Back to Jungle basics – Back Training

The big thing now is, Ronnie Coleman’s back. It used to be the mammoth Brit who had set the standard for back development. I remember when Mr. Olympia Lee Haney had the back of the century. How times have changed. But, back training has not. Have you ever noticed that most back training article’s stress that reverse grip bar row is the new technique for back development. Wrong! Building back development, just like any other body part, is due to genetics, body frame, training intensity, and proper execution in each back exercise – Not reverse-grip bar rows! You must get back to the basics if you want to be a creature of the iron jungle.

The back is probably the most difficult body-part to train, other than legs, and a training area neglected by most individuals too. Why is the back one of the hardest areas to train? Well, first off, basic anatomy tells us the back consists of many interrelated muscle groups: the latissimus dorsi, the rhomboids, the teres major, rear deltoids, and the trapezius muscles. One of the other dilemmas’s when training back that bodybuilders and individuals in the gym face, is that they cannot seem to feel the movement as well as feeling triceps or biceps while training. So, to gain size and strength in back training, you must concentrate and work more on isolation, rather than more weight. Think of training back as if you’re performing a concentration curl.

If we are to start with the basics, then we better begin with the granddaddy of back training exercises, the BENT OVER BAR ROW. You thought I was going to say DEADLIFTS, didn’t you? Guess what? The deadlift, when done correctly, is not an absolute back movement. Take a moment and analyze the movement; either regular style or sumu style. Most of the movement incorporates leg and glute muscles especially on the initial pull. Why, do you think powerlifting guru Loui Simmons preaches doing box squats as an auxiliary movement for deadlifts? I know, all you self-proclaimed open book certified test taking experts think I am full of BS! Well, maybe I am, but if you take a biomechanics or kinesiology class, or even ask an ELITE-World Champion powerlifter than you will realize that the deadlift is not a total back exercise. Now, Lets get back to bent-over bar rows, you can do either reverse grip, or regular overhand grip.

The proper positioning for a BAR ROW is place your upper torso at a 45% angle, and brining the bar up to your navel area, but slowly, with no herky jerky up and down movement. Do one warm-up set of 12 and then go into 3 sets of 6-8 reps with a moderately heavy weight.

CHINUPS

Everyone does chin ups, but if you want to increase your mass by doing chin ups then strap on some weight. Chins primarily work the lats, but they work the rhomboids and activate the shoulders into action too. So, reach up and grab the chin bar with a slightly wider than shoulder overhand grip. Start with a warm-up set of 10-15 using your own body weight. The next three sets should be performed gradually in the 6 – 8 rep range. If you have never done chin-ups with weights, then add 5 pounds per set to start.

ONE-ARM DUMBBELL ROWS

Trying to start a lawn mower? There are different positions for dumbbell rows, and that is not one of them. The correct position is to keep both feet on the floor and one hand on the bench, or one leg on the bench-one foot on the floor, and one hand on the bench. Also, keep your back flat and parallel to the floor. A good test for correct weight is to hold the dumbbell for a count of one, each rep, at the shoulder level. If you cannot, then the weight is too much. Perform 2 sets of 6 reps with dumbbell rows.

INCLINE DUMBBELL ROWS

I have not seen that many people partake in this movement. Why? Maybe because Incline Dumbbell Rows are not readily featured in most bodybuilding magazines as an exercise performed by the pro’s. Place an adjustable incline bench at about a 45 % angle or higher, but not straight up. Lay stomach first on the bench with your upper chest slightly over the front of the bench, then place your feet on the floor stationed behind you. Grab two moderately heavy dumbbells that you can get 2 sets for 12 reps. Draw the dumbbells up close to the bench, like your doing rows with two dumbbells. Don’t keep your chest flat on the bench, as you slowly move the dumbbells up to the midpoint, arch your back to get that extra squeeze. This movement will build the trapizeus and give the upper back thickness like you won’t believe. The pump you will get from doing incline dumbbell rows is incredible too. Give them a ride and watch everyone in your gym copy you.

PULLDOWNS to the FRONT

The pulldown to the front is the number-one movement in most back routines. The important thing, and I do mean- the important thing, is to use a weight that allows you to use correct form. Correct form is to keep your torso fairly upright, with a slight arch in your lower back, so that it looks as though your chest is up in the air, and keep this stature throughout the whole movement. Start with your arms fully stretched and then pull the weight toward the base of your chin, so that you are not bouncing up and down out of the seat. No matter how you grab the bar – overhand or reverse grip – do not use your biceps as the main pulling power. In addition, you need frightening traps, so finish your back off with a hulking set to failure of bar shrugs.

Remember, you cannot see your back when you’re training. So, you must develop a mind-muscle connection. Also, when training back, you cannot just move the weights you must actually move the muscle. Furthermore, you must visualize the exercise, slowly execute the movement, and contract your back. So, shrug, pull, and squeeze if you want to be member of creatures in the jungle.

Written By Curtis Schultz

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The low down on Glucosamine

Glucosamine is an aminomonosaccharide naturally occurring in the human body and is produced naturally in the body by chondrocytes in cartilage to help maintain and build healthy joint tissue. The main basic purpose of glucosamine is to create long chains called glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), which the joints and cartilage require for repair. The GAGs, formerly known as mucopolysaccharides, are long chains of modified disaccharides and are the main component of proteoglycans (PGs).

These, along with chondrocytes and collagen, make up cartilage. The chondrocytes use ingested supplemental Glucosamine to produce more cartilage components, which are the four main types of GAGs: chondroitin sulphate, hyaluronic acid, keratan sulphate and, to a lesser extent, dermatan sulphate. So, as you can see, chondrocytes are responsible for the synthesis, maintenance, and regeneration of cartilage. The more Glucosamine at hand means your body has a better chance of decreasing or eliminating pain caused by insufficient lubricants and poor shock absorption.

Chondrocytes have two methods in which to make GAGs. In the first method, a glucose molecule will be phosphorylised (have a phosphate group added) and will then undergo epimerization reactions (basically changing the configuration of the compound). This modified sugar then receives an amino group donated from glutamine. A synthetase reaction (from the glutamine) forms the molecule glucosamine-6-phosphate, which then undergoes additional reactions in GAG synthesis. This is the ‘natural way’ if you will. The second method is basically the ‘supplementary method’. What I mean by this is that the chondrocytes use preformed glucosamine from ingested supplemental sources. When the glucosamine enters the chondrocyte, a phosphorylation reaction occurs forming glucosamine-6-phosphate and from here continues the natural synthesis reactions.

Ingestion of Glucosamine has been shown to actually stimulate GAG and PG production (1). This is because when glucosamine is available for chondrocytes, they are able to produce connective tissue faster because they can skip three chemical reactions, needing only a phosphorylation reaction to make glucosamine-6-phosphate. Also, when supplementary glucosamine is taken, fibrotic articular tissues begin to heal, improving the potential diffusion of glucose and amino acids through joint capsules and synovial membranes. This then provides the chondrocytes with the raw materials necessary (sugar and amino acids) to stimulate the synthesis of GAGs and PGs. At the end of the day, a lack of adequate glucosamine would result in GAG synthesis essentially ‘shutting down’. In turn, this would cause proteoglycan synthesis to also cease. It’s at about this time that you may notice joints getting that little bit sorer after a hard workout, or your knees getting stiff a few hours after cardio. Over an extended period of time of continuous ‘wear and tear’ so to speak, you may very well develop osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is when cartilage becomes worn and exposed bones can rub together. This can get extremely painful and can even affect the joints of bones throughout the spine, which can also become very dangerous for nerves. Glucosamine supplementation is recommended for anyone with osteoarthritis as it has been proven to alleviate pain (2,3,4), increase flexibility (5, 6, 7) and is even comparable to ibuprofen for joint pain relief (9).

As far supplementation goes, there are four possible sources of Glucosamine: Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Glucosamine Hydroiodide, N-acetyl Glucosamine, and Glucosamine Sulphate. Out of these four, however, only the sulphate and hydrochloride (HCL) versions are recommended. The two glucosamines are actually identical in their effects, but the Hydrochloride version is more cost effective as it is a richer source of Glucosamine. In fact, the percentage of pure glucosamine in these two common forms is: 83% in the HCL version compared to 65% in the sulphate version. The reason being that during the preparation, sodium and potassium are added to glucosamine (resulting in the 83% for the HCL version), but the sulphate version has sulphur added (hence, ‘sulphate’) which results in a net loss of glucosamine per capsule or tablet. But after oral administration, glucosamine sulphate is split into glucosamine and a sulphate ion so like previously mentioned, the effects are identical and it doesn’t matter whether you take the HCL or sulphate version.

The N-acetyl-glucosamine (NAG) version yields 81% pure glucosamine. This gives the false belief that the NAG version is superior to the sulphate version, but NAG is metabolised differently than other forms of glucosamine. Instead of being absorbed relatively intact, the intestinal bacteria digest it rapidly and other tissues of the gastrointestinal tract absorb it before it can reach cartilage. A study does exist showing positive effects from NAG (10), but in general, it is probably best to avoid this type of glucosamine as far as cost-benefit goes.

Another interesting trait of glucosamine is that unlike other amino sugars, it can be digested and still keep it’s primary properties and isn’t metabolised like other compounds are. For instance, insulin is a peptide hormone that when ingested orally would be broken down into the constituent amino acids and used for protein or energy. Thus, insulin is only worth taking intravenously. Glucosamine has been shown to keep it’s nature despite digestion (21), although quite obviously, intravenously would be a better way but it is quite impractical and unwarranted – especially for people who dislike needles.

Manufactured glucosamine is derived from Chitin, a major component of shellfish shell. Crabs, shellfish and lobsters tend to be the popular choice of manufacturers. The calcium carbonate and proteins are removed from the chitin and which is then hydrolysed to yield Glucosamine hydrochloride. If the manufacturer wishes to make glucosamine sulphate, they simply add a sulphur group. More often than not, they will add this sulphur group, because it means they save money on production costs i.e. the sulphur is basically a ‘filler’. Incidentally, over 90%, of the imported Glucosamine in the US comes from China because it’s cheaper to manufacture and there are fewer quality controls.

Now, as a wise man once said “The dosage dictates the poison”, or something to that effect I’m sure. If you’re confused as to where this has come from, it’s because glucosamine has a dark side. More specifically, glucosamine has been shown in several studies to directly cause increased insulin resistance, reduced liver glycogen production, and reduced glucose uptake by cells. If you’re unsure of what this means for the long run, let me explain insulin resistance to you. It is where more insulin than normal is required to reduce blood glucose (insulin transports nutrients into cells). There are many ways this can happen but it is bad because it overworks the pancreas, causes more insulin to be secreted, and raises the average blood glucose level. More insulin secretion may be anabolic, but it is also very fat storing. This also makes glucose the preferred choice of fuel over stored body fat. This is nothing new, but it means that cutting becomes extremely hard.

Another problem that can arise is the onset of type II diabetes from the increased insulin resistance, which has been shown in several studies over the years (11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17). These studies, however, use “chronic” doses to establish this. Define the term chronic how you will, but the recommended daily dose is 1500mg and there exists a study indicating that short term glucosamine use doesn’t in fact cause insulin resistance (18), so there is no harm in those users who only take glucosamine for a few weeks at a time and then cycle off it (although cycling of glucosamine is not actually necessary).

If the insulin resistance is something that really concerns you, then I can inform you that ingestion of inosine (a nucleotide, also available as a supplement) has been shown (in vitro) to counteract the increased insulin resistance from glucosamine. And let us not forget that glucosamine has been shown on several occasions to assist in the up-regulation of leptin levels (22, 23, 24, 25, 26). I can also tell you that a combination of EPA GLA, chondroitin, MSM, cod liver oil, ginger oil, and nettle leaf extract may also be just as effective as glucosamine, only not as cost effective. In fact, chondroitin on it’s own has been shown to be a great supplement for joints (19).

At the end of the day, glucosamine supplementation is proven to help joints (20) and really should be a supplement any strength athlete; especially bodybuilders and power lifters have on their supplement shelf.

Written by Robert Clarke

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