September 13, 2015

Mechanical Ascension Training System

The Difference Between A Program, And A System

A lot of people lack direction in their training, and appear to do things without any rhyme or reason hoping that it will get them the results they desire. While this can work for some, “hope” is not a strategy – at least not an effective one. It’s for this reason that many search endlessly for a “program” designed to provide them with the results they so desire. The program itself provides guidance and purpose, which is great, but there’s one major drawback with this approach, and it is: it’s impossible to predict how you’re body is going to respond from day to day, workout to workout, set to set, and even rep to rep.

Because a program is nothing more than a physical representation of a strategy, it has room for error as some days you may be able to perform more sets and reps, or you may not be able to perform the prescribed amount of sets and reps – in either case (feeling like you can do more, or feeling like it’s too hard), the psychological effect may be that the program isn’t the best for the person following it. It’s for these reasons that a “system” of training, one in which accounts are taken to allow for the natural daily fluctuations in performance, may be a more effective approach both physically, and mentally.

A system allows for interpretation, and for on the fly adjustments to be made based on how your body is reacting to the work that you are doing. After all, a training session is something that the individual is experiencing, and only that individual knows exactly how the work they’re performing is effecting them, therefore the individual must learn to listen to the internal cues of the body and base what they do off of that. That in essence is what training is all about. To go one further, that’s pretty much what life is all about – feedback: performing an action, gauging the reaction, taking the reaction into consideration and performing a following action.

Mechanical Ascension Training System

The following is a system in which on the fly adjustments can be made, based on how you’re feeling, how you’re responding, and what you want to accomplish from your next set. This system is designed specifically for those looking to stimulate growth, and its roots lie in the necessity to recruit and fatigue as many motor units as possible (which is done by loading the muscles through multiple planes, and with differing loads and rep ranges), while paying enough attention to your body to prevent overworking it’s capacity to recover. It’s designed to allow for maximal weights to be used for a given “pattern” (although it’s not about how much weight is used, but rather the load is used to subject the muscles to higher levels of tension), and maximal time under tension to be employed.

The term “mechanical ascension” refers to making mechanical adjustments in regards to the execution of the exercise to allow more weight to be loaded onto the targeted musculature, or more reps to be performed with a given amount of weight – you don’t always need to lift more weight, because as long as you’re extending the amount of reps you’re performing with a given weight, it’s still a form of “ascension.”

The fundamental principles that this system is built off of are as follows:

Firstly, identify which muscles you want to load – this will determine which “pattern” is best suited for you right now to which you’ll select one tool to perform the work. Not an exercise per se, but a tool, whether that be a barbell, dumbells, a certain bench angle, a machine, a cable apparatus, etc.

Secondly, identify how to make the chosen pattern as difficult to perform as possible – this is done by either mechanically performing the exercise in a position of disadvantage, or modifying the tempo in which the exercise is performed (generally slowing things down makes it harder).

Thirdly, identify how to modify the chosen pattern so that either more reps, or more weight can be used on the subsequent set – this is done by either mechanically performing the exercise in a more advantageous position, or modifying the tempo in which the exercise is performed (generally speeding things up makes it easier).

Fourthly, and this stage is optional, use a lighter weight and perform a mechanical drop set by first starting with the first variant of the pattern performed and progress towards the last variant performed – because you’re progressing from a more disadvantageous position to a position of greater mechanical advantage, you should be able to extend the set without rest, and without needing to reduce the weight (if you selected an appropriate amount to begin with).

Once you’ve performed the desired amount of variations of a certain pattern, you can move on to the next pattern designed to target the musculature you feel needs more attention.

An example of this system in play is as follows:

Let’s say the goal is to train the elbow flexors – remember, in this system it’s about performing a “pattern,” not directly isolating a specific muscle group at the expense of others. Of all the exercises that can be performed, let’s say we want to use a barbell – that’s our “tool” in this case. We’ve now narrowed down our available options to pretty much four different options – overhand barbell curl, overhand preacher curl, underhand barbell curl, and underhand preacher curl. Obviously you can further modify the exercise by playing with hand width, or what side of the preacher bench you rest your upper arms on, but for simplicity let’s pretend there’s only those four variants.

Of these four, the overhand preacher curl is the one in which the targeted musculature is in its most disadvantageous position, followed by the overhand barbell curl, underhand preacher curl, and underhand barbell curl. Based on this, the system could work like this:

Set 1 – overhand preacher curl, 40 lbs. X 20 reps

Set 2 – overhand preacher curl, 50 lbs. X 15 reps

Set 3 – overhand preacher curl, 60 lbs. X 10 reps

Sets 4 – overhand barbell curl, 60 lbs. X 12 reps

Set 5 – overhand barbell curl, 70 lbs. X 8 reps

Set 6 – underhand preacher curl, 70 lbs. X 10 reps

Set 7 – underhand preacher curl, 80 lbs. X 8 reps

Set 8 – underhand barbell curl, 80 lbs. X 15 reps

Set 9 – underhand barbell curl, 90 lbs. X 10 reps

Set 10 – underhand barbell curl, 100 lbs. X 6 reps

Set 11 – overhand preacher curl, 40 lbs. X 15 reps, overhand barbell curl X 12 reps, underhand preacher curl X 10 reps, underhand barbell curl X 20 reps

The example above is just that, an example. The underlying theme however is that there is a form of ascension from set to set in that the weight is either constantly being increased, or the amount of reps performed remains the same (when you otherwise would not be able to repeat the performance of the preceding set) by modifying the condition in which the exercise is performed, or a greater amount of reps are performed. Even the final set in which a lesser amount of weight is used can be viewed as a form of ascension, as the amount of reps performed outweighs that in which any single set in the entire sequence is performed for.

As you can imagine, this system is designed to provide one hell of a pump to whichever area it is you want to target, and it does so by subjecting the targeted musculature to prolonged times under tension in your mechanically weakest position, compounded with higher levels of tension by way of using greater loads while in your mechanically strongest position. THIS IS NOT A STRENGTH BUILDING ROUTINE, and is not designed to improve performance on any specific lift, although the principles can be adapted for those training for strength – even still, there are likely better options out there.

As for how much rest and reps to perform, that is up to you to decide, as both of those parameters are highly subjective, and should be based on the goal of the training session. This is where the magic in a “system” lies, in that you have freedom to play around with things and customize it to how you’re feeling on any given day. If you want to seriously pump the hell out of your muscles, opt to go lighter, perform higher reps, and perform your sets with incomplete rest. Should you want to exercise your right to use heavier weights, limit the amount of reps you perform in your early sets, and give yourself the rest needed to perform at your best during the upcoming set. In either case, you should be LISTENING to the cues your body is giving you – meaning if you can do another set without needing to modify the mechanics of the movement, then go for it!

In the coming weeks I’ll provide more specifics for each bodypart, so that you can personalize this system to your liking, but the framework in which the system will be presented is all here – simply follow the foundational principles, and you’ll be fine. It is only for practical simplicity that each bodypart will be presented in full, with all of the ways in which you can modify a pattern to increase the amount of weight, or reps, the targeted musculature can perform.

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

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