“Holistic” isn’t a word you hear bandied about anymore, but in the ’70s it was a ubiquitous adjective: holistic medicine, holistic nutrition, holistic ecology and a Weider Principle, holistic training.

“Holistic” signifies a relationship to whole systems as opposed to breaking things down to their parts. It’s macro, not micro. Picture a river. The more tributaries that flow into it the larger and faster that river will be. Likewise, by utilizing a variety of workout styles, you can focus these styles on one goal — more muscle — and, flowing together, they can help you reach that end faster.

The Weider Holistic Training Principle

This tenet prescribes you utilize a variety of training techniques to stimulate muscle growth. The best rep range is 8–12 reps, and exercises should generally be performed for three or four working sets. However, this is not the only way to grow. What’s more, doing it workout after workout most certainly is not the fastest way to grow.

This brings us to one of FLEX’s favorite maxims: everything works, but not everything works forever. Incorporating a variety of workout styles in your training regimen allows you to take the best from each to build strength and size.

Typically, you should do a different style of workout each week, and rotate three to five of these. There are dozens of valuable styles, but here’s a quick look at seven major ones:

STANDARD: This is the old standby: three or four sets per exercise and 8–12 reps per set.

HIT: Focus on one or two working sets per exercise for high-intensity sets taken beyond failure via forced reps, rest-pause, etc. Do four to seven working sets per bodypart.

HIGH REP: Sets of 20–100 reps. Utilize drop sets to extend sets to the upper ranges.

POWER/SPEED: Emphasize the three powerlifts (squats, deadlifts, bench presses), pyramided to max sets of 3–6 reps. Also incorporate speed training via exercises like box jumps, partial deadlifts and bench presses with bands.

10 X 10: Maximize variety by doing 10 exercises per bodypart, but do only one set of 10 reps of each exercise. (This is a variation of German Volume Training, which is actually 10 sets of 10 reps on one exercise.)

SUPERSETS: Do workouts consisting entirely of supersets. For example, follow every set for biceps with a set for triceps.

CIRCUIT: These are conditioning workouts, so a week of three circuit sessions should be used as a “working rest.” Do 6–12 exercises in a circuit without stopping, stressing your entire body. Do three to five such circuits.

Holistic training doesn’t only apply to moving metal. It can also invigorate your cardio sessions. Altering your style of cardio will activate different muscles and keep your interest elevated. This can be as simple as going from the StepMill one workout to the treadmill the next and to the elliptical the third. However, on occasion, try to incorporate completely different types of fat-burning activities — the sort that typically take you outside the weight room.

These include sprinting intervals, swimming laps, pummeling a speed bag or heavy bag, jumping rope and mountain bike riding, as well as multi-person sports like racquetball, full-court basketball and sparring sessions for boxing or martial arts. In addition to burning calories, these machine-free cardio activities improve the functional skills and balance crucial to athletes, and they can be a lot more fun than another 40 minutes climbing in place.


There are two potential pitfalls:

If you don’t carefully construct your routine, one style of training can hinder the other, instead of aiding it. For example, if you do a week of HIT workouts just before a week of power/speed workouts, the former can detract from your strength in the latter. Instead, break up a HIT week and a power week with a lower-intensity week of circuit training or high reps.

A variety of styles can lead to a loss of focus. You must endeavor to continuously use greater weights or get more reps with the same weight each time you go through the workout rotation.


In Holistic Training’s Favor:

The variety keeps your intensity and interest up.

You can incorporate power and speed training into a bodybuilding regimen, thus you can keep your primary focus on muscle gains but also significantly boost power.

It’s ideal for those who have multiple sports goals. Perhaps you want to maximize your muscularity but also boost your “hops” and quickness for basketball. A holistic approach will let you incorporate plyometric, leaping exercises and speed conditioning into your bodybuilding routine. As another example, perhaps you want to be both a bodybuilder and a kickboxer. Alternating a weight-training workout and a kickboxing-specific session will let you do both.