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Tips of the week Training method

Tipps der Woche Trainingsmethode

High density training: 5-4-3-2-1 with 70% of 1RM

Heavy Density Lifting - HDL for short - is a harder form of rest-pause training that works surprisingly well. Here's how it works:

Load a bar or machine with a weight you can move ten times. This is about 70% of your 1RM weight. You use this weight for the entire set:

  1. Perform 5 reps, put the weight down and pause for 15 seconds
  2. Perform 4 repetitions and pause for 15 seconds
  3. Perform 3 repetitions and pause for 15 seconds
  4. Perform 2 repetitions and pause for 15 seconds
  5. Perform one final repetition

This is one set. Each set ends with you having performed a total of 15 repetitions with a weight that you could have only performed 8 to 10 regular repetitions with, which makes it clear why this is one of the best mass building techniques.

Do no more than three of these monster sets per training session. You should also not do more than three workouts in a row using this technique, as even though it is effective, it is very demanding and stressful on the body.

Build your trapezius with overhead shoulder raises

You won't see many people using this exercise. Of course, you won't see many people with excellent trapezius development either.

By Christian Thibaudeau


Overhead shoulder raises (shrugs) are an exceptionally good trapezius building exercise and are a great way to increase your capacity to hold weights at arm's length.

Overhead shoulder raise:

  1. Hold the bar up overhead as if you just performed a repetition of barbell shoulder presses. A wide grip works best.
  2. Stretch your trapezius by moving your shoulders down. Keep your arms hyperextended and the bar overhead. Keep your core tight and tense.
  3. Move your shoulders upwards by tensing your trapezius. The shoulders must move upwards in a straight line. Hold the highest position for two seconds.

Use this exercise as a finishing exercise for your shoulder or trapezius training with higher repetitions in the range of 20 repetitions.

Use cluster sets for mass & strength

Cluster sets have always been an excellent exercise for strength gains. Here's a new variation that will also maximize your hypertrophy.

By Christian Thibaudeau


Cluster sets are one of the most effective training methods for intermediate and advanced exercisers. A typical set looks like this:

  1. Load the bar (or machine) with 90% of your max weight, which is a weight you can normally perform 3 reps with.
  2. Perform one repetition and place the bar in the rack. Pause for 10 seconds.
  3. Perform another repetition and place the bar in the rack. Pause for 10 seconds.
  4. Continue in this way until you have reached the maximum number of repetitions you can perform, which should be between 4 and 6 repetitions.

Regular cluster sets can shine when it comes to muscle damage and mechanical stress, but they leave out the other two hypertrophy pathways: growth factor release and the mTOR pathway. So if you want to make cluster sets even more effective, you should include these two elements. This works as follows:

A cluster set for maximum growth

Starting weight: 100 kilos

All repetitions are performed with a 4-second lowering or eccentric phase:

  • 1 repetition, pause for 10 seconds
  • 1 repetition, pause for 10 seconds
  • 1 repetition, pause for 10 seconds
  • 1 repetition, pause for 10 seconds
  • 1 repetition, no pause

After this, immediately reduce the weight to 70 kilos. Then perform 8 to 10 repetitions with constant tension - controlled tempo, no maximum extension of arms or legs at the highest point.

This final descending set is what really makes the muscle growth potential of cluster sets skyrocket.

What weight should you use

The weight should be 85% of your 1RM weight or more. In the beginning you will probably need to use a little less weight to get used to the intensity, but under no circumstances should you use less than 80% of your 1RM weight. Work your way up until you are able to do 85 to 90% on all your sets.

How long should you rest

Cluster sets for maximum growth end with repetitions of constant tension, which will lead to an intense accumulation of metabolic products, which in turn will hinder maximum force production until the muscle has recovered sufficiently. The use of longer rest intervals is imperative under these circumstances. You may perform less on subsequent sets, but you should remain at the same starting weight. If necessary, you can perform one less cluster repetition (e.g. you can go from 6 to 5 or from 5 to 4 repetitions). This is perfectly fine as long as you stay within a repetition range of 4 to 6 with the correct weight.

How many sets should you do?

Unlike classic cluster sets, which require around 5 sets, with cluster sets you only need 3 sets for maximum growth.


You can use this method with any exercise. Some people may assume it only works with heavy multi-joint exercises, but it works with any exercise - even curls on the machine.

Build your grip strength with deadlifts with increasing weight

This method for increasing grip strength is completely insane, but it works amazingly fast

By Christian Thibaudeau


Grip strength is always important, especially when you're training snatches, deadlifts, deadlifts and pulls. One method of quickly developing a strong grip is the Goerner ramp.

Hermann Goerner was a strongman from the early years of the 20th century. Among other things, he was able to deadlift 330 kilos...with one hand. He also deadlifted 270 kilos with a two-finger grip. Can you imagine his grip strength?

To increase his grip strength, he used a continuous weight progression that looked like this:

The Goerner Deadlift Ramp

  1. Start by performing deadlifts using only the index fingers of your two hands. Perform sets of 3 repetitions and increase the weight with each set. Work your way up to the maximum weight with which you can perform 3 repetitions with just one finger.
  2. Increase the weight, but now use two fingers per hand. Continue to increase the weight with this grip from set to set with 3 reps per set.
  3. When you have reached your maximum weight for 3 repetitions with the two finger grip, use a three finger grip and continue in the same way until you reach your maximum weight for 3 repetitions.
  4. Then switch to a regular overhand grip (not a mixed grip) and work your way up to your maximum weight for 3 reps.
  5. From here you could continue the ramp by using a hook grip or a mixed grip.

This approach will significantly increase your grip strength within a short period of time. You will see dramatic results after just 4 to 6 training sessions. Use this technique twice a week for the fastest results.

Don't train every muscle the same way

Lower reps or higher reps? It depends on the muscle fiber dominance of the muscle in question. Here is a practical guide.

By Christian Thibaudeau


When it comes to isolation training, not all muscles respond best to the same type of stimulation. Muscle fiber dominance plays a role here.

The leg flexors, for example, are known to contain more fast-twitch muscle fibers than any other muscle. And the differences may also have underlying neural causes related to the type of movements each muscle contributes to.

Here are some observations about isolation training:

  • Leg curls are best trained with lower repetitions. Even if you are doing direct hypertrophy training, you should keep the reps below 10. This mainly applies to movements such as leg curls and glute-ham raises. Exercises that involve hip extension can be trained with higher reps as the gluteus and lower back also come into play with these exercises.
  • The quadriceps can be trained with a higher number of repetitions. Repetitions of up to 20 to 30 can be effective.
  • The chest muscles respond well to higher repetitions.
  • The triceps respond better to lower repetitions.
  • The shoulder muscles generally respond better to higher repetitions, although the front shoulder muscle head can respond well to lower repetitions. This is the reason why shoulder dominant bench pressers tend to have large anterior shoulder muscles. However, if you are training to achieve that rounded look of the shoulders, then higher reps on isolation exercises are best.
  • The middle upper back responds well to lower reps. Keep in mind that we're talking about a bodybuilding workout here, which means that "lower" means under 10 reps, not under 6 reps.
  • The trapezius is a very strong muscle, but due to the short range of motion of most isolation exercises for the trapezius, you need higher reps (15 to 20) to grow your trapezius quickly.
  • The biceps are best suited to medium repetitions. High reps tend to make them look flatter once the pump wears off, but very low reps are not effective when it comes to stimulating maximum growth.

The number of sets per exercise does not need to vary between the muscles you are targeting. - We are talking about more isolation training for one muscle. Regardless of the number of reps you use per set, perform 3 to 4 sets per exercise most of the time.

Perform only 4 intense workouts per week

Sure, you can train more than four times, but here's the reasoning behind why you'll make better progress if you limit the number of hard workouts you do to four per week.

By Christian Thibaudeau


Most people can only manage four intense training sessions per week. An intense training session has a systemic effect that affects the entire body, not just the muscles trained during that session.

A brutal training session will fatigue the nervous system and challenge both the immune system and the endocrine system, the latter of which is responsible for the actual hypertrophy response to training. The immune system is responsible for the macrophages/cytokines and the part of the muscle building process associated with satellite cell activation, which is necessary for the initiation of repair and growth.

The hormonal system plays a role in protein synthesis by ensuring that anabolic hormone levels are higher than catabolic hormone levels during the recovery phase. If the immune and hormonal systems are constantly challenged, you won't be able to build muscle at optimal levels - and you'll be more likely to get sick or suffer from low libido and depression. An overtaxed nervous system means that your performance and wellbeing will suffer.

A hard training session challenges all these systems. Too many of these workouts per week will lead to stagnation. You can do a short intensive phase of about three weeks, during which you do more intensive training sessions per week. But you can't do this in the long term and once this short high-intensity phase is over, you will need an unloading phase to be able to continue to make steady progress.

But I want to train more often!

You can. The above doesn't mean you can't train more than four days a week. It means supplementing the hard workouts with less demanding workouts. If you like to train almost every day, then you can do four hard workouts a week and add two or three less demanding workouts.

For me, these are either training sessions to regenerate the nervous system or low-volume bodybuilding/isolation training sessions with lower weights and higher repetitions. In these workouts I don't go to muscle failure and I've found that these workouts actually help me recover and extend the growth phase after the previous workout.

Sometimes we want to progress so badly that we make counterproductive choices. Doing more than four hard workouts a week is a good example of this. You can also train at a moderate level six days a week, but these workouts are difficult to calibrate correctly and can mean less than optimal results. If you plan to train really hard, then stick to the "four per week" rule.


By Christian Thibaudeau

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