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We are all in the pursuit of the perfect workout routine. You know, the one that gives us continued results forever. If you have been bodybuilding for any length of time you know that there is no such thing. Our body adapts to all workout routines, so eventually you need to switch things up for continued results.
Below I am going to highlight 5 of my favorite workout routines for each muscle group. This will help you break through that training plateau and start putting more muscle on your frame.
When someone needs to increase their leg size I find that all is needed is better form and a full range of motion while doing squats. But we will assume you are already performing full-range-of-motion squats in your routine with good form.
This leg workout starts with ension Pump sets. This is not only a great way to warm up your knees for the squats, that we will do later, but also is excellent for pumping the quads full of blood.
Below is how I perform my pump set with my weights accordingly. Your beginning 2 sets should be on the light side and should be used to warm up the knee joint. When you get to sets 3 and 4 you should definitely be feeling the pump and burn. By sets five and six you should be gasping for air and wishing for the end as the lactic acid burn will be at its max.
- Set 1: 30 reps, 50 lbs, 20 second rest
- Set 2: 30 reps, 100 lbs, 30 second rest
- Set 3: 30 reps, 130 lbs, 30 second rest
- Set 4: 30 reps, 160 lbs, 30 second rest
- Set 5: 20 reps, 200 lbs, 10 second rest
- Set 6: 10 reps, 200 lbs
Now that your knees are warmed up and your quads of pumped to the max with blood it is time to hit the grand daddy of leg exercises, squats. As I said in the beginning, to get maximized leg development one needs to squat deep and in good form on all reps regardless of weight.
Legs grow from both low and high rep training so I tried combining them and the results were incredible. Here is how you perform my hybrid squatting superset with low and high reps:
- Perform 5 reps
- Rest 45 seconds
- Decrease weight
- Perform 20 reps
- Rest 60 seconds
I use 325 for the 5 rep set and 225 for the 20 rep set to give you an idea of the decrease in weight. Remember all reps need to be in perfect form and below parallel.
After the squats we move on to the final Tri-Set. In this Tri-Set we will perform Barbell Stiff-Legged Deadlifts, Walking Dumbbell Lunges and Lying Leg Curls.
We will start with the stiff-legged deadlift. With this exercise you need to make sure you have a little bend in your legs throughout the exercise - get a nice stretch as you lower the weight and as you come back up you contract your glutes by pushing your pelvis forward.
Next is the Dumbbell Walking Lunge. Make sure you have enough room to walk a straight line for at least 20 paces. When performing this exercise take one step forward and drop your back knee - don't step and lean forward. Focus on keeping your weight on your back toe and your front heel.
The last exercise in this tri-set is the lying leg curl. When performing this exercise I like to explode on the curl by doing the positive part of the rep as fast as I can, then hold the contraction and then slowly lower the negative making sure to get a full stretch on the negative. Below are the sets, rep ranges and rest periods I like to use for this tri-set.
- Barbell Stiff-Legged Deadlifts: 10 reps
- Walking Dumbbell Lunges: 20 paces
- Lying Leg Curls: 10 reps
No rest between Exercises and only 45 seconds rest after the Tri-set.
- Barbell Stiff-Legged Deadlifts: 12 reps
- Walking Dumbbell Lunges: 25 paces
- Lying Leg Curls: 12 reps
No rest between Exercises and only 45 seconds rest after the Tri-set.
- Barbell Stiff-Legged Deadlifts: 15 reps
- Walking Dumbbell Lunges: 30 paces
- Lying Leg Curls: 15 reps
Once you finish all of that you should be crawling to the locker rooms, but still have a smile on your face because new muscle growth in your legs is in your near future.
I find that when most people hit a plateau with their shoulders a big culprit is overtraining. Shoulder assist in many other exercise and also are widely used during your everyday life. The program below is short, sweet and complete, hitting all three heads of your shoulders.
I like doing this routine in Tri-set fashion with no rest between exercises. The exercises I like to use are (in this order):
- Standing Barbell Military Press
- Wide Grip Upright Rows
- Seated Bent Over Rear Deltoid Flyes
When performing the Standing Barbell Military Press make sure that you use a full range of motion and bring the bar all the way down to your upper chest. This makes the exercise a lot harder but more effective.
Next is the Wide Grip Upright Row. Grip the bar with an overhand grip about 6 inches wider than shoulder width apart. Widening the grip like this takes more stress off the traps and places it on the medial heads of the shoulders. When performing this exercise make sure that you pull the bar straight up along your torso. The reps should end at the middle-to-upper chest.
The last exercise in this Tri-set is the Seated Bent Over Rear Deltoid Flyes. To perform this exercise you sit at the end of a bench with Dumbbells between your legs, while bending over do a reverse flye keeping your elbows up and contract your rear deltoids. Make sure you don't pull too far back and engage your back or you will take all the stress off your rear deltoids and place it on your middle back.
Perform 4 Tri-Sets All Together:
- Standing Barbell Military Press: 8 Reps
- Wide Grip Upright Rows: 12 Reps
- Seated Bent Over Rear Deltoid Flyes: 15 Reps
No rest between Exercises and only 60 seconds rest after the Tri-set then repeat.
The back is a complex muscle group and because of that you need to hit it from all angles on a regular basis. Sometimes though you just need to pull some heavy weight from the floor or the rack to make your back grow.
The workout below doesn't have many exercises or the use of any of those fancy machines that are littering most gyms these days. You will see 3 exercises and 2 are almost identical but I promise if you push yourself to the max on each and every set you will make improvements to your back.
The first 2 exercises, deadlifts from the floor and rack deadlifts, are done in superset fashion. You first start by setting up your weight, one bar for the floor and one in the rack. Weight is going to be the same for both exercises. Set the pins for the rack deadlifts so that the bar hits just below your knee.
When performing both styles of deadlifts I like to use no shoes because I have better balance. I use straps so I don't have to worry about my grip. I keep the weight on my heels, back straight never rounded and drive my pelvis forward as I lift the weight from the floor or the rack.
Normally you will be able to use more weight with the rack deadlift than the floor deadlift because the range of motion is shorter, but when you perform the floor deadlifts first you will tax your body so much that the weight seems twice as heavy as normal on the rack deadlifts.
To do this properly you need to pick a weight that makes you fail in the desired rep range for the floor deadlifts. You should not be able to do anymore floor deadlifts once you have finished that part of the superset. Then you move to the rack deadlifts with the same weight. We perform 6 sets of this superset in pyramid fashion.
No rest at all between exercises.
- Floor Deadlifts: 12 reps
- Rack Deadlifts: 12 reps
- 90 seconds rest
- Floor Deadlifts: 10 reps
- Rack Deadlifts: 10 reps
- 90 seconds rest
- Floor Deadlifts: 8 reps
- Rack Deadlifts: 8 reps
- 90 seconds rest
- Floor Deadlifts: 6 reps
- Rack Deadlifts: 6 reps
- 90 seconds rest
- Floor Deadlifts: 5 reps
- Rack Deadlifts: 5 reps
- 90 seconds rest
- Floor Deadlifts: 4 reps
- Rack Deadlifts: 4 reps
After that grueling superset you probably could go home and see growth but I like to finish this workout with some old fashion bodyweight wide grip pullups.
Deadlifts are a complete back workout but place most of the emphasis on back thickness while the wide grip pull-up helps widen the back. I take an overhand wide grip on the bar. I use straps as always again so I don't have to worry about my grip. I arch my back and pull myself up and try to touch my upper chest to the bar.
I perform 3 sets all to failure with my bodyweight only.
This workout might not be as long and complex as most of the back workouts you see out there but I promise with hard work on these basic exercises in this manner you will see new growth.
I call this my Heavy/Pump/Stretch chest workout. I start with heavy barbell flat and incline bench press then pump my chest up with cable crossovers and finish by stretching out the chest with dumbbell pullovers.
The Heavy sets in the beginning help recruit the fast twitch muscle fibers. While the lighter higher rep sets with the cable crossovers help recruit the slow twitch muscle fibers. I find that when the chest is pumped to the max and then stretched with the dumbbell pull-overs it help stretch the fascia covering the muscle which results in new muscle growth.
First up is Flat Barbell Bench Press. Keys to performing both this and the incline version properly are to make sure your shoulders are pinched back on the bench at all times with your chest high, butt firmly on the bench at all times (a little arch in your back), and feet on the floor at all times. Lower the bar to your middle chest on the flat version and upper chest on the incline version.
Pause at the bottom and explode to near lockout on all reps. Make sure that you control the negative and never bounce the weight off your chest.
After performing those 2 exercises we move on to cables crossovers which we will perform in triple drop set fashion. Choose a weight that you can perform 12 solid reps on. When you are done with your first 12 reps lower the weight by about 25% and then squeeze out another 8 reps again. When you are finished lower the weight by 25% and then squeeze out as many reps as possible.
I find the best way to explain how to perform a cable crossover is to hold a cable attachment in each hand and perform a crab most-muscular pose. Really try to squeeze everything out of your chest on each rep.
Finally we move on the Dumbbell pullover. Lie on a bench, head over the end, with your feet flat on the floor. Lower the dumbbell in a semicircular motion toward floor. Go as low as you can without pain. This is where you get that amazing stretch that stretches out the fascia tissue for new growth. On the positive part of the exercise make sure you contract your chest or your lats will take over in the exercise.
Some believe this exercise can stretch out the rib cage, I am not sold on that idea but I do believe the dumbbell pull-over is an excellent exercise to stretch out the chest for new growth.
- Barbell Flat Bench Press: 3x4
- Barbell Incline Bench Press: 3x5
- Cable Crossover Triple Drop set: 2x 12-8-failure
- Dumbbell Pullovers: 3x12
Everyone wants to put another inch on their arms and has probably tried some crazy routines to get that extra inch. The routine below has the right mix of exercises for new growth in your arms.
For this arm workout we are going to use six exercises - three for biceps: Barbell Curl, Incline Dumbbell Curl, and Dumbbell 21 Curls; and three exercises for triceps: Close Grip Bench Press, Decline Triceps Extensions and Reverse Grip Pushdowns. I like to superset between a biceps and triceps exercise with minimal rest, this results in an enormous pump in your upper arms.
The first two exercises that I like to superset are the barbell curl and the close-grip bench press. These exercises are the squats of arm training. I believe without these exercises you will never reach your full potential in arm development so I like to do them first when I am fresh and am able to use maximum poundage.
With the barbell curl I take an underhand grip on the bar about shoulder width apart. I pull back my shoulder and keep my chest out so the front deltoids don't assist in the exercise too much. I curl getting a nice squeeze and contraction at the top and lower under control.
Always make sure that you control the negative. With the close-grip bench press I take a grip about 3-4 inches closer than shoulder width apart. When lowering the weight I make sure that my elbows are pinch in against my body and bring the bar down about 2-3 inches from my middle chest and press to near lockout on each rep. Remember we never want to lock out a joint because it takes the stress off the target muscle and places it on the joint.
The next two exercises are the incline dumbbell curl and the decline triceps extensions. I like doing the curl on the incline and the extension on the decline because these plans maximize the range of motion for each exercise.
For the incline dumbbell curl set a bench at a 60-75 degree angle. As you sit down and take grip of the dumbbells you will notice that the angle of the bench makes it so your shoulders are already pinched back. This places the stress of the curl on the bicep completely with little if any front deltoid assistance.
As with barbell curl, curl to the top, squeeze the contraction and lower under control. The negative on this exercise is amazing.
For the decline triceps extension set a decline bench at it maximum decline. Place the weight on the floor behind the decline bench, place your feet in the restraints and lower yourself on to the bench.
Reach back grab the bar with both hands about 6-10 inches apart and in a pull-over motion bring the bar to your middle chest. Once it is there press the weight straight up. While keeping your elbows perpendicular to the floor, lower the bar to your hairline. Once you are about 1 inch from your head, reverse your motion to near lockout.
Make sure that your forearms are the only part of your arm that is moving. Most people make the mistake and use too much weight and turn this exercise into a hybrid extension and pullover. To make sure this doesn't happen, your elbows should be pointing at the ceiling at all times.
The last two exercises are great for pumping up the arms and an excellent way to finish off a great arm workout. To perform a Dumbbell 21 Curl, grab a pair of dumbbells, curl half way up in hammer fashion (palms facing your body) for 7 reps, then supinate your wrist so your palms are facing the ceiling and perform 7 reps from the half way point of the range of motion to full contraction.
Once you have finished the 7 reps, combine the exercises and perform the entire range of motion. The first half of the rep should be done in hammer fashion then supinate your wrist and perform the second half as a regular curl. Make sure when you lower the weight you remember to supinate your wrist back to hammer fashion as you finish the second half of the negative.
The Reverse Grip Push-down is a basic push-down, but when you take a reverse grip it places the emphasis of the lift on the long outer head of the triceps. This really gives the triceps that full look from all angles.
Keys to this exercise are to make sure your elbows are tight to your sides, elbows point to the floor at all times and hold the contraction at the bottom for 2-3 seconds on each rep. Below is the routine I follow for new Muscle growth in my arms.
Make sure to alternate which muscle you work first in the superset series from workout to workout.
- Barbell Curl Close Grip Bench Press: 4x8
No rest between exercises and only 60 seconds rest between sets.
- Incline Dumbbell Curls Decline Tricep Extensions: 3x10
No rest between exercises and only 45 seconds rest between sets.
- Dumbbell 21 Curls/Reverse Grip Pushdowns: 2x15
No rest between exercises and only 30 seconds rest between sets.
There it is, five great workouts to help you bust through that plateau for new muscle growth. I am not going to promise you an inch on your legs or arms like Arnold, but what I will promise is - if you use these workouts combined with a proper diet and supplementation regime and enough rest - that you will indeed see new muscle growth in the near future!