Mike Chang’s Mindset

 For Mike Chang, fitness isn’t just about looking good and attracting the opposite sex. It’s about being stronger, healthier and having more energy to do the things we want to do in life. I’ve been following Mike Chang for several years now, and I’ve picked up on a lot of his thoughts on physicality and physiology through his innumerable videos on the SixpackShorcuts YouTube channel. Today I thought I’d share some of his more keen philosophies in regards to exercise and the human body.

One of Chang’s key points that really hit home with me was his clarification of how to meet your goals of building specific muscle groups. I for one spent months pumping weights on my bench press at home, trying to build up my chest muscles. I thought something was wrong with my weight bench, so I tried the gym – same results. While my arms were showing steady improvement, my chest still looked puny. As you might be able to imagine, the combination was not an attractive one… very Popeye-esque, I’m afraid.

Mike Chang’s theories on the importance of good form and focused muscle contraction finally got me where I needed to be. According the Chang and his friend/colleague John Barban, many people (much like myself) are so focused on moving the weights, they forget to use the proper muscle groups to move them. Working out in a gym can make it worse, because some guys will shift their focus from the workout to lifting as much weight as possible. When you use more weights than necessary, you just end up using your strongest muscles to move the weights from point-A to point-B. The idea is to use the smaller muscle groups, not make the big guns do all the work. That’s how you end up with disproportionate musculature in the first place.

When lifting weights, especially for isolation, you must stay trained on the muscle group you’re trying to isolate. Make sure you are contracting that muscle when doing the workout. If not, you’re either using too much weight, or using bad form. Try changing your form first and see if that helps. When you use the proper form, your muscles are able to contract easier. Improper form just means more work for less results; i.e. just moving the weights. If form wasn’t the problem, try lowering the amount of weight you’re lifting. Take the load off of the muscles you have already built and, most likely, don’t need a lot more growth around anyway (at least not until the rest of your body catches up), and hone in on the smaller groups that really need it. If you’re just getting started and you’re not sure if you’re doing it right, remember that a respectable workout creates sore muscles. Are the right muscles ending up sore at the end of the day?

Mike Chang also puts considerable emphasis on monitoring and variegating rep ranges. Steadily increasing your reps over time and/or consistently doing high numbers of reps might sounds like a great way to maintain steady growth, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Referring back to Mike’s good friend John Barban, whose done extensive research on this and many other physiological concepts, it’s been scientifically proven that mixing up your rep range causes the exact same workout techniques to hone in on different muscle fibers.

Variable rep ranges also have an effect on the healthiness of your muscles. Doing too many reps on a consistent basis requires more rest between fitness activities, otherwise risking serious injury to the muscles you’re working so hard to perfect. The less reps and sets we perform, the less rest we will need in between. Whether it’s 3 reps, 5 reps, or as many as 15 reps, keep mixing it up every few weeks to ensure your body is maximizing the effort without putting yourself at risk. Mike has pointed out on several occasions that anything over 5 minutes is too long, ultimately leading to muscle strain, and has no additional benefits to your physique anyway.

I touched on weight sizes before, but let’s go deeper into that topic. As big and muscular as he is, even Mike Chang says that using lighter weights is under-rated. The ability to lift heavier weights is commendable, but certain exercises need smaller weights in order for the right muscle to get worked out. For example, when isolating the deltoid muscles with lateral raises (bringing the arm out to the side), you may find it easy to lift heavier weights, but doing so can turn it into a trap exercise. Smaller weights will help your body to stay focused on the deltoids muscles. This lesson is easier learned through experience than written text. Simply put, you should feel the muscles working and be able to recognize whether the weight you’re using is contracting the appropriate muscle group. This concept rings true mostly with isolation exercises, where smaller muscle group are being targeted.

In the worst case scenarios, especially involving lateral raises, using too much weight can actually cause the smaller shoulder muscles to be completely overlooked by your workout. All the muscles around them become super strong and bulky, but the only way to teach these smaller muscles to work and catch up to their over-sized neighbors is to start over with extremely small weights, using precision form and compelling those specific muscles to get the job done on their own. Believe me, I’ve been there, it’s not worth it. Using the right weights from the beginning will ensure maximum, even growth of the muscle groups you’re trying to hone.



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