Thursday, September 6, 2012

Adelfo Cerame: My Fave 5 Intensity Techniques - Explode, Control the Negatives, Unleash the Neanderthal and Grow!

Most of you will be familiar with the structure of these posts, but for the newbies: While I (=Adel aka Dr. Andro) write the introductory paragraph, the actual post is nothing, but a "copy, paste and edit" job I do on the textfiles my friend Adelfo Cerame sends me each week.
Just a brief reminder to all of you, that ever since last week I am using Thursday, my free day, here at the Suppersity, or as Adelfo would say: The day "yours truly" is in command, here for a casual science chat with my friend Carl Lanore over at Super Human Radio. Now, that would probably not be worth mentioning, if it would be airing live on the Super Human Radio Network at 1PM EST ;-) So, in case you are interested in some details about the latest upheaval about organic vs. conventional foods. Want to learn why creatine is one of the supplements where performance enhancement is could as well be considered "yet another nice side effect", why you'd better tell your kids to lift some weight instead of ordering them to "clean their plate" and how what is and isn't on that plate may determine whether or not you and your kids develop cancer, I suggest you click here and listen live (link to the podcast will follow)... only after you have digested Adelfo Cerame's take on "intensity techniques", of course!

My Fave 5 Intensity Techniques

Intensity techniques are sort of a double-edged sword. Too often people get caught all up in the idea of "go heavy and go home" or "train until you drop" and lose sight of the what Adel, aka Dr. Andro, has once aptly called "out-training your regenerative capacities" (read more about overtraining and regeneration). More often than not trainees forget that the strength and size gains in short episodes of overreaching are bought on tick and the "interests" are high - so high, in fact that they often end up losing more than they have gained in the first place. Keep that in mind when you're incorporating one or another of the following "intensity techniques" (in the broader sense) in your workouts.
  1. I have been incorporating this technique within the past 3 weeks of 5/3/1 - see "5, 3, 1 for Wheelchair Bodybuilders"
    Explosive movements: I know what you think now - "I know those!" I must warn you though, what I call explosive movements might well be a bit different from what you are just contemplating. The average trainee associates "explosive" movement with exercises such as sprints, box jumps, clean & jerks, and squats ... I guess, I don't have to tell you that I can't to any of those. For me this meant that I had to find alternative exercises and the once I piced are
    • bench presses or heavy rows and
    • weighted dips or weighted chins
    I incorporate those move in my low volume phase (remember what I wrote before about "out-training your regenerative capacities!) - low volume, heavy load (3-5 rep range) + explosive lifts, that's  my success formula.
    With the heavy loads and the low(ish) volume, I can still focus on appropriate form on every set and every (!) rep. Even if you were similar Unbreakable as Bruce Willis in the same-titled movie, it would be nonsensical to sacrifice form and muscle tension for "speed" and turn a weight lifting workout into a weight throwing workout in no time. Try that, i.e. heavy weight +  fast contractions (not just weights flying from A to B) in the 10-12 rep range and you will realize that by the 6th rep or so, your form will go out the window.
  2. Negatives work best, when you lift heavy.
    Focusing on negative movements: In my opinion negative movements is where most of the magic happens, when it comes to putting your muscle under that productive strain that's necessary to signal your body that there is need for more: More muscle mass and more structural elements and subsequent resistance against strain.
    Remember: A rep has just begun, when you've managed to pull or push the weight up, down or in whichever direction you have been moving the weight against gravity - at this point, the most important part, the negative is just about to come!
    And this is even more true, when you apply intensity technique (1), i.e. you explode on the concentric part of the exercise and then g-o .... s-l-o-w ... on the negative ;-) 
  3. Increase the pace of your workouts: Less rest and more action - that's the simple formula, here. It is however not always easy to increase the pace of your workout, but one way that I've found works for me is to copy some of the Dog Crap principles, i.e. taking twelve deep breaths as a "timer" for your rest times and then get on with your workouts.
    Increasing the pace is yet not only a physiological thing - it is in as much taxing, but also enormously stimulating to your psyche. It gives you that sense of urgency that will not just allow you to go faster, but also to push forward more vigorously. It keeps the heart pumping, the blood flowing, and the mind racing and that's exactly why you better not do it workout after workout, week after week if you don't want to end up overtaxing your sympathetic nervous system. 
    This technique works best during hypertrophy / high volume phases (or days if you are training on a hybrid training system, like my shoulder routine during the RTWC, for example)
  4. Supersets are best done on high volume/ hypertrophy- training days or if you’re cut short for time and want to decrease the time you spend in the gym without having to sacrifice the volume.
    Supersets: Doing exercises back to back, aka supersets, is one of the classic intensity techniques that has come to be one of my favorites, as of late. In my opinion supersets help stimulate those hard to target muscles. In my case it would be my chest area. As I mentioned in previous installments of this series, it’s hard for me to stimulate or feel a pump in my chest area - that's specifically ture, whe I am doing compound movements like a flat bench press, but if I do a set of ...
    • close (neutral) grip DB presses
    • before a set of BB presses
    I can really feel my chest being stimulated. In conjunction with the boost in workout density (i.e. the number of sets you perform within a given timeframe) you're actually killing two birds with one stone (or 2 workouts in 1 exercise ;-). 
  5. Just move weight! This is what you do on those days, when you feel like a Neanderthal. Those days, when you just want to push, grunt and bang weight; ignoring the world around you and do nothing but lift! Usually, I stick to my plan, even on those days, but there are those rare occasions, when I just say:
    There are those days where you just have to follow your instinct and tear down the gym like in the good old days ;-)
    F#ck it! And to hell with the mind and muscle connection, negatives, focused reps or any other of your other techniques to how weights should be lifted. I just want to move weight!  – Fast, hard, heavy (a weight that you can bang all through your workout), but controlled.
    On those occasions I don't even count my reps; I just keep pushing and pulling, rest for a couple of seconds and head on to the next set. Same for the sets… sometimes I’ll do 3 to 4 but whenever, if I feel that the Neanderthal in me likes do to a few extra sets, I’ll do it… and then? On to the next exercise!
    This is a fun way for me to not think so much and just go with the flow as I go through my workout routine – and yes I still have an agenda of what body part I’m training and what exercises I will be doing but other than that, the only thing on my mind is moving weight! Simple as that!
Hey, where you heading? Oh, I see you are in Neanderthal mode right now? Ok, no problem. See you next Thursday, then ;-)