An Advanced Training Strategy for Increasing Size
Before we begin, I just want to make sure everyone read the “Basics of Training For Size” series. Some really good information on muscle building there.
I’m posting a few things all at once. I have been planning on sharing some of this information with you guys for a while, but I’ve got such a crazy backlog of blog post ideas and articles for magazines I wind up never publishing my own stuff when I want to. Which really just sucks for you guys, and I’m sorry about that.
I want to talk about a really fun technique called “Mechanical Advantage Drop Sets” or MADS, which is a great acronym I was too stupid to realize existed until my friend Zoe pointed it out via Facebook chat.
Of course, before we can discuss Mechanical Advantage Drop Sets we have to define drop sets in general. For those who don’t know, a drop set is when you perform a set of a given exercise to the point of fatigue or failure, and then change a variable in a way which allows you to continue performing the set.
In most drop sets, the variable is weight–you reduce or “drop” the weight once you reach fatigue, allowing you to perform a few more reps with a lighter load. Which is pretty good, but not amazing. Drop sets, also known as strip sets (because you’re “stripping” the weight off the bar each set) is probably one of the first advanced techniques you’re likely to use on your quest to gain muscle.
As an example, you probably notice that it’s easier for you to perform a bench press with a lower incline and harder to perform it with a higher incline. As you increase the incline, muscular leverage changes unfavorably, as does recruitment (more shoulders, less chest in this case) and so the exercise becomes harder.
To set this up into a MA drop set, you would start the chest press at a high incline, work to failure/fatigue, then drop the incline a bit. That is, with each successive set, you wind up being able to perfrom despite being fatigure because you are stronger in that position than you were in the previous one.
Here is another example: a sweet video of our boy Vince doing a Mechanical Advantage Drop Set of pull-ups (with my guidance) a few months back.
Pretty sweet, right?
By changing his hand and arm positioning from the weakest (wide spacing, overhand grip) to ones that are more mechanically advantageous, ending with the strongest (moderate spacing, neutral grip) Vince is able to perform more reps with each change, even though it’s obvious that he’s gone to failure on the previous set.
Well, in short, it’s a matter of load. As I mentioned previously, with traditional drop sets, you’re keeping your position static and decreasing the weight to perform more reps. With MADS, the weight stays the same the entire time.
Now, as I’ve covered in the Basics of Training for Size series, there is certainly some merit in training with lighter weights. However, speaking generally, most people are going to get A LOT more out of consistently using more challenging weights. With MADS, your weight is consistently heavy, and you get to push to fatigue and beyond, forcing more and more muscle fibers to be recruited with each rep and each mechanical change.
It’s an advanced method and certainly isn’t easy, but if you’re looking for a way to challenge yourself and force your body to grow, I think you’ve just found it.