jon-erik kawamoto, personal training
Some bodybuilding rules are meant to be broken. Apply these five rule breakers to your training and take your muscular development to the next level!

1) Only do functional exercises (free weight, multi-joint)

 
“Functional training” is a buzzword as of late that is scaring people away from tried and true bodybuilding methods and turning gym atmospheres into that of a circus. Standing on an exercise ball to get more “core activation” is ridiculous and completely dangerous. Avoiding machines and single-joint exercises because they have minimal crossover to functional tasks is absurd. The word “functional” is actually a misnomer and should be banished.

Rule Breakers:

 
Incorporate a balance of free weight, machine and isolation-type exercises in your training routine to elicit the most muscle growth possible.

Instead of “functional”, think “optimal”. An exercise is either optimal or not optimal at helping you to achieve the training effect you’re after. Building a muscular physique is all about challenging your muscles with different exercises (using different pieces of equipment) at different joint angles to elicit different training stresses to maximize your growth potential. Using machines provides a unique training stimulus absent from free weight training. Isolation exercises focus on spot growth (compared to spot reduction, which doesn’t happen), which can help lagging muscle groups and develop symmetry.

2) Stay in the 8-12 rep range

 
Traditionally, 8-12 reps are given as a prescription for building muscle. This is obviously true and leads to a form of muscle growth called sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. In this case, there is an increase in the non-contractile protein content of a muscle, yielding muscles that look full. However, only staying in this rep range could limit your growth potential over the long haul.

Rule Breakers:

 
Incorporate a wide spectrum of reps and sets in your program to elicit different training stresses for size and strength.

Performing 5-7 reps is generally thought to increase strength. However, it will also yield improvements in muscle size. The type of muscle growth in this scenario is called myofibrillar hypertrophy, which is associated with an increase in the contractile protein content. This yields muscles that look denser. A tried and true bodybuilding and strength protocol is 5 sets of 5 reps, which is enough volume to elicit improvements in strength AND size.

3) Avoid the Smith Machine like the plague

 
Along the same lines as being “non-functional”, the Smith machine is avoided for fear of not training the joint stabilizers. The fact that the barbell is attached to the machine and slides on rails means the bar can only move in two directions: up and down. This removes the stability component that is normally involved when using a “free” barbell.

Rule Breakers:

 
Incorporate the Smith Machine in your training program to completely exhaust your major muscle groups.

Since the bar is stabilized for you, the Smith Machine allows you to focus on training your major muscle groups, also known as “prime movers”. Performing high rep bench press variations or drop set squat variations can tax all your muscle fibers. As muscle fibers early on in the set start to fatigue, your body starts recruiting fresh muscle fibers. The more muscle fibers you can recruit and exhaust, the more muscle damage you can cause (in a good way). This increases your potential for growth and is a unique stimulus to using free weights.

4) Don’t train to failure

 
Training to failure is hard on the body, particularly the nervous system. Athletes who need to focus on sport practices and competitions should follow this rule so they can be somewhat fresh and perform at their peak potential. Bodybuilders on the other hand can break this rule and benefit quite nicely.

Rule Breakers:

 
Add one or two sets to failure to tax as many muscle fibers as possible.

Similar to using the Smith Machine to completely exhaust your prime movers, drop sets (dropping weight as you fatigue but continuing the length of the set) and cluster sets (taking really short rests between reps but using the same weight, which also extends the length of the set) are great training methods that can be used for multi-joint or isolation-type exercises. Adding forced reps (slight assistance from a spotter) and negatives (loads greater than your 1 rep max) to the ends of your sets are also great methods for taxing additional muscle fibers. These training methods add volume to your training while also stimulating and fatiguing as many muscle fibers as possible, which increases your growth potential.

5) Don’t train the same muscle group within a 48-hour period

 
This rule definitely applies if the workout intensity is high enough to elicit a large amount of muscle damage and inflammation. However, there are certain situations where this rule doesn’t apply. Think of a gymnast or jacked construction worker. The gymnast trains technique and body weight drills daily for years and the construction worker is constantly using their body to lift and move stuff around the construction site 5-days/week without a day off in between. Do you think the construction worker calls in sick on Tuesday and says he needs 48-hours to recover from lifting somewhat heavy loads on the Monday? It’s just not going to happen.

Rule Breakers:

 
Add in daily low intensity exercises to bring up lagging muscle groups.

Low intensity exercises can be performed daily and result in massive gains in size. What’s referred to as high frequency training, made popular by strength and conditioning coach Chad Waterbury, can be very effective if it’s applied correctly and appropriately. Bodyweight exercises (e.g. pushups, pull ups, inverted rows, & lunges, etc.) and isolation-type exercises (e.g. lateral raises, biceps curls, triceps extensions, & hamstring curls, etc.) can be performed daily and progressed by adding 1-repetition per day for several weeks. Think of it as a supplementary routine, which can be performed separately from your regular training program. For example, perform ten lateral raises on day one with a comfortable weight. On day two, add one rep. On day three, add another. Repeat this pattern for 3-4 weeks using the same weight. Listen to your body and be aware of any overuse pain.

Wrap Up

 
If an intelligent approach is taken and your recovery ability is not terribly affected, breaking some of the common training rules can boost your muscle growth potential in a positive direction. Incorporating proper nutrition and recovery methods are key to keeping you healthy and motivated to train. With dedication and consistent approach to training, apply these rule breakers into a balanced bodybuilding program and fully maximize your growth potential.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll want to get your hands on this fantastic muscle building program from Jim “Smitty” Smith. I’ve gone through this product from cover to cover multiple times and have implemented Smitty’s programming and ideas into my own training and my client’s training. This program is a must have (because it works). Click HERE for more info.

This article first appeared on MuscleMag.com

photo credit: zumito via photopin cc

I’m 29 and I just had my 3rd Liftiversary 🥳 at JKC. I chose to train here because of the great word on the street and the fact that at lululemon, we’re encouraged to support our local community. My day-to-day routine is very busy, and I love showing up and having to think very little about my workout. The vibes are always good, my music choice is usually accommodated, and the bys are incredibly supportive and compassionate, helping me reach my goals (even when I had a broken hand). I also get to be my weird self, and am embraced fully.

I chose JKC originally to help prevent rowing injuries. I’m a rower and we won the St. John’s Regatta in 2019 but I rowed through a rib stress fracture and missed significant time in the boat during the racing season. Training at JKC consistently since the pandemic helped me stay injury free this year and made me the strongest I’ve ever felt, which helped me help my team win the 2021 St. John’s Regatta! Jon adds variety and mixes the exercises up well so that the workout goes by quickly and strength is gained. The gym is very personable and I like the eclectic mix of people that are there. JKC is much more intimate and personal than other gyms.

I had virtually no real experience using weights and felt intimidated going gyms. I avoided gym-goers using free weights, especially when hearing that loud crash, as they would drop weights to the floor. I thought this was to show everyone around them that they owned that area and that I shouldn’t go anywhere near! So I guess I just wanted to learn how to lift weights safely in a gym environment.

I spent over 18 years in the British Military, so I got to use some nice gyms. 99% of my time and experiences in those gyms was spent doing cardiovascular workouts, because I could just jump on a treadmill, plug in my head phones and do my own thing! JKC is different, because they have given me the confidence to use free weights and equipment that I had feared for years. Their demonstrations and knowledge is impeccable and I thank them for their continuous belief and support they show me at every session.

Not having much if any experience with professional gyms I though it would be along the lines of going to a facility and doing your own thing, getting some instructions from time to time, if you asked for it, and for most part working out on your own, in a large impersonalized setting. I was a bit apprehensive as I figured I’d be standing around a lot looking at all this equipment wondering what to do with it, or worst doing something to hurt myself. Well I couldn’t have been more wrong. Both Jon and Thomas are very attentive, professional trainers, who lay-out an exercise program, from start to finish, for you. They demonstrate the exercise they want you to do and then watch you do it to make sure you got it right. Jon and Thomas are very thorough, patience and non-assuming.

I’ve been weight training on and off for years but never really had a specific goal or target in mind so routinely stalled out, plateaued or stopped training all together. Before I joined JKC I was definitely in a fitness slump and needed something to motivate me and get me back on track. I did a bit of digging online, looking at various personal training options and gyms around town but JKC seemed like the best option by far. I’ve tried big box gyms and other personal trainers in the past but none of them have had the perfect combination of goal specific fitness programming, welcoming and supportive environment, and the knowledge and passion to back it all up that you’ll find at JKC. Jon and Thomas are great to work with, they know how to motivate you if you’re having an off day and are well versed in all the different ways to make your muscles burn! I also have noticed some major improvements in my deadlifts since I started with JKC and was really happy with the result.

As Seen On: