Friday, December 29, 2017

Working all the Angles - Greg Merrit (2017)

Charles Glass

Article by Greg Merritt on Applying Bulgarian Methods to Bodybuilding:

We think of muscles as parts. But skeletal muscles themselves consist of many thousands of tiny parts called fibers. Crucially, fibers - which are one to four inches long - rarely run the length of any muscle you train. Therefore, an exercise that stresses fibers near a muscle's top won't activate fibers near the bottom. Diverse angles of attack are necessary to stimulate as many fibers as possible and goad them toward growth, and no methodology hits your muscles in more ways each workout than Small-Angle Training. 

Over the past four decades, Charles Glass has established himself as bodybuilding's preeminent trainer with what is popularly called angle training. This is a constantly morphing assault using subtle changes in the positioning of bodies and equipment. But what if you took that idea and cranked it up to 11? What if no two sequential sets were ever alike, and your overriding mission was to hit fibers from as many angles as possible? 

With small-angle training, each set of an exercise is performed differently in a sequence of typically four to six sets. You might change the grip, the stance, the angle of a bench, or the positioning of equipment, like the height of a cable pulley. Ideally, this is a progression from harder to easier, such as dumbbell chest presses that go from a high incline to flat to a low decline to a high decline. In that way you can use the same weight as you progress, and with adequate rest between sets, you can get the same or more reps each time.

Let's go over a small-angle progression for pulldowns. Start with a wide grip. The next set use a shoulder-width grip. Then switch to a parallel grip on a medium length bar. Finally, clip on a V-handle for your final set. The changes in hand and arm position will work the upper back in a subtly distinct way each set and activate more fibers than four sets performed in the same way.   

What follows are some of the best small-angle methods for diversely attacking each body part. 


From narrow to sumo-style, barbell squats can be done with a variety of stances. Hack squats, Smith machine squats, and leg presses can be performed with both different stance widths and your feet positioned anywhere from under your hips to far out in front. You can arrange your toes in, out, and straight during leg extensions, leg curls, and any calf exercise.


Pulldowns and cable rows can be done with a variety of grips, from very wide to parallel and narrow. Similarly, you can also alter your grip on barbell rows from shoulder width and underhand to wide and overhand. By progressively raising a cable's height and using a rope, you can go from a low row to a medium row to a face-pull to a pulldown. With a progressively raised Smith machine bar, you can crank out inverted rows (like lat ladders) at a sequence of angles.


From narrower than shoulder width to very wide, barbells can be pressed with a variety of grips. For dumbbell presses or flyes, an adjustable incline or decline bench can be positioned to work pecs from the uppermost edge (incline) to the lower cliff (decline). Cable crossovers can be performed from low to high and all the positions in between.


From narrow to wide, overhead barbell presses and upright rows can be done with a variety of grips. You can alter your hand position during dumbbell presses from palms forward to palms facing each other to palms facing backward. One-arm side laterals can be done leaning toward the floor, standing straight, and leaning away from the floor. While lying on an adjustable bench set in many positions, you can perform front raises. Shrugs can be done with two low cables held behind your back, straight down, and in front.


Pushdowns and cable triceps extensions can be subtly changed each set from an underhand grip with a straight bar to overhand grips with a variety of bars or a rope.


Barbell curls can be altered from a very narrow grip to a very wide grip with multiple stops in between. You can also change the angle of curls. For example, go from a 45-degree preacher curl to a Scott curl to a regular curl.


Do crunches, situps, and leg raises on an adjustable incline bench set in any position from highest to lowest.   

Small-Angle Tip Sheet

 - A portable, adjustable bench can be positioned at a variety of angles for exercises you may not have considered, such as pulldowns (facing away from the cable). 

 - A Smith machine bar set at varying heights is great for bodyweight inverted rows or triceps extensions.

 - A kind of dropset can be done by repeatedly changing the angle but not the resistance. For example, progress from dumbbell presses on an incline tot flat to a decline without resting.

Small-Angle Basics

 - To work all fibers of a muscle, hit it from a multitude of angles.

 - Vary exercises for each body part, such as one with a barbell, another with dumbbells, and a third with a machine or cables.

 - Change your grip, stance, or the position of the bench or body angle on each set. 

Example of a Small-Angle Chest Routine

Bench Press, 1 x 8-10 each 
2 inches narrower
Shoulder Width  
2 inches wider
4 inches wider
6 inches wider

Dumbbell Flye, 1 x 10-12 each 
45 degree incline
20 degree incline
20 degree decline
45 degree decline

Cable Crossover 1 x 12-15 each 
Highest position
High position
Shoulder height
Low position
Lowest position

Developing a High Poundage in the Olympic Press - Peary Rader (1954)

Click Pic to ENLARGE
Top photo taken at Doug Hepburn's Grandview Barbell Club.

Article From "Iron Man Lifting News" December 1954
from Liam Tweed's Collection.

Due to the space taken by the World Championships report in our last issue we were forced to leave out our installment on developing the press. However, we are happy to be able to dontinue with it in this issue. We closed the September article with a description of the rules as found in our present rule book. If you don't have the issue either get one or get out your rule book for we wish to make a few comments on those rules.

The description of the first movement of the press is OK as far as it goes. We don't always observe these rules even then because we have often seen men with their feet spread much farther apart than 16 inches mentioned, especially tall men with rather long legs. Either we should leave this item out or it should be enforced. 

In the second movement we find it mentions the pause at the shoulders for two seconds and then press after the referee claps his hands. Quite often this hand clap is hard for the lifter to hear and I used to find it better to say "press" when it was time for him to lift. In addition to being more distinct and less likely to be confused with noise from the audience, it also has a psychological value as an order to perform a movement. Many referees give the clap or signal too soon - even before the lifter has stopped moving around with his feet. This is, of course, very wrong. While I can see no reason for making a lifter stand still for any longer period than is necessary for him to assume the correct position, still some officials require the lifter to stand there holding the weight for a long time. So we feel that the official should give the signal as soon as the lifter assumes the correct position and stops moving around.

I guess we used to do things differently years ago. When a lifter finished his lift, instead of clapping the hands we counted one, two, and on the count of two the lifter lowered the bell. Anyhow, here is another spot where the officials sometimes get excited and give the signal to lower the weight too soon. Be sure that the lifter has finished the press correctly and holds the weight in a stationary position for two seconds to indicate he has complete control. Hasty signals are more frequent in the snatch and clean and jerk than in the press, for most men who can press a weight have the power to control it for two seconds after the lift is finished. Occasionally a man will lose his balance and raise the toes or take a step  if he has to hold it too long, but this would indicate a lack of control of the weight. Regardless of this, if he can hold it for two seconds without any of these things happening, the rules say it is a good lift. 

It also states that the lifter should keep the body and head in a vertical position at all times during the press - Wow! We sure get off the beam here, don't we? Many men, when starting the press, and just after cleaning, will assume a decided back bend as certain Russian lifters have been in the habit of doing. They they will press from this position very rapidly. Now, either we should re-write the rules or make the lifters follow them as they are written. Such a starting back-bend gives the lifter a decided advantage. It amounts to a modified Continental press. In this position you are able to bring the pectoral muscles very strongly into play and increase your press a great deal. A man lifting in erect style against a fellow who uses this position is at a decided disadvantage. Still the judges pass such lifts and so you can hardly blame the lifters for using them. It is especially prevalent in certain international contests. Generally, too much back bend is not allowed in major contests in the USA, though, of course, there are exceptions. 

Others will give a fast start by leaning forward then back into a back bend, which also violates the rules. You will also note that the rules say the head must remain vertical. That means you should look straight ahead. Only a few lifters today observe this rule. Heel lift and toe raise, for some reason or other, is a point on which officials are very strict. Lifters seldom get away with this but they let other more serious things pass without a thought. 

I have seen some men get a leg thrust, even though small, on every lift they make and get away with it for years, even on world records. Others get a shoulder hunch in the start of the lift and get away with it while still others use what is termed a body surge and never get ruled out. These things must be watched. 

Uneven pressing out of the arms is another point on which the judges are fairly strict. So we can see that in general the rules written and the rules used do not harmonize in very many respects.

Regardless of what the rules happen to be, the lifter should be prepared to lift however the officials require. Before every contest there should be a briefing of the men as to what the rules will be. If a man has been accustomed to lifting in a sloppy manner he should be able to at any time adapt himself to the strictest kind of ruling. He must know what he can lift in this stricter style or he will find himself without a press or total. We have seen many men miss their presses altogether because they were not able to select proper poundages for stricter styles required in certain contests.

There are a lot of people who will tell you that the press is strictly a power lift and that is all you need. However, this is not strictly true, for you can introduce a lot of science into this lift. Let's start at the first of the lift and study the different points and discuss the best method for performing the press before we go on to the power developing part.

Very few men will have trouble with the clean or pull to the shoulders. There are a few notable exceptions, of course, such as Doug Hepburn, who can press about 70 or 80 pounds more than he can clean, or DePietro who has trouble cleaning his presses.

You will do a much better press if you do an easy clean. To this end we suggest that when you pull the clean in, you do so with all the power and speed possible. Don't squat or split any more than necessary. this will save you strength and give you a much better position to press from. A hard clean means you will be pulled down and tired for the press. An easy fast clean will give you confidence, a feeling of power and a good solid position to press from. 

You should clean with the grip you expect to press with, that is, if you are going to use a wide grip then you should clean with a wide grip. If you are going to press with a thumbless grip then try to clean with a thumbless grip, though if you lack gripping power you can do as some fellows do and clean with a hook grip then change to the thumbless grip as the bar reaches the shoulders. By thumbless grip we mean with the thumbs under the bar and on the same side as the fingers. The reason for this is the theory that a thumbs-around grip causes tension on certain arm muscles which throws an opposing force against the pressing muscles and thereby cuts down your pressing power. Though this has never been definitely proven by any scientific means, enough lifters have experimented with it and concluded they can press more with a thumbless grip to make it worth of their consideration. Try it anyhow and see what you think. At first it may seem a little awkward but you may grow to like it. Many lifters use it for their jerks as well.

Before we go any farther we should consider the width of the grip since you should select your hand spacing very carefully before cleaning the bar. Most lifters will use some method of measuring out from the collars, usually so many hand widths from each collar. Others will use the knurling as a gauge. However, the latter is not always accurate, since the knurling may vary in width on different bars. It may surprise some lifters, but a difference of an inch can make a great deal of difference in a lift. This is especially true if you have one hand a half inch or an inch closer to the collars than the other hand for it can throw considerable more weight on one arm on the other and perhaps cause you to fail to press it. If you have one arm that is a little weaker than the other, you can learn to compensate for this by bringing the weak hand a half inch or so (depending on how much weaker it is) closer to the collar. This will throw less weight on this arm and more on the stronger arm and thus allow you to press out evenly with both arms. 

Whilewe are talking about width of grip we'd like you to get out your back issues of Lifting News and Iron Man and observe the grip widths used by different lifters. You will see that most of them use a grip that is just a little wider than shoulder width (depending on how wide you think your shoulders are - I guess some fellows might place their hands against the collars). 

In the November issue of Lifting News on page 1 you will see Kono pressing. Tommy holds the world middleweight record in the press now at 286.5, having made it in France before returning from the World Championships. 

 Click Pic to ENLARGE

 The photo shows him using fine style as it is known today. Although his feet may be a little wider than 16 inches apart, he has very little, if any, back bend. Also, he is looking straight ahead. This photo, taken from a low angle, might make it appear as if he is leaping back but this is not true. You will note he is using a thumbs-around grip - in fact it appears that he even has a hook grip in which the fingers cover the thumbs for a more secure grip in cleaning. His grip width would be considered medium and as you can see, it is about 2 inches outside the inside edge of the knurling. His thumbs would probably come just outside his shoulder points when bar is at shoulders. 

On page 5 of the November issue Lomakin of Russia is pressing with the same width grip, possibly a little wider. You will note that he is looking up or rather his head is tipped back, which is a violation of the rules, yet the judges thought this a very good press. Notice also that those men with deep chests can arch the chests and place the pectoral muscles in a very active position to aid with the press. You can see this in many photos. Other fellows with comparatively flat chests, like Schemansky, can get very little help this way unless they lean back a lot. You can see what we mean on page 8 of the July issue. In this same issue, take a look at Hepburn pressing on page 9. You can see that he is using a wider grip than most of the other fellows. Davis has a medium grip though a few years ago he used a very narrow grip, about 14 inches, I would judge. This was especially noticeable at his contest with Abele and Stanko. However, it worked very well for him. It did seem to require more back bend than pressing with a wider grip, though. At that time I believe he was pressing around 325, which was very good. Pressing with a narrow grip enables you to use the triceps more while the use of a wide grip brings the deltoids more into action.

Of course the use of a wide grip means you have less distance to press, but, on the other hand a wide grip makes it difficult to get a fast start because you don't have the initial arm drive that you do with a closer grip.

A few years ago we heard a great deal about pressing leverages and if a man was a poor presser he blamed it on bad leverages. Today we hear less about this and I believe most lifters have found that so-called bad leverages can be at least partially compensated for by a change in style and special development exercises. We don't have nearly as many really poor pressers now as we had a few years ago. In those days it was felt that if you had long arms you couldn't press. Some of our good pressers today have fairly long arms however.

We must not lose sight of the fact that long arms are somewhat of a handicap, though, and must be adjusted for by a change of style and specialization work.

Some of the paper experts claim that a good presser should have long upper arms and short forearms. This depends on your style of pressing. A man with short forearms may find that he can press better by starting with his elbows high and keeping them that way all through the press and thus taking advantage of his advantageous leverage of the short forearms.

On the other hand a man with long forearms and short upper arms may find it better to press with the elbows starting low and driving straight up with deltoid power.

Again, we may find that our calculations arrived at through examinations of relative bone lengths may be upset because of differences of muscle attachments. Let us illustrate what we mean by using the curl as an example Have you ever noticed that the best curlers are the men who have muscle attachments far out on the forearm at the lower end of the biceps muscle? A still more outstanding illustration would be the reverse curl. Watch different men curl and you will notice that the best men at this feat have forearm muscles that are attached high up on the upper arm bone. This gives them greater curling ability for a given amount of contractile power of the muscles.

The same thing is evident in the press, though the illustration would be much more complicated because so many muscles and groups of muscles are involved. We feel that this muscle attachment is of much greater importance than bone lengths, not because relative bone lengths are not important, but because we have found more frequent variations in muscle attachments making the difference between a poor presser and a good presser. This condition of course exists throughout the entire body. This partly explains why the strongest men are seldom the best built. A man with the best muscle attachments for power does not have the small, compact joint areas for the greatest physical shape. Of course there are occasional exceptions to this rule.     


Thursday, December 28, 2017

Compound Pounding, Part Two - Eric Broser

Part One is Here: 

In Part One of this series, I discussed why I feel that free-weight, multi-joing exercises should form the foundation of any muscle building, strength gaining,and/or performance enhancing resistance training program. I provided a list of some of my personal favorites and offered some tips on how to get the most out of each. While that was a pleasure to write about, the real fun begins here, in Part Two. 

In 2000, I introduced a training system known as "Power, Rep Range, Shock," or P/RR/S for short. 


About a year before, I had reached a lengthy plateau in muscle size,and I eagerly set out to discover the possible reasons why. I did not believe I had reached my genetic potential and began searching for answers. After spending many months reviewing my old workout logs, researching the various pathways that ignite hypertrophy, experimenting with different training methods, and carefully documenting results, I began to understand that a one-dimensional approach to building muscle can  work for only so long.

As humans, we are adaptive machines, and once our muscles and CNS get used to the stimulus being repetitively presented, they will no longer respond (which simply means that we do not get any bigger). As with so many things in life, our muscles thrive on (and grow from) variety. Of course, this does not mean one should enter the gym each day and train haphazardly or according to instinct. Instead, there must be a sound, progressive, and scientifically based plan firmly in place, which is precisely where the P/RR/S training protocol comes into play. 

Power, Rep Range, Shock is a cyclical approach to resistance training in which you use a different protocol every week (in three-week cycles), with the goal of tapping into all the body's various growth mechanisms. Each of the three weeks is meant to bring about a specific physiological effect, so that your body cannot fully adapt to any one form of training (which will eventually result in stagnation). P/RR/S addresses hypertrophy from a variety of proven angles and allows  significant progress to take place on a very consistent, predictable, and long-term basis. Sounds pretty awesome, right? 

The following P/RR/S regimen uses all the compound movements discussed in Part One of this series. While it follows the basic parameters to a great degree, I made some minor tweaks at some points to personalize it for FLEX readers.

Once you have completed the three-week P/RR/S cycle, return to the beginning and repeat, with the intention of training more intensely on the following cycle. I suggest you use the same exercises for three straight cycles and try to lift heavier weight and/or increase your reps at each workout (Note: Keeping a workout log goes a  long way). After three full P/RR/S cycles, either take a full week off from the gym or at least train at low intensity for one week to allow for repair and recovery of joints, muscles, and the CNS. Upon returning to the P/RR/S system for a new nine-week cycle, feel free to switch some or all of the exercises and the way your split your muscle groups.

Note: Tempo is the word I use to describe how fast you lower, lift, and pause with the weight in each phase of a repetition. It is expressed in seconds and begins with the negative (lowering) portion of an exercise, then the midpoint (stretch) portion, then the positive (lifting) portion. If there if a fourth number used, it will be the peak contraction (squeeze) portion. 


Power training is intended to annihilate the highest-threshold fast-twitch muscle fibers, increase raw strength, enhance power,and stimulate a greater amount of natural testosterone to course through your veins.

REST BETWEEN SETS: 3-4 minutes
EXERCISES: mostly compound.

Monday - Chest/Biceps/Forearms/Abs

Hammer Incline Press, 3 sets of 4-6 reps / Tempo 3/1/X / Rest 3-4 minutes
Bench Press, 3 x 4-6 / 3/1/X / 3-4 minutes
Smith Incline Press, 2 x 4-6 / 3/1/X / 3-4 minutes
Weighted Chest Dip, 2 x 4-6 / 3/0/X / 3 minutes.

90 degree Barbell Preacher Curl, 2 x 4-6 / 4/0/X / 3 minutes
Standing EZ Bar Curl, 3 x 4-6 / 4/0/X / 3 minutes
Standing Concentration Curl, 2 x 4-6 / 4/0/X / 3 minutes

Incline Seated Alternating DB Hammer Curl, 2 x 4-6 / 2/1/X / 3 minutesd
Reverse Barbell of Low Cable Curl, 2 x 4-6 / 2/1/X / 3 minutes

Weighted Situp of Lying Crunch Machine, 3 x 16-20 / 2/0/X/1 / 2-3 minutes
Hanging or Supported Straight-Leg Raise, 2 x max reps / 2/1/X / 2-3 minutes.

Tuesday - Quads/Hamstrings/Calves

Leg Press, 3 x 4-6 / 4/0/X / 4 minutes
Barbell Squat, 3 x 4-6 / 4/0/X / 4 minutes
Leg Extension, 2 x 4-6 / 3/0/X / 3 minutes
Barbell Bench Step-Up, 2 x 4-6 per leg / 3/0/X / 3-4 minutes

Lying Leg Curl, 3 x 4-6 / 2/1/X / 3 minutes
Seated Single Leg Curl, 3 x 4-6 per leg / 2/1/X / 3 minutes
Barbell or Smith Machine Stiff-Leg Deadlift, 2 x 4-6 / 2/0/X / 4 minutes

Calf Press, 3 x 4-6 / 2/1/X / 2-3 minutes
Seated Calf Raise, 2 x 4-6 / 2/1/X / 2-3 minutes.

Thursday - Lats/Lower Back/Abs

V-Handle Seated Cable or Hammer Machine Row, 3 x 4-6 / 2/1/X / 3-4 minutes
Wide-Grip Weighted Pullup, 3 x 4-6 / 3/0/X / 3-4 minutes
Wide-Grip Barbell Bentover Row, 3 x 4-6 / 2/1/X / 4 minutes
One-Arm Dumbbell Row, 2 x 4-6 / 2/1/X / 4 minutes

Barbell Deadlift, 4 x 4-6 / 2/1/X / 4 minutes

Cable Side Crunch, 2 x 16-20 each side / 2/0/X/1 / 2-3 minutes
High Incline Bent-Leg Hip Raise, 3 x 16-20 / 2/0/X / 2-3 minutes.

Friday - Shoulders/Traps/Triceps/Calves

Seated Military Press, 2 x 3-6 / 3/0/X / 3-4 minutes
Seated Bentover Rear Lateral Raise, 2 x 4-6 / 2/0/X / 3 minutes
Wide-Grip Barbell Upright Row, 2 x 4-6 / 2/0/X / 3-4 minutes
Single-Arm Cable Lateral Raise, 3 x 4-6 / 2/1/X/1 / 3 minutes

Barbell or Machine Shrug, 2 x 4-6 / 2/1/X/1 / 3 minutes
Single-Arm Dumbbell Row, 2 x 4-6 / 1/1/X / 3 minutes  

Barbell or Smith Machine Close-Grip Bench Press, 2 x 4-6 / 4/0/X / 4 minutes
Incline Overhead Barbell or DB Extension, 3 x 4-6 / 4/0/X / 3 minutes
Skull Crusher, 2 x 4-6 / 2/0/X / 3 minutes

Seated Calf Raise, 2 x 4-6 / 2/0/X / 2-3 minutes
Standing Calf Raise, 3 x 4-6 / 2/0/X / 2-3 minutes.  

The goal of rep-range training is to tear through all the intermediary muscle fibers that lie along the continuum from type I to type II, to induce capillarization, and to stimulate growth producing metabolic adaptations within muscle cells.

REP GOAL:7-9, 10-12, 13-15, 16-20
REST BETWEEN SETS: 2-3 minutes
LIFTING TEMPO: 2/1/2/1 (one second hold at peak contraction for certain exercises such as cable crossovers and leg extensions).

Monday - Chest/Biceps/Forearms/Abs

60-Degree Incline Dumbbell Press, 3 x 7-9 / 2/0/2 / 2-3 minutes
Bench Press, 3 x 10-12 / 2/0/2 / 2-3 minutes
Weighted Chest Dip, 2 x 13-15 / 2/0/2/1 / 2-3 minutes
Cable Crossover or Pec Deck, 2 x 16-20 / 2/0/2/1 / 2 minutes

90-Degree Barbell Preacher Curl or Spider Curl, 3 x 7-9 / 2/0/2/1 / 2 minutes
Seated Incline Alternating DB Curl, 2 x 10-12 / 2/1/2 / 2 minutes
High-Cable Curl, 2 x 13-15 / 2/0/2/1 / 2 minutes

Reverse Barbell Curl, 1 x 7-9, 1 x 10-12 / 2/0/2 / 2 minutes
Dumbbell Wrist Curl, 2 x 13-15 / 1/0/1/1 / 2 minutes

Cable Crunch, 1 x 16-20 / 2/0/1 / 2 minutes
Lying Bent-Leg Hip Raise, 2 x 21-25 / 2/0/1 / 2 minutes
Lying Side Crunch, 1 x 26-30 per side / 1/0/1 / 2 minutes. 

Tuesday - Quads/Hamstrings/Calves

Leg Extension, 2 x 7-9 / 2/0/2/1 / 2-3 minutes
Barbell Squat, 3 x 10-12 / 2/0/2 / 3 minutes
Dumbbell Alternating Bench Step-Up, 2 x 13-15 per leg / 2/0/2 / 3 minutes
Single-Leg Extension, 2 x 16-20 per leg / 2/0/1/1 / 2-3 minutes

Lying Leg Curl, 2 x 7-9 / 2/0/2/1 / 2 minutes
Seated Leg Curl, 2 x 10-12 / 2/0/2/1 / 2 minutes
Straight-Leg Barbell Good Morning, 2 x 13-15 / 2/0/1 / 2-3 minutes
Adduction Machine, 2 x 16-20 / 2/0/1/1 / 2 minutes

Standing Calf Raise, 1 x 7-9, 1 x 10-12 / 2/1/1 / 2 minutes
Seated Calf Raise, 1 x 13-15, 1 x 16-20 / 2/0/1/1 / 2 minutes.

Thursday - Lats/Lower Back/Abs

Underhand Grip Barbell Bentover Row, 3 x 7-9 / 2/0/2 / 3 minutes
Close Grip Pulldown, 3 x 10-12 / 2/0/1/1 / 3 minutes
Wide Grip Seated Cable Row, 2-3 x 13-15 / 2/1/1/1 / 2-3 minutes
Stiff Arm Pulldown or Pullover Machine, 2 x 16-20 / 2/1/2 / 2 minutes

Barbell Deadlift, 1 x 7-9, 1 x 10-12 / 2/1/1 / 3 minutes
Weighted Hyperextension, 2 x 13-15 / 2/0/1/1 / 2-3 minutes

Weighted Incline Situp, 2 x 13-15 / 2/0/2 / 2 minutes
Hanging or Supported Straight-Leg Raise, 2 x 16-20 / 2/0/1 / 2 minutes
Cable Side Crunch, 1-2 x 21-25 / 1/0/1 / 2 minutes per side.

Friday - Shoulders/Traps/Triceps/Calves

Seated Military Press, 2 x 7-9 / 2/0/2 / 3 minutes
Shoulder Width Grip Prone Incline Front Barbell Raise, 3 x 10-12 / 2/0/1/1 / 2 minutes
Standing Lateral Raise, 2 x 13-15 / 2/0/1 / 2 minutes
Single Arm Cable Bentover Rear Lateral, 2 x 16-20 / 1/0/1 / 2 minutes

Close Grip Barbell Upright Row, 1 x 7-9, 1 x 10-12 / 2/0/2 / 2-3 minutes
Dumbbell Shrug, 1 x 10-12, 1 x 13-15 / 1/0/1/1 / 2 minutes

Incline Overhead Barbell Extension, 3 x 7-9 / 2/1/2 / 2 minutes
EZ Bar Pushdown, 2 x 10-12 / 2/0/1/1 / 2 minutes
Lying Single Arm Dumbbell Extension, 2 x 13-15 / 2/0/2 / 2 minutes

Calf Press, 1 x 7-9, 1 x 10-12 / 2/0/1/1 / 2 minutes
Single Leg Seated Calf Raise, 2 x 13-15 / 2/0/1 / 2 minutes per leg.


Shock training is a true test of your ability to withstand searing muscle pain and labored breathing! The burn and lactic acid that shock workouts produce will help flood your system with natural growth hormone, while the wicked pump will swell your muscle cells.

REP GOAL: 7-9 for single sets and 10-12 for drop sets
REST BETWEEN SETS: cardiovascular and mental recovery
EXERCISES: compound, isolation, machine, or cable.

Monday - Chest/Biceps/Forearms/Abs

Bench Press, 2 x 7-9 / 2/0/1 / CMR (cardiovascular/mental recovery)
superset with
Flat Dumbbell Flye, 2 x 7-9 / 2/0/1 / CMR
Hammer Incline Press, 2 x (dropsets) 7-9, drop, 4-6 / 2/0/1 / CMR
Cable Crossover, 2 x (dropsets) 6-8, 13-15, drop / 1/1/1/1 / CMR

Seated Incline Dumbbell Curl, 2 x 7-9 / 2/0/1 / CMR
superset with
Standing Barbell Curl, 2 x 7-9 / 2/0/1 / CMR
Barbell or Machine Preacher Curl, 1 (dropset) x 7-9, drop, 4-6 / CMR
High-Cable Curl, 1 x 7-9 / 1/0/1 / CMR
superset with
Lying Cable Curl, 1 x 7-9 / 1/0/1 / CMR

Low Cable Reverse Curl, 2 x 10-12 / 1/0/1 / CMR
superset with
Seated Barbell Wrist Curl, 2 x 10-12 / 1/0/1 / CMR

Weighted Incline Situp, 1 (dropset) 16-20, drop, max bodyweight reps / 2/0/1 / CMR
Supported Straight-Leg Raise, 2 x max reps / 1/0/1 / CMR
superset with
Seated Bench Knee-Up, 2 x max reps, 1/0/1 / CMR

Tuesday - Quads/Hamstrings/Calves

Leg Extension, 2 x 7-9 / 2/0/1 / CMR
superset with
Barbell Squat, 2 x 7-9 / 2/0/1
Alternating Barbell Bench Step-Up, 2 x 7-9 / 2/0/1 / CMR
superset with
Leg Extension, 2 x 7-9 / 2/0/1
Smith Machine or Dumbbell Split Squat, 1-2 (dropsets) 10-12, drop, 6-8 (each leg) / 2/0/1 / CMR

Stiff Legged Deadlift, 2 x 10-12 / 2/0/1 / CMR
superset with
Seated Leg Curl, 2 x 7-9 / 2/0/1 /
Single Leg Lying Leg Curl / 2 drop sets, 7-9, drop, 4-6 (per leg) / 2/0/1 / CMR

Calf Press, 2 x 7-9 (rest pause*), 1/0/1/1 / CMR
* Rest 10 seconds, then do max reps, rest 20 seconds, then do max reps.

Thursday - Lats/Lower Back/Abs

Weighted Underhand Grip Pullup, 2 (dropsets) 7-9, drop, max reps bodyweight only / 2/0/1/1 / CMR
Wide Grip Barbell Bentover Row, 2 x 7-9, rest pause**) 7-9 / 1/0/1 / CMR
** Rest 15 seconds, then do max reps, then rest 30 seconds, then do max reps.
Underhand Seated Cable or Hammer Row, 2 x 7-9 / 2/0/1 / CMR
superset with Barbell or Dumbbell Pullover, 2 x 10-12 / 2/0/1

Partial Rack Deadlift From Mid-Shin Height, 2 (drop sets), 7-9, drop, 4-6 / 2/0/1 / CMR

Incline Bent Leg Raise, 2 x 16-20 / 1/0/1 / CMR
superset with
Lying Alternating Twisting Crunch, 2 x 16-20 per side / 1/0/1
Seated or Lying Weighted Crunch Machine, 1 (drop set), 16-20, drop, 8-10 / CMR.

Friday - Shoulders/Traps/Triceps/Calves

Reverse Pec Deck, 1 (drop set), 10-12, drop, 6-8 / 1/0/1/1 / CMR
Dumbbell Lateral Raise, 2 (dropsets), 10-12, drop, 6-8 / 1/0/1 / CMR
Narrow Grip Barbell Front Raise, 2 x 7-9 / 2/0/1 / CMR
superset with
Standing Military Press, 2 x 7-9

Barbell or Smith Machine Shrug, 1 (dropset), 10-12, drop, 6-8 / 1/0/1/1 / CMR
Close Grip EZ Bar or Cable Upright Row, 1-2 x 7-9 / 1/0/1 / CMR
superset with
Dumbbell Shrug, 1-2 x 10-12 / 1/0/1/1

Bodyweight Triceps Dip, 1 x rest pause* / 2/0/1 / CMR
*rest 10 seconds, then do max reps, rest 20 seconds, then do max reps
Seated Overhead Dumbbell Extension, 1 (drop set), 7-9, drop, 4-6 / 2/0/1 / CMR
Seated Single Arm Dumbbell Extension, 2 x 7-9 / 2/0/1/ / CMR
superset with
Cable Kickback, 2 x 13-15 / 1/0/1/1/

Seated Calf Raise, 1 x 7-9 / 1/1/1 / CMR
superset with
Calf Press, 1 x 7-9 / 1/1/

Compound Pounding, Part One - Eric Broser

Eric Broser: 

More by Eric Broser:

Building a solid foundation of strength and power throughout the entire body offers myriad benefits for the bodybuilder, athlete, casual lifter, and anyone with a physically demanding job. The ability to push and pull heavier weights, particularly in multi-joint, free-weight lifts, will most certainly manifest into increased muscle mass, improved athletic performance, enhanced work capacity, and perhaps most important, a better quality of life.

While isolation movements certainly have their place in many training regimens, they cannot compare with the basic compound exercises (for building true functional strength or power) simply because these types of movements require more balance and coordination, allow for the use of greater poundages, involve multiple muscle groups (performing in concert), and work the body in a manner more specific to real-world human movement. Here are eight of my favorites. 

1) Dip

In my early years of lifting I spent quite a bit of time perfecting my technique on dips and eventually became strong enough to perform sets of 10 perfect reps with three 45-pound plates hanging from my waist. This strength transferred over to just about every other pushing exercise in my regimen and let me eventually crack the 500-lb barrier in the bench press. Additionally, dips helped thicken my chest and tris as few other movements did.

Main Muscles Targeted -
Pectorals, anterior deltoids, triceps.

Performance Tip -
To focus on hitting the chest, keep the torso leaned forward about 45 degrees throughout the set and make sure to get a full stretch at the midpoint of every rep. For greater triceps recruitment, keep the torso straight, and lower to a point where your upper arms are just slightly past parallel to the floor.

2) Barbell Squat

This one is right at the top of the list since it involves one of the most basic movements we perform in life - bending at the knees (to sitting position) and pushing back up to a standing position. Additionally, the barbell squat is an exercise that allows for the use of massive poundages, requires great balance and coordination, and stimulates growth throughout the body.

Main Muscles Targeted -
Quads, hamstrings, glutes, hips, lower back.

Performance Tip -
Make sure to keep your head up, lower back slightly arched, and the bar set on the traps as you squat slowly to a position where the thighs drop just below parallel to the ground.

3) Military Press

When it comes to the military press, I prefer the seated version for those lifters more focused on the appearance of their physique and the standing version for athletes and those requiring greater strength, power, and coordination. But done either way, this exercise is one of the most effective upper-body mass builders.

Main Muscles Targeted -
Anterior deltoids, upper pectorals, triceps.

Performance Tip -
Make sure not to lean back too far (especially when seated), or this exercise will become more of an incline press. For those who have healthy and flexible shoulder joints, the behind the neck version of this movement is a solid option at every other shoulder workout.

4) Bench Step-Up

Bench step-ups are slightly superior to walking lunges when it comes to effectively enhancing functional strength, coordination, and especially balance. In addition, I feel this movement is excellent for increasing vertical leap ability and muscle mass in both the thighs and glutes.

Main Muscles Targeted -
Quads, hamstrings, glutes.

Performance Tip -
Make sure the foot of the working leg is secured entirely on the bench, stable and straight before initiating every rep. Additionally, avoid pushing off with the back leg so that you're utilizing only the power of the working leg to lift your body upward.

5) Barbell Bentover Row

Whether performed with an underhand or overhand grip, the barbell bentover row is one of our most basic and effective back builders - from the traps to the lats and all the way down to the lower back. It requires great focus and control, as well as stabilization from the quads, hamstrings, and hips.

Main Muscles Targeted -
Lats, traps, rhomboids, lower back.

Performance Tip -
Keep the knees slightly bent to help support the lower back. Bend the torso to an angle of 70 to 90 degrees. (Note: Every bodybuilder has a sweet-spot angle where they get the best stimulation). Pull the bar to the belly button to activate the lats to a greater degree and closer to the chest to hit more of the mid- and upper-back musculature.

6) Pullup

Exercises where you move your body through space, such as pullups, generally ignite the central nervous system to a greater degree, allowing for more muscle fibers to jump into action. This is awesome for building both power and muscle mass. Additionally, this movement is one of the most versatile, enabling one to attack the back musculature from many angles (via altering grips and planes of motion), which will create more complete development of this intricate body part.

Main Muscles Targeted -
Lats, traps, rhomboids, biceps, brachialis.

Performance Tip -
Change the width of your grip workout to workout to stimulate different areas of the back complex. Experiment by pulling your torso to the upper, mid, and/or lower chest for even greater variation in precisely which motor unit pools are not exhausted. Additionally, using an underhand grip on the bar will shift the emphasis more directly toward the belly of the lats and strongly engage the biceps as well.

7) Barbell Bench Press

Known as the king of upper body exercises, the bench press may be the most commonly performed movement in gyms all over the world - and for good reason. It's responsible for helping build some of the biggest pecs ever seen, on men like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, Franco Columbu, Ronnie Coleman, and Kevin Levrone.

Main Muscles Targeted -
Pectorals, anterior deltoids, triceps.

Performance Tip -
Make sure to keep the rib cage high, the lower back arched, and the shoulders shrugged down and back for maximum pectoral fiber recruitment. 

8) Deadlift

This is one of the most basic movements in the world or iron, closely resembling a simple task we all perform multiple times every single day: bending down to pick something up. But proper deadlifting requires meticulous technique, with almost every muscle pitching in to take the barbell through its entire range of motion. Some of the thickest and and strongest men ever to grace an IFBB stage (Coleman, Jackson. Columbu) were also big deadlifters.  

Targeted Muscles -
Quads, hamstrings, lower back, traps, forearms.

Performance Tip -
Rather than rebounding the bar off the floor or rack pins (if doing partials) on each rep, come to a dead stop, which will remove any useless momentum and force the weight to be moved purely by powerful muscular activation.

In Part Two, I will show you how to use these compound lifts to create a power-bodybuilding routine, so over time you will not only lift big but also look big. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Hypertrophy for the CrossFit Athlete - Christian Thibaudeau (2016)

Note: This is an excerpt from Maximum Muscle Bible by Christian Thibaudeau and Paul Carter. 
Go Here to Get Your Copy: 
See the Table of Contents Here:

This book is loaded with applicable muscle-building info.
Check It Out!

Chapter Eight: Hypertrophy for the CrossFit Athlete
by Christian Thibaudeau

There is this idea that CrossFit guys are small. That may be true when you look at those who only do group classes (which is often more of a cardio session with weights than heavy work), but if you look close at the elite-level Regional and Games competitors you will find plenty of very solid physiques.

Of course, you won't find any IFBB pro physiques among them. But guys like Nick Urankar, Jason Khalipa, Neil Maddox and Dan Bailey, to name a few, look very muscular and lean with full muscle bellies. 

The competitive guys need to be strong. Unless you have some crazy bodyweight skills and an unstoppable engine to compensate, if you can't clean and jerk at least 325 pounds, snatch at least 265, deadlift more than 500 and squat in the high 400s, you can forget about being competitive. These aren't even high numbers; there are several competitors who can snatch in the 300s and clean and jerk above 385 pounds.

More Muscle to Get Stronger

Neural efficiency, technique and leverage are all nice and well, but they have their limitations. And, ultimately, muscle moves weight. Neural efficiency, technique and leverages will only allow you to make the most of the strength that you muscles have. 

At an equal level of neural efficiency and technical mastery, if you have more muscle you will lift more weight; just look at elite Olympic lifters who add 20 to 30 kg to their total (or even more) when they go up a weight class. 

[Note: Here's a quick example from the past. Tommy Kono:
As a lightweight at the 1952 Olympic Games - total 362.5 kg.
As a light-heavyweight at the 1956 Olympic Games - total 447.5 kg.
As a middleweight at the 1960 Olympic Games - total 427.5 kg.] 

If you want to be strong overall, adding muscle mass to your frame is a surefire way to get there. 

Muscle as Your Armor 

Another aspect of adding muscle is that it can help prevent injuries. For example, more muscle mass in the muscles of the shoulder girdle will greatly increase the body's capacity to handle physical stress at the shoulder joint. In that regard, see muscle mass like your armor. It will help protect you by increasing joint integrity and stability.

In addition, athletes invariably suffer muscle imbalances (some muscles being proportionately too weak for the others) which can cause injuries or at least chronic aches and pains, and can also decrease performance. Hypertrophy work for these lagging muscle groups is a great way to solve the issue; when you have a lagging muscle group, big compound lifts with heavy weights aren't the solution because the body will prefer to use its strongest muscles to do the job, which will only accentuate the imbalance.

Hypertrophy to Fix Leakage Points

I like to explain strength in the big lifts (and bodyweight work) as a pipeline,through which water runs down towards the endpoint. If the pipeline has some leakage points, the force of the water at the end of the pipeline will be decreased. It is the same thing with lifting strength. Each muscle involved directly (prime mover or synergist/agonist) or indirectly (stabilizer or fixator) can be a potential force leak if it's too weak. The more leakage points you have, or the longer the leaks are, the less capable will you be of demonstrating your strength potential. I was reminded of this recently when I was doing isolation work for the lower body with my friend, Nick. He used more weight than I did on leg extensions, leg curls and leg press, yet I can squat 100 pounds more than he can as I have less strength leaks in my glutes, lower back, midsection and upper back.

Hypertrophy work is a good way to fix leakage points once you have diagnosed the problematic muscle group. A weak muscle group is normally smaller in proportion to the stronger ones; it is underdeveloped relative to what it should be. The activation of that muscle will also likely be deficient, meaning that you will not be good at contracting it properly. Both elements can be better developed with isolation work (where it's hard to compensate with another muscle), using lighter weights and more focus on the quality of the contraction. Once the weak muscle has gained some size and activation is improved, it will more easily be "included in" when doing bigger, heavier lifts.

Hypertrophy as a Confidence Builder

Charlie Francis (Ben Johnson's former coach) was once asked why Ben put so much emphasis on the bench press and upper body development. Charlie mentioned that the shoulders and arms can contribute up to 10 percent of running speed. However, the biggest benefit was that the athlete liked the way he looked, which increased both his confidence and his performance.

I can confirm that. When I coached at the CrossFit Games this year, I saw a lot of posturing, competitors discretely comparing their physiques, and so on. It can help with intimidating your opponents, which can hurt their confidence.

We've all had days where we looked and felt small (even though, to the external eye, we didn't look any different). On these days, you can't perform well because your confidence and drive just aren't there.

This might not be the best reason to do hypertrophy work, but it is a real phenomenon nonetheless and it should not be dismissed.

Hypertrophy Work to Improve Specific Elements of a Competitive WOD

One of my favorite ways to use hypertrophy work with CrossFit athletes is to combine it with a technical skill (as a superset, if you like).

The purpose is the use the hypertrophy work to pre-fatigue a key muscle involved in the skill, thereby making the skill more difficult to complete. At first, your performance will decrease but you will then adapt. Keep in mind that you might very well have to do a rope climb or hang power clean with your hands and forearms gorged of blood and lactic acid in competition. Doing a combination of bodybuilding work with skill work can therefore prepare you for that. There is more on this specific strategy later in this chapter

Isolation Work is Not the Devil

Important: When I mention "hypertrophy" in this chapter, I am mostly referring to using isolation work and special techniques that are normally in the realm of bodybuilding. Technically, sets of 6 to 12 reps on big compound lifts are also "hypertrophy work" and these should definitely be part of the training of a CrossFit athlete, but this chapter, and especially this section, will discuss how to integrate isolation work which is designed to increase the size or a specific muscle in the training of the CrossFit athlete.

If there is one thing I love about CrossFit it is that it did more to popularize the big lifts (deadlift, squat, front squat, overhead press, snatch, and clean and jerk) than any other lifting sport has ever done. People are now comparing their squat instead of their bench press, and talking about how they must make their legs bigger instead of how their biceps are too small. CrossFit made the big lifts mainstream and it rewards those who focus on them.

Sadly, while powerlifters, Olympic lifters, strongmen, and gymnasts are all well-perceived by CrossFit athletes since they learn a lot from them, there is still a schism between CrossFitters and bodybuilders. For that reason, CrossFitters tend to disregard everything that bodybuilders do. Isolation work is often seen as a worthless waste of time, and seeking muscular development is seen as an unworthy practice. Hopefully, after the introduction to this chapter, you are beginning to see otherwise.

Isolation work to build a specific muscle in not an inferior form of training. True, it isn't as rewarding and it doesn't require the same physical and mental investment as working hard on the big lifts does. But it serves a real purpose. You can't build a house with only a hammer and, with training, sometimes doing more work on the big lifts isn't the best option; it may not be the "too to to the job."

When you perform a big compound lift, your body doesn't know that you are trying to develop a specific muscle group. All it knows is that there is a big ass weight that is trying to fight you and, in the interest of survival, it will use the muscles best suited to do the job. If you have a certain muscle dominance, your body may very well focus on shifting more of the workload to your stronger muscles rather than your weak link. It is thus these stronger that will receive the most stimulation and will progress/grow the most; this simply augments their strength and accentuates their natural dominance while the weak link stays the same. For example, if you have super strong should3ers and weak pectorals and triceps, the deltoids will take on more stress when you bench press and thge pectorals will be left relatively unstimulated.

Chinese and North Korean Olympic lifters do 30 to 45 minutes of isolation/bodybuilding work after their main lifting sessions several times a week. If a group of athletes who are already training 20-plus hours per week see fit to add some more work on top of their grueling schedule, they must certainly see a benefit in it, don't you think?

They understand that muscles move weight; the more muscle you have, the greater your strength potential. Why are they using isolation/bodybuilding work to build their muscles at the end of the session? Because their training is already full of neurologically-demanding exercises; the last thing they want is to use a high volume of more neurologically-demanding movements to work on hypertrophy too! The same is true for CrossFit athletes: most of what they do is hard on the nervous system. They should give it a break when doing a portion of training aimed only at muscular development.

The Four Ways to Do Hypertrophy/Bodybuilding Work if You Are a CrossFit Athlete

A CrossFit athlete who wants or needs to increase their muscle mass has four options. The best one will depend on how much muscle mass the athlete needs, if they need to add muscle mass overall or just to fix a weak link, how much time they have before their next competition or not, and their skill level.

For example, someone who has a competition in two months or less or who doesn't have the best skill consistency will be ill-advised to devote an entire phase of training to gaining muscle mass. For that person, reducing their CrossFit training to a minimum while shifting their focus to strength and muscle mass might not be a smart option.

But a CrossFit "Ninja" (to steal the term from Ben Bergeron) who is smaller, has great bodyweight skills and conditioning but lacks strength and size, and also has a lot of time to prepare for their next competition might do well to invest in a six to eight week period where they focus solely on getting much stronger and larger, while putting their skill/metabolic conditioning at maintenance level.

Regardless of your needs, goals and time available to train, it is possible to integrate hypertrophy work into your performance training. The four options are as follows.

Option 1: Adding 15 to 25 Minutes of Hypertrophy Work to the End of Your Training Day.

This option has the least impact on how you program the rest of your training. You can keep up with your regular programming and add a small amount of isolation/hypertrophy work at the end of your session. This works best when you only have one or two muscles you want to "fix". This way, you can focus on only one muscle group for 15 to 25 minutes, and you will be able to "hit" each of the two target muscles twice or even three times per week.

One of the main benefits of the approach is that your nervous system will be firing on all cylinders after your big lifts/skill/metcon and muscle recruitment will be more effective during the isolation work. The drawback is that when you get to the isolation work, you might be glycogen-depleted and tired, which will make it harder to get a good pump and apply enough effort to make it work. For that reason, it is important to consume protein and carbs intra-workout to at least keep your glycogen levels at an acceptable level.

The first option can be done with pretty much everybody, but it works best if you only have one or two weak muscles to fix. I believe that if you are trying to develop all your major muscles by training each one once a week for 15 to 25 minutes, you won't get many results compared to training them two or three times per week.

Key Information

Keep in mind that often a weak muscle is weak because you are simply not good at utilizing it. For that reason, during a big lift your body won't integrate that muscle as much as it should. You can view isolation work not only as a way to build muscle, but also as a way to improve your capacity to use that muscle. And, the better you become at utilizing it, the more easily you will integrate it into the performance of the big lifts. In return, those big lifts will begin to "work", and therefore develop those weak muscles.

Option 2: Complexing Isolation Moves Into Your Training

By complexing, I mean combining isolation/hypertrophy work with your strength or skill work. In both cases, for CrossFit athletes, I like to do the isolation work prior to doing the skill or strength move.

Why? Because this can prepare you for a very real problem that might occur in competition: having to do a skill when a key muscle if fried or full of lactic acid. For example, you might be good at doing legless rope climbs but, when your arms and forearms are pumped, it's a different ball game. Doing a snatch might normally be fine but if your shoulders are toasted, it will suddenly become a circus act! By doing isolation exercises for an important muscle involved in the skill or strength lift, you get used to doing the latter under sub-optimal conditions. At first, your performance will decreases (better to have that in training than in competition) but, over time, you will become just as efficient doing the skill/strength movement with a tired/pumped muscle; your performance drop will be very low.

Here, the goal isn't so much to fix a weaker muscle but, rather, to use the isolation work to fatigue a muscle that will then limit the performance of a skill or strength move. The result is that the muscle will become larger but also that it will become more resilient to fatigue - both will make you a better athlete.

You can even include isolation work like this for a WOD/metcon session. For example, you could do a triplet where you have one metcon exercise, one isolation/hypertrophy movement, a one skill or strength exercise.

Here are some examples:

Front Rounds for Time 

20 calories Assault bike
12 dumbbell hammer curls with a 2-second hold at the top of each repetition
1 legless rope climb (15 feet)
1 normal rope climb (15 feet).

Couplet (no rest between first and second exercise)

Deltoid triple set (8 seated laterals + 8 seated front laterals + 8 Cuban presses)
3 snatches @75-82%.

Triplet (no rest between exercises one and two, and two and three)

Barbell curl modern 21s (7 full reps, 7 top-partials, 7 bottom-partials)
Lying dumbbell triceps extension 1-1/2 reps (lower down, lift halfway up slowly, lower back down, and then lift completely up to complete one rep.) x 10 reps
Maximum unbroken muscle-ups (or strict muscle-ups, depending on level).

This approach should be used mostly by more advanced CrossFit athletes, or at least by those who already have a solid technical mastery of the bodyweight (muscle-ups, handstand push-ups, pull-ups, rope climbs etc.) and barbell (Olympic lift variations) skills. Fatiguing a key muscle involved in the skill makes its performance much harder. If your level of mastery isn't high enough, it will be impossible to do the skill properly and you will learn bad motor habits.

Option 3: Having a Hypertrophy Day During the Week

This is a fairly non-invasive approach to hypertrophy. By non-invasive, I mean that it doesn't interfere much with your normal programming. Hypertrophy work isn't really that demanding on the nervous system, so it won't affect your capacity to perform due to neural fatigue. Muscle damage is normally overplayed; a trained muscle can be re-trained again after very little time if proper nutrition is used. Furthermore, CrossFit athletes often use the same muscles several days in a row, so that's not something new or out of the ordinary for them. The only thing I recommend is to consume enough carbs on the hypertrophy day to avoid local glycogen depletion.

You can thus devote one day a week to building muscle mass. Normally, I like to do some strength work in there, too. Firstly, because the strength movement(s) activate/potentiate the nervous system, making the recruitment and stimulation of the muscles by isolation work more effective, but also because the strength movements themselves can contribute to developing more muscle mass.

There are two approaches to that training day:

A) For three to four weeks, pick one muscle group to be the focus point of your hypertrophy session. The template for that training day would then become:

Exercise 1: Big lift involving the target muscle (for example, close-grip bench press if you want to work on triceps development), using 4-6 sets of 3-7 reps. I like the 1 x 7, 1 x 5, 1 x 3, 1 x 7, 1 x 5, 1 x 3 loading scheme.

Exercise 2: Assistance exercise for the big lift, focusing on the target muscle (in our example, it could be a half close-grip bench press from pins or a close-grip floor press) for 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps.

Exercises 3 and 4: Superset of two isolation exercises; one for the target muscle group (dumbbell triceps extension, in our example) and one for its antagonist/opposing muscle group (preacher curl, for example). Use 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps for both, focusing on the quality of contraction.

Exercises 5 and 6: Superset of two isolation exercises; one for the target muscle group (cable triceps pushdown, for example) and one for its antagonist/opposing muscle group (dumbbell hammer curl, for example). Here we use a max pump technique; something like slow tempo extended sets, 21s, or double contractions. The technique itself doesn't matter as much as creating a huge accumulation of lactic acid and fluid inside the muscle (big pump, bro). Three sets are done in this manner.

The downsides to this approach are that you will only hit the lagging muscle directly once a week and that you will not work on improving the whole body at once. In both cases, it is important to remember that you are already doing plenty of work for the whole body during your regular programming; you are likely doing squats, deadlifts, push presses/strict presses, pull-ups, dips, etc. So it's no like your body isn't receiving any stimulation. This approach is more about building up a lagging muscle group, so it will work even though the target muscle is only worked once a week for hypertrophy. Since our goal is to correct a weakness, and not win a bodybuilding contest, it's fine if you don't train the whole body for hypertrophy all at once. Especially since the whole body will already receive some stimulation from your regular programming.

 B) Doing a whole-body hypertrophy session. Here, I like to use an antagonist superset approach whereby you pair two exercises targeting opposing muscle groups.

You can use basic hypertrophy loading schemes (sets of 6-8 or 8-12 reps) or use intensification methods for some of the exercises.

A good template looks like this:

Exercises 1 and 2 (antagonistic superset): One movement targeting the quadriceps (could be a Bulgarian split squat, squats doing only the middle portion of the range of motion, a hack squat machine, etc.), and one targeting the hamstrings (any form of leg curl, glute-ham raise, reverse hyper, etc.). Do not rest between exercises 1 and 2. 

Exercises 3 and 4 (antagonist superset): One movement targeting the pectorals (could be dumbbell or kettlebell flyes, a pec deck machine, a wide-grip bench press, a dumbbell bench press, etc.) and one for the mid-back (face pull, bentover row to chest, chest-supported dumbbell row, rear delt machine, rear delt raise, etc.). Do not rest between exercises 3 and 4.

Exercises 5 and 6 (antagonist superset): One exercise for the lateral or front deltoid (dumbbell lateral raise variations, dumbbell front raise variations) and one exercise for the lats (straight-arm pulldowns, dumbbell pullover, kayak row, one-arm dumbbell row/lawnmower, etc.). Do not rest between exercises 5 and 6.

Exercises 7 and 8 (antagonist superset): One exercise for the biceps (any form of curl) and one for the triceps (lying or standing dumbbell triceps extension, lying barbell triceps extension, cable or band pushdown, etc.). Do not rest between exercises 7 and 8.

Option 4: Devoting a Training Block to Maximizing Hypertrophy 

This option involves putting your metcon work on maintenance. This obviously means doing less skill work, too. Basically, for four to six weeks (or even seven to eight if you really need more muscle mass), you will train primarily for strength and hypertrophy. It is also important to eat a caloric surplus during that phase as we are shooting for an increase of bodyweight of about 4%. Eat a lot but don't let yourself gain too much fat.

A good template looks like this:

Day 1: Lower Body (Squat)  

Exercise 1: Major squat variation (back low bar, back high bar or front) trained for strength. Ramp up to a 1, 2 or 3 RM, then do 3 sets of 3-5 reps with 90% of the maximum reached for that day.

Good options include:

Zombie Squat (front squat with arms extended in front of you, so the bar is resting on the deltoids only) if keeping an upright torso is a problem in your front squat.

Paused Squat (front or back, three to five second pause at the bottom) if your weak point is getting out of the bottom position.

Double-Contraction Squat (squatting all the way down, getting back up to parallel, going back down, and then standing up completely to complete one rep) is another option if you are weak at the bottom position.

Half-Squat From Pins (starting the bar on the pins, with your legs at a 100 degree angle) if your main issue is feeling intimidated by a heavy load, or if your core strength is a limiting factor.

Super-Slow Squats (going down and coming up in five-second tempos) if your problem is getting out of position during the squat. Do the movement slowly, focusing on pushing only with the legs and maintaining a static torso angle.

Exercise 3: Quadriceps movement where the goal is to get a good quad pump. We want the muscle to  be under tension for 45 to 60 seconds. You can use a leg extension machine, do leg extensions with a dumbbell between your legs, do leg extensions with a resistance band or (my favorite) dragging a sled backwards while staying in a "seated/crouched" position. Perform 3-4 sets using whatever rep number or intensity technique you want - as long as the time under tension is between 45 and 60 seconds.

Exercise 4: Glutes movement, following the same guidelines as for the quads: keep the muscle under tension for 45 to 60 seconds per set and perform three work sets. You can do hip thrusts, wide Bulgarian split squats, or push a prowler forward focusing on long, full strides contracting the glutes hard.

Day 2: Upper Body (Horizontal)           

Exercise 1: Horizontal press variation (bench press, close-grip bench press, incline bench press, or decline bench press) trained for strength. Ramp up to a 1, 2, or 3 RM, then do 3 sets of 3-5 reps with 90% of the maximum reached for that day.

Exercise 2: Assistance movement for the horizontal press. As with the squat, perform a compound movement to strengthen the weak link in the horizontal press movement, for 3-4 sets of 4-6 reps.

Good options include:

Floor Press (bench press lying on the floor, pause for one or two seconds with the elbows on the floor before pressing) if the sticking point is right around or just prior to the mid-range position.

Partial Bench Press From Pins or Board (elbows at 90 degrees before pressing) is another option if the sticking point is right around the mid-range point.

Extra Range Press (doing lower than if the barbell is stopped by the chest, either with dumbbells or a cambered bar( if your sticking point is from the start of the movement.

Incline Press (dumbbell or barbell at 15 or 30 degree angle performed with a 2-second pause at the bottom) is another option if your weak point is from the start of the movement.

Spotto Press (paused bench press, completely relaxing in the bottom position) is another option to strengthen the start of the bench press

Close-Grip Incline Press if your sticking point is in the last third of the movement.

Partial Bench Press (from the st third of the range of motion, with elbows at around 110 degrees) is another option if your sticking point is near the lockout.

Exercises 3 and 4: Superset of one triceps isolation exercise and one mid-back isolation exercise, with both done for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps. Do not rest between exercises 3 and 4, but rest about 90 seconds after exercise 4.

Exercises 5 and 6: Superset of one deltoid isolation exercise and one lats exercise, with both done for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps. Do not rest between exercises 5 and 6, but rest about 90 seconds after exercise 6.

Day 3: Bodyweight Skill Maintenance and Metabolic Conditioning

On this day, you will spend about 30 minutes on your bodyweight skills and then perform two short and intense WODs/metcon sessions, with a total of about 20 to 25 minutes.

Day 4: Lower Body (Pull)

Exercise 1: Olympic lift variation (snatch or clean variation) to stay sharp with the movement and to activate the nervous system for the deadlift work. Perform 6-10 sets of 2 repetitions with a moderate weight (70-80%). Focus on technical perfection as well as speed and crispness of execution.

Exercise 2: Major deadlift variation (conventional powerlifting deadlift, sumo deadlift, Olympic/clean deadlift). I don't like ramping up to a max on a deadlift in training. I believe that doing plenty of work in the 80-90% range, focusing on perfect position, is much more effective in the long run. Shoot for about 15-20 total work reps with 80-90% in the form of 5-7 sets of 3 reps. Every rep must start from a dead start on the floor.

Exercise 3: Deadlift assistance exercise. Pick an exercise to focus on your weak point in the deadlift. Do 3-4 sets of 3-5 reps.

Good options include:

Deadlift From a Deficit (deadlift, standing on a two to three inch platform, focus on leg drive off the floor) if your weakness is getting the bar moving from the floor.

Floor-to-Knees/First Pull (lift barbell from the floor to the knees only, and pause there for two seconds per rep, can also be done on a podium) is another option if you are weak off the floor.

Barbell Hack Squat/Behind the Back Deadlift (with your heels raised on a block, hold the barbell behind you and deadlift it) is another option to strengthen the first pull but, specifically, if your quads are holding you back.

Romanian Deadlift if your weak area is the passage from below to above the knees.

Arched Back Good Morning is another option if your weak area is the passage from below to above the knees.

Partial Deadlift From Pins (from just below the knees) is another option to strengthen the transition from below to above the knees.

Barbell Hip Thrust if your problem area is the lockout.

Partial Deadlift From Pins (from just above the knees) is another option to strengthen the transition from below to above the knees. Be sure to mimic your actual pull (posterior chain/lower back) and do NOT cheat by "sliding" your knees forward to leverage the bar.

Exercise 4: Posterior chain exercise involving the glutes and hamstrings (glute ham raise, reverse hyper, kettlebell Romanian deadlift, or back extension) for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps.

Day 5: Upper Body (Vertical)           

Exercise 1: Major overhead lift (strict press, behind the neck press, push press, or thruster) trained for strength. Ramp up to a 1, 2, or 3 RM, then do 3 sets of 3-5 reps with 90% of the maximum reached for that day.

Exercises 2 and 3: Superset of one exercise for the lats and one isolation move for the deltoids, with both done for either 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps, or using intensification techniques to create a maximum pump.

Exercises 4 and 5: Superset of one isolation movement for the biceps and one isolation exercise for the triceps, with both done for either 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps, or using intensification techniques to create a maximum pump.

Exercise 6: Short but very intense WOD involving 6-8 minutes of all-out effort.

Day 6: Olympic Lifting Skills 

Exercise 1: Snatch variation. Again, the focus is on technique and speed. Do 6-8 sets of 3 reps with 75-80%.

Exercise 2: Clean variation. Same principles as for the Snatch.

Exercise 3: Jerk variation. Same principles as for the Snatch.

Day 7: Rest Day  

This fourth option is better left to what Ben Bergeron (coach of the 2015 female Games winner and male runner-up) calls "Ninjas" - the smaller athletes (170 pounds or less) with great bodyweight skills and conditioning (who can therefore afford to reduce their amount of both for 6-8 weeks) but lack size and strength.

Those who are stronger than they are skilled and conditioned would be better off selecting another option - the exception being team athletes who have a specific role on the team (to be a strength beast).

Regardless of the strategy you decide to use, as a CrossFit athlete you should not neglect the importance of increasing your muscle mass. It will help you become stronger on both your lifts and advanced bodyweight skills.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Story of Joseph Curtis Hise - Peary Rader (1940)

Article and Photos Courtesy of Liam Tweed and Michael Murphy

This is a very rare treat, and it allows us a view of just how different the world of weights was not long ago. Now, we suffer from a deluge of training info and nutritional details. Call it The Poverty of Abundance if you like. Back then for the majority of lifters it was for the most part word of mouth, hand written letters and experimentation on oneself. But make no mistake, there was, as this article on our first Powerlifter J..C. Hise shows, no lack of passion and an almost iron-like bond between practitioners of the Barbell Arts. 

Joseph Curtis (J.C.) Hise

Hise, at a height of 5'9" brought his weight to 298 pounds.
Both photos from the late Andy Jackson's collection. 

A few years ago there was a little magazine published by the Milo Publishing Company and edited by Mark. H. Berry. I have had many Iron Men tell me that never before or since has there appeared a magazine of such value to the barbell man. Anyhow Mr. Berry in his little magazine and also in the old Strength Magazine made a practice of promoting the squat or deep knee bend exercise as the finest growing exercise in existence. He always gave the stories of men who had used the squat to gain their desires of added bodyweight. All of them were startling enough but one day while reading through the latest issue of the "Strong Man" which was the Feb. 1932 issue I came across a letter in the back from a man who neither gave his name or address.

His gains on the squat and milk drinking were so great as to seem absolutely impossible. However the simple and compelling style of his letter proved to me that he was really telling the truth and had made the marvelous gains he claimed. I was very much impressed for I, myself, had for years labored unceasingly in my efforts to gain much needed bodyweight. I at once decided to go on this program which was sketched in his letter and I too received the same results though not quite so startling yet sure and certain never the less. 

To be sure I had read all of Berry's instruction in regard to the squat as a weight gaining medium but never seemed to get the true meaning until I read of the efforts of this man. Well, I went on with my squat program and milk drinking and continued to gain until I had made a gain of 75 pounds in bodyweight. 

From time to time more appeared about this man, whose name I had not yet found, showing that he was still making the same fast gains and surely becoming the world's strongest man on the squat and dead lift. At last I got hold of this man's name. It was J.C. Hise of Homer, Ill. I at once wrote him telling him of my own experiments since reading his letter. He wrote back at once a very long letter full of very helpful advice and details that were very valuable to me in my training. Since that time we have corresponded regularly and several years ago he visited me at my home here in Alliance for 10 days and I came to know him very well.

Now before going further in the story let's look at the condition of Mr. Hise when he started and note a few of the gains he made in the first part of his experiment.

He had some years previous bought a barbell from the Milo Barbell Co., and worked very hard at the regular courses in an effort to build a powerful body. He had gained from about 160 pounds at a height of 5'9" to a bodyweight of slightly over 180 pounds. However here he stopped and try as he might he could not gain for some years time.

Now we find that he had been reading some of Berry's articles on the deep knee bend and had been thinking it over and decided to give it a trial. He at this time found himself weighing near 190 and with some spasmodic squatting had brought his weight to 200 pounds.

Then he went at it in earnest and began drinking one gallon of milk per day in addition to his regular meals. He also ate considerable meat, and especially salt pork as he said this increased his thirst and caused him to drink more and thereby aided his weight gaining. He also cut out all abdominal exercises and concentrated on the deep knee bend with his only other exercise being the press behind neck for 10 or 15 reps. In one month on this program he gained 29 pounds of bodyweight! His measurements gained as follows:

Weight 200/229
Chest 43.5/46.5
Arms 15.25/16.25
Thighs 25.5/28
Calves 14.5/15.5
Forearms 12-3/8 to 12-7/8
Waist 36/41.

He started out using 240 pounds in the squat and increased to 320. He first used this poundage and did 8 counts (reps), then rested and did 8 more, then rested and removed 100 pounds and did 20 more. He then progressed to 365 pounds in the squat in the next two weeks and weighed 231. At this time he lost his balance and strained a small muscle in the calf and had to lay off for two weeks and gained to 237 pounds bodyweight and now had a 47 inch chest. He was 26 years of age at this time.

After this he used 20 reps straight in the squat and found that he gained best on this number. He also did plenty of deep breathing between each squat making 3 to 6 deep breaths between every repetition.

He continued his experiments along this line and always continued to gain. He finally reached a bodyweight of 298 pounds and had an arm of 19 inches and a chest of 56 with a thigh of over 33. His waist never measured over 44 normal.

One day he came to do his workout on the squat to find that his bar had been bent by someone using it for a crowbar while working on a Ford. Mr. Hise just had to do his squats and so used his bar bent. Much to his surprise he found his squats went easier than ever before. The bent bar actually helped. It did not roll up and down his neck as before and the weights had a perfect hang for squatting in his style which was the round back style. That is he would come up from the squat position with the back rounded. Since that time Mr. Hise has made the bent or cambered bar very popular for squatting. All the boys have been putting a camber in their exercise bars. For as Joseph said, "A man can't exercise right with a straight bar and can't lift with an exercise bar and exercise right."

Later on he decided to try his hand at the dead lift knowing that it went hand in hand with the squat in developing power. He worked on it in regular style for a while then stiff legged but this caused back trouble when performed in the regular way. However Joe did not give up. His inventive mind turned to ways to remember the trouble as he knew that the stiff legged dead lift was the key exercise for great power if it could be used in some manner that would not cause the back trouble. It wasn't long before the exercise world was hearing of J.C. Hise and his "Hopper" system of doing the stiff legged dead lifts.

Joe had discovered that if he bounced the weight from hard wood planks which were raised at each end about 2 inches it relieved the strain from the back at the danger point and allowed him to handle the weight where it did the most good. He was soon doing the stiff legged dead lift with 550 pounds five times.

His regular dead lift reached a figure of 675 pounds. This was nowhere near his best mark for his training was never regular as he had to train out of doors and often the weather would not permit his workouts. However this was more than any other man in the world had done. He did repetition squats with over 500 pounds.

Mr. Hise was perhaps the first man in America to jerk 300 behind his neck which he did during his early training with the squat and hardly thought it worth mentioning. He also pressed 190 behind his neck.

He never practiced the [Olympic] lifts because he had only exercise bars and had to train either in a cold garage or in the open out of doors. However, with his power he could have cleaned 400 as he could pull that much or more almost nipple high. It was just a matter of proper training in form and style. He was fully confident that with proper training he could have cleaned and jerked 450 with a press and snatch of proportionate poundage.

It is his belief that all present records are far below their possible top. He believes that if lifters would work intensively on their back and legs with the squat and stiff legged dead lift they would bery greatly increase their lifting poundages.

During Mr. Hise's experiments he found that if a man would take about bodyweight and squat approximately 20 times and take from 3 to 6 breaths between each squat he would make remarkable gains in chest development. He has applied this system to many of his pupils whom he helps by mail and has proof that it really works. Many gain as much as 3 inches in one month in chest size.

Joe also believes in plenty of good food and he himself eats plenty. However many stories told about him are slightly exaggerated in regard to his eating habits. While staying with me he did eat a lot but I also noticed that he ate rather slowly and he drank huge quantities of water with his meals. Finally my mother sat a quart of water by Joe's plate for each meal and often this would require a second filling.

He also believes in plenty of rest and sleep. In justice to Joe I will say that he is not lazy as some seem to think. With his it is a philosophy. Something he believes in and knows he must do if he is to gain in his aims. When necessity arises he can do a terrific amount of work. When he left my home here he weighed 270 pounds. From here he went to California where he worked in lumber camps and such was his labors that his bodyweight went down to 208 pounds. From there he went to Careta, W. Va., where he worked in the mines and his weight still remained the same as he was working very long hours at the very heaviest work. Now he is back in Homer, Ill. and at present weighs around 250 pounds in pretty hard condition. He has an unusual ability to weigh whatever he wants to at any certain time providing he can train as he wishes.

Mr. Hise is one of the best informed men on any subject that we have ever met. He loves to read and spends most of his spare time reading books on philosophy and all the classics. He has a wonderful memory and has at his command details about any subject that you might care to converse on. He is an able writer and has a style all his own.

He is a handsome fellow and usually wears some kind of a beard. For years he wore his beard natural without shaving. His most recent style I believe is a handlebar mustache.

He has one of the deepest chests in the world as a result of his great efforts on the "puff and pant" squats. His hips are trim and compact. His thighs while of good width when viewed from front and are simply tremendous from front to back. His waist doesn't look as large as you would expect in a man of his bodyweight. He certainly is the most massive looking man dressed we have ever seen. He is very light and fast on his feet and his lifting movements are as fast as those of a lightweight. He does carry a layer of fat over his entire body but this is deliberate as he believes and rightly so that he is much stronger when not finely trained down.

He has no bad habits and once he sets his mind to a task it is as good as done and successfully too.

We hope that we have given you a little of the information about this man that so many of you have asked for. it would take a good sized book to tell you all about him and detail the results of his experiments but much of this will come in later articles in the "Iron Man".

Mr. Hise has been the inspiration and promoter of the great deep knee bend craze that has brought success to so many thousands of barbell men in this country in their quest of added bodyweight, great chests and powerful backs. Many of us can attribute much of our success to information given so freely by this Kentucky Gentleman.


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