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Randy's training and gaining were going very well as we neared the all-too-brief Massachusetts summer. In late May, we had just suffered the worst rains and flooding since 1936, and were ready for some sunshine. Of course, my aging mom, who had been eight years old at the time of the last flood, dismissed our recent deluges as mere sprinklings compared to The Great Flood of '36.
"Oh really?" I challenged her, expecting a story of a great ark with two animals of every type aboard, landing atop Mount Ararat.
"The cities were all deep under water, evil pirates in an old oil tanker raided the peaceful settlers of Waterworld's floating towns, and our only hope was a man with gills that looked a lot like Kevin Costner."
Perhaps I should explain that my mother has Alzheimer's disease and watches cable TV for roughly sixteen hours a day. She actually sold my childhood home about ten years ago because she was seriously concerned that living alone in the large house put her at an increased risk of being abducted by aliens.
Alien abduction hasn't had a large problem in suburban Boston for some time (I understand it was pretty bad in the Seventies, though that may have been bad acid trips), but I suppose one can never be too careful. All I know is that those damn pesky aliens won't have my dear old mom to poke and probe.
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We Had Just Suffered The Worst Rains And Flooding
Since 1936, And Were Ready For Some Sunshine.
A Cause For Concern
Anyway, back to Randy, our man with the plan to win the Novice division of a local show being held this fall. He had indeed reached his goal weight of 225 pounds. However, I am always pointing out that weight in and of itself is meaningless. Bodybuilding is judged visually, based on size but also shape, symmetry, proportion, and condition.
In Randy's case, there was still a proportion issue that needed to be addressed before I would be satisfied he was ready to compete again. Specifically, his biceps were lagging.
Because his shoulders and triceps were pretty good and had improved, his biceps looked even worse in comparison. The last thing I wanted was for him to do what so many other unsuccessful bodybuilders had before him, which was to keep building up his strong body parts while the weak points remained mired in mediocrity.
These are the guys that you hear dissed at contests for having 'no legs,' 'no back,' 'no calves,' etc. They are usually the same ones that like to bitch about how much better their strong parts were than anyone else's, ignoring the fact that they look like human jigsaw puzzles.
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While Most Of His Physique Looked Pretty
Good, Randy's Biceps Still Needed Some Work.
Confronting The Problem
"I'm starting to worry about your biceps," I began, which I knew was only going to instantly put him into defensive mode. He didn't let me down.
"What are you talking about?" he blurted. "They aren't that bad." To prove his point, he hit a front double biceps pose. I'm sure in his mind, those biceps were popping out of his tank top like mountain peaks, but they were actually more like gently rolling hills.
"Tell that to the judges in September, and see if the Jedi Mind Trick really works," I deadpanned. "They're not that good, Randy."
"Yeah, well yours aren't that great, either," he pouted.
"I didn't say they were, but stop trying to change the subject. This isn't about me, it's about you, and I'm only trying to help. Do you want my help or not?"
"I guess, yeah, sorry," he sulked. He was good at sulking.
"Okay, listen up, because I have a plan to get your biceps growing. I know it will work because I've been using it training with Janet, and my bi's have - get this - grown." I let this settle in for a moment and waited for his reaction. He knew how doggedly resistant to growth my arms are. Hearing that my arms had grown was like learning that Verne Troyer (Mini-Me from the Austin Powers movies) was suddenly becoming taller.
He perked up, all ears.
"It's all about being creative and coming up with totally new methods," I explained. "Remember when you hurt your lower back and we managed to train around it?" He nodded.
"Yeah, I didn't miss one workout, and I actually put on a little size from all the different things we were doing, like the seated movements and the slower rep speeds."
"Exactly. We got creative and switched your training up completely. And another time, you were having a problem eating enough protein every day. What did we do?"
"You started having me drink a small shake that had a scoop of protein powder with every meal."
"Right. That was being creative, because most people think you have to either have a solid meal or a shake - but not both at the same time. Now we are going to do some crazy things for your biceps every week for the next four weeks, and I am sure they will shock your bi's so much that they will have no choice but to grow.
For two weeks after the crazy workouts, you'll go back to standard fare; three or four straight sets of three exercises for 8-10 reps. That way they won't fully adjust to the shocker workouts. Are you ready for something different?" Reluctantly, Randy nodded, knowing he was in for some pain.
"Sure, why not," he replied with all the enthusiasm of Paris Hilton at a stamp collector's convention.
A Few EZ-Bar Curls
The first exercise was a creative riff on 21's, the old curling trick where you do seven reps each in a different segment of the range of motion, such as bottom half, top half, and full reps. Instead, this was done with an EZ-curl bar for 36 reps, and it was the hand spacing that changed throughout the set.
Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of EZ-Bar Curl.
The first twelve were done with the hands all the way out to the edges of the bar, up against the collars. The second twelve were done with a standard grip, and the final twelve had your hands all the way together in the middle of the bar. I handed Randy a fixed 50-pound bar.
"You must be joking," he smirked. "Come on, I can go heavier than that."
"Talk to me in a few minutes," I responded.
He got through the first set of 36 reps without tremendous effort, though the lactic acid burn toward the end was rough. Randy shifted his grimace to a smile and pronounced, "nice pump, but it wasn't that hard." He was still breathing hard.
"I know, I know. Do it again. Now!" He knit his brows, but picked up the bar off the floor and did it again. This time I had to hold the bar for him to move his hands in because they were shaking so badly. The last few reps with his hands together had him cussing, and he had to swing them up pretty sloppily. I let him rest for about a minute before it was time to run though this killer twist on curls for the third and final time.
I had to help him get a few of the reps toward the middle, then he had to drop the bar and use a 40-pound bar to finish the last twelve reps. Randy was sweating and sat down on a nearby bench. His arms were still locked in a curling position, as he couldn't straighten them out.
"Okay," he conceded, "those were insane. That was a good biceps routine, thanks."
"Oh, you thought we were done?" I grinned. "Oh no, little studpuppet, the fun isn't over yet!" He groaned and muttered a phrase I can't repeat here, but I will say that my mother and I have never had that type of a relationship, thank you very much.
Time For Some Dumbbell Work
The next 'set' was incline hammer dumbbell curls, both arms at a time for ten reps, then I would quickly pull the seat back to a vertical position for ten more reps of alternate dumbbell curls. Finally, he would stand up and do ten more reps of hammer curls, both arms at a time to failure, and then alternate arms to failure.
He tried to use 30's but didn't make it all the way through. By the third go-round, Randy was using weights so light they could have been covered in pink rubber and been used in an aerobics class. But I assure you, they felt like Chevy engine blocks to those fried biceps of Randy's.
The next day, Randy's biceps were so sore that he was sure he had torn something. I had made sure he took in plenty of whey protein and carb powder right after the workout, and also had him have a little bit of each with his next couple meals of steak and potatoes and chicken and rice, just to make sure those brutalized biceps were being supplied with all the nutrients they needed to recover and grow from the abuse they had underwent.
The next week, we got did it all over again with some more crazy exercises and techniques I dreamed up. Three days later, I had him tape his cold, flexed arm measurement, and to his astonishment, it was up just over an eighth of an inch. That may not sound like much, but if he can duplicate that tiny gain a few more times, guess what? His biceps will have grown significantly.
Forget about all those bullsh!t ads that promise an inch on your arms in one day - as long as you train them twelve times in that day and have an equal amount of their high-priced creatine (loaded with sugar) and whey protein shakes. Little gains are nothing to sneeze at, because they all add up.
The moral of the story here is that getting creative is the only solution oftentimes when we are stuck at a plateau. The definition of insanity is supposedly doing the same thing over and over again yet expecting a different response. It's like the trapped bird that keeps trying to escape a room by flying directly into a glass window. Either that window needs to open, or that bird needs to start looking for another way out of that room.
Don't be afraid to come up with creative solutions to make progress. Often it's the crazy idea that sounds ridiculous that turns out to be so crazy, it just might work!
Uh oh, is that rain I hear starting up outside?
About The Author:
Ron Harris is the author of "Real Bodybuilding: Muscle Truth from 25 Years in the Trenches," available at www.ronharrismuscle.com.
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