2014 cut: full weight training report.
Yesterday JSF member “DFS” asked how my lifts have gone over the past 8 weeks of cutting, and I wanted to address that excellent question in this morning’s blog.
This year’s cut was very different from any previous cut I’ve done. In the past I’ve always utilized various “bodybuilder” style weight training programs, which typically consist of 3-5 day training splits and a mix of compound and isolation exercises.
For those who may not be familiar with those terms, here’s a brief primer…
“Compound” exercises are multi-joint exercises that work more than one muscle group at the same time. Examples of compound exercises include deadlifts, squats, bench press, clean & jerk and so on.
“Isolation” exercises are usually single-joint exercises that target just one particular muscle group. Examples of isolation exercises include barbell curls, triceps extensions, crunches and standing calf-raises.
In general compound exercises provide the best bang for your training buck because they target multiple muscle groups at once. Isolation exercises are way overused by the general exercising public. You’ve all seen the bros doing endless sets of curls (usually in the damn squat rack). Most of those guys need to give the curl bar a rest and squat.
“Training splits” in weight lifting involve dividing the various muscle groups up, and then focusing on those specific muscle groups for a particular workout. All the weight training in the world won’t help if you don’t allow your muscles time to recover and grow, so the idea here is to work a particular group of muscles on one day, then leave those muscles alone for a few days to a week while they recover.
There are lots of different ways to go about training splits, and over the years I’ve tried just about everything at one time or another. One very common type of split is a 3-day system, which involves grouping “push” muscles into one workout, “pull” muscles into another workout and then a lower body day. For example delts, pecs and triceps are “push” muscles, while biceps, back and forearms are “pull” muscles.
The three day split can be further divided into 4, 5 or even more days. This is often done to allow for increased intensity, and/or to focus on lagging muscle groups.
Here’s an example of one of my 4-day training splits. I utilized this particular training split, with great success (video), for my 2008 Bulk:
Monday: Quads & Hamstrings
Tuesday: Chest & Triceps
Thursday: Back & Biceps
Friday: Delts, Traps & Calves
Getting back to my weight training for this year’s cut…
This year my focus was 100% on athletic performance–specifically cycling performance. Because I ride seven days per week, I elected to not directly train my lower body with weights during this cut (my lower body did receive some indirect weight training via compound exercises such as deadlifts, of course). That turned out to be a good choice, as my leg strength and muscle endurance have improved considerably over the past 8 weeks. Aesthetically speaking, my lower body muscle size and definition did not suffer.
My weight training program for this cut consisted of just one workout per week. Apart from ab rollouts, all my lifts were compound exercises.
It’s worth noting that my direct abdominal work was for abdominal/core strength (very important for cyclists); it had nothing to do with “six pack abs”. Training your abs is not the road to a ripped mid-section–see my article “Fat Loss 101: How do I get a “six pack”?“.
What I did this year was alternate between strength and intensity workouts.
One of the best ways to build/maintain muscle strength is to train using fairly low volume with very heavy weights. A typical low volume strength-focused workout for me might include 3-4 compound exercises using very challenging weights, 3 sets of each exercise, 4-6 reps (not including warm-up/acclimation sets), 2 minutes rest between sets, 3 minutes rest between exercises.
Intensity workouts are great for muscle endurance and even cardio. A typical intensity workout for this cut included 4-5 compound exercises using moderately challenging weights, 3-4 sets per exercise, 12-16+ reps (sometimes to failure), 60 seconds rest between sets, 2 minutes rest (maximum) between exercises. I also incorporated various intensity techniques such as supersets, giant sets, burnout sets, drop sets, etc.
I’m 26 pounds lighter than I was when I started my cut almost 8 weeks ago. As you might expect, I’ve lost some upper body size and strength. For the first couple weeks of my cut, my “strength” lifts went up, but those gains tapered off and eventually began to decline. Not a huge amount, but definitely a downward trend.
On the other hand, my muscle endurance and cardio shot through the roof. The intensity workouts saw increases in weight and reps as the cut wore on.
I can’t say any of the above surprised me much. Everything sort of played out the way I expected, which is a good thing.
Time to ride. Have a great Friday!