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Shocking Shoulders

Q: My shoulder growth has come to a standstill. Got a great routine that’ll boost growth again?

A: A few years ago IFBB pro Boyer Coe visited me in Colorado and shared with me a workout program that’s great for increasing both hypertrophy and strength endurance. It’s called work-capacity training and uses descending loads in the following manner:

1) Warm up until you get to a weight with which you struggle to complete 12 reps—your 12RM.

2) Perform 12 strict reps with that weight.

3) Rest only 60 seconds, during which you decrease the weight by 2 1/2 to 10 pounds, depending on your level of strength and the nature of the exercise.

4) Perform as many strict reps as possible with the new weight.

5) Rest only 60 seconds, during which you decrease the weight by five to 10 pounds, depending on your level of strength.

6) Do as many strict reps as possible with the new weight.

7) Rest only 60 seconds and decrease the weight by five to 10 pounds, depending on your level of strength.

8) Perform as many strict reps as possible with the new weight.

After four sets with decreasing poundages, move on to the next exercise and use the same protocol. Do a total of three exercises per body-part.

Here’s a sample of a workout-capacity training program for the shoulders. Adjust the weights according to your strength level.

Seated barbell military presses

1) Warm up
2) 145 x 12
3) Rest 60 seconds
4) 140 x 10
5) Rest 60 seconds
6) 135 x 11
7) Rest 60 seconds
8) 130 x 9
9) Rest 60 seconds

Low-pulley rope upright rows

10) 115 x 12
11) Rest 60 seconds
12) 110 x 9
13) Rest 60 seconds
14) 105 x 12
15) Rest 60 seconds
16) 100 x 10
17) Rest 60 seconds

Seated lateral raises

18) 35 x 12
19) Rest 60 seconds
20) 32.5 x 12
21) Rest 60 seconds
22) 30 x 11
23) Rest 60 seconds
24) 27.5 x 8

Give that routine a try, and you should see some sizable gains fast.

 Q: Who, in recent times, do you think has had the most influence on getting bodybuilders to rethink training?

A: Arthur Jones, the inventor of the Nautilus and MedX machines. The Nautilus machines and the company he formed to sell them made him a multimillionaire and landed him on the Forbes list of the 400 richest people. At one point financial analysts estimated that Nautilus was grossing $300 million annually. He sold Nautilus Inc. in 1986 for $23 million. Then he created an ingenious line called MedX, which he sold in 1996, after which he retired.

On August 28, 2007, Jones died from natural causes at his home in Ocala, Florida, at age 80.

Now the big question: Why would a strength coach who espouses multiple sets and free weights credit Arthur Jones? Well, first, credit should always be given where it’s due. I believe my training system is like Bruce Lee’s jeet kune do—I just took the best from everybody and mixed it. I don’t believe in dogma. Nevertheless, here are five major contributions to strength training that Jones made. Some he invented, and some he just sold or publicized very well.

1) Chins and dips. Of course he didn’t invent those exercises, but he sure sold them well. When time is short, chins and dips beat the barbell versions of the bench press and bent-over rows for packing meat on the upper body because the muscles of the upper back and chest are exercised over a longer range. I prefer to do them on rings, as that increases the number of motor units recruited—which, of course, I did not invent. Joe Weider invented chins and dips on rings, actually, the same day he invented sliced bread and sex. (That’s my modification of a joke from Jones. Needless to say, Jones didn’t have a Joe Weider shrine at his house.)

2) Accommodating resistance. Arthur Jones, to my knowledge, was the first to recommend that chains would provide a better load for the strength curves of the extensor chain, which refers to the movement of the glutes, hamstrings and lower-back muscles. They improve the overload on presses, squats and deadlifts. More than 14 years ago, over breakfast, powerlifter and trainer Louie Simmons told me that he got the concept from Jones—Louie being another who always gives credit where it’s due. That’s one of the many reasons I have the highest respect for him. The inventive and ingenious Simmons brought the use of chains to the powerlifting world back in the mid-1990s, when O.J. was looking for Nicole’s killer on an L.A. freeway. Since then chains have jumped to the mainstream weight-training world—and O.J. still hasn’t had any luck.

Jones came up with the Nautilus shaped cam. Unfortunately, he used the same cam shape for all machines. That was a mistake, as strength curves come in three shapes in humans: ascending (pressing movements, pullovers), descending (e.g., knee flexors) and ascending/descending (e.g., elbow flexors). Which leads me to his third contribution.

3) The pullover machine. Jones was fascinated with isolating the lats and removing the elbow flexors from the equation. For that purpose he invented the pullover machine, which, according to two peer-reviewed studies, matched the human strength curve. If you have access to one of those, please do try it. If you want to purchase one, make sure you can load your own plates—the weight-stack machines are always too light for the well-trained person.

4) The value of eccentric training. Bob Peoples in 1908 was probably the one who really should be credited with recognizing the value of eccentric, or negative, training in building strength, but Jones is the one who sold it the most. He developed some simple designs, as simple as steps to climb up the chin and dipping stations and foot pedals on the Omni Biceps machine, eliminating, or overcoming the concentric, or positive, position of the rep.

5) Rethinking volume. In his heyday Jones was recommending one to two sets per bodypart, three workouts maximum per week, while the Southern California muscle subculture was into 20 to 30 sets per bodypart, training twice a day, six days a week. Two very different views—in the early ’70s it was the debate in bodybuilding magazines. Bodybuilders like my friend Boyer Coe trained under both systems, coming to the conclusion that probably 10 to 12 sets a bodypart every three to five days was the more efficient system for hypertrophy for most people. Even though time showed that Jones’ approach was certainly no panacea, he at least got people to drop their volume considerably and make some decent progress.

He was a master salesman—he could have persuaded the Saudi princes to buy sand from him, and he could have sold fridges to the Inuits. In all fairness, he influenced many people in a positive way, from Dr. Ken Leistner to Dorian Yates.

Q: I want to build a thick set of erector spinae muscles. Can you recommend anything?

A: Here’s a great way to build the erector spinae. I call it a retro workout because the routine was devised in the early ’80s and is true to the workouts of the old-time bodybuilders. It consists of four exercises commonly used by Olympic lifters to develop strength for the competition lifts, the snatch and the clean and jerk. The difference is that they’re less technical than the competition lifts and can be performed for higher reps, providing an increased muscle-building effect.

If you’ve never performed those exercises, ask a strength coach—preferably one with at least a Level 2 PIPC certification—or an Olympic lifter to teach you how to perform them properly. I generally don’t recommend the use of straps, but do use them when you feel that not doing so will compromise your technique or the amount of weight you can use on each exercise.

The program alternates between exercises performed by lifting the bar from the floor and those performed while standing on a small platform about four to six inches high. The variation changes the line of pull of the posterior chain—that is, backside—with each new exercise. The delayed muscle soreness caused by the mechanical advantage differences is horrendous but very rewarding for strength and hypertrophy gains. The workout consists of four exercises performed for five sets of five to six reps and is much more difficult than it looks on paper. Here it is:

A) Power cleans from the floor: 5 x 5, 1/0/X/0 tempo, resting 2.5 minutes between sets

B) Snatch pulls on a podium: 5 x 6, 1/0/X/0 tempo, resting 2.5 minutes between sets

C) Clean pulls from the floor: 5 x 6, 1/0/X/0 tempo, resting 2.5 minutes between sets

D) Snatch deadlifts on podium: 5 x 6, 4/0/X/0 tempo, resting three minutes between sets

If there’s a lesson to be learned from such a brutal retro workout, it’s not only that, as the saying goes, everything old is new again but also that, sometimes, old things are still the best!

Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most suc-cessful strength coaches, having coached Olympic med-alists 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 Also see his ad on page 205.  IM

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