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    « Nutricide. | Main | Getting Stronger »

    Now that's a workout!

    There's this thing I noticed about us men. When it comes to working out, there are a few things that so many of us want to accomplish - big arms, built chest, and a 6-pack tops among them. Now, there's nothing wrong with those goals, but to isolate workouts to the point of excluding other body parts is both sad and amusing at the same time.

    I watch some of the guys in my gym while they're working out. I see the same guys training back, chest, shoulders, and arms on a nearly daily basis. For their effort, they're rewarded with a well developed upper body - on little stilt-like legs. That's the amusing part. The sad part is that their workouts appear to be geared towards a sense of vanity rather than actual overall physical health.

    Being a fairly typical guy, one of my current goals is to have bigger arms. I recently read in some men's magazine that the way to develop size on the upper arm is to forego the abundance of curling-type exercises for the biceps. Virtually every bicep workout has combinations of curls - hammers, concentration curls, e-z curl barbells, preacher curls, etc. The article suggests that adding size to the bicep is not a matter of doing more and heavier curls but rather in performing pulling-type exercises that incorporate the biceps more. I've started doing this recently - my own personal experiment to see if this author was just blowing smoke or actually giving good advice.

    Last night was my upper-body workout. I did the usual incline barbell press for the chest with cable crossovers as a finishing move. Shoulders included military presses for the medial head, flys for the posterior head and front raises for the anterior head. Then I moved to my least favorite piece of equipment in the gym - the weight-assist pullup machine. That thing is just pure evil. If you ever want to know what it feel like to be beaten about the head and shoulders with a metal pipe, just spend some time with this machine. Lucky me - this was where I would spend the rest of my workout.

    The weight-assist pullup machine has several different exercise options on it - wide-grip pullups, narrow-grip pullups, neutral-grip pullups (palms facing each other), and handles for triceps dips. My first body part on this machine was the back. For these I did wide-grip pullups at 50% body weight (90 lbs assist) and reducing the weight with each set. By the time I got to my set of 6, I was sweating profusely and my back refused to pull anymore. I returned to the 50% body-weight and managed 12 reps, but when I got to the lat pulldown bar, I think I got 6 or 7 reps in before my back just said, "that's all, dude." I finished the exercise by doing 12 close-grip rows.

    Next, I did dips. I started at 100-lbs assist (dipping 85 lbs or so) and reducing the assist as I moved along. Same thing happened. I got to my set of 6 and saw stars. My triceps were screaming - and HUGE. Dips are compound movements, incorporating both the shoulder and the elbow joints thus making them a more effective exercise than something like cable presses (which are a good exercise too!). When I got to my last triceps exercise - overhead presses with a 25 lb dumbbell - I thought I was going to drop the weight on my noggin.

    Back to the weight-assist machine. Biceps now - this was going to be the test of the information from the article I read. I have fairly strong biceps, so I started my exercise with 80 lb assist and reduced it from there. I rethought that idea by the time I got to my set of 8. My biceps literally felt like they were going to explode. I'm sure I looked really "cool" when I did my set of 6 - struggling to pull 135 pounds up with bulging biceps that were all but spent. I added more weight for the assist and struggled through 12 reps before running over to the dumbbells and grabbing a set of 15s. 15s are usually fairly easy for me, but this was no ordinary set of circumstances. My biceps were toast.

    By this time, my wife had finished her workout and was watching me from the other side of the gym. Her comment when we were driving home was something along the lines of "your arms looked HUGE - even from across the gym." *smile*

    Right now, I'm enjoying the effects of that workout - a bit of soreness coupled with some pretty bulgy-feeling arms.

    The gist of all this, I suppose, is that trying something new isn't necessarily a bad idea - especially this late in the game (only 2.5 weeks remaining in this first Transformation). Always push to new limits and reach new heights. The physical and mental rewards are worth the price you pay.


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    Reader Comments (2)

    I found out what a great workout the weight assistance machine is recently as well. I'm at about 215 (well, 212 as we write but I'm sure you know how that goes) and I use 70 lbs assistance on the dips and 85 on the wide grip pull-ups, doing sets of 10-8-8-6 split in the middle. This replaced the lat pulldown machine and tricep press machine for me in an effort to become more freeweight and bodyweight-based about my strength training. The results have been phenomenal...I've had similar pump accomplishments to you (can't get my SO to the gym with me often enough to notice anything, rrg) and my weight used has gone up about 25%.

    Everything I do is compound as I have no goals related to big biceps or day is standing rows, seated rows, assisted pull-ups (today), the next is bench press, military press, and dips; day 3 is legs and day 4 I do all sorts of flys. Before I was lifting 5 days a week doing push/pull 2 days each and 1 day legs + flys but my focus is cardio for a 2-month fitness challenge right now so I cut back a little bit to prevent wearing down, injury, and making my SO think I live at the gym any more than I already do :)

    April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChris Hickman

    the author you read has a great point. I rarely do any curling exercises, however i have large and strong biceps. On Sundays, I enjoy what i call MAX day, i try to lift the heaviest weights possible while observing strict technique and super long rest periods. I always do bench press, clean, jerk and presses, stiff legged deadlifts, deadlifts, and squats. I throw in some stuff as I feel fit as well. Nothing gets me jacked up for another week as Max day does.

    May 7, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercoachlefty

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