Imagine discovering that you've only been training half your muscles' growth capacity, and with one small tweak, you could transform your physique - maybe double your size results!
Exciting new muscle-building research suggests that's entirely possible: You can boost your size gains exponentially with one training twist, and it's something Arnold was doing instinctively in his prime to build ultimate mass and dominate bodybuilding.
First - and you probably know this part already - if you're looking for muscle mass, you want to train the anaerobic muscle fibers, the fast-twitch type-2s. What you may not know is that there are many fast-twitch subtypes. So which ones should we emphasize for extreme muscle size?
Targeting Muscle Fibers
Science has been telling us that the key to building maximum muscle is the pure-power type-2B fibers. That's why bodybuilders have been grinding with heavy weights for about eight reps over and over - with most trainees getting slow-to-no growth.
But new research reveals why hypertrophy for most has been, well, not so hyper. According to bodybuilding researcher Jerry Brainum...
"A study examined single muscle fibers in large bodybuilders. Since the type 2B fibers are the muscle fibers most likely to grow, it stands to reason that the bodybuilders in the study would have an abundance of such fibers, or at least more of them than the other kinds of muscle fibers. The reality was that they showed a higher portion of types 1 and 2A fibers, with a complete absence of type 2Bs." [Eur J Appl Physiol. 103(5):579-83. 2008.]
Did you get that? The bodybuilders had almost zero 2B pure-power fibers! Therefore, optimal training for bodybuilders interested in maximum size should emphasize the 2As, which are dual capacity - they have both a power and endurance component.
If you only train with straight lower-rep sets, you're only working half of those key bodybuilding fibers' abilities - and your gains will be about as fast as a two-legged turtle. As we mentioned, Arnold knew that instinctively.
Arnold often used a typical power protocol, pyramiding up in weight over a number of sets on his compound moves like bench presses. When he reached his heaviest weight for around six reps, he would then reduce the poundage for two "burnout" sets, 12 to 15 reps each.
He also often used double-drop, or strip sets, which are three progressively lighter sets back to back to finish off an exercise - more on that technique coming up.
So he got an immense pump with those last lighter, high-rep chaser sets, as he attacked the key 2As' endurance component. And that worked incredibly well for Arnold.
Using Both Power & Density
What does all of that mean to your muscle-building efforts? Simple: You need to use both power (heavy straight sets), and density (longer-tension sets with short rests) so you compress more work into less time. A proper balance of that combo-to-grow strategy will ignite the fastest mass gains possible.
There are a number of ways to do it. One is Arnold's way of ending many exercises with a density chaser. We'll get back to that in a moment. Another way that many drug-free bodybuilders prefer is alternating workouts for each body part: a power emphasis (Heavy) at one workout and a density emphasis (light) at the next.
An example of that is a heavy/light program using straight-set positions-of-flexion at the heavy session and 10x10 on only one exercise as the "light" workout. Note that at the heavy session you use a power pyramid on the big midrange exercise and follow with a few heavy straight sets on the stretch- and contracted-position exercises. So a heavy power biceps day would be:
- Midrange: Barbell Curls: 3 sets of 9, 6, 4 reps
- Stretch: Incline Curls: 1-2 sets of 8-10 reps
- Contracted: Concentration Curls: 1-2 sets of 8-10 reps
On light day you would train only the midrange exercise, barbell curls in this case, with 10 sets of 10 reps, a density tactic:
- Midrange: Barbell Curls: 10 sets of 10 reps
For 10 sets of 10 reps you use a weight that you could get 20 reps with, but you only do 10, rest 30 seconds, do 10 more, etc., until you complete 10 sets.
The weight is light at first - almost too light - but on the last few sets it will feel incredibly heavy due to fatigue-product pooling in the target muscle. In fact, you should not get 10 reps on the last set or two.
Those last few sets are very intense - and you'll get a skin-stretching pump you won't believe! You'll be checking out your arms in the mirror with your jaw unhinged. It's a fast density blast that only takes about 10 minutes! True efficiency of effort.
Alternating power and density workouts is an excellent way to go, especially if you're drug free with limited recovery ability (hardgainer); however, most of the biggest bodybuilders are following Arnold's lead and using both methods together at every workout.
Many do heavy power work - straight sets, lower reps, longer rests - on an exercise and end with a lighter density attack, just like Arnold did. It's the best of both worlds and provides a double-barreled mass-building effect aimed directly at the 2A fibers that new research shows are key for piling on muscle mass.
Here are three specific density tactics you can try after your heavy sets on any exercise:
- Lighter Sets: Reduce the poundage and do two "burnout" sets of 12 to 15 reps (a la Arnold), less than one minute between sets.
- Double-Drop Set: Use a weight you can barely get nine reps with, then reduce the weight and immediately do a set of about six reps; reduce the weight again and blast out four or five final gut-busting reps; that's three progressively lighter sets back to back - another Arnold favorite he often used on barbell curls; he called it strip sets.
- 4 Sets Of 10 Reps (In 10 Sets Of 10 Reps Style): Take a weight you could get 15 reps with, but only do 10, rest 30 second, do 10 more, and so on until you complete four sets in about four minutes. The first set will be easy, but the last will be brutal - and the pump and feel will be unreal!
Remember, if you want to make the fastest mass gains possible, all-heavy training all the time is not the way to go. That will only get at half of the key 2As' capacity, which results in sluggish, half-@ssed results. Follow Arnold's lead and integrate both power and density for muscle immensity in record time!