I have been very busy with ER work and other projects, so I am back to a 3-way split to conserve recovery. My workout today after I finish this post will be:
Nautilus Pullover with SS retrofits, MedX Chest Press, MedX Row with SS Systems cam, SS Systems Neck flex/extension.
My previous workout was at Fike:
Calf Raise on Hammer Plate Load Calf (great machine), Leg Extension, Leg Curl, Barbell Squat
Recently I was at another blog where comments were being made about me. One recurring theme is a reference to an article that I wrote a long while back, describing the workout of one of our most advanced clients and how the workout was so intense that we induced carpet time with just 3 movements. The comment that followed was something to the effect of “yeah…bragging about putting a subject in shock…and coming from a medical doctor”. What always seems to get lost is that I wrote that article and gave that anecdote as a means of illustrating that it is NOT necessary to train so hard that you have to lay on the carpet, vomit or go into shock ( a notion that was reinforced in the HIT books of the day). That, indeed, to do so is counterproductive at best and potentially harmful at worst. At a time when everyone was still trumpeting that harder is always better and that you are not truly training productively unless you go to these extremes, I made the point that not only do volume and frequency need to be modulated to the minimum amount necessary, but intensity also needed to be limited to that minimal effective dose. So for the record, I want to offer the relevant section of that article written 16 years ago.
Stasis Versus Dynamism Part III:
Roadblocks at the Advanced Level and Blasphemous Experiments
by Doug McGuff, MD, © 1999
Dateline 1984: High Intensity Bodybuilding by Ellington Darden PhD…on pages 117-120 Dr. Darden gives a dramatic description of Sergio Oliva’s thigh training in 1971. The routine was a double pre-exhaust series involving leg press/leg extension/squat with no rest between sets. At the conclusion of this routine Sergio collapsed on the floor. Dr. Darden describes what happened 20 minutes later…. “I walked over to where Sergio was lying on his back. I knelt down and tapped him on the shoulder. There was no response. His body felt cold and clammy. ‘Arthur, he looks dead to me,’ I said.”
Dateline 1984: The Nautilus Advanced Bodybuilding Book by Ellington Darden PhD…on page 11-12 Dr. Darden describes Ray Mentzer’s Arthur Jones-supervised workout of January 5, 1983. “Suddenly Ray’s face contorted in pain. A scream burst from him as he rolled from the machine and collapsed on the floor. His legs resembled two great vibrating machines twitching in unison. You could actually see blood pumping furiously to them…The men pulled Ray from the floor his face still twisted in a grimace. They measured his pulse rate at an astonishing 204 beats per minute-60 seconds after he’d finished the movement.”
Both of these examples describe the training of very advanced, genetically gifted bodybuilders, probably two of the most genetically blessed men that ever lived. Some guys who followed more traditional programs always felt “If only I trained more I too could be a champion”. Being a H.I.T. disciple I reasoned “If only I trained that hard, I too could make great progress”. As Arthur Jones Said to Ray Mentzer… “the key to reaching your potential is figuring out ways to make your training harder, but briefer”. At Ultimate Exercise we have been devoted to standardizing the workout in such a way that we can systematically make our workouts harder, briefer and less frequent. Standardization and good record keeping has caused us to re-examine the Holy Grail of H.I.T.
The Blasphemy Begins
Dateline February 1999: Our most advanced client performs the following workout: Med-X Leg Press 928lbs, SuperSlow Systems Pulldown 242.25lbs, Chest Press 414lbs. All TUL’s were around 1:20-1:30. At the conclusion of the workout he became very pale, and for the first time ever, appeared to shrink before our eyes, when usually, he would appear massively pumped. Remembering the dramatic descriptions above, I immediately went to check the subject’s pulse. Maybe it was above 200, maybe we had delivered a legendary workout a-la Arthur Jones! When I grabbed his wrist to feel his radial pulse, I could not find a pulse at all. Reassuringly I could feel his heart beating in his chest and he did have a weak carotid pulse. It takes a systolic blood pressure of at least 90mm Hg to produce a radial pulse. A systolic blood pressure of less than 90 is defined as cardiovascular shock. This brief workout of just 3 exercises had put this subject in shock! We were so proud. The next workout was the first time in 15 months that this subject failed to progress on every set of every exercise. This experience has been repeated in several subjects so far.
To Arthur Jones’ credit, he actually wrote that such severe intensity is neither desirable or necessary. He advised that one should feel capable of repeating the workout within 20 minutes. But having read such dramatic descriptions of intensity, I assumed that more intensity is always better. What we are discovering at Ultimate Exercise is that intensity is just like volume and frequency…it should be used in the minimum amount necessary. More is NOT better.
As we discussed in the first article, we believe the relative contributions of inroad, metabolic effect and weight progression change over time. As you become more advanced, you are able to bring about a degree of inroad and metabolic effect that can inhibit weight progression. Without weight progression you will not get stronger or bigger. As previously discussed I theorize that a certain degree of intensity produces GH/IGF-1 release. Weight exposure increases IGF-1 receptors. At some point, I believe, excess intensity seems to stimulate IGF-1 production but at the same time the stress hormones released down regulate IGF-1 receptors. With too few receptors to bind to, IGF-1 cannot exert is muscle-building effect. We now believe that as you progress, you don’t only need to control your volume and frequency, you also need to control your intensity.
At Ultimate Exercise we have always standardized 10 seconds of deep inroad technique (attempting continued movement after failure occurs). We chose 10 seconds at least somewhat arbitrarily; it is long enough to ensure bona-fide failure but not so long that it will drive off clients or encourage them to fake failure. We are now beginning an experiment that will involve changing our protocol. Beginning clients on the 5 set routine will continue the 10 second deep inroad technique. When the client becomes advanced enough to require a decrease to our 3 set routine, we will change to a 5 second deep inroad technique. When a client becomes advanced enough to do the 3 set routine every 10 days, we will stop the set at the point of failure. Very advanced clients will be handled very carefully. We will not use more than 1 large compound movement per exercise. We will instead use routines composed of one of the “big 3″ compound movements and 2 or 3 small movements. This will decrease the mechanical workload of the workout and therefore should thus limit the metabolic workload that the subject must deal with. Most importantly, we will terminate their sets just short of failure. Most likely, we will choose some TUL that is a fraction of their customary TUL to failure (such as 90%). Hopefully, this will allow continued weight progression and strength increases. Understand, we have collected no meaningful data to substantiate this theory. The logic we have proposed seems to be supported by observational experience, so we will proceed. We will update our readers in future articles.
Over time, we learned that weight progression was not a linear process and that it was not directly correlated with improvements in muscular size. It simply took enough time and experience to run up against the limits of the equipment’s mechanics and a trainee’s ability to optimize skill and motor unit recruitment patterns. It seems that in all realms enough is enough, and more is not better. However, These early experiences and thought experiments are always fun to revisit. Even if it is to refute the comments of some internet doofus.
Keep an eye out for the articles section of the blog, as I will slowly migrate over the original articles from the UE website.
Post your WOW’s and your thoughts.