Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Classic Bodybuilding: High-Volume, High-Frequency Training

     
Matthew Sloan does real bodybuilding workouts at 16 years old, and it shows!
    The other day I received an email from a reader who stumbled across my article on "Increasing Work Capacity."  Apparently, this particular gentleman had come across it while perusing some forum-or-another—in one of the many "hardcore bodybuilding forums"—that was discussing the article.  Basically, to sum it up, he took me to task for "daring" to suggest that drug-free bodybuilders could possibly perform such hard work as I suggested for the advanced lifters in my post.
     I, politely as I could, explained my reasonings.  I explained how drug-free bodybuilders could certainly work up to the amount of work I suggested and, not only survive it, but actually thrive on it.  When I was finished with my reply, I hit the "send" button, and then began to lament inwardly, thinking to myself, "Where have all the real bodybuilders gone?"
     I thought of the "old-time" bodybuilders—largely "drug free" guys—who built awesome physiques by doing far more work than I recommended in "Increasing Work Capacity".  I thought about the great bodybuilding writer George Turner, and wondered what he would think if he were still alive?
     Turner had this to say 20 years ago: "What the hell is going on in American bodybuilding?  Where have all the big guys gone?  I don't mean the steroid types who are big and strong periodically (while they're on the drugs) and then after the show stop training, and then get fat (or skinny) and try to relocate their training drive—and their nuts.  I'm talking about the real bodybuilders, the ones who are in the gym month in and month out, year after year, and who give hard, serious training all they've got.  The ones who can't imagine doing without the deep satisfaction that goes with a great, gut-busting three-hour workout.  I'm talking about the real bodybuilders who do it because they love it."
Marvin Eder - a "classic" bodybuilder who thrived on an immense amount of work

     But maybe not all is lost.  When Turner wrote those words in an IronMan magazine in 1995, Mentzer-style H.I.T. training—and its various offshoots, crap like "Power Factor Training", for instance—was all the rage.  Maybe, bodybuilders such as the one who wrote me not withstanding, there are guys nowadays who are ready for the kind of real training that Turner and other old-timers thrived on.
     What kind of workouts am I talking about?  Here are the kind of workouts that Turner said top bodybuilders used back in the '40s and '50s when, contrary to what many these days may think, bodybuilders trained much harder than the ones nowadays:
     "Consider Roy Ledas and Buddy Pryor doing endless seated presses with 125-pound dumbbells when neither one of them weighed more than 170, or Doug Strahl and George Sheffield working out for 5 hours a day, 6 days a week.  I remember the New Yorkers Lou Degni, Marvin Eder, and my buddy Dominic Juliani training Monday through Friday in the gym and on Sunday doing chins and dips on the beach for endless sets of up to 50 reps (that's right, 50 reps) and Chuck Ahrens training arms and shoulders for 4 hours, 3 times a week, and doing standing triceps French presses for 5 or 6 reps with a 315-pound Olympic bar.
     "At the time, I trained everything from the abs down for 54 sets on one day and my entire upper body for 90 sets the following day, often working out 10 or 11 days in a row before instinctively taking a day off.  It was nothing out of the ordinary.  I was training at about the same level as every other real bodybuilder.  We were used to it, as we worked up to it for years.  We didn't have to take something to make us want to train.  We loved it!  Now, I hear about people hitting one bodypart per day, taking a week to work the entire body.  What kind of bullshit is that?  Get in condition for crying out loud; don't get everything out of a syringe."
The aforementioned "buddy" of George Turner—Domini Juliani

     For those of you wondering what it might take to get in the sort of condition Turner was talking about, you could begin by following my advice in the "Increasing Work Capacity" article.  Here are my recommendations from that post:


     The best form of full-body, three-days-per-week training for the beginner, is the Heavy-Light-Medium program.  I’m not going to go into all of the details here, as there are plenty of posts and/or articles on this blog where I highlight what a good full-body, H-L-M workout should look like.  What I do want to touch upon, however, is how you increase workload using the H-L-M system.  At first, the most obvious thing that needs to occur is you need to get stronger.  Strength should readily increase using H-L-M when you are doing it properly.  You should not add sets, add extra exercises, or increase the time of your workout in any other fashion if you have not increased your strength.  However, once you have been on the program for several months – and are noticeably stronger – at this point you do want to increase sets and/or add extra exercises.  Begin by adding sets.  After that, you can add exercises.  And then, finally, you can even add an extra day of training by adding another “light” day.

Now, let’s look at what an H-L-M program should look like as you increase your workload over a year or two of training.  Here is what a typical beginning program should look like:
Heavy Day:
Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps
Bench presses – 5 sets of 5 reps
Deadlifts – 5 sets of 5 reps
Barbell Curls – 3 sets of 8 reps
Ab work
Light Day:
Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps
Overhead Presses – 5 sets of 5 reps
Good Mornings – 5 sets of 5 reps
Ab Work
Medium Day:
Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps
Incline Bench Presses – 5 sets of 5 reps
Power Cleans – 5 sets of 5 reps
Dumbbell Curls – 3 sets of 12 reps
Ab work

After a few months of training, and assuming significant gains in strength have occurred, the program should look something like this:
Heavy Day:
Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Bench presses – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Deadlifts – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Barbell Curls – 5 sets of 8 reps
Ab work
Light Day:
Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps
Overhead Presses – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Good Mornings – 5 sets of 5 reps
Ab Work
Medium Day:
Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Incline Bench Presses – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Power Cleans – 8 sets of 5 reps
Dumbbell Curls – 5 sets of 12 reps
Ab work

After a few more months of training, the template should look something like this:
Heavy Day:
Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Walking lunges – 4 sets of 10 reps
Bench presses – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Weighted Dips – 4 sets of 8 reps
Deadlifts – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Barbell Curls – 5 sets of 8 reps
Ab work
Light Day:
Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Overhead Presses – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Good Mornings – 5 sets of 5 reps
Ab Work
Medium Day:
Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Front Squats – 4 sets of 10 reps
Incline Bench Presses – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Flat Dumbbell Bench Presses – 4 sets of 8 reps
Power Cleans – 8 sets of 5 reps
Dumbbell Curls – 5 sets of 12 reps
Ab work

And, once again, after a few more months of training, the lifting template should look something like this:
Heavy Day:
Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Walking lunges – 4 sets of 10 reps
Bench presses – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Weighted Dips – 4 sets of 8 reps
Deadlifts – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Weighted Chins – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of max reps
Barbell Curls – 5 sets of 8 reps
Skullcrushers – 5 sets of 8 reps
Ab work
Light Day:
Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Bulgarian “split” squats – 4 sets of 12 reps (each leg)
Overhead Presses – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Seated behind-the-neck presses – 4 sets of 8 reps
Power Snatches – 5 sets of 3 reps
Good Mornings – 5 sets of 5 reps
Ab Work
Medium Day:
Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Front Squats – 4 sets of 10 reps
Incline Bench Presses – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Flat Dumbbell Bench Presses – 4 sets of 8 reps
Deficit deadlifts – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Power Cleans – 8 sets of 5 reps
Dumbbell Curls – 5 sets of 12 reps
Ab work

And, finally, after a few more months, you will once again need to increase the amount of work you’re performing.  At this point, your workout should look something like this:
Heavy Day:
Squats – 8 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps
Walking lunges – 4 sets of 10 reps
Bench presses – 8 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps
Weighted Dips – 4 sets of 8 reps
Deadlifts – 8 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps
Weighted Chins – 7 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of max reps
Barbell Curls – 5 sets of 8 reps
Skullcrushers – 5 sets of 8 reps
Ab work
Light Day:
Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Bulgarian “split” squats – 6 sets of 12 reps (each leg)
Overhead Presses – 8 sets of 5 reps, 2 sets of 8 reps
Seated behind-the-neck presses – 4 sets of 8 reps
Power Snatches – 8 sets of 3 reps
Good Mornings – 5 sets of 5 reps
Ab Work
Medium Day:
Squats – 8 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps
Front Squats – 4 sets of 10 reps
Incline Bench Presses – 8 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps
Flat Dumbbell Bench Presses – 4 sets of 8 reps
Deficit deadlifts – 8 sets of 5 reps, 4 sets of 8 reps
Power Cleans – 8 sets of 5 reps
Dumbbell Curls – 7 sets of 12 reps
Ab work

     

3 comments:

  1. One- great read Sloan
    Two- your son is jacked!
    Three- ive recently started squatting 6 days/week working up to a heavy single, according to almost everyone at Power House Gym (and most internet sources) my legs should have already fallen off, my CNS should have exploded and I should have become ill....instead form has never been better and my front squat and oly squat areboth at an all-time high.

    If I hadnt been a fan of yours I never would have even considered such a program. FWIW Turner was built like a tank well into his 60's and had a wonderful way eith words. ..

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the feedback, Jason. Glad you liked it.

    The results you describe from your squat workouts seem very analogous to most people who SERIOUSLY take on such high-frequency squatting. Perhaps the Bulgarians actually knew what they were talking about after all.

    My son will be glad to know he was called "jacked", and, yes, Turner had an excellent physique in his '60s that would have been the envy of men half his age.

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