Full-Body Training for Mass Rules

blog full bodyThe best trigger for muscle growth across your entire body is a full-body workout. The combination of an upper-body pull, push and squat/deadlift/lunge is a powerful stimulus to upregulate the anabolic hormones and ramp up protein synthesis.

I’ve written extensively about full-body training over the years, and I keep experimenting with ways to make it better. Here’s what I’ve learned over the years that you can do to make full-body training your go-to strategy for fast muscle gains:

1. Perform 4 Workouts per Week
Since most programs have you train a muscle group 2-3 times per week, my definition of High Frequency Training (HFT) is to train 4 or more times per week. With full-body training I’ve found that 4 workouts per week hits the sweet spot.

The key, of course, is recovery. When you train 4 days per week it doesn’t allow you to always have a full day off between each workout. The most effective schedule I’ve used is 2-on, 1-off, 1-on, 1-off, 1-on and 1-off (e.g., Mon/Tue/Thur/Sat).

So that means the first two workouts that are back-to-back must complement each other. Put another way: the first two workouts need to be drastically different from each other to avoid overtraining. You can’t lift heavy both of those days, and trying to lift heavy a day after you performed high reps isn’t good, either. Here’s a sample set/rep combination that’s works well for the first two workouts:

Day 1 (Monday): 5 sets of 5 reps (5×5) for an upper-body pull, push and squat/deadlift/lunge. A chin-up/dip/deadlift circuit fits perfectly here. As a general rule, Day 1 will consist of 6 or fewer reps per set.

Day 2 (Tuesday): 4×12 for a different variation of the upper-body pull, push and squat/deadlift/lunge. Now we must use different movement patterns compared to Day 1, so a good example for Day 2 is: inverted row/shoulder press/reverse lunge. This day I typically have the sets range from 10-15 reps.

Day 3 (Thursday): Now we’re up to the third workout of the week. It’s been 48 hours since the last workout that consisted of higher rep sets with lighter loads. So on this day you can train heavy to create a different stimulus. Anywhere from 5-10 sets of 3-6 reps is ideal. Three examples are 10×3, 8×4 or 6×6. If you’re someone that prefers to stick to a few compound movements, this day can consist of the same exercises as Day 1.

Day 4 (Saturday): On this day I’ll use all sorts of combinations. Many people want this to be their toughest workout of the week since they typically have extra time to train on Saturday and can sleep late and lie around (naps!) on Sunday. Some examples for Day 4: repeat the Day 2 workout but increase the number of circuits (sets), train Olympic lifts, or create an full-body circuit of the sled push/pull-up/dip after completing 6-8 sets of an Olympic lift heavy deadlift/front squat variation that’s different than you did on Day 1.

2. Arrange Targeted Training Correctly
I’m a huge proponent of full-body workouts for the “core” of your program, but it’s not necessary to train everything all the time. There are times when you’ll want to target a certain muscle group such as the calves, biceps or chest. The fastest way to build a muscle group is to train it more frequently.

For the targeted training workouts, start with any exercise you like for the muscle you’re trying to build (e.g., dumbbell biceps curl). Then choose a load that allows around 12 reps for your first set. Perform 50 total reps per day, regardless of how many sets it takes (you can do 25 reps in the morning and 25 reps in the evening).

Each day add one rep to the total and continue for 4-6 weeks (take a full day off from the targeted training each week). It’s best to do these targeted workouts at least 6 hours before or after your full-body training.

That’s how I approached targeted training in my original HFT system. But now I use even more effective muscle-building strategies to target underdeveloped muscles in half the time.

If you’d like to learn more ways to create full-body workouts with targeted training plans that only take 5-10 minutes per day, check out my latest system, HFT2 that’s 25% off until midnight July 1…

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Stay Focused,

3 thoughts on “Full-Body Training for Mass Rules

  1. Hey coach i purchased your HFT 2 and it is awesome, just wanted to know my upper chest and rear delt are lagging what would you suggest for that

    CW: For the upper chest do push-up variations with your feet elevated. For the rear delt nothing beats the pull-up and bent-over lateral raise.

  2. Hi Chad, I’m a cop in London and I learnt the hard painful way a year ago that my bodypart split workouts weren’t giving me any real life strength when I desperately needed it so having read your stuff I switched to a movement based full body workout (I actually use the coach dos power training workouts) and I haven’t looked back. The trouble is I’m 44 now and the joints are starting to creak a bit. How would you adjust your programme for a guy my age that works shifts and can train 2/3 times a week?

    CW: Ford, I hear ya bud. The best thing to do is start with less load than you think you need (stay far from failure reps). Over time, push the intensity higher.

  3. Chad,

    If I use your guidelines for sets and reps, my workouts last some 25 minutes and I don’t feel even slightly fatigued. To do this every other day feels severely sub-optimal. Any thoughts on finding my optimal total volume?

    CW: You need more intensity. Think of it this way: if you were running from an oncoming train for 30 seconds you’d be exhausted. 25 minutes is a lot of time to get plenty of stimulation: that’s how long I have my pro fighters train. Push the intensity higher and shorten the rest periods if you don’t feel challenged.

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