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Hi Mike, loving the site! Here's my question. I have got fair size arms overall but when I hit triceps shots - particularly with my arm by the side of my body - the outside of my tricep looks good but there's no real mass coming through in the pose. What can/should I be doing?
Thanks Philip McGough
Hello Philip, this is a good question as most people in the gym experience little difficulty in successfully developing the outer head of the tricep but its the inner head, the long head, which gives the real impression of mass in so many on-stage shots and particularly when relaxed in t-shirts. The key to working the long head for mass is three fold, firstly always start the press down movement by squeezing the tricep, secondly take a wide grip on the bar (I know that taking a close grip with a V bar is popular but we are into outer head territory again), thirdly keep the elbows in and the bicep facing forward throughout the movement - dont allow your bicep to turn in. This will give you the results you are looking for. let me know how you get on - Mike.
Mike, I need to improve the look of my quads which seem a bit square and chunky, if that description makes sense? They look good from side on but a bit tree trunky from the front. Do you have any suggestions or movements I could use to tackle this? Cheers, Mark Reed
Well Mark, its sounds like you have some size to your quads but the shape needs improving - there's nothing as impressive as a great sweep to the outside of the quads, and the improvements can be made simply and quickly. The answer lies with the Hack Squat. Most people use the hack squat with a shoulder width stance and go low. To gain the sweep shape to you quads pivot your heels in and you toes out. Lighten the weight to start with and as you squat let your knees come out. Stop the movement at just below a 90 degree angle between your calf and quad. Take the movement slowly, dont forget to squeeze and feel that pump. Thanks for the question - Mike
Calves are my weakest body part. Not only am I not blessed with size but I have built up to almost the full stack and still no results so I'm mucking it up some where. Suggestions please? P.s I like the Youtube comments, class!!! Pascal
Hello Pascal, the answer lies in the question, you have shifted your focus from the muscle to the weight - in particular how much weight you are using. You need to reduce the weight stack by about 40%, take a comfortable/shoulder width stance with your feet, with the toes pointed outwards and heels in at about 20 degrees. Now take the movement slow and concentrate on feeling the muscle and the contraction - particularly in the fully contracted position - where your need to hold for a second or two and really squeeze the muscle. Soon you will have those large diamond shaped muscles you desire. Thanks for the question - Mike
Hi Mike. I joined a gym about 4 months ago, and during the induction I was asked what body parts I wanted to improve the most. Biceps and abs are the ones the girls go for. The routine they gave me involves cable curls and seted bicep curls for three sets of 12 on each and i'm just not getting any progress. I train three times a week and I've tried increasing the weights, changing the bars, the number of sets and reps so I'm running out of ideas. Any input would be appreciated. Thank you Matthew Lamin
Assuming that you are not using steroids then training your arms three times per week is definately overtraining you biceps. The bicep is a relatively small muscle which like the front delt can be used to assist in a variety of movements so overdoing it is easy. Clearly I am in favour of 'warm-ups' to get your mind intouch with the muscle, but when it comes to doing the set then a single set for each movement should be sufficient (forced reps and negatives aside). Keep an accurate record of your weights and reps with you in the gym, slow down your movements, squeeze the muscle at the beginning of the rep, dont lock out, hold in the fully contracted position. Finally, when doing cable curls, stand close to the stack, keep your body still and the bar virtually incontact with your abs as you move the bar up and down your body whilst keeping your elbows back. You should feel your bicep working hard throughout the movement. Try to make a 10% improvement in either weight or more particularly reps, every session, when you feel the weight getting heavy take a step back by reducing the weight slightly but slowing your reps. Typically keeps reps in the range of 8 to 15 reps. Mike
Mike, how should I do cable cross-overs to make them more effective? Chris Wood
Hi Chris. To honest it all depends what you are doing the movement for. They are to the chest what lunges are to the quads, so dont expect to gain any size from doing them. One function they serve well is to get you "in-touch" with your chest prior to doing a compound movement. This is the only true reason that I believe they serve. To perform the exercise proficiently start with the handles at head height and bring your arms diagonally down and accross the body with your hands meeting just infront of your lower abdominals. Don't forget to squeeze the pec's like hell. - Mike
Hi Mike, what grip do you recommend for the barbell curl? I’m not getting the feeling I was hoping for.
Hi Pablo. You haven’t said if you mean on a straight bar or not so I will address some possibilities. Science says you should be using a straight bar because the MAIN function of the biceps is to supinate the wrist. If you watch guys training on Youtube, so many of them do their curls with an E Z bar. These are easier on the wrist and elbows but scientifically not as efficient at hitting the biceps as the straight bar. To make it more bicep that brachialis, flare the elbows out a bit.
In order to take stress off the wrists and elbows in a straight bar curl, the wider the grip the better. The upper and lower arms are not in a straight line when in the bottom position of a barbell curl. The wider your grip, the more supinated the hand in the fully contracted position, and that can’t be a bad thing.
All the best, Mike
Mike, what are your views on the press behind the neck? Arnold and the guys from the 70’s all did it and they had huge delts but it gets a lot of negative press, no pun intended. Corey Stevens.
Hi Corey. Let me start by saying that I firmly believe the side lateral movement is the best one for the medial head of the deltoid, but if you want to stimulate it with a pressing movement, the elbows need to be out at the side of the body, not in front like on a military press. If you do it with dumbells, it can be a problem to get them up to shoulder level, especially if they are heavy, so if your gym has a pressing machine, use it. The key is to have your elbows out. If it has to be on a Smith machine, lower the bar to just behind the top of your head. The lower it goes, the more stressful it is on the rotator cuffs. Once you have injured the rotator cuff, no amount of exercise will restore it. It’s off to see the surgeon! How many guys from the 70’s now can’t do any exercises for the upper body without chronic pain? Thanks for the question, Mike.
Mike, I was always told that the triceps kickback was a finishing movement. Can you build size with it? Thank you Ian McDowell.
Hi Ian. When guys talk about a finishing movement, they usually think of an exercise to get a pump. You should, if training properly, be getting a pump from your first few reps on your first exercise. That’s how intense repetitions should be! To get back to your question, I ask, “WHY NOT??!!” The kickback is a peak contraction movement, which is not the case with so many triceps movements. Some people start the kickback with the dumbbell near their front delt. There is ZERO resistance her. You could keep constant tension on the triceps by lowering about 45-50 degrees from lockout. As ever, start each rep by squeezing the muscle and squeeze it even harder in the contracted position. After that, how much size you get from it depends on how badly you want it. If your life doesn’t pass before you, you haven’t reached the end of your set. Cheers, Mike.
Hi Mike, HIT workouts call for all out effort, so do you need a "pre-workout" drink to make them most effective? Marco, London.
Hi Marco, back in the 70's and 80's certain individuals were training hard, eg Tom Platz and Mike Mentzer. Both men have said that their idea of a pre-workout drink was a strong coffee. If you follow me on Twitter you will know that I sometimes have a 4 scoop black coffee as a pre-workout. A HIT session is, as you say, an all out effort, so you have to be in an optimal state for it to be successful. You need to be alert and focussed, and in that respect a pre-workout can only help. However, if you have given the workout no thought what so ever and have not considered why you are doing it in the first place, you will only be alert to the fact that the workout is not going as well as you would have hoped. dehydration can lead to a lack of focus and strength. Most pre-workout drinks contain caffeine and that can lead to dehydration, so always drink water some time between taking the pre-workout and starting your HIT session. Once you are in that optimal state there is no excuse to not train with all out intensity. Thanks for the question, Mike.
Hello Mike, what do you recommend for boosting 'Test' levels in a natural lifter? Alex Simmonds.
Hi Alex, you have not said how old you are, so I will give you my general tips maintaing/boosting Test levels in natural guise.
Life style - get plenty of sleep. At least 7 to 8 hours per night. You need to relax before going to bed. Get off your phone and laptop, perhaps try reading a book. Don't drink before going to bed as you risk waking up in the night requiring the toilet. If sleep is an issue try using a supplement like ZMA, or a sleep formula eg GH Blast by D.Y Nutrition. I have used both to good effect.
Try to stay calm. Stress will raise your cortisol levels which will make you produce less testosterone. Stress is a signal to think through this problem like an adult. Prioritise and make plans/lists. Don't try to do everything for everyone. Take time each day to do the things you enjoy. If your job is fulfilling then apply for a new one. Feeling trapped and resentful never did anyones Test levels any good.
Body fat levels - cut your body fat, so as to reduce your belly fat. Belly fat produces the aromatase enzyme which converts Test to oestrogen. This is a vicious downward spiral. Some moderate intensity aerobics may help but dont over do it. Over training leads to raised cortisol levels.
Diet - have fat in your diet. Eggs are the perfect food for this. Use olive oil and butter. Supplement with vitamins C and D, and take zinc.
The issue of increasing Test levels for natural guys can be quite technical but I can summarise with the following bullet points
train hard and infrequently
reduce body fat