Nothing can fill your day with enthusiasm like a new idea. We who have chosen bodybuilding as our labour of love find ourselves twice fuelled by this powerful need for something new. Our restless minds hunger for new ideas that haven’t been thought and our body yearns to be freed from the monotony of sameness.
We struggle to find new exercise techniques that will enchant new growth from our static physiques. Especially is this true with our lower limbs. The range of expression of our legs is imprisoned by the lack of grasping appendages. They have to be content with what they can push and pull with a blunt limb. Consequently, the available exercises are less that 1/20 of what the upper body can use. The thigh biceps, for instance, has only five exercises from which to draw its size.
They are: wide stance squats, leg press machine, lunges, leg curl machine and deadlifts. Further more, of these five, the leg curl machine is used 75% of the time. To compound matters, the leg curl machine won’t let you use enough weight to build mass. We can’t use enough weight on the favorite thigh bicep exercise and we are fenced in by so few exercises our gains are suffocated by lack of variety.
What we need is a whole list of new exercises for our thigh collection. Unfortunately, I can’t give you a whole bunch of new movements but I do have one beauty that quite possibly could be the best one of the whole lot. Why? Because it is one exercise that will allow you to handle some serious weight. It is called the “Hips Off Hack machine Leg Pull.”
Dennis Madsen a good friend and former training partner and I came up with the idea from reading a book called Kinesiology and Applied Anatomy by Rasch and Burke.
I first came across this informative text book while doing a seminar in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A fellow by the name of Jim Phillips was in attendance and he stayed for a while after the show to share something with me.
He said,” Larry, you go into so much detail on an exercise, I think you would be interested in a text book I used while attending physiology classes at the Univerisity of Michigan. Would you like to see it?”
“Yes, I would”. I said, with some interest. I’m always looking for new ideas on training.
“Do you want me to bring it over to your hotel”, he asked.
“Well, sure, I guess so. I said. A little surprised to see that he was intent on getting this book into my hands so quickly. Later, at 30,000 feet over the plains of Nebraska, I settled back into my seat and began to sift through the contents of this unexpected gift. It was loaded with oodles of training gems, furthermore the featured models were right out of the pages of Muscle and Fitness in the 60’s.
There was Paul Wynter, Bob Walker, Tony Sansone, Tommy Kono, Otis Johnson, Bill Golumbick and a host of others with whom I was quite familiar. I soon felt right at home and my usual prejudice towards bodybuilding text books melted away as I started to pick up some interesting insights.
I began to learn some things that I couldn’t have discovered without the benefit of the formal training that Dr’s Rasch and Burk had accumulated before writing this book.
I began reading about the action of two joint muscles and it was then I stumbled on to “Lombards Paradox”; named after the scholar W.P. Lombard who was one of the first to analyze and clearly explain this phenomonon.
Dr. Lombard suggested that while sitting in a chair if one should grasp his thigh so the thumb palpates the belly of the rectus femoris (top of the thigh) and the fingers palpate the bellies of the hamstring muscles (back of the thigh) he will discover the following. As one rises from the chair by means of hip and knee extension, one will feel both the rectus femoris and the hamstring muscles spring into action. It may surprise one to discover that all of these muscles are active. Further, one might expect that the rectus femoris and the hamstrings would neutralize each others action so that no movement would be possible. But they don’t. This seemingly contradictory situation is known as Lombard’s Paradox.
So what does all this mean to those who are interested finding a new way to build the hamstrings? Perhaps you can already begin to sense where we are heading, if not, be patient we are almost there. If both the quads and the hamstrings are working while doing something as simple as getting up out of a chair, the question is, how do we make an exercise like squats (similar to the getting up out of a chair motion) pin point the hamstrings rather than quads?
Dr Rasch’s book expends several pages explaining that the rotational torque for each muscle is equal to the force of its pull multiplied by its perpendicular distance from the axis of rotation. He further points out the difference in the length of the lever arms has a lot to do with which muscle predominates. The essence of what he is saying is as follows: It depends on the position of the hips with respect to the knee as to which muscle group is going to work the most.
It was about this time the light flashed on inside my head. The idea was something like this: “The key to working the thigh biceps is to position the hips and thighs in such a way that we can pull with the thigh biceps to help us extend the knee rather than press with the quads”.
“We obviously can’t play around with squats because if we move the hips and thighs around we can injure the back or drop the weight. The Hack machine on the other hand provides a perfect exercise to move the hips with respect to the knees because our balance is not in jeopardy. The Hack Machine keeps us travelling in a set plane regardless of what we do with the hips or thighs.”
Specifically we need to do the following: Place the feet at about a 45 degree angle from straight front and at shoulder width. Once in position on the Hack machine, slowly lower the body down to the low position of the hack slide. Then right at the bottom of the movement, thrust the hips off the sled so the thigh biceps have the mechanical advantage over the quads and pull the legs together to straighten them out.
Eureka, we have a new exercise for building thigh biceps. Further more it is one with which we can use a lot of weight. The quads help us getting down into position but when the hips are thrust off the sled the thigh biceps are brought into action as we straighten out the legs.
We need to concentrate on pulling the legs together in order to get back up into starting position. No muscle group can get us back into starting position but those good old hams. It’s very similar to the pulling portion of pedalling a 10 speed. We press down with one leg but we pull the pedal back up with the other leg.
It’s not as difficult as it sounds and you will find you can soon master the movement. Once mastered, you will find you have not only added a new exercise to your thigh program but more importantly, you will discover the Hip Off Hack Machine can add some real size to your hams. Try it, you will find a friend for life.