T Nation

Basic Training Gone Too Far?

I am planning on focusing all of my workout energy on the four main lifts: Bench Press, Squat, Pull-Up, Deadlift. I am considering whether or not I should completely abandon isolation movements (I normally use isolation movements for my Biceps, Triceps, Forearms, Calves, and Abs). Now would it be a bad idea if I did the Basic Four and nothing else? I mean, do only the four main lifts and completely discard Ab Crunches, Calf Raises, Bicep Curls, and so on. If I did the Basic Four for ten months and only altered reps, sets, tempo, and rest, for example, would I end up looking like a square? My question here can be summed up: Is it necessary to do certain isolation movements (such as movements for the abs and calves) to have a complete physique? I will appreciate all responses.

Only doing these kinds of execises is good because it increases testoterone levels and increases overall strength. The only problem is you won`t have a complete physique. It is true that all of these lifts work these places as well as the more major muscle groups, but they will not get enough and they will lag behind in development. Only doing these exercises for about four to eight weeks would be a good plan then go back to your regular training program.

It kind of depends on your goals. If you want to get strong & keep your reps low, like 5x5 or 5/4/3/2/1 you’ll become the ultimate behemoth by doing those lifts (I’d trade bench press for clean&press, but that’s just me). Add in some grip & forearms at the end of each wkout & I’m sure you’ll be one of the strongest guys in your gym in 10 months.

Just consider the movements themselves. Triceps are getting worked with presses, and biceps are being worked with chins. While the obliques and abdominals may come into play as stabilizers, they don’t get much direct attention in any of these four lifts. The calves don’t, either. I would definitely incorporate calf and abdominal training to the routine. Also, your medial and posterior delts will be relatively underworked. So, when you ask if these four alone will give you a “complete physique,” I’d say that they are a pretty good start, but ancillary work and then some would definitely bring out the details.

I happen to agree that he would get a complete physique from this type of training. I do no specific shoulder work as it just causes me problems, yet my shouldbers are just as proportional to the rest of me. And if he deadlifts with proper form,ie. scapula retracted, he should be fine in the rear delt department. And Poliquin has commented before about not working arms directly and acheiving good results. Now i wouldnt be as limited as this. But for someone whos just starting out, i think this may be ideal.

Actually, that’s pretty much what I do, but I swap out dips for bench press and rows for pullups on alternating workouts. Also, I don’t do deads and squats in the same workout. Oh yeah, I do ab work every workout. You’re getting into the “abbreviated training” realm, and it’s not a bad thing. Some people don’t gain on this type of program, but I’ve done fairly well (from 150 lbs to 200+ in 2 years). Don’t try for low reps, but don’t go overboard either. You should be able to do a workout in 40-50 minutes.

I was wondering if you could lay out what kind of split you’re using. I’m interested in trying a similar type program.

I’ve done it before, but I’ll do it again. I do two full-body sessions a week (usually Monday/Friday), with 2 or three cardio days (Tuesday and Thursday, and maybe Saturday) and a peripheral day (Wednesday). Here’s the workouts: Workout A – Pullups, squats, dips, abs. Workout B – Deadlifts, bench press, rows, abs. In the last few weeks I’ve had to substitute pushups on fists for the bench press and dips due to a sprained wrist (non-lifting related), but it’s getting better and I should be back at it in another 2 weeks. The cardio days consist of 20-25 minute runs or sessions on a stationary bike. The peripheral day is for isolation stuff to help bring up anything that seems to be lagging, or to do some odd-type lifts. Usually this boils down to curls and calf work or standing flyes. I don’t do more than three work sets for any of the lifts (except pullups), and really only do warm up sets for squats and deads (I ease into the pullups with a low rep set with a jump assist). Hope that helps.

I don’t think he’ll need to add ab exersizes, heavy lifting works em because they’re needed for stabilization. I do, however, agree that its a good idea to add in some calf work.

T-Teen, you may want to insert pull-ups in place of chins for a brief period, or superset the two periodically-Poliquin suggests this as a way to hit a broader range of muscle fibers. As shown in MRI images, chins recruit more muscle fibers of the back, but periodically supersetting chins and pull-ups will give attention to the brachialis, along with targeting the slower-twitch fibers of the lats. I agree with an earlier post about including some sort of cleans-either power cleans or clean & jerk. Keep the bench press though-maybe use bench press, chins, a clean, and rotate squats and deadlifts. I encourage you to try the compound movements. Good luck.

There are a couple issues I have with only using these four movements.

  1. You will come to a sticking point at one time or another on each of these movmements. Sticking points are the result of weakness in a certain range of motion, which is the result of (usually) one or two muscles. Without doing any isolation work for the supporting muscles (especially abs and low back) these sticking points will appear much quicker.
  2. Your upper body muscle balance will be off if you only do these four movements for 10 months. Some vertical pressing and (more importantly) horizontal pulling should be incorporated to avoid a strength imbalance that could lead to sticking points or worse; injuries.

Whats the difference between a chin a pullup?

Generally, a chin-up is considered to be palms facing you (supinated), while pull-ups is palms facing away from you (pronated). But then, what do you call palms parallel? That’s how I usually do pull-ups.

Chin ups- palms supinated(facing you) pull ups-palms pronated(away from you). Don’t let the term chin up fool you either as it is a bit of a misnomer, try to pull your chest to teh bar on every rep. Hope this helps…Mike

Doing those basic exercises is a good idea, but it is probably too abreiviated (I am a HIT guy so me saying that means something). If I were you I would add an exercise once per week until you have about 10 in there (make sure you work your midle upper back [bent flyes], your forarms and your neck as well) then start dropping back down at about 2 exercises per week. When you get up in # exercises, increase your pace (once you adapt to a faster work out you will really improve your condition) and do some isolation moves too (like leg curls/extensions calf raises, delt and arm work too). The big problem with doing the super abreiviated routine is that you will miss out on the benefits of isolation exercise (trust me here, if curls are good for arms they are good for legs too), you will not be able to mix and match (maybe you will do better with a leg curl and stiff dead work out) and you will get too good at certian exercises. This means that your poundages will improve, but only through skill. I think this kind of “cycling” is great and it gives you an opportunity to try some crazy stuff like 20 rep workouts and supersetting/negatives.

I also perform very abbreviated training, and actually went about 10 months without training either calves or arms directly, with no ill effects. I’m in agreement with the guys saying you should add a clean-type movement in, which will take care of deadlifts as well. My current routine has basically one exercise per bodypart, all multi-joint exercises, and about four sets each. I think the key to this type of training and avoiding stagnated progress is to choose different exercises and use different grips to change the emphasis on the muscle groups. For example, right now I do standing barbell press for shoulders on Fridays, and Seated DB Press on Mondays. Changing the grip you use, whether it be for each successive set, or each workout is a very good method in my humble opinion. Often when doing pullups/chinups, I’ll do one set with a wider overhand grip, one set with close overhand grip (hands one inch apart), one set with an underha nd shoulder-width grip, and one set with hands facing each other. I use the same technique for Barbell Rows, and for bench press. I think that training this way can realistically lead to balanced development. One thing that I would add is that you should do some focussed abdominal training if you wish to become really strong and/or develop a good midsection. Sorry for the long post, and good luck.

The point I am trying to make is that you don’t want to throw the baby out witht the bath water, just because you will be ok without arm training does not mean you won’t be better with it. I say add/change exercises every week or so until you get to where you know you are doing too much/lacking focus, and then start pairing down. You will probably find the right routine in a couple of these up and down loops.