I spend a lot of my time reviewing research. Enough time that I can tell you that there are definitely GREAT research papers, and then there are HORRIBLE ones that make you scratch your head trying to figure out how they ever were published in the first place.
Truthfully there are many more papers that seem to fall in the horrible category the truth is, even the worst paper ever published still has some value.
There is no such thing as research with absolutely no value.
While these seems like a typical ‘Pilon ramble’ let me assure you…we’re talking about bodybuilding.
You see for some reason, over the last decade we decided that bodybuilding is dumb, useless, and a complete waste of time.
We junked bodybuilding and replaced it with functional training, sports specific training and the like.
We threw out bodybuilding before we completely understood it.
And just like research papers, there is no such thing as a completely useless type of exercise.
There are things to be learned from bodybuildling.
**Before I go any further I need to be clear..there is next to NO research on bodybuilding.
Everything you read on line or in magazines is nothing more than theories and conjecture.
What I’m about to write is no different – these are my theories on bodybuiding.**
Body building and weight training are NOT the same thing – they are close cousins maybe, but they are not interchangeable.
Weight training involved using your muscles to move a weight.
In power-lifting the goal is to move as much weight as possible. In Olympic lifting the goal is to perfect moving a weight through a certain ‘movement’ as efficiently as possible.
In bodybuilding the goal is to contract your muscles using weight to add some resistance.
Similar but very different.
In fact, while things like Olympic lifting and Power-lifting are definitely ‘weight training’ I am starting to think that body building is ‘muscle training’.
Again – similar, but very different.
I think the difference lies in the mental approach.
Here’s an example.
Stand up and let your arms hang at your sides.
Now, with your arms still hanging flex your biceps as tightly as possible (don’t curl your arms yet, just leave them hanging but flexed).
Keeping that same intense level of flex, slowly curl your arm up at the elbow until its fully curled – concentrating on the flex the entire way.
Pause for a second or two at the top then while keeping your bicep flex, slowly lower your arm back down.
That is a bodybuildling bicep curl.
Now imagine this same degree of concentration while holding a weight.
You are using weight to resist the contraction, but the mindset is all about the contraction and not the weight.
Using this technique, a guy that can curl 60 pound dumbbells for sets of 6-8 may only be able to curl 40-45’s before he has to break his concentration on the contraction and start thinking about moving the weight.
From my experience, you can lift a helluva lot more thinking about the weight then when you are thinking about the muscle…but if you want to make a muscle bigger..then there may be something in this approach.
My random speculation –
In the muscles that grow well for you..I bet you really ‘feel’ the exercises that you normally choose.
For the muscles that don’t grow well for you…I bet you really ‘feel’ the weight.
For me, I feel the contraction in my chest every time I do bench press or dumbbell press.
But shoulder press, I feel the weight moving. I’m strong on this lift, but I just don’t ‘feel’ it in my shoulders.
Coincidentally, my chest is much more developed then my shoulders.
(like I said, we’re theorizing here)
So, if the feel is important, then what do bodybuilders do right?
1) They pick exercises that they feel in the muscles they want to work.
2) They do things like ‘preexhaust’ a muscle to ‘help’ it feel an exericise.
3) They concentrate on the muscle in question during the workout.
All of these techniques are things we through way in favor of becoming Olympic lifting /power-lifting /functional training/athletic training wannabees (not meant to be derogatory, just saying..)
But, if your goal is simply to grow a specific muscle, or group of muscles in order to change the way your body looks, then there may be something we can learn from the way a bodybuilder approaches ‘working a muscle’.
In the end, the answer to losing weight will be to eat less, and the answer to building muscle is working out ‘more’ but this may be one little step towards a better definition of ‘more’.