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Periodization For Bodybuilders Part 2!

Are you interested in long term results and effectiveness in your training? Then you better have at least a basic understanding of 'periodization'.

Click Here For Part One

In the part 1 of this article I discussed and compared traditional approaches to periodization with "modern" approaches. The fact is however, the modern approach is not being used on a widespread scale but there are those such as the Westside Barbell Powerlifters and others who are using their creative minds and some science to create superbly effective training routines.

In part 2 of this article, I will put it all together and show an example of how one might use the various training methods and periodize them to an overall effective training process.

A Little Review...

Before we begin to design an effective bodybuilding program let's do a little review of the main methods of training available to use as discussed in part 1. Basically, we have the following to choose from:

The Repetitive Effort Method

Sets Reps Load (%1RM) Rest Interval (between sets)
3-5 8-15 60-80% 2-3 Minutes

The Maximal Strength Method

Sets Reps Load (%1RM) Rest Interval (between sets)
5-10 1-5 85-100% 3-7 Minutes

The Dynamic Effort Method

Sets Reps Load (%1RM) Rest Interval (between sets)
6-10 1-5 50-70% 45-90 seconds Minutes

There are actually many more methods available to the bodybuilder that could be used effectively to stimulate hypertrophy including the weightlifting method(snatch, clean & jerk and all variations), the reactive method and the plyometric method of training. These methods are based upon ballistic movements which heavily recruit fast twitch muscle fibers. Because they require exceptional technique I have chosen to leave them out of this article series. Perhaps in a future article I will go over some easy to learn and safer versions of the more "ballistic" methods of training. But for now, let's get on with our program development!

The Program...

Our program will be developed for up and coming twenty-something year old bodybuilder Joey "wanna gain some mass" Johnson. Joey is a college student with a 4 year background in weight training which started with some lifting in high school football during his junior and senior years. He is around 5' 8 and currently weighs 161 pounds.

He has a fairly good physique with good bone structure, and washboard ABS. The main thing Joey lacks is basic MASS. The following body parts were determined to be the focus our program: chest and legs. This does not mean that we will not work the other body parts; quite the contrary. Due to the intense stimulation that his muscles will be exposed to he will probably gain more in other body parts than ever before.

Before We Begin...

Before we can design the program we have to determine Joey's current level of maximal strength is some key lifts. For the purpose of our goals for Joey we chose 3 key lifts with the following results:

Parallel Back Squat (with bar resting on upper back) - 1RM: 265 lbs.
Any heavier weights and Joey started cutting his depth too much and leaned too far forward. I am very strict with making sure the form is the same whether using light, medium or heavy weights. If you can't keep the same range of motion then take some damn weight off the bar! I'm always amazed when I walk into gyms and see the most awful form in exercises like the squat and Bench press.

The Bench Press (medium grip, all the way down to nipple line and back up) - 1RM: 215 lbs.
It is very important during the bench press to have your feet firmly placed in the ground and to avoid wiggling and squirming while lifting. Keep a lot of tension in your entire body keep the whole body "arched" but never lift your hips off the bench or "bounce" the bar off your chest! It also helps during the bench to really "squeeze" the bar, almost as if you were trying to pull it apart during the lowering. This will make your technique more sound and increase your stregnth.

The Chin-up (shoulder width apart, underhand grip) - 1RM: 221 lbs.(bodyweight plus 60 pounds attached to a chin/dip belt).
Start the chin-up in the hanging position and pull yourself up until your chin just crosses the bar. If one is too weak to do a properly performed chin up then substitute the pull down machine.

About Max Testing...

Since max testing is usually regarded as something only performed by athletes, weightlifters, and powerlifters, I though it would be appropriate to discuss the proper way to perform a max test. The following instructions have been adapted from the National Strength and Conditioning Association's textbook "Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 2000 edition." It is important to remember that you MUST have spotter when performing max tests!

    1. Using a light resistance, warm-up the specific exercise using a load that easily allows 5-10 repetitions.

    2. Rest 1 minute.

    3. Add 10-20 lb for an upper body or 30-40 lb for a lower body exercise respectively. Perform 3-5 repetitions.

    4. Rest 2 minutes.

    5. Estimate a conservative, near max effort load that will allow the completion of 2-3 repetitions. This will be accomplished by again adding 10-20 lb. for and upper body exercise or 30-40 lb for a lower body exercise.

    6. Rest 2-4 minutes.

    7. Increase load again by same numbers above and attempt a 1RM. If successful then...

    8. Rest 2-4 minutes and add slightly more load, Attempt a 1RM.

Continue adjusting the load until a 1RM is reached with good form. If the form is poor attempt another 1RM with a slightly reduced load. Good form is the key! No more than 5 sets should used to find the maximum.

Finally, The Program!

The following program is based upon a 4 day split routine for Joey with lower body being worked Monday and Thursday and upper body worked on Tuesday and Friday. Wednesday and Saturday are for some basic GPP work and "active recovery" while Sunday is taken completely off. The weekly split looks as follows:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Lower Upper GPP Lower Upper GPP Off

The program will be changed every 4 weeks and then will switch lower and upper body days during the week to change the stimulus and encourage further adaptation. The second four weeks will look as follows:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Upper Lower GPP Upper Lower GPP Off

Since Joey lacks strength, the first two workouts of the week during the first 4 weeks will be dedicated to the development of maximum strength. The second workouts of the week will focus on the dynamic effort method which is based on bar speed.. The bar must me accelerated as fast as possible during the concentric part of the lift with a slight slowing down near the end to avoid hyper-extending your joints. (* Remember, the following example is for the subject discussed in this article. Adjust the weights according to your own abilities!)

Lower Body - (Max strength)

A. Back Squats - 5 x 5 x 210 (aprox. 80%1RM)
Rest intervals: 2-3 minutes

B-1. DB Step-ups (into high box or bench so thigh is parallel to ground at start) - 2-3 x 6-8 reps x 40-50 lb. DB's in each hand.
Rest 60 seconds and than superset with the next exercise:

B-2. Romanian Deadlifts (aka stiff-legged deadlifts) - Perform with a barbell and use a squat cage to take the bar on and off. Hands shoulder width apart; feet hip width apart, slightly bend knees and slowly lower bar towards ground keeping the bar glued to your thighs. Lower to slightly below knee level and then return to standing emphasizing your hamstrings and glutes. It is very important to keep an arch (lordosis) in your lower back the entire time! 2-3 x 6-8 reps x 155-185 lb.
Rest 60 seconds and start over again with the step-ups.

C. Core Circuit: Do some abdominal exercises such as crunches or oblique work and superset with a lower back exercise like a reverse hyper or back extension.: 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps each with a 60 seconds in between circuits.

Upper Body - (Max Strength)

A-1. Bench Press - 5 x 5 x 170 (approx 80%1RM) Superset with next exercise
Rest interval: 90 seconds

A-2. Chin-up: 5 x 5 x 20 lb. DB (aprox 80%1RM) Superset with bench press
Rest interval: 90 seconds

B-1. Incline DB press - 2-3 x 6-8 x 55-65 lb. DB's Superset with next exercise
Rest interval: 75 seconds

B-2. Seated Rows (medium palms downs grip) - 2-3 x 6-8 x ?(choose adequate load based in low row used)
Rest interval 75 seconds Superset with Incline DB press.

C-1. DB hammer curls: 2 x 8-10 x 20-30 lbs Superset with following exercise

C-2. Triceps cable push-downs with rope: 2 x 8-10 x ?(choose a suitable load)

Note: the main emphasis of this training program is to get stronger and more explosive in a few key lifts. Don't be shocked at the small volume of arm work. When you return to a more usual bodybuilding workout you will be much stronger and therefore able to use greater loads for sets of 8-12 reps. Remember, patience is a virtue!

Lower Body - (Dynamic Effort)

A. Back Squats: 6 x 3 x 135 (Approx 50% 1RM)
Rest interval: 45 seconds

B. Lunges: 3-4 x 6-8 x 95-155 lb.
Rest interval: 2 minutes

C. 1-Legged leg press: - 1-2 sets x 15-20 reps
Rest interval: 60 seconds (get on a regular leg press and perform 1-2 sets of slow and controlled leg presses with 1 leg at a time. Slow and controlled on this one!)

D. Core work: pick one ab and one lower back exercise for 2-3 sets of 10-12 with 60 seconds in between sets

Upper Body - (Speed-Strength)

A-1. Bench press: 6 x 3 x 110 lb.(Approx. 50% 1RM) Superset with the following exercise
Rest interval: 60 seconds

A-2. Chin-ups: 6 x 3 x Bodyweight/Superset with Bench
Rest interval: 60 seconds and then go back to bench press

B-1. Standing DB arnold presses: 2-3 x 6-8 x 30-40 lb. Superset with the following exercise
Rest Interval: 60 seconds

B-2. Bent-over barbell Rows: 2-3 x 6-8 x 95-110 lb. Superset with arnold presses

C-1. Barbell curls - 1-2 x 8-10 x 65-75 Superset with following triceps exercise
Rest - none

C-2. Lying DB skull cruhsers: - 1-2 x 8-10 x 25-35 lb. Superset with curls
Rest - 90 seconds

GPP Days - (Wednesday and Saturday)

GPP work (General Physical Preparation) is extremely important for even the bodybuilder. Think of this work as "active recovery" work that will help you recover and prepare for your weight sessions. The basic workout is short and includes the following:

Jump rope - Try to go for 1 minute rounds if you are new to jump rope and during the rest intervals try to bang out 15-20 push-ups with good form!

Bodyweight GPP - Jumping Jacks, Shuffle splits (aka Ali shuffles), Burpees, and Mountain climbers. Try to perform 20-30 of the jumping jacks, shuffle splits, and mountain climbers and only 10 burpees. If you are unfamiliar with any of the exercises check out's writer Josh Henkin's excellent article series on GPP work. Try to perform 3 rounds with only 45 seconds rest in between each circuit. Enjoy!

Some Closing Thoughts...

The program listed above was just an example of what a specific individual might do to achieve their goals. Substitutions and load changes can be made wherever necessary as they were based on the hypothetical subject. My main objective was to show you some alternative methods and how modern periodization could be used to design a workout.

After the 4 weeks program one could either test for new maximums and then take the rest of the weeks off, or better yet, simply change all the non-tested exercises for variety sake and start another 4 week program while starting slightly higher in the core lifts (bench, squat, and chin).

Some people do much better if after the 3rd week they reduce their volume by 60% and slightly reduce the load to allow the body to overcompensate from the previous 3 weeks. This works very well for most lifters but requires some ego control as you will be going into the gym that week and not really pushing yourself to the limit.

The benefits however will most likely far outweigh the negatives as your progress will soar! Until next time. For any questions Keats can be reached at!

Click Here For Part One