A sequence refers to the order of workouts in a split routine—in this case a three-way split, my favorite way to train. For example, a seven-day sequence could mean you train pushing muscles on Monday, legs on Wednesday and pulling muscles on Friday. It takes seven days—including rest days—to do each different workout one time, hence the name seven-day sequence. A sequence repeats itself exactly the same way over a designated period of time. In the case of the seven-day sequence, it repeats exactly the same way each week.
While that particular sequence is a nice way to train, I’ve discovered that training the same way each week tends to lead to plateaus. Your body becomes acclimated to it and ceases to change. I overcome that by practicing a randomized routine, the 9-to-5 sequence.
The body thrives on routine—routines have advantages. You need to practice your workout in a specific way in order for your body to adapt to it. During that adaptation period you make progress; you get into a groove. A routine answers the question, “What and when should I train?” Randomized training, sometimes called instinctive training, doesn’t give you anything specific to practice and get good at. While it might be okay for advanced bodybuilders—Dave Draper trained that way when I worked out with him in the 1970s—it isn’t so good for beginners because it isn’t specific enough.
I’ve done many different sequences, a four-day sequence (train three days in a row, rest the fourth day, repeat), a five-day sequence (train, train, rest, train, rest, repeat), a six-day sequence (train every other day). The problem with each of those sequences is that the workouts fall on different days each week. With the 9-to-5 sequence that’s not exactly the case.
It’s a nine-day sequence that uses a three-way split, and you train one day, then rest two before the next workout—so it takes you nine days to do each different workout once. You get plenty of rest, so it’s great for recovery, and you’ll be stronger at each workout and able to use heavier weights and, consequently, grow. Follow the nine-day sequence with a five-day sequence, and you execute a pattern that recurs exactly the same every 14 days. Here’s how it goes down:
Tuesday and Wednesday: Rest
Friday and Saturday: Rest
Monday and Tuesday: Rest
Repeat week 1
Providing you don’t miss workouts, the pattern occurs exactly like that every two weeks. You work each bodypart twice in two weeks, and you always have Tuesdays and Fridays off. If you began on Tuesday instead of Monday, you’d have Wednesdays and Saturdays off, and Thursdays and Sundays off if you started it on Wednesday.
I look back at my workouts recorded in my journal at the end of each two-week period and then plan my poundages, sets and reps for the coming two weeks—and I don’t reach involuntary plateaus. It’s a routine that’s randomized, so you don’t get acclimated to it.
Three-time Mr. Olympia