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The Physics Of Weight Training
By Paul Becker
Part 1, Gravity.
This is the first of a series of articles that will
look to the science of physics to help us make our
training more effective. In this article we will look
at the simple law of gravity and how this effects
Gravity is defined as - The natural force that causes
objects to be pulled towards the center of the earth,
it causes objects to have weight.
Because the earth is round, no matter where you are on
it the center is always straight down. Thus, in order to
have continuous tension on our muscles while training we
must make sure the actual resistance we use travels a
path that is straight up and straight down. an example
of this is the military press, the weight is pushed
against the force of gravity in a straight line up
until the arms are locked over your head, then it is
lowered slowly resisting gravity, in a straight line to
about shoulder level.
In all of the big basic exercises (deadlifts, squats,
bench press, military press, rows, etc.) the bar always
travels straight up and straight down, this keeps the
muscles being worked under a constant load. The basic
exercises produce the best results because they
stimulate growth in more then one muscle at a time, but
we also now know that they provide continuous tension in
the muscles involved - this is the secondary reason why
they are so productive.
There are a group of exercises called isolation
exercises these tend to work only one muscle or muscle
group at a time, these exercises are not very efficient
at producing overall body mass as the basic exercises.
The reason for this is they don't stimulate growth in
many muscles at once, but also secondarily because most
of them don't provide continuous loading of the muscles.
In most isolation exercises the bar travels in arcs
where only the middle of the movement approximates a
pull against gravity. Take the barbell curl for example,
The bar is lifted from the upper thighs in a circular
path towards the chin, at the beginning of the movement
the bar is traveling more horizontally then vertically,
it is only when the bar is in the middle position that
you are pulling it upwards against gravity, then as you
move into the top position of the movement you are once
again moving the bar in an almost completely horizontal
direction. This is why curls tend to be easy at the
beginning, hard in the middle and the easy again at the
Other examples of this type of exercise are, lateral
raises, flys, tricep extensions, pullovers, etc..
Any exercise preformed with a barbell in which the
resistance doesn't travel straight up and down, will
cause a loss of continuous load on your muscles. As a
side note, preacher curls done with a barbell are even
less effective because it make almost the whole
movement horizontal, the only benefit is the elimination
of cheating by benefit the upper arms from moving.
Ok, so how do we use this data to make our training
more productive? We make sure that we have continous
tension on our working muscles by making sure that the
resistance we are using is traveling straight up and
down. There are many machines that use pulleys to lift
a weight stack up and down against gravity even though
you may be moving in a circular motion, if you workout
in a gym where these are available - make use of them.
But even if you train in a home gym you can still use
these principles to build more muscle. Let's take bicep
work for example, do some close grip pull-ups with the
palms toward your face, this strongly works the biceps
and the resistance (your own body and any extra weight
you add) is moving straight up and down, it also give
you the added benefit of peak contraction at the top
of movement. Or instead of regular barbell curls try
body drag curls, take a shoulder-width grip and start
from the regular curl position drag the barbell against
your body up to your throat while keeping your elbows
For your triceps, nothing beats dips with extra weight
added by mean of a belt you can hang plates on to. For
deltoids, notice that the shoulder joints do the exact
same motion when doing military presses as doing lateral
raises, so you don't even need to really do the lat.
raises it's just more of the same.
You may ask "But what if i want to do some pre-exhaustion,
I would have to do some lateral raises then, wouldn't I?".
No, you don't Try this instead - do a set of upright rows
immediately followed by a set of military presses. It works
this way, the upright rows fatigue the biceps and shoulders
but leave the triceps fresh, now on the presses the strong
triceps push the already fatigued shoulders even harder
really making them grow. This is what I call the pull/push
method of pre-exhaust, it can also be used for other muscles
of the torso.
In conclusion, there are many ways to make gravity work for
you in weight training, now that you know the theory of this
article you may come up with some new and interesting exercises
or exercise combinations.
About The Author: Paul Becker is a natural (steroid free for life) bodybuilder and fitness
consultant. He is the author of many ebooks and courses on training
and diet. For more information visit his website at
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