Sunday, November 17, 2019

The Giant Set Controversy - Bob Green (1970)

Article Courtesy of Liam Tweed's Collection

The Author, Bob Green. 


"To my knowledge, Dave Draper, Gene Mozee and myself were the first on the West Coast to fully experiment with giant sets."
 - Bob Green. 

by Bob Green (1970)

During the middle 60's PHA training took a big upswing in interest.
Rumors were that Bob Gajda had perfected it and certain other bodybuilders were using it exclusively; most notably Frank Zane and Sergio Oliva. 

Peripheral Heart Action sequences were supposed to be superior in buffering waste products (which is largely diet and secondarily, heart beat), and in increasing size gains. This system was found to enable you to handle heavy weights all right, but size gains did not come as quickly as they did with other systems.

PHA training did prove to be good for pre-contest "cutting" (done 2 or 3 weeks prior to a competitions), endurance, and for working large groups out in the shortest time possible. Thus it had some merit, but was not what it was cracked up to be in practice. The theory is great.  

Vince Gironda had used this method in the "old days" (late 40's). He later abandoned it for super-setting, tri-setting, and burns. Schools and military groups adopted it later on primarily due to its practicality (to the instructor). 

Sergio abandoned it because he could not get big enough on it. Zane gave it up for a variety of reasons and he is very analytical. Gajda cut back on training shortly thereafter and went into weightlifting (a paradox involving low reps and greater rest periods).

PHA has been found by most of the top bodybuilders to be inferior for size, strength, and breaking sticking points, but it is good for definition and comeback training, or geriatric work. Too many systems of greater merit have come up.

One of these, Giant Sets, had its inception around the same time that PHA was popular. In fact, Giant Sets was the controversial counterpart.

Some magazines claimed ownership to the Giant Set principle, but it was born out of necessity - just as other inventions have been. 

Probably the first bodybuilder to use this style was John Grimek. His technique was different, although he would work one area in a sort of sequence. You might say that his method was half PHA and half Giant Sets. Grimek was very inventive and tried all sorts of combinations and that is one reason he was so great. 

Dave Draper was the first to stylize Giant Sets and put them into practice with results. He had won the IFBB Mr. America and needed something to cut him up more while still building size. After much trial and error he came upon this technique for lagging bodyparts; he employed them for sticking points and worked the rest of his body in super- and tri-sets. 

Right on Dave's heels was Gene Mozee, who introduced the method to me. Gene and I made rapid gains and soon most of Vince's was trying it. Gene entered some beach contests and did very well. I only wish we had Giant Setted legs instead of giving the upper body priority. As it was, my arms went up to 19 inches pumped at a bodyweight of 193, coming up from 17-3/4. I was concentrating on strength and size at the time. I witnessed Gene's arms go from 16-1/2 to 18 inches cold in about 90 days. We both put over two inches on our chests. I was sold and did more empirical studies on other advanced trainees.

I have found that Giant Sets should only be done for two or three months per body part. Rest at least one month before attempting it again for the same body part. A trainee should have at least 18 months of solid training behind him before he tries this. 

To correlate things further: remember the IronMan article on Rick Wayne's Giant Setting for arms a few years ago? Look what it did for him.

Note: I believe that's the Nov. 1968 issue.
"Rick Wayne's 20 Inch Arm Routine" by Sterri Larsen. 

Basically, he did a series six or seven continuous sets without rest, 
going from biceps to triceps:

Barbell Curl to
Pressdown to 
Seated DB Curl to 
Seated Triceps Extension to
Concentration Curl to
Lying Triceps Extension to
Close Grip Barbell Curl. 

Six reps for biceps, 8-10 or so for triceps. 
Six times through it all. 

Dave Draper, Rick Wayne.

Draper used it on delts, back, arms and, occasionally, chest. 

I have used this principle on my legs now for the last six months and have put over 2" on my thighs and 3/4" on my calves. If this doesn't sound like much, remember that these are cold measurements taken in the morning and were attained while on a definition diet. Yes, that's right. No bulking. 

You can bulk with this method for less experienced trainees or the skinny individual who has a chronic  problem. Dave Draper put on size, cut up and went on to win the IFBB Mr. Universe. 

At this point let us enter the mythical 21st Century time machine and go back to the summer of 1967 to give you some more background . . . 

 . . . ZZZIIIPPP, WHRRRR, CLICK, THUMP, THWAP! Poooooffff! . . . 

"Hey guys!" exclaimed Dan Mackey from behind the desk of Vince Gironda's Studio City gym. Dan had just hung up the phone after a lengthy conversation. A bunch of us were soaking up air in between sets. We were also scanning on the chicks going into the night club down the street. Some distraction indeed. 

"I just got through talking to John Balik at Gold's Gym. He came back from Chicago where he trained with Gajda on PHA. He says that the guys at Gold's are getting into it with good results." 

"Isn't that what you're doing, Mackey?" queried Gene Mozee. 

"No, not at all. I don't feel that the ONLY way a muscle group can "buffer" its waste products for recuperation is by circuit of PHA training. It'll happen regardless, if your heart and vascular system aren't clogged or rusted out. I think you can get more size, definition, and just as much endurance by Giant Setting WITHIN a muscle group. PHA is great for cutting up and getting into hard condition, but Vince tried it on his pupils in the late 40's and early 50's with some results. No one really grew on it, though, because the muscles would recuperate before real hypertrophy would set in." 

"That must be why Howorth went to Giant Sets on his thighs and calves - because they wouldn't pump and grow," I added.

Gene and I were training together as I needed help and Gene needed the enthusiasm to make a comeback. Gene had been one of the first to bench over 400 and was a physique champ in the late 50's. The time was 1967 and he was ready to get it on again. 

We were looking for something new because we had reached a sticking point. I was training for size and wasn't growing even though I was using 80 and 90 lb. dumbbells for reps in the delt press, 450 on the bench, and a 160 lb. barbell supersetted with 70 lb. dumbbell in the preacher curl for 5 sets. In the press behind neck Gene and I worked up to 250 for 4-6 reps.

We were pretty strong. 

But we were not growing. 

We resimplified out routine and went back to basics with the result of smoothing out and not getting a full pump. 

Dan Mackey, Dave Draper.

Mackey had been rapping to Draper and was training different, but I couldn't figure out exactly what he was doing and I didn't want to bug him. One day Mozee gave me the word that Giant Setting was the name of the game and we ought to try it. Dave and some of the other guys were doing it and he was sure that was what El Macko was doing. 

With Dave, Gene, and myself rapping it down the word hit others at Gold's and Vince's. Many were skeptical and told us we were over-training, yet our workouts only lasted one to two hours. Some of Gold's more advanced men came over to Vince's one night to observe McArdle, Gene and Mackey doing the "big ones." Don Peters had gotten into it and was sliced with size. Even the natural-grower, Gable Beaudreaux was using it. 

At this time Gene and I were in our second month of Giant Setting and had added a third training partner, Steve Downs to our routine. That night we measured Gene and found him to have the following cold measurements: chest (normal) 48"; arms 18-1/8; waist 28. 

We were experiencing growth gains and surprising endurance patterns. We had no problem recuperating in 24 hours. Our plan was to use a split routine for four months, training six days per week. We would Giant Set only three lagging body parts until two months before the beach contest season. At the two month point we would Giant Set all the way. 

We relied on diet (and diet alone for bulk or cuts). The training was maximal, using moderate to heavy poundages and finishing light for pump. Strict form and, again, maximum output were two stalwart guidelines we tried to adhere to. 

At the end of the third month Gene's arms were pumping over to the high end of 18" and his chest was well over 48 normal while maintaining a 29 plus waist (measured by Steve Downs and myself). My gains weren't quite that outstanding, but I felt strong and growth was coming slowly. 

One late June evening we were blasting away at Vince's Studio City. We had heard that Sergio Oliva was using Giant Sets on his waist and one or two other body parts. My chest had grown an inch, and Gene and Steve were already dripping with sweat. We finished our last Giant Set for chest when several members of Gold's gym strode in. 

Now before you start formulating some kind of a rivalry thing - STOP. West Coast gyms traded a lot of ideas, even though many are skeptical and come on kind of strong there wasn't any unfriendly rivalry. Okay - onward . . . 

After several minutes or rapping with Dan they came over to where we were hitting it and asked us how long we'd been on Giant Sets and what we thought of it. Gene mumbled something about two months and that we were all thinking of entering contest that summer (I guess Gene was "hyper" about doing some shoes, but Steve and I had no such thoughts; we were just digging the workouts). The smack of challenge hit home and I gulped - several times. What had he done? I could feel the vibes.

"We're thinking about some beach contests ourselves," remarked one of them. We've been doing PHA for some time now and we dig it (they thought). Before, we did 8 exercises per cycle, but we found that by cutting down to 6 and "highlighting" a particular body part we get better results (ah-ah, boys . . . no deviating from the pure PHA!).

To make it short, a small challenge was issued to see if the four of them would gain more size and strength than we would. We would go to Gold's and do PHA the way they did for four weeks and do three different cycles (to make sure three body parts were included) or five exercises for three sets each. Cycle "A" would "accent" the chest and would include bench press, press behind neck, lat pulldown, barbell curl, and heavy dips. This cycle contained two chest movements. Each movement would be done one right after the other until a cycle had stopped. Three sets were done. In this manner three body parts per day were worked three times per week.

On the other hand, after the first four weeks, they would come over to Vince's and do three body parts using Giant Sets. The Giant Sets were to include five different movements for the SAME body part. For example (to correlate with Cycle A), our Giant Set "A" would accent the chest alone and might include neck press on machine, Gironda dips, pullovers, flies, and DB inclines. This was done for three sets just as the PHA group did three sets of Cycle A.

It was an interesting test considering the similarity in techniques. To check our respiratory levels we checked our pulse rates at the beginning of each workout and once every five minutes. Doing Giant Sets improved our endurance and our recuperation rate would increase every workout while our pulse rates went down every four or five minutes for the first 20 minutes of our routine; just as in PHA. I am sure that waste products are probably buffered away in PHA faster, but not that much faster because our pulse rates and recuperation times didn't change at all in PHA. The big difference was that in PHA it is easier to do the last set and the last two movements in a cycle due to the lesser "pump" achieved. You have to pump for size gains. PHA did not provide this. We finally felt that we were doing our PHA faster the fourth week; faster by a few minutes than our Giant Sets so we felt PHA was a faster way to train. 

I feel that the Giant Sets will be a little behind perhaps, in the cardio-respiratory department, but not that much to be terribly significant. You can train on PHA all year round whereas the Giant Sets should only be done for two to three months per part being worked (as it is designed to break sticking points - which it does). 

The most interesting aspect of Giant Sets is that the stamina of an individual muscle being giant setted is greatly increased - far above the PHA level. For one thing, more lactic acid is produced in a short time which signals the chemical reactions which release glycogen (blood sugar) from the muscles (themselves) and liver. This provided more minerals and energy material for the muscle so that it can work harder and longer with a good fuel supply. Couple this with the increased hypertrophy involved and you have a winner. 

Our Giant Set for back went like this: 

Wide Grip Chin to Chest 
Bentover Row (head braced) 
One Arm Cable Row
Seated Cable Row to Waist

Since their system could accentuate an area their Cycle B (accenting back) was: 

DB Incline Press
Long Cable Row
Seat DB Press

Our third, and final Giant Set was set up for delts: 

Press Behind Neck
80 Degree DB Press
Incline Side Lateral
Bentover Lateral
Incline One Arm DB Press.

This was a beaut! 

Their third PHA cycle consisted of:  

Barbell Front Press
Front Squat

If you noticed - their cycles were set up with upper body movements primarily, wheres regular PHA would have a thigh movement in each cycle) which gives its aerobic and real conditioning properties). We just didn't want to get accused of merely out-setting them on a body part. 

After three workouts we had the PHA rhythm down and out strength was going up fast due to the alternating body parts, but no growth was noted. Endurance seemed to soar the second week. During the third week we experienced something unusual. After our 1-1/2 hour PHA workout we would head for the showers, take a sauna, and by the time we were ready to shower we felt like we could handle another workout. I don't think this should be misconstrued as being highly desirable for a bodybuilder or strength athlete. 

What I mean is, you shouldn't be able to recuperate that quickly; you simply haven't done enough (intensity-wise). Maybe by the time you get dressed you should feel buoyant and thoroughly stimulated, yet with a sense of well-being. Mellow, I believe is the term. No growth, but good endurance and average strength increases. 

We seemed to be a little stronger on all upper body movements, but they had us on legs. This was mostly due to the fact that we had been sloughing our leg work anyway. 

One week later it was their turn to start Giant Setting and we got 'em sore every time (after all, the very essence of this program is to beat recuperative levels; the antithesis of PHA). They had to drop training poundages the first three weeks. Something peculiar happened - even though they dropped training poundages, at the end of the four weeks they were improved in all their lifts. Much to their chagrin they grew and pumped like never before and measurements went up. They were impressed, to say the least. 

I won't mention names because people get uptight when they learn something from the "other camp," so to speak. Actually, this is silly. The trainee should be able to draw the line between fellowship in a sport or competing at all levels. Competition is a motivator out of which things can be learned or achieved. Occasionally we forget the original intentions of competition and compete all the time. I feel this is one of our country's hidden cancers. What is competition and what is involvement - your choice - don't mistake the two. 

Okay . . . 

As Mackey put it, "Giant Sets will enable you to thoroughly attack a muscle from all angles and ensure maximum stimulation. This also increases one's sensitivity to the various facets of each body part. Then the trainee experiences more fluid motion in all activities; coordination, agility, rhythm and total fitness are more easily developed. 

A muscle that has been developed from all angles will be a more completely and harmoniously developed muscle. It will respond to stress and stimulus better than ever, to say nothing of its more pleasing appearance. 

Grimek advocated variety to wake up dormant areas and so do I. I've seen it. Dan also feels that most trainees don't "feel" the muscle work during the entire set. He often has members QUIT COUNTING on certain moves and do them until they slightly "burn" so that they get into it a little deeper quickly.

Dan has often talked about the "ball of pain" that must be felt from the belly of a muscle to its insertion. The origin usually gets plenty of work. Eventually one would hope that the trainee could feel the origin, belly, and insertions to determine various stimulus levels of an exercise. 

This is an integral part of the art of Physical Culture. We are all artists in this field. Some are expert at it and then you have guys like Vince Gironda and Dan Mackey who are indeed at the Master level. Attitude, sensitivity, insight and experimentation are the key motivators in lifting and bodybuilding. If these points are not developed in a parallel to your body development, then Giant Sets or any other method will not be worth a plugged nickel.

Mackey Giant Sets, but again he has carried it further into a multiple poundage trip that gets a little intricate, but it is worthwhile because Dan is bigger and has more shape than he ever did. More on this later. 

As you can no doubt see, I am very much in favor of Giant Setting stubborn body parts. I've seen Rick Wayne do some remarkable things with them; seeing him in 1968 briefly and then in an exhibition here on the West Coast I was impressed greatly. They work, but you should remember to use them on one body part only per workout day; i.e. if you work all body parts each workout you can do one in Giant Sets that day. If you split you may want to Giant Set one part one day and another the following. Like anything else, don't abuse them. Eight to 10 weeks should be max.

Nutrition is vital in the case of Giant Sets due to the fact that you will be really testing the recuperative powers of the muscles as well as the cardiovascular system. More energy will be spent. More tissues broken down and needing proteins and minerals. Where are the electrolytes going to come from? You will be chemically and electrically stimulating your muscles like never before. Where is your endurance and stamina going to come from? 

Primarily from your nutrition. 

The nutrition that will help coax your body to new levels of development. The recuperative factors are of the utmost: C, E, Liver, Trace Minerals and Proteins.     

Food intake should be high in proteins of the complete variety such as beef, organ meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and protein supplements. Fats should be a little higher than usual for the sake of the nerve tissues and long distance energy. Carbohydrates should be primarily in the form of fruits and green vegetables. Yellow vegetables should be eaten occasionally, but are not necessary if green vegetables or fruit are used. Keep the starch and carbos under control. Grain products in the form of whole wheat of mixed grain cereals may be eaten with half and half or cream two or three times per seek, and preferably on workout days. This will add energy, but should not be eaten too often due to the high fibre and carbohydrate content. We desperately need this fibre for our colons, but is should not be overdone or else you will get fat and sluggish in your digestion.





No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive