Happy St. Patty's Day!
Depending upon when you're reading this article, I'd like to
wish you happy Irish Appreciation Day lol. My friends and I
ventured into Chi Town for an epic day of fun this past Saturday.
We all agreed to take the 9am train in so we could have as full a
day as possible. We ventured all over the city and to be honest a
few of the places were a little cloudy to recall The best
part was we rolled to each new bar with like 15 of our friends, so
it didn't matter where we went you know we had a good time and
plenty of laughs.
I don't live with too many regrets but the one I had was I
didn't get a picture of the green-dyed Chicago River. Our early
city travels put us at the river at 10am and apparently they
started dying it at 11am. By the time we got back to another place
where the river was visible it was dark and you couldn't tell the
contrasting green. Oh well! All in all I have to say my friends, a
new city adventure, and Irish beverages made Saturday one of the
best I've had.
Muscle Myth Exposed
The extent of most people's 'gym IQ,' as I call it, is a
culmination of this rudimentary (and made up) equation: Experience
+ Untested Water Cooler Myths + Science = Gym IQ.
The problem is that most people don't ever take the time to
track what changes produced the best results. And why should they?
They get good enough results not to question the protocol but
almost never poor enough to inflict enough self-doubt and confusion
to switch up their routines. They keep trying the same things over
and over and expecting better results. Einstein's definition of
I'll illustrate with own my college gym experience. Two years
ago in my junior year in college, my roommate Faraaz and I decided
to hit the gym hard for five-six months. I started at 180lb max on
the bench press and finished six months later at my all-time best
205lb max! I was euphoric! That was the definition of good enough
not to complain but not poor enough to complain and change
routines. Does that make sense?
From observations, most people lump in their three sets of eight
reps for a few exercises and go home and slug a protein shake and
think that this is the proven formula. Here's the tricky part: IT
WORKS! It definitely works and actually if you look at the
literature the 'science' supports post-exercise intake of protein
up regulates muscle protein synthesis and increases muscle
strength. On top of that our bodies are soo stinking good at
adapting to stimuli that if you lift practically anything your body
will get stronger and your muscles will grow!
The other piece of knowledge that EVERYONE seems to agree with
is: Water Cooler Muscle MYTH: To increase the strength of a
muscle group you have to work it through the full range of motion.
Here's the tricky part: IT'S SO LOGICAL. I mean anybody in their
right mind would look at that statement and agree. I do for the
most part, but I decided to test it and put that water cooler myth
to the test.
The BENCH PRESS MAX Experiment
My test baseline was the full rep max on bench press. When I
started my lifting experiment eight weeks ago, I maxed out at
180lbs (I hadn't seriously lifted in eight months), which is by gym
standards unimpressive. I've always had shoulder problems so the
idea of lowering heavy amounts of weight into my shoulder's weakest
range of motion and instability wasn't my idea of a good time. So I
decided to complete Isometric Static Contractions developed by Pete
Sisco where you set the weights up in a cage with stoppers and do
as much weight as you can hold in the strongest range of motion for
that muscle (for bench its two-three inches below elbow
To give you an example of how much more weight you can do, I
STARTED with 350lbs for seven seconds of hold time to failure.
After just four weeks, I completed a 585lb hold at six seconds to
failure. So my total range of motion was three inches. Following
the isometric hold to failure, I completed one set of six-seven
reps to failure through the end half range of motion. So basically
I lowered the stoppers down to what I deemed a 'half press' or
about half of the range of motion below lockout. Again, total range
of motion about 12 inches. I started at 165 and finished at 215
four weeks later. The following month I had to stop because we were
trying to figure out the blood tests and I was limited to lift four
times. I did the same one set of 7 '1/2reps' to failure on decline
bench starting at 225. After my fourth workout at the end of four
weeks, I did 275 to failure. Again range of motion: Half a rep at
The truly interesting part comes with the final test. What most
trainers and PTs will tell you is that you will only increase
strength in the particular degree and range of motion and your full
reps won't improve that much. So how did I do? I just crushed 235
lbs on a full rep max on bench press! My spotter and buddy, Nick,
was shocked that I was able to do that after only eight weeks and
just 12 total workouts without a single full range rep. The weird
part? It made NO sense! How is that possible? You do full range of
motion lifts for six months and gain 25 lbs on your max and then
you do just eight weeks of lifting two years later and gain 55 lbs?
That's 120% better performance in 33% of the time frame? The cool
part is that I think that water cooler myth is officially BUSTED
(in my best Jamie from Mythbusters voice)!
Moral of the story: You don't have to necessarily do full range
exercises to stimulate muscle growth or strength. My advice? Eat
like a horse and rest more than you think. If you aren't increasing
your lifts every week you aren't eating enough quality food or you
aren't giving yourself enough recovery time between
Enjoy the rest of the week!