Question: I just read the Revised Compound Aftershock and thoroughly enjoyed all the information. It's a great book. The one question I have is: Don't you think Aftershock supersets are too much for hardgainers?
Explanation of Aftershock supersets here:
On the contrary, Aftershock supersets can help hardgainers grow faster than ever. As I've explained in this column, one reason hardgainers don't grow is because their muscle fibers are endurance oriented -- even many of the fast-twitch fibers -- and they need a longer time under tension than most heavy, low-rep sets provide.
For example, if a hardgainer's biceps need 45 seconds of tension time to optimally trigger the growth mechanism in the fast-twitch fibers and the hardgainer does a set of six reps, the tension time will only be 24 seconds -- and that's assuming a relatively slow two seconds up/two seconds down cadence. Most trainees use a one second up/one second down cadence, which results in only 12 seconds under tension, about one-fourth the optimal time. You can see why hardgainers seeking physique gains who use the standard advice of "train heavy with the basics on abbreviated programs" sometimes fail to make good bodybuilding gains. They don't get enough target-muscle tension time during any one set.
Aftershock supersets allow you to use heavy weights with low reps for maximum overload, but you extend the target muscle's time under tension by doing TWO EXERCISES BACK TO BACK. For example, you do pulldowns or chins to the front supersetted with stiff-arm pulldowns for your lats. If you do six reps on each exercise with a two up/two down cadence, that's 48 seconds of time under tension for your lats -- 24 seconds on each exercise. Granted, you do get a brief rest as you move from the first exercise to the second, but it shouldn't compromise results because the rest isn't long enough for the target muscles to recover.
True, some Compound Aftershock routines may contain more sets than some hardgainers can tolerate, but you can alter them to fit your recovery capacity. For example, I often recommend that hardgainers try the Aftershock Compensation Routine but reduce sets for all exercises to one. That program has you training each bodypart once a week, including an Aftershock superset for each; however, every bodypart gets a second hit, albeit indirectly, when you train another bodypart during the week.
For example, you train lats and midback on different days, but the program is designed to provide indirect midback work when when you train lats and indirect lat work when you train midback. It's a very efficient routine because of the direct/indirect protocol. Plus, you only train three days a week -- Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Most hardgainers would look at the Aftershock Supercompensation Routine as it is listed, think it's too much work and ignore it, but when you reduce all work sets to one for each exercise and follow the Aftgershock recommendations and exercise order, it becomes a perfect hardgainer program.
ALWAYS keep in mind that programs are just TEMPLATES. You have to customize them to your own schedule and recovery ability.
Another routine you can use to extend tension times is the Hardgainer POF program from "Critical Mass." It has you split the three Positions of Flexion for each bodypart over TWO workouts a week, Monday and Friday, and you train your entire body on both days.
Here's what the quad part of the routine looks:
Midrange: Squats, 1 x 8-12
Stretch - Sissy Squats, 1 x 8-12
Midrange: Squats, 1 x 8-12
Contracted: Leg Extensions, 1 x 8-12
Note that the Stretch and Contracted position exercises are divided over the two days.
To get the growth from extended time under tension that Aftershock training can produce, simply do the two exercises listed for each bodypart as a superset rather than straight sets. In other words, superset your squats with sissy squats on Monday and squats with leg extensions on Friday. You should also reduce the reps to six or seven on each exercise, as extreme tension times - more than 90 seconds for most people - can reduce results and also may make you too breathless to do justice to the second exercise.
Delts and the Real-Feel Deal
Question: I have a lot of trouble feeling my delts working during incline one-arm laterals and one-arm cable laterals. Is there another stretch-position movement I can do for my lateral-delt heads?
Most people use too much weight during incline one-arm laterals and cable laterals. That means they swing the weight up, involve more muscle groups and momentum and lose tension on the target muscle. They also tend to let the dumbbell fall through the bottom third of the stroke, which removes critical tension from the working delt head as well.
You should perform stretch-position movements for the delts - or any other bodypart, for that matter - in a slow, controlled way. Here are a few tips that can help you feel the two exercises in the target muscle:
- Make sure your rep cadence is no faster than 2-up/2-down. No swinging. The weight should be light enough so that you can completely control it.
- On incline laterals reverse the movement as soon as your arm is perpendicular to the floor; on cable lateral reverse the movement as soon as your hand is at your opposite thigh. Your upper arm should be across your body at both of those points, elbow slightly bent.
- Don't pause at the bottom, stretch position. Use a quick twitch to reverse the movement, but don't bounce.
- Keep your arm close to your body as you begin a rep, and try to keep it on the same plane as your body as you raise it.
- Don't raise your arm past parallel to the floor or your traps will come into play strongly.
There are no other stretch-position exercises for the lateral-delt head, so do your best to get your form perfect. If you still can't feel the muscle, you may want t make the stretch-position exercise the second movement in an Aftershock superset.
For example, you could do one-arm dumbbell presses supersetted with incline one-arm laterals, or one-arm upright rows with one-arm cable laterals. I know, one-arm exercises take longer than two-arm movements, but using one arm at a time is the only way to hit the lateral-delt head's stretch position effectively.
Question: It seems as if you've just taken a number of training practices and put them under the POF label. I'm talking about things like supersets, which you call Aftershock, and multiangular training, which is the way advanced bodybuilders train anyway. Isn't POF just an unoriginal rehash of the old hash?
You must have majored in pessimism at Cynic University. Seriously, if yu wanted to be hypercritical, you could look at POF that way, but what I've tried to do with it is apply Bruce Lee's eclectic philosophy of martial arts to bodybuilding. I always tell trainees they should analyze them and attempt to make them work by adapting them and perhaps making them better. Then take what is useful and discard the rest.
That's how I developed POF, but POF isn't just plain old multiangular training. I adapted multiangular into a precise protocol, and I think I made it a more efficient tool. When most bodybuilders use mutliangular training, they do it with a shotgun approach -- there's usually no rhyme or reason to their exercise choices. For example, they'll do barbell curls, dumbbell curls, concentration curls and machine curls. Why use all those overlapping exercises? Because they're there, I guess.
With POF, on the other hand, exercises are classified as midrange, stretch, or contracted position movements, and then you use exercises that cover all the positions with the minimum number of sets that triggers growth. That way you train the target muscle through its full range of motion, or arc of flexion, and get optimal fiber recruitment -- which results in more complete development of each muscle structure without your overtraining.
Yes, many pro bodybuilders attain full muscle structures with their shotgun approaches, but remember that they have to rely on drugs to make up for the severe recovery drain. Using a bunch of randomly selected exercises may train the muscle completely, but the overlap -- such as doing multiple sets of barbell curls and dumbbell curls in the same workout -- severely diminishes recovery. So the only answer for bodybuilders who use imprecise mutliangular training is drugs that pump up protein synthesis and recovery. POF allows you to hit all the angles so you get the most development possible without overtraining.
As for the Aftershock technique merely being supersets, I beg to differ with that as well. Once again, I've tried to take a training concept and make it better through logical analysis and experimentation. I've explained why and how combining specific exercises in supersets can trigger the most growth.
For example, one version of Aftershock training suggests using a stretch-position exercise first in a superset with a big midrange movement. That order puts the muscle in an emergency response situation because muscle elongation against resistance, as occurs in the sissy squat, can trigger the myotatic response, which heightens fiber recruitment. When you immediately move to a midrange exercise that includes muscle teamwork, you can overload more of the target muscle because it's in a hyper-contracted state. I also explain how the muscle burn created from Aftershock training can increase anabolic hormone release.
Whatever training protocol you decide to try, you'll no doubt HAVE TO ADAPT IT TO YOU, as you're different from the next trainee -- your muscle origin and insertion points are different, as are your recovery ability and neuromuscular efficiency. Some exercises and concepts may work for you but not the next guy or gal.
If you try POF, I suggest you get a good grasp of its concepts and then hit the gym hard with one of the standard POF programs. Adjust it and tailor it to your specifications along the way, follow a phase-training approach, and use other types of training routines in some phases, including hybrid POF routines like Compound Aftershock. You'll soon learn what triggers the most growth for you. I've been training for more than 20 years, and I'm still learning.
That journey of self-discovery is what makes bodybuilding so interesting -- it will help you stick with your training for a lifetime -- and you'll experience more growth both mentally and physically if you train with an open mind and uncover your personal requirements for muscle growth instead of blindly following a champ's routine.
Enjoy Your Lifting, and Find a Smile.