By Iron Vic Steele
I was reading about how a “plateau-buster” widely used by guys in the 1990s: after a few warm-up sets, they would perform 10 sets of 10 reps with a static weight. Gruesome! That sounds so horrible that I am tempted to try it. I am a bit of sadist in that I have always wanted to try John Parrillo’s 100-rep forced-rep belt squat. Was the 10 x 10 thing real? Have you ever heard of anyone using this strategy?
I suspect you are referring to the German Volume training craze of the 90s. There is a long history of this sort of stuff. Back in the 1950s Reg Park and Marvin Eder would train together and one of their favored strategies was to super-set all kinds of push/pull exercises. They would pair bench presses with barbell rows. Get this, after warming up these two monsters would do 8 sets of 8 in the bench press and the row with identical poundage: 365! Wow. Reg weighed 245 and Marvin only 200. Marvin could clean and press 350 and was the first man weighing less than 200 to bench 500. These two would do a set of 8 in the bench followed immediately with a set of 8 in the row, the barbell set on the floor next to the bench press. Back and forth they would go. Jeff Everson over at Planet Muscle recalled training at the Duncan YMCA in Chicago in 1970 and watching Sergio Oliva perform 15 sets of 15 reps super-setting benches (using a static weight of 245!) with 15 sets of wide-grip bodyweight chins. John Parrillo would have no hesitation proscribing 10×10 if that was the appropriate prescription. The modern protocol would be to pick a big lift and once a week for 4-6 straight weeks, after adequate warm-up, perform 10 sets of 10 reps. Use light weight to get started: you have got to make it across the finish line. Do we have to tell you that you have to take in a ton of clean calories? Before every 10×10 session take 3-6 Muscle Amino Formula™ capsules. After the workout wash down another handful of Muscle Amino™ capsule with a serving or two of 50-50 Plus™, the Parrillo post-workout replenishment drink. Muscle Amino Formula™ is pure branched-chain amino acid. The idea is to top off the tanks before the workout and replenish immediately after: this procedure actually amplifies the benefits of the workout. The Parrillo 100-rep belt squat was originally designed to help a national caliber power lifter break the national record in the squat – which he did.
What do you think of the new bodybuilding divisions where guys that are lightly muscled parade around in board shorts? To me Fabio would have cleaned up had they had this back in his day.
Jimmy G. Gaithersburg
I am a Fabio fan. He does not take himself seriously and has a great sense of humor. Well I am not going to lie and say I look forward to it or follow the lightly muscled guys in board shorts – but I understand it and understand the need for it. There are a lot of well-built guys that want a chance to compete – but not against hardcore bodybuilders. Being a hardcore bodybuilder requires a fulltime commitment to the bodybuilding lifestyle that precludes a normal life. But what about those super-well-built guys that want to compete but in a smaller pond with athletes that live normal lives, complete with jobs, kids and responsibilities. So, I understand it and applaud it – but I am not lining up to buy a ticket unless Fabio makes a comeback and enters one.
What is your opinion on what I would call, purposeful partial reps. I train at a gym at the same time some successful local bodybuilders train. These men are ‘all in’ as far as bodybuilding goes; they are serious and successful, not nitwit clowns. They use a lot of unusual training strategies and one that caught my eye was the use of partial reps. For example, on leg presses or hack squats, they will start a set of leg presses and rather than lock the weight out, they push to about six inches shy of lockout before lowering – but not all the way down – now sort of bounce up a down in the middle, they rep and rep and rep…they have their buddies spot and go until they are screaming from lactic acid build-up. They get an incredible pump from this. They pose the trained muscle between sets. Should an intermediate guy use this strategy? On a lot of exercises? On a select few? What is your opinion? Is this something you would recommend?
No doubt they do get an incredible pump using partials; back in the olden days this was called ‘the burns’ and usually reserved for the last set of a particular exercise, a “finisher,” but never anything more. As a bodybuilding strategy, this one has been around for a long time. What some modern bodybuilders have done is elevated a ‘finishing’ exercise into the main event. I think that this strategy is legitimate and appropriate – for advanced men. For someone that already has their size and shape why not inflate everything maximally with a barrage of high-rep partial-rep sets. If the muscle is stuffed with glycogen, this type of training has an inflationary effect on the muscles that is akin to swallowing an air hose. No doubt that the smart guys are super-compensating, stuffing themselves with carbs before the enduro pump sessions. The beginner and intermediate bodybuilder need build a full and complete set of muscles using full and complete exercise movements. Once a man has done the basic work and built a relatively symmetrical physique, pump away with partials. Try out partials the old school way: as a finisher; after you finish an exercise using full range of motion, feel free to add a final partial rep set. I would take it a step further and follow the finisher with an equally intense fascia stretch. Use partials judiciously and sparingly and don’t use them too much too often. If you are a beginner or intermediate bodybuilder, I would steer clear of purposeful partials.
I tore my leg up in a warehouse accident and am on crutches for the next 2-3 months. I want to keep training – what would you suggest? I am a hardcore guy who trains a lot and have no intention of not training. My leg is in a cast and I am good to go – how would you set it up? I was training four times a week for about an hour per session. Normally, after a lifting session I would perform a 30 to 40-minute cardio session.
Benny, Silver Spring
We used to have a saying: upper body injury? Time for that leg specialization program. Injured lower body? Time for that upper body specialization program. Why not stay with four times a week – but doing nothing but exercises that can be done seated or lying down; here is one potential four day per week upper body specialization training split.
- barbell bench press, incline press on machine, dumbbell flyes, pec-dec
- lying nose-breakers, seated overhead tricep press, machine tricep pushdowns
- seated steep incline dumbbell curl, spider curl, machine curl
- seated dumbbell press, machine overhead press, seated lateral raise
- seated wide-grip pull downs, seated narrow-grip underhand pull downs, cable row
- lying dumbbell presses, pec dec
- seated single-arm tricep pushdowns, narrow-grip bench press
- seated press behind neck, seated laterals
- Narrow-grip lat-pull down, dumbbell pullover on flat bench, machine row 3-5 sets, 6-12 rep sets
Also: see if your gym has an Aerodyne bike; you can sit on the bike, keep your feet on the floor (not the pedals) and use your arms to get a cardio workout. The great thing about the Schwinn Aerodyne bike is that you can push forward or pull backwards. Try starting off with ten minutes of “arm only” cardio, pushing and pulling. Add one minute per session and in two weeks you be doing 25-minute arm only cardio sessions. Write back and alert me how this worked out.
I was told by a personal trainer that I needed to do bent-over lateral raises because my rear deltoids needed building and strengthening. The same trainer said lunges “done right” were as good as squats and a lot less dangerous. When the same trainer recommended tricep kickbacks as the best triceps exercise – I remembered a column you wrote where you were very down on these exact exercises. I am debating as to whether to continue with this trainer. Despite two months of diligent work, I don’t have any results to show for my (so far) efforts. A penny for your thoughts?
Flee! This is like going to dinner at an expensive restaurant and being fed nothing but fluffy desserts – you need some meat and potatoes. The exercises mentioned are silly little isolation movements that take away time from serious exercises. Any personal trainer that pushes lunges over squats is either biased or delusional. These small isolation exercises are absolutely fine to perform, assuming you have the time and energy to do them after the core, compound multi-joint exercises. If you want to lunge after squatting, after doing leg presses and/or hack squats – feel free! Bent over lateral raises are absolutely fine to do after all the overhead pressing is complete and any side laterals. Ditto triceps: after dips, after close-grip bench presses, after any overhead tricep presses with dumbbells, lying presses or French, feel free to use the tricep kick back as a “finisher.” You need a new personal trainer.
I am getting marked down at local physique competitions because I have no hamstring muscles; my leg biceps are underdeveloped – which is weird because I have faithfully been doing lying and seated leg curls for my entire 5-year bodybuilding career. To be honest, I don’t exactly get psyched up prior to a set of leg curls like I would before a set of bench presses or rows. Maybe that is why my hams are under-developed. Any ham-ideas would be appreciated. I plan on continuing to compete and am tired of hearing “your hamstrings need to be bought up.”
I feel you on having a hard time getting psyched up for the most boring of all exercises: the face-down lying leg curl. First off, most bodybuilders do leg curls wrong: don’t let the hips rise up when the pulling gets tough, instead drive the hips down and into the bench. This makes the leg curling much harder and isolates the hams to a much greater degree. Another thing to consider is learning how to do a proper stiff-leg dead lift. There are two distinctive types of stiff-leg dead lift, one type primarily stresses the spinal erectors; the second type of stiff-leg stresses the hamstrings. The hamstring dead lift uses lighter weight and a very precise technique: the hamstrings are engaged during the lowering. The bar is allowed to break away from the body as it is being lowered in a controlled fashion. The bodybuilder feels the hamstrings contracting as they resist the lowering. The plates barely touch the floor before the concentric pull begins. Don’t jerk or jolt the concentric: use continuous tension. Set the hips high during the hamstring dead lift. Another possibility is that body fat is obscuring your hams. A lot of guys have excellent hamstring development that is hidden under a layer of body fat.