Back in issue #173, Coach Alessi introduced the world to Meltdown Training, a program designed to melt fat off your body by manipulating natural growth hormone levels through lactic acid energy training. Then, as if Meltdown 1 wasn't challenging enough, Don brought us Meltdown 2 or "The Death Circuit" which allows you to burn more calories in one workout than most people burn in a week of training, or at least that's what it feels like.

Now, Don is unleashing Meltdown 3, a "finishing program" designed to give you that finely honed, chiseled look.

Attention Advanced Narcissists!

The standards are rising. We used to be satisfied with just not being fat, then we wanted a six pack. Today, we don't just want to be lean, we want to be super lean and muscular! The hunt for artificial substances and special training methods is at its historical apex. My focus has been on discovering and developing those special training programs. Enter Meltdown Training 3.

Meltdown 3 is distinctly unlike Meltdown 1 and Meltdown 2. The first program focused on energy deficit (i.e. calories spent by way of training large muscle mass) along with hypertrophy of the contracting muscle units. Meltdown 2 upped the ante on calories burned by emphasizing the strength-speed contraction (i.e. the strength-speed and high energy phosphate systems).

In contrast, Meltdown 3 focuses on quickly depleting glycogen stores and increasing the plasma mass of non-contractile units of muscle tissue. In other words, this program, performance-wise, is all show and no go. In the world of strength sports this is often an undesirable training effect. Only in bodybuilding and certain grappling sports is increased mass without increased relative strength a good thing. Therefore, if you're a competitive athlete seeking speed or strength, do this phase in the off season only. This is reserved for the insecure, narcissistic and slow types, which is probably why I do so well with it!

Meltdown 3 is designed to help you add detail and look chiseled for a contest or photo shoot. It'll prepare the trainee for enduring poses under hot, ischemic conditions. As any one who's ever competed knows, cramping, shaking and wilting can be devastating to a model or competitor.

Obviously, this program is for advanced bodybuilders looking to get into elite-level shape, not just the average fitness enthusiast looking to drop a few pounds before summer.

This program can also get pretty complex, but given the advanced nature of those who'll use it, I'm pulling no punches and not bothering to "dumb it down" for the masses.

Meltdown 3: The "Shocking" Origin

The development of this phase began with my experimentation with various clinical electrostim patterns. I was experimenting with ways to increase power in boxers when I noticed three unexpected training benefits that had meaning in bodybuilding:

  1. When one side was stimulated (unilaterally) and not the other, the stimulated muscle could, in subsequent sets, endure three to four more reps before lactate accumulation would shut down the contraction and "failure" would ensue. This represented an obvious localized effect.
  2. The endurance training effect was more pronounced in the slower twitch muscles like the shoulders, mid-back, triceps, quads, calves, tibialis and brachialis.
  3. The pain typically associated with training the smaller, intrinsic motor units to voluntary maximum contraction was dampened in the stimulated muscles. This is a real cool finding, because, let's face it, many times a trainee will quit due to pain on a given set, before maximum capacity is reached.

"Trick" Your Muscles to Grow

Instead of using the impractical electro-stimulation units to increase muscular tetanus, I came up with the idea of directing your built in electro-stim system (the nervous system) to "one up" muscle metabolism. I do this by applying a variation of supra-maximal training that focuses on the endurance component rather than the strength component.

If I just lost you, tetanic facilitation is forcing the body to activate all or most motor units instead of just the ones necessary for that load. Preliminary isometric tension has a positive effect on subsequent dynamic work, augmenting absolute strength, power and yes, even endurance. Dynamic work usually increases by up to 20% more than work done without preliminary isometric tension. Before, we've focused on developing the strength and power improvements only.

Okay, that's the textbook answer. Here's the gym version: this technique forces more reps in the same amount of time you're already spending! It does that by "tricking" your muscles to contract progressively harder, surpassing the natural shutdown mechanism created with increased blood acidity (lactate).

The rest of this is going to seem complicated, but just remember the key to this program: you'll max out at 12 to 15 reps, isometrically support a slightly heavier weight for 30 seconds, and then be able to bang out a couple more reps on the subsequent set than you could have otherwise if you hadn't done the isometric hold. It really is that simple, so don't make it too confusing.

The results are remarkable and can practically be applied to any "density" training to make it even "denser." To see this more clearly, the tables below compare conventional incomplete rest training with Meltdown 3.

Table 1: Conventional bodybuilding (incomplete rest system):

You lose a rep or two due to accumulating lactate.

Set 1: 15 reps x 100 lbs. (15 x 4 = 60 seconds estimated set duration)
Set 2: 11 reps x 100 lbs. (44 seconds)
Set 3: 9 reps x 100 lbs. (36 seconds)
Set 4: 7 reps x 100 lbs. (28 seconds
Set 5: 6 reps x 100 lbs. (24 seconds)
Set 6: 6 reps x 100 lbs. (24 seconds)
Set 7: 5 reps x 100 lbs. (20 seconds)

Total reps: 58
Average weight lifted: 100 lbs
Average time under tension per set: 34 seconds

Table 2: Meltdown 3 (incomplete rest system using static or isometric reps of varying lengths):

The nervous system forces more reps and lactate, progressively. Assuming a steady two second up and two second down repetition tempo, four seconds per rep and 45 seconds rest between sets.

Set 1: 15 reps x 100 lbs. (15 x 4 = 60 seconds estimated set duration)
Set 2: 30 second support x 120 lbs. (the isometric hold)
Set 3: 16 reps x 100 lbs. (64 seconds)
Set 4: 45 second support x 130 lbs. (another isometric hold)
Set 5: 14 reps x 100 lbs. (56 seconds)
Set 6: 60 second support x 135 lbs. (the final isometric hold)
Set 7: 13 reps x 100 lbs. (52 seconds)

Total reps: 79
Average weight lifted: 113 lbs
Average time under tension per set: 52 seconds

On a conventional bodybuilding program, rest intervals are kept short. This forces the muscular endurance adaptation but it's a tradeoff since you lose approximately two reps per set. As you can see with the above example (which was taken directly from one of my athlete's training journals), the Meltdown 3 protocol squeezes out 27% more reps, 12% more load, and a whopping 35% more contraction time! This combination of more work, tension and contraction time is the prescription for faster improvement. You'll see and feel the difference! Expect to get the pump of your life and wake up sore!

Training Parameters for Meltdown 3

Here are the training parameters for Meltdown 3. I'll explain the details later in the article and provide some sample workouts, so don't freak out if this seems confusing at first.

  • Intensity:  All exercises are performed at roughly 60% of 1RM (one rep max). This equals what you can handle for a maximum of 15 reps. Momentary maximal contraction (failure) must be hit on all sets with the exception of dynamic set three. This is a scheduled unloading set and failure is unnecessary.
  • Frequency:  The dynamic/static resistance workout is designed to be performed four days within a six day period or five cycles in a month. The two "off" days are scheduled anytime within the six day cycle by the trainee. The "10 minute plasmic blowout" (to be described later) should occur two days per week, either four to eight hours after a morning resistance workout, on "off" days, or at the end of the resistance workout if that's all the time you have.
  • Session Progression:  Within each training day, increase each static set load by 2 to 5%. If your static hold on Set 2 is done with 100 pounds, use 102.5 or 105 on Set 4. Do not, however, make the mistake of pacing yourself on set one. This negates the training effect of the static holds.
  • Monthly Progression:  The workout load will intensify through density (increased volume and shorter rest intervals) over the five cycles. Progress by decreasing the rest between sets by 15 seconds each training cycle. Leave the load alone the first three times through the body (cycle) and simply focus on more reps in less time. Then, on cycle four, increase the load 5 to 10% above cycle one values and reset the rest between sets back up to 60 seconds. (See example directly below.) Accurate rest timing is critical.

Note: Most exercises will begin with 60 seconds rest. Due to metabolic demand, compound exercises will begin with a 180 second rest interval. I've indicated this in the exercise detail, so read the exercise description carefully.

Cycle 1

Load (% of 1RM): 60% (15RM)
Rest: 60 seconds

Cycle 2

Load: 60%
Rest: 45 seconds

Cycle 3

Load: 60%
Rest: 30 seconds

Cycle 4

Load: 65% (new 15RM)
Rest: 60 seconds

Cycle 5

Load: 65%
Rest: 45 seconds

Just to make sure things are reasonably clear, I'm going to reiterate the main points:

Execution of Dynamic and Static Sets

Alternate one set of conventional dynamic training with "static" support sets, as described above. There's one more dynamic set than support set; this allows you to attack the last set.

Dynamic Set Info

Dynamic Sets: 4
Target Reps per Set: 15,17,10,15
Tempo: 202
Rest:

  • Cycle 1:  On most exercises: 60 seconds rest before performing static sets. However, on chins, squats, bench press: 180 seconds rest
  • Cycle 2: On most exercises: 45 seconds rest before performing static sets. However, on chins, squats, bench press: 165 seconds
  • Cycle 3: On most exercises: 30 seconds rest before performing static sets. However, on chins, squats, bench press: 150 seconds
  • Cycle 4: On most exercises: 60 seconds rest before performing static sets. However, on chins, squats, bench press: 180 seconds
  • Cycle 5: On most exercises: 45 seconds rest before performing static sets. However, on chins, squats, bench press: 165 seconds

Static Set Info

Static Sets: 3
Reps: 1 rep held statically in the most favorable position (this is noted in exercise detail)
Static hold time per set on every workout: 30 seconds
Rest before returning to dynamic sets: same as above in dynamic sets

  • Organization:  Set up both the dynamic and isometric loads during the warm-up. The isometric load is calculated at roughly 120% to 135% of your 15 rep maximum for that lift. For example, on your first post warm-up set, you go all out on a dumbbell Arnold press and you bang out a 15 rep max using 80-pound dumbbells. You'd calculate a "lock out" of 95 pounds on your first static set (supported for 30 seconds).
  • Set Termination:  Maximal voluntary contraction "failure" terminates any set. No forced reps please. I've found they'll work against you on this system.
  • Range of Motion:  Assuming a progressive warm-up, stretch the muscle on the first set aggressively, somewhere between a four letter word outburst and detaching the muscle clear off the bone.
  • Lactate Threshold:  Let's say instead of increasing, you drop to around 10 to 12 reps on the second set. This means your working muscles can't clear lactate fast enough. In that case, increase the rest intervals by 15 seconds increments until your reps go back up. As you shed fat, this will radically improve.

Workout Schedule and Exercise Detail

Note: Always use spotters and safety racks. Often the muscles will "fail" without warning or control. Also, breathe naturally throughout all static sets.

Day 1: Chest and Shoulders

Remember, you're going to be doing seven sets, four dynamic, or regular ol' sets, and three static holds for each exercise, unless otherwise stated.

A. High Incline Dumbbell Chest Press

High Incline Dumbbell Chest Press

Bench set at 75°, static hold at forearm extended position.

B. Decline Abdominal Hip Extension

Decline Abdominal Hip Extensions

Lie supine and in "reverse" position (head where the feet go) on a decline bench. Secure your position with your arms. Flex the knees into the chest as the sacrum is elevated. Next, using the abdominal muscles, maximally extend the hips and knees vertically. Lower the hips under control until the sacrum briefly touches the decline bench. Add ankle weights on static sets. Static hold at top extended position.

C. Cable Crossover

Cable Crossover

Static hold at maximally adducted (arms together) position.

D. Alternating Dumbbell Shoulder Press, semi-supinated

Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Sit with the lower back pressing firmly against an elevated bench. Static hold at elbow extended, "top" position.

Day 2: Back and Calves

A. Sternum Chin-up

Sternum Chin-up

Grasp a chin-up bar with a slightly wider than shoulder width, semi-supinated (parallel) grip. If this bar isn't available, then the cable crossover machine can be used. Begin at the bottom, stretched position. First, forcibly pull together and separate the shoulder blades for one second each. Next, perform the concentric portion of a traditional chin-up, forcing the elbows down and back as the chin passes the bar. Static hold at elbow flexed, "top" position.

B. Dumbbell Shrug

Dumbbell Shrug

Static hold at elevated, "top" position.

C. One Arm Dumbbell Row, slight decline, pronated grip

One Arm Dumbbell Row One Arm Dumbbell Row

Static hold at elbow flexed, "top" position.

D. Single Leg Calf Raise

Single Leg Calf Raise

Static hold at ankle extended, "top" position.

E. Seated Calf Raise – Static hold at ankle extended, "top" position.

Day 3: Legs and Abdominals

A. One Leg Squat (use barbell in spotter rack or dumbbells)

One Leg Squat

Stand three to four feet in front of a 12 to 18 inch step. Extend one leg backwards and position the toes of that foot on the step – this will represent the unloaded leg. Keep erect posture and elbows tucked directly under the bar at all times. Using the active contraction of the vastus medialis, quads and glutes, lower the torso by flexing the loaded knee maximally. Next, raise the torso by extending the same leg. After knee extension, follow through by extending the hips slightly. Static hold at knee extended, "top" position

Tip: This is a technical exercise and therefore light loads must be used until proficiency is reached.

B. One Leg Hamstring "Push Up" on bench

One Leg Hamstring Push-Up

Lie on the floor, body length away from a flat bench. Position the active leg and foot on the bench, knee slightly flexed. The other non-loaded leg is free with the hip in flexion and the knee extended. Arms should be extended at the side. To begin, elevate and extend the hip and knee with the contraction of the hamstrings, glutes and spinal extensors. Reverse this sequence to lower the body completely. Static hold at knee extended, "top" position.

Tip: Keep the feet neutral as it may invert or evert toward the stronger side.

C. Dumbbell "Cross-under" Step

Cross-under

With a slightly narrower than shoulder-width stance, stand on top of a 12 to 18 inch step or block. Make sure there's extra floor space on the sides. With one leg, step down and reach posterior, across the body midline. Next, push concentrically with the elevated foot so that the "crossed-under" foot can return to shoulder-width position on the step.

Note: No static sets are performed with this exercise. Follow dynamic progression.

D. Alternating Oblique "Backstroke" on bench

Backstroke

This one makes bodybuilders look like lollipop-licking school girls. Start supine on a flat bench, knees bent and feet flat on floor. Next, begin by tilting the pelvis, thus flattening the lower back. Now use the abdominals to flex the trunk and elevate the shoulder blades as high off the bench as possible. This is when the fun begins. While holding the sternum high, flex your shoulders one at a time as you would while doing a backstroke. Allow the torso to twist toward the side of shoulder flexion.

Note: Again, no static sets are performed with this exercise. Follow dynamic progression.

Day 4: Biceps and Triceps

A. Preacher Hammer Curl With Dumbbell – Static hold at elbow flexed, "top" position.

B. Dumbbell, Lying Triceps Extension (Skull Crusher) – Static hold at elbow flexed, "mid" position.

C. Dumbbell Concentration Curl

Dumbbell Concentration Curl

Static hold at elbow flexed, "top" position.

D. Incline, Reverse Grip, EZ-bar Triceps Extension

Triceps Extension Triceps Extension

Sit on an incline bench positioned at a 75° angle. Lie supine on the bench in a "pseudo squat" so that your head is hanging over the top edge of the bench and the neck is in full extension. (The neck extension is optional, but it increases strength up to 15% and range of motion on the stretch component.)

Reverse grip the EZ-bar so that the elbows and knuckles will point towards the ceiling and extend the elbows fully. Slowly bend the elbows and lower the weight to a stretch position. You must keep this a strict movement at the elbows and not the shoulders. Static hold at elbow flexed, "top" position.

E.10 minute Plasmic Blowout

This little gem is an honest to goodness "miracle" for hard gainers or to "blowout" an absent body part. The execution is simple: grab a broomstick or light bar, then choose any of the exercises listed and perform it nonstop for ten minutes. This will completely shatter any pathetic "genetic limits" you thought you had.

Exercise choices for plasmic blowout: back squat, overhead squat, bleacher or stairwell climbing (two stairs at a time), bent-over rows, deadlift with shrug and toe raise, leg press, lower back bridging on heels and superman.

Lower Back Bridging on Heels: Lie supine on your back with the heels slightly wider than shoulder width apart and elevated on a 4" block or step. Elevate the pelvis until it's aligned with the knees; lower completely until your sacrum contacts the floor.

Superman: Lie prone on belly and raise both arms and legs simultaneously.

Remember, this "blowout" should occur two days per week, either four to eight hours after a morning resistance workout, on "off" days, or at the end of the resistance workout.

Nutritional Concerns

As most of you know, calories and carbs count when leaning out. Harder anaerobic workouts demand more energy both immediately and post training. This system tricks the muscles to contract harder and at a higher frequency leading to the depletion of stored energy substrates, especially glycogen, pryuvate and ATP. This, in turn, imposes a specific super-compensation, signaling the body to "store" more than before the training session.

Glycogen pulls more water into the muscles and voila – the muscle soaks up more mass. That's the engorged look we're after. I found that I could get into ketosis a day sooner and eat 100 grams more carbs on my weekend "cheat" before the carbs spilled over into fat. I found this very rewarding, as I'm not afraid of training harder as long as I can enjoy my "cheat".

Unique is my recommendation for calcium pyruvate. Calcium and perhaps even magnesium are depleted more readily in "plasma" hypertrophy than with contractile protein hypertrophy; therefore, the short-term use of large amounts of supplemental calcium are warranted. The pyruvate converts and is stored as pyruvic acid, which in turn tempers the catabolism of glycogen. This allows you to train harder yet protects against too fast a muscle breakdown or thyroid shutdown.

To maximize the depletion and super-compensation of glycogen along with the stripping of fat into ketones, I offer these tips:

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday

  • 10 calories per pound of bodyweight
  • Omega 3,6,9 fats (50 grams) and GLA (6 grams daily, divide in 3 meals)
  • 50 grams of carbs or less
  • Supplement calcium pyruvate – 15 grams per day

Saturday

  • 250 grams of carbs
  • 12 calories per pound of bodyweight
  • Omega 3,6,9 fats (50 grams) and GLA (6 grams daily, divide in 3 meals)
  • 5 grams of creatine, three times per day with meals
  • 5 grams of arginine, three times per day with meals

Sunday

  • 500 grams of carbs
  • 15 calories per pound of bodyweight
  • Omega 3,6,9 fats (50 grams) and GLA (6 grams daily, divide in 3 meals)
  • 5 grams of creatine, three times per day with meals
  • 5 grams of arginine, three times per day with meals

Conclusion

Let's review the basics of Meltdown 3 one more time. The idea is to force more reps into the same amount of time you always use. We do this by tricking your muscles with an isometric hold between other exercises, thus leading to more work, more tension and more contraction time. Basically, you'll max out at 10 to 15 reps, isometrically support a slightly heavier weight, then perform a couple more reps than you did the first time.

Combined with proper eating, Meltdown 3 can help you get into contest shape or just the best "beach shape" you've ever achieved!