Due to a job change, I no longer have a place to train and almost no equipment at home, so I’ve been doing a lot of pushups mostly. My main concern is my upper back and rear delts. How do I work that area?
To recruit the rear delt and that area of the back, you need to pull toward you rather than push away.
A thought: Lie on the floor with a bar arm’s length overhead supported by stable chair backs. Grasp the bar with a wide grip and pull upward chest-to-the-bar with the contraction directed toward the rear delt and upper back region.
Do this any way you can at first — whatever assist you can devise — till strength and ability improve. It’s a great lat exercise to use until the day you can do chins behind the neck.
Dips — again assisted — between chairs is another super move to add to your scheme to work delts, tris, pecs and upper back.
With that 30-pounder, do one-arm bentover rows for upper back and rear delt regions. Practice and focus will teach you ways to implement the dumbbell for rear delt advantage.. sort of a lone-arm lateral raise.
Hope this works.
At 5’8″, I’m over 300 pounds now and things are getting scary. I just don’t know what to do about it! Everything I have tried has failed. I’m ready to do something about it and want to lose 100 pounds before next summer.
No news to you, but you have some serious corrections to make to assure you live a long and happy life. The weight, of course, must be approached through exercise and proper eating.
There is no other way short of crazy surgery and if possible, you don’t want to go there. What you need to do is basic and requires will power, consistency, devotion and time. I sum it up in six words: Eat right, train hard, be strong.
If you don’t have the time or, I dare say, the energy — and possibly, the enthusiasm — to apply yourself to the deeds, it won’t happen. You want to drop 100 pounds, though 50 would make a big difference. It can be done with your long-term attention.
Your diet must be corrected and you’ll apply both medium-input aerobic exercise and hard-input weight-bearing exercise. Train consistently three to four days a week with weights and three to four days of aerobic exercise on any days.
Train to build muscle, not to lose fat. In time, with your attention to a quality diet, the fat weight will diminish and the muscle will increase. The wonderful plan takes hard work, discipline, courage and purpose… worth every penny and minute of investment.
I wrote a book titled “Your Body Revival,” with a sub-heading, “Straight Talk for the Overweight.” Take a look if you’re willing.
God’s might… Dave
Can I realistically expect to continue to make gains, given my age (53), or will I have to be content from here on in with holding on to what I have? After my workouts (usually one set of squats, bench, chins, preachers done intensively to failure), I’m bushed for the next few days. Should I modify things at all?
Your training scheme appears to follow a HIT design and application — very few sets and total intensity per set. I’ve always advocated volume training for muscle shape, size, definition and energy.
To me, that means some variation of three muscle groups per workout, two exercises per muscle group and three to four sets of each exercise for 6 to 12 repetitions. The intensity should range from 80% to 100% depending on a dozen variables, including goals, risk factor, desire, fatigue, health, particular workout, lifestyle demands, time etc.
This style of training is healthy and conditioning and has a long and productive life span. I note your training is limited in action and pumping and burning and oxygenizing. You might want to re-think your training methodology.
You should still be having fun and productive workout sessions four days a week. There may be a rocky road ahead where you have to drag yourself from the gym, but you’re up to the compromise.
I noted gains still throughout my 50s. There are the ups and downs and limitations common to all of us as the years pile up, but you should do fine.
Keep a high protein anabolic environment and adopt volume training techniques to condition, detoxify and energize your body.
Carry on the good fight… God’s might… Dave
I’m just getting back to the gym after a move to a different state and want to lose weight. One trainer tells me to say on a diet balanced with carbs, protein and so on. The other tells me to omit carbs as much as possible until the fat is gone and then start on a bodybuilding diet. What do I do?
Resume your training with confidence and lean toward intensity with resolve.
I favor the advice of trainer #2. Pack in the protein as you assure your intake of living food from lots of salads and cruciferous vegetables and some fruit daily.
Eat regularly and frequently, as is a musclebuilder’s plan. Train to build muscle rather than concentrating on losing fat. You’ll be happier with the proactive reconditioning approach and respond better day by day.
Enjoy your new home and the resumption of your workouts.
Things have been going great with my training, and I even lost weight this summer. But I broke my wrist last week and can’t do anything. I’m afraid I’ll lose all my muscle gains and gain the fat back instead. I’m so bummed!
No fun losing hand ability for awhile, but you’ll make it okay. Just watch the quality and quantity of food you ingest — sufficient amounts of high protein foods mostly, some good carbs that come from your favorite vegetables and maybe some fruit. Stay away from junk food and sugars.
I’d be working the legs with extensions, curls and leg presses and calf machines. I’d also be jogging and doing sprints for the fun and value of the exercises. Do midsection regularly — crunches, Roman chair and leg raises.
One odd thing to consider is one-handed work. You might be afraid of working once side and becoming unbalanced, but my theory, which worked for me after a long shoulder surgery recovery, is that the brain’s attention on one side and blood flow between sides of the body really helped retain muscle during the down time. I really think it worked.
The hand will be functioning soon as you insist upon light, improvised curls along with your doc’s recommendations.
Go — heal –stay lean — God’s speed… Dave
The Smith machine squat — Your thoughts???? Also, what can you tell me about the Smith machine. I heard a weightlifter named Smith invented it back in the 1940s or something.
The squat performed on the Smith machine resembles a sissy squat, a popular exercise for burning, shaping and muscularizing the quads. They certainly have benefits as an adjunct to squats, but they don’t provide the same mass or power.
However, thigh mass and power often must move aside when injury or limitations step to the foreground, or training goals don’t call for the bigger moves. Therefore, when the time is right, go for them with gusto and confidence.
I heard the same story about where it came from and I think it’s true. While unpopular among many, I think the Smith machine is a valuable piece of exercise equipment, especially when injury or limitations prevent free-weight movement. The grumblers might be purists who refuse to accept anything that corrupts the true bench press, press, squat or deadlift.
The up-down rigid action of the Smith prevents the natural groove the body seeks in the free squat, thereby exposing the back and knees to injury — forcing against the machine’s mechanics. Knowing this, you can modify your Smith exercises to avoid the conflict. Don’t go real heavy and don’t imitate the real squat movement.
The use of the equipment is up to the user, his or her wits and commonsense. Focus, digging in, trial and practice are the instructors.
Be inventive and let your muscles guide you. Go… Dave
When you recommend pyramiding weight (say in the bench press), is each set taken to positive failure?
As an example of a program for general muscle and strength building, you would start with a fixed weight for 5 sets X 8 reps on day one. The weight you choose is 80% output (personal judgment). On the following workout complete 4 sets X 8 reps and add 5 pounds total to the bar for your final set X 8. Continue this last-set addition workout to workout until you have progressed to an intense 5 sets of 8 reps with an added 10 pounds.
The same approach can be practiced shifting the focus to reps instead of pounds. That is, follow day one by completing 4 sets of 8 reps and adding a rep — so…9 reps — to the last set. Continue this until you complete 5 sets of 10 reps with the original weight. At this point, increase the weight by 5 or 10 pounds and continue the process.
Here you have two systems of progression that teach you your training ABCs as you develop physically.
The pyramid is done with your own creative scheme based on the above approaches. I used to go to failure or near failure with each set, based on the muscle risk factor, pain or injury, the training day’s mood, the fatigue factor, the composition of the entire workout, what I did the day before and what I am planning in the days to come.
The pyramid serves as a repetition mechanism to feel your way through according to variables that are clear to you at the time of training.
I define my schemes but not exactly. Give each rep and set all you have all the time.
The above info characterizes my long-lived training style. The first paragraphs are reasonably clear and straight forward. The last paragraph indicates why answering the questions below is difficult: I have never been exact in training and am thankful for the freedom. I’ll bet you’ll figure it out on your own. You are, after all, a bomber.
Keep the weights rolling and clanking… allow no rust to gather.
I trained for about 10 years up until my late 30s, but then fell away from training until recently at age 44. I’m happy to be back in the gym, but am having a hard time getting back to my old routines. A guy I grew up with says it’s age and I’ll never get back to the old training. Is he right?
Listen to the guy you grew up with, recognizing that you are returning after a substantial layoff and are an older man. You trained through your 30s and, no doubt, noticed that you became less flexible and more injury-prone as you aged. Perhaps your metabolism changed and weight control required more attention as you approached 40, and aches and pains surfaced where they never before existed…the usual stuff that happens to others and we shrug our shoulders. Then they happen to us we feel stricken.
You’re back and everything is very cool. You’ll need to make some attitude adjustments, part of growing up and older (my mamma said), and review your priorities, schedule and focus to accommodate the brand new guy you’ve got in the palms of your hands. Energy, fatigue, recovery, injury, aches and pains, motivation as well as your routine are under your control; you are just working under different conditions.
To be progressive in your strength and muscle development, you’ll need to have an agreeable consistency in your eating and training. (Duh. Big bulletin there, Dave.) We have less margin of leeway as we get older. Rest — night sleep, naps and relaxation — become more important for tissue repair as our systems … er… mellow.
Be prepared to crank up your training as you recondition and re-familiarize yourself with your training.
Recall your old training know-how, but don’t expect to repeat it; you want to keep the workout-abating injuries to a minimum.
I’ve seen the training methods change with the times and I scratch my head and blast it for another 10 sets. More oxygen uptake, cellular energy, muscle density, vascularity, shape and size comes with mixed-reps, volume deliciously fortified with the biweekly power workouts. It’s a matter of adapting or conditioning to this blood-intense, heart-pumping training technique over time (call it “Bombing”) and through what appears to be overtraining.
Put a fire under your instincts and let them simmer. Stick to the basics with a big grin and don’t be afraid of daily creativity within 25% of your workout.
Heck, you’re a child. Some of my best power and hardness gains were made between 44 and 50. Just don’t give up for a minute. You’re being watched.
I’m interested in your Bomber Blend protein powder, but am wondering about milk allergies. What can you tell me about your protein?
I don’t think there have been ten consumers in the past 17 years who have had an allergic response to the mixture. Give it a go — we’ll take it back for a refund if it doesn’t work for you. Most of the powders on the market are some form of milk product, although there are a few egg white proteins. Here’s one from Super Spectrim.
I made it for me, personally, with input from a doctor and several protein scientists, to get the best ingredients for muscle building and health in a protein powder. It is a combo of casein, a long chain milk protein for slower absorption, and whey, a short chain protein for quick absorption. This assures more efficient protein, amino acid, usage — immediate energy and steady muscle repair.
There’s lactase to offset the small amount of remaining lactose, and that’s probably why some people with mild milk allergies are able to use it. It’s high in B-complex and added BCAAs for muscle repair, enzymes for assimilation and digestibility, antioxidants and grape seed extract, necessary vitamins and minerals and colostrum. Sucralose is the sweetener we chose.
The cost was never an issue. Bomber Blend is the result. Everyone loves the flavor and digestibility. Were we to sell it on the retail market it would be at least $20 more per tub once advertising and distributing costs were added.
It’s great for added valuable protein, breakfast, pre- and post- workout drinks. Super convenient and inexpensive food when you calculate how many meals you get from a jug (20 servings). I just add the very mixable (instantized) vanilla powder to water in a shaker and presto.
God’s speed and strength… Dave
I’m 35 years old and have always been too thin. can I expand my chest muscles and develop a good chest, if I start weight training now?
Sure you can. How much you can develop depends on many factors, particularly your genetic makeup and body chemistry, present physical condition and health, structure, body fat content, training background and ability and willingness to learn and apply yourself.
Certainly you will improve your health, strength, energy, character and quality of life with appropriate weight training and right eating.
Muscle mass will increase, though often not to our high hopes. This dilemma is universal and not limited to age.
Get into the good habit without delay. It’s a great and rewarding and entertaining diversion and life support.
God’s might… DD
I feel like I’m making good gains, but with all this work, it seems like it should be working a little faster. Should I be eating more?
You can only gain so much before you gain fat, overload the system and set yourself up for unhealthy responses.
Eat regularly throughout the day, always high protein with an accent on red meat, milk products and eggs. Of course, lotsa salads and vegetables. Avoid sugar.
Hit the basics in the gym, especially squats, deadlifts, cleans and presses, some heavy barbell curls, bentover rows and medium grip bench presses. Beware — don’t overload the shoulder and get a common injury with the bench press.
In your favorite routines, hit each exercise once or twice a week for 4 to 5 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6, 4 reps.
Get proper rest and use a good protein powder for pre and post workout and feeding for energy, power and repair, plus weight gain. Bomber Blend is my fav.
The long haul is underway and you will notice your growth and gains come in spurts, fits and starts. Flow with them all.
Get the basics in diet and training down and don’t ever swerve from them and you cannot fail. Read Brother Iron Sister Steel and all your questions will be answered as if by a friend who knows you.
Add another meal of cottage cheese and tuna (3-4 oz of each) and/or another protein shake – 1/2 before and 1/2 after your workout — each day. Another banana and loads of fresh vegetables and at least a few red meat meal each week. Eggs and milk are good muscle growth stuff.
God’s speed… Dave
I’ve been training for 5 years and am pretty happy with my results so far, except for should width. I feel like I have dense shoulders, but haven’t gained any width. Do you have any suggestions?
Keep training and don’t despair. Wide shoulders have a lot to do with bone structure, and thick shoulders might just be your specialty instead.
Overhead front presses with the bar or dumbbells are the best for power and shoulder muscle size, standing or performed on a steep incline.
Press-behind-necks with a bar and the back supported is a good alternative to the front presses.
Side-arm lateral raises will add to the side delts or anterior deltoids. Add bentover laterals as well to develop and secure the rear shoulder and upper back areas — 4sets of 6-8 reps is a good working range on these exercises.
Add widegrip chins or pulldowns to your routine and widegrip bentover rows for back width (lats).
This will keep you going for a while.
Carry on… Dave
As a person who ‘grew up’ in the gyms of the 1960s and ’70s, what do you think of today’s megaplex gyms? Can you get a good workout there?
Weight training Gyms in the past 50 years:
In 1956 a gym was a bare, functional place for expressing strength and developing athletic ability.
In 1966 a gym was a bold and daring adventure, a swell place. The weights were real, the pursuits of power and muscle mass were undeniable and the mighty men were authentic, original and on the move. Alas, girls were on the outside looking in.
The 1980s rolled around, tires screeching. The boldness and daring of a true adventurer — an original, a forerunner — was being replaced by bravado — the bluster and audacity — of an imitator of things once good. Humility and championship were not absent, but were beginning to be threatened. Gyms reflected the behavior and the mood. They were less adventuresome and more abundant, denser, noisier, hipper and showy. Where once a lifting platform fit nicely and functioned well, an assortment of novel machines were gathered — a different machine for each different bodypart, mood or notion. Girls were on the inside looking out… and, also, looking good.
Here we are in the 2000s. The world is fat, getting fatter. Neighborhood gyms, the last frontier, have given way to the mean and ugly monster chain gyms with their bright lights and strings of aerobic equipment and matching TVs and complementary personal trainers.
The real musclebuilder is struggling in the corner of a 25,000 to 50,000 square foot gym in search of an authentic barbell and a genuine pump. He might as well look in the lost-and-found department.
One can make it in a colossal new gym with all its amenities, garishness and insincerity, if one knows the basics, has the courage of a gladiator and the spirit of an eagle. Sift through the junk and find the simple remnants of iron that work.
True musclebuilders have courage and heart and invention. They’ll make it. It’s the rest of the world I’m worried about.
Be bold and daring. Spend the extra few dollars and support your neighborhood gym.
This is a good time to share some equipment costs with a couple of neighbors and set up camp in the back yard, too.
I recently ordered your Top Squat and love it! I haven’t been able to do squats because of shoulder tightness, and now I can. Brilliant, thank you! I had a couple of questions if you don’t mind. I have access to a squat rack and extension and curl machines, but not leg press or hack squat machine. I’m concerned about excessive butt size using only squats. What do you think?
Thanks for the favorable Top Squat report.
Stick with the squats, using the extension to warm up the thighs and knees for a few sets of 10-12 reps.
Hit the leg curl between squats (superset) for some 80% effort for hamstring stimulation (say for a month) or hit 3-5 sets x 8, 10, 12 reps after your squat routine (an approach for another month).
Mix the reps in the squats from time to time (sets 0f 12 to 15, or 12, 10, 8, 6 – my favorite sequence), try some doubles and singles when you feel secure and muscle mature.
Squats will build up glutes — powerful muscles — only to their prescribed size. Some lifters have a greater propensity of this muscle growth.
Don’t worry. Nothing builds so fast that you don’t have control over it.
You don’t need a leg press or hack machine. Squats do the job.
I read that you are an enthusiast of thick handle training. I’ve never tried thick handles and am thinking of buying one to try. Why do you think they are better than regular thickness bars and handles?
I was introduced to thick handle training with the Apollon Axle I purchased from Ironmind.com, liked what I experienced and carried the thick-handle concept to other bars and handles in the gym (including some I designed that are no longer in production.
The desirable feel, comfort, psychological effect and mechanics of a thick handle are immediately evident. The resistance is distributed more advantageously over a broader area and the grip’s strength and requirements are altered favorably.
This is especially important if one’s hand or wrist is injured, bruised or limited in capability. Over the years, I became somewhat restricted by joint-overuse from the accumulated years of battle — Rats — and found new freedom and improved performance with thicker handles.
The fullness of the handle alters the action of the exercise being performed: engages muscles powerfully, improves muscle targeting, requires less weight (translates as less overload on joint; wrist, elbow or shoulder) to achieve a maximum muscle intensity and is easy on hands. It’s in the physics of thickness.
Worth your purchase… try them.
I do not have any gym machines; I only have dumbbells, barbells and a bench. What exercises can I do for lats besides chin-ups? I have no idea what a “tri-set” is — do I need to rest between them or is it like a superset?
Happy days. You can do wonders with the equipment you have on hand. Improvise, concentrate on muscles you want to work and invent.
Tri-sets are the same as supersets, only 3 exercises instead of 2. Perform them with the pace that suits you — no hurrying, no lagging.
Stiffarm pullovers work lats effectively.
Widegrip bentover rows with flat back and pulling the bar to the upper pec… takes focus and practice, as do all exercises.
One-arm dumbbell rows done with an extended motion… long forward reach and tugging high to the hip region.
All kinds of chins contribute to the lats development, especially wide grip.
Hope this helps… God’s speed… Dave
Do you like front squats, and if so, how do you work them into a workout program?
I love front squats, though for me they are a mad dog on the shoulder cage.
We are allowed to do all sorts of combinations of exercises, sets and reps… and, they all work more or less.
Squats followed by deadlifts was a favorite routine of mine when my bodyweight was high, my goals and state of mind aggressive and my health and repair superlative. I thoughtfully performed and balanced them, squeezing what I could from the two before they went dry. When younger I could get a handful of productive workouts from the pair.
You could install the two every other leg day for the sheer joy of it. Although… danger… this is like mixing C4 and dynamite.
I have followed standard squats with front squats as a priority technique, using the latter with a relatively light weight to completely saturate and infuriate the quads. Can’t recall what scheme Arnold and I had going during those workouts where you see us doing back squats with four plates and fronts with three… they were done in close sequence, I know.
Mostly, front squats are a great muscle builder to be practiced solo when squats have lost their bang and when you’re up to them. That bar across the shoulders requires considerable strength in the torso and throughout the upper body. Big Bonus. You are heavily loading and, therefore, demanding power from some very interesting, unusually stressed muscle groups.
Front squats place the weight in front of the hips, shifting the resistance to the front of the thighs. It’s a full quadriceps action that is substantially unlike that of the basic squat. Gain strength, control and confidence from the original squat before you take on the fronts. You’ll have to practice this movement to discover the bar placement, handhold and balance… there are tricks at every angle.
This squat is not for everyone. That’s OK. One cannon is plenty.
I have had 2 children in the last 3 years and have lost 50 lbs, but I want to start really building some muscle and getting toned. I have a workout machine at home, but it is not free weights. Can I get the results I want on this machine, and if so how?
You mention a machine you have for your home training, but don’t give any details about its action or utility. Be assured that you can build strong muscles and improve shape by exercising at home and eating right. It’s up to you to apply yourself with feeling, intensity and determination. Start today to practice with what you have available and the aforementioned qualities will form and grow. With these priceless intangibles, you will discover the smart path to follow.
Whatever exercises your home apparatus has to offer should be done with order, planning on six to eight different complementary exercises a day, four days a week (Mon, Tue, Thur, Fri) and three sets of each x 8, 10, 12 reps. Start with planks, side bends and leg raises to warm up.
On off days, when possible, walking/jogging combinations, stairs and uphill runs or walking with a weighted backpack will add to dedicated conditioning and weight control (push the darlings in a stroller?).
Freehand exercises can be added if equipment needs supplementation: floor pushups from knees, not toes, with a close grip and wide grip for shoulders, chest and triceps; High repetition freehand full squats and toe raises off a block while holding onto a support post for legs and lungs; Chins and dips with assistance on improvised equipment.
With nerve and heart and ingenuity and need you can do it all. And think of the grand effect this action will have on your beautiful children over the years.
God’s strength… Dave
You talk about using a Smith Press pretty often, but can you tell me the difference between the resistance of a Smith bench and a regular bench?
You asked about the Smith Press and the bench press resistance comparison. And since you didn’t confine me to 140 characters, here’s my unabridged answer.
Every Smith Press is designed and structured differently. The bar plus mechanics weigh about the same as an Olympic bar, but it’s hard to accurately calculate because the bar is, by virtue of the structure, somewhat suspended…so we guess. Some manufacturers feature a counter-balance to neutralize or diminish the resistance of the unloaded bar. Some, as in the case of CYBEX, utilize a bungee cord counter-resistance. I personally don’t like these interferences, and at our gym I quickly dismantled them. Some machines glide smoothly, some bind. Should any friction exist in the guide system, it is translated into less resistance coming down, more resistance going up….an annoying drawback of the Smith Press.
Another thing – the guided movement provided by the machine alters the natural bench pressing arc, thereby hampering the recruited muscles’ full exertion. In some positions, 100 pounds on the bench press seems like 150 on the Smith.
The advantages of the machine are in the control, the rigid limiting mechanics that protect injured rehabbing shoulders, chest or tris. Others would call this a disadvantage, and I think that probably has to do with body structure. For some of us (me), it works quite well.
It’s a neat gadget for partial pumping movements, isolation and improvised strictness. Great for split leg squats. Nice change of pace to get away from bench press domination.
Use free weights for big pounds; use the Smith Press for motion focus and muscle action.
How long do you suggest I continue a workout program?
Unless a new routine feels just plain wrong or is undersireable for legitamate reasons, 4 weeks from my experience is the minimum input for a training commitment. It takes that long to determine the weights to be used, establish continuity and pace and recognize the WO’s overall effects.
Once fixed in place, you practice and press on to understand the workout – to finesse, tweak and dial it in . . . to hammer it and mold it. This takes extensive time, 6-8 weeks or more, with fair adjustments along the way.
Too often we abandon a good workout before it has fully served us, before we are fully saturated by it. Our eyes are diverted, looking elsewhere for the another way before we have applied honest discipline by persisting, squeezing, taking the necessary one step back before taking the exotic two steps forward. Tough times. It’s here that I suspect the mean sticking points are surpassed — overpowered — and maximum adaptation is achieved, the critical point of development.
This is especially so with the younger trainees. After you’ve played around long enough to become familiar with the variety of exercises available to you, as novelty and curiosity diminish, establish a basic, orderly routine of two or three high-standard exercises of 6, 8, 10, 12 reps per muscle group and hit each group twice per week.
Perform this outline over 4-5 days per week, allowing at least 60 minutes. Throw in some cardio, ab work and supersets, hit some heavy days with singles or doubles on big movements a few times a month.
This will set you in motion without overtraining if you eat and sleep right. You’ll learn and grow.
As we truly become established, the more our instincts and training antennae develop and can successfully direct us toward the satisfaction of our needs, our goals.
Gotta push it.