What not to do for beginners
What not to do for beginners
I have watched beginners and stagnant novices slug out the same workouts
week after week and they fail to make any progress. My biggest pet peave
is the cable crossover station. I see a lot of guys with no mass
standing in front of the mirror doing all kinds of piss poor variations
of cable crossovers with all of about 10# on each stack. You do realize
that a 2 pulley crossover station is half the resistance right? Look at
the length of cable travel vs. the distance that the weight travels -
simple physics, it is half the load. However, I do not see the same
anemic looking individuals lying on a flat or incline bench with the
chrome girlie weights doing flyes....perhaps it is just ignorance? Just
bear in mind that if the load feels light, common sense should take
over. No, it is not 20#, no, doing a 100# curl with the cable is not the
same as a 100# barbell, etc.
But let us address chest day. Truth be told, you do not need to do 20
sets for chest. Frankly, I would not bother with the pec dec, cable
crossover, or hammer machines. Go and do a pressing movement or two and
then flys or dips and call it done. You want to know the real truth
about building a big chest??? If you are looking for size, you should be
spending a good amount of time on the incline bench with either a
barbell or dumbbells, then, you can either do flat....or.....you can use
the decline bench and work your lowers with dumbbells. Most of you head
to the flat bench. Flat bench is ok but actually, the tudor bompa's IEMG
studies show that decline dumbbell bench is more effective for building
the pectoralis major. It is up to you. I still do flat dumbbells only
because my training partner is stuck on them but frankly, my greatest
lower pec development came from decline dumbbell bench.
Anyway, on to another important topic.
So you wonder why you are not growing? Hmmm, well, I never see you guys
putting in work in the squat rack. Actually, I dont see you doing legs
hardly at all and when you do, you seem to fixate on the 45 degree leg
press with 2-3 plates per side and perhaps the leg extension. Again,
though you have 270# on the sled, you are actually only challenged by
270 * cos(45) = 191# which is not equivalent to a 190# squat....not even
190 on the smith machine. But I give you credit though, at least you are
doing something. Those of you who do not train legs are really limiting
On back day, there is a platform and it has an olympic bar on it. There
are also benches near the dumbbells. You typically meander over to the
hammer strength row machines.....why? Why not pick up a bar and row it
or use the dumbbells and do some rows? The machines are NOT the same.
Any time that you are on a fixed track, you have the opportunity to
cheat the load a bit. When you are bent over with a heavy dumbbell or
barbell in your hands, it is gravity, straight down, you can either lift
it or not. You cant suck your body up to your elbow and then lean back
to move the handle...the bar is a dead piece of meat, you either smash
it in to your chest/belly or you do not. Simple. easy. effective.
The core....a very important piece of the equation. Much as you need a
strong back, you need strong abs and obliques as well. some of you will
be able to do deadlifts...and if you can do the movement, there is no
reason not to. They will give you good trap, forearm, lumbar, and leg
development.....and being use to having a heavy barbell in your hands
will make movements such as shrugs, rows, and power cleans that much
easier. For those of you who cannot do deadlifts, you should spend some
time on the back extension bench. Again, machines are nice, easy to sit
in, etc. but there is nothing like dead mass working against gravity and
when your bodyweight is not enough, you hug a plate. Again, simple,
easy, and effective. You do not need to do 10 sets, heck 3 is better
than nothing...just make sure not to neglect this area. Similarly, you
should do a little ab work. Dont spend a half hour working your abs,
just hit them with a few sets and move on. Add resistance if necessary.
Arms....Lord have mercy, talk about an area that you guys are willing to
commit effort to...but there is a difference between wasted effort and
good effort. Again, no need for 10 sets here either. Go grab a barbell,
place your hands a tad wider than shoulder width, and curl the barbell
WITHOUT using your anterior deltoids. You are not there to impress
anyone, pick a weight that you can handle and do some good clean curls.
When you cannot curl the weight clean, you can give it a little swing to
help you up for the last rep or two. By this time though, your arms
should be pumped up and burning so a couple of swings is all it takes.
Maybe 3-4 sets here and then on to another exercise....no, not the cable
curl. Tudor Bompa's IEMG studies show that the preacher curl is most
effective in stimulating the biceps. Personally, I like using a dumbbell
and working one arm at a time. Again, the key here is not hoisting
weight, do the movement properly, dont try to spring off of your biceps
tendon at the bottom. Lower the weight and lift it, when you cant lift
it, do the other arm. I see some guys having someone help them up and
then continue to help them up for another 4 reps and they do this for 5
sets...you cant recover from it....Geez! when you cant curl the bar
anymore by yourself, that is FAILURE. That is bad enough, set the bar
down. Honestly, 3 sets of straight bar and 3 sets of preachers is more
than adequate for most beginners. 4-5 sets of straight bar curls by
themselves is enough. Some of you guys do double this and wonder why
your arms will not grow. Simple, you are overtraining.
Triceps, this is an area where I see a lot of people slack
EXCEPT....except for the pulley pushdown. Now, mind you, the pulley
pushdown is effective and I wont knock it but, I think some french
presses, skull crushers, or triceps dips are required as well. Again
though, you dont need 10 sets for triceps. You should be able to do
enough damage in 6-8 sets or say 4-5 good sets of skull crushers.
See, really what I am saying is, there are about a dozen basic exercises
and many of you totally sidestep the basics. You use a mix of machines,
cables, unorthodox movements, you do too much of it, and you never grow,
and you wonder why. Frankly, if you fixate moreso on a high school
weight training program, your results will be much better than trying to
use something that you read in muscle and fitness.
And for heaven's sake, if you have Arnold's 'Encyclopedia of Modern
Bodybuilding', burn it....the book is heresy....and you will never
recover from his routines, not even the beginner routines. It is
pointless to go to the gym day after day and beat yourself in to
submission only to find that you are stagnant. Work hard but work smart
and do not allow your zeal and enthusiasm to drag you into an
I did not write this to be critical nor did I cover all of the topics
for a whole body program. My intent was merely to call attention to some
problems that I see time and time again with the younger crowd, and
perhaps the middle aged beginning weight trainer as well.
Everything you described is partly the result of these guys reading the muscle magazines. I have actually seen guys with a magazine in the gym opened to an arm routine doing the exercises. I have even watched trainers with a new member and they show them how to do 4 different bicep exercises. Do they get near the squat rack? Heck no, they may scare them away!
When I first started going to the gym about 18 years ago I was buying all of the magazines and reading the articles about the top bodybuilders. Through trial and error I figured it out, they don't do these routines in the articles! I finally realized that I had to work my core with the basic compound movements that were working before the machines were available.
Cable exercises and single joint movements are typically more 'camera-friendly' than multi-joint movements like squats or presses. It's difficult to have the model flex and generally look like the photographer wants them to look if they are bearing hundreds of pounds.
Therefore, the magazines are littered with a bunch of photos of people doing crunches and curls.
Additionally, the staple exercises (i.e squats, deadlifts, presses) are simply difficult to do. It's easier to go curl 100 pounds a few times than it is to squat a couple hundred pounds. As a result, individuals lean towards doing the simpler, one-joint movements.
Like maturemuscle said, the people turn to the media for information. Unfortunately, the magazines and television shows (think: The Biggest Loser) perpetuate relatively poor advice and we see the manifestations of these pieces of advice in our gyms.
I disagree that the Arnold Encyclopedia is a bad resource. I don't doubt that many beginners misuse it, thinking it's the one-and-only means to getting "jacked". But, there's lots of great info.
I'm reading it...not for programs, but for information on how the different muscles work and interact with each other, how to hit certain obscure muscles, how to hit certain parts of muscles harder, NUTRITION (great stuff on this), psychology, etc.
I think as long as someone understands that they need to venture further than one book (i.e. "second opinion") then all is well. It's a good resource when used in conjunction with other books and articles.
Deeeeyum...did he bring out Cosine in a conversation about fitness??? Great job!
The Next Big Thing
- Rep Points
I remember a dude at my old gym. He saw me squatting and walked over to me: "Don't train your legs! Show me your biceps!" I never saw him doing anything else but bench press and curls.
I agree the Arnold encyc. has some usefull information,but the problem is that beginers read a source like that without having the knowledge and experience to apply any of it safely.Muscle mags are bad news for the newbs,and don't even mention the p90x adds. I believe beginners and more seasoned folks as well should read and learn everything they can;they just shouldn't try to use eveything they read.
When asked for information by new guys in the gym, I tell them to watch what the big guys are doing. I them them to notice what exercises they are doing, the intensity, sets and reps. I tell them to work the core muscles with compound movements and the arms will grow with your core muscles. I was doing weighted dips once and this college guy asks me if my hamstrings cramp when I do the dips. I said no, why? He said that his always cramped when doing dips. I asked what he did for legs and he said he didn't work legs. I explained that his lack of leg muscle growth will slow growth in the other muscle groups. He was shocked and said that no one had ever told him that before.
I think most people's problem is plain and simple that they have a vagina, and they don't even realize it. I'm not talking about a vagina like Built has, which I'm sure has the power to eat most men alive. I'm talking about the vagina of a 7 year old girl.
Seriously, the most consistent thing I see in people who produce good results is a strong work ethic. They bust their ass in the gym. That goes in line with doing leg work, free weight exercises, and compound movements. They hear 3x10 and they think, 3 sets of 10 with a weight I couldn't lift more than that. Instead of 3 sets of 10 of whatever bitch weight I feel like picking up right now.
I feel like next time I see somebody lifting like they are in the middle of getting a blowjob, I'm going to call them out on it.
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