Nobody can rightfully lecture me about training intensity. In the mid-1980s, I endured over thirty weeks of BUD/S Training; the basic regimen one goes through to enter the Navy SEAL Teams. I went through that training’s Hell Week twice – start to finish. At a tender age, I learned how to push my body well past the pain barrier of muscle fatigue and bodily exhaustion that’s a signal to us that it’s time to quit and take a rest. I could, upon internal command, become an endorphin-releasing, pain-ignoring workout machine… unstoppable!
A spotter for safety is a good thing. Just beware of 'forced reps' and their tendency to over-train the muscles
Our dependability under pressure was augmented by such a regimen, but not our physiques. In other words, we built more character than muscle in BUD/S Training.
Later on when I took up natural bodybuilding, I carried my work ethic and proclivity for intensity over to that endeavor. This resulted in experimentation with every conceivable bodybuilding workout intensifying technique in existence. I’ve used drop sets, pre-exhaustion, up-and-down-the-rack, and the ever ubiquitous forced reps. Name the intensifier – I’ve tried it. At one time, I even used a derivation of forced reps that was borderline insane. Imagine taking a bench pressing weight with which you can eke out ten repetitions. Now imagine your spotter standing behind the bench and pushing down on the weight for the first few reps as you attempt to push it up. By the time you make it to the second five reps, your spotter has shifted from trying to make the weight heavier for you to trying to help you bring it up on the positive. This effectively gives every rep the intensity of a forced one and will have your spotter inadvertently getting a bent over rowing workout. I don’t recommend that you try these.
In fact, I’m here to dissuade you from engaging in any of this nonsense. If workout intensifying techniques were the key to muscle growth, I would have been freaky huge by the time I was twenty-nine. Instead, I was chucking my weight belt across the room in frustration as I arrived home from the gym each day. I was mad at bodybuilding. Thoughts of quitting plagued my mind. Nowhere was there such a mismatch between effort and reward than in this wacky endeavor or sport.
I remember reading an article that raved about how professional bodybuilder Tom Platz took all of his sets to failure and beyond. My thoughts were ‘big deal – I do this all the time’. It seemed that without the aid of steroids and the genetic predisposition for superhuman recovery, I was destined to build more character than muscle from high intensity practices. I wanted an attention-getting body, yet all I was producing was attention-getting workouts.
It’s this frustration from which I want to save natural trainers. You will waste your time and effort by taking the no-pain/no-gain mantra to its extreme. Much like a member of BUD/S Training, you’ll build plenty of character, but not a nicer body.
You might be asking how I could make such a claim. Yet the answer is revealed when you really ask yourself how well you’re doing with your muscle building progress if you’re a practitioner of forced reps or any other bodybuilding intensifying techniques. Are you making steady and measureable gains? Some words of warning: a ‘pump’ at the conclusion of your workout is not a sign of gains. The same is true for local muscle fatigue and soreness. As I often tell people: “A successful workout might be physically taxing – but this doesn’t mean any physically taxing workout is successful.”
In order for a muscle building workout to be successful, you must move a slightly higher volume of weight than you did during your previous workout. This won’t happen without adequate inter-workout recuperation. And adequate recuperation is next to impossible after muscles have been obliterated due to the erroneous belief that this will somehow equate to more or better growth.
If you’re a natural trainer (or even if you’re a steroid user who wants to make progress between cycles), heed my advice. Don’t waste time and effort discovering what took me years to figure out. Push your bodybuilding workouts with enough intensity to burst through your past volume records. Couple this practice with enough rest and recuperation between workouts to allow a warm expansion and absence of soreness to permeate the tissue.
When you do this, you’ll be well on your way to steady muscle growth. You can then leave the character building to those more devoid and desirous of that than a great physique.