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PART TWO: TRAINING
If what you are doing in the gym is not delivering the size and strength goods, it's time to devise a productive program and explore what may seem revolutionary relative to the conventional methods you have been using. Part Two will lay out your training for the next six months or more.
It's a step by step plan of what to do!
This will teach you a lot of what is never taught in gyms because so many people have got themselves wrapped up and confused amidst the abundance of distractions that exist today.
If what you're doing is delivering the goods for you -- great -- keep doing it.
For the typical person to become physically impressive he has got to train as a hardgainer should. For genetically blessed and/or drug assisted bodybuilders the business of getting big and strong is a straightforward endeavor. These easy gainers visit the gym, sweat a bit, eat, rest, have a little patience, and grow. Easy gaining!
For the hardgainer, life as a bodybuilder is in another world, another time, another dimension. With average of below average genetic potential, and the common sense and STRENGTH OF CHARACTER not to use body"building" drugs, even modest success can be denied to hardgainers; and denied to us despite great diligence and commitment. The hardgainer is usually destined to meet massiv3e frustration and even misery. Destined to follow popular size-building routines and yet lose size, to get so little from having given so much that you could weep.
It need not be this way.
You have to have actually lived through the huge pile of frustrations and disappointments of a hardgainer floundering on inappropriate training routines before you can fully appreciate what it's like. To battle through all that and finally to win through, is what produces a prime source of advice for fellow hardgainers.
It is true that some of the best bodybuilders are amongst the most fiercely determined people around. However, plenty of hardgainers have the determination that EXCEEDS that of most successful easy gainers. Determination is only part of the picture.
Coming out of past frustrations nd difficulties of countless hardgainers are critical lessons -- lessons that can prevent more wretched marriages of desire with inappropriate routines and strategies. Such marriages produce a degree of failure that drives all but the massively motivated to give up bodybuilding. The crucial lessons are available for all hardgainers to learn. Learn them you shall. This department is dedicated to the specific needs of the hardgainer.
Dedicated to developing impressive (non-competitive) size and strength levels for even the hardest of hardgainers.
Part Two, Three, and Four will provide you with a program for growth that delivers medium-term, substantial progress while teaching you how progressive resistance training works. This will teach you some of what to do in future cycles -- more of the same or use of a similar format but with new nuances, variations and twists -- thus setting you up for a long-term transformation.
By medium-term progress I mean, for example, around 30 to 40 pounds on your 8 rep squat, deadlift and bench press, and 10 pounds or more of muscle. Not much? How many drug-free, NON-BEGINNERS do you know who've gained more than this over the last six months?
HOW MUCH HAVE YOU GAINED OVER THE LAST SIX MONTHS?
The program is aimed at bodybuilders who have trained for long enough to be able, AT THE MINIMUM, to squat 250 pounds for 8 or more reps, bench press more than 215 for 8 reps, and deadlift at least 280 for 8 reps.
Forget about training full-bore for month after month. Always to have to do more and more, when you're already at the zenith of your current capacity, is too much. Your mind and body will rebel, you will stagnate or, worse, you will wear yourself down so much that injury and sickness are inevitable. Hard training is an irreplaceable part of getting bigger and stronger, but ONLY if it's correctly applied.
Drug-free and genetically typical bodybuilders must plan to take two steps back in order to make three steps forward. There have to be slack periods.
Start off training comfortably -- reduced poundages and training intensity. This does NOT mean reduced poundages and repping out in high numbers; it means you regular reps with less poundage. Pick up the intensity and poundages over the final leg of the training cycle. That's the basic structure, but there are many interpretations of it. There are short cycles, medium cycles and long cycles, cycling within cycles, periodization, and other interpretations. This article and the next two will just give a single interpretation, in depth, so you can immediately have all you need to put into productive practice.
Some see intensity cycling as a waste of time because they think that the more hard workouts they have, the better. They are so eager to get training flat out, or very near to it, that they never develop the gaining momentum needed for long-term progress. While you absolutely MUST push yourself to the utter limit for some of your workouts, "some" does not mean "all." You simply must leant NOT to push yourself to the limit during some periods. This is very difficult to accept if you have been locked into the "hard all the time" philosophy.
Change your philosophy!
There's nothing fancy here for one reason only. It's not necessary. You need to use the big exercises to get big and strong. That means squats, not leg extensions; bench presses, not cable crossovers; overhead presses, not laterals, etc.
If you try to mix both types of exercise you won't have the energy to train hard even when called upon, and you won't have the recovery ability to grow even supposing you stimulated any growth.
Just look at how many underdeveloped guys knock themselves out on the little exercises and never get big. Few people successfully mix the two types of exercises, but they're not typical bodybuilders. Do not imitate those who don't share your particular lifestyle and genetic inheritance.
1) Choose two short (abbreviated) routines to be alternated on a Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule (3 days per week), of alternated on a Monday/Thursday or similar schedule (2 days per week). With the former, you train each routine three times every two weeks (NOT each routine three times each week). With the latter, you train each routine once each week. Only use the former if you recover quickly from training, have a restful life, and can guarantee quality sleep every night. If you can't, or if you find yourself dragging your feet on the thrice weekly schedule, use the twice a week schedule.
Don't force yourself to train more than you can cope with. While the more productive workouts you have the better, you can't have productive workouts if you are not recovering fully between workouts. If in doubt, take more rest rather than less. Be sure you go to each workout with zeal. So many people go to the gym out of habit and go through the motions because they never fully recover between sessions.
You could train more often if you wanted to, but as the most likely result will be reduced gains, why do it? You're trying to get bigger and stronger, not train yourself down for competition. You need more rest days than training days. If you can't accept training only two or three times a week, ask yourself whether you're packing on the muscle with your current 4 day, 5 day or even 6 day a week training schedule.
What matters is what works.
If you're not gaining on your current schedule, then simply change it!
Forget the notion that muscle atrophies if you don't train it within 96 hours. So many people have actually gained size and strength while resting more than 96 hours between workouts.
If you squat one day a week, and deadlift another, you're training your lower back, thighs and hips twice a week anyway.
If you bench press only one day a week, and overhead press on a second day of the week, you're working your upper body pushing structure twice a week.
If you deadlift one day a week and do the chin or pulldown on another day, your back is getting a good working over twice a week.
2) ROUTINE A
1) Abs, crunch style situp.
2) Squat, to just below parallel (between safety supports or stands).
3) Bench Press, NOT a very wide grip and NOT to your neck or clavicles.
4) Chin OR pulldown using the most comfortable grip for you.
5) Barbell Curl.
6) Calves, standing calf, donkey, or one-legged holding a DB.
3) ROUTINE B
1) Abs, crunch style situp.
2) Deadlift, regular bent-legged style, using straps is your grip limits you. Remember, deadlift only once a week.
3) Overhead Press, military or behind the neck, seated with back support.
4) Close-grip Bench Press, using 15 inches grip between the thumbs.
5) Barbell Curl.
6) Calves, as in Routine A.
4) Some neck and grip work should end each workout, or be done at another time. This work should stay in the program unless you are just too exhausted to do it. However, when the program nears its end, and you are really pulling out all the stops, then by cutting out all exercises other than the squat, bench press, deadlift and (perhaps) overhead press, will enable you to apply the focus needed to get another few weeks of progressive training, and more gains on the most important of the building exercises.
5) Too little exercise? Only if you don't take the program seriously, you don't apply yourself to a graduated scheme of poundage progression, and you don't work up to adding more iron to the bar than you have ever used before.
6) Study correct lifting technique for all the lifts, especially the squat and deadlift. Use and perfect perfect lifting form.
If you haven't been squatting and deadlifting recently, then no wonder you haven't been growing! DON'T relax your exercise style as you increase the poundage. Study technique, because poor exercise style will doom you to stagnation and even injury. Correct technique is imperative. Resolve to find all the magazine articles you can find on technique, and read up in the books too. Find someone knowledgeable at your gym who can supervise your technique.
I'll give you the gist of safe performance in the key lifts in the Part Three.
7) Plan your workouts, and write down what you need to do. Start this sometime during the 10 days you lay off from ALL weight training before getting started on the new program.
First, though, you need to know your best poundages for rep targets. So, before you lay off, test yourself for an 8-rep set for each of the exercises listed earlier (15 rep set for your calves). Warm up before, of course. You're unlikely to get it spot on for each exercise and may have to adjust what you did to determine your list of 8-rep bests.
If you get 8 reps with 280 in the deadlift, with at least 3 more reps in you, then make 290 or 300 your 8-rep best. Do this for all the lifts and you will have your base lifts upon which to base your training over the medium term.
For calf and abdominal work, your repetitions should not be done continuously. Take a breath or two between reps, especially as each set nears its end.
8) Following the 10-day layoff, resume training using 80% of your 8-rep best poundages, performing 3 x 8 for each exercises, except calves (15 rep sets). For example, say your previous 8-rep best for the bench press is 225 pounds. So, your starting poundage for this cycle is 80% of 225, i.e. 180 pounds (.8 x 225).
Do warmup sets of 5 reps for each with 60% of your "working" poundage of 180 (110 lbs.) and 80% of 180 (145). Then, (comma implying a rest first) do 3 sets of 8 reps, and ONLY do the scheduled 8 reps. In other words, though at the beginning of the program you will be able to do more than 8 reps for each of the 3 sets, you stick to the 8 reps and stop there with each set.
The intensity of the training will pick up later on in the cycle, so don't go short-circuiting gaining momentum and poundage progression by using bigger poundages than given or by repping out to failure in each set. Remember, to gain well later on, it's necessary to cut back now and get a running start.
Take just enough commas, er, rests between sets to be sure that you get all three work sets of 8 reps. As the intensity of work increases over the program, you will definitely need to take more rest between sets and exercises.
After this first workout, evaluate what you did to ensure that each exercise was "easy" to the same extent. You want each one to involve the same degree of effort. If any exercise seems out of step with the others, cut back on the poundage (or increase it, as the case may be), so all exercises start out using the same (comfortable for now) degree of effort.
With adjustments, get out your training program and make the necessary corrections. Add 2.5% of your 8 rep best poundage each time you do the same workout. Example: Bench press 8-rep best = 200. 2.5% poundage addition: .025 x 200 = 5 pounds.
The next section explains the PROGRESSION scheme you'll need to keep making this program work.
Enjoy Your Lifting!