My gym director Stéphane Cazeault was asking me the other day what he could do to improve his workouts. He said he was bored with his current training and wanted, as Monty Python would say, “something completely different.” No problem – I had just the workout.
It’s a well-accepted axiom in successful strength training design that the method that got you to a bench press of 150 kilos is not the method that will get you to 180 kilos. Nevertheless, advanced trainees often make the mistake of going back to previous types of workouts that were successful early in their training only to end up losing the fizz after just two workouts.
Think of the analogy of a coiled spring. If you compress the spring halfway, it will recoil with a specific amount of force. To make it produce more recoil, you have to find ways to compress that spring even more. Likewise, to get greater response from your muscles, you have to shock them into results. The Ultra Set Method will do just that.
The Ultra Set Method is actually a hybrid of several methods used in strength training. Here is how it works:
1. Determine your 15 repetition maximum (RM) load for a given exercise. This means finding out the exact load you could lift for 15 reps but would fail to complete for a 16th rep.
2. Using that 15RM load, do 15 sets of 3 reps, doing a set every 15 seconds, depending upon your conditioning level. That should be relatively easy.
3. Make certain the tempo is 40X0 or 30X0. This means you have a relatively long eccentric contraction and an explosive concentric contraction.
4. Every workout, add 3 sets to the total.
5. The goal is to get to 30 sets for each exercise!
6. I prefer to pair agonist/antagonist muscles, such as pairing chest with back. And you can only do two paired exercises per workout.
Here is an example of an Ultra Set workout:
A1. 45 Incline Bench Press, 15-30 x 3, 30X0, rest 15 seconds
A2. Parallel Grip Chin-up, 15-30 x 3, 30X0, rest 15 seconds
B1. Chest Dip, 15-30 x 3, 30X0, rest 15 seconds
B2. EZ Bar Bent-over Row, 15-30 x 3, 30X0, rest 15 seconds
This workout may look easy on paper, but it’s much harder in reality. After six workouts, retest yourself – you will see that your 15RM will have gone up 2.5 to 10 kilos, depending on the nature of the exercise. Anyone who is at a very advanced level will welcome that magnitude of gains.
Again, this is not a workout for a beginner – in fact, the volume of work in this workout would be too much for a beginner to perform or recover from. But for those who are ready for it, the Ultra Set Method is a great plateau buster.