Thursday, February 21, 2013

Adelfo Cerame - Staple Moves for Stable Gains: My Favorite Exercises and Your(?) Favorite Mistakes

While this installment of Adelfo's SuppVersity guest posts actually deals with the "optimal" exercises and form - I personally would say that physique-wise Adelfo is likewise on a good way towards achieving a form or rather overall physique even the most critical judges will have a hard time to ignore on the upcoming 2013 Wheelchair Nationals in March (learn more at!
Ok folks, the good news is, there is the promised update from your's truly Adelfo Cerame - what's even better: Adelfo is giving away some of his secrets discussing his favorite exercises for chest, back and arms, as well as the most common mistakes which forestall training progress.

The bad news is, there is no Science Round Up today and what's even worse is the sad reason for the unplanned break. Carl's mother passed away earlier this week and it goes without saying that the next round of "science news sniffing" will have to wait till next week.

If you can't wait so long, I suggest you go check out the latest SuppVersity facebook news. There are a couple of pretty interesting things there, but my absolute personal favorite is the latest study from Ristow's group at the University of Jena over here in Germany which has the potential to send the stupid "starve yourself to a longer life by reducing the metabolic rate and thus ROS generation"-hypothesis finally back into the dark abyss, from which it spread and infected scientists, the laypress and ultimately even a large parts of the public like the pest (read more). But enough of that, let's check out what Adelfo has to tell us about his favorites and your (?) mistakes.

Stick to the basics, not because you are a beginner, but because you are a pro!

This year under the tutelage of coach Alberto I have learned that especially experienced (or should I say even say seasoned ?) bodybuilder or weightlifter like myself should stick to staple exercises rather than doing each exercise he knows just to end up spreading himself thin in trying to do a new dance every time.

If you want to add to the staples, why don't you incorporate for increased strength & size gains (learn more).
A lot of lifters feel that they need to change their exercises every time when they feel they are no longer sore the next day or no longer feel the stimulation that they used to feel, when they first started (I was very guilty of this as well), in the past months, however I have learned that you’re not plateauing just because you’re “not feeling it” any more. You are actually improving on that exercise as you continue to perfect your craft. The reason you feel challenged most of the time, when you change your routine or perform a new exercise is 'cause you’re just learning a new dance- and this has little to do with "tricking your muscles".

Not that there’s anything wrong with changing routines or doing different exercise from time to time, I just learned that it’s more beneficial to pick a small staple of exercises that you can improve your craft in and have those variety of exercises to keep in your back pocket for those special occasions on which you may need them.

My favorite exercises and everyone's favorite mistakes

As mentioned before, I commit guilty of doing way too much exercise hopping in the past, as well. This year, however, I have really zoned in a couple of carefully selected staple moves, hit the individual body parts more frequently and tried to perfect my craft on each of of the exercises in the following list:
  • Video 1 (click to watch): Adelfo doing the wheelchair version of the Gironda Dips. Actually this is an older video, but if everything works out the way we planned it you will be able to watch him do more of the exercises in this list in the next installment of Adelfo's guest-posts.
    Chest (A) - Weighted dips: This is one of my favorite chest exercises. I love weighted dips because it liberates me in a way from getting away from the norm of exercises when being in a chair, the same feeling of liberation I get when I do laps in the swimming pool for my cardio sessions. For me weighted dips (especially the Vince Gironda version, see video 1) really stimulates my chest like a decline movement would because you can control the depth and angle of how low you can go and really dig to get that stretch.
  • Chest (B) - Bench Press (flat angle): This is an exercise that I’ve had a love/ hate relationship with since high school. Just like every young man who picks up a weight, the bench usually tends to be the first exercise that we gravitate to. Ever since my spinal cord injury, the bench and I have been on rocky terms…

    I guess due to the fact that I really didn’t feel comfortable or confident enough in my mobility to be able to get back on that saddle again so I avoided it like the plague most times and stuck to chest press exercises like the hammer strength and smith machine. Eventually as my confidence in my abilities (via mobility and balance) improved, so did my eagerness to get back under the barbell of a free weight bench and my love for the good old flat bench returned.

    Figure 1: As this figure from the chest article in the SuppVersity EMG Series goes to show you, the barbell flat bench is still the "king" - well, at least as long as you don't compare it to it's brother, the BB bench press on a decline (learn more)
    The flat press bench is one of the few core compound exercises that I can take pride in. Most people have squats, deadlifts and cleans, but obviously I cannot perform any of those exercises, so the only one I have left is the bench. I guess that's part of why I really take proud in each lbs I have been able to add to the bar over past years of training. Funnily it was only this year that I have finally been able to perfect my techniques. Without the leverage from my legs, I obviously have certain disadvantages compared to most of you and it took me years until I discovered that I could mimic engaging my glutes and arching my back so that I can use my whole body to push the weight rather than just arms and chest by tying a weight belt around my hips.

    I have also embraced using a closer rather than my preferred wide grip that I have done all my life (that's actually something I read about in the EMG Series, here at the Suppversity, but never really implemented). The close grip has helped me tremendously in finally getting rid of my constant nagging shoulder pains and had me finally realized that I can indeed touch the bar with my chest and thus go over the full range of motion without any pain in my rotator cuff, whatsoever.
  • Chest (M) - "M" as in mistakes → Quarter presses!You know those guys, right? Those guys who load up the squat rack with tons of weight and then perform bench presses over what can hardly count as a quarter press (=going over just 25% of the range of motion)...yeah, I see you know them ;-) It's a mere waist of time and in the end you just have to look at the physiques of the "quarter presseres" to see that without going over the full-range of motion, focusing on the positives as well as the negatives and sticking to weight you can un-rack yourself your results will be "quartered", as well.

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  • Adelfo says: "Hammer strength high rows, Hammer strength seated rows and unilateral vertical rows are the 3 main staple exercises I used to build my back this year."
    Back (A) - Weighted Chin-ups: Even though I haven’t been able to do them in a while (due to unknown MRI results that my doctors are trying to figure out), this is by far my favorite back exercise to perform, it really allows me to stretch and isolate the lats and pull maximal weights. It also helps build a strong core. In fact, I personally believe that weighted chin ups are a way superior "abs" or rather core exercise than those stupid crunches everybody is doing for hours.
  • Back (B) - Hammer Strength High-Rows: This is what I call a very wheelchair friendly machine (well for me at least…): It’s easy to transfer unto and very versatile. I can go from regular high rows to single arm high rows without out having to make much adjustment. I feel that the frequency of being able to train my back with this machine alone has been able to help me bring up my back this year.
  • Back (C) - Hammer Strength Seated Rows: I like this exercise because it’s simple and efficient. It’s basically like a T-bar row for me but seated, and since it is chest supported, I can really go heavy without it catapulting myself of the machine.
  • Back (D) - Unilateral (vertical rows): This is actually one on the newest exercises that I learned from Coach Alberto and has really helped bring up my lower lats. It’s basically a unilateral vertical row with a spinal flexion movement/squeeze at the end to really engage the lower lat muscles. I have basically ditched the lat pulls for this exercise. 
  • Back (M) - "M" as in mistakes → Chins gone wrong: People oftentimes don’t tense up their lower extremities and stabilize their pelvis and hips. It makes it a lot easier in my opinion to keep the core nice and tight and locking the hips and pelvis, to keep the lower extremities stale. Thus you won't be swinging back and forth, and you can actually focus on engaging your lats when doing a chin-up.

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  • Adelfo says:"DB overhead presses, hammer strength overhead presses and DB lateral raises were the 3 staples exercise I used to build my shoulder and delts." And if you go by the looks there must be something to those moves, don't you think so?
    Shoulders (A) - DB overhead press: I love DB overhead presses because the DB’s allow you to control the direction your shoulders go – I like to stay tight and keep my overhead movements compact and the DB’s allow me to do so. I also feel more connection with DB movements.
  • Shoulders (B) - Hammerstrength overhead press: I use this on my strength days. Due to my disability and mobility, I have limits on how heavy I can go on DB’s if I do not have my training partners with me, so the hammer strength overhead exercise allows me to go heavy without having to worry about safety issues or having spotters.
  • Shoulders (C) - DB lateral raises: Again, with lateral raises, I love using DB’s because of the range of motion it allows. I wont be able to lift as heavy as I would on a machine but I feel that I stimulate my delts more efficiently using DB’s. 

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  • The biceps brachii attaches directly to the shoulder joint and is probably the most overtrained body part of the male body ;-) Don't be a fool and do all the exercises you know. Rather pick those that work best for you - regardless of whether they are #1 or #5 in the EMG ranking - the activity is almost identical, anyway (read the details)
    Arms (Biceps) - DB Biceps Curls: No preacher, forearm reverse, or EZ-bar curls, just DB’s this year. I either go with a regular or hammer grip. Again DB’s allows for better range of motion for movement
  • Arms (Triceps) - Triceps Extensions with rope: I’ve been sticking to the rope mostly this year. Either press downs or single-arm extensions. 
  • Arms (M) - "M" as in mistakes → The DB, barbell, hammer, reverse, SZ-bar curl: Believe it or not but the most common mistake, when training arms is not doing one of the staples wrong, but rather not having a staple at all. That's particularly true for the biceps exercises where you see (funnily only) guys "hit their arms from every angle". Funnily those are the same people who will then come up to you and ask you which additional exercises you would do to build "those impressive biceps" *rofl*

Well that’s all I have for today but stay tuned next time as I will compare notes from this year to last years contest prep notes, from nutrition to training and how I mentally approached both preps… This was a topic suggestion by Primalkid, by the way ;-)