Lifting weights one day per week may be the better approach for many people seeking to develop and improve their musculature. Those who are new to the process of building the body or muscles through weightlifting, or body building, often find that they achieve much of their improvement in musculature during the initial weeks or months of their training.
These gains are often referred to as “newbie” gains by personal trainers or coaches. When one initially begins lifting weights, the hypertrophy, or muscle growth, is more dramatic. As one becomes an advanced weightlifter, the rate of hypertrophy tends to lessen. Many find their improvements in strength and muscle eventually lessen, or arrest entirely. Many others will experience a decline in muscle and strength despite rigorous commitment to training.
There are certain concepts in weightlifting that are without dispute. From there, one can construct a strategy which seeks to build strength and muscle.
1. In order to build strength, one must engage in some form of physical activity.
2. One must have a period of rest following the physical activity to enable the body to recover
from the same activity.
These are the two and possibly only two concepts that are universally accepted by not only the population with only a cursory knowledge of exercise and weightlifting, but more serious examiners of the subject. Apart from these two concepts, the opinions can vary greatly.
VOLUME AND INTENSITY
Many successful bodybuilders advocate more a higher volume workout schedule that involves between three to five sets per exercise, multiple exercises per body part (chest, shoulders, back, etc.) and generally repetitions exceeding 6-8 repetitions or even 15-30 repetitions.
Some bodybuilders who advocate the high volume training method will propose a split-routine wherein the subject will exercise each body part two times or more per week. For example:
A low volume and high intensity training method was proposed by Mike Mentzer, Arthur Jones, and later by Dorian Yates, and Nick Walker today. Each of these men have their own version of a low volume and high intensity workout. Mr. Jones influenced Mr. Mentzer significantly. However, Mr. Mentzer’s application of the low volume and high intensity training principles are very different from Mr. Jones.
MIKE MENTZER’S HIGH INTENSITY TRAINING SCHEDULE
- PEC DECK OR DB FLYS (6-10 REPS)
- (SUPERSET) INCLINE PRESS (1-3)
- CLOSE GRIP PALMS-UP PULLDOWNS (6-10)
- DEADLIFTS (6-10)
a. Interlock grip, flat back, head up, hands slightly wider than shoulder, hips lower than shoulders
- LEG EXTENSIONS (8-15)
- (SUPERSET) LEG PRESS OR SQUATS (8-15)
- STANDING CALF RAISES (12-20)
- DB LATERALS (SIDE RAISES) (6-10)
- REVERSE PEC DEC (6-10)
- BARBELL CURLS (6-10)
- (SUPERSET) TRICEP PUSHDOWNS OR DIPS (3-5)
- LEG EXTENSIONS (30 LBS MORE) (STATIC HOLD; 10-25 SECONDS)
- (SUPERSET) SMITH OR FREE WEIGHT SQUATS (8-15)
- STANDING CALF RAISE (12-20)
ON SUPERSETS, start warm-up on second exercise. REST: 4-8 days rest between workouts.
ONE DAY PER WEEK WORKOUT
BACK & BICEPS
- PULLOVERS [30 reps]
- LAT PULLDOWNS [12,10,8]
- PREACHER CURLS [12,10]
CHEST & TRICEPS
- DB FLYES 
- FLYES DROP SETS [12,10,8]
- INCLINE BENCH PRESS [8-10]
- TRICEPS PULLDOWNS [2 sets X 8-10]
- CLOSE GRIP BENCH PRESS OR DIPS TO FAILURE
LEGS & CALVES
- SQUATS 
- THIGH BICEP MACHINE [2 sets x 8-10]
- STANDING CALF RAISE [3 sets x 12-15 reps]
SHOULDERS & TRAPS
- SIDE RAISES 
- SIDE RAISES DROP SETS [12,10,8]
- SHOULDER PRESS [8-10 reps]
- SHRUGS [2 sets x 8-10]
This workout was presented in an article written by James Stettler for bodybuilding.com (2009). Stettler recommends slow repetitions with the concentric and dicentric portions of the movement each consuming three seconds for completion. Stettler further directs that the last four repetitions of each set involve maximum effort. Each exercise should have a warm-up of approximately 30 repetitions.
ALTERNATE HIGH INTENSITY WORKOUT-ONE DAY PER WEEK
CHEST/SHOULDERS/TRICEPS [WEEK ONE]
- BENCH OR DB PRESS [8-10 reps]
- SIDE LATERAL RAISES [12-20 reps]
- TRICEPS PUSHDOWNS [10-12 reps]
BACK/BICEPS [WEEK TWO]
- DEADLIFTS [8-10 reps]
- LAT PULLOVER MACHINE [12-20 reps]
- STRAIGHT BAR CURL [12-15 reps]
LEGS/CALVES [WEEK THREE]
- SQUATS [10-20 reps]
- LEG EXTENSIONS [10-20 reps]
- STANDING CALF RAISE [15-30 reps]
CHEST/SHOULDERS/TRICEPS [WEEK FOUR]
- INCLINE BENCH OR INCLINE DB PRESS [8-10 reps]
- SIDE LATERAL RAISES [12-20 reps]
- DIPS [maximum number]
BACK/BICEPS [WEEK FIVE]
- DEADLIFTS [8-10 reps]
- LAT PULLDOWNS [12-15 reps]
- INCLINE DUMBELL CURLS [12-15 reps]
LEGS/CALVES [WEEK SIX]
- LEG PRESS MACHINE [10-20 reps]
- LEG EXTENSIONS [10-20 reps]
- SEATED CALF RAISE [15-30 reps]
Under the alternative workout plan exercise is performed to complete failure. Preceding each exercise, one must perform preparatory or warmup sets. For example, for the bench press exercise, perform the initial exercise with just the exercise bar, then perform a second set with about 50% of the maximum weight one can lift for 8-10 repetitions, and a third set with approximately 70% of the weight one can perform for 8-10 repetitions. The preparatory sets do not need to be performed to complete failure. Only the final set needs to be performed to maximum failure, and should incorporate forced sets, and negative repetitions, with the aid of a personal trainer or training partner.
If one is performing the deadlift exercise, and can deadlift 300 lbs for 8-10 repetitions, then begin with the deadlift bar with one 45 lbs plate on each side. This will prevent the weightlifter from bending down excessively. The second set would be about 150-160 lbs for 8-10 repetitions, and the third set would be about 210 lbs. Only the final set of 300 lbs for 8-10 repetitions should be performed to complete or maximum failure.
The above recommendation is very similar to Mr. Mentzer formulation. If one simply read the Mentzer workout schedule, one may conclude that the subject should only do one set per exercise. This is not the case. The subject needs multiple sets of lower weight, performed with less intensity, as preparation for the final set, which should be performed with maximum intensity.
The difference between the deadlift and the other exercises is it is difficult to perform forced repetitions or negative repetitions on the deadlift.
This alternate workout plan differs from the preceding two. If one continuously follows this workout, then each month the athlete will address certain muscles two times, rather than one time, per month. The following month, the athlete will address a different set of muscles two times for that month, and thereafter.
Therefore, this workout plan as compared to Mike Mentzer’s workout, has increased frequency in relation to the exercise of the various sets of muscles. However, the workout also slightly alternates the exercises for each set of muscles, perhaps giving more opportunity for muscular recuperation and growth. To be fair, Mr. Mentzer stated that one can substitute exercises in his workout plan, however, he does not recommend doing so, as his plan is driven towards achieving maximum muscular growth. The exercises he recommends are those that he believes, rationally, to be the most efficient for achieving maximum muscular growth.
Mr. Mentzer’s position was that fewer sets (lower volume) performed with maximum intensity achieves more muscular growth than a higher volume model, which necessarily leads to less intensity. If one knows that they must perform only one set, but with maximum effort, one would tend to exercise that effort, as opposed to performing multiple sets, knowing that there are numerous more sets that need to be performed.
Further, Mr. Mentzer distinguishes between aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Marathon runners, whose entire training regime involves aerobic activity, tend to be lacking in musculature. Marathon runners will train for hours. Powerlifters, who almost exclusively engage in anaerobic activity, with short bursts of effort, tend to be much more muscled. Therefore, Mr. Mentzer argues, why would a bodybuilder train like a marathon runner? To build muscle, one should engage in short bursts of exercise involving weights, performed with maximum effort, and to complete failure. Many of Mr. Mentzer’s training sessions with students appear to be 30 minutes or less in duration.
It must be noted that Mr. Mentzer advocated that the subject use good or perfect form. Using momentum to lift the weight was discouraged. In one video, he encourages the student to consume about 3-4 seconds in performing the concentric portion of the exercise, holding the weight for at least 1-2 seconds at the extended portion of the exercise, and finishing the repetition by consuming an additional 3-4 seconds in the eccentric portion of the exercise. The exercise would be performed with proper form with no momentum.
WHY WORKOUT ONLY ONE DAY PER WEEK?
Mr. Mentzer would often train his students one day per week. He felt that especially for a natural bodybuilder, one week may be necessary for the body to fully recuperate from training under his high intensity model. From his videos he did not seem to keep a strict rule as to how much rest time is needed between training days. Every person is different and need different amounts of rest time for full recuperation. Mr. Mentzer stressed that the greatest impediment to muscular growth and development was overtraining.
Some commentators on strength and muscle training attest that muscle may take up to two weeks or fourteen days, for full recovery. High intensity training also significantly taxes what is often referred to as the central nervous system.
As strength and muscle increases, along with the weight performed, the tax on the central nervous system increases. It does not appear to decrease. Therefore, a more advanced lifter may need more rest between workouts.
Furthermore, if one performs deadlift exercises on Monday, many muscles in addition to the back are employed, including hamstrings, shoulders, trapezius, forearms, calves, neck, abdominals…..almost every muscle in the body. If one followed Monday’s deadlift session with a session of squat exercises on Tuesday or Wednesday, it would be doubtful most weightlifters could fully recuperate. The Squat exercise employs many of the same muscles used in the deadlift exercise. There are no commentators on weightlifting that claim that muscle recuperation takes less than 48 hours to consummate. Therefore, why follow a first day of training, with a following day of training, when many of the same muscles are being employed, and stressed?
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