Charles Poliquin’s Favorite Mass Building Workouts!


Charles Poliquin Muscle

Charles Poliquin was a Canadian strength coach who trained many of the biggest, strongest athletes in the world including IFBB professional bodybuilders Milos Sarcev and Ben Pakulski. He was known for helping his athletes build muscle mass at a ridiculously fast pace.

If you want to add quality muscle mass to your frame then these Charles Poliquin mass-building workouts are for you!

Introduction

  • Part 1: Superset Workouts
  • Part 2: Tri-Set Workouts
  • Part 3: Giant Set Workouts
  • Part 4: German Volume Training
  • Part 5: Eccentric Training
  • Part 6: Isometric Training
  • Part 7: Rest-Pause Sets
  • Part 8: Escalating Density Training
  • Part 9: The Frank Zane Method
  • Part 10: Two-A-Day Workouts

In this comprehensive guide I will show you exactly how to perform 10 of Charles Poliquin’s favorite muscle-building workouts. For each of these programs I will show you several routines written by Charles Poliquin himself that you can start using right now to get better results in the gym.

Charles used many different muscle-building methods including time under tension techniques like supersets, tri-sets and giant sets. He also used more intense methods like eccentric training, rest-pause sets and two-a-day workouts to shock his client’s bodies into growth.

Charles believed that there was no single best muscle-building program that works all the time.

Instead he used a wide variety of programs with his athletes to keep their bodies from adapting to the routines and to stimulate as much muscle growth as possible.

I recommend you pick your favorite workout from this article and give it an honest try for 2-4 weeks. Then move onto another one for your next 2-4 week block of training.

Charles believed this was the fastest way to make long-term progress. After all, “a training routine is only as good as the time it takes you to adapt to it!”

Note: if you have any trouble reading the routines presented here then check out this article on how to read a training program. Now let’s get down to business…

Part 1: Superset Workouts

Supersets are one of Charles Poliquin’s favorite training methods. They are a very simple but effective training method for building muscle mass.

There are two kinds of supersets:

  • Antagonist supersets
  • Agonist supersets

Antagonist supersets are a training method where you alternate back and forth between exercises for opposing muscle groups. For example you could perform a set for chest, rest 1-2 minutes, perform a set for back, rest 1-2 minutes and perform another set for chest.

Charles uses antagonist supersets in almost all of his training programs because they boost your strength and endurance while increasing the density of your workouts.

Agonist supersets are completely different. Agonist supersets are a training method where you perform two exercises in a row for the same muscle group with only 10 seconds rest between sets.

For example you could perform a set of lying triceps extensions, rest 10 seconds and then perform a set of overhead triceps extensions.

When Charles Poliquin wanted to use supersets to build muscle mass he relied on agonist supersets. Agonist supersets are great for building muscle because they prolong the total time under tension of your set.

In other words your muscles have to work twice as long because you are performing two exercises back-to-back for the same muscle group!

Agonist supersets are more effective than traditional “straight sets” for building muscle because they create more muscular damage and metabolic fatigue. Here is a very simple lower body superset workout that Charles Poliquin has used with his athletes to build muscle mass. Check it out:

Charles Poliquin Lower Body Superset Workout

  • A1: Back squat (medium stance / heels flat), 4 x 6-8, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Pendulum squat, 4 x 10-12, 2/0/2/0, 180 seconds rest
  • B1: Bilateral lying leg curl (feet dorsiflexed / neutral), 4 x 6-8, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B2: Snatch grip Romanian deadlift, 4 x 10-12, 2/0/2/0, 180 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

This is a short but very effective lower body hypertrophy workout. The key is to push yourself on every set. These are all “working sets” so you should use a challenging weight and train to 1 rep shy of failure on each set.

This workout uses two supersets: one for the quads and one for the hamstrings. For the quadriceps you are going to superset back squats and pendulum squats together. This combo is especially challenging because you are going to use a 2-seconds up / 2-seconds down tempo for the second exercise.

Don’t be afraid to use a light weight so that you can get your reps in!

The hamstrings superset is equally challenging. You are going to superset lying leg curls and snatch grip Romanian deadlifts. If you use enough intensity with this workout then you will have a hard time sitting down on the toilet for the next few days!

One of Charles’ favorite superset strategies was to use a compound movement for the first exercise and an isolation movement for the second exercise. Charles found this strategy to be especially effective when training the arms.

Charles called these “origin-insertion supersets” because you are overloading your arm muscles near the shoulder joint and near the elbow joint.

Here is one of Charles’ post-exhaustion superset workouts that you may want to try. Check it out:

Post-exhaustion Superset Arm Workout

  • A1: Pull up (narrow / pronated grip), 4 x 5-7, 4/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Bilateral preacher zottman curl, 4 x 7-9, 4/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A3: V-bar dips (upright torso), 4 x 5-7, 4/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A4: Seated ez-bar french press, 4 x 7-9, 4/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4.

For this workout you are going to perform the pull up / preacher curl superset, rest 2 minutes, perform the dips / french press superset, rest 2 minutes and then perform the pull up / preacher curl superset again.

In other words this routine combines both antagonist supersets AND agonist supersets. Charles liked to write routines this way because you get the best of both worlds!

The first two superset workouts for the legs and arms featured about 8 working sets per muscle group. Charles often used higher-volume superset workouts for his more advanced athletes or “Earth type” athletes.

Here is a higher-volume chest / back superset routine that Charles sometimes used with his athletes. Check it out:

Advanced Chest / Back Supersets Workout

  • A1: 30 degree incline bench press (football bar / medium grip), 4 x 6-8, 2/1/X/0, 90 seconds rest
  • A2: Sternum pull ups (wide / overhand grip), 4 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B1: Flat DB press, 3 x 12-15, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B2: Flat Poliquin DB fly, 3 x 12-15, 2/0/2/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B3: Seated cable rope face pull, 2/0/1/1, 10 seconds rest
  • B4: Seated cable row (v-handle), 3/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2, exercise B3, exercise B4.

This was one of Charles favorite ways to organize a hypertrophy workout. You start the routine with two relatively heavy exercises for the chest and back. Then you perform some higher-rep supersets for both muscle groups to finish the workout. This is a fantastic way to organize a routine if you have above-average recovery ability.

The first 2 exercises target the higher-threshold muscle fibers while the last 4 exercises are used to create as much muscle damage and metabolic fatigue as possible. You are basically getting the best of both worlds!

Before moving on I want to show you one more of Charles’ favorite superset workouts. For this workout you are going to perform 3 separate supersets targeting the elbow flexors.

When Charles Poliquin writes his elbow flexor routines he makes sure to include exercises targeting three separate muscles:

This advanced workout uses three different supersets to target each of these muscle groups. The long head of the biceps is targeted with incline curls, the short head of the biceps is targeted with preacher curls and the brachialis is targeted with reverse curling exercises. Check it out:

Charles Poliquin’s Advanced Arm Superset Workout

  • A1: Bilateral preacher DB curl (supinated grip), 3 x 10-12, 3/0/2/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Preacher ez-bar curl (wide / supinated grip), 3 x 10-12, 3/0/2/0, 180 seconds rest
  • B1: Standing ez-bar curl (wide / pronated grip), 3 x 10-12, 5/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B2: Standing cable ez-bar curl (wide / pronated grip), 3 x 10-12, 5/0/10, 180 seconds rest
  • C1: 45 degree incline DB curl, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • C2: 60 degree incline cable curl, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/X/1, 180 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2, exercise C1, exercise C2.

As you can see this workout uses three different supersets. The first superset targets the short head of the biceps, the second superset targets the brachialis and the third superset targets the long head of the biceps.

By the end of this routine all of your elbow flexors will be absolutely thrashed! Just make sure you use the correct tempos for each exercise – they are there for a reason! For example the long head of the biceps responds best to more explosive tempos while the brachialis responds well to slower eccentric phases.

Part 2: Tri-Set Workouts

Charles Poliquin was also a huge fan of tri-sets for building muscle. Actually Charles probably used tri-sets as much or more than any other training method in this article.

A tri-set is a series of three different exercises performed in a row for the same muscle group with only 10 seconds rest between exercises.

For a chest tri-set you could perform your first chest exercise, rest 10 seconds, perform your second chest exercise, rest 10 seconds, perform your third chest exercise, rest 2-4 minutes and repeat the whole circuit again.

Tri-sets work for many of the same reasons that supersets do. They force your muscles to work three times longer than with regular sets and allow you to hit a muscle group from multiple angles in a very short period of time.

Many legendary bodybuilders such as the first Mr. Olympia winner Larry Scott used tri-sets as a core part of their training programs.

Charles used many different types of tri-sets with his athletes in his quest to help them build muscle mass as fast as possible. Let’s start by looking at a relatively simple tri-set for the elbow flexors. Check it out:

Poliquin Tri-Set Arm Workout

  • A1: 45 incline DB curl (offset grip), 5 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Standing ez-bar curl (wide / pronated grip), 5 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0**, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: Preacher ez-bar curl (wide / supinated grip), 5 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest

**Perform a 2-second pause at 30 degrees of elbow flexion on the concentric range of the exercise. This isometric pause will increase recruitment of the brachialis muscle. See the video below for more details.

Here is the training video for this workout:

Charles designed this tri-set workout to target all of the elbow flexors. The first exercise targets the long head of the biceps, the second exercise targets the brachialis and brachioradialis while the third exercise targets the short head of the biceps.

Charles uses some really cool techniques with this routine to put as much tension on the target muscles as possible.

For the incline dumbbell curls Charles has his athlete grip the dumbbell with an offset grip. This means that his pinky is touching the inside of the dumbbell as he performs the exercise.  This forces your biceps brachii to contract isometrically to supinate the dumbbell as you curl. In other words the offset grip increases the tension on the biceps!

Charles also has his athlete contract his triceps in the bottom position of the exercise.

On the second exercise Charles has his athlete take a 2-count pause at 30 degrees of elbow flexion on the concentric range. Research shows that this pause helps you to recruit more muscle fibers in the brachialis muscle.

Finally Charles has his athlete use a fat bar for the preacher ez-bar curls. Research shows that when you curl with a thicker barbell or ez-curl bar you recruit more muscle fibers in the biceps.

Charles Poliquin had a number of ways to make tri-sets more effective for his athletes. One of his favorite strategies was to use “omni-rep” tri-sets. In other words he performed the first exercise for low reps, the second exercise for medium reps and the third exercise for high reps.

One of Charles’ favorite omni-rep tri-set protocols is the 6/12/25 method. With the 6/12/25 method your goal is to perform 6 reps on the first exercise, 12 reps on the second exercise and 25 reps on the third exercise.

Here is a brutal 6/12/25 leg workout that you may want to try. Check it out:

6/12/25 Method Quadriceps Routine

  • A1: Front squat (narrow stance / heels elevated), 4 x 6, 4/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Machine hack squat, 4 x 12, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: Machine leg extension, 4 x 25, 2/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3.

This leg routine is absolutely brutal! The first exercise is great for targeting the fast-twitch muscle fibers and creating a ton of tension on the quadriceps.

The second and third exercises use higher rep ranges so that you can create as much muscle damage and metabolic fatigue as possible. On your last few reps of leg extensions your muscles are going to be begging for mercy!

In Charles’ experience this type of omni-reps tri-set routine works great for building muscle AND fat loss. If you have been on a “dirty bulk” diet for the past few months then this routine is exactly what you need. As Arnold Schwarzenegger said, “we’re going to turn this mush into muscles!”

If you have above-average recovery ability and respond well to higher volume training routines then you are going to love the next two tri-set routines.

Charles sometimes trained his athletes with two different tri-sets in the same workout for a single muscle group. Actually this was one of his go-to training methods for bringing up a lagging pair of hamstrings. Charles often trained sprinters, bobsleighers and other athletes who needed incredibly strong hamstrings muscles.

For these athletes Charles would often use his “hamstrings times two” routine.

You are going to perform two tri-sets: one targeting the hamstrings as knee flexors and one targeting the hamstrings as hip extensors. In other words your first hamstrings tri-set will focus on leg curls while the second hamstrings tri-set will focus on exercises like good mornings and stiff-legged deadlifts. Check it out:

Charles Poliquin’s “Hamstrings Times Two” Routine

Part 1

  • A1: Bilateral lying leg curls (feet plantar flexed / pointing in), 4 x 4-6, 4/0/X/0, 15 seconds rest
  • A2: Bilateral lying leg curls (feet plantar flexed / pointing straight), 4 x 4-6, 4/0/X/0, 15 seconds rest
  • A3: Bilateral lying leg curls (feet plantar flexed / pointing out), 4 x 4-6, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest

Part 2

  • B1: Standing good mornings, 4 x 6-8, 4/0/2/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B2: Romanian deadlift, 4 x 8-10, 4/0/2/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B3: Reverse hyperextension, 4 x 15-20, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise B1, exercise B2, exercise B3.

**You may have to decrease the weight by 4-5% for each successive tri-set.

Most bodybuilders put very little thought into how they perform leg curls. They just hop onto a machine and start busting out reps. If you only want mediocre results then this strategy will work perfectly fine. Just keep doing what you’re doing.

However, if you want hamstrings that hang down from your legs like Ben Pakulski’s then you have to be smarter with how you perform leg curls.

There are three different hamstrings muscles. However, it makes sense to think of them in terms of the “medial hamstrings” and the “lateral hamstrings.”

When you perform leg curls with your feet pointed straight forward you hit the medial and lateral hamstrings equally hard. However, you can recruit more of the medial hamstrings by pointing your feet inwards and more of the lateral hamstrings by pointing your feet outwards.

Take another look at Charles’ “hamstrings times two” routine. He is using three different variations of leg curls to emphasize all of the different hamstrings muscles as part of one extended set! Now THAT is a powerful way to stimulate size gains in the hamstrings!

The rep ranges for the leg curls might look a little low for a bodybuilding workout. However, things are not so simple. First of all you are using a 4/0/X/0 tempo on every rep. That means you lower the weight over 4 seconds and lift the weight explosively.

Each set should take you about 20-30 seconds to complete which is a good amount of time under tension for a fast-twitch muscle like the hamstrings.

Secondly you are training the three types of leg curls together as a tri-set. Each tri-set should take you about 60-90 seconds to complete. Trust me, that is PLENTY of time under tension to stimulate serious size gains in the hamstrings.

The second hamstrings tri-set is also very smart. Charles uses three different exercises to train the hamstrings as hip extensors. Just make sure you use the right exercise tempos for each exercise. Charles chose them for a reason!

Finally let’s look at a tri-set routine that Charles Poliquin wrote for the professional bodybuilder Milos Sarcev many years ago. This triceps routine uses two separate tri-sets: one for the long head of the triceps and one for the lateral and medial heads of the triceps. Check it out:

Uni-Angular Tri-Sets Triceps Routine

  • A1: Lying barbell triceps extensions (to forehead), 3 x 6-8, 2/2/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Lying barbell triceps extensions (to chin), 3 x 6-8, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: Bench press (shoulder-width grip), 3 x 6-8, 2/2/1/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Cable pushdowns (close grip), 3 x 8-10, 4/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B2: Cable pushdowns (medium grip), 3 x 8-10, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B3: Cable pushdowns (reverse grip), 3 x 8-10, 2/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise B1, exercise B2, exercise B3.

This is a very effective high-volume triceps routine. If you respond well to higher volume training routines then you have to give this a shot! Of course you can also perform some biceps work to make this a more complete arm workout.

Part 3: Giant Set Workouts

There are supersets… there are tri-sets… and then there are giant sets.

Giant sets are a training method where you perform 4 or more exercises in a row for the same body part with only 10 seconds rest in between sets. Here is what a giant set looks like:

  • Perform exercise #1, rest 10 seconds
  • Perform exercise #2, rest 10 seconds
  • Perform exercise #3, rest 10 seconds
  • Perform exercise #4, rest 2-4 minutes and repeat!

Giant sets work for the same reasons that supersets and tri-sets do: they prolong the time under tension of the set and let you train your muscles with many different exercises in a very short period of time.

Many bodybuilding coaches such as Milos Sarcev have made a living out of training bodybuilders with giant sets. Milos pushed giant sets training to the extreme – he would perform as many as 10 exercises per body part in a row!

Charles Poliquin felt that these 10+ exercise giant sets were about as overkill as running over a table of birthday cakes with a tank.

Instead he mostly used giant sets with 4-6 exercises at the very most. Charles Poliquin believed that giant sets were especially effective for training the back and the legs although he sometimes used them for other muscle groups as well.

Here is an upper back giant set routine that Charles wrote for one of his bodybuilding clients. Check it out:

Charles Poliquin Upper Back Giant Sets Routine

  • A1: Machine row w/ paused scapulae retraction, 4 x 6-8, 2/0/X/2, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Lat pulldowns (wide / pronated grip), 4 x 10-12, 2/0/X/2, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: Seated rear deltoids machines raises, 4 x 10-12, 2/0/X/2, 10 seconds rest
  • A4: 30 degree prone DB row, 4 x 10-12, 2/0/X/2, 10 seconds rest
  • A5: Incline reverse superman, 4 x 10-12, 2/0/X/2, 4 minutes rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4, exercise A5.

Charles Poliquin’s giant sets workouts are more than just a bunch of exercises thrown together with short rest periods. Charles is using exercises that overload different muscle groups and different parts of the strength curve.

With this giant sets routine Charles has exercises specifically designed to overload the lats, teres major, traps, rhomboids and rear delts.

Normally it would be very hard to train all of these different muscle groups in a reasonable amount of time. However, with this type of giant sets workout you can easily train all of these muscle groups in 30 minutes or so. Now let’s look at a giant sets routine for the lower body.

Charles Poliquin taught the following routine in one of his “Body Composition Internship” programs. This routine is designed to help you build muscle mass AND lose body fat at an extremely rapid pace. Check it out:

Charles Poliquin Giant Sets Quadriceps Routine

  • A1: Front squat (medium stance / heels flat), 4 x 6, 2/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Back squat (medium stance / heels flat), 4 x 12, 2/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: Front step up (holding DBs), 4 x 12, 2/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A4: Walking alternating DB lunge, 4 x 12, 2/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A5: Front Russian step up (holding DBs), 4 x 12, 2/0/1/0, 180 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4, exercise A5.

One of the nice things about this routine is you can perform it even if you are training in a busy commercial gym. You only need a squat rack to perform this routine.

After your first set of front squats you would rack the weight, strip some weight off the bar and perform your back squats. Then you would perform your step ups and walking lunges which don’t require any fancy equipment.

Charles liked to use this type of free weights routines with his athletes because machine exercises don’t provide as much carryover to real-world activities. Of course if you are a bodybuilder then you don’t care about functional strength: you just want to get as jacked as possible!

Charles sometimes had his clients perform longer lower body giant sets routines with more machines. He often called these lower body routines “death circuits.” You will understand why after you perform them!

Here is one “death circuit” routine that Milos Sarcev designed for one of his bodybuilding clients. Check it out:

Advanced Milos Sarcev Giant Sets Quadriceps Routine

  • A1: Horizontal leg press, 1 x 20**, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A2: Belt squat, 1 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A3: Pendulum squat, 1 x 10, 1/0/1/0, no rest
  • A4: Machine leg extension, 1 x 10**, 1/0/1/0, no rest
  • A5: Machine hack squat, 1 x 16****, 1/0/1/0, no rest

**Performed as a double drop set

****Take 12.5% off the machine every 2 reps. Every 2 reps alternate between regular reps and 1.25 reps. Finish the extended set with 10 partial reps in the bottom position. See the video below for more details.

Here is the training video for this workout:

One of the things that I really like about Milos Sarcev’s giant sets routines is he mixes in a variety of high-intensity training techniques.

In this routine Milos is using drop sets and different types of partial reps to really overload the quadriceps. Charles Poliquin often used these types of giant sets routines in his “hypertrophy bootcamp” seminars.

You have to be a real masochist to survive this kind of lower body giant sets routine. The burn you get in your legs is excruciating! However, if you are really determined to grow your legs then this is one of the best ways to do it.

Part 4: German Volume Training

German Volume Training is the most popular training program that Charles Poliquin has ever written. Now that is saying something!

German Volume Training is a high-volume bodybuilding program where you perform 10 sets of 10 reps on two different exercises. Your goal is to pick a weight that is around 60% of your 1-rep max and perform all ten sets with the same weight.

Here is what your first 10 sets of 10 workout might look like:

  • Set #1: 10 reps
  • Set #2: 10 reps
  • Set #3: 10 reps
  • Set #4: 10 reps
  • Set #5: 9 reps
  • Set #6: 8 reps
  • Set #7: 7 reps
  • Set #8: 7 reps
  • Set #9: 8 reps
  • Set #10: 8 reps

On your last few sets you may actually notice that your strength shoots back up so that you can get more reps.

When you perform 10 sets of an exercise with a relatively light weight your nervous system becomes extremely efficient and you are temporarily stronger. Your muscular endurance will rapidly improve on your 2nd, 3rd and 4th workout which will make it much easier for you to get all of your reps in.

As soon as you get 10 reps on all 10 of your sets then you can bump up the weight.

Here are the original German Volume Training workouts that Charles Poliquin wrote many years ago. Check it out:

Original German Volume Training Chest / Back Workout

  • A1: Decline DB press, 10 x 10, 4/0/2/0, 90 seconds rest
  • A2: Chin ups (medium / supinated grip), 10 x 10, 4/0/2/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B1: Incline DB flies, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/2/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: One-arm arcing DB rows, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/2/0, 60 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Original German Volume Training Lower Body Workout

  • A1: Back squat (medium stance / heels flat), 10 x 10, 4/0/2/0, 90 seconds rest
  • A2: Bilateral lying leg curls (feet plantarflexed / pointing forward), 10 x 8, 4/0/2/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B1: Low-cable pull ins, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/2/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: seated calf raises, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/2/0, 60 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Original German Volume Training Arm / Shoulder Workout

  • A1: Parallel bar dips, 10 x 10, 3/0/2/0, 90 seconds rest
  • A2: Seated DB hammer curls, 10 x 10, 4/0/2/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B1: Bent over lateral raise, 3 x 8-10, 2/0/2/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Seated DB lateral raises, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/2/0, 60 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Many people have tried to improve on Charles Poliquin’s German Volume Training program but they were never successful. This routine may look simple but I promise you it is much harder than it looks. I highly recommend you try this routine exactly as it is written before you make any changes to it.

Charles says that he has seen people pack on 5-10 pounds of muscle in just a few weeks using this routine. Is he bluffing? There’s only one way to find out!

Part 5: Eccentric Training

Eccentric training is easily one of the most under-utilized training methods in the world. It works extremely well for building strength AND size depending on how you set up your training routines.

There are three types of muscular contractions:

  • Concentric muscular contractions
  • Isometric muscular contractions
  • Eccentric muscular contractions

Concentric contractions occur any time you are lifting a weight up and your muscle is shortening. For example when you curl a weight up on bicep curls your biceps are performing a concentric muscular contraction.

Eccentric muscular contractions are the opposite: they occur when you lower a weight down and your muscles lengthen. For example your biceps are performing an eccentric contraction when you lower the weight down in a biceps curl.

The scientific literature has shown over and over again that eccentric contractions build more muscle mass and strength than concentric contractions. Charles Poliquin was one of the first strength coaches to pick up on this and start using eccentric training as a core training method.

When Charles uses eccentric training to build muscle he likes to use it as a post-fatigue method. In other words he likes to use eccentric training as a way to train beyond failure on an exercise.

Charles had two ways that he really liked to do this:

  • The 12+3 method
  • The 4+2 method

Let’s take a closer look at each of these eccentric training methods

The 12+3 Method

I first learned about the 12+3 method through the writings of Dan Duchaine although Charles Poliquin had been using it for a long time as well.

The basic idea is to perform a set of 12 reps, then INCREASE the amount of weight on the bar by 5-10% and perform 3 eccentric-only reps. In order to perform the eccentric-only reps you can use a training partner for help or you can find a way to skip the concentric phase of the exercise on your own.

For example on a set of dips you could just stand up on the dipping platform to skip the concentric phase and just slowly lower yourself down.

Here is a sample 12+3 arm workout that you may want to try. Check it out:

12+3 Method Arm Workout

  • A1: Parallel bar dips (upright torso), 3 x 12**, 2/0/1/0****, 90 seconds rest
  • A2: Preacher ez-bar curl (wide / supinated grip), 3 x 12**, 2/0/1/0****, 90 seconds rest
  • B1: Flat DB triceps extension, 3 x 12**, 2/0/1/0****, 90 seconds rest
  • B2: 60 degree incline DB curl (hammer grip), 3 x 12**, 2/0/1/0****, 90 seconds rest
  • C1: Unilateral low-pulley lateral raise, 3 x 12**, 2/0/1/0****, 90 seconds rest
  • C2: Seated rope rows to neck, 3 x 12**, 2/0/1/0****, 90 seconds rest

**Perform 12 reps, then increase the weight by 5-10% and perform 3 eccentric-only reps.

****Use a 5/0/1/0 tempo for the 3 extra eccentric-only reps.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2, exercise C1, exercise C2.

The 12+3 method is so effective because you are overloading the concentric phase AND the eccentric phase of your reps all in one brutal extended set.

First you perform 12 reps just shy of failure. This fully taxes your concentric strength. However, your eccentric strength really hasn’t been exhausted yet.

If you had to you could lower the weight back down under control a few more times. This is where the eccentric-only reps come into play.

Research shows that these heavy eccentric-only reps put significantly more tension on your muscles and create way more muscular damage than regular reps. Your arms will be so sore the next day that you will have a hard time slicking back your hair!

The 4+2 Method

The 12+3 method works well for bodybuilders who just want to get as jacked as possible. However, Charles also works with a lot of athletes who want to focus on growing their fast-twitch muscle fibers so they can perform better in their sport.

For his advanced athletes Charles liked to use a more advanced form of eccentric training called the 4+2 method.

First you are going to perform a set of 4 reps with your 4-rep max. Charles used to say that the weight should be challenging enough that your spleen comes out through your left eye on the 4th rep!

So you perform a maximal set of 4 reps. Then you increase the weight on the bar by 5-20% and perform 2 eccentric-only reps. For these eccentric-only reps Charles wants you to use a 10-second lowering phase. Charles likes to use an eccentric training tool called weight releasers for these eccentric-only reps.

Here is a sample 4+2 method Chest / Back workout that Charles wrote for one of his athletes. Check it out:

4+2 Method Arm Workout

  • A1: 45 degree incline bench press, 4-5 x 4**, 40/1/0****, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Pull ups (medium / pronated grip), 4-5 x 4**, 40/1/0****, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Flat DB press (hammer grip), 4 x 5-7, 4/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B2: 1-arm DB row (elbows out), 4 x 5-7, 4/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest

**Performed as a 4+2 set. Perform 4 reps, then increase the weight by 5-20% and perform 2 eccentric-only reps.

****Use a 10-second lowering phase on the 2 extra eccentric-only reps.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

The 4+2 method is absolutely brutal! You are going to have some very deep muscle soreness after this workout. In fact this routine is so challenging that Charles Poliquin says you should only perform it if you are already have a lot of experience with eccentric training methods.

Charles Poliquin said that this was his #1 training method for boosting functional hypertrophy. If that doesn’t get you fired up to give this routine a shot then I don’t know what will!

There is one last eccentric training routine that I want to share with you. I mentioned earlier that Charles likes to use eccentric training as a post-fatigue method when hypertrophy is the goal.

Yes, that is still the case. However, Charles has a number of different ways to pull this off. One of his favorite strategies is to use supersets at the start of the work and then perform the eccentric-only training at the end of the workout to “finish off” the target muscle.

Here is an arm training routine that Charles wrote that follows this exact template. If you have a large percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibers in your arms then you are going to love this routine. Check it out:

Charles Poliquin Eccentric Training Arm Workout

  • A1: 30 degree incline DB curl (supinating grip), 5 x 4-6**, 4/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Barbell preacher curl (narrow / supinated grip), 5 x 4-6, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A3: Decline bench press (shoulder-width grip), 5 x 4-6, 4/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A4: Lying ez-bar extensions (to forehead), 5 x 6-8, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: One-arm barbell eccentric preacher curl (supinated grip)***, 3 x 3, 8/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B2: Eccentric (negative-only) dip***, 3 x 3, 8/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest

**Perform 1.25 reps in the bottom position. Curl the DBs a quarter of the way up, lower them back down, curl them all the way up and lower them back down. That counts as 1 rep!

***Only perform the lowering portion of this exercise. Start at the top and lower yourself down over 8 seconds. Then let your feet hit the ground and step back up on the dipping station platform. Then complete your next rep.

****Only perform the lowering portion of this exercise. Start at the top and lower yourself down over 8 seconds. Then use your non-working arm to help you lift the weight back up to lockout. Then complete your next rep.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4, exercise B1, exercise B2.

As you can see this routine is divided into two phases: the “A” exercises and the “B” exercises. For the “A” exercises you are going to perform some good-old-fashioned agonist supersets for the arms.

After reading part 1 of this article you should know all about agonist supersets.

Of course Charles adds his own twist to the supersets by using things like 1.25 reps in the bottom position of the incline dumbbell curls. After five rounds of the arm supersets Charles has you perform the eccentric-only reps.

For this routine you can easily perform the eccentric-only reps without a spotter. On the dips you just stand up on the dipping platform to skip the concentric phase and on the 1-arm barbell preacher curls you just use your non-dominant arm to help you lift the weight.

You may have noticed that Charles Poliquin likes to use incline dumbbell curls and preacher curls in most of his bicep routines. Charles is doing this on purpose! Research has shown that incline curls and preacher curls do a better job of recruiting the biceps muscle than any other exercises.

Here are a few reasons why incline curls and preacher curls are so effective:

  • They make it almost impossible to cheat
  • They place the biceps in a deep, loaded stretch
  • They isolate the long and short heads of the biceps

If you focus on the “mass-building” bicep exercises like standing barbell curls and seated dumbbell curls but your biceps aren’t growing then you have to give these exercises a shot. They may feel a little weird at first and you may not be able to use as much weight as you can on other exercises. However, they are easily the best exercises you can do for building big, strong biceps.

Part 6: Isometric Training

Isometric training is another one of those under-rated training methods. Isometric contractions occur any time your muscles are contracting without moving.

For example if you perform a dumbbell lateral raise and pause with your arms parallel to the ground then you are performing an isometric contraction. Your shoulders may not be moving but they are definitely contracting in this position!

Charles Poliquin had a lot of success using these types of “iso-holds” on various exercises to prolong the time under tension of a set. Iso-holds have a number of advantages for building muscle mass:

Isometric Training Advantages For Muscular Hypertrophy

  • They let you prolong the time under tension of a set
  • They release anabolic hormones in the muscle cell like IGF-1 and MGF
  • They create an occlusion effect which maximizes metabolic fatigue in the muscle
  • They increase mechanical tension on the working muscle

Another great thing about iso-holds is they are incredibly easy to use. You don’t need any fancy equipment or a team of well-trained spotters. You just insert extra pauses into your routine as needed!

Let’s look at a couple of Charles Poliquin’s favorite hypertrophy training routines featuring iso-holds: the 5 sets of 6-9 reps method and snatch grip deadlifts from hell. Check it out:

Charles Poliquin’s 5 Sets of 6-9 Reps

Charles Poliquin used a huge variety of set and rep schemes with his athletes. One of his favorites for building muscle is 5 sets of 6-9 reps.

For your first workout you are going to perform 5 sets of 6 reps. Your goal is to stick with the weight until you have performed 5 sets of 9 reps with the same weight. Once you reach this goal you take a big weight jump and repeat the whole process over again.

Charles likes this method because it is based on coaxing your body into size and strength gains rather than forcing them.

In order to increase the intensity of the workouts Charles likes to perform isometric pauses right after the last rep of your last rep. For example on the first workout you would perform your 5 set of 6 reps.

On your last set you would perform 6 reps immediately followed by an isometric hold. You are going to move the weight into a “power position” in the mid-range of the exercise and hold it there as long as you can. When you reach failure you just lower the weight back down to the starting position. These isometric holds will stimulate more hypertrophy gains than straight sets alone.

Here is a sample 5 sets of 6-9 reps workout that you may want to try. Check it out:

5 Sets Of 6-9 Reps Arm Workout

  • A1: Preacher ez-bar curl (wide / pronated grip), 5 x 6-9, 3/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
  • A2: Standing behind the neck press (shoulder-width grip), 5 x 6-9, 3/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B1: 45 degree incline cable curls, 5 x 6-9, 3/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B2: Seated unilateral DB french press, 5 x 6-9, 3/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest

**Perform an isometric pause in a “power position” on your last rep immediately after your final concentric rep. For example on preacher curls you curl the weight up for your last rep and then pause in the mid-range of the exercise for as long as you can.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

As you can see Charles likes to use the 5 x 6-9 set / rep scheme with two major exercises per body part per workout. Normally this would be very difficult to pull off. However, the antagonist supersets that Charles likes to use makes it so that you fatigue much more slowly over the course of the workout.

I think you will be surprised at how little strength you lose on this workout compared to your regular “straight sets” workout!

Just make sure that you give the isometric holds everything you’ve got on your 5th set of each exercise. They are responsible for a huge chuck of the size gains on this routine!

Charles Poliquin’s Snatch Grip Deadlifts From Hell

Charles Poliquin often used isometric pauses on snatch grip deadlifts to increase his athletes’ lower back strength. He never gave this training method an official name but “snatch grip deadlifts from hell” sounds appropriate to me!

Here’s how this training method works. You are going to perform multiple sets of three reps. The concentric phase of each rep is performed like normal. On the eccentric phase of each rep you are going to pause for 8 seconds in three separate positions of the range of motion.

For example you could pause for 8 seconds with the bar just above your knees, just below your knees and around mid-shin height. These isometric pauses will create an enormous amount of fatigue in your lower back.

It is very important to keep your lower back extremely arched throughout the entire set to avoid injury. If your lower back is weaky-weak then snatch grip deadlifts from hell is one of the fastest ways to strengthen it.

Here is a sample lower body routine. Check it out:

Snatch Grip Deadlifts From Hell Workout

  • A1: Deficit snatch grip deadlift, 8 x 3, 3/0/1/0**, 4-5 minutes rest
  • B1: Front foot elevated DB split squat, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/2/0, 2 minutes rest

**During the lowering phase pause for 8 seconds in three separate points in the range of motion.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise B1.

If you give a true 100% effort on the snatch grip deadlifts then you will not have enough energy to perform a boatload of assistance work. Just focus on giving the snatch grip deadlifts everything you’ve got!

I highly recommend you check out the exercise video for this workout. The athlete’s form is not perfect in the above video but it does a reasonable job of showing how you should execute this exercise.

Part 7: Rest-Pause Sets

Rest-pause sets were popularized by the bodybuilding coach Dante Trudel through his DC Training program. The basic idea behind a rest-pause set is you are going to perform 3 sets to failure on an exercise with very short rest periods in between each set.

Here is what a DC-style rest-pause set looks like in practice:

  • Train to failure in the 7-10 rep range, rest 20-30 seconds
  • Train to failure a 2nd time with the same weight, rest 20-30 seconds
  • Train to failure a 3rd time, done!

A DC Trainee might get something like 8+3+2 = 13 reps rest-paused.

Charles Poliquin really liked the idea behind rest-pause sets. You are taking short rest breaks after reaching failure to further overload the muscle.

Because you are using the same weight on all three sets the rest-pause method is technically another variation of cluster set training which explains the rapid strength gains many bodybuilders experience when using this training method.

There is even a significant amount of research showing that rest-pause sets are superior for building muscle mass, building strength and burning body fat when compared to traditional straight sets.

Charles Poliquin is known for giving different training methods his own unique flair and rest-pause sets are no exception. Charles wanted to take Dante’s training method and tweak it to make it more effective for training the fast-twitch muscle fibers. After all, most of his athletes were more interested in building functional hypertrophy than getting jacked for the sake of getting jacked.

Charles’ new training method was called the “5 to 8” method. Charles really needs to get better at naming his training routines! I mean, the 5 to 8 method? Really Charles? But I digress….

Here is how to perform the 5 to 8 method:

  • Perform 5 reps with your 5-rep max, then put the weight down and rest 15 seconds.
  • Perform 1 rep with the same weight, then put the weight down and rest 15 seconds.
  • Perform 1 rep with the same weight, then put the weight down and rest 15 seconds.
  • Perform 1 rep with the same weight, done!

There are a few key differences between Charles Poliquin’s 5 to 8 method and Dante Trudel’s rest-pause method. With Charles’ method you are training just shy of failure, the reps are lower, the rest periods are shorter and you perform 4 attempts with the same weight vs just 3 with Dante’s method.

At the end of the day the 5 to 8 method and Dante’s rest-pause method are designed for two different goals. Dante wants all-out hypertrophy with consistent strength gains while Charles wants all-out functional hypertrophy and screaming fast strength gains. For many of Charles’ athletes the 5 to 8 method was clearly the better choice.

Here is a sample 5 to 8 method lower body workout that you may want to try to add some functional hypertrophy to your legs. Check it out:

5 To 8 Method Lower Body Workout

  • A1: Back squat (medium stance / heels flat), 3-5 x 5**, 2/2/X/1, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Bilateral seated leg curls (Poliquin method / feet pointed out), 3-5 x 5**, 2/0/X/2, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: 45 degree leg press, 3 x 10-12, 3/0/2/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: DB Romanian deadlift, 3 x 10-12, 3/0/2/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed as a 5 to 8 method set. Perform 5 reps, rest 15 seconds, perform 1 more rep, rest 15 seconds, perform 1 more rep, rest 15 seconds, perform 1 more rep, done!

****Dorsiflex your ankles (point your toes towards your shins) on the concentric range and plantar flex your ankles (point your toes away from your shins) on the eccentric range.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

I must warn you: the 5 to 8 method is a very taxing training method. It takes a huge toll on your recovery ability.

The single reps performed towards the end of the set feel like all-out max-effort singles even through you are using your 5-rep max. They create deep inroads in your central nervous system and really cause a lot of muscular damage.

If you have the guts to push through and perform this workout a few times in a row then you will be rewarded.

Charles has said in numerous podcasts that the 5 to 8 method was his #2 training method for boosting functional hypertrophy. Of course his #1 method was the 4+2 method which we covered in the eccentric training portion of this guide.

Part 8: Escalating Density Training

Escalating density training is unlike any training method you have ever tried in your entire life! On most routines your goal is to lift more weight or perform more reps on an exercise every time you repeat that workout.

Charles Poliquin calls this the “kaizen principle” which is Japanese for “constant, never-ending improvement.” Charles says that you should be 2% stronger every time you repeat a particular routine. You might increase the amount of weight on the bar or bust out another rep to demonstrate this progress.

Of course no routine works forever! After 3-6 workouts Charles would change his athletes’ workouts and have them apply the 2% rule on their next program.

Escalating density training is so unusual because you are not trying to lift more weight or perform more reps. Instead your goal is to perform more total sets in a fixed amount of time!

For example if you performed 20 sets in 30 minutes on an exercise in your first workout then your goal would be to perform 22 or more sets in your second workout. If you can perform more sets in a fixed period of time then you are making progress and you will a TON of muscular hypertrophy!

Charles Poliquin has a special way he structures his escalating density workouts. He has also called this routine “energy systems training” in his body composition seminars.

Escalating density training is a reasonably complicated program so let’s just look at Charles Poliquin’s chest and back routine and go from there. Check it out:

Charles Poliquin Escalating Density Training Chest / Back Workout

First 30 minutes of the workout:

  • A1. Bench press (medium grip), sets of 2**, 4/0/X/0, no rest
  • A2. Pull up (medium / neutral grip), sets of 2**, 4/0/X/0, no rest

Next 15 minutes of the workout:

  • B1. 30 Incline DB press, sets of 8, 3/0/1/0, no rest
  • B2. DB bent-over row, sets of 8, 3/0/1/0, no rest

Last 15 minutes of the workout:

  • C1. Cable chest press (neutral grip), sets of 20, 2/0/1/0, no rest
  • C2. Seated cable rope row, sets of 20, 2/0/1/0, no rest

**performed with your 6-rep max

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2, exercise C1, exercise C2.

As you can see the workout is divided into three separate phases.

For the first 30 minutes of the workout you are going to perform sets of two reps on two different exercises with no rest between sets. You perform a set on exercise A1, then walk over to the other exercise station and perform a set for exercise A2, then walk back and perform a set for exercise A1.

Your goal is to perform as many sets of two reps as you can in the time period. If you cannot get 2 reps on your sets then just drop it down to 1 rep and keep going.

For minutes 31-45 you are going to perform sets of 8 reps on two different exercises. Once again your goal is to perform as many reps as you can in the time period. Make sure you pick a weight that is light enough so that you can get all your reps in.

For the last 15 minutes of the workout you perform sets of 20 on two less demanding exercises like cable chest presses or seated cable rows. Again you are trying to perform as many sets as you can.

The pump you get on this routine is absolutely ridiculous. It starts out slow, almost like a “baby pump” as Stan Efferding would say. As you progress through the workout the pump builds and builds. It feels like the blood never really leaves your muscles, it just keeps building. By the end of the workout your muscles are going to be annihilated!

Stan Efferding is also a big fan of this type of hypertrophy training workout. He calls it the “pounds per hour” approach because you are trying to accumulate as much workload as you can in a fixed period of time.

So how do you know when you can increase the weight with escalating density training? Here are some targets:

  • 20 sets of exercise A1 / A2
  • 8 sets of exercise B1 / B2
  • 8 sets of exercise C1 / C2

Once you perform AT LEAST this many sets of each exercise you can increase the weight. You may want to shoot even higher, for example 25 sets of the “A” exercises or 10 sets of the “B” exercises.

These are not Charles’ official recommendations. Instead they are based on my extensive experimentation with this training method, both on myself and on my coaching clients.

If you are looking for a great hypertrophy training method to blast through a training rut then give this routine a shot. It is way more effective than it looks on paper.

Part 9: The Frank Zane Method

How do you bring up lagging body parts? That is a great question. After all, there is nothing more annoying for a bodybuilder than a lagging body part that won’t grow no matter how hard you train it.

As I talked about in my ultimate guide on training lagging body parts the most important thing is to use the right exercises for your structure. If you cannot “feel” your lagging muscle group working then that exercise is worthless.

If you are already using the right exercises and your lagging muscle still won’t grow then a great choice is the Frank Zane Method.

Frank Zane was the Mr. Olympia winner three years in a row from 1977 – 1979. He was known as a “thinking man’s bodybuilder” who invented many creative training methods. He believed that one of the fastest ways to bring up a lagging muscle was to train it three days in a row.

For the first day you would use lower-rep sets to target the fast-twitch muscle fibers. For the second day you would use more moderate rep ranges and slightly more volume. Finally on the third day you would use high reps and bust out the high-intensity training techniques like giant sets, drop sets etc.

Basically you are “overreaching” early in the week and then giving the muscle time to recover and super compensate.

Charles Poliquin used the Frank Zane method with many of this athletes. At one point he was working with a bodybuilder who could not bring up his legs. He had the bodybuilder train his legs 3 times per day on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday! He took the rest of the week off of leg training so they could super compensate and grow.

Of course you don’t have to use three-a-day workouts to get the most out of this training method.

Here is a back training program that you may want to try. It is based on the original back training program that Charles Poliquin wrote in one of his articles.

The overall structure of the workout is correct but sadly I cannot remember the exact workouts he recommended. Check it out:

Frank Zane Style Monday Back / Chest Workout

  • A1: Chin ups (narrow / supinated grip), 5 x 5, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: 30 degree incline bench press, 5 x 5, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Seal row, 5 x 5, 3/0/1/2, 120 seconds rest
  • B2: 60 degree incline DB press (neutral grip), 5 x 5, 3/2/1/0, 120 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Frank Zane Style Tuesday Back Workout

  • A1: Lat pulldown (wide / overhand grip), 3-4 x 8-10, 3/1/1/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Seated cable row (V-handle), 3-4 x 8-10, 3/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Machine pullovers, 3-4 x 8-10, 3/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise C1.

Frank Zane Style Wednesday Back Workout

  • A1: Hammer strength pulldown (supinated grip), 3 x 12-15, 2/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: T-bar row, 3 x 12-15, 2/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: 30 degree incline chest supported DB row, 3 x 12-15, 2/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A4: Cable pulldown (narrow / neutral grip), 3 x 12-15, 2/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A5: Machine chest-supported row (pronated / elbows out grip), 3 x 12-15, 2/0/1/0, 3 minutes rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4, exercise A5.

The Frank Zane method is an extremely demanding training method that should only be used for brief periods of time. Remember, you are using this program to “overreach” on purpose so that your body can super compensate later in the week.

Training this way all the time is extremely taxing unless your full-time job is lifting weights. I recommend you take Thursday off and then train the rest of your upper body on Friday and Saturday. For example:

  • Monday: Chest / Back
  • Tuesday: Back
  • Wednesday: Back
  • Thursday: Off
  • Friday: Arms / Shoulders
  • Saturday: Legs
  • Sunday: Off

If you are looking for a great way to shock your muscles into growth then the Frank Zane method is a great way to do it. Charles Poliquin used this method and other “overreaching” training methods with his clients to help them build muscle mass as fast as possible.

Part 10: Two-A-Day Workouts

Charles Poliquin believes that two-a-day workouts are the ultimate way to train for muscular hypertrophy.

To perform Charles Poliquin style two-a-day workouts you are going to train the same muscle groups in the morning and in the evening.

Your morning workouts will consist of relative strength and functional hypertrophy work while your evening workouts will feature muscle-building training methods like supersets, tri-sets and giant sets. For example:

Morning Workouts

  • Cluster sets
  • Modified hepburn method
  • Wave loading
  • Multiple sets of 1-3 reps
  • Multiple sets of 4-6 reps

Evening Workouts

  • Supersets
  • Tri-sets
  • Giant sets
  • Drop sets
  • Mechanical advantage drop sets

The morning workout is there so that you can activate your central nervous system and recruit the higher-threshold motor units.

According to Charles Poliquin you will be able to recruit about 5% more motor units in the evening workout if you perform it 4-6 hours after your morning workout. This means you will be able to activate 5% more muscle fibers than normal with your high-rep hypertrophy training workout. In other words two-a-day workouts are the ultimate way to train for muscle hypertrophy!

The exact rep ranges that you use in each workout will vary depending on your goals. If you are more interested in building functional hypertrophy then you would perform sets of 1-3 reps in the morning and sets of 5-8 reps in the evening.

If you are a bodybuilder and just want to get as jacked as possible then you would perform sets of 4-6 reps in the morning and sets of 8-20 reps in the evening.

Here is a two-a-day arm workout that Nick Mitchell performed while training with Charles Poliquin. Check it out:

Nick Mitchell’s Morning Arm Workout

  • A1: Barbell preacher curls**, 8 x 5-6, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: V-bar dips (upright torso), 8 x 5-6, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest

**Alternate sets with a grip 2 inches narrower than shoulder width and 2 inches wider than shoulder width.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2.

Nick Mitchell’s Evening Arm Workout

  • A1: Fat bar tricep pushdowns, 4 x 10-12, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: 45 degree incline DB curls, 4 x 10-12, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: Tate press, 4 x 10-12, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A4: Fat bar ez-bar curls (wide / pronated grip), 5 x 10-12, 60 seconds rest
  • B1: Overhead cable french press, 3 x 10-20, 3/2/1/0, 30 seconds rest
  • B2: Ez-bar spider curls (narrow / supinated grip), 3 x 10-20, 3/0/1/2, 30 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Nick Mitchell says that the morning workout is all about training as explosively as possible while avoiding failure on any of your sets.

The evening workout is the total opposite: it’s all about “feeling the weight” and forcing your muscles to contract as hard as possible on every rep. The amount of weight that you use on the evening workout is almost irrelevant – the important part is that you get a great pump and cause as much muscle damage as possible.

Two-a-day workouts were Charles Poliquin’s go-to training method for helping his athletes pack on muscle as fast as possible. They are very hard for the average trainee to pull of with a normal job or career.

If for some reason you have the time to train twice a day then it can be very effective. Just make sure you follow Charles’ guidelines for the rep ranges and objectives for each of these workouts!

Conclusion

Charles Poliquin Muscle

Training for maximum muscle mass is never easy. However, you can speed up your progress by adopting some of Charles Poliquin’s favorite muscle-building strategies.

Training methods such as tri-sets, German Volume Training and escalating density training are unbelievably effective for building muscular hypertrophy. The reason most people don’t use these training methods is they are too afraid of stepping out of their comfort zone and trying something new.

Most people are just practicing “monkey-see, monkey-do” in the gym and in real life. If you are happy with your current progress then by all means continue using your current training program.

However, if you want to speed up your results then you have to give some of these advanced hypertrophy training methods a shot.

“For me life is continuously being hungry. The meaning of life is not simply to exist, to survive, but to move ahead, to go up, to achieve, to conquer.”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck in your strength training journey!

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

Thanks for checking out my site! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen and I'm the founder of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to reach your size and strength goals faster then you've come to the right place. My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world. So grab a seat, kick back and relax. There's never been a better time to lift weights or to learn the art and science of strength training program design.

Recent Posts