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DC TRAINING Declassified: The Definitive Guide
Since its origin fifteen to twenty years ago, DC Training has slowly matured as a muscle-building system, steadily picking up positive buzz, a fast-growing group of new advocates (in both number and body mass), and a more solid rep over the years. With pros like David Henry, Mark Dugdale, and fast-rising amateur Dusty Hanshaw talking about DC Training, that growth doesn’t seem to be leveling off any time soon.
Originally discussed by its developer, Dante Trudel, in his mid-nineties newsletter Hardcore Muscle, the system was christened DoggCrapp Training when Trudel, responding to a topic on a bodybuilding website, chose the tragically memorable screen-name “DoggCrapp.”
What was meant as a singular post has turned into a monolithic triple-digit page-count thread and an unexpectedly long-lived moniker. As the poopularity of DoggCrapp training has grown (see what I did there?), the name has since been PG-thirteened down to simply “DC Training”.
What can DC Training Offer?
Rising star amateur Chris Genkinger was a reader of some of Trudel’s original newsletters who went from a normal offseason weight of 240 pounds to over 270 in six months, eventually hitting an offseason high of 285. “It wasn’t all muscle, but I was much bigger and stronger than I had been ever at that point. Honestly, that was the biggest I had ever been, and no matter what system I have done since then I never had gotten that big since that point in my career.”
According to NPC Junior Nationals class winner Ralph Garcia, “Big, shredded, ripped muscle is what drew me to the system, plus I am always open to new ideas.” Garcia went from 265 to 278 in four weeks on DC and added “plus, my weaker body parts were becoming stronger.” In an interview on the hardcorebodybuilding.net website, IFBB pro Mark Dugdale concurs that DC Training helped him bring up his arms (a stubborn weak point for him).
NPC Junior Nationals class winner Ralph Garcia went from 265lbs to 278lbs in four weeks on DC
Josh Barnett was drawn to DC Training after reading “Cycling for Pennies,” Dante Trudel’s aforementioned online thread on the system. “I got with Dante and I went from a 196-pound light-heavy to 218 pounds at the 2005 Junior USAs, where I took sixth place in my first national level show. I competed at the 2007 Arnold Amateur and took fourth in the super-heavy class and weighed in at 226.5 there.”
Recent Junior Nationals super-heavyweight class winner Dusty Hanshaw also credits Dante Trudel and DC Training for the size and balanced mass that helped him win the title. A promising prospect as a future pro, Hanshaw has been among the many evangelic endorsees of the system. Top amateur athletes Shelby Starnes, Tom Whorley, Steve Kuclo, Rob Lopez, and Justin Harris have used DC Training in phases of their careers. “DC Training is a very innovative training program that is fun to do,” says Harris in his book Comprehensive Performance Nutrition. “I enjoy training heavy and pushing myself. You get both of those in spades with DC Training.”
“When I started DC training, I was 187 pounds at the 2004 Iron Man,” says IFBB pro David Henry (in an interview for bodybuilding.com). “Now I’m hitting the stage right at 201.5 to 202. What’s great about the way that I train and the way it (the muscle) stays on is the way I’ve put a lot of muscle on in the off-season and the way I’ve managed to keep the illusion of it as I diet down.”
That’s a pretty convincing stack of testimonials. Let’s look at some of the basic principles that form the core of the DC Training System:
DC Principle #1: Reduction of Volume
According to Trudel (from Hardcore Muscle, Issue #5, March 1995: “Breaking Walls”), “The trick to keeping the intensity high from workout to workout is to keep the workouts short.” For this reason, DC Training has been categorized as a HIT-based protocol, similar to the programs popularized by Nautilus-inventor Arthur Jones and his successors — Mike Mentzer, Ellington Darden, and the other HIT Jedis. Trudel is quick to distance himself from these systems, and rightly so, as his adaptations have eliminated the flaws in these previous applications.
Trudel feels that high-volume training is based on obsessive-compulsiveness and the faulty belief that one must train every aspect and angle of a bodypart at each workout in order to achieve full development. He prefers to work the hell out of one or two exercises each session.
According to David Henry (bodybuilding.com, video “Tip of the Week” June 9, 2009), “Just because less is more, as with this training approach, you definitely are GAINING more, especially with the way it is set up.”
DC Principle #2: Constant Strength Improvement
Increasing your strength to near inhuman levels is a mainstay of DC Training. Trudel says it best (Hardcore Muscle, Issue #5, March 1995: “Breaking Walls), “Whether you have professional aspirations or just want to be the best you can be, you need to continue to improve. The only legitimate barometer of measuring this progression (unless you’re already there) is STRENGTH! You must continuously increase your strength, especially in the basic size-building compound movements, which means not backing down to barriers.”
To this end, Trudel (again, HM#5, “Breaking Walls”) requires his athletes to log their training. “Each and every workout should be faced as a challenge. You are there for one thing, to beat last week’s mark.” Due to the limited volume of the training session, “Warm-up, throw a shitload of weight on the bar and do one set — BALLS TO THE WALL!” Trudel says (Hardcore Muscle, Issue #5, March 1995: “Rest Between Workouts”). “Believe me; your body does not respond to the time it takes to work out, it responds directly to the effort.”
Josh Barnett says, “The strength of DC Training is keeping that log book and constantly improving. If I deadlift 620 pounds and set a new standard for myself, then why should I ever drop below that standard when I already proved to myself I can do 620 pounds? I should always do at least 620 as a minimum from that point on. Progressively getting stronger and beating the log book is the key to success with DC or any program.”
Trudel summarizes this when he says (Hardcore Muscle, Issue #12, December 1996: “Questions & Answers”), “Find exercises that work for you. Stick to them and get so powerful at them that it’s scary. When you can’t get stronger or can’t perform them anymore in the right manner, switch to new exercises that work for you!”
DC Principle #3: More Frequent Bodypart Training
A major difference of DC training in contrast to the overtraining-obsessed programs of traditional HIT systems is in the frequency of training. For most trainees, Trudel recommends the body be split into three functional segments trained four times a week. In other words, bodyparts are hit every 4-6 days, as opposed to weekly. Junior USA champion, Jason Wojciechowski explains (“Wojo’s Wisdom Part I,” YouTube clip. May 10, 2009), “What we are trying to do with DC Training is hit the bodyparts a little more frequently with that higher intensity and lower volume, and that is going to give us more potential growth spurts throughout the year.”
Trudel does the math for us (in a July 2006 interview with Ron Harris for IronMan, “Dante’s Inferno”), “With the normal bodybuilder training a bodypart fifty-two times a year (once a week) and with my clients training bodyparts 75-92 times a year, that’s how I’m getting these guys up in muscle so fast.” Frequent instances of growth stimulation are a tenet of the program.
Junior Nationals class winner, Ralph Garcia feels this aspect of the system is crucial to his goal of building a huge and balanced physique. “If you have a weak body part that needs to be brought up, you’re better off training it at least twice a week than once per week.”
Rising star amateur Chris Genkinger was at his biggest and strongest whilst using the DC Training program
DC Principles #4 and #5: Negatives and Rest-Pause
Trudel focuses on two very powerful intensification techniques to elicit maximal size and strength increases with limited volume — a slow emphasized negative (lowering of the weight) and rest-pauses to extend the set. As he writes (Hardcore Muscle, Issue #2, September 1994: “Blasting the Legs”), “It has been scientifically proven over and over again in many studies that the lowering of the weight (negative) is where the most cellular disruption takes place.” This simple adjustment to rep speed makes a huge difference.
“Everyone I see who starts emphasizing the negative and exploding on the positive has two things happen. They usually lower their weights on movements initially, but soon after (three months or so) are blasting past previous levels. The second part is that they get a growth spurt.”
The second technique is the rest-pause, which, in the DC Training-style, involves training to failure by racking the weight for twenty to thirty seconds and then proceeding before full recovery takes place for a ‘set within a set.’ Trudel explains, “I know of no other method that is better at increasing size/strength. It is incredibly demanding and proper rest has to be taken. Usually rest-pause involves doing singles and taking rest between in between reps, but I like to use a slightly higher rep scheme to avoid injuries. Also I like to allow myself two, or at the most three, rest-pauses during a set to avoid overtraining.”
David Henry describes a DC Training rest-pause set (in a bodybuilding.com video “Tip of the Week” June 9, 2009): “I am going to go for seven to eight on my first loop… we call them loops… I’m going to rest fifteen breaths in between. I’m going to attempt it again. I should get four to five. I’m going to take another break in between there, twelve to fifteen breaths. Then I am going to try it again. My ending total should be twelve to fifteen total reps. If it is more than that, then you need to increase the weight next time you come in.”
DC Principle #6: Blast and Cruise
DC Training also incorporates a type of informal no-math-required periodization. This takes the form of dropping the intensification techniques and generally easing back on things, both training-wise and nutritionally. Trudel says (from “Cycling for Pennies,” www.anabolicextreme.com), “I lift extremely heavy and I push the limits for four weeks, and then I just need two weeks to kind of regroup myself and then go balls to the wall again with poundages for the next four weeks.”
Ralph Garcia adds, “Coasting weeks give your joints a rest from the constant pressure your tendons and ligaments endure during DC. I go lighter without the slow static negative of each rep during my coasting weeks.”
Josh Barnett adds, “On my cruise weeks I do whatever I feel like. Sometimes I use a lot of volume ala Charles Poliquin style.”
“You have to have coasting weeks, and this is where most people go wrong, or where younger guys do,” Chris Genkinger adds. “I noticed that after about 6-8 weeks I would start to feel very overtrained, and I had to take a two-week down period or break. The training was very intense and if you are putting in all out effort, you’re going to overtrain on this system because of the amount of intense training technique, and the overall weight load becomes too much for the CNS to recover over time.”
The system is so intense that many athletes just cannot stick with it. “Now that I’m older,” Genkinger says. “I would almost have to do only a four-week blast before taking a down week. I think that since I’m older now, my recovery won’t handle the stress of DC training as well. This is part of the reason why I now do a more traditional training system.”
DC Principle #7: Beware the Widowmaker
In a move that would shock Mentzer, Yates, and Jones, Trudel opted to set aside a dogmatic adherence to low volume and include a hypertrophy-inducing high-rep component to the system, referred to fearfully as the Widowmaker. Actually, this may not surprise the HIT experts since Arthur Jones was fond of finishing training sessions with a twenty-rep set of squats. Due to the high quantity of muscle fibers in the lower body and the hormonal response brought on by a lactic acid induced high-rep onslaught such as twenty-rep legwork, it is a brutally effective technique.
The Widowmaker is final set of around twenty reps on a basic compound exercise, usually a leg press, hack squat, or compound machine leg movement. Justin Harris often does high reps squats and explains his use of them (in his book “Comprehensive Performance Nutrition”):
“When I do the peak weight that I am planning on lifting for four to eight reps, I do that as my first set; this is my main set. Because rest pausing on squats is potentially dangerous, I then do a back-off set after a minute or two of rest. In this set, I shoot for ten to twelve reps with the most weight I can handle in that range. I then finish with a widowmaker set of twenty reps after another few minutes of rest.”
Dusty Hanshaw discusses widowmakers (in his intensemuscle.com Q&A, 11/09/2009): “A widowmaker is harder because you are in a battle with your mind. Your body can push through the skin-splitting pumps that start happening around the 22-rep mark, but your mind will try its best to convince you to stop. So now you are in a battle with both gravity and the weak part of your mind. When my mind starts telling me to stop, I know that my competition just racked the weight and now is the time to create a gap between them and me. This is when you have to dig deep and grind out as many as your body possibly can.”
While originally designed for leg work (since drop-sets in squats and other heavy free weight exercises are more difficult due to safety reasons), the widowmakers have also evolved into “finishers” for many upper body parts that require that little bit of extra growth stimulation. Use of widowmakers in upper body compound exercises is reserved for advanced trainees, particularly when trying to bring up a weak bodypart. This optimizes the effect of our last principle:
Recent Junior Nationals super-heavyweight class winner Dusty Hanshaw is a big fan of the DC Training system
DC Principle #8: Static Stretching
One of the more controversial aspects of DC Training is the use of static stretching after a set to supposedly stretch the fascia (protective covering) of a muscle group in order to allow for increased growth. The theory here is that the fascia may restrict hypertrophy, and that placing it in a position of extreme stretch, particularly when well pumped by a high rep set, will enhance muscle size. This is obviously difficult to prove, but DC Training advocates swear that it makes a difference.
In the DC Training extreme stretching protocol, a stretch is held in place for sixty to ninety seconds, often with added resistance, either from dumbbells (as in a ribcage lifter high incline DB pec stretch) or with bodyweight (as in a pec stretch done on dipping bars). The amount of weight used is not important. The amount of stretch on the pumped muscle (its fascia in particular) is the critical factor.
“I think the Doggcrapp stretching has improved my arms especially because I’m stretching the fascia out,” says Mark Dugdale (in a Flex Magazine, Sept 2007 article “The HITman on Trial” by Greg Merritt). “I feel like the peak has gotten better on my biceps since I’ve been doing it. Dante says it will help with recovery between workouts, and if I can fight through the pain and hold the stretch for sixty seconds, I do actually end up being less sore later on.”
The key, of course, is to do the stretches correctly so as to have the proper effect and not cause injury to joints and soft tissues, a concept that is difficult to teach in a written article. In addition to increased growth due to stretching of the fascia, DC advocates believe the stretches improve recovery rate and reduce muscle soreness, making it an attractive technique.
SAMPLE DOGGCRAPP WORKOUT
Most users of the DC system split the body into two segments: A (chest, shoulders, triceps, back width, back thickness) and B (biceps, forearms, calves, hamstrings, quads) trained three times a week, as shown below:
Trudel sequences the bodyparts as listed because as he says (in his interview with Greg Merritt for Flex Magazine, September 2006, “A Load of Doggcrapp”), “It puts the hardest bodyparts you have to train, back and quads, last in your workouts. This is contrary to conventional wisdom, but after deadlifts or a widowmaker for quads, you’re not going to have the same energy for anything else.” This rotation encourages growth through three sessions for each bodypart in a two-week period.
VERY advanced bodybuilders may do a three-way split: A (chest, shoulders, triceps), B (biceps, forearms, back width, back thickness), and C (calves, quads, hams). These are rotated over four training sessions a week, as below:
This method trains each body part four times in a three-week period so there is less frequent growth stimulus and fewer days off for recovery. For these reasons, this method should only be used by advanced bodybuilders requiring extra work for weak areas.
The workout consists of progressive warm-ups sets (one to five, depending on the exercise, your strength level, and individual warm-up requirements) and then one all-out rest-pause set for each of the bodyparts trained that day. You should select a pool of three different exercises for each bodypart and rotate through them, one each session. Your goal is to ALWAYS exceed your previous best effort in weight or reps for that exercise. If you fail at that, then you strike that exercise from your choices and find a substitute. Rep ranges are between eleven and fifteen total reps, as described in the rest-pause section.
POSSIBLE EXERCISE CHOICES:
Choose one and rotate each workout
|Chest||Smith incline / Hammer incline / Machine press|
|Delts||Hammer shoulder press / Smith military press / Machine press|
|Triceps||Smith close-grip bench / Lying tricep ext. / Reverse-grip bench|
|Quads||Leg press / Hack squats / Squats on Smith machine|
|Hams||Lying leg curl / Frog leg press (press with heels) / Seated leg curl|
|Calves||Calf press / Seated calf press / Standing calf press|
|Back Width||Chinups / Lat pulldowns / Rack chins (pulling to bar in rack, feet on bench)|
|Back Thickness||Rack deads / T-bar row / Hammer DY row|
|Biceps||DB curls / Machine curls / BB drag curl|
Widowmakers should only be done for quadriceps (in place of the rest-pause protocol) until you have followed the program for a while. If you experiment with them when training weak bodyparts, be cautious of the fact that they will cut into your central nervous systems’ recovery ability.
Most importantly, DC Training is NOT for beginners. David Henry warns (from Bodybuilding.com video “Tip of the Week,” June 9, 2009: “David Henry’s DC Training”) “For someone new to this, I would recommend adopting a regular training style first, and then, when their ligaments and tendons get used to the heavy weight, they can start DC, because it will bury you.” He continues to say, “This will pack it on fast, but if your body is not used to it, it will hurt you.”
IFBB pro David Henry sporting a big, ripped physique (yes, he trains DC too)
DC Training is dramatically different from anything you may have tried. If you have put in the years and racked up noticeable size and strength gains but have slowed in your progress, the least you can do is set aside a three to four-month period to give DC Training a serious trial run. At the worst, you may find yourself encountering new challenges in the gym.
At best, you may make the kind of progress you have not seen since your first years of training. Apply mental toughness and consistency to this program and you might be shocked by the changes in your physique!
Written by Steve Colescott
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About Steve Colescott
Known as the Guerrilla Journalist, Steve Colescott has written over a hundred published articles for many major bodybuilding publications, including Peak Training Journal, the innovative and well-respected magazine in which he served as Publishing Editor.
He is currently a staff writer for WannaBeBig.com and has been a consultant to a number of top sports nutrition companies.
With his company, Colescott Metabolic Solutions, he has transformed the physiques of scores of average businesspeople, weekend athletes and housewives beyond their wildest expectations. Steve lives in Akron, Ohio and trains at the ultra-hardcore Body Builders Gym, an Ohio musclehead landmark.
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