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Too much of today’s weight training is derived from pseudoscientific studies and espoused by linguini-limbed “personal trainers” to unwitting clients who need an excuse for not working out hard enough to build muscle. Those people don’t have the ability or the will to grasp what I do.
Perhaps even worse, so-called bodybuilders are even more aghast when they find out how I train. They have an issue with it because my entire triceps workout is one working set of one exercise. “Wait a minute,” they say. “This isn’t the same stuff other top pros do.”
My response is “Exactly.” I’m not saying that conventional training didn’t help me make progress, but it took me only to a certain level of professional development, and there I hit the wall. I needed to go on from there, and that meant changing my intensity and protocol to what it is now. It allows me to put every ounce of my energy into training for pure muscle, without wasting any of it on cardio. I don’t do any cardio — none — proving that if you train hard and heavy enough, you get a deeper and more efficient cardio workout than if you danced the afternoon away on a so-called cardio machine.
People say it’s impossible to achieve my level of conditioning without cardio, but the proof is in what you see. This training is so hard on the muscles that you need an almost superhuman mental drive. What it amounts to is one set with two rest-pauses (three rep sequences) of one exercise with maximum weight. That’s it. I’m serious: one set. I want to emphasize that it’s not Mike Mentzer-style training, but it’s extremely intensive; so difficult, in fact, that you first need to “qualify” for it by mastering this no-rest triceps workout.
Begin with two warm-up sets of triceps pushdowns of 20-25 reps, then pyramid up in weight through three sets of eight to 10, six to eight and four to six reps, each so far beyond failure that the cable will no longer move or your grip becomes so dead that your hands slide right off the handle. Without rest, go right to single-arm overhead dumbbell extensions — no warm-up necessary — for three sets of the same monster-heavy pyramided rep sequence to the same kind of failure. Again without rest, go directly to bench dips, one set, with enough weight in your lap that you can’t press yourself back to the top by the time you reach the 10th rep. If you can do 11, you need more weight.
Work this qualifying triceps training into a conventional split of chest-biceps, back-triceps, shoulders-calves-hamstrings and quads by themselves, in a four-on one-off schedule. Be prepared for a long haul before you’re ready to move on.
My one-set rest-pause workout is definitely not for amateurs, and certainly not for anyone who hasn’t had at least three years of consistent hardcore training; and I emphasize three years minimum , without taking any time off. None of this: “Oh, I had this come up and wasn’t able to train for a couple of months.” It has to be dedicated get-your-butt-in-the-gym training. I hated it at first, but I hung in there. Now, I respect myself more than ever.
Once you’ve graduated to my one-set rest-pause workout, you’re ready to break down your triceps as quickly as possible, and I want you to do that by changing your split to three on and two off, training triceps after chest and shoulders on the same day. If you’re among those dudes who whine that your triceps will be overworked and won’t recover enough to grow, I’m proof that such talk is heresy.
First, I warm up with only two light 20- to 25-rep sets of the exercise I’ll be doing that day. I recommend staying with your favorites — those you believe give you the best gains. In my case, that could be pushdowns (regular, rope or one-arm reverse-grip). I then go directly to my maximum weight and do as many reps as I can, to absolute failure, which takes me across the pain threshold and into another realm of intensity.
At that point, I take a rest-pause of 15 breaths, go to failure again, take another rest-pause of 15 breaths, and rep to failure a third time. That’s it.
For my next workout, I’ll use another of my favorites, such as seated one-arm overhead dumbbell extensions or another form of pushdowns; or I may stay with the same exercise, if that’s all I can get. I don’t wait for equipment. I’m not going to sit there or stand behind someone and ask, “Are you done yet? How many sets do you have left?” I hate that.
For this type of training, I live by a logbook. I keep a detailed record of exactly what I did the previous workout, and I make sure that piece of paper doesn’t beat me. I might look at it and say, “Crap, I only got 12 reps on the first sequence in my last workout,” so I’m going to keep that same weight until I get at least 15. Since, in my last workout, I beat my total target of 20 by doing 21 for all three rest-pause sequences, I will now increase the weight so that my reps drop below my first-sequence target of 15, then go at it anew.
Focus is fierce. Each rep must twist, pull and pump every fiber in every muscle. There’s no bouncing, no spotting, no help, no forced reps, no partials, none of that. If you have a training partner, he’s only there to scream at you to get that rep. He cannot touch the weight; every drop sequence is to positive failure. By that, I mean the weight won’t move.
This system is not for unappreciable gains. I’ve definitely put on some serious size, because it demands so much drive. If you don’t have the fortitude to do what I’m doing, then don’t even think about it; at the same time, don’t blame anybody for your failure. This isn’t a “routine.” You’re in there pushing as much and as hard as you possibly can, getting as much out of every second, every inch, as is inhumanly possible. Think of it as compressing an hour-long workout into 10 minutes. That’s all you’re allowed.
“There has to be at least one exercise each day that you want to beat, but it must be by a full rep; not a quarter rep, not a half rep, but all the way to a full extension. Any ‘almost done it’ doesn’t count. It’s four reps, zero tolerance. That’s why this training works; and if you don’t go by your logbook, you’ll look the same, year after year.”
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NO-REST TRICEPS WORKOUT
Do not attempt my single-set rest-pause workout until you have had at least three years of consistent hardcore training and have mastered this total-failure no-rest workout.
Pushdowns | SETS: 2* | REPS: 20-25
Pushdowns | SETS: 3 | REPS: 10-4
One-Arm Overhead Dumbbell Extensions | SETS: 3 | REPS: 10-4
Weighted Bench Dips | SETS: 1 | REPS: 10
* Warm-up sets
REST-PAUSE TRICEPS WORKOUT
A different exercise, chosen from a repertoire of favorites, is used for each successive workout. Rope pushdowns are used here as one example — you can use everything from lying cambered-bar extensions to weighted dips to seated two-handed dumbbell extensions, but be sure to change it as often as every workout to keep the stimulus fresh.
Rope Pushdowns | SETS: 2* | REPS: 20-25
Rope Pushdowns (two rest-pauses) | SETS: 1 | REPS: 15-2
* Warm-up sets