Published on Enhanced Fitness and Performance (http://enhancedfp.com)

Mass Development by John Davies

By DMorgan
Created 11/07/2007 - 12:34am
Mass Development

Amongst the vast publications of the exercise genre, whether in the online community or in printed magazines and books, there are those in the strength and conditioning profession who debate many extremely complex issues. Training protocols, unique exercise choices and highly complicated theories are hashed over endlessly in theoretical terms, with little consideration for what is actually going on in the gyms around the world. As you take part in exercise forums [1] and visit public gyms, few topics dominate interest more than the often mystical pursuit of mass development.

For all the mystery that “mass development” appears to be steeped in, the endless magical exercises and unique protocols that are often suggested, it is far simpler than explained. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. First I said “diet was simple,” as well as supplementation, and now I am telling you that packing on the mass is “simple” too. While I am likely committing a cardinal sin in an industry that likes to self-promote and make things sound far more complicated then they really are, a simplified approach will help you attain much of your mass development goals. Maybe I should re-phrase that because after decades of first-hand experience, a lot of “this” seems remarkably easy and I wish someone in the exercise media would actually say things a heck of lot more simply, particularly because the readers are often very young impressionable individuals with modest training experience.

You have to understand that “mass training” really isn’t quantum physics. A well laid-out training plan that takes into account the physiological basics of human movement and exercise science, applied in a manner to promote maximum muscular development is, in fact, quite “basic”.

Let’s first put aside the complex notions and general hypotheses and instead deal in real world observations, primarily dealing with the evolution of the exercise world and diet. While you can point fingers at who’s to blame for confusing the public, this much is certainly true. Many who market themselves as coaches (likely to hide their complete lack of athleticism) have shrouded mass training in secrets in order to sell underlying products. Hopefully this article will answer all your questions, And while this could be a solid template for a book (and likely will for a variety of the afore-mentioned coaches), it is free.

Long time readers of mine know that I visit public gyms to train in. Wherever I am traveling, I’ll just visit a local gym and pay my “day -rate” for a training session without any fanfare or introduction. It’s a simple procedure and likely some of the most beneficial “market analysis” you could ever find. (A number of facilities ask for my independent audit and recommendations.) This approach allows me to truly understand the gym-going public. What is striking, is that while gyms’ amenities, general décor, and equipment may differ considerably from location to location, there is an outstanding amount of common denominators amongst gym-goers.

First of all (and this might seem like an odd point to make straight off), as I audit facilities whether they are in lush surroundings off of Rush St in Chicago or the gym-chain / palaces in Southern California, it is evident that the public needs the use of professional trainers more and the training industry needs to enhance the educational process for said professionals. As I visit public gyms across the country individuals are gazing lovingly into the mirror performing a seemingly endless array of curling exercises or moving from station to station on well appointed machines while never (please excuse my generalization) lifting a weight from the floor, putting one on their back or probably more importantly simply working hard. Whether it is the remarkably short attention span of this era that necessitates very unusual “catchy” exercises or the well marketed “secret” exercise tool, people are utilizing questionable movements (it would seem that the cable machine half twist with one foot on an unstable surface is now being used at epidemic proportions) without ever being able to maintain posture. Today’s typical exercise facility is full of gleaming machines of questionable value, emphasizing immaterial actions and is devoid of an understanding of the general lack of physical development of the public as well as the basics of the iron-game. Originally, the intention of weight room machines was to assist in isolating a muscle. This certainly has its place but over time they replaced the classics of the iron-game. While weight-rooms will be full of individuals training to pack on “mass” they will be equally spending their time with endless sets of immaterial supplemental lifts and their training regimes are devoid of the great mass building exercises. In the modern gym, power cages and squat racks are rarely an appropriate portion of a facility and have been disgraced into becoming “curl” stations or anything other than then their original intention. Free weight areas, much less lifting platforms, are virtually non-existent and the option of pulling a weight from the floor is not only discouraged but logistically difficult. Now in a general audit when the value received isn’t appropriate for the time invested we have to question what is happening, why it is happening and what can be done. In this specific situation, gym goers aren’t receiving the benefits they should and much can be learnt from the past.

Exercise selections have radically changed over the last decade of training and barely resemble the same pursuit thirty years ago. The basics of the iron game, whether intentionally or not, have slowly been extracted from the modern exercise world. The role of machine-based training along with very poor general athleticism, sub-standard work thresholds and reliance upon isolationist movements have changed the standard weight room profile but none more profoundly than the role of “marketing” to the public and education of the profession. My earliest lessons in training came from weightlifting giants Tommy Kono [2] and Norbert Schemanski as well as legends from the golden age of bodybuilding such John Grimek [3], Steve Reeves [4], the awe inspiring Reg Park [5] and the Blonde Bomber himself, Dave Draper [6], who built remarkable physiques using classic tried and true exercises. And let me say this isn’t one of these old tales of “things were better back then.” With all the magic of science and the advancements in the industry, those old classic exercises that were used to build legends, still out-perform the rest and are sorely needed if we are to reverse the obesity epidemic. Trust me on this, exercise solutions are not going to come from an infomercial that you see at 3pm but from what worked in the past.

To understand “mass development” better, we first have to consider the basics of resistance training, how to manifest maximal gains and even the typical mistakes that are made. And if you haven’t already guessed, I like to consider things in the simplest manner so please excuse me for a wild paragraph or two as I give a phenomenally short synopsis that is generally thrown together as a book.

Let’s first consider that in essence all weight room work is simply pushing, pulling, squatting or pressing (with of course actions such lunging, reaching and extending). To add to this simplified look there really are only three forms of muscular contraction; isometric, eccentric/yielding and contraction/static. It’s really that simple and from yet another standpoint, external resistance is either heavy, constant or a volume based system. Each has been shown as effective in some manner for our concern of “mass development”.

Constant tension requires, as the name would suggest, long slow tempo sets of roughly 45 to 60 seconds in duration. This type of approach will result in increased HGH and IGF-1 release. Heavy loading is generally performed at the 85% level of 6 repetitions with more advanced lifters working at a higher level with lower reps. This type of approach will cause muscular growth through heightened recruitment of motor units as well as hormonal impact. The Volume method is one that many are very familiar with, using high reps ranges of eight to fifteen and rest intervals in the forty-five second mark.

Moving along quickly, as you consider the aspect of tension, it is important for you to first recall the early physics classes where you learnt that force is defined as F = ma (Force is equal to mass times acceleration). This is a critical point for our purposes and it should signal to you very quickly that the greater muscular contraction, the greater generation of force. Yet equally as quick you should also note that to increase force we can either increase the load or likely more important, increase the speed of the lift which is obviously done with a lighter load. It needs to be heavily stressed that the load isn’t performed light but with a ruthless ferocity with every repetition in every set in order to recruit the highest amount of motor units. Remarkably what this complex summary establishes in highly simplified manner is that it isn’t the weight you lift but the speed in which you lift it. The manner in which you do it as it relates to proper postural alignment / muscular recruitment. Postural alignment must always be maintained and the moment technical form suffers the athlete should stop performing the lift. While for most my career, the notion of deriving size and strength gains in using maximal bar speed with a lighter load wasn’t accepted and was actually completely scoffed at, now it seems the tide has turned and speed of movement is now recognized as supreme.

Now this is where it gets somewhat exciting because as you throw all of that together with the understanding that fast eccentric / yielding actions (as fast as the concentric but always with the highest quality technique and postural alignment) promotes greater muscular growth / fast twitch hypertrophy than that of slower action, we are then able to produce a training approach that is remarkably effective, utilizes movements with the greatest amount of muscles recruited and is a highly economical use of training time. This consideration is most appropriate for compound “total body lifts”.

In our program we’re going to look at a series of basic total body movements as “Focus Lifts” and then supplement them with important “supplemental exercises”, each with consideration of appropriate tension for the exercise and the overall training theme. However I should note that great care will be placed on the development of stabilization mass of the shoulder capsule, lower and mid-back as well as the glutes, hips and hamstrings to avoid injuries when using power movements. I think this is one of the greatest weaknesses of the modern training environment and the reason why many injuries occur as well as the lack of carryover to a “functional” strength in real-life situations. While I prefer not to use the phrase, it is somewhat unavoidable that the training will have a “functional” side to it in the sense that exercises will always have a responsible element to understanding preventative care in them. It is thus crucial to understand that all lifts are to be executed with perfect technical form and proper postural alignment. One of the gravest errors with both short and long term repercussions is when a lifter performs a movement with poor posture. This results in a myriad of different problems from not deriving the intended (muscular) benefit of the exercise to causing a series of exercise induced injuries.

It should be also be noted that this program requires only a modest lifting background and utilizes exercises that can be quickly learnt. In essence, this is a time-sensitive approach that any individual can make use of with immediate impact and virtually no learning curve as it relates to movements. For those familiar with Renegade Training™ [7] my terminology of “focus” and “supplemental” lifts will be no surprise but one difference you will quickly notice is that I have omitted the more “complex” lifts given that many individuals will not that have the dynamic range of motion and athletic background to learn these lifts in a time sensitive manner.

We will use the following lifts:

Focus Lifts  
Squat [8] Deadlift (snatch grip) [9]
Bench Press [10] Bent Press (found within the RAT™ system)

Each weight training session will contain two to three total "Focus lifts", of four sets of six repetitions for a total of eight to twelve total sets and twenty-four repetitions. Lifts are executed using a weight at 65% of 1 rep max.

Supplemental lifts  
Hack Squats [11] Front Squats [12]
Glute Ham Raise [13] Olympic Good Morning [14]
Bent over Rows [15] See Saw Press
Pull Ups [16] / Chin-ups [17] Cuban Press
Internal External Rotation Rope Pulls

Supplemental lifts consist of four total lifts divided equally between "hybrid" and "pre-hab" movements.

Supplemental "Hybrid" movements will consist of two lifts of 3 sets each in the 80-95% range of maximal effort with rest periods between 45 to 60 seconds.

Supplemental "Pre-Hab" movements will consist of two lifts of 3 sets each in the 70-75% range of maximal effort of rest periods between 35-45 seconds.

click to enlarge [18]

Performing the basic Squat is relatively simple if you follow this approach. As you walk into the rack, grasp the bar firmly with complete and absolute control and allow it nestle along your traps. Do not pad the bar, as it will change the angle of movement; do not use a weight belt unless under strict orders by a physician or medical practitioner. With a good inhale of the lungs, the chest up and back strong, walk out of the rack under control. Initiate the movement by pushing the buttocks back and ensure the angle of the hips and knees are the same as you descend to parallel or rock-bottom position, and then begin to reverse the motion in your ascent as you push your knees outwards and drive up your feet “through” the floor. Pay particular attention that the torso lean isn’t too far forward as this will have a dramatically different (negative) impact upon your training. Generally because of weak hips, hamstrings and lower back, many well intentioned lifters lean over too much and the lift becomes more of a back lift.

click to enlarge [19]

To perform the Snatch grip Deadlift, align your feet flat beneath the bar and squat down to a neutral back position (i.e., 45 to 60 degrees), as in the clean lift, with shins against bar. Grip the bar with a classic Snatch grip (distance is equal to span of elbow to elbow joint with the arms raised to the sides and parallel to the ground). Pull the bar up and by fully extending your hips and knees. Throughout the lift, keep your hips low, your shoulders high, your arms and back straight by pinching your rear delts back and the bar close to your body.

Top [20]

click to enlarge [21]

Stand in front of a loaded barbell. Address the bar with your feet about shoulder width apart and a proud chest with the shoulders pinched back. Squat down to reach the bar behind you with a grip the same

width as when performing Cleans. With your back straight and shoulders pinched back, drive the bar up by pushing heels through the floor. Maintain an angle of ascent with the bar near the calves and as the bar nears your hamstrings, punch the hips forward. Return the weight to the floor by reversing the motion with a fast tempo up and a slower controlled tempo down. Do not bounce the weight. While noted as a “supplemental” lift, this exercise will be added to the Focus section of the training regime.

click to enlarge [22]

With the bar sitting on your collarbone / shoulder region known as the “rack” position. The lifter may in fact allow their hands to open yet have total control of the bar. Elbows turn under the bar, basically with the upper arm parallel to the ground and the torso staying taunt and firm. The feet are spaced roughly shoulder-width apart and turned out slightly. Drop into the squat by pushing the butt back into a full rock-bottom squat then push, drive up and thru. While noted as a “supplemental” lift this exercise can be substituted with standard Squats to suit individual needs.

click to enlarge [23]

With your knees pressed against the pad, raise your body from the knee joints by driving up with your hamstrings and exerting pressure against the toe plate of the machine.. To perform the lift on the floor, apply significant padding to the floor so your body is in biomechanical alignment similar to that of using the machine. In this situation your toes will be pressed against the floor and a spotter will need to apply significant pressure to your heels (heels not the achilles!) Lower your body toward the floor, keeping your hips forward and your feet firmly planted. Then explode upward just before you touch the ground.

click to enlarge [24]

I brought out some old-school dumbbells for the Bent Press because this one really takes the iron-game back a few decades. However this is a powerful upper body developer and will thicken up the back incredibly. With the weight in one hand, position your feet slightly more than shoulder width apart with your opposite foot turned out. Hold the weight at shoulder height with your palm facing in and begin the lift by making a corkscrew movement underneath to the side and turning your hand clockwise and upward. When your hand is extended completely, straighten to a standing position.

click to enlarge [25]

A classic exercise that you rarely see performed today but is still one of the best back developers. As the photo demonstrates I prefer to grip the bar underhanded as it is less likely for an individual to deviate from the neutral back position or “throw” the weight with the overhand version. While in a neutral back position and with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, pull bar into body slightly below solar plexus.

http://www.prosource.net/article-simplicity-part3.jsp [26]). A proper regimen needs to include the following five standard items to assist in recovery in addition to increased protein consumption (i.e. NytroWhey & Supreme Protein bar);

  • Phosphatidytalserine
  • Acetyl-l-carnitine
  • Alpha-lipoic-acid
  • "Omega-1250"
  • Branched-Chain Amino Acids (please refer to table in Simplicity Part 3)

The Program
It should be obvious that this program is void of direct isolation work to areas (i.e. biceps / triceps / calves) that are unfortunately all-too-often the focus of most programs. Exercises to isolate these areas can easily be added once the individual successfully is maintaining the program but the focus must always be maintained on the basics. In the event they are added, they should be prior to the shoulder capsule work.

This program uses 2 basic training sessions that could be utilized six to ten times (with the exception of an elite lifter who will assimilate much quicker) prior to revising the session.  As noted previously individuals must apply themselves with all their might when executing the lifts – make every lift count as if everything in your life depends on it. These aren’t light loads but loads you should explode through.

For our purposes, training sessions are labeled “session 1” and “session 2” and should be performed with 48 to 72 hours “active rest” between them. The actual time between sessions will depend upon the individual’s recovery pattern and based upon a myriad of factors including diet, supplementation, and general rest as well as training history. I also stress the phrase “active rest” as in days between each session the individual should perform the “recovery workout” excerpt from my recent book on Hockey “More than a Game” that is posted on ProSource. In this situation “rest” is never passive but always quite busy to promote blood flow.

Finally in addition to this, it is strongly urged that at the conclusion of the training session and prior to the core / trunk postural holds the individual engage in 15 to 30 minutes of rigorous weighted GPP. Please refer to “General Physical Preparation” found at http://www.prosource.net/article-general-physical-prep.jsp [27]

Session 1  
Squat 4 sets x 6 reps @ 65%
Hack Squat 4 sets x 6 reps @ 65%
Bent Press  4 sets x 3 reps @ 80-85%
Olympic Good Morning  3 sets x 5 reps @ 85%
Bent over Row    3 sets x 5 reps @ 85%
Pull Up    3 sets x 6 reps @ 85% (approx)
Cuban Press 3 sets x 12 reps @ 70-75%
Internal / External Rotation   3 sets x 12 reps @ 70-75%

Session 2  
Deadlift (snatch grip)   4 sets x 6 reps @ 65%
Front Squat 4 sets x 6 reps @ 65%
Bench Press 4 sets x 6 reps @ 65%
Glute Ham Raise 3 sets x 5 reps @ 85%
See – Saw Press 3 sets x 5 reps @ 85%
Chin Ups 3 sets x 5 reps @ 85%
Internal / External Rotation 3 sets x 12 reps @ 70-75%
Rope Pulls 3 sets x 12 reps @ 70-75%

Post Training Core / Trunk postural exercises (perform at the conclusion of each session)
Rx, position 1 hold for 30 seconds, change legs
Rx, position 2 hold for 30 seconds, change legs
Rx, position 3 hold for 30 seconds, change legs
Perform the above movements without rest in a circuit fashion. Repeat 3 continuous times.

Session 1  
Plank 2 sets x 60 seconds
Side Plank 2 sets x 30 seconds (each side)
Horse 2 sets x 30 seconds (each side)
Superman (single arm / leg) 1 set x 30 seconds (each side)
Superman (double) 1 set x 30 seconds

Good luck and its time to get to work!

John Davies, Founder Renegade Training has just published 8 book including “Mastery on the Gridiron” – a 300 page opus on training for Football and “More than a Game”  - the Renegade approach to dominating in Hockey