Muscle maturity

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    Per Bernal

    THROUGH TALKING WITH HUNDREDS OF IFBB PROS OVER THE YEARS, WE’VE FOUND ONE INDELIBLE TRUTH: AS BODYBUILDERS GET OLDER, THEY TRAIN SMARTER.

    Mark Dugdale, 42 years old as of Christmas Day 2016 and still going strong in the IFBB’s aesthetically pleasing 212 division, is our latest exhibit. Following a memorable 2004 NPC USA light-heavyweight and overall title, Dugdale began carrying the torch as one of the few remaining well-known pro bodybuilders employing the high-intensity training style, à la Mike Mentzer in the 1980s and Dorian Yates in the 1990s. Not to be confused with HIIT (one “I,” not two), HIT involves relatively low training volume in terms of total working sets, yet each of those working sets is taken to absolute, pain-provoking, grunt-inducing failure.

    The HIT style certainly worked for Dugdale (not to mention Yates before that), but it also exposed him to injury. Let’s be honest, injuries happen from time to time when you train intensely, whether you’re a professional athlete or just a passionate recreational gym rat. Yet Dugdale still decided he needed to tweak his workouts to stay healthy.

    “My training philosophy has changed significantly from the HIT days of my 20s,” he says. “A minor pec tear on my second rep with 500 pounds on bench press in my late 30s forced me to reevaluate things. I train with a bit more volume and a significantly greater amount of frequency than I did earlier in my career. That’s not to say that I don’t still train with a high level of intensity, but the methods and timing in which I employ intensity techniques are much more intelligently implemented.”

    Dugdale had three 212 wins in 2016 (Arctic Pro, Chicago Pro, and Vancouver Pro) and still sports one of the pro league’s most aesthetic physiques, proving his training wisdom is paying huge dividends into his 40s. His chest training routine featured here is a great example of his “muscle maturity”—both in appearance and practice.


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    Per Bernal

    FLAT BENCH DUMBBELL PRESS

    Lie on a at bench and hold a set of dumbbells just above chest level with your palms facing forward and your wrists directly over your elbows. Press the dumbbells up and inward toward each other over your middle chest until your elbows are just shy of locked out. Bring the weights back down until your elbows form 90-degree angles.

    DUGDALE SAYS “I prefer to press to only three-fourths lockout. It saves your elbow joints and ensures continuous tension on the pecs throughout the movement. Stabilizing dumbbells versus a barbell activates more muscle bers, which is why I typically include at least one pressing variation with dumbbells in each chest workout.”


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    Per Bernal

    CABLE FLYES

    Stand in the middle of a cable station with D-handles attached to the high-pulley cables. Begin with your arms extended out to your sides and elbows slightly bent. Step forward to make sure the weights aren’t resting on the stacks, then contract your pecs to pull your hands together, maintaining the slight bend in your elbows. At the end of the motion, squeeze your pecs hard for a count.

    DUGDALE SAYS “I focus on the eccentric with cable yes, which means I bring my hands together and hold the contraction for a split second before slowly performing the negative portion of the movement with a five- second count. Every rep of every set must have this focused five-second negative. I like doing it this way for the mind-muscle connection. Holding the contraction for a split second and doing slow eccentrics really puts the blood into the pecs.”


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    Per Bernal

    DIP

    Hold yourself between the bars of a dip apparatus with your arms extended. Lower under control until your upper arms are parallel to the floor and you feel a stretch in your chest, then push with your chest and triceps to lift yourself back to the start position.

    DUGDALE SAYS “I like finishing a chest workout with dips because I believe it’s beneficial to stretch the pecs once they’re fully pumped. Dips invariably work the triceps secondarily, which serves as a good warmup to the triceps exercises I’ll do later in the same workout.”


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    Per Bernal

    TRAINING NOTES

    • TWO WORKOUT TYPES
      • “ ‘Primary’ workouts most often include heavier weight and intensity techniques such as dropsets, extended sets, and eccentric overload,” says Dugdale. “I vary exercises, reps, and intensity techniques weekly on primary training days. ‘Secondary’ workouts are all about the pump without taxing the central nervous system via sets to failure, which often means lighter weight and higher reps.”
    • YOGA YEAR-ROUND
      • Throughout the year (off-season and pre-contest), Dugdale incorporates one hour of hot yoga (hatha) three days per week in addition to the workouts listed above.
    • HIIT CARDIO
      • Dugdale doesn’t perform cardio in the o -season. “Pre-contest I’ll do 10 minutes of Tabata-style training on an Assault Air Bike a few days a week,” he says.
    • ABS AND CALVES
      • “I do abdominal and calf work between sets during my secondary workouts,” says Dugdale.


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    Per Bernal

    MARK DUGDALE'S CHEST WORKOUT

    • Flat-Bench Dumbbell Press | SETS: 6 | REPS: 6-8
    • Incline Barbell Press | SETS: 5 | REPS: 6
    • Cable Flye | SETS: 3 | REPS: 6
    • Dip | SETS: 3 | REPS: 8-12


    • FLAT-BENCH DUMBBELL PRESS
      • Of the six total sets, the first three are warmup/ buildup sets, and the last three are working sets. Weight is increased on each set; Dugdale typically starts with 60-pound dumbbells and finishes with 120s for his last set. The last set includes two dropsets, in which six reps are done with the initial weight, then around eight and 10 reps on subsequent drops are performed using 75- and 50-pound dumbbells, respectively.
    • INCLINE BARBELL PRESS
      • Of the five total sets, the last four are working sets. Weight is increased on each set— typically starting at around 185 pounds and finishing at 275 pounds— until Dugdale can no longer get six reps (meaning the last set may end up being five reps).
    • CABLE FLYE
      • The weight remains the same on all sets (around 70 pounds per side), and Dugdale focuses on the eccentric (negative) portion of each rep. All three sets are working sets.
    • DIP
      • All three sets are working sets and are taken to failure in the eight- to 12-rep range. “Use an assisted dip machine [if body-weight dips are too difficult], or do weighted dips [if body-weight dips are too easy] to achieve the desired rep range based on your strength level,” says Dugdale.

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