Monday, January 6, 2020

6 + 20 = Size and Muscularity - Don Ross

 Ross, Serge Nubret


6 + 20 = Size and Muscularity 
by Don Ross (1991)

Blast your muscles into new growth with this updated version of the 6-20 routine. The original routine was born in 1984 when I was preparing for my final posing exhibition. In the past I'd been able to get down to my most ripped. lean shape at around 205 pounds. This time I was determined to be better than ever. 

To achieve this, I went on a high protein diet, eliminated aerobics, and employed the 6-20 workout.

A radical departure from my previous routines, the 6-20 shocked my muscles, which were already conditioned by two decades of fanatical muscle-blasting into new growth. 

By Don Ross and Robert Kennedy
A lot or layouts in this one, and the section on
working around injuries is good too. 

At the show I weighed 214 pounds and displayed more definition and separation than ever before. Since then I have imparted this routine to the many clients I trained for competition, including the late, great Kay Baxter. 

They all made incredible improvements. 

The 6-20 method combines two opposing rep systems to produce maximum muscle growth. The most effective number of repetitions for stimulating the strength fibers of the muscles, the myofribrils, is six reps. You can handle the heaviest bodybuilding reps for six reps. Fewer reps will build strength but not necessarily the corresponding size or muscularity; more will limit your poundage for ultimate stimulation of those fast-twitch fibers. 

Sets of 20 stimulate growth by performing a different function. They work the endurance fibers that aren't affected by low reps. They also provide a maximum pump, which builds capillaries, those avenues that bring oxygen and muscle building nutrients to the cells. They also carry lactic acid wastes away from the muscle. Not only does the growth efficiency of the muscle improve, but these additional components add more mass. 

The original 6-20 routine was performed as follows; 

 - Do a warmup set on the first exercise. The routine is planned synergistically so one exercise warms up the next area to be worked. This eliminates the need for so many counterproductive warmup sets.

 - Next, take the heaviest possible weight for 6 strict reps. Use an explosive positive movement in lifting the weight, and a medium-speed, controlled return movement. Avoid quick negatives, since they will make it too easy to use momentum and swing the weight, minimizing the muscle resistance. This also creates trauma to the muscles and tendons, increasing the chance of injury.

 - Do two more sets of 6, reducing the weight in the descending set fashion. Decrease the poundage by one or two increments, just enough to maintain the same number of reps while maxing out on every set.     

 - Reduce the weight by 50% or less. Do two or three maximum efforts of 20 repetitions each. Use a medium-to-slow speed on the initial (positive) movement and a slow speed on the return (negative) movement.  

 - Do two or three exercises per bodypart. 

That's how it used to be done. Today there is an even better way to adapt this method. 

A few years ago Fred Hatfield popularized the breakdown method of training, which was used successfully by Mike Quinn, Robby Robinsion and others, including yours truly. 

Breakdowns are similar to descending sets. You decrease the weight by 20-25% on each set, so the rep scheme changes. 

In applying this breakdown technique to the 6-20 method, you do only four sets per exercise, but you use more exercises per bodypart to work all aspects of the muscle. This way you get a more complete routine, as follows:

 - After the warmup set with the first exercise (as with the original 6-10), go to your heaviest weight for a set of 6. Always try for an extra rep. If you can do it, use more weight the next time you do that exercise. Again, use an explosive initial movement and a medium return.

 - Reduce the weight 40-50% and immediately do a set of 20 reps using the same tempo as in the original routine - medium up, slow down.

 - Go back up to one increment less than the original poundage for another set of 6.

 - Conclude the exercise with 20 reps on your fourth and final set. 

You would think that you'd tire and your strength would be considerably decreased after a set of 20 and that it would be difficult to complete a heavy set of 6. The beauty of the system is, however, that the 20-rep set works the endurance fibers while the strength fibers rest. Amazingly, after the set of 20 you could go back to the original poundage and lose only one rep. You use descending sets to keep the reps to at least 6. 

For maximum definition progressively decrease your rest periods between sets. Then hold and squeeze in the contracted position for one-half second to achieve deep muscle separation.

When using the 6-20 routine for contest training, rest 10 seconds between the 6-rep sets and the 20-rep sets. Rest 20 seconds after the 20 reps. For thighs rest 20 and 30 seconds, respectively. 

Here is the routine:

Day 1: Back, Abs

Perform each exercise for 4 x 6, 20, 6, 20 except where otherwise noted. 

Back - 
Lat Pulldown to Chin
Behind the Neck Pulldown
Close Grip 45 Degree Row
(or leaning back on lat machine)
Close Grip Long Cable Row
Weighted Hyperextension

Abs - 
High Incline Crunch, 4 x 8 with weight, 30 with no weight, 8, 30
Ab Machine 

Day 2: Chest, Shoulders

Chest - 
Incline DB Press
Pec Deck Fly
Decline DB Press
Cross Pulley Flye 

Shoulders - 
Pulley Front Raise
Lateral Raise
Behind the Neck Press
Rear Delt Machine

Day 3: Triceps, Biceps, Forearms

Triceps - 
Close Grip Triceps Pushdown
Seated Pulley French Press

Biceps - 
Simultaneous DB Curl (standing, supinating)
Close Grip Spider Curl
Wrist Curl, 4 x 10, 30, 10, 20

Day 4: Thighs, Hamstrings, Calves

Thighs - 
Leg Press, 4 x 8, 20, 8, 20
Hack Squat, 4 x 8, 20, 8, 20
Leg Extension, 4 x 6, 20, 6, 20

Hamstrings - 
Lying Leg Curl, 4 x 8, 20, 8, 20
Standing or Seated Leg Curl, 4 x 6, 20, 6, 20

Calves - 
Donkey Calf Raise on Machine, 4 x 10, 20, 10, 20
Seated Calf Raise, 4 x 10, 20, 10, 20
Standing Calf Raise, 4 x 8, 20, 8, 20

If you're an advanced bodybuilder and have hit a wall in your progress, don't hesitate. Stop whatever workout you're doing and try this one. 

Or you can apply this rep scheme to your current routine. 



  1. Basically, this routine is just drop sets.

    1. Yep, and basically that's just a comment that adds nothing.


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