“In weight training, there’s only one scientific fact: progressive overloads builds muscle.” John Dunn, New York Giants conditioning coach’s quote is true but how to progressively overload is littered with countless theories that would take a lifetime to personally explore to test their veracity. Training for almost fifty years and making plenty of mistakes I can share some practical applications from three of the most accepted theories of progressive overload. First let’s take a look at the top three schools of thought for effective training.
#1 High intensity training is a well accepted conditioning model that stresses short, hard infrequent training sessions.This method has produced extremely strong well muscled athletes.
#2 High volume training is another conditioning model that has countless advocates. They on the other hand promote high set frequent training sessions. Some of the largest of the world’s bodybuilders follow this method.
#3 Periodization introduced in 1963 by Romanian and eastern bloc countries that dominated international sports in the 70s and 80s.This model organizes a period of unloading to allow the body to regenerate itself in preparation for further load increases. Olympic athletes invariably use this method in their 4 year or sometimes 8 or 12 year preparation for Olympic gold.
Let me introduce you to a 6 week routine, The 15 x 5 Protocol. This routine is a marriage of the three very different training styles to incorporate the advantages of all three. Does this sound too good to be true or at least too complicated to follow? Not true quite the opposite, so simple you can apply it to any of your favorite exercises.
The first key to the 15×5 protocol is the manipulation of your repetition range from 15 reps down to 5 reps over a six week period. Here is how my 15×5 pull up routine looks like. The first workout consists of 18 sets of various grip pull ups with body weight for 15 repetitions for each set. This takes about 45 minutes for me. You can apply this to any exercise like bench presses or squats with any number of sets or time frame you are comfortable with. The focus here is high volume with as many 15 rep sets that you can squeeze out of your time and energy. Work fast with good form from one set to the other pumping your muscles till they feel like they will burst. This is your volume work out! Repeat every 72 hours or three times a week.
After week one we start to add weight to the exercise as we simultaneously drop the rep range as well as the number of sets. This is the second key to the success of the 15×5 protocol. Concurrent with this we increase the rest between workouts by as much as a day for every week. What in essence we are doing is transitioning from a high volume work out to a high intensity work out. This unloading from one to the other allows our body to rest a bit as we get stronger. This is of course the third key to our protocol.
Following is my 15×5 pull up routine:
Week 1 bodyweight pull ups for 15 reps and 18 sets
Week 2 bodyweight plus 10 pounds for 12 reps and 16 sets
Week 3 bodyweight plus 20 pounds for 10 reps and 14 sets
Week 4 bodyweight plus 35 pounds for 8 reps and 12 sets
Week 5 bodyweight plus 50 pounds for 6 reps and 10 sets
Week 6 bodyweight plus 60 pounds for 5 reps and 8 sets
From week one to week six we increase our rest days from three to six days. You may feel like training more frequent than this but resist the urge to do this because you will over train. By the end of week six you should feel stronger as well as strangely refreshed. Periodization which is a planed variation of workouts is the most effective way of continuing to grow. Training smarter not harder!
Presently my best example of volume capability for me is 30 non-stop good form pull ups. Whereas my best single move is one pull up from a dead hand with 100 pounds strapped to me. (Both of these are on YouTube.) High Volume, with High Intensity as well as Periodization has been instrumental in these personal bests for me.
There you have it the very basic elements of three effective schools of training practically learned in just six weeks. Once you understand the extremes of High intensity and High Volume you can design your own variations to suite your personal goals and preferences.
Try The 15×5 protocol as the saying goes “it is better felt then tell’t.”