With the old school bodybuilding rules dictating to us that you train every muscle group into the floor once a week I have noticed that a lot of ‘’bodybuilding’’ fans are struggling to make the transition to ‘’upper’’ and ‘’lower’’ workout splits now. This is understandable; to their way of thinking it is slightly mind boggling to wonder how you fit 12 sets of every muscle group in the upper body within 60 minutes. The thing is, you don’t! The whole philosophy of training each muscle group 2-3 times a week is different to ‘’smashing’’ a body part once every week.
Before we get into the how, let’s cover the why. Recently I was actually challenged by somebody on this topic because they couldn’t understand how it would help. Studies tell us that in unassisted (drug free) individuals protein synthesis levels remain elevated after training a certain muscle group for 48 hours. Now when you consider you would typically wait another 5 days before you trained that muscle again there is a lot of potential here you are missing out on. To come back to the person who challenged me on this, I get it. Logically how can training a muscle more regularly with less volume per workout equate to more growth. It comes down to stimulation and in this case the stimulation of protein synthesis levels. Don’t let the hardcore ‘’smash em up’’ mentality grab you and blind you – it isn’t always the smartest way, especially more mere mortals like you and I.
There is a little on why, now for the ‘’how’’ part.
Like I mentioned above, you need to rid the ‘’bodybuilder’’ mentality of training here in order to grasp the whole idea of multiple sessions a week on the same body part. Instead of doing 9-12 working sets per body part you will do between 3-9 typically depending on the muscle group and the nature of the workout, let me explain. Big muscle groups need more sets and by doing this you are in fact hitting smaller muscle groups at the same time – take an upper body workout which focuses on back, chest and arms for instance. Your press/pull exercises will also stimulate the biceps and triceps which means doing 3 sets at the end in isolation will be more than sufficient. If you repeat a similar workout at the end of the week then you will have hit the same muscles again, stimulating protein synthesis for another 48 hours!
This style of training also focusses on moving a bit quicker, getting more done in the same amount of time. Drop sets, giant sets and occasionally taking the muscle to failure are all part of the cycle. The name of the game is stimulation!!
Over 4 workouts you should be aiming to hit every muscle group in the body at least twice a week, maybe some 3 times. In relation to rep ranges try using lower rep, heavy lifting at the start of the week to fire up HTMUs (high threshold motor units) and finish the week with more hypertrophy based work!
Try it and watch yourself develop!