By Iron Vic Steele
I was recently asked to join a training group of four guys. They asked if I wanted to become one of their training partners. These guys get together three times a week to train at the local Gold’s Gym. I would classify them as intermediate level bodybuilders. They don’t compete but they want to. One of them is a pretty good powerlifter. I am of two minds: I am doing well training on my own. I can train when I want. I have made really good progress since I got serious about my commitment to the Parrillo approach. I am locked into a Parrillo nutritional regimen that is working wonders. I have lost 25-pounds of body fat over the last six-months. This is probably part of why these guys approached me. I am stronger than they are, bigger and older than them. I have more muscle than these guys – they are younger but are hard trainers and don’t act out. What do you think?
So much depends on what their training strategy is. When you train in a group, everybody does the same workout, the same exercises in the same style for the same number of reps. One after another, you lift. The others watch or spot. No one texts or tweets or takes calls or spaces out. You pay attention to each other’s lifting. You comment on techniques and urge each other on. You give each other forced reps on the top sets and spot one another closely. This is how it should be. If they are using a lame routine and if they expect you to follow along, then I would say thanks but no thanks. If they’re agreeable to do your workouts, then this could be a great way to take your physique to the next level. You already have your Parrillo-style nutrition together and are getting results from your training. If these younger guys would do your workouts, then you could educate them on subtle things…how to give proper forced reps, how to do drop sets, giants sets, what the right pace is…all men lift more and exert harder when lifting in front of other men. By putting yourself in front of a group of guys you will naturally lift more and try harder. Over time, this converts into huge gains: you get stronger in all your lifts by lifting in front of the boys. Because you get way stronger and you get way more muscular – remember you are staying tight on a Parrillo nutritional program, thus ensuring muscle gains will be lean muscle mass and not marbled with an unacceptable amount of body fat. It depends on if these guys are malleable; will they follow where you lead?
I was real sick for months. It took another six months to get back to normal. I am ready to start strength training and was wondering what you would recommend. I belong to the YMCA and they have a great training area. I have a good working knowledge of bodybuilding and was wondering what type of workout you would recommend. I have three days a week available to train. I am thin and under-weight and I am already using Parrillo supplements to get healthy. I take Hi-Protein powder™ shakes twice a day and I use the Parrillo Energy bar™, I love the chocolate almond coconut flavor. I need an entry-level strength program for a weak guy making a comeback.
Jimmy, Coral Gables
We shall make haste slowly Jimmy. Light dumbbells should be your main training tools. On day one, I would start with flat bench dumbbell presses. Then proceed to dumbbell incline presses. Finish this workout with triceps pushdowns alternated with seated dumbbell curls. Three sets of 8-reps on all the exercises. Start with the lightest dumbbells in the gym and on each successive set, jump the poundage up by the smallest possible increment. On day two, train your legs. Perform three successively heavier “Tri-sets.” Start off warming up with a set of “no-weight” squats. Without rest, perform a set of lying leg curls. Finish with a set of seated or standing calf raises. On successive squat sets, hold a kettlebell under your chin, goblet squat style. Squats and leg curls are done for 8-rep sets. Calves are done for 12-rep sets. On your third training day work your back and shoulders: start with three sets of seated lat pulldowns. Move onto the seated cable row for three sets. Next, seated overhead dumbbell press for three sets and finish with a set or two of cable lateral raises – 8-rep sets for all exercises. Make haste slowly. Within 2-3 months you will have doubled your current strength levels.
What is the best triceps exercise? I use cable pushdowns (and the variations) almost exclusively. It occurred to me the other day that (despite doing the various pushdowns using different handles for years) I don’t really have any triceps to show for all my years of work. I need to try some new things. I like doing tricep work using cables – the results have been underwhelming. Any ideas?
June Bug, Little Rock
Triceps exercises using cables, pushdowns with the various handles, are far and away the most popular and widely done triceps exercises. Cable triceps work should be thought of as a triceps “finisher,” i.e. an exercise done last when training triceps. My all-time favorite triceps exercise is the weighted dip. Lower down until the upper arms are parallel to the floor before pushing back erect to a “hard” and complete lockout, 5-8 reps per set. Nose-breakers and narrow-grip bench presses are fantastic triceps movements. Overhead triceps presses (French Press) using one and two dumbbells are also highly recommended. Cable exercise are to be done after these exercises: blast the triceps with the big, powerful exercises and then “finish” the triceps off with whatever triceps pushdown variation(s) you prefer. Never do the cable exercises first and never make cable exercises your only triceps exercise. One final tip: make sure every single rep of every single triceps exercise is fully and completely locked out. An accentuated lockout causes the triceps to contract to the point of cramping – that is exactly the type of contraction needed to grow big triceps. Too many bodybuilders practice a “soft” lockout, the elbows never truly lock out. This makes any exercise a lot easier and the bodybuilder can handle a hell-of-a-lot more weight, great for the ego but terrible for triceps. Send triceps cable work to the back of the bus.
Lots and lots of talk in the wider athletic training world about “recovery.” Lots of new tools and expensive devices aimed at hastening an athlete’s recovery after a hard workout. What is your opinion? Have you experienced any of the cryo device that simulates taking an ice bath? Do you have any recovery strategies? What tricks do you use to accelerate recovery?
Tim, Baton Rouge
First things first: the first order of business is taking a workout of such intensity and severity that you have a hard time recovering before you are scheduled to take the next hardcore workout. Everybody glosses over this part. Most folks honestly don’t train hard enough to require any hi-tech or low-tech recovery aides. However, if you truly train hard, if you really get after it the right way, training hard, heavy, long and often, recovery can be problematic. I like John Parrillo’s take on the issue of recovery. “There is much truth to the old adage, ‘there is no such thing as over-training, only under-eating.’” Over-training and inadequate recovery are synonymous. Parrillo is saying that the first and finest recovery accelerator is nutrition: additional clean calories are the first and best way to accelerate recovery. Too many of the wrong calories and the athlete gets fat. Lean protein is the premier nutrient for accelerating recovery. “If you find that you are not recovering quick enough, increase your daily intake of calories, particularly lean protein. In almost every case, a substantial and consistent increase in protein will shorten recovery time and to a dramatic degree.” Parrillo designed 50/50 Plus™ as a post-workout replenishment shake. The powder is activated with water and is half high BV protein and half slow-release glycogen-replacing carbs (hence 50/50.) I would accelerate recovery thru nutrition: up the clean calories, jack up your lean protein intake, start taking 50/50 Plus™ after a tough session. I can’t address the ice-bath therapy stuff as I have never taken an ice bath. The idea behind the ice bath is that the body is “inflamed” after a hard workout and an ice bath cools the inflammation. Does it work? I have no clue. One thing for sure: getting together enough ice to do an ice bath after every workout would take hundreds of pounds of ice each week; someone invented a device to replicate an ice bath without the hassle of the ice. American ingenuity never ceases to amaze me.
What is your opinion on the power clean? Are they better than the upright row? I could use some more traps because I really don’t have any. I suppose you would call me an intermediate level guy. I have been lifting for five years. I do some pulldowns and seated cable rows, that’s about it for my back. I have some bodybuilders that train at the gym tell me that all I need to do is upright rows and that power cleans are dangerous. The problem is the guys that are telling me that upright rows are good for traps have no real trap development. I want some of those traps that come up to your ears.
Roy, Virginia Beach
Traps are the power muscles: guys with big traps reek of strength. Also, there is almost no way to build monster traps without also building monster spinal erectors, the twin python muscles that run along each side of the spine from tailbone to skull. Indeed, power cleans are the best trap builders on the face of the earth. The deadlift is in a strong second place while upright rows are a distant third. Real power cleaning is tricky: you need generate upward momentum, you can’t just goon the weight to the shoulders. Try to find someone that knows what they’re doing and ask them to show you how to do a proper power clean. Stay light and move the barbell upward with great velocity. Jump forward and downward to catch the barbell on the shoulders. No more than 3 reps per set for 3-4 sets done twice a week. Start real light and work up no more than 5-10 pounds per session. Snappy technique, no grinders. Stick with twice a week power cleans for eight weeks and there is no way your traps wouldn’t grow, it would be impossible not to grow traps – and erectors! Just make sure you’re doing them right.