Once again RECing myself on a Saturday I run in to an ex college football player turned natural bodybuilder who is a lot of fun to work with, I’ll refer to him here as “Hitter”. I’ve thrown him in the bod pod a number of times and let’s just say the guy could do his laundry with his abs. He is a very smart, motivated, and social young guy who I have had a number of good conversations about drugs in sports (steroids and otherwise), nutrition, and motorcycles. He is a straight edge guy so it is nice to work with someone that also knows the temptation but has reasons for not using PEDs (I’ll talk about drug use at length at a later date).
So Hitter is doing some back work and starts his workout off with pull ups and then moves on to some t-bar rows. He works hard and his intensity on his training is up so I ask him about his training weights and he says how he always does bodyweight on the pull ups and then on to the rows, then some neutral grip pull downs and some dead lifts later. We chat for a bit and here is the advice I gave him for getting more out of his training here.
#1 Deadlift first
In general take the movement that requires the greatest amount of muscle mass and effort to do and do that first, you can definitely deadlift in a fatigue state if your goal is to force other musculature to take over for what has fatigued out, but otherwise stick with it first so you can load it up and have the greatest amount of difference on your lean body mass especially as a drug free trainee.
#2 Weighted pull ups
Hitter does sets of 10 in the pull ups easier than most do sets of 10 in crunches. In order to get stronger at this point he needs to push himself to do loads that are more challenging and in the world of body weight exercises you have two choices: add weight or reps. Reps can be nice but the higher repetitions are starting to work more of an energy production issue not so much a total amount of contractile tissue limitation (more muscle = more force). So adding weight to his body weight will allow him to keep moving forward and improving
#3 Don’t be afraid to do single arm compound work.
Now some people like the t-bar rows, I don’t. Barbell rows are great, but he didn’t have any form of single arm dumbbell or barbell rows (sometimes called meadows rows). This is a movement that most people can do more with one hand than they can with two (unlike dumbbell pressing) so a larger load to be lifted with requires a larger force, hence more work and damage to the muscle tissue by overload which in turn should end in more muscle hypertrophy. This was a point you can argue either way, but I wanted to put my two cents in.
#4 More weighted chin up work
Lat pull downs are something you do when you aren’t strong enough to do enough chin ups or pull ups. If you can consistently bang out sets of ten on various grips of pull ups just keep adding weight to yourself. Hitter is one of those guys, so my advice to him here was to go do things that are awesome (weighted chin ups) instead of that type of machine work. Changing your grips when you are doing chin ups will start to utilize slightly different recruitment patterns to the muscle.
#5 Adequate volume
If he is doing all of these exercises for about 3 total works sets overall he will have done 12 sets of work which will be a solid training dose for the day (10-20 will be enough for most). Hitter has a good head on his shoulders and doesn’t do sets of less than 4 or 20 reps or more for hypertrophy. Your goal when training for size will be over 5 and less than 15 most of the time with the sweet spot being about sets of 8-10 reps. That being said you can always change your emphasis over different training cycles as a means to keep progression going and avoiding boredom.
Hitter went back to his training and as per the usual got after it. The guy works hard and I look forward to seeing how he progresses with time in both life and training.
At the end of the day your training for size and strength really comes down to two variables: how much force you are producing and how long you are producing that force. Using compound movements with large loads always requires more force production and utilize higher reps (10, I’m a powerlifter keep that in mind) will induce more hypertrophy with time, especially when you consistently increase your loads (and periodically take a deload week). If you have any questions or otherwise please post them and I will go ahead and take them on.
As a bonus here is a video from training this week: