Coach Cristian Thibadeau has previously shown a “better programme for straight men”
high frequency, high intensity, low volume. But what about those who can’t live in the gym doing 6 workouts a week?
Or lack the strength, nerves (and joints) to bring each workout set to excruciating failure? Teeb also rushes to the rescue, offering an alternative: less frequent training, lower intensity, but more stimulating volume.
Shouldn’t the volume be limited?
Yes, in previous episodes it was said that too much volume is the enemy of the pure, non-doped straight bodybuilder (in “The best programme for the straight”), as it leads to an increased release of cortisol (in “The best programme for the straight”). But one must take into account all training parameters and the fact that not all people are equal – some tolerate many bouts of light workload more safely than the maximum intensity (ultimate weights and / or work to failure) even in a small number of sets.
Here it is important not to overdo it: if you increase one thing, you must cut something else:
- High intensity (weights on the bar and sets ‘to failure’) and low volume (number of sets) combine perfectly (for hypertrophy),
- high volume and low intensity are also normal,
- But attempting to increase intensity and volume at the same time will not do any good.
Perceived Stress Scale (RPE)
In order to usefully increase volume, you must adjust the intensity by rating the effort on a 10-point scale.
The perceived tension scale in strength training:
So, if you prefer a high training volume, you will mainly work with an effort of 7-8 points, sometimes straining up to 8.5-9.
For example, this “wave”:
- Week 1: RPE 7 (3 repetitions to spare)
- Week 2: RPE 7.5 (2 to 3 reps reserved)
- Week 3: RPE 8 (2 reps reserved)
- Week 4: RPE 8.5-9 (1 or 2 reps reserved)
Then a 6-point unloading week, and the whole cycle all over again.
Example protocol with load as a percentage of 1RM
Note: These percentages are for reference only and can be used as a training guide, but it is more important to focus on the RPE.
- Block 1 – 65% of 1RM:
Week 1: 4 attempts of 8, RPE 7
Week 2: 4 sets of 10, RPE 7.5
Week 3: 4 sets of 11, RPE 8
Week 4: 4 sets of 12, RPE 8.5-9
- Block 2 – 70-72.5% of 1RM:
Week 1: 5 approaches of 6, RPE 7
Week 2: 5 sets of 8, RPE 7.5
Week 3: 5 sets of 9, RPE 8
Week 4: 5 sets of 10, RPE 8.5-9
- Block 3 – 75-77.5% of 1RM:
Week 1: 7 sets of 4, RPE 7
Week 2: 7 sets of 6, RPE 7.5
Week 3: 7 sets of 7 reps, RPE 8
Week 4: 7 sets of 8, RPE 8.5-9
Unloading: 1-2 weeks.
Example of protocol with working weights
Let’s assume you bench press 135 kg, then the above protocol with weights (and calculated tonnage) would look like this
- Block 1 – 90kg:
Week 1: 4 sets of 8 (2880kg)
Week 2: 4 sets of 10 (3600 kg)
Week 3: 4 sets of 11 (3960 kg)
Week 4: 4 sets of 12 (4320 kg)
- Block 2 – 97.5 kg:
Week 1: 5 approaches of 6 (2,925 kg)
Week 2: 5 sets of 8 (3900 kg)
Week 3: 5 sets of 9 (4387.5 kg)
Week 4: 5 sets of 10 (4875 kg)
- Block 3 – 105 kg:
Week 1: 7 sets of 4 (2,940kg)
Week 2: 7 sets of 6 attempts (4410 kg)
Week 3: 7 sets of 7 dips (5145 kg)
Week 4: 7 sets of 8 attempts (5880 kg)
Then one or two weeks of unloading: 3 working sets of 8-10 reps with the load of 6-6.5 RPE.
As you can see, the tonnage is constantly increasing from week to week (and block to block). And although no single set is performed with an extreme load, the large training volume gives a significant incentive for hypertrophy.
How often can I train on this programme?
The previous best program was based on frequency: 6 workouts per week in a split of presses and weights, i.e. many muscle groups were trained every other day. In each workout 10-12 sets of intensive work were performed.
Volume and frequency are inversely proportional – the more sets you perform, the less often you need to train.
Otherwise a pure bodybuilder will not recover and grow.
Therefore in this programme we limit ourselves to 3-4 workouts per week.
A couple of split variants:
- 3 workouts per week (+ 1 optional):
Monday: whole body
Wednesday: whole body
Friday: whole body
Saturday (optional): abs + farmer’s walks or other weight-bearing options
- Four workouts per week:
Monday: whole body
Wednesday: whole body
Which exercises do I prefer?
On the one hand, hypertrophy is more effective with large-amplitude movements that allow you to use a significant work weight (higher tonnage). On the other hand, because the volume is high, the exercises must not be too difficult.
You perform the most technically demanding exercises on Monday, then relax with isolation on the machines on Wednesday and complete the exercises of medium complexity on Friday.
An example of the programme:
- Workout 1 (Monday)
А. Squat variation.
Б. Variation of the deadlift (NOT from the floor only; Romanian or partial deadlift from racks/plinths).
В1*. Horizontal press.
В2. Horizontal deadlift.
Г1*. Vertical bench press.
Г2. Vertical deadlift.
*Antagonist approach rotation.
- Workout 2 (Wednesday).
А1*. Isolation exercise on the quadriceps or gluteus maximus.
А2. Isolation exercise on a training machine for the thigh biceps.
Б1*. Isolation exercise for the pectorals.
Б2. Isolation exercise for upper back muscles.
В1*. Isolation exercise for triceps.
В2. Isolation exercise for biceps.
* rotation of sets on antagonists.
- Exercise 3 (Friday)
А. Multi-tendon exercise with emphasis on the quadriceps (e.g. leg press).
Б. Multi-tendon exercise for the gluteals/thigh biceps (gluteal bridge, reverse extension, etc.)
В1*. Horizontal bench press (chest press, bench press etc.)
В2. Horizontal bench press/lock.
Г1*. Lifting upright presses on fitness apparatus.
Г2. Vertical deadlift on the trainer/block.
*Alternation of sets on antagonists.
Is it possible to vary exercises in blocks?
Try to perform all 3 blocks with the same set of exercises. However, if monotony drives out your motivation, here are suggestions for making variations (from best to worst).
- Best: don’t change the exercises for the entire 12 weeks of the programme.
- Good: don’t change the exercises of workouts 1 and 3, and on the second (where light isolation), choose a taste for each block.
- Normal: don’t change the exercises of workout 1 (in all three blocks), in workout 2 – free choice for each block, in workout 3 you can also vary, but pick similar substitutions (with similar amplitude, close working weights, etc.).
- Not ideal, but will work for those who can’t do without variety: You can choose a new exercise for each block (and for workout 1). But the rules are the same: similar range of motion and load. For example, in one block squat with the barbell on your back, in another with the barbell on your chest.
- Bad: change exercises haphazardly, guided only by your own desires.
Try to keep to one set for at least 4 weeks (separate block).
And a couple of words about the main thing (i.e. nutrition).
The longer the workout lasts, the more cortisol your body produces to extract energy from its reserves. And an excessive amount of cortisol, let us remind you, prevents straight guys from gaining mass.
This is where you can particularly benefit from sports nutrition: pre-, intra- and post-workout. If you’re averse to supplements, at least remember to refuel with carbohydrates from regular foods before and after a high-volume workout.