Are you looking for a way to cut time in the gym while still building muscle? Have you hit a plateau and can’t figure out how to get back to the Path of Glorious Gainz? Then you’re (now) in luck.
However, if you’re looking for a way to justify a low pain tolerance, a lackadaisical work ethic, or someone to tell you, “It’s okay, keep spending the entirety of your training session taking selfies and chatting up everyone, you can still make gains” then…
Well, find an influencer to show you some more glute kickbacks or something.
This article will only help those willing to put in the work. And it will help them mightily.
High Intensity Lifting For Muscle Growth (What You Shall Learn)
In this article, I will bestow upon you divine knowledge, passed down from generation to generation. It is the knowledge of the ancients. Those great warriors and scholars who forged their physiques with iron, and with fire. The gym is our forge. Our muscle groups, the weapons. And we are our own body-smiths.
Where most smiths fall short is in failing to adhere to the standard principles of craftsmanship.
- Can’t keep the forge hot enough — the fire going
- Wield their hammers (dumb bells) like sparkly wands — this ain’t wizardry, folks
- They don’t strike with enough intensity, or for enough repetitions.
- Failing to value the craft itself, and failing to respect the process
But not you. You know better — I hope. Read on and let’s hone our craft to forge the ultimate weapons…our own physiques.
Path of the Barbarian: Fury, Intensity, and Heavy Duty Training
Many heroes have found themselves precisely where you are now, lost and wondering if their biceps and booties will ever grow again. (You are not the first and you won’t be the last) The noobie gains have long abandoned you, and if we’re going based on RPG mechanics, every new level reached seems to require one hundred times the XP as it used to. This is natural. It’s how this simulation we call life works. Has to do with game balance or something.
Anyway, up until this point, you’ve been training as a regular player. Let me know if any of these sound like you:
- The stalwart fighter, diligent and persevering
- The warlock paying patronage to the fiend called Vanity
- The monk believing if you just channel enough Ki your inner peace will flood your muscles and help you grow
- The wizardly necromancer draining the energy and focus of everyone else in the gym in hopes that if everyone trains as zero-heartedly (necromancers don’t have hearts or souls, obvi) then no one will notice that this dark lord never levels up.
- The dwarven cleric praying to the gods of the forge for gainz — get back to the forge, cleric, you know better.
And…I won’t go on and list every D&D Class as an example. You get the picture. What it’s time you learn is that, although there are many ways to reach your true physical potential, such as:
- Metabolic response training
- Progressive Overload
- High Volume Pump Training
- Plyometrics, Yoga, Calisthenics, etc.
There’s one way that’s been proven time and time again…
Training to absolute failure, and then beyond. Tearing the muscles down, so that you can effectively repair them with quality nutrition, supplementation, and rest. Thus, making them grow back bigger and stronger.
It’s a simple Path, but it’s not an easy one. At face value, tearing down muscles might seem easy. You simply lift heavy weight. But even if a weight is heavy, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to tear muscle fibers. That’s achieved when we push our muscles past their threshold.
It requires perseverance, knowledge, and (perhaps most importantly) barbarian-like tenacity.
To truly reach your max-level potential, you must Rage. Now, obviously, given what I’ve just stated about the Barbarian and their Rage, it’s clear that the best time to use your Rage is when training. But there’s more to it than that. You must know how to effectively use this innate primal power within. Such knowledge is what I grant.
High-Intensity Training Techniques
Lifting a weight until muscle failure, then decreasing the weight by a percentage, and without resting in between, continuing the exercise. Can be performed any number of times within a single set.
Pin-loaded Leg Extension Example:
- 100lbs for 8-12 reps
- 80lbs for 6-12 reps
- 60lbs for 6-12
- 40lbs for 6-12 reps
Note: the rep ranges are to be used as a guide for how heavy to go. This does not mean that, should you hit 12 reps, to drop weight and continue the set. Only decrease weight upon hitting muscle failure.
When two or more exercises are performed back to back without rest in between. This can be a great way to deliver more blood into the muscles, train (muscular and cardio) endurance, as well increase positive muscle micro-damage.
- Dumbbell Lat Pullover — 6-15 reps
- Straight Arm Cable Lat Pulldown — 6-15 reps
Alternatively, you can superset two exercises that effectively target different muscle groups. Arnold used to train chest and back in this fashion, performing supersets such as Bench to Wide Grip Pull-Ups. This is a beneficial tool when crammed for time, or when you seek to increase heart rate.
Other “Supersets” of note:
Tri-Set: Exactly what it sounds like. Three exercises combined for one total set. This method was largely popularized by Vince Gironda and the first Mr. Olympia, Larry Scott, who attributed much of his insane bicep development to performing the following exercises in tri-set fashion:
- 6-10 repetitions: Dumbbell Preacher Curl
- 6-10 repetitions: Reverse Grip Cambered Bar Preacher Curl
- 6-10 repetitions: Wide Grip Straight Bar Preacher Curl
Giant Set: Not quite a circuit, but close. Perform anywhere from 4-7 exercises for one muscle group back to back, without rest. This is an excellent way to push past failure, test your resolve, work muscular endurance, and train for cardio using weights.
Some notable coaches who have effectively utilized this training technique would be Arthur Jones and Milos Sarcev, and even Dana Linn Bailey at times, all with epic success.
In fact, Arthur Jones was renowned for pretty much breaking the arrogance out of athletes, regularly causing them to vomit during their workouts. Which is perhaps why Giant Sets aren’t done very often, because if done with the right intensity (all exercises taken to failure), they give a whole new meaning to the word brutal.
Sample Legs Day Giant Set (4-5 sets of 10-15 reps with 2-3 minutes of rest between)
- Leg Extensions
- Angled Leg Press
- Barbell Squat
- Lying Dumbbell Hamstring Curls
- Walking Lunges
Rest-pause training breaks down one set into several subsets, with a short rest between each.
Ultimately, there are two ways to perform rest-pause sets, and how you perform them will be dependent on your overall goals.
The first is a great way to get yourself accustomed to working with heavy weight, however, it doesn’t involve training until failure, and seeing as how this article is all about taking your workouts to Chaos Level Intensity, we’ll focus on the second one.
Rest-Pause training for hypertrophy purposes involves taking a set to absolute muscle failure, resting 10-15 seconds, repeating the exercise using the same weight as before, then again. It is absolutely brutal.
- Perform a set as you would with your given 4-8 rep weight. Set the weight down.
- Take 15 seconds of deep breaths, then rep until failure again (don’t feel discouraged if you only get 2-3 reps, that means you’re on the right track)
- Repeat step two as many times as you can handle (most people do it twice), or until you can’t even get a single rep
Forced (Partner-Assisted) Reps
Inherently requiring a spotter, this high intensity technique is a mighty tool for maximizing the efficacy of a set.
Essentially, forced reps are performed after you’ve hit muscle failure, or if your training partner is adept, at the exact point you are reaching failure. At this point, the spotter will pick up on the necessary slack, lifting an increasing percentage of each remaining rep for you, allowing you to complete the set.
When performing forced rep training, it’s beneficial to slow tempo on the negative portion of the repetition. For example, let’s say you are performing barbell bench, and the negative portion would take about 3-4 seconds, increase that to 6 seconds to do more micro-damage.
Take note that, like most intensity techniques, this is advanced. Don’t trust just any spotter to help you with forced reps, especially on a movement like barbell bench, because if they screw up. Well, it’d be less than ideal.
Furthermore, certain exercises simply don’t work for forced reps. Like, deadlifts or barbell rows. That would just be silly. In fact, if you’re doing forced reps for back, try them with cable exercises since it’s pretty easy for a partner to help you complete those extra reps.
Another fantastic way to extend a set to failure and then beyond, partial reps can be done with most exercises. Simply take the exercise to muscle failure, then continue repping out until you cannot move the weight past, like, an inch or something.
A lot of people go wrong with partial reps because, well, for one, far too many trainers don’t hit optimal range of motion to begin with (note I said optimal not full, because some exercises simply don’t require full ROM, but that’s a different beast). But the most common mistake is switching to partial reps before you reach muscle failure.
An example, using barbell curls:
- Using a weight that you’d fail with around 8-12 reps, perform the curls until failure
- Without resting, and definitely without cheating, curl the bar up as far as you can, then slowly lower — do not pause at the bottom
- Continue step 2 until you can’t curl the weight more than a few inches
Words of Caution
This type of training is exceptionally taxing on your muscles as well as your CNS. As such, drop your overall volume. Thing is, most people don’t actually achieve muscle failure when they lift, and true failure is freaking rough. It does significantly more damage to the working muscles than traditional training.
By adding in these techniques, aiming for failure with every set, your body will beg you for an extra rest day. Don’t be a moron. Listen to it. I will save all my ranting, raving, and exceptional advice for the rest and recovery article found here , but for now, just understand that if you’re training hard enough, your body will thank you for the extra rest day.
Sample Workout Routine (Deltoids)
- Barbell (or Smith) Military Press (Rest:Pause)
- 2-3 warm up sets of 8-12 with 30-45 seconds rest between
- 1-2 working sets of 6-10 (3 subsets each) with 2-3 minutes rest between
- Machine Lateral Raise Drop Set
- 3 sets of 10-15 reps with 60 second rest between sets
- Each overall set includes 3 drops (or 4 total subsets)
- DB overhead military press (Forced Reps)
- 1-2 warm up sets of 8-12 reps with 30-45 seconds rest between
- 1-2 working sets of 6-10 + 3-4 assisted reps (2-3 minutes rest between)
- Super set: 3 sets of 10-15 reps with 60 seconds rest between sets
- DB lateral raises
- DB alternating front raises
- Cable reverse fly (Partial Reps)
- 3 sets of 10-15 full reps with 5-10 partial reps (at the peak contraction portion of the exercise).
- 60-90 seconds rest between sets
- Tri-set: 3 sets of 10-15 reps with 60 seconds rest between each tri-set
- Cable Rope Face Pull
- Upright Row
- DB Shrugs
Supplements For The Smart Savages
It’s already been stated that you will require more rest when applying these high intensity training techniques. There’s more to it than that though.
In order to truly succeed with building muscle and burning fat while training all-out you need to supplement accordingly. Here are the five supplements that are critical for enduring and recovering from these sorts of workouts:
- WOKE AF: Don’t get me wrong, I love all our pre-workouts. But when you need to go full berserk mode in the gym, one formula stands above the others. Our highest stimulant pre-workout WOKE AF has 333mg of caffeine, as well as two other stimulants to force you into triggering Rage and declaring war on the weights. Also can increase pump, improve focus, endurance, and power. Check it out here.
- STAG/DOE Multivitamin: Multivitamins might not be the sexiest supplement on the face of the planet but the fact of the matter is, when you’re building, sculpting, and burning your way to your dream physique it requires a solid foundation. Our multivitamins are both full spectrum formulas to provide you the best cement for building that dream possible. Here are two links, for your convenience: STAG (for him) or DOE (for her)
- PUMP-OCALYPSE: Pump products are typically formulated simply to enhance your pump in a workout, which can maximize blood flow, delivering more oxygenated nutrients which is great for endurance, strength, recovery, etc (check out this article to learn more). What makes PUMP-OCALYPSE so much more powerful than other pump products is that it’s formulated with Peak O2, an adaptogenic mushroom blend shown to increase strength and power over time. Buy now.
- Buck Feed Protein: It should go without saying, but you need protein to build muscle. Buck Feed is a whey protein that’s derived from grass-fed cows. It has zero added sugar, zero artificial flavorings, and it’s totally hormone free. Meaning it’s pretty much the best thing ever. Check it out.
- ALL BULK NO BLOAT: I could easily go on and on about how epic this supplement is and why everyone needs it (male, female, in-between). In fact, I do. To read all about it, check out this article. In the meantime, it’s a zero calorie, zero sugar supplement designed to help you recover from the most grueling workouts, build muscle, optimize hormones, effectively shuttle nutrients, and more. As a natural bodybuilder who maintains a 7-10 body fat percentage year round, while still building muscle, I consider All Bulk No Bloat my secret weapon. Try it out and you’ll soon understand why.
Now that you’re all fully stocked on the necessary supplements and knowledge, get out there and rage.