Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Heavy/Light for Faster Gains, Part One -- Greg Zulak (1984)


Look at our guy up there! Playing with his toys and having one helluva good time doing it. He strikes me as a very bright fellow. He'll be the mythic hero of our short tale . . . let him be known as U lift these . . . Uliftthese! 

My words are in the [   ] brackets.

by Greg Zulak (1984) 

The controversy in bodybuilding has raged for years: 

Is it heavy weights for low reps, or more moderate weights for high reps that are best to gain maximum size and muscularity. [Alexander Prilepin sat at his table for quite some time, trying to nail the answer to that question down. I do hope he wasn't all thumbs.]

Many bodybuilders are confused over this issue because they've heard many convincing arguments for both positions by top bodybuilding champions. 

Serge Nubret, Johnny Fuller and Albert Beckles are among those who prefer prefer high reps and lighter weights, while Bertil Fox, Bill Pearl, Dave Johns, Mike Mentzer and Kal Szkalak are among those preferring heavier weights and lower reps. [Fuller was quite extreme in his approach. 70 fast-paced sets per bodypart, going as high as 30 reps in many of those sets.]

The heavier-the-better advocates correctly point out that muscles quickly adapt to workouts (that are not progressive), and therefore the muscles must be continually stressed by heavier and heavier workloads if the muscles are to grow bigger and stronger.

They also point out that heavy workouts strengthen the ligaments and tendons as well as hitting the deep fibers of the muscle, causing them to grow in strength, size and thickness.

No on argues that weight training must be progressive if it is to be successful but it has long been known that increasing the intensity and workload does not necessarily mean increasing the weight -- this can be achieved through decreasing rest time, increasing sets and/or reps, or though using a concentrated, continuous tension style of exercising. Using this latter method a weight can be made to feel much heavier than it is; i.e., a 35 pound dumbbell can be made to feel more like a 50 pound dumbbell.

Indeed, many people are often surprised to find that although they are using less weight (in the strict, concentrated, continuous tension style of training where the emphasis is to keep conscious mental contact with the working muscle and constant tension on the muscle and not just hoisting the weight up), their muscles are working harder and the ache, burn and pump is far more intense than using heavier weights in loose style.

The more-moderate-the-better advocates insist the pump is best for growth and that too heavy workouts put far too much stress on the bones, tendons and ligaments (causing injuries), and not enough work on the muscles.

Muscle size is a combination of muscle fibers growing in size and thickness and capillaries increasing in size and number.

People who perform mostly heavy movements get strong, thick, dense muscles due to the muscle fibers increasing greatly in thickness, but such people, because they don't get much of a pump, have little capillary size.

Muscle pumpers, on the other hand, have mostly capillary size due to the many sets of high reps and don't have the thickness and density of the heavy-style trainers, nor as much strength.

Naturally both attributes are important and theoretically for maximum size and strength one should train for maximum muscle fiber size and capillarization. 

Training solely heavy or light will not produce the results we are after. In fact, the requirement of one may actually retard the needs of the other.

So what's the answer? How does one train to acquire both qualities of thickened muscle fibers and increased capillarization? The answer if to use the very effective and tried and proven heavy-light principle.

Used properly, under its many varied applications, the trainee will experience deep stimulation to the fibers as well as an extreme pump.

As I mentioned, there are many effective ways to use the heavy-light method. You can use one style until you feel yourself going stale on it or just feel the need for a change. [the recurring issue of staleness and ways to sidestep it occurs throughout lifting's historical trail].

One very productive variation of the heavy-light method is to use the standard straight set pyramid done with heavy weights and low reps followed immediately by several high rep sets of the same exercise, or else followed by a superset, or use the descending rep or triple drop principle. ["principle" is such a serious, overly important word for this game we love to play with weights, but a guy can only substitute "method" so often. Don Ross wrote of a "6-20" method twice in Ironman mag. You may find something there of use at some point in time] :

In each case you're doing low reps immediately followed by high reps to pump the muscle. Say you're working your chest and you're using the bench press. A sample routine, using the above examples might be: 

1 x 8-10
add weight
1 x 6-8
add weight
1  4-6
add weight
1 x 2-4
add weight
1 x 1-2

Rest 2-3 minutes between sets to allow you to use maximum weights. 

[Nothing is writ in stone with this. You can feel out how much juice you have at a session as you go up the pyramid of poundages, and, of course, you can stop at any point if it's simply not the day to go below 6, or 4, or 2. You can linger at one rep setting for more sets if it's that kind of day. The point is to learn more of your body, its reactions, its functions and responses, and apply that to your lifting as you gain gain further knowledge of yourself. In the long run that may actually be the goal of all this. To learn more about yourself; your body, mind and soul, in a non-rote, non-idolic, non-word-memorization way of gaining true self-knowledge. Rote learning vs Meaningful learning. I wish you well on your journey! ] 

Continued from here in Part Two, our exciting conclusion. 
Snack bar open during intermission only. 

Enjoy Your Lifting! 

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