March 1, 2015

Bodybuilding - A Simplistic View Of How You Should Train To Build Your Body

A lot of people who get into bodybuilding, or who train with the goal of building their body (which pretty much defines what ‘bodybuilding’ is), fall into the trap of focusing on the wrong things like external cues. Building your body is an ‘experience’ that YOU are central to, not the result of doing things that are written down on a piece of paper, or on your smart phone.

External cues like how much weight you’re using, how long you’re resting for/supposed to rest for, and how long you’re supposed to follow a program completely remove YOU from the experience – and YOU are ‘supposed’ to be central to which all those variables are based upon.

If you want to build your body, you must understand YOUR BODY, and also know what you want to get from your body through your training. Then, from there obviously it would help to know how to go about taking your body from where you’re at, to where you want to be. But before you can take your body from where you’re at, to where you want to be, it’s probably a good idea to understand what will prevent you from getting there, so you can account for that beforehand.


In pursuit of specific development of certain bodyparts, bodybuilders will often focus on performing single-joint movements through a single-plane. This can create neural confusion, because our muscles aren't meant to be worked this way. The neural confusion created from this type of training then leads to stagnant and lagging bodyparts, which paradoxically encourages bodybuilders to further isolate them.

A weak, or unresponsive bodypart, cannot expect to be developed with the exact same type of training that created the problem in the first place – this is completely illogical. Muscles get stronger and respond better if they're employed as part of a kinetic chain, in the way the body is designed to be used.

When someone has difficulty developing a bodypart, it’s usually a problem of innervation. As stated above, by chronically performing movements through a single plane, single joint training can disrupt natural neuromuscular coordination, resulting in the development of faulty recruitment patterns. Over time this becomes the cause for a difficulty in developing a certain bodypart, and lack of results from such training. A muscle cannot be expected to be fully trained (recruited, stimulated, fatigued, and exhausted) if its recruitment, activation potential, and rate of force production are suboptimal.

Including an underdeveloped bodypart as part of a more fully functioning movement chain is one way to force it to adapt, as these measures can increase its capacity to respond with more efficient fiber recruitment and force production over time when performing isolated work. One way to do this is by adding motion to a traditional bodybuilding exercise, and moving in multiple planes. This forces increased proprioceptive demand and also increases recruitment of the primary muscle groups, without negatively affecting the amount of weight that can be used – still engaging optimum loading conditions. If exercises can't be made multi-planar, then proprioceptive demand cannot be increased.

In terms of progression for multi-joint, multi-planar movements, speed and increased range of motion (where possible) should precede increases in load.

This is WHY a routine must be personalized – isolated bodypart training has its place in a routine designed to build muscle as long as the individual has the capacity to use the muscles they are trying to use when performing certain exercises.


Excitation thresholds of motor units and recruitment patterns is often one of the most misunderstood aspects of training. Motor units with lower excitation thresholds will be preferentially activated in a given movement, regardless of the intended targeted muscles, which explains why we have weak, unresponsive muscles, and further demonstrates the importance of exercises selection.

When a bodypart is unresponsive to training, it’s usually because a highly responsive bodypart is located right next to it. So even though the intent may be to target a certain muscle, a more neurologically dominant and responsive muscle ends up taking on most of the work. More responsive muscles have lower excitation thresholds, which is why they will act first. One solution in this case is to exhaust the highly responsive muscle(s) at the onset of a workout to limit their ability to ‘take over’ a movement later on.

The nervous system has a marked ability to selectively activate segments of a muscle preferentially over the targeted intention, meaning that mechanical adjustments to the angle of contraction, and joint angle, are the most important when it comes to recruiting the segments of a muscle belly targeted during a certain exercise. This suggests that angle of contraction and exercise order are more important than rep ranges and load.

Another good way to attack a weak muscle group is to perform a movement of high neural and/or metabolic demand, followed by an isolation exercise for the weak/underdeveloped muscle group in which the demand is low, but still has specific recruitment of the targeted area with little systemic exhaustion.


Generally muscles with higher excitation thresholds are more challenging to develop for a few reasons:

1.    It’s harder to actually recruit, stimulate, fatigue, and exhaust them with traditional measures

2.    If a synergistic muscle located near the one you want to target has a very responsive low excitation threshold, then more than likely that muscle will absorb or share too much of the load when doing an exercise in which it is involved

Because of this, variables like ‘technique’ and ‘sequence’ become everything.

‘Muscles’ are more than just prime movers or stabilizers in a given movement – they are a community of motor units (a motor unit is composed of a nerve cell, a motor neuron and the muscle fibers, which it innervates) which can act with some degree of independence to maximize efficiency of movement and force production. The ability to produce and sustain force is determined by the ability of the nervous system to appropriately activate the muscles, and selectively actively activate certain segments of that muscle – the actual size of the muscle is merely ‘potential’.

For those strictly looking to build muscle, the concept of strength is not that important in terms of adaptations to training or progress. The ability to recruit and fatigue as many motor units as possible is much more important to training progress, and this is often misinterpreted to mean that heavy weights must be used, and this simply isn’t the case. For those looking to build muscle, the primary benefit to using heavy weights is to teach the brain how to maximally recruit the muscles.

The term ‘strength’ itself can be defined as ones force output capacity. For a muscle to showcase the amount of force it’s capable of producing, all of the motor units in the muscle must be activated. Achieving maximum fiber recruitment, or maximum ‘voluntary’ neural activation, is a neural adaptation in response to training. Increased activation can take the form of recruitment of high threshold units, or increased firing rates of units, both of which are adaptive responses. Increases in firing frequency (rate coding) with resistance training doesn’t necessarily contribute to increased force output, but rather improved rate of force output. These points should have a profound influence on a resistance training program, especially if training with the goal of building muscle.

Another noteworthy adaptive response to training is that of greater neural drive when fatigued – which is why training programs tailored for those looking to build size should involve some degree of oxygen debt – AKA incomplete rest between sets.

Neural drive in this case refers to the body's ability to recruit the largest and most powerful motor units, and in a trained individual, this is actually stronger during a fatiguing workout. As a result, your capacity to overcome fatigue is elevated, and it makes targeted training to specific muscles even more effective. To reiterate and create a sense of clarity – you recruit high-threshold motor units, and achieve better neural drive, resulting in more efficient overload, when training in a fatigued state.

Your level of fatigue – how fatigued you get from a certain workload, and your ability to recover from such work will vary from workout to workout, which is why attention must be paid to how your body responds, and base what you do on the cues it provides. Take what your body gives you by moving faster between exercises, and taking less recovery between sets on days when you’re capable of more, and obviously account for greater levels of fatigue on days when performance is suboptimal.

Listening to your body will allow you to get the most out of any program, and will allow you to ‘keep it alive’ for longer, which is something that any individual who wishes to maximize performance must learn to do, so they can handle greater workloads, and receive greater benefits from the workloads they are handling.


The well recognized mechanisms of neural adaptations associated with strength gains in response to training include:

·         Altering recruitment/increased agonist activation – the ability to achieve maximum fiber recruitment, especially of the largest threshold motor neurons. Becoming more efficient at recruiting the largest motor unit thresholds and increasing firing rates, within targeted agonists

·         Rate coding or firing frequency – increased firing rates

·         Synchronization of motor units

·         Reflex potentiation/potential

·         Co-contraction of antagonists

·         Cross education

·         Synergistic muscle activity – increased activation of agonists, selective activation/recruitment of motor units within agonists

·         Pre-movement silence – agonist muscles during a ballistic contraction exhibit little or no motor unit activity prior to the contraction, and this brief pre-movement silent period may bring all motor neurons into a non-refractory state, allowing them to be more readily recruited at the maximum possible firing rates. This is a learned response, rather than an automatic response to exercises that are ballistic in nature. The increased frequency of pre-movement silence is indicative of a neural adaptation to high-velocity training. This common non-refractory period with ballistic contractions may contribute to the increased incidence on synchronization found with training

The sum of these parts is known as total activation potential – meaning the potential to generate maximum force is a combination of these variables operating at maximum capacity. These points reflect, and further reinforce the necessity for proper exercise selection and technique (precise movement pattern specificity), and proper sequencing of exercises, and when developing a program.

When you master the technical elements of a lift (technical mastery), you naturally become more efficient at activating prime movers within a movement. Technical mastery is unlike habituation, which occurs when the same exercise is done in the same way, for the same reps, in the same sequence, all the time, resulting in a plateau, or regression.


It goes without saying that before selecting an exercise, you must determine which muscle you primarily want to target – then mechanically position yourself to ensure that that muscle, and only that muscle, is doing the most work, so you can overload it and promote the desired response (to go over all the mechanical adjustments that can be made for each and every exercise goes far beyond the scope of this article, but if you don’t know how to do this, then that’s where you should be looking). This means ignoring how much weight is being used (which is an external cue), and focusing on the effect the movement is having on the muscle by paying attention to what you ‘feel’.


It’s a commonly well-known fact that to promote a positive response, you must progressively overload your muscles – they must be force to adapt, they won’t just do it on their own. Where most people go wrong is their interpretation of the term ‘overLOAD’ itself, in thinking that greater LOADS are needed to provide this overload.

Power is an integral part of training for size, strength, thickness, etc, because of the effect that it has on overloading the musculature to promote an adaptive response. The premise here is that it takes more power to move a certain amount of weight through space in less time, or to move an even greater amount of weight through space in the same amount of time. As stated, a lot of people misinterpret this to mean that in order to achieve maximum overload, they must use maximum weight, but that’s not the case. Max ‘load’, and max ‘weight’ are two entirely different things.

Explosive power is expressed through the equation, ‘force X distance / time’. Because ‘force’ is defined by the ‘load’ being used, it’s easy to identify where all the confusion arises from.

Max ‘loads’ don’t have much to do with the actual amount of weight that is used, but rather your performance when using such loads. How much you ‘can’ lift, and how much you ‘should’ lift, are two totally independent variables. How much you ‘can’ lift is not the deciding factor in overloading a muscle. The deciding factor is how much stress a muscle endures as overload.

If the goal is size and thickness then more sets on the heavier end of the spectrum are performed, but there is still a lot of value in performing explosive work near the lower end of the spectrum as well. The amount of weight is only incidental – it is simply relative information to determine if whether or not you are using the right amount, or should be using more, or less.

Intentionally lifting slower than you can, and increasing the duration of tension on the muscle via tempo actually thwarts the power equation (explosiveness), while also needlessly lowering the amount of weight that can be used, which only hampers the training response. The duration of overload on the target muscles must be viewed over the course of an entire workout, not just one set.


To allow the muscle to achieve full overload, the working muscle must be put through its most disadvantageous leverage positions – meaning subjected to high levels of tension at both their shortest, and longest positions. This means moving counter to the movement of the weight (leaning INTO the weight when performing rows for example). Placing the trained muscles in a stretched/lengthened position under load can enhance the anabolic effect of subsequent muscular contractions, because of the effect it has on protein degradation and synthesis.

Worth noting is that the muscle is what should be trained through a full range of motion – NOT the movement. Many people are make the mistake of performing a movement through a full range of motion rather than the muscle, and leave their muscles under-stimulated as a result.

Failing to train a muscle through its full range means a muscle cannot be subjected to maximum overload, thus limiting the potential for gains that could’ve been made from the effort.

Over time the ability to place muscles in a fully stretched position under load becomes compromised, which then leads to imbalances, and further limits your ability to train a muscle through its full range of motion.

This can then result in a buildup of scar tissue, adhesions, inflammation, etc. – generally as the result of single joint training (resulting in suboptimal progress at best).


To experience a workout, one must pay attention to the internal cues that the body is providing, based on the demand – these cues are called ‘biofeedback’.

It’s impossible to predict various life stressors that we are all faced with, let alone their effects on our training, and to insinuate that a program should be followed for however many weeks completely disregards the individual, which is the whole purpose of training in the first place. The feedback the body provides in response to training is what should dictate what is done next – how much rest to take, if more or less sets should be performed, or whatever changes that need to be made, can be made.

Every change that is made should be based on how an individual is responding, and paying attention to the internal cues that the body is providing is how this is done, not by using external cues like a clock (for rest periods), a calendar (for length of program), or the load (for how much weight should be lifted).

Motivation, energy, drive, and enthusiasm to perform a workout, or the next set, should be taken into account as well, as these factors will highly influence how much a person will get out of their training. If they aren’t motivated, have low energy, and don’t really want to do the workout or the next set, then changes should be made to reverse these feelings. These are variables that should determine when to add, or when to take away from the workload, and to what degree, and for how long, and this has nothing to do with following a program for a certain number of weeks to get the best results.

External cues distract you from the experience, which is the most important part of your training, and you don’t get this by focusing on external cues. Numbers, in terms of how much weight was lifted, does not directly contribute to building muscle – the muscle has no clue how much weight it’s lifting, it only knows how much stress it is under. This is the difference between a more advanced, and less advanced lifter, in that a more advanced lifter can place their muscles under greater levels of stress, without lifting more weight. Their capacity to recruit and exhaust their muscles is greater, and thus the amount of weight that is used is secondary as long as they have full control over it. Lifting heavy is one way for a less advanced lifter to increase their capacity to recruit their muscles at will, and that’s about the only reason that one lifting to build muscle should lift heavy – as a teaching method: to teach the individual how to recruit their muscles, so they can be effectively exhausted throughout their entirety.

Energy levels, effort, recovery, oxygen debt, and how long it takes to complete the workload/workout are examples of qualitative biofeedback, and have nothing to do with predetermined numbers. The numbers are simply broader information in the context of a workout.

Predetermined tempos, percentages of max, and rest do nothing more than take you further away from paying attention to your body’s own feedback mechanisms, and the thinking required to pay attention to those variables takes away from the thinking about what you’re doing – your ability to concentrate on the task at hand, and your ability to put forth a maximum effort.

Using the feedback your body provides, and paying attention to internal cues like perceived exertion (ex. how hard you pushed on your own scale of 1-10), using rep ranges as a guide to whether or not you’re using the right amount of weight is what training to build muscle is all about.


The amount of weight used should allow all sets to be performed for at least a minimum amount of reps. The actual amount, whatever that may be, is secondary to ’where do I feel this working’ – internal cues from the body should be used, not external like how much weight is used.


Unlike strength training, training strictly to build muscle (AKA bodybuilding) should not be based on percentages of max to determine the load used, as all that does is assume strength is the predominant factor for building muscle, when it isn't. Using a weight based on a percentage is an external cue that takes away from the experience for the individual, and creates a false hope in one’s mind in that being able to lift more and more will equate to greater muscular development. This is not to say that being stronger won’t increase your capacity to build muscle, but rather that being stronger doesn’t guarantee you’ll be bigger – otherwise weight lifters, and powerlifters would dwarf bodybuilders, and they simply do not.

The quality of the work performed to enhance your capacity to tolerate higher volumes of high quality work should always be the determining factor when prescribing how much weight to use. The weight itself is strictly informational, not experiential (which is what matters).

Tempo is another meaningless obsessive behavior that removes an individual from the experience they should be having during the workout. When you’re counting out the eccentric in your head, then pausing, then counting out the concentric, while paying attention to how much weight (in numerical terms) is being lifted, you lose the experience of the set completely.

External cues, like how much weight you’re lifting, and at what tempo, only creates compulsive training at the expense of the experience. Recording more and more information doesn't mean it contributes to results. All it really does is create far too much thinking – thinking about things that don’t matter.

What does matter is the amount of high quality work that was performed – if it is not possible to continue performing high quality work because the muscles have been exhausted, then that workout is considered to have been ‘intense’, by all accounts and measures as far as bodybuilding is concerned. Generally the best way to increase the amount of high quality work that can be done is by strategically manipulating the overall volume.


When it comes to building muscle, generally higher volumes of work (using more than 6 reps per set, for multiple sets) are needed to ensure a critical concentration of intracellular amino acids to stimulate protein synthesis.


Rest intervals should be dictated by the biofeedback your body provides – the experience of the workout, and the toll it is taking on your body. Rest intervals are another external cue that removes the individual from the experience of the workout. The amount of rest that you take should be based on two things that need to be self-assessed.

1.    Oxygen debt recovery – when breathing ‘almost’ returns to ‘normal’, then it’s time for the next set, unless the goal is to perform the next set with some degree of oxygen debt still lingering. Therefore, it’s important to know beforehand whether ‘complete’, or ‘incomplete’ rest is prescribed.

2.    Psychological assessment of performance readiness – basically, if you think you can match your performance of the last set (meaning to do another set with the same weight at the same intensity, for the prescribed amount of reps), then it’s time to go, even before your breathing is totally back to resting level. After that set, is when load becomes informational, because if you weren't able to do the same weight for the same reps, then you either didn't rest long enough, or chose the wrong amount of weight. This is how to gauge proper rest intervals using rep ranges as performance guidelines.

One way to ‘keep the program alive’ is to gradually limit the rest intervals, and proceed to the next set further and further into oxygen debt. This keeps the body guessing, and also keeps you honest about your own performance levels by paying attention to how your body responds, and not meaningless cues like how many seconds you rested for, or how much weight you lifted.


When a bodypart is stubborn, and seemingly refuses to grow, it’s not only important to target it directly, but also focus on all aspects that contribute to strength – including concentric, isometric, and eccentric strength, emphasizing muscles within specific movements, and increasing its ability to tolerate high volumes of high quality work (AKA work capacity).

As always, internal cues like oxygen debt and self-assessment should be used to determine when to perform the next set – if the load needs to be lowered from the first set to the last set, then your work capacity is lacking, you’re using too much weight, or you’re simply not resting enough.

One biofeedback cue that your body gives you is that of ‘force decrement’ – which is the point in which your ability to perform your reps with the same level of speed begins to decline, and reps are performed slower than which is intended.

If the goal is to perform reps explosively (as it should be, unless otherwise stated), when the concentric phase begins to slow down, it’s a sign of pending fatigue. Combat this by pausing at the most advantageous position of the lift, and restarting the set as soon as you’re fully able to perform the remainder of the reps with the same amount of explosiveness as you started with. Pause as many times as needed to complete the required amount of reps with the required amount of force.

Generally you want to pick a weight that allows you to complete 70-80% of the reps with maximum velocity before having to briefly rest and complete the last 20-30% of the set.


Strength, as in the ability to produce force in a single effort, is not what leads to muscular development, aesthetics, and thickness, nor is the ability to perform multiple reps in a single effort (muscular endurance). The ability to produce and sustain high levels of force in a fatigued state, AKA work capacity, is.

The path to real results in terms of muscular development, thickness, and fullness, is through being able to not just produce force, but sustain high levels of force over the course of a workout.

Another way to frame this concept is, ‘It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish’. Anyone can start strong – in fact, you should be able to start strong, because that’s when you’re fresh, and unaffected by fatigue. Being able to combat fatigue, and still produce high levels of force is another story – a story more related to being able to promote the body to build more muscle.

Being able to increase the amount of weight in a fatigued state (both metabolically and strength wise) is the key to success when building muscle. Work capacity, NOT how much you can lift, is what earns hypertrophy and development.


Your next workout should take into consideration what you did last time, as well as your current needs state, what you may have done yesterday and today, in and out of the gym, and also on what you plan to do tomorrow. Leverages like length of arms for instance, also must be accounted for. This is where the art of program design really comes into play.

Doing one movement before another one week, then varying its sequence, cadence, and rep range the next week is the most efficient way to enhance muscular development.

A lot of people think that performing 4-6, or 6-8 reps for one workout, and 10-12 or 12-15 reps the next is enough of a difference to consider it a change, and while this may promote a different hormonal response, it’s still well within what the nervous system recognizes as ‘normal’.

High threshold motor units are activated once force reaches 90% exertion rates. The key word here is ‘exertion’, and this need not be mistaken for force, in terms of weight. When exertion exceeds 90% is when maximal motor unit activation occurs, and this can happen with weights that are below 90% of max, and there are many ways to apply this, far beyond performing 2 or 3 more/less reps per set.

Paying attention to the internal cues allows you to ‘keep things alive’ by changing rep and exercise sequence, as well as rest periods depending on the desired response.
For example, in a workout with a rep range of 12-15, you can train at the high end of the rep range for each set, the low end of the rep range, or pyramid within that rep range, or stagger back and forth by performing a set for 12, the next at 15, and then back to 12. These sets can be performed till failure followed by complete rest, or not to failure with incomplete rest between sets.

Failure in this case meaning another rep cannot be completed concentrically. This is in contrast to absolute failure, in which the muscle can no longer contract eccentrically, or isometrically. Absolute failure generally requires techniques like forced/cheat reps and negatives, which fatigue not only the muscles, but the body as well, and require more rest between workouts to recover from the demand.


All of this information is as useless as external cues are to the end result if one simply does not know how to apply it. While a program should always be personalized, there is value in at least presenting these principles in action, so you the reader can better understand how to adapt them to your own training.

Here are four shoulder workouts that can be rotated from week to week, for as many weeks as it takes to your body to adapt to:

Workout 1
1) 3 x 8-10 Shoulder press variation (barbell, dumbell, smith machine, hammer strength)
2) 4 x 10-12 Front raise (barbell, dumbells, alternating)
3) 4 x 15-20 Rear-delt fly (dumbells, cables, reverse pec-deck)
4) 4 x 12-15 Seated lateral raise
5) 3 x 12-15 One-arm rear-delt fly (dumbells, cables, reverse pec-deck)
6) 3 x 15 Upright row (barbell, dumbells, cables)

Workout 2
1) 2 x 8-10, 2 x 10-12, 2 x 12-15 Rear-delt fly (dumbells, cables, reverse pec-deck)
2) 4 x 10-12 Seated lateral raise
3) 4 x 10-12 Shoulder press variation (barbell, dumbell, smith machine, hammer strength)
4) 3 x 10-12 Front raise (barbell, dumbells, alternating)
5) 3 x 12-15 Rear-delt fly (dumbells, cables, reverse pec-deck)
6) 3 x 10-12 One-arm lateral raise (dumbells, cables)

Workout 3
1) 5 x 8-12 Seated lateral raise
2) 4 x 15 Rear-delt fly (dumbells, cables, reverse pec-deck)
3) 4 x 10-12 Front raise (barbell, dumbells, alternating)
4) 3 x 12-15 One-arm lateral raise (dumbells, cables)
5) 3 x 12-15 Upright row (barbell, dumbells, cables)
6) 3 x 12-15 Shoulder press variation (barbell, dumbell, smith machine, hammer strength)

Workout 4
1) 5 x 10-15 Rear-delt fly (dumbells, cables, reverse pec-deck)
2) 4 x 12-15 Seated lateral raise
3) 4 x 15-20 Rear-delt fly (dumbells, cables, reverse pec-deck)
4) 4 x 10-12 Front raise (barbell, dumbells, alternating)
5) 3 x 12-15 Upright row (barbell, dumbells, cables)
6) 3 x 12-15 Front raise (barbell, dumbells, alternating)

*In each of the above workouts, perform the first 2 exercises with an explosive nature, resting ‘completely’ between sets, and for the remainder of the workout perform the exercises with a controlled nature, using ‘incomplete’ rest intervals.

A good workout is more than a collection of exercises. The sequence matters, as does the rotation of exercises from one workout to the next, with the shift in cadence from explosive to continuous tension, or from continuous to explosive. The rep schemes and the angle of stress on the targeted muscles should also be manipulated.

Here are four back workouts demonstrating the same principles:

Workout 1
1) 5 x 3 Rack pulls
2) 1 x 6-8, 8-10, 12-15 Pulldown variation (underhand, overhand, neutral, close-grip, wide-grip)
3) 4 x 12-15 One-arm row variation (dumbell, hammer strength)
4) 4 x 10-12 Seated rows variation (cable, machine, overhand, underhand, neutral, close-grip, wide-grip)
5) 4 x 10-12 Pulldown variation (underhand, overhand, neutral, close-grip, wide-grip)

Workout 2
1) 4 x 8-12 Barbell row variation (overhand, underhand, t-bar, smith machine)
2) 4 x 12-15 Pulldown variation (underhand, overhand, neutral, close-grip, wide-grip)
3) 4 x 12-15 One-arm row variation (dumbell, hammer strength)
4) 4 x 8-10 Rack pulls
5) 4 x 15 Pulldown variation (underhand, overhand, neutral, close-grip, wide-grip)

Workout 3
1) 5 x 8 Rack pulls
2) 5 x 12-15 Barbell row variation (overhand, underhand, t-bar, smith machine)
3) 4 x 12-15 One-arm row variation (dumbell, hammer strength)
4) 3 x 12-15 Pulldown variation (underhand, overhand, neutral, close-grip, wide-grip)
5) 3 x 10-12 Seated rows variation (cable, machine, overhand, underhand, neutral, close-grip, wide-grip)
6) 3 x 15-20 Straight-arm pulldowns (slow/constant tension – rope or bar attachment)

Workout 4
1) 4 x 8-10 Barbell row variation (overhand, underhand, t-bar, smith machine)
2) 3 x 8-10, 1 x 10-12 Pulldown variation (underhand, overhand, neutral, close-grip, wide-grip)
3) 4 x 10-12 One-arm row variation (dumbell, hammer strength)
4) 4 x 10-12 Seated rows variation (cable, machine, overhand, underhand, neutral, close-grip, wide-grip)
5) 4 x 12-15 Rack pulls

And for the hell of it, here’s a chest and bicep workout, and a leg workout:

Chest and biceps
1) 6 x 6 Incline barbell press
2) 6 x 8 Flat dumbell press
3) 2 x 10-12 Flyes (pec-deck, cables, dumbells)
4) 1 drop set Machine press (Smith machine, or machine)
5) 4 x 8-10 Concentration curl variation (dumbell, barbell, cables)
6) 4 x 10-12 Machine preacher curl (single-arm, or double-arm)
7) 3 x 10-12 Zottman curls (single-arm, or alternating)

*Swap incline barbell press for flat barbell press, and flat dumbell press for incline dumbell press from week to week to incorporate variety.

1) 4 x 12-15 Lying leg curl (single-leg, or double-leg)
2) 8 x 12 Squats (back, or front)
3) 6 x 15 Leg press or hack squat
4) 1 drop set Leg extension

As stated, building your body is an experience to which you are the central part of. For those having difficulty digesting the information presented, here’s a short summary of the principles once again, to help with memorization, so that you can be fully prepared to take yourself from where you’re at, to where you want to go, with each and every training session.

·         Select exercises that allow you to feel the targeted muscle doing the work

·         If a dominant nearby muscle is taking over, exhaust that muscle first so the targeted area has no choice but to do more work. This is why technique and sequencing is so crucial

·         Some level of oxygen debt is a good thing because of the increased neural drive

·         Overload the muscles by using loads that are light enough to allow you to perform movements explosively, or light enough to keep the working muscles under stress from the beginning, to the end of the set

·         Train a muscle through its full range of motion, and make sure to expose the muscle to high levels of tension in its lengthened position

·         Everything should be based on biofeedback – how much weight, how much rest, how long to follow a program, what to do next, etc

·         The amount of weight should be based on how many reps are prescribed, NOT based on how much you ‘can’ lift

·         Reps should be high enough to stimulate growth

·         Rest should be complete, or incomplete, and based on whether you’re ready and able to perform the next set, with the same amount of weight, and still performing the amount of reps in the range you are working

·         You should pick a weight that allows you to perform 70-80% of your reps at the desired speed without resting, and when you get to that point, rest, and wait till you’re ready to complete the last few reps

·         You’re ability to finish strong (AKA work capacity), is the determining factor in muscle development

·         Changes should be based on your own enhanced biofeedback


As long as you know what you want to accomplish, you have the freedom to make decisions on the fly. A good ‘structure’ for those looking to build muscle is to first pre-pump the targeted muscle(s), then train them as part of a heavy compound movement, before further pumping the hell out of them, and finishing with an exercise that places them under a loaded stretch.

Another good option after the heavy work is to perform ‘contrast work’ in which sets geared towards pumping the muscle are alternated with explosive work. For example, perform one set pump, then 1-2 explosive sets using the same weight – an example being: 10 partials (shortened position) + 5 partials (mid-range) + 5 full reps as one set, then performing 3 explosive reps for the next set or two, alternating back and forth in that fashion, before finishing with a set of max reps (stopping shy of failure).

Performing explosive work when a muscle is pumped hampers the acceleration component, resulting in less of a deceleration phase – meaning more time is spent accelerating, since the weight isn’t moving as fast as it would if you weren’t pre-pumped, and as a result you don’t need to instinctively decelerate the load. Basically you have to continue to impart high levels of force to do explosive work on a pumped muscle.

This type of contrast from pump to explosive feeds itself – the pump is relieved during the explosive work, which enhances the pump effect on the next set since the muscle has had an opportunity to clear away waste. The explosive work enhances subsequent recruitment for the pump work.

As far as loading for such a method, opt to use 40-50% of max for pump work, or 60-70% of momentary 8RM.

If you have any questions about the experience that is bodybuilding, or any of the other information presented in this article, feel free to contact me at I'm available for online consulting and personalized program design, as well as one on one training if you are located in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

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