So often we think of training goals as increased measurements, added muscular bodyweight (or a reduction in the waistline), great squat (or bench or deadlift etc.), poundages, and so forth. I've yet to hear anyone say that the optimal training goal is an ENHANCED LIFE.
Of all the training goals one might have, there are none more worthy and important than the goal of a healthy, happy, vibrant life that holds regular training in a regular place. This means, not necessarily the goal of winning some contest, but rather the objective of being a winner in life. And by being a winner in life I mean: living a life in which health and fitness play an ever-important role. I'll add . . . a permanent role!
Too many people train like mad for several months - or years - while some contest goal or particular strength or development objective is keenly one their minds; but then, once the goal is either obtained or lost, the individual peters out, as it were. Eventually, in his late twenties or early thirties, the ex-trainee becomes physically indistinguishable from every other sedentary person. His bodybuilding or lifting life has become history.
Don't let this happen to you.
Even if you have little genetic potential for becoming a powerhouse or a Mr. Winner (and almost none of us have this potential), so what? You can enjoy an excellent physique, strength, fine health, and a feeling of joy and well-being that practically no one today even understands (let alone feels) by following an ongoing training routine. If this is not a golden reward in itself I fail to see what could be.
Personally, I would prefer to be healthy, strong and happy for LIFE, rather than Mr. Universe for a 1. And believe me, a man with 16" arms can be as fit, healthy and finely tuned athletically as any 22"-inch arm Hercules.
So, if you're young and just taking up weight training, remember that you are getting into something very much akin to education of the mind. Ideally, it is a process that should continue - with unending benefits - for your entire life. It doesn't end after a "course" or after some arbitrary goal has been achieved.
If you're older, remember that the REAL rewards of training have yet to materialize for you - so long as you're persistent. For what trophy can be worth one fiftieth of the prize enjoyed by the robust man is his 60s, 70s, or even in his 80s, who has been an active physical culturist since his earlier years?
This is a field in which no one loses. Those inanimate weights are, literally, a blessing in disguise.
Question: I always find the first set of every exercise I do very difficult. How can I correct this, or is it not something I should be concerned about?
Answer: To an extent one can correct this discomfort (I sometimes get it too) by doing a thorough total body warmup before starting the workout, and then by doing one thorough, light warmup set for each exercise one performs in the workout.
Keep in mind that comfortably ventilated, but never cold, training quarters will naturally facilitate minimum discomfort in the preliminary sets.
Good, thorough body circulation is the key to avoiding hard first sets.
Remember that certain exercises like squats, bench presses, etc., that are truly strenuous and heavy might require two or three buildup, warmup sets before work poundages are attempted.
If any real pain occurs - or persists - I suggest you see a physician.
Question: Would it be possible to effectively alternate training for bodybuilding and powerlifting? Or would that be self-defeating?
Answer: I would be best to combine a program of powerlifting training with good bodybuilding movements that have been selected to compliment the lifts, and polish the developing muscle mass; rather than attempting to alternate actual actual programs, which I'd really not recommend at all.
Naturally, it's a difficult thing to train for two goals at one time, but so long as you're content to receive GOOD results in bodybuilding and GOOD results in powerlifting, there should be no problem. People who exceed in both fields are, however, rare.
Expect to be tired from such a program. Expect also, if you're serious about getting STRONG, to eat well, sleep enough, and keep a tranquil mental attitude too. You just won't be able to weather a tough schedule like you're contemplating if you don't.
Let me propose a good example of such a routine for a couple of months --
Light Stiff-Legged Deadlift -
2 x 12
1 x 8,
1 x 5
2 x 2
1 x 1-2
Flat Flye -
2 x 8
2 x 5-6
Light to Medium Bent Arm Pullovers -
3 x 8-10
Bench Press -
1 x 10
1 x 8
1 x 5
3 x 3-4
3 x 50
Note: You must work up to weights that are heavy for you in the squat, bench, and deadlift for this program to work.
Regular Grip Chins (no weight) -
2 x 12
One Arm DB Row -
3 x 10
Prone Hyperextension -
2 x 20 (no weight)
2 x 6
2 x 4
3 x 3-4
1 x 1-2
Barbell Curl (heavy) -
4 x 6-8, adding weight each set
Leg Raise -
3 x 20
Same as Monday, but add Barbell Curls as done on Wednesday.
Question: Can lat machine pulldowns be used as an effective substitute for heavy bentover rowing?
Answer: Yes. Providing you do not substitute pulldowns permanently, they can replace rows from time to time. I have found that they are especially useful if there has been a back injury preventing bent-rows from being done for a time.
Question: What can I do about my calves? They remain underdeveloped no matter what I try, and I've about given up.
Answer: Your problem is shared by many, many trainees! Try using very extreme (maximum extension to maximum contraction - stretch . . . squeeze) work in very extreme amounts for a while. For example:
5 sets of 30-40 reps with as much weight as can be handled correctly, 5 days a week.
Do that for a month. Then train calves 3 days a week for a while.
Then train them 5 days again for a while, etc.
This hard, irregular work should help somewhat.
Remember that calves are very difficult to develop for most of us. If you have a low arch or flat feet, I frankly feel that optimal calf development should not be expected. At any rate, it's unlikely.
Deep massage between sets of calf work sometimes helps, especially when the thumbs are dug deep into the belly of the muscle and a vigorous kneading motion is done.
Question: How does getting older affect one's physique and training - assuming one has always trained hard and one is in good health?
Answer: So long as training has always been a part of one's lift, so longf as one is in good health, and providing one is experiencing no injuries, I know of no reason why training should be curtailed, regardless of age. I suggest that men who are over 40 get regular checkups and carefully "listen" to their bodies bodies so that they do not ignore possible warning signs of an illness or injury.
In my years in the Iron Game I have seen men in their 60s and 70s training harder (and I mean this!) than many college athletes. What I would strongly urge anyone NOT to do, however, is commence training later in life (say, in one's 30s and after) and expect to plunge into tough, hard workouts right off the bat. At any age, as always, start off sensibly and easily and build patiently to reasonably hard work. Build a foundation. Watch diet, rest and basic health habits, naturally.
Question: i always have a problem balancing heavy dumbbells when I do presses. I want to do this movement, since I'm told it is valuable and important, but how can I handle the balance problems?
Answer: The balance "problem" is part of the reason why dumbbell presses are so valuable. It is the greater difficulty in stabilizing these weights that makes pressing them a real effective movement.
If you train with dumbbells regularly, you'll find yourself becoming more comfortable with them. But they will never be as easy to press as a barbell.
Also, don't expect to duplicate the poundages that you use with dumbbells to equal the barbell poundage.
That sums up our question session for this issue. Keep at your workouts, stay sensible, and BELIEVE IN YOURSELF.
ENJOY YOUR LIFTING!