Friday, March 13, 2015

The Scourge of 'Body Part' Training - By Michael Turner

Go to train in most gyms and you can almost guarantee at some point you will hear something along the lines of the following "What ya training today mate?.... Chest day mate" or perhaps the answer will be 'shoulder day' or perhaps 'arm day'. The point I am making is that many men and women looking to increase their strength and muscle mass naively spend entire workouts focusing on one specific area of their body, believing this to be the best way to train. This method of training typically promotes far too many visits to the gym and far too many sets and exercises which ultimately results in little to no progress for the average trainee. I should point out that some people can do well with body part training but usually these are the people who are on performance enhancing drugs or they may be people who are natural but are more responsive to weight training than the average person. This article is aimed at the average trainee who is natural and wants to make serious improvements in their strength and muscular size.

A typical body part routine usually has the trainee focusing on one or two body parts at each workout, an example might look something like this Monday - chest, Tuesday - back, Wednesday - legs, Thursday - shoulders, Friday - arms. Using Mondays chest workout as an example the trainee might to 4 sets of flat bench presses, 4 sets of incline bench presses, 4 sets of decline bench presses and then finish the workout off with 2 sets of peck deck or cable crossovers. That is 14 sets just for the chest supposedly, this is massive overkill and I can assure you that no one needs 12 sets in one workout just to train their chest muscles. The rest of the week would look the same with multiple sets of several different exercises all for one area of the body. Many people at gyms train in this fashion and they get absolutely nowhere, they are stuck in the mud spinning their tires largely because of the ignorant and dangerous advice that is promoted by the fitness industry in general. Body part training is not the way to go for the genetically average natural trainee looking to gain serious strength and muscle and I will explain why.

The supposed logic behind this kind of training is that by only focusing on just one area of the body the rest of your body is getting a rest and recovering, this is not true however. Your muscles are one of the major systems of your body in the sense that you have a nervous system, a hormone system and a cardiovascular system you also have a muscular system. Your body's muscles are all interconnected and function as a unit, they do not function as separate body parts and you can never truly isolate a muscle. Once this is understood it becomes clear how ridiculous and ineffective body part training is for most people most of the time. The 'chest day' is not really a chest day because muscles in the shoulders and arms are also worked hard any time you do a pressing exercise, having an 'arm day' after your chest, back and shoulder days is absurd because the muscles of the arms will already have done a significant amount of work during the previous workouts. Despite this I can guarantee you will see people in gyms doing their barbell curls, followed by their preacher curls, followed by their cable curls and all this just to work the relatively small bicep muscle. Yet another problem with body part training is that when one lifts weights it is not just the muscular system being stressed, the nervous system is also stressed as are the connective tissues surrounding your joints. Following a typical body part split which has you in the gym between four and six days a week is bound to exceed your recovery capacity and may even result in injury. So now that I have finished my rant about the stupidity of body part training and all the nonsense that goes along with it what is the solution you ask? The solution is to simplify, to go back to basic, uncomplicated weight training with PROGRESSION being the bottom line.

Instead of splitting you workouts into body parts try training your whole body twice a week using just one or two exercises for each of the major muscle groups. An example could be the following:

Squat 2 x 10 Bench press 2 x 8 Dumbell row 2 x 8 Barbell overhead press 2 x 8 Pull up 2 x 8

Doing just those five exercises would work your entire body and as long as you increased the weight every week or two and trained hard you should make good progress. This workout is just a very basic example of a sensible training routine, there would be nothing wrong with including some calf or abdominal work or even some curls. Just make sure you are not doing lots of sets because you want to keep the intensity high and you cannot do that if you are doing ten sets for one exercise. See how simple this routine looks compared to the typical bodybuilding splits which have you doing lots of different exercises for lots of sets and reps six days a week. People need to get away from this idea of training body parts if they are serious about increasing their muscular size and strength, it has mislead so many people for a long time now and continues to do so. Ditch the body part splits and start training your body as a unit!
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