High intensity training is a style of weight lifting that focuses on doing strict controlled movements to the point of muscular failure during brief, infrequent workouts.
In essence, this style of training involves working out extremely hard, often times training the entire body in one day, with plenty of rest days in between sessions for recovery and growth.
First popularized by Arthur Jones, the founder of Nautilus exercise equipment, high intensity training was later tweaked and further advocated by the late Mike Mentzer, a Mr. Universe winner from the golden era of bodybuilding.
Having studied Mike Mentzer’s take on High Intensity Training, I liked the idea of a full body workout taking each muscle group to failure.
After the enormous strain a workout like that is bound to place on the body and the nervous system, it’s common sense that you will need a few days to recover.
However, I love to train and can never imagine taking a day off.
In the spirit of wanting to give some of Mentzer’s High Intensity principles a try but still adhere to my own no days off schedule I decided to put together a plan - the Full Body Blast Off.
Full Body Blast Off Overview
The Full Body Blast off is a heavy, high intensity full body routine that is done every four days. The main routine on day 1 contains only 5 big compound lifts and each one is done until failure using the rep scheme 20, 10, 10, 5, 5, 3, 2, 1 and ending with a 5/10/20/50 strip down. The workout ends with a 6 minute set of different plank positions.
Day 3 begins with a pre-hab routine designed to improve activation, correct imbalances, and improve flexibility. Once the pre-hab routine is complete, you will complete 5 rounds of a bodyweight circuit designed to get the blood moving and workout any lingering soreness from the day 1 workout.
As you can see from the overview, this is not a classic high intensity training regimen, but one that follows a few of Mentzer's principles but with my twist on them. For starters, I always believe that there is something you can do each day workout wise.
So you’re really sore from the full body routine? Taking a day off from heavy lifting is a good idea, but taking a day off completely from training should not be an option. Active cardio, pre hab routines, and bodyweight movements are a good way to allow your body to recover and grow but still get something accomplished in the gym.
Another principle of Mentzer’s was taking each exercise to absolute failure - either through super slow reps, negatives or long paused contractions to end a set. Although I like this idea, I felt the easiest way for most people - including novice lifters or lifters who do not have the luxury of a training partner - to achieve total fatigue was to include a high rep drop set to end each exercise.
Setting Up the Full Body Blast Off
Day 1 - The Workout
|1. Squat||9||20, 10, 10, 5, 5, 3, 2, 1, 5/10/20/50|
|2. Bench||9||20, 10, 10, 5, 5, 3, 2, 1, 5/10/20/50|
|3. Deadlift||8||20, 10, 10, 5, 5, 3, 2, 1|
|4. Standing Overhead Dumbbell Press||9||20, 10, 10, 5, 5, 3, 2, 1, 5/10/20/50|
|5. Dumbbell Single Arm Row||9||20, 10, 10, 5, 5, 3, 2, 1, 5/10/20/50|
|6. Plank Positions||1||6 minutes total|
The first day of this routine is where all the heavy lifting is done. The exercises used are squat, bench, deadlift, standing overhead dumbbell press, and a single arm dumbbell bent over row. Each week you will alternate these exercises with a similar variation then switch back the following week.
Squat switches out to front squat, bench is replaced by incline bench, conventional deadlift becomes sumo deadlift, overhead press becomes an iso-press, and dumbbell row gets subbed out for T-bar row.
For each exercise start with a warm up set of 20 reps with the bar only to get the movement pattern down. Next start with a light weight for 10 reps, then a heavier set for a difficult 10. Two heavy sets of 5 should allow you to work up to a the proper starting weight for a 3, 2, 1 ending at or close to your max.
Following the heavy single, lower the weight to what you used on the first set of 5 and perform a 5/10/20/50 strip down. Rest roughly a minute between each set, and no more than 2-3 minutes between exercises. Just to give you an idea of how to structure your sets and weights, here is an example:
20 x bar only
10 x 135
10 x 225
5 x 245
5 x 275
3 x 315
2 x 335
1 x 365
5 x 245, 10 x 185, 20 x 135, 50 x bar
The above weights are just an example, make sure to scale everything based on your strength, experience and ability.
Day 2 - Active Recovery
|1. Bike||1||25 mins @ 120-160 Watts|
|2. Shadow box||1||10 minutes|
|3. Foam Roll||1||10 minutes|
The second day begins with 25 minutes on a stationary bike at roughly 120-160 watts. You should get a good sweat and leg burn, but it shouldn’t be so difficult that you cannot maintain a good speed. After finishing biking, shadowbox lightly for 10 minutes.
If you don’t know how to shadowbox (or feel like an idiot doing it in the middle of your big box gym), then pick another form of cardio that involves the muscles in your upper body and core. This could be a rower, an air dyne, or even a jump rope. The goal is not exhaustion, but just to get the blood flowing and loosen up a little.
End today’s workout with 10 minutes moving around on a foam roller. If you don’t already have one I highly recommend getting one. Nothing feels better the day after a tough session than smashing and rolling around to loosen up and work the soreness out of your legs, gluten and hips. It’s like having your own personal deep tissue masseuse that fits in your gym bag.
Day 3 - Prehab
|1. Achilles Stretch||1||10|
|2. Walking Stretch||1||5|
|3. Lunge Twist||1||5 each side|
|5. 3 Way Shoulders||1||12|
|6. Thoracic Twist||1||10 each side|
|7. Upward Dog/Downward Dog||1||5 each|
|8. Dead Bugs||1||30 seconds|
|9. Kneeling Hamstrings||1||10 seconds|
|10. Glute Bridge||1||5 with 5 second holds|
|11e. Walking Lunges||5||2 minutes|
The third day begins with my standard injury prevention/pre-hab/core activation routine. Here is a description of each movement or position:
Achilles Stretch: 10 reps. Start by standing with your toes on a block or a plate and allow your heals to lower to the ground, stretching the calves. Bend forward and touch your toes, simultaneously pulling them up away from the floor.
Walking Stretch: 5 reps. Touch your toes, walk your hands out into a push up position and as far past that as you are able to while keeping your core tight. Walk your feet up to your hands keeping your legs as straight as possible.
Lunge Twist: 5/5 reps. Step out into a lunge and place your opposite hand on the ground. Stretch your same side elbow toward the in step of your front leg then twist your shoulders as you reach that hand towards the ceiling.
Butterflys: 12 reps. Sit on the ground with your back against the wall and your feet in front of you with the soles pushed together. Raise your hands up overhead and back down (think of making a snow angel) as you press your arms back into the wall.
3 way shoulders: 12 reps. Lay face down with your arms extended in front of you in a Y position and raise your arms off the ground. Do 12 with your thumbs up, 12 with thumbs rotated down, and 12 with your arms bent at 90 degrees.
Thoracic Twist: 10/10 reps. Get on all fours and place one hand behind your head. Rotate your elbow down until it touches your thigh then rotate up until that elbow points towards the ceiling.
Upward Dog/Downward Dog: 5/5 reps. Start in a push up position then arch your hips up and push your shoulders down until you are in an “A-frame” position. Hold for a few seconds and push your heals toward the floor then swoop down and arch your chest up as your hips touch the floor.
Core/Posterior Chain Activation
Dead Bugs: 30 seconds. Lay on your back with your head close to the wall. Lift your legs up and press your spine flat to the floor, engaging your abs as you press your hands against the wall.
Kneeling Hamstrings: 10 seconds. Kneel facing a wall with your arms spread out at your sides. Curl your feet up squeezing and contracting your hamstrings.
Glute Bridge: 5 x 5 second holds. Lay on your back in a sit-up position. Press your feet into the floor as you contract your glute as you bridge your hips up.
Following the rehab routine you will complete 5 rounds of a bodyweight circuit. Start with 5 pull ups followed by 10 dips, 8 underhand chin-ups, and 15 pushups. In between each round complete 2 minutes of walking lunges.
Remember - the goal is to get a good pump and sweat, not to totally exhaust yourself. If necessary, scale back the reps on this bodyweight routine a little.
Day 4 - repeat
The fourth day starts the cycle over again and it’s time for another Full body Blast Off, the only difference is you will substitute the listed variations for the 5 main exercises.
After each 4 day cycle you will toggle back and forth between the main exercises and their counter parts.
|1. Front Squat||9||20, 10, 10, 5, 5, 3, 2, 1, 5/10/20/50|
|2. Incline Bench||9||20, 10, 10, 5, 5, 3, 2, 1, 5/10/20/50|
|3. Sumo Deadlift||8||20, 10, 10, 5, 5, 3, 2, 1|
|4. Standing Overhead Dumbbell Iso Press||9||20, 10, 10, 5, 5, 3, 2, 1, 5/10/20/50|
|5. T-bar Row||9||20, 10, 10, 5, 5, 3, 2, 1, 5/10/20/50|
|6. Plank Positions||1||6 minutes total|
This routine will take some getting used to but if done properly and with enough intensity I think you will love it and see some serious gains.
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