Are you ready and committed to get more results with your training program in the next 12-weeks than you have in the last 12-months?
If the answer is YES! then continue and answer these questions…
Have you been writing your own programs?
Or have you been jumping from one program to another because you think one is better than the other – but the results aren’t matching your effort?
Would you like to take any of these descriptions out of your vocabulary when it comes to your body – “weak”, “skinny fat”, “injured”, “pudgy”, “skinny”, “covered up is best”, etc.?
See, most people that write their own programs, or pick ones out of magazines, usually don’t get much results. Or there’s some good results at the beginning only to get stuck and then see no progress.
Why? Because it’s human nature for us to make it easy on ourselves. You pick exercises you like and that play to your strengths, not improve your weaknesses – which in turn also leads you to spinning your wheels and/or plateau.
I have a solution for you.
You can create a program that will keep you progressing based on the same process I use to write workouts for my clients, following these 6 steps (and the solutions from the bonus tips at the bottom of the article) – and you’ll be able to create a custom program for yourself that will get you leaner, buffer, stronger and just generally more “legit.”
Step 1: Dynamic Warm Ups (If I Don’t Tell You To Warm Up You Won’t…)
Most people skip this. You won’t. Because you want to avoid (and fix) nagging injuries that slow you down and you want to keep progressing without getting stuck just because you weren’t smart about how you “prepared” for you training session. You understand that it’s worth 10+ minutes of the right warm ups to get more out of your training session, feel better (all together), and fix some weaknesses that would be exposed sooner or later.
Before we go into dynamic warm ups we like to do 2 things:
- Decrease stiffness of certain muscles via foam rolling, lacrosse ball, massage stick, etc.
- Reset – optimize biomechanical position and autonomic nervous system balance; we do this with breathing drills, reset drills (which will be a post in itself, but you can see some in the videos below).
I was going to leave this out but I do think it’s important to shed light on the importance of this. We spend 5 minutes on the foam rolling and reset and you’ll see some of the drills in the below videos.
The goal in the warm up is:
– Increase tissue temperature
– Improve joint lubrication
– Improve nervous system firing
– Improve/optimize alignment
– Integrate nervous and musculoskeletal system
– Prepare and go through specific movements you’ll be doing in the workout
You want to get your body ready for an epic training sessions as well as making sure you work on moving better and working on your weaknesses (like stiff hips, weak core, stiff upper back, shoulder stability, ankle mobility, etc.).
Here are some videos that have whole warm up sequences in there and you can pick and choose 6-10 exercises to put into your warm ups.
If you’re currently not doing any of the above, start doing them and see the difference in how you feel in your training session.
I’ll make this a post on it’s own but it’s important that you understand that if you do not move well, you will get injured sooner or later (the worse you move the sooner it will be). With bad movement and weak links you’re just adding weight on top of dysfunction – and THAT my friend, is not a good idea. So as much as you may think this is not “real” training, I’d have you consider its just as important (if not more) as anything else.
Step 2: Which Exercises Should You Include
The most effective workouts are built on compound exercises: squats, deadlifts, bench and military presses, chin ups/pull ups, and rows.
As you’ll be your own coach, your job is put these exercises into a balanced program. Below you’ll find the exercise categories I draw from along with how many times you’d use an exercise in a week (I’m also giving you some progressions and regressions for each lift):
(1-2 times per week)
KB Goblet Squat
2-KB Front Squat
BB Front Squat
BB Box Squat
BB Safety Bar Back Squat
(1-2 times per week)
Double KB Deadlift
Trap Bar Deadlift
Stiff Leg Deadlifts
(2-3 times per week)
I’m dividing this into Split Stance, Single-Leg Quad Dominant, Single-Leg Hip Dominant.
DB Split Squat
2 KB Split Squat
2 KB Reverse Lunge
Forward Lunge Variations
DB Bulgarian/Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat
2 KB DB Bulgarian/Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat
Single-Leg Quad Dominant
Low Box Step-Ups
2 KB Step Ups
Sprinter Step Ups
2 KB Sprinter Step-Ups
Sprinter Step-Ups w/ Overhead Press
Single-Leg Hip Dominant
Landmine Single Leg RDL
Colateral Single-Leg RDL
2 DB Single-Leg RDL
(2 or 3 times per week)
Inverted Rows (Knees Bent, Knees Straight, Feet Elevated)
Chest Supported Rows
Low Cable Rows
Half Kneeling Cable Rows
3-Point DB Rows
Chain Push Ups
Band Push Ups
(2 times per week)
Push Up To Single Arm Support
Med Ball Push Ups
Feet Elevated Push Ups
X-Vest Push Ups
Chain/Band Push Ups
Single Arm DB Bench
Alternating DB Bench Press
DB Bench Press
Incline DB Bench Press
BB Floor/Board Press
BB Bench Press
BB Incline Bench Press
(1 or 2 times per week)
3-month KB Pullover
Half Kneeling Lat Pulldown
Tall Kneeling Lat Pulldown
Chin Up ISO Hold
Chin Up Negatives
Band Assisted Chin Ups
Weighted Chin Ups
(0 to 1 times per week)
Tall Kneeling Landmine Press
Half Kneeling Landmine Press
Scapular Plane DB/KB Press
Single Arm DB/KB Press
BB Overhead Press
(2 to 4 times per week)
We’re going to split these up into four catgories: Anti-Extension Prone), Anti-Extension (Supine), Anti-Lateral Flexion, Anti-Rotation
Each of the categories work on preventing you from bending backward, sideways or prevent you from rotating. Does this mean there is no other core exercises? Not at all. It’s just one you’re probably not doing and will attack your weak links and supercharge your program.
Plank on Knees
Feet Elevated Plank
Ab Wheel Rollout
Ab Wheel Rollout ISO Hold
Core Engaged Dead Bug
Reaching Dead Bug
Core Engaged Leg Lowering
Wall Press Leg Lowering
Side Plank on Wall
Side Plank on Knees
Feet Elevated Side Plank
Half Kneeling Pallof Press ISO
Tall Kneeling Pallof Press ISO
Pallof Press ISO
Low Cable Pallof Press ISO
Pallof Press ISO with Side Step
As you look at the exercises above you can see how you have countless variations. I didn’t list the endless list of things we could ad and its not the whole repertoire of everything we use Vigor Ground Fitness and Performance, but it’s the foundation of what gets great results with consistency.
** I’m inserting that one of the exercises not listed above that we use a lot are – Elevated Barbell Hip Thrusts and Weighted Gluten Bridges. Why? Because they build that ass! If you’re a guy with a flat butt you most likely have some testosterone issues and I have to look out for you. **
We can also use many different implements for many of the exercises, from barbells, dumbbells, sandbags, ketllebells, etc. Each one creates a different affect and variety in training.
Step 3: What Order Should The Exercises Be In?
After your dynamic warm ups the first exercises in the workout should be the one that requires you to put in the most effort and gives you the most “bang for your buck”.
For example, if your goal is to build overall strength then begin one workout with a squat and another with a deadlift; just make sure they are far enough apart in the week to be able to recover (since these are the toughest workouts to recover from). If you do deadlifts on Monday then do squats on Friday. On Wednesday you can start with an upper body exercises.
If your main goal is upper body size and strength then you’d just flip it around and do an upper body strength exercise on Monday and Friday and put a lower body exercise in on Wednesday.
If you choose to do any power exercises or plyo’s such as box jumps, med ball throws, sprints, etc. those can be fit in after your dynamic warm ups and before your big strength exercises (people ask this often that want to maintain or build some athleticism, plug it right after the warm ups).
Step 4: How Should I Structure The Sets And Reps In My Workout?
This will not be a course on the science behind rep ranges but rather a recommendation for what works well if you’re looking to consistently get your body to be stronger and more muscular (leaner too but that is something that has a lot to do with nutrition which I’ll mention later) and what has worked with our clients at Vigor Ground Fitness and Performance.
Most of our clients do well with a mix of heavy (strength), medium (muscle size) and lighter (muscular endurance/metabolic damage) weights. This calls for a combo of:
Low Rep: 3-6 reps
Moderate Rep: 7-12 reps
High Rep: 13-20+ reps
Your sets should be inversely related to the number of reps you’re doing per set. For example…
15 reps: 1 to 2 sets
10-12 reps: 2 to 3 sets
8 reps: 3 to 4 sets
3-4 reps: 5 to 6 sets
This is not set in stone of course but it gives you a great foundation to work with.
So let’s say you put in 16 sets of strength exercises (5 different exercises upper and lower body – I’ll give an example at the end) along with an exercise to knock out weak links and a core exercise, this puts you at 22 sets.
Once again, this is not a magic number; you may see better result with more or less volume – depending on lifestyle, work, nutrition, recovery capabilities, experience, etc.
Step 5: How Do I Make Sure I Keep Progressing? (The Goal Will Determine This)
We’ll keep the goal emphasis here to two different priorities – Strength and Size
Here the emphasis should be to increase the weight on your main exercises. Let’s say you’re doing 4 sets of 4 reps on a Trap Bar Deadlift and in week one you do 245 lbs on your 3rd and 4th set (since you would usually build up to your best weight the last couple of sets), the second week you’d push it and go up to 265 lbs for the final sets.
As you can imagine, you can continue like that for weeks or maybe a couple of months before you plateau and your strength gains become smaller than the weight increments you can add. So to ad weight to the bar we have to lower the reps. Instead of the 4 x 4 we just did, you could do 2 x 3, and 2 x 2 (So you’re still hitting 4 sets but you’re lowering the reps and upping the weight). You could also do 6 x 2 while increasing weight each set and hitting your heaviest for the last two sets. As you can see there are many options, but the main thing is that in some way you keep adding weight to the bar.
When you get stronger muscles grow bigger, this makes sense but as we saw in the “Strength” portion it’s not that easy especially when we ad quite a bit of strength. Muscles also grow when you make them do more work (volume), which can happen by adding a rep or two to a set or even adding a set (or later two) to the exercise.
Let’s say you’re doing a bench press and you’re doing 3 sets of 8 reps. In the first weeks you’ll most likely be adding weight to the bar, but once that starts slowing down and you feel like you are at a plateau – push to get an extra rep or two – so you’d push for 9 or 10 reps in the last couple of sets. You could also ad a 4th set to get extra volume, create more total work for the muscles, which gives you the potential to grow some more.
The key is to progressively overload the muscles so that your body adapts and ads strength and size.
Step 6: How Do I Keep My Program “Fresh To Death” And Never Stale?
Everyone has had it happen. Your workouts get stale and boring like the cafeteria food you eat every day if you don’t re-program every 4-6 weeks. They won’t only get boring but you’ll also see your results start stalling as well.
Here are some ways to keep them challenging:
- Change the exercises within the category. Up top you have a bunch of progressions to choose from, but an example would be going from a 3-point DB Row to a T-Bar Row. Switch a Trap Bar Dedlift to a Sumo Deadlift. Go from Chin Ups to Pull Ups
- Change the order of the exercises, sets and reps. So if you were doing 3 sets of 15 for your last exercise, make it your first exercise and use heavier weights for 4 sets of 6 reps (for instance).
- Use different tension techniques featured in the videos below from eccentric sets, tempo training, pause, 1 and ½ reps, etc.
- A combination of the above.
Whichever strategy tickles your fancy, I recommend you do a de-load (which just means a week of training at a lower intensity, backing off and giving your body a break – but it doesn’t mean not doing anything) between programs (every 6-8 weeks is a good idea depending on the program).
To re-iterate, on the “de-load” week you use less sets, lighter weight or even ad in more of the warm up exercises in between your training. This is very important if you feel beat up and run down and it can also boost your results as it gives the body a chance to recover.
Step 7: What If I Want To Lose Some Fat Too?
Mixing up a ton of different goals isn’t always the best idea so I’d recommend you focus on improving your strength and performance through the training structure that I presented.
If you do that and start getting your nutrition on point then you will see yourself leaning out as well.
Check out the three simple step-by-step blogs that include infographics that can help you improve your nutrition and get you leaner while improving strength and putting on some muscle.
Top 10 Principles For Results Based Nutrition (Printable Inforgraphic Inluded)
The Handful Diet – How To Create Your Own Meal Plans
You can also download the whole Handful Diet eBook for free HERE.
Advanced Nutrition – How To Create Your Nutrition Plan Based On Calories and Macros (And How To Carb-Cycle)
Ok, so to break it down, to get leaner you’ll have to spend time on your nutrition, period. But we can also ad in some extra fat loss finishers to up the metabolic effect at the end of the workout.
Here are 5 Fat Loss Finishers that you can ad to your program and are easily progressed (as I’ll show you):
Fat Loss Finisher #1 – The AirDyne Bike
This is old school – but it works! And just when you though the bikes with the moving handles couldn’t be used for anything productive.
The KEY here is to go absolutely all out during your work set. In this case we’ll go 30 seconds of work and 90 seconds of rest, starting with 3 rounds. You may be looking at me and laughing and thinking this is a piece of cake – but I promise at the end of those 3 rounds you’ll “get it.”
No matter what, go absolutely all out in the 30 seconds of work.
Once you go through the 4-weeks of progressions, we’d usually start at 3 rounds again but now drop the rest period to 60 seconds.
Fat Loss Finisher #2 – The Leg Matrix
This one is another one that looks incredibly simple on paper but will have you cursing me by the time you come to round two. It’s a continuous series of exercices, which are all focused on the legs.
Time your work period then rest that long before doing another round. Keep pushing to get your work time down and after 4 weeks you can ad a couple of reps per exercise (for example, go to 12).
Fat Loss Finisher #3 – Push Up Squat Ladder
I first made a name in Slovenia by training people outside and only had limited equipment so bodyweight was something we used a lot and we could do a lot of different things to keep the body constantly guessing (being inefficient is great for fat loss!).
This is one of the ladder finishers we did a lot and if you push it you’ll be feeling it!
Nothing mind blowing but it’s a lot of volume in a short time and its easy to progress. You can also make easy switches for exercises (ie: KB swing/Push Up, KB Goblet Squat/Burpee, Lunges/Push Ups, etc.)
If you feel its too easy, no problem, then work up the ladder and then work back down as well. Enjoy!
Fat Loss Finisher #4 – The 5 Minutes Of Fury
I got hooked on kettlebells in the early 2000’s and did the first European RKC ever which was in 2004/2005 where we had to do a 100 kettlebell snatches without putting the bell down. Pretty damn tough. Hear rate was like “whoa” .
This is a somewhat modified version to re-create the metabolic effect that everyone can do and the goal is to get a ton of work done in 5 minute.
Here’s how it goes:
Sitting may not be too pleasant the next day the first time you do this. But your hamstrings and glutes will be on fleek!
Fat Loss Finisher #5 – On The Minute Every Minute Swings
This is one of my go to conditioning protocols when I’m short on time.
How does it go? You take a reasonably heavy kettlebell and start swinging on top of the minute for the prescribed amount of reps. Once you’re done with the set, you have a rest break until the timer hits the top of the minute again and you reapeat for the prescribed amount of rounds.
You can start with less rounds or more rounds than I put in this program but this is a pretty good start for most people.
I will typically work people up to 18 rounds and then go back to 10 and start with 12 swings. If you’re more conditioned you can start at 12 rounds and more reps.
To get leaner, get on point with your nutrition (shop, prepare and cook the meals you have the hardest time with ahead of time) and keep a journal as well a plugging in some extra work with the fat loss finishers at the end of your training session.
Step 8: How Do I Put It All Together?
I knew it was coming so below is something I cooked up earlier. Think of this sample program based on the structure I talked about above. Since I’m a visual person and most people are I believe this will help you see.
I didn’t include warms up in here but they precede every training session as you can see in Step #1.
This is a 3-Day a week full body program, which includes a fat loss finisher.
Sample Training Session A (Full Body)
1). Trap Bar Deadlift 4 x 4
2A). DB Bulgarian Split Squats w/ Slow Eccentric 3 x 8/side
2B). DB Bench Press w/ Pause 3 x 8
3A). BB Romanian Deadlift 3 x 15
3B). T-Bar Row 3 x 10
4A). Cable Face Pulls 3 x 15
4B). KB Suitcase Carry 3 x 80 yards/side
5). Fat Loss Finisher #1
Sample Training Session B (Full Body)
1). Incline Bench Press 4 x 4
2A). Half Kneeling Core Trainer Press 3 x 8/side
2B). BB Front Loaded Reverse Lunge 3 x 8/side
3A). Pull Ups 3 x 12
3B). Glute Ham Raises 3 x 12
4A). Single Leg Gluten Bridges 2 x 25/side
4B). Tall Kneeling Pallof Press Hold 3 x 30 sec/side
5). Fat Loss Finisher #2
Sample Training Session C (Full Body)
1). BB Front Squat 4 x 4
2A). Double KB Step Up 3 x 8/side
2B). Low Cable Row w/Pause 3 x 8/side
3A). Single Leg Landmine RDL 2 x 15/side
3B). Chain Push Ups (3 sec. negative) 2 x 15
4A). KB Valslide Side Lunge w/Breathe Out 3 x 8
4B). Reverse Crunch 3 x 12
5). Fat Loss Finisher #5
Bada-boom, bada-bing! And there you have a great recipe for getting stronger, packing on muscle and even getting yor nutrition in check and getting leaner.
Here’s something that’s you MUST realize – the only way to figure it out as far as what works best is for you to haul your butt into the gym, push yourself, find a support group that challenges you, and then track what happens.
Until then the best-written programs are just scrap paper that never get used.
Do. The. Work.
I’d have you consider that if you have been stuck and/or hit a plateau and you’re finally ready to get the best possible results that you can keep (and not yo-yo with weight and fat loss), be surrounded by bad ass coaches who care about you; and people just like you pushing to take their body, mindset and life to the next level – then apply for a Discovery Session click HERE (or the banner below).