I see the serious lifters at the gym I train at go through an elaborate ritual prior to doing a set of bench presses. They contort their backs and create a bridge in their spine as they bench press. They hold this exaggerated arch throughout the bench press. Why do the lifters see the need to create this arch? These guys bench 400 for reps and I bench 200 for reps, so maybe I am missing out on something. I lie flat as a pancake when I bench.
Juno, Gross Point
Creating an arch shortens the rep-stroke, the distance you must push. A big bencher will create a huge arch and touch the barbell to the highest point on the chest. The hardest barbell press is a strict overhead press. The next hardest is the incline press. Then comes the flat bench. The easiest press is the decline bench press. A man that can do a strict overhead front press with 150 can do an incline barbell press with 175, a flat bench with 200 and a decline press with 225. Why? Better leverage. The elite flat bencher turns the flat bench into a decline bench press and by doing so can improve pressing leverage by upwards of 20-30%. An elite bench presser knows that if he can bench press 300, lying “flat as a pancake,” they will be able to bench 320-330 when they create (and hold) a severe arch. The arch turns the flat bench into a decline bench press. Use this procedure to create a bench press arch: squeeze the shoulder blade together, pin the shoulders to the bench, raise the butt off the bench while simultaneously arching the spine. Now push the butt towards the shoulders by pushing upward on the legs. The butt barely touches the bench during the set. Practice makes perfect, don’t expect to develop a perfect arch the first time you try it. I think arching is highly advisable. Next time you are at the gym, why not walk over and ask the master archer how he does it? Most good lifters love serious questions about technique. A bigger arch means a bigger bench and a bigger bench means bigger pecs, front delts and triceps.
I recently read an old Parrillo profile on a really impressive looking bodybuilder. He mentioned that when he decided it was time to shift out of pre-competition lean out phase and into a mass-building phase, his strategy was to drink “a Parrillo ‘super shake’ and eat a Parrillo Energy bar twice a day.” He reported that he was able to add 11-pounds of lean muscle in 30-days using this supplement stack. This intrigues me – I would love to drink a shake and eat a bar and add 11 pounds of muscle. That sounds so much more convenient than trying cook and chew every bite.
Donny G., PG Detention Center
Let’s not forget the savage training that makes the shake matter. The super-shake can be made with either a double-serving of Parrillo Optimized Whey™ protein or a double serving of Parrillo Hi-Protein powder. Optimally the whey shake is consumed in the morning and the Hi-Protein™ shake mid-afternoon. A double serving of Optimized Whey™ provides 68 grams of protein and 300 calories. A double serving of Parrillo Hi-Protein™ provides 62 grams of protein and 320 calories. To each shake add two tablespoons of CapTri® C8 MCT, the Parrillo patented MCT oil. Each tablespoon provides 100 calories. CapTri® C8 MCT adds 200 calories to each shake. With each shake, a Parrillo Energy Bar™ was eaten. This “meal in a wrapper” contains 210 calories with 14 grams of protein. Drink a super shake and eat an energy bar twice a day. This creates 1,450 clean calories with 172 grams of protein. I would commence a mass-building phase by taking one super shake a day. After a few weeks add a second daily 1,000 calorie shake. 3-4 weeks into the mass-building phase add the Energy bars. This way the clean calories are bumped upward, systematically and strategically. What a great way to obtain the clean calories and ample protein needed to construct lean muscle mass.
I heard an interesting comment by Dorian Yates the other day, “Now days, pro bodybuilders all have trainers. These trainers oversee the bodybuilders training sessions and manage their nutrition.” Yates maintains that one of the great things about bodybuilding was it was “a journey of self-discovery.” His point being, if the coaches do all the thinking, there is no self-discovery for the modern bodybuilder. Pretty sharp observation.
Jonas, San Fran
Yates is nobody’s dummy. This is a very sharp observation. The bodybuilding coach can become a bodybuilding crutch. If the coach does all the thinking and the bodybuilder comes to depend on the coach for all the answers, that bodybuilder is a mindless robot. Part of the wonder of bodybuilding is that it is a physical journey of self-discovery. Self-discovery comes from training hard, eating right, logging data and periodically reviewing the data in order to make intelligent and timely tweaks and changes. That is self-discovery and that is good coaching. The eternal goal of bodybuilding is to continually have a progress-stimulating strategy ready and available when stagnation inevitably sets in. I’m with Yates: much of the benefit of bodybuilding is that it puts the individual in touch with their own body. Over time, the bodybuilder becomes more and more attuned to their body. Successful bodybuilding is all about what to do when progress comes to a grinding halt – I don’t want to have to call a coach.
Do you use any special recovery accelerating techniques? I am not talking about accelerating recovery via nutrition – I am all over that. I drink 50-50 Plus™ after every session. Do you believe in massage, yoga, whirlpool, ice baths, in order to speed up recovery after a hard workout? I find that swimming the day after a tough weight workout seems to clear the toxins out of my muscles. I am a pretty good swimmer and do laps at the YMCA on the days I don’t weight train. Maybe it’s the coolness of the water, but every time I swim, I feel better (in terms of soreness from weight training) than if I skip swimming.
Bingo! You’ve hit on an effective recovery accelerator. A good swimmer swims efficiently and flushes toxins out of muscles traumatized by intense weight training. The cool water acts as an anti-inflammatory. The fact that the body is suspended in water makes swimming the lowest impact cardio exercise there is. My favorite recovery-stimulator is an intensely hot steam bath alternated with ice cold showers. Scalding hot steam opens the pores. An ice-cold shower slams pores shut, squeezing out toxins. I have access to a steam bath that turns humans into boiled lobsters inside of ten minutes. My procedure is to sit in the steam room for as long as I can stand it, then go stand under an ice-cold shower until I feel it. I am so heated up coming out of the steam room that it takes a minute or two before I feel the cold water as cold. I repeat this cycle, steam/shower 2-3 times. I always feel fantastic afterwards. This procedure always helps me recuperate faster. If my body is beat up from cardio or lifting, the steam/shower procedure works recuperative wonders – for me. Everyone is different. I am not a good enough swimmer to make swimming an effective recuperative tool for me. Many people cannot stand the steam heat levels I subject myself to. Massage is an incredibly effective recovery tool, if you can afford it.
My mother is 60 and finally figured out strength training would be a smart thing. She wants better bone-density, better function and improved maneuverability. All of which she will obtain if she gets serious with a serious program. We belong to the local YMCA. I want to take her over there and show her the ultra-basics. What would you recommend in terms of a workout? She is totally ignorant of our world and I live in another city – I want to show her a weight workout that she can remember, do alone, do safely and actually make gains. Suggestions would be appreciated.
Valery, Brighton Beach
Machines all the way: chest press, overhead press, arm curl, cable tricep pushdowns, leg press, leg extension, lying leg curl, calf raise, lat pulldown. Eight exercises all done on machines except lat pulldown/tricep pushdowns. I would suggest she train twice a week with three rest (from lifting) days in-between. I would have her do two sets: a light warm-up set of 8-10 reps. Now add weight and push or pull until she cannot push or pull another rep. This is where the gains lie. Conventional weight trainers and coaches stop older beginners from going to failure for “safety sake.” How dangerous is it to rep until failure doing leg extensions or chest press on a machine? Have her keep a log of her weights. She should strive to push or pull more poundage or add more reps with each session. When she can’t get another rep, she is done. Safe as milk on machines. Check in and see how she feels post-workout. You might want to purchase her a cannister of 50/50 Plus™. Have her drink a replenishment shake after her twice weekly sessions. This is a smart move on her part. Bone density and osteoporosis is no joke, particularly for women over 60. Six months of strength training will help counter brittle bones. This type of strength training will strengthen her in every way. The great thing about older folks new to strength training is that they make rapid-fire progress.
If you were to rank your favorite hamstring exercises, how would you rank them? I am sick of lying leg curls. Are there other good hamstring exercises that you use? I do the lying leg curls and seated leg curls and don’t really know if I have anything to show for all my years of doing them.
There are various types of stiff-legged deadlifts that can be done with barbells and dumbbells. The trick is to isolate the hams in real time; you should feel the hamstrings contracting as you slowly raise and lower the bar or bells during each strict rep. If you do the stiff-legged deadlift wrong, it becomes a spinal erector exercise. Some bodybuilders like to do their stiff-legged deadlifts off a block or plate. You have to lose your ego and go very light and very strict. Again, if you aren’t feeling the hamstrings contract during the actual exercise, you are not getting any benefit. Having said that, I think that stiff-legged deadlifts done properly are a far better hamstring exercise than the lying leg curl, particularly lying leg curls done wrong.