Visual Impact Challenge: Training for Size

training for sizeRecently, I told you guys that I would be taking on a new challenge.

I’m on a mission to gain some serious muscle.

I gave you guys a general overview of what I’d be doing. I showed you guys how I’ve structured my diet.

Today I want to go over what I think is the most interesting part of it all – training for size.

Before I get into details here, I want to quickly tell you about the program I’m using for this challenge. It’s a program designed by a good friend of mine, Rusty Moore, who runs one of the busiest fitness websites – Fitness Black Book. Rusty has decades of experience in the fitness industry and his products always over deliver.

The program is called Visual Impact Muscle Building and it kicks serious ass. The program will make you contemplate everything you thought you knew about transforming your body. When you read the book you’ll instantly become a believer because the science just makes sense. You’ll be kicking yourself for not trying it earlier. The best part is the program is fully customizable – none of that one-size-fits-all garbage. This one is fully customizable to fit your body type and your schedule.

The program is split into three phases, each focusing on a particular aspect of body transformation. The first phase (the one I’m focusing on for this challenge) is an intense muscle building phase. After you put on some solid muscle mass, the second and third phase will help you gain incredible strength and lose fat to create a truly visually appealing physique.

But enough of that – let’s get into the nuts and bolts of Visual Impact Phase 1.

What am I doing differently?

When it comes to training for size, most of us tend to think of one thing – lifting heavy weights.

Heavy weights and low reps.

Sound familiar?

That’s the old school mentality.

You’ve probably tried this and probably gained very little. I know I have. The Visual Impact program takes a completely different approach. No more heavy weights. No more low repetitions. No more tireless hours spent in the gym.


Let me explain…

It’s all about Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy

There are two types of muscular hypertrophy: sarcoplasmic hypertrophy and myofibrillar hypertrophy. Rusty’s book does an excellent job of explaining the science of each in detail, but here I’m just going to quickly touch on the concept of sarcoplasmic hypertrophy because it’s what I’ll be doing to gain some serious size.

By definition, hypertrophy stands for ‘excessive growth’. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy simply refers to the excessive growth of muscle by means of funneling an increased amount of muscle cell fluid (called sarcoplasm) into the muscle cell. This is what we’re going after. This is what gives the look of bigger, fuller muscles.

Arnold new a little something about Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy

Training in a way that activates sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is the fastest and most efficient way to gain size. You won’t necessarily gain a lot of strength in training this way because fluid cannot contract, but you will give your muscles the best chance to grow and look fuller.

NOTE: Training for strength is very different from training from size. The concepts of training for strength will be discussed in a future post.

So how do you activate sarcoplasmic hypertrophy?

This is where things get interesting.

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy requires three things:

  1. High volume
  2. Lower weight
  3. Short rest periods

Let’s discuss each in detail:

High Volume & Lower Weight

These two kind of go hand in hand. High volume simply refers to a high number of repetitions and if we’re going to be working with high volume we’re going to have to drop the weight (unless you’re not human).

I think some of you are probably scratching your head right now. Everything you thought you knew about gaining muscle size is about to be challenged.

All the years in the gym people have been telling you that lifting heavy weights with low repetitions will help you put on size.

Maybe it worked. Most likely it didn’t.

Either way, I’m putting the science to the test. For this challenge, I’m going to be focusing on high volume – we’re talking in the 12 to 15 rep range for the majority of my sets.

When it comes to deciding what weight to use, Rusty has a great quote in his book:

Your ego is your biggest obstacle when it comes to gaining muscle.

This is the truth. If you’re afraid of looking like a weak little girl, then this program definitely won’t work for you. You have to get over your ego. Don’t let it be your breaking point.

You want results? Kill your EGO!

There is another reason you’re going to have to lower the weight…

Short Rest Periods

This one is absolutely key! If you choose to forget everything else (you better not), make sure you remember this one.

Shortening your rest periods down to 45-60 seconds between sets initiates a wonderful phenomenon called cumulative fatigue. This is, as they say, where all the magic happens.

Cumulative fatigue is the process of progressively fatiguing your muscles. Each set builds upon the previous set. By shortening your rest periods, you do not give your muscles a chance to fully recharge so you are progressively instilling more and more fatigue on your muscles as you go from one set to the next.

This is why you want to lower your weight. You definitely won’t be able to lift as much weight because your muscles won’t have the time to fully recharge.

For the challenge, I’ll be dropping my rest periods between sets down to 45-60 seconds (aiming for the former) and between exercises down to roughly 1.5 minutes.

To ensure that I stick to my times, I’m using an oldschool stopwatch. This is the only way I can stay on top of my rest periods. Don’t try to guesstimate or eyeball it – more likely than not you will go over 45 seconds (they go by quick). I strongly recommend you invest in one – they’re cheap these days!

The beautiful part about shortening your rest periods is that it literally cuts your workout time by 25 – 50% (closer to 25% for me, but I’ve seen even higher for others). You won’t have time to chat or to waste any time. Those 45 seconds of rest fly by and you’re already onto your next set.

The Workout

I want to give you a quick summary of the exercises I’ll be using for this challenge. Most of them are as outlined in the Visual Impact program, but some of them are my own. I’ve made some exercise substitutions to suit my particular needs and limitations – I’ve had problems with my lower back in the past.

The workout is a three day split and I’m going two days on, one day off. Here are the three workouts outlined:

Day 1 – Chest, Shoulders, Triceps

  • Barbell Bench Press
  • Flat Bench Dumbbell Flys
  • Incline Dumbbell Press
  • Seated Military Press
  • Dumbbell Lateral Raise
  • Seated Shoulder Press Machine
  • Lying Tricep Extensions
  • Tricep Pressdowns (with rope)
  • Close Grip Push Ups

Day 2 – Back, Biceps, Forearms

  • Chin-ups
  • Seated Cable Rows
  • Straight Barbell Curls
  • Seated Incline Dumbbell Curls
  • Reverse Barbell Curls
  • Forearm Superset [details here]
  • Reverse Flys

Day 3 – Legs, Abs

  • Incline Leg Press
  • Lunges
  • Standing Calf Raises
  • Hanging Leg Raises
  • Standing Oblique Extensions

If you are unsure of what any of these exercises are, you can always look them up on Youtube or simply ask in the comments below. If you want to make it easy for yourself, grab a copy of Rusty’s program and with it you will get a FULL exercise guide that shows you exactly how each exercise is done. It goes in even further detail by giving you extremely exercise-specific tips that can drastically boost your results.

So there you have it – a complete overview of how I’ll be training to build some serious muscle.

I’m pretty sure I’ve boggled some minds out there. I say this because I’ve shared this information with a few people so far and I’m always treated with the same seriously- confused look.

What are your thoughts on this training philosophy? If you have gone through a bulking phase before and had decent success, please share any tips or insights in the comments below. Did you try to gain muscle and failed? Tell me what held you back in the comments below!

20 thoughts on “Visual Impact Challenge: Training for Size”

  1. I’ve used this and it’s a great workout that uses a number of different lifting protocols through out.
    I also think its one of the best valued programs … you get so much content and support information and it’s minimum 6 month program.
    Oh yes the most important part .. It works!

  2. Srdjan,

    I’ve also done Visual Impact and it’s a great program. So many people get the high rep for mass, low rep for density backwards. The high rep sets with little rest work very well with bodyweight exercises such as pushups and pull ups also.

    I’m kind of doing the opposite of what you’re doing right now. I did a lot of the sarcoplasmic hypertrophy type training earlier this year and now I’m doing some lower volume density training in the 4-6 rep range. Keep us posted on your progress!


    1. Alykhan, the short rest periods are tough. It definitely requires some dedication to stick within those time periods. I’m looking forward to switching things up to Phase 2 where I can prolong my rest periods and challenge my muscles in a new way.

      Have you worked through all 3 phases of the program?

  3. Hey Srdjan!

    I am excited to see your transformation. I find phase one of visual impact very effective for a short period of time 3-6 weeks. I get the best long term muscle growth from phase two style training. Eventually you will reach a point where the only way you can build more muscle is by increasing your strength.

    Oh and you may find that certain muscle groups respond better to the high volume phase one style training.

    For me shoulders and triceps work well with higher reps. On the other hand my chest and biceps respond best to multiple sets of heavy weight in the 5-8 rep range.


    1. Thanks for the comment Greg! I’m actually really excited to get started with phase 2 and I hope what you say works for me too – I hope I get further, longer-lasting muscle growth with phase 2 style training. We’ll see what happens.

      I’ll have my wrap up post soon. Results will be fun to analyze!

  4. I’m starting over on the VI program right now and am in phase 1 … it feels awfully strange lifting light weights and failing to make a lift … like you said, it’s all about the fatigue that you create by lifting how Rusty outlines in the program.

    1. It definitely felt strange to me too when I first started phase 1. It’s really the short periods that make even the lightest of weights seem so difficult.

      Are you doing the full program again?

  5. Just wondering how many sets of the above exercises you do. Seems like a lot of volume to me, and I never did respond well to high volume. But then I do have chronic fatigue syndrome which may have something to do with it. I’m in a lighter phase myself at the moment, and working on reducing my rest time between sets. I’m cautious about going right in because I have over trained that way in the past very easily.

    Oh, and do you actually get to the point where you fail mid-rep, or do you stop when you think you can’t do the next one? I’m presuming you have something in hand for at least the first couple of sets, and then go close to failure after that. Is that the case?

    1. Hey David. This type of training is definitely all about high volume and considering the entire objective is to create a cumulative fatigue effect, it might not be well suited for someone with chronic fatigue syndrome.

      I did about 4-5 sets, each set working to prepare me for the next. My repetitions followed a pattern of 12, 10, 8, 6, 12-15 (weights increased too, but went really light on last set). My rest periods were down to 45 seconds which is really short and great for creating the mentioned cumulative fatigue.

      As for your second question, I don’t stop. I go to failure. That’s the idea with Phase 1 and muscle building in general. To activate sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, you need to get get to that point of failure – don’t hold anything back.

  6. You need to keep in mind that you cannot lose weight overnight. It’s a long process and will take some time and patience if you are to see good rapid weight loss results. Remember that receding weight involves commitment. If you are incapable to stick to your given diet and function out routines, you would never get satisfactory results. You have to be prepared for the rapid weight loss programs both physically and psychologically.

  7. I’m doing the Adonis Index right now which is set up pretty similar. Great post overall which I’m sure people who are new to weightlifting find helpful.

  8. Hi,

    This is really great, I am going to start on Monday. What I think would really help is that you highlight the sets and reps you are doing. If you have I can’t see it?

    You say to do low weight and high reps, but you actually only do 2 sets of high reps (12-15 range). You don’t mention increasing the weight each time and lowering the number of reps in your blog. You only mention this when asked in the comments section. From you blog, I would have presumed all 5 set were in the 12+ range and all at the same weight….?

    Or is that just me?

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