Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Mass-Building, Split-Training Ultimate!

The Mass-Building, Split Training Ultimate!
Creating the Ultimate “Split” Workout Program
Within the last few weeks I’ve been receiving e-mails that go something like this: “Okay, Sloan, I get it! Full-body workouts are perfectly capable of building muscle mass—hell, they might even be the best muscle building workouts!—but the problem is this: I don’t enjoy full-body workouts. So... if you were to design a split workout program for someone, what would it look like?”
Before we go any further, let me say this: I am not “opposed” to split training programs. I just think for the average lifter/bodybuilder who has limited time to lift weights—and also doesn’t mind a little something called effort—full-body workouts are the best way to go.
However, I also understand that there are a lot of serious lifters who love following split workout programs. And—since you’re not going to stick with a workout program that you don’t enjoy doing (not for long, at least)—I almost always recommend that these guys (or gals) follow a split workout.
And just what kind of split program do I recommend? Usually something that looks a heck of a lot like the following regimen.
(Note: This workout is primarily aimed at gaining muscle mass—not strength. Yes, you will gain strength with it, but that’s not its primary goal—despite some of the low reps that are utilized. In other words, this is meant for bodybuilders; powerlifters, don’t complain.)

The Science of Gaining Massive Muscles

Before we get to the actual workout, you’re going to have to allow me to do a little explaining on just why I think this workout is so effective. (And allow me to unleash my inner bodybuilding geek.)
For years, powerlifters, Olympic lifters, and strength coaches in the Western world thought the best way to build mass was with something called linear periodization. Basically, this involved focusing on different aspects of strength training throughout the year. In other words, an athlete would work on building muscular endurance for a couple of months (one phase). For the second phase, the lifter would then focus on hypertrophy training. The third phase would focus on power. And, finally, in the fourth phase, the lifter would concentrate on building maximal strength. All of us in the West said, “Hey, this linear periodization is really damn good.”
Then came the Russians. Russian strength coaches and researchers were determined to find the fastest, most sure-fire way to produce rapid strength gains. They tried several different systems of training. And they decided that linear periodization, for all intents and purposes, sucked. With a capital S! Big Time!
The Russians saw no reason to focus on different aspects of training throughout the year. Instead, they thought that all the different methods should be trained each and every week. This system is called conjugate periodization.
One thing they did discover about conjugate periodization, however, was that lifters shouldn’t try to combine different methods during the same workout. In other words, one day should be devoted toward developing maximal strength, one day should be devoted toward building speed and power, and so forth. When methods were combined in the same workout, results were lessened.
Too bad it took us so long to finally listen! But then—thank the bodybuilding gods—along came Louie Simmons to save us from our linear ways.

The Powerlifting Factor

Conjugate periodization became popular in powerlifting due to Louie Simmons and the Westside Barbell Club. Westside training involves maxing out on an exercise for a week or two and then switching to another exercise. The important factor is that they hit a one or three rep max every week. This method of training is done once each week for upper body and once for the lower body. Another day of the week is devoted toward training for speed—9-12 sets of 2-3 reps using 50-60% of the lifter’s one-rep maximum.
At this point, you may be wondering what all this talk of commies and powerlifting has to do with our mass-building, split workout program. It just happens to be that the Westside template is really good for building muscle mass—not just strength—as long as a few adjustments are made.
The first adjustment is that instead of a “speed” day, you will use a “pump” day. Usually, if a muscle is capable of a good pump, muscle growth will be a result.
The second adjustment is that on the “maximal strength” day, you will limit your maxes to either a 7 rep max, a 5 rep max, or (at most) a 3 rep max.
This program is a four days per week routine. You will be training your upper body on two days per week and your lower body on the other two.
The Split Training Ultimate Workout Program

Day One—Upper Body Pump Day

1. Bench presses, dumbbell bench presses, parallel bar dips, or incline bench presses: 8 sets of 10 reps. Pick a weight where you can get about twenty reps before reaching failure. Use this weight for all 8 sets. Take only about two minutes of rest between each set. Once you have been training on the same exercise for a few weeks, change to one of the others.
2. Wide grip chins, bent-over rows, or wide grip lat pulldowns: 8 sets of 10 reps. Use the same technique as the first exercise.
3. Barbell curls or dumbbell curls supersetted with skullcrushers or triceps pushdowns: 5 sets of 10 reps (each exercise). Take each set one or two reps shy of failure. Take about a one-minute rest between each superset.
4. Lateral raises, dumbbell presses (seated or standing), or military presses (barbell): 4 sets of 10 reps. Your shoulders should be pretty pumped from all of the other exercises. This is the reason you are only going to do 4 sets.

Day Two—Lower Body Maximal Strength

1. Squats, Olympic-style squats, box squats, bottom-position squats, or deadlifts (sumo or conventional style): Work up to a max set of 7, 5, or 3 repetitions. Pick one of these exercises and work up over at least 5 sets until you reach your maximum weight for your repetition range. In other words, if you chose squats, and your max set was 375 for 3 reps, your set/rep sequence would look like this: 135x5, 225x3, 275x3, 315x3, 350x3, 375x3, 405x2 (lifter reached failure on third rep with 405). Stick with the same exercise for two to three weeks, attempting to break your record each week, and then rotate to another exercise.
2. Lunges: 5 sets of 5 reps. Perform all 5 sets with the same weight. Only the last two sets should be really taxing.
3. Incline sit-ups: 3 sets of 20 reps. Perform these on a steep incline bench.

Day Three—Off

Day Four—Upper Body Maximal Strength

1. Flat bench presses, close-grip bench presses, bottom-position bench presses, close-grip bottom position bench presses, rack lockouts, board presses, or incline bench presses: Work up to a max set of 7, 5, or 3 repetitions. Pick one of these exercises and work up over at least 5 sets until you reach your maximum weight for the chosen repetition range. Your flat bench press workout might look like this: 135x5, 175x5, 225x5, 245x3, 265x3, 280x3, 300x2 (missed the 3rd rep with 300). Stick with the same exercise for at least two to three weeks before rotating to one of the other exercises.
2. Wide grip chins, close grip chins, bent-over rows, or t-bar rows: Work up to a max set of 7, 5, or 3 repetitions. Use the same format as the first exercise.
3. Barbell curls, e-z bar curls, reverse curls, or dumbbell curls: Work up to a max set of 7, 5, or 3 repetitions. Use the same set/rep format as the first two exercises.

Day Five—Off

Day Six—Lower Body Pump Day

1. Squats, front squats, leg presses, or hack squats: 8 sets of 10 reps. Use a weight that allows you about 20 reps before reaching failure. Use this weight for all 8 sets. Take about two minutes rest in between sets. Rotate exercises every few weeks.
2. Leg extensions: 6 sets of 20 reps. Perform these with a weight that will allow you about 30 reps before you would normally reach failure.
3. Leg Curls: 2 sets of 25 reps. You simply won’t need very much hamstring work due to the first exercise in this workout and your lower body maximal strength day.
4. Hanging Leg Raises: 3 sets of 20 reps.
Day Seven—Off

Some Words of Advice

This program actually looks pretty simple, doesn’t it? But don’t be fooled by its simplicity. It’s actually quite tough. The pump days are harder than they look, and you’ll have to really push yourself on the maximal strength days.
If you need work on them, then don’t be afraid to add some calf work on each training day. Standing calf raises, seated raises, and donkey calf raises would all do the trick. Use higher reps on these exercises.
If you want to gain as much mass as possible, then make sure you’re eating enough calories and protein each and every day. This isn’t a pre-contest regimen, so don’t be afraid to eat bread and plenty of red meat, not to mention drink a lot of milk while you’re on this program. Make sure you get enough calories every day, as well. Eat at least 12 times your bodyweight in calories each day. 15 times your bodyweight would be even better.
Final Thoughts
Is this the “ultimate” split workout program? You won’t know until you actually try it.

Alien Mass: The "Director's Cut"

What follows is the unedited version of my last article that was in Planet Muscle magazine. I love PM—it looks great, Everson includes plenty of articles with varying opinions—but when my "Alien Mass" article appeared in it, I was a little disappointed (and not just because Josh Bryant's name was attached it to). PM had changed some of the content to make it more "bodybuilding magazine friendly." What follows is the original draft that I wrote.


Alien Mass
9 Keys for Out-of-this-World Muscle Growth
The movie “Plan 9 From Outer Space” is generally considered the worst movie of all time. That’s saying something when you consider just how many bad movies have come out even in the past year. Well, while “Plan 9” might be a disaster of epic proportions, in this article I’m prepared to unleash my own “Plan 9” alien mass attack—to allow you to grow epic proportions of muscle mass.
Here are 9 keys for outrageous, out-of-this-world muscle growth.

Key #1: Train as Frequently as Possible While Being as Fresh as Possible.

The bottom line (no matter what “style” of training that you adhere to) is that you need to train frequently. You also need to be “as fresh as possible” each time that you train.
Every time that you pump iron a whole slew of good things happens to your muscle cells—especially when you apply proper peri-workout nutrition (but we’ll get around to that in a little bit). A properly executed workout raises testosterone levels, enhances GH levels, and makes your muscle highly susceptible to the proper anabolic environment.
Do you enjoy full-body workouts? Then train 3 days per week using an H-L-M system of training. And if you’re advanced and enjoy full-body workouts, start using an H-L-L-M system, training 4 days per week. (You don’t know what the hell an H-L-L-M system even looks like? Then go immerse your ass in a study of Bill Starr.)
Or perhaps you rather enjoy training each muscle group once per week, obliterating each muscle group with lots of sets, reps, and plenty of intensity techniques? Then train every day, using a one-bodypart-per-day split. This is much better than training 3 days per week, hitting several different muscle groups at each session.
Enjoy splitting your muscle groups but training with less intensity than the above scenario? No problem. Use a 3-on/ 1-off split. Keep your “work” sets limited to 9-10 per muscle group.
Lastly, don’t forget this tidbit: No great bodybuilder ever became great by working out only once or twice per week.

Key #2: Use C.A.T. for the Ultimate Repetition

It was Fred Hatfield—also known as “Dr. Squat”—who coined the term compensatory acceleration training (C.A.T. for short) for a repetition where you move the weight as fast as possible through the concentric range of motion. This doesn’t mean, of course, that the weight necessarily moves fast (though it certainly might with certain styles of training). The point is for you to accelerate the weight as fast as humanly possible (even if you’re going for a one-rep maximum). This kind of training, I believe, is the most effective for long-term muscle growth.

Key #3: Train Heavy and Hard for Your Body Type

The heavier and harder that you train, the better off your muscles are for it. Using C.A.T., pick a weight that has you approaching failure somewhere between the 6th and the 12th repetition. Why the discrepancy in rep ranges? It all depends on your body type. I believe that most training—at least as far as hypertrophy is concerned—should be done with weights that are approximately 80-85% of your one-rep maximum. If you have a lot of fast-twitch muscle fibers, this means you will hit failure somewhere around your 6th repetition. If you’re more of a slow-twitch type, you should be approaching 12 reps or so with the same percentage. And, if you have a mix of muscle fibers, it should be somewhere in between.
Now, I’m not suggesting that all of your training should be performed in your particular repetition zone, but I would advise to do so about 75% of the time.

Key #4: Use a Relatively High-Volume of Training

The amount of volume will obviously depend on just how frequently you plan to train. Just make sure that you use as many sets as your work capacity—and your bodypart split—can handle. Don’t cut yourself short.
And learn to build up your work capacity. Obviously, you shouldn’t start out by performing 15 to 20 sets per bodypart. But you do want to work up to the point where your work capacity can handle that sort of training.

Key #5: Stop Most of Your Sets Shy of Momentary Muscular Failure

For the most part, you don’t want to take your work sets to the point of failure. (There are exceptions, of course. If you’re using a one-bodypart-per-day routine, for instance, then you can afford to throw in a few intensity techniques. Just don’t overdo it.)
When do you want to stop the set? Try stopping when you begin to slow down. If you’re using C.A.T.—and moving the weight as fast as possible throughout the concentric portion of the rep, and you’re training heavy—then stop the set when your repetitions become slow.

Key #6: Do Less Early On in Your Workout So You Can Do More Later

A lot of bodybuilders make the mistake of training too hard at the beginning of their workouts, then burning out too quickly. (This is one of the main problems with typical H.I.T. workouts.) If you enjoy training to failure or doing stuff like forced reps, drop sets, or another of the various intensity techniques, save that for the last 1/4 of your workout.
A typical chest workout using this principle might look something like this:
· Bench presses: 5 sets of 6 to 12 reps (using C.A.T.)
· Incline dumbbell bench presses: 4 sets of 6 to 12 reps (using C.A.T.)
· Weighted Dips: 3 sets of 6 to 12 reps (using C.A.T.)
· Flat Dumbbell Bench Presses: 6 “strip” sets of 10 reps each set, going down the rack.

Key #7: Get Plenty of Rest

When not lifting weights, make sure that you’re getting plenty of rest and recuperation. This means sleeping plenty each night—7 to 9 hours of sleep are good numbers to shoot for. It also means “slowing down.” If your life is too hectic outside of the gym, chances are that you are diminishing the results you will get from your efforts inside of the gym.
Eat your meals slowly. Eat while sitting down at a table, not while on the go. Read a book instead of watching television. And relax. (On a personal note, I’m very keen on meditation—there’s nothing more restorative to your body, mind, and Spirit.)

Key #8: Add “Extra” Workouts

Despite how it sounds, this is not contradictory to key #7. Extra workouts should be “active recovery” sessions. They should be relatively light, should increase your GPP (general physical preparedness), and should make you feel better after you do them compared to when you got started.
Extra workouts of this sort increase your work capacity and aid in recovery between your intense sessions.

Key #9: Take Advantage of Peri-Workout Nutrition

Peri-workout nutrition refers to what you eat or drink prior, during, and after your workout. If utilized properly, peri-workout nutrition can be the key to massive muscle growth.
Here’s what I recommend so that you can ensure that your workouts become nothing more than massive muscle-building stimulators:
· Eat a meal consisting of about 40 to 45 grams of complex carbohydrates and about 30 grams of protein one hour prior to your training session. This meal can be whole food, a protein/carb drink, or a meal replacement bar. (My personal favorite choice here is one of the Met-rx “Big 100” meal replacement bars—just saying.)
· At the onset of your workout session, drink a protein/carb drink that contains at least 30 grams of protein. Sip on this slowly throughout your training session. (You might want to carry a bottle of water with you, as well. I drink both during my workouts.)
· When you are finished training, consume a post-workout meal that is nearly identical to your pre-workout meal. The only thing you might want to change would be the addition of more carbohydrates to this meal—60 to 70 grams of carbs would not be a bad idea in order to replenish lost glycogen stores.


There you have it: 9 out-of-this-world keys for growing gargantuan mounds of muscle. While “Plan 9 from Outer Space” might be the worst movie ever made, these 9 keys might just be the best this world—or any other—has ever tried when it comes to gaining alien amounts of mass.