Progression Obsession 3: Even More Gains

This week we are going to wrap up our series on how to keep the gains coming when adding weight to the bar just isnt feasible or isn’t a big enough stimulus to significantly add to the workload you are doing. 2.5 pounds just isn’t all that taxing on the body, some times you need to throw away the chisel and break out the jackhammer.

In Part One we talked about adding weight on a set by set basis, jacking up the volume with extra reps and sets, and increasing the density by shrinking the rest intervals down.

In Part Two we talked about some approaches that had nothing to do with adding weight or reps, but rather mastery of the weight and confidence.

This week we are going to talk about the more demanding methods of progression. The ones that require the most intensity, tap the deepest into your recovery ability, and for this reason should be used sparingly and for short periods of time.

Eccentric Volume

The eccentric portion of the lift is the “lowering” portion. Bringing the bar to the chest, lowering the weight into a squat position from standing, or bringing the bar from overhead down back to the shoulders are a few examples.

elevator
Going Down

 

The eccentric portion is also where most muscle damage, and thus muscle soreness, comes from. It’s part of the reason body building routines only train a muscle group once a week, while Olympic and Cross Fit programs can train them more frequently… Body Builders general do more reps, and thus are doing more time in the eccentric phase, while Oly Lifters and Crossfitters can be seen dropping the bar in some cases, bypassing it all together.

The way I like to build up eccentric volume with a weight you are having trouble getting passed is to keep the load consistent, but increase the eccentric time from 1 second to 3 seconds. Basically a “controlled descent” becomes a “slow and controlled descent.” To conceptualize it, in a regular rep the bar is almost falling, and the lifter would have a hard time reversing it. In a slow and controlled eccentric the lifter maintain constant tension on the bar during the lowering phase, and could easily reverse it at any point along the rep.

This method is quite taxing, and I recommend you stick to this for 3-4 weeks, then try and up the weight and go back to “regular reps” that dont stress the negative quite as much.

Finishers, Intensity Techniques, and Fatalities.

Call these whatever you want to… These are the bread of butter of a Mike Rashid approved workout. The true sign that you are at the end and have officially earned the right to call it a day. When “regular” sets and reps just arent doing it, and even the techniques we’ve talked about so far in this series aren’t getting the gains trains moving on the tracks, it’s time to break out the biggest guns there are.

These techniques all generally fall under the umbrella of “beyond failure” … You essentially do a certain weight for as many reps as you can do, and then somehow extend the set beyond that by stripping some weight off, resting just a little bit, or changing the movement slightly before continuing on until you again reach muscular failure. This can happen several times in a single set.

Some Favorites:

Drop Sets – 3 drops is generally a good starting point, and will get a large amount of volume done in a very short period of time, while hitting every muscle fiber along the way. Here are some ways to do them:

  • Run The Rack / Strip Sets – A CT Fletcher Favorite, Using a DB movement (presses or curls generally) you basically start at a weight you can get 20 reps with, and when you do you drop to the next smallest dumbbell and continue on until you are handling weights that anorexics will laugh at you for using.
    • For the truly sadistic… Run the weight back up. It seems impossible but somehow you can do it if you truly gut it out. Check out Big Rob and Mike doing it below with DB Tricep extensions. Many a Metro Flex arm day has brought men to their knees with this gauntlet.

  •  Double Double – With this method you will drop two times. Cutting the weight in half both times, BUT doubling the reps. It generally works best with 6-12-24, but anything works really… 5-10-20, 10-20-40, 25-50-100 for those really looking to have some fun.

 

  • Wheels Away – For the truly strong and truly insane, start with as many 45’s as you can per side and when you hit failure take one off each side and keep on repping. Continue down until you finish up with one wheel per side. Spotters are hugely useful here, both to strip the weight and the keep you safe during the set… Its brutal and with the muscular fatigue here safety is definitely a concern on any big money lifts. The more mortal among us can use 25’s for this method to the same effect.

Minimal Rest Sets

This intensity technique has many variations, but unlike above where you end up using very light weights by the end of the drop set, you are going to be using heavy ass weights the entire time and the rest periods are going to be cut WAY down. 2-3 minute rest periods have no place here. Here are some ideas:

  • DC Style Rest Pause – The staple of DoggCrapp training, these are considered so brutal and effective that the entire DC Routine is built around doing only one such set as the entire workout. Yikes… You do them by picking a weight you can get 8-15 reps on the first “set” … Then take 10-15 deep breaths and go to failure again, followed by another 10-15 breaths, and go to failure again.
  • Cluster Sets – Take a weight you can do for approx 5 reps, and do a single rep. Rest 10 seconds and do another rep… Keep going until you know you cant get another rep. This generally allows you to get 8-10 reps with a weight you can normally only get 5 reps with.
  • 5-4-3-2-1: This time start with an 8-10 RM, do 5 reps and rest 10 seconds, do 4 reps, rest 10 seconds, 3 reps, rest 10 seconds, 2 reps, rest 10 seconds, and finally 1 last rep. You have now done 15 reps with a weight you could normally only get for 8 reps… These are brutal. Credit to CT over at T-Nation for this one and the next.
  • Hard 5’s – Again pick a roughly 8RM, Do 5 reps and rest 10-15 seconds, do 5 more reps and rest again for 10 seconds, and a final set of 5.

These techniques don’t quite have the intensity and WOW factor of drop-set-style sets… But the weight is much higher, which brings the intensity way up as well.

Again, these techniques are extremely stressful to the body and should be used as a plateau buster of sorts, or as a once-a-month challenge kind of thing.

Get to Gaining

So there you have it, tons of methods for stimulating new gains. I hope I have shown you that more weight isnt the only way to make gains, and it certainly isn’t the only thing to focus on when lifting. Even these 3 articles are only skimming the surface of ways to challenge your body in new and novel ways. For an even greater list check out Mikes “Book of Fatalities” to really get some direct guidance on how, when, and what to do in your own workouts.

Open The Book, Shut The Mind Off... And Grind it Out
Open The Book, Shut The Mind Off… And Grind it Out

A Double Dose of Dogma Death

Back in the year 2000 the internet was in its infancy, there wasn’t the massive abundance of information there is now… Most of the lifting information you were getting was from only a few select sources. Luckily most of it was quite legit, as those sources were usually hard core body builders and fitness pros who did this stuff for a living, and their livelihood depended on results. Back then there wasn’t the “I placed 14th in the novice class at my first show and now I’m a diet guru” crowd that seems to be so vocal now a days.

However, that doesn’t mean some of the ideas that came out of that time period were absolutely correct, in fact some of it was down right wrong and can make your life needlessly complex, miserable, and socially difficult. Lets discuss a few of them this week.

  • Eating Every 3 Hours

I’m gonna start out with a big one here, maybe even the grand-daddy of them all. Before I begin though, let me clarify. I’m not, by any stretch, saying that meal frequency and timing isn’t important and doesn’t make any difference, but back in the day it was literally written that you should set a timer (and I even heard people say to carry one around with you … this was before cell phones were in every pocket in the world, remember) and eat every 3 hours, on the dot… And if that if you waited any longer than that buzzer going off at the 3 hour mark your body was literally cannibalizing itself to get a hold of the sweet, sweet nitrogen stores in your lean body mass.

The idea, as I remember it, was that you wanted a nice, steady stream of insulin instead of huge peaks and valleys. Along with that you wanted a constant stream of protein to keep blood nitrogen levels elevated so your body wouldn’t “tap into its own stores” and eat your muscle away for it.

Real Men Eat Every 2 Hours!
Real Men Eat Every 2 Hours!

While it is very likely true that the largest of us land mammals probably benefit from this strategy, I think with the rise of things like Intermittent Fasting (of which I am not advocating) and other alternative eating styles, it’s safe to say that you don’t need to bring that tupperware container to work and school to make sure you get your protein and insulin spike at the dead on 3 hour mark… For those of us looking to simply look great and perform well, you can very easily go 4-6 hours without anything incoming, especially if you ate a large meal prior to that time period.

  • Drinking at least A Gallon of Water a Day

I don’t know if you have noticed this or not… But lifters and body builders can be kind of nuts.This was another one of those things that the body building took a hold of and ran with it. I think it took hold because the recommendation for “a normal person” was to drink 8 eight ounce glasses of water a day… And hell, “If a normal person needs 8, I damn sure need at least twice that!”

The guideline I remember seeing often was to drink an ounce of water for every pound of body weight. For your average 200lb body builder, you’re talking a gallon and a half, minimum.

That Should Get Me Through Lunch Time
That Should Get Me Through Lunch Time

Never mind that the whole eight glasses thing was largely arbitrary, and has been debunked. The fact is that most people who take up lifting just don’t lift in a manner that requires a massive increase in water intake above and beyond their regular habits. Training a single body part in an air conditioned gym just isn’t that taxing on the bodies hydration status. Sorry, you didn’t lose a gallon of sweat during that arm day.

Dehydration is a real thing, and even a small amount of it can impact your performance… But you really don’t need to carry that milk jug of water with you EVERY WHERE YOU GO. Seriously. Drink a few glasses during the day, hit the drinking fountain in between a few sets, and you’re covered.

Let The Dogma Die

The last decade has shown us that not everything you heard back in the day was the gospel and needed to be followed 100% to the letter. Plenty of people have had success deviating from these must-follow rules. You should always strive to practice best habits, but if you find yourself alienating yourself and stressing out over eating every 3 hours versus every 4… Let the dogma die and wait an hour. It wont kill you.

Big Ass Shoulders

Having brolic shoulders will get you more ass than you can handle. There is nothing more physically impressive than entering a room full of people, and even in dress clothes, your V – taper makes everyone stop and stare. Visually it starts with the shoulders.

In this day and age, more people are picking up a barbell, and getting their body’s tight, toned and muscular. Visually, shoulders are typically the first thing that are noticed when you enter a room. The benefits of training shoulders properly are endless. They will increase strength in other lifts, such as the bench press. They will definitely come in handy when 400 plus pounds are on the upper part of your back while squatting. This is a body part that if properly trained will benefit so many other muscle groups that you may not know its working.

If any of you have watched any of my many shoulder training videos, you will see that I typically start off with a shoulder press. I start with either a barbell press, or a dumbell press. The reason being is I like to start a body part off with what I feel is the most important exercise for that muscle group. I do this movement standing for a couple of reasons. Reason one, because it’s more difficult. I always choose the more difficult route when training and in life. Conquering more difficult tasks makes you stronger physically and mentally. Also, when standing doing over head presses, it activates stabilizers in the core. It strengthens your lower back, obliques, and abdominals. It also looks a lot more bad ass, when you are strict pressing 225lbs plus for reps.

In my opinion, when doing the primary movement for a said body part, in this case, a shoulder press, if done properly i.e.: The right intensity, proper rep ranges, proper weight, thats all you really need to do for that body part. However, I still do more, but I spend a lot of time on that primary movement. I won’t leave that first movement until my shoulders feel extremely taxed. A shoulder press properly, will work every head of the deltoids, your traps, your rhomboids, triceps etc. This is why, the presses require so many sets.

I am a huge advocate on high reps, but lets not be confused. When I say ‘high reps’ I mean as many reps as possible for the said weight. Each set should be a progression, up to a 1 to 3 rep max. Each set I am performing max reps. Once I’ve reached that 1 to 3 rep max, I have several options on how to complete the sets.

Option 1:
Barbell Overhead Strict Press
Pyramid sets (Sample weight)
Set 1: 135lbs X 20 Reps
Set 2: 185lbs X 15 Reps
Set 3: 225lbs X 08 Reps
Set 4: 245lbs X 03 Reps
Set 5: 225lbs X 08 Reps (or max reps)
Set 6: 185lbs X 15 Reps (or max reps)
Set 7: 135lbs X 20 Reps (or max reps)

Option 2:
Barbell Overhead Strict Press
Progress to a max, then come down to ‘working sets’
Set 1: 135lbs X 20 Reps
Set 2: 185lbs X 15 Reps
Set 3: 225lbs X 08 Reps
Set 4: 245lbs X 03 Reps
Set 5: 185lbs X max reps (working set)
Set 6: 185lbs X max reps (working set)

Option 3:
Barbell Overhead Strict Press
Progress to a max, then fatality set
Set 1: 135lbs X 20 Reps
Set 2: 185lbs X 15 Reps
Set 3: 225lbs X 08 Reps
Set 4: 245lbs X 03 Reps
Fatality Set:
245lbs on Barbell. 4, 25lb plates, this will be a ‘strip, or drop’ set.
4 25lb plates on each side for 3 reps, strip a plate off each side,
3 25lb plates on each side for 8 reps, strip a plate off each side,
2 25lb plates on each side for 16 reps, strip a plate off each side,
1 25lb plate on each side for max reps (must be over 20)
no break in between these drop sets, only enough time it takes you or your lifting partner to take the plates off.

This is a typical ‘Mike Rashid’ progression on presses. If done properly, your shoulders should feel fried. Now is when the BCAA’s come in handy because we aren’t done. Below I will provide an entire shoulder session. Try this and your shoulder sessions will never be the same.

Mike Rashid’s Overtraining Shoulders (Boulders) program. Week 1, day 1
Movement 1: Warm Up
Hand stand push ups (lean against wall)
4 sets of 10
Movement 2: Standing Barbell Military (or strict press)
Lower the barbell as low as possible, press the bar to a lockout position. Keep the movement as strict as possible (no bouncing from the knees).
Set 1: 135lbs X 20 Reps
Set 2: 155lbs X 20 Reps
Set 3: 185lbs X 15 Reps
Set 4: 225lbs X 06 Reps
Set 5: 245lbs X 02 Reps
Working Sets
Set 6: 185lbs X 15 Reps (or max reps, as many as possible)
Set 7: 185lbs X 15 Reps (max reps)

Movement 3: Barbell Upright Rows/ Supersetted with Resistance band rows
Barbell Rows Band Rows
Set 1: 135lbs X 15 20 Reps
Set 2: 155lbs X 12 20 Reps
Set 3: 175lbs X 10 20 Reps
Set 4: 195lbs X 07 20 Reps
Set 5: 135lbs X max reps, no bands

Movement 4: Medial Delt Raises (Side delt raises)
Start with the Dumbbells to your sides. Do not bring them from the front of you, because there is no leverage coming from the sides, making the movement more difficult therefore increasing strength and recruiting more muscle fibers.

Set 1: 35lbs X 30 Reps
Set 2: 45lbs X 30 Reps
Set 3: 55lbs X 30 Reps
Set 4: 35lbs X 30 Reps

Movement 5 & 6: Shoulder shrugs (traps)/ Supersetted with Reverse Flyes (rear delts)
Shrugs Reverse Flyes
Set 1: 100lb DB’s X 20 35lb DB’s X 20
Set 2: 110lb DB’s X 20 35lb DB’s X 20
Set 3: 120lb DB’s X 20 35lb DB’s X 20
Set 4: 130lb DB’s X 20 35lb DB’s X 20

*Reverse Flyes: grab 2 dumbells, bend down until your torso’s parallel to the floor and perform your flyes. No ego lifting with this movement! Use light weight and perform them properly and gradually increase the weight.

Mike Rashid

Mike Rashid’s Top Quotes

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You can do amazing things. Don’t be afraid of that hard work. My workouts are tough. That’s what you want. You don’t want nothing easy. Easy ain’t going to get you nothing. You know, it may get you something. You may maintain and what not. Easy may work for some people, but I don’t want that. You know what I mean?

I feel like the harder it is, the more I’m getting out of it. If I conquer these hard tasks, you just get way more out of it. You know what I mean? If it’s just easy — if you get everything easy — when you’re faced with something difficult, you fold.”

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“I feel squats are the foundation for any athlete, in any sport. I like to incorporate powerlifting principles in progressing to a max effort for a neural response which translates to strength. However I like to progress with bodybuilding styled rep ranges which expands cells translating to larger muscles. After which I activate that inner athlete to do any type of crazy burn out or drop set which translate to badassery.”

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“Honestly, what’s it worth if your abs only last a couple days? From what I’ve observed during my brief time in this “fitness industry” many of these “fitness” folks aren’t fit. For some, having abs is a result of being malnourished. I’m bringing this up to say this. If you are a part of this industry, try to actually be fit and healthy. If you being healthy doesnt allow you to be the most shredded person on the planet, then so be it. I feel this obsession with being “shredded” is mentally unhealthy. Some have to do sooo much for this temporary look, they gain weight after and get depressed.”

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“I see all of you bad asses killing it in the gym. I love that. Dont forget to be good to your mind. You dont train it, it’ll become weak.”

“You must do what you want, what you feel you should do.. Not what people think is best, do what feels right for you. Fuck the status quo. Fuck the norm. There are so many ‘experts’ and know it alls, that think they have it all figured out. But guess what? Life is way to dynamic. You’ll never have it figured out. Not fitness, not business, not relationships. Nothing.”

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“Tell people that you love how much you love them. Tell people that you dont like, that you dont like them and why. Step into actions with boldness. But never be too ‘Alpha’ that you cant take constructive criticism. Or learn from a mistake. No matter how much it may sting, DO NOT reject the truth. And if you are a leader. Be a damn good leader. Be an example. Dont half ass anything. Dont be out of shape telling people how to be in shape. Dont be a cheater telling people not to cheat. Walk the walk. That’s it. simple common sense.”

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“What are you all about Mike Rashid? A rich living experience. Mental and physical fitness. Progressive thoughts. Optimizing every area of my life. Enhancing relationships of those in my circle. Laughing. Conquering. Learning. Progressing. Enjoying good people and conversations, food, movies, all of the great pleasures in life. Consciously trying to become a better person everyday. Constantly trying to help my loved ones become better. What are you about?”

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“I dont care what your profession is. You will be more successful if you trained regularly, and ate well. You will have more energy, more confidence, look better, and people will treat you like the boss that you are or can be. A word to the wise is sufficient. Get off your asses.”

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“Workouts like these aren’t really for building the body, it’s for building that mental strength, giving yourself a ‘gut check’ and tapping into will power. The more you tap into it, the more readily accessible it will be to you in a time of need.”

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“Shakespeare: Julius Caesar: Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once. I love this quote. The meaning is at the mercy of interpretation. An example of it to me is when someone looks at you as an enemy, or with envy or hatred in their heart.. Yet smile and shake your hand.. They die. Every time they smile and fake nice they die. Not man enough to say “I don’t like you” if I don’t care for someone I treat them accordingly. I focus my energy on my loved ones. With that being said, knock it off with the fake ish. Quit being a big ass coward and be real. I can respect a person that keeps it real vs one that acts like everything is peachy when it clearly isn’t. I hear everything.”

“Rise and grind! Nothing comes to a sleeper but a dream!”

“What I’m telling y’all is: strive for excellence. Don’t make excuses. When everything is stacked against you, get excited about that. Because when you bust through those obstacles, you grow. Your aptitude as a person enhances. Self esteem is your self estimation of what your are, who you are. No one can define that but you.”

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“I try my best to make things look easy. But truth is, I work my ass off for everything that I have. I work my ass of to look the way that I do. I try my best to live a disciplined lifestyle. Saturday 5:24pm holiday weekend. Where am I? I’m in the gym about to train legs. I am 100% faithful to MY success. When you see me, you see that dedication. You see it through my success in whatever I do. I’m a winner, but only because I bust my ass and work hard. I competed twice. Both shows, I was training the next day. I haven’t taken more than 2 days off in a week in longer than I can remember. Lately it’s only been one day off. I’m obsessed with success. I’m obsessed with me being better than I was. I can’t help it, can’t stop, nor do I want to:) See you at the top!”

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“I’m not afraid of death. I actually have no desire to live 100 years. However, I want my time spent on earth in this physical form to be that of quality. I’m about enjoying every moment. Turning negatives into learning experiences. Therefore there’s never a negative. Graceful living, fluid thoughts, strong and healthy body, strong mind, seeing smiles on my kids face, seeing smiles on my loved ones faces, good company, good music, a beautiful woman on my side. What else can a man ask for.”

“Be disciplined, train hard. Train your mind as thoroughly as you train your body. Be a complete warrior. Not just a brute. Practice eloquence of the tongue, be fluid in thought.. Be gentle, but strong. Be humble. Stand firm in your beliefs. Be a protector. Make your word your bond. Firm handshakes, make eye contact. Be accountable for your actions. Just thinking about some of the lessons my pops taught me. Just reiterating them to myself, and sharing them with you.”

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“OVER: above in authority, rank, power. Synonyms: complete, accomplished. TRAINING: the education, instruction, or discipline. Synonyms: discipline, basics, foundation, practice. MIKE RASHIDS DEFINITION OF OVERTRAINING: to completely dominate your training. To leave no stones unturned when training.”