Do you ever notice how people in the gym and see that they always seem to do the same type of workouts using the same exercises? Now don't get me wrong I'm not saying that following a good workout plan is a bad thing especially when you're milking it for all its worth. It just that after we find a training strategy that gets us results we tend to stick to it loyally and neglect the fact that there are many other great training methods which we might be missing out on. I'll be the first to put up my hand and admit that I don't like to change my routine around especially when I enjoy what I'm doing in the gym and getting progressively stronger. However, when I look back over my past year of training even though I have gained some good strength, my muscle gains haven't been what I had hoped for. This made me think after all my time bodybuilding how well do I really know my body?
In answering this question I realized that even though I knew many different strategies I hadn't fully tried many of them, not with full conviction anyway. Anytime I tried a new method I would always eventually go back to my 'preferred' training system, which is a Dorian Yates style high intensity split. I finally decided that I would take this year to fully understand how my body responded to different training and diet methods. What motivated me to really do this was by reading about the many different training methods used by writers of Bodybuilding.com, and although the strategies used differed good results were still attained. This goes to show that there is never just one best method to build size and strength.
In the past I have always cycled my training, going from periods of high intensity to lesser intensity to fully recover before embarking on a new cycle. But I hadn't really cycled my training methods or diet plans. This was going to change.
Training Methods To Experiment With:
My plan is to use the following training systems for up to 6 - 8 weeks and closely monitor how I'm responding to them in terms of size and strength. I have used them all in the past but without true conviction, nor for an extended period of time. This time my training will have nothing less the 110% effort and intensity.
Pre-Exhaust High Intensity Training - Learn More
I have used pre-exhaust training for my chest before and got some good results, but not for the whole body. I intend to do it the way Mike Mentzer suggested. A high intensity sequence of isolation exercise followed immediately by a heavy compound movement, with added intensity methods included such as drop sets, forced reps, negatives and rest-pause. The sessions will be short in duration only 30 - 45 minutes per session, but I'm sure if done correctly will be more than enough to kick my ass properly!
Max-OT Training System - Learn More
This training system devised by AST is based on short workouts (no more than 45mins) with low sets (9 for larger muscles, 6 for smaller) and low reps (4-6). Many muscles will end up being trained by them over a five day split. The design of the weekly split should be changed every 3 weeks to incorporate different exercises to give more balance to the routine.
This allows for more intensity to be allocated to a specific muscle per training session, rather than getting fatigued and not being able to give it your all on the second muscle trained. Max-OT Training has its followers and its critics, some say that its the most efficient way to train while others state that the lack of variety in rep range, number of set, etc makes it easy to reach a training plateau. I believe like any training system it will work but not forever, so I intend to get as much out of it as possible before changing to another style of training. Max-OT devotees such as Skip La Cour and Jeff Willet have some serious muscle to show that this routine can be effective.
Power Lifting Style Training - Learn More
I've always been impressed by people with raw strength. I love to watch the World's Strongest Man, seeing the unbelievable levels of strength and power is mind blowing and extremely motivating. Arnold once said that he didn't just want to have big muscle he wanted also to be equally strong and in his early days did strength contests and demonstrations displaying that he had serious strength to back up his amazing body.
On a power lifting style training cycle I will training on a abbreviated 3 day a week routine, with the three main lifts (squats, bench press and deadlifts) getting split over the sessions. I will add in a small selection of assistance exercises such as chins, D/B press, tricep extensions, B/B curls, standing calf raises. This training cycle will be a low volume, high intensity routine with the number one aim to really increase strength on the 'big' exercises to increase my overall strength and power.
Higher Rep Training - Learn More
Previously, I've always been keener on low reps as I can shift more weight. However, there are many bodybuilders who do higher rep training (12 - 20 reps) and get good results from it. This style of training even though using lighter weights than normal can still be very intense. Your muscle will be under tension longer than with low rep training and more blood will be rushing to the muscles. I will use this style of training following a heavy cycle as it will be kinder on my joints and assist in keeping me injury free before I embark back on heavy training.
My diet for years has been a high protein, moderate carbs and low fat plan. However, as much as I believe this is one of the best diet plans to follow there are many other good diet strategies, which others have gained from, and if you don't try them you'll never know how well they work for you.
ISO-Caloric Diet Plan
The late Dan Duchaine designed this. This diet plan splits the intake in thirds so that you're getting equal amounts of calories from the protein, carbs and fats. Duchaine came across this when he was struggling to lose fat and found that by decreasing his carbs but increasing his intake of essential fats he could successfully lose fat with little muscle loss.
Many people don't like the idea of increasing their fat intake, but that doesn't mean eating more hot dogs or burgers. It's getting them from good sources such as flax seed oil, canola & olive oil, natural peanut butter and some oily fish. These fats actually increase your levels of health; provide an efficient source of energy and helps to decrease cholesterol levels. This is how this diet would look:
Daily Calorie Consumption: 3000
Protein Intake: 300grams (1000 calories)
Carbs Intake: 300grams (1000 calories)
Fat Intake: 111grams (1000 calories)
Body Opus Diet Plan
Dan Duchaine also devised a diet plan, which he called the Body Opus Diet. He believed that this would be the key to successfully controlling your metabolism and could actually allow you to lose fat while maintaining or even increasing muscle mass.
The idea is that for five days you follow a zero carb diet with 30% protein and 70% Essential Fats Acids. The aim of this diet is to get your body into ketosis as quickly as possible, usually about 2 -3 days. Ketosis occurs when the hormone glucagon is released by the body causing triglycerides to be released from the body's store of fat for energy. Towards the end of the five days as your body gets deeper into ketosis you can include 100-200 calories worth of carbs. Then for 2 days you load up on carbs at a huge rate to fill your glycogen stores before embarking on this diet plan for another 7 days.
When loading up on carbs you have to consume 12 meals over a 24-hour period, eating ever 2 1/2 hours even throughout the night. You load up to a ratio of 16gram per lean body weight in kg.
Duchaine claimed that everyone who tried this diet strategy and stuck to it was successful in shifting his or her body fat. But obviously the hardest aspect would be actually sticking to the plan exactly. However, it does interest me and I am planning on trying this for a number of weeks to find out for myself how well it works.
Nothing is written in stone and often you'll get a gut feeling about certain training methods that either they'll work for you or they won't. Also, it might even end up being shorter cycles of the different training methods to keep things fresh and myself motivated. For example: Week 1 & 2 Power lifting style training with heavy weight and low reps. Then weeks 3 & 4 Higher Rep training with less weight.
Looking back it seems a shame that I didn't do this sooner as the various training methods I'm going to try really motivates me and fires me up to know that at the end of the year I will have a much better understanding of how my body responds to differing training and nutrition strategies.
All the best,