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Rules Are Sometimes Meant To Be Broken

Monday, November 15, 2010

I love rules and find contentment in knowing I am following them. I think it's the German in me. At any rate, even I believe that there are times it's beneficial to break the rules, particularly when it comes to exercise. So, as promised in my last blog, here are some general rules of weight lifting and why I like to break them sometimes.

Rule: Work specific body parts together. (Back with biceps, Chest with shoulders and delts, etc)

When you work the bigger muscle groups (Quads, Hams, Chest, and Back), the smaller muscle groups assist you in the motion. So, it stands to reason that working the Quads and Hamstrings with the Calves and Abs is a wise idea (calves get pulled into most thigh exercises, and abs are used to stabilize heavily on them, as well). Similarly, the "pushing" motion of chest exercises engages the triceps and shoulders, and the "pulling" motion of back exercises engages the biceps, so working those muscle groups together can thoroughly exhaust the smaller muscle groups and require less exercises to finish them off, therefore saving time. This rule of thumb is terrific, but sometimes you may want to break the body parts up differently based on your goals and objectives.

For instance, I am always working to thicken my shoulders, which are naturally very slight, so I keep my shoulders as far away in my weekly split as possible from chest day (shoulders are now Monday and Friday with my thighs, and chest is Wednesday). This not only gives me two days to work shoulders (most of my body parts get hit once a week), but it also give them a "mini" workout between my two "big" shoulder days, with ample time to recover between all of them.

Rule:Work the big body parts first, then work the smaller ones.

For instance, when working the chest and triceps, always work the chest first. The reasoning here is that if you work the triceps first, they will be too tired to fully assist in your chest and you won't get as good a chest workout. Breaking this rule makes sense when the assisting muscle is the one that you want to build up more than the bigger muscle group. So if you are someone with underdeveloped triceps but your chest is coming along pretty good, I'd advise working triceps first, while they are fresh, to get maximum muscle stimulation in them.

I did something similar this morning: Generally it is advised to work quadriceps before hamstrings, but I hit hamstrings first so that they could give lift the most weight with the best form possible on an exercise isolating them away from quads (hyperextensions). I couldn't have given the effort I did on hyperextensions had I done the hack squats and plie squats that came later on in the workout first.

Rule:Work each body part at least 2 times per week.

For a beginner, this is a fine rule. But once you start really pushing your muscles this one doesn't work out very well for a couple of reasons: The first one is that its hard to find time to work every muscle group to the point where it will reach peak growth twice a week. The second reason is that often, after a grueling workout session, it takes a full week to recover the muscle group enough to hammer it again.

The fact is that most body builders and figure gals work most body parts once a week. This is proof that you can achieve muscle growth by breaking the minimum-twice-weekly rule. Like I mentioned above, my thighs and shoulders get hit twice a week, but everything else just once.

There are more, but this blog is long enough............

It might be worth noting that my weight lifting partner, the most muscular man I have ever known personally, breaks just about all of these rules routinely. He works legs together, but chest, back, and shoulders each get their own day. Abs get tossed in at will, and he does arms by themselves. When he works his arms, he usually works biceps (the smaller muscle group) before triceps. (And his horseshoe is the size of a Clydesdale's!) He never warms up with cardio (another weight lifting "rule") and he frequently goes more than a week between body parts, since they are broken down into just one or two muscle groups for each workout session (However, I have never seen him do less than 5 exercises per body part, and multiple sets per exercise). He might work his legs every two weeks, and they are the size of tree trunks! He spends a majority of time on his chest and shoulders and (this makes me nutz!), he has virtually no weight lifting schedule. I'm walking around with my training notebook that has my pre-planned routine, and he struts into the gym and says "I think I'll work back today!". He's doesn't care about the rules because he's been doing this long enough that he knows what works for him.

The point of this blog is this: When you hear a rule or general guideline for exercise, ask yourself if it is conducive to your own goals and objectives for exercise. As long as it does not compromise your safety, you may find you need to adjust accordingly. And sometimes it's nice to change the rules simply to break the monotony and keep things interesting. Even my lifting partner will take a routine out of Flex magazine and do it for several weeks, just to change things up.

Any other rules you've heard that you'd like me to address in this blog? Please ask- I'm sure I'll have something to say about it. :-D
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    You are SOOOOOOOOOOO helpful and explanatory! Many, many thanks!
    2759 days ago
  • AKMAMA08
    Great blog! I like to break the rules too...shhh!
    Sounds like my bodybuilder friend. He's the biggest guy in the gym, probably in town too. He pokes fun at me and my notebook! I don't know what I would do without it. I'm a list girl. I like to track and see progress in writing to reflect on and smile when I see my gains. Those darn men! I'm very thankful for him when I need a spotter though. =) I'm glad you have someone to break the rules with and be living proof that it's okay!
    2771 days ago
  • AMC120
    Great blog, as always!!

    Thanks NancyAnne!!!
    2771 days ago
  • CICI510
    Thank you so much for this blog! There are a few things that I have wondered about and you've cleared them up for me a bit.

    Is there any way you can help me with my fear of weight training? I'm not sure what is holding me back but I have been catching myself making excuses for weight training. I think its because I've never seriously trained before and am scared of looking stupid because I don't know what to do. I've been going on trying to find workouts for beginners and am just overwhelmed as well. Do you have any advice for me?
    2772 days ago
    Some of this really sounds good. Like the part of working arms...I want to increase my triceps more than my chest so of course I do them first. Thanks for the validation.
    2773 days ago
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