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The Omnimorphic Training Guide (OTG)!

Welcome to the omnimorphic training guide. Here I'll be outlining exercises, routines, diet, little tips and tricks, and pretty much everything the omnimorph will need to achieve optimal success in the gym. We're starting out with mass building.

Welcome to the omnimorphic training guide. Here I'll be outlining exercises, routines, diet, little tips and tricks, and pretty much everything the omnimorph will need to achieve optimal success in the gym. We're starting out with mass building. This won't be some science manual like many other articles.

I'll locate the muscles, group muscles that work together as one (there's really no need to separate the teres major from the latissimus dorsi, is there?). I won't list EVERY exercise (there are far too many, in my opinion, that really needn't be trifled with), so I'll outline what I consider the most effective.

Why omnimorphic? Because I think soma typing is useless. Everyone will grow with adequate rest and calories. There is no such thing as a hardgainer, just someone who doesn't rest and eat enough. Genetics are nothing more than fiber ratios, so the key to getting some serious growth is to find out what rep range and workout frequency works best for you.

    Note: Each exercise will be labeled stretch, midrange or contraction depending on where the bulk of the stress is on the muscle in the movement. I'll explain why this is important later in routine construction. Click on the blue underlined text for pictures!


Someone once said the best people to ask on how to train calves are not those with the best, since those are generally the same people who don't have to train them at all to get growth. In light of that, I'll outline what I believe to be the best moves for calves.

    FUNCTION: The calves raise you up onto your toes, the muscle itself working to straighten your foot out parallel with your lower leg.

Standing Calf Raises
Type of move: Midrange

This is the bread and butter lift for calves. Every gym has this machine, if yours doesn't then find a way. It's pretty straightforward, just get the pads on your shoulders and stand up on your toes. Make sure the pads are set low enough to get a full stretch. Too often I see folks doing these little half reps with a few hundred pounds, using the elasticity of the tendons to get a little bounce out and call it a rep.

It's the equivalent of holding a bar about halfway above your chest and moving it up and down an inch or so. That said, don't be afraid to put some weight on there.

Calves are strong for their size, and can move a good deal of weight. As with most lifts, get a full stretch at the bottom and then a really good contraction at the top. And if you don't have a machine, use a bar on your shoulders and stand on a wooden block or a plate.

Donkey Calf Raises
Type of move: Stretch

A wonderful, if underused, calf move. There is simply no exercise that gets the kind of stretch you will feel here. The machine (for those of you unfamiliar with it) is like a standing machine, only you bend over 90 degrees at the waist, and the pads go on your lower back. The same rules apply here, don't wimp out and do micro-reps. The stretch will be intense, and that's a good thing. Every muscle develops best through a full range of motion, so don't think you can cheat on calves and expect any growth from them.

Leg Press Calf Raises
Type of move: Stretch

A substitute, I suppose, for donkey raises. These will put you in about the same position, but instead of your body moving, the sled does. Still a good lift, though, and since my gym has no donkey calf machine, this is where I frequently finish them off.

You'll notice I don't have seated calf raises here, and there's a reason for that. Anyone who's done them can tell you where the contraction is felt most: lower calf, around the Achilles tendon. While this may not seem like a bad thing, realize that if your ankle area gets to be 10 inches or so, actual calf mass becomes optically smaller.

In bodybuilding the illusion of size is just as important as the size itself, so that's why I excluded them. Some will argue that they are good for support strength, but I'm willing to bet you'll never find a powerlifter slaving away at seated calf raises.

    REPS AND SETS: Calves are a serious controversy for most people. Some say super-high reps, some say super low. I personally don't believe they're anything special, but that a little extra is a good idea. Keep the reps around 10-12, but don't rest nearly as long as you would for other muscles. 30 seconds between sets is plenty.


A muscle that far too few people train. People pull their hams all the time because generally people train legs with leg presses only, and hence they get these strong quads but weak hams, and muscle imbalances like that always lead to injury. Hamstrings are the biceps of the leg, and should be treated as such.

FUNCTION: The hamstrings pull your lower leg up against your rear, much like the biceps do with the arm. As such, they are involved in keeping the body balanced any time your legs are bent or your body is bent over, and

    hence don't need as much direct work as most give them unless they are far behind.

Standing/Lying Leg Curls
Type of move: Contraction
Auxiliary muscles: Glutes, calves.

These exercises are just about the same, save the orientation of your body (horizontal or vertical). It's also rather difficult to do standing leg curls with both legs at once. Being a machine exercise it doesn't take much explanation for how to do it, simply lay (or stand) with your legs behind the pads of the machine, and curl back toward your rear. Get a good strong contraction, and lower to just short of lockout. Lockout here, like for many other moves, takes pressure off the desired muscle, so doing so is counterproductive.

Do them one leg at a time, both legs at once, change it up, whatever works best for you. Straightening your toes out or pulling them in changes the stress marginally, so don't think too much about it. Keep your mind in your hamstrings, focusing more on contraction than moving the stack.

Stiff-Legged Deadlifts
Type of move: Stretch
Auxiliary muscles: Glutes, Lower back, calves.

There is a big rift between people in how this move should be done. Some say keep the knees locked out, some say keep them slightly bent. I tend to fall into the latter category, since I find that when sufficient weight is used to stress the hamstrings the knees don't like the extreme pressure on them.

The movement is much like that of a regular deadlift: Bend over with a bar, straighten back out. The stance and leg movement is all that changes. Keep your legs tight together, heels against each other. Knees just bent enough to keep them unlocked, but don't bend them any more. Grab the bar at least at shoulder-width, maybe more depending on your flexibility and straighten out. Go slowly; keep your back arched like a regular deadlift.

The important concept here again is concentration in the hamstrings. The mind is a powerful thing: if you don't feel the muscle working, it isn't. Make sure you think the weight into your hamstrings instead of your back, or it's a wasted move.

Lunges, squats, good mornings and hyperextensions also work, but I will outline them more in the back section. These are the core lifts for the hams.

    REPS AND SETS: I'd suggest going into the 10 to 12 rep range for hamstrings. The reason being that the main lifts that they are used as a stabilizer are squats and deads, which are traditionally low rep moves, and will be described as such. Set-wise, hamstrings don't need set after set. They will be used heavily on back day in stabilizing just about every move, and with nearly every quad exercise as well, so they really need less work than most would think, unless they are a trouble area, in which case it would be easier to just shift hamstrings to first in the workout.


Few words strike fear into the hearts of all men. Among them are "period" "marriage" and "leg day." This is a fear based on the fact that most people consider leg movements to be a full-body exertion, rather than just thinking of the quads as muscles like any other. People think of squats and such as efforts on their very being, and hence wimp-out before the proper work is done.

With the right mindset, leg day can be considerably less painful. Moreover, a well-done leg day is one of the most satisfying feelings in all of bodybuilding. I will not be listing the glute moves separately, since a lack of glutes is a rare problem and all quad moves done with a full range of motion activate them sufficiently.

    Function: The quadriceps serve to pull the lower leg parallel with the upper leg, like kicking straight out. There are other muscles on the thigh that pull the upper leg up against the body, but these are not the quadriceps, per set.

Type of movement: Midrange
Auxiliary muscles: Abs, glutes, hamstrings, calves, lower back

THE leg movement. If you don't squat, you're short changing yourself. It's an exercise surrounded by misconceptions and a good bit of fear. Squats are not bad for the knees, the opposite is actually true. Squats strengthen the muscles and tendons around the knees and protect them from injury. Another lie is that you needn't go the full way down. This is an excuse made by people who ego lift.

Simply put, if you don't go the full way down, not only will you not activate all the muscles you could otherwise, but you'll set yourself up for serious injury. When the weight gets high, and the knees aren't strong enough to handle the weight through a full range of motion, the odds are higher that tendons will pop. One more thing, do not use either a Smith machine or a pad on the bar. Use a bare bar, put it on your shoulders, not your neck and squat.

Keep your feet around shoulder-width apart, sternum up, stick your butt out and go the whole way down. People will make excuses that height makes full squats difficult. I'm 6-foot-1 or so, and I squat the whole way down with my feet close to each other, so don't even try it. Don't worry about pointing your toes in any specific direction, however you normally stand is fine. No plates or wood under the heels, either, as this DOES increase pressure on the knee and will lead to injury.

Hack Squats (machine)
Type of movement: Midrange
Auxiliary muscles: Abs, glutes, hamstrings, calves, lower back

Think of it like an upside-down leg press of sorts. This movement places more emphasis on the quadriceps than the glutes, with even more emphasis on the outer sweep of the quads (the muscle on the outside of the leg). It's a machine exercise, hence easy to understand.

Simply stand on the machine facing away from it, shoulders under the pads, feet straight in line with your body, knock out the supports and squat the full way down. Because the back stays straighter than in a regular squat, you will feel it more heavily in the quads than elsewhere.

Front Squats
Type of movement: Midrange
Auxiliary muscles: Abs, glutes, hamstrings, calves, lower back

A squat with the bar in front of your head instead of behind. Use either the rack grip (arms in front of you, bent back with hands under the bar at your shoulders) or a regular grip (arms bent and supporting the bar from above). Everything else is the same, but you will find that you use less weight and bend over less, since there is now more pressure on your quads, particularly the teardrop (inner part of the quadriceps).

Type of movement: Midrange
Auxiliary muscles: Abs, glutes, hamstrings, calves, lower back

Almost like 1-legged squats. With the bar on your back in the same manner as a squat, either step out in front, or backward and squat down with the front leg (regardless of whether you step in front or behind, the front leg is the one doing the work). This is less for quads as it is for the glutes, but I categorize it here anyway. Don't worry about going too far apart with your legs, just don't go too heavy.

Leg Extensions
Type of movements: Contraction
Auxiliary muscle: Abs

This is the quad movement that most use when they are afraid to squat. But it's also one of the best quad finishers there are, being the only true quad isolator, and it oddly enough activates more quad muscles than any other movement, bringing in the rectus femoris (the two smaller middle quad muscles) into play, as well as those "other" thigh muscles mentioned earlier.

Another machine move, simply sit there, shins against the pads and straighten your legs out. Being an isolation move, it's a wasted movement to go quickly and with sloppy form, more so than other moves. Here you have to be sure to go to full extension, the bulk of the stress at the top of the movement, and pause for a split second to get that contraction deep in the muscle.

Sissy Squats
Type of movement: Stretch
Auxiliary muscles: Abs, glutes, hamstrings, calves

This is the only stretch movement for the quads, and I dare any of you to finish leg day with it and not squeal like a girl. Its name is appropriate, since it requires no weight at all. It's a little difficult to put into words, but try to understand as well as you can: Hold onto something upright for stability (a support on a cable machine works well), and stand on your toes.

Without bending at the hips, bend your knees and lean backwards as far as you possibly can, then stand back up. It's a difficult movement at first, but just keep at it. Use it as the last exercise in a quad routine, and it will serve you well.

Quads are a complex muscle system, and frequently incorporate the glutes as well. Again, just think of them like other muscles, instead of like a full- body exhaustion, and you should have no problems trudging through leg day. Yes I know I left out leg presses, but I think if you squat, leg presses are unnecessary, and will only overdo the glutes.

    REPS AND SETS: Being a larger muscle, quads will take more sets than most others. This doesn't necessarily mean ridiculously high amounts of sets, but it means at least 8. Three sets of three exercises is a good way to start. Rep-wise, change it up a lot. A rule of thumb is to start with a compound movement with low reps (between 4 and 9), and for the last set for quads use high reps (15-20).

Back (lower)

    Function: The lower back straightens the upper body parallel with the lower body. It's used in a multitude of exercises, and hence only need a few to work it sufficiently.

Type of movement: Midrange
Auxiliary muscles: Calves, hamstrings, glutes, quads, abs, forearms, biceps, deltoids, traps, lats …

The deadlift is the only true full-body exercise. It encompasses every muscle in the body to some degree, and strongly hits everything except for the chest and triceps. It's the simplest exercise to understand, but one of the most difficult to do correctly. Basically put, the deadlift is just picking up a barbell. There is one MAJOR caveat, though: Do NOT round your lower back.

The lower back must stay arched at all times. How far you squat down affects the amount of lower back activation. Using an over/under grip (if you use straps an overhand grip works fine), bend down, grab the bar and stand back up. Don't lean back, as that will cause undue stress on the vertebrae and discs in the spine. There is also the idea that the full deadlift is unneeded for bodybuilders. I tend to agree. There is no stretch portion of a deadlift, so half-deads work just as well. Put the pins in a power rack to the desired height and lift the bar from there.

Type of movement: Stretch
Auxiliary muscles: Hamstrings, glutes, calves, neck

Think of this like a deadlift with far more torque. The motion is just about the exact same as in a stiff-legged deadlift, but instead of the bar being under you, it's on top of your shoulders like in a squat. The same rules for back position are true here, arched and tight throughout the movement. Some use this move as a hamstring exercise due to it's similarity to the SLDL.

Type of movement: Contraction
Auxiliary muscles: Hamstrings, glutes, calves, neck

A good-morning in reverse, the hyperextension has no stress at the bottom of the movement and all the stress at the top. As such, it makes a great finisher. There should be a machine for these in your gym, probably one you often see people doing ab work on: A pad in the middle, two handles on either side and slightly in front, and two leg pads in the rear. Lay with your stomach on the middle pads, bend over and straighten out again.

The difference here is that you don't have to completely avoid back-rounding here. Go ahead and let your back assume a natural position through the whole movement. As for adding weight, the easiest ways are to either hold a dumbbell against your chest, or to put a small (!) barbell across your neck like in a good morning. I say small because putting a large barbell there is difficult and will potentially hurt your head a bit. And not much weight is really needed with the bar on your neck.

The lower back is used in a bunch of moves. Any type of rowing, many leg moves. There aren't a great deal of isolation moves for it, but you still need them to assure maximal growth.

    REPS AND SETS: No matter what, include around three sets of deads, counting a warmup. That's the main move for your lower back, and for that matter everything else in your body. Every muscle is stimulated by deadlifts. After that it really depends on what you'd prefer. I usually end my lower back workout with hyperextensions, being sort of the opposite of deadlifts, the main contraction at the top, two sets of those. Rep-wise, deadlifts can go pretty low in reps, I often do doubles or singles. For good mornings and hypers, 9-12 reps works well, and don't forget to make that last set for lower back (like any other body part) 12 reps or more.

Back (upper)

    Function: The various muscles in the upper back (lats, teres major, lower traps) pull the shoulder blades together and pull the arms backward. I don't separate the movements because I think both should be done in any upper back movement. There's no reason to separate lats from lower traps.

Barbell Rows
Type of movement: Contraction
Auxiliary muscles: Biceps, forearms, hamstrings, lower back, abs, traps

Many people think the pull-up or pull-down is the best and most basic movement for the upper back, while I differ, for a few reasons. This exercise will indeed utilize more muscles (particularly in the inner back) than pull-ups, and will generally utilize more fibers in the muscles themselves.

It's also one of the least understood and least utilized exercises, even rarer to see with proper form. There are two types of bad rows: Standing straight up and pulling the bar a whole inch into their stomachs, or bent over enough, but using a great deal of lower back strength so the upper back is almost eliminated from the move except at the top. Ronnie Coleman does them this way, and everyone says "but his lats are so thick, so he must be doing them right!" Well he also has another day in the week dedicated to lats, so no.

Proper form is as such: Stand with your body at around a 45-degree angle to the ground. Some advocate more, some say be parallel to the floor, and I find this a nice medium. Keeping your back arched, pinch your shoulder blades back and hold them there. The goal is to really hit the lats, so do it. Slow and steady is the key. None of that 4-0-2-0 crap, just a nice controlled negative and positive. Grip doesn't really matter much, I tend to prefer overhand, simply because I think underhand uses the biceps too much, but some think that hits the lats harder, so just try both and see what works.

Type of movement: Stretch
Auxiliary muscles: Biceps, forearms, delts, chest

Pull-ups vs. pull-downs. It's one of the biggest arguments in bodybuilding. Both have their points. The pull-up people say it's easy to cheat on pull- downs and that since it's not a free-weight exercise it's inferior. The pull-down advocates say pull-downs are easier on the shoulders, work for people who simply can't pump out high reps of pull-ups, and that the free- weight issue is irrelevant because a cable can go in any direction.

I tend to fall in the latter group. I know some guys with B-52 lats that have never done a pull-up, and I know guys with no lats at all that only do pull-downs. It varies from person to person, and I believe it hinges on the mind-muscle connection you have. The movement is simple enough, pull your back together and either pull the bar down or yourself up along the way. Your back has no idea which is happening. Just make sure your elbows stay behind your shoulders the whole way.

Cable Rows
Type of movement: Midrange
Auxiliary muscles: Biceps, forearms, shoulders, traps

This is another exercise almost no one does right. People bend over the whole way and heave the stack up with their lower backs, barely getting the handles to their bellies, if at all. If your gym has one, use a shoulder- width attachment. The idea is simple again, keep your back upright and pull the handle into your belly.

This time let your shoulder blades separate, gotta hit them lower traps. Remember, the basic idea with ANY back movement is "squeeze your back, don't pull with your arms." If you find your elbows flying out to either side of you, your arms are taking over. This isn't helpful.

Two-arm Dumbbell Rows
Type of movement: Midrange
Auxiliary muscles: Biceps, forearms, shoulders, lower back, hamstrings, abs, traps

This is an exercise I actually learned about from reading an article about Gunter Schlierkamp. These are KILLERS. The idea is simple, though: Use dumbbells instead of a bar for your rows. Again, shoulder blades pinched, pull with the elbows. Yes, it's hard, and yes, it'll burn. A lot. But do it anyway.

Machine Pullovers
Type of movement: Stretch
Auxiliary muscles: Abs, chest

A wonderful move if your gym has the machine. The best are the ones where you put your elbows on pads and pull with them. Some use handles. If your gym has either, you're golden. Just sit down and pull. It's somewhere between a pull-down and a row.

    REPS AND SETS: The back complex is just that. Complex. As such, you'll need more sets than you would for, say, biceps. I think 8 is a good start. That's not much, three sets of two exercises, then two high-rep sets for one more. You can start with anything you want, but I would suggest against starting out with pull-overs except as a warmup or if you're a fan of pre- exhaustion. For the barbell rows, feel free to go nice and low in the reps, but for pullovers, I'd suggest the 9-12 range, and naturally around 15 for that last set.


    Function: The traps squeeze the shoulder blades together. The lower traps are used in a bunch of upper back exercises, but the upper traps (the ones you can see around your neck) need some separate work.

Dumbbell Shrugs
Type of movement: Stretch
Auxiliary muscles: Forearms, delts, abs

Simple idea. Hold two heavy dumbbells and lift your shoulders as high as they go. The problem is, because it's such a simple movement, people tend to cheat like crazy. They'll use their legs to help move them up, or will barely move at all, holding more weight than they can even handle with marginally good form. For a moment, don't use any weights. Now shrug your shoulders as high as you can.

That's how high your shrugging should go. And don't move your shoulders horizontally. This is a plane of motion that your traps do not feel any more than a simple static contraction, which isn't really that helpful anyway. Some say hold the dumbbells to your sides, some say in front. I say let your arms hang however is comfortable. Any extraneous movements will only detract from your traps.

Barbell Shrugs
Type of movement: Midrange
Auxiliary muscles: Forearms, delts, abs

These are the same as with dumbbells, only (naturally) with a bar. This is even worse in the cheating department. Far too many people load the bar up with plate after plate on each side and just hold it there. The movement is the exact same. Again, comfortable grip, shoulder-width usually works, and the only movement should be your shoulders lifting up toward your ears.

Sure, there are a few more moves. Behind the back shrugs and machine shrugs spring to mind, but they are unnecessary. Traps get hit so hard in so many shoulder and back moves that they only need these two exercises for most people.

    REPS AND SETS: Again, traps are used a lot. 4-to-6 sets should be more than enough for most people. Go nice and heavy, 2-or-3 sets for each of the above exercises, and you don't even need the high rep set at the end for the most part. Do it if you want.

Rear Delts:

    Function: Rear delts go along with the lats in the sense that they pull the shoulders behind the body. However, rear delts are used more when the elbow are out away from the body rather than tucked in.

Seated Rear Raises
Type of move: Midrange
Auxiliary muscles: Abs, traps, forearms, triceps

This is THE movement for rear delts. If you aren't doing these, then you've either got the best genes for shoulders ever, or you have horrible rear delts. The movement is simple: Sit on the edge of a bench, bend over until your stomach is on your thighs, holding two dumbbells under your legs. Now, in a controlled manner, lift the dumbbells upward, leading with your elbows. The reason for leading with your elbows is if you don't, your side delts will take over, and that'll lead to MORE imbalances.

Standing Rear Raises
Type of movement: Midrange
Auxiliary muscles: Traps, lower back, hams, forearms, triceps

This is the same as a seated rear raise, only in a standing position. The advantages are it's a little more difficult to use any type of non-rear delt momentum, so you'll be using less weight. On the flip side, it's one of the most difficult moves to do right. The tendency will be to start doing a row, so go nice and light, still leading with the elbows.

Rear raises can also be done on a bench, but every movement is basically the same: pulling your arms backward, like an "Anti-Fly" of sorts.

Reverse Dips
Type of movement: contraction
Auxiliary muscles: traps, forearms, biceps, side delts, upper back

Exactly what it sounds like. I found this movement to be the most direct move for the rear delts, and easiest to feel in the right places. Taking a dumbbell into each hand, lean back ever so slightly, otherwise this will turn into a lat movement. Now, just pull your elbows straight up and squeeze as hard as you can. You will notice there is some definite back involvement here, but it's minimal, and I think it's not a giant problem considering you'll be getting a solid rear delt move.

    REPS AND SETS: Rear delts are stabilizers in a lot of movements, but they also lag like crazy on most bodybuilders. This is why they deserve a medium volume, I like to give 4-or-5 sets to rear delts, 3-or-4 should be good for most. Reps should stay around 9, because below that form will degrade more quickly than with nearly any other body part. The reason being given the nature of the movements, it's near impossible to do heavy sets without horrible form.

Side Delts

    Function: The side delts raise the arms away from the body, straight out to either side, think "Jesus on the cross." Sorry for the off-color analogy, but it will work.

Side Raises
Type of movement: Midrange
Auxiliary muscles: Front/rear delts, forearms, traps, biceps

Really the only movement for targeting side delts, if you aren't including side raises somewhere in your workout you're missing your side delts almost entirely. Seated or standing makes no difference here, as the idea is to be vertical. You'll often see trainers doing this move with elbows locked, I find this to be not only unnecessary, but potentially harmful.

It will put your shoulders and elbows in dangerous positions, so keep a soft bend in your elbows while doing this. Move smoothly, and don't thrust your hips forward. Think of a big U in front of you, and move the dumbbells along that path, keeping the tops of the dumbbells facing the ceiling at the bottom of the movement, and each other at the top.

Upright Rows
Type of movement: Contraction
Auxiliary muscles: Traps, front/rear delts, forearms, biceps

This is one of those taboo moves that many trainers say hurts their shoulders. My solution is to use dumbbells, an EZ bar, or a cable if worst comes to worst. The main caveat in this move is that pulling up beyond the sternum is unnecessary. Pull the bar/dumbbells/whatever up to about mid- chest, and just stop. Beyond that will make your rotator cuffs run away screaming for mercy.

Grip-wise, I like to use a narrow grip. Notice that the wider you go, the less your delts will be working. People often ask why I consider this a side delt move, and I say just look at your shoulder position. The muscle worked the hardest is the one fighting against gravity, and is hence the one pointed straight up. In this case, it'll be your side delts unless you lean back ridiculously far. So, it goes in this section.

    REPS AND SETS: Side delts WILL require more work than the other two, in my opinion, simply because there are few movements that use them as stabilizers. A good starting point would be 4-or-5 sets, anywhere from 6-to-12 reps. As with rear delts, it's difficult to go low with reps on side raises, as your form will most likely degrade, so I'd suggest staying a little higher there. And with upright rows, low reps may end up causing unneeded rotator cuff problems.

Front Delts

    Function: Generally to raise the arms straight up toward the front. They also function along with the chest in most moves, working to pull the arm toward the center of the body toward the front of the shoulder complex. The first sentence is the simple explanation, the second requires that you actually move your arm around to see what I'm talking about.

Military Presses
Type of movement: Midrange
Auxiliary muscles: Triceps, chest, traps

The bread-and-butter shoulder move. Military presses are, specifically, done with a barbell, and generally are done seated. Some do them standing, but in my opinion it's best to do them seated with back support. You have a separate back workout, why worry about spinal compression when you want to do shoulders? So sit, and get some back support. To get your grip, find out where your hands would be when you make your elbows at a 90-degree angle. That's just about right for most people. Too narrow and your triceps will take over. Too wide and your traps will work too hard. Now, the real key to successful military pressing is making your delts work, and not your tris.

Far too many people lower the bar to not even eye level, and then press to lockout. The only way to keep the delts working is to stop a good few inches before lockout, and drop the whole way down to your chin, if not to touching your chest.

If it hurts to lower the whole way to the chest (as in the bad kind of hurt), then stop around chin level. From there, push the bar back up, making sure your mind is in your delts and not your triceps, then drop back down. Fluid motion, no pausing.

Shoulder Presses
Type of movement: Midrange
Auxiliary muscles: Triceps, chest, traps

The term "shoulder press" means dumbbells. The entire concept is the same with dumbbells. Balance will be considerably trickier, and you'll be able to iron out any imbalances between your left and right. This is the main advantage to using dumbbells over a bar. Keep the dumbbells far enough apart to avoid shifting stress to the triceps. All the way down, all the way up.

Front Raises
Type of movement: Contraction
Auxiliary muscles: Forearms, biceps, traps

This is a movement reserved for only the few folks whose front delts actually lag behind the other heads. Adding this to your schedule if the front heads are not a lagging part will most assuredly lead to either overtrained or overdeveloped front delts. By now the motion is easy to figure out, but grip is important. The standard overhand dumbbell grip won't work for a front raise, because the shoulder will rotate and stress will shift to the medial head. Instead, using dumbbells, take a hammer grip, possibly tilted a little so the two dumbbells make a V in the top of the movement, and keep them there. If separated, stress will be lost.

The ONLY way for a front raise to work is for the inner elbow to face up toward the ceiling. If, like most trainers, your inner elbow is facing the wall, then your side delts are taking over.

    REPS AND SETS: The problem with most trainers is that they give far too much priority to the front delts. While letting a body part develop maximally isn't exactly a problem, it can be if all the muscles around it are out of balance. As such, 4-to-6 sets is sufficient, keeping reps wherever is comfortable. For the presses, anywhere from 4-to-12 is fine depending on how heavy you generally go. For the raises, as before, use higher reps.


    Function: Everyone's favorite muscle. The main function is to pull the upper arms toward the center of the body, from the side.

Incline Press
Type of Movement: Midrange
Auxiliary muscles: Triceps, upper back, deltoids.

99% of trainers believe that the flat barbell press is the basic move for the chest. As usual, I disagree. There have been more popped tendons and underdeveloped chests as a result of flat barbell pressing than any other chest move. Not to mention its proven ineffectiveness in EMG tests. Moreover, the flat barbell press will leave a trainer with droopy pecs, almost like triangles.

An overdeveloped upper chest is never a problem. For the movement, get a bench that inclines to 30 degrees. 45 is a bit too much and will shift stress back to the deltoids. Lower the bar (or dumbbells) to the upper chest, somewhere on the sternum. Many trainers also say flaring the elbows is a sure-fire road to injury, and I agree, if the weight used is too much and form is sloppy.

Flare away, it assures that the chest will be the primary mover. Stop short of lockout, and lower as far as is comfortable. To get the dumbbells into position, place each on your lower thigh, there should be a sort of recess between the heads of the quadriceps. Heave each up, one at a time, quickly. As soon as the two dumbbells are near position, start pushing up. With the heavy weights, there's no chance of pausing and THEN pressing.

Flat Press
Type of Movement: Midrange
Auxiliary muscles: Triceps, upper back, deltoids.

I don't really need to describe this move. Everyone knows how to do it. If you don't, you've never been in a gym in your life.

Decline Press
Type of Movement: Midrange
Auxiliary muscles: Triceps, upper back, deltoids.

Believe it or not, the decline dumbbell press was shown to be THE most effective chest move in terms of fiber recruitment. The only reason I don't consider it the major lift is that it will also result in a more flat, droopy chest. Again, remember to use a soft decline.

Too often trainers get a decline bench, and then put blocks of wood under the front end to raise it up another few inches, sometimes close to a foot. This starts to make the lift rather dangerous actually, with an unnaturally high amount of blood rushing to the head. Plus I find that such a decline is really unnecessary and just plain difficult to get a groove with.

Type of movement: Stretch
Auxiliary muscles: Biceps, front delts.

I won't delve into the detail of incline/decline/flat flyes, because all the movements are the same, and all the same provisos go into flyes as they do into presses. The important things to remember are that the arms must maintain a constant bend to them, NOT to extend too far, and to keep the arms perpendicular to the body.

Too often flyes look like presses with most trainers, mostly because they go way too heavy. Go lighter than you'd prefer to for the most part. Feel the weight in the pecs, and don't click the dumbbells together at the top. It's easy to feel when the chest stops working, and that's when the rep should end. A top squeeze is impossible with flyes, so just use the movement as a stretch.

Cable Crossovers
Type of movement: Contraction
Auxiliary muscles: Biceps, abs, front delts.

Using the handle attachments in the high pulleys on a cable station, the movement is the exact same as a fly, only done standing. Again, don't go too heavy and don't extend too far out to the sides. The important thing with cross-overs is that the majority of the stress is at the contraction part of the move, so SQUEEZE! Let it feel like your chest is about to tear apart.

Yes I left out dips and pec dec. Personally I don't think dips are good for the chest, and pec dec offers no benefits over cross-overs.

    REPS AND SETS: As a larger muscle that is rarely a stabilizer, the chest needs a few more sets than most other muscles. I believe 8 sets is a good starting point. In terms of reps, the compound movements can go a bit lower, I try not to go below 4 for my working set. For the flyes, I think anything under 9 is too few, and cross-overs are a nice midway.


    Function: The other favorite muscle for 99.9% of trainers. The biceps pull the lower arm up against the upper.

Barbell curls
Type of movement: Midrange
Auxiliary muscles: Forearms, shoulders.

The straight bar/EZ bar battle is another good one. I again rarely take advice from the IFBB pros, but Bob Cicherillo said of straight-bar curls, "They target the inner bicep head, and I don't know anyone who needs more inner bicep head work." It's odd, but true. As such, I recommend using the outer grips on an EZ bar.

As I mentioned in my mind-muscle connection article, the lower arm should not reach vertical, as that's where the bicep loses the stress and the contraction goes away. The movement should have NO swinging whatsoever, the torso should stay still, and the elbows should not lock out at the bottom.

Alternate Dumbbell Curls
Type of movement: Midrange
Auxiliary muscles: Forearms, shoulders

This is what the mass-builder used in lieu of barbell curls. Seated or standing are equally effective. The only caveat here is that the lack of a bar to limit movement makes it much easier to cheat, so I recommend doing this while seated. There is again a debate over whether or not to let the wrists rotate. I tend to think both ideas have their merits. Obviously the constant tension of keeping the palms facing out is good, but at the same time a split second of rest enables the biceps to get out some more reps and use higher weights, much like a rest-pause set, so you decide.

Preacher Curls
Type of movement: Stretch
Auxiliary muscles: Forearms

Dumbbells, cables, barbells, it really doesn't matter. The preacher bench is that seat with an angled pad. Not a mass-builder by any means, since the range of motion is ridiculously short. Having the upper arms start out at an angle of around 45 degrees away from the body means that no top contraction is possible. Doing reps quickly is also out of the question, because a fast negative could easily lead to a broken elbow. Don't go too far down, just enough to feel that stretch in the biceps, and come back up just far enough to where the biceps stop flexing, and then go back down.

Concentration Curls
Type of movement: Contraction
Auxiliary muscles: Forearms

This is another exercise with myriad variations. Some do them just bent over, some on the reverse side of a preacher bench or off the back of an incline bench, and of course the most popular way, seated with one elbow pressed against the thigh. The problem with this last method is it makes cheating much easier.

A little leaning back and the biceps aren't doing much work at all. If anything, lean over forward and toward the opposite leg. Get that peak contraction and squeeze it nice and tight. The other variations make cheating nearly impossible, and I prefer going off the back of an incline bench. It just makes things more manageable.

    REPS AND SETS: Biceps are used in nearly all back movements, so overtraining is definitely a possibility for many. A good starting point is 6 sets, then add or subtract some as you see fit. For barbell curls, going down to 6 reps is good, but for concentration curls, high reps are mandatory. Get that contraction. Preacher curls can go either way, I personally use high reps, but it's up to you.


    Function: The often overlooked muscles, triceps make up a great majority of the upper arm, some say as much as 2/3. The triceps function to pull the lower arm away from the upper, the exact opposite of the biceps.

French Presses
Type of movement: Stretch
Auxiliary muscles: Shoulders

Seated or standing, dumbbell or barbell. This is a full movement for the triceps, and possibly the only stretch-type movement. The most important thing here is to keep the elbows close into the sides of the head. Put the barbell on your knees and hoist it up like a shoulder press, using the innermost grips, then, keeping the upper arms stationary, lower the bar behind your head past parallel, then push back up to lockout.

For triceps, lockout is essential, because that's what the muscles do. For a dumbbell, kick it up off the knees to the chest, and hold the dumbbell vertical, thumbs crossed in front, palms resting along the underside of the thick head of the dumbbell. I prefer seated here, as going off-balance is ridiculously easy when standing.

Close-grip Bench Press
Type of movement: Midrange
Auxiliary muscles: Front delts, pectorals.

Remember the bench press? Well, this is almost the exact same thing. Take a grip just inside shoulder width on a straight bar, and keep the elbows tucked into the sides of the body. With an EZ bar, take the inner grips and let your elbow go wherever they want. The reason for the difference is because a straight bar with a very narrow grip kills the wrists. Again, go all the way to lockout.

Type of movement: Midrange
Auxiliary muscles: Lats, abs, shoulders.

I only call these "skull-crushers" because that's how everyone knows them. Doing them directly as named is a sure-fire way to get hurt pretty badly. Think of them as "lying French presses". Some even call them that. Instead of lowering to the forehead, lower directly behind the head.

Among the advantages are a deeper stretch, a perfectly safe head (whew), and if the upper arms stay stationary, the triceps cannot relax at the top of the movement, as the arms will be angled backward slightly. Another point to remember is that the elbows should again stay tucked in. Some say you generate more power if they flare out, and that's true, but unfortunately you can't derive any extra tricep power like that.

Type of movement: Midrange
Auxiliary muscles: Chest, front delts, abs

A rule of thumb is that any movement in which the body moves through space is good. This is certainly no exception. Some even argue that the dip is the ultimate upper body exercise all around next to the pull-up. I don't go that far, but it's definitely a good first exercise and a mass- builder. The dip bars your gym has may either be angled or parallel. Parallel is best.

The movement is simple enough: grip a bar in each hand, pull your legs up off the floor (you may need a step if you're a shorter person), and lower yourself straight down, then push back up. As for leaning, a perfectly vertical dip will assure that the triceps are the main movers rather than the larger chest and delts. That's a good thing, so don't change it. If you can't get more than 4-or 5, be content with that. Max out.

Next week you'll get more. The problem with many trainers with inadequate triceps is that they don't dip because it's hard. Some have shoulder problems with dips, it's true, but the vast majority claim shoulder problems because they just don't like dipping. Get on those bars and get to it. Again, full way down, all the way to lockout.

Rope Pushdowns
Type of movement: Contraction

I believe pushdowns have two good functions: Warm-up and finishing. I think starting out and finishing with rope push-downs is perfect. But why the rope? Because the bars offer no significant benefits over the above movements, whereas a rope assures a complete and deep contraction. Putting the rope attachment in the high pulley, grasp each end ABOVE the knob and get a full fist grip around the rope.

This is important because it'll help make sure the triceps are doing all the work. Also, at no time should the ends of the rope touch. In fact they should stay about 6 inches apart at all times. This again forces the triceps to do all the work. Keep the shoulders back, and really feel that squeeze at the bottom. Cheating or not going to lockout wastes the potential of the movement.

    REPS AND SETS: Naturally, the triceps are used in all pressing movements, so some would argue that sets should stay low. This is true to an extent, but I still believe that at least six sets are necessary to truly finish off the muscle. Remember that in our presses for chest and shoulders we want to avoid letting the triceps do too much so there is no locking out. As such, more sets are beneficial.

    Rep-wise, I believe higher reps are generally the best way to go. This is because I believe low reps are the best for movements like chest and shoulder presses, so that's the triceps getting maximal work with minimal reps. 8 reps should be the minimum you want for most moves. Dips, as I said, can be an exception, and low reps aren't a bad idea at all.


    Function: There are numerous muscles in the forearm. The extensors serve to pull the hand backward toward the "hair" side of the forearm, the flexors pull it toward the other, and then the brachioradialis is involved in many bicep movements.

Wrist Curls
Type of movement: Contraction
Auxiliary muscles: none

Yep, no auxiliary muscles, just pure forearms. The preferred way to do this, I believe, is with a dumbbell, with the arm laying along the thigh so the hand is just hanging over the knee, palm up. From here, lean far over to the same side as the arm working. Get a tight grip on the dumbbell and curl the hand up. Don't let the fingers extend, just get the wrist moving. It's a simple movement, don't try and make it difficult.

Reverse Wrist Curls
Type of movement: Contraction
Auxiliary muscles: none

Again, no auxiliary muscles, this time pure forearm extensors. Like a regular wrist curl lay the arm along the thigh, hand hanging over the knee, palm down this time. Now, lean in the opposite direction as you would for a wrist curl. These are hard, and will require lightweight. Moreover there will be a tendency to lose your grip on the dumbbell, and that makes sense, but under NO circumstances should you use straps. I've actually seen that, if you can believe it. Wrist straps while doing wrist curls. That's just pathetic.

Forearm Rockers
Type of movement: Midrange
Auxiliary muscles: traps, shoulders

Think of these like a way to combine wrist curls and reverse wrist curls. Take a moderately heavy dumbbell in each hand and stand up, then curl the wrists toward the body, then away, rocking the dumbbells back and forth, hence the title. These will burn like crazy, but don't let the fact that you'll look goofy grunting while doing them stop you, they're a fabulous forearm developer.

Hammer Curls
Type of movement: Midrange
Auxiliary muscles: Biceps, shoulders

Some believe hammer curls to be a bicep move, but I don't see how, as the biceps are nearly relaxed during the movement. Yes they contract a little, but not much at all. It's the exact same as a dumbbell curl, but with the … hammer grip. This means the hands will face toward the body at all times, and the dumbbell will be vertical at the top of the movement. A great way to do these is on an incline bench without alternating.

A lot of people believe the forearms deserve no work, that simply deadlifting and doing the various back movements without straps is enough. That may be partially true for the flexors, but not so for the extensors. Plus we work our triceps despite pressing, and calves despite squatting and deadlifting, so don't wimp out of forearms just because they aren't a glory muscle.

    REPS AND SETS: Sets should be moderate, reps wherever you normally do them. I think four sets for all three parts of the forearm is adequate. Yes that's 12 sets total, but that's three different muscles. Higher reps are probably required for reverse wrists curls, at least ten, in order to get the muscle really working, so just see what feels the best.


    Function: The abdominals function to pull the rib cage down toward the pelvis.

Type of movement: Midrange
Auxiliary muscles: none

The classic ab movement, and also the most commonly done wrong. There are multiple variations, all depending on where the legs are put. Some put the legs on a bench, some on the floor, some up in the air. Mix it up every so often. The movement is simple, and small. Exhale deeply and pull your shoulder blades up off the ground, and concentrate on shortening the distance between the rib cage and the pelvis. That's the key to a perfect crunch.

Reverse Crunch
Type of movement: Contraction
Auxiliary muscles: Quadriceps

This is exactly what it sounds like, a crunch in reverse. Rather than the shoulder blades lifting, the hips will. It's nearly impossible to do this move without holding on to something above your head to keep the upper body down. Also important is to just lift the hips straight up. Don't try and arc in or it will become a good way to hurt your back. Keep the legs straight up and down, and move slowly. There's no need to be fast with any ab moves.

Leg Lifts
Type of movement: stretch
Auxiliary muscles: Quadriceps

From the same position as reverse crunches, keep the legs straight and lower them until your heels touch the floor, then pull back up. This is another potentially back-wrecking movement. This is another reason that the reps must be done slowly, to make sure that your lower back doesn't arch at any time. Really feel that stretch in the abs.

The Bicycle
Type of movement: contraction
Auxiliary muscles: Lats, legs

Some consider this to be the only ab exercise anyone needs, and to an extent, I agree. It's guaranteed to hit the entire rectus abdominus, the serratus, obliques, everything. The movement itself is simple, but surprisingly difficult. Laying on the floor, put your hands behind your head and lift the shoulders blades off the floor. Pull both knees up, and you're ready to start.

Carefully kick one leg out and at the same time twist as far to the opposite side as possible with the upper body. As you pull that leg back, kick out the other and twist as far as possible to the other side. It's a guaranteed ab-killer, and you'll feel a deep burn everywhere.

    REPS AND SETS: Again, abs aren't special, for the most part. Set-wise I believe they deserve the same as anything else, between 6 and 8. Rep-wise I think if you can do more than 12 reps without it hurting, you're not doing it right. The reps need to be controlled, a bit slow, and with a deep exhale at the contraction.

Workout Construction

Okay, so we have all of our exercises lined out, now what? Well, now we gotta start putting them together, in some sort of order, and get full workouts planned. This is when you'll need to start referring back to all that "stretch, midrange, contraction" stuff I talked about earlier. What do these three things mean?

What Do I Mean By 'Type Of Movement'?

This means that the bulk of the stress in the movement is at the fully extended part of the exercise, such as dumbbell flyes.

This means that the most stress occurs when the muscle is fully contracted, such as concentration curls.

These moves don't have a maximal stress point, but rather offer equal resistance through the movement.

So why is this important to know? Well, the idea in bodybuilding is not only to apply stress to a muscle, but also to hit the muscle from every angle possible. The only way to do this is to get a variety of types of exercises together. Utilizing all types of exercises will assure that the muscle gets all the necessary work is done. But in what manner should each type of move be used?

Always a mass-builder, and almost always compound, and as such should go first in the workout. No sense in trying to finish the workout with squats or bench presses.

A good follow-up to the mass-builders, or as a bridge between. These should be the middle part of the workout, as they're isolation movements, so there's no worry about stabilizers wearing out.

Warmups and burnouts. Since the stress is at the contraction, they are highly unlikely to cause much joint pain (with the exception of skull-crushers), and are perfect candidates to get the muscle warmed up. For that same reason, once everything else is worn out, they're great for getting that last set out.

Okay, so now that we've gotten THAT all sorted out, how do we piece workouts together? Well, the most obvious would be C/M/S/C (I'll be hence referring to the types by the first letters, it should be easy to follow). However, that's not always the best, especially for larger muscles. After all, one type of press isn't good enough, you need at least two. So is C/M/M/S/C best?

Well, not necessarily. Remember that the midrange movements are nearly always compound, so that means lots of stabilizers. Stabilizers will tire out more quickly than the main muscle, so stacking two such movements in a row would be foolish (for example, the triceps will tire out quickly if flat presses are followed up with inclines).

What Is Bridging?

"Bridging" is a good technique here, in which an isolation movement is done between compounds. To put it in our terms, put a stretch movement between midranges, so something like C/M/S/M/C works great. That's a good way to remember things:

    C/M/S/M/C for larger muscles
    C/M/S/C for smaller

That first contraction move must be addressed. I don't want anyone to think that's a pre-exhaust movement, because I believe pre-exhaustion to be worthless. Pre-exhaustion has been shown to deactivate the muscles in later compound moves (i.e. midrange or mass-builders) which is the exact opposite of what we want. That first C there means one or two high rep sets, but not nearly to failure. The idea is just to get the muscle accustomed to movement.

But what about reps and sets? I know I addressed the issue in terms of whole body parts, but what about exercise by exercise?

What About Reps & Sets?

As compound mass-builders, feel free to go nice and low in reps. A triple every now and again is a good way to get your gains moving if they've stalled. Midrange movements deserve the most sets, I'd say half of your total sets should be in the midrange moves, because they demand the most energy.

Really feel that stretch, but go heavy, so the reps should be moderate, around 8. Half of the remaining sets should go into stretch movements.

Even more important than feeling the stretch is getting a good squeeze, so you'll need a lighter weight. Shoot for 10 reps for these movements. Naturally the remaining sets go to contraction movements, not counting the warmup sets.

OK, we've got order, sets, and reps all set, so let's make an example workout for a muscle.

Sample Quad Workout

Leg extensions: 2x20
Squats: 2x4-8
Sissy squats: 2x12
Hack squats: 2x8
Leg Extensions: 2x12

Click here for a printable log of the sample quad workout!

And there's a workout that I guarantee will have your quads screaming by the end.

Sample Tricep Workout

Rope Pushdowns: 2x20
Dips: 3x6
Seated French Presses: 2x9
Rope Pushdowns: 1x12

Click here for a printable log of the sample tricep workout!

And that's a perfectly good 6-set tricep routine. Of course you can add sets or subtract them as you see fit. The more HIIT-oriented fellows may want a few less, the volume guys will probably want more. The odd thing that you may notice is that not all exercises will have the same number of sets.

A big problem I see is guys using more sets on stretch and contraction movements (which are isolators) than on the big mass-builders. Sometimes, for the volume guys, this may mean doing six or seven sets just of barbell curls. But that's where the most energy is required, and the most mass will be built.

Split Construction

So now we've got the way to build a workout all done, now the question is how to start piecing them together. Haphazard split construction can be just as much of a problem as any other weak links in training. The first necessity is to decide how many times per week to work a body part, once or twice.

Three times is just excessive unless doing full body workouts. If a body part is to be worked once, then pairing it up with its auxiliary muscles is a good idea (chest with triceps, back with biceps). A muscle should either be worked on the same day as its auxiliaries, or as far away from them as possible.

A Quick Look At Auxiliary Muscles:

    Chest: Triceps, front delts
    Upper back: Biceps, forearms, rear delts
    Lower back: Forearms, shoulders, legs
    Quadriceps: Hamstrings, Calves, lower back

Right off the bat it's obvious that putting triceps the day after chest or vice-versa would be foolish. It would also be a bad idea to try deadlifting the day after squats.

The next choice is how many workouts per week total. 3-to-5 is the best for most people, below that is not nearly enough work and above that will lead to quick overtraining.

Some Example Workout Splits:

    3-day: Chest/triceps/shoulders, back/biceps/traps/forearms, quads/hams/calves

    4-day: Chest/triceps, back/biceps, quads/hams/calves, shoulders/traps/forearms

    5-day: Chest, Back, Shoulders, Legs, Arms.

Those are just some ideas. If you want to work everything twice per week, obviously an even number of workout days are necessary, so here's an idea for a 4-day split with everything worked twice.

Example 4-day Split With Everything Worked Twice:

    Chest/front delts/triceps/quads/calves
    Back/hamstrings/biceps/side & rear delts

And with the above, every workout would be done twice per week. The question then is how to split up the workouts. Should every workout involve all those sets and exercises in both days? Of course not, each workout would take two hours. Split the sets in half, and for ultimate variety, make half the muscles all high reps and half low reps, then switch it for the second work out.

What Order Do I Work My Muscles In?

The next question is what order to do muscles in. A rule of thumb is to go from the big muscles to the smaller ones. It's much easier to get all the necessary work in your triceps after working chest than vice versa. Some say that a muscle requires fewer sets if it's done directly after a companion muscle (triceps after chest), but I disagree.

Doing this means that the muscle will only get worked once for the entire week, so it needs the combined effort that would have been put into it were the muscle worked on chest day then by itself on a later day. So let's put together a potential Chest/Triceps workout:

Sample Chest/Tricep Workout:

Cable Crossovers: 2x20
Incline DB presses: 2x4-6
Flat Flyes: 2x12
Decline DB Presses: 2x6-8
Cable Crossovers: 2x9-12
Dips or Skull-crushers: 3x6
Seated French Presses: 2x9
Rope Pushdowns: 1x12

Click here for a printable log of the sample chest/tricep workout.

You'll notice I did not put in the tricep warm-up set. Simple reasoning for this is, the triceps got worked plenty on the presses, so they've got the blood in them and are primed for some direct work.

What Is A 3-day Schedule Mean?

You're probably also wondering what a "3 day" schedule means. Generally that means that's how many days per week are workout days. It can also mean (more generally) that there are x workouts in a given workout cycle, for most people that just means one week.

4-day schedules can also be done on a two on, one off schedule (the whole cycle is done in six days), a 3-day split can do be a 3-on, 2-off (the whole thing done in five days), you get the idea. Obviously "on" means a workout day, "off" means a rest day. Some examples of where "on" days could go in a week-long cycle:

    3 day: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
    4 day: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday
    5 day: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday

And there you have it. All the exercises, and the techniques behind workout and split construction. Later sections of the guide will address diet, rest, and the life of a bodybuilder.

If you have any questions, e-mail me at Check back soon for part two!

Until next time,