What I am best known for in the Bodybuilding Industry is having an unorthodox approach to nutrition and training. I have always approached things with great cynicism because from an early age the accepted rules of training and nutrition just didn’t seem terribly logical. In fact, a lot of those so-called rules seemed stupid.
It didn’t take long for me to come to the point where everything I heard and read I had to somehow test and see for myself whether it worked or not. It didn’t matter to me where I heard the information and how reputable the source. This is likely the reason that I am in the position I am today and why people value my opinions and methodology in the areas of training and nutrition.
Over the years I have battled with overtraining and this has forced me to take a closer look at how I could make sure that I was recovering and growing as efficiently as possible. I tend to have a relatively slow recovery rate compared to most everyone else around me. I think my seven-year-old daughter may have a better recovery ability than I do. My nutrition isn’t an issue because that is an area that I am very well versed in, as most of you know. I tend to sleep like a baby, and almost always have, so that isn’t an issue, either. My life is relatively low stress given that I don’t have financial problems or marital problems.
I am in a very good place with business and my wife swears she is happily married after almost twenty years. Whether she is lying is up for debate but at least I believe her, so, that right there would keep my stress levels low. My point? I have no obvious reason for having a slow recovery ability so over the years I have basically accepted it.
That being said, I figured the next logical step was to put my training under the microscope and see if there were things that I could change or adjust that could help my recovery so that I could make better gains. I noticed that my shoulders constantly bothered me and have never really been very strong. I have also battled with minor injuries to my shoulders over the years, as well. In taking a closer look at my training it seemed that I might be overtraining my shoulders and arms and possibly undertraining chest and back as chest and back have always been my weakest areas. I seemed to be in a position that if I could find a way to train delts and arms less and chest and back more, I might have the answer.
My legs have always been a strong body part so there was no need to change my leg training, at all. What I came up with has not only worked incredibly well to bring up my back and chest but my shoulders have made more progress in the last year and a half than they have in the last ten years. My arms, even though they were always a relative strong point, had inexplicably started to grow even more. What the hell was going on? I was right: I was over-training my arms and shoulders and under-training chest and back. It just took me ten years to figure it out.
With the typical training splits that have been popular for the last ten years or so, I have found that most people are overtraining delts and arms just as I was. Most tend to add more work when they feel the frustration of a body part not growing but when it comes to secondary muscle groups like delts and arms, more is not the answer most of the time, less is.
With all of the heavy pressing for chest, the delts and triceps are getting fried with a lot of indirect work. And with all of the heavy pulling movements for back, the biceps and posterior delts are getting hammered, as well. Example: If you are doing a chest workout and then two days later a shoulder workout followed two more days later by another chest workout, it is almost impossible for your shoulders to recover. The never-ending cycle of overtraining perpetuates itself.
To combat the overtraining of the delts and arms, the structure of the training protocol that I use, looks like this:
Delts, tris, bis
Your workout sequence will look like this:
M – workout 1
W – workout 2
F – workout 3
M – workout 4
W – workout 2
F – workout 1
M – workout 3
W – workout 2
F – workout 4
REPEAT the cycle.
An additional issue that I have not ever truly wrapped my brain around is: How much volume is best? We know that Arnold did high volume work and guys like John Defendis were successful at using upwards of thirty sets for quads. And then on the other hand you have the Dorian Yates’ style of training or the Mentzer style or the DC Training style that are very low volume and every bit as successful as any of the higher volume protocols. So, which one style is right and how much volume is the best for growth? All of them.
The best training style will only be successful for so long before the body adapts and the gains slow or stop, altogether. Even if you respond really well to low volume training that does not mean that you should not do higher volume training or that you won’t respond to it. I highly recommend that everyone train through different levels of volume. Last year I added the “progressive volume” approach to my training and that of my clients and the results have been very, very good. In fact, my clients are raving about it.
The Progressive Volume approach looks like this:
The cycle takes 3 weeks to complete so you will plan to blast your training for 6 weeks so that you get 2 full cycles and then take a cruise or deload week where you rest the entire week from weight training to maximize recovery.
Week 1 and 2 – Start with 2 working sets per exercise.
Week 3 and 4 – Start with 3 working sets per exercise.
Week 5 and 6 – Start with 4 working sets per exercise.
Reps on all weeks are 8-12 for upper body and 10-15 for lower body but I don’t believe that rep ranges matter all that much. I do believe in mixing up rep ranges as much as possible for maximum results and keeping the body off balance.
Sample Exercise Setup:
Chest – 3 exercises, 1 incline, 1 flat and 1 decline
Back – 4 exercises, 1 wide chin up or latt pull, 1 row, 1 pulley or machine row, Deads or pullovers (alternate between these two)
Delts – 3 exercises, overhead press, side laterals, bent laterals
Triceps – 3 exercises, overhead tricep extension with bar or dumbbell, cable pressdown, machine dip
Biceps – 3 exercises, preacher curl, barbell or dumbbell curl, cable curl
Quads – 3 exercises, press of some kind, extension, hack or press or squat of some kind
Hams – 1 exercise, leg curl
Calves – 3 exercises, standing calf raise, bent lower back calf raise (like donkey calf raises where your upper body and lower body are in an “L” shape), seated calf raises
Abs– 3 exercises, weighted machine crunch, hanging leg lifts, cable reverse crunches
Traps – 1 exercise, shrugs
It is important to note that you do not have to increase the volume from week to week unless you feel you need it or you can handle the increased volume. It is there to offer you the opportunity to increase it if you need it but it is not a requirement. If you are getting very sore from the current volume of two sets per exercise, stay with that volume.
These days it seems everything has been done and no style of training has not been invented or reinvented. My training protocol is not at all a different workout style, if you think about it. All this really is, is a protocol that maximizes recovery so that the delts and arms aren’t overtrained by using a volume schedule that has you working across the entire spectrum of low volume to high volume over a 6 week blast phase .
The idea is to maximize recovery because that translates into muscle gains and less chance for injury. If you are struggling with delt and arm progress then I recommend giving my training protocol a shot. The worst that will happen is you won’t grow. And if you weren’t growing to begin with, it would seem that you have nothing to lose.