By now I'm sure the big question in your mind is " What methods? " Well, I'm glad you asked, since the whole idea behind this article is to tell you.

Let's start with grip width. Where you grip the bar for a given exercise makes a big difference in how that exercise stimulates your muscles. Most people decide where to grip the bar by one of two methods: where the knurlings are on the bar , or a certain distance inside or outside shoulder width. The problem with the fIrst method is that not all bar manufacturers knurl and mark their bars the same, making this a poor gauge. The problem with the second method is that each trainee is built differently. Those possessing a short clavicle bone, and thus narrow shoulders, will be lifting with a completely different leverage factor than trainees with naturally wide shoulders. I have found that the best way to determine grip width for all pressing movements, from decline bench presses to seated presses behind the neck, is to make sure that when the upper arms are straight out to the sides of the body, there is a 90-degree angle at the armpits, as well as at the elbows.

This is not to say that different grip widths have no place in your workouts. Using this method of determining your hand spacing gives you a reference point for adjusting your grip to work the muscles at a variety of angles.

Another bit of gym jargon has to do with dips. Some say that in dipping for the chest you must use a hand spacing of at least 32". At 6'5", Lou Ferrigno might be able to get away with this, but at 5'6", I sure can't ... it would tear my arms right out of my shoulders! We must assume that there are more trainees out there who are closer to 5'6" than 6'5", so 32" seems a little out of whack, doesn't it?

Now since I prefer parallel bars for dips as opposed to V bars, at our gym, The Dungeon, we have parallel bars that are adjustable from 0" to 40" to accommodate any size trainees for either chest or triceps dips. These had to be custom made, as I know of no equipment manufacturers that make adjustable dip bars. (By the way, 24"-28" works best for me.)

Another chest exercise that seems to cause some confusion is the pec-dek crunch. Virtually everyone performs this movement with the elbows at a 90-degree angle. The main function of the chest muscles is to draw the arms across the chest. This is best done as if you were hugging a tree. With the forearms pointing up towards the ceiling, you are more likely to work, (or even possibly strain), the pec/delt tie-in. Some equipment manufacturers are now making pec-deks with handles instead of pads to better simulate this hugging motion. Even on the machines with pads you can still change your method of execution for a safer, more efficient workout.

The squat, as I'm sure you know, is undoubtedly thought of as the single most productive exercise that a bodybuilder can do. It is also probably the most dangerous, given the stress it exerts on the body's structure and style of exercise performance. Now be honest ... how many of you learned to "pick a spot high on the ceiling or wall" to focus the eyes on while squatting? If you think this bit of advice through, I believe that you'll see the flaw in this method. If you tilt your head back, the shoulders tend to follow, causing a slight arch in the lower back. When you bring the arms up and back in order to hold a loaded barbell across your upper back, you must arch the low back to a greater degree. Put these two together and you wind up squatting in a manner that not only stresses the back, but also dictates exercise form that will work the hips and glutes too much instead of the fronts of the thighs.

To remedy this situation, make sure that you keep your chin level with the floor or up just barely. This will minimize the arch in the low back for safer, more productive squatting. Also, you would be best off to do this exercise in front of a mirror so that you can keep an eye on your form. Just let your eyes do the moving and keep your head in the proper position.

The real saving grace for squatters is the safety squat bar. This bar lets you squat without having to hold the bar in place, thus virtually eliminating all arching of the back. If you have access to one of these little gems, be prepared for the squat workout of your life!

The standing barbell curl is one of the most popular movements you can perform with weights; however, all too often it is performed incorrectly. Anyone who is new to weight training should execute every exercise in its purest form. Creativity in exercise form can be added later as necessary. (This is where things like different hand spacings and subtle cheating enter the workout, but we'll save all that for another article.) The curl, depending on whom you talk to, should place the bar at your chin or even your nose at the top of the movement. In reality, where the bar ends up at the top of the curl has nothing to do with much of anything. To keep the exercise strict, simply make sure that the upper arms stay in line with the torso - in other words, perpendicular to the floor. At the top of the curl the bar will wind up wherever your forearm bones dictate. If your forearms are short, look for the bar to be at mid-chest level. If your forearms are unusually long, the bar may make it closer to your chin. If you shift the elbows forward so as to end the curl with the bar at a certain point, you shift some of the movement's emphasis to the anterior (frontal) delts. Here again there are many ways to perform the standing barbell curl, but learn the purest form of the movement first. Leave the fancy stuff for later when you are more advanced. You won't need to go fancy until then anyway, and even then, not that often.

One last exercise that deserves mention is the lateral raise. Many still insist that at the top of this movement you should turn the thumbs down to get the full effect on the medial head of the deltoid. I just never could understand how turning the wrist would affect growth in the shoulder! I do, however, see a couple of other ways it can affect the shoulder. By turning the thumbs down - pouring water from a pitcher is how this action is commonly described - inward rotation is created in the shoulder joint. This causes undue stress to the joint, and can result in injury. The other effect this "pouring" has on the exercise is that the trainee tends to turn the thumbs not only down, but also in. This changes the alignment of the arms in relation to the torso and allows the anterior delt to be worked instead of the medial delt. (Don't you just hate it when that happens?) The anterior delt gets nearly all the work it needs from pressing movements. In fact, about the only time I give direct anterior delt work to a client would be prior to a bodybuilding competition to help bring out the muscle tie-ins, or to correct some type of muscle imbalance, such as the weak link in a powerlifter's bench press. We certainly do not want to work the anterior delt when the object of the exercise is to work the medial delt.

Now that you have a pretty good idea what " gym jargon " is all about, you can watch out for more of this type of training philosophy when you're in the gym.

While people always talk about training "hard," few serious trainers have trouble doing it. The problems seem to arise because not enough people talk about training "smart," and fewer still actually do it. The lesson here is don't be afraid to question things that are usually taken for granted. Train hard, but train smart!

reprinted with permission from MuscleMag

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