My philosophy on training is simple. If I’m not completely worn out when its time to leave the gym, I have not worked hard enough. My training is hard, heavy, and intense. Now of course there is the need for periodization and scheduled periods of “back-off” within your programming, but for the most part, I am pushing to my limit every workout.
At this point in my “offseason” training, my training routines are mostly instinctual. I will have a bodypart(s) planned for a given day, but the actual exercise selection and rep range may vary depending on how I am feeling on that specific day. It took many years of training, but I am now at a point where I am very in tune with my body and know when to push it to the max or when to back off slightly to prevent injury. To be a successful bodybuilder you need to train smart. As I mentioned above, my training is very intense, but at the same time I am smart and try not to cross that fine line of pushing it to the limit and doing something stupid that could cause an injury.
I use many different splits including upperbody/lowerbody, 3 on 1 off, 2 on 1 off, etc. One split I really enjoy is an 11-day, hypertrophy split which prioritizes my weak spots (chest and traps). It looks something like this:
- Day 1: Chest/delts/traps/lats/abs
- Day 2: Quads/hams/calves
- Day 3: Arms/traps/delts/abs
- Day 4: Cardio or off
- Day 5: Back thickness/traps/rear delts/abs
- Day 6: Chest/delts/calves
- Day 7: Cardio or off
- Day 8: Hams/quads/abs
- Day 9: Back/chest/traps
- Day 10: Arms/calves/abs
- Day 11: Cardio or off
For precontest, I do enjoy training bodyparts multiple times in a week but I also really enjoy a traditional split like:
- Sunday: Quads/calves
- Monday: Chest/abs
- Tuesday: Back/traps
- Wednesday: Arms/forearms/abs
- Thursday: Hamstrings/glutes/calves
- Friday: Shoulders/traps/abs
- Saturday: Cardio
This is probably one of my favorite workout splits, and I also use this split in 4-8 week periods during the offseason to change things up. I like this split because it allows me to focus on one body part each day, and it allows enough recovery time for each bodypart so that I can hit it with high intensity again the following week. I am usually sore for 2,3,or even 4 days after a particular workout, and with the combination of rest and proper nutrition, this seems to be a good recipe for growth for me, even while dieting for a competition. I normally do 4-7 exercises for my larger muscle groups and my rep ranges vary from as low as 2-3 reps to as high as 30. My legs seem to respond the best to higher reps.
I always advocate sticking to basic, free-weight power exercises where possible. I include lots of supersets, drop sets, tri-sets, etc. in order to up my intensity. It is also extremely important to mix things up so you don't reach a plateau. I am constantly changing the exercises I do, the number of reps I do, and the order in which I do them. Also, I very rarely do forced reps. When I first started training, I would incorporate forced reps but found that actually hindered my strength and hypertrophy. Now I push close to failure and only very occasionally add forced reps. My strength and physique changed dramatically when I made this change. There is nothing worse than seeing a guy in the gym spotting his buddy on bench press by upright rowing 5 reps while yelling “it’s all you bro!” Stupid!
As I get close to competition, my philosophy of lifting as heavy as possible while maintaining decent form is unchanged. One mistake many physique competitors make is lightening up and increasing reps when trying to "cut up." This is the fastest way for you to lose muscle. You need to continue to try to lift as heavy as possible (safely) while dieting. Although you may lose some strength during a precontest diet, it should not be significant if your diet and training are in check.
I will also gradually increase my cardio during my precontest diet but make sure not to do too much where I am burning muscle instead of fat. I use a mixture of short (15-25 minutes) HIIT (high-intensity interval training) cardio sessions (usually the bike) and longer (30-45 minutes) lower intensity cardio sessions (usually walking on an incline treadmill). The object is to do as little cardio as possible while getting shredded! Also, starting at about 12 weeks out, I begin posing practice for at least 10-30 minutes daily.
General training information overview
Regardless of your goals, when you walk out of the gym, you should feel like there is no possible way you could have worked harder or made more progress during the past hour. Regardless of whether you are bulking up or trimming down, you always want to try to lift as heavy as possible while maintaining good form and staying safe. You should push yourself to do more reps or more weight each time you go to the gym. Don't worry about what the guy or girl next to you is doing, don't chitchat with your workout partner, and definitely don't bring your cell phone with you onto the gym floor. Your gym time should be just that: your time to get healthy; your time to build the best physique you can.
Like a nutritional program, there is no simple workout routine that works best for everyone. Some people need to stick to lower volume, heavier weights (4-6 reps), while others respond better to higher volume, moderate rep range (6-15) workouts. There are many different training styles out there (HIT, “Dogg Crap”, Daily Undulating Periodization (DUP), German Volume Training (GVT), Hypertrophy Specific Training, FST-7, etc) and they each can be very effective. I have had success using variations of all of these. Regardless of your specific program, your main goal should always be to keep it as intense as possible. Have a goal each workout and execute it perfectly. You should also switch up your training split and style regularly to help prevent reaching a plateau. I recommend keeping a workout logbook to monitor your progress. This also helps ensure that you are always trying to up your intensity level and not just going through the motions.
In addition to training and proper nutrition, it is also crucial to get adequate rest. Remember you don't grow in the gym, you grow outside of it. You should shoot for 7-8 hours every night. If you are not getting adequate sleep, your performance and physique will definitely suffer.
One final note to all the men and women out there who want to "tone up." Stop spending 2 hours a day on the treadmill and start pressing, deadlifting, and squatting. The best way to lose fat is to put on muscle so that your metabolism increases and you burn more fat throughout the day. The best way to build muscle is not by doing endless amounts of cardio but by strength training. Don’t worry women, you won’t "get too big and bulky" and you won’t "look like a man" if you lift heavy weights, your diet is in check, and you stay drug-free. Instead you will develop a well-toned, sexy, feminine figure that you will be proud of.