Last week I wrote a blog entry discussing the basic template I use to design my training sessions.  You can read “How I train” (Part 1) here.  I also mentioned last week that, this week, I would go into more detail as to the reasoning behind why I do things the way I do.

As I mentioned last week, I focus on 6 basic movement patterns for the strength training portion of my sessions.  Again, these are:

-Vertical pulling

-Vertical pushing

-Horizontal pulling

-Horizontal pushing

-Quad dominate

-Hip dominate

Most people are not at all used to thinking of training movement patterns.  They follow a typical bodybuilding/body part split which usually results in:

-Chest day

-Back day

-Shoulder day

-Arm day

-Leg day (although this often gets skipped over)

There are a few reasons as to why I don’t train clients or myself like this.

1. It’s not practical. As you can see, with a typical body part split, it takes 5 days just to train the entire body.  I have very few clients who train more than 3 days a week.  If I followed this kind of split, it would take me a week and a half to train someone’s body.  It just doesn’t work.  Now you may be thinking, “So why don’t you double them up?” which would result in something like this:

-Chest and tris

-Back and bis

-Legs and shoulders

While this does solve the issue of it taking so long to train the entire body, I believe there are still several flaws in training this way.  Which leads us to number two.

2. Volume. When people follow the traditional body part split, there is a great deal of volume of work for each body part.  Let’s look at what could be a typical chest session.  Someone might do bench press, incline bench, dips, dumbbell flys, and cable crossovers.  That gives us 5 exercises for the chest in 1 day.  For the general population, unless you’re a genetic freak or taking steroids, this amount of work for a body part is too much.  The body isn’t able to recover in a way that creates strength gains.  Now, when someone first starts training, yes, they can make gains this way.  But most people can make gains doing just about anything when they first start.  It’s once they get down the road a little way that it becomes trouble.

Genetic freak + steroids=the ability to do a ton of volume

3.  Isolation moves don’t burn as many calories. When it comes to designing programs for my clients, I’m always looking at how to get the most bang for their buck.  I have a limited amount of time to get as much done as I possibly can, which doesn’t leave any time for things that aren’t incredibly productive.  Movements like bicep curls, tricep extensions, shrugs, calf raises, etc. just don’t burn many calories, nor do they do a great deal for someones strength.  A client is going to get a lot more actual work done by doing big compound movements.  Instead of bicep curls, do rows and pull ups.  Instead of tricep work do push ups and bench presses.  Unless you’re competing in a body building or figure athlete competition, there should be very little room for much of these kinds of movements in your routine (like an arm day).

4.  Isolation moves aren’t really isolation moves. When someone does a lateral shoulder raise, the typical thought is that it’s isolating the shoulder.

However, whats really happening is, while the shoulder contracts, so do the abs and the back.  So, a movement that is supposed to isolate really becomes more of a compound movement.

5. Time. When someone is following a typical body part split a lot of time gets wasted.  If someone is doing a bench press, they are wasting a lot of time resting up for the next set.  The way I design things, if someone does a bench press, their chest gets rest while they’re off doing a horizontal pulling movement.  This still gives rest to specific movement patterns, but gets twice the amount of work done in the same amount of time.

With the 6 movement patterns I design my sessions around, you get a great deal of caloric burn for every exercise.  Things like deadlifts, squats, pull ups, push presses, push ups, bench press, rows, etc are incredibly compound.  This, in turn, demands a greater amount of calories for them to be performed, which helps us get lean.  When you only do 1-2 exercises per movement pattern in a day, you have the ability to recover which leads to greater strength gains and more muscle.  And the more muscle we have the more calories we burn throughout the day.  Isn’t it nice how all of that works?

I would encourage you to look at what you are currently doing in your training sessions and begin to look at exercises as movement patterns rather than body part specific.  Either later this week or the start of the next, I will write more on how to set up your training sessions using these types of movement patterns.