Return to the Iron Dungeon

Iron Dungeon - Weight Training / Bodybuilding

Getting Back to the Basics

by Adrian Arellano

Let's get back to basics!

I'm tired of seeing misguided kids in the gym slaving away on lateral raises and biceps curls and then asking "Why can't I get any bigger?" I'm sure many of you have seen exactly the same thing and many of you are probably still doing it. If you wanna get big, you gotta do big exercises with big poundages. That's the only way. Curling 10 lb. dumbbells isn't gonna do it. I mostly blame it on the muscle rags. They feed us crap about doing Mr. Champ's "killer bomb super blitzing arm routine" that'll "have your arms growing like weeks in a matter of days!".

It's all a bunch of bull, and us experienced guys know it. However, the younger guys don't know that they're getting taken. I haven't seen anybody grow from these 25 sets 5 days a week routines, so I suggest we get back to basics. First of all, we gotta start with two age old friends of all lifters.

Your new best friends

The only two things you should be focusing on in your training are overload and progression. Have you ever heard of the overload principle? Well, it says you gotta overload the muscle with work that it's never been used to before. Simple right? Well, some people get so caught up in 1 set vs. multi sets and meso-micro cycles that they don't remember about overloading the muscle. That's all that really matters. If you overload the muscle, give it time to REST, and FEED it, it WILL grow. It has no choice not to grow. Progression is the other thing you should be focusing on in your training. Imagine doing a workout and then doing a the same workout a year from now with exactly the same weight and rep scheme. Do you think you'll be much bigger? It's not likely...unless you've gained an ungodly amount of fat. And you'll also be the same strength. Who would want to be the same strength a year from now? You must try to progress either in reps, or in weight at each training session. If you can make progress in both weight and reps, then that's great, but try to focus on one or the other if you can't. If you abide by the rules of overload and progression using compound movements like the ones I listed, and eat and sleep your heart out, you WILL make progress and you WILL be bigger and stronger. You will especially be bigger and stronger than your friend who is still slaving away on the wrist curls and leg extensions.

Man-Making exercises

It has been proven time and time again in real life and in studies that multi-joint movements that involve a great deal of muscle mass are the greatest testosterone boosters. For those of you who don't know about the importance of testosterone, it's a hormone that makes you get more manly (i.e. big and strong). This hormone is responsible for transforming that protein drink you have after your wussy workouts into muscle. Now imagine if you did multi-joint movements in your workouts....wouldn't the testosterone resulting from the workout and the Joe Weider protein drink make you a little bigger?

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against isolation movements, but they just don't make you grow as fast as compound movements. They are also extremely poor substitutes for compound exercises. If you have an injury or are an advanced bodybuilder trying to bring up a lagging bodypart, then isolation movements might have their place; however, if you have >been lifting for a relatively short periodof time, all isolation movements do is waste your time and recuperative capacity.

I'm talking about exercises that make you puke when done hard enough. No, not tricep pushdowns, laterals, and curls; but instead, squats, deadlifts, dips, and chins. You want a good routine? How about performing squats, stiff-legged deadlifts, dips, chins, and bench presses. Do as many sets as you want, but don't do them half-ass. You don't have to go to muscular failure as I prefer, but just make sure you work damn hard on 'em. Oh yeah, here's another tip: don't rest between sets. How's that for cardio?

Exercises to consider:

Pretty much any multi-joint movement....such as squats, deadlifts (any variety), bench presses, shoulder presses, dips, chins, pulldowns, rows, and leg presses. You can add a little neck work every once in a while or even a set of calf raises and crunches once a month.

Guidelines for life outside the weight room:

You gotta EAT if you wanna get big. That's all there is to it. If you find that you just can't find the time to eat during the day, or that you just get full really fast, wake yourself up at 2 a.m. and make yourself a protein shake or some kind of liquid meal. Other than that, you gotta try and not be so active....especially if you have a very fast metabolism. Try and get around 8-10 hours of sleep a night. You'll grow a lot faster. I'd also recommend drinking about a gallon of water a day instead of all the other crap we find ourselves drinking. You'll be amazed at the effect sleep and water have on your training. Your gains will go up pretty fast. Sorry if this article seemed a little mean, but it pisses me off when somebody could be making progress if they would only use common sense instead of trying the latest scientific periodizing back blitzing routine.


Reader's Comments:

Please leave your comments or suggestions below!
 I've been training since the past three years and have gained strength but not much mass in recent times. I always tried to mix up my exercises and isolate movements. Then someone recommended going back to the basics. I want to ask in terms of a definite workout plan is it squats, deads, chinup, and presses every workout. Or is it chest and bi one day(bench and curls only), then the day after Back and triceps(chinups and dips only) and so on. Is that the way it should be done?
2008-02-27Mr. RippedAbs
 Yes, squats and benching are great multi-joint, man-making exercises, but I'd say that the best man-making exercise is pull ups, works everything above the waste except for the triceps. Also, a nice variation of the push up I developed, declined triangle push ups, the decline is to help focus on the pecs more then regular push ups, and the close-hand position helps the triceps, so you are potentially super strengthening 2 major groups involved in benching. So try a few sets, go until failure, rest for 10 seconds while you catch your breath, then go until failure again, rest for 10 seconds, and go until failure again, yeah you'll feel it. My record is 35 total. Try it.
2008-02-24Mr. Rippedabs.
 Now I understand the importance of taking days off to rest up after a big day of benching and such, but would this work:

Monday: Isolation exercises for chest.
Tuesday: Isolation exercises for tricep, and shoulders.
Wednesday: chest.
Thursday: tricep and shoulders.
Friday: chest.
Weekends: rest.

It is giving the groups you worked out resting time, but I've never read something like this would it work?

 Try this: pick two handfuls of back exercises and perform two twice a day with a set/rep range between 14 and 50 (rep ranges don't really matter anyway - just use a weight heavy enough in each range to stimulate but not bring the muscle to failure). Never go to failure. Do this for 6 days a week for a couple of weeks. Record your lifts and set/rep ranges and increase your poundages by about 2.5 lbs each time (even if it;s 1/2 pound that's fine too!) you hit that set/rep range again. Try to mix up the set rep ranges as much as possible to cycle the weights you use (but still use progression when you hit a rep/set range again.) Use any exercise such as one legged rows, motorcycle rows, even carrying weights up and down stairs or drag a sled. Eat what you want - drink beer and eat Whoppers, it won't matter. Drinking lots of milk may help if you feel you need a protein fix but it won't really matter. Do this for 4-6 weeks (you can switch body parts afterwards) to begin with and you will have a bigger back - not to mention bigger biceps. You won't overtrain if you work within your body's limits (which will SLOWLY adapt to higher loads). Rushing progression, infrequent workouts (anyone seen a gymnast use his biceps once a week?) and believing food is important will lead to the continual use of Muscle and Fitness workouts and protein powder! Please try this and your search for muscle gains will stop here!!
 I think this is article is pretty good. It voices out most of the problems I've had.

Ty alot!
 I do not have access to weights. I can only do things like pushups and pullups. what kind of reps should i do to get stronger and larger
 after training for more than 25 years off and on, i have tried to get back into my old training routines multiple sets and reps. iam now 45 years of age, and cant seem to get the enthusiasm back that i had.

i am still training regular but only on basic multi joint exercises 4 exercises twice per week and i am growing, and getting stronger. wish i had done this years ago.
 I have been toying with bodybuilding routines for the last 3-4 years in all, and have finally cracked the way my body responds best to weight training.....

3 days a week or every other day, going heavy for no more than 3 sets of max 8 reps, for each intended muscle group normally no more than 3 exercises for a bodypart. splitting the parts up on seperate days, mostly compound ie. squat, deads,military press, rows etc. and some clean and press - more for form than weight as i dont have the correct bar for this movement.

so what im getting at is if bodybuilding is no longer your priority and you wanna get big and strong without having to worry to much about mixing it up etc. then eat big, lift big, and rest on the basics..throw in your p.b. and keep training intense. you will definatly see results in strength and hypertrophy...and remember as you get bigger you get cuts anyway...
 I read what u said about the basics, couldnt agree more. Dead lifts, bench press and squats.....they are the bread and butter of it all
 when i lift weights to work my bicips i get no burn and the weights are already heavy enough. i lift until i get so tired and can't lift anymore. But my bicips don't feel any burn and don't your arms get bigger when you feel the burn. I do about ten 15 reps 3 sets. So why can't i get bigger is because i get no burn.

Me and my brother just purchased a workout machine together and both have different ideas of how to lift.I told him your supposed to pick a comfortable wieght and do 4 sets of 10 and only wait about 30 seconds between sets if that.He just got out of jail and has seen every body in a line ready to use the bench and they wait like 3-5 minutes before its getts back to there turn again cuss they have to change the wieght each time.His argument is that "those guys in there are huge".My situation is he is 40 pounds more than me and can lift more. I can't do a set change wieghts let him go do mine ...anyways what is the proper way to do bech presses,incline,sqauts, ect... Thanks Ryan


You're going to find that people can adapt to different training styles and will find that some methods will work better than others. Rest time between sets is an area where you might find you are better off giving yourself the extra time, like your brother. Too much time and you might lose focus and be distracted, too little time and you'll find yourself fatigued. Ideal is probably over a minute. But it would be a stretch for one to make the conclusion that the rest time is what helped these guys get huge... that's just plain, hard dedication.


i usually do a lot of supersets, you know going from one set to the other with pretty heavy weight and have seen pretty good results so far. should i really focus on doing like everybody else?


No... If you are seeing consistent gains, than stick with what you are doing! Everyone's body reacts differently to exercise, and some can tolerate more exhaustion than others before overtraining sets in. But once you've plateaued and your gains are trailing off, it's time to change it up.


Leave a comment or suggestion for this page:

(Never Shown - Optional)