Q: I’m looking for a great total-body muscle-building workout. I can train five or six days a week, and one of those being a Sunday isn’t an issue. After two years of training, I need something to jump-start my muscles and give me a great pump.
A: I have just the thing! It’s a giant-set workout that has a tremendous amount of volume, works the major muscles from a variety of angles, and overloads all areas of the strength curve.
In contrast to a superset, which usually alternates between exercises for opposing muscle groups (agonists and antagonists), a giant set is a group of four or more exercises that target one part of the body. This approach is an excellent way to shock the lower body into getting stronger, and it will also train cardiovascular fitness. It triggers a robust anabolic hormone response and is particularly effective for boosting growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor 1. One of the keys to designing giant sets is to make certain the exercises work different parts of the strength curve.
A strength curve describes the amount of force a muscle can exert at a specific angle, and every exercise has a resistance curve that emphasizes different areas of the strength curve. There are three resistance curves: low range, mid range, and end range.
How many times have you seen guys do both standing barbell curls and seated dumbbell curls in the same biceps workout? That’s a waste of time because both exercises overload the mid range of the elbow flexors’ strength curve. If you wanted to perform a giant set for the biceps and one of your exercises was the standing barbell curl, other exercises you might include would be the Scott curl and the spider curl. The Scott curl emphasizes the start of the movement (low range), and the spider curl emphasizes the finish of the movement (end range). For the legs, a lower- body giant set could be eccentric- enhanced squats, followed by heel-elevated squats (to isolate the quads more), followed by lunges, and finished off by trap-bar deadlifts.
For your goals, here’s a program of six giant sets arranged in a three-day split. I recommend you train three days in a row, take one or two days’ rest, and then repeat this sequence until you have performed all the workouts four or five times each. The tempo for every exercise except where noted is 4010 (4 seconds eccentric, no rest, 10 seconds concentric). The first day of the program focuses on arms, the second day on legs, and the third day on chest and back.
Day 1: Arms
A1. 60° Incline Dumbbell Curl (offset grip): 5 sets x 6–8 reps, rest 10 sec.
A2. 45° Seated EZ-bar Scott Curl (close, supi- nated grip): 5x6–8, rest 10 sec.
A3. Standing EZ-bar Curl (mid, supinated grip): 5x6–8, rest 10 sec.
A4. Seated Unsupported Dumbbell Curl (com- merford grip): 5x6–8, rest 10 sec.
A5. Straight-handle Standing Curl (mid, supinated grip): 5x8–10, rest 180 sec.
B1. 15° Decline Dumb- bell Triceps Extension (pronating grip): 5x6–8, rest 10 sec.
B2. Seated Supported EZ-bar French Press (close pronated grip): 5x6–8, rest 10 sec.
B3. Supine EZ-bar Triceps Extensions (close, pronated-to-forehead grip): 5x6–8, rest 10 sec.
B4. Supine Barbell California Press (mid, pronated grip): 5x6–8, rest 10 sec.
B5. Standing Rope Pressdown (neutral grip): 5x8–10, rest 180 sec.
Day 2: Legs
A1. Barbell Squat with Heels Elevated (narrow): 5x6–8, rest 10 sec.
A2. Barbell Squat with Heels Flat (wide): 5x6–8, rest 10 sec.
A3. Hanging Barbell Hack Squat (narrow): 5x6–8, rest 10 sec.
A4. Power Squat Machine with Heels Flat (normal): 5x10–12, rest 10 sec.
A5. 45° Leg Press with Feet Low (medium stance): 5x15–20, tempo: 2010, rest 240 sec.
B1. Lying Leg Curl (feet inward plantarflexed): 5x6–8, rest 10 sec.
B2. Lying Leg Curl (feet neutral plantarflexed): 5x6–8, rest 10 sec.
B3. Lying Leg Curl (feet inward plantarflexed): 5x6–8, rest 10 sec.
B4. Standing Leg Curl (foot neutral plantarflexed): 5x6–8, rest 10 sec.
B5. Dumbbell Front Step-up High: 5x10–12, tempo: 10X0, rest 240 sec.
Day 3: Chest and Back
A1. Chin-ups Neutral Regular: 5x6–8, tempo: 40x0, rest 10 sec.
A2. Supinated EZ-bar Bentover Row (medium): 5x6–8, rest 10 sec.
A3. Machine Pulldown (wide supinated grip): 5 x 8–10, rest 10 sec.
A4. Rowing Seated Rope to Neck: 5x8–10, rest 10 sec.
A5. Straight-arm Pulldown (mid pronated grip): 5x10–12, rest 180 sec.
B1. 45° Incline Bench Press with Thick Barbell (mid grip): 5x6–8, rest 10 sec.
B2. 30° Decline Barbell Bench Press (wide grip): 5x6–8, rest 10 sec.
B3. Cambered-bar Supine Bench Press (mid grip): 5x6–8, rest 10 sec.
B4. 30° Incline Dumbbell Flye pronated grip): 5x6–8, rest 10 sec.
B5. Standing Crossover (regular): 5x10–12, rest 180 sec.