Saturday, October 12, 2013

Proportion, Part Three - Greg Zulak



There is a school of thought in bodybuilding that insists that shape training is not possible. Some say all you can do is train a muscle and hope for the best, that whatever shape the muscle develops into is what you get. Exercise selection, they say, has no influence on the final outcome.

North American bodybuilding champion, Dave Fisher, is one person who doesn't believe in shape training. Dave says all you can do is hit a muscle hard to induce growth, but whatever growth you get, and whatever the unique shape of each individual muscle, your shape will be dictated by your genetics and not by which exercises you do.

Dr. Fred Hatfield is an expert who says that shape training isn't possible, and there is much scientific evidence to support that belief. The armchair experts and the guys with their B.S.'s (short for bullshit) and PhD's (stands for piled higher and deeper) and M.A.'s (more of the same) offer as proof that shape training is not possible because of noncontiguous innervation. Basically what it means in layman's terms is that the muscle fibers of a muscle share common nerve endings, so it isn't possible to isolate one part of a muscle while not working another part when exercising that muscle. In other words, according to the guys in the white coats, you can't do preacher curls to isolate just the lower biceps, or concentration curls to isolate only the outside head of the biceps for more peak. No, they say, if you do preacher curls, all the muscle fibers of the biceps are forced to contract, not just the ones in the lower biceps, and when you do concentration curls, it isn't possible to isolate only the outside head for more peak, as the whole biceps must work.

According to the principle of noncontiguous innervation, using a variety of exercises to hit a muscle from different angles does not ensure more growth, or even a different pattern of growth, than does working the muscle from one angle with a basic exercise. Or, to put it another way, there is no sense doing incline presses to try to isolate the upper pecs, decline presses to work the lower pecs, or wide-grip dips to hit the outside fibers of the chest, because whether you're doing incline presses, flat-bench presses, decline presses or dips, all the muscle fibers of the chest must contract because of shared innervation.

In fact, Hatfield wrote an article in Muscle & Fitness in 1983 that wide-grip bench presses do not work the outer pecs more than medium or close-grip bench presses, and that close-grip bench presses do not work the inner pecs more than regular-grip benches. It just feels that way. Said Fred: "Wide-grip bench presses may feel like they affect the outer portions of the chest, and close-grip bench presses may feel like they cause greater growth near the sternum, but they do not. What the bodybuilder feels, I believe, is merely physical stretching of tissue causing pain sensations in that area to respond. This pain sensation has nothing to do with growth occurring there,and should not be thought of as an indicator of that exercise's area of effect." (Muscle & Fitness, November, 1983, p. 217.)

To this I have one thing to say:

That kind of logic might look good on paper, but in reality that's not the way the body works. If it were true that you only needed to do one exercise to wok all the fibers of a muscle, why do the very people who say shape training isn't possible, like Dave Fisher, bother doing more than one exercise for a muscle group? Why don't they just do their favorite exercise for each muscle group for eight, 10, or 12 sets and forget about trying to work a muscle from different angles? Why? Because any bodybuilder will tell you he doesn't feel he has worked a muscle properly and completely unless he has done several different exercises for it, that's why.

And as for feeling a muscle work, talk to any bodybuilder worth his salt (not strength coach, powerlifter, or science-based theorist), and he'll tell you that feeling a muscle work (or part of a muscle) is how he isolates it (or a section of it), and muscle isolation is what bodybuilding is all about. Hell, you're going to tell me that the obvious burn you feel in your upper pecs when doing a hard set of incline presses isn't an indication of the upper muscle fibers of the pectoralis major working harder than the middle or lower fibers? Or the pump you feel in the lower biceps when doing preacher curls isn't an indication of the lower biceps working harder than the middle or upper biceps?

And you're going to tell me that a bodybuilder who does only incline presses and incline flyes in his chest training for five years isn't going to develop a different looking chest than if he had done only flat-bench presses, dips, decline presses and flat or decline flyes for five years? No way. It's going to look quite different.

Yes, your basic muscle shape is dictated by your genetics, but you can, by training intelligently, create an illusion of a different shape by emphasizing certain areas of a muscle and de-emphasizing other areas. By doing this you can create an illusion closer to the ideal shape. Didn't Vince Gironda preach all this ages ago? John C. Grimek? Sigmund Klein?

It only makes sense that you can isolate and create more growth in certain areas of a muscle. If you only needed one basic exercise to induce growth in all sections of a muscle, why bother doing hack and front squats for the lower quads? Why bother with preacher curls for the lower biceps, barbell curls and incline curls for the belly, and concentration curls for peak? If it were true that you could develop all sections of a muscle with just one exercise there wouldn't be any need for cable crossovers or pec-deck flyes for the inner pecs, wide-grip dips for the outer fibers of the chest, close-grip pulldowns for lower lats and laterals to work the side head of the deltoids.

Have you ever noticed a bodybuilder who did certain exercises for years consistently and created a particular look from continually stressing one area of his body? Vince Gironda is a good example. Bob Kennedy told me that from years of doing wide-grip dips Vince created a thick ridge of muscle on the outside of his pecs. You can bet your last dollar that Vince's chest would have developed differently if he had never done the wide-grip dip, but had spent a lot of time on regular bench presses and flat flyes.

Larry Scott is a good example of a top bodybuilder who proves you can change the shape of a muscle. Through specialization on the preacher bench for close to 30 years, Larry built biceps that were round and full and thick - especially in the lower biceps - but not especially peaked. He believed that genetically he didn't have the muscle attachments to create a lot of peak, so he never emphasized it in his training. Then, a few years ago he began working hard for extra biceps peak by devoting more time and energy to spider curls and 90-degree preacher curls. The results were amazing. On page 77 of his book, Loaded Guns, there are two pictures of Larry, one from his heyday back in the 60's showing a huge arm but not with a lot of peak, and a more recent photo of him showing an arm with lots of peak. The difference between the two is as dramatic as an I've ever seen.


The point I'm trying to make is this:
a lot of laboratory studies have been done that 'proved' things were true when in fact they weren't. There were dozens of studies that proved steroids didn't or minimally worked and that their effects were all placebo. Obviously those studies were wrong. According to the science of physics the bumblebee's body is too large and its wings too small to allow it to fly. But fly it does. And so it goes. Scientists and researchers have theories and lab results that can prove almost anything to be true or false. That is the case, I believe, with noncontiguous innervation.

There is one thing the critics shape training forget. Even if this principle were true, that you couldn't change the shape of a muscle, you still should never want to develop all the muscles of your body to their maximum size. As a bodybuilder, that's a sure way to ruin your aesthetics and body shape. For example, the upper thighs respond rapidly to heavy exercise, but they can easily get too big relative to the size of the lower thighs, which can happen if you do a lot of powerlifting-style squats and ignore more erect-back squatting.

I recall Robert Kennedy telling me the story of Roy Perrot, a fine bodybuilder from England who always placed high at the NABBA Mr. Universe shows. At one point early in his training Roy had devoted a lot of time and energy to really heavy power squatting and, as a result, had developed huge upper thigh mass and heavy glutes, turnip-shaped legs with no lower thigh mass. At the encouragement of Oscar Heidenstam, Roy dropped the heavy back squats and started doing only front and hack squats. A year later his legs looked completely different and were beautifully shaped. He had much smaller hips and glutes as well. Roy's genetics obviously hadn't changed. By changing his exercises he reduced his upper thigh mass while increasing his lower thigh size, and thus created a whole new look for his legs. He improved his symmetry and aesthetics too. That's what shape training is all about.

An example of creating an illusion through shape training is doing mostly upper and outer pec work to create a wide, flaring chest. If you overdevelop the lower and inner pecs, the chest appears to be bunched up and droopy. Or, if you have a short neck, overdeveloping your neck and traps will give you a no-neck appearance.

Remember, bodybuilding is not just about developing the largest muscles you can. It about designing a physique with size, balance, symmetry and proper proportions. A physique that is aesthetically pleasing.

If you have poor genetics for building bigger calves, reduce your thigh size slightly while trying to add all the size you can to your calves. This is something Robby Robinson did in the 70's and if did a lot to improve his proportions and aesthetics.

If you are training for beautiful body shape and symmetry, you must keep your faster-growing muscles in check by training them with fewer sets and less intensity, while you work hard to bring up your weak points by performing more sets with more intensity for them. Muscles like the lower pecs, upper thighs, obliques. hips, glutes, and traps will grow much faster than smaller muscles like rear delts, upper pecs, leg biceps, calves, forearms, rhomboids, and the different heads of the biceps and triceps, so you have to be careful about keeping things in proper balance.

We have established three rules for shape training.
1) Never try to develop all muscles of the body to their maximum size.
2) Never try to develop all sections of a muscle to maximum size.
3) Do not train all muscle groups with the same number of sets and the same intensity.

And, despite what the believers of noncontiguous innervation say, for best results you should train a muscle from a variety of angles and with many different exercises to wok all parts of the muscle - the belly, insertion, and origin - not just the belly, which is what all the basic exercises stress. Since the basics build up mostly the large belly of a muscle, they are essential for building size, but, to improve muscle shape and to bring out the desired detail, you must use isolation exercises that worik the origins and insertions too. Too much belly work from doing only basic exercises can cause a muscle to look short and bunched up and make your physique appear incomplete and lacking finish.

You train for shape by doing a combination of basic and isolation exercises for a muscle and by keeping everything in balance by emphasizing only certain parts of each muscle.

To develop beautiful lines you must always think before you train. Know where you want to add muscle to your physique. Just because you can develop a muscle or make it bigger doesn't necessarily mean you should, not if making it bigger ruins your shape and symmetry. Only be creating an illusion, by adding and subtracting muscle in all the right places will you develop a beautiful physique. Otherwise, you'll wind up looking like a bloated bag of garbage.

Remember, your body can only hold so much muscle before its natural shape is destroyed. Muscles that are developed from weight training should not detract from your appearance and crowd your skeletal frame. Your body shouldn't look like an overstuffed pillow or four pounds of sugar in a three pound bag. Rather, the muscles should complement your bone structure and create pleasant, flowing lines. Size without shape can be revolting, especially if a muscle is quite out of proportion to the muscles surrounding it.

I'll say it again, shape is everything to a bodybuilder. 20-inch arms look absurd on a person with 20-inch thighs. And there is no sense in having 28-inch thighs if you have 14-inch calves. Having big pecs is no guarantee that your chest will look good, especially if most of the size is on the lower and inside sections. If your traps are too big for your delts, you look hunchbacked. If you have huge quads but no leg biceps, your legs look like sticks from the side, and your glutes look too big.

Everything has got to flow together. The calves have to be in balance with the upper arms and the thighs. The thighs have to be in balance with the torso and the calves. Everything has got to match and fit together properly.

Starting at the top and working down, let's talk about the sections of the muscles you should develop for the ultimate in shape and aesthetics. Remember, all the various muscles of your body should show some degree of development, but you should never let certain muscles which have the capacity to grow very large rather quickly overpower and grow out of proportion to nearby smaller muscles.

Your neck should be developed, but if it's too large it will detract from your shoulder width. A scraggy neck is not aesthetic-looking. If your neck is thin, devote some time to neck harness work and wrestler's bridges to build it up. If your neck is short, be careful not to overdevelop it to the degree that it gives you a no-neck appearance and detracts from your shoulder width. You should also be careful about overdeveloping the traps if your neck is short because they can cause the same problem. If your neck is thin and your shoulders wide, develop the traps all you want.

For the shoulders the rear and side heads can never get too big, but the front head can. Since the front head is worked hard from most chest exercises and all forms of pressing, do no direct isolation work for the front head, but devote plenty of sets to side and rear laterals to develop the side and rear heads. Remember, the side head is the one that makes you look wide and does the most to increase your V-taper. The wider you get your shoulders, the smaller your waist looks.

For the chest most of your efforts should go to developing the upper and outer sections of the pecs. You want your chest to be wide and flaring from the front the way your lats look from the back. This means you should spend most of your time performing incline presses, incline flyes and wide-grip bench presses to the neck to work the upper pecs, and wide-grip dips and 3/4 (constant tension) flyes to work the outer section.

Yes, you need some lower and inner pec development for cleavage and to have that clean line between the abs and pecs, but place the priority on the outer and upper pecs to be sure. The upper pecs should be as thick as the lower pecs, and the outer pecs should be thicker than the inner pecs for a great-looking chest.

The lats should be wide and thick, but, if your lats are high and short, make sure to give extra attention to the lower lats. If your lats lack width, make sure you do a lot of stretching to try to pull them out from the body. Devote lots of time to wide-grip chins to spread the scapulae. Always try to make yourself wider. Nobody has ever been too wide.

For thickness and detail in the upper back make sure you develop the middle of the back, the teres major and minor, the rhomboids, the infraspinatus and lower traps, or your back will be broad but flat. As far as the lower back goes, it can never be too thick or developed, but be careful which exercises you use to develop it. Hyperextensions, good mornings and stiff-legged deadlifts should be given priority over regular deadlifts, because regular deadlifts definitely build the obliques too and can thicken your waist.

Be very careful about adding size to your waist. Never do side bends and twists with weights, which will build the obliques. Try to get your waist as small as you can to increase your V-taper. For every inch you lose from your waist, you automatically make your shoulders appear to be one inch wider. If you are narrow in the shoulders and lack V-taper, try to create an illusion of more width by adding as much mass as possible to the side head of the deltoids, while reducing your waist size as much as you can.

Moving on to the legs, you definitely want to develop good mass in the quads, but be careful about overdeveloping the upper thighs. Make sure you develop good sweep, but place emphasis on the middle and lower thighs. If your upper thighs are getting too big and out of proportion with the lower thighs, drop the power squats and do only front squats, hack squats, Smith machine squats and leg extensions, to bring the lower thighs up. Do plenty of sets with the toes pointed out and the feet wide to get more outside sweep and lots of sets with the feet narrow and toes pointed straight ahead to hit more of the vastus muscles directly. And don't forget to do fascial stretching, which really increases thigh shape and separation.

The leg biceps (hamstrings) should be round and full, like another set of glute muscles. Try to get your hams as big as possible to balance out the quadriceps mass. If your glutes are large, developing big leg biceps will make your glutes look smaller. make sure you give the leg biceps equal work with the quads. If you do 10 sets for quads, do at least that number for the hams - unless you have naturally large hamstrings to begin with. Still, I have never yet seen a bodybuilder with leg biceps too big.

The calves, as everyone knows, seem to be a muscle that . . . either ya got 'em or ya don't. Still, anyone can improve his or her calves through hard work. I have found strict form and higher reps give better results than heavy weights, low reps and a shortened range of motion. Don't be afraid to experiment with sets of 50 to 100 reps. To work more outside head, use a wider stance and roll on the outside of the foot. For more inside head use a narrow stance and rise on the big toes. Of course, do seated and bent leg work to hit the soleus and straight leg work to hit the gastrocnemius. And don't forget to work the tibialis or front of the calf. 

For the biceps give priority to your weakness. If you have good peak but a gap at the elbow, do only preacher curls, hammer curls and reverse curls. If your biceps are long and full but lack peak, devote more time to alternate dumbell supinating curls, drag curls and concentration peaking curls, while doing barbell curls for mass.

Although there are three heads of the triceps, the most important one for the bodybuilder needing mass is the long head, the one which lies underneath the biceps and hangs down like a shark's belly when fully developed. To work the long head, do close-grip bench presses, lying triceps extensions and triceps pressdowns, pushing the weight in a straight line, not in an arc as is usually done. If your arm lacks width, work the outside head more. You can do this with elbows-wide pressdowns, kneeling rope pulls (twisting the hands out), and across-the-face dumbbell extensions. If you lack mass at the top of the triceps, kickbacks can do wonders to correct that problem. If you lack lower triceps, try pushups with your hands close together. Again, I'll remind you that all three heads will need good development, but they should not be developed equally for the most visually impressive effects.

The forearms and brachialis should be trained like any other muscle. The forearms, like the calves, can almost never get too big. Do plenty of wrist curls, reverse curls, hammer curls and reverse wrist curls. Always try to keep your forearms in balance with your upper arms.

The whole body should flow together. Nothing should stick out like a sore thumb. Everything should match. If you have something out of balance, work to correct it. That's what developing a good physique is all about.

If you want a shapely and symmetrical body, I know of only one way to get it: through intelligent shape training. You'll never get good shape from only basic exercises, and you'll never get it without using a variety of exercises to train your muscles from many different angles. If you want a good physique, forget what the exercise physiologists say and use the time-in-the-trenches tested shaping methods that have created the champions. There is no other, easier way.   



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