Saturday, February 21, 2015

Slow and Steady the Art of Balance

I know I drone on about going “light” when you have hit a plateau, but it is equally as important to “slow down” when you are working your way through one too. Today I am simply going to walk you through a part of my lifting schedule that used to be a real nightmare for me, and has turned into my greatest victory, by simply doing it “light” and “right” as well as slowly.

One of the biggest problems for men, when it comes to working out, is accepting a level of balance. Women definitely have this problem too but usually in the exact opposite direction. Let me explain it this way, but when a man goes to the beach he shows off his arms and his chest if he has either, and a woman is usually pretty in-tune with showing off their legs and their waistline. Yes we can assume that men look at boobs, but that is either there or it isn’t unless plastic surgery is involved, and when it comes to the controllable environment most women work on their waist, rear end and their legs.

This is where the problems arise. Men develop their upper body and women develop their lower body a lot easier than the other way around, and in the end we become out of proportion. When we try to resolve these issues we tend to do it wrong because we develop a “screw it and do it” attitude that doesn’t help the issue. Using myself as the guide, I spent many YEARS (sadly) doing halfhearted leg presses with too much weight and not enough emphasis on the muscles. My lower torso (abs, oblique, lower back and gluteus) was just as bad, and it was because I just didn’t want to do it. By accident mostly I devised a better attitude towards these muscles and combined them on the same day.

In the image up top there you will see where I start when I work my legs. Before you laugh, understand that I can curl 90lbs with each arm, so it has nothing to do with my strength level, it has everything to do with “light” and “right” and taking the time to get a good workout in. Back when I was doing 1200lb leg presses I was dropping about 3 inches so I didn’t rip my knees open, and got ZERO muscle gains. It was one of those days at the Planet, where all of the 45lb weights were being used that I tried the system that I list below, and God obviously nudged me towards it.

This is what I call a cyclone set, because you do 4 distinct exercises with the normal goal of 12 (and NO MORE) and at least 8. The first “leg press” starts with your feet in the position demonstrated in the image to the left, and the goal is to get your knees right down into your armpits, before you press upward. As you probably have realized this is not something we could do with 1200lbs of weight, and with that 90lbs of weight on there, you get twice the burn, and a great pump in your muscles that will make your skin feel too small. You also need to master doing this slow and steady, so that you not only burn it in, but NOT hurt yourself.

Now without setting the weight down you are putting your feet into the position highlighted to the right. This will be a simple toe press. Believe it or not, physiologically speaking your calves should be able to do the same amount of weight as your quads, and what we are doing here is getting your legs in balance. Your range of motion is important, and starting out you may not have it, but you are working on it. You want your ankle to stretch as far back as possible and then point your toes as far out as possible. Every time you do this it gets easier and feels better.

Here is where this cyclone set will really burn some muscle and some calories. As you see in the picture to the left, your feet are now pretty close together. You need to bring your knees slowly into your chest, and in time yes you will be able to touch them to your chest, and then press out. No matter how much weight is on there you will feel the strain in your muscles by the end of your 12 reps here. This is a very good thing, and if you do it slow enough and keep your mental concentration firmly on your quadriceps (the muscles on the front of your thigh) then you are really getting the hang of it.

The last part of the cyclone pictured to the left, is another round of simple toe presses, only this time with your feet in close like you did on the last part of the leg presses. Like your quadriceps there are two separate sections of your calves that usually work together but each one works a little harder depending on the position of your feet. This will make sure that each half is worked properly, and give you the best looking calves you can make.

Now of course the goal here is to work upward, so after you have done 12 reps at each exercise in the cyclone, you need to go grab a couple more 45s and put them up on that leg press. Take a walk around for a couple of minutes, do some stretching (hurdler’s stretch is a good one) and come back to take on the 180lbs just like you took on the 90lbs. Finish, add more weight, press on etc. Now in my case when I am finished with this whole ordeal, I am pressing 540lbs by 8 on each part of the cyclone. As I always tell you 8 reps means it is time to stop. I will conquer that weight at another time, because I always do. If you learn to focus your mind to do things light and right, slow and steady then there will be no weight you can’t conquer some day either. I’ll let you in on how to conquer the lower torso, next time, but until then go get your best on.