The gym – a place of arduous activity, limit-testing and perpetual growth… all with a delicious, sweat-heavy brow. No matter how much stronger you get, you are just going to increase the weight, the repetitions or the number of forms to make sure you meet and exceed a challenge. There are many who take pride in what they have become, and for good reason. This level of dedication to self requires the unyielding desire of the truly committed. As an ex-bodybuilder and athlete, COVID-19 has undoubtedly done me – and everyone else – dirty. 

I was taught as a bodybuilder that it isn’t always the amount of weight lifted that promotes muscle growth and fat consumption – it is the kind of demand you put on the muscle you are trying to target.

I’ve been experimenting for months on body weight exercises and found that growth is, indeed, still possible. Without dumbbells, barbells and machines to use, understanding how your body moves and what part of your body you are wanting to target is key. Squats and any type of chest press, for example, are all compound movements (they require more than just the primary muscle to perform). Did you know that your basic squat form recruits your abdominals, lower back, quadriceps (quads – front of the legs) and hamstrings (hams – back of the legs)? Squats hit more than just the gluteus maximus (the butt – specifically, the shape of the butt when seen from a side profile)! The amount of weight you put on the bar often impacts how much of these secondary muscles you start to recruit. A little secret… if you narrow down what you are targeting, you can get development with less weight!

I’m not exactly the type to share what my exercises are, however, setting up a guide to figure out what to target would be a pleasure. 

I highly recommend doing what are called “blank repetitions.” Basically, you are looking for the muscle you want to hit. When gyms open back up, you will see individuals doing the motion of an exercise, unweighted, while their other hand is on the assumed muscle target. Once a mastery of blank reps is achieved, you’ll notice that some of the motions look similar to some bodybuilding poses. This is due to the level of focus that has been achieved to engage the exact muscle chosen to be the momentary center of attention. 

Another one that I feel is often overlooked would be achieving “to failure” for every lightweight set – and most other cases when our dream of an open, unrestricted gym comes true. My high school coach, back in Alabama, taught us what failure was very early on. He said, “if the weight ain’t heavy ‘nuff t’kill ya’, don’t rack it ‘till it lays ya’ out!”… thanks, coach. But, there is a lot of truth in that comment. As mentioned before, growth and fat consumption is based on demand – if you’re pushing to the point where your body is literally saying, “one more and I’m at the edge,” you’re doing it right – to the edge we go…

Everyone is capable of becoming stronger, more in shape or “satisfied.” However, be mindful of your body.

It will get you through most things but that doesn’t mean that it’s indestructible. If you experience a pulling sensation on a muscle, to the point where the “I’m at the edge” feeling erupts suddenly because of some strange tweak, stop the motion! Have the poor fella in a resting position and lightly stretch to make sure you haven’t done any damage, then move on to another targeted muscle. If there are any questions, comments, or arguments (I tend to welcome challenges), feel free to reach out to Benicia Magazine and have my name as part of the subject. Of course, the plethora of trainers and coaches in Benicia would be happy to give guidance (and challenge!), as well. I have yet to meet one who was wrong about their training methods. Grow, shape and eat well!