OLD-TIME TRICKS FOR NEW-FOUND MUSCLE
OLD-TIME TRICKS FOR NEW-FOUND MUSCLE
Would you like more muscle? What a stupid question.
Even though building muscle is never easy, the bodybuilder of the 21st century has more advantages than ever at his or her disposal. There are state of the art gyms with high tech equipment and an endless assortment of supplements designed to fulfill your every health, strength and muscle building need. The advancements of the sport of bodybuilding within the last century are astounding. But if you were to take a look at a training manual from the early 1900s, you’d realize one similarity between then and now: Exercise has changed very little.
Muscles push – or they pull. And every exercise does one or the other. The forefathers of bodybuilding knew this and came up with the same movements with many of the same variations that we use today. There’s one difference, however. Back then, they had little to draw upon. The information in the magazines was limited. There were no videos, no seminars, no EMG analysis. Most exercises were concocted through experimentation and good old trial and error. Very often, the movements used by our iron ancestors were odd and impractical. After a while, these awkward exercises were discarded for more acceptable alternatives. Yet somewhere along the way, many viable techniques have been overlooked and forgotten.
As most bodybuilders know, if you want to continue building muscle, every now and then you have to “shake things up” – hit the muscles from odd angles or use a piece of equipment with a different “feel.” In an attempt at discovering such methods, the tendency is to look forward for cutting edge information, but sometimes it isn’t a bad idea to take a look backward. Maybe it’s time to recognize the fact that many of those old timers stumbled across some good ideas that have gotten lost in the shuffle.
The following is a group of exercise techniques which you’re unlikely to see being performed in most gyms today, yet, at one time, they were a staple of most bodybuilder’s routines. They also work remarkably well. You may wonder why they’ve been discarded – until you try them. They’re damn hard! The modern bodybuilder has become so accustomed to silky smooth machines that any movement that doesn’t glide along a controlled curve may seem strange and uncomfortable. That’s exactly why you should do them! Give these movements a go and the following day you may find yourself sore in spots you never knew existed!
One Arm Barbell Clean and Press:
If you’ve never done this movement, you may want to start with a dumbell until you get the hang of it. The premise is simple but the execution is anything but!
Grasp the barbell while on the floor and clean it up to your shoulders. Now with a hoisting motion, press the bar overhead while leaning to the opposite side. In other words, when lifting with the right hand, lean over to your left until your torso is as parallel to the floor as possible. You can place your left hand on your knee for balance at first but try to get it so that you can hold the hand without the weight out to the side.
At this point continue to press the bar above for 4-8 reps. Lower and repeat with the other arm.
Not only is this movement great for developing balance and functional strength, it’s an awesome deltoid developer as well! Try to work up to as heavy a weight as you can manage under control and soon your shoulders will be bulging with brand new beef!
Here’s a weird one I’ll bet you’ve never seen. Be careful with this movement! If you have any existing shoulder injuries or if the movement causes any pain whatsoever, stop immediately! If, on the other hand, it poses no problem – go for it!
Brace yourself with one arm against a support. Hold a dumbell in your free hand and slightly away from your side. Now raise the dumbell to shoulder height in small to ever-widening circles. Start with a small one, then a bit larger one and continue widening the circle until the weight is at shoulder level. Return the dumbell to the starting position beginning with big circles working down to a small one at the conclusion of the set. Alternate between clockwise and counterclockwise circles. Use a weight that will let you make 10-12 circles from side to shoulder and 10- 12 circles from shoulder to side for 15 reps. Add a couple of sets of these circle raises after you have completed your heavier shoulder work. Man! These babies will have you sprouting “cuts” every which way throughout your delts!
Straight Arm Barbell Pullovers:
Up until the 1970s, there wasn’t a bodybuilding routine that didn’t include this movement. Today, it’s all but extinct. Nevertheless, the straight arm pullover is an outstanding upper body exercise that tightens the entire torso, including the abs! It also increases “lung power” if done correctly.
Lie down on a flat bench and keep your feet on the bench to prevent arching of the back.
Hold the weight at arm’s length above your upper chest. Take a shoulder-width grip and keeping your arms stiff and straight throughout, slowly lower the bar behind you and simultaneously inhale deeply. Do not inhale in one gulp, but in a steady stream. Spread your ribs as much as possible.
Lower your arms until they are parallel or only slightly below parallel with the floor. Do not go down as deep as possible. At the safe bottom position, take an extra breath of air. Briefly pause and then return your arms to their starting position as you exhale. Repeat.
Power Rack Iso-Presses:
This is a combination of isotonic and isometric exercise that is terrific for building strength at the weakest portion of a particular movement. For example, let’s say your bench press is weak because you have trouble generating power at the lower portion of the movement. In that case, you would place a bench in the power-rack and put the pins a few inches above your chest.
Place a loaded barbell on top of the pins and place another set of pins (or a suitable substitute) a few inches above that.
Now, within that short range of motion, press the bar into the top pins and continue to push! When fatigued, lower the bar onto the bottom rack – rest for 10 seconds and repeat.
This is a killer move that doesn’t look like much but will help you break through those nagging sticking points. This can be done with overhead presses, curls, shrugs…almost anything! Try midrange squats in this manner and you may wind up needing crutches after a couple of sets! But your legs will soon be more dense than ever.
This peculiar movement is one you’ll see in many an archival film from the early days of gymnasiums and health spas. It’s also great for lower back definition, taunt oblique muscles and it adds flexibility to the hip flexors.
Hold a light dumbell with both hands directly overhead.
In a big, smooth, sweeping motion, bend at the waist and swing the torso in a complete circle when continuing to hold the bell directly over your head. Yeow! Talk about tough! Expect to be breathing heavily after a set of these.
Original Hack Squats:
Ooh, you’re not going to like this one. Be that as it may, this is a remarkable movement for building mass onto the quadriceps.
The motion is the precursor to the hack machine, only this time, there’s no machine. You do the squats while holding a barbell with your arms at your sides, palms behind you, holding a barbell behind your back! Needless to same this is a very restricted movement but one that will make regular squatting seem like a pleasure. Another variation is to hold a barbell between your legs (one arm in front of you, the other in back). Don’t try to lock out on this one since the bar will get precariously close to the
Believe it or not, these movements were commonplace at one time back when bodybuilders weren’t afraid of a little pain. Barbell Hacks were also responsible for some pretty impressive thigh development prior to the advent of steroids. Can you handle it?
Spring Chest Expanders:
Almost everyone has used or at least seen a set of these clumsy contraptions. What’s ironic about chest expanders is that the basic movements don’t really work the chest! However, these archaic devices are an excellent adjunct to regular training. They can be used at spare moments at home in a variety of angles to tighten up the triceps and delts. When expanded overhead and out to the sides, they hit the lats in a way that’s unlike any machine, weight movement or lat pulldown. You can still find them at most sporting good stores for less than $10.00.
Try incorporating these movements into your weekly routine and you’ll start seeing major muscle growth in a hurry. They may be from a bygone era, but as far as your muscles are concerned, they’re a brand new form of stimulation.
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Maybe so. But when it comes to building muscle, it seems the old dogs had a few tricks of their own.