Saturday, March 21, 2009

Designing a Full-Body Workout for Stimulating Muscle Growth

     This week, I have received several e-mails from lifters who wanted help—in some way or another; whether it was for muscle growth, strength, or both—in setting up a full-body workout.  This is my first post which will deal with this issue.
     This li'l mini-article that you're staring at on your computer screen will deal with how to set up a full-body workout for muscle growth.  In other words, these tips are for anyone whose primary goal is just muscle growth.  (I suppose I could have titled this entry "How to Look Friggin' Good Naked with Crazy Full-Body Workouts."  That probably would have gotten more attention.  But alas...)
     You will, of course, gain some strength out of workouts designed in this manner, however these programs are not for aspiring powerlifters or other strength athletes.  These are for bodybuilders—or anyone who just wants to gain the most muscle growth possible in the shortest amount of time.
     Here are what I consider to be the "keys" to making full-body workouts work for muscle growth:
1. Train 3 days each week.  Some lifters, unfortunately, think that for muscle growth they should only use a full-body workout 2 days each week.  This is a mistake.  (A mistake usually influenced by proponents of a H.I.T. training, where the extra days off are thought to aid in recovery.)  Two days per week training is actually better for folks interested in strength gains, and just strength gains—lifters who don't want to go up in weight class but still maintain or gain strength.
     Three days is needed for muscle growth to occur at the fastest rate.  Monday, Wednesday, Friday; Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday—whatever days fit best into your schedule.  Don't be lazy and train less.
     As you get more advanced, you can actually increase this amount of training to 4 days per week, or you can increase it to every-other-day training, where you don't take 2 days off after every third workout.  But for most lifters, 3 days is plenty at first.
2. Squat at each session.  There are other great exercises in the muscle-building universe, but nothing beats full, butt-to-the-calves squats.
3. Rotate exercises at least every 3 workouts.  The squats should remain the same, but other exercises should be rotated from on a regular basis.  If you're an advanced lifter, you should be rotating exercises at every session.  If you're not advanced, then at least rotate exercises at the start of each training week.
4. Perform between 25 to 50 reps for each exercise.  More reps than this on each exercise, and you're going to be overdoing it.  Less, and you won't gain enough muscle mass.  If the reps are on the low end of the spectrum, then you should be lifting with heavier weights—a 5 sets of 5 reps scheme, for instance.  If your reps are on the high end of the spectrum, then the weights should be lighter—a 5 sets of 10 scheme for example.
5. Rotate rep ranges at each workout session.  For instance, on the first training session of each week, use a 5 sets of 5 reps scheme.  At the second session, use a 2 sets of 20 reps scheme.  At the 3rd workout session, use a 5 sets of 10 rep scheme.  At your first workout for the next week, you could use a 4 sets of 8 reps scheme.  Change, change, change.
6. Every 4th week of training, take a "down" week.  Train really hard for 3 weeks, then make sure you have a "down" week on the 4th week.  This is what really aids in recovery, not training just 2 days per week or taking an entire week off of training.

     For my next post, I will discuss full-body training where your only goal is to be the pure d strongest sumbeech (as we say in Alabama) on the block.

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