Bearded Beast of Duloc
Join Date: Jul 2009
Training Exp: 20+ years
Training Type: Powerbuilding
Fav Exercise: Deadlift
Fav Supp: Butter
The vast majority of training books on the shelves today aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. I’ve read every one of the above books several times and can assure you that every one of them is worth the cost. If you have some free money and want to educate yourself about weight training don’t spend your money on crap …give it to the people who are actually honest enough to deserve it – go with something from the above list. They’re the wheat hidden amongst the chaff. If you don’t know where to get them you can try Amazon or Ironman Books. Also, Bill Hinbern’s Super Strength Books contains some real gems and classic reprints from the pre-drug era.
Another thing: Be very leery of people on internet discussion boards who post under fake names and use pro-bodybuilders or cartoons as their avatar photos. I’ve been surfing the “web” since before you could even call it that – before html, before Internet Explorer, before even Mosaic (if anyone can remember that), way back in the “Gopher” days of the early 1990s – and there’s one thing I can tell you for sure: If someone on an internet discussion board who calls himself “buff-, flex-, doctor-, professor-, extreme-, huge-, etc” and uses a fake photo in his profile gives you advice or makes claims, remember one thing – he’s probably weaker and fatter than you. I haven’t met a legitimate bodybuilder yet (or anybody else with a good physique) who was afraid to tell you his name or show you his photo (though you’ve got a better chance of getting written into their wills than getting most of their real measurements). And having made 1000 posts doesn’t automatically qualify you as an expert either. You’d probably be very surprised if you seen some of these “internet experts”. Why do you think they won’t show their photos or tell their real names? Because nobody would take them seriously if they did.
Many of the internet web pages dealing with weight training are simply plagiarized (read: unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author) from other websites. For some psychological reason, the guys who run these sites like to be thought of as authorities on the subject so they copy (sometimes blatantly) articles from other websites, magazines, etc, re-write them in their own words (sometimes just barely) and present them as their own. I’ve had several “problems” in the past where people have plagiarized my material and can even think of a site which, as of this writing, is hosting a “guide to training” which is essentially a re-write of this article and others from this site. All this begs the question, if these guys are qualified to write training advice then why do they copy material from somewhere else? Can you trust their judgement about what they choose to copy on any given day? Do they know what they’re talking about, or are they just jumping on the bandwagon after some article caught their attention (which is how most fitness fads spread)? The fitness industry is full of enough crap as it is, without these nuts adding to it. And just because somebody calls themself a “Personal Trainer” it doesn’t mean they have a clue what they’re talking about either. Most personal trainers’ credentials come from a weekend seminar which they attended – they learned that “Chest Presses” are for the pecs and “Leg Presses” are for the quads, they probably even learned some nutrition bullshit like “good” fats and “bad” fats. I actually had a Certified Personal Trainer say to me once, “Yeah, I worked out for three weeks consecutively two summers ago. You can really get bitten by that iron bug.” No shit.
Moral of the story: Be very careful whose advice you take seriously. Your training success (or failure) may depend on it.
I know very well that by taking this stance I’ve “outlawed” myself from ever making money by writing for the mainstream publications and I’ve also offended a lot of the so-called “experts” on the internet discussion boards. But, guess what? I don’t care. I’m sick of bullshit, and I won’t play the game and be brainwashed by people who don’t know a fraction of what I do about training and nutrition. If you sense that as arrogance and don’t like my attitude then I don’t care either – leave my site and read some bullshit elsewhere that you find more pleasant. I couldn’t care less who likes me, doesn’t like me, approves or disapproves of anything I say here. But remember this: I’ve been there, got the T-shirt, learned the hard way and I’m here to help. Hey, I could be paid for writing bullshit …but I don’t.
By the way, you may have noticed that this article is rather long. Why didn’t I break it across 7-8 web pages so you’d have to keep clicking “next” to go on to the next page? Because websites only do that so everytime you bring up a new page you see a new commercial ad.
Rule #2: Avoid Exercise Machines
Animal life on Earth began over 345 million years ago (some estimates are as long as 400 million years ago). Since that time all living creatures have been doing one thing: lifting their body weights and free weight objects against the force of gravity. That is what our bodies are designed for and have evolved to do. I don’t care how knowledgeable some machine designers are, they’ll never design a better machine for our bodies than what evolution has dictated. It never ceases to amaze me how some exercise machine designers and devotees vehemently insist on the superior “design” of some machines over free weights. Apparently, they aren’t familiar with Darwin (not to mention their inferior results).
Machine manufacturers try to convince you with all kinds of so-called “scientific” arguments why the machines are better. They typically use misapplied logic and inadequate knowledge of muscle physiology to argue that machines better stress the muscles over a fuller range of motion – the contention being that the non-variable linear loading of free-weight exercises is inferior to the purposely tailored resistance curves of some exercise machines. What they fail to acknowledge, however, is that at the ends of the range of motion (the stretched and contracted positions) muscle fibers are capable of exerting only a fraction of the force that they can generate over the mid-range anyway (although demonstratable strength will vary because of mechanical leverage) – there isn’t much, if any, of an additional growth effect to be produced by stressing the muscles at those positions. In fact, one could argue that, theoretically, providing “tailored” resistance over the entire range of motion would likely serve to decrease the overall growth stimulus because it unnecessarily fatigues the fibers in more “ineffective” states of elongation so that they cannot produce maximum force over the mid-range, where the maximum growth stimulus can actually be delivered (the old-timers would refer to this as the basic, free-weight exercises training the “belly” of the muscle). Not to mention the increased anabolic hormone release in response to intense training on the free-weight, compound exercises. Now, some would argue that the elevated hormone release is inconsequential. Well then why did evolution (or God, if you’re a believer) see that it happens? I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that the exercises long revered as the most productive (i.e. Squats, Deadlifts, various Presses and Rows) are also the ones that spike testosterone and growth hormone the most.
To my knowledge, despite the equipment industry’s heavy promotion, there hasn’t been a single peer-reviewed scientific study published in the past 50 years that confirms exercise machines’ effectiveness over free-weights. In fact, any studies you do turn up (if you can find any unbiased results that weren’t produced by the machine manufacturers themselves) will imply the opposite. It seems that the very act of lifting an unguided (i.e. “free”) weight recruits more muscle fibers than performing the same movement on a guided machine (even bodyweight Pull-Ups have been shown in MRI analyses to intensely recruit more muscle fibers than Pull-downs with a cable.) Perhaps that helps explain why there hasn’t been a drug-free bodybuilding champion in history who trained predominantly with machines. Even Arthur Jones’ (inventor of the Nautilus line of exercise machines) proteges either didn’t initially build their muscle using his machines or they used free-weights and higher volume routines behind his back (for example, Sergio Oliva, Casey Viator and Boyer Coe).
But to keep this plain and simple, I have one reason for you right now as to why most of your training should be done with free-weights (and it has nothing to do with lab coats and test tubes): If you spend your time on exercise machines you will limit your progress as compared to if you lifted free-weights. I spent YEARS wasting my time – and so have countless others. Don’t become one of those people who hits yourself on the head a little (or long) ways down the road and says, “Why didn’t I do the free-weights in the first place? Look at the time I’ve wasted!”
What makes the machines so appealing, along with all the “scientific” sounding bullshit, is that they are easy to learn to use, and comfortable when you do use them. But ease and comfort are NOT what builds muscle. And what good is something being easy to learn if it’s not worth learning in the first place? The free weight movements will take longer for you to learn but you will be more than rewarded when you do. If you don’t believe me then feel free to waste your time.
Earlier I mentioned that fitness is a multi-billion dollar industry. Do you know how much those machines cost? You’d be amazed. We’re talking sometimes over a thousand dollars for each unit. Arthur Jones became a multi-millionaire (listed by Forbes as one of the country’s richest people) because he invented the Nautilus line of exercise machines back in the late-1960s/early-1970s. He used “scientific” principles to hype the bejesus out of those things and they were bought all around the world. Nautilus gyms were everywhere. Their memberships were huge. The philosphy was “get people in, get people out”, as was conveniently supported by Jones’ recommended style of brief, infrequent training. And the gym owners were satisfied because the machines were difficult to steal (free-weight theft is often a problem in city gyms). The industry thrives on machine use because the average person doesn’t have the money or space to equip a home gym with them, making gym memberships a necessity if they can convince you that free weights are “old-fashioned” or dangerous or inferior. The bodybuilding magazines push this as well because they are either “sponsored” by exercise machine manufacturers or they have a vested interest themselves (the even more profitable supplement industry operates much the same way). Trust me. It’s bullshit. Don’t be a sucker.
After having said all that, I’m going to seemingly contradict myself a little and add that some machines actually can have their place in productive training routines. No, I’m not dogmatically set in an “anti-machine” stance (or any other for that matter). Not all machines are created equal and some, such as the old Nautilus 4-way neck machine, can be quite useful. (Something similar can be said about some cable exercises.) Beginners, however, having little experience and without expert guidance, have no way of assessing a particular machine’s worth (and most are practically useless); so the safer route is to just avoid them until you’re advanced enough to make your own judgements or find someone who really knows his stuff to advise you (which is unlikely in today’s gyms). Intermediate and advanced trainees (as well as beginners) will learn through experience that for the greatest and fastest general muscle mass gains free-weights are superior anyway. So, unless you’re very advanced, rehabilitating an injury, or are using anabolic drugs, put exercise machines way down on your priority list.
Vince Gironda and Reg Park, who both had over 50 years training experience with everyone from the kid down the street to Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia had this to say on the subject of exercise equipment…
“The more you know about exercise, the less complicated the equipment you need.” – Vince Gironda
“Barbells, dumbbells and a chinning bar. …A lot of people think, “I’ve gotta have this and I’ve gotta have that,” but that’s all bullshit, quite frankly.” – Reg Park
Arthur Jones himself wrote this little jewel ten years after he sold the Nautilus line of exercise machines for 23 million dollars (to the company that now sells Bowflex)…
“Apart from a rather limited number of hardcore bodybuilders who are misguided enough to believe that they have a chance to compete against the outright genetic freaks that now dominate bodybuilding competition, just about anybody else in this country can produce nearly all of the potential benefits of proper exercise without spending much if anything in excess of about twenty dollars. You can build both a chinning bar and a pair of parallel dip bars for a total cost of only a few dollars, and those two exercises, chins and dips, if properly performed, will stimulate muscular growth in your upper body and arms that will eventually lead to muscular size and strength that is very close to your potential.
Adding full squats, eventually leading up to one-legged full squats, and one-legged calf raises, will do much the same thing for your legs and hips. Using this very simple routine, when you get strong enough to perform about ten repetitions of one-armed chins with each arm, your arms will leave very little to be desired. Or, instead, you can do what many thousands of others are now doing and piss away thousands of dollars and years of largely wasted effort while producing far less results. The choice is yours. One of the best pair of arms that I ever saw on a man belonged to a guy that I knew about fifty years ago in New York, and he never performed any sort of exercise apart from chins and dips, and damned few of them.” – Arthur Jones in 1996
Trust me, 345 million years of evolution is not wrong. It is completely illogical to think that after millions of years of evolution in a free weight, constant gravity environment we would be able to invent machines that are better suited to training the human body than free weights and gravity. We are products of our environment, our bodies are actually the result of the need to lift free weights against gravity – that is what they are specifically designed and specialized to do. Why try to create machines to train our bodies when our bodies are, in fact, machines created to lift free weights??? It doesn’t exactly come as a shock to me that MRI and hormonal assays show that machines don’t train muscle as well. Use your brain on this one. Perhaps if human beings evolved on planet Cybex things would be different – but we didn’t. If for some erroneous reason you don’t agree with this, then you are wrong, and I’d also wager that for your efforts in the gym you’ve built about as much muscle as my cat, and unless you either get your priorities straight, or resort to drugs, that’s pretty much all you’ll ever have.
Rule #3: Genetics DO Matter – But WHO CARES!
Some people will progress much faster than others. Some people will grow into solid chunks of muscle within a few months, while others will have to work for years to get half the gains. I’ve seen it a thousand times. And it’s not just training routine design, effort, desire or diet. If these things were all equal it would still happen. But there’s nothing you can do about your genetic inheritance – so GET OVER IT. You can only work with what you’ve got, so do that. I’ve seen some very genetically gifted people come into the gym and pass my overall strength and muscle level within 6 months of steady training (though they rarely have the same proportion of balanced development and “quality”) – and I’ve been doing this for over 18 years – but I lived. And I’ll be in the gym again tomorrow. Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare.
The supplement and magazine sellers hate to acknowledge any of this, and they do their best to keep you in the dark about it because they don’t want people to stop clinging to the unrealistic dreams that drive them to buy yet more supplements and magazines. They’d love to have you believe that anyone can have 20″ arms if they just have access to the right supplements and latest training knowledge. “Buy our new product and you’ll pack on the mass!” What bullshit. The human body can grow only so fast and there’s nothing legally on the market that can significantly change that, and none of the latest training protocols produce faster gains than what enlightened bodybuilders have known for the past 60 years. I’ve sunk money into their scam products since the 1980s and I can count the “good” ones on one hand.
I know it can be discouraging. I’ve already told you that you’ll never be built like Jay Cutler and now I’m telling you that the guy next to you might progress ten times faster than you. Well, take heart. Everyone can build an impressive physique. I’ve seen some pretty puny fellows put a great deal of muscle on their bones. I’ve also seen some pretty fat fellows lose the fat and build impressive physiques. I started off with both of those problems – 150 lbs overweight, weak as a rat, and with the upper body musculature of a 12-year old girl. Now, some eighteen years later, I still may not be a prime Steve Reeves, but I’m no fat weakling either. If you stick with it you WILL progress. And if you don’t let the industry garbage lead you down the primrose path who knows how far you can go? One thing is for sure, you won’t know until you try and you won’t get anywhere complaining about your “bad” genetics.
Destroy That Which Destroys You
"Let bravery be thy choice, but not bravado."