Where Strength and Size are the only goals

Archive for October, 2012

Sunday 28th October 2012

Been a crazy few days, started a part time job and moving house tomorrow so won’t be very regular posting till broadband up and running at new place!
Bit of a tough session today, late home last night and didn’t really eat/sleep too well yesterday. Still got down there and busted it out as best I could and reasonably happy with session. Need to make sure I eat enough when working late, even if it’s just protein shakes.

Press 73.5kg x3x3x5, followed up with 50kg x12 – Layback getting bad again on heavy reps, I’ll repeat weight next session when fresh and see how it feels.

Weighted chins 25kg x6, 20kg x8, then ‘V’ grip pulldown to chest (10) x13

Weighted dips 25kg x10x8x7, then unweighted for 17 reps

Lever deadlift (plate loaded) 140kg x10 – gave this a go as not used one before, definitely an ego machine! 140kg felt easy, I may carry on with these for a while (keeping romanian deadlifts for warm-ups) whilst trying to release my hip flexors, then back to deadlifts.

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Friday 26th October 2012

Usual tired legs on a Friday from Spin yesterday – this week only the one class so not too bad, still holding onto the 10 reps on the squats so can’t be that bad!
Decline feeling a little better than last week, getting the hang of positioning under the bar, with a purpose built decline bench my legs would be anchored so maybe better? Maybe not? .. Personally I think this will carry over to my bench press better as it’s a similar position and I feel stronger when my feet are on the ground (or steps as I’m a short-arse!). Swapped out Yates row for Pendlay’s for more mid/upper back work.

Decline Bench 120kg x5x5x6 – repeated weight as technique was a little off last week – back off set 70kg x18 – Excuse the music, someone in gym swearing like a trooper in the background!
Pendlay row 60kg x10x10x10 – Kept to 60kg so I could get a good feel to the movement, will increase slowly as long as I can keep good form.
Machine preacher curls 17.5kg x12, 15kg x9
Squat 145kg x5x5x10


Reasons You’re Not Building Muscle #1

You’re not eating enough.

It really is as simple as it sounds! If you are not eating enough how can you hope to get stronger or build muscle? Without the necessary calories and macronutrients your body simply doesn’t have the energy or the materials to repair and grow after training. Do you even know how many calories your eating each day? Do you know how many grams of protein/carbohydrate/fat your eating? I’m not saying you need to be as meticulous as a competing bodybuilder and weigh and measure every single thing that passes your lips, but a basic idea for a day would at least be a start!

Firstly you need to try and calculate your BMR – basic metabolic rate. This will then give you an idea of your maintenance calories, how much you need to consume just to maintain your current muscle mass. Then simply you need to increase it to create a calorie surplus. This excess in calories, as long as your diet includes good quality protein will be used as raw materials to build new muscle.

There are various BMR calculators available online, but for ease I’m going to use a simple formula (well simpler than most) called the Harris Benedict Principle, should you want a more accurate version try here.

Step 1: Calculate the appropriate formula for your sex (Please note that this formula applies only to adults): MEN: 66 + (6.3 x weight in pounds) + (12.9 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years). For WOMEN: 655 + (4.3 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)

Step 2: Incorporate your activity level by adding a number from below to your BMR.

If you are sedentary: BMR + 20%, If you are lightly active: BMR + 30%, If you are moderately active (You exercise most days a week): BMR + 40%, If you are very active (You exercise intensely on a daily basis or for prolonged periods): BMR + 50%, If you are extra active (You do hard labor or are in athletic training): BMR + 60%

So for a 34 year old, 190lb, 68″ male (me!), with a moderate to high activity level (so I will go with 45%), maintenance calories would be 66 + (6.3 x 190) + (12.9 x 68) – (6.8 x 34) = 1909, increase this by 45% and you get 2769 calories. However this is just maintenance so to build muscle increase by maybe 200 calories for a few weeks and see how it progresses. If there was no weight gain after this time, increase by another 200 – You get the idea.

If you want to gain mass quickly then obviously increase by even more calories, however you may then accumulate some bodyfat alongside this weight gain. A lot of people want to get big without fat and although I believe this is possible, it is a slow process. You ask any accomplished bodybuilder and they will talk about bulking and cutting. That is because it is well known that building muscle is difficult, whereas leaning out is easier to accomplish – So they smash as many calories down their face as possible for a space of time whilst training hard, then go through a phase of ‘clean’ eating and cardio etc to strip fat and leave the muscle that was gained during bulking. Although this is not a perfect way to do it as it’s quite harmful to the body, it works and has been working for many years!

You want to ask yourself this – Are you a competing bodybuilder? Is a sub 10% bodyfat level necessary? How often do you strut around with your top off flexing, by comparison to how often you walk around clothed? Do you want to look skinny in your clothes but have that six-pack on the rare occassion you’re topless? or do you want to walk around looking ‘Hench’ all the time, top on or off?

Getting big is about getting strong, once you have a good amount of muscle it is even easier to strip the fat, plus if you’re really that concerned about a bit of bodyfat, you’re probably not that committed to gaining muscle anyway.

Jay Cutler in ‘Bulk Mode’ – That’s commitment!


Tuesday 23rd October 2012

Plenty of time today so took my time to warm-up properly – started doing pull-throughs again in place of hamstring curls and working down the weight stack on cable crunches (minimum hip flexor involvement on these). Still doing as many chins as possible throughout session and stick pass throughs for shoulder mobility.

Incline Bench 87.5kg x5x5x10 – followed up with 60kg x17 after minimum rest, in between sets cable face pulls (10) x13x13

Kroc rows 42.5kg x23

DB Flyes 15kg x12x10x8 – went back to DB’s as machine was irritating my shoulder

Cable pullover (11) x12, (10) x8x7 – I think the cable machines are 10lb plates, but again not 100% on this.

Hack Squat 97.5kg x20 – Man these are getting tough now! Ran out of memory on my phone so video didn’t save, I’ve not deleted any of them since I started recording my lifts, oops! – 100kg next week, yikes!

Following it up later with the old ‘Core & Stretch’ class, going to do a bit of hip flexor mobillity and lower back stretching to get the most from it!


Farmers Walks – Build your forearms & traps and strengthen your core – all whilst doing your ‘cardio’

Anyone who has performed a Farmer’s Walk with a significant weight will agree, they are killers! Although they look straightforward, they work your whole body, leave you gassed, and have been referred to as the ‘moving plank’ by spine specialists – Definitely a recommended ‘core’ exercise as far as I’m concerned. As a ‘Hench’ conditioning exercise, what can beat walking around carrying big-ass weights?

The normal Farmer’s Walk can be performed with just about anything you can pick up, from dumbbells and kettlebells to sandbags and olympic plates (loose plates – savage on the grip!). Simply assume a deadlift position over your objects, pick them up and walk a pre-determined distance for a few sets. As a guide, try to use bodyweight in total, or to be truly Hench, work up to bodyweight in each hand! Aim to walk 30-35 metres around 4-6 times.

The single handed Farmer’s Walk is the king of core strengthening! It will absolutely trash your grip, obliques, traps, lats and just about everything else! Set-up is the same, but with just one weight, swap it after each length (30-35 metres). Again work towards being able to hold bodyweight in one hand for Henchness!

Most importantly – Focus on posture throughout the entire exercise. Keep your shoulders back and down, head up not forward, arms by your sides and abs braced throughout – If you’re walking like a Neanderthal you’re not doing yourself any good! Throw these on the end of your workouts as a finisher, done correctly you won’t be able to hold a weight afterwards!

Start with the two handed variety and move on to the one handed for a real challenge! For a true strongman type Farmers Walk, either use purpose made handles or olympic barbells, the added instability will only increase the benefits of the exercise!


Sunday 21st October 2012

A good session today, Sundays are typically quiet, was nice to have the gym pretty much to myself. I’ve decided to give deadlifts a break for a while, I did some Romanian deadlifts today to warm up for them, but when I went to the bar, my back felt a bit sore from Fridays squat session! As I’m desperately trying to cure my APT/hyper lordosis I think they’re better left anyway – May try some stiff legged next week to see how they feel?

Press 72.5kg x5x5x7 – followed up with a finisher set at 50kg x9 – excuse Simon vacuuming in the background!

Weighted chins 25kg x6, 20kg x7 – followed up with ‘V’ grip pulldown to chest (9) x15

Weighted dips 22.5kg x12x9x7x6, then 15 unweighted to failure

Romanian deadlift 135kg x5x5

Kneeling cable crunches (14) x15x15


The Real Secret to Bigger Arms

It’s no big surprise that we all want bigger arms. you ask a hundred guys who train and I can pretty much guarantee 90% of them want bigger guns. However, most people go about it completely the wrong way with endless sets of curls or worse still a whole session in the gym dedicated to arm training. The old saying add 20lbs of muscle to the whole body to add 1 inch on the arms is very true! The best way to increase your arms (drug free) is to get strong on the big compound lifts – Squat/Bench/Deadlift/Press/Rows/Chins etc.

Compound lifts like the squat create an environment inside of your body that encourages muscle growth, they release massive amounts of testosterone and HGH which in turn help to build muscle. Working a small muscle group like the arms on their own just will not produce the same effect. Think about it .. If you are capable of benching over bodyweight for reps your triceps are not going to be small, If you can perform weighted chins for reps your biceps are not going to be small, you see where I’m going with this? Forget the routines advocated by guys pumped full of goodness-knows-what, unless some form of drugs are involved, it is impossible to build big arms with skinny legs! You need to work the body as a whole.

Not only do the big movements use your arms anyway, a weak upper/lower body can’t support the weight when you do want to work on your arms. You will end up rocking around and leaning into the movement negating any effect it may have. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do any curls, but first you want to address your strength on the main lifts – What works your biceps more? a concentration curl with 12kg or a bent-over-row with 100kg? Or full range chin-ups? How about triceps – an overhead extension with 25kg or a bench press of 100kg?

The arms assist just about every movement of the body so dedicating a whole session to them is madness, they get worked every time you go to the gym, as almost all lifts require you to hold the weight. Adding extra lifts to the arms alone is a potential route to overtraining them which again is not going to help with size! And, as previously stated, not enough muscle is being utilised in these sessions to promote the release of the necessary hormones for growth.

Now some of you may be thinking, “but the longhead of the tricep doesn’t get worked with a bench press”, and “the peak of the bicep only gets hit with cable curls” .. Well I’ll go back to what I said previously, I’m not saying you can’t do any isolation work, just remember it is the icing on the cake. Alongside a balanced program of heavy compound upper and lower body work, a couple of sets of isolation here and there can help add size to your arms, but keep your focus on the main lifts, these are where the real growth is going to come from. Again, I refer back to a previous post on chins/dips – Look at a gymnasts arms, usually big and powerful but they don’t do curls! They have a steady diet of compound upper body work – Chin-ups and dips.


Friday 19th October 2012

Another double Spin class yesterday so spent a bit of time straight after classes stretching my hip flexors, I’ve also been trying to take some time at night to foam roll them and my quads (ouch!). A bit short on time today so superset (of a sort) my lifts – basically in the 3-5 minutes between Bench and Squat sets, I’d do another lift which didn’t effect it too much in order to get all my lifts done in the timeframe.

Decline Bench 120kg x5x5x6 – After previous post fancied giving them a try myself, I had to put boards under my feet as couldn’t put my feet down otherwise! Felt a bit unstable as not an ideal decline bench – can’t hook legs – felt like I was sliding a little, but got the hang of it by my last set. (cut the video as I stupidly went for a seventh rep which failed and you don’t need to see that!)

Yates row 82.5kg x15x15x15 (slotted these in between each bench set)

Machine preacher curls 15kg x11x10 (as I’m still doing pull-ups all the way through, my arms are pretty tired when I get to these! but I really like them so sticking with it! – Again, I performed these between squat sets to save time.

Squat 142.5kg x5x5x10 – Form got a little ugly toward last few reps but I was determined to get 10 again! I’m still surprised that Spin isn’t affected these at the moment, I put it down to the mobility I’m doing for my hips/APT and just eating as much as possible the night before my session!


The Decline Bench Press – Build a bigger chest without shoulder pain

Anyone who has been doing bench press in some variation will have had or still suffer from shoulder pain. Usually around the anterior deltoid (front shoulder) or impingement in the rotator cuff area. Though you would think otherwise the flat bench press tends to irritate the shoulder more than the overhead press. This is because the flat bench utilises the anterior deltoid heavily, especially with a medium to narrow grip, developing mainly the front part of the shoulder. Whereas the overhead press (performed correctly) develops the shoulder as a whole.

Most bodybuilders believe that the chest should be worked at all angles and that decline is for the lower chest only. In fact during EMG studies it has been shown that the decline bench press (at a minimal angle i.e 15-20 degrees) actually activates more total chest muscle than other angles. Not only that, but there is a lot less pressure on the anterior deltoid seriously reducing chance of injury and less irritation for already damaged shoulders. Many of the biggest names (and bodies!) in bodybuilding – Yates, Coleman & Cutler to name a few, swear by the decline bench and use it as a main stay of their training, this should make it definitely worth considering if mass is your goal.

One of the things I particularly like about the decline bench is that it feels so much better, the angle feels more natural (it resembles the movement the pectoral muscles are mainly responsible for) and certainly for me, I am more aware of my chest in the movement and so find it easier to focus on the lift rather than the pain in my shoulders!! You can also move more weight in a decline position, increasing your strength and confidence under the bar, which can then help you past sticking points when you return to flat benching.

If you haven’t tried it before (or even if you have), replace your flat bench with it for a while. When you reach a plateau swap it back out again and see how it has helped your strength come along, as well as your physique! Just be sure to have a spotter to hand as any bench, and worse case, dare I say it? use a smith machine for safety.


Tuesday 16th October 2012

Struggled a little with the bench today, felt it in the shoulder (probably from overdoing it earlier in the week!) so I’m going to take a reset on these next session. Otherwise not too bad today considering I had a bit of a late night.

Incline Bench 96kg x3x5x4 – Although i did 5 reps on last set, my form was awful, butt came up off bench so I didn’t count it. In between sets did face pulls on cable (level 9) x15x15

Kroc rows 42.5kg x22

Machine flyes (10) x10x6, (8) x8 – going to drop to (9) next session to increase reps on sets, ideally looking at at least 12 for these.

Cable pullover (11) x11 (10) x9x7

Hack squat 95kg x6x6x20 – these are a real killer, but I’m persevering with the weight increases and holding at 20 reps for as long as I can

Again I’ve got my core & stretch class later so can hammer my abs and stretch it out 🙂