Saturday, May 30, 2009

Old Time Mass Tactics: Bradley Steiner's Rugged Size and Strength Split Routine

     Anyone familiar with the writings of Bradley Steiner (he wrote a lot of good stuff for the old Iron Man magazine back in the ‘70s), might be surprised that he actually recommended a form of split training.  He called it the “Rugged Size and Strength Split Program.”  I have good feeling that it was the only split program he ever wrote about.

     So, what’s this program look like?  We’ll take a look at the major tenets of the routine, then I’ll offer some suggestions for making the routine work for you.  These suggestions will be based on both my own observations and those of Bradley Steiner.

     Steiner said that this routine might be better described as a “divided” workout schedule instead of a “split” program because you divide up a total body workout and you don’t use anything close to what’s normally considered a split routine.  Here’s how the thing works:

  On three non-consecutive days each week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, for example) you perform the following:

Bench presses

Bent-over rows

Stiff-legged deadlifts


An abdominal exercise

     On two other days during the week (Tuesdays and Saturdays would be ideal), you perform the following:

Behind-the-neck presses

Barbell curls

     That’s it.  Pretty conservative for a “split” routine, isn’t it?  It can work wonders for your strength, however, if you follow these guidelines:

1.    Don’t perform the exact same set/reps every training day and every week.  In other words, change things up.  Some days (or weeks) use a 5x5 system of training.  Some days use a 3x3 system.  On other days, use heavy singles.  And on some days you might want to employ the 5/4/3/2/1 method.  Also, you don’t have to use the same set/rep scheme on each exercise.  For instance, you might use the 5x5 method on bench presses and bent-over rows, then use heavy singles on the deadlifts, and then triples on the squats.

2.    Make one or two days each week “light” days.  This doesn’t mean using high reps.  It means cutting back on the poundages you are using.  This helps recovery and keeps you from burning out.

3.    Steiner recommended taking a week layoff every five weeks of hard, steady, progressive workouts.  I think it is good to take a break every five weeks, but I don’t think you should take a complete layoff.  Layoffs of an entire week tend to breed bad habits of being inconsistent with your training.  Instead, have a down-week every five weeks where you cut back on the number of sets, the number of reps, and the amount of weight you are lifting.  This will prevent overtraining while still not allowing you to miss workouts.

4.    After every five-week cycle, don’t be afraid to change exercises around.  Instead of bench presses, use incline presses.  Instead of stiff-legged deadlifts, use rack pulls.  Instead of behind-the-neck presses, use standing overhead presses.  The only exercise I never want you changing (Steiner and I would agree wholeheartedly on this) are the squats.

5.    Make sure you follow an adequate nutritional plan.  Eat plenty of good protein, carbohydrates, and good fats.  Three square meals and a couple of protein shakes should do it for you.  If you don’t eat properly, then even abbreviated programs can breed overtraining.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Old Time Mass Tactics: One-Exercise-Per-Bodypart Training

     Starting with the current post, I thought I would do a mini-series on how the "old-time" bodybuilders used to train.  In doing so, I also thought I would start with what I consider the greatest of the old-time mass tactics:  one-exercise-per-bodypart training.

     When I first began to lift weights seriously (which was sometime in my high-school years; I'm 35 now, so you do the math), the bodybuilders that I loved were the ones that—even then—were considered the "old-timers."  I remember seeing pictures of Freddy Ortiz, Don Howorth (above), and Marvin Eder; I was amazed by their look.  For one, they definitely looked strong (which they were), but they also had excellent size, shape, and symmetry—small waists, large calves, boulder-sized shoulders; the whole "x-frame" look.  But—and I think this is what I still love about them—they didn't appear to be cardboard cutouts of one another.  They all had different "looks."  They were shapely and symmetrical, sure, but they were also their own men.  You just don't see that kind of unique-ness in today's bodybuilding world.

     One of the most common training techniques that the old-timers used was "one-exercise-per-bodypart" training.  If they didn't utilize one exercise for each bodypart, then they rarely used more than two.  I remember reading an article by Reg Park—another of the greats—where he said that he never did more than two-exercises per muscle group in the off-season.  He saved all the pumping, toning, multi-angular stuff with a lot of exercises for the weeks before a bodybuilding contest.
     This kind of training has several benefits.  The first is its simplicity.  You just take an exercise and bang away at it until you either 1) perform your desired number of sets, or 2) get the desired "pump" in the muscle group(s) you are training.
     Another factor is that it allows you to get such a good pump.  I'm afraid that "pump" training has got a bit of a bad rap in some articles as of late—even in two of my favorite sites: T-Nation and Dragon Door.  I understand the grumbling.  You shouldn't train solely for the pump, especially if you are using weights that are too light or if you haven't established a firm base of muscle through heavy, basic training.  However, if you are training with the appropriate amount of weight, then the pump is a pretty good indicator of muscle growth.  It's definitely the measurement indicator-of-choice that the old-timers used in order to assess whether or not they were getting a good workout.
     And one-exercise-per-bodypart training definitely allows you to get a better pump than other training methods.  In fact, how many times have you been training on an exercise, getting a good pump, and then you begin to lose your pump when you switch to another movement?  If you're like me, then the answer is more times than you can count.  But you don't have that problem with one-exercise-per-bodypart training.

     When you first begin with this kind of training, I recommend sticking with a pre-planned set/rep format.  The most common—and the ones I am going to recommend—would either be a 6 sets of 6 format, an 8 sets of 8 format, or a 10 sets of 10 regimen.  If you are already an advanced lifter, then you might want to consider a "wave-loading" pattern, as well.  For this, you would start your first workout with 10 sets of 5, the next workout would be 10 sets of 4, and the third workout would be 10 sets of 3.  With each workout, you would—of course—add weight.  When beginning, however, use one of the first three set/rep options.
     For each muscle group, pick 3 or 4 exercises that are effective—for you—at building up that particular muscle group.  Rotate exercises every 2 to 3 workouts.
     A good program might look like the following:
Monday: Squats - 10 sets of 10 reps; Lying Leg Curls - 8 sets of 8 reps
Tuesday: Bench Presses - 10 sets of 10 reps; Wide Grip Chins - 6 sets of 6 reps
Wednesday: Standing Dumbbell Overhead Presses - 8 sets of 8 reps; Barbell Curls alternated with Lying Floor Extensions - 8 sets of 8 reps (each exercise)
     On Thursday, you would take the day off.  If you feel well rested on Friday, then repeat the cycle.  If not, then wait 'til Saturday before starting it over again.  Use the same exercises for your next three days of training before swapping to a new set of exercises on the following 3-day split.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The 3 to 5 Method for Strength and Muscle Mass

     On my old blog, I had an article dealing with using the 3 to 5 method for gaining muscle mass and strength.  Recently, a reader e-mailed me wanting to know if I would re-publish that one on this blog.  Unfortunately, I don't have that other blog saved, and (to be honest) I don't remember what all I wrote on that other entry.  And so... that brings us to the post you are now looking at on your computer screen.
     The 3 to 5 method became popular through the writings of Pavel Tsatsouline. (Pavel has to be, by the way, one of the most innovative writers out there when it comes to building strength, power and muscle mass; and, oh yeah, he's also the guy who singlehandedly made kettlebells popular in the states.)  Pavel's method - if I'm correct - meant performing 3 to 5 exercises for 3 to 5 sets of 3 to 5 reps.  You then trained every 3 to 5 days.
     Mine was/is a little different.  Pick 3 to 5 "core" exercises.  These should be the "more bang for your buck" movements.  You want to pick one squatting exercise, one "pulling" exercise, one exercise for your upper body "push" muscles, one exercise for your upper body "pull" muscles, and (if you so choose) one other exercise for either your arms or your ab muscles.  If you are feeling at all drained or overtrained, you can drop one or two of the above exercises and just perform 3 exercises instead of 5.
     On each exercise, perform 3 to 5 sets for 3 to 5 reps.
     Train - and here's the difference with my system - 3 to 5 days each week.  For myself, when training in this manner I enjoy working out Monday-Friday, then taking the weekends off.  Sure, I feel a little overworked and tired by Friday, but after taking Saturday and Sunday off, I feel refreshed and invigorated for Monday's session.
     Obviously, in each workout, you need to leave a little something "in the tank."  Stop each set a few reps shy of muscular failure.  And don't get "jacked up" or over energized for any of the workouts.  Relax during the workouts; taking a couple of minutes of rest between each set, and practice some deep, meditative breathing between each set, as well.
     Here is an example of what a week of training might look like:
Monday, Wednesday, Friday
Squats: 5 sets of 3 reps
Deadlifts off Blocks: 3 sets of 3 reps
Incline Bench Presses: 3 sets of 5 reps
Chins: 5 sets of 5 reps
Barbell Curls: 3 sets of 3 reps
Tuesday and Thursday
Front Squats: 3 sets of 5 reps
Flat Dumbbell Bench Presses: 3 sets of 3 reps
Bent Over Rows: 5 sets of 3 reps
Steep Incline Sit Ups (weighted): 5 sets of 5 reps
     When first training in this manner, you might want to ease into your workouts the first week.  Also, you should feel refreshed and energized after each workout; probably a lot better than when you started the session.  And don't be upset if your strength is up and down throughout the program.  Some days, you will feel a little more tired than on others.  On these days, make sure you are still performing 3 to 5 sets of 3 to 5 reps on each exercise you choose—don't shortcut yourself.  On other days, you will feel very strong—resist the urge to do more on these days and just stick with the program.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Full-Body Split Workouts, the Pump, and Awakened Training

     It used to be called—hell, it still might be—"instinctive" training.  I don't like that.  There really is nothing instinctive about it.  Instinct implies that it is something you are born with, something innate within you that can tell you how to do it.  Now, perhaps there is that something within you, and within me, and within each of us that can tell us how to do it.  But it has to be learned.  So maybe we should call it "learned instinctive" training, but I still don't like that.  (By the way, perhaps some people are born with this ability to train in such a fashion and achieve fantastic, mind-blowing results.  The same way that you couldn't teach Mozart how to play, or Van Gogh how to paint—it was just what they were.  But even then you are left with guys—and gals—who probably can't teach anyone else what they know or what they do, or how they do it.)
     Dave Draper called it "freestyling."  That's getting closer to what I'm talking about, but it's still not it.  I like it; but it's not it.
     I call it Awakened Training, named after the highest state (or stage, as well) of the wisdom traditions: the non-dual state where one has awakened to his or her True Nature.  A state that can best be described as "your original face before your mother and father were born."
     This is the state where all separation falls apart, where you realize your Oneness with everything, and all things, and that you always already were One with everything, One with This.  And then even that utter Oneness falls away, and pure empty spaciousness resides.  Here we find the form that is formlessness and the formlessness that is form.  We discover that emptiness is not other than that which is form and form is not other than that which is emptiness.
     We are Awakened.
     And then—precisely because that which is empty is not other than form—we take this Realization and merge it into all that we do.  We take it into our strength training, and it becomes a part of our strength training.  (Not that it was ever anything other than our strength training to begin with; we simply were not aware of it, we were not awake.)
     Martial arts masters, specifically the ones that came out of the martial arts of China and Japan, understood this.  But they also understood that you must learn the basics, you must learn to lay the foundation before you can start adding walls, and then (finally) the roof.  In this instance, the "roof" is the non-dual Oneness that is also empty formlessness.
     But you can't just start there at Oneness; you must follow a path to reach it.  (Now, don't get me wrong: There have been instances where people have spontaneously awakened to their True Nature.  And there have been instances where this awakening causes the person to excel at a martial art in a very spontaneous, yet masterful, way without much—or any—formal training.  But these instances are rare.  Very rare.)
     When I first started in martial arts, for instance, my Sensei knew that I needed a path, even though he himself didn't really follow one.  When I began formal karate-do training, it was all about mastering the basics (blocks, punches, kicks), and the kata, and then the kumite techniques.  It wasn't until I had a couple of years of training that he would tell me that I "must learn to fight without fighting, to think without thinking."  This kind of talk wouldn't have made sense at first.  But it eventually did.  When I was prepared for it.
     Here's the thing, though: Certain kinds of training—such as martial arts—are better at preparing people for this Awakening to What They Are.  And then taking this Awakening into their chosen athletic endeavor.  Bodybuilding, powerlifting, and other forms of strength training can—I believe—be equal to martial arts in this regard.  Perhaps you already know this.  Or maybe you don't know it, but you have had glimpses of it during training.  Glimpses where your "body/mind falls away and there is only This" during a hard set of bench presses, squats, curls—hell, you name it; all of the exercises are capable of this glimpse into transcendence.  But some training programs—and styles of training—are better at this than others.
     And so here we come to the title of this post, where we encounter the ever-popular "pump" and what I call full-body split workouts.  Two ways of training that are very good at leading to spontaneous, yet effective, workouts where the Awakened You takes over, and lifting weights doesn't just become a "body" exercise, or even a "mind/body" exercises, or—damn it—even a "mind/body/spirit" exercise.  It becomes something that transcends—yet includes—all of those.  It becomes an exercise in only-thisness—an Awakening (there's that word again) to Spirit, to God, to the Ground of All-Being.  (Call it what you will.)

     First, let's backtrack and discuss both full-body split workouts and the pump.
     I believe there are essentially two valid ways to train for muscle growth.  These two ways are fairly broad, and they do occasionally overlap in certain workout programs (and will overlap in the workout program I'm going to present here), and virtually encompass all forms of training that you will find on the internet, in muscle magazines, and that you got from your buddy the training expert, who, of course, knows more than anyone else.
     Pump training works by exposing your muscles to a fairly large amount of stress at one time, then taking enough time between workouts for your muscles to "grow larger and stronger."  If you get a good pump during your workout, it's also an indicator that you have properly recovered from your last training session.  If you are not getting a good pump—and you are training hard, as well—then you probably haven't recovered from your previous training session involving that muscle group(s).  In addition, the pump is often a good indicator of how well you have been eating.  Getting enough protein, and plenty of good carbohydrates on a regular basis leads to a fantastic pump.  Eat like crap, and you'll probably end up with a crappy pump.
     A pump can also feel very blissful.  Arnold Schwarzenneger once compared it to "cumming"— in other friggin' words: The pump is as good as sex.  (Interestingly, sex can also lead to moments of transcendence and Oneness; it, too, can be a very spiritual experience.  Hmm?  Maybe we're getting somewhere.)
     The pump—despite what Arnold and many other so-called experts (usually steroid-induced bodybuilders) tell us—is not the "end-all, be-all" of muscle growth.  Muscle growth can just as well come about by another mechanism: high-frequency training via full-body workouts.  And—in case any of you who have read my articles hasn't already guessed it—this second option is my preferred method (if we have to get into a discussion of preferred methods; they are both effective).
     Personally, I have gained a lot of muscle mass before using full-body workouts even though I never got much of a pump out of them.  Not that you don't get a pump from doing them—it's just not the gauge you use to discern the effectiveness of your workout.  (By the way, if you're not that advanced, you might want to try some of the other full-body workouts that I have listed on this blog before utilizing the techniques I'm going to present here; or you might be ready.  Only you can decide.)
     Now, the notion of full-body split workouts might sound oxymoronic.  I mean, you can't do both a full-body workout and a split workout.  Right?  Well, you'd be wrong.  Using full-body split workouts you still train the majority of your muscle groups in one workout.  In terms of just exercises used, a full-body split workout program might look something like this (only an example, remember that):
     Monday: squats, overhead presses, chins, barbell curls
     Wednesday: deadlifts, dumbbell bench presses, dips
     Friday: walking lunges, seated dumbbell overhead presses, dumbbell curls
     And, finally, we get to what might seem like a conundrum.  The combination of full-body split workouts, the pump, and letting the two of these lead to the penultimate: Awakened training which can lead to an Awakened state of Being, which can lead, in turn, to living an Awakened life—an enlightened life, if you will.

     Before we get to the roof, we must lay the foundation.  First things first: This workout isn't the foundation.  It's more of the studs, and the walls, and the plaster, and the paint, and—well—all the other stuff other than the foundation and the roof.  So, if you are brand-spankin' new to training: follow a basic routine for, oh, six months or so before training in this manner.
     With that being said, let's get to the basics of this workout program.  This workout both lacks rules and contains rules.  It lacks rules because it is, ultimately, spontaneous in many ways.  And, yet, rules are still needed.  (Goes back to that favorite Gironda saying of mine that is always in my head: "Are you on a training program or are you just working out?")
     So, here are the "parameters" of this program:  (Use these parameters until you no longer need to use them, until you no longer need parameters, in fact at the point when parameters don't even exist.  Don't think ahead and try to figure out when this time is going to be; you'll know the time when it comes.)
     Pick either a lower-body pulling exercise (deadlifts, rack pulls, deficit deadlifts, snatch-grip deadlifts, stiff-legged deadlifts) or a lower body pushing exercise (all variations of squats or lunges) and perform one at each workout session.
     Pick an upper body pushing exercise to use at each session.
     Pick an upper body pulling exercise to use at each session.
     You really don't need anything other than these three exercises for each workout.  However, you might want to add some direct calf, arm, and ab workout to each session.  Or you might want to do this stuff at every other workout session.
     For each exercise, whether you use a heavy weight or a light weight, perform the set until your repetitions begin to slow down.  Here's what I mean: Let's say that you decide to use close-grip chins as your upper-body pulling exercise of the day.  On your first set, you get 6 reps and then your 7th rep is slow.  Stop.  Rest a minute or so (not much longer), and then do another set.  If you slow down on the 5th rep, stop there.  Continue in this manner until you do your prescribed (or, perhaps I should say, unprescribed) number of sets.  Which brings us to....
     For each exercise, don't count sets.  Just perform however many sets it takes until you begin to get a solid pump.  At the point the pump has been attained—which could even be in the middle of the set—you stop.  This could be 4 sets, could be 6 sets, or it could be 8 sets, or it could be 12 sets.  The lower your repetitions, the more sets you will need.  And then you move on to the next exercise.
     When you first start training on this kind of program, plan your exercises in advance of the workout session for the day.  Also plan on whether you will train heavy or light on a particular exercise.  But don't plan any more than that.  As you get more advanced, even that amount of planning can go out the window.  Decide what to do when you get to the gym; and only then.
     And, of course, there will come a point in time when you won't even plan what you are going to do, or even think about your workout.  You will just show up and do it.  And that will give way to... well, you'll just have to experience it for yourself.

     Some of you understand what I have written (at least some of it), and some of you don't.  And some of you are probably prepared to take the leap full-throttle into this kind of training.  Perhaps you have even discovered most of this for yourself, and your Awakening is right around the corner.

     By the way, if there are any questions regarding anything that I have written in this post, please feel free to e-mail me with your questions.