First Things First

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Bored? It’s Not the Movement. It’s the Mover.


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Last week I briefly described five types of trainees standing on the gym floor with their towels in their hands. One is the consistently fit lifter who presses on season after season; two is the distracted fitness seeker who barely manages to maintain his training schedule; three is the hardcore bulker seeking definition; four is the seasonal visitor who hopes one day to stay and play and five is the newcomer feeling the heaviness of his slight presence amid the iron. What a group. Their paths will cross as they move about the machines, racks and benches.

Some will systematically maneuver, others will purposefully charge; there’ll be casual ramblers, lost wanderers and a few slogs. Each will go his own way directed by instinct, experience, intelligent planning, safe habit, guesswork or pure accident. It all works, more or less, if they only stick to it. Some have, some do, some will and some don’t have a chance.

The lifter who is consistent year after year has settled the matter. He (or she) knows where he’s going cuz he knows where he’s been. He loves the gym, he needs it and it serves him well. To let go would be like freefalling in outer space without connection to the source. He can manipulate the exercises, finesse the weights and orchestrate routines. He knows how and when, and what’s too much. He persisted and here he is.

The second fitness seeker struggles with his needs and desires. He knows the rules, but has trouble applying them: Persevere, stick to the basics and train hard; be consistent, overload the muscles and eat right; press on, blast it and endure. The gym is his safe haven and strength, but he’s torn away in the blink of an eye. Life’s demanding -- family, house and job. Wait; these are invalid excuses to skip workouts and perfect reasons to work out regularly. Here is the weakness in his structure, the flaw in the material of which he’s made, the frayed thread in the fabric of his life: he’s unable to compromise, he lacks boldness, he fails to persist.

Hold it there!

Maintaining and improving one’s health and strength in body, mind and spirit is not an option. What one does for himself in these areas he does for those around him -- his wife and kids, his friends and colleagues, his neighborhood and country. That’s a strong statement (and who am I to make it?), but it’s the truth.

This guy (or gal) could go to the gym -- downtown, garage or basement -- 45 to 60 minutes a day three or four days a week and do leg raises and crunches at home, if he had the will to do it. Will is in the heart of the hunter. It’s in his all-knowing, all-powerful center somewhere and needs to be located and ushered forth. This take guts -- courage, commonsense and responsibility. Folks, we’re talking about real and definite degrees of living and dying, functioning and performing, looking and feeling and being. This is no ego trip. No groaning about the discomfort, inconvenience, sacrificed pleasures or compromised family time. Wake up and do your job... better yet, share it with your favorite mob.

Go to the gym and alternate these routines with eager and focused attention:

Day One:

Six exercises

~ Bench press supersetted wide-grip pulldown
3-4 sets x 8 -10 reps

This combo is comprised of standard exercises that are hard to miss. They are like red and yellow in the color chart of bodybuilding movements. They add depth and width to an ordinary scene and bring a dull picture alive. Don’t treat them as passing amusements, boring basics or daily chores. Respect, honor and obey these push-and-pull fundamentals. They are generous donors to the noble cause of muscle and might.

My immediate thought is to give you warning. Use the simple pair as exercises to build muscle and improve your structure. They are very good at this job and will serve you for a long, long time. After 50 years (child prodigy) of tackling pig iron, I still rely on and enjoy cable pulldowns of different sorts. The bench press is another story. It too often captains our ship, causing an inevitable wreck. Those forced reps with too much weight, executed with wicked lopsided form throughout our training years fill hospital waiting rooms with limply hanging shoulders as surgeons prepare their teams and sharpen their knives.

Who needs it? Take the bench to 80-percent output working the muscle with concentrated effort. It’s a worthwhile exercise and develops torso thickness and might, some pec, some triceps, some front delt. Swell! Just don’t worship the pile of metal or let the taskmaster get in your face. My guess? You will. I use the skilled orthopedic surgeon Dr. Tom Norris in San Francisco.

~ Dumbbell inclines supersetted with seated lat row (low pull)
3-4 sets x 8 - 10 reps

I offer this duo often, not because I lack creativity, but because they’re a fantastic combination for health and development. They are real exercises -- direct hitters -- that make you work hard and athletically and provide an exhilarating rush. Choose varying degrees of incline to suit your mood, need, urge, wear and tear (low --15 degrees is tough and hits mid-chest and front delts; high -- 60 degrees-plus is tougher and hits high pec and a fuller front and side deltoid area). Remember, muscle-making maniacs, form and muscle recruitment are more important for the growth of healthy muscle than the amount of weight handled. Heavy weight is a worthy objective, but too much can compromise muscle growth when technique is designed to raise maximum weight rather than engage the muscle. Shoulder injuries plague lifters cuz they, led by their ever persuasive ego, hoist more than they should on too many occasions.

Believe it or not: Dumbbell incline presses are a better and safer exercise than the heralded bench press for building beefy muscle and brute power in the chest and shoulders.

The seated lat row is a keeper. Grab your favorite handle with a narrow grip, palms facing each other. With the knees slightly bent to allow the hands to move without obstruction, lean forward and stretch out to gain an effective range of motion. Now pull the handles toward your upper body as you assume a seated upright position. Continue contracting the back muscles and pulling the handles toward the beltline. At this point of the action, focus on arching your back to achieve maximum muscle contraction. A nanosecond hold to distinguish the contraction from the action is a good practice. Return with control to the starting position and repeat. This is a rhythmic and powerful action that develops the lower back as well as the attractive outer length of the lats. It goes on to produce mass and density within the major regions of the back and rhomboids.

Don’t forget the great gripping, forearm and biceps demand this single mighty exercise affords.

This superset can be done for power and mass by going slowly and increasing the resistance to each exercise every set -- first set x 10 reps, increase weight, second set x 8 reps, increase weight, third set x 6 reps. Don’t stop at three sets if your blasting spirit is high.

You can accentuate weight loss, athletics and muscle definition by moving quickly and evenly set to set with a fixed moderate weight for fixed reps. 3 sets x 10 reps, same weight. Burn and pump. Go.

~ Stiff-leg deadlift supersetted with stiff-arm dumbbell pullover
3 sets x 8 -10 reps

Deadlifts done with stiff legs (near-locked knees) will prevent you from going too heavy too soon and, thus, safely build the lower back region and add health and strength to the sometimes under-developed hamstrings. Over-grip an adequately loaded bar at waist width, stand upright and assume a shoulder-wide stance. From this erect starting position bend at the waist and lower the bar toward the floor. The safe and proper form is to keep the descending bar close to the body (almost touching) until you reach a satisfactory low point. You then rise steadily to the starting position (upright and shoulders back) and repeat. Feel the resistance in the lower back throughout the movement and seek your maximum hamstring stretch by focusing on the signals of healthy pain you receive. Smartly increase your safe range of motion over time.

You’re moving a lot of blood and putting a significant load on your lungs and energy resources. Good conditioning, tough work. Be ready.

The stiff-arm pullover is great for deep breathing and recovery from the deadlift. The lats are brought into play and add smartly to your V-shape. Minor pec recruitment helps support the chest region (hi goils) and the tris and bis work uniquely under the application of stiff-arm stretching. The abs and the serratus are put to task to hold the elongating system together. This feel-good exercise is a sweet way to wrap up day one. You’re done.

Day Two:

Five exercises

~ Legs -- bike, squats, and calves

Hop on the bike for 10 minutes and after a sufficient warm-up, pedal like something screeching, thumping and clawing is chasing you. Wasn’t that fun? Now you’re fully prepared for either full squats or leg presses. Mind you, full squats are really an experience and afford many advantages. If you’re ready, then go for them --they need some special instruction and we’re running out of time, space and attention span.

Squats
3–4 sets x 10 reps

Or leg press
3-4 sets x 12 - 15 reps

Leg presses are a good movement and require little or no teaching. Keep your feet shoulder width and bend your knees in their natural track. Go deep enough to engage the quads fully without rounding the lower back excessively, thus putting it at risk. Practice a smooth and decisive motion. There’s serious untapped power in those major muscles.

Calf raises performed on a calf machine can be done before, after or during your thigh work.
4-5 sets x 15 - 20 reps

~ Standing barbell curl supersetted with machine dips
4 sets x 10 reps

Standing curls might look like a mere biceps exercise at first glance, but throw in enough spice and the whole body cooks. Add a little weight to the bar, strain the isolation from the motion and pour on some savory body-thrust and you have a thick, full-bodied stew. When I watch a lifter standing erect and performing a rigid, almost brittle, concentration curl, I see a thin insipid broth in the making. Where’s the beef and hearty chunks of choice vegetables? Have fun. Satisfy your appetite. Stir that concoction with zest and flavor.

Freehand dips are great, but not everyone can do them, or do them with control. Dips performed on a machine enable you to manage the groove and direct the affect of each set and rep: lean forward -- more chest or lean back -- more triceps and back; rep slowly -- more muscle exertion or rep quickly -- more pump.

If you’re hot and that’s not enough, throw in some thumbs-up curls supersetted with pulley pushdowns for reassurance. Three fast and ferocious sets will set you on fire.

Try this: Alternate Day 1 and Day 2 every other day -or- two days on and one or two days off -or- alternate Day 1 and Day 2 any days for three or four workouts a week. Find the pattern that suits you and stick to it. Persistence, insistence and muscle resistance take you the distance. Yo!

About eating:
Smaller meals
More frequently
Lottsa water
Lottsa protein
No junk
No fried food and excess fat
No sugar
Supplement with the basics
Pre- and post-workout protein and carb drinks

Rest and relax and be nice to your neighbor.

Clean under your wings and behind your ailerons and don’t forget to lubricate your landing gear. Look sharp, bombers, fly high and keep your eye on the eternal horizon.

Go... Draper

Laree here...Dave ran out of space for an expanded squat instruction, and, because it's such a valuable exercise that he wants everyone doing, asked me to send those in need off to learn the finer points of what you knew in high school as deep knee bends.

Let's start here, with the time-honored description, How to Squat:

Now, for the finer points -- the finesse that only Dave can persuade -- here's Dave's portrayal of The Squat:

This morning, before anyone could possibly have known this was to come up in the newsletter, one of the IronOnline forum members asked for input into squatting form. Here's that discussion, in which you can interject any squat form questions you might have, and below that is a link to an earlier forum interchange, similar, yet different.

The more advanced will perhaps have heard whisperings about 20-rep squats, but perhaps have not been close enough to suffer the yelling that follows one of these mighty high-rep sets. Your questions about 20-reppers will be answered at the first link, and here's an excerpt from Randy Strossen's book, Super Squats.

Dave's top squat device will put life back in the squats of those of you with shoulder problems; for a more complete picture of your path back to hearty leg workouts, click here.

Much more leg training information, including how to front squat or overhead squat, a review of the manta ray and buffalo bar, and a full archive of deadlifting dialogue (instruction, photos and a conversation covering when to insert deads into your weekly routine), see the IOL leg training collection.

Click here to see the other new pages of the website this week.

Click here for more Draper Summertime Strategies

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