ABC Training Made REAL Simple! Part III

by Frederick C. Hatfield II, MS, MFS, CSCS

In Part II of ABC Training Made REAL Simple, I discussed arranging your training by multi-joint movements rather than body parts. In this part, I’d like to show you how ABC training can be used in a very popular format: the 3-day per week approach. I will go back to arranging exercises by body part, but you can arrange this schedule by movements as well.

As I’ve said before, nothing is set in stone. Before I’ve shown programs where the microcycles were all similar. In other words, almost everything was structured “A-B-C-B-A-B-C…” . This time I’ve not stuck with such a format (it never was a necessity to be so rigid in the other programs, either). As with the other programs, this one is not set in stone; only the concept of periods of high intensity followed by periods of low intensity, as well as the other 6 rules of training.

This is especially seen in the way I have arranged the back and arms cycles. In the case of back training, I personally have never liked training both legs and back with “C” workouts on the same day. Two of my favorite exercises are Squats and Standing Bent Rows. It’s tough to do C workouts with these two exercises because the lower back will take one heck of a beating! Still, you can do “C” workouts for both legs and back on the same day. Leg curls, Hack squats or vertical leg presses, one-arm dumbbell rows and various machine exercises can be used.

In the case of the cycle for arms, I looked at how each workout was forming. Mondays and Fridays tended to be stacked with body parts, while Wednesdays appeared to be lighter in the number of body parts being trained. This was an attempt to make the Wednesday workouts a bit more even with the other days. If you really want to focus on arms, you may want to change it to a more even “A-B-C” approach.

In the first and second parts of this series, I discussed the problems of training per body part and the notion that some exercises cover many body parts. For example, if you are using bench presses for chest, you will also be training triceps and shoulders. You will have to pre-plan for this. If you have a “C” workout for chest and an “A” workout for shoulders, you may decide there is no need to do shoulder work on that day. This won’t be the case if you are using a Pec Deck or dumbbell flies, but will if you are benching. As always, remember the Principle of Individual Differences.

Abs and Calves can also use an ABC approach, but because of the size and the muscle fiber makeup of these muscles (predominately slow twitch fibers) they tend to benefit from higher volume and frequency of training.

Tables 1 and 2 outline an eight-week training program using a three-day per week training routine. In this installment, I haven’t provided a guideline as to what an “A”, “B”, or “C” workout would be. Please refer to Part 1 for workout descriptions; they will work with this schedule too.

Table 1

Body Part Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
M W F M W F M W F M W F
Legs A A B C B A A B C B
Chest C B A A B C B A A B
Shoulders A B C B A A B C B
Back C C A A B C B A A C
Arms A C A C A C A C
Abs A A A A A A A A A A A A
Calves A A A A A A A A A A A A

Table 2

Body Part Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8
M W F M W F M W F M W F
Legs A A B C B A A B C B
Chest C B A A B C B A A B
Shoulders A B C B A A B C B
Back A B A A B C B A A B
Arms C B A A B A C A B
Abs A A A A A A A A A A A A
Calves A A A A A A A A A A A A

Pros and Cons

The “Pros” of this format is it can be easier to fit into a rigid schedule. A big complaint of many trainees with the ABC approach is they claim they can’t get into the gym every day. This format is much easier to put into a regular and busy weekly work schedule.

The “Cons” of this format is that it isn’t as productive as if you have a more flexible schedule. Not all muscles recover at the same rate, yet if you are going to stick to a “set” schedule, you may be forced to wait a day before training (when you may not need it). For example, you may need four full days to recover from your “C” leg workout, but perhaps only three full days are needed for arms. That is not optimal training, but it can be a fair trade off to have a fixed schedule of training.

Concluding Thoughts:

As with all training programs, you should make adjustments as you see fit. Listen to what your body is telling you (unless it’s telling you to be lazy!). Nothing is set in stone as long as the Seven Training Principles aren’t violated.

Can ABC training be used in a format, which only uses two workouts per week? Sure! Monday could be an “A” or “B” workout and Thursday could be a “C” workout. It’ll work, but remember: strength and size come with training frequently. For maximum results you must train as hard and as often your ability to recover will allow. You can’t always train hard, which is one of the major reasons for using an ABC approach. Regardless, training for maximum results often means getting enough rest, eating properly and supplementing your diet.

If you have any questions about ABC training, I invite you to post them on Dr. Squat’s Q&A board.

Train smart!

Posted in

Leave a Comment