What we have planned for Wannabebig in 2010

With 2009 closing in, we wanted to take a few moments to let you know what we have planned for Wannabebig in 2010. (And why we did what we did in 2009!)

Man, we are gonna rock 2010.

2010 – Content, Content, Content

First off, to show we’re serious about content, you’re going to get a brand new article every Monday. We’ve been quietly working on this for the last few months and have built connections with some first class writers and have lots of great articles lined up.

The first one will be published on Monday Jan 4th 2010 and is a brilliant one to start the year off with how we plan to go on – ‘Pre Contest Nutrition – An Interview with Shelby Starnes’. Shelby is a successful National-level Bodybuilder & Powerlifter and has helped hundreds of athletes get into the greatest shape of their life. You’re not going to want to miss this one; it’s packed with some great info.

The aim is to double the frequency to two articles a week around the middle of the year and perhaps towards the end of the year get closer to the ultimate goal of four to five articles per week. All, whilst maintaining the high level of quality you’ve been used to over the past few months.

You’ll still receive the Wannabebig Serious About Muscle Newsletter, once every two weeks and our main focus with this will be making sure that it is an enjoyable read with exclusive mini articles. Our aim is to move to weekly newsletter issues around the middle of the year. If you haven’t signed up already, you can do so here.

We will also be launching the New Wannabebig Training Program around May 2010 which is going to be epic…  Wannabebig contributor, Daniel Roberts has developed a system which will help you pack on the most amount of muscle mass in the shortest period of time. And to top it off, fifteen lucky members will get the chance to be part of a small, select group that will get exclusive, early access to the program and 121 coaching for a twelve week period. We’ve already received over 150 applications so watch this space for more news.

We haven’t forgotten about the community. We’ll be attracting even more professional athletes and experienced/knowledgeable members to the forums with a particular emphasis on bodybuilding to help even things up a little (in 2009 we saw a huge increase in our Powerlifting Forum). We’ll also be looking to run more competitions like the Strongest of the Weak Competition we ran in November which saw $1000 worth of prizes /cash handed out.

As you can see, some really ambitious plans for 2010 which will help provide you with more and better information to get the most out of your training.

As usual, we’re always interested to know what you want to see – if you have any suggestions or feedback, post it in our suggestions and feedback forum

I also wanted to explain why we did what we did in 2009 and how specifically it lays the foundation for an awesome 2010. (Yes, there is a method to our madness!)

2009 – Laying the Foundation

In January 2009, Chris and I had a long discussion about where we ultimately wanted to take Wannabebig. It was a bit of a make or break conversation because we felt we had been treading water for a year or so and we needed to define a clear direction for Wannabebig’s future.

After thrashing it out, we both agreed on two key objectives.

Firstly to establish Wannabebig as a genuine leader in fitness content and secondly continue to develop the community.

Taking the first point, genuine is the key word there. There are a huge amount of content/blog websites out there, but only a small amount of websites stand out as being true leaders in their field. 
Quite frankly, anyone can start a website and reprint information from others on a regular basis, but this just puts you in the same place as 99.9% of the websites out there and we didn’t want to be part of that group. We want Wannabebig to compete with the best out there.

Essentially we needed a brand new website that looked and functioned MUCH better. Even if we had the best content in the world, no one was going to read it if it was a pain in the ass to read. We needed to do a few other things too – attract the best authors, consistently publish 4-5 innovative, high quality, exclusive articles per week and send out a quality (worth reading) newsletter once a week And… All entirely FREE.

Wow…..it seemed like a daunting task because if we were to be honest with ourselves, we were a million miles away from this. We had a below-par website and were randomly publishing articles, often not even 1 per month and we didn’t have a newsletter. It was going to take a lot of time, effort and investment and we sure weren’t going to get there in one year, but we were up the challenge.

Immediately we started planning out what we needed to do to get the website into good shape and in April 2009 we launched the new version of our website which not only had a brand new design, it was now easy to find and read the content you wanted.

Wannabebig – Before (Left) and After (Right) – No Comparison!

We also started to focus on attracting new writers and publishing high quality, exclusive articles aswell as launching a new newsletter. Our first goal was to consistently publish one article and one newsletter every two weeks, which we have done since June 1st 2009.

Whilst content was our biggest priority, continuing to develop the community was also a key focus for us. We needed to improve the day to day running of the forums and to also attract the biggest and strongest people to be part of the community.

We started off by putting Travis Bell in charge of running the forums on a day to day basis which turned out to be an awesome decision. Travis is incredibly fair, honest and level headed – skills which are crucial for being a leader of an online community. We couldn’t have hoped for a better guy to take the reins and he’s doing a great job. A huge thank you also goes out to our moderator team for making Wannabebig community a GREAT place.

We also started sponsoring (through AtLarge Nutrition) and attracting professional powerlifters and bodybuilders and even just browsing the forums for 10 minutes, it’s hard not to interact with some of the strongest guys on the planet who are up for helping and giving advice where they can.

AtLarge Nutrition sponsored Athletes and Wannabebig Forum regulars – David Trantham (Left) and Tom Mutaffis (Right)

And lastly, Thank you for making Wannabebig what it is

Wannabebig is what it is today because of you and your support.

YOU read and comment on the articles which helps motivate us to keep doing more and more.

YOU being part of the community helps make the forums an informative and fun place to be.

And for those that have made AtLarge Nutrition your choice for your supplement needs, this is the key behind us being able to keep Wannabebig moving forward. Sometimes it’s hard to put in perspective the time and money that goes into not only just keeping Wannabebig online but also publishing content every week – our monthly bill for this is roughly around $5000. per month.

Yes, you read that right!

To keep Wannabebig running on a quality dedicated server, to keep improving the functionality of the site, to attract the best writers, to sponsor the biggest and strongest people out there to be part of the community and to run competitions with awesome prizes, you can see how it all adds up.

Therefore, we would really urge you if you haven’t already to check out www.atlargenutrition.com in 2010.

We’ve gone to great lengths to provide the absolute best products that will enable you to get more out of your training. By becoming an AtLarge customer you not only get no nonsense, high quality products but you also play a huge hand in supporting Wannabebig.

Thanks for taking the time to read and we wish you a successful and healthy 2010.

Daniel, Chris and the Wannabebig Team

Discuss, comment or ask a question

If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums – What we have planned for Wannabebig in 2010 discussion thread.

Leave Lat Pull-Down Land and Build A Bigger Back

Here’s something fun to look for the next time you head to the gym: count how many people you see doing lat pull-downs compared to how many you see doing pull-ups. I’ll bet you a pitcher of Guinness that the lat pull-down station has more groupies than a Justin Timberlake concert.

And if there happens to be anyone at the pull-up bar trying to crank out reps, I’ll bet you another pitcher that their reps are few in number and ugly to boot…they’ve got the right idea but the wrong technique. Well, I’m here to fix that.

Latching onto a bar with your full bodyweight in tow can be a much more humbling experience than sitting at a machine where dignity can be preserved with a quick change of the selector pin on the weight stack. This is why many people end up getting stuck in Lat Pull-down Land, and fail to ever perform a single set of double-digit pull-ups.

It doesn’t have to be this way. With the right plan in mind and some well-applied effort, you can easily surpass the average gym rat’s five pullups and be knocking out sets of ten to fifteen.

Why should you get better at pull-ups? Good question.

Pull-ups are necessary for building a wide muscular back and play a major role in arm, shoulder, and trap development. They recruit a huge amount of upper body muscle and, if done correctly, activate the high threshold motor units responsible for explosive movements and dense muscle growth. Additionally, when properly performed, they strengthen the musculature responsible for depressing and retracting the scapulae and help to keep your shoulders strong and safe from injury.

Pull-up or Chin-up?

To be clear, a pull-up is done with the palms forward, a chin-up is with the palms facing you, and a neutral grip means that the palms are facing each other.

Grip used for a Pull Up

Grip used for a Chin Up

Neutral Grip

So should you do chins, neutral grips, or pullups? Ideally you’d do all three, but let’s consider the differences:

Pull-ups are harder. This is because your biceps are in a mechanically less efficient position, which is fancy talk for “you can’t use them as much.”  By putting the biceps in a weaker arrangement, you create a weak link. Movement will stop when this link fails, and the decreased load that you can use with pull-ups because of mechanical inefficiency at the elbow joint carries over to less loading on the lats. Therefore, the harder the movement, the less you can do.

I recommend mixing up the three variations, although beginners should start with the chin-up. Each exercise will place your joints under slightly dissimilar stressors and load the muscles a bit differently, causing you to build bigger muscles, and giving you better strength balance.

Fixed bar or handles?

Nearly every gym has a pull-up bar, but few have Olympic rings or blast straps, although the latter may be better for your wrists since they allow for natural rotation.

A free-moving handle or ring is the best of both worlds. Typically, the palms will move forward into pronation as the shoulders adduct fully at the bottom of the movement. Then, as you pull upwards, the palms will naturally supinate, allowing maximal loading, solid scapular retraction, and an efficient pull. This gives you a full range of motion with maximal loading and also minimizes strain on your wrists. 

However, if all you have is a good old-fashioned straight bar, that’s fine too!

A Quality Rep

It doesn’t matter how hard you flail; it’s not considered a legitimate pull-up or chin-up unless the bar touches your sternum. One of the major benefits of either movement comes from the retraction and depression of the scapulae at the top of the movement (when your shoulder blades are down and back), and you can’t achieve this if you’re craning your head upward in order to barely tap the bottom of your chin on the bar.

Locking out the rep is not done with the arms, but with the shoulder blades.

Never Be Bored

As you get stronger on the chin-up and work your way through the neutral and pronated grips, you’re going to want to introduce some variations to keep your mind fresh and hit the muscles from new angles.

High threshold motor units (HTMUs) are the key to strength and size when it comes to pull-ups, and there are a variety of ways to recruit them. Cycling through these various methods will help you get bigger and stronger by taking advantage of these HTMUs and will allow you to keep some novelty in your program.

It’s probably been a while since your last physics class, but here’s a quick refresher: force equals mass multiplied by acceleration. With either of those components, you’ll find good means for generating maximal force.

We’ll start with acceleration, which is kind of like the Dynamic Effort day used in the Westside Barbell powerlifting method: you’re going to move a light weight extremely fast. The catch here is that most gym equipment requires that you also slow down and control anything that you move really fast, lest you throw small metal things through the wall.

Slowing down the bar diminishes motor unit recruitment and diminishes the benefits of the lift. 

The first way to overcome this is to use bands. With bands, the amount of resistance increases throughout the range of motion to the extent that despite maximal muscular effort, the bar or implement decelerates on its own. That means you don’t have to try to stop the bar.

For these, you can use a dipping belt or a powerlifting belt, but I go with a parachute rigger’s belt since I know it will never break or come off.  You can get them at tactical supply stores like London Bridge or Blackhawk online for about 25 bucks.

Loop the band through the belt, and choke the other end around a heavy dumbbell. I typically use a purple Jumpstretch band and occasionally add one more red or orange band, but you may have to adjust that depending on your strength levels and the height of your bar. Even a single red band can provide enough resistance at the top to encourage greater explosiveness.  

Band Resisted Chin Ups

Another great method is using weighted chins. These are on the mass side of the mass-acceleration curve. For these, chins work much better than pullups because of the greater mechanical efficiency. You’re trying to produce as much force as possible, so you want to avoid weak links. According to Charles Poliquin, a good standard is to add two-thirds of your bodyweight for three reps. Surely, this would take some work to reach, but it’s a good goal nevertheless.

Weighted Chin Ups

A third option is to do standard chins, but with a single arm eccentric. Pull yourself up to the bar as you normally would, then lower yourself under control with only one arm, trying to slow yourself down as much as possible. You are capable of generating more force in an eccentric movement than a concentric, and this allows you to overload your muscles with more weight than they would normally handle. After lowering with one arm, pulling yourself back up with two will make you feel like you’re floating. For an added bonus, you can start by holding yourself at the top of the bar in a single-arm isometric before beginning the eccentric portion of the movement.

Single Arm Eccentric Chin Ups

Assistance

If you’re having trouble locking out a single bodyweight pullup, or can only get two or three in one shot, you should go with band assistance in order to get in sufficient volume.

Bands allow you to stay in the same range of motion as a normal pullup, and provide the most assistance at the bottom, where you need it most. Most of their pull is dissipated by the time you’re at the top of the movement, leaving your muscles to pull their own weight.

The setup is simple. Just choke a band over the pullup bar and loop the other one around a foot. You can easily graduate to less assistance with a smaller band, or just loop the band over a bent knee instead of your foot.

Band Assisted Chin Ups

Putting it all together

If you’re stuck in the single-digits on chin-ups, advanced techniques like weighted chins are a lifesaver.

If you can do five reps with your bodyweight, you should be able to add ten or fifteen pounds and get sets of one or two reps. It’s important to focus on the quality of each individual rep and think of your workout in terms of total reps, not just a cool-looking set and rep scheme.

Twenty-five single reps done with added resistance or single arm eccentrics will result in a much higher level of motor unit recruitment than a 5×5 template using only bodyweight.

Let’s get to chinnin’!

This sample program will allow you to increase your strength levels in vertical pulling movements and get on the road to more muscle. If you’re stuck around five or six pullups in a single set, this should get you into double digits within two months or so.

This program assumes that you do upper body pulling twice per week, such as on Monday and Thursday, and that you can do about six reps in a single set. A day or two before you start, test yourself on max pullups to establish a baseline.

Week 1

Workout 1 – Chin-ups, 25 total reps done as singles.

Do your rep, drop off the bar, and let your arms and back relax for ten to fifteen seconds. Aim for more rest initially until you get a feel for what you can do. Ensure that every single rep is perfect and that you feel a maximal contraction between your shoulder blades. Really focus on pulling your scapulae down and back. Don’t get impatient. This should feel easy at the beginning.

Workout 2 – Single-arm dumbbell row, 26 total reps per side done as 12 sets of 2 reps.

For these, you remain focused on quality reps and locking your scapula back as hard as you can on each rep. Perform two good reps, rest ten seconds or so, and then switch sides. Do your two reps there, rest about thirty seconds, and start over for twelve total sets.  

Week 2-4

Workout 1 – Weighted chin-up, 25 total reps done as singles.

Add weight only if you finished 25 single reps in the previous week without difficulty. This will be the same as last week, but this time you’ve got a little bit of weight strapped to your waist.

If you reach a point at which you can no longer lock out a single rep cleanly, stop the workout there and make a note to do the workout next week with less weight or more rest between sets. If you finish the workout easily, add weight to the belt next week.

Workout 2 – Single-arm dumbbell row, 26 total reps per side done as 12 sets of 2 reps.

Week 5-8

Workout 1 – Band resisted chin-up, 26 total reps.

Speed is your goal here. Get your sternum to the bar as fast as you can and feel your scapulae retract maximally, then drop right back down. You can start these as sets of two reps, but drop down to singles if your rep speed slows at all on the second rep.

Workout 2 – Neutral grip cable row, 25 total reps, done as doubles or singles.

Once again, the focus here is on individual quality reps with as much motor unit recruitment as possible in each one. Focus on scapular function. Only pull the handle until you feel your shoulder blades lock all the way back; don’t keep rotating your arms back and force your shoulders to pitch forward. Use enough weight so that sets of two reps are challenging and give yourself enough rest between each set to make it all the way to the end. 

Wrap Up

Once week nine rolls around, you should be able to hop onto a bar and knock out around twice the number of reps that you could do two months ago. Keep experimenting and use your newfound strength to work up to triples (sets of three reps) with weight or band resistance. Stay with chins until you can get more than ten reps at a time, and then you can start working pull-ups into your routine.

Stick with it and soon you’ll be rewarded with increased upper body strength, size, and density and a really smug feeling as you walk past the guys who are still stuck in Lat Pull-down Land!

Written by Craig Weller

Discuss, comment or ask a question

If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums – Leave Lat Pull-Down Land and Build A Bigger Back discussion thread.

About Craig Weller

Craig spent six years as a member of a Naval Special Operations Force known as SWCC, the Special Warfare Combatant Crewmen.

The methods which result from this training philosophy are designed to deliver maximal results with improvised or non-existent equipment in as little time as possible for men whose lives depend on their physical abilities.

This passion for showing others the path to a stronger, healthier body stayed with Craig and led to the founding of Barefoot Fitness

You can keep up with his training methods on Facebook.