Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Increasing Work Capacity


Increasing Work Capacity
The Key for Gaining Massive Strength and Size

Years ago, lifters – be they bodybuilders, powerlifters, or Olympic lifters – knew how to train.[1]  Take Marvin Eder, for instance (still my favorite of the “old timers”): Eder could squat close to 700 pounds, clean and press 355 pounds, snatch 285 pounds, bench press 515 pounds, and do reps on parallel bar dips with over 400 pounds strapped to his waist.  He also had 19 inch arms at a bodyweight of around 200 pounds.  And just how did Eder lift such prodigious poundages and attain one hell of a physique?  He began training around the age of 16 by using a 3-days-per-week, full-body workout plan (as everyone did at that time, I might add).  As he advanced – and by “advanced” I mean that he increased his strength[2] – he increased the number of exercises he used, the number of sets per exercise, the overall length of his workout, and the number of days per week he trained.  By the time of his heyday – mid ‘50s – he was training with weights 6 days per week (upper body one day, lower body the next) and would routinely spend the 7th day doing a lot of bodyweight training – push-ups, along with whatever “gymnastic” training he decided to do at the beach (where all the popular bodybuilders hung out).

When lifters nowadays read about Eder’s feats of strength, and about his amount of training volume (all done before the era of steroids), most will dismiss him outright as some sort of genetic freak – which he was, I must admit – but he wasn’t the only guy training this way.  The fact is that everyone who was serious about physique development trained in such a manner.

It’s called increasing your work capacity.  And – along with adding weight to the bar – it’s the key for not just getting bigger or stronger, but for getting massively big and strong.

What I would like to explore in this article is what a few years of training should look like, as a lifter moves from beginner to intermediate to advanced.

The beginning strength athlete should always start with full-body workouts.[3]  The full body workout should be performed 3 days per week.  I know that it is popular to occasionally recommend twice-per-week full body workouts – I did so myself years ago in several articles – but this will not increase work capacity.  Let’s get something straight from the start – a couple of somethings that I have already touched upon: you must increase strength and increase work capacity.  You should be doing both of these from the very start.  And this means full-body workouts three days per week is the best fit.  If you are following a program that doesn’t increase strength and work capacity, then you are dooming yourself to failure.[4]

The best form of full-body, three-days-per-week training for the beginner, is the Heavy-Light-Medium program.  I’m not going to go into all of the details here, as there are plenty of posts and/or articles on this blog where I highlight what a good full-body, H-L-M workout should look like.  What I do want to touch upon, however, is how you increase workload using the H-L-M system.  At first, the most obvious thing that needs to occur is you need to get stronger.  Strength should readily increase using H-L-M when you are doing it properly.  You should not add sets, add extra exercises, or increase the time of your workout in any other fashion if you have not increased your strength.  However, once you have been on the program for several months – and are noticeably stronger – at this point you do want to increase sets and/or add extra exercises.  Begin by adding sets.  After that, you can add exercises.  And then, finally, you can even add an extra day of training by adding another “light” day.

Now, let’s look at what an H-L-M program should look like as you increase your workload over a year or two of training.  Here is what a typical beginning program should look like:
Heavy Day:
Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps
Bench presses – 5 sets of 5 reps
Deadlifts – 5 sets of 5 reps
Barbell Curls – 3 sets of 8 reps
Ab work
Light Day:
Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps
Overhead Presses – 5 sets of 5 reps
Good Mornings – 5 sets of 5 reps
Ab Work
Medium Day:
Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps
Incline Bench Presses – 5 sets of 5 reps
Power Cleans – 5 sets of 5 reps
Dumbbell Curls – 3 sets of 12 reps
Ab work

After a few months of training, and assuming significant gains in strength have occurred, the program should look something like this:
Heavy Day:
Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Bench presses – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Deadlifts – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Barbell Curls – 5 sets of 8 reps
Ab work
Light Day:
Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps
Overhead Presses – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Good Mornings – 5 sets of 5 reps
Ab Work
Medium Day:
Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Incline Bench Presses – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Power Cleans – 8 sets of 5 reps
Dumbbell Curls – 5 sets of 12 reps
Ab work

After a few more months of training, the template should look something like this:
Heavy Day:
Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Walking lunges – 4 sets of 10 reps
Bench presses – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Weighted Dips – 4 sets of 8 reps
Deadlifts – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Barbell Curls – 5 sets of 8 reps
Ab work
Light Day:
Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Overhead Presses – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Good Mornings – 5 sets of 5 reps
Ab Work
Medium Day:
Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Front Squats – 4 sets of 10 reps
Incline Bench Presses – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Flat Dumbbell Bench Presses – 4 sets of 8 reps
Power Cleans – 8 sets of 5 reps
Dumbbell Curls – 5 sets of 12 reps
Ab work

And, once again, after a few more months of training, the lifting template should look something like this:
Heavy Day:
Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Walking lunges – 4 sets of 10 reps
Bench presses – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Weighted Dips – 4 sets of 8 reps
Deadlifts – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Weighted Chins – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of max reps
Barbell Curls – 5 sets of 8 reps
Skullcrushers – 5 sets of 8 reps
Ab work
Light Day:
Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Bulgarian “split” squats – 4 sets of 12 reps (each leg)
Overhead Presses – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Seated behind-the-neck presses – 4 sets of 8 reps
Power Snatches – 5 sets of 3 reps
Good Mornings – 5 sets of 5 reps
Ab Work
Medium Day:
Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Front Squats – 4 sets of 10 reps
Incline Bench Presses – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Flat Dumbbell Bench Presses – 4 sets of 8 reps
Deficit deadlifts – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Power Cleans – 8 sets of 5 reps
Dumbbell Curls – 5 sets of 12 reps
Ab work

And, finally, after a few more months, you will once again need to increase the amount of work you’re performing.  At this point, your workout should look something like this[5]:
Heavy Day:
Squats – 8 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps
Walking lunges – 4 sets of 10 reps
Bench presses – 8 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps
Weighted Dips – 4 sets of 8 reps
Deadlifts – 8 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps
Weighted Chins – 7 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of max reps
Barbell Curls – 5 sets of 8 reps
Skullcrushers – 5 sets of 8 reps
Ab work
Light Day:
Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Bulgarian “split” squats – 6 sets of 12 reps (each leg)
Overhead Presses – 8 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Seated behind-the-neck presses – 4 sets of 8 reps
Power Snatches – 8 sets of 3 reps
Good Mornings – 5 sets of 5 reps
Ab Work
Medium Day:
Squats – 8 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps
Front Squats – 4 sets of 10 reps
Incline Bench Presses – 8 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps
Flat Dumbbell Bench Presses – 4 sets of 8 reps
Deficit deadlifts – 8 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps
Power Cleans – 8 sets of 5 reps
Dumbbell Curls – 7 sets of 12 reps
Ab work

To be honest, at this point, you could train with this amount of volume for a very long time.  Most lifters, however, will once again need to increase their work capacity.  The workout above could take around 2 hours on heavy and medium days – maybe more, depending on rest time between sets and exercises – and so it’s not practical for most lifters to add even more sets or another exercise or two to the mix.  At this point, it’s best to add another light day in between the heavy day and the current light day.  If you train Monday (heavy), Wednesday (light), and Friday (medium), the next evolution in your training will have you lifting Monday (heavy), Tuesday (light), Wednesday (light), and Friday (medium).  Here is what the possible new H-L-L-M template would look like:
Heavy Day:
Squats – 8 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps
Walking lunges – 4 sets of 10 reps
Bench presses – 8 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps
Weighted Dips – 4 sets of 8 reps
Deadlifts – 8 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps
Weighted Chins – 7 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of max reps
Barbell Curls – 5 sets of 8 reps
Skullcrushers – 5 sets of 8 reps
Ab work
Light Day:
Overhead squats – 5 sets of 5 reps
Clean and Jerks – 8 sets of 3 reps
Good Mornings – 5 sets of 5 reps
Ab work
Light Day:
Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Bulgarian “split” squats – 6 sets of 12 reps (each leg)
Overhead Presses – 8 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Seated behind-the-neck presses – 4 sets of 8 reps
Power Snatches – 8 sets of 3 reps
Good Morning squats – 5 sets of 5 reps
Ab Work
Medium Day:
Squats – 8 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps
Front Squats – 4 sets of 10 reps
Incline Bench Presses – 8 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps
Flat Dumbbell Bench Presses – 4 sets of 8 reps
Deficit deadlifts – 8 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps
Power Cleans – 8 sets of 5 reps
Dumbbell Curls – 7 sets of 12 reps
Ab work

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you embark on this quest for huge muscles and a great work capacity while using the H-L-M system:[6]
·         These programs are just examples.  You need to always increase your work capacity, but there are lifters who thrive on far less work, and there are also lifters – believe it or not – who will thrive on even more.
·         You should not stick with the same exercises week in and week out.  As you get more advanced, you should rotate between different exercises more often.  Just make sure you trade hard exercises for hard exercises.
·         After three weeks of hard training, it’s a good idea to take a “down” week, and reduce your volume before resuming the next week.

If you wanted, you could train with full-body workouts as above for your entire lifting career.  I realize, however, that most lifters will want to follow a “split” routine at some point, if for no reason other than for the sake of variety.  You could also introduce split training earlier than in the above scenarios.  My advice is that if you enjoy full-body workouts, then you simply add the extra light day once you reach that point.  If you want to implement split routines into your schedule, then you can begin to split your sessions instead of adding the extra “light” training day.

I recommend two primary forms of split training.  (You can, of course, train with more than these two, but I think it’s best to start with one of these at first before proceeding to other forms of split training, especially if the other forms you plan on using are more “bodybuilder” friendly than “lifter” friendly.)  They are as follows:
·         Full-body “split” training: Here you split your body so that you train half one workout and the other half the next, but you still essentially perform a full-body workout.  One workout may focus on bench press and squats as primary exercises, while the following workout may focus on deadlifts and overhead presses.
·         Upper/lower body split training: This form of split training is simple enough.  You train your upper body on one day, and your lower body on the next.  This may be the most popular form of split training, and I personally like it because of its versatility.

What follows are some examples of weekly training templates using each of the two forms above.  The first thing you will probably notice is the amount of volume – to many I realize that it will seem a “bit much”, so to speak, but keep in mind that these workouts should only be performed once high degrees of strength and work capacity have been achieved.[7]

Full-Body Split Training:
Day One:
Deadlifts: 8 sets of 2 reps, 5 sets of 5 reps (using Hepburn’s method of progressive sets of low reps)
Rack Deadlifts: 5 sets of 5 reps
One Arm Dumbbell Overhead Presses: 7 sets of 5 reps
Barbell Overhead Presses: 5 sets of 5 reps
Weighted Chins: 7 sets of 5 reps
One Arm Dumbbell Rows: 5 sets of 5 reps
Farmer’s Walks: 4 sets for distance
Barbell Curls: 5 sets of 8 reps
Dumbbell Curls: 5 sets of 10 reps (each arm)
Day Two:
Squats: 8 sets of 2 reps, 5 sets of 5 reps (using Hepburn’s method of progressive sets of low reps)
Bench Presses: 8 sets of 2 reps, 5 sets of 5 reps (using Hepburn’s method of progressive sets of low reps)
Walking Lunges: 6 sets of 12 reps (each leg)
Weighted Dips: 8 sets of 8 reps
Sled Drags (forward or backward): 4 sets for distance
Skullcrushers: 5 sets of 10 reps
Incline Sit Ups: 5 sets of 25 to 50 reps
Hanging Leg Raises: 4 sets of max reps

Upper/Lower Split Training:
Upper Body:
Bench Presses: 5 sets of 5/4/3/2/1
Weighted Close-Grip Chins: 5 sets of 5 reps
Incline Bench Presses: 5 sets of 5 reps
One Arm Dumbbell Rows: 5 sets of 8 reps (each arm)
One Arm Dumbbell Overhead Presses: 5 sets of 5 reps (each arm)
Wide-Grip Chins: 4 sets of max reps
Barbell Overhead Presses: 5 sets of 7 reps
Dips: 4 sets of max reps
Barbell Curls: 5 sets of 8 reps
Dumbbell Curls: 5 sets of max reps
Lower Body:
Squats: 5 sets of 5/4/3/2/1, 5 sets of 7 reps
Deadlifts: 8 sets of 3 reps
Front Squats: 5 sets of 5 reps
Deficit Deadlifts: 5 sets of 5 reps
Power Cleans: 5 sets of 3 reps
Farmer’s Walks: 3 sets for distance
Tire Flips: 3 sets for distance
Incline Sit Ups: 5 sets of 25 to 50 reps
Hanging Leg Raises: 4 sets of max reps

Once again, keep in mind that these are just examples.  There are many more ways that you can train using a split system.  In fact, I’m not even opposed to 3, 4, or possibly even 5-way splits, as long as multiple muscles are used each training day.  For instance, a great way to train is with one-lift-per-day training where you pick a certain lift (overhead presses, deadlifts, squats, power cleans, etc.) to train each day, followed by assistance exercises to aid with the lift.  Train 4 or 5 days in a row before taking an off day.  But this is just one example – there are many others to choose from.

The primary thing to not diverge from is that your program must steadily increase work capacity while always making you stronger.  If it doesn’t include these two dictums, you are simply dooming yourself to failure.



[1] Actually, at one time, these three things would have been one and the same.  In the “Golden Era” and before, bodybuilders such as Steve Reeves were capable of astounding feats of strength, not to mention outstanding agility – many of them, in fact, were good gymnasts.  This was, of course, in addition to having great physiques.  (Reeves probably had the best – he would probably be considered the ultimate “eye candy” even by today’s standards.)
[2] For some reason – in our current age of Crossfit geeks and internet “experts” – lifters (and I use that term very loosely here) seem to have lost sight of the most important aspect of training: getting stronger… but I digress.
[3] Full-body workouts are also not just for beginners.  In fact, you could spend your entire lifting career using full-body workouts.  There are many examples of very advanced “old time” lifters who singularly used full body workout.
[4] One of the reasons – in my opinion – that there is so much misinformation on the internet is that much of the information comes from “experts” who never followed full-body workouts and never engaged in workouts that would increase their work capacity.  When this happens, you have people who train for years – and sometimes even enjoy their training – but they have to find other things “interesting” about themselves and/or their training, since they are essentially weak and out of shape.  This means crap like bosu balls (or whatever the hell they’re called), workouts that call for “balancing” acts (one-armed, one-legged, and whatnot), and other such nonsense gets passed off by so-called experts as effective means of training.
[5] At this point, you could begin doing split workouts, but only if you want.  I think many lifters will continue to get even better results simply by following the two full-body templates that follow.
[6] These tips and suggestions are not all encompassing.  If you’re serious about this form of training, then please make sure that you read over all of my articles (on this blog) that deal with full body workouts and/or H-L-M training.  Also, read whatever you can get your hands on from Bill Starr (sometimes Starr stops short of recommending enough volume – but I think that’s to cater to his readership more than anything).  Also, it doesn’t hurt to have a working knowledge of writers such as Mark Rippetoe, Dan John, Pavel Tsatsouline, and the Russian powerlifting programs of Boris Sheiko.
[7] The other thing that should be noticed is the inclusion of “dragging” and “carrying” work.  This goes along with my motto that if you want a surefire method for success, be sure to include heavy squatting, picking heavy objects off the ground, pressing heavy objects overhead, and, finally, dragging or carrying heavy objects for distance or time.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Alien Arm Assault



Training Techniques and Programs for Out-of-This-World Arm Growth


     Arms: The muscle groups that everyone loves to train.  The problem is—as with a lot of bodyparts—most bodybuilders go about training them incorrectly.  This article is here to fix that problem.
     What follows are some of the best principles available for unleashing arm growth, followed by several programs that incorporate these principles.

Principle #1: Train as Frequently as Possible While Being as Fresh as Possible.
     The bottom line is that you need to train frequently.  You also need to be “as fresh as possible” each time that you train.
     Every time that you pump your biceps and triceps a whole slew of good things happens to your muscle cells.  A properly executed workout raises testosterone levels, enhances GH levels, and makes your muscles highly susceptible to the proper anabolic environment.
     Do you enjoy training your arms once per week, obliterating your biceps and triceps with lots of sets, reps, and plenty of intensity techniques?  Then train every day, using a one-bodypart-per-day split.  (This is much better than training 3 days per week, hitting several different muscle groups at each session.)
     Enjoy splitting your muscle groups but training with less intensity than the above scenario?  No problem.  Use a 3-on/ 1-off split.  Keep your “work” sets limited to 9-10 per muscle group for most bodyparts—but don’t be afraid to train your arms with more volume.
     Lastly, don’t forget this tidbit: No great bodybuilder ever became great by working out only once or twice per week.  Frequent training is a must.

Principle #2: Use C.A.T. for the Ultimate Repetition

     It was Fred Hatfield—also known as “Dr. Squat”—who coined the term compensatory acceleration training (C.A.T. for short) for a repetition where you move the weight as fast as possible through the concentric range of motion.  This doesn’t mean, of course, that the weight necessarily moves fast (though it certainly might with certain styles of training).  The point is for you to accelerate the weight as fast as humanly possible (even if you’re going for a one-rep maximum).  This kind of training, I believe, is the most effective for long-term muscle growth.

Principle #3: Train Heavy and Hard for Your Body Type

     The heavier and harder that you train, the better it is for muscle growth.  Using C.A.T., pick a weight that has you approaching failure somewhere between the 6th and the 12th repetition.  Why the discrepancy in rep ranges?  It all depends on your body type.  I believe that most training—at least as far as hypertrophy is concerned—should be done with weights that are approximately 80-85% of your one-rep maximum.  If you have a lot of fast-twitch muscle fibers, this means you will hit failure somewhere around your 6th repetition.  If you’re more of a slow-twitch type, you should be approaching 12 reps or so with the same percentage.  And—if you have a mix of muscle fibers—it should be somewhere in between.
     Now, I’m not suggesting that all of your training should be performed in your particular repetition zone, but I would advise to do so about 75% of the time.

Principle #4: Use a Relatively High-Volume of Training

     The amount of volume will obviously depend on just how frequently you plan to train.  Just make sure that you use as many sets as your work capacity—and your bodypart split—can handle.  Don’t cut yourself short.
     And learn to build up your work capacity.  Obviously, you shouldn’t start out by performing 15 to 20 sets for both your biceps and your triceps.  But you do want to work up to the point where your work capacity can handle that sort of training.
     Also, keep in mind that your arms—contrary to some of the mis-information you may have heard or read elsewhere—can handle more volume than other bodyparts.  Sorry, but 20 sets of curls and pushdowns simply doesn’t cut into your recovery system like 20 sets of heavy squats, deadlifts, or bench presses.
     Take advantage of the fact that your arms can handle the extra volume and intensity.

Principle #5: Stop Most of Your Sets Shy of Momentary Muscular Failure

     For the most part, you don’t want to take your work sets to the point of failure, especially at the beginning of your workout.
     When do you want to stop the set?  Try stopping when you begin to slow down.  If you’re using C.A.T.—and moving the weight as fast as possible throughout the concentric portion of the rep, and you’re training heavy—then stop the set when your repetitions become slow.
     After two or three exercises using C.A.T., then you can throw in some of the more popular intensity techniques.  Which brings us to our final principle…

Principle #6: Do Less Early On in Your Workout So You Can Do More Later

     A lot of bodybuilders make the mistake of training too hard at the beginning of their workouts, then burning out too quickly.  (This is one of the main problems with typical H.I.T. workouts.)  If you enjoy training to failure or doing stuff like forced reps, drop sets, or another of the various intensity techniques—which you certainly can and should do when training arms—save that for the last 1/4 of your workout.
Just the Basics
     This first program is a basic arm workout using a 3 on/1 off split.  Split your bodyparts up in the following manner:
Day 1: Shoulders and Arms
Day 2: Legs
Day 3: Chest and Back
Day 4: Off
Day 5: Repeat Split (If necessary, take an extra day off before resuming)
     Here’s what the actual workout should look like:
  • Barbell Curls: 3 sets of 6 to 10 reps (using C.A.T.).  After warming up with a couple of light sets of 6 to 10 reps, load the bar with a weight where you think you can get 6 to 10 repetitions.  Using proper form, move the weight as fast as possible.  Stop the set once the repetition really starts to slow down.
  • Weighted Dips: 3 sets of 6 to 10 reps (using C.A.T.).  Use the same principle here as with the barbell curls.  Make sure you perform these with a close grip, and with your elbows tucked in to maximize triceps stimulation.
  • Standing Alternate Dumbbell Curls: 3 sets of 12 to 16 reps (using C.A.T.)  Use the same principle as with the above exercises.  Even though you are moving the weight fast as possible, make sure that your form is perfect, and really squeeze the hell out of your biceps at the top of each repetition.
  • Skullcrushers: 3 sets of 12 to 16 reps (using C.A.T.).  Use either a straight bar or an EZ curl bar for this exercise.  Lower the weight with control, then explode as fast as possible back to lockout.  Squeeze your triceps at the top of the movement.
  • Cable Curls: 2 drop sets of 10, 15, and 20 reps.  Set the weight stack so that you reach failure at approximately 10 reps.  Once failure is reached, strip some weight, perform a set of 15 reps, then repeat for a set of 20 reps.  Rest only a couple of minutes, then repeat the process.
  • Rope Pushdowns: 2 drop sets of 10, 15, and 20 reps.  Use the same process as the cable curls.
Advanced High-Set Regimen
     The following program is for advanced bodybuilders with a minimum of one-year of training under their belts and a good deal of muscle mass.  (If you’ve been training for a year, but you still essentially look the same as you did when you started training, this is not for you.)  You are going to split up your biceps and your triceps, train each muscle group once-per-week, but still train six-days-per-week.  Here is what your split should look like:
Day 1: Biceps
Day 2: Chest and Shoulders
Day 3: Hamstrings and calves
Day 4: Back
Day 5: Triceps
Day 6: Quadriceps
Day 7: Off
Day 8: Repeat Split
     Here’s the workout:
Biceps
  • Barbell Curls: 5 sets of 5 reps (using C.A.T.).  After a couple of warm-up sets with a light weight, load the bar with a weight that you would reach failure around the 7th to 8th repetition.  Perform 5 sets of 5 reps, moving the bar as fast as possible.
  • Standing Dumbbell Curls: 4 sets of 8 to 10 reps (using C.A.T.)  Lower each repetition slowly, and then move the weight as fast as possible back to lockout. 
  • Incline Dumbbell Curls: 4 sets of 8 to 10 reps (using C.A.T.).  Use the same principle as the standing dumbbell curls.  Make sure you get a good stretch at the bottom of each repetition.
  • 21s: 4 sets of 21 reps.  Using a barbell, perform 7 partial repetitions from the bottom, 7 partial repetition from the top, followed by 7 full repetitions.
  • Cable Curls: 4 drop sets of 12 reps each.  Use a weight where you reach failure at approximately 12 reps.  As soon as failure is reached, strip some weight off, and go for 12 more reps.  Continue for 2 more drops.  (Your arms should be very pumped once this workout is complete.)
Triceps
  • Weighted Dips: 5 sets of 5 reps (using C.A.T.).  After a couple of warm-up sets using your bodyweight, use a weight belt so that you have enough weight where you reach failure somewhere between the 7th and 8th repetition.  On all 5 sets, explode as fast as possible to lockout.
  • Skullcrushers: 4 sets of 8 to 10 reps (using C.A.T.)  Lower each repetition slowly, getting a good stretch in your triceps, then move the weight as fast as possible back to lockout.
  • Rope Pushdowns: 4 sets of 12 to 14 reps (using C.A.T.).  Use the same principle as the skullcrushers.
  • Close-Grip Push Ups: 4 sets of maximum reps.  For this exercise, use just your bodyweight.  Perform as many reps as possible.  Don’t take it easy, either, but attempt to perform each repetition as fast as possible.
  • One-Arm Reverse-Grip Pushdowns: 4 sets of 20-30 reps (each arm).  For this exercise, take no rest between each set.  When you finish with the right arm, move directly to the left arm, then back to the right arm, until all 4 sets are complete.  Take each set to the point of momentary muscular failure, beginning with a weight where you can get approximately 30 reps.
Conclusion
     There you have it: the training techniques and the programs for adding slabs of muscle to your arms.  Reading about training won’t do a whole lot of good, however, if you don’t apply it.  So get your ass to the gym and get training!  Massive arms are only a few months in the making.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ultimate Strength and Power, Part Seven


Power Volume Training

     This is a method of training I came up with a few years ago when I wrote an article by the same name for Iron Man Magazine.  I wanted to design something that would be easy to understand, and would be effective for most everyone who tried it, especially for lifters who had been training for some time and had reached their limits in regards to recent strength and power gains.  I also wanted something that would appeal to the muscle-building crowd (a large percentage of Iron Man’s readers).
     What I came up with was what I termed Power Volume Training (PVT for short).  I thought it was a catchy name for both a method of training and for the title of an article.  Also, the title of the training fit exactly with what was involved—a high-volume routine focusing on a lot of power training.  Of course, probably the best name would have been Power/Strength Volume training—but that doesn’t have such a good ring to it.
     Before writing the article, I wanted to make sure it worked.  Lucky for me, I had just started lifting with some guys who wanted to enter powerlifting meets.  (For the couple of years before this, I had been training by myself and hadn’t been that interested in training other people.  For years, I had worked as a trainer and taught weight training at the local college.  I had burned out at one point, and only wanted to focus on my writing and my own lifting.)
     But I needed some test subjects for my new training methodology.  One of the guys I started working with hadn’t lifted in a number of years.  I started him out with just some light workouts.  After a couple of weeks, however, it was time to test his bench press.  He maxed out at 220 pounds.  Two months later, after using Power Volume Training, he maxed out at 325 pounds.  A gain of 105 pounds in only a couple months is pretty darn good, even if he was just getting back into training.  Still, it was more than he had ever done before, even when he had worked out steadily for over a year.

Evolution of PVT

     At the time of designing this program, I had just come to understand the importance of all of the advanced strength methods I discussed in the last part of this series.  I wanted something to put these things to work.
     I also wanted something that wouldn’t just work in a textbook, so I thought about some of the better methods of training I had always used.  And the two best had to be Bill Starr’s classic heavy/light/medium system (much of which the workouts in Parts Two, Three, and Four are based on) and the Westside Barbell approach.  They both, however, had their shortcomings.  With Starr’s approach, I found myself gaining muscle and getting stronger, but I was always getting slower—something which isn’t good for advanced powerlifters who are trying to stay competitive in a lower weight class—and my progress would stale after about six weeks on the program.  Of course, that’s a problem with most every program ever developed, so I didn’t think much of it.  I would just switch to another program, get the gains rolling again, then switch back to a Bill Starr-style program after a couple of months.
     With the Westside program, I got stronger on the different lifts I trained, and I got a lot faster, but my classical lifts (the ones I was trying to increase) just didn’t go up that much.  Westside’s programs are designed especially for lifters who wear a lot of different equipment at powerlifting meets (double ply squat suits and bench shirts, etc.).  That’s perfectly fine if that’s what you’re into, but I always enjoyed training and competing raw (sans equipment), so I think this was the reason my classical lifts lacked gains in strength under the Westside system.
     PVT takes advantage of both style of training—using both synaptic facilitation and conjugate training together—allowing a lot of variety plus plenty of time spent on the lift you’re trying to increase.

Putting the Program to Work

     First we’re going to lay down the “parameters” of Power Volume Training.  This system is not set in stone, so there’s no specific program I can write down for you, then tell you to go out and do it.  You have to use your brain a little for this one.  Since it isn’t set in stone, you can change things to suit your needs and goals.  Several “rules” need to be observed, however.  Let’s look at these parameters.
1.    Train each lift at least three days a week on a heavy, light, medium program.  Once you reach a highly advanced level you can increase this to four days a week, utilizing two light days instead of just one.
2.    You will need to keep up with your “workload” on each day for each major lift—at least periodically.  Anyone who has tried Bill Starr’s system will know what I’m talking about.  If you don’t calculate your workload, and are not accustomed to using such a system, then it is very easy to start doing too much work (leading to overtraining) on the light and medium days.
3.    The first day of the week is the “heavy” day, sometimes referred to as the “maximal effort” day.  On this day, you will work up to a max of 5 reps, 3 reps, or 1 repetition on a particular exercise (or exercises, if doing a full body workout—my preferred method).  The more advanced you are, the more frequently you need to rotate exercises, and the more exercises you need in your arsenal.  Every five to six weeks, you will max out on the exercise you are trying to increase—bench press, squat, deadlift, etc..  The exception to this method of rotating exercises is very advanced powerlifters or Olympic lifters who have garnered the best gains throughout their careers by training almost exclusively on the classical lifts.  This lifter would do better to rotate different repetition ranges and periodically rotate different exercises.
4.    The second day of the week is the “light” day.  On this day you will utilize 35-45% (when using bands) of your maximum weight on an exercise for 8 sets of 2-3 repetitions.  If you lift without bands then increase the weight to around 50%.  It doesn’t matter how sore you are from your first workout.  Just train.  Remember, these should be “explosive” reps.
5.    The third day of the week is the “medium” day.  On this day you will use around 70% for 10 sets of 2 reps.  If you are using bands, then the weight should be a little less.  Once you have done the program for some time, then you can take a couple of singles at a slightly heavier weight.  Just make sure the workload doesn’t approach your heavy day, and you are still able to maintain speed on the singles.
6.    Each session should involve some type of assistance work.  The assistance work will vary according to the day.  The more compound movements should fall on the heavy and medium days.  The exercises that require you to use less weight should fall on the light days.

Sample Program

     What follows is an example of workouts for one week of training.  Remember, things should change every week, but the examples below will help you to further understand what is written above.
     This first program is one that incorporates a full-body workout at each session.  This is the best type of PVT program for a competitive powerlifter, an athlete who competes in a full-body sport (football, basketball, martial arts, etc.) or any lifter who is looking to make appreciable gains in muscle mass.

Heavy Day

·      Close-grip Bench Presses—135x5, 175x3, 225x3, 245x3, 270x3, 290x3. 300x3 (barely lifted the weight, but good lift), 305x2 (missed 3rd rep).  Workload for lift: 5800.
·      Lying Tricep Extensions—135x8repsx2sets.
·      Bottom-position Squats—135x5, 225x3, 275x3, 315x3, 365x3, 405x3 (hard lift), 425x1 (couldn’t budge weight from pins on second rep).  Workload for lift: 5855.
·      Cross-bench pullovers (dumbbell)—100x5repsx2sets.
·      Rounded Back Good Mornings—135x10repsx3sets.
·      Hanging Leg Raises—3setsx20reps.
Note: Do not worry as much about calculating workload on assistance work, unless the assistance work you are doing is of a very compound nature, and, therefore, more damaging to your nervous system.

Light Day

·      Flat Bench Presses (w/bands)—135x8setsx3reps.  Workload for lift: 3240
·      Sumo Deadlifts—225x8setsx2reps.  Workload for lift: 3600
·      Bench Dips—bodyweightx2setsx15reps

Medium Day

·      Floor Presses (w/bands)—225x8setsx2reps.  Workload for lift: 3600
·      Box Squats (w/bands)—275x8setsx2reps.  Workload for lift: 4448
·      Parallel Bar Dips alternated w/ Wide-grip Chins—bodyweightx3setsx10reps
·      Steep Incline Sit-ups—bodyweightx3setsx50reps

Specialization Program

     For our second program, we’re going to look at an example week of workouts for someone who is trying to bring up a lagging bodypart or someone wanting to specialize on a lift.  The sample chosen below is for someone specializing in the bench press.  The same kind of workout could be applied to push/pull specialists, squat specialists, power curl lifters, or any lift you might need to bring up.
     In this example, I won’t provide workload totals, but I do want you to understand the importance of workloads.
     Keep in mind that, when specializing on a bodypart, you still need to do work for your other lifts and your other bodyparts.  I have used the type of workout listed below while preparing for a bench only meet, and I trained my other lifts on two days a week, though not as intense as usual.  For instance, you could perform your bench workouts on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and perform your lower-body work on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Heavy Day

·      Bottom-position Bench Presses—135x5, 175x3, 225x1, 245x1, 275x1, 315x1, 320x1(missed the lift in the middle of the press).
·      Board Presses (using a 2 by 4)—205x5, 225x5, 245x5 (hard, but barely got fifth repetition), 250x4 (missed 5th rep).
·      Lying Dumbbell Tricep Extensions—40sx2setsx15reps.
·      Parallel Bar Dips—bodyweightx2setsx15reps.

Light Day

·      Flat Bench Presses (w/chains)—135x8setsx3reps.
·      Bench Dips—bodyweightx3setsx15reps.
·      Chins (using alternating grip widths)—bodyweightx5setsx8reps

Medium Day

·      Flat Bench Presses (w/bands)—225x8setsx2reps.
·      Close-grip Bench Presses—5 progressively heavier singles, using 245, 265, 275, 285, and 295.
·      Pullovers and Presses—135x2setsx10reps
·      Bent-over Rows (using same grip as what you bench heavy with)—135x2setsx8reps.

Extra Tips

     Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your PVT programs.  Keep in mind that what I suggest are just that—suggestions.  After using the program for some period of time, you will begin to understand what works best for you.  You know your body better than anyone else, so pay attention to it and learn when to add or reduce the amount of total work you’re doing throughout the week.
1.    After the first week, you don’t have to meticulously calculate your workloads for the major lifts at every workout.  Just make sure to do so every so often to make sure you aren’t doing too much work on your light and medium days.
2.    Be sure to rotate exercises and/or sets and reps at least every other week.  For those who are more advanced, rotate every week.  If you have found that a particular exercise is beneficial for bringing up one of your lifts, then feel free to do it an additional week or two, but make sure you rotate the reps.  In other words, if you worked up to a max single on the exercise one week, work up to a max triple or set of 5 the next.
3.    In addition to rotating your core exercises on your heavy day, make sure you rotate your assistance exercises, as well.  After three week of doing a particular movement with the same repetition range, you will start to regress.  Variety is very important for not just your core lifts.
4.    After a couple of months on the program, feel free to add a second light day on Tuesday (if your heavy day was on Monday).  The workload should be less than your Wednesday workout, but not by too much.  This extra session will help to aid in synaptic facilitation.
5.    Another way you can take advantage of synaptic facilitation is to add some extra sets of flat benches, squats, or deadlifts on your heavy days, after your core exercises for the day.  These sets shouldn’t be too taxing.  Something like 70% of your max for 6 to 8 sets of 2 to 3 reps should work fine.  This is also a good way to add additional muscle mass, if that is your goal.
6.    Periodically (every two to three months), don’t be afraid to take a week off from lifting.  This will give your body added strength when you start another couple months of training.  Just don’t take layoffs more frequently than this, and don’t miss workouts when you haven’t planned them in this manner.
7.    If you compete in powerlifting meets, then don’t take a week of rest every couple months.  Instead, reserve your off-time for the week leading up to the meet.  This will help you to be at your strongest on the day of the contest.