My previous articles have outlined many different training routines and techniques to increase muscle size and strength using the HIT, or High Intensity Protocol. This article continues that with a focus on outlining some of the many diverse HIT Variables or techniques available.
The following is a partial description:
After completing a set to failure using good form, cheat the weight enough to complete additional positive reps. This will allow you to go past momentary muscular failure. It is very important to use perfect form during the initial reps and only use the cheating technique after that to complete the extra reps.
This technique should only be used by experienced trainees as too much cheating will defeat the purpose of training the muscle and could easily lead to a severe injury. This is a very effective variable to use if training without a partner. A good exercise to use this with is barbell or dumbbell curls.
This method emphasizes an exercise’s most difficult zones together with a targeting of the easier zones to make the training of those areas more intense than what it normally would be.
An example using the bench press is as follows:
• Slowly lower the bar to the bottom position, then complete three bottom partial reps consisting of one-third range of movement.
• After the third partial repetition, remain at the bottom position for two-seconds with the bar lightly touching, but not resting on the chest.
• Continue to lift the bar stopping at the midway point for a 3-5 second static hold, then continue for three mid-range partials working the middle third of the movement.
• Next move all the way to the top but do not lock the elbows. At that point perform 3 top partials, working the top one-third of the movement.
• Proceed back down to the mid-point of the movement and hold the weight for another 3-5 second static hold before lowering the weight back to the bottom to repeat the sequence.
The Tut (time under tension) should be approximately 30 seconds using a smooth motion with no momentum and can be repeated 1-3 times. A full repetition may be interspersed between sequences.
This pattern is only one of many possible designs. Eclectic Sets can be modified in design every workout, to suit individual goals.
You will be most successful with this method if new designs are integrated regularly. Use eclectic sets for brief periods, alternating with full range repetition work.
The “easy” zone, toward the top of the movement should be saved for last, when the muscles are already somewhat tired. The pre-fatigue at the bottom range serves to make the middle range work more difficult, where leverage is better. This makes the top range work more difficult than usual, where leverage is best.
Negative accentuated reps
With this technique you perform a positive rep followed by a slow negative or a two-arm positive followed by a one arm negative rep.
After lifting a weight alternate focusing the entire resistance between arms, lowering with the left side first and then the right side. Lower the weight to a count of eight on all reps. Using the Leg Press as an example; perform the exercise in the following manner.
Press the footplate of the machine to the point just prior to lockout using the power of both legs. Lower the plate to the start position placing all of the resistance effort on your left leg. Press to the end position again with both legs and resist the plate back to the start position with your right leg only. This method allows you to effectively use the negative portion of the rep to work your muscles much harder than you normally would be able to.
Negative only reps
Perform the negative part of a movement without the positive. Have a training partner lift the weight into the completed positive position. Lower the weight back to the beginning of the movement by yourself to a count of eight. The set is complete when you are no longer able to lower the weight under control. When this happens stop the set immediately due to safety concerns. You will be able to use a weight that is 40% heavier than the weight you normally use in an exercise.
Science has shown that the negative portion of an exercise is the most productive due to the high amount of micro trauma that it inflicts on the muscle’s fibers. The reason you are able to use more weight during the negative is your muscle is able to resist the downward movement by friction of the muscle’s fibers against one another rather than having to lift the weight as it does during the lifting phase of an exercise.
Forced Negative Reps
Complete a negative rep while your training partner adds additional resistance with his/her hands to make the negative harder. Your partner needs to be very careful to add resistance to the barbell or machine movement arm in a smooth, non-jerky fashion. Do the positive portion in the typical fashion.
An example is a barbell curl done in the following way: Curl the bar up to the top position. As you lower the bar your partner presses down on the bar for the entire negative rep, adding just enough extra resistance to make control of the lowering very hard. Your partner removes his/her hand as you curl the bar up. Repeat for the desired rep count.
Another variation is to use it with pure negative reps. Using the barbell curl as an example, have your partner lift the bar to the top position. As you lower the bar your partner adds resistance in the fashion above.
This is a great method to quickly exhaust your muscles by performing numerous small “mini-sets” as a component of one large set. To do this, perform a set to failure then reduce the weight immediately and perform more reps to failure. Reduce the weight and perform more reps to failure and so on for 5 mini sets. The 5 mini sets constitute one set.
An example is the machine press completed in the following manner. Do a 10 rep set to failure. Return the weight to the stack, grab the pin and reduce the weight 25%. Press the bar for another 5-8 reps to failure, then return the weight to the stack. Reduce the weight another 25%, then repeat for a total of 5 mini-sets.
Fiber Sweep Triple Drop Sets
This type of triple drop set works three different ways.
For the first set of the drop use a very heavy weight (about 85-90% 1RM) and do 2 to 3 reps with it. This will work on muscle and tendon strength and builds the Myofibril portion of the muscle, which is largely responsible for the strength of a muscle.
For the second drop use a weight that allows 8 to 10 reps to failure. This builds muscle mass and strength.
For the third drop use a light weight and do 10 to 12 reps to failure. This increases the Sarcoplasm, or the energy fluid within the muscle. Since the Sarcoplasm is responsible for the majority of a muscle’s size, this is very effective at building muscle size.
1. Use a resistance that allows you to do 10-12 repetitions but perform only half those repetitions.
2. Rest 10 seconds.
3. Continue steps 1 and 2 until reaching muscular failure (which often occurs by the third or fourth miniset).
4. Optional: Continue the process by performing sets of 6-8 repetitions until no longer able to do so then continue with sets of 4-6 repetitions, 2-3 reps then finish with single repetition attempts.
This will condition your muscles for a higher repetition due to the cumulative high rep count, and is an excellent variable if you find it difficult to “feel” a muscle work hard.
These are typically done in the stretched or fully contracted positions. They are small, fast movements at the end of a set to finish off the muscle.
After coming to failure in a set quickly move the weight in fast, pulsing movements until unable to move the weight at all. The movements will be short, only 2-4 inches in length.
Train a muscle with an isolation exercise to failure followed immediately by a compound joint exercise to failure. A great example of this variable is to train the chest with the Pek Dek or dumbbell flyes to failure, then do a set of Incline or Flat Bench Presses to failure.
The exercises must be performed with absolutely no rest in between or your muscles will have time to recuperate and you will lose most of the benefit. The reason why this technique is so effective is that you exhaust your Pecs with the Pek Dek, then use your Triceps Muscles, which are fresh as they haven’t been used in the Pek Dek movement, to push your Pecs past failure with the Bench Press.
This is done by performing two isolation exercises followed by a compound exercise. An example is: Barbell Curls- 1 set of 10 reps, Dumbbell Concentration Curls- 1 set of 8 reps, Cable Pull-downs Palms-Facing- 1 set of 12 reps.
Do all exercises with no rest between them; otherwise you will lose a large amount of the benefit of this protocol.
This form of pre-exhaustion uses two isolation exercises to increase the inroading of the muscle over and above what the single pre-exhaust does, making it more effective.
Perform a compound exercise followed by an isolation exercise. Sets can be performed in the typical “to failure” style or the following with no rest between exercises:
Extremely slow chinup-1 rep only-30/30 cadence (30 second pull-up and 30 second lowering phase)
Bicep curl-standard set to failure using 8 reps positive and negative- 2/4 cadence.
Extremely slow dip-30/30 cadence performed in the same fashion as the pull-up above
Seated triceps extension-standard to failure set consisting of 10 reps.
Note: The chin-up and dip sets can also be completed in the following manner:
Dip-Begin with a 30 second negative followed by a 30 second positive then 30 second negative.
Chin-up-begin with a 30 second negative then a 30 second positive followed by a 30 second negative. These should be completed as a single one and a half rep and are extremely hard to perform as they are very taxing on the muscles.
Double Reverse Pre-Exhaustion
Perform a compound exercise followed by two isolation exercises. This allows you to use maximal weight with the compound exercise for strength and general size increase and follow that with two isolation exercises to confine the effort to the main muscle being trained and thoroughly exhaust it. A great workout with this method is:
Bench press- 1 set of 8 reps
Cable crossovers- 1 set of 12 reps
Pek dek- 1 set of 12 reps
Move from one exercise to the next with minimal rest.
Perform a compound movement followed by an isolation and compound movements. A great workout with this method for arms is:
Extremely slow pull-up-1 rep only-30/30 cadence
Bicep curl-standard failure set consisting of 10 reps
Pull-up-negative only-8, 8-second negative reps.
Extremely Slow Dip-1 rep only-30/30 cadence
Seated triceps extensions -standard failure set of 10 reps
Dip-negative only-8, 8 second negative reps.
Triple Drop and Rebound Sets
The Triple Drop Set is done by starting with a heavy weight, doing a set to failure, reducing the weight, doing another set to failure, reducing the weight a third time and doing a final set to failure.
To do a Rebound Set, do a regular Triple Drop Set then quickly go back and do your starting (heaviest) weight again for a more few reps. Usually you will be able to get one or two reps with it. The reason for this is that the last of the drops uses a lighter weight, which recruits different muscle fibers than what you are using with heavier weights.
By going to failure with a weight and quickly reducing the poundage and doing more reps, you completely exhaust a muscle. Selectorized machines are the best tool to use with this method due to the ease of changing the weight.
It is ideal to have a partner change the weight for you quickly after stopping because that eliminates the rest between the mini-sets. Remember that a muscle recovers 50% of its strength after only 3 seconds rest.
Isolation/Compound Rebound Sets
Do a Triple Drop Set of an isolation exercise, e.g. dumbbell flyes, then immediately go back and use your starting (heaviest) weight for a set of a compound exercise for that muscle group, e.g. barbell bench press.
This is a type of advanced Pre-Exhaust training. The idea with Pre-Exhaust training is to exhaust your target muscle group (in this case the chest), by first working directly with one exercise (isolation), then doing another exercise that utilizes other muscles to assist it (compound).
This increases the intensity of the work done by the chest as the assisting muscles utilized during the compound exercise will you allow you to train the chest muscles further past the point of failure.
By utilizing a triple-drop set format for the isolation exercise you increase the exhaustion of the target muscle, allowing you to enhance the effectiveness of the compound exercise.