I promised you information on my workout and I’m sorry it’s taken so long to get it to you. I log my workouts, but I found I only have my logs going back two years, so I don’t have my early workouts but I’ll try and construct them from memory. I hope you find something in here of value...DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor and I'm not a physical trainer. I'm just sharing my personal experience of what has worked for me.
When I started working out about 5 years ago (when I turned 40), I was about 225lbs with easily 35% body fat. My neck and shoulders always hurt from using a computer, and under my left should blade I had acute pain. My left knee always hurt, and I had plantar fasciitis so my feet hurt in the morning. I was also suffering from low Testosterone at the time but hadn’t been diagnosed, so I had was sad, tired, and stressed as well.
For the first few years of working out, I saw some improvements but not as many as I had hoped – it took sorting out my hormones, changing my diet, getting an a CPAP for apnea, and really lifting heavy weights to make the big changes. I’m happy to say now I am in the best shape of my life, and NOTHING hurts anymore!
I knew I needed to work out, but I hated exercise. I also hated mornings. However, an honest assessment of my situation showed me I needed to get up early and workout. If I tried during the day something would always get in the way, and if I tried it at night I would be too tired and also miss time with my family. So, I started getting up early and working out before work. I set up a workout area in my basement and had just a bench and a small set of dumbbells at the time. I considered getting out of bed, getting dressed, and just showing up in the basement a victory – moving weights at the time was gravy on that.
I started with a total body dumbbell workout consisting of (from memory and not in order), the following:
• Goblet Squat. At the time, trying to do 10 goblet squats with a 20lb dumbbell was HARD! Again, the theme was just show up and move weight. If it was too hard to do with good form, I backed down the weight. You have to set the ego aside – the amount of weight is unimportant as long as it taxes your muscles and you can move it with good form. Keep this is mind ALWAYS. My current squat max is 365lb today, and I’m about to go for 385lb. This was a very long, slow progression – good form at one weight, add weight the next time. Log EVERY workout and make notes – was it easy? Was it hard? Was the order wrong, in other words did I do something that burned out my triceps and effected the next exercise I did? LOG LOG LOG.
• Sit ups. At first, these were without weights. I couldn’t even do 10 of them well – I would come up off the bench sort of sideways. When I could do them consistently, I started holding 2.5lb dumbells on my shoulder, then 5lb dumbells, then I moved to a 5 pound plate behind the head, then a 10 pound. Now I use a 25lb most of the time, but I do one day where I do 3x20 with a 25lb plate behind my head! Remember, when I started, NO WEIGHTS and I couldn’t do 20. You have to keep at it and keep at it for the long haul.
• Dumbbell curls. Little weights at first for my rubber arms. Log, improve form, add weights. Don’t get too hung up on this – something like 60% of the arm is triceps, so work your triceps as much or more than your biceps if you want bigger, stronger arms.
• Seated tricep press. Again, I think I started with 5 or 10lb weights, and now use 55lb. Low, use proper form, and add weight when you’re ready.
• Dumbbell bench press.
• Dumbbell flyes.
• Dumbbell shrugs.
• Dumbbell power partials.
So, the above was close to what I did, five days a week. It helped create at least a base for most muscle groups. However, things really took off when I read a book called Brawn. This book is for bodybuilders – I figured if I wanted to put on muscle (and I most definitely did), I should read a book on bodybuilding. It changed my life.
A few things I gleaned from this book:
1. If you want to get big and strong, you have to do the compound exercises. The big three being Deadlifts, Squats, and Bench. Sorry many want to skip one or all of these. For example, the Deadlift intimidates people, and I find it crushing – I nicknamed it the Destroyer because it wrecks me! However, there is NO exercise you can do that works more muscles in the body than the Deadlift; it’s got to be a staple if you are serious about being strong. Squats are great because they work your largest muscles – the quads – and that causes a nice release of growth hormone. They are called compound exercises because they work a lot of muscle groups, and to me they should be your foundation and you should tailor your workout around them.
2. Isolation exercises should be used to train specific muscles, but be wary of lifts that restrict motion, such as preacher curls. When you restrict motion to isolate an exercise, you create an opportunity for injury.
3. This book taught me the importance of rest an recovery, and how you don’t need long exercises, nor do you need to (or should you) work any muscle group hard more than once a week. My daily exercises are between 30 and 40 minutes, and you’ll see by my current workout program below that with the exception of bench (which is my current area of focus) I don’t work any major group hard more than once a week. It works!
4. I think I learned to log in this book as well, which might explain why my logs don’t back to when I started.
5. This book exposed me to the importance of the structure of routine. I am always making notes about how I feel and what I should change. Every now and then I screw this up, like working grip the day before deadlift, and my deadlift suffers because my grip is worn out.
6. This is about the time I added serious grip training and put in a chin up bar. All the stuff that was hard and not fun – that’s the stuff that helps.
7. I think I learned from this book to avoid aids like lifting straps. That means I had to do things like work my grip. Sometimes I couldn’t increase one exercise because of a weakness in a supportive muscle (ie grip was not strong enough to deadlife more) so I would shift my focus to improving the weakness. For me, it because all about balance and being strong overall, not just in places that I enjoyed working out or that were easy for me.
So, here’s my current routine. This is not an easy routine, and I don’t suggest you try this, but it illustrates the idea of how to structure the order and frequency of your workouts. I don’t have a specific day of rest in this – I let my body tell me. Perhaps I had a few too many drinks one night, I rest the next day.
I still get out of bed at the same time, I still take my pre-workout and I still go downstairs – I just don’t work out. Keeping the routine is critical to me – absolutely 100% critical. If I start sleeping in I am doomed. Also, if time is short or I am not feeling it, I might skip something in a routine. The point is to get up, show up, and move some weights - not to be 100% perfect.
There are lots of ideas on number of reps, how much weight, and so forth. Basic oversimplified rule of thumb is:
• Heavy weights with very low reps (3-5) for strength - think power lifter
• Medium weights with moderate reps (6-14) for balance of strength and size
• Light weights with high reps (15+) for endurance
You’ll see in my routine I am all over the map.
This comes from me taking notes and adjusting – I do what feels right and what I think will get me to my personal goals – it’s that simple. That doesn’t mean I’m right or you should follow this – it just means that I have found a path that works for me, and I’m always adjusting that path.
Note: I’ve had to make investments in equipment to do this at home. I have added to this slowly over time, as my abilities got to the point where they justified the changes.
My equipment today consists of:
• Rogue power rack. This lets me do squats and bench pressing in complete safety without a spotter.
• Dips station that attaches to the rack.
• Solid bench.
• Olympic weights.
• Dumbbell set that goes to 60lbs.
• Declined bench for sit ups
• Captains of Crush grip trainers. I use the Trainer for warmups, and the #1 for my main sets.
• Pull-up bar that I built out of black pipe.
So, here’s my current routine…
Barbell Bench Press warm ups at 155lb, 4x5 @ 200lb, 1x5 @ 220lb
Sit-ups 3x20 with 25lb plate behind the head
Dumbbell Flyes 2x10 @ 50lb, 1x10 @ 55lb
Palm Down Dumbbell Wrist Curl 3x15 @ 20lb. I had to add these because I was getting what felt like shin splints in my forearms when curling, and I found I needed to strengthen this part of my forearm, which is not strengthened with gripping exercises.
Dumbbell Press 3x10 @ 60lb
Stiff Legged Dead Lift warm ups, 1x5 @ 245lb, 3x5 @ 295lb
Neck 4x10 @ 25lb (I lie face down on the bench with my head hanging over, and put the plate on the back of my head. I read that a strong neck can prevent or lessen injuries from falls and car crashes…)
Chin-ups 3x10 no weights
Sit-ups 3x10 no weights
Pushups 3x10 no weights
Barbell Curl 3x10 @100
Seated Triceps Press 3x10 @ 55lb
Concentration Curls 3x10 @ 40lb
EZ Barr Skullcrushers 3x10 @ 70lb
Dips (4 sets to failure) 4x
Inclined Hammer Curls 3x10 @ 30lb
Chin-ups 3x10 no weights
Plyobox Jumps 3x10 on small side
Grips: Captions of Crush 10 with Trainer, 3x10 with Level 1
Sit Ups 3x20 @ 35lb plate behind head
Repeat Day 1 (Bench is my focus currently)
Squat 3x5 @ 105lb, 2x5 @ 330lb
Pushups 3x10 no weights
Sit Ups 4x25 no weights
Barbell Calf Raises 3x10 @ 275lb
Power Partials 2x10 @ 20lb, 2x10 at 30lb
Barbell Row 3x10 @ 175
Barbell Shrugs 3x10 @ 215lb
Sit Ups 3x20 @ 25lb plate behind head
Plyobox Jumps 3x10 on small side
Dumbbell Shrugs 3x10 @ 60lb
I recognize I’ve thrown a LOT of information at you, and I’ve kept back a lot too!
Hopefully some of this is helpful, and I welcome any questions.
Let me close by saying that what was once work, is now fun. I love watching the changes to my body, and I love how people react and interact with me differently now that I’m fit. I love being strong, and I love not having random aches and pains. While I anticipate constant evolution of my routine, I am NEVER going back to the way I was.