Q&A: Is A Consolidation Workout Enough To Maximize Muscular Potential?

Question: Due to busyness I’ve really cut down my volume of exercise. No “cardio” and my weight lifting workouts consist of a home workout of trap bar deadlifts which I feel in my quads, glutes, hamstrings, lower back, traps, forearms and abs. Supinated grip chin ups which I feel work my biceps, lats, forearms, and abs. Finally, either a flat dumbbell bench or push ups which hit my triceps, chest, and shoulders. It’s quite similar to Mike Mentzer’s consolidation routine.

My thoughts are that if I reach a certain level of competence on each lift most of my bodyparts will be as strong and muscular as I’m genetically able to be. Is there any reason to do more than that?

Answer: Yes, there are a few reasons to do more than that. While you can achieve significant increases in muscular strength and size with very brief consolidation routines, it is not effective to only do the same three exercises every time you work out. Achieving optimal overall muscular development requires more variety of movements.

Although compound movements like deadlifts, chin-ups, and chest presses do involve all the major muscle groups, not all of the muscles are involved or benefit to the same degree. To effectively work all the major muscle groups your routine should include multiple compound pushing, pulling, and lower body exercises in different planes or emphasizing different muscle groups. Compound pushing and pulling movements should be done in both vertical and horizontal planes, and compound lower body exercises should include both thigh dominant movements like squats and leg presses and hip dominant movements like deadlifts and trunk extensions.

Drew Baye deadlifting with a shrug bar

Your routine should also include direct exercises for smaller muscle groups like the neck, calves, and forearms which are not as effectively targeted by the compound exercises. In addition to improving your ability to perform a variety of physical tasks and increasing your resistance to injury, well developed neck, forearm, and calf muscles are important for an aesthetically balanced physique.

Most people do not need to reduce their workout volume to only a few compound exercises, but if you choose to keep your workouts brief you can incorporate more varied exercises by alternating between different pushing, pulling, and lower body exercises each time you train. For example, you could perform squats, bench presses, and bent over rows in one workout, and deadlifts, standing presses, and chin-ups in another, ending with direct exercises for the abs and forearms or calves and neck. For example:

Consolidation Workout A

  1. Squat
  2. Bench Press
  3. Bent-Over Row
  4. Crunch
  5. Wrist Extension
  6. Wrist Flexion

Consolidation Workout B

  1. Deadlift
  2. Standing Press
  3. Chin-Up
  4. One-Legged Heel Raise
  5. Neck Flexion
  6. Neck Extension

There are many other exercises you could substitute, and you could even divide this up three or four ways if you want. For most people, however, a better starting point would be a workout incorporating all of these. For more examples and more detailed guidelines on exercise selection and workout design read High Intensity Workouts.

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