As far as strength coaches go, Erick Minor is about as cool as they get.

For months at a time we never hear from him, and just as we're ready to assume he's officially off the radar, he emerges like Superman from his Fortress of Solitude, usually with a kick-ass weight training program in tow.

As summer approaches, many bodybuilders start to have re-occurring nightmares about low calorie diets and endless walks on a treadmill. But if you're looking for something a little manlier, read on...

- BK

As the owner of a busy training studio, I get prospective clients every day coming through the front door to see what I might be able to do for them.

These tire kickers are from all backgrounds: From semi-pro ball players looking to get stronger for the upcoming season to track athletes hoping to shave a few hundreds of a second off their 100-meter sprint times.

Last but certainly not least, I get a couple of "ordinary Joes" wandering in every day to ask me a few questions about my services. Invariably, it's these everyday folk who often pose the biggest challenge.

My first question: "So what exactly are you looking for from a fitness routine?"

Their usual answer: "I'm looking to get stronger and build some muscle. I'd also like to drop around 20 pounds of fat. If you can improve my work capacity so I can keep up with the younger guys on the basketball court, that'd be great too. Oh, and I'd like to achieve these results in around 12 weeks. Is that doable?"

Lemme guess, you want to be able to do it in your sleep, too?

When I was cutting my teeth in this industry, I dreaded clients like these. I'd often try to convince them that it was far more effective to pick one goal (gain muscle, lose fat, improve conditioning) and focus on it than it was to try to chase too many rabbits with one stick. Yet as my knowledge increased and I began applying more advanced protocols, I came to realize that not only was it possible, it was also relatively simple.

Yes, simple. Just not easy.

After years of analyzing the problem, I came up with High Volume Tier Training.

Introducing High Volume Tier Training

High Volume Tier Training is for experienced trainees who want to transform their physiques in a big way, and in a big hurry.

Specifically, I designed this routine to accomplish three goals simultaneously:

•  Increase muscle mass
•  Increase work capacity
•  Decrease fat stores

I realize it sounds ambitious, and not that far away from something you'd expect to see peddled on the Shopping Channel at 3 o'clock in the morning. Trust me, there are no gimmicks here; just heavy weights, calculated rest intervals, and nut-busting work.

Still interested? Well, let's see first if you even qualify to begin Tier Training.

If you've ever uttered the statements "I don't want to get too big" or "that's not functional" or (my personal favorite) "I think I'm over-training" then this program is definitely not for you. Use your dainty fingers to grasp your wireless mouse, navigate your cursor over your floral-patterned mouse pad to the top right corner of this page, and leave!

For the masochists continuing to read, enjoy!

The Science Behind Tier Training


Training for maximum hypertrophy, work capacity, and fat loss requires:

1. Recruitment of high-threshold motor units

•  Thoroughly fatiguing all available muscle fibers in a limited time.

Simple, right? That's the good news. The bad news is, what most believe qualifies as a sufficient training stimulus is grossly inadequate at stimulating maximum muscle hypertrophy. Performing 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps to failure is only scratching the surface of recruiting and fatiguing all available muscle fibers.

I've come to the conclusion that a threshold level of tension and fatigue must be met to maximize adaptation that will produce multiple benefits. Keep reading and I'll explain how and why.

Exercise scientist Jerry Telle brought the subject of tension and fatigue to the forefront over ten years ago. He explained that tension and fatigue are the two most important factors for muscle growth.

Vladimir Zatsiorsky, PhD, author of "Science and Practice of Strength Training" states that, "motor units that are recruited but not fatigued are not trained."

Simply, adaptation is the result of chemical changes in the muscle signaled by exhaustive strength training.

Multiple Protocols Achieve Multiple Goals

We'll use multiple training protocols to recruit and then fatigue the target muscles. Keep in mind, high-density training increases work capacity and fat oxidation, and a higher volume of training is associated with muscle hypertrophy.

Recruiting High-Threshold motor units

The first two exercises (A1 and A2) of each workout are designed to activate the nervous system and recruit high threshold motor units by using progressive wave loading.

Set 1 200 lbs x 6 reps
Set 2 210 lbs x 4 reps
Set 3 225 lbs x 2 reps
Set 4 230 lbs x 2 reps

Notes on High-Threshold Recruitment

•  Be conservative with load selection. Do not miss reps.

•  Accelerate through the concentric portion of every repetition; also known as

Compensatory Acceleration Training (CAT), or the "Perfect Rep."

Fatiguing all available muscle fibers

Perfect Rep

For exercises B and C, use your 8 RM for sets 1 and 2, and perform as many reps as possible.

Sets 3-6, drop the load 5% each set and complete as many reps as possible until you've completed a minimum of 4 but no more than 6 sets.

* Optimal fatigue is reached when the trainee achieves a 10-20% decrease in training load.

Set 1 100 lbs (8RM) x 8 reps
Set 2 100 lbs (8 RM) x as many reps as possible [AMRAP]
Set 3 95 lbs (8 RM at -5%) x AMRAP
Set 4 90 lbs (8 RM at -10%) x AMRAP
Set 5 85 lbs (8 RM at -15%) x AMRAP
Set 6 80 lbs (8 RM at -20%) x AMRAP

* If you can't perform at least 3 reps by the time you reach the 4th set, move on to the next exercise. Come back stronger next week and destroy it.

Exercises D and E are also performed using descending sets but with a different set and rep pattern.

Program Details

Training Schedule:

Each exercise is trained once every 6 days

Day 1: Arms & Shoulders
Day 2: Legs & Lower back
Day 3: Rest
Day 4: Chest & Back
Day 5: Rest
Day 6: Repeat

This 3-day split is to be completed 5 times before moving on to a strength-based routine.

Arms & Shoulders

  Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest *
A1 Barbell Push-Press, shoulder width grip 4 6 4 2 2 21X1 90-120
A2 EZ Barbell Cheat Curl 4 6 4 2 2 31X1 90-120
B Supine DB Triceps Extension, neutral grip * * 4-6 8 * * * 2010 30-45
C Barbell Preacher Curl * * 4-6 8 * * * 2010 30-45
D Barbell Front Raise, wide grip * * 4-6 8 * * * 2010 30-45
E Bent-Over DB Lateral Raise 4-6 12 * * * 2010 30-45

* Seconds
* * Rest 2 minutes before moving onto next exercise.
* * * Decrease Load as necessary to complete prescribed number of reps.

Legs & Lower Back

  Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest *
A1 Back Squat, medium stance, high bar 4 6 4 2 2 30X1 90-120
A2 Prone Leg Curl 4 8 6 4 4 21X0 90-120
B Front Squat, close stance, heels elevated 1 inch * * 4-6 8 * * * 3010 60-75
C Seated Leg Curl * * 4-6 8 * * * 2010 45-60
D Standing Calf Raise * * 6-8 12* 2010 30
E Back Extension, 45 degree 3 15* 2010 30-45

* Seconds
* * Rest 2 minutes before moving onto next exercise.
* * * Decrease Load as necessary to complete prescribed number of reps.

Chest & Back

  Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest *
A1 Incline Bench Press, mid grip, 30 degree incline 4 6 4 2 2 30X1 90-120
A2 Pull up, mid-pronated grip, weighted 4 6 4 2 2 21X0 90-120
B Incline DB bench press, 30 degree * * 4-6 8 * * * 2010 45-60
C Pull up, machine assisted or mid-grip lat pull down * * 4-6 8 * * * 2010 45-60
D Supine DB Pullovers, neutral (hammer) grip 4 12 * * * 2010 30-60

* Seconds
* * Rest 2 minutes before moving onto next exercise.
* * * Decrease Load as necessary to complete prescribed number of reps.

Keys To Tier Training Success


•  Perform 3-7 warm-up sets for all (A) exercises.

•  Warm-up sets are not necessary for remaining exercises.

•  Strictly follow the rest interval parameters (30-75 seconds), this inhibits ATP/CP restoration and further stimulates fatigue, which enhances adaptation. If you don't own a stop watch, that should be your next purchase.

•  Stay at your station until all sets for that exercise are complete. The short rest intervals don't allow time for wandering.

•  After warming up, train no longer than 60 minutes. This is not based on scientific research about androgen levels, but on empirical evidence from hundreds of trainees. Focus deteriorates in most trainees at about 60 minutes. From arrival until the time you leave should take about 90 minutes.

•  Increase training loads by small increments each workout.

•  Perform no more than 6 exercises per workout.

•  Technique is king. Focus on working the intended muscle with the prescribed tempo. Save the ego lifting for another training phase.

•  End all sets when technique can no longer be maintained.

•  Incrementally (2.5 to 15lbs) increase initial training load from week to week.

Extra Notes

This is a fat loss program right? What about cardio/energy system/hamster wheel work?

I do NOT recommend high intensity energy system training, especially on rest days. These workouts are deceptively hard. I believe that being lean is a product of decreasing insulin release, increasing the muscle insulin sensitivity, and increasing androgen levels. Do an honest job in the weight room and eat with equal dedication and you'll reach your goals. No additional cardio nonsense is required.

You talk about increasing the load each week. Is it realistic to expect to add size or strength when trying to lose fat?

Sure it is. Timing and nutrient density are far more important than caloric intake when training for muscle hypertrophy. Bulking-up and weight-gain powders should have died with neon leg-warmers. Drug-free athletes have no business following the crazy high-carbohydrate diets of their anabolic-assisted brethren. Gaining fat actually decreases the anabolic response to exercise due to the increased competition between fat cells and muscle cells for nutrients.

Here are a few tips I've used in my business to help coax along strength gains in natural trainees:

• Get more sleep.

• The best diet, training, and supplements cannot overcome the negative effects of sleep deprivation. Be in bed before 9:30pm.

• Strengthen your traps.

• Perform maximal strength training for your traps two times/week at the end of a workout.

• Day 1: Isometric farmers hold or Heavy DB shrugs. 4-5 sets x 10-20 second TUT.

• Day 2: Rack Deadlifts above knee. 4-5 sets x 4-6 reps.

Details: It's extremely important that you maintain a neutral head position with slightly retracted shoulders during these exercises. Do not let the shoulders drop forward or lift your chin.

• Take 5 grams of creatine, 2 grams of Acetyl-L-Carnitine, 1-2 grams of Beta-Alanine, and 100-300mg of caffeine (optional) 30-45 minutes before training. Wash it down with 4-6oz of 100% grapefruit juice.

• Get deep tissue massage once per week for at least three weeks in a row from a qualified soft-tissue therapist. Get a referral if necessary. Soft-tissue therapy can improve recovery by decreasing adhesion build-up.

• Take care of your joints.

• Stretch your hamstrings properly, daily.

• Eliminate low back flexion and rotation stretches. I never stretch low back muscles. Perform the prone cobra instead.

• Joint pain will decrease your ability to fully activate motor units. Add Glucosamine & Chondroitin, MSM, fish oil, and Curcumin to your supplement regimen. For a 200-pound man, I recommend 3000 mg of Glucosamine a day in two doses; 1500 mg with lunch, and 1500 mg with dinner.


Building muscle, losing fat, and improving work capacity is a lofty goal for even the most motivated trainee, but it's certainly not impossible. Follow the exercise parameters in this routine to the letter, especially the rest interval and tempo prescriptions. Combine it with a nutritional program that matches your goal, and I can guarantee you'll be very pleased with the results.

You might even have that Bowflex junkie in the cubicle next to you accusing you of being on the juice, and nothing makes a coach more proud than having his trainees accused of juicing.