Dec 3, 2012

With the butt load of information at everyone’s fingertips on the magnificent interwebs, it’s no surprise that one would become completely and utterly confused on how to set up their training program.

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
 
All the “gurus” and “experts” say to do this and that with constantly conflicting concepts (three C’s in a row; should’ve been a rapper) that leave you with information overload. How to sort through the BS and figure out what’s actually going to work is a daunting task.

In this 4-part series I’m going to discuss simple ways to set up your training program and rid yourself of paralysis by analysis.


The Best Training Split


Taking into account that the majority of people can only get into the gym 3-4 days per week, I’m going to use 2 different training splits: 1) full body, 3 days/wk and 2) upper/lower split, 4 days/wk. The reason I chose these 2 splits is they make the most sense for the given amount of time that is available for training. If you have the time to get into the gym and train 5-6 days per week then that is awesome for you and I wish I had your availability. But for the purposes of this series we’re going to stick with 3-4 days of well-planned training per week.


Full Body, 3 Days Per Week


I am personally using this type of split in my current training. Sometimes I may add an extra day for recovery work or sled dragging but for the most part it’s strictly 3 days of hitting all the basic movement patterns. These patterns include squatting, bending, pushing, pulling, single leg dominant, and trunk work. Our hypothetical program will follow these same patterns.

To keep things as simple and as easy to understand as possible let’s only perform 4 exercises per training session and limit them to a push, a pull, a lower body movement, and trunk. It’s going to look like this:


DAY 1
 
DAY 2
 
DAY 3
Squat
 
Push
 
Bend
Push
 
Pull
 
Push
Pull
 
Single Leg
 
Pull
Trunk
 
Trunk
 
Trunk


Since I’m a huge advocate of strength and muscle-building and the outline only allows one exercise from each movement pattern per day, the exercises will revolve around getting the most bang for your buck. This means big, basic, multi-joint movements (think barbells, dumbbells, and bodyweight). Here’s a list of what I feel are the best exercises from each category:


Squat
Bend
Push
Pull
Single Leg
Trunk
Back Squat
Deadlift
Bench
Chinup
RFESS
HLR
Front Squat
RDL
Incline Bench
1Arm DB Row
Step Up
Ab Wheel
Zercher Squat
Good Morning
Floor Press
Recline Row
Reverse Lunge
1Arm Carries
Goblet Squat
Rack Pull
Dip
Bent-over Row
Walking Lunge
Russian Twists
Overhead Squat
Glute Bridge/ Hip Thrust
Overhead Press
Chest Supported Row
Lateral Lunge
Hollow Body Holds/Rocks


Now for the kicker – sets and reps. For our purposes, the first exercise of each day will be strength oriented and the rest will be oriented towards muscle-building. We will go hard and heavy for 3-4 weeks and follow it up with a deload week of lowered intensity and recovery work if necessary. The 4 week cycle will look like this:


EXERCISE
WEEK 1
WEEK 2
WEEK 3
WEEK 4
Strength (option 1)
5RM
3-5x5
2-3x5
5x5
Strength (option 2)
4x5
4x5
4x5
4x5
Muscle-Building
3x8-10
3x8-10
3x8-10
3x8-10
Trunk
3x12-15
3x12-15
3x12-15
3x12-15


Take a look at the strength portion of the table. There are 2 options. The first option is for those who have been seriously training more than 6 months and have a good grasp of form and technique. The second option is for those who have less than 6 months of training experience or are a little sketchy on form and technique.

For option 1, week 1, you will work up to the heaviest set of 5 repetitions you can handle that day. Week 2 you will warm up to a weight that is 20lbs less than what you hit the previous week and perform 3-5 sets of 5 reps (if you’re feeling good go for the higher end; if you’re tired or run down stick with the lower end). Week 3 you will warm up to a weight that is 10lbs less than the weight you hit on week 1 and perform 2-3 sets of 5 reps (same adjustments apply). And finally on week 4 you will hit 5 sets of 5 reps with no more than 50-60% of the weight you hit on week 1 (this will be the deload; feel free to add in extra stretching and foam rolling to each of these sessions).

For option 2, every week will have the same set and rep scheme. The idea is basic linear progression, meaning every week you will try to add more weight to the bar. Perform these sets as straight sets (the same weight for every set). If you’re just starting out this will be your best bet and you should be able to continue making gains for a long while. If you stall on a lift take the intensity down a notch (say to 75% of what you’ve been using) and start over continuing to try to add weight to the bar. If this doesn’t work then you can move on and try out option 2.

The muscle-building portion will utilize linear progression as well. Start off with the least amount of reps and do not move up in weight until you can complete the highest number of reps prescribed. Try to do this as quickly as possible without sacrificing form. Another thing to keep in mind when performing the muscle-building is pulling exercises. Far too many people push more than they pull and work on the mirror muscles. Pulling is essential not only to becoming a badass but keeping your shoulders healthy. So as far as the sets and reps are concerned for pulling, always do more pulling. This could mean an extra set or some extra reps per set. Just make sure you’re always doing more pulling.

Trunk work is simple: pick 3 exercises from the list to perform on the 3 different training days and hit each one for 3 sets of 12-15 reps. Nothing complicated. Rotate the exercises as needed and add in one’s that I didn’t mention. Remember this is not the Holy Grail of trunk exercises. I only listed the ones I use most often with myself and with my clients. Feel free to experiment but stick to the basics. You can’t beat the basics.

Stay tuned for the next installment where we’ll get into the 4 days per week, upper/lower split.


In Strength,
Franco Crincoli

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Franco Crincoli
I am a personal trainer, strength coach, and all around iron addict, with a philosophy deeply rooted in old school methods. My training has been influenced by strongmen, powerlifters, Olympic lifters, gymnasts, and the Golden Era bodybuilders. I believe in reaping the greatest rewards the simplest (not easiest) way possible and having fun doing it.
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