Here is a basic routine that I give to many of my newer clients. It’s not fancy by any means but it does work and it gets results. For those of you who want a simple to the point routine that’s going to help build some muscle as well as strength than this is the program for you.
It’s a fully body three day a week program allowing for active recovery on the two off days. Meaning you can swim, bike, play a sport, or just go for a walk.
Warm-up – Usually do a few sets of a bodyweight complex for example ten squats, five pushups, two pullups for five rounds or something of that nature. Also do some dynamic stretching and sometimes a light barbell complex. The purpose of the warm-up is to get the blood flowing and get a light sweat going. You want to have your body warmed up to prevent injury from hitting the weights right away. However a warm-up shouldn’t take any longer than ten minutes as some people get carried away with this. Just get in move around and warm-up.
Unilateral Exercise – 3×12 – It depends on the client but these are usually done Bulgarian split squats one day, one arm presses the next, and finally single leg deadlifts. However if a client has a particular imbalance that is what we will focus on. You will know better than me if you have a particular weakness that you need (or want to focus on) for example say you have a weak back and know it. You could put in one arm rows as one of your unilateral exercises instead of the ones that I usually proscribe, it’s up to you. These are done for 3 sets of 12 reps (each leg is 12 reps not 12 reps total)
Back Squat – 5×5 – The back squat is one of the absolute best exercises that you can do. My suggestion is to take a wider than shoulder width stance as this allows for more weight, results in less injury than a narrower stance, and recruits the often neglected glutes and hamstrings more. However do what works for you.
Overhead Press – 5×5 – I use the overhead press as my general pressing movement as I am not a powerlifter and training more for athletics and general usage. The overhead press hits your shoulders more than any other movement and is great for those who want to develop the V-taper look (so all men). If you are a powerlifter then switch this out for the bench press.
Romanian Deadlift – 5×5 – I find that doing deadlift 3x a week as well as back squats 3x a week can be a little much for the average trainer so I switch it out with a similar and very effective move. The Romanian deadlift. The Romanian deadlift works your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. It is great for athletes as much of your power base comes from your posterior chain (the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back) as well is great for developing those areas for aesthetic purposes.
Barbell Complex – 5×3 – A barbell complex is a series of barbell movements done back to back without putting the weight down. So for example you would start out by doing barbell rows then go to power cleans to front squats to overhead presses to back squats to good mornings and then once you have completed all the moves rack the bar. I do these for five rounds of three reps (and occasionally change it to five rounds of eight reps for more of a fat burning and conditioning challenge). I got the idea for barbell complexes from Dan John’s “Rebuild Yourself With Complexes” and they have served me very well. Dan’s recommendation is to choose six exercises to perform for each complex. I would check out the article for further information.
I would suggest starting out light and then working your way up from there. For the unilateral movements once you have gotten all reps increase the weight by five pounds. Likewise on the barbell movements if you get all twenty five reps than increase the weight by ten pounds on the lower body movements (back squat and overhead press) and five pounds on the overhead press (or bench press if you’re a powerlifter). If you get less than fifteen reps than the weight is too heavy and you should reduce it by ten pounds.
This workout is to be done three times a week. The unilateral exercise will change each day of the week but remain the same for the program as a whole. Meaning choose a different unilateral exercise for day one, day two, and day three but the exercise does not change from week to week. The main lifts the back squat, overhead press, and Romanian deadlift are to be done every session. The complex can be changed the same as the unilateral exercises. Meaning have a different one for each of the days but that doesn’t change from week to week. So the unilateral exercise and complex you do for day one of week one will be the same unilateral exercise and complex you do for day one of week two.
This is a general template that can be used for quite some time before it grows stale. When/if you want to change it (I would wait longer than you think before doing so) you can swap out the back squat for another squat, the overhead press for another press, and the Romanian deadlift for another posterior chain/deadlift type movement.
The template is just that, a template. Do with it as you will. Always be careful and if ever in doubt consult with a physician before start a lifting program.
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