So I’ve been exercising pretty consistently since I returned from Japan almost 2 months ago. I passed my first 6 week series last week, and I’m getting decent results. I still need to burn a bunch of pounds via cardio, but the muscle toning/building part of the workout is going as good as I expected – at least I feel like I’m on the road to returning back to routine I had in high school and college playing football. So far so good.
Here it is, in the order in which I complete each exercise. The key to this routine is that each day focuses on complementary muscle groups (I’ll call them, for lack of better nomenclature, A & B). The muscle groups are complementary in that both are worked out on a given exercise, but one of these groups is always elected as the ‘primary’ focus of the exercise, while the other is denoted as secondary. Each exercise always has a primary muscle group and a secondary muscle group. Subsequent exercises swap these groups such that they alternate throughout the day. For example:
Exercise 1 would elect muscle group A to be the primary target and muscle group B to be the secondary.
Exercise 2 would elect muscle group B to the the primary target and muscle group A to be the secondary.
Exercise 3 would elect muscle group A to be the primary target and muscle group B to be the secondary.
Exercise 4 would elect muscle group B to be the primary target and muscle group A to be the secondary.
The routine continues alternating groups A & B between primary and secondary until the workout is over.
The benefit of this approach is that you fully work out both muscle groups during the routine, but by alternating primary and secondary groups as described above, you allow the what was the primary to rest significantly on the next exercise (even though it is still being stressed), without stopping too long, and vice versa. This is key in that your muscle groups get a great workout over a longer period of time, but enough rest to continue for the duration of the routine. This in turn increases mass but will also greatly increase endurance, giving more tone and true strength long-term.
Also, because of how the working is scheduled/separated throughout the week, usually all complementary groups get 36 to 72 hours of rest between workouts – optimal for true strength building.
Monday (Triceps and Chest):
listed in order of completion
- Flat Bench Press: 3 sets of 10 (primary: triceps, secondary: chest). You want the weight to be such that you barely lift the last rep on the 3rd set
- Flat Bench Dumbbell Flys: 3 sets of 10 (primary: chest, secondary: triceps). Keep arms pretty straight with a slight bend (not more than 15 to 20 degrees though!) and out to the sides as far as possible to isolate the chest. If you bend your arms too much (more than 20 degrees), you work more of the triceps, negating the primary/secondary active/passive approach outlined above. If you have to bend your elbows beyond that amount to support the weight, lower the amount. It is ok to do this exercise with 10 or 20 pound dumbbells or lower just keep excellent form. For a final really great chest building isolation bonus, at the very end of each rep, when the dumbbells are directly over your chest at straight-arms’ length, push out and up away from the chest few more inches – this is total chest work – no triceps. You’ll feel it after one set 😉
- 45 degree Incline Bench Press: 3 sets of 10 (primary: triceps, secondary: chest). Same as flat bench, but this time works different tricep isolator muscles and tendons and the upper part of the secondary chest group.
- 45 degree Incline Dumbbell Flys: 3 sets of 10 (primary: chest, secondary triceps). Same as the flat bench incline dumbbell flys, but works entirely on the upper chest around the shoulders – i.e. makes a balance chest workout when combined w/ flat bench. Since gravity isn’t working against you as heavily as flat bench, you can usually increase the weight here a little bit (maybe 10-20% more than what you’re comfortable w/ on flat bench).
- Seated dumbbell tricep extensions: 3 sets of 10 (primary: triceps, secondary: shoulders). Grab a decently heavy dumbbell (probably about 1/3rd to 1/2 of what you bench press). Sit down on a bench – with both hands, grab one end of the dumbbell and carefully lift it over your head (with the other end dangling directly over your head). Your arms should be straight up. Slowly and carefully lower the dumbbell behind your head, rotating only at the elbows, stopping when your forearms are parallel to the floor (your arms should make an upside down ‘L’). Then extend your forearms straight up again. This is 1 rep. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.
- Seated fly machine: 3 sets of 10 (primary: chest, secondary: triceps). Like the above, this focuses almost all on the primary and little on the secondary. But the fly machine does work the triceps a little and the tendons/isolators near the shoulder, so you still get a secondary workout for triceps. At this point in the routine though, you’ve worked out both groups equally well.
- Standing tricep extensions: 3 sets of 10 (primary: triceps, secondary: chest). If I have enough energy left at this point in the routine, I do these final 3 sets. This is when you go to a machine with hand grips, where you stand in front of the machine with your forearms parallel to the floor, and you rotate at the elbows, extending the forearms as straight as you can make them until your arms are straight and tucked in to your body and your hands are almost touching your thighs. I’m pretty tired at this point, so I don’t overdo the weight here.
- Long cardio (45 minutes minimum, 1:15 maximum) – running, rowing, cycling, swimming, etc – your choice.
Tuesday (Biceps/forearms and Back):
listed in order of completion
- Standing Dumbbell Curl: 3 sets of 10 (primary: biceps, secondary: forearms). Standing up, alternate a bicep curl on your right arm, then left, then right, etc, until each arm has completed 10 curls (i.e. 20 total for both arms). This is one set. Do 3 total sets. You do not want to use your back in any way whatsoever to help get the weight up. Your back should remain perfectly straight and almost all of your muscle effort is wholly contained in your biceps. If you feel yourself bending over, or throwing your back backwards to help get the weight up, the weight is too heavy – reduce it.
- Seated upright row: 3 sets of 10 (primary: middle & upper back, secondary: biceps). This is a machine where you sit down on a stationary bench and pull a hand-grip attached to cord w/ a pulley & weights into your chest, almost like you were rowing a boat. But there are significant differences compared to rowing a boat: the seat should not slide like a rowing machine. Also, when pulling the hand-attachment into your chest, your posture should be such that you are sitting up perfectly straight throughout the entire motion. Unlike a rowing machine, you do not want your back to move at all. If you have to move your back (i.e. your torso is moving back or forth in a rowing motion), the weight is too heavy – reduce it. You only want the rowing motion wholly contained within your arm movement. This primarily focuses on the back muscles, but requires the biceps on the last half of the movement. To make sure you’re doing it right, think of this exercise as a very compact (tight and close to the body) ‘reverse bench press’ – don’t use your back to help with the weight.
- Seated barbell preacher curl: 3 sets of 10 (primary: biceps, secondary: forearms). This exercise is where you sit down on a chair that has a slanted upper arm support in front of it. You rest your upper arms on the slanted support such that your elbows are near the bottom of the support. You should be able to raise your forearms straight up and down, rotating at the elbows, using the slanted arm support to isolate your arms and this movement. You do this exercise with a single short barbell (i.e. a 25 pounder + additional weight). This is great isolation for the biceps, and it also works the inner forearm a lot.
- Reverse fly: 3 sets of 10 (primary: upper & middle back, secondary: triceps). I always do this exercise on an adjustable chest-fly machine. Adjust the arm/hand grips all the way to the back of the machine, and sit reversed on the seat (i.e. so your chest is against the back rest). Grab the arm/hand grips and, while keeping your arms perfectly straight, pull your arms backwards all the way. When you start the exercise, both arms should be full extended out in front of you parallel to the floor. At the end of extension, both arms will be fully out to your sides, parallel to the floor, such that your body looks like you’re forming the letter ‘T’. This exercise is exactly the opposite of the chest fly done yesterday.
- Seated Concentration Dumbbell Curls: 3 sets of 10 (primary: biceps, secondary forearms). Sit down on a bench with legs apart. With the right hand, grab a dumbbell and place your right elbow just on the inside of the right knee. Perform dumbbell curls using the right knee as a support structure to isolate arm movement – do not place your elbow on top of the knee, as this ‘cheats’ the weight. This really isolates the biceps and helps the forearm. Switch arms and repeat. 20 curls (10 on each arm) is 1 set. Do 3 sets.
- Lat pull down machine: 3 sets of 10 (primary: lats (sides of the back), secondary: biceps). Sit down on a bench with a long cable-attached bar above your head. While seated, pull the bar straight down to your chest, keeping your back as perpendicular to the floor as possible – you want all the muscle effort to be from your lats and your biceps at the very end. If you feel yourself lunging backwards, i.e. moving your torso back towards the bench, the weight is too heavy – reduce it. You want your back to remain as straight as possible – no cheating. The biceps are used at the end to pull the bar down into the top of the chest.
- Short cardio (20-30 minutes) – running, rowing, cycling, swimming, etc – your choice.
Wednesday (Shoulders, Legs):
Description To Be Done!