By Iron Vic Steele
All athletic coaches worth their salt know that hamstrings are critical. The guys you and I know and respect –all the athletic heavyweights – agree: when it comes to moving, running, speed, explosiveness, HAMSTRINGS are critical! Yet there are few if any articles written about the hams – how come so little respect for so important a muscle??
Rollo, Rolando Beach
First off, from a bodybuilder’s perspective, you can’t see hamstrings in the mirror. And that alone pushes hamstrings down the muscle preference list. Past that, hams are hard to isolate. Difficult to see, difficult to train (properly,) hamstrings are neglected on a widespread basis. Who does anything for the hamstrings other than 3-4 half-hearted set of lying leg curls once a week?? Apparently, hamstrings are the (“I can’t get no respect!”) Rodney Dangerfield of muscles. Yet, as you note, hamstrings are super critical for athletics. Speed originates in powerful thighs offset by equally powerful hamstrings. Often called the “thigh bicep,” hamstring curls and regular bicep curls are identical. Hamstring curls and bicep curls act as counterweight for larger, stronger muscles (thighs and triceps.) John Parrillo has a long list of hamstring exercises to choose from. Lots of nifty types of stiff-leg deadlifts designed to activate the thigh biceps. Because the poundage used in these high intensity Parrillo deadlift/ham exercise is so heavy, these movements dig the deepest possible muscular inroad. This type of hamstring training is unobtainable with machine hamstring exercises.
To get the most out of lying leg curls, Parrillo advises, “Slow down the rep speed…use what we call, ‘continuous tension’ on both the concentric and eccentric. Too many bodybuilders perform seated and lying legs curls the wrong way: they jolt the pad at the start and by going as fast as possible to create momentum. The better way is to use a slow and controlled start and concentrate on pulling the weight as far as possible using a more complete range of motion. Take the slop out of lying legs curls and they become far harder and far more beneficial.” I would tear a page from the Parrillo playbook and train hams twice a week: on day one use the heavier barbell and dumbbell stiff leg deadlifts. Work up to a single set of 5 slo-mo reps. On day two work the machines. Hamstring work done on machines are ideal for forced reps (if you have a training partner) and drop sets where you lower the poundage and keep going without having to get up or change positions. Hit the hams twice weekly using the continuous tension approach on all the exercises.
Can I stick to one protein source? I live off the grid and the nearest store is an hour away. I primarily use chicken as my protein source augmented with fish and some elk. I had read that a wide variety of protein was ideal but due to my circumstance I am extremely limited in my choices. Is this a problem? I eat well and try and stick the Parrillo nutritional approach. I ran a gym in Boise before taking a job with the forest service. I actually have a good home gym, an Olympic barbell and bunch of dumbbells, squat racks and benches; I have a good situation to make some gains.
No sweat, you are doing fine. Plus, you can always order Parrillo, so factually you do have access to protein variety. First off, learn different ways to cook chicken: have you been sautéing chicken in CapTri® C8 MCT? Fry chicken fingers plain or dredge them in ground oat flour first. Fried chicken is delicious and most bodybuilders limit the themselves to grill or bake chicken. Adding frying and sautéing chicken (with CapTri® C8 MCT) adds incredible flavor and variety to a limited menu. Wild game and fresh caught fish are incredibly healthy and beneficial. Elk is wonderful prepared right; with access to the web you can discover all kinds of recipes and methods. I would imagine you likely have some excellent local produce, fresh and seasonally appropriate. Parrillo Optimized Whey™ delivers 34 grams of protein per serving. I would also point to the Parrillo Soft Chew bar™. Each of these delicious bars delivers 22 grams of protein along with 13 grams of fiber carb. The best part of Parrillo nutritional supplements are the taste: devoid of insulin-spiking sugar, the protein shakes and Parrillo bars are absolutely delicious – something tasty and dessert-like to look forward to, which is a godsend for someone eating a narrow diet of repeating foods. Speaking of deserts, you might be the perfect guy to get into all the high protein Parrillo foods. Why not make Parrillo pudding, pancakes, muffins, cakes or cupcakes? Have you tried Parrillo Contest Cookies or Contest Brownies? Incredible. Use Parrillo products to add protein variety and brighten up a repetitive diet.
I need help man. I committed to enter a bodybuilding competition in 16 weeks. I am leg heavy. I need to add some arm size. It would be great if you had some sort of arm specialization program. Ideally I would like to add a solid inch to my arms over the next 16 weeks. I am a lean dude that walks around with a 10% body fat percentile. My problem is not leanness, its adding muscle size. That’s what drew me towards Parrillo. I have instituted a high-calorie, clean-calorie diet. All I need is a kick ass arm specialization routine. I also do the fascia stretching. I am 6-foot, 179 and looking to muscle up.
Ross the Boss, Macon
You are perfectly positioned. Generally speaking, a man needs to add about 10-pounds of bodyweight to grow arms a full inch. You have the perfect nutritional approach in place. Make sure you keep the cardio up during this mass-building phase. Aerobics keep weight gain confined to lean muscle mass. Eat big, eat clean, lots of cardio. I’ll let you take care of the rest of the training, I will confine myself to the arms…bench presses and overhead presses need to be done before arms as this arm routine blitzes triceps so thoroughly that pressing power is destroyed. Train arms three times a week…drink a double serving of Parrillo 50-50 Plus™ immediately after an arm workout.
standing barbell curls, weighted dips, seated dumbbell curls, pushdowns, machine curls with forced reps, rope handle pushdowns
standing dumbbell curls, nose-breakers, steep incline dumbbell curls, single-dumbbell overhead tricep press, machine curls, narrow-grip pushups
preacher curls, weighted bench dips, spider curls, heavy tricep pushdowns, continual tension cable curls (standing,) machine tricep pushdowns
Superset the bicep and tricep exercises. Five sets are used: the first three sets start off with high reps and light poundage. Hit the heaviest set on the 4th set of each exercise. On the 5th and final set, drop the poundage and hit a 10-12 rep burn-out set. Feel free to use forced reps (if you have a training partner) or drop sets on the final sets of each exercise. On the heaviest sets of each exercise use fascia stretches to ‘reset’ bis and tris: favored bi/tri stretches? Triceps can be stretched relaxing in the bottommost position of the dip. John Parrillo loves the skin-the-cat stretch for biceps. I use a modified skin-the-cat where I skip the flipping over part and simply reverse grip grab an overhead chin bar. Relaxing the legs exponentially increases the degree of bicep stretch. Another good tricep stretch is to allow a single dumbbell (held sideways) with two hands behind the head. By relaxing the arms while keeping the elbows pointed upward stretches the triceps to a dramatic degree. You should add 10-pounds of lean mass over the next 16 weeks and add a full inch to your arms while staying ripped.
Hello from Austria!
I am a professional mountain climber and free climber and need gripping power, hand and finger strength. Do you have any ideas for radically increasing hand strength – I need strength and I also need strength-endurance in that I have to grip anchor spots until I can attain the next hand hold. Any cool exercises would be appreciated.
I would look to the world’s best power lifters for advice; these gargantuan men dead lift 800 to 900 pounds in the dead lift and develop incredibly strong hands. One great hand strength exercise used by power icons is a form of dead lifting. You place the loaded barbell in a power rack or set on some sturdy boxes. The ideal height is four inches below lockout: this is a very strong pulling position and a lot of poundage can be used. The idea is use a double overhand grip with no straps; stand erect; now you are in a locked out dead lifting position. Now stand erect and breathe; just stand there and the heavy barbell starts to force the hands open. Fight against this even as the bar is on the fingers, fight, fight, fight until the bar escapes your grip and falls maybe an inch or two as the barbell falls onto the rack or boxes. Perhaps in the first session you start with 198-pounds (90 kilos) and time yourself: how long can you stand there and hold the barbell before it escapes your grip? Say you last 40-seconds. Now you can either attempt to hold 90 kilos longer than 40-seconds or push up to say 100-kilos (220) and attempt to hold it for 40-seconds. This type of brutal hand training is light years better and more effective than squeezing a gripper or doing wrist curls or reverse curls.
I have a sweet tooth and a deep love for chocolate. I am also twenty pounds overweight and see the connection. I need to ditch sweets and chocolate. As I was perusing the Parrillo product catalog to place my monthly order, I noticed a product with the most enticing name: Chocolate Fix™ protein powder. The flavors were equally delicious sounding – chocolate almond coconut and chocolate cherry cordial. How can something so wonderful sounding contain no sugar of chocolate – and still taste good? I am ordering some. Can you tell me the rationale behind this particular product?
The rationale is simple: create the most flavorful, chocolate-ty tasting drink on the face of the planet – without resorting to sugar or high fructose corn syrup. How does Parrillo products manage to replicate the taste and flavor of chocolate? Expert use of totally defatted cocoa powder and protein isolates: like a good BBQ sauce or rub, there are many secret ingredients in the Chocolate Fix™. The richness of the taste is backed up with outstanding nutritional statistics. I would also mention that I too have a sweet tooth and as a fellow addict would suggest you also try the Parrillo Hi-Protein™ peach flavor. If you are a peach fan this is a must. John gets mad at me but as a treat I mix a double serving of peach-flavored Hi-Protein™ and mix it with six ounces of raw milk; incredible richness and taste that has to be tasted to be believed. Also: for more chocolate-y deliciousness, it is hard to top the venerable Parrillo chocolate almond coconut Parrillo Energy Bar™. This 65 gram bar is a nutritional powerhouse: 34 grams of slow-release carbs are backed up with 14 grams of high BV protein. With 220 calories, this taste delight is a meal in a wrapper. There are a dozen chocolate choices amongst all the various Parrillo products. We haven’t even touched on the various Parrillo food possibilities: the chocolate cake, cupcakes, Contest Cookies, Contest Brownies, etc. It would take some time to work through all the chocolate possibilities within the Parrillo Product line. Start with Chocolate Fix™ powder: this flavorful concoction will make you forget about Mars Bars and Reese’s Pieces.