Weight Lifting & Muscle-Busting Tips
Haunted by poor results? Experiment with some of these techniques to build bone-chilling size from bodybuilding's freaks of nature.

By Michael Berg
Photos by Irv Gelb and Chris Lund

You cautiously step toward the entrance and momentarily halt, as your body's fight or flight response springs into action with a ringing sound that shudders down your spine - the clang of iron against iron. You peer inside and see shadows looming large against a brick wall. Grunts, groans, even screams rise from the musty, darkened interior.

Welcome to the lair of bodybuilding behemoths, a laboratory that makes Dr. Frankenstein's seem friendly. Here, science gives way to pure brute force - monster vs. immovable object. Often, the monster wins, as flesh is molded, shaped, transformed into beastly proportions.

How can you harness these powers of transformation for yourself? Use the knowledge gained from these freaks of nature to conduct your own experiments. Who knows, you soon may find yourself right at home among these fearsome barbarians!

Experiment No. 1: Focus your thoughts for mind-altering growth.
Don't be the "headless horseman" of triceps development. Building and defining all three heads of your triceps muscle to proportions like these bulging off the arms of Paul Dillett isn't accomplished lackadaisically. Note the steely gaze during his set of dumbbell extensions; it's not about intimidation, it's about intensity. The object is simply to move the greatest amount of weight you can in a very short period. Your mind controls your muscle - tell it what to do, and go after it with all the determination of a hungry wolf stalking its wounded prey. See it etched in Dillett's face - behind his eyes burns the fire to morph muscle beyond mere mortal boundaries. Where your mind goes, your body will follow.

Experiment No. 2: Forcefully push beyond your outer limits.
Has your strength on the military press plateaued? If your shoulder development is languishing, step it up in your next training session. Put 10-20 more pounds on the bar than usual, and with the help of a spotter, give everything you can to move that weight. You may get one rep, you may get five, but either way you've provided your shoulders impetus to grow. Whatever you do, don't walk away without at least getting a rep or two, even if they're forced ones with the assistance of your spotter.

As you realize, strength and size gains don't come all at once. Instead, you must continually strive for incremental victories (5 more pounds, one more repů), which will lead you to precipices you never thought attainable. Such as Tom Prince's 365-pound military press, for one.

Experiment No. 3: Go primal for tremendous traps.
No doubt about it, your traps can be damn obstinate when it comes to prodding size out of them. If you want traps that flare from your neck, go basic. Just ask Dorian Yates, who didn't earn six Sandows while schlepping through fancy machine exercises. Simply put, you won't achieve pure, explosive growth without shrugs. Dumbbell shrugs or barbell shrugs, it doesn't matter. Just be sure to shrug straight up (try to touch your ears with your delt caps) and release straight down. Never roll your shoulders, as it's unproductive and invites injury.

And don't let your forearms dictate the amount of weight you can handle. On this exercise, straps are highly recommended. Travel to that dusty end of the dumbbell rack, grab the largest pair you can handle and go for it.

Experiment No. 4: Feed your bloodlust for more plates.
You want King-Kong-size legs? Repping out on leg extensions won't even get you close. Legs respond to heavy, gut-wrenching sets of compound movements like leg presses and squats. Just ask Kevin Levrone: He didn't build his gargantuan gams with lazy isolation movements. Instead, he has pounded them into submission, mercilessly pressing piles of plates until his legs are left trembling and quaking, sometimes for days afterward.

Experiment No. 5: Reach the peak - and hold it.
Raise your biceps from the dead with this ageless Weider Principle. A peak contraction should be at the core of each biceps repetition you perform.

If you want biceps that look like a subcutaneous explosion, such as case study Shawn Ray displays here, you need to put yourself through a torture test. Visualize and feel your muscle filling with nutrient-rich blood at the top of each contraction. Squeeze the muscle - hard - for a count of two before lowering the weight slowly through the eccentric (negative) portion of the rep. Then, do it again. And again . . .

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