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!