A1: Use a load that is about your 20 rep max. Keep your torso at ~45º angle relative to the floor. Lead with your thumbs on these and try to find the right line of tension for your delts. Your traps and upper back will be working hard as well but do your best to isolate the delts. Control the tempo, avoid swinging and make sure to get a full ROM at the top of the rep. No rest before A2.
A2: Lie prone on an incline bench set to ~45º. Use a load that is about your 20 rep max. Think about reaching to the floor and protract your scaps as fully as possible. Keep the ROM isolated to the bottom 50% of the range to inhibit scapular retraction and keep the tension in the rear delts. Think about reaching for the walls. The tempo should be very controlled and consistent. No stopping once the set starts! Fight through the burn! Use straps so your grip doesn't give out. Full rest before returning to A1.
B: Take your time working up to the top working set. Get in 2-3 feeders of 5 reps. The goal here is to push the intensity while volume is lower! Make sure to get a full ROM. Take full rest after the top set. Rest 20 sec between the Rest-Pause sets and take each to 1RIR.
C: Use a load that is about your 12 rep max with the given tempo. Perform 1-2 warmup sets of 8-12 reps to get blood flow going. Rest 15 sec between clusters sets and take the last to failure. Make sure to adhere to the tempo on all reps and maximize the time-under-tension in the delts.
D1: Use a load that relatively light for this. Hold the plate at chest level and perform slow rotations over-and-back without allowing it to drop from its static height. Keep abs tight and avoid hyperextending your low back to compensate. Get as many reps in time allotted as you can. Rest 30 sec before D2.
D2: Use a load that relatively light for this. Keep the movement strict and fluid. The DBs should stay tight to your body and try to make the external rotation smooth. Get as many reps in time allotted as you can. Rest 30 sec before returning to D1.
E: Elevate your feet by ~12-18 inches and elevate your hands by ~4-6 inches. Try to use pushup handles as well to adjust your grip to be more neutral. Perform these with your torso vertical to resemble a handstand pushup and allow your head to drop below your hands to get more ROM. Take the set to failure with your bodyweight. when you can no longer get perfect reps, drop your hips and continue to failure again with feet elevated pushups. After this failure point, drop your feet and hands to the floor and continue one more time to failure with regular pushups. If you need to, rest between the mechanical drops but try to keep this to <10 sec.
What is the most important factor when it comes to making progress?
Volume? Intensity? Frequency? Exercise selection?
There are some pretty staunch proponents on all sides of the aisle with varying levels of relevancy in their arguments. (Ok I lied…The frequency people are for sure wrong)
But my perspective comes from a different places; a somewhat more primitive one that takes a more fundamental view of things.
It’s my belief that the results one achieves in the gym are most directly influenced by their ability to learn.
And not just learn but to do so with a vigor and intensity that would make Yates proud.
So I guess the intensity people are half right though they’re missing the broader context…
Learning how to train involves cultivating an underlying ethos that is based on constantly evolving as new inputs are taken in, processed, and integrated without bias.
Beyond the intellectual components involved, there is also a significant level of skill that goes into learning how to train effectively.
These skills take years, if not decades, to truly refine and habitualize.
You only have to watch a seasoned Olympic weightlifter perform a clean-and-jerk once in order to understand the amount of blood, sweat, tears, time, sacrifice, trial-and-error, frustration, perseverance, and grit that must go into mastering a 3 second complex.
And the same can be said for a pitcher throwing a fastball…
Or a striker taking a penalty kick…
Or a center posting up…
Or a powerlifter taking a max squat attempt…
Or even a bodybuilder taking a set to technical failure.
As silly as the last inclusion may seem, the skill that is needed to take a set to true failure without form breakdowns is built using the same hierarchical learning processes as the pitcher, striker, center and powerlifter.
That is to say—Training with intensity is learned.
And the ability to strain (i.e. fight through reps even as failure approaches) is a mindset, just as much as it is a physical capability, that can be practiced until mastery.
Why is this though? Shouldn’t both the psychological and physiological aspects of straining be genetic and thus unable to be directly trained?
On one hand, this is true—We can’t change our DNA and there is no getting around the facts that some people are pre-programmed to be more aggressive and determined (i.e. the mental piece) while also being more type 1 fiber dominant and able to clear lactate faster (I.e. the physical side).
But the mindset that underlies how hard we can strain is more pliable than most believe—And this is due to the confidence feedback loop.
Training to failure is as much of a mental exercise as it is physical and has the ability to completely defeat you emotionally. There is an inherent fear associated with pushing ourselves to the limit like this…It shows up as those pre-set butterflies and serves as a constant reminder of the impending pain and potential of catastrophe. You only have to do a high rep set of squats to failure once to understand that even the thought of doing that again surfaces some repressed trauma.
But just as with any skill, practice makes perfect; the harder and more frequently you train like this, the more confident you get in your own abilities to do so. And this builds on itself over and over again which allows you to push yourself further and further until any deficiencies that may have been genetically handicapping you have been overtaken.
The physical aspect of learning to strain is much more straightforward because it works in the same way that any biological system works…
As we consistently expose ourselves to a stimulus (in this case, slow velocity/high force contractions and lower intramuscular pH levels), our body’s begin to adapt in order to optimize itself for dealing with that input. Our type 2 muscle fibers slowly begin to transition to type 1 while our cells start to increase their density of mitochondria for buffering lactate. This process continues until an equilibrium is found with the external demands (or, at least, it is consistently moving in that direction).
Now let’s unwind this all…
Straining is a skill that can be developed.
Skills are learned.
Learning is a mindset.
And mindset is ultimately what will drive progression.
When people seek answers to the question of what is the most important aspect of hypertrophy, they’re typically zooming too far in.
Which of volume or intensity or exercise selection is the true king is somewhat irrelevant…
Learning how to train supersedes all other arguments.