Full-Body Training for More Muscle

blog full bodyOne of the best triggers for muscle growth across your entire body is a full-body workout. When the intensity and volume are dialed in correctly, it’s a powerful stimulus to ramp up protein synthesis and strengthen your muscles and tendons.

First, let’s clarify what qualifies as a full-body workout. It’s a combination of exercises that target all your major muscle groups in one training session. In most cases, it’s most effective to program an upper-body push, upper-body pull and a squat or deadlift or lunge variation. This structure is the basis for my Huge in a Hurry book.

Now, you might be thinking that you don’t have the time or equipment to do all those movements in every training session.

Actually, a full-body workout can be performed with as little as one dumbbell. Here I demonstrate a combination of an overhead press/split-stance row/reverse lunge to show how simple your programming can be.

For the sequence shown in the video, you could perform 5 reps of the overhead press and 10 reps of the row and lunge. Repeat for 3 to 5 rounds and alternate between limbs for each exercise. Or you could perform 3 sets of as many reps as the load allows for each exercise, assuming you have access to only a few dumbbells.

Perform three training sessions per week, using different exercises for each workout. If you’re an in-season athlete, two sessions per week is often ideal to manage fatigue and give you adequate time for practice and recovery. If you’re a trainer, it’s important to know which corrective exercises will help keep your athletes resilient to injury. That is why it’s so beneficial to become a Corrective Exercise Specialist. With that in mind, let’s move on to some advanced programming strategies.

Advanced Full-Body Training
People with a few years of training under their belt can ramp up their full-body training to four sessions per week. I’ve written extensively about full-body training over the years, and I keep experimenting with ways to make it better. Here are some advanced strategies I’ve learned to make full-body training your go-to system 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 works great for people that want to build muscle and strength quickly.

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.

hft2 promo ban sml

Stay Focused,

Q&A: Fasting, Protein and HFT

Here are two questions I recently received that I thought would be a good fit for today’s blog:

Q: Chad, you have written that it’s possible to gain muscle on a 16-hour fast/8-hour eating phase. But to gain muscle you need enough calories, protein and carbs. Can the body make use of that much protein eaten in such a short amount of time? I heard that the body can only use 20-30 grams of protein and the rest will be stored as fat. – Andreas

CW: First off, the research that showed 20 grams of protein was sufficient to achieve peak levels of protein synthesis has caused an overreaction. While it might be true that 20 grams is no better than 40 grams for triggering protein synthesis, there are certainly other reasons to eat protein such as: increased thermogenesis, higher IGF-1, and a positive nitrogen balance, just to name a few. There’s no reputable research to support the idea that eating more than 20 grams of protein will cause fat gain. Continue reading

Climb Your Way to New Muscle

rope climb l If I had to choose one upper body exercise for the rest of my training days it would definitely be the rope climb. Of course, we don’t live in a world where we’re relegated to only one exercise, but if I had to choose one that would be it. No other upper body exercise works as many muscles as intensely, from your abs to your forearms, and everything in between. However, the rope climb is an advanced exercise that might not be appropriate for many of you, at this point.

The people who run into a problem with the rope climb, whether it’s pain in the shoulder, elbow or anywhere else are usually not ready for such a challenging move. No matter how great the rope is, you must pass through the ranks before adding it into your program. Continue reading

Gourmet Food for Abs

wp high kick I first met Wolfgang Puck in 2002. My brother and I visited Los Angeles that year and Spago, Wolfgang’s flagship restaurant, was at the top of our dinner list. Whenever I visit a new city, my first order of business is to figure out where I’m going to eat. I’m not a guy who eats to live, I live to eat. Being the food lover that I am, a dinner at Spago was sure to be memorable.

But the most memorable part of that night didn’t have anything to do with Spago’s salmon pizza that Wolfgang made famous, even though it was one of the best things I’d ever eaten. When my brother and I left, Wolfgang happened to be standing at the front door where he shook our hands and thanked us for stopping by for dinner. I thought it was pretty cool that Wolfgang was there considering how much business success he’s had. I mean, it’s not like he needed to be at the front door of his restaurant shaking hands.

The following night, my bro and I went to another one of his restaurants, Chinois on Main, in Santa Monica. (Like I said, I live to eat.) Much to my surprise, Wolfgang showed up to the restaurant that night as well, and it made me wonder if he had made copies of himself like Michael Keaton’s character in Multiplicity. It seemed the guy was everywhere: shaking hands, talking with guests, and checking on his chefs and managers.

Four years later I moved to Santa Monica and became a regular patron at Chinois. During those first few years I frequently saw Wolfgang in the restaurant and we’d make small-talk as he moved from table-to-table, conversing with his guests and staff. By this time he knew I was a trainer of some sort. I’m sure that didn’t impress him much because, as I found out later, he’d worked with dozens of trainers during his 30 years in Los Angeles. Most of them made him feel worse than when he started.

Eventually he’d heard from enough people that I was pretty good at what I did. So one night he sat at my table at Chinois and told me that he’d recently had hip replacement and feared he would have to stop skiing, his favorite sport since childhood. I was confident I could help him, and we set up an appointment so I could give him an assessment.

After I assessed him, I took him through a circuit of exercises that focused on restoring his strength, endurance and mobility. He liked how the workout made him feel, and committed to working with me over the next few months since he wanted to try to ski that winter.

Over the course of those next few months people began to notice that Wolfgang looked different. He was leaner, he moved better, and he was more energetic. Wolfgang didn’t want huge biceps, or six-pack abs, or any of the other aesthetic qualities that most of us are after. He just wanted to be able to ski again. That winter he called me from Colorado and said that he couldn’t remember the last time he felt so good skiing down the slopes.

Now, back to my passion for food.

Think back to the last time you decided to get leaner. If you’re like most people you probably bought a book that consisted of a 12-week training and nutrition plan. As you flipped through the book the workouts might have looked doable enough. But I’ll bet that the nutrition plan left you unsatisfied, even before you cooked the first meal. You can only eat flavorless food for a few weeks before the wheels start falling off the nutrition bus.

There are two types of cookbooks. One is filled with recipes from famous chefs that contain meals frighteningly high in fat, sugar and calories. The other type of book – a diet cookbook – is full of recipes that are void of any of the flavor and satisfaction you need from food that you actually want to eat again.

If there’s one thing I know for sure: Wolfgang knows how to make food taste great. So a few years ago I approached him about the idea of making a book of recipes that contain less fat, sugar and calories than most famous chefs usually put on the bookshelves. My timing was good.

Since the time Wolfgang hired me to get his body back on the slopes he had been experimenting with many of the dishes he made famous: adding more vegetables, taking out some of the sugar, and including more healthy fats. He wasn’t interested in creating a bunch of “diet” recipes, he just enjoyed the challenge of figuring out how to make healthier dishes taste great.

And man did he succeed.

I’m excited to announce the latest cookbook to his collection, Wolfgang Puck Makes it Healthy. It contains over 100 new recipes, along with tons of tips and tricks to get the most flavor out of your healthy food. This is not a 12-week diet plan, it’s a book full of recipes that you’ll want to eat for a lifetime. Here’s a recipe you can try at home the next time you want an omelet.

French-Style Egg White Omelet with Vegetables

What you’ll need:
Butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray
4 large egg whites
1 large egg
1/4 cup thinly sliced asparagus
1/4 cup thinly sliced snowpeas
1 teaspoon minced shallot
Kosher salt
Freshly ground white pepper

How to make it:
1. Whisk together the egg whites, egg, and a little salt and pepper to taste until well blended and slightly frothy. Set aside.

2. Heat a 10-inch nonstick omelet pan over medium-high heat. Spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Add the asparagus, snow peas, and shallot and sauté, stirring continuously, until the vegetables are bright green and tender-crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover and keep warm.

3. Wipe the pan clean with a paper towel. Return it to medium heat and spray again with cooking spray. Add egg mixture, grasp pan by its handle, and start shaking the pan back and forth while stirring the eggs slowly with the back of a fork, gently lifting and moving the cooked egg so the liquid egg slips beneath it. After about 30 seconds the egg will have formed a uniformly cooked but still fairly moist pancake shape.

4. To fold the omelet, immediately tilt the pan to about a 45-degree angle by raising the handle, so that the cooked egg nearest the handle begin to fall and fold; you may use a fork or a spatula to help this happen. Hold the far edge of the pan over a heated serving plate and continue tipping the handle up, so the omelet folds over on itself and rolls out onto the plate.

5. To fill the omelet, use a small, sharp knife to cut a shallow slit lengthwise through the top of the omelet though the upper layer of egg. Spoon the reserved sautéed vegetables into and spilling out of the slit. Serve immediately.

One of the really cool elements of this cookbook is that it contains all the nutritional info you’ll ever need from a recipe. For example, the omelet above contains these nutritional facts:

Calories: 157
Calories from Fat: 39
Total Fat: 4.4g
Saturated Fat: 1.6g
Monounsaturated Fat: 1.8g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.0g
Cholesterol: 186mg
Sodium: 290mg
Total Carbohydrate: 5.1g
Dietary Fiber: 1.4g
Sugars: 2.7g
Protein: 22.2g

The book also contains exercise information that I wrote with Lou Schuler. The workout plan contains of circuit-training routines that build strength, endurance and mobility for people over 40. The training plan is also excellent for those with little training experience and minimal home equipment.

If you’re a health-conscious food lover that enjoys cooking, this will be the best $27 you’ll ever spend. You can find it at all major bookstores, or on Amazon at the link below.

wp book cover

Stay Focused,

3 Finishers for Fat Loss

blog finisherWith summer on the horizon, it’s pretty safe to assume that your desire to burn excess fat is at its peak. Even though your nutrition plan is the primarily stimulus for getting leaner, there are simple workout modifications to augment fat loss. Indeed, when you need to figure out how to get ripped in the shortest time possible, finishers will do the trick.

A finisher is an exercise that stimulates as many major muscle groups as possible for minutes at a time. And just like the name implies, a finisher should be performed after your regular workout is done. There are two reasons why a finisher really should be at the end of a workout.

First, after a sufficient strength training workout your available energy stores are lower than normal. This is a perfect time to ramp up your need for energy as your metabolism stimulates hormone-sensitive lipase in adipocytes. Hormone-sensitive lipase is an enzyme that converts triglycerides into free fatty acids that enter the blood and bind to albumin for delivery to exercising muscle (Nadel, Medical Physiology, 2003).

Second, in order to maximize the uptake of free fatty acids and growth hormone release, the finisher should be exhausting. In fact, a finisher should be – dare I say – nauseating. Even though exercise should never make you ill, a fleeting feeling of nausea means you’ve accumulated protons and acidified skeletal muscle to create a strong stimulus for growth hormone release. Put another way: if you do a finisher correctly you won’t want to do anything afterward.

Here are three of my favorite finishers that will fit well into any training plan:

Squat/Curl/Push Press Combo

How to do it: while standing, hold a dumbbell in each hand, arms hanging at sides, with your feet shoulder width apart. Push your hips back and squat down until the dumbbells are at mid-shin level on the outside of your legs. Stand as you simultaneously curl the dumbbells. At the top position of the curl, press the dumbbells overhead using leg drive. Lower the dumbbells to the starting position and repeat.

Duration: perform as many fast reps as possible for two minutes straight. Then rest for one minute and repeat another two-minute set with lighter weights.

Progression: make a note of how many reps you achieve in each two-minute set with a specific weight. Aim to increase the number of total reps in each set for your next workout.

Kettlebell Swing/Clap Push-up Combo

How to do it: start with 20 explosive KB swings, then immediately drop to the ground and do 10 clap push-ups. Next do 18 swings and 9 clap push-ups, followed by 16 swings and 8 clap push-ups. Continue with this sequence until you reach two swings and one clap push-up. Rest for 60 seconds, then do another sequence where you start at 10 swings and 5 clap push-ups and continue until you reach two swings and one clap push-up.

Progression: reduce the 60 seconds rest period by five seconds every other workout. Work your way down to 10 seconds of rest.

Goblet Squat/Pull-up Combo

How to do it: start with 20 goblet squats, then immediately do 10 pull-ups. Next do 18 goblet squats and 9 pull-ups, followed by 16 squats and 8 pull-ups. Continue with this sequence until you reach two squats and one pull-up. Rest for 60 seconds, then do another sequence where you start at 10 squats and 5 pull-ups and continue until you reach two squats and one pull-up.

Progression: reduce the 60 seconds rest period by five seconds every other workout. Work your way down to 10 seconds of rest.

There are no stringent rules for creating a finisher workout. For example, if you don’t have the strength to do that many pull-ups you can reduce the reps to match your strength levels. The key is to keep moving quickly between exercises for a few minutes straight to induce a full-body training effect.

In terms of frequency, these finishers can be performed 3-4 times per week or however best fits your training schedule.

It’s imperative that you move through the finisher workouts as fast as possible in order to maximize the metabolic cost of the session. These finishers are also excellent as stand-alone, extra workouts to increase your weekly training frequency.

Stay Focused,


Is Faster Always Better?

nsca cw speaking Last month I gave a presentation in Las Vegas for the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). My topic focused on ways to increase motor unit recruitment.

It’s a subject I’ve written extensively about over the years, and in those articles and books I’ve placed a large emphasis on increasing acceleration during the concentric (muscle shortening) phase to enhance the number of motor units you recruit.

However, there’s much more to motor unit recruitment than just lifting faster. I’ll use the Turkish Get-up (TGU) as an example – an exercise that beautifully challenges full-body strength.

Assuming you’ve tried the TGU, you know it’s difficult to perform explosively. Indeed, to maintain perfect form you need to move with a slow, deliberate pace and concentrate on joint stability as you transition between each phase of the movement. This is especially true as you work to, and beyond, a 32 kilogram kettlebell.

Could you increase motor unit recruitment if you tried to perform the TGU more explosively? Possibly, but it’s not worth the effort. Certain strength exercises that require full-body strength in complex movement patterns are better performed slowly, even if you could move faster. Pavel refers to the TGU as the ultimate slow grind strength exercise. I completely agree, and that’s why it’s part of all my athletes training programs.

Now, you might not consider a TGU to be a massive muscle builder. But a heavy deadlift certainly is, and it’s a perfect example of a slow grind move that quickly builds plenty of muscle.

And sometimes, no movement at all is best for building muscle. I’m referring here to isometric holds. It’s clear that gymnasts who perform the rings event have incredible upper body muscle development – better than any other natural athlete on earth, if you ask me. Yet, they virtually never move explosively. In fact, a rings routine consists of isometric holds paired with slow, deliberate transition moves in between.

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time hanging from rings over the last few years. So I can state with utmost certainty that it takes more muscle and strength to perform a perfect muscle-up slowly. An explosive muscle-up relies heavily on momentum. As momentum goes up, muscle tension and motor unit recruitment go down.

Now, if we take momentum out of the equation and focus on traditional strength exercises with free weights and cables, it’s usually better to perform the concentric phase as explosively as possible. This philosophy forms the foundation of the programs in my book, Huge in a Hurry.

However, as you incorporate less traditional moves into your programs – exercises such as the TGU with a kettlebell or an iron cross hold on the rings – it’s important to understand that faster isn’t always better. In those cases, developing the highest levels of muscle tension possible is the goal. And that usually requires you to slow your pace.

So for complete muscle and strength development in athletes, I incorporate three categories of movements into their programs: explosive, slow grind, and high-tension isometrics. Here are a few of my favorite examples from each category:

Explosive: kettlebell swing, one-arm row, push press, and hang power snatch.

Slow grind: TGU, heavy deadlift, Nordic hamstring, and one-arm push-up.

High-tension isometrics: iron cross, maltese, handstand from rings, and one-arm hang from a pull-up bar or rings.

Stay Focused,