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High, Heavy & Hardcore



Posted in: Articles by ProSource, Training Articles, Superfeature Articles, Featured Content
By Mike Berg | Apr 2, 2009



Popular opinion be damned: You can combine heavy weights and high repetitions for maximum power and muscle gains

You may not have the strength of eight-time Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman, but that doesn't mean you can't train like him, at least in one key regard: the number of reps you do per set.

Coleman often takes every set into the 12-15 range. While for most bodybuilders, that would entail using relatively light weight, the towering Texan slaps on poundage not for the faint of heart, going heavy and hard every working set. And he doesn't stop at 6-8 reps on his †œmax† set as others do. He'll power through to the double digits, serving as the ultimate example that, contrary to popular belief, you don't have to either choose one method or the other—either high reps with lighter weights, or low reps with heavier weights.

Okay, you may be thinking: That's Ronnie. Where does that leave the average human being? After all, while you could try to keep up with Coleman rep for brutal rep, chances are he'd leave you whimpering in the chalk dust. Yet, with the help of a simple training technique, you can venture into that same rarified air, reaping the benefits of higher-rep sets without sacrificing an ounce of weight.

STOP AND GROW

So how can you handle 12-15 reps with as much weight as you may be doing only 6-8 reps with now? The secret lies in the rest/pause technique. With the technique (a favorite of another Olympia champ, by the way, in Jay Cutler), you perform as many reps as you can, then rest 5-10 seconds. That's just enough to allow your short-term energy system to recharge so you can continue the set. Stop as many times as you need to complete your goal number of reps.

For example, say you're doing a biceps curl for 15 reps. Load the bar with as much weight as you would use for a set of 8. Then, rep as normal. Around the seventh or eighth rep, you'll reach a point of momentary muscular failure; at that point, pause at the bottom of the exercise, arms extended, for 5-10 seconds, taking a couple of deep breaths, and continue the set. You may have to stop again around rep 12 for a second rest, then terminate the set at 15. Just like that, you've completed more reps with a heavier weight, prompting muscle growth beyond what you may have achieved using the standard 12-10-8-6-rep pyramid scheme prevalent in most bodybuilding-oriented programs.

THE REST OF THE STORY

The following program assumes rest/pause throughout, whenever you can't complete a set of 12 or 15 (whichever is recommended). You can approach weight selection in one of three ways: You can pyramid up set to set, pyramid down set to set, or pick the same challenging weight (what you would normally use in either your penultimate or final set). If you choose either of the two latter options, just make sure you begin the workout with one very light warm-up set or two.

Even if you don't completely overhaul your program, you can at least use the technique for the last set or two of an exercise in your existing workout. It's a valuable way to get the best of both worlds: the endurance and muscle growth of higher reps, and the strength and power generated through moving lots of weight. But we shouldn't have to sell you too hard—if it's good enough for legends like Ronnie and Jay, what other seal of approval would you need?

SAMPLE REST/PAUSE TRAINING PLAN

Monday: Shoulders, Triceps
Exercise Sets Reps
Dumbbell Lateral Raise 3 15
Seated Barbell Press 3 15
Upright EZ-Bar Row 2 12
Reverse Pec-Deck Flye 2 15
Lying EZ-Bar French Press 3 15
Machine Dip 3 15
Rope Pushdown 2 12


Tuesday: Legs
Exercise Sets Reps
Leg Extension 3 15
Barbell Squat 4 15
Leg Press 4 12
Romanian Deadlift 3 15
Seated Leg Curl 3 12
Dumbbell Lunge 2 15


Wednesday: Off


Thursday: Back, Biceps, Forearms
Exercise Sets Reps
Pull-Up 3 15
Bent-Over Smith-Machine Row 4 15
Pulldown to Front 3 12
Seated Cable Row 2 12
Standing Barbell Curl 3 15
Machine Preacher Curl 3 15
Dumbbell Concentration Curl 2 12
Behind-the-Back Barbell Wrist Curl 3 15;


Friday: Chest, Calves, Abs
Exercise Sets Reps
Cable Crossover 1 15
Incline Barbell Press* 4 15
Flat-Bench Dumbbell Press 3 15
Decline Dumbbell Flye 3 12
Standing Calf Raise 3 15
Seated Calf Raise 3 15
Crunch†  3-4 20-30
Reverse Crunch†  3-4 20-30
* Use a Smith machine or a press machine if you don't have a spotter.
†  You can use rest/pause during abdominal training, but it would probably come more into play if you use more advanced or weighted exercises.


Saturday: Off


Sunday: Off, or Repeat Cycle




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Disclaimer: The articles featured herein are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Specific medical advice should only be obtained from a licensed health care professional. No liability is assumed by ProSource for any information herein.



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