Saturday, March 20, 2010

High Frequency Focus Training

Over the past year, two of my workout programs seem to be the most popular—at least, I get asked the most questions about these two programs. The first program would be my "Mass Construction" program. The Mass Construction routine is ideal for anyone who needs to pack on as much muscle as possible in a relatively short amount of time. However, I think that the second program—what I call "High-Frequency Focus Training"—has the most potential. It's not just a workout program, but rather it's a system of training with a lot of potential—and by this I mean that it is a template that you follow, but it allows for plenty of variety, hence its potential.

What follows in this post is the basic program—with a beginner routine and an advanced routine. After this post, I'm going to add some others that deal with specialization while on the HFFT system, since that's the area where a lot of questions get asked.


High Frequency Focus Training

Sometimes the most efficient methods of training often seem to be contradictory in nature. For instance, one of the most effective ways to train for strength and power—not to mention thick muscle growth—is by following a whole body program that has you working the muscles of your legs, back, and upper body 3 days a week with heavy, compound movements. Another highly effective method for gaining muscle and strength is to train 4 to 6 days a week, working only one (or, at the most, two) bodypart(s) on each training day. This form of training allows you to really focus on each muscle group, giving you a fantastic pump and hitting the muscle from all angles.

The first training program works by frequently exposing each muscle group to a high level of stress with exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and barbell bench presses. When training in this manner, you want to stay clear of “training to failure,” and instead perform multiple sets of a single exercise, always leaving a little “in the tank,” so to speak. This is the kind of training favored by Russian and East European strength athletes, and it is the reason they dominate most powerlifting and Olympic lifting meets.

The second form of training is the kind favored by most American bodybuilders. It works by “annihilating” a muscle group, then giving it plenty of time to rest and grow big. If muscle growth—and only muscle growth—is your goal, then you could argue that this is the most effective form of training.

On a personal note, I can say that I have used both methods of training and got really good results out of either one. For instance, when I was at my largest and most muscular (weighing between 210 and 220 lbs of —fairly—lean muscle at a height of only 5’6”) I was using a once-a-week bodybuilding regimen, training Monday thru Friday, and then taking the weekends off. However, when I was at my strongest (weighing around 181 lbs and squatting and deadlifting over triple my bodyweight), I was training Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on a heavy/light/medium program. I squatted at each training session, performed some kind of bench work at each workout, and performed heavy back work at each session.

Now, this is the question that remains: is there a way to combine both of these methods into one training program, allowing you to reap the benefits of both? I believe the answer is “yes.” In fact, there are several ways that you could probably go about doing this. This article offers one such way.

I have chosen to call this method High Frequency Focus Training—HFFT for short—because although each muscle group is trained frequently, you will only focus on a couple of muscle groups (at the most) at each training session. Here’s how it works:

Every training session will begin with the high frequency portion of the workout. This is done by training all of the large muscle groups with a few sets, using a moderate to heavy amount of weight and fairly low reps or using a light weight for a high number of reps. When this portion of the workout is finished, you should feel refreshed and invigorated instead of tired and exhausted.

Once the high frequency portion is finished, it’s time for the focus portion of the session. This is done by picking one or (at the most) 2 muscle groups and hitting them with multiple sets of multiple reps—a typical bodybuilding style workout.

If all of this sound a little confusing, it won’t be after you read the two programs below. The first program is for beginners, or anyone who is not used to training their whole body several times each week. The second program is for anyone who has developed a combination of good conditioning and good muscular development—in other words, advanced lifters.

Beginning HFFT Program

This one is a three-days-a-week regimen. The most popular days to train would be Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Day One

High Frequency Portion

  • Squats – 5 sets of 3 reps. Perform two warm-up sets of 5 reps, followed by 3 work sets of 3 reps, using approximately 70-75% of your one-rep maximum.
  • Deadlifts– 5 sets of 3 reps. Use the same set/rep format as the squats.
  • Barbell Bench Presses or Incline Bench Presses – 5 sets of 3 reps. Same set/rep format as the squats and deadlifts.

Focus Portion: Chest and Arms

  • Flat Dumbbell Bench Presses – 4 sets of 10 reps
  • Incline Dumbbell Flyes – 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Cable Crossovers – 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Dumbbell Curls supersetted with Dips – 8 sets of 10 reps on each exercise.

Day Two

High Frequency Portion

  • Squats – 5 sets of 3 reps. Perform two warm-up sets of 5 reps, followed by 3 work sets of 3 reps, using approximately 70-75% of your one-rep maximum.
  • Power Cleans – 5 sets of 3 reps. Use the same set/rep format as the squats.
  • Overhead Presses– 5 sets of 3 reps. Same set/rep format as the squats and power cleans.

Focus Portion: Legs

  • Leg Presses – 3 sets of 20 reps
  • Leg Extensions – 3 sets of 20 reps
  • Lying Leg Curls – 3 sets of 20 reps
  • Standing Calf Raises (machine or barbell) – 2 sets of 30-50 reps

Day Three

High Frequency Portion

  • Squats – 5 sets of 3 reps. Perform two warm-up sets of 5 reps, followed by 3 work sets of 3 reps, using approximately 60-65% of your one-rep maximum. Less weight is used on this day because of the heavy leg training on Day Two.
  • Deadlifts– 5 sets of 3 reps. Use the same set/rep format as the squats.
  • Barbell Bench Presses or Incline Bench Presses – 5 sets of 3 reps. Same set/rep format as the squats and deadlifts.

Focus Portion: Back and Shoulders

  • Lat Pulldowns – 4 sets of 10 reps
  • Bent-Over Rows – 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Dumbbell Pullovers – 2 sets of 20 reps
  • Lateral Raises – 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Front Raises – 3 sets of 10 reps

Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of this program:

    1. Train hard and consistent on this program for 4 weeks. On the 5th week, take a “down” training week: perform the high frequency portion of all of the workouts but omit all of the “focus” portions. On the 6th week, resume training hard for another 4 weeks, before taking another down week on the 11th week of training. On the 12th week of training, it would be a good idea to switch to another program.
    2. Increase the weight being used whenever possible on all of the “focus” exercises.
    3. Remember, you should always feel refreshed and invigorated after the high frequency sets. At this point of the workout you should be “fired up” for the focus sets.
    4. Train hard on the “focus” sets but still stop one or two reps shy of muscular failure.
    5. Eat big; this program is designed for mass building, not for getting in contest shape.

Advanced HFFT Program

This one has you training 5 consecutive days before taking a day off. The most popular days would be Monday thru Friday, then take the weekends off. The other difference is that you will now use different rep schemes on different days of your high frequency portion.

Day One

High Frequency Portion

  • Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps. Perform 5 progressively heavier sets of 5 reps. The last set should be a little tough, but you should still have no problem getting all 5 reps.
  • Deadlifts – 5 sets of 5 reps. As with the squats, perform 5 progressively heavier sets.

Focus Portion: Chest

  • Barbell Bench Presses – 5 sets of 10 reps
  • Wide Grip Dips – 4 sets of maximum reps
  • Incline Dumbbell Bench Presses – 4 sets of 15 reps

Day Two

High Frequency Portion

  • Squats – 2 sets of 20-25 reps. These sets should give you a slight pump, but should not be done with enough weight as to be taxing on your body.
  • Dumbbell Bench Presses – 2 sets of 20-25 reps. Perform these the same as the squats.

Focus Portion: Back

  • Wide Grip Chins – 3 sets of maximum reps
  • One-Arm Dumbbell Rows – 4 sets of 12-15 reps (each arm)
  • Dumbbell Pullovers – 2 sets of 30-40 reps

Day Three

High Frequency Portion

  • Barbell Bench Presses – 5 sets of 2 reps. Perform 5 progressively heavier sets of 2 reps. The last set should be done with 80-85% of your one-rep maximum.
  • Dumbbell Deadlifts – 5 sets of 5 reps. Perform 5 progressively heavier sets of 5 reps. The last set should be with about 70-75% of your one-rep maximum.

Focus Portion: Legs

  • Leg Presses – 3 sets of 20-30 reps
  • Leg Extensions – 4 sets of 20-30 reps
  • Lying Leg Curls – 4 sets of 20-30 reps
  • Sissy Squats – 2 sets of maximum reps
  • Standing Calf Raises (machine or barbell) – 2 sets of 30-50 reps
  • Donkey Calf Raises – 2 sets of maximum reps

Day Four

High Frequency Portion

  • Bodyweight Squats – 2 sets of 50-100 reps. Your legs will probably be pretty sore on this day, but these 2 sets will help them recover.
  • Push Ups – 5 sets of 10-20 reps
  • Close Grip Chins – 5 sets of 3 to 5 reps. None of these reps should be anywhere close to failure. Each repetition should be strong and powerful.

Focus Portion: Shoulders

  • Military Presses – 5 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Dumbbell Lateral Raises – 3 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Seated Dumbbell Presses – 3 sets of 10-12 reps

Day Five

High Frequency Portion

  • Squats – 10-12 sets of 2 reps. These should be performed with about 50-60% of your one-rep maximum.
  • Dumbbell Bench Presses – 10-12 sets of 2 reps. Use the same set/rep format as the squats.
  • Deadlifts – 8 sets of 1 rep. Use approximately 70% of your one-rep maximum on all sets. Work on every single rep being strong and powerful.

Focus Portion: Arms

  • Barbell Curls supersetted with Skullcrushers – 5 sets of 10-12 reps on each exercise
  • Seated Dumbbell Curls supersetted with Rope Pushdowns – 4 sets of 15-20 reps on each exercise

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of this advanced program:

    1. This program is strictly for advanced lifters. Do not try it until you are ready.
    2. Remember, you should always feel fresh and invigorated after the high frequency portions of the workouts. On Days 4 and 5, you should feel decidedly better after you finish the high frequency portion than when you started the session.
    3. On the focus portion of the workouts, train increasingly harder for 3 weeks before taking a complete break from the focus portions on the 4th week. For instance, on Week One stop each set several reps shy of failure. On Week Two, stop each set only one rep shy of muscular failure. And on Week Three, take every single set of all focus portion sets to complete momentary muscular failure. On Week Four, only perform the high frequency portion of all workouts.

Conclusion

Give these workouts an honest try for a few months, and you won’t be disappointed at the results. They might not be what you are used to doing, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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