Just finished today´s workout session. Today was chest day. The following took place:
Bench press, barbell, 5x5.
Bench press, barbell No. 2, 5x6-10.
Bench press, barbell, No.3, 5x12.
Inclined bench press, dumbbells, 2x12-15.
That's 15 sets of flat barbell bench presses. A bit over the top some might say. And yes, I wouldn't plan a session to come out like that. It was a matter of improvisation, fueled by the inspiration that sprung from the first 5 sets. The body responded in such a way that I just couldn't resist the urge to do another 5 sets - and then, after that, 5 more...
When I left the gym I summed it all up in my head, as I most often do after a workout session. I rated this one to be the best in at least a couple of weeks – and I credit this feeling to the following factors:
1. The above already mentioned improvisation. In general I’m all for planning, but I do believe that the best workouts (and, to a certain degree, the best performances in all fields of life) take place when the original plan is (for the right blood full reasons) abandoned and I allow myself to go with the flow. Those first 5 sets of bench press really made my body sing in an inspired way. I felt strong and pumped already after a couple of sets. The decision to carry on bench pressing on the expense of some other planned exercises came naturally. If it feels good, why not go a bit further? One should not let the preconceived come in the way of true inspiration. I’m a strong believer in the power of knowledge. Knowing what you do and why will accelerate your development, I write a lot about this here at Penandbarbell.com, but one still must never let one’s know-how – or even one’s most well-grounded ambitions – come in the way of true lust. Sometimes method must give way for rawness.
2. The improvisation led to a good mixing of different schools. For me, Bench press no 1, 2 and 3 became almost different exercises. The weights, the number of reps and the length of the resting periods in between sets all varied drastically. This allowed me to achieve layer upon layer of pump. I could really feel it; how I hit all fibers, from the most deeply buried to the most blood filled and visible. The result was an overall pump that still hasn´t left me when I write this, two hours later. There’s a lesson in this: if you are in pursuit of a visibly impressive physique you mustn’t adhere to one single set of principles only, especially not when it comes to the number of reps and sets being performed. Here I went from a classic 5x5 approach, via the Arnold approach of 6-10 reps/set, to the pump-oriented and Nubret-inspired 5x12 approach. The body immediately rewarded me, by flushing my whole being with a powerful wave of endorphins and an inspiring pump that made me already look forward to the next session while still in the locker room.
Yes. That’s right. Carbs. I don’t care how many leading men you’ve read about who “transformed” their physiques in a few weeks by getting rid of all the carbs. That’s not the kind of pseudo results I aim for. And that’s not my ideal. Personally I make sure to keep my abs visible, absolutely – but they aren’t the one and only important thing. I don’t let the shredding get the best of me. For me, a washboard loses much of its appeal if it is surrounded by weak arms and shoulders. In order to maintain and keep what I personally consider a sufficiently muscular upper body carbs become essential. The diet must be kept natural. The energy levels must be kept high. I stay ripped all year round - not contest ripped, mind you, but ripped in a way that allows a chiseled impression without losing in force and sustainability. Yesterday I ate a lot of carbs – and was rewarded today when my muscles easily sprang into action and allowed me to work hard through all those sets of bench press, always recovering quickly in between the sets and leaving me hungry for more.