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Man With a Plan: Part III

December 7, 2008 Category: Articles Tags: .

First published at www.johnberardi.com, Nov 3 2003.

Making a Good Program Better

In the second installment of our series, you should have gotten a fairly good idea of how to set-up a training program with your specific goals in mind. However, it’s very hard to explain all the different possibilities. You will notice that while the basic templates stay the same, we get to break some of the rules to help accommodate each trainees needs and goals. The goal of this final article is to give you a better idea of options you can use, as well as how to set-up an even more specific program to help you achieve you strength and physique goals!

Bodybuilder (off-season)

The bodybuilder is mainly interested in hypertrophic gains, without a lot of regard for improvements in maximal strength. He should train in the 8-12 repetition range, with 3-5 sets per exercise. This particular trainee is interested in working on the size of his back, and most importantly his lats. He follows a 4-day per week split-routine.

Option #1. Antagonist Muscle Pairing (Same Day)

Monday – Back and Chest

  • Wide grip Pull-ups, 4×10
  • Flat Bench, 4×8
  • Neutral grip pull-ups, 4×8
  • DB Incline, 3×10
  • T-Bar Rows, 4×10

Wednesday – Legs

  • Squats, 4×10
  • Deadlifts, 4×6
  • Walking lunges, 2×8
  • D’S, 4×8
  • Seated Calves, 3×40 sec.

Friday – Bi’s and Tri’s

  • Narrow grip bench, 5×8
  • Barbell Curls, 3×10
  • Throatcrushers, 3×12
  • Alternate DB Curls, 4×8
  • Wrist Flex/Ext, 2×10 each

Saturday – Shoulders and Traps

  • Bradford Press, 4×12
  • Olympic Pulls, 4×5
  • Standing Dumbbell Press, 4×8
  • Seated DB Shrugs, 5×10
  • Shoulder Circuit, 3×12 each

Notice that we have already broken some of our rules. For instance, the back is a very diverse muscle group, so we actually give it three separate exercises on Monday. Also, since there really isn’t an “opposing” muscle group for shoulders, we have paired it with the traps. If you wanted, you could flip Friday with Saturday to mix it up some. Monday would be chest and horizontal pulls (such as t-bar rows, barbell rows, etc.) and Friday could be shoulders and vertical pulls (such as lat pulldowns, chins of all varieties, etc.).

I also know that some bodybuilders are more traditional and won’t like pairing opposing muscle groups like this. Therefore, I will give you the second option which is a more traditional bodybuilding split. Nothing else will change regarding our trainee’s goals, only the way he splits up the days of his cycle.

Option 2. Antagonist Muscle Pairing (Different Days)

Monday – Back and Bi’s

  • Wide grip Pull-ups, 4×10
  • Neutral grip pull-ups, 4×8
  • T-Bar Rows, 4×10
  • Barbell Curls, 3×10
  • Alternate DB Curls, 4×8

Wednesday – Chest and Tri’s

  • Flat Bench, 4×8
  • DB Incline, 3×10
  • Decline Flies, 4×12
  • Narrow grip bench, 5×8
  • Throatcrushers, 3×12

Friday – Legs

  • Squats, 4×10
  • Deadlifts, 4×6
  • Walking lunges, 2×8
  • D’S, 4×8
  • Seated Calves, 3×40 sec.

Saturday – Shoulders and Traps

  • Bradford Press, 4×12
  • Olympic Pulls, 4×5
  • Standing Dumbbell Press, 4×8
  • Seated DB Shrugs, 5×10
  • Shoulder Circuit, 3×12 each

This is a more traditional routine, with back and bi’s being performed together, chest and tri’s together, etc. However, since we are putting a premium on back strength, we have still placed it first in the training week. To promote balance and overall development, chest is trained next on Wednesday after a day of rest.

Powerlifters

Our second trainee is a powerlifter currently training on a 4-day per week schedule. He is interested in improving his deadlift, which hasn’t improved for quite a while. Most powerlifters work in a 1-8 rep range, with anywhere from 3-10 sets being performed per exercise.

Option #1. Antagonist Muscle Pairing (Same Day)

Tuesday

  • Deadlifts, 5×5
  • Front Squats, 3×6
  • D’S, 4×6
  • Walking Lunges, 2×8
  • Seated Calves, 3×40 sec.

Thursday

  • Flat Bench, 5×3
  • T-Bar Rows, 4×8
  • DB Decline, 3×6
  • Seated Shoulder Press, 4×6
  • Scapular Wall Slides, 3×8

Saturday

  • Squats, 4×6
  • Rack Pulls, 4×2
  • Single Leg Squats, 3×5
  • GHR, 4×6
  • Abs, 5×10

Sunday

  • Rack Lockouts, 5×2
  • Pull-ups, 4×8
  • Narrow grip incline, 3×8
  • JM Press, 5×5
  • DB Curls, 3×8

Option 2. Antagonist Muscle Pairing (Different Days)

Tuesday

  • Deadlifts, 5×5
  • Rack Pulls, 4×2
  • Single Leg Squats, 3×5
  • Walking Lunges, 2×8
  • Seated Calves, 3×40 sec.

Thursday

  • Flat Bench, 5×3
  • Rack Lockouts, 5×2
  • Narrow grip incline, 3×8
  • Seated Shoulder Press, 4×6
  • Scapular Wall Slides, 3×8

Saturday

  • Squats, 4×6
  • Front Squats, 3×6
  • D’S, 4×6
  • GHR, 4×6
  • Abs, 5×10

Sunday

  • Rack Lockouts, 5×2
  • T-Bar Rows, 4×8
  • DB Decline, 3×6
  • JM Press, 5×5
  • DB Curls, 3×8

This template could also be modified for Olympic lifters as well. For instance, the clean style lifts could be performed on Tuesday and Saturday, while the snatch-based lifts could be performed on Thursday and Sunday. Olympic lifters usually tend to perform all snatch or clean-based lifts on the same day, so Option 2 would probably be more suitable for them.

General Athlete (Strength/Power based team sport)

This is one of the most difficult groups to write programs for, especially since the amount they train can vary quite a bit dependent upon the time of year. Along with the variability in training, the goals and needs of athletes can vary quite a bit. For this reason, I’ll give the training program first and explain it later. I will also give two options, one for an athlete on a 3-day per week, total body routine, and the second for an athlete on a 4-day per week, split-routine. Our athlete is involved in a strength and explosive power dominant team sport. This program is very similar to one I designed for our men’s and women’s volleyball teams at Ball State University.

Monday

  • Power Snatch, 3×5
  • Back Squats, 4×6
  • Multi-Directional Lunge, 2×5 each
  • D’S, 3×8
  • Step-ups, 3×6 each
  • Calf Raises/Dorsiflexion Superset, 3×20
  • Abs

Wednesday

  • Push Press, 3×4
  • Bench Press, 3×8
  • Lat-Pulldowns, 3×8
  • Single-Arm Military, 3×5 each
  • DB Tricep Extensions, 3×12
  • DB Curls, 3×8
  • Shoulder Prehab/Abs

Friday

  • Power Cleans, 4×5
  • Front Squats, 3×5
  • GHR, 4×8
  • Close-grip bench, 3×10
  • DB Row, 4×6 each
  • External Rotators, 3×6
  • Ankle Prehab Circuit/Abs

Since we only train 3 days per week, we have to add a few more exercises per workout. You will also see that each workout starts off with an explosive movement. This exercises work nearly every muscle in the body, so I don’t bother with a “balance” exercise for them. From that point in the workout on, there are very minute changes. Monday is our primary low-body day, while Wednesday is our primary upper body day. Finally, Friday we get a little bit of everything.

Monday

  • Power Snatch, 3×5
  • Back Squats, 4×6
  • Multi-Directional Lunge, 3×5 each
  • D’S, 3×8
  • Step-ups, 3×6 each
  • Calf Raises/Dorsiflexion Superset, 3×20
  • Abs

Tuesday

  • Push Press, 3×4
  • Bench Press, 3×8
  • Lat-Pulldowns, 3×8
  • Single-Arm Military, 3×5 each
  • DB Tricep Extensions, 3×12
  • DB Curls, 3×8
  • Shoulder Prehab
  • Abs

Thursday

  • Power Cleans, 4×5
  • Front Squats, 3×5
  • Partial Deadlifts, 5×4
  • Bulgarian Squats, 3×5 each
  • GHR, 4×8
  • Calf Raises/Dorsiflexion Superset, 3×20
  • Ankle Prehab Circuit
  • Abs

Friday

  • Granny Med Ball Toss, 4×4
  • Close-grip bench, 3×10
  • DB Row, 4×6 each
  • Bradford Press, 3×8
  • Scapular Depression Work, 2×8
  • External Rotators, 3×6
  • Abs

You can see that as we add more training days in the week, we can increase the quantity of exercises performed within the week. The first two days of our training are exactly the same as before, but now we have more of a split-routine style of training. One note that I might add is that if you do have three or more training days per week, I would recommend not having more than 5 major exercises per workout. Some may disagree and go even lower, but if you are performing 3+ sets per exercise, it’s probably impossible to keep the quality of training high with that much volume. For instance on Thursday, after you have performed cleans, front squats, partial deadlifts, Bulgarian squats and glute hams, adding another big exercise would be beating a dead horse. You want enough volume and intensity to stimulate growth, but you don’t want to push the envelope and outrun your bodies recovery ability.

Basic Trainee (Fitness Enthusiast)

This plan is for our basic trainee who wants to get in the gym 3x per week and improve his overall physique. He has never really trained before, so his program will follow a little bit different template. The goal is to improve overall strength, teach him a number of basic lifts, and to get him ready to start a split-routine down the line.

Monday

  • Squats, 4×10
  • Bench Press, 3×10
  • Lat-Pulldowns, 3×8
  • Lunges, 3×8 each
  • Barbell Military Press, 3×8
  • Tricep Pushdown, 3×8
  • DB Curls, 3×8
  • Calves/Abs/Prehab

Wednesday

  • Deadlifts, 4×6
  • DB Incline, 3×8
  • DB Row, 3×8 each
  • D’S, 3×6
  • Close-grip bench, 3×8
  • Barbell Curls, 3×8
  • DB External Rotators, 3×8

Friday

  • Step-ups, 3×8 each
  • Single Leg Reverse Hypers, 3×8 each
  • Single Arm DB Decline, 3×6 each
  • Single Arm Lat Pulldown, 3×6 each
  • Single Arm Military Press, 3×6 each
  • Single Arm Overhead Extension, 3×6 each
  • Concentration Curl, 3×6 each
  • Single Leg Calf Raise, 3×10 each

Beginning trainees, like athletes, need a wide range of exercises to develop good inter and intramuscular coordination. A broad range of exercises that hits all the major muscle groups on a daily basis (but in a different fashion) is ideal for giving them a challenging workout, as well as preparing them for more demanding workouts to come. The first two days are fairly similar, in that all the major muscle groups are stimulated and trained in a more-or-less superset fashion. Friday, however, is different because we perform all our exercises unilaterally. Many beginning trainees have problems coordinating single-limb movements, have poor balance, or are over-developed on their dominant side. By taking this into consideration from the start, we strive to create muscular balance and symmetry so that optimal long-term results can be attained.

One thing you may be wondering is why a new trainee would have MORE exercises per day than a strength or general athlete. The reason is this: Seasoned weight trainers are more EFFICIENT with their training than a rookie. In other words, for every exercise they do they are more properly targeting the specific musculature, resulting in increased fatigue. Seasoned trainees, in essence, need less overall volume of work, but are performing at a much higher relative intensity.

Conclusion:

In the last three articles, I have given you all the tools necessary to develop a strength training program that’s totally specific to your individual needs. Remember, however, that there is no such thing as the perfect program, and no program can be successful if you don’t give it your all. I hope that you will utilize the information given here to take your strength and physique to the next level!

About the Author:

Mike Robertson, M.S., C.S.C.S., U.S.A.W., is the Director of the Athletic Performance Center (APC) in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The APC offers sport performance training, injury rehabilitation, and personal training services to its clients. Mike received his Masters in Sports Biomechanics from the Human Performance Lab at Ball State University, has been a competitive powerlifter, and is the USA Powerlifting State Chair in Indiana. To contact Mike, please send an e-mail to [email protected]

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