Structuring Frequent Full-Body Workouts
There has been some discussion on this blog (and through private correspondence) about the older lifter/athlete wanting and needing more frequent workouts – whether that is for physical, mental, emotional health or a combination of all three. Structuring such a plan takes time as the older trainee may also have many things to consider such as:
- if they perform other activities
- have past/current injuries
- extenuating health issues
- how long they’ve been training
- how hard they train
- how well they recover
And a host of other little nuances to contend with that need to be addressed, so the individual is always the best adviser when it comes to his or her own program. So, for most people who want to train 3x a week and perform full-body routines, I am going to throw out a matrix of sorts of how one can go about getting 3 FB sessions a week without leaving oneself tanked or overtrained. Please keep in mind the bullet points I addressed above and that you should not be married to only one way. If you need an extra day off, take it. If you only train 2x in a week, that’s fine. Sometimes it’s good to take 4-5 or even 6 days away from lifting and then get back into the 3x a week frenzy. You can also cycle your training weeks as well:
- Weeks 1-3: 3x a week full-body
- Weeks 4-6: once every 3rd day
- Weeks 7-9: 2x a week full-body
- Weeks 10-12: once every 3rd or 4th day
- Start cycle again
Additional Things To Consider
- First, consider the exercises that you can perform safely and effectively - performing an exercise that hurts makes zero sense
- Find a repetition range that works for you as well as reducing compressive forces with maximum muscle stimulation is the goal – high reps (and I mean HIGH), super sets, running-the-rack, pre-exhaust, cumulative training, etc. use whatever you need to do it safely.
- Know what muscles are the primary movers and which are the secondary – the dynamic and static involved muscles as well. A standing bicep curl primarily works the biceps and the forearms/hands are secondary muscle groups but don’t discount the midsection, traps and shoulder girdle as stabilizers. Knowing/feeling these type of things makes training more organic.
- Work on weaknesses – even if for a short period of time to bring up weaker areas of the body – and I mean weak in strength or flexibility.
- Focus on joint movements – flex and extend and rotate where applicable under safe conditions for maximum strength and mobility. Strength without mobility is a car without keys!
Now, let’s break the three workouts as follows:
Workout 1: Push emphasis
Workout 2: Lower Body emphasis
Workout 3: Pull Emphasis
Emphasis simply means more volume/exercises/attention will be performed for that area or movement. This can mean several different exercises or multiple sets of 1-4 main movements. The inclusion of 1-2 additional exercises for the non-emphasized areas will be included for that day. Over the course of the week, the goal is to hit all the muscles and joint functions but simply work an area a bit more on one specific day. Below are merely examples of exercises and how one might structure a program. Certain exercises and modalities take on new dynamics and that’s part of the fun. For instance, a bicep curl with a thin bar works the crushing grip much greater as does say duffel bag curls where as a dumbbell curl does not. Little nuances with different tools makes for endless interest.
For example, let’s look at a “push” emphasis day. A person who can safely perform dips and machine presses (either for chest or shoulders) might do a couple of sets each, and then finish up with one set of dumbbell deadlifts, bicep curl, neck extension, calf raise/toe press and wrist extension. The additional exercises give total coverage for the day as many muscle groups are being worked as the back is stabilizing throughout the deadlift and curl as well as stressing the lower body.
Lower body emphasis would then have that person perform hip adduction, hip abduction, leg ext and leg curl if available, leg press and again for one set each OR multiple sets or some other protocol that allows for a bit more volume of work. They then would include say a seated row, pushups or dips, abdominal crunch, gripper and/or wrist roller. Again, overlapping muscles being used as the muscles in the back play a big part in pressing – especially with the pushup and dip and the reaps/neck are being worked in the row. Calves are statically working though the leg curl. And use the grippers and wrist roller properly and they will work a lot of the shoulder musculature as stabilizers.
Workout 3, our “pull” day could consist of shrugs, pullover and/or pulldown, some rowing, reverse barbell curl, upright row or incline type press and include an area of the lower body that needs attention or you may to pass on legs with all the other activities you are doing.
Taking a look at the days, you can see how some muscles are being directly stimulated while some are secondary movers and on the other days those secondary muscles become primary movers. These are just some quick ideas to help you get started. Please feel free to comment and exchange ideas as this will always be evolving to some degree until you stop training.