Thursday, March 23, 2017

Understanding Arms - Larry Scott (1987)

More on Arm Training from Larry Scott:

Larry Scott - 1938 to 2014:

Understanding Arms
Larry Scott (1987) 

It is with a little embarrassment that I have to confess I used to believe I had learned nearly everything there was to know about building arms. 

"After all, thirty years of training and winning several of the larger physique contests should make me some kind of an expert," I reasoned. 

Confucius said, "Knowledge is to know both what one knows and what one does not know." 

My experience working with Hoggan Health Equipment assisting in the design of exercise equipment helped me realize there was much I did not know about the physiology of exercise. My attitude was, "This little company, what can they possibly know about proper exercise. There isn't one person with the company that has even competed in a physique contest let alone won anything. I can really be of help to this company," I thought to myself. 

It's interesting how each experience can teach us something. The resident genius was a young fellow by the name of "Chip" Vanwagoner. It seems Chip was a self taught computer expert who had learned computers well enough to design all the cams needed for each of the exercise machines.

Chip and I had trouble right from the beginning. He may have felt I was coming to take over his job as the equipment designer and I took one look at the size of his arms and assumed he couldn't know much about exercise.

Each week we would have a design meeting in which we would discuss the design of a new piece of exercise equipment. The design meeting attendees would consist of Lynn Hoggan, the owner, who had most of his experience in manufacturing, and another fellow by the name of Len Smith whose schooling and experience were in marketing with Chip and I.

No sooner would the meeting get started than Chip and I would get into an argument on the proper function of an exercise. I have to admit I was incredulous that I would even have to argue the point. Especially when it came to the design of exercises for the arms.

Chip would advance a point of view based solely on the theoretical aspect of exercise and I would counter it with one based on my own experience.

"Wouldn't you agree that the origin of the short head of the bicep is the coracoid process of scapula and the origin of the long head is the supraglenoid tubercle of the scapula?" Chip asked me.  
"Well, I am not sure of the actual names of where the biceps heads originate, but I would agree they do originate on the shoulder area," I answered somewhat reluctantly. 
"Would you also agree the insertion of both the long and short head is the tuberosity of the radius?" Chip asked. 
"Yes, I would agree they both attach to the forearm," I replied, feeling more uncomfortable all the time.  
"Then you would have to agree that one of the functions of the bicep is a shoulder flexor and therefore to perform an exercise for the bicep which does not let the arm continue all the way down to the side of the body would make the exercise less than fully effective," Chip continued.
"Wait a minute, Chip. Are you saying exercises like the Preacher Curl are not effective because they don't allow the elbow to travel all the way down to the side of the body?" I threw at him.
"It certainly stands to reason . . . the exercise would be more effective if the bicep were allowed to flex through its entire range of contraction and extension," Chip fired back at me, started to get heated himself. 
I began to sense Chip wasn't as sure about himself as he was trying to convey but he was determined to bluff his way through the conversation while the other two members of the design team tried to decide who was really correct.
"Chip, let me assure you there is no better exercise for building massive biceps than the preacher curl. Standing biceps curl as you advocate is not bad but it could never compete with the preacher curl bench for effectiveness." 
I didn't have any reference books to refer to, but I knew it to be true from experience. 
As I stepped back and tried to look at the our exchange, I could see his ability to express himself by using the proper anatomical names and really knowing what was happening with the insertions and origin points of the particular muscles in question really made him look like he knew what he was talking about. My comments were, however, so strong emotionally they couldn't be ignored . . . but they did lack the technical depth needed to explain what was happening. 
Lynn Hoggan, the owner of Hoggan Health Equipment, could see that Chip and I were locked into a stalemate.
"Well fellows, where do we go from here," he asked.
The meeting ended with no specific conclusion as far as how to design the next biceps exercise machine. Chip and I both had a taste of each other and determined we were not going to the next design meeting without doing our homework. I am not sure what steps Chip took, but the next day I paid a visit to the University of Utah Medical Library and began to study more about the origins and insertions of the muscles. 
I began to learn some very interesting things about exercise which I had never known before. The first thing I discovered was that the university education on exercise had come a long way from where it was ten years ago.
I could well remember taking courses in college while majoring in Physical Education, in which it was apparent the courses being taught were far behind the state of the art. Consequently, I never thought to look to this source for more information about proper exercise. 
As Nehru once said, "We must have eyes to see and ears to hear, and a mind that opens up to the outside world."
Soon I was devouring everything from muscle testing and function to exercise physiology. It was fascinating! I was learning about my passion, and how good it felt to discover new truths about training. 
Let me share some of these findings with you, in the hope it will help you in your quest for physical excellence. 
I mentioned the origins and insertions of the biceps heads earlier. This is important to know in order to be able to determine which muscles are working the biceps for "peak" development, for instance. 

 If we look carefully we will see the biceps being composed of two heads, both the long and the short head, which is of course nothing new to anyone with even a little knowledge of anatomy. Closer examination reveals that the short head is connected to the coracoid process and the long head is connected to the supraglenoid tubercle of the scapula. Nothing earthshaking there so far. It is important to note, however, that even though these origins are close to each other the coracoid process is about one to two inches closet to the spine than the connection of the long head. 
In other words, the best way to work both heads would be with a movement that would be the bisector of these two vectors. This can be difficult to explain, but let me give it a shot. Imagine you are doing a biceps curl with the elbows held in and the hand grip position is a little wider than shoulder width. This is the ideal position for building both heads. Due to the fact that any movement of the wrist with respect to the shoulder is going to be working both heads, there doesn't seem to be any way to work one head of the bicep to the exclusion of the other.
There is, however, another muscle in the upper arm which is also responsible for elbow flexion. This muscle is the Brachialis, and I'm sure you have heard of this muscle before.
Looking carefully at this muscle's origin and insertion we learn some very interesting facts. First, we will note the long and short heads of the biceps insert on the radius (one of the bones of the forearm). The radius is the bone that swivels to allow for the twisting of the palm from supination (palm up) to pronation (palm down). As a matter of fact, one of the functions of the biceps muscle is to supinate the palms. This explains why we get better development from biceps work when we do the exercise in as full of a supinated position as possible.
Ulna on -> side, radius on <- br="" nbsp="" side.="">
The brachialis, however, has its insertion on the ulna (the other bone making up the forearm. It is not dependent on the position of the palm in order to work at its maximum. 
Even more important than the insertion of the brachialis is its origin. It does not continue on up into the shoulder region. It originates at the top of the humerus (upper arm bone). This means it is not dependent on arm position in order to work. This is very important information. Especially when one looks at the position of the brachialis. 
You see, it lies directly under the two heads of the biceps. This would seem to indicate that if we could build up this muscle it would push up the biceps and give us a better peak. 
How then can we concentrate totally on the brachialis rather than just working on the heavy biceps heads. The origins are the clue. If the elbows are raised to at least shoulder height and even higher, the biceps are put on such a slack they can never fire enough to effect elbow flexion (flexing the biceps). In this position then, the only muscle that can work hard is the brachialis. 
By the way, check in the mirror when you do curls in this position. You won't believe the peak on your upper arm at the fully contracted position.
Okay, let's talk about TRICEPS. I hope this is a new idea for you which will be of considerable help.
The triceps are composed of three heads, thus the name tri-ceps. The obvious intention is to get all three heads so big they will be enormous. So big in fat that no one will ever get them as big again in the history of man! 
We soon find out, however, that no matter what we accomplish it is soon just the launching pad for those who follow. But that could be the subject of another article. 
The triceps muscles have some of the same peculiar differences between origin and insertion as do the biceps. Let's examine them carefully. 
The lateral head (external head) and the small internal head have the same origin and insertion. They both originate on the upper portion of the humerus (upper arm bone) and all three heads insert together on the underside of ulna. This means, for one thing, that the position of the palm does not effect the exercise because as you remember from our earlier discussion the ulna does not change with palm movement.

The really interesting item to note is the origination of the long head of the triceps. Before I continue, let me also call your attention to the fact that the long head has the most potential for size. It has more muscle fiber than the lateral head and the medial head combined.

Continuing, the long head finds its origin not on the humerus bone but on the infraglenoid tubercle of the scapula. Let's examine what this means to those of us who are interested in building big arms. It's very similar reasoning as was discussed earlier with the biceps and brachialis muscles.

The external and medial heads are connected to the upper arm bone and consequently are not dependent on the position of the elbow with respect to the shoulder to achieve full extension and full flexion. The large (long) triceps head, however, is very dependent on the position of the elbow with respect to the shoulder because it is connected to the shoulder.

I used to refer to certain triceps exercises as 'shape' movements, and others as 'size' movements. I really didn't know what I was talking about but it seemed to make sense at the time. It was apparent, standing triceps pressdowns with the elbows in on the lat machine were excellent for chiseling out some terrific shape on the external (lateral) triceps head. I could never get any size doing this exercise because there just wasn't enough muscle fiber in the external head to accomplish real arm size. I could, however, get some impressive "horseshoe" development. Consequently, I would label this exercise as well as dumbbell and barbell kickbacks as falling into the category of 'shape' exercises.

On the other hand I would label all exercises such as lying triceps presses with the EZ curl bar, standing triceps presses with the EZ curl bar, and standing triceps pressdowns with the elbows out as good 'size' exercises because they (unbeknownst to me at the time) actually activated the long head much better because of the elbow position with respect to the shoulders.

You see, because of the origin of the long head it is necessary to get the elbow raised as much as possible in order to get full extension of this triceps head. Once we understand what is happening we can devise exercises that will really attack this potentially huge triceps head.

By using just a few of these exercises I can now keep my arm size up quite easily. I even have to watch carefully that my triceps don't become too large and out of proportion with the rest of my body.

Not too long ago, Joe Weider and his wife Betty came out to visit us for a while. We were enjoying a walk through some of the shops in an old restored mining town by the name of Park City. It so happened I had just worked arms the day before and was wearing a short sleeved shirt to show off in front of Joe because I know he always had a love affair with arms himself.

We happened to be looking in the window of one of the curio shops and Joe asked me, "Have you been working extra hard on your arms, Larry?"

"No, about the same as before," I answered, "but I've found some really terrific exercises for them."

"Your arms belong on a 250-pound man, Larry," said Joe.

I don't know whether I felt like a freak or felt good about what I had discovered about building arms. Coming from Joe, I knew it was a compliment.

Let me be more specific about how you go about using some of this exercise/anatomy knowledge. In order to visualize what I am going to share with you, you must imagine the long head is connected to the back of the deltoid . . .

. . . and the only way you can get this muscle fully pre-stretched (it won't build to its maximum potential unless you get into full pre-stretch position) is to raise the elbows fully overhead.
You will remember this as being the position we use while doing standing EZ bar triceps extensions or overhead dumbbell triceps presses. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? 
The position is correct . . . the problem is that it's just too hard on the elbows. 
Try this experiment. Raise the elbow high over the head with the hands behind your head. Raise it as high as possible. Can you feel the tightness of the triceps way down on the bottom close to the shoulder? This is the area you will be able to build. It will forge a peak on the bottom side of your arm causing the triceps to sweep down like a bunch of hanging grapes. 
Actually, it isn't the elbows that are hurting while doing the standing triceps press with the EZ bar. It is a small muscle called the Anconeus, which is also an elbow extensor (works along with the other triceps muscles). 
You will find most of the fellows who have been training for some period of time will have a tender Anconeus muscle due to hyperextension. 
Let me tell you how to work the long head to its maximum. This exercise is even better than the overhead triceps extension and it doesn't hyperextend the Anconeus. I am going to tell you exactly how to do it and I have experimented with it for years to get it just right. You can use all of my suggestions or part of them. It's completely up to you. 
First, you must have a lat machine with a pulley attachment which will allow the cable to come off the pulley at about 5 feet off the ground. You then need to have some sort of arrangement against which to place your feet. Similar to the foot stops used on a seated cable row. You will also need a twin pedestal bench with two surfaces about 1foot square, separated by about 1 foot. The surfaces of the bench upon which your elbows will be resting should be about 1 foot off the ground. 
You will also need to get a "V" bar attachment to hook onto the cable. Your palms should be facing away from the machine and you should be kneeling on the ground with the elbows resting on the twin pedestal triceps bench, facing away from the machine. 
As the arms are bent bringing the bar close to the machine, the shoulder should be dropped down to get as much extension on the long head as possible. Try not to use the body to get the bar bar up to full arm lockout position again. 
Alternate this exercise with Supine Triceps Presses with the EZ Curl Bar using as heavy a weight as possible. 

I like to do this exercise in a combination close-grip bench press/supine tricep press style. I personally do not like to do this one real strict, that is, with the elbows pointing to the ceiling. I think it is too hard on the elbows. Besides, I like to really stack on the weight on this exercise and get a good power pump. Look closely at how I have my elbow position at the bottom of the exercise. Remember, I am not too concerned about form on this movement, but more with the pumping feeling I am getting. Remember, I do not want to injure my elbows.
Do 3 or 4 series of these two exercises and finish off with only the kneeling triceps extensions (as described) for about 3 to 5 sets, dropping the weight each set with no rest between sets. 
You will find you have discovered a gem if you do it exactly as I have outlined.      

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