This is a "Shut Up and Train" article. What do I mean by that? Simple. I'm not going to try to teach you anatomy or physiology, or delve into some newfangled aspect of nutrition. This is purely a practical article. I'm going to present what I believe is a simple and effective workout for building size and strength. Whether you follow it or not is entirely up to you, of course.
In fact, I think I'll call it the "Shut Up" program. I like that.
The Shut Up workout is a split, and again, the purpose of this article isn't to debate the merits of a split program or debate TBT vs. Split training as that's already been done at length. If you are interested in the pros and cons of both splits and total body training feel free to check out TBT Vs. Splits: An Analysis or check out the round table discussion.
Who's the Shut Up program for? It's designed for a non-beginner, someone who's intermediate or advanced who's primarily interested in gaining strength and muscle size. My guess is that description fits a large number of people reading this article on this site (it is not called Newbie Nation after all).
I realize that some will want to customize the program or tailor it more toward size or strength. Fine. Do it. But if I include a lot of customization I'd need to provide a lot of explanation and that's not what this article is about. So let's get to the specifics.
First, you need to work out with weights 3 or 4 times a week. I think that four times is generally optimal, so I'm going to start with that. A fifth day can be added that might include cardio or weak point training like forearms or something, but make sure it doesn't interfere with your recovery from the main stuff.
If you're doing four days a week your split will look like this:
- Day 1: Chest and Biceps
- Day 2: Legs and Lower Back
- Day 3: Off (cardio if desired)
- Day 4: Back and Abs
- Day 5: Shoulders and Triceps
- Day 6 and 7: Off
This routine works great as Monday-Friday routine but you don't have to do it like that if you don't want to. You want a minimum of 2 days rest between day 5 and day 1. As you can see, each muscle group is directly targeted once, with the smaller synergistic muscles (delts, biceps, triceps) receiving stimulus twice a week. Smaller muscles usually need less recovery time so this often works well for them.
If you can't do 4 times a week or you simply prefer 3 times a week, here's your suggested split for 3 times a week:
- Day 1: Chest and Back
- Day 2: Off
- Day 3: Legs, Lower Back, and Abs
- Day 4: Off
- Day 5: Shoulders and Arms
- Day 6 and 7: Off
Again, you can make this a Monday through Friday split, as long as you have a day off after each workout day it really doesn't matter that much. Pick the days you can most consistently work out without interruption.
So pick one and get going and don't agonize over the choice. Obviously, you can design your own split but the biggest problem most people make when designing their own split routines is they don't provide for adequate muscle recovery for the smaller muscle groups (doing shoulders the day after chest, for example).
I'm not going to get into exactly how a split should be designed but rest assured both of these plans have adequate recovery built in for the vast majority of people.
On to the Exercises
The exercises for these programs have been selected to match the goals of increased size and strength. If you wish to substitute in your own exercises, go ahead. Just try to avoid switching in an easy exercise and taking out a hard one. I tried to choose exercises that give good results to the majority of people.
Routine 1 – This is the four-day split
|Day 1||Day 2||Day 4||Day 5|
|Bench Press||Squats||Pull-ups||Military Press|
|Dumbbell Incline Press||Deadlifts||45 1/4 Bent Over Row (prefer supinated)||Power Dumbbell Lateral Raise|
|Dips||Front Squats (str) or Leg Press (size)||DB Row (1 arm)||Lateral Raise Machine|
|Cable Crossover||Leg Curl||Shoulder Extension or Pullover Machine||Power DB Rear Delt Raise|
|EZ Curl||Standing Calves||Cable Crunch||Close grip Bench|
|Dumbbell Hammer Curl||Rotary Calf||Hanging Leg Raise||Skull Crushers|
|EZ Reverse Curl||Planks||Reverse Grip Triceps Pulldown|
Note: Ideally, day 3 is a rest day
Routine 2 – This is the 3 day split
|Day 1||Day 3||Day 5|
|Bench Press||Squats||Military Press|
|DB Incline Press||Deadlifts||Power Dumbbell Lateral Raise|
|Dips||Front Squats (str) or Leg Press (size)||Lateral Raise Machine|
|Cable Crossover||Leg Curl||Power Dumbbell Rear Delt Raise|
|Pull-ups||Standing Calves||Closegrip Bench|
|45 Bent Over Row (prefer supinated)||Rotary Calf||Skull Crushers|
|Dumbbell Row (1 arm)||Cable Crunch||Reverse Grip Triceps Pulldown|
|Shoulder Extension or Pullover Machine||Hanging Leg Raise||EZ Curl|
|Planks||Dumbbell Hammer Curl|
|EZ Reverse Curl|
Note: Days 2 and 4 are rest days ideally (and 6 and 7)
A few comments on the exercises: I tried to use the most common names of exercises and I tried to choose exercises or machines that weren't too gym specific.
A cable crossover is where you grab the cables at shoulder height and bring them down in front of you, at waist level, as opposed to a cable fly where you bring them out in front of you as if you were hugging someone.
If you don't like front squats or prefer 1 legged versions of exercises, substitute in step-ups or lunges.
For calves I chose two straight legged exercises to emphasize the gastroc, the more noticeable of the two main calf muscles. If you want, you can do 3 calf exercises – this isn't an article about the finer points of calf development.
Regarding lats, a "shoulder extension" is sometimes referred to as a straight arm lat pulldown, which is an isolation exercise for the lats. If you don't like that movement and don't have a pull-over machine, do another row instead but don't substitute in regular pull-overs.
And if you really love doing shrugs you can add them in, but I find that deadlifting heavy usually takes care of the traps.
For abs you can do any exercises you like, I merely chose 3 that I like. The leg raise can be performed with legs straight or knees bent. The planks I like are: elbows or hands on the ball; toes on the ball; 1 arm planks (like a 1 arm push-up with no movement), and a spread eagle plank where your arms and feet are spread wide apart as you hold yourself in position.
Pick something you can hold at least 15 seconds and work up from there. Once you can do 2 minutes, make it harder.
You can do either a standing or seated military press. Choose standing if you're training for strength. Power raises involve bending the elbows to 90 degrees so you can lift more weight.
Skull crushers are sometimes referred to as lying triceps extensions. Use an EZ bar for them.
Important – these exercises are listed in a specific order. Don't change the order unless you really have to.
As you can see with Routine 2, it has the exact same exercises as Routine 1. This does make for some long days and the chest/back day is pretty brutal. If you don't have the time (or the energy), you can drop 1 exercise for chest and back each, 1 exercise for middle delts, and 1 exercise for biceps and triceps each.
Sets, Reps, etc.
I'm going to give you a 3-week set/rep scheme which can then be repeated – not quite indefinitely, but you should be able to do this routine for 2-4 months without major adjustments. The way I've set it up, there are, depending on the sets and reps performed, two programs, one planned out for strength and the other for size. It's possible to do the size program for three weeks and the strength program for three weeks if you want.
- Week 1: 3 sets of 10 reps; rest 2-3 minutes in between each work set
- Week 2: 4 sets of 5 reps; rest 3-4 minutes in between each work set
- Week 3: 5 sets of 3 reps; rest 3-5+ minutes in between each work set
I would suggest you do 2-3 warm-up sets for the first exercise of the day, and then at least 1 warm-up set for each exercise thereafter. The heavier you lift, the more warm-ups you need.
On week 1, it's more of a conditioning workout so try to keep the rest under 3 minutes.
On the subsequent weeks we'll be training for strength, so go for performance first and make rest time a secondary priority. That means if you need more rest on something like squats or deads or whatever, rest away.
If you're advanced and want to do fewer working sets for the squat or deadlift (or perhaps bench), that's okay, do extra warm-ups instead.
Also if you want to do more reps on the smaller muscles like delts, biceps, and triceps, use the size program for them outlined below. I would, however, still use the outlined set/rep scheme above for the primary exercises for the arms (EZ Curl and Closegrip).
On week 4, simply repeat week 1 but use slightly heavier weight (5 lbs is probably fine). Do this entire 3-week routine 3-6 times, but at a minimum, incorporate a deloading week at least every 3 rounds (9 weeks). Feel free to change the last exercise listed for each muscle group as often as you want, but changing it every 32 weeks is my recommendation.
Change the middle exercises listed every 6 weeks or so depending on how you feel, and keep the first exercise listed the same throughout the program.
- Week 1: 2 sets of 12 reps, resting 1-2 minutes in between each work set
- Week 2: 3 sets of 8 reps, resting 1-3 minutes in between each work set
- Week 3: 4 sets of 5 reps, resting 1-4 minutes in between each work set
Follow the warm-up guideline as listed in the strength program. For size you want to be in a slightly fatigued state during your training so stick with the rest guidelines, using the higher end for the bigger exercises and the lower end for the smaller exercises.
If you're on the size program combined with the 3-day program (Routine 2), you may choose to superset the days, particularly days 1 and 5, on both week 1 of the program and maybe week 2. Don't superset week 3 as the emphasis for that week is on heavier weights.
As I mentioned earlier, the exercises chosen for this program were selected for their ability to increase both size and strength. I could write an entire article about how to select exercises for either of those goals (and I am, in fact, in the process of doing so), so they're not the only choices possible but they seem to work well. The specific exercises in this workout are perhaps a bit more slanted to strength than size.
On week 4 you can choose to repeat the program, either adding 5 lbs to the sets or 1-2 reps per set, or if you choose you can introduce a "shock" week where you do something different for a week, perhaps drop sets or HIT training or volume training (or even a rest week if you need it), and then get back on schedule the following week.
I recommend stretching dynamically and statically at the end of the workout, particularly focusing on any problem areas you have.
I'd also suggest that you make every effort to train with a good training partner as they're invaluable.
Training partners are invaluable, and the gym relationship can lead to a beautiful friendship outside the gym.
Of course eat well, try to get some sleep, take your supplements, and remember training intensity is the single most important variable in any training program. If you do follow a split, you have to make up for the low frequency with a high intensity. There's no way around it. Think about it this way: you only have 50 or so days a year to get your chest bigger and/or stronger so you had better make the most of those days.
That's it. Now Shut Up and hit the gym hard with whatever program you're currently doing. If you decide to try this one, please post your results when you're done, good or bad.