Training for bulk
The old adage often meets newcomers – especially younger ones – that join the gym. All you really need is bench press, squats and chins to work out your whole body and develop a good physique. Of course, that adage hails from the time of Reg Park circa 1950, when the possibilities of refinement and the absolutely massive, chiselled physiques the like of Arnie were not even imagined.
It has been shown, though, that a limited, intermittent regime of weight training makes for the most muscle mass. A kind of short, sharp “shock” builds better bulk than the daily pursuit of muscle mass gains. Already the howls of protest are probably rising after that statement. But without quoting various adherents, fundis, physicians or even academic studies, let’s just say that a significant number of people seem to gain muscle weight fastest and bulkiest with short, heavy sets on a simplistic routine. Short, sharp jolts seem to grant genuine mass better or rather more generously than a more constant and intensive regime in the gym.
Firstly, take it in context. Is gym your life? Ok, then do whatever you feel is best. Really. Any longer term, dedicated gym nut knows his body best and has probably figured out how best to either bulk or cut. If, however. you’re a normal human being and need to ration your gym time just like all other activities’ time, then a three or four day week is normally best for gaining mass. With a three-day overall body or a four-day split training routine, and perhaps some light cardio on the weekends, it seems that across a global average you’re best set to make muscle gain.
Secondly, remember, everyone is different and your body will react to different regimes differently and, frankly, who says you can’t do a three-day and then sometimes a five-day routine even, for a month or two? As a broad, all-encapsulating statement however, for any body type, it would seem that a limited, pretty weight-intensive, three-day week-regime is what builds bulk best over the short term. What this means is, you’re a little different to everyone else, and it stands to reason that there’s a fair stripe of leeway either side of this observation.
Thirdly and finally and totally disingeniously, there is one glaring comment that needs to be made… Assuming we are all individual or at least nuanced in terms of how our unique body performs under certain inputs (we are, notwithstanding generalisations that hold true for most of humanity), imagining a sixteen year old entering the gym for the first time, how would any of us ever know whether the traditional, simple and heavy-as-you-can regime would, indeed, beat a more intense, detailed split routine? You only get to travel that journey once, and you have no other “you” to compare yourself against, after all. Rather let’s say, when kicking off at a gym as a newbie at least, there is evidence that supports a simplistic three-day routine which is also an accumulation of the knowledge of movement, equipment and the like – very important – that fits best. Established gym goers who have attained proportion and seek bulk or a specific focus do, absolutely, need to tweak their bodies on a regime away from that baseline simplistic practice. But a thrice weekly regime with basic (preferably free weight) exercises that are typically three sets of eight or ten reps a piece and that also very definitely do contain chins, squats and bench press is still the accepted route to bulk in gyms all over the world today.