By Andre Newcomb
It was chest and biceps day, and this was the end of the training session. The two sweat-drenched bodybuilders were down to the final exercises of a session that had already lasted 48-minutes. And they weren’t done yet by a long shot. As was their habit, when they were ¾ of the way thru the session, the men would take a 3-minute break to activate and drink their 50/50 Plus™ replenishment shake. These were experienced trainers that had long ago discovered that by taking a minute and drinking their shake before the end of the session, the energy nosedive that was natural at the end of a tough workout was avoided. Typically, the last exercise(s) of any training session suffer from sheer exhaustion. The larger of the two men filled his Tupperware container (prefilled with 50/50 Plus™ powder) with cold water from the drinking fountain. He shook the plastic jug to activate the powder. He unscrewed the top and sat down on a bench. He popped four Muscle Amino™ capsules into his mouth and washed them down with the cold 50/50 Plus™ shake. He never got over how delicious a cold 50/50 Plus™ shake tasted during a brutal workout.
He downed the 50/50 Plus™ shake and felt a surge of energy: he had ingested 21 grams of high-BV protein, a fistful of muscle-healing branched-chain amino acids and 17 grams of glycogen-restoring slow-release carbohydrate. “Ready?” John addressed Mick, his short, muscular training partner. Mick finished his 50/50 shake and wiped the sweat off his forehead with his sweatshirt sleeve. “Let’s get after it.” They were finishing today’s chest session with a bicep strategy they had learned from The Master Blaster, John Parrillo. John had shown them this protocol when they had journeyed to Parrillo Performance headquarters a few years back to become Parrillo Certified Personal Trainers. It was a “same body-part” Giant Set concept. Mick and John were successful competitive bodybuilders from the San Diego area. They found that the Giant Set approach worked particularly well on arms and most particularly as a “finisher,” i.e. as the last exercise done when working a body part. The two men went one at a time. Each man would go all the way through a five-set sequence while the other spotted, exhorted, and most importantly, applied perfect forced reps: there would be a lot of forced reps today.
The idea was to select poundage you were capable of handling for 15 strict reps before hitting positive failure. The training partner would then step in and administer five successively more difficult forced reps. This protocol, which the duo called “15 + 5” was used on each of the five consecutive exercises. Upon completing the 5-set sequence, each man had done 100-cumulative reps for one muscle. In this case, biceps. Mick was a powerhouse with a 405-pound raw bench press at 185-pounds. He started things off with standing barbell curls. Mick made 15 strict and then semi-strict reps before Big John stepped in to administer five final forced reps. Mick set the barbell down and immediately walked to the dumbbell rack, he picked up a pair of 40s and sat down on an exercise bench. He made 15 reps on his own in the seated dumbbell curl before John bent down to help with the final five forced reps. Mick dropped the bells on the floor, stood and walked to preacher bench. He began curling a pre-set E-Z curl bar. His biceps looked ready to explode as John helped him finished the 20th rep. Mick let loose with a profanity. He shook his pumped arms as walked to the nearby seated machine curl device. Mick broke down on rep 11. John stepped in to assist with forced reps. Mick slumped on the curl seat, visibly exhausted, his arms were swollen, red and shaking. “ONE MORE EXERCISE!” Bellowed Big John. This jolted Mick out of his haze. He walked to the cable crossover device and began the final bicep exercise: standing cable curls using a short-handle curl device. He performed 15 + 5 reps in the continuous tension style. He dropped the handle and immediately dropped to one knee; his chest was heaving. John thought Mick was going to throw up or pass out.
With much effort Mick got off his knee and staggered to a bench. He sat down and bent forward, hands on knees. “You alright?” Big John asked, genuinely concerned. Mick did not look up. He flashed a thumbs up sign. Five bicep exercises, 20 reps per set, no rest between each of the five exercise. 100-total reps. Mick got himself together and spotted Big John; happily putting him through the agony he’d experienced. The workout exemplified the type of effort that must precede muscle growth. Mick and John finished with massive arm pumps. John was so zapped that when he got to the 5th exercise, pushdowns, he only got seven reps. John said, “My arms are so pumped up I don’t know if I can drive my car: turning the steering wheel is going to be difficult.” Mick shook his head, “That was incredible! If there is a better way to get a massive arm pump, I haven’t run across it.” Parrillo Giant set strategy is just one Parrillo method designed to take a targeted muscle past capacity, way past capacity. John Parrillo is a master at creating tactics and strategies that take a muscle so far past “positive failure” that there is zero question that hypertrophy has been triggered. There is never any question the a Parrillo-style weight workout will trigger muscle growth. Any bodybuilder that trains hard enough to trigger hypertrophy must “underpin” the high-intensity resistance training with high-calorie/clean calorie Parrillo-style nutrition. Poor nutrition can undo our training efforts. High intensity training must be underpinned with high protein, high calorie, clean calorie eating. The third and final piece of the growth equation is rest: the body rebuilds itself during periods of deep, rapid-eye-movement sleep. Train the muscle, feed the muscle and rest the muscle to grow the muscle.
Regular people, non-bodybuilders, the type of earnest civilian that populates the well-equipped local YMCA or Health Club, love to sit or lie on the progressive resistance machines and perform a few submaximal sets, going through the motions, never coming close to pushing or pulling nearly hard enough to cause the body to grow muscle. If you have never experienced going to failure and beyond, then it is impossible to understand how truly hard humans must work in order to force the body to grow muscle. Regular folks will show up and dutifully put in their time, pushing or pulling on the machines, riding the cardio machines (never sweating to any degree) and “dieting” using the latest fad diet. The diet is invariably some low-calorie diet stressing all the wrong foods. These fitness efforts fail miserably. There are three parts to any effective bodybuilding approach, resistance training, nutrition and cardio. Bodybuilding resistance training is executed with ferocity. Hardcore bodybuilding lifting is all about going up to and then past the limits on a regular and continuing basis. The Parrillo approach makes constant use of “intensity enhancers,” methods that allow the bodybuilder to venture past positive failure, where the gains lie. If a bodybuilder goes to positive failure, and then figures out a way to keep the set going, a far deeper muscular inroad is dug, triggering maximum hypertrophy.
Forced reps: The Mac Daddy of intensity enhancers, assuming they are done right: not too many and not too often. Sloppy forced reps risk injury. Forced reps depend on the skill of the training partner. Few bodybuilders understand how to apply a proper forced rep. Once the bodybuilder has hit positive failure, the training partner steps in and provides enough help to ensure the forced rep never stops. However, much help is needed to keep the bar or bells or machine or cable handles moving – without ever stopping.
Drop sets: a drop set is the classic way in which to keep a set going after positive failure has been achieved in any exercise. Once the bodybuilder cannot perform another rep with say, 100-pounds, immediately drop 20% and “rep out” 80-pounds, getting another 3-5 reps. Now cut the poundage another 20% and rep out once again with 60-pounds. Drop sets are usually limited to 3-4. The key to effective drop sets is to not waste time between sets. Make it quick, the trick is to make the targeted muscle think it is one continuous effort.
Intensity sets: the is a Parrillo innovation that is often used as a warm-up but most often used as a ‘finisher.’ The strategy uses a “grind” rep speed that creates continuous muscle tension. The Parrillo bodybuilder is instructed to keep a perfectly even pace on both the eccentric and concentric phase of a lift. Be it a bench press or leg press, by raising and lowering, pushing or pulling, at the same slowed speed creates incredible muscle tension. The bodybuilder’s pain threshold is improved and expanded by using intensity sets on a regular basis.
Tri-sets or Giant Sets: as described at the beginning of the article, the Parrillo approach will string together 3-5 exercises for the same body part and then hit these exercises is quick succession. Reps can vary although John usually recommends sets of 12-20 reps per set. In our recounting of John and Mick’s workout, a single Giant Set was used as a body part finisher. John will often perform 3-5 Giants in a row, making the Giant sets the entire workout. Repeating the same Giant set multiple times creates an unbelievable muscle pump, particularly if the bodybuilder’s glycogen stores are full coming into the Giant set workout. Refuel ¾ of the way through the workout with 50-50 Plus™.
It is one thing to know what you are supposed to do. Solid training and nutritional information are hard to come by; however, as a reader of the Parrillo Performance Press you have access to how real bodybuilders obtain real gains. Knowing what to do is only half the battle. Knowledge need be augmented with ferocity. In the Parrillo approach, the ability to train hard is critical. Equally important is the bodybuilder’s ability to withstand the intense discomfort that accompanies forced reps, drop sets, etc. This ability improves over time and with practice. Most regular people don’t understand how hard and how uncomfortable serious training needs to be. Regular people that try forced reps and exert with the intensity and ferocity required can’t take it. They want no parts of training as hard as is required to trigger muscle growth. Supplementation is critical; potent Parrillo supplements augment potent food meals; the classical “Parrillo meal” consists of a portion of lean protein, a portion of fiber carbs and a portion of natural starch carb. A Parrillo trainee will start their day with a Parrillo Optimized Whey™ shake. They will wash down their morning “Parrillo Pills” before the cardio session. The last thing at night before bed the Parrillo bodybuilder will wash down more Parrillo Pills (Parrillo Liver Amino™, Enhanced GH™) only this time with Parrillo Hi-Protein powder™, a slow release protein. During the day, Parrillo Protein bars™, Parrillo Energy bars™, High Protein High Fiber Soft Chew bars™, Parrillo Protein Chew bars™ and used in conjunction with liberal amounts of CapTri® C8 MCT, the Parrillo MCT supplement that provides a source of clean calories, much needed for recovery. It all is built on hard training: without hard training there is no need for expert nutrition or precision supplementation. Truthfully answer this critical question: are you training hard enough?