Friday, September 30, 2022

The Most Effective Progression System for Beginners -- Brooks Kubik

This course deals with the critical but often-neglected topic of progression. My goal is to teach you how to make rapid gains in strength, muscle and power when you begin your training -- how to continue to make steady progress on the road to Muscle & Might as you move into the intermediate ranks -- and how to fine tune your workouts so you continue to progress when you reach the level of an advanced trainee. 

Making progress is easy when you're a beginner. Your body has enormous untapped growth potential. Your strength grows in leaps and bounds, and if you train right you can improve your performance in almost every workout. If you are wise, you will take advantage of this unique opportunity and follow a progression system that: 

1) Builds a strong foundation for future gains as an intermediate and advanced trainee, and

2) Allows you to experience steady progress from workout to workout, which will help teach you the all-important Success Habit. For a beginner, learning the Success Habit is just as important as building strength and muscle. 

For these reasons, beginners should start off with easy workouts that are light enough to allow them to progress steadily without hitting a plateau. Forcing a beginner to go through an extremely hard, heavy or demanding workout is totally unnecessary and ill-advised. It's much better to start light and easy and allow the new trainee to experience steady progress for as long a period as possible. 

Beginners should train three times per week on a total body workout, and follow a basic training program that uses either single progression or double progression. 

Single progression means that you add one rep to every upper body exercise and two reps to every lower body exercise in every workout.

Double progression means that you add one rep to every upper body exercise and two reps to every lower body exercise in every second workout. 

Single progression works best for younger beginners and those who are in relatively good condition when they start their training. Older beginners will do better with double progression. So will anyone who is seriously out of shape, underweight or overweight, or battling any sort of health problem.

Double progression is a slower and more gradual form of progression, but it has the benefit of helping to develop a solid foundation for future gains once you are past the beginner stage.

Double progression also helps teach your good form in all of your exercises. On the day when you repeat the previous workout without adding any additional reps, you can really focus on strict form and perfect performance of every rep. And remember, performing your reps in better and tighter form is also a type of progression! 

For these reasons, Bob Hoffman encourage trainees to use the double progression system. And remember, two or three years from now, no one will ask you how you trained or how fast you progressed when you were a beginner. Instead, they'll be asking YOU for training advice -- because by that time, you're going to be strong, powerful and very well-developed regardless of whether you begin with single progression or double progression. 

Also, note that you can begin by using single progression, and switch to double progression later on, after you have used single progression for several cycles. (That's actually a very sensible, and very effective way of doing things.)

Start with 5 reps on upper body exercises and 10 reps on gut work and lower body exercises. Do one set of each exercise. Use 8 to 10 different exercises.

This will be a very easy workout. It won't take very long to complete, and you won't get very sore or stiff. You may think it's too easy, and you may be tempted to add more exercises of do more sets of each exercise. Resist that temptation! Follow the progression system that I outline, and you'll make steady progress from one workout to another -- and you'll build exactly the foundation you need for more advanced training later on.

Remember, mot trainees start out by doing long, hard, and demanding workouts. They train like demons -- for a week or two. Then they burn out. They start missing workouts. And before you know it, they're not training any more.

If you ask them, they'll tell you that they "tried that weight lifting stuff -- but it didn't work." 

Don't let that happen to YOU! I want YOU to be one of the small number of trainees who starts the right way -- with very short, brief, and easy workouts -- and STAYS WITH IT!

So begin your training with an EASY program. Not a hard one. An easy one.

And note that this is ALL you do. You don't do extra cardio work or any other form of training. Just do your strength training -- and do it three times a week. Train M/W/F or T/Th/Sat. Save your energy for your strength training. You can add cardio training later on.

For example, here's a good workout for beginners: 

1) Standing barbell curl, 1 x 5.

2) Standing barbell press, 1 x 5.

3) Bentover barbell row, one-arm dumbbell row, or pulldowns to the chest using as shoulder-width grip (preferably with a bar that has parallel handles, 1 x 5.   

4) Barbell or dumbbell bench press or incline press with dumbbells, 1 x 5.

5) Barbell or dumbbell shrug (or trap bar shrug), 1 x 5.

6) Back squat, 1 x 10.

7) Bent-legged deadlift with regular barbell or trap bar, 1 x 10.

8) Bent-legged situp, 1 x 10.

9) Calf raise on calf machine, or one-legged calf raise while holding a dumbbell in your opposite hand, 1 x 10 per leg.

On each exercise, use a weight that is fairly easy, and allows you to perform all of the required reps in good form without straining.

Stay with that weight, and gradually add reps -- using either single progression or double progression -- until you have doubled the number of reps you are performing. In other words, you gradually increase from 5 reps to 10 reps on upper body exercises -- and from 10 reps to 20 reps on lower body exercises.

If you train three times per week and use the single progression system, you will double your reps on both upper and lower body exercises in 5 workouts, or just under two weeks of training.

If you use double progression, you will double you reps in all exercises in 10 workouts, or just under two weeks of training. 

At this point, do this: 

1) Add 5 pounds to the bar for your upper body exercises -- add 10 pounds for your squats, deadlifts and  calf raises -- and start holding a five-pound plate on your chest when you do your situps. 

2) Drop back to 5 reps for upper body exercises and 10 reps for squats, deadlifts, situps and calf raises.

3) Follow the same single progression or double progression program and gradually work back up to 10 reps for upper body exercises and 20 reps for lower body exercises. 

And then repeat the process. Add weight, drop reps, and build the reps back up. 

The only exception to the standard increases will be your situps. Once you are using a 10-pound plate on situps, work up to 20 reps and from that point forward, perform one set of 20 reps in the situp, using 10 pounds. If it gets too easy, hold the plate on your forehead rather than your chest, or use a situp board with a slight incline. (This is an early-in-your-career example of making your workouts more progressive by performing an exercise in a more difficult fashion.)

How many times do you repeat the process? 

It varies from one person to another depending on your initial strength levels and what kind of condition you are in when you begin the program. For some, three cycles will be enough. For others, five or six cycles may be better. But try to continue the program until the weights are heavy enough that you need to really concentrate and focus on each exercise to perform all of your reps in perfect form.

Note how quickly the weights will increase on all of your exercises. If you repeat the progression cycle three times you will increase your training weights by 15 pounds on all upper body exercises and by 30 pounds on squats and deadlifts. If you repeat the process six times, you'll increase your training weights by 30 pounds on all upper body exercises and 60 pounds on squats and deadlifts -- and it will happen very easily, with no sticking points, no extreme muscular soreness or no driving yourself to the point of exhaustion.

That's the beauty of progressive strength training. If you follow a sensible progression system, your initial progress comes fast and easily. As long as you train on a regular basis, you should build strength and muscle from workout to workout -- and at this stage of your career, it almost seems effortless.
At that point, you can add a second set of each exercise. When you do, continue the single progression or double progression system, and repeat the process of adding reps, and then adding weight, reducing reps and building the reps back up.
Do this for three to six cycles -- and then add a third set of each exercise. Continue the same slow, gradual progression. Add reps, and then add weight and drop the reps -- and build back up. 
At some point in the process, you may find that on at least some of your exercises, you need to reduce the amount of weight that you add to the bar when you are scheduled for a weight increase. Instead of five pounds for upper body exercises, you may only add 2.5 pounds. Or you may find that you  can add five pounds on bench presses and pulldowns, but only 2.5 pounds on military presses and curls. 
Similarly, on lower body exercises you may need to reduce the weight increases from 10 pounds to five pounds. That's fine, as long as you continue to follow the progression and to add a small amount of weight on a regular basis. 
After three to six cycles, you'll be ready for amore, er, a more advanced training program -- a training program for intermediates.
By the way, you'll note that the trainee has followed the same basic program and performed the same basic exercises in every workout. All that changes from one workout to another is the number of reps of each exercise, the weight on the bar, and the number of sets after he begins adding additional sets. 
Beginners do NOT need to do a variety of different exercises, and will do much better by training on the same exercises. They don't need to "shock" the muscles by training them from different angles, and they don't need to use "muscle confusion" to activate as many muscle fibres as possible. They need to stick to the same exercises long enough to make some truly significant progress. They need to develop high levels of skill in the basic exercises, and to perform them in excellent form over and over until the movement patterns are automatic. They also need to develop the mental attributes of patience, perseverance and tenacity -- which they will never develop if they start changing their exercises or jumping from workout to workout. 
There's a time for everything, but the time for adding new exercises is NOT when you are a beginner. Save the new exercises for later in your training career. 
Enjoy Your Lifting! 

Thursday, September 29, 2022

About Us and the Things We Do -- Dave Draper


The days, they go by. 
Monday will always be Monday, blue as a bruise. 
Tuesday is chest-and-back day, the only way you identify that everyday day, give it distinction. Wednesday is the day in the middle of the week, and the center of things is generally agreeable. Thursday offers hope, as most of the work week is complete and tomorrow is Friday. 

Yes! Friday is Friday, a rainbow of colors if you plan to paint it. And where there's a rainbow, there's a pot of gold: the weekend, Saturday and Sunday. 

Greet each day with a hug and a pat on the back -- better yet, make that a bear hug and a slap on the back. Recognize them or not, they are some of the best friends you've got, but here today and gone tomorrow.

The days are separate and distinct, yet there are times when they follow each other like soup cans on an assembly line. Hum, clink, clink. You count the cans as they wobble by, bored thankless. Hum, clink, clink. 

Suddenly and without notice, the machinery stops and the doors are thrown open to cold winds and the rush of traffic. Soup cans resemble scrap metal as they pile up one on top of the other. Urgency fills the air and things must be done. Catch a plane, consult a lawyer, stop the bleeding or console the grieving. You adapt and, as always, wish you'd been grateful when you had the time. Instead, you're grateful now, the best you can do.

These are exciting days, filled with hope, inspiration and encouragement. The days of production, enlightenment and achievement -- the winning days -- consume us on momentous occasions and leave us spinning. They seem too good to be true, so we forego appreciation and anticipate their ends.

Or, convinced we deserve them, we bask in their glory as if they'll never end. Hum, clink, clink . . . Soup's on, cream of celery, your favorite. 

We're learning, day by day. Thank heaven for weightlifting and muscle building. We're able to make every day a special day. Once past the front counter and along the dumbbell rack, we can finesse our training into a fulfilling challenge or an engaging game: a skillful sport, an uplifting activity or a delightful diversion.

Soup-can days and days of eruption and disruption can be transformed into entertaining, productive and healing days. 

Does your workout seep into your work day, or does your work day seep into your workout? Do you succumb to the follies of life, or do they become dust under your strong, lengthy strides? Are you hampered by momentary intrusions, halted by daily obstacles or propelled by the power of a vigorous spirit, mind and body? 

Where you have control, take control: exercise and eat right! Training rules, and you're the law. It's the stabilizer when your foothold slips, the fortifier when plans are laid to waste, the friend you know amid strangers, the oxygen and fruit of life in a barren place.

Exercise and fitness and not options. They're essentials. 

Hard to recognize and easy to forget, your training and the thing it affords keep you standing when others fall, pressing on when others retreat and smiling when others sneer.

We hear it all the time: I don't have time to go to the gym -- the kids, the job, the man. I know; it's tough. We grow weary and hope wavers, our bones ache and time scatters, the barbells are heavy and stuck to the floor.

Poor baby! Give up. What's the use? Get plasma and recall the good old days during halftime and station breaks. What's in the fridge? 

We don't lose our health and strength; we throw it away. We don't slide out of condition; we're tossed out for lack of participation. Fitness is not lost; it squandered like thankless treasure. Our muscles don't get soft; they evacuate. Strength moves out when the stomach moves in, and stamina checks out while we're sleeping . . . on the couch in the middle of the day.

Sorry! You've been deserted. 

No man is an island, though I sometimes see myself as a weed patch adrift in the swamp of life.

It is with this lighthearted attitude I proceed day by day, noble in purpose and gallant in pursuit. I'm alert (whazat?), always aware of my surroundings (where the heck am I?) and observe my neighbor without judgement (whatta dope!). I gather understanding from experience (a bum pushing a shopping cart along the streets) and learn through my mistakes (working feverishly on my doctorate).   

Independent, unfettered, untroubled and free, that's me. I obey the law most of the time because most laws are good most of the time. Where there is law, there is order; where there is order, we prevail; where there is chaos, we fail.

I watch, I see, I glean and apply. I avoid convention and the way of the masses unless, of course, they work. Too often they are too ordinary to be worthy: round pegs for round holes, square pegs for square holes and so on. Not for this mutt. 

I derived this sense of direction from my own mom and dad, good people who put a roof over my head and pointed me forward. Now this is not the worst method to prepare a kid for the future. Thanks, Ma. To spoil and offer no direction is by far the most frightening tactic of all. The "Have iPod, Will Travel" generation causes me to wonder, doubt and lose my breath.

Life is serious, we're on the line and the enemy surrounds us, projectiles fly, the bandits want our things and the ERs are full; kids are without heroes and heroes are without kids; the wrongs pile up on the backs of the weak and downtrodden, the rich get richer and leaders speak with forked tongues or are misunderstood.

Ah, but consider the gym with its metal and geometry -- circles, arc, straight lines and angles -- and pure sounds of crash, squeak, clank and thud. The gym offers force and pain and relief. It provides challenge and struggle and satisfaction. 

Stress doesn't have a chance; like weeds, it's pulled and burned for fuel.

Athletes, wiseguys, cool dudes and sweethearts of every age gather around piles of dead weight to be taunted and proven, purified and invigorated, strengthened and liberated. No one loses, everyone gains. 

Problems are poured into vats of toil beneath the heat of presses, deadlifts and squats. The smell of evaporating woe is invigorating, intoxicating. The occasional groan you hear, honest and provoking, is a song of delight, an ode to desire, a one-syllable poem filling the air. 

All else is silence or rock 'n roll. 

Enjoy Your Lifting!  

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Logical Strength Training -- Shinobu Shimizu (2022)


I'm finding stuff in this book. It's aimed at pitchers, baseball pitchers, but I'm finding stuff in this book. Plenty of varied stuff on several lifting topics. Strength training and bodybuilding is dealt with. 

Go Shinobu! 

Here's a small excerpt on DB curling. The whole deal behind this book is asking yourself WHY you're doing what you do in the gym. There's much more in here of course, but here's a small excerpt on DB curling . . . 

There's a big difference between doing "hard curls" and "easy curls." 

Irrational Strength Training - Dumbbell Curls. Using lots of momentum, moving the arms straight down to a position in which the elbows are fully bent in a single movement. 

Logical Strength Training - Dumbbell Curls. Pull your elbows back as you lift the dumbbells. When you lower the dumbbells, move your elbows  forward. Even if you use lighter dumbbells than what you would with "irrational" form, the load will be greater. 

Dumbbell curls are usually one of the first exercises that people do when they want to get bigger arms or work on their biceps. I want to think about this from a bodybuilding standpoint . . . 

Mush of your success in bodybuilding is determined by whether you are using a technique that effectively places a load on the muscle. In other words, a person who performs this exercise using the more demanding technique will build their biceps faster, while a person who uses the less demanding technique will build their biceps at a slower pace. The difference in the way you perform the exercise leads to a stark separation between the "logical" and the "irrational." 

The key point that differentiates the more demanding technique from the easy technique is the positioning of the elbows. 

Even if it's a bit more demanding, people who are conscious of fully engaging the biceps when raising dumbbells will often raise and lower them while moving their elbows back and forth. When they curls the dumbbells upward, they pull their elbows back slightly and raise the bells slowly. When lowering, they do it slowly while moving their elbows forward and stop the movement at the bottom with the dumbbells at an angle. See illustration. 

This is a method that uses leverage principles -- it applies the load of the dumbbell to the biceps from the beginning to the end of the movement. Of course, your arms are going to burn like crazy, but the harder it is, the more efficiently you can train your biceps. 

Now, what about the "irrational" easy version of this exercise? 

It involves raising and lowering the dumbbells as if your goal was simply to move them back and forth from directly below your elbow to directly above your elbow.  Of course, there is little or no load placed on the target muscles if you're holding the dumbbells straight down with your elbows extended. Likewise, if you raise the dumbbells to directly above your elbows, the weight is supported by the straight bones of your forearm, so there is very little load on the muscles.

Both the positions directly below your elbow and above your elbow act as "resting positions" in which your biceps take a breather.

That is to say, people who do the "easy" version just move the dumbbells from the resting position directly below to the resting position directly above. In addition, most people who employ this method often use exaggerated movement and momentum to swing the dumbbells in one quick motion from down to up. If you lift the dumbbell in a quick, jerking motion like this, the arms bear very little of the load and there are very few situations where lifting like this will actually stimulate your biceps. The epitome of irrational

Again, dumbbell curls are a biceps workout. But what happens if you were to do this kind of "easy lift' on a regular basis? Naturally, your biceps will get little to no training, and you'll end up wondering why the hell you're even training with next to no gains at all. 

[Now, consider all your other exercise movements, and the way you have chosen to perform them to build muscle and strength. 

In addition, there are many people who fall into the "weight trap" when they do such irrational training. 

You can lift super-heavy dumbbells that people around you may hesitate to lift, if you put a lot of effort into lifting them from directly below your elbow to directly above your elbow. The person who does this may feel fairly pleased as people around him look and say, "Wow, you can lift such heavy dumbbells." 

But no matter how heavy the dumbbells you lift, what's the point of doing it if it's not training your muscles? If you want to make your biceps bigger, then using lighter weight dumbbells with more demanding form would provide a much more effective workout. Logical people use a form that considers how to avoid merely moving the dumbbells from directly below to directly above the elbow. 

As I mentioned earlier, it is very easy to get carried away with arm training, and many people fall into the "weight trap" without even realizing it. In many cases, they lose sight of their original training objectives when they get caught up in the moment. 

That's why I want you to go back to the basics of why you are doing this, and train without losing sight of your purpose or yourself. 

The best way to shift from Irrational Strength Training to Logical Strength Training is to THINK ABOUT WHY YOU ARE DOING THIS. 

Next: "Squeezing your butt" is the basis of lower body strength training. Plenty of stuff in this one. 

Note: That reads "squeezing YOUR butt."

Enjoy Your Lifting!   

Strength Training for Football -- Richard G. Layman (1966)

Here's an article from a 1966 Mr. America mag (Vol 8 No. 8), as they worked toward trying the Mr. America/All American Athlete format and sought out Strength & Health readers to bring into the Weider fold. I went to a small gym for a while around then, and the shag/chrome layout was the deal then. There, and the lower-rent YMCA dungeon with the rougher gear, or, lifting at home with the usual equipment from that era. Two friends then taught me my first lifting lesson over that short period of time.

One fella did a three day per week layout as recommended, the usual charts and such. Couple sets of calf raises in there thrice a week and I shite you not his calves were visibly shapelier and larger in no time, while his much-desired biceps (we meant arms, eh) didn't change much at all. But the calves! Within the three total months he played with the weights three times a week his calves wound up looking crazy! 

But little or no arm growth in that three months. 

Another guy I knew a little from the Y dungeon had the opposite stuff happen. His arms, biceps especially, grew like weeds while his legs just stayed thin even though his weights in the leg stuff kept going up and he ate/slept/lifted etc. right for his desires. 

Quite a thing, ain't it. Anyhow . . . 

The Article

Today more and more coaches are conducting weight training programs in the hopes of making you a bigger and stronger football player. Whether or not you play football, you can benefit from the latest football strength training research! 

Whether you're a muscle beach he-man or a rushing halfback (or both), this article may have the strength tips you've been looking for! 

Though all weight training programs include the same basic exercises, many football coaches and players fail to see the results they had hoped for after weeks or even months of training. Unquestionably, any well-planned program will produce beneficial results, but do these programs have a lasting effect in helping to develop larger, stronger, and better athletes? 

Consider the results of Tanner's study of the effect of four months' weight training on the physiques of 10 mesomorphs. After the training and a subsequent four month rest, Tanner found that all their measurements with the exception of upper-arm girth had reverted back to pre-training size! 

It seems reasonable to suppose that the subjects' strength also reverted back to approximately the pretraining level. Weight training for football may have similar results. 

You see, the schools' planned weight training programs often are set up for the winter months only to be discontinued in the spring. Summer is largely a rest period for perhaps the majority of players, who may be encouraged to lift weights and run of their own volition, but who are more likely to spend most of their time riding around on someone's car and perhaps get a little exercise by swimming. As a result you more often than not return to school in the fall in no better condition than if you had begun your layoff right after football season. 

Are your winter weight training programs wasted? Could time be used more profitably? 

Here is an approach to off-season training that can be introduced during the winter and may appeal to your athletic instincts at the time -- this is the form of strength training known as "power lifting." 

As far as the authoritative definition of the word "power" is concerned, the strength-building exercises are inappropriately named, for they are strength tests and strength builders to a greater degree than they involve power. The true "power" lifts are those used in competitive weightlifting -- the press, snatch, and clean & jerk, in which strength is applied with explosive speed. The AAU people who named them apparently were not aware of the physiology and physics involved. As a result, we are saddled with a misnomer that will probably hang on like the "prone" (face down!) press. 

But, aside from the inappropriate name, the three exercises included among approved AAU "power lifts" are excellent strength builders and the strength they can build can be employed powerfully  by yourself as well as by well-coached football players. The important thing is that the lifts appeal to you and should give you an incentive to continue summer training on your own. 

The three exercise lifts recognized by the AAU include the
- Supine press on bench, 
- Squat, and 
- Dead weight lift. 

Among them, these three lifts put every major muscle group in your body to work, failing to work only one area intensively -- your abdominal muscles [really?]. They present the best method available today for testing genuine active STRENGTH!

Though coaches may prefer that the performance be standardized (so that the football players can be judged easier when it comes to gains in progress and strength), you have the opportunity to use these exercises in the manner which you think suits you best. But here are the basic techniques which I think you should follow: 

For record attempts in the supine press on bench, a two-second pause at the chest will eliminate one type of "cheating," bouncing the weight from the pectorals, in which some individuals can attain an advantage over others. The other requirement should be that the lifter's hips remain in contact with the bench throughout the lift. (For your training purposes, the two-second pause is not required; during training, repetitions are performed with no pause at the chest.). 

The squat should be performed to a point where the top level of the lifter's thighs is just below parallel to the floor. Even Klein, who criticizes complete knee flexion in squatting as being harmful to the joints, says that this position is not so extreme as to overstretch the leg ligaments.

You should perform the dead lift as it is described in better texts and courses on weight training and weight lifting. The major requirements should be that the lifter be fully erect at the finish of the lift, with his legs straight, back fully extended, and shoulders back.

In addition to intra-football-squad competition by bodyweight and by position, you may wish to set levels of outstanding performance to which you and your friends can aspire. Superior strength in relation to body weight can be a goal in which you compete with yourself. 

A high school boy who can lift a barbell equal to his weight in the bench press and squat is strong. If he can lift 50 pounds more than his weight in these two exercises, it is an indication of superior strength in the arms, chest, and upper legs. In the dead lift, if he can lift 100 pounds more than his weight he is strong, and if he can lift 200 pounds more than his weight with this exercise, it is an indication that you have superior back and arm strength. 

Weight training, like any other tasks, will of course bore you unless you can see results [as my boyhood friend with the great calves and no arms found just before he packed the weights in]. Your improvement should not be merely in the image you reflect in the mirror, but in a progressive record of lifting increasingly heavier poundages -- evidence of your increasing strength. For this reason, keep a week by week chart of your progress -- you'll be surprised at your own records as time passes on. 

Enjoy Your Lifting! 



Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Set Combinations -- Greg Zulak


Bodybuilders through the ages have always sought to make their training more intense and more effective. Probably the first method developed that allowed a bodybuilder to extend his sets and to make his sets harder and more intense was cheating. After the performance of as many reps as could be done in strict style, several more reps could be done by cheating the weight up.

Later on, techniques like forced reps, negatives, supersets, trisets, drop sets and/or combinations of these methods were used, all for the purpose of making the muscle being trained work harder than ever and to increase the pump. The final payoff was increased muscle size and better muscularity and development.

All of these methods are effective and should be used at different times by serious bodybuilders to shock their muscles and to keep their muscles constantly adapting and growing. There is another approach, however, for increasing training intensity that is not utilized very often. This is unfortunate because it is a very effective means, one that doesn't get as much press as it should. 

I refer to what is called "extended set combinations." This system allows a bodybuilder to continue to work a set for many more reps than he normally would, but without resorting to supersets, forced reps or practices of that nature. 

For an example of what I call an extended set combination consider lying triceps extensions. This is an excellent triceps mass builder when done properly on its own, but by using extended sets you can work the triceps even harder. You would do this by taking the triceps extensions to failure and then immediately changing over, using the same bar and weight, to close grip bench presses. Even though your triceps are too exhausted to do more reps of the extensions, by switching immediately with no rest to a compound movement like the close grip bench press you can continue to force the triceps to work because the change in action and leverage puts you in a stronger biomechanical position. The pecs, deltoids and the muscles of the shoulder and chest girdle -- even the lats to some degree -- help you to force out more reps.   

This method is especially useful to people who exercise without training partners and who don't have the benefit of a helping hand to do forced reps, negatives or drop sets as weights are stripped from a bar. 

Another example of extended sets would be flat dumbbell flyes to failure followed immediately by flat dumbbell bench presses. Once you fail with your dumbbell flyes why stop the set? Why not keep going and really make those pecs work? By going immediately with the same weight from flyes to presses, you force the pecs to continue working and make them burn and ache and pump up like balloons.

These are just two obvious examples of extended sets. The key to making extended sets work for you is to switch immediately with the same weight to the second exercise and to resist trying to do the second exercise too quickly or letting the reps of the second exercise strictly and smoothly, with great concentration and control, and then, as you fatigue, speed up the reps to allow you to get as many as possible done.

That's a good rule of thumb for any exercise, by the way. Do the first reps of your set a little slower than normal. Speed up a little as you get halfway through the set, and by the end of the set you should be trying to move the weight as fast as you can; however, because of muscle fatigue, it will actually move very slowly, if at all.

Keeping the principle in mind, let's go over some ways of extending sets for each muscle group.

The Chest

Besides the aforementioned combination of flat dumbbell flyes and flat dumbbell presses, you can do incline dumbbell flyes with incline dumbbell presses, and decline dumbbell flyes with decline dumbbell presses. That's obvious and easy to figure out.

Another effective extended set goes from dips to Parrillo dips. The Parrillo dip is sort of a shrug done on the dipping bars. It is excellent for the pec minors. First do a set of regular pec dips to really blast the lower and outer pecs. Keep the elbows wide and go as low as you can to stretch the pecs to the maximum, but only come up two-thirds to keep tension on the pecs. Also, lean forward as you dip to throw more stress onto the pecs. (To dip for triceps you would not go as low but would come up to a full lockout and try to remain vertical as you dipped.) Once you fail with the pec dips you are ready to switch to the Parrillo dip. Here is how to perform it: 

From the top or lockout position lower your body as far as you can without bending your arms. As you press yourself up, arch and push your chest out as much as possible and squeeze hard at the top. Make sure you do not bounce. Keep going until fatigue makes you stop. This excellent extended set combination will give new meaning to the expression "massive chest pump." 

The Lats

The lats are more difficult to train in extended set style, but it can be done with a little ingenuity. One way is to go immediately from wide grip chins to the front, where an overhand grip is used, to close grip chins using an underhand or curl grip. You are stronger in this curl grip position so even when you cannot do more reps in the wide grip position you should be able to continue on and do several more reps (at least) in the close grip (underhand) position.

The same can be done on lat machine pulldowns. You could do wide grip lat pulldowns to the front or back and, when failure comes, switch immediately to the mechanically stronger close grip underhand position. This combination also ensures that all sections of the lats are well worked. 

Another combination that works well when training lats and back is bentover barbell rowing and deadlifts. Start with a heavy weight that limits you to approximately six strict reps of barbell rows. When you cannot do any more strict reps, start to snap the weight up and use as much body English as you can to get the bar moving. Finally, when it is impossible to do reps even with cheating, switch immediately to regular deadlifting and do at least 10 deadlifts. Your lats and spinal erectors will get a very good workout.

To work more upper back and traps try a combination of bentover barbell rows and shrugs -- but in a bent position. As with the above example, do your bentover rows until failure. Then, instead of switching to deadlifts, stay in the bentover position and use your lats, traps and upper back muscles to shrug the weight up and down. Keep your arms straight and use your hands just to hold the bar. Let your back muscles do all the work. Keep shrugging until your back muscles and grip give out. Hand straps are useful in allowing you to handle more weight than your grip allows. 


One of the most effective exercises for working the traps and parts of the deltoids is the upright barbell row. This is one exercise that lends itself readily to extended sets. 

Pick a weight that allows about six strict reps. When you cannot get the bar up to nose/chin height strictly, start to heave the weight up. This should permit another three to five reps. When you get to the point where you cannot get the bar up to chin height, despite all-out heaving, you are ready to switch to exercise two, which is what I call a power upright row. It's sort of a modified high pull or clean.

To do the high pull, lower the bar from chin height all the way to the floor. Then using some rebound and momentum to allow you to drive the weight past the sticking point, heave the weight up to chin height. Switching from upright rows to power upright rows should allow you to do at least another six reps and maybe more. Believe me, your traps will burn like never before. I find that the power upright rows seem to hit the lower traps better than any exercise I know of. 

Another potent combination is high pulls with power cleans. Do as many high pulls as possible. When failure comes, switch immediately to power cleans and rep out. This is a great trap combination

The power clean is my favorite trap/upper back exercise. It combines well also with shrugs. Do as many power cleans as possible. When you can no longer get the bar to shoulder height, switch over the barbell shrugs. Do the shrugs slowly and fully, shrugging your traps as high as you can and holding at the top to make them contract. Use straps, if necessary, to reinforce your grip.

If you lack traps, try and or all of these combination extended sets. Your trap worries will be a thing of the past. 


There are many excellent extended set combinations for deltoids. One of the best is strict standing presses and push presses. Take a bar off a rack (or clean it), and use a weight that allows between six and ten strict reps. When failure comes, instead of ending the set switch immediately to push presses. 

To do the push press, bend your knees about three to five inches and then quickly straighten your legs hard, driving the weight up with the power of your legs, arms and shoulders. The knee kick or drive helps get the weight past the sticking point and allows you to do another four to six reps with max weights. This exercise quickly adds mass to the deltoids, especially the front head. 

Another excellent deltoid combination you might try is dumbbell laterals with dumbbell presses. Use dumbbells heavy enough to really make you work to get six or eight reps done. Do these laterals with the arms bent, the upper body leaning forward and heaving the weight up a bit to it past the sticking point. When failure comes, clean the dumbbells to the shoulders and continue on with as many presses as you can do. This will make those side heads burn! 

You can also combine one-arm laterals with one-arm dumbbell presses, a pairing which allows you to concentrate on one deltoid at a time. 

Or try combining dumbbell laterals with W-presses. This time choose dumbbells that allow for stricter action on the laterals, cheating only on the last few reps. When failure comes, immediately bring the bells up to shoulder height, with curl grip, arms bent, and elbows pulled back in line with the shoulders. In this position your arms should form a W. Rather than pressing up in a vertical line using triceps strength, move the bells in a wide, sweeping arc, like that used in dumbbell flyes for the chest, until they meet overhead. Do as many W-presses as you can, stopping only when muscular failure occurs

Another good combination for deltoids is the barbell upright row and behind the neck press. Do as many upright rows as you can. When failure comes, clean the bar to your shoulders and continue on with strict behind the neck presses. If you choose to, at failure, switch to some push presses. Your delts won't know what hit them! 

Another delt combo you might try is Scott press and regular dumbbell presses. The Scott press is done with elbows pulled back behind the head, the dumbbells tilted so that the outer plates are higher than the inner plates, and only pressing the bells for the middle portion of the pressing motion -- that is, you only go up two-thirds and never let the bells touch the shoulders. This version of pressing hits the side head hard. When failure comes, switch to regular dumbbell pressing. If standing, continue on and do a few push-type presses as well. 

To hit the rear delts try combining bentover dumbbell rows and shrugs. Do the rear laterals to failure. At this point, instead of putting the bells down, do ten or fifteen slow dumbbell rows, bringing the bells to the upper chest and really squeezing the rear delts hard. Next do some bentover shrugs. Stay in the bentover position and let the bells hand with the arms straight. Shrug hard and hold each rep for a count of three. Try for ten shrugs. This should add new intensity to your bent laterals and new growth to your rear delts. 


As mentioned before, you can combine lying triceps extensions and close-grip bench presses. This combination works really well. You can also combine bent-arm pullovers and close-grip bench presses. For a wicked pump, try combining all three. First do as many triceps extensions and you can. Next switch to the bent-arm pullover and go to failure. Finally rep out on the close-grip bench presses. It will feel as if someone has put a blowtorch to your triceps. Talk about a pump! 

Another combo you can try is the one-arm triceps extension and the one-arm dumbbell press. As soon as you hit failure on the one-arm extensions, switch to the one-arm press and rep out. 

Try strict triceps pushdowns and cheat triceps pushdowns. To do the strict triceps pushdown keep your body upright and your elbows in to your sides. Allow only your forearms to move. Don't let the upper arms move away from the body at all. When failure comes, switch immediately to the cheat triceps pushdown. Bend over at the waist, let the elbows go wide and push the bar straight down rather than moving it in an arc as you did with the strict triceps pushdowns. These extended pushdowns really pump the triceps to the max. 

Finally try going from dumbbell kickbacks to dumbbell extensions to dumbbell presses. These movements can be done either with two arms or one arm at a time. Use a medium-heavy dumbbell. Bend over at the waist and do kickbacks to absolute failure. When failure comes, bring the bell (or bells0 up and do either one-arm or two-arm overhead triceps extensions. When you fail at these, go quickly to one-arm or two-arm dumbbell presses. This combo really fries the tris. 


The most basic biceps combo is strict barbell curls and cheat barbell curls. This pairing was discussed at the beginning of the article. To add a new wrinkle to this old standby, try going from strict barbell curls to cheat curls to power curls. For power curls, as for power upright rows, you need to bring the bar down to the floor and bounce it from there. Use speed, momentum and inertia to help you to drive the bar past the sticking point. One point: Make sure you wear a good belt to protect your back, and don't go too crazy or you risk injury to your lower back or the elbows and tendons and ligaments of the upper arms. If you want to take your arms past the pain barrier and get them growing again, this combo will do it for you.

Another combination that has worked well for me personally is the straight bar preacher curl followed by the barbell curl. Do as many preacher curls as you can. Without letting go of the bar step away from the preacher bench and continue on with strict, then cheating, barbell curls. Yipes! This one burns like crazy. You might want to use straps to reinforce your grip.

How many times have you done one-arm concentration curls and failed with a relatively light weight after only eight or ten reps? Why stop there? Upon failing with the concentration curl, immediately stand up and continue on with strict, then cheating, one-arm dumbbell curls. Talk about intensity! 

Here's another beaut: Do a set of drag curls to failure and then continue on with strict, then cheating, barbell curls. To do the drag curl hold the bar at waist level with your chest arched high. Drag the bar up the body to a point just below the pec line and lower slowly. The bar should never leave the body. Once failure comes, revert to strict barbell curling, then  cheating curls to failure. Your biceps will ache like never before. 

You can also combine seated dumbbell curls with standing dumbbell curls and seated barbell curls with standing barbell curls. The principle is the same in all three cases. The action is stricter when you do an exercise seated because you can't cheat as much. Standing up allows you to use more body English to cheat out more reps. Any time you are doing any form of seated curl, regardless of what it is, I recommend you don't stop just because failure comes and you can't do more reps in the seated position. Standing up changes the leverages and allows you to force out probably three to five extra reps. This ensures your biceps work to the max.

You can also combine hammer curls and dumbbell curls, reverse curls and barbell curls, and wrist curls and reverse curls. Remember, intensity for immensity! 


Thigh exercises are a lot harder to combine than movements for the muscles of the upper body. Still it can be done. Try full squats and half squats, sissy squats and squats, and sissy hack squats and hack squats.

To do the sissy hack squat place your feet near the bottom of the platform on the hack squat machine. Get up on your toes and, as you lower yourself, allow the knees to come forward so that they are ahead of your feet. Only come up two-thirds. Once failure comes, move your feet back near the top of the platform and continue on with regular hack squats. This makes the lower part of the thighs burn and pump up to the max. 

Using the Smith machine you can do a sissy-style squat to failure, with your feet well forward and your upper body leaning back into the bar. Do as many reps in this style as you can. When failure comes, move the feet back in line with the bar and continue on with regular squats, but only come up two-thirds to keep constant tension on the thighs and to compensate for the relatively light weight you will be using.

Squats to half squats are probable best done in a power rack for safety purposes. Do as many full squats as you can. Once you near failure, switch to half squats. Have the safety catchers set up so that you can dump the bar when you need to. Keep doing as many half squats as your legs and lower back will take. Go until you can't get up and you are forced to dump the bar.

Give lunges on the Smith machine combined with leaning-back squats a try. Do as many lunges as you can. When failure comes, move your feet forward so that you can lean back into the bar, but not as much as with a sissy squat. Only come up two-thirds to keep tension on the thighs. Really make those quads burn.   

Lower Back

Try combining straight-leg deadlifts to near-failure with regular deadlifts. Do as many straight-leg deadlifts as you can. Then bend your knees, but keep your head up and your back straight, and do another 10-15 bent-legged deadlifts. A few months of these will thicken up those spinal erectors.  

Also try combining good mornings with stiff-legged deadlifts. Put a light bar on your shoulders as if you were about to squat. Lock your knees and incline your upper body forward until it is parallel with the floor. Using only lower back strength return to the starting position. When failure comes, bring the bar from your shoulders to mid-thigh position and continue on with stiff-legged deadlifts. You should get a super pump in the lower back from this combo. 


On standing calf raises do as many reps as you can with your knees locked and your legs straight. When failure comes, bend your knees and continue on. Bending the knees should allow you to force out an extra five or six reps and make those calf muscles really work hard. Have a pail of water ready to pour on your calves to put out the fire. What a burn! 

You can also combine seated, standing or donkey calf raises with squatting down calf raises. Once failure comes when doing one of the above exercises, get off the machine. Squat in a low position -- then rise on your toes as high as you can. Rep out to failure.

To work one calf at a time try combining one-legged calf raises with two-legged calf raises (alternate legs every other set) or one-leg toe presses on the leg press with two-legged toe presses.


Try combining crunches, situps and legs raises with knee-ins. Do as many crunches as possible. When you can't possibly do another, switch to situps and continue on. When doing the situps only come back two-thirds to keep tension on the abs. This is an excellent combo for the upper abs.

To combine leg raises and knee-ins lie on the floor or, better yet, on an abdominal board set on a low incline. With your knees slightly bent to keep pressure off the lower back do as many leg raises as you  can. Never let your feet drop or touch the floor. Stop within three inches of the floor to keep tension on the abs. When failure comes, switch to knee-ins. Bend your knees and curl them up to chest level, tensing the abs hard each rep. Keep some bend in the knees as you return to the starting position. This combo will work the lower abs hard.


The hamstrings are hard to train with extended set combinations. One progression you might want to try is one-leg curls to two-leg curls, alternating legs with each set. Also try Parrillo deadlifts with stiff-leg deadlifts. To do Parrillo-style deadlifts, arch your back up and stick your glutes out. Maintain this position throughout the exercise, pivoting from the hip, not the lower back. This exercise stretches the hams like no other exercise I know of. When failure comes, switch to regular stiff-leg deadlifts, which are basically just toe touches with a barbell. The difference between the two exercises is that with the Parrillo deadlift the back is always arched up while with the stiff-leg deadlift the back rounds.

So there you have different extended set combinations to try for every muscle group. Should you do extended set combinations on every set? Definitely not. But it's worth doing on at least one exercise per muscle group to add that extra intensity, especially if you train alone and don't have a training partner to help you to do forced reps, negatives and drop sets.

If you are looking for ways to increase training intensity and maximize muscle pump, while shocking stubborn muscles into new spurts of growth, you owe it to yourself to consider the extended set combination approach. Try it. You'll like it. 

Enjoy Your Lifting! 


Blog Archive