Remember Your Age – by Jamie Bolton

How old are you?
No not your chronological age. Your training age. Are you 6 months old? 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

If you tried to make a 5 year old do degree level maths, what would happen? Not a lot. Unless he’s a genius (we’ll assume he isn’t), he won’t be able to do it. Rightly so. You’re giving high-level mathematics to someone who’s still learning to count 1 to 10. Would anyone be annoyed by his failure? Of course not. He’s 5 years old!!

You’re probably thinking I’m off my rocker with that tangent. But take that as an analogy for the strength athlete.

Let’s say you’ve got a strength athlete with 1 years training experience under his belt (about as much education time in strength training as our 5year old had in maths). This strength athlete stumbles across a bulgarian olympic lifting program. It looks right up his street (he thinks). A tonne of frequency in the big lifts, he thinks he’ll grow like a weed. Especially with training multiple times per day, 6 days per week. That’s got to be awesome right?

Wrong. He ignores the bit that points out it’s for lifters with 20 years experience under their belt. He promptly massively overtrains, stalls completely as he’s unable to keep up with the volume & frequency. He gets pissed off when it doesn’t work. He blames the program.

He’s missed the point completely. The program is supposed to NOT work for him. The fact it doesn’t work is testament to the solid programming behind it. He’s got a degree-level lifting program when he’s still trying to count 1-10.

You have to learn to walk before you can run. You can’t dive in at the deep end with advanced level programming when your still a beginner or even an intermediate trainee. And you shouldn’t want to – as I’ve said before, why make things more complicated than they need to be?

Respect where you’re at in the learning curve of strength training and pick applications relevant for your position. Guess what – if you’re a beginner, it probably makes sense to use a beginners program. You might want to use something more complicated (complicated has to be better right?), but the reality is you should milk the basics for all their worth. You’ll only rue the missed chance later on if you don’t.

No one, minus the genetic exceptions, jumps in at the deep end and gets away with it. Get in the shallow end and enjoy the ride to the more challenging waters.

Give yourself something appropriate to you. Something you can handle.

On that same note, don’t bastardise a program, adding stuff because it seems ‘too simple’. Chances are your missing the point. Take Rippetoe’s Starting Strength for instance, is it ‘simple’? Yes. Many would think its too simple. It’s not. It’s damn near perfect for the beginner athlete. The beauty is in it’s simplicity.

Appreciate the time when all you have to do is count 1-10. Before you know this stuff gets complicated and you’ll look back wishing you hadn’t made things so complicated. Remember your training age and act accordingly.

Until next time. Train hard. Train smart. Be strong.

Mistakes of Bulking Part 2 – by Ben Coker

Last week I posted about 5 key areas for failure when pursuing hypertrophy, focusing on food. This installment of bulking mistakes focuses on 5 common training errors…
1) Not doing the basic muscle building lifts enough or even at all!

Too often the main compound lifts are neglected in programmes. They are either not done which is just plain dumb or they are done but with the premise of doing them because one knows they should! These people do them just to get them out the way so they can do the easier exercises!

‘All aboard for no gains!’

The lifts that are hardest get the best results. Compounds must form the vast majority of your programme. Isolation exercises from a hypertrophy perspective add shape to a huge mound of putty. With them we can add little extra bits of size to get a complete stage shape. These little extra bits put on to an already large piece of putty yields impressive illusions for size and density. But you can’t sculpt or shape if you have no putty to work with in the first place (ie limited muscle mass). In this case adding little bits to a little will yield slow and unimpressive gains. So unless you have a 17+ inch biceps for example, curls should hardly appear in your split but heavy chins should.

Ditch the curls...

2) Lack of intensity

Often people don’t do enough work for muscles to force the best growth out of them. It is essential for hypertrophy that we actually make the muscles work through fatigue. This isn’t about strength and letting the CNS fully recover for another 1RM, this is about working the target muscles hard and forcing them to grow.

Built with intensity.

If you are not sweating then believe me your intensity sucks! Work hard and push through fatigue to get optimal results. Upping your intensity may mean ditching your ego and lifting lighter but hey ego gets you no where intensity does.

There also needs to be a decent accumulation of work done for a movement pattern or exercise in a session to make it worthwhile. I’m talking mainly about doing enough working sets here. Too often people warm up to a working weight then switch to the next exercise. 3 working sets mean just that 3 sets where your working with the top weight for that session!

3) Poor body splits and recovery

This can be the undoing of many programmes. Often the right exercises are in a programme but how they are combined and spread out is woeful at times.

Doing arms one day then back the next, or doing chest one day then shoulders the next are good examples of this. The splits are good in that they could contain the heavy compound lifts to work the muscles well but done back to back  over training occurs and the second session is not performed optimally enough and can actually hinder recovery and progress from the day before.

It is essential that you get 2 days rest between hitting body parts directly to get the best out of each session. Failing to do so leads to under recovery and a subsequent lesser performance in the next session which over time will lead to an accumulation of over training and lost results. Doing a back workout, followed the day after by a leg session that involves deadlifting is going to lead to under performance on the deadlift. Little things like this add up across many splits preventing optimal training and growth.

Remember if you train like a madman and you will get more out of the days when you are not training but you need to have those rest days to actually realise this! Ensure that your spilt allows for enough rest days where your body doesn’t have to deal with any training stimulus at all and can focus solely on repair and growth.

4) Missing out key body parts that give the appearance of fullness and density.

Side delts are vital in giving you a wider appearance from the front and back. As a result they help to accentuate your V taper. They also tie in the traps to the arms to give a fuller, denser appearance.

Rear delts are crucial in making you look thick and complete from unflattering 45degree angles. They also give a finishing touch to the upper back, helping to build that mountain range that is visible through the back of a t-shirt. Its worth noting that in bodybuilding, it is the rear delts that stick out the furthest in the most muscular pose, highlighting their importance in the size illusion.

Rear delts make a most muscular physique!

Without a thick set of sweeping hamstrings you quads will never look big! Neglecting hamstrings will leave your legs looking puny and ill sightly despite what quad size you have. Not only this but big hamstrings can actually build bigger quads as it allows you to squat and deadlift more! Whatever way you look at it if you don’t have big hamstrings you won’t have big well rounded legs. As the bodybuilding saying goes ‘a good set of hamstrings is an overdeveloped set of hamstrings.’

Calves. All I can say to this is how silly it looks when your as wide as a house up top yet are walking on match stick calves! Calves are a very impressive muscle group when well developed and often if someones calves are of epic proportions then you can bet that they are gonna be massive up top.

So ego lovers if you wont people to gawk at how big you instead of laugh at how unbalanced you are…get some calves.

5) Changing programme every week when the scales haven’t gone up as much as last week.

Building muscle is a long endeavor and gains are non linear in the way they appear. Trust in your training and ‘stay the course’. Keep training hard and consistently and give those result time to show themselves because they will. Programme hopping will get you nowhere. Fact.

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