5 Best Workout Programs for Gaining Muscle Mass

author Milner Evgeniy Grigorievich From the book Fitness. Secret secret service techniques by Ashley Simmons
Marathon Runner Training Before creating a training plan, it is very important to understand your fitness level. This will help you set realistic goals and develop a competent plan to achieve them. There are several ways to determine your level

From the author's book

Training intensity Due to the age characteristics of middle-aged and elderly people (atherosclerosis, decreased elasticity of the walls of blood vessels, blood supply to the myocardium and resistance to hypoxia), health-improving running training should

From the author's book

Training methods The main method of training in recreational running, regardless of age, is the uniform method, which contributes to the development of general endurance. Continuous running at a uniform pace is used as a training tool.

From the author's book

Stages of training Anyone who decides to achieve serious success in recreational running faces a long and thorny path. There are no quick victories here. This is explained by the fact that morphological and structural transformations in the body require not weeks and months, but

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1.1. How the training goes Of course, training is the basis of all science and the fitness industry; without it there will be no nutrition or regime. Despite the fact that many types of training and methods of activity have been invented, one way or another, they can be divided into two subtypes

From the author's book

4.3. First training First, try to pass the standards, which will show how ready you are for the load. Approximately the same standards are passed during simple physical fitness tests. If you cannot maintain the specified rate and pace, do not try. This is just a signal to

Good day! This article will focus on abbreviated training, which is a great tool for non-steroid athletes looking to increase strength and muscle mass.

What natural athletes' training looked like

Until the early 50s, most athletes trained approximately three to four times a week. Even physically gifted people did not exercise with weights more than four times a week. The content of the training was as simple as possible. As a rule, they consisted of: squats, deadlifts, dips with additional weights, bench press, standing press, weightlifting exercises, pull-ups with additional weights, bent-over rows, biceps curls.

The workout most often consisted of a few basic exercises, and no one did set after set. Three to five power-style approaches of 1-6 repetitions were enough for most athletes. Athletes who trained to build muscle mass performed only a couple of sets with an average number of repetitions (8-15).

Sleep and recovery are just as important as training and nutrition itself.

Rest is the most underrated element of training. No matter how long you endured the pain of those last reps or how diligently you sourced protein and calories from your diet, it's not as important as the time it takes for nutrients and hormones to promote muscle protein synthesis after exercise.

Exercise and food are an important part of the muscle growth equation, but they're not the whole story. Adequate recovery is very important - it is necessary to give the muscles enough time to replenish glycogen reserves and undergo the processes of reconstruction and creation of new muscle tissue.

The recovery required for muscle growth is 48–72 hours between training sessions for a particular muscle group. This scientific argument, by the way, speaks in favor of split training - when each muscle group receives the main load, for example, once a week.

Inducing mechanical and metabolic stress during your gym training will only make sense while the hormones and substances necessary for muscle growth are released during REM sleep. This means that a full night’s sleep is important for muscle growth after training. Inadequate sleep and recovery will ruin your efforts in the gym and at the dinner table. Moreover, lack of sleep can increase adrenaline and cortisol levels, which can also reduce the ability to form new muscle tissue.

Lack of sleep, poor appetite, long-term illnesses, and loss of growth as a result of exercise are all symptoms of overexertion that can significantly impact a person's ability to achieve their fitness goals.

“Underrecovery” is another reason to think about overexertion. “To promote muscle growth, you need time for rest (active rest) to allow for full recovery,” says Schoenfeld (2013).

What did steroids change?

Steroids changed everything. They allowed athletes to exercise longer and more often, to be more resilient. Thus, they strengthened in the minds of guys who do not take anabolic steroids the opinion that those who exercise quickly and efficiently build strength and muscle mass using voluminous and complex programs (many workouts per week, many exercises per muscle group, many approaches in each exercise) .

But if an athlete who does not take steroids begins to repeat the training program of athletes “on chemistry,” then his progress will be very sluggish and will soon befall him. Therefore, if you want to make your training more effective, and you DO NOT use anabolic steroids, you need to rationally reduce the number and duration of classes. Only then will it be possible to achieve results in increasing strength and muscle mass!

The main differences between shortened workouts

  • Heavy
  • Low volume
  • Rare

Here are three epithets that most fully characterize shortened training. Each workout can consist of only one or two exercises, and the total number of approaches should not exceed 10-15, half of which will be designed for warming up. Such training takes place one to two (rarely three) times a week, and in total takes about two to three hours (per week).

Let's consider two options for shortened training

The first option is to work on all muscle groups in each session, but with different exercises. For example, you train on Tuesday and Saturday.

On Tuesday: bench press, horizontal pull-downs, squats, abdominal exercises.

Friday: standing press, classic deadlift, pull-ups and dips.

Due to these workouts, almost the entire muscle frame is worked out twice a week, and the sets of exercises differ. Thus, each exercise is performed once during the week.

The second option is to work out all the muscles once a week, consisting of two workouts. Eg:

First workout: bench press, pull-ups and dips.

Second workout: squats, classic deadlifts and abdominal exercises.

Both methods involve the athlete’s free choice of exercises, the number of approaches and repetitions, and provide the opportunity to exercise in the way that suits you best.

For athletes who have a hard time gaining muscle mass, shortened workouts are an excellent way to build muscle. With an individual, precisely selected volume and required frequency of training, shortened training gives brilliant results.

Less doesn't mean worse

The higher the level of training an athlete has, the more difficult it is for him to create the physiological stress necessary for further adaptation to the load, in the form of an increase in muscle strength and mass. In other words, an experienced athlete is so adapted that his training, no matter how hard, only causes energy consumption. This was confirmed in experiments on highly qualified weightlifters, whose training practically did not cause a hormonal response to the load.

The opposite situation occurs with the untrained or poorly trained. Any more or less intense physical activity causes stress in them, to which the body immediately reacts by producing anabolic hormones and a whole cascade of other adaptive reactions. The muscle composition of beginners is mainly glycolytic; they easily acidify even with minor efforts, so they do not need a large amount of work. Moreover, they can afford to ignore direct work on the arm muscles (biceps and triceps), since they will grow well through basic exercises on the chest and back, where the arms play a supporting role. Although there are exercises in which the auxiliary role of the biceps and triceps is as high as possible, for example, pull-downs with a narrow reverse grip and push-ups.

The more muscle mass an athlete has, the more difficult it is for him not only to achieve further growth, but also to maintain what he has already gained. Obviously, the more muscle protein we have in our body, the more active protein synthesis should occur. Since muscle cells are constantly renewed, we need a continuous influx of protein, which is spent on the construction of new myofibrils to replace old ones that have outlived their useful life. However, taking protein alone does not guarantee that protein will be built from it in our muscle cells, since this process is completely controlled by hormones. The more hormones there are, the more muscle protein can be built. But the amount of hormones does not increase in proportion to muscle mass. The body's ability to synthesize testosterone and growth hormone is severely limited. The only thing that is unlimited is cortisol. In other words, at the initial stage of training, when our muscles are still small, we have enough available hormones in excess for active growth, but the more muscles we have, the stronger the hormonal deficiency begins to manifest itself. At first, growth slows down, then stops altogether. We know that the hormonal response to exercise depends on the amount of work done. But an athlete with small muscle volumes only needs a small amount of hormones to actively grow, which means he does not need to perform a large volume of load.

For the reasons stated above, we can see significant progress in those who practice abbreviated programs. But, as already mentioned, this progress occurs mainly among those with little training.

Interestingly, athletes who grow well on reduced programs are often unable to progress on high-volume programs, and for them low volume load is an essential condition for progress. Why does this happen, because, in theory, a larger volume stimulates an even greater hormonal response. There can only be one answer here.


Most athletes experience injury at some point. Often the reason is “stupidity”, sometimes in the constitution of the body.

But often the injury can occur as a result of accumulation due to frequent training and a large number of exercises. For athletes who often accumulate overtraining, shortened training is most relevant. To avoid injury, proper rest after training is necessary!

In addition, the lower the volume of the workout, the more focused you are on maintaining the technique of performing the exercises and the less chance of injury.

Examples of abbreviated training programs

Set of exercises No. 1 “5×5”

This training program is suitable for individuals with more than 6 months of experience.

  • Bench press chest 5x5
  • Squats 5x5
  • Torso crunches 2 sets of 20-50 reps

Start training with weights that are small for you and gradually increase them little by little from week to week. After a month or two, take a week off. Change exercises and start a new climb.

Set of exercises No. 2 “Singles”

This training program is suitable for individuals with more than 1 year of experience. One basic exercise is performed at each workout. If desired, after this you can work on your abs and biceps with isolated exercises.

  • Squats 40%/8, 60%/6, 80%/4, 90%/1 in 3-5 sets
  • Bench press 40%/8, 60%/6, 80%/4, 90%/1 in 3-5 approaches
  • Deadlift 40%/8, 60%/6, 80%/4, 90%/1 in 3-5 sets
  • Where % is indicated from the current one-repetition maximum (1RM) in the exercise.

A single is a set of one repetition.

Start your strength cycle at 85% and add about 2.5% weekly. Thus, in a couple of months of working on the program you will be able to add 5-10% to your current result. As the loads increase, you can insert additional rest days (stretch out the training week), and then switch to 2 workouts per week and alternate squats and deadlifts by week.


Please note that a very important aspect of shortened training is proper rest. It is always easier to talk about it than to adhere to such a regime. must be complete from quality food. It should provide you with the required amount of calories and nutrients every day. There should be at least 3-5 meals. At night, proper sleep (at least eight hours) is very important. You should extend the interval between classes or reduce the number and level of exercise if you feel exhausted. You can add a nap during the day.

If you strive to gain natural (chemical-free) strength, health and a beautiful body, then shortened training is the fastest way.

Numerous visits to bodybuilding-related sites convince me that one of the most relevant topics and the subject of active discussions on them is the issue of rapid weight gain and muscle growth

, which concern not only beginners, but also quite seasoned athletes. Although this is not surprising - it’s worth looking at yourself from the outside in those days when our main tasks were exclusively building huge muscles, gaining maximum mass, adding volume to the biceps, expressiveness of the chest or width of the back.

Reading articles about weight gain found on the Internet, I came to the conclusion that there is catastrophically little high-quality information on this topic on the Internet, one might even say that there is none at all, well, maybe, with the exception of only some very simple truths, and even then, unfortunately, not all of them. Having come across similar questions on the Internet more than once about the same beginners in bodybuilding, I decided to write a series of articles in which I planned to include detailed materials on the training program, nutrition, and sports supplements. Today we will talk about a training program aimed at effectively gaining muscle mass.


If you are thin and trying to gain weight, 90% of your success will depend on your diet.
The only way to increase size is to create a calorie surplus, that is, eat more than you burn (if you want to gain muscle mass and size, you need to stuff yourself with food). If you've been lifting weights for a while but can't gain weight, it means you're not eating enough. Let's be honest, eating can be hard work. Since you have to constantly either cook, or eat, or wash and clean the kitchen. But, if you really want to become bigger, but you can’t do it, then the main blow should be directed at eating more healthy food and eating constantly.

How to eat to gain muscle mass

  • Eat a lot of everything - this is the cheapest, fastest, but least healthy plan. Just make sure you get 200 grams of protein a day and over 3,500 calories in any way possible: pasta, rice, pizza, milk, burgers, chicken, protein shakes, protein shakes, milkshakes, whatever. This is how you can achieve quick results.
  • Eat plenty of healthy foods. Oatmeal, brown rice, chicken, homemade smoothies, peanut butter sandwiches on whole wheat bread, beef, eggs, fruits, vegetables and some milk. Also not optimal, but effective and more beneficial for the body than the previous method. These foods are inexpensive and quickly add a lot of calories to your body.
  • Gomad (About 4 liters of milk per day). This method will work if you are lactose intolerant. It must be whole milk. You'll probably eat some fat, but you'll build muscle and gain strength quickly, and then you'll need to make dietary adjustments to lose weight. Be prepared for your stomach and body to feel constantly bloated. Note: You can adjust the amount of milk you consume daily depending on how your body reacts.

How many calories should you eat?

This will depend on your situation - your age, weight, how much you want to gain and your metabolic rate.
For some, just 2,500 calories plus strength training will be enough to gain weight. For others, it may take more than 4,000 calories to gain weight. The only way to find out is to track your normal calorie intake for a few days and then start adding 500 extra calories per day for a week or two and see if there is any change. Bottom line: if you don't see any changes, you need to eat more. Yes, this seems a little excessive - you will always feel overcrowded, and it is a little expensive for the money. But if you really want to be more, then you really need to take up residence in the kitchen. Unless you are on anabolic steroids or a genetic mutant, it is incredibly difficult to build muscle and strength without overwhelming your body with calories and nutrients.

Just keep eating!

Won't all this make me fat? I don't want to get overweight. Don't worry, if you constantly have trouble gaining weight, a little extra weight won't hurt. Yes, you will gain some fat along with your muscles due to the calorie surplus.

If you can gain weight on 3,000 calories, and you eat 4,000, you will end up gaining 1-2 kg of fat per week. On the other hand, if you need to eat 4,000 calories to build muscle, but you only eat 3,000, you won't see any changes. Everyone is different, so you need to experiment to find out what works best for you.

Once you reach your desired weight (you should aim to gain 4-7 kg more than planned), you can reduce your calorie intake, add a little cardio at the end of each workout and continue working in the gym - the fat will disappear, the muscles will remain and you will get an athletic body, which strived.

What should overweight people do?

The main thing is, what do you want to do first, gain muscle or lose weight?

If you want to get bigger and stronger, you need to consume a surplus of calories, but eat healthier foods, and work hard in the gym. If you are overweight, you most likely already have an excess of calories - you just need to start training with iron and be smart about your food choices! Once you've achieved your desired muscle size and strength, go into a calorie deficit, add some cardio at the end of your workout, and start getting leaner while maintaining your muscle mass.

If you just want to lose weight and are not interested in big muscles, you should still lift weights and maintain a small calorie deficit every day. You won't grow any muscle, but you will maintain the muscle you already have (while getting stronger) and lose excess fat. Big guys and girls tend to have very strong legs (from carrying all that extra weight), and muscle definition will begin to appear as you lose fat. Just keep training hard and the body you want will stop hiding under all that fat.

When you're working out to lose weight, don't worry about weighing yourself: instead, watch your physique (pictures help with this). Continuously adjust your calorie intake until you find the right balance - focus on high-quality food and increasing the intensity of each workout. If you want to speed up your fat loss, it's more effective to add a few intervals/sprints at the end of your workouts or on your days off. Note, sprints or intervals, not long hours of cardio. And that's why…

Let's touch on the fundamental truths, without which high-quality muscle building is impossible:

  • It is imperative to warm up
    before the main workout, which includes heavy weight gain. The athlete must warm up well so that his joints and ligaments have time to warm up, and for this I would recommend that the athlete use a walking machine, running at an average pace for ten minutes will prepare the body for subsequent heavy exercises. Then you need stretching, aimed specifically at those areas of the body that are most “problematic” for you, for example, elbows or shoulders - these are the ones that need to be carefully and thoroughly kneaded first.
  • Before each main working set, you need to do one or two warm-up sets
    using light weights, which should be about 40-50 percent of the working weight. Warm-up sets allow the athlete to also get a feel for this exercise.
  • You shouldn't work out in the gym for too long
    - intense work for an hour is enough.
    And remember a simple truth: the main thing in training is not its duration, but only its intensity.
  • The end of the workout should be a short cool-down to stretch the muscles and joints
    . A good option is swimming in the pool.
  • During mass training, you should not be distracted by extraneous matters
    The observed pictures of what often happens in the gym are depressing: someone is enthusiastically talking on the phone, someone is playing with a new toy on their iPhone , someone is talking with a neighbor, and the like. That is, people who train do not understand why they came here and waste time in the gym, allotted specifically for training, and then receive, as a natural result of this, the absence of any, even small, progress in bodybuilding. Make it a rule: since you came to the gym to train and your goal is to gain weight, then train without being distracted by extraneous matters or absolutely anything else.
  • The key to success
    is to work in the working approach right up to the very last repetition, completing that too. It is the last one or two repetitions, done through overcoming, that become the most effective in the training process and it is thanks to them that muscle mass is effectively built up.
  • It is necessary to adhere to good nutrition
    , on which success in bodybuilding is half dependent. I can subscribe to every word I say and responsibly declare that without high-quality nutrition, weight gain is impossible and you will never be able to build decent muscles. My next article will be devoted to this - it will be convenient for you to follow the news using the newsletters of this blog.
  • Sufficient rest before the next workout is also important
    . Don’t be surprised or scared now - the goal of bodybuilding training is precisely to injure muscle fibers, however, in the safe sense of the word - during heavy loads, our muscle tissue receives microtraumas, which the body then strives to heal and due to this, tissue growth occurs. So, for this restoration of muscle fiber, the body needs several days and therefore daily training is absolutely contraindicated for the average bodybuilder.

In this list, I have listed the rules that should be followed during training aimed at gaining mass. Now you can proceed directly to the training program itself.

You will have to exercise three times a week:

on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday - whatever is convenient for you, and here the main condition is a mandatory break between workouts of at least one day.

As a rule, athletes separate the chest, legs, shoulders, triceps and biceps into separate muscle groups and, accordingly, each of our workouts will focus on pumping a specific muscle group.

Excessive muscle protein catabolism during exercise

The catabolism that develops in muscle fibers during exercise is complex.

Proteolysis is the process of protein decomposition using proteolytic enzymes. Often, proteolysis is understood only as the breakdown of food proteins into amino acids due to the action of digestive enzymes in the stomach and small intestine, but it also has another meaning - the breakdown of the body’s own proteins during metabolism. The latter occurs when amino acids in muscle tissue are spent on energy needs. During exercise, both anaerobic and aerobic, proteolysis enzymes are activated in muscle cells, muscle tissue proteins are broken down into amino acids, and they begin to take an active part in energy supply.

Three day training

Monday: work on the abdominal muscles, chest and triceps

The exercises in this workout are aimed at pumping up the pectoral muscles and triceps. First, five approaches are performed, the goal of which is abs. To do this, take any exercise to work the abdominal muscles. In any case, pumping the pectoral muscles is also associated with working the triceps (triceps muscle). The triceps are fully worked through bench press and incline press.

  • . Two warm-up sets are followed by four working sets of 8-12 repetitions. This exercise most effectively works the pectoral muscles, increasing their volume and mass.
  • After one warm-up, four working sets of 8-12 repetitions follow. In addition to gaining muscle mass, this exercise allows you to give your muscles a beautiful definition and a good athletic shape.
  • After the first warm-up, four working sets of 8-12 repetitions are performed. When doing presses, don't forget about your partner! The exercise is effective for working the triceps and inner pectoral muscles.
  • in four sets of 8-12 repetitions, but only after mandatory warming up of the muscles of the shoulder joint to reduce the risk of shoulder injury. This exercise perfectly works the muscles of the upper chest.
  • in four sets with the maximum possible number of repetitions in each approach. This exercise is an excellent workout not only for the triceps, but also for the entire shoulder girdle.

What was done:

The exercises allowed us, first of all, to pump up the pectoral muscles through a heavy load - bench press, and thereby we launched the mechanism of their growth, and also worked on their shape. All triceps bundles have been fully worked out to stimulate its effective growth. After such training, you need a cool-down and the best option here is the pool - swim for your health for 10-20 minutes.

Wednesday: back and biceps work

This workout is aimed at the back muscles, which should become wider and more powerful as a result, as well as pumping up our beloved biceps. Don’t forget about the mandatory warm-up before training and five sets of abdominal exercises.

  • – perform five approaches for the maximum number of times. If you can’t do pull-ups, you can use a pull-up simulator or a block exercise machine with the handle pulled to your chest. But my advice is this: since there is nothing better for the back muscles than pull-ups, try not to use exercise machines, but do pull-ups in the classic way - on the bar and believe me, it works much more effectively.
  • , doing four sets of 8-12 reps after two warm-ups. This is the most effective exercise for biceps.
  • 8-12 times. The deadlift is a basic and highly effective exercise for both the back muscles and the whole body - in the process of performing it, a large amount of anabolic hormones are produced that stimulate muscle growth. A prerequisite is a thorough warm-up of the back before deadlifting, especially the lumbar region, in order to avoid injury during the exercise.
  • in four sets, sitting, 8-12 repetitions. This exercise perfectly shapes the biceps, emphasizing its relief and increasing its height.
  • . After one warm-up, perform four sets of 8-12 repetitions. The exercise effectively outlines the back muscles, giving them a beautiful shape.

What was done:

Thanks to pull-ups and deadlifts, the muscle growth mechanism was launched, all the back muscles were worked to the maximum, which will now make it grow. Pumped up your biceps with the most effective exercises. Now it's time to cool down and stretch.

Friday: shoulder and leg work

The emphasis of this workout, the squat with a barbell on the shoulders, is on the entire surface of the leg muscles. We will also pump up the shoulder girdle.

  • in four working sets of 8-12 repetitions after completing two warm-up ones. Before training, it is necessary to thoroughly stretch the shoulder joints, given that the shoulder is the most vulnerable place in the bodybuilder’s body in terms of injury.
  • . The squat is a heavy arsenal exercise and there is nothing heavier than it. And here, more than anywhere else, the athlete must be as concentrated as possible and have perfect technique. Before performing this exercise, especially careful kneading of the knee joints, ankles and lumbar spine is necessary. Having completed all four approaches and giving maximum effort, the athlete feels a real pumping. After performing just one squat during a leg workout, I usually have no strength left for anything else.
  • in four working sets of 8-12 repetitions after three warm-up. When performing this exercise, there is also a high risk of injury to the shoulder joint. It is necessary to perform lifts of the barbell behind your head with maximum concentration, without jerking, and always in the presence of a trainer or someone who can put the barbell on the rack after completing the exercise.

Basic rules for abbreviated training

1. A small number of workouts per week (1-2). 2. The use of only basic exercises with free weights, forming several muscle groups in parallel and accelerating the processes of muscle synthesis (squats, dips, bench press, standing press, pull-ups, deadlifts, etc.). 3. A small number of exercises during training (3-5). 4. The strength type of training is considered the main one: the goal is to increase weights, and not to “pump up” muscles. Intensity (working weights relative to maximal weights) of training is more important than frequency and volume. 5. Everyone chooses the number of approaches and repetitions for themselves. As a rule, the higher the maximum weight in the exercise, the fewer repetitions and more approaches. The guideline is a total of 20-30 repetitions per exercise (for example, 5×5 or 6-5-4-3-2-2-1-1). 6. Duration of classes from 20 to 60 minutes.

There is an even more radical version of abbreviated training - this is super-abbreviated, when the training process is dominated by complete minimalism, but more on that later.

Exercise with free weights

To gain muscle mass, using free weights rather than exercise machines will be effective. You need to include work with dumbbells and barbells in your training days. While you are in the process of gaining weight, avoid exercise machines for now.

Maximum activation of muscle growth is stimulated by exercises with free weights. When performing them, the muscles are in free movement and are not isolated by a specific trajectory and load. If your weight training program does not have free weights, be sure to include them in the process.

Never allow your muscle fibers to adapt to a certain weight. This will slow down and stop growth altogether. It is necessary to gradually increase working weights, but do this with caution as strength increases.

Who are these programs for?

Coming to the gym for the first time, a beginner is unlikely to get results by working on shortened programs. As a rule, for a beginner it is necessary to register or. But if an athlete does not train well, then neither split nor full body training will bring any results. When you are at the beginning of your journey, it is necessary to train enough to establish the correct technique when performing basic exercises.

Here are two cases when shortened training is used:

1) If, after training according to the classical program for 3-6 months, you do not see any special results in either strength or mass growth.

2) If you hit a “plateau”, that is, after some time the classical scheme stopped working for you.

The experience of such celebrities as Pirri Rader (editor of Iron Man magazine) has also shown that shortened training 100% works.

Many of those involved in bodybuilding are adherents of one type of training and absolutely do not accept another. But it is important to be objective in this matter, because trainees achieve success with both types of training. It is necessary to find out what suits whom.

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Dinozavrik Abridged Training Works!
[ The note:

This was my first article published in Stuart McRobert's magazine, The Hardgainer. (Throughout the text there will be references to THG or HG - abbreviations for The Hardgainer) I was in my early 30s when I wrote the article I was not competing in either a powerlifting or bench press competition, and although I had made serious progress in strength, I did not could ever imagine competing in state, regional and national competitions. But I surprised myself. The program presented in the article is incredibly simple, but it gave me amazing results. In fact, it worked so well that I won 5 national bench press championships training with it.

The program (or a variation of this program) has worked for many other athletes for many years. The article received a lot of feedback from readers, and brought up a theme that has run through my entire work: the idea that shortened training works!

The article describes a different type of training than how I train now. Remember, I wrote this almost 20 years ago, and it describes a training program I started in 1989. Back then, I was focused on powerlifting-style squats using a wide belt, squat suit, and knee wraps. I used a bench shirt for heavy sets of bench presses, partly because I had a nagging shoulder injury that I got from working on Nautilus Pullover Torso machines in high school.

Later, I moved away from the suit, belt, knee wraps and wrist wraps, and now, at the age of 52, I train without any support equipment (not even a belt). And I train other exercises using a weightlifting approach. Half squat snatches, cleans, front squats, bench presses, push presses, clean and jerks, and clean and jerks form the basis of my program.

But with or without support equipment, and regardless of exercise choice, the basic principle of abbreviated training remains the same.
And for most readers - especially for those who fall into the category of “hard gainers” and for older athletes, that is, for people who have difficulty recovering from training - shortened training is one of the keys to success. THIS is the main idea of ​​the article - and it is one of the most important keys to success in strength training.] * * *
Stuart McRobert requested a detailed report on my experience with abbreviated programs. 4 days after receiving his letter, I achieved a long-term goal of bench pressing 400 lbs (181 kg). I did this lift to touch, no chest pause, and it was a great lift - no bridge, no cheating. After another 7 days I benched 405 lbs.

My current body weight is around 186-188 lbs (85-85.5 kg). I am 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 meters) tall with a medium bone structure.

My personal best, the result of many years of training in abbreviated programs similar to those published in THG. I use abbreviated programs for almost all of my training, and have always been quite stubborn about this issue. And so it turned out that THG only increased my desire for old-style training, for a meaningful approach to training. Partially, this magazine motivated me to go super hard in my squat. Not necessarily a 20-rep breathing squat, but a body-building squat with maximum weight - similar to the program Ricky Crain wrote about in the September 1990 issue of THG.

The training program that I started in August 1989 (and that I still follow today) calls for 4 workouts per week. At first glance, this sounds like a lot, and it would be in a normal training program.

However, instead of using all sorts of splits, I use what Bradley Jay. Steiner once called it “divided training.” Here is the program:

Tuesday 1. Bench Press 2. Lat Pulldown

Thursday 1. Deadlift 2. Military Press

Saturday 1. Close grip bench press 2. Biceps curl

Resurrection 1. Squat 2. Calf Raise

On Tuesday I do only 2 exercises - bench press and parallel grip rows. For the lats, I usually do 3-5 sets of 5 reps. I currently start with 200 lbs (91 kg) for the first set of 5 reps, and then add 10 lbs for each subsequent set. I use a parallel grip to keep my biceps in optimal position and bear minimal load to better target my back muscles. I lean back and arch my back so that I end the movement with a full contraction. I rest 90 seconds between sets.

[The note:

We had a long discussion about the benefits of lat pulldowns over pull-ups. Later I started doing a lot of pull-ups. They work better than overhead pulls, and from my point of view, this is the optimal way.]

On the bench press I always do 225 lbs (102 kg) for a 5 rep fast warm up set. Then I immediately jump to the second warm-up set to 315 lbs (143 kg) for 5 reps. Then I move on to really heavy weights. I use wrist wraps on every set, and I wear a bench shirt on sets after 315 lbs. I started using a bench shirt in April 1990 after benching 335 lbs (152 kg) for 5 reps. The jersey adds 10-15 lbs (4.5-7 kg) to the lift, but most importantly helps protect your shoulders from injury.

I do my first working set for a maximum of 5 reps. Right now my 5x max is 350 lbs (159 kg). Sometimes I do 4 reps with 360 lbs. When I reach 360 lbs for 5 reps, I will lift 10 lbs and work until I can do 5 reps.

I usually do 1 set of 5 reps and then I try a heavier set of 3 reps. For example, in one workout I might try 350 for 5 and then 360 for 3. These are my “work” sets. After 2 working sets, I try one or two 380 (172 kg) singles and then a second 390 (177 kg) or 400 (181 kg) single.

One little trick I've been using in recent years is using a combination of regular 45-pound pancakes (York Barbell Company) mixed with 1-pound pancakes (Eleiko). We have a cool set of rubberized Eleiko pancakes in our gym that look the same thickness as the 45 lb (20.4 kg) York pancakes, but weigh only 22 (10 kg), 33 (15 kg) and 44 (20 kg) pound. When I use rubber plates, my bar looks like it's 400 pounds when it's only about 360. By the time I could bench press 400 lbs (181 kg), I was not impressed with how heavy the bar looked. If I didn't use this little trick, the 405 lb (184 kg) bar (8 x 45 lb plates) would look "too heavy to lift."

[The note:

It's not just Bruxism. Multiple world champion and Olympic weightlifting champion, Tommy Kono, talks about this same technique in his excellent book, Weightlifting Olympic Style. At international competitions in the 50s and 60s, Tommy had to work with European barbells, with plates that were thicker and looked heavier than the York plates he trained with in the USA - so the bar was loaded with something like 300 pounds (136 kg), looked like 400 (181 kg). And when he performed, Tommy deliberately did not look at the plates on the bar.]

So my Tuesday workout consists of lat pulldowns for a set of five, followed by bench presses where I do about seven sets going down from five reps to one. I finish the workout with a set of hanging knee raises holding 10 pounds with my feet, or crunches with a 60 pound dumbbell on my chest.

On Thursday I start with deadlifts. I regularly do deadlifts while standing on a 2 (5 cm) inch platform. In the deadlift I do 135 (61 kg) for 5, 225 (102 kg) for 5, 315 (143 kg) for 5 and 350-365 (159-165) for 3-5 reps.

[The note:

This deadlift needs some extra work, especially when compared to the bench press. Over the years since this article, I have worked my deadlift hard and brought it up to normal levels using a program of heavy singles, and heavy rack work—and later, trap bar deadlifts—as detailed in subsequent chapters. In addition, working hard in the squat—especially the bottom squat—developed great strength in the legs, lower back, and hips, which aided in the deadlift.]

After the deadlift, I do a seated military press, at a 70-80 degree incline of the bench. I do this exercise in a power rack with the pins at chest height. I start each set from the bottom position, with the bar resting on the pins. This is a great shoulder exercise that Tony Ditillo used when writing Iron Man. It's almost impossible to cheat on this exercise - the angle is safer and more effective than a completely vertical military press - starting each rep from the bottom will develop enormous power. This exercise was a huge help in developing the upper body strength needed to bench press 400 pounds.

For bench presses I usually do 135 for 5, 185 for 5, 225 or 235 for 5, 250 for 3 and then 1 -2 singles - weighing 265-285 lbs (120-129 kg) - varies in how I feel.

I finish my workout on Thursday with a set of crunches or leg raises (same as Tuesday).

On Saturday I work my biceps and triceps. I combined this with squat training, but the squats are so hard and stiff that I decided to do the arm work separately. After these changes, I significantly increased the weight on my working sets and even added weights to my squats.

On Saturday I do 2 exercises again. The first is the close grip bench press. In his THG article, Doug Daniels justified this exercise. How right he is! I was doing the exercise with a regular bar, but switched to a durable EZ bar (designed for Olympic plates). After I made this change, my power and strength increased at a tremendous rate. The grip angle on this bar turned out to be a deciding factor.

On the close grip bench press I started with 233 for 5, then 273 or 283 for 5. These are the necessary warm up sets. Then I do 2-3 working sets with weights ranging from 293 to 310 (133 or 140.5 kg), shooting for 5 reps. If I feel great, I'll add another set of 2-3 reps with 320 lbs (145 kg).

The close grip heavy bench press is the best tool you can use for bench pressing. This is particularly true in my case because I use a very narrow grip on the bench press (just a little wider than my shoulders). This exercise perfectly develops the chest, shoulders and triceps.

The second exercise on Saturday, another good compound exercise is the standing biceps curl. For years I worked my biceps with heavy Scott curls or dumbbell curls. They were effective up to a point, but now I find that I get better results from regular barbell curls. Again, I use a strong EZ bar under the Olympic plates, making the exercise as technical as possible and starting each lift from the bottom. One technique for lifting heavy weights is to lean forward a little, tighten your lats, and let your upper body act as a support for your elbows. This technique, combined with relatively low speed and stopping between repetitions, eliminates cheating.

For biceps curls, I start with 123 (56) for 5, then 143 (65 kg) for 5 and 163 (74 kg) for 5. If I was feeling very strong, I would do another set around 168 -186 lbs. (76-84.5 kg).

I ended my Saturday workout with one or two sets of ab work.

My Sunday workout consisted of one set of calf raises (usually done in a seated machine) for 8-10 reps, and then the real killer - the squat. For squats, I always start with a very light weight and work up gradually because I want to warm up my lower back and hip joints as much as possible by the time I get to the heavy weights. I do 135 (61 kg) for 5, 225 (102 kg) for 5, 315 (143 kg) for 5 to warm up. Then I throw up to 385-400 (174-181.5 kg) for 5. I use knee wraps for all weights above 315 (143 kg). Then I move to very heavy weights and try to do triples. My best triple at this point is 450 lbs.

One or two heavy sets with 400+ pounds on the bar will tire me out for the rest of the day and a good chunk of the next day. Anyone who doubts the importance of rest and recovery as a natural has never done a 400+ pound squat.

My program is the product of a long evolution. I started training in 1969 when I was 11 years old. At that time, I started reading glossy muscle magazines. Like all the poor kids who read this crap, I was convinced that marathon pumping was the only way to train. I remember a training log where I noted that I squatted and bench pressed 40 pounds, stood bench pressed and curled 20 pounds, and followed a “bombing blitz program” with a lot of super sets and three sets.

After using such a useless program for some time, I was lucky enough to find a copy of Peery Rader's Iron Man magazine, which contained an article by Bradley Jay. Steiner, which opened my eyes to what real training is. I instantly signed up for Iron Man and started following Steiner's advice.

[The note:

Now Steiner is teaching real self-defense and does not write for Iron Man or any other “glossy magazine.” If you are interested in his opinion on physical training, check out his online newspaper and articles.]

After several years of teenage training, I weighed 145 pounds (66 kg). I could bench press 225 (102 kg) x 1 and squat 250 (113.5 kg) x 1. I was captain of the high school wrestling team and state champion in Greco-Roman wrestling. I usually trained 3 times a week, training the whole body each time, using one or two exercises per body part.

In college I trained at home, still training 3 times a week and working my entire body every workout. I increased my weight from 165 to 170 lbs (75 kg) and my bench press reached 320 (145 kg) by age 20. This was in 1978 or so. The 320 bench press was performed with 170 lb (75 kg) iron plates and with 150 lb (68 kg) homemade concrete plates.

[The note:

Those concrete plates are still sitting in my parents' garage where I trained the first time I bench pressed 300 pounds. They were absolutely the "heavy and awkward objects" that I wrote about in Dinosaur Training and Dinosaur Notes.]

In law school, I trained very hard the first year: 3 times a week, one exercise per body part, 5 sets of 5 reps. My weight reached 180 (81 kg) and my bench press reached 350 (159 kg).

After graduating from law school, I went to work for a law firm in Louisville, Kentucky. My wife and I moved from Virginia (where I was going to law school) at 2:30 a.m. on Friday and were unpacking our things. We went to bed and got up at 9am on Saturday. My wife sent me to buy something for breakfast. However, the first thing I did was go and buy a membership to a local gym located a few blocks from where I lived.

The gym was located in the basement of a small shopping center, and had serious equipment, such as 14 Olympic barbells, dumbbells up to 130 pounds (60 kg) and other assorted iron pills. It was one of those great, serious gyms—no ficus, no chrome, no exercise equipment.

I have been training there since 1982. When I returned to regular training in 1982 I used a full body training program 3 times a week. I did one exercise per body part, with 2 warm-up sets and 3 heavy sets for each exercise. In other words, I used the 5x5 system for 3 full body workouts per week. In hindsight, it was incredibly stressful for me.

With this program I reached 315 (143 kg) for 5 in the squat and bench press, and 355 (161 kg) for the bench press for 1 rep. But there was no way I could exceed these figures.

After several years, I decided to try the 4 day program. This was going to prove to be too much work, so I switched to training every other day, so upper body, rest, lower body, rest, and so on. It turned out to be a good substitute for a while, but it still tired me out too much.

In 1988, I finally tried a regimen in which I worked each body part only once a week. Over time, it evolved into the system described above. So I stumbled around for 17 years until I realized that the best approach was to work each body part only once a week.

Now, I'm at the stage where many people who go to the gym ask my advice. When I talk about the benefits of shortened training, they look at me like I'm crazy. They can't believe I earned my 400 pound bench press by training once a week. Half of them probably think I'm pranking them (or that I'm using steroids, but I'm not - I've never used steroids and never will). And some people think that I must be some kind of freak - “once a week may be good for him, but it won’t work for everyone else.” But some guys listen, and some switch to shortened programs. And I am very pleased to see the great results they get from hard, short, basic programs.


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