Mass-Building Workouts

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When I think about my mass-building workouts and reflect on the changes I’d make while applying the experience and knowledge I’ve gained over the nutty years gone by, two things stand out. First of all, it doesn’t seem like such a very long time, even if it is 50 years, the lifetime of a man or woman whose concern of aging is nibbling at their heels.

Second, nothing has changed. I’m still me in an older body practicing the same basic combinations to fulfill the same basic needs; eating the same basic menu to sustain the same basic muscle. And it’s not because I’m old fashioned, stubborn, conservative or unaware. It’s because the wheel is round and I like it that way. It works best when it’s round.

I’ve tried some version of it all at one time or another, by invention, by accident, by suggestion and by trend; Olympic lifting and powerlifting have been frequently intertwined in my bodybuilding, but not exclusively for any length of time. Often I engaged in multi-sets, a variety of splits, twice-a-day combos, high and low reps, instinctive freestyle and something approximating HIT training. They all offer something for everybody, they all have their magnetism and, eventually, we are drawn to one or the other or some mix by our nature, temperament, personality and chemistry.

I propose that whatever we like is whatever makes us grow.

Weight training for me has always been a need. Working through the stages of growth has not always been fun. There were times when it was a dog and I doubted and moaned and it was miserable. Those times were some of the best times where growth was of the spirit and soul.

Through it all, your only company is you and you learn to listen to yourself and understand; you learn to like yourself in spite of it all. Heck, everybody else might just as well be looking the other way or in the mirror. Life’s like that.

About the workouts ... I always and forever start with the mid-section to strengthen, to build muscle, to warm up and to stretch. During this time I’m able to eliminate the noise of the world, gain focus and gather training momentum and rhythm. What does it look like? A non-stop 20 minutes of sets and reps of a combination of incline crunches, leg raises, rope tucks and hyperextensions.

Each workout varies according to feel and need. Each abdominal exercise is practiced at least two times per week. Supersetted amongst the above is five sets of a favorite secondary exercise to match the body part to be worked that day. This infusion adds interest, improves heart rate and prepares that day’s muscles for the onslaught. Done with vigor, I’ve accomplished a sufficient cardio effect to meet my needs.

Now I’m ready for the meat. Within every workout there’s room for flex. I like to know where I’m going, but am aware that I’m not strictly bound. Early on in the ’60s I trained each muscle group three times in a six-day workout week. Today, I think more rest is healthier and more productive. For most of you, I prefer a five-day week hitting the muscle groups twice each week. A three on and one off, two on and one off with maximum intensity and slugging pace sounds just about right.

I used to train chest specifically only once a week. The second half of the training week had me condensing the shoulder and chest routines. Hoping to work on my pressing power as part of the “mass intentions,” I’d put one pressing early in the week to match the winging-it power workout. The mid-to-steep incline sufficiently bombs both high chest and shoulder mass. The inclusion of dips for arms would, with focus and body positioning, further the chest cause. Plenty of hard and complete pec work without overload is provided. Too much repetitive, heavy benching is tough on the rotators over the years ahead, and I don’t recommend it for anyone.

Remember, there are months and years ahead of you to observe, alter, grow, revise and grow again. Therein lies the hope and fascination. Too often, may I mention, trainees change before growth has fully incubated and able to hatch. People are fickle. They switch routines because they’re impatient and hunting for the fast track, or someone said to or they’re bored or think they’ve plateaued or lack steely confidence or raw perseverance.

Blast on, Bombers.

I’ve always loved wide-grip chins to the front with a nice arch for a big and wide back. Pulldowns to the front are also wonderfully effective for achieving lat development -- the only substitute if you’re not ready for chins. This superset, or any superset done with an aim for mass, will help build solid muscle by the pounds, in time, providing your menu is as sound and particular as your training.

Don’t be misguided to believe supersets are only for getting ripped. You can still handle the poundage as you condition yourself and plan ahead.

Bentover rows are a major, comprehensive mass builder. They fall into the category of squats and deads in that so much of the muscle system is involved that entire body growth is stimulated. Over the decades, I always went once a week on barbell rows to save the lower back from overload. One-arm dumbbell rows with a supportive three-point stance allow us to go heavy without excessive low back demand.

And with those you have the advantage of varying the range of motion and contraction that only dumbbells can provide. Here, too, a power program can be implemented to get all-over mass and thickness. Yummy.

Train hard and enjoy it. Rest in peace to the extraordinary Bill Starr, whose teaching had an effect on all of us.



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