Muscle on Barbell Exercises and Calisthenics

Q: I have bad nutrition, because I am 15 and can't cook. I eat Asian food my aunt cooks and white rice. I am skinny: 5'6" 128 pounds. I have small muscles and about 10-12% body fat.

I have two 15 pound dumbbells, a pull up bar, and 5 resistance bands. Any tips or ideas on achieving my goal? Should I buy anything like an EZ-curl bar or a bench press thing? I'm new to bodybuilding. I don't see [any] gains.

-Max



My Answer- Well Max, a lot of us have been where you are: a skinny teenager living at home eating whatever's on the dinner table. The good news is that your teen years are an optimal time in which to gain muscle. You've got testosterone pumping at full capacity. It's a wonder how any of us guys learned anything during high school when a boner popped up every minute.

Anyway, as far as equipment, what I suggest is that you get a barbell with some plates to load on. If you're able to work out at a school gym, then go ahead and do that. But if not and you have the room for it, then get yourself a barbell with weight.

Forget about the EZ-curl bar. Forget about getting a bench. And forget about those resistance bands for now. I want you to concentrate solely on barbell and body weight exercises.

I don't want you to get a bench for now, because I want you concentrate on standing barbell exercises that require you to clean the weight into position. The reason is that you should develop an underlying base of strength and power. Cleaning the weight will tap into your explosive fast-twitch muscle fibers, which have the greatest potential for growth. Performing standing barbell exercises will develop strength.

Develop this power and strength base, and you will gain muscle. Add some body weight exercises like pushups, dips, pull-ups and chin-ups to round out your program with higher reps.

This is what your exercise list should look like:


1) Power (6-8 reps)

-Power cleans
-Hang cleans
-Clean and press
-Standing military press


2) Strength (6-8 reps)

-Deadlifts
-Front squats


3) Pull-ups or Chin-ups (as many reps as possible)


4) Body weight presses (as many reps as possible)

-Pushups
-Dips (these can be performed on 2 chairs with their backs parallel)


Choose one exercise from each category and perform 2-3 sets of each exercise. Train 3 days a week, every other day. And eat a lot of food.







Q: Here's one for you: If the mathematical equation of force is mass times acceleration (F = m x a), then does this have any bearing on how lifts should be performed? For example, always explosive? Ever slowly instead?

Thanks,
Mike


My Answer: Yes, in general you perform your lifts explosively. The greater the force generated, the greater the muscle mass. The thing is that maximal force is not the only way to gain muscle.

Poliquin popularized tempo training, whereby you assign a time value to rep tempo. For example: 4-0-X-0

•The first number represents the negative rep. Four seconds down.
•The second number represents the amount of time to pause at the rep's stretch position. In this case, no pause.
•The third symbol represents the concentric rep. In this case, X means "explosive."
•The fourth number represents the amount of time to pause at the rep's contracted. Again, no pause here.

I personally do not care for assigning tempo values, because it's very distracting. You're already counting reps. How can you count tempo at the same time unless you're a computer? It's much simpler and less distracting to assign general speed terms to each portion of a rep instead of a numerical value.

In other words, instead of saying 4-2-X-2, a lifter should just remember "slow negative, stretch at the bottom, explosive lift, contract hard at the top."

In general, the lifter should lift at a natural pace, and that natural pace should be fast. However, tempo should be changed to fit the exercise.

Say you're doing dumbbell rows. The ideal tempo would be "explosive lift, quick drop." In other words, fast positive, fast negative, no pauses. The mechanics of the exercise simply don't allow you to do slow negatives and prolonged contractions without dropping the amount of weight (which would drop the amount of force generated).

If you did lying leg curls, on the other hand, then your tempo might look like this: fast positive, contract hard for 2 seconds, slow negative, no pause at bottom. High threshold muscle fibers (muscles that almost pure fast-twitch) respond very well to explosive lifting with slow negatives.

Bottom line is that tempo will depend on what exercise you're performing. It's the interaction of the mechanics and fiber make-up of the muscles worked that determines the ideal tempo for size and strength.
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