Are You Making These Mistakes In The Gym? By Jon Bruney – Original Article published on DragonDoor.com in August 2013
Most Hard Training Individuals – Even The Experienced Ones – Are Making A Handful Of Easily Correctable Mistakes That Are Preventing Them From Achieving Their True Physical Potential…
So If You Want More Strength, Muscle, Speed, Power, Athleticism And Conditioning – Read On Carefully And Make Sure You Aren’t Making Any Of These MISTAKES…
In case you’re wondering why you should listen to me, let me start by quickly telling you a little bit about myself…
I’m a professional performing strongman, world class trainer, coach, motivational speaker and author. I have been featured in Ripley’s Believe it or Not and appeared nationwide on NBC’s The Today Show. And thousands of people have personally experienced my “Pressing the Limits” motivational strength programs.
My work with competitive athletes includes Olympians and NFL players.
I am the author of Foundations, a training series featured in MILO, widely considered the world’s most prestigious strength training journal.
And as co-owner of Submit Strength Equipment, I have been responsible for the design of numerous pieces of cutting-edge training equipment now in use around the world.
5 Mistakes In The Gym That Are Holding You Back From Being As Strong, Muscular, Fast, Explosive and Well-Conditioned As You Could Be…
1. Choosing The Wrong Exercises
Not all exercises deliver the best results for the effort you put in.
I witnessed this personally when I was a trainer for a Cable TV show that was focused on helping individuals make rapid changes in body composition. Some of these people had been working very hard trying to make changes in their physiques.
But one of the key problems – and reasons why they weren’t progressing towards their ideal physique as fast as they’d like – was exercise selection. Once we changed the exercises, the results came RAPIDLY.
The sad truth is that many people put in GREAT effort, only to get MEDIOCRE results.
If they only knew how to incorporate the right exercises into the right program, they would smash through genetic barriers and see powerful changes in their physiques.
One example is the guy who busts his ass for an hour training his arms with a myriad of machines exercises. Sure – he is training with a lot of EFFORT, but does he possess the powerful ‘guns’ he desires?
The answer is almost always, “NO”.
On the other hand, consider the guy who trains his arms using just a handful of big, compound exercises…
Chin-Ups and Barbell Curls for the biceps.
Close Grip Bench Presses and Dips for the triceps.
And he does this week in, week out.
This guy trains equally as hard as the other guy – but his results are 10 times as good!
What’s the difference?
Simple… Exercise selection.
2. Choosing A Program That Develops ‘Show Muscle’ Instead Of ‘Smart Muscle’
Many training programs only focus on one approach to create hypertrophy. This results in muscle that underperforms. Smart Muscle, on the other hand, PERFORMS as well as it LOOKS.
Allow me to explain…
Smart muscle is muscle that can multi-task and handle any challenge thrown it’s way.
To truly create a bigger and better body a strength program must use multiple stressors. This will teach the nervous system to recruit more muscle fibers and allow the body to adapt to multiple forms of resistance. The goal should not only be to increase muscle size, but also strength and athleticism.
All of my hypertrophy programs do this… they help you to increase muscle size, strength and athleticism.
To focus only on building muscle is a mistake – especially if you compete in sports and are using your resistance training to not only help you to look better, but also to become a better athlete.
3. Spending Too Much Time At The Gym
Many trainees spend too much time in the gym and have little to show for it.
You see, the truth is that long routines plus long cardio sessions are not very effective because long training sessions cause you to miss out on key hormonal factors that could build muscle.
Secondly, people should have a life outside of the gym.
By the time you drive to the gym, change, set up your workout, have a post workout shake, shower, and drive home…you could easily spend two hours or more.
There is little free time left over to develop relationships, pursue other hobbies and interests, and to feed your mind.
I have personally helped individuals to get amazing results in their own homes using minimal or no equipment in 4 hours a week or less!
The key is understanding how the right exercises can be combined to create a synergistic effect of increased neuromuscular efficiency and maximum muscular hypertrophy in minimum time.
This combination unleashes powerful muscle building hormones throughout the body.
4. Lack Of Focus And Mental Preparation
There are days when trainees just don’t “feel” like working out…
They lack motivation, so they procrastinate.
Many individuals don’t have the proper focus to complete a training session at the proper intensity. So, they just go through the motions. The results are missed or wasted workouts.
Without proper focus and concentration when training, one can never reach their physical potential. Unfortunately, many trainees don’t know that there are exercises to focus your mind, develop your willpower, and deepen your concentration skills.
Understanding the importance of mental training can often be the difference between success and failure when it comes to building a powerful and athletic physique.
5. Failing To Break Training Plateaus
Trainees often get discouraged because their gains stop after a short time. They therefore quit or become stuck; never reaching their goals.
The real problem lies with the training programs. And the reason I say this is because many training programs do not provide a way to keep on gaining.
Understanding how to keep the training fresh and the gains coming is essential to reaching your true athletic potential.
If you find yourself making any of these “Mistakes”, I have good news. Tomorrow I’ll be teaching you how to avoid these mistakes and how to get on the path toward building “Smart Muscle”….
Talk to you then,
Anyone that exercises whether it be weightlifting or running or even if you don’t exercise and work in an office or typically have to sit at work all day – You need to start using a foam roller. If you struggle with posture or tight muscles or are just looking to improve your flexibility/mobility, buy yourself a roller! – They are cheap and easy to use and far more effective than stretching, they will alleviate typically tight and/or sore areas like lower back, hips or shoulder pain with simple easy to learn techniques as detailed below (article/guide originally posted on T-Nation)
Feel Better for 10 Bucks
Self-myofascial release: no doctor required!
by Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson
Ten bucks doesn’t buy much nowadays. You could pick up a day pass at some commercial gym, or pull off the co-pay on a visit to the chiropractor. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to swing a mediocre Russian mail order bride.
Or, you could just go the safe route with your $10, take our advice, and receive a lifetime of relief from the annoying tightness so many athletes and weekend warriors feel from incessantly beating on their bodies. Don’t worry, this isn’t an infomercial. We just want you to pick up a foam roller for self-myofascial release and deep tissue massage.
How does it work?
Self-myofascial release (SMR) on a foam roller is possible thanks to the principle known as autogenic inhibition. You’ve likely heard of the Golgi Tendon Organ (GTO) at some point in your training career. The GTO is a mechanoreceptor found at the muscle-tendon junction; it’s highly sensitive to changes in tension in the muscle.
When tension increases to the point of high risk of injury (i.e. tendon rupture), the GTO stimulates muscle spindles to relax the muscle in question. This reflex relaxation is autogenic inhibition. The GTO isn’t only useful in protecting us from injuries, but it also plays a role in making proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching techniques highly effective.
The muscle contraction that precedes the passive stretch stimulates the GTO, which in turn causes relaxation that facilitates this passive stretch and allows for greater range of motion. With foam rolling, you can simulate this muscle tension, thus causing the GTO to relax the muscle. Essentially, you get many of the benefits of stretching and then some.
It’s also fairly well accepted that muscles need to not only be strong, but pliable as well. Regardless of whether you’re a bodybuilder, strength athlete, or ordinary weekend warrior, it’s important to have strength and optimal function through a full range of motion. While stretching will improve the length of the muscle, SMR and massage work to adjust the tone of the muscle. Performing one while ignoring the other is like reading T-Nation but never actually lifting weights to put the info to good use.
What’s SMR good for?
Traditional stretching techniques simply cause transient increases in muscle length (assuming that we don’t exceed the “point of no return” on the stress-strain curve, which will lead to unwanted deformities). SMR on the foam roller, on the other hand, offers these benefits and breakdown of soft tissue adhesions and scar tissue.
One mustn’t look any further than the overwhelmingly positive results numerous individuals have had with Active Release Techniques (ART) to recognize the value of eliminating adhesions and scar tissue. Unfortunately, from both a financial and convenience standpoint, we can’t all expect to get ART done on a frequent basis.
SMR on the foam roller offers an effective, inexpensive, and convenient way to both reduce adhesion and scar tissue accumulation and eliminate what’s already present on a daily basis. Just note that like stretching, foam rolling doesn’t yield marked improvements overnight; you’ll need to be diligent and stick with it (although you’ll definitely notice acute benefits).
Those of you who have been following our Neanderthal No More series will definitely be interested in the valuable role foam rollers can play in correcting postural afflictions. Get to work on those tight muscles and you’ll definitely see appreciable returns on your efforts!
So let’s get started!
What you need to get:
1) 6″ foam roller (either the 1′ long or 3′ long version)
2) Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” CD
3) A leopard-skin thong
4) Two quarts of baby oil to lube yourself up
Note: If you thought we were really serious on numbers two through four, you need to get your mind out of the gutter and find a new favorite website!
These techniques are actually very simple to learn. Basically, you just use your body weight to sandwich the roller between the soft tissue to be released and the floor. Roll at a slow pace and actually stop and bear down on the most tender spots (“hot spots”). Once the pain in these spots diminishes, roll the other areas.
In order to increase the pressure on the soft tissue, simply apply more of your body weight to the roller. The simplest way to do this is by either moving from working both legs at once to one leg, or by “stacking” one of your legs on top of the other to increase the tension.
As you get more comfortable with SMR, you’ll really want to be bearing down on the roller with most (if not all) of your body weight. As with almost anything in the training world, there’s considerable room for experimentation, so you’ll definitely want to play around with the roller to see what works best for you. Be careful to avoid bony prominences, though. (Insert your own joke here.)
One other technique we’ve found to be beneficial is to work from the proximal (nearest the center of the body) to the distal (away from the center of the body) attachment of the muscle. For instance, instead of working your quadriceps from top to bottom all in one shot, shorten your stroke a little bit. Work the top half first, and after it has loosened up, move on to the bottom half.
This is an important strategy because as you get closer to the distal muscle-tendon junction, there’s a concomitant increase in tension. By working the top half first, you decrease the ensuing tension at the bottom, essentially taking care of the problem in advance.
Note: Those with circulatory problems and chronic pain diseases (e.g. fibromyalgia) should NOT use foam rollers.
Demonstrations and Descriptions
Hamstrings: You’ll want to try these with the feet turned in, out, and pointing straight ahead to completely work the entire hamstring complex. Balance on your hands with your hamstrings resting on the roller, then roll from the base of the glutes to the knee. To increase loading, you can stack one leg on top of the other.
Hip Flexors: Balance on your forearms with the top of one thigh on the roller. Roll from the upper thigh into the hip. Try this with the femur both internally and externally rotated. To do so, just shift the position of the contralateral pelvis. (In the photo, Mike would want to lift his right hip to externally rotate the left femur).
Tensor Fascia Latae and Iliotibial Band: These are a little tricky, so we’ve included pictures from two different angles. Without a doubt, this one will be the most painful for most of you.
In the starting position, you’ll be lying on your side with the roller positioned just below your pelvis. From here, you’ll want to roll all the way down the lateral aspect of your thigh until you reach the knee. Stack the opposite leg on top to increase loading.
Adductors: Balance on your forearms with the top of one of your inner thighs resting on the roller. From this position, roll all the way down to the adductor tubercle (just above the medial aspect of the knee) to get the distal attachments. You’ll even get a little vastus medialis work in while you’re there. Watch out for your twig and berries on this one, though!
Quadriceps: This one is quite similar to the hip flexor version; you’re just rolling further down on the thigh. You can perform this roll with either one or two legs on the roller.
Gluteus Medius and Piriformis: Lie on your side with the “meaty” part of your lateral glutes (just posterior to the head of the femur) resting on the roller. Balance on one elbow with the same side leg on the ground and roll that lateral aspect of your glutes from top to bottom.
Gluteus Maximus: Set up like you’re going to roll your hamstrings, but sit on the roller instead. Roll your rump. Enough said.
Calves: This, too, is similar in positioning to the hamstrings roll; you’re just rolling knee to ankle. Try this with the toes up (dorsiflexion) and down (plantarflexion). Stack one leg on top of the other to increase loading.
Tibialis Anterior: This is just like the quad roll, but you’re working on your shins instead.
Peroneals: This one is similar to the TFL/ITB roll; we’re just working on the lower leg now. Roll along the lateral aspect of the lower leg from the knee to the ankle.
Thoracolumbar Fascia: With your arms folded across your chest, lie supine with the roller positioned under your midback. Elevate the glutes and roll from the base of the scapulae to the top of the pelvis. You’ll want to emphasize one side at a time with a slight lean to one side.
Thoracic Extensors, Middle and Lower Trapezius, Rhomboids: With your arms behind your head (not pulling on the neck), lie supine with roller positioned in the middle of your back; your glutes should be on the ground. Roll upward, reversing direction when you reach the level of the armpits. This is an excellent intervention for correcting kyphosis.
Latissimus Dorsi and Teres Major: Lie on your side with the same side arm overhead. The roller should be positioned at the attachment of the lat on the scapula in the starting position. You’ll want to roll toward the attachment on the humerus (roll toward the armpit).
Triceps: Start with your body in the same position as you would for the latissimus dorsi. Now, however, you’ll want to place the roller at the top of your triceps (near your armpit) and your noggin on top of your arm to increase the tension (and no, you don’t have to be that geeky kid from Jerry Maguire to know the human head weighs 8 pounds!)
Pectoralis Major and Anterior Deltoid: Lie prone with the roller positioned at an angle slightly to one side of the sternum; the arm on this side should be abducted to about 135° (halfway between completely overhead and where it would be at the completion of a lateral raise). Roll toward the humeral head (toward the armpit).
Hopefully, this article has been proof enough that SMR on the foam roller is an excellent adjunct to your training, diet, supplementation, and restoration efforts. And, even if it isn’t, we’re only talking about ten bucks here, people! For crying out loud, just look under the couch cushions for change and you’re halfway there!
Where do you buy one? Try Perform Better:
Pick one up and give it a shot. Your body will thank you for years to come!
About the Authors
Eric Cressey, BS, CSCS is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Kinesiology with a concentration in Exercise Science at the University of Connecticut. He graduated from the University of New England with a double major in Exercise Science and Sports and Fitness Management. Eric has experience in athletic performance, rehabilitation, and general conditioning settings. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
A frequently asked question when it comes to chest training is ‘Are Dumbells better or worse than a Barbell?’ – There is no yes or no answer to this one, it is entirely dependant on your goals.
As you can load a barbell gradually with minor increases in weight, they are the ideal tool for building strength. To get stronger you need to progressively lift more weight over a period of time. If you can’t, something is not right – You can perform all the drop-sets/supersets/giant sets/forced reps etc etc, but if the weight is not increasing, you will not get stronger – You will plateau much quicker with Dumbbells due to the large increase in weight percentage between them. Even a well stocked gym will have the weight increases around the 2.5kg mark. This is as increase of 5kg on your lift which is going to be a challenge for most and makes progressive loading nigh impossible. If your goal is pure strength you can load significantly more onto a barbell due to its balance and stability and so is the perfect tool in this situation.
Muscular imbalance is another thing to address. Although you can try and be more aware of pushing equally or focusing on leading with the weaker side, with a Barbell imbalances can be masked. When using Dumbbells you will be much more aware of imbalances as one side will be unstable or will fatigue first, and will prevent your dominant side from growing faster than the other. Balanced body strength leads to greater performance and lowers the chance of injury.
The Barbell bench press is also harder on your joints than dumbbells. When pressing with dumbbells, your hands won’t remain completely pronated (palms forward), but will rotate slightly inwards reducing the stress on your wrists elbows and shoulders (particularly rotator cuff) and therefore reducing your chance of injury.
With regard to muscle recruitment, researchers noted that electrical activity or muscle stimulation in the arms was greatest in the triceps with a barbell, but when dumbbells are used the biceps also come into play as stabilisers. The Barbell activates more upper chest fibres and anterior deltoid due to the wide grip in the top position, however as your hands are free to move across your body with dumbbell presses there is greater lower pectoral activation. Although yes, you will use more stabilising muscles with the dumbbells, you will be limited by the weight increases as previously mentioned meaning you will plateau sooner.
In my opinion the barbell is the better option as you can handle a lot more weight doing the same exercises. More weight moved = bigger muscles. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use dumbbells, you should try and use both – Just keep the main focus on increasing the weight on the bar and use dumbbell sets to ensure you work the entire chest area, prevent imbalances and keep your joints healthy.
In a nutshell:
Should you use lifting straps? It’s yet another massive debate with people on both sides passionately arguing the case for and against them.
Having had a crossfit background, I have been guilty of judging people on using them myself. However, since strength training I’ve been bringing them in for my heavier topsets on deadlifts and I’m getting a couple more reps, so definitely see the benefits. A lot of the for arguments are that there’s better Lat isolation or they say ‘I feel it in my back more’ or even just being able to perform more reps with a weight that they can’t without them.
When performing deadlifts, rows or pulldowns, the majority of the time your grip will give out before your back will. If you use straps a lot you will need to add in some grip work on top of everything else. Grip training itself is extremely taxing to your CNS and is difficult to recover from as everything you do involves your grip to some extent. My advice? Don’t use them every set, just when grip is starting to become an issue with the weight you’re using. That way you’re not having to do additional grip training and you can reap the benefits of being able to go heavier on your lifts.
Click HERE to read a great nutrition article on EliteFTS by a good friend of mine Pete, my go-to-guy when it comes to anything to do with nutrition. Also click here if you missed his earlier article The Whole Foods Diet.
Pete Stables is a REPS accredited strength and conditioning coach from the United Kingdom, specializing in constructing nutrition plans for clients who want to lose weight, gain muscle, or excel in any given sport. For consultation inquiries, contact Pete at www.maximumuscle.com
Article from TheDeadlift.com
The Physical Benefits of Deadlifting
Why Deadlift? To us asking that is akin to asking Why Breathe? The Deadlift is one of the most ancient, fundamental and just flat out alpha lifts out there. In no other lift do you raise hundreds of pounds of weight off the ground with your bare hands. There’s really something magical about the Deadlift. You just don’t feel the same amount of confidence and joy doing Squats or Bench Pressing as you do while Deadlifting. There’s a reason so many people look forward to Deadlift day.
What Muscles Does The Deadlift Work?
The primary of deadlifting are increased strength and muscle mass. Since the deadlift is a compound movement it utilizes nearly every major muscle of your body:
• Spinal Erectors
• Lower Back
• Middle and Upper Trapezius
• Abdominals and Obliques
So doing one deadlift is almost like doing In a leg presses, aback extension, lying leg curls, an abdominal crunch, a gripping exercise, a straight-arm pull down and a shrug all at the same time. Yep, its one hell of a compound lift.
Another great reason for deadlifting is testosterone and growth hormone release. Studies have shown that compound lifts like the deadlift use the most muscle groups and thus release the most of these 2 crucial chemical compounds.
Still not fully convinced by the glory of the Deadlift? Listen to Johnnie Jackson, IFBB Pro and one of the strongest bodybuilders in the world.
Other Deadlifting Benefits
• Deadlifting helps to increase stability control. While using machines to train muscles will isolate and target only a specific few muscle groups, the deadlift also involves supplementary and minor muscles called stabilizer muscles that are usually ignored by the mainstream. The lack of training of these stabilizer muscles will lead to imbalances and can lead a person to be more susceptible to injury and unsymmetrical physique.
• Another huge benefit from deadlifting is increased grip strength. Since the deadlift is one of the few exercises where you must manually hold hundreds of pounds of weight, it is one of the best exercises for increasing grip strength and strengthening the forearms. Increased grip strength will then aid to improve other lifts like the bench press.
• Deadlifting is also one the few exercises out there with real world application. Pickup weights off the ground is something we’ve been doing for millennia and is exactly what the deadlift trains the body to do.
• If performed correctly the deadlift also strengthens the spine and can lead to better posture. People with lordosis or excessive curving of the spine can benefit from the deadlift as it will help fix their posture by strengthening their lower back muscles, as well as the core, and by ironing out any lower back imbalances.
• Cardio. The only two exercises to really make someone light headed are Deadlifts and Squats. Deadlifting really taxes your cardiovascular system, as you already know, or will soon find out. (Pro tip: Make sure you have somewhere to sit down after deadlifting).
Some uneducated people and crappy gyms (AKA Planet Fitness) will try and tell you the Deadlift is not a good exercise, and that it’s dangerous, and that you shouldn’t do it. That’s not true at all. Driving a car is dangerous, yet we still do it. Why? Because we learn how to do it first. So read up on Deadlifting Form before you go out there and do a clean set of 5.
Article from TheDeadlift.com
This an article written for www.muscleandbrawn.com – However I couldn’t write it any better so have posted it here!
4 WAYS TO GET FREAKING HUGE – Rock Rannick
Time To Get Swole
Man, do I have some magical, mystical, mass building advice for you today. But I know – you’re extremely skeptical. You’re waiting for the bullcrap; to be let down by some cool sounding training system with overly complicated mumbo jumbo, and exercises that suck.
Sorry, no fail for you today.
I don’t hand out fail. I’m not pushing an agenda. You want to get big fast, then do the following.
1 – Stay with a Simple Routine
Listen, you have been searching for the ultimate routine for years. In fact, you spend more time reading about routines then performing routines. And each week you switch routines. I’ve found it, this week I’m making the change to blah, blah, blah and will grow!
Enough with this foolishness. I’m about to carpet bomb your fantasies, so you have been warned. Brace yourself. Here goes…it doesn’t matter what routine you use. Yes, you heard me right. Doggcrapp, Max Stim, Dogg Stim, Max Crapp…whatever. Just pick something and stick with it. And make sure the routine isn’t complicated. You don’t need complicated.
A simple routine focuses on progression of weight using basic heavy compound lifts including:
- Bench Press
- A form of the Overhead Press
E. T. C.
If you find that your routine has you doing giant sets, drop sets, or focusing on the dreaded mind-muscle connection, run like the wind. And worse yet, if it contains too many isolation movements…well…FAIL. You don’t need training techniques or isolation movements, you need to:
2 – Lift Heavy Ass Weights
Lift heavy ass weight. Heavy ass weight makes muscles grow. Heavy ass weight can be in any rep range, because it is heavy ass weight and is kicking your balls seven ways to Sunday.
What rep range should I use? FAIL! It doesn’t matter – Lift heavy ass weights!
What should my rep speed be? FAIL! It doesn’t matter – Lift heavy ass weights!
Should I do cable crossovers before or after flyes, and should incline bench be performed with a 22 degree angle, or a 24 degree angle? FAIL! It doesn’t matter – Lift heavy ass weights!
What split is the most effective for mass? FAIL! FAIL! FAIL!
GO LIFT HEAVY ASS WEIGHTS!
But I don’t want to lift heavy! So and so says that squats are bad for your knees, and my mom is afraid and wants me to take up knitting.
Both so and so, and your mom (no offense to moms) can barely lift a roll of toilet paper to wipe their own asses. If you want to look like your mom, listen to the training advice of your mom. If you want to pack on muscle, lift heavy ass weight!
3 – Stop Bitching and Get Your Ass to the Gym!
My toe hurts.
My right nut seems small today, maybe I shouldn’t train.
Want to know how to fail? I mean epic fail? Continue to make excuses, and avoid going to the gym. Want to know how to succeed? Gird up your balls, shut the hell up, and get your ass to the gym, 52 weeks a year. The end.
This isn’t complicated.
Of course your left nut hurts! You’re lifting weights. Lifting heavy ass weights will hurt from time to time. Pain is part of the equation. We aren’t collecting bottle caps here, Charles.
4 – Forget Your Damned Abs and Eat!
I want a six pack!
Bud, if you think you can pack on muscle and carve out a six pack in the same month, you need to lay off the crack pipe.
This just in…if you want muscle, you need to eat big. If you want to be a 220 mass monster, but only weigh 120, you need to start eating like you weigh 220 pounds.
How long should I bulk before I cut? FAIL! Eat until people at the gym start asking you where you get your steroids from. Then, and only then can you start cutting.
Should my bulk be dirty or clean? FAIL! Grab a shovel and get to gettin’.
Whole milk has fat! Almonds have fat! I can’t eat fat! FAIL! Listen, drinking whole milk and lifting heavy ass weights equals muscle mass.
- Lift heavy ass weight using heavy ass compound lifts.
- Eat big.
- Never miss a workout.
- Stick with a basic routine.
Follow these 4 rules for two years and you will dramatically change your body. The end.
Short on time today so used my lunch break for a cheeky back session, limited equipment so did:
DB Pullover 38kg x10x10
‘V’ Grip Pulldown 90kg x6, 80kg x11
DB Row To Hip 30kg x12x12
Rack Pull 140kg x8 – Only a Smith Machine available, did 8 reps then canned it as it was just too awkward to use and the bar was too smooth to grip!
A great article by Mark Rippetoe. Worth a read by all, but especially beginner/intermediate lifters.
Your workout routine isn’t effective.
Most beginners or even some experienced lifters get their routines from magazines and publications written by professional bodybuilders – these are not designed for people new to lifting or natural lifters, rather for the ‘enhanced’ trainee due to the huge amounts of volume for specific bodyparts. Others follow the routine their ‘friend’ is doing as he’s had great results, however everyone is different and just because your friend has had decent gains, it does not follow that you necessarily will. Following these examples will generally only leave you frustrated, sore and with minimal improvement.
A good routine needs to be well structured; workout days to be arranged to allow for adequate rest, muscle groups arranged well in order to avoid overtraining a specific bodypart, muscle groups arranged in order for each muscle to be worked for maximum effect, a good selection of compound and isolation exercises and good warm-up and cool-down.
A compound exercise is one where the body moves through more than one joint (i.e. Squat moves the Hip, Knee and Ankle) and isolation exercises move through only one joint (i.e. Leg Extension moves only the Knee). To provide complete stimulation of a muscle, you should take advantage of both of these types of exercise. However if mass is your main goal, compound exercises should make up the majority of your training with a few isolation exercises thrown in to supplement the main lifts.
Compound movements allow you to lift more weight and work through more muscle groups at the same time than isolation, this will not only save you time in the gym, but provides more stimulation for the muscles and in response your body will release more anabolic hormones (such as testosterone and growth hormone) in response to the stress.
3-4 days a week of training is adequate for any natural lifter, any more than this and you’ll struggle to recover enough between workouts to keep the right level of intensity when training. Don’t forget the importance of warming up and cooling down – These will not only increase blood flow and loosen muscles prior to training, but also reduce the chance of injury during your workout and enhance recovery afterwards.
Finally try to have a days rest between each workout, for many of the reasons above but also to be able to perform at maximum intensity every session. If you follow up a heavy squat session with deadlifts the next day, you’ll no doubt have tired legs and won’t be able to lift the same amount of weight/reps as you could with a days rest between sessions. Building strength and muscle is a long term goal and trying to rush it will only hinder your progress.
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 😉