This article was published on Tuesday 10 February, 2004.
This is perhaps one of the most important articles I have written in a long time. It is about how to find the basic framework of routine structure that works best for YOU. As anyone that has been exposed to bodybuilding knows there are countless different training styles out there that all promise to give you the physique of your dreams. And they are all WRONG! And they are all CORRECT also. How can this be? Well what I meant by that is that they all work for some people at least some of the time. And MOST of them fail most of the people. Most bodybuilders continually sway back and forth, at least in their minds if not in the gym about how to train. They are lost in a sea of confusion about who is right and what the reality of effective training really is. Everyone has a very unique metabolism and what is pure magic for one person may be pure poison for another. Without going into too much detail I will just say that most guys out there in search that huge ripped physique just don’t have the genetics to make it happen. But…..almost everyone can build a physique that will impress about anyone except competitive level bodybuilders. How fast you get there, or if you ever get there at all depends on training and diet. Saving diet for another day lets discuss how to find an effective training protocol for you. In order to keep this from becoming the book it very well could be, we are going to keep the parameters limited. Instead of going into all the sub-categories of each basic training style we will just touch upon the “big picture” styles, because within them are the volume and frequency that is the guiding factor of whether progress is made or not. Once you understand your basic needs there will still be much work and experimentation to be done to fine tune everything to make it fit you. But at least you will be in a position to make gains while this occurs. Lets face it, MOST people out there pouring their heart and souls into training are making marginal at best gains.
The categories to be covered here are:
1. Volume Training, be that traditional or GVT.
2. Reduced level volume training.
4. Hardgainer style training (this is more often than not a sub-category of HIT, but I will treat it as it’s own because there are differences that make a BIG difference as to if it, or HIT are effective.
In order for this “experiment” to be effective and work for anyone out there that might be willing to try it I am going to establish some guidelines for each training protocol to be followed. I ABSOLUTLY KNOW that the guidelines will not stand-up to criticism from many proponents of each categories training style. SAVE IT GUYS! I know it’s not perfect, and if you have a training style that fits you well and is effective great. MANY, MANY people are absolutely lost, and this will help them find their way if they are willing to take the time and take some risks. Those risks being that they absolutely will do some training that doesn’t work well for them. My guess though is that the people that haven’t put the pieces of the growth puzzle together yet are already not making progress so they have nothing to lose.
Lets also clear up something else to make sure the trainee is not spinning their wheels. The most perfect routine is WORTHLESS if rest and nutrition are not there to back things up. You need to be getting 1.5 grams of protein per lb of bodyweight EVERY DAY, 2 grams if “on”. Other basics required are:
2 mega-dose multi-vitamin and 2 mega-dose multi-mineral a day.
2000 mgs vit C a day
300% calcium/magnesium/zinc a day
2 tablespoons of flax oil a day.
2 tablespoons olive oil a day
1 gram ALA a day, 2 x 500 mgs
Please understand this in the MINIMAL supps a trainee should take and far from optimal. THIS IS NOT A RECOMMENDED SUPPLEMENTATION SCHEDULE, BUT I KNOW FROM EXPERIENCE THAT MANY LIFTERS TAKE NEXT TO NOTHING. This will provide a minimum base that most any lifter will do OK on. There are LOTS of other items that are both inexpensive, and result producing. But this is far better than most people do for themselves.
I am also going to ask that the trainee attempting this does not try it while they are trying to reduce bodyfat. While I can honestly say that I do not have a single trainee I personal train that doesn’t build strength the whole time they are cutting I do know that most people simply just don’t know how to make this happen so don’t attempt this while cutting. Also if you are say, just starting a new physical labor job, or going out for a sport that requires large physical exertion expenditures this isn’t the best time to experiment.
Try to keep all the variables to a minimum.
OK lets start, here are the basic parameters of each training style to try.
Pick three exercises per body-part and do 4 sets each. This is 12 sets per body-part and while it isn’t as high as the 16-20 sets some volume trainers do, it’s still high enough to get an adequate growth response if volume training will work for you. These sets are not to be done to failure but they should be done fairly heavy. Keep the reps in the 8-12 range with 2 to 3 minutes rest per set (always time it so you are consistent). Train 4 days a week using a split that has you only hitting each muscle group once a week. And yes volume guys I know some of you hit muscles more frequently than that with good results, but this experiment is made to get the trainee there as soon as possible and once a week volume training works fine if volume training will work for you. This section is probably the easiest one to be listed because almost all trainees try volume training at some point in time. It does NOT work well for the majority of the trainees out there because it’s just too much to recover from, but for those it works good for nothing is better and they should be doing it!
Reduced level volume training:
Pick two exercises per body-part and do 3 sets each after warm-ups. These sets should be hard but not to failure. The last set of each exercise should be extremely tough though and going to failure on this set is fine, but not needed. While some will say this is too low to be called volume training, its still more than HIT, and quite frankly I don’t care what it’s called. It is a very useful protocol and one I have a lot of my personal training clients on because it works so well. Keep the reps between 8-12, and train 3-4 days a week (PREFERABLY 3) and only hit each muscle one a week. Use as little overlap as possible which means all pushing muscles on one day, pulling muscles on another, and legs the other day. Many folks do chest and back on one day, arms a day or so later and then wonder why they are not growing. Eliminate the overlap!
This is probably the hardest one for me to define a basic training framework for because there are so many different variations of HIT that all qualify as HIT training. Without leaving anyone slighted for not picking their HIT style I will take a stab at providing a basic structure to work within. It’s particularly hard for me because I’m primarily known as a HIT trainer, but in truth my routines for personal training clients cover the full spectrum including Westside Barbell routines (ooops! Opened up another can of worms). Anyway, the protocol for this will be picking two sets per body-part (except bi’s and tri’s, and calves, only one lift here) and do one set of each lift (after warm-ups) to absolute failure. You may alternatively do these sets with beyond failure techniques such as rest-pause or drop-sets but most people find the beyond failure techniques too much if used for every lift. If you attempt them and they don’t yield IMMEDIATE strengths gains from your first rotation drop them immediately and continue your experiment with strait sets only. Most everyone does well on a routine such as this and strength gains are usually phenomenal. Some people do not get the size gains to correspond to the strength gains, but that is a topic for another article.
Hardgainer Style Training:
There are many people on these boards that have absolutely ZERO knowledge about this style of routine. And unfortunately they are most often the ones that spout off about how it could never work. One of the objections often quoted is “there is no way you could build a competitive physique with a routine like that”. To that I will say “no fucking duh”. No you are right you can’t build a competitive physique on a routine like this. But “duh Einstein” the VAST majority of the trainees out there will never build a competitive physique no matter what they do. That takes great genetics and unfortunately most people just have it. But with proper training most guys can get damn big and strong. Big enough to turn heads wherever they go. For MANY people out there Hardgainer style training is the one and only thing that will get them there. I can’t even count the number of trainees I have seen add 20-40 lbs in a few months after YEARS of making little or no gains. I know, I was one of them! I will make this category really simple on everyone.
Split your routine up into 2 or 3 days and after warm-ups do:
Bench Press or Dips 2 x 8-12
Bent Row or Pull-up 2 x 8-12
Military or Dumbell Press 2 x 8-12
Squat 2 x 8-12
Stiff Legged Deadlift 2 x 8-12
Weighted Abs 2 x 10
DON’T worry about detail here. The idea is to actually get brutally strong on a core group of lifts instead. Here is something I posted awhile back:
For you people that are always concerned about balance and symmetry, yet don’t grow, yes, you guys.always doing 3-4 exercises per body-part to ensure “complete development” of all “aspects” of a muscle. What if all you did was:
Squats 400 x 20
Stiff-legged deadlifts 375 x 15
Bench Press 315 x 12
Pull-Up with 100 lbs extra weight x 12
Military Press Body-Weight x 10
Calf-Raise 700 x 15
Weighted Sit-Up 175 x 12
How much bigger would you be than you are now, and what muscle would be under developed?!?!?!?!?!?
What if that was ALL THE LIFTS YOU ACTUALLY DID ON A WEEK-TO-WEEK BASIS, BUT ACTUALLY DID THAT AMOUNT OF WEIGHT? AND SINCE THAT WAS ALL YOU DID YOU NEVER OVERTRAINED AND YOU WERE ALWAYS ABLE ADD A LITTLE AMOUNT OF WEIGHT TO THE BAR. HOW MUCH FUCKING BIGGER WOULD YOU BE THAN YOU ARE NOW???????
Enough ranting about Hardgainer style training. Let me just add that if you have even a passing fancy about weight training and you have never read Stuart McRobert’s book “Brawn” you are really missing something.
Well we have four basic categories and ways to go about testing them, and while admittedly the formats and methods of implementing them are far from perfect they will do for someone that is really determined to be successful at bodybuilding. So how to go about putting them to the test, and how to determine if they are working? Well, we could start at doing the volume training first and work down. But I will simply say this. On a percentile basis more people fail at volume training than succeed. Don’t believe me? Go to your gym and closely observe. MOST people there will be doing a volume routine. And most will be the little guys you see spinning their wheels looking the same month after month. Volume guys, don’t take this as a knock because as I stated volume works spectacularly for those it works for. If you are one of them count your blessings, but don’t get ruffled and say that if it doesn’t work for someone it’s because they are doing something wrong. Actually you are right in a way, what they are doing wrong is overtraining.
In my opinion it would be best to start at the bottom and work your way up. The big problem here is 80% of the people that decide to try a Hardgainer routine add shit until it’s not a Hardgainer routine. LISTEN TO ME! THERE ARE VERY, VERY FEW PEOPLE OUT THERE THAT WILL NOT MAKE GREAT PROGRESS ON A HARDGAINER STYLE ROUTINE, DON’T ADD A THING AND IF IT DOESN’T WORK YOU WILL AT LEAST KNOW IT DOESN’T WORK BECAUSE IT DOESN’T SUT YOU, NOT BECAUSE YOU BASTARDIZED IT. Everyone owes it to themselves to try a routine like this at least once in their lives to at least see what it can do for them. Why have I spent so much time and words about Hardgainer style training? Do I think it’s the best way to go? Absolutely not, but I do know that it is the most misunderstood, and least likely to be tried method. I also absolutely KNOW that for the extreme hardgainer it’s the ONLY way they will ever develop an impressive physique.
Again, I would suggest starting at the bottom and working up. By doing so you WILL make gains until you run into your overtraining threshold. If you make it to volume training and volume is working for you add a few sets and keep going till a wall is hit and back down. I would suggest trying each method for 6 weeks. Judge your results by strength and size gains. Strength gains should occur on about every lift every week until you get to volume training. It is common for volume trainers to not have consistent strength gains, but they do add size consistently. Still, slow strength gains are needed because if that is not occurring you are just continually repeating the last workout. You MUST pre progressing! I know some people are probably saying 6 weeks! That’s 24 months, almost half a year. Let me put it to you this way. What were your gains like over the last 6 months. What if in 6 months from now you had a great handle on your training and could then devote your time to a training protocol that actually worked for you?
I had a few people asking me why as a personal trainer I would write something like this and asked if I wasn’t concerned that I would lose business because of it. My answer was simple. I get a great deal of satisfaction helping people achieve their lifting goals and know that those people I help are more likely to come to me for assistance when they get stuck, or are ready to take their training to the next level. This is what these boards are about. People sharing knowledge and everyone benefiting from it!
Strength athletes have been using BCAAs during their workouts for decades. BCAAs are believed to inhibit the breakdown of muscle tissue, and this is not just a figment of the imagination of supplements makers. Sports scientists at the Astrand Laboratory in Sweden published the results of a study that confirms this in the American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism.
As their name suggests, BCAAs, or branched-chain amino acids, are amino acids with a branched side chain. The side chain makes the job of the enzymes in muscle cells, converting amino acids into energy during intensive exertion, easier. That’s why your muscle cells are happy to convert BCAAs into energy during an intensive training session, and that’s why athletes are fond of BCAA supplements. The more BCAAs you have in your muscles, the slower your muscle cells break down muscle fibre. The anabolic stimulus from your training remains the same, but you experience less muscle breakdown, so you build up more muscle mass.
Actually, this isn’t the whole story, as BCAAs have other effects too. Leucine is an anabolic stimulant for muscle cells, leucine and isoleucine stimulate fat burning in muscle cells, and isoleucine boosts the muscle cells’ glucose uptake. [J Nutr. 2005 Sep;135(9):2103-8.] But the emphasis in this new Swedish study is on the anticatabolic effect of BCAAs.
The researchers did an experiment with seven healthy test subjects, who didn’t normally do weight training. The researchers got them to train their legs by doing leg-presses. After an extensive warming up, they did 4 sets of 10 reps at 89 percent of their 1RM, followed by 4 sets of 15 reps at 65 percent of their 1RM.
The test subjects exercised one leg, and rested the other one.
On one occasion the subjects drank a sports drink that contained no active ingredients; on the other occasion they were given a drink containing BCAAs. If you want to know the exact composition: the BCAAs consisted of 45 percent leucine, 30 percent valine and 25 percent isoleucine. They used Ajinomoto products from Japan.
The subjects drank just before, during and just after their workout 150 ml of the sports drink, and then another 150 ml 15 and 45 minutes after training. In total the subjects consumed 900 ml sports drink. Per kg bodyweight they consumed 85 mg BCAAs. If you weigh 80 kg that amounts to 6.8 g BCAAs, which is not an extreme dose.
The supplementation boosted the BCAA concentration in the muscles and blood and activated the classic anabolic signal molecules in the muscle cells, mTOR and p70S6k. Nothing new. What was new was that the BCAAs reduced the concentration of the catabolic protein MAFbx, and inhibited the increase in the catabolic MuRF-1 as a result of training.
MAFbx and MuRF-1 are ubiquitins. They attach themselves to muscle proteins and then attract a molecular shredder – the proteasome – to the muscle proteins that are to be broken down.
“These observations, together with the BCAA-induced enlargement in p70S6k phosphorylation and attenuation of MAFbx expression and MuRF-1 total protein provide additional support for the view that BCAA has an anabolic effect on human skeletal muscle, an effect which appears to be similar in resting and exercising human muscle”, the Swedes conclude.
The researchers were not funded by the supplements industry, but by the Swedish National Centre for Research in Sports, the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences and the Karolinska Institutet.
Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Mar 1;302(5):E510-21.
BCAAs make training less tiring 07.08.2011
Sports drink with BCAAs and arginine boosts post-training recovery 28.03.2011
Small amount of BCAAs and L-arginine prevents cardio-induced muscle breakdown 04.03.2011
Session 1: All 4 exercises done in successive order which is 1 round; 60 seconds rest between rounds; perform as many rounds as possible in a 30 minute time limit.
Flat Bench Press
shoulder width grip
May have to do negatives if can’t do reps (jump up and then negative down)
AMAP (as many as possible)
watch overextending at the bottom of the movement
comfortable grip most likely in the medium range
Be careful at the bottom position not to overstretch and strain the AC joint/shoulder
Session 2: Rounds will be a total of 5 while decreasing reps as the rounds progress while using the same weights.
Round 1- 20 reps
Round 2- 15 reps
Round 3- 10 reps
Round 4- 8 reps
Round 5- 4-6 reps
Start the session with planks for as long as can hold.
Power Upright Rows
Squat down to a bar similar to deadlifting but standing with a wider stance while holding the bar in the middle
Power the weight up while pulling the bar all the way to the mid chest to chin region
Hammer Iso Rows
Two arms at the same time with whatever grip is preferred
Do not turn this into some crazy leaning back movement
Squeeze the elbows behind the body while finishing with the shoulder blades being brought together
Use the preferred method of bar placement
Stand with a shoulder width stance
Squat as deep as possible preferably where the top of the knee is below the crease of the hip
Finish Session 3 with another set of planks for endurance.
Standing Overhead Press
Use of the legs is permitted but do not be excessive
Lockout at the top
Engage good shoulder flexion by keeping the bar in line with center of gravity (overhead) and squeezing the traps to finish at the top of movement
they may have to do negatives if can’t do reps (jump up and then negative down)
watch overextending at the bottom of the movement
conventional stance or shoulder width
use double overhand grip
Keep head and chest up which will keep the butt down
Pull hard through the heels
As the bar gets to the knees drive the hips forward
Be careful to pull back at the top of the lockout while not leaning back and hyper-extending the back
use a dip bar to hold themselves up with arms locked while lifting legs straight out; knees to the chest as alternate
Tire Changer Squats
This is a deep squatting movement that will hold a plate out in front of the body
Hold a 25 lb plate straight out with both arms
Elbows can be slightly bent to keep strain limited
Squat down to calves while keeping an upright position; if you are looking at the floor you are leaning too much
A new study, published today in the International Journal of Epidemiology , has dismissed the concept of ‘fat but fit’. In contrast, the results from the new study suggest that the protective effects of high fitness against early death are reduced in obese people.
Although the detrimental effects of low aerobic fitness have been well documented, this research has largely been performed in older populations. Few studies have investigated the direct link between aerobic fitness and health in younger populations. This study by academics in Sweden followed 1,317,713 men for a median average of 29 years to examine the association between aerobic fitness and death later in life, as well as how obesity affected these results. The subjects’ aerobic fitness was tested by asking them to cycle until they had to stop due to fatigue.
Men in the highest fifth of aerobic fitness had a 48 per cent lower risk of death from any cause compared with those in the lowest fifth. Stronger associations were observed for deaths related to suicide and abuse of alcohol and narcotics. Unexpectedly, the authors noted a strong association between low aerobic fitness and also deaths related to trauma. Co-author Peter Nordström has no explanation for this finding: “We could only speculate, but genetic factors could have influenced these associations given that aerobic fitness is under strong genetic control.”
The study also evaluated the concept that ‘fat but fit is ok’. Men of a normal weight, regardless of their fitness level, were at lower risk of death compared to obese individuals in the highest quarter of aerobic fitness. Nevertheless, the relative benefits of high fitness may still be greater in obese people. However, in this study the beneficial effect of high aerobic fitness was actually reduced with increased obesity, and in those with extreme obesity there was no significant effect at all.
With the limitation that the study cohort included only men, and relative early deaths, this data does not support the notion that ‘fat but fit’ is a benign condition.
The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Oxford University Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
Oxford University Press. (2015, December 21). Obesity more dangerous than lack of fitness, new study claims. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2015 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151221071513.htm