Why you’re not gaining…
and what to do about it!!
Part III–The Final Piece of the Puzzle
(Mike Brown explains the final piece of the puzzle of why you are not gaining weight or not making progress in weight lifting)
Repairing Injured Muscles
David Scott Lynn was an iron-worker. His father was an iron-worker before him. His father was one of the few men in the business who understood that a beam put in an inch or two off would affect the entire structure of the building. David inherited his father’s eye. From over a hundred feet away he could tell if a beam was only an inch or two off.
What, you are thinking, has this got to do with bodybuilding and weightlifting?
The human body is a structure. Almost no-one involved in various aspects of the health field understands this, from medical doctors to strength coaches. Chiropractors probably come the closest.
Nobody has ever come as close as David Scott Lynn.
David was on a job in Minnesota, working outside in the winter, about 15 years ago. The cold was too much for him. He walked off the job and went to Florida. Shortly afterwards he began applying what he knew about structures to the human body.
What he developed is what I have been looking for, for almost thirty (30) years. When it comes to figuring out why you’re not gaining, this is another piece of the puzzle.
Let’s start with some of the basics. Once you get a “feel” for what he does (the word in quotation marks is probably far more accurate than you can imagine at this point) we’ll cover some of the basics. You can then, on paper, follow us through a workout and build on your basic knowledge. By the time you’re through with this article you will then understand how and why I can make the statement: today’s world record poundages are the warm-up weights of the future.
In a recent magazine I read an article about a fellow who, at the age of 31, has bench pressed over 700 lbs. at a weight of 335. His diet consists of peanut butter sandwiches, pizza, hot dog, hamburgers and Budweiser. If this young man lives to be my age (I’m 55) I will be more than a little surprised. If this same individual could count on another twenty (20) years of injury-free training a 1,000-pound bench press for him would be a certainty sometime within that time frame, probably sooner than later. For him, it won’t happen. His diet will probably kill him first.
In the same magazine one of the foremost strength coaches in the country knocks most of us out of the competitive box by referring to certain genetic/leverage/lifestyle advantages that the average lifter doesn’t have.
If you’re between 5’4″ and 6’8″, a normal adult male with all parts in place and functioning (even if not functioning well), you have all the “advantages” necessary to do anything with your body – whether you want to build size or strength – that anyone else has.
Let’s learn to look at the body the way David Scott Lynn does: as a structure. A lot of chiropractors look at it the same way: the bones should be balanced, the hips even, the spine in its proper configuration with no rotation, etc. A chiropractor attempts to achieve this with adjustments, a massage therapist by working the muscles. In many cases, they fail.
First, bones are substantially passive. The muscles are active. Bones cannot move of their own accord. Imagine someone with his neck tilted to the left side. The common practice is to either adjust the neck (chiropractic) or work on the right side of the neck, making the assumption that the muscles on the side opposite the tilt are weak (physical therapy).
Each joint in the body is surrounded by a joint capsule, an area filled with fluid. Proprioception signals tell the central nervous system where the joints are in space. When pressure increases on the joint, a signal travels to the central nervous system. As pressure increases on the joint, an “I must protect” signal is sent back from the central nervous system to the joint capsule. The muscles surrounding the joint capsule then contract to protect it. This is known as a splinting action.
The common wisdom is that the weak muscle is the long one, the stronger one is the short one (contracted). A lot of physical therapists will then try to work on the long muscle to strengthen it.
In either case you can have a problem. Muscle fibers don’t stretch: they either contract or they don’t. You simply cannot tell whether a muscle is strong or weak by whether it’s contracted or not.
Chiropractors adjust the joint to break the splinting action. Physical therapists attempt to strengthen the longer muscle. Massage therapists nurture the painful side, which is usually the long and (so called), “weak side.” This worsens the imbalance.
Problems can arise in all three cases.
If a chiropractor adjusts your neck and your neck muscles don’t lengthen in the process your muscles can spasm and traumatize the joint capsule even further. The other two disciplines applied in the normal fashion can also make the problem worse.
What David Scott Lynn does is simplicity itself, at least when you first develop the ability to comprehend it. What he does is look for contractions in the muscle that need to be released. You detect a contraction in the muscle by simply looking for a hard spot (or two or three) in it. You look by probing with your fingers. A hard spot in a muscle will feel to your finger tips like a pebble, a rope, a brick wall, or something else unlike pliable muscle.
Have someone press on the muscle to effect a release. If the pressure causes any discomfort, press lighter. What happens is that the contraction is released and the muscle is returned to its normal operating condition. Press too hard and a defense mechanism is triggered. This procedure simply won’t work if you grit your teeth and try to be a macho stud.
If you have a short (or contracted) muscle, work on it. Do not work on the long or so-called “weak” muscle. Once you have released the contraction and your body structure is balanced you will then be able to utilize what you have to its fullest extent. Most bodybuilders are so full of contracted muscle fibers and microtraumas that there simply isn’t any way for them to realize their maximum potential.
Rather than bore you to tears with a lot of abstract theory, follow us around the gym. David Scott Lynn spent a week with me in Chicago applying what he knows to what I know as he followed us through a workout.
A bunch of people in our society are running around with contracted stomach muscles. Their back pain is actually caused by the muscles of the stomach wall pulling down and forward on the rib cage, which in turn brings the head down and forward. While David was here in Chicago a young man (21) came to him who had been in an automobile accident a couple of years before. Some mornings his back pain was so severe he couldn’t bend over when he got out of bed. This fellow looked a little puzzled when David laid him out on his back and applied fingertip pressure to his abdominal muscles. David then worked on his hamstrings and glutes. Three hours later he stood up and his back pain was gone. Three weeks later it was still gone.
A lot of people you might think have osteoporosis simply have the same problem. Try to correct it by using the back muscles to improve your posture and, with two sets of muscles pulling against each other, what you wind up with is exhaustion.
The proper way to do sit-ups is to let the tension go out of the muscles (relax) and lengthen the abdominal wall between reps. This probably takes more patience than most of us have.
If you’re trying for lower back development, keep your feet as close together as possible on this one. The more your feet are apart the more the gluteus maximus is affected. You can also pull your lower back out via glutes and hamstrings. Dewaynn Rogers, one of David’s students, worked on me one day after I had pulled my lower back out. After he applied elbow pressure to the outside of my glutes he then went to my thigh biceps, or hamstrings. My left thigh bicep was taut as a bowstring. He loosened that up, simply by applying gentle pressure. This was on a Wednesday.
Thursday the pain had traveled from the lower center of my spine to my right lower back. Friday I was back having a light workout. Previously such problems had taken weeks to go away.
We don’t need to belabor the point that someone doing squats with one hip higher than the other is going to have problems. What we do need to point out are common misconceptions concerning lifting belts and the spinal column.
Supposedly a lifting belt gives support to the spinal column in a normally functioning body. That simply isn’t where the support comes in. Think of the abdominal cavity as a large water balloon. The abdomen is a sealed unit: for the most part, water does not migrate in or out. Now think of the spine, rib cage, and everything on top of them as being held up by hydrostatic pressure. David proved this to me one night by working on my abdomen. Before he started I was 6’1″. When he measured me at the end of the session I was 6’1 and 1/2″.
Once David or one of his students work on you and then you do squats you are in for a treat: they actually become enjoyable.
Lat Machine Pulldowns
Here I had no problems. However, while we were discussing the muscles of the upper back, David did point out some poorly designed equipment in the gym. Certain rowing machines appear to affect the small stabilizing muscles of the upper back, the rhomboids. Whoever designed the machines apparently wasn’t aware of the difference in capabilities between the lats, the traps, and the smaller back muscles. If you tear one of the smaller ones loose, you can’t say you weren’t warned.
Alternate Dumbbell Press
Up until David observed me and worked on me on this one I had been having problems with soreness in the left shoulder. His moves here were classic.
First, he located an area in the junction of the lats and rib cage and applied pressure to it. Once those sections ( lats, teres, delts, traps) released there was nothing to “drag” the deltoid muscle down. Then he went to the left deltoid, in which I had a section that felt like a rope. He put pressure on it until it disappeared. Finally, he applied pressure to the left side of my neck to release the nerve energy from the neck to the shoulder.
Right after that I cranked out 18 reps in the alternate dumbbell press with each hand, nonstop, with 75 lbs. in each hand. I could have done more if I hadn’t run out of breath. I realize that these may not be impressive poundages to some of you young turks but bear in mind that I was 52 years old the day David was in the gym with me. I weighed in at only 202.
When I get to the end of the dumbbell racks, 150 lbs in each hand for a similar number of reps, then you can be impressed. By using David’s system to make a higher percentage of muscle fibers available such an accomplishment is almost a mathematical certainty.
David did point out that the reason I ran out of breath was due to abdominal wall contraction. The lungs can expand down into the abdominal cavity much more easily than they can move the rib cage outward. Create a whole bunch of microtraumas in the abdominal muscles (as I apparently had done) and breathing is going to be more difficult.
The two schools of thought on the bench press are divided into strict and loose. Forget strict. The body functions as a unit and you lose versatility when you try to isolate muscles. Fact is, someone who bridges and bounces is going to increase his ability to do strict reps anyway.
Nautilus Neck Machine
Strengthen the neck and you strengthen the entire upper body. Ever notice that no-one ever works their necks?
My primary problem here was that I had piled so much weight on the machine that I was no longer exercising my neck: I was using my entire upper body. As I’ve told people for over 30 years, it’s an exercise, not a contest. You’re not here to impress anyone. It’s no disgrace to go down in weight to do things correctly. The people sneering at you today won’t even be there tomorrow. Also, as I tell the people I train: do as I say, not as I do.
Side Deltoid Dumbbells Laterals
Do this one with a jerking movement and you create a shearing action in the neck vertebrae. Slow and easy does it. In order to take the pressure off the joint capsules during the exercise, relax the shoulder and elbow joints between reps by letting them drop down and then move the arms out to the side in a pendulum movement.
Seated Alternate Dumbbell Curls
Same principle. Before beginning the movement, relax the shoulder and elbow joints by letting them drop down. Bring the weight up in a scooping movement.
Bear in mind that muscle comes in layers. Just because you find a pebble in one layer doesn’t mean that you’re not going to find a rope further down. The principles David Scott Lynn works from are fairly simple. However, in order to use them effectively in all sorts of different situations, you need training. David has a short seminar he gives and a more extensive training program he conducts.
Why would you want to take this training? As Dewaynn Rogers pointed out to me, there’s a lot of value in helping bodybuilders reach their maximum potential and helping those in pain.
The first female I tried this on (in a health food store), a gorgeous brunette my wife calls “Muscles,” agreed to be worked on in about three (3) minutes. I found a “rope” in her right deltoid, released it in about another three minutes, and she remarked how I had restored circulation to her right hand.
As I left the health food store she called out, “Good hands.”
(Editor’s note: This was written in 1996)