If there is one thing that is at the top of the list when it comes to High Intensity Training, it is the question of maximum progress. Due to the intensity of going to failure, and beyond, the body can move quickly into a state of over-training. You must understand how to manage your progress. This has led me to creating hybrid routines that incorporate low-stress high intensity techniques while incorporating advanced high intensity techniques that are in many cases high-stress but are super effective for maximum progress in the shortest period of time.
Stress is a major contributor to over-training because most do not take into consideration all the different types of stress the body contends with, both good and bad, which affect recovery ability. Lets take a moment to understand in a simplistic way, how the body lays down muscle. But first let’s set some ground rules…
1- The workout must be intense to stimulate muscle growth.
We really do not know what percentage of intensity is necessary to best stimulate muscle growth… is it 80% or 94%… which is it? So 100% is a reasonable place to start because we are asking the body to adapt to something it has never done.
If you do the same thing over and over again, there is no need for change. This is why you see people in the gym that never change!
2- The workout must be brief.
Because we have the ability to increase our strength 400% or more… yet our recovery ability may only increase 50%… we must be ever so conscious of what is minimally required to stimulate an increase.
Since the body is very intelligent, it is not necessary to stimulate over and over again with endless sets or an exercise. It is only necessary to do it once. Any more than is minimally required to stimulate this increase, while putting the adaptive machinery into process, is taking away from the recovery and the overcompensation process, which can only be considered over-training.
Once set of an exercise is all that is required. It is not how many you do but how you do it.
3- The workout must be infrequent to allow the increase.
It is no secret that after you train intensely that something has been taken from you. You can feel it as you leave the gym when you are finished… if you truly trained to failure in an intense workout. Don’t get volume confused with intensity. They are opposites.
This is exactly what has happened. When you take a high intensity training workout, you dig a ditch in your system’s recovery ability. This is a good analogy and will make sense to you.
Since the body recovers as a whole and not by body part, which most trainees still do not realize, the rest required before you lay down muscle is based on a two step process…recovery and overcompensation.
If you go back into the gym before you have accommodated both processes, you are short-circuiting your progress and more than likely moving into a state of over-training.
This process can take as little as 4-5 days for a beginner… to as many as 7-14 days for an advanced athlete. You must first fill the ditch before you can build on top of it. After the ditch is filled, whatever is left, goes into building the mountain or as we say, laying down muscle.
You must first be 100% before you can be 120% or said differently, until you have compensated for the exhaustive effects of the workout, you will not lay any additional muscle down. So how do we know when to train?
THE TWO DAY RULE
This is possibly the most important concept you will learn if you are a high intensity training athlete. Here it is in a nutshell… Once you feel 100%, you feel energetic again and you are your great feeling self, then and only then, insert two more rest days before you go to the gym to perform your next workout.
The reason for this is simple. At 100% you have compensated, but, we are not here to break even are we? No, we are here to make strength and muscle gains up to our genetic potential. To do this we must pay attention and “Ride the Lightning” without getting burned… which brings me to my next subject and that is…
How to incorporate high intensity training techniques while not tipping the scales on stress which will allow you uninterrupted progress
We hear a lot about hybrids these days.
There are hybrid boats that use motors that are electric, but fueled by a diesel generator which allows a greater reserve of fossil energy while propelling the craft efficiently and speedily to its destination.
There are hybrid cars that do the same and allow greater mileage while not hitting the supply of oil as hard as it would if they were running 500 cubic inch monster motors under the hood. This is not much different then what we are doing here.
What we are doing here is combining a low-stress high intensity technique with infrequent high-stress high intensity techniques that allow for more intense and longer contractions in most cases, thus allowing further adaptation and progress.
As one grows larger and stronger, the body requires a more intense contraction to move it past its status quo into a place it has not been. What must be taken into consideration is this…as implied above, the stronger you become, the more infrequent and brief your workout must become.
Many athletes, because they do not understand how to insert these most effective techniques and read their body properly, usually avoid them because they inevitably over train.
There are many types of intensity techniques; here are a few I like…
Each one of these go beyond failure and because of that… increase the intensity. However there is a couple that is lower stress than the rest.
I am going to set up an example how you could proceed using a low stress and higher stress technique in a 4 set split routine workout. We will be using:
1- Pre-Exhaustion (Low Stress) – PE is performed by starting with an isolation exercise and moving without rest directly to a compound exercise, thus pre-exhausting the muscle targeted with isolation then using fresh muscle to push the targeted muscle past the point creating an adaptive response.
2- Contraction Holds (High Stress) – CH focuses on either the strongest portion of the movement and/or the fully contracted muscle. We are going to use both here. It is the intense contraction that is the stimulus for muscle growth.
All sets that are not contraction hold sets are brought to complete muscular failure. All sets that are contraction hold sets require a workout or two to experiment with the proper weight in order to safely hold in the specified position. It is important to note that in most cases you will be using much more weight than you would normally use with a set of reps carried to complete muscular failure.
Here it goes…
Chest, Shoulders and Arms
Dumbbell Flies (Pre Exhaust) – 6-10 reps
Incline Smith Machine Bench Press- 3-5 reps (no rest in-between sets)
Smith Machine Seated Press Contraction Hold (an inch below lock out) – 7-10 seconds
(These are performed seated with back supported with safety hooks engaged. Do not lock completely out rather just lift off the pins allowing shoulders and triceps to contract against the weight)
Curl Machine Contracted Hold (performed in fully contracted position) – 7-10 seconds
NOTE: As stated above contracted holds in this fashion employs much more weight than could be used normally for reps, please take the time to move safely into this technique and by all means have a good spotter and safety clips in the rack when you do, this is high stress. If you have any question of your health to perform such a workout, please get checked by a medical professional first.
Legs and Back
Leg Press – 10 – 20 reps
Toe Press (on leg press machine) – 5-8 reps with a 10 second contraction hold in contracted position at top between each rep
Barbell Rows- 6-10
Smith Machine Barbell Row Hold – 7-10 seconds
(Set the Smith Machine pins and safety at mid point between the floor and your waist so that the bar is setting on them before you begin. Bend over and lift off of pins and hold)
Chest, Shoulders and Arms
Incline Smith Machine Bench Press Contracted Hold (1 inch from lock out) 7-10 second
Lateral Machine or Dumbbell Laterals – 8-15 reps
Barbell Curls – 6-10 reps
Lying Triceps Extension – 6-10 reps
Back and Legs
Pullovers (Pre-Exhaust with) – 6-10 reps
Pull downs (palms facing you) – 6-10 reps
Leg Press Hold (an inch from lockout) 10 – 20 seconds
Stiff Leg Dead lifts or Hyper Extensions or Back Machine (i.e. Nautilus) – 10 – 20 reps
As you can see, we are mixing pre-exhaustion with contracted holds which would employ a great deal more weight than you would normally use by just going to failure.
Because of this make certain that you experiment with jumps and weights. A good example would be if you can Incline Bench Press 200 pounds normally, you could more than likely start with 275 or 300 pounds for Contracted Holds, 1 inch from lockout. Also, remember that you do not lock the elbows; rather you barely move the bar off of the pins and hold.
It is imperative that when using a similar routine example as I have given here (I have tested this workout routine for the past 2 months with great results in both size and strength) that sufficient rest be provided.
I would suggest training once (not the whole 4 workouts but one workout) every 5 days to begin with until you go through all 4 then start again, unless you are extremely advanced. If you are you may need to insert extra rest days (7-10) and/or remove one exercise per workout to bring it down to 3 sets rather than 4.
HERE IS AN EXAMPLE: Remove the following exercises:
WO1 – Inclines
WO2 – Barbell Rows
WO3 – Laterals
WO4 – Pullovers or Stiff Deads/Hypers
Remember, you are doing nothing more but managing stress here. So manage it as you get larger and stronger and remember to use, The Two Day Rule!