To read part I of this article, head on over to the MAN CAVE page HERE.
No replacement for the big 3 compounds – Many writers want to tell you there are alternatives to deadlifts, bench-press, and squats, especially. They say it because it is what readers want to read. It is like a giant weight is lifted off your chest when you see in writing that there is an alternative to the barbell squat… “Whew!” Can some people get by and see great results without these compound movements? Sure. There are some genetically gifted individuals that can see great results by just waking up in the morning and taking in a deep breath of fresh morning air. For the rest of us mortals, there is no equivalent replacement. Compound movements are important for many reasons such as neuronal recruitment and coordination, muscular balance, hormone release, and hypertrophy stimulation. It is extremely difficult to achieve your best physique without using these exercises regularly.
I spent my first few years of training legs doing leg presses, leg curls, leg extensions, and basically anything else to avoid full and heavy barbell squats. Surprise, I have only been squatting regularly for the last two years now and I am still paying the price of having disproportionate leg size and power. At about the same time I started deadlifting with the intension of getting stronger each and every week. As a side effect I started to develop a full, thick, well-defined, and sexy back. Deadlifts are now my favorite exercise and I probably do them more than I should. Not a bad problem to have since they are one of the most effective physique-changing compound movements, alongside squats. Everyone I workout with is now required to deadlift. If you do not deadlift, you are not my friend because I know you are not achieving the best you! (my wife included)
Now comes the bench press. This is usually the movement that most females dread. Is it the most important physique changing compound movement for bikini competitors? No, but it is very important for keeping good muscular balance with your back and preserving shoulder health.
All in all, I am still not a huge fan of squats but I have learned to embrace the suck and do them multiple times per week. They have helped me develop a better physique and have paid dividends with increasing my deadlift capabilities.
Learn basic anatomy – Nothing will help your workouts more than understanding why you are doing a specific exercise. The typical muscle is attached at two points and a muscle contraction will bring those two points closer together. Learning the range-of-motion (ROM) of muscles and joints will not only make you smarter than most personal trainers, it will allow you to understand why you are doing certain movements a specific way. If you can do anything to help increase the mind-muscle connection, such as learning a muscle’s movement, that is physique-changing GOLD that you will use forever! Check out this article (HERE) explaining how to work the chest throughout a full ROM utilizing these principles. You can apply this same technique to other body parts as well.
You can find used anatomy books from your local university or Craigslist for dirt-cheap. It does not have to be the most recent edition; basic anatomical movements have not changed for quite some time. There are also websites with animations that show basic muscular movements. Checkout Beautiful to the Core’s Anatomy Lessons (HERE).
The importance of regular stretching – This should be common sense, but like most newbies to working out, I lacked that “common sense” part. Post-workout static and loaded stretching is very important and should be part of your regular program. Stretching can help reduce the chances of injury by increasing flexibility and improving form. Loaded stretching has the additional benefit of inducing muscle growth through mechanisms of muscle damage. Increasing flexibility also gives muscles a larger ROM to strengthen within which will allow for greater muscle growth potential. A common association can be seen in someone that has a very well-developed area of their body, their flexibility in that area is usually very good as well. For example, my wife has great hamstring flexibility from her Limber program, so she therefore has a great hamstring swoop.
For the first few years I put off stretching because I thought it was just a waste of time. For a while I got by without much harm and that is because, like stated earlier, I avoided heavy squats and deadlifts. As soon as I began incorporating heavy compound movements I learned stretching is a must. I began developing hip-flexor pain so severe I could not sit still for more than 20 minutes. That made sitting through 8 hours of lecture each day quite the difficult task.
Lucky me, my wife came to the rescue! Stephanie, a Doctor of Physical Therapy, developed this great guide (LIMBER) to staying Limber. I have followed it’s principles and movements regularly for the last year and have remained injury and mostly pain-free since then.
- Get a decent program and stick to it! Consistency is key.
- Supplements are just that… supplemental and NOT necessary. Create a well balanced diet and save your money.
- Use education, experience, and common sense to weed out the garbage in this money-driven industry.
- Lift heavy and do it often. We have already been there… no short cuts to success. Yes, that means squats and deadlifts too. Embrace the suck; it is worth it.
- Learn basic musculoskeletal anatomy to get a full understanding of why you are doing what you are. The results will show immediately!
- Stretch regularly! Don’t put it off until you are already injured; prevent it in the first place. An injured body is a body that is delaying you from reaching your goals.
by Zachary D.