T Nation

Continuous Mass Gains

I often hear personal trainers talking about having to change a program every few weeks/months because “the muscles adapt and growth stops after that”. I just dont agree with that nor do I agree that a sound program needs to change for continuous gains and I think the whole approach is off target. In my view, as long as a program is sound and resistance (reps and/or weight) is increased each week gains will continue. In some instances a shift (eg to lower reps and greater sets) will speed resistance increases but hypertrophy reps should still produce capacity for greater resistance (even if its microloading which will eventually become important for muscles like biceps). And whilst a smart (and well managed) change in program may produce gains, the gains will be as a result of increased resistance on the same muscles or neglected muscles but the point is the focus should be on the resistance and not just change. Anyone second that?

I don’t know, but it’s pointless to argue about. No one can do the same workout for years and years and make gains, because you start dreading the gym. You start becoming physically nauseous at the thought of Bench Press, then Incline DB, then Pec Fly, then…
Symptoms of overtraining syndrome tend to set in, without adding more training! It’s a terrible idea not to add variety to your program, no matter what your goals are.

You and the first respondent both have good points to make. As far as I’m concerned, it all boils down to results. I see no reason to drastically change my approach as long as I’m getting results. When that stops, then I switch in the search for something that gets me to the next level. But as long as I continue to make satisfactory gains (and that’s my call), then I’ll stick with a current program. I just can’t see much justification for anything else.

Dre, my man, I second the motion. I think the statement that the muscles adapt and what not–similar to muscles having memory–is flat out bunk. Muscles don’t have a memory or conscience or anything of the like. I’m not sure if Rafael was trying to explicitly say this, but his line of thinking is very much the truth. Doing the same things over and over–the same training parameters and routine–can be monotonous and produce overtraining as well as boredom and symptoms like that. What does all that equate to? Half-ass workouts, no desire, intensity, passion or basically what it takes to build muscle. In my opinion, if you’re not going into the gym with the mindset of doing better–like you said Dre, via reps and/or weight–then what the hell are you doing there? Many things factor in to whether or not you will perform better, but the mindset is the key. So I agree, Dre, with your statement. Hell yes, you go thru a phase with lower reps and increase your strength, then you return to a typical hypertrophy program, you’re going to get bigger because you can now use heavier weights!

Extended use of the same program can potentially cause muscle imbalances and overuse injuries. That alone is reason enough for me to change.

Raf - labeling the topic pointless goes nowhere. Im just prompting an exchange of ideas on training principles rather than an arguement. My point is that if the goal is strength or mass gains the focus needs to be on increased resistance. Change if you want or need to to stay interested, but gains will only come in the way I set out above. Cream - I think an unbalanced program will cause imbalances. If you were to change to a new program for this reason, you would want to be sure the new one was inherently balanced. Agree on the overuse point but Id imagine this will arise anyway - the variation on hitting a muscle will cause very similar joint stress. To digress a little, I honestly think a simple and optimal, or at least generalized optimal, program could be devised based on a good split with flexibility in exercise choice, and set and rep range, “shock teqniques” which can be used sparingly (forced reps, drop sets, giant sets, negatives, two a day) which the individual can tweak according to their recent progress in size and strength and to address lagging bodyparts. I guess the structure would be prescriptive but aspects like hypertrophy vs strength and failure vs non failure would be somewhat subjective and instinctive (as they probably should be). Timbo, with your upcoming qualifications we could make a name and some money by giving it a catchy name and publishing it along with a 3 month body improvement comp. ;).

Dre, I am not sure, but I think I have to disagree. As you all know, I am a big fan of GVT having done 3 cycles of it in the last 6 to 9 months. Now this time, I have to say, after 3 weeks, it didnt go very well…the gains just were not showing up like they usually do. As of Friday, I wrote a whole new program, and we will see how that goes. This somewhat leads me to believe that some change is needed to continue gains. I will know better in a few weeks

Keep me posted on that Whopper. Did you do 10x10 GVT using the one 20RM weight? Did you increase the weight each cycle? I admit the topic is somewhat provocative and have heard about overloading movement patterns (ie singles on one movement each week will stall) but I still postulate the theory from my last post. The program would be based around a fixed split and moderate hypertrophy reps but with GVT, or HIT for that matter, as “shock cycle” variations within the split. Im keen to see if I can sell coach Timbo on it.

Dre, let’s do it up, my man! I’m still ridin’ the Dre-boat as far as this topic is concerned. I think the ol’ Weider’s (shock techniques) are important as well…but I really think a lot of it comes back to mentality and desire. I don’t care how damn good the program is, if you’re half-assing it, it’s not going to produce. Then again, if you’re bustin’ balls on a program that may not be the perfect system in a PT’s eyes, you’re likely to make some nice gains–given other factors like nutrition and overtraining are in order. I also think switching things up has to do with finding out what works for an individual. Another point: as one approaches their capacity or genetic limit, I think several different routes have to be exploited to find what works now…do you think this might be true in your case Whopper–you’re HUGE, bro, and o naturale!

Dre, you my man, man, but I gotta go with Whopper on this one. I don’t necessarily agree with Raphael about starting to dread the gym - I can go for a looooong time on a given program without getting sick of it, and we all have different tolerances for sameness - but I do think that (a) it’s pretty much impossible to design a program without imbalances, and (b) what with all the evidence available periodization of some sort or other is more or less unimpeachable. I have also found that the first time I do a program I make great gains, but the second or third time around those gains basically stop (assuming all the other parameters are kept constant). Of course, you sould always keep the program constant and periodize your nutrition, supps and recovery times, that might be interesting. But total sameness? Aside for beginners, I doubt it would work for much of anyone. But hey, if you’re doing it and gaining that way, more to power to you!

Something that I don’t think has been touched on is, at least to me, a GLARING reason. You started by saying “I often hear personal trainers talking…” That alone says a lot to me. What do the trainers have to gain by telling some one (usually out of shape, ignorant, and very unmotivated) this piece of horse crap? More training fees! If you can show some one progress, even if it’s neural adaptation to a new routine, they’re more likely to sign up for more. I have to agree with you, that as long as a routine is balanced (and that isn’t all that hard to design), then it should do for a looooong time. Real gains will come slow, if you’re not juicing. If you aren’t motivated, then that’s a mental thing, or possibly overtraining. If you’re in that position, get over it!

I agree with Dre… It’s important to make changes to your routine, you just gotta make smart changes. In other words, don’t change things around just for the sake of having a change, change things around with a purpose in mind. Let’s say your bench starts to stall after 4 weeks of gains. Look at it and figure out what the problem is. If your start off the chest is slow, start using a cambered bar, do dumbbell presses or use a wide grip. If you stick towards the middle, try working on your tricep strength. Maybe some lower reps with higher weight is in order to increase limit strength, or some hypetrophy work to improve leverage… whatever, as long as it helps. Sure, some adaptation will occur as your nervous system becomes “hard wired” to the movement, but this isn’t a BAD thing… It just means you’ve become more efficient, and at that point the only thing holding you back is whatever weak link you may have. 'Course I’m looking at this from a strength standpoint and not a mass standpoint, but I think the same ideas apply…

Timbo…I had DAMN better not be anywhere near my genetic limits yet bro!! Dre, as far as your comment, on GVT I push the hell out of the poundages, and as soon as I get 1 sets of 10…go up in weight. This last cycle, I was pushing quite a bit more than what I can do for 20 reps, and as I stated, was just not seeing the usual progression, and as strange as it sounds, the workout had kind of a “stale” feel to it…just wasnt getting the same pump, and certainly not the same growth. GVT for me is usually the “HUGE pump” workout…and it just wasn’t coming. Now for example, just changed things around, and on Sat did chest/tris as follows Bench 6x(4-10) depending on weight…going up then down. Close grip 4x10 (one constant weight) DB press (with DB always touching) 4x10 (one constant weight) pressdowns 5x(6-12)(pyramiding again) then rvs grip pressdowns 3x10 (One constant weight) I am sore today, and I got a GREAT pump again…so I am not sure…as I said…time will tell. I will keep you informed. If you cannot tell from the above workout, I am trying more for arm size than chest size on this particular one. By the way, this is the first time I tried those DB presses with the DB touching the entire time, and I got to say it does KILL the triceps close to the elbow, just as advertised!!

I think you guys have it partially right in my honest opinion. I can agree with the idea that if a program works for YOU then you should milk it only for a while. I was just read “Science and Practice of Strength Training” by Vladamir M. Zatsiorsky and he refers to adaptation as a biological accomidation. If a person trains with the same exercise and same training load over a long period of time, then performance decreases. This is a manifestation of the biological law of accomidation, often considered a general law of biology. According to this law, the response of a biological object to a given constant stimukus decreases over time. We adapt. I know you guys are talking about increasing the weight on a continual basis, even micro-loading helps, but eventually you will plateau. Your muscles will not get stronger after a certain point and you won’t be able to break this rut untill you change something. You might call it form, or order of exercise or what not, but you end up changing it. If we didn’t have to change routines, then we’d all be able to curl hundreds of pounds and bench a ton of weight just by adding weight. Once your nervous system adapts to the load and movement, it just keeps getting more efficient till it doesn’t have to work that hard anymore, and your progress stalls. Does this mean you need to do more? Ask yourself that question of everyone in the gym. Day in and day out I see hundreds of people busting but in the gym hoping to improve, but only the ones who train smart, don’t overtrain and regularily change their routines see results. Ask any elite level athlete if they do the same thing everytime never changing their routine. As for the designing a balanced program, there is no balanced program. All the strength trainers here and coaches and people putting in countless hours of work know this, and the reason is simple. As you keep working out the same bodyparts they get stronger and better, but there is always some muscle that won’t get worked effectively in a routine because you just can do EVERYTHING all the time. The body has finite resources for the workout. Think of all the muscles in the body and try to do a workout for all of them. Also, take a good look at the guys in gyms with big chests, notice most of the have rounded shoulders… I’m not saying I do everything right 100% of the time either, but I try to change routines on a regular basis every 3-4 weeks and I keep seeing better progress. I’m not bored and i’m able to make big gains in strength versus the times i’ve been on routines for 2-3 months at a time. One of the cool things about being individuals is that certain things work for only each of us, but when they stop working you need to look for answers, and maybe change is it.

Lou- A thinking personal trainer.....

I have to disagree. When I first started weight lifting and didn’t have much direction I did the same routine week in and week out. Yes, I made gains initially because I was a newbe. I concentrated on doing the same routines, but trying to increase weight. I really think that you should try some of Ian King’s routines and then make up your mind. I’m in the middle of the upper body program right now and it has been incredible. I have made impressive gains with each change in routine. I’m in week 8 right now and I was cruising along until I hit week 7 which started the supersets. Man I can really feel it and I know for certain that the previous 6 weeks prepped me for each successive change in program. I know now that I would have been stuck with the same slow progress had I not followed this program. If you are really convinced that you should stick to the same exercizes, try changing grips, speed, or the order in which you do your routine and I guarantee that you will see and feel a difference.

Dre, I think what you said is right on. I was doing pretty much the same program for 8 months, every single week. I made some minor modifications (like starting with incline bench instead of flat bench or doing standing military press and DB’s instead of seated), but all in all, I kept the same program. The gains kept coming because I insisted on adding extra weight whenever I reached a certain number of reps, and I used pyramids with great success, so as to “introduce” my muscle to the new, greater load that it would hopefully be doing more reps with in the coming weeks. I think that changing things up might be for some, and that’s cool. But I never lost motivation because I “dreaded” doing the same old workout. I actually liked it because it made things simple, with the underlying rule being to increase either reps performed or load used. I think you’re right about the bottom line: Progressive resistance is the key to all gains, and if the weight load or intensity is being increased, albeit in small quantities, you will make gains because even though the program is the same, the load and stimulus is always increasing, and so the muscles have to adapt. As Arnold says in his “Bible”: If you go from curling 110 lbs for reps to a point where you can curl 130 lbs for the same number of reps, then your biceps are going to grow. Period. 'Nuff said!

Hardcore - amen to you and the Arnold Bible. Also to Brider. This is why I Timbo and I have devised our “Look Good Nekkid ™” program … here is a sneak preview of the first rough cut :wink:

Some PC’s put change on a pedestal for their own purposes (and I stress “some” - no general disrespect intended). Similarly, a certain level and type of complication within programs falls into the same basket where a simple focused strength or hypertrophy program will work. In fact, I suspect a large proportion of complication in some programs results, at best, in the proverbial “poofteenth” of results. Unfortunately, this approach sometimes has the side effect of taking the focus away from the real stimulus for gains.

In fairness, I think that at the end of the day the "change" and "complication" issues are a matter of horses for courses. In that context, the majority of lifters looking for good and continuous size and strength gains may be well served by a simple but flexible program.

It is said, for what its worth, that some very (very) successful pro’s have used the same program for many years and some used more or less the same since they were intermediates. The fact is, if the resistance keeps increasing, gains continue.

Admittedly, a good program must have some flexibility in it (ie TUT, grips, exercise order etc). However, the focus must AT ALL TIMES stay on increasing resistance sufficient to stimulate growth.

Having said all that, I have been skull crushing 10x85 for a few weeks (what can I say - Ive just substituted it for narrow bench and I lost focus). Yesterday trained with a 220+ pound newbie who used 115. When it was my set I just gripped the darn thing and got 8 so I know Ive been short changing myself somewhat. In fact I had probably already adapted to the weight and was not going to stimulate and iota of strenght of mass with that weight. Does anyone at least suspect that there might be the possibility of these “lack of adequate resistance” flaws in their otherwise pristine state of the art and balanced programs? Really? Well by following this program you will gain 10 pound each year.

Will everone do this well? NO some will gains 20 pounds in 6 months … etc etc rant rant ala body of life… :wink:

Dre, I still disagree, however in all fairness, lets try it. Perhaps the original SB Timbo can be the lab rat. Based on your hypothesis, a great program for a SB would be just the basics as follows: bench, pull-up, deads, squats. Those are your four basics that technically hit all the bodyparts. NOW if we KISS Keep it simple stupid, I would think you could devise a program for raw mass (Not shaping or bringing up a lagging bodypart, just putting on size) and continue this program for say 6 months. Based upon the fact that we are throwing no “extras” in, recovery should be great, allowing you to do perhaps a 4 day program as follows: Day 1 Bench and pullups. Day 2 squats, day 3 deads, day four:off…repeat. Based on the compound nature of each excercise, you should build great funtional strength as well. What is your opinion?

I think it needs to be simple but complete. Re delts - the mid and rear arent getting much so Id want at least a press, some raises at least for rear, and a maybe some rowing on back day to further assist those darn rear delts. For chest, he should work it from a few angles to keep balance and stimulate all fibres. I also think direct tricep and delt work is a major factor in good gains on bench. I agree with KISS but think the best program for anyone would work each muscle from more or less each main angle (eg include rows for back and Id say thats covered but do all muscles more or less this way. In addition, I think a program should have cycles of varying reps and sets for maximum progress. Seriously, this is all in “Look Good Nekkid” and I just sent it to our man Tim for his consideration.

WTF, now you’re callin’ me a lab rat!?!:wink: Just kidding, fellas. But you know I already look good nekid, just not bodybuilder good, which is the desire. Dre…you’re definitely a thinking man and I’m really learning more and more from ya each day–even on current state of affairs. The Look Good Nekid Program is aight with your dogg Timbo;-) Whopper…I agree with KISS and the like, but remember I’m not a newby, just an SB. I’ve been training for several years, just not properly and with most importantly, with proper psyche and nutrition–disordered eating/disproportioned image. That being the case, I agree with Dre that more than just four lifts should be used. But those four should be the core. I think what I’ve currently just begun is something that could be up for the LGN Program. I just started this week after a week of active recovery. The volume of the program is about as low as I’ve ever gone, which could be an explanation of stagnant gains also. Here goes:
D1>Back and Biceps: 1. Barbell Rows 4x5-7, 2.Pullups 4x5-7, 3.One-Arm Rows 2x10-12, 4.BB Curls 4x5-7, 5.DB Hammer Curls 2x6-10; D2>Hammies and Shoulders: 1.DLs 5x5-7, 2.Lying Leg Curls 3x8-12, 3.Standing Front Press 4x5-7, 4.DB Laterals 3x6-10, 5.DB Shrugs 3x8-12; D3>Recovery; D4>(Tomorrow)Chest and Tris: 1.BB Bench Press (considering Decline based on individual history) 4x5-7, 2.DB Inclines 4x5-7, 3.Cable Crossovers 2x10-12, 4.Close-Grip Presses 4x5-7, 5.Lying Extensions (behind head) 2x6-10; D5>Quads and Calves: 1.Squats 5x5-7, 2.Leg Press 3x5-7, 3. Leg Extensions 2x8-12; D6>Recovery; D7>Recovery or Repeat? The premise is to increase the weight and/or reps each subsequent training session. Take each set to the limit. Sets in the 5-7 range use controlled (4-sec) negatives and XXplosive contractions. Other rep ranges utilize a more controlled, rhythmic cadence, with higher TUT. I think it’s pretty sound, with major muscle groups getting around 8 to 12 sets and minor muscle groups receiving 5 to 8 sets of direct stimulation. It’s also pretty well balanced. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts. Of course, any program is for naught if the nutrition does not support the goal, which in my case is mass. Your boy Timbo, aka the Original SB (no Ice-T, not Original Gansta) and aka the Lab Rat, is eating Massively, with daily caloric goals in the range of 4000 @ 50/35/15 carb/pro/fat.