The Basics of How I Train

A few people have been asking me recently about what my training program is. I kept telling them I am going to explain it to them at some point, but then I just decided I could write this all out here and be good to go. I’m going to try and explain the basics of why I do what I do, but at the end of the day remember some perspective on who I am (in a training sense). I have been lifting weights seriously for about fifteen years now (and I didn’t discover my lower body for at least the first five). I have long arms and legs for my height and a short torso (will explain some exercise choices), I have a few injuries from years of doing stuff, and I really enjoy training. My current block of training is now aimed more towards hypertrophy than anything else. I’m not really doing any conditioning (other than sets of ten), and I’m aiming to gain weight right now (about 5-6 pounds in the next three months).

My Split (Normally)

I train six days per week utilizing an upper body/lower body split. The basic split goes as follows:

Monday: Squat (start the week on your feet) (quad dominant)

Tuesday: Military press/Pull ups (vertical push/pull)

Wednesday: Deadlift (hip dominant)

Thursday: bench press/row (horizontal push/pull)

Friday: Single leg work and accessory lower body volume (lower)

Saturday: Upper body weak point work (close grip bench and upper back work) (push/pull)

Sunday: Rest

I then break each day into typically 5 movements (sometimes 6) and follow a basic loading scheme of week one medium, week two low, week three high, week four deload. So in arbitrary percentages this comes out to be about 80%, 75%, 85%, 60% to give you an idea of the loading average percentages. I find this to be the style of training where I still make progress, but don’t feel too beaten up. I picked up a lot of this idea from Jim Wendler (check out his 5/3/1 book) and Joe Kenn (check out his Tier System book).

Exercise sequence

The first movement for each day (or two movements) is listed in the day of the week above. For lower body I have started doing barbell snatch work first (five real work sets of two or three reps) (really for fun than anything really productive). The snatch movement is modified for each training day just to break things up (power, pause, high hang). After the first movement, when it comes to lower body I will do a slightly lighter movement for sets of normally around ten reps (five sets). For squat day right now that is safety squat bar work (my leg strength sucks compared to back strength, I hate that damn bar since it humbles me), deadlift day that is fat bar deads (because strong hands are awesome), single leg day that is glute ham raises (never can have enough hip and hamstring strength). I will then do some type of ab work (ab wheel, hanging leg raises, gravity boot sit ups) along with some type of prehab and assistance (typically reverse hypers, lunges, leg press, glute ham raises, sled work, etc.).

For upper body after hitting the main two movements (I like to work the opposing musculature and I take solid amounts of rest between each set), I will pick another pair of exercises so for military day it will be handstand pushups (because they are awesome) and sternum chin ups (holding at the top for a few seconds) (sets of 3-8 reps on those exercises) followed by Bradford presses and chin ups (sets of ten here) (aiming for hypertrophy). On bench press day I will go in to close grip inclines (feels good on my shoulders and challenges me) and dumbbell or meadows rows (balancing the strength) followed by dips and some type of row (bodyweight rows right now) (more hypertrophy work). Finally, on the assistance upper body day after close grip bench and chins I will do chest supported rows and some triceps work, followed by some upper back work with some more arm work.

Let’s be honest

There is nothing magical about what I do, I’m just punching the clock and having some fun while I do it. Every three months I will change up the exercises some. This is to both stave off boredom and to modify how I apply stress to myself. I’ll go walk my dog with my wife and occasionally hop in and play some type of sports. I’m not on any drugs other than lots of caffeine, but I recover pretty well from the amount of volume I do and honestly at the end of the day I enjoy how I train. I’m strong, but want to be stronger, so right now my training is aimed toward getting a bit bigger so that I can then use that extra muscle mass to help me lift heavier weights. I don’t have a set competition date in mind right now, but when that happens my programming will change to help me prepare to peak for that competition.

Previous cycles

My previous training cycle was much like this one, but I had added in occlusion work at the end and my other volume was slightly dropped down (only three or four work sets on the exercises). The cycle before that was for strength (that was the mock meet I posted in October) and I had trained up to that doing heavy amounts of work in the 5 rep and below range and peaking for that.

Where I’ve been

From 2000 until about 2005 I trained each body part once a week (sometimes two, but never legs twice (I was a bit of a bro)). In 2006 I switched to a Westside style which I would keep up until about 2008 when I would then do Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 with an added weekend day of total body training with Thacker and Tweak and follow up training like that until about 2013 where I started to do something along the lines of my current split template. This is a way dumbed down version of those things, but hopefully gives some ideas of what I’ve done. Some of this worked well, some of this didn’t work at all, some of it actually put me backwards (like when I did Mentzer’s heavy duty style training one summer in 2003).

This is Now

Currently, I’m doing a program called the “Bench Assault” that I first did with Carl Christensen back at Missouri State in 2006. I have modified it a few times over the years and I do that workout on Tuesday and Thursday. For my assistance work on Saturday I still do chins, but now I do some handstand pushups and handstand work (balance) along with chest supported rows and some light shoulder rehab work and then some light arm work.

Summary

This is what I enjoy and works for me. I’ve been doing this for a while. I find this programming works well for me. I keep things in perspective in that when I add something in, something must come out. With time you will be able to do not only more weight, but literally more work. It is not always necessary to do that extra work, but be sure to do enough work that you keep getting better. In the words of Buddy Morris: “The body is always right”, I used to do a third squatting day on Friday, but after a while my low back was feeling pretty beat up and I wasn’t moving forward. Now with switching that around to be a single leg day (built around barbell split squats), I’m making progress again and feeling good. Hopefully this made sense to you if you are reading this. Please comment with any questions you have or otherwise. Remember, this is what works for me, and I’ve been doing this for a while. I didn’t bother with the gritty details because they really don’t matter (weights, percentages, etc.) since you need to experiment with your own training to find what works best for you.

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