Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Obliques - Joseph Weider

John Marshall

John Davis

“by” Joseph Weider (1955)

In my last article I showed you how wrong was the idea that it is bad to exercise your oblique muscles, because when you stopped exercising this group they thickened up and got fat. I proved that if a lifter quits training and sensibly cuts down his food intake to meet his diminished physical requirements there will be no bad after effects . . . no fatty deposits anywhere on the physique . . . no thickening of any muscle group. I showed how men such as Sandow, Klein and Sansone maintained their trim, muscular waists and oblique development regardless of their prolonged layoffs. A perfectly formed, classical midsection is dependant on oblique development.

But before I go into the exercises and routines I’d like to give you an example of a man who was renowned for his fine development. Dave Asnis exercised his rectus group and his obliques to an extreme. But at a present age of close to 44 years, he maintains a muscular, trim and will-proportioned midsection. Why? Because as Dave aged, he sensibly cut down his food intake to meet and keep level with his lessened physical activity. Another man who can no longer be called “young” as body builders go, Leo Robert, at the age of 34 shows one of the finest waist developments the world has ever seen, winning the Mr. Universe title on the strength of his perfectly shaped, classical midsection.

With all the doubts about oblique training wiped out of your mind, you can now rest assured that the only effects hard waist and oblique training will have is in adding polish to your overall development and strength to your midsection.

The best way to work your midsection is with twisting and bending motions and not with just the straight-legged situps, leg raises or side bends. These latter exercises are local in effect and while they help to build up your midsection, they do not complete the job. Waist muscles MUST be worked in groups, worked hard and worked often. Otherwise, certain sections of the waist will get too much work and other sections too little.

There are FOUR oblique muscles . . . two on each side . . . the external and internal obliques. The external sections are those slabs of muscle you see on the sides of the Greek Athlete statues and on any great bodybuilder with a complete physique. The function of these muscles is to pull forward, sideways and down, and also to rotate the trunk. There is also lateral flexion in addition to the rotation. Thus all turns, twists, bending and stretching will get these muscles working.

Remember Tony Sansone, The Muscle Man with the perfect midsection? Examine any classical pose of his, and you’ll see a wonderful example of what correct waist training can do for a man’s physique. Tony’s favorite exercises were the twisting one arm lifts, hand ball, hand balancing and other similar movements in which the midsection was turned and twisted in all directions.

And look at that great shot of John Davis performing a one arm lift and you’ll see what a trim, muscular waist he had then. Later on when John was concentrating more on the three Olympic lifts and less on one arm lifting, his midsection filled out. Davis, if he had continued his midsection work and one arm lifting would have gained the weight he wanted and maintained a trim waistline. But his first aim goal was power, and therefore he concentrated all his efforts on the Olympic Three.

I can go on citing hundreds of cases to prove that when the twisting and one arm lifts are used in routines, the body builder develops a top-notch midsection. I hope that by giving the few examples above I have also given you encouragement to work your midsection correctly by following the advice I offer here.

In every exercise description I will tell you how many sets and reps to follow, because each movement places a different stress on the muscle fibers, and also because the leverage for each exercise is different. It must be understood that it is impossible for any authority to lay down a straight amount of sets and reps for each individual, and even though the numbers given are guidelines, you might find through experiment and experience that you need a lesser or greater number.

If you wish to specialize on your obliques for a time, put this schedule first and foremost in your program and perform all your waist exercises together. Work your sides and midsection, performing all their movements one after the other and then go on to exercises for the other body parts.

It is productive to use super-sets for the midsection. Perform, say, a side bending movement, then a situp type exercise. Follow through with a single arm movement and then a twisting exercise. Keep doing different creative combinations in super-set style for the midsection, and let me hammer home the rule on more time: Do all your midsection exercises one after the other.

Don’t be afraid to cheat occasionally in these oblique exercises. The purpose is not so much strictness of exercise style as a liberal twisting and turning motion. Don’t think for a moment the old-time strongmen developed their power using nothing but strict movements.

Naturally if you stay away from starchy and fattening foods, watch your caloric intake and keep down the quantity of food eaten at each meal, the midsection will fine down and look more muscular over time. Try to keep your weight at a proper level and remember that all the midsection exercise in the world won’t give you a classic torso with clean lines unless your weight and bodyfat are controlled. If you insist on bulking up then you can forget about developing an impressive midsection.

It will be best to concentrate strongly on midsection movements for the obliques since this will help develop the muscles as your waist is brought into sharper outline. But with the overhead and one arm lifts, where a certain amount of balance and technique are required, you can forget about the muscle action and muscle tension and think only of using as heavy a poundage as possible while obtaining as much of a trunk twist as you can safely manage.

Stay away from few exercises and multiple sets. Instead of using 3 movements for 3 sets each, perform one set of each exercise and perform as many different movements as possible. Pick out 9 to 12 exercises and perform a single set of each. The only departure from this rule is where I will indicate. This departure is because of the heavy poundage and low numbers of reps that these heavy poundages will oblige you to use. With a wide range of exercises you’ll maintain a high degree of enthusiasm and interest, work the muscles as many ways as possible and get at the very deepest fibers. Here are the oblique exercises I recommend for developing a classical torso formation.

Exercise 1. Side Bends, Free Hand Held Behind the Head. – Stand erect with a dumbell held in one hand, the other hand held palm against the back or your head. Spread your feet about 16” apart and then bend the body to the right and up, twisting the trunk sharply back and sideways to do so. Concentrate on the action and force the trunk down, then pull the trunk upright and over to the opposite side as far as possible. Repeat the motion for one set of 15 repetitions, each side of the body.

Exercise 2. Trunk Twisting With Dumbell or Swingbell – Stand erect, both hands grasping a single dumbell or swingbell, arms down at full stretch in front of the body, feet about 16” apart. Swing the bell to the right and up, twisting the trunk sharply sideways in that direction to do so. Then drop the bell sharply and swing it to the opposite side, again twisting the trunk sharply. Continue swinging the bell in a half circle up and down in front of the body. Perform 15 swings a set, one set each side. Don’t move the feet.

Exercise 3. Side Bend With Barbell – Rest a barbell across the back of your shoulders as if you were going to perform squats. Place your feet well apart and settle the bar firmly onto the shoulders so it does not slide off when you start the exercise. Bend over to one side as far as you can, forcing the trunk down until you feel a “muscle lock” in the obliques. Then bend over to the opposite side as far as you can, again forcing down until you feel the obliques “lock”. Continue bending from side to side . . . ten bends per side. Keep your legs locked during the entire exercise.

Exercise 4. Side Bend, Weight Held at Arms’ Length Overhead (Saxon Side Bend) – For an exercise to really work the sides and obliques, this one is hard to beat. Center-load a dumbell and hold it at arms’ length above the head, standing erect, feet spread about 16” apart, legs locked straight at the knees. Bend over to one side as far as you can, forcing the trunk down. Then bend all the way over to the opposite side, again forcing the trunk down. Repeat bending from side to side 10 reps each side.

Exercise 5. Toe Touching With Weight Held Overhead – Stand erect, a heavy dumbell held overhead in one hand, feet again spread about 16” apart, legs locked straight at the knees. Bend the trunk forward and down and reach across with your free hand touching the opposite toe. If you are holding the dumbell in the right hand, bend forward and down and touch your right toes with your left hand. Don’t bend your legs at the knees. If flexibility prevents this, over time you will develop the ability to do so by gradually bending more each session. Perform 12 toe touches and then change the dumbell over to the other hand and perform 12 more repetition.

Exercise 6. Trunk Circles, Barbell On Shoulders – Place a barbell on the back of the shoulders as if you were going to perform squats and pull it down firmly into position in the groove, feet about 16” apart. Now circle the trunk from left to right, bending forward then back up as you complete the circular motion. 12 full circles to the right, then 12 to the left. Get as much twist and turn out of the exercise as possible, twisting the trunk to the left, thrusting it down then up, and repeat. Follow the same procedure when circling in the opposite direction, moving the body in as complete a circle as possible. Keep the legs locked straight at the knees, don’t move the feet, and maintain full, tight control of the whole body at all times.

Exercise 7. Good Morning Exercise, Bending Alternate Sides – Rest a barbell firmly across the back of the shoulders as in the previous exercise. Now bend the body forward and down, first to the right side and then to the left. Push the trunk forcibly down and if you are performing the movement correctly, you’ll feel the front of the oblique “lock”. Keep the legs straight and perform 10 good morning movements each side.

Exercise 8. Two Arm Dumbell Swing – Place a heavy dumbell, kettlebell or swingbell between the feet, which should be spread the customary 16” apart. Without bending the legs at the knees (the legs should be kept straight during the exercise), reach down and grip the bell with both hands. Now swing it up to arms’ length overhead and back as far as you can while holding tension in the midsection, without permitting the arms to bend. Lower the dumbell back down, swing it between the legs and at once swing it back to arms’ length overhead again. Repeat the exercise, performing 12 swings in all.

Exercise 9. One Arm Swing With Body Twist – Here’s another variation of the preceding movement. Place a heavy dumbell alongside your left foot (your legs should be spread well apart). Reach down and twisting to the right side grip the bell with your right hand, and keep your legs straight. Now swing the dumbell up to arm’s length, taking every advantage of the body twist and bringing the dumbell up with as much body motion as possible. Make your trunk muscles do the work. Return to commencing position and repeat. Don’t pause between repetitions. Do 12 reps with the dumbell swing from the left as it is held in the right hand, and then 12 from the right with the dumbell held in the left hand.

Exercise 10. Trunk Raising On Bench – This is a real tough movement but it will definitely strengthen your obliques over time. Put a pad on the end of a bench and lie on your side lengthwise along the bench, your hip resting on the pad for your comfort. Have a training partner hold your legs down firmly. Clasp your hands behind your head and lower your body down as far as possible and then raise up as far as possible. Perform 9 repetitions and then change over to the opposite side for 9 more.

Exercise 11. Bent Legged Side to Side Situps – Lie flat on your back on the floor or a situp bench with your feet secured. Your knees should be raised and spread apart, your hands clasped behind your head, elbows pointing up. Now sit up and as you do so twist the trunk so you touch your right knee with your left elbow. Force the truck down so you can do this, tense the obliques and hold for a moment. Return to lying position the sit up and touch the left knee with the right elbow, again forcing the trunk down and tensing the muscles hard for a hold. Alternate knee and elbow touching ten reps one side and ten reps the other, attempting to intensify the contraction with each repetition.

Exercise 12. Bench End Trunk Twisting – Place a pad on the end of an exercise bench and sit on it, your legs spread along the length of the bench and held down by your training partner. Clasp your hands behind your head and then lower the trunk back over the end of the bench until it is level. Now twist the trunk from side to side, ten twists a side, aiming to so completely twist the trunk that your elbows point directly to the right or left as the twisting is performed.

Exercise 13. One Arm Snatch With Barbell – Place a barbell in front of you. Reach down and grab it, testing until you have perfect center balance. With the free hand placed on your knee pull the barbell up to arms’ length, bending the trunk right over to one side to get it there. Recover to upright position, lower and repeat. Perform 3 progressively heavier sets of 3 reps for each side of the body, and try to gradually increase the poundage used.

Exercise 14. One Arm Jerk – Pull a barbell into your shoulder with the right hand. Stand erect and then with a slight bend of the knees jerk the weight away from the shoulder and bend as far over to the side as possible to get it safely to arm’s length. Recover to upright position, lower the weight to the shoulder, then jerk it to arm’s length again. Perform 3 progressively heavier sets of 3 reps with each hand, making the trunk do most of the work and using all the weight you can for the third sets.

Exercise 15. Side Pressing – Clean a dumbell or barbell into the shoulder with the right hand. Start to press it to arm’s length and as you do so, bend the body swiftly over to one side to help the weight arrive at arm’s length position. Lower the weight down and only then return the body to erect position and repeat. The body remains bent until the weight is lowered from overhead back to the shoulder. Perform one set of 12 reps with each hand, using all the weight you can handle for the required number of reps. Don’t bend your legs but keep them locked throughout the exercise. Make your trunk do as much supporting as possible.

Exercise 16. Holding Heavy Weight At Arm’s Length, Bending Sideways – Jerk a heavy dumbell to arm’s length, with the legs locked straight and feet spread 16” apart for balance. Keeping the weight at arm’s length, bend the body over to one side as far as you can, return it to upright position and repeat. Perform 3 progressively heavier sets of 3 reps with each hand, using all weight possible for the third sets.

Exercise 17. Trunk Twisting With Barbell – Hold a barbell across the back of your shoulders as if you are going to perform squats. Your feet should be well spread apart and legs locked straight. Now twist the trunk as far around to the right as you can while maintaining muscle tension in the waist. Don’t move your feet off the ground. Force out 12 twists to the right and 12 to the left.

Exercise 18. One Arm Side Dead Lift With Barbell – Stand sideways to a barbell, the feet spread well apart, although not so wide as in the previous exercises. One end with the barbell plates should be in front of you and the other loaded end should be behind you. Now reach down and grasp the middle of the bar, making sure beforehand you have it well balanced. At this stage, as you are gripping the bar, your legs are bent at the knees and your body at the hips . . . the very position you usually assume to dead lift or clean. Now lift the barbell off the floor and assume erect position, making every effort to pull your trunk over to the side opposite the one the barbell is held at. Lower the bar to the floor and repeat. Perform 3 progressively heavier sets of 3 repetitions with the with the left hand and the same with the right, handling all the weight possible on the third sets.

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