515 lbs Front Squat! (PR)

Posted: March 1, 2015 in Uncategorized

280 lbs x 2 Overhead Press

Posted: February 21, 2015 in Uncategorized

Regardless of your goals most people start weight training for a couple of reasons.

1. They want to look like they work out (muscle gain, weight gain, weight loss, etc.)
2. They want to improve performance – athletics, strength, overall energy, etc.

Lately I have noticed that when individuals post on social media or online forums about beginning a weight training program the advice that is being distributed tends to favor training methods that may not be well-suited or necessary for a new trainee.

I have written this article to help address the question of “how should I go about working out?” and to perhaps give experienced individuals who are distributing advice a different perspective.

Let’s first establish a few parameters for what constitutes an ‘effective’ program:

  • The program must be enjoyable – If you do not like the training program then chances are that you are not going to stick with it, or will not approach with the enthusiasm and intensity needed to make progress.
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  • The program must align with your goals – Doing a program that calls for a lot of heavy low volume weight training for someone with weight loss goals would not make much sense, just like doing a program that does not include any direct arm training for someone looking to build bigger arms does not make sense.
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  • The program must align with your capabilities – If you do not know how to perform certain exercises or you cannot physically train for more than 20-30 minutes then you need to find or create a program that suits your current abilities.
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  • The program must include some variation – You will stall quickly if you do the same thing for every time that you go to the gym, so it is important to have variation in your training.
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  • Your training should evolve over time – As you become more advanced you should look to change the program to continue to challenge you with new exercises, increased volume, increased intensity, new training splits, etc.

So how does this differ from what you typically see recommended? What I have noticed is that a lot of people recommend programs with a limited number of compound barbell and dumbbell exercises and in some cases higher frequency (training a muscle group 2X/week as opposed to 1X/week).

You know how I started out training? I did a lot of Smith Machine Bench Press, machines, isolation movements, and I followed a simple body part split (training a different muscle group or muscle groups each day). Did I make great progress when I first started? Absolutely! The thing is that ‘everything’ works when you first start training. You need to stick with movements that you are comfortable with and have a program that aligns with your goals so that you train with passion. Do I think that someone training only on the smith machine will ever have world class strength or muscular development? Absolutely not, but there is nothing wrong with starting there.

I would compare a lot of the advice that I see to recommending to a child who is trying to learn how to ride a bicycle that they hop on a high powered motorcycle instead. The person has no idea how to even balance and you are asking them to do something that is potentially dangerous and will definitely not be fun for them.

What I recommend is to just find a way to get in to the gym and do something that you enjoy and then focus on progress from there.

Here are some basic principles that you can apply:

  • Train to failure – You should be lifting weights to the point where you can no longer perform another rep with good form. *Unless you are following a specific protocol with moderated rest periods where overall volume is the challenge (German Volume Training, etc.).
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  • Moderate your rest periods – If you rest 30 seconds between sets that may not be enough time to recover, and if you rest 10 minutes that is likely much too long. Track your rest periods and then work to find what works best for you to optimize your workouts.
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  • Listen to your body – You are not going to feel like Superman / Wonder Woman each time that you go in to the gym. If you have a day when things feel ‘off’ then it may be time to ease up a little bit and perhaps just do some light training or even take a couple of days off from the gym. Remember that any sort of training is better than not training or getting injured.
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  • Recovery is important – Make sure that you are properly fueling your body with adequate nutrition and sleep, and that you are not training the same muscle groups on consecutive days.

To make this a complete article I will include some example training splits to help you to get started. Please note that the options below do not include much cardiovascular work as I wanted to leave the option open depending on the individual’s goals. All of these programs can be coupled with up to six days/week of additional ‘cardio’ training if you would like.

Weeks 1-2 -> ‘Primer’ / Machines Only:

Monday: Pressing – Chest / Shoulders / Triceps
– Chest Press | 5 Sets of 8-10 reps
– Triceps Extension or Triceps Pushdown | 3 Sets of 10-15 reps
– Shoulder Press | 3 Sets of 6-10 reps
– Chest Fly | 3 Sets of 8-12 reps
– Triceps Dip Machine or Assisted Dips | 3 Sets of 8-12 reps
– Shoulder Raises | 3 Sets of 10-15 reps

Tuesday: Accessory
– Abs / Stretching / Cardio

Wednesday: Pulling – Back/ Biceps
– Lat Pull-down |5 Sets of 8-10 reps
– Low Pulley Row | 5 Sets of 6-12 reps
– Curl Machine | 4 Sets of 8-10 reps
– Cable Pulley Curls | 3 Sets of 6-12 reps
– Low Back Machine | 2 Sets of 10-15 reps

Thursday: Legs
– Leg Press Machine | 4 Sets of 10-15 reps
– Leg Extensions | 4 Sets of 8-10 reps
– Leg Curls | 4 Sets of 8-10 reps
– Squat Machine or Hack Squat | 3 Sets of 10-15 reps
– Calf Raises | 4 Sets of 10-15 reps

Friday: Rest OR Accessory
– Abs / Cardio / Stretching

*Note: If you feel comfortable with some free weight movements then feel free to swap them in or add them in addition to these exercises.

Week 3 & Beyond:

Option 1: Three Days of Weight Training per Week

Monday: Pulling (Back/Biceps)
– Chins or Wide Grip Pull-downs (4 sets)
– One-Arm Dumbbell Rows or One-Arm Low Pulley Rows (4 sets)
– Close Grip V-Bar Pull-downs (2 sets)
– Barbell Curls or EZ Bar Curls (4 sets)
– Hammer Curls (2 sets)
– Preacher Curls or Concentration Curls (2 sets)

Tuesday or Wednesday: Pushing (Chest/Shoulders/Triceps)
– Flat Dumbbell Bench Press (3 Sets)
– Incline Barbell Bench Press (3 sets)
– Dips or Assisted Dips or Dip Machine (2 sets)
– Seated Dumbbell Military Press or Military Press Machine (3 sets)
– Overhead Dumbbell Extension or Triceps Extension Machine (2 sets)
– Side Laterals (2 sets)
– Pushdowns (2 sets)
– Cable Crossover / Pec Deck (2 set)

Thursday or Friday: Lower Body (Legs)
– Squats or Leg Press (4 sets)
– Strait Leg Deadlifts or Leg Curls (3 sets)
– Walking Lunges (2 sets)
– Leg Extension (2 Sets)
– Calf Raises (4 sets)

Option 2: Four Days of Weight Training per Week

Monday: Back
– Chins / Assisted Chins / Wide Grip Pull-Downs (4 Sets)
– One-Arm Dumbbell Row or Low Pulley Row (4 Sets)
– Underhand Pull-Down or Hammer Strength Pull Down (3 Sets)
– T-Bar Rows or Wide Grip Low Pulley Rows with Pull-down Handle (3 Sets)

Tuesday: Chest
– Flat Dumbbell Bench or Barbell Bench or Bench Machine (4 Sets)
– Incline Bench Press or Incline Machine (3 Sets)
– Decline Dumbbell or Barbell Bench or Bench Machine (3 Sets)
– Cable Crossovers or Chest Fly Machine (3 Sets)
– Push-Up’s (2 sets, first one is a warm-up and the second to failure)

Wednesday: Cardio / Stretching

Thursday: Legs
– Squats or Leg Press (4 Sets)
– Standing or Walking Lunges (3 Sets)
– Stiff Leg Deadlift or One-Leg Leg Curl: (3 Sets)
– Leg Extension & Leg Curl Super-Set (3 Sets)
– Calf Raises (4 Sets)

Friday: Arms & Shoulders
– Seated DB Military Press or Military Press Machine (3 Sets)
– Dips or Assisted Dips or Dip Machine (3 Sets)
– Barbell or EZ Bar Curls (3 Sets)
– Overhead DB Extension or Cable Extension or Machine (2 Sets)
– Lateral Raise & Front Raise Super-Set or Side Raise Drop Set (3 Sets)
– Pushdowns Drop Set (2 Sets)
– Preacher Curls or Machine Curls, Superset with Hammer Curls (3 Sets)

*Note: A ‘drop-set’ is where you work with a weight until you reach or come close to failure and then lower the weight and continue the set without resting. You can drop 1-3 times and then rest, counting each cluster of sets as one set. A ‘super-set’ is where you perform two exercises in succession without resting between them.

Option 3: Five Days of Weight Training per Week

Monday: Chest
– Flat Dumbbell Bench or Barbell Bench or Bench Machine (4 Sets)
– Incline Bench Press or Incline Machine (3 Sets)
– Decline Dumbbell or Barbell Bench or Bench Machine (3 Sets)
– Cable Crossovers or Chest Fly Machine (3 Sets)
– Push-Up’s (2 sets, first one is a warm-up and the second to failure)

Tuesday: Back
– Chins / Assisted Chins / Wide Grip Pull-Downs (4 Sets)
– One-Arm Dumbbell Row or Low Pulley Row (4 Sets)
– Underhand Pull-Down or Hammer Strength Pull Down (3 Sets)
– T-Bar Rows or Wide Grip Low Pulley Rows with Pull-down Handle (3 Sets)

Wednesday: Shoulders
– Seated DB Military Press or Military Press Machine (4 Sets)
– Lateral Raises, drop-sets (3 Sets)
– Upright Rows (2 Sets)
– Front Raises (2 Sets)
– Rear Delt Fly or Reverse Pec Deck or Face Pulls (3 Sets)

Thursday: Legs
– Squats or Leg Press (4 Sets)
– Standing or Walking Lunges (3 Sets)
– Stiff Leg Deadlift or One-Leg Leg Curl: (3 Sets)
– Leg Extension & Leg Curl Super-Set (3 Sets)
– Calf Raises (4 Sets)

Friday: Arms
– Dips or Assisted Dips or Dip Machine (3 Sets)
– Barbell or EZ Bar Curls (3 Sets)
– Close Grip Bench Press or Close Grip Press Machine (3 Sets)
– Hammer Curls (2 Sets)
– Pushdowns, drop-sets (3 Sets)
– Alternating DB Curls (2 Sets)
– Overhead DB Extension or Triceps Extension Machine (2 Sets)
– Preacher Curl or Machine Curls OR Concentration Curls (2 Sets)

As you can recall from earlier in the article none of these routines are set in stone. If there is an exercise that you do not like then you can drop or replace it as a beginner. I would encourage you to continue to research and try new exercises as you progress – eventually favoring a balanced routine including heavy compound movements for overall strength/size and higher repetition isolation movements for hypertrophy and conditioning.

Remember – intensity, alignment with your goals, having fun, and staying consistent are the keys to success!

330 lbs x 2 Clean (PR Double)

Posted: January 1, 2015 in Uncategorized

Front Squat | 440 lbs x 3

Posted: December 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

Clean | 315 lbs

Posted: November 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

Axle Press | 300 lbs x 5

Posted: October 7, 2014 in Uncategorized