By this time, you should be comfortable with the weights and you should be seeing changes in your physique. You should be seeing new strength levels and new muscle size.
If fat loss was your goal, you should be losing fat and adding muscle. If you're doing cardio, you will find you need to do a little more as your conditioning improves, but only do 45-60 minutes at a time, no more than 5 times a week. This would be an extreme situation where you have a lot to lose. If you don't have to much to lose, it's better from a recovery and progress standpoint to limit cardio to 3-4 sessions a week and 30-45 minutes at a time.
The routine for month #3 is based on the same 3-day split we used last month. Soon, we'll look at a 4-day split, as well as designing your own routines. This month introduces several new exercises and a little more workout intensity. By this time, you should have been steadily increasing the poundages you're using. Many of this month's exercises drop the reps and encourage a very hard final 2-3 reps.
Rep Performance - continuous tension is a new-to-you method of performing a rep: you keep the weight moving, like a piston, slow and controlled but with no pauses at all. Use this technique exclusively during month #3. Be careful when using this technique to not let momentum take over, remember to control your reps.
Month #3 Routine
Split, 3 Days A Week
Here's The Routine:
Why is the split set up like this? Deadlifts work the lower back and legs, as do squats, although each exercise hits these areas differently, so to allow complete recovery, you break it up with a "pushing" day, as well as recovery days. This way, your lower back has a chance to completely recover.
Day 1: Back, Biceps, Forearms, Abs:
Set #1, 15 easy reps, add weight
Set #2, 12 easy reps, add weight
Set #3, 12 easy reps
Do 3 working sets, 6-8 reps each set.
This is a power exercise so you want to begin to push up the poundages, these sets should be tough. On the working sets, do your heaviest set first, drop some weight, then continue. Here's an example of the whole process:
50 lbs x 15 reps
80 lbs x 12 reps
100 lbs x 12 reps
130 lbs x6-8 reps
115 lbs x 6-8 reps
105 lbs x 6-8 reps
- One-Arm Dumbbell Rows:
The weights used are only examples. If you can do 8 reps, don't stop at 6, if you can't do 6, you're using to much weight and if 8 seems easy and you could do more, add weight. I always advocate doing your heaviest set (after warm-ups) first when you are strongest, as opposed doing it as the last set, when you are fatigued.
This is another great exercise to thicken up the back. Review the performance of this exercise on the Bodybuilding.com exercise database to insure correct form. Do 2 warm-up sets of 12 reps, then perform 2 working sets of 8-10 reps each.
- Chins - set a goal of 30 reps. You can do lat pulldowns instead; do 3 sets of 8-10 reps
- EZ curls - 3 sets of 8-10 reps
- Incline dumbbell curls - 2 sets of 8-10 reps
- Reverse curls - 2 sets of 12 reps
- Wrist curls - 2 sets of 12 reps
- Crunches - 3 sets of 25 reps
Day 2: Chest, Deltoids, Triceps, Abs:
- Bench press - use the same pyramiding technique as you did for deadlifts, perform 3 working sets of 6-8 reps
- Incline press - do 2 sets of 6-8 reps
- Incline flyes - do 2 sets of 10 reps
- Overhead press - 1 warm-up set of 15 easy reps, 2 working sets of 8-10 reps
- Dumbbell side laterals - 2 sets of 8 reps; keep your little finger higher than your thumb while doing these, like you are pouring a pitcher of water
- Dumbbell rear laterals - 2 sets of 8 reps
- Triceps pressdowns - 3 sets of 8-10 reps
- Dumbbell extensions - 2 sets of 8 reps
- Crunches - 3 sets of 25 reps
Day 3: Legs, Abs:
- Squats - use the same sets and reps as with deadlifts, except do 4 working sets of 6-8 reps
- Barbell hack squats - 2 sets of 8-10 reps
- Leg curls - 2 sets of 10 reps
- Calf raises - 2 sets of 25 reps; complete range of motion is important
- Crunches - 3 sets of 25 reps
Review the exercise videos on any of the new exercises you are unsure about. Add weight every week as long you can complete the suggested reps in good form.
If you can't add weight every week, shoot for every other week. During this time, you should be making great gains in size and strength, most beginners do. Remember to allow enough time for complete recovery, you grow when you recover, not because of much work you do.
Designing Your Own Routines
After 3 solid months, you can begin to design your own routines. By this time, you've used a number of different exercises, you have access to the Bodybuilding.com exercise database, so you can try virtually any exercise you want.
Designing routines is not hard, you just have to understand how to group your body parts, the best exercises to use and what split to use. Other factors certainly come into play: what are your goals, do you need to bring up any weak points, are still gaining muscle size and if so, how much do you want to gain?
Grouping Body Parts:
When grouping body parts, and if you look at how I've set up the routines, always start with a larger muscle and work down to a smaller one. Most often, the smaller one is involved in the exercises for the big one and you don't want to pre-fatigue the small muscle and limit your strength on the bigger exercises.
As well, always do your basic exercises first, after warm-ups, when your strength is at it's highest. If you're doing legs, for example, and you wait and do squats at the tail end of the workout, how hard will you be able to train on that exercise? How much weight will you be able to handle? Do them first, when you are strong and fresh and you will see the most benefit.
As far as rep performance, you can choose: train as you did in the first few routines, or keep using continuous tension, or lift explosively and lower slowly, or combine all this into your workout.
As to the type of split, I've always liked the basic push/pull/legs setup. Right now, I've changed to a chest/triceps, back/biceps, legs/deltoids split. This is an excellent 4-day split routine because it deals with the one limitation of the 3 day, which is you're doing a lot of work on push day (chest, triceps, deltoids).
Another great set up is to put arms on their own day. All of this points to a very important concept, one you've heard me say before, variety is critical.
Remember, all the millions of programs out there will work, but only for awhile. Then your body adjusts, gains slow down and you have to go to something new, so try to change things up every few weeks.
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As to training intensity, you should perform your work sets to a point where the last rep is impossible to complete, this is called training to positive failure and will greatly speed up results.
Related Increasing Intensity Articles:
In other words, always center your routine around the big, basic exercises and always attempt to move forward in terms of pounds on the bar. There will be a time when you are using enough weight; that's when you introduce advanced techniques.
And, as always, be sure to allow time to recover!
- Legs: Squats, leg press
- Back: deadlifts, power cleans, bent rows, chins
- Chest: bench press, dips
- Deltoids: overhead press, behind the neck press, Bradford press
Here are some of the best exercises for each muscle, these are all basic or compound exercises (meaning they involve several muscles):
You will notice there are no arm exercises listed. While arms come into play in all basic exercises, all arm movements work only the arm muscles, making them isolation exercises.
I hope this guide has provided any new trainers with good information and allowed you to get off to a good start. There is an excellent glossary on Bodybuilding.com, as well as articles for intermediate and advanced bodybuilders. Knowledge is the key to success so always strive to learn more. I've been at this for 28 years and I still have a lot I want to learn.
Thanks for reading.