Texas Volume Training Part Two: Adding Muscle Mass
This is a second part in a series on (what I call) Texas Volume Training. It would serve you well to read the first article before starting this one. The program presented here is strictly for powerlifters (or lifters who want to spend some time building their powerlifts) who are interested in building muscle – whether it’s purely for ascetical reasons or whether it’s because they are interested in moving up a weight class.
The program presented here is not for lifters who need to stay in the same weight class or who are trying to drop bodyweight. (To be honest, the original article on Texas Volume Training isn’t for this class of people, either. The volume is just too high, making it well-nigh impossible to not gain some amount of muscle.)
What follows is much of the original article (including the “template” from the first article) with a lot of additional commentary for changing up the program so that you are adding muscle.
First, let’s look at the “template” for this program. Once the template is properly understood, we can discuss the nuances that add the most muscle mass.
Day One – High Volume Squatting, High Volume Upper Body
Day Two – High Intensity Deadlifting
Day Three – Recovery Squatting
Day Four – Off
Day Five – Maximal Squatting, Maximal Bench Pressing
Day Six – Off
Day Seven – Off
Day One should be the toughest training day of the week. You should be training with percentages and volumes that don’t make you look forward to the training day. For starting out, I recommend a minimum of 8 “working” sets on squats and whatever bench pressing exercise you choose. I think 10 to 15 sets should be even better. Do a few warm up sets, then commence with 10 to 15 sets of either 5 reps, 3 reps, or 2 reps on the squats. Use a weight where you know you can get all of your sets and reps, but a weight that’s still tough – between 75 and 85% of your one rep maximum is probably ideal, depending on the reps. When you are finished with the squats, you probably won’t feel like performing an upper body pressing exercise, but do it anyway, and use the same set/rep scheme that you used for squats. If you’re weaker on your upper body exercise that you’re used to, that’s okay. You’ll adapt. It may take a couple of weeks, but you’ll soon be utilizing weight that’s comparative to what you were previously using when not squatting before benching.
Since your goal on this program is to gain as much muscle as possible, you need to make sure that your set numbers are on the high end – 10 sets minimum for squatting and bench pressing, instead of my original recommendation of at least 8 sets. Let me say right here, however, and this is something that needs to be made perfectly clear: there’s no way you can do this much work unless you have built up the work capacity to do so. If you are new to training, this methodology is obviously not for you. Also, even if you have been performing fairly frequent training (something such as one of my H-L-M programs or something similar), make sure you spend at least 8 weeks doing a basic TVT program that doesn’t have any extra work associated with it – in other words, no assistance work on any of the training days. Simply squat and bench press on the volume and intensity days (nothing more), and do nothing other than deadlifts on your deadlifting day – whether it’s an “intensity” day or a “volume” day. Also, on the recovery day, perform squats and nothing more.
With that being said, once you have built up the work capacity to do this program, it’s time to crank up the volume even more. Here’s what Nick Horton has to say about his “Squat Nemesis” program and I think his line of thought is perfectly applicable here (and this is for those of you who are reading this and thinking there’s no way in hell that you can possibly perform the kind of volume I’m going to recommend):
“Americans have a strange and obsessive fear of over-training syndrome. And yet, in all of my years of coaching, and as hard as I have tried to over-train my athletes – on purpose – I have failed to do so, miserably.
Every year, I have upped the amount of work I expect from my lifters. And every year the results come faster.
If you think hard about this for a second, it makes sense why this has happened.
· Do you think Navy Seals take light days?
· Do you think the Samurai did?
· Do you think wolves in the wild avoid sprinting after their prey because they did HIIT yesterday?
Of course not. Our species, like most, is built to do work – a lot of it.
All throughout history, we have been forced by necessity to work our tails off every single day. But now, because our new modern default is to sit around for 17 hours a day and sleep 7, we can’t imagine working out hard in the gym more than 3 times a week.”
With that little bit of wisdom out of the way, here’s what I want you to do once you are finished with the squats and bench presses: do more work!
If you were looking for something more profound – or, more likely, more specific – sorry, I hate to disappoint. But the volume day is the volume day, after all, and that means that the more advanced you get, the more work you need to do. What you do is up to you, but I will offer a few specific suggestions to help out.
The first option is what I call the “Sheiko” option – since it mirrors how a lot of Sheiko programs work. Once you are finished with your bench presses, return to the squats and pick a “volume” set/rep combo to utilize. I like the classic 5x5 workout, but anything will work – 10 sets of 10 reps, 5 sets of 5/4/3/2/1, 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps, or even one all-out “death set” as a finisher. If you want, you can also commence with some extra bench press work once the squatting is complete.
A second option is to include some “bodybuilding” work for either legs or chest (depending on which bodypart/lift needs the most work). Select 2 or 3 additional exercises and perform each exercise for 3 to 5 sets each. You can utilize any rep range you want to – 3 to 5 reps, 6 to 8 reps, 12 to 15 reps. Just do the work!
An option that I like the best is to perform a “double-split” workout on your volume days. (Obviously, this is only effective if you have the time to make it to the gym twice in one day.) At the first workout, perform a typical volume session using just the squat and bench press. At the second workout, perform the same amount of sets for a higher number of repetitions. It could be with the same exercise or it could be done in the “bodybuilding” fashion. If you use the double-split format, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should be doing more overall work. It will allow you to “recover” better, especially if you take advantage of peri-workout nutrition.
Day Two is your sole deadlifting day of the week. And, yes, you are going to be sore on this training day, and there is a good chance before you start the session that you will not want to deadlift. Do it. Your body will adapt to the training. (As the Bulgarians say, “Your body becomes its function.”) Also, you may be surprised at just how strong you are on this day, despite your soreness. Despite using the same muscles (or at least some of the same muscles) for deadlifting that are used for squatting, the muscles are “challenged” in a different manner, and the bar path is entirely, wholeheartedly different, which is one reason that lifters are often able to deadlift a lot the day after squatting a lot. (If anyone has performed one of the Sheiko programs, then you know what I’m talking about.) Also, and this is perhaps entirely unscientific, but it could be that the squatting on the previous day actually neutrally enhances your deadlifting capabilities on this day. I have personally broken some of my deadlift records the day after I had a big squat session. When this first happened, I was a little surprised (especially considering how blasted sore my ass often was the day after squatting), but I eventually accepted the fact that that’s just “how it is.”
For this day, you have a couple of options depending on how you prefer to train your deadlift with maximal loads. You can simply work up to a max triple, double, or single, or you can do multiple singles with 90-95% of your one rep maximum. I prefer the second option – at least for the majority of the sessions. When you are finished deadlifting, then add in an assistance exercise or two. Deficit deadlifts, high pulls, power cleans, power snatches, are all great complimentary exercises for your deadlift.
(When attempting to add muscle while on this program, I don’t think you need to do anything extra than the above work on your deadlift day.)
Day Three is your “light” squatting day. Work up to about 80% of whatever weight you used on Day One, and perform a few sets of 3 to 5 reps in the squat. You should feel good when you are finished with this session, better than when you started. (And, once again, yes, there’s a good chance you will be really sore before this workout.) This workout really does aid in your ability to recover – not just from Day One’s squatting session, but from the deadlifts too. Remember this: it’s always better to recover by doing something, than by just sitting around and “resting”.
Day Four is your first off day. You should be happy – especially for your first week or two of training. Enjoy the day off from lifting. (An “off day” should always be taken because you need it, not because you want to take one.) Make sure that you are consuming plenty of calories on this day, and on all of your other off days, as well. One of the primary mistakes lifters make – when trying to gain muscle – is not consuming enough high-quality calories on their off days. Often, it’s what you eat the day before you train that has the most effects on building muscle. I discovered this a few years ago while following a H-L-M program. When I would consume the majority of my calories on the weekend when I wasn’t training (I trained Monday, Wednesday, Friday), I would gain muscle a lot faster than when I didn’t eat as much on those days. In fact, those days would often be my “cheat days”. If you want a more scientific explanation as to why this is, this is what Scott Abel has to say about it:
“I'm not sure where this one (eating less on off days) comes from, but it reflects a bias toward seeing our body as being on the same man made 24-hour clock that guides us from one day to the next. Quite simply our bodies do not work this way, on this time schedule.
This assumption draws two conclusions that are faulty at best. One is that you can somehow get fat in a day. Not true. Once we've re-programmed the body to be a fat burning machine, then you won't get fat in a day.
The other assumption is a negation of the hypertrophy process. This process is complex and metabolically expensive. Satellite cells will only fuse with the myocyte to create a bigger cell when very specific conditions are met. These involve a supercompensation effect. Cells must have full storage of nutrients and energy.
Only at this point will the body build up actin/myosin components triggered from a training effect. This takes time and an understanding of creating supercompensation to energy stores within the cell. Once this happens and cells are properly hydrated, only then will there by a signal for higher concentrations of IGF 1 and 2, which will then, combined with other growth factors, create a bigger cell.
What all this means is that concentrating on always 'burning off' nutrients, neglects proper storage essential to real growth. Most dieting bodybuilders will tell you they're always hungriest on off days of training. This is essential biofeedback.
Hunger means two things — fat is being burned (hence the hunger signal), and the body is in "need" of something. This is a very simplistic extrapolation, but true none the less. On the Cycle Diet, my clients and athletes are instructed to take their cheat days, or spike meals on off days from training, and the reason is simple. It's so they can eat MORE, and store MORE.
Remember, once a fat burning metabolism has been established, then energy goes to where it's needed most. With proper training stimulus, this means nutrient supercompensation within the cells, which is exactly what the aim should be. Eating less on off days misses this entirely because once again the focus is too micro analytical.”
Of course, you need to eat plenty of your training days too, but there’s no reason to go overboard. Your body needs enough protein, carbohydrates, and fat in order to grow muscle, but too many “lifters” use heavy power training as an excuse to eat whatever the hell they want to – pizza, beer, buffalo wings, you name it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of all those foods myself, but everything should be done with sensibility and moderation.
Back to the training:
Day Five is your “maximal lift” day for squatting and bench pressing – this is probably the best day to actually perform the flat bench press, instead of some derivative. Work up over 5 to 7 progressively heavier sets of 5, 3, or 2 reps until you hit your max weight. Occasionally do some singles – about once every 6 weeks should suffice. If you have performed a Bill Starr H-L-M program (or one of my H-L-M programs on this blog), then you know exactly what this day should look like, since it should almost mirror the “heavy” day on those programs.
How you feel on this day should determine whether or not you add any extra work to this training day. If you feel really strong after performing either the squats or the bench presses, don’t be afraid to utilize some “back-off” sets. Two or 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps on squats and/or bench presses should do the trick, but don’t go overboard on this day. Save all of that overboard stuff for the next high volume day.
The last two training days of the week are “off days”. On these days, make sure you eat plenty of food – good carbs, good protein, good fat – to prepare yourself for the next high volume squatting and upper body days. Since you should now understand the importance of getting enough calories on your off days, make sure you are doing so. For those of you who can’t seem to eat enough – on off or “on” days – here’s my “old school” diet that appeared in my article “Bulk” many years ago (when I was writing for Iron Man magazine). This should give you a good idea of what kind of diet a “98-pound weakling” should follow:
Beginning Old School Diet:
Meal 1.) – 2 eggs/2 slices toast/bowl of oatmeal/glass of milk.
2.) Slice of cheese/glass of milk.
3.) ¼ lb. hamburger/baked potato/glass of milk.
4.) 2 eggs/glass of milk.
5.) 12 oz. steak or chicken/baked potato/slice of bread/2 glasses of milk.
6.) banana/2 glasses of milk.
Once your system can tolerate this amount of food, begin adding progressively to each meal. For example, add an egg, bacon or a slice of toast here, and a glass of milk or another baked potato there. Think progressive, no different than adding weight to your work sets.
 I’m not going to get into all of the details here, but I believe this is one reason the Sheiko programs are so effective: you are doing more than one exercise each day, and you are forcing your body to utilize a lot of force, despite the fact that you are more “winded” than you think you should be on a powerlifting program. There’s also just something about this kind of training that adds mass fast. In fact, that may be one of its drawbacks for lifters trying to stay in a weight class.
 “5 Things That Drive Me Nuts” by Scott Abel, from the online magazine T-Nation.