If you’ve been in the muscle-building game for a while, you know quite well that you can’t stay on one routine forever. No matter how well you do initially, eventually gains will come to a halt and when that happens, a change is required. The problem is that you can’t just go to your favorite training website and pick any routine that looks cool, because a random routine will lead to random results. You need a program that makes sense – one that follows a logical order of progression from the previous routine. Research shows that rotating between periods of higher volume (known as an extensive phase) with periods of higher intensity (intensive phase) is the way to go. Here are two programs from my latest book Mass Explosion that will get you started on the extensive-intensive wave. These programs are listed in the following manner:
Sequence. Exercise: Sets x Reps @ Tempo, Rest Interval
Both routines involve double station training (e.g., A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2, D1, D2) where you perform one set of the A1 exercise, then one set of the A2 exercise, and repeat until the prescribed number of sets for each of the two exercises are completed. Follow the same process for the other exercise pairs.
The tempo refers to speed of execution (in seconds) and is represented by a 4-digit number: the duration of the eccentric (negative or lowering) action, followed by the duration of the isometric (pause between negative and positive) action, followed by the duration of the concentric (positive or raising) action, followed by the duration of the isometric (pause between positive and negative) action. For example, a 4010 tempo means you should take 4 seconds to lower the weight, no pause, 1 second to raise the weight, no pause, and then immediately begin the next repetition.
The rest interval will be listed in seconds as a specific number (e.g., 120s). If “10s” is specified, move swiftly from one exercise to the next – it should take you exactly 10 seconds from the end of the previous set to the beginning of the next set.
Day 1 – Shoulders, Back, and Chest
Day 2 – Legs and Abdominals
Day 3 – Arms
Supersets are a form of strength training where you pair two exercises, moving from one to the next with little to no rest in between. This training method can be quite effective because short rest intervals are known to raise levels of both growth hormone and testosterone, two anabolic hormones that promote muscle growth and body fat reduction.
Supersets allow you to get more work done in any given time frame, and more work will help you get more muscle! By the way, greater workloads are achieved over a number of sets with constant reps rather than constant loads, so lower the weight if you must after each set to stay within the rep bracket.
Day 1 – Chest, Back, and Shoulders
Day 2 – Legs and Abdominals
Day 3 – Arms
Isometronics involve lifting through a partial range of motion, usually in a power rack but not always, and finishing each set with an isometric (static) contraction. In this “modern” version, there are four exercises per workout – an A pair and a B pair. You divide the A exercises into three equal ranges of motion (top third, middle third, and bottom third), and do 3 sets of each range for a total of 9 sets. Use full range of motion on the B exercises.
During the A exercises, the order you perform the three ranges is important. Start with the range that allows the greatest weight to be used – move from extension of the limbs (where you’re generally the strongest) to flexion.
For all the A1 exercises (45-degree incline mid-grip barbell press, back squat, and flat close-grip barbell press), perform the top third of the range first (sets 1-3), followed by the middle third (sets 4-6), and finally the bottom third (sets 7-9). These exercises are performed in a power rack for 5 reps per set using a controlled tempo: 2 seconds to lower the bar, gently and quietly touch the lower pins, and 2 seconds to raise the bar. Then on the fifth rep, try to rip through the top rack pin for 8 seconds. If you only have one set of pins in your power rack, then lower the bar just shy of resting on the pins and hold the 8-second isometric there. Make sure not to hold your breath during the static contraction. If you select the proper load, you should not be able to do another concentric rep.
For all the A2 exercises (mid-grip pull-up, prone dorsiflexed leg curl, and standing mid-grip cable curl), perform the bottom third of the range first (sets 1-3), followed by the middle third (sets 4-6), and finally the top third (sets 7-9). With these exercises, you perform 5 reps again using a controlled tempo (2 seconds up and 2 seconds down), but this time on the fifth rep, pause for 8 seconds in the middle of the range.
If you compare both programs, almost double the number of total reps per workout are completed during the antagonist supersets routine; however, greater loads are used with the modern isometronics routine, especially during the strong-range partials.
I’ve only given you a couple of examples in this article, but there are thousands of programs that you could use to build muscle mass. How you sequence those programs, though, is important if you wish to make gains over the long haul. The key is to alternate between periods of higher volume with periods of higher intensity. Make sure to catch that wave early in your training year, and just keep riding it into the sunset!
Note: If you want to ride the extensive-intensive wave over a full year of training, you can pick up a copy of Catanzaro’s book Mass Explosion: Blast Through Your Training Plateaus! at www.MassExplosion.com.
Author: John Paul Catanzaro
John Paul Catanzaro is a CSEP Certified Exercise Physiologist with a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology and Health Science. He owns and operates a private gym in Richmond Hill, Ontario providing training and nutritional consulting services. Visit www.CatanzaroGroup.com for more information.