Are you ready to set up your workout program for serious strength and muscle gains? First, keep it simple – your training does not have to be complicated. Unless you have your heart set on professional bodybuilding, you don’t need multiple split routines or multiple daily workouts. Nor do you need dozens of isolation exercises with countless reps for each muscle.
Instead, divide your body into two parts: upper and lower; and train each part three days each week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; then Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday) and rest on Sundays. When choosing exercises and sets and reps, consider these three classic training approaches: 5×5 training, pre-exhaustion training, and post-exhaustion training.
The 5×5 approach to training dated back to the time of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the first Gold’s Gym and was designed to increase size, strength, and break plateaus. The goal is to hit a muscle group hard three times per week while still providing enough recovery time to promote significant muscle growth. The 5×5 program is simple, easy to remember, and produces reliable results.
Each exercise you can perform in five sets of five reps. Your reps should be performed in a fast, controlled manner using heavier weights. The heavier weight provides more challenges to your muscles during each workout. Fewer reps also allow you to increase weight quickly, so you’ll see strength (and size) gains faster. Performing reps quickly reduces your overall workout time, meaning that you can complete your 5×5 workout in 45 minutes or less.
Your upper body exercises should focus on your chest, back, shoulders, biceps, and triceps. Choose from bench presses, rows, shoulder presses, lateral raises, pulldowns, curls, and tricep extensions.
Your lower body training should target your abs, glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. Include various exercises like squats, deadlifts, lunges, calf raises, leg raises, and planks.
When choosing your exercises and planning the order in which they should be performed, consider these two classic training theories:
Pre-Exhaustion Workout Program
In pre-exhaustion training, you are pre-fatiguing a muscle group using isolation or single-joint exercise first and then finishing with one or two compound or multiple-joint exercises. Using your upper body (shoulders) as an example, start by performing front or side deltoid raises and then finish with standing shoulder (military) presses. Using your chest as an example, begin with dumbbell flyes or cable crossovers and then finish with your heavy bench presses. Remember, in pre-exhaustion training, the isolation exercise you can perform before the compound exercise.
Post-Exhaustion Workout Program
Post-exhaustion training is the total opposite, where you perform the more extensive, multi-joint exercise first, then finish with the more minor, isolation exercise. You exhaust the muscle group first, then target and train the more minor, isolated muscles. Using the previous examples, start with your standing (military) shoulder presses, then finish with front and side deltoid raises. When working your chest, start with your heavy bench presses, then finish with your dumbbell flyes and cable crossovers.