Recently there has been a renaissance in the “full body” training routines, thanks in large part to people like Ken Leistner, Stuart McRobert, Ellington Darden as well as the rebirth of the classic Bill Starr 5×5 routine, thanks to Glen Pendlay, Mark Rippetoe and websites like Madcow’s and Stronglifts. These routines which are intense and use only compound exercises are about as old school as you can get. This is the way that the legends of the golden era of bodybuilding in the 1950s used to train.
People like Reg Park, Steve Reeves, Armand Tanny, Vince Gironda and John Grimek all used these sorts of 3 day a week, full body routines to get huge. Any of these guys would likely be found to have more aesthetic physiques than the average growth hormone fuelled pro bodybuilders today by the vast majority of the general public. Add to that, they all had functional muscle and were athletic. How many bodybuilders today could handle a ground ball?
The fact that legendary football trainer Bill Starr’s “The Strong Shall Survive” and John McCallum’s “The Complete Keys to Progress” are still bestsellers today speaks for itself. These two books, for example contained routines that have been modified and reinterpreted somewhat by many, but the core ideas and structure behind them still prove to be true: full body workouts are the most efficient way to gain a lot of muscle really quick, full body workouts burn the most fuel and are best for getting that lean and athletic look, while gaining muscle. They are also the most natural way to train, as your body works as a whole, not in some sort of segmented kinetic isolation.
How to go about Setting up a Full Body Routine?
When setting up your full body routine, there are some things that you have to consider and your training recovery abilities are perhaps the most important. If you are a fairly new trainer, with less than a year or so under your belt, or are a young trainer – say under 25 years old, then your recovery ability and consequently the volume and frequency of your workouts can be higher than an older trainer (like me at 46) who has trained for 20 years. An older trainer say, over 40 might be able to use more resistance in their exercises, but this will necessitate larger amounts of time in between training sessions as greater resistance creates a greater aggregate stress on the body’s recovery ability. Think of your body is a well of energy, the same amount of energy used to power you through a workout is the same source of energy used to recover from the workout. If you run the well dry with too many training sessions with not enough rest in between them, then its a reasonable assertion that you are short changing yourself in terms of muscle gains. The key variables to consider in any training routine (split of full body) are 1) volume, 2) frequency and 3) intensity. The key variables in the supercompensation phase of muscle growth are 1) diet and 2) rest. Take stock of your age, the experience you have in training and the amount of stress in your life at any given time as well and adjust your training accordingly.
For Younger Trainers and Beginners:
The following routine is to be done 3 days a week, one on, one off, weekends off: Monday/Wednesday/Friday:
1) Squats – 2×10-12
2) Pullovers – 2×10-12
3) Overhead Barbell Presses – 2×8
4) Chinups or Pullups – 2×8
5) Dips – 2×8
6) Barbell Curls – 2×8
7) Barbell or Dumbbell Shrugs – 2×8
8) Stiff-Legged Deadlifts – 2×12
For Older Trainers:
Since older trainers and more experienced trainers need more rest, the following full body routine is an “A/B split” comprised of 2 full body workouts to be done one on, two off: mon-thurs-sun-wed-sat-tues-fri, etc etc. There is also some overlap in the routine so some of the muscle groups still get hit twice a week too from different angles:
1.Deadlift (or variation) 3×5
2.Leg Press 3×8
3.Chin 3x fail
4.BB Overhead Press 3×5
5.Dips (weighted if possible) 3×5
2.Bench Press 3×5
3.Rowing movement 3×5
4.Dumbbell Overhead Press 3×5
Both of these programs are as efficient as you can get to balanced, practical full body training.
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Keep training hard,