Let’s start with gym equipment. I’m telling you right now that you don’t need to train in a gym with all the latest high-tech plate loaded or selectorised machines. I’m not saying that all the expensive gym kit is worthless, it certainly isn’t, it’s just that I feel it makes bodybuilders a bit lazy. These days there are machines for every body-part imaginable and that is taking the thinking out of your training. I get people coming into my gym and saying ‘you haven’t got a machine for calves’ for example. I then proceed to list plenty of other equipment that they can use for calves (with the use of a calf block), such as:
• Standing calf raises on a smith machine • Seated calf raises on a leg curl machine • Dumbbell calf raises • Tibialis raises with a dumbbell • Calf press on a leg press machine • Donkey calf raises with a partner
This list could go on – you get the idea! Before opening our gym myself and my wife trained in our converted garage at home. This is the equipment we had:
• Power rack • A small smith machine with adjustable high and low pulleys on it • Pulldown machine • Leg extension • Leg Curl • A flat bench • An adjustable bench • Dumbbells from 5kg – 65kg • 400kg of Olympic plates • An E-Z bar • A full size Olympic bar • A short Olympic bar
With that equipment I won my class at the Stars of Tomorrow, came 4th at the IFBB Europeans and trained for an IFBB World Championships. Amongst others that we trained there my wife also coached paraplegic power lifters and one girl in particular gained a gold medal at the Paralympics in Athens and Sydney – all from a garage gym!!
Really what I’m getting at with all this is that you don’t need to train in the biggest and best equipped gyms – all you need is the desire, drive and determination. Sometimes training with less equipment makes you think so much more about what you are doing, which muscles you are meant to be working and why. The results will be so much better than jumping on machine X and simply moving some handles from A to B. Get creative in your training and try out some new movements – you may gain some muscle in the process!
In addition to the equipment you use to train with/on, training accessories also need a mention. These include belts, wraps, straps, etc. I’ll address them one by one and give you my thoughts on whether they are useful or not – entirely up to you to follow or not follow my advice. Belts. Quite simply there is no need for them in bodybuilding. Believe me not using them will keep your waist smaller, although most people think the opposite. When training using heavy basic movements like squats or deadlifts with a belt the correct technique to enable you to lift heavier is to actually push your stomach into the belt, powerlifters are taught to do this and even if you don’t deliberately do this you subconsciously will. The result? Distension of the stomach. During the London Olympics this year watch the weightlifters and you will notice that virtually none of them use a belt and don’t forget these athletes are throwing weights around over their heads. Another thing you’ll notice is that, apart from the super heavyweights, most of the weightlifters will have relatively small tight waists. When you don’t use a belt you will find you keep you abs tighter and they will stay flatter as a result. Case closed – if you’re a bodybuilder there is no need for a belt during training. Knee wraps. Again, if you are a bodybuilder – there is no place for them in your training. Yes, you may lift heavier if you use them but the extra weight lifted will be as a result of the wraps and not your muscles. Our job as bodybuilders is to put as much tension on the working muscles as possible and this won’t be the case if you use knee wraps when training quads. But ‘I have bad knees’ I can hear people saying. Let me tell you knee wraps will make them worse due to the compressive force they put on the knee caps. Bodybuilding = no knee wraps!
Wrist straps. If you want to get the most out of your back training – use them. Your grip is the limiting factor and will give out before your lats and the rest of your back muscles are anywhere near fatigued. Straps will also stop you pulling with your biceps. Please learn how to use them properly first, honestly, I could do an entire seminar on using straps properly! No need to wrap them round and round the bar, just once in the opposite direction to your grip and you’re ready. If you want to fully work your back – use wrist straps.
Fat Gripz TM. These are for making a normal diameter bar thicker. Great for pressing exercises as they spread the load and make for a smoother press. I find a better feel in the biceps – no grip issues as you would expect but more stress on the biceps. Personally, I wouldn’t use them for back training unless you want to work your grip and forearms.
There are plenty of other training accessories out there, just make sure you are using them correctly. When considering their use ask yourself – will they aid my bodybuilding (i.e.: more tension on the working muscles) or will I be using them as a ‘crutch’ to boost my ego? To recap – when deciding what equipment to train with or what training accessories to use the main consideration must be – will it be of benefit to my physique? Enough said.