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The Amazing Direct/Indirect Split

Doing close-grip bench presses on triceps day produces indirect work for your chest.

Q: I have two questions. I’m using the X-centric Mass Workout program with the direct/indirect method. It’s a three-day split: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Then Friday repeats Monday’s workout. Can I just train everything once a week? My work schedule is cramped now, so I want to use the three-way split over Monday, Wednesday and Friday. With the indirect work, each bodypart would get trained twice, right? Will I still make good gains? Also, you list close-grip upright rows as direct trap work and indirect delt work on back day. Is there another exercise I can use? Those hurt my wrists.

A: To help clarify for readers who are unfamiliar with the direct/indirect approach, here’s how the split is set up, as found in X-centric Mass Workout—note that legs are always trained on Tuesday, with the other two upper-body workouts rotating on Monday, Wednesday and Friday:

Week 1

Monday: Chest, back, abs

Tuesday: Legs

Wednesday: Delts, arms

Thursday: Off

Friday: Chest, back + deadlifts, abs

Week 2

Monday: Delts, arms

Tuesday: Legs

Wednesday: Chest, back, abs

Thursday: Off

Friday: Delts, arms

Week 3: Repeat Week 1

The direct/indirect method is in play on almost every bodypart. One good example is rack pulls for delts. We like to lead off shoulders with that exercise, a wide-grip upright row with a slight heave to get the heavy weight to the upper abs. Rack pullls blast the medial-delt head and train traps and upper back indirectly. Here’s a list of the direct/indirect connections:

Delts: Indirect trap hit (rack pulls, overhead presses)

Chest: Indirect triceps hit (pressing)

Back: Indirect biceps hit (pulldowns, rows)

Biceps: Indirect lat hit (undergrip pulldowns)

Triceps: Indirect chest hit (close-grip bench presses)

Also notice that when back falls on Friday, as in week 1, we do deadlifts, which gives you indirect work for quads.

If you change the above split to three days per week the way you suggest, it can still work extremely well due to the direct/indirect protocol. In fact, for hardgainer types three days per week may work better than four—it’s almost like doing heavy/light for every bodypart. Here’s a sample of how you can set it up:

Monday: Delts, arms

Wednesday: Legs

Friday: Chest, back + deadlifts, abs

If you use the exercises we suggest above and in the X-centric Mass Workout, you’ll be training all bodyparts twice a week in some capacity, with plenty of recovery between hits. It’s an ingenious split, if we do say so ourselves. There are more details in Train, Eat, Grow that begins on page 56.

Your second question is whether there’s a substitute for close-grip upright rows on back day for indirect delt work. We’ve discovered an exercise used by legendary bodybuilder Ed Corney, the master poser seen in “Pumping Iron.” It’s called lateral/shrugs. You basically do two-thirds of a lateral raise—not quite to the top—and at the same time you shrug. You’ll feel every rep contract your traps hard as your medial-delt heads fight to keep up. We got sore in both traps and delts the first time we tried it—and you know how hard it is to get sore delts.

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, see the ad section that begins on page 232. Also visit for information on X-Rep and 3D POF methods and e-books.  IM

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