Things they are a' changing.
A huge study was recently published and has been causing a mini-revolution in the weightlifting world because it's shattering some old time bodybuilding dogma. The study was done on male subjects with a variety of fitness levels (something like 20 thousand separate workout sessions were recorded) and what they found is really interesting, and makes a lot of sense when you get all the info. Here's the jist of it, and a new program to try out:
Old Program: "Body-part Training"This is the type of program that we've all grown up on. It consists of dividing the body into specific muscle groups and dedicating an entire session to working each individually. (ex: back and bi's one day, chest and tri's the next.) The first main problem with this program is that even though you are training daily, each muscle group is targeted only once a week. Twice a week if you're aggro. This limits the body's muscle-building potential because multiple studies have shown that "muscle-protein synthesis is elevated for up to 48 hours after a resistance-training session." Which means that after the 48-hour muscle-growth period has expired, the biological stimulus for your body to build new muscle returns to normal. With the old body-part training method the 48-hour muscle growth period will have passed by the time you get to that muscle again. (ex: you do chest on Monday, the earliest day to do chest again would be Friday, if you rest a day. Obviously missing the 48hr window). By taking too many days between individual muscle sessions the program simply isn't taking enough adanvantage of the body's full muscle-building potential.
The other problem is since body-part training is usually performed intensely on consecutive days, it impedes the recovery process because the nutrients your body needs to repair the muscle damage from the previous day are allocated toward providing energy for your workout instead. The important thing to remember about muscles is that they grow best when you're resting, not working. The new program erases this problem because a day of recovery automatically follows each workout.
New Program: A full-body workout three times a week, resting a day after each session. With this program you are going to work each muscle more often, and it's going to spend more total time growing. (Note: rest is defined as a non-weightlifting session. You obviously can do ultimate practice/training on these days. I prefer to do my abs on these off days also.)
Day 1: 4 sets with 5 reps with 90 seconds rest between.
Day 2: 2 sets with 15 reps with 30 seconds rest between.
Day 3: 3 set with 10 reps with 60 seconds rest between.
Each workout choose 2-3 exercises for each muscle major muscle group (chest, back, shoulders, legs) and 1 exercise for the smaller muscles (triceps, biceps, calves..etc). Vary it up each time, choosing different lifts each day (ex. regular bench-press Monday, incline Wednesday, decline Friday). If you stick to the rest schedule you can easily get out the door in an hour. For legs, make sure at least two lifts is a full body movement i.e. squats, deadlifts, powercleans, lunges...etc
Important: The other major change you are going to make is on the the lift technique itself. The focus of this lift is going to be on the negative. During the lift you are going to take 3 seconds to lower the weight and 1 second to raise it. Literally count to three while on the negative part of the lift.This can be a change for some, but slow the lift down on the negative, control the weight, and let it burn on the way down. You might to have start lighter than you usually do, but don't worry about that. Do whatever weight that allows you to perform the lift in true form and in total control. Think of momentum as your enemy, void it from your workout completely, and never ever let it bounce off your body or swing it. Don't be that guy. This rep/set range stimulates both your strength/power and endurance muscle fibers and the variance also keeps the routine from getting stale. To do this right you should have a stopwatch and keep to the schedule, especially the rest between. Don't forget, it's the intensity of the session that counts, not how much weight you throw around.
The obvious objection to this program that bodybuilders argued is that total-body training doesn't allow you to work muscle groups hard enough. They are basing this on the assumption that a single muscles requires 30+ minutes to work out. (Meaning you'd be in the gym all day to hit every muscle). But if you compare the set/rep numbers of each program, you can achieve the same number of exercises per muscle per week, if not more. For example, the old body-part program would have you do 4 chest exercises at 3 sets each per week (total= 12 sets). With the new program you can achieve 12 sets simply by doing 4 sets 3x a week. According to Alwyn Cosgrove, the trainer that collected the data, "you need to think of training like a presciption. You wouldn't take an entire bottle of Advil on Monday to relive pain all week; you'd take smaller doses at regular intervals."
Also refuting the bodybuilder's argument is a concept called volume-threshold theory that states that "muscle growth occurs once a muscle has been exposed to 90 to 120 seconds of total tension." The beauty of the negative-emphasis lifting technique is that each repetition is going to last around 6-7 seconds. So it's very easy to achieve that 120 second total tension bar and stimulate muscle growth.
Important: To save on time and increase your workout intensity even more you can also perform alternation sets. When possible, pair exercises that work opposite muscle groups and cut the rest period between sets in half. (ex: one set of bench press, followed by quick rest, then upright-row for back. That's one set. Repeat according to what rep/set schedule you're doing that day). This concept is based on the the law of reciprocal innervation that states "for every neural activation of a muscle, there is a corresponding inhibition of the opposite muscle" So by working your back the opposite chest muscles are forced to relax, thereby resting. This can cut 8-10 minutes off your workout time and increases heartrate, calories burned, and workout intensity. Just don't forget to emphasize the negative, and keep that form perfect.
Here's an example of an alteration set:
Exercise 1: Wide grip deadlift
Exercise 2: Dumbbell incline press (chest)
Exercise 2A: Cable Row (back)
Exercise 3: Wide-grip Lat pulldown (back)
Exercise 3A: Swiss ball pike (pushup positon with shins resting on swiss-ball. Raise your hips as high as you can as you roll the ball toward your body. Pause at top, then return to start by lowering your hips and rolling the ball backward.)
For more info check in with the man himself at http://www.alywncosgrove.com/ and Mark Verstegen's site at http://www.coreperformance.com/.