Thursday, October 2, 2014

Tweaking the 3 Days per Week Routine - By Todd Baisley

Like many readers of Natural Strength, I have trained most of the last couple decades on a two day per week, whole body workout routine, after a decade or so on more frequent training splits. This allows me to be fully charged and eager to work out again. The gains come just as well, and I feel more liberated in my day to day schedule. However, like most long time trainers, I mix it up now and again to keep it fresh. This summer, for the first time since my teenage years, I took a few months to experiment with a three day per week protocol again. Though I am back to two days per week again, here are some observations I made while going at it thrice weekly.

The first thing I figured out right away, was the need to vary the intensity and frequency of the big movements. Normally, I like to be pretty wiped out after a workout, often needing to lie down for a few minutes. This just didn’t work when hitting it Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Strength went backwards after a couple weeks and training enthusiasm dipped significantly. While we all have bad workouts, if you are getting weaker two weeks in a row, it is time to reevaluate. To combat this, I found that spot where I was training hard enough to be out of breath for much of the workout, but not wiped out. This enabled me to still get that rush of endorphins and psychological reset, where the cares of the day seem to melt away, without killing my love for lifting. I also found my poundages stayed solid or crept higher.

Perhaps the most enjoyable thing for me, was the variety I could fit in during the week without lengthening my workout. If I had already done one hard squat session that week, I felt fine about doing a lower rep session, or some other exercise, like a leg extension, that I would normally not bother with if only training two days per week. Same with weighted dips and deadlifts. I hit most of them twice per week, at least one time hard, then played around with a less draining movement for the third day. Because the other movements were not as taxing, I could hit them full bore without overtraining.

I also noticed more hardness and vascularity. Dr. Ken noted the same thing regarding hardness in an article in the September 2002 issue of Milo. And while I could hardly care less about vascularity, a veiny forearm to go along with a calloused grip and firm handshake isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You can also use the opportunity to focus on some weak point. Train more moderately (intensity or frequency) on some of your stronger movements, and you can hammer away harder where you need it. I took the opportunity to train grip/forearms three days a week, with a few different movements and really noticed the difference after a month.

Though I didn’t have a set in stone program, a couple workouts I did that were representative are as follows: one set of squats 20 or more reps; one set of weighted dips; one set of dumbbell row; one set of presses; one set of barbell curls; and a couple sets of wrist rollers. Another routine in the week was: one set of weighted chins followed immediately by deadlifts (this is one of the best lat combos I have ever done); bodyweight dips to failure; leg press; upright rows from the floor; one set of preacher curls; one set of reverse curls and one set of wrist curls. Three days a week proved pretty sustainable and realistic, but I still prefer to train two. I can train heavier and harder. But for a season, it proved a good change of pace. You may find the same thing yourself.
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