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Old 10-16-2009, 10:48 PM   #11
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The Long Cycle

Simple Periodization for the Beginner to Intermediate Trainee

The program / philosophy presented in this article is one of the absolute best ways for a beginner to intermediate trainee to dramatically increase their strength and size in a relatively short period of time. Now, when I say “short period of time” I’m referring to the real world not fantasyland. “Short” in the real world is at least one year of training time. In fantasyland, where most of the steroid users, clever marketers and arm-chair theoreticians hang-out, you’ll get promised 20 pounds of ‘rock solid’ muscle in a week – what a joke! Using what is presented below I’ve transformed trainees within a couple of years to the point where it is routine for them to be accused of steroid use.

Periodization Defined

So, what is periodization anyway? By definition it is a process of structuring training into phases. I know that to most trainees it seems like some mystical formula shrouded in the language of the old Soviet Union; that it is pretty complicated stuff. But, in actuality, it is quite simple. And that’s what I’m going to do in this article – explain how to make it simple.

The essence of periodization, also known as ‘cycling’ is to build up the workouts so that a trainee is training hard for a period of time and then to purposely ‘back-off’ by training relatively easier, so that the trainee can recover and supercompensate from the previous period of hard training. After the back-off period the body is fully recovered, stronger, and ready to start another period of building up, training hard, and then backing off again. This cycling of training has been proven over and over again to be superior to just training as hard as you can all the time.

There are a multitude of interpretations of periodization – most of which would make a mathematics PhD shudder. Now, there may come a time when a trainee may need to get more sophisticated, but only when they’ve achieved an advanced level of strength and development. Also, I believe that having ‘preset’ dates for the ‘back-off’ (regeneration) training period(s); as is the case in the standard periodization model, aren’t as productive for the beginner to intermediate level trainee as letting the body dictate when it’s time to back-off. Now, you may be thinking that such an instinctive type of setup would be reserved for the advanced trainee – but it is just the opposite. And it’s not so much ‘instinctive’ as it is simply letting the body dictate when these periods are to occur. Yeah, you can start a beginner trainee out on a routine that has preset back-off weeks but I feel you’ll be cutting the results short verses letting the body dictate when this is necessary.

For instance one method of periodization has the trainee hitting it hard for three weeks with the fourth week designated as the back-off week. But, what if the trainee is still going strong at the end of week three? And what if the trainee keeps going strong for 12 weeks? If you’d have followed the typical formula presented above (where you back-off in week four), you would have lost three weeks of progress in that 12 week period. Now extrapolate this over a one year period, and it becomes very evident of the time ‘lost’ to backing-off essentially one week every month. Understand that I am not against backing-off; I’m for it, but only when it is necessary.

My plan has the trainee going hard until the body dictates that it has plateaued. Experience gained through over 60,000 hours of hands-on instruction has taught me that a beginner to intermediate trainee can go at least six months before a back-off and rebuild is necessary.

Keep in mind that I’m talking about beginner to intermediate trainees here – not advanced trainees. The beginner to intermediate – especially if substantial muscle mass gain is a goal, and the necessary caloric intake to accomplish this goal is being met – can ‘go’ a lot longer then an advanced trainee before hitting a plateau. The main reason for this is that the nervous system of a beginner isn’t as developed as an advanced trainee. Therefore, it doesn’t adapt and then plateau as fast. Also, the beginner has much more room for improvement versus an advanced trainee who is pushing his genetic limits and may not want to gain substantial bodyweight.

The Plan

Here’s how I do it. The trainees experience and goals will dictate the rep goal that I’ll start them out at. But for this example let’s say that I’ll start a trainee out using 3 sets of 12 reps on all the big movements (squats, deadlifts, bench pressing, overhead pressing, rowing or chins or pulldowns, barbell curls, close grip bench or dips etc). Within about four to six weeks the training gets to the proper level of effort (with one rep left before failure) and I start Micro-loading (see chart below) as the means of progression to allow the trainee to ‘ride’ this rep target as long as possible. If the trainee is eating properly, progression will continue for three to six months using a rep target of 12 reps.



Exercise Rate of Progression

Squat 2 ½ lbs per week

Deadlift (bent-knee) 2 ½ lbs per week

Power Clean 2 ½ lbs per week

Stiff-leg deadlift 1 to 2 ½ lb per week

Bench press (all forms), Dips 1 to 2 lb per week

Row, Pulldown, Chin 1 to 2 lb per week

Shoulder press ½ to 1 lb per week

Barbell curl ½ to 1 lb per week

Pushdown ½ to 1 lb per week

Close grip bench press ½ to 1 lb per week

Grip, Forearm work ½ to 1 lb per week

Crunch, Sit-up, Leg raises ½ to 1 lb per week

Rotator cuff work ¼ lb every four weeks

Neck flexion and extension (neck strap) ½ lb per week

Standing calf work (barbell, machine) 1 to 2 lbs per week

Single leg calf work (dumbell held in one hand) ½ to 1 lb per week

Back extension (45 degree, horizontal) ½ to 1 lb per week

Sidebend 1 lb per week

On this type of training program these increments provide the ‘right’ loading – or stating it another way – the right ‘dose’ of iron. This will allow the trainee to continue to make their rep target from workout to workout for a LONG period of time, especially when the rep target is reduced to 6 reps and below and especially when the trainee is gaining weight.

When the trainee fails to make the rep target (12 in the example above) I’ll have him repeat the weight for a couple of workouts. If he still can’t complete the 3 sets of 12 then it’s time to back-off and rebuild. Now, the way that I do this is different than what is normally prescribed in traditional periodization models. Traditional periodization has the trainee reduce that top weight substantially (by up to 20%) for a week and then either jump right back to using their top weights again the following week, or taking an additional week to ‘climb’ back up to their previous top weights. Then, hopefully the trainee will go beyond the top weight that they were handling for the 12 reps during the next two weeks. This process does work, but as I said for beginner to intermediate level trainees I feel there is a better way. Now for you periodization aficionados don’t get your underwear all twisted by the explanation I just gave. I KNOW that what I presented is an oversimplification, but it is way beyond the purpose of this piece (which is to make things simple) to break down every nuance of the various loading parameters (wave, step, linear, non-linear, conjugated, yada, yada, yada) that are used in various periodization formats. So…………………..

Instead of dropping the weight what I’ll do is have the trainee actually increase the weight by the prescribed dose (say 2 ½ lb. on the squat) BUT drop the rep target to 8 reps. This will give the trainee a couple of weeks of less intense training and then the training will climb to the proper level again. What is different, and great, about this is that the trainee continues to ‘feel’ the weight that had become a maximum effort to make the 12 reps - but now only does 8 reps. Without going into scientific detail I feel the nervous system doesn’t get ‘detrained’ as much using this method as when following other periodization models that have the trainee drop the weight. Here’s the other thing that’s great -- the trainee gets quite a confidence boost because what was a weight that was very difficult for 12 reps is now performed for a strong 8 reps, and with additional weight on the bar. This confidence continues to grow as the weight mounts on the bar over the next several months till it starts to become very difficult again. Then I’ll have the trainee ‘ride’ this rep target by continuing to Micro-load for as long as possible, and then I’ll drop the rep target again – in this case to 5 reps, and the entire process is repeated. The 5’s are a magical number (actually a weight that is roughly 80 – 85% of a one rep max) – I’ll explain what I mean by ‘magical’ sometime in a future article. For now just understand that working at 5 reps builds the maximum amount of functional muscle mass. I’ve had trainees utilize 5 reps as the rep target for up to a year before they’ll need to make the next drop to 3 reps. Once the 3’s ‘dry-up’ there are several ways I recommend the trainee to go dependant on their goals. I may go to program based on using sets of single reps followed by a backoff-set of 8 reps. Or, I may have the trainee go back to the 5’s again. It just depends of the particular circumstances of the individual. This entire process takes anywhere from two to three years. Not very fancy, but boy it sure brings home the bacon, literally transforming the trainee into someone who is not recognized by family and friends.

After the above process has been completed, the trainee has gained so much muscle and increased their strength to a level that puts them in the intermediate to advanced trainee category. From here I’ll generally (once again depending on the trainee’s new goals) start ‘cycling’ the rep goal over a three to six week macrocycle. Using the example of a three week macrocycle; in week one the trainee will perform 3 sets of 8 reps, week two it’ll be 3 sets of 5 reps, week three the trainee will perform 3 to 5 sets of 3 reps. Then the entire process will be repeated with the addition of a small dose of iron to each weeks’ load. This process can go on for another year. Using the process that I’ve just explained, trainees under my guidance have put on up to 80 pounds of solid bodyweight and achieved national rankings in drug-free, ‘raw’ powerlifting.

Program Design

It’s beyond the scope of this article to get into the details of program design as this topic can get very big and confusing. To get detailed information on how to set up a training program read the chapter Designing Your Training Program (from my book: REAL STRENGTH REAL MUSCLE). What I’m going to do here is present two templates that I have had tremendous success with. One is performed two times per week the other three times per week.

Performed two times per week (i.e. Monday and Thursday):



Day one

1. Crunch 1 x 5-20 (choose a ‘fixed’ rep target between 5 and 20 reps)

2. Squat 2-5 x 5-15

3. Stiff-legged deadlift or back extension 1 x 10-15

4. Bench press 2-5 x 5-15

5. Pulldown, Chin, or Row 2-5 x 5-15

6. Calf raises 1 x 5-20

7. Static grip 1 x 60-90 seconds



Day two

1. Sidebend 1 x 5-15

2. Deadlift 2-5 x 5-15

3. Military press 2-5 x 5-15

4. Barbell curl 2-5 x 5-15

5. Close-grip bench press 1-3 x 5-15

6. Wrist curl 1 x 15-20

7. Reverse wrist curl 1 x 15-20

Here are two effective templates for training three times per week (i.e. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). Recommended sets and reps are the same as the two times per week template.



Day one

1. Squat

2. Stiff-legged deadlift or back extension

3. Bench press

4. Pulldown, Chin, or Row



Day two

1. Crunch

2. Barbell curl

3. Military press

4. Calf raise



Day three

1. Side bend

2. Deadlift

3. Close-grip bench press

4. Static Grip



This template spreads the ‘big’ exercises; the Squat, Bench, and Pulldown or Chin or Row, over two days. Some trainees feel they can’t do the Bench or a Pulldown, Chin, or Row, justice after squatting hard.



Day one

1. Crunch

2. Squat

3. Stiff-legged deadlift or back extension

4. Barbell curl



Day two

1. Bench press

2. Pulldown, Chin, or Row

3. Calf Raise

4. Close-grip bench press



Day three

1. Sidebend

2. Deadlift

3. Military press

4. Static grip



I kept the rep range broad because the goal reps that you choose to work at needs to be based on your goals and training experience. I generally recommend new trainees to start out utilizing higher reps in order to help develop motor skills (technique) and to keep the overall force on the connective structures relatively low (compared to sets of five reps and below).

As I mentioned above, I can’t go into the great detail that this area of strength training demands, but what I have presented should give you an idea of how to set up a productive program that will stimulate gains and allow for complete recovery.

So, if you are just beginning in the iron game, or if you have been at it for awhile and feel that you haven’t make the progress that you should have, I challenge you to string together at least one year of training utilizing the ‘long cycle’ approach that I have presented in this article. If you achieve this goal I’m confident that you’ll look, and perform, radically different this time next year.
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Old 10-16-2009, 10:49 PM   #12
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The Hardgainer Tag

A good thing gone bad

I believe this has become the plague of 21st century weight training. I’ll get back to that later.

I want to state that this is not a personal attack on anyone. This is simply my professional opinion based on 20 years as a professional strength coach. The motivation to write this article was specifically stimulated by the information that I am constantly receiving from around the world.

The Hardgainer moniker and the training information that went with it did a lot of good for the strength training world - at first. It got trainees away from the pump and blitz, overtraining volume and frequency training methodologies presented by the mainstream muscle media which is proliferated by nonsense training advice from the steroid-using bodybuilding fraternity. This ‘fraternity’ by the way, makes up but a fraction of the people involved in strength training and bodybuilding. And the steroid users have NO IDEA of how to really train. That is to train without using drugs – in other words ‘real training.’

This ‘Hardgainer’ training advice, from various sources, pointed out the pitfalls, fallacies and downright lies that were being propagated by the mainstream muscle media. This misinformation was getting trainees nowhere, or at least ‘helping’ them fall short of what they could accomplish. This was accompanied by years of wasted training, millions of dollars wasted on useless supplements, frustration, and many, many injuries. The sensible ‘Hardgainer’ training information also got trainees on the right track of training to get stronger to get bigger -- instead of the ‘pump and blitz (glitz), oil your body, stare into a mirror, and surround yourself with big breasted females’, training advice. This stupidity suggested that trainees train up to six days per week twice per day – just plain stupid amounts of volume and frequency. I could go on and on about this but I’m sure you get the point.

So, a world of Hardgainers was born – trainees who trained for real; without drugs, training two to three times per week, on ‘abbreviated’ programs relative to the nonsense mentioned above which would overtrain a gorilla. They focused on getting stronger on ‘big’ exercises that produced real world results versus going for ‘the pump’ by doing five sets of benches, five sets of incline benches, five sets of flies, and five sets of cable cross-overs with little sissy weights that my six year old daughter could throw around. The point is, to be a “Hardgainer” as I just defined it above, was a good thing – it was a great thing.

The Plague

But now, it has taken a turn for the worse. Actually it took the “turn” several years ago. What was a whole culture of trainees who learned to train in a real, drug free fashion, has become a group of trainees who have gotten brainwashed into thinking that being a ‘Hardgainer’ means that they have some kind of ‘disease’, or that they are some kind of genetically inferior species. What this has produced are way too many trainees who are basically afraid to train – or better stated they are virtually paranoid of ‘overtraining’ or worse yet – getting hurt. Now, believe me, I believe in training in as safe a manner as possible. If I didn’t I wouldn’t be in business as long as I have been. You should try to minimize risk as much as possible – but there is always a risk. So, these modern-day Hardgainers are now training in a ridiculous fashion – once a week, once every two weeks, and some even once a month! AND, they won’t do any exercise for more than one work set. They also avoid productive exercises that they have been taught ‘won’t work’ because of their genetics or that they might get hurt. Keep in mind that I’m speaking from experience here – this is what I’ve been hearing from trainees around the world. What is most disheartening to me is that they were taught and now believe that they should ‘set their sites low’; that they can’t achieve much, due to poor genetics – whether they actually have so-called “poor genetics” or not! “Accept it –and be happy with it” is what they’ve been told. Yeah, that’ll fire someone up to train. “Go out and bust your ass for a whole lot of years and maybe you’ll achieve mediocrity”. Pumps me up (sarcasm intended).

So, they limit themselves before they even start. This is sickening and it makes me mad. It makes me mad because I’ve personally trained real ‘true Hardgainers’ and they have produced results that are anything but mediocre. And then there are the many trainees that I have personally worked with who considered themselves ‘true Hardgainers’ who were anything but – and they have produced outstanding results.

What has developed are two categories of Hardgainers; the very few that are true Hardgainers and the other very, very large group who think they are – but aren’t. Let me hit both.

The True Hardgainer

So, what is a true Hardgainer anyway? Well, here’s what I think it is; a severely small boned adult whose muscle is mostly composed of Type I and Type II-A muscle fibers throughout the entire body. The Type I fibers don’t have the greatest potential for growth but the Type II-A have good growth potential; and they can be converted to take on the attributes of the Type II-B which have the greatest potential for growth. That’s it – that is my definition. Doesn’t sound like some kind of diseased individual to me? And so what if you are a true Hardgainer? Are you destined for, at best, mediocrity? In my professional opinion the answer is a resounding NO! Let me ask you; just because you have a small bone structure and small muscle bellies why does that limit muscular growth? It may occur more slowly, but does it really limit growth? You may answer; well I just wasn’t born with a proliferation of muscle cells that have the ability to get bigger and stronger. My answer; How do you know? And so what if you are? Have you tried for ten years – training properly (not the once every millennium program)? Eating properly? Do you believe the arm-chair theoreticians and their theories about muscle growth? No one is even sure how a muscle grows! They are just theories – not scientific fact!

Well, your next question would logically be; how big and strong can I get? My initial response is; “Let’s find out – and I’m confident it’s much bigger and stronger than many so-called authorities would have you believe.” But I assure you that if you buy into the mindset that as a Hardgainer, ‘if you train real hard for ten years maybe – just maybe—you’ll achieve a 15 inch arm’ all you’ll do is train incorrectly and eat poorly for ten years and maybe all you’ll achieve is a 15 inch arm. You just won’t have the motivation to do what needs to be done. And don’t ever underestimate the power of being motivated. All you will have done is limited yourself mentally, killed any real burning incentive that you had to train, and you’ll never produce the 16 ½ to 17 inch arm, the double-bodyweight squat, or bench press with one-and-half times bodyweight, that you should have had. I’m telling you, that you should dream big, train smart, eat right, and find out where you actually end up – instead of trying to figure it out ahead of time and shooting yourself in the foot before you even start.

The non-Hardgainer Who Thinks He Is

As I stated above most trainees are not true Hardgainers. Let me take that further – almost all the trainees around the world are genetically regular – they are neither true Hardgainers nor genetic superiors. As a matter of fact most trainees are a little bit of both. Boy that statement really throws a wrench in labeling someone! Everyone has a ‘bodypart(s)’ of their body that ‘grow’ muscle more easily than other ‘parts’ of their body. You may have a proliferation of muscle bellies in your back and not nearly as many in your pecs; this is my case but you wouldn’t guess it now if you saw me. Also, everyone has a lift or lifts that they get very strong on more easily than other lifts. And if you want to try to figure this thing out via how big your bones are forget it! You may have small boned wrists and big boned knees. You are a combination of what is known as ‘somatypes’. So, almost every trainee is part Hardgainer or part genetic freak! So, what the heck should we label you? How about ‘Regular.’

Here is a great real world example of what I’m talking about. I had a gentleman come in to train with me from out of the country. Before he came in he assured me that he was a true Hardgainer. From all the reading he had done he believed that he wasn’t “destined” for any further improvements in strength or development. He was busy telling me every genetic reason under the sun why he couldn’t succeed. He was going on about his wrist size, to the length of bones, to the physical characteristics of his parents and grandparents, to an in-depth analysis of somatyping. I could have sworn that we were going to get into the structure of his DNA next. Well, when I laid eyes on this guy I about went in my pants. He was 5’10” and 240 pounds; too much fat but plenty of muscle! My first thought was “this guy has been severely brainwashed.” A Hardgainer – my butt!

Way too many regular trainees are killing potential results because they consider themselves Hardgainers. They are on such a limited training program, along with poor eating and recovery habits which will produce, at best, very little in the way of results.

The Real Reasons why you’re Not Getting Results

There are two reasons;

1. You are a true Hardgainer (remember this breed is very rare) and due to your belief system – “I’m not genetically suited to achieve much” -- you’re either not motivated to do the things that are necessary to achieve significant results, or due to what you’ve been taught as “proper training for a Hardgainer” – you’re not on a productive program that has you doing the things that are necessary to achieve significant results.

2. You’ve been training incorrectly, and eating incorrectly, so you have received little in the way of results, and this, of course, makes you a Hardgainer; which is not accurate, so you now under-train and under-eat and continue to be ‘under-dedicated’. What a viscous cycle.

What to Do

Start by not labeling yourself anymore. Just consider yourself a regular trainee with great potential. Then seek out real training advice for non-steroid using trainees. To go into specific training advice is beyond the scope of this chapter. Read the chapters Designing Your Training Program and How to Eat to Get Big (from my book: REAL STRENGTH REAL MUSCLE) to learn how to do things right. Don’t just read these articles, study them. Once you know what to do then make a commitment to do everything right; train properly and consistently, eat properly to gain muscle, get in shape (cardio wise), and work on your flexibility.

In Summary from My “Gut”

If you have a muscle and if the rest of your bodies’ processes are okay; you can breathe okay, heart works okay, can eat and digest food okay, etc., then that muscle can get much bigger and stronger. Yes, it’s that simple – and don’t let anyone tell you any different. By all means don’t let anyone steal your dreams. You’ve been hammered with “be realistic in your expectations as a Hardgainer – don’t expect too much for you’ll be let down and just end up going nowhere”. Well, I’ve got one for you; BE UNREALISTIC then, versus what you’ve been taught as a Hardgainer, DREAM BIG but BE SMART along the way. No one has accomplished anything remotely great by thinking small. And I’m not living in fantasy land by giving this advice – and I’m not asking you to join me there. As a matter of fact I’m knee deep in reality land working daily in the trenches as I have been for 20 years now, and feel that I have a pretty good handle on what can and can’t be done. You can do much, much more than you think you can.

Dream Big – it’ll give you the motivation to accomplish ‘Big’ things.
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Old 10-16-2009, 10:50 PM   #13
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The Best of Both Worlds

Part I

This is part I of a two part series. Although both parts will benefit all trainees, part I is geared to the HIT trainee, part II is directed at the trainee who prefers a multiple set approach.

Why not be open-minded and use whatever sensible training approach gets you results?

What I’m referring to is the ‘close-minded’ approach that many trainees adopt toward their training because of a bias towards one training methodology or another. The general methods (there are too many sub-factions to mention) I’m referring to in this piece are multiple sets of an exercise performed just shy of failure verses performing one set to failure. There seems to be a never-ending battle between the two. Which one produces fewer injuries? Which one produces fastest results? Which one works?!!!

You know what? Both work. Yep, that’s what I said; BOTH WORK. And both work well. Now, don’t go off calling me a hypocrite. As long-time readers of my material know, I favor a multiple set approach as a long-term training methodology (even when I use what would be called ‘training to failure); and this has not changed. But I am not close-minded to the fact that training for one set to ‘true’ failure (many trainees fake it) does work – and can work very well. I’ve used that training approach a number of times throughout my training journey – now at 32 years, and on many trainees that I’ve coached (now at 21 years). I know both methods are valid “tools” that can be used dependant on the trainees goals, emotional make-up, and most importantly their lifestyle limitations. What I mean by this is that even if you have a program on paper that is the fastest way to achieve your goals, if it doesn’t pass the “reality test” – it won’t produce diddly. The “reality test” is that the program must “fit” into a trainees’ lifestyle, AND fit their “training” personality. As far as lifestyle goes, who do you know (that has a ‘real’ life) that has all the time in the world to just train and eat and recover? Hardly anyone! Almost everyone has academic requirements, job/career requirements, family requirements, or a combination of two if not all three. So, again, no matter how good a program might be on paper, in reality if the trainee can’t meet the programs’ time or recovery obligations – without sacrificing other important obligations in life -- then it isn’t going to work very well, if it’ll work at all.



Have you ever heard a strength coach talk about designing a program based on a trainees personality? It should be considered just as one must consider a trainees physical genetic makeup; a squat to parallel fits one trainees specific physical makeup, another trainee may have to cut their depth two inches above parallel because their physical makeup (length of bones, ability of the hips to rotate, etc) won’t allow it. Considering personality, some trainees just feel that they have to workout to their absolute limits at all times; they’re motivated by a ‘feeling’ of training as hard as possible. Other trainees are motivated by accomplishing a prescribed ‘quantitative’ goal. Of course there are many trainees that are in-between or are a combination of both. My point is that you have to find and then utilize what ‘pushes your buttons’ – and everyone is different.

Ok, what does this have to do with multiple set and HIT training? The combination can lead to tremendous gains because it optimizes the performance of the nervous system and endocrine system. It will make your training very time and recovery efficient. It all starts with keeping an open mind.

HITer’s: Utilizing Multiple ‘Non-failure’ sets to get more ‘Total reps’ out of your ‘To Failure’ set(s).



If you have been training to failure long enough, and have paid attention to what happens, you’ll notice a trend; you’ll get to a certain rep count with a specific weight and it becomes all but impossible to get another rep. For instance, you’ll be rolling using 225 pounds on the bench for several weeks able to complete an additional rep over the previous weeks’ rep mark, when all of a sudden you just can’t get beyond the 8th rep (for example). Every week you lower the bar to attempt rep 9, and you can’t get the bar off of your chest. So, you promise to re-double your efforts (“I must not be trying hard enough”) at the next workout, again only to fail to get the 9th rep. The next week has you doing everything short of voodoo and you still can’t get the 9th rep. As a dedicated HITer, you are certain that you’re simply not trying hard enough. So, next week you go to church, call your mother, make a donation to your favorite charity (you donate to Cyberpump – again), re-read several Ken Leister articles, drink 3 cups of coffee and you still can’t make the 9th rep. Now you really get thinking. “What gives? Maybe I really don’t know how to train hard. Maybe I need therapy?”



No you don’t need therapy! And I’m confident you know how to train ‘hard’. But success in this game isn’t just about training ‘hard’ it’s about training hard in combination with training ‘smarter’ (no, I’m not calling HITer’s dumb). “Smarter” is getting an education (or if you already have the knowledge – become open-minded and willing to try it) in how your body works so that you can maximize all of your bodies’ abilities. Let me open up the classroom now.



To get those extra reps – and make continual progress - you simply need to utilize your nervous system better; you need to teach your body to recruit more of the muscle fiber that you already possess. Once you do this you’ll get that 9th rep easily; and most likely the next week you’ll get the 10th – then you can add 5% to the bar, start again with 235 pounds (probably making 6 or 7 reps) and go after that 10-rep goal again. Here’s how to do it sticking with the bench press example above.

Your previous workout looked like this:



Bench press

w. (Warm-up) 145lb. x 5

w. 185 x 3

w. 205 x 1 (rest 2 minutes)

1. 225 x 8 (went to failure – couldn’t get rep 9 – same as last 4 weeks! This sucks!)





Here’s what will work:

Bench press

w. 145 x 5

w. 185 x 3

w. 225 x 1

1. 250 x 1 (rest one minute)

2. 250 x 1 (rest 2 to 3 minutes)

3. 225 x 9 (or 10!) to-failure



Then at the next workout:



Bench press

w. 145 x 5

w. 185 x 3

w. 225 x 1

1. 251 x 1 (rest 1 minute)

2. 251 x 1 (rest 2 to 3 minutes)

3. 225 x 10 (you’ll make 10 reps for sure) to-failure.



Next workout:



Bench press

w. same as above

1. 252 x 1

2. 252 x 1

3. 235 x 6 to-failure



Continue to add one pound to sets 1 and 2. Keep pushing the 3rd set to failure until you make 10 reps again. When you get the 10 reps add 5% to the total weight you used on that 3rd set and start over again. The 5% addition will knock your rep total back down to 6 or 7 reps. Keep battling this weight till you get 10 reps again.



As an alternative you could go to a different rep range (i.e. 4 to 8) for the 3rd ‘to failure’ set. If you decide to change the rep range for that 3rd set, keep the first two ‘recruitment’ sets going; keep adding one pound per week. On ‘bigger’ exercises such as squats and bent-leg deadlifts you should add 2 pounds per week. You’ll be able to sustain this progression for 30 weeks, maybe longer, if you are eating and recovering properly.



Here’s another option if you just can’t bear doing two ‘non-failure’ sets, and it will produce similar results:



Bench press

w. 145 x 5

w. 185 x 3

w. 225 x 1

1. 250 x 2 (rest two to three minutes)

2. 225 x 9 (or 10!) to failure



This approach eliminates one recruitment set which saves a little time, but performing two reps instead of one will create more fatigue which could affect the total number of reps you’ll be able to achieve on the ‘to failure’ set.



Here’s why it Works



The first two sets teach your body how to recruit; how to use, more of the muscle fiber that you already have. To compare this to an automobile engine, it’s like you have a V8 (8 cylinders) engine but only have it ‘wired’ (spark plugs and spark plug wires) to 6 of those cylinders. The first two sets teach the body to add more ‘wires and spark plugs’ (neurological connections) to the other cylinders (fibers) so that you’ll get full power out of the V8 (your muscles). When you become ‘wired better’, your muscular system becomes more efficient and this is felt immediately when you decrease the weight to perform the 3rd set to failure. The body is more efficient during the first few reps of that 3rd set, using more fibers than it actually needs – so it lifts the weight easily with less buildup of the biochemical by-products of energy production (namely lactic acid) that eventually shut-down the set. So, instead of shutting down at rep 8, you easily (well you still have to work at it) get at least an extra rep right away. And this effect isn’t short lived for one workout, it keeps working week after week - it actually gets better as your body ‘learns’ how to activate more and more muscle fiber.



The ‘numbers’ that I’ve used in this example haven’t been pulled out of thin air. The first two recruitment sets are based on what the trainee could perform for one rep – which was determined based on the trainee performing 225 pounds for 8 reps. The 225 x 8 equates to a 280 pound maximal single repetition. The 250 pounds that is used for the first two sets represents 90% of that predicted maximum. Using 90% of a max is a great way to improve recruitment. By slowly Micro-loading (adding 1 pound) each week to these two sets you will continually improve your bodies’ ability to recruit more muscle fiber. But, a word of warning: DO NOT PERFORM MORE THAN ONE OR TWO REPS – EVEN THOUGH YOU COULD PROBABLY PERFORM THREE REPS – DURING THE RECRUITMENT SETS. If you violate this, you’ll be creating fatigue products within the muscle and it will detract from maximizing the number of reps you could complete during the set performed to failure. Remember, you are using these sets to improve your body neurologically, not to ‘break down’ tissue or to directly create morphological (muscle mass) changes. Some trainees may get this benefit though - of added muscle mass - while only performing one rep; it just depends on the trainees’ muscle fiber composition.



Putting it All Together



Okay, here’s how it could look applied to a complete workout. Warm-up sets are not listed.



Workout A



Sit-ups (130 max)

1. 117lbs x 1

2. 117lbs x 1

3. 105 x max reps to failure (MR)



Squat (400 max)

1. 360 x 1

2. 360 x 1

3. 320 x MR



Bench press (280 max)

1. 250 x 1

2. 250 x 1

3. 225 x MR



Dumbbell Rowing (140 max)

1. 125 x 1

2. 125 x 1

3. 112 x MR



Standing Calf Raise (500 max)

1. 450 x 1

2. 450 x 1

3. 400 x MR



Finish with grip work



For a second workout during the week I would suggest something like the following:



Workout B

Sidebends

Deadlifts (conventional style, sumo, Trap bar)

Military press

Barbell curl

Close-grip bench press

Finish with back extensions



Understand that you don’t need to perform a true one rep max test to determine your starting weights for the recruitment sets (the first two sets as listed above). Although this is a very good idea (Arthur Jones even suggested this in an article to determine your best ‘working rep range’) and I highly recommend it if you have the experience to do it properly, or you can simply use 10 to 15% more weight than you had been using on your ‘to failure’ set. The 10 to 15% applies as long as you ‘failed’ somewhere between 6 and 12 reps. If you are training ‘to failure’ within a higher rep range; between 12 to 20 reps for instance, you may need to use a weight that is 20 to 30% heavier for the recruitment sets.



Don’t feel that you have to perform ‘neurological recruitment sets’ for every exercise like the program I’ve listed above. You can use them for one exercise or two and perform the rest of the workout in your normal fashion. Or if you are skeptical, just do it for one exercise till it proves itself to you.



Open your mind to new ‘sensible’ ideas – give them a good try and see if it works for you. I’m confident that if you try what I have mentioned you’ll never go back to performing your ‘to failure’ sets without a heavier recruitment set first – it just feels that good – and it delivers results.
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Fifty Two Weeks Of Training!

By: John Christy

Have you ever trained an entire year without missing a single workout? Can you imagine what kind of development you would possess if you could constantly add weight to the barbell and make your prescribed reps every week for 52 weeks in a row? Well, I'm going to tell you about another one of my trainees who has done just that - and then some.

One hundred and four workouts in a row-every Wednesday and Saturday like clockwork, and no injuries or illness. To give you a little idea of how his strength improved, his deadlift went from 45 pounds (yes, an empty Olympic bar) x 15 to 300 x 5, bench press went from 185 x 5 to 259 x 5, and he's gained 45 pounds and even though these numbers aren't "world beaters" yet, as you can imagine he looks like a different person. Not bad for his first year of sensible training.

Stay tuned because Part II is going to tell you the rest of the story - how this guy, utilizing the simple approach that is presented in this article, spent his second year of training turning himself into a massive, powerful guy.

I challenge you to compare your results over the last year of training, with what Craig has achieved. I'm not saying this to add to your frustration because your training has gone nowhere in the last several years, but instead to help you -- to show you that there is a way to accomplish your dream of a well-developed physique and great strength - without the use of drugs.

At the time of writing (early April 1998), I have been consulting with Craig Rasmussen for exactly 57 weeks. Notice that I said "consulting." Craig does not live in Indianapolis. He resides in California. I have not coached him through every workout. As a matter of fact I have only personally coached him through one workout - Craig flew in for a day last November. Even though I set up and monitored his program, Craig had the desire to train 104 times in one year without missing a single workout. So don't try to use the excuse that you don't have a strength coach watching over you every workout - Craig didn't.


Craig's Journey
In His Own Words

When I informed Craig that I would be writing an article on him I requested that he write a biographical sketch of his training journey and send it to me so that I could use parts of it to write this article. Well, Craig tells his story better than I could, so I'm including it as it is. It's good material. I'm sure many of you can relate to it.

Here It Is

"My first experience with weight training began when I was in junior college playing basketball; at the age of 19, I was 6' 1" and about 160 pounds. I had always been extremely skinny and the coach really stressed how much I needed to get bigger and stronger. Once the season was over I signed up for a weight-training class and started to work out for the first time.

"There was no guidance in this class and I basically did what everyone else was doing, focusing most of my efforts on the bench press, struggling to push 135 pounds for 1 or 2 reps.


Overtraining And Fatigue Among Young Powerlifters!
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I then began to seek some information on weight training, and found some books at the local bookstore and some old bodybuilding magazines that my dad had stored in the garage. I constructed some routines from these books and magazines. Somehow I was able to gain about 15-20 pounds in my first year of weight training, as many novice trainees often do.

"For the next couple of years I trained semi consistently at a local Gold's Gym with a friend who had also begun to train during his freshman year in college. We mainly used routines that were six days per week, 10-20 work sets per bodypart, and I trained each muscle group two times per week. When we skipped a workout we skipped our leg day.

"My strength increased for a short while on these programs, but progress quickly came to an end and I had a long period of stagnation when I used the same weights over and over again. During this time I began to spend a lot of money on weight gain powders, metabolic optimizers, and aminos. I also began to collect every kind of book and magazine to add to my ever-growing collection of confusion and misinformation.

"The next few years of my training life were spent when I was in college. I actually cut back my training to four days per week and focused on basic exercises, though I was still training each exercise two times per week. I made some' progress during this time because I was able to combine this training with good nutrition. My bodyweight climbed to 190 pounds and my strength increased once again.

"I continued to be sold on supplements and the routines of steroid users. I followed Arnold 's six-days-per-week routine from his book, and various routines of others I would read about in magazines. I spent over a year following a three-days-on and one-day-off routine without making hardly any progress in terms of strength and size.

"Following my graduation from college I began to be exposed to some radical training methods through the pages of HARDGAINER magazine but never paid much attention to them since the information seemed so radical compared to what I had been exposed to previously. I moved back to a four-days-per-week routine and then to an every-other-day split routine for the next year or so.

"I was focusing mainly on basic exercises such as the squat, bench press, row, etc. I tried to add weight on a regular basis but I was doing it in too large increments. My patellar tendons (in my knees) were starting to really hurt me because in the squat I was using a too narrow stance, pushing through my toes, and positioning the bar" way too high on my I neck.


That's A Wrap: How To Wrap Your Knees.
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"It is a wonder that I didn't seriously injure myself. My bodyweight fluctuated between 180 and 190 pounds, since I did not eat consistently even though I had a strong grasp on how to eat properly.

"After this year or so of training I took some time off to let my knees heal. I decided that I needed to learn how to squat properly because I had to be doing something wrong. I had some material that mentioned BRAWN as a book that contained a good description of the squat.

"I went out and bought a copy and ordered the free copy of HARDGAINER using the coupon from inside the book. I read only the chapter on the squat and continued to train on an every-other-day split routine.

I then began to see some mention of BRAWN and HARDGAINER on the internet. The information intrigued me so I sat down and finally read the whole book.

"Now I didn't know what to do. Could this style of training really work? It seemed very logical yet I had been so programmed to work out a minimum of four days a week for at least 8-10 work sets per bodypart that I had trouble accepting any other approach. I resolved to give this radical approach a try.

"I gathered as much information as I could from the internet, and began to experiment with sound routines. I noticed that I really I enjoyed training this way but I was still making major mistakes in application. I was jumping around every two or three weeks from one routine to another. I was down the right path but lost on which specific way to go.


Have You Ever Received Life Changing Inspiration From A Magazine?
Yes.
No.



"I then received HARDGAINER issue #46 which contained an article by John Christy called "The Only Way." This article was excellent and answered many of my questions, but I still needed guidance.

I immediately began to follow the routine in this article and resolved to improve my squatting form and learn how to deadlift (since I had never deadlifted before). It was at this point that I gave John a call to get the extra guidance I desperately needed.

"In the subsequent year of proper training I learned many lessons. The most important of which was that of consistency. My training cycle has continued for over a year without a plateau, and I'm still getting stronger.

Adding a small increment of weight on a regular basis has accomplished unbelievable results in terms of size and strength gains.

"I have gained over 40 pounds of bodyweight in the last year, and increased my strength greatly."

"I have gained over 40 pounds of bodyweight in the last year, and increased my strength greatly. It was great to have the opportunity to go to Indianapolis and learn the important lesson of how to put out effort. That is, instead of just going in and lifting, I learned how to approach each set and rep with maximum seriousness and intensity. I would greatly recommend John's article entitled "The White Moment". It describes exactly how to get yourself "up" for every rep that you perform.

"People are amazed when they learn that I train only two times per week. They just cannot believe that it can be done. I remember getting strange looks and questions in the gym when people saw me doing squats, benches and pull downs in the same workout. They wondered what the small weight plates were that I was using. I'm sure they thought I was an oddball.


Bench Press
Click To Enlarge.

"It didn't bother me a bit as I continued to see the weight grow on the bar every workout, while the others at the gym remained unchanged, pushing the same weights over and over. I now have my own home gym and it is awesome. I can now let loose and really concentrate on putting out maximum effort every workout.

"My goals are to continue on this same basic program as long as possible, hopefully for another year. My short-term goals are to bench 300 lbs, squat 400 lbs and deadlift 500 lbs. I would specifically like to bench press 300 x 5 by the end of 1998, squat 405, and get my sumo deadlift well over 400 pounds.

"Eventually I hope to achieve the elite numbers of 400-500-600 and maybe try some powerlifting. I would mainly like to continue to get bigger and stronger. This is something that I truly have a passion for and plan to continue for my lifetime."


Craig's Training Program

Craig's story is not unusual. It's a common path many of us have walked. Let me tell you, Craig's bone structure isn't anything special. He's just a pretty much average guy genetically, but he has a burning desire to succeed, and lots of patience. Try that anabolic combination on for size.

Here's The First Program I Put Him On.

Workout A (started 26 February 1997 )
+ Supported Crunch: 1 x 15 with 35 lbs
+ Squat: 2 x15 with a 45-lb bar
+ Stiff-legged deadlift: 1 x 15 with 65 lbs
+ Bench press: 2 x 5 with 185 lbs
+ Supinated pulldown: 2 x 5 with 115 lbs
+ Static grip: 1 x 60-90 secs w/ 100-lb 'bells*


Static Grip
Click To Enlarge.

Video Of Static Grip:
MPEG (316 kb)
Window Media (247 kb)

Click Here For A Printable Log Of Workout A.

*Craig is gifted with long fingers relative to his forearm length. This helps him to excel at gripping. Most trainees have to start with 35 or 40 pound dumbbells in the static hold.

Workout B (started 1 March 1997 )
+ Side bend: 1 x 15 with 30 lbs
+ Sumo deadlift: 2 x 15 with a 45-lb bar
+ Standing military press: 2 x 5 with 95 lbs
+ Barbell curl: 2 x 5 with 75 lbs


Sumo Deadlift


Pretty simple stuff, isn't it? As Craig developed I added a few exercises, and adjusted his warm-up sets as he got stronger. Fifty two weeks later he completed the following.

Workout A ( 22 February 1998 )
+ Lying L-fly (for the external rotators): 1 x 20 with 11 lbs
+ Supported Crunch: 1 x 10 with 101 lbs
+ Squat: 2 x 5 with 280 lbs
+ Stiff-legged deadlift: 1 x 10 with 257.5 lbs
+ Bench press: 2 x 5 with 259lbs
+ Supinated pulldown: 2 x 5 with 231 lbs
+ Wrist curl: 1 x 20 with 78 lbs
+ Reverse wrist curl: 1 x 20 with 22.5 lbs

Click Here For A Printable Log Of Workout A.

Workout B ( 25 February 1998 )
+ Lying L-fly: 1 x 20 with 11 lbs
+ Side bend: 1 x 10 with 90 lbs
+ Sumo deadlift: 2 x 5 with 302.5 lbs
+ Military press: 2 x 5 with 149 lbs
+ Barbell curl: 2 x 5 with 112 lbs
+ One-legged dumbbell calf raise: 2 x 10 with 40 lbs
+ Static grip: 120-lb dumbbells x 72 secs

Click Here For A Printable Log Of Workout B.

Teaching Intensity

As you read in Craig's biography, he said that he learned how to put out maximum effort on every rep of every set when he came here to train. Craig's previous approach was to just grab the bar and lift, without any mental preparation. What he learned when he came here was to take the few moments before the set and get himself "excited," "fired-up," or flat-out "pissed off". As was mentioned, I've written an article titled "The White Moment." It'll elaborate on this subject - the importance of mental intensity. I suggest that you get it and read it carefully

I'm not saying that you have to get mad to do a set (although it sure doesn't hurt), but you absolutely need to summon up all the effort that you can, and you can't do this by casually entering a set. This is a quality that is hard to put into words and it is hard to teach using written language. It is best learned through seeing it in action.

For me, it is very simple. I am a warrior - just like everyone of you are -- whether you know it or not! I enjoy the battle. It doesn't matter if it's a 500-pound barbell, a 260-pound linebacker from Ohio State University, or a pitcher throwing 95 mph fastballs; it gets me fired up. I enjoy the challenge.


The Name Of The Game Is Effort!
Athletes, bodybuilders, fitness enthusiasts, strength coaches, personal trainers, and any one else interested in training and conditioning search for these answers on a daily basis - in hopes of finding the perfect strength training routine...
[ Click here to learn more. ]


I can honestly say that I could teach Craig everything he needed to know about how to get strong and big via correspondence, phone consultations and video recordings except how to train as hard as he is capable of. He learned how to put out more effort than he had ever done before, but to really understand how to get the most that he was capable of he had to come here and see it first hand.


Consistency Revisited

I just can't stress it enough. Consistency is as important as progression when it comes to the strength game. Heck, it is actually more important! For if you don't train consistently how can you expect to be progressive-i.e., add weight to the bar? The major reason I wrote this article in the first place was to demonstrate via Craig how the body can be transformed if you don't miss workouts and if you simply add a little iron to the bar every workout.

You know, it's not rocket science like many would have you believe. And, I'm not implying that any of you would miss workouts for no reason. The reasons that I am speaking of for missing workouts are injury or illness brought about by not training properly-i.e., training too often, using too many exercises, poor exercise technique, improper weight selection, and not eating or sleeping properly, etc.

What do you think Craig is going to look like at week 104? He's already getting accused of steroid use. You get rewarded for your patience-eventually. There were times during Craig's year of training when he couldn't add even a pound to the bar. So I had him repeat a certain weight a couple of workouts. All of a sudden a weight that was once very difficult became easy. As long as you are working as hard as possible it is okay not to be progressive all the time -- but you must be consistent.


Craig Showing A Little Arm Size.
Click To Enlarge.

You will get strength gains by repeating a weight that is very difficult to do. It's much better on certain occasions to repeat a weight several workouts than it is to add weight. If you add weight when you're not ready for it, slowly and subtly your form will deteriorate.

The Bottom Line

So what's the bottom line? To get the maximum results out of your training you must not miss workouts due to injury or illness. (I figure I'm not speaking to the unmotivated trainee who will miss a workout because he has an early date with his girlfriend). You must work up to using weights that challenge you to make your prescribed reps, but you must make them while maintaining great form! You must add weight on a prescribed basis until, for example, that one workout arrives where you fail to make 5 reps (you failed at 4).


Defective Repetitions: Do Any Of These Styles Describe You?
The repetition is the basis of all training. So how can something so important go so terribly (and humorously) wrong! See how many of these defective rep types you've spotted (hopefully, not in the mirror!).
[ Click here to learn more. ]


Then stick with that weight till you complete the 5 reps in good form. Then add a pound and go to battle again. Wage war on the bar. Don't mess around. The bar won't get any lighter to try and help you out. No one is going to help you out. You're alone under that bar. You must rely on your own strength. You must have the courage to face a heavy weight every workout, and have the will to summon up all your strength for every rep of every set. And if you can train without missing a single workout for a long period of time, you can expect to win every time.

Check in next time for Part II - you won't want to miss what happens in the next year of Craig's journey.

Till then, Train smart, train hard, and dream big.
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Old 10-16-2009, 11:14 PM   #15
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Old 10-17-2009, 10:54 PM   #16
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Here it is. My favorite quote from John:

In a perfect world, it would be great if you didn’t have to gain any fat – but if you’re really trying to pack on the muscle as fast as possible there is just no way around it. I have to go back for a moment and say a little more about gaining some fat around the waistline.

You know, it always makes me chuckle when I consult with a trainee who is incredibly skinny, has little muscle mass to speak of, and wants to gain as much muscle as possible then says, “ but I don’t want to get fat”. It makes me realize how bad things are out there. I’m talking about the lack of true, honest instruction.

I’ve worked with so many trainees who are so misled, that they have wasted years of effort, trying to get big, but trying to also maintain a sub twelve percent (many sub eight percent) bodyfat that they never get anywhere because they’re bodies are never getting the nutrients necessary to pack on the muscle.

So, here’s the bottom line: If you want to be 200 (or even 230 to 250 depending on height) pounds of “ripped” muscle. Then you better go to work on getting the muscle first (while getting in great shape, and keeping fat gain to a minimum), by spending the next three to five years getting your weight up to 230 pounds or more, and then concentrating on dropping the bodyfat.

You may actually have to do this several times before arriving at 200 pounds “ripped”. The other thing I want you to realize is that it is a lot easier from a metabolic standpoint to lose fat than it is for the body to gain muscle. Simply put - losing fat is easy, gaining muscle is hard.
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Old 11-18-2009, 05:42 PM   #17
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Yea, it's pretty frigging inspiring. SFW!
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Old 11-18-2009, 06:46 PM   #19
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This is an awesome thread, very inspiring.

About the fat quote: I have a roommate that is just like this, I do my best to explain to him that he needs to put on a little fat to get big and just bulk up. He is really scared to gain any fat. The other day he told I want to be a lean "165 and be a lot stronger" and I weight 167 now, this kid is 6 foot 1 inch, and a pole. He wants to be strong but does not want to put any weight on. I just do not get the logic, he wants to be strong and look good, but does not want to gain any weight. Impossible.

I have done a ton of bulk cycles and basically live on a bulk cycle and I am now 212 pounds and would be a very lean looking 200, I like that better than 165 lean. Just me though.

Moral of the store eat like a bear.
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Old 01-02-2010, 09:53 AM   #20
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I've really started to advocate this one for many looking for a full body:

Day one

1. Crunch 1 x 5-20

2. Squat 2-5 x 5-15

3. Stiff-legged deadlift or back extension 1 x 10-15

4. Bench press 2-5 x 5-15

5. Pulldown, Chin, or Row 2-5 x 5-15

6. Calf raises 1 x 5-20

7. Static grip 1 x 60-90 seconds



Day two

1. Sidebend 1 x 5-15

2. Deadlift 2-5 x 5-15

3. Military press 2-5 x 5-15

4. Barbell curl 2-5 x 5-15

5. Close-grip bench press 1-3 x 5-15

6. Wrist curl 1 x 15-20

7. Reverse wrist curl 1 x 15-20
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