Friday, August 26, 2016

Taking The Deltoids Out Of Pectoral Training

The chest is the showpiece muscle group in any physique on the bodybuilding stage. Sure, people like to see big arms. And we all know that big backs seem to win the big pro shows. But in every frontal pose, the chest is a make-or-break point for success. Arnold Schwarzenegger had a set of pectorals worthy of a Greek statue, and always took home the trophy over men who were better conditioned. Phil Heath has the best arms of any bodybuilder in history not named Ronnie Coleman, but his lack of clavicle width has led to a chest which cost him an Arnold Classic title against Dexter Jackson in 2008.

One of the main reasons that some bodybuilders have poor chest development is that they allow their shoulders to carry much of the workload when they are hitting the chest exercises. The shoulders play a key role in moving the weight, and if your shoulders are very powerful, they may tend to carry the brunt of the weight of the barbell during the pressing movement. The result is a very nice set of well-rounded, developed shoulders, sitting next to pectorals that aren’t going to impress the judges anytime soon. You can correct the situation by using some techniques to make the chest work harder. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

The most common method of removing shoulder influence from chest presses is to use the pre-exhaust method. This involves starting with an isolation chest movement such as incline dumbbell flyes, then moving immediately to incline bench press. While this is the most common split, it doesn’t have to be the only one you use. Machine exercises such as Pec Deck or cable crossovers also allow you to exhaust the muscles of the chest first. When you follow it up with a set of incline dumbbell bench presses, your chest will suddenly fail long before your shoulders. This will make it do more work – and see more growth.

A less common and perhaps more effective method for removing stress from the shoulders is to use a process known as scapular retraction. Simply put, it involves putting the chest forward when completing pressing movements. Being further off the bench, the weight will pull at it much more – and the shoulders much less.

This style of lifting isn’t legal in powerlifting meets, but it’s very effective in the gym for bodybuilders seeking a better chest and less shoulder involvement on chest day. Flex your chest muscles as you complete each repetition, and keep your shoulders rolled out. The barbell should come all the way down to the nipples with each repetition. This type of training will likely require a reduction in the amount of weight that you are using initially. Over time, however, you’ll discover a new level of comfort, balance and strength with this pulling method.

Use the mirror to honestly assess your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to your pectorals. If they are overpowered by your shoulders, you should work to correct this situation, by any and all means available!

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Pre-Exhaust Quadriceps Training

Pre-Exhaust Quadriceps Training

The front thighs, or quadriceps, are often a very tough muscle group to fully stimulate. You want to hit them with everything you’ve got, and you give it your best. But it’s just so easy to reach the failure point with them.

Start your leg workout with high repetition leg extensions. These will serve a few purposes. First, you will be able to loosen up your tendons and get the blood flowing to your lower body. Secondly, you will be able to hit the front thigh muscles directly with an isolation movement. This will result not in their moving as much weight as possible (which will come later), but rather to contain as much blood as possible. This workout starts more as a pumping routine than amass-building routine, but that aspect will arrive by our third exercise.

From there you will want to move directly to the leg press machine. Three sets of very slow and methodical repetitions in the 10 to 20 range will suffice. Be sure to flex the thighs at the start and completion points of every repetition. Again, remember that your goal isn’t to move a dozen plates on each side or knock out more reps than your buddy. The goal is to pull as much blood as possible into the quads, and this is achieved through smooth, methodical repetitions.

Now it is (finally!) time to hit those squats. Normally, squats engage a number of muscle groups, including the front thighs, hamstrings, calves, hips, and glutes. These muscle groups will still be stimulated when you are training them today. The only difference is that instead of hitting each of these muscle groups fresh, as is the case when you start your day with squats, you will be starting the exercise with a set of front thighs that are completely pumped from the first two movements. The result will be your front thighs failing way sooner than normally, which is very useful for instilling some new growth. You will be completing four sets of 8 to 15 repetitions of the squats.

Finally, you will finish your front thighs with a few sets of barbell lunges using alternate legs. This will sap away any remaining energy you possessed in the front quads, and leave them completely pumped with amino-rich blood. Three to four sets of 10 to 15 repetitions is best. You’ll want to keep the weight you used at a minimum. You may begin to lose balance and structural integrity by this point in the workout. Check your ego at the door and concentrate solely on flexing those legs.

You’ll notice this leg day uses fewer sets than many of your other routines, and with higher repetitions. If you hit each set with your maximum possible intensity, this won’t be a problem. You’ll wear out the front thighs early with pre-exhaust work and the rest of our routine will require them to do more work than usual – which will lead to greater muscle growth!

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Saturday, August 13, 2016

Complete Abdominal Training

abdominal training

We can all agree that for most bodybuilders, training abs is usually 9th or 10th on our list of priorities. We often focus so much of our energies upon developing these larger muscle groups, which allow our bodies to grow and our body weights to climb. Abdominal training, for some, is relegated to the pre-contest phase. Some bodybuilders even design it this way, as they feel training abs only serves to develop a thick midsection. Other bodybuilders will make an effort to hit the abs year round, but they will fall short of a truly well developed midsection because they just throw a few sets of crunches onto the end of some of their workouts each week. It is only the thoroughly devoted bodybuilder with a thorough, complete routine that is able to best develop the midsection to the most complete degree. Here is a workout which, when used consistently for at least 8 weeks, will deliver that complete midsection.

Start your day – each workout – by training abdominals. This may seem foreign to most bodybuilders who are used to starting their training days with the largest possible body parts and working their way down. The problem with this formula is that you also begin your workouts with the most energy and strength. After you’ve been training for 45 minutes, there is a good chance you aren’t going to have much left in your gas tank. By constantly beginning your workouts with the larger muscle groups, the bigger groups keep getting bigger and the smaller groups, well, they stay smaller. It’s akin to the phrase “The rich keep getting richer, and the poor don’t get a thing!” You can always go back to starting workouts with larger muscle groups after you have given this method a shot for 8 weeks. By then, your new level of abdominal development may have you convinced that giving them priority pays off!

Your actual abdominal workout should last about 20 minutes. This may seem like a lot of time, but when you consider the amount of real estate the abs take up on your body – connecting the pecs to your posing trunks and lat to lat around the front – you may come to the realization that certain focus needs to be given to them, which does include time. Every abdominal workout should be identical for these 8 weeks. You will find the number of reps per set will increase as you develop greater muscular endurance and stamina, but the number of sets and exercises will remain constant.

Your first movement should be broomstick twists. You should use them for 5 minutes, or about the length of one song on your mp3 player. These will hit the obliques and warm up the entire midsection. From there, move to hanging leg raises for lower abs. Four sets of at least 15 repetitions is more than adequate. Complete them with one minute (or less) rest between each set. From there, move on to crunches. Five sets of 20 or more crunches will stimulate the upper abs to growth. After that, you will spend about 5 minutes on any abdominal machine of your choice. That’s it! Enjoy the fruits of your labor, which will be a new set of abdominals!

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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Combining Shoulder And Triceps Training

shoulder triceps workoutEvery muscle group in the body connects to another muscle group by virtue of location and tendon placement. They all work together to form a unique network of muscles, unified in the single purpose of completing tasks we ask of it. When we attempt a simple lift, such as the bench press for example, hundreds of small muscle groups and thousands of fibers are called into play. The simple act of benching 135 pounds for a single rep requires contributions (in terms of contraction and the exertion of force) from the pectorals, three heads of the deltoids, triceps, forearms, and back muscles to a lesser extent. Additionally, we may even exert some force all the way down to our calves as we use our entire body to help move the weight, as is the case in some circumstances.

In light of this, it may seem odd that bodybuilders work so hard to isolate their muscle groups when training. Perhaps by training them together, synergy can be achieved in both terms of controlling and mastering the weight, efficiently using time and training energy, and capitalizing on optimum blood flow. Here is a workout which works to achieve these goals while allowing the trainer to hit his or her triceps and shoulders fully on the same training day.

Seated Dumbbell presses, immediately followed by dumbbell triceps presses behind the head – Four sets of 8 to 15 repetitions

Train heavy with the first movement, and moderately with the triceps presses.

Dumbbell side laterals, immediately followed by skull crushers – Four sets of 8 to 15 repetitions

This time, train moderately for the shoulder set, then go very heavy with the skull crushers.

Bent-Over dumbbell side raises, immediately followed by triceps bench dips – Four sets of 8 to 15 repetitions

The weight used on the dumbbell side raises should be moderate to allow the feel to be greatest in the rear deltoids. Bench dips should be limited to two 45-pound plates on the lap.

Once you have trained using this routine for several weeks, you will likely be in a good position to add an additional superset:

Upright Rows, immediately followed by triceps cable pressdowns – Three sets of 8 to 15 repetitions

Keep the weight light for both movements to avoid injury.

The influx of blood into the combined shoulder/triceps region will deliver a greater pump than would a workout designed to only affect one of these muscle groups. A larger surface are will have more combined strength, exert more combined force requiring the recruitment of more muscle fibers, thereby drawing in most blood. This delivers greater nitrogen to the area by virtue of increase amino acids.

Additionally, the trainer employing a shoulder/triceps training combination may see increased separation in that shoulder/deltoid area. Many bodybuilders have great shoulders, and many have great sets of triceps – but it is very rare that you see a bodybuilder with the shoulder/triceps separation of a Samir Bannout or a Shawn Ray. Train them together, and you may see a huge change!

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Monday, August 8, 2016

Back And Hamstring Training Conflict

back hamstring training

Many bodybuilders frequently notice that their back workouts hamper their ability to perform as well as needed on leg day. It’s true that some back exercises do require the hamstrings remain fully flexed while supporting a great deal of weight. Deadlifts are an extremely heavy compound movement which forces the trainer to keep the hamstrings fully flexed throughout. Hyperextensions are another movement which results in the hamstrings briefly receiving the brunt of your body weight (along with any plate you are holding as well), which can leave the hamstrings very pumped at the end of back day. Your initial reaction might be one of optimistic surprise. After all, who wouldn’t want to add a quick pump to their hamstrings to see some new progress? Training them twice a week means they’ll grow twice as fast, right?

Not so fast, my hamstrung friend. This sort of interference can be very detrimental to your bodybuilding progress. If you complete your back training on Wednesday as many bodybuilders do, then it’s very likely that the full effects of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) will not be felt until 48 hours after your routine. Assuming you train legs on Friday (as many bodybuilders do), there’s a good chance your hamstrings will become pumped, and the movements will become very painful, once the hamstrings are called into play. Many bodybuilders notice it’s almost impossible to squat heavy with the hamstrings still hurting from the training several days before. Movements like leg press are a tad easier to complete with this soreness, but there still exists the possibility of muscle failure of the quadriceps before it would occur without this unwelcome DOMS.

Once hamstring training arrived on leg day, you’re likely in for a world of hurt. Having given them almost a full workout just 48 hours earlier, they will not be ready to be trained again. You will either suffer through a workout for a muscle group that is not yet recovered – resulting in zero growth – or you may sustain an injury. You would never train chest twice in the same 48-our period, so why would you consider doing it with hamstrings?

The solution will vary for every bodybuilder. Some trainers notice that simply moving hamstrings from leg to back day solves this problem. Others will move their back day to Monday, which would result in a full 4 days (or 96 hours) of recovery before hamstrings are trained again. Many bodybuilders agree that training legs first, then giving them 72 hours of rest before the hamstrings are affected on a secondary/support role basis on Monday is acceptable, and doesn’t put them at nearly the same level of risk. Your methods may vary, but it’s also important to remember that this or any sort of training should be goal-specific. If you discover that lifting for back and hamstrings on the same day is limiting your effectiveness or growth, change things up. If you are one of the lucky souls who isn’t bothered, then by all means keep your training constant!

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Friday, August 5, 2016

Achieving The Best Training Recovery Results

training recovery

The human body needs breaks. This is undeniable. For every twenty people in the gym pumping away each day, there are probably one or two members stuck at home nursing some sort of injury. It’s the nature of the sport. After all, we’re not perfecting some skill by shooting free throws or studying opponents’ moves in order to ascertain the best way to defend them. Rather, bodybuilding training is something much more destructive that that. When you enter a gym and commence training, you are on a single mission to do nothing but engorge a muscle group with blood, and tear as many muscle fibers in the targeted area as possible.

When you look at it that way, it’s no wonder that the muscles and tendons which support them do fail from time to time. Rarely, it will be something as bad as a full muscle tear. More frequently, we’ll have a strained tendon or something minor. It’s minor in the bigger scheme of things, as we’ll be back in the gym after just a few weeks’ rest. However, when shoulder day arrives and you are forced to stay at home because you are under doctor’s (or self-prescribed) orders to rest, it can be quite painful. You love to train, and it’s understandable that you may feel the need to work around an injury. However, doing so is not always in your best interest. In times like these, you need to take a break to recover.

To make the most of your recovery, use this down time to focus upon other tasks that can help contribute to your long term bodybuilding success. It’s very likely that you don’t know everything when it comes to nutrition. Use this time off to read a few books about how various foods can help you to reach your goals faster. Spend some time on another hobby, as this will help keep your mind off the workouts you are missing. At the same time make your return to the gym a fresh and new experience. Some trainers find success by using their down time to focus on certain body parts, or doing more cardio. This may work, but one should keep in mind that a break from the gym allows for rest of the most important system of all in terms of muscle growth: The central nervous system, or CNS.

Everything you do each day affects your CNS. When you have a stressful day, the CNS delivers valuable resources to help alleviate this stress. These resources come from the same pool which delivers recovery agents to muscle groups when you train. Therefore you would be best served in a bodybuilding sense to not only avoid those stressors which can sap valuable CNS resources, but also to do things that will help the CNS recover faster. Top among these things you can do is to take a one-week break every 2 to 4 months. Even if you don’t have an injury, the time away from the gym will let your muscles, tendons, and CNS recover, which will lead to new muscle growth!

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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Heavy Training And Tendon Limitations

The muscles of the human body are an amazing thing. They start as small pieces of tissue which connect our tendons and bones to one another. They allow the function of moving objects and moving our bodies thorough our normal daily functions. Unlike the bones and tendons, however, muscles are unique in that we are able to grow them through the addition of progressive resistance training. If we force the muscles to move a particular amount of weight beyond their normal training capacity, they will grow in response to this new workload. Once they grow to a point where they can handle the workload, we will have to further challenge them – with an even heavier weight – in order to force them to grow again.

The amount of growth that the muscles allow is mind boggling, compared with the ability of other parts of the body to adapt and grow. An 11-inch upper arm can be transform to a 21-inch arm in just a few years, given adequate amounts of training, food, rest, and perhaps anabolic steroids to assist with the growth. The muscles of the body are able to grow to double, triple, or even greater amounts based upon these factors. We routinely see professional bodybuilders’ “before” pictures, showing them at a very lean 160 or 170 pounds before they entered their bodybuilding phase and in some cases, managed to nearly double their bodyweights in just a few years, almost all through the addition of muscle.

Muscle is unique in that it is able to increase not only in size, but in strength. There are other parts of our body – also required for the lifting process – which do not offer such growth potential. The tendons are an area of great concern for many bodybuilders, particularly as the bodybuilder grows larger and larger. The muscles get bigger and stronger, and the weight they move becomes greater. However the tendons remain at their original strength, save for a minor 10 to 20% increase they see in the initial year or two of training. The amount of weight they can manage remains fairly constant, no matter how often or how hard they train.

Most bodybuilding injuries among larger and more experienced training involve tendon failure. The muscles of the body can handle the workload, but the tendons sometimes have a tendency to tear away. For this reason, most bodybuilders at the elite level tend to reduce the weight they use. While they may have the ability to increase the amount of weight they move by 20% each year in the beginning, this type of training is abandoned as they reach extremely heavy poundage. Most bodybuilders will stop at a 405-pound bench press, even if they firmly believe they could knock out reps with 450 or more. They realize, either through their own research or seeing it among their elite peers, that their training weight needs to level off. They can use more repetitions, but the amount of weight needs to find a ceiling. Remember this ceiling exists as your training weights increase, and you’ll find plenty of success with long term muscle health!

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