Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Giant Set Makeover (2014)

It's easy to imagine Joe Weider as having been supremely satisfied when he came up with the name 'Giant Set'. Joe was big on buzzwords, and giant was the perfect descriptor of a training technique that would help turn a skinny young man into a fully grown young man. Joe thought the concept of the giant set made perfect sense, too: overload a single muscle group with four or more exercises done consecutively to maximize blood flow to the area and spark new muscle gains. He documented the practice, making the giant set one of his Weider Principles, and he used the the technique himself over and over, then advised bodybuilders on employing it. Significant size was added by all, and the giant set has been utilized by gym rats for at least the past 50 years.

Here, we give the giant set a makeover, but the goal remains the same: hypertrophy, and lots of it. This 8-week program will not only help you pack on size but will also promote fat-burning and give your cardiovascular system a boost. Rest assured, giant sets are just as relevant and effective today as they were many decades ago when Joe Weider first stumbled upon them.

Now is the time to set a short-term goal of size and strength. Your training will consist of three days of resistance training a week, with hypertrophy as the top priority. The training program will follow this simple equation: 

High Volume + Short Rest = Size.

Stubborn muscle growth is a problematic issue that all trainers and trainees come face-to-face with at some point. This program forces the muscles to either get big or go home. It takes the old school volume approach and combines it with the latest scientific studies to create the ideal 8-week hypertrophy program.

Giant sets will be performed for all large muscle groups (chest, back, shoulders, quads), using the standard four exercises. Giant sets for smaller body parts like biceps, triceps or calves would likely be overkill. The sequence of four exercises within each giant set will be this:

a power move
a strength move
a stabilization move
size/shape move

This order of movement patterns will cut various new micro-tears into the muscle fibers, allowing them to grow with proper rest and nutrition.

The progression of exercises through each giant set has a lot to do with joint movement. Take the chest giant set in Workout 2 as an example:

Plyo pushup
Incline dumbbell press
Flat bench dumbbell flye
Isometric plank hold 

With plyo pushups, three major joints (wrists, elbows, shoulders) are going through a big range of motion. On incline dumbbell presses, it will be two joints - the elbows and shoulders). On flyes just the shoulders are going through a full range of motion. Finally, the isometric plank hold involves no joint movement, only muscle contraction.

Let's focus for a moment on the power moves, which will lead off each giant set. Generating power requires the most energy, so putting those compound movements at the beginning of the set will ensure that 100% effort is given. On back giant sets, the power moves will be hang cleans and power shrugs. these may not seem like direct back exercises, but both are pull-dominant moves that heavily involve the major muscles of the back.

The power moves will also spark the metabolism to promote fat burning. In fact, this volume-based program as a whole will ignite a strong metabolic effect. It'll also increase athleticism and a unique type of cardiovascular capacity. I have used this and other programs just like it for hypertrophy goals as well as off-season training for contact-sport athletes.

So get going on your giant sets to build some serious size and turn up the heat on your metabolism.

Train hard.
Train smart.

Workout Program Notes

1) Do the three weekly lifting workouts on whatever days you prefer, providing you take one day off between workouts.

2) Perform a 15-minute aerobic warmup before all workouts.

3) Allow 75-90 minutes for each training session. Take full advantage of the allotted times to recover between sets. It's very important that every set is done with 100% energy.

4) If you're concerned about adding excess bodyfat, 30-40 minutes of low intensity cardio can be added to off days.

Workout 1:

Back - Giant Set 1
Hang Clean x 6
Wide-Grip Pullup x 10-12
Dumbbell Pullover x 10
Dumbbell Stiff-Leg Deadlift/Shrug Combo x 8
 - Complete three giant sets total, resting three minutes between each complete giant set.
 - Rest 15 seconds between each exercise withing the giant sets.

Back - Giant Set 2
Power Shrug x 10
Seated Cable Row x 10
Dumbbell Row x 10
Plate-Resisted Good Morning x 10
 - Complete three giant sets total etc.

 Biceps/Calves/Abs - Giant Set 1
 Cable Curl x 10
Standing Single Leg Calf Raise x 10
Weighted Oblique Crunch x 10
 - Complete three etc.

 Biceps/Calves/Abs - Giant Set 2
Hammer Curl x 8
Smith Machine Calf Raise  x 12
Hanging Leg Raise x 15-20
 - Complete three etc.

Workout 2:

Triceps - Straight Sets
Dead-Stop* Triceps Extension 3 x 15, 2 minutes rest
*On every fifth rep hold the bottom contraction for 20 seconds
Med Ball Pushup 3 x failure, 1 minute rest 

Chest - Giant Set
Plyo Pushup x 10
Incline Dumbbell Press x 10
Flat Bench Flye x 10
Isometric Plank Hold x 30-60 seconds
 - Complete three etc.

Shoulders - Giant Set
Push Press x 8
Seated Half Arnold Press x 10
Standing Dumbbell Lateral Raise* x 8
*Hold the top position of each rep for a one second count
Bentover Rear Delt Plate Raise x 10
 - Complete three etc.

Workout 3:

Legs - Giant Set 1
Dumbbell Jump Split Squat x 8 per side
Deadlift x 8
Leg Extension* x 15
*After 15 reps do one drop set of 15 reps with 50% of the starting weight
Bodyweight Jump Split Squat x 6 per side
 - Complete four giant sets, resting four minutes between each complete giant set.
 - Rest 30 seconds between each exercise with the giant set.

Legs - Giant Set 2
Dumbbell Jump Squat x 10
Narrow Stance Leg Press x 10
Crossover Lunge x 8 per side
Leg Extension x 10
 - Complete four etc.

Abs/Calves  - Superset 
Decline Situp x 20
Seated Calf Raise x 20
 - Complete three supersets with 1 minute rest between each complete superset.

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