My workout routine is a seven-day split routine with a specific goal of building well-proportioned muscle mass and visible muscle separation. In other words, it’s a bodybuilding routine.
NOTE: bodybuilding, as a sport, means you will eventually stand on stage and pose in front of judges against other competitors. Bodybuilding, as a workout routine, simply means training for well-proportioned muscle mass and aesthetic physique.
I imagine many people will be surprised by and/or will not believe the resistance for the exercises where I included it. If you’re one of those people, you’ll have an opportunity to learn something in a crash course in exercise physiology below.
For those of you who understand exercise physiology as I do, you shouldn’t have many questions. So, let’s get into it.
As I already mentioned, my routine is a seven-day split routine. I do the same muscle group(s) on the same day of the week, every week. I do not schedule rest days; however, if I can’t complete the day’s workout for whatever reason, I allow that to be a rest day. You can read more about rest & recovery below.
At this point in my training, I exercise at exceptionally high volume. However, when I first started working out more than 10 years ago, I started with a rather low workout volume.
I first began with 3 exercises, 2 sets each, training at 8-12 reps per set (3 : 2 : 8-12). When this no longer caused soreness in my muscles, I added an extra set (3 : 3 : 8-12). Years later, I added another set (3 : 4 : 8-12). At some point, I added a fourth exercise (4 : 4 : 8-12), and so on.
Over 10 years of training, I’ve continued to increase workout volume. You may notice, however, that my repetition count remains consistent at 8-12. You can read more about the resistance below.
NOTE: all exercises are performed for 4-5 sets at 8-12 repetitions. If I fail before 8 reps, the weight is too heavy. If I fail at 13+, the weight is too light.
I included the weight on a many of these exercises to show that heavy weight is not necessary for building muscle mass.
*For certain exercises, I left the weight out because there are many variations of the machines and their displayed resistance.
Below are the factors that I believe make a successful bodybuilding routine that I’ve incorporated into my personal program design:
*For the purpose of this article, I won’t be discussing nutrition. The nutrition side of bodybuilding is complex, and this post would need an additional 600-1000 words to simply cover some basics in bodybuilding nutrition.
For me, choosing the best exercises took years of training and changing things around to find what works for me. And, the routine that works for me may not work as effectively on you. Ultimately, exercise routines need to be tailored to the individual.
My program design is loosely based on a bodybuilding program named Positions of Flexion by Steve Holman, former editor-in-chief of Iron Man magazine.
In this program, the target muscle or muscle group is trained in its full movement capacity based on three positions: a stretch position, a fully-contracted position, and a mid-range position.
For each muscle or muscle group I train throughout the week, I choose at least one exercise in each of these positions to complete the full movement capacity of the target muscle.
In the stretch position, the muscle’s attachment sites are separated as far as possible at the point of the greatest resistance. At no point during this range of motion will the muscle reach its full contraction.
An example exercise in the stretch position is a dumbbell chest fly where the pectoralis major (chest muscle) is stretched as much as possible during the exercise.
In the fully contracted position, the muscle’s attachment sites are as close to each other as possible at the point of greatest resistance. At no point during this range of motion will the muscle reach its full stretch.
An example exercise in the fully contracted position is a cable crossover chest fly where the pectoralis major is contracted as short as possible during the exercise.
In the mid-range position, the muscle is neither fully stretched nor fully contracted at the point of greatest resistance. At no point during this range of motion will the muscle reach its full stretch or full contraction.
An example exercise in the mid-range position is a chest press (i.e. barbell or dumbbell bench press) where the pectoralis major muscle is worked between its fully stretched and fully contracted positions during the exercise.
A good bodybuilding routine will attempt to isolate the target muscle as often as possible. During exercise, isolation of one muscle during a joint movement is impossible, but to increase the target muscle’s mass, we do our best to decrease the synergistic effect of the surrounding muscles.
This is easier said than done, and a great personal trainer will be able to assist you in cuing the target muscle to limit the activation of the supporting muscles to create the movement.
The best advice I can offer through this post is to think about opening and closing the muscle you’re targeting; let the muscle stretch longer, then pull the muscle shorter. Here are a few other things to think about:
Bodybuilding, unlike strength or power training, is not based on muscle strength because strength is not directly correlated with muscle mass. Therefore, heavy resistance is not among the most important factors of a successful bodybuilding routine.
Instead, the more important factor is the volume of the training routine. Ultimately, you want the target muscle to be under a moderately heavy resistance for as long as possible.
This includes minimizing the amount of time you’re not workout out. In other words, brief rest intervals. Your rest time between sets should never be greater than 90 seconds. Keep the rest short and the muscles under tension!
The trick is finding the sweet spot between high volume and heavy resistance. You could easily train high volume with low resistance, but low resistance will not break down the muscle enough for it to adapt and grow larger.
If your resistance is too heavy, you will fatigue more quickly and you will likely complete fewer sets and/or fewer repetitions per set.
Research supports a repetition range of 6-12 where your muscles reach fatigue between your 6th and 12th repetition. If you fail before 6, the resistance is probably too heavy. If you continue your set beyond 12, the resistance is probably too light.
If your resistance is moderate, you’ll be able to perform 6-12 repetitions per set. Then, you’ll want to perform 3-5 sets across multiple exercises using a Positions of Flexion based exercise routine, as described above.
In resistance training, muscle breakdown is a physiologic process that benefits the muscle. Muscle damage, on the other hand, is an injury process following acute trauma, acute strain, or excessive exercise.
An appropriate resistance training routine will cause a healthy breakdown rather than muscle damage. In the days following, you’ll likely experience delayed-onset muscle soreness which may last 24-72 hours.
When describing muscle growth, we use the word hypertrophy. However, hypertrophy (or hypertrophic) doesn’t mean “bigger.” The word actually means excessive feeding, and that’s what ultimately increases the muscle mass.
In order to feed the muscle, you need blood flow to carry the nutrients. Therefore, you need to maximize the amount of blood reaching the target muscle.
Heavy resistance at low volume will limit the amount of reactive blood profusion to the muscle. But, low resistance at a higher volume will limit the amount of muscle damage. For muscle growth, you want both muscle damage and increased blood flow.
The moderate resistance, high-volume training routine maximizes both healthy, beneficial muscle breakdown and increased blood flow to the target muscle. And, this combination of muscle breakdown and increased blood flow is what stimulates muscle growth.
If you’ve chosen the right exercises, isolated the target muscle, performed a high-volume routine using moderately heavy resistance, and eaten sufficient protein (and other macro- and micronutrients), then there’s only one step left, and it’s incredibly important.
There are two parts to recovery that could easily become a blog post by themselves, but I’m going to keep them extraordinarily brief for the purpose of this post.
First, you need sleep! Sleep is important for literally every aspect of your health & well-being, and exercise recovery is no exception. During sleep, your body has an opportunity to recover from the stressors of the day, both physical and mental/emotional.
If your sleep habits are poor, your recovery from exercise will also be poor. Although the mechanisms are more complicated than that statement, the simple fact remains: you need to sleep! Do yourself a favor, and try to get those 8 hours of sleep per night.
I’m using the phrase “recovery periods” to describe the days between working out the same muscle. I’m not saying “rest days” because, with an appropriate split routine, a rest day is not absolutely necessary.
Of course, if you choose to schedule a rest day, that’s great too! Rest & recovery is invaluable.
Ultimately, recovery periods need to be long enough to allow the target muscle to heal, and this is one reason why split routines are most commonly used in bodybuilding.
With a split routine, you can exercise a different muscle group each day, never take a rest day, and not run the risk of over-training your muscles. The recovery period simply means not repeating the same muscle group while the muscle is still healing.
This recovery period should be at least until the muscle is no longer sore. A safe, general recommendation would be to not repeat a training day for at least 72 hours. Ultimately LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! If you feel like you need a rest day, it’s okay to take a rest day.
We’re also on Twitch! Give us a follow and catch up with our live streams discussing all topics in health & wellness both in and out of gaming.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or exercise professional. Esports Healthcare disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
© 2020 Esports Healthcare, LLC - All Rights Reserved
Esports Healthcare® is a registered trademark of Esports Healthcare, LLC