Don The Ripper Ross

5 min

Tom Platz is famous for his jaw-dropping leg development, but he was also one of the smartest trainers of his decade. He was one of the first bodybuilders never to sacrifice quality for quantity.

Table 2: Sample Training Frequency Patterns

Limited Time Approach

Option A

MONDAY & THURSDAY: Legs and Abs THURSDAY & FRIDAY: Back and Arms

Comment: This leaves the weekend off. You have to trash the muscle fully so that super-compensation takes place a week later.

Option B

MONDAY: Chest and Back WEDNESDAY: Legs and Abs FRIDAY: Shoulders and Arms

Comment: This leaves the weekend off.

Option C

Week 1

MONDAY: Back and Arms WEDNESDAY: Legs and Abs FRIDAY: Back and Arms Week 2

MONDAY: Legs and Abs WEDNESDAY: Back and Arms FRIDAY: Legs and Abs

Comment: I got this from Florida's Frank Calta, whose system is called "Rotation for Recuperation." On the first week a muscle group is trained twice, the next week once, and so on.

Anthony Ditillo

Unrestricted Time Approach

Option A

DAY 1: Chest, Biceps and Forearms DAY 2: Thighs, Calves and Abs DAY 3: Off

DAY 4: Back, Shoulders and Triceps DAY 5: Off

Comment: Every muscle is trained every five days. You don't train more than two days in a row so that the nervous system has a chance to rest. That particular split is good for people with a high fast-twitch make-up.

Option B

DAY 1: Chest and Back DAY 2: Thighs, Calves and Abs DAY 3: Off

DAY 4: Shoulders, Arms and Forearms DAY 5: Off

Comment: Every muscle is trained every five days. You don't train more than two days in a row so that the nervous system has a chance to rest. Some individuals may find that training chest and back the same day is too severe. Pairing agonists and antagonists would save time and allow for recovery of the central nervous system.

Option C

DAY1: Chest and Hamstrings DAY 2: Back and Shoulders DAY 3: Off

DAY 4: Quads, Calves and Abs DAY 5: Arms and Forearms DAY 6: Off

Comment: Every muscle is trained every six days. You don't train more than two days in a row so that the nervous system has a chance to rest. A large bodypart is paired with a smaller bodypart. Many ectomorphs respond well to this format of training.

Option D

DAY 1: Chest and Hamstrings DAY 2: Back and Shoulders DAY 3: Quads, Calves and Abs DAY 4: Arms and Forearms DAY 5: Off

Comment: Designed for the individual gifted with enormous work capacity. Every muscle is trained every five days. If you are someone who can load nutrients very efficiently, you will make excellent progress with this option.

ing, or cool-down. Duration is a result of the number of exercises, the number of sets, the duration of the sets (i.e., speed of movement x number of reps), and the duration of the rest periods.

A modern trend in strength development is towards decreased duration of training time, which has been referred to as the "Bulgarianization" of weightlifiting. This methodology of training has been endorsed by Russian, Romanian and Hungarian national weightlifting teams. It is often perceived as the "modern" way of training developed by Bulgarian National Weightlifting Coach Ivan Abadjiev, but it was already advocated as a superior form of training in the early 1950s by the American lifter Charles Ross.

Workouts exceeding the one-hour mark have been shown to be associated with rapidly decreasing androgen levels. This shift in androgens probably upsets the testosterone-cortisol ratio. Since this value is very strongly correlated to strength gains, one may infer that training under depressed androgen levels is counterproductive, since the catabolic effects of the glucocorticoids would negate the anabolic effects of the androgens. Apparently an hour pause is sufficient to allow the testosterone levels to return to normal. This is why modern strength training has evolved to multiple daily sessions rather than the grueling two-hour workouts popularized in the Arnold days.

From an empirical point of view, multiple sessions are associated with better recovery rates and enhanced concentration during the training sessions. Since maximal neural activation is essential for relative strength training, enhanced concentration would maximize the effectiveness of the training stimulus. However, you must consider that this type of multiple daily training workload may only be realistic for the full-time state-and/or sponsor supported athlete such as a Bulgarian weightlifter—and then, of course, there's the "creative" recovery means (read: drugs) available to those athletes.

Once your warm-up is finished, if your workout takes longer than one hour, you are making friends—not training! I've seen a few bodybuilders who were able to sustain full intensity for two-hour periods, but they reported better quality when shifting to shorter workouts. And more important is the fact that most of the pencil-neck geeks who don't grow, train for too long.

"Workouts exceeding the one-hour mark have been shown to be associated with rapidly decreasing androgen levels."

Time Management Principle 3: Training Volume

The third element in time management, and the one that brings the other two principles together, is volume. Volume in strength training can be defined as the total number of repetitions completed in a given time frame. For example, if you performed 3 sets of 10 on 6 different exercises in a workout, the volume of that workout could be described as 180 reps (3 x 10 x 6 = 180). This method of calculation is also commonly applied to a training week, month and year. To extend the above example, if 4 of the above workouts are performed in a week, the volume would be 720 reps (4 x 180). Over four weeks, the volume would be 2,880 reps (4 x 720), and over the year would be 34,560 reps (12 x 2,880).

"One of the most important principles about training volume is this: Volume of training is always inversely related to the intensity."

Volume could alternately be described in terms of time spent on an exercise, time under tension, or number of sets.

This method of assessing volume has been used with great success in the sport of weightlifting. However, when attempting to apply this method to strength training for hypertrophy, certain problems may be encountered. For example, this method assumes that all reps are performed at an identical speed and at a similar metabolic cost.

Contrary to what some bodybuilding authors have proclaimed, slow tempo does not increase the intensity of training but rather prolongs the duration of the training stimulus, thereby increasing time under tension, which leads to hypertrophy. If a 5-rep set is performed that involves a 6-sec-ond eccentric and a 6-second concentric contraction for each rep, the total time under tension is 60 seconds. That is similar in volume to a 15-rep set that includes a 3-second eccentric and 1-second concentric contraction (15x3 + 15x1 = 60 seconds). But if the reps method is used to assess the volume, it would appear that there was a significant difference between the two sets—5 reps compared to 15 reps.

Furthermore, the metabolic cost of strength training exercise is normally associated with the size of the muscle mass involved. Therefore, 300 repetitions in the squat does not equal 300 curls; rather, 300 squats are more equivalent to 1,200 curls. The reps method assumes that a repetition of any exercise is of an equivalent metabolic cost to a rep of any other excercise. This is more applicable to weightlifting, where the exercises are variations of the clean, snatch, jerk and squat. But in bodybuilding, where smaller muscle groups such as the biceps and triceps are trained with dozens of adjunctive exercises, the method no longer applies.

One of the most important principles about training volume is this: volume of training is always inversely related to the intensity. In other words, you cannot work intensely and in great amounts at the same time. Consequently, when the volume is high, the intensity is low and vice versa. For example when working with loads exceeding 90%, one rarely exceeds a workout volume of 20 repetitions per exercise. While working in the 60% range some trainees can easily do 10 times that volume (200 reps).

Another important principle is that for maximum hypertrophy, a greater volume of work is necessary. When analyzing the training volumes of elite bodybuilders vs. elite powerlifters and weightlifters, a greater volume of training is evident in the training of bodybuilders and is associated with a greater degree of hypertrophy. This increased volume comes mainly from a greater number of exercises to allow the recruitment of a greater selection of motor units, hence inducing hypertrophy in a greater number of fibers.

When designing a specific program for a hypertrophy phase, I recommend you measure your volume. If using the reps method of volume assessment, the average number of reps per workout may be about 200 repetitions. If using time as the indicator of volume, the length of the workout or number of training hours per week is used, for example, a 1-hour workout. If using the time under tension, 24 minutes might be reasonable (24 sets x 60 seconds = 24 min.)

Don 'The Ripper' Ross devoted his life to educating bodybuilders. His premature death in 1996 of a heart attack reminds us all not to ovedook the healthy opsects of the sport as we strive for strength and size.

Recent research has pointed to elevated levels of growth hormone in multiple sets training vs. single set training, which may prompt a more anabolic environment. Maximal strength training methods (85% of 1RM) with their high-intensity resistance but low volume of work do not elicit substantial hypertrophy. Higher volumes of work (six reps or more for multiple sets) are needed to ensure a critical concentration of intracellular amino acids to stimulate protein synthesis. However, this model has limitations since it assumes that all reps are performed at an identical speed and at a similar metabolic cost.

It would be nice to give you a simple answer on how often you should train, and there are several self-proclaimed bodybuilding experts who won't hesitate to oblige you. Too bad bodybuilding is not that easy and too many bodybuilders are gullible for get-big-quick promises. As you've realized from this short discussion, there are many variables to consider when determining training frequency, and there is no single, simple answer. Try the options I've suggested and see which work the best for you. For optimal results you must do your homework and decide how committed you are to achieving your goals. It's your choice!

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