Eyewitness Account of Tom Venuto Leg Training
Guest Blog: Hi, My name is David Grisaffi. I’m a strength and conditioning coach from Tacoma, Washington. Last week I took a trip to the East coast and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit Tom Venuto while I was out there. Tom and I have been friends for many years and we’ve spent many hours on the phone talking training, sports and other stuff. Now we finally had a chance to meet in person… and I got to witness a workout like you cannot believe!
Early in the morning on my second day in New Jersey, Tom suggested I follow him to the gym for his leg workout. To be honest, I could have slept in a while longer, as Tom was up at the crack of dawn, but I said sure. I mean, heck, I was getting free room and board on his extremely comfy couch, so tagging along for moral support was the least I could do.!
We hopped in Tom’s car (he called it the “Burn-The-Fat-Mobile”), and drove a few blocks from his house in Hoboken, which had a nice view of the Empire State Building, to a little gym in the back of town.
Upon arrival, Tom popped his trunk and grabbed a long board with some straps attached to it, which I later found out was a heinous torture device for doing super strict isolated, feet-together squats.
Then a person from the second floor tossed down some keys to Tom (it was one of those 24 hour gyms where the front door stays locked and every member had a key, apparently). Tom promptly opened the gym door and began to warm up for his leg workout.
While Tom was loosening up, I roamed around and introduced myself to Tom’s personal trainer, Richie Smyth. He was a very laid back, quiet, humble un-intimidating person (although I later found out that he was a multiple black belt in various martial arts and a former title winning powerlifter in addition to being a competitive bodybuilder… definitely “bad-ass”).
What was to come next I can describe as nothing more than pure torture for Tom.
I have been in gyms all my life working with top athletes, including professional boxers, wresters, baseball players, golfers and nearly every other type of athlete, but not really bodybuilders per se. I do notice the bodybuilders out of the corner of my eye sometimes – they’re kind of hard to miss – but I never paid much attention to their work ethic and dedication, until I witnessed a Venuto-Smyth workout.
I have a whole new appreciation for bodybuilders after witnessing the torture Tom went through. Not to mention, Tom is a very rare breed –a natural for life bodybuilder – so this type of work is even harder on him than someone who is using roids.
Richie just quietly slapped the plates on the bar – Tom stepped into the rack and squatted until he almost puked.
Richie had Tom doing ascending sets with increased weight each and every time. He would not give him much rest between adding plate after plate (Richie had me help add weights on one side of the bar… it decreased the rest time for Tom!)
By the way, an ascending set is NOT a pyramid set and rep structure. An ascending set is the opposite of a descending set. It is essentially ONE set with multiple weight increases during the set. Or, multiple sets with increasing weight and almost no rest between sets, depending on which way you look at it.
After a huge ascending set, Tom got his precious 3 minute rest. Richie did this 3 times to Tom. Tom has been training for 25 years and competing for 20. He’s a seasoned lifter, but I swear I almost felt bad for him….and that was only the beginning.
Richie then proceeded to send Tom back into that rack to do a descending set with minimum rest between plate removal. Then Richie finished him off with a high rep set of about 35 or 40 reps. Tom confessed that he had let his cardio slip a bit the last few weeks and was sucking wind at the last leg workout so a set of high reps was Richie’s way of “punishing” him. At least that’s what Tom said – I didn’t get Richie’s side of the story.
But the mad man was not done.
The night before, Richie had instructed Tom to bring his Quad Blaster board, which turned out to be total hell for Tom and his quads. I have never seen this one before, but the sheer agony Richie put Tom through was amazing. Richie had Tom do these nonstop without locking and, and leaning backwards (which means not only no cheating, but actually twice as hard). No extra weight. Body weight alone took Tom to total muscular failure. I’m not kidding, his legs buckled underneath him and he grabbed the quad blaster straps to keep himself from hitting the deck hard.
Tom on the quad blaster
Tom’s eyes were red, with all the blood being pumped into his head (and quads!) as he gave everything he had to do what Richie asked. There is no stopping Mr. Venuto. He plugged away set after set, rep after rep. He never once complained… because he knew what he was getting into… into shape for a contest in March!
After the leg blaster board they moved on to the leg extension and leg curl machines. You might think that a leg extension or a leg curl is an easy isolation exercise, except maybe for the lactic acid burn you have to endure. Not these extensions and curls.
Both proved to be a Herculean effort for Tom after all the previous work, not to mention Richie had him do the same ascending and descending type of workload, along with partial reps, static holds, one leg at a time and all kinds of intensity techniques. Believe me, this was not anything like a conventional “three sets of 10.” I watched this man pump out each and every rep until he had nothing left.
After that, the workout was finally over. But the after-effects had just begun. I watched Tom take three minutes to gingerly descend the same stairs that took him less than a minute to climb. As Austin Powers said, “I’m spent”. Tom was spent.
As I said before, I have spent almost my entire life in gyms training world class athletes, but have never watched a real bodybuilding workout from start to finish. I now have an entire new appreciation for the sport and the men who play it.
Author of “Firm and Flatten Your Abs”
Professional Conditioning Coach
PS. After the workout, Tom had a little fun with Richie’s picture in photo shop. (Pretty funny. But when Richie sees this, I wonder what kind of beating Tom will get next time!)
PPS Is all that torture worth it? I dunno, you be the judge. These are Tom’s Legs at one of his recent competitions after several months of training with Richie
PPPS Find out more about the quad blaster here: carlosdejesustotalfitness.com/html/quad_blaster.html