October 11, 2010 at 7:30 am #5537
My wife and I were in the gym yesterday morning (Sunday). She has a temporary membership to strengthen her legs before hip replacement surgery, and I'm still dealing with a lower-back injury; so we're both just kind of doing what we can right now.
I guy came in his late twenties, who is about 6'0″ and 185 lbs and began the most intense, small-muscle routine I've ever seen. He went straight to the curl bar and began with a set of curls @ about 75 lbs, standing, with one foot in front and one trailing. He cheated a little, but not too bad. I think he did around 10-12 reps. He then immediately grabbed a forty-five lb plate, held it to one side with one hand and did some kind of oblique standing crunches (going from one side to straight up, again, about 10-12 reps). He immediately did the other side. He took probably a 45 second break, added weight to the curl bar (20 lbs.), and repeated the superset. He had to do at least five supersets this way, which looked like non stop. He ended up @ with about 115 on the curl bar, and he was going to failure, with lots of swinging action, on his last couple of sets of curls. I don't think he increased weight on the oblique things.
The guy then took about a 1-min. break and began an even tougher cycle. He did swiss ball crunches to failure, immediately followed by cable curls with the entire stack to failure; immediately followed by the entire stack of tricep push downs that he performed with an absolute cheat (using the entire pushing power of his upper body) to failure; immediately followed by dips (no weight–about 18-20 reps). Again, he had to have done at least five cycles.
My thoughts: My first thought was amazement. How could anyone have the energy and the muscle endurance to keep up that pace, with that weight, and not get winded or lose muscle strength. But he didn't seem to wear out. Secondly, why would someone use that much intensity on such isolated movements. Thirdly, why would someone do exercises intended to be isolation movements, and turn them into full-body movements. For example, why would someone use tricep push downs and turn it into a movement not much different than dips. He was performing this movement bent over with the cable below his shoulders where he could use his pecs, delts, and even upper back to press the entire stack. Fourthly, I think such a routine would be fantastic for getting in shape, but doesn't seem conductive for building muscle mass, although his physique was decent and he was pretty strong for his size.
I'm kind of torn about what I think about his routine. I believe in high intensity training, and he brought more intensity to the gym than anyone I've seen. I've worked out with similar intensity, but that was when I was performing squats or deads and I did not go at that kind of pace. Is it necessary to use this intensity for these types of movements or would a person be better served to save this energy for true, compound movements? I'm sure he is on some kind of split routine, and he must be doing compound movements on a different day. I wonder what kind of intensity he brings on the other days?
I didn't strike a conversation with this fellow, because he didn't take any real breaks, and he was still going when we left.October 11, 2010 at 4:23 pm #6101
Ahh, to be in my twenties again…
This is a great post, and raises some interesting questions. On the surface, it looks like this guy was doing a routine I would poo on, but let me try to be open minded.
Intensity is almost always a good thing. Whether compound lifts, isoltated lifts, cardio, whatever. Intensity gets more done in shorter time, is more likely to excite fast-twitch fibers (which are good for growth), and releases more growth hormones.
Seeing one day of a guy's routine doesn't tell the whole picture though. Maybe he does compound movements 2 days a week and isolations once a week, as you suggest. I would never program in an arms day for anyone, except as a purely :fun: day once every few months.
And his specific techniques and forms that you noticed are all pretty classic “bodybuilder” stuff where you are trying to squeeze every last fiber of the target muscle. Generally good for hypertrophy once you are really experienced.
Without being there, my vote is that for 90% of the people subscribed to LeanLifters, this guy's workout is not worth following.October 12, 2010 at 3:49 pm #6103
I would like to add something to the post from the good people of the new group of NASM and PTAGlobal. Of course, I do love Darrin's post… he beat me once again darn it all. However, let me touch more on his technique than intensity and routine.
Once again, it all kind of comes down to someones goals. Just because you thought he was “cheating” doesn't nessicarily mean he cheated on the lift. There are a few situations I would like to show to address this idea.
1.) Someone is trying to build pure strength, nothing else matters to him. If he is doing a dumbbell arm curl, for example, he would actually need to rock his boddy and put all of his body into this curl, not isolating his bicep. While no, his bicep isn't activatied maximally the motion of a curl is stregthened more than just what it would have been had he only involved his bicep. (This is similar to turning a curl into a compound movement) NASM a number of years ago came up with something called “The Kinetic Chain.” Paraphrased, this states “Your skeletal system, muscular system, and neurological system are all connected, thus a change to one can affect one of both of the others.” A good example of this is someone's muscular posture changing and increasing or reducing pain in a specific type of their body. A more theoretical example would be the principle that stength has more to do with a neurological communication than muscle size.
2.)Power lifters don't care what muscles are being “activated” during a specific lift. For example a normal person who does a snatch might move the weight over their head, focusing on specific muscles at a certain time. A power lifter however, doesn't care about that. The only thing he (or she) will do is to use whatever muscle they need to to move the weight as fast as possible over their head. Thus effectively increasing their weight moved and the speed they move it.
Both of the scenarios revolve around the building of strength and NOT SIZE. Someone more typical this might relate to is an athlete. The reason this is effective, however, is: Over centuries we (people) have taken an individual muscle and studied it. We saw that a muscle did a certain movement and said that's what it did. Until recently, saw the past ten years ago or so, we never put it back in place and let it work as a whole with it surroundings. (This is a major reason of why fitness has changed so much.) You see, your body muscles have a synergystic effect, due to the fact that they very designed to be used this way. An example of this is that 95% of lower back pain comes from tightness in the calves. (Usually shows a weakness in the shin, meaning less flexability.) Whith the calves staying tight, means the hamstring tightens more and stays partially tensed, follwed by the glute. While yes the effect decreases the farther away from the muscle you go, it still has an effect. That is why he got the results out of the workout that he did. While no, his workout wasn't perfect, his intensity more than makes up for it. Don't forget about what Darrin said earlier about us only knowing about one day of his program.
I don't quite remember where I was going after this but…I THINK I covered it all.October 16, 2010 at 10:55 am #6104
Cameron has hit on the point that is at the root of my inquiry.
(1) If a person is lifting just for pure strength, and he or she wants to improve bicep strength, does it ever make sense to go in the gym, load the curl bar to maximum cheat curl, and do multiple sets, or (sense our biceps are part of our upper bodies' overall pulling strength) would it make more sense to do hang cleans and weighted chinups to gain this strength in our arms?
Personally, I've never gained arm strength from curls and tricep push downs, but most of the guys in the gym do absolute-cheat curls with the curl bar, and most of them follow that up with two or three more curl movements for many sets. They are all stronger than I am, but I would say that I'm closer to them in curl strength than most other movements.
Cleans and dips seem to help me more than anything, although I don't easily gain strength no matter what I've tried.
(2) Secondly, although supersetting and short time between these supersets add intensity, isn't it somewhat contradictory to load up super heavy for push downs and curls, and then work through those sets at a pace that would affect one's ability to exert maximum force?
This guy seemed to be able to handle heavy weight at this frantic pace, and he worked hard in the warm up sets too. For me, if I went that hard on the warm up, I would lose lots of power and would not be able to handle nearly as much weight when I'm trying to exert maximum force. For example, if I do a set of chins (more than five reps) w/o weight, I can't do nearly as much weight for five reps as I can if I go super light on my warm ups or low rep. Also for me, If I went at that pace, even in my twenties, I would not have been able to handle as much weight.
I guess my confusion with the above-mentioned routine is that I couldn't figure out what anyone could accomplish with such a routine other than to stay in the excellent shape that he was already in. However, his fat level was not terribly low; maybe 12%, so I wonder if he was just trying to burn alot of calories while staying strong.October 16, 2010 at 5:46 pm #6105
Ask him… see what he says, might be worth finding out about.October 23, 2010 at 8:09 am #6106
Ask him… see what he says, might be worth finding out about. — Cameron
I doubt I'll ever see him again since I normally train @ 5:15 am, or it may be several months, but actually, I'm more interested in what you and Darrin think about training arms, abs, or any other smaller body parts this way for strength and/or hypertrophy (as a general concept).
I've seen other people train biceps this way, but this guy was just doing it at a faster pace through super setting while maintaining muscle strength / endurance and cardio-pulmonary endurance throughout the routine , which was impressive to me.October 24, 2010 at 11:39 am #6107
I'm not seeing any advantage to this approach for strength. Speed work can sometimes imporve strength but only if you are using very heavy loads in explosive patterns. In other words, powerlifting. Doesn't sound like this guy was powerlifting at all.
For hypertrophy, conventional thinking would also discount this guy's approach. The “time under tension” crowd believes that for hypertrophy you need slower reps with no pausing at the top or bottom of the rep movement. There's mixed science on this.
Fast sets with little rest are good for energy burn (fat loss and/or endurance) but if you are going to go that route, you would certainly use compound movements, not isolated movements.
I maintain that this probably isn't worth pursuing further. This guys sounds like he was mixing too many different techniques in a single workout, making this workout a piece of junk.October 25, 2010 at 2:42 pm #6108
So basically, darrin takes a big steamy pile of poo on it…October 25, 2010 at 3:53 pm #6109
Ha! very true though…
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