Even though I’ve been in bodybuilding since 1980, my thirst for knowledge never ceases. I’m a Certified Personal Trainer and a Certified Sports Nutritionist, I’m known as something of a “training expert” yet my desire to learn more never stops. In fact, the opportunity of learning even the smallest piece of info is like being a kid in a candy store. However, there really isn’t anything new out there, most training theories, for example, are simply repackaged variations of earlier ideas. This, to me, makes it no less exciting because I want to see how it was repackaged and understand the thinking behind it.
When I’m online and I see various training ideas, I’m naturally most intrigued by any training concept that has a lot of science behind it. Trust me, I’m not a “lift big, eat big, grow big – it’s simple” kind of guy. The truth is, it’s anything but simple and even that simple piece of advice leaves a million questions unanswered.
So, with that kind of thinking in mind, it’s time to look ahead to some mass gaining cycles. Summer is almost over, Fall is looming up ahead and the days of showing off your “beach body” are nearing their end. Unless you plan to compete during the next several months, the time of year to begin adding some muscle size is fast approaching. Not that we want to gain fat or anything but now’s the time to look at a good routine for adding that new muscle mass.
For our approach we are not going to do anything radically “new” but we are going to take two concepts and combine them into a training approach that will help you build some impressive new mass over the next several months.
As many of you know, there are two primary theories of muscle growth out there. One I have written on in the past has to do with Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy – this can be defined as an increase in the muscle cell’s sarcoplasmic fluid without an accompanying increase in strength. Typical terms you will see that refer to this are “cell expansion” and “cell volumization", this is the premise for quite a bit of supplements currently available and the entire pre-workout category of supplements, as well, the sarcoplasmic muscle growth theory actually means causing the sarcoplasm to swell beyond normal.
The muscle is then signaled to grow because of all the nutrients available to help cause this effect. This is training for the “pump”. The other primary theory of muscle growth is called Myofibrillar Hypertrophy - this can be defined as a cellular increase in the contractile proteins actin and myosin, resulting in size and strength increases. It can be said that sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar hypertrophy does not really occur independently.
Looking at the pump, the idea of increased blood flow to the muscles purposely caused by a training approach is not new, and in fact used to be called “flushing”. If you want to get technical and go back to 1980, you would find yourself with the “Weider Principles” and, yes, we have one called the “Weider Flushing Principle” which is just training for the pump.
It should be mentioned how different of an era it was back then – Weider magazines and information dominated, there was no internet, there were no personal trainers to any great degree. You had the Weider principles which, as it turns out, were just names he coined to define what he saw being used in the gyms as he was coming up in the business in the 50’s and 60’s, but back then, the idea presented was that he invented all of them. Of course, you had other “factions” at odds with Weider, Muscle mag and Robert Kennedy for one, Vince Gironda and his theories were also popular then, Mentzer and Heavy Duty also was big at that time as were Arthur Jones and the Nautilus clubs.
So, enough history and back to the idea of blood volume - in the plasma component of the blood is a supply of cell-volumizing compounds such as amino acids, creatine, glucose, minerals, electrolytes and anabolic hormones. These nutrients can be forced into the muscles by the use of higher rep sets and extended rep/set techniques. This also has a strong insulin manipulation aspect as well that we will touch on later.
For many of us, however, a better approach to building new muscle than pump training would be the use of heavy weights and weight progression over time with reps much lower than “pump” style sets. So what we’re going to do is use a basic approach of heavy weights and add some “blood volume” or pump concepts to the program to capture the best of two seemingly opposite worlds.
This routine will be designed a little differently than the usual. We are going to work one key, compound exercise for our primary mass movement and follow that with some higher rep pump work, to take advantage of the “blood volume” idea.
The Power Pump Muscle Building Routine
|Power Clean - Warm Up Sets||2||10|
|Power Clean||1||20 Rest Pause|
|Bench Press - Warm Up Sets||2||10|
|EZ Bar Extension, Pullover & Press||3||8|
|Deadlift - Warm Up Sets||2||10|
|Deadlift||1||20 Rest Pause|
|Bent Over Row||3||8|
|Lat Pull Down||3||12|
|Squat - Warm Up Sets||2||10|
|Squat||1||20 Rest Pause|
I always come back to this split – it’s logical, functional and fits in great with most schedules. Those who know me know I design routines with active lifestyles in mind, I just don’t know many people with unlimited time on their hands.
Power Clean and Press – really, this is a whole body exercise that will impact pulling muscles and the legs but the big basics are the key to mass and strength, this one is one of the very best exercises you can do.
- 2 warm up sets, 10 reps – use a light weight; concentrate on form and do 10 easy reps. Rest and repeat.
- 1 working set – rest pause your way to 20 reps using a 10-12RM weight. Be 100% sure of the correct technique on this exercise – if you are unsure, find a fitness professional and learn! This exercise should work you hard and leave you breathing like a freight train, if in any way you find this easy, you aren’t working hard enough, add more weight the next time, and suffer a little!
- 2 warmup sets, 10 easy reps each set, same weight each set.
- 4 working sets x 8 reps – you should fail at the 8 rep mark, or come very close to it. At this point, count to 10, and knock out 2 more reps, rack the bar, count to 10, knock out 1 more. This is one set.
Incline Flys – 3 sets x 12 reps – this is an isolation move but the stretch is key here, on the last 4 reps of each set hold at the stretch position for a 3 count. Keep rest to around 20 seconds between sets.
EZ Bar Tricep Extension/pullover/press – 3 sets x 8 reps per exercise, 24 reps total per set. This is the best triceps exercise I know. This is all one set, one extended exercise – 8 reps of extensions, right into 8 reps of pullovers, right into 8 reps of close grip presses.
This is an unusual setup because the Power Clean is the key movement. It is the mass builder. It also is an exercise that could be at home on pull day. The use of these, deadlifts and squats impacts much of the same muscles but these are three of the best exercises you can do, work these hard enough and you will build some serious size.
The bench press is not really the main mass builder here and you may find shoulder strength is compromised due to the clean and press, do not try to lift huge poundages here. We’ll add weight using a 8 rep scheme but you may have a trade-off: short term bench strength for overall whole body stimulation.
Deadlift – same as clean and press.
Bent Rows – 3 sets of 8 reps, you should fail at the 8 rep mark, or come very close to it. At this point, count to 10, and knock out 2 more reps, rack the bar, count to 10, knock out 1 more. This is one set.
Pulldowns – 3 sets of 12 reps, here use a slower negative movement and hold the bar for a 3 count at the bottom of each rep. Keep rest to around 20 seconds.
EZ Bar Curls – 21’s, body drag combo – 7 half reps top, 7 half reps bottom, 7 full body drag reps. This exercise combines two great movements into one – Arnold’s 21’s with Vince Gironda’s Body Drag curls. Use a weight that makes you struggle through it.
Preacher Curls – 2 sets of 8 reps – this is an exercise I really hardly use because I always feel it in the space between my biceps and forearms, until I used a low cable set up and a EZ bar attachment– what a great exercise! Use a cable and focus on a slow negative. Hold for a 3 count in the top position on each rep.
Squats – same as clean and press. Those who know me know I love squats. Work these hard, this is similar to the 20 rep style but not as brutal. How is it different? In this approach, and it is a rest pause style, you can take as long as you need to hit the target number of reps, in a 20 rep style, I would not rest more than 2-3 quick but deep breaths between reps. Also, your weight is a little lighter than what I would use in a pure 20 rep routine, where I would basically be looking to see my life flashing before my eyes.
Leg Extensions - 1 set of 30 reps using a 15RM weight. If you can, do this as a superset with squats. Use a slow negative on these and I would do some static holds (hold for a 3 count) in the top position on the last 4-5 reps.
Calf Raises – 3 sets of 25 reps.
The higher rep sets are really quite tame compared to true blood volume sets I’ve seen – but this is not an isolation routine. However, the use of rest pause on the compound lifts and reps at 8 and up per set on the other lifts with negative emphasis and holds, regardless of the type of exercises used, does promote a pump. No matter what, muscle growth and strength best comes from the use of basic exercises, heavier weights and gradually increasing the weight used.
This concept should really be the corner stone of any good program. You can do any other type of set you want, but a core strength program underlining whatever else you do is key. In fact, on average I advocate a routine that uses mostly compound movements, maintains a core strength base using 4-6 reps, with some higher rep sets and the use of a rotating exercise approach as well as the rotating use of extended set techniques.
This satisfies all aspects of muscle growth: weight progression, varying rep ranges, TUT, intensity, hormonal manipulation and variety. The routine presented here is one example of this approach.
This routine is actually the routine I’m currently doing. I found myself extremely sore at first and this will be especially true if you aren’t used to exercises like the power clean or full deadlift. Given that, full recovery becomes critical for best results. Those who know me, know I advocate heavy recovery time – you grow when you recover, the in the gym work is actually catabolic. Don’t make the mistake of thinking more gym time means faster results. Complete recovery will give you the most rapid results.
This is a training routine that will benefit from having full glycogen stores, this is not a fat loss routine so a moderate to high intake of carbs is suggested – 2 grams per pound of bodyweight on training days. It’s true each person is different and carbohydrate storage capacity will vary, but on average we can store about 350 grams in the form of muscle glycogen and about 100 grams in the liver. Full glycogen stores mean plenty of training energy.
Having said that, those who know me know I always make a point of explaining that what the body does not use for energy needs, will be stored as fat, so it does make sense to cut back on total carb intake on off-days to limit this problem. I suggest 1.5 grams of carbs per pound on those days.
Protein – 1.5 to 2 grams per pound of bodyweight divided over the course of the day – I advocate taking in protein every 2-3 hours for best results. Protein, of course, is one of the keys to growth and proper intake/timing as suggested above is essential.
Fat – healthy fats should be 20% or less of total calories.
So I have basically laid out a total macro-nutrient approach. If you’re trying to build some size, the days of cutting calories are over. For mass, I advocate a slight calorie increase, in this case with this routine; it’ll come from extra carbs to promote intense workouts.
One thing I would suggest is to be sure you are timing carb intake around the hours leading up to your workout – this will make a big difference in how you feel. In other words, don’t just depend on your pre-workout for training energy; give your muscles the fuel they actually use by eating most of your carbs in the hours leading up to training.
Supplements – the best products to use to take advantage of forcing nutrients into the muscles would be a pre-workout/intra-workout containing creatine, nitric oxide and BCAAs with extra leucine. This product choice should contain some simple carbs to help promote an insulin spike. This can be taken 30 minutes prior to training.
I also use and suggest a intra/workout drink consisting of creatine, nitric oxide and BCAAs in a carb based powder, again to promote an insulin spike. Insulin must be controlled; you only want a spike when you are depleted of glycogen, such as when you are training. At that time insulin is very anabolic, shuttling nutrients into nutrients into the muscles and blocking the catabolic hormone cortisol.
You can use both a pre and an intra, however I almost always use a stim-free intra leading into and through the workout, usually because of the time of day I train. A lot of stimulants late in the day impacts both sleep and recovery.
So, to recap, we have the use of a pre workout and/or an intra workout to provide nutrients and energy and promote insulin release for maximum anabolic benefit. One more point to make about this routine is the hormonal impact the primary exercises will have on testosterone/GH release – compound movements, the kind that impact whole body growth such as power cleans, deadlifts and squats, dramatically impact testosterone/GH release. As well, any type of extended rep approach that promotes a burn in the muscles will cause more GH release. So this is a routine designed to take full advantage of hormonal manipulation, something I’m a big believer in.
Beyond the products suggested, I would always use a protein powder and a good multi.
So, that’s the routine. Use it as written for 4 weeks and then you can change up the secondary exercises and add some different extended set techniques such as super sets or drop sets or even increase your reps but keep the 3 primary exercises the same and focus on adding weight to the bar. Let’s add some size!