So I'm in the gym the other night getting ready to start benching. I guess there was a spillover of benchers who didn't make it in for the usual Monday bench press session (which goes on in every gym in America) because all the benches were being used. I politely asked a guy if I could work in with him and told me it was no problem. My elbows were hurting pretty badly that night so I cut it short at and did a couple of light back off sets. The fellow that allowed me to work in with him then proceeded to tell me that he was going to participate in a local corporate challenge, and part of it was the bench press contest.
Here was our conversation -
"So what do I need to get my bench up?"
He looked at me as if I had just solicited him for man on man sex time in the bathroom.
"How is that?"
"How is what?"
"How am I supposed to build my bench just benching."
Now I found myself looking at him like he had solicited me for man on man sex time in the bathroom.
"Well isn't the bench the thing you're trying to get good at?"
"Then do that."
"What about triceps?"
"Just do some close grips."
"That's not enough?"
"Well it just seems like I need to do more."
"Ok do some wide grips after that then."
"What's the problem?"
"Well you're saying just do some bench, then some close grips, then some wide grips and that will build my bench."
"Yeah. Gain some weight if you really want it to shoot up."
"Ok I see what you're saying. You're saying if I want to build up my bench, do the bench then."
If Burt asks me about benching one more time.......
I can't count the number of times I've had this kind of conversation.
I think powerlifting and the strength training world has been overrun by retarded training methods. I think people want to use gimmicky bullshit to sell ideas or toys or methodologies when the truth is, nothing has changed in the strength training world in 60+ years. There are no secrets and the only tried and true short cuts are anabolics.
This is fact.
If you want to get REALLY good at a lift, do that lift. If you need an assistance exercise, do a variation of that lift. Or don't! The lift will actually build itself. I understand for people this may be hard to believe but decades of massive poundage being hoisted in the since the 60's and 70's are proof.
I find it funny when other lifters tell me that the reason the really strong guys like Coan, Furnas, Kuc, Karwoski could use basic programs is because anything would have worked for them. And yet anything could work, but they rose to the top using basics. So because the rest of us are not super human we must resort to other methods because basics alone will not work?
I'm not saying your staple of basics has to be limited to three exercises, but should ask yourself how much you really need?
If you maximized these four lifts, your lower body would be as developed as it's ever going to be.
Barbell and Db Rows
Barbell and Db Curls
If you maximized all of these lifts, your upperbody would be as developed as it is ever going to be.
If any of these lifts cause you joint pain, drop it. I don't even think you need to add anything in. If you need to specialize in something like the fellow in the story above, do that lift and a variation of it.
When you can close grip 400x10 do you think that your triceps are going to be weak? What is adding in pushdowns going to do for you at that point? Take your bench from 500 to 600 because of pushdowns? Ok.
Reg Park was big on awesomeness...thus he did the basics.
If you can stiff leg deadlift 500x20 are your hamstrings really a weakness? Then why are we trying to reinvent the wheel when great options are already in place?
Need to get bigger? Focus on the eccentric portion of the exercise and up your reps. The medium and high rep range build mass (think 9-20). Then be explosive on the positive. There is more growth potential in the negative portion of the rep than the positive. Be slow on the negatives, then explosive on the positive portion. Yes, your lifts will take a hit at first. Don't fret, they will come back and you'll have more muscle mass with them to boot. Sounds pretty good doesn't it? Yeah, I thought so. Eat a little more food then eat a little more after that. Now you're a bigger, stronger you. Wow, that was pretty simple. Why did I need to do something complicated again?
Need a bigger squat? Squat! Do some heavy singles. Need an assistance exercise? How about front squats, or pause squats. Hell, how about doing a back off set of 20-30 reps of squats for that? Works good. That works good for all the lifts actually. Do some solid singles, then a back off set with smooth form. Simple progression and leaving a couple of reps in the tank is tried and true.
Need a bigger deadlift? Deadlift from the floor or off blocks below the knees and get your mid-back and lats strong with chins and rows. Use stiff legs to get your hamstrings up to par. I'm not sure what isn't covered for pulling big now?
Throw in some work to keep you injury free like lunges and cuff work. These can be done at the beginning (in the case of lunges) as part of a warm up, or at the end as part of your cool down (like cuff work).
If you think technique is an issue, find someone who can help you with that. Even advanced top level guys miss lifts because of technique issues sometimes.
What else is there? Substitute dumbbell variations of the lifts if you get bored, but stay focused on adding more reps and more weight to the bar on these basics. Lifting is really THAT simple yet people constantly take good programs and bastardize them because they think they know better. I promise you there isn't anything new under the sun.
I'm also not saying that once a good foundation is built that you can't do pushdowns or leg extensions or those things to supplement your big movements. But if you're squatting 155 and deadlifting 180 do you really need cable laterals and sissy squats??? I think you know the answer.
Get stronger from top to bottom and limit what you are doing so that way you can get really good at those things. Jack of all trades or master of none applies just as well to lifting weights as anything in life.
This guy needs more PBnJ and weighted dips and fewer 1-arm cable side laterals and concentration curls...
Now with all that said, I bet when I see that guy getting ready for the corporate challenge he's doing tricep pushdowns....