Thursday, June 30, 2022

How I Specialized for Muscular Development - Alan Stephan (1948)

Thanks to Michael Murphy! 

From the October 1948 Issue.

I have seen many fellows use various methods for specializing on their physiques. Some work fine but others do not seem to help the individuals at all. Why? 

It is my belief that the fellows who didn't make out so well failed to take into consideration their own bone structure and just what additional muscle they needed, how many repetitions to do and how much rest to take in between sets. I this article I am going to describe how I am specializing on my frame. 

I have used cables to specialize on my muscular development the first four years I trained. These first four years I consider to be the foundation. i hardly ever varied my workout of 10 exercises. Doing the military press, then pull over on platform to mat off platform, then barbell curls. In these three exercises I rarely ever failed to try for a record. 

I remember I started in the press with 50 pounds and have worked up to 290 in good form. And started in the pull over at 30 pounds and have worked up to 205 with elbows straight with the barbell off a platform. In the pull over I accomplished the 200 pounds just before I left for the service and then after a month of training after I got out I did it again, but I really felt it in the elbow joint of the arm which leads me to believe that the muscles were just as strong, but the tendons and ligaments went down in strength and elasticity. 

The exercises I did were the prone press, straight arm flying exercise, squat, dead lift, weighted dips, leaning over rowing motion, and reverse curl. (The three before make 10).

These are the exercises I followed for four years hardly ever varying from this routine and doing no more than three sets. Now I believe that if I had specialized in training after the first year as I am doing now I would have acquired more development faster.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think a fellow should start right out specializing, for everyone should have a period of training to get all of the muscles of the body developed to a  certain degree and from there see just where the weak points are and then work on them. It's fine to work on the good points but to leave the bad ones alone is to leave weak links in your physique.

During the third and fourth year I usually worked one evening a week for a half hour on cable exercises. I believe cables tend to increase muscular delineation and definition, of which no bodybuilder can have too much, and I believe the cable exercising helped me to get my back definition above all exercises besides the chin behind neck. 

I don't honestly think cables develop strength in the body, at least not as much as weights but one can develop three or more times the strength of the average man with cables. This is one way I specialized on muscular development. 

A way I am now using in specializing on the pectoral muscles is using the incline press with dumbbells starting out with 55's and going up to the 100-pound dumbbells by 5-pound jumps. I do this for two weeks, then for two weeks I go down from the 100s by 5-pound jumps to the 55s. In this schedule, after getting to the bottom or getting to the top, I take the 65's and do 10 sets with them without setting them back in the rack, only keeping them on my thighs after each set and taking about 10 deep breaths between sets. I do not take too long a period between sets when I go down but when going up in weight I take about one minute when past the 85s and about 30 seconds up to them from the 55s. 

I am using the method to accentuate the line across the shoulders and the upper pecs. I believe that this line and outline is the very first thing anyone sees when looking at a physique. And I think by using this method on the incline presses with dumbbells one can develop this line to a high degree of physical perfection. I know for a long time I had trouble with this line but after hitting upon this exercise and method I made rapid progress. 

I also use another system  with the incline bench and dumbbells and that is to use just one weight and do the exercise in sets of three combined sets with about three or four breaths in between each individual set. On each set of three I do the first set of prone presses with dumbbells with the elbows out as far as I can get them. This has always been my weak position because I always had the tendency to keep the elbows close to the body when prone pressing, so this part of my physique has been neglected to a certain extent but now it has greatly improved because of this exercise. Then the second set after three or four breaths is done with the elbows and the dumbbells on a 45-degree angle to the body. The third set is done with elbows close to the body. This position is the one I always use in the prone press and the one I am strongest in so I save it for last and gauge my weight to the harder movement with the elbows out. 

High Pectorals. 

I do the prone press in sets of three variations -- starting out with the prone press, with the elbows back and out as far as possible. This has always been my weak position, but by specializing on the movement, I have been able to equalize the development of my upper chest.

I perform the second set of reps after only a few heavy breaths have been taken. I then perform the prone press, but this time with the dumbbells on a 45-degree angle to the body. The final set is done with the elbows close to the body as shown in the figure on the right above. As I am strongest in this position, I save it for the last and gauge my weight to the harder movement with the elbows out. this movement is popular with all the muscular greats, who are famous for their high pecs, athletes such as 

Clancy Ross


Abe Goldberg

I am now also using a special routine on the biceps. I do 3 sets of barbell curls with 150 pounds, about 10 on each set with little rest between sets. Then I do 3 sets of leaning over curls with one dumbbell at a time using about 40 pounds. I place the elbow of the arm against the thigh and lean over so that the upper part of the thigh goes against the elbow of whatever bicep you are building. From there I do three sets of thumbs up curls with dumbbells, using one dumbbell at a time. 

The first type of curl gets the muscle thoroughly warmed up, the second gets it to peak  contraction, and the third uses the maximum in weight and also involves the brachialis anticus, the large muscle in between the bicep and tricep. I used to do this one as my very last exercise as everyone was headed for the shower. In this last curl I use 80-pound dumbbells and on the last three reps of each set I lean back a little and put my elbow in my side so as to get the fullest measure out of the exercise.

There is one more exercise I do for specializing on the biceps and latissimus an that is putting a towel on the lat bar and pulling it out a good ways and sitting on a bench and holding an end of the towel in either hand pulling the hands down and past the stomach and doing it with a slow methodical movement. I use 100 pounds in this exercise but have to lean back a good ways for counterbalance, but this is good because it puts me in a perpendicular position to the cable. I got this idea from a movement that Sam Loprinzi had invented for pumping up before the '46 Mr. America contest, everyone was doing it and it seems to pump up the the entire upper body musculature. 

If you are approximately the same frame structure as myself, I think you will find it to your advantage to use this means of specializing. It has meant a lot to my appearance and self confidence. 

Enjoy Your Lifting!       


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