Sunday, April 1, 2012

Step By Step Guide to Your Own Workout Routine - Part IV: Example Routines - Round 1: Health and Hypertrophy

Image 1: Contrary to what still way to many people believe, intense (strength) training should be part, in most cases even the foundation of every workout routine - after all, "muscle is metabolic currency", as my friend Carl Lanore likes to say.
Based on what you have learned in the previous three installments (Part I, Part II, Part III) of the Step By Step Guide to Your Own Workout Routine series you should by now know when you are going to train, what type of workout you going to perform and that the foundation of every strength workout is intensity - a magnitude that is modulated primarily via volume and density. In other words, your current workout routine could look something like that
  • Mo: Full-body workout - 5 exercises, 3 sets, 8-10 reps
  • Tue: Recovery
  • We: HIIT (20min)
  • Thursday: Recovery
  • Friday: Full-body workout - 5 exercises, 3 sets, 8-10 reps
if you are a beginner with an already decent body fat level and want to add some muscle (remember: as long as you gain only 0.1% more muscle than fat, your body fat % will drop!).

Example workouts to build on  - health and hypertrophy

Contrary to my initial intention to try and tackle reps and sets, exercise selection, intensity techniques, etc. in individual installments, I decided (after yesterday's disastrously abstract post) to just give you a set of concrete routines with some advice on how to tweak them. For that purpose I have picked one of the previously suggested workouts (cf. Part II of this series) and provide a concrete incarnation including exercises, sets, rep ranges etc. Instead of prescribing weekdays I will just outline the linear sequence of the workouts, so that it does not matter if your "workout week" starts on Monday or Thursday.
 
    The health routine, four training days per week
     
    • S1: Full body circuit training You perform one set of each exercise in the given rep range and move on to the next, after one "circle" is completed you start anew. Try to hop from one exercise to the next in ~60s to keep your heart rate elevated. Depending on your fitness level perform the circle 2-3 times
       
      • Bench press or hammer strength BP: 10-12RM
      • Squats or Leg press: 10-15RM
      • Underhand pull ups or pull downs: 8-10RM
      • Military press or DB presses: 12-15RM
      • Seated row or DB row: 12-15RM
      • DB or barbell curl: 10-12RM
      • Triceps extensions (cable) or skull crushers: 12-15RM
         
    • With rep ranges on the upper end of the hypertrophy continuum and the fast pace with which you are hopping from exercise to exercise, this workout will help you build muscle, and stay in shape and good condition.
       
    • Although it is not necessary to train to absolute failure, you must make sure to increase the weights, whenever you could perform 2 more reps with appropriate form than the workout prescribes; e.g. you do 12 bench presses and feel that you could easily do 14 => increase the weight
    • On the other hand, when you fail to perform at least the minimal number of reps, you decrease the weight and continue the same set; e.g. you did barbell curls for 8 reps, you decrease the weight and do another two; in the subsequent circle (of the same workout) you start with the lower weight
       
    • R1: Rest day
       
    • HIIT: High intensity interval training
      Do your HIIT training either on a track sprinting or inside on an appropriate piece of exercise equipment, such as
       
      • spinning bike or a stable cycle ergometer (no recumbent bikes),  
      • stairmaster with resistance allowing you to exert yourself within 30s,
      • treadmill that is stable enough to survive a real sprint
      • rowing machine with a high enough and easy to vary resistance
         
    • perform 5-7x 30s sprints (all-out!) followed by 90s active rest (walking, paddling, etc.) finish your workout with a 3-5 minute cool-down
    • add optional abdominal training after your workout (see EMG series for exercises)
       
    • R2: Rest day
       
    • S2: 5x5 lifting routine As a complement to the circuit workout S1, you will perform a classic 5x5 routine with a focus on free-weight complex movements (rest between sets 2-3min); for beginners this means that you will start out with weights you could lift for at least another 2 reps to get your form straight; in any case (beginner or not) you will drop the weight from set to set to get your 5-reps in and increase the weight, whenever you can do 7
       
      • Barbell squats: 5x5
      • Decline barbell bench press: 5x5
      • Deadlift: 5x5
      • Pull ups (wide grip, behind the neck): 5x5
         
    • if you want to put an emphasis on your shoulders you rotate the deadlift with a clean and press
    • if you don't have time for an additional training day you can perform a light 15 minute aerobic workout, like walking on an incline (12°) at 5km/h after this workout, otherwise do the the aerobics on the subsequent day
       
    • LISS: Light intensity steady state
      Both your regeneration, as well as your overall conditioning can benefit from some non-ardeous classic endurance training. Do 35-40min at a pace that would or in fact does allow you to talk to a friend. While the possibilities are endless, here are a few examples of what you can do:
       
      • walking outside or on a treadmill
      • very light jogging
      • cycling
      • rowing
      • swimming*
        *reduce time or make adequate breaks
         
    • whatever you decide to do, bring a friend, something to read, a podcast to listen to or whatever to avoid getting bored
    • do not do the same workout every week, rotate between different types of LISS
    • optional: perform 15 min on one and 20min on another piece of equipment
       
    • R3: Rest day
       
    Note: If your focus is on overall health, it is not feasible to work out more than four times a week. If you can't keep your feet still and feel like you need some more activity (aside from not sitting around the whole rest of the time, this would not be necessary), get yourself a dog, go out play basketball, soccer or whatever you like with friends or find other non-exerting leisure time activities

    The hypertrophy routine, three training days per week
      
    • S1: Chest, Shoulders, Arms
      You will do one out of the bazillion of possible "bodybuilding"-oriented splits starting out with the body parts everybody trains like crazy and finishing up with the ones that distinguish the pros from the bros later in the week (see S2). You will try to keep the rest times in the 60-90s realm to keep the density of the workout up and you train in different rep ranges, similar to the "Hatfield" intra-workout periodization scheme.
       
      • Bench press (rotate DB or BB): 4x 5-6
      • Flys or cable cross: 2x 12-15
      • Military press: 3x5-6
      • DB or cable side laterals: 2x12-15

        Superset (triceps, biceps, rest, repeat)
      • Skull crushers or cable triceps extensions: 3x10
      • Biceps curls (rotate DB and BB): 3x10
         
    • don't forget the primacy of intensity and increase your weight, whenever you are able to squeeze out more than the prescribed number of reps
    • reduce the weight on a subsequent set, whenever you fail to perform the prescribed number of reps
    • put an emphasis on working the muscle not moving the weight
       
    • advanced athletes may want to add a double drop set to the last set of a given exercise; e.g. side laterals for 12, reduce the weight by ~25% rep out as many as you can, reduce the weight by another ~25% and perform to failure (use sparingly!)
       
    • R1: Rest day
       
    • HIIT + auxiliary work
      Do your HIIT training either on a track sprinting or inside on an appropriate piece of exercise equipment, such as
       
      • spinning bike or a stable cycle ergometer (no recumbent bikes),  
      • stairmaster with resistance allowing you to exert yourself within 30s,
      • treadmill that is stable enough to survive a real sprint
      • rowing machine with a high enough and easy to vary resistance
         
    • perform 5-7x 30s sprints (all-out!) followed by 90s active rest (walking, paddling, etc.) finish your workout with a 3-5 minute cool-down
       
    • Abdominal + forearm training:You can either do those in a linear or circular fashion. I personally would recommend a circle with only 30s rest between exercises
       
      • leg raises (lying or hanging) - 12-15
      • cable crunch - 12-15
      • crunch - to failure
         
      • cable wrist curl (pronated / supinated) - to failure

    • perform either 3 sets for the abs and 2 sets for the wrist curls in a linear fashion or 3 circles(recommended)
    • start with either pronated or supinated wrist curls and do the other version in the subsequent set

       
    • R2: Rest day
       
    • S2: Legs, Back and Traps (+ rear delts)
      Probably not the most common variety, but the reason I chose this split instead of the others you encounter more often is that there is a nice synergy between squatting and deadlifting and you are going to do both ;-); 90s rest between sets
       
      • Barbell Squats: 4x5-6*
      • Leg extensions: 2x15-25
        * if you can't squat for whatever reasons, do leg presses
      • Deadlifts: 4x5-6*
      • Pull ups or pull downs (underhand grip): 3x10
      • DB rows: 2x12-15
        * if you can't deadlift for whatever reasons do bent-over rows
      • DB shrugs: 3x6
      • DB reverse fly: 2x15-20
         
    • don't forget the primacy of intensity and increase your weight, whenever you are able to squeeze out more than the prescribed number of reps
    • reduce the weight on a subsequent set, whenever you fail to perform the prescribed number of reps
    • put an emphasis on working the muscle not moving the weight
       
    • advanced athletes may want to add 4-6 peak contractions to the end of the last set of a given exercise; this is not advisable for squats and deadlifts, though
       
    • R3: Rest day
       
    • R4: Rest day
       
    Note: Similar to the "health" focus workout you can and in fact should perform leisure time activities like playing ball sports with friends, taking a long walk with your girl- or boyfriend, using the bike on the way to work, the stairs instead of the elevator etc. on your rest days if your time allows this and you feel like doing so. It won't hinder your gains and will have beneficial effects on your physical and psychological health and (I know you are not interested in something as profane as "health" ;-) will help you to make even leaner gains.

A brief mea culpa - fat loss and strength will follow


Image 2: If that is you, "your time", i.e. the strength workouts (or fat loss? Just kiddin' ;-) will come next weekend - promise!
I know you will probably be wondering, why this is already the end of this installment. After all, I did boastfully promise to have three not just two templates in the last installment of the Step By Step Guide to Your Own Workout Routine series. I did however waste some time with further theoretical elaborations, before eventually I changed up my mind and thought that, in the end, all this theoretical bull*** will be of little to you, because even if I wrote a 1500-pages book in my effort to cover all the if's and why's, I bet that you (yes you! ;-) would still have a questions my elaborate dissertation would not cover.

I hope the decision to provide two detailed examples instead of three rough ones or further theoretical elaborations suits you. If it does not, you have the comment area of this blogpost to protest. This is also the place to post questions or suggestions - you know that read and answer all of them; and this is not an April Fool's joke ;-)