With the proper understand of the human body and exercise in general, the ways to train yourself are limited only by common sense and your own imagination. And following suit, I’m sure that you have heard all kinds of opinions and theories about not only how to train but what you should be doing.
The following technique isn’t so much about what you should be doing, but what you can do to really get the most out of any range of motion that you are doing. However, it is physically exhausting and should only be done on occasion to make sure that your muscles get plenty of rest.
The following lifting technique is known as “21s“. The name itself has to do with the number of repetitions that you will be performing per set, but it is a little more complicated than doing 21 reps. While I have gone over focusing on the negative portion of a movement, this technique has to do mainly with the positive portion.
It involves splitting the exercise of your choice into two halves. Do the first half of the movement seven times, then the second half of the movement seven times, and finally the entire movement seven times to finish out one set. Let me explain it in terms of a specific exercise.
Tricep Pulley Pushdowns
It doesn’t matter which attachment you are using for this exercise (rope, straight bar, EZ curl) just make sure to check your form. First of all make sure that you are keeping your elbows locked at your sides, the only parts of your that should be moving are your forearms and possibly your wrists depending on the attachment.
– First 7
Start off by keeping your hands at the top of the motion, your hands shouldn’t go above your nipples, doing so will take the emphasis off your muscles and force you to incorporate momentum. Lower your hands until your forearms are parallel to the ground, that’s all the further you should be going for your first seven reps. These seven will work as a warm-up and pre-exhaust before you have to go into full contraction.
– Second 7
As you finish your first set of seven, your arms being parallel to the ground will be the new top of your moment. Extend your arms to full extension and raise back to parallel, this will force a constant contraction in your muscle throughout these seven reps.
– Final 7
Your final seven reps are full movements starting at your nipples and going to full extension. At this point your muscles will be pre-exhausted and you will be incorporating the most out of all of your muscles fibers. You will not be able to use your standard weight on this movement, so make sure that you take into account the fatigue factor.
Do reps in this fashion will ensure that you are getting the most out of your range of motion. To make it even more difficult and beneficially, slow down the negative on each rep to really get the most out of your time and effort. Just make sure to leave your ego at the door, because you aren’t going to throwing around the big weights 21 times without sacrificing form.
This type of training can be done on any exercise you choose. Just make sure that you have thought out ahead of time how you will dividing up each movement. Depending on what you are doing, especially freeweights, you will probably want to utilize a spotter to make sure you keep your form and maintain your safety as you hit muscle failure.
It’s a great feeling when you know that you are getting stronger. Stepping into the gym, grabbing your weight and pushing yourself for even a couple more reps than you have ever gotten before can be very exhilarating. It can set the tone for that day and days to come. And likewise, if you are lifting and you can’t lift as much as the last time, or your gains have stopped for an extended period of time you might feel demoralized and not want to go on. However, what if you planned to be able to do less?
Pre-exhaustion is a technique by which you will work your muscles to the point that you will not be able to move the kind of weight that you may want to, to the extent that you are actually trying to increase your own muscle mass. It sounds a bit confusing, but sometimes by pushing yourself to the point of near-exhaustion even before you really start lifting you will be able to maximize the amount of muscle tissue being worked and increase muscle growth and endurance. Here are some examples for pre-exhaust exercises.
Start by going to the leg extension machine. You goal here is to do high reps with the most weight that you can handle. This isn’t just about the weight or the reps alone, you should be pushing yourself as hard as you would for any other set to the point that you will be tired before even getting to your next station. I like to shoot for about 20 reps as heavy as I possibly can. If you don’t usually do any warm-ups make sure that you do a lighter set to start just to warm up your muscles and reduce the chance of injuries.
Follow this up with a large muscle group exercise. While extensions work on isolating your quads, you should do either squats, leg presses or hack squats in order to get the most out of your efforts.
Start at the pec deck or machine fly station. This is a great way to isolate your pec muscles as well as tiring out your front delts and biceps, which also assist in this range of motion. By exhausting your supporting muscles, your chest will have to work much harder in order to complete the lift.
Your next exercise should be either a flat, incline or decline barbell bench press in order to utilize the most weight that you can handle and put the greatest amount of force on your muscle. You can do dumbbell exercises as well, but the very nature of dumbbells keeps you from using the same amount of weight as a barbell would.
Pre-exhaust can be done with any muscle group, but often has the greatest effect on your larger muscles groups since said groups also require the support of smaller muscle groups in order to perform the exercise. These exercises should always be done with a spotter, especially since muscle failure is much more common when you have already exhausted your muscles.
Perhaps the most popular machine for the latissimus dorsi muscles is the lat pull down machine. Much like the bench press it is a staple in most if not all gyms, both home and public.
Also, one would likewise think that with such wide usage, that correct form would be a give-in. However, this machine is often one of the most, if not the most, misused machine in the gym.
Think you’re doing it right? Let’s find out.
Step one: adjust your seat.
You should adjust your seat so that the bar overhead is just out of reach in order to ensure the largest range of motion. Also, you should adjust the leg padding so that your feet can rest flat on the floor while still having a snug but not tight fitting on the top of your legs once you are in position.
Step two: pick your grip.
There is no right and wrong when it comes to the grip that you use while performing a lat pull down. The fact is that it is actually good to vary your grip (close grip, wide grip, overhand, underhand, and different attachments) so that you can work more areas of your back. You lats are very large muscles and can be worked from a lot of angles, take advantage of that fact.
Step three: lean back.
Don’t lean back to far, just a slight lean is good enough to ensure a deep pull as well as keeping your back in line. Do not lean forward! This is a very common mistake that causes you to put stress on your neck and take your spine out of alignment and is much more likely to cause shoulder and neck pain.
Step four: pull down to the top of your chest.
This is also a very common mistake. A lot of people seem to be under the impression that when pulling down you should continue until the bar is to their stomach or waist. I’m not sure why this has caught on so widely, but it is very important that you don’t do this for a couple of reasons. First of all, this causes you to use a great deal of momentum when in the process, taking the pressure off your muscles and putting them on your joints. Second of all it is putting emphasis on different muscles that shouldn’t even be involved in the process. Remember, this is a lat exercise.
Step five: Squeeze!
Do you feel this exercise in your back? You should, that’s what it is meant to work. Many people don’t and it’s because of the simple fact is that if you don’t feel your back contracting, then it isn’t really doing much of the work. The primary muscles used in this exercise are your lats and your biceps (most back exercises involve pulling with directly impact the biceps as well) so don’t feel strange if your biceps get tired, too. Regardless, you should be feeling the greatest amount of work in your back. To do this, the easiest way is to imagine that you have a pencil begin held on your spine. As you pull down the bar, squeeze your shoulder blades together as if you were trying to hold the pencil in place. This is true back contraction and is the basis for all lat exercises, without this squeeze, you are wasting your time.
Step six: raise bar to full arm extension and repeat.
Since you are simple extending your arms, you should feel safe in the knowledge that your joints aren’t locking out, so letting the bar raise all the way until you feel like you are hanging is appropriate. As your arms extend, however, make sure that your butt doesn’t raise up off the seat. Doing so will cause you to create momentum to get the bar going again. Pulling down as hard as possible and bouncing goes against everything that you should be trying to accomplish.
This is not a difficult motion, it is just misunderstood. Don’t use too much weight so that you can control the weight and make sure that you contract the right muscles and you will get a leg up on your fitness goals.