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Program Shock: Do the opposite

Programm Schock: Tue das Gegenteil

Here is a brief summary:

  1. Opposing training refers to doing the opposite of what you normally do for short and focused periods. This surprises your body with a new stimulus while using a different physiological pathway to stimulate new hypertrophy.
  2. Focus on your performance for the majority of your training - regularly use heavy basic exercises performed explosively using heavy weights and short rest intervals.
  3. Do the exact opposite for concentrated 'opposite blocks' - lots of exercises, focus on the pump, longer rests and more irregular training sessions. This will build muscle and improve your ability to achieve a pump.

There is one training principle that always works for me. It's not one that I like to use often because it goes against everything I enjoy in the gym. Nevertheless, it never fails when it comes to helping me achieve rapid gains in muscle mass over a two to three week period.

I call it opposite training: I do the exact opposite of what I would normally do. So instead of using my everyday principles for mass and strength - training for performance, with a few heavy exercises, lots of sets, low reps, heavy weights and a high frequency - I turn things around and train for a pump with more exercises, fewer sets, higher reps, moderate weights and a lower frequency. And it works every damn time.

For one, it provides my body with a novel stimulus, which in itself will result in a few gains, and two, it uses a different physiological pathway to stimulate hypertrophy.

Let's look at my principles and compare them to my weeks of opposite training:

1 - Use exercises for high performance

Train for performance and the corresponding appearance will follow. This means performing a fairly high number of sets (6 to 12) per exercise using low repetitions. This style of training consists of trying to move the weight as fast as possible regardless of the weight used (compensatory acceleration), with the weight dictating the repetition speed.

The focus is on full extension of the muscles, such as performing presses until the elbows or legs are fully extended or performing pull-ups from a hanging position with the arms fully extended. The primary goal is either to move as much weight as possible for a prescribed number of repetitions or to move a moderate weight explosively.

The opposite - pump up your muscles

Generate the strongest possible pump within a given repetition range to draw nutrients into the muscle and stimulate growth. This means performing a fairly high number of repetitions (12 to 25) per set with a low number of sets per exercise (2 to 4).

The training style is to make a light weight feel heavy by moving the weight in a controlled manner while tensing the target muscle hard throughout the repetition. The key is to use the range of motion that allows you to keep the target muscle under tension. During press exercises and squats, for example, the muscle loses tension when you (over)extend your arms or legs. We want to avoid this, which is why you end the repetition shortly before reaching full extension of the arms or legs and reverse the direction of movement.

2 - Concentrate on one exercise per training session

To achieve maximum performance on a basic exercise, you need to invest most of your energy in training this exercise. Performing a large number of sets (6 to 12) on one exercise will make you more technically efficient - allowing you to use more weight - and the target muscle fibers will receive more stimulation as they are subjected to repetitive efforts.

Even if some exercise variation is allowed (a change in range of motion or use of bands and chains), the basic movement pattern should not change if you want to maximize strength transfer.

Look at Olympic weightlifters. They use very few assistance exercises and stick primarily to snatches, deadlifts and squats. When they do include supportive training in their program, it's usually the same exercises but with a different range of motion, such as snatches or deadlifts on blocks. The same goes for the elite European powerlifters who primarily train bench press, deadlift and squat - and not much else.

The opposite - use a combination of exercises

If you are looking for a maximum pump, then use a wider range of exercises. Usually, after three or four sets of the same exercise, you will reach a point where the pump will no longer be stronger. However, you can usually increase this pump a little further by switching to a different exercise for the same muscle group.

Using a wider range of exercises (3 to 5) per muscle group with fewer sets (2 to 4 per exercise) will pump more nutrient-rich blood to your muscles while loading a maximum number of muscle fibers, both of which contribute to a solid growth stimulus. While you should still stick to basic exercises, training from different angles or using exercise variations will help maximize muscle fiber recruitment.

For example, in workouts where you focus on pressing exercises, you can use different variations of these exercises: Flat bench press, close bench press, incline bench press, reverse incline bench press, standing shoulder press, bench press with an overhand grip or dips.

Getting stronger from different angles is a good way to increase your potential on a primary exercise even if the power transfer is low. Such an approach also helps to build muscle, which can later be used to get stronger on the main exercise. A good example is the Westside athletes who use support exercises, which are different from the competition exercises, for 80% of their training time.

3 - Train the main exercises regularly

Frequency is crucial for maximum performance. The more you train an exercise, the more efficient you will become. The best athletes in the world train their skills often and being able to move heavy weights is a motor skill. This requires inter-muscular coordination and optimal muscle fiber recruitment and coordination.

World-class Olympic weightlifters train the snatch and clean and jerk daily - sometimes twice a day - to become masters of these exercises. For basic strength exercises, a training frequency of three times a week is optimal.

Strength coaches have had their athletes doing this since the fifties and sixties, and thanks to advances in supplementation, you can increase the frequency even further today.

The opposite - train each muscle group only once or twice a week

If the strongest possible pump is your goal, training one muscle too often can be counterproductive. First of all, a muscle that is trained less often will remain more responsive. If I don't train my biceps for a week and then push them hard, I'll get a crazy pump with very little training. On the other hand, if I train them too often, then the pump will be less impressive and more work will be required to achieve that pump.

In addition, to achieve a maximum pump, we need to use a fairly high volume of work. And of course, volume and frequency are two opposing aspects of training - as volume increases, frequency must decrease. Bodybuilders have found through experience that when training for a maximal pump, a training frequency of one to two workouts per muscle group per week is optimal.

4 - Start your training sessions with heavier or more explosive exercises

If you are aiming for maximum strength performance, then you should start your training sessions with explosive and heavy training. Both are more demanding for your central nervous system and should therefore be performed when you are still fresh.

In addition, both forms of training will activate your nervous system and performing hypertrophy training with an activated nervous system will help you recruit the fast-twitch muscle fibers. Since these fibers have a higher potential for growth, you will stimulate more muscle growth.

The opposite - Perform heavier/explosive training when you're already pumped up

Heavy training is just a tool to generate a mechanical stimulus to the muscle fibers. If you load your muscles with nutrient-rich blood through pump training before performing heavy training, you will have an optimal anabolic environment for stimulating muscle growth.

Even if your performance during the heavier sets may be hindered by the pump and fatigue, this won't matter as much because there will still be maximum mechanical stimulus to the muscle fibers. And since growth factors and nutrients will already be present in the muscle, the muscle building process will start faster.

5 - Minimize the breaks

Training for increased performance requires something called strength capacity - the ability to repeatedly achieve a high level of effort with minimal rest over an extended period of time.

Therefore, if you are working towards becoming a high performance machine, you should gradually reduce your overall training time while maintaining both the quality of work and the level of your performance.

The opposite - pause for 60 to 90 seconds

Rest intervals are tricky when you are training for a maximum pump. Shorter pauses between sets will allow you to achieve a pump faster, as not all of the metabolic waste products produced during a set can be removed during the short pauses. Longer breaks, on the other hand, will allow you to maintain your performance better during training with higher repetitions.

When the muscle becomes over-acidified, the neural drive of the muscle fibers is impaired, making it harder to keep the muscle contracted. Rest intervals that are too short will therefore reduce the number of repetitions you can perform per set. In short, pauses of 60 to 90 seconds are best for pump training.

Let's put it all together and compare

The standard program

Here is an example of what a typical program based on my principles might look like:

Monday and Thursday

Exercise

Sentences

A

Bench press with chains

5

1 set with bar only x 10; 1 set @ 30% x 5; 3 sets @ 50% (plus chains) x 3 (performed explosively)

B

Bench press without chains

9

3

1 set @ 60%; 1 set @ 70%; 1 set @ 80%; 3 sets @ 85%; 3 sets @ 87.5%

C

Bench press without chains

1

20

20 total repetitions at 80% in the shortest possible time

D

Pull-ups

1

50

50 within the shortest possible time

E

Bear Hug Carry (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wp3Ob7myDQ)

5

1 min. *

* 1 minute break between sets

Tuesday and Friday

Exercise

Sets

A

Power snatch blocks

7

2 sets with bar only x 5; 1 set @ 30% x 5; 1 set @ 50% x 5; 3 sets @ 70-80% x 3

B

High pull with wide grip

9

3

1 set @ 60%; 1 set @ 70%; 1 set @ 80%; 3 sets @ 85%; 3 sets @ 87.5%

C

High pull with wide grip

1

5 min.

Use 80%, perform as many reps as possible within 5 minutes

D

Pull-ups

1

50

50 in the shortest possible time

E

Farmers walk

5

1 min. *

* 1 minute break between sets

Wednesday and Saturday

Exercise

Sets

A

Power Clean & Push Press (standing shoulder press with momentum from the legs)

7

Only perform the first repetition as a power clean! In other words, you reposition the bar and then perform the prescribed number of push presses.

1 set with the bar only x 5; 1 set @ 30% x 5; 1 set @ 50% x 5; 3 sets @ 70-80% x 3

B

Standing Power Clean & Shoulder Press

9

2

Perform power clean and shoulder press on all repetitions.

1 set @ 60%; 1 set @ 70%; 1 set @ 80%; 3 sets @ 85%; 3 sets @ 87.5%

C

Power Clean & Push Press

1

5 min.

Use 80%, perform 2 reps per minute to the minute

D

Pull-ups

1

50

50 within the shortest possible time

E

Overhead Carry (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOqrGtEg-6U)

5

1 min. *

* 1 minute break between sentences

The opposing program

And this is what a program based precisely on opposing training could look like:

Monday

Exercise

Sets

A

Bench press on the reverse incline bench with wide grip *

2, 2

15-20, 12-15

B

Close bench press

2, 2

12-15, 8-10

C1

Dips (with additional weight if possible)

3

8-10

C2

Push-ups

3

Maximum number

D

Bench press

5

5

E

Butterflys * *

3

8-10

* Finish the movement 3 to 5 centimeters before the elbows are fully extended
* * 3 seconds maximum contraction at the end of the repetition

Tuesday

Exercise

Sets

A

Bulgarian split squats

3

10-12/leg

B

Classic squats

2, 2

10-12, 6-8

C

Hackenschmidt squats on the machine

2, 2

15-20, 10-12

D

Front squats

5

5

E

Leg extensions

3

10-12 *

F

Lying leg curls

3

10-12 *

* + 15 partial repetitions over the lower part of the range of motion

Wednesday

exercise

Sets

A1

Dumbbell hammer curls

2, 2, 2

20, 10, 6

A2

Tricep presses on the cable with a rope handle

2, 2, 2

20, 10, 6

B1

Scott curls

2, 2, 2

20, 10, 6

B2

Dumbbell tricep press lying down

2, 2, 2

20, 10, 6

C1

Reverse cable curls

2, 2, 2

20, 10, 6

C2

Tricep pull on cable with reverse SZ grip

2, 2, 2

20, 10, 6

Friday

Exercise

Sets

A

One-arm lat pulldown

1, 1, 2

20, 15, 10

B

Lat pulldown - double contraction

3

10

Pull the bar up to your chest, move it up to eye level and pull it up to your chest again. This is one repetition.

C

Seated rowing on cable pulldown - double contraction

3

10

Pull up to the sternum, move the handle back by 1/3 of the range of motion and then pull it up to the sternum again. This is one repetition.

D

Seated rowing on the machine *

3

10/10/10

E

Rerverse butterfly for the rear shoulder muscles

3

12-15 * *

F

Deadlift with wide grip from a rack (from just below the knees)

5

5

* descending set
* * + 15 partial repetitions over the lower part of the range of motion

Saturday

Exercise

Sets

A

Dumbbell shoulder press sitting

1, 1, 2

20, 15, 10

B

Dumbbell side raises on the incline bench

4

12-15 *

Sitting on a 60 degree incline bench

C

Dumbbell incline bench front raise

4

12-15 *

D

Side raise on the machine

4

30-40 * *

E

Push Press (standing shoulder press with leg swing)

5

5

F1

Cable Face Pulls (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0ma4r2jqBo)

4

12

F2

Dumbbell shoulder lift

4

20 * * *

* + 15 to 20 partial repetitions over the lower part of the range of motion
* * partial repetitions
* * * with 2 seconds holding the maximum contraction

What you will get

For me, training in the opposite direction always helps me achieve quick results. This is partly because it is something completely different that my body is not used to and partly because my regular training makes me super efficient at recruiting the fast-twitch muscle fibers that have the most growth potential. As a result, I am able to recruit these fibers even during a pump workout - a skill that those who only ever do pump workouts rarely have.

Doing an occasional pump workout from time to time also improves my capacity to achieve a pump. This means that when I go back to my regular training, I can achieve an excellent pump even with low reps and heavy weights, which can stimulate muscle growth.

Last but not least, pump training can help heal the tendons and get stronger. Tendons are poorly supplied with blood, so it takes high repetitions to pump a lot of blood into them. High repetitions can even promote the healing of minor tendon injuries that can occur when you focus on moving heavy weights with low repetitions.

So even though this type of training is not my favorite type of training, its value should not be underestimated if used correctly between periods of heavy training.

Source: https://www.t-nation.com/training/program-shock-do-the-opposite

By Christian Thibaudeau

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