If there’s one thing that tops the list when it comes to High Intensity Training, it’s the question of maximum progress. Due to the intensity of going to failure and beyond, the body can quickly go into a state of overtraining. You must understand how to manage your progress. This has led me to create hybrid routines that incorporate high intensity, low stress techniques while also incorporating advanced high intensity techniques that are in many cases high stress but super effective in making maximum progress in the shortest amount of time.
Stress is one of the biggest contributors to overtraining because most don’t take into account all the different types of stress the body faces, both good and bad, that affect resilience. Let’s take a moment to understand in a simple way, how the body builds muscle. But first let’s lay down some ground rules…
1- Training must be intense to stimulate muscle growth.
We really don’t know what percentage of intensity is needed to best stimulate muscle growth… is it 80% or 94%… which is it? So 100% is a reasonable starting point because we’re asking the body to adapt to something it’s never done before.
If you do the same thing over and over again, there is no need to change. That’s why you see people in the gym who never change!
2- The training must be brief.
Because we have the ability to increase our strength by 400% or more…yet our recovery ability can only be increased by 50%…we must be very conscious of what is minimally required to stimulate an increase .
Since the body is very intelligent, it is not necessary to stimulate it over and over again with endless sets or one exercise. You only need to do it once. More than is minimally required to stimulate this increase, as the adaptive machinery kicks in, you are detracting from recovery and the overcompensation process, which can only be considered overtraining.
Once established an exercise is all that is required. It’s not how much you do but how you do it.
3- The training must be infrequent to allow the increase.
It’s no secret that after intense training something has been taken away from you. You can feel it when you walk out of the gym when you’re done… if you really trained to fail an intense workout. Don’t confuse volume with intensity. They are opposites.
This is exactly what has happened. When you engage in a high-intensity training workout, you dig a trench in your system’s resilience. This is a good analogy and it will make sense to you.
Since the body recovers as a whole and not by part of the body, which most practitioners don’t realize yet, the rest required before loosening the muscles is based on a two-step process… recovery and overcompensation.
If you return to the gym before you’ve accommodated both processes, you’re disrupting your progress and most likely going into a state of overtraining.
This process can take anywhere from 4-5 days for a beginner… to 7-14 days for an advanced athlete. You must first fill in the trench before you can build on top of it. Once the trench is filled, what remains goes toward building the mountain, or as we say, building muscles.
You have to be at 100% first before you can be at 120% or put another way, until you’ve offset the exhaustive effects of training, you won’t put on any extra muscle. So how do we know when to train?
THE TWO DAY RULE
This is possibly the most important concept you will learn if you are a high intensity training athlete. Here it is in a nutshell… Once you’re feeling 100%, feeling energetic again, and feeling great, then and only then, insert two more days of rest before hitting the gym for your next workout.
The reason for this is simple. You’ve been 100% compensated, but we’re not here to break even, are we? No, we are here to build strength and muscle up to our genetic potential. To do this, we must pay attention and “ride the lightning” without getting burned… which brings me to the next topic and that is…
How to incorporate high-intensity training techniques without tipping the scales with stress, allowing for uninterrupted progress
We hear a lot about hybrids these days.
There are hybrid boats that use engines that are electric, but powered by a diesel generator that allows for a greater reserve of fossil energy while propelling the vessel efficiently and quickly to its destination.
There are hybrid cars that do the same thing and allow for higher mileage without hitting the oil supply as hard as it would if they had monster 500 cubic inch engines under the hood. This is not much different than what we are doing here.
What we are doing here is combining a high-intensity, low-stress technique with infrequent high-intensity, high-stress techniques that allow for longer, more intense contractions in most cases, allowing for more adaptation and progress.
As one gets older and stronger, the body requires a more intense contraction to move from its status quo to a place it hasn’t been. The thing to keep in mind is this… as implied above, the stronger you get, the shorter and shorter your workout should be.
Many athletes, because they don’t understand how to insert these most effective techniques and read their body correctly, generally avoid them because they inevitably overtrain.
There are many types of intensity techniques; Here are a few I like…
Each of these goes beyond failure and because of that… the intensity increases. However, there is a couple that stresses less than the rest.
I’m going to set up an example of how I might proceed using a low-stress, high-stress technique in a 4-set split training routine. We will be using:
1- Pre-exhaustion (under stress): PE is done by starting with an isolation exercise and moving relentlessly directly into a compound exercise, thus pre-exhausting the target muscle with isolation and then using fresh muscle to push the target muscle beyond the point. creating an adaptive response.
2- Contraction Holds (High Tension) – CH targets either the strongest part of the movement and/or the fully contracted muscle. We are going to use both here. It is the intense contraction that is the stimulus for muscle growth.
All sets that are not crunch sets are taken to complete muscular failure. All sets that are contraction hold sets require a workout or two to experiment with the proper weight to safely hold the specified position. It is important to note that in most cases you will be using much more weight than you normally would with a set of repetitions brought to complete muscular failure.
Here it goes…
Chest, Shoulders and Arms
Dumbbell Flyes (before exhaustion) – 6-10 reps
Incline Smith Machine Bench Press – 3-5 reps (no rest between sets)
Smith Machine Seated Press Crunch Hold (one inch below lockout) – 7-10 seconds
(These are performed seated with your back supported with the snap hooks engaged. Do not fully lock out, just lift the pins to allow your shoulders and triceps to contract against the weight.)
Curl Machine Contracted Hold (performed in a fully contracted position) – 7-10 seconds
NOTE: As stated above, holds engaged in this manner employ much more weight than could normally be used for reps, please take the time to move safely in this technique and of course have a good spotter and safety clips on the stand when you do. this is a lot of stress. If you have any questions about your health to perform such exercise, first have it checked by a medical professional.
legacy and back
Leg press – 10 – 20 repetitions
Toe Press (on leg press machine): 5-8 reps with a 10 second contraction in a slumped position at the top between each rep
Barbell Rows: 6-10
Smith Machine Barbell Row Hold – 7-10 seconds
(Place the smith machine pins and the safety at the midpoint between the floor and your waist so the bar sits on them before you begin. Bend over and lift off the pins and hold)
Chest, Shoulders and Arms
Incline Smith Machine Bench Press with Contracted Hold (1 inch from lockout) 7-10 seconds
Dumbbell Lateral Machine – 8-15 reps
Barbell curl – 6-10 reps
Lying Triceps Extension – 6-10 reps
back and legacy
Jumpers (pre-exhaust with) – 6-10 repetitions
Pull downs (palms facing you) – 6-10 repetitions
Sustained leg press (one inch from lockout) 10 – 20 seconds
Stiff-legged or hyperextension deadlift or back machine (i.e. Nautilus) – 10 – 20 reps
As you can see, we’re mixing pre-exhaustion with contracted grips, which would use a lot more weight than you normally would on miss.
So be sure to experiment with jumping jacks and weights. A good example would be if you can incline bench press 200 pounds normally, you can most likely start with 275 or 300 pounds for contract grips, 1 inch from lockout. Also, remember that you don’t lock your elbows; rather, you just remove the bar from the pins and keep it.
It is imperative that when using an example routine similar to the one I have given here (I have tried this exercise routine for the last 2 months with excellent results in both size and strength) that sufficient rest is provided.
I would suggest training once (not the full 4 workouts but one workout) every 5 days to start until you complete all 4 and then start again unless you are extremely advanced. If so, you may need to insert additional rest days (7-10) and/or remove one exercise per workout to reduce it to 3 sets instead of 4.
HERE IS AN EXAMPLE: Eliminate the following exercises:
WO1 – Earrings
WO2 – Barbell Rows
WO3 – Wings
WO4 – Jerseys or Stiff Dead/Hypers
Remember, you are doing nothing but managing stress here. So manage it as you get older and stronger and remember to use the two day rule!