Maximize Your Mass

 1. BEEF UP THE VARIETY

Packing on slabs of muscle mass is all about heavy weights and low reps, right? Not so fast. That lifting scheme is part of the equation, but not the sum of the whole. “Your workouts should include a variety of rep ranges and loads when you’re trying to build muscle fast,” Smith advises.

He recommends pairing heavy lifts with low reps for your primary exercise (8 sets x 3 reps with 85%+ of 1RM), followed by higher-volume accessory lifts (4–5 sets x 15-20 reps with 70-85% of 1RM). The angle in which you exhaust the muscle should also be a focal point. For example, substitute sumo deadlifts for traditional deadlifts, or wide- or close-grip bench presses instead of the standard grip.

In regards to time frame, according to Smith, “properly structured periodized programs typically run eight to 12 weeks, with low-intensity days built in to ensure that you can continue to train at a higher intensity throughout the program.”

2. INCREASE METABOLIC STRESS THROUGH GREATER TUT (time under tension) 

The lift features three phases: lowering (eccentric), pause (isometric), and drive (concentric). Increasing TUT will greater exhaust the muscle and enable growth and plateau busting. “If you perform eight reps, with each rep taking four seconds, your total set will take 32 seconds,” Smith explains. “The most effective way to increase microtrauma to the working muscles is to focus on the eccentric phase. Increasing your lowering time by even one more second will increase the total time under tension for the entire set.” Smith further emphasizes the importance of tempo when performing higher-volume rep schemes. “Always try to make the eccentric [lowering] phase longer than the concentric [drive] phase,” he says. “Tempo is written with the eccentric phase first, then the amortization [pause, or isometric] phase next, and finally, the concentric phase last.”

 

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roelly-winklaar-bench-press

3. CONTINUOUS TENSION SETS vs. HEAVY COMPOUND SETS

“Continuous tension sets are a technique that involves keeping the tension on the working muscle groups by never resting the weight at lockout or midway through the repetition,” Smith explains.

Translation: They up your time under tension. “The idea is that if you relax at lockout or the bottom range of the lift, the muscle comes off tension and you lose intensity of the muscular contraction.”

According to Smith, continuous tension sets work well for supplemental lifts in which you’re not lifting a maximal amount of weight with a heavy compound exercise (bench press, deadlift, squat, military press).

As a coaching cue, Smith also advises thinking of a max effort set into three single repetitions, rather than a set of three. By not locking out the weight for the higher-volume supplemental sets, he explains, you can keep continuous tension on the target muscle groups.

4. REVAMP YOUR RECOVERY PLAN

“Strength training makes you weaker,” Smith clarifies. “It breaks your body down. Greater muscle mass comes from your body’s recovery from the actual training.”

So your ability to peak with every workout is directly related to how well you recover between training sessions. After your last rep, shift your focus to recovery using at least one of the techniques listed below. Pair it with proper nutrition and supps to get the best results.

  • Static stretching
  • Deep breathing drills
  • Sleep
  • Hydration
  • Low-intensity workouts
  • Sled dragging
  • Cardio
  • Epsom salt baths
  • Contrast showers
  • Sauna

 

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5. RETHINK YOUR WARMUP

How’s your flexibility? If the answer is “I’m too tight to answer,” the offseason is the time to work on it. Elite bodybuilders, according to Smith, have impressive lower-body flexibility because they spend a great deal of time post-workout stretching their legs and hips. Not stretching enough will prevent you from having optimal technique and put your joints in a bad position when you’re training.

Smith suggests a warmup routine that includes three elements: self-myofascial release (to massage away restrictions to normal soft-tissue extensibility), dynamic mobility drills (to improve range of motion), and activation exercises (to target the muscle groups you’ll be working).

“Most lifters are very tight in the ankles, hips, upper back, chest, and shoulders,” says Smith. “When pressed for time, incorporate mobility and stretching right into your program, during your work sets, to help improve your technique, and work on your specifically ‘tight’ areas.”

WARMUP EXAMPLE

Take a look at how a solid stretch program incorporated into your workout might look on paper

LEGS

Barbell Squat: 8 sets x 3 reps; rearfoot-elevated hip-flexor stretch

Leg Extension: 4-5 sets x 15-20 reps; high step on bench stretch

Leg Curl (with 3–5 second slow eccentrics): 4-5 sets x 15-20 reps; foam-roll glutes/hamstrings

Body-weight Cossack Squat: 4-5 sets x 3-5 reps each way; hip external rotator stretch on bench

warm-up

 

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INCREASE THE ECCENTRIC PHASE TO PROLONG TOTAL TIME UNDER TENSION.

EXERCISE BENCH PRESS

Tempo: 3-1-1

Eccentric Phase: Lower weight to chest in a slow and controlled manner for 3 seconds.

Isometric Phase: Pause weight on chest for 1 second.

Concentric Phase: Drive phase to lockout in 1 second. But when performing heavier weights for low reps, focus on accelerating the eccentric (lowering) phase of the lift.

EXERCISE BARBELL SQUAT

Tempo: 1-0-1

Eccentric Phase: Lower down into the bottom of the squat in 1 second.

Isometric Phase: Do not pause the weight; use the stretch reflex at bottom of squat to reverse the movement and start to drive to lockout—0 seconds.

Concentric Phase: Drive phase to lockout in 1 second.

 

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Maximize Your Mass

USE A VARIETY OF EXERCISES, REP SCHEMES, AND LOADS TO KEEP BUILDING MUSCLE AT OPTIMAL LEVELS.

 CHEST 

Techniques used: Supersets, powerbuilding, variety of exercises, tempo changes, compound exercises, continuous tension set, increased time under tension, variety of “tools” used.

1. BENCH PRESS

Sets: 5 Reps: 3-5

Rest: 90-120 sec. (heavy/low reps, compound exercise)

2A. DUMBBELL BENCH PRESS

Sets: 5 Reps: 15-20

Rest: None (continuous tension)

2B. PUSHUP (WITH 3- TO 5-SECOND SLOW ECCENTRICS)

Sets: 5 Reps: 10

Rest: 90-120 sec. (increased TUT)

 BACK 

Techniques used: Giant sets, powerbuilding, variety of exercises, tempo changes, compound exercises, continuous tension set, increased time under tension, variety of “tools” used.

1A. PULLUPS (WITH ADDED WEIGHT)

Sets: 4-5 Reps: 5-8

Rest: None (heavy/low reps, compound exercise)

1B. LAT PULLDOWN

Sets: 4-5 Reps: 15-20

Rest: None (moderate weight/high reps)

1C. CABLE FACE-PULL (WITH 3- TO 5-SECOND SLOW ECCENTRICS)

Sets: 4–5 Reps: 10-15

Rest: 90-120 sec. (increased TUT)

 LEGS 

Techniques used: Supersets and giant sets, powerbuilding, variety of exercises, tempo changes, compound exercises, continuous tension set, increased time under tension, variety of “tools” used.

1. BARBELL SQUAT

Sets: 8 Reps: 3

Rest: 90–120 sec.

2A. LEG EXTENSION (WITH 3- TO 5-SECOND SLOW ECCENTRICS)

Sets: 4–5 Reps: 15–20

Rest: None

2B. LEG CURL (WITH 3- TO 5-SECOND SLOW ECCENTRICS)

Sets: 4–5 Reps: 15–20

Rest: None

2C. BODY-WEIGHT SQUAT

Sets: 4–5 Reps: 20

Rest: 90–120 sec.