High-Frequency Focus Training

/ Posted 03.19.2009
Innovative, Frequent Workouts for Renewed Muscle and Strength Gains

Sometimes the most efficient methods of training seem to be contradictory in nature. For instance, one of the most effective ways to train for strength and power-not to mention thick muscle growth-is to follow a whole-body program that has you working the muscles of your legs, back and upper body three days a week with heavy compound movements. Another highly effective method for gaining muscle and strength is to train four to six days a week, working only one (or two at the most) bodypart(s) at a time. That lets you really focus on each muscle group, giving you a fantastic pump and hitting the muscle from all angles.

The first training program works by frequently exposing all the muscles to a high level of stress with exercises such as squats, deadlifts and barbell bench presses. When training that way, don’t go to failure; instead perform multiple sets of a single exercise, always leaving a little “in the tank.” That’s the kind of training favored by Russian and Eastern European strength athletes, and it’s the reason they dominate so many powerlifting and Olympic-lifting meets.

The second form of training is the kind favored by most American bodybuilders. It works by annihilating a muscle group, then giving it plenty of time to rest and grow big. If muscle growth-and only muscle growth-is your goal, you could argue that the one-bodypart-per-workout method is the most effective form of training.

I’ve used both methods and gotten really good results. For instance, when I was at my largest and most muscular, weighing between 210 and 220 pounds of fairly lean muscle at only 5’6″, I was using a once-a-week-per-bodypart regimen, training Monday through Friday and taking the weekends off. However, when I was at my strongest, weighing around 181 pounds and squatting and deadlifting more than triple my bodyweight, I was training Monday, Wednesday and Friday on a heavy/light/medium program-a regimen favored by Coach Bill Starr. At each training session I squatted, performed some kind of bench work and performed heavy back work.

The question is, Is there a way to combine both methods into one training program so you can reap the benefits of both? I believe the answer is yes. In fact, there are several ways that you could probably go about it. HFFT is one approach.

HFFT Explained

I’ve chosen to call this method high-frequency focus training-HFFT-because although you train each muscle group frequently, you focus on only a couple of bodyparts at each session. Here’s how it works:

Every workout begins with the high-frequency portion-you train all of the large muscle groups with a few sets, using moderate-to-heavy weights and fairly low reps or lifting a light weight for high reps. When you finish that portion of the workout, you should feel refreshed and invigorated instead of exhausted.

After the high-frequency portion it’s time for the focus portion. You pick one or at most two muscle groups and hit them with multiple sets of multiple reps-a typical bodybuilding workout.
If all of that sounds a little confusing, it won’t be after you read through the two programs below. The first is for beginners or anyone who’s not used to training the whole body several times per week. The second program is for anyone who has developed a combination of good conditioning and good muscular development-in other words, advanced lifters.

Beginning HFFT Program

This is a three-days-per-week regimen; say, Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Day 1

High Frequency
Squats 5 x 5,5,3,3,3
Deadlifts 5 x 5,5,3,3,3
Barbell flat-or incline-bench presses 5 x 5,5,3,3,3

For all exercises do two warmup sets of five reps, followed by three work sets of three reps, using approximately 70 to 75 percent of your one-rep maximum.

Focus: Chest and Arms
Flat-bench dumbbell presses 4 x 10
Incline dumbbell flyes 3 x 10
Cable crossovers 3 x 10
Superset
Dumbbell curls 8 x 10
Dips 8 x 10

Day 2

High Frequency
Squats 5 x 5,5,3,3,3
Power cleans 5 x 5,5,3,3,3
Overhead presses 5 x 5,5,3,3,3

For all exercises do two warmup sets of five reps, followed by three work sets of three reps, using approximately 70 to 75 percent of your one-rep maximum.

Focus: Legs
Leg presses 3 x 20
Leg extensions 3 x 20
Lying leg curls 3 x 20
Standing calf raises
(machine or barbell) 2 x 30-50

Day 3

High Frequency
Squats 5 x 5,5,3,3,3
Deadlifts 5 x 5,5,3,3,3
Barbell flat- or incline-bench presses 5 x 5,5,3,3,3

On this day you use less weight because of the heavy leg training on day 2. For all exercises do two warmup sets of five reps, followed by three work sets of three reps, using approximately 60 to 65 percent of your one-rep maximum.

Focus: Back and Shoulders
Lat pulldowns 4 x 10
Bent-over rows 3 x 10
Dumbbell pullovers 2 x 20
Lateral raises 3 x 10
Front raises 3 x 10

Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of this program:
• Train hard and consistently on this program for four weeks. On the fifth week take a down week: Do the high-frequency portion of all of the workouts but omit the focus portions. On the sixth week resume training hard for another four weeks, and then take another down week. For the next week, the 12th week of training, it’s a good idea to switch to another program.
• Increase the weight on all of the focus exercises whenever possible.
• Remember that you should always feel refreshed and invigorated after the high-frequency sets. At that point you should be fired up for the focus sets.
• Train hard on the focus sets but still stop one or two reps shy of muscular failure.
• Eat big. This program is designed for mass building, not for getting in contest shape.

Advanced HFFT Program

This routine has you training five consecutive days before taking a day off; say, Monday through Friday, with the weekends off. You now use different rep schemes on different days in the high-frequency portion.

Day 1

High Frequency
Squats 5 x 5
Deadlifts 5 x 5

For both exercises perform five progressively heavier sets of five reps. The last set should be a little tough, but you should still have no problem getting all five reps.

Focus: Chest
Barbell bench presses 5 x 10
Wide-grip dips 4 x max
Incline dumbbell presses 4 x 15

Day 2

High Frequency
Squats 2 x 20-25
Dumbbell bench presses 2 x 20-25

You should get a slight pump on both exercises, but you shouldn’t be using so much weight that the sets tax your body.

Focus: Back
Wide-grip chins 3 x max
One-arm dumbbell rows (per arm) 4 x 12-15
Dumbbell pullovers 2 x 30-40

Day 3

High Frequency
Barbell bench presses 5 x 2

Perform five progressively heavier sets of two reps. The weight on the last set should be 80 to 85 percent of your one-rep max.

Dumbbell deadlifts 5 x 5

Perform five progressively heavier sets of five reps. The weight on the last set should be about 70 to 75 percent of your one-rep max.

Focus: Legs
Leg presses 3 x 20-30
Leg extensions 4 x 20-30
Lying leg curls 4 x 20-30
Sissy squats 2 x max
Standing calf raises (machine or barbell) 2 x 30-50
Donkey calf raises 2 x max

Day 4

High Frequency
Bodyweight squats 2 x 50-100

Your legs will probably be pretty sore on this day, but these two sets will help them recover.

Pushups 5 x 10-20
Close-grip chins 5 x 3-5

None of these reps should be anywhere close to failure. Each rep should be strong and powerful.

Focus: Shoulders
Military presses 5 x 10-12
Dumbbell lateral raises 3 x 12-15
Seated dumbbell presses 3 x 10-12

Day 5

High Frequency
Squats 10-12 x 2
Dumbbell bench presses 10-12 x 2
For both exercises use about 50 to 60 percent of your one-rep maximum.
Deadlifts 8 x 1

Use approximately 70 percent of your one-rep max on all sets. Work on making every single strong and powerful.

Focus: Arms
Superset
Barbell curls 5 x 10-12
Skull crushers 5 x 10-12
Superset
Seated dumbbell curls 4 x 15-20
Rope pushdowns 4 x 15-20

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of the advanced routine:

• This program is strictly for advanced lifters. Do not try it until you are ready.
• Remember that you should always feel fresh and invigorated after the high-frequency portion of the workouts. On days 4 and 5 you should feel decidedly better after you finish that portion than when you started the session.
• On the focus portion of the workouts train increasingly harder for three weeks before taking a complete break from focus work on the fourth week. For instance, in week 1 stop each set several reps shy of failure. In week 2 stop each set only one rep shy of muscular failure, and in week 3 take every single one of the focus sets to complete momentary muscular failure. Then in week 4 do only the high-frequency portion of all workouts.

If you have any questions regarding either of the HFFT programs, please feel free to send e-mail to me at cssloan@mac.com or visit my Web site at web.mac.com/cssloan.

Give these workouts an honest try for a few months, and you won’t be disappointed. They might not be what you’re used to, but neither will the big gains. IM

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