Friday, December 20, 2019

Do You Enjoy Your Training? - Bradley J. Steiner

Press, Overhead.

Weight training is demanding and extremely hard work. When I reflect on my nearly 30 years of training, however, the one feeling that keeps coming to mind is enjoyment

Workouts take time, sweat, effort and discipline, but as far as I'm concerned, it's an undeniable fact that they produce  genuine, unadulterated enjoyment. 

I sometimes wonder whether others feel the same way. 

It seems that in the years following the 1960s bodybuilding has offered its participants less and less enjoyment and more and more demands for excessive and unrealistic gains. 

The absolute worship of "bigger this" and "more cut-up that," "ripped these" and "awesome those," along with impossible strength-level demands has made countless bodybuilders slaves to these insane goals.

The real goals of sane bodybuilding are to cultivate all-around physical excellence - good health, strength and a fine appearance - along with a sense of well-being and self-confidence. 

Why wouldn't someone enjoy an activity that with every workout helps you achieve such goals or maintain your achievements once you reach them?

It is only when the activity becomes perverted that it turns into something you do purely to achieve an unenjoyable end. That, I'm sad to say, is what has happened to bodybuilding. 

Don't let it happen to you.

There are certain truths about bodybuilding and weight training that you must keep in mind if you want to avoid getting caught up in practices that will rob you of the greatest benefits that lifting has to offer.

1) Not everyone can build a great or championship physique and develop elite levels of strength. 

My personal feeling on this point is, So What? Far too many young people (and a lot of older ones as well) are drawn into lifting with the idea the attaining the so-called championship body or elite level strength standards is their raison d'etre. 

A good analogy would be if you thought that the objective of going to college was to become a world famous scientist holding three Ph.D.s. Forget going to college simply to learn or to prepare for some other type of career - college is for scientists and degrees. If that sounds crazy, it is. It doesn't make any more sense when you apply the logic to lifting. 

2) There's no one on earth who is capable of training with weights who wouldn't benefit from doing so.

Lifting is an activity that benefits the severely handicapped, the elderly, nonathletic people who want to get fit, those who have terrible potential but who want to develop what they've got, athletes who want more strength, people who just like the challenge of lifting, and anyone seeking a marvellous safety valve to let off steam and reduce stress. 

Properly done it is the supreme physical fitness activity.    

3) Lifting is a lifetime activity.

Although we occasionally see photos in the muscle magazines of people who are in their 40s and 50s, the obvious focus is on those who are in the teens and 20s; who are rapid gainers, in many cases naturally athletic; and who portray the impressive muscularity and physical development that youngsters in their prime can achieve with weights. 

The latest pair of biceps in the magazines will soon by replaced by another and another and on and on. In the 1940s we saw such-and-such on the mag covers; in the '50s so-and-so appeared; and in the '60s it was what's-his-name. Now, there's nothing wrong with new heroes replacing old ones and new physiques catching the lifting world's eye. These people offer inspiration, and for a time they enjoy the limelight. 

But as time passes, every champion is left with himself, not with the audience. 

Athletes who train only for the audience are missing a lot.  

The real winners in this great field of physical culture are the people who train for their entire lives, beginning when they are introduced to weights and continuing until they are long past their prime. One great barbell man who is certainly unknown to most readers was the wrestling/jujitsu teacher Harry Baldock of New Zealand. Mr. Baldock recently passed away at the age of 82, but he was an avid lifter until the age of 80, when severe ill health overtook him and he had to stop. 

That's my idea of a champion!      

Whether you've just started weight training or you are a veteran of many years, this is not a fad - it's something to enjoy for a lifetime. It doesn't matter one bit if you ever achieve a 20-inch (or even a 17-inch) arm. It does matter that you keep your vigor, your health, your strength, and that you enjoy fine development to the extent of your potential throughout your life. 

4) Lifting should make you feel good, not depleted. 

It used to be axiomatic that a person would feel great after a good, hard workout. Not anymore. Today we hear of lifters who become totally wiped out from training. They spend countless hours in the gym, pumping, lifting, grinding out set after weary set while ingesting steroids and following the god of size, strength and appearance with blind and fanatical devotion. It is small wonder that these people often give up in disgust, become sic and drained or drive themselves to increasingly extreme - and debilitating - efforts. 

These people feel anything but "good" after training. In fact, they often reject the whole notion that this is a desirable result. After all, they train in order to get big, strong - or whatever their goal - not to feel good; they don't train for their own health, development or well-being. 

This is a sad trap. No one should finish a workout and feel that he is totally spent, with nothing left. If your training does not make you feel good, you are not training correctly. 

A workout should, after a brief rest, leave you feeling buoyant, alive, full of energy and fine in every way. 

Lifting can be the greatest tonic on earth. It induces full, deep breathing, cleans out the body's wastes through perspiration, massages and stimulates the internal organs and induces perfect circulation. It improves digestion and elimination and keeps you ready to meet any demands that you might place on it. 

When you know that you're going to finish your workouts on the healthiest of highs, you'll really look forward to them.

5) Lifting doesn't have to take a long time. 

Nowadays the idea that you can get all the possible benefits of weight training by devoting an hour or so to it three times a week is largely regarded as a myth. The fact is, however, that those who feel they must devote two to three hours every single day to their workouts are the ones who are following a myth.

No one can spend an excessive amount of time training and still get the maximum strength and health benefits.

I cannot blame the beginners who read in some article that so-and-so, who is a "champion," spends three hours a day on the most incredibly demanding program in existence. These beginners will assume that they too must orient their training along those lines, and so they do - with less than championship results. 

No matter how advanced or fully developed you become, you will always find that one to two hours three (or at the most four) times a week is plenty. many great physiques were built on less. 

The key to doing brief, effective workouts is in understanding how to train. By organizing a routine correctly, using a sane number of exercises, sets and repetitions and by employing realistic poundages - increasing them as you, not Mr. America, are able to increase them - you will see that training doesn't have to take up a major portion of your day. 

Anyone can live a normal life and train - if he or she does it correctly. The fact that many lifters today don't train correctly is insignificant if you are determined not to follow the herd. 

Look at training as a very important adjunct to a good life. See your workouts as the means by which you build and maintain the health and wll-being, the strength and the physique that will enable you to enjoy the rest of your life. 

The goal of training is to assist you in living a full, healthy life - 
not to prepare for more training!    

6) Your workouts should offer challenges. 

Many come to dread their training. Small wonder, since they see every workout as an overwhelming demand to push, Push, PUSH. Who could possibly look forward to that at every session? 

There is something really stimulating and enjoyable, however, about facing a manageable challenge. When workouts pose such a challenge, they become eagerly anticipated events. 

One or two good, hard sets are enough for any basic exercise. After that stop and do another movement. Don't keep pumping, and don't keep trying to achieve a new record at every workout. It isn't possible, necessary or desirable. Just train regularly, and the increases will come.

You may read that some "name" lifter or "Mr." uses tremendous weights on such-and-such an exercise, and you feel terrible because you only use 1/10th of that. This is wasted energy. You are two different people, and as long as you train so that you are adequately taxed and coaxed along toward greater development, what in blazes difference does it make if you are still underdeveloped as compared to him? 

If you can lift one more pound on an exercise today than you were able to lift on that movement last week, you have improved. That's what this activity is all about. 

7) Lifting should not be an exclusive activity. 

Many Mr. Americas of the past were complete athletes. There were physical culturists who attained great fame but won no physique titles, and these, too, were well-rounded athletes and real men. 

I've mentioned Harry Baldock, and although few of you have even heard of the man, he represents what I'm speaking about. 

So does the late Harry B. Paschall.  

And the late Geroge F. Jowett.

And the late Sig Klein. 

And many, many others. 

Too many who train with weights regard it as the only physical activity they need to pursue. Even so, there are pleasures and rewards to be found in many other athletic pursuits, and the proper use of weights will enhance anyone's capacity for excellence and enjoyment in these pursuits. 

The term "mirror athlete" is rarely used today - largely, I suspect, because it aptly describes many of today's bodybuilders. Don't be a mirror athlete. Use the weights to develop yourself, and explore other activities that may also prove worthwhile in assisting your development and enriching your life. 

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Thick Handled Weights Develop Great Strength - Norman Thompson

Article Courtesy of Liam (Santa) Tweed  

Editor's Note: Most of the great old timers took as much pride in a powerful grip as in any other strength asset. To cultivate this grip and also to foil would-be challengers who attempted to lift their weights, they trained and lifted with barbells with very thick handles, such as this one which Mr. Arthur Leslie is holding. Mr. Leslie was about 60 years of age when this photo was taken but was still a very strong man. That handle is probably over three inches thick. 

Note: This article was posted here in November of 2008 (it was a Who Knew for the first few paragraphs. After that, I decided to "update" it with some more photos, a few links and include the full article this time around. Man, there's no shortage of great lifting articles once you start losing your memory! 

The article: 

Your man-power can only be expressed through your grip, as you cannot move what you cannot grab, push or punch. All "fair" self-defence boils down to hand power usually, and the strong man is strong in any situation; he can lift the new hot water tank packed in its bulky case; he can carry hundred-weight sacks of cement with ease; he can lift large planks and beams, and move stoves, refrigerators, sofas and small cars, for his grip on life is strong and sure because he has training along correct lines. 

How often we find the man with the impressive development failing to measure up when put to the test, made to feel inadequate by the real strength of the trucker, delivery man or laborer. True, he has worked long and hard with the weights and by certain standards is quite strong, but he has not developed strength which is functional in daily life. How puny his wrists compare with the thick, steely bands of the plumber; how almost feminine his hands and forearms beside those of the trucker and day laborer. 

Certainly our man envies those blessed with mighty hands, wrists and forearms, but he argues that his training routine is too full already; that he simply cannot fit such exercises into his schedule. 

Well, it is to this problem that I dedicate my article, so that any of us in the iron game can kill two birds with one stone; that is, develop strength as useful in the street or home as it is in the gym, without sacrificing body building gains in general.

For any queries in our field I always turn to the example and writings of my friend, the late Mr. George F. Jowett, and work from there, and at the outset I would like to thank one of his best friends and contemporary, Mr. Ottley R. Coulter, for the very valuable reminiscences he gave me to season this article with. Mr. Coulter is a grand old-timer, in his 82nd year and still going strong and a renowned example of man-power in his own right. 

He told me that Alan Calvert called Jowett the most powerfully built man of his height (5 feet 4-1/2 inches) in the world. George often wrote that as a child his parents had expected him to die before the age of fifteen from an inflatable anvil accident, I mean from a stomach accident in infancy, but that after a series of operations he took up research and home weight training and recovered. Certainly he trained correctly, for the fearless, indomitable wrestler's body he molded packed the awesome power to carry him undefeated to more records than any strength athlete, including the world's wrist-turning (arm wrestling) trophy

Arm wrestling fans will like this: 

and the reputation of having the strongest arms of any man alive.

All of this was achieved, I firmly believe, because George was always more interested in how Saxon, Marx, Pedly, Sandow, and others developed their mighty gripping powers and massive hands, wrists, and forearms, than he was in any other kind of feat. 

Starting with but a normal bone structure when he commenced heavy exercise in the year 1900, he had but a seven inch wrist; however, in a few short years he had added a full inch so that before World War One it was at least eight-and-a-half inches. 

Ottley Coulter mentioned reading that when George Greenwood measured Jowett's wrist in England, he found it to be absolutely the largest (9-1/2 inches) he had ever measured, surpassing such immortals and Arthur Saxon (8 inches); Louis Cyr (8 inches), and our contemporary, the great Paul Anderson (9 inches). And if we consider that George Jowett weighed about 210 pounds, and that Cyr was at his best at 315 and Paul Anderson at 350, we can better understand just how remarkable Jowett's arms were for his size. Even in 1930 his forearms were 16 inches, his biceps 18-1/2, and as far as I know, nobody ever lifted his "unliftable dumbbell" from the floor, although he could toy with it as one would with a slipper.  

How did he do it? Certainly he specialized at feats of gripping strength, but what was his mainstay, his essential secret? 

I would say, if forced to oversimplify, that it lies in this:


Happily, any home trainee can adopt this secret, use heavy, thick handled barbells and dumbbells, with the emphasis on the latter. Absolutely nothing else will do; they will develop the grip while the hand is grasping an object in the extreme opened condition. A tremendous grip is created for all occasions and upon all objects to be grasped. 

Not only will you be able to lift awkward objects that others can only roll or slide, but also as you become accustomed to lifting with the open hand, not squeezing the weight, only gripping it strongly enough to balance it, you will find that your overhead lifting will improve enormously as well, for your gripping muscles which would pull down will not resist your lift; gradually you will handle more and more weight and your arms from wrist to shoulder will grow proportionately.  

And, apparently you will also improve your sentence length stamina. An 84-word sentence is nothing to sneeze at!

You can perform all standard barbell and dumbbell exercises with your thick-handled weights; indeed, you must if you want to be strong both in and outside of the gym. It does not matter whether your hands are large or small; the man with small hands can develop fingers like steel pincers, and need never again fear competition or comparison with his better-endowed competitors; able to wrest bulky objects from the floor with one and two hands pulsating with power, never again will he feel his bodybuilding to be futile, his muscles useless. 

All one has to do is obtain pipes long enough to reach from collar to collar on your barbell and dumbbell bars. (You will dispense with the revolving sleeves). I have found that it helps to have barbells and dumbbells of various weights already loaded, and you will gradually accumulate a variety of these different-weighted "challenge" barbells and dumbbells in your home gym just as fast as your tiny mice-like girly fingers can grab them. 

Buy pipe from the plumber about 2-1/2 inches in outside diameter at least, or they will not sufficiently tax your grip. Probably 2-1/2 inches is enough if your are small-handed. You might wrap the bar in cloth and then slide it is the pipe or wrap friction tape around the dumbbell handle as packing because you must not have the bar slipping around, and you want it centered or you will get a dead point which would defeat your object. 

Using this kind of weight enabled Thomas Inch (with only six-inch wrists and hands upon which he could wear a woman's ring on any finger) to develop a 15-inch forearm and the strongest grip George Jowett "ever saw." 

If you don't want to bother with the pipe, just wrap friction tape around your bars, but it will take a lot of it, for those handles must be thick. 

Assuming that you have equipped yourself, here is the way to genuine strength: 

1) Swan-neck dumbbell (kettlebell even better) curl from floor.

2) Endways (thumb-up, "hammer") dumbbell curl.

3) Reverse dumbbell curl with wrist down one set; wrist up for another set. 

4 & 5) Hand-open wrist curl with fingers on line with hand, curling wrist only and not bending elbow. Open hand held straight is bent palm-forward as high as possible. This wrist curl should also be performed with the back of the hand up but hand will have to be closed. Use a kettlebell for the first one. Various sized handles can be used and try opening your hand toward the end of these movements and resting mainly on thumb.

6) One and two handed deadlifts with barbell; use large and ordinary sized handles from time to time.

7) One and two handed deadlifts with dumbbells of various sized handles. 

8) Deadlift with kettlebells. 

9) One-finger lifting using each finger. Have a ring with a hook on it made to fit your middle finger. Practice with all the fingers. 

10) Cleaning barbells and dumbbells of various-sized grips using only two fingers. 

11) Heavy snatches, presses, jerks, bent presses, swings, and tossing from hand to hand mostly with thick-handled dumbbells.

12) Curling dumbbells of various-sized handles with palm up, palm down, and thumb up.

The above routine can be alternated with twirling barbell bars, lifting loaded-at-one-end dumbbell bars across the legs whilst seated on floor, pinch-gripping barbell plates, wrist-twisting, finger-pulling (these daily if possible), the bending and twisting of iron, spikes, and horseshoes, the tearing of cards and thick newspapers, working with grippers and grip machines, hand-wringing sodden diapers till bone dry by midnight, practising handstands (start against wall), use of thick wrist rollers, chinning a thick bar and varying hand spacings and facings - one palm toward you, one palm away from you; cross-handed chinning, and, if you are really ambitious, obtain a wooden barrel [as for keeping wine in] and a keg. The water-filled barrel (partially at least) is lifted by the chines (edges) and later managed from ground to knee to shoulder with one hand. The keg is a great teacher of open-handed lifting and can, of course, be made as heavy as you are capable of lifting. 

In all exercises use low reps (3 to 5) and increase resistance as fast as your strength allows; use more weight, thicker handles, or a combination of both; for the iron bending and card tearing increase the diameter of the iron, or the number of cards.

Vary the exercises used, movements  and positions, from time to time, as well as the size of the grips, and remember to stress plenty of curls and one-arm deadlifts both with massive handles. The one arm deadlift   

no, wait, that's a one-legged deadlift, my mistake. The one arm deadlift is best because you don't need so much weight, so your legs and back won't give out. Your grip will become enormously strong as you will be using your legs and back and only one hand [after that diaper-wringing around midnight I seriously considered a two hand amputation); also one strong hand cannot help a weaker one; yes, there's a metaphor for the standalone points in every man's life. Yep, life is hard and hell is hot, Brother. But also practice two-arm deadlifting sometimes.   

When single-finger lifting do each finger for 2-5 reps for maximum weight but go easy at first especially if using a tight fitting ring, so as to avoid pulling a tendon; and always increase poundage very gradually. George Jowett wrote that his boyhood ideal, John Marx, performed about eight of these large-handled movements daily and twisted wrists and pulled fingers at ever opportunity, consenting or not. 

You might start off by cleaning and jerking, pressing, curling and swinging thick-handled dumbbells from 25-50 pounds, depending on your strength, gradually working into weights of 90 pounds and more in jerks and swings with one hand. You will like this work for by the time you can clean and jerk the 90-pounder single-handedly, you will find that your friends will fail; they won't have your gripping power, will be forced to face and drown their humiliation through the cleaning and jerking of a 40-pounder only to re-view their shame, sorrow and smallness come morning, pain, and hangover.  

Importantly, the inch or more which you pack on your forearms will flow into a thicker wrist and your grip will express the might existing in both. And in my opinion you will, in the long run, get a better biceps from this work; especially around the elbow, and it will insert without a gap into your steely forearm. 

But most important of all, you will have a pair of arms that not only look good but are also much stronger even than they look, and will never fail you, whatever the test, be it in the gym, at work, or at home. 

This is a job for Mighty Wrist . . . 
"Here I come to save the day!"



Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Pec Tech - Greg Zulak

Time to send out them cards and letters, eh. 

The chest is second only to the arms in terms of bodyparts that lifters love to train. There are at least three obvious reasons why so many bodybuilders emphasize chest exercises in their workouts: A big well developed chest fills out a T-shirt like nothing else, it brings admiring glances from both men and women, and it makes you feel big and powerful. 

Aesthetically speaking, full, thick well shaped pectorals are the mark of a good physique athlete. A chest like that tells the world that you're a bodybuilder, for no other sport or activity develops the muscles of the chest to their maximum. Other types of athletes develop muscular arms, shoulders, backs or legs, but only bodybuilders display the thick slabs of muscle, along with cuts and striations, on their chests.

Bodybuilders are always in a hurry to build a big chest - so much so that they often give absolutely no thought to determining the best way to do it. Many people go so overboard in their efforts to develop this bodypart that they completely forget about such factors as balance, shape, definition and proportion to the rest of the physique. They mistake bigger for better and end up looking like the Pillsbury dough-boy, with soft puffy pectorals that have no shape or definition. 

Sometimes the lower pecs become so overdevloped and out of balance with the upper pecs that they droop, appearing in need of a support bra. This seems to be a common occurrence, especially among the young lifters who seek size and mass at any cost. 

Let me state one thing right from the start: A good chest is more than just big pecs. Shape, balance, proportion, density and definition of the muscles are just as important as size, and so to build the ideal chest you have to work it from all angles, hitting the upper, outer, inner and lower portions. 

The most pleasing pectoral development has a wide, squared off look, which comes from emphasizing the upper and outer parts of the chest. In addition, the rib cage should be high and deep to give the chest depth, and the serratus, that group of small, fingerlike muscles that frames the chest, should be highly defined. 

No muscle is an island. You can't train any muscle group - the chest included - without taking into account how it fits with the rest of your body. If you develop your chest too much, it can easily grow out of proportion. This ruins your aesthetics and symmetry, which is exactly what happened to former Mr. World Mike Katz. It was said that Katz's chest was so big he could balance a beer bottle on his pecs. Even so, it didn't help him become Mr. Olympia. 

Many people don't realize that too much pectoral development actually makes the shoulders look narrow and smaller. It can take away from your overall shape, especially if your inner and lower pecs are overdeveloped. Overdeveloped inner pecs make the chest look bunched up and unappealing; overdeveloped lower pecs make it look saggy and feminine. You can avoid such errors by putting a little thought and planning into your chest workouts.

What is the Ideal Chest? 

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Serge Nubret, Franco Columbu and Lee Haney are all known for their great chests, but what these men all have is great chest development taken to an extreme. 

Genetics is, of course, the limiting factor. Not everyone can develop a chest like these man have, but everyone can develop their chest as far as their genetics will take them. The keys to success are hard work, persistence and planning. 

For the average trainee - which is most people - aspiring to the level of a Schwarzenegger is not a realistic goal. In the end you'll likely get frustrated and give up. The more productive strategy is to work for more moderate chest development, with the emphasis on shape and definition. 

Take a good look at yourself in the mirror. The high, squared-off pectorals of a Steve Reeves or a Frank Zane might be a better goal for you than the huge, bulbous pecs of the Terminator.

The point is, chests come in all sizes and shapes. Some may have different training requirements than others, but the goal should always be to build your chest as close as possible to the aesthetic ideal: rib cage, serratus and all sections of the pecs fully developed. 

Now, I'm not claiming that you can change the basic shape of your chest, but by intelligently emphasizing certain key areas while de-emphasizing others, you can create an illusion of development that's closer to the ideal.    

How to Create an Illusion With Your Chest

This is what bodybuilding is really all about - creating illusion. Consider the relationship between the width of your shoulders and the width of your hips and waist. In bodybuilding it is desirable to have what is called an X-frame - that ism, wide shoulders and a small waist so that you have an exaggerated V-taper. 


Brian Buchanan (photo above) is an obvious example of someone who has a super-exaggerated V-taper. His waist is so small, it makes his shoulders appear to be three feet wide. 

If you are not so blessed, if your waist is naturally thick or your shoulders naturally narrow, you must train to create an illusion of shoulder width by de-emphasizing your waist and emphasizing [Come on! The beauty of variety, eh. Accentuate, highlight, accent, articulate, spotlight, highlight, underscore and such] the side heads of your deltoids and by doing exercises to help stretch out your clavicles and scapulae. Adding to your shoulders and increasing your shoulder width makes your waist look smaller; and decreasing your waistline automatically makes your shoulders look wider. It's that simple. 

For your chest the trick to creating an illusion is to concentrate on the upper and outer sections of your pecs. That's not to say that you don't train your inner and lower pecs, but you give the other parts priority. This strategy focuses on two major improvements:

1) Exercises that emphasize the upper pecs help fill in that hollow at the top of the chest that nearly everyone has. This creates a more balanced look and makes your pecs look tight and firm instead of soft, saggy and feminine. 

2) Exercises that work the outer sections of the chest make the pecs flare out the way lats do from the back, giving an illusion of width.

By combining your chest-illusion training with your shoulder-and-waist-illusion training, you can create a wider appearance that is aesthetically pleasing and makes you look like a winner. 

Assess Your Chest - And Your Workout

The first step in putting together your optimum chest routine is to make an honest assessment of your chest to determine the weak spots and strong points. It possible get a second opinion from an impartial observer (this is no time for friends who'll tell you what they think you want to hear). 

Bill Murray contemplating his chest development.

Next, design a routine that brings up your weak points while maintaining your strong areas. In other words, create a workout that fits your individual needs instead of just copying some champion's formula out of a magazine. This seems so obvious, but you'd be amazed by the number of people who follow routines with no idea what they're doing.

You can't create an excellent physique, or any one bodypart for that matter, with such mindless training. Only when you start using well planned routines that bring up your weak will you be on your way to developing a balanced, proportionate and symmetrical body. 

If your chest is a real weak point, give it priority by training it first in your workout, when your energy, enthusiasm, strength and concentration are highest; or, you can devote an entire session to this bodypart on a split routine. For example, you might split your body as follows: 

Day 1: Hamstrings, quads
Day 2: Chest, calves
Day 3: Back, biceps
Day 4: Delts, triceps

Even if your chest is one of your better muscle groups, analyze where you might improve it and work on overcoming any weaknesses. For most people the upper pecs will be the last section to come in and could use some improvement. I've never seen a bodybuilder whose upper pecs were too thick or overdeveloped, but I've seen plenty whose lower pecs were too big. 

Even Arnold, as great as his chest was early in his career, came to realize that his upper pecs lagged behind his enormous lower and middle pecs. After that he gave his upper pecs priority, starting his chest workout with incline barbell presses instead of flat bench presses. 

You must keep a sharp eye on your chest development to make sure things stay in balance. Check yourself weekly in the mirror. If you think your outer pecs need more work or the lower portions are getting too big, change your routine quickly to rectify the problem. Don't just train mindlessly month after month and then wake up one day to realize thta your chest is a disproportionate mess. 

Always be aware of the effects that the exercises you do have on your development. If your chest isn't benefiting from a certain movement, it's time to reevaluate your routine. Train smart and build a chest you can be proud of, not one that ruins your physique.

Again, this seems obvious, but you see it all the time - guys who have huge lower pecs but continue to do bench presses instead of incline work. Or lifters who have no rib cage or serratus development failing to do pullovers. Or the ones who don't seem to see that their outer pecs are lagging behind. 

What causes this epidemic of blindness in the gym? Pure ego. We bodybuilders are funny that way. We like to work the areas that grow the easiest because it's more fun than working a stubborn area. A bodybuilder who doesn't need to bench press any longer will continue to do so even if it's ruining the look of his chest because his ego demands that he lift heavy weights and show off to his buddies. Don't fall into that trap. It takes an intelligent bodybuilder to recognize his weak points and do something about them. Learn to get gratification from bringing up yours.

Now that we've covered the theory of chest training, let's talk about what you're going to do in the gym. 

There are three important focus points for making your bodybuilding chest workouts productive:

1) Learn to bench press correctly.  
2) Work your upper pecs.
3) Work your outer pecs.
4) Include rib cage expanding exercises. 

Master the Bench Press - the Right Way

In terms of chest training there are two kinds of bodybuilders - those who respond well to bench presses and those who don't. You know what I'm talking about. Some guys do a few sets of bench presses and their pecs just take off. Serge Nubret and Franco Columbu seemingly built great chests from bench presses, while Reg Park actually had to stop doing flat benches because his pecs got too big. And then there were champions like Bill Pearl, Ken Waller and Chris Dickerson who never got much out of bench pressing and relied more on incline and decline work, flyes and cables to build up their chests.

I fall into the second group. When I did bench presses, nearly all the chest development I achieved was on my lower pecs, and my front delts and triceps also grew well. My middle and lower pecs didn't receive any stimulation at all, it seemed. It wasn't until I met John Parrillo, the Cincinnati-based nutritionist and trainer, that I learned how to bench press properly as a bodybuilder. 

I was what Parrillo calls a "delt bench presser" because I relied too heavily on my delts to push the weight up. I'd drop my chest at the top of the exercise and continue holding the weight up with my shoulders. The result was a super set of front delts and a chest with that undesirable droop.

As I learned from Parrillo, in order for your bench presses to develop the entire pectoralis major - the muscle that covers the rib cage from the collarbone to the bottom of the rib cage and from the sternum to the arm pit - it is necessary to set up your pectoral girdle so the mechanical advantage is placed solely on the pecs, not on the delts. Here's how to do it correctly: 

Lie back on the bench and take a tight grip on the bar. Pop the bar off the stands and lock it out. Next - and this is the most important move - concentrate on pressing your shoulders back into the bench and down toward your waist at the same time, as if you were doing the bottom part of a shrug. Without arching your back off the bench, thrust your chest out and start the movement. Maintain this position throughout every rep. When you push your shoulders down and back, your sternum arches up, which concentrates the stress on the pecs.    

If you have trouble getting into the proper position, start with a weight that's 25% lighter than you would normally use. 

Another way that you can the feel for this exercise is to stand up against a wall and round your shoulders forward so your pecs flatten out. Then move your arms in and out as if your were doing a vertical, or seated, bench press. Notice how little the pecs are actually working. If you place your left hand on your right pec as you continue the motion with your right arm, you can feel that there is little, if any, pec contraction. This is how most people perform the bench press.

Now try this: Stand against the wall but this time work your shoulders behind while you arch your chest out and up as much as you can. Maintain this position as you place your left hand over your right pec and perform this movement again. You should feel the right pec expanding and contracting on every rep. Take this position to the bench, and you'll be on your way to a great chest. 

Techniques for Building Those Upper Pecs

As discussed above, it is absolutely necessary to develop your outer pecs if you want to sculpt your ideal chest. This means performing incline presses and incline flyes. Many bodybuilders complain that even when do incline work their upper pecs don't grow. There are two reasons for this: 

1) They do the exercises incorrectly, throwing the stress onto the already stronger and better developed lower and middle pecs.

2) They rest too long between sets and fail to get any pump and lactic acid buildup in the upper pec area.

Most bodybuilders use too much weight on their incline barbell and dumbbell presses. This forces them to arch their back off the bench, which forces the stronger lower pecs to take over the action. Here's how to do your incline presses properly: 

Start by making sure - as with flat bench presses - that you roll your shoulders down and back and arch your sternum out as you press the weight. Second, make sure that your elbows are pulled back in line with your shoulders. When the elbows drift forward, it's almost impossible to make the pecs work hard because the triceps take over. Finally, keep your form strict and really concentrate on the upper pecs. If this means that you have to use lighter weights, so be it. 

For incline dumbbell presses add one more point: Try to pull your elbows as far back behind your head as possible. If you do this properly, you should feel a strong diagonal pull across your pecs. The same goes for dumbbell flyes. Don't just lower the bells to the sides. Lower them back and down.

Two other excellent exercises you might want to consider for upper pecs are bench presses to the neck and Parrillo dips. Do the presses to the neck as follows: 

Take a medium-wide grip on the bar and use the form for bench pressing described above. Tuck your chin into your chest and lower the bar slowly to the point of your chin, pulling your elbows back in line with your shoulders. Some people keep their feet up in the air with their knees bend and their legs crosses to prevent them from cheating. 

Another version of the bench press to the neck is done on a 10 degree angle. Place a two-by-four under the head of the bench to create the slight incline. This shifts more stress to the upper pecs. 

Note, however, that not everyone is built to do bench presses to the neck safely; some people experience shoulder joint problems because of this exercise.

Parrillo dips really work the pectoralis minor, that fan-shaped muscle located under the pectoralis major. Perform this movement as follows: 

Get into the lockout position on the dipping bars. Lower yourself as far as you can without bending your arms. As you press yourself back up to lockout, push your chest out as much as you can, squeezing hard at the top. Pull your knees up to place more emphasis on your chest, and do not bounce. This is an excellent exercise to superset with incline presses, incline flyes or benches to the neck.

As mentioned above, it's difficult to get a pump in the upper pecs and to create lactic acid buildup. The trick is to reduce your rest time between sets to an absolute minimum. Drop sets, and down the rack dumbbell work are excellent for training the upper pecs because you rest only as long as it takes to strip weight from the bar or to grab a lighter set of dumbbells. Also, give supersets and tri-sets a try. The following makes an excellent upper pec routine: 

Pec deck flyes, 4 x 10
Incline presses, 4 x 10
Incline flyes, 4 x 10

This tri-set will really pump up your upper pecs, but it will not overly tax the triceps and arms because each exercise uses a different action.

"Racing the Pump" - How to Build the Upper Pecs, by Larry Scott: 

"Upper Pec Training" by Greg Zulak:

The Outer Pecs - Your Ticket to Width

The subhead says it all - in order to create a wide chest, you have to work the outer portions of the pectoralis major, the part located toward the side of your torso. Any pressing movement - flat, incline or decline - done with a very wide grip will work the outer pecs hard, as will any flying movement with constant tension (bring the bells up only 2/3 or the way and stop when they're 12-15 inches away from each other). Cable crossovers, stepping forward so that you have to reach back to pull the handles forward, and will also work the outer pecs somewhat. 

The best exercise for this area, however, is the wide-grip dip. or Gironda dip as it's called. Here's how to do it: 

You need V-dipping bars that are 32 inches apart at the wide end. Take a wide grip, tuck your chin down on your chest and hang with your feet in front of your face, with your body curled in the shape of a quarter moon. Keep your elbows wide and lower your body as far as you can, but when you push up, only go 3/4 of the way so you can keep the tension on your pecs. Never lock out. 

Another Gironda exercise that works both the outer and inner pecs at the same time is the decline cable flye, which is performed as follows. It's too bad that many bodybuilders ignore this exercise, because it hits the outer portions directly. 

Set a bench at a low decline in front of a cable crossover machine. The bench should be properly centered and far enough in front of the apparatus that you have to reach back behind your head to grab behind your head to grab the low handles. From this position pull the handles in a wide arc until they meet above your crotch. Tense hard for a count of two and return to the starting position. 

The Truth About Rib Cage Expansion

Some people say that it's impossible to expand the rib cage once a person's cartilages harden and toughen after age 25, but this is nonsense. Many men who didn't take up bodybuilding until their late 20s or 30s have added 10 inches to their chests. Still, it's definitely easier for a teenager to expand his rib cage because the catilages are still soft and easily stretched. 

When it comes to rib cage expansion, you can't do better that the time-proven superset of breathing squats and pullovers. For breathing squats choose a weight with which you can get out at least 20 reps, and take 5 or 6 deep breaths between all reps.  

When doing the pullovers here, remember that your emphasis should be on stretching the rib cage, not on using heavy weights. Choose a light weight and do 20 reps per set. 

Very light, straight-arm flyes done for high reps can help to expand your rib cage from another angle. Do 3 or 4 tri-sets of this combination - breathing squats -> pullovers -> straight-arm flyes . . . two or three times a week. Six months of hard work on this routine could do wonders for your rib cage. 

"Expanding the Rib Box" by Bob Hoffman: 

"Rib Cage Expansion and Overall Growth" by Paul Kelso: 

The bottom line is that you've got to look at each bodypart from all angles. Learn to bench press correctly as a bodybuilder, give the upper and outer pecs priority, work to expand your rib cage, and you'll build a more impressive chest, one with much better shape and balance. 



Monday, December 16, 2019

Shoulders - How to Build Them - Bradley J. Steiner (1972)

Article Courtesy of Liam Tweed

Pete Grymkowsi

Ron Love

Terrific shoulders are not hereditary. At best, a man can be born with naturally wide clavicles and fairly well shaped deltoid structures - but actually big, really powerful and impressive shoulders must be BUILT. In this article we will discuss how you can build them.

IRONMAN's readers comprise - for the most part - the hard-core, essentially dedicated barbell men. The phonies, the wise-guys and the muscleheads tend to steer clear of this publication, and for good reason. Peary Rader has never permitted wishful thinking to run hog-wild over IRONMAN's pages. Articles in this magazine, in whatever aspects they may differ from one another, hold this principle in common: Give the honest truth about training. Don't fabricate, don't lie, don't make crazy or fantastic promises. Push honest work, because that's what builds honest muscles. 

I have always held this philosophy myself, with regard to my own work for IRONMAN - and I want to stress at the outset of this month's feature that EFFORT - effort, effort, effort will be required of you if you want Supeman shoulders - or even if you have hopes of approximating that ideal. don't kid yourself about there being an easy road to follow. It's a long, tough climb. But it's a lot longer, and a heck of a lot tougher when you don't know what you're doing. 

Some time ago I was introduced to a young man by a mutual acquaintance of ours who was concerned over his friend. The acquaintance was concerned, since, as he told me, the fellow was going off the deep end with regard to his training, and he was beginning to lose all semblance of a normal life. He had begun training a year ago, and now, he was specializing on his shoulders. Trouble was, he was concerned about little else! He dreamed about deltoids.    

Now, I go for enthusiasm, but this was, even to me, ridiculous. "Would I try to help this guy see the light?" our acquaintance wanted to know.

Like an idiot, I said yes. 

"So you write for IRONMAN?" Larry the young man said when we were introduced. He had big, brown eyes, like a hungry St. Barnard, and a handshake like a wet fish.

"Yes, Larry, that's right. Have you read any of my stuff?" I said smiling. 


My smile vanished. "I see." 

"I train," he said seriously. "Never waste time reading." 

There was really no printable answer to a comment like that, so I said nothing. 

"Say," he said, leaning forward slightly. "Whaddya know about shoulders?" he asked, as though we were sharing a secret.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Jeez! Shoulders, man! Don't you know what shoulders are?" 

I smiled, wondering if I ought to belt him once on his nose. "Oh sure," I said. "Shoulders. What did you want to know about shoulders?"   

"Well," he said, flexing his lats, "I'm on a shoulder specialization schedule." 

I wanted to tell him to go on a head specialization schedule. But I smiled, and in my most professional tone, I said, "How nice. What exercises are you doing?" 

"Presses," he said.

"Excellent. What else?" 

"Lateral raises." 


"And presses behind the neck." 

I turned my head a little to the side, and I was going to ask him how many sets and reps he did on those three movements, but he went on . . . 

"And the upright row." 

"Hey, wait a sec . . ." 

"And bent laterals. And front raises. And seated dumbbell presses, with some seated laterals . . ."

"Are you crazy?" I mumbled while he spoke.

". . . all done in sets of three," he finished.

A moment passed. 

"What's wrong?" he asked. 

"Wrong? Wrong? Why nothing!" I answered. "How often do you train like that?"

"Five days a week." 

"For God's sake!" 

"Yep" he smiled. "I top off every workout with my shoulder routine." 

"YOU 'TOP OFF'!" I screamed.

"Sure," he nodded. "You don't think I want to neglect the rest of my body, do you?" 

"Oh, no," I said. "Of course not. Heaven forbid you shou8ld undertrain." I frowned. "You might rot." 

"Say, you sound like you don't think too much of my schedule."  

"Now what on earth could have made you think that?" 

"I dunno." He scratched his head.

"Well actually, I do think your routine could stand a few minor adjustments. Just a couple of small details switched around a bit, to give you better results.? 

"Yeah," he said. "I guess I could start doing four sets of each exercise, if I put my mind to it," he mused.

What mind? I was thinking, but since I'm very kindhearted, I said, "No, Larry - this may be a shock to you - but I think you should do less." 

"Less!" he said.

"Yes. You should cut your schedule to five exercises," I got in, before he interrupted.

"That's crazy," he said.

"Look, Larry, it's all you need. And they shouldn't be five shoulder exercises, either." 

"But . . ."

"Look, I'll be honest with you. Your present schedule is lousy. If you keep it up, you'll start to look like a bamboo shoot within two months." 

"Lousy?" He looked hurt. 

"I want to help you," I said smiling. Don't feel bad. It's important that you become aware of the truth about your training." I felt I should say more. "And the truth about yourself, too, I must add." 


"Yes. How much actual progress have you made since you started this shoulder routine?" 

"Not much." 

I know," I said. "It stands to reason that you haven't been able to gain. You're overworking." 

"But how can I be sure that I'll gain if I don't work out a lot?" 

"You don't have to work out 'a lot'," I said. You only have to work out HARD. And you must work out hard on the right exercises." 

"But only five exercises?" 

"Only five," I assured him

"Well, I dunno," he said. 

"Will you try it out, just to see?" 

"Well . . . okay." 

"Great," I said. "You won't be sorry." I took out a pad and pencil and wrote out the following routine: 

1) Military Press, 4 x 8
2) Squat, 2 x 15
3) Stiff-Legged Deadlift, 1 x 15
4) Press Behind Neck, 4 x 5
5) Lateral Raise (standing), 4 x 5-7

I handed the slip of paper to Larry. 

"This doesn't look like too much work," he said. 

"It's plenty." 

"Should I train every day?" 

"Three times a week. NO MORE." 

"Gee, I'm gonna take it easy, it seems." 

"That's what you think. I want you to use every single ounce of weight that you can manage in exercises 1, 2 and 4. And use enough to make you sweat in the other two." 

"Wow! That's not how I work now. That's rough!"

I smiled. "See?" 

"But I never worked that hard." 

"That's what we're going to change, Larry." 

He didn't seem too happy.

"Do I have to train so hard on the squats and deadlifts?" he asked. 

"Do those two exercises with as much weight as you can properly handle. You don't have to use blackout concentration or anything like that with your shoulder stuff - but you can use a good 10 or 20 pounds over what you're using in those exercises now - and I say this without even knowing how much weight you're using in them!" 

"That's a cheering thought," he muttered.

"It is, isn't it? Well you said you wanted results, didn't you?" 

"Yes. And I'll do what you suggest," he said. "But are you absolutely sure that I'm not leaving off any of the most important shoulder stuff?" 

"Look, Larry," I said. "The most important - the most effective and result producing exercises you can do for your shoulders are the few I gave you. Even the lateral raise can be considered almost a "secondary" exercise. And it is, too, except in a shoulder specialization schedule." 

"Hmmmm," he replied.

"What was that?" 

"Nothing. Okay. I'm gonna give her a try all right. How long before I see results?" 

"You'll notice improvement after three weeks to a month. In three or four months you'll have transformed your shoulder structure. You'll be really impressive." 

"Yeah!" he said. "Impressive!" 

Larry started on the schedule - the same one outlined for you here in IRONMAN - and I have to give him credit. He stuck it out until he got really good results. When I saw him a few months later he had a terrific pair of shoulders. They looked like small coconuts. He was smiling like a kid on Christmas morning.

"You look great!" I told him. I was genuinely happy for his progress.

"Thanks, man," he said. "Well, I gotta say you really steered me right." 

"My pleasure, Larry." I figured he wasn't such a bad fellow, after all.

"Say," he looked at me. "Guess what!" 

"What?! I asked. 

"I've started reading." 

"You have?" I said. "You mean you're reading my stuff in IRONMAN?" I was smiling from ear to ear. 

"Oh no," he said. "I'm reading a novel by Hemingway."   

  - To know Dublin, read your Joyce, for Macondo, Garcia Marquez, and for Mesopotamia, Serhiy Zhadan. Of course, this Mesopotamia is not the Birthplace of Civilization (or is it?), it's Kharkiv, the Ukranian Center of Nothing, located smack-dab on the Russian border, which, in Zhadan's brilliant vision, is smack-dab in the middle of life lived beyond the fullest because any second could be your last, creaming with joy, madness, war, orgasm, stupidity, and a blinding light that smells like the essence of human spirit. We need to learn from Ukraine. Zhadan is a masterful teacher. 

The use of poetry as Notes - so far as I know, this has never been done before and is positively Nabokovian. This book is world-class literature.






Blog Archive