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Questions and answers with Stuart

Cable crossover, water and bodybuilding, parallel bar dip, and fast food for bodybuilders

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 Seated cable crossover

The guy with the best physique where I train told me that his favorite pec exercise is the seated cable crossover. I’ve seen him do it, and it’s mind boggling to watch. His pecs are something else. He also bench presses 415 pounds for sets of five reps, which is even more mind boggling to watch. I bench press 205 for sets of eight. I like doing the cable crossover, but is it really a good exercise for me at my present stage?

No.

The main reasons why that man has “mind boggling” pecs are that he has terrific genetics for bodybuilding and he’s exploited that natural advantage by working hard enough at his bench press to get it to 415 for sets of five.

And not only did that contribute hugely to developing his pecs, it also contributed hugely to developing his big triceps and big delts.

Even had he never done a cable crossover, or any isolation work whatsoever for his arms and torso, he would still have huge pecs, triceps and delts.

For a man of that development, the crossovers are giving him something extra—the icing on the cake, so to speak—but it was the bench press that built the cake, to continue with the baking analogy.

If you arrange your training and recuperation so that you build up your bench press by an additional 50 pounds for sets of five or more reps in correct exercise technique, which would probably take you over a year to achieve, that would accompany more pec and triceps growth than would any array of isolation work for your pecs and triceps. (Then, in your case, once you get to 255 for sets of five or more reps, if you want further pec and triceps size, focus on a further 25 pounds on the bar, and so on—always in correct exercise technique, of course.)

That same strategy should also be applied by most bodybuilders.

You’re much more likely to make that progress on your bench press if you make the bench press your sole chest exercise. (For some bodybuilders, the parallel bar dip may be a better choice of exercise.) How many chest exercises can you really commit to with full intensity at a single workout? Just the one.

 

Water and bodybuilding

For building muscle, does it matter whether or not I drink eight or more glasses of water each day?

It’s nonsense when some people prescribe six, eight or whatever number of glasses of water a day.

If you’re large, you’ll need more water than you would if you were much smaller.

On a day when you sweat a lot, you’ll need more water than on a day when you sweat very little.

And you get water from sources other than glasses of water. If you have a lot of juicy fruit and vegetables each day, you’ll need less water to stay hydrated than you would if you have no juicy fruit and vegetables. If you get lots of water through other drinks, you’ll reduce your need for pure water.

Sustained dehydration is bad for your health in many ways.

And even a brief period of dehydration will make it difficult for you to sustain an intensive workout.

So, for multiple reasons, don’t allow yourself to become dehydrated.

Better to drink too much water than not enough, but without overdoing it.

In the gym, if you drink a glass of water every 15 minutes or so, that should be sufficient unless you’re sweating profusely—in which case, drink more. If your gym has a fountain, use that; or, if it doesn’t have a fountain, keep a water bottle with you.

Much better guidance than specifying a given number of glasses of water, is to drink enough water (and healthy liquids in general) so that you produce at least four colorless urinations each day—additional to colored ones. But precisely how much water you need to drink, depends on many variables, some of which I’ve already mentioned. Adjust your water intake accordingly.

 

Parallel bar dip

A few months ago I switched from the bench press to the parallel bar dip, and my chest and triceps are progressing much faster now. Nice! I’m starting to use a decent weight attached to a lifting belt, but it’s becoming uncomfortable. What’s the best way to attach weight for the dip?

At least when you’re using just a little weight around your waist, attach plates or a dumbbell to a lifting belt (or even a regular leather belt) by means of a length of rope, for example. Once you can use over 50 pounds or so (or 25 kilos), a proper weight belt for dips—not a lifting belt—is recommended, for comfort.

A lifting belt doesn’t have any padding, or a purpose-made chain attachment to link to plates or a dumbbell. But a weight belt does, and is way more comfortable for attaching a lot of weight. (And it works well for the chin-up and pull-up, too.)

Once you can use two-thirds or more of your bodyweight attached to your waist, an even better solution is to use a shoulder harness.

The problem with having a lot of weight attached around your waist while you’re suspended—as can be the case in the dip—is that that weight, together with some of your own bodyweight, applies a lot of force to your spine, which acts to try to pull your vertebrae apart. And that can cause problems for some people. To play safe in such a situation, use a shoulder harness rather than a weight belt. (The same issue applies to the pull-up and chin-up, but very few bodybuilders can handle sufficient weight in those exercises for it to be a potential problem.)

 

Fast food

Do professional bodybuilders eat fast food?

From time to time they probably indulge in something from a fast-food takeaway or restaurant, but they will offset the caloric damage and quickly get back on track with their body-fat control. But once they are no longer competing, their motivation to stay lean will probably wane, and they could get sucked into a fast-food mentality.

Don’t get sucked into the fast-food mentality yourself. It has caused havoc in the US, and contributed greatly to the shocking obesity levels there; and now it’s causing similar havoc in many other countries.

Fast food consumption is one of the major reasons why many people eat excessively. Fast food is designed to be addictive because of its nocuous blend of sugar, fat and salt, in different proportions according to the individual item of crud.

Research by the NPD Group, a global market research company, claims that 77% of all meals purchased in the US and eaten at the time of purchase, are from “quick-service” restaurants—better known as fast-food restaurants.

Fast-food eating is often a ticket to binge sessions. If you read the content in a typical fast-food “value” meal, you may be shocked with how many calories, and how much crud, it contains. Be informed and discerning—read nutrition labels.

CAVEAT: If you’re travelling, be aware of establishments that provide healthy fast food. Subway restaurants are known for healthy alternatives to burgers, for example, but there are other good possibilities. It may even be possible to obtain a decent meal from some “normal” fast-food restaurants provided you’re selective in what you choose, and watchful of your portion sizes and caloric intake.

Be skeptical when a quick-service restaurant claims that its food is a “healthy alternative.” Such claims can be the basis of a misleading lure to get you in the restaurant’s door. Take a minute to read the nutrition labels to see whether the “healthy alternative” really is healthy.

And find out whether the described portion size is what you’re going to be served. The size that’s referred to may be only half of what you’re going to be served, for example, in which case you’d get double the listed calories.

A study published by the Journal of Consumer Research found that people are likely to underestimate their meal’s caloric content by as much as 35%.

And a University of Mississippi study found that you’re likely to consume 54% fewer calories if you review the restaurant’s nutrition guide before you order.

Be informed and discerning—read nutrition labels.

 

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