T Nation

Whole Body Approach and Axial Loading

Hi coach i’ve now been training for almost 4 years. I’m now running a whole body approach because i’m really short on time. Well, i am founding it very efficient and effective. I’ve been structuring my routine following what you wrote in one of your article https://www.t-nation.com/training/training-strategy-handbook

Whole Body Approach (Monday, Wednesday, Friday):

  • One basic quad dominant exercise (a form of squat, leg press, etc.)
  • One basic hip dominant exercise (Romanian deadlift, good morning, stiff-leg deadlift, sumo deadift, reverse hyper, etc.)
  • One upper body horizontal pull exercise (chest-supported rowing, one-arm dumbbell row, etc.)
  • One upper body horizontal push exercise (decline, flat, or low incline bench press with a bar or dumbbells)
  • One upper body vertical pull exercise (weighted chins or pull-ups, lat pulldown variation, etc.)
  • One upper body vertical push exercise (high incline or seated press with a bar or dumbbells)
    With a few fluffy pump direct arm work at the end. Almost every exercise is two set to failure: a set of 6-10 reps, a back off set of 10-15 reps.

Just as i’m finding this approach great, i have the fear of “overly taxing my lower back with axial loading”: I am almost everyday squatting, rowing and dealifting. I train in a garage gym with barbells, dumbells and a smith machine, so i don’t have the chance of using things like a leg press, a hack squats or a leg curl.

I was thinking about:
Squatting monday, lunging/single leg squatting on wednesdays, smith squats on fridays
Rowing on monday, Dealifting (mainly with trap bar)/rack pulling on wednesdays, Power Shrugging on Fridays
Hip thrusting on mondays, Nordic ham curl on wednesdays, RDLs on fridays

Does this make sense to you or is it still excessive? Thank you in advance :smile:

I use a whole body approach 3x per week with every athlete that I train. And with most of my regular clients. I often add a 4th “minor” workout in the week.

And my guys all squat 3x a week, the athletes do an olympic lift too and the “regular folks” do a hinge every day. In fact, in some phases, the athlete I work with will have a squat, and olympic lift and a hinge 3x per week.

That is fine, because of the 4 days of rest. It could be hard at first bur the body will adapt.

Olympic lifters all do this. Even “lower level” olympic lifters (not the elite who have been doing this for 10+ years and might be using PED…even low level amateurs in olympic lifting clubs) 1-2 olympic lift variations and squats at least 3x a week, and most also do a hinge (deadlift or snatch/clean pull).

The one thing that I do differently is that I only have one upper body pull and one upper body push per workout (often alternating vertical/horizontal each workout) and that the fluff stuff is normally done on a 4th, low stress, day. I find that 6 big compound movements in one workout is too much, I prefer to keep it to 4.

Thank you. I’ll just stop worrying too much and hit my squats and hinge about 3xweek then

One athlete I’m working with has a power rack at home and he has been doing heavy squats 6x a week during the lockdown period.

what about the Whole body workout for natural Lifter that you talked few month ago ? :blush:


I don’t remember exactly who said that „the Bulgarian method for powerlifting is not a method to train people but to select those who can train that way and recover” but do you think this applies to the 3 times squats per week too? Cause I tried it a few times. I can do two times per week (One back, one front) and recover. But a third time is too much. Even in a bulk I can’t recover and burn out after 4-6 weeks.

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Well, it’s not the frequency that is the issue with the Bulgarian system, as most olympic lifters (who do not train like the Bulgarians do) also train with a high frequency. The problem is the maximum intensity at a high frequency. Bulgarians essentially build up to a 1-2RM daily, 6 days a week, twice a day. That is indeed a selection process to see who is genetically designed to be an elite lifter.

Big difference between squatting, clean & jerking and snatching to a MAX 6 days a week (often twice, or even 3 times a day) and squatting 3x a week, not going all-out all the time.

If you couldn’t tolerate squatting 3x a week it could either have been because:

*You pushed too hard or went too heavy on every session

*The overall volume of work for your sessions was too high

*You didn’t give your body time to adapt. A pro football player started on my system where he has to squat 3x a week. The first 2 weeks he felt like crap, his legs were always sore. Week 3 felt a bit better and by week 4 he was back to normal and he hit a lot of significant PRs during the training cycle while adding 12lbs of lean tissue.

*Your body has bad levers for squatting. If you have long legs and a short torso (or have short tibias vs your femurs) squatting will be more stressful for your body as it will have more axial loading (more forward torso lean). And that could make it harder to recover from 3 weekly squat sessions.

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That is probably the reason. I went with 3x5 one the back squat where the last rep is a 9-9.5 RPE. And 3x8 on the front squat with a lower RPE but it was very strenuous due to holding the weight.

You’re absolutely right though. Not every time one squats it has to be that heavy. In my head I had the starting strength method with 3x5 3 times per week, increasing the weight each time. Which for me was never possible to recover from when I was a beginner.

Coach, when you wrote

You educated us on how to design a three day program using high frequency and low to moderate volume.

Day 1: Limit strength zone (4-6 reps range)
DAY 2: Functional hypertrophy zone (6-8 reps range)
DAY 3: (If using a whole body approach): Total hypertrophy zone (8-12 reps range)

I was wondering, is it a bad idea to use different exercises for the different zones? The obvious caveat is that you do not get the same motor learning but if size is more important this seems okay? Such as,

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
A1 Back Squat High Bar Squat Leg Press
A2 Barbell Row Inverted Row DB Row
B1 Deadlift Single Leg RDL RDL
B2 Bench DB Bench Dips
C1 Overhead Press BTN Press Bradford Press
C2 Chin-up Pull-up Lat Pull-down

And if that is not a bad idea, is it an even better idea to redistribute the exercises to even out the load. In the example above, Day 1 would be pretty rough on the lower back. I.e., would the following

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
A1 Back Squat 4-6 High Bar Squat 6-8 Leg Press 8-12
A2 Inverted Row 6-8 DB Row 8-12 Barbell Row 4-6
B1 Single Leg RDL 8-12 Deadlift 4-6 RDL 6-8
B2 DB Bench 6-8 Dips 8-12 Dips 8-12
C1 Overhead Press 4-6 Bradford Press 8-12 BTN Press 6-8
C2 Lat Pull-down 8-12 Chin-up 4-6 Pull-up 6-8

Have you ever written how to design a decent A-B-split?