T-Nation is a bad-ass site. It's bad-ass because most of us associated with it are some real sons-of-bitches. But is being an SOB a good thing?

Men and women have different interpretations of that term. Most of you guys, including yours truly, have had a foreign object hurled at you from across a parking lot by a soon-to-be ex-girlfriend due to the indiscretions that we exhibit when another "Lil' Miss Hotpants" is walking by. After getting impaled between the eyes by the airborne object, we usually hear, "You SOB!" This is an example of the term SOB being used in a rather negative manner.

On the other hand, when an aspiring bad-ass sees another dude sporting slabs of muscle, you usually hear something along the lines of, "That's one big SOB!" I hope you get that line hurled at you in the near future. The program that follows is your ticket to SOB status!

The Necessity of High and Low Rep Parameters

I could go on a rampage about the one-sided and close-minded approach that many trainers have towards a specific "ideal" rep range for hypertrophy (size gains). I'll make this short and simple: there's no best rep range for hypertrophy! Almost any rep range (and subsequent loading parameters) has the potential to induce hypertrophy.

If you seek alarming rates of muscular development, there are two primary mechanisms that you should be concerned with:

  1. Increased rate of protein synthesis
  2. Decreased rate of protein degradation

Let's begin with the first mechanism: increased rate of protein synthesis. Heavy-load training that mandates low-rep protocols is one of the most effective methods to increase the rate of protein synthesis. This is due to the recruitment of fast fatigue-resistant (FFR) and fast fatigable (FF) motor units that possess muscle fiber types with the greatest growth potential. These motor units possess the fast muscle fibers known as Type IIA and Type IIB fibers, respectively.

Note: There's an ongoing battle about the labeling of muscle fibers. The real bastard seems to be the Type IIB fibers. Some scientists refer to these fibers by many different names other than Type IIB, but for the sake of simplicity, I'll refer to the largest fibers within FF motor units as Type IIB.

Type IIB fibers are the most difficult to recruit, but they tend to hypertrophy at the quickest rate. This isn't to say that Type IIA fibers don't have growth potential–they certainly do! Numerous studies have elucidated the fact that the greatest levels of hypertrophy occurs within both Type II fast muscle fiber types (1, 2, 3, 4).

But, you must do everything in your power to recruit the FF motor units. One of the best methods to recruit these valuable motor units is through fast concentric contractions (lifting quickly.) An even better explanation is to say that the "effort" to move a load as fast as possible is what's imperative.

Heavy-load training with >80% of your 1RM forces the actual concentric muscle action to be slow, but when the effort is hard and fast you'll recruit those FFR and FF motor units as quickly as possible. The FF motor units can only produce optimal levels of force for less than ten seconds, so you must keep the set duration very short.

Parameters to Increase Fast Muscle Protein Synthesis:

  • Set/Rep Volume: 24-50
  • Sets per muscle group: 8-24
  • Reps per muscle group: 1-5
  • Load: >80% of 1RM
  • Rest between sets: 60-300 seconds

There's a variance in terminology to describe the type of hypertrophy that's achieved by the aforementioned parameters. It's been referred to as sarcomere or myofibrillar hypertrophy. Whatever you call it, it basically refers to the actual growth of the muscle fiber. Those who throw around the term "functional muscle" are referring to this type of growth (whether they understand it or not is a whole different article).

Slow Muscle Maintenance and Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy

Now it's time to delve into the second mechanism: decreased rate of protein degradation. Depending on your reference source, strength-endurance resistance training parameters are usually defined as a rep range between 20-100 reps per set. (Obviously, this is a huge range but I'm attempting to keep things as simple as possible.)

Throughout these sets, slow fibers (slow oxidative motor units) and Type IIA fibers (FFR motor units) are primarily taxed. Slow fibers might seem like the red-headed stepchild of muscle growth, but they also have some hypertrophy potential, albeit minimal. So why train them at all? Because, their recruitment causes a decrease in the rate at which they're broken down. If you keep these fibers from degradation, you'll maintain larger levels of muscle mass.

According to the laws of motor unit recruitment, it's impossible to not recruit the slow fibers when training at any load, whether the load is high or low. Even so, there are some real benefits to targeting endurance-type fibers that are taxed with low-load, high rep training. But, this advice shouldn't be taken to the extreme.

Of all the systems in the body, the muscular system has the most plasticity. In other words, it has the greatest adaptive ability of any physiological mechanism. Why? Because your muscles allow you to run away from predators (i.e. ex-girlfriends) and seek food. These are two of the most important mechanisms for survival. Therefore, our muscular system has become very adaptable over the millenniums.

The point of this is to explain that extreme endurance training can also wreak havoc on your muscle gains. If you start training like Lance Armstrong, the neuro-muscular system will adapt to allow greater endurance capabilities and you'll lose your precious Type IIB fibers. If you question the validity of this statement, I can assure you that it's been confirmed in a 1975 study by Andersen and Henriksson.

Therefore, a middle ground must be met. You must train the slow muscles infrequently with relatively low volumes compared to marathon running and Tour de France training. Through much trial-and-error, I've found an effective middle ground with my 100 Reps to Bigger Muscles and Total Body Training programs.

Here are the parameters that'll help keep your slow muscles from degradation, without hindering maximal growth of the fast muscles.

Parameters to Decrease Slow Muscle Protein Degradation:

  • Set/Rep Volume: 50-100
  • Sets per muscle group: 1-5
  • Reps per muscle group: 20-100
  • Load: 20-50% of 1RM
  • Rest between sets: 2 min.-hours

Not only will these parameters minimize protein degradation, but they'll also induce sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. This type of hypertrophy is achieved from increased levels of glycogen, water and various minerals within the muscles.

Oftentimes, low-load, high volume training is referred to as "pump training" since the parameters often lead to incredible muscle pumps during and immediately after the session. I'm not convinced that a "pump" will lead to greater levels of hypertrophy, but it can't hurt. For decades, bodybuilders have extolled the virtues of this phenomenon, so there might be something to it–or maybe not.

But, one of the coolest benefits of high-rep training is the sarcoplasmic hypertrophy that it induces. Therefore, in addition to minimizing slow muscle degradation, you'll also swell up those guns!

No Best Parameters!

If you're knocking yourself in the head with a tire-iron right now, I wouldn't be surprised. The bottom line is this: even though I sometimes appear to be talking out of both sides of my mouth, it's for good reason. There are no best muscle-building parameters. Both single-rep and 100-rep sets will aid in the muscle-building process, along with virtually every set of parameters in between. So keep varying your parameters!

Whenever you're in doubt of this reasoning, think of the calf development of a soccer player or the upper back development of a lumberjack. They're constantly exposing their muscles to both ends of the spectrum, and they possess some of the best calf and upper back development, respectively. Therefore, almost every, non-extreme type of training has its place within the realm of hypertrophy!

The SOB Program

Now let's put all this info together into a great hypertrophy program. As is the case with some of my other programs, I'm going to allow you to choose the exercises. Once you get a list together of your favorite movements, apply the following parameters. Just be sure to provide balance in your program by choosing one or two exercises from each of the following categories:

  • Upper Body Pushing (Horizontal Plane)
  • Upper Body Pulling (Horizontal Plane)
  • Upper Body Pushing (Vertical Plane)
  • Upper Body Pulling (Vertical Plane)
  • Lower Body (Hip Dominant)
  • Lower Body (Quad Dominant)
  • Assistance Exercises (Abs, Calves, Biceps, Triceps, External Rotators, etc.)

Before I give you the SOB program, I must be clear in regard to the training parameters. You're free to choose one or two exercises from each category, but you mustn't alter the parameters.

For instance, on Day 1 when I prescribe 10 x 3, you can either perform one upper body pushing exercise in the horizontal plane for all ten sets, or you can perform five sets of two different upper body pushing exercises in the horizontal plane. Don't perform 10 x 3 for two different upper body pushing exercises in the horizontal plane! Perform all reps as fast as possible while maintaining control of the load. In addition, you should perform all movements in the prescribed order.

Day 1

Sets: 10
Reps: 3
Load: 6RM (reps max)
Rest: 75 sec. (seconds) between sets
Movements: Upper Body Pressing (Horizontal Plane), Upper Body Pulling (Vertical Plane), Lower Body (Hip Dominant), Assistance Exercises

Day 2

Off, perform GPP (General Physical Preparedness) training or light cardio activity for 15-20 minutes

Day 3

Sets: 2
Reps: 30
Load: 34RM
Rest: 3 min. between sets
Movements: Lower Body (Quad Dominant), Upper Body Pulling (Horizontal Plane), Upper Body Pressing (Vertical Plane), Assistance Exercises (must be for different muscle groups than Day 1)

Day 4

Off, perform GPP training or light cardio activity for 15-20 minutes

Day 5

Sets: 2
Reps: 30
Load: 34RM
Rest: 3 min. between sets
Movements: Upper Body Pulling (Vertical Plane), Lower Body (Hip Dominant), Upper Body Pressing (Horizontal Plane), Assistance Exercises (must be for different muscle groups than Day 3)

Day 6

Off, perform GPP training or light cardio for 15-20 minutes

Day 7

Sets: 10
Reps: 3
Load: 6RM
Rest: 75 sec.
Movements: Lower Body (Quad Dominant), Upper Body Pressing (Vertical Plane), Upper Body Pulling (Horizontal Plane), Assistance Exercises (must be for different muscle groups than Day 5)

Day 8

Off, perform GPP training or light cardio for 15-20 minutes if desired.

Day 9

Sets: 6
Reps: 5
Load: 8RM
Rest: 75 sec. between sets
Movements: Upper Body Pressing (Horizontal Plane), Upper Body Pulling (Vertical Plane), Lower Body (Hip Dominant), Assistance Exercises

Day 10

Off, perform GPP training or light cardio for 15-20 minutes

Day 11

Sets: 4
Reps: 15
Load: 18RM
Rest: 2 min. between sets
Movements: Lower Body (Quad Dominant), Upper Body Pulling (Horizontal Plane), Upper Body Pressing (Vertical Plane), Assistance Exercises (must be for different muscle groups than Day 9)

Day 12

Off, perform GPP training or light cardio activity for 15-20 minutes

Day 13

Sets: 4
Reps: 15
Load: 18RM
Rest: 2 min. between sets
Movements: Upper Body Pulling (Vertical Plane), Lower Body (Hip Dominant), Upper Body Pressing (Horizontal Plane), Assistance Exercises (must be for different muscle groups than Day 11)

Day 14

Off, perform GPP training or light cardio activity for 15-20 minutes

Day 15

Sets: 6
Reps: 5
Load: 8RM
Rest: 75 sec.
Movements: Lower Body (Quad Dominant), Upper Body Pressing (Vertical Plane), Assistance Exercises (must be for different muscle groups than Day 13)

Day 16

Off, perform GPP training or light cardio for 15-20 minutes, if desired.

Day 17

Sets: 12
Reps: 2
Load: 5RM
Rest: 75 sec. between sets
Movements: Upper Body Pressing (Horizontal Plane), Upper Body Pulling (Vertical Plane), Lower Body (Hip Dominant), Assistance Exercises (must be for different muscle groups than Day 15)

Day 18

Off, perform GPP training or light cardio for 15-20 minutes.

Day 19

Sets: 1
Reps: 50
Load: 50RM
Movements: Lower Body (Quad Dominant), Upper Body Pulling (Horizontal Plane), Upper Body Pressing (Vertical Plane), Assistance Exercises (must be for different muscle groups than Day 17)

Day 20

Off, perform GPP training or light cardio activity for 15-20 minutes

Day 21

Sets: 1
Reps: 50
Load: 50RM
Movements: Upper Body Pulling (Vertical Plane), Lower Body (Hip Dominant), Upper Body Pressing (Horizontal Plane), Assistance Exercises (must be for different muscle groups than Day 19)

Day 22

Off, perform GPP training or light cardio activity for 15-20 minutes

Day 23

Sets: 12
Reps: 2
Load: 5RM
Rest: 75 sec.
Movements: Lower Body (Quad Dominant), Upper Body Pressing (Vertical Plane), Upper Body Pulling (Horizontal Plane), Assistance Exercises (must be for different muscle groups than Day 21)

DayS 24

Off, perform GPP training or light cardio for 15-20 minutes, if desired.

Day 25

Sets: 10
Reps: 3
Load: 6RM
Rest: 1 min. between sets
Movements: Upper Body Pressing (Horizontal Plane), Upper Body Pulling (Vertical Plane), Lower Body (Hip Dominant), Assistance Exercises (must be for different muscle groups than Day 23)

Day 26

Off, perform GPP training or light cardio for 15-20 minutes.

Day 27

Sets: 3
Reps: 20
Load: 24RM
Rest: 2 min. between sets
Movements: Lower Body (Quad Dominant), Upper Body Pulling (Horizontal Plane), Upper Body Pressing (Vertical Plane), Assistance Exercises (must be for different muscle groups than Day 25)

Day 28

Off, perform GPP training or light cardio activity for 15-20 minutes

Day 29

Sets: 3
Reps: 20
Load: 24RM
Rest: 2 min. between sets
Movements: Upper Body Pulling (Vertical Plane), Lower Body (Hip Dominant), Upper Body Pressing (Horizontal Plane), Assistance Exercises (must be for different muscle groups than Day 27)

Day 30

Off, perform GPP training or light cardio activity for 15-20 minutes

Day 31

Sets: 10
Reps: 3
Load: 6RM
Rest: 1 min.
Movements: Lower Body (Quad Dominant), Upper Body Pressing (Vertical Plane), Upper Body Pulling (Horizontal Plane), Assistance Exercises (must be for different muscle groups than Day 29)

Day 32

Off, perform GPP training or light cardio for 15-20 minutes, if desired.

Recommended Supplements

  • Palzma™  Consume one serving before training and one serving during.
  • Spike®  This advanced stimulant has given me some of the best workouts of my life. If you seek greater levels of concentration and strength during your workouts, get Spiked! I highly recommend it.
  • Metabolic Drive® Protein  You're going to need a lot of high-quality protein on this program, so I suggest you get your hands on this. It makes meeting the "1-2 grams per pound of lean body mass" protein recommendations much easier to achieve.

Now, repeat the program for another 32 days if you want to become a really big SOB!

References

  1. Thorstensson, A. (1976) Muscle strength, fiber types and enzyme activities in man. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica 433 (Suppl.), 1-44.
  2. MacDougall J.D., Sale D.G., Moroz J.R., Elder G.C.B, Sutton J.R., & Howard, H. (1979) Mitochondrial volume density in human skeletal muscle following heavy resistance training. Medicine and Science in Sports 11, 164-166.
  3. Tesch P.A., Hakinen K. & Komi P.V. (1985) The effect of strength training and detraining on various enzyme activities. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 17, 245.
  4. Staron R.S., Malicky E.S., Leonardi M.J., Falkel J.E., Hagerman F.C. & Dudley G.A. (1990) Muscle hypertrophy and fast fiber type conversions in heavy resistance-trained women. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology 60, 71-79