“Spring”ing into Shape

Building-Muscle-ToneNow that summer is approaching, it’s time once again to get serious about looking good, if you haven’t already. Spring is the most exciting time of the year for me, because it seems like the beginning of the year to me. My senses come to life in the Spring, I think because the warmth and sun bring blooming of everything, from plant life to human activity”¦ more activity, more life and growth, and a reminder that “living” is an action.

So it’s time to get your asses up and enjoy some outdoor fun. Get in shape if you’re not, get outside, breath some outside air, soak up some sun, and tune in to your senses.

And speaking of senses, I want to tune in to “sens-ing” in this month’s column. As a perfect fit with Springtime, I’ve put together a list of exercise tips that’ll cause new sensations in your workouts. They’re some of the little things in various exercises that make the difference between “working out” and “kicking ass” in the gym. You’ll feel the difference, and you’ll make better progress as a result.

I’m always looking for better ways when performing an exercise, and when you can feel a muscle more, that usually means more control and more stimulation to the muscle. Try to be aware of what you feel during your exercises, and don’t be afraid to make slight adjustments to your form as a way of experimenting. You may discover something that works better for you individually.

I recently went through a heavy cycle of lifting, and have now gone back to some of the basics in order to make sure I don’t neglect anything, or get into any bad form habits.

One of the exercises that I’ve experimented with lately is reverse flyes, for rear deltoids. The rear delts are difficult to “feel” for most of us because it’s so easy to let the upper back assist in the movement. In order to eliminate assistance, you can move your hands up high on the handles of the flye machine.

Even if you’re using bent over laterals with dumbbells as your rear delt exercise, the idea is the same. Just use a movement that keeps your hands, elbows, and arms up about your shoulders. Try a few inches first, and experiment with different positions after that. Find the one that allows focus on your rear delts with no help from the muscles “between” your shoulder blades. Keep the weight light for starters, and make sure you’re using you’re your rear delts. That way you’ll be sure that your rear delts will get more work and you’ll make progress faster.

Another exercise that will allow you to feel a major sensation change while making a minor adjustment to your form is squats”¦ of any type. Especially any type of hack squat machine that allows you to do a movement facing the machine, which I call a “reverse” hack squat. I’ve done this movement on a hack machine before, but there are also machines made specifically for it.

Whether you barbell squatting or using a machine, the adjustment to your form is the same. Just shift your hips out, or stick your butt out, and move your stance to about six inches beyond shoulder width, with toes pointed outward. Find the stance”¦ width and foot placement that allows you to use your butt the most in this exercise.

Usually you’re trying to feel your legs most while squatting, but try this for glutes and hamstrings for a change. What you’re feeling for is the glutes doing as much of the work as possible. So tune in to the glutes, and your hamstrings and quads will get plenty of work from it also. Just focus on the glutes. And keep the weight light enough that you can completely pause when you squat down to parallel. Use the pause for a few sets, and one without, but with a heavier weight.

A final “new sensation” that I’d like to introduce you to is one that comes from modifying inclined bicep curls. This is an exercise that will make your biceps sore, and grow, if you haven’t done it this way. And I’d bet that less than 1% of you, or anybody else, have done it this way.

Adjust an incline bench to 45 degrees, and pick dumbbells that are very light compared to normal bicep curls”¦ maybe your warm-up weight. Sit back on the bench with dumbbells hanging down at your sides, and put your head all the way back. No, I mean ALL the way back, and resting on the bench”¦ and keep it there. That’s half of it.

Now, lift the weight up like usual, but when you bring the weight down, and reverse directions, do so without rotating your hands or arms. Just let the weight down slowly, and when you get to the bottom, reverse directions and squeeze the weight up again. Try some of your sets with elbows in close to your sides throughout the motion for even more isolation.

There’s three new sensations to include into your Springtime routine. It’ll kick-start your efforts, and get you into a hard-core frame of mind. Enjoy your new exercises, and enjoy your Spring. Until next time”¦


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