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PRMC – Press-Up/Pull-Up Improver

Sean Lerwill performing a press-up

Anyone attempting the PRMC wants to get the very best score for the press-ups and pull-ups elements that they can. In fact, if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to get as close to full marks as you can. On my PT course I made the mistake of thinking my press-ups were great and as I was running a lot at the time, concentrated on my running and pull-ups. I was wrong and didn’t do as well as I would’ve liked on the press-ups, which (although I got very high marks on all other elements) brought my overall RMFA score down. Learn from my mistake. Don’t repeat it yourself.

I did learn. When I was faced with the RMFA for another course I was going on, I wanted to ENSURE I would be able to get top marks and hence came up with The Gainers Method. The way I trained over a period of months to allow my muscles the time to develop the muscular endurance they needed to be able to do 60 press-ups and 18 pull-ups with ease.

This post is not about my Gainers Method, you can watch the video linked above or download my Pass The PRMC ebook for an in-depth account of that, and a 8 week training programme which you can tailor to your own ability to enable you to get the best score you possible can.

What this post is about is another method I use in my own training to make sessions more intense and to make my muscles adapt faster. To make any muscle adapt we must give it something to adapt to; ideally to do this we want to take muscles to failure. Gainers will do this, but later. After a few months of solid mucular endurance work. Gainers will see you failing or being near failure for the last of the 3 sets, and then add one rep so that failure point is pushed and pushed. However, this method, which is known as Rest/Pause, does this to a far higher degree.

Rest/pause is very effective. However, along with this it is very intense which means it can’t really be performed day after day like Gainers. You need to give your muscles 2 or 3 days rest with Rest/Pause to ensure they are fully recovered before training them again. Where this can be beneficial is for people who look at my ebook training programme and simply don’t think they can commit to training 6 days a week. Or 3day on, 1 off repetitively for 8 weeks. Personally, I don’t think this is true of many people. Especially as Gainers for press-ups and pull-ups takes about 10minutes including warm-up so if you can’t find 10minutes a day, then you need to ask yourself if you really want to be in the Marines.

Let’s just assume someone doesn’t have a pull-up bar and has no access to one – perhaps on holiday or camping etc. The rest/pause method could allow a REALLY hard pull-up session twice over a week and provide a good alternative to Gainers.

How does Rest/Pause work?

Rest/Pause involves warming up and mobilising. Perhaps a few easy reps of an exercise such as lat pull down or inverted row (for pull-ups) or incline press-ups or light chest press (for press-ups) and then performing good quality reps of the exercise (either pull-ups or press-ups in this example) until complete failure – i.e. another rep simply cannot be performed. Stop exercising and count to 15 relatively calmly. Not fast, not silly slow; but similar to trying to count 15seconds. At 15, perform the exercise again to failure. You may only get 1 or 2 reps for pull-ups. They may even only be half reps. But try. For press-ups, you may get 10 or 15. You may only get 3 or 4 depending on your muscular endurance. But whatever you can do, do it to failure. Then count to 15 again, exactly as you did before and perform one more set to failure. You may only get 1 or 2 reps. It’s doesn’t matter as long as you work to COMPLETE failure.

Once you have completed a full set and two rest/pause sets you need to rest for 2 – 3minutes from that exercise. You can either sit and wait, perhaps stretching a little or even jog on a treadmill. When the 2-3 minutes is up and you feel (semi!) recovered, do it again. The first set to failure, then count to 15 and perform a second set to failure (which will be far fewer reps), count to 15 for a second time and perform one last set to failure. Your muscles should feel really, really worked.

For the second time, rest/sit or jog for 2-3minutes and then (yes, you’ve guessed it) perform a set to failure and two more rest/pause sets counting to 15 between them all. As you can imagine this is a hard, hard way to train. Whether press-ups or pull-ups your muscles will have been asked to perform an exercise to failure, then again, then again – 3 times through. Compare this to Gainers where you work to your number, rest for a minute, then hit a number again, then rest, then hit a number again. It’s similar, but not quite the same as the first set for Gainers SHOULDN’T be to failure, meaning the second and third are feasible and achievable. This of course relies on your start point. As I say in the Gainers explanation, you must start LOW, which means you must give yourself TIME to work up to the high numbers. But that time and low start point means you add real muscular endurance.

For Rest/Pause we are essentially doing 3 major sets to failure and 6 smaller sets to failure, compared to 3 working sets for Gainers. Hence we need far more recovery after the Rest/Pause session. You really shouldn’t (and if you’ve performed it correctly most likely can’t) train those muscle groups again the next day or even the one after. But that is good. Adaptation happens when the muscles are resting, the stimulus is created in the training, so by working the muscles that hard; having a few days off is perfect. On these subsequent days however, you could run, perform intervals or even train the legs. Just don’t include press-ups or pull-ups or similar movements like lat pull down, bench press, triceps extensions, dips or biceps curls – or at least I wouldn’t.

There you have it. An alternative to Gainers. One which works well for those wanting to take a break from Gainers or who are forced to take a break perhaps due to work or life commitments. Which of course happen to us all. Remember to rest following a Rest/Pause session to allow the body to adapt to the training but also to avoid causing injury to a fatigued muscle.

Sean Lerwill - Author

Sean is an former-Royal Marines Commando Officer & Physical Training Instructor. He has been published as a writer five times, has a BSc in Molecular Genetics and a Post Graduate Certificate in Education. He is also a MaxiNutrition ambassador.

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