VeeFitness

Bringing you the latest in health and fitness


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Beach Bummed


Competitive bodybuilders usually train for symmetry and proportion in an effort to build an aesthetically pleasing physique. There are many individuals who go to the gym to build up their beach muscles, disregarding symmetry and proportion in designing their training programs. Instead of training opposing muscle groups equally, they sometimes ignore the muscles they cannot see (back, hamstrings, calves, quads) and focus on the muscles they admire in the mirror everyday (chest, biceps, shoulders and abs). Although training specific muscle groups more than others can create an unbalanced-looking physique, disregarding a muscle group over time can potentially lead to other problems that may subject the body to injury.

One common mistake with regard to balanced training is performing an unbalanced training program between the chest and back muscles. The amount of time, energy, effort, volume and frequency between the agonist chest muscles and the antagonists back muscles may not be equal, or even close. A simple example would be an athlete who performs 4 sets os four exercises for the chest (for a total number of 16 sets) and does only 3 sets of three exercises for the back (for a total number of 9 working sets). Following this unbalanced training regime over time will result in back muscles much weaker than the chest muscles. This imbalance may lead to a slightly kyphotic posture (forward/rounded shoulders) that can potentially cause shoulder problems because of the faulty posture. In addition to the stronger chest muscles (compared to the back muscles) pullong the shoulders forward, inadequate stretching of the chest musculature can further contribute to this problem.

For some people, training legs consists of quads and that is it. The disregard their hamstrings while training only the quadriceps. Exercises such as the leg extensions, hack squats and front squats place a large amount of emphasis on the quads. Although these exercises are great you need to do an equal amount of hamstring work with leg curls and romanian deadlifts to stress both muscle groups. Distributing attention evenly to both muscle groups can give you healthier knees and lower back, as well as fewer hamstring strains because of an unbalanced hamstring-to-quad strength ration.

A less obvious training error woth regard to balanced training concerns the shoulders. Overhead shoulder press, incline bench press, flat bench press and other chest and shoulder pressing movements are critical for maximal muscle development. However, these exercises focus on the major muscle groups such as the deltoids, pectoralis major, pectoralis minor and other muscles known as prime movers. Often ignored in a training regime is the training or isolation of the smaller muscle groups in the shoulder known as the rotator cuff (the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis) that are critical in keeping the upper arm in the socket of the shoulder. Failure to train these smaller muscles groups, two of which are not even visible can create an imbalance between the large prime movers and small stabilisers. This lack of imbalance in strength may result in bursts of bursitis, tendinitis or even rotator cuff tears in the shoulder joint.


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Barbell Bent-over Row and the Single-arm Dumbbell Version


The barbell bent-over row is my favourite exercise for back, but should I also be doing the single-arm dumbbell version.

The barbell row is a lot like the bench press because you are in a fixed position where both sides have to work hard to keep the movements smooth. Dumbbells give one side a chance to stretch a bit more, and the unfixed position lets you adjust your body to potentially move slightly more weight per side. With a wide-grip the barbell row also hits the upper lats more directly; the one-arm row targets the lower lats better.


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Straight-Arm Pulldown Vs Decline Cable Pullover


Both are great for isolating the lower lats but which is better because of its increased range of motion and time under tension.

Straight-Arm Pulldown
A classic exercise, the straight-arm pulldown is a great pre-exhaust movement for lats or as a finisher at the end of a brutal back workout. It completely isolates the lats while also calling into play the core musculature. You have probably felt your deep abdominals hard at work during a gruelling set of these pulldowns, and that is absolutely critical and expected. The exercise requires considerable stabiliser activity, especially the heavier you go. If you are stopping the bar on the upward phase when your arms approach parallel, your lats and core are under extreme tension. Many athletes allow the bar to travel too high, causing a loss of tension in the lats. The two keys for this exercise are to hold the peak contraction for a count at the bottom with the bar directly in your line of sight, and pulling it all the way into your body at the bottom of the rep as you squeeze your lats.

Decline Cable Pullover
This lower lat exercise takes a little trial and error in terms of bench placement. You have to place the bench far enough away from the stack to allow your arms full extension at the start of the rep without letting the plates touch down. You might have to do a couple of trial reps to ensure you are set up correctly. Unlike the straight-arm pulldown, the decline pullover requires minimla stabiliser activity. If you are thinking the pullover is a chest move, you are correct, but it is even more so when performed in an incline or flat position. The decline pullover is an excellent lat exercise whose key is a shoulder-width grip and completely straight arms throughout the movement. Opening and closing the angle of the elbows will automatically involve triceps and chest.

The Winner: Decline Cable Pullover
Even though your head is lower than your legs, with the cable gravity does not diminish the effectiveness of the exercise as you pull the bar into your lower body, therefore your alts remain involved longer. Because the bar travels closer to your legs, you can squeeze your lats as you would during the straight-arm pulldown. However, the angle of your body causes the lats to be engaged through a greater range of motion. In contrast to the straight-arm pulldown, which requires you to stop the bar to keep tension, the decline cable allows you to reach back overhead while maintaining that necessary tension in the lats. The fact that you do not have to worry about balance makes the decline cable pullover the clear winner in the race towards building incredible lower lats.


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Straight Arm Pulldown


Straight Arm PulldownThe straight arm pulldown works on the lats. The pectorals, posterior deltoids and rhomboids assist in this exercise.

– Stand erect facing the weight stack at a lat-pulldown station with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees unlocked.
– Grasp a long lat bar or straight bar with an overhand grip.
– Your hands should be shoulder-width apart, with your arms nearly straight.
– Start with the bar at shoulder level, with your arms extended and just above parallel to the floor.
– Keeping your arms straight, pull the bar down towards your thighs in a wide, sweeping arc, focusing on using your lats as you pull.
– Exhale towards the bottom of the move, squeezing your lats hard once the bar reaches your thighs.
– Return to the start position in a smooth, controlled motion, stopping when your arms are again parallel to the floor.


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One-Arm Dumbell Row


One-arm Dumbell RowThe one-arm dumbbell row focuses primarily on the latissimus dorsi muscle. The secondary muscles used in this exercise are the rhomboids, teres major, trapezius and the biceps brachii.

– Bend forward at the waist and place one knee and the same-side hand on a flat bench.
– Keep your other foot on the floor beside the bench and grasp a dumbbell with the same-side hand.
– Let it hang straight down with your arm fully extended.
– Pull the weight up toward your hip, keeping your elbow in close to your side.
– Pull your elbow as high as you can, squeezing your shoulder blades together for a full contraction.
– Then, lower the along the same path, pushing it slightly forward.
– Repeat for reps, then switch arms.