Ever heard the saying, Go heavy or go home? Don't believe it! There's a better way to get extreme muscle size, and it involves light workouts. No, not all workouts are light, but you do one of those pump sessions a few days after every a heavy one.
Those lighter workouts fill up the muscles, making them look bigger, denser and more detailed faster than you could imagine. (We'll have a sample biceps workout in a moment.)
The system is based on how a lot of the bodybuilders in the pre-steroid era, the '50s and early '60s, used to train-and a lot of them got huge! And without any pharmaceutical help, or even high-tech supplements (whole milk was about it). We call it Heavy/Light, and with it you get muscle super compensation and glycogen super-saturation at every other session for each bodypart by using a few light, higher-rep flushing sets rather than a heavy all-out barrage every time.
Light & Heavy
This is not a muscle-building theory or hypothesis. It works, big time! It will pack new size on your frame, just as it did for the bodybuilders of the golden era. Why? First you must understand that muscles are more than 70 percent water. What pulls water into muscle to make them big and full? Glycogen from carbs.
Basically, the more glycogen you can force into your muscles, the bigger they will get. That's why we suggest you get 20 to 40 grams of carbs about 45 minutes to an hour before every Heavy/Light workout, along with about 20 to 30 grams of protein. (You also need even more carbs and protein immediately after you train-60 grams and 40 grams, respectively; it's best to get that from a postworkout supplement like RecoverX.)
Remember, you are alternating lower-rep Heavy workouts with Light pumping routines for every bodypart. The Light workouts are designed to flush the muscles with blood. When you do that, you should have plenty of glycogen to circulate to your still-depleted muscles, the ones that you trained Heavy a few days before.
Light workouts bathe the still-recovering muscles in glycogen and aminos-from your preworkout drink-without overtaxing or depleting those muscles further.
A good example of how well this works is the last week of contest prep for bodybuilders. They do a light pumping workout for each bodypart those last few days as they ramp up their carbs. That's the perfect way to get full muscles via complete glycogen replenishment and, possibly, hopefully, super compensation; that is, higher-than-normal glycogen retention after their weeks of lower-carb contest dieting.
Low Carb Diets:
If everything goes right, a bodybuilder can get considerably bigger and more detailed that last week, primarily from driving more water into the muscles.
We use that same strategy the last week before a photo shoot to pull in water and fill out-and we usually look much bigger and very ripped at the shoot (it even works for Steve, on the left in the photo, who's a hardgainer in his mid-40s)...
And no need to worry about adding bodyfat. Research studies show that even 100 grams of carbs eaten around an intense workout won't feed fat stores.
Something that can enhance the process is nitric oxide-precursor supplements, or vasodilators-they open the blood vessels for maximum pump and nutrient deposition during your workout (exactly what you're striving for at your Light workouts).
Keep in mind, however, that digestion shuts down during intense activity, like your workout. That's why you want to get your carbs and aminos 45 minutes to an hour before you hit the gym-they need to be circulating in your bloodstream ready to be flushed into your muscles during your pump sets.
We're convinced this is one of the big reasons the Heavy/Light program worked so well during the presteroid era (those guys knew what they were doing from lots of drug-free experimentation!). With steroids, recovery occurs much more rapidly, nitrogen and glycogen retention are heightened, and Heavy/Light training is not necessary.
You can go heavy all the time (or go home)-most can even make gains using 20 to 30 sets per bodypart. If you're like us and don't take drugs, you have to be more intelligent, precise and cunning about your training to maximize every recovery/super compensation component.
Okay, enough of the reasons for why it works; you probably want a specific example. Here's the biceps routine from our quick four-days-per week Heavy/Light program listed in X-traordinary Muscle-Building Workouts (biceps are trained Monday and Thursday):
- Barbell curls, 3 x 5, 8, 9
- Incline curls (drop set), 1 x 8(5)
- Barbell curls (sub failure), 2 x 10-15
- Concentration curls (drop set),1 x 8(5)
Heavy day has you reduce the poundage on each set of curls so you get the neuromuscular stimulation of a reverse pyramid and tap into as many high-threshold muscle fibers as possible (and deplete glycogen stores quickly).
On Light day you do higher reps, but not to failure on the barbell curls. You do, however, push to positive failure on the concentration curls, and you use one drop set-do eight reps to exhaustion, grab a lighter dumbbell and immediately do about five reps to exhaustion.
That provides an extreme pumping effect and forces glycogen into the muscles without depleting it, as you did on Heavy day. You enhance recovery and glycogen deposition, which will result in an eye-popping, full-muscle look.
Also notice that the barbell curl is a midrange exercise. On Heavy day you follow with incline curls, a stretch-position exercise; on Light day you follow with concentration curls, a contracted-position exercise for occlusion/pump.
In other words, you are training the biceps full arc of flexion (3D POF) over two workouts-midrange, stretch and contracted. That's a very important muscle-building concept!
1. Midrange Position:
Barbell curls work the biceps with the upper arms slightly out in front of the torso. You also get synergy, or muscle teamwork, from the front delts-synergy is a hallmark of most big midrange-position exercises because they are the big, compound mass movements.
2. Stretch Position:
Incline curls put your biceps in a complete stretch when your arms are straight, hanging down behind your torso. Stretch overload has been linked to everything from fiber splitting to anabolic receptor proliferation in muscle tissue. (One animal study got a 300 percent muscle mass increase after only one month of progressive stretch overload; we talk more about that in the last chapter of our X-traordinary Muscle-Building Workouts e-book.)
3. Contracted Position:
Concentration curls train your biceps with your upper arms up and out close to your head. In that position your biceps can fully contract with a cramping flex on every rep. With this exercise you also get continuous tension and occlusion, or blood-flow blockage, a big player in muscle-size development via capillary expansion and mitochondria development. Blood will rush in at the end of your sets for an incredible flush/pump!
Those position descriptions show why training a muscle at those three points is vitally important for maximizing muscle growth with very few sets. In a nutshell, you get max-force production with midrange work, continuous tension/occulsion with contracted-position exercises and stretch overload with stretch-position movements.
It works: Jonathan got his arms up over 19 inches using 3D POF, about five sets for biceps and triceps at each arm workout (similar to the Heavy/Light routines above)...
So if you're after as much muscle as possible with efficient, precise workouts, 3D POF should be a part of your plan. Use it in conjunction with the Heavy/Light system, and you will super saturate your muscles from every angle, getting them bigger and more engorged than ever before-with very few sets. Prepare to fill out and grow like never before!
Note: For a complete Heavy/Light program, see X-traordinary Muscle-Building Workouts, available at X-Rep.com. It also contains 9 more complete mass-building programs based on the Heavy/Light system, including Volume/Intensity Fusion and Traumatic/Nontraumatic (T/NT).