@robstein wow thanks for such a long and concise answer!
Yeah pretty much what I’m talking about. The intensity(explosive contraction/hard squeeze/whatever term different people use lol) should be there and maintained throughout the set from the first rep!
Really hit home with this. I’ve always been told that if I can’t get a pump in a moderate rep range without having to resort to high reps and dropsets and all that, the problem is with my mmc and that should be solved first or I would be wasting time doing a lot of junk volume instead of effectively hitting the muscle.
I’m not certain that this is what they really mean but I’ve always interpreted this as the need to gradually progress within that rep range to lifting a weight that would be considered heavy by any standards, e.g, 80lb dumbbell curls, 500lb squat etc.
Sometimes, I also like to stop my bench reps an inch or two above my chest to keep more tension on my pecs. I don’t do this for every set, but I will when I go really heavy (to make sure tension doesn’t spread to my delts) and when I’m warming up (to ensure I can feel the proper muscle working). I like doing this concept with chest pressing movements and delt lateral movements.
I still have trouble with this as well…from time to time. I’ve found that it’s a mental thing. Your mind tells you to stop lifting because you’re feeling tired, but your muscles could keep going if your mind wasn’t telling you to stop. I work on pushing past this “mental pain barrier” each of my workouts now, in hopes that doing so will help me achieve the “heavy weight, high reps” concept.
But I’d still like to hear from @robstein thinks…or if Arash gave him any advice on how to do that.
I also try to do partials or rest-pause. I feel that I can then do a set of 8-12 with a weight that I can only get 5 in a row with.
I would either stay at the same weight, or go up, never reverse pyramid. The first week was really just about finding the weight that was manageable for 5 hard reps that I could still control it and have good form. I would make sure the first set was a challenge but I knew I could get one more rep out if I had to, knowing I had 4 sets left and would get more fatigued. If after the 3rd set I still felt pretty good and like I had one or two more, I would go up. If not, I’d stay at the same weight. Nothing significant, like I started incline DB press at 85 pounds, went up to 90 pounds, 95 pounds, etc. If I was squatting 305, I’d go up to 315. I’d write down which set I switched weights on, and the next week, I’d go up in weight one set earlier. I didn’t plan it this way, I just kind of went by feel with the goal of increasing weight. Eventually I’d do all 5 sets at the “new weight,” and when I could do that, I took that as a sign I was definitely stronger and ready to increase again next time. The next week I’d start over again with going up to the next weight on set 4 or 5, then the next week set 2 or 3, depending on how I felt. It wasn’t always a super consistent pattern week to week, but over the course of the 10 or so weeks I did the 5x5, my strength was up pretty significantly on all lifts, compound and isolation.
I’d guess 3 minutes or so, definitely at least 2 minutes. My goal with the 5x5 was to increase strength, so I thought it would be best to have rest periods long enough that I could be recharged for the next set with good intensity and have quality performance. Some days I felt stronger than others and would have a shorter rest period if I felt ready, but most of the time they were 2-3 min.
Once I moved to the next exercise and was in the 8-12 rep range, rest periods were typically around a minute or so. I didn’t time it, just did the next set as soon as I felt I could.
Yeah I totally understand. For me this was more of a mental approach as well as physical, really approaching the weight knowing it’s heavy and I better be ready to work for it. I always felt that way, but just talking to him made me take that mentality to another level.
Physically I apply it as a weight that feels heavy throughout the entire set, the heaviest weight that you really have to be engaged for throughout with serious mental and physical intensity for the desired rep range. So if it’s 10-12 rep range, and I get to 12 and still have a couple more in me, I need to go heavier. I don’t go to fail, but approach it and tiptoe the line. An example I wrote before with the lateral raises for dead lifts, I went as heavy as I thought I could with extremely controlled form, chasing the pump. So the first 5-6 reps didn’t really feel heavy, just focused on control until the burn came. Now, I feel like from rep one I really have to fight for it; I know I have control and put the tension where I want it, but every single rep feels hard and heavy. It takes a really specific weight, too light and it’s not hard enough, too heavy and the control is gone. Especially for smaller muscle groups like biceps or shoulders, the weight has to be exact.
Lol, yeah I’m very lucky to have met Stu on here considering he’s within “driving distance”. It’s about 2-2.5 hours depending on traffic, getting into NY is always rough with traffic. That day at Bevs was amazing, getting to see the “East Coast Mecca” for the first time, training there trying not to feel inadequate as 225-300 pound guys walk around, and eating and talking shop afterwards. Looking forward to hanging with @The_Mighty_Stu and @BrickHead for the day at his show in a few weeks!
Yeah this is definitely a great way to increase the amount of reps you can do with a high percentage. He had these extended sets in the Indigo programs, those things will add some serious meat on your bones!
The exercices I pick are the ones that give me the best mind muscle connection, but I dont focus on it during the set. For example I go heavy dips over cgbp. I still primarily chase the weight x rep and always will.
Yeah I agree, I think at a certain point it’s not possible to get a “pump”, again I didn’t feel a pump with 5x5 but certainly felt fatigued. But by 8 reps there should definitely be a strong pump. Initiating movement with the desired muscle is super important to get there, and squeezing it hard at finish. Sometimes before I start a set, I’ll do a few very short movements, I wouldn’t even call them partials. Just the very first initiation of the movement, making sure it starts with the muscle. For example with weighted pull ups, sometimes from a dead hang I’ll just flex and my contract my lats once or twice, just initiating the movement properly, then I’ll get into my first rep. I don’t always do this, but if I’m not feeling the connection I will and it’s always helpful. Can be done with any exercise.
Posing really does help a lot with the MMC, I think posing is a great tool for anyone looking to increase their training, whether or not they’re getting on stage. Just the effort of trying to isolate and flex individual muscles over and over again, it becomes so much easier in the gym.
In a different forum @IronAndMetal and I were talking about techniques quad sweep, which lead me to think about an interesting technique I saw on a Ben Pakulski video to work on quad sweep and placing leg tension. These little tweaks and tips can be game changers over time.
He talked about experimenting with where to place tension in the feet for leg press, like as I’m pushing the plate up with my legs, I’ll think about pushing my feet out, or up, or a different direction, and that will really help direct the tension in the legs.
Also, a lot of times taking a narrow foot position helps to target the outer quad. I do this with leg press, I keep a more narrow stance with feet parallel, and position them towards the bottom of the foot plate.
You can do the same with hack squat (narrow stance) or even on leg extensions, you can try pointing your toes inward towards each other to stretch and stimulate the outside of the quad more.
LIttle late to the party (was out of town on family emergency and don’t like to type books from my phone)…
I’ve written in the past about how important it was for me to learn not to simply “chase #'s” in order to progress as a bodybuilder, but even more than that, I had to really learn how to make the target muscles work, and not just “lift the weight.”
A good story, that really flipped a light switch for me, was when I had some bicep/forearm inflammation that made doing my usual back workout uncomfortable. Pullups, Pulldowns, always with full ROM just gave me a jolt of pain. So trying to be clever, I figured out to use the Hammer pulldown machine, and perform the movement with almost NO bicep contraction. I learned to do likewise with bent over BB rows on the smith machine, and eventually, incorporated Scapular Contractions (which all of my bodybuilding clients learn to love -lol). All of these allowed me to really focus and zone in on feeling the musculature of my back as I had never done before.
Other things that helped me personally were good ol’ Pre-exhaust, and understanding that different orders of exercise performance made a huge difference in truly feeling certain target muscles taking the brunt of the stress.
This had a huge effect on bringing up my pecs over the years.
I’ve seen that BPak video! If you jump over to @BrickHead 's contest prep thread, I gave @Lonnie123 similar advice when I outlined a simple home-gym barbell/dumbbell only leg workout.
I guess, because my legs don’t seem to grow, I’ve been attempting to do the exercises that will add OVERALL mass (ala shoulder-width stance, etc). I’ve always had this concept that putting emphasis in a particular portion of a muslce isn’t awesome when you don’t really have that muscle yet I’ll just begin adding outter quad work on the quad centric day and see where that takes me.
Oh, and thanks for the picture of the hamtractor. In my world, hamtractor = seated leg curl machine. I learn new stuff here all the time!
I really like using John Meadows’ 1.5 rep scheme with that machine. You curl the weight to the fullest contraction point, let it back out 1/2 way, then curl it to the fullest contraction point again before going back to the start position…that’s one rep. That rep scheme helped me feel my hamstrings back when I couldn’t.
I can definitely understand that! I used to think similarly. But, I do think that the best way to develop a muscle is to hit all the angles and not wait. For example, you wouldn’t avoid hammer curls because you don’t have “big biceps” yet, you’d hit the hammer curls so you arms can grow and fill out evenly since standard bicep curls won’t stimulate every head evenly. I think hitting the brachialis to give your arm that “3D” look is the same as hitting the quad sweep. While squats and leg presses will certainly add some size, addressing each head and part of the quad properly will allow you to make more progress and give your legs that wide look from the front.
YES! This is such a freaking awesome way to increase tension as well as MMC. I’ve done this with:
-Shoulder lateral raise machine - crazy pump!
-Close grip bench for triceps - couldn’t feel the tension in the triceps until I tried this
-Barbell curls at the end of the session
Stu I know you’re a guru with exercise sequencing, when you adjusted my back workout especially we switched a lot of the orders. What’s your method to the madness there, how do you come up with what you feel are the ideal exercise sequences?
Feels a little silly chiming in here after all the killer info, but I do want to mention the benefits of touch training - literally having your fingertips on the target muscle during an exercise so you feel it contract and stretch during each rep.
Obviously works best for unilateral lifts when you have one hand free (curls, any delt raise, 1-arm crossover/ or pulldown, standing leg curl) but can be used for most lower body machines (leg press, leg extension, seated calf raise) or ab work.