Huge in a Hurry Clarified

In December of 2008 my book, Huge in a Hurry, was released by Rodale publishing. The book has been a big success with tens of thousands of copies sold, and multiple translated versions around the world. If you’re someone who purchased the book, I really appreciate the support.

And if you haven’t picked up a copy, I feel it’s one of the best resources to explain the science of heavy or fast lifting to build a bigger, stronger, leaner body. I’m biased, of course, but considering the quality of this 354-page, full-color book I think it’s a steal at less than $17.

Now that the book has been out of quite some time, I’ve compiled a ton of feedback. Whenever I write an article or book, it’s my job to clearly explain my points and, most importantly, to outline the workouts in a way that leaves little room for confusion.

Given the plethora of feedback I’ve received, apparently some workout descriptions weren’t as crystal clear as they should have been. Furthermore, there are a handful of cable exercises that people don’t have access to so I want to outline some alternatives.

So I’m going to take this opportunity to clarify some of the confusion reader’s have had. It’s likely that if you had a question it’s going to be covered in the following explanations.

Program Design: Most of the training phases in the book consist of three separate workouts (although, the high frequency training phases have more). Nevertheless, each workout corresponds to a letter. For example, the Get Big phase consists of workouts A, B, and C. Each workout is performed on a different day throughout a 7-day cycle. Here’s an example:

Monday – Workout A
Wednesday – Workout B
Friday – Workout C

Then, in the upper right corner of the Get Big program it says “perform each workout four times.” That statement has created quite a bit of confusion. It translates into “perform this program for four weeks.”

In the Get Big Phase Ia (unloading) week it says “perform each workout once.” That unloading phase lasts one week. So you’ll do Workouts A, B, and C once during a 7-day cycle, and then move on to the next phase.

Speaking of the Get Big program, there’s a typo on page 106. The load for Workout C should be heavy not light. So you’ll start with a 4-6RM and perform 25 total reps with 60-second rest periods for all Workout C exercises. Many people wondered why I’d prescribe 25 total reps with a load you could lift for 22 reps the first set. No wonder they were confused. This has caused me many sleepless nights because I didn’t catch the mistake in the final overview before it went to printing. If you happen to have a later version without the typo on page 106, consider yourself lucky.

There’s one other error in the book, but isn’t a big deal. On page 110 the first exercise in Workout B shows a cable standing one-arm external rotation but the exercise description reads “cable standing one-arm mid-pulley row, palm up.” Which one is correct? Either will work but the description coincides with my original exercise choice. So if you want to be precise, perform the exercise shown on page 214 (#5) for the first exercise in Workout B on page 110 instead of the external rotation.

If you have the book, you probably already know that I’m a big fan of cable exercises. The reason is because a cable allows you to manipulate the line of resistance, unlike free weights in which the line of resistance is always straight down. Plus, cables allow for natural movement patterns, much like free weights do.

However, many people don’t have access to cables. I should’ve put an alternative free weight exercise next to each cable exercise, but I didn’t. You know what they say about hindsight.

So here’s the complete list of cable exercises with an alternative for each.

Upper-Body Pulls
All lat pulldown exercises >>> do a pull-up with the same hand position instead. If you need assistance with the pull-up, place your feet on a bench in front of you to reduce the load you have to lift.

All one-arm pulldown exercises >>> do a one-arm dumbbell row with the same hand/elbow position instead.

All cable row variations >>> do a dumbbell row with the same hand/elbow position instead. This will be a one-arm or two-arm dumbbell row depending on the workout.

All face pull exercises >>> do a dumbbell row with external rotation while lying facedown on a 45 degree incline bench instead. This will be a one-arm or two-arm row with external rotation depending on the workout.

Upper-Body Pushes
Cable standing chest press >>> Push-up (any variation)
Explanation: let’s say a workout calls for a load that allows no more than 22 reps the first set. Use a push-up variation that you can’t do more than 22 times. That might be a regular push-up, a push-up with your feet elevated, a push-up off a Swiss ball, or a clap push-up. Any will work.

Cable standing one-arm chest press >>> Dumbbell one-arm bench press

Cable squat >>> Dumbbell or barbell Romanian deadlift

Cable woodchop >>> Perform the same movement with a resistance band attached to a sturdy object or hold a medicine ball and do the same movement that’s prescribed

Specialty Exercises
Cable one-arm triceps pushdown >>> Dumbbell decline one-arm triceps extension

Cable hip/knee extension >>> Reverse lunge or step-up

Moving on…

In the Get Lean program, each workout ends with high-intensity interval training (HIIT). For example, in Workout A you’ll complete 20 total reps for the four strength exercises followed by 10 minutes’ worth of HIIT.

Finally, many people have asked if they need to do the Get Ready program, a three-week program that’s recommended before you start any program in the book. I was adamant in the book that you need to do it. However, I’ll modify that answer.

If you’ve performed any of my workouts in publications such as Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, or T-nation, you can jump straight into any program in the book. But if that’s not the case, it’s best to start with the Get Ready program.

Got any other questions about Huge in a Hurry that need to be cleared up? Post them here and I’ll be sure to answer them.

Stay focused,

Bridge the Gap Between Strength and Power

Every guy wants to be strong. There’s no better way to get strong than to lift heavy loads for a few sets of a few reps a few times per week. You can’t go wrong with 3×3 (3 sets of 3 reps) every 3-4 days to build strength. Research is clear that building maximal strength will improve your speed and explosiveness – at first, anyway.

However, there comes a time when simply lifting heavy won’t get the job done. This is especially true if you’re an athlete who needs high levels of explosive strength.

After you have a few years of heavy lifting under your belt it’s important to improve your explosive strength with fast lifts. Maximal strength training builds your force capacity, but that newfound strength won’t necessarily make you punch or kick harder, or sprint faster. You must bridge the gap between the force your muscles can produce and your ability generate high levels of force very quickly.

Let’s say you’re a trainer who’s working with a MMA fighter, and let’s say you use a standing one-arm cable chest press to boost his punching power. If you increase his strength in that exercise from, say, 90 pounds to 160 pounds it’s easy to think that he’ll be able to punch harder.

In the outstanding text, Strength and Power in Sport (2nd Edition), Zatsiorsky states that “it takes usually in excess of 0.3-0.4 sec to generate maximum force.” However, many fast movements such as a punch or kick usually occur in approximately 0.1 sec.

So how do you train your muscles to develop force more quickly? By enhancing rate of force development (RFD). The benefits of improving RFD are vast, however, here are three of the primary benefits:

1. Earlier recruitment of high-threshold motor units: By recruiting your largest motor units earlier, you’ll be able to reach your peak levels of force more quickly.

2. Enhanced maximal discharge rate of motor units: A muscle boosts its force by recruiting more motor units. Once those motor units have been recruited the nervous system sends a signal to the motor units to fire faster (this is known as rate coding). A motor unit can increase its force 10-fold when it reaches its maximum firing rate.

3. Increased incidence of “doublets” during contractions: A doublet is defined as a motor unit firing twice in a very short interval (5-20 ms). Doublets allow a muscle to reach peak levels of force faster.

To enhance RFD you must train with relatively light loads and apply maximum acceleration to each lift. With heavy loads, the actual velocity of movement is slow. However, to boost RFD the actual velocity must be fast so the load must be light. Loads that vary between 20-60% of your 1RM typically work well. Movements with light loads and high velocities are known in research as ballistic exercises.

Now, where trainers often screw up with ballistic exercises is with time under tension. To keep acceleration high and fatigue in check you should stop each set once the lifting speed slows down noticeably. Merging your sets into slow grind reps won’t boost RFD as effectively as keeping the reps fast. As a gross generalization, sets of ballistic exercises should terminate within 10 seconds. After 10 seconds your speed will slow down because the largest motor units that will start dropping out.

Put another way, if your speed doesn’t slow down within 10 seconds you didn’t recruit the high-threshold motor units to begin with. It’s imperative to tap into your largest motor units because they produce the most power. How? The largest motor units contain the largest bundle of your strongest muscle fibers. If you leave these motor units untapped your RFD will suffer.

There’s one limitation, however, with applying maximum acceleration to a standard exercise such as a squat or bench press. As you approach lockout the nervous system will decelerate the lift to protect your joints. Research (Elliot et al 1989) demonstrates that 52% of the total duration of a bench press with 80% of 1RM is deceleration. This is bad news since deceleration forces motor units to drop out. Therefore, enhancing RFD requires exercise modifications.

The key is to perform exercises that continue past lockout in order to short-circuit deceleration.

Two of my favorite exercises to boost RFD are jump squats with 25% of 1RM across the upper back and clap push-ups. Here’s a simple workout to enhance RFD.

1a Jump squat with 25% of 1RM for 3 reps
Rest 30 seconds
1b Clap push-up for 3 reps
Rest 30 seconds, repeat 1a/1b pairing seven more times (8 rounds total)

Perform this short workout twice per week at the beginning of your regular workouts and you’ll bridge the gap between strength and power.

Stay Focused,

Scientific Muscle Development

I frequently talk about the importance of a well-tuned nervous system to activate and stimulate your muscle fibers. Indeed, the neural processes involved in muscle contraction start in your brain, travel down your spinal cord, and feed information to the motor neuron that’s attached to your muscles.

However, today I’m going to focus on the muscle fibers themselves. After all, your ability to generate maximal power depends on the contractile capacity of the muscles. Of particular importance is the muscle fiber type. Not all fibers are created equal.

There are three primary muscle fiber types: type I, type IIa, and type IIb. Type I fibers have low force-producing capabilities and high endurance characteristics. When you run a marathon it primarily stimulates your type I fibers. Next up are the type IIa fibers. These muscle fibers have higher force-producing capabilities with moderate levels of endurance. They’re primarily stimulated with exercises that last around five minutes, although this number can vary greatly. Many exercises that last up to 10 minutes target the type IIa fibers. At the top of the food chain are the type IIb fibers. These are your biggest, strongest fibers that are only activated during high force exercises that last less than a minute.

You’ve probably heard the terms “slow twitch” and “fast twitch” when describing muscles. Type I are considered slow twitch while type IIa and IIb are fast twitch. What the heck is a twitch, anyway? In the lab, muscle scientists like to study the rate at which the contractile components of muscle (actin and myosin) can split the ATP enzyme, ATPase. Type II muscle fibers split ATPase approximately 600 times/second vs. around 300 times/second for type I fibers. In a nutshell, type II fibers contract faster than type I fibers do. This is nothing more than microscopic muscle science that probably isn’t important to you. Nevertheless, that’s how those terms came about.

One thing that’s clear is that strength-power athletes have a greater proportion of type II fibers than endurance athletes have (Costill et al 1976, Gollnick et al 1972). You probably already know if you have a dominance of either fiber type. If you find that you can perform a lot more reps than your buddy with a given load; or if you favor long, slow runs over short sprints, you’re probably type I dominant.

On the other hand, if you consider any set over six reps to be “endurance training,” or if you find that you can only crank out two extra reps after decreasing a load by 30%, you’re probably a type II guy (or gal).

So at this point a logical question pops up: Can you shift your muscle fiber type?

In graduate school my thesis was on the muscle fiber alterations that occur between strength and endurance training. As a gross generalization, the body favors transitions toward more endurance characteristics. You can transform type IIa fibers into type I fibers. And you can decrease your type IIb pool to favor more type IIa fibers. Only a couple of studies have shown that you can increase your proportion of type IIb fibers (this, not surprisingly, was shown with high-intensity, short-duration sprint training).

But if you’re looking to develop a more muscular body, don’t let a lack of type IIb muscle fibers discourage you. There’s another fiber type that can get bigger, stronger and possess enough endurance to knock out your competition.

To learn more about this special fiber type, and ways to build it to transform your body, just CLICK HERE.

Stay focused,