There are lots of good ways to build mass and a number of good mass building routines out there. For instance, there's the one bodypart a day program, in which you train five or six days in a row, working just one bodypart a day, followed by one or two days of rest. Many people have told me of the terrific gains they've made on this program. Several have reported adding 15 pounds in less than three months - and that's after months and months of no gains. [For a detailed routine see IronMan's Mass Training Tactics, Chapter 5, "Target Overload Training."]
Another good mass-building strategy is to split your body four ways and train every other day. That one is especially effective for those who have a trouble seeing regular gains, because taking a full day's rest after each workout allows for more rest and recovery.
Well, I've got another great mass builder I know you're going to love. I call it alternates, and it's sort of a modified form of antagonistic supersets. Instead of rushing back and forth with no rest between the two exercises, however, you take a full rest after each set of each exercise for maximum recuperation. In other words, you alternate exercises for antagonistic, or opposing, muscle groups, such as pecs and lats, quads and hams, delts and traps, and biceps and triceps.
It's by no way a new way of training. The great Sergio Oliva has used the method for years. He called it combinations.
While many bodybuilders superset the above-mentioned combinations, traditional supersetting calls for taking as little rest as possible between exercises and perhaps a minute after each superset. For example, if you were supersetting bench presses and wide grip chins, you'd do a set of benches and then immediately go to the chinning bar and begin your set of wide grip chins. Only after you completed your chins would you rest for a minute or so. Then you'd complete another three of four supersets.
With alternates you take a full one to two minutes' rest after each exercise. For the bench press and wide grip chin example, you'd rest at least one to two minutes after you completed a set of benches . . . then you'd do a set of chins . . . rest another one to two minutes . . . and go back for another set of benches . . . and so on until you finished all the sets of both exercises. After that you'd alternate your other chest and back exercises the same way. For example, incline presses and bentover barbell rows; flyes and close grip pulldowns, dips and cable rows, crossovers and pullovers.
There are several advantages to alternating your exercises this way. For one thing you can use much heavier puoundages than you normally would, and you stay strong on each exercise throughout the workout. That's because whenever you perform an exercise for a muscle group, the antagonistic muscle group works to some degree as well, which can help it to recover faster. It's like taking a short walk after a hard run. You recuperate faster by walking around than you would if you just flopped on the grass and waited until your wind came back. Walking speeds the recovery process, and in the same way, believe it or not, doing chins after bench presses helps your pecs, triceps and shoulders to recover more for the next set of benches . . . and doing benches helps your lats and biceps recover faster for your next set of chins.
People find it hard to believe at first, but you can actually do more chins if you precede each set with a set of bench presses than if you do consecutive sets of chins. You might be pleased to find that, after you bench, your body feels lighter when you chin, your arms feel stronger and your lats isolate better. What's more, you can use more weight on your benches and get more reps.
Book by Greg Zulak on lat training here:
The same holds true when you do alternates for biceps and triceps, or hamstrings and quadriceps. Your biceps will feel fresher and stronger when you alternate your sets with sets of triceps exercises. You'll be surprised how much stronger your quads feel on squats and leg presses when you precede each set with a set of leg curls.
In a typical bodypart workout you're strong on your first one or two exercises, and then as the target muscles start to burn out you can't use much weight on the third or fourth exercises. By the time you get to your last movement, the muscles feel like mush, totally exhausted. When you do alternates, you stay stronger until the final sets. It's quite amazing how well they work!
Using this system and training every other day can produce some great gains. If you tend to overwork easily, I suggest alternating training days every week; that is, you train on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday the first week, then on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday the second week. Every other day training.
Here's a sample split I've had good results with:
Monday: Chest and lats, lower back.
Wednesday: Quads and hams, calves.
Friday: Delts and traps.
Sunday: Biceps and triceps, forearms.
Tuesday: Chest and lats, lower back . . .
If you like to work out more frequently, then use the same bodypart split with a 2 days on/1 day off cycle, as follows:
Day 1: Quads and hams, calves.
Day 2: Chest and lats, lower back.
Day 3: Rest.
Day 4: Delts and traps.
Day 5: Biceps and triceps, forearms.
Day 6: Rest.
On this program you can work abs and calves every other day. If you start to feel fatigued after a few weeks, take a few days off.
Obviously, it isn't always possible to alternate some muscles with an opposing one; for example, calves. In that case there's no antagonistic muscle, since you're already alternating quads and hams, but you can alternate a calf exercise for the gastrocnemius with one for the soleus . . . say, seated calf raises and standing calf raises. When working forearms you can alternate an exercise for flexors with one for extensors. You can alternate lower back exercises with ab exercises; for example, hyperextensions and crunches, or good mornings and reverse crunches. When alternating delts and traps you may not always be able to use a delt exercise with a trap exercise. Instead, you can alternate exercises for two different delt heads, like front raises and bentover laterals, for example. For most of the major muscle groups, however, alternates work beautifully.
The following workouts reflect the four way bodypart split discussed above. Feel free to substitute favorite exercises. Perform the pairs of exercises as alternates for the prescribed sets and reps.
Workout 1: Chest and Lats, Lower Back -
Bench press: 4 x 12, 10 8, 6.
Wide grip chin: 4 x max reps.
Incline dumbbell press: 4 x 12, 10, 8, 6.
Bentover barbell row: 4 x 10, 8, 6, 6.
Dips: 3 x max reps.
T-bar row: 3 x 10, 8, 6-8.
Dumbbell flye: 3 x 12, 10, 8.
Close grip pulldown: 3 x 15, 12, 10.
Cable crossover: 2 x 15.
Dumbbell pullover: 2 x 15.
Hyperextension: 3-4 x 15-20.
Crunch: 3-4 x max reps.
Workout 2: Quads and Hams, Calves -
Standing calf raise: 3 x 15-20.
Seated calf raise: 3 x 15-20.
Leg press calf raise: 3 x 15-25.
Squatting calf raise: 3 x max reps.
Seated or standing leg curl: 3 x 12-15.
Leg extension: 3 x 12-15.
Lying leg curl: 4 x 10.
Squat: 4 x 12, 10, 8, 6.
Glute ham raise (say what?): 3 x 8-12.
Hack squat: 3 x 12.
Stiff legged deadlift: 2-3 x 10-15.
Leg press: 2-3 x 20-40.
Workout 3: Delts and Traps -
Behind the neck press: 4 x 12, 10, 8, 6.
Power clean: 4 x 10, 8, 8, 6.
*Alternate side lateral: 4 x 10, 10, 8, 6.
Shrug: 4 x 12, 10, 8, 8.
*Perform a side lateral with your right arm. Lower,
then do a side lateral with your left arm. Repeat.
Holding a bell in the opposite arm counterbalances
the weight and can allow you to use a greater poundage.
See-saw (alternate) dumbbell press: 3 x 10, 8, 6.
Upright barbell row: 3 x 10, 8, 6.
Bentover lateral raise: 4 x 15, 12, 10, 8.
Cable upright row: 4 x 15, 12, 10, 8.
Workout 4: Biceps and Triceps, Forearms -
Barbell curl: 4 x 10, 8, 6, 6.
Lying triceps extension: 4 x 12, 10, 8, 6.
Alternate dumbbell curl: 4 x 10, 8, 6, 6.
Close grip bench press: 4 x 15, 12, 10, 6-8.
Preacher curl: 3 x 10, 10, 8.
Pressdown: 3 x 12, 10, 6-8.
Concentration curl: 2-3 x 8-10.
One arm kickback: 2-3 x 8-12.
Barbell curl: 1 x 40-50.
Close grip bench press: 1 x 40-50.
Reverse curl: 4 x 10, 8, 6, 6.
Wrist curl: 4 x 15-25.
Another excellent combination to use for arms, especially if you want to give your pecs and lats some extra work, is underhand chins alternated with weighted dips for 4 sets of maximum reps each. Both of those exercises are great mass builders and will bulk up your whole upper body. Being your workout with that combination of alternates and drop one of the other pairs of exercises.
If you want to use heavier weights, take at least two minutes rest between sets and up to three minutes on the final sets of basic exercises like squats, bench presses, bent rows, behind the neck presses, and power cleans.
If you want to go for a bigger pump and emphasize power less, limit your rests to one minute between exercises. Either way works well, and you can set up a form of Heavy/Light days quite easily. Or, you can cycle between several weeks of pump training and several of power-style training.