Tag Archives: program design

Pushing your sets all the way

Working out is easy, it’s training that’s hard.
 
When it comes to the mental aspect of lifting weights we’d all like to think that we’re putting in the effort we require and while some certainly do, most don’t.
 
You can tell by the results people achieve.
 
Let’s take for example the classic 5×5, if you look back at its inception the idea was to either do 3-4 warm up sets where you start working towards a top set for the day, some would even do 2 top sets after 3 progressively heavier warm ups, this would actually be quite hard.
 
To push a set of say 5 for everything you had, with good form of course, is quite draining and very few people will ever really do it. Most will lift a weight for 5 that they could have really don for 7, maybe 8 if they’re honest.
 
This is one reason a lot of us don’t get the progress we really want.
 
I’m guilty of this that’s for sure.
 
Now this isn’t to say that people don’t ‘work hard’, rather it’s just pointing out that many haven’t quite grasped the concept of really pushing a set to it’s limit. if they did they’d find training say 3 days per week is more than enough to make progress, rather than their standard 6 with back to back classes and AM/PM runs.
 
Good old fashioned honest hard graft isn’t pleasant, it’s tough, however it’s what produces results, especially when combined with solid nutrition and plenty of recovery.
 
Try doing 5×5 and having 3-4 of those sets being warm ups, then really go all out on the last set, you should feel sufficiently worked, you may have one more set of 5 at that weight, if you do then go for it, however if you get it right that one hard set of 5 will be enough.
 
The loading might look like this:
 
5x60kg
5x100kg
5x140kg
5x180kg
5x200kg
 
Done, move on to the next exercise and repeat the same process.
 
Just something to think about.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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Too good not to share

I came across this article while browsing through the inter webs for knowledge and it’s too good not to share.

https://www.t-nation.com/training/tip-get-ripped-with-4-rep-sets?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=article4844

Christian Thibaudeau is one of my favourite and his knowledge is phenomenal, you’ll enjoy this read.

I will certainly be giving this a go as I am currently short on time in my own training.

Ross

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Short on time? Better back off.

The introduction and more frequent use of ‘back off sets’ has become quite popular of late.

You’ll find you can use them to determine suitable loading for your next session, increase total TUT and even help you maintain your progress if you find your gym training time has been chopped down due to life getting in the way.

In the past this has happened several times and as such a way and to be found to get in some quality work, here is an option for you, it will take anywhere from 20-30min tops, try not to spend longer than 30min (especially if your time is limited), just focus on hard work.

This protocol will:

– Provide suitable mechanical tension for strength
– Generate metabolic stress for adaptation
– Create muscle damage for new growth

All you need to do is follow the guidelines and put in all your effort, eat the calories required for your goal (I’ve written about this previously), sleep and stay focused.

Let’s get down o the details.

– Use compound movements (Squat, DL, Press, Chin, Row, etc)

– 1 or 2 per workout (A1/A2 pairing)

– Ramp up your weights each set, start off with 5’s and work to one heavy set, then add a little more weight for a 3, then finally a little more for 1 single. The triple/single aren’t all out efforts, only the 5, they’re just for extra neural stimulation.

– Take 70% of the top 5 and perform 1 back off set of 10-20 reps unbroken

– Rest is minimal between sets, go as soon as you feel ready

– 3 sessions per week is a good minimum to cover the full body

You will be in and out in no time at all.

This short style of workout will allow heavy enough loads to trigger a host of positive things and the back of set will further potentiate this.

If you find you’re doing all of this in 20min then use the extra 10 for some accessory movements (arms, calves etc).

The protocol above is nothing fancy, it’s devised to get maximum results out of minimum time and as such leaves no room for dilly-dallying.

Enjoy,
Ross

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All Bar One

Keeping things simple is always appealing, especially when it gets results too.
 
If you look back on this page you’ll find workouts using only Dumbbells, Kettlebells, Bodyweight and more, however there is little in the way of Barbell exclusive workouts, keeping this in mind that is what we shall look at today.
 
How can you use only a barbell (plus weight plates, obviously), to achieve a great workout and even make a ton of progress?
 
When I say just a bar, I mean just a bar. Not squat rack, squat pins nothing, just a bar and plates.
 
Easy, you have a few options:
 
– Complexes
– A1/A2 Jump Sets
– One Lift a Day
 
Let’s break down each with some examples for you.
 
Complexes –
 
A barbell complex is like any other, it’s a series of movements performed back-to-back with a set number of reps for each movement before moving on to the next.
 
You can have a little as 3 exercises or as many as 8, possibly more if you’re a sadist.
 
A nice one to try is as follows:
 
RDL, Power Clean, Press, FS, Row – 5-10 reps for each.
 
This can be done with progressively heavier weights to a top set, it can be done at the same weight for as many rounds as possible for time, the options are endless. A great method for stripping fat, improving cardio and slapping on some lean muscle.
 
Next up,
 
A1/A2 Jump Sets –
 
The classic pairing of two exercises is always good for helping shift some heavy poundages when performed in this way, this option is great if being big and strong is the goal.
 
It might look like this:
 
A1 – Deficit Snatch Grip DL – Rest 60 seconds
A2 – Floor Press – Rest 120 seconds
Repeat this sequence until desired sets/reps are hit, this could be 8×3, 5×5, 10×5
 
Depending on how many days per week you have to train you can alternate floor press with standing press and the deadlift with cleans etc.
 
Lastly we have the ever forgotten method known as…
 
One Lift a Day –
 
I’m sure you might be able to work this one out based on the name, it’s quite a good hint after all.
 
All you need do it pick one lift, just one and rep out for a solid 45min (this includes warm up as you can start off with some mobility then the bar and add weight to potentate until ready for working sets).
 
With this option you can either go for a high volume day, a high intensity day, a light pump day, the choices are yours depending on what you feel needs the most attention.
 
Here is an example of how you might structure a week:
 
1 – Snatch Grip Deadlift
2 – Press
3 – Row
4 – Off
5 – Clean
6 – Floor Press
7 – Off
 
Don’t forget old school exercises such was the bent press, side press, 2 hand any-how and other classics.
 
You can use any lift you choose of the the 45min block, this can even be skull crushers or curls if you fancy something like that. Its also worth noting that 45min is a guide, you could go for 30min or less if that’s all you have.
 
Each of the options above are easy on paper yet brutally hard when put in to practice, however that hard work will transfer in to progress and results, provided you give 100% and stick at it for longer than a week.
 
As a recommendation, wave the loading between Heavy-Light-Medium so that you can give you body some time to dissipate any accumulated fatigue. Go heavy as often as you can but don’t be afraid to have some easier workouts too.
 
Now the next time you find yourself in a pinch with only one a bar and some plates you’ll have some options.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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3 Lifts – 2 Super Sets – 1 Hour or Less

 
We all like simple.
 
It’s easy to follow, leave very little to the imagination and above all else don’t cause too much stress and worry.
 
The short protocol I will give you today is nothing fancy as a basic structure of a session and will allow for multiple styles of loading to be used with it for a variety of goals.
 
Here is the breakdown:
 
3 Lifts –
 
As you can imagine, you pick three lifts ONLY for your workout, no more. This limitation will cut out the temptation to add more movements for the sake of adding more and as such you can prioritise.
 
Some examples:
 
– Squat, Pull Up, Dip
– Deadlift, Press, Row
– Clean & Press, Farmers Walk, Prone Fly
 
The general idea is to pick at least 2 compound movements, the third exercise can be either a compound lift of a smaller isolation one, you will find out why shortly.
 
When picking movements it’s worth taking a look at your training week and making sure you have the following:
 
– Power/Performance
– Lower body knee dominant
– Lower body hip dominant
– Upper body horizontal pushing
– Upper body horizontal pulling
– Upper body vertical pushing
– Upper body vertical pulling
– Core/Full Body/Loaded Carry
 
Check each one off against your workouts and make sure you hit each of them, ideally twice per week. This will ensure balanced development throughout your body.
 
2 Super Sets –
 
This is where it gets interesting.
 
The reason for the suggestion of 2 compound lifts and then either a third or an isolation lift is because the third lift picked will be the on that is the second lift out of each super set, here is what that means.
 
A1 – Squat
A2 – Dip
B1 – Weighted Pull Up
B2 – Dip
 
This will allow a lot of extra volume in the third lift, which would do well to be a weaker movement pattern or lagging body part, here is another example.
 
A1 – Clean & Press
A2 – Prone Fly
B1 – Farmers Walk
B2 – Prone Fly
 
The application of this pairing system will not only save time but give you the opportunity to keep the intensity (% of 1RM) fairly high on the first lift of each pairing as they will be performed in a ‘Jump Set’ fashion, this means A1 – Rest – A2 – Rest – A1 – Repeat, however if the rest for you chosen rep/set scheme is normally 2min you can cut it in half to 60 seconds.
 
1 Hour or Less –
 
This structure will work well if you;re in a pinch and only have 30min to train or right up to a full hour, the determine factor in the length of your session would actually be the set/rep scheme you decide to use, which can be specific to your goal.
 
To help you with this choice, here are some rep goals that would be useful to work towards to achieve a specific goal.
 
– Power: AMRAP until you lose speed or form, 1-5 reps per set
– Strength: 25-35 reps per main lift, 1-6 reps per set
– Hypertrophy: 50-75 reps per main lift, 6-20 reps per set
– Endurance/Met-con: 100+ reps per main lift, 10+ reps per set
 
You will notice there are no set options, just rep goals and reps per set ranges. You can pick the reps that best suit your needed from the ranges given.
 
It might look like this:
 
Strength
A1 – Squat 8×3
A2 – Dip x3-5
B1 – Weighted Pull Up 8×3
B2 – Dip x3-5
 
Or
 
Power
A1 – Clean & Press AMSAPx3-5 reps (stop when 3 reps no longer achievable with good speed)
A2 – Prone Fly x12
B1 – Farmers Walk AMSAPx20-40 meters (stop when 20m minimum can’t be sustained)
B2 – Prone Fly x12
 
You’ll notice the second example differs greatly from the first, yet that’d both be very effective, the main difference would be the amount of time spent training, they could be 30min or indeed a full hour, who knows.
 
This simple structure will give you a guide of what to follow, just make sure you tick off the following points:
 
– Hit the full body each week, ideally twice
– Train up to 5 days per week (say MTW – FS – )
– Sessions are not longer than 1hour
– Track your workouts
– Use rep goals that suit your specific goal
– Stay on this for 3-6month minimum
– Stress less and have fun with it
 
If you have any questions about this protocol, feel free to ask.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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3 weeks to go hard or go home

Now given the title you’d be forgiven in thinking that this post is all about pushing to the limit or you’re just faffing about, and while that’s indeed a part of the post it’s not the main point.

When it comes to training hard the body seems to be able to handle 3 weeks of pushing to it’s limit, then you need to back off because things start to go wrong. A lot of people try to push too hard for too long, here is how you can avoid that mistake and plan accordingly.

If you were looking to plan this in to a structured block it might look like this:

Volume – weeks 1-3

  • Week 1 8x8x70%
  • Week 2 8x7x75%
  • Week 3 8x6x80%

Intensification – weeks 4-6

  • Week 4 6x4x85%
  • Week 5 6x3x90%
  • Week 6 6x2x92-95%

Deload week – week 7

  • Week 7 – 3x8x previous 75%

Volume Block 2 – weeks 8-10

  • Week 8 – 8x8x70% +2.5-10kg (lift dependent)
  • Week 9 – 8x7x75% +2.5-10kg (lift dependent)
  • Week 10 – 8x6x80% +2.5-10kg (lift dependent)

And so on.

You cycle thought 6 week blocks of volume accumulation and intensification with a planned reduction in volume after the 6 weeks, you can continue this for 2-3 mesocycles typically (6 week blocks) after which time typically a rest week is needed, however if you’ve done 12-18 weeks of progressive training you will need that week off. Once you return your base numbers will be biter than previous.

It is important to cycle your loading/volume so that you avoid excessive inroad and burn out, going hard (intensification) for more than three weeks does you no favours, wave the loads for continued progression.

Enjoy, Ross

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4 training elements to remember

Volume – Total amount lifted per session (or per week/training block)

Intensity – The overall % lifted relative to your given Rep Maxes

Density – Doing more done in the same time/same done in less time

Frequency – How many times per week you train a muscle group

Four key elements of programming, however they are often overlooked by many.

When I say this it is in reference to how some novice/intermediate lifters don’t take in to account how to correctly plan them in their workouts to ensure constant progression over the long term.

Often people will look to progress volume and only volume, which sadly leads to a lot of junk volume.

Junk volume?

Your numbers on paper might increase in terms of total amount done, but this can be from adding in massive amounts of isolation exercises with very light weights, which does nothing but cause fatigue and provide little to no adaptive stimulus. Essentially the more volume you add in willy-nilly, the lower you make your average intensity.

To establish your total volume: Sets x Reps x Weight = Total Volume

Be careful of that trap.

Many know how to increase intensity. You simply add more weight, simple.

The downside with adding too much intensity is that there is a compromise in the amount of total volume you can lift, so while this is great for getting stronger and making neural connections etc, it does little for adding size because you start to lack the necessary amount of stimulus to do so.

You just can’t lift super heavy weights (relative to your own strength levels) for lot’s of reps.

In most good programs you’ll find the average intensity falls at around 85% of 1RM for each respective lift, with a decent amount of volume (volume differed from person to person specifically, however 80-210 reps seems to be the common theme for hypertrophy at a good average intensity).

How to establish average intensity: Sets x Reps x Weight (all exercises of session) / Reps = Average Intensity

Now, lets talk about density.

A quick example of how it works: You train squats for 45min, total volume is 10,00kg, average intensity is 80%, next session you hit those same numbers in 40min OR you hit 11,000kg in 45min, in both you have increased the density of the session.

^^ That’s also how you establish how dense each session is, how much you’re doing in what times.

Great for keeping your intensity/volume in the right areas while focusing on getting more quality work out and less faffing about.

This is usually a forgotten method of progression, however it’s one of the more useful ones.

Lastly we have frequency.

If you are training a body part once per week you will make progress, plenty of people do, however what they don’t seem to realise is that there is a high degree of crossover in training certain areas, such as chest & arms one day, then shoulders & arms another – both will actually hit similar muscle groups.

It’s common for en especially to have 3-4 upper body sessions in a week when following a standard Bro-Split and only one leg day, this is why their legs end up lagging behind.

In an optimal world you will train each muscle group 2-3 times per week, keeping in mind that some training sessions have cross over to others, here is the typical thought process of how to plans sessions to optimise that crossover:

– Chest/back/arms
– Legs: Anterior chain (Quads as main focus, hammies as secondary etc)
– Shoulders/back/arms
– Legs: Posterior chain (Hammies as main focus, quads as secondary etc)

^^ A good 7 day split that hits each muscle group twice per week, you’d do Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday each week 🙂.

All of the above will help you program a successful way to the gains you desire.

The key to progression is progression.

People forget that, please don’t be one of them.

How do you plan your progression in your programs?

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How to train full body in 8 moves – Sage advice from a random lifter

It’s easy for people to get caught up in looking for eldest variations of lifts, usually to ensure they hit all the muscle fibres from every angle.
 
…. Sigh….
 
Don’t get me wrong, there is certainly a time and a place for extra variations of lifts, however for most people they are not yet needed.
 
Why?
 
A long time ago a wise and rather large lifter once dropped this statement that changed the way things were seen –
 
“You spend too much time faffing about, no offence intended but you’re not strong enough to warrant doing that many isolation movements. You aren’t earn the right or build a base of muscle from solid lifting and compound movements. Stick with these for a solid 6 months and see who you go, if it works then great, if it doesn’t you can go back to with you were doing.” *Writes down a program with set/rep ideas.
 
Here is what was given:
 
Day 1 – Pressing/Pulling
Day 2 – Squatting/Hinging
Day 3 – Off
Day 4 – Pressing/Pulling
Day 5 – Off
Day 6 – Hinging/Squatting
Day 7 – Off
 
A standard 7 day split with 4 training sessions per week, 2 upper and 2 lower.
 
Here were the exercises:
 
Legs: Squat & front squat
Back: Deadlift/Stiff Leg & bent over row
Chest: Bench press & incline press
Shoulders: Military press & high pull/upright row
Arms: Dips or close-grip press, chins and/or some curls
 
Pretty simple.
 
They were organised them in to the following:
 
Day 1 – Pressing/Pulling
A1 – Military Press
A2 – Chin Up
B1 – Incline Press
B2 – Curl
 
Day 2 – Squatting/Hinging
A1 – Squat
B1 – Deadlift – Stiff Leg – Light
 
Day 3 – Off
 
Day 4 – Pressing/Pulling
A1 – Bench Press
A2 – Bent Over Row
B1 – Dips
B2 – Upright Row
 
Day 5 – Off
 
Day 6 – Hinging/Squatting
A1 – Deadlift – Heavy
B1 – Front Squat
 
Day 7 – Off
 
The advice was to aim for 30 reps to start and build to 50 reps per movement on average including light deadlift which was more a stiff leg variation explained, 15-25 for heavy deadlift.
Personally I’d also chuck in some planks and calf raises as well at the end of each session.
 
“Add weight where you can, if you can add weight add reps, once you hit the target then add weight, simple.”
 
Now this is nothing magical but it worked and is certainly worth a try.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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How to structure a program for all around progress.

There are a lot of different ways to structure a program, typically because of the specific needs of the person it is for, however for those of you who want to achieve the following:

– Strength
– Fitness (improved CV/VO2 Max)
– Better Body Composition (lose body fat & increase lean muscle)
– Improve Mobility/Flexibility
– Aquire Skill
– Improve mental health

This simple structure idea will help you plan your workouts to achieve all of the above.

Program Design 101:

– Warm Up – 5min
– Mobility – 10min
– Strength &/or Skill Element – 20min
– Metabolic Conditioning Section – 15min
– Flexibility Enhancement – 10min
– Warm Down – 5min

Looks simple enough, doesn’t it.

Here is what a workout might look like:

– Skipping
– www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8QxbtcA5hU – Routine example
– A1: Deadlift, A2: Press 5-3-2-5-3-2-5 – Reps dictate the weight
– B1: Loaded Carry 20m, B2: 400m Sprint – AMRAP in 15min
– www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ia5ZTVQnsBw -Routine example
– Foam rolling & short meditation

You will notice the workout is nothing special, however it covers multiple facets of fitness for those who want an all round package, rather than an ultra specific one.

How does it all work?

Skipping allows for a nice warm up and also some skill/coordination practice, as does the mobility routine example.

The strength is set in an example of a 5-3-2 wave to allow for muscle potentiation, both exercises hit the major muscle groups of the body. When the metabolic section beings you will gain more strength from the loaded carry along with power/CV/endurance/fat loss from the sprints.

Finally you have a nice example stretching routine followed by some gentle foam rolling and meditation to bring clarity of thought and lower the stress of life.

What is written above isn’t gospel, it’s an example, a good example mind you but ann example never the less. You can adapt it however you see fit.

Enjoy,
Ross

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A no fuss, 3 exercise workout to produce results in 150 reps or less.

This program structure is ideal for gaining strength, lean muscle and losing fat.
Hopefully you will have the option of training a minimum or 3 times per week. In an ideal world you would be able to train 3 days on, 1 day off, however, regardless of what options you have, say only two days per week, this training method can still work very well for you.
 
Here are the basic guidelines to follow.
 
– 3 Lifts per workout only (ideal all compound lifts)
– 25-50 reps per lift
– 3-10RM loads (this will allow for some variety)
– Perform as many sets of reps as needed with your chosen RM load until you hit your target reps for the day
– Rest as needed but try to keep it to a minimum
– Pull Workout, Push Workout, Leg Workout
 
Here is an example of how the three days in your first micro-cycle (three day period) might look:
 
Day 1 – Legs – 50 Rep Target – 6RM Loading
A1 – Squat
B1 – RDL
C1 – Weighted Barbell Front Rack Lunge
 
^ You might end up doing 8×6 on each with some extra reps as the start because you feel strong, for example.
 
Day 2 – Push – 50 Rep Target – 7RM Loading
A1 – Overhead Press
B1 – 30 Degree Incline Press
C1 – Weighted Dip
 
^ Perhaps 6×7 and one odd set of 8 because you felt strong, or 4×7 and then odd reps until you hit your target, either way just make sure you hit 50 reps per lift.
 
Day 3 – Pull Day – 50 Rep Target – 10RM Loading
A1 – Deadlift
B1 – Barbell Row
C1 – Weighted Chin Up
 
^ Maybe 5×10 on all?
 
Day 4 – Rest
 
As you can see the main aim is to get in the volume of 50 reps, it doesn’t matter really how many set you do or even if you hit say 6 reps each set so long as you get all the reps in. You will notice the 50 rep volume is on 6-10RM loads, if you want some heavier days you can use the 25 rep target and the 3-5 RM loads, you’d probably end up doing say 8×3, 6×4 or 5×5 etc. .
 
The simple focus on compound lifts and basic volume will help you get stronger and build more lean muscle. It’s worth tracking all of your lifting so that you can see what RM loads you’ve used and which ones you haven’t. It’s good to do 2-3 mini cycles (3 day blocks) on the same RM loads then change it up.
 
It was mentioned above that you can do this if you only have three days per week free, which it is. You will do well do do 2-3 weeks on each RM load.
 
If you have only two days you would simply run through the Legs-Push-Pull order in sequence, meaning your weeks might look like this:
 
Week 1 – Legs/Push
Week 2 – Pull/Legs
Week 3 – Push/Pull
Then the cycle repeats back to Legs/Push, which could be a good time for a new RM load to be used.
 
It’s simple, effective and results producing.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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