We now have over 5000 clients training on our system. It’s a lot of brain power which shouldn’t go to waste. Consequently, I encourage them to write or call me when ever they run across a new exercise. It’s amazing what clever ideas we are encountering. I want to share a few with you.
Not too long ago Dave Dondero out of Long Beach California called me to tell me of an excellent exercise for building traps.
“Larry, you know how shrugs with dumbbells or barbells are kind of awkward, especially when using heavy weights”? Dave asked.
“Awkward? I don’t find them awkward Dave”, I said visualizing myself doing heavy dumbbell shrugs. “What do you mean awkward”, I said, ready to launch into a lecture on proper shrug form.
“Well”, Dave said a little hesitant to be teaching the teacher. “Don’t you find the dumbbells and even the barbell, sort of, drags on the thighs especially when the weights get heavy”.
“Yeah, I guess so.” I agreed, not really impressed with it being a problem.
“How about using the calf machine. Then you don’t have to even hold on to the weights or have anything drag on the thighs. Furthermore, when using the calf machine for shrugs you can work all three sectors of the traps by changing the position of the shoulders in the calf machine”. Dave explained.
“What a great idea Dave. It never dawned on me to use the calf machine for building traps. I’m going to try it tonight”. I promised.
Sure enough, Dave was exactly correct. It was much better than using barbells or dumbbells. By standing totally erect with the hands on the hips and rotating the shoulders up and down, one can hit the top of the traps right up around the neck. Then by bending over a little the middle of the traps can be worked. Then if one bends over even farther not only the lower traps can be worked but the rear deltoids can also be activated. Nothing gets tired but the traps. The hands don’t give out, the thighs don’t wear out but the traps get wiped out. It is truly a great
idea for building traps.
Let me share another little tidbit I picked up the other day while working out. I have to admit, I started out laughing at someone else and in the end the laugh was on me. Let me share this amusing episode with you.
This brand new beginner comes into the gym and not finding an available instructor, starts to put together a training program on his own. I didn’t even notice him until he laid down on the leg curl machine backwards. This particular machine was one of the older versions with the arms on the outside of the pads rather than a single arm in the middle.
He laid down on his back and placed his forehead under the roller under which his heels are supposed to go and proceeded to work his neck.
I have to admit, it was a riot. I didn’t want to embarrass him but I couldn’t help but chuckle and point it out to my training partner. As far as this beginning trainer was concerned he was using he machine properly. The more I looked at him I had to admit, it didn’t look too bad.
When no body was looking, I tried out the exercise myself. As it turned out, the exercise was not only good for the front of the neck but the back of the neck as well. I had learned a valuable lesson about watching those who have no previous experience with exercise. If you have one of these combination leg extension, leg curl machines in your club, give it a try you will find it to be an excellent exercise for building the neck.
Let me tell you about another example of a beginner finding a solution to a training problem with which I had been struggling. It concerns calf work.
I don’t think there is much argument about which exercise is best for building calves. The problem is finding a partner for this exercise. The exercise to which I refer, of course, is the Donkey calf raise. There are lots of problems with this exercise. The chief one being the need to have someone sit on your back to do the exercise. If you don’t have a training partner, it’s rather awkward to ask a perfect stranger to jump up on your back for a few sets. Even if you do have a training partner, he soon isn’t heavy enough to tax the calves. But, if you have another
trainer sit on your back, most of the weight of the second person is up on your shoulders rather than on the hips. Not to mention the difficulty of balancing two inexperienced horsemen while you grind out reps.
Granted a couple of manufacturers have developed donkey calf machines, but equipment manufacturers have to be so concerned about being sued for injury, they build as much for safety as for proper function. The Donkey Calf machines are no exception. Consequently, they are built with the pivot going away from the natural pivot of the exercise so as to avoid any apparatus over the head into which the trainer could bang his head. So, it leaves us with the problem of how to do donkeys properly.
The solution: A weight belt attached to a low pulley lat machine. This allows the weight to stay concentrated directly on the hips as it should be. It allows the body to stay bent at the waist for even better extension which is so needed to build calves. It also allows the body to pivot forward at the top of the exercise. Its almost perfect. In fact it’s so good, I feel the need to explain a little better.
– Slide the calf block right up next to the pulley.
– The calf block should be covered with gum rubber so the exercise can be done with the shoes and socks off.
– Don’t do this exercise with the shoes on. You won’t be able to get the full extension or contraction which you need to build calves.
– Bend over at the waist until the upper body is parallel with the floor or lower. This will really place tension on the calves.
– The calf block should be at least 4 inches high.
– You should hit your heels at the bottom of each rep.
– You should then go completely to the top of the movement until you achieve total bone support. This will take the tension off the calf and give you a new shot of blood. If you keep the calf under constant tension throughout the exercise the lactic acid will build up and you wont be able to do the 20 plus reps needed to build calves.