For the last few months leading up to the competition I had to make a decision about my training. Should I use the HST approach that had so faithfully bought me this far with its slow but constant progression model, or opt for a program that uses similar training principles, but with a little more “intensity”.
I love HST, and as a training template, I think it’s the most effective thing I’ve used to employ the essential element to progress – progressive overload. Another thing I love about the program is that you’re not killing yourself ALL the time. Every 1st week of each rep-phase is basically a sub-maximal deload week which serves to ramp up to a 2nd week of more intense training. Every 6-8 weeks you take 10 days off training which “strategically deconditions” your muscles and sets the stage for more effective growth in the next training block. Haycock was one of the first to propose this. Guys like Greg Nuckols recently confirmed the importance of this strategy.
I was guilty this year of never using a deload, because mentally, I needed the distraction/meditation/daily-therapy which training provides me.
The second thing I also didn’t do previously worked so well was alternate HST training phases with strength/hypertrophy blocks like Wendler’s 5-3-1. This worked effectively for 2 reasons.
- It allowed me to transmute the strength gains from 5-3-1 into more effective hypertrophy gains in the HST phases.
- Dedicating time to specifically bringing up the compound lifts REALLY helped with developing that coveted “thick” look that lower-rep, heavy training provides. I really think I lost some of that look this year concentrating solely on hypertrophy, higher rep training.
- It’s a great mental break to switch back and forth between phases every 6 weeks. 5-3-1 for me is brilliant because I know what I have to do every session because my training log tells me. Seeing something written in black and white provides me with wonderful incentive each session to beat it. 5-3-1 is also fun as hell because it’s 4 days a week and you feel almost refreshed after each session which is how training should be.
So if there was no show approaching in 10 weeks this is what I’d be doing for sure.
However, as time draws nearer I have no time for deloads, easy weeks or strength specialisation plans. My goals from now till March 13th is gain/retain as much muscle as possible while losing body-fat. Specificity has to dictate the approach.
After a relatively easier offseason, the classic guys from past eras used to really ramp up their training with twice a day sessions giving it balls to the wall effort for their respective shows. This was my big “A-HA” moment of 2015 after hearing/reading about the Arnold era guys. I was under the mistaken impression that they were killing it 365 days a year out of their love and passion for the gym. It seems this was far from reality where most guys did enough to maintain in the offseason or stopped training altogether giving their bodies extended periods of rest.
Even the bodybuilders with long-shelf lives do this today. Dexter Jackson, Flex Wheeler, Shawn Ray and Kevin Levrone are just a few names that spring to mind who took off long periods of time after a show and only really turned the intensity up coming into the competitive season. Dorian Yates was the antithesis to this mindset and broke himself very early on in the piece. Yates stomped the field in 92-93….but after those years, those other 4 Sandows were awarded accompanied with many question marks.
Kevin would shrink to “normal proportions” in the offseason while Yates would train to repeated, career-ending breaking point.
But I digress. The training strategy for the last 3 weeks and the next 3-4 weeks:
- Use the Big Beyond Belief 6 days per week template training the whole body 3 times a week through a range of rep ranges.
- Morning high-rep “feeder-workouts” five days per week focussing on incorporating high rep pump-style training to facilitate sarcoplasmic hypertrophy and recovery. Body parts trained this way are chest, lats and delts using bodyweight or light dumbbells only. Each circuit is followed by stomach vacuums.
- Twice a week morning emphasis on hamstrings using a Poliquin Hamstring Specialisation Routine. Very risky/experimental of me to do this, but my hamstrings, although strong, are a definite weak point and need to come up. I believe good hamstrings and backs really separate many competitors at the lower level shows because most guys lack them. Quads can be overdone. But one’s hammys and back can never be too big, detailed and thick.
- Minimal cardio except for daily walks around town and to-from the gym. This often amounts to 1-2 hours a day of walking.
- Posing daily….so far it’s not happening and this needs to be remedied ASAP.
- Start stretching!!! – my flexibility sucks and it’s drastically hampering my ability to hit the poses effectively.
3-4 weeks from comp day I will switch to Serge Nubret Pump Training. Short reason why is I’ve found this program gives me one of those “all day pumps” and creates roundness in my muscles like nothing else. Of course, it could all be in my head, but I’m sticking to it. 🙂
This is turning into a longer than expected blog, so I’ll continue over the next few days breaking things down further including some updated progress photos.