First Things First

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Muscle Talk for the Humble

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I thought because I'm a hardcore professional with the sand of Muscle Beach under his fingernails and the stripes of Dungeon dwelling across his back, visitors of would be a gnarly mob with their own brand of iron wear and tear. We're bombers, after all. Not necessarily so, Joe. Think again, Ben.

It seems there are more untested, runway-bound bombers wandering our pages, reading the newsletter, lurking the forum and sending emails than you can rattle a plate at. To many, designing a routine is rocket science, implementing it like crossing the Alps on a goat.

They're not dumb. Obviously, they've come to the right place for the right reasons. For most it has been awhile since they exerted themselves -- high school or college, and before marriage, kids, job and assorted bulges. They just need a little direction and encouragement.

Considering this startling observation, a few basic training principles might be in order for the rusty and out-of-touch, the clueless and ill-informed, the tired and wasted. We’ll all benefit. It's good to return to the faded dog-eared pages of our training log to rediscover and uncover, to remind and recall. There's light in the darkness, brilliance in the shadows. We find truth, wonder and creativity in faded memories.

The most direct way to build muscle and strength is to lift weights consistently and hard. That's rule number 1. It's wise to have a simple plan and execute it consistently and hard. That's rule number 2.

How basic can it get? Two rules: lift weights and have a plan. Two precepts: work hard and be consistent.

Designing a plan -- routine, workout, program, scheme, methodology -- is not rocket science as presumed by some; it’s a notch above a no-brainer. Let’s face it, if this pursuit took brains, I'd be picking up trash on the interstate. Begin by asking yourself the following fundamental questions:

What do I know about the subject -- zero, vaguely familiar, intermediate level, former trainee?

What do I want to accomplish? What are my goals?

How much of myself am I willing to invest: time, resources and energy?

Where, when and with what will I exercise?

Finally, will I? Or is this where the little experiment ends?

More questions will arise now that you’ve initiated the conversation. Some will be tough, some silly. They’ll be bound in the mind and body, the heart and the soul. They will perplex you, frustrate you and drive you up a wall. Be Strong. The answers will lead you to success and fulfillment, or bowling, beer and the couch.

Step one: Imagine the body as a collection of separate and basic, yet inter-related bodyparts or muscle groups. They are the chest region, the back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, midsection and legs.

Step two: For each muscle group there are relatively specific exercises for their development.

Side note: No exercise recruits one muscle without engaging closely associated and attached muscles. Here’s where we exercise our commonsense, as well as our sinew. Muscles and systems of muscles are connected. This is cool to know, encouraging and technically important. We’re getting more pump and burn for every set and rep we perform.

Step three: Determine and list the various simple exercises for the various groups by inventing, inquiring, reading or observing. Here’s a quick rundown of the basics to satisfy today’s needs:

Chest region > Flat bench press, incline barbell press, flat and incline dumbbell press, decline press, cable crossover or pec-deck, flat or incline fly, pushups, dips

Back > Deadlift -- stiff and bent-leg, bent-over barbell row, dumbbell row, seated lat row, variations of cable pulldowns, pullovers

Shoulder > Barbell press and dumbbell press, standing, on flat bench or various degrees of incline, lateral raises -- front, side, rear, upright rows, pushups and dips

Biceps > Standing barbell curl, dumbbell curl -- standing, seated, incline and alternate, thumbs-up curl, reverse curl, straight bar or bent-bar

Triceps > Lying or standing triceps extensions with bar or dumbbells, narrow-grip bench press, pulley-pushdown, behind neck pulley extension, dips, dumbbell kick-backs

Midsection > crunches, leg-raise, hanging leg-raise, rope-tucks, hyperextensions

Legs > Leg extensions, leg curl, squat, lunge, leg press, calf-raise

The list is sufficient since we are not compiling material for The Official Unabridged Encyclopedia of Musclebuilding.

Step four: Choose one or more exercises from the lists to design a routine to match your needs -- your goals, purposes and ambitions, desires and level of development.

I’ve got an idea (jaws drop, lightening flashes, thunder rumbles). Since I’m already in the pilot’s seat and have my hands on the controls, I’ll piece together an assortment of workouts of diverse levels and present comments along the way.

As we’re limited in space, time, capabilities and attention span, the exercise will be named only and not demonstrated. Help me and yourself by using your commonsense and imagination, two more of our great resources too seldom exercised. Let’s begin.

No equipment? FEW is for you (Freehand Exercise Works).

Freehand pushups, dips and chins, running and crunches are hard to beat for building a guy’s or gal’s entire body. They are simple and healthy, and can be practiced and developed right here, right now with no equipment and a little resourcefulness.

Raw, free-style training is instructive, insightful, demanding and friendly. It encourages improvisation, stimulates the instincts, pumps and burns the muscles, shapes them and strengthens them and brings you close to the action.

These movements get you going, take you there, and keep you there.

At first, play -- push, pull, experiment, stretch, strain, entertain -- with the freehand moves to get to know them, the form, the degrees of exertion, what muscles are involved, where you are strong and where you are weak, and uncover any perceived injuries or limitations. This testing and inspecting will prepare and strengthen your muscles and insertions, familiarize you with the concept of routine training, provide comfort and confidence in your pursuit and excite discipline.

Workman, know your job, know your tools.

Here’s a plan once you’re ready, Freddy. For you too, Betty Sue.

1) Run and jump whenever you get the urge, kids. Run or bike 10 to 15 minutes every other day, adults. Daily walking works wonders for youngsters with long histories. Determine your own comfort zone and go. You’re in motion and that’s an accomplishment. Devotion advances as your fitness advances.

2) Practice your crunches at the beginning of your workout session for a warm-up, or at the end for completeness. Whatever works for you works best. Lately, I switch between the before and after placements according to desire, energy or time. Important: Do not skip [3 x maximum reps (25) with sets of leg raises (10-20) between sets of crunches when you’re ready].

3) Pushups are considered an ordinary exercise, almost cliché. Do not under-evaluate their power and potential. The movement involves the whole body from the fingertips to the toes, and when practiced with correct form with a focus on developing muscle and not on counting wild and explosive reps to collect numbers, pushups are a substantial body builder.

4) Similarly, dips and chins, whether done with the assist of a platform or under one’s own power, these simple exercises are valuable muscle builders shapers and conditioners by themselves or when included in a weight advanced workout. To the point of nausea and annoyance, I underscore focus on exercise execution and muscle engagement. Shoot me.

5) Eventually, an orderly program of the freehand movements is wise. Personal law and order prevent chaos, encourage proper performance and define your input and output. They improve discipline.

Once you’ve established a working relationship with the exercises, here are some simple outlines:

Perform a set of each exercise to maximum repetitions every day, five days a week.

Or, do two or three sets of each to maximum reps every other day.

Try four sets of pushups to max on day one, four sets of widegrip chins on day two, four sets of dips on day three, four sets of close grip chins on day four and rest two days. Run every other day and do midsection every other day according to time and desire.

Do a push exercise followed by a pull exercise (AKA supersetting), as follows:
Pushup and widegrip chin -- 2-4 sets x max reps
Dip and close-grip chin -- 2-4 sets x max reps
Arrange the combinations over a weekly period (alternating combos, combining and practicing every other day). Support with running, walking and midsection every other day according to time and desire.

Freehand exercise, smart eating and right living makes strong men and women of feeble girls and boys.

Got iron?

Here’s one of my favorite standards for the early trainee. You’ve seen it before; it must be good. I like the scheme because it works for me (and Arnold and Zane and Franco and Katz and Sergio and Lee and Zabo and Reeves and Cutler) when time is short, I’m unfocused, on the road or between solid workout regimens. It’s complete, smoothly overlaps muscle groups, and has muscle appeal, push-pull rhythm and pump-burn excitement.

Three alternate days a week with aerobic and midsection when you please (which doesn’t mean never, Bub):

Musclebuilder 101-A

Medium wide bench press -- Chest and associated muscles (front delt, triceps, related upper body mass)

Widegrip pulldown -- Lats and associated muscles (biceps, minor pec, related upper body mass)

Standing barbell curl -- Biceps, forearm and grip (plus whole-body musculature -- including midsection and legs -- assisting the minor thrusting action and body-stabilization)

Freehand or machine dips -- Triceps, pecs, deltoids, upper back and abs

Walking Lunges -- Legs

Sets and reps depend on lifter and his or her status:
1 set of 10 reps for the total beginner
2 sets of 10 reps for the same lifter in 4 to 6 workouts
3 sets of 8-10 reps in a month
4-5 sets of reps of choice for bombers when the need arises

Look out for low-flying objects, bombers. Crash landings are not uncommon this time of year -- shorter days, colder temperatures, holidays on the prowl, sniffles, the lure of the fireplace and hot toddies.

The end-of-year-challenge has gained volume and momentum, and successes already. Join in the fun and devotion, the learning and growing. It works.

Take your time before it’s too late...

Go... Godspeed... Dave

More schemes, routines and jellybeans next week. No jellybeans... just kidding.

The Great IronOnline End of Year Challenge

Though I’m not an active participant in the IOL Forum, I am aware of its members and their activities. Too much of Dave Draper becomes evident real quick, like a frolicking skunk in a small neighborhood. So I sit on the bench with my lifting belt slung over my shoulder and root for the champs.

They are a very good bunch. Do you know how hard it is to round up a good bunch? The world is full of weirdoes, man.

They have just introduced a free-for-all fitness challenge to assist each other in confronting the slippery slopes of winter and holiday training, and the response has been positively enthusiastic. Positive enthusiasm, according to muscleheads, anthropologists and psychiatrists, is the rarest and most essential ingredient in mankind’s will to live and get bigger, stronger, faster and more ripped.

This is not me-against-you competition, but me-for-myself-while-I-share-with-you quest: Fun, instructive, enabling, engaging and progressive. It works. Set a goal, log in once a week with your short or long comments and watch the improvements begin. Laree presents a descriptive blog post to fill you in and further entice you with the Challenge’s personal possibilities.

My goal: return to my pre-op 215 pound bodyweight and star in my own TV mystery series.

IOL Online Personal Training Program,
for when you're ready to take the next step in your training

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