Category Archives: Weider Principles

Weider’s Drop Sets Principle

Drop sets are another age-old Weider training principle that is still used by today’s bodybuilders. A single drop set involves reaching failure on any given set and then, without any rest, continuing by decreasing the weight and continuing with a consecutive set. The weight then can be decreased repeatedly to perform multiple drop sets.

Drop sets are a high intensity technique and are an easy way to add volume to a workout. With any given set, once failure is reached you’re taking the muscles beyond failure, with a lighter weight. The end result is that the time under tension is increased and the muscles are pumped full of blood beyond what can be obtained through a traditional set.

Being that drop sets are a high intensity technique, they should be used when traditional methods of training have lead to a plateau and to shock the muscles into new growth.

When drop sets are applied to heavy compound exercises like the bench press and squat, new growth has to occur provided adequate rest. In fact you can expect severe muscle soreness and will need to rest before working that same muscle group again.

Drop sets used for smaller isolation exercises, such as side lateral raises and barbell curl, can be performed more frequently and are less likely to burn out your nervous system.

If you are new to this technique try only using a two or three drop sets for compound exercises at first to test how your body responds to this type of training. I myself have done as many as 10 drop set in the squat and within a few days my legs are so sore I can barely move the rest of the week making it difficult to complete my other workouts.

In contrast, I can literally run the rack with side lateral raises performing over a 100 reps and don’t experience any muscles soreness even though my delts and traps are screaming from a lactic acid burn at the end of each drop set.

Everyone’s body is different and like all Weider principles experimentation is the key to success. If you have reached a plateau in your training or have a lagging body part you want to bring up, give this high intensity technique a try.

Weider’s Muscle Confusion Principle

It might be confusing to understand but muscles have memory. Joe Weider was well aware of this phenomena and as a result introduced the principle of muscle confusion.

Muscles learn the sequence of a physical endeavor and fire certain motors nerves accordingly to work as efficiently as possible. As you begin to learn a new physical skill you progressively become more and more efficient at that movement. The same effect occurs during your workout.

As you begin to repeat the same workout your muscles start remembering the variables of the workout, such as the order of exercises, the amount of rest between sets, the rep ranges used, rep speed, volume, intensity, and etc.

While your muscle are learning the workout they are under a considerable amount of stress. Once complete motor learning has occurred the results you obtain from this workout slowly start to diminish.

In order to keep things moving it is important to mix things up. Instead of giving your muscles a chance to fully adapt to your workouts throw in something different so the muscles never quite know what to expect.

For example, instead of doing bench press followed by incline press followed by flyes. The order can be reversed. The flyes will pre-exhaust your chest and the strength of the arms and shoulder can be used to further punish the chest – leaving the pectorals muscles screaming.

Instead of using heavy weight and resting long between sets – drop the weight and try only resting 30 seconds between sets and no more than a minutes between exercises.

Which variables you decide to change does not matter. Just as long as you ensure something is being continuously changed in your workout. The bottom line is that your muscles will not adapt to your workouts and gains will not start to diminish.

Weider’s Pre-exhaustion Principle

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Pre-exhaustion is one of the Weider principles and is a type of compound set that uses an isolation exercise followed by a compound movement.

The idea is to fatigue the muscle as much as possible using the isolation exercise and then work the small muscle further by using other large muscles.

For example, you could pre-exhaust your medial delts with side lateral raises before switching to the overhead press where triceps strength can be used to further punish the delts.

Other popular pre-exhaustion compounds are leg extensions and leg press for quads, flyes and dumbbell press for chest, leg curl and Romanian deadlift for hamstrings, and barbell curls and chin-ups for the biceps.

Whatever complex you choose it is important that these exercises are done with no rest in-between. That means you need to find a place in the gym where you can perform both of these exercises without any interruption at all.

If you haven’t used the pre-exhaustion principle in your training you are missing out on a highly effective tool. You will experience a burn in your muscles that will force your muscles grow.

Rep Pyramid Training

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If you are going to sculpt your body you need to have the right tools. Throughout his lifetime, Joe Weider coached countless famous bodybuilders formulating what are now known as the Weider Principles. Some of these principles have been forgotten while some of them evolved such as the Weider Pyramid Principle.

The pyramid training principle involves varying rep range while decreasing or increasing the amount of resistance each successive set. The most common method is to move from lighter to heavier weights for an exercise by starting with high reps and a light weight, and then gradually increasing the weight while decreasing the reps each successive set.

This type of pyramid allow bodybuilders to sufficiently warm up prior to performing the last set with maximal exertion. For example, if you were to use pyramid training for barbell cheat rows your pyramid may look something like this:

  • Barbell Cheat Row
    • 135 lbs x 12 reps
    • 205 lbs x 7 reps
    • 275 lbs x 5 reps
    • 325 lbs x 3 reps

It is important to note that the first two to three sets act as a warm up and are not performed to failure. Failure is reached only on the final set as a new PR is attempted.

There are other types of pyramids; however, I find this type of pyramid is the most beneficial. In order to prepare for maximal exertion multiple warm up sets need to be performed.

Arnold Schwarzenegger would sometimes use pyramid training in order to shock the muscles. He would commonly reverse the order of the pyramid starting with the heaviest weight he could handle for only a few reps and then have his training partner pull off a few plates and then continue in the fashion until all the weight was completely stripped from the bar.

I use pyramid training at the beginning of each pull workout for the first exercise in order to warm up. After that I usually can switch to the next pulling exercise without any additional warm up sets with the exception of isolation movements.

Weider’s Principle of Isolation

Joe Weider introduced the principle of isolation into bodybuilding – laying the foundation for split system training. Isolation exercises don’t truly exist. Regardless of the type of exercise one way or another body momentum can be generated in muscles of the core as well.

For example, the bench press is a well known compound movement that works the chest, shoulders, and triceps. However, almost any Powerlifter will tell you how important lat involvement is, as well as leg drive. And even an isolation movement like front lateral raise uses the muscles of the forearm to grip the weight and core muscles for stabilization.

In fact, some bodybuilders such as Mike Mentzer claimed they didn’t even need to train certain body parts such as the calves, forearms, and abdominal muscles because of all the secondary stress placed on these muscles from other exercises.

However, in order to continue to push the muscles harder – as bodybuilders advance from beginner to intermediate and then to advanced – workouts need to be split allowing for isolation.

Basic beginner and intermediate routines, such as upper/lower body and push/pull workouts, rely heavily on large compound muscles as the objective is to work multiple muscles group in one workout.

As the routine transitions from intermediate to advanced, the program becomes split into smaller segments allowing more isolated work to be done in each area.

Extreme examples are when bodybuilders isolate each individual muscle group into a separate workout and train twice a day, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger when preparing for Mr. Olympia. This type of training is really advanced and involves training each muscle group with as many as 30 sets.

It is at this point the principle of isolation is most evident. Any overlaps in the muscles being worked would quickly result in overtraining.

So when choosing isolation exercises remember to pay attention to the secondary stress placed on other muscles and the arrangement of exercises within your training split.

Weider’s Muscle Priority Principle

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Muscle priority is a principle that is evidently lacking in most modern exercise programs. And those that do employ this Weider Principle often do so unawares yielding bizarre results. The most common example of this is the gym goer that accidently transforms their physique into that of a bench presser with a huge upper body and chicken legs.

This occurs because there is far too much emphasis placed on exercises such as the bench press as the ultimate test of power. As a result many new comers unknowingly design their programs around the bench press. This mean that chest day is usually done the first within a training cycle and the bench press is always the first exercise in the workout. Some might even include a heavy and a light day each week for bench press while only squatting once a week and deadlifting every second week. The emphasis placed on this exercise generates a huge imbalance.

Muscle priority can be used to specialize in a certain area such as the bench press but it should be more effectively used by bodybuilder’s to bring up a weak point.

For example, if your goal is to add an extra inch to your calves over the next year this could be done by placing calves first in each workout. The calves can’t be over trained so if this body part is lagging there is no point in tip toeing around the problem. If you are really serious you will take action such as Arnold Schwarzenegger did when he needed to bring up his calves. Not only did he train them obsessively but went beyond his regular gym routines and cut the les off of every pair of pan he owned so that his lagging calves would be revealed to everyone. And as a result he hit his calves hard until they became another focal point of his physique.

Another example is upper chest and the “tie in” between the delts. Using Weider’s muscle priority principle one would place chest first within the sequence of workouts in the program. This individual would also ensure incline movements such as the incline bench presses, incline dumbbell press, and incline flyes are done first in workout with full energy before moving on to the flat bench n decline exercise.

So if you have any lagging body parts don’t ignore them. Use Weider’s muscle priority principle and ensure lagging muscle groups are placed first within your training program and perform exercises specific to this area.

Weider’s Staggered Sets Principle

Joe Weider’s staggered sets principle involves alternating small muscle group exercises into a regular large muscle group workout in order to do two things. It allows the large muscle to rest while the small muscles are being worked. Secondly, it can be used to bring up a lagging body part by shocking a muscle – allowing the completion of copious sets that otherwise would never get completed.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is known for beginning or finishing a workout with an insane amount of abdominal work such as 10 minutes of roman chair sit-ups or 1000 crunches. Very few people have the mental stamina to do this amount of training set after set, rep after rep, as the muscles burn like they have been set on fire.

Another approach is to stagger abdominal work in between potentially each set while training larger muscles. For example, while training chest, back, or legs try various combinations of exercises you can alternate – a set of crunches with bench presses, leg raises with barbell rows, or roman chair sit-ups with back squats. Training the abdominals in this fashion can literally add 20 to 30 sets of work being completed. It also gives you a chance to rest and recover from a set of heavy bench presses, barbell rows, or squats which sometimes require 2 to 3 minutes or more of rest.

Staggered sets can also be used to bring up other small muscle groups or areas lagging behind such as rear delts, biceps, or calves. Try scheduling these smaller muscle groups with large antagonistic muscle groups – chest and biceps, back and triceps, or shoulders and calves – for several weeks and see what happens.

If anything, staggered sets will really confuse the crap out of the muscles and a variety of fun workouts can be designed using this principle. The Weider training principles have endured the test of time for a reason – they work.

Supersets for Superman Muscles

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Joe Weider’s superset training principle involves working two antagonistic muscle groups back to back without any rest. Supersets increase the vasculature of muscles as blood is pumped into one muscle group and then pulled out in order to be pumped into the antagonistic muscle group.

The physiological benefits of blood being pumped in and out of the muscles are not completely known. Arnold Schwarzenegger referred to this phenomenon as “The Pump” and used superset training extensively in his training. The most popular common antagonist muscle groups trained are: chest and back, biceps, and triceps, quads and hamstrings.

The most effective supersets training are volume programs. In order to generate a physiological adaptation the volume of work needs to be quantified and recorded. Submaximal weights are often used so a prescribed number of sets and reps can be performed.

The amount of rest between sets also needs to be timed and recorded. For example, you might start with rest intervals of 30 seconds and then as you begin to add weight overtime you might be allowing yourself to unknowingly rest longer. Most mobile devices have timers that can be set or you can use your wrist watch.

Overtime you can slowly add weight to both exercises or decrease the amount of rest between sets to progressively overload the muscles.

Weider’s Forced Reps Principle

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Forced reps involve doing an exercise to failure and then continuing to push out an extra rep or two with the help of a training partner. Forced reps are an advanced technique and generate a lot of muscle soreness so there is no reason to exceed three forced reps. If you are able to do more than three forced reps chances are that you didn’t really push yourself to failure.

Forced reps are intended for workouts that use a limited number of work sets. Most often several sets are performed to warm up the muscles before doing a work set. It is only during this top set that failure is reached.

In contrast, this principle can’t be applied to volume programs that are based on a specified number of sets and reps such as the StrongLifts 5 x 5 program, than forced reps won’t work as you are not training to failure on any of these sets.

If you are like me and train alone this is one less tool I have to work with. If you go to a local gym you will always have someone around that can spot you for a set or two. Even one really hard set done with a spotter with a couple forced reps is enough to make serious gains.

Giant Sets for Hulk Muscles

Joe Weider has been branded as the father of modern bodybuilder similar to how Lou Ferrigno has been branded as the incredible hulk.
Weider’s principle of giants sets have been used by giants like Ferrigno who used giants sets in the off-season performing four or more exercises back-to-back without taking any rest.

Giants sets are a high intensity technique that can be applied to a workout in many ways. Any combination of exercises can be performed back-to-back to create a giant set.

In practice giants sets are typically used to train a specific area such as upper body, lower body, shoulders, arms, or abdominal muscles. The exercises chosen and the order they are performed in doesn’t matter. For example, if doing a giant set for your chest your might start with isolation exercise like the dumbbell flyes first and finish with presses.

The next workout you might want to reverse order or switch in different exercises. The combinations don’t matter. What is important is that you are able to complete the entire giant set without stopping, rest for 2 to 3 minutes, and then repeat 3 or 4 times.