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101 Body-Sculpting Workouts & Nutrition Plans: For Women
By Muscle & Fitness, Alicia Buelow, Michael Darter, David Faught, Naj Jamai, John Kelly, Ian Logan, Rick Lohre, Karen Maze, Mike Medby, Pornchai Mittongtare, Marc Royce, Cory Sorensen
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2010 Weider Publications, LLC
All rights reserved.
Deciding which body parts to train together can be a real puzzle. We solve it for you
To make noticeable improvements in your physique over weeks and months, you need to know how to change up your training. Whether through variables such as exercise and weight selection, sets and reps, or even your rest periods between sets, continually tweaking your workouts helps stave off plateaus and keeps the beneficial muscular adaptations coming. But before you can even consider altering your training variables, you need to decide on your training split. The split you use determines how frequently you work out each week, how often you exercise each muscle group in a week and what body-parts get trained together.
Your current split may be something you adopted from a training partner or lifted from a popular fitness competitor's split presented in M&F HERS. While it might be good, it may not be the best split for you. And even if it's a great split, you should change it up from time to time as you do other training variables to prompt the gains you're looking for.
Why? For one thing, if you keep your training split the same month after month, your muscles will adapt and stagnate, limiting your progress. Two, if you train the same bodyparts in the same order every time, the muscles you hit later in the routine can't be worked with the same intensity as the ones trained first, again limiting your results.
While an endless combination of training splits exist, several fit a variety of experience levels and schedules. Here we lay out the four most common splits, and in "Trial Separation" at the end of this chapter we provide a way to try them all over the course of 12 weeks to help you gauge which ones work better for you.
SPLIT NO. 1
Three Days per week
Here you simply train the entire body each time you go to the gym. Typically, most whole-body workouts use only 1-2 exercises per muscle group with total sets per bodypart rarely exceeding six. This allows you to train each bodypart more frequently because it receives a limited amount of stress in each workout. The less stress a muscle receives, the faster it can recover and be trained again.
Although typically considered a beginner split, the whole-body option can also work well for advanced lifters. Training such a large number of muscle groups in each workout boosts growth-hormone levels, which helps to encourage muscle growth as well as fat-burning. Whole-body training also activates a greater amount of enzymes in muscles that turn on fat-burning processes.
In addition, research from St. Francis Xavier University (Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada) shows that female and male subjects who trained each muscle group three times per week had upper-body strength gains 8% greater and muscle mass gains 300% greater than those who trained twice a week. This was despite the fact that each group completed the same number of sets per bodypart, which means the three-times-per-week trainees did fewer sets per workout. So if you currently train each muscle group once a week for about 12 sets each, training each with four sets three times a week on a whole-body split instead will allow you to do the same number of sets per week but may enhance your results.
The simplest way to use the whole-body approach is to train on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, thus allowing at least one full day of rest between workouts. Of course, any three days that provide at least one day of rest between workouts will do, such as a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday schedule. Be sure to do a different exercise for every muscle group in each of the three workouts per week to avoid staleness, and alternate the order of the bodyparts you train, being sure to move weak muscle groups earlier in the workout on some days. Our sample program accomplishes both of these goals to optimize your results.
SPLIT NO. 2
Four Days Per Week
In this split you break the body into upper (chest, back, shoulders, biceps and triceps) and lower (quads, hams, calves, glutes and abs) muscle groups. You can train each bodypart twice per week, in two upper-body and two lower-body workouts.
Because you split the entire body into two sessions, you can do more sets for each muscle group than in the whole-body split. It also allows you to train with a little more intensity, since you have fewer bodyparts to focus on each time you visit the gym. Yet because this type of split allows for more sets and higher intensity, it means your muscles will require more rest. Most people who follow an upper/lower split follow a standard Monday (lower-body workout 1), Tuesday (upper-body workout 1), Thursday (lower-body workout 2) and Friday (upper-body workout 2) training schedule as shown. This allows each muscle group two full days of rest between workouts.
SPLIT NO. 3
Three Days Per Week
The push/pull/legs split is based on the concept that the body's muscles are mainly divided into pushing and pulling muscles. Pushing muscles include the chest, shoulders and triceps, which tend to push the weight away from the body such as during the bench press, overhead press and triceps extension. Pulling muscles include the back and biceps, which mainly pull the weight toward the body such as during barbell rows and dumbbell curls. Abs are commonly considered pulling muscles because they pull the torso toward the legs and/or the legs toward the torso.
The problem arises when you consider legs. The squat is a pushing exercise, as is the leg extension, but moves such as leg curls and romanian deadlifts are pulling exercises. But the issue is resolved by giving legs their own training day.
Because the entire body is trained over three separate workouts, many people who follow this split train on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, hitting each muscle group once a week. Yet some do it six days a week to hit each bodypart twice over the seven-day span. We suggest the former to prevent overtraining.
SPLIT NO. 4
Four Days Per Week
This split simply divides all the major muscle groups of the body into four separate training days. This means you train fewer bodyparts per workout than the three splits we've described, allowing you to increase both the intensity of your workouts, and the number of exercises and sets you perform per muscle group.
Most four-day splits are performed on a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday schedule, with rest days on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. Yet you can train any four days of the week you prefer.
You can divide muscle groups in many ways with a four-day training split, but here we've paired body-parts that perform opposite actions. For example, on Monday you'll train quads, hams, calves and abs; on Tuesday you'll do back and chest; on Thursday you'll work shoulders and abs; and on Friday it's time for biceps and triceps.
The Tuesday and Friday workouts listed here best exemplify the benefits of this training strategy. Pairing chest with back and biceps with triceps allows you to train two muscle groups that don't fatigue each other. Each bodypart performs an opposite motion of its pair, a push vs. a pull.
Splitting the Differences
Follow the program schedule in "Trial Separation" at right, using each training split for three weeks. This will give you just enough time to get a feel for each one and determine how well your body responds, as well as how well it works with your schedule. These are all important considerations. We also give you questions to help you grade the benefits of the various splits.
Regardless of which split you find works best for you, you'll still want to consider swapping it out every once in a while. For example, if you find that the four-day split is your No. 1 choice, use it for a good portion of the year, but every 3-4 months switch to a different training split for at least a month or two.
This 12-week program lets you put each split through a trial run. Use the workouts listed in the article.
Grading the Splits: At the end of 12 weeks, consider the following points.
1) Which split allowed you to train with more intensity and/or provided the best overall results? If you have a well-balanced physique without any weak areas, this is probably the optimal split for you.
2) Which allowed you to train lagging bodyparts the hardest and/or helped bring up lagging areas? If you have a weak bodypart or two that you're trying to raise to the level of the rest of your muscle groups, this split is likely your best option.
3) Which allowed you the best recovery between workouts? If you tend to be sore for days after training and recover slowly, this is the split you should favor.
4) Which was most convenient? If you have a tight schedule and tend to miss workouts because of it, this will probably be the best split for you.CHAPTER 2
Use this six-week program to train all your muscle fibers and achieve the body you desire
If you were to peel back your skin and look at your muscles, you'd see they appear pretty homogenous. But if you more closely examined what made up this powerful tissue, you'd find it's composed of two types of fibers. Fast-twitch fibers, which help give your muscles shape and size, produce a lot of force and contract quickly, hence their name. They rely on glucose, creatine phosphate and stored adenosine triphosphate (ATP) — your cells' main energy source — to generate explosive high-intensity, short-endurance (anaerobic) activity. They also fatigue easily.
Slow-twitch fibers, on the other hand, help with low force production, contract rather slowly and use fat as their primary source of energy. As such, they generate low-intensity, high-endurance (aerobic) activity. They neither fatigue easily nor grow easily.
Most of us have a 50:50 ratio of fast- to slow-twitch muscle fibers. Some people have a higher percentage of slow-twitch fibers in certain muscles (such as the abs and the soleus, a deep calf muscle), helping them to excel in endurance-type sports such as marathon running and cycling. Other individuals have a higher percentage of fast-twitch fibers in some muscles, which aids them in certain strength and power sports such as weightlifting and track events up to 400 meters.
But how do we work these fibers? Just picking up a dumbbell to perform a set of biceps curls immediately begins recruiting slow-twitch fibers. Then, as you begin to fatigue during a set, more fast-twitch muscle fibers are recruited. If you take the set to failure or close to it, you'll have successfully trained all the muscle fiber types.
But which kind of muscle fibers should you try to stimulate? Well, using our biceps curl example, there's no way not to train your slow-twitch fibers, so your workout focus really should be on your fast-twitch fibers. That means occasionally using heavy weights, training to failure and/or using fast-rep training methods. So if you typically do 10 reps of biceps curls without breaking a sweat, you need a training paradigm shift. In fact, you should be worried if you don't train with heavy weights from time to time and take your sets to failure — remember, those fast-twitch fibers tone and shape your entire body. If you use only light weights and never go heavy or train to failure, then you might never get the physique you want.
* Concentrate on performing 10-rep sets, taking the last set of every exercise to failure.
For optimal results, you need to work both types of muscle fibers, and our six-week training program can help you do just that. The routines are guaranteed to get you tighter and firmer as well as help you develop more power and strength. Stick with it and you'll be pleased with the changes you see.
In this program you'll alternate training intensity: Some weeks you'll train with heavier weight, taking your last set of each exercise to muscle failure. Other weeks you'll train with very light weight and fast reps, keeping sets to around five reps each. This will ensure that you're fully working both types of muscle fibers. We've kept the exercises the same each week so you'll become familiar with the routine, allowing you to concentrate fully on each particular rep range. On your heavy-weight weeks, make sure you lift heavy enough to fail at or near the designated rep range. If, for instance, the set calls for 10 reps, don't use a weight with which you could complete, say, 15-20 reps. Using the appropriate resistance is the only way you'll hit those fast-twitch fibers that help you shape a better physique.
* Concentrate on explosive reps — less than one second up and less than one second down, five reps per set. Use a weight with which you could complete about 15-20 reps, but stop at five. Exceptions are calves and abs, which tend to have more slow-twitch fibers and don't require explosive training.
* Emphasis on fast-twitch fibers. Concentrate on lifting heavy loads for 10-rep sets, taking the last set of every exercise to failure. Remember to choose a weight that has you reaching failure at 10 reps. If you feel as if you can keep lifting after 10, then the weight isn't heavy enough.
* Emphasis on slow-twitch fibers. Concentrate on explosive, fast reps. Perform five reps per set at the same speed you used in Week 2. Use a weight with which you can complete about 15-20 reps, but stop at five. Exceptions are calves and abs, which tend to have more slow-twitch fibers and don't require explosive training.CHAPTER 3
Organize your workouts for optimal muscle-sculpting results with this three-step training plan
Walk into any gym and you'll find a multitude of equipment, from dumbbells and barbells to cable stations and weight machines. Regular M&F Hers readers know the difference between them and how to get a good workout using each. But do you know how to organize your training to maximize the benefits each of these tools offer? You've probably never given it much thought, but there's an order in which you can use each type of equipment to improve your results. We call it "Three-Step Training," and it can help you gain more strength and develop a better physique in three simple steps.
Steady as She Goes
The whole idea behind Three-Step Training centers on the stabilizer muscles. Rather than specifically training the stabilizers, however, this system minimizes stabilizer fatigue so you can maximize the strength and development of your larger bodyparts.
In general, stabilizer muscles (such as the rotator cuffs) lie deep under your major muscle groups (in this case, the delts); the former are typically smaller and weaker than the latter. Yet stabilizer muscles play a critical role in securing the joints during various exercises that larger bodyparts perform. When you reach failure on an exercise, it's often due to stabilizer fatigue and not true fatigue of the major muscle group. When stabilizers are tired, the brain limits nervous system input to the larger muscles to prevent an injury from occurring.
Excerpted from 101 Body-Sculpting Workouts & Nutrition Plans: For Women by Muscle & Fitness, Alicia Buelow, Michael Darter, David Faught, Naj Jamai, John Kelly, Ian Logan, Rick Lohre, Karen Maze, Mike Medby, Pornchai Mittongtare, Marc Royce, Cory Sorensen. Copyright © 2010 Weider Publications, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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