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A question of strength Part 21

Eine Frage der Kraft Teil 21

Bradford Presses: Boring

Q: What do you think of Bradford Presses for the shoulders, where you basically just move the bar from one side of the neck to the other without pushing it all the way up?

A: Frankly, I've never used this exercise with myself or my athletes. There is nothing special about this exercise and I just feel that there are other exercises that work better. Most people have such poor rotator cuff mobility that this exercise is not suitable for them anyway.

Big, thick and veiny...

Q: Is there any value in direct neck training? And how do you train the neck muscles anyway? I want a really bulky bull neck.

A: Are there any benefits to neck training? Yes, if you play a contact sport - American football, martial arts, rugby, ice hockey, etc. - then neck training is basically like an insurance policy. And if you ride a motorcycle, then train your neck.

In my experience, the more neck training you do, the stronger your upper body becomes. There are some good machines for neck training from companies like Atlantis and Hammer.

You might be asking what about the old school "head harness" for neck training( The problem with this is that it is difficult to mimic the strength curve with it.

The neck grows very quickly due to the very good blood supply, which leads to rapid regeneration after training. The neck is mainly made up of slow contracting muscle fibers, although there are some exceptions to the rule.

Over the years I have found something interesting: if your neck extensors are primarily made up of fast contracting fibers, then they reflect the muscle fiber distribution of the entire body. I tested a world record holder in the hammer throw and his neck strength was the highest I've ever measured. People who are born to be strong have rapidly contracting neck muscles.

A week later I tested a world champion and gold medalist speed skater and he performed 200 reps at 85% of his maximum weight. The only reason we stopped after 200 reps was because my blood sugar had dropped so low after all the waiting that I said, "Damn, let's go get something to eat." His neck muscles were obviously slow contracting and he could have kept going until repetition 250.

Rules for a cable pulldown workout

Q: When your trainer says to avoid machines, does that also apply to cable pulls?

A: Cables are basically dumbbells re-purposed. In my opinion, cables are the same as free weights and they also allow you to redirect the resistance where dumbbells reach their limits.

For some exercises, cable pulleys are superior. When training for the rotator cuff, you are very limited in terms of angles if you use dumbbells. If you use a cable pulley, on the other hand, the options are almost endless.

A multifunctional cable unit is the same as a dumbbell. I don't see cable pulleys as a "machine".

How toxic are you?

Q: In previous articles, you've talked about some undiagnosed ailments that can hold people back in the gym (like low stomach acid). Are there any other ailments or issues that could cause something like this?

A: Heavy metals would be an example. And plastic can also be toxic. If a man asks his girlfriend if his new pants make him look fat, then he has an estrogen problem that could have been caused by plastic. When we test people for toxicity, we often see that they have a lot of plastic in their bodies. This can affect thyroid function and also some plastics mimic the effects of estrogen.

Next, mineral deficiencies can also stall almost all progress. Some people seem to train hard but are still unable to build muscle. This is often caused by a molybdenum deficiency. I see this in 10% of people who come to me for a comprehensive metabolic profile. If you give them molybdenum, they gain weight again.

To get tested for heavy metals, plastic poisoning or mineral deficiencies, you need to go to a doctor, and these tests can be expensive.

The right reps for leg curls

Q: Is it true that the hamstrings need fewer repetitions than other muscle groups for hypertrophy?

This is true if you train them as knee flexors. However, if you are training them as hip extensors, then you should use higher repetitions.

So you should use lower reps for leg curls and higher reps for deadlifts with straight legs. The reason for this is that when you train your hip extensors, you are also training your gluteus and back extensors - and these two muscles tend to respond better to higher reps.

In other words, you should use 8 or fewer reps when training on the leg curl machine. An exerciser of an older training age may even need only three repetitions, in which case a higher number of sets such as 10 sets of 3 repetitions should be performed.

The only problem with the leg curl machine is that it doesn't provide enough weight for some athletes. I had to have a special machine made by Atlantis because my athletes were too strong for the amount of weight that a normal leg curl machine provides. Before that, I had some athletes who could move the entire weight stack with one leg.

The shock effect

Q: Can you really shock muscles and make them grow? The old-school bodybuilders often used this term, but is there any truth to it?

A: Yes, I still believe it's true. If something doesn't grow, then you can indeed train it three days in a row.

I once had a top-class bodybuilder who couldn't build mass on his legs. At his weight, he should have weighed just under 110 kilos, not 95 kilos. I had him train legs nine times a week and four months later he weighed 111 kilos.

One of my mentors used to say to me "If you're not making progress, overtrain until you get depressed and then take 5 days off training. Then you will grow."

Let's say you're a guy who doesn't have latissimus - you're as wide as a pencil. Train your latissimus three days in a row. The reps could look like this:

  • Day #1: 6-8 reps
  • Day #2: 10-12 repetitions
  • Day #3: 20-25 repetitions

Then take a day off and train the rest of your body for that week. As for the exercises, change the latissimus exercise on each of the three days.

Remember that hypertrophy is a biological adaptation to biological stress. If something doesn't kill you, then the more stressful it is, the more you will adapt.

The scientific literature shows that you can train a muscle up to nine times a week as long as you give it some rest afterwards. In other words, this means that if you don't go far enough, no growth will occur.

Keep the 20% rule in mind. Let's say you can do four sets of bench presses with 5 repetitions at 150 kilos. Train until you can only do four sets of 5 reps with a maximum of 120 kilos - in other words, this is controlled overtraining. Then take 5 days off and if you train bench presses again, you will be able to do 165 kilos.

Another way that works well for strength is to train with single repetitions (10 to 12) on 5 days in a row with the same exercise. Take two days and you will set a new personal best.

The problem is that most people don't have the balls for something like this. They won't overtrain to that point and panic when their bench press workout weight drops 5 pounds. They need a slave driver trainer to make them do that. You need to achieve the 20% reduction. If you start crying in the gym for no reason, you've reached that point.

The salt of the earth

Q: Is salt a good thing or a bad thing for strength athletes?

A: I get asked questions about salt all the time. There is a lot of confusion about this topic. Some say that salt is a plague that should be avoided and some say that we need more salt in our diet.

As always, I believe in careful consideration of everything we consume. Here are some points to consider when using salt in your diet:

  1. Modern salt is like sugar and most oils we consume: a very highly refined product that no longer has much to do with its original form - hence its toxicity.
  2. Salt intake needs to be individualized. While limiting salt intake can effectively combat acne, it would be disastrous for someone trying to recover from adrenal fatigue. For certain genotypes, salt can exacerbate osteoporosis.
  3. The higher your protein intake, the more salt you need. In every comprehensive metabolic profile I do, I always find that sodium levels are low in people who eat a lot of protein.
  4. The more cooked food you eat, the more salt you need to activate certain digestive enzymes. This is why Chinese food tends to be salty, as the Chinese eat very little raw food. For the Inuit, who stick to their traditional raw food diet, it's the other way around.

If you must use salt, then you should consider the following factors when choosing your salt product.

  1. Salt should have a color. Avoid the bland white stuff. Salt should be pink, red, beige or gray. This means it contains trace minerals and hasn't been heavily processed.
  2. It should be affordable. It doesn't have to come from Tibet and be mined by a Buddhist monk with type AB blood. You can find good salt in any health food store.

All of us like to add a little extra flavor to our food on a regular basis. If you eat salt, then you should be discerning and consider the above factors.

Is your body smart?

Q: You have written about "body intelligence" in your articles. What is that exactly?

A: This is the ability to be able to listen to what your body is telling you. Those who have good body intelligence are able to perform a pre-packaged workout and are able to tell you during the first training session whether this is a good plan for them or a waste of time. Basically, this means really being in tune with your body.

For example, a lot of people have "discovered" the glycemic index without even knowing it exists. They know what they need to eat before exercise in order not to feel bad. The somewhat older concept of "instinctive training" is also part of good body intelligence. However, there is one thing to remember here: there is a fine line between being lazy and listening to your body. Some people will always find a good excuse not to do squats.

Mike McDonald, who set world bench press records in his weight class, was known for going to the gym, doing a few reps with a broomstick and then saying "No, I'll come back tomorrow." He was the epitome of body intelligence.

Mark Spitz, the great swimmer, was also known for skipping a lot of workouts.

I met his coach and he said that Mark would have been a lot better if he had done all his training sessions. Well, Mark has won seven gold medals. If he had done all the prescribed training sessions, he might have overtrained. However, he was intelligent enough to skip a few of these training sessions.

Physical intelligence can be seen as one type of intelligence. Psychologists believe that there are nine types of intelligence. Many people are excellent athletes, but not rocket scientists. Some of the best soccer players, for example, have excellent physical intelligence but can't count to 10.

Training for women

Q: What are the main differences between women's training and men's training?

A: Unlike men, women don't really like the feeling of pumping. Studies on behavior and training with weights support these observations.

In addition, without wanting to sound sexist, men who are good at training women as personal trainers tend to care more about entertainment than training. In other words, they won't be successful if they can't make the training fun.

Have a male client do single-leg bicep curls on a foam pad and he will - if he has any hint of an alpha male in him - pull a dumbbell over the trainer's head. But women love that shit.

In the world of sports, in my experience, women are more dedicated than men when it comes to training. They are more likely to get into overtraining. In 1993, I coached 6 women who were world champions in their sports. One thing I found out was that they tended to push themselves harder than the men in the weight room.

Their concept of training to muscle failure is different from men. They just give more...if they are the type of woman who has what it takes to be a world champion. They are more "man" than a lot of men I know.

In terms of attitude, the best athlete I've ever coached was Karen Percy. She won four medals at the World Downhill Championships and two bronze medals in Calgary.

She was damn tough. During her training sets, you could tell by her eyes that she was on another planet. She could have beaten any woman on the national weightlifting team.

I think women who have what it takes to be world champions have a lot more drive than male world champions.... a lot more.

The best abdominal exercises

Q: Is there a best ab exercise? Is there ever a need for an athlete to specialize in abdominal exercises?

A: The best ab exercise? Squats - and then deadlifts.

Abdominal muscle specialization for athletes? It's possible, but the abs have very little potential for strength gains when compared to muscles like the calves. Similar to the grip, the abs are the least likely to improve with training. Some exercisers brag about the huge weights they use when training abs, but it's really the psoas that do the work.

If you really isolate the abs, then after 6 or 8 weeks you will plateau for the rest of your life. Scientific research shows that the most coordinated athletes master the most difficult ab exercises after 6 to 8 weeks. The only thing that really improves abs are squats and deadlifts.


By Charles Poliquin

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