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PowerBlock Review IM Jun '00
|by Steve Holman, IRONMAN Magazine Jun '00|
We’ve all had those days when we just don’t want to deal with the gym--the smell of the locker room, the feel of other people’s sweat and saliva on the machines and the dread of having to put on a happy face after you heard your boss say you could be replaced by a monkey.
That’s when a home gym can be a saving grace. If you had one, you could head home and train in solitude—just the meditative prescription you need—but who has the room or the budget for a home gym? You do, if you play your cards right.
With the advent of selectorized dumbbells almost everyone can get in a great muscle-building workout at home, in a very small area, and they won’t cost you a load of bananas compared to what a rack of fixed dumbbells costs. Once you have your own heavy-duty selectorized set and a solid, adjustable bench, that meditative workout is there whenever you need it.
With your selectorized ’bells conveniently perched on their stand against a wall or in a corner of your house alongside the bench, all you have to do is pull out the bench and warm up, and you’re ready to build some serious muscle in your living room, bedroom or basement. Having selectorized dumbbells means you don’t have to deal with dangerous loose collars, as you do with standard adjustable dumbbells, and there are no scattered barbell plates littering the floor and no space-wasting cable or rubber-band contraptions that end up as expensive clothes hangers. We’re talking pure free-weight training here, the kind that produces big results fast—and everything you need tucks away neatly in a corner.
Can you actually pack on muscle with only dumbbells and a bench? Absolutely. The most popular selectorized dumbbell set, the PowerBlock, provides you with enough weight to pound the muscle fibers in even your strongest bodyparts—the dumbbells go from five to 85 pounds, which is like having 28 pairs taking up the space of two shoe boxes. Here’s a sample routine to prove just how easy it is to get a full-body workout with selectorized dumbbells and a bench:
Quads: Lunges or squats 2 x 10-15
Hamstrings: Stiff-legged deadlifts 2 x 8-12, Calves: One-leg calf raises 2 x 12-15
Chest: Dumbbell bench presses 2 x 8-10, Incline flyes 1 x 8-10
Back: One-arm bent-over rows 2 x 8-10, Pullovers 1 x 8-10
Delts: Overhead presses 2 x 8-10,
Lateral raises 1 x 8-10
Triceps: Lying extensions 1 x 8-10, Overhead extensions 1 x 8-10
Biceps: Seated curls 1 x 8-10, Concentration curls 1 x 8-10
Abs: Lying hip curls 1 x max, Full-range crunches 1 x 10-15
It’s a basic, full-body routine that you can do two to three times a week at home—or anytime you just don’t feel like dealing with a commercial gym. It’s a nice option to have, especially if it’s been a manic Monday and you thought you heard your boss on the phone with the monkey trainer from the local zoo. When going to a crowded gym is about as appealing as hemorrhoid surgery, you can head home for a full-body blast with your selectorized dumbbells. Take the day off from the gym on Tuesday—since you trained your entire body on Monday—and pick up with your normal commerical-gym routine on Wednesday.
Home Split-Routine Options
Full-body home-gym programs can be a great way to stay on the training track, but you can also make your home-gym workout more extensive to fit into your current program. For example, if you’re on a split routine and you don’t feel like going to the gym, escape to your home minigym and only work the bodyparts you’re scheduled to train that day. Say it’s delts and arms day, but seeing that goofy trainer at your gym forcing his beginning clients to do explosive jumping lunges could make you snap. As you drive through five-o’clock traffic thinking about it, you conveniently miss the turn to your commercial gym, head straight home to your PowerBlock dumbbells and bench and do the following:
Delts: Overhead presses 3 x 8-10; Superset: Standing lateral raises 2 x 6-8, Upright rows 2 x 6-8, Bent-over laterals 2 x 8-10
Triceps: Lying extensions 3 x 8-10, Overhead extensions 2 x 8-10, Kickbacks 1 x 8-10
Biceps: Standing dumbbell curls 3 x 8-10,
Incline curls 2 x 8-10,
Concentration curls 2 x 8-10
That’s a heavy workout for delts and arms, and you can do the same for any bodypart when the home-training mood strikes—or, shall we say, when the anti-commerical-gym mood is urging you to skip training altogether. While it’s true that some bodyparts require more thought, such as quads, innovative moves like weighted sissy squats, dumbbell hack squats—holding the dumbbells behind your glutes with your heels up on a board as you squat—and one-leg squats can get the job done. Forced innovation can often transform a workout into one of the best you’ve had in a long while. That’s usually the case when you have to do something different—and a home gym can make those critical differences happen.
The Combination Equation
Another way to use your home minigym for new gains is to schedule home-training sessions along with commercial-gym workouts during the week. That way you’ll look foward to the change of scenery on specific days. Chapter 10 in Mass-Training Tactics provides a couple of examples. For instance, you can do commercial-gym workouts during the week, be they full-body programs on Tuesday and Thursday or a split over three or four days, and then on Saturday do a special workout at home, in which you only train the bodyparts that need extra work.
Another option is to do your upper body on Monday, your lower body on Wednesday and then a full-body workout at home on Friday with your selectorized dumbbells and bench. Use a program similar to the full-body routine listed above. Mixing up split training with full-body workouts is a tremendous boredom breaker and muscle maker.
If you don’t have a mini home gym with a bench and selectorized dumbbells, you’re missing a great opportunity to avoid missing workouts and forge some new gains—not to mention hold onto your sanity and maybe even get your spouse to start training. Most people like to start working out at home before they take the plunge and join a gym, so be prepared for your better half to get the iron bug. Yes, commercial gyms can be motivating, and they pulsate with excitement. Sometimes, though, you just want to focus on you, your effort and getting a burn in the target muscles, not on the overweight guy spraying the dumbbell rack with saliva as he does side dumbbell cleans—or are those supposed to be lateral raises?