Strength Training for Muscle

Share your training programs, favorite exercises, training secrets and tips with the rest of the group. Discuss contest preparation, off-season diets, carb depleting and loading, posing, and training programs.

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Strength Training for Muscle

#1 Postby Daywalker » Sun Jan 29, 2006 12:00 pm

In this thread i want to gather information about training with weights. Everyone is free to post their experiences, routines they made good or bad experiences with, hints, advice etc.
Please don't discuss programs here, and please ask only direct questions about posted programs.
I will try to keep the thread dense with information.

My thoughts on training:

I've been working with weights for around 10 years now, and i had my deeps and ups in this time.

So, i want to present you what I personally think is important when you want to get bigger and/or stronger. I'll keep it on a general base, at least at first, and won't go into details of my workout, as i believe that everyone is different. That's the first important point in this thread *lol EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT! That means, everyone has to find the perfect way to train for her/himself.
BUT i do believe that there are some principles that apply to everyone, the laws of weight training you could say. I'll try to lay them out to you, please feel free to comment or contradict if you think i'm wrong.

1. principle: PROGRESSION

I put this as the first principle, because i think it's the most important as well as the most evident. Progression means that you increase your ability to lift weights over the time. That can be done in several ways, i'll come to that later, but the thing is:
If you're doing 12 reps with 60kg now and 10months later you can do 60kg for 12 times, you have not improved, you're not stronger and i'll wager that you haven't gained an ounce of muscle.
The whole thing about bodybuilding is HOW you can continue to improve. All systems and theories have this point in common.

I recommend to keep a training log, so you can check if you're really making any progress. When i started lifting weights, i had no clue of training theory or anything, but i had a log, and every session i aimed to improve on the session before. At that time i made good progress, although i violated almost every "rule" i learned about BB later in the gym.

When i started training in the gym, i changed many things, but i also stopped writing the log, because nobody there did it and it was kinda "uncool". The gym owner told me he knew exactly what he did last week so he didn't need a log. He made it sound ridiculous to use a log. But now, i know that a log truly is one of the keys to progression. You may remember last workout, but what about last month's? Everyone has bad days, but if you don't increase your strength after a month, you're definitely doing something wrong!

So, now, what ways are there to ensure continued progression?

2. Change

In the past years i've always worked out, sometimes with greater effect, sometimes with less or even while declining. But i've noticed that one key to progression is to change your routine every now and then.
As a beginner, you can stick to your basic program for quite a long time without negative effects on your progression. As an advanced bodybuilder, however, i recommend to change your plan completely every 4-8 weeks. By doing so, you force your body to adapt to the new situation by growth.
Personally, i feel that following a plan for 6 weeks is the best, but that might vary for others. After 6 weeks of one program, the progression slows, eventually comes to a complete stop.

I want to make myself clear, perhaps it could be misunderstood.
I don't suggest that you change a program you're getting good results with after 6 weeks into another program (which might give you inferior results). What i was trying to say was, that usually after 6 weeks the adaption to a program begins to slow, the gains get smaller. One way to counter that without changing the program would be to take 1-2 weeks off and train only light in this time (or even no weight training at all, just cardio).
The change has another reason: motivation. Beginning a new program can bring great motivation into your workout.

3. Often is better

There are several factors in your training that need to be balanced to ensure progression: frequency, volume, load and intensity. Both, too much or not enough of any of those can jeopardize your gains.

Frequency: i don't mean the number of workouts per week, i mean the frequency regarding every muscle. Too often, and you risk overtraining. Not often enough, and the muscle will begin to adapt to the rest again, in the worst case with atrophy. Of course, the frequency depends on the other factors, too. A high intensity training can't be done as often as a low intensity one.

I used to workout like most guys do in the gym: a split-program, every muscle once per week, 3-5 exercises, 3-5 sets per exercise, and that's it.
I wouldn't say that's complete bullshit, but it comes close :roll:

A principle i learned while reading (and later trying) the Doggcrapp (DC) system, was "often is better". DC is a variation on the HIT training system. DC states that if you can bring a muscle to grow two times per week instead of only once, you will grow 104 times per year instead of 52. He's got a point there, myladies! :D

At that point i realized that every time in my life that i made fast improvements, i was working every muscle more often! In the beginning, when i was training at home in the basement, i used to workout every day for approx. 3-4 hours. In this time, i made a lot of mistakes, but i worked the whole body every day. I made a very fast progress then.
Of course, beginners always make fast progress. But while i was using light weights, high reps, high volume, high frequency and did exercises that would cringe the toenails of most bodybuilders, i still grew. Actually, looking back, i instinctively followed at least two of the principles: progression and "often is better".

Later in the gym, i "learned" how a real bodybuilder should work out: the above mentioned split. I still made good progress, but eventually i came to a plateau.
After years of ups and downs (competitions diets, injuries and other distractions) i found out, that i had the best results with a 2-split or better, a whole-body workout. I didn't know why, but i noticed the fact. Now i know it's because of the third principle.

4. Intensity and volume

That's a difficult point, but an important one.
I used to work out as hard as i could, to muscle failure and beyond every single set, using intensity techniques all over, believing that the msucles wouldn't grow if i didn't show them that they were too weak for the requirements i set. I wanted to force them to grow!
The problem is, that you can easily overdo it. High intensity has it advantages, but feeling the muscles burning, aching or being pumped up has about NOTHING to do with growth. High intensity doesn't go well with the other factors, also. If you do high volume or high frequency, you can't (okay, you can, but it wouldn't be advantageous) do high intensity also.

Therefore, i advise to either do high intensity OR high frequency OR high volume!

If you think of it, it's obvious that when you work your chest on monday with 3 exercises, you're not as strong in the second or third exercise as you're in the first. If you did the first exercise on monday, the second on wednesday and the third on friday, you'd be stronger in those and work the chest more often without increasing the total volume.

The DC program for instance recommends to work every muscle with only one exercise and one set per session! That seems to be too few at first glance, but of course, this one set is to be done with the maximum intensity. (After that, you do loaded stretching for that muscle and move to the next.) You split the body in two and workout 3 times per week, so every muscle is trained 3 times in two weeks.

On the other hand, the HST program says that you should workout every muscle AT LEAST every 48 hours! That means, doing a whole body routine at least every other day, or a 2-split every day! But often is better in this system, so you could do a 2-split every day, one part in the morning, the other in the evening Wink

I tried both systems and had good results. How comes that? They are opposite, one claims max. intensity, one claims max. frequency.
But they're both balanced in what counts:

5. Regeneration

One key to progression is the proper amount of rest. Too much, and you can't call your training training, as it will show no results ;)
Not enough on the other hand will lead into overtraining, not exactly what anyone wants, as it prevents further results and can be dangerous to your health.
So how much training is too much?
I'd say, if you don't make progression from workout to workout (counting in bad days, you might say at least every third workout), you're probably doing too much/have not enough rest. It could be that you're doing not enough, but that's a rare case.
The muscle needs to be confronted with a stress new to him during the workout, to make him adapt to that. After that, it needs to regenerate and then it can grow.
The DC program ensures the proper regeneration by doing only one set, so that the muscle is not worked more than needs to be done. By doing an extreme intensity, however, it's made sure that it has to respond with supercompensation!
On the other hand, the HST system claims that overtraining has nothing to do with the muscle itself, but that it takes place in the CNS. By avoiding muscle failure, it makes it possible to workout much more often. It sounds easy at first, no muscle failure, but believe me, it's not easy! HST means doing squats and deadlift and everything else at least every other day!

This text is not about HST or DC, but if you're interested, i can write a summary on each of these systems in another thread sometime.

So, proper regeneration means that you can do more than you did last time EVERY TIME when you enter the gym!

6. Load and reps

What exactly is an increase in strength?
When you have the same weight on the bar than last workout, and do more reps with it, that's an increase. When you have more weight on the bar and do the same number of reps, that's also an increase, obviously. But what if you put more weight on and do less reps? Is that an increase?
And what is better, more load or more reps?
Any source i have read and my personal experience tell me that increasing the load is the key to muscle growth. Actually, that's another point where DC and HST don't contradict ;)

BUT increasing the number of reps also has advantadges:
- I find it easier to increase the number of reps i can do with a certain weight than increasing the weight. Moreover, it's easier to increase the number when you're doing high repetition sets: it's easier to improve from 20 to 25 than from 2 to 5!
- High reps improve the vascularisation and the endurance of the muscle, both not unimportant factors for growth.
- Lower load is more sparing for the joints.
The very start for me into BB was doing push-ups and sit-ups every evening. Obviously, i increased the number of reps, not the load. I made good progress (in that time, i also worked out every day, and i did not go to muscle failure. Instead, i did several sets coming near muscle failure. *pat myself on the shoulder* i have good instincts *lol* i did the right thing ;) )

Having said that, i think that increasing the load has priority to increasing the reps when your goal is muscle mass and strength. After all, we're no long distance runners, are we? :D

To conclude this for today:

- Keep a training log.
- Change your plan every 4-8 weeks.
- Work out often and heavy.
- Don't blend high intensity with high volume or high frequency.

The workout

Yes, that's what it's all about! Don't you just love it? :D

One general thing i'd like to mention: pre-workout-nutrition.
Most people i know claim that they are stronger when they eat something right before the workout, usually carbs 30min or an hour before. Some go for cereals, others for cake or meat Sad My girlfriend even told me of this guy who was eating rice and meat DURING the workout, between the sets! Shocked
Physiologically, this makes not much sense to me. My experience is that i'm stronger when i don't eat anything at least 2 hours before the workout. Of course, you have to be loaded, but it's better to do that another time, not right before you train. A full belly consumes a lot of the body's energy and blood. I couldn't do squats while digesting!
The body is ready for performance when it's hungry!
I time my meals so that i go to the gym hungry. During the workout i'm not hungry anymore, i wouldn't want to think of food at all. Of course, you should provide some calories after the workout as soon as possible. I usually go for fruits (sometimes juice), or if the time to the next full meal is too long, soymilk instead.
If the time i ate nothing before the workout gets too long, i eat fruits, as they provide my body with quick energy and are easily digested and i can train with an empty stomach.
Actually, after doing this for quite some time, i read an article by Shawn Ray called "Stay hungry" where he recommended exactly the same thing Cool Hey, cool, Shawn Ray was my favorite Pro at that time! :D

The exercises

Okay, now, let's get to the point.
It's nothing new what i'm gonna tell here, but it's so true that you can't say it often enough:
Do squats, not leg press. Bench press, not cable flies. Pull-ups, not lat machine. Dead lift, not one armed cable curls!

It's easy to get carried away with doing isolation exercises that pump your muscle up and let it burn. I like it, you like it, everyone does it. But it doesn't help you grow.

Another thing widely done is to work the smaller muscles far too much in relation to the big ones. I've done this mistake myself for many years, wondering why my arms where my weakest part, though i trained them the hardest.
Think on it: what muscles are used in the bench press? Chest, right. But shoulders and triceps do a big part of the work, too, along with other muscles. When you do bench press with, say, 70kg, your triceps has to contract against that weight. It's a far better exercise than cable push downs with 25kg! So, after having worked the chest with bench press and incline bench press, you don't need to work the triceps with another 2 exercises that exclude the bigger pectoralis (chest muscle)! Why would you want to work the smaller muscle more?
Concentrate on the main movements.

Depending on the program, i concede that some isolation exercises can be useful IF USED WISELY. Mainly, that means exercises in the stretched position, to add a different kind of stress to the muscles than they get in the main exercises.

Here's a list of movements i recommend:

- Squat: obviously. Works the whole body, mainly the legs and the back.
- Deadlift: similar to the squat, but also works the traps, the forearms and concentrates more on the hamstrings, the glutes and the back. Stiffed leg deadlift is great for developing thick hamstrings.
- Bench Press: not only for the chest, but for shoulders and triceps as well. The inclined bench is good, too, actually i think it's even better than the flat. Dumbell presses are great exercises for the stabilisation muscles and hepl build power.
- Pull-ups: Lat, serratus anterior, middle back, biceps, forearms. I hate them and i love them, the best for your back, arms, shoulders.
- Dips: chest, triceps, shoulders. One of my favorite exercises.
- Military press: shoulders, triceps.
- Barbell row: Lower back, middle back, lats, biceps. Dumbell row is similar, but easier on the lower back and harder on the rest, including forearms.
- Upright row: some people have problems with it, i love it. It's great for the delts and traps. Never mind lateral raises anymore Smile
- Pullovers: I do this mainly for the lats, serratus, and triceps, so some people claim it's a chest exercise.
- Front squats: They put more stress on the lower back and as you take less weight, less stress on the legs. When i do them, i do them after the normal squats, when the legs are already tired, or on an easy leg day.
-overhead squats: This is actually a shoulder exercise! It's a great whole-body-movement that requires strength and balance.

Okay, those should be enough to make a program of it ;)
There are many others, i didn't bother to mention all those triceps and biceps exercises. And crunches for the abs.
A whole body program doesn't need extra arm exercises, but if you wish, you can include one for your psyche ;)

Routine for beginners

Here is a strength routine for beginners. Most people will benefit from it.
It requires not much time, focuses on the main movements and on getting stronger.

Day 1

Warm-up: 10min cardio.
2 sets each:
- Dips
- Pullups
- Squats
1 set each:
- Crunches
- Calves

Day 2

Warm-up: 10min cardio.
2 sets each:
- Barbell row
- Barbell press
- Deadlift
1 set each:
- Crunches
- Calves

Alternate Day 1 and Day 2, with 1-2 rest days in between. After cardio warm up, do easy sets of each exercise until you feel warm. Do 2 sets of every exercise , concentrate on perfect form and use a weight you can do for at least 10 clean reps without reaching muscle failure.
Try to increase the number of reps each workout, but don't go to muscle failure (except for abs and calves)!
When you reach 15 reps in both sets (20 for squats), increase the weight a bit.

Do this for 2 months and then analyze your logbook. :)
Last edited by Daywalker on Sun Jan 29, 2006 1:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
No one said it would be easy.

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#2 Postby Daywalker » Sun Jan 29, 2006 12:47 pm

Here's a good routine VeganEssentials posted.

Day 1 - Legs and shoulders (two groups that do not interfere with each other)
1. Barbell or dumbbell clean (from floor to shoulders) and overhead press - 1-2 warmup sets, 3x6-8 reps work sets. The clean part is done to warm up the legs and lower back while working the shoulders, which will get you ready for the leg work.
2. Full squats - parallel or deeper, 1-3 warmup sets, 3x6-8 reps work sets
3. Stiff legged deadlifts, knees slightly bent to 15-25 degrees - 3x6-8 reps work sets (no warmup necessary unless you feel it is for the best)

This will take care of your legs and shoulders with no worries about added junk thrown in, all good compound exercises and you can be in and out in less than an hour easily.

Rest 1-2 days

Day 2 - Upper back and chest work
1. Barbell or dumbbell rows - 1-2 warmup sets, 3 work sets of 6-8 reps
2. Pull-ups (assisted if you can't do enough normally) or single-arm pulldowns - 3 work sets of 6-8 reps (no need to warm up here)
3. Incline bench press barbell or DB - 1-2 warmup sets, 3 work sets of 6-8 reps
4. Close-grip flat bench (hands 10-14" apart) - 3 work sets of 6-10 reps

You'll hit your upper back well from 2 angles, and you'll hit your chest and triceps well enough in there as well, again with no filler and a quick workout.

Rest 1-2 days

Day 3 - Lower back work / fun stuff 1. Deadlifts from floor - 1-3 warmup sets, 3 work sets of 6-8 reps
2. Deadlift lockouts in a power rack (from just above knees to a finished deadlift position) - 3 work sets of 6-8 reps with 20-30% more weight than was pulled from the floor
3. From here, pick 2 more exercises that don't conflict with the rest of the week's lifting and have fun with them. If you want to train arms a bit more, hit some dumbbell hammer curls (after the incline and close-grip benching you probably won't have much urge to do any tricep work!). If you feel you need more trapezius work, toss in some shrugs. If you want to do grip or forearm work, throw some in. If you want to try some olypic lifts, do them here. A lot of times I make one day per week the random day where I have one thing I MUST do, such as deadlifts, and the rest is whatever feels good. This keeps you looking forward to getting in there and you still get everything done, but now you get to pick a bit more instead of always following the same routine.

Rest 1-2 days and repeat!

This focuses on quite a few compound exercises, leaves out the isolation work and junk that just takes up time for those who don't necessarily need to put focus into one part, and you'll get the most "bang for your buck" with the things that are listed here.
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#3 Postby Odidnetne » Mon Feb 06, 2006 7:58 pm

I've been thinking about trying the twice-a-week method once I start bulking again. I've been only doing it once a week because I was doing lots of cardio as well, and didn't want to risk overtraining myself, but I stopped doing as much as I used to.

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#4 Postby Cristian » Fri Feb 24, 2006 1:48 pm

daywalker wrote;
In this thread i want to gather information about training with weights. Everyone is free to post their experiences, routines they made good or bad experiences with, hints, advice etc.
Please don't discuss programs here, and please ask only direct questions about posted programs.
I will try to keep the thread dense with information.

I've recently tried the prone lat raise for shoulders...I couldn't believe how hard it was compared to a standard lat raise. Anyone else thinks the same?
Things are moving forward

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#5 Postby Jay » Fri Feb 24, 2006 2:21 pm

I've lifted 15+ years consistently. The first two years I would do practically every set to failure, and by failure I mean if I was capable of doing 10 reps then I did ten reps but usually didn't attempt a 11th. I would hit a bodypart 2 or 3 times a week and do at least 3 sets per bodypart each time. I made virtually no progress this way at all beyond the first month or so...

Then I switched to just doing a single set to failure of each exercise once every four days. For example:
Day 1. one set each to failure of squats, deadlifts, and lunges.
Day 2. one heavy weighted set to failure of situps.
Day 3. One set of rows, weighted chins, curls.
Day 4. one set of inclines presses, military press and tricep extentions
I gained around 50 pounds in 8 months this way going from 180ish to 230ish. At that point any more weight gain was starting to get a little fat. So I had to reduce my eating. Once my eating was reduced my gains stopped. And still I was only benching 260ish, squatting 400 and dling 350ish at 230 6'4". Really not that good at all.

The next improvement was doing a whole body workout every day. What I did though was 3 days in a row I'd lift kind of light, just to get the blood flowing, the fourth day I'd lift heavy to failure. For example I'd bench 240x7 to failure then follow with three days of 170ish x15, then repeat. I slightly improved my strength during this time without gaining any more weight. (Benched 270x6.) Although I didn't do legs during this time. And I suspect legs don't take as much frequency as well so they probably/possibly would not have fared as well on this program.

Over 15 years I've tried A LOT of different things and nothing else has really caused any significant improvement. (Except for a 5 to 10% improvement when protein stuffing.) I have never used drugs.

Currently I'm trying an extreme high volume routine. Which is just taking a couple exercises and doing set after set of them for 3 hours every other day. Well short of failure of course. I basically keep it light enough that I can mentally stand doing set after set for 3 hours. Maybe it's working but too soon to really say.



#6 Postby veganpotter » Wed Jun 14, 2006 10:16 pm

The normal resting program/cycle never worked for me so I couldn't do the 5 days with two days off deal. Even if I took a day off I'd feel terrible. So I tried something new and it worked. 7 days a week for as long as I could stand it...take a few days off until I felt replenished. Go back with an easy upper body day...then easy legs...modest upper...modest legs and I was normally able to get my biggest gains that way. Size wasn't at all a concern but it came with the rest, but my strenth gains were amazing training like've just gotta get in the gym when you don't even feel like standing...this is why I always needed a fairly long cardio warmup. Don't know anyone else thats tried this so maybe its just for me but if your in a rut the way I was when I discovered this it may be worth a try :?

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Avoid Injury

#7 Postby scrodhi » Mon Aug 20, 2007 6:46 pm

If you train heavy you have to be VERY careful to avoid injury (also if you play a competitive sport like rugby, American football etc) an injury can literally set you back a year no problem, and some you will never get over.....#1 rule, don't overdo it, get a good pump, do a fair ammount of cardio, and don't risk damaging your joints or you may regret it for the rest of your life IMHO....all it takes is one serious knee or shouder injury to really get you off track sometimes for good, so take care of your body, it;s the only one you will ever have !!!!

I have turf toe from playing competitive "American" football, and my body will never be what it could have been........all the surgeons in the world can't make an athlete.....sometimes they can repair them...I have several friends who played in the NFL, and they are like 60 year old guys at 35-40...I guesss in that case I'd be in the same boat, but if you blow ourt a knee doing heavy squats etc, you will regret it for the rest of your me..........itl;s all about progressive resistance, if you are lifting more this month than you did last month.....just keep it up........too many people shoot for the moon, and it comes back to haunt them ....just my 2 pence
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#8 Postby crashnburn » Wed Aug 22, 2007 1:06 pm


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#9 Postby ChaserHUN » Fri Mar 28, 2008 1:59 pm

I want to ask why is it better to train different muscle groups of different days? and is it bad to train all muscle groups all days?
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#10 Postby cubby2112 » Sat Mar 29, 2008 2:15 pm

ChaserHUN wrote:I want to ask why is it better to train different muscle groups of different days? and is it bad to train all muscle groups all days?

Because it allows you to keep your workouts shorter, thus allowing you to train with more intensity. It works well with allowing your muscles to rest. Full body is fine so long as by all days you do not mean all seven days of the week. Most people implement full body workouts three days a week.
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#11 Postby ChaserHUN » Sat Mar 29, 2008 4:14 pm

cubby2112 wrote:
ChaserHUN wrote:I want to ask why is it better to train different muscle groups of different days? and is it bad to train all muscle groups all days?

Because it allows you to keep your workouts shorter, thus allowing you to train with more intensity. It works well with allowing your muscles to rest. Full body is fine so long as by all days you do not mean all seven days of the week. Most people implement full body workouts three days a week.

yeah I thought full workout on 4 days, 2 day just yoga, pilates and other, and 1 day full rest
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#12 Postby ChaserHUN » Sun Mar 30, 2008 1:08 pm

Well maybe I wont train all muscle groups all days, sometimes I have weaker days and it's very frustrating to train everything :?
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Re: Training for muscles

#13 Postby thatistheplan » Sun Aug 10, 2008 12:08 am

Thanks for this! I've been doing this routine for a bit now and I'm already seeing great results. I'll keep it up and post pictures if I find a noticeable difference in my shape.
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Re: Training for muscles

#14 Postby Verie » Sun Aug 10, 2008 8:18 pm

As a complete bodybuilding newbie, this routine looks really promising as I have nearly everything I need here at my house (Gotta pick up a pull up bar) so I don't have to pay for a gym membership which is very appealing.

I know what all the exercises are but one. What did you mean by Calves? Is it a specific exercise or do you mean any exercise that works on the calves, if so could you recommend one as I can't think of one being the newbie that I am heh.

Anyway, thanks for the great post! Eager to start and see if it works for me.

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Re: Training for muscles

#15 Postby MartinVegartin » Sun Jan 18, 2009 10:46 am

I'm not a bodybuilder. I am just interested in becoming stronger and fitter. For the past few months I've been following a system I read about on Matt Wiggin's website for training for strength-endurance. The method he explains starts you off with a weight you can use for two or three reps. For about eight or ten sets.

You start with 60 second rests between sets. You reduce this time by 5 or 10 seconds as quickly as you can. You can often make this reduction session by session. When you get down to 20 seconds and can do all the reps in all the sets, you add more weight and go back to 60 seconds. He actually advises going as low as 15 seconds but I prefer 20. I must admit that once, in the chin ups, I tried for about two weeks to do all the reps and sets at 20 seconds but I just couldn't complete the last set. I just added weight and went back to 60 seconds.

I find that it is increasing my strength - I can easily use a weight that was difficult a few months ago - and I'm sure it is increasing my endurance. But I haven't tested that. It seems obvious that it will, though.

I do one-legged squats on day 1. Upper body on day 2, consisting of chin ups, bent over dumbell rowing, dips, overhead dumbell presses - one arm at a time. Day 3 is a rest day, and then I start again.

I am going to add one-legged Romanian deadlifts to the squat day.

When you get down to 30 second rests, some of the exercises are really hard for your cardio-vascular system. No time to catch your breath before the next set is due. At 20 seconds, it is really brutal. Really gasping for breath and a pounding heart. Especially in the dumbell rows where I'm using nearly two-thirds of my bodyweight. If you did it to anyone else you would be arrested for torture.

There's very little muscle soreness the next day, probably because of the low reps. The first few sets are easy-ish because you could do a few more reps. The last two sets can be difficult but I rarely reach a point where I have to strain to complete the rep.

Just to be sure I didn't start with too much weight, I started with bodyweight in the chins, dips and one-legged squats. And found it challenging. But I find I make progress in every session and I am using weights now I wouldn't have been able to lift in this way a few weeks ago.

You can find the info here:

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