Sunday, April 3, 2016

Maximize Your Mass - Jim Smith (2015)


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Packing on slabs of muscle mass is all about heavy weights and low reps, right?

Not so fast. That lifting scheme is part of the equation, but not the sum of the whole. "Your workouts should include a variety of rep ranges and loads when you're trying to build muscle fast," Smith advises.

1) Beef Up The Variety

He recommends pairing heavy lifts with low reps for your primary exercise (8 sets of 3 with 85% plus of 1 rep maximum), followed by higher volume accessory lifts (4-5 sets of 15-20 reps with 70-85% of 1RM). The angle in which you exhaust the muscle should also be a focal point. For example, substitute sumo deadlifts for regular deadlifts, or wide- or close-grip bench presses instead of the standard grip.

In regards to time frame, according to Smith, "properly structured periodized programs typically run eight to 12 weeks, with low intensity days built in to ensure that you can continue to train at a higher intensity throughout the program."

2) Increase Metabolic Stress Through Greater Time Under Tension (TUT)

The lift features three phrases: lowering (eccentric), pause (isometric), and drive (concentric). Increasing TUT will greater exhaust the muscle and enable growth and plateau busting. "If you perform eight reps, with each rep taking four seconds, your total set will take 32 seconds," Smith explains. "The most effective way to increase microtrauma to the working muscles is to focus on the eccentric phase. Increasing your lowering time by even one more second will increase the total time under tension for the entire set."

Smith further emphasizes the importance of tempo when performing higher volume rep schemes. "Always try to make the eccentric (lowering) phase longer than the concentric (drive) phase," he says. "Tempo is written with the eccentric phase first, then the amortization (pause, or isometric) phase next, and finally, the concentric phase last."

Example 1: Bench Press, Tempo 3-1-1

Eccentric Phase - Lower weight to chest in a slow and controlled manner taking 3 seconds.
Isometric Phase - Pause weight on chest for 1 second.
Concentric Phase - Drive phase to lockout in 2 second. But when performing heavier weights for low reps, focus on accelerating the eccentric (lowering) phase of the lift.

Example 3: Barbell Squat, Tempo 1-0-1

Eccentric Phase - Lower down into the bottom of the squat in 1 second.
Isometric Phase - Do not pause the weight; use the stretch reflex at the bottom of squat to reverse the movement and start to drive to lockout - 0 seconds.
Concentric Phase - Drive phase to lockout in 1 second.

3) Continuous Tension Sets vs. Heavy Compound Sets

"Continuous tension sets are a technique that involves keeping the tension on the working muscle groups by never resting the weight at lockout or midway through the repetition," Smith explains.

Translation: They up your time under tension. "The idea is that if you relax at lockout or the bottom range of the lift, the muscle comes off tension and you lose intensity of the muscular contraction."

According to Smith, continuous tension sets work well for supplemental lifts in which you're not lifting a maximal amount of weight with a heavy compound exercise (e.g., bench press, deadlift, squat, overhead press).

As a coaching cue Smith also advises thinking of a max effort set of three reps divided into three single repetitions, rather than a set of three. By not locking out the weight for the higher volume supplemental sets, he explains, you can keep continuous tension on the target muscle groups.

4) Revamp Your Recovery Plan

"Strength training makes you weaker," Smith clarifies. "It breaks your body down. Greater muscle mass comes from your body's recovery from the actual training."

So your ability to peak with every workout is directly related to how well you recover between training sessions. After your last rep, shift your focus to recovery using at least one of the techniques listed below. Pair it with proper nutrition and supps to get the best results.

Static stretching
Sled dragging
Deep breathing drills
Epsom salt baths
Contrast showers
Low intensity workouts


 5) Rethink Your Warmup

How's your flexibility? If the answer is "I'm too tight to answer," the off-season is the time to work on it. Elite bodybuilders, according to Smith, have impressive lower-body flexibility because they spend a great deal of time post-workout stretching their legs and hips. Not stretching enough will prevent you from having optimal technique and put your joints in a bad position when you're training.

Smith suggests a warmup routine that includes three elements:

SMR Self-myofascial release (to massage away restrictions to normal soft tissue extensibility).
Dynamic mobility drills (to improve range of motion).
Activation exercises (to target the muscle groups you'll be working).

"Most lifters are very tight in the ankles, hips, upper back, chest, and shoulders," says Smith. "When pressed for time incorporate mobility and stretching right into your program, during your work sets, to help improve your technique, and work specifically on your 'tight' areas."

Warmup Example -
Take a look at how a solid stretch program incorporated into your workout might look on paper:

Barbell Squat: 8 x 3 reps; rear elevated hip flexor stretch.
Leg Extension: 4-5 sets x 15-20 reps; high stretch on bench stretch.
Bodyweight Cossack Squat: 4-5 sets x 3-5 reps each way; hip external rotator stretch on bench. 

Get Warm to Get Big

Smith's warmup covers more ground than your typical "135 for 10 reps" approach.

Typical Tight Area -
SMR - foam-roll on calves and front of shins.
Dynamic mobility - Ankle mobility drills, calf-raise stretch.
Activation - Calf Raise, pogo jump.

SMR - foam-roll the glutes, hamstrings, adductors, and IT band.
Dynamic mobility - Striders rear-foot elevated hip-flexor stretch.
Activation - Hip thrust, dumbbell swing, back extension, glute bridge.

Upper Back:
SMR - foam-roll the upper back and perform upper-back extension over the foam roller.
Dynamic mobility - Lat stretch on power rack.
Activation - Face-pull, band pull-apart, dumbbell posterior flye, YWTL, inverted row.

SMR - Foam-roll the lats, chest, shoulders, and triceps.
Dynamic mobility - Chest and shoulder stretches on power rack.
Activation - Pushup, light dumbbell military press.

Sample Layouts


Techniques used: 
Variety of Exercises
Tempo Changes
Compound Exercises
Continuous Tension Sets
Increased Time Under Tension
Variety of "Tools" Used

1) Bench Press
5 x 3-5 reps
Rest: 90-120 seconds (heavy, low reps, compound exercise).

2 superset with 2B) Dumbbell Bench Press
5 x 15-20
Rest: None (continuous tension).

2B) Pushup (with 3- to 5-second slow eccentrics
5 x 10
Rest: 90-120 seconds (increases TUT)


Techniques Used:
Giant Sets
Variety of Exercises
Tempo Changes
Compound Exercises
Continuous Tension Set
Increased Time Under Tension
Variety of "Tools" Used

1A giant set with 1B and 1C) Weighted Pullups
4-5 x 5-8
Rest: None (heavy/low reps, compound exercise)

1B) Lat Pulldown
4-5 x 15-20
Rest: None (moderate weight/high reps)

1C) Cable Face-Pull (with 3- to 5-second slow eccentrics)
4-5 x 10-15
Rest: 90-120 seconds (increased TUT)


Techniques Used:
Supersets and Giant Sets
Variety of Exercises
Tempo Changes
Compound Exercises
Continuous Tension Set
Variety of "Tools" Used

1) Barbell Squat
8 x 3 reps
Rest: 90-120 seconds

2A giant set with 2B and 2C) Leg Extension (with 3- to 5-second slow eccentrics)
4-5 sets x 15-20
Rest: None

2B) Leg Curl (with 3- to 5-second slow eccentrics)
4-5 x 15-20
Rest: None

2C) Bodyweight Squat
4-5 x 20
Rest: 90-120 seconds.   

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