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.


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