“The truth was a mirror in the hands of God. It fell, and broke into pieces. Everybody took a piece of it, and they looked at it and thought they had the truth.” Rumi

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Being an entrepreneur means there are many times when my workouts are reduced to “get in, get it done, and get the hell out”.  Not my preferred method (as I’m one of those who really likes hanging out in a gym), but for me — and, I’m sure, many of you — not working out is simply *not* an option.  So if that case (and you’re time crunched), you just have to be a bit more crafty than the average bear.  Tuth is, getting a great workout in under a time-deprived scenario is really no problem at all, if you employ the correct tools and methodologies.

In fact, get in, get swole, and get out *is* our business niche at Efficient Exercise.  And ARXFit technology is, of course, one of the tools we incorporate to pull off blisteringly quick, comprehensive and effective workouts.  However, if if you’re not lucky enough to have access to an EE studio or ARXFit machines, there are still some old school methods at your disposal.

If hypertrophy is the goal, let’s cut to the chase

The name of the game when we’re crafting no-time-for-bullshit workouts is figuring out a way to entice the fast twitch fibers, in a timely manner, to come out and play.  Fast twitch fibers carry the most growth potential, so strategically targeting those fibers is a must.  No matter how much time we have to devote to the day’s workout, the thrust of a hypertrophy-focused workout has to be centered on fast twitch activation/stress in the target musculature.

The opening act…

About as many of us go to a concert to see the opening act as who vote specifically for the vice president.  The same goes for training the slow twitch muscle fibers.  Those fibers are, though — like opening acts and vice presidents — just a necessary part of the gig.

Now, the above analogy isn’t totally correct as we’ve come to discover there is a continuum of fiber types rather than the old 2 or 3 bucket model we were taught back in the day.  However, in the real-world sense of what we can affect with our current tools — and more specifically, as related to hypertrophy — the analogy more than holds water.  The moral of the story being that the slow twitch fibers don’t contribute much to the grand total of a muscle’s overall hypertrophy potential.  And yet, they are the first to engage when we lift.  Until, that is, the fast twitch fibers (those with the most hypertrophy potential) are forced to commit.

Again, we’re really talking about a continuum of fiber types, not just slow, intermediate and fast groupings we’re more familiar with.  And again, thinking about them as being in 3 (or even 2) buckets is fine, vis-a-vis our available methodologies and tools.

So, could we simply bypass all the hoopla, and jump immediately to nailing the fast twitch fibers?  Well, yeah…but the required combination of force, load, and / or speed would *greatly* enhance injury potential.  There’s just no need to jump into this type of exercise cold. Not even if time is an issue.  Hell, it just doesn’t take that long to ramp up properly.  And I’ve seen time and time again (contrary to purist HIT belief), that maximum forces *cannot* be produced without an adequate lead in.  At least, not under non life threatening circumstances.

A method to the madness

Quickly pre-exhausting the slow twitch fibers so as to tap into the fast via “ascending ladder” sets is as old as bodybuilding itself.  Then, back around 2005, the erudite Art Devany coined the term “hierarchical sets” to set about to better describe the methodology.  I’ve appreciated his work on that front, and I’ve since adopted that more descriptive term myself.

The method establishes establishes a great way to quickly both “warm up”, and move through the hierarchy of muscle fibers, taxing them all (slow, intermediate, fast twitch) in the process.

We’ll begin with a relatively light weight for 15 reps, rest 10-20 seconds (just long enough to add weight), hit another set of about 8 with the heavier weight, rest 10-20 seconds (again, just long enough to add weight), then hit one last set of about 4-5 reps.

The weight selected for each of the first 2 sets should be such that we’re about 1 rep from total failure.  The 20-ish second rest period is just enough to reload ATP in the muscle.  And yes, the total round should leave you gasping for breath.

As well, I’ll sometimes morph into a rest-pause scenario for the final set, hitting 4 or 5 singles in that manner.  Or, I’ll utilize an ARXFit set of a couple of reps to finish things off.

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A couple of examples:

A1) EZ Bi culs (hierarchical): 15 at 65, 8 at 85, 5 at 105

B1) EZ tri extensions (hierarchical):15 at 85, 8 at 105, 5 at 125

Rest between sets just long enough to change weight.


A1) banded hip press (hierarchical): 345 + thick green/15; 400 + thick green/8 —–> ARXFit Leg press x 2

B1) dips (hierarchical): 35/15; 60/8, 70/4

As well, it strikes me as curious that all of the most effective return-on-time-investment hypertrophy strategies all come in at about 25 total reps. For instance, we have:

Must be something to this 25-ish number.  So, if you’re crafting your own n=1 workouts, keep that in mind.  Also, keep in mind that directional accuracy is what really matters.  Training is *not* a paint-by-numbers game.  For more on that, se my Reps, Reps, and More Damn Reps post.

Heal thyself, harden thyself, change the world –



  1. Then we have the classic Delorme protocol: 3×10 at 50%, 75%, and 100% of the target weight. Or if you prefer 25 reps: 10 @ 50%, 5 @ 75%, 10 or AMRAP @ 100%. The first two sets are a good warmup, rest a little longer before the final effort. Still get done pretty quickly.


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