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The Renegade Mass-Gain Training Plan

Training for mass isn't quantum physics. A well laid-out training plan that takes into account the physiological basics of human movement and exercise science, applied in a manner to promote maximum muscular development is, in fact, quite simple.

To understand mass development better, let's first consider that in essence, all weight room work is simply pushing, pulling, squatting or pressing (with of course actions such lunging, reaching and extending). To add to this simplified view, there really are only three forms of muscular contraction: isometric, eccentric/yielding and contraction/static. External resistance is either heavy, constant or a volume based system. Each has been shown as effective in some manner for mass development.

Constant tension requires long, slow-tempo sets of roughly 45 to 60 seconds in duration. This type of approach will result in increased HGH and IGF-1 release. Heavy loading is generally performed at the 85 percent level of 6 repetitions, with more advanced lifters working at a higher level with lower reps. This type of approach will cause muscular growth through heightened recruitment of motor units as well as hormonal impact. The volume method is one that many are very familiar with, using high reps ranges of eight to 15 and rest intervals in the 45 second range.

As you consider the aspect of tension, physics tells us that force is defined as F=MxA (force is equal to mass times acceleration). The greater the muscular contraction, the greater generation of force. You should also note that to increase force, you can either increase the load or increase the speed of the lift, which is obviously done with a lighter load. It needs to be heavily stressed that the load isn't performed lightly, but with a ruthless ferocity with every repetition in every set in order to recruit the highest amount of motor units. Remember that the most important variable isn't the weight you lift, but the speed in which you lift it.

Putting all of that together with the understanding that fast eccentric/yielding actions promotes greater muscular growth/fast twitch hypertrophy than that of slower action, we are then able to produce a training approach that is remarkably effective, uses movements with the greatest amount of muscles recruited and is a highly economical use of training time. This consideration is most appropriate for compound total body lifts.

In this program, we're going to look at a series of basic total body movements as Focus Lifts, adding to them important Supplemental Exercises. It is crucial to understand that all lifts are to be executed with perfect technical form and proper postural alignment. One of the gravest errors with both short- and long-term repercussions is when a lifter performs a movement with poor posture. This results in a myriad of different problems, from not deriving the intended (muscular) benefit of the exercise to causing a series of exercise induced injuries.

It should be also be noted that this program requires only a modest lifting background and includes exercises that can be quickly learned. If you're ready, read on to discover the nuts and bolts of this very effective mass-gain program.

Focus Lifts  
Squat Deadlift (snatch grip)
Bench Press Bent Press (found within the RAT� system)

Each weight training session will contain two to three total "Focus lifts", of four sets of six repetitions for a total of eight to twelve total sets and twenty-four repetitions. Lifts are executed using a weight at 65% of 1 rep max.

Supplemental lifts  
Hack Squats Front Squats
Glute Ham Raise Olympic Good Morning
Bent over Rows See Saw Press
Pull Ups / Chin-ups Cuban Press
Internal External Rotation Rope Pulls

Supplemental lifts consist of four total lifts divided equally between "hybrid" and "pre-hab" movements.

Supplemental "Hybrid" movements will consist of two lifts of 3 sets each in the 80-95% range of maximal effort with rest periods between 45 to 60 seconds.

Supplemental "Pre-Hab" movements will consist of two lifts of 3 sets each in the 70-75% range of maximal effort of rest periods between 35-45 seconds.

Focus Lifts \ Squat

Performing the basic Squat is relatively simple if you follow this approach. As you walk into the rack, grasp the bar firmly with complete and absolute control and allow it nestle along your traps. Do not pad the bar, as it will change the angle of movement; do not use a weight belt unless under strict orders by a physician or medical practitioner. With a good inhale of the lungs, the chest up and back strong, walk out of the rack under control. Initiate the movement by pushing the buttocks back and ensure the angle of the hips and knees are the same as you descend to parallel or rock-bottom position, and then begin to reverse the motion in your ascent as you push your knees outwards and drive up your feet through the floor. Pay particular attention that the torso lean isn't too far forward as this will have a dramatically different (negative) impact upon your training. Generally because of weak hips, hamstrings and lower back, many well intentioned lifters lean over too much and the lift becomes more of a back lift.

Focus Lifts \ Bench Press

While the Bench Press is quite possibly the most common lift in gyms today next to the holy curl, it is one that also consistently is done incorrectly. Lie flat on your back on a weight bench, your feet flat and firmly planted on the floor tucked underneath you so you feel tight if not loaded and ready to drive off through the Bench Press. To begin the movement, firmly grasp the bar and intensely pinch your rear delts. Your grip width should vary from shoulder width to one in which the elbow-to-wrist joint is 90 degrees to the bar at the bottom of the lift. Disengage the bar from the rack either by yourself or preferably with a training partner as it is difficult to get proper position without this and pull the weight down with your lats under control to your chest at nipple level. Keep your elbows in tight and at no time allow the bar to bounce off your chest. As the bar touches your chest, drive it upward, pushing the bar off as you drive away from it (into the bench) in an explosive manner.

Focus Lifts \ Deadlift (Snatch grip)

To perform the Snatch grip Deadlift, align your feet flat beneath the bar and squat down to a neutral back position (i.e., 45 to 60 degrees), as in the clean lift, with shins against bar. Grip the bar with a classic Snatch grip (distance is equal to span of elbow to elbow joint with the arms raised to the sides and parallel to the ground). Pull the bar up and by fully extending your hips and knees. Throughout the lift, keep your hips low, your shoulders high, your arms and back straight by pinching your rear delts back and the bar close to your body.

Supplemental Lifts \ Hack Squats

Stand in front of a loaded barbell. Address the bar with your feet about shoulder width apart and a proud chest with the shoulders pinched back. Squat down to reach the bar behind you with a grip the same

width as when performing Cleans. With your back straight and shoulders pinched back, drive the bar up by pushing heels through the floor. Maintain an angle of ascent with the bar near the calves and as the bar nears your hamstrings, punch the hips forward. Return the weight to the floor by reversing the motion with a fast tempo up and a slower controlled tempo down. Do not bounce the weight. While noted as a supplemental lift, this exercise will be added to the Focus section of the training regime.

Supplemental Lifts \ Front Squat

With the bar sitting on your collarbone / shoulder region known as the rack position. The lifter may in fact allow their hands to open yet have total control of the bar. Elbows turn under the bar, basically with the upper arm parallel to the ground and the torso staying taunt and firm. The feet are spaced roughly shoulder-width apart and turned out slightly. Drop into the squat by pushing the butt back into a full rock-bottom squat then push, drive up and thru. While noted as a supplemental lift this exercise can be substituted with standard Squats to suit individual needs.

Supplemental Lifts \ Glute Ham Raise

With your knees pressed against the pad, raise your body from the knee joints by driving up with your hamstrings and exerting pressure against the toe plate of the machine.. To perform the lift on the floor, apply significant padding to the floor so your body is in biomechanical alignment similar to that of using the machine. In this situation your toes will be pressed against the floor and a spotter will need to apply significant pressure to your heels (heels not the achilles!) Lower your body toward the floor, keeping your hips forward and your feet firmly planted. Then explode upward just before you touch the ground.

Supplemental Lifts \ Bent Press

I brought out some old-school dumbbells for the Bent Press because this one really takes the iron-game back a few decades. However this is a powerful upper body developer and will thicken up the back incredibly. With the weight in one hand, position your feet slightly more than shoulder width apart with your opposite foot turned out. Hold the weight at shoulder height with your palm facing in and begin the lift by making a corkscrew movement underneath to the side and turning your hand clockwise and upward. When your hand is extended completely, straighten to a standing position.

Supplemental Lifts \ Bent Over Rows

A classic exercise that you rarely see performed today but is still one of the best back developers. As the photo demonstrates I prefer to grip the bar underhanded as it is less likely for an individual to deviate from the neutral back position or throw the weight with the overhand version. While in a neutral back position and with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, pull bar into body slightly below solar plexus.

Supplemental Lifts \ Pullups

Grasping the bar with hands facing away from you, pull up until chin is above bar. Lower with control. Once this loading is easy, place the appropriate Iron Woody band on hips and wrap the opposite band around heavy dumbbell on ground. This will increase tension on the all-important eccentric portion and take this exercise to another level. This is significantly more challenging than adding a weight (i.e. dip belt or holding dumbbell with legs). As a supplemental lift this exercise is performed at 80 - 85% intensity of 3 sets of 6 repetitions. As an individual advances we will create a cluster super-set with this lift with adding "Drag" curls.

Supplemental Lifts \ Chin-Ups

Grasping bar with hands facing away from you, pull up until chin is above bar. Lower with control. Once this loading is easy, place the appropriate Iron Woody band on hips and wrap the opposite band around heavy dumbbell on ground. This will increase tension on the all-important eccentric portion and take this exercise to another level. This is significantly more challe nging than adding a weight (i.e. dip belt or holding dumbbell with legs). As a supplemental lift this exercise is performed at 80 - 85% intensity of 3 sets of 6 repetitions. As an individual advances we will create a cluster super-set with this lift with adding drag curls.

Internal External Rotation: With bands looped under feet and upper arm parallel to ground, rotate hands down so that it is level with the elbow and back up with constant tension. Perform 3 sets x 12-15 reps, at roughly 70% intensity. This is shown using Iron Woody bands.


Cuban Press; as above, holding bands at sides, pinch shoulders back, then pull weight up such that upper arm is parallel to ground and constant tension. Perform 3 sets x 12-15 reps. This is shown using Iron Woody bands.

Cuban Press, step 1                       Cuban Press, step 2

Cuban Press, step 3

Rope pulls: With the bands held suspended to object above, allow for a downward pull while the hands are kept in the visual field above the head.  The hands are then pulled to the side with the emphasis placed on pulling from the inferior border of the scapula . This is shown using Iron Wood bands.

Core / Trunk postural exercises

The following static holds will be performed at the conclusion of session's 1 and 2 as per the training program. While seemingly simple they will have a dramatic long term impact upon your training and cannot be underestimated. Be diligent with this, as it will take slightly under 20 minutes.

Rx, position 1                                    Rx, position 2

Rx, position 3

The basic plank is a simple exercise that can have an extraordinary impact. It remains one of best movements to strengthen the entire core area and is easily coached within a team environment. With toes and forearms on the ground, keep back flat and bring navel in.

The side plank is one of the best exercises for strengthening and stabilizing the trunk. Plank movements are extraordinary for strengthening the transverse abdominus that wraps around the entire core. To perform with either forearm against the ground, or with arm outstretched straight, stack top leg atop the lower one and in essence create a 45 degree angle of the top. I remind myself to push the top high, while drawing the navel in.

The horse pose: From the all four's position, raise leg up and opposite arm up, maintaining at parallel position. Thumb should be pointed up and navel drawn in again.

The superman is a remarkably effective exercise for the entire posterior chain. To perform while lying on your stomach, raise hands/legs off the ground as high as possible. This can be performed with one hand/leg or the more demanding version with both hands/legs raised.

One arm Superman

Two arm Superman

Bar hang

Bar hangs will do wonders for overall back health and should be a regular part of every training session with 1-2 minute holds at the end of each session.

The Program
It should be obvious that this program is void of direct isolation work to areas (i.e. biceps / triceps / calves) that are unfortunately all-too-often the focus of most programs. Exercises to isolate these areas can easily be added once the individual successfully is maintaining the program but the focus must always be maintained on the basics. In the event they are added, they should be prior to the shoulder capsule work.

This program is broken into two basic training sessions that can be rotated workout to workout. As noted previously, individuals must apply themselves with all their might when executing the lifts — make every lift count as if everything in your life depends on it.

For our purposes, training sessions are labeled "session 1" and "session 2" and should be performed with 48 to 72 hours "active rest" between them. The actual time between sessions will depend upon the individual's recovery pattern and based upon a myriad of factors including diet, supplementation, and general rest as well as training history.

Finally, in addition to this, it is strongly urged that at the conclusion of the training session and prior to the core/trunk postural holds the individual engage in 15 to 30 minutes of rigorous weighted GPP. Please refer to "General Physical Preparation".

Session 1  
Squat 4 sets x 6 reps @ 65%
Hack Squat 4 sets x 6 reps @ 65%
Bent Press  4 sets x 3 reps @ 80-85%
Olympic Good Morning  3 sets x 5 reps @ 85%
Bent over Row    3 sets x 5 reps @ 85%
Pull Up    3 sets x 6 reps @ 85% (approx)
Cuban Press 3 sets x 12 reps @ 70-75%
Internal / External Rotation   3 sets x 12 reps @ 70-75%

Session 2  
Deadlift (snatch grip)   4 sets x 6 reps @ 65%
Front Squat 4 sets x 6 reps @ 65%
Bench Press 4 sets x 6 reps @ 65%
Glute Ham Raise 3 sets x 5 reps @ 85%
See '" Saw Press 3 sets x 5 reps @ 85%
Chin Ups 3 sets x 5 reps @ 85%
Internal / External Rotation 3 sets x 12 reps @ 70-75%
Rope Pulls 3 sets x 12 reps @ 70-75%

Post Training Core / Trunk postural exercises (perform at the conclusion of each session)
Rx, position 1 hold for 30 seconds, change legs
Rx, position 2 hold for 30 seconds, change legs
Rx, position 3 hold for 30 seconds, change legs
Perform the above movements without rest in a circuit fashion. Repeat 3 continuous times.

Plank 2 sets x 60 seconds
Side Plank 2 sets x 30 seconds (each side)
Horse 2 sets x 30 seconds (each side)
Superman (single arm / leg) 1 set x 30 seconds (each side)
Superman (double) 1 set x 30 seconds

Nutritional Notes

I won't waste your time on bellowing vibrato statements to "get big you have to eat big" and instead tell you to eat "right" and make it a simple plan that you can sustain. From my three part "Simplicity" diet series on ProSource ("Simplicity"), I will suggest these following basic rules:.

  • Eat healthy balanced meals with finely marbled meat, and fresh vegetable and fruit sources. Proportions of each, should be roughly the size of your palm and make use of natural marinades (i.e. olive oil).
  • Consume 10-15 vegetables a day as a minimum stress including cruciferous vegetables. They enhance protein efficiency and amongst other "little" things are known to radically reduce the incidence of many types of cancer and other health issues.
  • Emphasize the quality of the meat/fish and produce sources. While more expensive than cheaper alternatives, where possible make use of ethical and hormone/pesticide-free ranchers/farms as well as your local farmer.
  • Add fruit with every meal as well as a real snack food that'll sustain life such as nuts and olives.

A proper supplementation must emphasize the basics first. For a full reading of supplementation choices, please refer to "Simplicity, Part 3". A proper regimen needs to include the following five standard items to assist in recovery in addition to increased protein consumption (i.e. NytroWhey & Supreme Protein bar);

  • Phosphatidytalserine
  • Acetyl-l-carnitine
  • Alpha-lipoic-acid
  • "Omega-1250"
  • Branched-Chain Amino Acids

John Davies, founder of Renegade Training, has written numerous books including "Mastery on the Gridiron" about training for football and "More Than a Game," the Renegade approach to dominating in hockey.