Q: I'm trying to add mass but have very limited time to work out. How can I structure a good mass building workout program that won't keep me in the gym all day, every day? A: Your problem of limited time is, in a way, an advantage in that it will prevent you from succumbing to the one factor that holds back most people trying to build mass - overtraining. A lot of guys make their programs too fancy by adding in cable exercises and isolation movements without focusing on the basics. When we talk basics, we mean the old standby compound movements that work many body parts in one motion. By focusing on these exercises, you should be able to hit the shower after half an hour. Here are two no-frills, time sensitive, mass building programs that can be performed twice a week, with a three day gap in between: Work-Out A Work-Out B Bench Press Power Cleans Warm-up set: 12 reps Warm-up set: 15 reps1st working set: 8 reps 1st working set: 12 reps2nd working set: 6 reps 2nd working set: 10 reps3rd working set: 4-6 reps 3rd working set: 8 repsSquat Dead-LiftWarm-up set: 20 reps Warm-up set: 15 reps1st working set: 12 reps 1st working set: 12 reps2nd working set: 10 reps 2nd working set: 8 reps3rd working set: 6-8 reps 3rd working set: 6-8 repsDead-Lift Push-UpsWarm-up set: 15 reps 3 sets to failure1st working set: 12 reps2nd working set: 8 reps3rd working set: 6-8 reps After six weeks on Work-Out A, take a week off. Then do a six-week run with Work-Out B. Keep strict form throughout and make that last rep on sets 2 and 3 the absolute limit of what you're able to do - this means you'll definitely need a spotter to help you force them out. Focus on doing more, in some small way, every workout. That could mean one more rep without a spot, or it could mean an extra 2.5 pounds on the bar, but keep yourself moving forward. Q: No matter how hard I try, I just can't seem to develop that horseshoe look in my triceps. The outer part is easily visible, but the rest of it just ain't there. What can I do to bring out the rest of the muscle? A: The first thing you need to do is understand the anatomy of the muscle and then identify which exercises are best to work specific parts. As the same name implies, the triceps consist of three heads. The medial and lateral heads originate on the upper arm bone and attach on the ulna, which is one of the bones that make up the forearm. The long head originates on the shoulder blade and travels down the back of the upper arm bone to attach on the ulna. Clearly, then, full development has to involve a variety of movements that work each of the three tricep's heads. The medial and lateral heads are brought into action by movement at the elbow joint. However, the long head is only fully stimulated by movement at both the elbow and the shoulder joints. This is important because it tells us that the medial and lateral heads will be intensely worked by movements like press-downs and dips, but the long head will only respond to overhead exercises, like overhead extensions and the lying French press.Now we are in a position to formulate an all encompassing triceps routine. Here's a routine that will hit all heads equally, promoting balanced development of the coveted horseshoe:Lying French Press A great mass builder, but only if performed correctly. To prevent back involvement, keep your head off one end of the bench, and your feet, with knees bent, on the other end. Position the bar in line with your eyes, arms outstretched. Now move it back a couple of inches toward your head. This will transfer the tension from your shoulders and elbows to the long head of your triceps. Keeping your upper arms locked and your forearms parallel, lower the bar to your forehead so that your triceps are fully stretched. Don't allow your elbows to splay out as you press back to the start position.Triceps Pushdowns Do pushdowns kneeling to make the movement stricter. Place yourself a foot away from the high pulley and bring the bar down to chest height. The movement should be in a semicircular arc towards your groin. Keep your elbows in at the sides - don't allow them to drift back. Throughout the movement keep the wrists straight, shoulders down, and don't lock out the elbows at the bottom of the movement. Use a short angled bar to optimally target the medial and lateral heads of your triceps. Tricep Push-UpHere's an awesome bodyweight exercise that isolates the long and medial tricep heads. Set an Olympic bar two feet from the bottom of a power rack. Take a palms-down grip on the bar, with thumbs touching. Now back away from the bar until your arms are at full stretch. Keeping your butt down, bend at the elbows to bring your head down and under the bar. Now use your triceps to push back to the start position.DipsTo target the triceps rather than the chest, keep your upper body perpendicular to the ground and your elbows in close to the body. Squeeze your triceps at the top position, but don't lock out your elbows. Slowly lower yourself without leaning forward, focusing on the stretch in the triceps. Push directly back up to the start position. Put these exercises together as follows for a killer triceps routine that is guaranteed to give the complete development you're after: French Press: 2 x 8-12 reps Pushdowns: 2 x 12-15 reps super-setted with reps Triceps Push-Ups: 2 x 10-12 reps Dips: 2 x failure repsAs a final note on triceps exercises, never allow your wrists to bend back during your exercises. They should be kept straight at all times. This will prevent undue strain being brought to bear on the medial epicondyle, which would cause pain in the inner elbow area.Q: I've seen some of the big guys at the gym doing super slow repetitions during their workouts. What's the value in working out this way? A: Super-Slow Training has been around for decades, yet seems to be enjoying a recent resurgence in popularity. It involves controlling both the concentric (lifting) and eccentric (lowering) phases of a movement to such a degree that you are doing them in slow motion - that is, you are taking ten seconds to perform the concentric part of the movement and five seconds to perform the eccentric part. This compares with conventional training which advocates a two-second up, one-second pause, and four-second down cadence (most trainers abbreviate this dramatically). Advocates of super-slow claim that performing an exercise in such a manner is far more productive than conventional training and, furthermore, that one set of 4 to 8 repetitions is all that is required for maximum growth stimulation. Advocates believe this method is superior to conventional training in that it produces a superior impact on strength and muscle size, metabolic effect, and body fat loss while providing a high-quality aerobic workout. To date, however, little scientific evidence has surfaced to support these claims.One study that is cited by Super-Slowers derives from a 1999 comparison of two groups of weight trainers over a 10 week period. The results, as published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, showed that the group who performed their exercises in super-slow fashion had average strength increases that were 50% higher than the other group. These results were compromised, however, because the researchers did not use a standard test for strength for all trainees. The super-slow trainers were tested for a 5-rep max at super slow speed, whereas the other group was tested at a 10-rep max at the conventional training tempo. It was also noted that of the 147 people who trained under the super-slow system, only one of them wished to continue training in that manner. The most commonly cited reasons for not wishing to continue, were that super-slow was too tough and too tedious. Many experts have also questioned the claimed aerobic benefits of the super-slow method. In fact, a study conducted at the Human Studies Department, University of Alabama at Birmingham, compared metabolic differences between super-slow and traditional weight training, and found that both "metabolic and cardiovascular stimuli were low with super-slow training." Researchers concluded that traditional resistance training "increases energy expenditure more than super-slow training does." So, then, is there any value at all in super-slow training?The whole basis of super-slow is that you take all of the momentum out of the rep and put the full tension on the muscle. That sounds like a good thing, and it is. However, can you imagine doing your one-rep max on the bench press with a 10-second upward push? I bet not. In fact, studies have shown that the 10-4 cadence can only be maintained over a 6-8 rep range by dropping the weight to about 25% of the one-rep max. So, clearly, the price to be paid for that slow movement is a dramatic decrease in weight lifted. And, while eliminating momentum is a laudable goal, do you really have to stretch the rep out to 15 seconds to achieve this? Of course not. Super-Slow advocates are quick to point out that their system is safer than conventional training methods because there are no ballistic movements to cause injuries. There is certainly some validity to this – you just need to step inside any gym to realize that slowing down will prevent a lot of injury – but, again, it seems that 15 seconds is taking things a bit far. However, super-slow has its own potential danger – elevated blood pressure. A 10-second concentric lift would be very close to a series of isometric contractions that gradually move through an arc. Isometrics has been well documented to increase blood pressure levels. Yet, in a typical super-slow workout you would, in effect, be doing hundreds of isometric contractions. The potential ramifications on blood pressure are definitely a worry. In fact, a study on this very matter, conducted by Professor Richard Hughson, President of the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, found that during a super-slow leg press workout the trainee's blood pressure was measured at a staggering 270/170! The best advice on Super-Slow Training, then, would be not to rely on it as a mass-building/fat-eliminating exercise breakthrough (even though it has been heralded as such), but to view it as simply another option when you're in need of a short-term workout variation shake-up. Q: I've got decent looking biceps (17 inches), but my forearms and wrists are out of proportion – in fact, they're downright wimpy. What can I do to bring them up? A: Some guys can develop awesome forearms as a side effect of working the upper arms and back – and some can't. You're clearly in the second camp, but don't despair – the forearms and wrists generally respond well to specific training. Being smaller muscles that get well utilized in everyday activities, they generally respond best to high reps (in the 15 to 20 range). The best exercise to strengthen and develop the wrists is the wrist curl. Rather than performing this exercise over the edge of the bench, it is far more productive to perform the behind-the-back version, as this allows you to roll the bar more easily down your fingers. This accomplishes a much fuller contraction and a better forearm burn. Perform two sets of wrist curls once per week. Those wrist crushers, which have been on the market for eons, are also worthwhile aides to more manly wrists. To hit the forearms, incorporate reverse curls and hammer curls into your workout. Not only will these movements give you great looking forearms, they'll also develop the brachialis, upon which the biceps sit, making your upper arms look far more impressive. Reverse curls are done exactly like regular barbell curls, except the palms are facing down. Remember to keep your elbows locked into your sides. Do two sets of 8 to 12 reps. Perform hammer curls by grabbing a pair of dumbbells and standing with them at your sides, palms facing forward. Tense your biceps, then rotate your palms so the weights turn in toward your body. Now curl them up as high as you can, one arm at a time. The movement should simulate the action a hammer makes when you strike it up and down. Keep your upper arms in the same plane as your torso throughout the movement. Go heavier on this one – two sets of 6 to 8 reps.The forearms are similar to the calves in that they are a hardy, resilient muscle group. That means that they'll respond well to a lot of work. With this in mind, there's a simple piece of equipment that you can construct to enable you to have an awesome forearm workout at home whenever you get the urge. Simply cut a piece of one-inch thick doweling to a length of 18 inches. Attach a piece of rope to the center of the dowel with a screw. The rope should reach to the floor from waist height. Now secure a 5-pound weight to the end of the rope. With both hands on the dowel, hold at waist height, hands about 4 inches apart. Begin rolling up the rope, focusing on wrist action. When the weight reaches the top, simply reverse direction by unrolling the rope. Count rolling and unrolling the rope as one rep. Do five of them and your forearms will be on fire.A couple of final points on bringing up lagging forearms: Train them either by themselves, or on legs day, when you're able to give total focus to them. Try to get a full extension on every rep of every exercise, especially the reverse wrist curl. It's a good idea to throw away your wrist straps, too. This will force your wrists and forearms to really work during your upper back workouts.
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