For the past three months I have had two philosophies when it comes to training…HARD and HEAVY! The major goal of any off-season training program is to build strength and power so that one can accumulate more muscle size. In order you gotta do heavy basic strength movements such as the squat, deadlift, bench press, shoulder press, rows and chins. If you are in a sport in addition to bodybuilding your approach will obviously be more sport specific. For example I have been involved with boxing so I do a few exercises that help build my twisting ability and punching power. When I was involved in crew i.e. rowing I had more ab, leg and back work as a part of my program and more cardio via rowing machines which I also factored into my training and recovery.
Perhaps more than anything diet and nutrition will have the most profound effect on the rate of your progress and whether or not you will build muscle. All of our metabolic rates are different because of genetics and level of activity. In general you should consume 2g of carbs for every pound of bodyweight and 1-1.5 g of protein. Lean protein sources are preferable. It is an individual thing though (I myself favor a lot of Puerto Rican dishes and Italian food … not much steak but lots of chicken and fish and protein supplements as well, see the bodybuilding.com store for the numerous products available). 5-6 smaller meals a day are preferable since it will keep a constant flow of nutrients going in your body and it will allow your digestive system to better assimilate the protein you are consuming.
The approach I have taken to my workouts through out the past 5 months or so have actually been quite simple and consistent. For each muscle group I pick a 1-3 compound movements that allow me to build strength by overloading my muscles with the heaviest weights I can handle for 4-to-10 reps. I next will pick 1-2 isolation movements to help build size and etch in detail in specific areas of the muscle and then I might finish with a finishing movement for higher reps for a pump and to get blood into the muscle and overload some of the endurance fibers. An example of my method can be applied to triceps. I do close-grip bench presses first since these allow me to power up heavy weights for overall size and strength. Next I might opt for overhead triceps extensions with a cambered bar and finish with pressdowns for higher reps. Note I might use drop sets, negatives and forced rep along the way to increase the intensity of the exercise and thus the growth stimulus.
Here is my current workout split:
- 2 days off
Bench Press 135 for 10-12 reps, 175 for 8, 215 for 8-10 (these are warm-up sets), 225 for 6-8, 235 for 4-5, 250 for 4-5 followed by a drop set down to 225 for 5 reps, then 205 for 5, 185 for 5 and then 135 to failure
Incline Barbell Press 185 for 8-10, 205 for 6-8, 215 for 2 sets aimin’ for 5 reps
Incline Dumbbell Press 3 sets using 75-100s for 6-8 reps
Incline Flyes 2 sets of 8-12 using 40s-60s
I end with 2-3 sets of Dips, squeezing each rep for what its worth…I might had a 25 pound plate for these and shoot for 10-15 reps
My pecs feel heavy, pumped and beat…primed for growth and for the soreness to come.
Chins 8 reps, then I had plates via a belt around my waist 4 with 50 pounds for 2 sets, then I lighten the weight and try to either match my reps or increase them slightly, I get 6-or-7 reps with a 35-pound plate for 6 reps, then a 25-pound plate for about 8 and then I do one last set without any weight attached and get 10-12 reps…sometimes I might do Pull-downs instead as my main lat movement and here I will use 185-230 pounds ... for even more variety I might do 2 sets of chins and follow that up with 2 sets of pull-downs, sing various hand spacings and grips.
Deadlifts 15 with 135, 10 with 185, 5 with 225, 5 with 275, 5 with 315, then 335 for 3 then I drop to 205 to failure for 10-15
Barbell Rows 175 for 8-10, 190 for 6-7, 205 for 2 sets going for 5 reps
Dumbbell Rows or Machine Rows 2 sets to burn out everything for 10-12 reps…I make a conscious effort to stretch my lower back, hamstrings and shoulders after this workout I like to do my ab training on back day as well and my routine typically consists of Incline Sit-ups for 4 sets of 15-30 (I may hold a 25-pound weight plate), and Hanging Knee Raises for 3 sets of 12-20.
Squats 135 for 15, 225 for 10, 370 for 10, 10 with 405 whew man now my quads are screaming, 8 reps with 455 and finally the BIG set 6 reps with 500 pounds
Leg Presses 3-4 sets of 20-30 pounds using 720-900 pounds squeezing all the way…sometimes I prefer to lunges instead in which case I will use 155-20 pounds for 10-20 reps…this movement is great since it works almost everything: quads, hams, glutes, hips… a good leg exercise that gives ya bang for the buck.
Leg Curls 4 sets 10 with 110, 7 with 120, 5 with 130, 5 with 130 then a quick drop to 90 pounds for 10-12
Stiff Legged Deadlifts 10 with 155, 10 with 175, 8 with 185,7 with 210
Leg Extensions 15 with 180, 12 with 200 then 7 with 220 and a drop to 190 for 4 and then to 150 for 8
Abs get a lashing today with 4 sets of Hanging Knee Raises
Seated Military Presses 10 with 75, 10 with 95 as warm-ups then its 10 with 155, 8 with 165, 5 reps with 170 and then 4 with 185 and a drop to 135 for 8
Bent Dumbbell Laterals 8 reps with a pair of 45s then two for sets getting 7 reps then a drop to a pair of 35s and then 25 for 10-15
Machine Lateral Raises 15 with 80 pounds, 8 with 100 for 2 sets, 6 with 110 with 3 forced reps
Upright Rows 2 sets of 6 reps with 135 then a lighter set with 115 for maybe 8 reps.
Barbell Curls 10 with 75, 10 with 105, 8 reps with 115, 4 reps with 125(using a slight cheat) then I drop that shit down to 85 pounds for 8 and then pump out 15 reps with 75 pounds
Incline Curls 8 with 45, 7 with 50s, 6 with 50s, 9 with 40s
Preacher curls with a cambered bar getting in 2 sets using 75 pounds to failure…a nice isolated contraction here with no cheating at all
Close Grip Bench Press 10 with 135, 8 with 175, 6-7 with 205, 5 with 215 then I drop it to 175 and then 155 for 6-8 reps each time
Overhead Extensions or skull-crushers…I use 65-105 pounds here for 6-15 reps over 3-4 sets…gotta be careful here since the elbows are under some stress with this one ... once ya got that technique down though this will make your triceps scream…almost as much as the 3 sets of press-downs with a V-bar that I will use on my last set.
Don’t Playa hate…Evaluate…
Realistically, you probably have some area of your body that needs to be brought up a little bit…maybe those calves could have a little more size, maybe you should be working your back as hard as your chest and so on. Make sure you constantly evaluate which areas of your body need fin tuning… the lack of proportion that you will exhibit if you do not will make all your other efforts look ridiculous….
One more dammit! I see this all the time even with my very own training partner! People in the gym who are using the right exercises, eating the right foods and getting rest fail to fail…they do not try for that one last rep that I know they got in them and then they wonder why their progress cannot compare with mine…that one last rep on a heavy set of squats might be so excruciating that you feel as though that muscle is going to burst into flames or knot up in a searing cramp…don’t be afraid of the pain cuz if you do, then ya train in vain. One time me and my training partner were doing squats and he had done 7 reps and was grimacing with pain as he felt as though he legs were about to give out under him and I said “c’mon bro one more I know ya can do it !”…he went down half way and shook his head and racked the weight…I was so pissed off that he had quit since I was so sure he had another rep left in him…I told him to immediately get back under that bar and to imagine that if he did not that his girlfriend would be shot. His powers of imagination masked the intense burn in his quads and when he got back under that bar he completed 3 reps…and he thought he could not even do one more! It never ceases to amaze me how much the mind is a part of training and how overlooked it is as well…any way next time you have that weight and think you are done for remember…one more rep dammit!
Un poquito loquito
As someone who as always appreciated his Latin culture I gotta especially appreciate those few who go a little crazy sometimes in an effort to bust through sticking points. A case in point is Johnny Fuller an popular IFBB pro from the early 1980s…this muthfucka was just plain crazy sometimes…how crazy? First off all was is diet…over a 7-day period Fuller would do the following…on one day he would consume only protein foods from meat sources (beef, lamb, emu ostrich u name it he ate it) and would had for 800-1000 grams of protein! He would follow that up with one day of protein from only foul (chicken, turkey) Wed in which he would only consume crab sources such as yams, fruit, bread, pasta and grits, Thursday in which he would consume only fish, Fri. in which he would consume only dairy and protein skakes, Saturday was his cheat day and he ate anything (as many as 10,000 calories!) from pizza to donuts and sun in which he would fast all day. This is just simply the craziest shit I think you will ever hear about in terms of bodybuilding nutrition but it definitely worked for Fuller who cared a ripped to the bone 223 bounds on is 5’6 frame. In hindsight it is amazing to think of how such a diet would have effected his training…the day in which he ate mostly red meat would have given his body tremendous amounts of zinc and creatine and his high carb day and cheat day would have probably allowed him high levels of glycogen storage …I dunno it is some crazy shit but hey it might be worth a shot. His training was just as crazy…high reps and ultra high sets…as many as 60 sets for just chest alone a back workout that included 30 sets of just chins….. yeah this dude was one crazy mo of but hey it worked…and sometimes implementing such unconventional forms of punishment, I mean training might be the thing that gets u past that sticking point for more muscle.
HELL ONE TIME I EVEN TRIED SOMETHING A LITTLE UNCONVENTIONAL AND WAS AMAZED AT THE PROGRESS I MADE ... for three weeks straight I only used the squat, incline press, chin, stiff legged deadlift and an ab movement for the entire duration ... 4 days per week and 1 exercise (not including abs) each session. I did each exercise for 15-18 sets usually doing 4 sets with a heavy weight in the area of 4-6 and then went with higher reps (as many as 50 on squats) to really burn out the muscle fibers. Now even though I was only using a few exercises I was able to work my entire body with these few compound movements and garnered tremendous progress. I went into the weight room each workout ... only one exercise today I know I can do this. One might think that smaller muscle groups such as the delts and arms would need more direct work but the incline press works the front delts to a great extent and the side to a lesser extent while the chins work the rear and side delts (as well as the whole shoulder area). I was able to make strides with my arms as well since I did a few of the 18 sets of presses with a closer hand spacing, giving my triceps something to whine about the next day and my biceps got worked by a few sets of chins using a reverse grip.
You would be amazed at much easier it is going into a workout knowing you only have one exercise to do and in some cases it will help you perfect what might have previously been faulty or injurious technique. Well good luck to you and please e-mail all questions, comments and snide remarks to firstname.lastname@example.org.