Ask the Coach” is the column in which Wolfgang Unsöld answers your questions about training and nutrition. The book of the same name was published by Riva Verlag and Available right here on Amazon.
Question: With the heavy/light system, how would you design the lower body program? Upper body is clear. The training is metabolic with the aim of building muscle, e.g.:
A1 LH Squat, heels up 4×4-6 5010 10sec
A2 LH Hack Squat 4×8-12 3010 120sec
B1 LH Romanian Deadlift 4×4-6 5010 10sec
B2 leg curls 8-12 3010 120sec
I welcome suggestions! Oliver F
WU: The heavy/light system is a very good muscle building option and is characterized by performing two exercises for the same muscle group in a superset with no rest in between, with 1 to 8 reps for the first exercise and 4 to 15 reps for the second exercise. The basic idea of the Heavy/Light System is a metabolic stimulus paired with increased local fatigue through the combination of exercises. 4-6 + 8-12 reps has a greater metabolic stimulus than 12-18 reps in a row, even if they're the identical reps, the average stimulus is significantly higher. The benefits of the training system are very similar to the 6+6 system I presented in the article A Training Plan for Fat Loss.
The basic structure of your program example is good, but raises a few questions in detail. These questions and their answer based on specific program design principles as follows:
Why LH Hack Squats?
LH hack squats are an exercise that is very limited individually. The longer the torso compared to the arms, the more the butt gets in the way. And the more gluteus dominant a person is, the more the torso will compensate during the exercise, which will also reduce the training effect on the quadriceps. These are primarily the two reasons I don't use any LH hack squats. There are a number of exercises that do the same job significantly better.
Why 4 to 6 reps in the Romanian Deadlift?
The Romanian deadlift primarily works the hamstrings as a focused link in the posterior chain. Since the hamstrings are statistically always dominant as a hip extensor in mixed or slow twitch, it makes sense to train the Romanian deadlift in combination with leg curls as the second exercise of the superset with higher repetitions.
Why 8-12 reps on leg curls?
The hamstrings are basically a primarily fast-twitch dominant muscle due to their everyday function. Especially as a squatter, it is hardly possible for the leg biceps to do more than 8 repetitions in the training-relevant area of 70% of the 1RM. I've trained fast-twitch dominant athletes who could only do 4 reps at 70% of 1RM on leg curls. Thus, a repetition range of 8 to 12, especially in a pre-tired state, will hardly allow progression beyond 6 training units.
Why Romanian Deadlifts Before Leg Curls?
If the last two questions are answered, in this combination the leg curl is the more fast-twitch dominant hamstring exercise and the Romanian deadlift is the more slow-twitch dominant hamstring exercise. Based on one of the most important principles in the exercise design hierarchy, neural complexity, placing the leg curl before the Romanian deadlift is critical to allow for consistent progression.
Why only 120 seconds rest after the superset?
As mentioned in your question, the primary focus of the heavy/light system is metabolic, ie the stimulus is aimed at optimizing and increasing metabolic adaptations. In the context of muscle building, local metabolic adjustments due to local fatigue are far more critical than global metabolic adjustments due to global fatigue. Simple example, a marathon runner primarily trains Global Fatigue Adaptation. His goal is to move his body over a distance of 42km as quickly as possible without overly tiring. Muscle building in this scenario is very limited. In contrast, the bodybuilder tries to maximize local fatigue by doing multiple, multi-set exercises for a muscle and even doing 30 to 45 sets for a single muscle in one workout. With the aim of maximum local adaptation and thus maximum muscle growth. This adaptation to local fatigue is one of the most important mechanisms of muscle building. Now if I set the rest after a superset to 120 seconds. What form of fatigue am I focusing on? The local or global fatigue. The answer is very clear: global fatigue. This very short break of only 120 seconds will result in the training weight and thus the training stimulus and local muscle fatigue being significantly lower. Which is exactly contrary to the goal of maximum local fatigue.
Why 5 Second Eccentric Tempo LH Squat and Romanian Deadlift in the Metabolic Zone?
The eccentric repetition is crucial for the muscle and strength building stimulus. However, a relevant training stimulus of a longer eccentric contraction is based on tension and thus the training weight used. This means that the higher the training volume of a program and the lower the average intensity in relation to 1RM, the less crucial, necessary and useful a very controlled slow eccentric contraction is.
Why only 4 sets in supersets?
With a superset duration of approx. 4 to 4.5 minutes including a break, 8 supersets per training unit are a very short training unit. The goal of building muscle is a training goal that is basically very volume-oriented, which means that more volume and thus using the full training time of up to 60 minutes is the goal.
Based on the answers above, an example that follows the program design principles is this training program:
A1 LH Squat, 5 sets of 4 to 6 reps, 4010 tempo, 10s rest
A2 LH Squat, heels up 5 sets of 8-12 reps, 3010 tempo, 180s rest
B1 Leg Curls 5 sets of 4 to 6 reps, 4010 tempo, 10s rest
B2 LH Romanian Deadlift 5 sets of 8-12 reps, 3010 tempo, 180s rest
This program looks very similar to the above, but in practice will result in more consistent progress and greater metabolic stimulus and therefore greater stimulus to muscle building.
Good luck with the Heavy/Light Lower Body System!
More about the program design principles and their application in the creation of structured, success-oriented training programs in the YPSI Program Design Seminar (Module 3) and in the YPSI Advanced Program Design & Periodization Seminar
In the coming year, another print book will also be released, the "YPSI Trainer Handbook" as accompanying literature for the YPSI Trainer B license with the primary focus on program design principles, methods and systems.
Image: A computer and a piece of paper, along with program design principles, are the most important tools for creating a training program that enables constant progress.