One way to deal with the every day stress of life is to simply take a different route to work. Literally. Even if that means taking a little longer to get there. Humans are very regimented and get stuck in ruts without even realizing it. A small change can refresh and revitalize the mind and body.
The same is obviously true in the gym. I’ve discussed before how I added 20 pounds of muscle in 10 weeks back in the 1990s. One of the reasons the program worked so well is that it consisted of two different workout strategies: The first five week phase was a big, basic three-days-per-week program, with no stretch-position exercises; the second five week phase was a more extensive every-other-day full-range program that included midrange-, stretch- and contracted-position exercises for every muscle group.
The workout changes from Phase 1 to Phase 2 were dramatic, and that kept gains piling up at a furious pace. Another mass trigger in that 20-pounds-of-muscle-in-10-weeks program, however, was scheduled intensity downshifts. During the first week of each phase I still did all the exercises, but stopped each set a few reps short of exhaustion, so I wasn’t training to failure. Those medium-intensity workouts rejuvenated my nervous system for the next four all-out hell weeks. In other words, the downshift was a change that revitalized and refreshed—and it triggered a huge growth spurt, especially between Phase 1 and Phase 2.
There’s the potential for the same size-surge capacity in a newer program that takes change to the next level. It’s a version of Eric Broser’s Power/Rep Range/Shock system—with some X Rep tweeks. It’s a three-week rotation, as follows:
Week 1/Power: Do every exercise heavy for 4-6 reps.
Week 2/Rep Range: Do your first exercise for 7-9 reps, your second exercise for 10-12 and your third for 13-15.
Week 3/Shock: Do medium reps (8-10), but incorporate supersets, tri-sets, drop sets, multi-rep rest/pause, X Reps and other hybrid techniques to blast the intensity up, and truly “Shock” the muscles.
After Week 3 it’s back to repeat the sequence with Week 1, the Power week. I believe the hybrid techniques mentioned are mandatory during all three phases to force the need for seven days of recovery on that program, though.
I just said how important an intensity downshif is, though, so where is it, you ask? If you try the program you’ll see (and feel) that the Power week is it. It’s essentially an intensity downshift in disguise, believe it or not.
Heavy weight for low reps is medium intensity?! Well, as explained in the 3D Muscle-Building e-book, research shows that low reps don’t tax the muscles as much because the nervous system gives out much earlier than sets of, say, nine reps or more. Yes, if you do set after set after set of low reps, you’ll tax your system and muscles much more, but if you stick to only one to three sets of each exercise, that’s the supercompensation key!
I’ve heard of trainees gaining up to 10 pounds of muscle after only nine weeks, which is just 3 of the three-week cycles. It’s a program with lots of built-in changes (to revitalize!), just like my original 10-week program, and this is basically a more advanced version.
The big lesson here is to break out of ruts often, or simply change frequently so that you never get into them. There are several different roads to more muscle, so try new routes regularly.
About the Author
Jonathan Lawson has been working in the health and fitness industry for over 20 years; weight training for 21 years, competed in numerous bodybuilding competitions, worked for IRON MAN Magazine for 17 years, co-owns X-Rep.com where he has co-published over 15 e-books and writes a daily training blog. He has appeared on the covers of, and been featured in, dozens of international magazines, books and e-books.