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‘Death By’ Sets Will Have You Seeing Stars…And Gains

September 30, 2016

Anyone who has ever picked up a weight before knows the feeling of ‘the pump.’ It involves your muscles filling with blood and swelling to their biggest potential size — Arnold Schwarzenegger often referred to it as the best feeling in the gym.

Not many people understand what a pump is. It must be experienced to be understood. It is the greatest feeling that I get. I search for this pump because it means that that my muscles will grow when I get it. I get a pump when the blood is running into my muscles. They become really tight with blood. Like the skin is going to explode any minute. It’s like someone putting air in my muscles. It blows up. It feels fantastic.

– Arnold

What’s actually going on when you get a pump is this; lifting a weight creates microtrauma in your muscles, this causes blood to seep out from capillaries and fill your muscles, as this occurs nutrients are delivered to muscle cells thus setting the stage for recovery and eventually bigger muscles.

I recently stumbled upon a training technique employed by Coach Christian Thibaudeau that uses moderate weight – the amount you can lift for 6 to 8 reps – to create extra microtrauma, force more blood flow to the muscles, and create more growth.

It’s called a ‘Death By’ set and should be used sparingly (I would say pick one movement per workout, and definitely make it an isolation movement – i.e. curls, push downs, skull crushers, lat raise, etc.).

Here’s how it works.

Start with a weight you can do for 6-8 reps. The number you get isn’t important, this is just to help you pick the best weight to start with.

Go to failure. The last rep should be tough, but you should be able to do the full rep in good form. Don’t try to do half of a ninth rep and then fail. Remember, contractile failure means completing a FULL rep and not being able to do another full rep.

Rest for 10 seconds.

Using the same weight resume the set and once again go to failure.

Continue the pattern: reps to failure, 10 second pause, reps to failure, 10 second pause… until you reach a point where you know you can’t possibly get one more full rep.

And for visual learners (including yours truly) this video lays it out pretty well.

Extra Tip:

If you are going to employ these then you definitely need to have your nutrition in line. A postworkout Muscle Milk and banana won’t cut it. I’d suggest the following; during your workout drink a combination of maltodextrin or powdered Gatorade with either whey protein or BCAA powder, after your workout have a high protein, high carb shake and a big protein and carb filled meal.

A lot of guys ignore the nutrition aspect of training and really miss out (a topic for a later post), but a little self-experimentation will show you how valuable well timed protein and carb consumption can be. If you don’t believe me try this; perform your normal workout with no nutrition during training, and just a simple protein shake/piece of fruit combo afterwards. A week later, perform the same workout following the nutrition protocol I mentioned before (shake during training, and a big shake followed by a meal after training). Over the following hours and the next day pay attention to how your muscles look and feel. I think you’ll find that your muscles have a much fuller, more defined look when employing the appropriate post workout nutritional protocol.