Thursday, November 9, 2023

Three Minor Tweaks in My Lifting Routine

Today's workout at the gym was fun and amazing. In this blog post I'm going to cover three things I did to tweak my exercises. Each of these is easily accomplished by making only very minor adjustments to your routine. The first tweak is actually something I've been practicing for some time now but today I tried to make it intentional. When it comes to gaining muscle mass, a mistake we newbies sometimes make is confusing effort with good effort. Unless your effort is directed to the right muscles in the right way, you're probably wasting a whole lot of your time. Here I illustrate how a bench press might be performed. 

Here the focus is on your chest and not on any other muscle. When you place the tension on the muscle you are actually training to gain muscle mass in, you will be surprised at how much better the muscle growth is. You are not merely taking the dumbells from point A to point B, but the weight is being controlled by your chest muscles and not your biceps or any other muscle. Some call this the mind-muscle connection, and to do this you may have to reduce the amount of weight you are trying to lift. The fact is, your muscles are not aware of the exact amount of weight you are lifting, be it 20 or 40 pounds. But your muscles do notice whether or not the weight you're using is taxing enough on them so that they respond by growing. To maximize muscle growth, be sure to approach your training and workout sessions with maximum intensity, using a weight you can handle.

In the second place, one of the most effective back workout tips I've learned is to perform the lat pulldown with different grip widths, hand placements, and torso positions. When you vary the way you perform a lat pulldown, you will be able to feel the different muscles in your back with each variation. Today I tried out a "hook grip" on the bar for the first time. Rather than grabbing the bar with the palms of your hands, you "hook" your fingers around it. 

With this grip, you are less likely to work the bar with your biceps or forearms. Instead, you are intentionally and consciously trying to work it with your lats. Remember, it's not just what pulldown movement you do, it's how you do it that matters the most. 

Finally, as everyone knows, the pullup is the classic upper body exercise you can do to build a bigger back and wider lats. That said, there are different ways of doing a pullup and these differences concern what your legs are doing during the movement. The pullup can be done in three ways: with your legs straight but slightly in front of your body, with your knees bent behind your body, and with your knees in front of your body. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. The best option is the first one. It allows you to do the most important thing when it comes to pullups, and that is to plug the energy leaks that are caused by swinging on the bar. However, if you want to get a great prestretch on the lats, you can rotate your pelvis posteriorly and then place your knees up in front of your body. 

Here you can literally feel the difference in how your lats are stretched. If you have never felt this, try it yourself. The downside of course is that this position requires a lot of ab strength, which I don't really have. This means it's best for me to stick with the proven means of performing a pullup, and that is by creating a rigid body through contracting your calves and pointing your toes down as hard and as far as possible. 

Regardless of how you might tweak or vary your exercises, all beginner workouts should have at least one thing in common and that is a focus on learning the basics while paying careful attention to your form while performing the exercises. There is no point in trying to do strength building on a faulty foundation. Learn how to control your body in space and master the basic movement patterns before you even think about tweaking your exercises.