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.
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
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!
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
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.
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!
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.
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 🙂
Firstly I’ll start with a correction – Everyone has lordosis! It is the natural curve of the lower spine (lumbar), it’s commonly confused with hyper-lordosis which is an exaggerated curve in this area. When lordosis is being described it is usually being confused with this.
Hyper lordosis is usually characterized by a protruding stomach and a deep lumbar curve making the bottom appear larger/stick out. Women are stereotypically more lordotic, but the condition effects many men as well, especially with a sedentary lifestyle.
It is commonly caused by overdeveloped or tight hip flexors (although some of us are just born with it). These pull the lumbar spine forward which in turn tends to cause lengthened or weaker abdominals, which then cause inactive glutes and an overdeveloped lower back due to the force acting on it whenever standing or walking. I spoke about these previously in August in a post entitled ‘Ramblings and an article or two’ where I included a link to T-Nation’s article ‘Force Couples’. However to put it simply the hip flexors are the biggest culprit for hyper-lordosis as we as a species generally spend too long sitting and so they become shortened over time pulling the pelvis forward into APT.
To give you a better idea of this, see the following image, the strong/shortened and weak/lengthened muscles are highlighted to give you more of an indication of how the pelvis is affected. Obviously there are different stages of the condition, severe hyper-lordosis can be crippling with a lumbar curve so deep the person appears at an almost 90 degree angle and the spine is at a massive risk of damage/hernia just moving around.
However I’m looking at a mild/light degree of APT that can be treated at home (I’ll come to the treatment in a later post). But, aesthetics aside (who wants to look like they have a fat belly and butt when they don’t?), I wanted to highlight the dangers of weightlifting with hyper-lordosis. When the lumbar curve is in overextension it alters the mechanics of the spine and can lead to injury or herniation of the discs.
The two worst affected lifts are; Overhead pressing – the danger is due to the weight pushing downwards increasing pressure throughout the lumbar region, this will also effect how much weight you can press as the weight will be felt in the lower back rather than the shoulders/triceps. Deadlifting – when the lift is achieved through leaning back (sway back) mainly using the stronger erector spinae (lower back muscles ) as opposed to locking out the hips with the glutes – again putting all the pressure on the lumbar area, but massively limiting the weight as the far stronger hamstrings and glutes are not firing to help the lift. Some may even feel the lower back tightness on a bench press due to the extreme arching caused by the rotation of the pelvis, or during a squat again due to the increased arch.
All of this increased pressure over time can a cause a herniated disc (again aside from looking like a neanderthal!) which will not only slow down your progress somewhat, can well be a weak spot for the rest of your life. Not good .. Fortunately, unlike kyphosis or scoliosis, hyper-lordosis can easily be affected and eased with simple stretching/foam rolling of tight muscles and strengthening of weak/inactive ones. I will post some examples of these over the next few days. Watch this space!
Got another session in, despite only having trained yesterday had a good few lifts again today. Kept the chins throughout, but no back off sets as a little sore from last session already!
Press 71kg x5x5x7
Weighted chins 25kg x6, 20kg x7
Weighted dips 22.5kg x12x9x8x5
Had plenty of time so focused on a few low weight deadlifts for a while to improve technique – in between sets ‘V’ grip pulldown to chest (level 8)
Deadlift 60kg x10, pulldown x15, deadlift 80kg x10, pulldown x15, 90kg x5, pulldown x15, deadlift 100kg x5
Deadlift 120kg x10 – form again an issue towards end of set. Getting frustrated with these! I think I’m going to really focus on my tight hip flexors/lower back and get my posture improved. I feel lately its starting to hold me back a bit. Any tips welcomed!
I guess yesterdays feast paid off! Felt full of energy and ready to train today, all my lifts felt right, even squats after double spin last night – A rarity nowadays! Again tried to slot in a set of chins in between most lifts, so racked up around 50 by the end of the session. I’m going to start aiming to do exactly that each time, get at least 50 chins every session (I’m pretty sure that was one of Arnie’s things, but he did pull-ups instead).
Bench 115kg x5x5x6, back off set 70kg x17
Machine preacher curls 20kg x10, 15kg x8 – I guess the pull-ups took their toll!
Yates row 80kg x15x15x15 – definitely felt these more in the back (and forearms!), so will creep weight up slowly and keep the reps in the 12-15 range
Squat 140kg x5x5x10 – A little good morning-esque on the last two reps, need to watch that, otherwise my lower back will suffer! Didn’t do a back off set on squats, I do enough leg work in Spin!
After double Spin tonight, got home to face this! Chilli over rice with Nacho’s .. The picture doesn’t do it justice, it was huge! After a valiant effort, food won this round, I couldn’t quite eat all of it – left a few mouthfuls of rice .. What a perfect post workout feast, thanks love!!
Anyone who has participated in training of any kind is familiar with DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). Even advanced lifters may occasionally suffer from it. What may surprise you is that it is still not fully understood in the scientific community nor can its causes be fully identified. There are a few theories, some of which are more believable, but none are 100% proven. (I may delve into these at a later date, but for now I’m looking at the effect on training and/or hypertrophy (muscle growth)).
DOMS itself can range from mild swelling stiffness around the joints involved to crippling pain where you are literally barely able to stand. It can start from immediately after a workout to a couple of days later and cast last for days – in extreme cases up to a week! Typically however it occurs 24-72 hours after a workout and lasts a day or two. To best keep it to a minimum ensure you eat enough post work-workout, drink plenty of water and get adequate rest.
You do not need DOMS to build muscle, so don’t strive to absolutely kill yourself with volume and/or reps every workout, this is madness! It will also hinder progress as you will be unable to train again for a few days due to the pain. Some trainers deliberately push their clients into soreness every workout with statements like “no pain, no gain”, and “if you don’t hurt tomorrow, you didn’t work hard enough”. All this shows is a complete lack of knowledge on their part, and generally are just trying to prove themselves as their clients may then talk about them in ways such as “so-and-so is a much better trainer than so-and-so, my legs were killing for a week”. Great! well done, you’ve done one session and now can’t do anything else for a week due to soreness! Now think about going for a 10 mile walk tomorrow (boring I know), I can guarantee if you don’t do a lot of walking you will have a level of DOMS from it. Does it take a Personal Training certificate for that? It is very easy to make someone sore after a workout, but not so easy to get them faster, stronger or lower body-fat, that is where a good trainer should stand out from the crowd.
Now I’m not saying you should avoid DOMS altogether, far from it, but you shouldn’t train specifically for it either. It can occur at random due in part to being dehydrated or not having enough rest, but it will mostly occur when you change an exercise or perform something you haven’t done before. It also tends to occur a lot with plyometric (explosive) work, but again mainly when you are new to the exercise and tends to decrease as you adapt to it. For example, I performed a Hack Squat last week for the first time and had DOMS for around 4 days, even though I increased the weight the next time I used it, my soreness was far less as I’ve started to adapt to the stresses involved.
Should you try to train with DOMS or will it make it worse? Another debate-able point. If you are too sore to train, there is little point anyway, but I would suggest some light/mild exercise as I find it helps to dissipate the soreness. However that is my experience, you may be different. One thing is for sure, in the science world, it has been proven that the recovery process can continue and even be enhanced through another workout session, so don’t get dragged into the ‘overtraining’ myth – You can’t overtrain in one workout!! Too many people have been brainwashed with the ‘you must completely recover before the next session’. I have often trained whilst sore and it has never hindered my progress. (I can also talk about CrossFit here, whilst following that I was regularly sore but still would workout the next day without ‘overtraining’). If you get prolonged or extreme soreness, however, then it is genuinely time for a break!
In short, getting DOMS after a session is a good indicator of work done, but it is not the only indicator. It should not be trained for specifically and not getting it doesn’t mean you haven’t trained hard enough. Keep adding weight to the bar and get stronger, you cannot get a better indicator for progress than being able to lift more weight for more reps.
Due to various commitments my gym sessions are getting less exact (no more tues/thurs/sun workouts), so it’s just a case of training as and when I can! This meant another session today, but as I struggled yesterday I was quite happy to try and make up for it today!
Again changed my warm-up a little, swapping out reverse crunches for cable crunches as I can add some weight now, and doing 3 sets of 15 pass-throughs to loosen shoulders. Felt better today, one of those good days in the gym! After yesterdays deadlift, I’ve decided to focus more on back work for a few weeks, so doing a couple of extra lifts or swapping things out as necessary. Also trying to get as many chin-ups in as possible in between sets and during warm-ups.
Incline Bench 96kg x4x4x5, followed up with 60kg x15 (approx 30-60s rest after lift, however this is just to change the plates, not an official rest). In between sets Cable face pulls (level 8) x15x15 – About time for a re-set on these, that last rep only just made it!
Kroc rows 42.5kg x20
Machine flyes (level 10) x12, (level 9) x10x7 – Having done DB flyes for so long, these are killers as been missing out on the middle part of the movement!
Cable pullovers (level 11) x10, (level 10) x8x6
Hack squat 92.5kg x6x6x20 – hopefully won’t get DOMS as bad as last time!
Was good to get in the gym as missed usual Sunday session, however still seem to be struggling lately .. I think it’s down to not getting enough calories in alongside the extra classes I’m teaching so going to focus on eating enough, even if it means chugging down a few extra shakes! Also after reading a few of Paul’s posts on Lift-Run-Bang, I like the idea of back off sets, so been doing a few post-exhaust sets for hypertrophy. Changed my warm-up slightly as still trying to combat mild lordosis. So now doing increasing weight on bar (dependant on first lift) with chins, lying hamstring curls and weighted decline crunches/rev crunches.
Press 71kg x4x4x5, followed up with a seated military press 50kg x7 (next time will go a little lighter, I would prefer to be hitting 10+ reps on these follow up sets).
Weighted chins 25kg x5, 20kg x6, followed up with ‘V’ handle pulldown to chest (level 8) x15
Weighted dips 22.5kg x11x8x6x6
Romanian deadlift 100kg x8, 135kg x5x5 (still using these as more of a warm-up for deadlifts so don’t want to go too heavy – also kills the grip for deadlifts!)
Deadlift 150kg x5 – Technique seems to have completely gone lately, I’d love to be able to blame it on something like my tight hips/sway back situation, but mostly it’s just technique! I’m going to drop the weight again for a while and work a few higher rep sets and really focus on it for a while. It’s always been my weakest lift so it’s about time I sorted it!
Been a real hectic weekend so haven’t had time to train, let alone post. However here is just a little something that anyone looking to get big and strong should read! Paul Carter wrote this some time ago and like Johnny Pain has a great no bull in-your-face way of writing that requires no further comment! Read it here : Just Train
A tough slog today! I taught double Spin last night (2 hours), and then covered another Spin first thing this morning at 7am (so 3 hours of spin in 12 hours! – not good before a squat day ;)). Due to being up so early I felt tired all day, but still hit the gym anyway as I’m busy all weekend so needed to get a session in. Despite all this didn’t do to badly, although the bar felt really heavy all round today!
Bench 115kg x5x4x4 – went for the 5th on the last set, but couldn’t lock it out, thankfully big Kev stepped in before the bar started on it’s inevitable downward journey! – Thanks Kev! I’m going to repeat the weight next session as it was a bad day and I think I could have easily got 5 on a good day.
Preacher curl machine 25kg x8, 20kg x10 – not used one like this before and had got bored of curls so gave it a try. The leverage is designed so that the weight is the greatest at the top of the movement as opposed to when you normally do curls and it’s at the middle. This was humbling and I had to seriously drop my weight down! However I really liked the feel of it so going to stick at it for a few weeks before I go back to the bar. Also there’s no ‘cheating’ or swinging on this one!
Yates row 97.5kg x10x10x8 – still not sure about these, I’m going to drop the weight and try and nail the form for higher reps.
Squat 137.5kg x5x5x7 – Man! Spin certainly took it’s toll on these (unsurprisingly), bar felt really heavy and struggled on first set! Took longer rest than usual so I could get a decent last set and after 7 reps I thought about another, but decided to rack it. Legs were just too fried and I don’t think I’d have got out of the bottom!
‘What supplements should I take?’ is a common question in gyms worldwide, our dependence on them is shocking! How many people do you know taking supplements? what percentage of gym goers would you say is hitting them regularly? I don’t know either, but I know it’s a lot. Why is this..? Clever marketing!
The definition of a supplement is: Something that completes or enhances something else when added to it.
Supplements are just that, they are supposed to go with good training and nutrition, not replace them. Too many people (young guys especially) put supplements first and training second. They are never going to succeed with that attitude. No supplement takes the place of hard work in the gym and good nutrition, not one.
If there really was a good supplement that worked really well on the market, don’t you think we’d all know about it? And don’t you think the top-level bodybuilder’s would be using it instead of pumping full of dangerous and illegal steroids?
Again, to supplement means ‘in addition to’, but that’s just the point, most people think they can stack a load of horrendously overpriced supplements and they’ll pack on muscle. Unfortunately they forget that food is the number one most anabolic substance out there, and hard work in the gym second. Get those two absolutely spot on first, then ask yourself – Are you getting enough rest and hydration? – Then and only then could you start to think about supplements, and if you are, do some proper research! don’t follow what some forum guy advises or because some top-level pro advertises it. They didn’t get that way from the supplement, I can guarantee it!
Do I supplement? Yes, I do. However, I like to think I have the above points covered, and I also know that they are just a tool to aid my progress and may get me there a little quicker. The training I do is and always should be the number one priority. I only take a few time proven supplements that have been used for many years by all levels – currently protein and creatine. That’s it! – All the other ones are unnecessary if you stick to a balanced healthy diet, which also means you’re not taking unknown quantities of whatever might be included, even if the dosage is high enough to warrant taking it. (do you really know what half of the ingredients even are, never mind what the long-term effects might be?) Half of the supplements out there have such a low amount of the active ingredient you may as well not bother. The rest of the hype is marketing and advertising. Don’t fall for it!
In summary, get your training right, eat properly, drink plenty of water, get enough sleep and rest adequately between workouts. If you’re doing all this, then you could consider taking supplements, but don’t expect miracles!
In a world gone mad for the latest greatest machine or new fangled exercise that every newly qualified Personal Trainer ‘thinks’ they’ve invented, we are sadly overlooking what has always worked. For great upper body strength and development look no further than the chin up and the dip and they’re weighted progressions. If you’re not sure look at a professional gymnast – I think you’ll agree that they’re pretty Hench! And do you think they do curls/pushdowns or use machines? Nope, the overwhelming majority of their training is dominated by chins and dips in some variation.
We all know by now that the squat is the king of the lower body exercises, and if you don’t you badly need to read up! I’m not going to rant about that right now, there is more than enough that’s been said on that front. Well, the chin-up and dip are most definitely in the running for the upper body crown. The most frustrating thing is that most commercial gyms don’t even have a chin-up bar and less still have a dipping station, preferring instead the grossly overpriced suspension bands or some variant, where all manner of interesting movements can be done and so make them more ‘functional’ … man, am I getting sick of hearing that word! Guess what? Gymnastic rings were first used in the mid 1800’s, and have been used in gymnastics since the early 1900’s. They are still used today in virtually the same form (rings at the end of a rope). So what exactly is so revolutionary about suspension bands? Oh wait, they have a different attachment point so they can be used at different angles and are unstable so require more ‘core’ stability when performing standard exercises like rows and bicep curls on them .. oh dear! Check out that person doing the exercises and tell me their core is stable – they’re usually not strong enough for it anyway and are wriggling around and swinging their hips with dreadful posture whilst doing the exercises, thus negating any ‘stability’ in the first place!
Anyway, back to chin ups and dips, how many have seen the guy doing gut wrenching, back swinging lat pulldowns with the whole stack? He probably can’t even do strict chins for the same amount of reps. The same goes for the guy who can smash out 10 reps at 100kg on the bench press, can he do 10 strict dips? Probably not. Not to mention the stability involved in the shoulder joint, and the subsequent strengthening of the rotator cuff.
Some of the best physiques in bodybuilding were built back in the day with a staple diet of chins and dips, I’ve already mentioned gymnasts but again, check out the upper body development of Kristian Thomas as an example.
Basically, the reason most avoid these is that they’re too damn hard! especially the weighted versions. But since when has the easiest version of something given the greatest gains? It’s about time you went back to basics put these two great exercises back into your routine. If you need further clarification see what Charles Poliquin has to say about them here: weighted chins, weighted dips. That’s it, rant over 😉
Legs still a little fried from Sunday’s Hack squat followed by spin yesterday so gave them a break today 🙂 Usual warm-up, working up the weight on the bar along with chins, pull-throughs and rev. crunches on incline bench. Again focus on technique alongside trying to keep wrists straight throughout sets (easy on warm-up, but taking more concentration on work sets). Ran out of battery so only managed to film Bench today (only just! it died on rep 7 so cut out last bad rep)
Incline Bench 95kg x5x5x6 – Did go for another but butt came off bench so didn’t count it.
Kroc rows 40kg x25
DB Flyes 17.5kg x12x8x5
Cable pullovers (level 10) x12x10x8x6
Rack Pull 160kg x10 – It felt a bit too high, going to try next point down when I repeat
Got to teach core and stretch again later so going to hammer my abs and stretch out .. It’s not the worst situation, I get paid to share my workout/stretching 😉
I’ve been looking into this a lot lately and it seems, as usual, there are many different opinions! Some advocate a ‘rack’ type position, where the bar is sat back in the hands towards the fingers and touches the collarbone/upper chest at the bottom of the movement. Others a more extreme ‘knuckles in line with forearm’ wrist position and some, as I do, feel it has to be somewhere in the middle.
When pressing (either overhead or bench) it is imperative that you can utilize as much of your strength as possible. If the wrists are rolled back, i.e bar back toward base of fingers, the wrists will flex and absorb some of the force. They will also create instability – akin to squatting in trainers (rubber soles). Aside from the pain you’ll feel when your using heavier weights, this instability should be enough to put you off, you don’t want to drop the bar on yourself! If you hold the bar with knuckles in line with forearm, then you are supporting the weight with your thumbs only – good luck with this with heavier weights!
However, when the bar is directly over the bones of the forearm (as in the right hand image), you can apply 100% of your effort directly to the bar. This can take some getting used to, especially if you’ve been letting the wrists roll back slightly (left image), however it is definitely worth doing. You will feel the difference immediately, especially on the bench, where you will get more pectoral activation and less deltoid. You may find you will need to lower your weights until you grow accustomed to the new grip, but your strength will come back and with improved technique comes greater muscle recruitment and thus more growth.
On a side note: don’t get confused by the term straight wrists, the weight of the bar should be on the heel of your palm so that you can squeeze it as hard as you can during the press. Give it a try next workout and let me know what you think?