Saturday – Shoulders & Arms

Shoulders

  • Seated Half Press
    • 155 lbs x 12 reps
    • 185 lbs x 7 reps
    • 190 lbs x 7 reps
  • Around The World Lateral Raise
    • 20 lbs, 10 sets x 7 reps
  • Conventional Deadlift (w/ belt, w/ straps)*
    • 275 lbs x 5 reps
    • 375 lbs x 5 reps

Arms

  • Barbell Cheat Curl
    • 135 lbs x 5 reps
    • 180 lbs x 4 reps**
  • Strict Biceps Curl
    • 75 lbs, 5 sets x 7 reps
  • Pullover & Press***
    • 75 lbs, 5 sets x 7 reps
  • Double Overhand Isometric Hold
    • 375 lbs x 12 sec

Comments:

* I just felt like lifting something heavy today and I have been wanting to do this for awhile now. The deadlift is not a shoulder or arm exercise. However, it does use the traps, biceps, and forearms to a great extent.

** I attempted 5 reps but failed. I will give it a second try next workout.

*** I decided to add a new triceps exercise that is an old favorite of mine. I haven’t done this exercise in about a decade but to my muscles it felt just like yesterday.

Thursday – Shoulders & Arms

Shoulders

  • Seated Half Press
    • 135 lbs x 7 reps
    • 185 lbs x 7 reps
  • Superset: Standing Shoulder Press & Barbell Upright Row
    • 90 lbs, 2 sets x 7 reps*
  • Around The World Lateral Raise
    • 20 lbs, 5 sets x 7 reps
  • Barbell Front Lateral Raise**
    • 45 lbs, 3 sets x 12 reps

Arms

Comments:

* I accidentally increased the weight by 10 lbs instead of 5 lbs and believe this resulted in a slight amount of pain in my left shoulder on the fifth rep of the second set so I immediately dropped the weight to the ground. I would rather drop the weight than risk injuring my shoulder shoulder again. I always either use bumper plates so I can drop the weight to the floor without consequence or use a power rack.

** I added front lateral raises to ensure I properly work the front delt since I only was able to complete one superset for my shoulders.

***I reduced the amount of triceps training this workout to give my elbows a bit of a chance to recover. Over the last little while I have been feeling twinges of pain in the elbows when I am warming up for various triceps exercises.

I have been training the arms hard for the last little while and am going to focus on pressing movements to build the triceps rather than extensions as my elbows can’t take the damage. I believe a small amount of damage is good but not enough that your elbows hurt while warming up for the bench press.

Weider’s Muscle Confusion Principle

It might be confusing to understand but muscles have memory. Joe Weider was well aware of this phenomena and as a result introduced the principle of muscle confusion.

Muscles learn the sequence of a physical endeavor and fire certain motors nerves accordingly to work as efficiently as possible. As you begin to learn a new physical skill you progressively become more and more efficient at that movement. The same effect occurs during your workout.

As you begin to repeat the same workout your muscles start remembering the variables of the workout, such as the order of exercises, the amount of rest between sets, the rep ranges used, rep speed, volume, intensity, and etc.

While your muscle are learning the workout they are under a considerable amount of stress. Once complete motor learning has occurred the results you obtain from this workout slowly start to diminish.

In order to keep things moving it is important to mix things up. Instead of giving your muscles a chance to fully adapt to your workouts throw in something different so the muscles never quite know what to expect.

For example, instead of doing bench press followed by incline press followed by flyes. The order can be reversed. The flyes will pre-exhaust your chest and the strength of the arms and shoulder can be used to further punish the chest – leaving the pectorals muscles screaming.

Instead of using heavy weight and resting long between sets – drop the weight and try only resting 30 seconds between sets and no more than a minutes between exercises.

Which variables you decide to change does not matter. Just as long as you ensure something is being continuously changed in your workout. The bottom line is that your muscles will not adapt to your workouts and gains will not start to diminish.

Wednesday – Chest & Back

Chest

  • Bench Press
    • 185 lbs x 5 reps
    • 205 lbs x 5 reps
    • 245 lbs x 1 rep*
  • Incline Barbell Press
    • 85 lbs, 5 sets x 7 reps**
  • Dumbbell Pullover
    • 70 lbs, 2 sets x 15 reps

Back

  • Barbell Row (w/o straps)
    • 135 lbs x 12 reps
    • 205 lbs x 12 reps
  • Barbell Cheat Row (w/ straps)
    • 275 lbs x 12 reps
    • 340 lbs x 12 reps
  • Barbell Shrug (w/straps)
    • 540 lbs x 25 reps
  • Double Overhand Isometric Hold
    • 365 lbs x 12 sec

Comments:

* I have been using the floor press as a conjugate to the bench press and decided it was time to test my strength. I injured my left shoulder several months ago and made the switch back then. The floor press places less stress on the front delt by avoiding the stretch the bench press has at the bottom of the lift.

It is important to note that during my previous chest workout I did a 240 lbs floor press for 1 rep. In today’s workout I did a 245 lbs bench press for 1 rep. This wasn’t my absolute best 1 rep max PR in either exercise but am glad to see that the weight I can lift in both these conjugates exercises is very similar.

** The weight has been reduced to allow time for my left shoulder to heal.

Tuesday – Leg Workout

Comments:

* Failed on the third rep.

** I found it hard to breathe after the 10th rep. The belt might be better for low rep sets that don’t require as much heavy breathing as a 20 rep set of squats.

Resistance Training Cycles

Periodization, powerlifting cycles, and hypertrophy cycles are all similar versions of the same thing – each specific to their application. For example, a bench press periodization program is design to help you max out on your bench press. However, regardless of the program design, all training cycles are based on a timeline varying workout volume and intensity.

The timeline of a cycle depends on the needs of the athlete. For example, an Olympic athlete might have a yearly plan segregated into four 12-week hypertrophy cycles with specific quarterly goals. Or alternatively a lifter might have an upcoming powerlifting tournament in 4 months they would like to prepare and devise a 16-week periodization program.

Regardless of the timeline it is fundamentally important to understand that each cycle transitions form high volume to low volume allowing the central nervous system to accommodate the demands of successive increases in intensity.

For example, a 16 week powerlifting cycle might start out with 5 sets of 5 reps and continuously reduce the number of sets and reps as follows:

  • Weeks 1-2
    • 5 sets x 5 reps (25 total reps)
  • Weeks 3-4
    • 4 sets x 5 reps (20 reps)
  • Weeks 5-6
    • 3 sets x 5 reps (15 reps)
  • Weeks 7-8
    • 5 sets x 3 reps (15 reps)
  • Weeks 9-10
    • 4 sets x 3 reps (12 reps)
  • Weeks 11-12
    • 3 sets x 3 reps (9 reps)
  • Weeks 13-14
    • 7 sets x 1 rep (7 reps)
  • Weeks 15-16
    • 5 sets x 1 rep (5 reps)

Notice how the total number of repetitions performed slowly decline throughout the cycle as the rep range approaches and weight used reaches your max 1 rep PR. The higher volume of work done at the beginning of the cycle stresses the nervous system using a much lighter weight. As the volume continues to decrease the intensity of each workout increases as the powerlifter is expected to handle heavier weights.

Other methods of measuring and controlling training volume exist; however, most powerlifting periodization programs gradually decrease the number of sets and reps as the controlled variable in the workout.

Monday – Shoulders & Arms

Shoulders

  • Seated Half Press
    • 155 lbs x 5 reps
    • 210 lbs, 2 sets x 1 rep*
  • Superset: Standing Shoulder Press & Barbell Upright Row
    • 80 lbs, 5 sets x 7 reps
  • Around The World Lateral Raise
    • 20 lbs, 5 sets x 7 reps

Arms

  • Barbell Cheat Curl
    • 170 lbs x 5 reps
  • Skull Crusher
    • 95 lbs x 15 reps
    • 115 lbs x 12 reps
  • Superset: Strict Biceps Curl & Overhead Triceps Extension
    • 80 lbs, 5 sets x 7 reps
  • Superset: Concentration Curl & Dumbbell Triceps Extension
    • 30 lbs, 5 sets x 7 reps

Comments:

* I wasn’t able to add another 5 lbs to the bar this workout. I even attempted a second set in order to ensure I have reached my top weight in this exercise. I am willing to do triple with this exercise but not singles. I will switch to another exercise or go back down in weight and work with a different rep range before attempting 210 lbs again in this exercise again.

Gain 5 to 10 lbs of Muscle in 4 Weeks with Creatine!

Creatine is one of the most potent supplements a natural muscle builder can take and it is also safe. It has been used by athletes since the 70’s and over the past two decade has been used by countless athletes and fitness enthusiasts.

Creatine can significantly enhance anaerobic performance – specifically short duration activities of 10 seconds to two minutes – such as resistance training or the 100 yard sprint.

During muscle contraction, energy in the form of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) is generated through a process called glycolysis. As ATP is utilized, it is converted into Adenosine Diphospahte (ADP). ADP is converted back into ATP by continued glycolysis; however, it can also be converted back into ATP using another high energy biomolecule – creatine monphosphate.

In short, having an abundance of creatine available increases the potential power output of the muscle. University studies have demonstrated an increase in muscular strength and endurance of 5 to 15 %  for some athletes. This means that taking creatine can help improve your 1 rep max or increase the amount of repetitions you can perform with a given weight.

Creatine also causes water retention in the muscles increasing lean body mass. For a swimmer this is not a good thing; however, for a bodybuilder or powerlifter this effect can make a huge difference.
Depending on the size of the athlete – more specifically how much muscle mass they have – loading up on creatine for 4 weeks can retain 5 to 10 lbs of water right where you want it to be – inside the muscles.

This effect will cause your muscles to appear larger and more swollen – independent of diuretics. Plus, an extra 10 lbs of muscle mass will also allow you to lift more. The more you lift, the bigger you get. And, the bigger you are the more you can lift.

It is important to know that creatine is produced in your body by the kidneys and liver; however, the amount our skeletal muscles can be saturated with well exceeds any natural levels. In fact, through dietary needs we would have to consume around 20 lbs of red meat a day in order to acquire the amount of creatine our muscles can be saturated with.

Fortunately creatine is cheap and widely available. Some believe a loading phase is important, followed by a lower daily maintenance dose. Others argue and claim loading is simply a waste of creatine and hard on your digestive system and taking the normal amount of 5 grams a day is more than sufficient for “loading” and maintenance.

Either way there is no argument that creatine is effective for increasing size and strength. It is also one of the few ergogenic aids that actually works. In fact, you will lose the extra 5 to 10 lbs of weight you gained within the same time period that it took you to gain it once you stop taking it.

What Causes Muscle Soreness?

Muscle soreness is the result of small microtears that occurs in muscle fibers during intense physical exertion. This phenomenon is also referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

Many fitness experts use this phrase and don’t understand it at all. They lack the background in science necessary to fully understand understand what is going on inside the muscles when they get sore.

Our bodies are elastic, pliable structures that can only withstand a certain amount of shearing force. A sprained ankle is an example of this. The joint is temporarily forced into an unnatural position stretching the ligaments holding the joint in place, as well as straining the muscles and tendons.

The end result is an onset of soreness resulting from swelling. Typical first aid measures can be applied, such as elevating this part of the body allowing blood and lymphatic fluid to drain and the application of ice to induce vasoconstriction.

This is no different than sprained ankle. When your body is pushed to the limit with resistance training, small microtears occur in the fibers of the muscles. When muscle fibers are torn, their content spills out into the surrounding extracellular matrix. This is turn creates an immunological response resulting in local swelling. The swelling or inflammation puts pressure on nerves resulting in pain associated with muscle soreness.

As such, many of the home remedies that work for sport injuries such as a sprained ankle will also work for excessive muscle soreness. An extreme case of this would be someone taking antihistamines prior to an intense workout to combat muscle excessive soreness. This is a rarity but I actually had a client that claimed he was allergic to exercise in that if he trained too intensely his immune system responded aggressively to muscle damage.

Another example is to use ibuprofen instead of acetaminophen because the former is an anti-inflammatory whereas the later only masks pain.

Now this that said, if you are experiencing this type of muscle soreness there is probably something wrong. Either you have been sedentary for far too long or are using some type of crazy Heavy Duty training and doing forced reps by having a large bodybuilder jump onto the barbell. However, there are 6 billion people on the planet for exceptions to exist.

I was once challenged by a gym manager to do 100 reps in the biceps curl with an empty Olympic barbell. I wanted to show off to this guy so I ended up doing 150 reps. I sure showed him – the next day I couldn’t straighten my arms and they remained this way for 5 days.

Okay, so the joke was on me. I took plenty of ibuprofen and sat on the couch while watching TV and alternated which biceps I placed the ice pack on.

In short, muscle soreness is swelling that occurs as a result of tearing inside the muscle fibers. Muscle soreness is analogous to other sport injuries and typical immunological responses and can be treated similarly.