This is a blog topic i’ve had in mind for a while and today seems like as good a day as any to post it.
I just wrote up my new program (yesterday and today) and after doing a lot of strength and neural adaption work on the previous program I was really tempted to just go in and start with a heap of heavy bench press to see how much weight I can throw around.
This is pretty much how i always used to train, because i thought “you want to do your heavy lifting while the muscles are still fairly fresh”. This is good fun because you get to load up the bar with a heap of plates like a macho man, but I’ve realised that this approach is probably better for building your ego than for building your muscles.
To ellaborate and still using chest day as an example; while performing bench press the tricep muscles will most likely fatigue / fail before the pectorals do. So even though our aim is to push the pectoral muscles hard, usually they do not get pushed to that point of failure due to the triceps failing first.
So the answer is to pre-fatigue the pectorals with an isolation exercise prior to the bench press. For this, I’ve been doing (and will continue) a superset of dumbell flyes + dumbell bench press. This is terrible for the ego, as I can probably press less than half of what I could do without the pre-fatigue exercise – but DAMN it hits those chest muscles hard.
That’s actually about 1/2 way through the workout, though. I will be starting with 3 sets of 8 – 12, plus 1 pump set of 25 cable cross overs, and then the same sets & rep range of incline bench press. Most probably I will use the Smith Machine for this, so i can push my luck a little bit without needing a spotter. Again, if I was to start with the bench press I could probably go a lot heavier and maybe look a bit stronger in front of who-ever else is in the gym, but my goal is to build my pecs, not my ego!
My ego is already plenty big enough as it is.
That’s my approach for the time being anyway, which may change in the future if i read / learn something new that makes me reconsider. Right now though I am pretty confident that this is the most scientific approach to training chest.
The other exercise that comes to mind for this ego growth vs muscle growth topic is bicep curls. Any type of bicep curl is a prime example of an exercise where you will see guys (and I used to be one of them) trying to curl a huge amount of weight, swinging from the back, the hips, whatever other body parts they can use to get some momentum – anything other than actually isolating the biceps! Recently (due to my studies) I realised that I needed to sacrifice my ego and go a little bit lighter on the weights, curl up slowly, squeeze hard at the top of the movement and then gradually release the contration to lower the weight even more slowly than in the upward movement. People might be suprised how little weight I am now using for my dumbbell curls, for example, but the difference I’m seeing in pump and hypertrophy due to using correct exercise technique is mindblowing.
That’s plenty for today. Tomorrow night I start with chest day on the new program. I’ll let you know how that goes!