In the age of huge is better, everyone's seeking an edge by attempting to unlock the secrets of various training techniques to decide which are most effective. To some
people, however, training is simply training, and exercises are simply exercises. For them the routine, order of exercises, and list of movements are unimportant, provided
they cover all body parts within a week's workouts. Of course, I beg to differ.
You can easily manipulate the human body in many different directions. Whether you do it by means of food, drugs or training, the body is like a lump of clay waiting to
be shaped. Training is a factor over which we have a ton of control, and positive or negative results can occur.
Most people, for instance, realize that if they don't train their calves evenly, they are going to develop an imbalance that will become a glaring flaw in comparison to the
neighboring quadriceps. Likewise, if one fails to train one's forearms, the arms will begin looking funny as the biceps dwarf the lower arm. These are obvious areas that
one can manipulate and change to achieve a balanced physique. However, these considerations don't explain how to build big muscles in as short a time as possible. That's
where the principle of rapid training comes into play.
For a long time bodybuilding and power-lifting trainers observed lengthy rest times. One often saw rest periods of 5 to 10 minutes after big lifts and extremely heavy sets.
What's more, athletes took at least that long to prepare for the subsequent set, particularly if they had to wrap a joint or psych themselves up for the onslaught of the
next pounding. That added an additional 3 to 5 minutes. All told, as much as 15 minutes might have elapsed between sets.
The thought behind this sort of training was that recovery happened not only between workouts, but also between sets. Because lactic acid builds to increasingly high levels
during a heavy set, it takes several minutes to dissipate and be absorbed back into the system. Old-timers believed lactic acid to disperse completely before they could achieve
success in a new set, so they would sit and wait for several minutes. Besides losing their accumulation of lactic acid, they also lost the pump they had gained from their last
In the mid '90s someone discovered that training more rapidly would net a little different result. Heavy training was proving to be unnecessary and, moreover, harmful to
joint integrity, and was slowly fading from the scene. Days of throwing up by the squat racks, after pushing humongous weights with tightly wrapped knees, were long gone.
Training had taken on a new dimension and feel. To the surprise of old-school supporters everyone was getting bigger without having to train as heavy.
The world was not yet ready for rapid training, however. Most competitive body-builders still felt rapid training - or any kind of superset training - was only for precontest
work, but some people were grasping the idea that more was not always better. About this time training began to diversify. Trainers stopped fooling around with crushing amounts
of weight in a well-defined offseason, and got back to the basics of strict form. Many of them ceased focusing on 6 to 8 repetitions and started training to natural muscle
Also around the mid-'90s magazines began publishing the routines of fitness athletes. That's not to say fitness women were instrumental in changing the face of resistance
training, but their great, rapid results were hard to deny. Fitness simply introduced a different approach to weight training. Soon top pros like Shawn Ray were talking supersets,
giant sets and rapid routines they had never done before. Rapid training may have been around previously, the basis of many bodybuilders' results, but like the current Atkins diet
craze, it achieved acceptance when people began to see it actually worked in spite of breaking all the rules of normal, arduous, heavy-for-mass training.
Many knew about it, but most were afraid to venture into the unknown because the "get big fast" mentality doesn't typically allow for experimentation. Tried and true methods
have more immediate appeal. People want to avoid wasting a lot of time finding out what is effective, so they stick with what they know will work and don't try anything else.
This is precisely why so few bodybuilders every took advantage of this incredible training tool that can often change a physique in even less time than traditional mass training.
What is rapid training?
Well, it's more than what it appears to be on paper. In fact, it's much more than just a speedy workout. Think of it as an entirely different training method - an idea so
diametrically opposed to what you're familiar with, it's almost like taking off from Dayton, Ohio and landing on Mars.
This type of training involves working faster and doing sets with little or no rest between them. The emphasis is on fatiguing one part of a muscle group, or one muscle group
entirely, and immediately moving to another exercise that will exhaust an entirely different part of the same or another muscle group. Supersets and giant sets are a large part
of this approach. They cannot be overlooked as powerful tools of growth and refinement.
Yes, super and giant sets are capable of producing growth. The belief that these methods don't promote growth has been a large part of maintaining the must-train-slow-and-heavy
myth. I'm here to tell you anything can work if you do it correctly and at the right time. Timing is everything.
The only requirement for rapid training to work is that you must be in touch with what a muscle needs at any given moment, as well as what it is capable of accomplishing. This
expertise isn't as complicated as it sounds. It just requires a bit of experience and instinct. Naturally, instinct is the foundation of all progress, whether in muscle growth or
Should a bodybuilder engage in rapid training on an ongoing, nonstop basis? Probably not if he wants to put on appreciable size over the long haul. Actually, rapid training is
the kind of technique one pulls out of one's bag of tricks occasionally and for short periods. Looking at it as an isolated, powerful method makes it more of a secret weapon than
a training lifestyle.
Athletes who use rapid training continually have usually either modified it to suit their body's fiber and energy types, or have used it in preparing for specific types of
competitions, such as fitness or obstacle course. The bodybuilder with a penchant for growing huge won't find it to be the type of training he wants to do every day year round.
However, some people need to do this sort of training more often than others.
If you tend to hold water, gain muscle and fat easily, and have difficulty losing bodyfat, you could really benefit from a six-weeks-on/six-weeks-off split. Guys like that don't
do well carb-loading and always end up looking as if they took on most of the Pacific Ocean between the time they got up and when they stepped on stage for prejudging. These are
the carbohydrate-sensitive guys who need to compete in an almost flat state to avoid holding any unwanted water.
Hard gainers lose between 6 and 10 pounds of scale weight if they miss a meal, and they get ripped in six weeks for a competition. They're the ones who should use rapid training
sparingly. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the folks who will benefit from adding this kind of training only occasionally. While the opposite group benefits from six weeks
on/ six weeks off, this group will benefit from one week on/ four to six off. With these people rapid training can be beneficial only as a shock to any regular set routine the
body may have become accustomed to. However, if the weights used are consistently on the heavy side, coupled with good control and form, the results can be dramatic for this group
Although you can use rapid training for nearly every muscle group, a few bodyparts benefit much more from it than others. Legs, back and other large areas benefit especially well
because overtraining is nearly impossible in these parts of the body. Arms, on the other hand, do not benefit from this sort of training unless the sets are few, the weight is
heavy, and you use a faster pace and less rest between sets.
Here is a sample rapid-training routine that might use as many of the rapid-training principles as possible within each bodypart:
Stiff-Leg Deadlifts (pyramid set - a great type of set for warmup) Doing hamstring curls first in a leg routine makes sense from a priority standpoint. This order gets the hamstrings
done while the legs are fresh and also makes them a priority for people who may lag behind in this area. Plus, it stretches the legs out all around and prepares them for multi-angle
work. Do a pyramid set by starting with low weight and gradually increasing over 2 sets.
Squats/Leg Presses Superset Do a superset of squats and leg presses early in your workout while the quads are strong and can withstand the kind of strain you'll inevitably put on them.
Try to do 4 supersets, using moderate to heavy weight. Go from one to the next without stopping for more than 30 seconds between supersets.
Lunges/Leg Extensions Superset Lunges and leg extensions are great finishing and shaping exercises. They will work parts of the legs in a much different way than the squat and leg press
will. You'll get a longer-lasting burn during the course of this superset, as opposed to the severe ache you felt in the squat-and-leg-press superset. Try to do at least 3 or 4 of
these supersets, nonstop. If you can fit squat-jumps into the program just after leg extensions, all the better. That would make the workout more intense and would add a plyometric
phase that might improve endurance.
Hamstring Curls (drop set) Hamstring curls also make a great finisher because they complement the first hamstring exercise you did. This exercise is much more about form than weight.
Still do one warmup set, and then launch into the heaviest set (80 to 90 percent of max) you can manage without sacrificing form. Try to do at least 4 sets with decreasing weight. Make
sure to increase your reps as you lower your weight in each set.
That's just a sample workout for one body-part, but the principle works well for the abdominals and calves too because these are muscles that appear to renew themselves with oxygen
quickly. There probably isn't a tire when you shouldn't superset the abs. Rapid training is an ideal technique for a crazy midsection.
Here's a sample of an abdominal workout that appears relentless, but is in line with both rapid training and the nature of the muscle group itself:
Crunches/Roman Chair Superset, Side Crunches/Hanging Leg Raises Superset, Crunches/Roman Chair/Side Crunches/ Hanging Leg Raises Giant Set
This is an effective way to utilize both super and giant sets. Start by super setting two different exercises that complement each other, but which hit different areas of the abdominal
wall (upper and lower abs, for instance). Do the first superset for approximately 4 sets. The second superset should also involve at least 3 or 4 sets. Alternate the two. Once you are
amply fatigued, begin the one giant set at the end of your workout. Start by doing crunches, moving to Roman chair, dropping your knees to the side on the floor and doing side crunches,
and finishing with both straight and tucked-knee leg raises.
There is no stopping in the middle of a giant set. The only saving grace is that you are moving from one area of the muscle group to another which has hopefully not been fatigued with
the previous movement. Alternatively you can also target completely different bodyparts within a giant set to give rest between exercises while you continue moving and stimulating the
metabolism and gaining aerobic benefit.
Keep in mind that you can do rapid training with supersets, giant sets, pyramid and drop sets. You can work with a partner or alone, but either way you must be able to have at least one
reliable observer to oversee your form and mounting fatigue. You can focus on the negative portion of each repetition and move very slowly, or you can work rapidly through a giant set,
panting like an animal. The objective is to step up the intensity in your workouts and include different patterns of handling the weight you're working with. By becoming creative and
challenging your own personal status quo, you will probably find pleasant surprises hidden in better results.
If you are psychologically impaired and suffer from a kind of body dysmorphia where you need to be big 24/7,365 days of each year, whether you're bloated and fat-looking or not, or else
you'll be disturbed and upset, this kind of training will mess with your head. You'll maintain a slightly lower bodyfat level, hold less water, and appear to be smaller. Muscle mass, fat
and water are three very different elements. If you need to preserve the illusion of size, you have bigger problems than a lagging bodypart or two!