By PJ Braun
Sponsored by Blackstone Labs™
I remember struggling to curl an Olympic bar with 10s on each side with good form. By the end of freshman year of high school, I was stronger than just about everyone else on the football team due to my intense work ethic.
Even though I am in prison doing dramatically different workouts (I don’t want to talk about it, but you have no idea!) than anything I have ever done, because of the limitations I have here, I am still on my preferred five-day split. I often get asked if there is any logic behind the way I broke my days down. Let me first start by saying that although I haven’t tried everything, I have tried a lot! When I first started working out, I was 12 years old going on 13 and moving from middle school to high school. I wanted to get bigger and stronger for football and I taught myself how to work out by reading Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. Many would say that would be overtraining for a 12-year-old boy because his workouts were intense, but I was obsessed with it!
I remember my first day benching and only being able to use the bar and 25s while some of the kids could already do a 45 on each side! I also remember struggling to curl an Olympic bar with 10s on each side with good form. However, by the end of freshman year of high school I was stronger than just about everyone else on the football team due to my intense work ethic. At that time, I was training seven days a week for many hours a day. I copied every workout I could from the magazines, especially the ones I learned from my favorite bodybuilders. In high school I also competed as a drug-free powerlifter and was a United States champion in the Anti Drug Athletes United (ADAU). I had specific training routines for my powerlifting meets but I did plenty of bodybuilding style workouts around them.
It wasn’t until my first bodybuilding show that I was convinced I should take a day off. I was doing cardio every day and posing for an hour every day too. I decided to rest Sundays simply because it was football season and I figured I would use that day to cheat and rest and watch my beloved New York Jets get their asses kicked over and over. Sadly, I was getting hurt often. I had dislocated both shoulders playing football as well as the left one a second time in a powerlifting meet bench pressing, a third time in the gym playing basketball, and had to have reconstructive surgery on my right biceps after I ripped it right off the bone deadlifting in a competition. (I still completed the lift by the way, 550 pounds at a 198-pound bodyweight, drug free at 18 years old … LOL)
Going through all that rehab, it was nearly a year before I could do my preferred workouts and I had to go to physical therapy for a while to learn how to use that arm again. The funny thing is that I had a theory at the young age of 18 that if I trained my other side the entire time, I would bounce back faster because I believed my body would not let itself get too out of balance. Doctors were astonished at how well I recovered. I was in the gym with my massive cast, making sure I was going to be back better than ever!
During this time frame, a good friend told me that I would really benefit from having a rest day in the middle of the week, so I decided to give it a try. This was when I started to really grow and thrive. My body was simply overworked and under-rested. I eventually put together the split I use today after all these years. In my humble opinion, it makes the most sense to break the body down like this:
Monday – Legs
Tuesday – Chest
Wednesday – Rest
Thursday – Back
Friday – Shoulders
Saturday – Arms
Sunday – Rest
Let me explain. Legs is the hardest day by far and I feel that an entire day should be dedicated to legs when they are fresh. For this reason, I rest and eat big on Sunday and make sure I am ultra-hydrated. I hit legs hard usually for two hours and lots of volume, but by getting that brutal day out of the way the rest of the week is downhill. These second-hardest day is back day, and I feel that by training back after a rest day on Wednesday, you get the initial DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness) from leg day out of the way, which will hinder your back workout. Have you ever tried deadlifting or doing heavy rows in the first 24-48 hours after a leg day? It’s awful. By doing this split, I can attack the two hardest days after a day of rest so I can really push them hard.
The third hardest day is chest, and I like to have that day done away from back and shoulders because I want that shoulder joint to get as much rest as possible. I have tried doing chest on Mondays and legs on Tuesdays, but it made it very difficult to get in the right position for back squats, so I prefer to have my chest nice and rested as far as upper body exercises goes on Tuesday. Even if your chest is still sore after that rest day on Wednesday, it shouldn’t affect what needs to be done for back on Thursday, giving you extra rest before you do more presses on Friday when I do shoulders – which is the easiest day because there are only so many ways to do laterals and presses for the shoulder before it gets to be overkill. By doing shoulders on Friday, you give the joint adequate rest again Saturday to Monday before it gets beat up by chest.
Finally, I do arms together on one fun day for the weekend because then you have the best pump when you go to the club to pick up chicks. LOL, I kid!! Although I will admit it’s a lot easier doing arms before you go out on a Saturday night than legs! I remember one weekend in my early 20s, I did legs on a Saturday afternoon and went out to the club with my buddies that night. Everyone was out dancing with girls, and I was stuck in the corner trying to stretch my quads because they were locking up while I was trying to move on the dance floor and alcohol made it way worse! I was stuck with awful charley horses in both legs looking like a total meathead, HA!
If I wanted to work traps, I liked to do them on my back day because they get so much stimulation doing rows, deadlifts and rack pulls and if I wanted to do core or calves, I often just alternated odd days and even days. I think the traps can be isolated on shoulder day if your back day is very long because like I said, the shoulder day is quick, and I have had success both ways.
My lagging body parts were biceps and posterior deltoids, so I would often do some touch-up pump and isolation work for biceps after chest day and hit some medial and posterior isolation work after my back day. As you see, I designed it where each body part got adequate rest and space from the rest to cut down on the risk of injury. Many times, our muscles are strong enough to handle the load, but the joints and tendons are not and that’s where injury can strike if you aren’t listening to your body.
In the free world every now and then, I would cut my volume down and just do a three days on, one day off split where I covered everything in three days but overall, I feel this five-day breakdown is ideal for everyone trying to really grow. I encourage you to get creative with the workouts you do on those given days but trust me that the split will yield great results and if you are eating right and using correct form, you should be at a much lower risk for injury.
I have been working out for 30 years now and there is one thing I will never stop preaching. Pay attention to your body and give it proper recovery time! I have learned from my many mistakes with “ego training” when I was young and if you are anything like me, you can’t stand the idea of not being able to train. The iron game is about longevity, and I want to be in the gym until the day I die chasing that pump!
Until next time, thanks for reading and remember I love you all. Peace out, bye.