Much has been written about the best training approaches are and why. In fact, there appear to be as many theories on how best to stimulate maximum muscle gains as there are those who have successfully achieved their muscle building objectives. The big lesson here is that almost all training strategies will work if followed properly and given enough time. Provided our muscles are forced to adapt to unique training stressors on a consistent basis and sufficient volume, resistance, and rest are accounted for, a trainee will grow – period.
Furthermore, by using a variety of training approaches and methods we promote adaptation by keeping our muscles guessing as to what will come next. This so called muscle-confusion principal is the key to sustained muscle growth.
DOING THE SAME THING OVER AND OVER AND EXPECTING DIFFERENT RESULTS IS NOT ONLY ONE DEFINITION OF INSANITY, BUT IT ALSO ENCOURAGES A TRAINING PLATEAU.
Human muscle is a remarkably adaptive tissue – though resistant to growth (to reduce energy demands and to promote the survival of the human organism as a whole), it will become larger and stronger if forced to adapt through intensive training. Heavy weights lifted with good form with an emphasis on continuous tension, sufficient calories, and enough regenerative rest, will provide the conditions for such adaptation.
One way to ensure our muscles are continually adapting is to hit each muscle group with the right amount of total training volume on a weekly basis to keep muscle protein synthesis constantly engaged. All muscle groups must be targeted from multiple angles with many different movements to stimulate a maximum number of fibers. Finally, it is important to keep training sessions short (45 minutes or less) so as to ensure optimal recovery and the allocation of as much intensity as one can muster.
Overloading Without Over-training
The total body training method (working all muscle groups in the same session) may provide an excellent boost for natural lifters who have tried other approaches but have failed to reach their full muscle building potential. Having fallen out of favor among those conditioned into believing that we must train each muscle group once per week to avoid possible overtraining, multiple weekly training sessions for the same body part are seldom enlisted or encouraged. But such training might be just what your muscles need to reach the next level in their development.
Total body training was for many decades a popular methodology among natural trainees; however, in recent years it has been all but forgotten. By regularly subjecting the same muscle groups to a different training stressor and by giving them enough rest to fully regenerate (the basis of total body training) we can expect real results.
Establishing The Parameters
A potential problem with the total body training approach, one that has perhaps dissuaded many from trying it, is the unnecessary extending of session length. Training a muscle group more than twice a week with five or more sets per workout may compromise recovery. Though some may benefit from such an approach, most are likely to succumb to overtraining.
One of the key benefits to using the program outlined below is the short session duration, and high intensity. With 2-3 sets per exercise (each taken to failure with either 1-2 forced, or rest-pause, reps following each) and one minute of rest between sets, each of the three workouts that comprise our program should have you out of the gym within 45 minutes.
The short duration of a whole body training session (45 minutes or less) requires overall volume to be lower than that of traditional workouts. As such, only the best movements should be employed – primarily compound lifts which place more pressure on their working muscles and, in systemic fashion, force much of the body to be stimulated. For the three weekly workouts prescribed in the program below large muscle groups will be hit with two movements per workout, smaller groupings with one.
Reps for the program to follow will mostly be within the hypertrophy-inducing 8-12 range, though the third workout of the week will feature low-rep sets to build strength with a view to assisting further muscle gains. For these sets, our range will be 6-8 and training weight must be increased accordingly. If more than the prescribed rep count can be achieved (for any of the listed rep ranges), you are lifting too light and it’s time to slam more weight on the bar.
One important caveat which must be given is the requirement for sufficient rest outside the gym. One reason why many trainees follow a lower volume training approach concerns their failure to address the many recovery factors – including hormonal status, quality and duration of sleep, additional rest, family, work related stress, proper hydration, supplementation and whole food nutrition – that are responsible for translating their gym efforts into pure muscle gains. Once you have adjusted your lifestyle to enhance the degree to which you may recover between workouts, the increased training frequency for each muscle group may then serve its anabolic purpose.
12 Week Total Body Workout Program
Because of the specialized nature of the following training program, and its inherent recovery demands, the sole focus of the next 12 weeks will be on building as much lean body mass as possible. Of the more advanced clients I have prescribed this program for, most have experienced a lean muscle increase of at least 5 lbs. Provided you do not stray from its parameters, you will likely encounter similar gains.
s/w = Superset with
Monday: Workout 1
- Bench press s/w bent over barbell rows: 2 sets of 8-12
- Incline dumbbell press s/w chin ups: 1 set of 8-12
- Dumbbell shrugs: 2 sets of 8-12
- Incline dumbbell curls s/w one arm triceps extensions: 2 sets of 8-12
- Seated dumbbell presses: 2 sets of 8-12
- Squats s/w stiff legged deadlifts: 2 sets of 8-12
- Leg extensions s/w lying leg curls: 1 set of 8-12
- Standing calve raises s/w tibialis anterior raises: 2 sets of 8-12
- Swiss ball crunches: 2 sets of 15-20
Wednesday: Workout 2
- Seated cable rows: 2 sets of 8-12
- One arm dumbbell rows: 1 set of 8-12
- Dumbbell bench presses: 2 sets of 8-12
- Incline barbell presses: 1 set of 8-12
- Triceps kickbacks: 2 sets of 8-12
- Standing barbell curls: 2 sets of 8-12
- Side laterals: 2 sets of 8-12
- Barbell wide grip upright rows: 1 set of 8-12
- Wide stance squats: 2 sets of 8-12
- Leg press: 1 set of 8-12
- Standing single leg-curl on machine: 2 sets of 8-12
- Seated calf raise: 2 sets of 8-12
- Rope machine crunches: 2 sets of 15-20
- Cardio: 25 minutes of HIIT
- Cardio: 45 minutes of steady state
Saturday: Workout 3
- Front squats: 1 set of 8-12; 1 set of 6-8
- Walking dumbbell lunges: 2 sets of 8-12
- Standing calf raise: 2 sets of 8-12
- Seated barbell front press: 2 sets of 6-8
- Bent laterals: 1 set of 8-12
- Decline bench press: 2 sets of 6-8
- Incline flyes: 1 set of 8-12
- Reverse grip lat pulldowns: 1 set of 6-8
- Deadlifts: 1 set of 6-8; 1 set of 8-12
- Triceps pressdowns: 1 set of 6-8; 1 set of 8-12
- One arm dumbbell preacher curls: 1 set of 6-8; 1 set of 8-12
- Hanging knee raise: 2 sets of 15-20
Note on Frequency
For bodybuilding newcomers who may not be ready to tackle this advanced program, complete workouts 1 and 2 for six weeks, with a full two days rest between workouts. Then commence the program proper. You will still receive the benefits associated with total body training during this preparatory period. Once your body has adjusted to training each body part more than once per week, further gains can be sought by grinding out workouts 1-3.
Complete Development With a Total Body Routine
It is hoped that this article will inspire you to give the total body workout a decent shot. Though running counter to much conventional bodybuilding ‘wisdom’, total body training workouts will, provided all recovery factors are in place and all training parameters are adhered to, force your body to adapt and grow in response to the unique training stressors provided in each of the weekly workouts. Commit to the plan and fresh muscle gains will be yours.