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There are few better teachers on the subject of training than “The Austrian Oak” himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger. At his peak, the seven-time Mr. Olympia winner reportedly sported a whopping 58-inch chest to go with his 23-inch arms!

Arnold was a volume fanatic, as you may have seen in the movie “Pumping Iron.” He trained his chest as often as three days a week, and used a six-days-on/one-day-off, double-split routine throughout much of his professional career. What people don’t know is that Arnold would often train his back on the same day as chest. He loved doing exercises that increased his training volume, and was known to do lots of supersets.

Maybe Arnold knew something about superset training that’s been lost over the years— something that can shock your chest/back into new growth. Arnold was known to have a physique that was superior to his competitors, which may have been due to his unorthodox training techniques. To set the record straight, here are a few new, hardcore studies to show that Arnold truly was ahead of his time, and that this method may be the key to newfound muscle growth.

Supersets Defined

A ‘‘superset’’ is two exercises performed back-to-back, with little or no rest between exercises. In their purest form, supersets are performed with two opposing muscle groups, like chest and back or biceps and triceps. Superset training has been shown to enhance power output and to be an efficacious and time-efficient means for developing strength and power.1-6

There are a few scientific studies to suggest that the activation of an antagonist muscle can enhance muscle power output. In a study of trained male athletes, an increase in power output was observed in the bench press throw (performed on a Smith machine, where someone takes the bar and throws it up as high as it can go, for maximal power) three minutes after a set of ballistic bench pulls (where someone lies on the bench and pulls the weight to his stomach, similar to doing a bent-over row)— compared to the power output in a set of bench press throws with no intervention. It was suggested that preloading the antagonist muscles of the back might have altered (i.e., reduced the braking period) the neural firing pattern during the agonist power exercise of the chest.


Burn More Fat With Supersets

In a study from Syracuse University, researchers looked at two types of strength training to see which style burned more calories. The researchers compared superset training to traditional strength workouts. Study participants completed two strength-training workouts, separated by at least seven days. Their workout consisted of 4 sets of six exercises, and they performed 10 reps of each exercise. During one week, they trained using supersets. One week later, they did traditional resistance training.

Subjects in the above study who used supersets had a faster workout, as the superset sessions took less time to complete, but more importantly, researchers found that markers of energy metabolism such as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC; a measure of resting energy expenditure after exercise) were higher, blood lactate measures were higher, and total energy expenditure for the workout was higher.9 This means supersets lead to a super metabolic rate for burning fat!

Supersets Increase Anabolic Hormones

Increases in testosterone and growth hormone (GH) have been implicated in the role of muscle growth and strength. It has been shown that high-intensity resistance exercise is a powerful stimulant for increasing testosterone levels.10-12 In fact, previous research demonstrated a positive correlation between testosterone in an acute response, and an increased number of cellular androgenic receptors.13 Additionally, it has been found that that there may be a relationship between volume and intensity of training, and the basal concentration of anabolic hormones.14

The same authors suggested that higher testosterone levels at rest are a determining factor in the development of strength, but only in high-performance strength athletes. The metabolic demand for performing supersets is incredible— to say that your muscles “burn” is an understatement.

Superset Like Schwarzenegger

Higher Volume Training With Supersets

Supersets are a time-efficient way of training— you get more done in less time.7 A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research investigated a superset training regimen of coupling two heavy resistance-training exercises (bent rows and bench presses), performed over 3 consecutive sets— and reported that superset training appeared to be a more efficient method of exercise than traditional exercise.

Because similar volume and loads are achieved under the less time-consuming, superset training, it’s more efficient than traditional weight training. Interestingly, EMG activity (a measure of muscle motor-unit recruitment and muscle activation) was not different under the two conditions – suggesting that the level of neuromuscular fatigue did not differ under supersets, compared to traditional training.

Research suggests that the effects of alternating agonist and antagonist work on muscle volume are somewhat less detrimental than the effects of performing multiple sets of one exercise before performing multiple sets of another. This means that even though you are doing different movements back-to-back, you are not going to get so fatigued that you can’t work the muscle.5

The data indicates that heavy resistance training using supersets allows a greater loading to be imposed on the musculature than what’s achieved with traditional resistance exercise training, or working one muscle group. Given similar timelines, it would appear that performing agonist and antagonist work in an alternating manner such as supersets— compared to performing all sets of agonist work with one muscle group— allows for greater recovery and subsequently greater loading of the muscle.

Superset Like Schwarzenegger

Superset Like Schwarzenegger


Superset Like Schwarzenegger


Photos by Jimmy Caruso. From Muscular Development Magazine


  1. Baker D and Newton, RU. Acute effect on power output of alternating an agonist and antagonist muscle exercise during complex training. J Strength Cond Res, 19: 202-205, 2005.
  2. Robbins DW, Young WB, and Behm DG. The Effect of an Upper Body Agonist-antagonist Resistance Training Protocol on Volume Load and Efficiency. J Strength Cond Res, in press.
  3. Robbins DW, Young WB, Behm DG and Payne WR. Effects of agonist-antagonist complex resistance training on upper body strength and power development. J Sport Sci, 27: 1617-1625, 2009.
  4. Robbins DW, Young WB, Behm DG and Payne WR. The effect of a complex agonist and antagonist resistance training protocol on strength and power output, electromyographic responses and efficiency. J Strength Cond Res, 24: 1782-1789, 2010.
  5. Robbins DW, Young WB, Behm DG, Payne WR and Klimstra MD. Physical performance and electromyographic responses to an acute bout of paired set strength training versus traditional strength training. J Strength Cond Res, 24: 1237-1245, 2010.
  6. Robbins DW, Young WB and Behm DG. The effect of an upper-body agonist-antagonist resistance training protocol on volume load and efficiency. J Strength Cond Res, 2010 Oct;24(10):2632-40.
  7. Robbins DW, Young WB, Behm DG, Payne WR. Agonist-antagonist paired set resistance training: a brief review. J Strength Cond Res, 2010 Oct;24(10):2873-82.
  8. Terzis G, Spengos K, Mascher H, Georgiadis G, Manta P, Blomstrand E. The degree of p70S6k and S6 phosphorylation in human skeletal muscle in response to resistance exercise depends on the training volume. Eur J Appl Physiol, Ahead of Print.
  9. Kelleher AR, Hackney KJ, Fairchild TJ, Keslacy S, Ploutz-Snyder LL. The metabolic costs of reciprocal supersets vs. traditional resistance exercise in young recreationally active adults. J Strength Cond Res, 2010 Apr;24(4):1043-51.
  10. Lusa Cadore E, Lhullier FL, Arias Brentano M, Marczwski Da Silva E, Bueno Ambrosini M, Spinelli R, Ferrari Silva R, Martins Kruel LF. Salivary hormonal responses to resistance exercise in trained and untrained middle-aged men. J Sports Med Phys Fitness, 2009 Sep;49(3):301-7.
  11. Kraemer WJ, Hollander DB, Reeves GV, Francxois M, Ramadan ZG, Meeker B, Tryniecki JL, Hebert EP and Castracani VD. Similar hormonal responses to concentric and eccentric muscle actions using relative loading. Eur J Appl Physiol, 21: 1-7, 2005.
  12. Kraemer WJ, Loebel CC, Volek JS, Ratamess NA, Newton RU, Wickham RB, Gotshalk LA, Duncan ND, Mazzetti SA, Gomez Al, Rubin MR, Nindl BC, and Hakkinen K. The effect of heavy resistance exercise on the circadian rhythm of salivary testosterone in men. Eur J Appl Physiol, 84: 13-18, 2001.
  13. Willoughby DS and Taylor L. Effects of sequential bouts of resistance exercise on androgen receptor expression. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 36: 1499-1506, 2004.
  14. Ahtiainen JP, Pakarinen A, Alen M, Kramer WJ and Ha¨kkinen, K. Muscle hypertrophy, hormonal adaptations and strength development during strength training in strength-trained and untrained men. Eur J Appl Physiol, 89: 555-563, 2003.

Schwarzenegger A, & Dobbins B. The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, Simon & Schuster, New York. Revised and updated November 5, 1999.

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Ripped Leg Blast for Carved Thighs



Powerful and thick thighs require gut-busting exercises like squats and leg presses. However, once you have acquired adequate thigh mass and strength, you should consider adding some balance and sharpness to the muscle bellies in your thighs. Although tough to accomplish, leg extensions provide a great way to carve the separations between the muscle bellies, and to accentuate the “teardrop” shape of the four quadriceps muscles of the anterior thigh.

Active Muscles in Leg Extensions

The three vasti muscles comprise most of the anterior thigh.1 The vastus medialis covers the medial (inner) part of the femur bone (thigh bone). When it is well developed, it forms a teardrop-like shape over the medial side of the knee joint. The vastus lateralis muscle attaches to the lateral (outer) part of the femur bone. The vastus intermedius connects to the femur bone between the vastus lateralis and the vastus medialis muscles. The fibers of all three vasti muscles come together at the quadriceps tendon, which crosses the patella (kneecap) to attach to the tibia bone just below the knee.1

Together, the three vasti muscles extend the leg at the knee joint, although the vastus intermedius may be more fatigue resistant than the vastus lateralis.2 The vastus medialis oblique (VMO), which is a small part of the vastus medialis muscle, attaches to the medial part of the patella. It is thought to help the patella track properly during movement of the knee. Improper tracking can increase the likelihood for knee injury.

The vastus medialis and especially the VMO part of this muscle are primarily responsible for tibial rotation (rotation of the tibia bone of the lower leg on the femur) during knee extension. This rotation or “twist” has been shown to increase the activation of the VMO portion of the vastus lateralis even more than doing knee extensions with the hip adducted (thigh rotated so that the medial portion of the knee is facing mostly upwards).3 Dorsiflexion of the foot (moving the ankles so the toes are pointing towards your head) also increases the activation of the VMO by more than 20 percent.4 Likely this is because the dorsiflexor muscles stabilize the tibia during knee flexion and resist rotation of the tibia on the femur as the knee straightens.

The fourth muscle of the quadriceps group is the rectus femoris muscle. It attaches to the anterior part of the hip bone just above the hip joint.1 The largest bulk of the muscle fibers are located on the upper three-quarters of the thigh, whereas the largest belly of the vastus medialis and vastus lateralis are more inferior (i.e., closer to the knee). The distal end of the rectus femoris muscle becomes tendinous and it creates a deep valley between the lateral and medial vastus muscles as it approaches the knee.1 It assists the other quadriceps muscles by extending the leg at the knee joint, although it is less effective when the hip is flexed than if it is straight.

Leg Extensions

The three vastus muscles of the anterior thigh are strongly activated by single-leg knee extensions. The rectus femoris is not activated as strongly, but it does undergo some overload when the anterior thigh is under contractile effort, about halfway up to the top of each repetition.

1. You should always warm up your knees with some stationary cycling prior to getting into leg extensions. Furthermore, the resistance on your first set should be fairly light to allow the joint to fully warm up before you get to the heavier stuff.

2. Adjust the knee extension machine so that the pivot point of the lifting arm is directly adjacent to the center of the side of your knee joint.

3. Position the ankle roller/leg pad over the lower part of the leg (above the ankle joint).

4. Take about three seconds to slowly extend (straighten) both leg so that the weight is lifted upward from the stack.

5. Continue upwards until the tibia and the femur bones form a straight line and the knee angle is straight. Hold this for two seconds at the top.

6. Slowly lower the weight (about four seconds down) towards the starting position. Once the knee has reached 90 degrees, start the upwards extension phase again. Continue for 12-15 repetitions for the first set. Lower the number of repetitions but increase the resistance for subsequent sets.

7. On the next sets, lift the weight upwards until the knee joint becomes almost straight, but just slightly short of a total knee lockout. Be careful that you do not “jam” the knee joint into a fully locked out position, because this could cause knee cartilage damage5, especially with heavy weights. Hold the top position for a count of three before lowering the weight.

8. Lower the weight slowly (four to five seconds) towards the starting position where your knee is flexed to 90 degrees. Just before the weight stack contacts the remaining plates at the bottom, start lifting it upward for the next repetition.

The downward movement should be slower than the upward phase because you are resisting the pull of gravity. The slow lowering of the weight stretches the muscle under a resistance and this is a great stimulus to improve muscle shape and size.6

Make sure that you do not hold your breath during the lift upwards.7 Rather take a breath at the bottom (start) of the lift, and exhale as you extend the knees/legs. Take another breath at the top and slowly exhale as the weight is lowered. Take another breath at the bottom and repeat the sequence.

This is a mechanically simply exercise, but it really can be very challenging and blood depriving8,9, especially if you try to control the weight as it is moving up and down. However, if you are willing to work through some discomfort, you will be soon enjoying your new shape and slabs of carved thighs.

GettyImages 674163248 600


1. Moore K.L. Clinically Orientated Anatomy. Third Edition. Williams & Willkins, Baltimore, 1995; pp 373-500.

2. Watanabe K, Akima H. Neuromuscular activation of vastus intermedius muscle during fatiguing exercise. J Electromyogr Kinesiol 2010;20:661-666.

3. Stoutenberg M, Pluchino AP, Ma F et al. The impact of foot position on electromyographical activity of the superficial quadriceps muscles during leg extension. J Strength Cond Res 2005;19:931-938.

4. Coburn JW, Housh TJ, Cramer JT et al. Mechanomyographic and electromyographic responses of the vastus medialis muscle during isometric and concentric muscle actions. J Strength Cond Res 2005; 19:412-420.

5. Senter C, Hame SL. Biomechanical analysis of tibial torque and knee flexion angle: implications for understanding knee injury. Sports Med 2006;36:635-641.

6. Alway SE, Winchester PK, Davis ME et al. Regionalized adaptations and muscle fiber proliferation in stretch- induced enlargement. J Appl Physiol 1989;66:771-781.

7. Garber CE, Blissmer B, Deschenes MR et al. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: guidance for prescribing exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2011;43:1334-1359.

8. Denis R, Bringard A, Perrey S. Vastus lateralis oxygenation dynamics during maximal fatiguing concentric and eccentric isokinetic muscle actions. J Electromyogr Kinesiol 2011;21:276-282.

9. Ueda C, Kagaya A. Muscle reoxygenation difference between superficial and deep regions of the muscles during static knee extension. Adv Exp Med Biol 2010;662:329-334.

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By: Stephen E. Alway, Ph.D., FACSM
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PRIMAL Preworkout



Training hard and intensely is the only way to train – you can’t step into the gym in low gear or
asleep at the switch and expect results. To get the most out of every training session with no
compromises, you need a pre-workout that will power your performance and enable you to crush
it every time you train. Bottom line, you need to maximize your workouts by pushing yourself to
your limits and that’s what Animal’s PRIMAL Preworkout delivers.

A Better Pump

PRIMAL is Animal’s most comprehensive pre-workout supplement ever, and is scientifically
designed for the advanced, hard trainer. Animal worked tirelessly to find the right combination of
ingredients that could be worthy of the Animal name. First on the agenda was giving you a better
pump, which is why PRIMAL Preworkout is empowered with the breakthrough, patented
3DPump-Breakthrough ® . Not only does it increase nitric oxide for the valued “pump,” but it also
helps increase exercise capacity and endurance and helps optimize vascular endothelial function,
aka vascularity.†

Other key benefits of PRIMAL come from four scientifically formulated blends that work in tandem
to deliver the ultimate pre-workout:

• Endurance & Performance Complex so you can train longer and harder. Beta-alanine,
betaine and taurine are combined as a powerful endurance trio†. Beta-alanine is a vital ingredient
used to combat the urge to quit.

• Focus & Intensity Complex helps you keep your head in the iron game so you train hard and
maintain focus. Includes the amino acid tyrosine, which is involved in neurotransmitter production;
Huperzine A for brain health; and choline bitartrate, which supports energy metabolism and helps
the brain send messages for improved mental endurance and focus†.

This blend is completed with the patented Teacrine ® . Among its many benefits includes increases
in energy without the jittery feeling, increases in motivation to accomplish tasks, mental energy
and decreases in feeling of fatigue†.

• Quick and Sustained Energy Complex is the energy core of PRIMAL Preworkout . It is
powered by a combination of tried-and-true caffeine, along with an herbal complex of green tea,
coffee bean extract and guarana†.

• Electrolyte Complex to support muscle hydration and help get you through those intense
training sessions – because proper hydration is key for maximal performance. PRIMAL
Preworkout tops it off with a combination of AstraGin ® to support nutrient uptake and Senactiv,
which helps the production of citrate synthase, an important enzyme that is responsible for
producing more ATP†.

How to Use PRIMAL
30 minutes prior to training, consume 2 rounded scoops (20.3g) with 8-12 oz of water or your
favorite beverage. Users that are sensitive to stimulants should start off with 1 rounded scoop
(10.1g) to assess tolerance.

PRIMAL Preworkout

• Enhances energy and endurance†
• Supports muscle hydration†
• Supports intense focus†
• Contains AstraGin ® to support nutrient uptake†
• Contains Senactiv ® which helps the production of citrate synthase, an important enzyme that is
responsible for producing more ATP†
• Absorption and nutrient enhancers
• Great tasting, easy to mix

PRIMAL is a pre-workout that will power your performance and enable you to crush it every time you train.

For additional information, visit
†These statements have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This product is not
intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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Title: PRIMAL Preworkout
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