Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bodybuilding: Groundless Theories That Can Hamper Your Chest Growth

I wonder how many of you reading this have used alternating dumbell curls for your biceps. If so, let me ask you this: Have you ever asked yourself why you do them? Think about it; you never perform alternating repetitions for most other exercises. When was the last time you did an alternating leg press, alternating leg extensions, or alternating overhead triceps extensions? Probably never. Yet it?s common to see people copying what they see others do in performing alternating biceps curls. And since they?re resting each arm while lifting the weight in the opposing arm, they?re essentially doing a rest/pause between each repetition when performing curls in this manner.

One day in the gym, I asked a guy why he does alternating dumbell curls for his biceps. I pointed out that there aren?t any other muscle groups that get this alternating rest/pause treatment. What benefit was each of his biceps getting from resting as much as five seconds between repetitions? He just scratched his head and looked at the floor. ?I don?t know?? he said, smiling. ?I?ve never really thought about it?

And this brings up my point. I?m not here to tell people they?re wrong in doing alternating dumbell curls. I?m here to express that they might be cutting themselves short in life when they go through it ?never really thinking about it?. We tend to do even less thinking when we perceive the people we?re emulating (like the BIG alternating dumbell curl guy) to be experts.

Here?s something to ponder that?s a bit more consequential than whether you alter your dumbell curls. Do you subscribe to the bodybuilding theory that says you need to focus mostly on compound movements to build size? You know the story: to build a big chest, your routine needs to consist of mostly bench pressing ? for bigger legs, you?d better do a lot of squats. I?ve heard this over and over again. But is it really true? I?ve gained my best pectoral size after putting bench pressing routines on the back burner in favor of flyes. And I?m not the only one; I first became motivated to do it when I read an article many years ago in which bodybuilding legend Scott Wilson said his chest only grew when he dumped the excessive bench pressing.

Think about it: Why would compound movements be better than isolation one?s for building your body? Muscle growth occurs when you advance to moving higher volumes of weight than you previously could. If that happens while doing flat dumbell flyes for your chest, your pecs will get bigger? period. Equally, if you train your chest with bench pressing in a haphazard manner that leads to over-training, your chest won?t get any bigger even though you opted for bench pressing over flyes. It?s that simple.

Consider this: let?s say for argument?s sake that your pectoral muscles will move one third of the load when you?re bench pressing. This sounds reasonable since the deltoids and triceps are heavily called upon when performing upper body pressing movements. If you can eke out ten repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench, you?d move a total volume of 2,225 pounds but your pecs might have been called upon for a third of that work; about 742 pounds.

It?s safe to bet that a person who can do ten good reps with 225 on the bench can also perform ten strict repetitions of flat bench dumbell flyes with 50 pound dumbbells. However, those strict reps of dumbell flyes would place a significantly greater volume demand directly on the pectorals within the same time allotment required by the bench pressing. The two fifty pound dumbells are a hundred pounds on the whole chest, times ten equals a thousand. That?s a thousand pounds of volume (thirty-five percent more than the bench pressing) placed almost exclusively on the pec muscles.

Even if you can only use forty pound dumbells for the flyes, you?ll still beat the bench press for volume load on the pecs (800 lbs vs. 742 lbs). This assumes that your pectorals are indeed taking exactly one-third of the stress during bench pressing. It could be more than that or it could be a bit less; it depends much on the genetically-determined structure of your upper body.

What?s in a Hormone Spike?

Many compound movement advocates site the theory that the body releases more anabolic hormones when performing big movements like squats and bench presses. To this assertion, I can pose three very good questions:

1. How much additional testosterone can bench pressing produce over isolation movements? (unless it?s huge amounts, it?s not going to matter)

2. Does this increase represent higher average levels of the hormone during recovery, or is it only a spike during and directly after a workout? (don?t buy the ?two-hour window? theory)

3. All other things considered ? does it really matter?

Here?s an even better question: If one guy does his bench pressing in a wimpy manner and another guy does his flyes like his life depends on it ? who gets the best testosterone spike?

Another question: Since sexual activity also spikes testosterone levels, does the heavy flye user who has sex after his workout produce more testosterone than the bench presser who doesn?t?

I think you get my point. Natural testosterone ebbs and flows in everyone (women too). It?s really the levels we average during our entire recuperation period between workouts that matters. And how much does that matter? If you average a few nanograms per decileter more than I do, I?ll probably just take one more day off between workouts and make just as much muscular gain as you.

Form Matters on Flye Movements

To build your chest with flyes, good form is absolutely essential. All too often, I see people performing movements that resemble a sort of hybrid between flyes and dumbell presses. These are about the most useless things you can do for your pecs. Your elbows do need to be slightly bent during flyes to prevent hyper-extending them. However, pivoting at the elbows instead of the shoulders is just a sneaky way of deferring or avoiding discomfort.

Let?s face it, doing heavy flyes in a strict and disciplined manner is painful. When relatively heavy dumbells are lowered with outstretched arms until they?re horizontal and even with your head on the bench, there?s a searing kind of stress throughout the chest region. When you squeeze the muscles as you carefully arc the dumbells upward and back together, the pain and positive effect from working the pecs so directly is only intensified. This is a good indication that you?re doing them correctly.


I currently do only one compound movement during my chest workout and the rest of it consists of flyes and pec-deck exercises. What?s more, I do my bench pressing movement late in the workout so that my pectorals have become somewhat pre-exhausted. This has all led to far greater pectoral growth compared to the days when I did set after set of flat and incline bench pressing.

If you?re having trouble with pectoral growth, I suggest you try a flye and pec-deck dominated workout routine. Let go of the erroneous belief that these are ?shaping exercises?. Consider this: Ray ?Thunder? Stern, a bodybuilder from the distant past, had some of the best pectoral muscles I?ve ever seen when he was at his peak. It was said by some of his friends that he could perform incline dumbell flyes with a pair of 120-pound dumbells. That?s incredible.

Impressive flye movements will produce an impressive chest.

Scott Abbett is the author of HardBody Success: 28 Principles to Create Your Ultimate Body and Shape Your Mind for Incredible Success.

Scott is a certified fitness trainer and a certified Master Practitioner and Trainer of NLP. You can view his own physical transformation by visiting

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Forced Reps: Disasterous for Natural Bodybuilding

Nobody can rightfully lecture me about training intensity. In the mid-1980s, I endured over thirty weeks of BUD/S Training; the basic regimen one goes through to enter the Navy SEAL Teams. I went through that training?s Hell Week twice ? start to finish. At a tender age, I learned how to push my body well past the pain barrier of muscle fatigue and bodily exhaustion that?s a signal to us that it?s time to quit and take a rest. I could, upon internal command, become an endorphin-releasing, pain-ignoring workout machine? unstoppable!

Our dependability under pressure was augmented by such a regimen, but not our physiques. In other words, we built more character than muscle in BUD/S Training.

Later on when I took up natural bodybuilding, I carried my work ethic and proclivity for intensity over to that endeavor. This resulted in experimentation with every conceivable bodybuilding workout intensifying technique in existence. I?ve used drop sets, pre-exhaustion, up-and-down-the-rack, and the ever ubiquitous forced reps. Name the intensifier ? I?ve tried it. At one time, I even used a derivation of forced reps that was borderline insane. Imagine taking a bench pressing weight with which you can eke out ten repetitions. Now imagine your spotter standing behind the bench and pushing down on the weight for the first few reps as you attempt to push it up. By the time you make it to the second five reps, your spotter has shifted from trying to make the weight heavier for you to trying to help you bring it up on the positive. This effectively gives every rep the intensity of a forced one and will have your spotter inadvertently getting a bent over rowing workout. I don?t recommend that you try these.

In fact, I?m here to dissuade you from engaging in any of this nonsense. If workout intensifying techniques were the key to muscle growth, I would have been freaky huge by the time I was twenty-nine. Instead, I was chucking my weight belt across the room in frustration as I arrived home from the gym each day. I was mad at bodybuilding. Thoughts of quitting plagued my mind. Nowhere was there such a mismatch between effort and reward than in this wacky endeavor or sport.

I remember reading an article that raved about how professional bodybuilder Tom Platz took all of his sets to failure and beyond. My thoughts were ?big deal ? I do this all the time?. It seemed that without the aid of steroids and the genetic predisposition for superhuman recovery, I was destined to build more character than muscle from high intensity practices. I wanted an attention-getting body, yet all I was producing was attention-getting workouts.

It?s this frustration from which I want to save natural trainers. You will waste your time and effort by taking the no-pain/no-gain mantra to its extreme. Much like a member of BUD/S Training, you?ll build plenty of character, but not a nicer body.

You might be asking how I could make such a claim. Yet the answer is revealed when you really ask yourself how well you?re doing with your muscle building progress if you?re a practitioner of forced reps or any other bodybuilding intensifying techniques. Are you making steady and measureable gains? Some words of warning: a ?pump? at the conclusion of your workout is not a sign of gains. The same is true for local muscle fatigue and soreness. As I often tell people: ?A successful workout might be physically taxing ? but this doesn?t mean any physically taxing workout is successful.?

In order for a muscle building workout to be successful, you must move a slightly higher volume of weight than you did during your previous workout. This won?t happen without adequate inter-workout recuperation. And adequate recuperation is next to impossible after muscles have been obliterated due to the erroneous belief that this will somehow equate to more or better growth.

If you?re a natural trainer (or even if you?re a steroid user who wants to make progress between cycles), heed my advice. Don?t waste time and effort discovering what took me years to figure out. Push your bodybuilding workouts with enough intensity to burst through your past volume records. Couple this practice with enough rest and recuperation between workouts to allow a warm expansion and absence of soreness to permeate the tissue.

When you do this, you?ll be well on your way to steady muscle growth. You can then leave the character building to those more devoid and desirous of that than a great physique.

Scott Abbett is the author of HardBody Success: 28 Principles to Create Your Ultimate Body and Shape Your Mind for Incredible Success.

Scott is a certified fitness trainer and a certified Master Practitioner and Trainer of NLP. You can view his own phyical transformation by visiting

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Low GI Carbs And How They Help Your Bodybuilding Workouts

Do you know how high GI carbs can affect how easy it is to achieve your bodybuilding goals?

Well, if you didn't then read this article, as you'll learn exactly the difference between low GI (glycemic index) carbs and high GI carbs, and how they affect your ability to gain muscle and lose fat.

So what is a low GI food?

A carbohydrate that's low GI, means that the carbs are absorbed slowly into the bloodstream. When carbs are absorbed, they're converted to glucose.

Because of slow absorption, blood sugar levels are relatively stable and there's no a spike of insulin levels.

In contrast, high GI carbs are absorbed quickly. Hence there's a spike in insulin produced by the body to get the blood glucose level back down.

And insulin is a hormone that promotes fat storage, which means it's harder to lose fat when you workout!

The Glycemic Index in fatc rates foods from 1 to 100, where 100 is the highest GI factor.

And the effects of a high GI carb meal?

They are:

1. Insulin spiking and hence fat storage.

2. High blood glucose levels followed by low glucose levels, causing irritable mood and poor mental functioning.

3. The high glucose level is followed by a low glucose level (due to the insulin acting to lower blood glucose levels) causing hunger and craving of sugary foods. This can lead to eating more carbs and on the cycle goes.

4. Increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes.

So the lesson here is to have low GI carbs.

The exception is after your weight training workout where it's not as crucial and this is where you can have some high GI carbs.

What are some examples of low GI carbs?

They are:
1. Basmati rice
2. Most vegetables (especially green ones) and fruits
3. Grainy and sourdough bread
4. Fish and meats
5. Pasta

So go for it and get a healthy diet, which will help you to achieve your bodybuilding goals.

Lucas Ryan helps you to gain muscle and lose fat so that you can show off your bodybuilding efforts and look ripped in no time. For more valuable tips visit his muscle building site to learn about bodybuilding diets, as well as lots of bodybuilding workout tips, to get real results with your training.

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