Death, Vomit, and Phosphates

It originally started as a whim; to design a workout that would swiftly put a belligerent client in his place by activating the "gag reflex." Meltdown Training was born. The program has now become a primary weapon in the fat-loss arsenal. I must admit the universal gains from Meltdown still blow me away. To this day I receive e-mails from all over the planet acknowledging its ability to shed fat and build muscle fast! As thrilling as this is, the program only has a shelf life of three to five weeks before the body adapts to it, so I've been at work designing a complimentary, more potent phase two.

Everyone wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die. True? Until now, weight training nirvana was that muscled, paper-thin skin look owned by a few overzealous genetic freaks. All that's changing because like a nuclear chain reaction, Meltdown II will unload a ten megaton bomb to the average lifter's physique. At its core lies the most explosive energy source in the body – the anaerobic ATP-CP system. Like molten lava lying below the earth's surface, this energy source lies bubbling deep in the resources of your muscle mass, waiting to be ignited. Meltdown II will do just that!

Garbage In, Garbage Out!

Everyone knows that in order to shed fat you need to either consume less energy (calories) or expend more energy. This is known as energy balance. It's true that weight loss and specifically fat loss can only be achieved through modifying one or both of these factors.(1)

But what few fat-loss practitioners know is that the metabolic cost of every exercise and program is unique both in terms of immediate and long term energy expense. You can burn an equal amount of calories walking aerobically for 30 minutes or doing a few sets of the clean and jerk. On the surface they both may use up the same calories, but will the post-training effects be equal? No way! Aerobically, when you leave the treadmill, all bets are off–there's no after burn. Time not well spent in my opinion.

Meltdown training focuses on other means of manipulating energy expense through immediate (acute) and chronic (after burn) mechanisms. In the first Meltdown program, I championed anaerobic training (specifically, lactic-acid energy training) over aerobic training due to its fat shedding and muscle sparring properties. Meltdown II will go one better by developing the high-energy phosphate energy system (ATP-CP). This phase uses Olympic speed-strength exercises combined with hybrid sets and a few dirty tricks to drive energy expense to the next level. Hold on to your jock; this will be one hell of a ride!

Newton Revisited: Augmenting Acute Energy Demands

I believe that if Sir Isaac Newton were alive today, he would, in addition to still having the same preoccupation with apples, be the ultimate strength and conditioning coach. For you scholastic sandbaggers out there, Sir Isaac Newton devised and advanced laws and principles in the study of the physical world. In order to explain how Newton would approach the topic of acute energy expenditure, I have to introduce two concepts.

Newton's second law states that Force = Mass x Acceleration (F = m x a). Work is a measure of energy expressed as a product of force multiplied by the displacement (distance) the force travels. Most of the time, displacement is simply the height of the bar from low point to high point. (W = F x d). If we increase the mass, the acceleration or the displacement the load travels, we jack up the work done. Fair enough? Meltdown II relies on larger movement ranges, explosive compound exercises, and greater loads. Every element in the equation is increased, so the result is double the caloric bang. And that's just the beginning.

Hybrid Sets and Starting Strength

A hybrid exercise is the energetic equivalent of Tony Little on speed. It's when you combine two or more separate exercises into one repetition. The clean and push press is an outstanding example. It consists of a pull from the ground with a front squat and an overhead press. That's three exercises! It's not surprising that this lift uses more calories per rep than any other.(4) This is due to more joints moving through a greater range of motion. Its value in doubling the displacement distance in the above equation becomes obvious.

But if you think that's impressive, let's jack-up the burn 33% more by using and abusing the concept of starting strength. Like a library card, most strength coaches have this trick tucked in their back pocket but never use it. Racking a weight between reps is more energetically demanding than using momentum and stored elastic energy to perform a continuous set. (5) Because of this, Meltdown II instructs the trainee to perform a heavy rep, rack the weight, wait 15 seconds, then perform rep two, etc.

Power of the Masses: Augmenting Chronic Energy Demands

Even with the above tactics in place, up to 70% of the calories you use day in and day out will not come directly from exercise. They come from your resting metabolic rate (RMR).

According to a report in the National Strength and Conditioning Journal:

"An increase in RMR can have a significant impact on total energy expenditure and the creation of a negative energy balance. This increase in RMR is especially important when taking into consideration that RMR is generally depressed during caloric restriction. Resistance training may significantly increase RMR by (a) increasing fat-free mass, (b) increasing plasma catecholamine levels, and (c) through post-exercise effects." (1)

Now this is old news to me, but what's new and exciting is that with Meltdown II, you not only shed abundant fat and prevent the loss of muscle mass, you'll actually gain significant muscle mass even with famine-like caloric intakes of less than 1000 calories. How's this possible? Simple. I selectively excite the type-IIB fibers by training under the three little known conditions specific for their recruitment and then seduce them to be exposed to a longer duration.

IIB or Not IIB?

The three conditions confirmed to develop type-IIB muscle fibers are:

  1. Tension threshold: Motor units get recruited based on the "size principle" which states that based on demand, smaller motor units are first recruited, then larger units, and finally IIB units. (2) It's generally recognized that it takes at least 70% of one's 1RM (rep max) in order to call the action of the IIB units. Meltdown II uses 90 to 95% 1 RM.
  2. Speed threshold: High tension and faster IIB firing speeds allow Olympic weightlifters to accelerate large masses. In this example, both the size and speed principles are at work. Both explosive concentric actions (weightlifting) and fast "eccentric" contractions (plyometrics) rewire IIB recruitment to occur more intensely and more often. (3,6) In Meltdown II, you'll be doing your explosive lifts in the AM and plyometric exercise in the PM. This timing takes advantage of the nervous system facilitation in your AM session. Remember, concentric explosion equals increased vertical displacement, more forceful eccentric action, and more calories used.
  3. Ischemic conditions (lack of oxygen): It was first discovered in patients with chronic obstructive lung disease – which limits the amount of oxygen and subsequently raises systemic blood metabolite levels – that "both the increase in the numerical proportion of fast-twitch fibers and muscular hypertrophy was demonstrated to occur in the leg muscles." (Takarada et al.) This is the reason that bodybuilders can still develop type-IIB fibers using only moderate loads and slow speeds. (6)

It seems that the moderate loads in concert with short rest intervals and high volume satisfy this unique condition. Also, this metabolic damming effect explains why multi-joint, lower-body exercise volume (squat and deadlift) are superior for mass development. Later in the Meltdown II work sets, as fatigue and metabolites build, then conditions one and two above become negated and condition three takes over. This metabolic overload does two major things:

  1. Re-exposes the fast-twitch fibers!
  2. Sets the biochemical fat-loss mechanisms into overdrive via metabolite and growth factor build-up (i.e. nor epinephrine, Testosterone, GH, IGF-I). Specifically, nor epinephrine release has been proven in several studies to be a prime factor in fat metabolism by increasing post exercise RMR by 7.7%! (1)

Increased Fat Oxidation

Three showers and two pair of boxers after you've left the gym, Meltdown is still sizzling fat around your waistline. Because Meltdown is very anaerobic (Phase II even more so), the body supplies energy in the absence of oxygen. It then takes the body hours to regain oxygen balance. (1,2) This revs up RMR.

Another mechanism of increased fat oxidation is due to phosphate and glycogen depletion. It's like this: Meltdown Training depletes anaerobic fuel sources like high energy phosphate and glycogen to the point when the body must then work extra hard to replenish these substrates post exercise. While replenishment of glycogen is occurring, the body uses fat as its primary fuel source. (1,2)

Plus, after initial replenishment, even more energy is demanded to drive super-compensation. The studies on muscle damage indicate that it's the degree of disruption that drives protein turnover. These cumulative effects shift RMR into overdrive for up to 48 hours post workout. (7)

Sport-Specific Training Effects

In competition, did you ever get your opponent in your sights but then couldn't pull the trigger? Felt like your tank was empty, right? While both Meltdown I and II have a significant effect on body composition, they also have sport specific training effects. Neurologically, they push the force vs. time curve up and to the left, meaning you display peak strength more quickly and to a higher magnitude. (3)

Metabolically, Meltdown I conditions the body to neutralize and clear lactate more quickly allowing you to go the distance without feeling like a limp noodle. Meltdown II will condition you to hit like a two-ton truck whenever you need it. Sports that will benefit include wrestling, boxing, martial arts, football, gymnastics, rugby, judo, and strongman events.

What to Eat While Melting Down

I'm partial to the T-Dawg diet with both Meltdown I and II. I feel it works best. Because of the mechanisms in place, hypertrophy and fat loss will still result with a basal intake of calories; just make sure to alternate two low calorie days with one higher calorie day (500 calories plus or minus maintenance).

Although most trainees use Meltdown as a fat loss program, it also works exceptionally well as a mass gaining program. In this case, alternate two higher calorie days with one basal caloric day.

Due to the demands on the high energy phosphate system, I recommend supplementing 15 to 25 grams of creatine monohydrate per day. A pre-workout shot of MD6 and Power Drive would be helpful, too. If you're under 10% body fat, add up to 25 grams of extra dextrose to your Surge post-workout and at least 20 ounces of water. If over 10%, stick with two to three scoops of Low-Carb Grow! with 20 grams of extra glutamine.

The Meltdown II Workout

Warning: This workout is capable of acutely elevating blood pressure and pulse rate. It's not recommended for those with high blood pressure or heart disease.

  • Intensity:  All exercises are performed at 90 to 95% of actual 1 RM. Before starting the program, test your clean and push press, snatch grip deadlift and power snatch. (Descriptions of these below.)
  • Frequency:  Perform the following workout (AM and PM) three times per week: Monday/Wednesday/Friday or Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday for four weeks. PM plyometric/power training should occur four to eight hours after AM workout for maximum effect. If this later session is impossible then it may be done on "off" days. Otherwise, "off" days should be used to stretch the muscles involved in the Olympic lifts or "shadow lift" with a light bar or broomstick. Stretching of the ankle, knee, hip and shoulder should precede any weightlifting bottom position training. After that, I make my athletes do ten minutes of overhead broomstick squats or ten minutes of front squats without stopping.
  • Rest Periods:  It's important to count down from 15 between reps. (Remember you'll be racking the weight between reps.) It's also mandatory to have all weights preset before starting the first exercise. My advice is to establish the correct weights on all A1 to A3 exercises during the warm-up. A4 uses the same weight as A1.
  • Technique:  I strongly encourage you to work on your clean and jerk as well as your power snatch technique prior to beginning this phase. To get the most from the routine you'll have to test 1RM and then use 90 to 95%. No estimated 1RM's. Although a lifting platform and bumper plates are nice, they aren't necessary. Spotting isn't advised in Olympic lifting but may be used on other lifts.
  • Grips:  A clean grip places the hands on the bar slightly wider than shoulder width apart. A snatch grip is wider than other grips; it's the distance from elbow to elbow when the arms are straight out to the side. For the alternated grip, place one hand supinated and one hand pronated.
  • Exercise Substitution:  The front squat and back squat may be substituted for the clean and push press and power snatch respectively. Beyond this, no other substitutions will warrant optimal results. Bottom line, if you don't or won't at least barbell squat, forget about it and do German Volume Training.
  • Progression:  The workout will ultimately intensify through density (increased volume and shorter rest intervals) over the four weeks. (Note: Some fast-twitch individuals may also be able to nudge the loads up by 3 to 5%, but this isn't necessary for optimal results.) Initially, you'll progress by decreasing the "A" sets by one each week while decreasing the 240-second rest interval by ten seconds each week. Leave the rest between reps alone. On week four, return the sets and rest intervals to five sets and 240 seconds and increase the weight 5 to 7% above week one values. The "B" series and plyometric parameters remain constant.

So the scheme looks like this:

Week 1
Load (percentage of 1 RM): 90-95%
Sets: 5
Rest: 240 seconds

Week 2
Load (percentage of 1 RM): 90-95%
Sets: 4
Rest: 230 seconds

Week 3
Load (percentage of 1 RM): 90-95%
Sets: 3
Rest: 220 seconds

Week 4
Load (percentage of 1 RM): 95-102%
Sets: 5
Rest: 240 seconds

Resistance Exercises

Unless you choose the squat options I talked about above, here are the exercises you'll be using in Meltdown II:

Power Snatch

Stand with feet shoulder width apart, toes out slightly. Squat down to a deadlift position and grasp bar with a pronated, snatch grip.

  • First Pull:  Lift bar off the floor by extending the hips and knees, elbows fully extended, head neutral, bar close to shins. As the bar raises just above knees, thrust the hips forward and "scoop" the thighs under the bar.
  • Second Pull:  Explosively extend the hips and knees and plantar flex the ankles (come up on your toes). At full extension, shrug the shoulders then pull the body under the bar. Continue to pull with the arms.
  • Catch:  Pull the body under the bar and rotate the hands under the bar. Drop into a quarter-squat position. Catch and stabilize the bar overhead with the elbows fully extended, a neutral head, feet flat and bar vertically aligned with the ears, shoulders, hips and ankles.
Power Snatch Power Snatch

Mr. Buffalo, NY, Rob Rivera, demonstrates the powerful explosion upward. The legs fully extend and the traps contract forcefully. Basically the lifter tries to "jump up". The bar is kept close to the body. The arms bend somewhat, but that's because of the momentum of the bar, not arm pull.

Power Clean + Push Press

Stand with feet shoulder width apart, toes out slightly. Squat down to a deadlift position and grasp bar with a pronated, clean grip.

  • First Pull:  Lift bar off floor by extending the hips and knees, elbows fully extended, head neutral, bar close to shins. As the bar raises just above knees, thrust the hips forward and "scoop" the thighs under the bar.
  • Second Pull:  Explosively extend the hips and knees and plantar flex the ankles. At full extension, shrug the shoulders, flex the elbows and pull the arms high.
  • Catch:  Pull the body under the bar and rotate the arms around and under the bar. Catch the bar in a quarter squat position at the level of the clavicles and then stand up. Bend the legs until the body is in jump position. Next, explosively dip and drive the bar upward going up on your toes. Let the heels come back down as you lock out the bar with your arms.

Note: The first two steps of this movement are the same as the power snatch above, only be sure to keep the hands closer together.

Push Press, Snatch Grip

Set rack height lower than your standing position. Grasp the bar with a firm yet semi-loose, pronated, snatch width grip. Position the bar in front of the neck resting on clavicles, elbows pointed down. Step away from the rack, torso erect and chest expanded. Bend the legs until the body is in jump position. Explosively dip and drive the bar upward going up on your toes. Let the heels come back down as you lock out the bar with your arms.

Deadlift (Snatch Grip) + Shrug + Calf Raise

This exercise is performed on a platform approximately four to six inches high. This allows increased range of motion. Grasp the bar with a snatch pronated grip, elbows locked, feet shoulder width, toes out slightly. Using an arched back, lift the bar from the platform in constant contact with the body.

In one motion, as the bar passes the hips, forcefully shrug the shoulders and raise onto the toes. Pause and control this top position. Lower the bar by scraping the bar along the body to its resting position. Keep the chin and neck retracted and head in a neutral position. Use lifting straps if needed.

Overhead Squat

Overhead Squat

Bottom position of overhead squat

Grasp the bar with a snatch pronated grip, elbows locked and medially rotated (turned in slightly), feet wider than shoulder width, toes out slightly. Position the weight overhead so that the bar, ears, shoulders, hips and ankles are vertically aligned. Maintain this locked elbow position as you squat down to a leg parallel position or lower.

Lateral Crunch, Side Bending, Feet Anchored

Lateral Crunch

Assume side lying position with the feet firmly anchored. If no ab bench or glute ham bench is available, a partner may hold feet on flat bench. Keep the head retracted, hands behind head, elbows back. Head, shoulders, hips and feet must be aligned. Laterally stretch over the edge of the bench to end range (head away from feet). Laterally flex using muscles to bring torso back towards feet. Do not rotate torso.

Leg Lowering, Decline Bench

This exercise is also the functional strength test for lower abs and obliques. Start on your back, hips flexed, knees locked, and reverse tilt your pelvis to facilitate a flat back (under the bellybutton). From there, slowly lower your legs until you can no longer retain the flat back position and your lower back arches. Now if your lower back arches before your feet hit the floor on rep one, then you failed the test! In that case, rest, then bend the knees to return to the original position and keep going.

Plyometric Exercises

Plyometric exercise develops power by utilizing the natural elastic components of muscles and tendons. It's a pre-stretch, or fast eccentric motion that precedes the explosive, concentric movement.

Guidelines for plyometric exercise:

  • The load is determined by mass times height of the free fall; go for hang time rather than load.
  • The transfer between the pre-stretch and the explosive motion must be minimized, otherwise the elastic energy is lost.
  • Break a sweat with a jump rope or rower before starting the plyos.
  • Rest periods are crucial for effective and safe use, perform 5 to 8 reps and rest at least 200 seconds before the next set. Remember, this isn't Meltdown I, lactic-acid training; you don't want to vomit between sets, just jump higher.

Explosive "Clap" Chin-ups

I admit, maybe I've gone too far with this one, but believe me it can be done. (And yes, I do it.) If you're the type that can strap 70 pounds to your belt and bang out six reps, then you can do this unassisted, otherwise set the Gravitron or similar assisted chin-up machine to a moderate to large assistance.

Grasp the bar with an underhand shoulder width grip. To begin, lower your torso and stretch the lats quickly. When you reach the bottom, without hesitation, pull and thrust yourself explosively. Gain enough speed so that you can let go of the machine at the top (clapping is optional), on the way down re-grasp the bar and repeat.

Clap Push-up

Start in push-up position with feet elevated on a step or bench. Maintain torso in straight, erect position. Lower the chest to the floor, then with a forceful upward thrust explode off the floor to the point where you "catch air" such that you can clap before falling back to the ground.

Jump Squat

Load a bar with 25% of your 1RM back squat. Keep the bar firmly planted on your traps as you perform maximum continuous vertical jumps. Don't stop between reps as this will negate the plyometric effect.

The Program

Remember, perform the following workout (AM and PM) three times per week: Monday/Wednesday/Friday or Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday for four weeks. PM plyometric/power training should occur four to eight hours after AM workout for maximum effect.

Day 1: AM

  Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest
A1 Power Clean + Push Press * 5 1+1+1 X00 15 sec.
A2 Chins, Supinated Grip (use extra weight if possible) * 5 1+1+1 30X 15 sec.
A3 Bench Press * 5 1+1+1 30X 15 sec.
A4 Power Clean Only (same load as A1) * * 5 1+1+1 X00 240 sec.
B Lateral Crunch, Side Bending, Feet Anchored (use extra weight if possible) 3 5-7 222 2 min.

* Between reps and sets. Remember to rack the weight between reps.
* * Power Clean Only — Between reps 15 sec. and 240 sec. bewteen sets. Remember to rack the weight between reps.

Day 1: PM (or "off" day)

  Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest
A Clap Pushups (feet elevated) 8-12 5-7 X0X 200 sec.

Day 2: AM

  Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest
A1 Deadlift (Snatch Grip) + Shrug + Calf Raise * 5 1+1+1 30X 15 sec.
A2 Biceps Curls, Barbell * 5 1+1+1 30X 15 sec.
A3 Push Press, Snatch Grip * 5 1+1+1 30X 15 sec.
A4 Deadlift (Snatch Grip) + Shrug (same load as A1) * * 5 1+1+1 X00 240 sec.
B Lateral Crunch, Side Bending, Feet Anchored (use extra weight if possible) 3 5-7 222 2 min.

* Between reps and sets. Remember to rack the weight between reps.
* * Deadlift — Between reps 15 sec. and 240 sec. bewteen sets. Remember to rack the weight between reps.

Day 2: PM (or "off" day)

  Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest
A Clap Chin-ups 8-12 5-7 X0X 200 sec.

Day 3: AM

  Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest
A1 Power Snatch * 5 1+1+1 X00 15 sec.
A2 Pull-up, Alt. Grip, (use extra weight if possible) * 5 1+1+1 30X 15 sec.
A3 Overhead Squat * 5 1+1+1 30X 15 sec.
A4 Power Snatch * * 5 1+1+1 X00 240 sec.
B Lateral Crunch, Side Bending, Feet Anchored (use extra weight if possible) * * * 3 1+1+1   2 min.

* Between reps and sets. Remember to rack the weight between reps.
* * Power Snatch — Between reps 15 sec. and 240 sec. bewteen sets. Remember to rack the weight between reps.
* * * Lateral Crunch — 8 seconds lowering, flex knees when you raise.

Day 3: PM (or "off" day)

  Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest
A Jump Squat 8-12 5-7 X0X 200 sec.

Conclusion

With the compliment of the two phases I'm quite sure you'll disintegrate 12 to 15 pounds of fat and build six to eight pounds of lean mass in a matter of weeks. Of course, I'm saving a few tricks for future "Iron Dog" articles. Stay tuned...

References

  1. Jeffrey L. Alexander The Role of Resistance Exercise in Weight Loss National Strength & Conditioning Association Volume 24, Number 1, pages 65-69
  2. Essentials of strength training and conditioning / National Strength and Conditioning Association; Thomas R. Baechle, Rodger Earle, editors.-2nd.ed.
  3. Mel C. Siff, Yuri V Verkhoshansky "Supertraining" 4th Edition, Increasing the Working Effect of Movements section 2.2.2, pp. 96-98, 2001.
  4. Mel C. Siff, Yuri V Verkhoshansky "Supertraining" 4th Edition, Bodybuilding and other strength training methods, section 7.1, pp. 397, 2001.
  5. Mel C. Siff, Yuri V Verkhoshansky "Supertraining" 4th Edition, Efficiency of Energy Expenditure section 3.4.6, pp. 167, 2001.
  6. Yudai Takarada, HaruoTakazawa, Yoskiaki Sato, Shigeo Takebayashi, Yasuhiro Tanaka, and Naokata Ishii; Effects of resistance exercise combined with moderate vascular occlusion on muscular function in humans. Journal Appl. Physical 88:2098-2106,2000
  7. Brett A Dolezal et. al. Muscle Damage and resting metabolic rate after acute resistance exercise with an eccentric overload Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise Vol. 32. No. 7,pp1202-1207,2000.