Introduction | Nutrition | Tips From The Top
As anyone who has achieved the highest standing in their chosen area will probably attest, positive thinking and sharpened mental focus will always precede definitiveness of purpose and the actions that lead to desired outcomes.
Clearly a well-trained mind will provide great results in whatever we choose to do in life. Although a powerful mind is fundamental in achieving our goals, to acquire the balance so necessary for complete personal development, we must also work on building a great body, inside and out, and that is that is what this guide is all about.
Although it is our mind that programs us for success, it is our body - along with its interrelated health components (muscular, cardiovascular, respiratory, renal and so on) - that houses the mind and is responsible for providing us with the stamina and strength to continue with our efforts to achieve all we can.
Without a sound body, one that performs well, we cannot really say we have complete personal development. Without optimal health we cannot be at our best physically, mentally and spiritually, much less give ourselves fully to other people.
The benefits of a body within a desirable weight range, with adequate muscle and sufficient ability to produce energy, are great. Falling short in either area will derail mental, physical and spiritual development (whatever spiritual development might mean to a given person).
Taking your gym efforts to the next level, the purpose of this program, will give you even better results. The key to attaining good health while building a great physique is to consistently apply tried and tested principals of physical fitness.
The most effective way to do this is to follow a proven training program and eating regimen, which includes weight training, cardiovascular exercise and a balanced, specialized approach to nutrition (1).
The top bodybuilding champions, and athletes in general, emphasize sound training and dietary principals and consider a well-developed, high performing body to be a cornerstone relating to their productivity and goal attainment.
Great brainpower, combined with wonderful personal qualities will not compensate for poor health. Physical deterioration usually manifests in a poor physical appearance. Therefore building an aesthetically pleasing physique (getting muscular, ripped and balanced) will assist in the attainment of good health, as the very processes governing the strengthening of muscles, joints and all of the body's systems will, by natural consequence, result in low body fat levels and improved muscular symmetry - both major contributors to a pleasing physical appearance.
In developing good health through physical improvement, it is worth remembering that we need not do exactly what Mr. Olympia would do to gain muscle. Quite the opposite: the extreme practices associated with attaining a contest-ready physique - possible drug use and calorie restriction in the final stages - may result in physical harm for some people.
What this program provides is a balanced approach to training and diet that allows for gradual physical progression, a hard and muscular body and, once developed, the maintenance of this hard, healthy, well-developed physique.
A balanced approach to training and diet and the resultant improvements in health and appearance will assist with the development of a more complete base from which to become successful in other areas also. Simply put: building a great physique will make you a more complete person.
Becoming a complete person involves improvement on many levels. The physical is one level where we are in full view of the world. Our posture, complexion, muscle tone and body composition all reflect the kind of person we are.
A sloppy appearance, which might include high body fat levels, slouching posture, and poor muscle tone are all suggestive of one who maintains little responsibility for their own health and well-being, one who has little control over their most valuable asset: their body.
Would you trust a person who has a clear lack of control and poor responsibility to run your business and/or oversee your finances?
As your livelihood depends on high productivity and good workmanship you probably wouldn't employ someone with an incompatible personal appearance. It follows then, that if you are to present to the world the best possible you, the first impression you make is often the most vital one.
Giving the impression that you are strong, capable, healthy, and reliable and in control will advertise you as an asset, which has longevity and the power to perform at a more efficient rate.
This improved personal appearance will likely result in greater opportunities due to the positive perception others will have of you. True greatness will be a natural progression of these perceptions. So what are you waiting for? Let us explore the benefits of achieving a great physique in more detail before moving on to your 12-week training program.
If you are not totally convinced that good training program and nutrition plan are for you, that you can go through life with a sub-standard physique, you will first need to read the benefits of developing such a body. Then you can decide if building a great physique is what you want.
Benefits Of A Good-Looking, High-Performing Physique
Developing a well conditioned, well built physique will allow us to enjoy good health and increased productivity as a result (2). The strengthening of muscle and corresponding body fat reduction will greatly enhance wellbeing and promote goal-oriented thinking, both critical to improved quality of life and further physique gains.
The actual training process itself perpetuates a cycle that reinforces the continuation of training and, as a result, further gains. So the idea is to keep training and use whatever tools are necessary to allow this to happen (explained in the mind section).
The training and nutrition programs outlined in this guide will help to develop health in a holistic, synergistic fashion, a way that considers the body as a whole rather than a series of individual parts. More complete physical development (the reason you are reading this) will be the end result.
The University of Michigan Health System puts it succinctly: "Physical exercise can improve both your mental and physical health. The benefits of aerobic exercise include improved cardiovascular endurance, muscle strength and flexibility. Exercise (both aerobic and weight training) pumps more blood through your veins. This increases the size of your arteries, prevents fat from clogging your arteries and helps prevent blood clots. A strong heart does not have to work so hard so you are less likely to have a heart attack. Regular exercise also increases your HDL (good) cholesterol and helps lower your total cholesterol (3)."
Although we essentially want to get lean and muscular, and this program will certainly provide you with the tools to do just that, it is important to recognize that physical exercise done correctly will provide numerous benefits for all of the body systems, given the body acts in a systemic way, where an improvement in one area - the muscular system, for example - will positively affect several other areas -improved muscle condition will enhance fat reduction and the metabolizing of food. These processes also result in an improved physique. The major body systems to benefit from physical exercise follow.
Comprised of the heart and blood vessels, the cardiovascular system is responsible for ensuring enough blood is pumped to the various tissues of the body. Cardiovascular damage, which may include narrowing of the arteries, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or irregular electrical activity of the heart, may result in inadequate blood flow, which could result in impaired cardiovascular performance or, at worst, complete heart failure.
These cardiovascular problems are all a sign of poor health and the key to avoiding them is to keep the body functioning at an optimal level (4). This means training in the right fashion with enough aerobic and strength training.
A strong cardiovascular system will enable us to work more efficiently for longer periods. It will also ensure we are getting the right supply of oxygen - an essential element in the respiration process that sustains life - and nutrients - major ones being protein, carbohydrates and fats, which are responsible for repairing and energy restoration - to our brain and other organs.
Oxygen and nutrients are life giving, and without them our bodies will deteriorate and die. Cardiovascular exercise, which is also commonly referred to as aerobic training, is included in the following training program to ensure optimal cardiovascular health and the life giving properties of the oxygen and nutrients it delivers. It will also allow for more complete muscle growth for these reasons.
While the cardiovascular system ensures adequate blood flow throughout the body, the respiratory system, which is comprised of the mouth, nose, trachea, lungs, and diaphragm, supplies the oxygen to be transported to body tissues, while removing waste products including carbon dioxide. Our quality of breathing - or respiration rate - determines the efficiency of oxygen transport throughout the body.
Exercise will increase our rate of respiration by increasing our oxygen uptake ability. Combined with cardiovascular health, good respiration will ensure we do not tire prematurely, that we have sufficient stamina to work more efficiently and effectively for longer periods. Aerobic training, an important promoter of cardiovascular health, also benefits the respiratory system.
Our bone structure - or skeletal system - supports and protects our internal organs, manufactures red blood cells and forms our joints, which serve to stabilize our body, which helps us to move in a variety of ways. Poor bone health can lead to degeneration of its tissue, which can manifest in several ways, the most common of which is osteoarthritis, a condition often seen in the elderly and those with insufficient bone-calcium levels.
Resistance training in the form of a complete weights program will help to strengthen bones through the improved calcification that occurs when they are placed under pressure through added resistance (5).
Muscle tissue is immensely important, as it is the substance that enables our body to move. In addition, muscle is vital to health and well being in that it helps push blood and food throughout the body - without it, our body systems would not function.
The better developed our muscles, the greater and more forceful our physical movement can be and the more efficiently our body systems can function. Its highly specialized role is to contract - or shorten - in response to particular types of stimulation.
Muscle tissue is classified as cardiac (non-voluntary heart muscle) smooth (non-voluntary and found in the blood vessels, stomach, intestines and most of our internal organs) and skeletal (voluntary and attached to bones) depending on its specific role.
Since muscles determine the way bones move, a muscular imbalance can lead to poor posture, which can result in compromised bone health and poor personal presentation. Muscles are also what give our physique its shape and aid in its performance.
Small underdeveloped muscles not only give the impression we are physically weak, but they can deleteriously impact performance - their strength allows us to effectively engage in many tasks and strength loss alters the way we engage in these tasks.
Developing muscles through targeted weight training will ensure they are strong and balanced, therefore providing us with greater joint mobility, improved posture and physical appearance, and enhanced strength levels.
A healthy body that looks good will give feelings of confidence while promoting a positive sense of self (6). This is not to say a person's whole identity, their total reason for living, should hinge on the development of a great looking physique.
Rather, building a body that is pleasing on the eye will foster confidence, and pride in their appearance, both of which will help to improve quality of life. Ask anyone who has developed a quality physique about their motivations for doing so and they are likely to speak of an amazing feeling of accomplishment attached to the look they have created.
A well-muscled, well-proportioned body will literally put a spring in your step. A feeling of accomplishment gained from building your greatest asset to its fullest potential, combined with the sense of well being and personal power that stems from being at your best physically is worth the investment placed on exercising with a view to developing both health and a great looking physique.
The training required to improve health and physique will also have a direct effect on how we think and feel. The natural chemicals (endorphins being the more common ones) that are released along with more efficient and effective oxygen and nutrient supply to all areas of the body (most notably the brain) will improve confidence along with mental acuity (our ability to think).
The efficient and harmonious integrating of all the body systems through regular exercise towards the goals of physical improvement could be the single most important step taken toward building a strong mind. Certainly if we feel our health is optimal we have, stemming from the resultant contentment and security created, the peace of mind required to achieve much from life.
Improved Mental Function
The health benefits associated with exercising for physical development (improved oxygen supply, heightened confidence and stronger muscles) also have a positive effect on how we think and feel (6, 8).
Stronger muscles developed primarily through resistance training are better able to deal with our day-to-day tasks. Increased productivity and ability to complete a variety of tasks can have a profound beneficial psychological effect, which promotes feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment.
The confidence gained through improved posture, body shape and health certainly help to promote positive thinking. Directly beneficial to mental function is the improved oxygen and nutrient supply to the brain, derived from a more efficient cardiovascular system.
Many who exercise regularly will report an ability to think clearly throughout the day; indeed exercise (particularly aerobic) can pump up your brain (7).
Strengthened Focus And Improved Goal Setting Skills
Following a specifically developed training program and balanced diet like those provided in this guide will add structure to our lives. Improving physical development, through training and diet, provides a goal-oriented mentality, a focus directed toward accomplishment.
Doing what is required to achieve the kind of physique that says you are competent, healthy and responsible will likely become a labour of love, a continual work in progress that involves frequent renewal of goals and motivation for self-improvement.
Regular assessment of our physical health and condition involves goal setting and tremendous focus. These skills are constantly refined and perfected in line with improvements made to our physical conditioning, and can be transferred into other life areas to expand opportunities for achievement.
Apply focus and goal planning to your physical objectives and expand other areas of your life through the positive thought patterns that are consequently established.
Making the right impression is important in any life context. Displaying a great personality with sound mental abilities provides the impression that we are personable, and intellectually sharp. If we present these beneficial qualities along with poor personal appearance, however, we are not presenting ourselves at our best. People often assume that a poor personal appearance means disorganization in other areas. By developing your body to its full potential you are better able to present an example of health and vitality, an impression that suggests you are in control of your life.
A potential employer, contact (whether social or work-related) or partner will often assess for consistencies in what your image projects. If you are personally charming, yet sloppy in appearance, there might be an immediate contradiction that casts doubt on your character and future performance. Develop your body in line with the training and nutrition methods outlined in this chapter and you are sure to make the right first impression.
Heart Disease & Stroke
Daily physical activity can help prevent heart disease and stroke by strengthening your heart muscle, lowering your blood pressure, raising your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels (good cholesterol) and lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels (bad cholesterol), improving blood flow, and increasing your heart's working capacity. Optimizing each of these factors can provide additional benefits of decreasing the risk for peripheral vascular disease (4).
High Blood Pressure
Regular physical activity can reduce blood pressure in those with high blood pressure levels. Physical activity reduces body fat, which is associated with high blood pressure.
Non-Insulin Dependant Diabetes
By reducing body fat, physical activity can help to prevent and control this type of diabetes.
A well structured training program can help to reduce body fat by building or preserving muscle mass and improving the body's ability to utilize calories (10). When physical activity is combined with proper nutrition, it can help control weight and prevent obesity (obesity is also a major risk factor for many diseases).
Regular exercise helps to prevent back pain through increasing muscle strength and endurance and improving flexibility and posture (5).
Osteoporosis & Bone Health Management
Regular progressive resistance weight training exercise encourages bone growth and may prevent many forms of bone loss associated with aging (9).
Self Esteem & Stress Management
Studies on the psychological effects of exercise have found that regular physical activity can improve mood and the way people feel about themselves. Researchers have found that exercise is likely to reduce depression and anxiety and help you to better manage stress also (11).
To get the most from the following training program it is important that certain guidelines are followed. Using this program without proper guidance could even result in serious injury, or at the very least, insufficient progress. The following pointers will assist your training efforts to enable you to achieve a great looking, high performing physique.
Increase The Intensity As The Body Adapts
The program featured in this guide will work well for anyone as it provides a good balance of aerobic and resistance training to strip fat and build muscle respectively. However, at a certain point the body will become accustomed to the stress this training places on the muscles and cardio-respiratory system.
Adaptation will occur and certain changes will be required to provide ongoing results. Once this stalling of progress, which is often referred to as a training plateau, has occurred, results will taper off.
The key to continued results, then, is to ensure training intensity is adequate. The best way to do this involves increasing the resistance, by adding more weight as the muscles become stronger.
Adding five pounds to your bench press over three weeks, for example, will ensure the muscles are constantly working to their limit.
Failure to regularly increase training poundage may result in stagnation. Another method to increase intensity is to increase the number of repetitions or the angle of resistance - anything to change the stimulus. Changing up the angle of resistance requires pushing or pulling a weight through a different range of motion.
For example, with bench presses you can bring the bar to the neck one workout and to the lower chest the next. With back a pull-down can be brought to the lower chest one workout, to the upper the next.
Always use a controlled motion regardless of which angle of resistance is used. Nice and slow on the eccentric (downward phase) and slightly faster, but still very controlled on the concentric (or upward phase).
The same thing applies to aerobic training. To prevent a plateau, increase the speed at which you walk, run or cycle, or increase the duration to build greater endurance and cardiovascular health. Obviously you cannot continue to increase resistance or speed of movement forever, so other factors could be considered also.
Change the type of exercise performed, or change the repetition tempo. On the last point, complete all repetitions in a slower fashion for one workout and increase the tempo to where they are done with a powerful contraction on the upward phase for the next. Then switch approaches. The program provided indicates where these changes can be made. After the 12-week period you will have the necessary skills to know when to make these changes on your own.
Use Correct Technique
As discussed above, achieving a full range of motion (a good stretch and contraction on each repetition) while moving fluidly through the movement in the correct manner (regardless of repetition speed) will provide superior results while negating the possibility of injury.
Rapid, jerky form will only serve to compromise the resistance placed on the muscles (which should be continuous and progressive) and promote injury.
Remember to always control the weight on the downward phase and squeeze it up using the muscles that are under tension. Keep the muscle tensed and working throughout all exercises. Never use a weight that is too heavy as this will not target the muscles effectively and may cause injury.
Get Adequate Rest
Enough rest must take place between workouts for results to occur from both aerobic and resistance training. It is during these periods that muscles will rebuild larger and stronger. Doing excessive training is thought to be more harmful than too little.
The program outlined in this guide provides just enough stimuli to promote muscle growth, good health and aerobic benefits as rest periods are structured in accordingly. This is not to say that other physical activities cannot take place outside the gym. They can, and should.
The idea is to find the right balance, one that allows you to live an active, fulfilling life while building your body to its potential. The best way to get enough rest is to aim for around eight hours of sleep every night while ensuring that daily life is as relaxed as possible.
The golden rule here is, other than when training, do not run when you can walk, do not stand when you can sit and do not sit when you can lie down. Even a few minutes of complete, undisturbed rest will help you to recharge and grow. Sit in your favorite chair with your eyes closed, read a book. Do whatever it takes to clear your mind and rest your body.
Focus is most important when aiming to produce a desired result in business or personal life. With training it is especially important. Whether it be resistance or aerobic by nature, training efforts should be underpinned by total focus, the kind of concentration that allows you to enter a zone where your mind is intimately connected to your muscles.
Feeling a weight as you lower and contract it requires focus, as does keeping your heart rate high enough to gain aerobic benefits.
For the best possible training outcomes learn to block everything else out (information extraneous to your immediate training environment) and live in the now.
A good way to channel your focus is to spend a few minutes preparing for your session by thinking through exactly what you would like to accomplish. Then get to work putting into practice what you had visualized.
Meditation experts know that to achieve a desired meditative state they need to eliminate random thoughts, to focus on an object or phrase. Similar discipline can be applied to training. Focus on the exercise, not irrelevant matters.
Eat Before And After Training
Pre and post workout nutrition is a foundational requirement for training energy, and recovery following the workout. To successfully complete a weight or cardio session it is important to first have adequate energy.
Carbohydrates, detailed in section two, will provide the nutrients needed to keep us performing longer. Without adequate energy, mental and physical resources will falter.
To ensure staying power it is therefore important to eat a meal rich in complex carbohydrates at least one hour out from training (this form of carbohydrates will last longer in the system) to provide energy, and moderate in protein to ensure positive nitrogen balance (an anabolic state where the body has enough protein to repair and rebuild).
After training it is essential to replace what has been lost. This point actually presents an ideal opportunity to pack the muscles full of protein and carbohydrates as it is at this time the muscles are most receptive to the uptake of these nutrients.
Rapidly absorbed forms are best, so making a shake with some simple carbohydrates like dextrose or ribose and easily digested protein like whey (which will both be rapidly stored in the muscles, thus preparing them for repaid growth and future workouts) is the best option here.
12-Week Training Program For A Lean And Hard Muscular Physique
Training for total health and a great physique requires a synergistic approach to health and wellbeing. A more muscular and fat free physique will be developed faster when the body is in a healthy state so it is important to work toward this aim. Simply lifting weights three-times-a-week, or maybe doing a few cardiovascular sessions whenever time permits, will limit your ability to achieve the best health, and physique outcomes. A structured approach is necessary to accomplish all training objectives, major ones being improved muscle and bone density, cardiorespiratory function and posture, and fat loss.
Consistency in exercise and nutrition are absolutely vital if these objectives are to be met. The following 12-week training plan will get you into excellent shape, but can also be used indefinitely to optimally boost health, wellbeing and using the tips provided (both those immediately following the plan and those provided by bodybuilding and fitness experts in section six) to break though any plateaus, will keep you achieving your physique goals for years to come. It is designed for one who wants to build muscle and lose body fat to look and feel their best. Refer to program notes following this program for explanation of different training concepts and program rationale.
Before attempting this program be sure to review the "training tips, considerations and program notes" (subsection 5) and explanation of all intensity techniques required for this program. These can be found directly following the program. First four weeks (weeks one to four): muscle hypertrophy and detail (building) and transition for four-week power and mass phase.
Note: although certain intensity techniques will be featured in phase three of this program to "dial" your physique into its best possible condition, there are other techniques that can also be used (such as stretching between sets and forced reps) that are encouraged and can be used at the discretion of the trainee. These are explained also.
Power week: all reps for weight exercises in the 4 to 6 rep range Second four weeks (weeks five to eight): beginning of four-week power and mass phase
Power week and transition into final four-week phase
Final four weeks (weeks nine to twelve): refinement and muscle hypertrophy (development). Begin using intensity techniques: rest/pause, drop sets, supersets and giant sets.
Training Tips, Considerations & Program Notes
Note: it is suggested that you paste a copy of these notes into your training diary so you do not overlook any of the required steps.
Phase one (first four weeks) serves as a settling in phase where a good foundation of basic size and endurance (in preparation for the final eight weeks) can be built. It will also serve as a transition into phase two where power and strength training will be emphasized. It is thought that a good underlying base of strength and power will more readily assist fat loss when higher weights and endurance oriented training is introduced.
Phase two (second four weeks) will introduce power training with an increase in the intensity of cardio. Provided the diet plan is followed consistently, rapid fat loss will occur in phase two with a concomitant increase in lean body mass. Muscle detail will begin coming through in this phase.
Phase three (third and final four week period) will include a combination of higher and lower reps in each workout to target multiple muscle fibers and build power and size while creating definition. In working with many different populations I have found this "combining" approach to work very well. Adding key intensity techniques to the mix increases the stress imposed on the muscles and offers a unique stimulus that will force additional growth into the 12th week, when the body usually would have hit a plateau.
Remember to continually work on increasing the amount of weight lifted, and always concentrate on correct technique while lifting. For all three phases' it is important to adjust the weight lifted according to increasing strength levels and the prescribed rep range. For example, 6 to 10 on the bench press will involve lifting at least 5kgs more than would a set of 12 to 15. A key feature of this program is the variation in repetition ranges (some sessions, 6 to 10, others, 8 to 12) - this will work different muscle fibers within the muscle, while helping to achieve that lean look.
Cardio is done first thing in the morning on an empty stomach as I have found this to be the best time to burn fat directly. The body tends to draw directly from fat stores, rather than stored glycogen at this time. This area is open to debate like many aspects of training, but, again, first thing in the morning on an empty stomach is what I have found to work best for fat loss. Doing cardio in this fashion also tends to increase the metabolism for a longer period after the actual training session (the much sought after "after burn" effect).
Chin-ups on power and lower rep days attach weight if necessary to achieve failure on the sixth or tenth rep (or as prescribed). On higher rep days, and during phase one in particular, bodyweight may be sufficient. Chins are probably the best total back building exercise on record and for this reason they are included in every back workout. Remember to stretch on the way down and pull up so the chest is almost touching the bar for a full contraction.
Number of sets prescribed will depend on the size of the muscle group and its recovery needs. Arms are smaller and therefore will require less sets, and more recovery. Back and legs will need more sets and more overall work.
Power days are in place to ensure deeper muscle fibers are stimulated to assist with massive muscle growth (12). With power days, reps ranges will be from 6 to 10 to allow for the heaviest weights to be lifted. To build massive size heavy weights are vital but good form is a must. Do not sacrifice good form for massive poundage's on power days.
Moderate to high rep days (12 to 15 repetitions) are primarily intended to stimulate muscle growth while enhancing definition. Although power days will build more of the massive belly of the muscle, the moderate rep ranges will better stimulate complete development (all areas of a muscle). To achieve both, detail and proportion both approaches must be used.
All training sessions are to be recorded in a workout log book as this will help to ensure all targets are being met (the log will show you what can be accomplished) The goal from there will be to improve on previous results. I recommend mapping out your 12-week program in a training diary and ticking all achieved objectives off as you go, adding actual weights that are used in the process.
This program emphasizes weight training and for good reason: weight training is required for both fat loss and muscle gain. More muscle mass will burn fat when the body is at rest. While cardio does of course have merit and will directly burn fat along with contributing to a higher resting metabolic rate, the muscle gained through weight training will force the body to burn fat calories at all times. Too much in the way of cardio may also eat into muscle gains and affect weight-training performance, so it is limited for this reason also. In this program there will be three cardio sessions per week. As the program progresses beyond phase two, cardio will switch from lower intensity 45 minutes sessions to high intensity 25 minute sessions (of HIIT) to overcome any possible fat loss plateaus.
With weight training ensure a light warm up is done beforehand to prepare the muscle for the work to follow and help with injury prevention, especially on the power (low rep-heavier weight) days. This will be explained in the program itself.
Drink around one to two liters of water during weight and cardio sessions to remain hydrated. If you lose too much water and fail to replace it, performance may decline and fat loss will not occur as rapidly. Also, muscle contraction may decline which will interfere with bodybuilding results.
The Importance Of Intensity And Popular Intensity Techniques Explained
The cornerstone of this, and any other program focused on building muscle while stripping body fat is the application of intensity.
After the first four weeks of this program, the intensity is to really pick up in the mass and power phase (weeks five through to eight) and beyond to the final phase (phase three). This is the point where the following techniques can be used to give your training that extra edge.
The final phase is where we put it all together and hard and heavy training with refining work and all of the intensity principals explained below to force your physique to be at its very best. These techniques can then be used, off and on, throughout the remainder of your training life.
This will apply to certain related exercises that respond best to weight compounding. To perform a superset go directly from the first exercise in the set to the second exercise with no rest, and perform the prescribed number of reps.
For the purposes of this program supersets will require going directly from one set to another of either a related or opposing exercise using the same number of repetitions for each set.
Like supersets, giant sets compound the stress a muscle undergoes, but to a larger extent. For the purposes of this program a giant set will require going directly from one set to another to another (three exercises in a row) of either a related or opposing exercise (or a combination of all three) using the same number of repetitions for each set.
Drop (Or Descending) Sets
Drop sets are done by lowering the weight in two or three incremental drops during one set of the same exercise, and are also great for overloading the muscle. Both two and three set drop sets will be done exclusively in phase three (weeks nine to 12).
To complete a drop set, go immediately from one set to a second comparatively lighter weight set. A third set will also be strategically structured in to add intensity to the overall set. Just remember to use a lighter weight for each succeeding set.
The theory behind drop sets states that one will thoroughly exhaust the muscle through multiple sets of an increasingly lighter weight better than they would using just one set taken to failure. For example, one might go from 80-pound standing biceps curls for eight reps to 50-pounds for another eight reps, and so on, until the muscle can do no more.
Arguably one of the more hardcore intensity techniques available, rest/pause proves an excellent way to prolong a set to get the maximal amount of intensity from that set. The twenty rep Squat method (not included in this program but a great method nonetheless) is an example of rest/pause training.
Pick a Squatting weight that will allow only 10-15 conventional style reps. One these have been achieved, and muscular exhaustion has set in, pause for one-five seconds while breathing deeply. Complete a 16th rep, and pause again for one to five seconds.
Continue this process until a 20th rep is completed. This method will allow for significant increases in weight over subsequent sets.
Rest/pause can be applied almost any exercise, to maximize training intensity. Like all intensity techniques it does need to be used sparingly. The final set of a given exercise would be a good way to structure it in usually. Where it can be used in this program is noted.
This technique involves flexing the muscle following a set of any given exercise. This is a great method for increasing intensity, bringing out cuts and enhancing muscle density.
To perform isoflextion simple flex the muscle directly following a set (say perform a front double biceps pose after doing a set of Barbell curls) for a count of ten to 15.
A good variation on isoflexion could be to flex hard for five seconds, then flex again even harder for another five, then again for a final five, compounding the stress each time.
Increase Reps, Sets Or Weight
These three methods are fundamental ways to increase intensity. At every workout one should, depending on the training goals they have, try to increase either, or all, of these parameters.
Always aim for more when more can be done. For the purpose of this program adjust the weight according to the prescribed rep range, but always aim for more each workout (even if it is an additional two pounds).
Time Workout Duration
An effective way to intensify any workout is to time its duration with a view to decreasing rest between sets and overall workout time. For example, a workout that might take one hour could be reduced to 45 minutes, therefore adding a corresponding increase in intensity to the session.
Often, picking up the pace will dramatically improve the quality of muscle stimulation in that the muscles will be forced to work at a faster rate. To achieve this kind of stimulation with a bodybuilding workout, decrease the rest between sets by timing the duration of the workout.
The supersets and giant sets given in this program will naturally decrease session duration and increase intensity levels.
Apply 100% Focus
100% focus should be applied to every rep of every set to maximize workout intensity. The way to attain complete focus is to block out all extraneous stimuli, and concentrate on the set at hand.
Put everything else to one side and view your next set as the last one you will ever perform. As the set progresses, only one mantra should be racing through your head: squeeze, stretch, one more rep.
It is often advantageous to view yourself as a machine with an endless capacity for work. Imagine your arms as pistons pumping the weight over and over.
Explanation Of HIIT
Throughout this program cardio training is used to help rid the body of fat and improve circulation to force nutrients and oxygen into the muscles to assist growth. However, after phase one (weeks one to four), aerobic training will increasingly take the form of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). This form of cardio requires one to train aerobically at a much higher intensity for short bursts before tapering off to a more moderate pace (13).
Essentially this type of training involves alternating intervals of moderate intensity aerobic exercise with periods of near-maximal effort (14).
For example (and as suggested in this program) one would cycle on an exercise bike all out with the intensity at level six while keeping the heart rate in the cardio training zone of just below 160 beats per minute (or thereabouts), for one minute before returning to a moderate pace on, level four, for two minutes and so on for the duration of the cardio session.
There are several reasons why HIIT is a more effective form of cardio as resistance workout intensity increases (13, 14):
- It takes less time to complete which leaves more time for rest and recuperation from heavier weight training workouts.
- It is of a higher intensity so will in theory burn a greater degree of fat directly (once the body becomes accustomed to the lower intensity sessions in phase one).
- It provides greater aerobic benefits overall therefore allowing the body to burn more fat at rest and maintain a leaner, more muscular physique over a longer period once phase three is completed.