Ahhhhh . . . . the sounds of a gym. Music blaring, people chattering, workout partners shouting at one another believing that the greater the decibel level the easier the rep, people grunting as they grind out one final rep before complete muscle failure, and of course, what would a "gym" be without the reverberation of . . . . weights CLANKING, BANGING, SLAMMING, SMASHING and CRASHING into one another?
The Awful Noise
The racket created by metal colliding with metal . . . the hallmark of a hard-core gym where the serious bodybuilders train! Right? Wrong! Actually, noise created when dumbbells collide is just that . . . noise. In fact, this sort of racket is the antithesis of training with that kind of gut-wrenching, bone-crushing intensity employed by the great bodybuilders of yesteryear.
I dare say that the legendary bodybuilders that graced the "hard-core" gyms at that time were much less concerned with the sound of their heavy weights clanking together as they were with bullying their muscles into growing bigger and stronger.
For our predecessors in the iron sport, intensity was the name of the game. The motto was not "train heavy or go home." The mantra back in the late 60's and early 70's was more along the lines of "get serious or get out!"
Next time that you are in your gym, take a brief moment and listen to the discourse transpiring all around you. What is the topic of conversation? Now imagine the legends in bodybuilding discussing the very same topics. Unlikely that you would hear Lou Ferrigno or Arnold Schwarzenegger discussing the latest movie reviews in between sets. Difficult to imagine Frank Zane or Mike Mentzer sitting at a juice bar in a posh Los Angeles gym discussing the events of their workday or their plans for the weekend!
Train Hard Or Don't Train At All
When these individuals entered the dank hole in the wall that they called a "gym," and began their training session with equipment that would be considered rudimentary at best according to today's standards, they were not there to impress anyone. These folks used the gym for one reason and one reason alone . . . to TRAIN and to train HARD. . . PERIOD!
For these bodybuilding icons, the rush did not come from the sound of the weights clanking together or from the sound of heavy dumbbells crashing to the floor.
The adrenaline rush, the "high" came from the burn and the pump created by relentlessly grinding through each and every rep and then having a workout partner assist with forced reps until the muscle literally could not contract against the resistance one more time. Anything else was a waste of time.
Today, distractions in the gym abound. In fact, one of the most pervasive distractions which also happens to be one of my greatest pet peeves, is the noise created when people clank the weights together or otherwise slam them down onto the floor announcing to everyone in the gym that they completed their set.
Aside from the lack of respect displayed for the equipment and utter disregard for the safety of fellow patrons, people that insist on clanking the weights disrespect their own training. In fact, clanking the weights together at the top of any movement for any body part bleeds the tension right out of the muscle fibers and erodes the value of the entire set.
Allowing the weights to crash into one another is not only infinitely annoying, but it absolutely cheats the target muscle out of a peak contraction and eradicates all of the intensity created up until that point.
Don't believe me? Well, you can actually see it. Wander over into the free weight area of your gym. Find a gentleman that sports a tank top and happens to be training his chest with dumbbells. Before I continue, please note two things. First, the reason that I told you to select a male subject is not because I am particularly sexist. A man's muscles are simply larger and thus easier to observe. And, men typically are the worst offenders.
When you hear clanking and banging emanating from the free weight area, more often than not, the source will be a male rather than a female. Second, please understand that what you are about to observe applies to all exercises for all body parts. I selected the pectorals because they are the easiest to observe. The precise exercise performed does not matter. For right now, just get a good view.
Watch Them Closely
If you watch closely, you will see the pectorals move toward a contraction as your subject approaches the very top of the movement. During the concentric phase, the pecs turn red indicating increased blood flow to that area. Now, observe what happens to the tension generated in the pecs the moment that the weights make contact with one another. You can literally see the pectorals relax momentarily at the very top.
Generally, "clank and bangers" as I often refer to them, never obtain the full value of any rep. Once the weights crash into one another, that's it, the muscle relaxes and the tension is lost. Now watch the eccentric phase post "clank." Momentum and gravity escort the resistance back to the start position instead of the target muscle commanding control and restraining the downward movement.
And by all means, please don't leave before the grand finale. Stay until the final rep of the set. You certainly don't want to miss the big "bang" as your subject abandons all control over the weight sending the dumbbells crashing to the floor.
Indeed, when the weights clank together at the top, the pectorals automatically relax and the value of the continuous tension principle, one of the most important tenets of weight training, evaporates. Fundamentally, this principle provides that for complete muscle development, you must maintain continuous tension in the target muscle throughout the entire range of motion.
This means that you cannot bang the weights together with impunity and expect your muscles to respond and develop to their full potential.
Why then, do individuals insist on banging the weights together? For some, it is simply a bad habit. A subconscious act reified over the years with every successive workout. And then there are those who actually enjoy hearing their heavy weights collide lest no one in the gym notice their efforts.
But I surmise that for the vast majority, clanking the weight at the top of the movement simply allows the target muscle to relax which makes the following rep easier and less painful to perform. Whatever the reason, these individuals remain unaware of how this habit adversely affects their training and thus impedes their overall muscular development.
The Training Regime
To begin incorporating the continuous tension principle into your training regime, really concentrate on controlling the resistance on the negative phase of the movement. Instead of allowing gravity and momentum to take over after the target muscle contracts, concentrate on slowly returning the resistance to the start position and focus on keeping the target muscle tight. When you reach the bottom, do not allow the muscle to relax even for a fraction of a second.
Keeping the muscle tight, immediately begin the next rep and continue until you complete the final rep of your set. If you are maintaining continuous tension, you should feel the burn in the muscle develop within the first few reps making each successive rep more difficult to perform.
You cannot, however, benefit from the continuous tension principle without complete and utter concentration rep for rep, set for set, exercise for exercise, and workout for workout. If you concentrate on feeling your body, and focus on maintaining continuous tension in the target muscle, you will surely notice a transformation in your physique! Remember that noise and intensity are inversely related. The existence of one implies the complete absence of the other. The clatter generated from weights banging into one another signifies nothing other than waning intensity.
At the end of the day, consistent mental intensity is really what produces results! Your time in the gym should be sacred time. Make it your time. Leave your family concerns, workday worries and every other distraction at the door. The second that you enter the gym get your mind in your training. Shut out all of the "noise."
Do not allow the obligatory "how are you" and "what did you do this weekend" conversations to interrupt your training session; they are nothing but mere distractions.
Get centered and ready to concentrate on sculpting your physique. Think about the intensity and the focused energy commanded by all of the great bodybuilding icons of times past.
They did not clank and bang their way to optimum performance or the ultimate in muscular development. Instead, they honed their intensity and constructed their physiques . . . one rep at a time.