Throughout the bodybuilding ages, passionate participants and onlookers have encountered all kinds of equipment such as straps, supports, and assists that will eliminate exaggerated effort and thus the meandering corners that deter our path to physical success.
Of course, not all of these machines do what they claim. If you run your finger through the classifieds section in your local newspaper, you will often see there are as many secondhand abdominal machines for sale as there are call-girl numbers a couple of pages further back.
"Nearly new" or "only used once" normally accompany these ads, indicating that they were either bought with intention instead of commitment or they simply didn't work. Besides, many of these pieces of equipment aren't designed for the home. Your home is a place to relax and decompress with an array of distractions such as the TV, telephone, visitors, or children.
The gym has also had its fair share of "introduced relatives" to the good old fashioned free weights and weight machine, to help support and protect the body while maneuvering it closer to perfection.
Some were forgotten, while others found their place in an old wooden box sitting in a gym corner. Others are used to this day to help forge champions and fulfill dreams that were once unimaginable—or at the very least, unattainable.
One man who has unintentionally become the number one authority on muscle manifestation is Charmles Glass. I can best liken him to Rocky's trainer, Mick. I admit he doesn't make his students drink thunder in order to shit greased lightning, but it's close.
Charles Glass has helped create the champion caliber of great bodybuilders whose names are as known and remembered as much as Monika Lewinski and Bill Clinton. Chris Cormier, Paul Dillet, Flex Wheeler and Gunter Schlierkamp are just a handful of his classroom attendees who flew from the amateur nest to win various pro shows along the way.
Glass was never one to rely on fads, new machines, or the latest gimmicks. Rather, he relies on his extensive knowledge of the body's anatomy and kinesiology to create new, unique exercises that target muscles previously thought unreachable.
His ability to adjust the body's position or the plane of movement is a result of the insight he possesses to strategically place muscle where needed, while minimizing the use of others to transform bodies into the perfect masterpiece, much the same as Michelangelo sculpting his David.
Being a bodybuilding writer who trains mostly in Gold's, Venice, I am often witness to many of Charles Glass's inventions of technique and mastery, but several months ago I noticed he had many of his clients using straps I hadn't seen before. After several occasions of watching more and more of his students use these straps, I finally walked over and questioned their use and ability.
After completing a back workout on a July afternoon, I walked over to Gunter and probed him about the weird-looking straps that were hanging off the lateral pulldown bar he was using. "They are called Flexsolate straps, and they allow you to isolate the targeted muscle 100%. Let me show you," said the 325-pound German, smiling.
New Muscle Isolation Development Straps May Make Training More Effective!
The straps were cinch-looped on the bar, with a larger padded loop for me to place my hands through. My initial thought was, "How are these any different from the conventional wrist straps I use?" This was very simply and quickly answered by Gunter.
"You don't grip the bar or the straps," he instructed. "In fact, you just let your hands relax."
As I pulled down on the straps, my first thought wasn't about how strange it felt having a free range of motion in my wrists; it was about how weak I was. Basically, these simple free-hanging straps isolate the muscle to such a degree that all other stronger assisting muscles are shunted to the wayside.
Another technique Charles had incorporated into Gunter's simple pulldown movement was too have him supinate his hands on the concentric (positive) part of the exercise, while pushing his elbows down and forward to ignite the upper lats even more.
After going through several other exercises with Gunter, I looked at these simple straps and said, "I can't believe someone hasn't thought of these before." A laughing Charles and Gunter shared with me that they'd said the exact same thing when they came across them at a bodybuilding show months prior.
Building My Back & Delts
I myself am a competitive bodybuilder, and only the month before my introduction of these straps I had finished second in the FAME Natural World Bodybuilding Championships. When I questioned the judge's decision, they kindly informed me that I needed more back thickness, more width, and more caps to my deltoids.
No matter what training principle I adhered to, I could never feel a clear mind-muscle connection within these two areas of importance. With this in mind, I decided to contact the manufacturer of the Flexsolate straps. After I emailed them via the website, they kindly sent me the straps and an instructional DVD.
I was amazed that there were over 50 exercises that I could muster with these things, although my main focus was remedying the judges' objection of my back and delts.
After watching the DVD and getting some advice from Charles, I was amazed at how centralized my back soreness was. The weights I was using were embarrassingly more on par to what I used when I had just started out.
My shoulders had a field day when it came to torturing the side, front and rear deltoid muscle. Attaching the straps to a low pulley, I placed my hand all the way through the loop, allowing my hand to fall limp.
A small correction such as relaxing the hand like this has an unbelievable effect on the muscle when performing side, front and rear cable raises. The isolation is so pronounced that you cannot feel any crossover to any other part of the shoulder whatsoever.
Following seven years of bodybuilding, the new lease of life my muscles were receiving was as satisfying as a cheat meal on a contest diet. Not wanting to saturate my good fortune—after four weeks of using the straps to isolate my biceps, triceps, shoulders and back—I decided that I would solely use them on my visibly weaker muscle groups (back and shoulders) on a one-week-on and one-week-off training split.
Initially, I found it very hard to lighten up on my resistance, as I am a true advocate of heavy-duty training principles, but the shock, the localized soreness, the isolation I could feel within my muscles, and the results Charles Glass was experiencing with his clients were enough to sway my decision to stick it out on the lighter end of the weights rack.
Every four weeks, I made an appointment with myself to stand under the unrelenting lights of the posing room within Gold's gym. On the first visit, I wasn't sure if I had made any improvements in this area, and was more or less skeptical as to whether or not such improvement was possible.
However, on the second visit I was convinced that I was heading down the right track. More noticeable than anything was the size of my waist. I was sure that my midsection had drastically reduced and my V-taper was enhanced from my newfound lat-width and shoulder girdle.
To my amazement my waistline measurement was exactly the same as months prior, but due to my added width and X-frame enhancement the illusion my physique was starting to transpire was one that was well-received.
If you have trained consistently for many years, such an improvement in a small time frame is very rare indeed, and can do huge things for your passion and confidence within the weights room.
Two months on I am continuing to improve, and am well on the road to debunking the judging panel's assertions of weakness. I predict that Flexsolate straps are here to stay and will continue to grow in popularity, especially with the rapidly increasing population of professional, amateur, and recreational athletes in the USA. Don't just take my word for it; try these straps yourself.