The shock workout routine, part 2: a 550 reps arm workout
This article will give you a new example of what I call shock workout routines – in other words, a routine that you can apply whenever in need of a physical and mental change at the gym. More often than not these routines will be hard and challenging – but they will also be rewarding and strengthening. When you go back to your usual way of doing things you will most probably feel invigorated by these somewhat eccentric but still highly efficient workouts.
The routine in question is an arm workout that I performed myself last week. It was (at least for me) highly original. It went like this:
1. Biceps curl, barbell, 1x100 reps.
2. Triceps dips, 1x100 reps.
3. Triceps pushdowns, 2-handed, 1x100 reps
4. Biceps curl, cable, 2x50/arm.
5. Triceps pushdowns, 1-handed, 2x50/arm
6. Biceps behind the back, cable, 1x50 reps/arm
This adds up to 550 reps of arm work. It also adds up to a thorough (in other words extreme) soreness for several days after. During the session itself it resulted in a fantastic pump.
I took mini-rests during these mega sets, but I never allowed for a pause to be any longer than a few seconds – and I never put the weight down during these “breath-catchers”.
The result of this madness? I mean, the result of this somewhat eccentric workout? As already mentioned, an absolutely fantastic arm pump, in both the biceps and the triceps. And pain. Lots of it, already after the first “set” of barbell biceps curl.
I can’t help but be fascinated by this: how a biceps muscle that can curl 80 kg (approximately 180 pounds) for several reps without getting sore can be made to ache for days by going through one single mega set using only an empty 20 kg (45 pounds) barbell. This is further proof that we only get really good at what we do and nothing else. It also underlines that there are many different kinds of strength. 250 reps of biceps work is of course extremely high volume – but it is still intriguing how those very light weights can make so much impact as long as one is ready to endure the pain and the lactic acid.
What I liked about this workout was the minimalistic feel of it. There was a certain beauty in it – just picking up the barbell and starting to curl. No rest, no real pause. It was a workout stripped of many of the conventional aspects, such as sets and rest intervals, etc.
Picking a total number of reps and going after it has one great advantage compared to the usual counting of sets: the highest levels of presence and concentration will more often than not be both easier to attain and maintain. You don’t pace yourself, since there is no second set waiting to be performed. You are hunting the number, rep by rep – and that´s it.
I was of course forced to go with very light weight in every exercise, in order to be able to handle these mega sets. This allowed me to work really hard while still enjoying the high degree of precision that comes with such light weights. In other words, it is easy, with such light weights, to really target the intended muscle without involving too much of the rest of the body. Both joints and assisting muscles can rest easy when the weights are kept light like this. That is a strong reason why I would recommend any lifter to sometimes go light. And this can be done without fear of stagnation. Studies has proven that you can build muscle using weights that are as small as 30% of your 1 rep maximum – as long as you take it to failure.
Do you think this 550 rep workout sounds easy due to the light weights that are required –
maybe even bordering on too easy? If so, you are totally wrong. This is excruciating, make no mistake about it. I have written before about how light is heavy and this session underlined that fact. Above all, light weight training is painful.
This is not the way I usually train, nor will it ever be my standard routine – but I do recommend it for anyone who wants to do something different next time he or she hits the gym. And I am absolutely convinced that there is progress to be garnered with this and other light weights regimes. The pump and the soreness tells me everything I need to know. Once again: light is heavy and light is painful.
If you liked this article and the idea of doing something differently in the gym, then you should also read the following articles: