“We win because we are determined. Disciplined. Not because we feel ourselves superior.”– Kratos of God of War 4.
Ladies and Gentleman. We are finally here. After two years and some months, as we close enter 2019, we are here at Article #30. Yes, this is my thirtieth Health and Fitness article here since my esteemed tenure began at the greatest website known to man, Champagne in the Locker Room.
I thought I’d craft a workout guide with strategies that you can not be a cur and ascend into greatness.
Before we get started, I want you to know a few things.
- There is no shortcut or magic pill to make you be lean, muscular, or have some awesome yams. There is no real quick and easy guide. It’s going to take actual work. It’s going to take trial and error even with the weapons I arm you.
- This list is not exhaustive. The only thing that is the end all be all is consistency, proper technique and progressive overload.
- Please do not ask me, or any trainer to craft you a whole workout…for free… I might hurl you into the sun like the cur you are (I can) if you do that. Number 1, you won’t do it. 2. There are plenty of free solid programs on the internet. 3. Asking for tips is fine.
- We don’t want to hear you say how expensive training is. We know. Look, light jest here. We saw you spend money on Jay and Beyonce. We applaud you for it. We saw those IG, FB vacations, brunches, dates, bottle service, everything. Look, I’m happy for you. Really. I’m so happy that I look forward to helping you achieve the best shape of your life so you can tag me and the other dope trainers out there on your social media. The pleasure is mine. Really it is. Understand that the investment you’re putting in pays dividends. You might find me arrogant for this, but you can’t really pay us enough for what we’ve done. We believe in it that much. You really should be paying us triple or even royalties. That’s how dope we are. It’s awesome to be able to provide the info to educate you and help uplift your life. We’re trying to leave our mark on the Earth as well. With that being said. Let’s talk.
Note: I’m biased in terms of strength. If you ask me a question, I’m going to ask you, “How often do you work out now? What does your workout consist of? Do you lift? Do you use free weights? How often do you squat and deadlift? If you don’t squat or deadlift, I’m going to assume, that you either don’t know (which is fine) or you’re not serious about maximizing your fitness potential. Worse than that…you might be a cur. EGAD! The workout tips I’m going to give you will mainly be lifting pointers. I can’t tell you what button to push on the treadmill. I honestly hardly know how they work. The hefty majority of this article will be about the barbell.
Yes, that beautiful piece of steel. There is nothing like it. The Barbell is the greatest workout tool in the history of mankind. Yes, the greatest. What comes after? Well, I’d say the actual plates and collars used for the barbell. You can have a workout with just the Barbell alone. It’s that powerful. There were many times, back in the days of NEW (No Excuse Workout in Oxon Hill) where Shad and I would do the Weightlifting variations (known to some as Olympic Lifting) on the floor with Steel plates. We’d set up in the middle of the floor and go to work. It was the most electrifying thing in sports entertainment. Imagine how strong you’d be if 80-85% of the your workout for that day consisted of Power Cleans, Push Presses, Push Jerks, Power Snatches, and the like. Imagine much work your core would get just having to stand and do that. Through the barbell you can do compound movements. Compound movements are movements that work more than muscle group. Squats, Deadlift, Lunges, Snatches, Cleans, Overhead Press, Bench Press, etc.
Isolation movements are things like dumbbell curls, and leg extensions/curls.
Now, off top I’m going to show you a workout template, that I may give clients. I got it from Alan Thrall of Untamed Strength on YouTube. It’s simple, easy to understand, and solid.
It’s a three day template. It has a squat day, a pressing day and a pull day, with the front squat (yes, you should front squat) on the same day you Deadlift. Ironically, if you give yourself, THREE solid days of lifting a week, and your diet is on point, I guarantee you will hit your goals. Can you workout more than three days a week? Absolutely. 5? Sure. 6, 7? Depends. At a certain point, we get into what we call a diminishing rate of return. Your body actually does need to recover. Now if you’re a competitive athlete, that’s a whole different as they know their body and have a better (way better) understanding of what their body can do than the average person. In short, do what you want. I would advise for two days of rest for the average mortal though. Can you do low intense cardio six days a week though? Yes. Have at it.
How long can you do this program or a program like this? You mean how long can you run a three day lifting program with squatting, pressing and pulling? Literally forever. “Keeping your body guessing” is not science based, it’s preference and/or marketing hype used to get you to read or consume the “next best thing.” You don’t need to change your program that frequently. You would “keep it fresh” by adding an extra set, or rep or pound. There’s a reason why gyms often have microplates of 1lb or less, which I spoke of while writing about deadlifting.
What about Leg Day, Chest Day, and the like?
I personally prefer full body workouts or lift focused workouts over body part bodybuilding style splits. I like to hit a body-part more than once, therefore I prefer full body. What should you do? If you’re a beginner, full body. I prefer that you squat twice a week. You can even Back Squat (the standard squat) one day and Front Squat later in the week. I prefer to start my week with squatting. It sets the tone for the week, and in a regular gym, you’re more likely to get an available squat rack on Monday vs a Bench as Monday for most folks is “International Chest Day.” Squat wise, I’ve trained folks who squatted three times in a week. Yes, you can do that. The goal was to make her strong (it worked) and work multiple muscle groups at once. The key is to find out what you respond to.
3 sets of 10, 3 sets of 5, 8. 10 sets of 3. 5×5. What do you do? Ah well, that depends. Truth be told, there’s no perfect rep range, there is only volume (the work load of sets and reps). As long as progressive overload is present, you will grow (ladies you want to grow muscle too. No you don’t have magic bulk genes as you don’t have the testosterone for it, especially if you’re cutting). Now a person who does 10 sets of 3, vs a person who does 3 sets of 10; the latter will be out of the gym faster no doubt but the person who does the former will be stronger….by a lot. I’d argue that their technique will be better to, as your first three reps have the most focus due to a lack of fatigue. You’re zeroed in. However the person who does 10 sets of 3 will undoubtedly be in the gym much longer.
Three sets of 5 or 8. Anything three sets will get you out of the gym relatively quick, and you can most likely repeat the exercises again that. You can get a great workout and an awesome variety of a workout with 3×5-8. You can squat, bench, row in one day, Overhead Press, Deadlift, and Row the second day, and repeat squat, bench, row, on day three. Yes, you can add more exercises. You could do the following
Day 1. Squat, Bench, Row, Lunge, Stiff Leg Deadlift (8-10 on the stiff leg)
Day 2 Overhead Press, Deadlift, Row, close grip bench.
Day 3 – Repeat #1. Day 4- Repeat #2
A Simple 4 day plan.
Day 1- Squat
Day 2- Bench
Day 3- Deadlift
Day 4- Overhead Press and or Front Squat. Note: The Overhead Pres is simple enough to do on the same day as the other lifts so you can Front Squat on Day 4
Another Simple 4 day Plan
Day 1 – Squat
Day 2 – Deadlift
Day 3- Bench
Day 4- Squat
Another 4 day plan. This was the old template from Crossfit Football by John Welbourn
Day 1 – Squat and Bench
Day 2 – Power Clean
Day 3 Squat and Press
Day 4 – Deadlift
I think the above is the superior to the others as your cleaning and deadlifting while Squatting twice a week. I think there’s also a mental toughness added to this workout. Yes, it is more challenging. Again, A simple 3×5 plan (or even just up to 3 reps on the Power Clean) would be excellent and pretty time efficient. This is not including your assistance work. We’ll save that for later.
My personal preference
I like Powerlifitng, and I like Weightlifting (Olympic Lifting – the snatch and the clean and jerk). I also like Strongman stuff for “functional strength” (over hyped buzzword) and conditioning ( see cardio). I followed a template from Mash Elite Performance that’ went like this. This is called a “Supertotal” Program. “Totals” are used in powerlifting and weightlifting meets gauge your scores. Scores being weight lifted. Supertotal being both disciplines.
Day 1- Snatch. Squat ( I did Power Snatches as I’m not very good at snatches. You can also do muscle snatches- great move)
Day 2- Clean and Jerk. Bench Press. I did the Hang-Power Clean and Push Jerk. I only have five toes so I don’t do the split jerk. I prefer the push jerk. I also know that right now as far as I know in my limited knowledge it’s “easier” for me right now to use my hips in the hang position vs the floor position, also from having five toes. Does it matter for you? Not at all.
Day 3 – Snatch/Clean and Jerk and Front Squat. The former rotated and had a different variation than day 2. Typically for “lighter” reps. One day it would be a Power Snatch. Another day it would be a Power Clean.
Day 4. – Overhead Press and Deadlift
This program was fantastic and utilized the daily max method. What was this? Well if called for a 5RM, you’d go for a five rep max, and so on. I liked this. It accounted for fluctuating biorhythms (stress level, sleep, etc.) so you pushed hard at whatever level you were at. Some days you can lift the gym, and some days, you can only lift half the gym. After the rep max, you can take 10 or 15% off, and do one or two more sets for the same number of reps.
Programs by Percentages.
These are all based off you’re 1RM – One rep max. If you don’t know what you’re one rep max is…take a guess. Better yet, take in mind what you can can do for 3 reps and add some lbs.
Here is a dope estimation by Elliot Hulse that he designed years ago.
Note: If you stick with lifting at 80% of your 1RM, you will get stronger and bigger guaranteed. I forget exactly where I heard this from, but it’s pretty solid. This doesn’t mean you won’t see gains at 70-75% either. Good solid consistency at that range will give you muscle growth as well. Again ultimately as long as x is constant, you will make gains. What is x? If you said Progressive Overload, congrats, you’ve been paying attention.
I’m going to save you the most time and thought ever. Rest enough for you. Go when you’re ready. Do you think I’m going to trip if I rest an extra thirty seconds when I squat, clean or deadlift? No. Three minutes for the big lifts is fine. Keep in mind, we’re talking about getting strong here. If you want to rest lest, that’s fine. Manipulate it accordingly. It ultimately depends on the context and parameters ( see what you’re trying to accomplish).
How do I do the strongman stuff in addition?
Basically, I do the axle clean and press. It’s the barbell that looks like a pipe. It’s thicker than a standard barbell. Fun stuff. Sometimes I’d have what I call “Strongman Saturday” and do some axle clean and presses, along with some axle “suitcase deadlifts.” A what? Well here. It’s great for grip, obliques,and quads
Imagine above with a thicker barbell. More difficult than normal. Stresses the grip more. Want to test this even further? Well go to a soccer field and do a pull up on the soccer goal bar. Yeah, you’re going to have to do it thumb-less. Make sure you stretch your wrists and forearms….yeah.
I also would try to “mimic” certain strongman stuff for conditioning or general strength. You may have to get creative here. However things like Zercher Squats, a two handed dumbbell clean, sandbag carries, sled power pulls, a tire if you can fine one, etc.
Log Clean and Presses Below. Great tool for both strength and conditioning.
You mentioned Barbell Rows? How often should I do them?
If you followed a three-day template, I’d row three days a week, varying my grip. Note: All pulling works the biceps, so instead of obsessing over the biceps, you can do more supinated (aka underhanded) rows and chin ups. . That hits the biceps a little more.
A big back strong back >>>>>>>>>>>>>
“Bill, I want a sexy back.”
Still row. Your diet consumption will take care of the rest. NOTE: TO GET RID OF THAT BACK FAT, YOU NEED TO DIET AND TRAIN IT AWAY. YOU CAN’T SPOT REDUCE IT. YOU WON’T SPOT REDUCE ANYTHING EXCEPT YOUR WALLET FROM THE AMOUNT OF SCAMS THAT YOU BELIEVE TELLING YOU OTHERWISE.
Note again: This is where the Hammer Strength Machines shine. I’m not a big machine guy but I do like Hammer Strength machine stuff. Machines are cool when you may not have the energy for freeweight stuff, or want to knock out some extra work without setting up a bunch of..other stuff ( I used stuff frequently here but you understand). However don’t overly rely on machines. Your first priority should be freeweights. Free weights work your core, as you’re often standing. Yes I believe you should do most of your workout standing.
Ok, so far we have:
-Squat twice a week
-Deadlift regularly, also judging from the Deadlift article, do the stiffleg and Romanian Deadlifts
-Power Clean if I know how
– Row frequently
– Overhead Press and Bench Press.
– Snatch if I know how. Note: If you’re not good at snatches currently like me, do the muscle snatch. You’re just pulling it up above your head. You can still do dumbbell and kettlebell snatches as well.
Muscle Snatch below.
Video on the Muscle Snatch
I’m not really going to get into curls and a lot of isolation movements here. However, I do think just one variation of tricep extensions is enough. Your triceps only press and extend. That’s it. Too many extension exercises starts to scream “I’m a cur.” If you’re follwing a template from Louie Simmons or Juggernaut this obviously doesn’t apply to you as they obviously know what they’re doing. Curl wise- I think the incline dumbbell curl, the standard barbell curl, hammer curls, are just fine. I think a dedicated “Arm day” is also a big waste of time. I don’t have big biceps so you don’t have to listen to me at all. Keep in mind, that the triceps are 2/3 of your arm, so consider that heavy pressing period is going to hit those triceps. Also doing weighted dips will guarantee nice triceps. Here I go, pushing my compound lift agenda again. Yup.
Rep range again.
Do them all. Get better in also the rep ranges. the 1-3’s,the 1-5’s the 5-8’s, the 10-12s. The whole objective again is progressive overload. Focus on getting stronger, and to be better in your lifts over time. As you can see here, my goal here is to teach you how to think, not what to think. I’m also curious about program design. I like to know how one comes up with their reasoning so I can replicate it on my own.
For your main lifts, I think you should focus on 5reps. It’s a cool middle ground between strength and muscle building. Guess what, you can also burn fat with these reps if…..THAT’S RIGHT YOUR DIET IS ON POINT. Strength training will help you burn fat, while holding onto muscle if you’re in a caloric deficit and gain muscle (size) if you’re in a caloric surplus. Higher reps have the advantage of being done quicker, you can do 8-12 reps for your assistance lifts or isolation lifts. Again, this is a simple guide, and honestly anything will work if you focus on the basics. Squatting, Pulling, and Pressing.
Protip: Cardio suggestions. You can do things from boot camps classes as cardio. You can design nice couplets such as:
-Db snatches and Burpees – Personal Favorite
– Medicine Slams and Squats ( deep squats)
– Pull ups, and dips. Pull Ups, Push ups, Dips and lunges
– Sled work
– Flipping a tire
-Lunges and something else
Have at thee.
You can also box, swim, hoop, anything. Conversely, Low Impact Steady State (LISS) cardio is cool because it’s 1) Extra work ( calories burned) 2) Good for your heart 3) Easy on your body. It’s just boring.
Don’t worry I’m going to make a “Cardio suggestive article” as well. The purpose of this article is to get you to focus on what’s important.
I just wrote an article about fighting the frigid forces of fat. You can check that out, but do check out my article on macros. No I’m not going to write you a free meal plan either. I will however let you know for the millionth ( cue The Rock ) AND MILLIONTH TIME, that weight loss is about a caloric deficit (and nothing more) created through your diet (eating less aka eating less junk) and your training. I will also write an even shorter guide to macros
Why do I focus on getting strong?
I do Boot Camps. A lot of trainers do. While they are a great an inexpensive way for conditioning, you need to find yourself a dedicated strength program. I guarantee you’re going to eventually hit a wall, and wonder why you’re not progressing. That answer is, you’re probably weak. I’m eventually going to write an article on this answer alone but know this, you’re favorite social media person (well number two as you’re favorite is probably me – ha) lifts heavy. Heavy as in, challenging enough to get a response, not heavy as in lift with bad form.
Following a program
A good program helps you to a goal. It’s a road mad to get to your destination. If the program calls for x, do x unless it says “do y.” Even the times when I’m not following a specific program, I have a set objective in mind. I know I’m going to squat, deadlift, clean , press, that day. Have a plan, even if it’s chaotic. It may be anywhere from six to twelve weeks or more. Your goal is not just “exercising” or “working out” you’re “Training.” It’s not enough that you do something to “get a pump” or “burn a sweat.” It’s not enough for you to “get sore” or “feel wrecked.” You’re goal is consistency and progression. Progression is what will you get you to the promise land.
-Lift heavy 3-5x a week which consists of the big 3 – Squat, Bench, Dead at min. Do your assistance work. Assistance lifts can range from stuff like variations of pulls (deficit stiff leg deads), lunges, rows, variation of the lifts, (close grip bench press)machine work. Again, assistance work strengthens weak points, corrects muscle imbalances, and puts extra attention and emphasis on the muscles. Isolation work counts as well. The key here is still progressive overload.
Keeping it simple part 5,237,164…
My workout split for my Ballou athlete mob of teachers and students goes as the following:
Day 1: Squat and Bench
Day 2: Overhead Press and Deadlift
Yes. That’s it. I’m only with them twice a week, so I give them this particular outline. Is this ALL they do? No. They’ll also do lunges, stiff leg deads, power cleans, push press, pull ups, weighted pull ups, inverted rows, farmers’ carries, unilateral carries, burpees, core work, etc. All in two days. They also do extra work outside of me being there because well…they’re warriors. You have to go the extra mile in life to get things done.
Should I do get lean first or put on muscle?
Guess what, the same thing you do for one will largely be the same you do for the other. Yeah. It’s really that simple. I say, lift to get strong and diet down. Don’t expect any earth shattering PR’S as cutting is often taxing. However in your mind, do try to get stronger. Doing so will at least preserve your muscle mass. When you’re ready to bulk, I suggest you do it slow. Focus on getting stronger (yes again) while gradually upping your caloric intake (eating more). To be extra specific, you should lift “heavy” all year long. Again, not heavy as in “I’ll pop something” but heavy as in “hey this is providing a type of challenge even though it’s a medium weight.”
OHHHHHHH. I get it, I need to be lifting ALL YEAR?
In a systematic fashion?
That calls for progression and scientific reasoning?
With good form as to avoid injuries and maximize proper growth
Squatting, pulling, pressing?
Heavy? Meaning challenging weights? Challening as to ellicit a response, but not heavy as to break form and die
So I won’t be…a..cur?
An abominable courage forsaken cur
How many reps?
No. Seriously, I’ve decided to stop right here. I’ll add more thoughts, reasoning and science in the next one as I’ll discuss conditioning, some go to’s for assistance lifts and answer more strong thoughts and questions. I hope you gained some new perspective. This was article number 30. Tune in next time, as we address a few more points, like assistance lifts and conditioning.
Bill Walker is a NASM Ceritifed Perosnal Trainer, Dcps Strength and Fitness Coach, Boot Camp Instructor, and Fitness Writer for the greatest website of all time, Citlr.com. If you have any questions, want a personalized program, consultation or workout, you can contact him at [email protected]
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