Q: I have a question about German Volume training. Would it be wise to include a day in the 10 sets of 10 method where you just focused on biceps and triceps for the whole thing—say, curls and extensions? If not, why? I do notice that on shoulder and arm day, incline hammer curls are in the program, but there are no specific triceps movements on any day. Wouldn’t that leave the triceps underworked?
A: Yes, you’d definitely include triceps-specific work in one of the workouts. I’m not sure what article you are referring to, but I have always included triceps work in any German Volume program I have prescribed.
With German Volume training you want to use exercises that provide the most bang for the buck—big compound movements such as squats and military presses—not small, single-joint exercises like triceps kickbacks or leg extensions. I like to use pressing movements as the triceps exercise; either close-grip presses or dips are your best bet. Both also work your anterior deltoids and pectoralis major.
I like to use a five-day rotation with German Volume training:
Day 1: Chest, back
Day 2: Legs, calves, abs
Day 3: Off
Day 4: Arms, shoulders
Day 5: Off
You can repeat the five-day cycle six times. That will definitely add some much-needed muscle—guys at the gym will stop calling you Paris Hilton.
Q: What’s the best way to build traps? I notice that powerlifters and Olympic lifters seem to have the best traps. By comparison, bodybuilders’ traps are nothing. Shrugs and upright rows don’t seem to do a whole lot for me, and I seriously doubt that powerlifters do any shrugs. What’s their secret? Is it deadlifts? And if so, are there any little tricks for putting more load on the traps, like retracting the scapulae?
A: Powerlifters get their trap development from years of deadlifting, while Olympic lifters get theirs from the Olympic lifts and their derivatives. Power cleans and power snatches are probably the most effective exercises for developing the traps, after shrugs. Doing five sets of six reps on one of those lifts will pack meat on your traps.
If you’re going to do shrugs, I suggest you use dumbbells and work only one side at a time. That way, you’ll have way more range than with a bar.
If you use machines, the Atlantis and the Hammer brands probably offer the best choice on the market, for they allow you to work the traps unilaterally. The Hammer brand has two points on the lever where you can overload the strength curve, permitting you to better match the resistance curve with your strength curve.
Retracting the scapulae at the top of the motion on shrugs is certainly not a good trick. In fact, it’s somewhat dorkish. Think about it: How does gravity exert its pull when you try to move perpendicular to it, instead of against it?
Q: I’m experiencing shoulder pain while bench-pressing. What should I do about it?
A: Shoulder pain that strikes during bench presses has three main causes:
1) Improper muscle balance. If the strength ratio between two muscle groups is off-kilter, you can actually experience faulty alignment. For example, if the strength of your pecs is far greater than that of the external rotators of the humerus, you’ll likely feel a sharp pain in the superior anterior portion of the upper arm (a problem often misdiagnosed as bicipital tendinitis). There are lots of other examples of offset muscle and strength ratios, but explaining them all is beyond the scope of this column. Those imbalances can be evaluated by any Level 1 Practical certified PICP coach. Please consult the site for the certified coach nearest you, or get certified to learn the methodology. Contact [email protected] to attend a seminar near you.
2) Adhesion buildup. One of the regrettable side effects of years and years of weight training is the buildup of adhesions in soft tissues and surrounding structures. Adhesions are a result of the load used and the total volume of repetitions. In other words, the more sets and reps you perform and the stronger you become, the more adhesions you develop. These connective-tissue buildups can take place within the muscle, between muscle groups or between the nerve and the muscle. Adhesions can occur in any muscle, but the one most often responsible for bench-press-induced shoulder pain is the subscapularis. The good news is that they can be found and “cured” quickly through a soft-tissue-management technique called Active Release Techniques.
3) Lack of flexibility. Failure to stretch the muscles on a regular basis can precipitate injuries. You don’t need to become a master of yoga, though. Regular PNF stretching of the shoulder girdle before your upper-body workouts will do wonders for keeping your shoulders healthy and functional.
A few years ago my good friend and IFBB professional bodybuilder Milos Sarcev called me out of the blue. He mentioned that he was scheduled to have arthroscopic surgery the following week on both of his shoulders. He was understandably upset. For one thing, the surgery would cost him about $18,000. Additionally, he’d have to undergo an extensive rehab program, and that would keep him from competing and earning an income for a long time. I told him to get his ass to my office right away and see my partner and ART specialist Dr. Mike Leahy before letting a surgeon anywhere near his shoulders. (Incidentally, the orthopedic surgeon who made the initial diagnosis told Milos that he had an impingement syndrome and surgery was the only option. The surgeon actually wanted to cut away some of the bone above the shoulder to make room for the muscle.)
ALLWhen Milos came to the office, he hadn’t trained in more than four months because of the excruciating pain. Even lowering an unloaded Olympic bar (45 pounds) caused him to recoil in pain. After working on him for just 45 minutes, Dr. Leahy told Milos to go to the gym and give his shoulders a trial run. Somewhat reluctantly, Milos allowed me to take him to the local World Gym. In total disbelief, he bench-pressed 315 pounds for two reps. Five days later he did six reps with 315 pounds, without feeling any pain.
A month later he saw Dr. Leahy again for a follow-up. Milos was already back in near-contest shape, and he was training full force for some upcoming IFBB shows. Dr. Leahy made a few minor, additional probes, but all in all, Milos was cured.
What’s important is that you don’t have to suffer or quit training because you have shoulder problems. Depending on your particular problem, either get a PICP certified strength coach to help you design a proper routine or locate a credentialed Active Release Techniques provider. To find a credentialed Active Release Techniques provider, go to www.activerelease
.com. (Remember, use only credentialed ART providers; far too many doctors are more than willing to experiment with your body).
Q: My triceps development has stalled, big time. Got any new routines I can try?
A: Here’s one that you could call the pre- and postexhaustion training routine from hell. I was first exposed to the concept of doublés by former Canadian National weightlifting coach Pierre Roy, who produced a host of weightlifting champions, including Olympic silver medalist Jacques Demers. Doublé is a French word that means to do it twice. Pierre originated the concept by having his athletes do the same lift twice in a workout if he wanted rapid improvement in that particular lift. For example, if one of his Olympic lifters needed more leg strength, he’d have him squat at the beginning of the workout and the end of it.
I received added incentive to incorporate the principle in my training when I came across a book by French strength physiologist Commetti, in which he extolled the virtues of doublés. My curiosity was piqued, so I began to prescribe doublés to many of my athletes, most of whom reported unbelievable muscle soreness and subsequent growth. Although you can apply that type of training to any bodypart, try the following routine for your triceps:
1) Lying EZ-curl bar triceps extensions to the forehead, 6-8 RM (using the greatest amount of weight possible to allow you to do six to eight reps) in a 3/1/1 tempo.
Without resting, move to:
2) Close-grip bench presses, 4-6 RM in a 3/1/1 tempo.
Without resting, move to:
3) Lying EZ-curl bar triceps extensions to the forehead, 4-6 RM in a 3/1/1 tempo.
Rest for two minutes, then repeat the tri-set (you’ll probably have to drop the weight five to 10 pounds on every new doublé tri-set).
You can follow this up with a couple of other triceps movements, but let the doublés be the cornerstone of your workout for a brief period—until your body adapts to it.
Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most successful strength coaches, having coached Olympic medalists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Olympics. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit www.Charles
Poliquin.net. Also see his ad on page 143. IM