Sunday, June 5, 2022

118-Day Scientific Bodybuilding Experiment - Ernest Cottrell

Ernest, you had me at "scientific bodybuilding experiment." 

This exercise course consists of a slightly unusual weight training routing that changes every month, plus a refreshing One Week Preparatory Workout that is used just before, and in between the regular course. 

The course is a 6-day a week schedule, each bodypart is directly exercised twice per week. The exercise sequence and rest periods are rather critical, so be sure to follow the instructions carefully.

The exercise routine uses a minimum of equipment so you guys working out in your basement with only basic equipment can progress along with the guys a in fancy, well equipped gym.

Here's the exercise outline showing the exercise sequence and rest between exercises, along with illustrations and descriptions of exercise performance in this instance. 


NO exercise; completely lay off all exercise for one week. 


One-week preparatory workout. After you have completely laid off all exercises for one full week, start the following. It is designed to shock your system and prepare it for the three month course that follows. Here's an "outline" of the one week preparatory workout: 


1) Barbell squat: 1/4 of your bodyweight.
2) Bodyweight dips.
3) Triceps exercise with 1/3 of the poundage you'd normally use for a 10-rep maximum. You choose the exercise. I happen to like the close grip (6 inch) bench press using an EX curl bar.


1) Underhand grip bodyweight chinups.
2) Abdominal work, your choice. 
3) Biceps exercise, your choice, use 1/3 of 10-rep max weight.

All of the exercises above should be done for 1 set, using the "CUMULATIVE REPETITION" technique. This is an optimum muscle-building technique at its best. It can be utilized in bodyweight exercises (incline situps. dips. pullups, pushups, bench dips, sissy squats, squat jumps, etc.). 

To illustrate bodyweight-only exercises, let's examine the parallel bar dip. This is performed with just your bodyweight, but in a unique manner: 

Do 1 rep, rest 10 seconds, do 2 reps, rest 5-10 seconds, do 3 reps, rest 5-10 seconds, and continue in this manner until you simply cannot exceed our previous repetition count.

For instance, if you get up to 10 reps and find that after a 5-10 second rest you can't do 11 reps in this exercise, this is where you consider the exercise completed for this particular workout.

The objective here is to accustom the muscles to accommodating more and more reps each workout until you can finish off with 25 reps. When you reach this number, you will have completed 325 cumulative reps overall.

I realize that a majority of the success in completing a bodyweight exercise is related directly to your weight. If you weigh 175 pounds, you will, in most cases, have a much better chance of completing those 25 reps than you would if you weigh 200-plus. 

The instruction for free-weight exercises is somewhat different from that given for a bodyweight-only exercise. The exciting part about training with cumulative reps as it applies to free weights is the progressive levels you can place on your muscles.

This is accomplished by the repetition scheme you select. Let's assume that you decide to use the high bar Olympic style squat for your exercise. The repetition scheme you have chosen is 3-5 reps for power.

Use a poundage that will allow you to blast out these 3-5 reps in proper form. You are now ready to begin. Perform 1 rep of the high bar squat, then put the barbell back into the rack and rest while counting off 10 seconds. Perform 2 reps, then take a 10-second rest; do 3 reps and take a 10-second rest, etc., until you can't exceed your prior rep count.

To clarify this, let's say that you have just worked up to 4 reps and find that after the 10-second rest you can't do 5 reps in the particular exercise. At this point you will terminate the high bar squat for this workout session.

Continue from workout to workout using the same poundage until you are able to complete 8 reps successfully. After you have reached this goal, a poundage increase is in order. Add only enough poundage to drop your repetition scheme back down to a base of 3-5 reps and begin this cycle over again.

The beauty of this progression is that you are using a rep count at the beginning (3-5 reps) that maximizes your power, but when you have achieved your goal of 8 reps, you are accomplishing strength and size gains with a poundage that is approximately 4% greater than you would normally be able to handle.  

As you might know this base repetition (3-5) can be used only with general exercises and in some cases tendon strengthening movements, but never with isolating or shaping exercises because they will make you susceptible to injury from maximum low rep overloads. 

The best way to apply the cumulative repetition plan to an isolation exercise is to begin with a poundage that is your best 10 rep maximum. 

3RD TO 6TH WEEK (see Weeks 3-6 column in charts below).

Click to Enlarge


Completely rest on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Then do the 2nd week Preparatory Workout on Thursday (all 6 exercises), then rest again on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

8th - 11th Week

Follow the 6-Day-a-Week one month (weeks 8-11) workout as outlined in the second column(s) for sets and reps.  =

12th Week

Same as the 7th Week.

13th - 16th Week

Follow the 6-Day-a-Week one month (weeks 13-16) workout as outlined in the third column(s) for sets and reps.

17th Week

No exercise; completely lay off ALL exercise for one full week.

After completing this program, you may want to revert back to a three day a week layout, before running the program again, if it worked well for you.

Three Day a Week Layout

The following three full body workouts (popularized in the 1980S by Maj. Donald V. Clerkin) are most result producing in that they concentrate on the seven basic body groups: thighs, chest, back, shoulders, arms,  calves and abs.

Monday's workout consists of the heavy core building exercises for muscle growth. Do not add or substitute exercises on this training day. However, for the other two training days you can substitute one body part exercise for another. For example, on alternate Wednesdays you could substitute Barbell Bent Arm Pullovers for Barbell Bentover Rowing, and on alternate Fridays, do Hack Squats instead of Leg Extensions. The combinations are endless.

3 sets are generally performed for each exercise, with the 1st set being a warmup using relatively light to moderate weights. Go all out on the remaining two sets. While 3 sets seem to be just about right for muscle stimulation some bodybuilders may find that a 4th or 5th set (at most) is necessary on some exercises. You will have to experiment a bit to determine if this is the case for you. Each of the workouts should take approximately 60-90 minutes to complete.

Enjoy Your Lifting! 


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