Friday, March 21, 2014

C.S. Sloan








The author, squatting around 500
at a bodyweight of 170.



Increasing Work Capacity
The Key for Gaining Massive Strength and Size



Years ago, lifters – be they bodybuilders, powerlifters, or Olympic lifters – knew how to train. Take Marvin Eder, for instance (still my favorite of the “old timers”): Eder could squat close to 700 pounds, clean and press 355 pounds, snatch 285 pounds, bench press 515 pounds, and do reps on parallel bar dips with over 400 pounds strapped to his waist.  He also had 19 inch arms at a bodyweight of around 200 pounds.  And just how did Eder lift such prodigious poundages and attain one hell of a physique?  He began training around the age of 16 by using a 3-days-per-week, full-body workout plan (as everyone did at that time, I might add).  As he advanced – and by “advanced” I mean that he increased his strength[2] – he increased the number of exercises he used, the number of sets per exercise, the overall length of his workout, and the number of days per week he trained.  By the time of his heyday – mid ‘50s – he was training with weights 6 days per week (upper body one day, lower body the next) and would routinely spend the 7th day doing a lot of bodyweight training – push-ups, along with whatever “gymnastic” training he decided to do at the beach (where all the popular bodybuilders hung out).


When lifters nowadays read about Eder’s feats of strength, and about his amount of training volume (all done before the era of steroids), most will dismiss him outright as some sort of genetic freak – which he was, I must admit – but he wasn’t the only guy training this way.  The fact is that everyone who was serious about physique development trained in such a manner.


It’s called increasing your work capacity.  And – along with adding weight to the bar – it’s the key for not just getting bigger or stronger, but for getting massively big and strong.


What I would like to explore in this article is what a few years of training should look like, as a lifter moves from beginner to intermediate to advanced.


The beginning strength athlete should always start with full-body workouts. The full body workout should be performed 3 days per week.  I know that it is popular to occasionally recommend twice-per-week full body workouts – I did so myself years ago in several articles – but this will not increase work capacity.  Let’s get something straight from the start – a couple of somethings that I have already touched upon: you must increase strength and increase work capacity.  You should be doing both of these from the very start.  And this means full-body workouts three days per week is the best fit.  If you are following a program that doesn’t increase strength and work capacity, then you are dooming yourself to failure.


The best form of full-body, three-days-per-week training for the beginner, is the Heavy-Light-Medium program.  I’m not going to go into all of the details here, as there are plenty of posts and/or articles on this blog where I highlight what a good full-body, H-L-M workout should look like.  What I do want to touch upon, however, is how you increase workload using the H-L-M system.  At first, the most obvious thing that needs to occur is you need to get stronger.  Strength should readily increase using H-L-M when you are doing it properly.  You should not add sets, add extra exercises, or increase the time of your workout in any other fashion if you have not increased your strength.  However, once you have been on the program for several months – and are noticeably stronger – at this point you do want to increase sets and/or add extra exercises.  Begin by adding sets.  After that, you can add exercises.  And then, finally, you can even add an extra day of training by adding another “light” day.


Now, let’s look at what an H-L-M program should look like as you increase your workload over a year or two of training.  Here is what a typical beginning program should look like:

Heavy Day:


Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps
Bench presses – 5 sets of 5 reps
Deadlifts – 5 sets of 5 reps
Barbell Curls – 3 sets of 8 reps
Ab work

Light Day:
 
Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps
Overhead Presses – 5 sets of 5 reps
Good Mornings – 5 sets of 5 reps
Ab Work


Medium Day:

Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps
Incline Bench Presses – 5 sets of 5 reps
Power Cleans – 5 sets of 5 reps
Dumbbell Curls – 3 sets of 12 reps
Ab work


After a few months of training, and assuming significant gains in strength have occurred, the program should look something like this:

Heavy Day:

Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Bench presses – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Deadlifts – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Barbell Curls – 5 sets of 8 reps
Ab work

Light Day:

Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps
Overhead Presses – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Good Mornings – 5 sets of 5 reps
Ab Work

Medium Day:

Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Incline Bench Presses – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Power Cleans – 8 sets of 5 reps
Dumbbell Curls – 5 sets of 12 reps
Ab work


After a few more months of training, the template should look something like this:

Heavy Day:

Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Walking lunges – 4 sets of 10 reps
Bench presses – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Weighted Dips – 4 sets of 8 reps
Deadlifts – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Barbell Curls – 5 sets of 8 reps
Ab work

Light Day:

Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Overhead Presses – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Good Mornings – 5 sets of 5 reps
Ab Work

Medium Day:

Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Front Squats – 4 sets of 10 reps
Incline Bench Presses – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Flat Dumbbell Bench Presses – 4 sets of 8 reps
Power Cleans – 8 sets of 5 reps
Dumbbell Curls – 5 sets of 12 reps
Ab work


Once again, after a few more months of training, the lifting template should look something like this:

Heavy Day:

Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Walking lunges – 4 sets of 10 reps
Bench presses – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Weighted Dips – 4 sets of 8 reps
Deadlifts – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Weighted Chins – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of max reps
Barbell Curls – 5 sets of 8 reps
Skullcrushers – 5 sets of 8 reps
Ab work

Light Day:

Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Bulgarian “split” squats – 4 sets of 12 reps (each leg)
Overhead Presses – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Seated behind-the-neck presses – 4 sets of 8 reps
Power Snatches – 5 sets of 3 reps
Good Mornings – 5 sets of 5 reps
Ab Work

Medium Day:

Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Front Squats – 4 sets of 10 reps
Incline Bench Presses – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Flat Dumbbell Bench Presses – 4 sets of 8 reps
Deficit deadlifts – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Power Cleans – 8 sets of 5 reps
Dumbbell Curls – 5 sets of 12 reps
Ab work

And, finally, after a few more months, you will once again need to increase the amount of work you’re performing.  At this point, your workout should look something like this:

Heavy Day:

Squats – 8 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps
Walking lunges – 4 sets of 10 reps
Bench presses – 8 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps
Weighted Dips – 4 sets of 8 reps
Deadlifts – 8 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps
Weighted Chins – 7 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of max reps
Barbell Curls – 5 sets of 8 reps
Skullcrushers – 5 sets of 8 reps
Ab work

Light Day:

Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Bulgarian “split” squats – 6 sets of 12 reps (each leg)
Overhead Presses – 8 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Seated behind-the-neck presses – 4 sets of 8 reps
Power Snatches – 8 sets of 3 reps
Good Mornings – 5 sets of 5 reps
Ab Work

Medium Day:

Squats – 8 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps
Front Squats – 4 sets of 10 reps
Incline Bench Presses – 8 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps
Flat Dumbbell Bench Presses – 4 sets of 8 reps
Deficit deadlifts – 8 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps
Power Cleans – 8 sets of 5 reps
Dumbbell Curls – 7 sets of 12 reps
Ab work


To be honest, at this point, you could train with this amount of volume for a very long time.  Most lifters, however, will once again need to increase their work capacity.  The workout above could take around 2 hours on heavy and medium days – maybe more, depending on rest time between sets and exercises – and so it’s not practical for most lifters to add even more sets or another exercise or two to the mix.  At this point, it’s best to add another light day in between the heavy day and the current light day.  If you train Monday (heavy), Wednesday (light), and Friday (medium), the next evolution in your training will have you lifting Monday (heavy), Tuesday (light), Wednesday (light), and Friday (medium).  Here is what the possible new H-L-L-M template would look like:


Heavy Day:

Squats – 8 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps
Walking lunges – 4 sets of 10 reps
Bench presses – 8 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps
Weighted Dips – 4 sets of 8 reps
Deadlifts – 8 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps
Weighted Chins – 7 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of max reps
Barbell Curls – 5 sets of 8 reps
Skullcrushers – 5 sets of 8 reps
Ab work

Light Day:

Overhead squats – 5 sets of 5 reps
Clean and Jerks – 8 sets of 3 reps
Good Mornings – 5 sets of 5 reps
Ab work

Light Day:

Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Bulgarian “split” squats – 6 sets of 12 reps (each leg)
Overhead Presses – 8 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Seated behind-the-neck presses – 4 sets of 8 reps
Power Snatches – 8 sets of 3 reps
Good Morning squats – 5 sets of 5 reps
Ab Work

Medium Day:

Squats – 8 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps
Front Squats – 4 sets of 10 reps
Incline Bench Presses – 8 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps
Flat Dumbbell Bench Presses – 4 sets of 8 reps
Deficit deadlifts – 8 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps
Power Cleans – 8 sets of 5 reps
Dumbbell Curls – 7 sets of 12 reps
Ab work


Here are a few things to keep in mind as you embark on this quest for huge muscles and a great work capacity while using the H-L-M system:

·         These programs are just examples.  You need to always increase your work capacity, but there are lifters who thrive on far less work, and there are also lifters – believe it or not – who will thrive on even more.

·         You should not stick with the same exercises week in and week out.  As you get more advanced, you should rotate between different exercises more often.  Just make sure you trade hard exercises for hard exercises.

·         After three weeks of hard training, it’s a good idea to take a “down” week, and reduce your volume before resuming the next week.

If you wanted, you could train with full-body workouts as above for your entire lifting career.  I realize, however, that most lifters will want to follow a “split” routine at some point, if for no reason other than for the sake of variety.  You could also introduce split training earlier than in the above scenarios.  My advice is that if you enjoy full-body workouts, then you simply add the extra light day once you reach that point.  If you want to implement split routines into your schedule, then you can begin to split your sessions instead of adding the extra “light” training day.

I recommend two primary forms of split training.  (You can, of course, train with more than these two, but I think it’s best to start with one of these at first before proceeding to other forms of split training, especially if the other forms you plan on using are more “bodybuilder” friendly than “lifter” friendly.)

They are as follows:

·         Full-body “split” training: Here you split your body so that you train half one workout and the other half the next, but you still essentially perform a full-body workout.  One workout may focus on bench press and squats as primary exercises, while the following workout may focus on deadlifts and overhead presses.

·         Upper/lower body split training: This form of split training is simple enough.  You train your upper body on one day, and your lower body on the next.  This may be the most popular form of split training, and I personally like it because of its versatility.

What follows are some examples of weekly training templates using each of the two forms above.  The first thing you will probably notice is the amount of volume – to many I realize that it will seem a “bit much”, so to speak, but keep in mind that these workouts should only be performed once high degrees of strength and work capacity have been achieved.


Full-Body Split Training:

Day One:

Deadlifts: 8 sets of 2 reps, 5 sets of 5 reps (using Hepburn’s method of progressive sets of low reps)
Rack Deadlifts: 5 sets of 5 reps
One Arm Dumbbell Overhead Presses: 7 sets of 5 reps
Barbell Overhead Presses: 5 sets of 5 reps
Weighted Chins: 7 sets of 5 reps
One Arm Dumbbell Rows: 5 sets of 5 reps
Farmer’s Walks: 4 sets for distance
Barbell Curls: 5 sets of 8 reps
Dumbbell Curls: 5 sets of 10 reps (each arm)

Day Two:

Squats: 8 sets of 2 reps, 5 sets of 5 reps (using Hepburn’s method of progressive sets of low reps)
Bench Presses: 8 sets of 2 reps, 5 sets of 5 reps (using Hepburn’s method of progressive sets of low reps)
Walking Lunges: 6 sets of 12 reps (each leg)
Weighted Dips: 8 sets of 8 reps
Sled Drags (forward or backward): 4 sets for distance
Skullcrushers: 5 sets of 10 reps
Incline Sit Ups: 5 sets of 25 to 50 reps
Hanging Leg Raises: 4 sets of max reps


Upper/Lower Split Training:

Upper Body:

Bench Presses: 5 sets of 5/4/3/2/1
Weighted Close-Grip Chins: 5 sets of 5 reps
Incline Bench Presses: 5 sets of 5 reps
One Arm Dumbbell Rows: 5 sets of 8 reps (each arm)
One Arm Dumbbell Overhead Presses: 5 sets of 5 reps (each arm)
Wide-Grip Chins: 4 sets of max reps
Barbell Overhead Presses: 5 sets of 7 reps
Dips: 4 sets of max reps
Barbell Curls: 5 sets of 8 reps
Dumbbell Curls: 5 sets of max reps


Lower Body:

Squats: 5 sets of 5/4/3/2/1, 5 sets of 7 reps
Deadlifts: 8 sets of 3 reps
Front Squats: 5 sets of 5 reps
Deficit Deadlifts: 5 sets of 5 reps
Power Cleans: 5 sets of 3 reps
Farmer’s Walks: 3 sets for distance
Tire Flips: 3 sets for distance
Incline Sit Ups: 5 sets of 25 to 50 reps
Hanging Leg Raises: 4 sets of max reps


Once again, keep in mind that these are just examples.  There are many more ways that you can train using a split system.  In fact, I’m not even opposed to 3, 4, or possibly even 5-way splits, as long as multiple muscles are used each training day.  For instance, a great way to train is with one-lift-per-day training where you pick a certain lift (overhead presses, deadlifts, squats, power cleans, etc.) to train each day, followed by assistance exercises to aid with the lift.  Train 4 or 5 days in a row before taking an off day.  But this is just one example – there are many others to choose from.


The primary thing to not diverge from is that your program must steadily increase work capacity while always making you stronger.  If it doesn’t include these two dictums, you are simply dooming yourself to failure.

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