Giant Sets Training – When You Don’t Know Well Enough To Take Your Hand Out Of The Sweetie Jar!
The first time I saw Charles Poliquin’s gym in Rhode Island he commented that I was like the proverbial kid in the candy store, rushing around from machine to machine to have a play around and feel the new movements.
The other day I was due to train back and shoulders, and in part because I wasn’t feeling strong (stress will do this to you, plus I tend to have a very bad habit of skipping meals when overworked) and in part because I wanted to have a play with as many of my new toys (machines and equipment) as possible, I opted for a ludicrous high volume giant sets training session. I find these type of workouts can be massively beneficial for hypertrophy and overall conditioning, but as with every sharp tool they need to be used judiciously and not thrown around without due care and attention to vital factors such a recovery and regeneration.
You’ll be able to read more about what I feel are the right ways to incorporate very high volume giant sets training into your own workouts in my upcoming e-book (the “Nick Mitchell Transformation Diary” – email caroline @UPFitness.co.uk if you want early registration and access to an exclusive webinar with me), but in the meantime lets take a look at the back (we also did shoulders, but that’s another tale entirely) workout from hell that incorporates movements I suspect you’d be hard pressed to recreate outside of a gym like UP Mayfair. I should note that I write ‘we’ in this workout as I dragged UP personal trainers Graham Mountford and James Crossley into the session, with everyone following me and hot on my tail! This is actually a great way to train when doing so many movements at once as your partners help you to properly regulate the pace and ensure there is no slacking.
We completed the 40 sets in about 40 minutes, with 4 giant sets of 10 exercises, with zero rest between sets, and resting only about 2 minutes between actual giant sets. I’ve written the workout out for you, the emphasis was not on how much weight was being lifted, but on the quality of the contraction and ensuring that as much blood as possible is being driven into the muscle.
Giant Sets Training – Back/4 sets of 10 exercises
1. Shoulder Width Lat Pulldowns To Chest
2. Nautilus Pullovers
What is there to say about this fabulous toy I luckily found on the internet! Simply the best way to isolate the upper back muscles and to prepare for a bit of pre-exhaustion (taking the biceps out so that they don’t become the weak link in this back focused giant set).
3. Atlantis Chest Supported Diverging Low Row
Trying to turn and supinate the hands in the contracted position will fire more latissimus dorsi muscle fibres than the natural way of keeping hands semi-supinated.
4. Straight Arm Lat Extensions
5. Atlantis Chest Supported Diverging High Row
I missed this one out on the video it is the same as the low row but with elbows flared out at a level just above the sternum.
6. Bent Over Cable Lat Squeezes
I have no idea of the proper nomenclature for this exercise. On the video it looks a little bit like a bent over lateral raise, but in reality, it feels nothing at all like that. The arms are kept pretty much locked, the elbows are pointed slightly away from the head and the humerus is at something of a 45 degree angle from the ribcage. And the mental focus is all on squeezing the lats as hard as possible and scrunching up the shoulder blades. It is certainly not an exercise that lends itself to hoisting heavy weights, think form and feeling.
7. Wide High Pulley Side Pulldowns
Similar to many of the exercises in this giant sets training sequence, weight is utterly irrelevant here. Lean forward slightly and really stretch out at the top and then squeeze in at the bottom, trying to push your elbows a little bit behind you. If you get this movement right when you are done you will feel as though your latissimus dorsi is pumped and swollen right the way down to the top of your iliac crest!
8. Watson Row Bar Bent Over Rows
A wonderful variation on regular bent over rows because the Watson Row bar allows a much greater range of motion. By the time you hit this exercise your back is screaming for mercy and weights that once felt like childs play will be like 2-ton loads.
9. Lean Away V handle Pulldowns to Chest
10. Behind the Neck Lat Pulldowns
The trick here is to lean forward so that you are not craning your neck forward to get out of the way of the bar. It makes for a much smoother pulldown and far better muscular contraction.
I don’t have much back muscle genetically, so its strategies such as giant sets training that have enabled me to thicken up beyond expectations.
If you follow this giant set training routine correctly then the blood flow to your muscles should be incredible. You can improve upon that by using some of my strategies such as hyper hydrating prior to the workout, and using about 4.5gms of glycocarn, a proven nitric oxide boosting supplement that increases blood flow and improves both stamina and all that all important (for sarcoplasmic hypertrophy) pump! I was actually sore for about 4 days afterwards, right from my armpit to the lowest portion of my latissimus dorsi, and to my mind anything that makes me sore after all these years of training is almost always a good thing when I’m seeking to achieve the “damage” necessary for a muscle building response.