We Are Reading This Courtesy of Michael Murphy . . .
Originally published in Volume 1, Number 1. Dec. 1952.
Too many young men interested in developing their bodies hurry into the form of advanced exercises known as "muscle pumping." This simply means that they spend their weight training time performing many sets of exercises working individual muscle groups with relatively light weights.
True, any exercise is better than no exercise, but if "pumping" is practiced to the exclusion of basic strength-building movements the muscles have an unfortunate tendency to rapidly lose size during a layoff from training. They also soon lose what little strength this type of exercise produces.
A better practice is for every bodybuilder to undergo three to six months of basic exercises, handling all the weight he can for 8-12 repetitions correctly, before trying any "pumping." Even after a bodybuilder advances to the stage of specialization on muscle contour -- "pumping" -- he should include a certain amount of heavy basic exercise to best and lasting results.
An example can be seen in the curl, certainly the favorite exercise for biceps development. The best way to get strength in the biceps is to practice 2-5 sets of low repetitions in the regular barbell curl. This will also result in considerable added muscle size.
For the high peak and muscular definition in the biceps, 10-15 concentrated curls, working one arm at a time, will bring good results.
For a combination of strength and size, the ideal number of repetitions has been found through experience to be 8-12 (to three sets).
To combine the benefits of the muscles' reaction to various weights and repetitions, an experienced bodybuilder could work his biceps as follows:
Start by doing 10 repetition barbell curls, then rest 2-3 minutes and add 10 or 20 pounds for eight more repetitions. After another rest, five of 10 more pounds is added to the barbell for 4-5 curls. These barbell curls will develop muscle size and strength, then the bodybuilder can finish off his biceps routine by curling a dumbbell two sets of a dozen repetitions with each arm, working them alternately.
An entire training program can follow the same system. Study the following example in outline form:
1) Barbell Curl - 10-8-4 reps (adding weight)
2) Concentration Curl - 2 x 12
3) Barbell Press - 10-6-3 reps (adding weight)
4) Single Arm Overhead Triceps Extension (elbow pointed up and stationary) - 2 x 12
5) Wide Grip PBN - 10 reps
6) Upright Row - 2 x 10
7) DB Lateral Raise - 2 x 12
8) Squat - 12-8-5 reps (adding weight)
9) Leg Extension - 3 x 12
This is not a complete workout, of course, for exercises should also be included for the chest, back, calves and abdominals, but it serves to show how lighter "pumping" movements can be used after heavy basic exercises to bring about complete development which will last, and which will be backed by genuine strength.
Individuals reactions to weight training will vary, and only by personal experiment will a bodybuilder find the system of weights, repetitions and sets that brings him best results. Some men may thrive on three sets of heavy work and three of "pumping" for a given muscle group.
Others prefer to work the same muscle with a variety of similar exercises, one set of each. No matter what system is used, the bodybuilder will find that his muscles are more impressive, will serve him better with strength, and will stay with him longer if he sometimes uses weights that are heavy for him somewhere between three and 10 repetitions.
Muscle size and strength developed against heavy resistance is an asset in work and play, and in an unexpected emergency. Once the muscle is developed into thick, strong fibers, additional lighter "pumping" exercises have a better bases for producing shape and more size for visual impressiveness.