Knee wraps done tightly enough can definitely offer some assistance in a heavy lift. The added stability makes it easier to squat weight. Some bodybuilders will put them on only a minute or two before their heavy lifts because the wraps are so tight they can limit circulation. However, they do offer some support that can be beneficial for people who have suffered an injury or have chronic knee pain. Therefore, it is okay to use them when doing heavy squats. Just do not start using them until you are moving serious weight.
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.
The simplest way to describe pre-exhaust training is that it is a method using isolation (also called single-joint) exercises to target a particular muscle group before moving to compound (multi-joint) movements for the same muscle. The objective of the technique is to get the target muscle fatigued as possible before subjecting it to multi-joint exercises. Take the chest for example. Before hitting your bench presses, a pre-exhaust exercise would be the flat-bench dumbbell fly or even the cable crossover or pec-deck machine.
During the flye, only the pectorals are involved in performing the movement. When the chest is fatigued, you move to the bench press, where the pecs gain assistance from the shoulders and triceps. During a typical bench press the chest gets help from the delts and the tricpes, that that assistance limits the amount of fatigue it can achieve. Since the triceps and delts are much weaker than the chest, the bench press always ends because the triceps or delts fatigue, not because of the exhaustion of the chest-muscle fibres.
For that reason the pre-exhaust method is used to break down the target musculature before adding in the help of other assisting muscle groups. In the bench press example the triceps and delts are fresh so they will not be subject to such quick fatigue (as are the already worked pectoral fibres) which further compound the exhaustion of the pecs. The ultimate goal is that once the triceps and delts are fatigued, so too is the chest. All three bodyparts involved in this exercise are completely worn out and used up. That is the basic premise of pre-exhaust.
In a normal workout you do the isolation movements at the end of your training session after the multi-joint exercises. However, reversing the scheme to target the muscle fibres in this way is a phenomenon only the pre-exhaust method can duplicate. In the normal routine, with the isolation exercises coming last, you do not know for sure if the target muscle is completely fatigued simply by using the isolation movement as your litmus test. The pre-exhaust method is a surefire way to to know the job is done because you will have completely failed and fatigued at both the compound and isolation exercises after removing the assistance muscles form the equation.
A lot of reasons why athletes tend to stay away from pre-exhaust is that it obviously limits the amount of weight you can lift on the compound exercises because you are not doing them first when your energy levels are at their highest. This can be a mental hurdle to overcome. Physically, you will probably break down the muscle better with the pre-exhaust method than ever before, despite the fact that you are using less weight on the subsequent compound exercises. Because you are going lighter on the multi-joint movements, you are actually extending the life of your elbow, shoulder, hip and knee joints.
Angles come into play during pre-exhaust training as they do in regular training. To pre-exhaust your chest before doing heavy incline bench presses, you would not use the decline flye as your pre-exhaust exercise. You would use an incline flye. You want to mimic, within reason, the angle for both exercises simply because you are recruiting the same fibres, not different ones. For chest exercises, pre-exhaust is relatively easy, but it is not so easy on other bodyparts such as back. In the end the main characteristic is fatigue of the target muscle, with exercise angles being secondary in importance.
Here is a brief tip sheet to get you started on using pre-exhaust, an advanced technique that can help deliver serious muscle growth.
– Try the pre-exhaust method for each bodypart for about four weeks before going back to your standard routine.
– Your rest periods between the isolation exercise and the compound movement are normal. Rest 1-2 minutes between sets. This is not a superset in which you want to rest as little as possible.
– Though you are starting with the isolation exercise you will still want to perform a few warm-up sets. When you get to your working weight, you will be able to lift slightly heavier than you normally could because you have not done any presses to fatigue the muscle. Choose a weight with which you can do 10 reps to failure. The set also serves as a warm-up for the compound exercise to follow. You may need only 1-2 warm-up sets to get ready for your working weight. Remember, the weight you are able to lift when following a pre-exhaust movement will be substantially less.
– In your pre-exhaust routine do 3-4 sets of the isolation exercise (excluding warm-ups) with the same number of sets for the compound movement that follows. After you have performed the pre-exhaust method, you can complete your routine in straight-set fashion on your favourite exercises for that muscle group. Many athletes actually repeat the method with other exercises and angles throughout the routine, but be careful not to overtrain.
Keep your knees behind the plane going straight up from your toes for knee safety.
Behind the Blunder
If you have healthy knees, this blunder might not apply now, but if you ignore this today, one day it might hit a nerve. Lunges, which used to be thought of as a female-driven exercise, are so popular and beneficial that they have been embraced by most males, and for good reason. Despite popular belief, the lunge is not just for the glutes, but it also blasts the quads and hamstrings, making it a great move for the entire lower leg. Whether you use just your bodyweight, dumbbells or a barbell across your back, the message is clear: Keep your front knee back and do not let it travel beyond the vertical plane of your toes. The sheering forces caused by the lunging motion can be fatal to the knees in the long run.
If you find you let your knee travel too forward, try the split lunge for a few sets. Unlike the standard lunge in which you step forward and then press yourself back up to the starting position, with a split lunge, once you get into a lunge position you stay there. Practise the up-and-down motion of the lunge concentrating on keeping your front leg bent at 90° in the bottom position. This will help you remember that the entire leg is working in concert to perform the lunge. Although some trainers would disagree, the back leg is also hard at work because you have to press through the back leg to raise your body. After some split lunge practise, try the standard lunge, remembering to use both legs to control the entire sequence.
Stand erect with a dumbbell in each hand, arms out to your sides. Keep your head straight, chest up and abs tight.
Take a long step forward with one foot. Bend both knees to lower yourself, making sure your front knee does not pass your toes. Stop just short of your rear knee touching the floor and reverse direction, driving though the heel of your forward foot and the balls of the trailing foot to return to the start.
Leg Remedy: Dumbbell Lunges Corrected
Think “straight up and down” as opposed to “forward£. Once you have re-trained yourself to keep your forward knee back and you have realised that both legs help in raising the body, the last element is to imagine a string at the top of your head pulling you straight up to the ceiling on each rep. The up-and-down motion will provide an additional level of safety for the front knee while also helping you target the quads, hams and glutes. Finally, to help solve the problem, take a good, long stride. Many people suffer from knee problems during this move because they are not steeping our far enough.
1) Find Your Footing:
Positioning your feet wide, like a sumo squat, will target the glutes and inner quads. A narrow stance will focus on the outer area of the legs and develop more quad sweep.
2) Head In The Game:
Never look down, because glancing downward will flex your cervical spine and put pressure on the disks in your neck.
3) Watch Your Weight:
Do not trade form for weight. A bunch of plates jammed onto the bar might boost your ego, but it will not improve your legs. Go lighter and perfect the mechanics until your form is perfect.
4) How Low Should You Go:
Descend until you upper legs are parallel to the ground. Stopping short of that position can detract from full upper-leg development.
5) Ramp up the Reps:
Consistency with reps could short-change growth. The majority should fall into the 8-12 rep range. The legs respond well to higher reps, but don’t hesitate to ramp it up to 15 reps if you feel inclined.
6) Rest Remix:
Two to three minutes rest between sets should be plenty of time to recover. Just as you do with reps, mix it up. Shorter rest periods of a minute or 30 seconds will exhaust the muscle, allow for a larger build up of lactic acid and cause the body to release more growth hormone.
7) Wrap It Up:
In the past, it was widely believed that knee wraps prohibited muscle activity, because of the reliance on the wraps’ elasticity. A Study conducted by a University in Georgia, shows that wraps do not interfere with muscle growth and may even allow you to go heavier.
8) Belt It Out:
Use a weight belt when squatting up to or exceeding 80% of your one-rep max. An added benefit of a belt is it can further increase pressure in the abdominal cavity for better stabilisation of the spine.
9) Knees and Toes:
You’ve heard it all before. Extending your knees over your toes will cause injury. Not necessarily. A new study shows that trying to prevent this actually placed more stress on the lower back, and that the knees experienced less stress when they did extend past the toes.
10) Partial Squats:
Develop bigger teardrop muscles by performing only the upper half of the movement with heavier weight, as this is when the muscle receives most of the stress. Do two or three sets of these before moving onto full squats.