Don’t think you’re any different than your buddy in the gym who still idolizes Arnold and keeps an ongoing yearbook of articles about the “Austrian Oak” tucked inside the drawer of his bedside table. Okay, granted, you may not be fanatical about it. It isn’t likely that you’re on the FBI’s current stalker list – yet. You may just religiously comb the pages of the latest bodybuilding ‘zines to find the freshest front double biceps shot of your “secret” hero. Innocent enough, but are you a fan, or an idol worshipper willing to do anything to have what the pros have?
Something is drawing you back to that sweaty, smelly dungeon you call a gym. We know it isn’t the juice bar that catches your fancy, because there isn’t one unless you count the spit on the floor. It’s not the gleaming chrome equipment either, because you can’t admire your reflection in standard issue black iron. So what is it? Somewhere in that psyche of yours is a guy who still gets starry-eyed every time he sees rippling mounds of muscle flexed into eye-popping, striated, rocky-ass-quarries of solid stone!
You might be too embarrassed to admit it in front of that macho group of friends you’ve worked so hard to hand pick, but lurking in that still-too-newbie body is a guy who’ll put the gym before a job, a leg day before a season finale of “The Sopranos” AND a grueling back workout before any thought of group sex with the Swedish Lawn Bowling Team! (Now we KNOW you’re sick!) BADA BING!
Whether it’s the packaged balance of Chris Cormier, the impressive density of Jay Cutler, or the sheer volume of Ronnie Coleman, the point is, you’re not a pro but you secretly wish you could look like one – even for a day. And that’s precisely how you train.
Why not? After all, that’s the advice that you’ve been reading, eating, breathing, and sleeping… since you picked up your first “Muscle-Book.” What writer doesn’t tell you to train like your favorite superhero friends? Truth is, you’ve practically been forced into it! There’s Dexter over here, telling you to train arms using his routine, Orville pleading with you to train legs until you puke, Paul screaming at you like a workout partner from the pages of some magazine, telling you that big chests only come to those who finish all their sets to failure. What else can you do, after all?
Well, mimicry may be the sincerest form of flattery, but in this case, following a pro’s workout when you’re still developing a base is thwarting your potential as a bodybuilder, and creating a mistake that you may not be able to easily correct in the future.
If you’re using an advanced routine within the first few years of your bodybuilding training career, then you’re definitely not building the right foundation, and may not be building much else. What’s more, you’re opening yourself up to injuries that can and will crop up eventually as a result of the structural vulnerabilities that you are creating today.
The first few years of your time in the gym need to be spent focusing on different aspects of training than what someone like Schlierkamp or Fux may focus on when they train. Remember, you never saw them when they first started out. If you ask them, they’d probably confirm for you that the workouts they currently use are in no way recognizable in relation to the ones they first used.
Okay, sure, mistakes are inevitable, and they are an invaluable part of finding your way around in the gym. Anyone who doesn’t advocate making mistakes hasn’t really achieved anything in their life. It’s through mistakes that we can see our paths more clearly. Trust me, no one is calling you a jackass for doing what, on the outside, makes sense. Taking expert advice is the most logical thing to want to do. Patterning oneself after those who are successful makes the likelihood of your success all the much greater. But when “success gurus” were busy thinking up quotable phrases, they forgot to tell you that there is a logical progression to everything.
Everyone Has A Beginning – Humble or Otherwise
The only problem with taking random expert advice is that it’s just that – random along a scale of time that no one but that person can really reference! Who knows for sure where the path may have begun for their idol? His advice can only be as meaningful in your progression as his beginnings may have been to him. Maybe your idol had a gang of muscle from other sports, and genetics to die for, before he ever crossed over to bodybuilding. Perhaps your hero was a pencil-necked geek who trained with chrome dumbbells for the first year or two of his time in the gym. You just don’t know. And since the task is to know where that beginning is, in order to make sense of pro training advice, you can see that it becomes complicated. Neither Rome, nor Ronnie Coleman, were built in a day! Remember that and you’ll never go wrong.
So STOP training like you are stepping on to an Olympia stage tomorrow, and head for the CORE.
“I SACRIFICED IT ALL FOR THE CORE”
No doubt we’ve all heard the phrases: “core exercises” and “compound movements” as well as the term “basics” all the time in bodybuilding magazines. We ignore them because those phrases and terms are for the other guys… the pathetic ones who don’t have the genetic potential that we have. Right! Well, they DO apply to all of us; particularly during those crucial first few years of training. The core is your humble beginning.
It’s frustrating to walk into a gym and see a guy with little or no muscle engaged in complex training regimes, using heavy weight and straining just to get the whole mess up. In the end, if the guy hasn’t killed himself or torn too many ligaments, he feels like he’s done something for the day, the week, the month… The only thing is, when another year ends and he looks relatively the same, he wonders what he is doing wrong. His next step is to automatically blame it on the fact that he’s “natural”, doesn’t do drugs, or that he doesn’t have the right stack, or doesn’t know the right pharmacist in town! It’s a classic progression. Let’s face it, the guy was in wayyyy over his head before he even started and needs to get back to basics before he can move forward. In short, he needs to JOIN THE CORE.
Here’s the truth: Very few people would have glaring weaknesses in their physiques today(unless a severe genetic defect were present) if they had bothered to rein themselves in by using only core movements in the beginning. What’s more, injuries would be far fewer because the foundations were made to last!
Be All That You Can Be
Whatever you want to call it, whether “basic”, “core movement” or “compound movement”, the meaning is all the same. These are movements that utilize multiple joints and work each muscle group from the standpoint of a total scope. These are the exercises that beginners, and as far as we’re concerned, intermediate, lifters should be using as a basis for all that they do. For that matter, core movements should be the mainstay of all that a beginner does in the gym for the first few years, with the exception of adding a few ancillary movements to help facilitate recovery.
Why? These are movements that require good form and technique — things that make it impossible to cheat too often. They require conscientious execution at all times, and encourage sound training habits that will be invaluable later on. What’s more, core movements are the exercises that are able to develop an entire muscle group all on their own. If you don’t believe that, go to a powerlifting gym. They don’t do leg extensions except to get the pooled blood out of the muscle and encourage rapid recovery between sets.
Ugly Step Brothers? Or First Generation Mass Monsters?
Let’s talk about our ugly step-brothers for a second… All of us know at least one powerlifter. Powerlifters may not be aesthetically pleasing to a bodybuilder’s eye, and may be the butt of a lot of jokes by bodybuilders, but they do one thing correctly that you probably don’t do: They train using compound movements nearly all the time! And they reap the rewards in rock hard dense muscle – far greater density than most bodybuilders. Some of that has to do with lifting heavy weight, but a lot of it has to do with establishing and reinforcing muscle in areas surrounding multiple joints. They do this, using compound, basic movements, such as squats, bench press, and deadlifts.
Granted, some powerlifters are imbalanced in development, and some are the ugly step brothers we’d prefer to leave home from the family reunion, but their imbalance is usually due to favoring one type of lift over another for competition. Ignore the aesthetics of their package for a second (a result of straining with maximum weight) and focus instead on the fact that the development and foundation of major muscle groups is clearly there in many more junior rank powerlifters than in junior rank bodybuilders. Ask yourself why that may be?
How to Purposely Derail Yourself
It’s time to reassess your current path. Derail yourself NOW and join the CORE! Disconnect from your current way of thinking about training and start looking for the answers in the simplest of places: Core Exercises.
Here’s a visualization that should give you the general idea:
Think of a powerlifter. Now drop the weight he would use by 30-40%. Employ more precise form and utilize a full range of motion. Add one or two more exercises into a muscle group workout [more than he might use/ but less than YOU use], and use a slightly higher set and rep scheme. Now you have it.
How to Construct an “UN-Pro Workout”
Look at the example above and remember that you aren’t going to be simply using bench press, squats and deadlifts for your workouts — you’ll be including a lot more, along with some secondary finishing movements that help move the blood away from the muscle group, and hence the lactic acid, once the meat of the workout is over. But that’s about it. No more packing workouts with 6 or 7 different exercises. Right now, you don’t need it and it’s lost on you. Ironically, you’re probably overtraining as a result of thinking along those lines.
You’ll be training each body part twice weekly. Here’s how to put it together:
Workout #1: (Moderate)
Select ONE “Preferred Core Movement” exercise
Select ONE or TWO “Basic Finishing” exercises
Workout #2: (More Difficult)
Select TWO “Preferred Core Movement” exercises
Select ONE “Basic Finishing” exercise
Preferred Core Movements
SETS: 4-5 REPS: 8-10
LEGS BACK CHEST
Squats Deadlift Bench Press
Leg Press Bent Over Rows Flat DB Press
Seated Row Incline Barbell Press
Standing Barbell Curl Close-grip Barbell Bench
Seated Dumbbell Curl Push Downs w/ Straight Bar
Preacher Curls French Press (EZ curl/close grip)
CALVES (Supersets okay here) ABS
Standing or Seated Calf Raises Standard Crunches
SETS: 3-4 REPS: 10-12
LEGS BACK CHEST
Leg Extensions Pull Downs Cable Crosses
Hamstring Curls One Arm DB Rows DB Flyes
(lying or standing) Hyper-Extensions
Alternate DB Curl Flat bench Dips
Concentration Curl Overhead Rope Extensions
CALVES (Supersets okay here) ABS
Donkey Calf Raises Alt. Knee to Elbow Crunches
Hanging Leg Raises
(reclined slightly/end of bench)
We suggest that you train 5 days per week with two consecutive days off – usually Saturday and Sunday is a good choice.
SCHEDULE of BODY PARTS:
Monday – Legs & Back (Calves in between back sets on this day)
Tuesday – Chest & Arms
Wednesday – Calves and Abs **
Thursday – Legs & Back
Friday – Chest & Arms (Abs in between chest sets on this day)
S&S – OFF
** Increase rep ranges to: 15-20 reps for calves per set
20-50 for abs per set
(Both muscle groups require higher levels of intensity and constant tension in order to grow because of their ability to re-oxygenate rapidly).
A Few Closing Comments About Intensity
Intensity comes in many different forms. Most associate the greatest rewards of intensity with heavy weight, but that’s just one of the ways intensity can express itself in a workout. One can increase intensity in at least 5 different ways: weight, pace, rep range, rest time between, type of set (superset, drop set, etc).
Once you agree to drop the 6 or 7 different exercises you do per body part and finally simplify your workouts, it’s logical to fear a lack of intensity and benefits. However, less can often be much, much more. Experimenting with various types of intensity in each set can provide yet another way to infuse your workouts with complexity. Where before it was just littered with random exercises added for no specific purpose and only appeared to be complex, now it actually is. Yet, ironically, you’ve kept everything simple in the ways that are important to a beginner trying to build a solid foundation.