Saturday, March 30, 2019

The 3 x 3: Oh, How I Love Thee! - By Rick Rignell


Whenever I’m looking for a quick, simple, metabolically challenging workout, I usually turn to the 3 X 3.  If you’re not familiar with it, a 3 x 3 consists of a multi-joint leg exercise, a multi-joint upper body pushing exercise, and a multi-joint upper body pulling exercise.  Examples of each of the three categories are listed below:

Multi-Joint Leg: Squat, Leg Press, Deadlift

Multi-Joint Upper Pushing: Bench Press, Incline Press, Military Press, Dip

Multi-Joint Upper Pulling: Row, Pulldown, Chin Up, Pull Up

The three exercises are performed in 3 cycles with as little rest as possible between exercises.  In other words, do a set of squats, then go immediately into a set of bench press, then immediately to a set of rows.  Then it’s right back to squats and so on until all three cycles are complete. As far as reps go, you’ve got some flexibility.  A common recommendation is to start with 15-20 reps on the legs and 10-15 on the upper body. If you hit muscle failure on each set, your reps then may end up looking something like this:

First Cycle: Squat = 20, Bench = 15, Row = 15

Second Cycle: Squat = 15, Bench = 12, Row = 12

Third Cycle: Squat = 12, Bench = 8, Row = 8

You can keep the weight the same on each set, increase it, or decrease it as necessary to hit the desired rep goals.  My personal preference is to keep it the same for all three cycles and of course, the number of reps completed on each cycle will decrease.  Regardless, I take each set to the point of muscle failure (or very close). My current favorite 3 x 3 routine is performed entirely on Hammer Strength machines as follows:

V-Squat: 15, 12, 10
Iso Horizontal Bench: 8,6, 4
Iso Rowing: 8,6,4

I prefer slightly higher reps for the lower body and slightly lower ones for the upper.  I take the V-Squat within 1-2 reps of muscle failure ( prefer not to get stuck at the bottom of a squat movement), and take each upper body set to failure. During the third cycle, I go to failure on the upper body sets, rest 20 seconds, then go to failure again.  Then, if time and energy permit, I do this “finisher”:

Using one pair of dumbbells, complete 3 cycles of the following exercises non-stop:

  1. Biceps Curl
  2. 2-arm Shoulder Press
  3. Single-arm Shoulder Press
  4. Negative Hammer Curl
  5. 5 Push ups

Specifically, curl the dumbbells to your shoulders, press both overhead, alternately press each, lower both with a hammer grip, then set them down and perform five push ups.  Repeat the cycle 2 more times. Some colleagues and I learned this finisher at an outstanding strength and conditioning clinic at Michigan State University a few years back, and chose to name it “MSU Upper Body Finisher” out of respect.  I highly recommend the 3 x 3 workout. Use whichever combination of exercises and reps best suits you, and get after it!

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Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Perfect Home Gym - By Jim Duggan

     In a previous article,  I discussed various exercises that should be performed if one wished to develop strength, health, and increased muscle mass.  The motivation for writing that article was something I came across on the internet.  The "age of information, " in which we live, has given us access to a seemingly unlimited source of training knowledge.  Unfortunately, we are also subjected to a large amount  of fancy theories, sissy exercises, and "bro science."  Any so-called expert who doesn't  endorse consistent, progressive hard work on the basic exercises should be ignored.  Granted, ignoring useless information is easier said than done.  But if you have a realistic goal, a systematic plan, and the desire to put in the required work, then you can successfully navigate through the silliness and become bigger and stronger.
     Recently,  I came across another internet article on a training website.  The subject of this one was how to create the perfect home gym.  For those who are fortunate enough to be able to train at home, I sincerely hope that your gym is, indeed, "perfect." While most commercial gyms will never be able to satisfy each and every member, a home gym, on the other hand, provides the perfect opportunity to create an optimal training environment.  Naturally, you have to know which pieces of equipment you will need to accomplish your goals.  And, of course, you have to be able to obtain the items you need, as well as have the available space for everything to fit.
     I will describe the article, written by a film industry personal trainer, and see how it applies to a hard-training lifter.  While we don't normally equate Hollywood trainers with serious lifting, there are many points that were brought up with which I agree.  Of course there were others that were complete nonsense.  I will try to separate what is good from that which is best left ignored.
     The first point that was raised is a very valid one: "Do time and budget constraints make it exceedingly difficult to belong to a commercial gym?"  Most commercial gyms are, sadly, expensive.  Additionally, very few of these gyms cater to serious Lifters.  Naturally, paying an arm and a leg for a membership to a place you cannot possibly train properly will make the decision easy.  If you are lucky enough to have access to a quality gym, then you are in the minority .
     Before I get to the equipment that this "trainer" recommends, there is one paragraph in the article that needs to be addressed.  Motivation.  The author argues that some people need to be in a group environment in order to to make gains.  Gym Bros, Gym Chat, and other silliness are supposed to be a motivating force.  What a bunch of bull!  If you are truly dedicated to a goal of Strength and Health, you will not need others to inspire you to train.  In fact, you should be able to motivate yourself without the aid if a "trainer," or anyone else.  One of the greatest lifters of all-time, John Davis, for many years trained in the basement if a church, by himself.  He did not need cheerleaders, "rep counters," or anybody else to become one of  greatest Weightlifters who ever lived.  Incidentally, I sometimes  wonder if most personal trainers today have any knowledge about John Davis, Tommy Kono, or Norbert Schemansky?
     Now, according to the "expert," here are the essential pieces of equipment that no home gym should be without:
     Barbells and weights.  I have always felt that ANY gym should start with a quality barbell.  Do not settle for a cheap bar.  Sure, quality barbells cost more, but isn't it worth it?  In lifting, as in life, you get what you pay for.  There are many quality barbells available.  Don't sacrifice quality just to save money.  A good barbell will literally last a lifetime.
     Bench.  A strong, sturdy bench is also crucial.  Bench Presses and Incline Presses are important movements.  A quality bench is an invaluable addition to any gym.  While we're on the subject of Bench Presses, do NOT perform Bench Presses or Incline Presses alone.  Always have a spotter on hand.  If you do not have a spotter available,  then the next item is crucial.
     Power Rack.  The Power Rack has been around for decades.  Countless lifters have built tremendous strength with this great piece of equipment.  You can do heavy partial movements, as well as Squats and  Bench Presses in complete safety.  Whether you want to call it a Cage, a Rig, or a Rack, find yourself a heavy-duty power rack.  You will never regret the investment.
     Kettlebells.  Here is where I don't  completely agree with the author.  While I have nothing against kettlebells, per se, I think a set of heavy adjustable  Dumbbells are more practical. And just as effective.  If you have access to both, then by all means invest in both.  On a personal note, I would try Center Mass Bells (CMBs).  I've purchased a bunch of them over the last few years, and have had great workouts with them.
     Cardio. The author, surprisingly, does not recommend investing in a treadmill, stationary bike, or other cardio machines.  He advocates high-rep bodyweight exercises.  He also recommends "lifting weights fast."  Whatever that means.  I think everyone should do some form of cardio, particularly if you are over the age of 35.  Brisk walking is an easy, low-impact way to get your body moving.  Needless to say, you won't need any fancy equipment other than a good pair of walking sneakers.  A more intense way of incorporating cardio training into your workouts would be to purchase a good Jump Rope. If your knees and ankles can handle the impact, then skipping rope is an effective way to burn calories.
     Spin Bikes, Suspension Trainers, Punching Bags.  These are other items that the author recommends.  I had always thought that most stationary bikes are the same, but, boy, was I ever wrong!  Spin classes are extremely popular, and the bikes they use are technically advanced, and capable of simulating myriad workouts.  As for punching bags, in the past I've used both Heavy and Speed Bags.  While you may get a nice workout from these pieces of equipment ( as well as burn off a lot of aggression), there a more effective ways to build strength. An additional note regarding the use of Heavy Bags:  It would behoove anyone planning on using it to learn the correct way to deliver a punch.  Your wrists will thank you!
     Mirror.  While the author is ambivalent about the need for a mirror, I would just like to add what I learned about mirrors from my days at Bruno's Health Club.  While they may assist you in developing good form in the Squat, and Deadlift, especially if you're a beginner, they are not necessary. Don't become dependent upon them.  Especially if you are a competitive lifter.  As Larry Licandro used to say: "There are no mirrors in a contest." In other words, if you are used to Squatting in front of a mirror, then you will be in for a rude awakening when you are Squatting in front of a crowd of people.
     For those "Garage Gorillas" who are in the process of equipping their gym, best of luck.  It goes without saying that you can have the very best if everything, but it won't do a bit of good if you don't use the equipment properly.  Training progressively, and safely, with the goal of poundage progression, should be the goal of all people who lift weights.
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