Draper Weight Training Q&A

What If, How and Why—Muscle and Might

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And so begins our journey across the barrens of the unknown, a wet and lonely place where hopes are struggles and dreams are reduced to nightmares -- a forgotten land in which the sun does not shine, water is scarce and our footing is unsure and in desperate want of direction. Hold onto the brave soul before you, bomber. Only then shall we survive the mysteries, secrets and buried truths threatening and confounding us. The brave alone travel forth.

I like a little melodrama now and then, don’t you? Actually, I was just thumbing through my archives and grabbed a fistful of classic "questions and answers" collected over the months that make for easy reading and writing. We both need a break.

So, sit back, put your feet up and take five. It’s on me.

When you and your fellow bodybuilders were all competing in the '60s, e.g., Schwarzenegger, Zane, Columbo, Ferrigno and Reg Park, how could you all train together in the same gym and even socialize outside together and still maintain the winning attitude, even though you were all competing to beat and overcome each other?

Long story made short: It was 40 years ago; the lifting crowd was smaller and sharing a relatively young and unexploited sport. Early bodybuilders were like brisk stallions in the rough country before fences, corrals and stalls. bits, harnesses and saddles.

We were young and excited about the robust and undeveloped activity. Odd friends in an area of emerging expression, we enjoyed and needed each other’s supporting interest, companionship, unspoken understanding and mutual admiration, collective motivations and rare character composition.

Times have changed, the world has changed. We lucked out.

I feel a sense of urgency in my training, since I'm almost 50 and have no time to waste. All the training splits and techniques I've read about only confuse me. Since you and Arnold are my idea of what a bodybuilder should look like, can you tell me if you used the push-pull split system or chest/back, shoulders/arms and legs split?

Relax and be strong. All forms of training when done with focus and responsible intensity are effective. You are not losing ground while applying any one of them for a significant period to enjoy or determine their results. Like Zabo, my Muscle Beach bud, always says, "It's all good."

I like the chest/back, shoulders/arms and legs split. I like push/pull supersets. I like to blast it with focus, form and solid pace. I like to feel the muscles work and know the work the muscles do. Personally, I don't like HIT styles of training or the intensity methodologies where one trains to miserable, blacking-out, crawling-in-your-vomit failure once or twice a week. I must be crazy.

I suggest you stick to Brother Iron Sister Steel for your guidance -- one source by one humble spokesman of the Muscle Beach and Golden Era of bodybuilding.

A few more things: Urgency causes catabolism and you're still a kid. Redirect the urgency into a positive training intensity, young fella.

What are your eating habits before you hit the weights?

Easy: I have a protein drink (12-16 ounces) some 30 minutes prior to my workout, consisting of 2% milk, half of a banana, a raw fertile egg from carefully fed and maintained chickens, and three scoops of Bomber Blend, my favorite protein powder.

I trust this nutritious concoction plus my body’s previously stored glycogen to supply my energy and anabolic needs without uncomfortable bloating or overloading my digestive system.

I make sure I'm hydrated and tote a bottle of water on the gym floor. I’m also confident of the creatine and vitamin and mineral content in my system through regular daily supplementation.

Meals of protein, fats and carbs best serve the body's energy and growth needs when eaten every three hours. Training later in the day generally assures more nutrient storage in the system available for training support. Early morning workouts may call for a late-night feeding to load up the carb storage lockers to serve the intense morning exertion.

Don’t get confused by the nutritional aspects of eating and muscle building. The simple regulations listed under The 11 Rules of Nutrition found in Brother Iron say all there is to say without having us babbling to ourselves and drooling in the corner.

I have a nerve condition the doctors believe is reversible in time, but my grip strength is severely compromised and I’m discouraged daily. I feel much better and stronger after working out with a physical therapist using exercise bands, yet I have trouble grabbing and holding free weights. Hopefully the bands will help me to one day use "iron" again. What would you do?

Tough times call for tough procedures. I’d continue to train with those bands and squeeze as much resistance out of the wiggly, stretchy critters as I could. Sooner than later, curiosity and burning desire would overcome me and I’d investigate the possibility of very light, single-dumbbell training.

This hopeful solution calls for patience, commitment and some iron-headed ingenuity -- all the more reason to embrace the undertaking. I’d wrap my hand around a light adjustable dumbbell and secure my grip tightly with the assistance of a customized one-inch strap suited with Velcro. Presto! What have we here? A weighted hand, ready for curls, presses, shrugs -- whatever I could improvise in a working routine, making weight adjustments as needed.

I’d locate a private place with un-pressured time and get to work. I’d greet disappointment with a smile and a nod, and continue my pursuit for exercises that work: bent-over concentration curl, wrist curl over the knee, overhead triceps extension, lying triceps extension, holding a support while standing and performing one-arm presses or side-arm laterals and a bent-over rowing motion.

I’d note the repertoire of exercises and determine a workout routine that has continuity according muscle group and pre-set poundage used.

Too much work, you say, too far-fetched, imbecilic and dopey? A desperate measure for fools, you add? Yeah, I guess you’re right, unless you find lifting weights a matter of life and death.

How about this brilliant concept: gluing the hands to a pair of 20- to 25-pounders for 45 minutes or so and blasting it till every exercise and every fiber of the body is exhausted. Then soaking the hands in warm water (or acetone) in hopes the iron will release its hold... at least until tomorrow.

You’ll notice this practice leaves your hands a little red, but applying Sydney’s MSM lotion immediately after really helps. Scratching one’s nose in the middle of a workout can be a problem, as you risk a concussion, contusions, unconsciousness, coma and possible death. Where there's a will there's a way.

I’ve recently become a volunteer instructor for a high school weight room. I noticed many of the teens overload the bar, their legs are not steady as they squat and some complain that their backs always hurt after lifting. I have always recommended they drop the weight, work on form and then add weight slowly. Should they also add hip flexor exercises to their efforts or some other exercises to stabilize their hips?

You have your hands full trying to bridle teens who feel invincible, are inexperienced and untrained and want muscle and might now. It’s easy to gain their attention, but it takes time and continuous coaching to establish devotion, discipline and exercise understanding. In volunteer situations and casual settings these qualities are not generally developed, or in clear view.

Here’s a list of tips and a selection of advantageous exercises to set firm foundations and avoid injuries:

~ Regular training and sport participation, if performed smartly, will condition the body and reduce the potential for injury and muscle discomfort. Your young friends are getting closer, yet they are not quite strong enough to support the weight they are handling. The sooner they accept that clean exercise execution and muscle engagement is more important than the amount of weight they utilize, the happier, safer and cooler they will be, and the more quickly they will achieve esteemed power and muscle development without injury and frustration.

~ Running track and doing sprints -- not as a sport necessarily, but in purposeful moderation -- is a fun and efficacious method to condition the musculature and cardio-vascular systems of young athletes and fitness seekers.

~ Leg raises and hanging leg raises to support midsection and build hip flexors.

~ Light-weight deadlifts with proper form (3, 4 sets x 8-10 reps) to build lower back and thighs and hams and glutes

~ Light-to-moderate-weight squats only after their legs are conditioned with sensible leg presses and or deep squats with a bar only -- save and prepare the whole body

~ Perfect bench presses in sets of 8-10 reps with 80 to 90 percent output of effort -- no arching, bouncing or uneven-bar repetitions. Seeking maximum weight or resistance is tantamount to seeking shoulder injury. Serves the tris, anterior delt, minor pec and an unspecified upper torso thickening

~ Bring on dumbbell pressing on all levels of incline for chest, delts and some triceps. Dumbbells are safe, demanding and super muscle builders.

~ Standing barbell curls with medium body thrust (3-4 x 10-8-6 reps) for biceps and torso strength

~ Freehand dips and medium-to-wide-grip chins -- lats and pecs and tris and delts

~ Cleans and overhead presses are advanced exercises, beneficial to power athletes and should come later as confidence and fitness build.

Stick to the basic exercises that work the larger muscle groups completely and are responsible for fuller and more effective muscle growth. Exercise repetition is needed to gain the maximum an exercise has to offer. Changing exercises frequently for novelty is frivolous and defeats one’s purpose to grow in training understanding and muscle shape and muscle might. Isolated secondary exercises are important and are most beneficial at intermediate and advanced stages of training. They come just in time... later.

I am a personal trainer and one of my colleagues (also a trainer) is going out for knee surgery on Monday. He is an avid lifter and is terribly concerned about fitness loss and fat gain in the four to six weeks of recovery. Do you have any encouraging thoughts I can share with him?

I'll bet your friend is back in the gym and shifting around the equipment sooner than he expects, and his down time will be an education -- a crash course in training modification -- invaluable to him, probably you and certainly his clients. Experience is pricey. Accept the immediate let-down; be stoic, be strong and, as much as possible, relax, rather than stress. Welcome the rest -- you deserve and need it -- and then, applying wisdom, courage and intuition, ease into whatever action is desirable and doable while housebound -- ab crunches, sets of crawling and hobbling, dips, dynamic tension.

A walker or crutch would get me to a gym within a week, unless the surgery was a major invasion. With the gym beneath one’s feet, no matter how shaky, one is able to keep one's act together. The ability to train the upper body will be altered, but not eliminated. And though the recovering leg injury is limiting, it is much easier to deal with emotionally and psychologically than an arm or a shoulder in a cast and sling.

Eat right, accounting for the fact that less food intake will be required for sustenance, yet maintenance of an anabolic environment is essential. Lay off the donuts and beer and Wonder bread, bub. Pray.

Legs come back fast. Good thing he's not a horse; we'd have to shoot him.

In 2001 I was 352 pounds; since then, I have lost 140 pounds. I have a question for you: I have loose skin around the lower chest area. To the best of your knowledge is this something I will always have to deal with or will it tighten up eventually? What would you do?

Wow! You're one of those rare and amazing people in the world who have overcome the near-impossible. Congratulations on the courage, discipline and hard work.

The loose skin around the pecs is a common problem of men over 40 with a heavy pectoral development. Hello. I’m staring the dilemma in the eye and seeking solutions. It's the age thing combined with gravity.

To counter the predicament, besides my ongoing struggle to eliminate overall body fat, I do what I can to improve the muscle density of the pectoral region without adding muscle mass. Thus, I don’t do declines, as they only compound the lower-pec problem rather than solve it. Instead, I focus on incline dumbbell work with both lower-rep, heavy-weight muscle-density training interwoven with lower-weight, higher-rep methodology for shaping and tucking. Here’s where your finesse and creativity are summoned to determine a plan that is likeable and suitable for you. See suggestions below.

I also like stiff-arm dumbbell pullovers, controlled flys, cable crossovers and dips leaning forward to engage the pecs. I suggest superset techniques to achieve muscularity and shape.

Try these:

~ Low-incline dumbbell press (15 degree) and stiff-arm pullover (pullover engages minor pec), 4 x 8-10 reps -- 4 x 10 reps

~ Incline dumbbell press (45 degree) and close-grip pulldown (pulldown engages pec minor), 4 x 8-10 reps -- 4 x 10 reps

~ Heavy fly and cable-crossover, 4 x 8 reps -- 4x 10-12 reps

Aim your dietary sights toward lean muscle building -- higher protein, lower carb, medium fat. Bring in the extra vitamin C and minerals and essential fatty acids (EFAs) along with the rest of your dietary supplementation. Love those fresh fruits and salads. These ingredients are known to improve the health and tone of the skin.

Consider your hormonal system, as low testosterone or high estrogen can account for fleshy pectoral development. Tune in to Rob Faigin (author of Natural Hormonal Enhancement) when he joins us on the IronOnline forum on November 18th to discuss the world of hormones and how we can manipulate them to our greater health and musclebuilding advantage.

For more info, click here.

When the time is right and you have the courage, drop five or ten pounds to check your muscularity and skin tone. I don't think we have a lot more control than this. We try and we try again. If nothing works, we try again.

I’m trying to bulk up and put on some muscle, yet I am active as construction worker and student. Do I need to work out less through the week, say four days a week? And, how should I eat?

Eat, eat and eat some more. Eat from breakfast till lights out, especially pre- and post-workout drinks made from a top quality protein powder (whey and casein) with a banana and some peanut butter added in regular or reduced-fat milk. The blended drink makes a perfect breakfast or mid-day meal as well. Shoot for a menu of high-protein and medium-fat foods and good carbs offering substantial nutritional value (live foods in the form of fruits and vegetables, and high-protein dairy). Avoid junk foods, which include greasy fried foods, and high-glycemic snacks (candy, pop, cookies) and salty goodies like chips of most varieties.

In a muscle-building mouthful, red meat rules.

Do this; it’s work, but it works. Prepare food the night before and take it to work in an Igloo. Broiled hamburger patty and potato in Tupperware (yummy cold), plastic-wrapped cut vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, canned tuna, plump homemade beef jerky and protein powder in a plastic container ready to mix in water work well when on the go.

Supplement your diet with a high-quality vitamin and mineral formula and throw in some EFAs for supplemental value and added calories. Drink water regularly throughout the day. You might try an extra couple of tablespoons of olive oil early in the day for good fat calories... and pure delight. Glub, Glub...

Caution: Don’t let discouragement throw you off course. Bodyweight naturally fluctuates daily. We (some of us, that is) blossom like a flower when the weight’s up and we whither like a parched weed when it’s down. Perseverance and patience, bomber, trust and time.

Training four days a week is good. Live right and rest often. Get your cardio-respiratory work from your hard training, squatting and deadlifting. Skip the aerobic exercise. Stick to the basics, take your time to condition, and don’t get disheartened by work conflict. That's life and you'll blend the two deeds nicely if you're wise, industrious and committed. Push the iron with affectionate might and be consistent. You’ll win.

We’re done here, winged warriors. You can go home now. Get some sleep... no hangin' in the hanger. Git... beat it... scram... vamoose... go... be gone.

One more thing: The winds may come up strong and from the south through the night -- lash down your bird and block its wheels accordingly. Save your craft from the draft. Don’t need dings in your wings. The endless blue waits for you. Fly high and bye, bye...


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