Q: First let me say your writings are excellent, the rare kind of bodybuilding articles which are both well-written and useful. It is ironic I found your blog, since you work in the UC system which my father and 2 brothers are part of and I feel a connection to, but am currently halfway across the world!
I just bought the Strength and Physique ebook, and I have a couple questions for you if you have the time. I’ll give you some background on my status:
I am 25 and have been in and out of gyms for a few years, but have been seriously working out for about 18 months now. I have been doing 4-5 days a week and focusing on one body part per day (your favourite! not really), and sometimes I would switch to full body workouts.
I have noticed improved posture, muscular definition and size (from 60kg-70kg at 5’7). Most of my reps are 6-10, and I usually do a reverse pyramid (start with 6 reps, decrease weight till 10 reps) with a lot of drop sets, assisted reps and negatives with occassional supersets/compound sets. I mostly want to have a symmetric, well built physique with perfect form and posture (I have a forward head posture, tight hams and overly curved spine which has improved since I started excercising regularly).
My concern is that the back-cycling workouts seem like they will take well over an hour (10X10 followed by 5X5 for decompression). How can you possibly do that many sets for 8 or 5 muscle groups with those resting times in an hour? And without sacrificing form?
Also I am not sure how you would define me, as a beginner or an intermediate (definately not advanced, although I have learned a lot). What would you say based on what I’ve told you? And is back-cycling the way to go after I just took a week off (from 2 months heavy lifting mostly to failure).
I am ready to go back to full body or a mix of full body and split as you recommend, but I want to make sure I do it right this time and I would appreciate your perspective.
Sorry if thats wordy, I tried to be quick!
My Answer: Glad you liked the book, Jowad. I’d say you’re somewhere between a beginner and intermediate lifter, given the detailed information you’ve provided me. It’s all subjective of course. I usually judge a person as a beginner, intermediate or advanced depending on
1) His knowledge of training.
2) His physique. It doesn’t have to Olympian sized mass, just well-built.
3) His execution of exercises. In other words, perfect form on a wide variety of gym exercises.
Now with regards to backcycling: 10×10 is done for three weeks, then 5×5 is done for 3-4 weeks. They are not done together. It wasn’t clear from your question whether you knew that, so I thought I’d clarify that in case you didn’t.
Now 10×10 can be done a number of ways. You can do every body part as 10×10. Obviously you can’t cram every body part into one workout, so this means you have to use a three to four-way split routine. You wouldn’t be able to use a full-body routine or my hybrid full-body/split routine mentioned in the ebook.
The more practical option is to use the 10×10 protocol on select muscle groups. This way you can use my hybrid full-body/split routine, since it allows for a muscle specialization day. Here’s how it would look if you wanted to specialize in the chest and back:
Day 1: Chest 10×10, Back 10×10
Day 2: Full body workout
Day 3: off
Day 4: Full body workout
Day 5: off
Day 6: Full body workout
Day 7: off
This hybrid routine is far more efficient than the crude 3-4 way split routines found in muscle mags. Given that you’ve been bashing your muscles with a program heavy on set extenders and shock techniques, you are due for a decompression phase. Forget the 10×10, since that is reserved for density training. 5×5 will do just fine for your decompression phase, but this means no forced reps, no negatives, no compound sets and no descending sets.