It’s time for a challenge. I want you to put aside everything you know about training and try something new. And here’s the interesting part…this “new” form of training isn’t new at all. In fact, it’s old as in old school.
Believe it or not, in a time not so long ago – before steroids invaded the muscle building scene – lifters trained using full body approaches. Yes, that’s right. Full body training. In fact, full body training used to be the accepted norm. Then things changed.
Now I know what you’re thinking: the change from full body routines to training splits must have been a needed evolution. It was! You’re correct. Steroids entered the scene, and bodybuilders found they could train longer and recover more quickly. So steroid users began experimenting with split training.
Around this time, publisher Joe Weider started to feature the elaborate split training routines of the largest steroid users on the planet in his magazines. As a result, the science and practices of natural bodybuilding training was left behind and nearly forgotten. For the next 40 years or so, lifters opened magazines to (only) find HUGE Mr. Olympia and his six day double split routine. There was rarely any serious talk of full body training.
Full body routines are different than training splits in several ways. You will be hitting every major muscle group on each training day, either directly or indirectly, but you will be performing fewer daily sets per bodypart. Full body training can be very taxing, simply because you are hammering your entire body. Make sure you resist the urge to add in more training days.
1. THE 5 X 5 PROGRAM
The five-by-five program is one that is quite popular among those who are looking to gain a high amount of strength and muscle mass.
The set-up of this program is to perform three main exercises that target the main muscle groups in the body (both lower and upper body in the same workout), performing five sets of five repetitions. At the end of each workout you can add in a few sets of isolated exercises if you like, but it’s not required by the program.
One of the biggest advantages of this set-up is going to be an increased frequency of training. Since you will stimulate so many muscle fibers every other day, you will see a very high release of testosterone, promoting a good degree of muscle mass growth.
Most individuals also find that they become hungrier while following this program, which is representative of the intense nature of it.
The drawback to this program is that it’s one that a beginner likely shouldn’t jump into as it will be intense and could lead to overtraining if you’re not careful. It’s best to have a 3-6 month lifting history behind you so you can be sure your body is ready for this stress load.
The second con to this set-up is due to the fact that you’ll be lifting heavy three times a week – it doesn’t lend so well for a lot of other activity, such as heavy sports training. If you’re involved in high-level athletics, it may be better to choose a slightly less demanding program so you don’t become overly fatigued.
You’ll want to aim to perform the 5 X 5 protocol for the core exercises as described above and then cut back on the volume for the accessory lifts.
If you know going in you’re someone who tends to have difficulty recovering, then you may want to attempt a 3 X 5 set-up first and see how you do. It can be easy to overtrain on this program if you’re not careful.
Alternate between workout A and workout B three times a week with at least one day off between sessions. Aim to rest for 60-to-120 seconds between sets of the core exercises and 30-to-45 seconds between sets for the accessory exercises.