Advanced bodybuilders have learned over time that a systematic muscle priority approach to their workouts produces great results. It is their practice to focus each workout on one muscle group. Other muscles get worked to some degree when performing the focused sets; i.e. bench presses for the chest will also work the triceps and deltoids to some degree, lat-machine pull-downs will work the biceps as well as the latismus dorsi for which the exercise is intended.
A sample workout schedule:
- Monday – Blitz the chest with bench presses, flies, incline and decline presses and bent-arm-pullovers. Perform at least fives sets per exercise, increasing the weights appropriately. Some cardio-vascular and core exercises.
- Tuesday – Blitz the shoulders with upright presses, lateral raises, frontal raises, behind the neck presses, shrugs and dumbbell presses. Fives sets of each. Some cardio and core.
- Wednesday – Blitz the back with pull-ups, lat-machine pull downs, seated rowing, bent-over rowing and dumbbell rowing. Five sets of each. Some cardio and core.
- Thursday – Blitz the biceps and triceps with barbell curls, dumbbell curls, preacher-bench curls and concentration curls for the biceps; triceps machine press-downs, French presses, dumbbell extensions, push-ups and wall push-ups. Five sets of each. Some cardio and core.
- Friday – Blitz the thighs, hamstrings and calves with barbell squats, leg extensions, hamstring curls, dumbbell lunges, hack squats, calf raises with barbell, calf raises on leg press machine, donkey calf raises. Some cardio and core.
- Saturday and Sunday you get to rest.
Proponents of this approach to advanced bodybuilding claim they accelerate their muscle growth and progress towards that lean, fit, sexy body. As in any exercise and fitness program, nutrition is half of the equation. A high-protein diet including some unprocessed, complex carbohydrates will provide the energy and tissue building blocks the body needs for strength and that maximum fitness look.
Remove All Those Barriers to Your Program
There are a lot of excuses that keep us from following our program, not the least of which is the lack of initiative to get up off the couch and head for the gym or wherever else we exercise. For many people, it is just too hard to workout after a long day at the office or on the job. One answer to this is to find times that it is more convenient to exercise; in the early morning before work, at lunch time or at some other time during the work day. Many progressive companies are aware that a fit employee is a more productive employee, so they have allowances for working out. Some even have in-house fitness centers and others have a provision to pay all or part of a health club membership for key employees. Exercise should be performed before eating. Your body produces enzymes during exercise that suppress the appetite, so you tend to eat less immediately after a workout.
If you are a business traveler, stay at hotels where they have an in-house fitness center. If the hotel doesn’t have an exercise room, they often have connections with a nearby fitness center where the traveler can workout on a guest pass or day pass, often at no charge. If there is a charge, it is usually about the cost of a pint at the hotel bar . . . and which one will do you the most good? Some fitness organizations have “traveling memberships.” They are part of a chain or an organization that has affiliated members in other cities, where all members are welcome to use the facilities.
If you are successfully using the “visualization” process to program your subconscious, one of the suggestions you may implant is to workout on a regular basis at a regular time. This subconscious encouragement can provide the impetus to head for the gym instead of the couch in front of the one-eyed-monster (TV). Establishing a schedule that makes your workout a very important part of your life is a method that works for many people and it is certain to improve the quality of your life.
A recently seen bumper sticker, “QUIT SMOKING, QUIT DRINKING, DIET AND EXERCISE . . . DIE ANYWAY! Yes, but the quality of your life, your personal satisfaction and the physical ability to enjoy your life are more than worth the effort.
Free Weights, Machines or Push-ups?
Oogog looked around his cave. He had accumulated a bunch of different sized rocks and had arranged them along the side and back walls, pretty much by size and weight. He waddled and knuckled over to the first two smaller ones, picked up one in each hand and hoisted them to his hairy shoulders, and then with a thrust, he pressed them overhead. Moving to the second pair of larger rocks, he repeated the maneuver, this time with a little more effort. As me moved down the line picking up larger and larger stones, the perspiration popped out on his sloping forehead and his muscles swelled with the effort. Finally, he struggled aloft with the last pair of rocks, barely clearing the top of his head. He dropped them to the dirt floor of his cave and sagged back against a pile of furs. He was exhausted, but his muscles felt pumped and strong. The first workout equipment had been invented.
There are many choices in the selection of fitness equipment and most health and fitness centers have a mixture of several. When used properly, all the equipment will help an exerciser achieve results. Which will work best for you is usually a matter of personal choice or what you were introduced to first; free-weights, weight loaded machines, cable-and-pulley machines, body-weight resistance exercises, Nautilus machines, Hammer-Strength equipment, BowFlex, NordicTrac, the list goes on and on. They are all good, with advantages and disadvantages.
The choice of most dedicated bodybuilders and the only choice for power-lifters and weightlifters, free weights are very basic equipment. The Olympic style barbells and easy-curl bars are plate loaded and have retaining collars to prevent the weights from slipping off. Dumbbells and smaller barbells are often fixed at non-adjustable weight, so that an exerciser may move from set to set. Most exercises may be performed with free-weights using benches and plate-loaded machines specifically designed for them: Bench-press bench, incline press bench, decline press bench, squat rack, hack squat rack, rowing rack, preacher bench for curls, plate-loaded lat machine, calf raise machine.
Among the advantages of free weights are an almost a total lack of any maintenance required, simplicity and flexibility of use in a wide variety of exercises.
Disadvantages are their space requirements, heavier weights require a spotter for safety sake and minor athletic injuries are more prevalent.
This equipment provides many of the benefits of free weights, but without any of the hazards, nor the requirement of a spotter for heavier lifts. They use weight plates that are the same or very similar to those used with barbells, but the machines have fixed positions or may be adjusted for different exercises. They require little maintenance, but do take up a lot of space.
Mechanically Operated Machines
These devices have usually only one or two exercises that may be performed on them. They have a fixed weight stack that is operated by a system of cables and pulleys, or hydraulics or pneumatics. They require regular maintenance with cable wear being of particular concern. Most commercial fitness center have a lot of this type of equipment.
Created by Arthur Jones, an entrepreneur and fitness buff, Nautilus is so named because of the shape and configuration of the eccentric cam that provides the variable resistance that is the key to the effectiveness of this elaborate exercise gear. By providing a muscle resistance which changes throughout the full range of movement, the muscle is worked more thoroughly and effectively. A full-body Nautilus workout will take about forty minutes or less. The principle behind the effectiveness of this innovative machinery is to take the muscle to total exhaustion once, then move on to the next exercise without any pause. Bodybuilding may be performed on Nautilus, but it may require someone to assist with “negative” reps while using heavy weights. Many professional sports teams use Nautilus because it works on both strength and flexibility and injuries from usage are non-existent or rare.
Usually found in home-gyms or hotels where there is a limited amount of space available for exercise equipment. These machines offer a central core with several weight stacks which are connect to exercise-specific stations around the perimeter; bench press, military press, lat pull-down/triceps press-down, leg press, leg extension and curling bar. The mechanical functions are usually by cable-and-pulley or direct leverage. They require some maintenance, mostly lubrication and checking for cable wear.
Designed for home-gyms, a BowFlex uses cables and pulleys, but instead of a weight stack, they have metal springs (the bows) that provide muscle resistance. For increased resistance, multiple bows are connected to the cable attachments. These are very effective machines for multiple exercises. Their biggest advantage is they take up very little space and are easy to fold and stow away.
Cardio-Vascular Exercise Machines
Most cardio exercises involve running, sports walking, aerobics or bicycling and other activities that induce an increase in respiration and heartbeat. Commercial gyms and some home-gyms use cardio machines so that the weather is never a factor in a workout. These machines include treadmills, both simple and multi-featured; stair-steppers and elliptical exercisers. The well-equipped versions of these will feature a number of exercise programs, pulse monitors and are widely adjustable for resistance, speed and elevation.
Bodyweight Resistance Workout
The simplest means of getting a workout is to perform bodyweight resistance exercises. Only two pieces of equipment are required and these may be improvised; a chinning bar and a parallel bar arrangement. The exercises are simple, but are very effective when done properly, regularly and in sufficient numbers. American football great, the legendary Herschel Walker, was told as a young boy, the secret to being a good athlete was to do many push-ups and sit ups. Herschel did his exercises every day, thousands of push-ups and sit-ups and developed a muscular, athletic body that helped take him to fame and fortune on the gridiron in college and the National Football League.
- Push-Ups – Assume a prone position with the feet together and toes pointed at the ground. Place the hands on the ground at shoulder height and width. Keeping the body stiff, push away from the ground to arms length. Return to the start position and repeat for multiple repetitions. The initial goal should be twenty-five reps, then fifty and finally 100. Greater bodyweight resistance may be provided by elevating the feet. The triceps may be isolated by placing the hands closer together. This exercise will provide a good workout for the shoulders, chest, triceps and core.
- Pull-ups or Chins – Suspend a chinning bar at a little more than arms length overhead. Jump up and grasp the bar, palms forward about shoulder length apart and pull the body upwards until the chin tops the bar. Slowly return to the start position and repeat. Initial goal is ten, then twenty or more as the strength develops. This exercise works the lattismus dorsi and biceps.
- Biceps Pull-up – Grasp the chinning bar with palms rearward so your weight strain is on the biceps. Pull the body upwards until the chin tops the bar. Slowly return to start position and repeat. Initial goal is ten, then twenty or more. This exercise works the biceps and lats.
- Triceps Press Using a bench or chair – with your hands on a bench or chair placed behind your back, extend your legs straight in front until your weight is being carried mostly by the hands. Lower the body until you body touches or nears the floor, then return to the start position by extending your arms. This works the triceps and shoulders. The initial goal is ten reps, then twenty. Resistance may be increased by elevating the feet.
- Parallel Bar Dips – On parallel bars or any two equal sized, sturdy, chest-high platforms about two feet apart, stand between and place your hands on top. Extend your arms so your are elevated above the bars (or platforms), slowly lower your body until the bar is at your armpits, keeping your legs bent so your feet don’t touch the floor. Extend your arms until you are again above the bars at arms length. Repeat for ten reps, then 20 as your fitness increases. This works the chest, shoulders and triceps.
- Squats – Standing erect with feet close together and back straight and arms extended straight in front, squat down until your upper legs are more than 45 degrees from the lower leg (or your buttocks hits your heels). Return to starting position, repeat. Initial goal is 25 reps, then 50. This works the quadriceps or frontal thigh muscles and around the knees.
- Lunges – Same position as squats, but with arms bent and hands on waist, take a long step forward with the right foot while keeping your trunk erect and your right knee is full bent, return to the upright position, the take a long step with the left foot, and then return to starting position. This is one repetition. The initial goal is 25 repetitions, the 50. This works the hamstrings, or rear of the thigh, the buttocks, and the quads.
- Calf Raises – Using a block, brick or piece of a wood stud placed close to the wall, face the wall, place your toes on the block, let your weight bend your feet so your heels are close to the floor, elevate your body using only your calves. You may need to put your hands on the wall for balance. Repeat 25 times.
- Donkey Calf Raises – Place the block or board far enough away from the wall that when you place your toes and lean forward you can rest your elbows on the wall. A workout partner will then sit astraddle of your lower back to provide greater weight resistance. Complete ten or more calf raises.
- Sit-ups – Sit on the floor with your feet hooked under a chair or something heavy enough to provide leverage and your legs slightly bent and your arms together and hands clasped at your chest, lower your upper body to the floor then raise again to the sitting position. Repeat. Initial goal is 25 reps, then 50, then 100.
- Crunches – Many think this is superior to the sit-up for ab development. From a supine position, raise your legs overhead and bent at a ninety degree angle and hands clasped behind your neck, bring your head towards your knees, without pulling with your hands and arms, until your abs are “crunched.” Return to start position, the repeat. Initial goal is 50 reps, then 100.
- Twisting Side-Bends – In an erect position, hands on hips and feet close together, twist your body while leaning to the right, return to start position, the twist while leaning left. This is one rep. Repeat for 25 reps, then 50 as you progress in fitness.
- Cardio – Running, sports (fast) walking and stair climbing are good cardio exercises. Many fitness gurus feel that fast walking is more effective than running at burning calories and working the cardio-vascular system. This is based on the science of performing cardio “in the zone,” or at a level where your heart rate is 85% of your maximum. This is determined by subtracting your age from 220, and then multiply by .85. Example; the target for a thirty year old person would be 220 minus 30 = 190 divided by .85 = 161.5. 155-165 bps should be the target heart rate to achieve the maximum results. The zone number decreases with the age of the exerciser. A person of 50 has a target heart rate of 145.
Nutrition: The Other Half of the Equation
Exercise tears down muscle tissue and expends a lot of energy. Proper nutrition provides the material (protein) needed to rebuild the tissue bigger and stronger, and the fuel (carbohydrates) to power the body to bigger and better workouts. There are foods to avoid and some that actually promote fat loss, but it takes an expert to determine which is which. The information provided in this section was derived from the reported results of scientific investigation and the evaluation of “good” and “bad” foods.
In general, the foods to avoid contain processed starches and sugars. Food processing eliminates much of the nutritional value in many foods. Most particularly in those that contain sugars or ingredients that turn into sugars during the metabolic process. The obvious ones are candy and sweetened soft drinks, but the processed food industry has turned to a cheap preservative-sweetener, that is considered a “poison” by many nutritionists and medical professionals. High Fructose Corn Syrup is considered to be a major contributor to the obesity epidemic in the world, but particularly in the USA. Other items to avoid or ingest in limited quantities are Caffeine and Alcoholic beverages. Alcohol, though carbohydrate free, is converted into sugars by your system and then they are easily metabolized or stored as fat.
Foods to Avoid
- White flour bread – substitute whole wheat, whole grain, or sprouted grain bread.
- White flour baked goods – substitute vegetable or whole grain products.
- Refined sugar – substitute natural sweeteners like honey, nature’s perfect food.
- Processed, packaged foods – check the labels for harmful ingredients like high fructose corn syrup. You’ll be surprised how many products contain this “poison.”
- Any cooking method that adds unwanted fats or calories – Frying in hydrogenated oils, or the like.
- “Dead” Foods – those that have been processed or reconstituted.