Coach Frankenstein

Just call me Coach Frankenstein. That's because like some sort of mad scientist. I'm always down in my laboratory/gym attempting to discover strength-building programs that dramatically increase performance in the shortest amount of time possible.

After many stormy nights without sleep and digging up dead bodies, I've finally uncovered a real monster of a program, one that will lead to incredible strength development. But let me warn you, this program is not for the weak of heart or for those who feel strength-training variables must fit neatly within preset parameters! But if you have an open mind, aren't afraid of trying something a little "scary," and have a burning desire for boosting performance, then this may be just the program you've been waiting for.

The Law of Repeated Efforts

There seem to be two legitimate schools of thought when it comes to increasing strength and performance in a particular lift. You can either find where your weaknesses are most prevalent, or you can dramatically increase the amount of time and effort spent on a particular lift.

The first option (finding your weaknesses) is great for those with extensive training experience and for those who are very in touch with their muscular system and strength levels. The second option (upping the volume of a chosen lift) is excellent for less experienced lifters who are still fighting their way through neuromuscular enhancement and optimal strength development. I like to focus on volume initially, and then devote time and effort toward finding specific weaknesses with my clients.

I know many strength coaches who are strong advocates of completely dropping an exercise from a program once performance comes to a halt. If your bench isn't going up, stop benching, they say. I don't agree. The problem is rarely in the exercise itself, but more in the manner in which a trainee organizes the training variables. Let me explain.

Let's say Lifter X wants to increase his performance in the squat. He's performed the lift continuously for the past three months and his progress has stalled quicker than a Yugoslavian compact car. He looks for answers from various strength coaches and comes to the conclusion that he should now substitute deadlifts for the squatting movement. Usually, the reasoning from the coach is based on the assumption that the nervous system is now "bored" with the exercise and things need to be "shaken up" a bit. Well, I don't know about you, but that's not a very scientific explanation for what's really happening.

No one with an IQ greater than that of a tabloid newsstand junkie would argue with the Law of Repeated Efforts. Simply stated, this physiological law relates to the fact that performing any particular movement more often would yield better performance. I could give hundreds examples of such a phenomenon, such as professional weightlifters or musicians. How many times do you think Ed Coan has performed the squatting movement? I bet even he couldn't come up with a total, but you can be pretty damn sure it's a lot!

Or how about a classical violinist? How many hours practicing a given score would a violinist need to perfect his performance? Once again, the number is probably mind-boggling. So doesn't it make sense that strength training could fall under the same law? In other words, executing the squatting movement with an extremely high volume (i.e. practice) would lead to increased performance.

Well, my friend, that's what this program is based on – the Law of Repeated Efforts. Please take note, this is a law and not a theory. In science, the term law is a holy grail. It's proof that a method is a sound physiological mechanism with reproducible results and it isn't hearsay. So, let science be your ally. Before I get into the gory details of this program, let me give you a little science to back up my argument.

Repeated efforts lead to synaptic facilitation. This term relates to an increase in communication strength between the nervous system and muscular system. The more you practice an exercise, the greater the increases in strength of its synaptic connections within the motor neuron. In fact, repeated efforts may also lead to the formation of new synapses that will lead to increases in strength levels. Physiologists typically refer to synaptic facilitation as learning. Other coaches have referred to this phenomenon as "greasing the groove." No matter what you call it, repeated efforts activate the process of synaptic facilitation, which in turn, ups your strength levels! Pretty cool, huh?

Now, what you've been patiently waiting for – the parameters of this strength-boosting method I call the Volume of Strength or VOS program. Volume of Strength simply means increasing the volume of a particular lift (drastically!) in order to rapidly build strength levels. The increase in strength is due to synaptic facilitation, which can only happen through repetitive stimuli. This happens quickest with high-volume work.

This program can be used for any lift, but I prefer you use it for big, basic compound movements: bench press, squat, deadlift, etc. You'll be able to perform supplemental exercises along with the compound movements (I'll provide guidelines for those later). For now, here are the parameters for the VOS program:

The Volume of Strength Program

WEEK ONE

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

WEEK TWO

Day 8

Day 9

Day 10

Day 11

Day 12

Day 13

Day 14

WEEK THREE

Day 15

Day 16

Day 17

Day 18

Day 19

Day 20

Day 21

WEEK 4

Days 22-27:

Day 28

Note: You don't have to test your new 1RM on this day. It could be day 29 or 30. In other words, if you had a poor night's sleep, are stressed out or just feel like crap, you shouldn't test just because it's Day 28. Use your own judgement.

With all my soap box lecturing about volume, repeated efforts, and synaptic facilitation, you might be wondering why I prescribe a week off before testing the new 1RM. Well, since you've been bombarding your chosen lift for three weeks straight, a certain period of rest from the movement will allow for the completion of a few specific neural and muscular processes. I won't get into the details since it would turn this article into a tome the size of the Starr Report, but just trust me – you need some time off from the movement before testing your new 1RM!

Obviously, these parameters are for one exercise only! Don't do this program for multiple movements or you might be calling me from your couch because your boss just gave you a permanent vacation due to infrequent work appearances! Choose one lift and bomb it!

Also, keep your supplemental exercises to a minimum during this phase. Here are the parameters for the supplemental exercises throughout the VOS program:

Supplemental Exercises: General Guidelines

So let's say you use the VOS program for the barbell back squat. Follow my parameters for the given day for the squat, then add two more assistance exercises to your workout, thus totaling eight additional sets. The days off should be completely off with no resistance training whatsoever.

Remember that your supplemental exercises shouldn't be taxing to the nervous system. If you use this program to improve your squat, don't choose large multi-joint movements like the stiff-legged deadlift and the good morning for supplemental lifts. That would be, um, bad. You'd burn out in no time. Decline sit-ups and leg curls would be much better options for assistance exercises.

For the bench press, any lying tricep extension variation, pressdowns, side raises, reverse flyes, any rowing variation, pullovers, and hammer curls would be good supplemental choices. For the deadlift and the squat, any leg curl variation, any sit-up variation (except crunches), reverse hypers, side bends, cable leg abduction, and back extensions would all work fine.

Now, take this program to the gym and e-mail me in four weeks with your results!