Don't worry, I haven't turned metrosexual on you. I can't name a single one of those reality show "stars," or even one such show for that matter.

However, despite my limited pop culture knowledge, there's one thing I know about these shows: They're all based on the process of elimination. That is, every week or so, one lousy participant is turned into a laughing stock and dropped out on their ass.

This mass-building workout taps into that whole process of elimination. However, this isn't to throw out the lousiest exercise, but rather a way to autoregulate the training volume of the session (autoregulating means adapting the volume and intensity of the work according to your daily capacities).

This is accomplished by performing a series of four basic strength exercises in the form of a circuit. Between each station, there's also an abdominal exercise, which is used as your rest period (that and the short period of time it takes to move from one station to the next, adjust the weight, and go).

Casting the Exercises

There are two basic exercise options to choose from. Option A is for those who are comfortable with the Olympic lifts, while Option B is for those who aren't quite ready for cleaning and jerking.

Option A

Bench press
Power clean from the hang
Push press (or push jerk)
Snatch-grip deadlift

Option B

Bench press
Front squat
Standing military press
Snatch-grip deadlift

The number of reps per set is 4 to 6. For your first set, start with a load you can lift for 8 to 10 relatively comfortable reps (that should be around 70 to 75% of your maximum).

With each set of an exercise, you'll add 10 pounds and continue to include the movement in the circuit as long as you can get 4 good repetitions.

Closed-Circuit Workouts: How They'll Look

Say you start the first circuit by doing:

1) Bench press (200 pounds for 6 reps)
2) Abdominal movement (e.g. Swiss ball crunch)
3) Power clean from the hang (135 pounds for 6 reps)
4) Abdominal movement (e.g. V-crunches)
5) Push press (135 pounds for 6 reps)
6) Abdominal movement (e.g. Garhammer raise)
7) Snatch-grip deadlift (275 pounds for 6 reps)

Rest 60 to 90 seconds

Now that you've completed one circuit, add 10 pounds to each exercise. So, the second circuit might look like this:

1) Bench press (210 pounds for 6 reps)
2) Abdominal movement (e.g. Swiss ball crunch)
3) Power clean from the hang (145 pounds for 5 reps)
4) Abdominal movement (e.g. V-crunches)
5) Push press (145 pounds for 5 reps)
6) Abdominal movement (e.g. Garhammer raise)
7) Snatch-grip deadlift (285 pounds for 6 reps)

Rest 60 to 90 seconds

As you can see, in the example, our star only got 5 reps on the power clean and push press, but that's still enough to keep them in for the next circuit.

lifting

Power clean from the hang

Again, add 10 pounds to each movement and start a third circuit.

Now, if there comes a point where you fail to get at least 4 good reps, this exercise will be dropped on the upcoming circuit.

For example, let's say that on the third circuit you do:

1) Bench press (220 pounds for 5 reps)
2) Abdominal movement (e.g. Swiss ball crunch)
3) Power clean from the hang (155 pounds for 2 reps)
4) Abdominal movement (e.g. V-crunches)
5) Push press (155 pounds for 4 reps)
6) Abdominal movement (e.g. Garhammer raise)
7) Snatch-grip deadlift (295 pounds for 5 reps)

Rest 60 to 90 seconds

You didn't get at least 4 reps on the power clean, so this exercise (and its following ab movement) will be dropped. The fourth circuit will now only include the bench press, push press, and snatch-grip deadlift. Once again, pop 10 more pounds on the remaining lifts.

So, moving on to the fourth circuit:

1) Bench press (230 pounds for 4 reps)
2) Abdominal movement (e.g. Swiss ball crunch)
3) Push press (165 pounds for 2 reps)
4) Abdominal movement (e.g. Garhammer raise)
5) Snatch-grip deadlift (305 pounds for 4 reps)

Rest 60 to 90 seconds

The push press now becomes our second elimination, which means that we keep only the bench press and snatch-grip deadlift (to which we add 10 more pounds).

lifting

In this example, the push press is the second exercise booted.


The fifth circuit, then, may look something like this:

1) Bench press (240 pounds for 3 reps)
2) Abdominal movement (e.g. Swiss ball crunch)
3) Snatch-grip deadlift (315 pounds for 4 reps)

Rest 60 to 90 seconds

Game over for the bench! Now you only have the snatch-grip deadlift left. Up it by 10 pounds and attempt more sets until you finally fail to get 4 reps.

Around and Around We Go

Most individuals should aim for at least three complete circuits before having to drop exercises (I had this guy drop at three just to avoid the example dragging on like Survivor). If you can't get at least three full circuits, the starting load was excessive for one or several movements. On the other hand, if you can get more than five full circuits, then the starting weight was too light. So, it may require some experimentation at first.

One thing you'll notice is that when the first movement is eliminated, it doesn't take long for the others to follow. This is because, despite doing fewer exercises, each circuit is more difficult due to there being less rest between sets of the same exercise. Of course, there's also the fact that you're actually adding weight!

Reality Show FAQ

1. What will this workout accomplish? What goal is it best suited for?

It's primarily a basic hypertrophy program for individuals who are pressed for time. While it has a strength component to it, it's not a pure limit-strength program because of the short rest intervals.

However, it'll be very effective for individuals needing the capacity to display a high level of strength and power, even in a partially fatigued state. Basketball players, hockey players, mixed martial artists, boxers, and the like can benefit from this program when used from time to time.

2. Do I train to failure?

No! If you're familiar with the recent series of articles detailing my training philosophy (The Thib System 1, 2, 3, and 4, you know that I don't recommend shooting for muscle failure on compound movements such as those included in this program.

However, understand that I define failure as the incapacity to complete a repetition. As long as a repetition is complete, regardless of how hard it was (it has to be technically correct, though), I don't see it as failure.

With this program, let's say that you're able to get three reps on a movement, but this third rep took everything you had to complete; you just know that it'll be impossible to get one more. Then the set is over. You only got three, so you'll have to give it the ol' heave-ho.

Even if you aren't gunning for it, failure might occur once upon a time. That's fine, don't worry about it. You'll probably survive another day.

3. Can I add some isolation exercises for my guns?

With this type of session, I have one simple rule: the "60 minute rule." Meaning, your workout should last, at most, 60 minutes. To know if you can add isolation work, and how much, calculate the time the circuits took and subtract it from the allocated 60 minutes.

If the circuit portion of the workout took you 45 minutes to complete, you have 15 minutes of "free time" in which you can perform any exercise you see fit (preferably movements targeting a glaring weakness).

You don't have to use the entire free time, or any of it. You can simply call it a day after the circuits. But, under no circumstances are you to add more work than the "60 minute rule" allows.

4. Can I use other base exercises?

Sure, but keep the basic movement patterns the same. For example, you can substitute out the bench press for an incline press, decline press, dumbbell press, incline dumbbell press, or floor press. Instead of the snatch-grip deadlift, you can use any other type of deadlift.

One thing you should avoid, though, is using the back squat. Don't get me wrong; I love back squats. But for this program, they aren't ideal because they heavily involve the lower back, which is already being taxed extensively by the deadlift.

5. How many times per week can I do this program?

You can schedule the Reality Show workouts anywhere from one to three times a week.

When using a whole body approach, I don't recommend training two days in a row. So if you opt for that, you'll be training one on, one off. Any one of those workouts can be this circuit. You can also use the circuit once or twice per week and another type of training for the remaining sessions.

A whole body training schedule could take on any of these forms:

Option 1 – Once a Week

Monday: Reality Show circuit
Tuesday: Off
Wednesday: Whole body strength workout
Thursday: Off
Friday: Whole body metabolic (or hypertrophy) workout
Saturday: Off
Sunday: Restart cycle

Option 2 – Twice a Week

Monday: Reality Show circuit
Tuesday: Off
Wednesday: Whole body strength workout (or hypertrophy, depending on your goal)
Thursday: Off
Friday: Reality Show circuit
Saturday: Off
Sunday: Restart cycle

Option 3 – Three Times a Week

Monday: Reality Show circuit
Tuesday: Off
Wednesday: Reality Show circuit
Thursday: Off
Friday: Reality Show circuit
Saturday: Off
Sunday: Restart cycle

You can also fit one weekly circuit workout within the frame of a body part split. For example:

Monday: Reality Show circuit
Tuesday: Off
Wednesday: Chest and back
Thursday: Legs
Friday: Off
Saturday: Arms and shoulders
Sunday: Off

That's a Wrap

The only thing missing from this Reality Show workout are the morally-challenged babes willing to do anything for some camera time (sorry about that).

But, busy individuals with limited training time will efficiently and effectively build some impressive mass without the prime-time drama.