I was at a party yesterday ( which is unusually for me since I am not the most social being( and inevitably people asked about training and diet
It always starts along the lines of”. Hey you are Maik Wiedenbach, I have seen your videos about personal training and bodybuilding in NYC on YouTube and Instagram, let me ask you something.”
“How do I lose my belly fat?”
You should probably put the birthday cake down for starters…
But one question that actually was new was : ” Hey Maik you think X is the perfect exercise ?”
And I realized that there is a long and short answer
The short answer is” Perfect for whom to do what?”
The long one is below!
However, if you want to have everything done for you , pick up a copy of my workouts here!
Always start from the top.
1. What do you what want to do?
There really are two possible answers:
A. Work on a sport specific skill
B. Improve your physique
Examples for A would be the stiff arm lat pull down for a swimmer, the battle ropes for a boxer since he has to keep up his hands, isometric squats for a downhill skier and jumping lunges for a sprinter. In other words, the exercise works one specific skill at one particular point in a motion during the actual sport.
For most of us the answer here is B build muscle when bulking, keep muscle when cutting. So that brings us to point 2?
2. Which muscle do I want to train?
Most people start from the opposite end by picking the exercise and then worry about the muscle. So we must make sure that our exercises has the proper prime mover. While most exercises use several muscles, one has to be the prime mover since our goal is physique improvement not just moving weight.
While my forearms and biceps are working when doing a lat pull down, my main mover are the lats. By the same token, the pull up is a poor biceps exercise since the biceps only has an auxiliary role during the movement. An isolation exercise such as the curl will serve you much better
3. Does this exercise fit my anatomy?
this is very individual differences come in. In my case, chest flyes at the cable are the perfect exercise to activate my pecs since I have long arms and narrow clavicles.
A short armed, barrel chested individual might get more out of a dumbbell press. Neither one is right or wrong it just depends on your leverage.
Long legged individuals will find it difficult to perform a proper barbell squat, here the leg press or a dumbbell lunges would serve much better. Someone like my with short legs will get a lot out of the squat.
Then there are existing conditions such as injuries. People with lower back should replace the barbell squat with the trap bar or cable squat. If your shoulders are shot, get rid of most barbell presses and substitute with machines.
4. Can I create tension?
This is a big one.
Only because you feel you need to do a certain exercise does not mean it works for you. Each muscle has two ends, namely an insertion and an origin.
It is your job to shove them together as close as possible without using any momentum.
Personally I always struggled with bent over rows, I never got the proper activation in my lats. Once I got the video out of my head that I must do certain exercises and I replaced it with seated cable rows, my back developed.
It pays to open an anatomy book such as Strenght Training Anatomy by Frederic Deliver and get a clear idea on what you need to achieve.
5. Can I flex the antagonist during the negative?
That one kind of goes hand in hands with No.4, but it does matter. To reuse the seated row example, I let the handles go as far forward until my pecs are fully flexed. Why does this matter? because this decides my active rage of motion
People often ask: What is the proper range of motion when training? The answer is : it depends!
There are two ranges of motion: the passive one where the weight stretches you, such as your typical gym bro going ALLLLL the WAYYYY down on pec flyes. Hello rotator cuff tear!
This one is general a bad idea, since if forces your muscles and joints into dangerous positions and also stops the gains.
Once a muscle is overstretched, it does not work properly so other muscles have to jump in. Case in point: if you stretch too deep during a chest flye, the delts will have to help to get out of the hole. Not optimal at all
Then there is the active range of motion of that day., which describes the range of motion where you can can actively pull the target muscle toward the center of your body.
Please note : I said “of that day”, meaning if you took a monster hike the day before your squats might be where they are usually.
(I put everything in a neat video for you guys ! I hope it is helpful, please like and comment if you feel it is value added)
Knowing the difference is the key between getting injured and making gains!
Here are some practical examples
1. Chest press: only bring the bar down as far as you pull it toward you until your lats are fully flexed.
2. Step up/ leg press: measure how high you can step up while pulling from your quads not the hip flexors! You will be disappointed how little it is, but you are simply not LeBron James!
3. Pull downs/ rows: Let weight move as far away from as you actively can contract the antagonist, create tension in your chest
4. Shoulder presses: The weight comes down only as until you overstretch your delts, which is usually around the ear level.
5. Triceps: Lengthen the triceps by curling the biceps up.
6. Biceps: do the opposite of above, extend the triceps to get maximum length in the biceps.
There is not perfect exercise but in order to build muscle fast you need to check all the boxes.
1. Be aware of what you are trying to achieve with the exercise
2. Make sure it trains your target muscle
3. Does it fir YOUR body?
4. Can you create tension?
5. Is it within your active range of motion?
If it all clicks, you have a winner!
Once again thanks for your reading and my best workouts are here!