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John Robert Cardillo

John Robert Cardillo

John traveled the world to learn the best training and nutrition principles and trained alongside top pro bodybuilders at Gold's Gym California. He was a student of Arthur Jones, inventor of Nautilus and Medx Fitness machines, and the pioneer of hi-intensity training. John developed the HIT3 Training System, which transformed his physique to win countless bodybuilding competitions at just 18 years of age! He was also the first bodybuilder to utilize Faradic Electric Muscle Stimulation in his training and intermittent fasting during his competition prep. John’s SHREDDED Nutrition Diet helped him build one of the most shredded physiques of all time. His diet program incorporates fasting and nutrient timing to help athletes build lean muscle while losing body fat.

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Why Am I Not Gaining Size?

Q. Hi John, I’ve been lifting weights for approximately 2 hours a day, 6 times a week for the last year. I’ve gotten leaner but I’m not gaining size. I know you’re really big into the less volume approach and I read some articles about your HIT3 Workout System. Below is my current training split. Please let me know what you think?

  • Monday - Back 
  • Tuesday- Arms 
  • Wednesday- Chest 
  • Thursday - Quadriceps, Calves 
  • Friday - Shoulders 
  • Saturday- Hamstrings, Glutes, Abs

A. Your training split is a very typical bodybuilder’s week of training. Many people get leaner on this type of training simply because your burning so many calories by training with weights 12 hours each week. Here are my thoughts on it.

Monday Workout: Back

Starting the week of training the large back muscles is a good idea, however, if a bodybuilder is training properly, (with hi-intensity training vs. traditional high-volume bodybuilding training) the workout will last only 15 to 20 minutes. As you pointed out, you’re doing 2 hours of training a day. Many competitive bodybuilders are able to do 20 to 30 sets of back work in about 60 to 90 minutes of training. But training this much on back will leave the area totally obliterated and the latissimus dorsi connective nerves (stemming from the spinal chord) totally exhausted. Overtraining, pure and simple. It’s important to also remember that in order to train the primary muscles of the back, the biceps are also engaged. As such, they too will be tired and overworked from this much volume.

Tuesday’s Workout: Arms

Going into this arm workout the day following an intense back workout is not a good idea. The muscles throughout the back should be sore the day after training, and the biceps will also be tired from their use as a support muscle during the previous day’s back exercises. But aside from muscle soreness, you will have left the Central Nervous System (CNS) feeding the upper body exhausted and not fully recuperated which is an aspect of recovery that few take into account. The CNS includes branches of nerves feeding the arms which run from the spinal cord. By training these muscle groups back to back like you have, you will automatically hinder the ability of the biceps and triceps to contract properly due to the overstimulated CNS system. The muscles being worked will not be able to perform at the highest level of intensity and the workout becomes a wasted “exercise” of overtraining. The end result is no arm growth which sounds like what you’re experiencing.

Wednesday Workout: Chest

Disregarding the fact that the back muscles worked on Monday and the arms were worked Tuesday, you’re now training chest on day three. To contract the pectoral muscles, the overtrained (and tired) biceps, triceps and upper body CNS will be engaged. This will prevent you from being able to use the heaviest possible weights in pressing exercises (due to triceps soreness and muscle exhaustion and also in “pec fly” exercises due to the sore and tired biceps which are activated during this exercise. This chest workout will at best be a “pump session” stimulating no growth.

You have now created a situation where working the chest muscles in a hi-intensity fashion is impossible. This chest workout will result in no growth whatsoever, and in fact will further overtrain the biceps and triceps, hampering their ability to achieve any significant growth from the previous days workout.

Thursday Workout: Quadriceps & Calves

Training a fourth day in a row will definitely impact your ability to recover. The argument many trainers use is that by switching from upper body to a lower body workout, you  allow the upper body to rest and recuperate. What’s flawed about that thinking is they’re not considering that our body has only one CNS, which controls everything that our muscles do. When the CNS is overtaxed, it does not perform optimally and cannot undergo maximal muscle fiber recruitment. This in turn will make muscles feel tired which is a true sign of overtraining.

Training your quadriceps in a hi-intensity manner is more demanding than any other body part because your quads are your strongest muscle group. Stimulating new muscle growth requires heavy training. Without this, new growth is impossible to achieve. Doing lighter, higher repetition pumping type exercise will not stimulate appreciable muscle growth. Thighs and hamstrings require a great deal of energy and effort to be trained correctly. An overtrained CNS system will hinder any possible gains.

Friday Workout: Shoulders

Following a quadricep workout day with an upper body workout day again may sound logical, but it’s not. Let me explain. First, we all know that leg work is very exhausting and leaves the entire body tired, which will negatively affect the next day workout. Secondly, the chest was trained on Wednesday. Chest is a body part that closely ties into the front deltoid muscle, which takes a beating in all chest movements. If trained properly, the chest and front deltoids should be sore for at least 4 days after training. As such, doing a shoulder workout 48 hours after training chest, would be detrimental to the chest’s ability to recover. Workout performance will be hampered and a hi-intensity workout will not be able to be performed.

Saturday Workout: Hamstrings, Glutes, Abs

Splitting the leg workout, whereby quadriceps are trained on a different day than hamstrings is probably one of the least productive ways to train the interconnected leg muscles. Yet many bodybuilders do this!

If we look back at the past few days of training, quadriceps were worked on Thursday. Inevitably most of the exercises performed also affected the hamstrings. Now 2 days later the hamstrings are being worked. If the quadriceps were trained properly, they should still be tired from the Thursday workout. This will cause the hamstring exercises to suffer because the quads are needed to perform 90 degree leg presses (one of the best glute ham tie-in exercise) and many of the other top hamstring exercises.

Sunday: Rest Day?

In this type of workout schedule, taking Sunday off happens to be the best decision you may have made all week! The body will be totally tired from the 6 days of training and in my view one rest day will not be sufficient, because several days are required to recuperate from this type of training. You didn’t mention if you’re also doing cardio on top of this or not but if you are, then the body’s ability to recuperate would be further hampered.

My Summary On Your Training Split 

  • Training 6 days straight is excessive and will not allow any trainee to get the most out of each workout. 
  • Training an upper body part one day (back on Monday) followed by another upper body part (arms on Tuesday) will not allow the arms to receive the proper stimulation required for growth. 
  • Training another upper body part on Wednesday (chest) will cause the biceps to become overtrained and the tired triceps will hinder the pressing movements required to do a proper chest workout. 
  • Training 3 days in a row performing upper body workouts is disastrous. It will lead to no significant growth and overtraining. 
  • Performing a leg workout on a 4th straight day of training is not advisable. Leg work, performed correctly requires a great deal of energy and a rested CNS. 
  • Splitting lower body training into 2 workouts is not the best way to work these important muscles that tie in together. Quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes must be trained during the same workout and then rested for at least 7 days for full recuperation.

For more info on John Cardillo, check out his website at johnrobertcardillo.com or right here at Muscle Insider at John Cardillo.