By Charles Poliquin Flex
Iíd like to take a break from high-rep training and do a strength cycle, but I donít want to lose any muscle mass. Got any favorite workouts?
You should try the 1Ė6 Principle, a training method thatís been popular with elite Romanian and Hungarian weightlifters. I first heard about it in 1991 from Romaniaís Dragomir Cioroslan, a bronze medalist in the 1984 Olympic Games who went on to become the head weightlifting coach at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. Before getting into this workout, consider that by performing only higher reps, you will not develop the most powerful fast-twitch muscle fibers.
In a peer-reviewed article published in Sports Medicine in 2004, Andrew C. Fry reviewed studies comparing the muscle fiber types of bodybuilders, powerlifters, and Olympic-style weightlifters (those who perform the snatch and the clean and jerk in competition). What Fry found is that weightlifters had the highest percentage of type 2 (high-threshold) fibers when compared with the other two groups, and bodybuilders had the highest percentage of type 1 (low-threshold) fibers. The bottom line is that these muscle fibers can be developed only with heavy weightsómore specifically, the heaviest weights you can lift for lower reps.
Iím not suggesting that you canít build great size by just using higher-rep training protocols, as Iíve seen three Mr. Olympia winners who couldnít bench-press 315 pounds for more than six reps in the off-season. Rather, Iím saying that youíll not achieve maximal muscle size for your genetic potential if you donít occasionally focus on strength. I should add that many elite bodybuilders agree with me. For example, at his prime, two-time Mr. Olympia Franco Columbu deadlifted more than the world record, and Ronnie Coleman deadlifted 800 pounds for a double.
Getting back to the 1-6 Principle, itís a type of workout system based upon the neurological phenomenon called post-tetanic facilitation (PTF). One of the early researchers in PTF is Dietmar Schmidtbleicher, a German strength physiologist known for his pioneering research in power development. One of the first elite athletes to use PTF was Valeriy Borzov, a Russian sprinter who won gold medals in the 100m and 200m sprints at the 1972 Olympics.
PTF suggests that a more powerful muscular contraction can be achieved if that contraction is preceded by a strong muscular contraction. The 1Ė6 Principle is a practical application of this method, using maximal loads to increase the activation of the nervous system before performing sets of higher reps. This effect enables the trainee to use more weight on the higher-rep sets.
With the 1-6 Principle you perform a maximum single repetition (1RM), rest, and then perform 6 reps using as much weight as you can (6RM). The rest period between sets can range from three to 10 minutes, but you can reduce the rest periods if you perform supersets.
Letís say your best bench press is 220 pounds for 6 reps and 265 for 1 rep. If you perform that 1RM four minutes prior to a 6RM, youíll probably be able to use 225Ė230 pounds. In fact, youíll use more weight on the second and third 6RM series (i.e., waves) in that workout, as follows:
Set 1: 1 rep with 265 pounds
Set 2: 6 reps with 220 pounds
Set 3: 1 rep with 270 pounds
Set 4: 6 reps with 225 pounds
Set 5: 1 rep with 272.5 pounds
Set 6: 6 reps with 230 pounds
When designing your own 1Ė6 Principle workouts, you should primarily use exercises that involve large muscle groups, such as squats and presses. Also, because youíre going to be performing a series of 1RM lifts, itís imperative that you warm up thoroughly. The warmup should always consist of doing reps with the first pair of exercises listed in the workout. If youíve warmed up properly, thereís very little need to warm up for the second pair. Using our workout example, your squat warmup might be 5 reps x 135 pounds, 3 x 185, 2 x 225, before you start the working sets.
As with any workout system, you need to change the workout when you reach a point of diminishing returns. As a general guideline, four weeks is about the longest period anyone should follow a program using the 1Ė6 Principle. Here is one extremely effective training split for a four-week program emphasizing the 1Ė6 Principle: Day 1, arms; Day 2, legs; Day 2, of; Day 4, chest and back; Day 5, of.
The 1Ė6 Principle is based on strong science, and for more than two decades Iíve found it especially useful in my work with not only Olympic and professional athletes but also for anyone who wants to shock their muscles into rapid increases in strength and muscle development. Give it a try and youíll be surprised at how quickly you can increase your functional hypertrophy and power.
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