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Wintertime Mass Training

If you train hard from spring to fall but then fail to stay on track during the winter months, you’ll lose everything you gained.

One of the main reasons I left my native New York and moved to South Florida was to avoid the dreaded winter months. I’m not a big fan of the cold, the snow or that wind that rips through you no matter how bundled up you are. In fact, I hate the need to bundle up at all. My extremely limited wardrobe of T-shirts, shorts, tanks and sandals is just fine, thanks, and if I never have to don a ski cap, gloves, scarf or bulky winter jacket again, it will be too soon! The only “wind chill factor” I ever want to worry about occurs when the air-conditioning kicks on at the same moment I stick my head in the freezer to get my veggies.

When it comes to training, the winter can be a double-edged sword. For competitive bodybuilders it’s time to start packing away more calories, pushing heavier iron in the gym and forcing the bathroom scale to withstand greater and greater loads. Since it’s so cold outside, tank tops and shorts are out and baggy shirts and sweats are in. Thus, few people worry about bodyfat, and most focus purely on trying to take up more space on this planet. That’s right, winter is mass season!

Even so, while those who train to pose are passionately driven to improve 24/7/365, average lifters find that when the temperature begins to drop, so does their motivation to get to the gym. In my experience people tend to train in the early morning before work or in the evening right after it. It’s not easy to get yourself out of bed a couple of hours early when it’s just so darn warm and cozy under the covers. Nor is it easy to hit the gym after a hard day at work, especially when it gets dark at 5 p.m. and traffic is moving extra slow because of the snow or slush that covers the streets. In the years when I owned a personal-training studio in New York, I had at least three times the number of cancelled appointments during the winter as at any other time of year.

The problem is, that type of attitude is not very productive and will certainly keep you from making progress from year to year. You end up taking one step forward and one step back. If you train hard from spring to fall but fail to stay on track during the winter months, you’ll lose everything you gained. When you begin lifting again, you will be back to square one.

A better solution would be to compromise with yourself and your muscles. Perhaps instead of completely slacking off during the winter months, you could work with an abbreviated program that would enable you to at least maintain your gains (or even add to them) so that when you’re ready to hit it hard again, you won’t have lost ground.

Here are three different routines that use various types of styles, splits and protocols. Check them out and decide what will best fit your needs. You can choose one program and follow it through the entire winter, use one for several weeks at a time before switching to the next or even change from week to week. The goal is simply to keep your butt in the gym, so mix and match as you see fit.

Program 1: The 2-Day Barrage of Basics

This program is for those who really have trouble getting to the gym in the wintertime. You are required to make an appearance before the iron just two days per week, but you’ll work very hard while there. It’s a no-nonsense approach that uses only the most basic lifts in order to attack the target muscles as well as all synergists and stabilizers. Fancy machines and cable exercises remain on the sidelines, while heavy barbells and dumbbells are the star players. The goal is to cover as many muscles as possible in each session with compound lifts while also fully stimulating the central nervous system and endocrine system. You hit each muscle group only once per week, so plan to give it your all every time you train. Pick any two days per week that suit you, but always give yourself at least two days between sessions.

Day 1: Chest, lats, delts, abs
Incline presses 3 x 6-8
Dumbbell bench presses 3 x 6-8
Weighted wide-grip chins 3 x 6-8
Undergrip bent-over rows 3 x 6-8
Seated dumbbell presses 3 x 6-8
Upright rows 2 x 6-8
Weighted incline situps 3 x 12-15

Day 2: Quads, hams, calves, biceps, triceps
Squats 4 x 8-10
Leg presses 3 x 8-10
Stiff-legged deadlifts 3 x 8-10
Leg curls 2 x 8-10
Standing calf raises 3 x 10-12
Barbell curls 3 x 6-8
Weighted dips
(torso upright) 3 x 6-8
Program 2: The 3-Day POF/Rep-Range Rampage

This routine combines Steve Holman’s brilliant Positions-of-Flexion training strategy with the Rep Range portion of my Power/Rep Range/Shock protocol. You split the body into thirds, and each muscle gets one solid hit per week.
Since you want to keep overall volume low—to keep the motivation to get to the gym high—you need to be efficient in how you attack each muscle group. Thus, the combination of POF, slightly modified, and Rep Range training is the perfect one-two punch, as it enables you to work each muscle group through its entire range of motion while concurrently stimulating all of your muscle fibers. POF has you train a muscle through its midrange, stretch and contracted position, usually with three different exercises—very efficient, very effective. For optimum results, pick three nonconsecutive days per week on which to train.

Day 1: Chest, lats, abs
Bench presses 3 x 7-9
Incline flyes 2 x 10-12
Pec deck flyes 2 x 13-15
Wide-grip bent-over rows 2 x 7-9
Close-grip pulldowns 2 x 10-12
Dumbbell pullovers 2 x 13-15
Stiff-arm pulldowns 1 x 16-20
Weighted incline
kneeups 1 x 10-12
Swiss ball crunches,
Ab Bench crunches or
full-range crunches 1 x 13-15
Cable crunches 1 x 16-20

Day 2: Quads, hams, calves
Squats 3 x 7-9
Sissy squats 3 x 10-12
Leg extensions 2 x 13-15, 16-20
Leg presses (feet at top
of platform) 2 x 7-9
Stiff-legged deadlifts 2 x 10-12
Lying leg curls 2 x 13-15
Leg press calf raises 1 x 10-12
Standing calf
raises 2 x 13-15, 16-20

Day 3: Delts, biceps, triceps
Seated military presses 2 x 7-9
Wide-grip barbell upright
rows 1 x 10-12
Incline one-arm laterals 2 x 13-15
Machine laterals or
dumbbell laterals 2 x 16-20
Barbell curls 2 x 7-9
Incline dumbbell curls 1 x 10-12
Concentration curls 1 x 13-15
Smith-machine close-grip
bench presses 2 x 7-9
Seated two-arm overhead
dumbbell extensions 2 x 10-12
Kickbacks 1 x 13-15

Program 3: The 4-Day Fiber Damage/Fiber Saturation Annihilation

In the November ’07 IRON MAN I introduced a new training protocol called Fiber Damage/Fiber Saturation Training, or FDFS for short (can you tell I like acronyms?). Space doesn’t permit me to detail the entire concept here (you can order the back issue from, but suffice to say, it’s a very intense and effective method of training. The core of the program is to use the techniques that are best for causing muscle trauma, such as heavy weights, negative emphasis and stretch/pause, followed by high repetition work for a maximum pump effect. When a muscle is damaged—by the desirable microtears during training—it sets in motion a cascade of physiological events that lead to adaptation through the strengthening and growth of muscle tissue. In fact, without damage there is little reason for your body to build bigger and stronger muscles. Once you’ve caused trauma, however, it becomes vitally important to give your body the chance to repair it.

By saturating the muscles with blood through high-rep training, you can bathe them in nutrients, oxygen, hormones, amino acids, antioxidants and more. That will help facilitate the recovery process before you even leave the gym.
The following routine is a mini version of FDFS, using less volume. Since you’re committing to the gym four days per week in the dreaded winter, the idea is to get in and out as quickly as possible (so you can get home and curl up by the fireplace with the new IRON MAN). Think of it as a boxer throwing a jab, jab, uppercut and then dancing away as his opponent drops to the mat!

Note: For each exercise a lifting tempo is suggested; e.g., 1/0/1 or 4/1/X. The first figure is the number of seconds for the negative, or eccentric contraction; the second is the length of any pause at the bottom; and the third is the timing of the positive, or concentric, contraction. An X in that position means to perform an explosive concentric contraction. A fourth element indicates that you should include a pause at the top.

Day 1: Chest, biceps, abs
Smith-machine incline presses
with negative emphasis
(4/1/X) 2 x 6
Dumbbell flyes with
stretch/pause (2/3/1) 1 x 8
Machine dips (1/0/1) 1 x 25
Preacher curls with negative
emphasis (4/1/1) 1 x 6
Incline dumbbell curls
with stretch/pause
(2/3/1) 1 x 8
Cable curls (1/0/1) 1 x 25
Hanging straight-leg
raises 3 x 12-15

Day 2: Quads, hams, calves
Smith-machine squats
with negative emphasis
(4/1/X) 2 x 6
Sissy squats
with stretch/pause
(2/3/1) 1 x 8
Leg extensions
(1/0/1) 1 x 25
Leg curls with negative
emphasis (4/1/1) 1 x 6
Dumbbell stiff-legged deadlifts
with stretch/pause
(2/3/1) 1 x 8
Seated leg curls
(1/0/1) 1 x 25
Standing calf raises
with negative emphasis
(4/1/X) 1 x 6
Leg press calf raises
with stretch/pause
(2/3/X) 1 x 8
Seated calf raises
(1/0/1) 1 x 25

Day 3: Lats, traps, abs
Wide-grip chins
with negative emphasis
(5/1/1) 1 x 6
V-handle cable rows
with stretch/pause
(2/3/X) 1 x 8
One-arm dumbbell rows
with stretch/pause
(1/3/X) 1 x 8
Undergrip bent-over rows
(1/0/1) 1 x 25
Shrugs with negative
emphasis (4/1/X/1) 1 x 6
Dumbbell shrugs
with stretch/pause
(1/4/X/1) 1 x 8
Close-grip cable upright
rows (1/0/1) 1 x 25
Cable crunches 3 x 12-15

Day 4: Delts, triceps, calves
Seated military presses
with negative emphasis
(4/1/X) 1 x 6
Behind-the-back one-arm
cable laterals
with stretch/pause
(1/4/1) 1 x 8
One-arm bent-over cable
laterals with stretch/pause
(1/3/1) 1 x 8
Seated dumbbell presses
(1/0/1 tempo) 1 x 25
Smith-machine close-grip
bench presses with negative
emphasis (4/1/X) 1 x 6
Incline overhead EZ-curl-bar
extensions with stretch/pause
(2/3/1) 1 x 8
V-bar pushdowns
(1/0/1) 1 x 25
Leg press calf raises
with negative emphasis
(4/1/X) 1 x 6
Standing calf raises
with stretch/pause
(2/3/X) 1 x 8
Seated calf raises
(1/0/1) 1 x 25

And there you have it, my geographically challenged friends—a guide to being bold and training when it’s cold. Trust me, I’ve been there, and I know how hard it can be to get to the gym when your car door is frozen shut and your driveway could double as an ice-skating rink. The effort is well worth it, however, because when the weather finally turns, your body will still be turning heads! IM

Snowed-in-at-Home All-Dumbbell Muscle-Building Workout

What do you do if a snow-storm traps you at home or you can’t get to the gym because of icy roads? Bust out a dumbbell set and an adjustable bench. It’s all you need to keep your muscles from melting. The PowerBlock selectorized dumbbell set is probably your best bet, as you can change the weight in an instant—unlike the adjustable dumbbells of old, which have removable collars that can slip off at inopportune times (can you say “dental work”?).
Here’s a great program that requires only dumbbells and a bench—for when you’re snowed in and feel like you’re shrinking.
Monday, Wednesday and Friday
Dumbbell squats* 2 x 8-12
Stiff-legged deadlifts* 1 x 8-12
One-leg calf raises 2 x 12-20
One-leg seated calf raises 1 x 12-20
Bench presses* 2 x 8-12
Incline presses 2 x 8-12
One-arm rows* (arm in close) 2 x 8-12
Bent-arm bent-over laterals 2 x 8-12
Upright rows* 2 x 8-12
Seated lateral raises 1 x 8-12
Seated presses 1 x 8-12
Lying extensions 1 x 8-12
Seated curls 1 x 8-12
Full-range crunches 1 x 8-12

*Do one or two preliminary warmup sets with about 70 percent of your work weight.

This workout should take you less than an hour, unless you’re using standard screw-type adjustable dumbbells (you’ll spend a lot of extra time changing weights, a problem ingeniously solved by the PowerBlock).

One tip for strong bodybuilders: If you’re using the heaviest poundage your dumbbells have to offer and it feels too light, slow down the cadence and try Double-X or Triple-X Overload. For example, on dumbbell squats, lower to the bottom, drive up about one-quarter of the way, sink back down, then drive all the way up to just before your knees lock. That’s DXO. For TXO do two lowdown dips before completing a full rep. That will make the exercise more difficult—and you’ll get important semistretch-point overload, right where the muscle fibers can fire optimally. (For more X-Rep intensity techniques like DXO, see the e-book Beyond X-Rep Muscle Building, available at
So turn up the heat and pump up at home when the weather threatens your gym trek. No wintertime muscle shrinkage allowed.

—Steve Holman

Editor’s note: The PowerBlock adjustable dumbbell set is available at

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