Friday, February 23, 2018

More Favorite Exercises - By Jim Duggan

     In a previous article, I described some of my favorite exercises.  The movements that I selected were those that I used during my competitive Powerlifting days.  These movements could be accurately described as "assistance exercises," because their main purpose was to assist in building strength for the three Powerlifts.  At that time, most, if not all, of my training energy was devoted to increasing my total. Increasing the Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift was paramount in my training, as it should be for anyone training for Powerlifting competition.  The fact that I enjoyed doing "assistance" work meant that I could approach my workouts with a sense of enthusiasm, which is a good thing, whether you compete or not.
     I can honestly say that I have always looked forward to working out. From the time I first began to lift weights, I have thoroughly enjoyed  training. Decades later, there is still nothing I enjoy as much as being able to lift weights. And even though I no longer compete in Powerlifting,  I can honestly say that I still look forward to training.  I actually look forward to my workouts.  As I get older, I realize that I am very fortunate to be able to still "hoist the steel."
     The Powerlifting assistance exercises that I've done in the past still serve a useful purpose, but now I can enjoy a larger variety of movements that will help build usable strength. Like many trainees who do not compete, I am not limited in my selection of exercises.  A drug-free Powerlifter has limited energy to devote to movements that do not directly assist the three Powerlifts. Being free from the constrictions of a Powerlifting regimen, one can explore and enjoy many different exercises.
     There are countless exercises to choose from when designing a workout routine. For most Lifters, there is always a period of several months, during which, there are no contests to train for.  The "off-season" was always a perfect time to experiment with new things. Perhaps concentrate on improving a weak lift, or simply build strength without fear of "burning out" on the three Lifts.  Let's face it, even the most dedicated trainee can become stale if he/she does nothing but Squat, Bench, and Deadlift to the exclusion of other movements.  The exercises that I'm about to describe can be used by competitive Lifters, or by trainees who simply want to get stronger. For the Lifter, these movements offer a change of pace.  A method of strengthening a Lift, without actually performing the Lift itself.  But whether you compete or not, these exercises are an effective way to get stronger, which should be the goal of everyone.  Anyone who seeks to increase his/her strength can use these movements.  Overall body strength is something we should all strive for, and these movements will certainly "do the trick." However,  it should go without saying, that one has to train hard, and progressively in order to get stronger.
     Here are three exercises that I have enjoyed in the Past. Some I still enjoy doing, and hope to continue to do them for many years to come. Anyway, here it goes:
1) Hammer Leg Press.
     I can hear the serious Lifters screaming bloody murder at the suggestion of using machines to gain strength. I have always been a dedicated supporter of free-weights, but some of the most intense workouts that I ever did took place on a Hammer Leg Press machine. I was introduced to this exercise by Drew Israel.  When I first met Drew, I was following what can be described as a typical Powerlifting program. Heavy Squats, Bench Presses, and Deadlifts for sets of low reps.  The first time I trained at Drew's house, he had me do a set of thirty (30!) reps on his Hammer Leg Press machine. At the time, I considered anything over five to be "high reps." Boy, did I have a lot to learn! The hard work required to complete a High Intensity workout translated into greater strength.  And while I would never advocate doing sets of thirty prior to a competition, it was the perfect way to train in the "off-season." It's also a great way to train for anyone seeking to get stronger.
     For those who have access to a Hammer Leg Press, or Hammer Iso-Leg Press, you are indeed fortunate. Many gyms do not have them. Most commercial gyms favor the popular "sled" type machine. I never cared for this machine. I think the Hammer Strength machine provided for a more effective workout without placing strain on the lower back. The key is to use up the machine properly. Do NOT use it to attempt heavy singles or maximum attempts. That isn't what these machines are built for. These machines are for building strength, not testing or demonstrating strength. Try to work to a point of muscular fatigue or failure. Good form, full range of motion, slow negative, and absolutely no bouncing will give you an effective workout that will leave you sore for days.
2) Modified Push-Up
     I can't think of an official term to describe this movement, but I can explain it and it will sound quite simple. It is also an effective way to strengthen your chest muscles. Even if you're not interested in increasing your Bench Press, this exercise will develop slabs of muscle and increase your upper-body strength.
    You'll need a partner for this exercise.  Place an empty bar on the floor.  Get down into a Push-up position with your hands on the bar ( instead of your palms on the floor.) Imagine doing an upside-down Bench Press. When you are in the proper position, have your partner place a heavy plate in the center of your back.  Now, try to perform as many repetitions as you can.  I always liked sets of ten, but you can do as many-or as few-as you like.  Be sure to nice, smooth reps, with a long pause at the bottom. One suggestion I would make is that it's better to use one large plate than trying to balance several smaller plates on your back.  I realize that this exercise closely resembles the regular Bench Press, but I always noticed a difference between pushing a heavy barbell off my chest versus pushing my body off the floor.
3) Farmer's Walk
     The best is saved for last.  Over the last twenty years or so, a lot has been written about the benefits of this great exercise.  The first time I heard of the Farmers Walk was in the early 90s.  It was a staple of the World MusclePower Championships, and quickly made its way into major Strongman competitions. Indeed, there a few, if any, strongman contests that do not have some form of Farmers Walk event. The reason for this is simple:  It is a test of overall body strength that will leave your entire body sore for days. Along with lifting heavy stones, the Farmers Walk will have you feeling as if you've been hit by a truck.  Imagine something as simple as picking up a heavy weight in each hand, and then walking as far as you can! Yet, simplicity is the hallmark of genius when it comes to building strength. And this simple exercise will fry your lower back, hips, shoulders, legs, and grip. It is definitely NOT an exercise for Toners, Pumpers, Posers, and the like.
     There are several ways that you can incorporate this movement into your training program. You can mark a course and time yourself with the goal of adding weight while maintaing your time. Or you can go for maximal distance.  Either way, if you do the movement  correctly, you will feel it for days afterwards. As for what type of weights to use, you can use Dumbbells, or if you wish, there are implements that you can purchase which have a handle and a loading area which you can load with as much weight as you'd like. Either way, the important thing is to work hard, and "carry that weight!"
     The three exercises that I just described have been an enjoyable part of my workouts for many years. There are hundreds of exercises from which to choose when designing a training program, and if variety is your thing, there will always be different movements that you can do.  But to build size and strength, you don't need more than a few basic exercises.  The effort that you put forth, as well as the discipline to train consistently and progressively, is more important than having a large variety of exercises from which to choose. Think quality over quantity.
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