*UPDATE* One of the first articles I wrote for this website years ago was a complete walk-through of my weight training program at the time. It included the full details of how that weight training program was set up, what muscle groups were trained on what days, what exercises were done for how many sets and reps, and why I planned each factor the way I did.
Now, years later, I no longer use that workout routine (for reasons I’ll explain at the end of this article), but I didn’t want to just remove it and pretend it never existed. So instead, here it is in its entirety.
While I wouldn’t use it today, there is still plenty of really useful information in here, and at the end I’ll explain exactly what I’ve changed and why I’ve changed along with exactly what guidelines my current weight training program follows.
So, with that out of the way, here’s a full break down of a workout routine I was using nearly 10 years ago… *END OF UPDATE*
Below you’ll find a basic overview of what my current weight training program is. After that, I’m going to take you through each day, each muscle group, and each exercise to explain every single aspect of the workout.
I’m not showing this to you as if it were the “Greatest Workout Program In The World.” It’s just what I do. Feel free to use it as is, or feel free to change things around to suit your own preferences. I’m not trying to sell it to you. You don’t have to use it. It’s just an example of a workout routine based on 3 highly important weight training principles… compound exercises, rest and progression.
My Weight Training Program
Monday: Chest and Triceps
Flat Bench Press – 4 sets
Incline Dumbbell Press – 3 sets
Dumbbell Flyes – 2 sets
Dips – 3 sets
Cable Press Downs – 2 sets
Tuesday: Back and Biceps
Pull Ups – 4 sets
Bent Over Barbell Row – 3 sets
Seated Cable Row – 3 sets
Barbell Curls – 3 sets
Seated Dumbbell Curls – 2 sets
Thursday: Shoulders, Traps and Abs
Seated Barbell Press – 4 sets
Single-Arm Lateral Raises – 3 sets
Barbell Shrugs – 4 sets
Various Weighted Crunches and Hanging Leg Raises
Squats – 4 sets
Leg Press – 3 sets
Stiff Legged Deadlifts – 3 sets
Leg Curls – 2 sets
Standing Calf Raises – 5 sets
As you can see, this routine isn’t that groundbreaking. It’s 4 days on and 3 days off, and it’s chest and triceps together, back and biceps together, and then one day for shoulders (and traps/abs) and one day for legs. There are probably a lot of similar looking routines out there, and with good reason.
Simple is what works. Like I said before, the only real keys to an effective weight training program are the right exercises, the right amount of rest/recovery, and the constant push towards progressing.
Now that you have an idea of what my routine looks like, let’s go through it all from top to bottom so I can hopefully answer any possible questions you have now, or may have in the future.
Monday: Chest and Triceps
My chest workout starts with, big surprise, the bench press. It seems most people’s weight training program begins with chest, and that chest workout begins with the bench press. This is why Monday is usually the most crowded bench press day in most gyms. I start with 2 warm-up sets, and then I do my 4 real work sets.
The first work set can almost be considered somewhat of a warm-up still, because I am using a weight I can probably do 12 reps with, but I stop at 10. The second set I increase the weight and try to get 10 reps, and here 10 reps is really all I can do. The same goes for the third set, when I increase the weight and go for 8 reps. And just like the others, the fourth set I increase the weight again and go for 6 reps.
Because I’m going to failure or pretty near to failure on those last 3 sets, I always have someone spot me. For anyone wondering, “failure” is when you are at the point where you absolutely can’t do another rep. When this happens during something like bicep curls, there’s very little to worry about. When it happens during the bench press, you can, ya know, kill yourself.
So, the SOWTTOTD (Super-Obvious-Weight-Training-Tip-Of-The-Day) is… be sure to have someone spot you if you think there is even the slightest chance you’re going to need it.
Back to my bench press routine. My goal here is to, while increasing the weight each set, end up doing reps of 10, 10, 8, 6. Sometimes I get something more like 9, 8, 6, 3 or 10, 9, 7, 4. However, my goal is to get an exact 10 10 8 6. I work as hard as I can to reach those reps. Sometimes it takes a week, sometimes a month, sometimes more. But, when I finally reach that goal, it means it’s time for me to increase the weight I’m lifting on each set.
When this time comes, I usually increase each set by 5 pounds. Once I do that, I just start this whole cycle all over again and basically just work my ass off to get 10, 10, 8, 6 with these new heavier weights. Once I do that, I increase it all over again.
Remember when I mentioned “progression” as one of the keys to an effective weight training program? Well, what I just described above is exactly that. Whether it’s 1 extra rep, or 5 extra pounds, it’s that type of weight training progression that builds muscle. This is pretty much what I do with every exercise (although the number of sets/reps may be different). I’m mentioning that so I don’t have to repeat this over and over again for each exercise.
From there I move on to 3 sets of incline dumbbell presses. For my chest workout, I like to do something flat, something inclined, and something that isn’t a press. For incline dumbbell presses, I personally prefer using a lower incline than is typically used. Since the first time I did them, I always found the typical incline bench setting to be too high. My shoulders always felt like they were brought into the exercise a little too much. Because of this, I usually use the bench setting one notch below that. Again, this is just a personal preference.
I’ll usually try for reps of 10 8 6. Now would probably also be a good time to mention the recurrence of the numbers 10, 8 and 6. You’ll notice me using those specific numbers when talking about reps for basically every exercise. And it’s not just me either, you’ll see these same 3 numbers show up in other workout routines as well. The reason is not because they are magical weight training program numbers.
It’s just that a person looking to increase muscle would ideally want to stay within the 6-10 rep range most of the time. Most people, including myself, prefer aiming for the even numbers, which would of course be 10, 8 and 6. Is that any better than making your goal to reach reps of 11, 9, and 7? Or 9, 7, and 5? No, it’s not.
Remember, the key here is progression. Whether your goal is to get reps of 10, 8, 6 or get reps of 11, 9, 7 or get reps of 11, 8, 5… it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is progression. That should be the main goal of your weight training program. Yes, staying around the 6-10 rep range (or even 4-12) is a good idea, but progression is the key.
My chest workout ends with 2 sets of dumbbell flyes. Not much else to say about that.
Now I start triceps, which are already pretty warmed up and ready to go from my chest workout. Since all pressing exercises use the triceps secondarily, it’s almost like my triceps workout started during my first set of bench pressing. But, my first real direct triceps exercise is dips, which are probably my favorite triceps exercise of them all. These are parallel bar dips, by the way. Not bench dips.
I start off with 1 set of just my own body weight, and then I add weight to both of the next 2 sets. You can add weight to dips by using a dip belt, or by holding a dumbbell between your feet. I aim for reps of 10, 8, 6.
Then I end my triceps workout (and this workout as a whole) with single-arm reverse grip (underhand) cable press downs. I do 2 sets and aim for reps of 8, 6. Reverse grip isn’t better than the regular grip, regular grip isn’t better than reverse grip, single arm isn’t better than both arms, etc. It’s simply just another way of doing this exercise. Next time I change my weight training program around I’ll probably switch back to using the regular grip and both arms.
The sole reason? It’s just a another way of doing it. Don’t put too much thought into small things like which grip is better. All focus should be on progression. I’ll repeat this 1000 times, the key to an effective weight training program is progression… not specific grips.
And that’s the end of my chest and triceps workout. At this point I go down to the gym locker room, get out my bag, drink my post workout shake and go home.
Tuesday: Back and Biceps
My back workout starts with what is probably my all-time favorite weight training exercise of any muscle group… pull ups. I don’t care if you bench press a million pounds, it wouldn’t impress me at all. What would however is seeing how many pull ups you can do and/or how much additional weight you can add to them. I use a slightly wider than shoulder width grip with my palms facing away (forward). This is my favorite grip, and it’s also probably the grip that makes pull ups the hardest. But, this is a good thing.
The reason is that this grip takes your biceps out of the exercise more so than using an underhand (palms facing you) grip, which puts your biceps in their strongest position. Pull ups are a back exercise. Your goal should be to use your lats to pull. If your biceps are in their strongest position, you will be more likely to pull with your biceps instead of your lats. I do however use a variety of different grips at times (and no grip is “bad” to use, they’re all fine), but this grip is the one I use most often.
I start off with 1 warm-up set of just my body weight, and then I add additional weight to the next 3 sets and go for reps of 10, 8, 6. Just like dips, you can add weight by using a dip/pull-up belt or by holding a dumbbell between your feet. The lat pull down machine is a fine exercise and I used it all the time (and still occasionally do), but once I started doing pull ups, it was like a whole other world.
Strength and muscle wise, I credit pull ups a great deal. If you can’t do any… make it your goal to be able to. For detailed information on how to increase how many pull ups you can do, read this: Do More Pull Ups.
After that, I move on to the bent over barbell row. I use an overhand grip and bend over so that my upper body is a little bit above being parallel to the floor. I do 3 sets and try for reps of 10, 8, 6. From there I move on to the seated cable row and go for 3 sets of 10, 8, 6 as well. One of the biggest weight training problems people tend to have in regards to their back workout is using their biceps instead of or just more so than their back. The key is to imagine you are trying to pull your elbows back rather than trying to pull the weight in your hands towards you.
Then I move on to biceps. Just like my triceps feel after my chest workout, my biceps are pretty warmed up and ready to go by now. One preference I have for biceps (and triceps as well) is that I like to do something two-handed and then something one-handed. Any weight training program I create will almost always abide by that. There is no scientific reason for it, it’s just what I like to do.
The first bicep exercise is just plain and simple standing barbell curls. I do 3 sets and aim for reps of 10, 8, 6. After that is 2 sets of seated dumbbell curls. I try for reps of 8 and 6. Not much to say about them, other than no part of your body should move during any type of curl except for the lower half of your arm (and the upper arm may just slightly come forward). If you can’t do curls while keeping your body still, you’re using too much weight and wasting your time.
And that’s the end of my back and biceps workout. I drink my post workout shake and go home.
Wednesday is one of the 3 days of the week I don’t go to the gym. If I was doing any direct cardio workouts at the time (I’m currently not), Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday (my 3 off days) would be the days I would do them. If you are doing both cardio and weight training, I would recommend doing them on separate days if you can. If you can’t, do the weight training first, then the cardio.
Thursday: Shoulders, Traps and Abs
My shoulder workout starts with the seated barbell press. I do it behind the head. (If you have any type of shoulder problems, you would probably be better off doing them in front of the head.) My reasons for doing them behind the head is that it has always felt like a more comfortable and natural movement behind my head than in front of it. It’s also a more strict way of doing it.
It’s very rare that I see someone doing this exercise in front of their head and not cheating by leaning back and getting into an almost incline bench press position. If you tried to cheat and lean back when doing this exercise behind your head, you would hit yourself in the head. It pretty much forces good form in this position. I do 4 sets and aim for reps of 10, 10, 8, 6.
From there I move on to single-arm lateral raises. Why one arm at a time? It’s just another way of doing it. Any weight training program I’ve used that included lateral raises has always been the common both-arms-at-a-time way. One day the dumbbells I needed were being used, and there was only 1 available. Instead of waiting, I just did them single-arm. Strangely enough, I actually prefer them single-arm now. I do 3 sets and aim for reps of 10, 8, 6.
From there I move on to barbell shrugs. Shrugs are for the traps (trapezius muscles), which are those muscles located on the left and right side of your neck. I’m only mentioning this because I occasionally get emails from people who think I’m misspelling triceps when I write traps. Anyway, most weight training routines have traps on either shoulder day or back day. I’ve tried doing shrugs on back day, but after exercises like weighted pull-ups and rows, it’s almost impossible to have enough grip strength left to do shrugs.
That’s why all weight training routines created by me have traps done on shoulder day. I do 4 sets and aim for reps of 10, 10, 8, 6.
This workout ends with abs. My ab workout isn’t very fancy, and it also changes a lot of the time because I don’t really have a set ab routine. Let me explain. See, I park in the parking lot outside of my gym. This is one of those “put your quarters in the meter” parking lots. So, I make sure I put enough money in to have more than enough time to do shoulders and traps, and then whatever amount of time is left until my meter expires is… my ab workout.
Sometimes it’s 20 minutes, sometimes 15, sometimes 10. This is also the area of my gym that is most crowded. Why? Because people spend insane amounts of time working their abs. Why? Because people are stupid.
Getting to the workout, I just do a mixture of different types of weighted crunches, hanging leg raises, side bends and other similar stuff. For the weighted crunches I hold a dumbbell on my chest, by the way. That’s really it. It’s enough to make my abs strong and keep them that way. And, as we all should know by now (although the people in my gym obviously don’t) the key to actually seeing your abs and losing the fat from your stomach and having “sexy 6 pack abs” is a proper diet and/or cardio exercise.
After that, I’m done. I have my post workout meal and go home.
Welcome to leg day. Today (the day I’m writing this) was actually leg day, so I apologize in advance if some description is lacking. Just the idea of reliving my leg workout a few hours after I did it makes me want to take a nap. Anyway, this workout starts with what is not only the king of leg exercises, but what may also be the king of all weight training exercises in general… squats.
So many different muscles on so many different parts of the body come into play during squats. There is no exercise that can replace the effect that squats have on your body as a whole. On each rep, I go down just slightly below the point where my hamstrings are parallel to the floor. I do 4 sets and aim for reps of 10, 10, 8, 6.
Next up is the leg press, which luckily for me is located directly next to the squat rack. Why is that lucky? Because after squats, the less walking I have to do, the better. I do 3 sets, and aim for reps of 10, 8, 6.
From there I move on to hamstrings, which starts with stiff legged deadlifts. The worst part about this exercise is the fact that the area I do it in is located all the way on the other side of the room… and down 6 stairs! At this point, just walking to this area is a workout in itself. For stiff legged deadlifts, I lower myself until the point where my upper body is parallel to the floor. I never go lower than that. I do 3 sets and aim for 10, 8, 6.
From there I move on to lying leg curls. Guess where this machine is located? Yup, back up the 6 stairs. Whoever designed my gym is an idiot. I do 2 sets and aim for reps of 8, 6.
Then comes calves, which are easily my least favorite muscle to work. Go up on your toes, go down on your toes, go up on your toes, go down on your toes. The whole movement is like 3 inches. Just the thought of it bores me. But, as boring as it is, it still needs to get done, and it still needs my full intensity and focus. I have to admit though, the hardest part of my gym week is getting “focused” and “intense” for a set of calf raises.
I do them very slow and very controlled and make sure to hold it and squeeze at the top for an extra second. I do 5 sets and aim for reps of 10, 10, 10, 8, 6.
And then… get this… I have walk down two flights of stairs to get to the locker room to get my stuff. Once I actually (and just barely) make it there, I’ll drink my post workout shake and go home.
Update: Why I Stopped Using This Workout (& What I Do Instead)
Like I said way back at the beginning, this article was originally written by me nearly 10 years ago and contains the details of a weight training program that I no longer use. Just re-reading this is a damn good reminder of how far I’ve come with my own results and knowledge over the last decade.
I remember thinking I was pretty smart then, and while I was doing quite a bit right, I was also doing quite a bit wrong. In fact, there’s a lot about this workout routine that I would NEVER use or recommend to anyone anymore. Why? Well…
Here are the biggest problems that I see…
- The workout frequency sucks. As my article about how often to workout per week explains, training each muscle group once per week like I was doing is the least effective way to train. Did it work for me at the time? Yeah, to some degree. But did increasing the frequency to twice per week (like I recommend now) improve my results? HELL YES!
- My stupid 10, 8, 6 pyramid. In most of my original weight training programs, I used to increase the weight each set and do less reps. But about 6-8 years ago, I stopped doing that for good. It’s just dumb to start with your lightest weight and get more and more fatigued as the weight gets heavier and heavier. It’s ass-backwards. Now I only either start with my heaviest weights first (after a proper warmup) and reduce the weight each set while the reps increase (a reverse pyramid) or stay the same. Or, I just do straight sets, which means the same weight for the same amount of reps each set. This is all I recommend to others, too.
- Shoulder day. This one makes me literally laugh out loud now. I had a day of nothing but shoulders and little nonsense like abs and shrugs? WTF? A total waste of a day that would have made more sense to be paired with chest/triceps for a legit “push” day (or maybe even added on to legs). Either way, kinda stupid.
- Behind-the-neck-pressing. Funny I mention that you should avoid doing shoulder presses behind the neck if you have pre-existing shoulder injuries. I didn’t at the time, but I did soon after. I now avoid doing any pressing or pull downs behind the neck, and recommend most people do the same.
There’s maybe a handful of other smaller less important issues (like doing 6 reps on exercises like lateral raises… those belong in the 10-15 range), but those are the main problems I see looking back at it. However, it’s not all bad. There’s a few things I still like a lot. For example…
Here’s what I still like 10 years later…
- Progression! There’s a reason this weight training program worked at least somewhat well for me back then, and progression is it. All other factors aside, I had a plan for making progress and increasing the reps I was doing and increasing the weight I was lifting. This is always the key to every workout routine, and I got that part right.
- Exercise selection. All of the most effective compound exercises are there in some form (bench press, rows, pull-ups, overhead press, squats, deadlifts) and there’s only a small secondary focus on isolation exercises like curls and lateral raises. Pretty good.
- Post workout nutrition. I have no idea what it was back then, but I was having some sort of post workout meal. Another plus.
Here’s what I do NOW…
The current weight training program I use is based around all of the guidelines I explain in the workout routines article. Check it out to see what I mean.
Or better yet, if you’d like to actually see (and use) the specific workout itself along with the diet plan and overall system I’ve used to help countless men and women build muscle, lose fat and completely transform their bodies, now you can.
For instant access to all of this and more, check out The Ultimate Fat Loss & Muscle Building Guide.