By Nick Tumminello
At Performance U
, we developed our Full Spectrum Bodybuilding (FSB) system as a way to ensure every workout we do with our physique athletes is fully comprehensive and as effective as possible. In other words, the exercises are the tools and the FSB system helps us to ensure we use those tools in the best way possible.
Plus, the best part about our FSB system is that it’s simple to understand, easy to apply and repeatable in almost any gym setting. In fact, we teach it as part of our Personal Trainer Continuing Education courses so that other trainers and coaches can use this system to achieve the same results we have with their muscle-building programs. And now we’re going to share it with you!
In this article we’re going to show you the foundational concepts behind our Full Spectrum Bodybuilding concept, which will empower you to apply it to any workout you do. But, we aren’t going to stop here! We’ve got a whole series of articles to follow! Each article will focus on training a specific part of your body and provide you with sample workouts using our FBS system!
Let’s kick this exciting series off by laying down the principles of our full spectrum bodybuilding system and explaining what it is and how it works!
What is Full Spectrum Bodybuilding (FSB)?
Put simply, our FSB method helps us to better, more purposefully choose bodybuilding exercises when designing workout programs to ensure we hit the muscle group(s) we’re targeting (that day) in the most effective manner possible!
We all know that using a variety of exercises helps make our workouts more versatile and more effective. That’s the whole reason we don’t just do 15 sets of only one exercise for each area of our body and go home! That said, our FSB concept simply gives us a better direction – a guide if you will – in choosing which exercise variations to use based on how exercises maximally load the muscle. That way we avoid haphazardly choosing moves and always defaulting to our favorite exercises.
In short, our FSB model is a plug and play training system that helps you to better understand how to put workouts together in order to create the optimal training stimulus for muscle growth. All you have to do is bring the intensity and dedication, because no training approach matters without those ingredients.
No, there is no magic formula here and we’re not claiming to have cracked the muscle building code. All we’ve done is created a versatile training system anyone can use, that’s built around battle-tested training concepts and exercises.
How The FSB System Works
The FSB system is based on classifying (and utilizing) exercises based on their unique point of maximal loading.
What Is The Point Of Maximal Loading (PML)?
All exercises that involve free weights and cables have a point within the range of motion (ROM) where the exercise is hardest on the muscle involved, and where the exercise is the easiest. The point at which the exercise is most difficult is where the lever arm becomes the longest and therefore makes the muscles involved work the hardest.
Example: During any style of biceps curl, the point at which your biceps is being maximally loaded (stimulated) is the point in the ROM in which your forearm is at a 90-degree angle with the load vector because that’s when the lever arm is at it’s longest. This elicits the highest amount of muscle activation since you have the least mechanical advantage.
If you're using free weights, gravity is your load vector. So, the point of maximal loading would be when your elbow reaches 90 degrees of flexion or when your forearm is parallel to the floor.
If you're doing biceps curls using a cable column, the cable itself is the load vector. The point of maximal loading to your biceps here is when your forearm makes a 90-degree angle with the cable.
Different exercises will create a maximal force angle at different points in the range of motion. In some exercises, the PML is when the target muscles are in the lengthened position while other exercises have a PML when the muscles are more in a shortened position. And, other exercises maximally load the muscles in the mid-range (between shortened and lengthened).
It’s therefore important to understand that the PML has nothing to do with the actual range of motion you’re going through in the exercise, but rather the force angles involved within the range of motion.
For example: The bench press puts the most stress (i.e. PML) on the chest when it is in the lengthened position at the bottom of the lift and it puts the least stress on the pecs at the top of the lift. On the other hand, cable chest flys create the opposite loading pattern on the pecs. That is to say, the PML on the pecs is when they are shortened. When the chest is lengthened, the loading on them is much lower because the arm is close to being in-line with the cable (i.e. force vector), which creates a very short lever arm and minimal muscle activation.
3 Types Of Exercises In The FSB System
Now that you’re familiar with the concept of PML that we just described above, you will understand our exercise classification system, which categorizes the three types of exercises based on their PML. These categories are the foundation of our FSB methodology:
1. Exercises that create the most load (PML) on the muscle (or muscle group) in the lengthened position.
2. Exercises that create the most load (PML) on the muscle (or muscle group) in the shortened position.
3. Exercises that create the most load (PML) on the muscles in the mid-range position.
This classification system includes both compound lifts and isolation exercises. It also includes machines…
A Word On Machines
With the exception of a few machines like the leg press and hammer strength high row, most machines don’t have one specific point of maximal loading.
Unlike free weights and cables, machines don’t have a single force vector to work against. Instead, they’re designed with a CAM system, which actually allows them to create a more consistent resistance throughout the entire range of motion of the exercise. That’s not to say machines are a more effective training option for muscle building. It’s just to help you understand that machines do indeed offer a unique advantage that can absolutely be beneficial for muscle growth when used in conjunction with free weights and cables.
This is why we feel the whole “avoid machines” notion, while badass to say, doesn’t have much scientific or physiological justification when training for size.
Moreover, since we believe machines can indeed aid in creating a well-rounded muscle building workout, we also include at least one machine exercise in our FSB workouts.
Note: To learn more about the benefits of machines, check out my article 5 Machines that are Better Muscle-Builders than Free Weights.
How The Full Spectrum Bodybuilding System Works
Each of the three types of exercises (categorized above) creates a different training stimulus (i.e. benefit) based on their unique point of maximal loading:
- Exercises that load the muscles more while their lengthened position have been shown to stimulate great gains in hypertrophy.
- Exercises that load the muscles more in their shortened position tend to create a greater muscle pump, which is also linked to hypertrophy gains through “cell swelling.”
- Science has also shown that our muscles are strongest in their mid-range due to increased motor unit recruitment. Therefore, exercises that create the point of maximal loading in the mid-range can aid in increasing motor unit-recruitment, which essentially helps you to bring more muscle into the game on each lift. Check out this article for more on mid-range training.
As you can see, there are clear benefits to utilizing each type of the above exercises, which is why our FSB system includes at least one exercise from each category in every workout so as to ensure that we’ve done all we can to create a well-rounded training stimulus that maximizes muscle growth. Plus, we’ve found this approach also helps with strength gains since we’re overloading the muscles in all ranges of motion, which develops what we call full spectrum strength.
Now, we do like to emphasize exercises from one particular category – the moves that maximally load the muscles in their lengthened position. We do so because those movements seem to give us the most bang for our muscle-building buck. We like to include two or more exercises of those types in a given workout, whereas we may just include one exercise from the other two categories (described above).
Blending The Old With The New!
Now that you understand what our FSB system is, the methodology behind it and how we use it, you can apply it to train any area of your body to ensure each training session covers all bases. That said, we’re sure you’d like to see some sample workouts, so we’re going to give them to you, and them some…
In the next few articles, we’ll cover how to use our FSB system to train each major area of your body. Each article will include sample workout programs along with a comprehensive list of the best exercises to fit each category. You’ll find some new exercises along with some twists on old exercise you’ve been doing and discover what category they fit into and how to best utilize them in your FSB workouts!
The next article in this series will cover FSB for CHEST!