Training heavy can make you feel awesome. Pushing the big iron is a serious ego boost. But—Pssst—here’s a secret you may not know: If you train heavy all the time on all your exercises, you are not growing as fast as you could. In fact, you may be limiting your growth to more than half of what it could be. Yes, half!
Top bodybuilders of the past and present have discovered that secret. Take Mark Dugdale, for example. Did you know he does weeks of something akin to 10×10? That’s the method also known as German Volume Training–and you cannot use bone-crushing poundages. Far from it, in fact. That’s because you use short rests between sets.
Yep, it’s the old moderate-weight, high-fatigue concept again, and it builds mega mass quickly, especially if you’ve been training heavy on most of your exercises for long periods. Dugdale prefers 8×10, as opposed to 10×10, but it’s the same concept.
He uses a weight with which he could get 15-20 reps. Then he does 10s and rests 50 to 60 seconds between sets. He uses that 8×10 method on the first big exercise for most bodyparts—like squats for quads, bench presses for chest, etc. Then he goes heavy on two sets of an isolation move, like 2×8 on pec-deck flyes with two minutes between sets.
Interesting switch: higher-rep, moderate-weight, high-fatigue work on the big compound move followed by a couple of heavier standard sets on an iso exercise. Did I mention that the 8×10 blows up the muscle big time and triggers major burn for anabolic hormone release? The skin-stretching pump is an indication that you are expanding the sarcoplasm, the energy fluid in the muscle fibers. That’s where the mitochondria (fat-burning “engines”), glycogen (from carbs), ATP (energy substrate from creatine) and noncontractile proteins are.
Most bodybuilders never get enough sarcoplasmic stimulation because they’re too busy training heavy—and that mostly affects myofibrillar growth (the strands in the fibers). I learned that from experience. After training hard and heavy over one winter, I got strong—and fat. I thought I was bigger from a muscular standpoint, but I wasn’t. My body had stuffed fat everywhere from fat cells to muscles to internal organs. Not good, not healthy.
I cut back on my food intake for a while and started getting leaner training heavy. Then I decided to try 10×10 on only one exercise per bodypart, still working out four days a week. The workouts were quick, but painful. I would do a set, then my partner would do his; I’d take a few deep breaths then go again—and so on for 10 sets. (Okay, I admit that the rests were a little longer on some exercises, like squats.)
The weights were very moderate—and by set eight we were no longer getting 10 reps on most sets—but the pump was incredible. Results: Both of us gained five pounds of new muscle in only five weeks—and got leaner too (ah-ha, there are those abs!). The sarcoplasm exploded with growth because we’d been neglecting that size “layer” for many, many moons.
The lesson is to incorporate phases of training that emphasize sarcoplasmic expansion—like 10×10. Or at least mix in some sarcoplasmic-size sequences with the 4X mass method (that’s like 10×10 only with 4 sets so the weight is a bit heavier but not extreme). Do heavy sets on the big exercises, if you must, and then 4X on the ending isolation moves. Or do different workouts—the tried-and-true heavy/light system, which is a good option with 10×10 (one big exercise with 10X on light day—brutal but quick; about 10 minutes to blow up the target muscle BIG).
The bottom line: Engorge to grow.
Stay tuned, train smart and be Built For Life.