Say that again? Intense bodybuilding workouts, quick routines, great results… Sound too good to be true? Not really. At least don’t dismiss it until you read further.
Intensity and Muscle
Most people know that you have to work out hard to gain muscle. Intense bodybuilding workouts work, period. No one would argue that your workouts should be easy to pack on pounds of muscle. In fact, typically, the harder your workouts are, the more muscle you put on. That’s a pretty simple concept to grasp.
Working the entire body in one workout?
What’s harder to grasp is that many of the finest physiques in the world were built using full body routines. Steve Reeves, Clancy Ross, John Grimek, and other famous Mr. America’s built themselves to unheard of levels doing at most 3 intense bodybuilding workouts per week.
They worked their entire body every session and their results spoke for themselves. The workouts were hard, heavy, and relied on basic compound movements for the most part. The entire body was worked every session.
This was in the pre steroid era. They had to take recuperation much more seriously than the chemically assisted bodybuilders that would follow. They took rest days and made sure to get a lot of sleep. Muscle is built during rest and they understood that.
The best of both worlds?
Arthur Jones advocated very intense bodybuilding workouts. He knew that to be super intense the workouts had to be short. To shorten the workouts suggested very low sets, even down to one set per exercise.
In the 1970’s he promoted these intense, brief, and infrequent routines and suggested they be performed 3 days per week. He had a profound impact on the bodybuilding community at the time. He had combined the full body routines of the previous era with his new low volume exercise theory.
Mike Mentzer furthered Jones’ ideas with his Heavy Duty workouts. While Jones advocated full body routines, however, Mike thought split routines were the way to go.
The bodybuilding world, although influenced, continued to promote high volume routines. That meant a lot of time in the gym. More than most would care to spend.
Some things never change
Well, it’s now 60-70 years since Reeves, Ross, and Grimek graced the stage. A lot of things have come and gone since then. Two things have not changed, however.
The first is that you still have to train hard to build muscle. The second is that a bodybuilder’s physique can still be built using full body routines. That is, intense bodybuilding workouts which exercise the whole body every session.
Think about it. The human body does not change with the fads and fashions of different generations. The principles of bodybuilding that work in one era will work in another.
Build muscle without living in the gym
So if the basic principles still hold true. Why can’t they work for you? Well…they can.
Ask yourself these questions:
Are you tired of spending 5 plus days in the gym when there are other things you want to devote time to?
Are you left feeling deflated and exhausted at the end of a week of training instead of bigger and more energetic?
Do you want to maximize your physique while having a life outside the gym?
If you answered yes to these questions read on. If you answered no, read on anyway. You might learn something.
Rules to follow
When creating an intense bodybuilding workout in a full body format you have to consider a few things.
1. You have to keep the number of exercises and sets low.
If you want the intensity high the volume must be low. People too often confuse hard work with intense work.
Lifting somewhat heavy weights set after set for hours is very hard for sure, but it is not intense.
Lifting very heavy weights for low sets in a short period of time is hard and intense!
Muscle can be built with one set per exercise if done correctly. Two or three max but you’ll be in the gym all that much longer with little if any more to show for it.
2. You must train very hard!
Yes, you will save time doing intense full body workouts, but you will have to pay the piper to get results. You must train at or near failure in each of the exercises.
3. Record all of your workouts in a workout journal.
Look back at your last workout and always strive to do a little more. Try to increase reps or weight a little bit every workout. Without a journal to refer to you’ll forget what you did in the last workout. You’ll end up repeating weights and reps more often than you’d think.
Use the journal as a motivational tool. Look at your previous workout entry before every set. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t go up all the time. You’ll have ups and some downs. You should be trending upward consistently though. Look at the big picture.
4. Limit the number of exercises.
Too many exercises will result in overlapping of muscle groups. That will have the same effect as adding more sets to the same exercises. Intense bodybuilding workouts are low set ones.
Let’s say you do dips, bench presses, and military presses and perform only one set of each in that order.
Some would say you’ve worked your triceps with the dips, your chest with the bench presses, and your shoulders with the military presses. A good chest, shoulder, and triceps workout, right? Let’s look closer.
Actually, you’ve done two direct sets for the chest, and 3 direct sets for the shoulders and triceps. In all the exercises your triceps were the muscle group that reached failure before the chest or shoulders.
What if you did two sets of each exercise. That would be 4 direct sets for chest and 6 for the triceps and shoulders. Too much of this type of training will over train the triceps leaving you frustrated with their progress.
Overlapping can get you into trouble fast with very intense bodybuilding workouts. That leads us to the next tip…
5. Choose your exercises wisely.
Since you only want to do a limited number of exercises and low overall sets you must use basic compound movements. That way you work many muscles with few exercises.
Any muscles not hit sufficiently with the compound movements need to be worked with isolation movements that don’t overlap already worked muscles. Put some thought into your exercise selection. Try these intense bodybuilding workouts as a starting point.
6. Train infrequently.
That doesn’t mean train once in a while here and there. Just don’t train more than 3 times per week. Every third day would be better for most people.
If you still feel drained or sore from the last workout, wait another day. You’re muscles will not shrink from inactivity so don’t worry. The extra rest will allow you to produce all the growth you stimulated from the last workout.
You’ll go into your next workout with energy and enthusiasm and that’s what you want. If you aren’t rested enough you’ll dread going to the gym. Don’t force it. You can’t force muscle growth, it must be coaxed.
7. Finally, Don’t use this training year round! – Most important.
It’s time for a reality check in bodybuilding. Your body is not a machine. It will burn out no matter how smart you train if you don’t let up now and then.
Train in this fashion as long as you are seeing gains in strength and size, then plan a layoff. Take a few weeks off. Do something else. Really, you’ll be better off for it.
Steve Reeves used to train for 3 months out of the year! He’d train to a peak, win a contest, and before over training set in he’d stop training for the year. Steve would make movies, hike, and do other physical activities for 9 months out of the year.
Natural muscle doesn’t just disappear when you stop training. Yes, the muscle will eventually shrink without training, but it isn’t overnight.
It’s probably wise to plan out a year of training in advance. Plan a growth phase of intense bodybuilding workouts, a rest period, and a maintenance phase of lower intensity higher volume work for the majority of the year.
Plan your peak around the summer months if you wish. That way you look your best at the beach. Plan to let your body rest and, yes shrink a bit maybe in the winter months in preparation for next spring’s big push.
This cycle is a realistic plan for life long goals of bodybuilding fitness. You can’t gain muscle constantly year after year. You’re only going to get so big no matter what you do.
Stop beating your head against the wall. Go with the flow. Use intense bodybuilding workouts wisely. Train smart and plan.