Fundamental Weight Training Advice: Insight into Positives & Negatives..

Fundamental Training

In-Depth Tips and Advice for Training Success

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In this article we're going to list some important positive things for you to accentuate in your training and a number of negatives that you'd be wise to eliminate.

Positives to Accentuate

1. Wherever possible use free weights. All weight-training machines are designed to imitate movements that you can perform more efficiently with free weights. Even the most sophisticated of them are unable to interpret all of the variables present in an individual's musculoskeletal makeup. For that reason the most popular and, coincidentally, the oldest and most efficient machines are those that impose the fewest restrictions on the user. These include the Smith machine, which was designed by Rudy Smith, who worked for Vic Tanny back in the '8Os, and the oldest gym machine of all, the six-station jungle. The simple pulleys of the latter apparatus impose virtually no restrictions on the user You can place them in any position and work through any natural strength groove you choose.

2. Use strict form on all exercises. The so-called cheat principle is not a principle at all; it's an oxymoron. "Cheating" s a catchword that may impress some youngsters who are just starting out and see it in a magazine. In the best situation cheating changes the fulcrum of the movement and, therefore, the muscle being worked. At worst it's a precursor to serious injury, usually to tendons, because that's what bouncing, arching and other movements that help you to cheat a rep can do. If you are unable to complete a rep, use a spotter so that you can do it with no change in your performance style at all.

Try the following approach for dramatic new gains in both strength and muscle size. Stop every rep for a count of one at full extension and take a very deep breath before you do the next rep. That means you stop for a full count at the bottom on squats, bench presses, calf raises and overhead presses and stop at full stretch on chins, lat pulldowns, curls and rows.

Understand that you're going to have to back off a bit on the amount of weight you use, but that's only temporary. In a month you'll be stronger and bigger. You'll also have strength in an area where you haven't had it before-at the working muscles' tendinous attachments and points of origin. Another big plus is that you'll have reduced your chances of injury dramatically.

3. Accept the fact that getting sufficient rest and recuperation is more vital to your progress than the specific routine you use. You must plan your training around rest and recuperations assiduously as you plan your training and nutrition. Learn to train hard and rest aggressively. I know that sounds a little strange, but it isn't. Your body is aggressively growing, regenerating and repairing itself to compensate for the tissue breakdown caused by the intensity of your training. Enjoy that rest and recuperation period. You've earned it.

Be confident in the positive changes that are taking place. Eat small supplementary meals if you find your energy lagging, but don't eat anything after dark. Your food takes 3 1/2 to four hours to digest. If you go to bed with food in your stomach, your digestion slows, you're restless, and you wake up sluggish. If you're tired when you go to the gym, try a few warm-up sets. If that doesn't snap you out of it, chances are you need another day's rest. Take it. For every person who under trains there are 10 who over train. Overtraining causes more injuries and causes more people to stop training altogether than any other single factor.

Getting eight hours of sleep a night is a must for anyone who trains hard. Remember that sufficient rest, along with a tranquil mind-something that getting plenty of rest helps you achieve- create the ideal environment for great gains.

Build your workouts around basic exercises. The only way to build real muscle size and, subsequently, great overall strength is by using basic exercises for each of the large muscle groups. These exercises are almost without exception compound movements that maxi mall employ the primary muscle involved but with assistance from adjacent muscle groups. For example, squats primarily target the thighs, but the thighs are aided by the erectors of the lower back and the buttocks, especially in the bottom, or low, position.

The bench press is another prime example. Though it's primarily a chest exercise, the pectoral muscles must be assisted first by the triceps and to a lesser extent by the anterior deltoids. The proof of the triceps' role is the fact that when you perform the exercise with a somewhat closer hand spacing, it becomes one of the best triceps movements and the pecs assume the assistant role.

Deadlifts and dead hang cleans are two more compound exercises that follow this pattern. Both work the spinal erectors directly but require help from other muscles. On the deadlift the assistance comes from the leg biceps, or hamstrings, especially in the beginning of the movement, where you're pulling away from the floor After the bar passes your knees, the trapezius becomes activated as you complete the lift at lockout.

The dynamics of dead hang cleans are the same (except that you perform cleans faster) until the bar passes your knees, at which point you pull the bar all the way into your shoulders, which requires a major assistance from your biceps. That final high pull also requires a more complete contraction of the trapezius. For pure shoulder work the basic exercise is overhead presses performed with either a barbell or dumbbells. These movements, of course, require assistance from the triceps.

For the upper back the best movement is unquestionably the chinup, with assistance coming from the biceps and to a lesser degree the muscles of the shoulder girdle. As with the bench press a simple adjustment to a close grip targets a different bodypart, in this case making the chin one of the very finest biceps exercises you can do.

Put the above basic movements first in line in your various bodypart workouts. If you feel you need additional shaping exercises like flys, lateral raises, leg extensions and concentration curls, include them at the end. These are movements that generally work smaller, isolated muscles. Note that the heavy, compound exercises make your heart pump harder. As a result your thyroid responds very positively, your metabolism slows a little and becomes more efficient, and you grow better. Remember, you've got to accentuate the positive!

Negatives to Eliminate

1. Avoid split training. My experience in the gym has taught me that far too many bodybuilders, even intermediate and advanced trainees, make many mistakes. The most common error I find among young lifters is that they advance to split training too soon. When you're ready for it, split training will enhance your growth to some extent but not enough to justify rushing into it after only two or three months of working out. When you jump the gun like that, two things happen, both of which are negative. Beginners who train on a comprehensive program of about eight basic exercises-squats, pullovers, bench presses, pull- downs, overhead presses, arm work and abdominal work, or one movement per bodypart-generally make good progress for the first few months. After that I put them on an expanded program of two exercises per bodypart, and they experience another surge of progress.

At that point newcomers often decide that they want to go to split training like the more advanced gym members use. They haven't considered that their present program is giving them all-around good conditioning plus solid muscular gains. They see others, who are training for physique contests, using the split system, and they figure that's the quick road to ultimate muscle size. All that glitters is not gold, however.

Split training is not, I repeat not, a shortcut. It's a detour that may well stop muscle growth in its tracks. Little do those slightly advanced beginners know that many fantastic bodybuilders in the past developed their physiques almost exclusively on three-days-a-week training. I recall vividly the famed Clarence Ross, who back in the '40s and '50s guided my early training. He worked out three days a week with heavy poundages and won the world's top titles. Ross had learned over the years to intensify his training far beyond what was previously accepted.

Beginners are just beginning to get solid conditioning out of such exhaustive efforts, building their aerobic and anaerobic responses, quickening their reflexes, developing endurance and sustaining the pace of hard two-hour workouts. Making haste, they want to get into the rarified atmosphere of split training. The first thing that happens when you switch to split training at that point is you cut your work in half. You do all your lower-body work on one day and all the upper- body work on the next. For example, you work legs and abdominals on one day and chest, back, shoulders and arms the next. As a result of this division comes the second negative occurrence, which is that you begin working individual body- parts much harder. Here's how that happens.

Because you've become used to those hard, two-hour sessions, your body invites you to continue doing them. Consequently, you greatly increase the number of sets for each bodypart. Instead of two exercises for four sets each, you up it to three exercises per muscle group for five or even six sets each. Suddenly you're performing 15 to 18 sets per bodypart compared to the eight you were doing on the three-workouts- per-week program.

In other words, the shortened workout that you do on the split program deprives your body of the endurance benefits while at the same time leading you to overwork your individual bodyparts. That's the kind of thing I'm talking about when I say, eliminate the negative. Ninety percent of trainees in gyms disregard all warnings pertaining to overwork. The secret to success in bodybuilding is to build your capacity to perform more and harder work and to use that work. Don't try split training until you're far enough advanced for your individual body-parts to utilize that much work. The great bodybuilders who can train hard four or five days a week for 40 to 50 sets per session have through longtime, steady, progressive training acquired the capacity for not only doing the work but also using it to their advantage.

2. Don't fall prey to the negative of but king up. I have absolutely no patience with this business of hulking up. Gaining size just for its own sake puts you on very shaky bodybuilding ground. Forget the scales and the tape measures. in bodybuilding your main concern is looking good and feeling good. A mirror will tell you what a tape measure won't. I've seen a scrubwoman who had 22-inch arms. When you're an intermediate bodybuilder, bulk keeps you from being able to appraise your body accurately. What's more, you get a false reading on your strength, which is caused mainly by the leverage of interstitial fat. The added strength is never commensurate with the added bodyweight.

Some bodybuilders go up to 260 or more and then knock themselves out trying to lose those 30 or 40 extra pounds to produce the necessary cuts for contest time. It makes more sense to maintain a relatively steady bodyweight except for the addition of pure muscle, which comes slowly year after year. Whatever reason you give for hulking up, understand that when you're ultimately forced to come down in weight in order to see your muscles, you're going to be left with an army of idle fat cells that are ready to mobilize with the slightest increase in food intake. In addition, when you must suddenly lose the fat for a contest, you lose muscle tissue right along with it. In other words, reducing quickly to what previously was your best competitive bodyweight is no assurance that you'll look the same.

Unfortunately, you're just at that contest weight for a visit. You have to stay and train at that bodyweight for three or four months before your body will accept it as your true bodyweight again. The only way to establish the optimum fat percentage for your body-6 or 8 percent or whatever-is to maintain that level continuously. That way you can efficiently monitor your progress. If you can gain six or seven pounds of pure muscle a year for five years, you're probably going to be one hell of an impressive bodybuilder. Be consistent!

3. The ultimate negative-rampant drug use. In 1979 I wrote an article on steroid use that was used in Bob Goldman's critically acclaimed book, Death in the Locker Room: How Steroids Affect the Body. Back then people were somewhat blasé about steroids. Those who saw the moneymaking potential in the sale of steroids or in the exploitation of those who use them generally talked out of both sides of their mouths-on the one hand decrying the use of anabolic drugs and on the other publishing long, detailed how-to articles complete with chemical makeup and dosages. If you'd already been training hard for many years and knew the rich rewards inherent in doing it right, you knew better.

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