In bodybuilding, making gains in muscle mass and strength is inevitably going to be met with obstacles. Breaking through these training plateaus is the real key to making lasting gains. Many times the key to these breakthroughs relies on variations in your training, or trying something new. You always have to remember that the body is constantly striving for efficiency. The longer you do the same thing, the better the body gets at doing it. This is particularly true in bodybuilding. You have to not only push your limits to breakthrough these plateaus and make gains, but you also have to switch things up to keep your body from adapting to a routine.
Don’t be afraid to try new things. There are so many incredible athletes and bodybuilders out there today, if you pay attention when they speak about their training variations, you'll quickly find that ideas can come from all directions. Watch closely when they show what they are doing on the videos they post all over social media. Be ready to learn from everybody – new ideas are everywhere.
Back in day, I devoured everything I could get my hands on. I paid particularly close attention to Joe Weider, the patron saint of bodybuilders, who came out with a long list of Weider Principles that broke new ground. And, Angelo Siciliano, aka Charles Atlas – the guy who who made sure the bully didn’t kick sand in your face. He could turn anything from a chair to the floor, into a sophisticated piece of exercise equipment.
After I turned pro, one of the things I was known for was my striated glutes. That doesn’t seem like a big deal now—all the top bodybuilders have striated glutes, even the girls! But, go back and look at champion bodybuilders through the years. Prior to my ascent in the mid 80s, no one else had them. There’s a simple reason. I was one of the first guys to try something new and put lunges into my routine. Now, at the time, lunges were considered a “girl exercise.” If “girl exercise” was meant to be an insult, then the person saying it hasn’t really done a true lunge. They also better not say that in front the top female athletes that are part of Team Gaspari. They might get their butt kicked.
I did walking lunges with really heavy weights; I'd grab a pair of 120 pound dumbbells and walk the gym parking lot. Then, did the same with reverse lunges. I didn’t really invent anything, but I still came up with something brand new for male bodybuilders by keeping my eyes open to what was going on around me and not being afraid to try something new.
Another concept I brought, not just to the bodybuilding community but all different forms of physical fitness, was the superset. That’s where you do a parallel workout on two body areas. For instance, you might do a set of bench presses to work your chest, and then rush over to the leg press and do a set for your quads. You then head right back over to the bench and do your next set of presses, then back to the leg press. Back and forth, back and forth, no rest. You basically work two body areas in the same amount of time as it takes to recover between sets doing just one area. You add intensity and get some cardio throughout your entire workout as well. I brought that approach from New Jersey to California with me. I was training in one of the greatest gyms in the world, with a who’s who list of bodybuilders, and it didn’t take long for others to adopt the practice.
The superset is pretty standard practice today, but read through the old bodybuilding manuals and you won’t find anything like it. Was it a brilliant idea on my part? Well, I think it was a pretty darn good idea, but my point is, I paid attention to what was being done and kept my mind and eyes open for better ways to do it. These are just two examples of my approach to bodybuilding. In my striving to be the best, I consumed everything I could learn from others; I was never afraid to try a new way of doing things to gain an edge.
The lesson? Mix things up. Beg, borrow and steal great ideas for improving your workout. But don’t forget one very important source of new ideas and inspiration - you