Have you heard about that new workout? You know the one I’m talking about, the one from that guy on TV that did that thing. A friend of mine did and says it’s totally brutal; he pukes every time he does it so it must work. Does this sound familiar? Everywhere I turn these days there’s a new workout being advertised and marketed online, on television, and from bookstore shelves. In the growing sport of Obstacle Racing and CrossFit it seems the more painful and damaging the workout the more popular it is. People line up and pay to be abused and beaten into submission, sometimes hundreds of dollars. Why? That’s the question I’m asking.
Most people lining up at the gym today aren’t interested in reenacting military obstacle courses and pretending to be Olympic champions. Most people just want to look better, they want to lose some weight, add some muscle, and be more attractive. For them, the people in the real world of fitness, there are simple routines, old exercises that are still around because they work. There’s no need to join the line for the next big thing when there are so many proven routines out there. Real results are still obtainable if you’re willing to put the time and discipline in. I salute all the Obstacle Racers and CrossFitters out there. I’m one myself and enjoy it immensely, but most of my clients don’t. They want simple practical exercises.
Below is an old-school workout routine designed to add muscle and noticeable strength. It’s composed of eight moves that work and have been tried and tested in gyms across the world. If you want to add muscle, and burn fat then follow this simple workout four days a week. Feel free to do some cardio on your off days but for maximum results I would recommend doing your cardio workout on the same day as your strength routine either in the morning or evening. This will give your body a solid day to rest and repair after every workout. It is composed of eight moves to be done with the maximum weight you can lift for 5 to 8 repetitions. You’ll do 3 sets of each move resting 60-90 seconds after every set but no more.
1. Dumbbell or Barbell Clean and Press- I use a Barbell because it allows me to use heavier weight, but heavy dumbbells will be just as effective if you have them and encourage the recruitment of more stabilizing muscles in your shoulder and joints. Pay attention to your form here and focus on squeezing your shoulders and trap muscles at the top for maximum effect.
2. Barbell Squat- Ideally you want to go as heavy as you can here. This is an old school move that works because it recruits most of your body to hold, stabilize and push the weight up. If you don’t have a squat rack, substitute dumbbells or lighter weight, just remember that whatever weight you put on the bar you will have to lift over your head to position it properly.
3. Straight Leg Deadlift- This is another old standby that simply works. While you don’t want to use the same volume of weight as you would in a standard Deadlift it still is a great workout for the hamstrings, lower, back, traps, and shoulders. It’s also a great exercise to build grip strength. If you’re looking for the most bang for your buck substitute this move with a regular Deadlift just be sure to rest between your squats and this move and between sets as well.
4. Chest Supported Row- If you’re not used to Bent Over Rows, be sure to use this version. It will allow you to row heavy weights without risking back injury. I prefer Bent over barbell rows but you must pay attention to your form being sure not to round your lower back. This is a great exercise not only for your upper back and rear deltoid muscles, but your core and quads as well as they must work to stabilize your body during this move. This move works best if you have an adjustable multi-position bench. Simply set it to incline then straddle the bench with your chest facing the bench lean forward grab the dumbbells or barbell if your bench allows one and row.
5. Pullup- this is probably the greatest exercise for your back out there. It primarily recruits the large Lattimus Dorsi muscles of your lower and middle back to pull you up. However it also fires your biceps, rear deltoids, traps, and core to stabilize and assist in the movement. This is an exercise that either you can do or you can’t. If you can’t; substitute this move with the Lat Pull down Machine, but be sure to kneel instead of sitting while doing the movement. You can also utilize flexed arm hangs or negative pull-ups to help strengthen your back and ease into the full exercise. Also assisted pull-ups using bands, benches, or machines can help you work up to the full movement if you have access to a gym. Just a hint though grip and bicep strength will go further to help you in this movement than just your back. If you cannot do a pullup work on your strength in your arms and forearms.
6. Barbell Bench Press- This move is pretty self explanatory and universally well known. It is probably the most used men’s exercise out there and absolutely essential for developing chest size and definition. I recommend however that you start with pushups. If you can’t do at least ten push-ups stay off the bench press bar until you can. I know a college strength coach that will not even allow his players to use the bench press until they are capable of doing 100 pushups. Though seriously underutilized, the push-up is a great exercise to develop size, definition and strength in your chest. It also works the front and middle deltoid muscles, and core. You can elevate your feet for decline pushups to shift more of your bodyweight onto your chest and arms and even do them off a Swiss ball to really torch your muscles as they struggle not only to raise your torso but stabilize it.
7. Barbell Curl- Do this move in your workouts along with pull-ups and your biceps will soon be jacked! Many people suggest a dedicated curl bar but ultimately it’s unnecessary. Focus on explosively curling the bar each rep then slowly lowering it back down again. Keep your elbows tucked and locked close to your ribs and concentrate on not rocking. If you have to rock to curl you have too much weight on the bar. Leave your ego at home with this move you’re only cheating yourself when you cheat your form.
8. Farmer’s Walk- There’s a reason this simple move is included here, because it works. There are some who say this move is too simple but I guarantee that if you split your bodyweight in iron between your two arms and walk a hundred yards carrying the load, every muscle in your body will have an opinion about it. Choose the heaviest weight you can carry for 100 steps. Then repeat three times for this move. You can even try walking on your tiptoes to put more focus on your calves and quads. Another variation is to shrug your shoulders with each step or for the whole walk. You could also curl the weights up with each step. The possibilities are endless and the point is to move a lot of weight a good distance.
Try this workout the next time you hit the gym and see how it feels. This is just an old fashioned mass building workout. It’s still around because it still works. It’s simple practical and can be done anywhere.