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The Full-Body Mass Blast

Q: I’ve read some of the advice you give people, and you seem like a good guy with very respectable accomplishments. For the past five or so months, on the advice of my trainer, I’ve switched from a full-body routine to a five-day split. Well, my gains have stopped entirely if not backslid, and after doing more research, I’m thinking that a full-body workout would be the best way to go. So, after 7 1/2 months of dedicated lifting and great gains overall, what’s the best full-body program or guideline I can follow? Am I still in the beginner category? How do I determine my skill level? My one-rep maxes on the major lifts—squat, bench, deadlift—are now well into the 200s. Not amazing, but I’m working on heading in that direction. My next question is, Once I decide on a program, how long do I stick with it before I need to switch it up again? Until it stops working, or is there also a suggested cutoff time. I hope one day to win the same natural bodybuilding competition my dad won years ago. Unfortunately, he’s not around anymore to answer questions. Any info would be great.

A: What type of routine to follow to make the maximum gains is a common problem among bodybuilders. Most people try to add too many exercises and too many sets in order to make faster progress. I like that you’re taking the opposite approach and want to scale back what you’re doing in order to make progress.

With only 7 1/2 months of training experience, you can still stick with the full-body workout. Most beginners are advised to use a full-body workout for six to 12 months before moving on to a more advanced program.

The advantages of a full-body workout are that you use a limited amount of exercises and sets, so you won’t become overtrained and you will be able to recuperate and grow. If you’re using compound, mass-building exercises like squats, barbell rows, deadlifts and bench presses, you should be able to make good progress with the limited routine.

The problem with sticking with a full-body workout as you become more advanced—that is, bigger and stronger—is that it will require more and more energy for your body to complete the workout. When you begin using substantial poundages on exercises like squats, deadlifts and rows, it may be too much work to do effectively in one workout.

The split routine was invented to allow bodybuilders the energy and time to specialize on the different muscle groups instead of training the whole body in one session. If you were to do four to five exercises for each muscle group, it would be almost impossible to work your entire body in one session. With a full-body workout you have to limit the number of exercises to one or two per muscle group in order to have the energy to train your whole body.

A good full-body workout will include only 10 to 12 exercises. By doing only one movement for each major muscle group, you can perform three good sets of each, using the right resistance to stimulate growth, and have the energy to complete the workout without overtraining.

Here’s an example of a full-body workout that I recommend. In fact, it’s two different workouts that you can alternate from session to session. One begins with the upper-body muscles, and the other begins with leg exercises. By alternating workouts, you ensure that you don’t give preference to one half of the body over the other, so you’ll have even development from the start.


Full-Body Workout 1

Incline situps 3 x 20-30

Incline knee raises 3 x 20-30

Squats 3 x 10-12

Leg curls 3 x 10-12

Standing calf raises 3 x 10-12

Bench presses 3 x 10-12

Wide-grip chins or pulldowns 3 x 10-12

Standing military presses 3 x 10-12

Barbell shrugs 3 x 10-12

Close-grip bench presses 3 x 10-12

Barbell curls 3 x 10-12


Full Body Workout 2

Incline-bench presses 3 x 10-12

Barbell rows 3 x 10-12

Seated dumbbell presses 3 x 10-12

Barbell shrugs 3 x 10-12

Dips 3 x 10-12

Barbell curls 3 x 10-12

Squats 3 x 10-12

Stiff-legged deadlifts 3 x 10-12

Seated calf raises 3 x 10-12

Incline situps 3 x 20-30

Incline knee raises 3 x 20-30


You asked how long you should stick with a program, and the simple answer is just what you said—as long as it’s working. If you’re able to increase both your strength and your muscle mass consistently with this full-body workout, then stick with it.

When you want to go to the next level and start working the muscles from different angles and doing more work for each bodypart, you will need to switch to a split routine. I recommend splitting the muscle groups over two days for your first split. That way you train your full body over two workouts instead of one. Because you’re doing more work for each muscle group, you will need more recuperation time, so you hit each muscle group only twice a week to compensate.

One popular split is the push-pull routine. It involves training all of the pushing muscles (chest, deltoids, triceps and calves) in one workout and all the pulling muscles (back and biceps) along with legs in the second workout. Because you are training opposing muscle groups at different workouts, you will not overlap and overtrain any muscles by directly or indirectly working them at two sessions in a row. Here’s an good example of a push-pull-split routine:


Monday-Thursday: Chest, deltoids, triceps, calves


Bench presses 4 x 10, 8, 6, 6

Incline presses 3 x 8, 6, 6

Flyes 3 x 8, 8, 6


Standing military presses 4 x 10, 8, 6, 6

Upright rows 3 x 10, 8, 6

Barbell shrugs 3 x 10, 8, 6


Pushdowns 3 x 10, 8, 6

Weighted dips 3 x 6-8


Standing calf raises 4 x 12, 10, 8, 8


Tuesday-Friday: Legs, back, biceps, abs


Squats 4 x 10, 8, 6, 6

Hack squats 3 x 10, 8, 6

Leg curls 3 x 10, 8, 6

Stiff-legged deadlifts 3 x 8, 6, 6


Wide-grip chins 3 x 12, 10, 8

Barbell rows 4 x 10, 8, 6, 6

Seated cable rows 3 x 10, 8, 6


Barbell curls 3 x 10, 8, 6

Incline curls 2 x 8, 6


Wrist curls 3 x 10-12


Incline situps 3 x 20-30


Editor’s note: John Hansen has won the Mr. Natural Olympia and is a three-time Natural Mr. Universe winner. For information on his exciting new program, The MP6 Cycle Training, check out his Web site at and become a member. To attend the Natural Olympia Fitness Getaway, go to Send questions or comments to [email protected]. Look for John’s new DVD, “Natural Bodybuilding Seminar and Competitions,” his book, Natural Bodybuilding, and his training DVD, “Real Muscle” at his Web site or at Home Gym Warehouse,  IM


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