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Getting More With Less

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Back to the "training economy" line of thinking, I'd like to talk about maximizing returns in the strength training department. Simply put, if you're doing bicep curls, tricep kickbacks, ab exercises and other isolation moves and you're not benching, squatting and deadlifting, you're doing it wrong. Or to put it delicately, your training economy can be dramatically improved.

Strength training moves are generally lumped into two categories. Compound and isolation.

A favorite isolation move is the bicep curl. The bicep curl isolates the bicep and recruits little else. Ab work isolates the abdominals and some go so far as to isolate portions of the abs (not even sure those claims are based on reality). Inefficient and for someone who has gone past the beginner phase, ineffective (I've been there).

Compound moves recruit far more muscles of varying groups. For example, where a tricep kickback targets the triceps, a bench press will work your pecs, triceps, deltoids, with your biceps acting as a dynamic stabilizer. If you use the proper leg drive you'll engage your quads and calves and abs will stabilize your lower half.

Isolation moves have recently been more aptly called "accessory movements". Accessory movements accessorize the larger lifts to correct imbalances that form in folks that have advanced past the beginner stage. Since many muscles and muscle groups are involved during compound movements, as you progress, it is very likely that you'll "stall". This means that as you're adding weight to the bar and/or increasing reps, you'll get stuck at a particular weight/rep. A little common troubleshooting usually isolates the muscle that is failing. At that point, it may benefit you to target that muscle in isolation in addition to larger lifts.

To do a workout that is comprised solely of isolation or accessory movements is inefficient.

Here is the catch though, less does not mean less effort. It means less time. When properly loaded and performed, squats and deadlifts will sufficiently tax your muscles and central nervous system. It will stimulate growth. Barbell training is for boys and girls.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Thanks for the info! I've been pressing my trainer to let me start with bench press each week so I can try to make progress. And 1 rep at a higher weight is still progress.
    2038 days ago
    Given the state of my knees and back, I'm afraid to do squats and deadlifts, but I have decided to drop back to three machine exercises. I hope it keeps working.

    It's real easy to do just a few exercises, but as you say, it does leave you sort of shaky.
    2038 days ago
    Ya, lifting high weight low reps can be hard dang work. On Monday my glutes and hamstrings were still feeling the box deadlifts I did on Saturday...

    2038 days ago
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