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Should You Believe What They Say?

Check back often for more advice from Big Red! Teen bodybuilding at it's finest.

Should you believe what they say?

Ok, here's the deal. I was reading through the magazines one day just for a good laugh, and thought to myself "How the hell did I believe all this stuff?" It then occurred to me that many people out there may still be following these routines (and of course going no where). I do admit, they look enticing being written so well, and having pictures of the pros next to them, but they are no way to go for hard gaining naturals like us. So once a week, I'm going to log onto one of the magazines web sites, pick an article, and totally devour it. Mmm Mmm, good.

This one comes from Flex.

Note: Magazine quotes are in italics, my comments are in normal type.

"Mention mass, and the mind goes wild. There's nothing benign or normative about mass. Unlike "size," "big" or even "huge," the term "mass" seems to possess something alive that sends a chill of excitement racing up the spine at the very thought of its restless dynamic power. The steaming hiss of the word itself is a motivator; so much so that I now go into each workout thinking not about muscles, reps and weights but about the potential energy available in the concept of mass."

"The potential energy available in the concept of mass." Heh? How long did it take them to think that up? I'm sorry if I disagree, but I happen to go into each workout thinking only of muscles, reps and weights, since that is all that matters in a workout.

"Just as the universe has it's laws of physics, so does bodybuilding have its laws of mass, and I figure that if the universe works best by obeying its laws, I, as a bodybuilder, should benefit best by obeying mine. Here they are."

The word "I" sums everything up here. To each is his own. You can't tell me that what works best for me will work the exact same for someone else. Of course there are certain principles to follow, like rest, recover and stimulation, but just because it only takes me 3 sets to hit my chest doesn't mean someone who uses one or even 7 isn't getting the same done. It's all about the individual.

"1. GO HEAVY That's the only way my body responds, and the logic is pretty convincing that the more weight you use, the bigger and faster your body will grow. With reservations, of course; for example, do not use your body as a fulcrum to force the weight upward, and don't rely on momentum to swing it to the top. Use weight resistance to motivate you to lift harder and to force you to keep your body tight throughout the set. Interpret "heavy" as reaching muscle failure at a predetermined low level of repetitions."

Ok, I'll give them this one. I like their explanation of going heavy too.

"2. IF YOU'RE ABLE TO LIFT IT, THEN LIFT IT That's the first principle of improvement. How do you otherwise breach that margin and take yourself to a higher level if you don't make the attempt? Every time you enter the gym, be prepared to try for one more rep or one more pound"

Damn, we're onto something here. Overload and progression to build muscle, what a concept. Looks like we got another winner.

"3. LET IT HAPPEN Do not, however, force yourself to that higher level. If you have to wrestle your will into submission every time you train, you'll soon develop a hatred and loss of motivation for your next workout; so don't worry about making that increase today. If it happens, it happens; if not, there's always tomorrow. By not burdening yourself with anxiety before you go to the gym, you will be fresher and more enthusiastic when you get there; thus, more keenly alert to the call of the wild."

I'm note really sure what he's trying to say here. Don't force myself to that higher level? What? So you're saying that I shouldn't try to improve from week to week. You just totally contradicted what you said in number 2. I think the reason most people develop a loss of motivation is because you give them 20 set routines that quickly lead to OVERTRAINING! Also, the more I force myself to improve, the better I feel, I think this holds true for most people. That's what makes great workouts.

"4. PYRAMID YOUR SETS Starting with a 15-rep warm-up and finishing with five reps. Add weight to each set so the point at which you reach failure progressively decreases to five reps at your last set. The first sets of an exercise should have higher repetitions in order to pump the muscles with blood for more tightness and to teach them to coordinate with each other under the stress of heavier weight. Your tightness and intensity will thereby increase with each set. A ceiling of five reps is high enough to prevent yourself from cheating, yet low enough to make sure your fifth rep is at absolute failure."

So in other words, your first two sets are nothing but warm up sets. Useless. This means you are wasting valuable time and energy. You only need to warm up for a couple sets on your first exercise. This should be where you start to pump blood into the muscle and coordinate your muscles, not before each new exercise. Then, your working sets after this are to pump the maximum amount of blood into the muscles. Also, never pyramid up. I hate this concept. Why would you failure at a lighter weight, then expect to have maximum energy and strength on the heavier weight after that? You don't. This heavier weight is the one that builds muscle, not the lighter one before it. Always reduce your weight after your first set.

"5. FREE WEIGHT FIRST Every workout should begin with free-weight exercises, the heaviest and most compound first; then, if you wish, progress through more isolated free-weight movements, compound machines and isolation machines, in that order. The most massive bodybuilders in history got to be that way by adhering to predominantly free-weight workouts for their first years in the sport; only after they had built a solid base of mass did they begin to refine individual muscle groups with machines and cables.

As equipment technology advances, however, new machines have emerged that more closely simulate heavy compound free-weight movements, so they can occasionally be used as early as the second exercise in the workout. Hammer Strength-type machines are a good example: While their plane of movement is fixed and doesn't require the balance or stabilization needed for free weights, an enormous amount of poundage can be used in a very correct manner; and, as we've already discussed, more weight means more mass. Some muscle groups, such as chest, legs and back, lend themselves better to a combination of free weights and machines. For others, such as arms and shoulders, it's best to use only free weights. A sample workout for chest and arms is shown in the accompanying sidebar."

Ok, I never realized that my muscles had brains and could distinguish the resistance of that of a free weight exercise to that of a machine. It is a good general rule to do most of your compound (notice I'm not saying free weight or machine, as each are equal mass builders) first. This can change however, if your chest is lagging behind you may want to do dumbbell flyes before presses to pre-exhaust your pectoral muscles. That way they fail before your triceps in your pressing movements. Lastly, must we always push something in one of these articles? Hammer Strength Machines, give me a break. Nautilus machines are superior, but I guess that as long as Joe's pockets are getting fatter he's happy.

"6. FULL RANGE OF MOTION Partial reps are acceptable for building power, in that they allow you to become accustomed to the stabilization and sensation of very heavy poundage, but to actually build the muscle, you need to work all of its fibers thoroughly, as well as those of ancillary muscles. These must be activated by applying stress over the full extension and contraction of the muscle."

I really don't think partial reps are all that great for building power, but this is about building mass, and he's right, use a full ROM. I see too many guys in the gym using a partial ROM, then looking around at people like they're tough shit. Believe me, for those of us who are serious about training, they're nothing more than a good laugh.

"7. MAKE THE MUSCLES DO THE WORK This has become such a cliché that its original intent seems all but forgotten. Utter this phrase today, and people think it's an excuse to avoid work by switching to an isolation exercise, when it actually means just the opposite. Stay with heavy compound free-weight power movements, but concentrate on making the target muscles work as hard as possible. This does not mean they are the only muscles that need to work, merely that they are taken to failure on each set. The idea behind compound exercises is to use other muscles and bodyparts to help focus the work and fatigue into the target muscles."

Isn't that what you do when you lift, I mean, there's no machine there doing the work for you. But seriously, I think that this paragraph is a "prettied up" way of saying concentrate on form. Why it doesn't just say use form, well that's why these magazines look so enticing. I bet my articles would sound that good if I had a degree in Journalism.

"8. STRETCH AFTER EVERY SET In order for muscles to grow, they need to be worked from a starting point of maximum potential or freshness, so, after every set, stretch them thoroughly to flush out lactic acid and restore their flexibility. Only 10 or 15 seconds of stretching does it for me, and it makes all the difference in the world."

Actually, I totally agree with this statement. Stretching is real important, and often overlooked. By stretching your muscles you avoid injury and allow for a greater ROM on the next set since your muscles are more flexible.

"9. PRIORITIZE Priority training is my most important principle. If I want to add exceptional mass to a specific bodypart, I train that bodypart first in my workout, and I train it heaviest, as well as sometimes more often. Prioritization also implies that you avoid overtraining the previous day. If you want to prioritize chest, biceps and triceps, train each on separate days. Ideally, workouts for prioritized bodyparts should be preceded by a rest day. At any rate, orient your schedule so your prioritized bodypart is completely fresh for its workout."

Ok, avoid overtraining, yet he says workout that body part more often. Many people complain that their biceps aren't growing, but if you look at their workouts, they're doing 20 sets for them 1 day after back. Now, 20 sets are too much to begin with for any body part, let alone biceps, and second, there's no way your biceps are recovering in 24 hours. I do believe that lagging body parts should be given special attention, however, most are just a case of over training or not enough intensity. If your triceps are lagging behind, the best thing you can do is switch the day you're working it on. If I work my triceps after chest, I would switch it to after back that way it hasn't been worked for the last 3-4 days.

"10. BE A LITTLE CRAZY Every so often, try for a one-rep maximum lift. Your attitude, desire, body and common sense will tell you when you should go for it. Obviously, it won't be every time, or even at predictable intervals, but we've all experienced those days when we feel superhuman and can't hold back. That's when it's OK to try for a powerlifting or Olympic-lifting personal record. The benefits are both psychological and physical: You prove to yourself that you are capable of giving it more than you thought and, if you complete the lift, that you are capable of lifting more than you thought. By forcing yourself into a region of hyperstress, you increase your strength as well."

I really don't disagree with this too much, although I'm not sure how much physical benefit it would pose.

"11. MAKE YOUR WORKOUT REAL IN YOUR MIND Lots of bodybuilders visualize themselves with the ideal physique as they are training, but what works best for me is to imagine myself actually doing a superhuman lift before I go to the gym. Lying in bed or sitting at home, I mentally experience the set: my grip, the tightening of my body, inhaling deeply, setting myself in prep for my personal record. I then feel exactly how the weight pulls or pushes on my muscles as I lift, which muscles are involved, struggling for a full contraction, then the resistance on the extension, my loss of breath and my muscle contractions as I start into my next rep -- everything. When I start the actual workout, there are no surprises, and it's even easier than I thought."

Now, I may be wrong, but doesn't this contradict what he said in part 3. In part three he stated that you shouldn't do things like this, that way you don't lose motivation. I agree with this statement, I just wish the author would make up his mind.

"12. HIBERNATE After an extended period of extremely brutal heavy training, hibernate from the weights for another extended period to give your body and mind a chance to recuperate, but take more time off than you want or need. By doing so, your hunger and guilt build up past the point of tolerance, so that when you return, it will be with a fury far beyond normal, because you will be trying to overcompensate. That's good. How long you hibernate depends upon how hard and heavy you've been training. As a pro who does 700-pound squats and 500-pound bench presses with hellacious intensity, I hibernate for as long as 12 weeks once a year. For the average amateur who trains as heavy as he can for five or six days a week, I'd recommend a four-week hibernation once a year. During that time, stay in shape with cardio and flexibility activities, but keep away from the weights. When you return, it's almost guaranteed that, within two months, you will shoot far beyond your previous level."

Heh? Overcompensate, you mean over train. Why would you stop lifting for 3 months? This is bad, some where in this article it says consistency is key. Not lifting for a 1/4 of the year doesn't sound too consistent to me. Now, don't get me wrong, you should take about a week off (2 max) every 3-4 months, but to take 3 straight months off a year, you'd lose too much muscle and strength if you did this. I can hardly go a week without lifting, never mind 3 months.

"13. EAT BEFORE TRAINING I don't mean pig out, but I like to have a little something in my stomach when I train, so I eat within 30 minutes of my workout, even if it's only a protein shake. It reassures me that I will have an energy reserve to carry me through my last and heaviest set."

I have mixed feelings about eating before working out. Personally, I like to eat a normal, whole food meal about an hour before I workout. I feel that if you eat too close to working out the blood is still in your stomach digesting and won't be pumped into your muscles properly. The only exception in this case would be if you workout with weights first thing in the morning. In this case, have a protein shake and an apple about a half-hour before hand, other wise, it's best to wait until you're fully digested.

"14. MAINTAIN YOUR PROTEIN RESERVES Muscle mass is built by protein, so I feed my body a continuous supply from morning to night with 11 meals. Seven include a minimum of four ounces of meat; the other four are protein-based, in the form of eggs and powders. The likelihood is that you are not a professional bodybuilder weighing well over 250 pounds at your lightest, so I'm not suggesting you follow my diet to the ounce, but neither should you restrict your protein. Nothing, and I emphasize nothing, is more important in your diet."

Well, he's right. You do need to feed yourself every 2-3 hours. And I'm glad to see that he's not saying you need 2 grams of protein for every pound of body weight either.

"15. STUDY The more you expand your mind, the more you expand your body. That's the only way to give yourself room to grow. It's easier for your mind to pull your body into a frontier that your mind has already discovered than it is for your mind to push your body into un-known territory. I read everything I can about building mass and let it percolate through my mind until it's part of me, so, when I enter the gym, training is second nature. I don't even have to think about what must be done. My body stabilizes, flexes and performs automatically, just from having read about it. All I have to do is feel my muscles growing denser, thicker and fuller."

Wow, another good point. You should definitely read as much as you can. I'm learning new things each day, and then I try to explain them to you through this web page. Well, except the magazines because 75% of the things they say are crap and promoting a supplement, product or individual, but there are great sites and books that can really teach you some things.

"SMOOTH POWER Remember that you are using maximum weight to build mass, and the speed at which you move it determines the power applied to your muscle; but, if you try to move it with a jolt or a jerk, you could injure yourself or, at the least, lose control and nullify the exercise. This applies as well to the "down-and-up" theory: Do not think of a repetition as down-rest-up, nor of a set as a series of separate down-rest-up repetitions. That only puts you into a stop-and-go mode, in which you relax and shift gears at the bottom. Instead, think of a set as one smooth continuous repetition to failure. This helps you stay tight and maintain control all the way."

Somewhat agreed. I do think it is necessary to pause at the bottom of exercises, only for a moment to avoid bouncing the weight back up. Aside from that, your reps should be smooth. I see too many people in the gym throwing weights around. If you want to throw things, play baseball, if you want to lift and get bigger, discard the ego lifting and hit the weights like you're supposed to, in control.

Until next time, keep it simple.