As we mentioned in previous articles, the main goal for trainees who are in their on-season, or the so called ‘shredding period’, is to achieve greater detail and separation of the musculature.
The certain training methodologies for this period, however, have been an object of discussion and experiments, among trainees for a long time.
As a result of researches and experiments, we have the so called “quality principle” that has been proven to work through numerous trials and errors.
The main idea of this principle, is gradually reducing the rest times between sets, while still trying to keep up the intensity and number of repetitions.
Of course, we can not keep the relatively higher intensity, while lowering the rest times forever, which is why we have the options of lowering the intensity and repetitions as well.
The main trait of this principle, is the higher density that is formed throughout the workout, which improves the local muscle endurance, as well as the muscle detail, separation and vascularity, which is our end goal during the cutting phase.
This principle is mainly realized, through the so called ‘Quality training methods’, like super-sets, combinations, triple sets, giant sets, etc.
The end result, as we said, is higher training volume for a shorter period of time (Higher density), which is a crucial part, during your on-season training.
Let’s go back to the article, where we gave examples of the exercise “Flat bench press”, completed in 4 sets of 10 repetitions using 100 kg. (Option number 1)
Doing this during our off-season, where the goal is building muscle mass, it will take us about 15-20 seconds to complete a set, followed by 2~4 minutes of rest time before we start off the next set.
The completion of the whole exercise, using 4 sets of 10 reps, will take us about 12~15 minutes.
The working density for this set can be calculated using simple math-
Volume: time needed = Density in kg/min
So, if we do 4 sets of 10 using 100 kg, that’s 1 ton per set, meaning the total volume of the exercise is 4000 kg.
4000 (kg) divided by 12 (min) = 333 kg/min (density)
Doing the same exercise, during our cutting period, while also applying the quality principle (~30 seconds of rest between sets), which also imposes the reduction in weight, will result in a couple of options-
Option number 2
First set- 100 kg, 10 reps = 1 ton
20 seconds for the completion + 30 seconds rest= 50 seconds
Second set- 90 kg, 10 reps= 900 kg
20s + 30s
Third set- 80 kg, 10 reps= 800 kg
20s + 30s
Fourth set- 70 kg, 10 reps= 700 kg
20s + 30s
Total volume= 3400 kg
Total time= 180 seconds (3,5 minutes)
Density- 3400 : 3,5 = 971 kg/min
However, there are other options when it comes to maintaining the intensity (in our case, 100 kg). What we can do, if we want to keep the weight on the bar and still be able to decrease rest time between sets, is reduce the number of reps.
Option number 3
First set- 100 kg, 10 reps
Second set- 100 kg, 6 reps
Third set- 100 kg, 5 reps
Fourth set- 100 kg, 4 reps
This equals 2500 kg for 3,5 minutes
The density for this exercise – 2500 : 3,5 = 714 kg/min
These two options are the epitome of the ‘Quality principle’, and they have similar traits, as well as differences. The similarities are shown in the reduced rest times, however, in option number 1 we have a decrease in weight, while with option number two the weight remains the same, but the repetitions are decreased.
A combination between option 2 and option 3 would look like this-
Option number 4
First set-100 kg, 10 reps = 1000 kg
Second set- 95 kg, 8 reps = 760kg
Third set- 90 kg, 7 reps = 630kg
Fourth set- 85 kg, 6 reps = 510kg
Volume= 2900 kg
Time= 3,5 mins
Density- 2900 : 3,5 = 828 kg/min
Other factors during our on-season cutting phase
The options presented above, as opposed to the normal, classical way of training (Option 1), have a higher density.
However, higher density might be one of the most important factors while trying to get shredded, but it’s not the only important thing, that defines the training efficiency, during this period.
Let’s trace the duration of the off-seasons of an average bodybuilder, from the beginning of his training career, up until the moment he steps on stage.
The efforts during the first years of training, are pointed directly at increasing the muscle size as well as strength. In reality, that means a constant off-season.
While slowly reaching the level of an advanced athlete, who aims to compete, the training methodologies slightly change. However, the on-season doesn’t last for more than 20-30% of the whole yearly cycle, meaning, the off-season lasts for about 9 months of the whole cycle.
From this, we can conclude, that most of the advanced athletes train in the 75~85% intensity range, using 5-10 reps until failure, for the most part.
A training approach like this, results in reflective, hypertrophy-causative connections in the CNS (Central nervous system), which are automatically activated during that type of training.
Doing 3-4 sets within the 6-12 rep range and little rest times between sets, allows us to achieve a higher training density, which leads to a higher energy expenditure for a shorter period of time, meaning we don’t have to spend a huge amount of time in the gym.
From another perspective, we also point our organism to greater muscle hypertrophy preservation, by activating the hypertrophy-causative, reflective impulses which we talked about above.
However, as we all know, we can not build muscle, while cutting fat (in other words- being at a calorie deficit, which is one of the main factors during our cutting phase), however, it’s completely possible to build up a reflective strive in the organism, which helps us preserve the so-far achieved hypertrophy of our musculature.
The options presented above (2~4), using the quality principle, are just sample options that you can use. This means, you can manipulate and perfect your quality-oriented training, according to your preferences and capabilities.
At the end of the day, the given examples are just something to help you come up with the best, most effective approach for your own self.
So, for example, option number 3, where we keep the same levels of intensity, but lower the reps, comes in handy when we want to preserve our muscle mass as much as possible.
The positive effect of option number 2 (Repetitions remain the same while we lower the weight) is shown by the strongly pronounced muscle separation and detail that we achieve. However, the hypertrophy-preservation benefits for this option, are not as strong as they are with option number 3.
This, however, can be an advantage as well- Using option number two for your stronger muscle groups, will cause them to shrink just enough for you to be able to display, a truly harmonically developed, shredded, detailed physique on stage.
The combined option (number 4), logically has an intermediate position, when it comes to efficiency, and can be successfully used, by athletes that do not have any distinctive proportion issues, like the ones we talked about above.
Now that you have a couple of options for this principle, that are supposed to give you an idea, you can experiment and create the best option for YOURSELF.
For those of you, who do not have disproportion issues, and lose ~10% of your body-weight during your cutting phase, you can successfully apply the given options in the following fashion: You start off the on-season, using option number 4, then you go through option 2 and end up with option 3.
This kind of approach, will keep you safe from the negative adaptation, and will also grant you a methodological diversity, during the tough days, of being in a calorie deficit.
The idea of this principle- Training with higher density, is realized through reducing rest times, as well as applying certain quality methods like super-sets, combinations, triple and giant sets.
The strive for complete muscle development, points us towards using a full range of motion for each exercise, meaning, we must achieve maximum, peak flexion, and a complete stretch of the trained musculature.