I am just like you... Not an IFBB pro. Not a model gracing magazine covers. Not a celebrity with an entourage. I'm just another hungry young cat struggling to make my own way in the world. My personal journey has been a long one, from a skinny point guard to a 250 pound bodybuilder in ten short years. Each step of the way, I did it on my own, using common sense, prudence, consistency and patience.
It's been a long ride and when people ask me about my future, about whether or not I plan on competing, I tell them, "All in due time". Shit, I'm still building my base. My goal right now is not necessarily stepping on stage, but something far simpler--reaching my genetic potential, continuing to transform this physique. Thanks to my Pops and Ma Dukes and what they gave me at birth, hard work, and a whole lot of food, I've come a long way. But I've got a ways to go. And I'm hungry.
When entering into this lifestyle, you must be prepared to labor long and hard for years on end, both mentally and physically. This lifelong commitment and process of enlightenment was one of the aspects of the sport that I found so appealing. Alone, competing against myself, with the credit or blame for accomplishment or failure solely resting on my shoulders… Alone, learning and growing. The buck stops here. I like that.
When writing this, my goal was to combine into a single clearinghouse the vast elements that have given me success thus far and that will continue to serve me well as this freight train chugs toward the horizon. Breaking it down to the bare root essence, I’ll borrow from the structure of Animalpak.com and subcategorize the ingredients for bodybuilding accomplishment. Training. Diet. Livin’. In this line of work, what else is there? For Volume 1, I'll start with training. Shit, this is the best part.
Before we get going, I wanted to make one important statement about my approach. Like any great endeavor, bodybuilding must be more than simply a physical pursuit. To challenge the body, you must stimulate the mind. Therefore, bodybuilding is an amalgamation of the physical and metaphysical at once. It’s about brawn and brains. In your attempt to transform your body from its basic physique to something greater, something more precious, never forget that bodybuilding is a metaphor for the larger, greater things in life. Alchemy… Turning the raw, common elements into the rare and the priceless--that is my goal.
The classification of my training philosophy would be “power bodybuilding”. To me there is no point to having a good physique if you are not also ridiculously strong—in the gym and functionally in the external world. The organizing principle of any thick, densely muscled physique is heavy training. That said I am certainly not a powerlifter… My primary goal at all times is muscle growth. I strive to include the “Big Three” (squats, deads and bench) in my routine whenever possible and as I see fit from week to week, but don’t consider them the only exercises worth their weight.
My training, in any given session, can run the rep gamut from a single or a double all the way up to the twenty plus zone. I employ it all--forced reps, drop sets, rest pause, static stretches and contractions, burnouts, etc. I use moderate to high volume out of necessity. I am a firm believer in working each target muscle group from multiple angles and taxing it fully from each direction, assuring optimal and even growth. "Thorough" is the word of the day.
My current split is broken down over the course of 4 days, but in the past I used a 5 day split. This change has been the result of having an increasingly hectic schedule, but has brought with it an extra rest day that has translated into new growth… Reaffirming my belief that at times I was way overtrained without even knowing it. While I do prioritize rest and recovery as you’ll see later in this article, I do not miss training sessions. I’ve gotten my 52 workouts per bodypart annually for at least the last seven years straight.
My workouts differ from week to week regarding exercise choice, but there are fundamental underlying principles that I rarely deviate from. An average week in the gym looks something like this…
Tuesday: Back, Calves, Abs
Front Pulldowns: 4 sets x 12-6 reps
Barbell Rows: 4 sets x 12-6 reps
Machine Rows: 3 sets x 12-8 reps
Narrow Pulldowns: 3 sets x 12-10 reps
Hyperextensions: 3 sets x 12 reps
Horizontal Calf Raises: 4 sets x 20-12 reps
Ab Machine: 4 sets x 25 reps
Back represents the first day of my training week as it is the bodypart of champions (see Haney, Yates, Coleman) and it is so often overlooked and undertrained by the average gym rat. A big and complete back can be the difference between a great physique and your average beach body. I will always do at least one free weight row and usually two total rowing exercises and two pulldown/chin movements. I perform either deads or barbell rows, but rarely both in the same session as if done at full intensity one or the other will certainly suffer. I love the raw, brutal nature of the deadlift and the gnarly mass it elicits… But once again, I use it properly and strategically not blindly at the expense of the rest of my back session. Calves and abs are done on a maintenance level at least three days a week and often on every training day… Details fellas, don’t overlook the small shit.
Thursday: Quads, Hams, Calves, Abs
Leg Extensions: 4 sets x 15-10 reps
Leg Press: 3 sets x 20-10 reps
Hack Squat: 3 sets x 12-5 reps
Seated Leg Curls: 3 sets x 15-10 reps
Lying Leg Curls: 3 sets x 15-10 reps
Seated Calf Raises: 5 sets x 20-12 reps
Decline Bench Crunches: 3 sets x 15 reps
Lying Leg Raises: 3 sets x 12 reps
Wheels are the other make or break bodypart. To make great gains one must find a way to love leg training. I’ll go to the gym on a night where you can’t find a space in the parking lot, but the leg section will nonetheless be a ghost town with tumbleweed rolling through. Good… More room for me to do my damn thing. Leg extensions to warm up and for quad isolation, then 2 compound leg movements and two isolation exercises for hammies. Squats are generally done every other week. I’ll usually follow that up with calves and abs and then slowly limp to my car.
Friday: Chest, Biceps, Forearms, Calves
Flat Bench Press: 4 sets x 15-6 reps
Incline Dumbbell Press: 3 sets x 12-8 reps
Flat Dumbbell Flyes: 3 sets x 12-10 reps
Pec Deck Flyes: 3 sets x 15-10 reps
Preacher Machine Curls: 3 sets x 15-10 reps
Alternating Dumbbell Curls: 3 sets x 10-6 reps
Hammer Dumbbell Curls: 3 sets x 12-6 reps
Behind the Back Barbell Wrist Curls: 4 sets x 20-12 reps
Horizontal Calf Raises: 4 sets x 20-12 reps
Ah, “Big Friday”. The day every real iron warrior lives for… The day I break out the tank top. This is your opportunity to show the whole world (or at least your gym) how much you’ve grown in the last week. I incorporate two pressing movements and two stretching movements, always being sure to do at least one incline exercise. How heavy I go for chest is usually determined by whether or not I have a spotter on hand. I recommend to never go into the sub 6 rep range without having a spotter you trust in the house. Train heavy, man handle the big weights, but emphasize getting a sick pump and a focused contraction on each rep.
Biceps get blasted with the quickness. If you are training solo, there is no reason you can’t complete a searing bi workout in 20 minutes or less. Being a smaller bodypart, bis get 9 or 10 sets, with 12 being the high end max. Rest between sets is a minute or less, beginning with a machine to warm up and a couple of old free weight specials for the grunt work. Don’t get too caught up in the weight being used, instead focus on your biceps stretching and contracting hard on each rep building toward a mind numbing pump. Forearms get a similar quick thrashing with the wrist curl du jour and calves get their requisite maintenance stretch and squeeze. That is all she wrote.
Saturday: Delts, Traps, Tris, Abs
Seated Barbell Military Press: 4 sets x 15-6 reps
Dumbbell Side Lateral Raises: 4 sets x 12-6 reps
Reverse Pec Deck: 3 sets x 12-8 reps
Bent Rear Lateral Dumbbell Raises: 3 sets x 12-8 reps
Unilateral Cable Side Raises: 3 sets x 15-10 reps
Machine Shrugs: 3 sets x 12 reps
Dumbbell Shrugs: 3 sets x 12 reps
Straight Bar Pushdowns: 3 sets x 15-10 reps
Overhead Dumbbell Extensions: 3 sets x 15-10 reps
Dip Machine: 3 sets x 12 reps
Rope Pushdowns: 3 sets x 12 reps
Hanging Leg Raises: 3 sets x 12 reps
Decline Crunches: 3 sets x 15 reps
Aware of the fact that it is somewhat unorthodox, I’ve trained delts the day after chest for years now. My theory is that this strategy allows the entire region of the upper torso an entire week of uninterrupted rest. All of my pushing is done in two days, giving my pecs, delts and tris 5 straight days to heal. I do more sets for delts than for some other bodyparts, because the complexity of the muscle group necessitates precision bombing.
I am North America’s foremost proponent of the side lateral raise—cuz those bitches make you wide. Point blank. You want that freaky bodybuilder look? Broaden those shoulders by adding a couple of inches onto each medial delt. That’ll do the trick. Big meaty traps are critical in creating my ideal physique, so I hit them direct with 2 different movements comprising 6 total sets… Hard and heavy, squeezing out each rep--tucking your delts in your ears.
After the onslaught of chest day 24 hours earlier and all of that shoulder work, I batter my tris with high reps… Burning them out and searing in detail. Holding exaggerated contractions and squeezing my bloody head off.
Now you know the deal on how I lay it down in the gym, but that only makes up about 6 hrs. of my week. The rest, well, that other 162 is where the growth happens… I’ll give you the rest of the 411 in Volume 2.