Sunday, December 10, 2017

Back to Basics - Curtis Shultz (1999)

Danny Padilla

More Articles by Curtis Schultz:

Getting Big With the Back to Basics Approach

The other day in the gym I was watching a couple of guys going through a chest workout. It was all I could do to keep from offering advice. You could see they were really trying to get somewhere, but the train wasn't leaving the station, if you get my drift. Since I learned long ago to keep my mouth shut in those situations - they have the potential for turning molehills into major mountains - that's what I did. Most people in the gym think they know everything there is to know about weight training, when, in fact, they don't realize that weightlifting is a very complex, technical activity. These guys were breaking all the cardinal rules of the iron kingdom.

They started their chest workout with cable crossovers, went on to pec deck and then bench pressed, helping each other with forced reps, adding weight to each set and going to failure on each. After they they pushed on to decline bench presses, which they did with the same forced reps progression described, and then back to flat benches again. Then they did it all over again. I was tired just watching them.

The fact is, we ll need direction. People who invest their hard earned money and precious time in a gym membership - whether their goals are toning, bodybuilding, fitness competition or competitive bodybuilding - should educate themselves on the finer points of training. That means the basics - the meat and potatoes of lifting. Forget about the crossovers, leg extensions, decline presses and pec deck pumping. You need to concentrate mainly on the 'old fashioned' basic compound, multi-joint exercises and the basic conditioning factors that turn a body into physique - whatever kind of physique you're looking for.

Basic exercises used in any routine will bring you an abundance of growth and strength. The basics work the large muscle groups of the body - such as the chest, back, and thighs - in conjunction with smaller muscle groups, like shoulders, biceps, and triceps. If you're looking to build muscle, the basics are your ticket to success. Since you can use heavier weights while performing basic exercises and you work a large muscle group as well as a number of smaller ones, you'll be able to put on some serious muscle. If you're looking for tone and/or conditioning, they're your best bet for that too.

Training with the basics means following these simple guidelines:

1) Always warm up properly.
2) Don't go to failure every day.
3) Never do a lighter set for reps.
4) Don't waste time in the gym.
5) Stick with the basic exercises.

Warm Up Properly

Everybody's idea of a warmup is different. Use this one before your weight training sessions, and it will help increase your training longevity and gains. Start with specific stretches for the bodyparts you plan to work (date of article: 1991). Then do an extremely light, 20-rep set of the first compound exercise in your routine and move on to your work sets (note that in the routine to follow the initial work sets are never less than 10 reps).

Don't Go to Failure Every Day

You won't make progress by beating up your body. Consider the typical workout done in gyms today. For example, on the bench press you might start with 225 as a warmup, go to failure with it and add weight to each set, going to failure on each as your spotter helps you more and more on every rep. Then he next time you bench, you do the same routine again. I know the bench press is a basic compound exercise, but there's no point to benching yourself into an overworked state - or a possible injury. That's no way to get stronger. Concentrate on good form and save your forced-reps-to-failure sets for less frequent intensity blasts, so you'll get more out of them.

Never Do a Lighter Set for Reps

Many trainees include light, high-rep sets in their routines because they believe that's what you have to do to get a pump, a.k.a. a burn, to 'finish' the exercise. I believe that dropping the weight on a basic movement to get a burn flies in the face of the basic concepts of progressive resistance training. Have you ever heard the saying that muscle has memory? Baby, it does. So I'm here to tell you to stop with your last work set. Do not do a pumping set with a lighter weight on your basic exercises. Your muscles will remember the last weight used - and that lighter set is not what you want them to remember.

Don't Waste Time in the Gym

Get in the gym, get it done and get out, and do your socializing after the workout. What else is there to say? The result will be a little more intensity in your workouts, and you'll see some great gains down the road. By the same token, you have to respect the rights of others to train without being interrupted. Most people who join a gym don't realize that some of us are trying to get a job done and that the weights we're hoisting aren't that light. Even if we aren't lifting superheavy, the workouts are heavy and intense for us. Don't talk to others or allow them to talk to you when you're getting ready to do a set or, especially, when you're in the middle of a rep. Heavy weights can be dangerous.

Stick to the Basics

Here's a list of basic exercises for each muscle group:

Thighs (quadriceps):
Back squats, leg presses, hack squats.

Thighs (hamstrings):
Stiff-legged deadlifts, glute/ham raises.

Barbell and dumbbell bench presses, incline presses.

Deadlifts, bentover rows with barbell or dumbbell, pullups.

Front presses, behind the neck presses, dumbbell presses.

Dips, close grip bench presses.

Barbell curls, dumbbell curls.

Full-Body Exercises:
Explosive high pulls, cleans, push presses.

Its easy to use compound and full-body exercises in your training program. You just pick one or two of the above, depending on the muscle group you're working, and then begin with that exercise or exercises. Start by pyramiding your weights, from lighter weights with higher reps to heavier weights with lower reps on each successive set. I don't recommend dropping your reps below six, however, unless you're mainly powerlifting.

Here's an example of a basic rep scheme that will help your body adapt to the weight more quickly and ease your climb to new heights in weight training.

Bench Press (use more weight on each progressive set) -
Warmup: 1 x 20 x bar only
Work Sets: 6 x 12, 10, 8, 6, 6, 6

Weighted Dips -
3 x 10.

That's it. Seems pretty simple, doesn't it? The key is to keep your isolation movements to a minimum. I know you probably think it's not enough work, but believe me, that old saying is true: More is not always better. Add more weight, not more sets or exercises. Basic compound movements are the cornerstone of physique development, and they work all by themselves.

By properly balancing your training with basic exercises you can watch your strength and body development soar. Do them intelligently and progressively, and in a short time you'll see a brand new you.

Keep sticking with the basics, and give me one more rep!


 The following routine is a version of a program that emphasizes the basics from IRONMAN'S Mass Training Tactics. The book includes 19 other complete, basic programs. 

Power Pyramid Program


Quadriceps - 
Squat, 3 x 10, 8, 6
Sissy Squat or Leg Extension, 1 x 8-12

Hamstrings - 
Stiff-legged Deadlift, 3 x 15, 12, 9
Leg Curl, 1 x 8-12

Calves - 
Donkey Calf Raise, 2 x 12-20
One-Leg Calf Raise, 1 x 12-20

Chest - 
Bench Press, 3 x 10, 8, 6
Incline Flye, 1 x 8-12

Triceps - 
Lying Triceps Extension, 3 x 10, 8, 6.


Back - 
Front Chin or Pulldown, 3 x 10, 8, 6
Barbell Pullover, 1 x 8-12
Bentover Barbell Row, 3 x 10, 8, 6
Bent-arm Bentover Lateral, 1 x 8-12

Deltoids - 
Front Press, 3 x 10, 8, 6
Lateral Raise, 1 x 8-12

Biceps - 
Barbell Curl, 3 x 10, 8, 6

Forearms - 
Reverse Curl, 2 x 8-12

Abdominals -
Crunches, 2 x 12-20
Hanging Knee-ups, 1 x max.

Power Pyramid Tips

The workout above doesn't include warmup sets. Do one or two warmup sets with 50% of your first work set on each exercise you pyramid. Remember, a warm muscle contracts more efficiently than a cold muscle.

Any exercise for three sets of decreasing reps is a power pyramid, so add weight on each successive set. The weights in all the work sets should take you close to failure, so whenever you can get 12 reps on the first work set of a power pyramid, up the weight on all three sets at your next workout.

Feel free to incorporate intensity techniques like 1-1/4 reps, but don't abuse them.


Nick Nilsson's Powerful Training Secrets:

If you start feeling overtrained, cut back on your use of them. Intensity techniques will probably work best on the isolation exercises.

Take in extra calories, but don't let yourself get fat.

Strive for strength and power, and size will follow.   



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