For the aspiring bodybuilder, strength athlete, or physique model, the concept of time is of utter importance to us. We only have so much of it to train, only have so many days in a week and for many of us, our schedules are often built around our training.
While everyone’s schedule may differ in terms of how often we’re able to hit the gym, one thing will always remain – however much time we’re spending on our physiques, we better make it count. We all know time spent dinking around the weight room is time wasted. If you aren’t in there to set a new record, increase work capacity, or simply to improve flexibility/mobility, what are you doing? What’s the point?
As an entrepreneur, and fellow strength/physique athlete, the time I can spend in the gym and on my diet is pretty minimal these days.
It’s pretty easy. The answer is to implement efficient training and nutritional protocols that take up less time, but are just as effective as some of the more time-consuming alternatives.
Before we get into some of the training and nutritional protocols I use for my clients as well as my own programming, let’s take a look at some issues involved with some traditional approaches to strength and physique development.
In the bodybuilding world, high-volume training is a fairly popular concept. It’s also well known that the fitness models on the covers of Men’s Health and Muscle & Fitness utilize many of these programs with much success.
However, we’ve a few problems here to deal with. For those who’ve made fitness modeling or bodybuilding their full-time career, daily training is practical as it’s part of their job.
For those with gigs outside of the fitness realm, families, and other various commitments, that’s sometimes not possible.
I should also mention that the typical shred-each-body-part-once-per-week routines are typically not the best idea for the beginner or even intermediate trainee.
Most people will respond much better in terms of growth and strength development by attacking each muscle group 2-3 times per week with a moderate dose of volume. As a result, we provide just enough stimulation for growth, while preserving the CNS to be fresh for the next session.
I’ve witnessed the best results from full-body routines as well as upper/lower splits over the course of 4 days per week, or those spanning 3 days per week – which hit each body part every 4th or 5th day.
We’ll expand on some ideas for training in a bit, but for now, I’d like to go over some of the issues regarding the traditional diet regimen.
It’s also well known within the bodybuilding and physique development community that the diet is by far a huge contributor to reaching your aesthetic goals. You could be on the most optimal training program, but if your diet is lacking in sufficient energy, or key nutrients, you’ll never realize your goals of a bigger, leaner physique.
For years, the solution has been a high(er) protein diet, whole foods and sufficient kcal intake to support muscle growth and strength gains. It’s also been widely accepted that a high frequency meal pattern is key to keeping the body full of nutrients and ensuring a steady stream of amino acids into the blood stream to prevent catabolism.
Along with the idea of a high meal frequency, it’s been accepted that eating in this fashion also improves metabolic rate, thus allowing us to eat more, and use more food for energy as opposed to it being stored as fat. Regardless of whether or not this is scientifically sound, the idea of eating more than 5 times a day, for many folks, can seem a massive chore.
So what is the solution? How can we still get the most bang for our training-and-diet-buck when our time is limited?
Is it possible to get optimal results on less training and fewer meals throughout the week?
Absolutely – and here’s how.
First, let’s start with our training. There are a few protocols I particularly enjoy, which also are very effective in both my training as well as my clients programming.
The first one is known as Reverse Pyramid Training and is very easy to implement. I’ve seen the best strength gains in myself and with clients when following such a protocol focusing on the 3-8 rep ranges. I first started using this type of training when I was 20 years old under the guidance of a strength coach by the name of Lawrence Hosannah, and it forever changed my approach. It’s fairly simple and can be used with just about any rep range, but I prefer to keep it under 8 reps. The way it’s set up is very simple. Let’s say you’re aiming for 3 sets of 5 - 8 reps. The goal is to get the most recruitment out of each set, building fatigue along the way, but staying just short of failure to keep your CNS fresh for the following session.
It’s best to do these at the beginning of your workout, and to use complex, multi-joint movements such as the squat, bench press, deadlift, rows, etc. I’d not utilize this type of training on isolation movements due to the demands such heavy loads can place on the joints. Since we’re working in the 5 - 8 rep range, you should pick a weight that is about 80 - 85% of your 1 rep max. So if you know you can squat 355lbs 1 time, you should begin your first set with 285-300lbs and aim for 5-8 reps.
The goal is to push for as many reps possible without going to failure. I typically aim to keep one solid rep in the tank. If I’m going to max out at 8 reps, I will finish the 7th and hang it up.
Immediately following the set, you should drop the weight by about 5-10% total. So if you started at 300lbs and you dropped it by 5%, your weight for the 2nd set will be 285lbs. I typically rest about 2-3 minutes between each set (especially when strength is the goal).
The same principles apply to the 2nd set as the first. Leave one rep in the tank – give it your all, just short of failure.
Drop the weight by 5-10% again for the 3rd set and repeat.
I typically do 3 - 4 total sets for major movements followed by some light accessory work for 2-3 sets in the 10-15 rep range. 1-minute rest in between sets here.
With this type of training, it doesn’t take long at all to create a training effect that will produce both strength and size gains.
Another method I love to use is a form of rest-pause training made popular on the internet by Borge Fagerli of MyRevolution.no. I’ve followed Borge for some time and his contributions to the bodybuilding and fitness community are uncanny.
This method of training is even briefer than what I mentioned above. This type of training is very similar to the popular DC method, but forgoes training to failure in hopes of recruiting more motor units, better managing fatigue, and producing the desired hypertrophy most physique athletes are after.
An example of this type of training is as follows:
Pick a weight within 70-80% of your 1 rep max. Typically, you can get anywhere from 8-12 repetitions without going to failure within this range. For each muscle group, your aim is to get 20 - 30 total reps. That’s it!
The goal of hypertrophy training is to achieve full muscle fiber recruitment. There are a few ways to do this, such as moving lighter weights in an explosive manner (aka speed training in powerlifting circles), lifting close to your 1 rep max over multiple sets, or lifting a moderate amount of weight, approaching failure over multiple sets.
In traditional training, the last few reps of each set are generally the “effective” reps meaning the muscle fibers are fully activated.
Before we get into it, let’s take a look at how a 3 x 12 set of DB bench presses would work with 2-3 minute rest periods.
Set one: the last 3 reps considered to be fully recruited (full activation).
Set two: same as above.
Set three: the last 4 - 5 reps considered to be fully recruited.
So essentially, with 6 minutes of total rest and say 1 minute spent per set (9 total minutes), we’ve produced 10-11 effective repetitions, which will contribute to strength gains and hypertrophy.
In a nutshell, only 11 reps out of 36 total contributed to the training effect.
While that’s not bad, we can improve both the effectiveness and efficiency.
With Myoreps, the goal is to reach full activation (muscle fiber recruitment) within the first set, then continue with mini-sets while under full recruitment to produce a greater training effect.
It’s pretty simple, actually. We’ll stay within the same parameters as above, but we’ll swap out the 2-minute rest periods for 20 seconds. From here on out, the goal is to get 25 - 30 total reps, with good form and full fiber recruitment from the first set until finish.
The problem with such short rest periods is our ability to churn out reps will be severely diminished due to the fatigue produced by the initial set. This is a good thing. After the initial set, every rep done thereafter will contribute to the desired training effect simply because of full fiber recruitment. All reps will now be considered effective.
Set one: 12 total reps (last 3 were effective) – rest 20 seconds
Set two: 4 reps (all of which were effective) – rest 20 seconds
Set three: 3 reps (all of which were effective) – rest 20 seconds
Set four: 3 reps (all of which were effective) – rest 20 seconds
Set five: 2 reps (all of which were effective) – rest 20 seconds
Set six: 2 reps (all of which were effective)
So for this bout of training, we had 26 total reps in which 17 were effective in terms of full-fiber recruitment. This training set would typically last around 4 - 6 minutes depending on the time it took for the first set and the time spent on the mini-sets.
In the example I’ve provided, we’ve accomplished a few things:
• Saved time (4 - 6 minutes for the entire exercise as opposed to 9 minutes)
• Full activation with less work (17/26 total effective reps as opposed to the 11/36 reps)
All rep ranges and suggestions are in line with current research as to what impacts and promotes hypertrophy. Making some small adjustments to your training by altering rest times and rep ranges, you can actually become more productive with less time and less total work involved.
One can apply these principles to about every body part. The only movements Borge and others (DC advocates) suggest against using rest-pause training with are the traditional squats and deadlifts.
The rationale is because form tends to falter under extreme fatigue – which we all know is very dangerous when doing deads or squats. Stick with traditional rest periods and rep ranges when doing these movements.
written by JC Deen at jcdfitness.com