We all perform certain bodybuilding routines with an eye on one thing…RESULTS…and those results are measured by how much muscle growth is produced by said routine.
Does your current routine bring results?
How many of the routines that you tried brought little to no results?
What was your most result-producing routine of all-time?
I’ve asked myself these questions and have a clear number one and number two routine that rival each other for muscle growth. At the same time, I have a clear cellar-dweller in the growth department that brought next to zero results.
Let’s take at look at them after I throw in this one caveat;
In order for a routine to be judged fairly on its ability to grow muscle,
It must have been performed while eating a diet containing a surplus
Periods of dieting, or preparing for a competition don’t count in my
opinion, as “mixed messages” of GROW and GET RIPPED are being
sent to the body simultaneously
My clear #1 is the “Ideal Routine” by Mike Mentzer. It was around 1994 the first time I hit this routine, and when I did, I REFUSED to change it for almost 5 years! Mike gives all details of this routine and how to make all necessary adjustments in his well-written book Heavy Duty 2 Mind and Body which can be purchased at http://mikementzer.com
In my case, I took the principles of his book and applied them to myself, as well as customized the routine to my own body. I took 96 hours between workout days and did only one set of everything after appropriate warmups. Supersets listed were performed with literally zero rest.
Here’s what it looked like for me;
Workout 1—Chest & Back
Flat DB Fly 1 set X 10-12 reps
Incline Machine Bench Press 1 X 1-3 plus 2 Forced & 2 Negative Reps
Nautilus Pullover Machine 1 X 10-12
Undergrip Close-Grip Pullups 1 X 1-3 plus 2 Forced & 2 Negative Reps
Deadlifts 1 X 6-10
Workout 2—Legs (w/barbell Squats)
Seated Leg Curl 1 X 8-12 plus 2 Forced & 2 Negative Reps
Squats 1 X 6-10
Standing Calf Raise 1 X 8-12 plus 10 Rest/Pause Reps
Workout 3—Shoulders & Arms
Lateral Raise Machine 1 X 8-12
Barbell Military Press 1 X 1-3 plus 2 Forced Reps
DB Bent Laterals 1 X 8-12 plus 3 Rest/Pause Reps
Cable Preacher Curl 1 X 6-10
Undergrip Close-Grip Chins 1 X 1-3 plus 2 Forced & 2 Negative Reps
Tricep Pressdowns 1 X 6-10
Dips 1 X 1-3 plus 2 Forced & 2 Negative Reps
Workout 4—Legs (no Squats) & Abs
Leg Extensions 1 X 12-20
Leg Press 1 X 6-10 plus 3 Rest/Pause Reps
Seated Calf Raise 1 X 12-20
Nautilus Abdominal Machine 1 X 12-20
***This was MY version of Mike’s IR routine, which I customized for MY body. For details on how to do it for yourself, refer to the book I’ve cited***
When I began this routine, I had already been training for 8 years or so, and THAT is why it was so amazing! Technically, I was an advanced bodybuilder who had not only trained for years but had also competed with success. I wanted RESULTS. The fact was that I had originally started training on Mike Mentzer’s Heavy Duty 1 routine (my #2 fave routine) as a beginner and made fabulous progress with a large muscular gain of 20 pounds. That was as a beginner. Once that stage had passed, I had to kick and scratch for every fraction of a pound, UNTIL the Ideal Routine came along. On this exact routine, my body blasted up with new muscular gains. The change was so noticeable that I was asked by many about the drugs I was using! On the scale, there was a big initial jump accompanied by a small amount of fat (remember, I was on a calorie surplus type of diet), which I didn’t mind. Were the gains like my beginner increase of 20 pounds? No, not really. They were more thrilling than that because I was so advanced! Imagine, busting through your biggest plateau, one that lasted for a few years, and thinking that you’ve tapped out your genetics BUT then here comes a routine that flips your world upside down in a great way! That’s what the Ideal Routine did for me.
Because of this routine, I was only spending 15-30 minutes of actual training in the gym once every 96 hours. I had a life. I could take on more business as a personal trainer (which I still do to this day, along with online coaching/training…see http://IntenseHeart.com ), and I could enjoy more quality relationships with people outside of the gym as I was no longer chained to the gym performing routines that literally took longer than most part-time jobs, but paid zero in the way of wages!
***It’s worth noting that I did start off right as a beginner. Having trained on Mike Mentzer’s Heavy Duty 1 Routine (find that book on Mike’s site as well) for 2 years before losing my mind and training on the more popular 3 day on/one day off routine for 5 or 6 years, it was a blessing to get back to the lower volume and ultra-high intensity type of routine***
My Cellar-Dweller Experience
While I’ve tried many routines over the last 35 years, there is one that stands out as bringing the least results. The Superslow training routine was never a routine by design as much as a routine that was based upon the technique of super-slow motion exercises performed in the name of eliminating nearly 100% of any momentum used to lift a weight. In theory, this sounds great, and I gave it my best effort more than one time. Most long-range repetitions were performed with a 10-0-5 cadence (10 second negative, 0 second static, 5 second positive), with shorter range repetitions going 5-0-3 cadence. If there was an opportunity to take advantage of a peak contraction, I would change the 0 static to a 1 and consciously hold that rep hard before lowering.
I kept the workouts basic as always with not resting much between sets. Hitting a single set of 5 or 8 reps could take 75-120 seconds, which was kind of long, and required endurance. The sets were kept to 1 per exercise. To be honest, I can’t even give you the exact routine I used verbatim since I try to forget bad experiences in my training once they’ve been dismissed.
That was my first experience with Superslow. I stuck with it for 10-12 weeks hoping for more, but nothing special happened. Eventually I ran into a guy from Superslow in Florida and he told me I needed to slow it down even more on the positive portion of the rep, so that I would be performing reps at a 10-0-10 cadence. While it seemed more intense to my mind, it was not hard on my body like it needed to be.
The Superslow routine, technique, whatever you want to call it, was a near-bust the first time I used it. After the advice of the guy who worked with Superslow, I used it two more times and planned on giving it 10-12 weeks each time. On my second round with it, I did complete 10 weeks with no results. On the last hopeful attempt, I only went 6 weeks before dropping the routine/technique entirely on my own body. I learned that the artificially slow cadences are so unnatural that they became boring after a while…and if there’s one thing that’s true about bodybuilding it’s that even if the training is brutal, you must be motivated and gain excitement from some aspect of the training, whether it be from the workout itself, or the results. If there is no motivation or excitement, YOU’LL SIMPLY QUIT.
Superslow was, and is, useless in my own training arsenal.
My Routine Works, So Why Change It?
Once I had hit upon my favorite all-time routine, I was extremely reluctant to change it. I did make necessary changes such as adjusting the volume and/or frequency of those workouts to milk it for almost 5 years. Mike Mentzer saw my progress and urged me to go further by switching to his Consolidated Routine (again…check Heavy Duty 2 Mind & Body) but man, I LOVED the Ideal Routine! I knew in my heart and mind that my body would eventually adjust to the IR routine and I’d have to change. That’s what the human body does…it adjusts to every stress that it’s presented with.
I knew these facts and eventually changed my routine. On occasion, I can dip back into the well and hit that IR for 6 weeks or so before changing it up again. Why go back there? Because I enjoy that routine and am highly motivated to hit it intensely for brief periods before going with a different one.
This all may seem confusing to the reader who assumes that a routine must remain the same once it’s been discovered to be effective, but that’s not how our bodies work and certainly guarantees the eventual plateau.
If your current routine has run its course, be honest with yourself, then decide. You’re not a rat on a wheel performing endless amounts of work in the gym but still hoping and praying for progress that’ll never come. If there’s no progress in any 6-8 week period, then it’s time to make a change, and sometimes those changes can be radically different from what your buddies in the gym are doing! Be bold enough to do what’s necessary for you to make progress regardless of what others think, and you may find yourself in the gym only once every 3 or 4 days, like I was, and leading a very productive life outside of the gym!
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Some Of John’s Competitive Results
2001 Natural Mr Universe –1st/Tall
2012 INBF Mr America –1st Lightheavy
2013 INBF Mr America–1st Lightheavy
–WNBF Pro card
Competed multiple times and currently as a WNBF Natural Pro BB…check his site for pictures/placings http://IntenseHeart.com