Advanced Hypertrophy Protocols
Advanced Hypertrophy Protocols – My Top 5
By Erick Minor
A muscle that is recruited but not fatigued is not trained.
The two most important training factors associated with strength and growth:
1. how much load (fiber tension) is used
2. how tired (fatigued) the athlete gets
A well designed strength program can produce a better looking and functioning body; this process is called adaptation.
The main law of adaptation states that in order to improve strength and fitness, you must expose the muscles to unaccustomed physical stress. Once adaptation has occurred and the stress is no longer unaccustomed, you must present the training stimulus in a different manner. Presenting exercises in the same manner over extended periods of time will eventually lose effectiveness and progress will come to a halt; this biological response is known as accommodation (1). The law of accommodation states that, the response to a consistent stimulus will decrease over time. To circumvent accommodation the trainee must make qualitative (exercise) or quantitative (protocols) changes to their training.
To keep the training stimulus fresh, I rotate different intensity enhancing protocols. This not only provides a variation of physical loading, it also stimulates the mind to be creative.
Now that we agree that muscle growth is an adaptive response to unaccustomed physical loading, I will share some of my favorite training protocols that can take you to another level.
The following protocols achieve three primary tasks:
Increases muscle fiber tension
Extends the set which furthers the fatigue of more muscle fibers
Increased amount of work per unit of time
Notes on the sample workouts below:
Warm-up sets are not indicated; perform 2-4 warm-up sets prior to 1st work set.
Control the eccentric portion of every repetition; DO NOT BOUNCE WEIGHT OR USE MOMENTUM
Stop a set if optimal technique cannot be maintained.
5. Drop sets
This approach extends the set and time under tension by gradually decreasing the load to allow for more repetitions to be completed. Drops sets are simple to execute and produce a deep fatigue of muscle fibers.
As you fatigue, decrease the load by 5-10% and additional repetitions are performed.
Biceps and Triceps routine
A1) Standing Barbell Curl: 4-6 reps to failure, rest 10 seconds Decrease load 5 -10%, perform as many reps as possible, rest 10 seconds Decrease load 5-10%, perform as many reps as possible, rest 60- 90 seconds move to exercise A2
A2) Supine EZ Bar Triceps Extension: 6-8 reps to failure, rest 10 seconds Decrease load 5 -10%, perform as many reps as possible, rest 10 seconds Decrease load 5-10%, perform as many reps as possible, rest 60 - 90 second Repeat A1 and A2 for 2-4 rounds
B1) Incline DB Hammer Curl, 60 degree: 6-8 reps to failure, rest 90 seconds,
move to exercise B2
B2) Standing Cable Triceps Pressdown: 10-12 reps to failure, rest 90 seconds
Repeat B1 and B2 for 2-3 rounds
This technique is especially useful for arm and back exercises and is ideal for those who train alone. Rest-pause technique allows the trainee to take a 5-10 second break mid-set to allow for a brief recovery. This short recovery will allow you to perform more reps and place more mechanical stress on the target tissues.
Upper Back and Lats
A) Bent-Over Barbell Row, pronated grip 6-8 reps to failure Rest bar on floor for 10 seconds
Do as many reps as possible (AMRAP), Rest bar on floor for 10 seconds
Do as many reps as possible Rest for 2-3 minutes Repeat 1-2 more rounds
B) One Arm Dumbbell Row, neutral grip 6-8 reps to failure for each arm No rest Do as many reps as possible for each arm, maybe 4-6 reps Rest 2-3 minutes
Repeat 1-2 more rounds
Due to the built in rest-interval with one arm rows, the rows are continued until two sets are completed for each arm.
C) Straight Arm Cable Pulldown 10-12 reps to failure, rest 60 seconds Repeat 1-2 more rounds
3. Partner assisted negative
The technique requires an experienced coach or training partner. The athlete performs a max number of repetitions, once muscle failure is achieved, the partner lifts the load to the start or fully contracted muscle position, and the trainee lowers the weight slowly and under control. The set is extended with eccentric only repetitions; the partner assists liberally with the concentric portion of repetitions.
Posterior Chain (hamstrings, glutes, low back)
A) Romanian Deadlift*: 4 sets of 6-8 reps, rest 1-3 minutes
*these are not partner-assisted, use a load that causes muscular failure between 6-8 reps
B) Prone Leg Curl, partner assisted negatives: 3 sets of 6-8 reps + 2-3 negative reps, rest 1-3 minutes
Once you reach muscle failure, your partner assists the concentric portion of the repetitions then you lower the weight slowly for 3-5 seconds until you complete 2-3 reps
C) Back Extension, 45 degree: 2-3 sets of AMRAP, rest 60-90 seconds
2. Double Compound Sets
As opposed to a standard giant set, this protocol sandwiches an antagonistic exercise between the same movements. Use the same load with A1 and A3. This is similar the “Double’ Tri-Sets” protocol recommended by Charles Poliquin, except I have the trainee perform a different movement pattern for the second exercise of the circuit.
A1) Seated DB Shoulder Press: 8-10 reps, rest 10 seconds
A2) Wide Grip Pull-up or Pulldown to neck: 10-12 reps, 10 seconds
A3) Seated DB Shoulder Press: AMRAP (as many reps as possible)
Rest 2 -3 minutes then repeat cycle 2-3 more rounds
B1) Seated DB Lateral Raise: 10-12 reps, rest 10 seconds
B2) Seated Cable Rope Row to Neck: 12-15 reps, rest 10 seconds
B3) Seated DB Lateral Raise: AMRAP with B1 weight
Rest 2-3 minutes then repeat cycle 1-2 more rounds
1. Fast-Twitch Giant Sets
This is my favorite technique because it allows the trainee to build maximal strength and improve conditioning with the same protocol. Each exercise recruits a different pool of motor units and has a different strength curve.
Use 3 exercises for the same body part but perform low reps (3-6) and take very short rest intervals (5-15 seconds) between each of the 3 exercises.
Chest and Back
A1) Incline Dumbbell Bench Press: 4-6 reps to failure, rest 10 seconds
A2) Barbell Bench Press, Mid grip: 3-5 reps to failure, rest 10 seconds
A3) Pushups or Dips (weighted if necessary): 6-12 reps to failure
Rest 1-3 minutes then repeat A circuit 2-3 times
B1) Wide Grip Pull-up, weighted: 4-6 reps to failure, rest 10 seconds
B2) Bent-over Barbell Row, mid grip: 4-6 reps to failure, rest 10 seconds
B3) Supine Dumbbell Pullover: 6-10 reps to failure
Rest 2-3 minutes then repeat B circuit 2-3 times
These techniques are very demanding and should be used in 2-3 week cycles