Before I start, I want to thank the people who've influenced the design of this program (whether they know it or not): Alwyn Cosgrove, Jason Ferruggia, Bill Hartmann, Robert dos Remedios, Charles Staley, Pavel Tsatsouline, Vladimir Zatsiorsky, and Larry David.

If you haven't already, go read Maximum Recruitment Training I. I outlined three ways to get the most out of your workouts by focusing on muscle fiber recruitment. I also talk about how to determine the point at which your muscle recruitment decreases.

The goal of any good training program should be to recruit as many muscle fibers as possible with each rep. There are three simple ways to determine if you're recruiting fewer muscle fibers.

1. The speed of the concentric (lifting) phase slows down.

2. Your range of motion shortens.

3. Your technique breaks down.

Whenever you encounter any of the three aforementioned setbacks, you should stop the set. By doing so, you'll keep the recruitment rates as high as possible with each repetition.

Understanding the MRT System

Before I get to the methods and workouts, let me explain what the MRT system is and what it isn't. Here's an explanation of all the parameters that make up a workout, and what's unique about the MRT system.

Exercise Selection: Since the goal of the MRT system is to induce maximum muscle fiber recruitment out of every repetition, no single joint exercises are used. I see no benefit in performing a concentration curl for the biceps when a chin-up will build bigger biceps, while also training your upper back and forearms. The same is true with every other muscle group. It makes no sense for me to design a maximum muscle recruitment plan that consists of isolation exercises that only work a few muscle groups. Not only should you focus on getting the most out of every rep, but also the exercises.

Concentration curls have no place in the MRT program: chins are better.

You can't change the shape of your muscles. Your muscles will grow, shrink, or stay the same. So the notion that isolation exercises can "shape" your muscles is hogwash.

The MRT system is not physical therapy. There is a time and place for slower isolation exercises, but that time and place is not in this system.

Bottom line: integrate, don't isolate.

Load

Three primary loads make up the MRT system: heavy, medium and light. Heavy equates to a load you can lift for 4-6 times before failure. Medium is 10-14 before failure. Light is 20-24 before failure.

I do this because it's a pain in the ass to constantly calculate percentages of your one repetition maximum (1RM) for all your lifts. Most people don't do it, and those who try rarely get it right – including myself.

The load stays constant for all sets, unless you seriously miscalculate and need to adjust after the first set. If you can perform 9 reps with a "heavy" load before your speed, range of motion or technique falter, you need to increase it next time.

Bottom line: unless you're a competitive powerlifter, it's not necessary to do math.

This man must do math, but you probably don't.

Reps

Each load corresponds to a target number of reps. I do this to control volume. Plus, it's necessary and beneficial to have a goal with each workout. If I simply told two different guys to perform five sets with a heavy load and stop each set once the speed of the lift decreases, one guy might get 15 total reps, another might get 25 total reps.

Bottom line: the number of reps per set is irrelevant; it's the total number of reps per exercise that matter.

Sets

There's no fixed number of sets in the MRT system. With a heavy load, one guy might need 4 sets; another guy might need 7 sets. All you need to think about is the target number of total reps, and the rest periods.

Bottom line: perform as many sets as it takes to get to the target number of reps.

Rest

The rest periods coincide with the load and goal of the workout. Since each workout is different, I had to prescribe different rest periods. I wish there was a way around this, but there's not. I did, however, make it as simple as possible.

Your rest periods are massively important. After all, it's the rest that allows you to keep the speed as fast as possible.

The notion that higher reps should coincide with shorter rest periods is backwards in my book. There's no way you need less rest between sets of 20 rep squats compared to 3 rep squats. Neural recovery is much faster than people believe: it's the metabolic recovery that matters.

You need longer rest intervals between 20-rep sets than between 3-rep sets.

Bottom line: higher rep sets mandate longer rest periods.

Frequency

You'll train your entire body three times per week. From there, you'll either increase the frequency by adding a fourth total body workout, or you'll perform twice-daily training sessions with an upper and lower body workout in the A.M. and P.M., respectively.

Bottom line: you can't go wrong with three total body workouts each week.

Finally, the goal of the MRT system is simple: to build bigger, stronger muscles as fast as possible. You will get leaner in the process, but it's not the goal of this version of the system.

MRT Methods

I'm going to outline three different methods that keep your muscle recruitment levels as high as possible. Each method is specific to the load you'll use: heavy, medium, and light.

Before I outline the methods, it's paramount that you always remember this: every set stops when your lifting speed slows down, when your range of motion shortens, or when your technique breaks down.

Finally, you should never terminate a set in the middle of a rep. Always complete the last rep.

Heavy Load + 15 Total Reps = MRT Strength

As heavy and as fast as you can lift it, for 15 total reps.

For the MRT S method you'll use a heavy load (a weight you could lift 4-6 times before failure). Perform as many sets as it takes to complete 15 total reps.

MRT S: Perform as many reps as possible before speed, range of motion, or technique diminishes. Then, rest 90 seconds and continue with the sequence.

The MRT S method with a heavy load uses straight sets. Let's say you use it for the deadlift with 300 pounds. Here's how it might look.

EXAMPLE

Method: MRT S

Exercise: Deadlift
Load: 4-6 RM (e.g. 300 pounds)
Rest between sets: 90 seconds
Set 1: 5 reps
Rest 90 seconds

Set 2: 4 reps
Rest 90 seconds
Set 3: 3 reps
Rest 90 seconds

Set 4: 3 reps
Rest and move on to next exercise

Medium Load + 30 Total Reps with Upper/Lower Exercises = MRT Hypertrophy

For the MRT H method you'll use a medium load (a weight you could lift 10-14 times before failure). Perform as many sets as necessary to complete 30 total reps.

With higher rep sets, the metabolic (anaerobic glycolysis) elements can kick into play. Therefore, more rest is necessary between sets of the same exercise. But I don't want you to wait around for 3 minutes before you repeat an exercise so I arranged all medium load workouts with upper/lower body exercise pairings to increase the rest time before repeating the same exercise.

MRT H: Perform as many reps as possible before speed, range of motion, or technique diminishes. Rest for 60 seconds before moving to another exercise. Repeat the sequence until you reach 30 total reps for each exercise.

EXAMPLE

Method: MRT H

Exercises: Dip and Front Squat
Load: 10-14RM

Dip: 9 reps before speed, range of motion or technique diminish.
Rest 60 seconds

Front squat: 9 reps
Rest 60 seconds

Dip: 8 reps
Rest 60 seconds

Front squat: 7 reps
Rest 60 seconds

Dip: 7 reps
Rest 60 seconds

Front squat: 7 reps
Rest 60 seconds

Dip: 6 reps
Rest 60 seconds

Front squat: 7 reps
Rest and move on to next UL pairing.

Of course, this is just an example. The above Upper/Lower pairing could pan out in a number of different ways. The key is to keep going until you reach 30 total reps with each exercise.

If you don't reach the 30 rep mark by the last set of the last exercise before your speed, range of motion or technique diminish, just wait 2 minutes and perform another set.

Training doesn't need to be an exact science. The key is to perform 30 reps of each exercise with as much rest as possible between each set of the same exercise. By default, upper/lower body exercise pairings work extremely well.

Light Load + 50 Reps with Antagonist Exercises = MRT Endurance

It's important to control fatigue when training for endurance.

For the MRT E method you'll use a light load (a weight you can lift 20-24 times before failure). Perform as many sets as necessary to complete 50 total reps.

Since this workout consists of the highest rep sets, it's important to control fatigue. If I had you alternate between upper and lower body exercises, the metabolic demand would be too high. Think how taxing it would be to do a set of chin-ups after an 18-20 rep set of squats.

Therefore, it's necessary to take advantage of reciprocal innervation. Basically speaking, reciprocal innervation states that when a muscle is active its antagonist is inhibited. When you train biceps your triceps are inhibited. This allows for faster recovery between sets.

MRT E: Perform as many reps as possible before speed, range of motion, or technique diminishes. Rest for 60 seconds before moving to an antagonist exercise. Repeat the sequence until you reach 50 total reps for each exercise.

EXAMPLE

Method: MRT E

Exercises: Bench press and seated row
Load: 20-24RM

Bench press: 17 reps before speed, range of motion, or technique diminish.
Rest 60 seconds

Row: 16 reps
Rest 60 seconds

Bench press: 13 reps
Rest 60 seconds

Row: 14 reps
Rest 60 seconds

Bench press: 12 reps
Rest 60 seconds

Row: 10 reps
Rest 60 seconds

Bench press: 8 reps
Rest 60 seconds

Row: 10 reps
Rest and move on to next antagonist pairing.

Antagonist pairings don't need to be perfect. Think of it this way. If you perform an upper body pushing exercise, pair it with an upper body pulling exercise. If you train a squat variation, pair it with a deadlift variation.

A deadlift variation is a good pair for a squat variation.

Understanding the Speed Element

I know I sound like a broken record, but I must reiterate this point: terminate each set once speed, range of motion, or technique is compromised.

With regard to speed, here's what you must keep in mind for all methods: the speed will likely drop after the first set. For example, with the MRT H method, you'll perform as many reps as possible, then you'll rest for 90 seconds before attempting more reps. It's the speed at the start of your second attempt that determines when you should stop that set. With each set, this is all you need to remember: The speed you start with is the speed you end with.

Overview

Up to this point you might be thinking this system is too complicated. I assure you it's not: it's super simple. I gave an example of each method to show you the design of the system. To recap, here's how it breaks down:

MRT S: rest 90 seconds between each straight set until you reach 15 reps.

MRT H: rest 60 seconds between each upper/lower body pairing until you reach 30 reps.

MRT E: rest 60 seconds between each antagonist pairing until you reach 50 reps.

MRT Program

Here's the four-week program based on everything I've written up to this point.

MONDAY

Total reps: 15
Load: heavy (4-6 RM)
Rest: 90 seconds between each set

Chin-up
Dip
Front squat

TUESDAY

Rope jumping for 10 minutes followed by 10 minutes of uphill treadmill walking.

WEDNESDAY

Total reps: 30
Load: medium (10-14 RM)
Rest: 60 seconds between upper/lower body pairings

A1 Row
Rest 60 seconds

A2 Back squat
Rest 60 seconds and repeat until you reach 30 reps

B1 Bench press
Rest 60 seconds

B2 Deadlift
Rest 60 seconds and repeat until you reach 30 reps

THURSDAY

Rope jumping for 10 minutes followed by 10 minutes of uphill treadmill walking.

FRIDAY

Total reps: 50
Load: light (20-24 RM)
Rest: 60 seconds between antagonist pairings

A1 Push press
Rest 60 seconds

A2 Wide grip pull-up or pulldown
Rest 60 seconds until you reach 50 reps

B1 Zercher squat
Rest 60 seconds

B2 Good morning
Rest 60 seconds until you reach 50 reps

Progression

The MRT progression couldn't be any simpler, because it's based on speed. Once you reach the following load/rep combination before the speed slows down on the first set, increase the load to your next available increment:

Heavy: 6 reps on the first set

Medium: 14 reps on the first set

Light: 24 reps on the first set

I'll use the heavy workouts as an example with a 300-pound deadlift. Let's say after three heavy workouts you can perform 6 reps for the first set with 300 pounds before your speed slows down. At that point it's time to increase the load. This holds true for all workouts.

Creating Your Own MRT Program

There are countless exercise combinations that you can plug into the above plan. I simply chose three workouts that work well for my clients. Feel free to throw in any exercises that suit your needs.

For bodybuilding purposes, you don't need to perform isolation exercises to build your biceps, triceps, lats, quads, or anything else. Here's a chart that outlines the exercises you should choose, based on your weaknesses.

Bigger biceps (focus on the following)

Narrow grip chin-up
Narrow grip pull-up
Neutral grip pull-up
Palms up grip row

Bigger triceps

Dip
Decline dumbbell bench press with neutral hand position
Seated barbell shoulder press lock-out
Narrow grip bench press
Narrow hand position push-up

Bigger traps

Clean
Deadlift
High pull

Bigger quads

Front squat
Single leg squat (pistol)
Narrow foot position high bar squat
Hack squat
Overhead squat
Bigger hamstrings and glutes

Deadlift

Pull through
Good morning
Single leg deadlift

You'll notice I've covered everything except exercises for bigger calves. No, I haven't forgotten: two of the best calf builders are already in the program (rope jumping and uphill treadmill walking). As for great delts, you'll get plenty of deltoid stimulation with this program. And whatever is lacking will be made up by rope jumping.

What about single limb exercises such as the one-arm row or pistol? Any single joint exercise will work in this program. All you need to do is start with your weakest side first. Rest. Then perform the same amount of reps on the opposite side. It's as simple as that.

Final Words

The MRT system is designed for those with limited time who want maximum results. The workouts won't take you much longer than 30 minutes, even on the longest day. But that's the point: to give you better results in half the time.

In future installments, I'll outline more advanced methods to keep your speed as high as possible, and to increase the frequency in a systematic fashion. That's all for now!