Saturday, January 14, 2017

Cemetery Circuit Training

C.S.'s Note: The following is a training program that Jared Smith and I have had in the works for some time.  It's Jared's brainchild.  He came to me with an article that outlined the program.  I made a few tweaks here-and-there, added some notes on classic bodybuilders, and what you are reading here is the end result.

In honor and promotion of our new program, the template here at Integral Strength has changed—as you may have noticed—to a more ghoulish and ghastly image.

If you have any questions or comments regarding the program, please post them in the "comments" section instead of emailing me.  That way, Jared can reply as well.

And just why are we calling this program "Cemetery Circuit Training"?  Read on, discover, and (hopefully) enjoy!

Cemetery Circuit Training
Pump-Inducing, Hellish Training for Muscle Building Heaven!
C.S. Sloan and Jared Smith

     Most of us who have attempted to build muscle for a significant length of time can attest to the fact that muscles often respond to a variety of methods. There will come a time when simply adding weight to the bar will not work.  There are also times when increasing volume is an awesome, kick-ass way to get your muscles to start growing again.  And, there will inevitably come a time when you realize that one cannot spend every-waking-moment in the gym. The point is that nothing will make you grow forever, no matter how efficient or scientifically sound you think the workout regimen might be. With that in mind, the following is an 8-week program designed to shock you into new growth if you have stalled or have simply become bored with what you’re currently doing.
     First, however, we’ll have to walk you through the various methods behind the madness!
King TUT
     Before you get the bright idea that we’re going to rant about ancient Egyptian rulers, allow us to explain. (First, and foremost, we just thought that “King Tut” sounded awesomely cool!)  To understand how this program works, you must first understand the mechanisms we will be “tapping into” that make this program effective. The first of these is muscular damage.  You will be using a 6-count negative and positive in some sets of this program. This portion— especially the negative phase—is where the vast majority of muscular damage is caused. The increased time under tension will cause the muscle damage essential for making gains. The small micro tears in the muscle will have to be repaired so that the muscle can grow back thicker and stronger. This portion of the workout will also burn and it will like the fires of hell. This painful feeling needs to be embraced if you intend to push past any plateau you have reached and/or you just want to induce maximum hypertrophy. Because, when it comes to hypertrophy, time under tension is king!
The Nile Runs Red
     Blood volume is also a huge contributor to growth. Nutrients and oxygen are carried to the muscles via blood. The more blood one can force into the muscle, the more volumized the cells will become, which in turn will cause hypertrophy. As a matter of fact, cell swelling is more correlated with growth than muscular damage.  Here, we have in mind old-time bodybuilders such as Sergio Oliva, Reg Park, John Grimek, or Serge Nubret (the list could go on-and-on).  They understood the importance of pumping—or flushing a muscle, as it was often called back then.  They knew that a muscle that pumped up easily was more likely to grow than one that didn’t.  It was nothing for bodybuilders of the ‘50s and ‘60s to do 30 sets of bench presses or barbell curls—whatever it took to get their muscles swollen like balloons.  In our Cemetery Circuit Training, we want to induce just such a mind-blowing pump, only we’re going to achieve it with far less sets.  (In fact, this workout program might even make the likes of Mike Mentzer proud—we envision him smiling down at us from his Ayn Rand/H.I.T. training heaven!  [C.S.’s note: I always like to imagine that God has reserved a special place in hell for Ayn Rand and followers of her “objectionist” ilk, and perhaps Mentzer, tormented by real philosophers such as Plato, Plotinus, Aristotle, and Epictetus there in that little corner of Hades, can find some measure of amusement and relief by this article.  But one can only dream.])
     While doing this type of training, it is important to stay hydrated and keep nutrients flowing to the muscles during your workouts. When you are utilizing a blood-volume style of training, your intra-workout nutrition is extremely important. When at rest, there is very little blood in skeletal muscle, but the amount is increased tremendously during training. So if your blood is saturated with nutrients, you will shuttle them directly to where they need to go. While training, consume some simple carbs, as they will get into your system quickly, and—if possible—utilize creatine and BCAAs. This combo will make certain that you will expand your cells and saturate them—priming them for the pump.   
     There are other theories associated with blood volume training such as hyperplasia or cell splitting—the forming of multiple muscle cells from a single cell.  Another thought on blood volume work is that it will fill the muscle with blood to the extent that the fascia—the connective tissue that keeps the muscle fibers in bundles—will be stretched, allowing for expansion and growth of the muscle.
     You may wonder why we are pointing out theory rather than fact. The reason is that if you look at the evidence, you begin to realize that it is a real possibility. German Volume Training—Charles Polliquin’s ten-set-per-bodypart program that he first popularized 20 years ago in the old Muscle Media 2000 magazine—is an example—brief rest, lots of volume, and plenty of time under tension. Training programs such as Hany Rambod’s FST-7 is another example of the validity of such programs. Could it simply be the added volume? Sure. However, one cannot look past the fact that there are plenty of people who do the same amount of work but do not achieve the same fullness and density to the muscles than those bodybuilders who focus on engorging the muscle with blood.
The Training Dark Ages
     The next eight weeks will be miserable, yet you will feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment upon completion of the workouts. Keep a workout log to track progress.  Odds are, the first couple of sessions will leave you gassed if you haven’t been using such a system, and you may not be able to finish the last required reps.  When you are able to complete all reps for all sets, then increase the weight.  Although strength is not the cornerstone of this program, nor is it the goal, knowing that you have surpassed your previous performance will let you know that you are on the right track to growth! This is not the dark ages, so write it down and keep up with the progress you make.
Number of the Beast
     For the first set of all exercises, perform them with a “normal” cadence—a controlled negative, followed by a fairly “explosive” positive portion of the rep. The next set will be done with a 6 second negative, followed by a 6 second pause, then ending with a 6 second positive. Put it all together and you have the devilish scheme of 666—Iron Maiden would be so proud! These workouts will be done in giant set fashion—or circuits, if you will, hence the title of the program. That means no rest between movements, and ponderous amounts of lactic acid, which will lead to maximizing hypertrophy gains. You will rest for 3 minutes between each of these hellish giant sets!
The Cemetery Circuit Training Program
Brace yourself!
Weeks 1 through 3
Day 1
Squats: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Bench presses: 1x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Deadlifts: 1x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Standing Military Presses:  1x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Chins: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Dips: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Note: If you are unable to complete designated number of reps for dips and chins, simply cheat on the positive phase and do negatives until you can no longer control the negative phase of these movements.
Day 2: Off
Day 3
Bulgarian Split Squats: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Dumbbell Bench Presses: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Stiff Leg Deadlifts: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Skull Crushers: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Barbell Curls: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
 Day 4: Off
Day 5:  Repeat Day 1
Day 6: Off
Day 7: Off 
Weeks 4 through 8
Day 1: Chest/Back
Bench Presses: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Dumbbell Flies: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Dips: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
One Arm Dumbbell Rows: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Chins: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme (If unable to complete all reps, cheat your way up on the positive and do negatives until you lose control or have a negative that lasts less than 3 seconds.)
Deadlifts: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
 Day 2: Off
Day 3: Legs
Squat: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Bulgarian Split Squats: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Stiff-legged Deadlifts: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
 Day 4: Off
Day 5: Shoulders and Arms
Standing Barbell Shoulder presses: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Dumbbell Lateral Raises: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Barbell or Dumbbell Curls: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Reverse Curls: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Dumbbell Skull Crushers: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Dips: 1 x 6 reps at regular cadence; 1 x 6 reps of 666 scheme
Day 6: Off
Day 7: Off
     After week 5, increase the circuits to 3 at each workout for weeks 6 and 7.  On week 8, perform a total of 4 circuits!  After week 8, take a week off from training, rest, recover, and grow bigger than ever!  At this point, you can switch over to an entirely different program, or have another go at one more 8-week training cycle.

     This program might feel like hell on earth, but we are positive that your results will feel as if hypertrophy manna has rained down upon you from the bodybuilding gods!


  1. For the dips and fears, does one relax on the 6 sec pause, or still apply tension?I would think the pause on dead s actually a test, but on dips, holding at bottom is work. Also, on first set with only slow negative to failure? Finally, and high or low intensity cardio, even light sparing recommended throughout week? I realize that is not emphasis.....

  2. Sorry, bad typing last post. For chins is 6 sec pause at top or bottom? Also, what percent drop in weight do you think second set should be , perhaps 20%?

  3. Sounds like one needs 2-3 bars loaded as well as a power cage to do the circuits. Not possible at a inner city gym......maybe get some $$$ to try at my home gym...$ for bars

  4. What sets are to failure after typical preworkout warmups?

  5. If it's not possible to perform in circuit style workouts you can always just minimize rest between sets. When in the bottom position of any movement make sure you are still apply force to the muscle(such as on the bench , stop about an inch above your chest and pretend you are trying to force the bar together) the same with dips or any other movement. Keep that tension on the muscle . The ease or lack there of on your previous sets will be you indicator for how much you should decrease the weights to achieve the set number of reps.its not crucial that all sets are to all out failure. Just make sure the last one is. for deads you can actually lower all the way to the floor and attempt to drive your elbows into your waist to engage your lats thus increasing activation and allowing for a more forceful contraction on the concentric. As far as cardio throw in low to moderate intensity cardio post training. Hope this helps.

  6. Thanks for the reply. Gotta get an extra bar for home gym and another set of bar pins or find a time at local gym when crowd is thin. We are a few weeks away....But good luck on your other type of growth, IE spiritual with upcoming great lent

  7. Wondering to your readers besides a drink sipped throughout workout, would a high gylecimic post workout drink be advised. Additionally, would one do calorie cycling on program to coiside with week to week volume increases. of course, this complicates things, but just some points to spark a discussion.

  8. If you feel like your really "glyced out" at the end of the session you could throw in some simple carbs to replenish. As far as cycling calories, you can and should increase them when the volume increases. I would advocate 40 grams of carbs pre workout along with 40 grams of protein. Intra-workout I like using around the same amount of carbs with aminos and creatine. Post-workout another 40 grams of protein and carbs. I recommend keeping a high number of carbs around training time to preserve as much muscle as possible and to help shuttle those nutrients to the muscles during training. I must give credit to Milos Sarcev for being a pioneer in terms of intra workout nutrition.

  9. I admit,ADMIT! Shamefully that i know nothing about aminos. I always figured a lot of whey and other protein sources would have me covered. Is there any books or guides to tell one what type of aminos, how much,etc. To take ....i of course will seek cheap route. my wife teases me about Milo!he never goes away!

  10. For the squats i was thinking on first few weeks (cycle 1) it should be front squats since lower back is getting stressed during deads and military in the circuit. I was also thinking cycle 2 would be a back squat but straight leg deads would be with dumbells. Just my thought as I have to be careful about my lower back especially when jumping from exercise to exercise. In a circuit with such Also for Bulgarian squat do you pause with a knee touching on the floor or does your knee float maybe an inch off the gound?

  11. Christ is Risen! Going to start this program and will leave feedback from time to time.

  12. Notice 40% drop in weight first to second set. Split/Bulgarian squats on slow tempo stink!on day#2 i am using snatch grip for straight leg deads

  13. Ending week2.these are physically and mentally tough workouts! Notice you can get out of breath as you move from bigger exercises to small so while there is no rest between sets i did have to count to 10-15 just to regulate my breathing so my form doesnt suffer.anybody want to ask what else I notice or hints let me know. It helps to plan a combo of big and small plates so on slow sets you can just dump off weight and keep moving...

  14. Week#3. Hardest effort I have put in over the last few years. I find I rest about 5 minutes after 1st giant set when taking time to strip weights down from first heavy set and then just catching my breath. Stripping the weights is a workout! For those with a time crunch, like I said in past post, it helps to use small plates staggered between big ones.Anyway I have gotten a little stronger, but man is it tough!

  15. Just finished week 4. Some comments: A little easier to set up as wts were easier and quicker to strip. Especially Wed workout. By pairing more muscles groups together, the drops were much bigger. For instanceon circuit 2 on leg day, I had to drop my weight 70% on the split squats as my quads were toasted. On day one
    First circuit, I had to reduce beginning deadlift weight by 10 % verses the first 3 weeks when I deadlifted day 1 even on first circuit because of the rows and chins prior. U cant do this program without meticulous records and preplanning or u will over or under estimate weight and miss the required intensity levels and waste a whole lot of workout time. Notice I am pretty hungary on off days so I added an extra meal early for a total of 7 meals. On lifting das I sip a creatine/gaterade/glutamine shake throughout workout, but only have 6 meals. The workout dribk does add 160-180 calories from carbs. Finally....only squats once a week! Rejioce and be exceedingly glad....until weeks 6-8 when the volume increases...more on that later


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