A Model For Upper Body Training

by tffitness on September 28, 2016

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This week I thought I’d lay out what I consider to be an example of what I would consider to be a “smart” upper body training schedule for the “average” person. Now by “average” I simply mean that I’m not talking about someone who’s a competitive athlete, but instead, a lifter looking for improved mass, strength, and function. I’ll first show you what this looks like in my mind, and then I’ll explain the various principles involved:

Day 1                                                    Day 2

Flat Dumbbell Press                             Pull-Up

Low Cable Row                                      Barbell Military Press

Lying Dumbbell Triceps Extension   Incline Dumbbell Curl

Standing EZ Bar Curl                           Tricep Pushdowns

Now a caveat here is that I don’t want you fixating on the specific exercises themselves — I could just have easily used other movements to illustrate the principles I’m about to discuss. Simply view the exercises I’m presenting here as examples of those principles.

Organizational Principles Involved:

Frequency:

People whos 1RM barbell bench press is less than 300 pounds should probably train upper body three times a week. If you bench more than 300, twice a week is likely better. The stronger you are, the more damage your workouts create, which accordingly, requires longer recovery periods.

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how-wide-should-your-bench-press-grip-be-header-v2-830x467On any type of pressing, grip width can have a substantial effect on how much weight you’ll be able to lift, and this is especially true when it comes to the bench press. In this article, I’ll show you a super-accurate, super-practical way to find the grip that will allow you to lift the most weight.

Now, before I tackle that subject, I’d like to just quickly make the point that if you’re looking for the best grip to develop a specific muscle group, or to prevent injuries, that’s a different can of worms altogether. For today, the subject is to find your maximally effective grip for 1RM strength.

So the biggest snag that you’ll normally face when trying to determine your best bench press grip is that for anyone, your current best grip is the one that you tend to use the most — that’s the grip you’ve got the most training history with after all. BUT — that doesn’t mean that you current grip is ultimately the best grip possible for you.

Here’s my solution:

Bench twice a week, once with the grip you’re currently used to, and on the second session, you’ll go a bit narrower or wider than your current grip. Hot do you choose between narrower or wider you ask? That’ll be based on how wide your current grip is: if you think your current grip is fairly narrow, use a wider grip on day two and vice versa. For me, the choice is easy, because my “normal” grip is the widest one allowed in powerlifting competition — index fingers on the rings. This means the grip I’ll be testing would be narrower than this.

In fact, I’ve been running the test we’re talking about right now with my own bench press grip, as you can see from my training journal below. On Tuesdays I’ve been benching for sets of 10 with my usual (and what I suspect is my strongest) grip, and on Fridays, I’ve been using a narrower grip (pinkies on the rings), also for sets of 10. So far, my normal grip is still stronger, but the narrower grip is catching up, so the jury’s still out.

Incidentally, benching in the way I’ve just described is useful for a few other reasons as well. First you’ll recover faster between bench sessions if you use different technique each day. Second, you’ll benefit from greater tricep activation on the narrower grip day, and greater pec stimulation on the wide grip day. Third, you’ll be less likely to suffer from pattern overload injuries. Fourth, you’ll become more versatile.

Really, you should train like this anyway, even if you have absolutely no interest on what your strongest bench press grip is. And (in case you haven’t made the association already), you should take the same approach with your squat and deadlift training. When you do, you’ll enjoy greater recovery, more balanced muscular development, fewer orthopedic issues, and greater versatility as a lifter.

If you’ve got questions or comments on this subject, please post them below — everyone benefits from your insights and experiences! 

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This Week’s Training

Highlights:

• 365×8 2.5” Deficit Deadlift

My adductor seems to be on the mend — I’m still limited in terms of what I can barbell squat without pain, but I can deadlift and Smith squat heavy, so that’s a relief.

I’m back to sets of 10 this cycle, since my injury pretty much squashed my competition plans for October. After about 4 weeks of 10’s I’m planning on doing a cycle of Joel Seedman’s Eccentric Isometrics — EI is a very intriguing idea, and it’s much different than how I normally lift, so I’m thinking that it’ll be a novel way to train that should jump-start the adaptations for me.

So that’s about all for this week — I’m working on a few interesting blog posts that I’ll be sharing over the coming weeks, so please stay tuned!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Bodyweight: 197 Pounds

Goblet Squat

Set 1: 32 lb × 10

Set 2: 40 lb × 10

Set 3: 50 lb × 10

2.5″ Deficit Pull

Set 1: 135 lb × 5

Set 2: 185 lb × 5

Set 3: 225 lb × 5

Set 4: 275 lb × 5

Set 5: 315 lb × 5

Safety Squat

Set 1: 65 lb × 10

Set 2: 115 lb × 5

Leg Press

Set 1: 90 lb × 10

Set 2: 180 lb × 10

Standing Calf Raise

Set 1: 18 lb × 10

Set 2: 180 lb × 10

Set 3: 180 lb × 10

Set 4: 180 lb × 1o

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Bodyweight: 197 Pounds

Bench Press

Set 1: 45 lb × 10

Set 2: 95 lb × 10

Set 3: 135 lb × 10

Set 4: 165 lb × 10

Set 5: 185 lb × 10

Set 6: 165 lb × 10

Set 7: 165 lb × 10

Military Press

Set 1: 45 lb × 10

Set 2: 65 lb × 10

Set 3: 65 lb × 10

Close Grip Lat Pulldown

Set 1: 100 lb × 10

Set 2: 120 lb × 10

Set 3: 140 lb × 10

Set 4: 140 lb × 1o

EZ Bar Curl

Set 1: 45 lb × 100

Set 2: 55 lb × 100

Set 3: 65 lb × 100

Set 4: 65 lb × 100

Lying Dumbbell Tricep Extension

Set 1: 70 lb × 10

Set 2: 70 lb × 10

Set 3: 70 lb × 10

Set 4: 70 lb × 10

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Bodyweight: 196.6 Pounds

2.5″ Deficit Pull

Set 1: 135 lb × 10

Set 2: 185 lb × 10

Set 3: 225 lb × 10

Set 4: 275 lb × 10

Set 5: 315 lb × 10

Set 6: 365 lb × 8 (Video Below)

Set 7: 315 lb × 10

https://youtu.be/-A0lB51QZtc

Smith Squat

Set 1: 95 lb × 10

Set 2: 135 lb × 10

Set 3: 185 lb × 10

Set 4: 225 lb × 10

Seated Leg Curl

Set 1: 145 lb × 10

Set 2: 145 lb × 10

Set 3: 145 lb × 10

Standing Calf Raise

Set 1: 180 lb × 10

Set 2: 180 lb × 10

Set 3: 180 lb × 10

Set 4: 180 lb × 10

Friday, September 16, 2016

Bodyweight: 197 Pounds

Rusin Shoulder Warm Up

Set 1: 1 lb × 10

Set 2: 1 lb × 10

Set 3: 1 lb × 10

Close Grip Bench Press (Pinkies On Rings)

Set 1: 45 lb × 10

Set 2: 95 lb × 10

Set 3: 135 lb × 10

Set 4: 165 lb × 10

Set 5: 165 lb × 10

Set 6: 165 lb × 10

Set 7: 165 lb × 10

Notes: Minimal left shoulder pain that disappeared once I hit my work sets

Chin Up

Set 1: 1 rep

Set 2: 2 reps

Set 3: 3 reps

Set 4: 4 reps

Set 5: 5 reps

Set 6: 7 reps

Tricep Pushdowns

Set 1: 140 lb × 10

Set 2: 140 lb × 10

Set 3: 140 lb × 10

Dual Cable Low Cable Curl

Set 1: 100 lb × 10

Set 2: 100 lb × 10

Set 3: 100 lb × 10

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Bodyweight: 198.6 Pounds

Cycling

Set 1: 5.6 mi | 20 min

Set 2: 5.6 mi | 20 min

Paused Competition Bench Press

Set 1: 45 lb × 5

Set 2: 45 lb × 5

Set 3: 95 lb × 5

Set 4: 95 lb × 5

Set 5: 115 lb × 5

Bicep Curl (Dumbbell)

Set 1: 50 lb × 8

Set 2: 60 lb × 8

Set 3: 70 lb × 8

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