100

Hello everyone, I’m back (finally!) with a new post for y’all.

Before I cut to the chase, let me start this off by accounting for the inconsistency with the blog posts recently. Official college education has kicked in for me since a few weeks back, and man, is it one hell of a bitch.

Right now I’m still in the midst of settling in and making adjustments to my work and life and such, hence the irregularity of my blog posts. This is an issue that should work itself out soon enough, and all I can say for now is man, do I miss writing, and apologies and thanks to those of you out there who take the time to read my rants and rambles.

Alright, with all of that out of the way, let’s get to the heart of the matter.

So… Why 100? And what the hell is this 100 exactly?

I decided to write this after gaining several newfound insights into the subject of physical training in general, thanks to the none-too-gentle manner in which I was compelled to restructure my fitness regime to cope with the demands of law school.

Let me start things off with the popular topic of mass and strength training in the gym. I have access to a wonderfully well-equipped weights room on campus, with a wealth of both stacked-weights machines as well as free weights in the form of barbells, dumbells and weight plates.

I utilise these aforementioned facilities about once every other week, to supplement my predominantly bodyweight training with some good ‘ol free weights and barbells. Guys who hit the gym want to get big and strong and look good. I guess these are aspirations rooted in our biological makeup, but I’ll leave the exposition of the geno-biological factors underpinning the male obsession with might and muscle to the relevant authorities, and confine my discourse strictly to the training side of the equation, which I feel that I am infinitely more qualified to comment upon.

Let me use the venerable bench press as my example. The bench press holds a sacred place in the hearts of many a lover of the flesh and the iron, and it has been regarded and lauded by its many fervent adherents in the weights room as the king of all upper body exercises.

Indeed, the bench press is a compound movement that when executed properly as part of a well-structured training routine will give you pecs and shoulders of steel, not to mention enormous pressing strength and improved trunk and core stability. It is safe to say that many members of the male gender, men and boys alike, in gyms all around the world are obsessed with the bench press and its strength and muscular benefits.

The issue that I am going to discuss surrounding the bench press is one endemic to many gyms and weights room that I have seen or been to. Novice lifters, being primarily adolescents eager to develop the perceived necessary and desired characteristics of a proud manhood which almost invariably revolve around having chests and arms that resemble those found on mature silverback gorillas, are thus almost invariably drawn to perform the bench press and the bicep curl.

Most of these youngsters that I have seen and observed also almost invariably come with either huge egos, or low self-esteem, or a potent and near-lethal combination of the two. They come into the weights room, not wanting to appear weak in front of their better-developed peers and fellows. This mentality leads them to select weights which are often beyond their ability to handle in a safe and proper manner.

You see guys looking like they’re about to be crushed under the barbell more than they are working out, and guys trying to wrestle hefty dumbells aloft with terribly-arched backs, their faces and necks so engorged with blood that I fear they will burst at any mnoment and spray their vital arterial contents on my shirt if I happen to be standing close by. You also see alot of helpful “spotters” who urge their friends on to do “one more!” and to “stick it!” and to not give up, and sometimes these fellas even look like they’re the ones who are doing most of the work for their buddies.

Perhaps I exaggerate, as is my wont, but I’m sure you get the idea.

Last night a good friend of mine whom I had a long talk with told me that he wanted to get strong and bulk up by going to the gym and lifting weights. And that’s when I crystallised the idea for this post, which had previously been but a seed of a thought germinating in the semi-conscious parts of my mind.

I gave him some advice accordingly, which I shall now relate to you with the bench press as an example. Of course, the ideas that I am going to expound and elucidate below will work for any other weighted lifts as well.

1. Leave your ego and insecurities at the door.

Go into the gym and work for yourself, not for the approbation of others. Do what you need to do, what you want to do, and do these things safely.

2. Pick a weight that you will dare to lift without a spotter. 

Ah well, this wouldn’t be the first time that I’m putting forth something potentially contentious. I’ve always believed that the best kind of training that you can get is that which you can do alone. Reliance on spotting is a doctrine that has become entrenched in gym rules. 

Although this concept of having a spotter is in all probability formulated with the best of human intentions, it is an idea that has often been unwittingly abused to produce frustration of efforts, as well as the risks of injury. With a strong spotter, some people are lifting weights that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to, and more often than not with poor form to boot.

What I am advocating here may create no small amount of controversy, but I’m going to go ahead and say it anyway. Pick a weight that you will dare to lift without a spotter. I feel that this will be a surer guarantee for safety, much more than a helpful spotter can ever be. You will tend to have less confidence in yourself than in a strong friend, so odds are you wouldn’t pick a weight on your own that is so heavy for you it becomes unsafe.  

Safety should be of paramount concern to every single lifter, cos you can’t lift when you’re injured.

3. Perform 100 reps.

Of course, this is not a rigid prescription. The number 100 is just there to get your attention. Here, I am using the number 100 to illustrate a point, the point being that practice makes perfect, so if you want to get good at something you better be doing it over and over again, repeatedly.

So you want a bigger chest. Fine. You need to do the bench press. So it follows logically that the better you get at this lift, the bigger and stronger your chest will become. Of course, you must understand that I am speaking from a practical point of view. I will describe myself as a realist.

So, to me at least, realistically speaking, those 3 x 10 or 3 x 12 routines are too few in number of reps for you to get good at the bench press; indeed they are too limited in quantity to produce any meaningful strength and mass. If you want a huge set of pecs that can lift long and heavy, you need sets and reps combinations like 10 x 10, 5 x 20, 4 x 25, 3 – 4 x 30, 2 x 50, 4 x 50, 1 x 100, 2 x 100, 1 x 200 etc.

My Fujian mentor used to lift in sets of 200 for all the major upper body lifts. He was an acrobatic performer of the highest calibre, with strength and mass so prodigious that he could support 3 men on a pole on his shoulder, while standing on one leg. He could clean and jerk/press well in excess of 100kg, which was well over his bodyweight.

Even now, at the age of 64, he can still perform some bodyweight strength holds that I am as-yet unable to replicate, and that after 20-odd years of laying off all serious strength work. He is a shadow of his former glory, having self-admittedly lapsed into a prolonged period of inactivity due to his being “fed up to the teeth” with physical training, which he had been compelled to perform since the tender age of 12 to support his family. But this shadow is still an undeniably formidable one.

The truth of the matter is, the key to realising ambitions of strength and mass rests in laying the foundations right. After shearing half the inner edge of my right pec clean off the bone from my huge ego, I can now truly appreciate the value of steady hard work.

So pick a weight that you can handle with moderate ease, which you should be confident enought to work with without a spotter, perform a large number of total reps. This approach will be slow, and gains will come in very small increments. Increase the weight only as you grow stronger and more confident, keeping the sets and reps at the same large quantity.

Chances are you will be stuck doing what may appear to be a very light weight for a relatively long period of time. But nothing worthwhile ever gets done overnight, save for sex. So stick with it, and be patient. In time you will find that your strength and mass are increasing slowly but steadily, and by the end of a year of such consistent work you will notice a marked difference in your overall muscular strength and development, particularly in the specific muscles targeted by the lifts that you perform.

So ditch the flashy muscle mag workouts, and get down and dirty with the brutal way of true, hardcore physical training to become a veritable monster of might and muscle in the eyes of the uninitiated. Nothing worth having ever comes by easy, unless you are one lucky bastard. But if you were, you shouldn’t even need to be reading this.

And finally…  

To sum it all up in a few short sentences, throw your ego and insecurities out of the figurative window, ditch the spotter, and do what you want to get good at many, many, many times.

And please, be safe while you’re doing so, and don’t push yourself past the point of recovery. In the beginning you may be only able to train once a week in this manner, and even when you have become a hardened veteran of the iron game I still wouldn’t recommend you to torture yourself daily with these methods.

Remember, you are breaking your body down whenever you work out. You get stronger only as your body repairs the damage and builds up your physical systems beyond their original levels of composition existing prior to your previous session of training. And to do this your body requires sufficient amounts of rest and nutrition.

So train hard and train smart. Always listen to your body and stop when in doubt.

All the best for your life and training!

~ This post is written by Lionel Ng, part-time Personal Trainer and full-time Fitness Enthusiast. ~

Advertisements