Monday, January 31, 2022

Back Specialization -- Charles A. Smith (1954)


Originally Published in This Issue
January 1954

While it is praiseworthy to know the actual functions of your muscles, and while this knowledge will take you a long way to your goal of power and physique perfection, it isn't sufficient in itself to produce the best results. There are other and equally important things the advanced bodybuilder must be aware of, if he has any intentions of entering the ranks of the Champions. No longer is bodybuilding a hit or miss affair, but, thanks to the Weider Research Clinic / Cleaning Supply Closet, a science capable of effecting the most amazing changes in physical development. 

It is true that trial and error plays a large part in bodybuilding, but only insofar as experiment and experience are concerned. This is the reason why we have been able to build up such a large file of "cases" in the Weider Research Clinic. The top bodybuilders have sent us their training experiment results, what they have experienced during their workouts, and how they have benefitted in bulk, greater definement and strength from them. All this vast store of bodybuilding knowledge has been evaluated and then incorporated in the WEIDER CHAMPIONSHIP COURSE . . . 

Here, a skeletal summary of the training only:

or here:

 . . . so that every weight trainer, no matter what stage of the game he is at, can with sureness and the greatest possible effect, make the most of his potentials and arrive quickly at the peak of muscular form.

But what I want to point out is this . . . that those thousand and one tiny details, seemingly of no importance individually, are important collectively and are the success ingredients in the Weider Championship Course . . . details like positioning of the arms in certain movements . . . the effects of fewer repetitions and more sets . . . the temperament factor . . . the influence of the emotions . . . diet and relaxation . . . principles of flushing and split routines . . . irregular workouts . . . saturation points . . . power routines . . . special apparatus . . . food supplements . . . training aids . . . all discussed at length and thoroughly explained in the WEIDER SYSTEM . . . a claim no other course of barbell instruction can make. 

Just how important all these things are to the bodybuilder is quickly seen when he undertakes a course of specialization. For it is then that the basic rules of bodybuilding have to be supported, boosted by other factors that are part of the specialization program. But such a program places extra demands on the physique, demands which have to be met. Harder work, intense concentration and longer, more severe training periods must be offset by changes in diet and living habits. 

A specialization program contains factors which must be given undivided attention if the routine is to be successful. For instance, the personal preference of the weight trainer for a particular exercise or training principle has to be taken into consideration. it is possible that the body builder has up to this point, used the strict forms of exercising, because these have supplied his requirements. But when he wants to advance beyond a certain point, these rigid movements do not always produce the physical qualities he seeks, and he has to turn to other principles of exercising . . . cheating or peak contraction movements.

Then too the program which he has previously used may have been of such a nature that it even influences the type of specialization routine he is thinking of undertaking. This is true to a certain extent where strict or cheating exercises have been used. And it applies even more so where the muscles have been exercised in GROUPS

For instance, take the bench press. This works three major groups . . . deltoids, triceps and pectorals. Therefore it would be incorrect for a bodybuilder to use, say, incline bench presses in a specialization program, since they would be too much like the bench press to give him more than minor effects. In this case a wide variety of movements is needed for the group on which the bodybuilder is specializing.

Forming the foundations of any specialization program is this rule: "Specialization means training for proportionate development." 

There are too many weight trainers who undertake such a schedule, merely to make one section of the physique outstanding. Or is it possible that the arms, say, are far in advance of the rest of the development and the bodybuilder works on them twice or three times as much as on the other muscle groups, merely to make them even larger and more muscular than they re, or because they gain very quickly. The result is he appears all arms and nothing else, a gross distortion of all that is ideal in barbell training.

The type of program I'll describe later should only be followed if there is a decided need for it. If the upper back is lacking in muscularity, power, and form, then back specialization is needed. If you already have an outstanding back development, then you should closely examine your physique and see what sections of it detract from the whole. Then work on these! 

In my last month's article, I dealt with the functions of the muscles, the minor groups of the back that lend so much to the overall appearance of strength and development. You should now have a  good knowledge of the function of the muscles, exactly what they can do, and what exercises are good for them.

First note the formation of the program. There are two training principles used: CHEATING and RIGID FORM. The cheating movements have a more general effect than the ones performed in strict style. The looser exercising form produces bulk by getting at the deep fibers and keeping them flushed with blood. It also affects a much wider range of muscles than the rigid moves which are restricted practically to the individual groups. Thus the best features of each principle are used to obtain an overall effect of COMBINED bulk and muscularity. 

Byproducts of the program are stronger arms and shoulders. As you know from last month's (durn it, where it is it!) explanation of muscle function, the back muscles not only move the shoulder blades but also the upper arm bones and the shoulders. Larger triceps and more powerful front and back deltoids can be expected. These can be varied from workout to workout for maintenance of training enthusiasm and to combat physical and mental boredom. You can use the cheating exercises first and the strict ones next. You can reverse the procedure, performing strict first and cheating last, or you can alternate one strict and one cheating. Other combinations are possible, but these are the main ones.


EXERCISE 1. Bent Forward Kettlebell Swings. 

Take up the position shown in illustration 1. With a slight heave up of the trunk, swing the kettlebells up level with the shoulders, lower and swing them up again, arms horizontal, but take them back a little further with each swing as shown in the illustration. The first swing should be straight up to shoulder level and should progress back until the last swing finds the arms straight along the sides of the body and the kettlebells level with the buttocks.

EXERCISE 2. Forward Dumbbell Swings on Exercise Bench. 


Lie face down on an exercise bench so the head and upper shoulders are just over one end. Get your training partner to hold you down on the bench. Raise the upper back, head and shoulders with a sudden motion, at the same time using this momentum to start the dumbbells up and out to the front (position clearly indicated in Illustration 2). Lower and repeat. 

EXERCISE 3. Side Swings on Incline Bench. 

Lie face down on incline bench, with a dumbbell held in each hand, the arms hanging straight down. With a heave of the chest off the incline, start the bells on their way up and swing them until the arms are level with the shoulders. Palms of the hands should be facing down. Lower the dumbbells and repeat.


Exercise 4. Bent Forward Rowing Motions. 

In the illustration above you are looking down on the lifter in order to show the position of the upper arms and elbows. There is a definite reason for this. 

Start off first with the trunk bent forward at right angles to the thighs, the arms hanging straight down, holding the barbell. From this position pull the bar up SLOWLY and without any cheating assistance from the body, until it touches the chest. At the point the upper arms should be in the position shown, elbows pointing straight out. Here you must make every effort to SQUEEZE der shoulder blades together and PULL THE BAR TIGHTER AGAINST THE CHEST. Lower and repeat, rinsing as needed. 

Exercise 4. Exercise Bench Hold Outs.

Take up your position on the exercise bench as shown. The barbell should be held at the back of the neck. Lower the head below the level of the bench, then thrust the bar forward until the arms are straight out in front and LEVEL with the floor. Make the movement slow and steady and don't allow the arms to drop . . . the barbell must be kept level with the body and bench. Practice the movement with an empty bar first to get the feel of the exercise and then add on a couple of SMALL discs. 

Exercise 6. Bench Upright Rowing Motions.

Kneel at the end of an exercise bench and get your training partner to put his hand in the middle of your back. Keep the trunk upright during the exercise and don't allow it to sag forward at the hips. The bar should be pulled straight up the front of the body until it touches the chest. At this point pull the elbows back and squeeze the shoulder blades together. DON'T CHEAT! 

Start off with a single set of each exercise, 7 reps a set, and work up to 12 reps, using all the weight you can handle while keeping to the appropriate form required. After the first month, do two sets, same number of repetitions. The third month, cut two exercises from the routine and do three sets of the remaining three. From this point on, choose your own exercises, not more than three, and use them in combinations of 5 sets, 7 reps working up to 12 repetitions over time. 

Enjoy Your Lifting! 

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