ARTICLES: Training Related - Making A Strength/Size Routine by Casey Butt - AnabolicMinds.com

ARTICLES: Training Related - Making A Strength/Size Routine by Casey Butt

  1. meowmeow's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Posts
    548
    Rep Power
    385

    Reputation

    Post ARTICLES: Training Related II - Making A Strength/Size Routine by Casey Butt


    Casey Butt was a scientific-minded bodybuilder/researcher and for several years wrote for bodybuilding and strength training magazines such as HARDGAINER and MILO. He was different than many in that he seriously scrutinized medical, physiological and metabolism journals biochemistry, kinesiology, biomechanics and medical texts and books for anything relevant to weight training. He started his own now defunct publication "The WeighTrainer" from which the following articles are taken.

    His six Physiology Related articles are posted here at: http://anabolicminds.com/forum/exerc...asey-butt.html and should be read prior to reading these as they serve as a basis for understanding.

    In addition seven Basic Training Related articles (as well as a FAQ) were meant to be read prior to these as they introduce concepts built upon herein. They are posted here at: http://anabolicminds.com/forum/exerc...asey-butt.html

    The articles posted here are training related and form the six part "Making A Strength/Size Routine" series:

    1. Making A Strength/Size Routine Part I: Exercise Selection
    2. Making A Strength/Size Routine Part II: Exercise Sequence
    3. Making A Strength/Size Routine Part III: Sets And Reps And How To Perform Them
    4. Making A Strength/Size Routine Part IV: Training Frequency
    5. Making A Strength/Size Routine Part V: Splitting Your Routine
    6. Making A Strength/Size Routine Part VI: Balancing The Balancing Act


    In addition the three part "Advanced Strength/Size Routine" series is posted herein:

    1. Advanced Strength/Size Routine Construction Part I: Rebalancing The Balancing Act
    2. Advanced Strength/Size Routine Construction Part II: The Heavy/Medium System
    3. Advanced Strength/Size Routine Construction Part III: The Heavy/Medium System Continued

  2. meowmeow's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Posts
    548
    Rep Power
    385

    Reputation

    Post Making A Strength/Size Routine Part I: Exercise Selection


    The WeighTrainer
    Making A Strength/Size Routine Part I: Exercise Selection

    The first thing that has to be considered when putting together a strength and/or size routine is exercise selection. This will factor into the workout duration and split of your finished routine. I'm going to split weight training exercises into two categories (in order of priority):

    1. Compound Exercises
    2. Isolation Exercises

    Compound Exercises

    These are exercises that involve more than one major muscle and involve the movement of move than one joint. Examples would be Squats, Bent-Over Rows, Bench Presses, Military Presses, and so on. The collective experience of generations of weight trainers teaches that these are the most effective movements for producing gains in strength and muscle size. But for many, that will not satisfy you and convince you to put your faith in these exercises when there is so much more "attractive" advice in the world of weight training. Well, rather than try to debunk every training myth that's been propogated through the years, let's look at what exercise science has to say about the compound exercises.

    Hormonal Response: Numerous studies have indicated that weight training exercises that recruit a lot of total muscle mass - the compound exercises - result in the largest anabolic hormonal response by the body. The proportions of anabolic hormones (mainly growth hormone and testosterone) that are actually secreted are thought to be a function of factors such as rep count and rest between sets - with lower rep sets and longer breaks between them favoring testosterone release and higher rep sets and shorter breaks between them favoring growth hormone (hGH). The more total muscle mass involved, the higher the hormone levels rise. For this reason, Squats will cause a greater hormonal response than Bench Presses.

    There has been some speculation that the anabolic hormone release due to these exercises is of no significance because it is only a transient effect (it goes away a short while after your workout). I tend to disagree with for a few reasons. They are:

    1. As was explained in the Muscular Growth: How Does A Muscle Grow? article on the 'Physiology Related Articles' page, testosterone increases satellite cell sensitivity to the growth factors IGF-1 and FGF. These satellite cells perform a vital role because they provide the means by which muscle cells increase their nuclei - which they must do if substantial growth is to take place. This is important after training because it is at that time that growth factors are released (in response to training) which have profound effects on the satellite cells' proliferation and differentiation. In this way, the hormonal effects of the compound exercises may have long-term effects, even though their increased levels are only temporary.

    2. Testosterone directly increases protein synthesis and the muscle cell's sensitivity to testosterone is increased after training (androgen receptors are upregulated). This may help counter the increased protein degradation that also occurs at that time.

    3. It has been shown that weight trained individuals have greater night time growth hormone outputs than untrained people. Whether this effect is caused by neural or substrate factors, it is only logical to conclude that the compound exercises would promote this more so than exercises which involve smaller muscle masses.

    In addition, free weight exercises, as opposed to machine exercises, involve a large number of smaller stabilizer muscles in order to secure joints and maintain balance during their execution, this ups the total muscle mass involved to more than just the main muscles targeted in the exercise (the prime movers). Machines, with their confined paths of movement, eliminate the need for as many of these stabilizer muscles to assist in the motion and therefore result in less total muscle mass engaged, and less of a hormonal response stimulated. This fact supports free weights over machines in building muscular strength and size.

    Stressing The Muscles At Their Optimum Range For Producing Force: Borrowing a section from the series The Neuromuscular System on the 'Physiology Related Articles' page:

    Particularly relevant to muscle building is the fact that each muscle fiber has a ideal length at which it generates maximum force when contracting. The force generated is directly influenced by the amount of elogation (contraction or extension) that the fiber is under at the start of the contraction. Going back to the sliding filament theory, this optimum length is the point at which the actin and myosin filaments line up in such a way that allows maximum cross-bridge formation (in practice this length usually coincides with the muscles length in its "relaxed" position). When the muscle is extended more than this the actin filaments cannot make contact with as many myosin cross-bridges - they have slid past each other, so to speak. When the muscle is contracted to a shorter length than optimal, less force can be developed for a few reasons. For one, the normal chemical processes taking place within the fiber become altered so that fewer actin cross-bridge attachment sites are uncovered and available for cross-bridging (the reason this happens is unknown at present). In addition, filaments from the opposite ends of the sacromere overlap and cover some actin cross-bridge attachment sites, further reducing the number of possible cross-bridges. Still further, the myosin filaments come up against the ends of each individual sacromere (what's referred to as the z-lines), impeding any further shortening.

    The compound exercises, generally, heavily stress the muscles involved in the optimum range referred to in the excerpt above. This is not to imply that they don't provide stress in other ranges, because they certainly do. But unlike most isolation movements, the bulk of the stress is delivered where it is most appropriate for building strength and size - the muscles' optimum length for generating force. This is what is meant when people speak of compound exercises hitting the "belly" of the muscle (whether they realize the physiology of it or not).

    Real World Strength: From a strength perspective, by also strengthening joint stabilizing muscles, free weight exercises lead to increases in functional strength. Balance is also improved because of the coordination needed between muscles in order to perform the lifts. Machines remove these factors from the lift and, hence, result in the trainee becoming stronger in the plane of motion fixed by the lift, but not necessarily in movements requiring motion outside of this plane. From a more intuitive standpoint: When's the last time you came across a leg press outside of the gym? But there are many times when the body has to mimic a squatting motion. Free weight compound exercises build athletic strength.

    For the above reasons (and the fact that no other exercises can duplicate these attributes) the free weight compound exercises should form the core of any strength/size program. Any exercises added to a strength/size program in addition to these should only be done so if recovery ability allows (this will be dealt with later) or if the isolation exercises are done for injury rehabilitation or prevention.

    The core compound exercises are:

    Squats
    Deadlifts
    Bench Presses (barbell or dumbell)
    Bent Over Rows (barbell or dumbell)
    Dips
    Overhead Presses (barbell or dumbell)
    Chin-Ups
    The Olympic Lifts and their Power versions
    Isolation Exercises

    Isolation exercises usually involve the movement of only one joint. Examples would be leg extensions and dumbell flyes. They are called "isolation" exercises because they serve to isolate muscles from the surrounding ones and work them selectively. In addition, isolation exercises usually have the further defining characteristic of maximally stressing the muscles involved in either their stretched position or their contracted position. This means that they do not deliver optimum stress along the muscle's optimum range for producing force - the very nature of the muscles' strength (weaker) in the elongated (stretched) or contracted position prohibits this (see the series The Neuromuscular System for reference). Isolation exercises also, because of less total muscle mass being involved, cannot stimulate the same degree of anabolic hormone secretion as the compound exercises. In addition, by their very nature, they cannot stimulate the production of functional strength across several muscle groups, as the compound exercises can.

    However, the one thing they can do, that compound exercises can't, is isolate a particlular muscle. By doing this it is possible to cause the local release of growth factors, leading to the isolated growth of that specific muscle (see the Muscle Growth series). Isolation exercises that maximally stress the muscles involved in their stretched position may even be able to further stimulate growth by fostering the stretch-induced release of specific prostaglandins implicated in the growth process (primarily PGE2 and PGF2-alpha). They may also cause the muscle to add sarcomeres in series, making it appear 'fuller' (for more information on this see the article entitled Are Partial Range Movements Useful?). This ability to target very specific areas make isolation exercises of value to advanced Bodybuilders looking to refine their muscular development. But, unless in the interest of injury rehabilitation, no isolation exercise should ever impede the progress of a free weight compound exercise in a program aimed at strength and/or size.

    Let's split the isolation exercises into three groups: exercises that place the majority of the load on the stretched position of the muscle, exercises that place the majority of the stress on the contracted postition of the muscle and exercises that strengthen the stabilizer muscles of the body (often used for injury rehabilitation and prevention).

    Exercises that place the majority of the load on the stretched position of the muscle: These are familiar exercises such as Dumbell Flyes and Incline Dumbell Curls. What sets them apart from other exercises, along with the points covered above, is the fact that there is some speculation that by applying a load to a muscle while in its stretched position it may be possible to actually stretch the epimysium (fascia) surrounding the muscle. It is theorized that this stretched fascia would afford the muscle more room to grow and/or acquire a more asthetically pleasing shape. For Bodybuilders this would be of some importance. Taking a section from the Are Partial Range Movements Useful? article:

    It should also be mentioned that several bodybuilding and strength coaches (John Parillo and Torbjorn Akerfeldt, for example) have claimed for years that stretching the epimysium (fascial stretching and planning, as John Parillo teaches) creates a larger, fuller muscle. ...Many bodybuilders, in fact, have noticed this effect when they begin such a fascial stretching program. Akerfeldt recommends training the muscle in the stretched position - when it is already "pumped" so as to maximally stretch the epimysium - to achieve this effect. He sites Arnold Schwarzenegger's "full" chest in his prime - he was always fond of performing very deep dumbell flyes.

    It also may be possible, by stretching the muscle, to engage a higher percentage of muscle fibers in the subsequent contraction. This occurs through what is called the 'myotatic' reflex. The myotatic reflex exists to protect the joints from sudden hyperextension (and the muscle from tearing due to excessive tension). When quickly stretched, proprioceptors (nerve endings that relay all the information about the musculoskeletal system to the central nervous system) within the muscle 'record' the change in length (and speed of change) of the muscle fibers and send signals to the spine which convey this information. This causes the muscle to attempt to resist the change in length by contracting suddenly. Stretching can also cause Na+ channels to open, thereby setting off a contraction. The more sudden and extreme the change in muscle length, the stronger the muscle contractions will be. Some Bodybuilding theorists have concluded that this reflex may be of use for delivering the training stimulus to the muscles. It's thought that engaging the myotatic reflex will result in more powerful muscle contractions.

    This reflex, and it's subsequent more forceful contraction, is thought by some to be the basis for plyometric training. As you can probably gather, quickly stretching a muscle under load can be a very dangerous practice. Where training longevity is concerned (as it should be for all of us) and depending on the skill of the lifter, it may not be wise to suddenly stretch the muscle under weight. Most plyometric trainees realize the risks inherent with that style of training but continue to do it out of a belief that it will benefit their athletic performance - it's a risk they're willing to take. For a person interested in building strength/size, and maintaining this over the long haul, utmost care must be taken when incorporating any movement which quickly stretches the muscle - especially in it's elongated position. You should also be aware that the myotatic reflex affects mostly type I fibers, so it may not make much of an impact on type II training (i.e. what we're mainly interested in) at all. In addition, it is also suspected that the reflex decreases with repeated training.

    It should also be considered that the negative (eccentric) phase of the lift is at least as important as the concentric phase in building strength/size. The eccentric phase actually causes more damage to the individual muscle fibers than the concentric phase - although, less total fibers are involved - thus facilitating the release of more local growth factors. Rapidly stretching a muscle would, by the very nature of the movement, reduce the time of the negative contraction. It may be possible that any potential stimulus delivered by the increased contractile force of the myotatic reflex would be offset by the stimulus lost from the reduced loading during the eccentric phase. The weight trainer should seek to exploit all of the possible muscle stimulation benefits of the eccentric phase of the lift by controlling the negative portion at a deliberate pace - not dropping the weight suddenly. If the trainee wishes to incure any of the possible benefits of the myotatic reflex, the negative portion of the lift should only be allowed to accelerate slightly over a very short distance when the muscle approches its most elongated position - and then it must be remembered that this can be a very dangerous practice, requiring substantial skill. Considering the fact that the myotatic reflex can also diminish over time by repeatedly performing such style movements, and that the deliberate style necessary for their safe performance itself reduces the reflex, very little benefit may actually be gained from this style training - with a considerably increased risk of injury.

    Because of their ability to isolate a muscle, and the above legitimate merits, exercises that place the majority of the load on the stretched position can have a place in a strength/size routine. But as they, by nature, produce less stress in the muscles optimum length and they elicit very minimal anabolic hormone response, they should only be included in the routine if their presence in no way effects strength gains in the free weight compound exercises. Most drug-free, genetically average, people will be surprised to find that even moderate work on these exercises will cut into their strength gains and that they would be better off channeling the vast majority of their efforts into the compound exercises.

    It should also be mentioned that free weight versions of these exercises are, once again, superior to their machine counterparts because they allow you to more completely control the degree of stretch that these movements place on the working muscle(s).

    A limited list of examples of these exercises would be:

    Dumbell Flyes
    Pullovers (barbell or dumbell)
    Lying Side Laterals
    Incline Dumbell Curls
    Seated (or Standing) French Presses
    Stiff-Legged Deadlifts

    Exercises that place the majority of the load on the contracted position of the muscle: These are what are commonly called the 'peak contraction' exercises. They include such exercises as Cable Crossovers and Triceps Kickbacks. Advanced Bodybuilders claim that these exercises help them achieve muscle separation and striations (when combined with a fat loss diet). Consider the following section from the series The Neuromuscular System:

    Particularly relevant to muscle building is the fact that each muscle fiber has a ideal length at which it generates maximum force when contracting. The force generated is directly influenced by the amount of elogation (contraction or extension) that the fiber is under at the start of the contraction. Going back to the sliding filament theory, this optimum length is the point at which the actin and myosin filaments line up in such a way that allows maximum cross-bridge formation. When the muscle is extended more than this the actin filaments cannot make contact with as many myosin cross-bridges - they have slid past each other, so to speak. When the muscle is contracted to a shorter length than optimal, less force can be developed for a few reasons. For one, the normal chemical processes taking place within the fiber become altered so that fewer actin cross-bridge attachment sites are uncovered and available for cross-bridging (the reason this happens is unknown at present). In addition, filaments from the opposite ends of the sacromere overlap and cover some actin cross-bridge attachment sites, further reducing the number of possible cross-bridges. Still further, the myosin filaments come up against the ends of each individual sacromere (what's referred to as the z-lines), impeding any further shortening.

    and

    So what is a muscle's optimum length for generating force? Well, generally, it is the length of the muscle while in its relaxed state. How much strength is lost when the muscle contracts at some other length than optimum? Well, at the extreme points of a muscle's extension or contraction (extended ~30% longer and contracted ~30% shorter than optimal) a muscle has the ability to contract only ~50% as forcefully as it can at the optimal length.

    This clearly shows that all 'peak contractions' are necessarily 'weak' by the physiological factors governing them, and this limits their potential for producing muscular growth. These exercises have no place in a strength/size program; they are especially inappropriate for the drug-free, genetically abverage weight trainer; save your energy for where it's needed - getting stronger.

    Exercises that strengthen the stabilizer muscles of the body (often used for injury rehabilitation and prevention): The most popular examples of these type of exercises are ones that strengthen the external rotator muscles of the shoulders, such as L-Flyes and Cuban Presses. I include exercises that specifically strengthen the lower back and abdomen in this category as well, because this area stabilizes the torso and is prone to injury (especially if you Squat heavy - which, in all likelihood, you should). These type of exercises can hold a very crucial place in a strength/size routine and should be given higher priority than the other types of isolation exercises.

    The fact is that most weight trainers should include some of these types of movements in their routine whether they're nursing an injury or not. I'm sure everyone is familiar with the saying, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". Well, in weight training it holds especially true. If you injure yourself in the gym you were probably using improper form, were overtrained, dropped a weight on yourself or were too weak in a stabilizing muscle group to complete the lift - and you strained yourself. Don't wait until you get hurt to realize that you have a weak link, start strengthening it now.

    Aside from the rather obvious benefits of injury prevention, strengthening a weak stabilizer muscle (or group) will increase your strength and allow you to target the prime movers in the compound exercises more effectively. The classic example is the person who's lower back gives out before his legs when he Squats heavy. How many times have I seen people recommend that the trainee stop Squatting and find another exercise to target the legs when this happens (usually the Leg Press). Or they suggest that the trainee pre-exhaust their quads before doing Squats and they then don't have to Squat as heavy (in fact, they can't). The solution to a weak link is NOT to stick your head in the sand and hope that it goes away! If your lower back is weak STRENGTHEN IT!

    Research indicates that when a stabilizer group's ability to secure the joint is exceeded, the nervous system will not fire the prime movers of the motion in full force. This is probably why a lot of Bench Pressers claim that they experience increases in shoulder stability and strength when they start performing rotator cuff muscle exercises (specifically, exercises to strengthen two of the external rotators - the teres minor and the infraspinatus). Likewise, how often do you hear of weight trainers with bad shoulders. Not only will strengthening these muscles decrease your chance of injury, but it may also boost your Bench Pressing.

    Some exercises and muscle groups to receive attention are:

    External rotators of the shoulder (Lying L-flyes, etc.)
    The Obliques (Side Bends, etc.)
    Abdominals (Crunches, etc.)
    Back Extensions (lower back)
    Reverse Hypers (lower back)
    Stiff-Legged Deadlifts (lower back)

    Choosing The Exercises

    To lay the foundation of your program you first pick one free weight compound exercise for each of the body's major "bodyparts" - legs, back, chest and shoulders. The most effective choices will come from the following goup:

    Squats (legs, back)
    Deadlifts (back, legs)
    Bent-Over Rows (back, upper arm flexors)
    Chin-Ups (back, upper arm flexors)
    Bench Presses (chest, shoulders)
    Incline Presses (chest, shoulders)
    Dips (chest, shoulders)
    Overhead Pressing (shoulders)
    And, if you're really interested in developing functional strength and power - Power Cleans or Clean-Grip High Pulls (back, legs)

    You will notice that I have listed the major bodyparts that each exercise 'hits' in brackets after each one. These are, by no means, the only muscle groups that are hit during these exercises - they only represent the prime movers of each movement (more on this later).

    After you have selected the compound exercises - the 'core' exercises of your routine - you should consider which stabilizer muscle groups you believe you should give special attention to. I can safely recommend that everyone should be doing an isolation exercise to strengthen the muscles of the rotator cuffs of the shoulders. The most common choice for this task is the Lying L-Flye (though there certainly are other effective movements for this purpose; if you're unfamiliar with Lying L-Flyes check http://www.weighttrainersunited.com/lflye.html ). If you choose not to do Deadlifts in your routine (or even if you do) you should consider doing some specialized work for your lower back, such as Stiff-Legged Deadlifts, Arched-Back Good Mornings, Reverse Hypers or Back Extensions.

    If recovery ability allows (you will find this out within a few weeks of following your routine), you may consider including some 'stretch position' isolation exercises in your routine. But because adequate recovery and strength gains in the compound exercises are paramount, you are best to limit these only to muscle groups that you feel are underworked by the compound movements. If, for instance, you find that you don't feel your chest very much during Bench Presses (and you wish to continue doing them, instead of switching to Dips or Incline Presses as your primary chest exercise) you may experiment with including Dumbell Flyes in your routine.

    "But If I Don't Do Dumbell Laterals My Side Delts Will Shrink!"

    This 'Bodybuilder' type of thinking plagued me for years. You believe that isolation exercises are just plain necessary because the compound exercises aren't enough to give you the muscle you want. Every time I was almost convinced to try 'basics-first' training Arnold Schwarzenegger's admonition that a Bodybuilder must hit the muscle with a variety of exercises for full development would suck me back into the quagmire of NO PROGRESS! The compound exercises hit much more muscle than most people realize. Even if you are not aware that Overhead Presses are hitting your side delts, believe me, they are! Likewise, all the pressing movements hit the triceps hard, and Deadlifts (especially the Stiff-Legged variety) do hit your hamstrings.

    It may be interesting for you to note that the introduction of anabolic steroids and the widespread use of isolation exercise-laden routines entered into the Bodybuilding world at around the same time - the early-to-mid 1960's. Was that just a coincidence or was it that people just couldn't gain on those types of routines without the steroids. Think about that.

    After all that, it is still possible that a rare bodypart doesn't get hit sufficiently to your liking from just the compound exercises. In this case you should add ONE free weight exercise for that bodypart - one that places the majority of the stress on the muscle at its optimal length for generating force. In a properly constructed, balanced, routine the only examples I can think of in this regard would be Standing Barbell Curls for the biceps and an exercise for the calf muscles (Donkey Calf Raises, for example).

    So To Sum Up - Placing Priority On These Exercises

    The first and foremost ingredient of any strength/size training routine must be the free weight compound exercises. There may also be a need for specialized exercises for muscle groups that these exercises do not 'hit' adequately - the biceps and calfs. When these exercises have been decided upon exercises that strengthen the stabilizing muscles of the body should be considered. Isolation exercises that place the majority of the load on the stretched position of the muscle should only be included if the weight trainer has the superior recovery abilities to tolerate and prosper from their inclusion. How do you know if you are one of those people? Judge everything by strength gains in the free weight compound movements; if the inclusion of the stretch position exercises cause a ceasation in strength progress (as measured by per-workout fractional increases) in the free weight compound movements, then they have to go. If you wish to receive the possible benefits of fascial stretching, but cannot tolerate the stretch exercises, you should undertake a weight-free fascial stretching program (as advocated by John Parillo in the Parillo Training Manual http://www.parrillo.com/). The 'peak contraction' exercises do nothing but hamper recovery ability and serve no purpose in a strength/size program.

    There will be further related articles in the Making A Strength/Size Routine series on the Training Related Articles page. I hope you found this article useful.
  3. meowmeow's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Posts
    548
    Rep Power
    385

    Reputation

    Post Making A Strength/Size Routine Part II: Exercise Sequence


    The WeighTrainer
    Making A Strength/Size Routine Part II: Exercise Sequence

    There are some simple, generally accepted, rules on how to sequence exercises in actual workouts. While, no doubt, most of you will already know these things, many may not. And because it is such a crucial part of routine design, no series of this sort would be complete without addressing exercise sequence.

    Ground Rules

    Unless under special circumstances, the free weight compound exercises should always be placed near the beginning of the session (usually at the very beginning). This is partly because they are the most demanding exercises in the routine (both physically and mentally) and partly because they involve many muscles - all of which you want 'fresh' for the big effort that these exercises require. If these exercises were placed at the end of the routine you wouldn't likely have the mental or physical energy left to do them justice, and would, therefore, short change yourself on the most productive exercises in your routine. By the same argument, particularly demanding compound exercises should be placed before less demanding ones (e.g. Squats before Bench Presses).

    The compound exercises also involve many other muscles in addition to the prime movers, including smaller stabilizing muscles (see the article entitled Making A Strength/Size Routine Part I: Exercise Selection), which must be rested if performance of the exercises is to be optimal. If the isolation exercises were done before the free weight compound exercises, muscles that are needed for performance of the compound movements may have already been fatigued (depending on the isolation exercises performed, of course). This is an especially detrimental situation if the muscles fatigued are not the prime movers of the compound exercises, but are stabilizers. Even if the muscles fatigued were the prime movers of the compound exercises (a deliberate technique used by some, known as pre-exhaustion) this is not the proper route for drug-free, genetically average weight trainers - this limits the amount of weight used in the all-important compound exercises (and, therefore, also limits anabolic hormone secretion, among other positive benefits).

    How the compound exercises relate to each other must also be considered. Doing a certain compound exercise may hinder performance in a subsequent compound exercise, but the two may be able to be reversed without adverse effects. For example, Deadlifting before Squatting would likely severely limit Squat performance because of lower back fatigue, but Squatting before Deadlifting may not have much of a detrimental effect on Deadlifting performance.

    A general order sequence of compound exercises would be as follows (keep in mind that this is just a general list and is not necessarily meant to be completed as a single workout):

    The Olympic Lifts and their Power versions
    Squats
    Deadlifts
    Bent Over Rows (barbell or dumbell)
    Chin-Ups
    Bench Presses (barbell or dumbell)
    Dips
    Overhead Presses (barbell or dumbell)

    A few words of explanation are in order. First, the Olympic-style lifts are performed first because they are high skill movements and are susceptible to a breakdown of form if the muscles are fatigued. Some people may also choose to do Bench Presses before Deadlifts because Deadlifts can limit Bench Press performance because of shoulder girdle fatigue. There are no doubt a few other questions that could arise regarding the above sequence, but generally (barring any special circumstances) it is a good order to heed. Of course, it is unlikely that anybody would want to perform all of these exercises on the same day, anyway - but, depending on personal factors, some people may.

    Isolation exercises also have to be considered with regard to muscular fatigue. As eluded to above, it wouldn't be wise to do Back Extensions before Squats (they would fatigue the lower back) or to do rotator cuff exercises before Bench Presses (it would limit Bench Press performance because of shoulder instability). The very general guideline would be to place isolation exercises that strengthen the stabilizer muscles of the body towards the end of the workout, after all the compound movements have been done. It wouldn't matter, however, if you did Back Extensions (isolation for the lower back) before Bench Presses. These two exercises do not, generally, conflict with each other to a great deal - unless, of course, you perform power-style Bench Presses with an exaggerated arch.

    Many weight trainers like to complete all the exercises aimed at stressing a particular bodypart consecutively. Using the above example of Back Extensions, this means that if Squats and Back Extensions are to be performed in the same workout, the Back Extensions would be performed immediately following the Squats and not at the end of the workout (Squats would likely be placed at the beginning of the workout). As long as no lower back intensive exercises are to follow (e.g. Bent-Over Rows) then there is nothing wrong with that approach.

    Some Examples

    Below are some examples of possible workout exercise sequences.

    Day 1

    Power Cleans
    Squats
    Bent-Over Rows
    Stiff-Legged Deadlifts
    Barbell Curls

    Day 2

    Bench Presses
    Military Presses
    Calf Raises
    Triceps Dips
    Pre-Stretch Crunches
    Lying L-Flyes

    or

    Monday

    Power Cleans
    Squats
    Calf Raises
    Pre-Stretch Crunches

    Wednesday

    Bench Presses
    Military Presses
    Triceps Dips
    Lying L-Flyes

    Friday

    Split Jerks
    Keystone Deadlifts
    Chin-Ups
    Barbell Curls

    NOTE: As you can see, these routines don't contain many isolation exercises. If you are a drug-free, genetically average weight trainer who is interested in results you will find that you simply cannot tolerate them.

    The above are only two of many possible routines, but I hope that they, along with the rest of this article, have given you an idea of how to structure your routines in the most productive sequences.
    •   
       

  4. meowmeow's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Posts
    548
    Rep Power
    385

    Reputation

    Post Making A Strength/Size Routine Part III: Sets And Reps And How To Perform Them


    The WeighTrainer
    Making A Strength/Size Routine Part III: Sets And Reps And How To Perform Them

    Now that we've decided which exercises we are going to be concentrating on, and how to sequence them, we should take a look at how many sets of each we should do and for how many reps. If you haven't already done so, I encourage you to read the Muscle Growth and The Neuromuscular System series on the 'Training Related Articles' and the 'Physiology Related Articles' pages respectively, before continuing on.

    General Rep Rules

    This series is about weight training for strength and size; that means that each set performed should be done with the mission of stimulating strength and size increases. Having these confines to work within, we can make some generalizations. We have already established, in one of the above mentioned series, that the main mechanism of muscle growth/strengthening is muscle hypertrophy. And borrowing a section from the Variety: How Often Should You Change Your Routine? article:

    Of the two types of muscle fibers comprising human skeletal muscle (types I & II) the type II fibers generate the most force and have the highest potential for growth. They also require heavier weights (~75% of 1RM an above) in order to activate them. And because these fibers are designed for powerful contractions, they are optimized to use the phosphagen and anaerobic glycolysis systems of energy production. Type I fibers, on the other hand, have a lower potential for growth and predominantly use the oxidative phosphorylation system of energy production.

    This tells us pretty clearly that if it's strength and size that we're after then we should target the type II fibers - this requires lifting at least moderately heavy weight. The type II fibers, as you already know, are further broken into subcategories, the most prominant of which are the type IIAs and the type IIBs. Generally speaking, the type IIBs require heavier weights to recruit them than the type IIAs - remember that in order for the next higher threshold fibers to be recruited all of the lower threshold fibers must already have been. In addition, the type IIA and type IIB fibers are also recruited when the need arises for 'fast' movements - the higher the speed required the more likely that not only the type IIAs will be recruited but also the type IIBs. So, overall, a general rep, weight and speed of lifting scheme can be identified indicating the best rep numbers, weights and rep cadences to train each of these fiber types. A commonly recommended scheme is as follows:

    fiber type - rep range - %age of 1RM required - rep cadence (neg-pause-pos)
    type I 15 + -70% 2 - 0 - 1
    type IIA 6 - 12 75 - 85% 4 - 0 - 3
    type IIB 1 - 3 90% + 3 - 1 - 1

    Of course, these numbers are only rough guidelines. It is not reasonable, after all, to assume that the negative, positive and concentric phases of the Squat would be of the same duration as the Bench Press - the squatting motion takes place over a much greater range of motion than the Bench Press. But the general concepts hold.

    ...the above clearly shows that changing rep schemes may, in fact, recruit different muscle fibers in different patterns. For both Bodybuilders and strength and power athletes this has some significance. Clearly, strength and power athletes will benefit most from training with heavier weights in order to maximally train the IIB fibers. Let's take a closer look at what happens when training in different rep ranges...

    It has been established that, for small muscles, all available muscle fibers will be recruited at loads above 50% of 1 rep max; for larger muscle groups it may take loads of 80% of 1 rep max, or more, before all available fibers are recruited. How does this sit with the above suggested rep/fiber schemes? Well, with submaximal loads (i.e. less than 1 rep max), the highest threshold fibers (the IIBs) may, in fact, be recruited but the nervous system will not twitch them at their maximum frequency and they, therefore, will not develop their maximum tensions.

    So, working the IIBs with non-explosive reps in the 3-5 range will not force the IIBs to twitch at maximum frequency and synchronization, so it will not produce maximum peak strength gains due to nervous system optimization. It may cause the IIBs to hypertrophy, which would result in increased strength - especially if a phase of heavier training followed (thereby, optimizing the nervous system), allowing the newly hypertrophied fibers to exert their full force potential. It is commonly thought that even training in the 3-5 rep range, however, may eventually cause the endurance aspects of the IIBs to become more prominent until the IIBs lose some of their abilities to generate their previous maximum tensions and, therefore, become more IIA-like. Recent research has indicated that while this is clearly the case in other mammals, it doesn't seem to occur in humans. For us it appears that the IIBs gain endurance, but they do not lose their abilities to produce maximum force. It may also be that the studies with human subjects simply were not long enough to see this happening.

    Higher-rep training for the IIAs would result in them hypertrophying and becoming stronger, but the strength gain would be more prominent in the higher rep ranges because the nervous system would not be optimized for low-rep training. During these sets, as the IIAs fatigue, the IIBs would gradually be recruited, but they would not twitch at maximum frequency and, therefore, develop endurance adaptations more rapidly. This tells us that this type of training is ideal for a Bodybuilder because, in addition to making the IIAs grow (see the Muscle Growth Part II: Why, And How, Does A Muscle Grow And Get Stronger? article), it also allows the IIBs to quickly take on charateristics that will allow for their maximum hypertrophy.

    So, if muscle size is your main concern, you probably want to stick to sets of 6 reps and above. If increased strength is your main goal then you would do well to include sets of 3 - 5 reps, because this type of low-rep training can stimulate hypertrophy in the IIB fibers. Very low-rep training, in the 1 - 2 rep range, results in improvements in neuromuscular efficiency - further making you stronger.

    Getting much more specific, here's a table that you may find useful:

    training goal - rep range - %age of 1RM required - rep cadence (neg-pause-pos)
    type I sarcomere hypertrophy 15 - 50 < 70% 2 - 0 - 1
    type I sarcoplasmic hypertrophy 50 + minimal 2 - 0 - 1
    type IIA sarcomere hypertrophy 8 - 15 70 - 85% 4 - 0 - 3
    type IIA sarcoplasmic hypertrophy 16 - 25 50 - 70% 4 - 0 - 3
    type IIB sarcomere hypertrophy 3 - 5 85 - 95% 3 - 1 - 1
    type IIB sarcoplasmic hypertrophy 6 - 12 70 - 85% 3 - 1 - 1
    neuromuscular optimization for absolute strength 1 - 2 > 90% 3 - 1 - 1

    Of course, these numbers aren't carved in stone as there will be significant overlap in the training effects of a given rep/set scheme - but they are useful general guidelines.

    The Number Of 'Hard' Sets To Perform

    NOTE: For the sake of brevity, all sets referred to in the following section will mean actual work sets - this does not include warm-up sets.

    Let's start this section with a little physiology: Each set you do actually increases muscle protein degradation (what do you think happens to all the contractile proteins that you damage?). Yet the body only has the capacity to synthesize protein at a certain maximum rate because there are only so many necessary enzymes, substrates, nuclei, etc available. In addition, enzymes crucial to the muscle building process are also depleted by each set. So the goal is clear: Stimulate as much growth as possible, with as little enzyme depletion as possible, and to do just so much work as to maximally stimulate protein synthesis but not to result in any more protein degradation than is necessary. There CERTAINLY comes a point where doing an additional set will do you more harm than good.

    With that in mind, you have to find the minimum number of sets you can perform and still stimulate maximum muscular adaptation. Any more than that number will only serve to further strain your recovery 'systems' and tip the scales in favour of protein degradation over synthesis. HIT (High Intensity Training) advocates would recommend performing only one set per exercise to momentary muscular failure. One problem I have with that approach is that the failure effort may over-strain the nervous system, requiring it to need a longer recovery period than the muscular system (see the article Training To Failure: The Good, The Bad And The Reasons). In addtition, if performing low rep sets (1-3 reps), this may not be enough volume to stimulate optimum muscular adaptation or even significant improvements in neural efficiency. Another equally significant problem with this approach is that low-volume high-intensity training (particularly of the low-rep variety) is the main stimulus in producing a state of irrational hypertrophy - not a desirable adaptation at all (see the article Muscle Growth Part II: Why, And How, Does A Muscle Grow And Get Stronger?).

    If muscle size, and not strength, is the main concern then one set of higher reps (6 - 12) may indeed be enough to optimally stimulate sarcomere hypertrophy, but this set may or may not need be taken to momentary concentric failure - but it certainly must be sufficiently 'difficult'. One set per bodypart (in this rep range) may or may not be sufficient to stimulate proportional increases in mitochondria number. If it were not, this would have to be remedied by increasing set volume and adjusting intensity downwards to compensate.

    Overall, the number of sets you perform per exercise will also depend on the total number of exercises that you include in your routine. If you include no isolation exercises you will be able to perform more sets per exercise than if you include some. The more exercises you include in your routine the higher the systemic demands placed on your body. Every aspect of your routine impacts ever other aspect. Remember, all progress must be measured as strength increases - you must regularly see an increase in either the weight you can use for a given number of reps or the number of reps you can perform with a given weight.

    General Recommendations For The Number Of Sets Per Exercise

    NOTE: Before I get into this I'd like to say that 'there's more than one way to skin a cat' (not that I'd ever hurt a cat - they're too quick and flexible, kind of like Olympic Lifters). So, even though I'm going to lay down some general guidelines, it is still that - a general approach. Now, I certainly don't mean to make light of the recommendations I'm about to give out, I just mean to let you now that there are other effective ways to approach strength and size training. What I'm going to give you is a sound, time-proven approach that is, in my opinion, you're best shot at success.

    Generally, if you are training for strength/size I would recommend a maximum of 3 'hard' sets per exercise. If you wish to train purely for absolute strength I would say that these 3 sets should all be in the 3 to 5 rep range. And if you're doing sets of 5 reps you may be better off sticking to only 2 sets. If you're after only size I would advise you to stick to sets in the 6-12 rep range - again perhaps 2 sets, maybe 3. If you are after a combination of strength and size I would recommend that you perform a mixture of reps over 3 sets - maybe a set of 5 reps, a set of 8 and a set of 12 reps. If you are including isolation exercises in your routine then you probably won't be able to recover from your workouts in a timely manner if you perform a full 3 'hard' sets per exercise (the subject of ideal recover times will be covered the next article in this series Making A Strength/Size Routine Part IV: Training Frequency) - in this instance I would suggest that you try 2 'hard' sets per exercise.

    I would especially caution you not to train to failure when performing low-rep sets. You would be seriously risking nervous system 'burnout'.

    Warm-Up Sets

    Bluntly put, if you inadequately warm-up (or not at all) you are flirting with disaster! Warming up allows your body to acclimate to the load - a 'cold' muscle is very susceptible to tearing. So at no time should you compromise the warming up process. To start our look into warm-up sets let's take a few sections from the series The Neuromuscular System on the 'Physiology Related Articles' page:

    Glycogen (the form of glucose that is stored in muscle) is broken down to provide the energy for ATP formation and and also the formation of pyruvic acid. Additionally, some blood glucose may be used in this process, along with the intramuscular glycogen. One of the end products of this mechanism is lactic acid, which is made by the eventual conversion of pyruvic acid.

    and

    The effects that the lactic acid (which is produced during this process) has on muscular contraction must be considered here. Lactic acid build-up in the muscle cells make the interior of the muscle more acidic. This acidic environment interferes with the chemical processes that expose actin cross-bridging sites and permit cross-bridging. It also interferes with ATP formation. So, these factors, along with depleted energy stores, cause the muscle fibers to become fatigued and contraction to cease.

    and

    ...the activity that the muscles were doing generated a lot of lactic acid (anaerobic glycolysis mechanism) - such as intense weight training in the 12 rep and above range...

    This clearly tells us that high rep warm-up sets, except with VERY light weights, will impede the muscle's ability to contract on subsequent sets. It makes sense, therefore, to be safe and limit warm-up sets to sets of 5 reps and under. Each warm-up set should be progressively heavier until you are within range of work set(s). If you were going for a maximum single attempt your warm-ups would eventually themselves become single rep sets. If you were going for a triple you would probably perform your last few warm-up sets with 3 reps (or less). As an example of a warm-up progression, say you planned on Bench Pressing 225 for a set of 5. You warm-ups sets may look like this:

    45 x 15
    135 x 5
    165 x 5
    195 x 3
    225 x 5

    You may be thinking that the warm-up sets get pretty close in weight to the 'working' set weight. This is because working with heavier weights 'primes' the nervous to fire the higher threshold fibers more efficiently. This will actually allow you to lift more weight on the 'work' sets - but don't go so far as to tire yourself out before you get to those 'work' sets. That being said, the effect is much more pronounced when working in the lower rep ranges. If you are doing 'work' sets of 8 or more reps there's no need to warm up to within more than 70 - 75% of your 'working' weight.

    The Importance Of Proper Form

    There has been a lot of press given to 'cheating' in the Bodybuilding world, especially. The argument is that by 'loosening-up' your form towards the end of a set (or even right from the beginning) you will be able to get a few extra reps out. More reps with a given weight means more muscle, right? Answer: That whole argument is utter garbage! The only reason 'cheating' allows you to get more reps is because you are changing your form so that other muscles can assist in the exercise. In other words you are taking the stress OFF of the muscle(s) being targeted. If you want to stress the muscles for an extra few seconds you'd be much better off going to failure and then either holding the rep isometrically for a few seconds (a 'burn') or slowly lowering a controlled negative. Even if 'cheating' does allow you to stress the target muscle(s) for an extra few seconds, there are much more effective ways of doing it. And if you can't get even one rep without 'cheating' then the weight is TOO HEAVY!

    But that's not the real reason I'm against 'cheating'. The real reason is the danger. Cheating always involves transfering the load off of the targeted muscle(s) and onto another muscle or muscle group. The danger comes in the fact that the other muscle group hasn't been warmed-up for lifting. You are hitting a 'cold' muscle(s) - and usually with quick, jerky movements - this is a recipe for injury! I suppose you could also deliberately warm-up that other muscle group before doing the 'cheat' set, but doesn't it seem stupid to have to warm up another muscle group so it can help you transfer the stress off of the one you're targetting?

    There is also a tendency to cheat when you are getting along in a cycle and the weight is getting heavier. You have the tendency to cheat in order to get the reps that you have planned to do with a certain weight. The next time you are tempted to do this remember: If you have to cheat to get the reps then you are obviously not getting any stronger - you probably could have 'cheated' the same amount up last workout. In fact, the only thing you are demonstrating is that you couldn't get this workout's weight with the same technique that you used to get last week's. Don't fool yourself!

    In short, 'cheating' your reps up is nothing but cheating yourself. ALL reps should be done with strict, proper form; if not, you're only exposing yourself to increased risk of injury for no good reason.
  5. meowmeow's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Posts
    548
    Rep Power
    385

    Reputation

    Post Making A Strength/Size Routine Part IV: Training Frequency


    The WeighTrainer
    Making A Strength/Size Routine Part IV: Training Frequency

    Training frequency is comprised of two components. They are:

    How often to train a muscle/muscle group
    How often to train in total

    How often to train a muscle/muscle group

    How often you can train a muscle/muscle group depends largely on how intensely you work it when you do train it. As was mentioned in the article entitled Training To Failure: The Good, The Bad And The Reasons, some trainers believe that for maximum training stimulus all work sets must be taken to the point of momentary concentric failure (a training style that has come to be called high intensity training - HIT). It is usually also a part of this philosophy of training that only one work set per exercise should be performed. After the workout the trainee should wait for an extended period (to ensure full recovery and supercompensation) before training it again.

    On the other side of the coin there are the people who believe that sets should not be taken to failure, and muscles/muscle groups trained more frequently. The fact that the trainee isn't training to failure places less of a stress on the body's 'recovery systems' allowing the trainee to train the muscles more often.

    HITers believe that the surest way to guarantee that the muscle has been stimulated to strengthen/grow is to train to failure; if sets aren't taken to failure then one can't really be certain that a training response will be stimulated. More traditional trainers believe that training to failure consistently is 'too much' for the body to handle and only leads to 'burnout'.

    I believe the source of controversy here (although it is seldom identified) is the nervous system. In the Volume: Set Volume And Frequency article the recovery rate of the nervous system, as compared to the muscular system, was discussed. If you haven't read that article, I encourage you to do so now. The rest of this article will draw on what was presented there.

    For continuity I'll borrow some relevant sections:

    As stated in the article Why, And How, Does A Muscle Actually Grow, the nervous system and muscular systems may indeed require different recover times after heavy work. In particular, firing the type IIB fibers (utilizing weights above ~85% of your 1 rep maximum (1RM)) presents quite a strain on the nervous system. A strain which often imposes 7 or more days to recover from. Training the type IIB fibers again before this nervous system recovery has taken place will not stress those type IIB fibers maximally because the nervous will not have the capability to fire them frequently enough to produce maximum tension. The additional workout will not provide worthwhile stress to the muscle but will drive the nervous system further into the recovery zone, requiring even more recovery time.

    and

    On the other hand, significant data exists that indicates anabolic processes within a muscle may be fully completed within 36 to 72 hours of bodybuilding type work (~80% of 1RM) - among other things, protein synthesis has ceased within the muscle - though this does not guarantee such things as complete recovery of connective tissues in and around the muscles. The nervous system once stressed with ~80 (or greater) of 1RM weights may indeed take longer than the course of these processes to recover if the set(s) was/were taken to failure or close to it.

    and from the article Training To Failure: The Good, The Bad And The Reasons:

    ...as your muscle fibers come closer to the point of failure, the nervous system attempts to increase the rate at which it fires these fibers (within the activated motor units) and may also recruit addition motor units. At the point of muscular failure the nervous system will be firing all available motor units as frequently as is possible. What kind of an impact does such a furious effort have on the nervous system?

    and from the series The Neuromuscular System:

    Once glycogen stores in the muscle are depleted (from prolonged anaerobic glycolysis) they may take several days to be restored.

    The goal, as was stated in Volume: Set Volume And Frequency, is to stimulate the muscle to supercompensate (strengthen/grow) but not to over-stress the nervous system and intramuscular glycogen and enzyme replenishment processes so that they require extended recovery periods. There is no sense in having to wait an extra 3 or 4 days after muscle hypertrophy has ceased in order to allow time for the nervous system and glycogen/enzyme replenishment processes to catch up - muscle atrophy (at least to some extent) will likely occur during that period. This is equivalent to taking two steps forward and one step back (or maybe even two steps back). The key is to keep the nervous system recovery and glycogen/enzyme replenishment periods as close to the muscle recovery/supercompensation period as possible.

    One definite thing that we can learn from the 36 to 72 hour anabolic period is that it is not wise to train a bodypart more frequently than this (once every second or third day). In practice, hard training, drug-free weight trainers will often find that the nervous system requires a longer period than this, even when sets are not taken to the point of failure (but, of course, they must be intense enough to stimulate supercompensation - 'difficult' sets) and sets are kept to a minimum (to minimize glycogen and enzyme depletion).

    From Making A Strength/Size Routine Part III: Sets And Reps And How To Perform Them we have the guideline of doing no more than 3 'work' sets per exercise and from Making A Strength/Size Routine Part I: Exercise Selection we have the guideline of placing the vast majority of our efforts into the free weight compound exercises. By limiting specialized isolation work we have automatically cut down on some of the load that the body's nervous and glycogen/enzyme replenishment systems has to bear. This limited workload represents a reduced systemic strain as compared to routines filled with isolation movements. This allows us to train the compound exercises more intensely and more often. So, since I can work within the bounds of few isolation movements, a concentration on free weight compound exercises, and 2-3 'hard' sets per exercise, I can then make some generalizations.

    General Guidelines

    If you train your exercises to failure you will require more recovery time (longer breaks between hitting the bodyparts) than if you didn't train to failure. How do you know what is the right balance? Some good guidelines to follow are these:

    If you require more than 7 or 8 days rest between intense bodypart training sessions in order to make regular strength gains then you are training too intensely or doing too many exercises or sets per exercise. What is likely happening is that your workouts are placing too great of a demand on your nervous system for recovery to take place in a 'timely' manner. The muscles themselves are probably recovering within a few days of training and then more rest days are needed for the nervous system to catch up. More time between bodypart workouts than this and you are risking detraining (atrophy) due to too infrequent a work load.

    If you are training a bodypart more frequently than once every 3 or 4 days, and are not experiencing strength gains, then you are either 1) overtraining or 2) not training intensely enough. You are either training too often (and/or too intensely) for your nervous system (and possibly muscular system) to recover and supercompensate from in the 3 to 4 day period between bodypart sessions (you could also be doing overlapping exercises on other days and therefore actually 'hitting' muscle groups more frequently than you are counting) or you are not training hard enough to elicit muscular adaptation to the load (and also not training hard enough to require significant nervous system recovery time).

    How Often To Train In Total

    All weight training sessions take their toll on the body's recovery 'systems'. Just because you trained legs yesterday doesn't mean that training shoulders today is a harmless thing to do. The body has depleted glycogen, enzyme, ATP, etc. stores that must be replenished. Training shoulders today may interfere with the recovery processes that are going on in the legs (and central nervous system) due to yesterday's workout.

    For strength and size, an everyday workout scheme may produce results for anabolic drug users and the very genetically elite, but for a genetically average, drug-free weight trainer they are a big mistake. NOTE: The exceptions to this rule may be more frequent sub-maximal work, as it doesn't produce significant nervous system fatigue (due to lower discharge rates) - this is one of the other ways to 'skin a cat' I referred to in the previous article of this series.

    For general strength/size training, experience has taught many a drug-free lifter that he should spend more time out of the gym than in. This means three weight training sessions per week is the maximum. Training days should always be separated by a rest day (for example, train on Monday, Wednesday and Friday if three days a week training is chosen). Of course, as was covered above, a typical drug-free lifter cannot make optimum strength gains by training a bodypart intensely three times per week, so it's likely that a split routine will be necessary (at least if the weight trainer intends to train this frequently) - see the article Making A Strength/Size Routine Part V: Splitting Your Routine for more on this.

    The Balancing Act

    Here's a good place to start - it's not the only way, but it will serve as a launching point:

    - Work each major bodypart once every 3-8 days. The exact frequency will be determined by factors such as rep range, intensity and exercise selection.
    - Do 2-3 'hard' sets per exercise.
    - Weight train no more than 3 times per week.
    - The VAST majority of your workout should be devoted to free weight compound exercises.
    - Do few isolation exercises - unless you are genetically elite or on drugs they will not accelerate your progress, they will hinder it.
    - Do not train to actual failure - end your sets with maybe another rep left in you.

    The above recommendations are only very general guidelines. Guidelines that will produce consistent results for the VAST majority of drug-free trainees. The progress of thousands of drug-free trainees throughout the years has verified the efficiency of the above approach. However, if you follow them for a while and are not gaining strength (or not gaining as much strength as you think you can) at each workout (as measured by fractional increases - see the article entitled Progress: How To Measure It And What to Expect (for the advanced lifter)), don't worry, you just have to start fine-tuning things. By systematically eliminating all possible reasons for any lack of progress you will find the routine that actually produces results for YOU, and not just a routine filled with the promises of some drug-using, genetically gifted champion. The above guidelines provide the proper place for you to start. Continue reading the rest of the Making A Strength/Size Routine series and especially the article Making A Strength/Size Routine Part VI: Balancing The Balancing Act back on the Training Related Articles page for further advice on constructing the best possible routines for you.
  6. meowmeow's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Posts
    548
    Rep Power
    385

    Reputation

    Post Making A Strength/Size Routine Part V: Splitting Your Routine


    The WeighTrainer
    Making A Strength/Size Routine Part V: Splitting Your Routine

    It was suggested in Making A Strength/Size Routine Part IV: Training Frequency that a drug-free, genetically average weight trainer cannot make optimal strength/size gains when training intensely more than three times per week. It was also suggested that a weight trainer not train a bodypart intensely more frequently than once every 3-4 days or less frequently than once every 7-8 days. So, to serve as a starting point for developing our routine, I'm going to say that the lifter begins by constructing his program around training a bodypart once every 7 days.

    That means that if a weight trainer wishes to follow this general guideline of bodypart training frequency he has several options.

    1. He can complete all the exercises in one workout and then wait 7 days before training again.
    2. He can split the exercises into two groups and perform each group on different days - training twice a week.
    3. He can split the exercises into three groups and perform each group on different days - training three times a week.

    Let's look at each possibility

    Completing all the exercises in one workout and then waiting 7 days before training again

    This would mean completing all of the major free weight compound exercises in one session - a daunting task if full effort is to be put into each exercise (as it should be). But the determined person often finds that they can complete such a routine and do it justice. It should be mentioned here that first when bodybuilding and barbell strength training were starting out these types of total body routines were the standard, and pretty much everybody performed them (including Steve Reeves). A lot of strength and muscle has been built with this type of routine. The original HIT master himself, Arthur Jones, was adament about the superiority of full-body workouts in producing strength and size gains.

    The major bonus with this type of workout structure is that because you only have one training day you may find that you can successfully complete the program more than once every 7 days. After all, every day that you are not training, you are resting, and this would mean that even if you train as frequently as every third day, you are still getting 3 days of complete rest between workouts. On a split routine you may be placing systemic demands on your body every second day, even if you are only training a few muscle groups at a time. And if on a full-body routine you can make fractional strength gains every 3-4 days, then you are going to progress faster than if you made fractional strength gains only every 7 days on a split routine.

    The downside of this type of routine is that it requires considerable energy to complete a full-body workout in one session (although we don't have to concern ourselves with a multitude of isolation exercises). It may be that by the end of the workout you just don't have the energy to do justice to the exercises. This, in fact, was one of the reasons that split routines were invented - to allow less total work to be done in each session, but more effort put into the bodyparts that were being trained.

    Lately, the total time of each weight training session has become of great concern to most bodybuilders. This concern has essentially risen because of practices of the Bulgarian weightlifting team. Bulgarian research has supposedly found that testosterone levels peak at around 45 mins. into a workout. After this point they decline until they are back to baseline levels at around the 90 min. mark. In the meantime, catabolic hormone levels (mainly cortisol) rise continuously throughout the workout. Some exercise scientists (initially the Bulgarian coaches) have used this information to conclude that weight training sessions should be between, roughly, 45 mins. and 75 mins. If these arguments are merited then total body routines would not be ideal because they usually require periods of at least 90 mins.

    The problem I have with an approach based on the above 'facts' is that few actual studies have been presented on strength training athletes with regards to this type of thing - the Bulgarian studies have never been published in the west; we get the information largely from seminars presented in the U.S.A. by Bulgarian coach Angel Spassov in the late 1980's. Similar studies have been done outside of Bulgaria, but were based on endurance-type athletes such as cyclists. These studies have also shown that anabolic hormones (testosterone and growth hormone) rise during the first ~45 mins. or so of training, then decline to baseline at round the 90 min. mark - all this while cortisol levels continue to climb. But weight trainers typically take breaks between sets where no strenuous activity is being done - this is not like endurance training where continuous activity is being maintained. How would this difference affect hormonal levels? Is it sensible to extrapolate results of studies of this sort done on endurance athletes to weight trainers?

    I don't want to set the precedent of referencing everything I say but, since the above discussed hormonal release time frames have become so entrenched in the strength training world, here is a study that looks at various hormone levels in weight trainers during periods of overtraining (performing only single reps):

    Title: Pituitary-adrenal-gonadal responses to high-intensity resistance exercise overtraining.
    Author: Fry AC; Kraemer WJ; Ramsey LT
    Source: J Appl Physiol, 85(6):2352-9 1998 Dec

    Abstract
    Weight-trained men [OT; n = 11; age = 22.0 +/- 0.9 (SE) yr] resistance trained daily at 100% one-repetition maximum (1-RM) intensity for 2 wk, resulting in 1-RM strength decrements and in an overtrained state. A control group (Con; n = 6; age = 23.7 +/- 2.4 yr) trained 1 day/wk at a low relative intensity (50% 1 RM). After 2 wk, the OT group exhibited slightly increased exercise-induced testosterone (preexercise = 26.5 +/- 1.3 nmol/l, postexercise = 29.1 +/- 5.9 nmol/l) and testosterone-to-cortisol ratio (preexercise = 0. 049 +/- 0.007 nmol/l, postexercise = 0.061 +/- 0.006 nmol/l) and decreased exercise-induced cortisol (preexercise = 656.1 +/- 98.1 nmol/l, postexercise = 503.1 +/- 39.7 nmol/l). Serum concentrations for growth hormone and plasma peptide F [preproenkephalin (107-140)] were similar for both groups throughout the overtraining period. This hormonal profile is distinctly different from what has been previously reported for other types of overtraining, indicating that high-relative-intensity resistance exercise overtraining may not be successfully monitered via circulating testosterone and cortisol. Unlike overtraining conditions with endurance athletes, altered resting concentrations of pituitary, adrenal, or gonadal hormones were not evident, and exercise-induced concentrations were only modestly affected.

    Simply put, the findings of this study are that weight trainers and endurance athletes DO NOT exhibit the same hormonal states during overtraining of this duration. It is also stated that "...altered resting concentrations of pituitary, adrenal, or gonadal hormones were not evident, and exercise-induced concentrations were only modestly affected". Combine this with the fact that other recent studies have also suggested that the exercise-induced cortisol spikes decrease as exercise experience increases (in other words, the cortisol raising effects of exercise may be a factor only in beginners) and the catabolic hormone theory of limiting weight training time may begin to lose ground.

    Still, I would not recommend extended weight training workouts (over 90 mins). My reasons are based on protein degradation and general fatigue. The longer you train the more likely it is that your liver will begin to produce glucose out of the amino acids found in your skeletal muscles (a process called gluconeogenesis that occurs when blood glucose is low). Obviously, this is not something you'd want to promote. And it's only common sense that you'll begin to tire as your workout continues - possibly effecting the quality of your training.

    In the end, you'll have to weigh the potential benefits of this type of training against the negatives. This type of routine may indeed be the most efficient way to train, but if you're too exhausted halfway through the workout to complete your later exercises with the necessary intensity, then it isn't for you. But you have to be true to yourself, are you really physically exhausted or are you allowing laziness to blur your good judgement? If only one free weight compound exercise is performed for each bodypart (remember these are the 'bread and butter' of your routine anyway) then the routine needn't be that long. And don't let this 'low-tech' approach to training fool you; more muscle has been built on this type of routine than any other. It may also be of significance that split routines (along with scads of isolation exercises) and steroid use proliferated through Bodybuilding at around the same time - the early-to-mid 1960's. Was that just a coincidence or was it that people just couldn't gain on those type of routines without the drugs?

    Below are a couple of example routines of this sort.

    For Mass and Strength

    Squats
    Dips
    Reverse-Grip Chin-Ups
    Military Presses
    Stiff-Legged Deadlifts
    Barbell Curls
    Donkey Calf Raises
    Pre-Stretch Crunches
    Lying L-Flyes

    For Strength and Power

    Power Cleans
    Squats
    Bench Presses
    Bent-Over Rows
    Push Presses
    Reverse Hypers
    Calf Raises
    Pre-Stretch Crunches
    Lying L-Flyes

    Splitting the exercises into two groups and performing each group on different days - training twice a week

    If you are among the people who truly find full-body workouts too draining, then you may want to consider this option. Splitting the bodyparts two ways allows for shorter workouts than the full-body route and, therefore, may allow you to put more intensity into your gym efforts. And because there are only two workouts to perform, you may find that, similarly to the full-body approach, you can train a bodypart more often than once every seven days; maybe once every 5-6. This means that you would perform a workout once every second or third day.

    Below are a couple of example routines of this sort.

    For Mass and Strength

    Day 1

    Squats
    Deadlifts
    Chin-Ups
    Barbell Curls
    Crunches

    Day 2

    Bench Presses
    Military Presses
    Dips
    Calf Raises
    Lying L-Flyes

    For Strength and Power

    Day 1

    Power Cleans
    Squats
    Bent-Over Rows
    Barbell Curls
    Crunches

    Day 2

    Bench Presses
    Power Jerks
    Military Presses
    Calf Raises
    Lying L-Flyes

    If you feel that you can tolerate more work than the above routines prescribe then the best way to experiment with that is to start with a 'base' routine, as given above, and add only one isolation exercise at a time. If your strength gains on the compound exercises don't suffer then you may add another. Eventually you will find the cut-off point where any additional isolation exercises would be detrimental to your progress. If strength progress is the judging criterion of a routine's effectiveness (as it should be) most people will find that they would be better off sticking to a 'basic' routine than one filled with 'extras' - most people won't be able to 'tolerate' much more work than is prescribed above.

    Splitting the exercises into three groups and performing each group on different days - training three times a week

    This takes the process one step further. Avoid the temptation of adding frivolous exercises to your workout days because the compound exercises are split over three days. On a per-day basis it may seem like you are not doing as much, but your body is still performing the same per-week work load as if all your exercises were done on the same day.

    Below are a couple of example routines of this sort.

    For Mass and Strength

    Day 1

    Deadlifts
    Chin-Ups
    Barbell Curls

    Day 2

    Bench Presses
    Military Presses
    Lying L-Flyes
    Reverse Hypers

    Day 3

    Squats
    Calf Raises
    Pre-Stretch Crunches

    For Strength and Power

    Day 1

    Power Cleans
    Bent-Over Row
    Barbell Curls

    Day 2

    Bench Presses
    Power Jerks
    One-Arm Press
    Lying L-Flyes

    Day 3

    Squats
    Calf Raises
    Pre-Stretch Crunches
    Reverse Hypers

    A three day per week scheme allows intense focus to be concentrated on just a few exercises each workout day. This makes the plan very popular among drug-free Powerlifters. If you like having only one 'major' lift to concentrate on for each session then this type of plan may be for you. If you are the hardgaining type, however, you may find that this frequency is too much. Regardless, keep the exercises per day to a minimum.

    Which One To Choose

    If you want to know which scheme is 'best' for you to follow, I suggest picking the one that initially appeals to you most and going from there. If you work long hours, and find it difficult making it to the gym, then you would be better off going with the full-body approach or the two-way split and training infrequently. If you have time to spare, then you may chose any of the approaches and fix your schedule as is optimal for your progress (this process will be detailed in future articles in this series). Whichever one you initially choose remember that if your strength is not increasing fractionally at each bodypart session then you're doing something wrong. If everything is in order outside of the gym (e.g. rest, nutrition, stress levels) then either the routine or how you are applying yourself to it is amiss. Don't start adding unnecessary exercises to your routine because you think that will 'shock' your body into growth. Try experimenting with your training frequency and/or set intensities instead. Whatever you do, don't spend your time slaving away at an unproductive approach. Experiment with your routine until you find the guidelines that work for you. Only you can know the routine that's right for you - your own body will tell you.
  7. meowmeow's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Posts
    548
    Rep Power
    385

    Reputation

    Post Making A Strength/Size Routine Part VI: Balancing The Balancing Act


    The WeighTrainer

    Making A Strength/Size Routine Part VI: Balancing The Balancing Act

    You'll remember the following guidelines from the Making A Strength/Size Routine Part IV: Training Frequency article:

    The Balancing Act

    Here's a good place to start - it's not the only way, but it will serve as a launching point:

    - Work each major bodypart once every 3-8 days. The exact frequency will be determined by factors such as rep range, intensity and exercise selection.
    - Do 2-3 'hard' sets per exercise.
    - Weight train no more than 3 times per week.
    - The VAST majority of your workout should be devoted to free weight compound exercises.
    - Do few isolation exercises - unless you are genetically elite or on drugs they will not accelerate your progress, they will hinder it.
    - Do not train to actual failure - end your sets with maybe another rep left in you.

    The above recommendations are only very general guidelines. Guidelines that will produce consistent results for the VAST majority of drug-free trainers...

    ...The above guidelines provide the proper place for you to start.


    So, how do we tailor these guidelines into a routine specifically for the individual? If you've been following them for a while and are not gaining strength as fast as you think you should be, then it's time for some tweaking. First of all, make sure that everything outside of the gym is in order. If you are not getting adequate rest and/or nutrition no program will work for you! If these aspects of your training life are in order then there are only two possible reasons for your lack of progress: You are either overtraining or undertraining. All you have to do is determine which one it is and correct it. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to successful training, but the ideal approach for anyone can be painlessly found. All it requires is a little bit of time and effort. The first thing you have to accept is that no one can give you the answers but yourself. As great as Mr. Joe Champion may be, he doesn't live in your body, so he can't tell you exactly how to train. If you want to know what's best for you you're going to have to do a little experimentation with your own body. That's the process this article will outline.

    Dealing With Undertraining

    The first possibility that most people will suspect is undertraining. Well, believe it or not, undertraining is pretty unlikely when following the above guidelines. The progress of thousands of drug-free trainees throughout the years has verified the efficiency of the above approach. Still, undertraining is a possibility if you are not pushing your sets hard enough. It may be that you have been misjudging your failure point incorrectly and have been stopping your sets several reps short of failure. If this is so, try pushing a bit harder, but DON'T go all the way to the failure point - you have to know your own capabilities. Maybe your training sessions are not frequent enough. It may be a number of things.

    First thing to do, if you feel that you are undertraining, is to eliminate one of your rest days - so that you are training a bodypart one day more frequently. Change to training a bodypart once every six days as we started with the once every 7 day training. Don't get 'intensity happy' and start pushing your sets to failure just yet. Remember, it's better if you can get your body gaining strength every six days than if you have to wait seven days because you are pushing to failure.

    If satisfactory progress still isn't achieved eliminate another rest day so that you are training each bodypart once every five days. If, at this point, you are still not making fractional strength increases each session then eliminate another rest so that you are training a lift once every 4 days. Now, if this doesn't bring progress, you can go to training a lift once every 3 days, but ONLY IF you are performing higher reps (8 or more) on that lift. If you are performing lower reps (less than 8) then do not train the lift more frequently than once every 4 days.

    Let's say you're still not making progress. Now you might want to up your set volume. If you've only been doing two 'hard' sets per exercise, try doing three. If that doesn't work, then start pushing your sets a bit harder - maybe going to failure on one set per bodypart. Don't increase bodypart training frequency to once every 2 (or 3 for lower-rep training) days though; if a bodypart doesn't need that amount of time to recover on this program then you're not training it hard enough. If you've reached this point and you're still not fractionally gaining strength regularly then start pushing all of your sets to momentary failure. Now you are doing 2-3 sets to muscular failure for each exercise once every 3-4 days. I caution you against upping your intensity too high while performing an abbreviated routine for extended periods, though - remember our discussion of irrational hypertrophy (the article Growth Part II: Why, And How, Does A Muscle Grow And Get Stronger?)?

    Whatever you do, at no point during this process should you start adding in frivolous isolation exercises in an attempt to 'hit different fibers' or something. If it's size and strength you're after (this is, after all, a strength/size series), you're better off training the compound exercises harder (or more frequently) than 'sharing' your body's recovery capacities with extra exercises.

    If you've followed this process and gains still aren't coming then you're faced with only one conclusion: You were wrong in your initial conclusion that you were undertraining - you were overtraining. Of course, you may have concluded anywhere along this process that you were overtraining, but keeping in mind the training nonsense that has percolated through the strength training world over the past 35 years or so I'd say that most people will follow this process right up to the 'bitter end' before they even entertain that possibility. That's if those people could even be convinced to follow such an 'old-school' approach in the first place. In any case, once you've determined that overtraining was your problem you should take a week off from training completely to give your body a chance to get back to 'square one'. It's bad enough that you were overtraining in the first place, but now you've made the situation worse by increasing your training frequency and intensity over the past few weeks!

    Dealing With Overtraining

    Overtraining is possible even when following a program structured as layed out above. If you have included too many isolation exercises in your routine overtraining is even likely. If you're not gaining it may be that you've been pushing some of your sets to the failure point. It could be that you're training too frequently.

    It may be possible that your routine is fine and that you started the routine in an overtrained state in the first place. This would mean that you haven't been giving your body a chance to get gaining. You built up a recuperation deficit before you even started out on the above guidelines. The best way out of this situation is to take 7-10 days off from training; to let your body's nervous, enzymatic and glycogen replenishment systems get back on an 'even keel'. When you return to the gym only use about 95% of the weight that you used before the break, for the same number of reps. Up the weight a little at your second bodypart session after the break, and then go full steam at the third. This may be all that's needed to get your body responding again. If it isn't then read on.

    To systematically check all the possibilities, you should first eliminate all exercises from your routine that are not absolutely essential to producing strength gains in the compound exercises or that are for the purposes of strengthening the body's stabilizing muscles. Also, if you have the tendency to train all of your 'hard' sets to failure then fight this urge! If this doesn't produce results, then you should reduce the number of 'hard' sets you've been doing per bodypart. If you've been doing three, drop back to two; if you've been doing two, drop back to one. This may get you back on track.

    Possibly, you've been on a three-way bodypart split. Try a two-way, this will give you an extra rest day in place of another training day. At this point you're doing 1-3 hard sets per exercise, doing very few or no isolation exercises, stopping your sets close to, but before, the failure point, training twice a week and 'hitting' each bodypart only once in that time period. If you're still not regularly gaining strength the only logical course of action from here is to reduce your bodypart training frequency to once every 8 days. If this doesn't work you have to keep inserting rest days until regular strength gains do start coming.

    Dare I Say It: One Size Fits All!

    The above procedure will work for anybody. It is absolutely failure-proof. How many times have I read enthusiastic articles from Bodybuilding, Powerlifting, etc. champions and their trainers guaranteeing results if I followed their program to a tee? Problem is, it's their program; not mine. The above procedure will lead you to your own gaining program. You will heed the signs your own progess (or lack thereof) is giving you until you find a combination that works for YOU. Whatever it takes to get your body gaining will be found by the above systematic approach; no matter how ridiculous that eventual routine might have seemed to you before you started the process. It may be that you can only do one set per bodypart once every 7-8 days. It may be that you can train a bodypart with several different exercises, for several sets each, once every five days. That is for you to find out - not for you to be told by someone else.

    So give it a shot. It may take you several weeks (maybe even months) before you find your 'ideal' routine, but find it you will. And when you do you will have learned extremely valuable lessions about your own body. In all honesty, this route will get you gaining faster than any other. Every workout is being monitored for progress - when gains cease training variables are changed to produce gains again. Constant modification - like a heat-seeker closing in on it's target. You don't have to commit yourself to something you're unsure because every step of the process is dictated by your own body. What have you got to lose?
  8. meowmeow's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Posts
    548
    Rep Power
    385

    Reputation

    Post Advanced Strength/Size Routine Construction Part I: Rebalancing The Balancing Act


    The WeighTrainer

    Advanced Strength/Size Routine Construction Part I:
    Rebalancing The Balancing Act

    Once you go through the fine-tuning procedure outlined in the 'Making A Strength/Size Routine' series you'll have yourself a good, solid training schedule. That's not to say, however, that it will be perfect. Advanced trainees, especially, will notice one critical thing: Some muscle groups recover faster than others; at least you fully recover from some exercises faster than others. Once you reach a more advanced level you'll probably find that you make optimal gains on certain exercises by training them more or less frequently than other exercises. And, if you think about it, usually the exercises that require the longest rest periods after training are the ones that involve a strong isometric contraction of stabilizing muscles. Borrowing a section from the 'Muscular Fatigue During Weight Training' article on the 'Physiology Related Articles' Page:

    Studies on isolated muscle fibers have, indeed, linked reduced sarcoplasmic Ca++ concentrations to fatigue. Specifically, repetitive 'tetanic' contractions of isolated muscles caused a gradual decline of force that was closely associated with a decline in sarcoplasmic Ca++ concentrations (Westerblad & Allen, 1991).

    ...the problem appears not to be with the Ca++ concentrations in the sarcoplasmic reticulum, or their release channels, but probably as a consequence of impaired T-tubule signaling. During repeated contractions of a muscle fiber, K+ begins 'pooling' in the T-tubules. This results from an inability of the Na+/K+ ATPase Pump to maintain the proper Na+/K+ balance on the sarcolemma (at the T-tubules). This disturbance of the membrane potential in the T-tubules inhibits the conduction of the action potential to the sarcoplasmic reticulum and Ca++ is not optimally released - and, thus, forceful contraction is not achieved.

    and...

    Incidently, the Ca-Pump is, itself, a major ATP consumer. During isometric contractions (when it's relative ATP consumption is greatest) it is estimated to consume ~30% of the total ATP produced in the muscle cell. This could, theoretically, contribute to declining ATP stores available for cross-bridge formation.

    From this we can see that isometric contractions greatly involve the Ca-Pump. If the Ca-Pump is abnormally active then this means that Ca++ must be being released from the sarcoplasmic reticulum at accelerated rates also (the Ca-Pump acts to return Ca++ to the sarcoplasmic reticulum - if it is returning an elevated amount then an elevated amount must have been released). And if Ca++ is being released from the sarcoplasmic reticulum at accelerated rates then K+ 'pooling' in the T-tubules must also be heightened. To cut to the chase, what this all means is that isometric contractions take a significant toll on the signaling processes in muscle cells. This is, in fact, another form of nervous system fatigue because the signal to twitch cannot be effectively transmitted to the interior of the muscle fiber. When it's all said and done you need a longer recovery period after isometric training than after regular concentric training.

    But what if you don't do isometric training? Well, if you look a little closer at your training you'll find, in fact, that you do. Squats involve a strong isometric contraction of the muscles of your lower back. If this didn't happen you'd slump forward on your face as you tried to stand up. Likewise, Deadlifts involve the same intense lower back isometrics as do Squats. Consider the fact that, on top of this, the lower back has an abnormally poor blood supply to it's lower regions (less transport of waste products out and all the 'good stuff' in) and you can begin to see why Squats and Deadlifts take so long to recover from. In addition, Squats (as do Deadlifts) inherently require a controlled descent. This means that muscles such as the adductors of the legs and various hip muscles experience a significant eccentric contraction. The eccentric phase actually causes more damage to the individual muscle fibers than the concentric phase (albeit, less total fibers are involved), thus requiring a longer recovery period. Bench Presses involve strong eccentric contractions of the small rotator cuff muscles of the shoulders and, therefore, themselves require a somewhat lengthy recovery period. In fact, most all of the compound exercises involve eccentric and isometric contractions to some degree. That's part of the reason why isolation exercises don't take the same 'toll' on your body as compounds do.

    So, back here on planet Earth, what it all comes down to is that you may find you can sucessfully train Squats heavy once every 7 days but Bench Presses heavy once every 5 (just an example). How do you work your routine so that these two training frequencies can peacefully co-exist?

    Let Them Fall Where They May

    Well, for one, you could train a lift as it's ideal time comes up. Using our example, that means that you would indeed train your Squats every 7 days and your Bench Press every 5. Your training days would then move around in relation to each other and may eventually even all fall on the same day. If you break your exercises into two groups and do half on one training day and half on the other this means eventually your schedule will dictate that you'll have to do both routines on the same day. In that situation you have a couple of choices:

    1. Do both training routines at once but condense your routine so you don't over-work.
    2. Postpone one of the days to the next day.


    Do both training routines at once but condense your routine so you don't over-work: Using our Bench Presses/Squats example, that means that if you combine your two routines and do a full-body routine you'll then have 5 complete days rest before you train again (when Bench Press day comes around again). That's only appropriate because a full 5 day rest will probably do you good after an intense full-body workout.

    Postpone one of the days to the next day: Of course, if you do this you have to keep in mind that you are now training two days in a row - which may present a unneeded load on the central nervous system. Because of this, it may be a good idea to back off on training volume on one or both of those days.

    You'll also notice that on the kind of fall-where-they-may schedule we're discussing this type of back-to-back training day situation might occur fairly frequently. This would mean that you'd need to closely watch your overtraining state around those periods. It may be that, due to your personal 'ideal' training frequencies, this type of routine structure just isn't practical.

    Before we finish with this kind of routine design one more very important thing has to be considered. Because your training days may fall in very close proximity to each other it is very important that the separate training days contain very little overlap. To illustrate what I'm saying consider what would happen if you placed Deadlifts on day 1 and Squats on day 2. Eventually your schedule would roll around so that you're supposed to Deadlift the day before Squatting. Obviously this would not be a very wise way to train. On this type of schedule overlap has to be very highly considered.

    Let's take a look at a sample two-day plan for someone who has determined that he can Squat heavy once every 7 days and Bench Press heavy once every 5. Such a program may look like this:

    For Mass and Strength

    Day 1

    Squats
    Deadlifts
    Chin-Ups
    Barbell Curls
    Crunches

    Day 2

    Bench Presses
    Military Presses
    Dips
    Calf Raises
    Lying L-Flyes



    For Strength and Power

    Day 1

    Power Cleans
    Squats
    Bent-Over Rows
    Barbell Curls
    Crunches

    Day 2

    Bench Presses
    Power Jerks
    Military Presses
    Calf Raises
    Lying L-Flyes

    And the schedule would be:

    Day of Month - Training Day
    1 ---------------- 1
    2 ---------------- 2
    3 ---------------
    4 ---------------
    5 ---------------
    6 ---------------- 1
    7 ---------------
    8 ---------------
    9 ---------------- 2
    10 --------------
    11 --------------
    12 --------------
    13 --------------
    14 --------------
    15 --------------
    16---------------- 1 & 2
    17 --------------
    18 --------------
    19 --------------
    20 --------------
    21 --------------- 1
    22 --------------
    23 --------------- 2
    24 --------------
    25 --------------
    26 --------------- 1

    ... and so on.

    These two routines contain a minimum of overlap. The exception to this is the shoulders; but the shoulders are involved in just about every weight training exercise to some degree, so eliminating overlap there would be nearly impossible. If you did accomplish it your routine would probably be worthless by that point. You'll also notice that these two routines are taken straight from Part V of the 'Making A Strength/Size Routine' series - they were designed with minimum overlap in the first place. The reason was so that the routines could be repeated as frequently as possible, without interfering with each other.

    But even on a schedule such as this you may not be able to cover all the bases. For instance, in the above routine for strength and power, what if you found that you could Power Clean heavy once every 4 days? Well, you could switch to a three-day training split and draft up a schedule similar to the above but with three days - but the Power Clean stresses many of the same muscles as the Squat, so now we're running into overlap problems.

    Still, I have to say that if you can get a routine such as this to work you'll probably make your fastest gains - at least on those exercises that you have optimized the program for.

    But there's more than one way to skin a cat. Let's look at some others.

    Constructing Your Cycle Around Your Slowest Recovering Exercise

    Let's say your slowest recovering exercise is Squats - and you find that you can Squat heavy once every 7 days. With this approach you would train all bodyparts intensely once every 7 days. "But that doesn't fix the problem", you'll probably say, "If a bodypart is ready to go again in 5 days but I don't train it for 7 I'll be missing out on those 2 extra days!" Well, what you could do is train the other bodyparts so hard that they do require 7 days rest. If, going back to our example, you find that you can train Bench Press hard once every 5 days then adding in extra chest exercises could extend that recovery period to a full seven days. Tack on 2 sets of Incline Presses and you just might hit the nail on the head. I caution you not to overdo it, though - a little goes a long way.

    What we've done here is really a radical departure from our approach up to now. Before we've concentrated on tailoring our training frequency to fit our fixed training volume, now we're tailoring our training volume to fit our fixed frequency. And both approaches really are fine. I remind you that we don't want to have to extend our recuperation period due to extended nervous system recovery needs, though - we're after a longer muscle recovery period. So, this is not a licence to start training super-intensely. You'd be better off creating more muscular damage (micro-trauma) by upping your volume a bit than by hammering your nervous system with high intensity techniques (not to mention the long-term risk of irrational hypertrophy).

    Now that we do have this new approach, though, a big convenience factor comes into our routine construction. We can decide to train a muscle once a week and then tailor our workload to 'fit' that frequency. This allows us to construct a routine that peacefully coexists with our lives outside of the gym. It may seem like an unsophisticated approach but it's convenience just may make it the one for you. And besides, by properly adjusting your training volume to fit that once a week frequency (or whatever else you decide on), you may not be compromising on your training at all.

    In the next article of this series I'll present another method of dealing with differing exercise and bodypart recovery rates: The Heavy/Medium System.
  9. meowmeow's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Posts
    548
    Rep Power
    385

    Reputation

    Post Advanced Strength/Size Routine Construction Part II: The Heavy/Medium System


    The WeighTrainer

    Advanced Strength/Size Routine Construction Part II:
    The Heavy/Medium System


    Going back to our Bench Presses/Squats example again, we could train out Bench Press twice for every period that we train our Squats once. "That's way too often for me to Bench Press", you might be saying - and that's true. This wouldn't work if we trained our Bench Press heavy both of those times because we've already established that we need 5 days rest between heavy Bench Press sessions - yet we're Squatting once every 7 days. The solution is to train only moderately on the additional Bench Press day. Already I can hear your objections: "But there's no sense in training light because that won't stimulate growth", and "If I train heavy enough to stimulate growth on this day, won't that cause nervous system overtraining?" Those objections cerainly are justified, so let's take a closer look at the approach.

    It has been established that weights over ~60 to ~85% of 1 rep max (depending on the specfific muscle) recruit practically all of the fibers available for simultaneous contraction in a muscle. The catch is that the higher threshold fibers won't twitch fast enough at ~60 to ~85% of 1 rep max to develop maximum tension. The lower threshold fibers, however, will twitch with maximum frequency - but because of the high-endurance nature of these fibers, they are very resistant to 'damage'. This means that if we train with weights in this range, but limit the number of reps per set, we may indeed do some trauma to the lower threshold fibers (and provide a growth stimulus to them) but it is unlikely that they will require an extended recovery period. This type of training is also unlikely to cause nervous system overtraining, because it is firing the larger, higher threshold motor units at maximum frequency (referred to as high 'discharge rates') that take the greatest toll on the nervous system - and training with lighter weights does not produce that. In addition, recapping from the 'Volume: Set Volume And Frequency' article:

    ...when a muscle contracts it actually releases chemicals such as nerve growth factor (NGF) and members of the TGF-b superfamily, among others, which actually promote neuron recuperation. These 'neurotrophic' factors are released from the sarcolemma, cross the synapse, and work their 'healing' magic on the innervating neuron. Each rep contributes to the release of these factors.

    This means that if we train with weights heavy enough to stimulate the higher threshold motor units, but at a low discharge rate (so as not to produce exhaustion), very little inroads may be made into nervous system recovery (at least of the higher threshold units for sure). It's even conceivable that the training could help speed nervous system recovery from our heavy day. And remember, the lower threshold units that are being fired with maximum frequency recover more quickly anyway. It may also help to remember that these units are 'slow-twitch' units, so even their maximum frequency is unlikely to place large demands on the nervous system (they are, after all, designed to twitch for hours).

    But we do want to train heavy enough to do some degree of damage to the higher threshold fibers (and, inevitably, to the lower threshold ones also). What kind of a recovery impact will this have? Well, it has been established that after typical weight training sessions (NOT isometric or negative accentuated training) muscle repair is complete within 36 to 72 hours - with repair occuring fastest in the lower threshold fibers. In this strategy we're firing the lower threshold fibers hard (but they incur little damage and recover the quickest anyway) and the higher threshold fibers only moderately - producing only moderate damage. So, if we don't train too heavy, we should be able to schedule this second 'medium' day in, no problem. It should even provide us with additional muscular growth - not just holding us over until heavy day gets here. The key would be in doing just the right amount of damage.

    It must also be considered that we do not want to do such a volume of work on this medium day that we exhaust our glycogen stores to the point that they are not fully recovered by the time the heavy day comes up.

    So, overall, what are we after with this training session? Well, simply put, we want to stimulate growth processes (protein synthesis) in the muscle fibers that will be completed by the time our heavy day rolls around, but we don't want to further exhaust our nervous system in any way or unnessecarily deplete our glycogen stores.

    In this way we can keep the growth in our more quickly recovering bodyparts on an even keel with our most slowly recovering bodyparts (perhaps even ahead of them) and still train all our bodyparts heavy with the same frequency.

    General Guidelines For The Medium Day

    You may recall from the 'The Weakest Link: Strengthening The Tendons' article that force = mass x acceleration. This means that if we want to produce a certain amount of force in a muscle we can do it in a couple of ways. We can lift a weight at our 'normal' tempo (to be determined as in Part III of the 'Making A Strength/Size Routine' series, 'Sets And Reps And How To Perform Them') or we can lift a lighter weight more quickly. Recall:

    If you lift 100 kg at an acceleration of 1 m/s then you are producing 100 x 1 = 100 N of force.

    If you lift 50 kg at an acceleration of 2 m/s then you are producing 50 x 2 = 100 N of force.

    So you can lift a light weight faster than you can a heavy one, but if the bar speed is high enough with the light weight the force applied will be the same. The point is if you accelerate the weight quickly you are dramatically increasing the force that the muscle is required to produce. If you think about a yo-yo you'll get an intuitive idea of how this works - when the yo-yo is at the bottom you yank up suddenly, drawing the rope tight. The yo-yo feels much heavier at that point than it actually is.

    ...and

    By accelerating the weight as quickly as possible you are 'teaching' your nervous system to voluntarily recruit as many IIB fibers as possible and to fire these fibers with maximum frequency. This could be extremely beneficial in power training.

    So, for a power athlete for certain, it may be beneficial to use weights on the medium day that are roughly 60% - 65% of 1 rep max but accelerate them quickly. Weights above this should generally be avoided because quickly accelerating heavier weights will produce more muscular damage and higher neural discharge rates than we're after. There is a physiological limit as to how quickly you can voluntarily contract a muscle (this can be increased with training) so 60% - 65% should keep you within acceptable neural discharge limits and prevent excessive muscular tension development. It should also be realized that it is highly unlikely that bar speed will be maintained with 60% - 65% of 1 rep max when you do more than a few reps per set. For this reason, it's best to keep these sets to no more than 3 reps - and to perform mulitiple sets (4-6) to compensate for the short times under tension.

    NOTE: Soviet research has shown that maximum power output in the Squat is actually developed with weights of around 66% - 70% of 1 rep max. However, the experience of many Powerlifters worldwide, who follow the Westside system, has demonstrated that lighter weights can be employed and maximum benefits still attained. The lighter weight reduces the load placed on the muscle fibers, tendons and nervous system and allows for speedier recovery while still producing optimum increases in limit strength and power. Hence my recommendation of medium day training weights in the 60% - 65% range.

    This 'high speed' approach may not be ideal for a person looking purely to build muscular size. It must be realized that speed training is done with recruiting the higher threshold, type IIB motor units in mind. These aren't the ideal fibers for producing maximum muscular size so their training is not of primary concern for the Bodybuilder as it is for the power athlete. To suit the Bodybuilder's purpose fewer sets of higher reps with heavier weights would be in order. I would suggest that 2-3 sets of 5 reps with ~75% of 1 rep max would be more prudent for size building purposes.

    In either style of medium day training you can, no doubt, piece together that training to failure is absolutely 'out'. To sum up our medium day guidelines we have.

    Training Goal - # of Sets - # of Reps - %age of 1RM - Cadence of Lifting

    Increased Power 4 - 6 ..... 2 - 3 ........ 60% - 65% ..... explosive
    Increased Size... 2 - 3 ..... 5 ............... ~ 75% ......... same as heavy day

    A Sample Heavy/Medium Schedule

    So using the two day 'Mass And Strength' and 'Strength And Power' routines presented previously, and based on our considerations, a complete Heavy/Medium schedule may look like this:

    For Mass and Strength

    Day 1

    Squats
    Deadlifts
    Chin-Ups
    Barbell Curls
    Crunches

    Day 2
    Bench Presses
    Military Presses
    Dips
    Calf Raises
    Lying L-Flyes

    For Strength and Power

    Day 1

    Power Cleans
    Squats
    Bent-Over Rows
    Barbell Curls
    Crunches

    Day 2

    Bench Presses
    Power Jerks
    Military Presses
    Calf Raises
    Lying L-Flye

    And the schedule would be:

    Weekday - Training Day:

    M - 2 (heavy)
    T
    W - 1
    Th
    F - 2 (medium)
    Sa
    S
    M - 2 (heavy)
    T
    W - 1
    Th
    F - 2 (medium)
    Sa
    S

    As you can see from the above schedule, this allows us to work our pressing muscles twice for each time that we train our legs and pulling muscles once.

    Now, you're probably getting all kinds of ideas floating around in your head. "What if I can do Bent-Over Rows more often?" "I can do Power Cleans more often than that." If so, good, you're getting the idea. Re-work your routine to take advantage of your personal recovery patterns.

    You may find that you can go a little heavier on the medium day than I've suggested. Maybe you have to go lighter. If that's the case then do it. NEVER slavishly stick to a program just because it makes good scientific sense to you. Winston Churchill once said, "However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results." Maybe he should have written weight training articles!

    Variations On A Theme

    Some people have taken this approach a step further and incorporated a Heavy/Light/Medium system of training. Famous strength coach Bill Starr is most famous for this because of articles he wrote for 'Strength and Health' magazine in the late 1960s and his fine book 'The Strongest Shall Survive ...Strength Training For Football' (which you can get from Ironmind at: http://www.ironmind.com/ironcms/opencms/ironmind/). Here's a sample routine from that book, aimed at Football player's who are new to weight training.

    Beginner's Off-Season Football Program
    • Monday (Heavy Day)
    • Wednesday (Light Day) - 80% of Heavy Day weights
    • Friday (Medium Day) - 90% of Heavy Day weights


    Lift ----- # of Sets ----- # of Reps

    Sit-Up ........ 1 ............. ~
    Power Clean ... 5 .......... 5
    Bench Press ... 5 .......... 5
    Back Squat .... 5 .......... 5
    Leg Extension . 2 .......... 10
    Leg Curl ....... 2 ........... 10
    Leg Raise ...... 1 ........... ~

    Before you freak out, you should know that it was further specified in 'The Strongest Shall Survive...' that when doing 5 x 5 only the last set is with the maximum weight for the day - the other 4 sets are warm-ups (each set progressively heavier). Also, the first sets of the 2 sets listed for each of Leg Extensions and Leg Curls are light warm-ups (with 50% of your working weight). Only the Power Cleans, Bench Presses and Squats are meant to be trained in Heavy/Light/Medium fashion - the others are meant to be trained with the same weight each session.

    So why include the light day at all? Well, part of the idea is to work out some of the soreness and stiffness that you have from the heavy day; it also gives you an opportunity to practice your form and technique. And, based on the neurotrophic arguments presented at the beginning of this article, the light work might even help speed nervous system recovery from the heavy day, thereby leading you into the medium day. It may even provide a little bit of growth stimulus to carry you through. I have to caution you, though, the light day must be kept light. If not, you will almost certainly run into overtraining problems.

    In Part III of this series I'll take a yet closer look at the Heavy/Medium and Heavy/Light/Medium systems. There are questions yet to be answered...
  10. meowmeow's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Posts
    548
    Rep Power
    385

    Reputation

    Post Advanced Strength/Size Routine Construction Part III: The Heavy/Medium System Cont.


    The WeighTrainer

    Advanced Strength/Size Routine Construction Part III:
    The Heavy/Medium System Continued

    You'll recall from way back in Part I of this series that I said that Squats take so long to recover from primarily because of lower back fatigue. Generally, the more you allow your body to incline forward while Squatting the more the lower back will be involved and the longer you'll have to wait between Squat sessions. This helps explain why Olympic Lifters, with their upright style of Squatting, generally Squat much more frequently than Powerlifters, with their more leaned-forward style of Squatting. What it comes down to is if you Squat in such a style that heavily taxes the lower back (really, no traditional style of Squatting will totally spare it - maybe Hip Belt Squats do) then you probably end up requiring an extended rest period, not because of your legs but because of your back. If you think about it, what that means is that your legs may be recovered 3 days after Squatting (just an example) but you then have to wait another 4 in order for your back to come around. Then is there a way that you could get in some productive leg work between heavy Squat sessions without hammering your lower back into oblivion? Let's play around with the Heavy/Medium System.

    Using the above Squat recovery guidelines, let's say 4 days after Back Squats our legs are ready to go again. Our lower backs, however, won't be ready for a full 7. So really, we can train legs, themselves, every 4 days - it's the supporting structure that forces the extended break on us. One way around this situation is to include a medium leg day in between our heavy Squat sessions, but reserve this day for exercises that DO NOT overly tax the lower back. Prime candidates for this day would be Front Squats and Trap Bar Deadlifts. Both of these movements require a much more upright position, thus reducing the load placed on the lower back. They also involve the legs in a manner very similar to Back Squats (with a bit more emphasis on the quads) - so they are good compound exercises that stress the quads in their optimum range for producing force, but spare the lower back. And looking at it a bit more closely, since we've determined that it's the lower back that isn't fully recovered at this point, is there any reason not to work the quads to full capacity? They are themselves, after all, ready to go again.

    To get the answer to that question we'll have to look a little closer at the actual exercises we choose for our medium day. Depending on exercise selection, there could actually be some significant stress placed on the muscle(s) that you're trying to bypass. For example, say on medium day for legs you perform a movement such as Sissy Squats, which place relatively little load on the lower back muscles, then it's posible that you may be able to train at %100 intensity. If, on the other hand, you choose an exercise such as Front Squats, which stress the lower back muscles a bit harder (but still much less than Back Squats), you may have to limit the effort you put forth. What we get into then is whether you'd be better off training hard on an isolation exercise or curtailing your effort on a compound. Remember, we don't need to train to all-out failure to stimulate growth, so it may be wisest to train with reduced intensity compound exercises on medium day (because of their tendency to stress the muscles in the optimum range) - and it may be possible that you don't need to reduce intensity at all.

    What about the nervous system impacts of training a bodypart this frequently? If you've read the previous articles on The WeighTrainer you'll know that the nervous system may indeed need a longer recovery period than the musculature involved. We're going to tiptoe our way around that in a couple of manners. One, it was pointed out in the 'Variety: How Often Should You Change Your Routine?' that the nervous system optimizes itself very specifically to perform specific movements. That means that the same firing patterns will not occur in both Front Squats and Back Squats (just an example). So, at least to a degree, performing Front Squats will not impact the same motor units, in the same manner, as Back Squats. Generalize this to all of our exercises and bodyparts and we afford ourselves a bit of leeway, nervous system-wise. To further take advantage of these differing recruitment patterns we could try to make our medium day exercises as dissimilar to our heavy day exercises as possible (for example, Incline Presses and Dips). But keep in mind that the more dissimilar the medium day exercise is, the less carry-over there will be to the heavy day exercise. This may be of no concern to a Bodybuilder, but to an athlete who contests specific lifts, such as a Powerlifter or Weightlifter, it certainly well may be.

    A sample Heavy/Medium Squatting program would then look like:

    Sample Heavy/Medium Squatting Program
    Training Day - Main Exercise - Exertion Level


    Heavy -------- Back Squat -------- 100%
    Medium ------- Front Squat ------- to be determined

    So, going back to the exertion matter, the amount of exertion (intensity) that you put into your medium day would have to be determined at your own discretion. You could quickly determine this in as little as a few weeks. Simply try Front Squatting heavy (or Trap Bar Deadlifting) between your Back Squat sessions and see what happens. If your progress on Back Squats stops then you're probably working too hard on Front Squats (or Trap Bar Deadlifts) - try taking it a bit easier. If your progress on Back Squats goes up then you're on to something. Constantly monitor your Squat performance and make adjustments to your medium day exertion level as required. Use this day as a variable - like water seeking it's own level, find your own medium day exertion level.

    As a general guideline, I'd recommend that you stop several reps short of failure on medium day, at first. After a few weeks of this you can start pushing your Front Squats a bit harder and see what happens. You may find that you can go to your 100% exertion level on this day. On the other hand, you may find that you can't tolerate a medium day at all. If that's the case then scrap it.

    So, since you can do this for Squats, can you also do this with other exercises and bodyparts? Of course you can. I caution you before you get too carried away, however, that this approach is designed to find 'short-cuts' around bodyparts that require extended rest periods after the compound exercises. And that's how the approach should be implemented. Examine what bodyparts are the slowest to recover after your compound exercises and try to find ways around them. You may not be able to pin-point the actual muscle groups that are the culprits but you may have a 'feeling' that you're just not ready to train a certain lift again. A common example of this is the Bench Press and shoulder girdle fatigue. The smaller muscles of the shoulder capsule that act to hold the structure secure and balance out the forces produced by the pressing muscles during Bench Presses are hard to pinpoint, but when they are fatigued you're left with a feeling of mild weakness and 'instability' in the shoulder area. The actual prime movers of the Bench Press - the pecs, delts and triceps - may be fully recovered and ready to be trained again, however. What would be in order here would be an exercise that places less strain on the stabilizing muscles of the shoulder joints (primarily the rotator cuff muscles) but still allows the pressing muscles to be trained again. Perhaps Incline Presses would be a good choice.

    At this point an important caveat is in order. It takes an extremely advanced trainee, who knows his body very well, in order to make judgement calls like I've discussed above. It's not impossible but it is highly unlikely that a more novice trainee would have the ability to judge his fatigue state accurately - especially when we're talking about recognizing the subtle signs of shoulder girdle fatigue. If you don't think you have this ability it's still possible for you to experiment with this approach, though. I'll present some conservative routines later which everyone can try - but a constant eye must be kept on heavy session poundage increases (or lack thereof).

    To complete the picture, let's take a look at the pulling muscles - the muscles of the back. Let's say you do Deadlifts or some form of heavy Olympic-style pulling movement (Clean-Grip High Pulls, Power Cleans, etc) on your heavy day. You then finish your back training with some Bent-Over Rows. And let's assume that it takes you a full 7 days to recover from this session. As is the case with Squats, it's very likely that it's the lower back that requires the longest recovery period after this session, not the muscles of the upper back. A medium day, inserted between heavy days for back, could, therefore, consist of some type of Chin-Up or Pull-Up motion. Pull-Ups would target the lats (which are probably the first back muscles to recover after pulling and heavy rowing sessions) while placing practically no stress on the lower back muscles.

    You'll also notice that medium day exercises involve less total weight than heavy day ones. This is only to be expected because you are deliberately choosing exercises that do not involve as great a muscle mass as their heavy day counterparts. Indeed, they are usually one step closer to being considered isolation exercises - although we're still trying to choose compound exercises as our medium day alternatives.

    Well, I'm sure that by now you're getting a fairly good idea of the general procedure for constructing a heavy/medium style training schedule, but to give us something solid to chew on here are a couple of sample routines.

    For Mass and Strength

    Day 1 - Heavy

    Squats
    Deadlifts
    Barbell Curls
    Leg Raises

    Day 2 - Heavy

    Bench Presses
    Military Presses
    Calf Raises
    Lying L-Flyes

    Day 1 - Medium

    Front Squats
    Chin-Ups
    Incline DB Curls
    Crunches

    Day 2 - Medium

    Incline Presses
    Lateral Raises
    Seated Calf Raises

    And the schedule would be:

    Weekday/ Training Day:
    M 1 - Heavy
    T 2 - Medium
    W
    Th 1 - Medium
    F 2 - Heavy
    Sa
    S

    As you can see, if we want to train a lift/bodypart heavy once per week then this schedule has us training 4 times a week. Up until now the most frequent recommendation I've made has been 3 times per week. You'll also notice that, because we're trying to omit certain bodyparts from the action, on our medium days there are a few more isolation-style exercises creeping in. So, to counteract the tendency to overtrain a maximum of only 4 exercises are to be performed on any given day. And I have to re-iterate that if at any time your training weights stagnate or start slipping backwards then it's time to make some changes. In that case you might start training less intensely on your medium days or consider switching to a different schedule.

    Even with a keen eye towards caution it can be a slippery slope trying to train 4 times per week for the genetically average, drug-free trainee. Let's look at how we can get the frequency down to 2 and 3 day per week training.

    2 Day Per Week Heavy/Medium Training

    Obviously, since we're going to be training 2 days per week and also hitting a bodypart 2 times per week, we're going to have to adopt a full-body training routine. With this kind of program that can be done quite easily. Consider the following:

    For Mass and Strength

    Day 1 - Heavy

    Squats
    Dips
    Reverse Grip Chin-Ups
    Military Presses
    Stiff-Legged Deadlifts
    Barbell Curls
    Donkey Calf Raises
    Leg Raises
    Lying L-Flyes

    Day 2 - Medium

    Front Squats
    Incline Presses
    Bent-Over Rows
    Lateral Raises
    Lying Leg Curls
    Preacher Curls
    Standing Calf Raises
    Pre-Stretch Crunches

    For Strength and Power

    Day 1 - Heavy

    Power Cleans
    Squats
    Bench Presses
    Bent-Over Rows
    Push Presses
    Reverse Hypers
    Calf Raises
    Leg Raises
    Lying L-Flyes

    Day 2 - Medium

    Power Snatches
    Front Squats
    Incline Presses
    Chin-Ups
    Military Presses
    Back Extensions
    Seated Calf Raises
    Crunches

    As you can tell, routines of this sort have a tendency to get long. On the other hand, you'll find that the medium day tends to go a bit more quickly because the exercises aren't quite so taxing (even though you might be putting full effort into them). Why don't we rearrange things so that it's a bit more 'even' time-wise? And this would also have the effect of dividing out the week's total workload more evenly between the two sessions. So what we could do is mix up the heavy and medium day exercises so that on one day only half the bodyparts are being hit heavy and the other half medium.

    For Mass and Strength

    Day 1

    Squats
    Incline Presses
    Reverse Grip Chin-Ups
    Lateral Raises
    Stiff-Legged Deadlifts
    Preacher Curls
    Donkey Calf Raises
    Pre-Stretch Crunches
    Lying L-Flyes

    Day 2

    Front Squats
    Dips
    Bent-Over Rows
    Military Presses
    Lying Leg Curls
    Barbell Curls
    Standing Calf Raises
    Leg Raises

    For Strength and Power

    Day 1

    Power Cleans
    Front Squats
    Bench Presses
    Chin-Ups
    Push Presses
    Back Extensions
    Calf Raises
    Crunches
    Lying L-Flyes

    Day 2

    Power Snatches
    Squats
    Incline Presses
    Bent-Over Rows
    Military Presses
    Reverse Hypers
    Seated Calf Raises
    Leg Raises

    You may also notice that the way I have staggered these heavy and medium day exercises ensures that after a heavy day exercise you are always doing a medium day one.

    The Heavy/Light/Medium System

    It wouldn't be fair to cover this subject without looking at what Bill Starr has to say about the Heavy/Light/Medium system - since he is probably the most famous proponent of many of the ideas that have been presented here (albeit with a twist). In Mr. Starr's approach the full body is trained 3 times per week. But the exercises are divided up further so that some fall into an extra category - the light category. It should also be mentioned that Bill Starr treats all pressing exercises as shoulder girdle exercises and makes no distinction between what many would consider exercises aimed at either the pecs or delts. So, in his system, Bench Presses and Military Presses would be seen as a shoulder girdle exercises and not as separate chest and delt exercises. This means that Military Presses qualify as light day work for the shoulder girdle and Bench Presses are their heavy day counterpart. Incline Presses would be an example of medium day shoulder girdle work. Here's a sample Bill Starr-style Heavy/Light/Medium schedule for more advanced Football players - it isn't 'Simon Pure' Bill Starr but it does follow his philosophy:

    Advanced Off-Season Football Program

    Monday - Heavy

    Squats
    Bench Presses
    Power Shrugs
    Dumbbell Curls

    Weds - Light

    Power Cleans
    Overhead Presses
    Lunges
    Good Mornings

    Friday - Medium

    Clean-Grip High Pulls
    Incline Presses
    Front Squats
    Triceps Pressdowns

    Before you even consider a routine such as the one layed out above I have to warn you: It is extremely 'rugged'. Most, if not all, genetically average trainees will quickly overtrain if they jump head first into such a program. I present it more as an example of the heavy/light/medium philosophy than anything else. Still, in all fairness, there are advanced trainees who can tolerate such a load - but they have a very keen understanding of what they're body is capable of and of their recovery state at any given time. They also know when to 'back off' and when to 'push it'.

    Why don't we do as we did with the 2 day approach and stagger our heavy, light and medium exercises across the three days so that each day contains a mixture of heavy, light and medium exercises, instead of being purely heavy, light and medium days? And let's do it in pure strength and size fashion rather than aiming at Football. Such an approach might look like this:

    Staggered Heavy/Light/Medium Program

    Monday

    Military Presses
    Squats (H)
    Dips
    Bent-Over Rows

    Weds

    Front Squats
    Back Extensions
    Barbell Curls
    Donkey Calf Raises

    Friday

    Incline Presses
    Squats (M)
    Chin-Ups
    Triceps Pressdowns

    In the above program H = heavy and M = medium. Medium day Squatting weights would generally be ~75% - 85% of heavy day weights (for the same number of reps). It also needs to be pointed out that the 'main' exercises in the above program would be Military Presses, Incline Presses, Squats and Bent-Over Rows. The exertion (intensity level) you put into all the other exercises would be based on your ability to progress on those 'main' lifts. Start the program by only putting a limited amount of effort into the 'secondary' exercises, then as weeks pass begin to push them a bit harder and see what happens. If at any time your progress on the 'main' exercises halts (or slows dramatically) then curtail the intensity of effort that you're placing into the 'secondary' ones.

    It also has to be acknowledged that the above program has you performing a squatting movement 3 times per week. This will be too much for most people unless intensity is carefully manipulated. The vast majority of trainees would not be able to push Front Squats to full exertion levels on Wednesdays.

    Summary

    So, by now you should have a fairly complete understanding of how you can construct your strength/size routine for maximum training efficiency. In this series I've given you several different options to approach differing bodypart recovery rates with. I have to say once again, though, that all of these approaches rely on YOU. You are the one (unless you have a good coach) that has to listen to your body and construct your training sessions accordingly. Never blindly follow a routine merely because it sounds 'good'. Nothing sounds as good as the idea of adding more weight to the bar. And you'll only accomplish that by heeding the signals (i.e. progress or lack thereof) that your body sends you.
  

  
 

Similar Forum Threads

  1. Have mono :( Lost a lot of strength & size.
    By MuscleBound1337 in forum Supplements
    Replies: 6
    Last Post: 09-17-2007, 05:10 PM
  2. Replies: 11
    Last Post: 06-23-2006, 11:39 PM
  3. ARTICLES: Training Related I - Basic Concepts by Casey Butt
    By meowmeow in forum Exercise Science
    Replies: 7
    Last Post: 12-05-2005, 11:00 PM
  4. ARTICLES: Physiology Related by Casey Butt
    By meowmeow in forum Exercise Science
    Replies: 8
    Last Post: 12-03-2005, 06:42 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Log in
Log in
Single Sign On provided by vBSSO