When I work out immediately after a show, my overall focus and goal is to pump up the muscle as much as possible. Keeping the muscle full will allow it to continue to grow as I’m rebounding from a show. It’s also important to train smart. Your mind says “lift heavy,” but your body says “not ready.” The muscles, tendons, and ligaments are not ready to lift maximum weight yet. It’s important that, as a bodybuilder, you understand this and increase the weight appropriately. If I’m injured, there is no training. Training smart and enjoying training will keep you on track to developing muscle tissue and refining your physique post competition.
Exercise #1: Chest Machine Press
It’s important to warm up the muscles and joint areas before going full force into your heavy lifts. My body was already warmed up from the lifting I performed for the photoshoot, so I was prepared to press heavy weight. Still, I always start with a comfortable weight where I can perform the exercise with strict form. My first exercise was the chest machine press. I did 4 sets, increasing the weight each set. This exercise is great for building muscle and all around strength. Machines are intended to be used for controlled movement; using the machine press instead of a free weight allowed me to go heavier and keep the tension strictly in the chest. I finished this exercise with a drop set to really annihilate my chest and get a huge pump right away.
Exercise #2: Cable Machine Chest Fly
My second exercise was a chest fly using the cable machine. The cables keep constant tension in the chest instead of relying on gravity with the dumbbells. Sure, dumbbell flyes have their time and place in my training, but not today. Today I wanted the constant tension during every rep of every set. As I performed each rep, I squeezed harder to really exhaust the muscle and create even more of a pump in my chest. The harder you squeeze with constant tension, the better.
Exercise #3: Dumbbell Bench Press
Next, I began the standard barbell bench press. The one set I performed felt very uncomfortable in my joints, so I scratched that exercise and moved on to dumbbell bench press. The dumbbells felt much better. There was no pain in my joints and I squeezed through all of my chest. This is a perfect example of why I train with instinct. If something doesn’t feel right, then chances are that it isn’t a good idea. This is where you have to be honest with yourself and make the right decision. If your muscles are just tired and sore, suck it up and keep going. If you feel pain in the joints, either the weight is too heavy or it just isn’t a good exercise for that day.
I make sure to use free weights in all of my training sessions to keep the secondary and stabilizer muscles strong. Free weights are harder to use than machines because they make you control the weight using more than just the primary muscles. One benefit to using free weights at the end of your workout is that you can use less weight to achieve the same result. As I had already punished the muscle at the beginning of my workout, I didn’t go as heavy as I would have if I’d started with this exercise. I still pushed heavier weight than I intended, but kept the reps under control. I focused on squeezing the muscle and pushing blood into it.
Since today was not just chest day, I incorporated a few sets of shoulder raises on a side lateral raise machine. Pumping up the middle delt will help create a better illusion that I’m wider and thicker as I stand on stage.
I also implemented two different exercises for triceps even though I had worked my chest, shoulders, and triceps pretty significantly already. The first was an overhead triceps extension machine. I felt a really good pump after three sets of that. Then I moved on to a triceps push down using the rope and cable machine. Another three sets there and my upper body was trashed. I made sure to squeeze through every rep like my life depended on it. I didn’t let the weight drop out of my control ever.
To finish up my overall workout, I completed a few sets of ab crunches. Using the cable machine once again will give you added resistance when you crunch down on your abs. As with all the other lifts of the day, keep your abs tight and squeeze through the full range of every repetition. An increase in your abdominal muscle tissue makes for thicker abs.
Although I may be exhausted after a show, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to be the best I can be. I know that I can handle whatever obstacle is thrown my way because of my strong desire to reach my goal. I have a one track mind. There are only two questions you need to ask yourself every day: one, when you wake up, are you going to do what it takes to be a champion and seize the day? And, two, when you go to bed, did you do everything possible, leaving no stone unturned, to be the champion that you are? Know in your heart that you can be your best self if you live out your life to the fullest potential day in and day out. If I’m going to do something, I want to be the best at it. I expect nothing less from myself and neither should you.
Having a big back is crucial in bodybuilding. At least 2 of the mandatory poses require a big, thick back. I’ve always had the impression that if you have a big back, it’s likely that the rest of your body will be big—or at least grow as your back grows—and that you train like an Animal. If you haven’t checked out my article “The 5 Pillars of Training,” I suggest you go now and check it out. The 5 pillars will help guide you through my approach to back training. In this video, I show you how to use the 5 pillars approach to take you through a back and bicep training session.
John Jewett is, and always has been, a technical bodybuilder. He approaches the sport with precision and a lot of thought, especially when deciding what foods to eat and what motions to perform. Read on about his contest prep training in his latest article.
Anyone who has been to the Arnold Classic in Columbus, Ohio knows that this is one of the biggest and best bodybuilding, powerlifting, and fitness event of the year. It never fails to bring the most exciting attractions each and every year.