Driven Part 2 Maximum Progress as an Intermediate Bodybuilder!
No Nonsense Magazine Vol 21, #4
By: Steve Colescott, The Guerrilla Journalist
“Cycle Training? What's That?”, asks three-time Mr. Olympia Frank Zane. “A way to ride bicycles more effectively? Well, not quite. It's just a new method to achieve your bodybuilding goals.”1
Zane was obviously decades ahead of other bodybuilders, discussing periodization when only Fred “Dr. Squat” Hatfield and Soviet/Eastern Bloc strength coaches were even familiar with the concept. It is the advancement of training and nutrition science, combined with hard work and commitment, that has taken local and state level bodybuilders to a level similar to the champions of these earlier decades.
If you followed the beginner program covered in Driven (Part 1), that was the introduction to a periodization program with two phases to help you make it to intermediate. Hopefully you feel driven to bump it up to the next level.
According to bodybuilding legend Bill Pearl,2 “An intermediate is a trainee who has been training with a beginner's routine for six months to one year and whose gains have slowed on these routines.” If you followed part one of this series, this Intermediate Program should save you before your gains stall out.
SO WHAT CHANGES SHOULD YOU EXPECT WITH THE INTERMEDIATE PROGRAM?
1. Increased training volume
2. A three-way bodypart split
3. Stick to an exercise (but not forever)
4. Training that focuses on both strength and muscle growth
5. A more serious diet
The Beginner Program gave specific exercises, sets and reps. This Intermediate Program provides the basics to diet and training but guides you in learning how to wisely personalize it to your needs.
INCREASED TRAINING VOLUME
“I have always believed that to develop each bodypart thoroughly the section must receive a complete workout,” says early Mr. America winner Jack Delinger,3 who was ahead of his time. “Obviously, a single exercise cannot accomplish this.”
Bumping your training from the beginner level involves heavier weights and an increase in the number of exercises, sets and reps. I have no doubt your strength has made some impressive gains since you started. I recommend that you keep track of your training in a notebook. Being able to look back at previous months (and eventually years) not only shows which areas have not progressed as much as others, but if you ever question your progress, comparing this week to 3, 6, 12, or 24 months ago will fill you with much deserved pride.
With each advancement with the Driven Program, we will have gradual increases in volume and frequency. By gradual, this means when glancing at the program it may be barely noticeable. The number of sets does not bounce from 19-20 per workout to 45-48. The frequency does not change from three sessions a week to “six days on/ Sundays off.” It includes small, gradual increases
You will notice some variance in the number of sets listed (2-3 sets; 3-4 sets). Since this is included on many of the sets, it provides a significant adjustment range of the number of sets per workout (25-33, 28-34, 23-29).
How should you determine what works best for you? You need to see how your body responds. During the first two times through the three sessions, train with the low range of sets and check out how sore and rundown you feel. I say two times because this program is a major advancement, so it should pound your body pretty good. If you find yourself too tired, sore and unenthusiastic during your third run through the three sessions, then stay at the lowest number in the set range. After six to eight times through, attempt another increase in sets, as you should be ready to advance in volume at this point. If you are not ready, then perhaps your nutrition and rest is not being optimized enough for you to properly recuperate from gym battles.
How should you make a volume increase? Add a set in the first exercise per bodypart. For example, in the lower body session, simply increase the first exercise (leg curl), the third movement (a compound leg exercise), and the seventh (calf exercise). In the upper body — push workout, you would go up one set in the second (chest) exercise, the fourth (delt press) and the seventh (triceps) exercise. For the upper body — pull workout increase a single set for the second (back), fourth (rear delt), fifth (trapezius) and sixth (biceps) exercises.
After going through the sessions three or four more times, consider adding a set to each of the remaining exercises. Go by feel on this. You should have had the basic adaptation to the program at this point and your enthusiasm for progress should be the primary gauge for volume increase.
In the Beginners Program, we had three training sessions a week, followed by four sessions a week.
The four-days-a-week program in the second phase split the body into two groups, with them each being trained twice weekly. This is a quality program but the volume of training is limited when you are training half of your body in the session. This is why we will be splitting the body into three sections for the intermediate program. We will be utilizing the “lower body/push/pull” split in phase 1.
LOWER BODY / PUSH / PULL
1. Lower Body
2. Upper Body — Push (Chest, Front and Side Deltoid, Triceps)
3. Upper Body — Pull (Back, Rear Delt, Biceps)
Your body has been split into three training segments, and you will be training on a two days on/ one-day off routine. This works out like this on a calendar:
|Tuesday||Upper Body — Push|
|Thursday||Upper Body — Pull|
|Sunday||Upper Body — Push|
|Monday||Upper Body — Pull|
So you won't be training chest and arms every Monday like all those guys in tank tops fighting over the bench or who gets to do some sloppy form barbell curls in the power rack. With this new schedule, each bodypart is trained seven times in a 31-day period.
You probably notice that with this new bodypart split, we are training each bodypart every 4-5 days. This differs dramatically from some of the pro bodybuilders that divide the body into 5-6 sections and train each segment once a week (chest on Monday, quads on Tuesday, etc...).
A study by respected researcher Brad Schoenfeld compared once to two times a week training frequencies of muscle groups.4 “Frequencies of training twice a week promote superior hypertrophic outcomes to once a week,” says Schoenfeld's study. “It can therefore be inferred that the major muscle groups should be trained at least twice a week to maximize muscle growth.” Also, it is mentioned, “whether training a muscle group three times per week is superior to a twice-per-week protocol remains to be determined.”
Even if we separate body parts distinctly into separate training sessions, they get brought into play as synergistic or support muscles to assist when training other body parts (especially in compound exercises). The biceps tend to assist when doing rows, chins or other back exercises. The triceps help in shoulder and chest pressing movements.
You'll find that we often do not list specific exercises in the program to follow. This allows you to personalize your program based on what equipment you have available and which movements you prefer. Do not change your choices regularly. Use the same exercise for at least five training sessions before changing it. You need to improve the reps and poundages capable and that will not happen if you continually change exercises. Focus on improvement, not “muscle confusion.”
As you can see with these workouts, we have a basic low-rep strength exercise towards the beginning of the session (some 1-6 rep power sets for legs, chest and back, with 6-10 reps on most other exercises). Increasing your strength in this exercise should be your primary goal for each workout. This is followed by a basic 8-12 rep range driving hypertrophy through either compound or isolation exercises. We also include some fairly high-reps (10-15 or more) for our finishing pump-based movements. Stay with this Phase 1 program for eighteen weeks (about four-and-a-half months).
THREE HARDCORE INTENSIFICATION TECHNIQUES
“It takes variation to force your body to keep responding to workouts,” says female bodybuilding legend Bev Francis 5, “and even more importantly, it keeps you fresh and stimulated mentally.” Our variation in the Intermediate Driven Program includes some hardcore training techniques that will be mixed into the program. To kick this off, we will include cheat reps, forced reps, and drop sets.
These are hardcore training programs for an intermediate lifter, even without adding intensification techniques. Only include these in sessions where you feel good, energetic and driven to bump it up a notch. Add these intensification techniques to NO MORE THAN ONE set per workout. We do not add these to our low-rep compound movements. The heavy squats, chest presses and back rows do not require added intensity. Those strength-building movements are incorporating heavy weight and pushed hard in strict form, and that is plenty to drive growth. These will be added more to the final higher-rep (8-12 or 10-15) exercises.
Cheat Reps. Cheat reps are the most overused movement in the gym. Those that do not value strict form cheat up their weights on most reps and reduce their progress just because they think they might impress other people. The truth is, experienced lifters are not impressed by how much weight you sloppily lift, they are impressed by how much effort you put into strict form to get every fiber in the targeted muscle group to exert a strong contraction.
For cheat reps, there are just a couple of exercises that we will work them in...bicep curls and lateral raises (with dumbbell or cables) are the two that come to mind. This involves a slight
movement in the shoulder during a curl (a 5-10% arch in the spine and lifting of the elbows) to help you finish that rep that was stalling on the way up, but then lower very strictly and slowly, emphasize the negative portion of the curl. Finish the rep that was only making it a third of the way up and then perform a second cheat rep. The trick is cheating as little as possible to finish and feel the lowering.
In the side laterals, there may be a slight squeeze by the trapezius or assist by the front delts. While those are two things you want to eliminate for 98% of your lateral raise reps, when using them to finish the upward rotation, follow with a PERFECT slow lowering of the resistance.
Forced Reps. Forced reps are a superior option to cheat reps, but require a training partner or spotter. A forced rep refers to being able to complete a rep in strict form when your muscles were unable to do so on their own, thanks to a very minor assistance from someone. On an incline barbell press, you may have stalled on the eleventh repetition, but your spotter (who just had a couple of fingers from each hand resting underneath the bar) lifted just 10-15 pounds, reducing the poundage near your weak point (which might be a couple inches when you are just over halfway to lockout). Once again, this is just for the last two reps. We are not going to include these on our heavy low-rep sets, but just our higher rep movements.
Drop Sets. The third intensification technique is drop sets. Imagine you are doing an incline press on a machine for 14 reps with 100 pounds. It is your final set of a high-rep exercise for
pectorals. On this particular machine, you would not currently be able to complete a fifteenth rep with that weight. But what if you started out with 120 pounds on there, and only got ten
reps until failure, immediately dropped the pin in the weight stack to 100 pounds, and got three more reps (with no rest), dropped the pin down to 80 pounds, and got three more...was that a superior manner to hit some added muscle fibers? Hell yes, it is!
Drop sets are a great intensification strategy, but must be used minimally. Doing this on a heavy compound leg exercise (like squats, leg presses, belt squats) is intense, and you may need to take a nap after you get home from the gym because it can take a lot out of you.
Drop sets are very useful (and less crushing of your recuperative system) for dumbbell side laterals. Mr. Olympia Larry Scott would go “down the rack.” For instance, let's say that you find 20-pound dumbbells are your 8-12 rep poundage. We start out with 25-pound dumbbells and do as many perfectly strict reps as possible (maybe just 6-7). Then you immediately switch to the 20-pound weights and get as many reps as possible. Then you step down to the 15-pound dumbbells, and get as many reps as possible. You should have gotten a great pump from this exercise and Larry Scott built amazing cannonball delts on his once narrow shoulder structure. You can also try this drop set technique on dumbbell shrugs, upright rows, calf presses, leg extensions, leg curls, overhead presses, and many other exercises. Keep in mind, just use one of these intensification techniques per workout.
PHASE 1 - SESSION 1
LOWER BODY (QUADS, HAMSTRINGS, POSTERIOR CHAIN, CALVES)
1. Isolation Hamstring Exercise 3-4x6-10
2. Compound Leg Exercise 6x6/5/4/6/5/4 (later 5/4/3/5/4/3, 4/3/2/4/3/2, and then 3/2/1/3/2/1)
3. Compound Leg Exercise 3-4x8-12
4. Finishing Leg Exercise 3-4x10-15
5. Posterior Chain Compound Exercise 3-4x8-12
6. Calf Exercise 3-4x8-12
7. Calf Exercise 3-4x10-15
1. After doing your warm up, go into some type of leg curl. You will find a hamstring pump almost gives you a little bounce that adds to your leg strength.
2. The first Compound Leg Exercise is designed to be completely strength-based. This would be some version of the squat (wide power squat, medium-stance power squat, safety bar squat, front squat, box squat). If necessary, you can use the power squat machine, or belt squats, or (only if you have no other choice) the leg press.
|PHASE 1 - SESSION 1|
|For the first lower body session:||6/5/4/6/5/4||230x6 / 245x5 / 265x4 / 230x6 / 245x5 / 265x4|
|Second training session:||5/4/3/5/4/3||245x5 / 265x4 / 285x3 / 245x5 / 270x4 / 295x3|
|Third training session:||4/3/2/4/3/2||275x4 / 295x3 / 315x2 / 275x4 / 295x3 / 315x2|
|Fourth training session:||3/2/1/3/2/1||305x3 / 325x2 / 355x1 / 315x3 / 335x2 / 370x1|
|Fifth training session:||6/5/4/6/5/4 (stronger)||250x6 / 270x5 / 295x4 / 260x6 / 275x5 / 305x4|
This rep scheme is considered multi-level double wave loading.
3. Following your leg strength exercise, we want to do a second exercise for moderate reps. Good choices are leg presses, belt squats, and machine squats (such as Tru-Squats, or hack squats.) This would be where we might include some forced reps on the final set of the exercises. This would involve having a training partner or spotter help just enough by pushing against the carriage or lifting the plate-loading bar for a Tru-Squat or hack squat machine to keep the weight moving when you take it to failure. They can help you get one or two added reps in that final set. On the leg press, you can press gently against your knees to help yourself do it.
4. Your finishing leg exercise is a higher rep pumping movement, such as leg extensions, or a single leg movement (such as lunges, single-legged leg press, or step-ups).
5. To hit your posterior chain (lower back, glutes, hamstrings) use Romanian deadlift, glute-ham raise, reverse hyperextension, stiff-legged deadlift, or good morning. Focus on a strong contraction.
6. Going heavy and for a full range-of-motion, choose 45° Calf Press, Standing Calf, Donkey Calf Raise or any calf machines available. Get a slight pause at both stretch and contraction on all of your sets of both exercises.
7. Seated Calf Raises should be your choice (about half of the time) for the second calf exercise. You can also do any of the available calf exercises for a slightly higher rep range and shorter rest periods. Once again, go for the stretch pause at the bottom and the contraction pause at the top.
According to Australian strength trainer/writer Ian King,6 “Multiple wave sets are intended for the exposure of the first wave to enhance the second wave, and if there's a third wave, the second wave to enhance the third wave.” I find a mental benefit to this second rep-wave and I look forward to each progressive week in the program. Keep in mind that even though you are trying to build strength, not every set is 100% personal record breaking. That fourth session, with single-rep sets should be the most difficult, but possible...otherwise you chose unrealistic poundages. Go through the series (four leg training sessions building to lower reps waves) two or three times before changing exercises. Build serious strength over time. This exercise should be the most serious goal each lower body session.
PHASE 1 - SESSION 2
UPPER BODY — PUSH (CHEST, SHOULDERS, TRICEPS)
1. Compound Chest 4x10/8/6/3-4
2. Isolation Chest 3-4x8-12
3. Compound Chest 2-3x10-1
4. Overhead Press 3-4x6-10
5. Lateral Raise 3-4x8-12
6. Finishing Delt Exercise 2-3x10-15
7. Triceps Exercise 3x6-10
8. Triceps Exercise 3x8-12
9. Triceps Exercise 2x10-15
1. After general warm-up and a few warm-up sets, we are choosing a compound pressing movement (incline or flat dumbbell presses, flat or incline bench press or barbell or dumbbell floor press) and gradually increase poundages for the final low-rep set.
2. Since we are going for an isolation movement, dumbbell flyes, pec deck, or cable crossovers are excellent examples to give your triceps a break while working your pecs. Incline, flat or decline flye presses are also great options.
3. Pec Dips (elbows wide, deep stretch at bottom, stopping short of locked elbows at top) are an excellent finishing movement. Various machine presses (Hammer Strength and Nautilus have great options) or push-ups with added weight (chains in an X crossing your shoulders/traps) also are a great choice. Flat, incline or decline dumbbell or barbell presses for higher reps also works well.
For variety, every four to six workouts, do 8x8 for chest, using one simple compound movement, such as flat, incline or decline dumbbell presses, incline barbell presses, Smith machine or Hammer Strength presses. This involves moderately heavy weights, fairly short (90-second) rest periods and maximum chest pumps. This is in place of exercises 1-3.
4. Since the shoulder is a delicate ball-and-socket joint, make sure you are thoroughly warmed up. We are trying to train both the front and side deltoid head in this workout. An overhead press, using either dumbbells, a Smith or other machine is a great exercise. Perfect form is more important than heavy reps. The Arnold (or Scott) Press brings in both side and front deltoids quite a bit.
5. For cannonball delts, we need maximum wide lateral delt growth. Go for perfect form (no trapezius assist), with the arm rotated so that the pinky side of your hand is higher than the thumb. Use dumbbells, cables or machine laterals. If standing, leaning slightly forward at the waist will keep the lateral head working (and not letting the front delt take over).
6. For a finishing deltoid movement, consider upright rows (dumbbells, bar, cables), any kind of overhead press, front raise (single-dumbbell, dumbbells, cable, plate, bar or other machine) movement. Make sure you choose an exercise that give you a good pump with the higher reps.
7. Your triceps should be warmed up fairly well. For a basic heavy exercise, consider close-grip benches, lying triceps extensions, dumbbell rolling extensions or any heavy extensions or tricep dips.
8. For the moderate-rep exercise, there are a variety of possible triceps exercises: pushdowns, machine extensions, dumbbell extensions (seated, decline bench, incline),
close-grip presses, dumbbell French press, kickbacks...
9. For a finisher, any of the listed triceps exercises also works well at higher reps. I also recommend fairly close-grip push-ups with hands on a bar (placed at lowest Smith
machine or power rack setting). If you get really high reps, you can add weight with chains or elevate your feet on a bench.
1. Zane, Frank. “Maximum Gains from Cycle Training,” Muscle Training Illustrated, November/December 1969
2. Pearl, Bill. “Pearls” column, Ironman, November 1988
3. Delinger, Jack. “A Mr. America Thigh Program,” Muscle Builder/Power, January 1954
4. Schoenfeld, Brad. “Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis” https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40279-016-0543-8
5. Francis, Bev. “Total Lower Body Blowout,” Flex, January 1989
6. King, Ian. “The Wave Loading Manifesto,” https://www.t-nation.com/training/wave-loading-manifesto March 7, 2005
7. Bass, Clarence. “My Training Philosophy,” Ironman, November 1981
PHASE 1 - SESSION 3
UPPER BODY — PULL (BACK, REAR DELTS, BICEPS)
1. Compound Back Exercise 4x10/8/6/3-4
2. Isolation or Compound Back Exercise 3-4x8-12
3. Compound Back Exercise 2-3x10-15
4. Rear Deltoid Exercise 3-4x8-12
5. Trapezius Exercise 3-4x6-10
6. Biceps Exercise 3x6-10
7. Biceps Exercise 3x8-12
8. Biceps Exercise 2x10-15
1. After a thorough warm-up, you need to choose a basic compound back movement. This could be chin-ups, lat pulldowns, bent-over barbell rows, Hammer Strength rows, or other machine pulldowns or rows. Now the back is a complex muscle group, with chins and pulldowns focusing on lat width while rowing movements focus on mid back and thickness. Every 4-6 weeks switch from width to thickness focus, unless one particular area is a weakness for your body. Even though we are going heavy, keep to strict form and hold each contraction in order to really work the muscles.
2. You may notice that I list “isolation or compound.” If you find that you tend to get a bicep pump and not so much of a feel in your back, go to an isolation movement to give your biceps a break. Good choices include machine pullovers or bent-arm barbell pullovers, straight-arm cable pulldowns, or various machine exercises. Otherwise, choose a different compound movement for a medium rep range (still pausing at the contracted point). Most lifters should do a width lat movement here if they did a rowing exercise for the first movement and vice versa.
3. Finish up with a good compound exercise...seated cable rows, lat pulldowns, chins, one-arm dumbbell rows, chest-supported rows, or any other machine movement you like. Again, hold the contraction for a second and get a hard squeeze.
For variety, every four to six workouts, substitute all three of the above exercises for 8 sets of 8 reps for back, using one simple compound movement, such as bent-over barbell rows, lat pulldowns, seated cable rows, or chest-suspended rows. Just like in the chest version, go for moderately heavy weights and a fairly short (90-seconds) rest period. Squeeze at contraction so that you get a shirt-stretching pump.
4. Why do we train this area when deltoid work is part of another day? Rear delts get more contraction assisting with back training. Keep very good form (and a pause in contraction). Good exercises include bent-over dumbbell (or cable) rows, reverse pec deck or face pulls.
5. To build the trapezius, we can do dumbbell/barbell shrugs, barbell/dumbbell/cable upright rows, or machine shrugs (or done on a standing calf raise, using the shoulder
6. The back training helped warm up your biceps. You may need a warm-up set though since this is a heavy bicep exercise. This involves a very basic curl (barbell curls, dumbbell curls, incline dumbbell curls) done in strict form for bicep strength.
7. Scott (preacher) curls are a great mass building movement, but do better as a second movement to ensure you are thoroughly warmed up. Other great options are machine curls, cable curls, under-grip chin-ups or barbell drag curls.
8. Any of the exercises listed above are good options, at this slightly higher repetition range. I also recommend that you try to work in Zottman curls, dumbbell hammer or reverse curls fairly often to build your brachialis. On your last set, have your training partner help you complete one or two last reps if you stall on the curl or do a slight hip/lower back drive to cheat up those added two reps (going as minimally out of strict form as necessary).
9. (Optional) If you feel that you need some forearm growth, I recommend that you include 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps of wrist curls.
INTERMEDIATE PHASE 1 PROGRAM WRAP-UP
Once you have completed 18 weeks of the Intermediate Phase 1 program it’s time to switch to Phase 2. In Phase 2 we’ll be using a different workout split consisting of legs/chest and back/shoulders and arms. We will discuss that in the next article. You should take pride in the accomplishment and look through your training records (you better have written them all down!) to see exactly how much strength progress you have accomplished.
The key to success is to never compare yourself to champion lifters nor care how other people assess your build. Appreciate not only the goals that you accomplish, but the journey you are traveling. Retired champion and author Clarence Bass says,7 “If I continue to compete against myself, every workout and every year, I'll succeed in my goal. I will be the best bodybuilder I can be.” Focus on your improvement, enjoy the progress, but do not judge yourself against others. If you enjoy the Intermediate stage in this article, then the upcoming Advanced plan of action may also be part of your successful future.