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Training Back and Biceps with Hellcentrics

If you read the September, 2011 issue of Ironman Magazine last year, you will remember me talking about a new training system called HRT (Hell Raiser Training) that I used when I was dieting for my Ironman Magazine cover shoot. HRT involved 8 regular repetitions followed by 4 forced negatives (for a slow 4 second count) on each exercise. Although the resistance had to be reduced to get through all 12 repetitions, the result was a great pump in the muscles and an increase in the sarcoplasmic portion of the muscle cell, leading to greater muscle size.

I recently interviewed Tom Fuller, the creator of the HRT Training System, for an upcoming issue of Ironman Magazine. Tom has since updated the training system from last year. An advanced version of HRT Training, called Hellcentrics, improves on the old system by adding a partial rep before each forced negative rep. The added partial rep (which also receives the forced negative from your training partner) helps to increase the myofibular as well as sacroplasmic portion of the muscle cell. In other words, it not only brings more fluid into the muscle, it actually increases the thickness of the muscle fibers themselves.

To give you an example of how I am utilizing the Hellcentrics training into my workouts, I will illustrate a back and biceps workout conducted at the beautiful Powerhouse Gym in downtown Tampa last week. I am currently in my fourth week of Hellcentrics training after 6 weeks of Power Training that started off the New Year. I want to make some very substantial gains in muscle mass during this off season before I being dieting again for my next contest in the fall.

To start off the workout, my training partner Maks and I did 2 sets of Close-Grip Pulldowns with a light to moderate weight. This was done just to warm up the muscles and joints before the real workout started. I used 120 pounds for 15 reps and then 160 pounds for 12 reps on this exercise.

Our first back exercise using Hellcentrics was Wide-Grip Chins. I did 8 regular repetitions to start off and then the fun began. Holding the top position, I had Maks pull down on my bent legs until I was about 1/4-1/2 way down and then he helped me a little to get back to the top. This was the partial rep portion of the Hellcentrics. When I was at the top, Maks pulled down on my legs to provide a forced negative rep for 4 seconds during the eccentric portion of the exercise. When I was at the bottom, Maks helped me get back to the top again so I could do another partial rep followed by another forced negative. I did a total of 4 partial/forced negative reps after my regular 8 repetitions.

When doing Hellcentrics or HRT, you only need to do 2 working sets for each exercise. I usually do 2-3 exercises for each muscle group, depending on the size of the muscle. Smaller muscles like biceps and calves only get two exercises but bigger muscle groups like back can get 3 or 4, just so I cover the whole area of the muscle.

After the Wide Grip Chins, I went to an exercise for the thickness of the lats. Using free weight exercises with a barbell or dumbbells is hard to use with the Hellcentrics training. It’s easier to use this training technique with machines or cables. Instead of doing One-Arm DB Rows, I did rows on the Seated Hammer Strength machine. I did these one arm at a time and my partner was able to able the negative pressure during the partial/forced negative repetitions.

I started off the One-Arm Hammer Strength Rows with 3 forty five pound plates on each side. This was a good weight because I was able to do 8 full reps followed by a partial rep and then a forced negative. I noticed that I am getting stronger each week with the negative repetitions. It’s important with this training program to really resist each rep to increase that sarcoplasmic portion of the muscle cell. I did two sets on the One-Arm Hammer Strength Rows.

Next up, I did two more sets on T-Bar Rows. This is a free weight exercise that uses the lower back to help stabilize the weight so it’s not an easy exercise to do using negative reps. I did my first set with four 45 pound plates at the end of the bar. I was able to do the Hellcentrics with this by doing a strong partial rep followed by a forced negative. Four plates is not that heavy for T-Bar Rows but I had to use a moderate weight because of the partial and forced negatives.

Before I trained my lower back, I added a couple of sets to work the upper back muscles. I have very wide lats but I need to add more thickness to the inner back. I did an exercise using a rope attachment and set the pulley at about eye level. I pulled the rope toward my upper chest, keeping the elbows out wide to train the inner back muscles. I only used about 35 pounds but I did do the forced negatives on this exercise also for two sets.

Maks and I finished training back by doing Hyper-Extensions on the angled bench. I didn’t do forced negatives on this exercise but I did do 1 1/2 reps to focus more on the lower back muscles and less on the hamstrings and glutes. I did half a rep from the fully contracted position to half way down, then I went back up to fully contracted followed by a full rep. I did 15 1 1/2 reps for two sets for the lower back.

Biceps were up next. We started with Seated Dumbbell Curls. I only used the 40 pound dumbbells for 8 full reps and 4 forced negatives. I did the Hellcentrics on this exercise by doing a forced partial rep from the top position to almost half way down before coming back up. My biceps got super pumped from two sets of this exercise.

We finished biceps with Barbell Preacher Curls. Using an 80 pound barbell, I did 8 reps, a partial forced rep (from top to a quarter way down) and then a full forced negative. Two sets of Barbell Preachers and we were finished.

I hit a few poses after we were finished training. I’m at about 207 pounds (at night) right now and my bodyfat is still 11 %. I probably need to get just a little leaner than where I am right now for the ideal off season bodyweight but I’m still pretty lean. My arms are up an inch from my contest last year and my legs are up about 2 inches so I’m making good progress. I’m training VERY hard each and every workout because I want to make significant progress for this year. I don’t have any time to waste because it will be time to start dieting before you know it. I’ll keep updating my progress right here on Ironman!

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