Muscle Up Top, Hustle Down Below

A Hybrid Program for Athletic Lifters

The Mullet Workout

There's an old joke about a mullet haircut: business in the front, party in the back. The programming framework below is kind of like that mullet – physique-oriented up top (upper-body) and performance-oriented down below (lower-body). Call it "The Mullet Workout."

  • The upper-body aspects of the program are designed to maximize muscular development.
  • The lower-body portion is designed to maximize explosiveness and power-endurance.

I've been using this programming for several years. It's for recreational athletes who want to gain muscle while improving their ability to play a field, court, or combat sport, or do a variety of athletic activities outside the gym.

This program involves training four times per week, with no more than two consecutive training days to allow for rest and recovery. There are a number of possible ways to split this up:

  • Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday
  • Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday
  • Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday
  • Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday

This program doesn't involve training more than four times per week because it assumes you're a recreational athlete or weekend warrior and are regularly (once or twice a week) playing or practicing a sport.

That means you should be spending less time in the gym than the guy who's just interested in working out because you also have to account for recovering from the physical demands of your sport.

This program consists of four different workouts, each with a different training focus and theme split:

  • Day 1: Lower Body – Strength and Power
  • Day 2: Chest and Back – Bodybuilding
  • Day 3: Lower Body – Power/Endurance
  • Day 4: Arms and Shoulders – Bodybuilding

Here's a sample workout, followed by an explanation of the finer points.

Perform B, C, and E exercises as tri-sets and perform D and F exercises as paired sets. Perform all indicated sets and reps in a given tri-set or paired set before moving on to the next set. If necessary, rest a bit longer than indicated between sets to complete the designated number of reps with good control.

Day 1: Lower-Body – Strength and Power

  Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A Sprint 5-8 20-30 y. 30 sec.
B1 Barbell Romanian Deadlift (RDL) 4 5-6 45 sec.
B2 Broad Jump (for distance) 4 3-4  
B3 Fast-Hands Plank 4 15-20 sec. 2-3 min.
C1 Dumbbell Reverse Lunge (angled torso) 3 6-8 45 sec.
C2 Lateral Bench Jump 3 8-10/side  
C3 Reverse Crunch 3 10-15 2-3 min.
D1 Reverse Sled Drag 3 40-50 y. 5 min.
D2 Walking Dumbbell Calf Raise (Farmer's Carry Calf Raise) 3 50-60 y. 2-3 min.
E1 Lying Leg Curl Machine 3 8-12  
E2 Seated Hip Adduction Machine 3 8-12  
E3 Arm Walkout 3 5-8 2-3 min.
F1 Horizontal Cable Chop with Hip Shift 2 10-12/side  
F2 Two-Point Horizontal Cable Chop 2 8-10/side 2-3 min.

Coaching Notes

  • For the sprints, jog up to the start cone and then sprint back as fast as you can. I recommend jogging up to the starting point to reduce the potential risk of injury, such as a hamstring strain, that can come from quick starts.
  • B2 and B3 and C2 and C3 are what's known as contrast sets. On the heavy-lift portion (the first exercise in each contrast pair), perform the concentric lifting portion of each rep as forcefully as you can while maintaining optimal technique. Maintain good control during the eccentric (lowering) portion as well. Use a weight that allows you to do the indicated number of reps.
  • Perform the explosive portion (the second exercise in each contrast pair) as powerfully and as fast as you can. If the exercise involves jumping, land as quietly as possible.
  • Refer to Dynamic Training for Abs and Obliques for instructions on how to do exercises F1 and F2 (the horizontal cable chops variation).

Day Two: Chest and Back (Bodybuilding)

  Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A Chin-Up or Pull-Up 4 6-10  
B1 One-Arm Dumbbell Row 4 8-10  
B2 Dumbbell Bench Press or Plate-Load Machine Chest Press 4 8-10 2-3 min.
C1 Seated Row (close grip) 3 10-15  
C2 1.5 Feet on Bench Push-Up 3 Max 2-3 min.
D1 Dumbbell Pullover 3 12-15  
D2 Dumbbell Rear-Delt Flye 3 12-15 2-3 min.
E1 One-Arm Cable Pec Flye 3 12-15  
Place the cable outside your same-side shoulder.
E2 Cable Shoulder External Rotation 3 12-15 2-3 min.

Coaching Notes

  • Focus on the working muscles in each exercise and maintain strict form without cheating. Perform the concentric (lifting) portion of each rep at a normal tempo and maintain control during the eccentric (lowering) portion.
  • Use a weight that allows you to hit the indicated number of reps in each set but no more.
  • On the 1.5 feet on bench push-up, go down all the way, come up half-way, go all the way back down, and come up all the way. That's one rep!

Day 3: Lower Body – Power/Endurance

  Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A 300-Yard Shuttle 2-3   4 min.
Leg Complex
B1 Superband Speed Squat 2-3 20-24  
Move as fast as you can going to roughly parallel on each rep.
B2 In-Place Lunge (alternate legs) 2-3 10-12/side  
B3 Squat Jump (jump as high as you can on each rep) 2-3 10-12  
B4 Small-Box Scissor Jump 2-3 20-24/side 3-5 min.
Use your front foot to propel each jump, stay light on your feet and move fast.
Stability-Ball Hamstring/Glute and Ab Complex
C1 Stability-Ball Leg Curl 2-3 20  
C2 Stability-Ball Hip Bridge 2-3 10  
C3 Stability-Ball Straight-Leg Hip Lift (toes on ball) 2-3 14-20  
C4 Stability-Ball Plate Crunch 2-3 12-15  
C5 Stability-Ball Pike 2-3 10-15  
C6 Stability-Ball Stir the Pot 2.0 2-3 8-12 3-5 min.

Coaching Notes

  • On the 300-yard shuttle, place two cones 25 yards apart. Jog up to the start cone and then sprint as fast as you can back and forth between the cones. On each reversal of direction, touch the cone, alternating hands from one touch to the next. Six round-trips equals 300 yards.
  • Refer to 7 Triple Threat Protocols for an Awesome Burn for instructions on how do the stability-ball hamstring complex and the ab complex.

Day 4: Arms and Shoulders (Bodybuilding)

  Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A1 Low-Cable Upright Row 3 15-20  
A2 Triceps Rope Pressdown 3 10-15 2-3 min.
B1 Low-Cable Triceps Kickback 3 10-15/side  
B2 Low-Cable Front Raise 3 10-15/side  
B3 Dumbbell Biceps Curl 3 10-15 2-3 min.
C1 Low-Cable Side Shoulder Raise 3 10-15/side  
C2 Low-Cable Face Away Biceps Curl 3 10-15/side  
C3 Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extension 3 10-15 2-3 min.
D1 Suspension Trainer Skull Crusher 3 10-15  
D2 Suspension Trainer Biceps Curl 3 10-15  
D3 Dumbbell Side Lying Rear-Delt Flye 3 10-15 2-3 min.
E1 Dumbbell Shoulder Press 2 15-20  
E2 Dumbbell Farmers Walk 2 50-90 sec. 2-3 min.
Use the heaviest load you can manage for this timeframe.

Coaching Notes: Same as Day 2.

Every training day in the workout uses exercises strategically to develop what I call "full-range strength." But I have separate philosophies regarding the lower-body and upper-body workouts.

Lower-Body Workouts

Both lower-body workouts also incorporate abdominal training. The day 1 lower-body workout has a strength and power theme that not only involves some basic plyometrics, but also uses an old training concept referred to as contrast training.

You start with a set of fairly heavy lifts (4-6 reps) and follow it up about 45 seconds later with an unloaded explosive exercise using the same movement pattern and roughly the same number of reps. You might have done the same thing in the past by doing loaded squats and then following them up with bodyweight squats.

The heavier the load you're working against, the slower your movement is forced to become. But to improve your explosive power, you don't just do exercises that involve moving against high loads (strength exercises). You also do exercises that require you to move at high speeds.

As such, contrast training gives you a simple way to train strength (capability to produce force) and power (rate of force development) simultaneously. In addition, the increased work volume can improve your overall work capacity beyond what you'd get with simple strength training.

Keep in mind, though, this program is for recreational athletes who aren't training to be powerlifters, which is why it doesn't just copy what powerlifters do. The principles of specificity dictates that different training goals require different training approaches, and no one training approach is best for all goals. That's why this is a hybrid training program.

And while the strength and power training methods utilized in day 1 are great for improving your strength and explosiveness in short bursts, they're not so great for improving your power endurance (the capacity to produce the same level of power for a longer time, i.e., the length of competition).

In other words, traditional strength and power training methods don't prepare you fully to go five rounds or beat your opponent to the ball at the end of the fourth quarter. However, the training methods in the day 3 workout do help increase your power-endurance because they require you to perform a high amount of effort for extended periods of time, which is exactly what power endurance is.

Upper-Body Workouts

Both upper-body workouts are more like traditional bodybuilding. They're more volume oriented and the exercises involve a weight that allows you to perform about 9-15 reps per set. So, they're more about getting a great muscle pump.