I hope you are all enjoying your holidays. I am relaxing this week for sure. Having finished all my assignments for MD just before Christmas, and with my son out of school on vacation, I have given my training partners 'the week off' from us meeting up just so I can sleep in every day. Once school starts up again on January 2, I will be waking up at 6:30 again every weekday and we will all be back on our normal schedule.
The only downer to this holiday season for me and my wife is that it's the first one we haven't had our daughter home for. She's in Amsterdam with her boyfriend, who happens to live there. They met last year when he was a foreign exchange student at her high school in her Senior year. Before getting to a couple questions, I want to wish my beautiful wife Janet a Happy Birthday. She turns 42 tomorrow, though you would never know it to look at her. Fitness truly is the fountain of youth!
What is the number one reason bodybuilders don't grow?
You might think I would answer this with 'lack of proper nutrition,' and that is definitely what holds a lot of men and women back from seeing results. But in my opinion, based on what I have seen in gyms for a quarter century and now even more so in online training clips, is that most 'bodybuilders' aren't really bodybuilders. They are weightlifters. They don't master the mind-muscle connection, and they don't seem to have any interest in doing so. Instead, they get wrapped up in using maximum weights, often for just a couple reps, and unfortunately often sacrificing both good form and a full range of motion. I see people posting videos where they are 'squatting' 5-7 plates on each side of the bar for 1-3 reps, and these reps are not even half reps. What do they think this is accomplishing? It certainly isn't making their legs grow. I see guys heaving up curls, using every muscle group but their biceps to get the weight up. I see bench presses where the spotter is doing half the work. Before I come across as a total hypocrite, I have been guilty of this mentality myself over the years. As a male, it's tough not to fall into the hormone-charged rivalry to 'out-do' all the other guys. And to be honest, probably the only thing that forced me to get away from that nonsense is all the injuries, major and minor, that I have accumulated. But if you consider yourself a bodybuilder, you have to keep your goal in mind. A bodybuilder's goal is to develop his or her physique to the best of your ability. Getting stronger over time is a critical component to stimulating muscle growth, but only if your form is good enough so that the target muscle is being worked, and if the reps are enough to provide ample time under tension to stimulate a growth response. I shake my head when some people laugh because some huge pro bodybuilders aren't as 'strong as they look,' or as strong as the person thinks they should be. They have no idea of the level of stimulation that pro is giving the muscle in question, because they themselves don't focus on contracting and stretching the muscles with each rep. They just lift a weight from point A to point B and assume that's good enough. If you want to be a weightlifter, that is the right mindset. It's a stupid, futile mindset for a bodybuilder. I don't care how much weight I lift, or how much you lift. I am only concerned with the physique and how well it's developed. If you use heavy weights and get results, or moderate weight, does not matter. The weights are just a tool we bodybuilders use, just as a sculptor uses a hammer and a chisel. If you want to focus on the weights rather than working your muscles, don't be surprised that you don't see any improvements in your physique and don't complain about how others are weaker than you but much bigger. You're not a bodybuilder - you're a weightlifter!
Can you give me a good routine for traps? I want mine to look like Johnnie Jackson's!
Johnnie has what I consider the best trapezius development of all time, but he hasn't trained his traps in over six years. He realized at that point that there was no point in making them any bigger, as he would only have to make his side delts ever rounder and wider so as not to appear narrow. Few of us have that problem.
A good trap routine will include some type of shrug to isolate the traps, as well as narrow-grip upright rows as a compound movement to allow the biceps and rear delts to assist. As such, it makes sense to do the shrugs first to pre-exhaust the traps. For shrugs, you have your choice of using either a barbell, dumbbells, or a machine such as the commonly found Hammer Strength shrug machine. Whichever you choose, it's important that you get a full range of motion and come up as high as you can. Often you see guys loading up a barbell with 400-600 pounds and doing little bouncy reps that look more like a nervous twitch. I also believe in pausing for a split second at the top of each rep. Because the range of motion is relatively short on shrugs, the reps do need to be a bit higher to provide substantial time under tension. I shoot for a minimum of 10 and often as high as 20. At the end of each set, I let the weight hang and stretch my traps, though I never fully relax the shoulder joint for safety reasons.
As for the narrow-grip upright rows, you can use a standard Olympic bar, an EZ-curl bar, two dumbbells held together so they touch, or even a low cable pulley. The hands should be no more than 6-8 inches apart. How high you pull will depend on your particular structure and arm length. The top of the rep for me has my hands at the level of my mid-chest. So here's a good routine you can do at the end of either shoulder or back day (your choice):
Shrugs 4 x 10-20
Narrow grip upright rows 4 x 8-12
Have a great weekend everybody!