Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Weight training: the next steps

When you have a month of three full-body sessions per week under your belt, it’s time to graduate to the ‘split’ system (named that way by the father of modern bodybuilding Joe Weider). This means that you will split your body, so as to devote more time to each bodypart.

Your first split should be in two, and you have the following options:
- upper and lower body
- push/pull

In the first option, one session is devoted to chest, back, shoulders, arms, and the other to legs: quads (the front of your thigh), hamstrings (the back), calves.

In the second option, one session consists of pushing movements (chest, shoulders, triceps, quads) and the other of pulling movements (back, biceps, hamstrings, calves). This is the split that I recommend.

In any case, the program will be like that:
Tuesday: Session A
Thursday: Session B
Saturday: Session A
Tuesday: Session B
Thursday: Session A
Saturday: Session B

Thus, the two workouts are alternated.

As I already mentioned, the advantage is that you can train your bodyparts for longer. Make use of this fact, by adding an exercise for each large bodypart, as follows:

Chest: add incline dumbbell presses or dips
Back: add barbell rows
Shoulders: add dumbbell lateral raises
Quads: add leg extensions
Hamstrings: you didn’t train this bodypart up to now, so now do leg curls
Calves: you didn’t train calves either, so now do standing calf raises

Sets and reps remain the same.

This program will suit you for at least six months. After that, you can further split your body like that:

Tuesday: Chest, arms (biceps, triceps)
Thursday: Back, shoulders
Saturday: Legs (quads, hamstrings, calves)

At this point, you will be able to add an exercise to small bodyparts too:
- dumbbell curls (for biceps)
- overhead dumbbell extensions (for triceps)
- standing leg curls (for hamstrings): these can be done on the leg extension machine, if you stand facing the machine’s back
- seated calf raises: they can be done with a barbell on your knees, or using the Smith machine (which is the barbell that is fixed on the two vertical poles)

This program will get you through another six months or more.

However, the final goal (and the ultimate program, which was preferred by the great Dorian Yates) is the following:

Tuesday: Chest, biceps
Wednesday: Shoulders, triceps
Friday: Back
Saturday: Legs

Here you can do three exercises for large bodyparts, and up to four for back. We will talk extensively about this program in the future.

You may have noticed that as time goes by, the frequency with which we train each bodypart is reduced. In the first program (with the three full-body sessions per week), every bodypart is obviously trained three times per week. In the second, each bodypart is trained three times every two weeks. And in the last two programs, each bodypart is trained only once per week.

There is a reason for this. As you get more experienced, you will be able to train your muscles much harder, and thus deplete them and wear them out a lot more. However, your body’s ability to repair them is not developed equally. We remedy this fact by training less frequently.

Time to go, off to the gym!

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