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Full Body Training Routines That Kick Ass

Recently there has been a renaissance in the "full body" training routines, thanks in large part to people like Ken Leistner, Stuart McRobert, Ellington Darden as well as the rebirth of the classic Bill Starr 5x5 routine, thanks to Glen Pendlay, Mark Rippetoe and websites like Madcow's and Stronglifts.

These routines which are intense and use only compound exercises, which makes them about as "old school" as you can get.

This is the way that the legends of the golden era of bodybuilding in the 1950s used to train. People like Reg Park, Steve Reeves, Armand Tanny, Vince Gironda and John Grimek all used these sorts of 3 day a week, full body routines to get huge. Chuck Sipes and Reg Park were both 500-pound bench pressers!

Pat Casey, the first man to ever bench press 600 pounds, trained with a full body routine too! Any of these guys would likely be found to have more athletic-looking physiques than the average GH-fuelled pros today by the vast majority of the general public. Most of these guys were extremely athletic too.

The fact that legendary football trainer Bill Starr's "The Strong Shall Survive" and John McCallum's "The Complete Keys to Progress" are still bestsellers today speaks for itself.

These two books, for example contained routines that have been modified and reinterpreted somewhat by many, but the core ideas and structure behind them still prove to be true: full body workouts are the most efficient way for beginners (and the average cubicle warrior) to gain a lot of muscle really quick.

Full body workouts are the most metabolically stimulative way to train, and are best for getting that lean and athletic look, while getting stronger.

They are ideal for providing the base for a beginner (check out Mark Rippetoe's excellent "Starting Strength", which is likely the best book on the planet aimed at getting young people stronger for either powerlifting or sports). 

How to go about setting up a full body routine?

When setting up your full body routine, there are some things that you have to consider, of which your recovery ability is perhaps the most important.

If you are a fairly new trainer, with less than a year or so under your belt, or are young - say under 25 years old, then your recovery ability and consequently the volume and frequency of your workouts can be higher than an older trainer - even one who has trained for 20 years.

An older trainer over 40 who has trained for 20 years off and on might be able to use more resistance in their exercises, but that will necessitate larger amounts of time in between training sessions as greater resistance creates a greater aggregate stress on the nervous system.

Think of your body is a well of energy, the same amount of energy used to power you through a workout is the same source of energy used to recover from the workout. If you run the well dry with too many training sessions with not enough rest in between them, you could be short changing yourself in terms of muscle gains.

The key variables to consider in any training routine (split of full body) are 1) volume, 2) frequency and 3) intensity (Intensity= (Volume x Weight used)/Rest time).

The key variables in the "supercompensation" phase of muscle growth are 1) diet, 2) rest and 3) stress. Take stock of your age, the experience you have in training and the amount of stress in your life at any given time as well and adjust your training accordingly. 

Full Body #1

Day One
Squat - 3-5 x 5-15
Stiff Legged Deadlift - 3 x 10-15
Bench Press - 3-5 x 5-15
Pullups or Chin -3-5 x 5-15
Calf Raises - 2 x 5-20
Crunches - 2 x 5-20

Day Two
Deadlift - 3-5 x 5-15
Military Press - 3-5 x 5-15
Close Grip Bench Press or Dips - 2-3 x 5-15
Barbell Curl - 3-5 x 5-15
Wrist Curls - 2 x 15-20
Reverse Crunches - 2 x 5-15

Full Body #2

Day One
Squat - 3x10
Bench - 3x6
Chins or Pulldowns - 3x6
Calf Raises - 3x15
Crunches - 3x12

Day Two
Leg Presses - 2x15
Partial Deadlifts - 3x6
Seated Dumbbell Press - 3x6
One Arm Dumbbell Rows - 3x8
Dumbbell Curls - 3x12

Both of these programs are as efficient as you can get to balanced, practical full body training.

One issue that comes up with full body training is balancing your assistance work. One really good approach is to make one of the two workouts all lower body assistance work and the other one, all upper body assistance.

The first of the following workouts will allow you to hit bench while scorching your legs, and the next one you can annihilate your whole upper body! 

Full Body #3

Day One
Squat - 3-5 x 5-15
Bench Press - 3-5 x 5-15
Lunges -3-5 x 5-15
Glute-Ham Raises - 2 x 5-20
Calf Raises - 2 x 5-20

Day Two
Partial Deadlift/Rack Pulls - 3-5 x 5-15
Military Press - 3-5 x 5-15
Weighted Chins with Curl Grip - 3-5 x 5-15
Weighted Dips - 2-3 x 5-15
Dumbbell Curls - 2 x 15-20