In this installment we are going to discuss various movements which I and others in the past have found to be most effective in developing a more massively muscular physique without the addition of useless body fat.
Sometimes it is not only the particular movement itself which will make or break you, but the particular style you decide to use, which will allow you to increase particular sections of muscles within the entire muscle groups involved.
It makes no sense to use a style, which in essence, will actually INHIBIT your using the very muscles you are supposedly trying to develop, but that is just what many of you are doing from day to day, throughout your entire training routine.
The only way a muscle will continue to grow beyond the beginner stage is for the muscle to be subjected to increased workloads and increased stress. It's a simple as that . . .
You can increase the amount of work within a given time or you can make the workload heavier, or you can do both.
You can also maintain the same volume and workload and you can INCREASE THE DIFFICULTY OF EXERCISE PERFORMANCE, and this ALSO will increase muscle size. And it is THIS method of exercise performance of which we will now speak.
The longer the movement, the more the appropriate muscles are both stretched and hence, contacted. And the more forcefully you contract a muscle, the more work you place upon the muscle and the more the muscle should grow.
Partial movements will increase strength and with a bulking up diet, will also increase size, but we are not talking about bulking up right now.
For now we are concerned with adding muscle size without a great increase in bodyweight. And it's here that things become much harder.
I see many underweight trainees straining to do sets of doubles and triples and not growing at all! And powerlifter knows that doubles and triples will not increase your muscle size to any great extent since the muscles do not get a chance to "pump" and most of the work involved is within the tendons and joints. An underweight man needs to stimulate his muscles!
To increase your muscle size and take on a more powerful appearance, you must try to make each and every exercise you do the hardest possible way to perform.
If you have to use peak contraction to do this, then do so.
And if you have to use light weights and very strict exercise style,
then DO SO!
And if you have to do multiple sets with very high repetitions, then this should also be included.
Do not worry about the amount of weight you are using in any exercise and stop comparing your poundages to the poundages of others. They are them and you are you. Each one of us is an individual with individual potential.
Compare yourself to the way your WERE and how you are NOW and how you one day will BE.
Many trainees will adopt an exercise and an exercise style because they may have seen a more advanced man using this movement and style, and they figure that if it worked for him it should work for them . . . sometimes they are right and sometimes they are wrong, but wouldn't it make more sense to simply listen to your own body when attempting a new exercise of style of training?
If you get an intense burn in the area and a subsequent pump, wouldn't that be proof enough that the movement is good for YOU to use?
Yet how many of you will continue to use a movement for weeks and months on end without any response in the muscles simply because a champ may prefer this motion?
And it's not always the movements which are important, but sometimes it's the WAY THE MOVEMENTS ARE PERFORMED which will either make them effective or worthless for your purposes.
For muscle size to increase you must use the strictest exercise style you can muster, and you must perform your movements slowly and correctly. Now, I'm not telling you to fall asleep with the bar in your hands, I'm advising you to try and mentally "feel" movements in both the positive and negative positions throughout the full range of exercise motion.
And if this means you have to drastically reduce the poundages until your muscles get used to this style, then that is exactly what you must do.
A powerful looking physique is completely and evenly developed without any one body part taking too much attention from the eyes.
Also, the evenly distributed development will give some indication of well rounded strength development as well.
No not neglect your neck and trapezius muscles, because these are the most eye-catching to an experienced observer. Also, the thighs and the calves, as well as the forearms. These are key muscle groups when it comes to commanding attention with your appearance.
Bodybuilders, in general, will have overdeveloped arms and wide shoulders and upper back without any trapezius slope to speak of. In short, they look wide an FLAT with no thickness of upper body. This is not the look of POWER. This is an appearance of effeminate weakness. And what would-be-powerful male wants to look weak and effeminate?
How many of you are afraid of working your abdominals hard because you feel that any muscle size in this area will only make you look less WIDE at the shoulders and hence, less impressive?
How many of you are afraid of developing the oblique muscles because they also will cause a thickening of the waist?
What most of you want is NOT for someone to correct your you and show you your mistakes, but for someone to tell you how "good" you re. So you go on doing your bouncing bench presses and your half-squats, but heaven forbid anybody told you so. And yet you continue to wonder why you just do not seem to gain!!!
For those of you with ears to hear and eyes open to the truth, here are few well-tried and proven suggestions:
a) Do not cheat in your exercises.
b) Use light to medium weights and do movements slowly and completely.
c) Use close and medium grip on the barbell.
d) Never sacrifice style for increased poundage.
e) Never perform a movement if if does not work the area involved very HARD!
The proper diet is of the utmost importance when trying to develop the look we have been speaking about. The power look is NOT one of being overweight or downright FAT. The power look gives the look to the viewer of thickness, density and all-around physical impressiveness. And the majority of your lighter weight Olympic lifters have this look with plenty to spare! This is because it's very important for them that all their bodyweight and muscles be FUNCTIONAL; to accumulate extra fat will not help them in lifting greater poundages and would in all probability cause an increase in bodyweight and hence a move up into a heavier weight class. And neither of these occurrences would be desirable or sought after. This also goes for the majority of powerlifters s well. They are very dense and muscular for the most part, with the men in the lighter classes almost looking like competing bodybuilders.
Proper diet requires great patience and self control. You will not get very far without adequate protein an adequate carbohydrates. It is the amount of fats which should be curtailed if you find yourself getting too heavy. NOT the protein or the carbohydrates. I would advise you to get your protein from red meats, eggs, chicken, turkey and fish. Don't go overboard on the red meats, though Fresh fruits and vegetables and milk products such as low fat yogurt and cottage cheese should round out your diet. Stay away from junk foods or you will indeed look 'junky." Eat wisely and eat well.
EXERCISE FREQUENCY is an often discussed topic and instead of going into it in great detail without really answering anything completely, I'll simply say this? You must exercise as hard and as often as possible to the LIMITS of your personal ability to RECUPERATE, and no one can dictate to you just where your limits lie.
YOU will have to find this out on your own and this will take both time and patience, but in reality there just is no other way.
Train as hard as you can, doing as much as you can as often as you can. It's as simple as that . . . yet I wonder if it's really as simple as it seems.
Throughout this series I have been emphasizing the stiff leg deadlift, the shrug, and the Olympic back squat for increasing your physical size and increasing your strength. I don't want to keep repeating myself, but I must add that these are KEY movements in any training routine for increasing attractive, athletic muscle size and development, because they work the involved muscles completely and most adequately from complete extension to complete contraction.
I have also discovered a few PRESSING MOVEMENTS which I will outline here for you now, since they have made QUITE a change in my own physique, and I feel they should at least be experimented with, with you fellows finding out for yourselves just which ones also work for YOU.
Try bench pressing with a grip that has your first and second fingers INSIDE the knurling of the Olympic bar. This will be closer than most of you are used to, and you will have to lower the poundage somewhat, but I found that this grip will really thicken your central pectorals and the triceps as well as the frontal deltoids, provided enough sets and repetitions are performed.
I try to go from a set of around 15, to a set of 10, and then on to a set of 8, maybe two or three sets of 5 and 6 repetitions. I do these repetitions slowly and with no bouncing whatsoever. This movement will REALLY thicken the torso.
The most productive movement I have ever found for the chest and shoulders in general is the cambered MacDonald bar for bench pressing.
I place my hands just where the camber ends, thereby getting the optimum amount of stretch, and this movement has worked wonderfully for myself and anyone else who has given it a fair trial. I also prefer rather high repetitions, due to the excessive stretching of the muscles that this movement provides.
The was we do parallel bar dips is to lower ourselves until our extended feet just touch the floor, for we have found that when tucking the feet up behind ourselves we have a tendency to do partial repetitions. Be keeping our feet straight down, we are forced to go right to the bottom with each and every rep, whether using weight or not, and this will make the movement far HARDER to perform and hence, more productive for muscle building.
For the shoulders we have found that a very steep seated front press with a rather close grip is very productive for frontal deltoid size and shape as well as increasing overhead pressing power. Try not to allow your butt to move from the back of the seat since this will decrease the steepness of the angle, and you are not supposed to be doing 45 degree inclines but around 80 degrees to make this movement primarily frontal deltoid.
What I do is place the bench within a power rack and have the bar placed on the supporting pins, so that each and every repetition is performed from a COMPLETE DEAD STOP, and hence no cheating of any kind. I have advised others in the gym to do likewise, but for the most part they are ashamed of the puny poundages that they have to begin with since this movement is quite severe and most guys will simply NOT allow their poundages to drop no matter what. Even though they continually compliment me on the thickness of my shoulder area, they will not emulate what I have proven on myself and others.
As I have mentioned time and time again, shrugs will literally reshape your entire upper body, no matter how heavy or light a weight you use. DO THEM! DO THEM REGULARLY! And don't think you have to do those ridiculous circular movements when you are shrugging. This is a waste of time and effort. Simply strap your hands to the bar and PULL upward as quickly and as hard as you can. Vary your hand grip and the sets and repetitions so as to avoid staleness and boredom and to work the trapezius muscles from every conceivable angle. And I would recommend two or three shrug workouts per week, all year round.
For the lower back, try to do stiff legged deadlifts with only 25 pound Olympic plates on the bar, as this will increase the length of the movement and hence will work the lower back even harder than in the conventional style.
For the upper back you can also try to do bentover rows with the MacDonald bar in place of the straight bar since this will also increase the length of movement involved and will work the lats quite thoroughly. Use the same grip as when bench pressing with this bar, that is, right where the camber ends. This narrow grip will allow an even greater stretch of the involved muscles.
For your thighs I MUST repeat that the Olympic squat with the bar placed high on the traps will work your thigs quite HARD without an increase in gluteal size. They also greatly increase your all over thigh POWER should you ever care to use a more normal competitive style in the future. Once again, I would advise rather high repetitions, at least in the beginning, so as not to feel oppressed by the heavy weight on the shoulders which would cause some to do the movement incorrectly. NEVER stick your butt out when coming up out of the bottom position. You should have the calves CRUSHED by the thigh biceps in this bottom position and you should come up STRAIGHT with the butt tucked under you!
These movements I have passed on to you today have been tried by myself and others I have trained with, and each and every one of us has gained additional muscle shape, density and size without a great increase in bodyweight by using these exercises in the way I have outlined.
Remember that the look of power is one of COMPLETENESS. It gives the viewer an indication of the all around strength such a trainee possesses. You will not give the appearance of bloated muscle bulk for this is NOT the look of power.
By following these routines and exercise styles and performances outlined for you in this series of articles I hope to aid you ALL in appearing more ATHLETIC and muscularly impressive. And I feel that the movements described along with the diet outlined, are two good ways of reaching these goals.
Good luck to all of you! Until next time: train hard and train wisely.
Enjoy Your Lifting!