How muscle is built during a workout isn’t really up for debate anymore, and you are about to learn the ONLY 3 things you need to do during every workout to be a muscle building machine!
Make sure you read until the bottom to check out a full video breakdown of a Balloon Method workout in action!
Based on the latest scientific research by Dr. Brad Schoenfeld, there are only 3 mechanisms of muscle growth: mechanical overload, metabolic stress and muscle damage.
Triggering all 3 in the most time efficient manner is a "Balloon Method workout."
The Balloon Method was created right here at SuperHuman Fitness after myself & our research team concluded that muscle can really only be built in 3 ways during a workout, and it's not that hard to incorporate all 3 in a short period of time.
This was proven by Brad Schoenfeld, who many consider to be the leading researcher on science backed and peer reviewed studies on hypertrophy.
We know exactly how to do it, but until the Balloon Method workout was created there wasn’t an easy system you could follow for every workout to ensure all your workouts triggered all 3 of the science backed ways you build muscle.
In today’s article I’m going to share with you exactly what a Balloon Method workout is and how you can ensure all your workouts follow the 3 rules of muscle building!
Does the Balloon Method Work For Everyone?
No matter if your goal is muscle building, fat loss or a recomp - the Balloon method workouts will help you get there faster by forcing you to get the most results in the least amount of time in every training session, and most importantly help you have more fun by incorporating some new intensity techniques in each workout!
This is not only great for building muscle mass, but also great for fat loss as by cranking up the intensity in your training you will burn more calories and fat in each workout session.
Since I started implementing the Balloon Method into all my workouts in 2017, I have gained over 15 lbs. of lean muscle mass in just over 2 years while cutting body-fat.
This is newbie level gains and one of the reasons I get accused of using PEDs on Youtube, despite being a natural lifter.
Keep in mind that I was an experienced trainee who had been lifting for over 10 years before this and had already built a lot of muscle mass.
Almost every beginner or intermediate lifter who uses the Balloon Method workouts sees even faster results, as evidenced by the thousands of people who use it on the Superhuman training programs.
If you have been training seriously for less than 5 years and have never incorporated a lot of intensity techniques into your training - expect jaw dropping results the first few months of using the Balloon Method.
So What is a balloon method workout exactly?
A Balloon Method workout is a training strategy that shocks the muscle into growth by combining all 3 ways your body builds muscle in less than 20 minutes per muscle group. It was named because of the balloon-like effect it has on muscle growth.
A 20 minute (or less) Balloon Method workout for a muscle group comprises three distinct types of sets designed to trigger all 3 proven ways your body builds muscle.
- 1Overload sets - think lifting heavy in the 4-8 rep range till failure.
- 2Tension sets - think “time under tension” or “chasing the pump” for 15+ reps until failure. Lighter weights, but taken till failure for any excruciating pump.
- 3Muscle Damage Sets - drop sets, supersets, slow eccentrics or any type of new and shocking stimulus to the body. These are the epic and high intensity sets that really take your results to the next level!
There is of course some cross-over between all of these. For example you might be doing a heavy superset of bench press and weighted pull-ups. This is a hybrid of an overload set and a muscle damage set.
As you will soon see, with just a little creativity it's actually quite easy to incorporate all 3 in a very short period of time, making your workouts shorter and more effective for hypertrophy.
Light Weight Vs. Heavy Weight
Based on the fact that both lifting heavy and lifting light weights until failure builds muscle, this ends the debate of light weight vs heavy weight for hypertrophy.
Do both in the same workout and do it with intensity and you will see some serious results.
According to Brad Schoenfeld in his article “3 Evidence Based Guidelines of Hypertrophy Training“ emerging evidence indicates that there may be a fiber type specific response to training in different rep ranges, with heavy loads showing greater hypertrophy in type II fibers and lighter loads targeting type I fibers. This further suggests a benefit to training with both high and low loads to maximize whole muscle hypertrophy.
The key is really within the rep ranges you chose to lift “heavy” and “light” and how far you can take it.
The key to lifting heavy weight for hypertrophy
When I say lifting heavy to induce mechanical overload, you don’t want to be lifting more than 90% of your 1 rep max on a lift. This means your rep ranges will be between 4-8 and taken til close to failure or failure.
If you are unsure what your 1 rep max is on a particular lift and need some guidance on figuring out what 90% of your 1 rep max so you can get the most out of overload sets, I recommend you check out our Superhuman 1 rep max calculator!
The age old debate of the powerlifter vs the bodybuilder makes perfect sense here.
Powerlifters do tons of training 95%+ of their 1 rep max, and a lot of 1-3 rep range training. This is great if you’re trying to get stronger and be a world class powerlifter, but not necessarily true if you want to build the muscle as fast as possible. This is why you see almost all bodybuilders train with lighter weights and more time under tension. Even their “heavy sets” usually fall within the 6-8 rep range.
The key to lifting light weight for hypertrophy
Light weights build muscle by inducing metabolic stress, but only if done properly. When I say lifting lighter weights I basically mean to chase the pump and maximize time under tension. This doesn’t mean that it's “easy” and you are lifting 5 lb. dumbbells for 100 reps however.
The sweet spot is usually in the 15-25 rep range or keeping the muscle under constant tension for at least 45 seconds.
You need to take these light weight sets until failure or very close to it to actually see results from this type of training. You will know you are doing it right when you have an excruciating pump in the muscle you are training.
So what does a Balloon Method workout look like?
You can do a balloon method workout regardless of what split you follow. Most of the SuperHuman Training programs follow pretty close to a push, pull, legs split or training at least 3-4 muscles per workout.
Here would be an example of a Balloon Method push workout that would hit your chest, deltoids, and triceps and trigger all 3 mechanisms.
|#1 Incline Barbell Bench Press|
|Target||Upper Chest, Outer Chest, Triceps, Front Delts|
As you should know, free weights are your top priority when the task at hand is creating maximum overload.
For this second overload exercise, we’re utilizing the incline angle and the intensity that a barbell offers.
The incline angle allows for better activation of the clavicular head of the pectoralis major (Upper chest).
Pressing exercises done under this angle must not be neglected, given that we are looking for good overall development.
Note that the optimal upper-chest activation angle forms at 45 degrees or slightly higher.
If you go way higher than that, you’ll activate the shoulders more and it pretty much won’t be a bench press anymore, more so than a shoulder press.
- 1Setup the barbell so that the threads in the middle are right at the center of the backrest of the bench
- 2Lie down and grab the bar wider than shoulder width, with the thumb going over the bar (Very important! Avoid using suicide grip)
- 3Un-rack the barbell and bend elbows slightly, out of lockout to avoid excessive tricep activation
- 4Let the bar go down to the upper portion of your chest, slowly
- 5Without resting the bar on your chests, pause for a split second at the bottom
- 6Push up explosively, contracting the chest up top, with no elbow lockout
Note that you can go really heavy on this exercise, as long as you maintain constant tension and proper exercise execution.
|#2 Barbell Overhead Press|
|Target||Front Delts, Side Delts, Upper Traps|
Doing compound movements should be your main priority when your goal is gaining muscle.
Compound movements engage more than 1 muscle group.
The more muscles engaged, the heavier we can lift. The heavier we lift, the bigger the growth stimulus.
This specific exercise is a classic one for the shoulders – It mostly engages the shoulders, but also involves its synergists – The triceps and the upper chest, though at a lesser extent.
On the barbell overhead press i recommend that you lift fairly heavy on this move in the 6-10 rep range. Perform 5 total sets per shoulder workout and rest no more than 90 seconds between sets.
- 1Rack the bar at about shoulder height
- 2Grab the bar at shoulder width, lift your elbows up and below the bar for good support
- 3Un-rack the bar and take a couple steps back
- 4Place feet at about shoulder width, comfortably
- 5Keep torso straight and head looking slightly up
- 6Push the barbell up and over your head
- 7Contract the shoulders up top and keep that flexion for 1 second
- 8Let the bar go down slowly to its initial position
Note that if you are experiencing shoulder discomfort and/or pain, you should consider having the initial position be at about chin height – Don’t let the bar go all the way down.
|#3 Dumbbell Bench Press|
|Target||Lower Chest, Outer Chest|
|Reps||10 (muscle damage)|
Odds are, you generally start your chest workouts with this exercise.
But to finish off a dumbbells-only workout, you can aslo utilize it as a compound, heavy finisher.
The goal – Going as heavy as possible for 4 sets in the 6-8 rep range.
This range will stimulate both myofibrilar and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.
The first one, responsible for strength gains and the second one, for bulk-muscle, bodybuilder-like growth.
- 1Grab a pair of dumbbells and lie down on the flat bench press
- 2Keep the dumbbells above your chest with elbows slightly bent
- 3Keep head rested and let the dumbbells go down to the outer sides of your lower pecs
- 4Once you feel a good stretch at the bottom, push up explosively
- 5Contract the chest up top without locking out the elbow
|#4 Low to High Cable Flys|
|Reps||15 reps/45 seconds under tension (metabolic stress)|
This exercise reverses the position you’re using with the cables and now rather than pushing down, you’re pulling up.
As you might imagine, that is going to change the nature of the stress being placed on the chest, putting more emphasis on the upper chest instead of the lower.
- 1Stand in the middle of the cable machine
- 2Grab both lower pulleys and keep them to the sides of the hips
- 3Lift the handles up and contract the chest up top
- 4Go back down and repeat, alternating between arms – Left over right, right over left
|#5 Dumbbell Lat Raise|
|Target||Side Delts, Front Delts, Traps|
|Reps||15 reps/45 seconds under tension (metabolic stress)|
The dumbbell lat raise puts a huge focus on attacking our side delts and getting a great shoulder pump to start the workout. Charles teaches a unique form on this, so I highly suggest you watch the short video above. With this exercise we are targetting the largest part of the shoulder, the side delt which is what will give you that 3D shoulder look from the side. The key with this move is you want to keep your chest up, and think about pushing the weight away from your body instead of lifting the weight up, which will get your traps too involved.
This is definitely a move you will want to go very light on and make sure you have perfect form. Another unique form cue on this db lat raise is that you will be internally rotating your elbows as you push the weight up, so your hand will be pointing down. If you have a current shoulder impingement or have a nagging ache or pain in your shoulders I don't recommend this, but if your shoulders are healthy this will put even more activation on your side delts.
#6 Tricep Pressdown
15 reps/45 seconds under tension (metabolic stress)
As you can see, a Balloon Method workout is not only more intense but more fun because you get to try several different intensity techniques in the same workout, which will increase your motivation to train more often and see faster results.
How to use the Balloon Method for the fastest results?
The best way to incorporate the Balloon Method is to use it all year long regardless if your goal is to build muscle fast, recomp and get ripped, or burn fat aggressively.
The SuperHuman Muscle program uses the Balloon Method workouts in a way that helps you build muscle as fast as possible, while the SuperHuman Fat Loss program uses the Balloon Method with HIIT finishers to shred fat at Superhuman Speed!
Balloon Method workout benefits for fat loss
- 1Burn more calories every workout.
- 2Increase your post workout metabolism.
- 3Keep your hard earned muscle mass even when you are dieting.
- 4Can shock your muscles into growth even in a calorie deficit.