Same workouts over and over = repetitive stress

I was talking with a friend who described his workout to me. He goes to the gym three times a week. He told me he does about 12 exercises. This is his routine:

  • 3×10 Bench press
  • 3×10 Flys
  • 3×10 Incline or decline bench press
  • 3×10 Curls
  • 3×10 Hammer Curls
  • 3×10 Concentration Curls
  • 3×10 Tricep Rope extensions
  • 3×10 Tricep Kickback
  • 3×10 Overhead tricep extension

I said, you do this 3 times a week? He said, “Yes.” I asked if he has back pain. He says, “Yes.” I told him, “Dude, you are only working your chest and your arms and you are overworking them. You are doing the same exercises over and over. Do you know what repetitive stress is?” He says, “No.” He is doing 9 sets on his chest three times a week! It’s the same for the arms. As bizarre as this sounds, I know it’s common. (I even did it before I knew better.)

It took a great deal of explanation to illustrate that the medial rotators (chest and biceps) have antagonistic partners (a.k.a all the upper back muscles). These are the lateral rotators and they are being put on a constant stretch by the tight chest muscles, which means they are being weakened. When I pointed out his medial rotation and protraction of his scapula, I think he almost got it.

Since I know he is going for size and looks, I tried to sway him by recommending he work on his back and legs where he’ll gain the most size. I don’t think he was interested. I tried the symmetry angle as well…no dice. I talked about giving the muscles enough time to recover. If they are overworked, they will only become inflamed. Also, I explained his method likely only produce cortisol and not growth hormone which means he’s actually defeating his entire purpose.

Nonetheless, he is continuing his chest and arms workout. He also goes heavy most every time and 1 rep max is just about every week. It’s only a matter of time before he’s injured.

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