Q: I’m in my early 40s and have limited time to train—three days a week max. I can get to the gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but I usually have family stuff on the weekends, so that’s it. Can I look like a bodybuilder training only three days a week? What program would you recommend?
A: Can you look like a bodybuilder by training only three days a week? That depends entirely on your genetics. I’ve known a few guys who looked like bodybuilders while going to the gym zero days a week. Not kidding—lucky bastards.
Seriously, you can get plenty of muscle stimulation working out only three days a week—but you must be clever and train hard. First, you need to train each muscle through its full range of motion—with Positions of Flexion.
Full-range muscle stimulation entails using a midrange-, stretch- and contracted-position exercise for each bodypart. Sometimes you can get a two-for-one deal, where one exercise hits two of the positions—like cable flyes for chest, which hits the stretch and contracted positions.
Then you need to decide on a split. Can you train each muscle directly once a week and make gains? Some can, some can’t.
If you want to try it, one of the best cover-all-the mass-building-bases routines is the three-day version of The Ultimate Fat-to-Muscle Workout. Here’s the split:
Monday: Chest, delts, biceps
Wednesday: Quads, hams, calves
Friday: Back, triceps, abs
You blast the midrange exercise with a two- or three-set pyramid—after a warmup set or two, you add weight to each work set. Then you reduce the weight and do a last set in negative-accentuated, or X-centric, style—that is, you lift in one second and lower in six on every rep.
For the stretch move it’s a standard seven-to-nine-rep set and then another X-centric set to end.
The contracted-position exercise gets one or two higher-rep sets of 15 to 20. The biceps routine looks like this:
Barbell curls 2 x 9, 7
(NA) 1 x 6-8
Incline curls 1 x 7-9
(NA) 1 x 6-8
curls 1 x 15-20
So you get heavy work, negative-accentuated sets and higher reps. That means you stimulate growth along multiple mass-building pathways—myofibrillar (fiber thickening), sarcoplasmic (energy fluid expansion) and anabolic hormone activation. Plus, the NA, or X-centric, sets, done in conjunction with some heavy work, should force the need for more recovery—seven days. [Note: The Ultimate Fat-to-Muscle Workout is available in the X-Shop at www.X-Rep.com.]
Editor’s note: For more on moderate-weight growth-threshold 4X mass training, see The 4X Mass Workout 2.0 and The Ultimate Super-Size Crash Course, e-books available at X-Workouts.com. For e-books on X Reps, fat-loss nutriton and bodypart specialization, visit the X-Shop at X-Rep.com.