The advanced workout program is designed for your those with a significant lifting experience and a consistent lifestyle of quality nutrition and training for at least four years. For those that are training seriously at the advanced level, this program has your best intentions in mind.
This is the program I use and personally endorse for bodybuilders or advanced trainees seeking muscle growth. I have never found a more effective muscle-building program for an advanced bodybuilder. To use this routine effectively, you need a solid base, you must be familiar with multiple exercises for each muscle group, and you need 3 – 6 days each week to train.
The push/pull/legs split is a very simple and logical training method in which you split your body into three parts. And each part is then trained on its own separate day.
- In the “push” workout you train all the upper body pushing muscles, i.e. the chest, shoulders and triceps.
- In the “pull” workout you train all the upper body pulling muscles, i.e. the back, biceps and rear delts.
- And in the “legs” workout you train the entire lower body, i.e. the quads, hamstrings and calves.
These three workouts are then alternated over however many weekly training sessions you choose to do.
An advantage of working a smaller set of muscles (e.g. Push = chest, shoulders and triceps……and abs) per workout is energy conservation. Intense, heavy training is extremely energy consuming. If you work a large muscle group such as legs for multiple sets on multiple exercises, you’re not going to have the energy left to do the later exercises in the workout.
In full body workouts and even two-day splits, whatever body parts you do last get a half-hearted effort because of your fatigued state. You also tend to hold back on the initial exercises, (consciously or unconsciously) because you know you have a lot ahead of you. The result is that you don’t train as hard as you would if you only had two or three body parts to work per session.
A final advantage of training this way is the excellent recovery and recuperation each muscle receives between sessions. As a beginner, you can recuperate very quickly because your workouts are not as intense. The advanced trainee blasts each muscle with much greater intensity, breaking down more muscle fiber in the process. This requires at more time to recuperate before training the same muscle again. You will have minimum overlap of movements between workouts, and this will facilitate better recovery than most other body part splits. The joints too are involved differently in each workout, and this reduces joint strain and helps prevent injury. And in practice the push/pull/legs split does seem to cause less training injuries than other methods of training.
The optimal workout duration is probably around 45 – 60 minutes. Overly long workouts exhaust your nervous and endocrine system, decrease your levels of growth hormone and testosterone (anabolic hormones) and increase your level of cortisol (a catabolic hormone that breaks down muscle).
IMPORTANT – Make sure you keep a journal or log of your workout sets, reps and weights each week. Also feel free to add comments to each set such as how it felt, any adjustments you can use next time, how your energy levels felt etc.
This progression technique is for people who’ve gained 80-90% of their genetic potential in terms strength and/or hypertrophy, and are seeking to get the remaining 10-20%. For the purposes of progressing you can consider yourself advanced if you have been seriously training in an intelligent manner for more than four years continuously, and the rate of progress has substantially slowed down compared to what it was in your first year or two of training.
At this stage of the lifting career you are not going to be able to increase your muscle mass at a pace that makes objective measurement and evaluation possible. Thus, even if you are training to compete in a bodybuilding/physique contest (or if you’re trying to build a physique like those physique athletes) it is best to use changes in strength as the measure of progress versus visual assessments, caliper or tape measurements.
I recommend you use periodic “amraps” (As many reps as possible, for a given weight on an exercise) to test strength on your primary compound lifts to see how you are progressing. You can then directly compare the number of reps you can perform compared to previous amraps with the same (or lighter) weights than last time. or, you can use a 1RM calculator to estimate your one rep max using equations based on your amrap, comparing it to your last amrap’s estimated 1rm.
Remember, you have to get out of your comfort zone and push yourself. Challenge yourself and get a buddy to come and workout with you for motivation and competition. Go into every workout with a mindset that you won’t tolerate standing still; that you MUST move forward and make progress above and beyond the previous session. And don’t hope for it – expect it!
I believe in training hard with intensity, and that means sometimes training to failure or just short of failure (1 or 2 reps remaining). I don’t believe in stopping a set when I have three or four reps left in me. Push yourself – but push yourself safely and intelligently (use a spotter where appropriate).
Every 6 – 8 weeks, make sure you are testing your strength (using amrap or 1RM as mentioned previous tab) and adjusting intensity accordingly based on your recovery:
Not Recovering (progression is stagnant or negative)
It may just be that you need to insert a light week (deload) into your training, but if that does not work then you probably need to cut back on the volume systemically to see if you are over fatigued or overreaching in a non-functional manner. Alternatively reduce your workout frequency (see next toggle below). Consider also it could be that there is a technique/neurological issue that is preventing you from getting stronger, and adding more volume is not the answer. It’s a good idea to regularly evaluate your form, either with a coach, or video feedback compared to an example of good form or by some other more objective method.
Recovering Sufficiently (slow steady progress)
Option 1: Increase volume
- Add more repetitions via increasing the number of sets, or adding more exercises to your workouts. If you’re plateaued on a lift that you specifically wish to improve then you should probably consider doing more sets of that lift.
- Sometimes you simply need to get more muscularity, so there are times when adding more accessory movements (or sets on accessory movements you are already doing) might be a good idea.
Option 2: Increase workout frequency
If you’re starting to push the limit of how much quality training you can perform in your sessions (possibly around the 90 minute mark) then consider adding another training day to spread out the work more effectively. (see toggle below)
DE-LOADS – What are they and how do they work?
The way the body adapts to overcome stress and achieve a state where it will become bigger, stronger and more comfortable handling more weight in the future is called recovery and leads to muscle growth if done correctly.
Through weight training, our muscles adapt by growing larger and stronger as a way of handling the stress. Muscle growth does not occur during the workout, however. During the workout, you are stressing your muscles so they will get the message: “Get bigger and stronger (adapt) so you will be able to handle the stress of your next workout.” Muscle growth actually occurs after your workout is completed.
For maximum muscle growth, you want to train with enough intensity to signal maximum muscle growth, but not too much that you result in overtraining and injury.
If you train with maximum intensity and a high volume over a sustained period, it leads to your body getting stressed beyond its ability to recover. Your body would be stressed again before it fully recovered from the last workout. If this occurs on a continual basis your muscle growth is halted and you risk losing some of the growth you previously experienced. It can also set you up for injury and illness. This program progression structure will ramp up your intensity week by week and building toward the peak of your growth ability.
Then just before you get to the point of overtraining, I want to back you off for a week, let your body take a breath and recovery, and let the momentum of your previous weeks workouts, keep your body building muscle during that de-load week before you go at it again for the next week.
You can think of it like speeding up in a car through the gears from first to sixth. You start speeding up in first gear, and then press in the clutch to change up to the next gear. While you have the clutch in, your car continues to move under inertia and momentum, progress continues, and then your car can go again even harder as it changes into the next gear up.
By giving your body that quick week of breathing space and time to catch up for its recovery, you can maintain progress without overtraining. I call this “Super compensation”
How to do a DE-LOAD
To complete a de-load week, we reduce the volume by 33% (go from 3 sets per exercise, to 2 sets). We also will use the lightest weight and the lowest reps used since the last deload.
Example exercise (Squats)
- Week 1 – 3 sets of 100kg x 9 reps
- Week 2 – 3 sets of 105kg x 8 reps
- Week 3 – 3 sets of 110kg x 7 reps
- Week 4 – DELOAD WEEK with 2 sets of 100kg x 7 reps.
- Week 5 – 3 sets of 105kg x 9 reps
In the first 3 weeks, our lightest weight was 100kg, and the lowest reps we performed was 7. This is what we will use in this example of a de-load.
3 Day Cycle (Once per Week)
If you are on an aggressive calorie deficit, have poor recovery at the time, are nursing an injury or you can only make it to the gym three days per week, you would simply do each workout on its own set day once each week, e.g. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. However this is not the best way to do it as it means that each body part is only being trained once per week, and as I’ve said previously this is not optimal for muscle growth (though it’s fine for a maintenance program).
4 Day Cycle
So a better way would be to train four days per week, alternating the workouts over your four training sessions. It doesn’t matter which days you choose as long as you never do more than two days in a row.
5 Day Cycle
Another method is the rotating five day cycle, where each workout is done over a five day period. So this means you would train 2 on, 1 off, 1 on, 1 off and then repeat. This is probably the best way to do it as it means that each body part is trained once every 5 days – and this is about ideal for the more experienced trainee. But it does mean that your training days are constantly changing so you need a fairly flexible schedule for this to work.
A personal option that I chose to do sometimes is to do push, pull, legs, off, push, pull, off. This allows me to train upper body twice a week, but legs once per week. I find if my legs aren’t recovering as quick as the rest of my body, it allows the perfect environment for me to train hard without risk of overtraining.
6 Day Cycle (Twice per Week)
If you feel your body can recover well enough and you have sufficient energy from nutrition coming in, I recommend you complete the whole program twice per week, allowing a day off in between before you start again on your push day.
Complete the three workouts each cycle.
Workouts 1 – Push Day – Jump to Push Workout
- CHEST – Incline Barbell Bench Press (3 sets 6 – 10 reps)
- SHOULDERS – Standing Barbell Military Press (3 sets 8 – 12 reps)
- CHEST – Cable Crossover (Low / mid pulley position) (3 sets 12 – 15 reps)
- SHOULDERS – Dumbbell Side Lateral Raises (3 sets 15 – 20 reps)
- TRICEPS – Laying Barbell Tricep Extension (3 sets 15 – 20 reps)
- LOWER ABS – Parallel Bars Knee/Leg Raise (1 set 20 – 30 reps)
- OBLIQUE ABS – Cable Abs Twist (1 set 15 – 20 reps)
- UPPER ABS – Decline Crunches (1 set 20 – 30 reps)
Workouts 2 – Pull Day – Jump to Pull Workout
- OUTER BACK – Wide Grip Lat Pulldown (3 sets 6 – 10 reps)
- INNER BACK – Close Grip Seated Cable Rows (3 sets 8 – 12 reps)
- BACK – Cable Bar Straight Arm Pulldown (3 sets 8 – 12 reps)
- REAR DELTS – Face Pull (3 sets 10 – 12 reps)
- BICEPS – Standing Barbell Curl (3 sets 8 – 12 reps)
- LOWER ABS – Hanging Knee/Leg Raise (1 set 10 – 20 reps)
- OBLIQUE ABS – Russian Twist with Weight (1 set 20 – 30 reps)
- UPPER ABS – Rope Cable Crunch (1 set 12 – 15 reps)
Workouts 3 – Legs Day – Jump to Legs Workout
- QUADS/HAMS – Barbell Squat (5 sets 6 – 12 reps)
- HAMS – Romanian Deadlift (4 sets 8 – 12 reps)
- QUADS – Machine Leg Extensions (3 sets of 12 – 15 reps)
- HAMS – Machine Leg Curls (3 sets of 12 – 15 reps)
- CALVES – Standing Calf Raises (3 sets 15 – 20 reps)
ADVANCED BONUS OPTIONS – If you are doing this cycle more than once per week:
1 – Re order Muscle Groups: Feel free to swap the order of main muscle groups in each workout to ensure they get enough attention. For example on your second push day, start with the shoulder press exercise before doing chest, and then alternate shoulders and chest before doing abs.
2 – Add Exercise Variety: Use the exercise substitution suggestions provided for each training cycle. For example on your first push day, your first chest exercise can be incline barbell bench press, but your next push day could be flat dumbbell bench press, and you can alternate back and forth.
3 – Vary Rep Range: Alternate between heavy low reps for strength, and lighter high reps for size and endurance. For example on your first round of squats you can go for lighter squats in the 8 – 12 rep range, and then next time it comes around, go for heavier 4 – 8 reps. When going heavier, ensure technique is strictly maintained, reps are done safely and caution is taken to minimise risk of injury. Listen to your body and adjust intensity as required.