T Nation

Improve in Isolation Exercises


#1

Hey guys, I have doing the SS program for months and overall I have made significant gains on the compounds exercises through linear progression. However, I've been having trouble making progress in the isolations exercises. For example, for several months I have been curling the same weight, which has been 65 lbs., for 2-3 sets of 9-10 reps.

Between each set of barbell curls I take about a 1 min. And 30 sec. recovery period. I haven't been able to progress in either weight and/or in the number of reps that I can do for 65 lbs. How do I improve on isolation exercises such as the barbell curl?


#2

1: add volume via sets/reps
2: add weight
3: repeat


#3

Who cares.

As long as your main lifts are progressing, it is of no concern.

Just follow the program and learn the basics. SS has nothing to do with curls any ways.


#4

How many months have you been doing SS? Because before you said you were doing WS4SB.


#5

The simple answer is to lower your reps but you need to remember why you are doing isolation exercises in the first place.
Do you think using heavier dumbbells on lateral raises will suddenly make your middle deltoids bigger? In some cases it may be beneficial to actually lower the weight and focus on the squeeze and contraction of the targeted muscle.

Anyway if you really want to increase your barbell curl numbers then lower your reps.


#6

[quote]Bull_Scientist wrote:
Hey guys, I have doing the SS program for months and overall I have made significant gains on the compounds exercises through linear progression.
[/quote]
This is important, and something you should be proud of.

This is not. No-one cares how much you curl. Do you know who holds the world record in the barbell curl? No? Me neither.


#7

What’s this? Another thread where bull scientists over-analyzes a relatively-minor point of training? Color me surprised.

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:
How many months have you been doing SS? Because before you said you were doing WS4SB. [/quote]
^ This.

[quote]JFG wrote:
Just follow the program and learn the basics.[/quote]
Plus ^ this.

Plus ^ this.

In a very distant fourth place… resting for a full minute and a half between sets of 10 curls is unnecessary and a little silly.

[edited for atrocious, embarrassing formatting]


#8

[quote]Chris Colucci wrote:
What’s this? Another thread where bull scientists over-analyzes a relatively-minor point of training? Color me surprised.

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:
How many months have you been doing SS? Because before you said you were doing WS4SB. [/quote]
^ This.

[quote]JFG wrote:
Just follow the program and learn the basics.[quote]
Plus ^ this.

Plus ^ this.

In a [i]very[/] distant fourth place… resting for a full minute and a half between sets of 10 curls is unnecessary and a little silly.[/quote]

Well, I did WS4SB for approx. 7 months. Then, I switched to SS in order to concentrate more on building strength especially in my lower body. I don’t exactly remember when I switched to SS, but I know that it was between 5-6 months ago when I did.

Look, I know that for a novice like myself that the basic/main movements are the most important exercises to focus on, but I am just wondering how natural bodybuilders have been able to progress on their curls to the point of being able to curl 80-100 lbs.

Also Chris, why is resting for a full minute and a half between sets of 10 curls bad?


#9

I imagine they work harder than you do. By your own admissions, you have been training for several years now and made minimal progress.


#10

[quote]Bull_Scientist wrote:
Look, I know that for a novice like myself that the basic/main movements are the most important exercises to focus on, but I am just wondering how natural bodybuilders have been able to progress on their curls to the point of being able to curl 80-100 lbs.
[/quote]

They’ve trained harder, longer and better than you. They are also largely blessed with superior genes, and likely had a little extra “help” in this regard, ‘natty’ or not.

[quote]
Also Chris, why is resting for a full minute and a half between sets of 10 curls bad?[/quote]

It’s not bad, it’s just pointless.


#11

You are very much mistaken, young grasshopper. A true martial arts practitioner does not curl with his arms. He curls with his heart.

strokes flowing white beard


#12

[quote]Bull_Scientist wrote:
I don’t exactly remember when I switched to SS, but I know that it was between 5-6 months ago when I did.[/quote]
You’ve said you switched around the end of May, so yep, about 6 months. That’s a lot of time to have seen some major strength and bodyweight gains on Starting Strength, unless you screwed it up.
http://tnation.T-Nation.com/free_online_forum/sports_body_training_performance_bodybuilding_beginner/not_progressing_with_bench_press_on_w4sb_program?id=5834065&pageNo=4

Which, again, begs the question that was already asked: Why and how are you doing barbell curls within the Starting Strength program?

They just do. It’s not magic. They progress just like any other exercise, an extra rep or two and/or a few more pounds each session, week after week, month after month, year after year. A just-over-half-bodyweight barbell curl for reps is not some giant milestone.

Like Dagill said, it’s not “bad” it’s just unnecessary and inefficient. A set of 10 isn’t/shouldn’t be so physically demanding that you need 90 solid seconds of rest before doing another set.

If the priority is to stimulate biceps growth, not size (which it is because you’re using sets of 10), then either shave down the rest to well-under a minute (30 second or less would even be doable) or jump right to another exercise as a superset. And, for the sake of repeating myself, why/how/when are you programming 2-3x10 curls into Starting Strength?


#13

I feel the need to chime in on this rest time issue. I do rest-pause style training, and typically go all out on my first set. It doesn’t matter if I hit 8 reps, 12, or 20. I’m typically only going to get 3-5 reps after waiting ~15-30 seconds. It doesn’t really matter what exercise I’m doing: BB curls, close grip bench, or DB rows.

How hard you go on your first set is going to dictate how long you should rest. If you do 10 reps, to failure, even ‘resting’ inbetween reps to get a few more, expect a severe performance drop on your next set. If you want to get near 10 reps again, in this scenario, you’re going to have rest at least a couple minutes.


#14

But to be fair, Gooch, you’re talking about using a specific technique (rest-pause or a variation of it). That wasn’t part of the original scenario. All we had was “65-pound barbell curl for 2-3x9-10, as part of the Starting Strength program.”

I do agree that training to actual muscular failure and then trying to hit the same rep range next set will require a longer rest period, but even that will vary depending on the exercise. Something like a barbell curl for 10 (let’s say you hit failure on rep 10, can’t complete #11) isn’t as physically taxing as a flat bench, row, or squat for a set of 10 to failure, so I can’t agree with resting several minutes after 10 curls to failure.

1-2 minutes, tops, should be enough to knock out another set of 8-10 for a reasonably conditioned lifter. And that’s expecting a legit 10 reps to concentric failure, bar barely moves to start rep #11. Taking mini-rests between reps is another variable that blurs the line of “muscular failure” and adds another level of confusion/debate for bull_scientist to consider, which is the super-last thing the dude needs.


#15

[quote]Chris Colucci wrote:

[quote]Bull_Scientist wrote:
I don’t exactly remember when I switched to SS, but I know that it was between 5-6 months ago when I did.[/quote]
You’ve said you switched around the end of May, so yep, about 6 months. That’s a lot of time to have seen some major strength and bodyweight gains on Starting Strength, unless you screwed it up.
http://tnation.T-Nation.com/free_online_forum/sports_body_training_performance_bodybuilding_beginner/not_progressing_with_bench_press_on_w4sb_program?id=5834065&pageNo=4

Which, again, begs the question that was already asked: Why and how are you doing barbell curls within the Starting Strength program?

They just do. It’s not magic. They progress just like any other exercise, an extra rep or two and/or a few more pounds each session, week after week, month after month, year after year. A just-over-half-bodyweight barbell curl for reps is not some giant milestone.

Like Dagill said, it’s not “bad” it’s just unnecessary and inefficient. A set of 10 isn’t/shouldn’t be so physically demanding that you need 90 solid seconds of rest before doing another set.

If the priority is to stimulate biceps growth, not size (which it is because you’re using sets of 10), then either shave down the rest to well-under a minute (30 second or less would even be doable) or jump right to another exercise as a superset. And, for the sake of repeating myself, why/how/when are you programming 2-3x10 curls into Starting Strength?[/quote]

Well, I am 5’9" bodyweight is now 150 lbs. and currently these are my 5RM for each of the main exercises:

Bench press: 182.5 lbs.

Low-bar parallel squats: over a month and half ago it was 262.5 lbs. I stopped doing this squat variation because even though I was continuing to make significant strength gains on this exercise, the accruing weight on the barbell got so heavy to the point of eventually causing compressing on the back of my shoulders, thereby causing a lot of pain radiating from my shoulders to my elbows. Therefore, I switch a month ago to the high-bar ATG squats version -with a towel wrapped around the barbell for some cushioning on the back of my shoulders.

High-bar ATG squats: 232.5 lbs.

Shoulder press: 115 lbs.

Barbell rows: 145 lbs.

Power cleans: 125 lbs.

Conventional deadlift: 345 lbs.

Also, these are my current best BW pull-up/chin-up record:

Pull-ups: 1st set–> 10
2nd set --> 9
3rd set --> 8 reps

Chin-up: 1st set–> 11 reps
2nd set --> 10 reps
3rd set --> 9 reps

To answer your question as to why I have been doing curls, is because I thought that it would okay to add them if I wanted to. Rippetoe, didn’t say in the SS book that beginners shouldn’t do them. In the section of the book where he specifically talks about curls, he starts off by saying “since you’re going to do them anyway we might as well discuss the right way to do them.”

Furthermore, I didn’t know that when doing any isolation exercise to primarily stimulate muscular hypertrophic int he biceps, regardless of what level you are as a weight trainee, that you generally do not need to rest for more than about 45 sec. in between each set. I thought before that the rest period for maximum muscular hypertrophy ranged from 30 sec. to 2 min. and that for a novice like myself, regardless of what weightlifting exercise I do as long as each of my recovery period are within that time range then I will stimulate optimal muscular hypertrophy in the specific working muscle or muscles (provided of course that do I at least 8 reps on any exercise).


#16

[quote]Bull_Scientist wrote:
Well, I am 5’9" bodyweight is now 150 lbs. and currently these are my 5RM for each of the main exercises:
Bench press: 182.5 lbs.
Low-bar parallel squats: over a month and half ago it was 262.5 lbs.
High-bar ATG squats: 232.5 lbs.
Shoulder press: 115 lbs.
Barbell rows: 145 lbs.
Power cleans: 125 lbs.
Conventional deadlift: 345 lbs.
Chin-up: 1st set–> 11 reps 2nd set --> 10 reps 3rd set --> 9 reps[/quote]
For perspective (again from the thread linked above):
Three and a half months ago, you were:
weighing 150 pounds.
Bench press: 170 lbs. x 5
Back squats: 245 lbs. 3x5
OH press: 90 lbs. 3x5
barbell row: 135 lbs. 3x7
Deadlift: 330 lbs. 3x5
chin-ups: 10 reps 1st set, 8 reps 2nd set, 4-6 3rd set

So, zero bodyweight gain and barely trickling improvements in strength. Exactly where a lot of people predicted you’d be.

At this point, man, do whatever you want. If that’s Starting Strength With Curls, go for it. If it’s WS4SB With Sheiko Bench, knock yourself out. Have fun, play around in the gym few days a week, read as much as you want, just don’t expect results. There’s literally no new advice people can give you that they already haven’t over the last few years.


#17

Bull_Scientist, what exactly are your goals? Are there any specific numbers you expect to hit for each of the lifts? Are you looking to gain mass and over what time frame? Are you trying to achieve a certain body fat %? I hope you know that gaining muscle is a lot harder than losing fat. I checked your old thread on your shoulder pain and it would actually help if you post a video.


#18

[quote]Chris Colucci wrote:

[quote]Bull_Scientist wrote:
Well, I am 5’9" bodyweight is now 150 lbs. and currently these are my 5RM for each of the main exercises:
Bench press: 182.5 lbs.
Low-bar parallel squats: over a month and half ago it was 262.5 lbs.
High-bar ATG squats: 232.5 lbs.
Shoulder press: 115 lbs.
Barbell rows: 145 lbs.
Power cleans: 125 lbs.
Conventional deadlift: 345 lbs.
Chin-up: 1st set–> 11 reps 2nd set --> 10 reps 3rd set --> 9 reps[/quote]
For perspective (again from the thread linked above):
Three and a half months ago, you were:
weighing 150 pounds.
Bench press: 170 lbs. x 5
Back squats: 245 lbs. 3x5
OH press: 90 lbs. 3x5
barbell row: 135 lbs. 3x7
Deadlift: 330 lbs. 3x5
chin-ups: 10 reps 1st set, 8 reps 2nd set, 4-6 3rd set

So, zero bodyweight gain and barely trickling improvements in strength. Exactly where a lot of people predicted you’d be.

At this point, man, do whatever you want. If that’s Starting Strength With Curls, go for it. If it’s WS4SB With Sheiko Bench, knock yourself out. Have fun, play around in the gym few days a week, read as much as you want, just don’t expect results. There’s literally no new advice people can give you that they already haven’t over the last few years.[/quote]

Okay, so then how much more weight do I need to put on?


#19

[quote]lift206 wrote:
Bull_Scientist, what exactly are your goals? Are there any specific numbers you expect to hit for each of the lifts? Are you looking to gain mass and over what time frame? Are you trying to achieve a certain body fat %? I hope you know that gaining muscle is a lot harder than losing fat. I checked your old thread on your shoulder pain and it would actually help if you post a video.[/quote]

My goals are to gain both muscle mass and strength.

Also, Knowing your bodyfat percentage isn’t useful because it actually doesn’t accurately represent how lean or fat you are.

Yes, I am aware that gaining muscle take much work and time to build than muscle.

Additionally, my shoulder has been completely fine since the past year and a half ago.

Furthermore, the gym that i belong to unfortunately does not allow video recording of any kind.


#20

Is there a certain amount you want to gain over a certain time frame? Having numbers to shoot for will hold you accountable for progress and help you keep track of what works and what doesn’t. A good rate to shoot for is about 0.5-1.0 lbs each week to reduce fat gain. I asked about bodyfat percentage because if gives me an idea of whether you’re shooting for around 10% to see abs or if its higher because you don’t care. Regardless, adding mass before recomping would be a good path forward.

Just to give you an idea, the strongest powerlifters and weightlifters at your height typically weigh around 180-200 lbs so that shows how much potential you have for strength. You’ll have to go through many cycles of mass building phases and strength based phases to get there.