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So far in this series we've addressed ways to turn you into a pull-up maestro and build a set of perfectpillowy pectorals. That brings us to the next topic for discussion, the "best in shoulders." In ancient times, had Mongol General asked Conan the Barbarian, "What is best in shoulder training?" the young Cimmerian likely would've answered "Heavy military pressing three times a week, plus upright rows and lateral raises until you hear the lamentation of the deltoid muscles." And such a plan can work, had you been dealt the winning hand to press heavy, hard, and frequently. Some of us, however, would be reduced to aching, moaning, poster children for ibuprofen if we tried such a system. The body is enormously forgiving when it comes to putting up with abuse, but when it comes to shoulders its patience is surprisingly thin. Push it too far and your comeuppance will be a lifetime of lame workouts and a shoulder that clicks and creaks like your 80-year-old grampa's trick knee. Our coaches have plenty of creative ways to get bigger, stronger shoulders without compromising your long-term aspirations. Here are a few.
I almost decided to take a mulligan on this topic because I have a different perspective than most, taking more of a "tough love" viewpoint. We work with a lot of overhead athletes at Cressey Performance, in particular baseball players. In addition we train "Regular Joes," and we address, work around, and (hopefully) fix plenty of shoulder issues ranging from the acute problem like AC joint issues and external/internal impingement to the more "oh shit factor" scenarios like shoulder separations and post surgery situations. Needless to say, we work with plenty of people who come in with shoulder pain, and it's sometimes frustrating that some (not all) view it as a proverbial right of passage or
badge of honor, as if living with daily pain comes with the territory for someone who lifts. While there's some semblance of "risk" involved in the gym and many will undoubtedly have a few bumps and bruises along the way (we're lifting weights here, not doing origami), just "dealing" with pain and sucking it up isn't an option in my book. That said, not many things short of a heart attack or raging case of explosive diarrhea can derail one's progress in the gym like a banged up shoulder. And it's not a matter of just gritting your teeth and working through it. While overhead pressing is the gold standard as far as shoulder development is concerned, the truth of the matter is many guys shouldn't be overhead pressing in the first place. Now relax. This isn't to say that I'm against overhead pressing – far from it! It's just as a coach, and as someone whose job it is to keep people healthy and performing optimally, you have to earn the right to overhead press. Point blank, most guys move like crap. It's just the nature of the beast, as we simply don't move around as much as we used to. And while I'm not a fan of making gross generalizations, it's fair to assume that many of you reading can't extend your arms over your head without some form of compensation, and overhead pressing just doesn't feel good. And if that's the case, well, it might be time to start implementing more "user friendly" overhead pressing into the mix, like the landmine press. The landmine press serves a few advantages:
It's a pseudo overhead press that doesn't tax the joint nearly as much as a standard overhead press. The exercise lends itself as a great core movement as the anterior core has to resist extension, and the offset loading also provides an anti-rotary component. In the half-kneeling position you're also eliciting a nice hip flexor stretch on the trailing leg.
There are a few minor technicalities that need to be addressed as well:
Make sure you're bracing your core throughout and that you're squeezing the glute of the trailing leg as hard as you can. "Dig" the toes of the trailing leg into the ground – you shouldn't be plantar flexed. Don't allow the elbow to go past the body during the eccentric portion. I could get all geeky here, but just know that it's not a good idea.
While not as sexy as the standard overhead press, the landmine press is definitely a more viable option for those with pesky shoulders. Give it a try today!
The right approach to shoulder training for you is a lot like Hugh Jackman's acting career: you either fall into the Wolverine-esque, bad ass, explosive, don't-be-a-pussy, hoist-some-heavy-weight-over-your-head camp, or you're more suited to the sensitive, depends-on-acromion-type, the-shoulder-is-a-delicate-joint, I'm-just-going-to-stayhome-and-watch-Les Miserables-for-3-hours group. Depending on your shoulder health and training history, both of these approaches are valid. But given that the overhead press is my favorite lift, I own every X-Men on Blu-Ray, and I'm not that keen on watching a movie whose title roughly translates to "The Miserables," I'm going to assume your shoulders are healthy and you want to get them bigger, stronger, and more explosive. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, it's hard to beat a pair of full, round shoulders. They not only help fill out your T-shirt, but also make your waist seem that much smaller by comparison. As far as strength and performance go, you'd be hard pressed to find an upper body movement that doesn't involve the shoulder joint in some way, so keeping your deltoids and rotator cuffs strong and healthy should be a top priority. Shoulders tend to be composed of mixed muscle-fiber types, meaning they respond well to explosive power movements, exercises in the strength and hypertrophy ranges, as well as higher rep, strength-endurance protocols.
60 sec. Give that routine a shot. the seated is more forgiving of minor postural issues. 1-3 work sets. One. I'll often use a variety of rep ranges and movements on my shoulder day to stimulate both strength and size gains. which still makes it all shoulders. B1 Seated Neutral Grip Dumbbell Overhead Press4 B2 90-degree Cable External Rotation C1 Single-Arm Cable Lateral Raise C2 Bent-Over Reverse Dumbbell Fly D1Standing Dumbbell Lateral Raise D2Standing Dumbbell Front Raise D3Standing Dumbbell Overhead Press 4 3 3 1 1 1 10-12*60 sec. 15 15 15 none none * per arm The "D" exercises are to be done as a sort of mechanical drop set. 60 sec. You pick one set of dumbbells and move from one exercise into the next with no rest in between. I usually put the seat back one notch from fully upright. then maybe you're one of Les Miserables. If that doesn't make your shoulders bigger and stronger. and two. this is what I'd tell him to do: Seated Dumbbell Military Press. A typical program may look something like this: Exercise A Barbell Push Press SetsReps Rest 5 3 8 8 90 sec. I like the seated version for two reasons. This blasts the front and middle delts as well as the triceps.So when I'm in a training phase that uses body part splits. 10-12 60 sec. Two to four warm-up sets. . Tim Henriques If a 20-30 year-old dude with no significant issues came to me and said he wanted bigger and stronger shoulders. the weight lifted with most trainees when seated is equal to or even greater than when standing.
The downside of shoulder training. broad shoulders. This allows you to almost double your strict rear-delt-raise weight. so it's less of a negative than switching from a bench press to a chest press. Do 3 work sets after 1 optional warm-up set. but since you're leaning 90 degrees it won't seem as extreme as in a normal standing lateral raise. Lateral Raise Machine. lean away from it. so weight should be 5-15 pounds heavier for an equal number of reps. A physique that blocks a lot of sun typically requires big. assuming you're hitting chest/back/arms etc. however. follow the guide below (weights included for illustrative purposes only): Exercise Dumbbell Military Press Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 50lb 1x8 50lb 1x1050lb 1x1255lb 1x8 55lb 1x1055lb 1x12 Dumbbell Leaning Lateral Raise25lb 3x1225lb 3x1625lb 3x2030lb 3x1230lb 3x1630lb 3x20 Lateral Raise Machine Rear Delt Raise 80lb 3x1280lb 3x1680lb 3x2090lb 3x1290lb 3x1690lb 3x20 35lb 3x1235lb 3x1635lb 3x2040lb 3x1240lb 3x1640lb 3x20 Dean Somerset The public can generally tell if someone lifts by looking at their shoulders. For the weekly weight and rep progression. and raise the dumbbell to the side.. This is also a significantly easier variation. Grab something sturdy. Machines often get the thumbs-down from coaches but the skill required for a lateral raise is minimal anyway. which is good for size and strength. the type that inspire boys to take their vitamins and women to toss their panties. Perform a bent over rear delt raise with the palms facing each other and bend the elbows on the way up. Do 3 work sets after 1 optional warm-up set. the elbows-bent position allows you to go heavier. Power Rear Delt Raise. The classic machine. I tell people to pretend they were smacking something with their elbows (not hands) as they rise up. is that a lot of stuff has to happen behind the scenes to get the best benefits. hard at least once a week as well. Start with your weaker arm and perform equal reps on each side for 3 work sets after 1 warm-up set. . Most people go too high on this movement – just go to 90 degrees. Perform the above workout once a week.Lean-Away Lateral Raise.
While it would be politically incorrect to point and laugh were you to see that in action. try bringing the weights up so that the hands are slightly beneath the height of the shoulder. This essentially helps limit impingement. and enough control through the rotator cuff to . the average lifter will do a better job at developing impingement instead of building a set of boulders. while the rotator cuff works in opposition to keep it in place and provide a counter-force instead of just letting the humerus glide all over the place. for example.When the delts contract. elastics. mobility of the shoulder joint. As a result. You can use any tool you want to get the job done – barbell. Since most trainees have rotator cuffs that are woefully ineffective. Full range of motion would involve bringing the weights all the way up so that the back of your hands almost touch above your head with straight elbows. One of the best lessons I ever learned training shoulders is that full range of motion and effective range of motion aren't the same. Another big-bang tip for training shoulders was that eccentric action is much harder on the shoulder than concentric. kettlebells. I talked about the requirements and progressions to use to get solid and strong for overhead pressing in this article – give it a read to see some of the big stuff necessary to get the ball rolling before diving into the rest of what I'm talking about. Instead. The deltoids are still stimulated. Take the classic lateral dumbbell raise. their job is to essentially rotate and pull the humerus out of the socket. but the scapula isn't being subjected to an additional range of motion that leads to more activation of the upper trapezius. and it also limits the chance of rubbing down the supraspinatus tendon between the humerus and acromion process. lending to my belief that eccentric action takes a lot more force and power production to do than concentric – which means a lot of people will burn out their ability to control and stabilize the weight on the eccentric and wind up scraping something important in the stabilizing soft tissues. but using either a drop-catch to the shoulders or simply dropping the weight if bumper plates are available to limit the eccentric stress on the shoulder. whatever you like – as long as you do them with enough stability through the spine. Every client I've ever trained has said that pressing the weight up is always less of an issue with regard to pain as bringing the weight back down. dumbbells. you certainly would be justified. I'm a big proponent of jerk-pressing or even military pressing (when appropriate to do so).
Not surprisingly. I know. rows. but if you're smart with your programming and exercise selection. and you're also including plenty of pulling in your repertoire to balance out the pressing. but come on. The good old-fashioned overhead press is a great place to start if your shoulders and lower back are okay to do it. my shoulders are somewhat of a weak point for me now and I'm left playing catch up. If you can say that. but if you want to build impressive delts. and chin-ups were all I needed to build impressive delts. you can build some gi-normous delts that will make your tailor cringe. you need to be doing some kind of overhead pressing. Groundbreaking. Chalk it up to being young and dumb. My favorite choices in this regard are neutral grip presses with the Dead-Squatª Bar or football bar. rows. angled presses with the landmine. You may be worried that overhead pressing will shred your shoulders.hold it all together. You don't have to go crazy on the volume – 3-4 sets of 5-8 should do the trick. you really need to work your delts. If not. push-ups. or overhead presses with dumbbells and/or kettlebells. a more joint-friendly option may be more appropriate. If training shoulders twice a week (a good starting place) – doing the overhead press one day and a more joint-friendly press the other would be a good place to start. chin-ups and the like will give you decent shoulder development. who wants to be just decent? For optimal shoulder development from both a strength and muscle-building standpoint. . Go figure. It should really be common sense. Ben Bruno I'll throw myself under the bus a little bit and admit that I hopped aboard the "antiisolation" bandwagon for a couple of years and skipped all direct shoulder training. it isn't anywhere near as dangerous as a lot of people make it out to be. Horizontal pressing. I guess. thinking my bench press variations.
I've started doing them with the landmine and I absolutely love them. much more so than dumbbells or cables. too. Three sets of 12 of these will have your shoulders begging for mercy. then laterals aren't as important. but they certainly won't hurt your cause. your shoulders will grow just fine as you chase bench press and barbell row PRs. What works for the gifted few isn't suited for you. In my experience. Once you try them you'll see where I'm coming from. Dean Somerset had some excellent variations to get you primed for shoulder pressing here – start at step one and move to the next variation after four workouts. But you're likely mortal. Following those guidelines should have you well on your way to big and healthy shoulders. Same shit really. the shoulders are still relatively delicate. then double that to twice a week. Either way. Performing these presses after chest work. Be sure to include some sort of rear delt work.If size is your goal. You don't wear a cape and punch out villains for a living – you wear khakis and punch a keyboard. it's good to include some of it for optimal shoulder health and development. and only if you're cleared to do it. my personal favorite. At worst all you'll require is some additional work for the posterior and lateral head – and some bodybuilders don't even need much of that. Bryan Krahn Shoulders are a fickle beast. when the shoulders are . If your goals are more strength-oriented. If you're one of the blessed few born of the right genetic stock. If the thought of doing rear delt work is toobodybuildery for you. think of it as "shoulder pre-hab" if that makes you feel better about it. So if you're currently hammering your shoulders like a good boy once a week. but 3 sets of 10-12 of one of the following exercises would be a good way to finish up an upper body workout: Band Pull-Apart Dumbbell External Rotation Rear Delt Fly Face Pull Tthe 3-way ring finisher. You don't have to go crazy with it. However. it's also wise to include some lateral raises into the mix. the first variable to manipulate to shock new shoulder growth is frequency. so I wouldn't shoulder press twice a week – only once a week at most.
originally published here. 10 sec. Use heavy dumbbells and crank the "reps" to 20 or so. Another great variation for this second workout is Dr. The key is maximum tension (and pain tolerance). but as the third exercise in a superset your training loads will be decidedly anemic and won't cause your rotator cuff to rip through your skin and splat against the mirror like a scene from the next reboot to the Alien franchise. or pair different lateral raise variations together into a superset or giant set like this one: Reps Rest 10 sec. ** As many reps as possible. Sure. is another wise idea and is the hallmark of training economy. you might start with half-reps and finish with the weight barely moving (and in excruciating pain). The other shoulder day is when you strap on your fanny pack and break out the old-school bodybuilding techniques. *** 2 minutes and repeat twice. Perform just partial reps. As for rear delts. Perform lateral raises and rear delt raises for drop sets. doing whatever Meadows says is fine advice in . Actually. Exercise A1Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raise6-8 A2Standing Lateral Raise A3Heavy Partial Lateral Raise A4Band Pull-Apart 8-10* AMRAP**none *** * You'll probably have to drop the weight by about 10%. there's still some shoulder pressing. Clay Hyght's Infamous Delt Triad. To save you the trouble it looks like this: The Infamous Delt Triad SetsReps 3 3 12-15 12-15 12-15 Exercise A1Lateral Raise A2Front Raise A3Overhead Dumbbell Press3 Rest about 90 seconds between each round (superset). warm and full of blood. strip-sets. perform those on back day and simply do whatever John Meadows says here.
but that doesn't mean you can't maximize the efficacy of your programming. not the latest frumpy reboot). If you have a bum shoulder or participate in a sport with a lot of shoulder activity. pullovers. Or was it the clothes makes the man? Perhaps it was manly shoulders make buying clothes a pain in the ass? Let's run with that one. Respect your body. 6 Coaches Weigh in on Chest Training In the first installment in this series. flyes. stick to your goals. whether it's bodybuilding. The results will soon follow. . Just remember. Everything they do makes their chest pump up – bench presses. and work capacity all play a role in how it shakes down. here are 6 different rationales and recommendations. we addressed a variety of ways to turn you into a pull-up machine and build a back that gets attention.most cases in life. genetics. while higher-rep work delivers a burn but not much else in the way of size or strength. and train with passion. even push-ups leave their t-shirts stretched at the seams. the shoulders make the man. Low rep." Some guys are seemingly born with the ability to build massive. The next topic for discussion is the "best pec exercises. making babies. then you want to exercise caution when choosing a routine. the best system is the one that works for your specific needs and goals. other guys ain't so lucky. However. or growing facial hair that scares your mama. Levers. So if your goal is to build a set of man boobs on par with the great Arnold (Arnold of the 1970's and 80's. those who are healthy and just want to grow some delts can afford to be a bit more cavalier. heavy work leaves them with little more than a triceps pump and achy shoulders. Get Your Width On The saying goes. thick pecs.
When conducting my EMG experiments. Essentially. especially considering that it's better tolerated by most folks. too. Other pec training tips: Studies show that narrow-width push-ups work the pecs better than widewidth push-ups. which you can check out in this article. try busting out sets of 20 reps of bottom-half push-ups from handles or bottom-half bodyweight dips. if seeking maximum pectoral hypertrophy. Lots of old-school guys including Arnold liked dumbbell pullovers for pecs. not too wide. bottom-half chest movements work well. For example. That surprised me! . Don't underestimate narrower grip pressing for pec hypertrophy.Bret Contreras My favorite chest exercise is the medium grip bench press – not too close. However. I learned a valuable lesson. which is consistent with its role as a shoulder flexor. so caution should be employed. and one study showed that close-grip incline presses worked the upper pecs better than wide-grip incline presses. Consider throwing this exercise in from time to time. exercises that allow for a slight pec stretch during their performance reign superior: Flat and incline dumbbell presses Flat and incline dumbbell flies Weighted dips Weighted push-ups from handles These exercises are also inherently more risky for the shoulder joint. This is because I love powerlifting and seek a bigger bench. benching like a bodybuilder with 225 pounds activated the pecs to a greater degree than benching like a powerlifter with 275 pounds. and I've found that this grip-width allows me to train my bench three times per week with no issues. A recent study showed that it worked the pecs better than the lats. as it may activate certain fibers that don't get targeted through pressing movements. I much prefer using a dumbbell compared to a barbell for pullovers. Cable crossovers work well for this purpose. If you want to obtain a chest pump.
if you forced me to narrow it down to one. it's not one of my personal favorites – I've never really felt it in my chest all that much and it starts to piss off my shoulders when I do it too much.1. my top five personal faves would be: Ring flyes/push-ups Low incline dumbbell press Incline bench press Dumbbell floor press One-arm dumbbell press However. If you experience shoulder issues with bench pressing movements. When you find your variation. or neutral grip dumbbell bench presses where you don't go down too far and limit the stretch.1. I like a bunch of em'. but in terms of the best chest builder. . such as closegrip bench presses. Here's a sample chest routine: Exercise SetsReps 5. As far as chest development goes. don't give up. floor presses. I'm not married to any one exercise and I like to switch it up from time to time (every 4-6 weeks or so) to keep from stalling and getting bored.1 8 12 20 A Competition Style Bench Press (with pause)5 B Incline Dumbbell Press C Cable Crossover DBottom-Half Push-Up from Handles 2 2 3 Ben Bruno Choosing my favorite chest exercise is tough – there's a few that bug my shoulders so I discard those. I think the bench press is the best overall upper body strength builder. There's probably a variation that you can perform pain-free. it'd probably be ring flyes – at least today. stick with it exclusively and avoid the temptation of going back to more risky exercises.3. but that aside.
especially taking into . but I tend to get better results sticking to one chest exercise per workout and hammering the hell out of it (4-6 sets) and then switching to a different exercise the next workout. I've never had an exercise fry my chest so badly.Why ring flyes? If you've done them before then you know exactly why. In the video below. And by "respectable. and I in no way consider that an Earth shattering number – nor all that impressive. ring push-ups are just about as good and are much more user-friendly. it's best to use a variety of different exercises. I don't like using a bunch of different exercises in the same workout. I show both ring flyes and ring push-ups with bent-arm flyes in between – which is a great exercise in its own right and is also a great progression to work towards full flyes. I've done that in the past. and it allows me to hit the chest with greater frequency because I usually don't get too sore. so that'd be my next recommendation. Ask me my favorite chest exercise next month though and you very well might get a different answer. I think for optimal chest development. if you can't do them for whatever reason." what I really mean is that 300-pound barrier that many guys set as their benchmark (pun intended). My best bench press is 315 pounds. I just break it up so that I can give each exercise a full effort when I'm fresh. BUT. so that's 2-3 different exercises per week. and at the expense of inciting people to reach for their pitchforks. But it ain't too shabby either. They're very advanced though. long arms) I've never been good at bench pressing. So I'm still getting plenty of variety. And that's okay. Due to lousy leverages (namely. Tony Gentilcore While it's borderline blasphemous for me to admit it. I'll press 2-3 times a week. If you haven't. and I've had to fight tooth and nail throughout my training career to get to (and maintain) a "respectable" number. Still. this makes for a hell of a mechanical drop-set that's guaranteed to have your chest hating you the next day (and probably the day after too). If you're able to crank out full flyes. try them and I think you'll see where I'm coming from. and they may not jive with those with certain shoulder issues. I really (and I mean really) dislike benching.
This latter point not only makes you hate life. But. bigger) you have to work in the low(er) rep ranges. but here's where Coach Smith's system separates itself. add 2. Using Prilepin's Chart (which is a chart that depicts the optimum number and range of reps given a certain percentage to increase strength). but it's fun as hell to boot. In that last "money" set (where you go balls to the wall and perform as many reps as you possibly can). while some guys can just look at a barbell and get stronger.5% 1RM (for as many reps as possible) Now that's nothing new. Mass. Bench Press 3 x 5 Set 1: 5 reps at 70% 1RM Set 2: 5 reps at 75% 1RM Set 3: 5+ reps at 77. from Total Performance Sports in Everett. For simplicity sake. one should be using 75-80% of their 1RM. chicks dig the bench press. I really have to work at it to see marked improvement. That notwithstanding.5% to your cluster set for every rep you complete above five (see below). you know. So let's say your current 1RM is 300 pounds and you calculate your numbers as follows: . that my leverages make it so that I'm better suited to deadlift. let's just state that 5 reps is the "holy grail" where you get a nice blend of both strength and hypertrophy training. one protocol I've been using as of late with great success is something I snaked from strength coach Jamie Smith. albeit still include some "money" sets where you try to get as many reps as possible.consideration that it's raw. For one. A. we can see that when working in the five-rep range. I think if someone's goal is to get stronger (and by extension. and that I don't really ever place a priority on my bench numbers. and I'd be remiss not to go into some detail on how I like to attack it when I – along with my athletes and clients – want to attempt to bench a Mack truck. As noted above.
. you'll add 7. So now you're going to perform one cluster set of five singles at 255 pounds (85% of 1RM) with 20-30 seconds rest in between each rep.5 pounds (rounded up to 235. For size I like the classic bodybuilding style routines – train your chest 1-2 times a week for 12-20 sets total per week. Most people can use the most weight on the bench press compared to other full ROM pressing exercises. this percentage can either increase (upwards of 90+ % of 1RM.5 % to our cluster set. which is ideal for strength gains) or stay around the same depending on how many reps you get on that last set above.Set 1: 5 reps at 210 pounds Set 2: 5 reps at 225 pounds Set 3: 5+ reps at 232. Of course. To build size you need to choose exercise(s) that let you use considerable weight combined with significant isolation on the working muscle. and pretty good on the isolation side as well.5% each rep). and the bench press (being a free weight in three-dimensional space) requires a good amount of skill to perform well. There are a million good chest routines for both size and strength. but also not shy away from low(er) rep training which helps improve strength levels like nothing else. The bench press is exceptional on the weight side of things. Tim Henriques The best exercise for chest mass is undoubtedly the bench press. The beauty is that it's a system that allows guys to ramp up their reps (money sets). B.5% to 77. Bench Press Cluster @77.5% 1x1 (x5) Figuring out the percentages. That means we're going to add 2. because only Momma's boys round down) With that last money set you were able to eke out 8 reps (an additional 3 reps above the goal of 5). Now to build strength you need exercises that allow you to use a lot of weight combined with a high level of skill. since you performed 3 additional reps (2.5% for a final load of 85% of your 1RM.
this is a very slight movement – your knuckles might move 1 centimeter forward. here are some good tips to use in the gym: If you're weak out of the bottom. haha) with 3-4 exercises and then "cheating" and hitting shoulders and triceps with a chest element again (i. you may as well be as smart as possible about it. Touch your chest as suggested above. it's hard not to begin by discussing the bench press and its variations (dumbbell bench press. touch your T-shirt. The negatives of the bench are that it can be harder on the shoulders so make sure your form is good. Easier to do.Hitting chest hard on one day (say Monday. It also goes well with flaring the elbows out at the right time. board/floor presses. pause each rep for a second on your chest.. This keeps the bar moving and allows you to work through your sticking point. (Jennifer Thompson shared that little gem with me. So. not your chest. then come back down. and if your shoulders are already jacked . Instead of outlining a routine. To stay tight and keep the focus on the pecs.). push-ups and even machines can all have their place in your routine and tend to be more joint friendly. Ideally have a partner put their hands out so you know where three-quarters is and it's consistent. For strength. but you're not going to get very far. The wrist will usually extend a bit on the way down so reverse that position as you press. Dan Trink Trying to convince the average gym-goer not to put too much focus on chest development is like trying to convince your buddy not to go into the Champagne Room with his life savings during his bachelor party – you may be right. but don't do this if you use a suicide grip.) To train for size use constant tension. a good tip no one talks about is to roll the wrist forward (flex it) slightly just before/during your sticking point. etc. but good for size. or palms facing each other) grip dumbbell presses. if you're going to blast those pecs. close-grip bench and dips) on Thursday or Friday works great.then you'll need to find a substitute.e. To reiterate. incline bench press. When it comes to building both strength and size in your chest. but it's worth trying. then press up three-quarters of the way. . Neutral (semi-supinated. of course.
I always cue the "tucked elbow" (elbows close to the rib cage) rather than the "flared elbow" position that most people want to use. can I get a spot?"). Maybe it's because the bench press was the first exercise we all performed in the gym. parallel. and can supply a large amount of volume without a ton of joint stress. friends don't let friends fall in love in strip clubs. allow for a variety of angles. I do like to program chest flyes in hypertrophy phases as they isolate the pecs quite well. so there's that. reverse flyes. Bryan Krahn It's no secret that 90% of males have an undying obsession with the bench press. The hand position allows for a greater range of motion than the more typical pronated grip while providing less stress on the shoulder joint. When moving to straight barbell benching. If you're new to keeping your elbows tucked. or perhaps it's because "How much ya bench?" is the second most commonly heard question among teen weightlifters (after "Yo. A few additional barbell benching tips: start with your eyes directly under the bar so you don't clip the bar catches as you're pressing. And now that you've got a Superman chest and bullet-proof shoulders. . low-to-high. Powell raises. I'd be negligent if I didn't recommend attending to your posterior deltoid and rotator cuff strength and health to offset some of the effects of overdoing it on pressing movements. you may have to sacrifice some load at first but your shoulders will thank me later. upper back. you're ready to take on those bouncers in the Champagne Room and rescue your buddy. it's one of the big 3 – but for building a symmetrical chest most lifters can do better. And be sure keep your feet on the floor and your ass. Remember. and cable external shoulder rotations are part of your program.I usually recommend performing these movements with a neutral grip whenever possible by using tools such as a log bar. and lying flat on a bench. Make sure exercises such as face pulls. I almost exclusively use cables for my flye variations such as highto-low. Not doing so makes you look like a 16-year-old kid on his first day at the YMCA. Not to mention. you'll end up with diesel triceps. Finally. Benching is a vital lift for powerlifting – hello. and head on the bench throughout the entire set.
And this is where the flat bench press must take a back seat to better options. You're going to do 8 sets of 8 reps of incline dumbbell presses using three different incline angles. Most of us who work out plan on doing it for the next 50 years or so. decreasing the incline as the pecs fatigue. I can balance a beer on my boobs" look. .For one. bench too heavy. They not only target the portion of the pecs closer to the clavicles. leading to a broader. In other words. but even the most "no sets below 12 reps" bodybuilder will find themselves dipping into the low-rep ranges on the bench press. Set the incline bench at 60-65 degrees and do a set of incline dumbbell presses for 8 reps. even bodybuilders. which will feel easy – at first. but according to John Meadows. what degree of incline is best. more superhero-like appearance up top. The question is. contributing to the coveted "Look ma. you'll be leaving some reps in the hole. which we can exploit through mechanical advantage drop sets. If this doesn't give you an upper pec pump then you need to contact Heidi Montag's plastic surgeon for a new set of wonder twins. using approximately 70% of your 1RM. How many sets of each angle you do depends on the point where your performance drops below 8 reps per set. the flared approach most bodybuilders bench with can be murder on the shoulders. and in the vast majority of guys with imbalanced pecs. In other words. And that's where injuries happen. a steep incline or more moderate one? While the answer for bodybuilding purposes is probably "the angle you've never done before" we do know that the difficulty increases as the incline angle increases. Variations of the incline press are ideal for bodybuilders lacking an upper chest. it's the upper pecs that require extra attention. they also serve to help "fill out" the anterior delts. Second is most guys. So here's a Frankenstein mash up of two classics: Vince Gironda's 8 x 8 "honest workout" system method and the mechanical advantage dumbbell press routine popularized by Charles Poliquin in The Poliquin Principles. Finally. Maybe it's the stigma related to a powerful bench press and the whole "Bench Press Mondays" thing. bodybuilding is all about symmetry. and bench presses – especially the flared elbow variety – don't rate very high on the "exercises I think I'll be dominating at age 90" list.
After you're done. don't flare your elbows – tuck them close to your ribcage.Now rest just 30 seconds – that's crucial – and do a second set of 8 reps. This system involves considerable volume and delivers a great pump. you should be well equipped to start building a set of heroic pecs that will make your fellow gym rats green with envy. Pump It Up! Okay Sport. Stay at this angle until you've completed all 8 sets. you didn't adhere to the rest intervals. Continue this process until you fail at or below 8 reps. thus allowing you to get at least 8 reps. It also hits multiple angles and taps into a variety of motor units while avoiding the pattern overload problems that come with high volume pressing routines. or your rep speed is too fast (a 2020 tempo is ideal). 6 Coaches Weigh in on Pull-Ups . Don't be surprised if that light weight suddenly got a significantly harder. which will spare your shoulders and ignite your triceps. Just remember. whereupon you'll drop the incline another notch. Rest 30 seconds and do another set of 8 reps. whereupon you'll decrease the incline to 50-55 degrees and repeat using the same weight. to 40-45 degrees. One last thing: as Dan Trink says. Rest 30 seconds and repeat until your reps drop below 8 again. there's no set "best system" so just pick a program and run with it for a predetermined amount of time – say 4-6 weeks – and don't change anything. if you've been paying attention. Life is too short to not fill out the pec portion of your prized wife beater shirt – change your routine and get on the fast track to exceptional pec development. builds muscle like nobody's business. evaluate your strength/development and try the next routine on the list. Your performance the next set should improve a bit (depending on your conditioning). which. If this is too easy – you bang out all 8 sets at the first incline level – then either the weight is too light (go heavier next time).
And that's when shit gets complicated. situational. rather than get all stressed out or snake-bit by analysis paralysis. They slap qualifiers into their recommendations ("this is what I do 60% of the time") or worse. Case in point: pull-ups. or just not worth worrying about. too. and the elbow flexors get worked considerably during pull-ups as well. you need to lift weights. isolations.Strength training can get complicated. it seems like the only thing they agree on is that to get stronger. slow tempos. progress slows from gazelle-like to glacial. the smart thing to do is to simply look for similarities between the recommendations – cause the stuff the experts all agree on is the stuff that should make up 90% of your focus." High reps. healthier upper body. Furthermore. in the beginning it's simple – at least it should be. if you control the amount of anterior pelvic tilt exhibited during the pullup by bracing the abs. That's a pretty good indication that you should be doing them. Along with being arguably the best lat builder in existence. low reps. and strengthening them can lead to higher squat and deadlift numbers due to increased core-stability. Then. Adding just five pounds to the barbell or the scale becomes a hard-fought battle. Some contradict themselves. The other stuff is extraneous. Every coach who's ever been published (and a few thousand who haven't) recommends pull-ups for building a bigger. for a while. So you decide to start checking out what the experts in the field recommend. stronger. But why are they so awesome? And what are the best ways to improve at them? Here are 6 different rationales and recommendations. Sure. because basically anything will work. no tempos. Not to mention any . They contradict each other. it's also an incredible low-ab exercise. The lats are often-overlooked spinal stabilizers. they also work a lot of other muscles surrounding the scapulae and pelvis. say the dreaded "it depends. However. complexes. Bret Contreras Pull-ups are my favorite upper body pulling movement.
they're different exercises. Some movement is okay. A proper pull-up ends when the bar touches the upper chest – it's not enough just to get the chin over the bar! As the movement rises. perhaps as a counterbalance strategy to shift more of the load forward. sort of like the military press and the push-press.smart powerlifter will tell you the lats are responsible for the initial bench press range of motion off the chest. like a hammer curl). do Kipping pull-ups – just don't pretend that these are pull-ups. but tension should be controlled at the bottom – don't just "hang" on the ligaments. Don't let this happen. the scapulae will downwardly rotate and depress slightly. and neutral grip pullups (palms-facing-each other. and are always under varying degrees of tension. Keep the chest up. The typical "shoulders back and down" advice is not needed for pull-ups. But you should have dynamic scapular stability in mind. and envision "pulling the bar toward your body. pull through your elbows (think of the hands as just "hooks"). chin-ups supinated. meaning that the scapular muscles are not relaxed at any portion of the movement. thereby supporting the load on the scapulae. You'll also see hip flexion – lifters will swing the knees up for momentum and as a counterbalance. A proper pull-up starts in the dead-hang position. be strict and disciplined. Brace the glutes and abs and keep the core tight. If you're going to do pull-ups (or military presses)." These tips tend to clean up issues with form. Ring pull-ups involve wrist . And if you want to do Kipping pull-ups. Don't let this happen either. Technique The most common errors in pull-up performance are skimping on range of motion and utilizing excessive momentum. Pull-ups are typically performed pronated. Keep the core stable – the lumbopelvic hip complex (LPHC) will want to do all sorts of things to make the movement easier. but not too much. Typically you'll see lumbar hyperextension and anterior pelvic tilt. the scapulae need to upwardly rotate and some scapular elevation allows for better upward rotation.
And Wednesday. . You might say I'm obsessed. That's obviously huge for back development. If your pull-up performance starts to tank as you start packing on weight. etc. other days do full range dynamic repetitions. Some days do more volume. Some days do them loaded. Ben Bruno Pull-ups have always been my favorite upper body exercise. you're probably getting fat. While most guys look forward to "Bench Mondays. Beginning and Improving Beginners can learn pull-ups by performing band-assisted and eccentric-only pull-ups until they're able to perform a proper concentric repetition.rotation from slight pronation to slight supination. Some days do iso-holds at various ranges. that depends on your starting point and your goals. And. and your pull-up performance will improve." And Tuesday. I love including pull-ups in a muscle-building program for a few reasons. They're a good barometer for overall body composition. Advanced lifters can attach weight with a dip belt or perform self-assisted one-arm pull-ups. squats. your pull-up performance will improve dramatically. but the lats also play a crucial role in virtually all the major lifts – deadlifts. and these are likely the "jointfriendliest" variation. loads. hand spacing. and you'd be right. other days push your sets with more intensiveness. and velocities. other days use just bodyweight. Is there a secret to increasing pull-up performance? Yes." I look forward to "Pull-up Monday. I also love them in a fat loss program because they're highly metabolic while also serving as a great incentive – as you get leaner. Be sure to mix around the grips. and it involves variety and frequency. There's no better exercise for building the lats. presses. well you get the idea. – meaning strong lats will help you pack on more muscle all over. So how do you improve your pull-up performance? Well.
pay the toll).Beginning For beginners. it really added up and my pull-ups got a lot better. So here you'd want to avoid failure and accumulate more submaximal sets. If I felt good. the best prescription is just to do a shitload of pull-ups. Some people don't like the idea of going to failure. but it's best to spread them out over the course of the day if possible. Improving Once you're better at pull-ups. I'd just bust out a few. For increasing max reps. you need to determine your goal. I'd do a set (i. but give those sets all you've got. going to failure will tank your subsequent sets. This means higher volume and higher frequency. . but when I've been at best reps-wise. When I was younger I used to have a pull-up bar in the doorway going into my closet.. I've found doing a few sets of max reps 4-6 days a week works the best. I'd crank out as many as possible. you can adapt the idea and just bust out a bunch of sets between other exercises while you're at the gym. Frequency is key here. which is why I don't recommend doing a lot of sets. It never felt too hard. So pick your goal first. I'd start with a great template I got from pull-up Jedi Harry Selkow of the Elitefts Q+A staff. but I've found going to failure to be very helpful in this instance. For weighted pull-ups. However. If you don't have the option of a pull-up bar at home. if I didn't. and the other day being just bodyweight to groove the pattern without beating yourself up too much. so don't do more than a couple sets a day. with one day being weighted to work on strength.e. but over the course of the day (and weeks and months). do you want to increase how many pull-ups you can do in one set. Do you want to get better at weighted pull-ups. I like what I call the "pay the toll" method. For getting a jacked back. Do pull-ups twice a week. my weighted pulls suffered a bit. Every time I opened the door to take something out. or do you just want a jacked back? When I was at my strongest on weighted pull-ups I actually wasn't that great at cranking out higher rep sets.
and perform 5-7 sets on a weekly basis. which is why I try to incorporate some variation or another with the majority of my clients. A dead-hang pull-up (not a kipping version) is one of the toughest exercises you can do and requires a lot of strength from the scapular stabilizers. so be creative. Other Notes I wrote pull-ups. Many people that spend their days grinding away in the cubicle mines show up woefully unprepared to perform even one. but I really don't care which grip you use. If you have shoulder and/or elbow issues. and then start incorporating the phase below. then proceed to the next series of exercises. you may want to start playing around with harder variations as opposed to just adding more and more weight. In fact. which is why we see pull-ups where the neck disappears into the ears and shoulders. supinated. Dean Somerset Pull-ups are a highly revered exercise amongst gym-goers and strength coaches. or shoulders. as if you're doing a plank. For those looking to get stronger in their pull-ups. After each exercise you do. rings. get in a set of pull-ups for the maximum number of reps you can do. try doing them with your legs and torso completely straight. I have tons of them on myYouTube page f you want some different ideas. For one hell of a core workout. rings will typically be the most comfortable. shoulders. try loading a belt and using the max weight possible to get 3 reps. Do this until you've exceeded 1. neutral. . and repeat as you go through your entire workout. the best way to get better at them is through sheer repetition. as that may start to take a toll on your elbows. etc. and biceps. If you're extremely strong on weighted pull-ups. For those who can do a pull-up. There are many different variations you could use. "Easy-ish" means 40-60% of the total reps you can do in one set. followed by neutral.One of the best and simplest ways to do this is to crank out easy-ish sets between sets of your other exercises. I think it's best to rotate – pronated.3 times your bench press weight. Do this until you can get to 10 reps in a set. wrists.
1. I won't judge you) or walk down any beach and you'll see numerous guys walking around who looks sorta cut up. meaning getting a weight belt with about 90 pounds around your waist for 3 reps. I mean. It's something you don't see quite often. There are plenty of dudes out there who have pecs and abs. . jump to get to the top ** plus one set at 15 reps for building endurance *** get to within 5 seconds of previous set Once you can make it to 80% body weight for a pulldown and can easily control your eccentric chins. For those who aren't yet able to get to a full pull-up. heavy lat pulldowns in a kneeling position.3 times your body weight would be roughly 292 pounds. if you weigh 200 pounds and can bench press 225 pounds. and quite frankly it doesn't really impress me. that gets my attention. and isometric holds are a great way to develop the strength and motor patterns necessary to get to a full pull-up. while the bench press gets all the glory. and it's usually indicative of someone who's more than likely yoked up all over. A beginner's workout would look something like this: Exercise AEccentric Pull-Up SetsReps 5 5* 5** Max Time*** B Kneeling Lat Pulldown5 C Isometric Hold 3 * 3-5 second lowering.For instance. When I see someone with a thick and wide upper back. though. all you have to do is open up any Abercrombie and Fitch catalog (don't worry. Tony Gentilcore Asking me all the reasons why I feel pull-ups are awesome is on par with asking me why Brooklyn Decker is kind of attractive. For starters. eccentric pull-ups (focusing on a 3-5 second lowering). you'd be hard pressed to find an exercise that gives you more bang for your training buck (especially in the upper body) than the pull-up. start trying to complete full reps.
Secondly. "x" number every time your girlfriend tells you to take the trash out). One rep of a pull-up is pretty damn close to a max effort lift for you. So with that out of the way. by the end of the day you'll have gotten in a fair number of reps you otherwise wouldn't have. and continue on with your life. all I need is a body and a bar. let's say you're reading this article and know you're not that great at pull-ups and want to increase the total number you can do. By the end of the day. Instead of trying to "muscle" out 3-4 reps at a time – and failing miserably – try to shoot for 1-2 reps every hour or so. Or at least they're a lot less prevalent. by the end of the day. . I rarely see any shoulder injuries. Hell it doesn't even have to be every hour. and maybe even more important. Simple. Next. and as someone who's often supervising dozens of athletes at once. Lets say it's four. and you're not going to tire yourself out. I've found that when one's bench press 1RM is fairly close to their pull-up 1RM. you'll have easily done like 587 reps! The point is. One of the best strategies I've used with my athletes and clients is something called "Greasing the Groove. as a gym owner. With pull-ups. You're lucky if you could bang out five reps. maybe ten if someone threatened to club a baby seal. yet often struggle performing one pull-up! This is lame. Tell yourself you're going to crush a few pull-ups every time you hear that Gangham Style song on the radio." which many other prominent coaches like Dan John have used. no matter what criteria you set ("x" number per hour. I tend to appreciate movements that don't require a lot of equipment. Here's the deal: Find out what your max total number is now. Do a rep or two. While I don't have any concrete scientific data to back up this claim (other than the fact that I actually train people for a living). and is going to be really taxing on the body. pull-ups do a bang-up job at keeping the shoulders healthy. There are plenty of guys out there who can crush ten reps equivalent to their bodyweight on the bench press (usually a lot more). That way you know you're assured quality rep(s) each and every time.
The joy of this is that once the program instructs you to take the extra weight off. There's a big relationship between maximal strength and single-set endurance in the same movement (i. I guarantee you'll smoke your original number. the reps go up. Here are two programs for you to try: Program 1 The first program is set up assuming you're going to a gym. Tim Henriques Pull-ups are awesome. your bodyweight feels very light. cut it in half. For example.. Do this for 2-3 weeks. Train pull-ups for strength twice a week: Training Day 1 Exercise Pull-Up (Weighted) A Increase the weight each set. SetsReps 4 5 . even it's just 10-20 extra pounds. and retest. a 400-pound bencher will beat a 300-pound bencher in the 225 pounds for reps contest every time). and there are 3 keys to dominating them. Number one is a lower bodyweight. If you can increase your 1RM on pull-ups. The second key is technique. or knowing how to get just a bit of leg/hip drive to propel the body upward without the pull-up looking like a penguin suffering a grand mal.e. When you drop a few pounds your pull-up scores improve – there's less baggage to hold you down. plus 1 backdown set of 8-12 reps. assuming you follow the other two keys at the same time. and perform that many reps every hour or two. Once you can do 8 or more pull-ups with good form you should add weight to make it tougher. The third key is maximal pulling strength.Note: For those who can do anywhere from 5-15 reps – whatever that number may be.
bodyweight (BW) x 5. B Dumbbell Row 4 12. Four to five times a week. you can attach bands to yourself and to the floor and then lower yourself as the bands pull you down. you can do manual resistance negatives. For example. BW+50 x 5. for example. performed for 3 sets. and try to maintain control throughout the ROM. let's say your maximum pull-ups is 16: . First. Each negative is about a 4-6 count. perform a test to see how many bodyweight pull-ups you can do. 10. although obviously a pull-up bar – or at least an exposed rafter in your shed so you can bang out reps like a greased-up Stallone in Rocky 4 – is. BW+20 x 5. Each week add 1 rep to each set. BW+35 x 5. BW+25 x 5 reps. Retest after a month or so to see where you are. where you put a belt on and have a partner drag you down slowly. You can continue this method for as long as it's working. using half of the top weight on Day 1. 8. You don't have to increase your daily reps even if your retest puts your max significantly higher. perform half of that number. for 5 sets. but no more. 3 3 5 5 SetsReps * There are three ways to perform negative pull-ups: You can just add extra weight (more than your top set of 5) and then climb up and lower yourself slowly. Program 2 This program is super simple and a gym isn't required. Negative Pull-Up* B For example. and finally. BW+10 x 10. 6 Training Day 2 (ideally 2-4 days after Day 1) Exercise Pull-Up A Straight weight. BW+75 x 3 reps.
lats. Dan Trink The pull-up (and its variations) are awesome for developing the upper and mid-back. bent-over row. perform 1 set of 8 pull-ups Week 2: 4-5 times a week. and even the bench press. and other posterior chain. but also better quality pull-ups. from elementary school all the way up to the military. If you're beginner (capable of only doing two or less pull-ups) I would start with slow negatives – jumping up to the top position and lowering yourself slowly – as this will ultimately lead to the ability to do full concentric and eccentric reps. but learning to tap into those muscle groups and getting them activated during your pull-ups will help you not only do more pull-ups. etc. I've done this with many female clients with great success. dips. go up 1 rep every other week. and ultimately capacity. You don't have to go heavy on these. It's worth noting that this method works great for almost all bodyweight exercises like push-ups. perform 1 set of 9 pull-ups Week 3: 4-5 times a week. mid-back. . starting at 12 reps. go up 2-3 reps a week. weighted pull-ups to increase pull-up strength. perform 1 set of 11 pull-ups Retest and repeat. The best way to develop pull-up strength really depends on where you're starting. It's also stood the test of time being a staple in many fitness tests. it's hard to think of another upperbody pull that's as effective as the pull-up. and lower trap exercises.Week 1: 4-5 times a week. sit-ups. Finally. perform 1 set of 10 pull-ups Week 4: 4-5 times a week. biceps. consider some assistance work such as trap-3 raises. So if you really suck at something (can only do 8 reps or less). external rotations. as well as offering sizeable carry-over to lifts such as the deadlift. the Olympic lifts. In a sentence. If you're great at something (50+ reps). don't underestimate low rep. which is great for the trainee looking to improve aesthetics. and forearms. If you're someone who's decent at pull ups-and looking to add reps.
If. so choosing the right approach basically boils down to good old trial and error. After you're done. 6 different coaches. you can't help but grow! That's it. Pick one program. . 6 different approaches.Go For The Pull! Obviously the previous recommendations vary considerably. after reading all this info you can't up your pull-up totals. run with it for a predetermined amount of time – say 4-6 weeks – and don't change anything. evaluate your strength/development and try the next routine on the list. as long as properly performed pull-ups appear in your program. The bottom line is. you just don't want it bad enough.