A specific programme


There was a lot of discussions and choices last time in how to put together a programme for whole body workouts but few examples. So this is what I will seek to provide in this post.

So we have 3 exercises: the squat, back row and bench press. We have sets and reps in addition. Let’s put everything together. The legs are a big muscle group so will require a thorough warming up. Start with a very light 20-rep set. You don’t even need any weight on your shoulders. After that stretch your legs. Follow with another 20-rep set with light weight. These are your 2 warm-up sets. Keep stretching between sets, especially in the beginning. Finish the squats with two 15-reps set with moderate and then heavy weight.

Next move on to the back row. Start with a 15-rep warm-up set. Follow with a 12-rep moderate weight set and then a heavy 10-rep set. Get under the barbell for the bench pres and squeeze out 15 reps for warm up followed by 12 and then 10 reps to finish it off. You’re done with your workout. Rest for a day or two or as long as your muscles are sore and then rinse and repeat.

Change the numbers

Notice how we started with the legs and finished with the chest, the smaller muscle groups among the 3. We also spend more time warming up on the legs than for the chest. You can repeat this straightforward workout for a few weeks in exactly the same way. Add gradually more weight every time. After several weeks, you can lower the number of reps in your last set from 10 to 8 and even 6. You don’t want to go too low for the legs; stick to no lower than 10 reps if you are working heavy on the legs.

After a few weeks, you can try to add more variations by changing the order of the exercises. And after that, try the giant set approach.

The giant set

Start with a 20-rep warm-up set for the legs. Immediately move on to a 15 rep warm-up set for the back row and similarly for the bench press. You have just performed 3 different exercises in one row as warm-up. Take a short break now and  then start again with the squats, doing a 15-rep set with a moderate weight. Move on quickly to the back row for your next moderate weight set and finish with the bench press. This second round is your second giant set. Complete your third giant set now with heavy weights.

Giant sets are pretty intense as you rush about working different muscle groups without rest. You are able to perform that because while pumping out your pecs, your quadriceps are resting. However, you don’t want to be doing giant sets all the time. They’re great if you want to complete your workout quickly without cutting back on any exercise or sets.

Exercise variations

Remember the exercise variations I mentioned in each exercise description? Varying the width of your grip when rowing and squatting? Changing the orientation of your feet while squatting? Varying the incline for the benchpress? You can try them out now. Don’t go overboard with the variations I described as many of them are more advanced techniques. For example, if you are a total newbie, you don’t want to be doing dumbbell presses yet for your pecs. You will find them very hard to balance and will be focussing too much on balancing them rather than pushing your muscles to their limit. Stick to the barbell. But feel free to experiment with small variations, especially grips.

How long?

You should be able to stick to the same programme for no less than 3 months to fully benefit from it and maybe up to 6 months if you keep making progress. Basically, don’t change workouts as long as you are still motivated in it and making gains. Lack of motivation can seriously impede workouts in the long-term. If it starts feeling boring and the exercises become a routine you no longer look forward to and have lost your motivation, then now is the time to change your workout programme rather than vary it.

How often?

This workout revolves around 3 basic exercises performed over a varying number of sets and reps, usually 3 sets per exercise. If you work fast enough, you should be able to complete it in around 30 min. Maybe you can take it slowly at the beginning as you are getting used to weight-lifting but if you work at a fast past, your workout becomes more intense and intensity is the key to success of a workout session.

So you could be performing this workout session about 3 times a week, for example on Monday, rest on Tuesday, workout on Wednesday, rest again on Thursday and a last workout on Friday. You can rest during the weekend as well without fear of the dreaded weekend lapse knowing that your workouts were pretty intense during the week to allow you a well-deserved rest during the weekend.

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