN: Ok, one more thing before we get to the really cool stuff. Many people remember Mike Francois, and how awesome he was as a bodybuilding competitor, but what people may not know is that you played a huge role in that and helped him with his training. Can you tell us a little about your approach with helping Mike in the weight room?
JIM: The first time I saw Mike Francois was just a few days after he won the Mr. Ohio contest. It took me all of about 3 seconds to figure out that this guy could be a national champ, at bare minimum, if he wanted to. I mentioned something like this to him, but I’m sure he wasn’t thinking along those lines at that moment. Anyhow, one thing led to another and we started training together with the express intention of going for the nationals. Mike is the only true freak of nature I have ever known. Biochemically, his body is different from everyone else. Think ‘Dexter Jackson’ or ‘Jay Cutler’ and you get the idea. I had to change my way of thinking with Mike because he never hit plateaus in his training. He just kept making gains with virtually no setbacks – like some sort of strange science equation. It was really something. He got better at a rapid rate and as the bigger shows came into his gunsights, I knew something had to be done to compete with the west coast boys. So, I put together a team program, similar to what you’d see in Formula 1 racing. It takes a crew of guys, each with his own specialty, to get the car around the track and into victory lane. I was good at coaching for competitions, but weak in other areas like diet, posing and public relations. We brought in the best we could find and went to work in a David-and-Goliath type of approach because I knew we’d be up against the best amateurs in the world. Then, in October of 1993, the seemingly impossible happened; Mike won the NPC Nationals in Santa Monica Civic Auditorium against the best that California had to offer – right in their own backyard. I’ll tell you something, John…not a sweeter, more perfect moment ever existed.
JOHN: Now we get to the really cool stuff – I know you invented a bar of some sort. It apparently does some pretty cool things to your muscle and nervous system while training. Can you tell us about the bar, and why it is so good and what it does?
JIM: Wow, I’m not sure I can explain it all in an interview. It’s called the Bandbell (Bamboo) Bar and you can see how it works by logging on to YouTube or going to http://bandbell.com. There are lots of video clips showing the Bar in a wide range of exercises and applications. It’s very powerful in its ability to fix shoulder and elbow problems and to keep them fixed. So as a rehab and prehab (preventative injury) tool, it’s really amazing. But the guys down at Westside Barbell are finding ways to make it work as a major strength building tool, also. The Bar is starting to catch on with a number of major college football training programs and just recently the N.Y. Jets bought a few Bars for their program. Here in Columbus, there are several physical therapy clinics using the Bandbell Bar as a primary modality for treating shoulder problems. The concept is unique and actually, kind of revolutionary, which is why it’s in patent pending at the moment.
The Bar works by sending an oscillating kinetic energy into the joint and causing the stabilizing muscles to have to deal with all the crazy, erratic movement. Very quickly, those muscles come on line and do what they do best. As a result, the shoulder stabilizes and balances itself out to allow for a much healthier and flexible joint function. The fact that so many people report improved flexibility from using the Bar really attests to its efficacy. Roughly one-half of people who use the Bar correctly the first time, report less pain and general improvement a couple of days later. The other half report good results after the third or fourth workout. I tell people that as long as your shoulder or elbow is not blown apart, (surgery required), using this Bar will make a big difference in your life. In a number of cases, it has prevented people from having surgery and allowed them to manage the problem on their own. But for healthy shoulders and elbows, it’s a godsend because it greatly reduces the chance of injury when used on a regular basis.
JOHN: I am sure if the Westside guys can use it, it can withstand some serious weight..what is the most you have seen anyone use on it.?
JIM: The most I have ever seen on the Bar was close to 400 lbs. But Lou tells me that 420 lbs. is the biggest number anyone has handled so far. The challenge with the Bar is this: with lighter weights, it is controllable while delivering the right amount of kinetic energy to promote great results. But as you add more and more weight, the control factor becomes an issue in an exponential way. The Bar goes from being a daily-driver at lighter weights, to a nitro-burning funny car by the time you get to around 400 lbs. That’s why the strongest bench pressers in the world – guys who bench well over 700 lbs. – can’t really use much more weight than that. It’s a control issue. For most people, up to 200 lbs. is the most anyone will need to get good results and this is very controllable. One thing to keep in mind about the Bandbell Bar is that 100 lbs. of weight on this Bar feels heavier than 100 lbs. on a regular bar. The chaotic oscillation of the weight requires more energy and fires the muscles in a different way. Also, how you configure the bands determines how much energy you get from the Bar. There are an endless number of ways to connect weight and bands to get the kind of ‘bar action’ you need.
JOHN: Can you give us an idea of how the guys at Westside are using the Bar to help them with their strength?
JIM: Sure. Go to www.westside-barbell.com, and find the Bamboo Bar under the Specialty Bars icon. There is a five minute video clip showing it being used in the most extreme ways for strength building. There’s a part with Dave Hoff bench pressing that is pretty impressive.
JOHN: So let’s say I can bench 300lbs 10 times, how much weight would I likely be able to bench for 10 reps using the Bamboo Bar..I know dumb question.
JIM: No, that’s a good question, actually. It all depends on how the lifter can handle chaotic energy and how long they have been using the Bar. In general, probably around 200 to 225 lbs. As I mentioned, weight acts a whole lot differently on this Bar than anything else you’ve ever tried.
JOHN: For our readers out there with rotator cuff problems, let’s talk about specifics..let’s say I have a bad/chronically sore supraspinatus..how would I use this product to help balance out shoulder flexibility and stabilizer strength to alleviate the issue?
JIM: Now you’re talking about what the Bar does best! For rotator cuff problems, you want to use the Bar in rehab mode. Hook a 25 lb. kettle bell or plate to each side of the Bar. On the bench press, start out by doing 5 to 6 high-rep sets at the end of your workout. If you can do 20 or 25 reps per set, that will get the job done nicely. You can do this twice-a-week for a couple of weeks, then go to once-a-week. By then, you’ll be adding more weight to the Bar. Use a second set of bands, on each side, when you add your weight. This will increase the kinetic energy you’ll need as the stabilizing muscles get stronger. At some point, you’ll move into prehab mode, where you’re really having a good time with the Bar and adding more weight and bands as you progress along. This Bar is a lot of fun to use – I hear it from people all the time.
JOHN: Can you describe oscillating kinetic energy a bit more to help our readers understand what that means?
JIM: Well, as you’ll see from the videos, when the weights are hanging from bands and jumping all around, there is a lot of movement and a lot of kinetic energy being driven into the Bar. The Bar is specially designed to deliver this energy right to the joint, and that’s when the healing begins. Right now, I am working on releasing a new version of the Bar that is geared more toward strength athletes and bodybuilders. I’m calling it the Bandbell Earthquake Bar. It will be a little more heavy duty, although the regular Bar is just as tough. All my Bars are hand-made and tested to hold 500 lbs., even though no one has ever been able to lift that much on one. The Bar only weighs six pounds, but can do the work of steel. It is an amazing, little piece of equipment, that’s for sure. Anyone interested can go to www.bandbell.com, for more information. I hope I have been able to answer some of your questions, John. It’s been a pleasure talking to you and I wish you best of luck on your new website.
Robert Downey Jr’s training protocol for Ironman II involved one of Jim’s Bamboo bars! Listen to the report!