Stimulate, don't annihilate!
I generally like to train a muscle group until it's as close to dead as I can get it. I do a lot of sets, with low to moderate reps (usually 5-10, some more to 12 now). For example, today my workout went as such
Barbell Military Press:
1 set 10 reps 65 lbs
1 set 10 reps 95lbs
1 set 8 reps 115 lbs
1 set 4 reps 140 lbs
1 set 8 reps 115lbs
(strength was down today)
4 sets 8 reps with 50's
Upright Dumbell Rows:
4 sets 10 reps with 40's
I drop set 10 reps 40's, 15 reps 25's, 20 reps' 15's
Arnold Press (or some variation of it)
4 sets 10 reps with 15's
Supersetted with Bent over lateral raises
4 sets 10 reps with 20s
Then I did 4 sets of pullovers with a 60 simply because I have never really done them before but I have been reading a lot about ribcage development. Also threw in a few sets of leg raises and calve raises.
Anyway, this high volume idea worked for me all winter while I was eating a ton, and I gained a lot of size and strength. Lately ive been recomping and while it seems to be working slowly but surely, i can't help but wonder if I could be seeing better results with less training. Given I train each muscle group on average only once a week, with 5-7 days in between the next session, but i've heard this may not be enough. However, im a little afraid to give up what was working for me if it means trying something less effective (although I guess thats what BB'ing is all about).
Anyway, let me know what you think.
Stimulate, don't annihilate!
21 sets for shoulders? Yep, that is a lot of work, even for a week.
Here are some rough guide lines for volume borrowed from the HST site:
Increase your volume if:
you're never sore; you're never tired; or you're not growing
Maintain your volume if:
you're slightly sore most of the time; you're tired enough to sleep well, but not so tired that you lose motivation to train; or you're noticeably "fuller".
Decrease your volume if:
you're experiencing over use pain, and strain symptoms in your joints and/or muscles; you're tired and irritable all the time, yet don't sleep well; or your strength levels are significantly decreasing.
Volume and overtraining are very specific to the individual. I know what you are doing would be over the limit for me but it might be fine for you. Maybe the guidelines above will help you make an assesment.
As an example both Max-OT & HST recommend 9 sets a week for shoulders. With a 5x5 like the Bill Starr or Madcow you would be doing 15 sets max.
That looks much like a workout that I used to do, and I got great gains (50lbs in one year). But as I learned to train with more intensity my bodyweight and lifts stalled. Recently I have been doing research on Mike Mentzer High intensity training. He believes that each body part should be given only one exercise and you should work out no more than 3 times a week. I have been following a cross between this and the way that dorian yates trained (similar, but yates did on average 3-4 exercises per body part) and I have seen incredible results. The key is to use every ounce of effort you have in the smallest possible time frame. It is based upon the fact that a muscle can only work at maximum intensity for a very short time, after it can no longer work at max intensity, your aerobic systems will kick in. This is good for burning fat, but not that great for building lean mass. For instance, when i would train before the only set that I would really go all out on was the last one anyway. If I went all out on the first few then in my last set I knew I would not be able to use the heaviest weight for the most reps. The amount of time between workouts is due to the fact that it takes a cumulative toll on the body to recover. For instance, if one does an intense leg workout one might notice soreness in the legs, but all of your body systems need to be engaged to fully recover. Once recovery has taken place the body is ready to give another full effort. This translates into heavier weights used almost evey consecutive workout and muscle growth. I have only been training twice a week for the last month and have seen by bodyweight go from 200 to 202 and my body fat drop from 8 to 6 percent. I thought that there was no way this training would work because I am very a very small boned ectomorph and thought that meant that I had to train even more. But this simply isn't the case. You should definitely do some research on the topic; scientifically it makes sense, but it flies in the face of what many do so it is not widely accepted.
http://hypertrophy-research.com or http://www.hypertrophy-specific.com/hst_index.html . Both of these site various sources of scientific studies and both methods completely fly in the face of the norm.
I did high volume training for years and except for the beginning my results were poor and I was always getting sick. Low volume high intensity training has definitely given me the best results in strength and muscle gain. Mike Mentzer was a god send to me at the time and much of what I do today came from Mike. I am actually experimenting with reducing my frequency even more to test some of his other theories but the problem is I like training so I'm finding the reduction difficult psychologically.
Taken from HST site
"Each muscle group should be loaded 3 times per week. This adheres to the Frequency Principle. A loading stimulus for hypertrophy must be frequent enough to create a consistent ³environment² for the muscle to adapt to. If the muscle is loaded too infrequently, the muscle will adapt and then un-adapt before the stimulus is applied again."
I sort of agree with the above statement but it sounds like unless you train a muscle 3 times a week it will un-adapt before the stimulus is applied again. I usually train a muscle once a week and unless my eating or sleeping goes to sh!t I am stronger by a rep or two the next time I train that muscle. How is this possible if my muscles are un-adapting before I train the muscle again a week later. Now that I'm older and train more intensely I feel I need to take a week off every 6-8 weeks but every time I come back stronger as well. This equates to 2 weeks without training that specific muscle so why hasn't that muscle un-adapted over a 2 week period of time? The only answer I can come up with is that muscle does not atrophy in a 2 week period . I am now training less frequently to see if I can avoid taking the week off but as I said earlier it's a hard thing to do when you love training.
Personally I am following one of the 5x5 variants.
I am really considering giving the HST a try, just to see how it goes. I like the mix rep ranges with the scheduled progression and it still works with my 5x5 routine.
I looked over some of the Mentzer articles last night and I was surprised to see that his intensity technique for advanced trainees is almost identicle to what is recommended in the Max-Stim program at the Hypertrophy-Research site.