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Now that you've learned what my I.C.E. belief system is based on, it's time to explore the key elements that will make it, or any other system, a success. I have so much faith in these next few points that I fully recommend you follow them whether you decide to stick with the outlined principles or not.
Some things are universal, and the more of these universal foundations you can apply, the greater your gains will be. Throughout the years of bodybuilding, from Sandow to Coleman, these guidelines appear and reappear with the fad of the moment. But the truth is, they never really go out of style.
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From Eugene Sandow To Ronnie Coleman, These
Guidelines Appear And Reappear With The Fad Of The Moment.
Key Elements Of Success
We think we discover them and cry Eureka, but if we look farther, we realize we've come upon instinctual truths that all great bodybuilders discover eventually. We don't need to be told, often if we keep training long enough we'll stumble across them ourselves. But why wait? I have written down some of my favorites.
It's The Work Outside The Gym That Counts:
This one is the backbone of the I.C.E. system. My first belief is working to capacity, your capacity to recover. How high that capacity is, is directly contingent upon how well and how much you eat, and your sleeping-pattern. We all want to move mountains in the gym, but if that ends up working against us, we won't.
Making sure you support your efforts with a sound nutritional plan and expanding its quantity along with your workload in the gym has to be your first concern. But not even eating all the food you can is really enough to avoid over-training if you are working out 6 days per week, with 22 sets per day.
Eventually that will catch up to you and to avoid that you have to sleep at least 8 hours per night. 75 percent of your growth hormone output is produced while sleeping, depleted storage of nutrients is repleted and energy restored.
By sleeping at least 8 hours and increasing it to 10 at the onset of over-training is a must if you want to lift big day-in, and day-out. If you have no idea how to do this, I refer you to my feature on bodybuilding nutrition to get a general outline of the necessities of food.
My motto is "Lift big in the kitchen, if you want to lift big in the gym." This is hopefully not news to you, but reminding you is important. This rule is often voluntarily neglected when something better comes along.
Yes, you'll have to sacrifice late-night parties, and yes you'll be eating when others are out doing other things, but how bad do you want to grow? Your friends, if they are true friends, will understand what your iron quest means to you and accept that they can't count on your every single week to go out and get drunk.
I can't stress this rule enough, even one shortcoming takes days to make up for, both in sleep and nutrition. This is the foundation of growth.
Patience And Accepting The Genetic Fate:
If you are a true natural, steroids shouldn't even cross your mind. And without steroids that means you will eventually have to face your genetic limitations and accept them. This does not mean you have to let them keep you down.
Too many people give up before they reach their full potential. But you have to have patience. Muscle will not grow out of proportion overnight, and yes there will be moments of frustration, plateaus and downright depressions when they don't come fast enough, or even halt.
With enough will, determination and intensity every plateau can be broken. So don't accept your faith before you are due, because if you can show me one man who has reached full genetic potential, I will show you a liar. I get too many questions about people wanting to know how far they can go naturally. Well you'll never know if you don't keep trying. It may take you twice as long as the next guy, but if you can be twice as big, wasn't it worth it? Of course it was.
I truly believed I was a hardgainer back when I still trained with HIT. But then I discovered the true anabolic properties of food and the possibilities of real training. I was actually an easy gainer. Muscle packs on, but you have to make the effort for every ounce. And screw genetics, it's not in my dictionary.
The Pump As Your Guide:
This one has not gotten enough credit in recent years. In Arnold's day the pump was the most important sensation in bodybuilding. Now it has been all but buried and traded for excessive weight and sloppy, slow and ugly form. Intensity is not about weight.
It's not about hoisting as much iron as possible. It's about using the weight to reach your goal. The pump is an essential factor and most experienced guide in this. For instinctive trainers especially it is an essential tool.
Try getting a pump in your muscle by doing 3-or-4 strict but fast sets of a semi-isolation movement at 60-or-70 percent of the weight you use for a working set. Use all the reps you need to get the blood rushing in. Now get to your first working set on a compound movement.
You are already warmed up and as you do every working set from now on, your aim is to complete it, but also to keep the pump going. As your pump fades, it's time to pack up and leave the gym. There is another reason why I regard the pump as the king of bodybuilding. A muscle becomes over-saturated with blood and it doesn't flow out as fast as it flows in.
When you take your post-workout nutrition it goes through the bloodstream and slows down where the pump is, allowing that particular muscle to absorb more of the nutrients than the rest of your body, thereby assuring a better recovery of that days workout.
The pump is your friend, your guide, it lets you know what you are in for. So use it. It's high time we reinstated the pump as the amazing tool it is. After all, it was Arnold himself that said it was as good as an orgasm.
Staying focused on your goal and not losing track of your dreams is one of the most important things my consistency rule refers to. I can not begin to tell you how many emails for help I get that begin with "I used to train when I was younger, but then I quit ..." or "I just started training again for this or that reason."
Half of them wouldn't even need my help had they been consistent enough with diet and exercise. But I understand the problem. We all lose sight of the goal sometimes, feel down in the dumps or just plain don't want to get off our lazy butts to do set after merciless set of iron-loading. These are the times when you need enough imagination to keep your motor running. Reminders are the best way of doing this.
Post notes everywhere with inspirational messages, pictures of your idol or reminders of what and when to eat. All these things will help keep you on your toes when the routine threatens to take the effort out of your weary body. But when it comes to lifting the actual weights, I believe there is no better motivational tool than visualization.
Everybody always goes "yeah, yeah, whatever ..." when I speak of this technique, but it can do wonders, truly. The point is you have to train yourself to be able to see with your mental eye what you wished the future held. I wanted to be just like Arnold, but I couldn't see myself with Arnold's body.
I worked day and night at perfecting the mental image, helping the case along by pasting my head on Arnie's picture and pretty soon I could close my eyes and see what I wanted.
Then it becomes easy to match up that ideal picture with the man in the mirror and assess what needs to be done as well as spark the energy needed for heavy lifts and long sessions.
In the psychological community visualization has proven its merits already. Tests have shown that there is a definite increase of work and that people can reach goals faster when visualizing their success, but also when they saw their failure and how they would overcome it.
That last one especially scored high when related to achieving goals. Of course, motivation is a personal matter and you have to find out what keeps you afloat, but perhaps the one thing to remember is that you have to want it bad enough.
If you enjoy doing it, all the better, if you don't, you better have a damn good reason to keep you motivated or you will fail, I'm not afraid to tell you that. If lifting Iron has no appeal to you, give up now, or learn to love it.
Range of Motion:
The number one mistake of all beginning trainers. When an exercise is designed to work a muscle, it's designed to work the muscle by way of its design. Your half-ass wimpy version of the exercise has as much effect as Danny DeVito does on my libido. None whatsoever.
Learning to do the exercises correctly from those who know how to do them has to be a priority to anyone seeking to maximize his or her time in the gym.
A lot of really common, avoidable mistakes are made this way, like not extending the arm past halfway when doing curling movements, thereby stimulating only the top of the biceps.
This results in a condition called "midgety biceps," and take it from one who has been there, overcoming it isn't easy, it takes session after session of endless strict spider curls to make the lower bi's catch up. Or take the lat pull-down as an example. You would not believe how many different versions of that one I've seen. And it's universal, all over the world, people can't seem to do this one right.
Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown
Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown.
Arching the back, pull to the chest, push pinky forward, retract scapulae and most of all perform full range of motion to stimulate as much fiber when trying to create the widest lats imaginable. Partials have their place in the arsenal of an experienced trainer, but for someone seeking the ultimate gains a full ROM is a must.
I wish this wasn't one of my keys to success, because that would mean that everyone already knew, but as anyone with some experience can attest, the crimes against this rule are many and widespread.
The Debate On Free Weights Vs. Machines:
First off, this is not an either/or debate. Anyone passing up on either is throwing away potential gains. The key factor is being selective. I'm a free weights man myself, trying to use as much of the iron as I can, involving all the stabilizing muscles as I go to create a proportionate, powerful physique.
I even minimize the use of barbells. The benefits are many, and the dumbbell has always been a crucial factor in creating that extra-dense thick look. But even I don't shy away from the lat and cable stations, the occasional leg press and the leg extension. These are as much proven tools as the classic dumbbell.
Other machines have their place too. Some people can't get the right way of performing an exercise down, and instead of potentially injuring themselves with no gains forthcoming, I think it's better that they sacrifice that extra pound for some safe, but actual, gains. But even for the hardcore bodybuilders machines can be a godsend.
Imagine a day where everything goes wrong: you're tired, you didn't get fed enough or on time, your wallet got stolen, an old injury is playing up and your old lady is nagging you to death. As the true bodybuilder you are, you drag your sorry ass to the gym and try to squeeze out what you can, but after three trips back and forth with heavy dumbbells and a couple of light sets you've had it and you can't do anymore.
Enter the machines. Move a simple pin, save the stabilizing muscles, no lugging heavy weights around and you might just save a lost workout. Having said that, the conclusion is as follows: The basis of a good weightlifting regimen has to consist of as much dumbbell and barbell work as you can.
Machines have to be minimized except of course the real winners like the cable station and the leg extension, but don't look down on machines because they could be the thin line between success and failure on any given day. Involve every muscle you can, any way you can.
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Don't Look Down On Machines Because They Could
Be The Line Between Success And Failure.
Switch It Up:
When I preach consistency, some take it a bit too literally and get stuck in the rut of training with the same exercises, same sets and same intensity every week. Wrong! Muscles need consistent stimulation, but that doesn't mean they need the exact same stimulation.
After all, different angles recruit different fibers, and a muscle may have a high threshold in one angle and a low one in another. That makes finding different options that work towards a similar goal a must for every seasoned trainer. Some muscles can grow on same old, same old, but I guarantee you most won't.
Keep the muscles awake as you do yourself, do not get stuck in a routine, no matter what it did in the past. The standard equation is simple: If it no longer works change it. But also vice versa. If it ain't broken, don't fix it. A little variation does go a long way toward a noteworthy physique.
Perception Of Intensity:
Intensity is another one of the golden rules and I know I already made this point in the last article, but the fact is that intensity is and remains critical when training. One of the reasons HIT was so popular was because of the intensity.
Only intensity can produce a better GH/cortisol ratio, but no one ever said that you can't train intensly for 45 minutes. It's an acquired skill not spent on everyone, but if you can stay focused, motivated and keep working hard, then you're already holding a winning hand no matter how long you train.
Some people can train 75 minutes on end and still grow. Because of motivation and intensity the epinephrine levels can keep GH elevated and fight off cortisol release. Even though that long is mostly catabolic for all but a small percentage of people, some manage to grow and grow big this way.
Catabolism is the metabolic process that breaks down molecules into smaller units. It is made up of degradative chemical reactions in the living cell. Large fatty acids, nucleic acids and proteins are broken down and used for energy production. This results in a loss of muscle tissue.
Obviously training to capacity will catch up to you. You cannot train like there is no tomorrow and expect even the best nutritional habits and sleeping patterns to keep protecting you from the inevitable. The trick is not completely avoiding the problem per se, but more of a corrective measure designed to avoid over-training and spoiling your gains.
When you start feeling a bit fatigued, when you don't feel like working out, simply adapt. Get 10 hours of sleep instead of 8 for a week, while you cut back to 75 percent of sets. Also in intensity you should give yourself a break. As with most things, cycling is beneficial here, so periodize your overload.
Use 80 percent one week and increase by 5 percent every week, then drop back to 60 and increase by 10 percent every week and so on. There are other ways of making up for the loss of weight. Quality over quantity, both in sets as in weight.
Emphasize Complete Development And Symmetry:
One of the main reasons I rejected Mike Mentzer's heavy duty was its lack of overall symmetry. You can build plenty of mass using just a few sets of a compound exercise, but never a quality physique, at least not drug-free. Just one exercise can never hit the entire muscle, burn every fiber and emphasize each crevice and striation. For that you need a certain amount of isolative work.
Doing multiple sets divided over different angles is probably wisest when trying to develop an overall quality physique that is complete. When training biceps you have to have overall stimulation, but you'll never be Arnold or Scott without emphasizing the inner head, outer head and brachialis separately. You'll look like a huge smooth beginner if you never isolate. Hitting each part of the muscle once per week is an absolute must.
Find The Road Between:
You'll hear me rant on HIIT many times, but that's only because I have some beef with Mentzer. Had I been smarter sooner, I'd have proven to myself that I should have never taken up HIIT to begin with. But on the other hand the threat of over-training is real. Highly exaggerated, but real.
There is no way we can train like Arnold or Oliva today, not drug-free. They could because they had the time to eat more and better quality of food, and later in their careers free access to steroids. For us training 30-40 sets per body part is impossible. We would die of exhaustion, and die small too.
Not the way to go! But Mentzer is the opposite. He went from 12 sets to 7-to-1 and then started decreasing the amount of trainings as well.
He thinks that because more isn't better, less is. But it's not! Only a lazy bum would think he can get away with 1 set every 7 days. If you paid attention you'll take my advice and use it: adapt training to recuperation. Only then will you be sure to avoid over-training and still get the maximum out of your training.
Don't Limit Your Options:
Genetic typecasting, it's the discrimination of the bodybuilder. Dividing types of bodybuilders along the ways of morphological type can have many uses in determining goals for a person, but it should not be used to determine the type of training. I'm so sick and tired of hearing that an ectomorphic (skinny by nature) individual should train according to HIIT principles.
That may well hold true for some, but definitely not for all. I grew just fine hitting every muscle to the maximum of my capacity. In fact I grew better, and I can know, cause HIIT did absolutely jack for me. To be fair, it's not so that a heavy (endomorphic) individual should always follow old school principles of training to exhaustion.
He has as much chance at a high success rate with HIIT-principles as a person of a lighter build. There is no typecasting when it comes to training. Your metabolism cannot dictate how your muscles will grow once you put your heart, soul and stomach into it.
Get Downright Ugly:
It's time to come down off your pedestal. You are not the king of the world and no weight you can handle will justify you as such. Only a humble, hard worker achieves true success. If there are exercises you hate, exercises that look or feel funny those will be the ones you need.
You'll most likely not have used them in a while and therefore will provide the stimulation your muscles least expect. If you are used to handling the heaviest weight possible, establishing yourself as the big man in the gym, sorry, those days are over.
The true mark of a bodybuilder is being humble enough to handle a 20-pound weight and smart enough to make it feel like a 40-pound weight. So get over yourself and your high and mighty attitude and humiliate yourself. You haven't lived until you have voluntarily made a fool of yourself and survived with your ego intact. It's a milestone in your life.
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Be Humble Enough To Handle A 20-Pound Weight And
Smart Enough To Make It Feel Like A 40-Pound Weight.
Follow these rules no matter how you train. I guarantee you they will not fail you, ever. The list is still updated regularly and if you decide to train according to I.C.E. principles and find another rule that can be universally applied then let me know and it will be added to the list for the next update.
Now you are that much stronger, having added a world of knowledge to your arsenal. But you are a long way from home-free. There is a lot more to learn on the specific choices you'll need to make to create your own perfect routine. In the mean time don't forget to put in the work in the gym, bedroom and kitchen too.
For next time we will discuss the age-old question of intensity as I set out to prove that there is more to intensity than just adding weight. A great deal of techniques were developed in the last century that can make the biggest guy in your gym look like a wimp.Recommended Articles
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