Top 5 YouTube Channels to Keep You Motivated

Let’s face it, we are in an exciting digital age where just about anyone with a camera and wifi can produce content for the masses. In this ever expanding virtual landscape, many platforms such as Instagram and YouTube have become very popular, especially in the health and fitness industry. With more and more people trying to share their message and climb their way to internet stardom, finding a quality source of information is becoming increasingly difficult.

However, over the past few years some YouTube channels have stood up to the test of time and weathered the brutal storm of internet trolls and haters alike. Chock full of quality content and useful, motivational videos, these five YouTube channels are what we at ALN feel are excellent uses of what might otherwise be wasted time spent sitting in traffic or during your lunch break at work. Check em’ out!

1. Westside BarbellWestside Barbell is a place where some of the strongest people in the world train. Louie Simmons, founder and owner of Westside Barbell, is a true student of the sport who never stops trying to learn more. Luckily for us, he shares some his knowledge on the Westside Barbell Youtube channel. From raw footage superhero-like lifts, to instructional videos, Westside Barbell hosts some great videos for your viewing.

2. Barbell Shrugged

If you haven’t heard of Barbell Shrugged, you’re missing out! This long-form video channel features an in-depth analysis on exercise and workout related topics. Don’t let the headsets in the thumbnails throw you off! The knowledge these guys bring to the table is extremely valuable and will most likely have you tweaking or altering your current workouts. Most of the videos are 60+ minutes, so if you have a long car ride or a monotonous task at work, here’s your holy grail!

3. CrossFit

For those athletes who train in a CrossFit setting, the CrossFit YouTube channel should be a staple for video browsing. From exercise demonstrations with proper form to motivational full-length movies highlighting athletes, this channel is frequently updated and filled with great nuggets of information. Additionally, the Road to the Games videos are an entertaining and inspiring series that feature athletes and the struggles they endure as they train for the CrossFit Games. Definitely a unique perspective to check out!

4. Calum Von Moger

One of the up and coming names in the fitness social media world is Calum Von Moger. His laid back Australian vibe is highly entertaining to watch and the workout videos he produces will fire  you up to hit the gym. Typically, Calum highlights the exercises he does and adds some classic commentary to keep you engaged. On occasion he will go into the technique behind certain movements, but for the most part this channel is a great place for motivation and ideas for a solid workout plan. Get after it!

5. Elite FTS

Last, but certainly not least, is Elite FTS. This Youtube channel, managed by Elite FTS owner Dave Tate, is a serious honey hole for both powerlifters and athletes alike. With extremely insightful Table Talks, videos highlighting common mistakes, and proper technique guides, you can’t go wrong spending your time on this channel. To top it off, videos are uploaded multiple times per week, ensuring you always have fresh content!

With thousands and thousands of people trying to make it big on YouTube, sifting through the non-educational junk to find quality channels is no easy task. The fitness industry is littered with misinformation and athletes repping products to skew your perception in hopes of taking your hard earned money. Don’t be fooled! Use these digital platforms as a way to increase your knowledge and better yourself as you strive to reach your goals. Keep up the hard work!

And remember, ALN is here to support you every step of the way!

The Concurrent Training Effect Blog #2

This 2nd edition of The Concurrent Training Effect blog is going to focus on the molecular underpinnings of skeletal muscular hypertrophy.  Understanding the driving force behind the molecular response to strength training can provide us insight into why concurrent strength and endurance training can negatively affect muscular hypertrophy and strength.  In addition, a better understanding can lead to ways to mitigate the effect and optimize progress.  If you are a CrossFitter, or any other form of hybrid athlete this blog is for you.  Keep reading…

Mike Mentzer - knew a thing or two about muscular hypertrophy.
Mike Mentzer – knew a thing or two about muscular hypertrophy.

A Very Cursory Overview of the Science:

The currently agreed upon molecular key to skeletal muscular hypertrophy is the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR).  mTOR exists in two complexes with mTORC1 as the type associated with muscular hypertrophy.  mTOR is most commonly activated via growth factors, but with strength training its activation is executed in an entirely different fashion.  An unknown kinase gets activated causing a chemical cascade resulting in the potent stimulation of mTORC1.

Mechanical kinase activation is the not the only manner in which strength training stimulates mTOR.  We have all heard of the post-workout anabolic window for nutrient consumption.  The following molecular explanation is THE reason the post-workout window has been so widely touted (and misrepresented equally as often) in the fitness world.

After an intense training session (and for several hours) the skeletal muscles pull a significantly greater amount of the amino acids leucine and glutamine from the blood.  The leucine individually is a potent activator mTORC1 and augments the previously mentioned kinase based mTORC1 activation.  The increased glutamine yet again enhances this synergistic effect as the resultant transport of glutamine out of the muscle further up-regulates leucine intake.

Start and Finish provide both leucine and glutamine (as well as other great stuff).
Start and Finish provide both leucine and glutamine (as well as other great stuff).

The Bottom Line

Bottom line, and there is a lot more to it than described here, the end game for strength training induced muscular hypertrophy is it is almost totally dependent on mTORC1.  One can thus reasonably deduct that endurance training can somehow blunt mTORC1 activation, and or its ability once activated to execute its normal spike in protein synthesis and the resultant muscular hypertrophy.

The next installment of The Concurrent Training Effect blog will focus on the manner(s) with which endurance training may effect mTORC1.

Nitrean Natural Has Launched!

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Our new Nitrean Natural
Our new Nitrean Natural
For years our customers have been asking if we planned to offer an artificial sweetener free version of our wildly popular Nitrean series. The answer has always been no, but that answer just changed!

As many of you know we have recently begun manufacturing our own products for the first time in our 12 years history. Our new plant has given us the freedom to delve into new, and previously unexplored facets of the supplement business. The first example of this freedom is our release of the Nitrean Natural series.

We are incredibly excited about the release of Nitrean Natural. We have always felt that we offer the finest protein supplements available, but this product line truly sets the industry standard. Here are just a few of the highlights:

– A new and improved version of our proprietary protein matrix consisting of three forms of grass fed, rBGH free, drug free whey (concentrate, isolate, and hydrolyzed), micellar casein, and whole egg proteins.
Artificial sweetener free, all natural stevia based flavoring systems.
– Amazing new flavors and the same easy mixing you have come to expect from AtLarge Nutrition.

Bottom line, if you want a protein supplement that is simultaneously clean, environmentally friendly, and supremely effective, you want Nitrean Natural. Order now, and get on the road to optimize your body!

Shock Your Legs!

Time to grow some legs – already got them..? Time to make them even better. This

program will shock your entire lower body into growth very quickly. Be warned, it

isn’t easy and at times you may feel the urge to quit – don’t do it!

Phil Hill has some of the most amazing legs ever!
Phil Hill has some of the most amazing legs ever!

If there are two things that stop guys or girls training their legs hard, they are:

• It’s hard, and you don’t like hard

• If you have weak legs or under-trained legs, it seems embarrassing to start with

smaller weights

If you are guilty of the first point, this programme probably isn’t for you… unless you

want to make a change and challenge yourself (which I highly recommend).

If you are guilty of the second, there is one solution – face your fear and get down to

the nitty-gritty of a supremely effective leg shocker.

On the other hand, if you do hit the legs hard but they have stopped growing, other

factors come into play:

1) Exercises used for too long a time with insufficient variation have caused a

plateau

2) Too few exercises choices that are preventing the needed muscles getting the

attention to grow

3) Over-training – using high volume or high intensity training methods too

frequently or for too long

If points 1 and 2 apply, no need to worry – this program is your ticket. If point 3

applies, take 2 weeks of downtime, or easier training to gain sufficient restoration

before starting this routine.

Tom Platz is the undisputed all-time quad development freak of bodybuilding.
Tom Platz is the undisputed all-time quad development freak of bodybuilding.

This is not a traditional bodybuilding leg training program – it is a little different, and

the reasons for this are:

• There are a greater selection of exercises that are often not used in a traditional

body-builder’s arsenal

Now, what will this program do for you? It will:

• Build crazy amounts of muscle

• Raise your squat

• Raise your deadlift

• Increase your sprinting and jumping ability

• Allow you to do all of this year round with a very high time economy

Sound too good to be true? Let’s test it out and get cracking on the nuts and bolts of

the matter.

The program is performed 2 times per week, preferably with 72hrs in between

sessions.

Ben Johnson knew the importance of strength training for athletic performance.
Ben Johnson knew the importance of strength training for athletic performance.

Day 1:

Warm-up – choose from one of the following:

• Seated vertical jumps (on box/chair/bench) – 3-4 sets of 5-6 maximal height

jumps

• Seated vertical jumps(on box/chair/bench) with light dumbbells – 3-4 sets of 5-

6 maximal height jumps

• Seated vertical jumps (on box/chair/bench) with light ankle weights – 3-4 sets

of 5-6 maximal height jumps

Maximum strength – Choose one of the following and work up to a 1RM

• Deficit deadlifts (wide or close stance)

• Below parallel box squats (front or back, wide or close stance)

• Snatch grip deadlifts

• Below parallel pin squats (front or back, wide or close stance)

• Rack pulls

• Full Olympic squats (with brief pause at the lowest point)

Assistance work: choose from one of the following:

• Exercise A: Deficit deadlifts or snatch grip deadlifts – 6-8RM

• Exercise B: Hanging bent leg raises or hanging straight leg raises – 8-15RM

• Exercise C: Below parallel wide stance front box squats or below parallel wide

stance front pin squats – 5-6RM or 3RM

• Exercise D: Alternate arm dumbbell suitcase deadlifts or alternate arm barbell

suitcase deadlifts – 6-8RM(per side)

One heck of a seated good morning!
One heck of a seated good morning!

• Exercise E: Seated good mornings or thoracic extensions – 6-10RM

Day 2:

Warm-up – choose from 1 of the following:

• Maximum broad jump – 10 sets of 1 rep

• Maximum broad jump with light ankle weights – 10 sets of 1 rep

• Maximum broad jump with light dumbbells – 10 sets of 1 rep

Follow immediately by:

• Sub-maximal broad jumps – using about 70% of your max broad jump do 8

sets of 3 reps emphasizing short ground contacts. Use the same resistance as

the max broad jumps used in each session. Rest 15 seconds between sets.

Assistance work:

• Exercise A: Broad jumps or rope pull-through – 3-4 sets of 5-6 maximal

distance jumps/8-12RM

• Exercise B: Kneeling broad jumps or kneeling pull-through – 3-4 sets of 5-6

maximal distance jumps/8-12RM

• Exercise C: Backwards sled drags or leg extensions -16-20 steps/8-12RM

• Exercise D: Straight leg sit-ups or decline straight leg sit-ups – 8-12RM

Pallof press
Pallof press

• Exercise E: Pallof press or pallof press & static hold – 8-12RM/15-30 second

hold

Notes:

• The amount of sets can be decided according to your ability to recover – as a

guide, with the amount of time you will have for your workouts, 2-4 sets will

work well. Rest periods should stay at a maximum of 2 minutes.

• If you need extra work on a weaker muscle/muscle group, simply increase the sets by 1 or 2

and reduce the sets by 1 or 2 from an exercise/muscle that is a strength.

• Seated vertical jumps are performed by sitting on a surface then jumping up from

that surface as high as possible with maximal vertical leg drive. Immediately

descend to the surface and do another rep. There should not be long pauses

between each rep. Rest 60 seconds – no more, no less between sets of all

5-6RM jumping exercises, rest 15-60 seconds for 1RM jumps and rest 15

seconds for sub-maximal broad jumps.

• The limits of a persons maximum strength will cap whatever they can do for

reps. The best way to build maximum strength is to work up to the heaviest

weights that can can moved with volitional, controlled effort

• Maximal strength is best trained where you are weakest. For example, if

you fail out of the hole when doing Olympic squats or fail to lockout heavy

deadlifts, rack pulls and below parallel squat variations are very sensible

choices. On the other hand, if you are weak to start heavy deadlifts off the

floor, snatch grip or deficit deadlift variations are sensible choices.

• Working up to a 1RM is great. It doesn’t have to be done every week, but

it can be done if you want to. A 1RM max that trains your particular weak

point should be attempted no less than once per month. Other weeks can

consist of 2 or 3RM maxes or occasional deloads.

• Work up to around four or five 1RM or near 1RM attempts once per week at

around 90-100% of your max for that day.

• If you would like to continuously progress on this program simply

rotate the rep ranges of the exercises here or slightly change the exercises e.g.:

Change from body weight broad jumps to broad jumps with ankle weights

or switch to dumbbells. Switch from deficit deadlifts for 6-8RM to deficit

deadlifts or snatch grip deadlifts for 3RM etc – this will help prevent excessive

accommodation

• Keep training sessions to 60 mins at most

• You can do each session once per week or once every 6 days. For example, day

one on Monday, day two on Thursday, day one again on Sunday and so on.

• Don’t spend forever maxing – allocate 10 or 15 minutes at most to this section

– any more time will eat into other work that needs doing. Rest 2 minutes

between sets of 1RM.

• Before commencing high intensity jumps in a warm-up, do one set of 10 easy

jumps and one set of 10 moderate jumps

The author, Will Vatcher
The author, Will Vatcher

Will Vatcher is a strength & conditioning coach based in Cambridgeshire, England. He has published articles online on several major websites, including interviews with experts such as Louie Simmons, Fred Hatfield & Natalia Verhoshansky

You can contact Will at willvatcher@hotmail.com

Intensity vs. Volume for Hypertrophy (includes a 4 day split routine)

Intensity vs. Volume for Hypertrophy (includes a 4 day split routine)

by Chris Mason

My last article addressed how to get bigger legs in 30 days using a form of double pre-exhaustion with a very high intensity of effort and low volume. I addressed how hypertrophy can benefit strength athletes from bodybuilders to weightlifters with some detail, but I did not directly touch on the topic of intensity vs. volume as it relates to hypertrophy.

John Defendis had the vacuum pose down!
John Defendis had the vacuum pose down!

Intensity vs. volume has been a topic of hot debate over the years with the two extremes of the spectrum being commonly represented on one end by the HIT (High Intensity Training) one set to failure popularized by the legendary Arthur Jones (the man who invented Nautilus® training equipment), his protege Ellington Darden PhD, and bodybuilding icon Mike Mentzer. The other end of the spectrum has the GVT (German Volume Training) proponents and the system coined Intensity or Insanity championed by bodybuilder John Defendis (he learned it from another bodybuilding legend named Steve Michalik) which promoted up to 60 or more sets per body part per session (clearly the high volume champion)! 



The one immutable physiologic fact is that intensity and volume are inversely related when it comes to strength training. Intensity can be defined in this case by either the classic weightlifting definition which relates it to the percentage load used compared to the trainee’s one rep max, or by how close to concentric failure (when you cannot complete a rep) one comes during their post-warm-up sets. The higher the intensity of the session, the less volume which can be benefited from.

Konstantin Konstantinov knows intensity!
Konstantin Konstantinov knows intensity!

Many, many trainees confuse tolerating a given high volume routine with truly benefitting from it. Some trainees can adapt to a volume load such that they don’t show the classic symptoms of overtraining, but that does not mean they are training in such a fashion as to elicit, and more importantly, to permit supercompensation which results in improved size, strength, or both.

Don’t be a dummy, dummy! If you are not consistently progressing, assuming you are not near your genetic potential for size, strength, or both, you are NOT training properly, and as most serious trainees are not lacking in the effort department (i.e. intensity) chances are very good you are training with excessive volume and literally preventing the outcome you seek!

Vic Richards was definitely near his genetic potential!
Vic Richards was definitely near his genetic potential!

Now, as anyone who has been around the iron game for any length of time knows, there can be a pretty large variance in the amount of volume which works for a given trainee. There are two main reasons. First, individual genetic makeup provides for variance. Some people can simply handle more high intensity volume than others. Second, intensity, as has already been stated, is a variable that can make a huge difference. There is a marked difference in terms of recovery from training done at 100% intensity (as a percentage of one’s 1RM), or to failure with repetitions, than training done at 70-80% intensity, or stopping two or more reps short of failure. In the end, I believe this is a primary source of the confusion that persists in the bodybuilding (hypertrophy specific) world as to what volume of training is best.

So, what is the answer, what is the optimal volume and intensity for training for hypertrophy? In terms of actual results the answer is somewhat equivocal, but when you take into account time (the actual amount of time spent training) the answer becomes much clearer.

Over the years I have trained myself and many, many others both in person and remotely. What I have found to work best for the vast majority when hypertrophy is the primary goal is 4-6 working sets (I define work sets as post-warm-up sets) of 8-12 reps taken to, or within 1 rep of failure for larger body parts, or muscle groups, and 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps for smaller muscles, or muscle groups. So, nutshell, high intensity with moderate volume is the most effective means of eliciting maximal hypertrophy. Sure, variants of this formula work, but as noted in the previous paragraph, when you consider time spent in the gym, the formula I have set forth is the most “cost effective” I have found. Increased volume, generally speaking, does not translate to significantly better results (and often leads to overtraining), and less volume nets less results.

Earlier in this article I mentioned bodybuilding legend Mike Mentzer. Mike, after his competitive bodybuilding days, and before his death, promoted less and less volume. What is interesting is that at his competitive best he did not train with one set to failure. He used multiple working sets to failure and was able to achieve what is arguably one of the finest physiques ever displayed sporting a very rare combination of shape, symmetry, and sheer mass. I think Mike’s move towards extremely low volume was based on both a diseased mind (I understand he was considered to have some mental health concerns) and the need/compulsion for progression that is basic to human nature. People, especially high achievers, always feel compelled to improve things. This basic attribute of humanity is simultaneously a driver of achievement and a foible.

Mike Mentzer looking AMAZING here!
Mike Mentzer looking AMAZING here!

I mention Mike again because the following routine, which I have found to be VERY effective, is based off of a contest training regimen which Mike employed at his peak. To be clear, Mike was one to grow into his shows, so the pre-contest routines he used were potent at stimulating hypertrophy.

Monday & Thursday:

Superset (perform 3 supersets):

Incline dumbbell flye x 10 reps

Flat barbell bench press x 10 reps

Giant set (perform 2 giant sets):

Leg extension x 12 reps

Leg curl x 12 reps

Full squat x 12 reps

Rest 3-5 minutes then (not part of the giant set):

Leg Press – 1 x 15 reps

Calf raise – 2 x 20 reps

Overhead cable ab crunch – 2 x 12 reps

Tuesday & Friday:

Wide grip chins – 2 x failure

Superset (perform 2 supersets):

Dumbbell pullover x 10 reps

T-bar row x 8 reps

Superset (perform 2 supersets)

Dumbbell lateral raise x 12 reps

Seated dumbbell press x 10 reps

Superset (perform 2 supersets)

Barbell curl x 10 reps

Dumbbell rollback x 12 reps

Donkey calf raise – 2 x 15 reps

Overhead cable ab crunch – 2 x 15 reps

* Each of the above sets is a working set. Warm-up as needed prior to their performance.

Follow the above routine for three months. After three months take at least ten days off totally from training and then begin a new training regimen based upon your goal(s).

Nutrition and Supplementation

This is a training article, but some mention should be made of both nutrition and supplementation to support your intense hypertrophy focused training. In terms of nutrition the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle applies. The key points to remember: You should try to minimize consumption of processed foods, consume sufficient protein (1g per pound of body weight is more than sufficient), consume sufficient calories to support potential growth (this is the most often missed component), and have some sense of nutrient timing surrounding your training (be sure to consume some protein and quickly absorbed carbs immediately after training).

The concept of sufficient calories is a bit amorphous, so let me be more specific. For younger men, and those with a fast metabolism, sufficient caloric intake to fuel growth ranges from roughly 17-25 calories per pound of body weight. For older trainees, and those with slower metabolisms, the range is more along the lines of 14-18 calories per pound. The only way to know what is best for you is to experiment, but the ranges noted are good starting points.

In terms of supplementation, and keeping one’s budget in mind, I recommend the following:

http://atlargenutrition.com/product/pre-workout/ – take one serving about 40 minutes prior to training

http://atlargenutrition.com/product/nitrean/ – 1.5 scoops mixed in water or milk post-workout

http://atlargenutrition.com/product/results/ – one serving post-workout on training days and with a meal on off days

Killer Quads by Julia Ladewski

Killer Quads

By Julia Ladewski

Julia has built some quads!
Julia has built some quads!

Over the past two years, I’ve dedicated a lot of time to growing my quads. My powerlifting training history had made me very strong, but decidedly lacking in the hypertrophy department. For the past two years I have spent a great deal of time practicing exercises and exercise combinations which elicit hypertrophy.

Time under tension is one of the main keys to increased skeletal muscle mass, and that has been a focus. The following is a list of workouts I used to build up mass in my quads. These workouts do not include direct hamstring work, but rather focus on the quads.

Lean and not mean :)
Lean and not mean 🙂

Workout #1

*SS Yoke Bar(TM) Squats

4×5

*SS Yoke Bar(TM) Reverse Band Squats

3×8

Banded Leg Extensions

3 sets of high rep near failure

Workout #2

Squats w/ 1 chain

14 sets of 3, short rest to encourage lactic acid formation

Front Squats

2×15, 1×25

Chain Lunges

24 with chains then 24 without chains, 3 sets

Workout #3

Manta Ray Squats

work up to heavy set of 5, then drop set of 10 reps, then drop set of 15 reps

Leg Press

3×30

Sissy Squats

4×8

Workout #4

Squats-

4×8 with 3 second eccentric (lowering phase)

Front Squats- ascension set

5 reps at each ascending weight, 4 total sets

Only rest is to change the weights

Heavy Dumbbell Lunges-

4×8 each leg

Workout #5

Yoke Bar squats w/ 2 sets of chains

work up to heavy set of 5.

Then drop a chain and do 5 more reps.

Then drop another chain and do 5 more reps.

Then drop the weight in half and do 10 more reps.

Giant Cambered Bar front squats

5×10 with 45 seconds rest

Banded Leg Extentsion

10 reps at each band resistance (use 3 resistances)

Workout #6

Yoke bar Anderson squat

5×8

Bulgarian split squat (front foot elevated)

3×12 w/ chain and DB’s

Reverse band squats

1 giant drop set of 10, 10, 10

Workout #7

Banded Squats

worked up to a tough set of 8, then did 3 sets of 3 with little rest.

Front squats

5×15

Supersetted with

Band Leg Extensions

5×15

Workout #8

Front squat

work up to difficult set of 10

Reverse Band Yoke 1.5 rep squats (down, half way up, down and all the way up)

work up to 3 sets of 8

Bodybuilding Basics

“What is the best way to gain size?” Because I am a competitive bodybuilder and coach, I am asked this question more than any other, and in my experience, everyone seems to expect that there should be a black and white answer. The truth is that if a black and white answer were to exist, wouldn’t everyone who is seeking physique development already have the body they want?

A common idea in the industry is that in order to get bigger, you must lift heavier and heavier weights and constantly work to gain strength. This is only partially accurate. The problem is that many people misinterpret this approach by striving to increase limit strength (1-rep max) in order to induce hypertrophy. In doing so, they focus exclusively on lifting more weight, thereby training the movement and not the muscle, and this flawed strategy undermines proper muscle fiber recruitment. Lifting better, not necessarily heavier, is what is essential for development! How much you lift is only relative to correct lifting technique and execution.

Another industry plague is the ingrained dogma of bodybuilding. Put simply, bodybuilders are creatures of tradition. They tend to either do what they have always done or follow a trend because a champion bodybuilder did it, not because there is actual expertise behind it. Consider Dorian Yates, for example. Undoubtedly, he had one of the best physiques in bodybuilding. However, he also had countless injuries as a consequence of his training style. Many people followed his system not realizing that only a select few could actually achieve real progress from it. Dorian eventually reverted to more traditional hypertrophy training because he had to think more about the long-term as opposed to short-term, as most bodybuilders tend to do.


Lee Haney, a multi Mr. Olympia, was always known for both size and symmetry. He was one of the last of the mass monsters who had a tiny waist and incredible shape to compliment his sheer bulk.

Most individuals have no concept of how to monitor and vary their training in order to achieve the best possible results because they have simply never been taught properly. Unlike most other sports, bodybuilding (or physique development) has never had the benefit of guidance from real coaches. There are thousands of coaches out there who help elite and amateur athletes alike excel in their chosen sport, be it basketball, hockey, swimming, gymnastics, or many others. Physique development coaches, however–with actual expertise in helping individuals who are not genetically superior to obtain an impressive physique–are a truly rare species.

When it comes to training for size, there is a right way and wrong way to go about it. There is a right approach to use when performing a movement to extract the most benefit, and that includes training the muscle through its full range of motion. This does not mean that every person should do the same program–it simply means that after you take into account the individual, his or her current fitness level, current phase of development, and other factors, you still must apply the same basic principles.

Note: There are many ways to design a program to suit an individual’s current needs, and this should always be taken into account. Given this article’s limited scope, however, only basic body part training is discussed here.

GET YOUR HEAD RIGHT

Pick an objective, and stick to it. When training for physique development, you must recognize this as your main objective–everything must therefore be structured around this goal. Too often I see trainees who want to gain size, but focus only on how much they can bench, squat, or deadlift. Even though these are all great exercises and should be part of a well-designed program, they are merely tools in the toolbox–simply increasing the amount of weight lifted should not be the main focus. Doing so will detract from your goal. Remember, you are training to increase your size, not your 1-rep max. Although I’ll likely be criticized for such a statement, I have learned this through my coaching experiences with hundreds of clients over the years, as well as my own experiences as a former powerlifter. Just because you can bench 400 lbs or squat 500 lbs does not mean you will fully develop your physique. Now this is not to say that you shouldn’t lift heavy; you do still want to incorporate the overload principle. However, the quality of the exercise and obtaining maximum voluntary contraction are the most important objectives, which can only be achieved with proper technique and increased workload capacity with the addition of greater intensities. These principles are much more nuanced than simply lifting as much weight as possible from point A to point B. You want to reach muscle failure, not movement failure, which is when other muscles start assisting in the lift. Your goal is maximum hypertrophy and size, not maximum strength.


Flex Wheeler is another bodybuilder who was known for the sheer beauty of his physique. Few bodybuilders have ever approached the flowing lines and rounded muscles bellies Flex sported at his peak.

Be realistic. As a bodybuilder, you must realize that you have a unique genetic makeup that ultimately determines how fast you can grow and how much muscle you are able to build. Only a very small percentage of lifters can attain success as professional bodybuilders. No amount of steroids will help you achieve that type of size if you don’t have the right parents, so to speak. Be reasonable, work towards building the best physique you can build, and don’t compare yourself to the genetic elite. People often approach me under the misguided belief that they can add 20 lbs of muscle in a few months. This is unrealistic. It is difficult to achieve such gains in an entire year, let alone a few months. Moreover, unless you are a complete beginner, most of you will fight to put on 10 lbs of solid muscle in one year. The more advanced you become, the harder it gets…that is just being realistic.

Also keep in mind that this sport is a marathon, not a sprint. You must be patient, consistent, and tenacious to achieve results. There is no magic pill or single training program that will get you the results you desire. Be focused and be realistic when you set out to become a bodybuilder—in adhering to these simple principles, you will begin your journey leaps and bounds ahead of most of your competition.

GET YOUR TRAINING RIGHT: MISCONCEPTIONS AND MISAPPLICATIONS

Isolation Builds Character…And Muscle
Target training is a must for bodybuilders. You must learn to train only the targeted muscle in the set exercises for that session. Keep in mind that your body will always try to make an exercise easier by recruiting other muscles, so you must always focus on only making the desired muscle do the work. If you fail to do this, other muscle groups will inevitably assist in the lift. This is not what you want when trying to induce an adaptive response in the targeted muscle.

Admittedly, it is technically impossible to truly isolate a muscle. Nevertheless, your goal is to make the targeted muscle the weakest in a group of acting muscles in order for it to achieve maximum overload. This requires knowing the planes and ranges of motion in which a muscle functions in order to effectively overload that muscle. Always ensure that you train the muscle through its full range of motion– research has consistently shown that a muscle stretched with resistance (eccentric loading) will receive the most overload. By doing this, the intensity of the contraction will be much greater, and you will start tapping into your high-threshold motor units, which is essential for growth.

Pause…For What?
If you seek to exert maximum effort and produce development in the gym, you need to avoid the habit of pausing on exercises! For example, many individuals often take a slight pause at the top of every rep on leg presses or squats. Why? Because it makes the lift easier! The pause allows the nervous system to rest, thereby potentially limiting the maximum benefit achieved from the workload. Instead, always focus on the mentality of stretch & contract, and try to keep tension on the targeted muscle over every single inch of every rep. Remember, you are trying to fatigue the targeted muscle and place as much stress on it as possible. Yes, there are certain techniques like extended sets, strip sets, etc., that appropriately incorporate pauses, but in general, focus on just continuously pumping out most of the exercises most of the time.

Anatomical Leverages and the Individual Lifter
When it comes to bodybuilding, the same tired old aphorisms are circulated over and over again: you must squat to get big legs, you must do pull-ups to develop your back, and so on. Throngs of people swear by these statements, and they might actually work for a given individual and maybe lots of others. Take heed, however–this doesn’t mean it will work for you. Your body’s leverages and the lengths of your arms, legs, and torso will play a huge role in which exercises will be more suited for you in order to fully develop a muscle. For example, if you have long legs, doing back squats may produce more stress in your lower lumbar region and decrease your range of motion, thereby preventing your legs from receiving the most overload! Alternatively, if you have long arms, pull-ups are probably going to be extremely difficult due to the range of motion and distance you need to travel to complete one full rep, thereby limiting you to doing minimal reps. This will obviously reduce overall time-under-tension and take away from your back development. There are countless other exercises that are good and/or bad depending on the leverage system of a given individual. So be smart and choose exercises that enable you to fully stimulate the targeted muscle. Do not get caught up in the industry hype that if you cannot perform a certain lift well then you will not grow. I have proven that axiom wrong numerous times with multiple clients over the years. Understanding the range and plane of motion in which a muscle works is critical to achieve maximum overload in an exercise. What does that mean? Technique is more important than how much weight you use. Remember this when you leave your ego in your gym bag.

The Scourge of Ego
There is absolutely no room for ego when it comes to training for physique development. Every day I see guys using their own leverage advantages just to lift more weight, but this approach does not isolate a muscle and most definitely will not produce enough overload for an adaptive response. We have all seen guys doing quarter squats and half reps on DB presses with tons of weight just to try to impress someone. Wake up, egomaniacs! This does absolutely nothing for your development. In fact, all it does is increase the risk of injury and make your head swell because you put a ton of weight on a bar and moved it two inches. Is it then ironic that in spite of so many dazzling plates of glory, your legs are as big around as my wrists?! Ego. Gym bag. Leave it.


Unconventional training and diet were just the beginning. Few bodybuilders have ever looked so good in the “relaxed” pose as the late, great Serge Nubret.

People that ego-train are not making the targeted muscle the weakest in the movement. They simply use leverage and often momentum as well to complete the lift for them, thereby stressing the joints more than the actual muscle they are trying to work. Humble yourself and back off the amount of weight you are using, and instead, put the muscle through its intended range of motion. Invest your time in the gym and stop squandering it–strength will come over time. If you try to force it, you are begging your body to react negatively, if not disastrously.

The Lore of Exercise Sequences
Another misconception is the appropriate exercise order for a particular muscle group. Likewise, a common maxim in bodybuilding lore is, “Thou shalt do compound movements first and isolation movements last.” Why? The real answer is that you can lift more weight if you perform compound movements first. This is more ego-driven nonsense. Again, we must concentrate on training muscles and not egos. Varying the sequence of exercises will keep your body from adjusting too efficiently and help to further isolate muscles. For example, switching up and doing leg curls before squats will do wonders for hamstring development and actually help to engage quads more when doing squats. Just because you will then need to squat less weight than you typically do doesn’t mean you won’t grow (remember your goal??). Your muscle only knows how much stress it is under, not how much is on the bar. Quite simply, if the weight is challenging, then it is the right amount. Variation is one important key to an adaptive response. Therefore, when you write your program, occasionally start a session with flyes, leg curls, etc., and save the big movements for last.

Reps, Weights, and Other Ridiculous Bedtime Stories
Finally, let us address the beloved heavy-weights-for-low-reps tradition. In every gym in which I have ever trained (and in most forums for which I have written), the most common solution proffered for getting big is to use heavy weights for low reps, and the converse of that is to get cut, use lighter weights for high reps. Both solutions are wrong! If you are a bodybuilder, you are always looking to increase your workload capacity; you don’t achieve this objective by using low volume and heavy weights. Most of the time, you achieve it by using heavy weights and high volume. Keep in mind, when I say “heavy,” I mean heavy relative to what you are doing, not “how much is on the bar”. Also, when it comes to volume, you don’t just do a ton of exercises and get results; volume has to be properly and intelligently progressed. To many times trainees take this advice and basically do junk volume with no rhyme or reason other than to do more, but unless the program design is properly applied based on the individual, you will do more harm than good and hinder overall results.

Extensive research has shown that the duration of overload on the muscle produces the most growth, not the amount. Therefore, instead of focusing on how much is on the bar, your goal should be to achieve maximum voluntary contraction on every rep of every set of every exercise you do. This requires proper technique and incredible concentration, which leads to greater overall intensity. Choose a weight that allows you to concentrate on performance, and once you adapt to that, increase the amount of weight you use accordingly. Again, lifting better and harder is more important than simply lifting more.

CONCLUSION

If you have been scratching your head wondering how you should be training in order to be a bodybuilder and develop a great physique, look no further–this article should help to clear up the confusion and dispense with a lot of misinformation and myths out there in the industry. If you take the principles I have discussed and apply them to your training, your results will increase substantially.

BodyBuilding Principles with Shelby Starnes Vol. 2 – Lean Gain Edition

Sure, you can always pick up unsolicited advice from your local locker room guru, but what are the chances of it actually being good advice? Unfortunately, the odds aren’t in your favor.

That’s why we gave renowned nutritionist and successful bodybuilder Shelby Starnes his own column to answer your training and dieting questions. You see, unlike the big guy at your gym, Shelby has worked with hundreds of athletes who are looking for the same thing as you: a ripped, muscular physique.

In this installment, Shelby shares his three biggest tips for gaining muscle and losing fat, as well as how to stay lean and mean year-round.

Read it, learn it, and apply it…and then print out a copy and give it to your locker room guru.

How Lean is Lean Enough in the Off-Season?

Q: Do you consider there to be optimal body fat ranges for offseason lean gain? For example do you have a specific body fat percentage in mind that it would be good to hover at or perhaps a range to stay within?

Shelby: Optimal off-season condition will vary since we all have different metabolisms, hormonal profiles, and builds.

Generally speaking, I believe you should always be able to see at least an outline of your abs even deep in the off-season. The fat at the lower back “love handle” area should also be kept to a minimum. For most people this means a max of about 12% body fat or so. I’m not big on numbers and measurements, though; I just go by the mirror. How you look is more important than a number.

For those that really want to push the envelope, such as a bodybuilder looking to jump up a weight class, I believe it’s acceptable (and sometimes even advisable) to get a bit heavier, but 15% body fat is about the max.  If you allow yourself to get that high, make sure to allow extra time for dieting afterwards.

Another important factor to consider is where you feel socially and psychologically comfortable. 

Bodybuilding should be enjoyable (though challenging), so if staying lighter and leaner makes the journey more palatable to you, then by all means do it. You’ll never be consistent in your efforts if you hate how you look and feel in the off-season.

If it drives you nuts to try to stay relatively lean in the offseason, then just do your best and save the dieting for pre-contest time.  Not everyone has the same motivation and drive year-round. Just remember that your progress will mirror your effort, assuming your effort is intelligently planned.

I’m “Skinny-fat” and Need a Cure – Help!

Q: What would be your advice for those in the “skinny-fat” category?

Shelby: I have a handful of clients that I’ve been working with for a few years who, when we first started out together, you never would have guessed were bodybuilders because they were fat, small, and weak.  Fast-forward to today and they all look like completely different people: lean, muscular, and strong. The secret? Hard work and consistency.

My advice for the “skinny fat” isn’t much different than for anyone else: lift progressively, eat sensibly, and be both consistent and patient. 

Don’t miss meals, don’t miss workouts, and make sure you’re getting optimal rest and recovery. Do this for a few years straight and you won’t be “skinny fat” anymore. Great physiques are built over years, not days or weeks.

For an idea of how to set up a basic carb-cycling plan, check out my Troponin Nutrition Macronutrient Guidebook, available at EliteFTS.

Cardio in the Off-Season: Yay or Nay?

Q: What’s your take on offseason cardio? Is it a good idea or should I cut it entirely?

Shelby: Just as with diet, cardio requirements will vary quite a bit depending on a bunch of genetic factors.

If you have a great metabolism, I’d suggest keeping off-season cardio minimal while keeping body fat under control with diet manipulation. This allows the body to rest, recover, and grow as much as possible in between training sessions.
 
Someone with a slower metabolism might need to add in 2-3 sessions per week, mostly at moderate intensity (30 minutes or so) with perhaps one high-intensity interval training session per week. Again though, I’d try to keep these people lean with diet changes before adding much cardio. Save the treadmill work for when it’s time to get lean!

*Note: these recommendations are geared towards gaining the most muscle possible in the shortest amount of time. Abstaining from cardiovascular activity for any length of time is not always the healthiest choice, so if you’re an older trainer (40+) or want to keep cardiovascular health as a top priority, I’d recommend doing some form of cardio year-round.

What’s the Deal with “Mini-Diets?”

Q: I’ve read that you sometimes institutes “mini-diets” during the offseason. Are these always necessary?  What’s the reasoning for them?

Shelby: If you’re a bodybuilder and have a long off-season (four months or more) then it may be a good idea to add a “break” in the middle to drop some of the body fat and regain some insulin sensitivity. For this short break (4-6 weeks), I recommend dropping macronutrients down to pre-contest levels and also introducing cardio at about 30 minutes daily.

If you’ve been training progressively, this would also be a great opportunity to take a week or so to deload. When my clients deload, I almost always reduce carbs for the same reasons mentioned above.

When you resume your normal off-season eating and training, you’ll also get a nice “mini-rebound”, not too unlike the rebound you get after a long pre-contest diet, albeit on a much smaller scale.

Shelby is no slouch in the Off Season – 12 weeks out from competition

The Benefits of Cheating

Q: What are your thoughts on cheat meals or cheat days when bulking? Are they just an excuse to be lazy and eat like crap or do they serve a valid need/purpose?

Shelby: I like to use cheat meals more in the dieting phases than in the off-season. From a functional perspective, cheat meals serve a few purposes: they refill glycogen stores, ramp up metabolism, and also help mental resiliency (it’s much easier to get through a tough week of dieting when you have a weekend cheat-meal to look forward to).

In the off-season, however, you’re never really very glycogen-depleted, so cheat meals really aren’t necessary. They still serve as a nice mental break, so if having a meal out with friends helps you to stay on a good clean off-season diet, then do it.

Remember, the guy that can put in 90% effort for ten years will always beat the guy who puts in 110% effort for three years, burns out, and then quits.

Lose Fat While Maintaining Strength and Muscle?

Q: From a Powerlifting standpoint what are some dietary methods you would employ that would reduce body fat while maintaining strength and weight? I prefer limited weight fluctuations but my preference may not be feasible. I’m looking for basic principles more so than extremely fine macro counts and the like.

Shelby: Simultaneously losing fat and gaining muscle is difficult for most individuals, unless they have excellent genetics or are using anabolic steroids.

For one thing, you need to be in a caloric deficit to lose fat (and also in the optimal hormonal environment, which is accomplished with proper macronutrient manipulation). To gain muscle, you need to taken in a caloric excess, so right there you already have a conflict.

Also note that fat loss is a much faster process for most people than gaining muscle. It would be much more effective to focus on just one goal at a time.

That said, here are my top three fat loss tips and muscle-gain tips.

The Big Three – Fat Loss

1. Restrict your carbohydrate intake to no more than a few meals per day, namely Meal 1 and your post-workout meal. Periodically re-feed once per week by doubling your normal carb intake and reducing your protein intake by about 30%.

2. Raise your protein intake to ward off catabolism. Shoot for around 1.5g per pound of bodyweight per day when carb intake is low.

3. Don’t forget healthy fats (mono and polyunsaturates including Omega-3s). These fats are vital to optimal health and metabolism.

The Big Three – Muscle Gain

1. Raise carbohydrate intake to help support training, recovery, and growth. The particular amount will depend on a number of factors, including your metabolism, weight, age, sex, and workload. 

2. Keep protein high (at least 1g per pound of bodyweight per day).

3. Once again, don’t forget healthy fats (mono and polyunsaturates including Omega-3s).

Experiment with each of these to find your own individual “sweet spot”.

Protein: The Ultimate Nightcap

Q: What’s your opinion on nocturnal feedings during the offseason?  Are they worth disturbing sleep for?

Shelby: Nocturnal feedings are an easy way to get in additional growth-promoting calories. I like to have clients take advantage of them as long as it doesn’t disrupt their normal sleep patterns.

For quick and easy consumption and digestion, I prefer a protein drink, typically 50% whey and 50% casein (A protein blend such as Nitrean would do the job great), with some added healthy fats (extra virgin olive oil or macadamia nut oil). This provides a nice steady flow of aminos and calories through the night. Drink about half of it right before you go to bed, and finish the rest when you wake up to use the bathroom.

Written by Shelby Starnes

Got a question for Shelby? – The next edition will be on Very Low Carb Dieting. Anything related to low carb dieting is game – the diet itself, refeeds, supplements, cardio, training, etc. You can either post your questions on the forums (Next Q&A: Cardio for Fat Loss and Conditioning) or you can send them via email to Shelby at askshelby@wannabebig.com. Be on the look-out for the next installment of his Q and A!

Discuss, comment or ask a question

If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums – Bodybuilding Principles with Shelby Starnes – Vol 2 discussion thread.

About Shelby Starnes

Shelby is a successful National-level Bodybuilder & Powerlifter and has helped hundreds of athletes get into the greatest shape of their lifes.

  • 2009 NPC Central States Championships – 1st place Middleweight and Overall
  • B.A. in Psychology with Departmental Honors – estimated completion May, 2008
  • 2nd place 198-lb class – 2004 APF Michigan State Powerlifting Championships
  • Overall Novice Champion – Motor City Bodybuilding Championships, 2005
  • 2nd place open middleweight- Motor City Bodybuilding Championships, 2005 (nationally qualified)
  • 5th place middleweight – NPC Junior Nationals, 2006

Whether you are a competitive bodybuilder looking for pre contest/off season assistance or simply just striving to achieve a specific physique, Shelby is available to set up custom diet and training programs to suit your goals.

For more information on his diet and training programs and prices, see here.

Building Bigger Triceps and Biceps

Welcome to the Gun Show

I’ve heard that 90% of guys would like bigger arms. On the same note, I heard the other 10% are liars. In all seriousness, almost any way you go about it, guys want bigger arms.

It is possibly the sole reason you first set foot in the gym. The baggy sleeves on that small T-shirt just weren’t doing it for you. What sexy lady wants to hang onto a skinny little arm? Arm training can be very simple for some of the genetically blessed gunslingers you see walking around your local gym. If you aren’t one of these (which I am not), then arm training can be a little more complex and tricky.

In this article, I’ll outline the best eight tips and tricks I have used for myself and with countless clients to add that size we all desperately seek. With the application of what you will learn below, along with some ball bustin’ intensity, you better prepare to start turning the heads of those sexy ladies.

Let’s get straight into things then…

1. Stick to the Basics

Before you jump the gun and put me in the category of, “I don’t think you need single joint arm work”, give me a second. I love my curls and extensions as much as the next guy, but there are two multi-joint exercises I feel are a must for those seeking larger arms.

  • Close-grip bench press
  • Chin ups

These should be the bread and butter of your arm workouts. Everything else should be secondary (but necessary!).

Who do you think has bigger arms? A guy who can close-grip bench 315 for reps and hits sets of 8 on chin-ups with 50 pounds around his waist or a guy who hits 30’s for tricep kickbacks for reps and hits sets of 8 on cable curls with 50 pounds? This should be a no brainer.

Why these two exercises?

From my experience, I’ve found that most people can handle the most weight with the close-grip bench press and chin-ups. When you perform these with sufficient weight, you recruit the most motor units. This in turn (with time) will make your central nervous system more efficient at maximizing the number of motor units it recruits and will cause an increase in strength. Therefore, your newfound strength will lead to new muscle with sufficient volume.

2. Get Strong

As Ronnie Coleman once said:

“Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder, but nobody want to lift no heavy ass weights”.

One of the simplest ways to make your arms bigger is to make your arms stronger. If you go from curling 35’s to 45’s for 10 reps, then your arms will have gotten bigger. There is a correlation between getting stronger and getting bigger. It may seem elementary, but if you are still curling the same weights you were six months ago, then I don’t want to hear any bitching about your small arms…I want you to get strong!

Pick the exercises you can handle the most weight on with good form (hint: no kickbacks).

Here is what I recommend:

For Triceps: Close-grip presses (bench, incline), floor press, skull crushers, dips, overhead tricep extensions, rack lockouts.

For Biceps: Chin-ups, barbell curls, cheat curls, dumbbell curls, hammer curls, machine curls.

Now I want you to implement a very basic yet often forgotten principle: progressive overload! This means progressively placing greater-than-normal demands on the exercising musculature.

In simpler terms, if you do not give your body an increased demand, then it has no reason to grow bigger or stronger.

Here is my favorite way to progress. It doesn’t involve any fancy supersets, dropsets, etc. It does involve big gains though.

For the first week on an exercise, start with slightly less intensity than usual. Focus on hitting the bottom end of the rep range with 1 rep or so “in the tank”. Then, the next week, try to beat the number of reps from the week before, even if it’s only by one rep on one set. Continue to slowly add reps until you hit the upper rep range. Now you can add a small amount weight to the bar and start over in the lower end of the rep range.

Let’s use barbell curls, as an example, over a six-week period with 3×6-8 reps. 

Proper progression should resemble the format below. Keep in mind that many factors dictate progress, so this is just a sample.

Week 1: 95/6 – 95/6 – 95/6

Week 2: 95/7 – 95/7 – 95/6

Week 3: 95/7 – 95/7 – 95/7

Week 4: 95/8 – 95/7 – 95/7

Week 5: 95/8 – 95/8 – 95/8

Week 6: 100/6 – 100/6 – 100/6

At this point, you could switch the exercises. Then, when you come back to barbell curls in six weeks, you would start at 100 pounds and start beating your best effort again. Continue to add reps to your sets, weight to the bar, and watch your arms grow.

Arnold proves that big arms never fail to impress the ladies

3. Improve Your Grip

I found that once I began strongman training, my arms seemed to grow overnight. Was I doing more curls? No, I wasn’t. Was it more pressing? No, it was about the same. The thing that was different was the addition of heavy farmer walks once a week. I’m talking 220 pounds in each hand…heavy! At first I couldn’t go too far without my grip giving out, but each week I increased the distance traveled before I couldn’t hold on any more. My grip was getting stronger and my forearms were growing. Once the competition I was training for was over, I added back my normal amount of bicep work. Once I added the work back, I was able to handle more weight on my bicep exercises due to the increased strength of my forearms. My forearm strength had been the weak link in my bicep training. End result: stronger forearms=bigger biceps.

Here are a few great methods for increasing your grip strength:

Farmer walks: To do these, simply grab the heaviest pair of dumbbells you can pick up and walk for distance or time. Stand tall with your head up, shoulders back, and abs tight. Incorporate these on your lower body day at the very end of your workout.

Farmer holds: These are similar to the farmer walks, but you remain stationary. Hold the weight at your sides for as long as possible. Stand tall with your head up, shoulders back, and abs tight. Incorporate these on an upper body day that is non-consecutive with a lower body day.

Rope or towel chin-ups: Simply take a rope or a towel and hang it over a pull/chin-up bar. Then perform your chin-ups by gripping the rope or towel. Add these on an upper body day in place of farmer holds for a change of pace.

Ditch your lifting straps: This seems to be a no-brainer, but anytime I go into a commercial gym I see it…guys using straps. Straps may have a time and a place, but when your grip is weak you don’t need them. Don’t use them on your heavy pulling exercises. You may have to decrease a little on weight or reps at first. That is fine; your grip will strengthen and you’ll be right back in no time. If you just can’t give them up, at least compromise. Only use them on your last sets and/or heaviest sets.

4. Don’t Vary  

It kills me to see how many guys go into the gym blindly. Today is arm day so they hit some dumbbell curls, rope press downs, blah, blah, blah. Then the next week they go in and do something completely different. They are trying to confuse the muscle. My suspicions were proven right in exercise physiology class–the muscle doesn’t have a mind of its own (sorry, P90X). It IS great marketing though. Stop trying to confuse it, trick it, or whatever the hell else you are trying to do to it! Pick some basic exercise that you can handle the most weight on for biceps and triceps.

5. Eat! & Gain Weight

How many pounds do you have to gain to add an inch on your upper arm?

Is it 6 pounds?

Is it 7 pounds?

Is it 8 pounds?

Does it really freakin’ matter? No.

Unless you’re an athlete who has a weight class requirement, just gain weight all over and your arms will grow. If you weigh a buck seventy then your frame probably isn’t built to carry around 18 inch arms. Eat for growth, make arm training your specialization, and watch them grow.

6. Volume

Most of the time, I prefer intensity to volume when it comes to training, but much as with everything else, there is an exception. Training arms can be tricky. Some people may require more volume to grow while some require less. Your muscle fiber type may just dictate how much total volume you need. The best range is usually between 80 and 120 total reps weekly.

This can be split up in numerous ways. For simplicity sake, I’ll use biceps to show how this amount could be split up for a person training biceps once a week and another training them three times a week.

Ex. 1
Biceps (1 day a week):
Exercise 1: 5×5
Exercise 2: 4×10
Exercise 3: 3×12

Ex. 2
Biceps (3 days a week)
Day 1: 5×5
Day 2: 4×10
Day 3: 3×12

As you can see, the total weekly volume is the same. The first example fits best with a body part split routine while the second example would best fit a full body or upper/lower split.

If you overshoot or undershoot the total number of reps, it isn’t a big deal. These are just guidelines and don’t have to be exact. Simply experiment with different volumes and find what works best for you.

7. Wrist Control / Hand Position

When doing a traditional bicep curl, the biceps and brachialis share the workload. A little trick I like to use is keeping my wrist as straight as possible (or even slightly cocked back, away from the bicep itself) while curling. By doing so, you are putting the majority of the stress on the biceps (vs. the forearm). However, I don’t recommend doing this if you have any prior wrist injuries or problems. When curling this way, focus on bringing the weight up till you reach peak contraction of the biceps and then control the motion back down to a full stretch.

As everyone knows, the biceps are primarily responsible for elbow flexion. You also may know that the biceps have two heads: the long head and the short head. By doing curls with the same grip each time, you are consistently hitting the same bicep head (you aren’t isolating it, it’s just taking the majority of the work). By doing this, you are neglecting the other head of the bicep. A simple way to fix this is to change your grip from time to time. This ensures that you will get full development of both the short and long heads of the biceps, and will also help with prevention of overuse injuries. Mix it up between close grip, medium grip, and wide grip work when using barbells.

Another way you can vary your grip is by using a neutral or “hammer” grip with dumbbells (palms facing each other, as if the end of the dumbbell is being used to hammer a nail) as well as a reverse grip (palms facing the floor) with either barbells or dumbbells. The biceps aren’t the only elbow flexors. The brachialis and the brachioradialis are also elbow flexors. If you neglect these, you will be limiting how much your arms can grow as an underdeveloped brachialis will definitely show up in the form of a lack of “thickness” in the upper arm. Regularly include hammer curls and reverse curls to fully develop your upper arm.

8. Specialization

If you are serious about building a bigger upper arm, then you must specialize. You have to devote time and effort to reach this goal. I recommend putting all other training goals on the back burner and focus on just growing your arms. For an arms specialization phase, there are a few guidelines:.

  • Keep training to four days a week if possible and no more than five.
  • Train in multiple rep ranges during this time (strength, hypertrophy, endurance).
  • Train all other muscle groups for maintenance.
  • Train all other large muscle groups heavy (>90% 1RM) for at least one set.
  • Increase your protein and simple carbohydrates pre-peri-post workout with something such as Opticen or Maximus.

After four to six weeks, you should end an arm specialization phase. Your training should switch back to “normal” and you should slightly reduce your arm training volume. Remember, your arms probably won’t change much during the phase. It will be in the weeks after the specialization program that your arms really begin to grow!

Closing Thoughts and a Bonus Arm Workout

So there you have it…my eight best tips for building bigger triceps and biceps. With the application of the tips above, some hard work, and time, you will be on your way to building the arms you want.

Also, you better save up some money to buy all new T-shirts or you may get accused of wearing extra-mediums!

The “Unleash Your Upper Arm Potential” Workout

  • A1. Close-grip bench press: 5×4-6 
  • A2. Chin-ups (medium grip, weighted if needed): 5×4-6
  • B1. Dips (weighted if needed): 4×8-11
  • B2. Barbell curls (wide grip): 4×8-11
  • C1. Overhead tricep extensions: 3×9-15
  • C2. Hammer curls: 3×9-15

Rest Periods:

  • A1 and A2 rest: 90sec – 120sec
  • B1 and B2 rest: 90sec
  • C1 and C2 rest: 45sec-60sec

Notes:

  • Perform on a standalone day with one day of rest before and after.
  • Exercise pairings such as “A1, A2” are alternating sets. Perform a set of A1, rest for suggested time, perform A2, rest, and repeat.
  • Always warm up.
  • Select a weight you can use to complete the number of reps suggested with one or two reps “left in the tank”.
  • Shoot for the bottom of the rep range at first. Each week, try to move up in reps until you reach the top. Then increase the weight and start at the bottom again.
  • Utilize small weight increments such as 2½’s.

Written by Chase Karnes, BS, NSCA-CPT

Discuss, comment or ask a question

If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums – Building Bigger Triceps and Biceps discussion thread.

About Chase Karnes

Chase Karnes graduated from Murray State University with a degree in Exercise Science. He is a NSCA certified personal trainer and strength coach located in Western Kentucky. He is currently studying for his Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist certification (CSCS).

Through Argonauts Fitness, Chase has worked in the exercise and nutrition arena for half a decade. He has hands-on experience working with strength and physique athletes along with athletic and general populations. Chase is also a competitive athlete himself competing in NPC Bodybuilding, Powerlifting (1330 Raw Total), and NAS Strongman competitions. He has worked or consulted with clients from over 6 states.

Chase can be contacted for personal and group training, program design, nutrition consultation and speaking engagements through his website www.chasekarnes.com or Argonauts Fitness

Four Laws of Training and Growing: The Perfect Hypertrophy Plan

The Pursuit of Hugeness

There’s a lot of talk online these days about all the ways to get thick: HIT training, body-part splits, full-body training, push/pull programs, compound movements only, biceps curls every hour for 12 hours…

Doesn’t it get a bit overwhelming?

If you’ve spent any time in a commercial gym, then I’m sure you’ll have seen and tried plenty of different methods while attempting to gain muscle. 

Now I don’t debate that many methods work. However, I do feel that we often don’t explore the simple laws of gaining intense amounts of muscle mass that lead to the best gains of your life.

As I pondered the idea of how hypertrophy works, I was reminded of the 6th grade science topic:

stimulus = response.

But first, let’s talk a little HGTV (Home and Garden Television).  

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

The Program

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.

Volume

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.

Intensity

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!

Movements

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.

The Four Laws For Growing

1) Food

The most important part of your recovery phase is going to be the food you eat and when you eat it. 

We learned a long ago that the more protein constantly floating around the bloodstream, the more opportunities for the muscle to use it, particularly when paired with a low-glycemic carbohydrate. In other words, you need to be eating frequently throughout the day, and you need to eat high amounts of protein in every single meal. What are high amounts?  No less than 1.5 grams per pound of body weight. See protein, eat it!

If you’re one of those guys who are always claiming that you eat a ton of food, and still can’t gain weight, you’re mistaken. You just don’t really know what eating a ton of food is. When my athletes are trying to gain weight, they have three to four days out of a week that they consume upwards of eight thousand calories a day. Now that’s a lot of food! 

If you really think you’re giving it all you got in the stuffing-my-face-for-size department, don’t give up hope.  Keep your protein high and your low glycemic carbohydrates higher. You need to eat to grow, and if you’ve got the metabolism of a hummingbird, you need to eat a lot!

If you’re a little carb-phobic, then you may need to follow the eating recommendations of fellow Wannabebig author Christopher Mason and reread his article on Eating Optimally For Massive Size and Strength.  No need to rewrite a great article. Just read it and pay attention!

If you’d rather keep it simple and follow a few rules, try these on for size (pun intended)!

Rules for Big 

  • Eat at least your weight in protein every day.
  • Eat six to eight times per day.
  • Make protein the staple of every meal.

Start consuming about 50 grams of high-glycemic carbohydrates and 30-50 grams of easily digestible protein 15-20 minutes before you begin training, while maintaining consumption throughout the workout in order to stimulate insulin and load the bloodstream with sugars.  This type of “pre- and peri-workout” nutrition has been proven to lower interleukin-6, which is a catabolic inflammatory cytokine highly stimulated in the muscles during exercise. In layman’s terms, bring down IL-6, bring down stress, which we both know (or should know) does not help in building muscle!”
 
Consume another 40-50 grams of high-glycemic carbohydrates and an additional 30-40 grams of easily digestible proteins immediately following your workout to further improve your anabolic threshold, further increase protein synthesis, and keep glycogen levels up to par.

If you want to grow, you gotta get your nutrition in order

2) Supplements

If you’re really serious about packing on the pounds, you may want to strongly consider the use of supplements if you’re not already doing so. 

When it comes to supplements, there’s a good deal of confusion and hype that can negatively influence what you use and how you use it.  

For the sake of getting huge, we’re only going to talk about the supplements that I believe will pack the most punch for your money, and that are absolutely proven to work when it comes to building muscle mass. 

Protein – By and large, protein is the most important supplement in your arsenal. Unless you’re able to eat solid meals as outlined above, you’re absolutely going to need to add an additional protein supplement to your grocery list. 

Choosing a protein like Nitrean is a surefire way to know that you’re getting what you’re paying for!  It is an excellent tasting, clean, and highly bio-available product that obviously stands out in the crowd.  
 
Carbohydrates – Wait?  Supplement carbohydrates?  That’s right, and usually in the form of dextrose, maltodextrin, or waxy maize. Trust me…it’s a lot easier to knock down some Nitrean with a 50 gram serving of dextrose or waxy maize immediately following a gut buster, than it is to eat five pieces of white bread and ten egg whites.

It’s especially convenient to mix up a solution of the two so that you can sip on it while you train.  This will greatly aid in the prevention of muscle catabolization and will decrease fatigue. Opticen is a great choice for a post workout, combined carbohydrate and protein hit. You’ll get 35 grams of carbohydrates and 40 grams of protein per serving.

BCAAs – Branch chain amino acids make up approximately 35 percent of your total muscle mass and are quickly depleted during intense weight training.  By supplementing them before, during, and after your weight training, you’re preventing catabolism and encouraging protein synthesis, which is muscle growth!  Yes, you get a good amount of them from the high quality proteins that you eat, and even more so from a good protein supplement like Nitrean.  However, supplementing BCAAs is a cost-effective way to saturate your muscle tissue and save on excess calories.

Creatine – People can argue all they want, but anyone who has used creatine knows that it works.  Does it build muscle?  Not really, although some research does suggest that it may aid in protein synthesis.  Does it aid in building muscle?  It absolutely does.  Without getting too scientific, creatine plays a role in the creation of ATP, which is the chemical energy on which muscular contraction is based.  The more creatine available, the faster your body can produce energy, which means increased intensity and decreased fatigue during weight training.  Better stimulation to the muscles = better muscular response! Check out AtLarge’s Creapure Creatine Capsules for a convenient way to supplement with Creatine.

Fish Oil – If you’ve spent any time reading about health and fitness, then I’m sure you’ll have come across the benefits of omega-3’s, especially from fish oil. They’re downright ridiculous!  However, for the sake of muscle building, I’m only going to name a few.  They can help to decrease inflammation, and we’ve all had achy joints and mad trigger points. If there’s a supplement that can help decrease joint pain, and in return, allow you to move heavy loads properly again, you should probably take it! 

Fish oil may also help to increase focus and elevate mood.  Feeling a little down?  Not going to make the gym?  Maybe that wouldn’t happen if you were taking your fishies. Fish oil may increase insulin sensitivity and can aid in the body’s metabolism of carbohydrates, allowing more carbs to be stored within the muscle tissue (and not your waistline). It also aids the heart and cardiovascular system, aids in preventing stroke and certain types of cancer, and has been proven to help prevent and treat many mental disorders among children.  Get on it!  You can grab some here – Fish Oil Capsules

3) Sleep

Let’s face it…you’re busy. You wake up around 9 a.m., eat a bowl of Cheerios with skim milk, throw a granola bar in the backpack, and head out to school or work. You get to the gym around six, check out some girls, do some bench press, and hit the shake bar. You get home, play some Halo with your online crew, and hit the sack around 1 a.m. with a stomach full of Lil’ Caesar’s Hot n’ Ready. 

You don’t have time for sleep, I get it. I also get why you’ve got the chest of a Calvin Klein underwear model and the arms of a marathon runner. You need to sleep! 

Hopefully, your diet and workout are a little better than I projected.  However, if you’re not sleeping, you’re not growing. When and how we sleep is when and how our body repairs. Would you like spotty healing for 4-5 hours, or intensive full blown healing for 7-9 hours?

When you sleep, your body produces the growth hormones responsible for allowing your CNS and muscular system to adapt to the training you’ve performed that day, also known as Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand (SAID).  This happens when we sleep, so it’s obvious that if you want to adapt–or in other words, to GROW–then you need quality sleep!

How do you get it?  Here are a few rules to follow:

  • Reduce alcohol and stimulants.
  • Reduce spicy foods and foods that are high in saturated fats several hours before bed.
  • Avoid large meals directly before bed.
  • Eliminate all lights and shut off your computer.
  • Meditate.
  • Supplement with ZMA (can be a wild ride the first two or three nights).
  • Wake up earlier.
  • Be consistent.

It seems simple, but it’s often the little things in life that take you the furthest.  Count sheep, do yoga, pray, read the Anarchist’s Cookbook, whatever you gotta do to relax.  Nobody gives a damn but your body, so get some damn sleep!

4) Soft Tissue Work

Hopefully you’ve recently read Nick Tuminello’s Upper Body Warm-Up and Lower Body Warm-Up articles and were somewhat introduced to the art of foam rolling.  If you haven’t, do so when you’re done here and learn a little something about warming up! 

You can take similar principles and apply them greatly toward your recovery.  More specifically, utilizing SMR (Self-Myofascial Release) techniques helps to unlock adhesions and allow blood flow and muscular contractions to function as normal.  If your muscles are locked up with trigger points, then your movement patterns will be greatly flawed. Your mobility will suck and only continue to worsen, and your active muscles will become hypertensive and overactive, while your inactive muscles will begin to atrophy and become more inactive, providing your body with zero aid for movement.

As this happens, your performance will obviously decrease and you’ll be primed and ready for injury like an X-51 Hypersonic Cruise Missile.  If you undo the damage by utilizing SMR techniques, allowing your muscles to heal and become balanced again, you’ll significantly increase your muscles’ ability to do their job.  Therefore, you’ll stimulate more motor units, yielding a better opportunity for growth.  As a personal side note, SMR techniques and dynamic mobility have become the cornerstone for my training. Since implementing these methods over the last two years, I’ve been able to increase performance much faster than before, decrease pain like never before, and increase size without feeling like Frankenstein. 

Start taking ten minutes prior to every workout and roll your tissue out!  If you don’t know how, considered purchasing Nick Tuminello’s DVD on Self Myofascial Release, or just do some of your own research.  However you go about it, just start doing it, all of it!

Self-myofascial for Hips and Glutes at Nick Tuminello’s Training Facility

Wrap Up

Ok, let’s reiterate a few strong points that’ll get you shopping in the big and tall department in no time!

  • Change your programming modalities frequently; however, when following a program, be consistent!
  • Focus on speed and power during every rep of every set!
  • Don’t write your own programs.  Find someone who knows what they’re doing when it comes to programming and listen to them.
  • Don’t beat the crap out of yourself every single day.  Too much stimulation is just as bad as too little.
  • Don’t ever walk into a gym for bicep day.  Please, just don’t be that guy.  Be the guy who bends bars during deadlifts and hogs the squat rack with front squats and rack pulls.
  • Eat like the biggest animals in the world, not like the smallest.
  • Be smart about your supplements.  Buy what you know works, and spend the rest of your money on good food!
  • Sleep and grow.
  • Give your muscles a little ghetto spa treatment.  Foam roll and stretch.  It’ll be the best thing you’ll ever do. 

Now go, do yourself a favor….lift something heavy!

A Little Somethin’ for Reading the Whole Thing…

I’ve provided three different hypertrophy routines for you to give a go – a three, four and five day split!

Full Body 3-Day Split

Note: Day 1, 2, and 3 are separated by one off day while Day 3 and 1 are separated by two off days. 

Day 1

Begin with a proper 20 min warmup including dynamic mobility and foam rolling – full body

Movement Set/Rep Recovery Load % 1RM
1. * Box Squat  6 x 4/2 x 8 120 sec 80-85/70
2. Floor Press 8 x 3 90 sec 85
3. Chest Supported Row 6 x 6 60 sec 75-80
4. Push Press 5 x 8 90 sec 70-75
5. Weighted Chin 3 x 8 45 sec 70-75
6a. ** FB Neutral DUmbell Press 3 x 10 30 sec 70
6b. ** Bent-over Lateral Raises 3 x 8 30 sec 70-75

* Perform 6 sets of 4 reps at 80% of your 1RM, then lighten the load to 70% of your 1RM and perform 2 sets of 8 reps.

** Perform set (a), rest 30 seconds, perform set (b), rest 30 seconds and repeat.

Day 2

Proper 20 min warmup minutes including dynamic mobility and foam rolling – full body

Movement Set/Rep Recovery Load % 1RM
1. Walking Barbell Lunges 5 x 20 (10/side) 120 sec 70
2. Incline Dumbell Press 6 x 8 90 sec 75
3. Neutral Grip Pulldown 8 x 4 90 sec 80
4. DB Lateral Raise Cheaters 5 x 8 60 sec 70-75
5. Single Arm DB Row 3 x 8 45 sec 70-75
6a. Weighted ½ Dips 5 x 4 60 sec 80
6b. Barbell Curls 5 x 4 60 sec 80

Day 3

Proper 20 min warmup including dynamic mobility and foam rolling – full body

Movement Set/Rep Recovery Load % 1RM
1. Sumo Deadlift 5 x 6 120 sec 80
2. Bench Press 6 x 4 90 sec 80-85
3. *Pullup 6 x 4 90 sec 80-85
4. Upright Row 5 x 8 60 sec 70-75
5. Incline Neutral DB Press 3 x 8 45 sec 70-75
6a. Leg Extension 3 x 10 30 sec 70
6b. Single Leg Barbell RDL 3 x 8 30 sec 70-75

* Add weight to your pullup if necessary, and if body weight pullups are still too difficult, move to prone wide grip pull downs.

Upper/Lower 4 Day Split

Day 1 Lower Body

Proper 20 min warmup including dynamic mobility and foam rolling – Lower body and back

Movement Set/Rep Recovery Load % 1RM
1. Broad Jump 4 x 4 90 sec Body Weight
2. Sumo Deadlift 5 x 6 120 sec 80
3. *BB Bulgarian Split Squat 4 x 8 60 sec 70
4. Romanian DeadLift 3 x 8 60 sec 70-75
5. Hack Squat (Full ROM) 3 x 15 60 sec 60-65
6a. Weighted Jump rope 4 x 45 sec 45 sec Body Weight + 15-20lbs
6b.  Seated Calf Raise 4 x 10 45 sec 70

* This works best when utilizing a barbell and elevating the forward foot 3-4 inches.

Day 2 Upper Body

Proper 20 min warmup including dynamic mobility and foam rolling – Upper body and hips

Movement Set/Rep Recovery Load % 1RM
1. Incline BB Press 5 x 6 90 sec 80
2. Neutral Grip Pulldown or Pullup 4 x 6 60 sec 80
3. FB Neutral DB Press 4 x 8 60 sec 70-75
4. Bent-Over Lateral Raise 4 x 8 60 sec 70-75
5. Barbell Push Press 4 x 8 60 sec 70-75
6. EZ Bar Curls 4 x 6 45 sec 70
7. *Single Arm Preacher 2 x 25 60 sec 40-50
8. Russian BB Twist 3 x 16 (8 each side) 60 sec 70

* Only perform this movement if using a Hammer Strength type machine, selectorized machine, or a cable attachment.  If you only have dumbbells and barbells available, move to a standing single arm supinated dumbbell curl, possibly adding a forward lean.

Day 3 OFF

Day 4 Lower Body

Proper 20 min warmup including dynamic mobility and foam rolling – Lower body and back

Movement Set/Rep Recovery Load % 1RM
1. Box Jump 5 x 3 90 sec Body Weight
2. Front Squat 5 x 6 120 sec 80
3. Elevated DB Reverse Lunge 4 x 8 60 sec 70
4. Weighted Squat Jumps (Dumbbells) 3 x 10 60 sec 60
5. *SHELC 3 x 8 60 sec Body Weight
5a. Weighted Jump Rope 4 x 45 sec 45 sec Body Weight + 15-20lbs
5b.  Seated Calf Raise 4 x 10 45 sec 70

* If 3 x 8 is too easy with two legs, move to using one leg at a time.

Day 5 Upper Body

Proper 20 min warmup including dynamic mobility and foam rolling – Upper body and hips

Movement Set/Rep Recovery Load % 1RM
1. 1- Board Press 6 x 3 120 sec 85-90
2. Chest-Supported Row, wide grip 5 x 6 90 sec 80
3. *Weighted ½ Dips 4 x 8 75 sec 70-75
4. High Pull 4 x 6 60 sec 70-75
5. Single Overhead DB Press 4 x 8 60 sec 70-75
6. Blast Strap or Ring Pushups 3 x failure 45 sec Body Weight
7a. Weighted Chin 3 x 8 60 sec 70-75
7b. BB Rollouts 3 x 8 60 sec Body Weight

* Serious forward lean

Day 6 and 7 OFF

5 Day Body Part Split

Day 1 Quads

Proper 20 min warmup including dynamic mobility and foam rolling – Lower body

Movement Set/Rep Recovery Load % 1RM
1. Front Squat 4 x 6 60 sec 75
2. Walking Barbell Lunges 4 x 20 (10/side) 60 sec 70
3. DB Squat Jumps 4 x 8 60 sec 70-75
4. Hack Squat 4 x 15 60 sec 60-65
5. Leg Extensions 3 x 12 60 sec 65-70
Free Time Calves 2 movements > 30 reps, < 50reps    

Day 2 Chest/Triceps

Proper 20 min warmup including dynamic mobility and foam rolling – Upper body

Movement Set/Rep Recovery Load % 1RM
1. Incline DB Press 4 x 6 60 sec 75
2. Floor Press 5 x 6 60 sec 75
3. FB Neutral DB Press 4 x 8 60 sec 70-75
4. Incline Cable Fly 4 x 10 60 sec 70
5. Weighted Dips 3 x 8 60 sec 70-75
6. Supine DB Extension 3 x 8  60 sec 70-75

Day 3 Back/Biceps

Proper 20 min warmup including dynamic mobility and foam rolling – Upper body

Movement Set/Rep Recovery Load % 1RM
1. Weighted Pullups or Supine Pulldown 4 x 8 60 sec 75
2. T-Bar Row 5 x 6 60 sec 75
3. Neutral Grip High Low Cable Row 4 x 8 60 sec 70-75
4. Single Arm DB Row 4 x 10 60 sec 70
5. * Bicep Death March      
6. ** Preacher Curl Up Set      

* Use an EZ Bar and one pair of DB’s: EZ 10r, DB 20r, EZ 8r, DB 16r – 60 sec rest- EZ 8r, DB 16r, EZ 6r, DB 12r – 30 sec rest- EZ 6r, DB 12r, EZ 4r, DB 8r, EZ 2r, DB 4r – DONE

** Start with a weight you can perform easy for 6 reps.  Do 6 reps as fast as you can, add 5lbs, repeat: focus on speed and eliminate all recovery time between additions.  Reach the peak and drop back down by 5lbs performing only 3 reps again for speed until you reach starting weight.  One set only.

Day 4 OFF

Day 5 Hamstrings

Proper 20 min warmup including dynamic mobility and foam rolling – Lower body

Movement Set/Rep Recovery Load % 1RM
1. Sumo Deadlift 4 x 6 80 sec 75-80
2. Romanian Deadlift 4 x 8 60 sec 75
3. Barbell Glute Bridge 4 x 8 60 sec 70
4. SHELC 4 x 10 60 sec Body Weight
5. Seated Hamstring Curls 3 x 8 60 sec 70-75
6. Free Time Calves 2 movements > 30 reps < 50 reps    

Day 6 Shoulders

Proper 20 min warmup including dynamic mobility and foam rolling – Upper body

Movement Set/Rep Recovery Load % 1RM
1. Barbell Push Press 4 x 6 80 sec 75-80
2. Lateral Raise Cheaters 4 x 8 60 sec 75
3. Upright Row 4 x 8 60 sec 70
4. Face Pull 4 x 10 60 sec 70
5. Seated Arnold Press 3 x 12 60 sec 70-75
6. *Single Arm DB Shrug 4 x 8  60 sec 70-75

* Heavy forward lean.

Day 7 OFF

Written by Mike Scialabba

About Mike Scialabba

Mike is the Director and Owner of the Missoula Underground Strength Training Center located in Missoula, Montana.

He’s an Expert Strength Coach and has been in the business for nearly a decade working with hundreds of individuals utilizing conventional and unconventional training methods. 

Michael has sent over a dozen kids to collegiate football and basketball and has spent endless hours in the trenches getting dirty with real training and real results.

Be sure to check out his blog!

Discuss, comment or ask a question

If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums – Four Laws of Training and Growing discussion thread.