The more I learn, the more I feel like I don’t know anything about exercise.
Or, could it be that exercise hasn’t really changed that much.
Most sports have pretty much stayed the same over the years. Engaging in active play, such as walking, playing with your kids, hiking and climbing have been encouraged forever. But, then there is fitness. By fitness, I mean working out in a gym setting.
With social media dominating the fitness scene, we have access to more information than ever. Our minds are overloaded with a continuous stream that sometimes seems to confuse us more than guiding us in the right direction. Fitness fads come and go, but if you look back on fitness and strength & conditioning for sports, you see one method that has stood the test of time. That is Strength Training!
Every personal trainer, strength coach, CrossFit coach and fitness guru has always made strength training the foundation of their training principles.
There is a reason for this. If you stay safe, have decent form and load, things will just plain happen when you lift weights.
I have studied and implemented many other forms of exercise for my clients, but I always go back to a solid strength program to get results. When people are getting stronger, everything becomes easier. Fat loss, conditioning and muscle building are the major benefits that make everything seem easier.
Too Much Variation!
Exercise selection for strength training has gotten out of hand. With so many options, we hardly have the attention spans and drive to stick with what works. Most of us get bored and are excited to try the latest and greatest TRX, kettlebell, CrossFit WOD, Biggest Loser workout with Bob Harper and boot camp class around the block.
What you really need is a coach, or program from a strength coach, that includes a proper strength training program.
If you want to build muscle, improve your hormones, lose fat and increase strength, you must follow a strength based workout program. You can leave everything else at the door.
I am going to outline a simple approach to strength training for you. If you follow the template and guidelines for just 6-weeks, you will change the way you feel about working out!
Why is it 6-weeks long? Well, as Dan John says “everything works for 6-weeks.” I agree.
You will only be training three days a week. Yes, I said only 3. On your off days, you can perform 1-2 short and intense met-con workouts, but that’s it. You need to recover from the demanding workouts in order to progress. Just stay active on your off-days and eat correctly. If you think you are not going to stay lean or have fire-breathing lungs (a CF term for being in great condition), then you did it wrong!
The plan will be based off the pure fundamentals of strength training. The first three weeks you will be doing some uni-lateral work in order to help prepare you for the big barbell lifts, by improving your muscle imbalances.
- Heavy loads for low to moderate reps to gain strength and muscle
- Push weight
- Pull weight
- Squat with weight
- Hinge and pick-up heavyweight
- Carry heavyweight
Weeks 1-3 (preferably done Monday, Wednesday, and Friday or Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday). Alternate Day 1 and Day 2 workouts.
* Perform each workout in a circuit fashion. This does not mean you should rush through the workout. Take as much time as you need to, in order to recover from the previous exercise. For instance, you may need to rest longer after a heavy deadlift than a push-up.
3 rounds for 8 reps of each exercise, unless specified otherwise
- A1 Pull-ups
- A2 Goblet Squat
- A3 Push-ups
- A4 Kettlebell Deadlifts
- A5 Farmers Walk – 5 sets of 40 yards
- A1 1-Arm Dumbbell Row
- A2 Kettlebell Offset Squat
- A3 1-Arm Kettlebell Push press
- A4 1-Leg Deadlift
- A5 Sled Push 5 sets of 40 yards
Weeks 4-6 (preferably done Monday, Wednesday, and Friday or Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday). Alternate Day 1 and Day 2
3 sets of 5 reps, unless specified otherwise
- A1 Pendlay Row
- A2 Front Squats
- A3 Bench Press
- A4 Kettlebell Swings – 10 reps
- A5 Overhead Carry – 5 sets of 40 yards each
What About the Other Stuff?
Oh, yeah, I forgot. Many of you want to get those “beach” muscles popping out for the summer. If you work hard on this plan and stay true to your nutrition, you won’t need a bunch of bicep curls, triceps pushdowns, and abdominal work.
If you are lifting heavy weights, your abs and arms will get plenty of indirect work. If you really need to add in some arm and ab work, do it at the end of your workout, but don’t overdo it.
What About Cardio?
Before you start to do a bunch of cardio workouts on the treadmill or a million different CrossFit WOD’s, challenge yourself to lift as much weight as possible, with sound form. If you are not breathing hard for a minute or two after a set of heavy deadlifts, push press or front squats, again, you did it wrong.
The Farmer’s walks, overhead carries, sled crawl, and sled push, should be enough conditioning work for you to stay a fire breather and lean for the summer. But, as I stated above, stay active on your off-days and if you need to get a good sweat, you can perform a short Met Con workout on your off-days 1-2 days per week, but nothing more.
Perfect the lifting technique, add weight, repeat.
Warm-up and Cool-down
This can be done a variety of ways. Unless you have a lot of corrective exercise work to do, you can keep your warm-up pretty simple. Here is what I do almost every day now.
- Foam Roll and Lacrosse ball 2 areas each
- Turkish Get-ups and Arm Bars
- Bodyweight Circuit of squats, push-up to downward facing dog, hip hinge and various crawling movements.
- Some type of medicine ball throw and jumping drill. Just one set each to get the nervous system fired up.
This takes me about 10 minutes and then I am off to lift some heavy weight.
After I am done, I may perform a couple of Yoga moves, Bretzel Stretch, or any other stretches I feel like doing.
Stick to The Plan
The worst thing you can do is only do this workout for 2-weeks. Stick to it for 6-weeks. Perfect your form, increase weight, get stronger and everything else will get better for you.
After the 6-weeks are up, you could just continue to do the same exercises. You could just mix up the order, number of sets, reps and load.
Strength training really isn’t that complicated, so don’t make it complicated. The basic exercises always work, when done correctly and with proper progression.
Now go lift some heavyweight!
Justin Grinnell is the Owner of State of Fitness in East Lansing, Michigan. State of Fitness opened up just four years ago and is already one of the leading training facilities in the Midwest. State of Fitness has over 450 members who train every day under his leadership. In addition to being a facility owner, Justin has his own blog at www.grinnelltraining.com (link below), and has been a featured writer for over 6 years in the magazine Healthy & Fit and is a writer for Muscle & Fitness.