T Nation

How To Get Big


I have been around for quite a long time in the iron game, and I have some wisdom to share with you about getting big and strong.

I know a lot about tempo. It has uses, but we must remember that it is not the end-all be-all of bodybuilding. I can do a 10 sets of 10 workout with a 401 or 402 tempo, once per body part a week, like GVT and it will probably do me as much good as doing 10 sets of 10 reps not once, but 2 times a week with a 201- 20X tempo, or 3 times with a10X-101 tempo.

Why? Simple: at the end of the week, I just have to multiply the number of total weekly reps by tempo or duration per rep (T.U.T. per rep) and both options will provide as much Time Under Tension as the traditional GVT provides for each muscle group during a 7-day cycle, a week. It is just a mathematical matter of splitting an amount in small portions or big portions, the original amount remains the same as a total or sum of the parts and it is the number of parts of the total what changes.

One thing that comes as a result of this train of thought is that I could even keep the 401 or 402 tempos and just do sets of 5 with bigger weights and do the workout twice a week, getting the same 100 reps, but with greater tension provided by heavier weights. Moreover, if the supposedly advantageous Time Under Tension window for hypertrophy is 40-70 seconds, I could just squeeze something 100 reps with light weights at each set and then just worry about the set fitting into this 40-70 seconds timeframe.

A rule of thumb to clarify volume would be that, if using weights under 70% of your 1RM, or sets with a load of 12-15 RM in which you stay 3-5 reps under your max reps number, is to get the same weekly T.U.T. as normal programs which insists on a volume per muscle group of 10-12 sets per week of a 40-70 seconds timeframe per set. That would be like 500 to 600 seconds of Time Under Tension per week for each body part.

I also see that if you lift really heavy, you can?t count tempo. A neural-end hypertrophy kind of rep uses tempos like 311, 202 or 301 or more likely, 211. They need half the Time Under Tension per week of GVT to produce hypertrophy, functional hypertrophy that is. You may not get 25 pounds in 12 weeks of gains like in GVT, but you can aim for 20 mass of functional, strong and hard-toned muscle in the same 12 weeks. I can trade in 5 pounds for more strength and speed, not to mention the muscle density and tone. It also occurs as a direct result of using loads of 80-85% of your 1RM, or your 3RM-to-5RM kind of loads on any exercise. Going heavier means you will lower faster, just because you may not have the necessary strength to actually slow down the bar more than 2 seconds on the way down, or pause for more than 1 second on the bottom.

There is something here which I haven?t yet commented on, but which is something that most trainees actually bump their heads into: the 1RM percentage. When I tell a guy ? Try to see what your 1RM is?, I don?t advise him to actually try to find it via lifting the heaviest load he thinks he can withstand. I can just tell him, let?s load the bar, see if the weight you move on it is between 5 and 7 reps and we can calculate the 1RM as a result of the commonly used formulas there are in the field, of course, a rule of thumb is that 5 reps is your 85% of your true 1RM and 7 would be your 80% of the 1RM.

The reason why I don?t advise to follow this guideline much is because of the way we have taught our body to apply force to overcome a resistance. Normally, nobody counts tempo when trying to find out how many times they can lift a weight in proper form. I don?t count my tempo when trying to find out my 1RM, but I could say that I am trying to lift as fast as possible and lowering under as much control as I can possibly do without busting my guts. That would be almost 1 second up and a little over 1 seconds down, or a 101 tempo. Some guys lift using a 201 tempo, so hooray for them, but it ain?t my style, unless I am worrying more about the ?perfection? of my form and not trying to push my limits on strength, so I go for the heavier version myself.

The problem here is not the 1RM itself. It?s when somebody prescribes something like ?do 10 reps with 60% of your 1Rm and a tempo of 411?. Let?s use an example here to illustrate the point:

I know a trainee which is very strong, for his bodyweight. He weights a mere 155 pounds and bench presses a 1RM of 175 pounds on the barbell, in perfect form. Now, as you guess, if I tell him ?do 10 reps with a 411 tempo and 60% of your 1RM? he is going to use 140 pounds on the bar and finish the exercise tired, but capable of doing another sets of 10 to complete his chest workout for the week, as in GVT. No, you are totally wrong. He can?t, he couldn?t, not for more than 7 reps. ?Why? Because the real amount of weight he could manage under such conditions was 100 pounds.

You see, he was simply not accustomed to stimulate his fibers at such speed, but also, he fell victim to a small mistake caused by the laws physics and the fact that he overlooked an important fact: the load dictates the speed, in terms of the body applying the amount of force necessary to overcome the resistance for the completion of the movement. In other words: the body moves in the way it needs to move to reach the mark that is set for him to achieve, to hit.

I have the same problem. I just figured it out a little sooner: when I want to use a 411 tempo for 10 reps, I try to find out what load gives me a 12-15 reps maximums et, and start with that load, instead of trying to use a percentage of my 1RM lift. Simply because when I am moving a weight 5, 7 or 10 times trying to find out the max number of reps that I can get out of it, I am not using another tempo different from 101-10X, so if I am using a different tempo, then the load used will vary, and the 1RM itself will vary. So next time I see ? do 10 reps with your 60% of 1RM and a 301 tempo?, I will find out what is my 1RM, my 5RM, and my 10RM with different load, but always using the strict form and the 301 tempo. I lift 385 pounds as my 1RM with a 101 tempo, but if I use a 401 tempo, it becomes a mere whiny-wussy-sissy 325 pounds. See what I mean?

I hope that my advise sticks, and maybe I can learn something from someone who tells me, ?you have been doing this thing wrong and this thing is right? or just plain blow my theory out of the water and show me how can I get bigger. I am 6?2??, weight 224 pounds and have a body fat percentage of 8%, and yes, I have competed in bodybuilding events, but my career in engineering prevents me from doing so professionally, not to mention I have better benefits in the company, and my wife, who loves me and quite frankly, might get jealous from seeing other women look at me on a stage when posing ( trust me, she already gives me enough grief for washing the car without a shirt on Sundays, just because there are a lot of single women in our block), so just before Mrs. Savage returns from her shopping trip, I say to you all good bye, and keep busting ass as you feel it works for you, not as the ?gurus? tell you to do.

1 Like

Some of the gurus around here are prety smart. I’ve been taking their advice for a while. Although a 155 lb. trainee pushing 190 is good, at 160 I call that a warmup set, and 385 is a good number to be doing just about anything with, but I lift with a few guys that consider that a warmup number too, depending on the lift.

We lift in the circa max range a good bit,;ow reps, with very low t.u.t., and sometimes in the 60% 1r.m. range for explosive strength and speed. Although not entirely huge(he’s about 190), I’ll be lugging and loading plates for a guy later on who will be pulling in the range of 600-650. Another guy may be hitting around 450-475 on the bench, and I’m going to break 300.
I’m going to be doing a bulking/volume cycle though later in the year, so, Thanks. I will take this into consideration.

Does anybody else migrate back and forth between being confident they know what they are doing and the next moment thinking they know nothing?

[quote]vroom wrote:
Does anybody else migrate back and forth between being confident they know what they are doing and the next moment thinking they know nothing?[/quote]

Many times a day and not just about weight training.

[quote]vroom wrote:
Does anybody else migrate back and forth between being confident they know what they are doing and the next moment thinking they know nothing?[/quote]

I know exactly what you are talking about. Wait a second what were we talking about?

No, I am quite certain that I am clueless. Thank god for other people, or I would be some skinny guy that gets locked in my own car.

Well said vroom.

Personally, I think that there are so many things which can and do work that worrying about the ultimate way to train is pointless…if there even is one for longer than 6 weeks…

In the past 23 years since I started lifting weights I’ve read a shitload of books and articles on how to get big and strong…

all of that information can be boiled down into a few simple easy to understand words:

lift alot of weights, eat alot of food, get alot of rest, repeat…

life doesn’t have to be so complicated.

[quote]DPH wrote:

lift alot of weights, eat alot of food, get alot of rest, repeat…

life doesn’t have to be so complicated.[/quote]

Yea…but then what would all the strength gurus do for a living? :slight_smile:

Man, that gave me a headache.