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A question of strength

Eine Frage der Kraft

Part 8

Q: My question is about dumbbell deadlifts lying crosswise on a bench. I have the feeling that this is a superior exercise for the upper body. What is your opinion on this exercise? I use a fairly heavy weight (up to 50 kilos) and try to achieve maximum extension.

I read a very old article by Arthur Jones in which the Nautilus machine version of this exercise was called "squats for the upper body". We all know how good squats are for building muscle mass throughout the lower body and to some extent the upper body, but is there really such a thing as an upper body version of squats?

I think overreaches, since they involve a lot of muscle groups, would be an ideal exercise. I would appreciate some feedback.

A: Pullovers are a great exercise, but since Jones marketed the Nautilus machine for pullovers, he was obviously a little biased. The biggest benefit of this machine is that it takes the elbow flexors out of the latissimus workout, improving the isolation of these powerful shoulder extensors.

The Nautilus machine for overpulls was one of the few Nautilus machines that included a built-in resistance curve that matched the human strength curve for the shoulder extensors.

However, I'm not a big fan of overlifts where you lie across a weight bench, as I've seen a few cases of a hernia in the abdominal muscles that could be directly attributed to this exercise. I would prefer to do pull-ups on a reverse incline bench using a SZ bar as this version allows for a more natural shoulder movement.

Q: I'm not having any luck with training my triceps. I'm sure it's because I've been using the same training program for ages. Do you have a good triceps training program I could try?

There are two important variables that contribute to a strong increase in triceps mass:

  • Choosing the right exercises
  • The use of a range of different repetition ranges

With these two points in mind, here is an excellent mass building program for triceps:

A1) Dips on parallel bars, 5 sets, 4 to 6 reps with a 5110* tempo and 3 minautes rest between sets.

*For those unfamiliar with the concept of tempo, 5110 means the following:

  • 5 seconds to perform the eccentric portion of the movement
  • 1 second pause at the lowest point of the movement
  • 1 second for the concentric part of the movement
  • 0 seconds pause at the highest point of the movement before lowering the weight

In my opinion, dips are the supreme discipline when it comes to building the triceps. Despite this, this exercise rarely makes it onto the list of exercises recommended in fitness magazines such as Men's Health, just like more demanding exercises such as squats and pull-ups.

To start the exercise, grab two parallel bars and push yourself up until you have stabilized your body at arm's length above the handles. Then lower your body as far as possible between the handles. Lower your body until your biceps touch your forearms - your triceps must reach a full stretch. Once you have reached the lowest position, push yourself back up by extending your elbows. Try to keep your upper body as upright as possible throughout the entire range of motion. If you bend too far forward, you will increase the involvement of the chest muscles.

If you can't lower yourself in a controlled manner until your biceps touch your forearms, then go back to stamp collecting or do close bench presses until your arms are strong enough. If you don't use the full range of motion on dips, then this exercise is a waste of time. And please don't use the version where you place your feet on a bench in front of you and keep your hands behind your body. This exercise is one of the main causes of shoulder impingement syndrome in the bodybuilding community, along with press exercises on the multi press.

In the beginning, your body weight will probably provide enough resistance. However, as you get stronger, you can progressively increase the weight by clamping a dumbbell between your legs or hanging a weight plate on a specially designed dips belt.

If the better V-shaped version of bars is available to you, use as narrow a grip as possible without compromising your shoulder integrity. And please don't cheat yourself by performing shortened reps where you don't go all the way down and only push yourself ¾ of the way up. In addition, you should only extend your elbows 98% to maintain maximum tension on the triceps.

B1) Dumbbell tricep press on reverse incline bench: 3 sets, 6 to 8 repetitions at a 3210 tempo without rest in superset with exercise B2

Lie on a reverse incline bench and hold two dumbbells up at arm's length. Lower the dumbbells while keeping the elbows in the same position. Make sure that the triceps are fully stretched in the lowest position (the forearms should touch the biceps in this position). Use a grip with the palms facing each other (hammer grip).

Do not frantically try to keep the elbows as close together as possible, as this would put too much strain on the supporting structures of the elbows.

B2) Lying tricep press on the cable pulley (skull crusher): 3 sets, 12 to 15 repetitions with a 2010 tempo. Rest 2 minutes between supersets.

Use a rotating handle attached to the lower pulley of a cable pulley. Place a flat bench in front of the cable pulley. Lie flat on the bench with your head facing the cable pulley. Grasp the bar and hold it upwards with your arms straight. Move the bar towards your forehead and then extend your arms 98% to move it back up. Make sure you keep your wrists in a neutral position to avoid future elbow problems.

I've seen many exercisers gain an inch of triceps in 30 days with a program like this.

Q: I see women doing lunges all the time, but I rarely see men using this exercise. What is your opinion on lunges? Are they solely for developing the glutes or do they also work the quadriceps and hamstrings?

A: The reason you rarely see men doing this exercise is because of this standard bodybuilding nonsense that lunges are meant to "sculpt your butt". This falls into the same category of nonsense as the notion that leg extensions are designed to improve quadriceps definition.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I have seen many sprinters, high jumpers, long jumpers and bobsledders build additional mass around their already muscular legs by adding lunges to their squat programs. The only difference between a split squat and a lunge, by the way, is that you move explosively back to an upright position during the concentric phase of lunges. With split squats, you use a fixed stance in which you move up and down while leaning on your front leg.

Here is a description of how to perform split squats correctly:

Starting position:

  • Stand in front of a squat rack with your back to the barbell.
  • Use your index fingers to find a reference point on the bar (use the knurling to determine the width of your grip).
  • The index fingers should be as close to the outside of the shoulders as possible.
  • Move under the bar and place it on the thick area of the trapezius.
  • Your chin should be pointing slightly upwards.
  • Focus your eyes on a point on the opposite wall that is slightly above the position of your eyes to maintain correct neck alignment.
  • Your feet should be shoulder width apart.
  • Take a large step forward with your non-dominant leg to reach the initial starting position.

Downward movement:

  • The demanded knee moves maximally directly forward before the hip is lowered.
  • The hips are then lowered, keeping the back as upright as possible and the chest up.
  • The body is lowered in a controlled manner until the hamstrings touch the calves.
  • You should consciously try to keep your elbows under the bar throughout the movement. This will ensure that the load is kept as close to the center of gravity as possible.
  • The knee should move forward beyond your toes during the downward movement.
  • You should inhale during the downward movement.

Upward movement:

  • First, move your hips upwards.
  • The torso should be kept as upright as possible, especially at the heaviest point of the upward movement.
  • You should exhale during the upward movement

Pay attention to the following:

  • The torso should be kept as upright as possible throughout the movement.

Safety aspects:

  • Keep the eccentric movement under control.
  • Do not lean forward.


  • To change the resistance curve of the movement, you can use two dumbbells instead of the barbell, hold the barbell in front of your body as in front squats or use the handle of a cable pulley.

These exercises not only develop the gluteus, but also provide plenty of growth stimulus for the quadriceps, adductors and leg flexors.

Q: Wide grip pull-ups are one of my favorite back exercises, but I've reached a plateau and just can't seem to progress. I know you say that exercisers should be able to do at least 12 pull-ups using their own body weight, but I just can't get past eight. Do you have any recommendations?

A: Here are three tips that will help you break through your plateau on wide grip pull-ups:

Tip 1:

On the last repetition of each set, pause on the downward movement at three different positions on the downward movement for 8 seconds each. In other words, pause for 8 seconds when you have completed a quarter, half and three quarters of the downward movement. This will increase the time under tension during this exercise and thereby stimulate protein synthesis. Don't be surprised if you look like you've just had a severe attack of Parkinson's during your last isometric stop.

Tip 2:

On every last repetition of each set, have a training partner hang a dumbbell between your feet to increase eccentric overload and try to lower yourself (and the dumbbell) slowly over a ten-second period.

Tip 3:

Perform additional direct brachialis training on your arm training day. Make sure you always perform some form of reverse curls on arm day - and while performing this exercise, pause for two seconds on each repetition when your elbows reach 30 degrees of flexion (this will increase recruitment of the brachialis muscle).

Q: I've read some of your articles where you talk about time under tension and you sometimes recommend performing sets where you take one or two seconds to move the weight up, while taking between three and eight seconds to lower the weight. Does it make any sense to perform repetitions with extreme time under tension? For example, I tried doing a few sets of dips where I moved my body up for 15 seconds and took 15 seconds to lower it back down. It hurt like hell. Have I discovered something interesting or is this just nonsense?

A: Don't run to the patent office just yet, but don't give up just yet either. My colleague Ellington Darden long ago recommended doing pull-ups or dips in which both the concentric and eccentric phases of the movement last for a period of 30 seconds.

Former Soviet weightlifting coach Medvedev also recommended very slow (8 to 10 seconds) pulling exercises (more like deadlifts) to develop maximum strength in weightlifters.

You can use extreme time under tension as long as the total time under tension does not exceed 60 seconds - otherwise the weight would be too light to produce gains in strength and muscle mass.

Q: If you train twice a day, can you only train one muscle group that day or is it possible to train two muscle groups, such as a pair of antagonists like chest and back?

A: Well, I believe that you can grow stronger if you have the luxury of training twice a day. However, most of us have work and family commitments that prevent us from using such an extensive training program.

Exercising twice a day can be very effective as long as you follow these principles:

1) Keep the training sessions short. Minus the warm-up time, your workout should last no longer than 40 minutes. Training longer than that would be counterproductive.

2) Use a suitable training sequence. In my opinion, the same muscle group should be trained twice on the same day. There are a number of options for this.

Option A: heavy in the morning, light in the evening

In my experience, training heavy in the morning and performing higher repetitions in the evening works quite well. For example, perform sets of 4 to 6 repetitions in the morning and sets of 12 to 15 repetitions in the evening.

Option B: low repetitions in the morning, high tempo, low repetitions in the evening, slow tempo

You could also use the same repetition ranges for both training sessions, but use a different tempo. For example, perform 4 to 6 reps at a 30X pace in the morning and 5 to 7 reps at a 505 pace in the evening.

Option C: heavy in the morning, eccentric training in the evening

Another option I like is to train heavy in the morning and perform eccentric training in the evening. For example, you could do 6 sets of heavy front squats with 2 to 3 repetitions each and a 501 tempo in the morning and 7 sets of eccentric classic squats with one repetition each and a 10-0-1 tempo. A training partner can help with the concentric repetitions.

In terms of exercise selection for both training sessions, it makes sense to perform the same exercises in the morning and evening if you are primarily concerned with developing strength. However, if hypertrophy is your primary goal, then you should use different exercises. For example, weightlifters will do classic squats twice a day, while bodybuilders might do barbell bench presses in the morning and dumbbell incline bench presses in the afternoon.

3) Pay careful attention to your post-workout diet. Liquid food is best. For a 90 kilo bodybuilder, I recommend a shake that contains 40 to 50 grams of protein and a reasonable amount of carbohydrates. Here is my updated formula for post-workout carbohydrate intake:

  • 1.0 gram of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight if the total reps were under 80 reps.
  • 1.5 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight if the total number of repetitions was around 250 repetitions (25 sets of 10 repetitions)
  • 2.0 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight if the total number of repetitions was 400 repetitions or more (30 sets of 15 repetitions)

If you are training twice a day, then I would also recommend using a good antioxidant formula and an additional 10 grams of vitamin C per day. I have also found that taking alpha-lipoic acid after training with the shake can help recharge your energy reserves faster.

4) There must be a 4 to 6 hour break between the two training sessions of a day. This period is critical. If you rest for less time, you will be too exhausted.

5) For every two weeks of two training sessions per day, do one week with only one daily training session. This will ensure that you don't go into overtraining. It has been shown that training twice a day for a short period of time can temporarily lower testosterone levels. However, testosterone levels will immediately return to baseline if you only train once a day for a week.

by Charles Poliquin


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