This article is part one of a four part series. Remember . . .
Don't neglect your diet:
We shall render a double service in our efforts: First, we shall prevent you, hopefully, from becoming pump-happy neurotics who live only for their four hour workouts done six times a week; and second, we shall provide IronMan readers with a comprehensive, extensive source of material from which they can organize training programs and set up effective routines for maximum all-around development.
Physically and psychologically it will help all weight trainees to steer clear of the wasteful, time consuming and no-result-getting programs that many, unfortunately, follow.
Many readers wish to know the "best" exercises. They've read so much about variations that they've become totally befuddled; they simply don't know where it's at. They've seen the superb physiques of greats like John Grimek, Bill Pearl and Reg Park, and they know that these men must have used some sort of exercises to acquire their herculean development but everywhere these readers turn and every time they try a new "guaranteed super system" they get only discouragement.
Some give up bitterly after several months of going nowhere, and others, who are perhaps even less fortunate, continue to plug along year after year and try the myriad of routines, programs and super exercises that have been credited with building up the champs.
THERE ARE NO MIRACLE SYSTEMS or special exercises. Throughout a lifetime of bodybuilding you need employ roughly 20 basic exercises, with only occasional, slight variations, in order to obtain an exceptional build. 90% of your training time should be devoted to these exercises. If you train this way you WILL gain strength, size, and muscular development as you've never thought possible.
Bill Pearl build up this way. So did John Grimek. So did Reg Park. The thousands lf "little" exercises, the fancy stuff, the elaborate movements done with "space age" apparatus and machines, the leverage movements, the pumping and cramping methods, it's ALL just window dressing.
Always train hard on the essential exercises. Give them your ALL. You will build as much muscle and power as Nature will allow you to have, and I sell no special courses or special secret systems.
Don't worry about not becoming Mr. Universe. Not everyone can, very few actually, very, very few. But don't ever let that get you down. Even more important, don't allow yourself to be led off on random trails, blindly following some prophet of blitzed up biceps in hopes that he, somehow, will turn skinny (or fat) you into mounds of rolling muscle. He won't. He can't.
If you've got the potential for being a Grimek or Park you'll make it on sane training schedules. If you do not have the potential you won't get there anyhow. No matter who you are, though, you will build up tremendously, stay fit and healthy throughout a long lifetime, and brothers, that should be more than enough for anyone. And THIS is what the Iron Game offers to everyone!
For the purposes of this first article on a very important subject, I'm going to go into considerable detail on the basic arm and shoulder exercises that I discuss. it will be done to show you just how simple and logical proper organization of training routines can be.
Only the very best exercises will be enumerated, and the variations on them that will be suggested will NOT be useless, pumping movements. They will be workable variations that will offer scope for change in your training. And they'll stimulate though in your noggin that will enable you to adopt similar variations with the exercises to be discussed in the next three parts of this series [note:[back, legs and waist, chest, and an article on avoiding over-training will follow].
Use your head in building your own routines our of the exercises explained -- constantly making certain to stick with the best movements -- and you shall never go far wrong in training. And now, as they say, let's get down to the nitty gritty.
The essential exercises for the arms and shoulders are:
1) The regular, heavy barbell curl.
2) The heavy, two-dumbbell curl.
3) The military press.
4) The press behind the neck.
5) the heavy, two-dumbbell press.
Note that the pressing movements work triceps strongly.
Your training should always include these exercises (never all five of them at a time, of course) in some form, in each training schedule. Ditch the light stuff, and ditch it quick! That means out with lateral raises, triceps extensions, cramp-curls, concentration curls and leverage movements. NEVER SUBSTITUTE THEM IN A ROUTINE IN PLACE OF THE 5 EXERCISES LISTED.
When you are considerably more advanced you may use them as you desire for supplementary work, but only in addition to, and not instead of the basic, heavy work. There are plenty of arm and shoulder exercises. None of them even approach these five in all round effectiveness and developmental value. To lend variety to your workouts you can adopt any of the number of excellent variations to these five exercises in your routine. For example:
Let's say that you've been training for seven or eight weeks and during this time you've used the following arm and shoulder work: the heavy barbell curl and the press behind neck. In order to change your schedule you can change the method of performing each of these exercises without even having to change to two different movements. Just do the following: Switch to a close-grip, bent forward barbell curl. This variation is one that Reg Park has used to good effect, and man-oh-Man will it ever make those biceps grow! If you've worked into heavy weights for your press behind neck, you can ease the monotony and start fresh by doing your presses behind the neck while seated. Work into heavy weights with this movement. The seated press behind neck is a killer, and it's guaranteed to put thick deltoids on a pencil!
That's how to use variety in your training. What you must NEVER do is switch to seated concentration curls and standing lateral raises instead of heavier training. That is suicide for building up.
You want to keep gaining when you change your routine, and only the heavy, standard movements are going to let you do it. Don't deceive yourselves.
Here's an example of a still further variation: Stand against a wall and do your barbell curls without any back bend or sway whatsoever. This is fantastic for bringing maximum shape to the biceps muscle! Now do your presses behind the neck with a collar to collar grip, seated or standing. This will build broad shoulders better than 40 sets of lateral raises.
I hope that you get the picture now. ONLY USE VARIATIONS OF TGHE GOOD, STANDARD EXERCISES. These are the only ones that will produce worthwhile gains. it doesn't make sense to kill yourself on a routine that is at best only second rate.
You can actually improvise quite a few variations on the basics if you'll stop and use your head. And if you do, your progress will be steady and sure.
Now let's take each essential arm and shoulder exercise and discuss some of the possible effective variations that you can use from time to time.
First, we have the regular heavy barbell curl. I guess just about everyone thinks that he knows how to do this exercise. That's probably why many bodybuilders toss it aside for the lesser stuff -- they think it's too simple. But they're wrong. To do the exercise properly, with respectable weight resistance, requires determined effort, close attention to detail, and enormous biceps strength and development.
Work into heavy weights in good form, and the standard barbell curl will give you amazing upper arm size and power. Use a medium width grip and keep your elbows close to your sides. DO NOT CHEAT. Use your grip and biceps strength alone. This is the secret of maximum development. In preparation for the 1954 Mr. Universe contest . . .
. . . Reg Park worked hard on the barbell curl to bring fullest development to his upper arms. Park could curl more than many bodybuilders squatted with! He had amazing upper arms. The advice on proper exercise performance goes, of course, for every variant of this basic movement. Curls are curls. They are not "swings" or cleans. It is your biceps that must do the work if you want them to grow.
We've already talked about two variations of the biceps curl, so let's get on and discuss exercise number 2: the heavy two-dumbbell curl.
This exercise is probably the best single movement for the upper arms. With its many excellent variations, it will build bulging biceps better than any other movement, bar none.
You must use heavy dumbbells.
You must use strict form.
You must use concentrated effort, and when you do you'll notice two things:
1) This exercise is a lot more difficult than the barbell curl because your arms have to struggle to balance and stabilize the weights as they exercise.
2) Your biceps will bulge with size and ache like crazy after only two or three sets. This fine exercise can be done while seated on a flat bench. It can be done on an incline bench (a favorite of both Steve Reeves and Park), and if you are a glutton for punishment, you can try the movement while lying down on a flat bench!
Do it standing, sitting or lying down . . . but DO IT, and you'll be sporting better biceps within months!
Less value is to be gained by doing this exercise in alternate curling fashion, but this is not by any means a poor exercise, and you might try this occasionally to pull yourself out of a rut.
And please remember: forget about those ridiculous cramp and concentration movements. The light stuff doesn't build solid muscle. Period.
You can try the two-dumbbell curl while leaning slightly forward, and you'll discover that your biceps has parts to it that you never knew existed!
Remember also to always work the muscles from the point of fullest contraction. Work into heavy weights and I guarantee that your big arm problems are solved.
The military barbell press is to the shoulders what the barbell curl is to the biceps. And, just like the barbell curl, the press is often neglected, and even when used, it is rarely done properly. The military press was named for the fact that one is supposed to do it in "military" or perfectly upright posture. In other words, don't lay back so far that your head rests against the floor.
John Grimek kidding around on the beach.
Permit yourself no layback, and keep those eyes straight ahead! Force yourself to work into heavy weights. Reg Park pressed 300 pounds in military style during a workout. He has pretty fair shoulders, wouldn't you say?
Work quickly, but don't bounce the barbell up and down. This ranks as a top shoulder developer, so don't waste time on the secondary stuff. The military press will pack an awful lot of meat on your shoulders and upper arms. The fact that all forms of heavy pressing also build enormous triceps is often overlooked by fellows who waste time on isolation-type triceps extensions. As we've said earlier, the light stuff is just window dressing.
There are some excellent variations to the basic military barbell press. The best one is to do the exercise seated.
It's hard to do this one without leaning back but if you force yourself you'll build huge shoulders.
You can do military presses with a narrower than usual grip for increased triceps development and heavy concentration on the frontal deltoids.
You can do your presses with a wide, wide grip and this will accentuate the lateral (side) deltoid fibers.
To absolutely eliminate back bend, you can do this exercise seated on one of those very steep incline benches, but this isn't really a necessity, if you'll force yourself to work hard.
Now we come to my favorite exercise for the shoulders and triceps. It's the press behind the neck, and there simply isn't any exercise that builds huge powerful shoulders and arms as quickly and surely as this old standby.
280 PBN, Reg Park
Reg Park worked up to 300 pounds for reps (!!!) in this movement. He says that it's the single best shoulder builder. I say it too, but somehow it has more weight coming from Park. Wonder why? Oh well, this is number onw and you should specialize on it for spectacular results. Work into heavy weight for reps. Use strict form. Use concentrated effort. If you have been following my articles you know how much I praise and recommend this exercise. It's simply the very best shoulder builder, and you should make up your mind to get good at it.
We've mentioned several effective variations on the press behind the neck previously; the best one being the seated press behind the neck, and the variations can benefit you if you fit them into your workouts occasionally when you've become a little stale on the basic movement. If you happen to get discouraged when you're training with heavy weights in the press behind the neck, just think about Reg Park ramming up 300 pounds in this exercise. That should fire you with a little inspiration!
Remember that performance is important in the press behind the neck, but at the same time you must avoid handling a weight that is too light. Don't go overboard in the opposite direction either, and use weights that turn the exercise into a "jerk" behind the neck. This could cause a severe and potential shoulder injury. The momentary satisfaction that you'd gain by playing Reg Park could result in many weeks of missed workouts and painful joints and muscles. Train heavy but be careful and sensible in your approach.
Second only to the press behind the neck as a shoulder and triceps builder, the heavy, two-dumbbell press is the fifth and last basic, essential arm and shoulder exercise. Before going into a detailed description of the superb values to be derived from heavy dumbbell pressing, I would like to take a moment to emphasize a very important point. There are NO specific triceps extension movements enumerated as basic or essential to arm development. There is a good reason for this: they are neither beneficial nor basic.
You can build massive, powerful and shapely triceps without ever doing a single extension movement and don't be misled into thinking that you can't. Nothing is as beneficial for superior triceps development as all forms of heavy pressing with barbells and dumbbells. The bench press is superb for triceps bulk and strength, but we'll talk about that exercise in a later issue [building a super chest article to come].
The various triceps extension movements often put a rather severe strain upon the elbow joints and forearm bones, and it is generally inadvisable to handle heavy weights in those movements. So remember: if you cannot work into heavy weights with an exercise . . . DUMP IT. Use one of the basics instead, and you'll reap much greater rewards.
I have known many bodybuilders who have trained quite thoroughly on triceps specialization and they never achieved better development than fellows who worked hard on their pressing. And the pressers wound up with much greater strength and NO injuries.
Work hard and work heavy on the two-dumbbell press, and you'll get fine upper arm and shoulder development. Work strictly, however, and never attempt to use more weight than you can correctly handle. Steady, strict, forceful performance with respectable weights will build superior deltoids. Keep your back straight in this exercise, and look straight ahead. For the first couple of workouts you'll find it difficult to balance the weights, and the exercise may seem a bit uncomfortable at the beginning. But persist in your efforts, since this is one of the best basic shoulder builders.
The basic variations to the two-dumbbell press are all excellent and quite worthy of inclusion in your routines from time to time. They will help you avoid staleness, and they will work the shoulders from a slightly different angle.
The first variation, obviously, is to do the exercise seated. A second variation is to do alternate dumbbell presses standing or seated. Alternate dumbbell pressing is slightly inferior to simultaneous pressing since it is possible to assist your pressing with vigorous body movements.
John Grimek was always good at heavy dumbbell pressing.
So was Reg Park.
In setting up a workout schedule you must select one exercise for the biceps and one for the triceps-shoulder area in every normal routine. Simply, this means that you've got to curl and press in some form, during every normal workout.
For the purposes of specialization, you may select two or three exercises or their variations in your training schedule. Working hard on these exercises is more than ample to speed fantastic gains.
KEEP TO THE BIG, BASIC EXERCISES FOR BIG, SOLID GAINS.
In all of the mumbo-jumbo that appears today on "Whose super-system will build 20" arms faster?" of the "Follow my schedule and you'll be Mr. Superman in three weeks!" nonsense, the beginner, and all too often many advanced bodybuilders lose sight of certain basic truths. They forget that these truths will remain true no matter who chooses to ignore them:
1) Bodybuilding is essentially simple, but it requires hard, hard work over a period of years to acquire outstanding muscular development.
2) The only methods that can bring overnight results are the artificial, pumping and muscle-spinning routines, and they don't build one ounce of solid, healthy muscle tissue.
3) If one desires the best all-around results, then he had better stick with the proven grind of heavy exercise and lots of sweat, and,
4) The heavy exercises build strength in proportion to size, and have overlapping benefits in building health, well-being and fitness.
Not too long ago I received a letter from a lifter. He remarked that he felt increased fitness and physical well-being since ditching his former routines of light, pumping movements and changing to heavier leg and back schedules that I have been advocating. I do not say this to brag. Quite the contrary, I mention it to show you that there is no magic involved or special genius necessary for organizing result producing schedules. Just good sense, some experience, and the willingness to work hard for what you want.
Of course we all want development of body areas other than legs and back; but regardless, the principles of training remain the same. The key to successful organization of routines lies in knowing the most result producing exercises and working hard and heavy on them.
That's it, fellows, and don't let any commercialism fool you.
In Part Two we'll talk a lot about the essential exercises for herculean chest development. Straight talk on a subject that's of interest to every bodybuilder. You'll learn the best exercises for this impressive body area and how best to utilize them in your own routines for great gains.
Until then, work a couple of these arm and shoulder movements into your schedule and see how much you can gain by then . . .
Enjoy Your Lifting!