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Weight Training Truths
Don Lemmon's Truth About Exercise

Article care of Don Lemmon

This article may sound like it is only for bodybuilders, but if you do not apply these principles, you will fail at any level. The difference between bodybuilders and the average Joe is simply the amount of weight that can be handled and the desire to go a step further. All levels must take heed to these following words.

Rather than elaborate on what I regard as "better" and "best" for each of you, I'd rather that you made up your own minds. Plus, some equipment may simply just not be available to you. All you must do to decide whether a program is appropriate, and judge it against the seven laws of weight training.

The Law of Individual Differences: We all have different abilities and weaknesses, limb lengths and disabilities, and we all respond differently (to a degree) to any given system of training. These differences should be taken into consideration when designing your own training program.

The Overcompensation Principle: Mother Nature overcompensates for training stress by giving you bigger and stronger muscles.

The Overload Principle: To overcompensate, you must stress your muscles beyond what they're already used to. Push yourself to positive failure until you truly know the difference in positive and negative failure.

The SAID Principle: The acronym for "Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands."

The Use/Disuse Principle: "Use it or lose it" means that your muscles hypertrophy with use and atrophy with disuse. The GAS Principle: The acronym for General Adaptation Syndrome, this law states that there must be a period of low intensity training or complete rest following periods of high intensity training. That means sometimes you need "complete rest" just sitting around on off days or using a lot lighter weight between high intensity sessions. The Specificity Principle: You'll get stronger at squats by doing squats as opposed to leg presses, and you'll get greater endurance for the marathon by running long distances than you will by cycling long distances. 1. Train With A High Level Of Intensity (usually). Intensity relates to the degree of the "inroads"--or amount of fatigue--you've made into your muscle at any given instant. In the weight room, a high level of intensity is characterized by performing an exercise to the point of concentric muscular failure: when you've exhausted your muscles to the extent that you literally cannot raise the weight for any more repetitions. Failure to reach a desirable level of intensity--or muscular fatigue--will result in little or no gains in functional strength or muscular size. After reaching concentric muscular failure, you can increase the intensity even further by performing 3 to 5 additional post-fatigue repetitions. These post-fatigue reps may be either negatives or regressions and will allow you to overload your muscles even further. But this is not necessary in 90% of all cases. There is no question that going to failure can constitute a more "intense" workout. But, in the real world -- in the gym -- intensity is so much more than that. Webster defines intensity as having or showing the characteristic of strength, force, and straining to a maximum degree. The words intense and intent both have the same Latin root, intendere "to stretch out." If one is intent on doing something, he does so, by definition, with strained or eager attention -- with concentration! That intensity of effort is largely a function of the mind. We don't "stretch" a set out. Our "Intensity" is increased by:

getting "psyched"
a burning passion, this is your LIFE
adding reps
adding weight
decreasing rest between reps
decreasing rest between sets
increasing the number of exercises per body part
increasing the speed of movement
increasing the amount of work done
increasing the amount of eccentric work

The GAS Principle, states that there must be a period of low intensity training or complete rest following periods of high intensity training. Do not go to failure all the time! Of course you can't go to failure running (you merely run further or a little harder). But you can reach failure whenever you lift weights. As for the GAS Principle, that "period of low intensity" is when you are on your off days and are resting. The GAS principle is fulfilled whenever you end your workout and rest. Would you consider lying down after a workout a "period of low-intensity to complement high-intensity training?" Of course you would!

2. Attempt To Increase The Resistance Used Or The Repetitions Performed Every Workout. Virtually every time you work out you should attempt to increase either the weight you use or the repetitions you perform in relation to your previous workout. Challenging your muscles in this manner will force them to adapt to the imposed demands (or stress). Sometimes, lighter weights done rapidly is required. And sometimes heavier weights done for lower reps is required. (But if your training regularly requires that you go to failure with a weight that's so heavy you can only do a few reps, you are BEGGING for a MAJOR injury!) Alternating periods of high versus low intensity is the best way to go. If you wait until total recovery is accomplished in any given muscle, hypertrophy will be in place. You will have grown.

Why are lighter weights done rapidly required? Flushing waste, increasing circulation, heals tissues. But fast doesn't mean speedy. It's a second or so faster than the typical 4 to 5 second reps. Problem Number One with beginners. Explosive lifting (hoisting and jerk, quick popping movements used to force a weight to move) has a massive possibility of hurting and over-training you.

3. Perform 1 To 3 Sets Of Each Exercise. There IS a significant improvement in gains with three sets as opposed to one. Other studies have shown the same results. But the first set is always a "warm-up" and characterized as so due to the amount of weight used on the second set. A third set may be necessary in advanced trainees. Read on. Nowadays, many athletes (bodybuilders included) do as many as 10 or more sets per muscle. That's a bit much. People with more white, fast-twitch muscles require fewer reps, sets and workouts per week than people with predominantly red, slow-twitch muscles.

You can determine which you are by consulting with a qualified and certified and educated trainer. I may be able to help you find one no matter the locale. Realize if you do more than one set an exercise, YOU SHOULDN'T REACH FAILURE ON THAT FIRST SET! If you don't reach failure then yes, you do need to make a better inroad and get a higher intensity with more sets. But why bother? Just do the one set to failure and you won't have to spend all that wasted time like the beginners do. In many cases as strength increases, you do internally need the added preparation of an extra set. This is why we do the 80% of a one rep max test per muscle group. It determines the rep ranges that best suit your needs to recover 'on schedule' so to speak. If that is possible. Continue.

4. Reach Concentric Muscular Failure Within A Prescribed Number Of Repetitions. Repetition ranges differ from body part to body part. In the course of training hundreds of people, both athletic and not, over the past twelve years, these are the ranges I generally assign: 16 to 20 (hip exercises), 12 to 16 (leg exercises) and 8 to 12 (upper body exercises). Not everyone responds the same to any given rep/set scheme. But most people can do quite well with that.

5. Perform Each Repetition With Proper Technique. Again, no swinging, yanking, banging, etc. A quality rep is performed by raising and lowering the weight in a deliberate, controlled manner. Lifting a weight in a rapid, explosive fashion is ill-advised for two reasons: (1) it exposes your muscles, joint structures and connective tissue to potentially dangerous forces which increase the likelihood of an injury and (2) it introduces momentum into the movement which makes the exercise less productive and less efficient. Lifting a weight in about 3 to 4 seconds will guarantee that you're lifting in a safe, efficient manner. You should then control the rep and slow down the return and take about 4 to 5 seconds to lower/release the weight back to the starting position.

MOST reps are well performed in the manner described above. However, slow, deliberate movements are nowhere NEAR as effective for forcing an adaptive response in connective tissues as are more explosive (and yes, often "ballistic") movements as with power lifters. Deinhibition of the Golgi tendon organ's protective feedback loop can be moved back far more effectively with controlled ballistic movements than with slow, deliberate movements. But you can't do this a lot, and unless you're a competitive power lifter, I wouldn't do it at all. Like a boxer. You've seen what happens to them (all those punches, sure they get tougher, but-). Think of it this way. If you bashed your head every day with a shovel, you'd get a better chance of being able to withstand a bash to the head with a shovel, but every time you did it you'd be exposing yourself to danger and some sort of damage, wouldn't you agree?!

6. Strength Train For No More Than One Hour Per Workout. If you are training with a high level of intensity--and you should--you literally cannot exercise for a long period of time. ...Besides, you should be training with a minimal amount of recovery time between exercises to elicit a metabolic conditioning effect. This boils down to performing your sets one every two or three minutes, not every 5 or 6. You want to regain composure, but not cool down. YET People are DIFFERENT! It takes every individual a different amount of time to perform another set. While people are different, muscles are pretty close to being the same. Yes, some people have more Type I fibers than Type II and so on, but muscles are really close to the same. We are able to generalize, but a man listens to his own body.

7. Emphasize The Major Muscle Groups. Have we lost sight of training weaknesses first?

8. Whenever Possible, Work Your Muscles From Largest To Smallest. Right now, I am watching TV while typing on my computer. I am not "focusing" on the TV, but I can still watch it. I am not working biceps but I am doing underhand rowing. "Focusing" on muscles and "not working them at all" are two different things. How can you complete a bench press if your triceps are already wasted? How can you do squats if your low back is already gone? This is different than doing it intentionally to pick up a lagging body part. You need to think about the "weak link" as well as strengthening your weaknesses if you want an honest training schedule.

9. Strength Train 2 To 3 Times Per Week On Nonconsecutive Days. Sometimes 48-72 hours is sufficient, and sometimes it's not. Depending upon the muscle involved it may be less or it may be more. Remember: Big muscles take longer to recover than smaller ones Fast twitch muscles (your "explosive" muscles) take longer to recover than slow twitch muscle fibers ("endurance" muscles); Guys recover faster than girls; You recover faster from slow movements than from fast movements; You recover faster from low intensity training than from high intensity training. The older you get, the longer it takes to recover The main reason 48 to 72 hours between sessions was delegated was just to get people to slow down and not train every day.

And don't forget about replenishing carbohydrate stores, beginning within the first 2 or 3 hours! A period of 48 hours is also required to replenish the depleted carbohydrate (or glycogen) stores and really almost 46 hours were always needed to reach pre-exercise glycogen levels -using a carbohydrate enriched diet or not but without physical activity. BUT, many athletes often train twice a day! The Russian athletes do, the Bulgarian weightlifters train 3-6 times a day! THEY USE STEROIDS! Wake UP!

If you trained twice a day naturally you would definitely need to incorporate light days and heavy days or you wouldn't be able to make progress as expected on such a routine. Solution: Don't work out twice a day. Work out up to 3 days a week at high intensity and cycle in low intensity. Then you don't have to bother with drugs and worry and science!

10. Keep Accurate Records Of Your Performance. Records are a log of what you've accomplished during each and every session. Record keeping can be an extremely valuable tool to monitor progress and make your workouts more meaningful. It can also be used to identify exercises in which a plateau has been reached. It allows you to know when to FORCE PROGRESS THEN REST IF YOU HIT A PLATEAU. "If you were too exhausted to crawl--which was sometimes the case--you were physically grabbed and dragged to the next exercise." That was Arthur Jones' opinion of an acceptable level of intensity and forcing progress. It seems extreme but you get the point. Here's another. "Have you ever vomited as a result of doing one set of [biceps] curls? If not, then you simply don't know what hard work is."

Why write this report?

Almost every day I get some of the craziest emails from people making their personal claims. I laugh for long periods at times. It's true. It's what I do these days. Sit around and shake my head laughing. It's interesting though because I am getting a cross-sectional understanding of what's going on and it's perhaps a bit more in-depth than most perspectives. How many people do you know who get and answer 300 emails a day? It's also enlightening because I get a chuckle, I learn things, and yet become frustrated because I am constantly obliged to help so many people UN-learn things. I love to help. Don't mind being challenged. But am saddened by the misconceptions people follow sometimes to their graves.

Most of what you believe comes from writers under a lot of pressure to come up with unique stories each month for their magazines. No one wants to read the same story twice they figure. So even though there is one way to train your muscles -- lift some damned weight -- you will see a different story line surrounding a "multi angled attack" on a new muscle group one month and the next another off the wall description of 5 new exercises for the same muscle when once again -- all any muscle does is move in its own natural plane! For instance, the biceps span a hinge joint. The elbow is capable only of flexion and extension. Regardless of starting position or direction of movement, only unidirectional flexion is taking place in the elbow joint. There is no way of "attacking" the biceps from many different angles, as though it were some sort of an invading organism being attacked by macrophages. You can, however, train the individual portions of the muscle. BI means two. But like with the upper back, which is typically recognized as the traps, rhomboids and lats. No one exercise is actually 'hitting' all three BUT in some cases, you come real close. You don't need 3 exercises all the time to meet your needs. You pick movements that focus more directly on the weak regions and the rest will receive it's jurisdiction of benefit.

Look folks, Your muscles all have origins and insertions. Usually, you'll force the muscle to contract against a greater-than-normal resistance in such a way that the insertion is obliged to move toward the origin. The force is transmitted through the belly of the muscle. That's what'll make it grow bigger and stronger. Exercising it from too many angles other than one will cause NEGATIVE forces to micro-traumatize the muscle. This is a practice which invariably leads to over-training. By physically applying enough shearing or tensile force on the tissue you could cause it to rupture -- you can cause tissue destruction. NOT tissue growth. The post-exercise muscle soreness you feel the next day comes from hydroxyproline and this is a sign of too friggin' much exercise. Many think differently. Many hold advanced degrees, have written books, articles, and experienced some degree of success weight lifting. So who knows best? Some of the debates I have been dragged into, some of the things said to stake claim, I felt like a little kid going home and telling my friends things like, "That's what he said. I swear." I have kicked many folk out of my office thinking they were intentionally looking to push my buttons as they almost were. I've been in gyms long enough to know practically every piece of equipment to hit the scene. Arthur Jones and the King of Equipment with a cam, Nautilus, through his marketing genius gave the industry a rebirth in many ways. Body Masters, Cybex, Icarion and the slew of manufacturers out there all copied him, but not so effectively. Really, still the most incredible technology to hit the scene came in the early 1900s with Milo's invention of the adjustable dumbbell and barbell. But Arthur was the first, the best and still has legions of jealous attackers waiting in line to spit.

But the newest of machines touted since Jones' are not often made by true biomechanics experts with doctorates in their profession, or years of training and wisdom under their belts, no matter what they tell you. Fred Hatfield's Sport Strength has some innovative machines, but the competition is growing thick and yet thin altogether. Machines these days aren't made by experts but by engineers, welders and marketers. Many manufacturers do, however, keep an exercise physiologist on staff. Usually, they're fresh out of school, wet behind the ears, with very little in-the-trench experience, and even less experience in designing equipment that's original or bio-mechanically correct. Who really does? I like Nautilus and Hammer Strength and LOVE Med-x (Also by Jones and probably the best equipment EVER). It's medical exercise. Cybex has tried to mimic it so hard they sweat blood. Sorry Cybex fans). Hammer is not cam equipment but big bulky stuff that looks designed for athletes only so it's not found in as many user friendly facilities as Nautilus. Hammer's inventor was Arthur Jones. His son now runs the company. The point is that Hammer, like Nautilus (Arthur's first contribution to the world of weights), is frequently touted as the equipment of choice these days. I like BOTH companies' equipment A LOT. In fact, each has unique merits that other companies merely attempt to mimic, as do many other manufacturers. When I was bodybuilding, I used Hammer's bicep, seated row, rear pulldown, rear delt, and upright chest press exclusively. My hamstrings were trained on a Cybex seated ham, leg extensions on Nautilus, Flex offered a leg press and seated calf and nautilus again had peck deck and side delts. I threw in my barbell work with presses and dumbbell lunges, BUT, this doesn't ensure "how best to train" at all for everyone.

And some of you just might not have access to this stuff. Any other equipment though, I take with a grain of salt. Little impresses me after using the best. Use what you have access to, BUT think about it. By forcing you to follow a given track on any given machine, isn't the manufacturer "instructing" you that this is the correct form for that exercise? Why else would he have made the machine in that particular configuration? Trust me, it's generally because everyone else did it before him and he still is off track because he had to make it different so you didn't think he "copied."

Or he thinks he probably truly thinks he is pretty well on track. Is he really? Nope, and thinking one form of machinery is going to benefit you from the get go any more than another is a complete fallacy as well. When you are a beginner, just exercise. Do anything. Use my guidelines but don't play scientist until you earn the right to. Be patient.

To be honest with you, the last time I trained on Hammer strength equipment, my biceps didn't know it was Hammer's stuff. I just liked it. The last time I did pushdowns, my triceps didn't know I wasn't using the usual set of pulleys. I was bored in that corner of the gym so I used another machine. A leg press is most usually a leg press. Trust me, your muscles can't really tell one machine from another unless the machine is poorly constructed, and then your joints will pay the price. THAT is my POINT.

Well, there is no doubt some of you will go back to your social clubs after this and drink your sugar waters and remain content in your current beliefs. That's fine with me. I will still try to enlighten those of you who will listen. In closing, consider this as another form of myth creation. Some guy comes to your gym and looks absolutely GREAT. You ask him how he did it. The epitome of power that he is tries to sound as though he is certain he knows the answer; telling you to eat the same food everyday no matter what it tastes like or how bored you get, never work specific muscle groups together on the same day and train only at 9 p.m. on days coinciding with the moon's patterns, etc., and WAL LAH. The myth is born. The next thing you know, you are telling everyone what Moses, the God who was here the other day told you and everybody tries it and fails because he forgot to tell you where and how much drugs to buy or that he hasn't made any real progress in years. He probably also forgot to tell you he makes barely any progress and it's taken him FROM DAY ONE to get there. Or maybe he did. But is this really worthy advice? Here's worthy advice. TODAY is Day One. Get to work.

Don Lemmon's Nutritional and Exercise Know How

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