Friend needs help

Hi. I wonder if anyone can help me with a hypertrophy routine that i have started, from which i am getting poor results.

For example on the back i do

  1. chins, 2 seated rows, 3 pullovers and 4 bent over rows.
    I do 4 sets of 8 reps, going to failure on the last set of each exercise then when i cannot perform another rep my training partner helps me force out another rep. I use about 45 secs rest peroid per set
    Then after 2 days of rest i perform the same routine but using twelve reps and 20 secs rest period and 60% of my heavy day weight which makes it more of a pumping day than a failure day.
    I do the same on each body part making a total of 2 training sessions per body part per week.
    I read that some athletes who have been training for a long time need to perform a lot of work as their bodies are so used to weight training…
    It would appear from this that my four exercises may be too low a volume, should i increase to a longer workout, and how many exercises should i increase to?

Many thanks in advance.

Are you a sprinter or a bodybuilder, or football player, bobsledder, hockey player, powerlifter or what?

My back is my best body part. I scratch my head and my back muscles grow. It’s crazy. If only I could say the same for my adductors and other leg muscles and arms etc.

Seeing as you mentioned the back exercises, it seems this is an area in particular that is bothering you. The volume allready seems too high. Charles Poliquin suggests each body part should only be trained once every 5 days when training to failure in the sets. You are training to failure on 4 exercises (on final sets) and are training once every 3.5 days. You have trained for a long time, which means:

** The amount of eccentric stress on the muscles - in each workout - is more than what you can recover from, in time for your next workout. But it can also mean:

** It is very hard to hypertrophy the whole body at the same time, because different muscle groups are competing for nutrition etc.

** You need to consider concentric acceleration work, to further muscularize your back without creating further eccentric stress on your current 2 times a weak per body part - at that volume of total reps.

Consider: (as a supplement to your current weight training exercises - of which the total set volume should be lowered.)

  1. Rowing machine at the end of each back workout. (the actuall ‘rowing machine’ that stimulates the boat on the river - action with oars / paddles) Do 2 sets times 50 to 100 rows, depending on the power you wish to express on the machine (not absolute max power, just ‘strong’ rows.) Or do a simple 150 rows at mid power effort or your own rep scheme as you find your way.
    *** Flushes out toxins and speeds recovery time. Put it in the hardest resistance, and do power rows for ‘x’ amount of time. This will simultainiously improve neural power to all back muscles without the friggin eccentric monotomy/bordom/body recovery stress of 4 exercises times 4 sets.

  2. Strongman training. Heavy tire flipping (your upperbody will grow.) 2 sets of 10 to 15 reps, resting between the final 5 reps of each set if you need. 2 x 20 reps if using a less heavy tire - but still heavy. (there is very little eccentric stress, yet it peaks and is very sharp, before moving in to the concentric rate of force developement = more motor unit recruitment = mass and strength gain.)

So here is what you do:
You modify current weights routine to either
A) 3 exercises times 3 sets per exercize

  • max resistance rowing machine or ‘strongman’

B) 4 exercises times 2 sets per exercise, plus max resistance rowing machine or tire flipping.

If you choose rowing machine, do it at the end of the workout.

If you do tire flipping, do it in the middle, or beginning of workout, or seperate session on leg day or pressing day (as it works the whole body.)

Tom Platz found out a similar technique by accident. He didn’t have a car in the early days, so he cycled to the gym, and he cycled back home. Even on leg day. By the end of his workout, his thighs were pumped to buggery.
This is what you have to do.

In a nutshell; there is only so much volume of eccentric tension that the muscles can handle, before you reach a point of diminished returns. Once you reach the point of diminished returns, you reach a happy medium with ’ traditional exercize’ times sets volume. And then you do the following to increase total loading / work , without increasing eccentric volume further;

Add either ‘strongman’ style training (log press, tire flips), or resisted classic aerobic strength. (Rowing, and if only a stationary bike could offer enough resistance) These exercises eliminate too much negative stress, greatly aiding recovery and work capacity, and give maximum power and strength gain, through neural drive.

Here’s one for yer: Bruce Bursford built his thighs to 33 inches in cercumferance, by adding a giant custom made front cog on the to a custom made exercize bike at home. Needelss to say, the bike chain was made of titaniam and there were no gears. So that it wouldn’t snap in half. many hundreds of kilometers every weak, a little gym work, and a custom made outdoor bike with a giant front cog. Who says barbells are the only way to build muscle?

Hi Goose 232. Thanks for the response, it is genuinely appreciated.
What got me thinking about doing more work is this post by Charlie
In which he advocated 90 mins of work as being optimal, which is far more than what i am doing.

BTW, i only do each muscle once to failure per week, not every 3.5 days as the second session is a light pump session which i was told assists recovery, is this right?
What do you think of my rest times and number of reps, should they be adjusted.
Someone else suggested to do: 60% intensity for week one, then 70% for week 2, 80 % for week 3, 90 % for week 4, finally 100% for week 5. Which means only going to failure once every 5 weeks, do you think this is better than what i am doing at the moment.
Finally, this is a curious point i would like to make and i would really appreciate any feedback on it, although i do not think anyone has any experience of this strange routine: A friend of mine works at the docks and he spends all day unloading ships, lifting heavy boxes etc, and the guy is massive.
He said, that if i were to spend all day heaving a weight around i could do the same.
When i asked how on earth someone could recover from such a massive routine (8 hours a day 5 days a week, every muscke being used) he said “Miracle of the human body. The body has to respond to stress, or die, and the no one wants to die.” And when i looked around at his mates at the docks, they were all the same massive size as him.

I’m going to answer your question in stages, because it is quite complex and I’ve only got a few more minutes left at the library. I’ll answer your most curious question first;

(By the way, you still haven’t told me if you are a sprinter, bodybuilder, football player or powerlifter or other. It would help a lot if you were to mention that. Then I could answer your other questions with more relevance.)

Ok, there are many examples of people that have massive muscular developement from ‘on the job’ exercize. I’ll give you more examples.

Some guy in Africa had the job of loading barrels of beer on to a truck. His technique required a lot of trapezius strength. Because he’d carry two at a time by his sides. He had massive trapezius muscles. I mean huge.

A guy in a prison yard had one exercize that he did. He did 10 sets of 10 repetitions in the E-Z barbell curl every day at lunch break. He took his time resting between sets, chatted a bit and then with his back to the wall did another set of ten. He was at it for years and had atleast 22inch biceps measurement. (I was not at this prison but saw the photo evidence and was told about his routine.)

Look at the people that were brought up on farms all their childhood and teenage years. They lifted barrells of hay etc… and they eat a lot of protein. They’re also very big.

As for the dock workers, they are not trying to isolate body parts, and no doubt a lot of their movements involve most of the body. Even if they are bracing their arms in the ‘carry’ they are still walking with it. When they load and unload, a lot of the body is being used. This tends to raise testosterone and growth hormone levels and eventually; insulin levels, far more than sitting down in the gym. (rowing machine is exception because you are still using your legs.) In other words, these dock workers and other such types, have a tremendous hormonal outputt over the course of the day, and they’ll sleep the love of a man that’s done a ‘hard days graft’ as they say. That also helps. It is a consistant bodyclock routine, which also helps.

Now you might know why I recomended such exercizes as ‘strongman’ training. (Log press, farmers walk, tire flipping etc…) It’s is total body power without the same diss-placement of mass as barbell and dumbell work. It is also a lot more athletic - with far less ‘sticking points’ than barbell work, which is a major factor in work per unit of time, and therefor; higher hormonal outputt. It is also more fun and agressive than barbell and dumbell work. But barbells offer a conveniant package, so you have to reach a happy medium.

There are too many examples to mention. But what is your goal? Do you want to work on the docks all day? If you are more in to athletics, would you have enough energy left to train on the track or football field? Or are you just interested in hypertrophy?

Most of these workers don’t care about their body composition, and they’ll eat a tonne of food just to get the calories, and they get bigger. An athlete has to care a little more about protein, carbohydrate and fat ratios in their diet, depending on their goal.

Do you know what the world’s best mass building meal is? Fish and chips. A big fat cod in batter, and a bulk load of thick chips covering it, washed down with salt and vinegar and tomato suace. The amount of tasty digestible protein, carb and fat calories from this meal is huge. This is the sort of food your dock workers etc… love to eat. Athletes are much more pedantic and fussy about what they eat (and therefor; sometimes ‘miss’ the boat - no pun intended.)
The high protein and carb take-away meal will help you recover from hurculean workouts, but you would alos put on some fat as well, and would not be the leanest you could be. Do you want that? Nutrition is a massive factor.

Remember that for back thickness, the deadlift is probably the number one exercize.

Go on the rowing machine (boat - oar simulation) at the end of your workout, and use one arm at a time on half the reps. E;g, do lots of right arm pulls, then lots of left arm pulls, a brief rest, and then loads of double arm pulls. Do the same, but much lower volume of reps on the actuall two arm pulley rowing machine, earlier in the work out. Single arm movements can activate a few more motor units per arm, than double arm movements.
But still do the double arm and double leg stuff as well, because that gives a higher hormonal outputt. Some guy on this site was going on about split squats activating more units in the glute and hamstring than double leg squats. Maybe so, but he seemed to forget that double leg movements create a higher hormonal outputt which is also needed for growth. so you have to do both. (By the way - I’m not even recomending squats, I’m just giving an example of a point.)

The fact that you are interested in percentages of intensity (% of one rep max) suggests to me that you have some kind of atheltic asperation, or atleast the idea of ‘peeking’ your performances. Again, it would be helpfull if you were to mention what sport you are interested in. Or maybe you are just training for the sake of it, and just want a great looking physique. Why not, but you need to make it clear which one.

I see nothing wrong with the adding 10% intensity each weak formula, I’ll assume you would drop the total reps per weak down each weak with that.

Remember, the longer the workout, the greater the calorie demand afterwards, so make sure you’ve got some ready when your workout is finished.

For example on the back I do

  1. Chins, 2 seated rows, 3 pullovers and 4 bent over rows.
    I do 4 sets of 8 reps, going to failure on the last set of each exercise then when I cannot perform another rep my training partner helps me force out another rep. I use about 45 secs rest peroid per set
    Then after 2 days of rest I perform the same routine but using twelve reps and 20 secs rest period and 60% of my heavy day weight which makes it more of a pumping day than a failure day.
    I do the same on each body part making a total of 2 training sessions per body part per week.

If you are bodybuilding without other goals, I would increase your rest times a little which should help increase your loads a little.
Work on maintaining strict form, as bodybuilding differs from other sports as you are trying to place muscles in a mechanically weak position so you get maximum stimulus, rather than shift your body position to lift more.
What is your diet like ie(macronutritent ratios)? One needs sufficient protein and carbs to grow.


Thanks Guys. Great posts!
I’ve read and re-read them, even pasted into microsoft word so the pearls of wisdom will be preserved.
i don’t have any athletic goals at the moment, just want to get as big and strong as possible. I used to do boxing, then martial arts but i came down with a few hand injuries when fighting in the Japaneese competitions. This and my wife’s constant nagging i decided to call it a day. Actually i think my ears ended up hurting more than my hands, ouch!
I take on board your advice concerning the cycling everyday for pumping work and wondered what you thought about doing punchbag as well, this really pumps up my top body.
A lot of guys are saying my going to failure on the weights is no good, that i should use lower intensity (about 50% max) and increase volume. Is this a good idea and what kind of workload should i be looking at? Thanks.
I was thinking of adding to my routine the following:

  1. 10 minutes of cycling followed by 10 minutes of punchbag work morning and evening, everyday. Is this enough?
  2. Uphill Sprints, 3 times a week on alternate days, performing 100 meters x 20 repetitions.
    Yes and i the reason i mentioned the people who work all day and become massive is that i have 6 weeks off work and would be prepared to really put some quality time into the training as i probably will never have this much free time again.
    Many thanks for the good advice and look forward to hearing from you, just hope the wife doesn’t find out because she thinks i’m takng her out. Wait…what’s that dark shadow approaching from behind…