As I have mentioned repeatedly in my previous articles, "No training routine, no matter how good, will work for you if you do not work." And this is so very true. Many times it is not the training routine at fault, when a man claims he can't seem to make any more gains, but in reality, it is the man himself who is to blame for his apparent physical breakdown. Now, this inability to gain can stem from one of many reasons. We have come over quite a few of these reasons during the course of my articles, but there are still two more which we will be getting into shortly.
One of these reasons for not being able to gain is working too hard, and the other is working out too often. Since both of these occurrences will result in a loss of muscle tone, endurance, willpower to handle heavy weights and most especially a loss of desire to train altogether, you should be able to realize quite easily just how important it is to keep a steady pace or 'tone,' as it were, on your training periods to make sure that you do not train yourself into staleness and despair . . .
One of the biggest mistakes any trainee can make is to train too hard and too heavy for himself to recuperate adequately. This is really foolish because if you do not recuperate you will not be able to continue to gain. You will be tearing down much more than you could possibly build up. In the following paragraphs I am going to briefly outline for you some of the types of routines which usually lead to staleness and a wasteful use of your training energy, energy which is totally responsible for gains.
One of the most common mistakes a beginner, and sometimes an advanced man can make, is to substitute growing exercises with isolation exercises. Now, I can readily see the value of isolation exercises as used intermittently during the entire year, for the sheer purpose of breaking a spell of boredom, perhaps, but I cannot understand what will make an underweight trainee substitute the full or half squat with an exercise such as the leg extension or the hack squat. Doesn't it make sense to you that if the main thing you need is muscular bulk, then you should dedicate 99% of your training time and energy towards this aim?
And if this be the case, then why do so many fellows waste precious time and energy performing halfway decent exercises in place of the very movements which are almost guaranteed to give them results?
The answer is, they enjoy performing the isolation exercises mainly because they are easier to perform, require less hard work, and they have seen too many training photographs of the 'stars' in the various magazines performing these light exercises, and do these misguided souls feel that they too must use these movements in order to obtain their ultimate results. What they cannot seem to get into their thick skulls is that the routines which show top men doing little things like concentration curls and triceps presses with pulleys are only trying to give you an idea as to what kind of 'pre-contest training' such an advanced man has to do in order for his muscles to obtain the definition needed for him to win this or that contest.
Do you think for one minute that Bill Pearl built up the greater mass of his chest using the lying lateral raise with pulleys? Or do you think that Larry Scott developed his twenty inch arms doing 35-pound concentration curls? Of course they didn't. Only a fool would believe so. So don't you think it is foolish for anyone who knows that these greats of the bodybuilding world did not build up on light cramping movements to continue to use them in his own routine?
You see, the trouble here is that what this guy is actually doing is wasting his training energy. And training energy is one of the most important aspects of successful training to be taken into consideration. Without the needed amount of training energy you will not have the endurance, stamina, or strong willed constitution necessary for positive mental attitude and physical force in the performance of a repetition. If you can't forcefully contract the muscle as you are performing the repetition, then you can be sure that either the weight is too low in poundage or you are overtired. Not obtaining and not maintaining the proper level of training energy can make or break you as far as obtaining the gains which you desire.
So you should now be able to readily understand the importance of conserving your energy for profitable use in your workouts. You should know that for the most profitable use of such important energy it is vital to realize just what types of training to avoid. I have just mentioned to you the importance of not allowing isolation exercises to take the place of the growing exercises. But there is much more to it than just that. What about multiple sets? What about tri-sets? And how about split, double split, and triple split routines? Will they do you any good? Are they of any value? Will such apparently wild methods enable anybody to gain?
Well, keep reading and you will find out.
Tri-sets and supersets are nothing new. They have been with us for quite a long time now and the results they can give have a lot to do with just what kind of results you are looking for. For the bulk and power trainee such methods of muscle pumping have no place in his routine. For the pure bodybuilding enthusiast who has no desire whatsoever in developing strength to any appreciable degree, I feel they are all right. However, I once again repeat: for the bulk and power man supersets and tri-sets are no good for anything other than burning up valuable training energy and wasting precious time. The chief reason for this is due to the fact that in order to perform such multiple sets without resting between each one requires you to use lighter weights in your exercises and this, of course, will not build great power. No, this type of training is very strenuous on your nerves because it taxes your system so much, but it most definitely will not make you strong.
Strength needs rest, and there is almost no rest in this type of routine. In order to develop strength you must use a weight that is heavy enough for you to have to perform each repetition quite slowly [although you may be moving the weight as fast as possible], due to the heaviness of the weight. It is this constant straining against such heavy resistance that will develop for you a constant and steady increase in your muscle size and power. Multiple sets, on the other hand, require that you use a weight light enough for you to quickly go through the motions so you can pump out more and more reps and, therefore, blow the muscles up more. And, since light weights and forced repetitions will not build great power, nor will they build useful bulk, it should be easily seen just why multiple sets have no place in a bulk and power trainer's routine.
While on the subject of conserving training energy for furthering your bulk and power gains, we now come to another misconstrued aspect which is most definitely inter-involved within the entire training scope. This is the FREQUENCY of your training.
Long ago, when physical culture was in its infancy, it was a natural procedure for a man to exercise his entire body three days per week. This enabled him to enjoy a normal life and he did not have to look forward to spending the rest of his life going to and coming from a gym. There were many, many men who reached the pinnacle of success by using this type of training routine. These men did not try to overdo a good thing. They realized the value of a proper balance between exercise and rest and they also knew quite well that if they were to become well rounded men, they would have to spend time at additional interests, not just at their training.
But somewhere along the line fellows began to feel that if a little training is good, a whole lot of training will be better. So they began to experiment with using additional training periods in the course of the week just to see what the results would be. Some went to four times a week. They wouldn't work the same muscle groups each day because this, they knew, could bring on staleness over time, so they would perform upper body work one day and lower body work the next. And the results were quite rewarding. They began to gain faster and they had more training enthusiasm and drive. But were they satisfied with such an improvement?
No, they were not. Instead they began further experimenting using more than one training period per day! Arms in the morning, before going to work; the midsection during lunchtime, and the chest right before supper. Then the following day they'd perform leg work in the morning, forearm work during lunch, and arm and back work in the evening. And did this type of training work?
Yes, for a very few advanced men it did. However, it didn't allow them much time for anything else other than training, and for the beginner it was a total disaster. But the various magazines must have felt that such a training regimen was most commercial in its value, so they started publishing various routines for the beginners and intermediates to follow. This time around, however, the results were not as good. The men who tried to follow such routines would either burn themselves out completely from the extreme stress they were putting upon their energy reserves, or else they became so disgusted with their training that they gave up completely. Although double split and triple split training did not appear successful in its attempted venture, it did leave in its wake one clear, concise mark: in order to continue to gain you must not continually drain your energy.
What kind of training is suitable for the bulk and power trainee? Heavy, low rep training is the answer, for with this training the bulk fanatic can properly utilize his training energy without depleting himself of nervous energy which he most assuredly needs to get through his working day. By using heavy, slow moving, low rep work the bulk and power trainee can gain the most muscle and the most power in the shortest possible time. And because this type of heavy training is physically demanding but not especially physically tiring, the follower of such a course will have more than enough energy for the proper utilization of the rest of his day.
After definitely deciding against multiple set or double split types of training, we now come to another very important factor to be taken into consideration when discussing the importance of conserving training energy. We now come to the actual performance and rest periods involved within a successful training program.
How many times have you heard two fellows arguing as to how much time constitutes a correctly spaced rest period? I have heard this same argument time and time again. The reason why no one has been able to come up with a suitable answer to this problem is because of the vast amount of training variables that come into the picture. The only feasible answer to this question is to judge for yourself just how much time it takes you to rest completely between sets of extremely heavy exercise.
I have found that too many fellows rest far too long between sets of power movements especially. Now, many feel that in order to gain the greatest amount of strength you need to take long rest periods between sets. But let us not forget that when you do rest for a long time between each set you also take the chance of becoming 'cold' and tearing a muscle or doing other damage. You see, when you are doing lighter weigh bodybuilding the high number of repetitions will keep the muscles warm and pumped while you are resting, but when power training the muscles will easily get cold if the rest period between each attempt becomes too long. You need the proper balance between the heaviness of the various exercises and the amount of rest you allow yourself to take. And we must also realize that certain exercises done certain ways require more energy to perform and therefore require longer rest periods between each attempt.
For instance, the full squat and the strict curl are two accepted power lifts at this time. Of the two, which one do you think requires more energy to perform? Why, the squat does, of course. Then wouldn't it be reasonable to assume that if this be the case, you would actually need more of a rest period between sets of heavy squats than you would between sets of heavy curls? And if this be the case, why then would you set for yourself a certain time limit between each set during your workout, not taking into account just which particular lift you would be working on at what particular time? It doesn't make too much sense, does it? Of course not, but this is exactly what some of you fellows are trying to do, and for you the answer is not yet within reach, for there are too many of you fellows who are trying to take the certain laws which you found applicable in lighter weight bodybuilding and attempting to place these bodybuilding laws into the spectrum of bulk and power training. Power training is not like bodybuilding. They are both totally different sports with differing goals and require totally different codes of conduct. In other words, the rest periods which may be quite all right for bodybuilding will not be suitable for bulk and power training, and also the rest periods suitable for bulk and power training will not be especially suitable for bodybuilding.
When in strict power training the amount of rest you take between each exercise must be governed by the amount of energy you have used in performing the set. Use the amount of heavy, hard breathing you must go through after the set to judge just how hard that set was. Between each set sit down or walk around quietly until your breathing comes back to normal and then you will be sure that you are ready to commence the next heavy set.
Never rush yourself, but never pamper yourself either, as both of these faults will put a stint in the success of any particular training period. Let your natural breathing be a sign to tell you when it is time to begin the next set.
Never fail to adhere to that 'little voice' which will tell you when it is time to begin again.