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Working muscles: it's ALL about the angles
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Rangarr Offline
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Working muscles: it's ALL about the angles
One of the biggest improvements I've made to my exercising game is grabbing an anatomy book and simply looking at how the muscles are constructed. Many exercising myths, broscience and mistakes can be ironed out by simply looking at the muscles and thinking about what they actually do.

Simplified: most muscles consist of 3 parts. A tendon on each end attaching to the bone and a muscle belly inbetween them. The muscle fleshy muscle belly is the actual thing that contracts, moving those 2 bones closer/farther from each other and it's also the part that you're actually working out and that will grow. Tendons don't grow, they may become stronger but they're not there to grow. The muscle reaches peak contraction and thus gets a full workout when your move the 2 tendons closest to each other as much as you can. If you finish a rep only half way, then the muscle doesn't get fully stimulated and some muscle fibres simply don't get activated. No activation = no stimulation = no (fully optimal) muscle growth.

What does that have to do with angles and working out? You gotta grasp the fact that the function of any given muscle is simply to bring the 2 tendons on each end closer to each other. That usually occurs in a straight line, usually working against gravity. So to optimally stimulate any given muscle, you need to find that certain angle where the muscle will move a bone in a STRAIGHT line towards its other tendon. Muscles aren't magical or sophisticated devices, to move a bone in a "weird" non linear direction many other muscles need to work in tandem to achieve that goal. So if you can eliminate those other supporting muscles from any given movement, you can perfectly isolate the muscle that you really want to work out in full.

Example A: latissimus
[Image: AaZU9xk.jpg]
As you can see, woe is me I'm actually sorta contradicting myself, it's attached just at the beginning of the upper arm bone in the shoulder and then diagonally all along the spine. When your bring those 2 end together, it'll simply bring the upper arm bone from above your head in a half circle motion to the side of your body. Latissimus also doesn't give a fuck what you're doing with your lower arm while you do that motion. And yet you'll see people perform a lat pull like this:
[Image: pfFQjbB.jpg]
So what's wrong here? Well he leaned back HEAVILY and changed the angle. Gravity of the cable is pulling his arms upward in a straight line so he should stay as straight upward while pulling his elbow to the side of his body, yet the biggest workout he'll be giving while pulling like this is to his biceps and rhomboids/traps (they pull the shoulder blades together). If he leaned backward a bit more he'd be doing a perfect row. Good exercise, but mostly for the rhombs/traps.
[Image: f0MKKPo.jpg]
Another wrong pull. Better than the previous one? Sure. Pulling with the lats? Yeah, a bit. You don't see it, because because he hyperextends he lower back so much she's basically in the same position as the guy above. Also, elbows flared. What's the function of the lats? Bringing the elbows closer to the body.
[Image: x6dVyDq.jpg]
I was doing the exercise like this, from the floor. Perfect diagonal angle, keep straight, and if you don't lean back there's basically no other muscle that can help you out to complete the movement. Bad angle for the biceps, hard to lean back, only the lats are able to work.

Why do I mention the lats? I'm no saint, I was doing the lat pull wrong a long time. It LOOKED right, but the lats weren't growing. Looked at the anatomy book, changed and perfected the angle, lats started getting sore because they were actually working.


Example B: side deltoid
[Image: ruIoWv5.jpg]
Notice the attachments of the tendons: shoulder blade and upper arm bone. The shoulder blade is on your BACK, not your front. So why are people performing the side lateral raise like this, in front of them?
[Image: oGJZli8.jpg]
Mostly a combination of bad angles + oftentimes to heavy weight so they swing it up with momentum + people have the tendency to lead with the thing which holds the weight, in this case the hands. But the side delt isn't attached in any way to the lower arm so it couldn't give a fuck where your hands end up being, they're basically there just along for the ride but aren't the actual target bone to be moved. To really get the side delt, I'd recommend doing it 1 arm at a time. Retract your shoulder blade, now you arm will be at your side and even ever so slightly behind you. Now focus on raising up YOUR ELBOW to the side and a bit behind you, hand comes along for the ride obviously. THIS is how you get the side delt. Front delts are obviously much stronger that your side delts and will always have the urge to help out, you need to eliminate them as much as you can from that movement, and you do that by getting the proper angle which is a bit behind you, so your front delts can't work much. Oh sure, the weight will have to get smaller, but now you're actually using that weight for the proper muscle.


Example C: abs in general
[Image: maxresdefault.jpg]
Again, notice the attachments: pelvic bone and ribcage. But a finger on the lowest part of your ribcage and your pelvis. Now bring those as close together as you can. How do you end up looking? Probably something like this:
[Image: 9018WIc.jpg]
(no homo) (srs) Point is, you're curled up. Your lower back is rounded. That's the peak contraction for your abs. Point being, your need to curl up and get all rounded to optimally contract the abs. How do you see most people working out the abs?
[Image: F2XwaHx.jpg]
Dafuq is this shit? Why are they so straight? Oh sure the abs will burn doing that too, but that's understandable that the abs are contracted a bit. If they weren't the torso would just fold backwards. But they're just elevating their ribcage, not really bringing it closer to the pelvic. And the muscle that's mostly working is the hip flexor, which for most people who're sitting down a lot is already overly tight and overdeveloped.

Example D: pecs
[Image: XnNe21a.jpg]
Attachment points: middle of the ribcage and the upper arm bone, going through and under the shoulder muscles. Function: bringing the upper arm bone horizontally across your chest. Peak contraction is basically if you try to touch your left shoulder with your right ELBOW. But then again you gotta ask yourself the question: if the pecs only care about the movement of the upper arm and don't give a fuck about the lower arm, why are people doing this?
http://i.imgur.com/6m30XdS.jpg
Upper arms open wide, nice, good full stretch for the pecs, what's with the lower arms being so far apart and putting and extremely dangerous and heavy lever on the shoulder though?
http://i.imgur.com/1bzewHB.png
Or this. Extremely flared lower arms (usually what you'll also see at the gym is them being behind the torso) and then almost performing some hybrid triceps extension by PUSHING out the handles in front of them and ending up at this half-finished movement. Might as well just grab one handle, do it 1 arm at a time and bring the whole upper arm bone fully across your chest.


"B-b-but Rangarr, it's always said that compound movements are king! Why focus and isolate one muscle when I can do several!". Because there already are plenty of normal compound exercises, and they're compound exercises by virtue of being complex movements that could ONLY be performed when severals joints and muscles work together. There's no need to turn a row into a lower back+biceps exercise and there's no need to schedule your next surgeon appointment while doing behind the neck overhead presses and doing some leg drive for good measure. Funny anecdote from myself: in the past I failed to train my back properly. I did rows alright, but start with a weight that was simply too heavy for my rhombs and traps. What does the body automatically do as a defense mechanism when the primary muscles can't pull the weight? It compensates. And so I performed the rows with mainly my biceps. It went well for a while and then all progress completely halted forever. The biceps simply don't have such a big potential for growth in sheer muscle strength as your back. After I checked the anatomy book, I dropped my weight to just the bar. Pussy weights, really. Relaxed my lower arms to disengage the biceps as my as I could. The bar was being barely held by my purposefully limp wrists. And then I simply contracted the shoulder blades together to pull. And the weight progressed steadily, and thus my back has grown.


I could keep going on, but you get the gist. Know where the muscles attach, they you will know their true function, then you will know how to consciouscly contract them in and optimal way and that will lead to proper exercising and stronger/bigger muscles. And this time, the ones that you actually want to target
(This post was last modified: 02-09-2015 06:54 PM by Rangarr.)
02-09-2015 06:30 PM
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Post: #2
RE: Working muscles: it's ALL about the angles
Great post. This is the basis for perfect form.
02-09-2015 06:44 PM
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Saweeep Offline
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Post: #3
RE: Working muscles: it's ALL about the angles
Great post.

Perfect form is a must for those looking to bodybuild and especially important as you get older and injuries take forever to heal!
02-10-2015 01:55 AM
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britchard Offline
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Post: #4
RE: Working muscles: it's ALL about the angles
Great post, I really need to improve my form.
02-10-2015 02:13 AM
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eradicator Offline
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Post: #5
RE: Working muscles: it's ALL about the angles
should be stickied

Team yoga pants
[video=youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-UoeQOC-5iw&t=143s[/video]
02-10-2015 04:44 AM
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H1N1 Offline
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Post: #6
RE: Working muscles: it's ALL about the angles
Good post. It is ironic that in the picture you posted of the guy doing the lat exercise right, he has almost no back development at all, despite his big arms. A warning to all those tempted to hop on a bro split.
02-10-2015 05:40 AM
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Kieran Offline
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Post: #7
RE: Working muscles: it's ALL about the angles
Good post.

Focusing on the movement of the humerus during dumbbell presses makes chest work far more effective from a bodybuilding perspective. Most people bring the dumbbells down to narrow which engages the triceps due to the smaller angle at the elbow joint. Keeping forearms vertical at all times to limit triceps involvement, keeping the shoulders back (this means you can't bring the humerus right across the body and touch the dumbbells together, because the shoulders would come forward and therefore become too involved in the movement), and focusing on the movement of the humerus and not the hands, has really started to change my chest development. This is a pretty good video from 1.30 onwards explaining press technique for bodybuilding:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9UNwAjVf9M

Back when I was training for strength, I thought bodybuiding was just broscience and that poundages were all there was to it, but even though I had a respectable slightly over 1.5 bw bench, I had pretty poor chest development (but good triceps), especially upper chest and around the midline. Since focusing on getting the muscle contracting, using more moderate poundages for higher reps, more volume, and shorter rest periods, I can really see the difference.
02-10-2015 06:28 AM
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Rangarr
Rangarr Offline
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Post: #8
RE: Working muscles: it's ALL about the angles
This is true Kieran. Most people just want to get a repetition over with in any way possible, that's why they focus on getting the weight from point A to point B but never really focus on the way they get that weight there. Also as brosciency as "mind-muscle-connection" sounds, it really when before you start a rep, you actually think about and visualize with which muscle and how you're gonna do it. Now when I do chest exercises, it's not about getting my hands up, it's about pushing the elbow inward to the chest. When I do triceps, it's not about pushing my hand down, it's about almost dislocating my elbow to the other side. When I do lats, it's not about just pulling the weight down somehow, it's about pulling through my arm pit (I srsly think about my armpit).

Another good point you mentioned: packing your shoulders, aka retracting your shoulder blades and ramming them into a bench to provide a solid base to push from. Also a good starting point for most exercises: pullups, deadlifts, overhead presses, bench presses, even curls. Retract shoulder blades first to protect the shoulders, then do the exercise

Funny enough, the perfect way to perform many exercises in the cleanest and most precist form possible would be if someone invented some kind of way to attach some elastic cable right to your elbow with adjustible weight that didn't roll up and down your arm during the movement. That would be the most perfect exercise machine. Market niche found, get on that enterpreneuers!
(This post was last modified: 02-10-2015 06:52 AM by Rangarr.)
02-10-2015 06:48 AM
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Patriarch Offline
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Post: #9
RE: Working muscles: it's ALL about the angles
Fantastic post. Can we get a repository going of the perfect form for most of the major exercises? I had an epiphany last month and finally realized why my chest is underdeveloped, and this thread really helped me out.

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02-10-2015 07:13 AM
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Saweeep Offline
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Post: #10
RE: Working muscles: it's ALL about the angles
It's so strange; I was only having this conversation with my father earlier today.

We were discussing how different people need to use different lifts to get growth in certain muscles and how important muscle-mind-focus is to stimulating growth.

If he wasn't 70 years old and completely incapable of internetting I'd wonder if Rangarr was my dad!
02-10-2015 08:17 AM
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heavy Offline
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Post: #11
RE: Working muscles: it's ALL about the angles
Great post but didn't read it all because of having to scroll way right.

This may be a post of the day candidate.

Post Of The Day

Reminds me of the video from this post a couple weeks ago.
http://www.rooshvforum.com/thread-38933-...#pid939169

This is why I incorporate machines in my workouts.

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
(This post was last modified: 02-10-2015 08:46 AM by heavy.)
02-10-2015 08:36 AM
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Ryre Offline
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Post: #12
RE: Working muscles: it's ALL about the angles
I am not convinced by this post, for a couple of reasons. First a caveat: my training is much more of a whole-body, strength, compound-exercise style, rather than a bodybuilding, isolation style. So for me "super-isolate the exact muscle you want to work" isn't even desirable goal. There's what, over 200 muscles in the human body? That's going to be a long workout. For most guys who aren't competitive bodybuilders, "I really need to work the long head of my biceps" is a bad approach to working out. "I need to get stronger at some big, basic human movements and eat a lot" is much better in my opinion. But if you are strictly bodybuilding, maybe an isolation approach is better.

But even in that case, what the OP is proposing is getting out an anatomy book and inventing resistance exercise from scratch. Why do that, when smarter people have done that work for me over many years already?

More importantly, human movement is more complicated than "this muscle moves this joint from here to here." Take the hamstring. The hamstring (or part of it) attaches below the knee and to the hip. So it both flexes the knee and extends the hip. Looking at an anatomy chart, you might conclude that the hamstring isn't working much at all in a barbell squat: it is shortening at the knee but lengthening at the hip, so according to the OP's approach it isn't doing much if any work. But that's wrong. My understanding is, if you extend your leg using your quad alone, you get a motion like kicking a ball or using a leg extension machine. It's the tension in the hamstring (and glute action) that converts that motion into a stamp/squat/jump. Squats will build up your whole leg including the hamstring, according to people like Mark Rippetoe.

Same with bench press. Contract just your chest and you get a motion like a fly. Just your triceps and you get a pushdown or kickback. But to convert those motions into a powerful push from your chest requires involving your shoulders, lats, and even biceps (balancing the triceps like the hamstrings do the quads).

I'm self-taught on this stuff so I could be wrong. Certainly form and thinking about what you are doing is important. I always laugh inside when I see people standing holding dumbells in their hands, opening and closing their arms like they were doing a pec-deck machine fly. They're standing and moving the weight horizontally, not against gravity; it sorta looks like an exercise, but it isn't one.

But unless you need to super-isolate a particular muscle, either for competition or some kind of rehab, I don't agree with this approach.
02-10-2015 01:40 PM
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