Big strong muscles are the result of lifting big heavy weights. They are not, however, the result of lifting heavy weights only. Light training has an important place building a great body. You need to learn to balance the two to develop the best possible physique.
Bodybuilding is an art, not a science. Although the principles are the same for everyone, each individual has to learn how to use them. The art of building your body demands that you get to know yourself. You must learn exactly what your body requires in order to grow.
The big question is, How much heavy training and how much light do you personally need?
Heavy training is like extremely powerful medicine. The right amount will work wonders, but too much will be counterproductive. The right amount of heavy training taxes the muscles to the limit—just often enough. My experience indicates that one extremely heavy total-body workout a week is the right amount. I know that a lot of champion bodybuilders advise training more frequently, but my approach will produce great results for the vast majority of trainees. Even if you train on a split routine, I strongly urge that you should not work any muscle group to its maximum more than once per week.
Light workouts may feel as if you're coasting, but they're just as important as heavy training. They speed muscular recovery by improving circulation and keeping the muscle fibers activated without breaking them down intensively. One light workout a week, normally following the heavy workout, is most effective for most people.
There's a real temptation to push a little more than you should on your light day. If your program is going as it should, you'll feel strong and energetic and you'll want to go heavier. Don't do it. Don't deplete that extra energy and strength. Let it build up, and then, on your heavy day, really go for it.
Extreme hard gainers will probably do best with just two workouts a week, but most people profit from three workouts—heavy, light and medium, in that order. On a heavy day you should train at no less than 95 percent of your capacity on every part of your routine. A light day should demand about 60 percent. A medium day calls for about 80 percent a hard workout but not a maximum one.
Now here are some of the problems I notice students having:
- They find that the heavy/light/medium schedule seems to be too much. After several weeks they're really pushing on their heavy days and have no energy for their other workouts.
- They find that the program isn't taxing enough. They recover quickly and think they're goofing off.
The remedies should be obvious. Give the schedule a six-week trial. If you find it's too much, drop back to two workouts a week. See how a heavy and a light workout feel. If that doesn't seem to be quite enough, try a heavy and two light workouts, or a heavy and a medium session. Whatever you do, don't do two heavy sessions.
On the other hand, if you think you aren't getting enough work, put more effort into your heavy and medium workouts. Do not increase the light workout. You need that light day.
Some people have made incredible strength gains with just one workout a week. That's not, however, enough physical training for fitness, conditioning or health building. If you're involved in another athletic activity, one heavy weight session a week might be perfect. Just make sure you warm up thoroughly first.
Developing a superb physique is not a one-method-fits-all project. Each individual requires a unique approach, one tailored just to him or her. Learn to balance workouts that demand enormous effort and workouts that tone and maintain condition. That's the path to a lifetime of great training and the realization of your own potential.