Tried and True Workouts
by C. S. Sloan
In their ongoing quest for greater strength and more muscle, bodybuilders will try any new routine that comes their way. Every month they scan the latest issues of the muscle magazines, hoping to find a routine or technique that will finally give them what they want. They’d be better off, however, if they took a closer look at the techniques that have been around for years.
The best methods for getting bigger and stronger have never changed. What worked for John Grimek and Bill Pearl still works today.
Many trainees look at the size and condition of pro bodybuilders and think that because they are so much larger and more ripped than the old-time lifters they must know more about training. They conveniently forget what a huge part androgenic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs have played in the modern pro’s physique. Nor do many of today’s natural bodybuilders compare with yesteryear’s lifters, despite more sophisticated use of nutrition and supplementation.
The key difference lies in the way lifters used to train. Go into any gym and count the number of people using heavy deadlifts, squats, bentover rows, barbell bench presses, overhead presses and straight-bar curls. I’ll bet you half my muscle that you’ll see at least 75% of the people there screwing around with multiple exercises on machines and cables and isolation exercises – concentration curls, flyes, lateral raises, etc.
If you want to get bigger, not to mention much, much stronger, you owe it to yourself to try out some of these old-school methods. Use any of the following routines for six weeks, and you’re guaranteed new size and power.
THREE DAYS A WEEK FULL BODY TRAINING
As recently as 15 years ago people still believed in using whole-body workouts to gain bulk and power. If you were a beginner, you always used this kind of training schedule. Intermediate or advanced lifters who hit a rut went back to it to get growing again. Use a Monday/Wednesday/Friday or Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday rotation. Trust me, it you do this program as described and put your heart and soul into it, you won’t be tempted to train more frequently.
1.) Squat – 5 sets of 5 reps.
Do 2 sets of progressively heavier warmup sets followed by 3 hard work sets. It should be very, very tough to get all 5 reps on all 3 sets. Once you can, and it will take time, add 10 to 20 lbs. and start over again.
2.) Bench Press – 5 sets of 5 reps as above.
3.) Chins – 5 x 5.
4.) Dips – 5 sets of 10 reps.
Do two progressively heavier warmup sets of 10 reps followed by 3 work sets, using enough weight to make it damn hard to perform all 3 sets of 10.
5.) Dumbell Curls – 5 x 10 as above.
1.) Deadlift – 5 x 5 as above.
2.) Standing Barbell Press – 5 x 5.
3.) Barbell Curl – 5 x 5.
4.) Close-grip Bench Press – 5 x 5.
1.) Squat – 5 to 6 sets of 2 reps.
Do several progressively heavier warmup sets of 2 reps until you reach the absolute maximum weight you can handle for 2 all-out reps. If you’re new to low-rep training you may have to take the first few workouts easy to until your body becomes accommodated. After that, don’t hold back anything.
2.) Bench Press – 5 to 6 sets of 2 reps as above.
3.) Hammer Curls – 5-6 x 2 as above.
4.) Incline Dumbell Press – 5 x 5 as above.
5.) Stiff-legged Deadlift – 5 x 5.
This program may be simple, but one thing it’s not is easy, especially if you push the poundages. If you do, you won’t be able to train more than three times a week.
SINGLE REP TRAINING
The idea of a workout composed entirely of single reps may go against everything you’ve been led to believe – heavy singles are dangerous, singles don’t build muscle, singles are old-fashioned – I’ve heard it all and it’s all crap. Fifty years ago there were plenty of strong lifters who built loads of muscle training with singles. They didn’t worry about the science behind it, they just tried things out and discovered what worked for them. That’s what you need to do. Try the following program honestly for at least four weeks. Train four days a week with a two-on/two-off rotation.
1.) Deadlift – 5 to 7 sets of 1 rep.
Do several progressively heavier deadlifts until you work up to your top set with a weight that’s 90 to 95% of your one-rep max. If your max is 500, an example of your sets would be 135x1, 225x1, 315x1, 405x1 and 475x1. Stick with your top weight for 1 to 3 singles, taking long rests between sets.
2.) Partial-rep Squat – 4 to 5 sets of 1 rep.
Set the pins in the power rack so that you squat about a quarter of the way down. You should be significantly stronger on this exercise than on the full-range squat. If you max out at 405 one the regular squat, shoot for a top single of at least 500 lbs. You won’t need as many warmup sets after the deadlifts, so your sets might look something like 225x1, 315x1, 405x1 and 495 for one. Strength in partial movements increases very rapidly so be wary of overly large weight increases.
1.) Bottom-position Bench Press – 4 to 5 sets of 1 rep.
Set the pins in the power rack so that you begin this exercise with the bar brushing your chest. Bottom position work lets you do heavy singles safely while making the movement even tougher. As in the first workout, do progressively heavier singles until you reach your top weight. You may want to alternate the bench presses with the chin in a slow superset fashion.
2.) Weighted Wide-grip Chins – 4 to 5 sets of 1 rep.
3.) Incline Presses – 4-5 x 1.
1.) Squat – 5 to 7 sets of 1 rep.
Use a full range of motion, making sure you’re thoroughly warmed up before handling your top weight for 1 to 3 singles.
2.) Deadlift – 4 to 4 sets of 1 rep.
If you have access to heavy enough dumbells, you can alternate between regular deadlifts, dumbell deadlifts, and knee height rack deadlifts.
1.) Partial Floor Press – 4 to 5 sets of 1 rep.
Lie down on the floor in the power rack and set the pins so that you move the bar 4-6 inches to lockout. It’s extremely difficult to cheat on this movement, which makes it very effective.
2.) Hammer Curl – 4 to 5 sets of 1 rep.
3.) Bottom-position Close-grip Bench Press – 4 to 5 sets of 1 rep.
Begin these in the bottom position of the power rack, just as you did for the bottom-position bench press in Workout One.
4.) Reverse Barbell Curs – 4 to 5 sets of 1 rep.
Perform these as what old-timers called a Rectangular Fix. Begin with the bar at the thighs, arms fully extended, and reverse curl the weight until the forearms are at a 90-degree angle to the upper arms, holding for a two-count in this position.
These four single-rep workouts are short and simple, but they’re extremely hard and effective. Each top-end single should be a battle to complete. Take long rests between hard sets.
ADVANCED POWER RACK WORKOUT
Once you’ve been training for a while and built up your strength, it’s almost a necessity to start using the power rack. It lets you really overload your muscles with heavy, heavy weights. You can use huge poundages safely while working alone, and you can use lockout movements on the basic compound exercises.
All of the movements in this workout are performed in the power rack. It’s definitely a demanding routine, but you’ll reap big progress if you’re willing to tough it out. You will need the rest days, believe me.
1.) Bottom-position Incline Press – 5 to 7 sets of 1 rep.
Get in the power rack with an incline bench and set the pins so that the bar brushes against the top of your chest in the bottom position. Warm up with 5 or 6 progressively heavier singles until you reach an almost-maximum poundage for 1 rep.
2.) Bottom-position Close Grip Bench Press – 4 to 5 sets of 3 reps.
Do 3 or 4 progressively heavier triples until you reach the maximum weight you can handle for 1 or 2 sets of 3 reps.
3.) Bench Press Lockouts – 5 sets of 5 reps.
Set the pins so you move the bar through a range of motion that’s close to lockout.
1.) Bottom-position Squat – 5 sets of 3 reps.
Set the pins so that you start your squat from the bottom position. This one’s a killer, but it will really bring your strength up. Warm up over 4 progressively heavier triples to a maximum set of 3.
2.) Squat Lockout – 4 to 5 sets of 1 rep.
Set the pins so you’re moving the weight with a range of motion that’s less than a quarter squat.
1.) Deadlift from the Knee – 6 to 7 sets of 1 rep.
2.) Standing ¼ Overhead Press – 4 to 5 sets of 3 reps.
3.) Rack Shrugs – 5 sets of 5 reps.
Set the pins a little below your waist and rest the bar briefly after each rep.
4.) Barbell Curl – 4 to 5 sets of 1 rep.
Always ease into any power rack work. Never rush poundage increases.
ONE EXERCISE, MULTIPLE SETS
The following routine is composed of two sessions, so you can vary your schedule – (two-on/one-off), (two-on/two-off), (every other day), or just whenever you feel ready enough to go again, be it after one, two or three days rest.
1.) Bench Press – 6 sets of 6 reps.
2.) Wide-grip Chin – 6x6.
3.) Standing Overhead Press – 6x6.
For all of these movements choose a weight that you can normally use for a single set of 10 reps. So 6 straight sets with only ONE MINUTE’S REST between them. The first couple of sets won’t be bad, but after that you’ll definitely know you’re working out.
1.) Squat – 5 sets of 15 reps.
Pick a weight you would normally be able to do one set of 20 reps with and try for 5 sets of 15 reps, with only ONE MINUTE’S REST between sets. Shoot for 3 sets your first workout and build up to 5 from there.
2.) Close-grip Bench Press – 6 sets of 6 reps as above.
3.) Barbell Curl – 6x6.
These are very short workouts but extremely taxing. Once you can do the prescribed number of sets and reps with a minute’s rest between sets, increase the weight by 10 to 15% the next time you do the workout and start over.
There you have it. Four intense, abbreviated routines using only basic, compound movements guaranteed to increase strength and size. Don’t worry about their being old-fashioned – they’ll give you a real workout and REAL muscle.
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