Sunday, February 2, 2014

Rack Training for Size - Anthony Ditillo

Mandatory Pink

Training intensity and the application of this intensity is by far one of the most popular lifting topics to be discussed. Everyone seems to have his own opinion as to just how to develop this physical ability within the framework of his own routine, or so it would seem. To many trainees, training intensity means to perform each and every set to positive failure. Many do this. Many also will try to go beyond this point by performing additional forced cheated repetitions when this failure point has been reached. Still others  will carry this one step further and after the cheating repetitions have been performed to momentary burnout, they will continue with negatives, so as to absolutely burn the muscle out to its fullest capacity.

Such training is extremely tiring and is, of course, intense. It is intense in so far as the amount of nervous and physical energy expended within a given time is concerned. When you have performed a set of full repetitions to utter failure, and then to into cheating repetitions to a complete failure, and then go into negative repetitions to a complete failure, I would venture to say that such a set is quite intense, indeed. 

But I have found a more productive way of achieving this intensity without the physical exhaustion involved in the above mentioned method. For my training intensity I strongly depend on the power rack. 

Power rack training has to be just about the most productive and intense method of training the muscles for greater size and power. Why this form of training has lost most of its popularity over the last eight or so years has remained and will remain a mystery to me. This type of training has SO MANY  far-reaching positive effects on the trainee's physique and strength development that the thought of this type of training being discarded for obviously inferior training methods is quite ludicrous, to say the least!

I defy ANYONE to prove to me that properly performed power rack work, for an adequate time, will not increase one's muscle size and muscle strength. Power rack training positively alleviates all ability to cheat during any repetition of any set, unless the trainee is so demented that he positions his body in such a way that he uses increased leverage to move the weight and not muscle strength. But this problem is prevalent in ALL training methodologies so this particular fault lies within the ego development of the trainee and NOT in the  training method itself. 

Possibly this is the reason why such a  training method has lost its popularity with today's younger trainees; it simply is too HARD for them to keep up for any length of time. Or perhaps it is a mistaken notion that the power rack is only for the lifter and not the bodybuilding enthusiast. This is simply not true. They are mistaken!

Power rack work is good for the bodybuilder who is after increased muscle size and functional training strength. By simply increasing the repetition scheme to work the belly of the muscles and not the adjacent tendons and joints, our rack work becomes more suited for the muscle building enthusiast and less for the sheer power addict. It is also quite easy to combine the two, which is what I am presently doing, and thereby gain in not only more muscle size but also more usable strength. In short, with this method you can have the best of both worlds.
One main advantage of rack work is the complete safety of such exercise and the lack of needing training partners or spotters. You simply do not have to depend on anyone else but yourself and you can handle maximum heavy poundages in movement you desire without ever worrying about the weight coming down on you and injuring you or your becoming pinned in some way, since this simply is not possible with the power rack as your training method.
Training intensity is easy to develop since you can perform every movement and every repetition of every set to complete failure and then go on to more powerful repetitions to failure, with these being done STRICTLY and all in complete safety.
There are a few basic methods of power rack training. One is to simply choose a movement to perform for any given area, and place the bar in the rack so that it is supported on the pins at the BOTTOM of the movement. Then you merely place yourself under the weight and perform your repetitions from this bottom position. This means that the initial repetitions will be complete in nature. Then when the lactic acid builds up in the muscles, and you become more and more tired, the repetitions will become shorter and shorter until you cannot move the bar at all. And remember that each of these repetitions will be performed from the BOTTOM position off the supporting pins, with a short PAUSE for each repetition and no bouncing or heaving of any kind. You can be sure that when the bar simply cannot move at all, your set is completely performed and results are guaranteed. If this is not training intensity, what is? 
Another productive system is to begin each movement as mentioned above and when you feel you have performed enough sets in this manner, simply RAISE the bar so that you are just above the halfway mark, and set the pins here and once again go through the same type of performance as just outlined. This means that you will be once again moving the bar from a pause on the supporting pins, and once again the bar will be lifted initially to a complete lockout, with less and less of a movement performed as fatigue sets in. This will enable you to hit any movement from TWO sections or positions, and this additional work load should only add to the development of the used muscle groups. The only drawback to this method is that it naturally takes more training time since you are using two sections for each exercise instead of only one.

We also can use additional intensity at the end of each set by placing a SECOND SET OF PINS at various heights of our movement and performing the repetitions as mentioned above and just touching this second set of pins until we come to the last FULL repetition we feel we can perform. At the top of this last full repetition, we push against these second pins with all our might, thereby performing an ISOMETRIC CONTRACTION at t his point. This isometric hold on the last full repetition will greatly increase our ability to generate tension during our exercise performance, and also greatly increase training intensity and results thereof.

In most cases, increased definition and vascularity are developed simply due to the increased stress imposed on the various muscle structures and fibers within the used muscle groups. There is also some documented proof of increased functional strength with this method and the ability to generate increased nerve fiber generation when using a maximum or near maximum weight for a single attempt, depending of course on the mental state of the trainee and his ability to generate mental tenacity during a competitive situation.

Finally, you can break down a movement into bottom, middle, and top position, and using the two sets of supporting pins, simply begin with the BOTTOM position, performing all possible strict repetitions against the top pin until, after an isometric hold, further repetitions become shorter and shorter until no further movement is possible. Then, after a short rest, increase the height of the bar until you are in a MIDDLE position and do the same thing all over again. Then again with a final position being called the TOP position. In all three positions you are using full movements (from one set of pins to the other), an isometric hold on the last possible full rep, and continued partial repetitions until no movement is possible AT ALL. Remember, the main point is that EVERY repetition is strictly performed with no cheating of any kind. I can assure you, this is one intensive way to train!

I myself used this system of training quite a few years ago when training for sheer size and bulk and odd lift proficiency. And for me, this training worked, and worked quite well. I was especially adept at pressing from the rack overhead and pressing very heavy weight from various positions upward, within the power rack. I did not have any trouble to speak of with recuperation while using this type of training, nor did I experience any injuries when training within the rack.

But we must also realize that ANY routine you completely believe in will allow you to work even harder and with less negative effect  than a routine you have definite doubts about, so perhaps this had some effect on my progress. All I know is that I began to incorporate this method again, at greatly reduced bodyweight and with a different goal in mind, a goal of increased muscle size with no real regard for how greatly I increased my strength, and once again I made great gains, and quite regularly at that.

I chose the following movements to use in the rack:

Standing Front Press
Close Grip Bench Press

For the Front Press I performed sets from the shoulders to forehead height. I preformed all the repetitions possible and tried for one isometric hold and then carried this hold to failure. I also pressed from eye level to complete lockout, doing every full and every partial rep possible for each set.

For the Close Grip Bench Press I went from the middle position to complete lockout (no iso hold) and from a few inches higher to complete lockout with a VERY CLOSE GRIP. Reps were, once again, done to failure each set.

For the Shrug I simply placed the bar so that when I began each rep I was in a completely STRETCHED position, thereby guaranteeing the longest movement possible.

For the Deadlift I chose two to three inches below the knee to completion, as well as deads from the toes (deficit) outside the rack on alternate training days.

For the Squat I used two position: from parallel to completion and from halfway to completion (no forced partials); no wraps; a medium stance, and I make the movement revolve around the KNEE, NOT THE BUTT when done for this purpose. In essence, an Olympic back squat within the power rack.

These movements were 'sandwiched into' my six-day-per-week training routine. There were other movements I was also doing outside the rack but that is not important to discuss here.

As far as sets and repetitions were concerned, this varied from workout to workout, depending largely on how much training time I had at my disposal on any particular training day and how rested and/or recuperated I felt on a particular day. One must become flexible with such a training routine to accommodate one's lifestyle and training methodology together for best results. Rest assured, I trained quite long and quite hard, just as I have always done.

The beauty of  this training is that it allows you to really work each set into the ground. And you cannot cheat using this method, so no exertion is wasted. You can be sure that you will feel every effort in the muscles you are trying to develop. I have found it quite invigorating and result-producing, using it for bodybuilding purposes just as I did when using it for bulk and power training.

Modern Isometronics
J.P. Catanzaro

Around the middle of the 20th century, Dr. John Ziegler introduced two things to American weightlifters: the anabolic steroid Dianabol and isometrics, a training method where you exert force against a stationary object. Dianabol worked quite will. Isometrics, not so well - that is until they were combined with isotonics (partial movements) to form a system of training known as "isometronics." This isometric-isotonic combination was extremely effective back then, and it can be just as effective today. Here's how it work.

Isometronics involve lifting through a partial range of motion, usually in a power rack but not always, and finishing each set with an isometric (static) contraction. In this "modern" version, there are four exercises per workout - an A pair and a B pair. You divide the A exercises into three equal ranges of motion (top third, middle third, and bottom third), and do 3 sets of each range for a total of 9 sets. Use full range of motion on the B exercises.

During the A exercises, the order you perform the three ranges is important. Start with the range that allows the greatest weight to be used - move from extension of the limbs (where you're generally the strongest) to flexion.

For all the A1 exercises (45-degree incline mid-grip barbell press, back squat, and flat close-grip barbell press), perform the top third of the range first (sets 1-3), followed by the middle third (sets 4-6), and finally the bottom third (sets 7-9). These exercises are performed in a power rack for 5 reps per set using a controlled tempo: 2 seconds to lower the bar, gently and quietly touch the lower pins, and 2 seconds to raise the bar. Then on the 5th rep try to rip through the top rack pin for 8 seconds. If you only have one set of pins in your power rack, then lower the bar just shy of resting on the pins and hold the 8-second isometric there. Make sure not to hold your breath during the static contraction. If you select the proper load, you should not be able to do another concentric rep.

For all the A2 exercises (mid-grip pullup, prone dorsiflexed leg curl, and standing mid-grip cable curl), perform the bottom third of the range first (sets 1-3), followed by the middle third (sets 4-6), and finally the top third (sets 7-9). With these exercises you perform 5 reps again using a controlled tempo (2 seconds up and 2 seconds down), but this time on the 5th rep pause for 8 seconds in the middle of the range.

Day 1 - Chest, Back, and Shoulders.
A1. 45-degree Incline Mid-Grip Barbell Press: 9x5@2020, 120 sec. rest
A2. Mid-Grip Pullup: 9x5@2020,
B1. Standing One-Arm Neutral-Grip Dumbbell Press: 3x8-10@3010 (3 sec down, 1 sec up) 60s. rest.
B2. One-Arm Neutral-Grip Dumbbell Row: 3x8-10@3010, 60s.

Day 2 - Legs and Abdominals.
A1. Back Squat: 9x5@2020, 120s.
A2. Prone Dorsiflexed (toes pointing toward shins) Leg Curl: 9x5@2020,120s.
B1. Standing Wide-Stance Good Morning: 3x8-10@3010, 60s.
B2. Kneeling Cable Crunch: 3x8-10@3010, 60s.

Day 3 - Arms.
A1. Flat Close-Grip Barbell Press: 9x5@2020, 120sec.
A2. Standing Mid-Grip Cable Curl: 9x5@2020, 120s.
B1. One-Arm Overhead Rope Triceps Extension: 3x8-10@3010, 60s.
B2. 45-Degree Incline Dumbbell Curl: 3x8-10@3010, 60s.  


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