Joe Warner (@JoeWarnerMF (opens in new tab)) is the deputy editor of Men’s Fitness magazine. His mission is simple: to get in cover model shape in just 12 weeks.
Here at MF we are big fans of compound lifts. We love squats, deadlifts, pull-ups and presses – both on the bench and overhead. Because these big, multi-joint lifts allow you to move the most amount of weight your muscles get thoroughly tested. This forces the release of more growth hormones, such as testosterone, which tell your body to grow back bigger, stronger and leaner.
But that doesn’t mean than isolation, or single-joint, exercises should be excluded in favour of just doing these big lifts. In fact, much of my training over the past couple of months has centred on isolation moves. Why? Glad you asked.
‘To achieve maximum stimulation and trash all the muscle fibres to grow them back bigger, isolation movements are often the only way to go,’ says Nick Mitchell, founder of Ultimate Performance (opens in new tab) , where my cover model body mission has been taking place. ‘They are less taxing on your central nervous system than large compound movements so you can go really go to town with the amount of volume you lift in a session. This approach lends itself to supersets and giant sets where the aim is to induce the greatest blood flow possible to stimulate hypertrophy, or muscle mass growth.’
A lot of my training recently has been based around isolation supersets or even tri-sets, which are different exercises performed back to back without rest. Here’s part of a workout I did last week. It’s a double tri-set with a brief rest halfway through when you go from training your biceps to your triceps. A quick word of warning: start light. This will give you the biggest muscle burn your arms have ever had. But you’ll also get the biggest pump you’ve ever had.
Nick Mitchell’s Arms Agony
1A Seated preacher bar curl, reps: 10
1B Seated hammer curl, reps: 12
1C Seated cable curl, reps: To failure
2A Lying triceps extension, reps: 10
2B Triceps dip, reps: 12
2C Cable pushdown, reps: To failure
Repeat for a total of four sets.
After that final, horrible set, make a protein shake. Good luck with lifting it to your mouth.
For more exercise and training advice, get Men's Fitness magazine. Subscribe now and we'll give you five issues for £5 (opens in new tab). And don't forget to check out this video of the MF team training with Mitchell and Charles Poliquin.
Cover model supplements
As part of my cover model transformation challenge, Nick Mitchell is making me take an assortment of supplements. I’ll be explaining the reasons behind a different one each week.
Why? This is a pre-workout supplement with caffeine and amino acids to get you mentally and physically primed for your session, but without giving you that post-workout crash.
Poliquin Performance supplements can be purchased from upfitness.co.uk/store (opens in new tab)
Joe Warner worked for Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach, from 2008 to 2013, then returned as editor of Men’s Fitness UK from 2016 to 2019.
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