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.

If you fall into the former category, you can train upper body 3 times a week, rotating between the two workouts presented above. If you’re in the stronger category, you can simply do these two workouts shown above every week.

Contrast And Fatigue-Specificity

If you’re training for a competitive sport such as powerlifting or weightlifting, you’ll need to do the competitive lifts (or very close approximations of them) most of the time. If you’re not a competitive lifter on the other hand, you have the luxury (and advantage) of using more variation within your weekly schedule.

Exercise variety can be useful for at least 3 different reasons:

1)    Fewer overuse injuries. This is hopefully self-explanatory.

2)    Faster recoveries from session to session. The fatigue created from one exercise will affect performance on the same (or similar) exercise more than it will affect a non-similar movement. Fatigue is specific in other words.

3)    More complete targeting (and therefore development) of various muscles, and/or portions of muscles.

Number Of Exercises:

The number of exercises per training session should typically be between 3 and 5, with 4 being a good middle-ground. There are at least 3 different reasons to limit the number of exercises you schedule for each workout.

1)    If you use too many exercises, you’ll either need to limit the number of work-sets you do per exercise (which limits the results you’d otherwise experience from your training) and/or your workouts will take so long to complete, you’ll end up not doing justice to them due to mounting fatigue.

2)    Continued training progress in training depends in large part on your ability to continually present novel challenges. If you (for example) train quads twice a week, and between those two workouts, you use your 8 favorite quad exercises, what exercises will you use on the next training cycle?

3)    Every exercise you do requires warm-up sets. The fewer exercises per session, the less warm-up sets, and therefore the more work sets you can perform.

Exercise Selection:

A good strategy for designing a training week for general strength or (especially) hypertrophy purposes is to think about how to train the most muscle with the fewest number of exercises, with the least amount of redundancy possible.

In the above example, I’m using fundamental movement patterns to guide my-decision-making in this regard — on day 1, I used a horizontal push and a horizontal pull, whereas on day 2 I use a vertical push and pull.

You might notice the lack of direct deltoid training here. In the interests of efficiency, I’ve decided to suffice with indirect training stress generated by the pushing and pulling movements instead (and of course, the military press can certainly be considered direct deltoid training, although it mostly targets the front delt head, not the middle head)

Biceps and triceps are addressed directly on both days, but with fundamentally different movement: On pushdowns there is no shoulder flexion, whereas on lying extensions, there is, which helps to stress all 3 triceps heads. On biceps, similar idea — the incline curls more effectively target the long biceps head.

The Final Principle: No Such Thing As A Perfect Program:

Years ago I became known for the saying “the best program is the one you’re not doing,” and this final point pays homage to that idea.

All programs have pros and cons — whatever the downside of this program might be, you can “fix it” on the next cycle. Here’s an example of what that next cycle might look like, and I’d like you to notice the effort I made to shore up any deficiencies that the first program might have created:

Day 1                                                  Day 2

Incline Dumbbell Press                      Chin-Up

Pendlay Row                                         Barbell Bench Press

French Press                                         Standing Dumbbell Curl

Low Cable Curl                                     Dips

Summing Up…

I hope you’ve benefitted from this small exercise in program design, and I also hope you’ll recognize that these strategies can be applied to lower body training as well. Questions? Comments? Recreational outrage? Send it my way in the comments section below!

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This Week’s Training Journal

Highlights:

• 2.5” Deficit Deadlift 385×9

• Bench Press: 195×10

Monday, September 19, 2016

Bodyweight: 196.8 Pounds

Goblet Squat

Set 1: 30 lb × 10

Set 2: 40 lb × 10

Set 3: 53 lb × 10

Safety Squat

Set 1: 65 lb × 10

Set 2: 115 lb × 10

Set 3: 155 lb × 10

Set 4: 205 lb × 5

Set 5: 175 lb × 8

Set 6: 175 lb × 8

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

Set 6: 315 lb × 5

45° Back Extension

Set 1: BW (+130 lb) × 10

Set 2: BW (+130 lb) × 10

Set 3: BW (+130 lb) × 10

Standing Calf Raise

Set 1: 180 lb × 10

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Bodyweight: 196.2 Pounds

Rusin Shoulder Warm Up

Set 1: 1 lb × 10

Set 2: 1 lb × 10

Set 3: 1 lb × 10

Bench Press

Set 1: 45 lb × 10

Set 2: 95 lb × 10

Set 3: 135 lb × 10

Set 4: 185 lb × 10

Set 5: 195 lb × 10

Set 6: 175 lb × 10

Set 7: 175 lb × 10

Military Press

Set 1: 45 lb × 10

Set 2: 65 lb × 10

Set 3: 75 lb × 10

Close Grip Lat Pulldown

Set 1: 120 lb × 10

Set 2: 140 lb × 10

Set 3: 140 lb × 10 (Video Below)

Set 4: 140 lb × 1o

https://youtu.be/NfSaD0mnwrE

EZ Bar Curl

Set 1: 45 lb × 10

Set 2: 65 lb × 10

Set 3: 65 lb × 10

Set 4: 75 lb × 10

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 22, 2016

Bodyweight: 197.4 Pounds

2.5″ Deficit Pull

Set 1: 135 lb × 10

Set 2: 185 lb × 10

Set 3: 225 lb × 10

Set 4: 275 lb × 5

Set 5: 315 lb × 1

Set 6: 350 lb × 1

Set 7: 385 lb × 9 Video Below)

Set 8: 335 lb × 10

Set 9: 315 lb × 10

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: 200 lb × 10

Friday, September 23, 2016

Bodyweight: 196.8 Pounds

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: 175 lb × 10

Set 6: 175 lb × 10

Set 7: 175 lb × 10 (Video Below)

Chin Up

Set 1: 1 rep

Set 2: 2 reps

Set 3: 3 reps

Set 4: 4 reps

Set 5: 5 reps

Set 6: 6 reps

Set 7: 7 reps

Set 8: 8 reps

Tricep Pushdowns

Set 1: 140 lb × 10

Set 2: 140 lb × 10

Set 3: 140 lb × 10

Set 4: 140 lb × 10

Dual Cable Low Cable Curl

Set 1: 100 lb × 10

Set 2: 100 lb × 10

Set 3: 100 lb × 10

Set 4: 100 lb × 10

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Bodyweight: 196 Pounds

Cycling

Set 1: 5.71 mi | 20 min

Workout Notes: 156 cals

80-85 RPM

110-115 pulse

Level 10

Seat: 18

Leave a Comment

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Krawz

Two questions:
– what is a “safety squat”? Can you upload a video sometime?
– why do you pyramid up in the chin ups? Won’t the first sets be easy? Are they meant as warm-ups? Weighted?

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