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Tips of the week Train for systemic growth

Tipps der Woche Trainiere für ein systemisches Wachstum

For those not using buckets of steroids, muscle hypertrophy (muscle growth) is not a localized process. It is systemic.

Given sufficient stimulus, most muscle growth occurs throughout the body rather than in one tiny spot. Therefore, work that stresses the whole body - placing a heavy weight on your spine that the whole body must support - will cause more growth in your biceps than direct bicep training.

In other words, heavy trap bar deadlifts will do more to make your arms more muscular than curls will. A popular rule of thumb in the strength training world is that if you want to build 2.5 centimeters of arm circumference, you need to build about 7 kilos of muscle - and that's pretty true. If that wasn't the case, you'd see guys walking around who have trained nothing but their biceps and as a result would look like an inverted T-Rex with huge arms and a tiny body. But you don't see that anywhere.

So curls don't work?

Of course they work. A biceps-specific training program will certainly build mass on the arms as long as you do everything else right, but the results would generally pale in comparison to what you'd achieve if you performed a program that focused more on deadlifts or another big full-body workout. Conversely, if you're already doing the big multi-joint exercises but need a range-specific catalyst, a biceps-specific program would help you.

Steroids, on the other hand, make your body ultra receptive to any kind of mechanical stress. If you use sufficient amounts of steroids, everything will work. And these muscle-group specific training programs promoted by countless bodybuilding magazines "written" by bodybuilders do us all a disservice. They have convinced many of us to focus on curls, kickbacks, shoulder lifts, front raises and leg extensions when much of that time would have been better spent performing multi-joint exercises with heavy, systemic weights instead.

Tip: Choose the right load for the leg curls

Get this part right and you'll maximize the hypertrophy of your hamstrings. Here's what you need to know


The muscles that make up the leg flexors - the semimembranosus, semitendinosus and biceps femoris plus a host of synergists - have two functions: bending the knee and kicking the leg backwards (like a sprinting movement). The problem is that the average exerciser only trains one of these functions, leaving out large amounts of muscle fibers.

How does this happen? By focusing primarily on the leg curl machine. The leg curl machine - standing or seated - targets only one function: bending the knee. What about the second function, the hip extension part? The best way to target this part of the leg flexor muscles is to use exercises that involve an extended leg: Deadlifts with legs semi-extended, Good Mornings, reverse hypers, etc. If 80% of your leg curl training involves leg curl machines, then you are not even beginning to utilize your full hypertrophy potential.

The choice of load is crucial

Based on the two functions of the leg curls and the fast or slow contracting nature of each, here are the rules:

Rule 1: Use heavy weights, low reps and more sets for leg curls.

Rule 2: Use lighter weights and higher reps for everything else: Deadlifts with legs half-extended, Good Mornings, reverse hypers and back extensions.

Some trainers recommend never doing more than 8 repetitions for leg curls, although experienced trainers with many years of training experience may only need 3 repetitions per set for leg curls. This of course means more sets. Try 10 X 3 for leg curls and be prepared to feel a little 'different' for a few days afterwards.

Since you're training your gluteus and back extensors when you train your hip extensors, you'll be doing more than 8 reps for deadlifts with legs half extended, good mornings, etc.

So a good rule of thumb is this: Less than 8 reps for leg curls and more than 8 for everything else.

Tip: Hit the barbell for bigger biceps

Okay, in reality your training partner is hitting the bar while you perform isometric holds


You've probably heard the phrase "shock the muscles" in the bodybuilding world, right? Well, this method might be the most extreme version of that you've ever tried.

Step #1: Place the safety pins of a power rack so that you can only curl the barbell up about 10 centimeters before it comes into contact with the bottom of the pins. (This should be below the center of the curl movement).

Step #2: Curl the barbell upwards until it comes into contact with the pins and maintain an isometric contraction. In other words, you curl against the bar and try to move it further upwards. After 8 seconds, your training partner hits the bar from above while you try to keep it in contact with the pins of the rack.

This blow causes the biceps to stretch rapidly under forced contraction, which results in the "surviving" muscle fibers coming into play to protect the biceps from damage. When more muscle fibers are activated than necessary and greater muscle fiber recruitment occurs, this equates to more growth.

Step #3: Pause and then increase the weight by 2 to 5% over what you would normally use for full range of motion curls. Due to post-tenatic favoritism, you will be able to curl more weight than you normally would. Now perform a set of curls through the full range of motion (without pins and punch).

Step #4: Pause and repeat the set with the punch in the power rack.

Step #5: Pause and perform another set through the full range of motion, again using more weight than normal.

Warning: Make sure the safety pins on the rack only allow you to perform a movement of about 10 centimeters. You don't want someone slamming the bar down when it's in the middle position of the movement as this can cause damage to the biceps - and not in a positive way!

Tip: Perform supersets of rack pulls and pull-ups

This challenging superset for the back combines compression and decompression exercises for maximum results.

By Dr. John Rusin


Supersets should be strategic. There should be a specific reason for combining two exercises. The more muscle groups involved in an exercise and the heavier the exercise, the more opportunities there are to make mistakes as far as the synergy of the exercises is concerned. One of the problems with many supersets is the compression that the spine is forced into during two exercises in a row with minimal rest. This doubles the compression of the spine and loads it with demanding weights over a longer period of time, increasing the risk of injury.

If you use an exercise that compresses the spine such as classic squats in a superset, then you should combine it with an exercise such as pull-ups that allows for spinal decompression. A combination of these two exercises will do a lot of good for the health of your spine.

Place the compressing exercise before the decompressing exercise. An excellent superset for back training days would be a variation of the deadlift combined with a vertical pull exercise.

Rack pull / pull-up superset

Rack pulls( are a spine compressing exercise, while pull-ups are a decompressing exercise. If you train with heavy weights and generate as much tension as possible in your latissimus and back during deadlifts, the pull-ups should quickly become challenging.

Tip: Eat protein waffles

Protein waffles are easy to prepare, flour-free and rich in protein. Here's the recipe

From Chris Shugart


Training waffles? Protein waffles? Whatever you want to call them, they're delicious. Waffles don't just have to be for cheat days. Prepare them according to the following recipe and you can eat them every day.


  • 1 whole egg
  • ¼ cup egg substitute powder
  • 1 large banana
  • 2 scoops (60 grams) of banana-flavored protein powder
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk (or any other milk)


Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, you can cut the banana into slices or simply break it into pieces with your hands. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes to soften the oats. Stir well again and pour the batter into your waffle iron.

Depending on your waffle iron, this recipe will make one large or four tiny waffles.

Options and notes

  • Use 2 whole eggs instead of the egg replacer powder if you prefer. But this combination gives a nice fluffy texture that is otherwise hard to achieve in a gluten-free recipe.
  • A handful of berries can replace the banana.
  • Use chocolate flavored protein powder and a handful of dark chocolate chips if you're craving chocolate.
  • This recipe works better with a multi-component protein than with a pure whey protein.

And what about the toppings?

Use low calorie syrup if you need to watch the calories. Sugar-free jam can be a good substitute for syrup. Or use the following:

Protein cream

  • 1 scoop of vanilla flavored casein protein
  • One or two shots of water or milk
  • Option 2: two tablespoons of peanut butter powder

Mix the above together and gradually add liquid until you reach a syrupy consistency.

Tip: Use the Jettison technique for dips

Increase the time under tension and build your pecs with this agonizing variation of descending sets


Descending sets have always been one of the basic bodybuilding tools, but you don't often see them used on dips. Quite simply, it takes too long to reduce the weight on a dips belt and for many beginners (or slightly fatter exercisers) the bodyweight alone is already heavy and the reps too low to accumulate enough time under tension.

Here's a way around these problems:

  1. Hold a dumbbell between your feet and perform 8 to 12 repetitions of dips for the pecs. Choose a dumbbell that is heavy enough to take you to or near the point of muscle failure at the end of this repetition range.
  2. As soon as you can no longer perform another repetition with good form, drop the dumbbell. Perform as many more repetitions without rest until you reach the point of muscle failure (or stop one repetition earlier if you are struggling with correct form).
  3. Then, with as little pause as possible, your training partner will form a platform with their hands and you will place your heels or the top of your feet on their hands. He will not move your legs upwards. Instead, you will push yourself up from his hands until you can no longer perform another repetition with good form.
  4. Pause for a few minutes and perform two more sets of this type. Prepare to howl in pain when you drive your car the next day.


If you have access to Olympic weightlifting plates, these can replace the dumbbell. Simply hold the plate between your knees and drop it at the end of the set. If you don't have a trustworthy training partner, even the first two steps will give your chest a boost.


From TC Luoma | 04/15/16

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