The Off Season has officially started! After taking it easy for the month of December by first taking a couple of weeks off followed by another couple of weeks of light, pumping workouts, I am now on the quest to making progress for the New Year. My assignment, if I choose to accept it (loved “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” btw), is to increase my muscle mass while staying lean at the young age of 48 years old and maintaining my completely Natural status (no steroids, growth hormones, insulin or pro hormones).
My game plan is to alternate cycles of Power Training (to increase my strength on the basic exercises) with High-Intensity Training. I am anxious to again implement the HRT Training Program that I used last spring. HRT stands for Hell Raiser Training and it was designed by Tom Fuller. Tom originally came up with the idea of HRT as a means of increasing the pump in the muscles during the workout. It involves 8 traditional repetitions followed by 4 forced negatives with the help of your training partner. I used the HRT Training Program for a few months last spring when I was dieting for my Ironman Magazine photo shoot and I loved it. I’m psyched about giving it another go in the off season when I am eating more calories and carbs. I figure the additional carbs and nutrients will add up to an even greater muscle pump!
Before I jump into the HRT Training, however, I wanted to spend some quality training time increasing my strength. After dieting for a full 11 months in 2011, my strength was really neglected and I felt pretty weak in some exercises. Now that I’m recovered from all that intense training and caloric restriction from last year and I’ve added some weight, I want to build up my strength again by employing a Power Cycle.
My Power Cycle Training involves using the same weight for three sets on the basic exercises. The basic strategy looks like this:
Week 1 – 3 sets of 5 reps
Week 2 – 3 sets of 4 reps
Week 3 – 3 sets of 3 reps
Week 4 – 3 sets of 5 reps (using the weight used in Week 2)
Week 5 – 3 sets of 4 reps (using the weight used in Week 3)
Week 6 – 3 set of 3 reps (using the heaviest weight of the cycle)
I am choosing two basic exercises for each major muscle group and maybe adding a third shaping exercise done for more reps, depending on the size of the muscle. For example, when I train chest, I am doing Barbell Bench Presses first using the above cycle. Than, for my second movement, I am doing Incline DB Press with repetitions ranging from 6, 5, 4, 6, 5, 4 and finishing with 3 sets of Flyes for 8 reps.
Today, I trained back and biceps at the awesome Powerhouse Gym in downtown Tampa, Florida. If you are ever in the Tampa area, you owe it to yourself to check out this gym and get a workout in. It’s definitely one of the BEST Gyms I’ve ever trained at in my long career. This is the second week of the Power Cycle so I was doing 3 sets of 4 reps with the first basic movement (Barbell Rows) and 3 sets of 5 reps on the second exercise (Seated Cable Rows). I finished back with Hyper-Extensions for the lower back before moving onto biceps. For biceps, I only did two sets of 5 reps on Incline Curls followed by two sets of 4 reps on Barbell Curls.
I was sipping a Speed Stack from American Bodybuilding to get some energy going before we started training. I started the workout off with two sets of 10-15 reps on Close-Grip Pulldowns to warm up the lats. The Close-Grip Pulldown is a great exercise for targeting the lower lats but doing it with a light weight also helps to pump blood into the rear delts, biceps as well as the back. It’s very important to warm-up before training heavy with any bodypart.
After the Close-Grip Pulldowns, my training partner Max and I did some Wide-Grip Chins for the upper lats. It’s the best exercise for developing the coveted V-shape of the back. Using only our bodyweight, we did 2 sets of 9 reps each set to pump up the lats even more.
Our first basic exercise for the Power Sets was Barbell Rows. I feel that this exercise is the number one mass builder for adding thickness and size to the back. I prefer doing them old school style with the back parallel to the floor and grabbing the bar with a wide grip. This helps develop thickness in the outer lats as well as more width right through the center of the lats.
After warming up with 135 and 185 pounds over two sets, Max and I loaded up the bar to 235 pounds and did 3 sets of 4 reps. I’m positive I could have done more reps with this weight but the whole objective of the Power Cycle is to slowly build up your strength by using gradually increasing resistance over a six week period.
After the Barbell Rows, I was feeling pretty big and pumped. For our second basic movement, Max and I went with Seated Cable Rows. We did T-Bar Rows last week for our second exercise but I thought Seated Cable Rows (using a close-grip) would be a good substitute. I did one warm-up set using 220 pounds and then did three sets of 5 reps using the full stack (260 pounds). This weight felt pretty easy so I increased it by 10 pounds on the last set, making it 270 pounds.
To finish off back, we did 3 sets of Hyper-Extensions on the flat Hyperextension machine. I did 20 reps on the first set using just my bodyweight and followed that up with two more sets holding a 45 pound plate to my chest. I was able to do 15 reps using the extra weight followed by a drop set with only my bodyweight for 8 more additional repetitions.
For biceps, I kept the sets much lower because this a very small muscle group. I began with Incline Curls on a very high incline. I warmed up with the 40 pound dumbbells for 10 easy reps. Then, I did two sets of 5 reps using the 50 pound dumbbells. This was a challenging but very achievable weight for this exercise.
My next basic exercise was, of course, the Standing Barbell Curl. Last week on week one of the Power Cycle, I used 105 pounds for 3 sets of 5 reps. Today, I went up only 10 pounds to use 115 pounds for two sets of 4 reps. Again, I could have gone much heavier but the point of the cycle is to slowly increase my strength by doing multiple sets of gradually increasing resistance.
I finished my workout off with two sets of Hammer Curls. I like doing the Hammer Curls alternating arms and curling the dumbbell across my torso, aiming for the opposite shoulder. I feel it more in the brachialis muscle doing the exercise in this fashion. I used the 55 pound dumbbells for two sets of 5 reps.
Things are looking good this early in the training year. My weight is at about 200 pounds first thing in the morning before breakfast (actually 198 pounds) and my bodyfat is less than 10%. I want to stay lean and keep eating quality food with my macros at about 250 grams of protein, 300-350 grams of carbs and 60 grams of fats. Stay tuned for more updates!