By month 3 of this program you should have noticed some spectacular changes in your health and your physique. Your chest should be deeper, your back wider, your shoulders broader, your arms and legs fuller’that is, if you’ve been following my instructions to the letter.
For those who haven’t yet realized those results, go back to the beginning of this series, reread the introductory articles carefully and run through the routines again. Believe me, they’ll work when applied properly.
One of the biggest disappointments that people, regardless of age, who take up the science of bodybuilding experience is that they never seem to gain ‘fast enough.’ Everybody who’s ever attended a Mr. Olympia contest wants to look like the competitors they’ve just seen onstage’immediately. To that end some even copy the champions’ precontest training routines in a misguided effort to hasten the transformation. After all, it worked for the champions, right? Wrong! The champions are the Thoroughbreds of our species; it’s in their genes’or, more specifically, it’s in their muscle bellies’to be big musclemen. Their physiques are inordinate due to their being genetically predisposed to carrying a large musculature on their frames, not because of their magic routines or their secret dietary methods. So don’t get caught up in trying to get through triple split, push/pull, intensity or insanity’I love that one!’up and down the rack, 20 sets per bodypart and so on.
It’s time trainees woke up to the fact that it’s not in the genetic cards for all of us to be massively muscled. Nor can we alter that reality simply by aping the training routine of a certain champion. In fact, the champion’s training routine’particularly his precontest regimen’would have about as much bearing on our attaining his muscle size as wearing the same brand of shoes he wears would have’that is to say, no effect whatsoever.
Remember the first rule of success in bodybuilding: You have to have the right genetics. Otherwise, most of the other rules won’t apply. In fact, given the level of drugs that most champion bodybuilders take, probably very few of the rules that govern human physiology have much bearing, as the drugs alter it into something quite foreign to our species. For example, the muscles don’t create the same amount of waste by-products or fatigue at the same rate as they do without drugs. Suffice it to say that unless you’re currently on drugs’and by that I mean steroids’or are firm in your resolve to use them regardless of the consequences, then you’ll experience little, if any, gains by training like the champions.
Muscular gains come when you train intelligently, which means observing and understanding the economics of growth and recovery.
Traditionally, bodybuilders have been subjected to bizarre and fantastic claims, generally made by people who are every bit as extraordinary as the claims they advance. They still are. It’s important that you know about the deceptions that await you on your journey to physical perfection so you can avoid those who would have you engaging in baseless and potentially harmful training, nutrition and, most important, psychological practices.
Unquestionably, the most common error you’ll encounter is the visualization, or mind-over-matter, theory’similes that involve biceps like mountains, backs like manta rays or other nonsense. They are, in effect, mind-over-genetics techniques, or what the late novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand would have called the ‘I wish vs. the it is’ argument, which, in effect, instructs you to ignore the fact that you’re only 5’2′ and have brown eyes because, by God, if you really want to be 6’6′ and have eyes of blue, all you have to do is believe that it’s possible’and it will happen! The proponents of such gibberish have their own nomenclature, featuring words and phrases such as mental imagery or visualization’and it’s rampant throughout bodybuilding. Mantras like ‘Believe and Achieve’ adorn the backs of many a weight belt, but the truth is, it’s chicanery straight out of the ‘Film-Flam Man’ and won’t put another inch on your arms, no matter how Cartesianly clear your thoughts about the size of your muscles may be. Go ahead and envision your biceps the size of Mount Everest. Give me a call when they peak at 29,028 feet. By the same logic, I could claim that I can leap over an apartment complex; you’d be quite justified in thinking me deluded. And if a bodybuilder of international repute says he has peaks on his biceps because he envisioned them as miniature mountains’not because genetics put an egg on his biceps the day his DNA took hold’you should question his sanity.
Nevertheless, such claims are made every day regarding the mystical importance of the mind in training. Sure, the mind is important. Without it you couldn’t even tie your shoes, let alone engage in barbell training, but it’s not nearly as omnipotent as some so-called authorities would have you believe.
Your mind keeps you motivated to get into the gym and train intensely enough to stimulate your muscles to grow’which is not an easy routine to maintain. In fact, it’s downright uncomfortable’so much so that anyone who feels the inclination to engage in cognitive gymnastics involving mountain-peak biceps, manta-ray lats and fluffy clouds really isn’t training; he or she is simply going through the motions and relaxing, because when we relax, or sleep, is the time we’re best able to engage in such flights of fancy. (We just refer to them as dreams.)
If genetics is the be-all and end-all of bodybuilding and you’re not the spitting image of Conan the Barbarian at the moment, should you throw in the towel and write it off to a bad deal of the genetic cards? By no means! Just because you don’t have the muscle bellies of an Arnold Schwarzenegger or a Mike Mentzer doesn’t mean you don’t have the genetics to become an equally impressive you. That means developing yourself to the uppermost limits of your potential. After all, Steve Reeves, Arnold, Mentzer, Lou Ferrigno, Bruce Lee, Mike Tyson and Lee Labrada don’t have the same genetics either!
If you train properly, as opposed to improperly, you can realize your unique physiological potential, which may supersede any of the competitors on the Mr. Olympia stage today. What then is ‘proper’ training? It involves stimulating muscle growth and allowing your body sufficient time to realize that growth.
To accomplish that, you must make your workouts intense, and since intensity and duration work in inverse proportion to each other, your workouts must’if they’re intense’be brief. The more intense the workouts, the greater the muscle stimulation and the briefer the workouts must be.
One other factor enters this workout equation: recovery. You must have at least 48 hours between high-intensity training sessions and more if you’re exceptionally strong. Any less and you won’t progress at all’in fact, you may regress. First, you must train hard to stimulate growth, which means that your workouts must be brief (no more than 45 minutes maximum per workout), and you must rest afterward for 48 hours (minimum). If you follow those guidelines, you’ll grow progressively larger muscles with every trip to the gym.
Squats 1 x 20
Chins 1 x max
Standing barbell presses 1 x 12
Bent-over barbell rows 1 x 12
Dumbbell flyes 1 x 12
Upright rows 1 x 12
Incline dumbbell curls 1 x 12
Seated French presses 1 x 12
Stiff-legged deadlifts 1 x 20
Crunch situps 1 x 15
Wrist curls 1 x 15
Hammer curls 1 x 12
Sets The question of sets is a gray fog at the best of times. Certainly 20 sets per bodypart, regardless of the bodypart, is counterproductive. Reducing that number to half, or 10 sets, would seem, at least on the surface, to be a step in the right direction; however, a closer examination of the scientific literature reveals that maximum strength and muscle mass increases can be obtained from one set of an exercise. You can do additional sets if you like, but don’t for a minute believe that you’re stimulating greater size and strength gains.
The proviso with the one-set method is that you have to take the set to positive failure: the point where it’s impossible to get an additional rep despite your greatest effort. Up until now you’ve done two sets during specialization periods, and you’ve made progress, but that’s exactly why you must now reduce your training volume if you hope to progress further.
It’s a well-documented fact that the average individual has the potential to increase his or her starting-level of strength by at least 300 percent, but that same person’s potential for increasing recovery ability is only 50 percent. So the stronger you become, the greater the likelihood that you’ll overtrain unless you taper off the volume of your training sessions accordingly.
With this month’s program you reduce your training volume by approximately two-thirds. Don’t be misled into thinking that briefer training is easier. This workout will be hard’brutally so, in fact’and you’ll progress as you have at no other time in your training career as a result. The repetition guidelines are the upper end of the scale; when you can successfully reach those numbers, increase the resistance by 5 percent and work up to those reps all over again. Also remember to take each set to muscular failure and lift the weight in perfect form’that is, take two to five seconds to raise the resistance and four seconds to lower it.
Use this program three days per week’for example, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Then use your off days for rest and recovery and watch yourself grow!
Editor’s note: John Little is a leading innovator of bodybuilding training. Watch for his latest book, Fast Mass: The Max Contraction System. IM