Update: Obviously this article has been posted before. In 2019 I see more and more videos and articles continue to teach what has been taught before with no thought of how muscle work and mistakes that are made. I post this again as a way to show people what is to come .
“With some many videos and diagrams available on the market today how do we as bodybuilders and sports trainers really know what is right”?
And I say that trying to give some a little credit. How do you know truth about exercise form. Or better yet what is bullshit? Hopefully after reading this article you may get some idea of just how much misinformation if out there an how better to learn the truth.
One of the things I got involved in years ago when I was writing For Ironman Magazine under the column of Muscle Coach was using drawings to illustrate the correct form to do exercises. My teacher at the time Robert K. Blom RPT always drummed into my head as many teachers do was the importance of understanding the muscle you want to work and getting the form right from the beginning. Now of course you have heard this before. Now you have to remember this was long before the internet and especially You Tube where you could upload videos of the form you use.
When I started writing the articles the photo editor of the magazines would of course put in the appropriate picture to go along with the article. What I came to see was since I had no diagram of how to do the exercise properly if the photo editor did not have the correct picture he would put in any picture. What I felt this caused was the reader looking more at the picture and not seeing how to really perform the exercises in the article. Of course I know that we had in some form or another get the “Cool” pictures in, usually some drugged out freek, which of course is basic marketing, but as a writer I wanted the reader to get the most out of my articles. Man, I am so tired of all the articles lately on theory of trainnig. Please give me some usable information. Sure, I like to read recipes for good meals, but I’d rather eat the food.
So I decided to try and get my point across by doing simple drawings of the right form to go with each article.
First I started with basic figure drawings, which of course became boring pretty fast. Then this new program came out called Poser 1 which allowed for some cool figures to be used. Now it is up Poser 8 or 9. The system they use for all the animation programs on video and movies. Unfortunately they lost me around poser 4. By then my editor at Ironman thought this wasn’t such a bad idea and had an artist do the drawing of the pictures which turned out to be even cooler.
After we started this at Ironman other magazines of course got into the mix. They had a much bigger budget than we did and brought in some really top notch artist, William P. Hamitlon being my favorite at the time. His illistrations are awsom in a book Bodybuilding Anatomy by Nick Evans.
The best muscle artist I ever worked with was Leon Bach from Ironwent on to a world of digging in Archaeology field. Here yo see his leg drawing that was he first to awe the industry. Thanks Leon.
These are some of the first generation pictures I had done to give readers a better idea of how the exercise was done and what muscles were worked.
Well, like anything else this caught on and it didn’t take long for the copy cats to see what a good idea this was. Unfortunately art work to became more important than the exercise form which in my articles were the focus. Which is what you see today.
Fast forward 15 yeas and now you have some really great art books out with exercises forms. BUT, the question is, are they right? My answer in short is NO, Many are wrong and unfortunately give false information due to the great art work.
Now we are all familiar with these books that are out now on strength training exercises. My focus on this article is to show you how this how a lack of understanding how the muscle works and what exercises really work the average trainee can be confused by this fancy artwork just like great visual pictures of top bodybuilders are not always using the correct form. These bodybuilding pictures can confuse the reader on what is really right.
This same concept goes along with videos and pictures that you see on you tube. Now I want to give you some examples to show what I mean. Since I have already done an article here on chest training I will use these muscles as my example and pull from numerous books their version of the exercise.
First I will start with what is one of the most well respected medical books on muscles. Muscles Testing and Function with Posture and Pain, fifth edition by Kendell, McCreary, Provance, Rodgers, Romani. I have quoted from the 3rd edition for years when it was just by Kendell and McCreary . Since it is constantly being updated and used in medical schools I will use it as the scientific reference.
Step #1 – First we must know how the muscle works.
Now comes the boring part. I will quote directly from the medical text exactly what the pectorial muscle and it’s various section do. All in a language that is English , but is really latin to me ,but you get the idea. Unfortunately so should all these authors that right these books and draw the pictures we will review in the rest of the article. You got to notice how old this book is by the PT is. Great hair hu?
PECTORALIS MAJOR, LOWER
PECTORALIS MAJOR, UPPER
WOW– That gave even me a head ache
So now we see what the pectorial muscles do from the medical books.
Back to the books for a minute. Keep in mind that I have been in this industry for 40 years and most of the writers in the industry will never be this critical of these type books because they are afraid to politically hurt someone’s feelings and that it may have some negative effect on their future careers. Who suffers, YOU the dedicated trainee and the one that buy these books believing that all has been done to give you the best information possible . Welcome to the real world, it’s about sales.
The books I will use:
Frederic Delavier, Strength Training Anatomy
Bodybuidling Anatomy by Nick Evans, Illistrated by William P Hamilton
Styrketrening-I teori og praksis- Truls Raastad,Gøran Paulsen, Per Egil Refsnes, Bent Rønnestad,
Note: This last book the book that surprised me the most. We are focusing on chest exercise, this is a Norwegian University text book and the exercise mistakes made in this book are an example of how even top professors can get it wrong. This of course effects theirs students, which effects the athletes. An ugly circle.
Part 2: Some examples
Again don’t get me wrong, The artist mentioned are great artists and have truly added a much need fun dimension to the Strength training and Bodybuilding world, but with a little more professional approach could have found out more updated exercise information.
I plan to use chest cable exercises as todays examples. As you see in this diagram the arrows show the origin of the pectorial muscles and how the various section fan out to form the chest.
Lets start with lower pecs;
The movment with the cable muscle follow the movment of the lower section of the pec in a straight line.
Here is the right way.
You know where the muscles are attached and what their movment is. From 50 years ago.
1. The first thing you have to notice is just like in the lower pects the diagram show the exercise ending when the hands meet. Thus losing half the range of the movement , then half the muscle is not being worked again.
2 All the exercsies stop when the hands touch, but the muscles sections are attached to the upper arm bone and actually move the elbow, so here we lose full range of motion, almost half the range by stoping when the hands touch.
3. The lower pec muscles work in a straight line moving the elbow, not the hand. To fully contract the lower pecs the movment will be stopped by the pecs getting in the way. The best cheat is just let the arms go under the pecs, unfortunately you are not focusing on lower pecs then.
4. To preform the exercise correct look at the arrows and movement from the drawings and video.
“Upper Pecs fibers
1. Now off to upper pecs. See the hands meeting is your first give away.
2. Incline cables are being done on 45° which works the front deltoids more than the upper pecs. Upper pecs are best worked at 10°-20°.
3. I can almost guareentee that the movments are started with the momentm from jerking the front delts or biceps .
4. As for doing upper pecs with Dumbell flys. Well that is so outdated because you know tht the only movment of the chest is the first 20 centimeters as the weight moves up. As soon as the weight moves across the body you lose the gavity effect and the muscle does not work. Yes, there is a way to do it with DB’s which we will leave for another time.
Notice when exercises is done correctly.
1. Chest is up high at the start to keep from using the front delts.
2. The elbow is pointed from to the uper sectionof the pecs. Not the hands.
3. Full range of motion ends with the elbow almost under the chin.
4. You have to alternate hands to get full range of motion. (not having the hands meet)
5. Beware even if the hands cross they follow the straight line over the pecs not going under the pec. Done correctly the pec will actually crunch up under the arm.
I think this picture of cable flys is the one that breaks my heart the most, not because the art work is so good obviously. That fact alone misleads many trainees that the form is correct.
1. Well first the hands are meeting at the top. This tells us the consultant again doesn’t tell the artist that the chest is attached to the upper arm not the hand.
2. The straighten of the arms at the end I suppose is supposed to contract the chest more, but does it of is the press at that position in the movement more of a triceps press.
And last but not least is flat cable crossovers. By now you should be able to tell for yourself that if you see anyone stopping with their hands at the center line they have exactly ” ZERO” idea about what the exercise is suppose to do. The muscles of the center section of the pecs contract when the elbosw (see the diagram) come across the center line, not the hands. Cool hu?
You see when the form is correct it follows format of the proper contract of the chest. Muscle is attached to the arm. The elbow follows the line of pull of the part of the muscle that you want to work. In this case the center section. Full range of motion takes the hand way across the body not stopping at the center.
Seems so simple if you think about it.
Now it is your turn to take a look at the drawings I have selected and see were they made the mistakes and how you can correct them.
Styrketrening-I teori og praksis- Truls Raastad,Gøran Paulsen, Per Egil Refsnes, Bent Rønnestad,
Even in a a Norwegian University text book and the exercise mistakes are made.
I will let you the reader decide for yourself which of these exercsies are right or wrong. I only ask what happened to the the biomechanical department or physical theropy teachers?
When I look at these pictures I am not only looking at form an exercise design but this is what the future Fitness trainers and sports trainers will go out with when they graduate.
As I stated before, flys are really an old fasion exercise and with the hands in the shown position may work more of the front deltiod than pecs. Therre is a way to work pecs flys for a fuller range of motion with Dumbells. As for the ball flys, Science has proven that these are useless and not what they were orgianlly made out to do. Can you imagine a strength coach trying to get a team of sports people trying to lay on 15 balls doing fllys?
In conclusion I hope the article give you some food for thought and some understanding in the need to really understand the muscles movements before exercises are proformed. In future article I will go through other bodyparts and with this same type of approach to help my readers better understand what to look for in the exercsies they choose and the form they use.
Fred Koch (P-SCE), er styrketrener og bor i Kristiansand. Jeg er direktør for Tudor Bompa Institute (TBI) på verdensbasis. TBI er et internasjonalt sport- og fitness sertifiseringsprogram for personlige trenere og styrketrenere. www.fredkoch.com
Fred Koch, P-SCE is the International Director for Tudor Bompa Institute, TBI, one of the world’s top certifications systems. For more information you can e-mail Fred, firstname.lastname@example.org or see his blog at www.fredkoch.com
Fred recently co-opened the Bear Cave Trenningsenter in Våglsbygd Norway, see www.bearcave.no
Fred does custom strength e-mail programs for Bodybuilders and sports people.