Anthony Ditillo is one of my favorite authors in the fitness industry. I consider his books on strength training to be absolute classics!
If you are looking for a mentor who rejected the latest fads and gimmicks in favor of good-old-fashioned hard work then look no further than Anthony Ditillo!
- Part 1: Power Rack Training
- Part 2: Isometronics
Anthony Ditillo was an absolute beast of a man. At a height of five feet and six inches he weighed a massive 256 pounds! Keep in mind that he was still relatively lean at this bodyweight.
To make things even more impressive Anthony never experimented with anabolic steroids. Anthony experimented with many different training programs before he figured out what worked best for him.
There are many things that you could learn from the writings of Anthony Ditillo. However, I believe the two most important lessons are the importance of power rack training and the power of isometronics for busting through training plateaus.
Please note that I prefer to clearly define all of the loading parameters of my routines. If you have any trouble reading the workout routines presented here then please consult this article.
Now let’s get down to business…
Part 1: The Importance Of Power Rack Work
Anthony Ditillo was a huge fan of power rack training. In his experience there was no better training method to rapidly boost muscular size and strength. Anthony’s favourite way of using the power rack was to perform supra-maximal partial repetitions.
Partial reps are not a new concept. In fact, they have been around since at least the early 1900s.
This does not mean that they are not effective though! Often times the training techniques that work the best have been around for a very long time. These partial reps could be performed on a wide variety of exercises such as bench presses, deadlifts, and even squats.
Supra-maximal martial reps have many benefits:
- They down-regulate the golgi tendon reflex
- They build tendon strength
- They increase your confidence while handling heavy weights
Let’s take a closer look at each of these concepts.
Partial Reps Down-Regulate The Golgi Tendon Reflex
The golgi tendon is an organ located within every muscle in the human body. It’s role is to detect high levels of tension within a muscle belly, and to inhibit muscular contractions when necessary to prevent injury.
You see, your body cares one hell of a lot more about staying injury-free than it does bench pressing 300, 400, or even 500 lbs. And it will do whatever it takes to prevent you from injuring yourself while doing something stupid!
If the golgi tendon organ perceives that you are applying so much force with your muscles that you are risking injury then it will actually “shut down” the signals to the muscles and prevent you from recruiting additional motor units.
While staying injury-free is certainly a good thing this protective mechanism can have a very negative impact on potential strength and size gains.
In reality the golgi tendon organ tends to shut down muscular contractions long before you are actually at risk of injury. So how do we get around this problem? I’ll tell you how!
We can teach the golgi-tendon to down-regulate itself by performing supra-maximal partial repetitions in the power rack!
This means we can recruit more motor units before we get the signal to shut down muscular contractions, which ultimately results in greater and faster strength gains.
Coincidentally, training for optimal structural balance is another important way to down regulate other related inhibitory mechanisms for strength gains.
Chuck Sipes was using partial reps as far back as the 1970s to build up his unbelievable pressing strength! Here is a Chuck Sipes inspired bench press routine featuring his favorite partial reps: Check it out:
Chuck Sipes Partial Reps Bench Press Routine
- A1: Bench press (competition grip), 3 x 5, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- A2: Narrow neutral grip chin ups, 3 x 4, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- A3: Bench press lockout**, 3 x 5, X/1/X/0, 180 seconds rest
- A4: Narrow neutral grip chin ups, 3 x 4, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- B1: V-bar dips (forward leaning torso), 3 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
- B2: T-bar row, 3 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
**Performed 1 inch from lockout using loads as heavy as you can tolerate.
Give this upper body routine a shot for 2-4 weeks and watch your bench pressing strength shoot through the roof!
Partial Reps Build Tendon Strength
It is absolutely essential that you pay attention to the health of your connective tissues. In fact, building up incredible tendon strength was a key aspect of the Anthony Ditillo training philosophy.
This concept becomes even more important for strength athletes such as powerlifters and strongmen who are pushing the limits of human strength, and “enhanced” bodybuilders who often find their muscles develop at a faster rate than their connective tissue can support.
Thankfully, there are many ways to train specifically for enhanced tendon strength.
Eccentric training is of course one of my favorite methods for boosting tendon strength. But partial repetitions are often at least as effective in this regard.
All in all, Anthony Ditillo was certainly correct to push power rack training so heavily in his teachings. It is just one of those methods that works extremely well and will never go out of style.
Here is a great deadlifting routine for building the connective tissue of your posterior chain and spinal erectors. Check it out:
Partial Rep Deadlift Routine
- A1: Rack deadlift (just above knees), 3 x 4-6, 1/1/X/0, 180 seconds rest
- B1: Rack deadlift (mid-shin), 3 x 4-6, 2/1/X/0, 180 seconds rest
- C1: Conventional deadlift, 3 x 6-8, 3/1/X/0, 180 seconds rest
- D1: Unilateral lying leg curl (feet plantarflexed / pointing in), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
- D2: Split squat (holding DBs), 3 x 6-8, 2/1/1/0, 90 seconds rest
This is an extremely demanding deadlifting routine. If you have the guts to complete it then you will be rewarded with a bigger, stronger backside.
Partial Reps Increase Your Confidence With Maximal Weights
Anyone who has ever performed a routine consisting of partial repetitions in the power rack can attest to the fact that they are unbelievable for boosting confidence.
For example, let’s say you are used to bench pressing 300 lbs for singles, but you just can’t seem to break past the mythical 315 lbs barrier.
Whenever you have more than 300 lbs in your hands, it just feels like a shit ton of weight! It may be psychological factors that are limiting your performance as much as physiological ones.
Enter Partial Reps! With partial reps performed in a power rack, you can very easily handle 330, 350, or even as much as 400 lbs in many cases as a 300 lbs bench presser. It is impossible not to feel more confident with this type of weight in your hands!
When you go back to bench pressing 300 lbs (or more!), it will feel quite light in your hands compared to the weights you were using on partials.
Many powerlifters have pushed this concept to the limit by performing extremely heavy “lockout” sets in the squat when peaking for competitions. Basically, many powerlifters will perform 2-4 singles of squats where they are lifting the weight approximately 1 inch, holding for 10 seconds, then re-racking the weight.
Training in this manner has a dramatic effect in how a weight may feel come competition day. Here is how you might want to set up a partial reps workout to boost your back squat. Check it out:
Squat Partial Reps Routine
- A1: Back squat (medium stance / heels flat), 3 x 5, 4/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest
- A2: Back squat lockouts*** (medium stance / heels flat), 3 x 1, X/0/X/8, 180 seconds rest
- B1: Standing unilateral leg curl (poliquin method / foot neutral), 3 x 5-7, 3/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
- B2: DB alternating walking lunge, 3 x 5-7, 2/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
- C1: 45 degree back extension (bands), 2 x 7-10, 2/0/X/2, 120 seconds rest
***Perform a 1-inch rack lockout and hold for 8 total seconds. You may want to use 150-200% of your 1-rep max on your first set and adjust upwards on sets 2 and 3 depending on your performance.
If you are stuck at a squat plateau then this routine may be just what you need to start making progress again!
Part 2: Isometronics
If there is one training tip that Anthony Ditillo preached even more than power rack training, it’s
Here is a perfect demonstration of an isometronics workout. Check it out:
The steps for performing an isometronic set are as follows:
- First perform 4-6 partial range of motion repetitions between two sets of safety pins.
- After your last rep you will perform an 8-second overcoming isometric rep against the top pins.
- After the isometric rep you lower the weight down to the bottom pins and attempt one final partial rep.
Normally during an isometronics workout you are going to perform partials in 3 different parts of the movement.
Your first three sets will overload the bottom position, your second 3 sets will overload the mid-range, and the final 3 sets will overload the shortened position of the strength curve.
This is an excellent way to make sure that you are getting stronger in the entire exercise and not just one part!
Of course the real magic to isometronics lies in the 6-8 second overcoming isometric performed at the very end of the set.
Overcoming isometric contractions are wonderful for breaking plateaus in key lifts and is a topic that Josh Bryant has talked about extensively in his writings.
In fact, Josh considers overcoming isometrics to be his secret weapon for training many of the world’s top bench pressers. Anthony Ditillo really was ahead of his time in recommending isometronics as far back as the 1970s.
Here is a bench press isometronics routine that you may want to try. It is possible to include exercises for your upper back and the rest of your upper body for a more complete upper body workout.
You can always check out my ultimate guide to isometronics training for more information on how to do that. For the purposes of this article I will just be covering exercises for the pressing muscles. Check it out:
Isometronics Bench Press Routine
- A1: Bench press bottom position isometronics, 3 x 4-6**, 2/0/X/2, 240 seconds rest
- B1: Bench press bottom position isometronics, 3 x 4-6**, 2/0/X/2, 240 seconds rest
- C1: Bench press bottom position isometronics, 3 x 4-6**, 2/0/X/2, 240 seconds rest
- D1: Bench press (full range-of-motion), 1 x 6-8, 4/0/1/0, 240 seconds rest
- E1: Flat EZ bar extension to forehead (with chains), 3 x 6-8, 3/2/1/0, 120 seconds rest rest
**Complete 4-6 partial range of motion reps. On the last rep press into the top set of safety pins for 6-8 total seconds. You are trying to break the pins in half on this isometric contraction! After 6-8 seconds lower the weight back down and attempt one more partial rep.
I have to warn you that isometronics is a particularly demanding training routine. I strongly recommend that you only perform isometronics every OTHER workout for your upper body.
A great strategy would be to perform 1 isometronics workout alternated with 1 5 x 5 workout. For example:
- Workout 1: isometronics
- Workout 2: 5 x 5
- Workout 3: isometronics
- Workout 4: 5 x 5
- Workout 5: isometronics
- Workout 6: 5 x 5
By performing the isometronics sets only every other workout you dramatically decrease the odds of burning out your central nervous system. I am not trying to scare you away from isometronics – far from it!
In my experience it is simply one of the best training methods ever invented for building size and strength. However, it is a rather demanding system. You should pay close attention to your recovery ability while using isometronics.
Anthony Ditillo was way ahead of his time. His recommendations for power rack training and isometronics are absolutely worth listening to. These training methods will not work for everyone.
However, I am confident that a large percentage of you reading this article will benefit immensely from these superior training methods.
“If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!
The push / pull / legs split is one of the best training splits a bodybuilder can use. Many professional bodybuilders like Jeff Nippard have made it a core part of their training programs. If you...
There are many different ways to build your upper back. Many bodybuilders have built impressive backs using high-volume routines with lots of volume and short rest periods. However, in my...