If you want to get bigger and stronger then you MUST learn how to train the fast-twitch muscle fibers. These muscle fibers have the greatest potential to become bigger and stronger. However, they are also the hardest ones to train. Your standard “3 sets of 10” workout just isn’t going to cut it!
- Part 1: Compensatory Acceleration Training
- Part 2: Bands And Chains
- Part 3: Isometric Training
- Part 4: Eccentric Training
- Part 5: Novel Set / Rep Schemes
- Part 6: Rest-Pause Training
- Part 7: Giant Sets
In this comprehensive guide I will teach you 7 powerful training methods for training the fast-twitch muscle fibers.
As you may know there are two main types of muscle fibers:
- Slow-twitch muscle fibers
- Fast-twitch muscle fibers
The slow twitch muscle fibers are known as the “endurance fibers.” These muscle fibers are smaller and help you perform high-rep sets in the gym. As a general rule of thumb when you train for a huge pump you are training the slow-twitch muscle fibers.
The fast-twitch muscle fibers are the complete opposite: they help you perform explosive movements in the gym and lift heavier weights. It is so important to train the fast-twitch muscle fibers because they have the most potential to grow bigger and stronger. If you like building muscle and getting stronger then training the fast-twitch muscle fibers is a must!
Here are some general guidelines for how to train the fast-twitch muscle fibers:
Optimal Fast-Twitch Loading Parameters
- Strength gains: 1-5 reps per set, 1-20 seconds time under tension per set
- Hypertrophy gains: 4-8 reps per set, 20-40 seconds time under tension per set
If your goal is to strengthen your fast-twitch muscle fibers then you should use about 1-5 reps per set and your sets should last about 1-20 seconds each. On the other hand if you want to increase the size of your fast-twitch muscle fibers then you should use about 4-8 reps per set and your sets should last 20-40 seconds each.
These guidelines work well for beginner and intermediate trainees. However, as you become more advanced you have to start using more advanced training methods to continue making progress.
The best training methods for training the fast-twitch muscle fibers include compensatory acceleration training, isometric training, eccentric training and rest-pause training. All of these training methods make you stronger and increase the size of your fast-twitch muscle fibers at the same time. They are like the best of both worlds!
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: Compensatory Acceleration Training
Compensatory acceleration training was popularized by the powerlifter Dr. Fred Hatfield in the 1980’s. Fred used this training method to squat an earth-shattering 1,014 pounds in 1987 when he was 45 years old!
The idea behind compensatory acceleration training is simple: you are going to lift a weight as explosively as possible through the concentric range of the lift. Here is a perfect demonstration of compensatory acceleration training on the bench press:
Most people naturally slow down towards the top part of a bench press or any other exercise. This is actually a mistake! If you want to train the fast-twitch muscle fibers then you should explode as quickly as possible through the entire range of motion.
Just take a look at the following physics equation:
Force = Mass x Acceleration
If you want to produce as much force as possible then you MUST lift weights as explosively as possible through the entire range of motion!
There are a couple of different ways you can use compensatory acceleration training in the gym to train your fast-twitch muscle fibers:
- Lift lighter weights as explosively as possible
- Lift heavy weights as explosively as possible
Research shows that you can still get the benefits of compensatory acceleration training even if you are lifting heavy weights in the 1-5 rep range. The important part is that you are *trying* to move the weight as fast as possible through the entire range of motion.
It’s OK if the weight moves slow – as long as you are trying to accelerate it you are good to go! Therefore compensatory acceleration training is a training method that can be used regardless of what routine you are using!
If you are a bodybuilder then I recommend you perform the lifting phase of your reps as fast as possible to better stimulate your fast-twitch muscle fibers. If you are a powerlifter then you may want to use the compensatory acceleration training method with submaximal weights. In other words you may want to train by lifting moderately heavy weights as explosive as possible.
Two great training programs that use this method are the Eddie Hall training program and the Josh Bryant powerlifting program.
Eddie Hall won the world’s strongest man competition in 2017 and was the first man to deadlift 1,100 pounds. He used compensatory acceleration training as a core part of his deadlift training program.
Eddie Hall deadlifted every week but he alternated between a “heavy” workout and a “speed” workout. For example:
- Week #1: Heavy
- Week #2: Speed
- Week #3: Heavy
- Week #4: Speed
During his heavy weeks Eddie trained with weights around 80-90% of his 1-rep max. On the other hand he lifted weights around 50-60% of his 1-rep max on his speed deadlift workouts. Here is what Eddie’s speed deadlifts looked like in the gym:
Talk about an explosive set! Eddie rips 600 pounds off the ground faster than most people can lift 135 pounds!
Here is Eddie talking about his deadlift training leading up to his 1,100 pound deadlift:
“I did a lot of speed work training the fast-twitch fibres. If you pull a weight like that slowly I know it’s not going to go up, so I knew I had to get my fast-twitch fibres well overtrained. It’s just all about hitting those fast twitch fibres so I was super explosive off the floor and get it going fast, then keep it going.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself! In case you were curious here is the exact deadlift training cycle that Eddie Hall used to deadlift 1,102 pounds:
Eddie Hall 1,102 Pound Deadlift Training Cycle
- Week 1: 65% 3 x 10 (warm up week)
- Week 2: 70% 3 x 8 (heavy week)
- Week 3: 60% 8 x 2 (speed reps week)
- Week 4: 75% 3 x 5 (heavy week)
- Week 5: 60% 8 x 2 (speed reps week)
- Week 6: 80% 3 x 3 (heavy week)
- Week 7: 80% x 1, 85% x 1, 90% x 1 x 3 (heavy week)
- Week 8: deload (no training)
- Week 9: (competition): 85% x 1, 93% x 1, 100% x 1
Of course it’s impossible to talk about compensatory acceleration training without talking about Josh Bryant. Josh is one of the world’s premiere powerlifting coaches. It is hard to keep up with the number of world record powerlifters that Josh has trained!
Josh structures his powerlifting workouts in a very unique way. He has his trainees perform 1 heavy set on the squat, bench press or deadlift followed by several speed sets performed as explosively as possible.
Here is a basic template for what his bench press workouts look like leading up to a powerlifting meet:
- Part 1: Bench press for a heavy set of 1-3 reps
- Part 2: Bench press for 3-10 speed sets of 2-4 reps
- Part 3: 1-2 Bench press supplemental exercises
- Part 4: 2-4 bench press accessory exercises
Here is a bench press workout that one of Josh’s clients did while training for a 500 pound bench press. Check it out:
Just take a look at how fast Izzy presses the bar during his speed sets. The bar is practically flying out of his hands at the top of the lift!
It does not matter if you are a powerlifter peaking for your next competition or a regular Joe just looking to get bigger and stronger: compensatory acceleration training is for you! You can apply this concept on all of your sets to target the fast-twitch muscle fibers.
At the end of the day compensatory acceleration training is all about getting the most out of every single rep that you perform in the gym. Actually this is a great philosophy to have in all areas of your life.
Part 2: Bands And Chains
Bands and chains are two of the most effective tools for training the fast-twitch muscle fibers. Nothing else even comes close! The powerlifting guru Louie Simmons began experimenting with bands and chains in the late 1980s.
Bands and chains were originally used on barbell exercises like the squat, bench press and deadlift. However, in recent years some creative bodybuilders like John Meadows have used them on all sorts of exercises from leg presses to hammer strength machines and even various free weight exercises.
Bands and chains are two reasonably complicated training methods so let’s go ahead and look at some training videos.
Here is IFBB professional bodybuilder Ben Pakulski demonstrating the bench press with chains:
As you can see the chains are draped on either side of the barbell. These chains weigh about 25 pounds each so the chains add an extra 50 pounds of weight on the barbell.
As Ben lowers the bar down to his chest the chains hit the ground and make the bar feel lighter. Then when Ben presses the bar back up to lockout the chains come off the ground and make the bar feel heavier.
So chains do two primary things:
- They make the bar feel lighter in the bottom position
- They make the bar fee heavier in the top position
Why is this a big deal? I’ll tell you why! The chains force you to lift the bar as explosively as possible all the way to lockout. If you don’t do this then you will get “stuck” half-way up and the chains will pull you right back down.
In other words chains are like compensatory acceleration training on steroids! They literally force you to become more explosive throughout the entire exercise. Bands are an even more extreme training method than chains.
Here is Ben Pakulski performing the 15 degree incline bench press with bands. Check it out:
“Bands” are really just giant rubber bands. In this case they are attached to the bottom of the power rack and on either side of the barbell.
As Ben lowers the bar to his chest the bands become less tight and offer less resistance. However, when Ben presses the bar back up to lockout the bands start to stretch and offer way more resistance! In fact the bands in this video easily add 200+ pounds of tension in the top position!!
Bands are an even more extreme version of accommodating resistance than chains because they make the exercise WAY harder at the top and WAY easier at the bottom position. You have to press the bar as explosively as possible or you will get stuck halfway up.
If chains are accommodating resistance on steroids then bands are accommodating resistance on… double steroids? Somebody get this info to @brosciencelife – bands are like accommodating resistance on double steroids! You heard it here first!
Let’s look at a few routines to see how you might use bands and chains to stimulate the fast-twitch muscle fibers. Here is an arm routine that Charles Poliquin had Ben Pakulski perform when he was competing as a professional bodybuilder. Check it out:
Ben Pakulski Bands And Chains Arm Routine
- A1: Bench press against chains (shoulder-width grip), 6 x 6, 2/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
- A2: Unilateral preacher DB curl**, 6 x 6, 2/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
- B1: 15 degree incline bench press against bands, 4 x 12, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
- B2: 60 degree incline cable curl, 4 x 12, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
**Perform sets 1/3/5 with an offset grip and sets 2/4/6 with a supinating grip. Charles calls this “omni-reps.”
As you can see Ben uses chains and bands on his two triceps exercises. These tools work extremely well when training a muscle group like the triceps because they match the strength curve of the triceps.
The triceps have an “ascending strength curve.” This is just a fancy way of saying that they can produce way more force in their shortened position than they can in their stretched position. In other words the triceps are capable of producing a ton of force in the top part of bench presses and other exercises.
The bands and chains really allow you to overload this part of the exercise in a way that is almost impossible to do with “straight weight.” The bands and chains also force you to lift explosively which is helpful for recruiting the fast-twitch muscle fibers.
Remember, compensatory acceleration training works regardless of how much weight is on the bar. As long as you are pressing the weight as fast as possible you will reap the benefits!
Of course powerlifters are still the kings of using bands and chains to make progress. After people saw how much bands and chains were helping the Westside Barbell training team they spread like wildfire across the powerlifting community. Everyone wanted a piece of the action!
Very recently the strongman Eddie Hall used bands to train for a 700 pound raw bench press.
Eddie ultimately decided that beating Hafthor “The Mountain” Bjornsson in a boxing match was more important than crossing the 700 pound barrier. I think I speak for everyone when I say I forgive you Eddie!
One of the drawbacks of bands is they can actually screw up your technique if you use them too much. Eddie has a great strategy for getting around this issue: he only uses them every other week in his training program. For example:
Eddie Hall Bench Press Training Schedule
- Week 1: Bands
- Week 2: Straight Weight
- Week 3: Bands
- Week 4: Straight Weight
And so on.
Here is a template for Eddie Hall’s bench press workouts as he trained for a 700 pound raw bench press:
Eddie Hall Bench Press Workout Template
- Exercise #1: Flat bench press (with or without bands) for a max set of 1-6 reps
- Exercise #2: Incline bench press (with or without bands) for a max set of 1-6 reps
- Exercises #3-6: Accessory chest / triceps exercises for 5-15 reps
Here is a good video of his bench press workout with bands:
Bands and chains can be used with almost any training program. They have many benefits beyond just accommodating resistance or making the exercise easier in the bottom position and harder in the top position. However, one of their big benefits is they overload the fast-twitch muscle fibers and force you to be as explosive as possible on every rep.
I strongly recommend you use bands and chains if you have access to them!
Part 3: Isometric Training
There are three main types of muscular contractions:
- Concentric muscular contractions
- Eccentric muscular contractions
- Isometric muscular contractions
Concentric and eccentric muscular contractions occur when your muscles are contracting while moving. Both of these contraction types occur during a regular set on almost any exercise. Your muscles are contracting concentrically when you lift the weight up and eccentrically when you lower the weight down.
Isometric contractions are completely different: they occur when your muscles are contracting without moving!
Isometric contractions are like the “red-headed step child” of strength training program design. They are an unbelievably effective way to train but most people don’t know how to get the most out of them. This is a shame because isometric contractions are probably one of THE best ways to overload your fast-twitch muscle fibers! It’s true!
Bands, chains and compensatory acceleration training are all great for hitting your fast-twitch fibers. However, isometric training is probably even more effective. I hope I have your attention by now!
There are two main types of isometric contractions:
- Overcoming isometrics
- Yielding isometrics
Overcoming isometrics can be used to build strength or muscle mass. On the other hand yielding isometrics are purely a muscle-building technique. These two types of isometric contractions are very different from each other so let’s take a deep look at both of them.
Build Size And Strength With Overcoming Isometrics
Overcoming isometrics occur when you push or pull against an immovable object. One of the easiest and most effective ways to perform overcoming isometrics is to bench press an empty 45 pound barbell into a pair of safety pins. For example:
Big Al Davis is pressing the bar as hard as he can for 6-8 seconds. Just turn up the volume on the video if you don’t believe me!!
So what’s going on here? Even though the bar is not moving he is pressing as hard as he can. Research shows that all-out overcoming isometrics recruit 5-7% more fast-twitch muscle fibers than all-out concentric or eccentric contractions. They also let you produce up to 15% more force!
If your goal is to stimulate and activate as many fast-twitch muscle fibers as possible then overcoming isometrics is your #1 strategy.
One of the problems with overcoming isometrics is they have to be performed alongside other training methods. In other words you can’t perform them by themselves – you won’t make any progress unless you perform some full range of motion sets too.
Fortunately the bodybuilding / powerlifting coach Josh Bryant has invented some awesome ways to incorporate overcoming isometrics into your routine.
One of Josh’s favourite strategies is to alternate isometric sets and speed sets on the bench press or deadlift. For example:
- Set #1: Isometric bench press / deadlift
- Set #2: Speed bench press / deadlift
- Set #3: Isometric bench press / deadlift
- Set #4: Speed bench press / deadlift
And so on. Here is IFBB pro Johnnie Jackson demonstrating this strategy on the deadlift:
These 2 types of sets have a synergistic effect on each other. In other words they both make the other type of set more effective.
When you perform the isometric set you teach your body to recruit as many fast-twitch muscle fibers as possible and to produce as much force with them as possible. Then when you perform your speed sets you are actually faster and more explosive with the weight than you would be under normal circumstances.
It is a total win-win situation!
Of course bodybuilders can also take advantage of overcoming isometrics to build bigger muscles. One of Josh’s favourite strategies is to perform isometrics as part of a tri-set. Here is a basic template for the tri-set:
Iso-Dynamics Workout Template
- Exercise #1: Overcoming isometric
- Exercise #2: Regular concentric / eccentric exercise
- Exercise #3: Regular concentric / eccentric exercise
Josh calls this method “iso-dynamics” because you are combining isometric sets and dynamic sets together into one long extended set. Here is a great iso-dynamics triceps workout that you may want to try. Check it out:
Iso-Dynamics Triceps Workout
- A1: Bench press isometric (shoulder-width grip)**, 3 x 1, 10 seconds rest
- A2: Bench press against bands (shoulder-width grip), 3 x 3, 1/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- A3: Decline DB extension, 3 x 10, 5/0/1/0, 3-5 minutes rest
Here is a great training video for this workout:
For this workout the first 2 exercises are designed to overload the fast-twitch muscle fibers while the third exercise is designed to overload the slow-twitch muscle fibers and create a lot of metabolic fatigue in the muscle. This is a great way to hit many different types of muscle fibers in a single set.
Make no mistake: if your goal is to maximally recruit the fast-twitch muscle fibers then overcoming isometrics are for you!
Build Size With Yielding Isometrics
Yielding isometrics are completely different from overcoming isometric contractions. Yielding isometrics are often called “iso-holds” by bodybuilding coaches such as Dante Trudel and John Meadows.
The idea is simple: you are going to hold a weight in a specific position on an exercise by fighting against gravity with your muscles. For example if you hold the top position of a dumbbell lateral raise for as long as you can you are performing an iso-hold. Your delts will be on fire even though they are not moving anywhere!
Iso-holds are an unbelievably effective way to train for hypertrophy. A number of awesome things happens when you perform an iso-hold:
- You recruit and fatigue the fast-twitch muscle fibers (surprise!)
- You create an occlusion effect which jacks up metabolic fatigue in the muscle
- You force your body to release anabolic hormones like MGF and IGF-1
There are a ton of different ways to perform iso-holds in your routine to build more muscle. However, in my experience probably the most effective strategy is to use iso-holds as a post-failure training strategy.
In other words you would train to failure and then perform an iso-hold to further prolong the time under tension of the set.
Iso-holds can be combined with other high-intensity training techniques to stimulate even more hypertrophy.
Here is one of John’s favourite post-failure training strategies:
- Step #1: Train to failure
- Step #2: Perform 5-10 partial reps in the stretched position
- Step #3: Perform an iso-hold in a “power position” for as long as possible
Here is a perfect demonstration of this 3-part high-intensity set on machine flyes. Check it out:
There are many other ways to perform iso-holds or yielding isometrics in your workout. Dante Trudel used to have a lot of his advanced bodybuilders perform iso-holds at the end of their 3-part rest-pause sets.
Charles Poliquin also used to use iso-holds in many creative ways. One of his favourite strategies was to have his clients perform 3 separate 8-second isometric holds in 3 different positions on the last eccentric rep of their set. For example they might perform a maximal set of 6 reps on chin ups.
On the lowering phase of the 6th rep they would pause in three different points in the range of motion for 8-seconds each. Charles believed that this was one of the fastest and easiest ways to boost your strength on key exercises.
If you want to learn more about isometric training then I highly recommend you check out the following articles:
The bottom line is yielding isometrics are worth their weight in gold. If you want to increase the size of your fast-twitch muscle fibers then you must start using isometric training in your long-term programming!
Part 4: Eccentric Training
Eccentric training is lifting weights on steroids! It is by far one of the best ways for intermediate and advanced trainees to build size and strength.
I mentioned in part 3 of this article that there are three types of muscular contractions:
- Concentric muscular contractions
- Eccentric muscular contractions
- Isometric muscular contractions
Eccentric contractions occur when you are lowering a weight down under control. During the lowering phase of an exercise your muscles are contracting while lengthening. Research shows that the eccentric phase of an exercise builds more muscle mass and strength than the concentric phase.
One of the most effective ways to train is to use training methods that specifically overload the lowering phase of your exercises. These methods are known as “eccentric training.”
One of the big advantages of eccentric training is it preferentially recruits the fast-twitch muscle fibers. This may sound impossible but it’s true! During a normal set you recruit the slow twitch muscle fibers first, then the fast-twitch fibers. For example this is what happens when you perform a set of 5-10 reps:
Slow twitch fibers ———-> fast twitch fibers
As your slow twitch fibers fatigue your body starts to recruit the fast-twitch fibers to help you complete the set. You see, your body is really lazy. It takes a lot of energy to recruit the fast-twitch fibers. It doesn’t want to do this unless it absolutely has to!
Things are completely different when you use eccentric training. With eccentric training your body ignores the slow-twitch fibers and recruits the fast-twitch fibers right from the very first rep!
In fact eccentric training lets you recruit what Charles Poliquin calls the “survival fibers.” The survival fibers are über fast-twitch muscle fibers that are only recruited during life-or-death situations. It turns out that eccentric training also lets you tap into these muscle fibers!
There are a ton of different ways to use eccentric-only reps to target the fast-twitch muscle fibers. In this article we will talk about two of these methods:
Both of these methods can be tweaked to emphasize size or strength gains depending on your goals.
Eccentric Training Method #1: Forced Reps
Forced reps are an incredibly effective bodybuilding training method. They were popularized by the 6x Mr. Olympia winner Dorian Yates in the 1990s. The basic idea is to perform 1-3 partner assisted reps after reaching muscular failure.
First your training partner helps you through the concentric range of the movement. Then you lower the weight back down under control on your own. Here is Dorian giving a perfect demonstration of forced reps on the Nautilus pullover machine:
Talk about an intense set! First Dorian Yates performs 5 reps on his own. Then his training partner helps him perform 3 extra forced reps.
Dorian’s training partner helps him through the concentric range of these extra reps but Dorian has to lower the weight back down all on his own. These extra forced reps help Dorian to eccentrically overload his muscles after first reaching concentric muscular failure.
These extra eccentric reps are FANTASTIC for overloading the fast-twitch muscle fibers. This is especially true if you use lower rep ranges like Dorian does on most exercises.
Forced reps are normally performed at the end of a set. So what would happen if you performed forced reps on *every single rep* during your set?
In other words what would happen if you used an ultra-heavy weight and had your training partner help you through the concentric range on every single rep so you could get in 5-10 ultra-heavy eccentric reps? You would get total fast-twitch muscle fiber annihilation!
Here is the ever-creative John Meadows demonstrating this method on machine dips for his triceps:
John’s training partner is pushing *down* on the machine to help John through the concentric phase of each rep. Then John lowers the weight as slowly as he can through the eccentric range. John is basically performing 8 super-heavy eccentric reps to overload his fast-twitch muscle fibers!
I have never seen someone give this training method a name so I will call it “forced reps on steroids.” Here is how John might use this technique in a typical triceps workout. Check it out:
John Meadows Eccentric Triceps Workout
- A1: Standing dual rope cable pushdown, 5 x 10-12**, 1/0/X/1, 60 seconds rest
- B1: Seated dip machine***, 3 x 8****, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- C1: Lying kettlebell extension, 4 x 12-15, 1/0/1/0, 30 seconds rest
**Perform 3 progressively heavier warm-up sets, then perform 2 working sets just shy of failure.
***Perform these as “forced reps on steroids” with the help of a training partner. Use a heavy weight and have your partner help you through the concentric phase of each rep.
****perform 3 working sets at 80%, 90% and 100% of a weight you think you can candle for an all-out set of 8 reps.
There are tons of different ways you can perform “forced reps on steroids” but this Mountain Dog style workout is a great option. John likes to use triceps isolation exercises like cable pushdowns first in his routine. That way when he performs his “meat and potatoes” exercises like dips his triceps have to work that much harder.
Eccentric Training Method #2: Eccentric-Only Reps
A more advanced form of eccentric training is called “eccentric-only reps.” The idea is simple: you are going to find a way to only perform the eccentric range of an exercise.
You are much stronger on the lowering phase of an exercise than you are in the lifting phase. This means that you can use some very heavy weights with eccentric-only training. In fact you may find that you can use weights that are at or above your 1-rep max!
Why on earth would anyone train this way? The answer is simple: eccentric-only reps is one of THE fastest way to build muscle mass and strength in intermediate to advanced trainees. These reps preferentially target your fast-twitch muscle fibers right from the start of the set.
If you are a bodybuilder then one of the best strategies is to perform eccentric-only reps at the end of your workout after you have already pre-fatigued your muscles with some regular exercises. Here is an eccentric arm hypertrophy workout that Charles Poliquin designed many years ago. Check it out:
Poliquin Eccentric Arm Routine
- A1: 45 degree incline DB curl (supinating grip), 3-5 x 4-6, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- A2: Preacher ez-bar curl (wide / supinated grip), 3-5 x 4-6, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- A3: Decline bench press (shoulder-width grip), 3-5 x 4-6, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- A4: Lying ez-bar extension (to nose), 3-5 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- B1: Eccentric-only unilateral preacher barbell curls (supinated grip)**, 3 x 3, 8/0/1/0, 180 seconds rest
- B2: Eccentric-only v-bar dips (upright torso)***, 3 x 3, 8/0/1/0, 180 seconds rest
**Lower the weight with one hand, then use your non-working hand to help lift the weight back up to lockout. You can also use a training partner to help you through the concentric range.
***Lower yourself down over 8 seconds, then put your feet on the ground and use them to boost you back up to the starting position. Repeat this process for 3 reps per set.
Here is Josh Bryant demonstrating the eccentric-only 1-arm barbell preacher curl. Check it out:
This workout is divided into two parts. In the first half of the workout you perform 2 supersets: one for the biceps and one for the triceps.
If you are having a great day then go ahead and perform 5 of these supersets for both muscle groups. This should take you around 30-40 minutes to complete.
After your fast-twitch muscle fibers are exhausted from these low-rep supersets you are going to perform some eccentric-only training. This will further exhaust your fast-twitch muscles and tap into a different portion of your motor unit pool in the biceps and triceps.
I recommend you use a weight that is right around 90% of your 1-rep max for the eccentric-only reps. You will already be fatigued from the supersets so you don’t want to go too crazy! If the weight is too light then you can always bump it up on your second and third sets.
If you perform this workout correctly you can expect some of the deepest muscle soreness of your entire life!
If you are more interested in using eccentric-only reps to build strength then you are going to love this next routine. This routine features the “3 then 1 method” which was also invented by Charles Poliquin.
You are going to alternate back and forth between regular triples and eccentric-only single reps. For example:
- Set #1: Triples
- Set #2: Eccentric-only singles
- Set #3: Triples
- Set #4: Eccentric-only singles
- Set #5: Triples
- Set #6: Eccentric-only singles
One of the best ways to perform these eccentric-only singles is with weight releasers, aka eccentric hooks. Weight releasers are giant metal hooks that attach on either side of the barbell. They make the exercise heavier on the way down and lighter on the way up.
Here is Josh Bryant giving a perfect demonstration of weight releasers on the bench press:
When you perform this routine you alternate back and forth between a heavy triple and an eccentric-only single.
The eccentric single forces your body to recruit nearly all available fast-twitch muscle fibers including the “survival fibers.” Then when you perform your heavy triple 2-5 minutes later you are still able to recruit all of these muscle fibers for your regular set! This means your 3-rep max on the exercise will shoot through the roof!
Here is a “3 then 1 method” back squat routine that you may want to try. Check it out:
3 Then 1 Method Back Squat Routine
- A1: Back squat (medium stance / heels flat), 3 x 3, 2/0/X/1, 120 seconds rest
- A2: Bilateral lying leg curl (Poliquin method / feet neutral)**, 3 x 3, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- A3: Back squat with weight releasers (medium stance / heels flat)***, 3 x 1, 10/0/1/0****, 120 seconds rest
- A4: Bilateral lying leg curl (Poliquin method / feet neutral), 3 x 3, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- B1: Machine pendulum squat, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/2/0, 60 seconds rest
- B2: Standing barbell good morning, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/2/0, 60 seconds rest
**Dorsiflex your feet (point your toes towards your shins) on the concentric range and plantarflex your feet (point your toes away from your shins) on the eccentric range. This will let you eccentrically overload your hamstrings.
***Use 80% of your 1-rep max on the bar and another 5-20% of your 1-rep max on each weight releaser. The total weight should be 90-120% of your 1-rep max on the eccentric range and 80% of your 1-rep max on the concentric range.
****No, that was not a typo – you must use a 10-second lowering phase with the weight releasers!
If you have never used weight releasers before then you have NO IDEA how effective they can be for building maximal strength and overloading your fast-twitch muscle fibers. I especially like the 3 then 1 method because it teaches your body to utilize these strength gains in a more normal exercise.
Part 5: Novel Set / Rep Schemes
One of the best ways to train your fast-twitch muscle fibers and stimulate strength gains is to use novel set / rep schemes. By this I mean using rep schemes that are so fun and exciting that they encourage you to put in a maximum effort in the gym.
This is something that the Canadian strength coach Christian Thibadeu talks about a lot. Christian is someone who loves to lift heavy. He just loves to perform sets in the 1-5 rep range.
There is just one problem: Christian hates to be bored in the gym. He would rather jump of a bridge than do a basic “5 sets of 5” or “10 sets of 3” workout!
Christian gets his best results when he uses set and rep schemes that are psychologically stimulating. He does best when the rep range or the amount of weight he is lifting fluctuates from one set to the next.
Christian is not alone: many trainees actually get their best results when they use novel rep schemes. These schemes are very fun but they also help your body recruit the fast-twitch muscle fibers through a process called post-tetanic potentiation.
There are two novel rep schemes that you must know about:
- Wave Loading
- Contrast Sets
These schemes work best for powerlifters and anyone who wants to get as strong as possible. If you are bodybuilder then these methods can be used once in a while but should not form the foundation of your program.
Novel Set / Rep Scheme #1: Wave Loading
Wave loading was invented by world-class Olympic weightlifters. Nowadays wave loading is used by many of the world’s most successful strength coaches to train Olympic athletes in almost every sport. A “wave” is a series of three sets performed with decreasing rep ranges.
One of the most famous wave loading protocols is the 3/2/1 wave. For example:
3/2/1 Wave Loading Protocol
- Set 1: 3 reps
- Set 2: 2 reps
- Set 3: 1 rep
- Set 4: 3 reps
- Set 5: 2 reps
- Set 6: 1 rep
After your third set you repeat this entire process over again. Wave loading works because it excites the nervous system through a process known as post-tetanic potentiation. This is a fancy way of saying that each wave teaches the body to recruit more and more of the fast-twitch muscle fibers.
Most trainees find that they are actually stronger on their second or third wave compared to their first one! Wave loading also works because it is psychologically stimulating.
An adrenaline-junkie like / loves wave loading because the weight on the bar and the number of reps he has to perform varies from one set to the next. This keeps Christian on his toes and motivates him to give a 100% effort on every set.
Here is an upper body wave loading workout designed by Wolfgang Unsoeld that you may want to try. Wolfgang is the best strength coach in Germany and is definitely worth listening to. Check it out:
Woflgang Unsoeld Wave Loading Upper Body Routine
- A1: Chin up (medium / supinated grip), 6 x 3/2/1**, 5/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
- A2: 45° Incline bench press (shoulder-width grip), 6 x 5/3/1***, 5/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
- B1: Kneeling High Pulley One Arm Row (rotating grip), 4 x 6-8, 4/0/1/1, 90 seconds rest
- B2: Standing behind the neck press (shoulder-width grip), 4 x 6-8, 4/0/1/1, 90 seconds rest
**Performed as a 3/2/1 wave loading scheme.
***Performed as a 5/3/1 wave loading scheme.
If you thrive on low-rep sets then you have to give wave loading a try. It is one of the best ways to teach your body to recruit more of the fast-twitch muscle fibers on every set.
Novel Set / Rep Scheme #2: Contrast Sets
Contrast sets are another awesome set / rep scheme for building maximal strength. Contrast set training is actually very similar to wave loading. The main difference is you are going to perform 2 types of sets rather than 3.
If you want to build size and strength at the same time then one of the best contrast set methods is called the 1/6 method. The idea is simple: you are going to alternate back and forth between singles and 6-rep sets on an exercise. For example:
- Set 1: 1 rep
- Set 2: 6 reps
- Set 3: 1 rep
- Set 4: 6 reps
- Set 5: 1 rep
- Set 6: 6 reps
The variation in rep ranges helps your body to recruit more of the fast-twitch muscle fibers. During the maximal singles you are pretty much recruiting all available muscle fibers. Then when you perform your 6-rep set you will be able to tap into these muscle fibers and lift more weight than usual.
The reverse is also true: the 6-rep set potentiates your nervous system for your next maximal single! Most trainees find that they are actually strongest on the 5th and 6th sets using this training method. Here is a lower body 1/6 method routine that you may want to try. Check it out:
1/6 Method Front Squat Routine
- A1: Front squat (medium stance / heels flat), 6 x 1/6**, 2/0/X/1, 120 seconds rest
- A2: Unilateral kneeling leg curl (feet dorsiflexed / pointing out), 6 x 2-3, 2/0/X/1, 120 seconds rest
- B1: Front foot elevated split squat (holding DBs), 4 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
- B2: Dumbbell stiff-legged deadlift, 4 x 8-10, 2/2/1/0, 60 seconds rest
**Performed as a 1/6 method routine as described above.
There are actually 2 main ways to perform this routine. Charles Poliquin recommends that you use a weight that is very close to a 1-rep max for your heavy singles. On the other hand Christian Thibadeau recommends that you use a weight that is closer to 90% of your 1-rep max for the singles.
Both methods work well depending on the athlete. Charles’ approach is more extreme but will also produce better results if you can handle it.
The bottom line is wave loading and contrast sets are two novel set / rep schemes that you can use to recruit more of your fast-twitch muscle fibers and build strength in record time. But what if you are a bodybuilder? In that case you may want to try rest-pause sets and fast-twitch giant sets to hypertrophy your fast-twitch fibers…
Part 6: Rest-Pause Training
Rest-pause sets were made popular by Dante Trudel through his DC Training system. Dante believes that rest-pause sets are the fastest way for a bodybuilder to get stronger and therefore bigger. Rest-pause sets are a high-intensity training technique that let you train beyond failure on an exercise.
Here is the exact rest-pause training protocol:
- Train to failure in the 7-10 rep range, then rest 20-30 seconds
- Train to failure again with the same weight, then rest 20-30 seconds
- Train to failure a third time with the same weight, done!
As you can see a rest-pause set is basically three sets performed to failure with extremely short rest periods in between each attempt. Dante Trudel actually recommends that you take in 10-15 deep breaths between your attempts rather than using a stopwatch. Both methods work depending on your personality.
I am a big believer in using videos to explain training concepts so here is Dusty Hanshaw giving a perfect demonstration of a rest-pause set. Check it out:
So why are rest-pause sets so effective for overloading the fast-twitch muscle fibers and building muscular size? That is a great question!
We know from research that one of the best ways to recruit the fast-twitch muscle fibers is to train to failure. In other words you literally “fail” on your final rep in a set while maintaining good form.
When you train to failure in the 7-10 rep range your body initially relies on the slower-twitch muscle fibers to lift the load. However, as they fatigue your body recruits more and more of the fast-twitch fibers to perform the exercise.
On the very last rep when you actually fail your body is pretty much recruiting all of the available fast-twitch muscle fibers to lift the load. This is very taxing on both your muscles and your central nervous system.
Rest-pause sets are basically arguing that the most beneficial part of a set taken to failure is the last 1-3 reps when you are recruiting as many muscle fibers as possible. By resting only 20-30 seconds in between your 3 sets you are performing more of these reps when you are in an extremely fatigued state. This means you are tapping into more and more fast-twitch muscle fibers as the set progresses!
If your goal is to get stronger in the higher rep ranges while also building slabs of muscle then rest-pause sets are one of the best ways to do it.
Let’s go over a few different ways to design a rest-pause workout. When Dante Trudel designs workouts for his world-class bodybuilders he has them perform 1 all-out rest-pause set per muscle group. For example here is what a typical DC-style chest / shoulders / triceps workout might look like. Check it out:
DC-Style Chest / Shoulders / Triceps Workout
- A1: 30 degree incline bench press (medium grip), 1 x 7-10**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
- B1: Hammer strength overhead press, 1 x 9-12**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
- C1: Dead stop skull crusher, 1 x 9-12**, 2/1/X/0, rest as needed
This type of workout works extremely well for intermediate and advanced lifters. The key is training like your life depends on it during your rest-pause sets! This is the only way to achieve maximum muscle fiber recruitment in your fast-twitch muscle fibers.
Dante Trudel has his clients use higher-frequency training programs so he wants to make sure that the volume per muscle group is relatively low. If you are more of a high-volume guy at heart then there are ways to use rest-pause sets as part of a traditional bodybuilding-style routine.
The bodybuilding coach John Meadows sometimes uses rest-pause sets as part of his Mountain Dog Training program. Here is a rest-pause lower body workout that John Meadows recently performed. Check it out:
John Meadows Rest-Pause Leg Routine
- A1: Lying leg curl, 3-4 x 8-12**, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- B1: Machine squat, 5-6 x 6-8**, 1/0/X/1, 120 seconds rest
- C1: Machine hack squat, 3-4 x 6-8**, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- D1: Machine leg extension, 3 x (10, 10, 25****), 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
**Performed as a DC-style rest-pause set. Train to failure in the 8-12 (or 6-8) rep range, rest 20 seconds, train to failure a second time, rest 20 seconds, train to failure a 3rd time, done!
****John Meadows says shoot for 25 reps “any way you can.” After the first 10-15 reps you can perform partials, rest-pause reps, or anything else to get to that magic 25 rep target. In other words go crazy!
Here is the training video for this workout:
For every exercise John performs several progressively heavier warm-up sets followed by 1 all-out rest-pause set to failure. This is a great strategy if you want to use rest-pause sets while still getting in more volume per muscle group.
Rest-pause sets are without a doubt one of the most effective high-intensity bodybuilding techniques you can perform. They allow you to really tap into the fast-twitch muscle fibers while training in relatively higher rep ranges.
They are also great for consistent long-term strength gains as any experienced DC Trainee can attest. I highly recommend you give them a shot!
Part 7: Giant Sets
If you are interested in building maximum muscle mass then this section has your name written all over it! Giant sets are one of the most extreme and most effective hypertrophy training methods ever invented.
The idea is simple: you are going to perform at least 4 exercises in a row for the same muscle group with 0-10 seconds rest in between each exercise. For example:
- Perform exercise #1, rest 10 seconds
- Perform exercise #2, rest 10 seconds
- Perform exercise #3, rest 10 seconds
- Perform exercise #4, rest 2-5 minutes, repeat!
Giant sets are performed with at least 4 exercises in a row. Some evil geniuses like Milos Sarcev do at least 10 exercises in a row for their giant sets! However, for most people using 4-5 exercises in a row will work awesome and be more than enough.
Giant sets are so effective for building hypertrophy because they force your muscles to work longer by extending the time under tension of the set. Giant sets jack up muscular damage and metabolic fatigue (2 of the biggest triggers for hypertrophy) to sky-high levels. No other training method even comes close!
OK, here’s where things get interesting. Most people believe that giant sets have to be used in higher rep ranges with 10+ reps per exercise. This is what Milos Sarcev recommends but it is not the only way!
If you want to overload your fast-twitch muscle fibers then an awesome strategy is called “fast-twitch giant sets.” The idea is simple: you perform all of your exercises in the 6-8 rep range!
This way you get all of the benefits of giant sets in terms of cellular swelling, muscle damage, metabolic fatigue etc. AND all of the benefits of low-rep sets for recruiting the fast-twitch muscle fibers! Talk about a potent training method!
Let’s look at some sample training routines. Here is a hamstrings fast twitch giant set written by Nick Mitchell. Check it out:
Fast Twitch Giant Sets Nick Mitchell Hamstrings
- A1: Bilateral lying leg curl (feet dorsiflexed / neutral), 3-5 x 6, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- A2: 90 degree back extension (barbell on back), 3-5 x 6, 2/0/1/2, 10 seconds rest
- A3: 45 degree back extension (holding DB at chest), 3-5 x 6, 2/0/1/2, 10 seconds rest
- A4: Bilateral lying leg curl (feet plantarflexed / neutral), 3-5 x 6, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- A5: Conventional deadlift, 3-5 x 6, 3/1/X/0, 3-5 minutes rest
This routine uses a variety of isolation and compound exercises to overload the hamstrings. The hamstrings are a fast-twitch muscle group so the relatively low rep ranges will work AWESOME for stimulating muscle growth.
Here is a shoulder fast-twitch giant set routine that was also written by Nick Mitchell. Check it out:
Fast Twitch Giant Sets Nick Mitchell Shoulders
- A1: Seated cable face pull (with maximum external rotation), 3-5 x 8, 3/0/1/0, no rest
- A2: Seated DB lateral raise, 3-5 x 8, 3/0/1/0, no rest
- A3: Seated scott press, 3-5 x 8, 2/0/1/0, no rest
- A4: Bent over DB lateral raise, 3-5 x 8, 2/0/1/0, no rest
- A5: Seated behind the neck press, 3-5 x 15, 2/0/1/0, rest 3-5 minutes
**Perform the bottom-half of the movement only while keeping your elbows driven back the whole time
Once again this routine combines the benefits of giant sets with the benefits of lower-rep sets for loading the fast-twitch muscle fibers. This type of routine lets you build slabs of myofibrillar hypertrophy while also getting plenty of cellular swelling to build sarcoplasmic hypertrophy for that round, “full” look to the muscle belly.
Finally here is a biceps fast-twitch giant set routine written by Charles Poliquin. It uses a wide variety of rep ranges and exercise tempos to overload as many fast-twitch muscle fibers in the biceps as possible. Check it out:
Fast Twitch Giant Sets Poliquin Arm Routine
- A1: Preacher ez-bar curl (wide / supinated grip), 3-5 x 2, 5/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- A2: Preacher ez-bar curl (narrow / supinated grip), 3-5 x 4, 4/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- A3: 60 degree incline DB curl (supinating grip), 3-5 x 6, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- A4: 30 degree incline DB curl (hammer grip), 3-5 x 8, 2/0/X/0, 3-5 minutes rest
Charles varies the exercise tempos so that the total time under tension per exercise is around 20 seconds. This giant sets routine is a little more advanced and should be reserved for very experienced bodybuilders.
Charles believed that this type of workout was ideal for athletes with a large percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibers or anyone with a more dopamine-dominant neurotransmitter profile.
There are many different training strategies that you can use to overload the fast-twitch muscle fibers. In this comprehensive guide I showed you 7 of the most effective fast-twitch training methods ever invented.
The most important method you should know about is compensatory acceleration training. The basic idea is to lift the weight as explosively as possible through the entire concentric phase of the exercise. This technique can be used on powerlifting “speed sets” or on heavy 1-5 rep max lifts.
If you lift as explosively as possible then you will always be recruiting as many fast-twitch muscle fibers as possible. Of course the other fast-twitch training methods are also worth their weight in gold.
I highly recommend you experiment with bands, chains, isometric sets, eccentric sets, wave loading, contrast sets, rest-pause sets and fast-twitch giant sets to build muscle mass and strength. Some of these methods will work better for you than others.
It is your job to figure out which ones you like best and then HAMMER THEM HOME until you get the results you want. As Josh Bryant likes to say, you have to be a whore for results!
“I enjoy competition. I enjoy challenges. If a challenge is in front of me and it appeals to me, I will go ahead and conquer it.”
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!
Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time. He won the Mr. Olympia contest 8 times and revolutionized the sport of bodybuilding. Arnold was known for his...
One of the reasons most people cannot build big, strong arms is they don’t know how to train the short head of the biceps. If you want to build a pair of biceps that would make Arnold...