No matter how well versed you become in the strength and conditioning world, it never hurts to get to the bare bones of it all. My niche is the nervous system, but I often learn a thing or two with even the most remedial nervous system lectures.

You've all heard Einstein's maxim to make everything as simple as possible, right? Well, if you're someone who benefits from my programs and methods, this article is for you. Yep, I'm going to strip my principles down to the waxed hoo-hah.

Not only that, but I'm also going to devise a system that you can follow to build bigger, faster, stronger muscles.

Actually, I've been asked quite a few times by the T-Nation bigwigs to write an "Essential Waterbury" article, but I've always been hesitant for one reason or another. I figure there are simply too many variables that determine what kind of training advice I should give to a person.

Let me explain. If someone asks how many reps he should do, and how many times per week he should train each primary muscle group, I'll often reply with:

You get the idea. But I'm learning a better way. When such a question is posed to me, it would probably be more beneficial to the person, and less time-consuming for me, to say something like this:

You see, what that answer does is build a system of principles that people can relate to. Those are concrete parameters, plain and simple. This is precisely the reason why so many people are familiar with the 10 sets of 3 reps that I recommend for hypertrophy.

Sure, anyone could say that 10x3 is nothing more than marketing, hearsay, or hyperbole. But the fact of the matter is the majority of people I've worked with respond well to 10x3. That's why I've recommended it so many times.

It's popular because 10x3 is a system. That's important. It doesn't take a 180 IQ to understand how to do 10 sets of 3 reps. It does, however, take some experience and training knowledge to aimlessly merge through countless parameters in order to figure out what works best for you. That's fine and dandy, but wouldn't you rather just know what parameters have worked for the majority of my clients?

What are becoming ubiquitous in this industry are pieces of advice filled with nothing but ambiguity. You know what? I don't want to follow that trend; I want to devise systems.

The Power of Building Systems

I haven't researched the numbers, but if the Zone Diet isn't the most popular diet of all time, it's damn close. For those of you who're still using an Apple II computer, I'll tell you that the Zone Diet is based on eating a 40/30/30 caloric balance of carbs, protein, and fat with each meal.

The Zone became so popular because it's a system: you eat a 40/30/30 ratio with each meal, regardless of the foods you choose. As such, the food combinations are endless.

Beyond that 40/30/30 balance comes intelligent food selection. Now, I don't want to turn this into a comprehensive review of the Zone Diet, but the foods you ultimately choose will make a big difference on that, or any other, eating plan.

However, many people get great results with the Zone even when their food selections are less than optimal. They get great results because the 40/30/30 system assures that they'll get adequate carbs, protein, and fat with each meal. And getting an adequate balance of macronutrients with each meal is the most important step. Once you get that in place you can start to tweak your food selections.

Do you see where I'm going with this? I hope you do because this type of system should also carry over to your training. First you must get the big stuff in place (i.e., build a system). From there, you can tweak the parameters to meet your specific needs.

Dr. John Berardi beautifully portrayed what I'm talking about when he wrote 7 Habits of Highly Effective Nutritional Programs. In that article he laid out key principles that metamorphose into a nutritional system.

A Quick Rant

If a person asks me for advice on how to build bigger quads, I might tell him to do front squats for 10 sets of 3 reps.

And from that simple piece of altruism, a backlash will sometimes ensue.

I encourage you to give the advice from us coaches an honest try before diving head first into internet attacks. Listen, it's not difficult to tear apart any statement made by any writer. Let me repeat that statement because it's paramount, and I'll even italicize it so you won't forget:

It's not difficult to tear apart any statement made by any writer.

I could do it all day long, and you probably could too. But where does that get us? Nowhere. So fuck that nonsense.

It's time for us coaches to build systems and principles based on what the majority of our clients respond well to. Save the fringe market for one-on-one training sessions. Stick to the advice that your grandpa has surely told you, "Stand for something or you'll fall for anything."

Here's what I stand for.

The Essential Waterbury

Lower Body Movements:

Every fourth week perform nothing but bodyweight exercises for the lower body (pistols, bridges, box jumps, etc).

Lower Body Example for 2x/week

Monday: Front squat, band hip ab/adduction, leg curl, leg press calf raise

Thursday: Single leg dumbbell deadlift, cable hip ab/adduction, seated calf raise

Lower Body Example for 3x/week

Monday: Snatch grip deadlift, band hip ab/adduction, leg press calf raise

Wednesday: Bulgarian split squat, cable hip ab/adduction, leg curl, seated calf raise

Friday: Single leg dumbbell deadlift, machine hip ab/adduction, standing calf raise

Lower Body Example for 4x/week

Monday: Snatch grip deadlift, band hip ab/adduction, leg press calf raise

Tuesday: Bulgarian split squat, leg curl, seated calf raise w/toes out

Thursday: Single leg dumbbell deadlift, machine hip ab/adduction, standing calf raise

Saturday: Front squat, cable hip ab/adduction, reverse hyper, seated calf raise w/toes in

Upper Body Movements

Upper Body Example for 2x/week

Monday: Standing dumbbell shoulder press, chin-up, cable external rotation, push-up plus, EZ-bar reverse wrist curl, dumbbell decline triceps extension

Thursday: Dip, standing cable row, overhead shrug, dumbbell external rotation, dumbbell reverse wrist curl, barbell curl

Upper Body Example for 3x/week

Monday: Standing dumbbell shoulder press, chin-up, cable external rotation, push-up plus, EZ-bar reverse wrist curl, dumbbell decline triceps extension

Wednesday: Dip, standing cable row, overhead shrug, dumbbell external rotation, dumbbell reverse wrist curl, barbell curl

Friday: Wide grip pull-up, standing cable bench press, push-up plus w/Swiss ball, hammer curl, standing dumbbell side raise

Upper Body Example for 4x/week

Monday: Standing dumbbell shoulder press, chin-up, cable external rotation, push-up plus, EZ-bar reverse wrist curl, dumbbell decline triceps extension

Tuesday: Dip, standing cable row, overhead shrug, dumbbell external rotation, dumbbell reverse wrist curl, barbell curl

Thursday: Wide grip pull-up, standing cable bench press, push-up plus w/Swiss ball, hammer curl, standing dumbbell side raise

Saturday: Push press, one arm dumbbell row, decline dumbbell bench press w/neutral grip, preacher curl, band external rotation

Sets and Repetitions

Sets/Reps Example for 2x/week for Hypertrophy

Monday: 8x3*

Thursday: 4x8

Sets/Reps Example for 3x/week for Hypertrophy

Monday: 8x3

Wednesday: 4x6

Friday: 4x9

Sets/Reps Example for 4x/week for Hypertrophy

Monday: 8x3

Tuesday: 3x10

Thursday: 4x6

Saturday: 3x9

Of course there's carryover between muscle groups with different movements. The point I'm making is that for, say, the chest, you could use 8x3 for one movement (bench press for 8x3), two movements (bench press for 4x3, incline press for 4x3), or three movements (bench press 4x3, incline press for 2x3, and decline press for 2x3).

Sets/Reps Example for 2x/week for Maximal Strength

Monday: 5x3

Thursday: 3x5

Sets/Reps Example for 3x/week for Maximal Strength

Monday: 6x2

Wednesday: 3x3

Friday: 3x5

Loading

Frequency

Unloading

Final Words

I encourage you to not focus on any single statement that's been made for lower/upper body movements, sets and reps, loading, frequency, and unloading. All of these principles coalesce into a system. Every statement I've made is this article depends on having all of the other principles in place.

Allow me to take this opportunity to mention the set/rep volumes that I prescribe. When I say something like 8x3, people are often confused whether that means per movement, per body part, or per muscle group. I prefer to use the term "muscle group," even though no single muscle group is isolated in any movement.

When I mention a muscle group, I'm referring to the primarily muscle group that's being trained in any movement. You do bench press for your chest, even though your anterior delts and triceps also play a role. You do chin-ups for your upper back, even though the biceps play a role.

If I told people to perform 8x3 per movement, it can be a little ambiguous. You see, the incline, flat, and decline bench presses are all different movements but they all primarily train the chest. So in order to keep you from doing 8x3 for the three aforementioned movements (24 sets for the chest), I prefer that you think of the primary muscle group(s) that each movement trains.

Now, your job is to put this system to work for yourself and your clients. It's important to note that this article isn't a summary of all my past writings. My methods and principles are constantly evolving so some of this information might surprise you. That's a good thing because this system works!