T Nation

Thoughts on Lifting and Bodybuilding


#1


Another forum member, Confusion, suggested I do an icebreaker post.

I was inspired by Arnold Schwarzenegger to get into the gym. Like most teenagers it was all about getting laid. Muscles help. A few years on, I think adding another zero on to the end of your annual income will do just as well. I am more of a keyboard warrior than an expert. My only particular qualification is that I've gotten it very wrong for many years. In the last year and a half I've started making progress, and below I share some thoughts on lifting and bodybuilding. Take it with a grain of salt.

I consider myself to be a lifter who trains for general strength and power. That means I'm chasing numbers on the bar. I'm very interested in lifts that have good transfer to other activities, i.e. power cleans improve vertical jump, squats improve sprint times etc. I believe this focus builds an aesthetically pleasing body. Aesthetics are governed by criteria; I like Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. A body that is fit for hunting & gathering, building shelter, and defence is a good looking body. I think that this approach is easily missed because many of the high paying BB contests are muscular beauty pageants which require no measurable athletic output. BBers in these use an athletic process to prepare their bodies for competing, but they are not athletes.... there is no requirement to lift the greatest weight, or do something in the shortest time, etc. American Football uses the term "Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane" to describe this. This isn't to say an elite BBer isn't strong, or powerful, just that their training is specific to the stage, and there is no need for that training to have good transfer to anything athletic. The nice thing about calling myself a weightlifter rather than a bodybuilder is that I don't have to justify my appearance, I simply point to the numbers I am doing, the numbers I was doing, and I can demonstrate that I am getting better at what I do, e.g. I Bent Pressed 25kg in May and 55kg in November.

I change my lifts rarely, I think that muscle confusion is daft, I want smart muscles that can contract powerfully; the only way to get good at something is to do it often over a long period of time, switching lifts is like switching codes, a rugby player won't become a better rugby player by playing golf! A squat is a squat, it doesn't get better by doing some other leg exercise. Rather than changing lifts I prefer to alter volume, load, rest, and intensity.

Training wise I do three things:-
- Pick stuff off the floor and put it overhead
- Pick stuff off the floor and put it over there
- Squat

I train 6 days a week for 9 to 12 sessions. Two heavy days, two light, and two medium. Every exercise uses the entire body, except squats. Squats are my only lift that moves 3 joints, all other use more. I came to this method after becoming frustrated with a 'typical' BBing split of legs/chest & back/arms (Intermedaite lifting programme from Arnie's Encyclopedia). June 2013 I moved house, and added bumper plates and a DB rack to my gym, started buying books, and moved towards compound only lifting.

By switching lifts one at a time, and through my training diary, I have been able to make the following observations:-
- Breathing Squats, Cleans (One & Two hand), One Arm Snatches, Farmers Walks, Two Hand Waiter Walks build traps and neck. Each one adds volume, and together they are awesome
- Pulling from the floor builds lats (DL, Cleans, & Snatches). I know this because I stopped doing pullups and rows four months ago and my lats are bigger (opinion from looking in mirror)
- One Arm Barbell lifts build grip; forearm muscles. All the force generated, and supported, by two legs and the torso is transmitted through one hand to the bar.
- One Arm Snatches are the daddy of external rotation exercises. They help reduce shoulder pain associated with Bench Pressing
- The single best way to stop Bench Pressing from hurting the shoulders is to stop Benching.
- Bent Presses build daddy strength. Everday lifting around the home, and at work, is easier. Even weird positions like being in the drivers seat and reaching back to lift something heavy from the rear passenger seat. They also help reduce shoulder pain associated with Bench Pressing
- Bent Pressing builds forearms, biceps, triceps, delts, traps, lats, spinae erectors, quadratus lumborum, obliques.... pretty much every muscle that extends, or rotates the spine, or controls the shoulder. It is the king of lifts, and deserves to be held in the same regard as squatting. It is the method which will allow you to lift more overhead with one arm than any other. 175kg (370lbs) is the record for this lift.
- A low volume of pullups can maintain bicep size.
- A suprising number of curls can be added to a programme through lowering the weight from the shoulder to the waist, under control, after lifting overhead
- One Hand Cleans can be viewed as a Power Curl
- Volume is helpful in building muscle. My pecs were biggest when I did Bench Press, Incline DB Bench Press, Decline DB Bench Press, and DB Flies. They were middling when I did DBBP only, and they are quite flat now that I do none at all.
- Pressing builds delts. I once did a series of Pressing followed my Front, Side, and rear raises. Now I do One Arm DB Press, Push Press (cleaning at the start of the set), Clean & Press, and Bent Press. My delts are the better for it.
- Pressing builds triceps. More pressing builds more triceps. Pressing works better than various tricep extension exercises.
- Get Ups can be done heavy with a barbell (200lbs was once common among top lifters).

Theories of Building the Body:-

Controversy abounds below. I base my theories on what is useful to me as a lifter who relies on solely on food for fuelling growth and lifts as a hobby.

"If you get stronger you will get bigger"

If you're adding weight to the bar, then you'll be gaining mass. The question is, what is the best method to add weight to the bar. Which exercises are easier to progress in?

Now this is a continuum, at either end the mass gains are lesser. E.g. 6 sets of 1 rep will develop the nervous system more than the muscular, and 1 set of 100 will develop the circulatory system more (at the extreme end are marathon runners who actually go catabolic). The nature of that growth isn't important, maybe your muscles are bigger because the fibres grew, maybe they divided, maybe they're bigger to hold more fuel. This is splitting hairs. Bigger is big.

"Big weights, over big distance, give big results"

Compounds allow the muscles to work together to lift more weight than can be lifted if isolated. Measure a training session by total tonnage x distance. E.g. grippers don't cut it, just a few kilos over a few centimetres. Farmers walks with a multiple of bodyweight for many metres will load the forearms significantly. This isn't to say that isolatating a muscle isn't of benefit, just that compounds take priority.... and if that means there is no time for them then that is ok.... You'll get bigger if you do your squats and miss your leg extensions, you won't the other way round.

"The smaller the increment, the easier it is to progress"

Compound lifts are easier to progress in because the percentage increase is less than that of isolation exercises" E.g. Joe can do a DB Tricep extension of 20kg, and Press 45kg, the standard increment of 2.5kg means to progress in the DBTE requires a 12% jump, but the Press is only 5%.

Barbells are better than kettlebells for this reason, the jump between KBs is greater. Kettlebells 100 years ago were used by showmen who'd use them as something comfy for an assistant to sit on whilst the lifted them overhead. They died out when barbells started to be mass manufactered. They came back via the Russians. Russian's are renowned for getting great results with a small budget. E.g. NASA spent millions to create a pen that would work in space.... the Russians used a pencil. A barbell set is more expensive to buy, requires a suitable floor, and is not easily portable. Kettlebells are wonderful if you want to cram lots of customers in to a small space for training, or if you are travelling, or if you live in an apartment. Kettlebells may be superior for teaching a movement pattern, or as a corrective. But this is only for specific use cases. All the big world records for lifting have been done with bars, e.g. biggest Squat, Deadlift, Snatch, C&J, Bench Press, Press, Bent Press, etc. Kettlebells get results, but barbells do it faster, and better.

"Favour exercises with transfer to each other, and to the world outside of the gym"

Squats help you to sprint faster, and jump higher. They will also help your cleans and deadlifts.
Wrist curls help you to... shake peoples hands (not my first choice for an example)

"Tempo is bollox"

Our bodies are designed to complete tasks. Doing a job slowly will get you tired, or fired. Lift as fast as you can! If you want a slow tempo, increase the weight and call the lift by a different name. E.g. What can't be snatched, can be power cleaned, then high pulled, then deadlifted. All of which involve similar muscles, but at different speeds.

"Ab training is bollox"

The purpose of the abs, the core, is to hold, or move, the torso in the best position for transmitting force from the ground against the resistance. To help you breath, or to valsalva. They are not there to help you get your face closer to your crotch. Strength is limited by the weakest link. Sitting down to lift robs you of the opportunity to use them. How can you get strong by sitting on your bum? Wearing a belt robs you also (wear one to win a lifting competition, or if injuries require it, but not otherwise).

If you don't have a six pack you need to eat less.

"Eat like an adult"

Dan John is bang on with this saying, Have dinner before dessert. You don't get a lolly because you've been good, you don't get a tub of icecream beacuse you're crying over someone calling you a nasty name. I find I eat best when I'm working, and worst on holiday. Routine is helpful for discipline. Preparing food is part of training. Just as we go to the gym, we go to the kitchen. Powder is not food! I believe the best source of protein comes from animals, meat & eggs.

My Library:-

The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding - Arnold Schwarzenegger
Pumping Iron (DVD) - Arnold Schwarzenegger
Mass Made Simple - Dan John
Intervention - Dan John
Easy Strength - Dan John & Pavel Tsatsouline
Beyond Bodybuilding - Pavel Tsatsouline
Strength Stretching (DVD) - Pavel Tsatsouline
Olympic Weightlifting (Book & DVD) - Greg Everett
Special Strength Training Manual for Coaches - Yuri & Natalia Verkhoshansky
Science of Sports Training - Thomas Kurz
Muscles Testing & Function -Kendall, McCreary, & Provance
Taming the Bent Press - Dave Whitley
Practical Programming for Strength Training - Mark Rippetoe
Starting Strength - Mark Rippetoe


Why Is It so Hard to Let Go of "The Big 3" for Non-Competitive Lifters?
#2

What are your accomplishments?


#3

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:
What are your accomplishments?[/quote]
None of note. I’m just a little chap lifting in his garage trying to add a kilo here and a rep there.


#4

great post johnflower! way to put it out there and be real. Not enuf of that these days. I train very differently,but am a big believer in accomplishing our own goals,not what others think our goals should be. I get the idea that you admire old school strongman. With the nature of the internet and the attitude of many lifters today,if one of them was to post his ideas of training,a bunch of internet so and so,s would “prove” with words that he didn’t know anything. How silly and wrong.

Keep doing what works for you,when it stops working,find something different that does! We hear this advice a lot and I think if we trully apply it,we will continue to improve.Honesty with oursleves is important,also. If our goals are realistic,and we aren’t meeting them,we are failing,period…confusion. p.s.have a look at strongman Paul Anderson


#5

regarding your post in another thread about arm barbell snatch,I think they can make the lats bigger. I prefer one arm dumbell snatch. I don’t find myself able to focus on the mmc as well on explosive lifts. Regardless of why it could or should work,I think the dumbell snatch can build bigger lats and shoulders. I am not sure why I almost never see anyone doing them. Maybe because they are hard,or some folks don’t know about them,or some lifters don’t think they will make you bigger or stronger…I’m not sure.


#6

how long have you been lifting?

what is your height and weight?

how much can you squat/deadlift and overhead press (not bent press) as scanning your post you appear to do these 3 movements listed.

unless the above questions have at least non embarrassing answers, to be honest why should anyone care about your huge posts?

i get the strong impression you probably deadlift about 250lbs for one rep or something.

probably even more importantly have you made significant physique improvements as this is the bodybuilding forum after all.

you come across as enthusiastic but totally deluded. its one thing being into 19th century strongman type stuff like bent pressing etc but this is a BB forum please post a video of an IFBB doing a bent press. you wont find one. ask yourself why not.

if you have been able to do something at least remotely impressive with regards to physical culture then i will be stunned.


#7

[quote]TheCB wrote:
you come across as enthusiastic but totally deluded. its one thing being into 19th century strongman type stuff like bent pressing etc but this is a BB forum please post a video of an IFBB doing a bent press. you wont find one. ask yourself why not.
[/quote]

this is essentially it. You take your weightlifting seriously and that’s cool, and I do actually think old school lifts like the bent press and one arm snatches are cool too, but you have a fundamental misunderstanding of how to use weights in a bodybuilding context.

This website isn’t just for bodybuilders, and the subforum like Bigger, Stronger, Leaner is a great place to discuss the stuff you’re into, but the actual Bodybuilding forum is quite specific in what we’re trying to accomplish.

When you come into threads where people have asked questions like how to bring up their rear delts and you give advice like “get stronger” or “bent press” or whatever it makes all the bodybuilders shake their heads and cluck their tongues.

Not trying to dissuade you from posting here, far from it, but you need to understand the difference in the utility of weights in a weighlifting context and a bodybuilding context.


Funniest Threads
#8

[quote]confusion wrote:
regarding your post in another thread about arm barbell snatch,I think they can make the lats bigger. I prefer one arm dumbell snatch. I don’t find myself able to focus on the mmc as well on explosive lifts. Regardless of why it could or should work,I think the dumbell snatch can build bigger lats and shoulders. I am not sure why I almost never see anyone doing them. Maybe because they are hard,or some folks don’t know about them,or some lifters don’t think they will make you bigger or stronger…I’m not sure. [/quote]
I agree that snatching builds lats (all pulls from the floor do). Don’t worry about which muscles are used, concentrate on UP! Compound lifts use many muscles, if you focus on one then you neglect the others. I consider MMC a buzzphrase. Quick lifts can be improved dramatically through better technique. Technique is mental control of the muscles for a better bar path - MMC. How well this transfers to ther lifts is hard to say. I have noted that my OAS improved by doing Bent Press which made me more aware of how to stabilise the scapula.

OAS does help with hypertrophy, but I don’t think it’s a top lift for this purpose because the mind tends to fatigue early, this means low rep sets. If we assume 20 - 30 reps is ideal for size then ten sets of three with 3 minutes rest will take a while. However they add volume to the muscles worked through cleans and deadlifts (similar movements, differing more in speed than other things). Lowering the weight under control to the shoulder, and then the waist can add extra eccentric pressing and curling volume. They also have the benefit of being easy to recover from. So if we assume cleans as the primary stressor, snatches can be used to top up the stress needed to get optimal growth. OAS can be done 6 days a week.

The dumbbell version is the same movement (KB snatch is not!). Can I persuade you to try barbell? I can only offer weak arguments in its favour - The records for the OAS were all set using a bar. Arthur Saxon and Bob Hoffman both published books and chose the BB version. If you have an audience, they will be more impressed by seeing a barbell go up - even if it is the same weight.


#9

TheCB, I haven’t done anything remotely impressive. I fear “enthusiastic but totally deluded” describes me best. I can’t give you a reason to care about what I write. My statements about what works are based on observations of myself, reasoning, and are relative. They may have no application to you. Read my post and comment on my opinions, or not, the choice is yours.

I agree that an IFBB pro is unlikely to be using the Bent Press to win comps. I’m vaguely aware that what they put into their bodies mean that they train differently to people who rely only on food. Bent Press may be relatively poor at building muscle compared with other exercises in that case.

Even for the food only it is difficult to learn, and it may take several months before enough weight can be lifted to make it useful… time which could be better spent doing simpler lifts. Can you explain why you think the Bent Press won’t be useful for hypertrophy for the natural lifter? John Grimek did use the Bent Press, and did win major BB comps… but that was many decades ago. I suggest that for some people it could be a good addition to their program, but not for all people. There are many paths to victory.

I am 172cm tall. I weigh 72.5kg. I haven’t deadlifted since Jan 2014 (many people do very well with this lift, I prefer power cleans), the closest I’ve come is picking up a 150kg hexbar and walking 4m before dropping it. My best Squat is 100kg (to parallel), Front Squat 77.5kg (ATG). Clean & Press 57.5kg. Clean & Push Press 70kg. Nothing to stun you at all.


#10

[quote]Yogi wrote:
this is essentially it. You take your weightlifting seriously and that’s cool, and I do actually think old school lifts like the bent press and one arm snatches are cool too, but you have a fundamental misunderstanding of how to use weights in a bodybuilding context.

This website isn’t just for bodybuilders, and the subforum like Bigger, Stronger, Leaner is a great place to discuss the stuff you’re into, but the actual Bodybuilding forum is quite specific in what we’re trying to accomplish.[/quote]
These are good points. Thank you. I was blaise in looking through the various forum titles. That subforum “Bigger, Stronger, Leaner” would’ve been the better place for this post.

Perhaps a mod can move it?


#11

[quote]johnflower wrote:
TheCB, I haven’t done anything remotely impressive. I fear “enthusiastic but totally deluded” describes me best. I can’t give you a reason to care about what I write. My statements about what works are based on observations of myself, reasoning, and are relative. They may have no application to you. Read my post and comment on my opinions, or not, the choice is yours.

I agree that an IFBB pro is unlikely to be using the Bent Press to win comps. I’m vaguely aware that what they put into their bodies mean that they train differently to people who rely only on food. Bent Press may be relatively poor at building muscle compared with other exercises in that case.

Even for the food only it is difficult to learn, and it may take several months before enough weight can be lifted to make it useful… time which could be better spent doing simpler lifts. Can you explain why you think the Bent Press won’t be useful for hypertrophy for the natural lifter? John Grimek did use the Bent Press, and did win major BB comps… but that was many decades ago. I suggest that for some people it could be a good addition to their program, but not for all people. There are many paths to victory.

I am 172cm tall. I weigh 72.5kg. I haven’t deadlifted since Jan 2014 (many people do very well with this lift, I prefer power cleans), the closest I’ve come is picking up a 150kg hexbar and walking 4m before dropping it. My best Squat is 100kg (to parallel), Front Squat 77.5kg (ATG). Clean & Press 57.5kg. Clean & Push Press 70kg. Nothing to stun you at all.[/quote]

thanks for the response, you seem like a nice guy.

i dont get why if you admit you have done nothing “remotely impressive” you would start a thread with your thoughts on lifting and bodybuilding?

it just seems odd that you act modest about your lifting achievements and yet make 300 word posts of essentially nonsense about how to build strength and a muscular physique. when you have trained for at least a full year and have neither?

sorry if this sounds harsh i just find it odd.


#12

I will say you have an interesting philosophy. Have you read your library collection? It seems that you might have missed some of the main points in many of those books. But Alas, if you enjoy what you do, and are happy, who am I to judge?


#13

What are your thoughts on gaining a bit of body weight? Or is your weight going up? I am sure your frame could handle quite a bit more.


#14

[quote]TheCB wrote:
i dont get why if you admit you have done nothing “remotely impressive” you would start a thread with your thoughts on lifting and bodybuilding?

it just seems odd that you act modest about your lifting achievements and yet make 300 word posts of essentially nonsense about how to build strength and a muscular physique. when you have trained for at least a full year and have neither?

sorry if this sounds harsh i just find it odd.

[/quote]
I am a big fish in a very small pond. Training at home means my thoughts are not questioned. By posting I was hoping to test my ideas against the experience of others. Some of them are right, some of them are wrong. The only thing harsh about your response is that you are generally disagreeing with everything, and not being specific, nor detailed about which points you disagree with.


#15

[quote]Ecchastang wrote:
I will say you have an interesting philosophy. Have you read your library collection? It seems that you might have missed some of the main points in many of those books.[/quote]
What did you find interesting, and why?
Which points?


#16

[quote]johnflower wrote:

[quote]Ecchastang wrote:
I will say you have an interesting philosophy. Have you read your library collection? It seems that you might have missed some of the main points in many of those books.[/quote]
What did you find interesting, and why?
Which points?[/quote]
You seem to love the bent press and loathe the bench press. You advocate deadlift, then admit you haven’t done them in a long time. You advocate compound lifts with functionality, and yet have given up on pullups.

Eating like an adult and advocating animal protein were good points.

Getting stronger WILL NOT automatically make one get bigger.


#17

[quote]confusion wrote:
What are your thoughts on gaining a bit of body weight? Or is your weight going up? I am sure your frame could handle quite a bit more. [/quote]
Over the last year and a half I’ve gained 2.5kg. The best progress I’ve ever made. Terrible progress compared with many others.

Dropping isolation exercises for compound lifts has been helpful in this regard. My current focus is on better programming through mining my training diary to find what works in terms of volume, load, and frequency. I believe that strength and mass go together, and as I push for greater strength, greater size will come with it.

I don’t have a target bodyweight. But pushing for double bodyweight squat, triple bodyweight deadlift, bodyweight C&P and Bent Press strike me as reasonable milestones to achieve and then plan further progress.

How do you approach your training?


#18

[quote]johnflower wrote:

[quote]TheCB wrote:
i dont get why if you admit you have done nothing “remotely impressive” you would start a thread with your thoughts on lifting and bodybuilding?

it just seems odd that you act modest about your lifting achievements and yet make 300 word posts of essentially nonsense about how to build strength and a muscular physique. when you have trained for at least a full year and have neither?

sorry if this sounds harsh i just find it odd.

[/quote]
I am a big fish in a very small pond. Training at home means my thoughts are not questioned. By posting I was hoping to test my ideas against the experience of others. Some of them are right, some of them are wrong. The only thing harsh about your response is that you are generally disagreeing with everything, and not being specific, nor detailed about which points you disagree with.[/quote]

what are your specific goals with training?

you are a beginner and in 18 months have only gained 5.5lbs.

is muscular size a goal? how much? currently you are doing poorly.

is physical strength a goal? how much? currently you are doing poorly.

by any resonable measure your training/thoughts are producing minimal gains.

what do you attribute this to? genetics/diet/training/consistency/what?

obviously “if it makes you happy” etc etc


#19

for quite a while I was training one time a week. I was following the ideas of a body builder named Mike Mentzer. I got to a point where my training stalled and I had to be honest with myself that I wasn’t getting bigger and stronger. I don’t have specific weights or measurements I am trying to achieve. I just want to keep getting bigger and stronger… For the past couple of months,I’ve trained at least every two days hitting each major muscle group once a week. As you are doing,I experiment with my training and think a lot of the old school stuff still works today.

Of course it does. Anyhoo,the verdict is still out on whether the way I am training now will work better,but I have gotten stronger and will probably will see a change in my body measurements over time. I find some of your posts interesting and challenging. Keep in mind regarding your training journal, there are a whole lot of variables that affect how much weight you lift or how big you get. For example,when you review your logs,do you consider the amount you have eaten that day? Just changing something like that can affect the outcome…as I am sure you know. Confusion


#20

[quote]johnflower wrote:

I agree that an IFBB pro is unlikely to be using the Bent Press to win comps. I’m vaguely aware that what they put into their bodies mean that they train differently to people who rely only on food. Bent Press may be relatively poor at building muscle compared with other exercises in that case.

Even for the food only it is difficult to learn, and it may take several months before enough weight can be lifted to make it useful… time which could be better spent doing simpler lifts. Can you explain why you think the Bent Press won’t be useful for hypertrophy for the natural lifter? [/quote]

Can we talk about this for a second? You do know IFBB pros still rely on ‘food’, right? They eat tremendous amounts. The fact they are usually 250+ lbs means they REALLY rely on food.

Secondly, I’m not sure why you’d think drugs would effect the ability of a particular lift to promote hypertrophy. This is a weird thing to even suggest. lol