Abbreviated Training article with Rich Fitter by Stuart McRobert

Abbreviated Training: The Godsend for Muscle & Strength Gains

Rich Fitter, October 1999 (above). As a lifetime drug-free competitor, Richs best placings were first in the heavyweight classes at the 2000 INBF Natural Hercules International and the 2000 INBF Natural Northeast America/Hernandez Classic. Every time he competed, he was polygraphed and urine tested for anabolic steroids and other banned substances. Photograph by Anthony Fodera.

Here are Rich
s words from 2021: I'm blessed to have followed my dream of living my life as a bodybuilder, but it would never have been possible if I hadnt discovered HARDGAINER magazine 30 years ago. If Id not used abbreviated training routines like the ones found on its pages, I wouldnt have achieved my bodybuilding success. Truly, the magazine changed my life.


The lessons I teach aren’t based on just my journey. They are a fusion of the experiences and acquired wisdom of generations of drug-free bodybuilders and strength trainees.

Abbreviated training works big time for hard gainers when it’s applied properly. And it works spectacularly for not-so-hard gainers.

Abbreviated training has variant names, such as minimalistic training, abbreviated weight training, and abbreviated strength training.

The approach I teach is also practical and doable even if you have a busy life and limited time for the gym. You must be highly motivated and willing to train hard, though. Serious results require serious training. But the approach doesn’t require that you sacrifice your education, career, relationships, family, friends, and/or health at the altar of the gym.

The approach is effective without drug assistance or outlier genetics and requires way less training than mainstream methods do. And that’s why it’s tailor-made for hard gainers and is called “abbreviated training”—it’s abbreviated relative to the volume and frequency of training promoted by mainstream/conventional instruction.

But it’s not just any type of abbreviated training.


Abbreviated training properly applied

Some forms of abbreviated training employ an abbreviated list of exercises but apply volume and/or frequency of training that are excessive for most drug-free trainees; and, sometimes, their exercise selection and recommended form are high risk.

I promote abbreviated training properly applied, which is appropriate and safe for all drug-free and genetically typical trainees, and can be sustained over the long-term. But as I noted in the previous article, it must be customized to suit you according to your age, health, current physical condition, history of injuries, motivation, goals, available equipment, and so on.

In bodybuilding and strength training, good things come to those who apply abbreviated training properly. I commend it to you!

But before I start explaining how you should train and recover, you first need to know why most of today’s training guidance for drug-free bodybuilders and strength trainees is a joke.


The real champions

The real champions of bodybuilding, powerlifting, and strength training in general, aren’t the drug-enhanced, genetically blessed “superstars.” The real champions are the unsung heroes who dedicate themselves to properly applied hard work, and build impressive, strong physiques without using drugs, and without divorcing themselves from the responsibilities of work and family life.


The fake champions

When sizing up the contribution of most modern-day physique and strength “superstars,” consider the following:

(1) They are often presented as role models for others to follow, with the implicit or explicit mantra of “train like a champion, to be a champion yourself.” Millions of typical trainees tried exactly that, in good faith, but without success.

(2) Food supplements are often claimed to make a big contribution to the training success of the fake champions. Fortunes have been made through selling overpriced food supplements that couldn’t deliver what the ads claimed. Some drug-assisted genetic supermen endorse food supplements. And many trainees believe that food supplements play a major role in the success of the men who provide the endorsements. But bodybuilding drugs are their major “supplements.”

(3) Many trainees have discovered that the fake champions’ training methods do work if enough anabolic steroids are used. Consequently, the failure of those methods to yield good results for the training masses indirectly promotes the use of steroids.

(4) Some famous bodybuilders and strength “stars,” and some drug “experts,” suffered premature deaths or serious health problems, largely if not wholly because of their use of bodybuilding drugs. There’ll be further high-profile premature deaths with strong suspicions of drug involvement, but for each of them there are many no-profile premature deaths related to drug use, and extensive health, relationship, family, and financial or crime-related problems about which the public never hears.

Training instruction in the mainstream publications of the pre-steroid era (pre-1955, approximately) was better than it is in today’s mainstream. But there wasn’t a golden age of training instruction in the pre-steroid era.

Training volume and frequency inappropriate for most trainees, high-risk exercise technique, non-individualized training, and deceitful advertising have been promoted in the mainstream for over a century. But modern-day big business, plus performance- and appearance-enhancing drugs, have made matters even worse today.

Ignore the fraud of the fake champions. Instead, apply abbreviated training properly and become a real champion.


A caveat

There are (or were) drug-free bodybuilders, powerlifters and other strength athletes who’ve been champions in their fields of competition. Some of the most outstanding of them are (or were) such genetic outliers that they were able to make astonishing progress from training routines that are useless for drug-free, genetically typical trainees.

But a few of those champions have trained in an abbreviated way that’s also appropriate for drug-free, genetically typical trainees to apply.

Those champions are in another world to the one of the drug-enhanced genetic studs who’ve long been used in mainstream bodybuilding to support the “train like a champion, to be like a champion yourself” mantra.

Abbreviated training properly applied is what my guidance is about, because it works for all highly motivated bodybuilders and strength trainees, both male and female. Keep reading this column!


About the author

Stuart McRobert has been a voice of reason in the training world for 41 years and counting. He was first published in 1981, in IRON MAN magazine, when he was 22 years old, and has had over 1,000 articles published in US and European bodybuilding print magazines other than his own, including IRON MAN, FLEX, MUSCLE & FITNESS, and MUSCLEMAG INTERNATIONAL. He also published HARDGAINER print magazine for 15 years—from 1989 to 2004—and is the author of BRAWN, BEYOND BRAWN, BUILD MUSCLE LOSE FAT LOOK GREAT, and several other books.

But Stuart’s not an armchair coach. Drug-free, he built himself up from a skinny youth to 195 pounds and deadlifted 400 pounds for a set of 20 reps. And he still trains seriously today, at age 64.

Success stories from those who also use hard-gainer-style methods for their training and coaching include Marty Gallagher and Chuck Miller.

Stuart currently publishes HARDGAINER 2.0 digital magazine. Visit his website to get your FREE sampler issue: