This is part 2 of a 3 part series on how I transformed my physique.
In case you missed it you can catch up on part 1:
How to Eat to Gain Muscle & Shred Fat – The Dieting Principles I used to pack on 65 lean pounds
And here's part 3:
NO BS Muscle Building Supplements I used to go from Skinny to Jacked
When I started working out I experimented with every type of workout regime possible.
- High weight, high reps (with questionable form)
- High weight, low reps
- Low weight, high reps
- High volume
- Low volume
- Full body workouts
- Individual muscle groups
- Training opposing muscles on the same day (e.g. chest and back)
You could say I had paralysis by over analysis
In hindsight the biggest mistake I made was hopping between routines far too often.
Following a workout regime for a minimum of 6 months before deciding whether it is or isn’t working for you is what I’d recommend to the newcomers.
Now, let’s delve into the workout regime I used to pack on lean muscle mass.
The Foundation of my Workout Regime
Over the course of the past 4 – 5 years I have changed around the order of my exercises, the accessory work I perform and a few other minor details.
The foundation of my workout regime has stayed the same, why?
Because it works.
I start each workout with 1 -2 mass building compound exercises focusing on lifting as much weight as I possibly can while maintaining correct form.
I never comprise my form for weight.
I leave my ego at the door when I enter the gym.
After performing my heavy compound movements I perform 2 – 3 ‘accessory’ exercises focusing on the same muscle group as the compound lifts.
Which leads me into my next principle.
I train 1 – 2 muscle groups per day.
I do not believe in working secondary muscle groups on the same day as the primary muscle group e.g. I do not train chest and triceps on the same day, or back and biceps – I instead opt for a dedicated arm day.
Abdominals & calves are trained on an adhoc basis – e.g. when time permits after my normal workout which is generally once per week.
I attribute the following exercises to the results I have achieved.
Incline dumbbell Press
Flat Barbell Press
Incline Cable Flies
Bent over rows Shoulders
Seated dumbbell press
Side lateral raises
Barbell bicep curls
Incline dumbbell curls
High bar back squats
Vertical leg press
I like to lift heavier weight for fewer reps than most people. For my big compound exercises (the first 1 or 2 exercises of my workout) I will lift within the 4 – 6 rep range. The following few accessory exercises will be performed in the 6 – 8 rep range.
Why do I do this?
Because it works
I have found both size and strength gains to be optimal when lifting within this range…
If I lift for fewer reps than this I will notice an increase in strength, but no size gains.
If I lift in the higher rep range I will make gradual size gains however my strength will continue to plateau.
This works for me and I’m sure it will work for you too, if you’re into reading studies that back up these claims I recommend checking out the articles here and here.
I can guarantee you that 95% of personal trainers out there will disagree with my advice will tell you to do 10 reps.
Because it’s what their 6 week course to get qualified taught them, they don’t know any better, they have no interest in learning more and according to them it works (even though they haven’t tried it themselves).
I rest for 1:30 – 2 minutes between sets of heavy compound exercises.
I rest for 30 – 45 seconds between sets of accessory exercises.
Goal Based Training – Cutting vs. Bulking Workouts
My workout structure including exercises, rep ranges and rest time between sets does not change at all whether I am in a cutting or bulking phase.
I learnt early on that performing high reps with less weight (which is a very common approach used) when cutting is one of the biggest mistakes you can make as the amount of muscle you’ll retain while losing weight is far less than if you were to keep your reps low and your weights heavy.
In short it’s a myth that lower weight, higher repetition training will ‘tone’ the muscles and bring out ‘striations’.
This all comes down to your caloric intake I discussed in part 1 of this series.
Champions Come in Pairs of Two
On the journey there’s days when you’ll feel demotivated and won’t be giving it your all.
Everyone can relate to this.
This is why I have a training partner and, if possible recommend you get one too.
The big bonus of having a training partner who can not only help drag your ass to the gym when you’re not feeling it is the forced repetitions you’ll be able to get.
When you’re benching 275lbs without a spotter to assist on those gruelling last few reps subconsciously you won’t be giving it your all – I used a training partner to get the most out of my workouts and would recommend you do the same too.
However, a word of caution…
Make sure your training partner is as motivated and dedicated as you. If they’re not the intensity of your workouts will diminish – meaning you’d be better off on your own.
Like I said, I’ve changed my routine around several times, so here’s a foundation routine using the fundamentals I have laid out above. Give this work out a try for 6 months, you won’t be disappointed with the results.
Incline dumbbell press 5x 4-6 reps
Flat barbell press – 5x 4-6 reps
Dips – 3x 8 reps
Incline Cable Flies – 3x8 reps
Weighted pull-ups – 5x 4-6 reps
Deadlifts – 5x 4-6 reps
Bent over row – 4x 8 reps
Military press – 5x 4-6 reps
Dumbbell side lateral raises– 4x 6-8 reps
Dumbbell rear delt flies – 4x 6-8 reps
Barbell bicep curls – 5x 4 – 6 reps
Incline dumbbell curls – 4x 6 – 8 reps
Chin-ups – 1x failure
Weighted tricep dips – 5x 4 – 6 reps
Skull crushers – 4x 6-8 reps
Close grip push-ups – 1x failure
Barbell back squats – 5x 4-6 reps
Vertical leg press – 5x 6 reps
Leg extensions – 2x 10
Romanian deadlifts – 2x 10
I’ve tried it all - switching between routine to routine trialling to see what my body responds best to. As a natural gym-goer a greater emphasis on strength based training is important. The way those ‘enhanced’ fitness models you see on YouTube and in photo shoots train is quite different to how you or I should train – they can perform lighter weights and huge volume and net great gains. Unfortunately as a natural athlete, training like this will not net you the same results.
Whether you’re new to working out or have been performing a higher repetition based routine for a while I recommend giving the above a try.
Any questions? Anything else you’d like to add?
Let me know in the comments below!