Monday, October 21, 2013

Hybrid Leg Training

Hybrid Leg Training
21st Century Bodybuilding for Awesome Leg Growth

     I love training legs—always have, always will.  I love it because it’s what separates the men from the boys.  I love it because it creates a euphoric pump (when doing bodybuilding workouts, at least) that can’t be “beat” by the pump that’s achieved in any other sort of training.  I love it because leg training will add muscle everywhere.
     About twenty years ago, I attended a seminar with Tom Platz.  He was back in awesome shape at the time, and when I saw him, he had just finished doing some photo shoots with several of the top magazines—namely Iron Man and MuscleMag International.  (I wrote for both of those magazines back then, which made it even cooler, and the rumor mill was saying that Platz was going to get back into competition—Masters Olympia, or something of the sort.  He never did compete, but he still looked unbelievable at his age—huge, shredded, vascular; in a word: freaky!)  Anyway, there were only ten or fifteen of us at the seminar—Platz was a celebrity to myself, at only 20 years of age, but most people in Pelham, Alabama had zero clue who he was—and all kinds of questions were bantered back and forth.  Questions about diet, his extreme form of training, drugs, and whatnot, but I won’t ever forget when one of the bodybuilders asked him what he does for his big arms.  (Platz—in pictures—may not appear to have had large arms, but while they were not aesthetically pleasing, they were big as hell.)  Platz’s reply: “Lots of squats.”  He then was asked about his back training, his chest training, and so on.  To each question, he replied that the key to his upper body mass was his lower body training.  Voluminous lower body training.  Out-of-this-world lower body training.
     In a word:  If you want to be big, if you want to look awesome, you have to make sure that you put the hard work in with hard-as-hell leg workouts.
     Which finally brings us around to the subject of this article: hybrid leg workouts.   (Before we go any further: If you haven’t done so, make sure you read the first two installments of my “hybrid training” before continuing with the rest of this one, otherwise you could be a little confused.)
Massive Leg Training—Hybrid Style!
     For a bodybuilder who wants outrageous muscle growth in his (her) lower extremities, a certain form of training needs to be followed the majority of the training sessions.  Here are my “rules”[1] for a typical (even though there’s nothing “typical” about these workouts) training session involving the quads, hamstrings, and calves (primarily quads):
  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 leg workouts.  When performing a “bodybuilding” workout—as opposed to the “hybrid” options that we’ll discuss shortly—your quadriceps and hamstrings should be as “pumped” as possible.  Also, there’s no reason to train past the point of being pumped.  In other words, once the pump has been achieved, the workout can then cease at that point.
  3. A minimum of 100 reps should be performed for the legs during a “typical” workout.  Earlier, when discussing hybrid split training, I mentioned that one should average 100 reps per muscle group.  But the legs are not the other muscle groups.  They are a unique breed.  They respond well to VOLUME… and lots of it!
  Okay, if that’s what you should be doing the majority of the training sessions, here are the rules for what needs to be followed the rest of the time.
1.    Some of the workouts should focus on “strongman” training.  The legs—not to mention the entire body—respond really well to sled dragging, pushing the Prowler, flipping tires, etc.
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 Workouts
     Here is an example of several weeks of workouts using the “hybrid” system.  Each week you will perform two workouts.  Mondays and Thursdays, Sundays and Wednesdays, etc. are the optimal way to set it up.  (Remember, these workouts are just “examples”—unless I specifically say to do it, I don’t want any readers following my programs to a “T”.)
Week One
Day One (typical):
  1. Squats: 10 sets of 10 reps
  2. Walking Lunges: 5 sets of 20 reps (each leg)
Day Two (strongman):
  1. Sled Drags: 5 sets of approximately one minute each.  Choose a weight where one minute of sled dragging is very hard.
  2. Farmer’s Walks: 5 sets of approximately one minute each.
  3. Tire Flips: 5 sets of 10-12 flips
Week Two
Day One (typical):
  1. Bulgarian Squats: 5 sets of 20 reps (each leg)
  2. Reverse Lunges: 5 sets of 20 reps (each leg)
  3. Front Squats: 5 sets of 20 reps
Day Two (dynamic):
  1. Box Squats: 12 sets of 3 reps
  2. Deficit Sumo Deadlifts: 10 sets of 2 reps
Week Three
Day One (typical):
  1. Barbell Hack Squats: 6 sets of 6 to 8 reps
  2. Bottom Position Squats: 6 sets of 6 to 8 reps
  3. Sissy Squats: 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps
Day Two (maximal effort):
  1. Squats: Work up over progressively heavier triples until you hit a max triple.
  2. Conventional Deadlifts: Work up over progressively heavier doubles until you hit a max double.
Week Four
Day One (typical):
  1. Front Squats: 8 sets of 8 reps
  2. Olympic-style Pause Squats: 8 sets of 8 reps
Day Two (multiple sets of low reps):
  1. Bottom Position Squats: 15 sets of 3 reps
  2. Rack Lockouts (1/4 squats): 10 sets of 5 reps

     That’s it for this installment of “Hybrid Training”.[2]  Until next time, remember the keys to gaining massive amounts of muscle (in your legs or otherwise): eat big, lift big, be big!

[1] You will notice that these “rules” differ slightly from those I outlined in my “Hybrid Chest Training” piece.  This is because leg training—and the quadriceps in particular—require a different form of training than the muscle of your upper body.
[2] If you are at all confused as to how you should be training—or if “Hybrid training” is even for you—read my previous post entitled “My Training Philosophy.”

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

New Planet Muscle Article on "Strongman-style Training"

     This is a little belated—should have done it a couple of weeks ago—but my latest article is out in Planet Muscle magazine (October, 2013).  It is on "strongman-style" training, replete with a few weeks of workouts to get you started if you want to begin such a thing.
     Here I am—in my study, semi-naked as usual when writing or engaging in creative endeavors—holding up the cover:
     And here is what the article looks like inside the magazine:

     To whet your appetite just a little bit more, here's a brief excerpt:
     Most of you reading this will probably never compete in a strongman competition, but the kind of lifting they utilize can be a great way of training for any bodybuilder looking to pack on some muscle mass.
     The program presented here allows you to train as if you were preparing for—or even competing in—a strongman competition.  First, I am going to lay out the parameters of the program.  Second, I will discuss the benefits of training in such a manner.  And third, I will offer an example of what a couple weeks of training should look like.
The Nuts and Bolts of Strongman Muscle
     This program has you training 2 days-per-week.  (No, you did not read that incorrectly.   You will only need 2 “primary” training days each week, though it’s perfectly fine to have 1 or 2 “extra” workouts to aid in recovery and to promote growth—but we’ll get around to that in a little bit.)  The most popular days for lifters is usually Monday and Thursday, but any 2 non-consecutive days will work.
     Each training session will have you performing (at the minimum) 4 exercises.  You will perform a lower body “pushing” movement, a lower body “pulling” movement, an upper body “pushing” movement, and an odd lift at each session.
     On each day, you will pick one of the exercises as your “max effort” movement.  For this exercise, you will work up to a max single.  This exercise will be rotated from at each workout.
     On each day, you will select one exercise as your “max for reps” movement.  After a thorough warm-up, you will select a heavy weight where you would expect to reach failure somewhere between the 5th and the 10th repetition.  (The repetition range doesn’t have to be exact.)  You will take this set to the point of momentary muscular failure.
     On each day, you will select one exercise as your “max for sets” movement.  On this exercise, you will select a weight that is somewhere between 80%-90% of your one-rep maximum.  You will then select a certain number of reps (be it 2, 3, 4, or 5 reps) and you will perform as many sets as possible for the prescribed number of reps that you choose.
     Your last exercise for each day will be an “odd lift.”  This exercise will be either a “distance” exercise while carrying or holding an object, or it will be a “timed” exercise, in which you have to see how long you can hold or carry an object.
     Each workout will be different.  You will constantly rotate exercises for each “event” above.

     If you're interested in reading the rest, make sure you pick up the October issue of PM.  

Monday, October 7, 2013

My Training Philosophy

My Training Philosophy

     I received an email today from a reader who was confused over my training methodology.  He said that he had read over several of my recent articles—ones on Texas Volume Training, my hybrid system, and my few posts on high frequency strength training (including my “Ditillo-inspired” article)—and now he wasn’t sure how it was that he should train.  He felt as if I was saying different things at different times throughout my articles, and that it didn’t make for a cohesive whole—those weren’t his exact words, but you get the drift.
     After several emails back and forth throughout the morning and afternoon, I believe he now understands how he should be training based on his goals and his training experience.  I’m not going to re-hash those email correspondences here, but what I would like to do is set the record straight on how I believe you should be training based on your experience, training time available, and goals.
Starting Out
     I get quite a few emails throughout the month—usually from young men and some teenagers, though sometimes from guys my age or even older—asking me for workout programs.  Most of these trainees have not been working out for any length of time, and they typically have vague goals such as “I want to be as big as possible while being really strong,” or the even more common (but far more horrendous) “I want to have a lot of muscle but be really cut.”  (In the second instance, I would like to respond, “I don’t know what the hell ‘cut’ even is, so I’m not sure I can help you” but typically I refrain from doing so, and set out to provide some decent training information.)
     If this is somewhat familiar to any of you reading this, then realize that the first thing you need to have is a clear goal.  And, to be honest, I don’t have a problem if your goal is to be “really big and strong”—that’s a goal that is attainable.  Of course, you don’t need a goal such as “having muscles and being cut.”  If you’re new to lifting, you don’t need to attempt to “kill two birds with one stone.”  In the lifting world, it’s always better to focus on one bird at a time.
     For those of you starting out, what you need is a basic training program.  Lift 3 days per week on a full-body program, and eat a lot of good protein, fats, and carbs.  Focus on the basics—squat heavy stuff, pick heavy stuff off the ground, drag or carry odd objects, and do some heavy pressing.
     It’s not rocket science.
     My oldest son is 14 years old.  He weighs about 180 pounds.  He can squat over 300 pounds, deadlift over 300 pounds, and he bench presses 225 pounds—not bad numbers for a kid his age who has only been training hard for about 6 to 9 months.  (Not to get off subject, but just to point out the sad state of affairs in strength training in America—most men who have been working out even longer than that aren’t capable of those lifts.)  What does he do for training?  He squats and bench presses twice per week, deadlifts once per week, and does some “odd lifts” on another day.  Here’s a video of him deadlifting 294 recently with relative ease:

     (I’m not going to get into any details of this kind of training for this post.  I have plenty of articles here for you to read if you are in this boat.)
The Intermediate-to-Advanced Lifter
     If you have built up a good degree of strength and/or muscle mass, then the rest of my articles and training programs are geared toward you.  But the training methodology that you choose will be based on your goals and what you enjoy doing.  And this second part—enjoyment—is really important.  Training should not be a chore.  It should be enjoyable and fun.  (And for those of you who don’t think pain and hard work can be fun—sorry, something’s wrong with you!)
     There are, of course, a few things that I think everyone should be doing, no matter which program of mine they choose.  These things are:
  • Training as frequently as possible
  • Training with a moderate to high amount of volume
  • For the most part, avoiding “momentary muscular failure” except toward the end of training sessions
  • Squatting a lot
  • Training with “strongman stuff”
  • Did I say squatting a lot?
     Outside of those few things, the training program you choose should be largely based on your goals and “picking your pleasure”.
     Are you interested solely in the aesthetical aspects of training?  In other words, do you want to look good naked?  (Yes, bodybuilders, I’m talking about you.)  If this is the case, you can’t go wrong with my “hybrid” training.  I think it’s concepts are about as good as it gets when it comes to packing on muscle without necessarily packing on a lot of strength too.
     Is your goal to have a lot of strength and power (with the muscle built more as a side effect of the training)?  Then you should pick something along the lines of my “High Frequency Training for Strength and Power” or my “Texas Volume Training.”  The Texas Volume Training is for lifters who prefer more a “Russian” approach (high frequency, high volume, lower intensity) while the “High Frequency Training” is for those who would prefer a more “Bulgarian” approach (high frequency, high intensity, lower volume).  And I also have some articles on this blog—such as some in my “Ultimate Strength and Power” series—which take more of an “in between” approach with moderate volume, moderate intensity, and moderate frequency.
     Training really doesn’t have to be that complicated, so, please, stop making it that way.