Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Workout Program that Builds Muscle

I’ve never been much of one to tout workout programs of my own design on this blog. When it comes right down to it, any specific training program you can name is pretty easy to pick apart. If I say, for instance, you should do four sets of five reps of the clean and jerk and rest 90 seconds between sets, some wiseguy trainer will instantly send me four studies saying how eight sets of two reps with 45 seconds between sets is much better, and what a chump I am to invoke the antiquated ‘4 x 5’ system, what do I think this is, 1998, and that superstar trainer of the month Simpson Braddlehoffer uses a brand-new system of eighteen sets of forty reps with six minutes between sets and is getting astounding results with workouts that take just seven hours to complete.

It’s enough to make one swear off making any concrete recommendations at all.

I mean, science is a good thing, and thank god that a body of legitimate work is accumulating about the how different types of exercise and diets work. It’s important work and should ultimately really help us understand the best ways for everyone live longer, happier, and healthier, and lives.

But O my aching proprioceptors, the cacophony, the lines drawn in the sand, the aviary of squawking, screeching, pecking and scratching birds with their hypertrophied plumage all clamoring for their ideas about sets and reps and rest intervals to be heard. I like the Alwyn Cosgrove approach: we agree on the basics, what he calls the “big rocks;” get those things done and the rest is gravy. In a word, shut up and lift.

However, for some people that’s not good enough. They want details. Come to think of it, I want details too—not to argue over them, just to give me something new to try in the gym. I’m always interested in new training methods, no matter how bizarre they sound at first. But I’ve long since given up on searching for “the best” way to work out, because I know that such a plan doesn’t exist. It doesn’t even exist for a single individual for more than a few weeks at a stretch, because at that point, you need to change things up to keep the body guessing and adapting. So I don’t really get into discussions about what works better for everyone, all the time, period (unless it’s something really asinine, like ‘women shouldn’t exercise’). I’m more interested in discovering what’s out there that others are doing that’s working for them and seeing if I can incorporate it into my workouts and programs I design for others.

So usually I’m not really one for putting down on paper the exact stuff you should do, one day to the next.

Still, a good trainer should put himself out there, state his angle on things, and let the chips fall where they may. Heaven knows I’ve gotten into it (always civilly!) with the occasional reader of this blog, most recently with a Christian strength and conditioning coach who felt compelled to save my heathen soul from Satan’s clutches, so I can surely take some heat for some of the acute training variables I include in a weight training program or two.

So with that in mind, I'm offering one below for anyone who cares to try it out. I cooked up this template a couple of weeks back for a hypothetical intermediate-to-advanced lifter seeking a combination of strength and muscle size. It combines two basic set/rep schemes, the tried-and-true 3-4 x 8-12, and that old strength-builder, 5 x 5, for most exercises.

Each workout should begin with five minutes of general warm-up and another 5-7 minutes of dynamic stretching and mobility exercises with an emphasis on the muscles to be worked that day. Rest between sets should be about sixty seconds—I use a stopwatch to keep clients honest. At the end of the workout, I heartily recommend five to ten minutes of static stretching for all the major muscle groups.

Upper Body 1 (MONDAY)
Core / Ab Work: Choose 4 exercises, work to or near failure, minimal rest between exercises

Superset Pairs:
Incline Dumbbell Press 4 x 8-12
Seated Cable Rows 4 x 8-12

Clean and Jerk (heavy) 5 x 5
Chins 4 x 8-12

Flyes 3 x 8-12
Barbell Curls 3 x 8-12

Lower Body 1 (TUESDAY)
Squats 4 x 8-12

Superset Pair:
Bulgarian Split Squat/Lunge Variation 3 x 8-12
Leg Curls 3 x 8-12

1-leg Romanian Deadlift (alternating) 3 x 8-12

Calf Raise Variation 4 x 12-20
Ab Exercise of Choice 4 x 12-20

Upper Body 2 (THURSDAY)
Superset Pairs:
Dumbbell Overhead Press 4 x 8-12
WG Chins (heavy) 5 x 5

Bench Press/Decline Press (heavy) 5 x 5
Bent Over Rows/T-Bar Rows/Supported T-Bars (heavy) 5 x 5

Lateral Raises, Thumbs Up, 45 degrees/Cable Reverse Flyes 3 x 8-12
Dips/Lying Tricep Extensions 3 x 8-12

Lower Body 2 (FRIDAY)
Deadlift 5 x 5

Superset Pair:
Leg Extensions 3 x 8-12
Romanian Deadlift/Good Morning/Single-leg Romanian Deadlift 3 x 8-12

Step-Ups 3 x 8-12

Calf Raise Variation 5 x 5
Abs 5 x 8-10

Off Day Option for Additional Fat Loss:
Sprint/Interval Training, mode of choice, 20 min plus stretching.

The volume in this program is such that you can work hard on each set and still feel energized, rather than completely wrung out, at the completion of the workout. As you can see, it’s based mostly on compound movements, but there are a few single-joint moves thrown in for vanity’s sake, and to allow you to catch your breath between the tougher, more complex moves.

Alternating sets of the clean and jerk with sets of chinups on Mondays is a serious metabolic challenge, but personally I like throwing in that kind of work to keep the heart and lungs healthy and to feel like I’m really working up a sweat, not just clanging iron around in the gym. And some people will find that doing Romanian Deadlifts AND deadlifts on the same day is too hard on their lower backs; in that case, I’d suggest repeating the single-leg version from Tuesday, which as I’ve said before, is one of my favorite rear-kinetic-chain moves.

Give this program a try and let me know how it goes for you.

Good luck—



lillyadams79 said...

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