Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Power Look: What It Is and How To Get It

Maurice Jones

The Power Look : What It Is and How To Get It
by Anthony Ditillo

Nothing is as impressive to the eye as the look of power. While many men come to mind immediately when discussing this phenomena, there are many, many more who are winning physique contest today, on the physique platform particularly, who do not, and will never, possess this physical trait. The look of power begins with the size and thickness of the neck and the deltoids. Without huge, thick, sloping trapezius muscles, you will NEVER obtain this power look. Heavy trapezius development comes from very heavy shrugs and high pulls; you will not obtain this kind of development using thirty pound dumbbells and doing sets of twenty repetitions – these muscles need both time and effort to start to grow, but the results will be well worth the sweat, blood and pain. Take a look at ANY top Olympic lifter in just about ANY weight class and you will see what I am talking about.

Along with proper trapezius development, we must also include the middle and lower back muscles for they are the hinge muscles connecting the upper torso with the hips and proper development of these upper, middle and lower back muscles with adequate muscle size in the buttocks will give the entire torso when viewed from the rear a compact, athletic, yet powerful appearance, not to mention quite a bit of strength throughout the entire body. Heavy bentover rowing movements will greatly aid you in developing the upper and middle back muscles.

Another hint would be to use the cambered McDonald bar for the bentover rows, so as to enable yourself to continue the movement without the bar stopping where you would normally hit your torso on the upward pull. David Shaw, a personal friend and one of the most massively muscular men, knows what he is talking about when it comes to pulling power and proper back development and he has been doing heavy bentover rows for years! Another favorite movement of his is the deadlift with feet on a block so as to incorporate the same principle of additional range of motion for added stimulation and the result is: world record deadlifts!

When discussing the look of power, we cannot ignore the legs, simply because most trainees do not look forward to the amount of work necessary for development and strength, not to mention the length of time it takes to get up to the heavy poundages some of the leaders are using today. Yet, we simply cannot ignore the lower body, for without adequate development of the thighs you will NEVER give the appearance to anyone with a trained eye of being a strong man. But I am going to give you one secret which may help you, should you care to take my advice. When it comes to development of the thighs, you CAN obtain adequate development without straining to back squat with six hundred pounds. All you have to do is change your squatting style to the style used by Olympic lifters and the results will be forthcoming.

Do NOT use a wide stance. Do NOT drop the bar low on your back. Do NOT wrap your knees and wear a thick belt. Do NOT stick your butt out as you lower yourself into the bottom squatting position, and finally: do NOT squat flatfooted, but use a raised heel. You will eventually find that you are squatting more upright, your buttocks will be somewhat tucked in UNDER you at the bottom position of the squat and you will feel most of the stress of the movement in the THIGHS, not in the buttocks and hips.
If you are of average weight and body structure, it will take you quite a long time to do these with double your bodyweight, but you will enjoy much in the way of attractive muscular development while aiming at this strength goal. Also, the strictness of the movement will alleviate the need for such heavy poundages since these heavy weights will be impossible for you to handle, in the beginning anyway.
Fred Hatfield has been advising his men to squat this way during their off season for powerlift competition since this style will develop great quadriceps strength which will enable them to power squat much more when they go back to their competitive style later in the year. His advice has recently been noted, but I and my coach Dezso Ban have been advocating this style of squat for the average trainee, be he bodybuilder or powerlifter, for YEARS and your OLYMPIC lifters have been squatting this way for many decades. This is the only way to squat without using your hips at the expense of your thighs!
Remember, to incorporate this squatting style, you MUST keep your buttocks under the bar, for without this proper bottom position, you will NOT be doing an Olympic squat.

So far we have mentioned the upper, middle and lower back muscles, and we have also gone into proper squatting for this power look. Now we shall get into the movements most of you enjoy doing the most. Now we will get into the chest and shoulders. All of us bench press. Ninety percent of us really enjoy the movement and in most gyms this movement and how much weight you can lift in it will either give indication as to whether you are a strong man or a weak man. This in not fair by any stretch of the imagination; yet it does exist.

“How much can you bench?” How many times I have heard this question. Do they ever ask, “How much can you press?” or “How much can you incline press?” No. It’s always “How much can you bench?” To be sure, bench pressing is the most popular movement in the weight training world today. Now, I am not going to try to downgrade its importance for the development of the look of power, but I must add that many of the finest, strongest Olympic lifters in the world do not do these bench presses to any degree, and yet they are quite strong and give an extraordinary appearance when on the lifting platform.

I think the answer lies somewhere between proper exercise performance of the bench press and the additional incorporation of the seated front press and/or the press behind neck. By working on all three of the movements with equal time and effort applied to each one, you will be assured of complete development throughout the entire chest and shoulder areas with the end result being a more complete, harmonious development and the look of an all-around strong presser. Not someone who specializes on one movement at the exclusion of others. Would this not satisfy the majority of you trainees? For the powerlifter who is or who will be competing, it is a somewhat different story. His success lies in performing the bench press with as much weight as possible, while keeping within the rules of the game. But even he will undoubtedly use these additional assistance movements while on a break from his competitive season.

And it is during this time in his training that he will actually be developing most of the lifting strength which will become apparent when he drops his assistance movements and gears down to his pre-competition cycling period, getting ready for his next competition. Take a look at the chest and shoulder development of David Shaw or Roger Estep. And what about “Cash” or “Kaz?” Do you think they got this development with bench presses alone???

A few years ago I did two or three articles on Mel Hennessy, a past world record holder in the bench press and all around powerlifter, a massively developed man. Some of the poundages he used in his assistance movements were astounding! And he had the physical appearance to show for it. And what about Pat Casey and Steve Merjanian? Casey’s upper body was as thick as it was wide, and big Steve was a regular tailor’s nightmare! Both of these men relied on many different assistance movements for the bench press and both men could bench with the best in world at that, and this present time.

For complete, massive and thick development of the chest and shoulders, do not bounce or thrust the bar when performing repetitions. Do not lift your hips off the bench. Try to perform your repetitions smoothly and correctly for best results musclewise. For those of you who can use a wide grip on the bench without running into shoulder problems, by all means continue to do so. But for the majority of us, a closer, medium grip is best, not only for a more complete development but also for minimizing trauma to the joints of the shoulders. The McDonald cambered bar is quite effective, not only for hitting the deeper fibres of the pecs and delts, but also for aiding the lifter to develop an easier, more powerful initial push from the chest when attempting maximum weights.

Weighted parallel bar dips are another good movement to incorporate along with heavy dumbbell bench presses and/or flyes. These movements will adequately work the pectorals as well as the triceps. While the competitive powerlifter must reserve adequate time and energy for the bench press itself, he could incorporate these movements as well as the following deltoid movements into his routine, choosing judiciously, of course.

For direct deltoid stimulation, we have been using a particular type of seated front press with very fine results. What we do is sit on a seated press behind neck bench, pulling it into the power rack, having the bar resting on the pins so that when you get into position the bar is at the proper pressing position, just off the clavicles and is resting on the pins just waiting for you to press it. By using this style, the bar can be pressed from a dead stop for each and every repetition and the steep angle of the bench used will cause this movement to be the most effective shoulder movement you've ever tried, if you work hard and regular on it.

We do the same for the press behind the neck, simply having the bar o the pins, resting on our trapezius muscles, with no bouncing possible for each and every repetition. While dumbbell side and front laterals are fine and they have the advantage of not necessitating the shoulder joints to additional stress along with the constant stress they go through with bench pressing, I, and to the best of my knowledge, most other men will respond better to these two mentioned pressing movements, for the dumbbell laterals are very easy to cheat with (unconsciously or otherwise) and this is what we are trying to avoid.

I might also mention, and will go into greater length later, that it is not necessary to use ONLY doubles, triples, or singles with these movements since there will be ADDITIONAL muscle growth without the joint trauma using lighter weights and higher repetitions like eights or even tens. These are assistance movements and should be treated as such. For both the press behind neck and the seated front press, I would recommend a medium or even close grip as this seems to hit the deltoids more fully than a wide grip and does not usually cause the shoulder strains regularly associated with pressing behind the neck. How many times have you seen someone hurt themselves while doing presses behind the neck or wide grip bench presses? Believe me, bring your grip in and save your shoulders!

Finally, we come to actual arm work. And while not meaning to let you down, I really don't have much to say in this regard. This is because most of you are already doing too much work for these small muscle groups anyway. From most of your letters, it seems that you will easily do as many sets of arm work as of chest work or shoulder work,and MORE sets than you'd ever want to do for the legs and back!!! All I am going to say is this: Of all the muscles we've mentioned, the arms are the least important when it comes to developing the look of power. First of all, if you work the exercises mentioned herein, you will necessarily be working the upper arms quite hard without even doing one set of curls.

Believe me, triceps pushdowns and concentration curls will NOT make you a powerful or event powerful LOOKING man . . . anyone with a trained eye knows what to look for. Don't take my word for it. Just look for photos of the following men and I will use three men from each of the three fields of lifting endeavor so as to show you that the look of power is not owned by only one facet of our sport. For bodybuilding look at Tim Belknap, Bill Pearl and Bertil Fox; for powerlifting look at Bill Kazmaier, Roger Estep and David Shaw; and for Olympic lifting look at Anatoly Pisarenko, David Rigert and Blagoi Blagoev. These men are among the strongest and best built athletes the world over and it was not through armwork that they got where they are. It was, for the most part, doing a LOT of work on basic movements, done strictly and correctly, for a LONG time. Any arm development which came along for the ride, so to speak, was O.K.

But I don't think "Kaz" is losing any sleep over how to increase his biceps by another inch. Do you get what I mean? Just do one movement for the biceps and one movement for the triceps and do these movements strictly and slowly without jerking and cheating and you WILL increase your arm size!
Training frequency and sets and repetitions are another set of topics which I feel too much is being made of. Simply put; if you are constantly sore, not improving in either bodyweight or poundage gains in your exercises and simply dread going to the gym each day, they you are overtrained. Take a few days off and when you begin, go on a three day routine. Work the entire body with one exercise per body part, picking one movement from the list we've just discussed and perform eight to ten total sets for the movement. Warm up with two or so sets and then pick a weight you can use from five to eight repetitions and try for around five sets with this weight. Cool off with two lighter sets. This means you'll be doing around two to two and a half hour workouts, three days weekly.

As long as you're recuperating and gaining slowly but regularly in size and power, leave yourself alone. When you begin to go stale, yet are NOT overtrained, I'd then jump to a four day week. This would allow you more time for each area, thereby allowing for additional work for each area while allowing you to still recuperate on your off days. Perhaps two or even three movements previously listed for each area will suffice. One movement for around ten or so sets and the other one or two for five sets each.
Once again, I would recommend medium repetitions for the most part. You also could include two or three heavier sets of triples or doubles periodically, for the one movement per area which would be your main lifting movement. For the most part, the important thing to remember is to make sure your performance is correct and your recuperation between each workout is adequate. The actual amount of sets, reps and number of exercise movements will have to be ultimately left up to you. Proper diet should guarantee proper recuperation.

Proper dieting, whether you are trying to gain weight or not, is of the utmost importance when on such a grueling schedule. Here again, most of you should know by now what to eat and what not to eat. It's only common sense - if you overeat with the wrong foods, you are going to get fat, and if you don't take in enough calories you are not going to grow larger. I have gained and lost one hundred and seventy-five pounds, so believe me, I KNOW what I am talking about. Simply let your diet revolve around fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, eggs, cheeses and fish, fowl, yogurt and low fat cottage cheese and you will be going in the right direction. If you want to gain weight check your daily caloric intake and simply add 1,000 calories to this amount daily while keeping your choice of foods from the aforementioned list of choices. This will insure regular weight increase with minimum bodyfat increases. If you don't wish to gain any more weight, gradually decrease your caloric intake until you are at an amount which will maintain your desired weight. Once again, keep to the aforementioned foods for best results. I don't think you need much in the way of vitamins or supplements while on such a diet. It is most complete, natural and well balanced.

What I have tried to do with this article is outline for you the types of exercise movements and the performance style which will give you this well-knit, well-balanced, rugged look. The men I have mentioned have to be among the most massive yet muscular in the world - men who not only look strong but ARE strong! This has not been simply an article listing for you a sample routine of five sets of this and ten reps of that; for by now, most of you should be able to figure these points out to your greatest benefit.

Until next time, train wisely and train well.

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