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Thread: Do the compound lifts really work the bi's/tri's?

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    Do the compound lifts really work the bi's/tri's?

    Here's another one of those things that's bothered me for a while. Tell me what you all think.

    OK. So both heads of the biceps and the long head of the tricep are biarticulate muscles. This means that they lengthen and shorten based on movement of the shoulder as well as movement of the elbow. Now a muscle can develop more or less tension depending on it's length. Now unfortunately, compound movements seem to typically put the multi-joint arm muscles in a weak, shortened position. Chins and dips are examples of this, since maximal bicep tension can't be developed with the arms overhead and maximal tricep tension can't be developed with the arms behind the body. So it would seem that back and chest work would be great for the brachialis, the brachioradialis, and the lateral and medial heads of the triceps, but not so great for developing the biarticulate arm muscles.

    So I'm confused about this issue. The science would seem to suggest that the compound lifts wouldn't be great arm builders (especially biceps), but the experience of some would suggest otherwise.

    There's no question the bi's and tri's are worked to some degree in the compoud lifts, but I think you can't put maximal tension on those muscles because they aren't brought through their strongest points durring the lifts. What does everybody think about this?

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    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    I have a beef with the whole premise. I have heard that maximum muscular tension can be developed with a slightly stretched muscle. I would like to see definitive proof of this. I tend to believe that maximum tension can be produced with a fully contracted muscle. If we subscribe to the sliding filament theory of muscular contraction (the generally accepted theory to my knowledge), does it not make sense that the most tension can be produced when as many of the actin and myosin filaments are overlapping as is possible?

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    I like yours posts Bong.

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    Senior Member Gavan's Avatar
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    Mike Mentzer said that close grip supinated pulldown work bieps better than any curls (because you work biceps on 2 axis elbow and shoulder vs single joint axis)
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    eating out millertime's Avatar
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    I believe you can put maximal tension on a muscle even though; said muscle is not in its strongest point. Do you really need maximal tension for hypertrophy?

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    Senior Member TreeTrunks's Avatar
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    commonsense says, "look at the arms of powerlifters."

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    Baby Seal Clubber ElPietro's Avatar
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    Originally posted by chris mason
    I have a beef with the whole premise. I have heard that maximum muscular tension can be developed with a slightly stretched muscle. I would like to see definitive proof of this. I tend to believe that maximum tension can be produced with a fully contracted muscle. If we subscribe to the sliding filament theory of muscular contraction (the generally accepted theory to my knowledge), does it not make sense that the most tension can be produced when as many of the actin and myosin filaments are overlapping as is possible?
    Chris, one point I would argue is that most muscle tears occur when a muscle is in a stretched position. It is much easier to tear a muscle stretching, especially cold, than just lifting some big weight. Of course this is more a function of elasticity than anything else...so not sure what my point is here...just thought i'd offer a random thought on this.
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    As I Am Paul Stagg's Avatar
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    Originally posted by TreeTrunks
    commonsense says, "look at the arms of powerlifters."
    Every power lifter I know who is bigger than I am (weighs more) has bigger arms than I do.

    *Most PLers I know are 220's, 242's, and 308's. They are remarkably lean, very strong, very big men.

    Every PLer I've seen who is smaller than I am has smaller arms than I do. They are also remarkably strong, lean, and bigger than lots of people.

    Commonsence says - don't make general assumptions, and if you want to get bigger, get ALL OF YOU bigger.

    BTW - I agree with Chris. As discussed before, using both compound and isolation stuff has it's place.
    Last edited by Paul Stagg; 11-04-2002 at 08:44 AM.
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    Senior Member TreeTrunks's Avatar
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    uhhhhhh Paul that was my point.

    Powerlifters don't usually directly work bi's and tri's.
    Last edited by TreeTrunks; 11-04-2002 at 11:28 AM.

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    As I Am Paul Stagg's Avatar
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    Well then.

    I'm a little slow today. Haven't really gotten out of the fog.

    Most powerlifters do a lot of direct tricep training, and most I know do at least a little direct bicep work.
    Squats work better than supplements.
    "You know, if I thought like that, I'd never put more than one plate on the bar for anything, I'd never use bands or chains, I'd never squat to parallel or below, and I'd never let out the slightest grunt when I lift. At some point in your lifting career (assuming you're planning on getting reasonably strong and big), you're going to have to accept that most people think you are some kind of freak." -Sensei
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    Re: Do the compound lifts really work the bi's/tri's?

    Originally posted by Bong Hog
    .

    There's no question the bi's and tri's are worked to some degree in the compoud lifts, but I think you can't put maximal tension on those muscles because they aren't brought through their strongest points durring the lifts. What does everybody think about this?
    *** I agree. Because the change in force as the angle changes throughout the movement will dictate at what stage which muscle will become the prime mover in the exercise.
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    As I Am Paul Stagg's Avatar
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    But being a prime mover isn't the same as receiving adequate stimulation for hypertrophy, is it?
    Squats work better than supplements.
    "You know, if I thought like that, I'd never put more than one plate on the bar for anything, I'd never use bands or chains, I'd never squat to parallel or below, and I'd never let out the slightest grunt when I lift. At some point in your lifting career (assuming you're planning on getting reasonably strong and big), you're going to have to accept that most people think you are some kind of freak." -Sensei
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    Chris, I actually used to believe exactly the same thing before I read about the length-tension curve in a physiology textbook. As it turns out, more tension is possible in a slightly lengthened muscle because there are more free crossbrides available to slide on the myosin, whereas in a more contracted muscle, the crossbridge receptor sites on the myosin will begin to run out. It goes something like that. The book I had had a nice whole section on the subject. It's too bad I had to return it, or I could give a better explaination.

    Thanks PrinterPaper, appreciate it bro.

    Not sure why Mentzer would say that, Gavan. Chinups, by nature, bring the biceps from a shortened position to a shortened position.

    And yes, TreeTrunks. They do a lot of direct tricep work.

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    Jack's Utter Surprise Saturday Fever's Avatar
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    Adequate stimulation for hypertrophy is an interesting idea, and a thread all of its own we could start.

    Using powerlifters as an example for arms really is only applicable when discussing triceps, in my opinion. I've never met or seen a powerlifter with what I would consider big biceps. They always have monstrous triceps.

    I think direct bicep work, in great moderation, has its place in a routine. The main idea is that they will help you last longer when doing chins or pulldowns or rows, which in turn aids your bench, but if the limited direct work leads to size, more power to you.

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    Senior Member TreeTrunks's Avatar
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    they do some direct tri work, but not a lor of bi work.

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    Player Hater PowerManDL's Avatar
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    Length of the muscle is a very, very small part of the puzzle.

    You've got to consider joint angles, external loading, relative degrees of fatigue, and a whole bunch of other issues before you can just point at the initial position of a muscle and consider it "worked" or "not worked."
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    Originally posted by PowerManDL
    You've got to consider joint angles, external loading, relative degrees of fatigue, and a whole bunch of other issues before you can just point at the initial position of a muscle and consider it "worked" or "not worked."
    In other words..?

    Here's a very good article I found on the subject. The part about "lengthening" a muscle is very interesting too.

    http://weightrainer.virtualave.net/training/range.html

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    Player Hater PowerManDL's Avatar
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    You're not getting the point.

    If the muscle is being subjected to enough loading, then it will be worked. It doesn't *matter* if maximal tension is being reached. Maximal tension is NOT the goal.
    Vin Diesel has a fever.. and the only prescription is more cowbell.

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    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Bong Hog
    Chris, I actually used to believe exactly the same thing before I read about the length-tension curve in a physiology textbook. As it turns out, more tension is possible in a slightly lengthened muscle because there are more free crossbrides available to slide on the myosin, whereas in a more contracted muscle, the crossbridge receptor sites on the myosin will begin to run out. It goes something like that. The book I had had a nice whole section on the subject. It's too bad I had to return it, or I could give a better explaination.

    Thanks PrinterPaper, appreciate it bro.

    Not sure why Mentzer would say that, Gavan. Chinups, by nature, bring the biceps from a shortened position to a shortened position.

    And yes, TreeTrunks. They do a lot of direct tricep work.


    Actually, I have read the very same thing as you, and I still have the text, but I am not sure I believe it. Remember, what you read is a theory, one which doesn't make sense to me (although it may be correct). Because if we believe that it is the movement of the actin along the myosin heads that generates the contraction, and thus the force, then would more force not be created when as many of the myosin heads were in contact with actin as is possible (full contraction)?

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    Jack's Utter Surprise Saturday Fever's Avatar
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    Does full contraction mean the most tension between the two? Tension and time seem to be the more operable words with regards to hypertrophy. Though admittedly I know little about hypertrophy specifically.

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    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    Saturday, forget hypertrophy etc. for a moment. A muscle cell (each individual cell) is comprised of myofibrils which run the length of the muscle (imagine hoses which are bundled together). These are the contractile units of the muscle cell, they are what allow you to be able to contract your muscles. Each myofibril (hose) consists of smaller units called sarcomeres. These sarcomeres consist of alternating A bands and I bands . The A bands are darker in appearance and the I bands lighter. These bands alternate along the length of the myofibrils, and thus the muscle. These are what give muscles their striated appearance. Cool, no? Ok, so each of these A bands are intersected by a H zone, a lighter stripe. Each H zone has a darker M line. Finally, the I bands have a Z line . A sarcomere is the region of a myofibril between successive Z lines. I will try to illustrate:

    ------A I Z I A------H M H------AI Z IA------

    This sucks, I know. So, you have the stuff between the As which is the A band, the stuff between the Is, the I band, and then the stuff between the Hs which is the H zone (bisected by the M line), and finally each sarcomere is the all of the stuff between the Z lines (half of the I bands, the A bands, and the H zone and M lines). Whew, confusing, no?

    Now, within each sarcomere are the myofilaments (contractile proteins), actin and myosin. Actin is thin, while myosin is thicker. The actin extended from the I band part of the way into the A band. The myosin extended the entire A band, it looks something like this:

    -------- --------
    =========
    -------- --------

    (=) is myosin
    (-) is actin

    So the mechanism is that the myosin heads, which sprout like fingers from the myosin, act like tiny ratchets and pull the actin towards the center, thus causing contraction (shortening) of the myofibril and the muscle along with it.

    When considering muscular hypertrophy, rememer that the myofibrils account for about 80% of the celluar volume of the muscle.


    Man, I can't get my darn illustration right! The (=) signs are supposed to run inside of the (-) signs, centered. There shouls also be a bigger gap between the (-) signs.
    Last edited by chris mason; 11-05-2002 at 01:05 PM.

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    Jack's Utter Surprise Saturday Fever's Avatar
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    Understood completely. I can't pretend to have physiology knowledge like a number of members, but this is easily read and understood.

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    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    I try. That is a big problem with science, too much jargon. Science can usually be presented in an easy to understand manner if the person doing the explaining understands what he is trying to say. On a lot of weightlifting websites, there are people who everyone thinks are physiology geniuses, yet they are only directly qouting from a study etc., they don't necessarily understand what they are writing and thus are unable to clearly explain it. I fall into that description from time to time, but I try not to. No, I am not directing this at anyone here. I think it is also why some people perceive me as not be as scientifically savvy as others, they confuse my lack of technical jargon as a lack of knowledge.

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    I perceive you not as "not be as scientifically savvy as others", but rather "able to cut through the crap and tell it like it is"

    keep it up, brother!

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    Senior Member Gavan's Avatar
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    "Not sure why Mentzer would say that, Gavan. Chinups, by nature, bring the biceps from a shortened position to a shortened position."

    Perhaps I missunderstood what Mike said.

    Exercise Protocol (Summer 1999)
    HD Seminar Part 4 by Mike Mentzer

    When he explained the perfect workout (the new consolidation routine) he explained why pulldown are better than any curl.

    "[...] the close-grip palms-ups pulldown happens to be the best biceps exercise one could do. -- better than any curl -- [...] when you are doing a curl you are working only around a single joint axis --the elbow. When doing a pulldown , onthe other hand, you are working the muscle more uniformly from both ends.

    And the dips. Think of the dips as the upper body squat. Dips are by far the most effective pec, delt and trieps exercise you can do."

    ----

    There is another explanation about pulldown in an heavy duty bulletin I can't refind it.... perhaps later !

    Dips > OHP for shoulders.... I don't think so ! I also don't think that pulldown are better than Curl.... It's not Arthur Jones opinion ! Mike had to argue about his consolidation routine as the ultimate routine...
    Last edited by Gavan; 11-05-2002 at 01:36 PM.
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