Look Like a Bodybuilder, Perform Like an Athlete
How I Build High-Performance Mass
I have to admit that when I'm out in public I think of myself as looking powerful, like a bodybuilder – but on the other hand, I don't feel like a bodybuilder. At my core, I have always thought of myself (and I always will) as being 100 percent athlete.
"But Thibs," you might be thinking, "since bodybuilders train like bodybuilders and athletes train like athletes – and they're both use very different styles with completely different goals – you must be one extremely mixed up and frustrated coach."
To which I'd respond: "Increasing a muscle's size and increasing its strength and explosive power... it's all the same to me." In fact, I'll even go further and say that training for size and performance, together – as a single strategy – produces the absolute best gains, period!
So, I don't train specifically for strength, or for performance, or for size, or even for fat loss, I train for it all. With nutrition and supplement plans dialed in, the more strength you gain, the more muscle you'll put on, and the better you'll perform. There's no doubt about it.
Unlike other forms of training, the type of training that's most effective at building size and performance also increases insulin sensitivity in muscle, which is huge!
In other words, in addition to stimulating maximum growth, you're also causing muscles to soak up nutrients like giant dry sponges. And with the right workout nutrition, these muscle-sponges will fill up with huge doses of growth fertilizer every time you train.
Oh, there is one side effect... over time, body fat begins to simply disappear.
So to me, all training should be aimed at building high-performance muscle mass, and the results will be an automatic change in body composition, the magnitude of which is controlled by your diet.
In practice, my methods might seem a bit odd, illogical, or go against common lifting dogma. And, if people actually saw the way that I personally train, they might even think I'm crazy.
The fact that I'm generally lifting some pretty hefty weights might lend some credence to my methodologies, but then again, I train so outside the norm that many lifters simply couldn't cope with what they see. As a writer, that makes me more than just a little reluctant to, as they say, "tell all."
So before I go any further, I need to clear the air and let you know that I've been holding back. The fact is, the information I've presented over the years has been a modified version of what I know works the very best, and not the exact kind of training I do.
Don't get me wrong. What I've given you is still very effective. But it's not my authentic program. The reason I've been holding back is that I really didn't think most people were ready for the information. That's how different my training is from what everybody else does. That's no longer the case, and my experience in the Training Lab has changed my perception.
LiVESPILLing with people about my methods, and seeing their excitement over their results, has been a real inspiration. My methods are amazingly effective and powerful, and my goal is to teach these powerful tools to as many people as possible. And for the first time ever, the Training Lab makes that goal possible.
And now I'm ready to give you the purist form of how I build high-performance mass – the authentic way Itrain.
It's All About Pressing
Pressing is performance... it's the body's primary movement pattern, and the basis of all of my training. Building muscle mass and increasing performance, it's all about pressing.
I split the body into two pressing parts, and I base every workout on these two performance areas:
The Training Split
- Upper-Body Pressing
- Lower-Body Pressing
Typically I will work both areas every day I train, but between the two, upper-body pressing (or pushing) gets by far the most work and attention. Other areas of the body, primarily lats, abs, and biceps, are added in as assistance work, as needed, and mainly for balance.
If you think about it, that's how most powerlifters and all Olympic lifters train. Powerlifters, for example, focus on the bench press, squat, and deadlift. They generally plan the training for these lifts carefully, normally including two bench-press days per week and two squat/deadlift days per week.
By the way, a deadlift is not a pull; it's the same movement as a leg press except you're using your hands to hold the weight. So the deadlift is a press.
Going back to the powerlifters, their assistance work is often added whenever the lifter feels it's needed. For the most part, the actual assistance work is not even planned in advance, but rather determined during the workout itself, which is exactly the way I include assistance work.
Like I said, I train upper-body pressing more than anything else, which means I do some form of this movement pattern five or six days a week. It's not always a lot of volume, but it's always included.
Most often, I include three heavy upper-body pressing days per week, and two or three additional days (5 or 6 total) where I "practice" upper-body pressing by training one movement at the end of my workouts. I know by most standards, that's a lot of pressing! But in my book, it's what's required – that is, it's what's required if you're totally committed andserious about making huge differences in your muscle mass size and performance.
I believe that the upper-body pushing muscles thrive on high-performance training methods. These methods are centered on high frequency, low reps, and many sets of few exercises.
When I was an Olympic lifter, I trained the competition lifts every single day, and sometimes even twice a day. It's simplywhat worked best – the more I trained, the better I gained.
I start every upper-body pressing workout with an overhead movement. Ever since I started doing this, my shoulders have been pain free, despite bench-pressing very heavy three to four times per week. At first my bench press numbers went down, but after two weeks my numbers were back to normal, and two weeks after that I was beating personal records, except with the added benefit of healthy shoulders (that stayed that way).
Regarding sets, on the heavy-pressing days, I perform a total of anywhere between 20 and 40 sets. I have gone as high as 70 sets, but the average is about 24.
Considering how heavily involved the chest, delts, and triceps are in most pressing movements, I've not found it beneficial to include much isolation work for them. I'm not saying that you can't do isolation work for chest, delts, and triceps, because I frequently have bodybuilders perform these isolation exercises. But if your goal is to build a lot of mass, power, and strength, not only are they not needed, but they can actually diminish your overall mass gains.
It's all about finances of training. How much of your training reserves do you want to spend on isolation exercises knowing that it's cutting into the big exercises that build the most mass?
Whenever I talk about "lower-body pressing," I'm literally referring to every single movement where your feet push against something. It could be the floor or a leg-press platform, it doesn't matter, it's all pressing. As I mentioned, this includes the deadlift, which is the same basic movement as a leg press, except you're using your hands and arms to hold the bar.
And regardless of whether or not your feet are pressing against an object that's movable or immovable, I want you to think as if you're pushing "it" away from you. So again, if you're doing squats, even though the floor doesn't move, pretend you're pushing it (the floor) away from you.
Thinking in terms of always pushing away from the body, where the body remains stationary, focuses the mind more on the legs. And by doing that, it helps keep the upper body rock hard and locked tight into position, and therefore provides a much a more stable base for leg pressing.
In general, the legs make the best progress on much less variety than the upper body. Said another way, a lot of variety can really hinder leg development. Basically, regarding exercise selection for legs, whatever you find works best tends to be what always works best.
In fact, for the most part, I only use three strength lifts for legs:
- Back squat
- Front squat
- Trap-bar deadlift
In most of my lower-body workouts, however, I'll simply stick with back squats as my only strength lift, and perform a minimum of 12 work sets. Like I said, this is for the main "strength" portion of the workout and should not be confused with what I do to add the volume required for massive leg development.
The Massive Legs Factor – Eccentric-less Volume
Are you "leg-man," wanting to build the size that makes people point and whisper? Or are you "twig-leg boy" who only dreams of what it might feel like to be leg-man?
It really doesn't matter which one you are, I have only one answer for anyone who wants to pack on leg mass super fast: Do a lot of strategic eccentric-less volume.
I say "strategic," because in order for it to work and actually build mass, you need to know exactly when and how to add in the eccentric-less volume. You also need to know just how much volume is "a lot." Simply put, the lower body requires a lot of volume to grow – but... the lower body also breaks down quickly from a lot of strength work.
Knowing this is what got me experimenting with eccentric-less leg training and eventually leads to an entire leg-development strategy. I've seen guys with strong but very average-looking legs have their legs blow up after adding in eccentric-less training for volume. I've seen bodybuilders who, due to injuries, had to perform eccentric-less work only and actually exceeded their previously best leg condition.
Coming from Olympic-lifting roots, this is no real surprise to me. All Olympic lifters only perform back and front squats for their lower body. They also do tons of eccentric-less training in the form of the competitive lifts and their variations. And as a group, Olympic lifters have some of the best leg development in the world.
The other two athletes with giant leg development are speed skaters and track cyclists. By just practicing their respective sports, these athletes perform countless hours of eccentric-less work for the lower body. They also perform a limited amount of explosive strength training for the lower body, which consists mostly of squats, lunges, and variations of the Olympic lifts.
Like I said, the key to massive leg development is including a lot of eccentric-less training, but you need to bulk up the volume over time, and you need to know exactly how to do it.
The Simple Rule for Adding Volume
The simple rule is to use metabolic fatigue as a guideline, and never train to the point where you feel like you have nothing left in the tank, energy-wise.
Here's a good test: 15 minutes after your last set of eccentric-less training for legs, you should feel like you want to do more. I'm not suggesting you actually do more; just take note of how you feel, and use that as a gauge to determine when you've overdone it.
The 2 Times to Do Eccentric-less Training for Legs
I have a complete workout for you to download that includes the prescription for eccentric-less training, but to give you a simple guideline, here's the basic strategy:
- Include eccentric-less leg training after your main strength lifts.
- Include eccentric-less leg training after upper-body pressing workouts.
The main point to remember is that eccentric-less leg training works best when performed as the volume-support component of an overall leg program – and that program must also include explosivestrength lifts.
Assistance Work for Upper Body
Traps, Rhomboids and Rear Delts
The support muscles for upper-body pressing are the traps, rhomboids, and rear delts. There are others, of course, but if you focus only on the traps, rhomboids, and rear delts, you'll automatically include all the other assistance muscles for upper-body pressing.
As I mentioned, I don't have a specific plan for assistance work. I add it by feel, according to what I think needs to be improved. So, staggered between sets of the upper-body pressing exercises, I'll work in sets of assistance exercises for the supporting muscles.
This doesn't mean the assistance workload is low. The fact is, I do a lot of work for the rhomboids, rear delts, and traps, and I like to throw in one set of a trap, rhomboid, or rear-delt exercise after most sets of a pressing exercise. This, of course, is not carved in stone. If I'm going for a very heavy lift, for example, and want to save some energy, I'll skip the assistance exercise in between the heaviest sets.
Lats and Biceps
Lats and biceps are prone to tears. They're designed to grab-and-hold, which is totally opposite in function to the muscles designed for explosive performance. As such, they respond best to increased frequency of low to moderate volume, using constant-tension techniques.
Now keep in mind that I train competitive bodybuilders more than any other type of athlete. And since lats and bi's are two extremely important areas for a competitive bodybuilder, I have to deliver big-time results in both areas. I say this because what I'm about to say, on the surface, is going to sound like I'm downplayingthese two muscles – but I'm not!
I've found that overworking my lats caused a lot more injuries than doing "too much" pressing work. In fact, I can literally press heavy every day and not cause a single shoulder problem. On the other hand, at the point my lat work verges on becomingexcessive – Bam! – my shoulders start hurting when I press.
This is probably due to the lats becoming tight and shutting down neurologically and therefore throwing the shoulder out of the proper pressing groove. I've also observed that nothing drains me more than doing too much lat work. It just kills my nervous system and really kills my drive to train.
I also believe that excessive biceps work contributes to shoulder pain by causing inflammation in the bicipital tendon that tracks down the bicipital groove, which is located right at the humeral head. A lot of biceps training also causes inflammation and tightness in the coracobrachialis, which further contributes to shoulder pain.
So, how do you train lats and biceps without causing these problems? There are actually several options, but the one I prefer makes the successful training of these two muscles almost foolproof. I use neural charge training to help me avoid the drain I get from lat work. So, at the end of every neural-charge workout, I train lats and bi's, using moderate volume and relatively high reps.
My neural charge workout lasts about 20 minutes. Then I move right into training lats and biceps. I typically do sets of 6-10 reps, without emphasizing the eccentric, and sometimes using techniques where the peak contraction is emphasized, like double contraction and iso-holds at the peak position of each rep.
I will sometimes throw in a "pure" lat/biceps workout, maybe once per training cycle, which equates to once every six to eight weeks. Basically, I see this workout as a blitz that helps me blast through a plateau, but it always come at a price – my performance for the next two workouts generally suffers... such are the financesof training!
Blitz Cycles for Abs
Believe it or not, my abs are among my best body parts. They're so thick that even with a pretty high body-fat level (for me), you can still clearly see a 6-pack.
What I've found that really improves abs is working them infrequently and in concentrated short cycles. And when you do that they improve rapidly. To be specific, I've gotten the best results when training abs every six to eight weeks and only in two-week cycles. After about two weeks, however, abs abruptly stop responding to training.
It makes no sense to go beyond that point, especially since abs receive plenty of indirect stimulation from heavy compound movements such as standing military presses, deadlifts, and squats. During the two-week blitz, I'll normally hit abs every day, usually performing 4-5 sets of a superset that consists of one weighted and one un-weighted exercise.
Assistance Work for Lower Body
Hamstrings and Calves
I feel that if you do a lot of sets of the money movements for the lower body – like squat, deadlift, and power snatch – you'll actually need very little direct hamstring work. When I train competitive bodybuilders, I'll carefully throw in a bit more direct workfor one simple reason:
Hamstring development is so coveted in competitive bodybuilding that to be regarded as having good hams, the hams actually have to be overdeveloped. But for the individual who wants to pile on as much muscle mass as humanly possible – like me – I'd say that 80 percent of your workouts should never include direct hamstrings work. Not only is it unnecessary, it will oftenhinder overall leg development.
For my own personal leg training, I go ass-to-the-grass when performing squats, which increases hamstrings involvement. I do pull-throughs and plenty of sled work, which heavily involves the hamstrings, especially when utilizing the constant-tension-slide technique.
I don't train calves at all. I mean, never, as in never in my life. I've actually never done a single set of any calf raises and my calves are pretty decent. Alex, who has monstrous calves, never trains them either. In fact, Alex was shocked when I had him and Daryl doing sets of calf raises. Actually, the direct calf work was done more to ease Daryl's mind than to create a real training effect.
Again, my point is, if you do a lot of heavy squats, deadlifts, and the right kind of sled work, your calves will receive all the stimulation required to blow up. That being said, if you still insist on working calves, here's how I would do it:
I would work the calves directly only once per week at the very most. I would also use constant-tension techniques and long, time under combined tension.
For example, this means choosing one lifting exercise, like standing calf raises, and superset that with sled backward tiptoe-walking for 20-30 yards per set. As far as the calf raises, I recommend performing 10-12 reps, pausing two seconds at the bottom (to remove the stretch reflex) and holding two seconds at the top (to increase time under tension).
Neural Ramping Method
Without a bat and ball, there is no baseball. And if it weren't for a pigskin watermelon to kick, punt, toss, and throw, 100-million guys would be left watching Dancing with the Stars on Monday nights. And of course, without a puck and scythe-shaped stick, there'd be no real reason to ice skate.
It's in the nature of things – all athletic endeavors have their critical elements that make everything work. The same goes for weightlifting, except its critical elements, for whatever reason, aren't so obvious – at least not to most lifters.
It's really unfortunate, too, because without a thorough understanding of weightlifting's two critical elements, you might be lifting weights, but you're not practicing weightlifting. In other words, if you think weightlifting is as simple as pushing reps and doing sets – well, you're either uninformed or a total idiot!
The two critical elements I'm referring to are, in fact, rep performance style and set loading method. How you perform a rep and how you load each set – knowing the why's behind it all, and then knowing how to successfully put it all together – is weightlifting. There's simply no other way to look at it.
If I sound ticked off it's because I am! People are totally, royally, abso-freakin-lutely cluster-mucking up my rep performance style and set loading method! The combination is called neural ramping. And odds are... you do NOT understand neural ramping!
When I'm not directly supervising Alex and Kevin, even they get off track and end up piling weight on the bar and grrrrrrrinding up reps. THAT is exactly what I don't want. And unless you totally grok what I'm about to explain, you will absolutely never experience anything close to the incredible results I see every day in the gym.
So be forewarned, and please don't assume you know "how to do it" and skip this section. In fact, if I could only teach one universal concept to the training world, it would be my neural ramping method. I'm serious, without neural ramping, I have virtually nothing to offer as a coach.
Okay, now that I've gotten that off my chest... let's get positive and learn neural ramping, and get it down cold.
In the past I've tried to teach lifters to "auto-regulate" from set to set in their training sessions (which is what I personally do). Here lately, I'm beginning to think it was a mistake to do that. I believe autoregulation is too big of a step for most lifters who are used to traditional prescriptive types of programs.
So, for the very first time ever, I'm now going to give a written prescription for how to successfully perform neural ramping. Just know that I prefer that set progression would eventually become instinctive. That's when gains will be the greatest and most consistent.
Like I've said, neural ramping is the combination of rep-performance style and set loading. They're completely tied together and to understand the entire concept, you need to keep both elements always in your mind.
I'll begin with rep style. As far as I'm concerned, there is only one type of rep that's performed during any pressing movement: a maximum-force accelerating rep.
A maximum-force accelerating rep occurs when you PUSH the weight as hard as humanly possible and the movement accelerates (gains speed) throughout the entire range of motion.
Obviously you're slowing down at the extended position in preparation for the turnaround and descent. Other than that, each and every rep should be a maximum-force rocket launch!
I really can't believe this concept is all that difficult to understand or difficult to continue using. It feels incredible to move heavy weight like this. The effect ramps up and preserves the CNS. It sensitizes nutrient receptors in the muscle cell – no other rep style does that – and it prepares the body for the next heavier set like nothing else.
If done correctly, somewhere around the third or fourth set, even though the weight is heavier than the previous sets, the weight will actually feel lighter. When you experience this "heavier-but-feels-lighter" effect, you'll know you're in the groove, baby, and you're ready for growth war.
Continuing on... about the fifth set, even though you actually notice you're lifting a heavier weight, the rep speed feels about the same as previous, lighter sets. Just as important, all of the reps of these later sets move very closely to the same speed, and they definitely all feel the same.
By the way, I use the word "feel" a lot, because the feel of each rep of a set is your only perfect gauge for whether or not you were successful with the set. Here's the point, which is the point no one seems to get:
If any rep of any set doesn't have the feel – like a max-force rocket launch – then TERMINATE the set right then and there. Do not even attempt another rep. And if you want to try another set, cut a rep or two and only do rocket launches.
Trust me, if you honestly want to build muscle mass and explosive strength and power as fast as humanly possible, stop grinding those slow-moving reps. They serve no purpose other than to boost egos and totally rob you of your potential gains.
Rep Progression Formula
After having explained the rep experience, I'm now going to give you a formula so you can get that effect for all pressing movements. In this formula, I'll use bench press as the example lift, even though this rep style applies to all pressing movements.
Finding Your Maximum Training Weight
- Pick a bench press weight that you normally use to warm up with (or do feeler sets). As long as you can bench 200 or more, I recommend you start with a bar and two 45's (135 lbs), so I'll use that number for the example.
- With 135, begin doing sets of three reps, performing each rep using my rocket-launch rep style. Between sets, rest only the amount of time that's required to ensure maximum performance on the next set. And depending upon your 1RM, either add 10 or 20 pounds to the bar each set until you get close to your 1RM. As a guideline, if your max bench weight is below 200 pounds, begin by adding 10 pounds per set; above 200, add 20 pounds.
- Continue performing sets until you can no longer get three reps. This is the one time when it's okay to grind up the weight. So, during this test, you might actually be grinding up reps on the last several sets. Again, in the case of the test, that's okay, but only during the test.
IMPORTANT: The last couple of sets you may only want to add 5 or 10 (instead of 10 or 20) pounds to the bar to make sure you hit your max weight. For example, you might be at 300, knowing you could get 310 but not 320. Go ahead and put 10 more pounds on the bar.
- At some point – usually somewhere between set 8 and 12 – you'll hit the wall and not get that third rep of a set. Some lifters might nail three reps on set 8, add 10 pounds for set 9, and barely get the first rep. Whether you get no reps or 2.9 reps, the set you fail to get 3 full reps is your last set. You'll then want to use the weight of the previous set (your last "good" set) to plug into the formula.
So, let's say on set 8 it was a real struggle and you barely got three reps with 300 pounds. On set 9, you almost blew an artery locking out the first rep with 310. If that were the case, the number to use in the formula would be 300 pounds. Here's how that would look:
3-Rep Max Test
|Set||Weight x Reps|
|1||135 x 3|
|2||180 x 3|
|3||200 x 3|
|4||220 x 3|
|5||240 x 3|
|6||260 x 3|
|7||280 x 3|
|8||300 x 3|
|9||310 x 1|
|300 lb||3-rep maximum weight from test|
|X||87.5%*||Percentage of 3RM to determine max training weight|
|260 lb||Max training weight|
*Use 80% instead of 87.5% when calculating max training weight for lower body.
**Round the weight to the nearest 10 pounds.
In this example, the maximum training weight for bench you'll be using in the initial program (which I describe below) is 260 pounds. I'll address how you progress from week to week later in this article.
Sets and Reps
My universal preferred training rep target for all pressing movements is 3 reps. The goal is to perform sets of 3 rocket-launch reps for 8 to 16 work sets. For each subsequent working set, I want you to add 10, or 20 pounds to the bar. You can use 5-pound jumps if you want to spend more time in a certain training zone, or if you simply want to add volume (more sets) without exceeding your max training weight.
So the message is, the amount of weight to add per set is based on how many total sets you want to do in a training zone. To understand the process better, I break a ramp into three zones:
During sets 1, 2, 3, and maybe 4, you're ramping up CNS to a fully activated state and preparing the neuromuscular system for high-performance work. Essentially, you'll feel powerful and ready to move up to heavier weights.
On sets 4 and 5 – and only if you've been performing rocket-launch reps – you'll notice that the reps of these two sets feel effortless. And even though you're increasing the load each set, the weight might actually feel lighter than the previous sets. This phenomenon (the weight feeling lighter) often occurs when performing reps with explosive acceleration. You've basically tricked the nervous system to overreact to your contraction signals.
As I mentioned earlier, nutrient receptors on the muscle are also sensitized with explosive efforts. And if you have your bloodstream preloaded with super-fact-acting peptides and partitioning carbs, you'll drive supraphysiologic levels of these performance nutrients into the muscle cell. This effect will further potentiate contraction speed and ramp up anabolic physiology as well.
Maximum Training Zone for the Day
Usually on set 6, the weight will feel noticeably heavier, but not intimidating. You'll also notice a slight decrease in rep speed, but each rep is still a rocket launch, and you'll feel very powerful doing these reps. These are all signs that you're at your maximum training weight for that day and for that particular lift. You need to be careful, too, because if you were to continue increasing the weight past your max training weight, you run the risk of ruining the entire training effect for the day.
Not only that, with the CNS fatigue you'd get from going too far, you could hinder the next several workouts. CNS fatigue is deadly, as far as gains and overall progress are concerned.
Anyway, once you hit your max training weight, you continue performing sets using micro-wave loading with 95 to 100 percent of your max training weight. I'll show you the specifics later on in this article.
Making Continuous Progress
Obviously, the goal is to build high-performance mass as fast as humanly possible. That, of course, means you're going to make rapid progress from week to week. But what does that actually look like? In other words, what's the progression model?
To most lifters and coaches, progression primarily means increasing the weight from workout to workout. And secondarily, if you can't add weight on any given day, at least add a rep or two per set. Implicit with this is the fact that if you're incapable of doing one or the other, you're not making progress.
Attempting to add weight is an arbitrary and flawed progression model. When would it end? When you're doing 2,000 pound bench presses?! Don't we wish....
Besides, anyone who's tried to add weight every week knows it doesn't work. Oh, you'll add weight for six weeks or so, but then smack into a wall that's commonly referred to as "hitting a plateau," which really means you're following a progression model that sucks.
Even more important, on any given day, your ability to train hard can vary widely, and you need a progression strategy that takes that into consideration. Say, for example, the last time you benched, you maxed out with 300 pounds for 3 reps. Today you're doing bench again, but you didn't get much sleep last night and you had an extra-grueling day at work.
If this were the case, do you really think a decrease in performance ability over the previous week would indicate that you've actually lost muscle and gotten weaker? Of course not. Odds are, you're not weaker at all and maybe even stronger. But due to the stress and fatigue of life – on this particular day – you simply don't have your full physical capacity to demonstrate it.
But, on the other hand, you do have the ability to perform at your maximum for that day, which is all you have to do to keep progress moving at the fastest possible pace.
I use a performance progression model. And although strength is part of overall performance, it's not the whole picture. In other words, performance is a lot more about how you lift the weight than how much weight you lift. So, instead of constantly thinking about lifting heavier and heavier weights each week, focus solely on the two elements of lifting performance quality:
- Explosive Force – increasing explosive force with your maximum training weight (how hard you push the weight)
- Max Training Zone Volume – increasing the amount of explosive muscular work performed within the maximum training zone (the volume of work sets you do with your max training weight)
So, when attempting to build serious muscle size and strength, strive to improve the quality of your lifting performance for each pressing workout. And remember, you don't have to lift heavier weight each workout. Strive to become more powerful and explosive within your maximum training zone, while at the same time, increasing the muscle's capacity to work in the max training zone.
Putting a Program Together
I could write another 100,000 words on my training method and still not cover everything. A much more practical approach is for me to simply show you how to put a program together and then give you just the important principles that govern all my training.
Again, I spend a lot of time in the Training Lab coaching these principles, so get in there and take advantage of this incredible resource. I'll be glad to explain any of these concepts in as much detail as you want.
Anyway, the first thing you need to know is how I plan my training for the week. The following chart shows exactly how I do it:
|Day||Primary Emphasis||Secondary Emphasis|
|Monday||Upper Body Pressing |
3 main movements staggered with assistance work
|Lower Body Pressing |
1 main movement
|Tuesday||Upper Body Pressing |
3 main movements staggered with assistance work
|Lower Body Pressing |
1 main movement
|Wednesday||Neural Charge Training |
3 - 4 movements emphasizing whole body
|Thursday||Lower Body Pressing |
2 main movements, followed by sled work for legs
|Upper Body Pressing |
1 main movement
|Friday||Lower Body Pressing |
2 main movements, followed by sled work for legs
|Upper Body Pressing |
1 main movement
|Saturday||Foundation Training (Lats and Biceps) |
Combination of weights, suspension straps, and sled
|Sunday||Neural Charge Training |
3 - 4 movements emphasizing whole body
Don't Take Days Off.
At least not on purpose. As you can see from the chart above, I really don't plan days off. I might miss a training day, here and there, if I have a social obligation or something like that. But without those unplanned detours, I always get my butt in the gym – no matter what.
I firmly believe that taking a day completely "off" is worse for recovery and hinders performance. In fact, I'm always weaker, and actually sorer, after taking 2-3 days off from training. It's the same even if I feel physically rested at the end of the layoff.
Inactivity leads to nervous system "down-regulation" (low activation), which always leads to detraining and bad performances. Inactivity also impedes the inflammation-response signals, which leads to increased soreness and much longer recovery periods.
If you feel like you need a break, there's always a training solution that's far better than time off. For example, if I lack motivation or drive to train, it indicates CNS fatigue and accordingly, I'll do a neural charge workout. On the other hand, if I feel strong mentally but not fully rested physically, then I'll do an eccentric-less training session to snap me out of the rut.
The point is, there is always some form of training that you can do (and should do) on an "off" day – neural charge workouts promote nervous system recovery and eccentric-less sessions promote physical recovery. All of this, of course, is dependant upon also taking in high-level peri-workout nutrition – like MAG-10, ANACONDA, and SURGE Workout Fuel – to support anabolic physiology as well as recovery.
In fact, I'd never work out without MAG-10, ANACONDA, and SURGE Workout Fuel. These formulations are just as much a part of my training protocol as the training method itself. The overall effect makes a night and day difference with recovery. It really does make you feel like you have superhuman recovery ability.
Rely on Few Exercises.
A lot of lifters are obsessed with doing every single exercise under the sun, thinking they have to "hit every angle" or some other such nonsense. I've found that too much variety, regarding the use of different exercises, produces very poor results and is actually a psychological downer.
On the other hand, I use almost an infinite variety of exercise techniques. I have a huge arsenal of these exercise cool tricks that are simply amazing and make a night-and-day difference in training effect. I'll be sure to reveal many of them as the months pass.
Back to exercise selection, my own personal training revolves around these few primary lifts:
Incline bench press
Thib lat pulldown
These movements are the cornerstones of my workouts. Beyond these lifts, I'll add assistance work for rhomboids, traps, and rear delts. I'll also include some direct work for lats and biceps and I'll occasionally do isolation exercises for hamstrings. But none of these supplemental exercises are ever considered staple movements.
Keep it simple and highly effective by doing more sets of fewer exercises.
Learn the King of All Lifts... The Power Snatch.
If I could only do one exercise – as in forever – I'd opt for the power snatch. To me, the power snatch is the king of all lifts. It's a whole-body exercise; it's performed explosively and therefore it's highly stimulatory; and if done at high frequency with enough volume, the power snatch will build a power physique with massive shoulders and powerful legs.
So it makes sense that I like to start every workout with power snatches. If you can execute them properly, they are, bar none, the best activation exercise around.
If an Exercise Doesn't Work, Drop It!
A lot of people see their training program as a list of chores to do. And one by one, they must complete every "chore" on the list.
Viewing the workout like this is a serious mistake. If, during a workout, something seems off with a lift – either the mind-muscle connection isn't there or you don't feel the load in the muscle – then drop the exercise for that day.
And just because a lift felt great last week doesn't mean that it will feel great all the time. So don't override your body when it's telling you, "Don't do that!" You have to be in-tune with your body to avoid wasting your resources. On the other hand, don't use this as an excuse to drop hard or uncomfortable movements from your training.
You have to be honest with yourself. There's a big difference between feeling that a movement isn't working for you and simply not wanting to do the exercise.
If an exercise feels off during a workout, most of the time I'll just replace it with an equivalent movement. But sometimes I'll simply drop an exercise altogether, which usually occurs at the end of a workout to prevent excessive fatigue.
To reiterate the point, never look for an excuse to do less in the gym, but don't be afraid to drop an ineffective exercise, either. It's all about the finances of training: sometimes dropping an exercise might mean getting better gains and a better workout tomorrow.
Don't Fixate on Counting Reps.
As I mentioned before, 3 reps per set is my favorite training zone. When it comes to improving performance in pressing movements (both upper and lower body), I believe that 3 reps per set is the best number. On some occasions I'll get a little frisky and go up to 5 reps, but that's rare.
Regardless of the number of reps, I never count them during a set. Without knowing it, sometimes I might get one more (or one less) than I was shooting for. So what? In the grand scheme of things, it really doesn't matter if you did 3 or 4 reps; as long as the effort was maximal, the physiological effect is equivalent.
The big idea behind not counting reps is that it takes your focus away from the actual lifting. Performing rocket-launch reps is a creative and instinctive action, like hitting a ball or running hurdles.
Counting reps turns this powerful process into an external math ritual, taking your mental focus somewhere other than feeling the performance. In other words, it takes your mind totally out of the game and causes sub-par performance.
At first it's hard to avoid counting reps during a set – we all instinctively do it. But once you're able to not count, you'll see how liberating it is and how much more effective each set becomes.
Don't Emphasize the Eccentric.
Not only do I not emphasize the eccentric portion of a lift, I often rely on eccentric-less exercises. I'm not saying that the eccentric phase of a lift isn't important, it is. But on the other hand, moving slower or adding resistance during the negative phase can do more harm to your progress than good.
Emphasizing eccentric work devastates the nervous system and thereby increases your recovery needs drastically. At the very minimum, this means that you won't be able to train often enough, or with enough volume, for maximal gains. And to me, volume and frequency are the keys to stimulating maximum growth.
Furthermore, accentuated eccentric loading has been shown to decrease glycogen replenishment after training (because of decreased insulin sensitivity). In other words, not only do you have more to recover from when accentuating the eccentric, the recovery process is actually slower!
In fact, the negative effect of accentuated eccentrics on glycogen replenishment lasts for as much as 3 days – that's 3 days with impaired recovery capacities!
Keep Rest Intervals Short.
Between sets, take only the amount of time you need to give a full effort on the next set and not a second more. And whatever you do, never time rest periods.
I firmly believe that the pace of the workout is very important for the quality of the session. A fast pace keeps you in the zone; you have a better focus and probably produce more adrenalin – all of which leads to a better workout.
On the other hand, you don't want to turn the process into a race against time and end up decreasing set performance.
I'll say it again, rest as little as possible without having a drop in performance. Keep it simple, non-ritualistic, and improve over time.
Use Limited Strength Circuits for Extra Hypertrophy.
For two weeks out of every growth cycle, I'll include a strength circuit at the end of each main workout. I've found that these strength circuits produce a lot of hypertrophy quickly, but become ineffective after two weeks. So don't abuse a good thing.
To plan a strength circuit, choose 3 big lifts for a muscle group. Perform 3-5 reps per exercise, resting roughly 20 seconds between exercises, and go through the circuit only twice. To determine the load, use 80 to 85 percent of your maximum training weights for the chosen lifts.
Train in Cycles That Fit You.
Because of my schedule and physiological wiring, I tend to train hard in cycles of 8 to12 weeks, and then maintain for 6 weeks or so. Even though I never stop training or being physically active, I will, however, reduce the amount of strength training I do. To do that, I'll move from training twice per day to once per day. I'll also reduce my training volume by about one-third, and substitute other forms of physical activities.
For example, during my last maintenance phase, I sprinted a lot and even jogged a few miles with my wife (don't tell anybody). I'll also do a greater proportion of neural-charge workouts during maintenance periods.
I'm more conservative with my nutritional and supplement strategies as well. I'll generally eat only two or three meals each day and keep carbs at about 100 grams per day. During maintenance phases, I pretty much live on Low-Carb Metabolic Drive, Flameout, and Curcumin. Due to the lowered caloric intake and workout volume, my bodyweight drops about 10 pounds and I get leaner, losing about 2 or 3 percent body fat.
When I go back into an all-out training phase, I increase my nutritional intake by moving to 5 meals per day, and adding in more protein and carbs. I'll switch to Metabolic Drive Muscle, getting in three shakes per day, and bump daily carb intake to somewhere between 400 and 500 grams. And most importantly, I'll load up with as much MAG-10, ANACONDA, and SURGE Workout Fuel that I can put into my body (which is a lot).
When I start such a phase, my body is primed for growth and I gain weight, strength, and size very quickly. For example, I started such a training phase two weeks prior to the end of the Daryl Gee project. Within four weeks I packed on 20 pounds without gaining any measureable fat.
Using this cycling method I've been able to steadily increase my "maintenance body weight" – the shape I can maintain without hardly training or eating – from 195 to 215. And during the periods of focused training, I can go up to 245 while remaining fairly lean.
At five-foot nine, weighing 245 while still being lean is cool. But I find it much cooler to know that I can be an even leaner 215 while I'm hardly training. With this strategy, I know that I'll keep going up and eventually maintain a lean bodyweight of 225 pounds, effortlessly.
Look Like a Bodybuilder, Perform Like an Athlete
Now you have the plan I use to build record-breaking slabs of high-performance mass on bodybuilders and athletes of all calibers. These principles work amazingly fast – far better than anything you've ever experienced – and keep on working. In fact, that's my promise.
If you really dive in and learn how to train with this method, you'll experience the types of gains you never thought were possible. You're going to get totally addicted to it. It may seem complicated at first, but it really isn't, especially since I'm going to be online coaching you through it all, making good on my guarantee.
To make the entire process painless and quick, beginning Monday, we'll publish the first two High-Performance Mass Programs:
Upper Body Pressing
Lower Body Pressing
In the meantime, I'll be answering your questions and discussing high-performance training in the LiVESPILL Comments below.