With all the months you've spent on isolation training, you're becoming a nonfunctional mound of size that can't even wipe your own ass.
So, you decide the time's come to change it up again and focus a bit more on fat loss and a bit less on sheer size and strength.
For most people, that usually means moving away from the body part split routine and towards some variation of total body (or multi-muscle group) training.
Time after time, the issue is that when focusing on more than one muscle group per workout, your muscles' conditioning and strength endurance may increase, but the size of the muscle will decrease due to less attention to each given muscle. Granted, some of this is expected, as there are more calories burned, more water lost, and most likely fewer calories consumed.
But, is there any way to prevent this "pump deficit?"
One option is to go old school with killer total body workout systems like 5x5 and other max strength ventures. This is great, but after a couple of weeks, your neurotransmitters will revolt faster than Oprah on the Bernstein diet.
Which means it's time to reintroduce our old friend, the triset.
Lots of people use trisets in their isolation workouts as a good addition to their bulking program. That's great. But here I'm going to splice it into total body training for some already tough-to-grow muscle groups that may need the added volume to maintain their size so all that hard work wasn't for naught.
And, note that it's one thing to just throw together three tough exercises for one muscle group and call it a triset. It's quite another to have a real scientific basis for the exercise selections and the order of the lifts.
Without further adieu, the meat and potatoes...
Lazy Muscle Group Triset 1: Hamstrings
The hamstrings play an important role in hip extension and complete the overall shape and girth of the upper leg. They play a dual role, though, as they're also knee flexors. You know all that, but you also know they can be a hardgainer's worst nightmare when not approached correctly, leaving them (you?) with a poorly developed and embarrassing rear thigh.
Exercise 1: Prone Hamstring Curls – 6 Reps
"Leg curls? I thought this guy was serious..."
Before you saturate my mailbox with hate, understand their purpose.
Remember that the hamstrings have an extremely high percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibers that are waiting to get exploited for all they're worth. Despite being a knee flexion exercise, prone curls are a great way to tap into a high percentage of the hams' high threshold units, especially if the reps are kept very low and the weight is kept very high.
Many strength coaches, including training guru Charles Poliquin, advocate using less than eight reps of the curl for this reason. I also maintain that such a heavy, low-rep set to start out will do well to ramp up the nervous system and potentiate maximal fiber recruitment for the two exercises that follow.
Remember to use a 20X0 tempo. That means lower the weight for two seconds and explode with good technique up to the top.
Go to exercise 2 without taking more than 10 to 15 seconds (in fact, this applies to all the exercises I've listed in this article).
Exercise 2: Romanian Deadlift – 15 Reps
It's fitting to follow the hamstring curls up with something that can also work on hamstring velocity and have the benefit of training it from a different fulcrum, namely the hip joint.
Since we've primed the fast-twitch muscle fibers through the heavy curls, we can get a high percentage of them active in this exercise. And better yet, it's a large movement.
Since the reps are high in this exercise, use a tempo of 10X0 to decrease the time spent under tension per rep. This will increase the work capacity and amount of reps completed before ATP is depleted.
Exercise 3: Eccentric Glute Ham Raise – 8 Reps
At this point you'll have taken the hams to a considerable amount of concentric fatigue, so there's nothing more fitting than to tap into the negative strength they possess so much of. Not only will it complete the triset, but it'll also help make your hamstrings bulletproof when it comes to injury susceptibility.
I'm a big fan of this exercise, as you've probably noted before. Along with the reasons listed above, it's also an exercise that doesn't fib as far as the hamstrings' strength is concerned. There's no opportunity for muscles to inhibit the hamstrings' activity when done correctly, and it's challenging enough with bodyweight alone.
Soon enough your indestructible hamstrings' size will be maintained through your cutting phase, and you'll need custom fit jeans in no time.
Lazy Muscle Group Triset 2: Lats
Many people mistake having a V-shaped back to indicate the quality of their lat development, when really, the lats are only one of the contributors to such a shape.
With my clients, I notice case after case of below average lat development, coupled with much more development towards the teres and serratus to create width towards the shoulder level. This lack of balance usually comes as a product of poor technique in lat-specific exercises, so it's a good idea to choose exercises that'll target the lats more exclusively from all angles.
We have to remember that the lats attach on the humerus and go right down to the lumbar spine. That being said, there's a huge percentage of most people's lower lats that go untouched.
Exercise 1: Wide-Grip Pull-Ups to Mechanical Failure
The pull-up, being such a large movement, fits in the first place of the triset since it's the most demanding of the three on grip strength and total body energy expenditure.
"Mechanical failure" refers to the point where correct technique can't be used to complete further reps, and other muscles begin to compensate for the movement to occur (this usually occurs coupled with a substantial decrease in rep speed). If you can do eight perfect pull-ups, but can push it to 14 with questionable technique, you're better off not trying to be a hero and sticking with eight.
Make sure to depress the shoulders fully before pulling, and push the chest towards the top in order to maximize lat activation through the lift. Tuck the elbows in under the bar at the top of the lift and avoid flaring them far behind the body.
Exercise 2: Decline Cable Pullovers – 12 Reps
By doing pullovers on a decline, you'll limit the amount of unnecessary activation the shoulders and pecs receive through this particular movement. Throw in a new force angle via a cable attachment and you've got one badass movement that shocks the hell out of the entire lat from bottom to top.
Don't go for too much weight, though, as it's a very technical lift. The constant tension on the lats will be challenging enough with low to moderate weight. Set the pulley up so that it's aligned with your thighs when you're in the starting position. Set your shoulders and pull the weight through with long arms. Don't change your elbow angle through the movement, and try to push your chest up to the ceiling as the movement progresses.
Note: The second of these three exercises was also placed between two major pulling exercises in order to give the grip strength a short rest so that the quality of exercises one and three would be high.
Exercise 3: Modified Seated Rows – 12 Reps
A modified seated row involves much deeper mid and lower lat activation due to the forward lean of the torso.
Using an underhand grip, try to maintain your torso angle through the whole set without moving it. Like the decline cable pullovers, it won't take much weight to feel tons of stimulation for the lats. Just make sure that the back stays arched, and when setting the shoulders, they're also depressed to minimize upper trap involvement.
If this triset doesn't leave your lats feeling like they're about to bust out of the shirt you're wearing, you probably did it wrong. Because it will. Period.
Lazy Muscle Group Triset 3: Shoulders
Bowling ball delts are sought after by many, but acquired by few. It's an easy spot to lose the pump in if proper maintenance isn't a priority, especially during total body work.
Many trisets for the shoulders have one exercise that primarily utilizes each head of the deltoids, respectively (for example, dumbbell shoulder press to front raises to reverse flies). The problem is that this approach only exposes each muscle of the delts to about one-third of the total time spent under tension.
Why not hit a greater percentage of them all through three different movements?
Exercise 1: Standing Barbell Shoulder Press – 10 Reps
What really needs to be said about this staple exercise? It's essentially shoulder development 101.
Overhead pressing movements are great for hitting multiple heads of the deltoids for concentric strength, and they exploit plenty of stability through the rotator cuff.
Choose a weight that you can do for ten reps. Just make sure you don't cheat! That's where exercise two comes in.
Exercise 2: Barbell Push Press to Mechanical Failure
Put the weight from the shoulders presses down and pause for five to ten seconds for partial ATP restoration, then pick the same weight back up and perform barbell push presses.
Do as many reps as possible until mechanical failure occurs, which, in this exercise means, when there's a sticking point in the push press and the bar no longer goes up like a shot.
Exercise 3: Lateral Raise with Deltoid Isolation – 15 Reps
Many people will misuse this exercise by going through too large a range of motion, thus activating a great amount of upper trap musculature.
To isolate the mid and rear deltoid, start this exercise in a mildly bent over position. It's also important that you don't retract the shoulders and that you do flare the elbows out to ensure that the weight is being carried by the deltoid, and not supported by any other muscles or joints. Push the wrists downwards and use a false grip.
From there, pull the weight up and outwards by the elbows. The range of motion isn't large. It'll take some getting used to, as the movement pattern is irregular, but it'll lead to tremendous isolation, and I find it to be especially effective over high reps.
Soon you'll have a set of solid, PBA-quality shoulders wider than a 7-10 split.
Three Cheers for Size
And there it is, three kickass trisets to jump-start a few stubborn muscle groups.
If any of the above muscle groups have been giving you grief, try these on for size, and throw 'em into your total body routine. Or do what many do and utilize them in your bulking program, too. The amount of rounds and frequency per week is up to you and how they fit into your program.