Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My Shoulder Training - Reg Park

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My Shoulder Training
by Reg Park (1952)

The subjects of weight training and strawberries are poles apart. Nothing less relative to each other can be imagined, yet considered in the light of experience, they are closer than a man and his own skin. The things we believe in and the behavior we evidence in the world at large are largely the results of what we experience. a fellow can give an opinion on a certain subject and do so as a general viewpoint, but nevertheless his opinion is based purely on personal experiences, or the experiences of others. In other words, how a thing affects HIM determines his attitude towards it.

If you eat strawberries and come out in a rash afterwards, you can certainly conclude that the fruit has particularly harmful effects, and no one will blame you if you hold that strawberries are bad, when you advance that opinion. Some people will believe you because they have had the same reactions you had, while others will tell you that you are mistaken. They’ve eaten the berries and come to no harm.

The same principle applies to bodybuilding and lifting. The opinions of some weightlifters and the teachings of certain instructors are conditioned by their experiences and the results they have obtained. If, for instance, a man gets a huge chest and muscular latissimus dorsi from the practice of the straight-arm pullover, he will maintain that the exercise is a marvelous and productive one. If, however, he uses the pullover and gets nothing but badly sprained deltoids and sore elbow joints, he will rightly conclude that the movement achieves nothing but injury, that it is no good.

I have discussed this factor of the individuality of training results with every prominent bodybuilder and lifter I have come in contact with. I have been fortunate, for I have traveled all over the earth during my Army service and afterwards when I gained prominence as a weight trainer, and I have never lost an opportunity to canvass the opinions of the greats of the lifting world. No matter on what point of training these men disagreed, they were all together on one main issue. These experts have always believed and taught that while it is possible for a bodybuilder or weightlifter to follow a “general” routine, when it comes to specialization he should take into consideration each and every personal factor. He should consider his temperament and his daily habits of life. His manner of earning a living, his diet and his hours of relaxation should be the objects of just as much careful planning as his training schedule. It was a source of great satisfaction to me to find that the things I had always believed in were also held true by the prominent citizens of the world of weights.

Clancy Ross often told me, “Reg, you cannot stick to any hard and fast rules of training once you are past the first stages of lifting. You’ve got to pattern your specialization programs exclusively for yourself.”

Leo Robert has never ceased to believe that a man cannot hope to make gains if he continues to train along the same lines year after year.

Charlie Smith put this even more succinctly when he said, “You can give ten men three different basic exercises and they will affect the men in ten absolutely different ways.”

I would call this article “my favorite shoulder routine” because the movements in this program gave given me the best all-around results. I have always worked toward power, shape, and definement in every training schedule I have followed, and I have yet to take a workout I didn’t enjoy. If you enjoy doing a particular job you always put more into it. You work with greater zest and enthusiasm, with more determination than if the job or your view of it becomes simply boring or routine. Because of that simple fact of performing a labor of love, you insert more into your task, get much faster results together with a feeling of wellbeing and a sense of accomplishing something. It a favorable psychological reaction that reverberates and builds upon itself.

You will find as I did that taking notes on your workouts and your reactions to those workouts will help you a great deal in determining the movements that give you what you seek. I have used dozens of shoulder exercises during my training life, experimenting until I found the ones that had the most profound effects on my shoulder muscle groups. The exercises in this shoulder program are those that remain for me after scores have been discarded. These remaining movements are the ones that have given me my best shoulder strength and development.

You will notice that the great majority of them are “cheating” exercises. I have found this style of exercising is suited to my particular type of physical structure and temperament. Many well-known authorities condemn cheating movements for various excuses, the chief among them being that a looser style of exercising produces a poor quality muscle and little in the way of strength. If this is true, then I am left wondering what I must accomplish to prove that I am well-built, and what lifts I must perform to show I am a little stronger than average. Since I have managed to win the Mr. Universe title, break British records in the two hands slow curl (185 lbs.), the bench press (415 lbs.) and the two dumbbell clean & press (235 lbs.), the condemnation of cheating movements appears to be somewhat unfounded. I might add that the dumbbell press of 235 was well within my power. I am capable of 250 ANYTIME. When breaking this British record which has, incidentally, stood for a number of years, I had to keep a STRICT MILITARY POSITION, not the looser Olympic style, and I also was forced to hold the weights at my shoulders for almost a half-minute before I pressed them, to satisfy the referee’s demand for a low enough position.

Here is my shoulder routine. I will make no claims that every lifter who uses it will get the same results that I have. But I am certain that the basic concepts outlined in it are sound, physiologically sound, and if the lifter experiments, takes the trouble to find out the exercises that I use that can fit productively into his training schedule, he will make good gains, perhaps sensational ones.

If I were asked what shoulder movement I would sooner do than any other, I would answer the Press Behind Neck. So far as I am concerned this exercise is tops and has no substitute. I usually perform this first in my shoulder workouts. I have used it since my first days of working out with weights. Sometimes I drop it to rest off, but I always go back to it. I get bigger, better and faster results than from any other movement. It not only gives size and strength, but delineation too, and pumps the muscles of the shoulder girdle like no other movement can. I understand that it is also the favorite shoulder exercise of Melvin Wells. In my opinion, Melvin has the best deltoids in the world. If I am taking a complete workout . . . that is, exercising the entire body, I leave the press behind neck until the last. If I am specializing then it comes first. I use a heavy weight and keep the repetitions low, never performing more than 5 sets, making about 6 repetitions each set. I take the weight overhead to arms’ length and lower the bar to just above the shoulders, pressing it immediately to arms’ length again. In other words, there is no pause between the repetitions and once the set is started, the weight does not rest or touch on any part of the shoulders or upper back. If the last repetition is tough, I get my training partner to place a finger under the middle of the bar and help me up a little.

The next on my list of favorite shoulder exercises is the Standing Two Dumbbell Press. I have used this exercise more and more recently, because I have been training to break the record held by Ronald Walker. Frankly, I do not think it gives me much size, but it certainly improves the muscle tone, and helps develop ligament strength. I use no hard and fast performance rule when using this lift for training purposes. I sometimes press the dumbbells together, sometimes alternately. I even use them seated on a bench, but with the seated variety I lean back just a little and brace myself against my training partner’s knee, which he places in the middle of my back. I use from 4 to 6 sets with a weight I can just get 8 reps from.

If I am working for a poundage record, then I use heavier weights and lower the reps to 2, going as high as 8 sets.

If you are working on a shoulder program, then perform this exercise with the press behind neck, alternating one set or press behind neck with one set of the two hands dumbbell press.

Third on my list of favorite shoulder exercises is the Cheating Side Lateral Raise. In the strict version of this exercise the arms are kept straight, locked at the elbows throughout, and are raised until they are level with the shoulders. In the cheating version, use a heavier weight and bend the arms at the elbows, keeping them bent throughout the exercise. You also use a LITTLE body motion to start the dumbbells away from the sides of the body. Notice my hand position in the photo. I find that there is less stress placed on certain shoulder muscles by keeping the palms facing front, as opposed to facing down. I generally use 4 sets of 10 reps and massage the muscles after each set.

The fourth exercise in my shoulder program is the Cheating Alternate Dumbbell Raise to the Front. Here is a movement for the anterior sections of the shoulder muscles. I start with the dumbbells held on the fronts of my thighs, and I raise them one at a time, swinging a single bell right up to arms’ length, using a SLIGHT body motion and a “lay back” to get the weight overhead. Try and get as much rhythm as possible into the alternate raising, and DON’T bend the arms, but keep them straight throughout the movement. I use 3 sets of 8 reps in this exercise.

In addition to the above, I do lots of bench presses which are good for the entire shoulder, triceps and chest region. I also like the chin behind neck. Here again I use a loose style, adding weight with a belt and getting a bit of a swinging rhythm going.

When I have finished this routine I sometime add some expander work or practice muscle control exercises for the area. After every workout I take a warm shower, allowing the water to run on the deltoids, then rubbing them dry with a very rough towel. This will increase the circulation of the blood and help take away any fatigue products produced by the strenuous exercising. Stiffness after workouts can be kept to a minimum by this means.

I have never had any trouble building size, strength and definement, but I have had to work hard and consistently for it. The fact that I have enjoyed working hard has been partly due to arranging my routines from the exercises that give me the most pleasure to perform. I have given each exercise, each set and every repetition all I’ve got.

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