If you've ever wandered through one of the giant bodybuilding expos at the Arnold Sports Festival or Olympia, you know that one of the many highlights is getting free T-shirts from supplement companies. You grab as many as you can and stuff them into your bag with your free protein samples and magazine giveaways, hoarding loot like a kid at Halloween. But when you come home from the expo, you eagerly go through your stash—and find many of the T-shirts are the wrong size!
Free T-shirts are like generic workout programs: One size does not fit all! Basic training prescriptions may work great, but typically only for the genetically gifted. Like a shirt that's too loose or too tight, you'll have to make adjustments for the perfect fit.
No one in the business knows more about creating a bodybuilding program than Hany Rambod. He's the trainer behind 13 Olympia titles across four divisions, including Men's Open, Women's Figure, Men's Physique, and Men's 202. It's simply his business to know how to build muscle, and he does it better than anyone.
Of course, Rambod wears a lot of hats these days. Aside from being a family man in the Bay Area of Northern California and advising elite athletes in several sports, he's launched his own line of specialty sports supplements, called Evogen. Bodybuilding's preeminent guru is also a great tailor; he can customize workouts for individuals to create a perfect fit.
The simplest way to organize Rambod’s training concepts is to divide individuals into three basic body types:
- Ectomorphs: Hardgainers who are looking to add muscle, yet seem to have difficulty putting on size
- Mesomorphs: Individuals who are naturally able to put on size without appreciable gains in fat
- Endomorphs: Heavy individuals who need to lose body fat as they add muscle mass
If you don't already know which body type you are, take the test, then read on to learn how Rambod applies customized training philosophies to each!
The Basic Workout Structure
Open just about any exercise-science textbook, and you'll see that hypertrophy-based routines typically include four essential elements:
- Multijoint exercises
- High volume (number of exercises, sets, and reps)
- Failure in the 8-12-rep range
- Rest and recovery
Rambod's starting point for every workout accounts for all of those parameters, regardless of body type. "The basic workout structure starts with 3-4 sets per exercise, and normally I tend to do four exercises per body part," he says. "I might adjust that and sometimes go down to as few as three sets for arms or up to as many as five for back or legs because they're much bigger body parts."
He turbocharges the basic workout in a number of ways, most notably by adjusting the target rep range based on body type:
- Ectomorphs choose a weight so that they fail by 6-8 reps
- Mesomorphs choose a weight to reach 10-12 reps
- Endomorphs choose a weight that they can do for 15-20 reps
Rambod also includes his widely popular FST-7 finishing technique at the end of each body-part routine. He uses this technique as part of his training program with the world's top bodybuilders, but it's also a great tool for any trainee.
FST stands for fascia-stretch training. The fascia is the sheath that encapsulates your muscle tissue. The idea behind FST-7 is to do 7 sets of one exercise at the end of your workout to pump as much blood as possible into your working muscle fibers, thus helping to stretch the fascia by increasing the volume and pushing out against the skin. This potentially "makes room," so to speak, for more growth, and helps to give you the round muscle belly/3-D look often seen in Hany's athletes. "The greater volume of work also helps spike your natural hormones," says Hany.
The 7 sets—the ideal number Rambod came up with through decades of experience— are performed with 30-45 seconds of rest between sets. The brief rest period can be extended, Rambod says, if your reps are coming up short.
You want to perform as many reps as your body-type target-range dictates, which is 6-8 for ectomorphs, 10-12 for mesomorphs, and 15-20 for endomorphs. The rest period can be lengthened on leg day, but Rambod notes that, like any other muscle group, the heart can be conditioned over time and you should shorten the rest period as you get in better shape.
These 7 sets are working sets, so you should be failing at the stated number of reps. Just because the technique is performed at the end of your workout doesn't mean you should be cruising through. You need to give these sets everything you've got.
One of the main benefits of a high-volume protocol like FST-7 is that it improves insulin sensitivity. "That basically means your body's natural insulin works more efficiently, and your body becomes less carb-sensitive and subject to insulin spikes, which more readily store body fat," says Hany. "Your body's ability to break down and utilize carbohydrates becomes more efficient; your body basically becomes a carbohydrate-burning factory. That's what insulin sensitivity is about. That means you may also be able to burn more body fat from just training versus having to do so much cardio."
Hany Rambod’s Prescription for the Ectomorph
An ectomorph, or hardgainer, is typically someone seeking to add size by building bigger and stronger muscles. "That means keeping the reps down to keep the weight up," says Rambod. Since low-volume, high-intensity training is better for making gains in strength, an ectomorph's training volume is relatively low compared to an endomorph.
Ectomorphs should choose a weight for each movement that allows them to reach 6-8 reps per set (after warm-ups), both for base sets—the first three exercises—and with the last movement utilizing the FST-7 technique.
FST-7 is normally done with a single-joint movement, but Rambod warns that doing lower-rep sets with single-joint movements isn't kind on the joints. For ectomorphs, he instead suggests finishing with a multijoint machine movement for sets of 6-8 reps.
"It's important to not just stop at muscle fatigue, but take your sets to muscle failure," adds Rambod.
Finally, beginners who are ectomorphs should shift all reps to 10-12 rather than 6-8 on all exercises until a basic foundation of strength has been established.
Hany Rambod’s Prescription for the Mesomorph
The mesomorph is a person who is naturally able to put on size without appreciable gains in fat. They can follow a standard bodybuilding protocol and realize significant gains. Reps will normally fall in the muscle-building sweet spot, around 10. Mesomorphs can still take advantage of the anabolic properties of FST-7 training, which is included in the workout below. For growth, utilize post-failure training strategies like forced reps on the heaviest sets.
Hany Rambod’s Prescription for the Endomorph
Endomorphs are heavy individuals who need to lose body fat as they add muscle mass. Shifting your reps to a higher target (15-20) won't give you much in the way of strength gains, but you'll still build muscle—and with the higher volume, you'll burn significantly more calories, which is what the endomorph is after.
"With the greater time under tension and volume in these workouts, you're going to almost simulate doing cardio because you're performing so many reps," says Rambod. "You'll be burning more calories, and you'll be doing that under the bar versus having to get on a bike.
"The fast-paced FST-7 protocol—which, because it's leg day, includes a longer rest interval in this sample workout—with higher reps is perfect for the guy who has trouble leaning out, because it keeps the heart rate higher and improves insulin sensitivity, all of which adds up to getting the body leaner while training and having to do less cardio."
Rambod adds that leg day is incredibly important for endomorphs because of what it does to your metabolism: "Your legs have so much to do with your metabolism because of the degree of muscle mass involved. Training legs is important because that's what helps keep your metabolism rolling. When you stop training your legs and hips, the metabolism slows down. As I like to say, 'When you lose your ass, you lose your metabolism.'"
Adjusting Your Supplements to Your Body Type
By now it should be apparent that Rambod's FST-7 method is one that really pumps the target muscle at the end of the workout, especially when combined with shorter rest periods. Because maximizing blood volume is so critical, Rambod makes these common-sense supplement recommendations to help you achieve your goals:
You're not going to get a pump unless you're well hydrated, so drinking plenty of fluids all day long is very beneficial.
Including a nitric-oxide booster like Evogen's EVP prior to training, and Cell K.E.M. during your workout, can help improve blood flow to working muscles during a technique like FST-7. Adding a branched-chain amino acid product (BCAA) with at least a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine:isoleucine:valine and a nitric-oxide precursor can also be helpful in reducing muscle catabolism, especially for ectomorphs.
Stimulant-based pre-workouts can actually be counterproductive to growth because they raise blood pressure and may constrict blood flow. Thus, Rambod's pre-workout blend is free of the kinds of stimulants that may hinder the pump you're chasing.
An immediate post-workout feeding of up to 50 grams of whey protein isolate is optimal, but Rambod adjusts the carbs based on body type: An ectomorph can add 100 grams of fast-acting carbs like Evogen's GlycoJect, a mesomorph can consume carbs and protein in a 1:1 ratio, and an endomorph should go light on carbs—or not consume any at all.