‘The Grass is Always Greener…When You Train Smarter”!
You may not be a homeowner, but bear with me. If you wanted to take a decent lawn and turn it into a badass lawn, you’d need to do a few things to make it happen.
First, you would need to mow it. Cutting the grass would act as a stimulus for it to grow. It spreads seeds and activates the plant to regenerate.
Secondly, you’d need to water it. As we all know, water is a critical nutrient for plants and all living things, and therefore without it, the grass will not grow or survive.
Next, it needs sunlight, another critical nutrient that keeps the grass alive.
Finally, you need to add fertilizer. Think of it as a “supplement” for your lawn, an optional ingredient your lawn could live without, but would surely benefit from if administered correctly.
You’ll notice that out of the four things you can do to increase the health and look of your lawn, only one of them is the stimulant. The other three are all components of adequate recovery!
Some of the same rules of growing a badass lawn will apply to building muscle. The response, or recovery strategy, has to be appropriate for the stimulus, and the stimulus has to be appropriate for the planned recovery strategy in order to yield the targeted response. If you do one without the other, you won’t get anywhere!
If I fire up my lawn mower and mow my lawn every day (stimulus), I’m not only going to look like a meth-head who just hooked up, I’m going to end up with nothing but a giant mound of dirt. And if I only mow twice a month, I’m going to end up with sparse grass and weeds all over my field of dreams!
Now if I mow just like I should, once every five days or so, but don’t get sunlight or water, I’ll end up mowing the same pathetic field of thin gangly grass I started with, getting nowhere.
OK, enough grass analogies. Let’s focus on the weights.
You lift weights as a stimulus to do what? Grow mad amounts of muscle, of course. If you stimulate something, you’ll get a response. The less intense the muscular stimulation, the faster the recovery, while the more intense the stimulation, the longer the recovery.
So when setting up your weight training routine, you need to strategize your appropriate recovery method. So let’s talk about how to do that!
The 4 Laws of Training
Your weight training program is your stimulus. This will determine what you’ll need to do during your recovery phase in order to achieve any kind of growth. If the muscles you target aren’t appropriately stimulated, you won’t achieve the desired effect.
When outlining your program, you’ll need to take a few things into consideration:
- How frequently will you be able to “consistently” hit the weights?
- How much time will you have during each training session?
If you’re limited to three days per week of gym time, then a body-part split is obviously not a good choice for a mass routine. If you can get there five days per week, but are limited to 30 minutes, then I wouldn’t suggest full body training if you’re trying to get huge!
If you know you can get to the gym three or four times per week, but you don’t have any consistency as to which days those are in any given week, then you may need to work with upper and lower body push/pull splits and forget about full body and body-part splits for a while.
Now we’ve all seen the controversies surrounding each method of training and the myriad of haters of a specific training practice. However, all things considered, most of them work and it’s not the method that becomes the problem, but the individual training parameters and execution of those methods.
They all have their place in the hypertrophy department.
It’s how these routines are put together and how much time and effort you take inside and outside of the training program that yield your results, good or bad.
Too much is worthless, and too little is worth even less. Too many guys will show up and absolutely crush a muscle group, only to wait six days to do it all over again. We’ve all seen it. Monday is National Chest Day across America. Roll into any commercial gym around 5:30 PM on a Monday and you’ll have to shoot craps to try and get your shot at using a flat bench. Roll in any other day and you could take a nap on any given chest-orientated machine that’s not being used as a cell phone perch.
FACT – Monday is National Chest Day across America
Somehow, people got the idea that training one muscle group per week was the absolute most effective way to get bigger and stronger. For the average natural trainee, this is absolutely false.
You need to stimulate your muscles frequently and adequately. Once a week won’t cut it, even it you hit it like Hiroshima. You’ll be recovered before your six days are up and your muscles will already have started to atrophy. In order to prevent this, you’ll need to hit those muscles again as soon as recovery has taken place. For the sake of not having to write a book on this topic, I’m going outline a few programs for you at the end of this article. This will help you to increase muscular stimulation frequency, and find appropriate loading parameters within your hypertrophy routine.
I often use Chad Waterbury’s method of loading parameters outline in his book “Muscle Revolution”, and because I appreciate his research and don’t want to steal his lunch money, I’ll leave it up to you to buy the book and read it. It’s a good starting point for learning how to increase muscular stimulation, get adequate recovery time, and how to not destroy the nervous system along the way.
Too many times I hear these gym rats saying crap like, “Slow and controlled…really squeeze it at the top!” or “Ten more sets of over-head triceps kicking flutters! C’mon baby!”
Now I’m sorry, but that’s not what I mean by intensity.
I’m talking about speed. If you’re not putting every ounce of mental fire power behind every rep, you’re not working in a manner that’s going to make you get bigger.
Look at the thighs of a marathon runner. Large? I think not. Now look at the thighs of a sprinter, longer jumper, triple jumper, or speed skater. Large? You bet your Wannabebig ass they are, especially in proportion to the rest of their bodies. Every rep behind the training of these individuals is intense!
Now keep in mind that the speed of the bar doesn’t clarify the speed of the contraction. If you’re working a bench press set and doing reps with 225 pounds, but are capable of 355 pounds, then you’ll be able to move that first load much quicker than you will the latter. However, when under the bar at 355 lbs, you’ll certainly be pushing with more than equal intensity and speed of contraction when performing the heavier set.
Keep in mind the effort and force production you apply when performing every set. Whether you think its light or heavy, you need to give it every ounce of effort you’ve got in you.
Now, on a side note, I’m not as much of an advocate of simply moving the bar through the set as fast as possible, nor do I employ ridiculous eccentric phases. Simply lower the bar with stability and control, and fire it off as fast as possible in the concentric phase.
If you want to stimulate a muscle, put some intensity behind it!
I’ve hinted at this a few times already. Personally, I feel as though you should rotate through each phase every four to six weeks in order to prevent injury and promote CNS (central nervous system) health, which will only lead to better muscular gains.
The movements you’d perform during a five-day split would certainly need to be less intense movements than what you’d perform during a three-day split.
For example, exercises on a five-day split may look something like this:
- Plyometric Pushup 4 x 5
- Barbell Floor Press 4 x 4
- Incline DB Press 4 x 8
- Neutral Grip DB Flat bench Press 4 x 8
- Blast Strap Pushup or Rings Pushup 4 x 12
Exercises on a three-day split may look something more like this:
- Box Squat 5 x 4
- Floor Press 8 x 3
- Chest-supported Row 6 x 4
- Standing Barbell Press 4 x 6
- Russian Barbell Twist 4 x 8
- Face Pull 4 x 8
The more recovery time available, the more intense the movements and the loads need to be.
How do you increase the intensity of a movement? Increase the amount of muscle groups required to move the weight (i.e., dead-lift to snatch), increase the speed and load, or decrease the reps behind each set.
Let’s outline a few training rules for deciding on what training parameters you’ll be attempting to utilize in order to change your physique.
Load: Keep your load in the range of 70% – 90% of your 1RM, occasionally dipping into a max effort once every six weeks or so.
Duration of Phase: You should shift gears on your hypertrophy training parameters every four to six weeks. For example: Full-body three-day split at 90 percent loading for four weeks followed by Upper/Lower split at 75 – 80 percent loading for four weeks.
Frequency of workouts: Within each week, this will depend on the volume within each workout. However, unless you’re an “assisted” athlete, you’ll need to be hitting each muscle group no less than two times per week and no more than three times per week.
Recovery time between sets: No less than 45 seconds and no more than 120 seconds. The fewer joints involved in a movement, the less recovery time required. The more joints involved, the more recovery time needed.
Sets and reps per muscle group: This will be determined by the frequency of stimulation. The fewer times in a week you stimulate a muscle group, the more sets you’ll need to do, and visa versa. As a general rule of thumb, you can refer to Chad Waterbury’s “24-50 principle” for stimulation volume. These rep ranges are refer to training frequency from two to four times per week, but not to stimulating a muscle group once per week.