Stepping Stones: Part 3

By Micky McKay Dip PT, MuscleTalk Moderator and Personal Trainer www.healthyaction.co.uk & www.fitness121.co.uk
January 2013

This article follows on from:
Stepping Stones: Part 1 and Stepping Stones: Part 2

Welcome to Stepping Stones Part 3; this is an advancement on Stepping Stones: Part 1 and Stepping Stones: Part 2, and where things can get both interesting and sometimes confusing! Hopefully in this article, I can put you all on the right track.

Stepping Stones Parts 1 and 2 are somewhat regimented. This is good for people in their first stages of training of around 12 months. Up to this period, the body will grow in the correct environment when everything is what it should be: i.e. nutrition, training, rest, etc. To take the physique to a new level, things must now change and this is where, to a degree, the regimented training goes out of the window!

To take the body to a new level we have to now put further stress on the body, now we can either add weight to the exercises or we can do it by other means. So, instead of following a set routine for 8 weeks, now you can mix up different exercises per workout to hit muscles from different angles. This doesn't mean you don't have to ever again follow a structured routine; it's just another tool we can use to enhance our physique. So if, for instance, you have added all the weight you can and you cannot physically move anymore, how can we add more stresses to the muscles? This is where methods such as drop sets, super sets, bulk sets, etc come into play. Below is the terminology of the different training strategies:

  • Multi-Sets – more than one set on an exercise
  • Bulk Sets – three sets of around five reps per exercise, more based on power training
  • Supersets – two exercises performed after each other with no rest in between. Supersets can be used either on the same muscle group or the opposing muscle group, or as a pre-exhaust
  • Pre-Exhaust – this is an advanced superset option where an isolation movement is followed by a compound movement; an example of this would be for chest: dumbbell flyes followed by bench press
  • Blitzing – training a major body part with high amounts of exercises and sets to complete failure
  • Cheat Reps – using less strict form to lift more weight; this method is only for advanced bodybuilders and not really recommended
  • Drop Sets / Strip Sets / Multi-Poundage Sets – a great method for adding more stress to the muscle without increasing the weight. This is where you do a set to failure then strip either a third or half the weight off the bar, then again go to failure and repeat the process until total failure is reached
  • Tri-Sets – this is the method where three exercises are performed back to back with no rest in between on the same muscle group
  • 21s – this method is three exercises of seven reps with no rest in between. This is best performed on a three headed muscle; for example triceps or deltoids
  • Giant Sets – this method is four or more exercises in a row with no rest in between
  • Forced Reps – this takes you beyond failure and is only realistically achievable with the help of a training partner who is an advanced trainer. As you do your set and take it to failure, your partner takes a little of the tension off the weight allowing you to carry on with your reps; around three forced reps should be suffice
  • Pyramid Training – this is where the weight is increased each set, usually after each increase in weight reps are reduced; this is a great technique for muscle hypertrophy
  • Negatives – these are similar to forced reps, only here your partner helps you with the concentric part of the lift and carefully watches while you only take the weight for the eccentric part of the movement. These can be dangerous and should only be completed by someone who has been training for at least 12 months

A good chest and tricep workout example could be the following:

  • Bench Press

- 2-3 warm-up sets
- 1 x 15 reps
- 1 x 12 reps more weight added
- 1 x 10 reps more weight added
- 1 x 8 reps more weight added; then, with no rest, take off a third of the weight and do 12 reps; take another third off and do 15 reps

  • Incline Flyes & Press

- 1 x 10 reps on flyes, then take a heavier set of dumbbells and with no rest 1 x 10 on dumbbell press
- Repeat this for 4 sets

  • Cable cross-overs

- 4 x 20 reps on a medium level movement; followed straight away by 10 reps low on a low level movement; followed straight away by 10 reps on a high level movement (level with your eyes)
- Repeat for 4 sets

  • Tricep Pushdowns super-setted with French Press

- 1 x 10 Tricep Pushdowns followed by 1 x 10 French Press
- 4 x 20 reps

  • Seated Dumbbell Extension

1 x 15 reps
1 x 12 reps heavier weight
1 x 10 reps heavier weight
1 x 8 reps heavier weight

  • Dumbbell Kick-backs

Select 4 sets of dumbbells and with the lightest weight complete 1 set of 10 reps. With no rest, pick the next heaviest dumbbell and complete 1 x 10 reps. Repeat again with third and forth set of dumbbells. Once you have competed 4 sets of 10, work your way backwards until you end up on the lightest weight. You should complete 70 reps with no rest! Your triceps should be well and truly fatigued.

This is just a small example of what can be done on paper; it doesn't look a lot but give it a go: you may well be pleasantly surprised. These are some of the techniques that can be and are used by advanced bodybuilders. Other techniques used are training lower body one day, upper body the next. One session, pulling movements; the next, pushing movements. We can also do double splits: legs in morning, arms in evening. You can train 2 days on 2 days off, 2 days on, one day off, 2 days back on, etc.

There are numerous ways to train and, as you can see, it can get very confusing; this is why structure is very good. But, if boredom starts to set in, there are many, many options that you can now add to your artillery to enhance your physique even further. A huge thing to remember when considering some of these advanced options is try to make sure you have someone to spot you; remember you are taking the body to a whole new level: to failure and beyond – this cannot be done alone; failure yes, but more than that, a resounding no.

As you can see, once you start to progress in training, especially in bodybuilding, nothing is black and white; many people have built great physiques off their own structure; you have to find what works for you. If, indeed, you have taken your body to a level you think is good enough to compete, with Stepping Stones Part 4 we will hopefully help you climb the ladder onto the big stage: we will cover things like periodisation leading to a competition and perhaps the highs and lows of a competitive bodybuilder.

If you're seeking professional help with training contact www.fitness121.co.uk or www.healthyaction.co.uk