What you’re about to read is the first article I wrote for Bodybuilding.com two months ago today on why I believe shortened, or abbreviated training can be beneficial to many lifters ranging from hardgainers to those of us – like yours truly – who are running on a tight schedule. If you’re reading this and hearing about abbreviated training for the first time then please feel free to write me with any questions you may have. I’m a big believer in this type of training and have been training this way for over 7 years now. Enjoy!
The Case For Abbreviated Training
I was first introduced to the idea of abbreviated training in 2009, when a trainer at my former gym told me about a book entitled Brawn. Originally released in 1991, it’s author, Stuart McRobert, wrote in extensive detail about the important of shortened, more simplistic training in comparison to the more complex routines found in magazines during the time of the book’s release. McRobert stressed that the average Joe couldn’t possibly get big or strong on a pro bodybuilder’s routine, but they could totally benefit by going back to the basics.
Let me clarify something first, the average Joe is not just a non-competitive bodybuilder. It’s someone like you and me, who works a day job five days out of the week and goes to home to multiple responsibilities. Some of you work more than one job, some of you have young children at home, and then there are other responsibilities that naturally hinder us from being able to just go to the gym and do multiple exercises in the course of four, five or even six days a week.
I can actually relate to this now more than ever as someone who recently competed in his first Powerlifting meet. I live in New Jersey but I work in Brooklyn, NY so it takes me a good hour an a half to get to and get home from work. Once I’m home I still have to prepare dinner, get ready for the next day, do things around the house, etc.
My current program, Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 for Powerlifting, calls for three or four day a week training; so what I decided to do was take the four day a week template and alternate it into a three day per week schedule in order to fit my daily needs as well as give myself time to recover from the previous workouts. That was a very important first step for me. The next thing I did for sake of shortening my training was reducing the amount of exercises I needed to do per training day.
This can especially benefit powerlifters. Are we training for looks come competition time or are we training to improve on the big three moves, Bench Press, Squat and Deadlift? If you chose the latter then keep reading! There are plenty of great powerlifting routines out there but if you’re like me and your trying to save time are you really going to waste your time training your secondary muscles? Sure, having thick lats can be beneficial, but are they what you’re using when you Deadlift? Fat chance! You need the power of those hamstrings and your glutes to help you bring that bar up. Same thing applies for Bench Presses. Once again referring to the lats, do they help you push the bar off your chest to the ceiling or do you need a thick chest along with strong triceps and shoulders to help you do the work?
So what’s the point of all of this? Because I’m strapped for time ten months out of the year I need to train in a way that’s practical and in order to do that I stripped my training of anything I found was unnecessary in helping to improve my functionality in the main lifts. In doing this I shortened my training dramatically and I still get results. Here’s an example of the way I currently train using just my working sets:
Overhead Press – 3 x 5/3/1
Barbell Curl – 3 x 10
Tricep Dips – 3 x 10
Deadlift – 3 x 5/3/1
Leg Curls – 3 x 10
Bench Press – 3 x 5/3/1
Dumbbell Bench Press or Chest Dips – 3 x 10
Row – 3 x 12 – any kind of rowing movement is fine
Squats – 3 x 5/3/1
Leg Press – 3 x 10
Upon reading this you might notice that I split the assistance leg work to two different days. I chose to do that purposely based on which assistance work helps with certain lifts. If I’m squatting then I’d rather just stick with Leg Presses to help me build muscle in my quads, just as I’d rather do Leg Curls on Deadlift days to strengthen my hamstrings. Therefore I have two strictly upper body days and two strictly lower body days, all even arranged as to save time and give me more bang for my buck. Oh, and one more thing. You’ll notice I put a rowing movement into Day 3’s routine. I did that because doing a rowing movement should at least help you build enough muscle to help you hold a better arch in your upper back. Jim Wendler, Elite FTS’s COO and the innovator of the 5/3/1 methind, said he believes in training for power in the front and bodybuilding in the rear; but that’s a more detailed topic for another article.
But this is just how I train, for the most part. It might be different for all of you. All I did was take a preset template and removed what I felt was wasting time, because time is money, of which I usually have none. So here’s something to think about in the future if you happen to fall in this category, because it’s amazing to see that the saying “less is more” actually fits here. So if you’re strapped for time and still want to train, get rid of the excuses and make a plan of action today!
Mike is an amateur powerlifter hoping to enter his second competition in the near future
Thanks for reading! You can read the original article minus the adjustments here if you like:
Hope you enjoyed it, remember to write me with any questions.