An Overview of the Workout
As you read more about this workout, you'll realize it's basic yet advanced. You'll be doing basic, compound-type movements for all the other body parts. Now, this doesn't mean you'll be doing single reps for shoulders, biceps, back, or triceps, though. Instead, you'll be doing sets of six to eight.
It's very, very important that you try to keep the workload for these body parts down to the amount indicated in the tables. It's better that these body parts are a little undertrained than overtrained. Don't worry, though, you won't lose any size, and chances are, these muscles will respond with new spurts of growth once you begin training them "normally" again.
Your chest workout, however, will be completely different. At times, you'll be doing sets of one, two, or three reps. During other chest workouts in the program, you may be doing sets of four, five, or six. Most of you have probably never done sets of fewer than four reps, thinking that those kinds of sets are only for short, bald-headed guys in rubber suits who compete in powerlifting contests. Well, it's important to do some occasional low-rep training because that's the rep range that leads to the greatest increases in strength. And, the stronger you get, the more motor units you can recruit. And, if you can recruit more motor units, you're more likely to provoke those muscle cells into growing.
Others might take a look at the low number of reps and think to themselves, Wow, I need to work out more intensely to grow. Those sets of one, two, or three might be fine for Shawn, but I need intensity. Well, I've got news for you. Intensity is working with a weight that's close to your one-rep maximum. The closer your working poundage is to your one-rep max (1 RM), the more intense your workout. Remember, we're talking about motor-unit recruitment here. You may not get an awesome pump from low-rep sets, but you'll get stronger, and your bench press will go up by leaps and bounds.
I've already mentioned that you'll be working legs only once a week during this program. You'll also have to cut down on the amount of shoulder work you do. For instance, this workout doesn't include any overhead shoulder presses. With age comes wisdom, and I'm smart enough to know that these types of exercises have a high risk-to-benefit ratio. And, with this type of intense workout, the front delts don't need any added stress.
You'll work shoulders on Monday and Friday. The first shoulder workout of the week will involve dumbbell side raises. The second shoulder workout is really a rotator-cuff workout. I can't stress how important it is to have strong, healthy shoulders when doing this type of strength-gaining phase, and this is exactly what a strong rotator cuff will help ensure. Don't wait until you're in rehab- prevent injuries now!
Another important consideration is the actual amount of time the workout should take. Expert after expert and research paper after research paper has pointed to the fact that workouts of this type shouldn't take longer than an hour. The two- or three-hour workouts of the past are to be avoided like the plague. It's almost universally accepted that cortisol levels may climb, testosterone levels may fall, and you could end up "overtrained" if you regularly work out intensely for longer than an hour.
Additionally, you need to rest at least three minutes between sets on major lifts like the bench press and squats. For all other movements, rest two minutes between sets. I find that a stopwatch is an invaluable aid. Get one. Table 1
Bench Press (Workouts #1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13)
Dumbbell Bench-Press - 3 sets of 8 reps
Dumbbell Side Raise - 3 sets of 8 reps
Lying Triceps Extension - 3 sets of 8 reps
Rotator-Cuff Exercise - 3 sets of 12-15 reps
Bench Press (Workouts #2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14)
Weighted Dips - 3 sets of 6 reps
Squat - 3 sets of 6 reps
Leg Press - 3 sets of 8 reps
Leg Curl - 3 sets of 8 reps
Reverse-Grip Pulldowns - 3 sets of 8 reps
One-Arm Dumbbell Rows - 3 sets of 8 reps
Incline Dumbbell Curls - 3 sets of 8 reps The Chest Workout Nuts and Bolts
By now, you know how to bench properly (if you didn't know already), you know what split I recommend, and you know my "hard and fast" rules. It's now time to figure out your initial workout poundages and how to use the charts included. (Don't worry, it looks complicated, but it's not.) Step 1: Determining your one-rep max
Granted, I used a computer to generate the charts in this workout program, but you won't need a computer or a calculator to complete the program. You will, however, need to supply one crucial bit of data, and that's your 1 RM. I can't stress how important this piece of info is, but suffice it to say, it's the backbone of the program. If you just guess your 1 RM, you might as well forget it. This program is based on precise mathematical formulas, and if you try to guess your 1 RM or don't do the test to determine 1RM properly, you'll get mediocre results.
To determine your 1RM properly, you should refrain from training chest, shoulders, or triceps 48 hours prior to testing. You should also perform the test before you start your normal workout. No use trying to determine how strong you are in a particular lift if you've just finished an incredibly grueling workout, regardless of what body part is involved. You should also warm up properly and make sure you've got a conscientious spotter handy in case your 1RM is less than the weight you've piled on the bar. Here's how to determine your 1RM
1. Warm up with a light weight for four to five reps. (Doing too many warm-up reps might generate too much lactic acid and screw up your 1 1RM.) Repeat twice.
2. Rest two minutes after your final warm-up set.
3. Increase the weight to one you can handle for eight reps.
4. Rest three minutes.
5. Increase the weight to one you can handle for three to four reps.
6. Rest three minutes.
7. Add weight, and attempt to lift the weight once.
8. If you failed, rest three minutes, reduce the weight, and try again. If you succeeded in lifting the weight, rest three minutes, add some weight, and try again. Repeat steps six and seven until you fail at lifting the weight. Step 2
Plugging your 1RM into the Progression Table .
Take a look at the Progression Table. Once I point out a few things, you'll see that it's really very easy. For the time being, pay attention only to the column on the far left marked "1 RM." Find the number in that far left column that corresponds to the 1 RM you've already determined by completing Step 1. Let's assume your 1 RM was 280 lbs. Find the number 280 in that 1 RM column, and look at the first three numbers to the immediate right of your 1RM. In this case, the numbers are 220, 235, and 245. These are the workout poundages you'll use for your first bench-press workout, and if you look at the top of that same column, you'll see that those three poundages are grouped in column number "1." That "1" corresponds to your first workout. Right underneath that column head are the letters A, B. and C. (We'll get into these later— suffice it to say, they're just there to make it easier to find the appropriate columns.) See 'em? Now look under that A, B. and C; you'll see the numbers 6, 5, and 4. These numbers correspond to the number of reps you'll be doing in Bench-Press Workout #1.
To summarize, your 1 RM of 280 Ibs indicates that in Bench-Press Workout #1, you'll be using 220 lbs, 235 lbs, and 245 lbs in your work sets.
For those of you who tried the earlier version of this program, you'll notice a few improvements. For one, the Progression Table is set up in five-pound increments instead of ten. This is all part of making a "smoother" progression. Also, under each workout, there are three columns: A, B. and C. These columns correspond to the columns of the form so that it's very simple to transfer the information into the right place (A to the A box, B to the B box, etc.). And, lastly, there are no longer sets of eight reps—I've discovered lower reps work even better. Step 3
Flip to the Workout Sheet on the back cover. Remember the number of reps and poundages we just read off the Progression Table? Write them down, along with the date, in the boxes that correspond to Workout #1. In the case of our example, you'd write 220 Ibs in the rectangular box marked "A" on the Workout Sheet. And, accordingly, you'd write 235 lbs under "B" and 245 lbs under "C"
Some of you more anal types will want to fill in all the boxes on the Workout Sheet right away... Don't. I'll explain why later.
Although there are three rectangular boxes—marked A, B. and C—that doesn't mean you'll be doing only three sets. Take a look at Box A next to Workout #1: it says you'll be doing one set of six reps. Fine and dandy. However, look at Box B: it says two sets of five reps. Accordingly, Box C says two sets of four reps. All total, you'll be doing five sets of bench during Workout #1. The exact number of reps and sets varies slightly from workout to workout, but your Workout Sheet will let you know how many you need to do for each training session.
By now, you're probably wondering when the heck you're actually going to work out. Well, that time is now. Do your chest workout using the poundages from the table. ALWAYS DO THE LAST SET TO COMPLETE FAILURE. Afterwards, finish working your chest, shoulders, and triceps as outlined in Table 1.
Once you complete the chest, shoulder, and triceps workout, rest a day or two, and then work back, biceps, and possibly legs, if it's leg day. Chest Workout #2 will take place on Friday of that first week, and we'll go back to the Progression Table to figure out your workout poundages.
Find your 1 RM on the right of the Progression Table again. This time, trace along the columns until you get to Workout #2. You'll note that the weights are heavier this time. Don't worry, l expect you to get stronger fast but not this fast. The poundages are significantly heavier because you'll be doing fewer reps. If you look at the top of the page, in column number "2," you'll see that you'll be doing sets of three reps, two reps, and a set marked "Neg." Go ahead and write those poundages in the boxes marked A, B, and C. In the case of our example 1RM, these poundages will be 240 Ibs, 260 Ibs, and 285 Ibs.
If you're paying attention, you'll have noticed that the weight used for the third set—the set marked "Neg"--is more than your 1 RM max. Hey, what are you trying to do, Shawn? Crush my chest? Actually, negative sets are used throughout the program. The use of negatives can really speed up strength development if not overused. Typically, people are capable of handling up to 20% more weight on the negative (eccentric) portion of a lift as opposed to the positive portion (concentric).
You'll do your negative set after your first four "normal" work sets of bench press. Then, you'll need to find a spotter who'll help you do your negative set. After you find one, load the bar with the weight specified in the Progression Table. Grip the bar as you normally would for a set, and then have your partner help you unrack the weight. Unlock your elbows, and slowly lower the weight, resisting it all the way. Then, press the weight up with help from your spotter, and rack the weight.
Now, work your triceps and shoulders as indicated in Table 1. Step 4 The Failure Test.
This program wouldn't be all that sophisticated (nor effective) if there weren't some way to gauge your progress and make adjustments accordingly. That's why there's a "Failure Test" included in Workouts #5, 7, 9, and 11. Remember when I told you not to fill out the numbers on the Workout Sheet ahead of time? Well, that's because of the Failure Test.
(Those of you who are familiar with the earlier version of the program will be relieved to know that the old Failure Test is gone, relegated to the Arthur Jones Museum of Outdated Training Notions. There's still a Failure Test, but it's much, much easier to do, and there's no confounding Failure Table to make things more complicated.)
Flip to the Progression Table once more. Take a look at the top row—the one where it lists the number of the workout with the letters A, B, and C underneath. Note that there's an "F" under the letter C of Workouts #5, 7, 9, and 11. That "F" stands for failure, and during the third set of the workouts listed, you'll need to do a Failure Test to determine your progress up to that point. If you "pass" the test, you'll need to move up one five-pound increment on the Progression Table. If you "fail" the test, you'll need to move back one five-pound increment. If you just get an average "grade," you stay on course because you're right on track.
Let me give you an example using our 280-lb 1 RM scenario again. Let's say it's Workout #5, and you're about to do your failure set. The Progression Table says you're supposed to load 255 Ibs on the bar. Now, do as many reps as you can, with good form, of course. If you did only one rep (or couldn't lift it at all), you'll need to drop one five-pound increment on the Progression Table. In other words, on your next chest workout, you'll simply use 275 Ibs as your 1 RM instead of 280 on Workout #6.
If you do between 2 and 4 reps with 255 Ibs, you'll continue using the increments and poundages listed for a 280-lb 1RM.
And, finally, if you do 5 or more reps with 255 Ibs, you're moving too fast, and you'll need to start using the increments and poundages listed for a 285-lb 1 RM when you get to Workout #6.
You'll be required to do these tests several times during the remainder of the program. This important feature allows you to progress at your own pace!
Here's a point-by-point rehash of what I just explained regarding the Failure Test:
1. During the third set of Workouts #5, 7, 9, and 11, you'll be required to do a Failure Test to evaluate your progress.
2. Set up the bench-press bar with the weight listed on the Progression Table for your Failure Test.
3. Using good form, do as many reps as you can.
4. If you do one rep or can't lift the bar at all, you'll need to go back one five-pound increment on the Progression Table. The new 1RM will be used to calculate subsequent workouts, until, of course, you get to the next Failure Test when you'll check your progress again.
5. If you do between two and four reps, continue using the same 1 RM you've been using to calculate the poundages you use for subsequent workouts, until, of course, you get to the next Failure Test when you'll check your progress again.
6. If you do five or more reps, you'll need to go up one five-pound increment on the Progression Table. The new 1RM will be used to calculate subsequent workouts, until, of course, you get to the next Failure Test when you'll check your progress again. A Few More Words on the Nuts and Bolts
This program takes 50 days. When you think about it, this is a very short time. We're talking about 7 weeks or 14 chest workouts between you and new, previously unrealized power!
For those of you who haven't done this program before, it may seem a bit overwhelming. After all, many of you, if you've ever done a chest program before, probably borrowed it from some pro bodybuilder's routine outlined in some other magazine. In other words, the workout probably instructed you to do 20 sets of bench press using 400 Ibs or some other totally absurd recommendation. This is a workout that's about as personalized as you'll ever get, and it's not one based on science fiction. Instead, it's based on science fact. Spend a little time studying the program, put it to use, and I guarantee you'll get great results—more strength and size!
Hey, building a great body is just as much mental effort as it is physical! Now, let's look at the steps one more time
1. Determine your one-rep max (1RM).
2. Find your 1RM in the far left-hand column of the Progression Table on pages 9-10.
3. Trace your finger across the table to the right from your 1 RM to the column under the appropriate workout number.
4. Fill in the weights listed in the Workout Sheet, matching the workout number and repetition subheads.
5. Find the weights for the next workout and fill them in one workout at a time.
6. Use the Failure Test as indicated by the Progression Table and the Workout Sheet to chart your progress and determine new 1RM's as needed. I Finished the Program... What Now?
Okay, 50 days are up. If you've followed the program as detailed, you've probably added about 50 Ibs (maybe more, maybe a bit less) to your bench press. As I mentioned earlier, your gut response might be to say, "Hey, let's do it again!. This is a strength- and mass-building program, not your honeymoon night. Many bench pressers who completed the earlier version of this program decided to do the program again, immediately after finishing it for the first time. I guess their reasoning was that if they could add 40 Ibs in 6 weeks, they could add 80 in 12 weeks or 120 in 18! Hell, let's do it all year long and add 346 Ibs to our bench presses! Sorry, it doesn't work that way.
Take at least three weeks between the end of this program and starting it over again. Doing the workout back to back with a second 50-day program wouldn't be very effective and could very well cause you to lose strength.
After you complete the 7-week program, I recommend not training with more than 80% of your 1 RM for 3 weeks. The best recommendation I can make, and what I always do, is move into a growth phase of training. Now that you've reached a new level of strength, it's time to solidify your new strength by building the foundation to support it. A growth phase of moderate intensity (eight to ten rep range) for about six week is perfect. With your new strength, you should be able to handle more weight at eight reps than ever before. And after a good growth spurt, you'll be ready to try this program again soon enough. For example, after I recently completed this program, I took three week and just did moderate to light dumbbell-pressing workouts. But, I'll soon be ready to start the program again and boost my strength even more!
I really believe this is the best program of its type anywhere. I'm certain this program will bring you to a new level of strength you didn't think possible, as well as help you add new mass to your pees, delts, and tris! Now, the ball's in your court—put this program to use, and let me know how much new strength and size you gain!