Q: You don’t seem to like training each muscle only once a week, the way almost all the current pro bodybuilders do. How come?
A: More muscle-training frequency is a big size stimulator, especially for drug-free trainees—if you do it correctly. The pros can get away with training each bodypart with excessive volume only once a week because of genetic superiority and, of course, excessive drug use. In fact, if you look back at the best bodybuilders of yesteryear, when steroid use was minimal, training each bodypart three times a week was the norm prior to a contest.
Guys like Arnold, Sergio and Frank Zane hit every muscle two, perhaps three, times every seven days. In reality, those champs of yesteryear were a lot closer to natural bodybuilders than today’s champs.
As far as my experiments with training each bodypart only once a week are concerned, my partner, Jonathan Lawson, and I always wanted it to work. Unfortunately, once-a-week hits have never done much for our muscle size. The only time we saw fairly consistent size increases training bodyparts once a week was when we used negative-accentuated sets—one second up on the positive and six seconds down on the negative.
NA training triggers excessive muscle trauma that can require seven days of recovery when combined with other heavy sets (as outlined in the e-book The X-centric Mass Workout—where it’s also combined with 4X). Nevertheless, once we adapted to X-centric training after about four weeks, growth slowed considerably.
On most other one-hit-per-week programs our muscle growth has always been very sporadic to nonexistent. Strength, however, has usually improved nicely. That’s because the muscles recover faster than the nervous system. After a full week the nerve connections to a specific muscle are finally regenerated to a stronger level, but the muscles, which recover much more quickly, have regressed almost back to square one.
So when a drug-free trainee hits each muscle only once a week, strength improves due to new neuromuscular efficiency, not muscular hypertrophy, for the most part. Muscles gain some size, then regress, gain, then regress. Not much new size is built. Any strength you experience is due primarily to nervous system enhancement.
Our most recent frequency “trick” is the direct/indirect split. That has you train each muscle two to three times a week, but not with direct hits every time. For example, when you train chest directly, you also train triceps indirectly during all pressing moves. Later in the week when you train triceps, you include close-grip bench presses, which train chest indirectly. [See the workouts in Train, Eat, Grow, which begins on page 54, for more examples.]
If you’re drug-free, I highly recommend that you do not follow the training schedules of the current steroid-infused pros. Instead, try training each bodypart two or three times a week—and you’ll see massive improvements in your physique.
Editor’s note: Steve Holman is the author of many bodybuilding best-sellers and the creator of Positions-of-Flexion muscle training. For information on the POF videos and Size Surge programs, visit www.X-Rep.com for information on X-Rep and 3D POF methods and e-books. IM