In Part 1 we discussed neck, traps, shoulders, chest and triceps. Today we keep it rolling, starting with every a Jersey Shore favorite- the biceps.
As with most of these exercises, beginners should use a full range of motion. Let me rephrase that….
Beginners should never do curls.
After a few years of training when you start curling you should use a full range of motion. But shortly after that it would be wise to cut the range and save your elbows. Keep the elbows slightly bent in the bottom position and even use a little body English/ momentum to get the bar or dumbbells moving. Using a little cheat is actually safer because it takes the stress of the bicep tendon and shoulder.
Believe it or not, heavy curls lead to as many shoulder problems as heavy pressing does. So curl somewhat light, cheat and cut the range. Curls are for pump work, not one rep maxes.
Chin Ups & Pull Ups
You should never do complete dead hang reps on a chin up. This places far too much stress on the elbows and shoulders. When you get on the chin up bar elevate yourself by using your lats to pull your shoulders down. Your entire body should rise up an inch or so without even having to bend your elbow.
Keep the shoulders jammed tightly in their sockets throughout the set and don’t let them come out. If you’re doing it right your delts will be below your ears. If you’re doing it wrong your shoulders will be touching your ears in the bottom position. You don’t want that. Keep them below.
Once you get yourself elevated you need to slightly bend your elbows. Just enough to raise yourself up another half inch. This will take unnecessary stress off the elbows. Keep that position at the bottom of each rep.
The same advice that applies to chins applies to rows. People usually think of pressing as more stressful to the shoulders than pulling exercises but if you do them wrong with too much range of motion and get loose in the bottom position these can be just as dangerous.
Let’s face it, most people can’t pull a straight bar off the floor with form that could be considered safe. As with the bench press, if you’re going to compete or get tested on this lift, then of course you should do the full range exercise. For everyone else who can’t maintain a neutral spine while pulling from the floor, placing the bar on pins or mats is a better option if you’re simply using the deadlift to get yoked.
The less stress you place on your lower back in a flexed/rounded position the faster you will recover from training. And thus the faster you will make progress.
Now, if you can pull from the floor with great form, by all means do so. But if you can’t why keep injuring yourself? Just raise the bar up a couple inches and spend a couple months working on mobility and stretching.
Single Leg Work
When you first start certain single leg exercises you’ll probably have to limit the range of motion just because your knee won’t be used to it or prepared for it just yet. If single leg work causes you more knee pain than squatting with a bar that’s probably a pretty good sign you have an imbalance or weakness that needs to be corrected and that single leg work will help you out.
Just take it slow and don’t jump into full range pistols the first day. Even if you have the strength to do them your connective tissue and joints need to get used to the extreme range of motion. So take a few weeks to work into it even if it seems ridiculously easy. You’ll thank me in a few years.
Ah, the king of all exercises. Unfortunately, not too many people can do it properly and safely. A great way to learn the squat is by starting with Westside style box squats. Squat down and sit on a box that allows you to maintain a neutral spine. Go no lower than this at first.
Over the course of time slowly lower the box height while you simultaneously strengthen your hamstrings, abs, lower back and work on mobility and flexibility. In time this should get you to parallel or even below. When you first remove the box you will have some issues and it will be a brand new exercise to you so take it slow.
The goal is to be able to get to at least parallel without letting your lower back round. If you can get lower than this while keeping a neutral spine that’s even better. But never go any lower than you can without your lower back rounding. It’s worth the time investment to get there safely with proper form instead of rushing it right now and risking a back injury.
I squatted for years and years with a rounded lower back and my spine paid the price for it. If I could go back I would have taken the necessary months to do single leg work, flexibility and mobility, etc. necessary to get me lower with a neutral spine.
Remember, this aint a race. Think long term.