One of the more frequent questions that I hear from bodybuilders and lifters is, How much training time is required in my daily schedule in order to build up a good physique? These people generally ask this question because they've read about the three- and four-hour workouts followed by most of the "greats," and they frankly don't know how to manage such a training schedule while fulfilling employment and family obligations.
Let's face certain facts at the outset:
- First, it is definitely true that many of the big names in bodybuilding do train for hours at a time, and they don't live what most would consider to be well-rounded lives.
- Second, the number of persons who can benefit from such devotion to hard barbell training is very small. The many who follow these extended programs in hopes of becoming "just like" the top bodybuilders are doomed to disappointment. There are simply not that many men who can ever hope to be a Mr. Winner or even place high in a Mr. contest.
- Third, the vast number of men who train regularly can achieve what they reasonably desire in a physical way within two or three years of hard training. Thereafter, they can maintain it for the rest of their lives with relatively little effort.
World championship physiques are not within the reach of most men who train with weights. If you will honestly face that fact, then you will understand why, in the majority of instances, very extended workouts just don't pay off.
A person who sacrifices everything for bodybuilding more often than not never recoups his losses. I am not criticizing bodybuilding; I am criticizing the wrong method of pursuing it.
Realistic men who love bodybuilding and fitness recognize that all they can ever achieve is what their hereditary potential will allow, and they accept that fact gladly. They pursue their chosen occupations and careers and always keep a very important place in their schedules for their workouts. But they do not build every waking moment around those workouts, for they understand that to do so would only result in serious impairment of all their aspirations save the physical.
What constitutes an appropriate "important place" in one's schedule for one's training? I think that we can reasonably allow three or four periods per week for training hard and still manage to live normal, fruitful and productive lives. And I don't think that your workouts should ever exceed two hours. If one trains four times per week, then I cannot see why more than an hour and a half per workout would be necessary.
Sound like too little? That's only because you've allowed yourself to he brainwashed. You are thinking of bodybuilding as a lifestyle perse, and it shouldn't be, unless you're a born natural like Columbu or Schwarzenegger. It should be a wonderful supplementary aspect to your life, one that adds meaning, well-being and personal fulfillment in a way that enhances all else that you do.
Exercise is a crucial need of people. And by devoting a reasonable amount of time to hard training, you will enjoy every aspect of your life more. You will live better, feel better and understand a self-satisfaction that the indolent never experience. Exercise must not be the reason for your existence, however.
From my own personal experience in bodybuilding I can tell you this: My most enjoyable and productive workouts were always those done on days that were fully occupied by other demands and pursuits. Those workouts were important because they occupied a small, concentrated, very precious segment of the day, and I poured everything I had into them. Those workouts were always about two hours long, and there were times when I got fantastic workouts in an hour and a half or less. All of that applies today too. I find that my finest training sessions are those that occupy a limited place in an otherwise very busy day.
Surprisingly, the most so-so workouts were those done on days when plenty of training time was available; when I could, theoretically, spend all afternoon or evening training. I am convinced that having to budget a precious hour or two for training makes for a supergreat workout and the finest gains. One really appreciates training when one has a limited time to do it, and it seems that the effort expended during a workout reflects this appreciation.
I really hope I'm making a point for you. You shouldn't feel that the benefits from bodybuilding are beyond your reach because you work for a living or have a family. Rather, you need to recognize that you can enjoy everything bodybuilding has to offer regardless of how busy you are and regardless of your responsibilities. You don't have to live in the gym. The excellent physique, the strength, the well-being, the fitness and the buoyant good health are yours, and they're yours for the nominal investment of but a few hours per week, rather than a few hours per day.
If you don't think that you can train in an hour or two, then you should examine your routine. Perhaps you are overtraining. Many people are. No one needs two or three exercises per bodypart done for four to six sets each, for instance. If you are doing that, then it's no wonder you're living in the gym.
A good bodybuilding program should include a basic exercise for each major muscle group. One or two favorite "shaping" exercises, done in moderation, are no problem; but your major effort must go into the meat-and-potatoes of the routine: presses, curls, squats, rows, bench presses, deadlifts and ab work. If you do that, your success is assured. And you can easily do it in an hour or two.
How many sets per exercise? I don't ever see any reason for more than five, and that's when you're specializing on power. Generally, for the best all-round results two or three sets per exercise are plenty. I know this contradicts what you read elsewhere, but before you laugh off what lam suggesting, try it. You will laugh at yourself for not having done so sooner.
There is no reason why bodybuilding should remain the domain of those few naturally endowed supermen who have nothing to do but pump iron, pose and spend their time admiring themselves in minors. They are welcome to their lifestyle, but don't feel that you need to emulate it. Be yourself, and live your life your way. Do include bodybuilding in that life of yours, however. You can manage it on the skimpiest of schedules.