Article Courtesy of Liam Tweed.
C.S. Sloan's Integral Strength:
Essays on Lifting, Zen Combat, Philosophy, Asian Cinema, and the Arts
Stuck in a rut?
Need something different from the run-of-the-mill training program you've been doing for the past several months?
Sometimes in order to keep the gains coming -- or to bust out of the rut you're stuck in -- you have to get a little crazy.
Enter mass insanity.
On the following pages, I'm going to outline several training programs that I guarantee you haven't been doing lately. In fact, it could be that you've never attempted -- or even thought of attempting them.
I'm including four different plans. Variety is a crucial component of making continuous gains, so you don't want to perform any of these gems for more than three workouts in a row.
The Number of the Beast: 666
Here's one that I got from Shawn Phillips, who wrote about it years ago in the now defunct MM2K.
Note: I know it well! The article by Phillips had three squat routines included. Here:
The premise is simple: Perform six sets of six reps of a particular exercise. To make things really tough, you take six seconds to perform the negative (lowering) portion of the exercise, and six seconds to execute the positive (lifting) portion.
Below is an example of an arms workout that incorporates this brand of hellish training.
Barbell Curl: Begin with 3 progressively heavier warmup sets of 6 reps. For your work sets pick a weight that would normally get you to failure at about the 12th rep. Use that weight for all 6 sets of 6 reps -- and don't forget the Six-Up/Six-Down cadence.
Lying Triceps Extension: Use either a barbell or a pair of dumbbells on this exercise. Once again, perform 3 progressively heavier warmup sets before you do your 6 x 6 work sets.
When you first attempt this workout you might be more than just a little sore afterward. That's okay -- you're exposing your muscles and nervous system to a stimulus they're not accustomed to.
Vince Gironda's 8 sets of 8
This is one that Vince Gironda used successfully when training advanced lifters. He didn't recommend it for anyone who didn't have at least two years of consistent training under his belt. More hellish -- not to mention crazy -- than even the first workout above, it's sure to shock any muscles out of a hypertrophy slump.
Pick 3 to 4 exercises for each muscle group, and perform 8 sets of 8 reps on each. Yep, that's right: You'll be doing between 24 and 32 sets for each muscle group. For each exercise use a weight that you could normally get close to 20 reps with. If you pick a weight that is too heavy, there's no way you'll be able to get 8 sets of 8 done properly. As the final kicker, rest only 20-30 seconds between sets.
You'll want to use a split routine when training with this approach. Below is a typical split, one of many possibilities:
Monday: Chest and Back
Incline DB Presses
One-Arm DB Rows
Donkey Calf Raises
Seated Calf Raises
Standing Calf Raises
Wednesday - Off
Thursday: Shoulders and Arms
Seated Lateral Raises
Standing Front Raises
Saturday: Begin the Cycle Again
Despite the enormous volume, each workout should be finished within an hour due to the short rests between all sets and exercises. As with our first program, you are probably going to be sore the day after a workout. Do not take extra days off because of the soreness. Your body will adapt -- and grow bigger as a result.
Big Gains From HIGH Sets and Low Reps
I have long been a fan of high set/low rep training plans. They're the best when it comes to gaining a lot of strength and muscle mass. Programs that use such schemes as 8 sets of 5, or 10 sets of 3 are among the most effective you'll ever find for achieving that goal. All of the lifters I train get good results with them.
Every so often, however, I like to have my trainees do something a little bit different -- and a bit more extreme. For a coup weeks at a time I have them perform REALLY HIGH SETS combined with a really low number of reps.
For that kind of training want to keep your reps at three or less while performing a minimum of 15 sets. The more sets you do, the fewer reps per set.
When performing sets of 3 reps, do 15 to 20 sets.
For doubles do 20 to 30 sets.
And for singles do 30 to 50 sets.
You still need to train heavy -- despite the number of sets. I recommend you use between 75 and 85% of your one-rep maximum on all sets. For example, if you're doing bench presses and have a max of 300, you need to use between 225 and 255 pounds.
Below is an example of a training split using these kinds of workouts.
Bench Press - 25 sets of 2 reps
Barbell Curl - 15 x 3 reps
Squats - 35 x 1
Overhead Press - 25 x 2 reps
Weighted Dips - 15 x 3
Deadlifts - 40 singles
Sunday: Cycle Begins Again
If you continue with this program for another week, change exercises or change the number of sets and reps you do on each exercise. At the most, use this approach for 3 weeks before switching to a more conventional form of training.
One Exercise to Failure
Before you start thinking that I'm trying to rehash HIT, I assure you I'm not. For this piece of insanity you do one exercise until you hit failure, not one set.
Pick a compound movement for a muscle group. (Any of the exercises listed for the high sets/low reps layout will work just fine). After a few warmup sets pick a heavy weight that causes you to reach failure somewhere between the 6th and 8th rep. After completing the first set, rest 3-4 minutes, and then once again take exercise to failure. Rest a few more minutes, and repeat.
Here's the crazy part: Do that one exercise until you can't get a single repetition with the weight on your final set. Depending on how much muscular endurance you have, that could take between 6 and 15 sets.
Below is a sample training split to use with this approach:
Monday: Chest and Arms
DB Bench Presses
Lying DB Extensions
Donkey Calf Raises
Thursday: Back and Shoulders
Saturday: Cycle Begins Again (or change to another program)
If you decide to continue with this method for another cycle, rotate to a different set of exercises for each training day. When you're training so intensely, it's very easy to overwork a particular movement pattern to the point of building up damage, something you want to avoid at all costs.
When following any of these programs, make sure you're getting plenty of sleep -- and rest -- to help you recover and grow. Nutrition is, as always, very important. You can't train like this when you're on a calorie-restricted diet. You want to eat plenty of calories -- protein, good carbs, fat.
And remember . . .
Sometimes insanity ain't such a bad thing.