Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Value of Full Range of Motion

Let's face it - people like to show off at the gym. Whether you sound like you're one step away from death, whether you feed your eardrums a soundtrack through which to work, or whether you pose in the mirror....you want attention & you're going to get it!

If you're looking to find yourself or delve into your subconscious, stay downstairs & sign up for yoga classes.

There is a lesson to be learned here. There is a tendency sweeping the fitness world, it started in the hardcore gyms and spread into the finess world - cheat reps, "partials," and 'assisted sets.'

There's two schools of thought that offer you the road to building a muscular physique. The first school offers you the illusion of strength, it posits the use of Arnold Schwarzenegger High Rep Training. The 'illusion approach' will have you doing high reps, with low-to-moderate weight. This style will have you work major muscle groups at least once a week (e.g. Back, Legs, Chest) and may have you work secondary (or smaller) muscle groups upto twice per week (e.g. calves, traps, forearms). This style works very well for building & maintaining muscle, as well as being compatible with [natural] cutting cycles which may include either low carbs or low fat diets.

The second school of thought is that of the late, great Mike Mentzer. Mentzer advocatd his High Intensity Training, which pushed the simple concept of 1-2 warm-up sets, followed a one very heavy set taken to failure. Mentzer believed workouts should be short and periods of recuperation should be extended. In his book High Intensity Training, Mentzer would have his clients rest a bodypart up to ten days before putting it back to work in the gym. The impetus of HIT was growth, which in turn would develop strength.

In as much as these two theories rival one another, they both require that the athlete be in complete control of the weight so as to be able to perform a full range of motion (hereinafter "FROM") for each rep of the set. "FROM" must be present in all aspects of the exercise, most especially in the negative.

The concept of spotting is both prudent and wise, but the lifter that reps 75% of is max for a set is going to reap far more benefits than the lifter surpassing his max for assisted reps. Assisted reps are extremely ambiguous calculators of your own raw strength and overall control. "Partials" and "cheat reps are also utterly useless to growth and developing strength. In fact, such lifts are normally accompanied by poor form (which increases the likelihood of injury).

Full Range Of Motion

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Good Form or Heavy Weight?

As the old saying goes 'Rome wasn't built overnight', many gym enthusiasts must hold certain values close to heart. Out in the real world it's all about material wealth, be it fast cars, wads of cash, or the excesses associated with lifestyles of the rich & famous...but none of that gets you any respect in the gym.

The gym's like a rainbow, with a pot of gold at each side of the multi-colored arch. The hardworker contents himself with one pot, but the rich man strives for both. Pot #1 is reached through attaining a lean physique, dryness, and freaky vascularity. It's being able to raise your shirt and flare your abs - or - even better, contract your obliques. The lean, symmetrical bodybuilder works hard in the less glamourous corners of the gym (e.g. the Cardio section). This type of lifter consumes only enough calories to sustain him/herself and perfect his/her already-toned muscle bellies. At advanced levels, these athletes are more concerned with developing 'cuts' & 'striations' than necessarily 'putting on more mass'. Lean, symmetrical bodybuilders will be amongst the most vocal opponents of 'bulking phases', because they are very cognizant to the fact that most people will end up putting on much more fat to muscle at the conclusion of said program.

At the other end of the rainbow is Pot#2 - the treasure for those out to increase raw strength. These guys often will have a muscular build, typically displaying large deltoids (shoulders), increased latissimus dorsi (back) width & depth, as well as larger (less defined) biceps & triceps (arms). These lifters are divided into athletes that train heavy for reps (more for bodybuilding) and athletes that train for heavy single-rep competitions (e.g. more traditional powerlifting). Mainstream powerlifters may also train with boards, as well as with kettlebells. Traditional powerlifters rarely use weightlifting-gloves and often prefer chalk - a controlled substance at many fitness clubs across the country...

So...which is more important: form or weight? Whether you ask a lean bodybuilder or a bulky powerlifter, both will tell you that form is always your first priority. Following form, you want to have a full range of motion! Next, you want to have a good spotter present to assist you with negatives ('on the way down' of the rep) and hopefully to assist you through a few forced reps (usually taking place when lactic acid is building up in your muscle, you're fatigued, and your muscle is fully contracted & about to eXplode). And then....all the way at the very bottom of the list - comes weight.

Remember that weight impresses no one, if you're not using proper form! If your form sucks, chances are you're cheating yourself of the exercise and highly prone to injury. Good form, full range of motion, and respectable weight comes through TIME & HARD WORK.

Stay focused & always...stay NATURAL!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Do Straps Really Help?

Ok. Anyone that's into bodybuilding or strength-training knows that the market is saturated full of supplements & gym accessories. As I'll discuss in later posts, some of the better supplements for the natural bodybuilder include simple basics like Whey Isolate (it's almost 2009, quit drinkin milk concentrate), Creatine Monohydrate (in cycles), Tribulus Terrestris, L-Arginine, & L-Carnitine. These products are safe and readily accessible. There's a long list of other supplements we will discuss, some healthy, others questionable.

As for accessories...there's a lot of crap out there that you just don't need. However, like the supplements, there are basics you should invest and put into your gym bag. (1)Weight Lifting Belt - the jury is back [on this page] and the wisdom is this: for heavy-ass squats you want to ensure that the base of your spine is protected, you don't want to pull anything, and you most certainly don't want to get hurt b/c your cheapass couldn't go out and buy a good foam-based or leather belt, either will do.

(2) Wraps. You need these. If you like doing heavyass leg presses and/or squats, you'd be wise to wrap your knees. Don't throw these babies on if you're pressing six 45's, unless you're in physical therapy or you're a pussy - lol. You can take all the Glucosamine you want, hurt your knees in the gym and you can say goodbye to building thick, cut, powerful wheels. Anyone can do a double-biceps or a latspread, very few can lift up their shorts and showoff wheels. Buy the fuckin wraps; Harbinger is what I use -- $20.

(3)STRAPS - Ok. So far we've covered accessories that serve only one muscle group, albeit that muscle group being your largest and most powerful. Straps on the other hand, help with grip.

Although few people isolate their arm workouts, even fewer people treat the forearms as a distinct bodypart. Most folks fail to realize the forearms are the key to powerful grip.

Proper forearm development aside, I like to advocate the use of straps. This accessory wraps around the wrist and the weight, relieving the hands and the arms of movements meant for larger, more balanced targeted muscle groups like back, legs, & traps. Straps can also be used for bicep curls - where they prove to be very useful for bodybuilder and strength-trainers alike.

Harbinger Wraps - $20
Harbinger Straps - $15-20
Valeo Weightlifting Belt - $18-35

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Updates I.

Sadly I missed the Downtown YMCA Meet, but sure enough I sense a rivalry is brewing between Josh (Westside YMCA) & Thomas (Downtowwn-YMCA). From what I understand, Thomas won his class with a high lift of 300lbs, with Josh taking second at 275lbs. Between the two, Thomas (rumor has it) wanted to put up 315lbs, meanwhile Josh claims Thomas outweighs him by 9lbs. It sure would be interesting to see what Josh could do at his home gym, as well as if Thomas would be able to nail 315 or more.
YouTube Scouting Begins

I'll be scouting YouTube.com for powerlifters, bodybuilders, amateur nutrition-minds, endurance athletes, and gym observers (10 per category) to join the StrengthAddicts.com family. Each person that's "tapped" will receive a special message explaining the site and its objectives. Each tapped member will have the right to pass that along - to only 1 fellow athlete, of equal or greater potential, of their choice.

Q&A's, Info-Articles, Video, T-Shirts, & Sponsorship

More info to come.

Friday, October 24, 2008

StrengthAddicts.com Registered

Ok, so I've got the name. I need to head to bed for 9AM class in Grand Rapids. Will get to work on some ideas tomorrow and will hopefully be able to cover some of the lifts on the upcoming Bench Press Challenge at the downtown Lansing YMCA. Night!