I'm halfway through Week 2 of my six-month program and I've taken stock of my starting point. Assessing your starting point is an important step toward taking the most direct path to your goals. Imagine mapping driving directions without having a point A to go with your point B!
My self-assessment tells me that I've maintained a fair amount of strength from last year's six-month stint in the gym. Unfortunately, I've gained about 10-15 pounds of unwanted padding and have lost almost all muscle definition. The silver lining? The fact that I still have my strength means that I'll be able to build mass quickly and, with the proper diet, burn off the fat. (Oftentimes, an initial lack of strength prevents early gains because I'm not strong enough to complete the training needed for growth. Or I lack the supporting strength to complete heavy movements. For example, not having enough grip strength to crank out pull ups means my back can't grow because my forearms are weak!) That's one important hurdle that I've cleared.
I've also decided that I need to tailor my training to hit my weak points. For me, that means really focusing on chest development (including upper, lower, center separation and outer) and tapering from my shoulders to my hips. My biceps, triceps, and deltoids are fairly developed...they just need some dieting to bring out definition. I started seriously building my abs during my last six-month challenge, but it takes years to create noticeable peaks and valleys, so I've got some work to do there. My back needs a little development and a lot of defining (especially the lower back and obliques...can I call them obliques when they're really love handles?). Finally, I'm not going to worry about my legs at all. I find that cardio training, sprints, jumping rope, and weekly soccer matches keep my lower body toned. Dieting, of course, will only enhance the definition and create balance.
What this assessment translates into is a shift in my "pushing" workouts to include 3-4 chest exercises, 1-2 shoulder exercises, and 1 optional triceps exercise. My "pulling" workouts will include 3-4 back exercises and maybe only 1 biceps exercise. I need to put various core-strengthening exercises in both my "pushing" and "pulling" workouts. Plus, I need to gradually ramp up my cardio over the next six months and gradually dial down my diet. I think that should do it.
My next consideration will be whether to implement differing rep ranges and training styles depending on the needs of each body part. For example, in one workout I could try using high-rep, low-weight exercises on chest to build mass through muscle fatigue while using low-rep, high-weight exercises on tripceps to build strength and density while avoiding mass. I need to think that option over a little before jumping on board. I'll keep you posted...that is, if anyone besides me is reading this. :)