A few weeks ago I heard an interview with a
bodybuilder and personal trainer who discussed a unique training
method to quickly add some size and strength. He claimed, get this, you could add 1/2 inch to your biceps in one day.

He might have gotten the idea from Charles
Poliquin's One Day Arm Cure.

Even so, I'm about as skeptical as they come when
people start to sound like infomercials, but he wasn't selling
anything. No product pitch; no service pitch; nothing. This was
also the second time I'd heard this claim that month, from two
unrelated sources. I thought it would be worth looking into, so I
set up the ultimate research experiment, using my favorite guinea
pig: me.

The protocol was simple. Do 8-10 reps with a
weight that forces failure within that rep range every 30 minutes
for the entire day. I have very little interest in adding a 1/2
inch to my biceps (sacrilegious, I know). I also don't have weights
in my apartment, so I changed the nature of the protocol a bit and
went with push-ups instead of biceps curls. I weighed in at 167
that Sunday morning (the heaviest I've been all year).

I spared myself the first 30 minutes I was awake
so I could get some breakfast, and the last hour before bed so I
could unwind a bit. Instead of adding some weight to my book bag to
attempt to reach exhaustion within 8-10 reps, I just ignored the
rep range recommendation and did standard body weight push-ups
until I reached failure. I did the first few hours with my feet on
the ground, the next few hours with my feet raised about 6 inches,
and the last few hours with my feet raised about two feet.

In an attempt to maximize intramuscular tension, I
kept all the involved musculature as tense as possible throughout
the entire range of motion. In other words, I didn't just go
through the motions to reach as many reps as possible. I couldn't
care less about how many reps I performed. I was more concerned
with maximizing the stress to the muscles, so I squeezed them as
hard as possible through every rep.

250+ Push-Ups Later

I weighed in the next morning at 172. I didn't
believe it. I weighed in every morning for the next week to satisfy
my skepticism, always between 170.5 and 172.5. Three weeks later,
I'm 172.

I told a fellow scholar about my experience, and
she laughed at me. "You know that isn't muscle!" As much as I'd
love to start claiming I can add 5 pounds of muscle to a
well-trained frame in a little over 12 hours, I knew she was right.
The time course of protein anabolism wouldn't allow for such a
rapid gain. While I didn't measure my body fat, I did use the
ocular approach (a quick look in the mirror), and didn't appear to
have put on any fat. I'm currently around 8% body fat, so I think I
would notice five new pounds of fat.

So what was this mystery meat I had acquired? I
have no idea, and frankly, I don't care. While I was pretty
debilitated for the three days that followed, I was noticeably
stronger during my upper body lift that Friday. I was noticeably
stronger on ALL of my lifts the next week. That's why I didn't and
still don't care about the composition of the weight gain. If it
looks like muscle, feels like muscle, and acts like muscle, I'll
take it.

There's another possible explanation that I've
purposely left out until now. I started taking creatine monohydrate a few
days earlier. The first few times I used creatine, I put on a few
pounds of water weight in the first few days. In the last few
years, that hasn't been the case. Actually, the last few times I've
used creatine I haven't noticed any benefit at all, but I still
give it a try sometimes when I'm starting a completely different
program.

It's possible that much of the added weight came
from water, and that the improved strength was also a byproduct of
the creatine. If that's the case, I'm still elated. Why?
Because I haven't been responding to creatine supplementation. If
this one-day event can be used to jumpstart my body into responding
to creatine again, then great! The Sunday I did my experiment was
the third day after I started taking creatine.

I believe the debate on whether or not you need to
load creatine (take 25g/day for the first 5-7 days then just 5g
everyday after that) is ongoing. I typically don't load, and didn't
this time. However, just as one should consume simple sugars and
rapidly-digesting protein immediately after your workout, this is
also a great time to take creatine. Because I was doing some sort
of exercise every 30 minutes, I decided to throw back 5g of
creatine immediately after a set every few hours, meaning I took a
total of 25g that day.

I told a friend of mine about it, and he gave it a
shot. He's a competitive bodybuilder, so this idea appealed a lot
to him. He tried it with push-ups and gained 2 pounds. He said he
ate and drank less than normal the few days preceding that weigh-in
too so he could've potentially put on more weight. He wasn't
experimenting with creatine loading strategies, so his results
aren't confounded by supplementation.

You're probably wondering how often this strategy
can be used. The answer is that I don't know. I don't know whether
I'd get the same results if I did it again that weekend, or the
next, or if I do it again in a year. I only know that I did it once
and it worked. I will definitely try it again, but I wouldn't
recommend doing it more frequently than every 8 weeks or so for two
reasons.

First, doing something every 30 minutes, even if
it's only for a minute, really consumes the day. My whole day
revolved around being back in my room to bang out another set of
push-ups. In my experience, it's rare that someone will have a
schedule that will allow for lifting every 30 minutes.

Second, I was extremely sore for about three or
four days. As a result, my regularly scheduled lifts in that time
period were almost completely ruined. My tank was on empty.
Interrupting a program like that on a regular basis would not be
beneficial, for physique or morale.

I learned a lot from this
experiment:

1. It's one more strategy to help break through a
plateau.

2. It's a way to rapidly increase size/strength in
a lagging area. I used push-ups for the experiment mostly out of
convenience. Since many training programs focus heavily on the
anterior side of the body, I will probably use this with clients
and athletes in the future to help improve upper back strength
using chin-ups till failure.

3. At the very least, I found a new
potential loading strategy for creatine use.

At this point, you probably think I'm full of
shit. That's good. I want you to be skeptical. I wouldn't trust anyone who said he put on 5 pounds in less
than 12 hours either. It's ridiculous. It's illogical. It verges on
blasphemy.

But it happened.

bullshit bag

Before you file this technique away as
bullshit, at least give it a try.

Instead of listing all the reasons why textbooks
say you shouldn't train this way, try it for yourself. I think the
majority of people will see the greatest benefit from doing
chin-ups or inverted rows. But if the temptation of putting a few
pounds on your chest, shoulders, and arms is too great, just do the
push-ups. Drink a ton of water, and cancel all your appointments
for the next day.

Good luck.