The dramatic transformation principle or DTP training as it is more commonly known is a relatively new training methodology on the scene. Developed by Kris Gethin the ‘principle’ of this program is to shock the muscles in a four week burst, using a variety of weights, rep ranges and rest periods. This article will review the training methodology including the session and weekly volumes and to discuss the underlying evidence to support this training system. We hope that this article will inform you of some new ideas that you can take and apply to your own training that may prove more effective than your current training regime, or at the very least may allow you to add some variety to your training to keep things fresh mentally.
This program is targeted at those whose progress using other more conventional mass building programs has stagnated or for those who have come off a dieting phase, as the body is in a position that is ready to be receptive to nutrients and with the right stimulus, that this type of training is proposed to give, is going to cause rapid increases in muscle growth. The body part spilt used in DTP training is not that of a classic bodybuilding split. Lifting weights takes place on 4 days per week but with some sessions combining larger antagonistic muscle groups that would not be typical in a classic spilt or even in other multiple body part training methodologies. Each weights session is separated by 1 day in between, on the ‘in between’ days HIIT style cardio is encouraged to maintain low body fat levels. As a marked increase in calorific in take is suggested during the DTP training period in order to encourage optimal muscle growth. Cardio is especially important after periods of dieting where the body may struggle to adapt metabolically to increased calorific intake after long periods of low calories, without this extra cardio, the post-diet rebound can build muscle rapidly but also lay down unwanted body fat equally as fast! The suggested split is legs and abs, chest and back, Arms and abs and shoulders and traps. Each body part ‘day’ will use only a few exercises, typically 2 or 3 exercises, these can be isolation or compound movements, but the volume for each exercise is exceptionally high, using a pyramid style of 50, 40, 30, 20, 10 repetitions and back up again, so be careful to choose exercises wisely that are going to hit all the muscle fibres you require within that session! This is also different to a typical drop set as there is an effort to increase the weight between each set, with the rest periods between each set increasing, allowing you to recover and up the weight accordingly. The rest periods are then reduced as the rep ranges increase back up to 50. Rest periods start at 45 seconds then increase in 15 second increments between sets up to 120 seconds after the final 10 rep set, rest is then decreased by 15 seconds until the finish! If this seems brutal, then it is! But it will undoubtedly cause your body to go to places it won’t have with other training programs, the question is does this undoubted shock to the body cause the muscle to grow? Well let’s have a look at some of the science behind the principles. But first, before starting this is something that when assessing any training program is worth stating clearly. The evidence in support of training principles of any training programs we have discussed in our blog are inherently limited due to the time, effort and energy it takes to design studies that target each program, in the right population, with appropriate nutritional and training control to effectively evaluate their real effectiveness. That said science does not have (or claim to know) all the answers, so it is up to us to evaluate the effectiveness of these programs. Firstly by looking at some research to see how ridiculous or not these principles appear to be, and secondly and most importantly in our own controlled environment, ourselves, to figure out what works for us, our genetics and our lifestyle patterns. Fortunately for us the first part in the above equation, the principles of DTP training, holds up as in there is evidence to support them. The earlier high rep sets are designed to warm the muscles and joints up, so there is no real need to warm up before starting the workout. As the reps decrease and the weight increases the principle is that the different muscle fibre types are activated, type 1 at higher rep ranges and type 2a and 2b as the weight increases and becomes heavier and more explosive, hitting all your muscle fibre types, hard. Undoubtedly this is also taxing on your energy systems, you will see that this amount of volume will increase muscle size by forcing adaptation in the muscle energy storage unit, the sarcoplasm. The lower rep ranges target the contractile tissue, myofibrils, in theory forcing myofibril hypertrophy, together hitting both defined types of hypertrophy. The jury is out as to whether it is better to attack the different types of hypertrophy in the same set or even session, or to alternate training targeting these over a period of weeks, or in fact if there needs to be a differentiation between training myofibril and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy at all, as this will just happen in combination within rep ranges included in many bodybuilding training regimes. What is interesting about this type of training is that some recent research is showing that fatiguing the muscles, then entering into more heavy weight training, is causing adaptations in muscles forcing them to grow. This research is in its infancy and the physiological mechanisms are not fully understood, but it appears that when oxygen availability in the muscle is reduced by the effects of fatigue, caused in this case by the earlier high volume sets and limited rest, that this triggers muscle hypertrophy and has also been shown to initiate increases in strength! There are only two real criticisms of this of this program. Firstly, from a logistical point of view is the sheer number of weight changes, this can be a giant pain in the backside if the gym is busy and is going to lead to some potential disgruntled fellow lifters, and if a weight isn’t available this is going to impact on your training time and recovery between sets. The second reason is that with these rep ranges and recovery periods, is that there is going to be a few sessions of figuring out what weights you can manage within the framework of this program, this might take a few weeks and in a four week program that is an awful large chunk of trial and error, therefore we suggest a trial week or two to get things right before you start the program ‘real’. In conclusion, DTP training seems to stimulate appropriate path ways with which to encourage muscle growth in terms of the rep ranges, weekly volume and the types of exercises it employs. Whether this is more or less effective than other programs we have evaluated is for reasons stated above always going to be difficult to ascertain for each individual and a matter of personal taste. However, the 4 week shock principle of this type of training means that it is not going to take a large chunk out of your work out life, so in our opinion, this is well worth giving a try when you reach your next plateau or after your next dieting phase, so if you do give DTP training a try, please let us know the results. Peace, weights and protein shakes. Paul Rimmer (BSc, MSc).