High-Volume, Low-Frequency Training for the Ultimate in Mass-Building
More of Dennis Du Breuil’s “Ultimate Bulk and Power” Rules
After my brief interlude into the world of high-fat “anabolic” muscle-building diets, it’s time to continue with some more of Du Breuil’s old-school wisdom on building bulk and power, with some more than occasional comments from Greg Zulak, along with my wisdom—for what it’s worth—on the matter. (If you haven’t done so by this point, read Part One first.)
Rule 4: Use plenty of isolation movements in your routine. Of all of Du Breuil’s “rules”, this one is going to be the most controversial for many of you reading this. It goes against a lot of the stuff you’ve read in other places—heck, it goes against a lot of what I’ve said (or seems to) over the years.
But I think it has plenty of merit—for the advanced lifter, at least.
First off, Du Breuil believed that beginner and intermediate lifters did need to focus on the big, compound lifts, but he believed that, once you reached a certain level of growth, you weren’t going to continue to make progress unless you also included plenty of isolation movements.
Here are his words on the matter: “After we’ve conditioned our body with muscle-group exercises like the bench press and the squat, most of us find that we reach a point where we no longer gain, or, at least, we make progress very slowly. Because a muscle can work harder against a contraction if it works alone than it can if it’s a member of a team, isolation exercises like triceps extensions and curls will work the muscle harder, stimulating further progress.
“Believe me, if you are at a plateau, hard work on isolation exercises will make you grow.”
Even having said all of that, Du Breuil, rather surprisingly, wasn’t an advocate of pre-exhaust training. Instead, he believed that you should start with a heavy, compound movement to begin blasting the muscle group, and then finish with some very hard sets of isolation exercises.
As I said, I think there’s some merit in this approach for advanced lifters. Here would be an example of a quad routine using this principle, along with the ones we discussed in Part One:
- Squats: 8 sets of 8 reps (Use a weight where you can probably get 16 reps—rest only about 30 seconds between each set.)
- Leg Extensions: 3 triple-drop strip sets of 6, 12, and 20 reps on each drop
- Negative-accentuated Sissy Squats: 4 sets of 10-12 reps
- Barbell Walking Lunges: 1 set all-out (Load a barbell with 135 lbs or so, and lunge until you damn-near puke)
Rule 5: Use a variety of exercises for each bodypart. Here’s how Zulak explained it in his original MuscleMag article that summed up these principles: “Du Breuil believed that for each muscle group, you should use one basic exercise and several isolation movements. Since there are various parts to a muscle, obviously several exercises are required to hit a muscle from all angles. It is important for both size and symmetry to work the total muscle.”
The previous quad workout would be a perfect example of what Du Breuil was talking about.
Now, some of you may be saying “duh?” to this rule, but it’s still amazing to me that there are so many people who think they can make a muscle large, shapely, and symmetrical by using only one exercise alone. Don’t get me wrong, there are exceptions to the rule, but most everyone—myself included—needs more than one exercise. And, no, this doesn’t fly in the face of what I’ve written previously when I recommend full-body workouts, and just one exercise per muscle group, per workout, because, even in those instances, you’re going to be using a lot of exercises over the course of a month or two. Keep in mind that, when training with high-volume, high-intensity, and low-frequency, you really must hit a muscle with a variety of exercises.
Rule 6: Work fairly quickly. This really goes back to our first rule. When using Du Breuil’s techniques, remember, you’re trying to really pump a muscle with blood in the shortest amount of time possible, and you’re trying to build up fatigue products in the muscle at the same time (which goes back to the second rule).
How fast is “fairly quickly”? I would always perform your next set before you’re completely recovered from the previous one. Now, you don’t want to train so quickly that it becomes a lesson in cardiovascular health, but you do want, with each subsequent set, to increase the pump more and more.
Rule 7: Light, flushing movements done at a separate time from your workout will remove the fatigue products and augment recovery, as well as reducing soreness. At first glance, this may seem to go against the rest of Du Breuil’s theories on pushing fatigue products into the muscle, and on making sure you maintain a pump in the muscle for an extended period of time. But, in this case, he’s referring to the recovery of a muscle once it’s already been flushed and pumped with blood, and been allowed to stay that way for some time.
He recommended doing two or three very light, very high-rep, very low-intensity sets for a muscle group either hours after the muscle has been trained, or, possibly, the next day.
I would perform this the day after you’ve trained a muscle. For instance, if you performed the hellishly devilish quad workout above on a Monday, then on Tuesday perform 2 or 3 sets of bodyweight squats for sets of 30 to 50 reps. If you’re supposed to train another muscle on Tuesday, that’s fine. Do the bodyweight squats at either the beginning of the workouts as a warm-up, or at the end of the session—but don’t do it until at least 20 minutes after the workout’s over. And if it’s an off day, that’s fine, too. The bodyweight squats won’t cut into your ability to recover from your previous workouts. They will enhance it.
Rule 8: Maintain at least a minimum amount of cardiovascular conditioning. About the same time that I stumbled upon Zulak’s article on “Ultimate Bulk and Power”, I had also just read John Parrillo’s book “High-Performance Bodybuilding”. (Parrillo, by the way, needs his own “It Came from the ‘90s” post.) And Parrillo said the same thing as Du Breuil. Which was odd, I thought, at the time, since both authors were concerned with packing on as much muscle as possible on their bodybuilders. And I had always thought, up to that point, that aerobic training would adversely effect by ability to gain mass.
But the more I thought about the rest of Du Breuil’s principles, the more it began to make sense. Sure, you can’t train for maximum endurance and maximum size at the same time, but that wasn’t the point. Here’s what Zulak wrote back in ’94: “The better condition you are in—cardiovascular-wise—the faster you will recover your wind between sets, so you can train faster without making the cardiopulmonary system fail. And the because the blood supply must remove the waste products from the muscles, while delivering fresh nutrients, the more efficient the cardiovascular system, up to a point, the faster you will recover from your workouts, and the better progress you’ll make.”
So, how much cardio work do you need in order to make your muscles bigger? It depends, but I think 30 minutes-a-day, three-days-a-week would be a good starting point. Zulak said that an hour per day should be the maximum, and I tend to agree. Too much would hinder your progress, but done in the correct doses, and one should be pleasantly pleased with the gains that result.