Autumn is fallen and the dead of winter is officially upon us. According to time-honored bodybuilding conventions, now is the time to slow down, lift heavy and fatten up, right? Not so fast, Cheech.
The colder season provides plenty of incentive to pack on the pounds (grandma's homemade stuffing, anyone?) but that fat-bait can sabotage a carefully-planned regimen and dull an otherwise sharp physique.
To compound the matter, our bodies go through a natural stasis cycle during the shorter, colder days of winter. This walking hibernation makes us more conducive to putting on fat, compared to the summertime shred.
Winter provides an opportunity for bodybuilders to use the big chill to their mass-gaining advantage, but it's too common that we find our hard-earned physiques looking more like a snowman than an Olympian come Spring.
Fortunately the solution is within reach. With a little extra sweat, you should be able to make those all-important offseason size gains while staying within striking distance of a beach body.
The Big Idea
There's a pervasive, antiquated dictum that many bodybuilders still hold dear circa 2011. It's virtues are as modern as the "women weaken legs" theory expounded by grizzled old boxing coaches.
It holds that if you want to get big, you have to train heavy and slow: keep the weights high, reps low and rest periods long (three minutes or more).
It's not a bad philosophy if you're training to become a powerlifter or have little concern for the amount of adipose tissue covering your muscles like fresh-fallen snow.
If your goal is to acquire a muscular physique, one with muscles actually visible without the use of a sonogram, you might want to consider a different style of training; one which blends speed, strength, endurance and power.
This involves higher reps, shorter rest periods, a dose of explosive movements and, of course, heavy (but not too heavy) weights.
There's plenty of anecdotal evidence supporting a more robust training style than the plodding 6-10-rep scheme commonly hailed as the be-all/end-all for muscle development.
In countless interviews with top professional bodybuilders, I found more and more they turn to higher-rep schemes, even in the offseason. In the past, 10 reps may have been a stopping point, rack the weight. Today's pros aren't afraid to lighten the load a little, en route to 15, 20, 30 or even more reps per set. To me, it doesn't look like they're getting any smaller than the pros of 30 years ago.
For people who might fear that the additional few reps and quickened pace could sabotage their hard-earned muscle gains, consider athletes' body types in sports ranging from football to gymnastics to track and field.
NFL players can't be accused of being small. But they blast through fast-paced workouts, which encompass far more cardiovascular training (i.e. blocking practice, wind sprints) than an offseason bodybuilder's plan ever will.
Gymnasts use little more than their bodyweight in their training, which amounts to many thousands of reps per workout, performed through 6-hour workouts. We've all seen men on the raised rings in the Olympics with arms worth admiration.
An even more extreme example is the sprinter. The sprinter's primary work speeds through countless explosive steps, coupled with light, high-repetition weight training. Look at the muscularity of world class sprinters like Maurice Greene, Shawn Crawford and Tyson Gay ... not exactly stripped of muscle, are they?
The plan isn't to have you forego weights in favor of bodyweight training or running track, but if a variety of athletes can build and retain impressive amounts of muscle while enduring higher-rep faster-paced workouts, certainly your mass can withstand the minor adjustments of the KTD system.
Now that you have an idea of the premise behind KTD, let's get to the nuts and bolts of it. KTD stands for Kinetic Triple Drop, as in drop sets. The overriding tenet involves performing triple drop sets with 30 seconds of rest between each master set.
Each master set is broken down into three segments of 10-15 reps each. The rest taken between each drop should only be for as long as it takes to drop (or strip) the weight enough to allow you to perform the next drop set.
Switch from your current routine to KTD for 4-6 weeks to kickstart fat burning. Then consider alternating KTD with your current routine ... one week on/one week off. This should be enough to keep your fat levels down, while still allowing maximum growth achievements.
You CAN stick with KTD all year long. What is the great beauty of KTD? It decreases your need for separate cardio (when in maintenance mode). KTD stresses both fast-twitch muscle fibers and stimulates heart action. It serves nicely as a resistance/cardio hybrid.
Start each set with a weight approximately 80% of what you would normally use for ten reps. If you can max out with 100 pounds for 10 reps in the barbell curl, go for 10 reps with 80 pounds.
Immediately upon completing that first set, you perform the same movement for the same 10 reps, but with about 25% less weight. If your first set was 80 pounds, the first drop set will be 60 pounds.
Finally you drop the weight another 20%. This leaves you with 45 pounds to knock out another 10 reps. All three sets are performed without rest. You use the same weight for following sets, resting 30 seconds between master sets.
A few points to keep in mind:
- Machines are often ideal for KTD3-style training for two reasons. One: it's easier to repine a stack than strip weights or hunt for a lighter dumbbell.
Two: when you become fatigued, as you will on the 30-45th rep of a set, it's safer to use a machine than free weights. KTD can be performed nicely with free weights too, but it may slow you down and mess with the restlessness of KTD.
- The routine breaks up into three days: Pushing, Pulling and Legs on a 3-on/1-off; 3-on/2-off cycle. Abs are trained every day, briefly.
- You immediately notice the massive pump you get. Some say a pump isn't an indication of muscular growth, but there's no denying it's a pretty cool feeling to have in the gym. Pumps turn heads.
- If you can't complete the allotted number of reps in drop sets 2 and 3 the first time, it's okay. Your goal will be to complete all reps for all sets the next time. Once you can finish, increase the weight.
Keep rest to a minimum and intensity to the maximum. If you follow KTD strictly, you won't have time to chat-up your gym buddies or even glance at gym hotties. Don't worry, they will understand when they see results of your effort.