By Michelle Basta Speers | Photography by Robert Reiff

Total-body training is a hot trend that strips body fat, increases endurance and saves time. But what if you want to add some muscle to your frame, bring up a lagging body part or create some slammin’ curves? Gotta go old school and break it down, one muscle group at a time.

“The benefit of training individual muscle groups is that you can work areas that might need a little more attention, creating balance and symmetry in the body,” explains Abbie Appel, former IFBB Fitness competitor, and current international fitness presenter and speaker. With straight-set training, you can focus on creating hypertrophy in muscles that need more attention and can even specifically train areas that are weak or overstretched, such as the shoulders and midback from sitting in front of a computer, according to Appel.

This program is designed to help you develop a beautiful top to bottom. Choose one of these workouts and perform the moves in the order suggested; next week, do the second workout to keep things fresh. Devote the first set of each move to higher reps and lower weight to etch the biomechanics into your body and brain. For the next two sets, go heavy to encourage muscle breakdown, then for your last set, do either drop sets or negatives to completely fatigue the muscle and cause it to fail. This strategy will constantly challenge your body and keep it guessing, encouraging progress. Do this program for four to six weeks and you’ll have a fit and fabulous flip side.


Drop sets: Choose a weight and do as many reps as you can. When you can’t do any more, choose a lesser weight and do as many as you can with that one. When you can’t do any more, swap out the weight once more and rep it out to failure.

Negatives: Choose a heavy weight and do a quick and powerful positive contraction. Then, as slowly as you can, lower the weight back to the start position. Repeat this pattern for reps. Shoot for up to 10 seconds per negative if you can manage it.


Set-up: Stand behind a barbell on the floor, feet just inside shoulder width. Squat and take an overhand grip on the bar, arms just outside your legs. Lift your chest and pull your shoulders down and back.

Action: Keeping your back straight, extend your legs and stand up, dragging the bar up along the fronts of your legs as you press through your heels and come to a standing position. Pause a beat and then reverse the motion, flexing your knees and hips to lower the bar just short of touching the floor.

Tip: The barbell should move in a vertical line; if it is wavering in and out, adjust your body mechanics so it moves straight up and down.

Wide-grip pulldown

Set-up: Attach a long bar to a high cable pulley and adjust the seat so you’re able to sit with your feet firmly on the floor. Take an overhand grip on the bar, hands just outside shoulder width, arms extended, and sit down. Lift your chest and contract your shoulder blades.

Action: Drive your elbows down to pull the bar toward your clavicle, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Pause at the peak contraction before slowly returning to the start.

Tip: Avoid leaning back and using momentum to pull the bar because it could also cause injury to your shoulders and lower back.

For the full article and workout, check out the latest issue of Oxygen in all good newsagents, or you can click here to subscribe.