Last week, I gave you the structure of my workout. This week, let’s discuss the order.
Everyone knows that Monday is unofficially National Chest Day. Ever wonder why? For some it makes perfect sense to place their chest workout early in the week. For others, it may actually work against their goals of balance and symmetry. Once again, I’ll demonstrate this with my workout as an example of how to plot the order of your workout. I stress that it is only an example, because my goals are specific to me. However, there are some basic recommendations that are applicable to everyone.
I told you last week that I begin my week by training legs. I do this for two reasons. The primary reason is to free the testosterone and natural hgh embedded in my leg muscles. This creates an environment of elevated hormone levels in my body in the days following my leg workout to the benefit of the muscles I train thereafter. The second reason is I want to have a fully recovered and strengthened back for my leg workout, so I make sure I hit them before I train back.
Next in my lineup is chest: Chest Monday, but, this is just for right now. Currently, one of my primary training focuses is building my upper chest. To encourage progress here, I want to take advantage of those elevated hormone levels being at their peak. The later the training sessions in the week, the lower those hormone levels. Even though I am focused on my chest development, I still need to be aware of balance and symmetry. Therefore, every three to four months I will move shoulders to the beginning of the week so that they receive equal attention and opportunity for growth, and then rotate again after a few months.
One thing that never changes though, is I always allow at least one day between chest and shoulders. This is for several reasons. First, because of their close proximity and partnership, it is next to impossible to properly train the chest without breaking down some of the tissue in the front delts. The same is true of training the shoulders; there is inevitably breakdown of pectoral tissue. Since you don’t want to break down the same tissue two days in a row, it’s wise to take a day between. Another argument for taking a day is to give the triceps, the primary supportive muscle group of both chest and shoulders, a day to recover in order to contribute most successfully to presses.
I, like many others, use this day of separation to train back, as it is a pull rather than push group. This one really doesn’t need much explanation. You’ll note however, that I do not pair triceps or biceps with any of the larger muscle groups.
As I discussed last week, I believe that for symmetry and balance, both the bicep and triceps muscle groups deserve the same level of attention as the larger muscle groups So, they get their own days in my program. However, even if you don’t believe smaller muscles need the same stimulation as their larger counterparts, you should recognize that it’s counterproductive to fatigue your primary supportive muscle groups prior to training the muscle they support. For example, a lot of guys will train back and biceps, tearing their biceps down before hitting the back. Then they go into their back workout with biceps that may no longer be fatigued, but have not had time to heal and are therefore not at full strength.
Another group I train separately is calves. Because I’m looking for significant gains here, I train the solius and gastroc twice a week each, on separate days. You’ll find that, much like the abdominals, the calf muscles are super resilient and can be trained after only a few days rest. Both muscles can be trained on the same day, I just chose not to.
The final piece of the puzzle is abs. In my ab series, I explained that abs can be trained three days a week. For me that falls every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Because I break my cardio into separate morning and afternoon sessions, I’m able to train abs in the morning, apart from my lifting session.
Please remember that exercise is more than just what works well physiologically. This is an example of what works for me. You need to discover – or rediscover – what works for you. So many factors other than specific exercises will impact your success. Next week, we’ll delve into how psychological factors can impact your pursuit of physical excellence.
Michael Anderson, CPT NCSF
IFBB Physique Pro