When I was a teenager, all we had were the muscle magazines to learn how to lift. No internet, no personal computers, and definitely no smartphones. Muscle mags were not only super inspirational, but also included many techniques for muscle growth.
Fast forward to the beginnings of CrossFit and when my interest was at its peak, we kind of threw away these ideas. Everything had to be "functional". When I took my CrossFit Level I trainer course, movements like Pec Dec Flyes and Barbell Curls were scoffed at. And I totally understand the point. I still feel those are accessory movements and not Prime Movers in everyday life.
However, I think we’ve come full circle since then. Accessory movements in CrossFit, Olympic weightlifting, and Powerlifting are becoming the norm. Movements in isolation have a great role in our lives, just as long as they stay as accessories and we don’t overlook prime movers like squats and deadlifts.
Last night, I did my Bench Presses like I usually do on Tuesdays. I tore a pectoralis major a few years ago, so I had backed off the bench press. But today, its a regular part of my routine. I try to do it at least once a week.
I’ve read articles about the Bench Press in Olympic weightlifting where it was once very frowned upon. The idea is that muscle tightness would cause a person to fail putting weight overhead. However, the opposite seems to be true. A bench press is where you can press the most amount of weight comfortably. The same muscles in the lockout in weightlifting hold true in powerlifting.
So I spent some time last night using the Mark Bell Slingshot. It is a heavy elastic strap that lightens the load at the bottom of the lift. So it allows you to work more reps in the press out. It also allows you to use more weight for reps than normal. So that’s a nice ego boost, but also a confidence builder. When you start to gas out in a PR bench, you have that lockout in your toolbox.
I also worked with chains in my drop sets. I used a much lighter weight and worked for quality rather than brute force quantity. It is similar to the Slingshot in that it works heavier in the lockout and lighter at the bottom.
Isolation movements are the best for mass building and sheer strength (not performance strength). And there are so many principles that make them more fun and effective:
Partials – working a smaller range of motion
Negatives – lowering the weight focusing on eccentric contraction; also partner pressing down
Overload – finding ways to go heavier, like with negatives
Isometrics – pausing at the peak of the movement
Failure – often using a lighter weight and going to failure to create the pump
Pick up a bodybuilding book, or even a magazine, and be inspired to grow your workouts. And for performance athletes, there is something here for you too. They’ll make you grow and improve your sport.