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"Doing more exercise with less intensity,"
Arthur Jones believes, "has all but
destroyed the actual great value
of weight training. Something
must be done . . . and quickly."
The New Bodybuilding for
Old-School Results supplies
MUCH of that "something."

 

This is one of 93 photos of Andy McCutcheon that are used in The New High-Intensity Training to illustrate the recommended exercises.

To find out more about McCutcheon and his training, click here.

 

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Stage Reps for Bigger Arms
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Ellington Darden, Ph.D.

Stage Reps for Bigger Arms:
A New Adaptation of an Old Routine

The New Bodybuilding for Old-School Results contains more than a
dozen two-page spreads that illustrate various parts of the book.
Above, a series of historic photos lead into the "Golden Age of Bodybuilding,"
which feature training stories from Muscle Beach 
about Steve Reeves, John Grimek, Eric Pedersen, Clancy Ross, Vic
Tanny, George Eiferman, Marvin Eder, and Bill Pearl.


Arthur Jones always liked training his arms. And he was intrigued with building machines for the biceps and triceps.

Why?

"Because your arms, more than any other body part," Jones said, "provide relevant information you can SEE and FEEL. It only takes one workout to know if what you're doing is productive."

Jones was primarily referring to the pump – the pumped sensation you get in your biceps and triceps when they are worked repetitively. He also had a way to measure that pump and predict future arm growth.

All of us bodybuilders enjoy the "see" and "feel" of exercising our arms. Even today, at 62 years of age, I'd like to have more size on my biceps and triceps. And probably so would you.

In my latest book, The New Bodybuilding for Old-School Results, I have a chapter that describes and illustrates the most productive arm routine that I've ever utilized. It's also a workout that I've mentioned in some of my previous books.


Four Exercises

My most productive arm routine consists of a one-repetition very slow chinup, immediately followed by a biceps curl for 8 to 12 repetitions. Then, there's a one-repetition dip, immediately followed by a triceps extension for 8 to 12 repetitions. That's it, four exercises!

If anything will rock your biceps and triceps into new growth, this routine . . . properly performed . . . will do it.

Never one to be satisfied with a particular cycle, however, over the last 20 years I've tried various versions of the workout. For example:

So far, at least, I still believe that the slow chinup and dip, followed by the curl and extension, combine to yield the best size-building biceps and triceps routine I've ever applied.


JReps

Recently, however, there's been considerable discussion on the Internet, including this Web site, concerning the effectiveness of a new technique called The Johnston Rep Method . . . or JReps. Brian Johnston, the author of JReps and the owner of the Web site www.i-a-r-t.com, notes that JReps are a way to divide an exercise's range of motion into zones.

Although Johnston says that there are eight different ways of doing JReps, the two that caught my attention are called "halves" and "thirds." Halves and thirds simply mean to separate the movement into two or three parts. You then do partial reps in each of the selected zones.

JReps, according to Johnston and some of his trainees, produce more thorough muscular stimulation than anything they've ever experienced.

Please note: I have NOT read Johnston's book. I am, however, planning on doing so soon. Until then, let me say that Johnston's JReps have caused me to do some experimentation on my own, especially as it relates to a method that I applied at the Nautilus Research Center in Lake Helen, Florida, in the 1980s.


Stage Repetitions

Apparently, halves and thirds are similar to a technique that I named . . . Stage Repetitions.  According to my book, Super High-Intensity Bodybuilding (1986), stage repetitions allow you to exercise with and around sticking points and lockouts, which are prevalent on many barbell exercises.

The existence of a sticking point – the point during a barbell exercise when the resistance feels heavier than it does at other points – makes it obvious that your muscles are being worked harder in some positions than in others. Likewise, when you lockout your arms or legs under a barbell in certain positions, you should be aware that your muscles are not being worked. Your bones are supporting the weight and your muscles are merely acting as stabilizers.

For example, let's examine the standing barbell curl. The barbell curl is a single-joint movement that allows your hands to rotate approximately 140 degrees around your elbows. The sticking point, or the most demanding position of the exercise, occurs when the forearms are parallel with the floor, or at a 90-degree angle with your upper arms.

Although in the 1980s I usually separated the movement into thirds, the following description deals with halves:

In the barbell curl, work the top 75 degrees (including the sticking point) first in a slow, controlled manner. Next, perform the bottom 65 degrees in a similar fashion.

Stage reps can also be applied to multiple-joint movements that involve lockouts. Once again you should work from the hardest stage (which includes the sticking point) to the easiest.

Let's return to the four-exercise arm routine.


One-Repetition Exercises Plus a Couple of Halves

What if I take my best arm routine and try to improve it by adding stage repetitions (halves) to the biceps curl and the triceps extension? That's precisely what I'd like to do . . . with many of the trainees involved with this Web site acting as guinea pigs.

Note: I tried several ways of applying stage reps to the slow chinup (as well as the dip), but splitting the exercise in half hurt my ability to concentrate and seemed to be less efficient than the old way. Thus, I did not modify the slow chinup or dip. 

Here's a look at the revised arm cycle, followed by a description of each exercise:

Rest for 2 minutes.

One-repetition chinup: You'll need a horizontal bar, plus a clock with a second hand in plain sight for the one-repetition chinup. Or, it's even better if you have an assistant who can call out your time (5, 10, and 15) as you move up and down. The idea is to do the positive part of a chinup as slow as you can, while still be able to make it to the top position. Then, however long it took you to get to the top in seconds becomes your goal as you're lowering to the bottom. If you can do at least 6 chinups on your own, then a good starting goal is 30-seconds up and 30-seconds down. If you can do 10 chinups, try 45-seconds on both the positive and the negative phases.

Grasp the overhead bar with an underhanded grip and your hands shoulder-width apart. From a dead hang, start the pulling up – ever so slowly. Move the first inch, then the second, and the third. Try to be half way up at the count of 15. Keep you face and neck relaxed and breath. It should be difficult to get into the top position, but not impossible.

Once at the top, there's a brief pause. Then, lower yourself . . . first one inch, then two, three, four, and so on. You may need to actually stop the lowering for a few seconds, if you're progressing too quickly. Again, keep your face relaxed and your eyes open so you can see the clock. Take it very slow . . . and go all the way down to that dead hang position and pause for a second.

Immediately, place your feet on the floor and move to the biceps curl with a barbell. The barbell should be near the chinning bar.

Standing biceps curl with barbell, halves: Remember the idea here is to perform 20 seconds, or 8 partial reps in the top position, followed by another 20 seconds or 8 partial reps in the bottom half of the movement. And believe me, if you've selected the weight correctly, this will be a cycle that's full of feeling . . . painful feelings. My suggestion is to start with a medium weight on the barbell – maybe no more than 50 to 60 pounds.

Stand with the barbell and curl it to the top position. You hands should be shoulder-width apart and it's important to anchor your elbows against your sides. Try to minimize the movement of your elbows throughout each partial repetition. Lower the barbell a little below half way and curl it back to the top. Try to make the movements continuous and knock out about 8 half reps in 20 seconds. On the last lowering rep go all the way to the bottom and prepare for the bottom half.

Continue curling, but this time stop before you hit the sticking point. Make a smooth turnaround and lower back to the bottom. Continue the bottom half reps for 20 seconds, or until failure. You'll probably experience a terrific burn during this phase. Take a short rest and ready yourself for the triceps exercises, beginning with the dip.

One-repetition dip: Perform the dip in a similar manner as the chinup. Start at the bottom and slowly . . . very slowly . . . move up inch by inch. Time yourself so you're in the halfway position at 15 to 20 seconds. As you lockout your elbows, pause briefly, and then begin the negative phase. Again, your goal is to take the same number of seconds lowering as you did raising.

Get a good stretch at the bottom, dismount the parallel bars, and grab one dumbbell for the triceps extension.

Triceps extension with one dumbbell held in both hands, halves: I prefer doing this movement seated, but you may choose the standing version if you like. Grasp one dumbbell and hold the top-end section in both hands. A 30 to 40-pound dumbbell may be all you can handle initially.

Press the dumbbell over your head and keep your elbows close to your ears. The idea now is to perform the top half of the triceps extension for 20 seconds or 8 partial reps. Make sure your upper arms are vertical and not leaning forward. You want to isolate your triceps as much as possible. On the final half repetition, let the dumbbell go all the way behind your neck.

For the second half of the movement, press the dumbbell halfway up and make a smooth turnaround and lower slowly. Again keep those elbows by your ears and your upper arms vertical. Only your hands and forearms should be moving. Lifting your chest and arching your back throughout the movement will help you to stabilize your upper body. Grind out those last one or two reps.

After the last rep, ease the dumbbell out of your hands and relax your arms. You deserve a drink of water.


Bowflex Adapts, Too

If you have access to a Bowflex machine, you may want to incorporate some of the curling and triceps movements into the cycle, in place of the barbell curl and the dumbbell extension.

I have a Bowflex Ultimate and have been experimenting with a form of inclined angled curls. Here's what I recommend:

Attach the moveable bench to the leg unit, as if you're about to do a leg curl. But instead of lying face down on the bench, reverse your head and feet and lie face up so you're looking at the Power Rods. Bend forward and grasp the handles and lie back on the seat. Then stabilize your body by positioning your feet on the front of the machine. Do the top part of the curl first and then the bottom half – both for the required 8 or more partial reps. You'll really feel them after that one-repetition chinup.

Instead of the dumbbell triceps extension, I like the Bowflex seated triceps extension.

With Bowflex Ultimate machine, adjust the seat to the standard 45-degree position and sit facing away from the Power Rods. Grasp the handles and bring them to your shoulders. Straighten your arms up and over your chest. Move the handles together and keep them together. Notice the distance between your hands and the bridge of your nose and visually divide that range in half. Lower your hands to the halfway point and smoothly press the handles back to the top. Repeat for 8 strict half reps and transition into the bottom half of the range for another 8 or so half reps. Keep your elbows stable and focus on just your hands and forearms moving in a slight arc.


Other Exercises to Complete the Workout

Okay, to that four-exercise arm cycle, add four other exercises and you've got an effective HIT routine. Do the four arm exercises first in the workout. My suggestions for the four other exercises are the following:

Thus, your entire routine would be:


Keeping Records

My advise is to experiment and practice with exercises 1-4 for a session or two, until you get the time, resistance, reps, and form just right.

But before you do that, find a tape and measure and record the circumferences (to the nearest sixteenth of an inch) of both your flexed arms. It's important to take these measurements cold, with no pumping beforehand.

Get out a calendar and mark off a two-week period that you can devote to this routine. It's your job to train twice a week for two consecutive weeks. That's four workouts.

Important: Go to momentary muscular failure on all the exercises and stages. Push yourself. Be progressive in every session. Give each of those four workouts your best effort.

Then, rest two days and the following morning retake your arm circumference measurements. Compare the after measurements to the before figures.

How much bigger are your upper arms?


Your Results

I'm interested in hearing about your results . . . and what your opinion is of stage reps and this new arm cycle.

 

Discuss this article | Text Version

JJ McClinton

I really like the layout of the photo spread for the new book. Classy stuff, so do we have release date yet?
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Ellington Darden

Tyler,

All I can say right now is . . . soon.

Ellington
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markandspike

Here is an article from classix regarding the chins and dips by ellington darden.

When I close my eyes and think of . . . big, cut, rock hard, shapely biceps and triceps . . . who pops into my mind?

The main man I see inspired me when I was a teenager, impressed when I trained him almost 20 years later in 1982, and continues to motivate me even today.

Who is he? Boyer Coe.

Boyer Coe has been described as "the thinking man's bodybuilder." In my opinion, he is indeed smart ? and unusually strong in the arms.

But don't take my word for Boyer's ability. Here's what happened when Boyer first performed this unique cycle in the fall of 1982 at the Nautilus Research Center in Lake Helen, Florida.


Biceps Cycle

One-repetition chin-up as slowly as possible: From a dead hang, Boyer pulled up to the top position in exactly 60 seconds. Then, he lowered himself in another 60 seconds. That's correct: 60 seconds up and 60 seconds down.

I've never had anyone do a one-repetition chin-up that slowly the first time he attempted it ? and I've trained many big-armed champions, such as Mike Mentzer, Casey Viator, and Eddie Robinson.

After the one-repetition chin-up, Boyer moved quickly to the standing biceps curl with a barbell.

Standing biceps curl: Any man who can curl a 100-pound barbell for eight repetitions ? immediately after doing the slow-repetition chin-up ? is beyond being "just strong." He's also in great cardiovascular shape because he'll be breathing like an 800-meter runner who's just accomplished his personal-best time. Well, that's what Boyer did: eight strict reps with 100 pounds on the bar.

After a one-minute rest ? and some very pumped biceps muscles ? Boyer was ready to attack his triceps.


Triceps Cycle

One-repetition dip as slowly as possible: You might believe that a slow dip is easier for bodybuilders to perform than a slow chin-up, especially since most trainees hate chin-ups and love dips. Don't be surprised, however, if the dip is equal to the chin-up in difficulty.

Boyer successfully matched his dipping to his chinning ability. Starting from a rock-bottom low position, he did 60 seconds up, followed by 60 seconds down. I thought he was going to falter during the last 15 seconds of the negative phase, but he withstood the pain and gutted it out.

Immediately, with no more than two or three seconds of elapsed time, Boyer picked up one heavy dumbbell in both hands for the triceps extension.

Standing triceps extension: Normally, Boyer would use an 80- or 90-pound dumbbell for such a movement. But not after the exhausting effects of the chin-up, curl, and dip. A 55-pound dumbbell, according to Boyer, felt like a ton. Methodically, he ground out eight strict repetitions.

A minute later, Boyer's triceps were pumped to grotesque size. They looked like a bass fiddle with the strings tightened to the maximum degree.


Seven Minutes

In approximately seven minutes, Boyer Coe's biceps and triceps were inroaded with thorough intensity. Such intensity, combined with Boyer's determination ? at least in my opinion ? were salient factors in his short-term and long-term bodybuilding success.

I doubt that there's ever been a 200-pound man who could duplicate the chinning and dipping strength that Boyer demonstrated to me the first time he ever tried the one-repetition chin-up and the one-repetition dip.

Give this super high-intensity arm routine a fair trial and let me know how you do.


How to Get the Best Results

Here are important training tips to use for building maximum muscular size from the described arm routine:


Biceps Cycle

? One-repetition chin-ups
(immediately followed by)
? Standing biceps curls with barbell


Triceps Cycle

? One-repetition dips
(immediately followed by)
? Standing triceps extensions with one dumbbell


1) Do the four-exercise arm routine first in your workout.

2) Place the barbell for the biceps curl next to the chinning bar and the dumbbell for the triceps extension near the parallel bars. It's important to move quickly, in less than three seconds, from the one-repetition multiple-joint exercises to the single-joint exercises. Doing so insures a better inroad into your biceps and triceps muscles.

3) Concentrate on moving slowly during the chin-up and dip. Try to progress a fraction of an inch and hold, then another fraction of an inch and hold, and so on. Move up smoothly inch-by-inch until you reach the top position. However long it takes you to get to the top becomes your goal for returning to the bottom. Thirty seconds up and 30 seconds down are reasonable initial goals.

4) Have a training partner or friend who has a watch with a second hand call out the time in seconds (5, 10, 15, 20) to you as the exercise continues. Once again, you should be able to do the negative phase in the same number of seconds as the positive phase. When this occurs, try to add five seconds more to both the positive and negative phases during your next workout. When you can accomplish 60 seconds up and 60 seconds down in both the chin and dip, I guarantee that your biceps and triceps will be significantly larger and stronger.

5) Perform only one set of each of the four exercises that make up the arm cycle. This cycle, done properly, makes a great demand on your recovery ability. Multiple sets produce no additional growth stimulation, yet they do deplete your chemical reserves.

6) Keep your other body-part (legs, back, shoulders, chest, and midsection) exercises to a reasonable number. Seldom do I train any bodybuilder with more than one set of 12 exercises.

7) Rest two days between workouts. In fact, if you are fairly strong, three days rest are more productive than two days.

8) Look for ways to make your workouts harder and briefer.
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robinn3403

Dr. Darden,

Might you suggest an alternate routine for those of us that could not do a slow chin if our life depended on it?

Glad to hear the book is 'soon' ready for devourment. Can't wait!

Thanks!
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Ciccio

robinn3403 wrote:
Dr. Darden,

Might you suggest an alternate routine for those of us that could not do a slow chin if our life depended on it?

Glad to hear the book is 'soon' ready for devourment. Can't wait!

Thanks!


That's rather easy to guess,

just do the cable or machine pulldown with underhand grip.
And for those not able to dip, just do an incline push up or something similar.
Nevertheless, it's better to bring your allover-strength up to the point to do the chin/dip buy some standard HIT training.
The above is definately not a workout for a beginner!

Regards,

Franco
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Ellington Darden

If you can't do a slow chin or a slow dip, then here's what I would suggest.

Do the stage reps before the chin and dip . . . and instead of the slow one-rep versions, do negative-only chins and dips. In other words, you'd do:

1. Biceps curl, halves, immediately followed by
2. Negative chins
3. Triceps extension, halves, immediately followed by
4. Negative dips

Ellington
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AShortt

Ontario, CAN

I'm not really old yet by any means, but boy does this bring me back! I remember using that arm routine when I first began working with Nautilus machines at a local YMCA. The biceps curl and triceps machine were one "2-sided unit", that you loaded with actual standard weights on a pin. Real basic stuff but we loved it. We did the chins and dips on the old Nautilus multi-station and each one of us reserved the curl/ext machine for the other. Then we tried to eat lunch but could barely hold sandwiches! Nice memories...

Thank you Dr. Darden for the great Bowflex suggestions, I love that stuff and your writing style makes it readable, interesting and more importantly "clear".

Slow reps don't work (IMO) with the JReps, the methodology takes advantage of the dramatic increase in muscular contractions as a mainstay of its effects.

I hope you enjoy the JRep book and don't find my added commentary too amateurish ;^)

I am waiting patiently for your latest release.

Regards,
Andrew
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Zachary Schaalma

Ellington Darden wrote:
If you can't do a slow chin or a slow dip, then here's what I would suggest.

Do the stage reps before the chin and dip . . . and instead of the slow one-rep versions, do negative-only chins and dips. In other words, you'd do:

1. Biceps curl, halves, immediately followed by
2. Negative chins
3. Triceps extension, halves, immediately followed by
4. Negative dips

Ellington


Dr. Darden,

How may reps would you do of the negative only and what would you try to make the rep speed

Zachary
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Ellington Darden

On the suggested negative-only chins and dips, I'd shoot for 8 to 10 reps . . . at a lowering speed of approximately 8 seconds each for reps 1-4 and a little faster speeds (6-4 seconds) for the remaining repetitions. Also, it's imporant to climb back to the top position quickly.

Ellington
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gdm

Dr. Darden, could you comment on the HST (hypertrophy specific training) method. All other comments welcome.
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Ellington Darden

I've read very little about HST and I don't have any opinions on it. Sorry.

Ellington
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NewYorker

New York, USA

Wouldn't using machines with proper strength curves be superior to staged reps, JReps, or any other schemes designed to overcome the limitations of barbells?
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Mark Mills

Ohio, USA

Whatever you do for your arms, these two pictures should help with motivation. Chuck Sipes on the left and Casey Viator on the right...
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chaire

North Carolina, USA

Dr. Darden,

It has been several years since I did the 1 minute chin and dip. I was taking a week away from lifting and decide to try your arm workout with the addition of the 3 minute squat. I trained on Wed.

Nautilus Duo-Squat 210 3 minutes
1 minute chin BW 1 minute
Nautilus multi bicep 60 10/6 reps
1 minute dip 30 1 minute
Tricep ext. on OME 50 12/6

Today is Sunday and I can now move without pain. I think I will do that workout 1 time every 4 to 5 weeks.
Thanks Doc.
God Bless,
Charlie
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Showstopper

I've been using this routine:

Tuesday:
slow chin
barbell curl (stage reps)
slow dip
tricep pressdown (stage reps)
calf raise
leg curl
leg extension

Friday:
Naut. 2nd gen ab
Naut. Calf Raise on multi
Naut. Leg curl
Leg Blaster Squat
Naut. Torso
Naut. Duo Chest
V-bar Pulldown
Naut. Duo Shoulder
slow chin on multi station
Stage rep on Naut curl
Slow dip
Stage reps on Naut Tri
Lay on floor for 5-10 minutes nearly puking and breathing like I ran a sprint.

Anyway, I'm 45, been training for a long time and just thought I'd try this routine for a few weeks to emphasize my arms. I don't measure them much as they usually go about 15 1/2.

Out of curiousity I got out the tape today after an absolutley Joneseque intensity level on my workout yesterday. My dominate arm measured 16"! O yes!! I feel young again!

Steve
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Brycebrodeur

Hey, I just started bodybuilding at the young age of 16, and now am still a young pup at the age of 17. The first year was my year of mistakes! Wow, did I make a lot! Then, about a week ago, I got your old book, "100 High-Intensity Ways To Improve Your Bodybuilding" and would like to thank you! Thank you very much! It got to the point where my workouts where not doing anything, and after a good weight gain, I actually start loosing weight again! Then I started this book, and my legs, chest, and arms still are laid-up... thank you! This is just what I needed!

Bryce Brodeur
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HeavyHitter32

NewYorker wrote:
Wouldn't using machines with proper strength curves be superior to staged reps, JReps, or any other schemes designed to overcome the limitations of barbells?


That's a good question. However, all equipment have some kind of sticking point as there is no prefect strength curve for all individuals.

Furthermore, even if you were training to failure on "ideal" in equipment, there are other stages or zones that didn't reach failure meaning you can increase the demands on those areas of the muscle. For example, if I train to failure and end the set in the middle range of the exercise, I still have not exhausted fibers in the top or bottom positions.
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simon-hecubus

Texas, USA

HeavyHitter32 wrote:
NewYorker wrote:
Wouldn't using machines with proper strength curves be superior to staged reps, JReps, or any other schemes designed to overcome the limitations of barbells?

That's a good question. However, all equipment have some kind of sticking point as there is no prefect strength curve for all individuals.

Furthermore, even if you were training to failure on "ideal" in equipment, there are other stages or zones that didn't reach failure meaning you can increase the demands on those areas of the muscle. For example, if I train to failure and end the set in the middle range of the exercise, I still have not exhausted fibers in the top or bottom positions.


Even if the machine has an "ideal" design, your muscles will have their own strong and weak ranges.
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macfit

Maryland, USA

Well since no one else is in, I gave this workout a try today. I was very disappointed with my performnace in the bottom position of both the bar curl and dumbell extension. Next workout I'll need to lower the weight. I also lost six reps off my squat. That must have been due to the fatigue caused by training upper body first, which I have never done. Still a great pump in my arms.

Robb Macdonald
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Stefan-Josef

How can i put my running routine around the hit routine? I want to do the running twice a week. I want to do a effective hit routine and a effective running routine...is this possible to do together?
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macfit

Maryland, USA

Yesturday's arm workout went much better by having the weights dialed in. I used a heavier weight for the top range then dropped it for the bottom range where I am weaker. I've got some sore arms today, and happy about it. I also noticed a longer duration was possible in both the slow chin and slow dip. Probably due to practice.

Robb
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manzo

Stefan-Josef wrote:
How can i put my running routine around the hit routine? I want to do the running twice a week. I want to do a effective hit routine and a effective running routine...is this possible to do together?


Stefan ,
If you want to run and strength train my advice is to experiment a bit and see what suits you best.

For a few weeks try running on the same day as your HIT workouts (run after your HIT) and rest on days between.

Then for a few weeks try running on seperate days to your workout and see what you prefer and respond better to.

With the first option you get a full days rest (at least) between your workouts, so you might find you recover better this way compared to the 2nd option.

However you may feel you lack the energy to run on the same day as your workout so its probably best to experiment.
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macfit

Maryland, USA

I am becoming more proficient at this routine allowing for a better feel (pump)and longer time under tension during the chin and dip. I also have my squat reps climbing again. I can see how quickly my body is adapting to this variable so it is good that I only plan to use it for two more workouts. I ordered the new J-Reps book and will implement them in my next workout cycle.

Robb Macdonald
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macfit

Maryland, USA

Just finished the last stage rep workout. Kind of starry eyed at the moment. This was a challenging change up that I'm glad I tried. I will rest two days, then take measurements and report.

Robb
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