Size Increases With The Power Rack, Parts One and Two
by Anthony Ditillo
When mentioning power rack training and its relationship to the increasing of muscular bodyweight and muscular size, we must mention the discretionary habits necessary for success in this type of training venture. Since power rack training uses the deepest lying fibers in its functioning training scope, it stands to reason that it will be very easy to overtrain while using the rack. To avoid this is not as easy as at first it may seem. There is something contagious about power rack work which invades your soul and you are apt to go overboard while working on the rack with the end result being a decrease of performance potential and a lack of bodyweight and muscular size increase. You simply cannot overtrain on the power rack and expect to continue to make gains. You will have to learn to meter out your training enthusiasm when working on the rack if additional muscle size is what you are going after. Also, the generally accepted theory of working the sticking point, the hardest position of any exercise you do. does NOT apply in this case, since we are not particularly interested in the sole acquisition of power, but more into gaining than much desired powerful, bulky physique with body size and massiveness being paramount in our considerations.
One method used in the rack for the acquisition of size and strength is the Theory of Maximum Fatigue. For lifters, it aids them quite quickly to increase their lifting performances. For the bulk fanatic, such a training method will aid you in gaining additional size throughout the entire body. You would have to go a long way to find a more effective method for gaining useful muscle size. This Theory of Maximum Fatigue will enable you to utilize and develop the size of the deepest set muscle fibers, which would otherwise lay dormant with the sole training methodology used being basically accepted exercise performances.
Since you will be training to gain in muscle size, the set and repetition scheme will have to be updated for the use of a size seeker, not merely a power seeker. This means that the repetitions will be somewhat higher than previously accepted. Let us use a repetition scheme of between six and eight repetitions. The number of sets for each section of each movement will depend upon many factors. Take into consideration the total workload and evaluate the amount of rack training from that point. Naturally, if you are going to depend solely on the rack work, then you will be able to stand more volume of work done in the rack. If, however, you wish to combine rack work with regular movements, then the overall amount of the rack work will have to be reduced in order not to overtrain yourself to a point of nervous exhaustion. This can, and has happened to many an overenthusiastic trainee. It is very easy to overdo this kind of training due to the likeability of the performance of basic movements with extremely heavy weights. Finally, we must take into consideration the previous experience of the trainee before assuming this training methodology. Naturally, the more experienced the trainee, the more he will be able to handle without becoming completely exhausted.
What I would advise you to do is surmise just how much work you will be able to realistically handle and formulate your training routine around this fact. As time goes by, you will be able to add a set here and a set there, and as long as the gains are coming your way you will know you are on the right path. With a little patience and some thinking on your part you will find the right amount of work which will work for you personally. In this and my next article I will outline for you various schemes utilizing the power rack for size increases.
The first rack routine I am going to outline for you will be a basic, three-day-per-week training plan with emphasis on the power rack. This fundamental routine will allow the majority of you fellows to begin to get used to rack work and will allow you to also begin to grow from its application. Further on down the line, as it becomes harder and harder for you to continue to gain in both size and strength, I will outline more advanced methods of using the power rack which will require greater effort and training time, but which will aid you in continuing your aims and goals of increasing size and strength.
With this first routine we will have to be interested in the amount of work as well and the intensity of this work, since we do not want the intermediate trainee to become overtrained for this is a real consideration in the beginning of any intense weight training program. Later on, after the trainee has become used to such workloads, he will be better able to adjust his volume suitable to his training energy and level of recuperative ability, which is as it should be for continued progress. Up until this point, however, do not deviate from the foregoing introductory routine. Try to be regular in your training habits and in your living habits, for these play a major part in achieving your goal of adding muscular bodyweight. Also, do not add anything to this routine, save some calf or abdominal work done for a few sets at the end of each workout, but not to any great extent.
Here then is your primary three-day power rack routine:
Full Movements –
One set of ten repetitions for a warmup, then a set of seven with heavier weights, then a set of three and finally three to five single attempts with around 90% of your one repetition limit. Finish up with four sets of four to six repetitions using all weight possible.
One set of ten for a warmup, then jump to five of so sets of four to six repetitions with a heavy weight.
One set of ten for a warmup, one set of seven, then work with a weight hard for five sets of five repetitions.
Power Rack –
Use three positions. From the chest, midway, and lockout. Perform three sets of between six and eight reps for each of these positions. On the last rep of each set, old and push against the top pin for around six seconds. This will activate the deeper muscle fibers, and the higher rep scheme will cause greater muscle pump.
Use three positions. Form the bottom, midway, and from a quarter squat position. Perform two sets of between six and eight reps from each position and be sure to push against the top pins on the last reps of each of these sets. Your parallel squat will surely improve from going this route!
Deadlift From Below The Knees:
Go for six or seven sets and work up to a maximum set of three with all the weight you can properly handle. This movement will greatly strengthen your lower back as well as building great deadlifting power and confidence.
Power Rack Work Combined With Full Movements -
Five sets of between five and seven repetitions using a fairly heavy weight.
Press from the sticking point in a power rack using five sets of threes and working up to a maximum set of three repetitions. This movement will immediately increase your bench pressing ability.
Leg Presses or Front Squats:
Four sets of six to eight repetitions. Use a heavy weight, one which makes you work, and work hard!
Power Rack Squat:
Place the bar at your sticking point and stand up with the weight from a deadstop for each and every repetition. Go for five sets of threes, working to a maximum triple.
Five sets of eight to twelve reps, using a very heavy weight, pulling the bar as high and as fast as you possibly can. The weight should be so heavy that you MUST use straps.
With this first routine we have been interested in coupling full movements with partial movements in order to maintain a necessary maintenance of lifting ability as well as well-roundedness of muscle structure and flexibility. While the brunt of the work will be done in the rack, there are also corresponding movements used in which standard barbell exercises have been utilized to bring about the desired results. The combination of these two types of training procedures should enable you to gain in an all-around way without losing any basic muscular qualities which were originally developed through standard exercise methodology. As you can see, if you look over this routine most carefully, it is quite complete in its training volume and intensity, yet it is not as severe as some of the other rack programs which I will be outlining for you in my next article, which you will be able to incorporate with time and persistence. I have coupled the full movements with the rack work so as to incorporate the good points of both systems of exercise, and to utilize the best that both have to offer. This is a most complete way to fulfill your aims.
Upon further consideration you will discover that the smaller muscle groups have been given adequate work to carry them through this intensive training period, yet the brunt of the work has been placed on the large muscles of the shoulder girdle, legs and hips. This is so that the amount of size gained will be put in the right places with the bodyweight going all over the entire body, giving it a well-rounded look with symmetrical development being the end product. This workload is also suited for increasing body power and this is another basic requirement of any weight gaining routine – for it makes no sense to gain additional size if this size is not accompanied by additional power. By working the major muscle structures of the body quite hard you are guaranteed to build usable power along with your increased physical size. The arms and calves will grow somewhat, from the intensity and volume of work placed on the larger muscle structures.
As long as we work the basic muscle group exercises the hardest with the most consideration, the smaller groups will coast along and go for the ride, so to speak.
In my next installment I will endeavor to outline for you a few of these more complicated, more demanding power rack routines.
Until then – work, and work hard!
I have never met a man who trained on the power rack for any length of time who has not gained greatly in size and strength and since this article deals with just this same goal and situation, you can be sure power rack training will aid you greatly in your quest for additional size and strength. This goes along with the theory that the proper diet will be followed during this training scheme. Without the proper diet, size will just not be possible to develop. You need the proper diet to maintain a positive nitrogen balance to stimulate bodyweight gain.
Just as there are a multitude of movements you can perform on the rack, so too there are quite a few different methods of using the rack for best results in gaining bodyweight. It would seem at first that the basic training theories which powermen follow for gaining power would also help you in gaining size, but this is not always the case. If it were, we would have no smaller men in the lighter classes, since they all would have outgrown themselves before they were through competition. Gaining bodyweight and size with a power rack will require somewhat of a different repetition and set scheme than what is customarily used for gaining power in the body. For one thing, the set scheme is decreased somewhat and the repetitions are increased to stimulate more muscle fibers into growth contraction.
We should also mention at this time the ability to couple various movements together for he pumping effect, and the growth effect such a coupling will produce. For regular power rack work, this would be out of the question, since the main idea would be to gain in strength, not bodyweight. However, in this situation, you will be trying to cause the muscle groups to respond with additional growth and so the inclusion of two or more movements for the same bodypart, both full and partial, will be of utmost helpfulness and availability.
It is possible to combine various partial movements in a rack with full movements done in the standard way, with the end result being a thoroughly congested, fully worked and pumped up muscle. Another way of combining these two distinct types of training is to work in the rack once or twice weekly and for the other workout do full movements. This way both types of work will be adequately used with enough training time and volume of workload to produce most favorable results, given enough time and sweat.
The following routine is advanced and will be performed in four days per week training. It will require a sound nutritional basis for complete success. You are going to be expanding immense amounts of nervous and physical energy and the end product is meant to be increased bodyweight as well as increased power, so be sure to maintain a sound diet. If at all possible, try to find the time each day for a half-hour nap, or a few fifteen minute breaks throughout the day. Also, try to maintain a tranquil mind, a positive mental attitude toward the amount of work you are going to have to do, because there is going to be plenty of it to get used to.
We are going to couple the movements so as to maintain a fine balance between partial movement proficiency and actual lifting finesse, but in this routine the rack work will be of optimum importance. The free movements will be only for muscle stimulation and not for the acquisition of strength. For this, we will depend on the power rack. I would also advise additional stomach work on the off days when you are not training on the rack, so as to strengthen the abdomen and maintain a trim waistline while gaining in size and power. I would not advise any additional barbell work beyond the amount of work I advise here in this routine. If given a chance, it will prove to be most complete within itself. Here then, is your four day routine:
Monday and Thursday
Partial Standing Press:
from below the chin to the top of the head. Perform 8 sets of 5 to 7 repetitions, working up to a maximum of 5 repetitions. On the final rep of each set, push against the top pin for 6 to 8 seconds.
Bench Press Lockouts:
from three-quarters off the chest to lockout. Perform 6 to 8 sets of 4 to 6 repetitions with the last set being the heaviest weight you can handle for 6 reps. On the last repetition of every set push against the top pin for an additional six to eight seconds.
from below the knees. Perform six to eight sets of three repetitions working up to a maximum set of three repetitions on the last set.
five to seven sets of eight to twelve repetitions using bodyweight as resistance and later adding weight behind the neck.
As you can see, this first half of our four day routine is quite complete in the amount of work performed for the chest and shoulders with additional work being included for the lower back region.
Tuesday and Friday
position the bar at your sticking point and work up to eight sets of three to five repetitions, using all the weight possible for the final set of five.
perform between five and seven sets of three to five repetitions with the final set being the heaviest weight you can properly handle in strict Olympic style.
perform five to seven sets of six to eight repetitions using all the weight you can properly handle.
Cheat Barbell Curl:
five to seven sets of six to eight repetitions using all the weight possible, slowly lowering the bar on the lowering part of each repetition.
Close Grip Bench Press:
perform five to seven sets of five to seven repetitions using all the weight possible for each and every set after warming up for the first set or two with a somewhat lighter weight.
What we have tried to do within this routine is to activate the deepest fibers with an overbalance of rack work, while at the same time adequate amounts of work are included for the adjacent muscle groups so that muscle shape is maintained. We have made sure that this power work in the rack would be sure to carry itself over to the regularly performed movements, so we have even included the close-grip bench press to maintain a certain amount of bench pressing familiarity. Coupling this with the heavy partial bench presses in the rack should cause not only size gains but a carrying over power effect as well. For the squat, while we have not included the actual full squat, we have concentrated on the sticking point of the movement in the rack, and it would take a very short time to acquaint our muscles back to the competitive manner of squatting with the back log of work which we have performed here in this routine. Let us not forget that the front squat is quite a leg developer, and I am sure by including this movement along with the sticking point squat the effect on the power squat should more than make itself felt. Since the sticking point in the deadlift for most people is just below the knee, we have concentrated on this position for our rack work on the deadlift. To be sure, your deadlift will increase with enough training time and patience. If you check out the routine more closely, you will see that the number of sets have been increased in comparison to the first routine I listed for you earlier, and it is just this increase in workload which will make you more advanced and better conditioned by the time you have fully adapted to this routine.
Upon graduation of this routine you will be ready for an advanced power rack routine. When this conversion time comes around I want you to first and foremost get yourself set for the most demanding and severe type of work you have ever asked your body to perform. Be sure that the dietary end of your lifestyle is most complete, for you will need all possible energy at your disposal to enable you to further yourself along the goals and aims of this article. The kind of work you will be doing will be the hardest and most tiring of all.
This routine will require five training days per week. Before undertaking this routine, reread my past articles concerning rack work and the theory of maximum fatigue. Most men will shy away from this routine saying it is too intense and voluminous for the average man to make gains on. THEY ARE RIGHT! This routine is not for the mediocre lifter, but until you allow yourself an honest attempt at such a routine you will never know just how far your particular potential will take you. Besides, you will be trying to gain weight and eating in quantity with this routine, so it will not be as hard as it may seem at first. Just give it a solid try and see how your progress comes along after the first six weeks or so.
Partial Press in Rack:
press from he clavicle to eye level. Perform ten sets of three to six repetitions, using the heaviest weights possible and pressing against the top pin for six seconds on the last rep of every set.
Eye-Level Press in Rack:
press from eye-level to completion. Five sets of five to seven repetition
Steep Seated Press:
place a deeply inclined bench in the rack and press from pins set at clavicle height. Perform five to seven sets of five to seven repetitions
Seated Press Behind Neck
Perform five to seven sets of between five and seven reps.
Half Squats in the Rack:
perform eight sets of three to five repetitions from halfway to completion. Do each rep from a dead stop off the pins. Work up to very heavy weight.
Quarter Squats in the Rack
perform five or so sets of three to five repetitions with extremely heavy weight. Many years ago I handled over 1.000 pounds in these for a few repetitions while weighing around 230. No wraps. Place the bar at the midpoint between parallel and upright. This is the quarter squat position
Olympic Back Squat:
perform five to seven sets of five to seven repetitions working up to a max set of five each workout. These are done outside the rack wearing no belt and no knee wraps.
five to seven sets of five to seven reps just as in the back squat above.
five sets of five to eight repetitions done outside the rack.
perform these in a rack and place the bar just above the knees. Use a shoulder width grip and use lifting straps. Work for eight to ten sets of six to eight repetitions using very heavy weights.
Deadlift Below Knee:
once again you are in the rack. Perform five of so sets of three to five repetitions working up in weight.
do these outside the rack. Five or so sets of three to five repetitions working up in weight.
outside the rack, work up to eight to ten sets of four to ten reps working to heavy weight with repetitions done slowly and strictly.
outside the rack, place two fingers inside the knurling and perform five or so sets of four to six repetitions.
Dumbell Bench Press:
work for five sets of five to seven reps with the heaviest weight you can possibly handle.
these are done in the rack, using a rep scheme of three to five and working for five sets with a heavy weight. The bar is placed on pins just above the halfway point and pressed from here to completion.
eight to ten sets between eight and twelve repetitions, adding weight whenever possible.
the same as the dips above.
no wraps and no belt, five sets of eight to twelve repetitions.
five sets of three to five reps working up to a heavy triple.