Are you, like so many people, looking to build some serious muscle size, but can't find much time to train due to a hectic, busy lifestyle? Maybe you're a busy college student, working a part time job to help pay for school. Maybe you just simply work long hours or two jobs to try and make ends meet in this tough economy. Let's be honest, most of us have lifestyle obligations that can make it hard to hit the gym as often as we'd like. I know all about this, I have work/family schedules that very often interfere with planned training cycles and adjustments have to be made! The ideas presented here represent what I did when I worked two jobs while commuting two hours round trip to get to both of them. We're talking up to 12-14 hours a day, 6 day weeks here! I did this back on 2005 but still use the approach today if I have to.
As most of you know, foundational muscle mass comes from hard work on the basic exercises, heavy weight, lower reps, taking each set to at least failure. It also comes from proper recovery and proper nutrition/supplementation. This routine is ideal for natural bodybuilders, older bodybuilders and people with busy schedules, but anyone can use it with great results.
Most articles like this - those pushing a basics only mass routine - tend to also push a full body workout, usually done 3 times a week. I outlined my thoughts on full body training in my “Hormones and Muscle Growth” article. In that article I gave an example of what, to my mind, makes up a solid, usable full body routine. The routine as listed is great for overall muscle growth, increased natural hormone release and building a strength base.
Here, we are going to take that routine idea one step farther. My approach is to use a split routine, training only twice a week.
But, if you only train 2 times a week , isn't that to much time in between workouts for the same muscles? Additionally, won't that be a lot of work in each session? It can be, unless you design the routine the right way. My dilemma when I designed this was: how could I effectively work out with really just 2 days available for training? I solved this problem by making sure each workout has 1-2 exercises that stimulate the entire body: squats, dead lifts or power cleans. On back day, as you'll see, I use power cleans as a warm up, then go into heavy dead lifts. Both of these exercises build overall size and power. I have to combine legs with chest and shoulders, so I do heavy squats and heavy power clean and presses. Again, I'm stimulating overall size and power with these two exercises. Combine this with direct back/arm work on back day and direct chest/delt/tricep work on chest day using compound exercises for both that involve other muscles and problem solved. Of course, your situation may be different and may allow for a 3rd day of training, I'd do legs in that case. This kind of basics only routine and also the full body I presented in my "Hormones" article have a lot of merit and to often are overlooked for a more exotic approach. This kind of training can be used in other situations besides time limitations. I can see it as a break from advanced split routines, allowing you a return to the basics for strength and overall size gains. You can stimulate so many muscles with these routines, you can also allow for complete nervous system recovery before training again by allowing adequate days off. Many people don't realize, it's not just about letting legs recover from leg day, or back from back day, it's also complete nervous system recovery. Routines of this nature allow for this. Now, don't get me wrong, you have to get more involved in your routine design if you want to look like a bodybuilder, but a power bodybuilding set up like this allows to be as strong as you look.
Before I detail the routine, let me touch a little more on recovery, one of my favorite subjects. When people talk about how everyone is different and responds differently when it comes to bodybuilding, one of the things that refers to is recovery. Recovery allows muscle growth to happen, but how fast you recover is based on individual differences, such as: age, whether or not you use steroids or are natural, the demands of your job, your schedule ( how demanding it is), how long you've been training, to name a few. Here's a good personal example: when I started training back in 1980, I worked out with a buddy in his basement so I didn't know about steroids (and the mags at that time sure didn't mention them!), I worked a physical job for 9-10 hours a day, 6 days a week and tried to train on a high volume routine 6 days a week. I didn't gain. Why? Because I was over trained and underfed. Had I cut back to a routine like the one I'll be detailing here, ate more (the only real supplements were protein powders, no bars, no shaker cups or water bottles but I could have taken a thermos of protein powder to work) and maybe tried to get some naps in to promote recovery, I would have made gains. The point here is that you have to allow enough recovery time to allow growth to happen and you have to think about how your individual circumstances affect your recovery ability and make intelligent adjustments to maximize recovery.
OK, here's the routine:
- Power Cleans – use this rep scheme: 12, 10, 10 these are 3 easy sets but you still want to add weight with each set.
- Dead lifts – rep scheme: 12, 10, 8, 6, 4-6. The last 3 sets are your work sets.
- Bent Rows - 2 work sets, 6-8 reps
- Lat Pull-downs - 2 work sets, 6-8 reps/ or Chins – 35 reps over as many sets as it takes!
- Reverse Grip Bent Rows (biceps) - 2 sets, 6-8 reps
- Abs – your choice
- Squats – rep scheme: 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4-6. The last 3 sets are your working sets
- Bench Press to neck (upper chest) – rep scheme: 12, 10, 10, 8, 6. The last 3 sets are your work sets.
- Power Clean and Press - 2-3 work sets, 5-8 reps
- Close Grip Bench Press (triceps), 2 sets 8-10 reps
- Abs – your choice
Take each set to failure and use rest pause to extend the set – you hit failure, rack the weight for an 8 count, unrack and continue for as many reps as you can. Rest 1 to 1 ½ minutes between sets. Use an explosive up, slow and controlled down, no pausing or stopping rep style.
Keep on top of your form, don't use cheating to lift heavier, keep your reps smooth and controlled. As to set totals, these work for me, a natural older guy. More is not always better, work these hard enough and more shouldn't be an option.
I usually alternate incline presses with bench presses to emphasize more upper chest work.
If you have a third day, do legs on that day, here's how I would set it up:
- Squats - 2 -3 progressively heavier warm up sets
- 4-5 working sets, 6-8 reps. Do your reps in one continuous motion, like a piston. Your first working set should be your heaviest.
- Leg curls - 1 warm up set,3 working set of 8-10 reps.
- Standing calf raises - 3 working sets of 15-25 reps, full motion on each rep.
- If you do this, adjust workout #2 by taking squats out and adding 2 sets of Incline Presses for chest, and 2 more sets of power cleans.
- Supplements/nutrition - Here is the supplement stack I would use along with this routine:
Protein powder, creatine stacked with nitric oxide, a test booster, an intra workout drink like Monster Amino by Cytosport, a pre workout drink like No-xplode if you want and the basics: a multi, a joint product, extra vitamin C and B complex. You can add glutamine for enhanced recovery as well.
Test boosters are an individual choice, you can stay simple and basic as in Vitrix by Nutrex or attempt to get a pro hormone, your choice. I would suggest that you follow label directions as to the timing of the nitric oxide and creatine, I use monohydrate and I mix it with Gatorade. Always take a multi, C and your joint product with food, anytime of the day is fine. B complex, by the way is amazing for stress and mood, I absolutely swear by them.
Keep your protein intake to 1 -11/2 grams per lb of body weight, eating every few hours. Your food sources should be low fat sources such as chicken, turkey, tuna, lean red meat and low fat dairy. A good whey protein powder works great for in between meal protein feedings. As for carbs, shoot for 2 grams per lb. of body weight. Stay with complex carbs: oatmeal, yams, brown rice except after your workout - take 40-60 g of protein to 40-60 g simple carbs, most guys now use waxi maize or the old standby – maltodextrin with dextrose. Keep fat low, many people take fish oil or flax oil softgels to help them get their "good fat" intake. Trying to stay lean? Cycle carbs, on training days take in more to support training but then cut back on off days. Don't neglect recovery by cutting carbs to much, I usually eat about 1 to 1 ½ grams per pound on training days, much of that is in the hours leading up to my workout, during the workout and then after as part of my post workout shakes and meals. On off days, I stay at about 1 gram per pound of bodyweight. If I feel my waist line is struggling a bit, I cut down lower and up the cardio for a few days and this seems to make a big difference in how I look. If time is limited cardio will be to, you have to get it in when you can based on your goals.
I also keep two logs, a training log which everyone should be doing (I list the date, my routine for that day, rep and set totals, time started, time completed, how I felt and how the workout went) and a diet/supplement log which insures my timing is correct and that I take what I'm supposed to take and eat what I should be eating. I've made this easier by numbering my food choices on a chart that breaks down the calories, protein, carbs and fat; then I just enter the number corresponding to the food I just ate. You can input totals at any time to see where you are for the day.
There's always time to train if you make it happen!
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or comments.
By: Jim Brewster