Step Out of the Box; Hybrid Bodybuilding
by Allen Cress
Real expertise has been lacking in the bodybuilding industry for a number of years. I think the ever increasing specter of chemistry in bodybuilding has been a big driver of this phenomenon. It has left a huge void in the industry. As a result the perpetuation of many ineffective and ill-advised training and dietary regimens has become the norm. Star power overwhelms science and reason. I can tell you 2 + 2 = 4 and no one will disagree, but Jay Cutler or Phil Heath can tell you 2 + 2 = 5 and most of the bodybuilding sycophants will believe it! The motivation isn’t even necessarily a bad one. Many genetically blessed pros simply don’t realize that their success is the consequence of great heredity, not their training methodology.
Stepping outside the box
It is time to look beyond the typical bodybuilding dogma. New and improved means of obtaining the bodybuilding goal are here.
The problem with a traditional-only approach is it fails to account for science. Fiber recruitment, activation potential, and rate of force production are all of importance to anyone in the iron game. Chronic single plane, single joint training such as that commonly practiced by traditional bodybuilders can disrupt neuromuscular coordination and therefore result in faulty recruitment patterns etc. Traditional bodybuilders therefore set themselves up for long term problems (such as severe muscle imbalances, chronic arthritic joints, and narrowed ranges of motion) and lack of results if they solely follow such a regimen.
Functional training can be used as a hybrid approach to correcting these problems, or preventing them in the first place, but just as with traditional training much of the functional approach is misunderstood.
The whole premise of functional training is to train movements and not muscles. This means you should train in the “human movement model”, i.e. pushing, pulling, squatting, lunging, bending, twisting, and extending. The goal is to train multiple joints in multiple planes. This promotes a functional flow to the body via enhanced neuromuscular coordination and thus more efficient fiber recruitment which is crucial to growing larger muscles.
One concern with such training is it often lacks a target emphasis aimed at muscle hypertrophy. In fact, most people mistakenly consider functional training to be something like standing on one foot and trying to do a one-arm press. Proper functional training is far from that. It involves taking traditional bodybuilding movements and making them more functional by making them multi-joint and multi-planar. In the case a movement cannot be made multi-planar; it can at least be made to increase proprioceptive demand by removing things like stabilization by a machine. We all know a Smith machine squat is much easier than a barbell squat.
To place the proper emphasis on hypertrophy, functional movements should not be progressed simply by adding resistance. They should first be progressed via increased speed and range of movement when possible. Another preferred method of progression is to add motion to a traditional bodybuilding movement. For example, the next time you’re training delts instead of doing a dumbbell front raise, try doing alternate dumbbell raises with a contralateral side stride. This increased proprioceptive demand also increases overload to the working plane of motion without reducing training loads.
Functional training within the human movement model is only one of many ways to create a hybrid form of training for bodybuilders. All a trainee has to do is have an open mind.
Strength training using a maximum speed of movement (yet still controlled) places a unique stress on the human body. Most powerlifter already know this, and know the importance of training for speed. For the uninitiated, here is a little personal experiment you can do. Do seated dumbbell presses for two sets of 6-8 reps using a normal cadence and as much weight as you can handle. Follow it with two more sets using 40-50% of the previous load. For these sets, use as much controlled speed as possible and go to failure. Notice how quickly you reach failure, what each set felt like, and the difference in oxygen debt when you are done.
Until now bodybuilding dogma has always taught that adding size is a function of lifting more weight with good form. The problem is that there is a ceiling to that formula. Speed training provides a greater payoff in mass over time. It is a true expression of power, the kind of power that will build you the lean muscle mass you seek.
Bodybuilders should now wake up to a whole new world of training possibilities to procure results. Training doesn’t need to be mundane or stagnant. Paying attention to other forms of training can go a long way to helping you achieve your bodybuilding goals.
Below is just one of many programs I’ve designed and have implemented with numerous bodybuilding clients. Of course at first they were skeptical and didn’t want to go away from “traditional” body part training for fear of losing size or just not growing in general, but since they trust me they gave it a shot and after about 3-4 weeks into the program they were pleasantly surprised with the results and never looked back. Give it a try and reap the benefits.
- Try to go from one exercise in a complex to another with minimal rest. Rest until almost completely recovered after complex is completed.
- “6’s” are to be done with an emphasis on heavy load, but just short of failure
- All Olympic lift variations, like snatches, cleans, high pulls etc.., are always done with a pause between each rep. So they are performed as ‘repeated singles’ until required reps are met.
- It’s important to take as little rest as possible between bi-plexes (30-45 sec), especially those employing “the power of 6” this will build substantial O2 debt in the big lifts promoting enhanced conditioning and metabolic effects.
- Training should be done on a 3 days on, 1 day off, 2 days on, 1 day off format
- All sets listed are working sets. (warm up sets not included)
1a) Squats 4 X’s 6
1b) One or 2 arm DB Snatch 4 X’s 6
2a) BB or DB Incline Chest Press 4 X’s 6
2b) BB or DB Bent Over Rows 4 X’s 6
3a) DB or BB Seated Shoulder Press 4 X’s 6
3b) Any 2 Arm Triceps Exercise 4 X’s 8-10
4a) Any 2 Arm Biceps Exercise 4 X’s 8
4a) Any chopper Exercise below 4 X’s 12-15
Vertical Chops – MB or Weight Plate, Low to High tubing or cable Chops, or High to Low cable chops
Day 2: Isolated Complexes
1a) Alt. DB Side laterals with contralateral front stride 3 X’s 10-12 ES
1b) Bent DB Laterals 3 X’s 12-15
1c) 2 Arm Front Swings 3 X’s 10-15
1d) Alternating DB Overhead Press 3 X’s 10-12 EA
2a) Full Sit Outs or Alternating Sit Ups 3 X’s 8-12 each side
2b) Contralateral Hand to Toe Touch from Plank 3 X’s 8-12 each side
2c) Bicycle abs 3 X’s 20 ES or 20-30 sec
2d) SB Alternating Step offs 3 X’s 8-12 each side
3a) TRX or SB Hip Extensions 3 X’s 8-15(slow)
3b) Any Leg curl variation 3 X’s 8-15
3c) Glute/Ham Raise or **DB Sumo squats 3 X’s 8-15 or 20-25
3d) DB One arm /One Leg Deadlift 3 X’s 12-15 each leg
**Squeeze glutes at the top of every rep
Day 3: Chest/ Back Isolation
1a) Pulldowns, any variations 3 X’s 12-15
1b) Flat DB Fly or Machine Fly 3 X’s 12-15
2a) Any push up variation 3 X’s 12-15
2b) Recline Pulls or Alternating DB rows 3 X’s 12-15
3a) Seated Cable Rows 3 X’s 12-15 or 10-12
3b) Cable Crossovers or Push ups between 2 MBs 3 X’s 12-15 or 8-15
4a) **Simultaneous DB Chest Press off SB 3 X’s 10-15 EA
4b) DB Pullovers or Any Pulldown variation 3 X’s 10-15
**Perform these by alternating the DBs. As you press one up the other is coming down. Kind of like you are punching.
*The focus on this day is contractions and pumping the muscle full of blood
Day 4: Lower body Focus
1a) Leg Press 3 X’s 12-20
1b) Standing DB or Cable Side lateral 3 X’s 10-12
1c) Any Bicep exercise 3 X’s 10-12
2) Quad blast X’s 2-3 sets
BW Speed squats – below parallel X’s 25 reps
BW Alternating Lunges X’s 24 reps (12 each leg)
BW split squat jumps X’s 20 reps (10 each leg)
BW squat jumps X’s Max
3) Step ups (one leg at a time) 3 X’s 10 EL
4a) Leg extensions 3 X’s 15
4b) Cable Rear lateral or Face pulls 3 X’s 10-15
4c) Any Bicep exercise 3 X’s 12-15
1a) BB or Trap bar Deadlifts from floor (never to failure) 4 X’s 6
1b) Flat BB or DB press 4 X’s 6
2a) DB Clean & Press or DB Side lateral Throw 4 X’s 6
2b) Any One arm Row 4 X’s 6 EA
3a) BB or DB High Pull or Kettle bell front swing 3-4 X’s 6 or 12-15
3b) Any Tricep exercise 3-4 X’s 8-10
4a) Any Push up variation 3 X’s 8-15
4b) Any Tricep exercise 3 X’s 12-15