by Michael J.B. McCormick
Much of what follows is in line with advice I was lucky enough to receive in the early 1970s from one of bodybuilding's pioneers, Pete Grymkowski, the co-owner of Gold's Gym International. In order to grow, he said, you have to consume large quantities of the highest-possible-quality protein supplements. In 1973 Pete achieved a peak contest weight of 256 pounds at 5' 10", which was in large part due to the consistent consumption of a minimum of 500 grams of protein. That was during a time in which everyone he competed against was getting maybe 200 grams. This article describes a 12-month period in a gifted bodybuilder's career, during which he gained more muscle than he had in the previous eight years. I'll call him Joe, although it's not his real name. What Joe accomplished during that relatively brief 52 weeks can be repeated by anyone willing to let go of old habits and opinions in favor of a more effective approach, particularly with regard to nutrition.
For more than five years Joe had heard NPC national judges tell him, "It's all there. You just need to pack on more beef to take advantage of your structure." He was fed up with missing out on an IFBB pro card year after year. Eventually, he reached a point where he was willing to take any legal steps that would enable him to gain at least 25 pounds.
Following a period of intense introspection, Joe concluded that he'd been training the same way, with the same people, and eating the same food for years. He'd never changed his high-volume, pumping style of training, and he realized that not only was he training too much, but he was also using poor technique. He moved heavy enough weights during those high-volume sessions, but he rarely got sore. What was missing was the so-called feel for the muscle on each rep. He began to understand that he'd been training with excessive momentum.
For more than eight years Joe had trained six days per week, with each session lasting from
1 1/2 to two hours. His total training time in the gym was more than 12 hours each week. He trained individual bodyparts twice per week using 12 to 14 sets per muscle group. In fact, he consistently performed 26 sets per bodypart every week for a total of 156 sets. Joe's training had produced some great results. The best condition he achieved for a national show had been at 227 pounds. He's 6' tall, and for more than seven years he never weighed more than 235 pounds in the off-season. The problem was, he really hadn't made any significant gains for more than five years. His grinding workouts had ceased to be effective. That was the first area that had to be changed.
Joe's shift in training strategy was to significantly reduce the work volume while simultaneously increasing the intensity of each set. It was the first time he'd ever attempted ultra-high-intensity training, and he altered his exercise form radically to emphasize the eccentric—that is, the negative, or lowering—portion of each rep.
Because he was pursuing total momentary muscular failure on every working set, his workouts had to be as short as possible. Joe trained on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for less than 50 minutes per session. His total training time in the gym dropped to less than three hours each week. He trained individual bodyparts once per week at a volume of three to six sets per muscle group, which brought him to a total sets per week of 27, including all bodyparts. That's a volume reduction of 83 percent!
The training modifications were intended to induce a state of temporary muscle damage. Joe trained like a man who was escaping from prison. He poured his soul into the iron.
Damage without repair is death in bodybuilding, so, in order to recuperate from the phenomenal elevation in muscle microtrauma, Joe ate more—a lot more. Previously, his normal daily intake of protein had averaged only 175 grams, all of it coming from whole foods. His dietary modification was to synergize the biochemical recuperation from train-
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