This is a first of a series of articles that will focus on what I call “hybrid training.” Unlike some – but not all of the material – on this blog, this series will focus on specifically on bodybuilding. And by “bodybuilding,” I simply mean the kind of training that I believe most guys (and gals) are interested in: building shapely muscle, adding muscle mass, keeping their bodyfat relatively low. I other words: looking good.
Hybrid Chest Training
Bodybuilding for the 21st Century and Beyond
“Hybrid - a composite of mixed origin. Complex, composite - a conceptual whole made up of complicated and related parts.”
There was a time when bodybuilders trained in one, and only one, fashion. Of course, in the early days – the “Golden Age” if you will, the age of Steve Reeves, the age of the original “Muscle Beach”, the age when bodybuilders engaged in “physical development” – this wasn’t the case. In those days, the men who roamed the sands of southern California consumed their days not just with pumping ponderous amount of iron, but with increasing their flexibility and their agility, and with building muscles that (as they say now) were “functional.” But that early “hybrid-ism” gave way to the ‘70s, the ‘80s, and the ‘90s – and with each increasing decade, bodybuilders focused more and more on “specificity”. They realized that if they focused all of their attention on training in the gym – training that was performed predominately with cables, pulleys, machines, and other fixed planes of motion – and if they did little outside of the gym other than consume enormous quantities of “good” protein and carbs, take boatloads of anabolic steroids, and then “relax” as much as possible, that they would build heaping amounts of muscle mass.
Enter the 21st century: Things began to change.
“Functional” training – though the people who uttered it only vaguely knew what the hell it was – became the vogue thing.
The strength sports – powerlifting and strongman – gave way to Crossfit and MMA. (And the four seemed to have formed a sort of uneasy, sometimes unknowing, alliance. The kind of trainees who enjoy engaging in any one of these sports probably have the kind of psyche that would also enjoy any of the others.)
And in the midst of all of this, bodybuilders began to realize something: If they engaged in some form of training other than just bodybuilding – be it Crossfit, Westside-style powerlifting, or “strongman” style training – their bodybuilding workouts became all the more effective. Many bodybuilders of today – whether they call themselves this or not, or whether they even know it or not – are now “hybrid” bodybuilders.
Hybrid Training Outlined
The “style” of training I’m going to recommend in this series may not (and sometimes it may) be the kind of training that most of these “hybrid” trainees perform, but it is the kind of training that I believe to be the most effective for building muscle, for burning bodyfat; in short, for looking good naked!
First, we are going to take a look at the kind of training that needs to be performed on a steady basis for these workouts to be effective.
The lifter who wants to build the most amount of (shapely) muscle in the shortest amount of time needs to do adhere to these following integral factors:
1. The bodybuilder needs to train as frequently as possible while being as fresh as possible. This means that a fine line must be walked between overtraining and undertraining. This means also training each muscle group every 72 to 96 hours, although sometimes it could mean training every 48 hours, and sometimes it could mean waiting more than 96 hours before training again (especially if the bodybuilder has put him/herself in a purposeful state of overtraining).
2. The bodybuilder needs to get a good “pump” in the majority of his/her workouts.
3. The bodybuilder needs to average around 100 reps per muscle group. These 100 reps should be achieved by performing a moderate to high number of sets with a moderate number of repetitions. 10 sets of 10 reps is the most obvious choice (the math’s certainly the easiest). Personally, I would prefer if the bodybuilder perform 12 sets of 8 reps or 16 sets of 6 reps. In other words, I don’t think you can go wrong with 12 to 16 sets of 6 to 8 reps per bodypart.
4. This form of training should not be concerned with training to the point of “momentary muscular failure” or with various forms of “intensity techniques.” That sort of training should be used sparingly.
5. The bodybuilder should – instead of using intensity techniques – focus on making each set of each rep as explosive as possible. (We’ll get to this in more detail a little later).
6. The bodybuilder needs to pick exercises that work more than just one bodypart at a time. The more the body “moves through space” during an exercise, the more productive that particular exercise is.
7. In addition to these “bang-for-your-buck” exercises, the ‘builder also needs to make sure that he/she is squatting, deadlifting (in all of its various ‘guises), and overhead pressing on a regular basis.
Okay, if that’s what you should be doing the majority of the training time, the hybrid bodybuilder using my system also needs to do workouts that focus on the following factors:
- 1. “Strongman” training. This doesn’t have to be complex. It simply means that some training days should focus on stuff such as farmer’s walks, tire flipping, sled dragging, sandbag training, and/or the prowler.
- 2. Explosive training, also known as the “dynamic effort” method. These training days are set aside exclusively for speed. Multiple sets of low reps using only 50-60% of a one-rep maximum should be used.
- 3. Maximal effort training. These workouts focus on working up to a maximum triple, double, or single on one or more lifts.
- 4. Multiple sets of low reps. This should be the second most-often used form of training (after the 12 to 16 sets of 6 to 8 reps workouts). These workouts should consist of multiple sets (15 to 20) of low reps (5 or lower).
The remainder of this piece will focus on what several weeks of chest workouts might look like when training hybrid-style, but first I want to go into a little more detail about speed training, or why you should at least attempt to move a weight as fast as possible throughout each and every rep. (Fred Hatfield coined the term “compensatory acceleration training” or C.A.T., for short.)
I could attempt to explain this myself – something I’ve done in other articles in the past – but for this article, I want you to read the words of Scott Abel (one of the best trainers in the world when it comes to putting muscle mass on people and making them look good). He’s a firm believer in moving the weight as fast as possible. Here, he explains his reasons:
“Alan Cosgrove once said that although methods are many, principles are few. What an insightful statement. What I see, however, is that these "methods” are so varied that they're violating key fundamental principles.
The result is that you the trainee aren't getting results from your gym time by following questionable methods that fly in the face of real world principles.
This is the frustrating thing for me. I train people in the real world. I'm not sure what's being taught at certification courses these days, but what is interpreted as "principles" is faulty at best. In this article I want to use a real world example for those of you training to gain size, muscle, and thickness, and have the mistaken belief that this is accomplished with "max weights." This is another term I have trouble with as it's quite misleading as we will see.
The other day I received an E-mail from a client, who sounded a little confused. It seems that a so-called "personal trainer" walked by while my client was training, and offered this brilliant advice: "You should lighten the load substantially, and do 4-4-1 tempo, to get more out of the set!"
Say what? My client was confused because I had advised to lift explosively, regardless of rep range. So who was right?
Let's take a look. If I lift 100 pounds for 5 reps, and you lift 100 pounds for 5 reps; I do 5 reps in about 5 seconds, you use the tempo above and take about 30 seconds to lift it. We both performed the same amount of work. But here's a question for you: whose set required more power? Whose set placed a higher metabolic demand on his body? The answer should be obvious. My set, of course.
Power, folks, is a rudimentary principle expressed in many ways, but is essential to training for size, strength, thickness, etc. The simple basic premise is that it takes more power to move a weight in one second than it does to move it in two seconds. Over the course of a workout this is seen as an expression of more work in the same amount of time, or the same amount of work in less time. These are all expressions of the principle of power. You'll notice, of course, that the "method" of tempo suggested above by the moron "personal trainer" violates this principle.
Next question. In the above example which one of us achieved the most overload? The answer is that it's a trick question. If that 100 pounds is a weight we are used to performing, then neither of us achieved overload for that set. Therefore, the advice of lightening a load you can already do explosively and take 4 times as long to do it, is faulty logic that does not follow basic principles. It means negating max load, and therefore negating the overload principle in general. This is just one example of "methods" being not only many, but also mistaken.
Now if you follow this so far, then you may be thinking that maximum load is therefore the way to abide by the Overload Principle. Well yes, but only if you understand max load. I want you to read the next sentence a few times and let it sink in before we continue.
Max load is not the same thing as max weight.
Why don't most people get this? I blame the industry for detailing external cues as the be all and end all of performance. How much you "can" lift is not the deciding factor. The deciding factor is how much stress a muscle endures as overload.”
Chest Training Hybrid-Style
Here are several weeks of workouts the focus on my version of hybrid training. Keep in mind – as with all of my programs – these are not to set in stone. These are examples of what your training should look like over the course of several weeks.
1. Incline Dumbbell Bench Presses: 5 sets of 6 reps
2. Flat Barbell Bench Presses (wide grip): 4 sets of 6 reps
3. Wide Grip Dips: 4 sets of 8 reps
4. Incline Dumbbell Flyes: 3 sets of 8 reps
1. Flat Bench Flyes: 4 sets of 8 reps
2. Cable Crossovers: 4 sets of 8 reps
3. Incline Dumbbell Bench Presses: 8 sets of 6 reps
1. Flat Dumbbell Bench Presses: 12 sets of 3 reps (use approximately 60% of your one-rep maximum)
1. One-Arm Incline Dumbbell Bench Presses: 4 sets of 8 reps (each arm)
2. Bench Presses to the Neck: 4 sets of 8 reps
3. Gironda Dips: 3 sets of 10 reps
Sunday (Multiple Sets of Low Reps):
1. Bottom-Position Bench Presses: 15 sets of 3 reps (using 85-90% of your one-rep maximum)
2. Incline Barbell Bench Presses: 10 sets of 3 reps (using 85-90% of your one-rep maximum
Wednesday (Maximal Effort):
1. Flat Barbell Bench Presses (medium grip): Work up over progressively heavier doubles to a maximum double.
1. Feet-Elevated Push Ups: 10 sets of 10 reps
At this point, you could actually repeat this whole series of workouts beginning with the next time you trained chest. Or you could, of course, elect to do a few weeks of something completely different.
Also, one thing that we didn’t get around to in this article was “strongman” training. In the next installment, we’ll discuss hybrid-style leg training, which can make for some even more innovative – and even slightly off-the-wall – workout sessions.