Total Training

/ Posted 05.01.2009
Build an Awesome Physique With Advanced Full-Body Workouts

Many bodybuilders believe that full-body workouts are only for beginners. In fact, they’re so out of fashion nowadays that it’s not uncommon for rank beginners to go right to split workouts without ever attempting a full-body program. What a travesty! The old-time bodybuilding gods must be hanging their heads in bewilderment and shame.

It’s time to correct that gross misconception. I’m here to tell you once and for all that full-body sessions are some of the best workouts you’ll ever perform. No matter how advanced you are or how long you’ve been working out, full-body training can completely transform your physique.

In case you’re having a hard time digesting that because it goes against what you’ve been told or you’ve read in other muscle magazines, let’s get some of the facts straight.

First, some of the best physiques in the history of bodybuilding have been built with full-body workouts. Steve Reeves—arguably the best-built bodybuilder of all time—never performed anything other than full-body workouts, three days a week. Reg Park—who had a physique similar to Reeves’ but carried more muscle mass—primarily performed the 5×5 routine three days per week. Marvin Eder, who was pound for pound the greatest bodybuilder/strength athlete to ever walk the planet (he could bench-press 510 pounds and squat 550 for 10 reps at a bodyweight of 198), always performed full-body workouts. And let’s not forget Casey Viator. Training under the tutelage of Arthur Jones, he gained 60 pounds of muscle in only 28 days using a three-days-a-week full-body program.

Second, full-body workouts enable you to give equal attention to all of the muscles of your physique. Of course, proponents of split routines would object to that statement, claiming that split workouts enable you to give each bodypart more attention by training them on separate days. I find, however, that using split routines often has the opposite effect. Bodybuilders have a tendency to skip the days involving heavy leg and back training and show up more frequently for the days involving chest, shoulders and arm training. If you resign yourself to training your legs and lower back first in a full-body workout—before training your upper body and arms—you’ll become a more balanced and symmetrical, not to mention stronger, bodybuilder.

Third, full-body workouts enable you to train your muscle groups more frequently. Yep, you read that correctly. Frequent is good. It has become almost a fad to train infrequently and irregularly, the rationale being that increased rest between workouts will aid recovery and, therefore, growth and strength. It sounds simple; it sounds as if it will work. Unfortunately for many who have tried it, it just doesn’t.

Also, if you look at all of the good systems of training over the past 20 years—from Bill Starr’s full-body 5×5 workouts to Louie Simmons’ Westside Barbell system to the full-body powerlifting methods of Russian coach extraordinaire Boris Sheiko—the one thing they all have in common is that they train the major lifts frequently.

Consider this oft-quoted principle from the great Russian strength coach and current director of the biomechanics laboratory at Pennsylvania State University, Vladimir Zatsiorsky: The idea is to train as often as possible while being as fresh as possible.

Full-Body Mass Builder 1: The Hypertrophy Program

This routine is geared strictly toward packing on as much muscle as possible. If you haven’t been performing full-body workouts, then ease into it for the first week. After that you should be pushing yourself hard.
It’s a three-days-per-week program. For many lifters that means Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but any three nonconsecutive days will do.

DAY 1

Squats 5 x 8
Perform five progressively heavier sets of eight reps. The last set should be all out.
Incline-bench presses 4 x 10
Perform four progressively heavier sets of 10 reps. The last set should be as tough as possible.
Sumo deadlifts 4 x 8
Perform four progressively heavier sets of eight reps
Standing overhead dumbbell presses 5 x 10
Perform five progressively heavier sets of 10 reps.
Superset
Barbell curls 5 x10
Lying barbell
extensions 5 x10
Perform five progressively heavier sets of 10 reps of each, alternating the two exercises and taking minimal rest between sets.
Steep-incline situps 5 x 20
Using your bodyweight only, perform five sets of 20 reps, taking as little rest as possible between sets.

DAY 2

Front squats 5 x 8
Perform five progressively heavier sets of eight reps.
Dumbbell bench presses 4 x 10
Perform four progressively heavier sets of 10 reps, working up to one all-out set.
Wide-grip chins 4 x max
Using only your bodyweight, perform four all-out sets.
Superset
Dumbbell curls 4 x 10
Lying dumbbell extensions 4 x 10
Perform four progressively heavier sets of 10 reps of each exercise, alternating the two exercises.
Steep-incline situps 5 x 20
Using your bodyweight only, perform five sets of 20 reps, taking as little rest as possible between sets.

DAY 3

Walking lunges 4 x 10
Use the same weight on all sets. Be sure to perform one or two bodyweight-only warmups first.
Incline dumbbell
presses 4 x 10
Perform four progressively heavier sets of 10 reps. The last set should be as tough as possible.
Deadlifts 4 x 8
Since you used a sumo stance for the deadlifts on day 1, you use a conventional stance here. Perform four progressively heavier sets of eight reps, working up to one all-out set.
Seated military presses 5 x 10
Perform five progressively heavier sets of 10 reps, working up to one all-out set.
Superset
Incline curls 5 x 12
Pushdowns 5 x 12
Perform five progressively heavier sets of 12 reps of each exercise, alternating the two exercises.
Steep-incline situps 5 x 20
Using your bodyweight only, perform five sets of 20 reps, taking as little rest as possible between sets.

Full-Body Mass Builder 2: The Strength, Power and Mass Program

This routine is for those of you who want it all: not just muscle but the strength and power to go along with it. To do that, you use a heavy/light/medium system of training. Because you’ll be using heavy training loads coupled with a greater number of sets, you’ll need the variation.

DAY 1: HEAVY

Squats 7 x 5, 1 x 10
Flat-bench presses 7 x 5, 1 x10
For both exercises perform three progressively heavier warmup sets, followed by four work sets with the same weight. You should struggle to get five reps on all of your sets, the last set being damn near impossible to perform. After your final set of five, drop down in weight for one all-out set of 10 reps.
Sumo deadlifts 8 x 3
Perform three progressively heavier warmup sets of three reps, followed by five work sets of three reps.
Incline-bench presses 5 x 5
Standing presses 5 x 5
Barbell curls 5 x 5
For these three exercises perform two warmup sets, followed by three work sets.
Steep-incline situps 5 x 20
Using your bodyweight only, perform five sets of 20 reps, taking as little rest as possible between sets.

DAY 2: LIGHT

Squats 7 x 5
Perform three progressively heavier warmup sets, followed by four work sets. For your work sets use a weight that’s 65 to 70 percent of the weight that you used on your heavy day. If you squatted 400 pounds for four work sets on heavy day, you’d use approximately 260 to 280 pounds on these.
Flat-bench presses 7 x 5
Perform three progressively heavier warmup sets, followed by four work sets. For your work sets use a weight that’s 65 to 70 percent of the weight that you used on your heavy day.
Good mornings 6 x 5
Perform three progressively heavier warmup sets followed by three heavy sets of five reps. Heavy is relative on this exercise, of course, since you won’t be able to handle weights anywhere close to what you did on the sumo deadlifts in the heavy workout.
Steep-incline situps 5 x 20
Using your bodyweight only, perform five sets of 20 reps, taking as little rest as possible between sets.

DAY 3: MEDIUM

Squats 7 x 5, 1 x 10
Perform three progressively heavier warmup sets, followed by four work sets. For your work sets use a weight that’s 85 to 90 percent of the weight that you used on your heavy day. If you squatted 400 pounds for four work sets on heavy day, you’d want to use approximately 340 to 360 pounds on all four work sets. After your final set of five, drop down in weight and perform one set of 10 reps. Unlike what you did on heavy day, the down set should not be all out.
Flat-bench presses 7 x 5, 1 x 10
Perform three progressively heavier warmup sets, followed by four work sets. For your work sets use a weight that’s 85 to 90 percent of the weight that you used on your heavy day.
Snatch-grip deadlifts 8 x 3
Perform three progressively heavier warmup sets of three reps, followed by five work sets of three reps. Take a conventional stance, but use a wide grip, as if you were performing a snatch. The weight should be less than what you used on the sumo deadlifts.
Behind-the-neck presses 5 x 5
Perform two warmup sets, followed by three work sets.
Barbell curls 5 x 5
Perform two warmup sets, followed by three work sets of five. Work this exercise as hard as you did on your heavy day.
Steep-incline situps 5 x 20
Using your bodyweight only, perform five sets of 20 reps, taking as little rest as possible between sets.

Keys to Success

Here are a few tips that will help you get the most out of these programs.

• Whichever of the programs you’re on, stick with it for four weeks. After that you’ll need a down week to allow your body to recuperate and your mind to rejuvenate. During the down week perform the same workouts for the same number of sets and reps, but cut your poundages in half.

• Make sure that you get plenty of protein. These programs are physically demanding. If you’re trying to gain weight, you need to take in somewhere between 15 and 20 times your bodyweight in calories each day.

• Every few months you might want to switch back to a more conventional split program, especially if you enjoy such workouts. That will keep your mind fresh and your workouts interesting.

Give these workouts an honest try, and I can guarantee that you’ll be more than just pleasantly surprised with the results full-body workouts can bring. You’ll be elated. And you’ll know—once and for all—that full-body training isn’t just for beginners. IM

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