The More the Better
I'm about to get my fourth higher education degree. With two Bachelor of Science degrees and one Master of Science degree virtually under my belt, I'm on to the next frontier into "Doctorhood." Recently, I've spent some time reminiscing about what I've learned from my collegiate training.
Believe it or not, my first year of higher education was spent at a high-falutin' private liberal arts college with a bunch of brainiacs. Some of my classmates kinda drove me hippie-crazy, but I sure learned a helluva lot from my English professor. Mainly, he taught me the importance of writing a powerful opening sentence.
Obviously, I haven't taken that advice completely to heart since I'm several sentences into my article and I haven't yet made a profound statement. Okay, here goes. You ready? Here it is:
The more often you can train a muscle group, the better.
How's that for a powerful sentence? Initially, this seems like a pretty straight-forward and logical statement. Unfortunately, most people haven't used all of their tools to accomplish such a goal. I'm here to tell you that the only way you'll be able to frequently stimulate each muscle group is to constantly rotate different strength training methods.
Some well-meaning trainers have tried to accomplish this goal through undulating periodization, while others, like myself, prefer another type of periodization that's sometimes referred to as conjugate periodization. East-Bloc European strength trainers have been using conjugate periodization for decades, and the transcendent Louie Simmons has made it a well-known phenomenon in American strength training circles.
Each type of periodization focuses on manipulating set/rep/load parameters throughout a microcycle, but only conjugate periodization focuses on developing multiple strength qualities as opposed to merely adjusting sets and reps. In other words, the speed of execution is of utmost importance when training different types of strength in conjugate periodization.
Linear periodization also became popular in many American strength-training circles. This type of periodization is based on initially starting a resistance training cycle with a high volume and low intensity with a subsequent drop in volume and rise in intensity over the course of months. And you know what? It sucks!
Why? Because linear periodization will burn you out quicker than any other planned form of training, especially in the latter stages! When you constantly hit the same motor units with the same parameters, even for a few weeks, the nervous system will very likely become bored (i.e. burnt out and overtrained). Coaches and trainers have tried to overcome this shortcoming by switching up exercises and movement planes, but the conclusion remains the same: linear periodization sucks and there are much better ways to plan your training.
Many of my programs are designed around training each muscle group twice a week. Other parameters I've recommended are geared towards training each muscle group up to six times each week. In an effort to cater to most T-Nation readers, I've designed a program that sits smack dab in the middle. You'll get the benefit of training each strength quality multiple times each week, without worrying about the overtraining factor that numerous newbies encounter with my extremely high-volume parameters.
In other words, if you're stuck in a rut and you've been training for more than a year, this program will induce appreciable strength and size gains!
Enter Triple Total Training
Due to excessive demands for studying and research, the University of Arizona has effectively kept me out of the gym for several months. Therefore, I was faced with a situation I haven't encountered in quite some time: I was out of shape (relatively speaking) and I needed a program that would increase my strength and size, like, now!
If you've ever scratched your head and thought, "Gee, I wonder what Waterbury is doing in the gym these days?" well, you're about to find out!
The TTT Program
As is the case with most of my programs, the TTT Program is based on conjugate periodization. You'll constantly rotate strength-training methods and the speed of execution. Check it out:
Method: Maximal Strength
Load: 5RM (reps max)
Rest: 60 seconds between antagonist supersets
A1: Front Squats
A2: Chin-ups: Use a supinated (palms facing you) shoulder-width grip.
B1: Decline Barbell or Dumbbell Bench Press (15-30 degree angle): Use a shoulder-width grip.
B2: Back Extensions
C1: Dumbbell Side Bends: From a standing position, place a dumbbell in your left hand. Bend to your left side until your hand is at knee level. Return to the starting position (standing straight up). This works your right oblique musculature. Without resting, switch sides and perform the same with a dumbbell in your right hand and bending to the right side. Place your opposite hand behind your head if you desire.
C2: Standing Calf Raises: Stand on a block or stairs with your feet shoulder-width and your toes pointed straight forward. Go for a full range of motion.
Perform 15-20 minutes of medium intensity aerobics (e.g. jogging, uphill walking), or perform my GPP ASAP program.
Method: Endurance Strength
Rest: 90 seconds between antagonist supersets
A1: Standing Dumbbell Alternating Shoulder Press: While standing with your palms facing forward, press up with your right hand, then lower. Next, press up with your left hand and lower. Repeat sequence for 24 reps on each side.
A2: Reverse Lunges: From a standing position with a dumbbell in each hand, step back and lunge down until your back knee touches the floor. You must keep your torso as vertical as possible!
B1: Standing Triceps Pressdowns or Dips: For pressdowns, use a grip with your palms down and your index fingers 18" apart. For dips, use a narrow, shoulder-width grip and keep your torso as vertical as possible.
B2: Standing Upright Rows: Use dumbbells or an EZ-curl bar for this exercise if a barbell hurts your wrists. Assume a pronated (palms down) grip with your index fingers 12" apart. Focus on lifting your elbows as high as possible; minimize wrist movement.
C1: Standing Barbell Curls: Use a grip with the pinky fingers 20" apart.
C2: Dumbbell Side Raises
Same as Day 2
Method: Explosive Strength
Rest: 60 seconds between sets
Tempo: As fast as humanly possible!
*This is not a misprint. An 18RM equates to approximately 60% or your 1RM – an ideal load for explosive training with these parameters.
Box Squats: Use a bench or a box that allows your hip joint to drop 1-2" below parallel. Clasp your hands behind your head and jump up as high and fast as you can. You must completely rest your hips on the box/bench between reps. Even though this is a bodyweight-only exercise, it's much tougher than it sounds – especially if you jump up as hard as possible.
Push-ups: Use your bodyweight and assume a shoulder-width hand spacing. Press yourself up off the floor as hard and fast as possible. Drop back to the floor quickly to minimize the eccentric load.
Seated Cable Rows or Bent-over Barbell Rows: If you're performing cable rows, you must let the weight-stack rest between reps to build starting strength. If you're performing bent-over barbell rows, you must let the barbell rest on a bench or box when your arms are fully extended to build starting strength. Use a supinated (palms up) grip with your pinky fingers 24" apart.
Sit-ups: Assume a traditional sit-up position with your knees bent and your feet hooked under something immovable. Sit up as hard and fast as possible and be sure to rest your torso on the floor when returning to the starting position (to build starting strength of course)! Hold a dumbbell against your upper chest if your strength levels allow for it.
Same as Day 2
Days 1 & 3: Increase the load 2.5% every workout.
Day 5: Decrease rest periods by 5 seconds each week while keeping the initial load constant.
Perform this routine for six weeks.
This is the exact same routine I've used for the last six weeks to get myself back into shape. It worked for me and I know it'll work for you, so give it a trial run!