16 Heavy-Light Protocols for Muscle Mass

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Snapshot of Takeaway Points

  • 16 protocols for building muscle mass
  • Lift more due to the potentiation effect
  • Fatigue all motor units and trash all muscle fibres

Introduction

The heavy-light method is one that has been around since the beginning of lifting. It’s lasted the test of time and if you’re not aware of it, you’re in for a muscle building treat! It’s a basic but highly effective principle; stimulate higher threshold motor units with the heavy weight and then trash the remaining motor units with the lighter repetitions.

The preceding lighter repetitions are also potentiated. This means due to the heavy repetitions you’ll be able to lift more weight on the lighter as your nervous system is fired up and prepped to go. Ensure you use the same muscle group for each superset. For example biceps with biceps, not biceps with triceps. A superset denotes you’ll take a ten second rest between the heavy part and the light part.

Below you will find four different heavy options which can be paired with any of the four light options, giving you sixteen different protocols you could make in total.

Heavy Options

Option 1: 4-6 reps @ 5010

For any of my students or clients this is simply a regular set. For others though who are new to utilising tempo this is going to offer a different stimulus. Putting emphasis on controlling the eccentric is great for building muscle mass and increasing tension in the desired muscle group.

Option 2: 4 reps @ 8010 (Mechanical drop)

A mechanical drop, or also known as a mechanical advantage, means you perform the concentric with an easier leverage and overload the eccentric with a more challenging leverage. For example you could lie on a flat bench and press the dumbbells up with a neutral grip then to lower them perform a triceps extension.

Option 3: 4-6 reps @ 5010 (eccentric only)

For this option you’ll need a training partner or two, depending on how strong you are or how weak your training partners are! Here you focus on controlling the eccentric only whilst your partner(s) help you lift the weight back up. You continue this for 4-6 repetitions. If the bar changes speed at any point though, you’ve lost tension and you should move to the lighter repetitions. Maintaining bar speed means you maintain tension which is exactly what we are after.

Option 4: 4-6 reps @ 1016 (Maximal isometric on last rep)

For this option you’ll either need a power rack with safety’s and pins, or you can use a supramaximal weight. Perform three sets at different heights. Set one should be at the bottom position, set two in the middle position and set three at the top position.

If you’ve got the safety pins to lift into you want to perform 1-2 inch movements for 4-6 reps at a tempo of 1010. Then upon completing the final repetition lift into the pins with everything you’ve got for six seconds. Then try and perform another 1-2 inch repetition. If you can perform another repetition then it was too light and you can increase it next week.

Mechanical Drop

Isometrics

Light Options

Option 1: Japanese Drop Set

Named after the research that showed the benefits of performing a back off set and attributed to Charles Poliquin who quite rightly pointed out that by performing as a drop set, would further fatigue a larger total of high threshold motor units then when performed as a straight 20-25 repetitions.

Start with a weight that allows you to achieve ten repetitions, then reduce the weight 5% and perform as many repetitions as you can. Continue in this fashion until you have completed 25 total repetitions.

Option 2: 1 & quarter ladder

This option you can read more about via the link above. To summarise:

  • Rep 1: 1 & 1 x quarter repetitions
  • Rep 2: 1 & 2 x quarter repetitions
  • Rep 3: 1 & 3 x quarter repetitions
  • Rep 4: 1 & 4 x quarter repetitions
  • Rep 5: 1 & 5 x quarter repetitions
  • Rep 6: 1 & 6 x quarter repetitions

Option 3: 8-12 plus X-Reps

X-Reps can be read more about via the link above. To summarise you perform your 8-12 repetitions and then pulse with the weight at a 2020 tempo at a set point within the lift (top, middle, or bottom).

Option 4: Classic 21’s

Classic 21’s is attributed to the bodybuilding great Arnold Schwarznegger. You perform 7 x bottom half repetitions, then 7 x top half repetitions then 7 x full range repetitions all with the same weight without any rest.

1 & Quarter Ladder

X-Reps

The 16 Options

  1. 4-6 reps @ 5010 with Japanese drop set
  2. 4-6 reps @ 5010 with 1 & quarter ladder
  3. 4-6 reps @ 5010 with 8-12 plus X-Reps
  4. 4-6 reps @ 5010 with Classic 21’s
  5. 4 rep mechanical drop @ 8010 with Japanese drop set
  6. 4 rep mechanical drop @ 8010 with 1 & quarter ladder
  7. 4 rep mechanical drop @ 8010 with 8-12 plus X-Reps
  8. 4 rep mechanical drop @ 8010 with Classic 21’s
  9. 4-6 reps eccentric only @ 5010 with Japanese drop set
  10. 4-6 reps eccentric only @ 5010 with 1 & quarter ladder
  11. 4-6 reps eccentric only @ 5010 with 8-12 plus X-Reps
  12. 4-6 reps eccentric only @ 5010 with Classic 21’s
  13. 4-6 reps with isometric @ 1016 with Japanese drop set
  14. 4-6 reps with isometric @ 1016 with 1 & quarter ladder
  15. 4-6 reps with isometric @ 1016 with 8-12 plus X-Reps
  16. 4-6 reps with isometric @ 1016 with Classic 21’s

Workout Examples

Option 1: 4-6 reps @ 5010 with Japanese drop set on Biceps & Triceps

  • A1) 60 Degree Incline Hammer curl: 3 x 4-6 reps, 5010, 10s rest
  • A2) Standing Cable Curl (Pronated, narrow): 3 x 25 reps as a Japanese Drop Set, 120s rest
  • B1) Dips: 3 x 4-6 reps, 5010, 10s rest
  • B2) Overhead Rope Extension: 3 x 25 reps as a Japanese Drop Set, 120s rest

Option 6: 4 rep mechanical drop @ 8010 with 1 & quarter ladder on Hamstrings & Abs

Option 11: 4-6 reps eccentric only @ 5010 with 8-12 plus X-Reps on Quads & Hamstrings

  • A1) Hack Squat Machine Facing Out (Push Through Heels): 3 x 4-6 reps, 5010, 10s rest
  • A2) Leg Press (Feet Narrow, Push Through Balls of Feet): 3 x 8-12 reps + X-Reps at Mid ROM, 120s rest
  • B1) Lying Leg Curl (Dorsiflexed, Outwards): 3 x 4-6 reps, 5010, 10s rest
  • B2) 40 Degree Incline Back Extension (DB Across Collarbone): 3 x 8-12 reps + X-Reps at Top ROM, 120s rest

Option 16: 4-6 reps with isometric @ 1016 with Classic 21’s on Chest & Back

  • A1) Flat Barbell Press: 3 x 4-6 at 1010, 6 second Maximal Isometric on last rep, 10s rest
  • A2) Flat DB Fly (Pronated): 3 x 21’s
  • B1) Prone on 30 Degree Incline Cambered Bar Row (Pronated, Wide) : 3 x 4-6 at 1010, 6 second Maximal Isometric on last rep, 10s rest
  • B2) Seated Cable Row (Supinated, Sh. Width): 3 x 21’s

Conclusion

So now you have 16 different workouts to add to your arsenal, all geared towards to getting you jacked! The heavy-light method is simple but effective with many different ways of applying it. Expect a massive pump and some extra soreness from these new workouts, but it will be worth it when you see the results in the coming weeks!

For more training and workout protocols check out the Program Design Templates and the Private Forum!

Article written by: Tom Hibbert

Published on: 16/9/2019

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