Step By Step Guide to Your Own Workout Routine - Part V: Example Routines - Round 3: A Detailed Strength Workout

Image 1: Being strong has gotten somewhat out of fashion these days. Apropos fashion, can you imagine David Beckham doing that?
Aside from Thursday, when Adelfo "guest lectures" here at the SuppVersity, you usually have to content yourselves with the sometimes more, sometimes less knowledgeable stuff I am putting out on a daily basis. For today's sixth installment, you are yet lucky that I could convince my friend Sean Casey from CasePerformance to take care of the strength workout template in the "Step By Step Guide to Build Your Own Workout Routine" series. And though Sean, modest as he is, started out his article with a the words "I would like to thank my friend Adel aka Dr.Andro for giving me the opportunity to share a one week sample strength training regimen  with the SuppVersity community", I am the one to say "thank you", sit back and just have Sean take you through your new workout routine ;-)

Sean Casey's Strength Workout Template

Some of you may have seen my face on the SuppVersity facebook wall, already. Others may know me from (accidentally?) clicking on the "suggested reading" link in the navigation of the SuppVersity. Yet regardless of whether you know me or my business @, I want you to know that I do not claim to be an originator of any revolutionary training technique or an "almighty" guru. Similar to everyone else, I'm searching for the best way to maximize human performance (ed. Dr. Andro: highly recommended article "The Guru I am not!" by Sean Casey).

Image 2: Sean's way of designing workouts was inspired by Ian King (photo) and Luke Richesson
My training philosophies and the way I set up training programs are heavily influenced by the writings of Ian King. Those familiar with his work will be able to note several of his original principles in my approach to program design (tempos, general layout, etc). I also must give credit to my mentor, Luke Richesson, with whom I worked for many hours when I first started in the physical preparation field. This does not mean that the program below is endorsed by either of these individuals, but I do feel it's important to give them credit.

If you will, take those workouts as being are "inspired" by these two extraordinary physical preparation coaches.

General Discussion on The Training Week – Strength Focus

There are a thousand different ways you could write a strength based training program depending on your goals. For instance a strength based program for a powerlifter will differ from that for a ball/speed/team sport athlete. Additionally, one's training age impacts things as well. I could have a novice lifter with <1-2 years of experience impressive gains in absolute strength while working in the 5-7 rep range. In contrast, if I went up to a powerlifter with 15-20 years of experience and told them that we were going to lift predominantly in the 5-7 rep range during their peak strength phase, my "street cred" would be tarnished and I'd  probably get laughed out of the gym.

Image 3: One of the things, I like about my friend Sean Casey is his modesty. So, I am not sure that he is going to like me promoting his service and knowledge - sorry, Sean ;-)
Other things to consider when designing the program are: How many days per week will you be training? How much time do you have available per day? What type of "build-up" work have you done in previous training phases? I'm not going to have one prioritize their bench and squat during a strength phase if they walk hunched over with caveman-"esque" posture and absolutely no back or posterior chain strength. This would be setting them up for injury by simply exasperating a problem that is already present. You will also have to take into account which of the main lifts you are specifically looking to increase your strength in – those that are most important should be placed first in the week when you're most fresh.

The latter brings up another issue, relating to the type and amount of baseline stress that is going on in your life at the moment. If you're overworked at the job, getting only 5-6 hours of sleep a night, this may not be the best time to start up a max strength training block (unless you're one of those individuals who thrives in the gym when life is crazy outside of it!) ...This list could go on forever, luckily I won't have to go into to much more detail on this as Adel covered them nicely in Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of this "Step By Step Guide to Building Your Workouts".

First things first… What are you doing for your warm-up?

The warm-up seems to be a highly debated topic amongst many individuals, some like to jump rope for a few minutes, do a few warm-up sets and hit the weighs hard. Others like a more comprehensive warm. I personally fall on the more comprehensive side of things. The "looser" I feel going into a workout, the better I recover after it. After playing around with various warm-up protocols, I have found the below to work well:
  • Total Warm-up Time: 15-25 min
  • Light Aerobic Activity: 5-10 min*
    *ride a bike, light jogging on a treadmill, etc.
Your goal in whatever type of warm-up you may be performing is just what the term "warm-up" implies, you want to get the muscles warm. To this ends, I find it most useful to perform your warm-up at an intensity that will give you a light sweat. You should be able to do it at a pace where you could have a conversation with someone standing near you. This will make you a little more limber for the stretching to follow.
Tip on warming up: A nice way to warm up is to simply ride your bike/walk to the gym (this will obviously work only for those who live close enough and don't have a super hilly ride that would turn something that is intended as a warm-up into a brutal leg workout ;-). This convenient and time saving strategy can also be applied to your cool down, once you've finished your workout and need to get back home.

Static Stretching: 5-10 min

I know, I know … "static stretching decreases muscular force and should NEVER be used prior to working out!" I used to repeat this mantra as well, until it was challenged by Ian King (read up on the issue in Sean's interview with Ian King). The fact alone that a highly respected and successful physical preperation coach like Ian, a man who has been coaching elite athletes on an international level for 30+ years questioned this "longstanding truth" made me think: "Could someone like Ian King be so completely wrong on a subject?" Thus, I forced myself to reevaluate the allegedly "conclusive" science which supposedly confirms that a stretching would decrease muscular performance. In doing so, I found that when followed by doing a dynamic/sport specific warm-up, static stretching DID NOT decrease performance (click here for Sean's full review of the literature on the subject).

From what I have learned during this research I deduced these two simple rules for my own, as well as my clients pre-workout static stretching regimen:
  1. Focus the static stretches on the muscle groups that will be used during a given workout or are specifically tight
  2. Before you slam static stretching during the pre-workout time, give it a try for 3-4 weeks. The best research study in the world is N= 1, with that 1 being you. Thus, If you find it effective – Great! If not, ditch it.
Dynamic Stretching: 10 min

Common ones that I'll do, depending on the workout I'm doing, include the following:
  1. "World's Greatest" stretch
  2. Walking heel-to-butt - Stretching quadriceps
  3. Backwards lunge with lateral flexion - Upper body will flex towards side that has leg up
  4. Handwalks/Inchworms - I've heard this referred to various things, but basically you get in a pushup position, "walk" your hands out in front of you and then "walk" your feet up to your hands. Your hips will pop up into the air similar to how the middle of a tent pops up when you stand it up
  5. Single Leg RDL's/ Walking RDL's
  6. Walking Knee Hugs
  7. Walking Leg Cradles
  8. Lateral Squats
  9. Drop Lunge
I'll usually do 3-4 reps per leg, pausing for 2 seconds at the end range of motion. All of these are body weight only.

Ok, Let's Start Pushing Some Iron - The Workout

Here's an example workout for someone with a training age that would fall in the "intermediate" range. Overall body strength, with a focus on his posterior muscle groups, is going to be the general priority for our workout. Thus, we place these exercises 1st in the week on day's 1 and 2 followed by pushing exercises later in the week.

Day 1: Pullups, Wall Slides, DB Overhead Press, Abdominal / Core Training

  • A1) Pullups

    Warm-up: 1x7, 1x5
    Workout: 5x3

    Rest: 3-4 min for less advanced, 5-6 min for advanced lifters
    Tempo*: 201
    *time in seconds spent in eccentric, isometric and concentric phase as created by Ian King. Although the weight may be heavy which makes it impossible to perform the concentric action in 1 second, the intent should be to move as fast as possible during the concentric phase
  • A2) Wall Slides

    Workout: 1x 6-8 reps

    Tempo: 212

    Set 1 done prior to the first warm-up set or between 1st and 2nd warm-up set.
    Purpose of these is to activate the lower traps and scapular muscles.
  • B) DB Overhead press

    Workout: 2-3x8  

    Rest: ~ 1.5-2 min
    Tempo: 311 or 211
  • C) Abdominal/Core Training To be completed in circuit fashion (20-30 seconds rest between exercises fine); rest 2 min after completing all 3 exercises

        C1) PB Pikes- 2x 8-10  > Tempo 301
        C2) Prone Pillar Planks: 2x 40-60 sec          

Day 2: Romanian Dead Lift, Glute Bridges, Glute Ham Raise, Abdominal / Core

  • A1) Romanian Dead Lift

    Warm-up: 1x7, 1-2x5
    Workout: 5x3

    Rest: 3-4 min for less advanced, 5-6 min for advanced lifters
    Tempo: 201 or 301
  • A2) Glute Bridges

    Workout: 1x 6-8 reps

    Tempo: 121

    Set 1 done prior to the first warm-up set. If needed, the 2nd  Set 2 would be done inbetween 1st & 2nd warm-up sets. Purpose of these is to activate the glute muscles.
  • B) Glute Ham Raise*
    *if no machine, have someone hold your ankles and do them off floor

    Workout: 2-3x8

    Tempo: Between 201, 211 or 301
  • C) Abdominal/Core Training To be completed in circuit fashion (20-30 seconds rest between exercises fine); rest 2 min after completing both
    • C1) ½ kneeling Cable Chops 2x8-10*
    • C2) ½  Half Kneeling Cable Lifts 2x8-10*

      *Tempo: Multiple parts in these lifts; can't use traditional tempo numbering system

Day 3: Active Recovery day

  1. 20-25 minute easy conversation pace on a bike. The purpose of this is not to enhance your "cardio" fitness or accelerate your fat loss. It will rather help you to shake out some of the stiffness that may have build up in your legs following Day 2's leg session and increase the muscle blood flow. You should place the bigger emphasis on accomplishing the former vs. the latter so don't go at high speeds with the thoughts of getting a good "muscle pump workout".
  2. Stretching. 20 minutes, combination of static and dynamic (regimen see above)
  3. 15 minutes relaxing in a pool (submerged up to the neck or at least nipple line) while drinking one of those fruity drinks with the cool umbrella top straws that are always advertised with with those tropical vacation advertisements ;-)

Day 4: Bench Press, Band Pull Aparts, Single Arm DB Row, Abdominal / Core

  • A1) Bench Press 

    Warm-up: 1x7, 1x5
    Workout: 5x3

    Rest: 3-4 min for less advanced, 5-6 min for advanced lifters
    Tempo: 201 or 211
  • A2) Band Pull Aparts

    Workout: 1-2x10 reps

    Set 1 done prior to the first warm-up set or between set 1 & 2. Focus on pinching the shoulder blades down and behind you, activating the scapular muscle groups, similar to how they should be during the actual bench press.
  • B) Single Arm Dumbbell Row (opposite arm supported on bench)

    Workout: 2-3x8

    Rest: ~ 1.5-2 min
    Tempo: 201 or 301
  • C) Abdominal/Core Training To be completed in circuit fashion (20-30 seconds rest between exercises fine); rest 2 min after completing all 3 exercises
    • C1) Curl Ups or Kneeling Cable Pulldowns/Crunches- 2x 10-1, tempo 301   
    • C2) Prone Pillar Planks: 2x 40-60 sec

Day 5: Squats, Walking Lunges, Abdominal / Core,

  • A1) Squats

    Warm-up: 1x7, 1-2x5
    Workout: 5x3

    Rest: 3-4 min for less advanced, 5-6 min for advanced lifters
    Tempo: 301
  • A2) No Specific "activation" exercise for Squat. However, if you have tight hips, doing kneeling quad-hip flexor stretch can help assist hip mobility. If needed, I go with ~ 6-8 reps with each leg, holding the end range of motion for 2 seconds before relaxing out of it and completing the next rep (if one side tighter, will hit it in a second set).
  • B) Walking Lunges
    Workout: 2-3x8

    Rest: ~ 1.5 min
    Tempo: Between 211 or 201
  • C) Abdominal/Core Training To be completed in circuit fashion (20-30 seconds rest between exercises fine); rest 2 min after completing both
    • C1) Lateral Pillar/Planks 2x 40-60 sec  
    • C2) Standing Cable Russian Twist 2x8; Tempo: 211 or 311

Day 6: Active Recovery day
  1. 20-25 minute easy conversation pace on a bike
  2. Stretching. 20 minutes, combination of static and dynamic (see above)
  3. 15 minutes relaxing in a pool (submerged up to neck)

Day 7: Lazy Day

That's right; I said "Lazy Day", rejoin the normal population and simply relax. Mentally prepare for your following week of training. 
A brief note by Dr. Andro: Although I am sure Sean is going to chime in on all your questions in the comment area, you may also want to check out his website for more information on training and supplementation and consider using his services. Unlike me, Sean is a fitness professional and not just some stray physicist ;-)

Notes on "The Workout": Tweaks, Upper Before Lower Body & More

Image 4: Exercises like the squats or deadlifts, here performed by Arnold, are more taxing to your system and require longer recovery times. Than bench presses and other upper body work. This is why you will perform the upper before the lower body workout, so that the squats and deadlifts won't hamper your performance on the bench.
As mentioned earlier, we have placed the upper body workouts in front of the lower body lifts simply because upper body days are less stressful on a "system wide" basis. In contrast, the heavy lower body lifts (squat variation, deadlift variation) which involve the entire body have, at least in my humble opinion, a much greater carryover effect on your exercise performance, when you perform them on the day before your upper body workout. This is also, the reason that a rest/recovery day subsequent to each lower body workout is an absolute must.

In general, I will place the abdominal/core work at the start of the training day after doing the warm-up.  When the day's workout is so heavily focused around a single lift and you've been mentally gearing into it since the previous day, however, I like to hit this one first. Hence, during this particular strength phase the main lift is done right away and core done afterwards. The reason I mention this is that you will find the core work as the first element of your workout, so I deemed it necessary to give you an explanation for why I deviate from this principle, which, by the way, is another one from Ian King's book.

On the core lift, take whatever amount of warm-up sets you need to get your body feeling "primed" to start the work sets. While I did suggest reps/sets, you know your body better than I!
Important: As Adel mentioned on his previous workout templates (Hypertrophy & Health, Fat Loss). There is no template that will work for everyone. For the one I outlined above, one of the most convenient tweaks you can apply is simply flip day 5 and day 6 depending on what works best with your schedule.
You will notice that I have 1 set of an "activation" exercise of some sort paired with the primary lift for the day. An experienced lifter may not benefit from this to the same degree as a less experienced individual as they may already be efficient at activating these muscle groups.

Rest Periods for the Rookie & Advanced Lifters and Tempo Prescriptions

There are not a whole lot of exercises per day for a couple of reasons. First, we have long rest periods on the main lifts (4-6 min). If we do 5 work sets, you're looking at ~ 20-30 minutes on one exercise alone, plus whatever time is needed for the 2-3 warm-up sets. Longer rest intervals  (5-6 minutes) are needed for those with greater lifting experience. Most of the individuals I work with tend to be in the 3-4 minute range. Second, I want all of your attention focused on that main lift for the day. Previous lifting cycles should have taken care of support musculature, etc to allow you to thrive for a few weeks with lower volume. Remember, our goal here isn't necessary to add slabs of muscle mass. Rather, we're trying to make our nervous system more effective at using the slabs of muscle mass that we already have in place!

The tempos I have listed are suggestions only. The main focus is to make sure you're under control during the eccentric phase and pushing as fast as possible during the concentric phase. The use of the "0" or "1" at the isometric pause interval is dependent upon goals. If you're looking to take advantage of the Stretch Shortening Cycle effect to assist the concentric phase, make the isometric as short of possible. However, if you're looking to emphasize the concentric portion of the lift, take a 1 second pause during the isometric portion of the lift. Again this is just another variable you can manipulate based off your desired goals

A Note on Intensity, Weights, RM-Prescriptions and Your Form of the Day

Image 5: Your form of the day is important not only on the days of big meetings. Weight prescriptions in % of RM do thusly have limited value. If your 1-RM max varies from day to day, it should be obvious that whatever percentage of this 1-RM you may be shooting for will vary as well.
Although some people like to work off % 1RM's for all of their lifts, I tend to work more off how my body, or that of the individual I'm training is feeling. 1 RM's (3 RM's, 5 RM's, etc) are only an accurate measure of strength for the day that it was originally set. Let's say that someone is having a phenomenal day (solid night of sleep, promoted at work, the good looking guy/gal that they've had their "eye on" finally agrees to go out on a date with them, etc). More than likely their given 1RM will test amazing.

Unfortunately with the ying comes the yang. Let's say that 1 week later, this individual oversleeps their  6:30 AM alarm (while staying up to 2 am just to get their business papers completed), gets yelled at by their boss for arriving late and were told to "take a hike" from their significant other, etc. etc. In this case doing 5x3 reps at a predetermined X% of their 1 RM may be absolutely futile if they're already mentally and emotionally drained from all the other occurrences of the day.

Thus, as long as you give yourself a planned deload at some point in the cycle, I encourage you to base your rep weights off how you're feeling on a given day; Not off your 1RM from a previous point in time.

Post Work Regeneration – Are you serious…. There's More?

In one word – YES! Remember, you're only as strong as your ability to recover between sessions. Dr. Andro has discussed many nutrition protocols and supplements that assist with this process. Thus, I'm just going to touch very briefly on some of the non-nutritive strategies, of which you may not have read that much on the SuppVersity, as of yet:
  • I have found that taking my muscles though gentle, slow stretches to "re-limber" the body to be quite effective.
  • If at all possible, I also like to follow my workouts up by doing hydrotherapy. This can involve either contrast, cold water immersion, thermoneutral water immersion or hot water immersion protocols. I've written an ebook on hydrotherapy which may be of interest to some of you who are interested in the research and applied evidence on this topic (you can get it for free when you sign up for my newsletter).
  • Massage, when done by a skillful hand, can be helpful as well. I stress the word "skillful" because some massage therapist seem to confuse, "let's bring the muscle tone back to healthy levels" with "I am going to press as hard as I can on the muscle until the client screams, call it Advanced Trigger Release Mumbo Jumbo therapy….". I've seen to many people actually have to back off their workouts simply because their massage was way too aggressive and they're still sore 3 days later. 
  • Although I've never done it myself, I do know that some individuals swear by acupuncture and similar types of modalities.
Assuming that you have made it thus far in this epic workout template, I hope that I have been able to give you an idea of how a strength specific workout could look like. If you have questions, feel free to post them in the comment area, or just reach out to me either via the contact formula on my webpage or via Facebook!
Disclaimer:The information provided on this website is for informational purposes only. It is by no means intended as professional medical advice. Do not use any of the agents or freely available dietary supplements mentioned on this website without further consultation with your medical practitioner.