T Nation

Max Growth Clusters Programming


#1

CT - Your article on max growth cluster training (great article) left me wondering how to program a workout when using this method.

What guidelines can you offer regarding the appropriate amount of assistance work before/after the clusters when max growth is the goal?

I assume from other posts you’ve provided that pump/growth factor work is fine. But can intensity methods be used after the clusters for the same muscle group, such as rest-pause?

Thank you for any help or guidance.


#2

[quote]D.E.N.N.I.S wrote:
CT - Your article on max growth cluster training (great article) left me wondering how to program a workout when using this method.

What guidelines can you offer regarding the appropriate amount of assistance work before/after the clusters when max growth is the goal?

I assume from other posts you’ve provided that pump/growth factor work is fine. But can intensity methods be used after the clusters for the same muscle group, such as rest-pause?

Thank you for any help or guidance.[/quote]

  1. I wish people would stop the word “programming”. We are not computers or robots.

  2. Rest/pause and other “heavy” methods should not be used in the same workout as growth factor clusters.


#3
  1. Noted :slight_smile:

  2. Thank you for the help! Since the clusters are hitting all three growth pathways already, is it sufficient to do 2 growth factor complexes after and be done hitting that muscle group?


#4

[quote]D.E.N.N.I.S wrote:

  1. Noted :slight_smile:

  2. Thank you for the help! Since the clusters are hitting all three growth pathways already, is it sufficient to do 2 growth factor complexes after and be done hitting that muscle group? [/quote]

BTW, I didn’t mean to be rude about the “programming” thing. Everybody has been saying it for a few years and for some reason it irritates me… like mixologists (YOU’RE A BARMAN)… but don’t get me started on that!


#5

No worries, I didn’t coin the term in this usage so I didn’t take it personally. And I’ve never been to a bar fancy enough for a mixologist either :slight_smile: Still curious how you might structure the rest of a max growth clusters day, but since you answered no other heavy work I’ll just assume any type of pump/growth factor work is good enough.


#6

CT - On a related tangent (in my line of thinking), what are the hypertrophy advantages or disadvantages of segregating heavy lifting and pump work for a muscle group into two non-consecutive days versus on the same day?

*Not to confuse this with double stimulation of the muscle on consecutive days, which I understand generally thanks to your article.

Example 1 (Typical setup)
Day 1 - Chest/tri (heavy & pump)
Day 2 - Legs (heavy & pump)
Day 3 - Off
Day 4 - Shoulders (heavy & pump)
Day 5 - Off
Day 6 - Back/Bis (heavy & pump)
Day 7 - Off

Example 2: Heavy one day, pump another
Day 1 - Chest (heavy), shoulders (pump)
Day 2 - Legs (heavy), back/bis (pump)
Day 3 - Off
Day 4 - Shoulders (heavy), chest (pump)
Day 5 - Off
Day 6 - Back/bi (heavy), legs (pump)
Day 7 - Off

In example 1, the 3 muscular growth pathways would presumably be activated in one session depending on the methods used for heavy and pump work, but does that make it “better”?

I would assume in example 2, the frequency is the main advantage as long as the workload can be recovered from and since the pump work isn’t too stressful, recovery shouldn’t be an issue.

But I’m curious if you can explain the physiological advantages or disadvantages of the two approaches. Thank you for any insight you would provide.


#7

[quote]D.E.N.N.I.S wrote:
CT - On a related tangent (in my line of thinking), what are the hypertrophy advantages or disadvantages of segregating heavy lifting and pump work for a muscle group into two non-consecutive days versus on the same day?

*Not to confuse this with double stimulation of the muscle on consecutive days, which I understand generally thanks to your article.

Example 1 (Typical setup)
Day 1 - Chest/tri (heavy & pump)
Day 2 - Legs (heavy & pump)
Day 3 - Off
Day 4 - Shoulders (heavy & pump)
Day 5 - Off
Day 6 - Back/Bis (heavy & pump)
Day 7 - Off

Example 2: Heavy one day, pump another
Day 1 - Chest (heavy), shoulders (pump)
Day 2 - Legs (heavy), back/bis (pump)
Day 3 - Off
Day 4 - Shoulders (heavy), chest (pump)
Day 5 - Off
Day 6 - Back/bi (heavy), legs (pump)
Day 7 - Off

In example 1, the 3 muscular growth pathways would presumably be activated in one session depending on the methods used for heavy and pump work, but does that make it “better”?

I would assume in example 2, the frequency is the main advantage as long as the workload can be recovered from and since the pump work isn’t too stressful, recovery shouldn’t be an issue.

But I’m curious if you can explain the physiological advantages or disadvantages of the two approaches. Thank you for any insight you would provide.[/quote]

Right now I’m using a more divided approach: My training days are EITHER “CNS days” OR “Muscle days”. I do not mix CNS intensive work with "muscle intensive work anymore.

I find that this puts a lot less strain on my body and I recover faster.

My health markers have been better ever since I switched to that approach. Because of my health issues I take my blood pressure and resting heart rate every day at the same time. And when I switched to NOT doing two types of work in the same session my blood pressure numbers are on average 15/9 lower then they were when I combined both types of work in the same session.

My resting heart rate is also a bit lower (-7 BPM on average). I feel more energetic, retain less water and am more vascular.

To me this indicate that dividing my CNS and muscular work into different sessions is less stressful on my body.

And it might explain why in the past when I combined both CNS intensive methods and muscle intensive methods in the same session after 3-4 weeks I started to feel a bit rundown (and why I naturally revolved around 3-4 weeks blitz programs).

Right now I have 2 “CNS days” in which I ramp to a 2 or 3RM on two lifts (but it’s a “quality rep 2-3RM”, no grinding allowed) and 3-4 “muscle days” in which I do mostly isolation work, 2 sets to failure per exercise, often using rest/pauses to make sure I reach failure, and doing 3 exercises per muscle group.


#8

[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:
Right now I’m using a more divided approach: My training days are EITHER “CNS days” OR “Muscle days”. I do not mix CNS intensive work with "muscle intensive work anymore.

I find that this puts a lot less strain on my body and I recover faster.

My health markers have been better ever since I switched to that approach. Because of my health issues I take my blood pressure and resting heart rate every day at the same time. And when I switched to NOT doing two types of work in the same session my blood pressure numbers are on average 15/9 lower then they were when I combined both types of work in the same session.

My resting heart rate is also a bit lower (-7 BPM on average). I feel more energetic, retain less water and am more vascular.

To me this indicate that dividing my CNS and muscular work into different sessions is less stressful on my body.

And it might explain why in the past when I combined both CNS intensive methods and muscle intensive methods in the same session after 3-4 weeks I started to feel a bit rundown (and why I naturally revolved around 3-4 weeks blitz programs).

Right now I have 2 “CNS days” in which I ramp to a 2 or 3RM on two lifts (but it’s a “quality rep 2-3RM”, no grinding allowed) and 3-4 “muscle days” in which I do mostly isolation work, 2 sets to failure per exercise, often using rest/pauses to make sure I reach failure, and doing 3 exercises per muscle group.
[/quote]

I hadn’t thought about health markers, probably since I don’t have a major health issue. But your response is intriguing because I have struggled with recovering from always lifting heavy weights. In the last year though, I’ve made major improvements in my mobility and nutrition - both of which were limiting my recovery and of course my progress. Case in point: I have been doing well on the new layers program (week 4 right now), a program that would’ve floored me a year ago by week 4.

Still, the idea of 2 heavy days and a few lighter ‘muscle days’ seems like it would fit me very well at first thought both physically and psychologically - I bet the contrast in days keeps motivation high.

I have a few questions regarding your CNS days and muscle days if you don’t mind. Please note that I’m not trying to ask for all the details so I can try to replicate it, these are meant to be general but if it’s too detailed I understand.

  1. CNS days: Do you split up each heavy day between an upper and a lower body lift in the same day, or do all lower body one day and upper body another day?

  2. Muscle Days: How many muscle groups do you focus on per day? And since you’re “only” doing 2 sets to failure per lift, are you going really high - like 20-30 reps - or sticking with more moderately high ranges? What about accentuating eccentrics?

  3. If hypertrophy is part of your current focus (which I assume is, at least partly), do you think this approach is effective so far in that regard?

  4. EDIT: Since using light loads to failure causes equal hypertrophy as heavier loads, fatigue/failure being the mechanism, do you think it matters that we use the same lifts each week on lighter pump work since progressive overload is not the purpose of those sets?

Thanks again for your help.


#9

[quote]D.E.N.N.I.S wrote:
I hadn’t thought about health markers, probably since I don’t have a major health issue. But your response is intriguing because I have struggled with recovering from always lifting heavy weights. In the last year though, I’ve made major improvements in my mobility and nutrition - both of which were limiting my recovery and of course my progress. Case in point: I have been doing well on the new layers program (week 4 right now), a program that would’ve floored me a year ago by week 4.[/quote]

I think wise men make the most out of bad situations. My health issues over the past years made me more aware of the importance of proper training management. And having to measure several health markers multiple times per week allowed me to make correlations that I would have never made in the past.

I always had the underdog mentality: I was never blessed with any particular genetic gifts for size, strength or leanness. But I was willing to work harder than anybody else. The stories I could give you!!! I once did 100 sets of bench press in ONE session (okay they were all between 1 and 3 reps, but still) and then did 70 more sets in the afternoon…I once drove 2 hours round trip (so 4 hours) EVERYDAY for 4 months to train with the best Olympic lifting coach in Canada then we would train 5 hours per day (two sessions of 2:30 hours)… At some point I was even training up to 6 hours per day.

In retrospect that wasn’t smart and probably did a lot of bad things to my body that I’m paying for today.

I always felt like crap but willed myself to continue working harder, ignoring the symptoms of stagnation. I would see people who were training less than 1/3 of what I was doing progressing at s much faster rate. It would frustrate me and I would train even more.

At one point you become so used to functioning at 70% then that 70% becomes your 100% (your normal state). And you fail to see that what you are doing is suboptimal.

When I began to measure my health markers I noticed a very strong correlation between the quality of my health markers and 1) how I felt 2) how good my training sessions were 3) my rate of progress 4) how lean and dry I looked.

So in a sense my health issues allowed me to learn more about proper training planning. I’ve always been very good with creating super effective methods and modifying exercises. But because of my excessive nature I often used too much volume in my programs.

Now I use health markers to gauge recovery and progress.

Furthermore I strongly believe that the healthier the body is, the better it can progress. Seriously, how would an “unhealthy body” progress at an optimal rate? 1) adding and sustaining more muscle puts more strain on the body… your body wont add it if the body is unhealthy and cant deal with the added strain 2) being healthy allows you to function better, thus perform better which will stimulate more growth 3) the energy your body is expending to try to get back to being healthy is energy that is not used to build muscle.

And that is an issue with performance-enhancing drugs: those who use them can stimulate gains even while unhealthy: it basically “forces” muscle growth by artificially putting you in a constant state of protein synthesis. Which is one of the reason why, even though they can offer some good advice on some issues, those who abuse drugs will no see the connection between being healthy, having a balance between stimulating and recovery and muscle growth.

[quote]D.E.N.N.I.S wrote:

  1. CNS days: Do you split up each heavy day between an upper and a lower body lift in the same day, or do all lower body one day and upper body another day?
    [/quote]

What I do at the moment is use 1 upper body lift and 1 lower body lift per heavy session. I still believe that frequency is very important.

[quote]D.E.N.N.I.S wrote:
2. Muscle Days: How many muscle groups do you focus on per day? And since you’re “only” doing 2 sets to failure per lift, are you going really high - like 20-30 reps - or sticking with more moderately high ranges? What about accentuating eccentrics? [/quote]

I don’t count reps… I really don’t. On the muscle days all I care is hitting muscle contractile failure with a weight where I can feel the target muscle do the work. Sometimes I use rest/pauses, sometimes I do drop sets, sometimes I accentuate the eccentric, sometimes I add isometric holds. It doesn’t matter really, the key is hitting true contractile failure and I use whatever strategy I feel are needed to do that. I don’t always use advanced methods because I want to stay away from being excessive again.

I like doing 2 muscles (sometimes 3 but the third one is a small muscle group) per muscle session, for 2 or 3 exercises each. I like to use the double stimulation approach for two muscle days (those following the heavy days). And on the other days I work the antagonist muscles.

Note that my strength lifts are one press and one squat/deadlift or Olympic lift, so the double stimulation work is for one of the pressing muscles and the lower boy muscle I want to emphasize.

[quote]D.E.N.N.I.S wrote:
3. If hypertrophy is part of your current focus (which I assume is, at least partly), do you think this approach is effective so far in that regard?
[/quote]

So far yes, very.

[quote]D.E.N.N.I.S wrote:
4. EDIT: Since using light loads to failure causes equal hypertrophy as heavier loads, fatigue/failure being the mechanism, do you think it matters that we use the same lifts each week on lighter pump work since progressive overload is not the purpose of those sets?
[/quote]

No it likely doesn’t. I use the exercises in which I feel the best contracting in the target muscle. Sometimes that can mean sticking to the same exercises for a while, sometimes it means changing them up.

But I like to stick to the same exercises or close variations for the heavy days.


#10

Thanks for your reply. I have seen some of your crazy stories in various threads over the years, so it is no news flash that you’re an extreme kind of guy :slight_smile: And I completely understand from experience that if you’re not healthy, progress will at least stall if not worse. That happened to me last year due to over-prescription by my doc, it led to a boatload of sicknesses and gut health issues that I had to correct over a period of at least 8-10 months.

And I didn’t make an inch of progress, in fact I regressed and it was very frustrating. This year has been way better and I’ve made significant improvements all around when it comes to body composition and training.

Have you been using a Heart Rate Variability monitor as one of your health markers? I’ve read/watched Kelly Starret talk about using HRV in order to identify when you ought to a day off or at least not go full tilt that day. I haven’t tried it but am interested in testing it on myself sometime.

Can you explain what you mean by “contractile failure” or at least how that differs from the general definition of “failure”?

Thanks again for the help.


#11

This is from an article I am working on. It explains the difference between contractile failure and movement failure:

I see another issue with failure: people tend to see failure as “movement failure”. In other words go until you can’t do one more rep. They focus on getting reps instead of causing muscle failure. What is the difference you may ask? Two things: (1) you can compensate by adjusting your body position during the set to compensate with other muscle groups when the target muscle starts to fatigue; you think you are stimulating it more by doing more reps whereas you are stimulating it less by allowing other muscles to do the job before the target muscle reaches failure. (2) you use the minimum effort possible for each repetition to be able to do more instead of trying to contract the muscle as hard as possible on each repetition. If anything I am personally proud to achieve muscle failure in less reps; it means that I’m doing a better job contacting the muscle to produce tension on each rep.

So really it’s not about failing a movement. It’s about failing to contract a muscle hard enough to continue on with the set.

So if we go back to our compound movements. Going to failure on these exercises rarely means that you achieved “muscle contractile failure”. You only achieved movement failure. In reality it is likely that no muscle involved in the big lift has hit failure. Rather it’s the ensemble of muscles involved that can no longer produce enough total force to complete a rep. The fatigue is spread over many muscles, it’s not one muscle that hits failure.

As such I believe that the big compound lifts are not the best option for failure training because you will rarely if ever hit muscle failure on any muscle involved.


#12

[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:

[quote]D.E.N.N.I.S wrote:
I hadn’t thought about health markers, probably since I don’t have a major health issue. But your response is intriguing because I have struggled with recovering from always lifting heavy weights. In the last year though, I’ve made major improvements in my mobility and nutrition - both of which were limiting my recovery and of course my progress. Case in point: I have been doing well on the new layers program (week 4 right now), a program that would’ve floored me a year ago by week 4.[/quote]

I think wise men make the most out of bad situations. My health issues over the past years made me more aware of the importance of proper training management. And having to measure several health markers multiple times per week allowed me to make correlations that I would have never made in the past.

I always had the underdog mentality: I was never blessed with any particular genetic gifts for size, strength or leanness. But I was willing to work harder than anybody else. The stories I could give you!!! I once did 100 sets of bench press in ONE session (okay they were all between 1 and 3 reps, but still) and then did 70 more sets in the afternoon…I once drove 2 hours round trip (so 4 hours) EVERYDAY for 4 months to train with the best Olympic lifting coach in Canada then we would train 5 hours per day (two sessions of 2:30 hours)… At some point I was even training up to 6 hours per day.

In retrospect that wasn’t smart and probably did a lot of bad things to my body that I’m paying for today.

I always felt like crap but willed myself to continue working harder, ignoring the symptoms of stagnation. I would see people who were training less than 1/3 of what I was doing progressing at s much faster rate. It would frustrate me and I would train even more.

At one point you become so used to functioning at 70% then that 70% becomes your 100% (your normal state). And you fail to see that what you are doing is suboptimal.

When I began to measure my health markers I noticed a very strong correlation between the quality of my health markers and 1) how I felt 2) how good my training sessions were 3) my rate of progress 4) how lean and dry I looked.

So in a sense my health issues allowed me to learn more about proper training planning. I’ve always been very good with creating super effective methods and modifying exercises. But because of my excessive nature I often used too much volume in my programs.

Now I use health markers to gauge recovery and progress.

Furthermore I strongly believe that the healthier the body is, the better it can progress. Seriously, how would an “unhealthy body” progress at an optimal rate? 1) adding and sustaining more muscle puts more strain on the body… your body wont add it if the body is unhealthy and cant deal with the added strain 2) being healthy allows you to function better, thus perform better which will stimulate more growth 3) the energy your body is expending to try to get back to being healthy is energy that is not used to build muscle.

And that is an issue with performance-enhancing drugs: those who use them can stimulate gains even while unhealthy: it basically “forces” muscle growth by artificially putting you in a constant state of protein synthesis. Which is one of the reason why, even though they can offer some good advice on some issues, those who abuse drugs will no see the connection between being healthy, having a balance between stimulating and recovery and muscle growth.

[quote]D.E.N.N.I.S wrote:

  1. CNS days: Do you split up each heavy day between an upper and a lower body lift in the same day, or do all lower body one day and upper body another day?
    [/quote]

What I do at the moment is use 1 upper body lift and 1 lower body lift per heavy session. I still believe that frequency is very important.

[quote]D.E.N.N.I.S wrote:
2. Muscle Days: How many muscle groups do you focus on per day? And since you’re “only” doing 2 sets to failure per lift, are you going really high - like 20-30 reps - or sticking with more moderately high ranges? What about accentuating eccentrics? [/quote]

I don’t count reps… I really don’t. On the muscle days all I care is hitting muscle contractile failure with a weight where I can feel the target muscle do the work. Sometimes I use rest/pauses, sometimes I do drop sets, sometimes I accentuate the eccentric, sometimes I add isometric holds. It doesn’t matter really, the key is hitting true contractile failure and I use whatever strategy I feel are needed to do that. I don’t always use advanced methods because I want to stay away from being excessive again.

I like doing 2 muscles (sometimes 3 but the third one is a small muscle group) per muscle session, for 2 or 3 exercises each. I like to use the double stimulation approach for two muscle days (those following the heavy days). And on the other days I work the antagonist muscles.

Note that my strength lifts are one press and one squat/deadlift or Olympic lift, so the double stimulation work is for one of the pressing muscles and the lower boy muscle I want to emphasize.

[quote]D.E.N.N.I.S wrote:
3. If hypertrophy is part of your current focus (which I assume is, at least partly), do you think this approach is effective so far in that regard?
[/quote]

So far yes, very.

[quote]D.E.N.N.I.S wrote:
4. EDIT: Since using light loads to failure causes equal hypertrophy as heavier loads, fatigue/failure being the mechanism, do you think it matters that we use the same lifts each week on lighter pump work since progressive overload is not the purpose of those sets?
[/quote]

No it likely doesn’t. I use the exercises in which I feel the best contracting in the target muscle. Sometimes that can mean sticking to the same exercises for a while, sometimes it means changing them up.

But I like to stick to the same exercises or close variations for the heavy days.[/quote]

Hi CT

I have always taught that the final frontier regarding training adaptations lies in the CNS; and that training, rest (including recovery techniques),and nutrition should be in accordance with the Sympathetic/Parasympathetic nervous system reactions.

Of course that this refined control is just affordable, I think, for the professionals and for the highly committed amateurs. Have you ever thought about using the Omegawave with your elite clients?

Sorry about the commercial, but thats the only brand I know in the market

Have a nice week


#13

[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:
This is from an article I am working on. It explains the difference between contractile failure and movement failure:

I see another issue with failure: people tend to see failure as “movement failure”. In other words go until you can’t do one more rep. They focus on getting reps instead of causing muscle failure. What is the difference you may ask? Two things: (1) you can compensate by adjusting your body position during the set to compensate with other muscle groups when the target muscle starts to fatigue; you think you are stimulating it more by doing more reps whereas you are stimulating it less by allowing other muscles to do the job before the target muscle reaches failure. (2) you use the minimum effort possible for each repetition to be able to do more instead of trying to contract the muscle as hard as possible on each repetition. If anything I am personally proud to achieve muscle failure in less reps; it means that I’m doing a better job contacting the muscle to produce tension on each rep.

So really it’s not about failing a movement. It’s about failing to contract a muscle hard enough to continue on with the set.

So if we go back to our compound movements. Going to failure on these exercises rarely means that you achieved “muscle contractile failure”. You only achieved movement failure. In reality it is likely that no muscle involved in the big lift has hit failure. Rather it’s the ensemble of muscles involved that can no longer produce enough total force to complete a rep. The fatigue is spread over many muscles, it’s not one muscle that hits failure.

As such I believe that the big compound lifts are not the best option for failure training because you will rarely if ever hit muscle failure on any muscle involved.
[/quote]

Thank you for the clarification, that makes sense. It’ll probably save some of us readers some trouble. I look forward to reading the full article when it goes up.


#14

CT - Is there a good way to separate heavy lifting days and muscle days in an upper/lower/upper/full body split? I am tinkering around with some ideas that might work (for a home gym setup), but figured I’d at least ask in case you have any suggestions. Thank you.


#15

[quote]D.E.N.N.I.S wrote:
CT - Is there a good way to separate heavy lifting days and muscle days in an upper/lower/upper/full body split? I am tinkering around with some ideas that might work (for a home gym setup), but figured I’d at least ask in case you have any suggestions. Thank you.[/quote]

Not really to be honest. I find that 3 heavy days might be too much for long term progression and it would be hard to recover optimally with the muscle days thrown in there.

I feel that everybody should begin with 2 heavy days. Before assuming that you can do more, try it out with 2 heavy days per week to see how your body responds. Don’t assume that you can do more. It’s not always better. I had worse results when using the system with 3 heavy days (felt run down at the end of the week, higher blood pressure, felt a bit lethargic).

The way I like to start the split is as such:

DAY 1 - CNS day 1 (one upper body push and one lower body)
DAY 2 - Pressing muscles hypertrophy (3 shoulders and 2 triceps exercises)
DAY 3 - Pulling muscles hypertrophy (2 lats, 1 mid-back, , 2 biceps exercises)
DAY 4 - CNS day 2 (one upper body push and one lower body)
DAY 5 - Legs/Traps hypertrophy (2 leg exercises, 2 traps exercises)
DAY 6 - Pressing muscle hypertrophy (3 chest exercises, 2 triceps exercises)
DAY 7 - OFF

It is possible to do 3 CNS days but with only 2 heavy days… the 3rd one would focus either on technique or acceleration/explosiveness.


#16

Might be confused here but isn’t layer system 6x/week “heavy”/CNS type work? Is that not recommended long term? Thanks…


#17

[quote]-Sigil- wrote:
Might be confused here but isn’t layer system 6x/week “heavy”/CNS type work? Is that not recommended long term? Thanks…[/quote]

I always said that the layer system and any program of this type is a short term blitz, not a long term way to train.


#18

Ok I’ve also felt quite run down (to be honest past year). I refrain from using “overtrained” but honestly know my body enough to suspect might be doing damage (mentally drained, sometimes even emotionally). Physique/strength stagnant. So perhaps time to do less intensive work (1x-3x) and more muscle days (db/bodyweight, moderate weight/rep for volume)


#19

[quote]-Sigil- wrote:
Ok I’ve also felt quite run down (to be honest past year). I refrain from using “overtrained” but honestly know my body enough to suspect might be doing damage (mentally drained, sometimes even emotionally). Physique/strength stagnant. So perhaps time to do less intensive work (1x-3x) and more muscle days (db/bodyweight, moderate weight/rep for volume)[/quote]

That would be my recommendation. I’ve always been a “blitz” guy. Devoting 4-5 weeks to a certain goal and/or type of training; pushing it really hard. Always gave me great results (e.g. going from 265 to 400lbs on high pulls in 3 weeks, taking bench press from pins from 335 to 405 in 3 weeks, etc.) but over the past 2 years my body has been having issues adapting to that style of training.

And because of my health issues I’ve been taking several health readings daily (blood pressure, resting heart rate for example) and I’ve noticed that when I train heavy too many times per week my blood pressure is a good 10 points higher at the end of the week and resting heart rate is elevated by 8-10 BPM.

To me this is a clear sign that this kind of stress is excessive for my body at the moment.

I think that in the past I ignored symptoms of systemic fatigue: when you are chronically fatigued, always functioning at 70% of your normal physiological state your body adjust to it and you now perceive that 70% as being “normal” so you don’t even notice the chronic fatigue anymore and think that everything is alright.

Ever since I switched to 2 heavy/CNS days and 4 muscles days my blood pressure is down significantly and my resting heart rate is back to normal. I also dropped a ton of water and even though I’ve been eating petty stupid amount of carbs I look leaner (maybe because of all the water I dropped… but water retention and feeling flat is a sign of high cortisol).

The biggest pitfall with muscle days is doing too much. My muscle day sessions last about 30 minutes. I do 2 or 3 exercises per muscle group trained that day (normally 2 muscle groups) and only 2 sets per exercise. BUT every set is taken to muscle contractile failure and often includes rest/pauses, iso holds and partials. My objective is to be able to totally fry the muscle in ONE set. I do a second set only if I feel like the first one was not perfect. And I NEVER do a 3rd set.

I mostly use isolation exercises for the muscle days except for back where I also use cable exercises. But to me a cable exercise has more of an isolation feeling than a multi-joint one.

For my heavy days I only train two lifts on each day (can be the same ones for both heavy days or they can change).

I’m now looking into adding a 3rd CNS day but it would be a “practice day”. A practice day is doing complex exercises but not to the intensity and fatigue level that makes it demanding. It can be Olympic lifts working on speed and technique, ring work (yes you will be happy) or even kettlebell bell exercises. Nothing to the point of being physically and mentally demanding. But for this to work for me I have to set precise rules for myself. I have a tendency to do too much. So I must put a limit on myself.

Here are some rules that I now apply myself:

CNS DAYS (HEAVY)

  • No more than 2 sessions per week
  • Only two lifts per session
  • Ramping for either 2 or 3 reps per set
  • NOT working up to a RM; stop when the weight feels like a 8 RPE (perceived effort, on a scale of 10)

CNS DAYS (SKILL)

  • 1 session per week
  • 2 or 3 movements per session
  • No more than 12-15 minutes spent on each movement
  • No more than 40 minutes total training time, ideally 30-35 minutes
  • No more than 6 RPE

MUSCLE DAYS

  • 1 or 2 sets per exercises focused on going to muscle failure and beyond
  • No more than 8 total sets in the whole workout, ideally 6 or less
  • Only non traumatic exercises (isolation and cable work mostly)

If I respect these I will never get in trouble.

Ever since I began applying this (abut 4 weeks ago) my bodyweight is up to the heaviest it’s been since my health issues (220 vs a normal of 212), I’m holding A LOT less water and am able to eat more without gaining fat. My muscles feel fuller at rest and I get better pumps.


#20

[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:
Not really to be honest. I find that 3 heavy days might be too much for long term progression and it would be hard to recover optimally with the muscle days thrown in there.

I feel that everybody should begin with 2 heavy days. Before assuming that you can do more, try it out with 2 heavy days per week to see how your body responds. Don’t assume that you can do more. It’s not always better. I had worse results when using the system with 3 heavy days (felt run down at the end of the week, higher blood pressure, felt a bit lethargic).

The way I like to start the split is as such:

DAY 1 - CNS day 1 (one upper body push and one lower body)
DAY 2 - Pressing muscles hypertrophy (3 shoulders and 2 triceps exercises)
DAY 3 - Pulling muscles hypertrophy (2 lats, 1 mid-back, , 2 biceps exercises)
DAY 4 - CNS day 2 (one upper body push and one lower body)
DAY 5 - Legs/Traps hypertrophy (2 leg exercises, 2 traps exercises)
DAY 6 - Pressing muscle hypertrophy (3 chest exercises, 2 triceps exercises)
DAY 7 - OFF

It is possible to do 3 CNS days but with only 2 heavy days… the 3rd one would focus either on technique or acceleration/explosiveness. [/quote]

Thanks for the detailed reply CT but my question wasn’t clearly written, sorry. I lift 4 days a week and was asking basically if there was a good way to split up say one heavy upper day, one heavy lower day, a muscle upper day and s muscle full body day. After a few days went by, I rethought it and am thinking about doing this basic setup:

Day 1 - full body (military press, row, squat)
Day 2 - double stimulation for target muscles from day 1
Day 3- off
Day 4 - full body (bench, chins, deadlift)
Day 5 - double stimulation for day 4 target muscles
Day 6/7 - off

In this setup I would ramp the heavy upper body lifts to a solid 2-3RM in 5ish sets and the rows/chins would be paired with the bench/military for 3-5 reps but not ramped. The double stim days would be 3-5 circuits in about 15 mins each per target muscle group. Less emphasis on the legs these days because I lift in my basement and don’t have a lot of isolation options for legs.

If you have any thoughts on this I’d of course appreciate them. I don’t start it until the end of the week. Thank you.