Q: The idea of a few medium-intensity [subfailure] workouts after many weeks of going all out makes perfect sense to me. My question is, Should I reduce my poundages so I can do the same number of reps, or should I stick with my same working poundages and just do fewer reps? Which way is best?
A: We prefer to use the same phase-training approach Jonathan used on the 10-week Size Surge Program when he gained 20 pounds of muscle. For each of his two supercompensation weeks, he used the same work weights and just stopped two reps short of failure—and that worked amazingly well for him. He actually appeared to get bigger during each downshift week as his muscles and nervous system
The reason we like to stick with our normal heavy poundages is to keep the nervous system primed. If you use lighter weights, your normal poundages may feel excessively heavy when you go back to them a week later. That’s because your nervous system can lose some of its conditioning if it’s not subjected to the same load.
We also suggest that you train the three positions of flexion for each muscle. That way you maintain full-range work for each bodypart—midrange, stretch, and contracted. That will allow your nervous system to regenerate, but keep it primed for full-range activation as well (just as you keep it primed for heavy poundages).
For our supercompensation week, we use our same program, supersets intact, but we do only one work set for each exercise using our normal poundage and stopping two reps shy of our normal rep count. That keeps stress to a minimum.
On some exercises, like the big midrange moves (incline presses), we use rest/pause: After the six-rep set, we rest for 10-15 seconds and then do another four to six reps, once again not to failure. That heightens blood flow, creating more of a pump, which is what we are after—to enhance muscle recovery without damage.
Remember, one week of subfailure training followed by about four weeks of all-out workouts is how Jonathan built 20 pounds of muscle in 10 weeks. That type of phase training is truly a natural anabolic based on human stress physiology. (For his before and after photos from that program, take a look at the Size Surge Workout page.)
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
Build MASS with bodyweight training
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