If you are training with the right amount of intensity, I firmly believe that you can effectively stimulate a major muscle group for maximum growth using only 2 to 5 exercises during your workout. An intermediate bodybuilder once said to me, “Skip, doing two, three, four, or five exercises may work for you at your level of experience, but I think beginners and intermediates simply must do more exercises in order to be just as productive.”
Although, I emphatically believe there are no physical reasons why his theory is true, I can understand why many less experienced lifters may feel this way. I, too, felt the same way during my first few years of training. I’ll do my best to explain why planning to do fewer exercises during your workouts will be more productive—regardless of what your current level of experience may be.
Do you remember when you first started training? I’m referring to the time when you had only been training for about three months? I’m almost certain you thought you were training with an incredible amount of effort back then, right? At the three-month point, you truly believed you were giving everything you had inside of you during each and every exercise didn’t you?
In retrospect, however, you can clearly see that you weren’t training as hard as you could have been. Unfortunately, you couldn’t realize that in actuality there was much more effort you could give during every exercise. You likely came to this realization a few months or even a few years later. Now, take a moment and think back to your first complete year of training. At this point-in-time, you discovered you had a lot more drive and determination within you that could have been exerted during your first three months of training. That’s quite common for you to have felt that way. You simply didn’t realize there was more to give deep inside of you at the time.
Then, when the end of your second full year of training rolled around, your training improved even more. Now, that’s when you cranked up the intensity in the gym a couple of notches and became a real animal, right? Comparatively, you made the first-year version of you look like a total wimp! Coincidentally, that was probably the same time you successfully blasted past a sticking point or “plateau” that you were experiencing.
And then, at the end of your third complete year of training, you looked back and almost felt ashamed because of the way you trained during your second year. You couldn’t believe that the less-experienced version of you even had the nerve to think he was training hard! The proud warrior you evolved into at the end of your third year of training would be embarrassed if anyone even knew you used to train the way you did at the end of year number two. Now, multiply that increasing level of consciousness by ten years. Do you get my point? It’s a heightened level of consciousness that enables an intelligent, experienced bodybuilder to produce more significant results using considerably less volume of work.
Let me put all of this into current terms. Right now, you might think you are putting everything you have into every exercise—but the simple reality is you’re not. You just don’t realize it yet—just like the three-month, first year, and second year versions of you who didn’t know that there was a higher level of performance yet to achieve. When you get to the end of year number ten, you’ll understand that you really only need several exercises for every major body part to effectively get the job done. You’ll have to trust me with what I am explaining to you here. Although a person who completes his tenth year of training can understand what giving their all really means and feels like, he would have a difficult time explaining what that means and feels like to a person who has been training for only a couple of years.
To truly understand and appreciate how a few hard, efficient, and intense exercises can produce just as much (if not more) significant muscle mass as doing six to ten exercises, you will probably have to go through the process of learning and experiencing the normal training evolution for yourself. You can, however, speed up the process considerably by limiting yourself to only several exercises for each different body part. Over time, you’ll actually force yourself to either step up or step out. You won’t allow yourself the luxury of using six to ten exercises to effectively stimulate the intended muscle for growth. Until you believe there is always a higher level of intensity you can achieve (and you haven’t even come close to finding it yet), you’ll never try to become more efficient by relying only on several exercises to initiate the muscle building process.