Forced Rep, Negatives, Free Weights & Machines – People have called me mad. They say no sane man would inflict my degree of discipline on himself. Perhaps they’re right, but I feel that extremism in the quest of your best is no vice.
If I seem to be in be in the iron grip of Spartan self-denial, it’s only because I’m convinced that’s what it takes for me to compete with the greatest bodybuilders i the world. The monsters out there today strain the very definitions as to what constitutes a human being, so I simply have to lift myself that much further beyond mortal effort just to stay with them, not only in training but in diet and lifestyle. If I can discipline myself more than the next guy, I will someday beat him.
I don’t believe the best muscle is built in young, genetically gifted physiques so much as it hammered, chiseled and tempered over the years in stubborn, steel-tough bodies. To me, the uglier the physique, the better the potential for bodybuilding, because you have to work harder to get something out of it. And hard work always shows.
Time is the only ingredient that enables intensity to yield results. I’ve been bodybuilding for 10 years and, finally, those years are setting me apart as a bodybuilder with a trademark striated mature muscle.
None of this came easily, especially since I’m from Graz, Austria, which is also Arnold Schwarzenegger’s hometown. competition in this part of the word is fierce, so I struggled in the beginning, placing second or third, never first, in contest after contest. Fortunately, all that did was make me want to work even harder to beat my peers. Even then, it was a long climb. Each time I increased my intensity and tightened my discipline, I’d find that someone else would be in the winner’s spot. I’d still be second, so I’d have to try even harder.
The lesson I learned is that we too easily deceive ourselves into thinking we’re exerting enough effort. To take ourselves over the top, enough is never enough. Only more that we ever thought possible is enough.
It wasn’t until two years into my bodybuilding career that I realized my legs were a weak point on my physique. There were two reasons for that: First, I have bad genetics. Second, leg training is the hardest of all, and I didn’t like it. I had been working legs twice a week with five sets of squats and five sets of leg extensions for my quads, and five sets of lying leg curls for my hamstrings, 8-12 reps each, but this wasn’t nearly enough volume nor intensity.
My only saving grace had been the squats. Emphasis on this free-weight exercise right from the start built a solid foundation in my thighs, preparing them for early muscle maturity. Yet I have to qualify that: in retrospect: I lucked out. Were I to do it over again, I’d postpone free-weight movements until I had more experience. Piling on heavy free weights right out of the gate is very dangerous for a beginner. Your muscles are not yet trained in the proper performance of such exercises, so the risk of injury is high. For that reason, I now recommend that all beginners start with machines to educate their muscles to control each movement. Only when they are more skilled should bodybuilders switch to free weights.
Unchanged over the years is my training split. It has been, and still is, six days a week, with chest, shoulders and calves on Mondays and Thursdays; biceps, back and abdominals on Tuesdays and Fridays; and triceps and legs on Wednesday and Saturdays.
Other aspects of my leg training have changed significantly. Much of that has been made possible by my new career as the principal consultant at Albert Busek’s Sportcenter gym in Munich, Germany. Since I’m there all the time, I have more time to train, so my workouts expand to fill that time.
I still swear by squats and leg extensions for my quads and lying leg curls for my hamstrings, but I now do 16 sets and four exercises for quads and 12 sets and three exercises for hamstrings, pyramiding everything.
Quads always begin with squats, four sets of 8-12 reps. My objective with these is straightforward: normal stance, tight form, break parallel, a quick warm-up, then take my first set to absolute failure. AT that point, my spotter starts helping me squeeze out three or four more reps.
Failure requires that everything be correct in order to make my quads work: My entire body must be systemically tight; I flex my traps to keep the bar form crushing into my rhomboids and scapulae; I tighten my hips and abs into a solid mass, and I keep my back as upright as possible so the vertical force is directed into my thighs, rather than into my lower back. I want to feel everything in my legs
By my fourth and final set, my max reps are no more than eight, but I still have my partner help me force out those extra three or four.
Next are back squats, again with conventional form and a natural stance: four sets, each to failure, and a rep range of 8-12, plus three or four forced reps. I’m a big believer in peak contraction, so at the top of each repetition, I squeeze my quads as hard as possible in order to involve as many fibers as possible.
Many bodybuilders disagree, but I swear by leg extensions and include four sets of them in every leg workout. However, I do them very heavy and with a training partner to help me with three or four negative reps after I reach failure. With each of my own reps, I also use peak contraction. Used in the manner, leg extensions are a great mass builder.
Lunges are my fourth and final quad exercise and while they do not represent a significant mass movement, I feel they are one of the best for striations. Holding the barbell on my back, I lunge forward, getting a good stretch so that my trailing knee almost touches the floor, then explode back to the starting position all in one step. Again, I do four sets of 8-12 reps.
My training partner is indispensable when I get to hamstrings. He helps me with negatives on every set of every exercise; plus, I like to apply peak contraction with every rep. To facilitate these two techniques, I stay with machines for my entire hamstring workout and use three different positions.
My favorite hamstring exercise is lying leg curls for four sets. When I hit failure with my very first set, I have my partner start pulling hard against the pad, forcing me to do three or four negatives.
The same approach is used for seated leg curls and standing one-leg curls, each for four sets of 8-12 reps, plus three or four negatives.
I know there’s a controversy regarding machines, and I’m the first to admit that free weights are absolutely necessary for optimum mass, but when machines are incorporated with free weights in the manner, using negatives and peak contractions, the combined yield of size and striations is hard to beat. It’s certainly the best routine I’ve found for myself.
Of course, it goes without saying that a routine is only as good as the person who applies it, so whenever someone asks for my secret to size and striations, I have to answer: discipline in both training and diet.
In training, you must constantly go beyond failure, lift as heavy as you can six says a week, preferably on a double-split routine, and stay with it for years in order to build the muscles from deep inside your body all the way to the surface of your skin.
As for diet, I always eat only the cleanest of food — rice, potatoes, filleted turkey breasts — never anything less extreme. Never! And always the hard training all year-round.
Add that all up, and you get cuts,. Stay with it for year upon year and constantly increase your training. and you get muscle maturity.