- “Evaluating Current Training
Practices: Part II”
– SOME THOUGHTS ON WEIGHT TRAINING: PART II
ISSUE 41, some training techniques that are much less effective
than generally believed were discussed. Here are a couple
more that hopefully with a varied audience, will be of interest
and benefit to someone.
to vent on two exercises which really are overrated. It
is very disheartening to see people in the gym wasting their
valuable time on these exercises, and even more disappointing
to see personal trainers recommending these exercises OR
an athlete including them in their preparatory programs.
The seated calf-raise
is the best way to bigger calves & to a better vertical
jump? Well, despite its popularity, the seated calf-raise
exercise is not the best mode to achieve either goal, especially
for those on a limited time program. A brief look at the
anatomy of the “calf” will show us two muscles, the gastrocnemius
and the soleus.
gastrocnemius is the large, superficial muscle, referred
to as the “calf”. It is a multi-joint muscle, that is the
muscle crosses two joints, as it is attached from the femur
to the calcaneus (posterior above-knee area to the back
of the heel). Therefore, in the seated position, the gastrocnemius
will tend to remain slightly relaxed (OR less optimally
activated) than when the leg is in the extended position
(i.e. when standing).
contrast, the soleus is effectively trained in the seated
position because it is a single joint muscle, attached below
the knee and across the ankle. Unfortunately, the soleus
is typically (but not completely!) composed of slow-twitch
muscle fibers, and contributes very little to the biomechanics
of a vertical jump regardless of its fiber composition.
So, effectively the seated calf-raise is a poor choice in
the athlete or bodybuilder’s resistance-training program.
exercise is a variation of the plain-old barbell curl with
limits on its range of motion and 7 repetitions are performed
in 3 different movements. The first 7 reps are performed
with the arm beginning at full extension (barbell at thigh)
and end with the arms bent 90 degrees. After these 7 repetitions,
the next movement is performed from 90 degrees to full flexion
(barbell to shoulders), and finally, the last 7 repetitions
are completed throughout the full range of motion, adding
up to 21 ineffective repetitions.
number one problem associated with this exercise is the
resistance that will be used. When do you ever choose to
perform an exercise for 21 repetitions? If this technique
is effective then would you not be performing bench presses
for 21 reps, 20 rep leg presses, and 20 reps of pull-ups?
answer is simple, we know muscle growth is optimal when
a sufficient muscular tension is demanded for a sufficient
period of time, that generally believed to be around 20-60
seconds. To perform the barbell 21’s within that time limit,
a fairly quick tempo (movement cadence) must be adhered
to, but that also presents an opportunity for momentum.
Barbell 21’s just do not provide the best level of muscle
damage and I doubt that this exercise is superior to many
the range of motion restriction demanded by this exercise
may eliminate full muscle stimulation if the lifter strays
from perfect technique. When the lazy lifter stops at 90
degrees, this is often actually well below that level (parallel),
and then as they move into the next phases, they further
limit the range of motion because muscle fatigue is occurring.
brings me to another point, the issue of muscle fatigue
and what is often referred to as a “muscle pump”. A muscle
pump is simply an engorgement of the muscle with blood.
It likely has little physiological effect or benefit for
muscle hypertrophy. Consider the muscle pump developed during
arm training, after your workout, it dissipates within 2
hours maximum, yet muscle growth does not peak for several
hours after this time. So the argument that people make
for this exercise, i.e.) that it is a great for a muscle
pump, does not prove it effective.
the reason this exercise develops such a great muscle pump
is because of the isometric muscle contraction that occurs
due to the restricted range of motion, i.e.) where the muscle
is stopped where the elbow is bent at 90 degrees. The isometric
contraction cuts circulation off, pooling blood and decreasing
oxygen supply, causing both the feeling of a pump and also
the incredible fatigue associated with this movement (due
to metabolic waste build-up).
this exercise, and return to the basics. Basic heavy curls
with a full range of motion and a limit of 6-12 repetitions.
Pulldowns vs. Pull-ups
it is obvious that pulldowns are not a useless exercise,
I just don’t believe that the seated pulldown has any superiority
over the Pull-up, especially for athletes OR individuals
that need to control their own body weight (i.e. mountain
climbers). On the other hand, strength coaches that claim
pulldowns as ineffective for muscle growth don’t have concrete
evidence. Obviously large latissimus (back) muscles can
be developed with heavy pulldowns because many big bodybuilders
still do not include the basic Pull-up in their routine.
for more muscular recruitment (important to athletes), chin-ups/pull-ups
are likely superior. If you don’t presently include pull-ups,
give them a try. Add weight (hung from a chain secured to
a weight belt) if you can do more than 12 repetitions with
your own body weight.
these exercises are CRITICAL to your training program if
you are preparing for physical testing (i.e. police OR firefighters).
Now a little training guide to your Pull-up program. In
your back training program, chin-ups/pull-ups should be
the first exercise of the day because you do not want to
become fatigued prior to such a difficult movement.
people can not do a lot of repetitions (< 3) for the
Pull-up because this is an advanced exercise. If that is
the case for you, do as many reps as possible for 3 sets
with 3 minutes between each. Then, perform 3 sets of 3-6
negatives, depending on your remaining strength.
Using a step to boost yourself to the top position, start
at the top position (as if you just pulled yourself up)
and slowly (5-count) lower yourself with control through
a full range of motion. That is one rep. Now boost yourself
back to the start position and do rep 2, etc.
way to achieve a few more repetitions (or increased training
effect) from pull-ups is to change the grip. This technique
comes from an article about Arnold Schwarzeneggar’s training
methods. Start with the most difficult grip (hands facing
away, hands greater than shoulder-width apart) and perform
repetitions to failure. At fatigue, switch to a “hands facing”
(supinated) grip, and space the hands at about shoulder-width
apart and perform repetitions to fatigue.
move to the easiest grip if available (this requires a chin-bar
with handles pointing out) and take a grip with the palms
facing one another and perform repetitions to failure. This
may allow you to eke out 6 total reps per set or may allow
you to completely fatigue yourself with 6-8 reps in each
use different chin-bar grip diameters (thickness) to constantly
provide challenge. The thicker grip will really challenge
your forearms. Chins/pull-ups are basic, but possibly more
effective than any other back training exercise. Hopefully
this has motivated you to take on the challenge of the chin-up.