I often get asked what the best exercise program is, and what routine I use personally.
The truth of the matter is that almost any workout program involving weight training is a good program. A routine that is centered on strong compound movements such as the bench press, dips, deadlifts, chin ups, squats, and shoulder press will produce solid results. Compound exercises are those which use multiple joints and muscles as opposed to Isolation muscles which isolate one particular muscle. The benefit of Compound movements is that they recruit more muscle fibers, build more muscle and burn more fat at the same time. Once focusing on compound exercises, what separates one exercise program from another is often not the exercises performed, but rather the intensity and manner in which the person executes them.
Currently my Chest routine looks something like this: incline bench press (compound), dumbbell flat bench press, incline or flat flyes and ending with chest dips. What varies however is that I do not do any typical 3 sets of a weight I can move for 10 repetitions. My routine is staggered in that I go as heavy as possible on my first exercise (incline bench press) for 5 repetitions covering 5 sets. Because I am looking to perform just 5 reps, these are done with heavy weight and, always, intensity. I follow that with the flat bench dumbbell presses for 4-5 sets of a weight I can lift for 10 tough reps. Dumbbell flyes are next, 3 sets of 8 reps and then finally I end with 2 sets of weighted chest dips. For me this method of training works very well because I get to go quite heavy with the chest presses as I know I am only trying to hammer out 5 reps. I allow myself up to 3 minutes for recovery between sets of all movements. The varied repetition sequence works well as I get to take advantage of going heavy in addition to the principles of “time under tension” when I go with slightly higher reps. Going from incline to flat and then dips allows me to hit the pectorals from different angles.
In the end what matters most though, is the intensity that I bring to each set and making every repetition count.
My Back workout is based on super heavy deadlifts (we’re talking a mere 3-4 reps here so heavy is the key), followed by 5 sets of 5 reps performing bent over barbell rows (both are compound exercises), and then ending with wide grip lat pulldowns, 3 sets of 8 reps – or chin ups. The focus of Legs is of course heavy squats, again 5 reps and 5 sets, then leg press for 3 sets of 8 and finally leg extensions – 3 sets of 8 reps. I try to train calf muscles twice per week using 5 sets of 12-15 reps as they seem to respond best that way with slightly more volume. Shoulders I work heavy standing barbell presses and then dumbbell lateral raises in the same manner as the previous body parts, and work triceps and biceps this way only with less volume for the smaller muscle groups. Triceps and Biceps are heavily involved in the other compound exercises so they do not require much direct work.
This is what I am currently doing and I am having great results with it, but change is constant in weight training for muscle growth – I recommend bench press, dips, deadlifts, bent over barbell rows, squats and shoulder presses to be included in any and all weight lifting routines. I find the more exercises I can perform with the barbell, the better. As mentioned previously though, especially when starting a workout program with weights, your body will likely respond well to most any set of exercises provided they are performed with good form and intensity. If your current exercise program dictates 10 reps but you can do more, you must do the most you can each and every set, then increase the weight slightly next session until you build back up to 10+ reps. For my current program I mostly lift for 5 sets of 5 reps so once I achieve all 5 sets for 5 reps I add 5 pounds and continue in that manner, always looking to add weight in the 5 repetition range.
It is true that you will only get out of your program what you put into it. Eat well, lift heavy and get adequate rest.