Full Upper Body

Full Upper Body

Training Notes:
A1: Set this up on a functional trainer or equivalent cable system. Use the exercise to get your elbows warmed up and triceps contracting hard. Take the last set to failure. Rest 30 sec before A2.
A2: Loop a mini band around your wrists. The band tension should be light-to-moderate. Raise your arms up straight in front of you to chest height and have your fingertips on a wall. Pull the band apart by contracting your rear delts while reaching through your hands to protract your scaps. The movement should be small "crawls" up and down the wall while maintaining tension in the band. Try your best to stay moving for the duration of the time. Rest 30 sec before returning to A2.
B: The angle of decline should be ~30º here. Start conservative in load and intensity until the mechanics of the variation are refined. Note that the ROM will be shorter than flat bench press and the bar will touch lower on the chest/upper abdomen. Try to have a spotter if possible to assist with hand-offs. 
C1: The angle of incline should be ~45º. Grip should be semi pronated. Get a full ROM on each rep. Rest ~60 sec before C2. 
C2: Make sure to set this up with enough clearance underneath to get a full stretch. Think of this movement like a ring pull-up. Rotate from pronated to supinated through the concentric. Make sure to reach in the stretch and allow your scaps to elevate. Take your time going through these and attempt to feel the tension in your lats. Take the last set to 1RIR. Full rest before returning to C1.
D: Try to perform these on a plate-loaded, isolateral machine if possible. The canonical machine is the Hammer Strength version but the most important aspect is that it has a similar strength curve. Take your time working up to the top set but perform feeders so as to not add too much fatigue. Reduce load by ~15% for the down set. Take as much rest as needed between each arm and set here. Try to keep all tension in the lats throughout.
E1: Note the eccentric tempo. Get a full stretch at the bottom and add shoulder flexion at the top to accentuate the contraction. These should be heavy but also strict. Take the last set to failure. Rest ~20 sec before E2. 
E2: Use the same weight as E1 and rep these out with controlled form. Try to bring the bar up to about shoulder height at the top of the rep. Allow the load to swing out from your body slightly through the concentric to prevent jamming at the shoulder joints. Some body English is acceptable here as long as it's purposeful. Take the last set to failure. Full rest before returning to E1.
F: Use a load that would be about your 20 rep max but aim for 30 reps per set. After failing with a full ROM, perform the remaining reps to 30 as partials from the bottom. Only rest ~60 sec between sets and aim for a huge pump!


Additional Notes:

I find the logic underlying the avoidance of condensed and efficient training splits interesting. 

It seems like everyone and their mother assumes that the first place to start on the journey to jacked-dum is with “Chest Days” and one-time-a-week frequencies. 

The source of this belief can be traced back to every Muscle Mag and YouTube video that parroted the idea that  because the most jacked and strong people tend to break their training up by body part, that must be evidence of some underlying cause-and-effect. They saw the outcome and assumed the process.

Watching Ronnie Coleman do a “Delt Day” was inspiration for many a teenage boy (myself included). In hearing interviews with any high-level Bikini athlete, it would seem almost self-explanatory that the only path to having glutes like theirs would be to *drumroll* have glute-specific days. And please don’t get me started on the concept that everyone needs an Arm Day…


Why wouldn’t a pervasive belief system develop when the highest levels of the sport seem to be dominated by a common practice? 

Well, Appeals to Authority unfortunately aren’t enough. We should know better than to mindlessly attest to something just because so-and-so said it was true. Digging deeper than surface-level is warranted. And when we search beyond the dogmatic reductionism, we find that there is more to the story than has been told. 

There exists a shadow-world; one of rebels and contrarians that seek to forge their own paths independent of the prevailing group-think. In this world, eccentricity is seeded. New ideas are allowed to blossom. Rather than face ostracism and banishment, the dissenter is encouraged to ask questions and follow the answers down whichever rabbit hole they might go. 

Removing the fallacious skyhooks so entrenched within the “common knowledge” of training allows for objective reasoning and unbiased testing to replace the mythos of “Because I said so” that has far-too-long shielded incompetency and ignorance. And from this, the slate is wiped clean enabling the right questions to be asked. Once all emotion and prejudice and nostalgia and propaganda has been amputated, the only thing left is the truth. 


What are some questions that our spirited heretics have dared to propose? You might be familiar with some of them…


Are free weights truly better than machines and cables?

Can we really burn more fat by lifting in higher rep ranges?

Is there actually something intrinsic to the Squat, Deadlift, and Bench Press that make them superior to other variations?

You can probably see where this is going…

Is there really a benefit to maximal division over condensation within a split? Is a “Chest Day” better than a Push Day? What about Full Upper Body? 


The natural line of reasoning brings us to:

Pecs+Delts+Triceps = Push

Pecs+Lats+Traps+Biceps+Triceps+Delts = Upper Body

Glutes+Quads+Hamstrings+Calves = Lower Body

And if we take it far enough, we might even find a FULL BODY session *gasps*


Luckily enough for us, these trailblazers have been astute enough to collect data along the way. If the status quo is to be believed, we should see markedly WORSE outcomes in these cases. If the titans of bodybuilding that have served as the standard bearers are correct, the more specific and broken-down training splits would reign quantitatively supreme. 


But that’s not what the numbers say…


In independent meta-analyses done on the effects of frequency on muscular hypertrophy and strength, it was found that INCREASING frequency from one to two times per week potentiates better outcomes for BOTH!

This means that shifting from a traditional Bro-split to something more akin to upper/lower/upper/lower will generally lead to bigger and stronger muscles. 

Does this effect continue from two to three times per week? Possibly but the results are still a bit unclear. 

Can we extrapolate these results to infer anything about how to optimally structure training splits? You betcha!


The reason why professional athletes and those at the pinnacle of their respective sports tend to defer towards these hyper-specific splits is because they’re: 

1) Attempting to target a certain body part specifically with the understood deprioritization of other muscles 

2) Training around accumulated injuries that inevitably occur at the highest levels of performance 

3) Training around muscle groups that have become dominant 

4) Controlling for the greater intensity and thus muscle damage that they’re able to achieve

Or any combination of the above. 

The people who are actually able to see benefits from individual body-part splits are going to be the ones with the most specific needs. These are going to be the strongest, most muscular, most injured, or even those who aren’t really trying to improve anything but rather maintain what they have built. 

And if it’s not clear by this point, that type of person is not the norm. It’s not the Average Joe who is trying to put on the most muscle in the most efficient way. It’s not the trainee who is trying to feel healthier and look better. And it’s definitely not the beginner who needs as much general practice and time under-the-bar as possible. 


The aversion shown to condensed training doesn’t make sense logistically, practically or, most importantly, physiologically. There is nothing propping up the illusion of bro-split superiority other than outdated fairytales and nostalgic “back-in-my-day” relics. 

Specificity is a wonderful tool when used correctly. But generalities will get us shockingly far in this new world of training principles.

We must continue to question that which becomes universal.

We have to raise our eyebrows to anything that seems propagated without challenge.

Rooted beliefs are the enemy of progress.

And it is time to usurp the orthodoxy. 

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