Unless you’re 15 years old, odds are you are looking to get into the gym, do the least amount that you need to in order to get the biggest result, and then get the hell out to do the other stuff that makes life awesome.
It seems like common sense. You do something to get a desired result:
go to the gym===>get jacked and tan
Most people’s training experience, however, looks like this:
- walk into gym
- grab a towel
- fill up water bottle filled with florescent colored pre workout
- look around the gym and think about what they should do that day
- hit a few neck rolls and shoulder circles
then meander over to a squat rack or bench, where they set up camp and proceed to:
- get a set of 135 for 10
- check Instagram for 8 minutes
- do a set of 185 for 6 or 7
- laugh at memes their buddies are texting in a group chat for 11-12 minutes
- eek out 3 or 4 half reps with 225
- scroll Facebook for 5 more minutes
- blast 135 for another set of 10
I see it every day, trust me. And these people never get better. They’re the type who are constantly jumping from one program to another. They’re looking for the next supplement or magic exercise to take them to the next level. They use words like, “maintenance,” and, “low weights and high reps so I don’t get bulky…”
But you’re different. You don’t go to the gym to “workout,” you train to get better than yesterday. That’s why you seek out information on how to train smarter in your down time.
And you came to the right place.
Pairing your exercises is the smart person’s way of setting up a program. The problem is, if you pair things that are too demanding together, they can negatively impact your ability to perform either to the best of your abilities.
Putting together heavy trap bar deadlifts and heavy dumbbell presses is certainly not wrong, and I do it with some clients and in my own training sometimes.
But they both take a lot of juice, so you’re compromising how hard you can go on each lift. “Hard” is relative, and you can still make progress this way, no doubt.
If getting brutally strong and packing on muscle mass is your primary objective, I really like starting each training day with a big, compound exercise done typically in the 3-8 range. And if you’re going to move really heavy stuff, you can’t have a lot of fluff tiring you out and impairing your technique.
You also don’t want to be in the gym for 2+ hours a night, so taking 4 minutes of straight rest doesn’t make any sense.
Knowing this, and respecting that pressing, chin ups, rows, squat and deadlift variations should make up the bulk of your training, you should start each day with one of these movements. How you decide to do this is up to you, and there are a million different ways. I tend to like structuring days like this:
- Day 1: Bench Press variation
- Day 2: Squat Variation
- Day 3: Chin Up Variation
- Day 4: Deadlift Variation
So what exercises can we pair with each of these that pack a big punch, without negatively impacting the big movement we’re training, and actually improve our performance on them?
Squats and Deadlifts
People tend to fail on these movements by folding over like a question mark, so I really like pairing them up with anti-extension core exercises like planks and rollout variations.
They help to strengthen up our trunk, while also firing up the musculature so we’re more stable for the squatting and deadlifting. I prefer to do the core exercises during the lighter, ramp up sets so that I’m firing on all cylinders when it comes to the heavier stuff.
You should address a lot of this in your warm ups, and continue on between your ramp up pressing sets. I really like pairing face pulls and band pull aparts with presses, as the upper back plays a huge role in stabilizing your shoulder girdle, and that’s pretty important if you want to press to the best of your ability.
Chin Up Variations
A lot of things can work with chin ups, but I like to do anti-rotation core exercises between sets. People often fail on chin ups due to breaking at the low back and hips, and it leads to swinging forward and back, burning gas that would be better spent on pulling us up. Things like Pallof presses, chops, and lifts ensure our core musculature is primed and ready to keep us stable.
Think of your ribs as the top of an egg, and your pelvis as the bottom-if we extend at our lower back and open up, the egg breaks, and we’re not as strong, so doing some work to get the right muscles “activated*,” will help to mitigate this.
Of course any of the plank or rollout options above can work here too. The point is, we want to make our programs more dense and efficient, without sacrificing our performance.
Try reorganizing your program, or join my email list and get free access to my 6 Week Strength Camp, which has a beginner and advanced program where this is all set up for you!
(P.S. The holidays are coming up, so buy yourself or someone you hate a shirt.)