The Weider Principles - Pt.1


The Foundation of Modern Bodybuilding - Joe Weider

Joe Weider - the "father" of modern bodybuilding 

Joe Weider - the "father" of modern bodybuilding 

What distinguishes the modern-day bodybuilder from those who came before 1940? Today’s champions are bigger, better-proportioned, more muscular and stronger than those of the past. Yes, better nutrition has played a part and, in a few sad cases, dangerous and sometimes illegal anabolic steroids have played a part too. However, the major reason there are bigger, more powerful men today is the Weider Bodybuilding System.

Years ago, there was no bodybuilding either. There were only weightlifters and strongmen. Those who tried bodybuilding didn’t get very far because there were no scientific methods of training then, suitable for real bodybuilding success. Instead, everything was geared to strength training. Then I came along. My principles created the foundation for modern-day bodybuilding.

I brought organization and discipline into an area of utter confusion. With my principles, bodybuilding grew into a real sport with scientific underpinnings. Since science doesn’t stand still, bodybuilding training doesn’t either. This is why it has taken me more than 45 years to perfect a common body building language, a coherent, logical, organized system—the Weider System.

I have devoted my life to the study of the training techniques of the champions. I have experimented with training all my life and commissioned others to do the same. My extensive cataloging of principles is based on what the champions have used and found beneficial in gyms throughout the world. What has evolved is the Weider System.

Look around you. What champions today do not employ the Weider Principles? You see bodybuilders using giant sets, supersets, the double-split system, forced repetitions… Where do you think these methods came from? Who discovered them, who named them, who promoted them, who tied them together into a progressive system where beginners, intermediates and advanced bodybuilders could all make gains? Joe Weider.

You long-time readers of many bodybuilding and fitness magazines know the answers. You know about the Weider Principles and how, when and where to use them for maximum gains. However, every month we have hundreds of new readers who are beginning bodybuilders. To help you newcomers understand how to incorporate them into your training and maximally benefit from them, here is a list of my principles and a brief explanation of each. From time to time we will present a detailed analysis of these principles to help you move into modern bodybuilding and reach your full potential as a bodybuilder. To know the Weider System is to know how to become a great bodybuilder.

1)   Progressive Overload Training Principle—The basis of increasing any parameter of fitness (strength, size, endurance, etc.) is making your muscles work harder than they are accustomed to. You must progressively overload your muscles. For example, to gain strength, you must constantly try to handle greater weight. To increase muscle size, not only should you attempt to handle heavier and heavier weights, but you can also increase the number of sets you do and the number of training sessions. To increase local muscle endurance, you might progressively decrease your between sets resting time or increase the number of repetitions or sets that you do. Everything is progressive. The overload concept underlies all physical training and is the solid base of the Weider System.

2)   Set System Training Principle—In the early days of the Weider System, most experts suggested that aspiring bodybuilders perform only one set of each movement in their routines. If they performed 12 exercises for a full body workout, they would naturally perform 12 sets per workout. Our early Weider Principle was the first to advocate doing multiple sets (sometimes as many as 3-4 sets for each exercise) in order to completely exhaust each muscle group and stimulate maximum muscle hypertrophy.

3)   Isolation Training Principle—Muscles can work in unison, or they can work in relative separation from each other. Each muscle contributes, in some fashion, to a whole movement, either as a stabilizer, an agonist, antagonist or synergist. If you want to maximally shape or build a muscle, independently, you must isolate it from the other muscles as best you can. You do this through anatomical position changes. For example, Scott curls isolate the brachialis arm flexor better than close-grip reverse lat machine pull-downs.

4)   Muscles Confusion Training Principle—Part of constant growth is never allowing your body to fully adapt to one specific training routine. Muscles should never accommodate. To grow they need stress. If you constantly vary exercises, sets, reps and angles of pull upon your muscles, they can never accommodate and adjust to the stress upon them. One of my strong beliefs is: To keep your muscles growing and changing, you must confuse them.

5)   Muscle Priority Training Principle—Train your weakest body part first in your workout when your energy is highest. A high degree of training intensity builds muscle, and your intensity can be great only when your energy is high. For example, if your shoulders are weak, you should do all of your overhead presses, upright rows and laterals before you do any bench presses for your chest. In this way you can put maximum intensity into your shoulder workout. You give the shoulders training priority.

6)   Pyramiding Training Principle—Muscle fibers grow by contracting against heavy resistance. They also gain strength by contracting against such resistance. Theoretically, if you were able to load the maximum amount of weight you could lift in an exercise for eight reps and do it for a number of sets, without a warm-up, it would be a very effective size and strength builder. But you can’t do this because of the built-in injury potential of training with maximum weights without a warm-up. No one starts at his maximum weight.

The pyramid system was devised to get around this problem. Start with about 60% of the maximum amount you could handle for a single repetition, then do the exercise with this comparatively light weight for 15 reps. Then add weight and decrease your reps to 10-12. Finally, add weight until you reach about 80% of your max and do 5-6 reps. In this way, you can handle heavy weights after you are warmed up and reap the benefits without worrying about injury.

7)   Split System Training Principle—After three months of training on a three-day-a-week system, you may want to increase the overall intensity of your training. If you divide your body into upper and lower sections for training purposes, you can include more exercises and more sets for each section of your body and thus train each section harder. On my split system of training, in the first workout of the week you might do eight exercises just for your upper body. Because you are just working your upper body, you will be able to do all eight exercises with superintensity because your energy levels are high. Then, the next workout day you will concentrate on your lower body, doing 6-8 exercises for these muscles with the same intensity. On the three-day-a-week system you would have to do both your upper body and lower body all on the same day. Naturally, your intensity would have to be lower on the three-day system. With the split method you can work each body part harder and longer and that’s why you’ll grow more symmetrical, larger and shapelier from the use of the principle.

8)   Flushing Training Principle—You must get blood into a specific muscle and keep it there to produce growth. Flushing is really body part training. For instance, when you train chest, doing 3-4 exercises for this body part alone, one after the other without exercising another body part until all of these chest exercises are completed, you are using the Flushing Principle for your chest. You are spending all your time on one area and, consequently, constantly flushing this area with blood.

9)   Supersets Training Principle—This is one of my better known principles. When you group two exercises for opposing muscle groups together, as with biceps curls and triceps extensions, you are doing a superset. The idea is to do two back-to-back individual sets, one of each exercise with little or no rest between them. Supersetting is actually neurologically sound. Tests prove that doing a set for the biceps improves the recovery rate for the biceps! It has to do with nervous impulses.

10)   Compound Sets Training Principle—A superset for the same body part (two back-to-back biceps exercises) is a compound set. In this case, you are not trying to facilitate recovery, but to superpump your muscles. When you compound for your biceps, for example, you would do a set of barbell curls followed by a set of incline dumbbell curls.