Ever wonder what it feels like to be a Jew in Jordan? An Arab in Israel? If you're a dyed-in-the-wool weightlifter, it's easy to accomplish. Just
enter a health club for the meek and not so serious, and voila, instant alienation. You'll meet pencil-necks who play with barbells the way little
girls play with Barbie dolls and pretty boys who exert more energy picking up women than they exert picking up weights. Unfortunately, more and more
facilities are pandering to those who'd rather play patty-cake than pack on mass, making real lifters feel as uncomfortable as Eskimos in Aruba. So
what's a real lifter to do?
Get down and dirty. Lift where you can be alone with paint chips, rusting plates and mouse turds. In other words, lift in your basement. If you
think about it, working out at home is a pretty good deal. You save time (no more driving to and from the gym), you save money (no more membership
fees), and you're in total control. Never again will you have to wait for the gym to open or for the pencil-necks and pretty boys and girls to vacate
the bench press. If you're in the mood for supersets, tri- sets, giant sets or (God forbid!) a circuit workout, do it.
You're not going to inconvenience anyone. And if you hesitate to grunt, groan or do the Tarzan yell in a gym full of people, hesitate no more. Even
the one supposed great drawback of working out at home, the lack of other lifters to spur you on, isn't really a drawback at all. A hardcore gym
complete with intense big boys sweating and screaming all over the place is nice, but once you grip the bar and begin to hoist the weight, all the
atmosphere in the world isn't going to move that bar anywhere. You are.
There are disadvantages to that supercharged atmosphere too. You may become unwilling to experiment with new techniques and exercises that might be more
effective simply because you'd have to use less weight. You may get caught in the heavier-is-better attitude and shortchange your form or neglect to cycle
your workouts, increasing the likelihood of injury.
So lifting at home is really a pretty good deal except for the mouse turds-and the lack of variety Even if you invest in some quality machinery you'll
still run Into this problem. Take leg workouts, for example. After you purchase the power rack or squat rack, the leg extension/leg curl machine and maybe
a seated calf raise machine, you probably won't have the money-or even the space-for a 45 degree leg press/hack squat unit and standing calf raise machine.
The fact is, you don't need more machines to diversify your leg workouts. That the solution for pencil-necks and pretty boys. You just have to be ingenious
and own a power rack or squat rack attached to safety spotters. With that and other typical home-gym equipment-an Olympic set, dumbbells, an incline bench
and a dip belt-you can devise a leg routine guaranteed to make any pencil-neck puke out his guts. You just might scare away the mice too.
Killer Quad Work
Want to simulate Smith machine squats at home? That's easy. As soon as you hoist the bar, bend at the knees slightly and lean back so that the bar is firmly
against the rack. If you're using a power rack, it won't need any additional support, but if you're using a squat rack, you'll have to put some heavy
dumbbells on the base. Keeping your back straight and the bar against the rack, squat, and then drive up, stopping the rep just before lockout, and tense
your thighs until you feel the fibers deep in the muscle. Pick a weight that you can feel in your thighs early in the set and hang on for 10 to 12 of those
reps, to where you have to scream to get out of the squat. Okay, so the bar's going to scrape the paint on the rack. Big deal. Do you want more size and
separation in your quads or a pretty power rack? Only pretty boys worry about the paint on their power racks, and you'd rather die than become a pretty boy.
So you say Smith machine squats aren't intense enough for you? Do compound sets by quickly adding a 25-pound plate to each side and then squatting
conventionally for another 10 to 12 reps. What will this do? It'll make your pulse race, your lungs gasp for air and your (highs fill with so much blood
that you'll have trouble walking a straight line-a condition that will warn off pencil-necks more effectively than a cross and garlic wards off vampires.
Want to improve the look of your lower quads? Lean back a bit as you do the simulated Smith machine squats. This technique will isolate the vastus medialis
as well as sissy squats do, but you'll be able to handle more weight. For an excruciating final touch that will make even the thicker pencil-necks run and
hide, do two or three sets of dip belt squats. These give you almost as much isolation as you get with Frank Zane's Leg Blaster without having to buy one.
Set the pins of the rack so that the bar is parallel to your pec line, and put the dip belt around your waist, adjusting it so that 25-pound plates fit snugly
to your groin. Grab the bar for balance and squat, keeping constant tension on your quads throughout the movement, especially at the bottom of the rep.
Use the bar for balance only. Don't cheat by pulling up with your arms. If you can't break yourself of the habit, cross your arms on your shoulders as if you
were holding the barbell for a front squat. Your balance will suffer-but SO will your quads. Dip belt squats are especially good for bringing out detail in the
muscles of the upper thigh. Combine these variations with all the standard thigh exercises available in your home gym- squats, front squats, (luck squats, leg
extensions and lunges-and your thigh workouts won't suffer from a lack of variety.
Hardcore Hamstring Training
Working your hamstrings at home is a bit more difficult, but a quick trip to a yard sale can change that. Just about every yard sale includes a flimsy bench
press with narrow uprights, a bench for beginners that real Lifters would find worthless for that purpose. But if the bench press has an equally worthless leg
extension leg curl attachment- the old type, where the lower crossbar is free moving and can he prone on the bench itself - scarf up that relic. For five or 10
bucks you have a standing one-leg leg curl unit.
To perform this exercise, place your knee just below the bench, put your heel against the crossbar and bring your foot to your buttocks. You may need a towel or a
carpet remnant for padding in one or both contact areas. Try pointing your toes in all sorts of ways to become attuned to the feel of your hamstrings and to activate
more muscle fibers. Once you become proficient with this motion, try perfect hamstring curls-the technique of perfect biceps curls applied to the hamstrings-to
increase the intensity. En perfect biceps curls you lean forward as you bring the bar to the highest point to increase the stress on the peak contraction and lean
backward as the bar descends to pull your biceps down toward your elbows. Note that this is the opposite of the cheating movement the pretty boys do to impress the
Combining the perfect curl with the principle of continuities tension will make you wonder why anyone would need a fancy machine at some posh health club to truly
trash the hamstrings. For an isolation movement perform hanging hamstring curls from a chinning bar, using ab straps or wrist straps to make sure that your hamstrings
give out before your grip. Use the same motion as described for the perfect curl and be sure to squeeze at the top. For a compound set structured to make you scream
in pain and the pencil-necks scream in fright, start with hanging hamstring curls and immediately move to moderately heavy stiff-legged deadlifts. If it feels as if
the hamstrings are bursting through your skin, you know you're doing them correctly.
Rotating these exercises with leg curls, lying dumbbell leg curls and all the variations of the stiff-legged deadlift will give you a well-rounded hamstring program.
Calf Conquering Movements
If you buy a seated calf machine for your home gym, one of the two primary calf muscles, the soleus, will get tremendous workouts. Unfortunately, the other major calf
muscle, the gastrocnemius, To work the gastrocnemius, use your power or squat rack much as you'd use a standing calf machine. Raise the pins a notch or two above your
normal squat setting and stack three 25-pound Olympic plates on the floor under the middle of the bar. Put the balls of your feet on the edge of the top plate-the
circular plate forces you to push from the balls of your feet, which gives you a total contraction-and place the bar across your traps. Lean slightly forward and begin
to perform a standing calf raise, keeping the bar against the rack's uprights for the support necessary to get on your toes for total contraction. Keeping your knees
locked, go as deep as possible during the negative phase of the rep and then begin the next. Standing calf raises performed in the rack let you use more weight than you
could push if you were simply doing calf raises with a dumbbell off steps, which means you produce greater stress and increase the chance of growth.
The Dynamic Axial Resistance Device, or DARD, is the latest implement on the market that develops the front muscles of the lower leg. To work the anterior tibiIalis,
however, you need nothing more than a barbell - although a Gaspari curl bar works best - some foam or carpet remnants and access to a step. Just lay the barbell in the
crook between your instep and your toes and raise the bar as high as possible. As with many lower-leg exercises, higher reps seem to work best.
Getting an intense leg workout in your home gym is easy you incorporate a little ingenuity - and if you don't mind rusty plates and noisey turds. And you won't have to
put up with the pretenders - the pretty boys and pencil-necks - who seem to prevail at so many gyms.