There's a lot of talk these days about muscle-building supplements, from creatine to androstenedione, and somehow good 'ole
training techniques have gotten lost in the shuffle. Don't get me wrong: nutrition and supplementation are all important. You
can't train hard or long unless you've got the bedrock of nutrition - specifically, natural carbohydrates and lean proteins
in the form of food. Supplements enter the picture after you've begun a diet of proper food. Assuming you've done that, I
want to resurrect the topic of training. Training to build rock-hard, lean muscle.
If your nutritional health is in peak condition, then you should have the physical and mental ability to follow a
super-intense course of training, designed to build lean muscle. This involves four parts: the intensity set, heavy pyramid
sets, exhaustion sets and fascial stretching between sets.
The Intensity Set
Before training a particular bodypart, perform what I call the intensity set. Choose your basic exercise for the bodypart
you're going to work. Then take an empty bar or the lightest weight possible. Complete each rep very slowly, keeping constant
tension on the working muscles throughout the range of motion. Never relax, not even for an instant.
Once you contract the muscle, hold it as tight as you can. Then pull it back to the starting position with the opposing muscle
group. Make the exercise so intense that the muscle gives out after 10 reps. Put this same amount of concentration into every
rep and every set you do.
The optimum rep/set scheme is one that maximizes three important components of muscular fitness: muscular density, cardiovascular
density and muscular endurance. Muscular density refers to the size and thickness of muscle fibers. Cardiovascular density refers
to the size and number of blood vessels in the muscle. These vessels carry oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and eliminate
waste products, and therefore are an important component in growth and recovery. Your muscles are limited in size by the amount
of nutrients they receive. The better your cardiovascular density, the more nutrients can be supplied to the muscles. With a
greater blood supply to the muscles, the bigger they can become. Muscular endurance, which is a function of cardiovascular density,
is the capacity of your muscles to continue contractions without fatiguing.
Muscular density is achieved by stressing the muscles with heavy weights. Heavy work develops and strengthens the connective
tissue and stimulates growth of muscle fibers.
Heavy Pyramid Sets
To build muscular density, pyramid your sets, using low repetitions and heavy weights. Pyramiding, one of the most widely used
training systems, means increasing your poundages while decreasing your reps on each set.
To pyramid, begin with about 8 to 12 reps on your first set. Add weight on each successive set while decreasing your reps. Perform
between 3 to 5 sets per exercise, resting about two to five minutes between sets. The poundage should be so heavy on your last set
that you can do no more than about 3 reps. For even greater intensity, you might want to finish up with a heavy single on your last
set. Next have your training partner help you with some forced reps.
Of particular importance is that you avoid muscular failure (the point at which you can no longer complete a rep correctly) until
you reach your heaviest set. That way your energy reserves are not depleted. Nor is there any build-up of waste products in your
nerve synapses and muscles. Such a buildup would interfere with your ability to reach your maximum poundages.
To enhance cardiovascular density and endurance, finish your routine off with exhaustion sets. These are high reps (15 to 25)
light weight sets performed after each pyramid set and on your last exercise of 3 to 4 sets for the bodypart you're working.
Decrease your rest between sets to about 30 seconds to one minute. Rep out to muscular failure on every exhaustion set. Exhaustion
sets improve muscular separation, giving you that well-defined, nicely shaped look.
Athletes always want to know how many total sets they should do for a particular exercise. In essence, you should work a muscle
until you lose your pump. At that point, the muscle is out of glycogen. Further training only makes it harder for you to recover
for your next workout.
For maximum muscle growth, it is imperative that you stretch between sets. This stretches the fascia, a protective sheath of
connective tissue that develops the muscle. By stretching the fascia, you give the muscle underneath more room to grow. Fascial
stretching also gives the muscle better shape, with more convolutions. Muscular separation improves as well.
Combined with proper nutrition and intense training, stretching results in a quality look to the muscle that is impossible to achieve
by any other technique.