MED Training: Micro-Loading / Extended-Set / Drop-Set Training

The latest, greatest training program for muscle mass

Yeah, it's a mouthful of words and a muscle-full of techniques we forged together into one brutal, exhausting, and unapologetic method for building muscle mass. So, if you dig deep and stay strong through all six weeks of the MED Training program, your reward will be a lot of fresh new muscle. And if you've tried any of our programs so far, you know we do not make empty promises. We also don't make easy programs! But then easy does not deliver the results you have come to expect from my programs.


Let’s break down the three different techniques that are combined into MED Training.

Each offers a specific benefit. And no,we did not choose them just to be sadistic. Although you may think so when you do the MED workouts or are recovering from them. Get ready for a whole new experience of muscle destruction and repair. Not only will you have severe Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) in your legs, but every muscle group, including abs, traps, and even forearms, will be suffering from DOMS during these six weeks.


Supplementing To Help With DOMS:

DOMS is a serious problem, because when it sets in, it not only affect the muscles experiencing it, but your training intensity of your other muscles. Here are some tips to help alleviate DOMS, so you can keep your volume up high:

  1. Eat 1.5g of protein per bodyweight consistently. This will ensure adequate amino acids to not only recover, but grow the muscle.
  2. Use protease enzymes including trypsin, bromelain, chymotrypsin and papain for their anti-inflammatory properties.
  3. Use BIO-GRO™ Bio-Active Peptides regularly to decrease recovery time by speeding protein synthesis. If you are under 200 pounds, you will take 4 servings per day, over 200 and you’ll want 6 servings of this clinically researched muscle builder.
  4. Ensure you’re getting enough BCAAs, and in particular Leucine like that found in AMINO-GRO®. This will stimulate a specific metabolic pathway called the mTor pathway which signals protein synthesis for faster muscular repair.
  5. Some people use moderate amounts of NSAIDs like ibuprophen to decrease swelling, however you must do your own research on this over the counter drug to see if it is right for you.

Technique #1: Micro-Loading

Micro-loading is the technique of increasing the weight of your working sets each week by the smallest increments possible. In some cases, when half pound and quarter pound weights (usually magnetic ones) are available, you can increase the weight by as small as half a pound (about 0.25 kg). But most gyms have 1 1/4 pound plates as the smallest. Some gyms go only as low as 2.5 pounds. So use what you have to work with depending on your gym.

For example, if the smallest weight plates your gym has are 2.5 pounders, then you will micro-load each week using five pounds on barbell exercises such as the bench press and rows, as well as Smith machine exercises. Most gyms have dumbbells that increase by five-pound increments. That means you will micro-load all dumbbell exercises, such as dumbbell lateral raises and dumbbell presses by five pounds per arm for a total of 10 pounds.

In all intent and purposes, micro-loading is a version of periodization with microcycles since you change the weight you are using each week. With micro-loading, you change the weight by the smallest amount possible with no concern for the precise rep range you end up in. In fact, many of you will be able to maintain the same rep range you did the previous week with the heavier weight. The weight increase is so small the body is somewhat "tricked" into adapting to the heavier weight and being able to complete the same number of reps with this heavier weight. This is due to the fact that the body doesn't really sense the weight as being heavier because it is such a minute increase each week. So your goal is to actually shoot for the same eight- to ten-rep range that you have been doing during the first week of MED Training. Of course, don't be disappointed if you don't hit it. You will still be significantly stronger by the end of the program. Not to mention much bigger.

Technique #2: Extended Sets

Extended set training is a technique that allows you to, well, extend the set. So do drop sets and forced reps and rest-pause sets, technically. But more specifically, extended sets involve doing an exercise until you hit muscle failure and then immediately moving to a different version of that same exercise that puts you at a biomechanical advantage, making the exercise easier, which allows you to continue the set.

For example, you are stronger on reverse-grip pulldowns than you are on regular pulldowns using an overhand grip. This is because the reverse grip allows your lats to get more assistance from the biceps and even the pecs than when you use an overhand grip. So using these two exercises as an example, you do pulldowns with an overhand grip until failure. Then you immediately switch to an underhand grip to continue doing reps until you reach failure again.

But the set does not end there! After you hit muscle failure following the extended set, you will then do a drop set and start back over with the first exercise (in this case the overhand pulldown) and then do an extended set (in this case moving to the reverse-grip pulldown).

Technique #3: Drop Sets

Most of you are very familiar with drop sets since I use them a lot in my training programs. That's because it's an easy way to increase the intensity of your training by taking sets past muscle failure. To do a drop set, you take a set to failure and then you immediately reduce the weight by about 20-30% and continue doing reps until hitting muscular failure again. Research shows that taking sets to failure may be the most critical aspect of training to adequately boost muscle protein synthesis and, therefore, muscle growth. In fact, studies comparing very light weights (about 20 to 30 rep sets) to moderate weight (about 8 to 12 rep sets) and very heavy weight (about 4 to 5 rep sets) show all can boost muscle protein synthesis similarly as long as all sets are taken to failure. Drop sets not only allow you to take each set to failure but allow you to take the set past failure. So does extended set training. And combining them can really push muscle growth forward.


Benching With Bands or Chains

A critical benefit of elastic resistance or additional chains is that it prevents the user from "cheating" on the exercise being performed6. This is a common practice, especially for beginners, when using free weights. Cheating involves the use of momentum to get the weight moving. Once the weight has built up momentum, the muscle fibers do not need to be maximally activated to continue moving the weight throughout the rest of the range of motion of the exercise. This is due to the fact that the physics of momentum have taken over to move the weight. The physical properties of elastic resistance devices do not allow the user to cheat by using momentum. This is because the resistance from the elastic equipment comes from the stretching of the elastic material and not the mass of the elastic equipment. The only way to continue a movement while performing an exercise with elastic resistance is to utilize more muscle fibers in the exercising muscle to continue stretching the elastic material.


MED Training in Detail

Now that you are familiar with the three major techniques we incorporate into MED Training, let’s break it all down for you. You will start in week 1 with a weight you can do for about 8 to 10 reps on the first exercise of each extended set. In week 2, you will increase that weight by the smallest increment possible. In week 3, you will increase that weight again by the smallest increment possible.

Then in week 4, you actually drop the weight back down to the same weight you used in week 2. However, you should be able to complete more reps in week 4 with that weight than you were able to complete in week 2. Then in week 5, you increase the weight again so you are using the same weight used in week 3. And finally in week 6, you increase the weight again by the smallest increment possible.

You will do one "set" per "exercise" with MED Training. But no, this is NOT High Intensity Training (HIT, not to be confused with HIIT) popularized by Mike Mentzer years ago. The one MED set is far from the typical set. Using the pull downs discussed above as an example, a typical MED set in week 1 will look like this:

Start with the pull down using an overhand grip. Perform 8 to 10 reps to failure or just shy of failure. Immediately do an extended set by switching to reverse-grip pull downs using the same weight you used on overhand pull downs. Do as many reps as you can of reverse-grip pull downs until you hit failure. Now immediately reduce the weight by 20 to 30% (although you will need to play with the percent you drop by, as some will do better with 10 to 15% drop in weight) and start back with pull downs using an overhand grip.

Do as many reps as you can until you hit muscle failure. Then jump right into an extended set by switching to reverse-grip pull downs with the same weight and do those until you hit muscle failure. Next you will reduce the weight again by about 20 to 30% and then go right back into pull downs with an overhand grip until you reach muscle failure. From there you go right into an extended set by moving to reverse-grip pull downs with that same weight until you hit muscle failure. Now you will reduce the weight by 20 to 30% a third and final time.

Immediately move back to pull downs with an overhand grip until you hit failure. Then immediately do an extended set by switching to reverse-grip pull downs until you hit failure. Now the MED set is finally complete. So, this one MED set is technically eight sets in one. But since you don't really get a traditional rest period, it is considered one brutal MED set.

Extended set/drop sets, however, do not work for every exercise in the MED Training program. For example, Smith machine hip thrusts do not have a version that makes them easier than the original. So for certain exercises where extended sets are not feasible, you will instead use the popular Rest-Pause/Drop-Set technique.

To do rest-pause drop sets for the MED Training, using Smith machine hip thrusts as an example, you will do a set of Smith hip thrusts to failure. Then rest about 15 seconds. Then continue doing reps until hitting failure again. Then you will immediately drop the weight by about 20 to 30% and continue in this fashion for three more cycles. This is similar to the extended set/drop sets covered about with pull downs, but using rest-pause sets in place of extended sets.


MED Training Split

The MED training split is a four-day training split. That means you train each muscle group once per week. We chose once per week for MED because the muscle damage is so intense with the MED techniques you will need the full week to recover and grow.

The exception to the once-per-week rule is abs and calves, which we have found respond better to more frequent training. So these two muscle groups will get hammered twice per week. But only once using the MED technique. The second workout they endure will be Tabata Training, which is no less exhaustive or brutal than MED. For more on Tabatas, see the section on cardio below.

With MED in workout 1, you train chest with biceps, while in workout 3, you train back with triceps. This is due to the fact that the MED technique is so exhausting and requires so much out of your muscles that training an assistance muscle group is tough to follow with. For example, triceps assist the chest on pressing exercises. And biceps assist the back with pulling exercises. So if you trained chest using MED, the chest would be so exhausted it likely had to rely a lot on the triceps to help put more than a typical chest workout. So the triceps would already be fairly taxed, and you would not be able to give them 100% when you trained them with MED following chest. So the triceps get a couple extra days of rest after assisting the chest before they are trained.

We typically recommend a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday training scheme for four-day splits as that gives you one rest day in the middle and two rest days at the end, which is also the weekend. However, training on any four days of the week that fits your schedule best will work and won't make much difference.

When we refer to rest days, we’re referring to active rest days. That means you should do some form of exercise/activity. This could be as mild as mowing your lawn (not with a riding mower!) or as intense as a moderate CrossFit workout. The rest days make great days to get in some extra cardio. And when we say cardio, we usually are referring to HIIT cardio. However, if steady state is something you want to get in on these days, such as a bike ride or a hike, or simply walking your dog, then that works too.


Cardio With MED Training

Since your sets on MED workouts are nonstop, you cannot use cardio acceleration. But since you are moving nonstop with MED Training, the sets themselves will boost your metabolic rate during and after the workouts to really push fat burning. For those who want to really burn more bodyfat while following MED Training, we suggest you throw in two Tabatas in between each muscle group. On your active rest days, you can also include Tabata workouts or some other form of HIIT.

MED Training Workouts

Workout 1: Chest, Biceps, Forearms, Abs
Exercise Sets*/Reps^
Reverse-Grip Bench Press
extended set with
4/8-10
Bench Press 4/to failure
Incline Dumbbell Press
extended set with
4/8-10
Dumbbell Bench Press 4/to failure
Incline Cable Flye
extended set with
4/8-10
Cable Flye 4/to failure
Barbell Curl (narrow grip)
extended set with
4/8-10
Barbell Curl (wide grip) 4/to failure
Incline Dumbbell Curl
extended set with
4/8-10
Alternating Dumbbell Curl (standing) 4/to failure
Behind-the-Back Wrist Curl
extended set with
2/8-10
Barbell Wrist Curl 2/to failure
Barbell Reverse Wrist Curl # 2/8-10
Smith Machine Hip Thrust # 4/8-10
Cable Crunch # 4/8-10

 

Workout 2: Shoulder, Traps, Calves
Exercise Sets*/Reps^
Smith Machine Behind-Neck Press
extended set with
4/8-10
Smith Machine Shoulder Press 4/to failure
Dumbbell Lateral Raise (DBs at sides)
extended set with
4/8-10
Dumbbell Lateral Raise (DBs in front) 4/to failure
High Cable Rear Delt Flye
extended set with
4/8-10
Lying Cable Rear Delt Flye 4/to failure
Smith Machine Behind-Back Shrug
extended set with
4/8-10
Smith Machine Shrug 4/to failure
Standing Calf Raise (toes in)
extended set with
4/8-10
Standing Calf Raise (toes straight) 4/to failure
Seated Calf Raise # 4/8-10

 

Workout 3: Back, Triceps, Abs
Exercise Sets*/Reps^
Barbell Row
extended set with
4/8-10
Reverse-Grip Barbell Row 4/to failure
Straight-Arm Pull Down (rope)
extended set with
4/8-10
Straight-Arm Pull Down (bar) 4/to failure
Wide-Grip Pull Down (overhand)
extended set with
4/8-10
Reverse-Grip Pull Down 4/to failure
Lying Triceps Extension
extended set with
4/8-10
Close-Grip Bench Press 4/to failure
Triceps Press Down (rope)
extended set with
4/8-10
Triceps Press Down (straight bar) 4/to failure
Reverse Crunch † 8/20 sec.
Crunch † 8/20 sec.
Standing Cable Oblique Push Down 8/20 sec.

 

Workout 4: Legs, Calves
Exercise Sets*/Reps^
Sumo Deadlift
extended set with
4/8-10
Deadlift 4/to failure
Front Squat
extended set with
4/8-10
Squat 4/to failure
Leg Press (narrow stance)
extended set with
4/8-10
Leg Press (wide stance) 4/to failure
Leg Extension (toes turned in or out)
extended set with
4/8-10
Leg Extension (toes pointed up) 4/to failure
Leg Curl (ankles extended)
extended set with
4/8-10
Leg Curl (ankles extended) 4/to failure
Seated Calf Raise † 8/20 sec.
Leg Press Calf Raise † 8/20 sec.
Standing Calf Raise † 8/20 sec.

 

Key Points:

* 4 sets listed here (or 2 for forearm exercises) does not represent 4 traditional sets, but 4 drop sets done for each extended set exercise pair. When there isn't an extended set exercise pair listed, you will do the rest-pause/drop-set technique for that exercise. These exercises will be denoted with the symbol #.

^ This is the rep range you are shooting for in just week 1 and just the very first set of each exercise pair.

# Use the rest-pause/drop-set training technique on these exercises.

† Do these exercises Tabata style (20 seconds of exercise with 10 seconds of rest repeated 8 times).

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