Wednesday, May 8, 2013

C.S. Sloan - Mass Made Easy (or at Least Simple)

Over at C.S. Sloan's Integral Strength blog [A Journey through Bodybuilding, Strength Training, Holistic Fitness, Martial Arts, and Contemplative Spirituality], he has posted an excellent and simple model for building strength and muscle.

If you do not already read his blog (or his frequent articles in the muscle mags), do yourself a favor and check him out - he's a smart guy when it comes to building muscle and strength, and he's a lot more than a training guru.

Mass Made Easy (or at Least Simple)

Posted by C.S. Sloan 
I have been lifting weights hard now for over 20 years—the “training bug” hit me big right out of high school, back in ’92. (I had been lifting even before that, during my last few years of high school, but that training was just to help my martial arts; I more or less just played around with weights during those years.) I devoured every single article that I could come across during my first few years of training. There was no such thing as the Internet at the time—yeah, I know, that’s hard for some of you young ‘uns to believe—so this meant reading every single bodybuilding and fitness magazine that hit the newsstands. And it also meant reading every damn article in each one of those rags. (Luckily I also had an uncle who had a lot of old Iron Man and Strength and Health magazines from the ‘70s and before—I devoured the hell out of those magazines too, and later much of that stuff would form many of my training theories and ideas.)

A couple of years later—once I was pretty sure I was an expert on building muscle (tongue planted firmly in cheek)—I wrote my first article for Iron Man magazine. I don’t know how many articles I’ve written since then, but it’s in the hundreds—I have several hundred articles right now on the hard drive of the computer I’m currently staring at, and that’s just for the past 8 or 9 years. But one of the first few articles that I wrote was a little something called “Mass Made Easy.” It was an attempt to put together all of the best methods, keys, and techniques (that were available at the time) for building the most muscle possible in the shortest amount of time. I can’t recall what exactly was in that article—I can only ever so faintly remember writing it—but I’m pretty sure that if I had to re-write the article, it wouldn’t look anything like it did back then. 
Which brings us around to what you are now staring at on your computer screen. What follows—briefly—are the best methods, keys, techniques, etc. for building (yep, you guessed it) the most muscle in the shortest possible time. Here goes:

Follow the “Big 5”

My "Big 5" program appeared in the July/August issue of PM

No matter what kind of set/rep scheme that you use, no matter whether you train with full-body workouts or with 6-way split routines, no matter whether you train your muscles frequently or infrequently, you should never deviate from the “Big 5.”[1] Here is the Big 5 in brief:
  • Squat something heavy
  • Press/put something heavy over your head
  • Pick heavy stuff off the ground
  • Carry/drag heavy stuff for distance
  • Eat a lot of good calories

Train as Frequently as Possible While Being as Fresh as Possible 

If you have read a lot of my articles or posts, then, yes, I once again uttered that famous, oft-quoted (at least by me) phrase of strength coach/researcher Vladmir Zatsiorsky. Basically, it means that the more often that you can train, the better. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the more often you do train the better off you’ll be. (You still have to recover between workouts.)

It’s been my experience that the majority of guys (and gals) working out, make the cardinal sin of both overtraining and undertraining at the same time. (This is especially true if they read a lot of American bodybuilding magazines.) Many of them do way too much at each workout (overtraining), which means they then have to take way too many days off between workouts for muscle groups/lifts (undertraining).

Train just hard enough so that you can train the muscle/lift (or a lift similar to it) in another 48 to 72 hours. And then build up your work capacity slowly over the course of many months until you can train both hard/long and frequently. At that point, you will be very big and very strong.

Perform a Lot of Full Body Workouts

Freddy Ortiz and Larry Scott - 2 "old timers" who used full body workouts

You don’t have to always train with full body workouts—in fact, I have a feeling you would get bored as hell if you did it all the time—but at least half of your training career should be spent doing them. (That means 50% of your workouts for those of you who are incapable of doing the math. I say that because I’ve talked and/or corresponded with plenty of guys who claim they do a lot of full body workouts, but their training careers—if you could even call it that—proves otherwise.)

If you use a micro-periodization scheme (my preference), this means that you should be doing both full-body and split workouts in the course of a week or two of training. If you are more of a macro-periodization lifter, then this means you should do this within the course of a year of training.

Also, this doesn’t mean that you have to train your entire body in the same workout. One of my favorite tactics is the full body split workout. One workout might be squats, bench presses, and barbell curls. The next workout might be deadlifts, overhead presses, and chins. A third workout might be power cleans, one-arm dumbbell overhead presses, and farmer’s walks. Split workouts? Yep. Full body workouts? You bet.

Utilize a Lot of High Set/Low Rep Workout Schemes

I think—if you want to get great results in the shortest amount of time—the best thing you can do is combine heavy weight, high set, low rep schemes with full body split workouts. I’m talking about stuff such as 10 sets of 3 reps, 15 sets of 2 reps, 5 sets of 5 reps, 6 sets of 4 reps, 20 sets of singles. Workouts where—for the most part, with the exception of 5 sets of 5—the sets are always higher than the reps. These set/rep schemes allow you to train heavy, to recover fast, to generate a lot of force during the entire session, to take minimum rest between sets, and to get a good full body workout within a short period of time.

Utilize the Two-Barbell Rule

Even though this is something that I just recently “stumbled across”—if “stumbled” is even the right word since I’d inadvertently been doing it for a long time—I think it should be adhered to for the majority of your workouts. The two-barbell rule is easy and simple. Basically, every time that you lift, make sure that you do two barbell exercises before you do anything else. (See my post below for a little more info on the efficacy of this tactic.)


I guess I could come up with more “keys” and “tips” than this brief handful, but we’ll save that for another article. Besides, I have a high-set, low-rep, full-body workout that I need to perform—just the kind of full-body split workout I do all the time.

[1] For a more in-depth look at the “Big 5” see my previous article/post on this subject. Also, see my Planet Muscle article of the same name from a few issues past. You can probably read that on the brand spankin’ new Planet Muscle website—its pretty awesome looking. (And, yes, I am engaging in a little shameless self-promotion.)

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