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.