Here's what you need to know...
- The number one mistake by natural lifters is doing too much volume. You need to trigger protein synthesis and then stop training.
- Frequency is also super important. Hitting a muscle three times per week is the optimal frequency for natties.
- The key to growth is to have a big disparity between protein synthesis and protein breakdown. The more volume you use, the more you break down protein.
- The best split for the natural is the push/pull split. It's both physically and psychologically beneficial.
Don't Train Like Drug-Enhanced Genetic Freaks
If you're a natural lifter, you can't train like an enhanced bodybuilder or action movie star. And if you have average genetics, you can't train like a genetic freak. Sure, it's tempting to copy the training programs of those we admire, but always chasing the next "star program" will get you nowhere.
So how should natural lifters should train to get the best results? Basically like this:
- Do a push/pull split (or push+quads/pull+hamstrings) 6 days a week.
- With that amount of frequency, you only need one exercise per muscle group and three total sets: two sets of moderate intensity to get ready, then one hard set.
- Use different methods and exercises on the three different weekly workouts.
The Number One Natty Mistake
The most common mistake made by those who don't use performance enhancing drugs is doing too much volume. The whole purpose of training to build muscle is to trigger protein synthesis. Once it's been triggered, there is no added benefit in continuing to punish a muscle – it will not grow more. In fact, it might even lose size!
The key to growth is to have a big difference between protein synthesis (building muscle) and protein breakdown (mobilizing amino acids from muscles for energy). The more volume you do, the more protein breakdown you get. You don't want that.
Frequency is King
To maximize growth, frequency is king. That not only applies to how often you train a muscle per week, but also the number of training sessions you do per week.
Frequency is crucial for the natural lifter because the actual training session is the stimulus to trigger protein synthesis. In other words, the workout itself is what puts you in anabolic mode, whereas the enhanced bodybuilder doesn't need to use the workout as a trigger. The enhanced lifter is in anabolic mode 24 hours a day!
So the more often you train, the more your body stays in an anabolic state and the more muscle you'll build. But don't forget that frequency and volume are inversely related. Remember, you can't do a high volume of work if you have a high frequency of training when you're natural.
Frequency works better than volume. Hitting a muscle three times per week is the optimal frequency for a natural trainee (with a low volume to compensate for the increase in frequency). Train six days a week, doing short, low volume workouts hitting half the body each time. That's the only way to get the optimal frequency without the excessive cortisol release.
The Training Split
The best split, both physically and psychologically, is the push/pull split:
Each push or pull workout will have 4 exercises – one per muscle group (two for back since it's made of many different muscles).
Workout A: Pull Workout
- Hamstring exercise
- Lats/back-width exercise
- Rhomboids/rear delt exercise
- Biceps exercise
Workout B: Push Workout
- Quad exercise
- Pec exercise
- Delt exercise
- Triceps exercise
You do three pull workouts and three push workouts three times per week, using different exercise at every workout. While you can use any exercise you want, when possible I like to use 2 multi-joint exercises and 1 isolation exercise.
For example, our first hamstring workout of the week might consist of Romanian deadlifts while the second might consist of lying leg curls. The third hamstring workout of the week – the isolation move – might consist of glute ham raises.
How Many Sets and How Should I Do Them?
You will do two preparation sets for each exercises. These are sets where you get the feeling for the weight and decide what training weight you'll use for the work set(s). It also gets some blood in the muscle to increase the mind-muscle connection.
These sets are not typical warm-ups. They're done with weights close to your working set weight, or you can even use the same weight as your work sets but do fewer reps. Basically, your level of effort on these two sets is about 7 out of 10.
Then you'll do one all-out work set. This will use a special technique/method (explained below) and need to be taken to technical failure (but don't go to the point where you need to cheat to get the weight up). These special techniques will only be used on the third and last set of each exercise:
1 – Heavy Double Rest/Pause
- Pick a weight you can do around 4-6 reps with.
- Do your 4-6 hard reps, rest 10-15 seconds, do another 2-3 reps, rest 10-15 seconds, and then try to get an additional 1-2 reps.
- Always use the same weight. You only do one set of this special technique/method.
2 – Maximum mTor Activation
Here the key is how you perform each rep. Accentuating the eccentric (negative) and loaded stretching are the contraction types that increase mTor activation the most. So with this method you'll do as follows:
- Lower the weight over a 5-second count while tensing/flexing the target muscle as hard as possible at all times.
- Hold the full stretch position for 2 seconds per rep.
- Do 6-8 reps like this, and on the last rep hold the stretch position for as long as you can tolerate. Again, you only do one set of this special technique/method.
3 – 6-8-10 Drop Set
- Start the set with a weight you can lift for 6 reps.
- Drop the weight down immediately by 25-40% (depending on the exercise) and do 8 reps with that new weight.
- Drop another 25-40% and perform 10 more reps.
- Rest as little as possible between the parts of the drop set. Only perform one set of this special technique/method.
This program is unconventional, at least when compared to most modern-day plans, but how has conventional been working for you so far?
Monday – Workout A1
- Romanian Deadlift: 2 sets of 6 and one all-out heavy double rest/pause set
- Pronated Lat Pulldown or Pull-Up: 2 sets of 6 and one all-out heavy double rest/pause set
- Bent-Over Lateral: 2 sets of 8 and one 6-8-10 drop set
- Standing Barbell Curl: 2 sets of 6 and one all-out heavy double rest/pause set
Tuesday – Workout B1
- Front Squat: 2 sets of 6 and one all-out heavy double rest/pause set
- Bench Press: 2 sets of 6 and one all-out heavy double rest/pause set
- Dumbbell Lateral Raise: 2 sets of 6 and one 6-8-10 drop set
- Lying Dumbbell Triceps Extension: 2 sets of 6 and one maximum mTor activation set
Wednesday – Workout A2
- Lying Leg Curl: 2 sets of 6 and one 6-8-10 drop set
- Straight-Arm Pulldown or Dumbbell Pullover: 2 sets of 6 and one maximum mTor activation set
- Pronated Chest-Supported Row: 2 sets of 8 and one all-out heavy double rest/pause set
- Preacher Curl: 2 sets of 6 and one maximum mTor activation set
Thursday – Workout B2
- Leg Extension: 2 sets of 6 and one 6-8-10 drop set
- Pec Deck or Cable Crossover: 2 sets of 6 and one maximum mTor activation set
- Military Press or Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 2 sets of 6 and one all-out heavy double rest/pause set
- Close-Grip Decline Bench Press or Dip: 2 sets of 6 and one all-out heavy double rest/pause set
Friday – Workout A3
- Glute Ham Raise or Reverse Hyper: 2 sets of 6 and one maximum mTor activation set
- Supinated Lat Pulldown: 2 sets of 6 and one 6-8-10 drop set
- Neutral-Grip Cable Seated Row: 2 sets of 6 and one maximum mTor activation set
- Dumbbell Hammer Curl: 2 sets of 6 and one 6-8-10 drop set
Saturday – Workout B3
- Hack Squat Machine or Leg Press: 2 sets of 6 and one maximum mTor activation set
- Incline Bench Press or Incline Dumbbell Press: 2 sets of 6 and one 6-8-10 drop set
- Dumbbell Front Raise on Incline Bench: 2 sets of 6 and one maximum mTor activation set
- Rope Triceps Extension: 2 sets of 6 and one 6-8-10 drop set