Natural Bodybuilding & Weight Training: Change is Good

Change is Good

Advanced Weight Training and Bodybuilding Science & Health Studies

There's no doubt about it: The human body is very complex. In fact, we continually learn more about just how complex it is. It's a good idea for a bodybuilder to keep an open mind about his or her approach to achieving excellence. It's easy to become confused as we read the various bodybuilding publications and see how many different approaches and techniques are recommended. Some things are always true, however:

1) The human body can adapt to any training routine, 2) the ideal program for one person may not be ideal for another, and 3) changing your routine can be beneficial. I've always considered three major factors in designing my routines. I think not only about the number of sets I need per exercise but also how many sets per bodypart, factors that are chiefly determined by the current phase of my periodization program. For a long time I grouped the bodyparts so that I worked them as follows:

Day 1: Chest, shoulders and triceps

Day 2: Back, biceps, forearms and abs

Day 3: Quadriceps, hamstrings and calves

Day 4: Rest

That way I considered not just the prime movers-the muscle or group of muscles responsible for a specific movement-but also the synergists (the muscles assisting the prime movers) and stabilizers (the muscles that keep the body in position during a movement). In the bench press, for example, your chest is the prime mover, your triceps are the synergists, and your shoulders and upper back are the stabilizers. One of the benefits of this approach is that I pre-exhaust my shoulders and triceps so that I can spend less time on them but still get a great workout.

On the other hand, during the off-season I used to concentrate on training agonist and antagonist muscle groups, as follows:

Day 1: Back, chest and calves

Day 2: Shoulders, biceps, triceps and forearms

Day 3: Quadriceps, hamstrings and abs

Day 4: Rest I found that I could go very heavy in my training for both muscle groups, even when I used supersets. I took this approach a little hit further, and for a while I trained just one bodypart per day with the intention of increasing the maximum intensity. Now I'm venturing even further a field. I'm working my quadriceps and hamstrings on separate days for the first time. This is my new routine:

Day 1: Back and hamstrings

Day 2: Chest and biceps

Day 3: Quadriceps and abs

Day 4: Shoulders, triceps and calves

My quads have always been my weakest bodypart, and this arrangement lets me focus on them a lot more. My workouts have been great so far. Barring unforeseen complications, I look forward to presenting a newly improved pair of legs in 2006. Over the years I've become more concerned with maximizing fiber recruitment during my workouts. I focus on the concentric and eccentric portions of each rep as] do it. This has let me significantly decrease the number of sets I perform per bodypart. These days I generally limit my sets as follows:

Chest upper back and shoulders: nine to 12 sets

Biceps and triceps: six to nine sets

Quadriceps and hamstrings: nine to 12 sets

Calves, forearms and abs: eight sets

Lower back: four sets

Sometimes I do even fewer sets. As long as I improve the quality of each rep, I don't have to increase the quantity. I think these changes in my training habits minimize my chances of getting injured and maximize my gains by letting me recover faster. As you can see, I've made a lot of changes over the years and will doubtless make many more. Change is good and results in great gains.

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