Last week, we discussed making modifications to your training program in order to see continued progress and avoid the dreaded plateau. After thinking it over a bit I realized we never discussed actual program structure, (which explains a lot of the questions I’m receiving through social media about my training split.) I shouldn’t assume that everyone knows the basics of exercise programming. I apologize for putting the cart before the horse.
First, let me explain that this discussion is based on my education and experience. There is no “right or wrong” way to design your program. The important thing is that you’re exercising. However, there is a good, better and best for everyone. I encourage you to take a look at what you’re doing, compare it to what your options are, and evaluate whether you are training in the manner that will most benefit you. That said, rather than take you through what you could be doing, should be doing, might be doing… I’m just going to give you a snap shot of what I do. Of course, this is based on how my body responds to stimulus and a lifelong process of trial, error and trial again.
I am the truest definition of the hard gainer. For me, pure split training has proven most effective. And when I say pure, I mean I give each muscle group its own day, including biceps and triceps. I have found that I am most successful when I can dedicate all of my time, attention and energy to just one muscle, holding nothing back for second group. That said, this is how my week shapes up:
Sunday – Legs
Monday – Chest
Tuesday – Back
Wednesday – Shoulders
Thursday – Biceps
Friday – Triceps
Saturday – Cardio only
Now, let me explain why it’s broken down this way.
At 40 years old, my body’s availability of testosterone and naturally occurring human growth hormone isn’t at the level it once was. In fact, a lot of the hormones I do produce naturally embed themselves in my leg muscles. They seek refuge there and hide, so to speak. Because I want to increase the availability of these hormones during my training sessions, I begin my workout week with legs. Training the quads, hamstrings and glutes releases those embedded hormones, thus elevating their levels in my bloodstream and making them present during the lifts that follow during the week. I also train legs on Sunday, as it is the lengthier of my workouts, and doesn’t follow the same structure as my upper-body muscle groups. That’s simply because here, we’re dealing with a greater amount of muscle mass working around multiple, large joints.
My leg split consists of at least three multi-joint movements, which may include squats, hack squats, leg press, deadlift, single-leg press or hex-bar squats. That’s complimented with multiple variations of single joint movements for the quads and hamstrings, chiefly curls and extensions, both single and double leg. Then, I round all of that out with finishing moves, such as walking lunges, weighted step ups, abductors and adductors (inner/outer thigh), split lunges (split squats) and balanced movements on the TRX suspension system. That’s just in a nutshell, plus or minus a few exercises.
When it comes to the upper body, my workouts are very uniform in terms of volume. To get the best results out of my body requires a large volume of sets dispersed over a broad variety of movements. Therefore, I execute three sets of eight exercises, for a total volume of 24 sets per body part. Some are of the belief that smaller muscle demand les attention than larger ones, however I have found that I achieve the best symmetry and balance when I give each muscle group equal attention. Think about it. Clearly I’m not going to have the same poundage on all muscle groups, but if I want my biceps and triceps to be proportionate to my chest and shoulders, doesn’t it make sense to train them with equal volumes?
For chest, I generally will hit three types of presses, three types of flies and then finish off with two types of push ups, dips, and dumbbell pullovers. Shoulders are quite similar: two to three types of presses, three to four types of lateral raises, and finishing off with upright rows, and face pulls. Back is the simplest of all: four vertical moves (pull ups/downs) and four horizontal moves (rows), finishing off with different variations of hyperextensions as a supplement that could also be done with core instead.
As I mentioned earlier, biceps and triceps each get their own days. They each also get hit with 24 sets of annihilation. This is where creativity comes into play, and concepts like varying joint position become important in order to find enough unique movements to provide each muscle with ample stimulation.
Let us not forget abs. As you recall, we train those four days a week as well, because as I currently do two cardio sessions per day for competition training, I am able to pair abs with my morning cardio quite nicely.
It took me a few years to find the perfect combination for my body. That’s simply because I needed to give a program time to actually prove itself effective (or ineffective). If your current program isn’t yielding the results you’re looking for, don’t be afraid to consider your other options. If you’re not happy with the change, you can always go back to your old routine.
Next week we’ll discuss the importance of the order in which you train body parts. Yes, it makes a difference!
CPT NCSF, IFBB Physique Pro
Follow on Instagram @physiquephan
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