High Rep Training

I’ll start this post off with a video I first saw years ago.  Here is the legendary Tom Platz doing high repetition squats with heavy weight (well over 500 lb).  This video was filmed back in 1993.  Tom Platz and Dr. Fred Hatfield (aka “Dr Squat) were doing a “squat off” in Germany.  Hatfield won the one-rep max competition by squatting 855 lb.  Platz won the rep competition with the weight you see here:

A while back I wrote an article on the best rep range for building muscle and burning fat.  I basically argued that a 5-10 rep range is going to be ideal for both of these goals.  I still believe that–most of your gains will probably come from this range.

But more advanced and older trainees may want to consider experimenting with higher repetitions (let’s say 15 and up).  There are some good reason to do so:

Leg Traininghighreptrainingplatz2

I’ve heard several bodybuilders say they had better leg growth from training with higher repetitions.  This makes sense because the quadriceps in particular tend to have a high number of both fast-twitch and slow-twitch fibers.  You’ve just seen what Platz was capable of in his prime–his legendary thighs were built with both heavy lifting and high reps.

Joint Health

High rep training has the advantage of being able to stimulate the muscles with less strain on the joints.  Older trainees in particular may find this to be very helpful.  But even younger guys can benefit from simply giving the joints a break.

Lactic Acid

Training with higher reps will produce more lactic acid, which in turn tends to produce growth hormone (a helpful hormone for burning fat).

Mental Toughness

I’ve found that training beyond my usual rep range also helps me learn to push beyond the pain barrier and force my body to keep going when my muscles are screaming to stop.

Variety in Training

Going to the gym can get kind of boring if you do the same thing week after week.  Dropping the weight and going for higher repetitions is a simple way to challenge yourself and keep things interesting.

Research

Some recent studies indicate that training with high repetitions is an effective way to build muscle.  One study, for example, took fifteen healthy young men and randomly assigned them to different workouts, measuring their bodies’ responses to different training stimuli: 1.  One set to failure with 80% of one-rep max (1RM)  2.  Three sets to failure with 80% of 1RM, and 3.  Three sets to failure with 30% of 1RM.  Needless to say the third workout tended to be much higher in repetitions (20-23).   They found that lower weights/high reps produced a similar anabolic response to lifting with heavier weight and low reps.1 This is just one of many studies you can find verifying the efficacy of this kind of training.   Bottom line: training heavy is not the only way to build muscle.

These are just reasons to consider incorporating higher reps into your workout.  Now let me give you some practical tips (in no particular order of importance):

Exercise Selection:  I think you’ll find some exercises simply aren’t good choices for high reps.  I love deadlifting, but I rarely go over 5 repetitions for that particular exercise.  My form simply starts to break down if I try to go beyond that.  The same goes for front squats.

I tend to be old-school and prefer free weight exercises, but it may be advantageous to consider machines with this kind of training–especially if you are working out without a spotter.

Time Under Tension:  Using less weight will mean you can lift more slowly and deliberately.  Take advantage of this and maximize the time your muscles are under the tension of the weight.

“Burnout” Set:  One of my favorite techniques is to finish my training with one or two sets of high reps after I’ve done some heavier sets.

I hope you find these tips helpful.  Try them and see if they don’t produce new gains.

1. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2012 Jul;113(1):71-7. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00307.2012. Epub 2012 Apr 19. Resistance exercise load does not determine training-mediated hypertrophic gains in young men.

Incredible Bulk Review (Ben Pakulski)

IncredibleBulkReview
Ben Pakulski has a new program out called Incredible Bulk.  I’ll start this review by summarizing what you get when you buy this program:

1.  The Incredible Bulk Main Guide:   This is the main book which explains the overall training/nutrition philosophy of the program.  Traditional bulking, Ben argues,  is not effective because trainees often just overeat for several weeks hoping to gain muscle mass.  This eventually works against the body’s hormones (and I believe causes damaging inflammation).  Many who do this end up creating fat instead of hypertrophy (muscle growth).  A smarter approach is cyclical in nature–alternating between “shred” phases and “growth” phases (diet and training are adjusted for each phase).  That’s it in a nutshell, but the book explains this in much more detail.

2.  Ben’s Personal Grocery Shopping List for Massive Size:  This guide will show you the kind of foods you should be buying the next time you go grocery shopping.  I think you will find this helpful, but I don’t worry too much if you can’t buy a bunch of organic foods (as he recommends).  Just use it as a general guide for the types of foods you should be eating.  One more thing I’ll add here: Ben recommends “gluten-free” items.  I am personally skeptical of all the hysteria regarding gluten.  A small percentage of the population is sensitive to gluten, but I don’t think it makes much difference for the rest of us.  My advice (at the risk of being repetitive): use Ben’s list as a guide for the general types of foods that will help you follow the diet, but don’t be overly concerned about organic, gluten-free, etc.

3.  Incredible Bulk Workout Guide:  This training manual will show you how to set up your workout for both the cutting/shredding and bulking phases of this program.  Ben explains the variables you should consider when setting up your workouts: volume, frequency, rep ranges, rest intervals, etc.  He also addresses cardio and other things you should consider when training.

4.  Example Weekly Workouts Guide:  This document is a sample workout showing the exact exercises you could use on a five day split (training 5x/week) during the growth phase.  It gives you a good idea of how to set up your training.

5.  Supplement Stacks Guide:  This is Ben’s recommended supplements.  My advice:  just stick with whey protein, creatine monohydrate, fish oil, and a multivitamin.  Do that and you should be just fine.  I also would not recommend supplementing over 30-50 milligrams of zinc per day (going overboard on zinc can cause a copper deficiency).

REVIEW:

I agree with the premise of the Incredible Bulk program and I think this is an effective method for putting on quality mass while minimizing fat gain.  I think this program would be good for the following:

*Intermediate/advanced trainees who are looking to break through plateaus in building muscle mass.

*Bodybuilders who are looking to add some size in the off season.

*Athletes who want to go up in weight class without getting too fat.

If you fit these descriptions then I think the Incredible Bulk program would help you reach your goals.  Just CLICK HERE if you’d like to order the program or learn more.

NOTE:  I’d recommend MI40X if you’d like more details about Ben’s training strategies.  This has been one of my top sellers with many satisfied customers.

You can check out my list of recommended programs if you have other goals besides the ones I have described here.

Hypertrophy Max Review Phase 5

Phase Five of Hypertrophy Max is called Max Intensity.  Previous phases have been geared more towards hypertrophy in terms of the rep ranges and weights (% of one-rep max) you were using.  But the training you’ll be doing in this phase is designed for neurological adaptation (strength and speed).   One of the techniques you’ll use is wave loading, a technique that has been proven to optimizing strength gains.

HypertrophyMaxReview5

You’ll be training heavy this month with the goal of increasing strength.  This will in turn help you build size: generally speaking, the strongest guys will also be the biggest guys.  Be sure you have a capable spotter and don’t sacrifice form in order to lift more weight.  You’ll notice that the coaches (Ben and Vince) emphasize controlling the weight.

Just CLICK HERE if you are interested in ordering Hypertrophy Max or learning more.

Eccentric Training: Negative Overloading for Hypertrophy

I remember doing concentration curls back in the early days of my training.  I was in the high school gym and an older teammate on the football team gave me a tip.  He advised me to slowly lower the weight over a count of a few seconds.  This was my first time to hear about “negatives.”

Mike Mentzer
Mike Mentzer

I’ve learned more about this kind of training over the years. Mike Mentzer believed in emphasizing the eccentric/negative part of the repetition.  He advocated doing a few slow negative reps at the end of an all-out intense set.  Ben Pakulski also utilizes this technique in his training videos.

One advantage of this method is maximizing time under tension–the amount of time the muscle is under the stimulus of a given weight.

Overloading the negative repetition is another variation of this technique.  Here’s the idea: you can resist more weight than you can actually lift.  Let’s say you can bench press 275 lb.  Chances are you could slowly lower more than that–probably well over 300 lb.  By doing so you would be putting 300+ lb of tension on your muscles, even if you can’t lift that amount of weight.

At least one study suggests this way of training is effective.  Forty male subjects were divided into five groups and trained using the leg press for 3x a week.  They all used the same percentage of their one-rep max during the concentric (lifting) part of the repetitions.  But each group used a different % of their one-rep max for the eccentric (negative part of the lift): 0, 33, 66, 100, or 138%.  Strength gains were the same in those using the 100% and 138% load for their eccentric training.  But only the trainees who overloaded the negative repetitions (the 138% group) gained mass in their legs (they were also the only trainees to increase bone mineral density).1

One if the biggest challenges with this kind of training is the need for a spotter on certain lifts.  But there is a pretty simple solution that can be applied to many exercises: lifting the weight with two arms/legs, then lowering it with one.  This works very well on the leg press, for example.

We shouldn’t go crazy over one study or think of this technique as a “magic bullet.”  But it seems like it is worth a try if you are trying to break plateaus in your size gains.

Reference:

1.Eur J Appl Physiol. 2014 Jul 22. Early-phase musculoskeletal adaptations to different levels of eccentric resistance after 8 weeks of lower body training.

Muscle Explosion 2.0 Review

Nick Nilsson has updated Muscle Explosion, a program I reviewed a while back (you can muscle-explosion-20check out my original review if you are interested). This program is based on the same principles as the original but he has tweaked it to make it even more effective.  What’s new with the version 2.0?  I’ll explain.

1. A day of fasting.

One of the strategies in Muscle explosion is to get your muscle glycogen levels low through certain dietary strategies.  In the this revised version you’ll have the option of fasting for 24 hours (kind of like what is proposed in Eat Stop Eat).   The idea is to prime your body/muscles to “bounce back” once you refill them why glycogen (by eating carbohydrates again).

2. Reverse Carb Tapering

You will be advised to try eating most of your carbs at dinner (your last meal) during the third and fourth week of the program.  The idea is to minimize fat or even promote fat loss (similar concept as the Renegade Diet).  Nilsson calls this “reverse carb tapering,” and it is explained in more detail in the program.

3. Supplements

Some new supplement brand recommendations have been added.  But I would recommend you just stick to reputable brands and take a minimalist approach to supplements (protein, creatine, fish oil, and a multivitamin).

4. Fat Loss Circuit Training

Nilsson has tweaked the fat loss aspect of the training.  You’ll be doing movements that involve the whole body instead of bodypart split training.  You should find this workout more interesting (and challenging) than what was in the original version.

5. Lactic Acid Training

The original Muscle Explosion utilized partial training methods (stretched and contracted positions) in the lactic acid training phase.  But the new version uses more conventional methods for this–high repetitions and rest-pause training.  You’ll find this to be a simpler way to get the lactic acid going.

6. Positions of Flexion 1 and 1/4 Rep Training

Nilsson found has replaced stretch-pause training with this method.  This is better to maximize the tension on the muscle you are trying to train.  It also allows for a better stretch and contraction.

7. Weak Point Training

The new program has a day dedicated to target the weak points of major lifts.  You will do a lot of volume on weak points without frying your central nervous system.  The result should be stronger overall lifts.

8. Single-Rep Cluster Training

The original Muscle Explosion was more for hypertrophy and didn’t really include strength training.  You’ll be dedicating a full day to strength in the the new program through a method called single-rep cluster training.

Review:

I think Nilsson has taken a great program and made it even better with Muscle Explosion 2.0.  This would be good for intermediate to advanced trainees who are looking to break through plateaus in building strength and size.  Please click here if you’d like to order this program or learn more.

Hypertrophy Max Review Phase 4

Phase 4 of Hypertrophy Max is called Max Volume.  These workouts are designed to maximize (you guessed it) training volume.   You’ll hear them talk about the concept of over-reaching–doing more volume than you would normally do.  This can be very effective if you can do it without over-training.

Hypertrophy Max Phase 4: arm training
Hypertrophy Max Phase 4: arm training

Here are a few benefits to this kind of training:

*You’ll break through size and strength plateaus as you push your body to new limits.

*Like the previous phase, volume training tends to result in increased growth hormone production.

Keep something in mind with volume training:  this only works if done as prescribed by Vince and Ben.  You have to give yourself adequate time to rest/recover, use the appropriate level of intensity, etc.

Just CLICK HERE if you are interested in ordering Hypertrophy Max. 

Hypertrophy Max Review Phase 3

Phase 3 of Hypertrophy Max is called Max Lactic.   As the name implies this training phase is focused on working out in a way to maximize lactic acid production.

Hypertrophy Max Phase 3
Hypertrophy Max Phase 3: Feeling the Burn

This looks like it would be the most painful part of the program, but I think you’ll find it to be worth it.  Here are a few benefits to this type of training:

*You become mentally tougher as you work through the pain barrier.

*Increased growth hormone (higher lactic acid=more GH).

*Positive changes in body composition.  Ben says a trainee can realistically expect a drop in body fat percentage while simultaneously seeing muscle gains–not a bad deal, right.

As always, Ben has a way of getting the maximum muscle stimulation out of each movement–it’s a truly scientific approach to building muscle.  I noticed a few movements/exercises I’ve never seen before and he teaches you how to tweak familiar exercises to get the most out of them.  I understand why he’s considered one of the best minds in bodybuilding.

Just CLICK HERE if you are interested in ordering Hypertrophy Max.

Hypertrophy Max Review (Phase 2)

The second phase of Hypertrohy Max is called Max Density, meaning it is focused on increasing the efficiency of training–doing more work/training in less time.  Ben is the one who trains in this series (not Vince).   This style of training, they argue, is often overlooked.

As always, the video workouts are really high quality.  Ben Pakulski is really a master at taking an exercise and adding subtle angles/grips to maximize the muscle stimulation.

Ben Training Chest
Ben Training Chest

Another thing you’ll notice is Ben doesn’t use a lot of weight–using a high percentage of your one-rep max is not the focus of this phase of training.

Here are just a few advantages to training this way:

*It isn’t as hard on your joints.  As I get older I’m getting more interested in learning how to get results with lighter weights.  This is something I would have studied more if I could go back and re-do my 25+ years of training.

*It would be very useful for competitors who are preparing for a contest (or photo shoot).  Ben noted that he can’t use extremely heavy weights when he gets close to competition because of the dieting involved.

*No spotter required.  You could probably do most of this phase without a training partner.

Click here if you are interested in ordering Hypertrophy Max. 

 

Off The Floor: A Manual For Deadlift Domination Review

DavidDellanaveDeadlift
One-Handed Deadlift

I recently had the chance to review Off the Floor: a Manual for Deadlift Domination by David Dellanave.  I’ve never heard of David before I read/reviewed this program, but he has a pretty impressive list of deadlift records under his belt.

I’ll start by explaining what you get when you order this program:

Off the Floor Training Manual:  This e-book explains the authors overall training philosophy.  It includes a comparison of several deadlift variations as well as suggested routines.

Deadlift Exercise Library Quick Reference: This is a specific, step-by-step illustrated guide on how to properly perform the exercises mentioned in the manual.

Deadlift Gear Guide:  A list of equipment you may find helpful for your training goals.  Most of the gear he recommends is fairly inexpensive.

Biofeedback Training Guide:  This e-book explains simple steps you can take to track your progress in the gym and make consistent improvements.

Supplement Guide: David’s recommended supplements (his list looks very similar to my Supplements That Work  page).

Review:  One of the major advantages of this program is learning just how many ways you can deadlift. I’ve never realized just how versatile this exercise is for building strength, size, and even helping recover from injuries. Off The Floor is a valuable addition to my library of training information.  Let me share who I think would most likely benefit from this program:

*Intermediate/advanced trainees who want to break through strength plateaus.

*Home/garage gym owners desiring to maximize the use of limited equipment (you can do a lot with a barbell and this program).

*Coaches/trainers who want to learn from a true deadlift expert.

I believe Off The Floor would be a good investment if you fit into any of these categories.  Just click here if you’d like to order the program or learn more about it.