Training Styles: Freestyle


By Greg Merritt Flex

In 2008, FLEX introduced a new concept to training—freestyle. In an era of freestyle rap, freestyle skateboarding, and even freestyle running (parkour, anyone?), some bodybuilders improvise and innovate their way through their workouts. Kai Greene has been at the forefront of this method. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell which body part the Mr. Olympia runner-up is training, because he’ll incorporate work for other muscles and include unorthodox moves like handstands. However, it was after observing a Brandon Curry workout in the summer of 2008 that I brought the freestyle label to bodybuilding.


Shortly after Curry won the 2008 NPC USA Championships, I watched him train back and spoke with him about his workout concepts. His freestyling manifested itself in three ways. First, he sometimes did only one exercise per workout. For example, he’d do 15 sets of barbell rows for back and nothing else. Second, he created his own exercises, such as a one-arm standing cable “row,” which was a contraction-only minimovement that kept constant tension on his working lat. Third, he mixed it up as he went along, altering each workout as it progressed depending on biofeedback and intuition.

“I switch it up like the wind changes. I don’t want to get bored in the gym. I just want to enjoy it every time I’m in there, so I’m constantly trying new things.”—Brandon Curry

Freestyle workouts incorporate several classic Weider Principles: eclectic (change your workout, when necessary, as it progresses); instinctive (experiment to determine what works best for your body); and holistic (include vastly different training styles). But what most animates freestyling is creativity. This suits more artistic bodybuilders like Greene and Curry, but it may not work best for you.


  • This is an advanced training style. You need to first learn how your muscles react to various rep schemes and exercises.
  • Think different. Incorporate innovation and individuality into your routine.
  • Change workouts on the fly.
  • Monitor your pump, strength, and energy throughout each workout to determine what exercises to do in what manner.

Alter your split to incorporate styles like circuit training, powerlifing, and high-rep sets.
Freestyle is the anti-routine. The upside of this is it wards of boredom, incorporates a lot of variety, and it can allow you to determine precisely what works best for your bodybuilding goals throughout each workout, whether it’s a row that’s not a row, 15 sets of one exercise, or handstands. The downside to this is the potential for chaos. Workouts can focus so much on doing something different that you miss doing what works best. It’s a training style for advanced bodybuilders who are both creative and disciplined.


When incorporating something new, you generally need to do it for at least three workouts to determine its effectiveness.

This style is especially effective for your back and legs—large body parts with multiple muscles.
Never leave the gym thinking you could’ve done more. When in doubt, end your workout with a giant set or dropset to maximize your pump.

There are numerous variables you can change, including: exercise selection, exercise order, number of sets per exercise, number of reps per set, rep speed, rest lengths, and the inclusion of intensity techniques like supersets and rest-pause.

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