Short Topic: Functionally Correct Exercises

Traditional bodybuilding practices focus so much on parts and pieces, trying to work on muscles as isolated entities that magically grow only when picked on individually. There in lies an irony. This protocol backfires, since the muscles we usually try to pick on simply aren’t strong enough to move the weight we load them with, so the body, in it’s constant quest to be helpful, must call upon the bigger muscles to assist.

The classic cases of this would be the lateral raise and the bicep curl. If the lateral raise were to actually focus on that medial head of the deltoid (which, by the way, get plenty of abuse form any form of overhead pressing), most folks wouldn’t be using much more than a 10 or 15 pound dumbbell. Any more weight than that and the traps, posterior head, levator scapular and the obvious bouncing or swinging of the torso must play a role.

When is the last time you saw a bicep curl performed without any upper arm or torso movement or shoulder rotation? Only with lighter weight and strict focus can you even begin to attempt the erroneous isolation of a joint. So why do we kid ourselves that this is the way to improve the ability of muscles?

Movement is a series of chains and adding resistance to those chains increases our ability to move. Simple. As strength competitor Dan John says in his Ten Commandments of Training: Commandment 9: Put the bar on the ground and pick it up a bunch of different ways. Here’s two of those ways.

Both of these exercises require one end of the bar up against a wall or a super sturdy piece of equipment. Load the desired weight on the other end and watch the other folks in the gym look at you funny.


The First one is a modified version of something called a Full Contact Twist. We have since renamed it a Bueler (I had a naming contest through my online group and this was the winner). Start light on this because it’s deceptive in it’s ability to trash you.

Approach the bar as if you’re going to deadlift it, except you’ll be positioned close to the weighted end. Get the bar slightly off the ground so you have a tight arch and good deadlift position with the bar right below your knees. In one smooth movement you’ll stand up, rotate the torso and take a step to face the wall or equipment the bar is up against. Here’s the caveat: don’t bend the arms at any point through the movement. All the rotation is done with the hips and the torso, meaning the muscles of your trunk and hip chain have to deliver.

Lower the weight in the exact reverse of raising. Again the straight arm technique is tricky, and avoid the tendency to round the back on the return.

Through all of this, show the spine some love by keeping your midsection tight. Bare down on those belly muscles throughout the lift Once the bar feels easy, throw some weight on the end.

Bar Thrusts

There is an ongoing debate about the benefit of the bench press for sports specificity. I know, we only want big muscles, but frankly, I’m a fan of function, so this debate intrigued me. The cliff-noted version goes like this:

Talking Head 1: “The bench press is essential to athletic development because of the increased potential for strength in a horizontal pushing motion and the increase in shoulder stability and structural strength.”

Talking Head 2: “But what sporting movement involves anyone pushing with there back up against a wall? Without the support of a bench, the strength gained from benching is superfluous.”

And so on. To meet half way, new equipment was developed. Enter a wave of new machines meant to fix this problem. With a slew of cool names , these machines gave the body a chance to participate in the pressing motion. Since Dan John’s 9th commandment got me thinking, why can’t we use what we have in front of us for this task?

Using a modified Bueler technique (you can bend the arms now) get the weighted end of the bar up so you’re facing the bar, which is on end, with your arms locked in front of you straight out. Now brace you body (you know the drill, tush tight, belly tight, stay proud) and lower that the bar with one hand towards the shoulder and then press it away from you. If it’s light, make it heavier. If it’s heavy (now here’s the good part), use your body to help move the weight. That’s right, with tight belly, the hips and legs can play an essential role in this exercise. It’s a chest press with the power of the body to help. A great move for many sports, like football or wrestling, but also a perfect lesson in the function of the body. Your trunk will feel it, your usual pressing muscles will notice, and your body gets to work as a chain, not in isolated parts.

What fun. 


Written by Chip Conrad

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Learn From My Mistakes – An interview with Dave Draper

1.What do you feel is the single greatest trait (genetics, discipline, intensity, etc.) that led to your success in bodybuilding and why?

Nothing I possessed in the way of structure or body chemistry was outstanding. A six-foot frame with a large bone structure is certainly an advantage for which I am thankful, but they didn’t separate me from the crowd. Further, I didn’t have a burning ambition or dream to become a champion, a nuclear scientist or the President. I did have in my growing years, however, a simplistic approach on all projects undertaken… still do.

What do I want? Is it sensible and worthwhile and how do I — with common sense — accomplish it? Once the questions are answered (guesses count), do it. Here you have a goal, focus and commitment.

It is during the simple process of achieving that one develops those grand habits and character qualities more valuable than blue chips or chocolate chips. Determination is one competent ally in gaining anything we have positioned before us. And determination spawns discipline, the thick leather reins that prompt and lead the untamable animal. The sum of determination and discipline is perseverance, the impenetrable armor of warriors.

So, keep your eye on that worthy goal; choose the logical (simple, most basic) way to go, and go. Go hard. It’s a struggle, yet without intensity, I have discovered, I don’t go far. Make room in your heart and mind to gather and store the determination, discipline and perseverance found in thick clumps along the way. Patience follows like a tired old mare; get used to her.

2. When training with weights, beginners often struggle to find the exercises and techniques that work best for their body types. What exercises and routines seemed to work best for you when you were just starting out? And what exercises did you try to avoid?

When I was starting out, I was very young and made up some dumb rules as I went along. Once I got my hands on some battered wall charts demonstrating the variety of exercises one could do, I chose the simplest (coincidentally like my own favorite inventions) and continued to train, grow in understanding and gain in muscle development. I was 12, what else could I do? What more could I expect?

Those biggies that kept me going, growing and interested were standing barbell curls, wrist curls, lying and standing triceps extensions or presses, bench presses, bentover barbell rows and stiffarm pullovers. I, like most kids, ignored the legs, as if they were miles away, below the beltline and out of sight.

Note: When I refer to “barbell,” I speak of a 16-inch bar with my limited selection of weights in the center and my tightfisted mitts squeezing what little was left of the bar’s short ends. The volume varied from 1 to 20 sets and reps, as I intuitively sorted things out and eventually added to my equipment list. Any routine worked as long as I stuck to it with regularity for 30 minutes. The word “technique” is not applicable to whatever it was I did during those grimacing, premature workouts. Wrestling, free-for-all and slugfest more appropriately describe the action taking place… a brawl or a battle-royale.

What I tried to avoid was dropping that congested bar on my head. Though I had no supervision early on, I was reasonably safe because I didn’t have very much poundage. The meanest wrong one can do when one is new to weight training is to use too much iron with too little know-how and too little physical conditioning.

Common disaster: “This is fun. I wonder, how much weight can I bench press?”

Tendons and muscle insertions that are unprepared for heavy resistance might tear or otherwise be damaged when subject to exuberant and heavy lifting: painful, frightening, disappointing and perhaps chronic.

Later, though, as I stepped into the VMCA and Vic Tanny’s of the late ‘50s, I zipped forward to dumbbells of assorted sizes, benches, racks and cables. Supersetting with the basic movements became my thing then and is to this day. Added to the list of original exercises I practiced as a kid are squats and deadlifts and shrugs and pulldowns and dumbbell presses… nothing fancy, just solid.

3. Many people who begin weight training are looking to build mass in their arms and chest. Can you talk about the importance of symmetry to a healthy looking body?

It’s important to understand the necessity of seeking balance in developing the body’s muscle structure. The body works as a system, mutually supporting and interdependent, and performs more healthfully and efficiently when developed as a functioning whole. Muscles grow faster, overall conditioning is achieved and no part of the body lags behind in formation as a result of neglect.

Imbalance in strength and structural development can cause chronic pain and degrees of disability as the years go by, i.e., a predominantly strong arm and chest development can lead to shoulder-rotation troubles; an abdominals muscles deficiency can lead to lower back troubles; weak hamstrings can present knee problems, etc. Does one want pain and limitations?

Getting huge at all cost is not unheard of among budding bodybuilders of all ages. Why not? They are promised extraordinary gains in short periods of time, if they use this formulation or that stack while following this champ’s routine. Stop and think. It’s smart to consider from the onset the eventual appearance of the body — body esthetics, beauty, balance and appeal — when enthusiastically embracing the bodybuilding field. A lopsided body can be a problem to correct, reflects your thinking and follows you wherever you go.

Simultaneously, however, I believe anyone who begins to train with weights should do whatever he or she feels like doing for whatever purpose. You can usually get away with a few months of floundering and butting your head against the wall without knocking your brains out or building 19-inch arms on a 150-pound frame. Gives the would-be champ time and space to search, invent, express, improvise and make a bunch of instructive mistakes of his very own. Freedom before margins.

4. Are there any nutritional secrets that beginners need to know to develop a powerful, healthy physique?

There are no secrets. Train hard, eat right and be happy!

Nutrition counts — big time. What you eat is what you get. Eat regularly to fuel and restore the muscles throughout the day — once every three to four hours. Up your intake of muscle-building protein (red meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, some nuts); exclude or greatly minimize simple sugars in your menu; eat lots of fresh vegetables and a fair share of fresh fruit (watch the sugar); get your fiber and eat whole-grain breads and grains that have not been overly processed. Don’t eat junk food, fast food and don’t overeat. Without drowning yourself, drink jugs of water. Add an excellent vitamin and mineral with antioxidants, along with a dose of essential fatty acids (EFAs) daily, and a protein powder to supplement meal planning if eating consistently is a problem — or to help gain weight, or as a most important pre-workout and post-workout fortifier.

Simple, basic, honest. Takes devotion and habit building. It works, that’s all. It works.

5. Unfortunately, injuries are common in weight lifting. What mistakes can lead to injuries in the weight room? And how can beginners avoid them?

Injuries will visit without being invited. They come from eagerness, lack of body conditioning or preparedness, overload, not being warmed up, poor execution of an exercise, lack of concentration, undernourishment, inadequate pre-workout fueling, excessive overload, collective muscle tears over a period of time and/or lack of recuperation. There’s more I’m sure; the list goes on. The question requires a volume to answer even briefly.

I’ll highlight a few of the common mistakes in broken English:

~Too eager, too soon. Pushing, for example, a heavy bench press before the muscles and tendons have had a chance to adapt, thicken, lengthen and whatever else they need to do before squirming under the stress of an impossible weight. Imagine a new biceps and a young lower back under the enthusiastic swing of a cumbersome bar littered with cold iron. Snap, crackle, pop…

The sport is wonderful, tough, takes time and requires wisdom. Injuries impart wisdom. Slow down, think, be smart and save time… and a whole lot of misery.

~Similarly, it’s cold; you’re in a hurry, you press the dumbbells and the deltoid gurgles as a spike of pain is loudly hammered home.

Never hurry. Raise the body’s core temperature with sufficient aerobic work or, better yet, a vigorous ab workout, and hit the muscles and joints about to be blasted with a few light sets in preparation.

~You’re in the sport a long time and the bench lures you on and on. The bench press does that. I’ll bet you eventually get a chronic shoulder problem that threatens your sleep and the rest of your training if you persist to try to conquer the impenetrable steel fortress. The exercise is decent, though not the most efficacious muscle builder and shaper. It certainly is replaceable with safer dumbbell movements.

Beware. As a power lift it will lead to troubles. The shoulder mechanics do not provide for the extreme overload demanded by power training on the bench press. There is a protective bone-like tab within the joint to prevent overload and this becomes aggravated, and in time enlarged and inflamed causing real pain and limitation. Who among long-time weight trainers does not have a shoulder complaint?

~Improved nutrition invariably accompanies a solid interest in weight training. The basics of sound eating combined with sensible physical conditioning cause the system to more fully cooperate (as designed) and will add vitality, improve the health and flexibility of joints, increase bone density and improve resistance to injury. The muscles become an attractive armor against the perils of the hard work.

Feeding yourself healthfully is a primary factor in preventing injury on the gym floor.

6. When you are in the gym, what are some of the most common mistakes you see weight lifters making, and what can they do to correct the mistakes?

The answers to the question in regard to mistakes made that might cause injury would be poor form, too little focus and too much weight. The corrections I think are obvious. Learn and practice good form, concentrate totally on your training from start to finish (more practice) and lower the working weight. Be smart.

To answer the question broadly and assuming the goals are the development of body strength and health and not entertainment (which is certainly okay), the mistakes or shortcomings include lack of training involvement and too little intensity in exercise performance. Amplitude is missing. Desire and direction are major requirements if time spent on the gym floor is to be productive and fulfilling. They wane rapidly. This muscle-building and strength-building stuff works best when you work hard, want it bad, refer to your internal compass and have an honest sense of confidence in your pursuit and performance. You’ve got to blast it when you’re amid the metal, cable and racks.

Another thing: There’s more time and effort and wonder in seeking faster and easier ways to achieve muscle building goals than there is in the act of muscle building. Don’t waste your resources. Face it, muscle and power building is tough work, not magic.

7. Finally, what is the single biggest mistake you made in your bodybuilding career and what did you learn from it?

Aside from drinking too much alcohol 25 years ago and learning I’d have been better off not to drink at all, I reckon the mistakes I’ve made have only been incidents which contributed to the person I happen to be today, good or not so good.

I’ll spare you the philosophical baloney, but I prefer to think of muscle building as something I do as I go about my life, not who or what I’ve become — not the career thing referred to as “bodybuilding.” I have always trained — building muscle and might — for function, focus, good fun and a hundred other valuable reasons.

That which others might call mistakes were just days of my life: No outstanding overload that cost me my lower back, knees or biceps, no crazy concoctions or dietary schemes that deteriorated my innards. I stepped on a few toes and acted like a jerk and hurt some folks along the way and would gladly for the good folks involved edit out those occasions. Yet, somehow, the world has continued to turn, for which I thank God.

Written by Dave Draper

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Whey Protein VS Casein Protein – The Battle Continues

Trying to decide on which proteins to use at what times and for what reasons can be a mind numbing process. There are basically two major proteins in the bodybuilder’s arsenal. Those being casein and whey. They are also sometimes referred to as slow and fast acting proteins respectively. The purpose of this article series is to give you an in-depth look at the properties of each of these proteins, explain what it all means and why it is important to you. And, Finally, to provide a systematic way to apply it all.

So you’ve got a choice. Casein or whey? fast or slow? Some people swear by one or the other and would have you believe that one of them is in fact superior.

Well, I am sorry to say that those people are wrong. They either do not understand the literature, have a poor sense of critical application or just want to make an impact by taking a stand. Which ever it may be, these people have misled you. And I can assure you that their path is nothing but a downward spiral to minimal results. To truly get the most from your protein supplementation you will need to utilize both types of protein in your repertoire of supplements

Editors note: At Large Nutrition’s Nitrean, contains a proprietary protein matrix which contains whey, casein, and egg fractions) Let’s expand on whey a little bit first. I like to start with whey because it is better known and many have some background understanding of it.

Whey is a by-product of cheese production. When cheese is made, a thin liquid is left over. That liquid is whey and it is less than 1% protein. It is concentrated and dried, and you have a protein powder. Whey protein is considered a “Fast Acting” protein. But what, exactly, is meant by ‘Fast’? Fast refers to the amount of time it takes to be fully metabolized. More specifically, the time it takes for it to be digested(if needed), absorbed into the blood, taken up by a bodily tissue and complete one of many metabolic fates. The two dominant pathways here are the creation of a new protein from the individual amino acids or oxidation into urea and possibly glucose. Urea is the major component of urine, while glucose is the humans basic unit of carbohydrate. With whey protein, it will take only 20 minutes before almost all of what you have consumed is coursing through your veins. Somewhere between 20-40 minutes, the level of amino acids in your blood has reached its high point. With in the hour it will have gone through the various metabolic processes, either protein synthesis, or oxidation (11, 12,13,14). This is a good thing! Muscle growth is dependant on the balance between protein synthesis and breakdown (18). If the synthesis of new muscle protein is greater than the breakdown of muscle protein, net gains in muscle mass are seen. So with whey protein, it will take only 40 minutes for blood levels of amino acids and protein synthesis to reach a peak, and in about an hour they will come back to normal after a single feeding of protein (5,14). This is amazingly fast in comparison to its counter part casein or even whole food.

Casein is considered a “Slow” protein. When you consume casein, you will reach a peak in blood amino acids and protein synthesis between 3 to 4 hours (5,12). However, This ‘peak’ does not even come close to that of whey. On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the highest or fastest, Whey would be a 10. Casein would come in with a meager rating of 2. But, here is the kicker. That is not a bad thing! This, too, is a good thing. Casein dramatically slows the rate of protein breakdown. Remember, Muscle growth is dependant on the balance of protein synthesis and breakdown. So as we can see here, relying on one or the other, and debating which is superior is futile in the hopes to gain the most benefits from them. To tip the scale in your favor, you need to increase protein synthesis and slow down muscle breakdown. You would be a fool to write one off.

I know what you are thinking, “Why not just mix them together and get the best of both worlds?” Well, I am one step ahead of you. Casein has a unique property, in that is coagulates in the stomach (12). This causes other proteins to be digested and absorbed much more slowly. Have you ever tried to run through a vat of tar? It isn’t easy by any means. You would be moving very slowly. Casein does the same thing to whey, and other proteins for that matter. Think of it as a sort of binding gel. This simple little fact would nullify the biggest and most important attribute of whey. That is its ability to flood your system quickly with amino acid and stimulate protein synthesis.

Now before you ask, let me stop you. I already know what you are thinking. Perhaps it would be best to just slam whey protein drinks all day to keep your system swimming in amino acids, right? Wrong! It may seem counter intuitive, but it would not keep protein synthesis rates up. (2) Just having constantly high levels of amino acids or merely having a positive protein balance doesn’t stimulate protein synthesis (2, 5, 11) and doesn’t lead to increases in muscle mass. (18)  Then what does, you ask? All evidence point to the same thing time and time again. It is the acute and large increase in the amount of amino acids in the blood that causes protein synthesis rates to increase (2, 5, 11, 20,15, 13). If you were to tap a vein with an IV to crank blood levels of amino acids up and keep them there, we would see a dramatic increase in protein synthesis as well as a decrease in protein breakdown (11, 2). However, right around two hours, synthesis rates will level off and return to normal despite the abnormally high levels of amino acids (2). What is even more interesting is that even if amino acid levels are already very high and protein synthesis is dropping, I can consume more amino acids and further stimulate an increase in synthesis rates (11).

So here is the take how message. It is not about just shoveling down 4,000 calories7 or X-amount of protein to keep your blood saturated with amino acids at all times. It is the about presenting your body with sudden change and increase of amino acids that stimulates protein synthesis rates (2, 5, 11, 20, 15, 13, 9). This is why it is important to understand the differences between the various types of protein supplements. When products start totting how much of a certain amino acid they have added or that they have a better amino acid profile, just skip it. It doesn’t matter (5). The amino acid profile becomes important when you are comparing different protein sources. And since both casein and whey are derived from milk, they have essentially the same amino acid profile. You should be concerned with the main source of protein so that you know what that product will do for you. Will it stimulate protein synthesis? Or will it slow protein breakdown?

Make no mistake about it, high protein diet are a requirement for packing on high quality muscle mass (1,9,13,15,16,19). But you need to find that middle ground. As we have covered, if you consume so much that you have chronically high levels of amino acids in your blood, much of the protein you consume will go straight down the toilet. Literally (1,2, 5,11,17)! But don’t let people sell you on the myth that your body can only handle so many grams of protein at one time. Firstly, this is a very vague statement. What is meant by “Handle” or “At one time”? About 50% of what you consume is incorporated in to muscle tissue one way or another. 20% is incorporated into other body proteins and the remaining is oxidized (11, 5, 1). A large majority of the 30% is a class of amino acids called Non-Essential Amino Acids (17). And this breakdown of metabolic fates is ay just about any protein intake at any “one time”. On the other hand, if you play it too safe, you will short circuit the muscle building mechanisms and the balance will shift towards muscle breakdown (4,11, 18, 16, 19). So the next time that someone tells you that they won’t be happy until they can walk around with an IV drip of amino acids tapped into their arm, you can tell them they are just wasting their time. Not only that, but you will understand why!

Alright, so we now have all of this information swimming around in our heads. What do we do with it?

Let’s put it together into a plan. We know that wee need to increase protein synthesis and reduce protein breakdown. We know that whey is the most effective product to stimulate protein synthesis, and we know that casein is the most effective product to reduce protein breakdown. We can’t use them together because casein will nullify whey’s primary mode of action. However, we have one more weapon in the arsenal that we can use. And that is our good friend, food. In general, whole food proteins are digested very slowly. That means they will cause a mild and constant stream of amino acids into the blood, much like casein. However, most whole foods do not coagulate in the stomach and do not slow the digestion of other proteins. So the first step in the plan is to forget what you think you know about supplement “Timing”. It is ok to consume whey protein at times during the day other than before or after a work out. And honestly, you should.

Step #1: Consume a whey protein drink shortly after a whole food meal.

By doing so, you will have created an environment very conductive to muscle growth. By consuming that whole food meal you will have suppressed the rate of muscle breakdown. Firstly, by starting a slow cascade of amino acids through your system. Secondly, provided your meal had some kind of carbohydrates, you will have stimulated the release of insulin which in it self can slow the rate of muscle breakdown (11,5,3, 8, 14). Insulin is also the hormone that governs protein synthesis rate. By elevating the release of insulin before the consumption of a whey protein drink, you have effectively set the stage for a serious anabolic reaction (14, 10, 11).

There is a slight delay from the time you digest carbohydrates and the time that insulin levels peak. Because of the fact that whey is absorbed so quickly, it is possible that the peaks between amino acids and insulin with not coincide resulting in a less than optimal response (11, 14). Once the whey protein has been completely assimilated, amino acid levels will drop. However, they will not return to normal, because the “Amino Acid Cascade” that you stared with the whole food meal is still streaming. It’s a beautiful sight, isn’t it? This little step has effectively stimulated protein synthesis as well as slowing protein breakdown.

Step #2: Consume casein based meal with in the next 3 hours.

That means before three hours has elapsed. Two hours would be an even safer bet. We want the levels of amino acids in our blood to drop a bit so we can create a dramatic increase again. The degree of protein synthesis is directly related to the degree of change in the levels of amino acids. By consuming a casein based meal here we will allow for that drop while keeping amino acid levels above normal. This keeps the rate of protein breakdown to a minimum. Do you feel the scales tipping yet?

Step #3 Repeat! That’s all there is to it.

Alternate between a whole food meal with a whey protein chaser, and follow that up with a casein based meal. Now I know this sounds expensive so you can modify it. You may want to reduce the size of the whey protein drink. But remember, the degree of protein synthesis is dependant on the degree of the increase in the levels of amino acids in the blood (2, 5, 11, 20,15, 13). So take caution when you are feeling cheap. It would not make sense to cut your servings and not have a very good response from it. You could also have just a whole food meal instead of a casein based one. You would essentially get the same effect. However, many meal replacement products on the market today have a far better nutritional profile than anyone of us could every pull off in the kitchen. I highly recommend two a day, making sure to have one just prior to bed.

Well there you have it, a three pronged attack. Precision Protein Supplementation. You know have the tools and knowledge to strategically create an environment that is highly conductive to not only increasing lean muscle mass, but preserving it as well. You will be surprised how effective this little strategy is during times of low calorie dieting. So, in summary, casein is a “slow” protein that is classified as anti-catabolic. That means that it prevent excessive protein breakdown. Whey protein is a “fast” protein that is classified as anabolic. Meaning that is stimulates protein synthesis, but does not inhibit catabolism (5, 12, 2). We can’t do both at the same time, but we can mimic the effect by manipulating our dietary intake. And finally, it is the rapid increase of amino acids that results in increases in protein synthesis.

Hopefully I have shed some light on the subject. There is no “Best” type of protein, only a “Best” approach or mix. Don’t let anyone tell you anything different. If they are convinced that there is a best, they are only joking themselves. Just smile, nod and realize that you are bigger than that guy!

Written by Eric Satterwhite

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