The BEEFCAKEBEEFCAKES are comprised of "beach muscle" exercises programmed for the main purpose of "getting a pump. These workouts are not designed to make you faster, stronger, or more explosive directly. They are, however, indirectly influential on the development of athleticism and strength because they are small, minimally fatiguing workouts that accumulate over time into greater muscle mass, they make training fun, and they help you to "look the part." I’m a firm believer that if you feel like a bad-ass, you will believe that you are a bad-ass, and the likelihood of performing like a bad-ass is therefore greater.
This is a guest article from BLOC Staff coach Dan Flanick a former Division 1 Strength and Conditioning Coach at both Cornell and Baylor University. He is now a private strength coach, having found his passion in helping everyday people become more confident and more resilient as a result of getting strong through barbell training.
From the Author
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dorian Yates, Franco Columbu, Frank Zane, Steeve Reeves, Tom Platz…Guys like these are almost every Strength Coach’s spirit animals. They were the gateway drug into the world of muscle, “training” vs. exercising, and the beloved barbell. These men didn’t just bodybuild, they are the essence of bodybuilding. Their physiques were mightily impressive, they were much stronger than many remember or realize, and they bred a culture of relentless hard work. The thing these men knew how to do better than anyone in the world was build muscle. They discovered and forged paths for training and living in a manner that built some of the most aesthetically pleasing, big, strong, and muscular physiques. Due to the fact that having greater muscle size and looking good naked are two of the most common goals for an inordinate amount of people, I argue that we can learn from these men.
In 2014, I first heard the term “BEEFCAKE” to describe a training repertoire at Baylor University. I was a Graduate Assistant (GA) for the school while I interned as an Athletic Performance Coach with the Athletic Performance staff for about 40-60 hours a week. On the wall in the weight room, there were 10 posters titled “BEEFCAKE” with an associated number: “BEEFCAKE #1,” for example. The posters were filled with exercises that tend to be shunned in the “athletic performance” communities—Curls, shrugs, tricep extensions, lateral raises, front raises—exercises that hold a near and dear place in my heart but are typically thought of as “bodybuilding” exercises, which is accurate. This was interesting because bodybuilding is typically synonymous with being “unathletic” in the minds of many Strength & Conditioning Coaches. But the thing about these BEEFCAKES is that they serve an indirect, necessary purpose that fuels training for strength and enhanced athleticism.
BEEFCAKES are comprised of “beach muscle” exercises programmed for the main purpose of “getting a pump,” feeling like a Juice Dragon, a Gusher, Harambe (God rest his soul), or in layman’s terms, straight-up jacked. Each BEEFCAKE, numbers one through ten, is a set of three to five exercises; you won’t be doing any sets of five here. Each BEEFCAKE is done circuit style in which you move from exercise to exercise without stopping until you get to the end. Then rest a few minutes and do your next sets. Repeat until you are done. Of course, they heavily favor the muscles you ogle in the mirror, but there are enough lower body BEEFCAKES to build sizeable tree trunks, so make sure you don’t skip leg day. Dips, curls, lat pulldowns for sets of 20, cable flys, lateral raises, and the euphoric list of BEEFCAKE suited exercises are almost infinite. These workouts are not designed to make you faster, stronger, or more explosive directly. They are, however, indirectly influential on the development of athleticism and strength because they are small, minimally fatiguing workouts that accumulate over time into greater muscle mass, they make training fun, and they help you to “look the part.” I’m a firm believer that if you feel like a bad-ass, you will believe that you are a bad-ass, and the likelihood of performing like a bad-ass is therefore greater.
Indirect Performance Impacts
A bigger muscle is a relatively stronger muscle. For athletes who want to be strong and powerful, having bigger muscles are going to provide a slew of obvious performance benefits. Of course, if you’re reading this, I know that we would agree that squats, deadlifts, presses, bench presses, cleans, chins, rows, and those large, compound, primarily barbell exercises are going to be the bread and butter for any muscle-building approach.
When training for strength or to be a better athlete, the phenomenon of fatigue needs to be managed appropriately. One of the very effective ways to build muscle mass is to train muscles with high volumes at challenging intensities. The great thing about barbells is how systemically stressful they are on a multitude of human biological systems, but the challenging thing about barbells is how stressful they are on a multitude of human biological systems. They’re very powerful stimuli for generating adaptations in muscular strength and hypertrophy, but the stress they generate can also hinder training and or athletic events if not managed well. Thus, having other tools besides big, heavy, compound barbell exercises to build muscle can be useful. Especially if those things don’t hinder the performance of your barbell exercises or athletic practices and events because they don’t tend to elicit a significant amount of fatigue if programmed appropriately. You can train more often without generating performance-hindering amounts of fatigue. And although minimally stressful because of the isolation aspect of these exercises, they are still effective at building muscle tissue if trained often enough. Your arms, shoulders, abs, back, traps, quads, hammies, glutes, the “beach muscles” are all utilized in the performance of the main lifts as well as sports. Thus, bodybuilding these muscles can serve to enhance the locomotive and protective impact on human performance.
This type of work adds to your “GPP” (General Physical Preparedness). GPP is not specific to a sport or even “specific” training for sport, but it is an underlying, “general” base for training those things. By doing more work, even at low thresholds, your body adapts to being able to do more work. This is also known as “work capacity.” By having a greater work capacity, you can do more work within a given time frame. This means you may be able to do more “specific” work and be able to tolerate the greater volumes of “specific” work more easily. If you can do that, then you can practice your sport more and train the main lifts more; and with increased exposure to “practice,” there is a much greater chance for relatively more progress compared to handling fewer exposures to “practice.” And lastly, by building more muscle than you would if you don’t engage in any BEEFCAKE-ING, you build more robust tissue that serves as body armor and protection.
Along with the potential performance improvements that can, indirectly, be acquired through the BEEFCAKEs, another massively important training variable is impacted through these juice provoking mini-training sessions…
One of the most overlooked training variables, and arguably one of the most important variables, is “Fun.” Enjoyment in training will foster a greater sense of adherence and adherence is not just crucial, but absolutely necessary for improved strength and performance. If you’re having fun while training, you are more likely to adhere to it, you’ll push yourself harder, and your thoughts and emotions regarding training as a whole will be set up to aid in training rather than hinder it. I believe that most people who train have a desire to look good, too, even if they don’t right now. Most of us have an inner “bro” (“bra”?), or BEEFCAKE if you will. Who doesn’t enjoy a tight, pumped sensation in their favorite muscle groups? If I could walk around with a pump in my pecs 24/7, I would…well, I almost do (#pushupswhenimbored). Ask Arnold, he’ll tell you all about “The Pump” and how sensational it is. (If you haven’t seen “Pumping Iron,” that’s punishable by law.)
Nevertheless, training needs to be hard, it needs to be taken seriously enough to make the progress you want, and it is a ritual that should be used as a tool to develop work ethic, discipline, and all of those less light-hearted traits. However, it should also be fun, something you look forward to doing, and something that provides net positive experiences. Adherence is King, and enjoyment facilitates adherence. My gym is filled with teenage boys, and BEEFCAKEs are a staple in our training week. It builds culture, camaraderie, adherence, and the greatest nicknames of all time. Thus, my gym is filled with Gorillas, Harambe Descendants, Meat Titans, Gushers, Beef Taxis, Juice Dragons, and the list goes on. (I took some of these from this YouTube video.)
How to Do Them
BEEFCAKEs should not take away from “the main things.” If your goal is strength, they shouldn’t hinder your “Big 4” workouts. If your goal is sport, they shouldn’t hinder your “Big 5” (add the clean in there), and they shouldn’t hinder your practice or competition performance. This is key, as a mentor of mine says, “The main thing is the main thing.”
Thus, you can disperse BEEFCAKES throughout your training week as well as choose BEEFCAKE exercises in a manner that “makes sense” for the training and practice regimen you are on. Use common sense, if you play baseball and need to pitch tomorrow, don’t be dumb and do a ton of high volume upper body BEEFCAKE-ing today. If it’s strength you’re training for maybe don’t go hard on the triceps the night before you bench heavy. I can’t give an exact “do them like this” set of guidelines, you just need to respect the BEEFCAKEs and not fatigue musculature you need for more important work that’s close by. Or if you do BEEFCAKE (yes, it’s a verb too!) needed musculature prior to a practice, important training session, or competition that is nearby, just don’t go crazy with the volume and choose exercises that are less impactful on the performance, enjoy it and get out of the gym.
Now for the part of the article that most of you are going to scroll to right away. I’m not mad, in fact, I’m proud if you did that. What do these so-called BEEFCAKEs look like? I’ll provide a few examples below, and if you’re feeling like a Juice Dragon just reading through them, excellent.
BEEFCAKE #1 (Upper focused)
This was one I enjoy quite a bit.
This takes me 10-15 minutes, it’s fun, and by the time I’m done, I feel on top of the world, like Usher in the early 2000s.
Yes, even if you are decent at pull-ups, use a band. The pump is unreal. If you’re the type that can bump out 20 wide-grip pull-ups without a band, well, you probably need to squat more and gain weight, but just add weight around your waist.
BEEFCAKE #2 (Upper focused)
I like this one, simple, but you feel like Macaulay Culkin at his peak by the time you’re done.
BEEFCAKE #3 (Total Body Beef)
This one involves a little more conditioning, which I like when I’m trying to drop some weight and lean up for the beach.
This one would need to be further away from an upper body lift and might not be smart to use during a more “competition specific” time of training. It’s more fatiguing and therefore can take away from other things if they are more important at that time. I also might start with fewer reps per round and build up to sets of 15-20.
BEEFCAKE #4 (Upper Focused)
These are just a few examples of BEEFCAKEs. The great thing about BEEFCAKEs is that that they don’t really matter that much. You can be extra creative and not care about exercise selection as much as “the main work.” The whole idea is that thousands of low-stress reps will accumulate over the course of months and years of training.
Remember to Progress
I do think you’ll accidentally stumble through the process of progressive overload if you BEEFCAKE at whim. However, they will be much more impactful on your long-term strength gains if you do progress them in some manner. The basics are that you can add reps, add weight, do them more often, change exercises, or do the workouts in shorter time frames. This isn’t an article for Progressive Overload, it’s simply an invitation, a permission slip, or an encouragement to allow your inner BEEFCAKE to express itself.
Stay juicy, my friends.