From the June 1990 Issue
Since I won the British Overall Championship in November 1988 with only four years of training under my belt, many people have wondered how I could have built a national standard physique in such a short time, especially as my British title win was only my third contest.
A typical conclusion is that I am genetically gifted for the sport. While this may be true to a certain extent, I would also wish to state that I have a great love for bodybuilding and have worked like a dog since my first workout.
I also think I have been lucky in that I haven't made many mistakes, and that those I have made I've been able to learn from. I don't believe it should take seven or eight years to build a physique capable of winning a national title. A lot of competitors, probably just as gifted as I am, take that long, or in fact never make it at all. The reason for this I believe often lies in ineffective training methods.
When I first started training I was strongly influenced by the "heavy duty" training principles expounded by Mike Mentzer. I was impressed by the logic and honesty behind his approach to training and diet. What I've done over the past few years is to combing the principles of heavy duty with more basic and conventional type training, and come up with what I find to be a very effective program for me! My confidence is based on the ongoing gains I have made since day one -- 80 quality pounds of muscle in four years.
Of course, diet is very important, and a lot of authorities say that bodybuilding is 70% growth hormone and steroids, er, nutrition, but I can't agree with that because if you don't train properly you'll get nowhere regardless of the diet you follow. Training, diet, and mental attitude are all equally important.
I believe in fairly brief and infrequent workouts compared with the practice of most bodybuilders. The idea is to train as intensely as possible and then to allow enough time between workouts for recovery and growth. Remember that recovery must take place before you grow, so if you don't allow enough time between workouts for recovery you aren't going to grow!
Most research concludes that it takes at least 48 hours after a heavy workout to fully recover. From personal experience I would go along with that guideline as I tend to feel sore and sluggish the day after a workout. This is why I presently follow a workout plan that means I train four times every eight or nine days, using a two-way split. Usually I will train every other day and when I start to feel a little tired I will take a break of two or three days.
Recovery ability varies from person to person, and you must watch out at all times for sighs of overtraining and tailor your routine accordingly. A method used by many athletes to determine overtraining is to monitor their heartbeat upon rising in the mornings. If there is a sudden rise over a few days it is possible that overtraining is taking place. Other symptoms are restless sleep, soreness, joint pain and general irritability. If you presently feel overtrained, then I suggest a less frequent workout plan.
The low number of set I perform during my workouts is also, I believe, an important factor. Generally speaking, after warming up I do only 4-6 sets per bodypart. As regards warming up I believe you should use your own judgement. Usually I do two or three light to moderate sets before attacking a bodypart with maximum weights.
After warming up I think tow all-out sets is enough for any exercise. I will choose a weight which allows me 5-8 strict reps. I perform each rep fairly slowly without any cheating or momentum. Cheating only reduces the workload by bringing other muscle groups into play. I pay particular attention to lowering the weight, emphasizing the negative resistance because the muscles are stronger during this phase.
When I reach failure my training partner assists me with another two or three forced reps by pulling slightly on the bar. Occasionally I will take it one step further by continuing with negative or partial reps. If you can do more than three sets in this manner you must be holding back!
I do two or three different exercises for each bodypart, so that in general I rarely exceed six to nine sets per muscle group. This may not sound like very much, but if you really put everything into every set you don't need any more.
Choice of Exercises
When you are training for mass and strength the core of your routine should consist of basic exercises such as squats, bench presses, rowing, etc. These exercises are best for size because they involve large muscle groups (aided by smaller secondary ones) and allow the use of heavy weights.
I also believe that free weights are superior to machines, although I do use some machines and pulleys for variety. I think you should combine some isolation exercises such as dumbbell flyes, lateral raises, or leg extensions with the basics to ensure the full development and shaping of each muscle group.
An aspect of training which I feel is very important is goal setting -- something I have practiced with beneficial results since I commenced bodybuilding. When I began training -- weighing 180 pounds and laboring to rep out with 150 on the bench press -- it was very hard to visualize myself with 20 inch arms and being capable of benching 400 pounds.
So what I did, and still do, was to set myself small monthly goals, such as 20 pounds on my bench press, or a 1/4" gain on my arms. Although this might not sound like much, if you manage that increase every month the gains soon add up.
As for taking measurements, the leading bodybuilders say that they don't bother and go by what the mirror tells them. Well, that may be okay for top pros (although I stills suspect that they all have a tape measure in their training bags) but for beginners and intermediate bodybuilders I believe regular measuring and weighing can be more than helpful. It can be very encouraging to see the tape expand another quarter-inch. As long as you are not getting fat it is an indication that you are growing and that your training methods are working.
I also use a training diary (see link above) to record all my workouts and food intake, the reason being that if you don't record everything, your training will be rather hit and miss, and you won't know what is working for you and what isn't.
A correct mental approach is essential for the type of training previously outlined. If you enter the gym with a casual attitude you will end up with a casual workout and zero results.
The fruits of any workout are a direct result of the state of mind you possess upon entering the gym. Before I go to the gym I make time to sit down and psyche myself up. This I do by mentally rehearsing my workout. I go through all the exercises that I'm going to do and visualize myself powerful and huge, using more weight than I've ever used before.
Another method I use to psych myself up is to go through old copies of muscle magazines (my collection has to be seen to be believed) and look at photos of top bodybuilders posing and working out. Pictures of Casey Viator incline pressing 400 pounds and George Frenn squatting huge still send me running to the gym like a looney every time.
I would like to add that while I am saying it helps to be aggressive during your workouts, you should control your energy and channel it into your training and not direct it at other people in the gym.
I would like to stress that I am not saying that my way of training is the one and only way of working out and that all other methods are useless. That would obviously be untrue as other methods have worked well for other people. However, I know there are a lot of guys out there who are unhappy with their progress, and I urge you to give this type of training a try. If you are not gaining at the moment what have you got to lose? But remember that you only get out of training what you put in!
Day 1 - Complete Routine A
Day 2 - Rest
Day 3 - Complete Routine B
Day 4 - Rest
Basic Mass Routine
Routine A: Chest/Back/Delts
Bench press, 3 x 6-8
Incline press, 3 x 6-8
Lat Pulldown, 3 x 6-8
Barbell Row, 3 x 6-8
Deadlift, 3 x 6-8
Press behind neck, 3 x 6-8
Side Lateral, 3 x 8-10
Routine B: Thighs/Calves/Biceps/Triceps
Squat, 4 x 8-10
Leg Press, 3 x 10-12
Leg Curl, 3 x 10-12
Calf Raise, 3 x 10-12
Barbell Curl, 3 x 6-8
Incline Curl, 2 x 6-8
Pushdown, 3 x 8-10
Lying Extension, 3 x 6-8
Complete 2 or 3 warmup sets for each bodypart (not listed).
Enjoy Your Lifting!