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Workout Routines - Overview
Most bodybuilders will split up their bodyparts (not literally, ouch!) over two or more workouts. Cheif reasons for this are that to train every bodypart in one workout is too taxing, takes too long and you can't train each bodypart with sufficient intensity or volume of training (though beginners can train the whole body in one workout as their muscle mass is normally quite low and so the body can recover rapidly from whole body workouts).
Normally, when deciding what workouts to do, a bodybuilder will use some of their experience, knowledge and their current state of developement to choose which bodyparts to train with others and how many workouts they will be spread over and also how many times they will train per week. Common routines are:
The Push / Pull System : Overview
The push pull system splits your body up into three individual workouts, and commonly these are each performed once per week, giving the system a one week cycle.
The push pull system is so named because of the way your muscles are grouped together in the workouts. All the 'push' muscles (Chest, front and side delts, and triceps) are trained in one workout, the 'pull' muscles (back, rear delts, traps and biceps) are trained in the second workout and legs in the third and final workout.
The push / pull system offers some key benefits over most other routines:
As you can see, the advantages over most other routines are considerable! Cheif amongst these is the sheer amount of rest your muscles get between workouts - most muscles will get a full week of uninterupted rest! Lets look at another workout routine and show you show you just how much more advantageous the push / pull system is over it. At random I picked this workout to compare:
Workout routines comparison
Back and chest; arms; delts and calves; quads and hams
Lets start by looking at how often pushing and pulling muscles are trained. Pushing muscles (chest, front and side delts and triceps) are training in three of the four workouts (!) as are the pulling muscles (back in workout 1, biceps in workout 2 and rear delts in workout 3).
Immediately this shows us that rest-wise, this is a very poor workout routine. Your triceps would be worked in three of your four workouts! They would be in a permenant state over being overtrained and as a result getting them to grow would be very difficult. Perhaps you are experiencing something like this today? The same goes for biceps - they get trained twice per week in this plan, one on back day and once on arms day.
Having muscles affected in multiple workouts also diminishes the way you can train. Say in the above example you train arms on Tuesday and delts and calves on Wednesday. Your triceps will be extremely fatigued on the delts and calves day as they'll have been trained less than 24 hours ago and so any delt exercise that uses triceps (any pressing movement!!) will be severely affected. In fact it's likely that in your pressing exercises your triceps give out very early in the sets and your delts will be only lightly affected. Not good at all!
Looking back at the push / pull system you can see that these issues are almost entirely resolved - biceps and triceps are each only trained or affected once per week, in their intended workouts. Far more efficient and far more productive. Of course, if you recover very quickly from your workouts (though don't forget to allow time to grow - recovery is different and prior to growth!) - you may train more than three times per week...
Training frequency using the push / pull system
I recommend training three times per week when on this system to allow maximum
time for rest and recovery, especially if you are natural.
Some people may prefer to train more than three times per week and this is more allowable on this system than any other, simply because the overlap between the workouts is minimal. You can rigidly structure the timing of your workouts if you wish or be more flexible in your training and train when you feel recovered enough (a more eclectic style). Some chemically enhanced trainers may even train six days a week - performing the three workouts twice over six days and then taking a day off before repeating the double cycle. This is very very intense and should only be attempted by advanced trainers taking optimum nutrition and rest, in my opinion.
For beginners I recommend you keep to training just the three times per week as it is a great way to help avoid overtraining and ensure maximum results. Personally I train as and when I feel recovered. This intimate knowledge of your body can take many years to develop and is a great tool in helping you to achieve your best possible results. If you are not strict with yourself however you can end up using this as a way of cheating yourself out of workouts and becoming lazy.
The push / pull system is designed to minimise the risk of overtraining by considered grouping of your muscles so that overlap between your workouts is kept to an absolute minimum. In my opinion most of the other workout routines have many disadvantages when compared to the push pull system and I urge you to give the push pull system a three month test if you have not tried it before.