Thursday, December 1, 2016

Ipsilateral Intensification - Ken Leistner (1987)

Ipsilateral Intensification
by Ken Leistner (1987)

Positive training effect -- defined by most bodybuilders and powerlifters as an increase in muscle tissue size and strength -- comes as a result of many factors. The most obvious and important variable is still the actual training one does to stimulate gains. 

Of course, in bodybuilding circles the virtues of nutrition are also extolled in the same breath. Nevertheless, despite the proliferation of commercially biased literature, nutrition is a very distant second to one's actual work in the gym. Granted, one can certainly "eat" his way out of a major title by not controlling his caloric consumption or eating in a way that causes significant nutritional inadequacies and/or fluid imbalances.

However, I have yet to see any major powerlifting or physique title bestowed upon a man or woman who did not train, despite utilizing sound nutritional concepts. And for every bodybuilder who eats inadequately, there are scads who eat correctly, yet comparatively few ever grace the winner's podium. Therefore, it should be obvious that nutrition is not, and has never been. "85% of the battle" for muscle-building success. 

Let's face a very sobering fact -- the vast majority of bodybuilders eat and train alike, but there are only a handful of outstanding physiques. Similarly, the majority of powerlifters eat and train along the same lines. Yet, year in and year out the top competitors in each weight class are very often the same men and women. In actuality, proper, productive training, which will stimulate maximal gains in accordance with one's genetic limitations, is responsible for one's success (or lack of it) in the lifting and physique worlds -- with nutrition giving one the energy to train vigorously and recuperate fully from that training. 

As I've stated so many times, hard training has nothing to do with the volume of a training session, workout frequency, the length of a particular workout or the number of repetitions performed in a set. Rather, it's a function of one's willingness to execute each and every set of each and every workout to the fullest of his capabilities -- pushing against the barbell, dumbbell or machine handles until the resistance will not move. 

Plain and simple, what I'm talking about is intensity, and you should always be looking for ways to increase this factor. One manner in which we infuse variety and added intensity into our workouts is through ipsilateral (one-limb) training. It's very difficult, although I believe almost everyone can benefit from it. Above all, bear in mind that this technique must be approached in a careful manner owing to the fact that it can only be done productively for a few weeks at a time . . . or when used intermittently, yet infrequently, as part of one's regular weight training program.

There are training machines which I like and others which I do not. In order for one to justify the use of any machine, it must offer advantages that are not available from a barbell or dumbbells. However, some machines allow one to train in a safer and/or more effective manner, and those which permit the training of one limb at a time offer an advantage. Furthermore, using dumbbells one arm at a time works very well for some movements. However, there are many exercises that can be done with greater intensity when done ipsilaterally. Actually, the movement becomes harder and, in many cases, more uncomfortable. this should not be seen as a negative.

As long as it does not signal endangerment of a joint or soft tissue structure, a bit of discomfort forces the trainee to concentrate more completely on the movement. And when all properly performed strength training is done in a controlled and careful manner, one-limbed training must be executed with tremendous control and concentration to avoid injury and to realize increases in the muscle-stimulating effect.

For the lower extremity, let extensions and leg curls are often done one leg at a time, especially for the purposes of injury rehabilitation. However, working with maximal weights for whatever the recommended number of repetitions in the leg curl and extension significantly boosts the intensity of these movements.

Moreover, we have received great results from ipsilateral leg presses, particularly when done in a "negative only" fashion. There are a number of leg press machines that lend themselves to this movement, and some which do not. Above all, be careful to maintain control because heavy weights can and should be utilized.

If one can follow this with one-legged squats -- and I do believe that doing so will prove to be too much work for most -- plan on shuffling your feet for a few days because the ensuing muscle soreness will prevent normal ambulation for two or three days.

The Nautilus Leverage Bench Press, Incline or Double Press machine, as well as the Schnell Standing Bench Press unit, are excellent for one-limb pressing movements. Of course, one can do one-armed dumbbell presses, being careful to support or otherwise balance the body during the exercise so that excessive backward or lateral bending is avoided. Eight or 10 slow and steady reps, done with the palm facing the side of the face, is an underutilized exercise which was very common in the "old days."

The Schell Standing Bench Press offers an incredible range of motion in comfort, allowing the trainee to concentrate fully on the movement. We have also found that the Nautilus Leverage Dip machine allows for the practice of one-armed dips . . . which have to be tried to be appreciated. However, I would not recommend one-arm dumbbell bench presses as they are dangerous due to the difficulty in balancing the body properly on the bench during the movement. Any "false movement" with a heavy weight can result in a torn pectoral muscle or injury to the shoulder region.

In training the upper back we have always relied on one-armed dumbbell rows over the standard barbell version due to the greater margin of safety offered, increased range of motion and degree of comfort the dumbbell movement offers relative to the barbell exercise. Of course, one-arm chins are an impossibility for most trainees. But doing a regular two-armed chin in a positive (up) manner and then lowering the body on the strength of one arm can be done by many . . . and for more reps than you would think. One good set done in this style will provide excellent stimulation for the latissimus, forearm flexors and biceps structures. And prone rows -- done with a dumbbell in one hand at a time while lying face down on an elevated bench -- is another effective upper back builder that is best performed in ipsilateral fashion.

Lateral raises are almost always done one arm at a time if the bodybuilder uses a cable of low pulley apparatus. Usually, this is more concentrated than the two-armed version, but try it with a machine or a dumbbell.

Ipsilateral biceps and triceps movements are often done with dumbbells, but you can also try them on a wide variety of machines that are available. In fact, doing one-armed biceps movements on a machine that was designed to accommodate both arms at the same time adds a dimension to the exercise that has to be experienced to be appreciated. We employ this one-armed variation when a trainee is lagging in either progress or enthusiasm. The exercise is tougher, requires more concentration and is perhaps more challenging.

Switching exercises every four to six weeks for the sake of "muscle confusion" is a much-ballyhooed topic in the bodybuilding journals today. However, instead of changing routines every time a new muscle-building publication hits the newsstand, stay with the basics, but incorporate variety and renewed intensity with new wrinkles like one-armed movements.          


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