When I made my most recent visit to check on the guys’ progress, it had been eight months since Arnie started on Beginner’s Bliss. For the previous three of those months Arnie had been training with James. Their competitiveness had kicked in immediately, and both guys were training even more seriously than when they trained alone. Their technique was excellent, training intensity high and poundage progression relentless. Two weeks after they began working out together, I added the breathing pullover to their program.
On Tuesdays, immediately after a work set of squats, one guy would rush to the nearest flat bench and do a set of breathing pullovers. Then the other one would do his set of squats and breathing pullovers. On Saturdays they would do the same thing, but following work sets of leg presses rather than squats. Otherwise, their program remained identical to what I described last month. Never mind that what they did was way less than what pro bodybuilders do.
Because the Beginner’s Bliss routines are short and are done just twice a week, Arnie and James are able to train very hard. Furthermore, short routines are much less likely to exceed their recuperative abilities than longer routines are.
Because they’re training appropriately for hardgainers, Arnie and James have become decent gainers. Actually, they’ve become very good gainers relative to most bodybuilders.
Back to the breathing pullover: It’s a stretching and forced-breathing exercise that may enlarge the rib cage, deepen the chest and help improve posture. It may be especially effective for teens and guys in their early and mid-20s, but it’s worth a try at any age.
Arnie and James started with a 10-pound dumbbell for their breathing pullovers. After two months they progressed to a 15-pound dumbbell. They mustn’t use progressive resistance on this exercise, as heavy weights would defeat the purpose. (Note: Pullover machines should not be used for breathing pullovers.)
Arnie would do his first set, James following. Each held the ’bell with both hands and lay lengthwise on a bench, with his head just off the end. Feet stayed on the bench, with knees bent.
The starting position is to hold the dumbbell above the upper chest. I told them to keep their elbows rigid throughout but not fully locked out, and slowly lower the ‘bell while simultaneously inhaling as deeply as possible—not in one gulp but in a steady stream. They focused on maximum expansion of the rib cage. They lowered their arms until they were parallel or only slightly below parallel to the floor. At the bottom position they paused for a second, then returned to the starting position while simultaneously exhaling. They repeated for at least 15 slow reps.
The breathing pullover should be done while you’re heavily winded. That’s why it has a tradition of being supersetted with squats, especially when the squats are done for high reps. Even sets of eight on squats, if done with sufficient effort, cause temporary breathlessness. The breathing pullover can, however, be done immediately after any exercise that causes breathlessness.
I told them to go easy at the beginning. The exaggerated breathing might make them feel dizzy unless they worked into it progressively. Their chests might get sore, too, if they didn’t work into the exercise gradually.
Later I planned to move them to 20-rep squats. For a while, though, I wanted them to continue with the eight-rep sets to consolidate their technique and build the physical and mental conditioning required to prosper from the very demanding 20-rep squats.
At my second visit to check on Arnie and James, about six weeks into their period of training together, I told them it was time to boost their calorie intake by 200 each. Their training intensity and increasing size necessitated more nutrients. I cautioned them against overdoing it, however, because I wanted them to build muscle, not pack on bodyfat.
My third visit to check on Arnie and James went well. Their focus, technique and intensity were terrific, and since the start of their training together they’d shared Arnie’s little weight plates to ensure gradual progression on each exercise. James entered records of the workout in the training journal they shared. Each of them was exemplary in encouraging the other and in insisting on perfect technique on every rep—even the final rep of each set.
After their workout they went to the water fountain for a good drink. I took a seat in a corner of the area where they would do their 15 or so minutes of stretching to cover all the main muscle groups that especially need to be supple.
After they were done, I started my standard monologue: “Now, guys, remember, recuperation is—” I was just five words in when Arnie interrupted. “Essential, Stuart. We know it’s essential. You’ve told me enough times. I’ve got it. Even brilliant training won’t yield much, if any, progress if we don’t eat well every day, sleep well every night and avoid draining activities outside the gym. We both live this to the letter. We push ourselves real hard in the gym, and we don’t want to undermine our progress by skimping on the easy stuff out of the gym.”
James pulled a flask from his bag, and Arnie did the same. Then each proceeded to have a pint of semiskimmed milk enriched with protein powder. Indeed, they were serious about satisfying the components of recuperation.
Beginner’s Bliss had worked its magic, but neither of the guys was a beginner any longer, which was apparent in their physiques: Arnie was carrying 15 pounds more muscle than when he started under my guidance. Very few beginners can match their builds and strength levels after a mere eight months of training.
If you’re a beginner, apply Beginner’s Bliss and get yourself off to the same great start that Arnie and James did.
Editor’s note: Stuart McRobert’s first byline in IRON MAN appeared in 1981. He’s the author of the new 638-page opus on bodybuilding Build Muscle, Lose Fat, Look Great, available from Home Gym Warehouse, (800) 447-0008, or www.Home-Gym.com.