Favorite Eight Exercises
- Bench Press
- Lat. Pulldown
- Barbell Curl
- Shoulder Press
- Tricep Press
- Leg Curl
- Calf Movements
The bench press is the king of upper body exercises and for those who
donít squat, the king
of all exercises. This movement draws a lot of
attention, itís a highly discussed topic in the
menís room "hey man,
what cha maxing" often responded by 20 - 30 more pounds than they
lift. There are even contest that men and women prepare for months,
just to lift a weight
for one repetition. To the point of the matter,
the bench press works multiple muscle groups,
that is why we can lift
so much weight. The chest (pectorals), shoulder (front deltoids) and
triceps all assist in this movement. There are numerous variations
to this exercise, but it would
be impossible to cover each of them in
just a half of page. What Iím going to discuss are the
beginners to the most advanced should take note. The grip width alone
involvement of the muscles. A narrow grip hits the
inner portion of the chest and
assist more in the movement.
A grip wider than shoulder width, works the outer portion of the
and the deltoids are exercised more. By lowering the bar to different
parts of your chest
will work that specific area. I personally use a
wider grip because my triceps are strong and I
want my chest to do
most of the work (about 32 inches apart) and lower the bar to the
part of my chest.
1) Always keep your head, shoulders and butt on the bench. You can
have your feet on the bench to keep your back straight. If not, have
your feet flat on the floor.
2) Donít wiggle your body to lift the weight. If you do, stop, because
your probably lifting too much weight and your putting to much strain
on your back.
3) Lower the weight slowly, this is where you gain all your strength
(the eccentric portion)and pause when the bar touches your chest.
4) This exercise should be completed first before all other upper body
exercise. It take the most energy, because of multiple muscle
groups and it will warm up the shoulders and
5) Use a spotter when attempting a heavy lift, itís pretty
embarrassing to get stuck, believeme, I know.
The lat or latisimus dorsi is one of the largest muscles in our bodies.
It is also probably the
hardest muscle to develop, since we can't see
it moving like most other muscles in our body.
The lat. pulldown is
probably the most effective piece of equipment to work this muscle.
can hit a variety of angles in the back by changing hand grips.
For example, supinating (palms
up), pronation (palms away), wide
(greater than shoulder width) and narrow (closer than
If you were going to do only one back exercise on the lat. machine,
have to be the wide grip pulldown to the front (itís the
closest thing to a pull up).
1) Complete concentration is important. Move the weight slowly and
think of the back muscle.
2) Pull the bar pass your chin to the top of your chest. If you go
further, you may stretch out the shoulder joint too much.
3) This is one movement that you definitely donít want to swing the
weight. If thatís a problem, then do what I call a five second
repetition. Two seconds on the pulling portion (contraction or concentric) and three seconds on the release (stretching or eccentric)
portion of the lift.
4) Stretch out between sets to keep the blood flowing.
5) If you have a training partner this next trick is great. If not,
just grab someone who doesnít look busy. First, perform a few repetitions. Than have you partner make a fist a place it between you
two scapula bones (shoulder blades). What you want to do is it to
squeeze their fist with your back muscles.
"Contraction", thatís the key for this movement and for all other exercises.
The bicep is one of the smaller muscles in our bodies. Even though it
may seem like a muscle
only for show, it aids in carrying heavier
objects. A curling movement is needed to effectively
bicep. There are many types of curling exercises that may be performed.
most basic is the barbell curl. If you would like to individually
work each bicep, you would do
a dumbell curl. There are
variations of both of these movements. For instance, using different
grips of the
barbell will work different areas of the bicep. A grip
wider than the shoulders would work the
inside portion of the muscle
and a grip closer than shoulder width will target the outside
of the muscle. I recommend a neutral grip to hit the entire head of
the bicep, but for
people who have developed this muscle, using
various grips is a good idea.
1) Keep your elbows down by your sides and make sure that your upper
arms are perpendicular to the ground.
2) Only flex (bend) at the elbow joint because the joint that is
moving will work those muscles. If you move you shoulders during this
exercise, you will be working the shoulders and neglecting the biceps.
3)The bicep is a small muscle so strict form is necessary for optimal
development. Heavy weight isn't needed.
4) Each time you curl the weight up, flex the muscle (make a muscle) at the top portion of the lift. This we help recruit the muscle fibers.
5) Always keep your back straight. Try not to swing the barbell up with
the assistance of leaning backwards. This often seen problem could
lead to low back strain and minimal bicep work.
The shoulder press is one of those main stay exercises. A person
first starting out to the most
advanced will benefit from this
movement. The shoulder muscles consist of three deltoid heads
(anterior, medial and rear). This pressing movement primarily works
the medial and anterior
deltoids. The rear deltoids are exercised
during most back movements. In addition, the triceps
are involved in
this exercised. The shoulder press can be performed by using a
barbell or dumbells. I personally prefer to use dumbells
because there is less restriction and
most importantly the muscles
move in their natural plane. Although, I wouldn't recommend a
press to beginner. A beginner should be concerned with learning the
proper form and coordination before using the dumbells. In fact, using
a shoulder press machine would be the
best bet. It is important to
understand on how far to press the weight and to lower the weight.
When pressing the weight (concentric), try not to lock your elbows.
Locking the elbows will
reduce the resistance on your shoulder muscles
and place unwanted stress on the elbow joint.
When lowering the weight
(eccentric), only let it go as far as your chin. If you let the weight
touch your chest or the back of your neck, your are stretching the
rotator cuff with to much
1) Warm-up the entire shoulder before exercising. I like to do this
by using very light
dumbells and perform a few sets of side laterals
and front raises.
2) Hold the bar about three inches away from your shoulders. Try not
to experiment with
different grips. Using a neutral grip will work the
entire shoulder muscle.
3) During this exercise, I recommend to use a supportive belt. This
will keep the lower
back tight and reduce the chance of cramps.
4) Do not bounce the weight after the lowering portion to press the
weight. Doing so will
put pressure on the lower back and reduce the
resistance on the shoulder muscles.
This is my all time favorite exercise. It takes more guts and mind
power to keep this movement
in your exercise regimen than any other
movement. The squat effects your entire body because
of the energy
expended while holding the weight on your upper back/shoulders. It
works the quadriceps (thigh muscles), the gluteus and
hamstrings are also involved in the
movement. There are numerous
variations of the squat. For starters, you can vary the foot
If you have your feet close together, youíll work the outer portion
of the quads, a
wide stance will exercise the inside of the quads. In
addition, there are many ways to actually
do the exercise. For example,
there is the traditional way with a straight bar across the upper
back/shoulder area or you can do a front squat with the barbell
resting on your upper chest
across the shoulders. For beginners, the
smith machine is ideal because it teaches you the
correct form and
balance. If you don't have access to a barbell, you could use a pair
dumbells instead. Hold each dumbell and let them rest by your sides
and just squat. In my
opinion, nothing is better then a traditional
squat. Unfortunately not every one can execute the
proper form, so by using other variations are fine, even the leg
1) Learn the proper form before attempting heavy weights. It is true
that heavy weight is
needed to develop the quads, but you wont be able
to squat heavy with a bad back.
2) Try not to use a belt while squatting with light weight. This will
prevent your lower back
to become stronger. During the working sets is
when I recommend to use a supportive
3) Do not bounce on the bottom portion of the squat. Always come to a
full stop before
pressing the weight.
4) If possible, have someone spot you. The spotter should stand behind
the lifter and have
their arms extended and cradle just underneath
the lifterís chest. Once the squatterís
momentum stops, the spotter
would lift their arms upwards in the same direction as the
This movement might not be considered the best movement for the
triceps by other trainers. I
feel if a beginner can learn the proper
form of the pressdown, they can add a variety of
for the triceps on the same machine. For example, you can use a
grip, single arm pressdowns with an underhand grip and a
rope attachment (a favorite of
mine). These different exercises will
work the entire tricep. The correct form is critical while
any of these movements. You have to keep your elbows in tight by your
movement should be at your elbow joint and not your shoulder.
If you were to move your
shoulders, those muscles would be involved
and it would take away from the triceps doing the
work. Remember, the
joints that move are the muscles that being exercised, so only move
elbow joint. When you exercise the triceps it is best to do them
on the day and after you train
your chest. If you exercise them a day
before, most likely they will be fatigued during your
It's important to keep these muscles fresh before you do any chest
because they will help you lift heavier weight. Train the
triceps after your chest work, this gives
the muscle a good warm up
and not many exercise have to be perfomed.
1) During the eccentric portion of the lift, don't let your hands rise above your
chest. This will keep the tension on the triceps.
2) Never exercise the triceps a day before you do the bench press.
3) After mastering the tricep pressdown with a shoulder width grip, try
different grips and attachments.
4) Always move the weight with the elbow joint. Restrict any other body
Unfortunately there are not many exercises that work the hamstrings directly. Squatting, lunges and a stiff leg deadlift all work the hamstrings, but the muscle is not the prime mover during these exercises. The only exercise that directly works the hamstrings is a leg curl. This is a movement in which you want to take advantage of using different angles and tempos while performing the lift. I'm not usually an advocate to recommending different angles for beginners, but you have to utilize this movement. Placing your ankles closer together will work the outer portion of the hamstrings and having them further apart will hit the inner hamstrings. When doing multiple sets, it is a good idea to use different positions. In addition, changing the tempo of the movement is important. The tempo or speed should be changed from work out to work out. For example, you could perform the movement by lifting the weight for two seconds - pause for one - lower the weight for three seconds. Another tempo could be, lift the weight for one second - hold for two seconds - lower the weight for three seconds. Always remember to have the eccentric portion (lowering the weight) slower than the concentric (the lifting porting).
1) Change the angles to work the entire hamstring muscle.
2) Use different tempos.
3) Don't be afraid to use heavy weight, the hamstrings are a big muscle
group and need that extra resistance.
4) Perform the leg curl first during your hamstring work outs. Lunges and
stiff leg deadlifts are only assistance exercises.
The calves are the most neglected body parts. Most people say they donít have the time to exercise them. I think they have to be exercised if you consider yourself to be a true weight lifter. We are perfectionist and we want total body development, right! If you are blessed with natural developed calves, you are lucky. Personally, Iím not that fortunate and I have to bust my but for them to grow. The main reason for their stubbornness is because the calves are a tough muscle. They are contracting on every step we take with our own body weight, therefore, can you imagine on how hard it is to add additional stress to the calves. There are two thoughts when it comes to training the calves. The first is to use a lot of weight and few repetitions and the second is just the opposite, light weight with high repetitions. I believe that both are right, so I think it is best to alternate the two types of training. Since the calves are more difficult to develop and are a small muscle group, I recommend that they should be trained twice a week. The first work out could be the heavy day and the second work out you can increase the repetitions. There are only a few exercises that work the calves, calf raise (done on a step), calf press (done on the leg press) and a seated calf machine. You can change the placing of your feet to hit different angles of the calves, but unless your competing in the Mr. Olympia contest next fall, donít waste your time. Keep your feet parallel and you will work the entire muscle.
1) If your calves are a weak point, make it a priority and exercise them first.
This will not give you the excuse of not having enough time.
2) The contraction portion of the movement is very important. Try holding
the contraction for two seconds and then lower your heels slowing to
allow for a good stretch.
3) If your doing a high rep. day, you should complete between 20 -30
repetitions. The low rep. day with an increased amount of weight should
consist of 10 - 15 repetitions.
4) The rest between sets should be minimal, no more than 30 seconds. You
have to shock this muscle group, remember they are being work
every time you walk, so the additional stress in needed.
5) Have the same attitude when training your calves just like any other body
Personal Training |
Joe's Profile |
F.I.T. Home |
Copyright ©1998-2000, Joseph D. Franco, All Rights Reserved Franco's Individualized Training (F.I.T.)