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Building the Ultimate Physique

Month 19: Chest Specialization

A well-developed chest’on men and women’is arguably the most universally admired bodypart that we as a species possess. Women are concerned with ways to increase their busts, and men are concerned with increasing their pecs. That desire is particularly strong among teenage males, who, in their unbridled desire to develop their chests, so overtrain those muscles (among others) that growth, if it comes at all, proceeds at a snail’s pace. Frustration ensues, and they eventually give up in despair. That needn’t be the case, however, if they use the correct exercises and training principles.

Chest Muscles

There are, in effect, three chest muscles: the pectoralis major, pectoralis minor and serratus anterior, or serratus magnus. You must fully stimulate each of them in your workouts if your goal is complete chest development. Here’s how the three muscles move: If you raise your arm, the pectoralis major, acting with the latissimus dorsi and the teres major, draws it down to the side of your chest. Acting alone, the pec major adducts and draws the arm across the chest, also rotating the arm inward.

The pectoralis minor depresses the shoulder and rotates the scapula downward. When you breathe in, the pectoral muscles help in drawing the ribs upward and expanding the chest. The serratus anterior carries the scapula forward and raises the vertebral border of the bone, as in pushing. It also assists the trapezius in raising the acromion process’a projection located on the scapula where it meets the clavicle’and in supporting weights on the shoulder. It also assists the deltoid in raising the arm.

Given that the action of the pectoralis major is to draw the arm across the chest, the exercise that most closely parallels that function is dumbbell flyes, with cable crossovers and machine flyes also being excellent choices. Since the primary action of the pectoralis minor is to lower the shoulders, decline-bench presses are the best way to activate its fibers. The serratus anterior carries the scapula forward, and, consequently, the best way to train it is with pullover bench presses. Ergo, those three exercises are the core of this month’s chest-specialization routine.

Training Principles

The most important factor in training is intensity of effort. If you want to grow, you must give your body a reason to grow. You can’t induce muscle growth by merely repeating that which is already well within your body’s capabilities. You can only induce muscle growth beyond normal levels by putting forth a maximum effort. You must perform every repetition of every set in perfect style. That is to say, you must raise the weight in two seconds, hold in the position of full muscular contraction for an additional two seconds and then lower it back to the starting position in four seconds.

A properly performed set of eight repetitions plus two forced reps should take a total of 80 seconds. This month’s specialization routine is a three-days-a-week program; for example, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Once again, you’ll be using the principle of descending sets’performing an isolation exercise first to the point of momentary contractile inability’that is, positive failure’and then, after reducing the resistance approximately 10 to 20 percent, immediately performing the same isolation movement again to the point of positive failure.

In addition, you should do negative-only sets during the Friday workouts, using approximately 40 percent more weight than you would normally be handling on your exercises. Have your training partner (or partners, depending on your strength level) lift the weight for you while you concentrate exclusively on lowering the resistance in eight seconds. Use the same repetition protocol that you would in a regular workout; that is, do as many repetitions on each exercise as your Individual Specific Repetitions (ISR) formula calls for. In Monday’s workout you use forced reps and negatives, but in Wednesday’s workout you should take your sets to positive failure only. As has been the rule during all types of specialization programs discussed in this series, you train the specialized bodypart first in each workout with a maximum of five sets. Then you cover the rest of the bodyparts with one set each, taking all sets to absolute muscular failure (save for those in Wednesday’s workout).

The Routine

Dumbbell flyes
(descending set) 1 x ISR
Decline-bench presses
(descending set) 1 x ISR
Pullover bench presses 2 x ISR
Leg extensions 1 x ISR
Lunges 1 x ISR
Standing calf raises 1 x ISR
Seated cable rows 1 x ISR
Deadlifts 1 x ISR
Standing supinating
dumbbell curls 1 x ISR
Bench dips 1 x ISR ALL The Routine Explained

Dumbbell flyes. To begin, grab two dumbbells and lie back on a flat bench. Hold the dumbbells over your chest with your arms fully extended and your palms facing each other. Slowly lower your elbows out to the sides while keeping a slight bend in your arms. It should take you all of four seconds to completely lower the dumbbells to the sides of your chest. Hold that stretched position for a two count before raising the dumbbells back up to the starting position. Repeat until you hit positive failure, which should occur at your ISR. Immediately reduce the weight by 20 percent and perform a second set to positive failure. (See page 265 for instructions on how to calculate your ISR.)

Decline-bench presses. You’ll need a decline bench for these. Take the bar off the uprights, or have your partner hand it to you. Hold it for a moment at arm’s length, and then slowly lower it’making a conscious effort to keep your elbows wide’to your collarbone. Pause there for a second or two, and then press the resistance back up to the starting position. Repeat for your ISR, and, depending on what day of the week it is, have your partner assist by giving you two forced repetitions and two negative repetitions. Immediately reduce the weight by 20 percent and perform a second set for your ISR.

Pullover bench presses. This is a tremendous upper-body developer in addition to working very directly the often ignored serratus anterior muscles just below the pecs. Place a weighted barbell on the floor at the end of a flat bench, then lie on the bench, with your head resting at that end of the bench. Grab the barbell, extending your arms behind you so that your biceps are seemingly plugged into your ears. (If you don’t have access to a low flat bench, your partner will have to hand you the weight.) From that position of full stretch, slowly raise the barbell, making sure to keep a slight bend in your elbows, from behind your head, bringing it over your head to where it’s on top of your sternum. Once the bar is resting across your chest, immediately press it to arm’s length, as you would in a regular bench press. Slowly lower the barbell back to your sternum, and from there bring it back over your head, lowering it back down to the floor in four seconds. Pause briefly in the position of full stretch before beginning the next rep. Repeat until you hit momentary muscular failure, which should occur at your ISR, and then, after a brief rest, perform a second set.

Leg extensions. As you indubitably know, this movement is unparalleled for isolating the quadriceps. Other exercises can work the quads as thoroughly, but none do it as efficiently. The reason is that there are no weak links. Leg extensions are powered solely by the strength of your quadriceps. Remember to hold the position of full contraction for a two count before lowering back to the starting position in four seconds. Repeat for your ISR.

Lunges. Place a moderately weighted barbell across your shoulders as if you were about to squat. Instead, step forward with your right leg as far as you can, lowering your left knee until it touches the ground. Pause briefly in that position before pushing up with your right leg to return to the starting position. Repeat the movement right away, but this time step forward with your left leg. Continue performing alternating lunges until you complete your ISR for each leg. Lunges work your entire leg, but the lower you go, the more you activate the gluteal and biceps femoris fibers. Standing calf raises. Step underneath the shoulder pads of a standing calf machine, and position your feet so that your heels are hanging off the block and almost touching the ground. From that position of full stretch slowly contract your calves until you’re completely up on your toes. Hold that position for a two count before lowering in four seconds back to the starting position. Repeat for your ISR.

Seated cable rows. You need a floor pulley with a V-handle attachment to perform these. Grasp the handle and lean forward at the waist so you start the movement from a position of full extension. Slowly, contract your lats, drawing your elbows behind your torso. When you have drawn your elbows as far as you as you possibly can, hold that position of full contraction for a two count, and then return the resistance slowly, in four seconds, back to the starting position. Repeat for your ISR.

Deadlifts. As I said last month, this is an excellent developer of the lower-back muscles. Its muscle-building abilities don’t stop there, however. Deadlifts work almost every muscle in the body and stimulate phenomenal overall muscle growth. Squat down and grasp a relatively heavy barbell with an over-and-under grip; that is, one hand over the bar and the other under it. Your hands should be approximately shoulder width apart. With your hands tightly clenching the bar, drive your torso to an upright position, keeping our back flat and your head up. Hold the top position for a two count before returning the weight back to the floor in four seconds. Repeat for your ISR.

Standing supinating dumbbell curls. This exercise uses the primary function of the biceps muscle, supination. Pick up a pair of moderately weighted dumbbells and hold them at your sides with your palms facing your sides. Slowly curl both of them up toward your shoulders, twisting your hands to the palms-up position and beyond. When the dumbbells reach your shoulders, your palms should be facing away from each other’or at least as supinated as physiologically possible. From that position of full contraction slowly lower the dumbbells in four seconds under control back down to your sides. Repeat for your ISR.

Bench dips. This is actually an excellent upper-body developer, but the majority of focus is on the triceps. You’ll need two benches, one to place your hands on and another for your feet. The bench for your arms should be just slightly behind your back so that the secondary function of the triceps’to draw the arm down and behind the midline of the body’is recruited. (Ideally, the bench for your feet should be higher than your hips.) With the bench for your feet in front of you, place your feet on it and your arms in a locked-out position on the bench behind you. Slowly break the lock in your arms and lower yourself in four seconds to a position of full stretch, where your hands are almost in contact with your armpits. Then push yourself back up to the starting position. Repeat for your ISR.

Remember that the stronger you become, the greater your ability to make inroads into your recovery ability becomes and, consequently, the easier it is to overtrain. That’s the reason intermediates shouldn’t schedule only 48 hours of rest between workouts (i.e., on Monday, Wednesday and Friday) but rather 72 hours, training every third day.

If your chest development has been less than impressive, give this month’s specialization routine a try, and watch your under-par pecs become a problem of the past.

Editor’s note: John Little is a leading innovator of bodybuilding training. His latest book, Fast Mass: The Max Contraction System, is now available. See page 194. IM

‘ 2002 Northern River Productions.

Instantized Creatine- Gains In Bulk

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Building the Ultimate Physique

How to Train for Size and Power

The other day I was thumbing through a few of my old muscle magazines, and I had to laugh out loud at some of their absurd titles: ‘I Cried for My Pecs’ (Is that how he finally solved his chest problem? If so, then I’m off for a very productive weep!); ‘No-Frills Calf Workout’ (ever heard of a frills calf workout?); ‘Hercules Reincarnated’ (beg pardon?); ‘Herculean Back Routine’ (Hercules, as you can see, is a very popular figure among bodybuilding journalists). Further back I found ‘Inside Mohamed Makkawy’ (written by his proctologist perhaps?) and ‘Bombing for Arm Balance’ (can ‘Rocket Launching for Symmetry’ be far behind?).

All of those articles promised the moon in muscle growth, but not one of them explained why or how their methods would actually deliver on their promises. There was plenty of rhetoric and advertisements boldly proclaiming to have the ‘secret’ to muscular massiveness. To any student of kinesiology or physiology their claims were ludicrous, and to any layperson wanting to know the best way to train, their claims were downright dangerous.

It seems at times that bodybuilding has forsaken truth for mysticism: If you take this ‘magic’ supplement or perform this ‘magic’ exercise, everything will come your way. These views no doubt persist because of mankind’s inherent desire to take the easy way out. Given a choice, most people will take the path of least resistance.

It’s primarily out of instinct. Our ancestors no doubt discovered that the more energy they conserved while still obtaining the desired results, the more energy they had left for other important activities such as thinking, building, the creation of language and so on. Modern man is no different. If a fellow hears from one chap that he can achieve his objective of increasing muscle mass and strength only through brutally hard training’which, while brief and infrequent, can induce nausea, deep fatigue and momentary muscle debilitation’and then along comes another chap who says all he has to do is increase his supplementation or perform several magical pumping/flushing, high-volume, triple-split, zip-zop, blitz-bomb routines that in no way tax the central nervous system’which is why they don’t work, incidentally’which do you think he’ll choose?

If you said ‘the brutally hard routine,’ you’re out of your mind. The magical routine is the more appealing, but unfortunately, it can deliver no results. Whereas one is hard work, the other is, well, a jolly good time.

Let’s set aside the realm of mysticism and concern ourselves with reality. You want a routine that has an efficient, result-producing base from which you can deviate from time to time for the purpose of specialization. What follows, divested of nonessentials, is that routine:

The Routine

Squats 2 x 15-20
Chins 2 x 8-12
Bench presses 2 x 8-12
Seated behind-the-neck
presses 2 x 8-12
Preacher curls 1-2 x 8-12
Seated French presses 1-2 x 8-12

The Four Pillars of Hypertrophy:

1) The best routine is one that produces results (muscle growth and strength).

2) Muscle growth and strength are obtained through supply and demand.

3) The greater the demand on the muscles, the quicker the adaptive response from the central nervous system to supply that demand, providing you get enough rest and nutrition.

4) The greater the intensity of your training:
‘ The greater the demand on your muscles.
‘ The shorter the workout.
‘ The greater the need for rest and recovery (48 to 96 hours, minimum). ALL The Routine Explained

Squats. Performing squats involves no fewer than 15 different muscle groups, which puts squats at the top of the muscle-building chart. To start, place your legs about shoulder-width apart, with the barbell resting on your trapezius muscles, directly behind and at the base of your neck. Step back and away from the bar pins and, keeping your chin up and your back straight, begin your descent. Lower yourself until the backs of your calves come into contact with your hamstrings’a movement that should take four seconds. When you’ve lowered yourself to that position, begin to smoothly ascend back to the starting position, imagining that you’re pushing the floor away from you with your legs. Repeat that procedure for 19 additional repetitions. Add weight and try for 20 again on your second and final set.

Undergrip chins. Chinups, like squats, also work several muscle groups, thereby stimulating tremendous overall muscle growth. To begin, grasp the chinup bar with a palms-up grip (some of you may require straps to reinforce your grip for the required number of repetitions). Slowly begin to contract the muscles in your arms and try to touch the bar to your lower chest when you’ve reached the apex of your ascent. Hold that contracted position for a two count, and then lower yourself slowly (four seconds) back down to the starting position (making sure the latissimus dorsi muscles are constantly contracted throughout the movement). Repeat for at least eight repetitions. Rest for one to two minutes, and then repeat for another set of seven repetitions.

Bench presses. Every third week or so perform this exercise first in your routine in order to test your upper-body progress. When testing for strength, as opposed to building it, do your first set for only five repetitions, rest briefly, and then perform singles with a one-to-two-minute rest after each until you eventually hit a weight that you can’t lift (do no more than five sets of singles). Obviously, a training partner is a necessity for maximum-single attempts; however, when training for muscle mass and power, perform no more than two sets of eight to 12 repetitions. Start by removing the weight from the pins and, with arms locked out, hold it directly over your chest. Lower the bar to your chest in four seconds, pause, and then slowly press the weight back up to the starting position. Repeat for seven to 11 more repetitions. Rest for one to two minutes, and then perform your second set.

Seated behind-the-neck presses. With the bar in the same starting position as in the squat exercise, sit down on the nearest bench. Keeping your back straight, slowly press the weight from behind your neck until your arms are completely straight and the bar is above your head. Lower the bar slowly’for four seconds’to the base of your neck, and then repeat for a minimum of eight repetitions. Rest for one to two minutes, and then do another set.

Preacher curls. Make sure that the bench you’ll be using for this exercise has a very steep (90 degree) incline so that there’s resistance in the position of full muscular contraction. Grasp the bar with a shoulder-width grip, starting from the position of full extension. Slowly’in two seconds’raise the bar to throat level, being sure to hold the completely contracted position for a two count before lowering the bar in four seconds. Repeat for at least eight repetitions. An additional set is recommended for beginners but not essential for advanced trainees.

Seated French presses. Although dips are arguably the best triceps exercise, your chest and delts may be too fatigued at this stage for you to train your triceps adequately with that exercise. Not to worry, however, as the seated French press is a great triceps isolator. To perform this exercise properly, grab an EZ-curl bar at the bends nearest the center. Press the weight overhead. Now, instead of lowering your elbows, keep them stationary (beside your ears) and lower only your forearms until your hands are as far down toward the center of your back as they can go. The time structure is the same’two seconds up, four seconds down. Repeat for at least eight repetitions. Beginners and intermediates can do a second set, but it’s not necessary for advanced trainees.

Perform this routine three times a week, which will give your body 48 to 96 hours for recovery and growth of the skeletal muscles. If you’re an advanced trainee, work out once every third day (e.g., Monday, Thursday, Sunday, and so on). That will give you 72 hours between workouts, the recovery time your advanced strength requires for muscle increase.

It’s essential to work very hard at these six exercises, as your results will vary with your effort. You should raise every repetition of every set in two seconds, hold the position of full muscular contraction for an additional two seconds, and then slowly lower to the starting position in four seconds. The slower cadence will ensure that it’s your muscles rather than momentum moving the weights, which will greatly enhance your results. When you reach the higher rep number in good form, increase the resistance by 5 percent.

I mentioned earlier that Hercules is popular with bodybuilding scribes, and I’m no exception. It’s been said that there’s a seed of truth in all myth, as for example in a story of Hercules as a young man having to make an important life decision. Young Hercules saw two women approaching him. One of them ran to get to him first. She was tall and handsome and decked out in bright clothing, with her cheeks rather too red to be natural. ‘Young man,’ she said, ‘I see you’re in doubt about what to do in life’what path of life to follow’and so I invite you to follow me. You shall have the easiest and pleasantest life in the world, no hard work and no dangers’you shall eat, drink and be merry. Others shall work, but you shall have the enjoyment, and you shall be as happy as the day is long.’

Hercules asked, ‘What is your name?’

The woman answered, ‘My real name is Pleasure, but my enemies call me Vice.’

By this time the second woman had caught up to them. Like the first, she was handsome, but in a different fashion, being stately and dignified and of noble bearing. Her dress was all white. Truth was in her eyes and modesty in her manner. She said, ‘Young sir, I know your parents and your breeding and how you’ve been educated and brought up’which makes me hope that you will be a good workman of noble deeds. I will not deceive you with promises of pleasant things, but I will tell you the truth: Nothing that is really good can be got without labor and hardship, for so the gods have ordained. If you wish to enjoy the fruits of this earth, you must plow and sow and reap and mow. And if you wish your body to be strong, you must make your body the servant to your mind and fear not labor and sweat. And just in the same way, if you wish for the love of friends, you must be good to your friends. If you wish for honor from the citizens of your city or your native land, you must work for their benefit, and you must defend them from enemies without and tyrants within. If you choose to follow me, I can make you great and truly happy.’

Hercules asked, ‘And what is your name?’

She answered, ‘My name is Virtue.’

Then Pleasure piped up, ‘See, Hercules, what a hard road she puts before you! Not a scrap of pleasure in it!’

But Virtue said, ‘Such pleasure as she is offering you leads only to surfeit and weariness. He who tries to be happy never succeeds, but he who does noble deeds gains happiness without trying.’

Legend has it that Hercules resolved to follow the hard road and to put away from his mind the craving for pleasure. And so in your training, as in your life, do not be duped by those promising pleasure or the easy way out. As Virtue said to Hercules, ‘Nothing that is really good can be got without labor and hardship.’ That’s especially true in bodybuilding; there’s no such thing as magic in stimulating muscle growth’only labor and sweat.

Coupled with proper nutrition, this routine will provide all of the muscle growth you should ever want. But it requires very hard work and dedication. There’s relatively scant pleasure to be found in this sort of training. The pleasure lies in the results of having trained, in the form of better strength and health and the satisfaction that comes from forging your body in the fire of your will. That’s the hallmark of the true bodybuilder.

Editor’s note: John Little is a leading innovator of bodybuilding training. Watch for his latest book, Fast Mass: The Max Contraction System, in early 2004. IM

‘ 2003 Northern River Productions.

Instantized Creatine- Gains In Bulk

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