Trainer of Champions The Bodybuilding Wizard By Charles Glass
I have a bit of trouble being able to use the leg extension machine. There is only ONE among multiple copies of the other machines and the training program I do right now requires me to do back-to-back leg curls and then leg extensions. There are just too many of these “skinny-fat fitness bunny girls” taking it up all the time. It never seems to be free when I need it. What I need are some other ideas that are the closest to mimic the leg extension exercise.
Let me start by saying that even though those “skinny-fat fitness bunny girls” may not have the same goals as you or train with the same intensity, they have just as much of a right to be in that gym and use that equipment that you do. They pay to use the facility just like you. I wanted to put that out there, because I often see this condescending attitude from bodybuilders toward non-bodybuilders in the gym and it’s not right. Having muscles doesn’t give you any special privileges. If you really want to be sure no one will be using the equipment you want, you have two choices. Either go to the gym at some time when the place is empty or close to it, or put your own home gym together like a lot of guys do (a perfect solution for those who don’t play well with others). I also want to add that trying to follow exact routines that dictate using a specific piece of equipment and especially two pieces back-to-back as you describe, is simply not realistic in a busy, commercial gym. I wish you had provided me with the entire leg routine so I could have seen where exactly this superset fits into it and what the goal of it actually is. Antagonistic supersets like this are perfect for making good gains in the arms— an example would be barbell curls for biceps and skull-crushers for triceps with no rest in between.
Leg extensions and leg curls wouldn’t be as productive, because leg extensions aren’t a very effective mass builder for the quads, at least not compared to a compound movement such as front squats. The reason I suggest front squats is because you could even do these by holding a dumbbell up high on your chest across your shoulders, which means you could keep it next to the leg curl machine and do your superset there. By slowing the reps down and doing at least 15 reps per set, even something like a 50- or 60-pound dumbbell would tax the quadriceps adequately for a bodybuilder of average strength. You could also do dumbbell squats with your heels elevated on a board or a pair of 10-pound plates. If you insist on mimicking the leg extension motion, it can be done. If you have access to a low cable pulley and a cuff attachment that can be secured around your ankle, simply face away from the stack and slowly extend your bent leg until it’s straight. This would necessitate working just one quad at a time, so maybe you could do your leg curls that way also (by turning and facing the stack). Another option would be to get resistance bands or tubing (available in the fitness section of any sporting goods store). You could sit down on any flat bench with one end around the front of your ankles while you hold the other end under your hamstrings. Just be a little creative, that’s all.
Love your column and I wish you all the best with everything. Quick question: What do you think about tuna and mercury? I eat a lot of chunk light tuna (five times a week), but I am starting to get concerned about whether I might be getting too much mercury and what its effects could be. I know that too much mercury can lead to problems with vision, hearing and speech. What do you think?
I guess my gut reaction would be…don’t eat so much tuna if you are that worried! It’s smart to be concerned with things like this, of course. I buy my tuna from the dietetic section of the supermarket, because I believe these are inspected more thoroughly than the cheaper stuff. But just out of curiosity, I checked into the mercury issue. Here is what the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) website had in regard to the subject:
“Nearly all fish contain trace amounts of methyl mercury, some more than others. In areas where there is industrial mercury pollution, the levels in the fish can be quite elevated. In general, however, methyl mercury levels for most fish range from less than 0.01 ppm to 0.5 ppm. It's only in a few species of fish that methyl mercury levels reach FDA limit for human consumption of 1 ppm. This most frequently occurs in some large predator fish, such as shark and swordfish. Certain species of very large tuna, typically sold as fresh steaks or sushi, can have levels over 1 ppm. (Canned tuna, composed of smaller species of tuna such as skipjack and albacore, has much lower levels of methyl mercury, averaging only about 0.17 ppm.) The average concentration of methyl mercury for commercially important species (mostly marine in origin) is less than 0.3 ppm. FDA works with state regulators when commercial fish, caught and sold locally, are found to contain methyl mercury levels exceeding 1 ppm. The agency also checks imported fish at ports and refuses entry if methyl mercury levels exceed the FDA limit.”
If the FDA’s information is accurate, it sounds like you have nothing to worry about. But if you are still hesitant, have your doctor check your blood for mercury levels every six months.
Have No Fear! These 5 Exercises Can Be Safe And Effective:
The king of lower body exercises has an undeserved reputation for wrecking knees and lower backs the world over. In nearly all cases, any problems stem from improper form. Going down only halfway puts a great deal of stress on the knees when you reverse direction, so descend to parallel. Likewise, hunching forward puts the lower back in a precarious position, so keep the torso as upright as possible. If you lack the flexibility to go to parallel with an upright torso, try placing a board or a pair of 10-pound plates under your heels.
The deadlift can be the key to overall back thickness and pulling power, but often the lower back is a weak link and susceptible to injury. If you don’t have a very strong lower back, I suggest remedying that situation with hyperextensions, eventually working up to holding on to weight as you do them. In the meantime, do partial deadlifts from the knees up. Once you reach the point where you are proficient at weighted hyperextensions, start doing full deadlifts from the floor up, using light weights and gradually increasing resistance week by week.
3) Bench Presses
Many bodybuilders avoid the bench press out of fear they will destroy their rotator cuffs and/or tear a pec. With the correct form, the odds of either of these happening are infinitesimal. Number one, lower slowly and absolutely never bounce the bar off your chest. Don’t flare your elbows out from your body or use a wide grip, as both multiply the stress on your shoulder joint. And finally, always take plenty of time to warm up and never attempt weights that are clearly beyond your current capacity. Further, I feel that as a bodybuilder, you shouldn’t be using anything you can’t do for at least 6 good reps on your own.
4) Behind-Neck Presses
Yes, I know, just thinking about this exercise will destroy your rotator cuffs! Not really. If you lower the bar all the way down to the base of your neck, you could certainly be in jeopardy. But if you merely go to the point where your upper arms are parallel to the ground (this is between the top of the head and top of the ears for most people), you will build some good shoulder mass. Also be sure to never let your elbows drift too far in front of your body, which puts the rotators in a dangerous position. Keep the upper arms in the same plane as your torso.
5) Behind-Neck Lat Pulldowns
The same rules apply with regard to range of motion and arm position here. Behind-neck pulldowns can add mass and detail to the rhomboids, teres major and minor, and mid-traps. Do these toward the end of your back workout so you don’t have to go as heavy, and really squeeze the upper back at the end of each rep, as if you are hitting the rear double biceps pose.
The 7 Hardest Training Bodybuilders I Have Ever Worked With:
(In no particular order)
1) Chris Cormier
I always have a chuckle whenever I hear anyone talk about The Real Deal being lazy or suggesting he must not train very hard…he’s all genetics, etc. They do not know the man at all. Chris will train until he drops dead. He’s the type who would get a bad nosebleed and not even acknowledge it until the set is over. Maybe he has been something of a party guy in the past, but I can vouch for the fact that Chris was always and remains “all business” in the gym.
2) Carmen Brady
Carmen was a three-time NPC Masters Nationals Champion. She never did compete as a pro, but she trained harder and with greater dedication than most pros I ever knew. Carmen never had a bad day in the gym and I never heard her complain once, even at times when she was injured and clearly in pain as she worked around it. A true warrior.
3) Ronnie Coleman
I only trained Ronnie once, but the man is like a wild animal. He generates so much intensity and puts out so much raw effort that it was no surprise to me that he went on to tie Haney’s record of eight Mr. Olympia titles.
4) Laura Creavalle
When Laura first arrived in Venice from Canada in the ‘80s, she was hungry to win every title around. She never achieved her ultimate goal of becoming Ms. Olympia, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. Like Carmen Brady, she out-trained practically every guy at Gold’s, and that’s saying a lot.
5) Dennis James
The Menace was always up and ready for any challenge. I’ll never forget the workouts we went through in the summer of 1997 when he came from Thailand to work with me. Years later, he still has that same drive and fire.
6) Vicki Sims
Vicki was just a lightweight, a little blond gal who couldn’t have weighed more than 125 or 130 pounds at her heaviest. But man, was she a powerhouse! Vicki could bench press 275 for reps and make it look easy.
7) Flex Wheeler
Finally, a guy who was a bit of a challenge to get motivated, but once Flex was in that zone, look out! I used to train him and Chris together and it was like a war as each tried to bury the other. Both men had a lot of pride and refused to let the other one show him up. The whole gym used to stop and watch when Flex and Chris were training, because they knew they were in for a real show.