Walkouts, Partial Reps, Banded Moments, Movements with Chains, Lockout Reps, Board Pressing, the list of specialist exercises is numerous but do you really need them?
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Building is the aim, but with all the set and rep ranges out there which one should you use?
There was the famous 6×6 & 8×8 that was used by Vince Gironda
Or the hugely successful 7-5-3 Wave Loading System found under the tutelage of Charles Poliquin
You even heard stories of how well people did on Dorian Yates’ ‘Blood & Guts One Set to Faliure’
Some even did phenomenally well on the very simple 4×8-12
But the truth is that all of the systems work, lets be honest and accept that if they didn’t work they wouldn’t be spoken about.
The hardest part isn’t finding a set/rep scheme that works, it’s finding one YOU can stick with for the long haul, in our society of quick fixes and instant gratification we want to add 30lbs of lean muscles, drop 50lbs of body fat and look akin to a Greek God all by last week.
Sadly life doesn’t work that way. If you want to build some decent lean muscle you will need to be prepared to put in the hard work, eat adequately and have everything pretty much on point. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a life but you must understand that the more effort you put in and the more sacrifice you’re willing to make the faster and less time you will need you will achieve your results (which could still be in the years in most cases).
Now the obvious points are out of the way it’s time to give you some options to help you on your way to a better you.
The rotation of set/rep schemes will be set using a 3 days on 1 day off rotation until you have done the particular set/rep scheme 4/5 times (this will last mean each set/rep system will last around 3 weeks or so) with a total of 4 different rep/set options to go though. The main exercises will stay the same for all 4 mini blocks, as for assistance work you can add in some DT (Density Training) that should take no more than 10min and the chosen assistance movements can change every 3/4 workouts if you feel the need, but remember a change is only needed if you have become stagnant on that particular exercise.
Parameters for the mains lifts:
First 5 Workouts (weeks 1-3):
Loading % of 1RM: 70%,75%,80%,60%
Tempo: 6-1-1-1 and 2-1-1-1 for the 20 rep set
Rest: 90 Seconds
Second 5 Workouts (weeks 4-6)
Loading % of 1RM: 75-80%
Rest: 30 Seconds
Third 5 Workouts (weeks 7-9)
Loading % of 1RM: 80-85%
Rest: 90-120 Seconds
Forth 5 Workouts (weeks 10-12)
Loading % of 1RM: 82,85,87,90,92%
Rest: 120 Seconds or as needed
The main lifts will be comprised of the following:
– Squat (Front or Back)
– Bench Press (Incline of Flat)
– Deadlift (Overhand only)
– Bent Over Row (Supinated Grip)
– Press (Military or Behind Neck)
– Pull Up (Weighted or Body Weight)
Now it’s time for the interesting part, the workouts themselves.
Based on 3 working days you will only be required to do 2 movements per workout, plus 1-2 assistance movements if you feel the need.
A1 – Squat
B1 – Pull Up
C1 – Dumbbell Curl (5-10min on timer, do as many reps as possible in the time limit)
A1 – Bench Press
B1 – Bent Over Row
C1 – Skull Crusher (5-10min on timer, do as many reps as possible in the time limit)
A1 – Deadlift
B1 – Press
C1 – Lateral Raise – Do one set of C1 followed by C2, minimal rest between transitions.
C2 – Face Pull or Reverse Fly (5-10min on timer, do as many reps as possible in the time limit)
Day 4: Off
The above is a very simple progression that will help you build some quality lean muscle tissue while keeping things fresh and interesting. as I mentioned above you can change your assistance exercises as you see fit but try to keep the main movements the same as this will help with the accumulation f overload stimulus.
One benefit of these workouts is that they won’t take long to complete, perhaps 40min tops meaning that you will have lots more free time to spend with friends and family, eat lots of good foods and because the workouts are so short you will look forward to your next one, unlike some other extreme training programs that kill your motivation to train.
You will also need to make sure you’re eating enough, if you want my opinion on how to make a educated guess then do the following:
LBM (Lean Body Mass) x 17-19 = Daily Calories
LBM x 1-1.2 = Protein in Grams for the day x4 = calories from protein.
Protein x 1.5-3 = Carbs for the day (1 if you’re a desk jockey. Use 2 if you’re somewhat active at work and 3 if you’re job is very physical) x4 = Calories from carbohydrates.
Daily Calories – (Protein Calories + Carb Calories) = Calories of Fat per day, divide this number by 9 to get your daily grams of fat.
Now go and make some progress.
You’re not training hard enough.
No, you’re not.
If you were then you wouldn’t be looking of rate next best program, you would be slowly and steadily making progress.
I have noticed that lots of people seem to be training much LONGER but not HARDER.
While this is only my opinion and lots will disagree, if you spend more than 45-75min in the gym then you’re not working hard enough, period.
In my opinion if you can train ‘hard’ for longer than that then you’re not training hard enough or you’re on some form of PED (steroid) because there are very few exceptions to this rule.
Why between those times?
Depending on the length or warm up you need (some people need up to 30min with all their pre mobility etc), once you’re body feels ready you start lifting and pushing yourself.
What does hard work feel like?
How should your reps feel?
How should your breathing be when running (cardio training)?
Lets say you’re doing 6 sets of 6 reps, the first 2 sets of 6 should feel easy ish, the next two you will want to be struggling to get 6 and the last two you should only get 4, perhaps 5 reps out and those should be a struggle. This is coming close to hard work.
Alternatively you could go in with the ind set that even on your first set the 6th rep should be a fighting struggle to achieve (I like this mind set).
You shouldn’t be able to hold a conversation. Simple.
Too much chatter when CV training means you;re not working at the correct intensity, you should be abel to get out maybe 3-5 words or single sentences, but if you can talk almost normally then you need to be working harder.
This all sounds quite logical doesn’t it?
You’d be surprised at the amount of people who have ‘pseudo intensity’. What is it?
Pseudo Intensity is when people are working hard ish, but they often hold a lot back, this is why allows them to stay in the gym for upwards of 90min and sometimes even 3 hours.
There is a simple equation I like to remember, it goes like this:
Hard Work + Consistency = Results
Okay, there are some nuances to that but the general ethos is solid.
Now stop faffing about and go do some proper training!
Today it’s time to talk about technique, or more importantly your ability to preform correct technique.
There are lots of compound exercises that require certain amounts skill, but that’s not really in question that often because the average gym goer forgets one crucial element, most compound exercises also require adequate mobility to be preformed correctly.
Before I move on let us establish what mobility actually is.
Mobility, or joint mobility, is the ability to move a limb through the full range of motion with control, people often get mobility and flexibility confused.
Mobility is based on voluntary movement (squatting to full depth for example) while flexibility involves static holds (touching your toes) and is often dependent upon gravity or passive forces. Mobility demands strength to produce full-range movement, whereas flexibility is passive and not strength-dependent.
It is possible to have good mobility without being especially flexible, after all, someone who is able to perform a full overhead squat won’t necessarily be able to do the splits. Just as someone who is flexible can have poor mobility, i.e., control. Of the two, mobility is more important. It is better to be inflexible with good mobility than flexible with poor mobility.
Mobility isn’t just required for lifting weights though. having good mobility will also improve your quality of life too. In an ideal world you would wake up every morning and perform a mobility routine to help prepare your body for the trials of the day. it doesn’t have to take long, 5-10min is more than sufficient and you can do it while your breakfast is cooking.
Here is a sample routine that you can do at home and before your workouts each and everyday.
- Rocking Ankle Mobilization (walking on the inner/outer portion of your foot for 20 meters per side)
- Quadruped Crawl (bear crawl) 20 meter
- Squat with chest expansion and arm swings
- Squat hold with shoulder dislocation (sit in a deep squat and hold a towel in both hands and try to take it fro the front of your body over your head and touch your lower back)
- Spidermans (also called a low lateral lunge from side to side)
- Reverse Lunge
Bonus: Static Stretching
*Hip Flexor Stretch (rear foot elevated on sofa or chair, push hips forwards)
* Door Frame Chest Stretch (have your elbows at shoulder height and lean through an open doorway)
There are lots of mobility routines available on YouTube and other such websites, the one above is a simple suggestion, i would do some research and find one that works for you and takes less than 10min to do each day.
Want to build strength and muscle with simple program?
All you will need is the following:
- Spreadsheets (easy to write out and record progress)
- Calculators (to workout of % of 1RM)
- 45-60min Training Time
- The Desire To Succeed
Below is a series of reps/sets with their desired % of 1RM (1 rep max) for starting weight that would be used (this might seem low on the outset but as you progress and add weight you will be glad your started out slightly lighter) and a list of exercises.
- 8×3 – 85%
- 6×4 – 80%
- 5×5 – 75%
- 4×6 – 70%
- 3×8 – 65%
*A more experience lifter will start anywhere from 2.5-5% higher than the suggested % of 1RM, so 8×3 @ 87.5 – 90%.
- Back Squat, Front Squat, Overhad Squat
- Bench Press, Incline Bench Press, Weighted Dip (bar or dumbbell)
- Deadlift, Deficit Deadlift, Double Overhand Deadlift, Snatch Grip Deadlift
- Overhead Press, Behind Neck Press, Dumbbell Press (neutral grip, clean grip, snatch grip)
- Bent Over Row (overhand, underhand) , Weighted Pull/Chin Up,Single or Double Arm Dumbbell Row, Upright Row
With these you will be able to build a solid base of strength and mass easily. The best part is you can use them in various ways, the suggestions I will give you today are not gospel, they are only a few of the potential combinations that I have used with success so far.
I will be honest, these suggestions haven’t worked for everyone, I have had to change various things such as TUT, rest periods, weight progression, rep progression and much more for each specific individual, but what I will teach you today has had the most consistent results, with the majority of people.
Lets say you’re training 3 time days per week, above you have 5 different rep ranges and each rep range will give you a slightly different stimulus and result.
- 8×3 – Strength
- 6×4 – Strength
- 5×5 – Strength/Hypertrophy
- 4×6 – Strength/Hypertrophy
- 3×8 – Hypertrophy
Now to build strength and mass equally you might do well to choose the following rep ranges that you will use for each day:
- 8×3 – Strength
- 5×5 – Strength/Hypertrophy
- 3×8 – Hypertrophy
These rep ranges will stay consistent throughout the week but the chosen exercise will differ, this makes training a lot more fun and incredibly productive as you’re stimulating the muscles through varying training methods.
The you will need to assign one of the given compound movements above for each rep range on each day. I have used the following exercises: Back Squat, Weighted Dip & BNP, Deficit Deadlift & Weighted Chin. These offer a full body workout with a decent amount of balance. there will be a note on assistance movements later.
This is a full body workout. Below you will see how the exercises stay the same but the reps change on a daily basis, this will allow an good balance of strength progression with gaining respectable amounts of lean mass too. I would also suggest that you use your rest days as ‘active recovery’ by doing 30-45min of moderate cardio and some mobility work, this does not mean full out sprints, simply enough to get your heart working and build up a decent sweat.
- Monday – Day 1 – 8×3 Back Squat, 5×5 Weighted Dip & BNP, 3×8 Deficit Deadlift & Weighted Chin + 1/2 Accessory Exercises.
- Tuesday – Active Recovery Day: 30min CV 30min Mobility
- Wednesday – Day 2 – 8×3 Weighted Dip & BNP, 5×5 Deficit Deadlift & Weighted Chin 3×8 Back Squat + 1/2 Accessory Exercises.
- Thursday – Active Recovery Day: 30min CV 30min Mobility
- Friday – Day 3 – 8×3 Deficit Deadlift & Weighted Chin, 5×5 Back Squat, 3×8 Weighted Dip & BNP + 1/2 Accessory Exercises.
- Saturday – Active Recovery Day: 30min CV 30min Mobility
- Sunday – Complete Rest Day
In terms of how you would progress the weights it’s pretty simple. If you hit all of the desired reps with good from then you can add a total of 2.5kg to your upper body movements and 5kg to lower body movements. If you miss a rep or feel your form wasn’t solid and your TUT was lacking* then stick on that weight for another week and attempt it again, if you still don’t get it then perhaps it’s time to change up the exercise and start building that up instead, this holds true for every exercise because you will only progress so far before you hit a proper plateau.
What about accessory work?
A good question, I have the following advise on that subject.
A nice simple rep range of 10,8,6,20 one 1 or 2 movements as a super set will be more than enough to help bring up those lagging areas that might not have had quite enough stimulation from the compound movements. These are some potential exercises you might use:
- Hamstring Curl, Lunge, Kettlebell Swing, RDL
- Cable Fly, Lateral Raise, Y-Press
- Reverse Fly, Shrug, Face Pull
- Bicep Curl or any variation, Tricep Push Down or any variation
- Ab Roll Out, Leg Raise, Crunch, Windmill, Russian Twist
The possibilities for your choice of assistance work are only limited by your knowledge. If you’re stuck go and see the google-monster, it will help you find plenty of variation, but remember these are best used as EXTRA if you have time, they shouldn’t form the bulk of your workout, this is why I say 1-2 is enough.
*I have not mentioned much on TUT (time under tension) but aiming for a 4 second Eccentric, 1 second Pause, 1 second Concentric and another 1 second Pause should be adequate for now. You might have seen it written like this in some books: 4-1-1-1.
There are endless possibilities when it comes programming workouts, depending on your goal you might require more CV than just 30-45min on the days in-between your full body workouts.
Use this to help you stave off boredom and make the progress you deserve.
Planning a workout isn’t as easy as it seems sometimes.
You have to take in to account a lot.
When you’re designing a program you will do well to build it around the Planes of Movement.
There are only 3, Sagittal, Frontal and Transverse but can you remember which is which?
Creating a workout based around these fundamental principles will help you create far more effective programs than simply thinking along the lines of “Chest & Tri’s” or “Back & Bi’s”.
If you can’t quite remember what they are here is a refresher for you.
The Sagittal Plane:
This divides the body into left and right.
When we move along this plane, we are using the strength of our muscles to move parts of the body forward or backward. Extension and flexion happen along the sagittal plane. This means most running, biking, rowing, and lifting movements make use of this plane.
For example, in a squat, both hips move from extension into flexion, and back into extension. The hips and knees in particular spend a lot of time in flexion, so mobility work should involve extending both joints.
The Frontal Plane:
The Frontal plane divides the body into front and back.
When we move along this plane, we are moving toward or away from the midline. Adduction and abduction are movements along this plane. Many of our daily movements and exercises involve very little abduction. We tend to stay fairly neatly hugged in toward the middle.
The Transverse Plane
The transverse (or horizontal) plane divides the body into top and bottom, but it is a little less straightforward. Any time we rotate a joint we are moving along the transverse plane. In daily life, this is the action we do least frequently, particularly with the large joints in the hips, shoulders, and spine.
When you begin to think in terms of what planes of movement you’re working it makes creating workouts that stimulate the whole body EQUALLY very easy.
For each horizontal push you must have a horizontal pull. Vertical push? Yep… You need a vertical pull.
You will want to match compound for compound, isolation for isolation. So if you do bench press, either a seated row or bar bell row would be a great opposing movement. While a reverse fly would also work it wouldn’t stimulate the same amount of muscles, nor produce adequate overload.
Balance is the key, yet it’s almost always forgotten.
I personally have always been a fan of having 2 pulling movements for every one pushing movement. It’s rare you see people with an undeveloped anterior chain (mirror muscles).
An example workout I often give is as follows (try and see if you can find what planes are worked):
A1 – DB Incline Press – 5×5
B1 – DB Chest Supported Row – 6×6
C1 – Dip 4×12
C2 – Supinated Chin 4×6-12
D1 – Russian Cable Twist 3x fail
A1 – BB Squat – 8×3
B1 – BB DL – 12×2
C1 – Leg Extension – 3×8
C2 – Leg Curl 3×8
D1 – Tornado Ball Slam (back to the wall, twisting left/right 3x 60 seconds
A1 – Overhead Press – 4×6
B1 – Wide Grip Pull Up – 5×10
C1 – Lateral Raise – 4×12
C2 – Upright Row – 4×12
D1 – Gym Ball Scorpion Kick 3 x 12 each side
Working the varied planes with a balanced mixture of compound/isolation movements will build lots of lean muscle and a balanced physique.
Are you missing out?
A lot of people certainly are, but are you one of them?
There are two upper body exercises that will not only help you fill out a t-shirt but also build some impressive strength too.
The best part about these exercises is they work brilliantly for the ladies too. They will help you achieve those lean looking arms and sculpted back you desire.
What exercises do I mean?
The Dip & The Pull/Chin Up (pull ups hit more back, chin ups hit more biceps)
These are the upper body equivalent to the Squat & the Deadlift, or so some people say anyway.
Being able to perform a strict set of 25 dips & 12 pull ups (woman) and 50 dips with 25 pull ups (men) won’t just make you impressively strong, it will also help build your confidence and add some sought after lean muscle to your frame.
It is true that people will add weight to these exercises to help overload but personally I would advise hitting the numbers above with good form before you venture in to the realms of adding weight to the exercise.
For both men and woman focusing on mastering these bodyweight movements and increasing the reps until they have hit the desired numbers is the first and most important goal.
But what if you can’t do more than a few of each?
Fear not. There is a great method that will help you build up your reps and get stronger, the best part is because of the volume loading it can be done daily.
What is this miraculous method?
You simply do one rep of each exercise. The two, followed by 3, basically adding a rep for each successfully completed set of reps for each exercise. Once you fail start again at one.
This style of training has been proven over the years as a great way of adding strength and building lean muscle.
If you can take your ladder from 1 to 10 then you’re not he right path, you might then want to start working for unbroken ladder reps up to 15 or even 20! By doing this you will find you ability to crank out 25-50 dips in one set isn’t an issue. the same is true for pull/chin ups.
Now go and get practising.
*Please note that if you can’t do one of either then the use of resistance bands to assist you or an assistance machine is permitted.
Do you really train better in the evening or is it just because that’s your routine?
Training in the early morning has been long said to be more beneficial because of higher levels of testosterone and your hormones being more optimal overall, but some struggle to get up.
Because it’s not a part of their routine.
Routine is something we all need and for those who have become used to training in the PM they can’t see it being any other way. If these people try to train early the feel weak, sluggish and are almost certain to have a bad session, but considering their hormones should be more optimal at that time how can this be?
Mental readiness is the answer.
If you are mentally prepared for what is coming then you will find that it doesn’t matter what time of the day you train, you will have a good session regardless. Being mentally ready can be the difference in hitting a PB and missing it, the same is true fro the times you decide to train.
If you FEEL training in the PM is really the only way for you and you get your best results from training at that time then more power to you, but I would suggest trying to build a new routine and start getting in at 6 or 7 AM, it will help free up lots of time in your day and potentially allow for a second session too.
Try early morning workouts for 6 weeks and you will soon find you start to become a morning person.
As they say, it’s the early bird that gets the worm but the second mouse that gets the cheese.