Advice from 700+ lb. bench press champion, Ken Lain, as told to Dennis B. Weis Magazine 8 #2
Some time ago I had the pleasure of listening to former world bench press champion Ken Lain talk about the secrets of Gaining Maximum Bulk and Power! He talked about many bodybuilders’ failure to pack on all the muscle weight and power they desire. I then asked him to describe his training strategies, which would land a smashing blow against the inefficient and non-effective training methods that some individuals follow. I’d like to impart some hints and tips about gaining muscle bulk and power for both the intermediate and advanced power bodybuilder.
Gaining muscle bulk and power has always fascinated me. To begin with, to gain it you must show a steady profit from your training endeavors. It’s just like a bank account. You must spend a little less than you earn to build up a healthy monetary reserve. To gain the maximum in muscle bulk and power the amount of physical energy you expend in your workouts must be more than offset by the amount of rest and recuperation you get and of course the type of muscle building foods you eat and supplements you take. If you expend more energy and break down more muscle tissue than can be replaced through rest and diet you will show no profit and will naturally fail to gain the muscle mass and power you desperately want and need. There’s another thing also. Muscle mass and power increases during the recovery or rest cycles and not during the workout itself.
Actually, gaining incredible muscle bulk and power can be best expressed as the formula: Genetics + Training + Intensity + Nutrition & Supplements + Recovery & Sleep = Maximum Muscle Bulk & Power. As you can see, each factor is a single entity, but when they all become a unified entity (at the same time), they become a tremendous force for influencing immense muscle bulk and power.
The Maximum Muscle Bulk and Power formula is as nearly a perfect combination as I have ever seen, but only if you acknowledge that the body is a unified entity. Train with this thought in mind and you will make outstanding power bodybuilding gains.
In practice, the formula for gaining maximum muscle bulk and power works like this:
Genetics plays a key role in gaining maximum muscle bulk and power, but you can improve your physique no matter who you are. Desire and discipline are as important as genetics. I’ve personally seen guys in the gym with great genetics but they never follow the discipline necessary to get in contest shape. On the other hand, you’ve got guys with less than ideal genetics with awesome desire and discipline who not only diet and train for a bodybuilding contest, but come home with a trophy. The bottom line is that you can improve your maximum muscle bulk and power no matter who you are.
One of the best ways to train for maximum muscle bulk and power is to do a ten-week training cycle. I suggest dividing your workouts into a push and pull system. Push days will be on Mondays (Heavy) and Thursdays (Light) and involve the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Pull days are Tuesdays (Heavy) and Fridays (Light). On these training days you will work back and biceps. Legs will only be trained once per week, on Wednesdays.
On chest, back, and quads do 9 to 10 work sets and no more than 12. For the remaining muscle groups do about 6 work sets each. That’s not counting specific warm-up sets. Usually, if you do warm-up sets for the chest you won’t have to do any for the shoulders and triceps.
Likewise, after training back you won’t have to do many warm-up sets for the biceps. You’ll notice that I have heavy and light training days for the muscle groups. That’s because a body part can’t recuperate from two heavy training days per week for the same muscle groups. But a second lighter day will actually increase your results over once a week per bodypart training.
On the heavy and light days do basically the same exercises, sets, and reps. The difference will have to do with rest intervals and the poundages used. On the heavy days, rest 3-5 minutes between sets and use maximum poundages for the majority of your sets. On light training days rest no more than 2 minutes between sets and use no more than eighty percent of the weight that was used on the heavy day of training.
This training scheme blends bodybuilding with powerlifting for what I call a power-bodybuilder approach to training. I suggest doing 3 to 4 exercises (your choice since I don’t know what training equipment you have available) for the large muscle groups (chest, back, and legs) and 2 to 3 exercises for the remaining smaller muscle groups (shoulders, triceps, and biceps). Do 2 to 3 sets per exercise for 6 to 8 reps each. This will depend on the total number of exercises for each muscle group. Do each rep nice and controlled; say 1 second in the positive phase and 1 1⁄2 – 2 seconds in the negative phase. While I did say that you could choose your own exercises for each muscle group, I do suggest that you include the Flat bench press, Dead Lift or Bent Row, and the Parallel squat as the very first exercises in the sequence for the particular muscle groups in question (see side bar for a suggested routine). Your sets and reps scheme for these three exercises will deviate somewhat from what I suggested above.
Robert Hill’s genetics played a key role in his quest for a drug free pro card.
It’s my opinion that 90% of the bodybuilders and powerlifters train or do the same thing over and over again. This happens at the professional or world-class levels as well. They all get into the same rut, training with the same weights, the same exercises day in and day out. In order for the body to grow, you have to constantly change something. You have to change the speed of the movement (rep speed), you’ve got to vary the number of reps you’re doing, or you’ve got to change the amount of weight being used. We as human beings resist change and while we don’t like it, we have to change in order for the body to continue to improve.
One of the best mass building cycles
One of the best mass building cycles that I have used is the 10-week Matrix program. This program makes weekly variations in the poundages and repetitions used. Basically, the Matrix program requires that you add five percent poundage increases to the 3 main sets (after the warm-up sets) while decreasing the number of reps performed by one from a base of 10, each week. By week number 10 you will be doing approximately 10% more poundage than your previous best max effort for one rep. As I mentioned previously, this program can be used on the basic exercises such as the Flat bench press, Parallel squats, Bent Rows and Deadlifts if need be.
Don’t go crazy trying to use the Matrix program on each and every exercise you do on a push or pull training day. At the most use it on two exercises. Personally, I use the Matrix program on just the Bench press on the push day and that’s it. Here’s how it works. At the beginning of a ten-week mass building cycle, let’s say your max was 295 pounds in the bench press. One of the keys to the success of this program is to use 10% more poundage at the end of the 10-week cycle for a one-rep maximum than what you could do previously. In this program it would be 325 pounds (295 lbs. x .10 = 29.5 lbs. 295 + 30 = 325 lbs.). Whenever you are computing poundages by the 10% system and you have an odd poundage (in this case 29.5 lbs.) always take your answer to the nearest five-pound interval. In this case 29.5 lbs. would be moved to 30 lbs., whereas a poundage like 22.1 lbs. would be taken to 20 lbs.
Here’s a ten-week Matrix program for increasing a 295 lb. bench press to one of 325 lbs.
10 Week Matrix Program (Maximum Muscle Bulk and Power System) WEEK 1: Monday (Heavy Day) 55% of Projected Max. Do 2-3 light warm-up sets; then 3 sets, 10 reps, 175 lbs. Thursday (Light Day) 80% of heavy day. 3 x 10 w/140 lbs. WEEK 2:Monday (Heavy Day) 60% of Projected Max. Do 2-3 light warm-up sets; then 3 sets, 9 reps, 190 lbs. Thursday (Light Day) 80% of heavy day. 3 x 9 w/150 lbs. WEEK 3:Monday (Heavy Day) 65% of Projected Max. Do 2-3 light warm-up sets; then 3 sets, 8 reps, 205 lbs. Thursday (Light Day) 80% of heavy day. 3 x 8 w/165 lbs. WEEK 4:Monday (Heavy Day) 70% of Projected Max. Do 2-3 light warm-up sets; then 3 sets, 7 reps, 220 lbs. Thursday (Light Day) 80% of heavy day. 3 x 7 w/175 lbs. WEEK 5:Monday (Heavy Day) 75% of Projected Max. Do 2-3 light warm-up sets; then 3 sets, 6 reps, 235 lbs. Thursday (Light Day) 80% of heavy day. 3 x 6 w/190 lbs. WEEK 6:Monday (Heavy Day) 80% of Projected Max. Do 2-3 light warm-up sets; then 3 sets, 5 reps, 250 lbs. Thursday (Light Day) 80% of heavy day. 3 x 5 w/200 lbs. WEEK 7:Monday (Heavy Day) 85% of Projected Max. Do 2-3 light warm-up sets; then 2 sets, 4 reps, 265 lbs. Thursday (Light Day) 80% of heavy day. 2 x 4 w/215 lbs. WEEK 8:Monday (Heavy Day) 90% of Projected Max. Do 2-3 light warm-up sets; then 2 sets, 3 reps, 285 lbs. Thursday (Light Day) 80% of heavy day. 2 x 3 w/225 lbs. WEEK 9:Monday (Heavy Day) 95% of Projected Max. Do 2-3 light warm-up sets; then 1 set, 2 reps, 300 lbs. Thursday (Light Day) 80% of heavy day. 1 x 2 w/240 lbs. WEEK 10: Wednesday (Personal Record Day) 100% of Projected Max.
Do 2-3 light warm-up sets; then first attempt 88-92 1⁄2 Max 1 set, 1 rep, 315 lbs.
Second attempt 95-97 1⁄2 Max 1 set, 1 rep, 320 lbs.
And finally, a third attempt with 100-102% Max 1 set, 1 rep, 325 lbs.
The heavy weights used in the Matrix program can undeniably take a toll on your body so after the 10 week cycle go into a 4-6 week cycle of high volume training (that is, more reps are done per set). For example, when doing Flat benches on Monday, do 2 sets of 6-8 reps, then 2 sets of 12-15 reps, and finally 2 sets of 25-30 slow continuous tension reps. This is an excellent way to hit all the components of the muscle cell (Fibular, Mitochondria, and Sacroplasm). Each part in itself contributes about 33 1/3% to the overall muscle volume size. The remaining chest exercises and those for the other muscle groups should be different than (or a variation of) what was used during the 10-week cycle, and performed in straight set style.
Recovery and Sleep
As I mentioned early on in this article, muscle mass and power increases during the rest cycles and not during the workouts themselves. The way I structured the heavy and light push and pull training days and having Saturday, and Sunday for rest will allow your muscles and nervous system to recover completely from the workouts. You must rest completely between workouts and especially on non-training days and get a good night’s sleep each and every night of the week.
Few bodybuilders or powerlifters relax enough. In this modern life, with the tempo stepped up so high, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of fast living. I’m not talking about living in the fast lane of nightclubs, drinking, and parties every night in the week. Television, movies, and attending sports contests, etc., can keep most folks up later in the evening than is good for them. As a result, they try to sleep a little later in the mornings and from then on out it’s a race against time: rush, rush, rush all day long - nerves on edge, eating fast meals, rushing through a workout (weights feel heavy and the bodybuilder feels shaky and has to push himself to continue). These types of conditions, day after day, are more exhausting than beneficial and no profit will be shown from it. Kick back and slow down your pace. Get to bed early so that you can get up in plenty of time to take care of your morning hygiene and eat a sound breakfast such as the one I described previously. Relax several times a day, your body and mind will benefit from this greatly.
Follow the advice as I have outlined it and I am sure you all will find the "Secrets of Gaining Maximum Muscle Bulk and Power" easier than you thought.
A Sample 10 Week Matrix Program
(Maximum Muscle Bulk and Power System)
Matrix System Nutrition Plan
For a guy who really wants to put on size and gain power with this program, nutrition is an essential component. If you want to get bigger and more muscular, then you have to eat more calories than you expend. And that means every day. One of the most common mistakes people make when trying to gain muscular weight is they consume an inconsistent number of calories. They claim to eat “all of the time,” but the fact is they eat a large amount for a day or two and then revert back to just a couple of meals on the next.
Weight Gaining Techniques
This nutritional program is for you if you’ve reached a good state of muscularity and overall good shape, and seek to increase your muscular size while keeping excess bodyfat to a minimum. The key to gaining muscular weight is through a balanced diet with an emphasis on protein. Junk foods never add muscular weight, only fat! A proper nutritional regimen aimed at increasing muscle size should consist of the foods listed below.
Proteins-Your total diet should consist of 35 – 50% protein from the following sources:
Poultry: Chicken breast (no skin) Canned Chicken Breast (Swanson’s), Turkey Breast, Turkey Breast Cutlets, Ground Turkey Breast (95% Fat Free or Leaner), Canned Turkey Breast, Deli Turkey Breast
Fish: Just about all kinds, the best are: Tuna (canned in water or fresh), Cod, Halibut, Orange Roughy, Salmon, and..
Other Meats: Canadian Bacon, Pork Tenderloin
Protein Powders and Dairy: Ultra Size, Muscle Provider, Mass Maker, Eggs, Hard Cheeses, and Cottage Cheese
Complex (Natural) Carbohydrates– Our sample muscular weight gain diet contains at least 1.5 grams carbohydrates per pound of bodyweight. The best sources are: Oatmeal, Cream of Rice, Puffed Rice, Rice Cakes, Cooked Rice (brown or white), Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Beans (white, pinto, kidney or black), Lima Beans, Corn, Peas
Asparagus, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Cucumbers, Green Beans, Lettuce, Mushrooms, Onions, Peppers, Spinach, Tomato, Water Chestnuts, Zucchini
“Healthy” Fats and Oils (20–30%): Flax seed oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, walnut oil, olive oil, walnuts, heavy cream, and real butter
Here is a sample menu for a good muscular weight gain nutritional plan.
If you find this is too much to eat simply cut out one of the food meals, a protein drink, or one of each. You may want to start with just 4 meals and work your way up to six over the first 4 weeks of your Matrix Program.
2 whole eggs + 4 egg whites
6 oz. lean beef
1–cup oatmeal before cooking (Optional: add cinnamon, raisins and a banana)
I know a lot of you have trouble eating a lot in the morning so here are two options:
Drink Option: 2 scoops Ultra Size + 2 scoops cottage cheese (use the Ultra Size scoop) mixed with 2 tablespoons heavy cream or 1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil and 12 oz. water
Alternate Meal Option:
4 (whole) egg omelet with 2 oz. cheese,
one-half grapefruit or half cantaloupe, one cup oatmeal
1–2 scoops Ultra Size + 4–6 scoops Mass Maker
8 oz. chicken (before cooking) or other meat listed above
8 oz. sweet potato, potato, or 1 cup cooked rice
2 cups vegetables or 1 piece fruit (apple, orange, cantaloupe, nectarine,
peach, a cup of berries)
8 – 12 oz. Roast beef, chicken or tuna made into 2 sandwiches with
4 slices whole grain or rye bread, 1 piece fruit
1–2 scoops Ultra Size + 4–6 scoops Mass Maker (see chart below)
10 – 12 oz. sirloin steak (lean) or other meat
8 oz. sweet potato or baked potato
2 cups vegetables / salad / or fruit
3 scoops Ultra Size, 3 tablepsons Heavy Whipping Cream
OR: 9 oz. sirloin strip steak (lean) or 10 oz. chicken +
2 cups vegetables – no potatoes or other starchy vegetables
*If you find you are gaining less than ½ lb. per week mix the above in 16 oz milk
Monday: Push DayChest, Shoulders, Triceps
Bench Press (Matrix System)
Barbell Incline Press 3 x 6-8
Bent Arm Flyes 3 x 6-8
Shoulder Press (front, Smith
or behind neck) 1– warm-up, then 3 x 6-8
Lateral Raises 2 x 8-10
Bent Laterals 2 x 8-10
Lying Triceps Extension 1 – warm-up, then 3 x 6-8
Triceps Pressdown (or Dips) 3 x 6 – 8
Tuesday: Pull DayBack, Biceps
Dead Lift -bent legs / flat back (Matrix System)
Heavy Front Pulldown (or Chins) 3 x 6-8
Bent Row 1 - warm-up, then 3 x 6-8
Cable Row or 1 DB Row 2 x 6-8
Barbell Curl 1 – warm-up, then 3 x 6-8
Seated DB Curl 2 x 6-8
Incline DB Curl (or curl machine) 2 x 6-8
Wednesday: LegsQuads, Hamstrings
Squats (Matrix System)
Leg Extension 3 x 8-10
Leg Curls 3 x 6-8
Leg Press (or Lunges) 1 warm-up, then 3 x 6-8
Standing Calf Raises 5 x 15
Thursday and Friday Repeat Monday / Tuesday workout, but with 80% of the weight. Reduce rest to two minutes or less. You can train abs 3 - 4 days per week with Crunches, Leg Raises and various other abdominal work. Concentrate a large part of your energy for a particular workout on the Matrix System exercises: Bench Press, Dead Lift and Squat. These are the building exercises.
NNM 8 #2
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