This week’s “chronicles of average Joe” covers a frequently discussed topic among the fitness world, especially amongst newbies chasing mountains of muscle!
Client: So I am desperate to get my bench press up to 100kg because I want a really good chest, any tips?
AG: That is a contradiction in itself, a big bench doesn’t mean a big chest and vice versa. Both can and do co-exist well together however if you want to look good focus on form, not weight.
Client: What do you mean?
AG: It is quite simple; to develop any muscle (not just chest) you need to be able to perform properly with the weight you are using. Just because you were successful in moving a weight from A to B doesn’t mean the muscles were utilised as effectively as you might have done.
Client: I am confused; I thought big weight equals size?
AG: I think guys with big size generally lift big weights, there is a difference – yet to get to where they are today they trained smart. Yes, heavy weight is important but form is key.
Client: OK, go on. . .
AG: To force the body into a state of muscular hypertrophy (there are two forms, which is for another day) you must be able to use your weight training as a tool to excite high threshold motor units. Once you do this you are able to recruit tenfold the number of muscle fibres in any given muscle group you happen to be training. The more muscle fibres you recruit the stronger and more developed a muscle should ultimately become.
Client: I see, so if I am not trying to get stronger all the time what am I aiming to do?
AG: Contract the target muscle through every phase of the repetition. That means the concentric contraction (the lifting part), the isometric contraction (the pause) and the eccentric contraction (the negative). By keeping the muscle engaged through each range of motion you are going to maximise large motor unit and muscle fibre recruitment.
Client: Will this also help me get stronger?
AG: Almost certainly, especially with lower repetition ranges where you stimulate myofibrillar hypertrophy!
Client: Myo what?
AG: Like I said, another topic for another day – let’s just have you focussing on the form and repetition tempo for now. Forget the weight, that will increase with time. Use an explosive concentric muscle contraction, pause for 2 seconds (squeeze the target muscles hard) and use a 4 second eccentric contraction.
Let’s see how you go with this for now!