The Lunk Alarm
To caveat all of the “wisdom” you’ll find below, as a qualified finance professional currently operating an event production business, I cannot claim to be a formal expert on anything fitness. I can, however, claim to have spent countless hours reading, practicing and thinking about improving my aesthetics and workouts. Living in the gym for two hours a day, waking up at all sorts of crazy hours in the morning to get lifts in before work, and working out consistently for almost a decade now. I’ve seen a lot, been through injuries & setbacks and learned from my own and others' experiences to become someone that can probably help a less experienced lifter or two.
Since I became a more experienced lifter, I’ve said I would rather be pretty good at all movements than just be very good at a few. This wasn't always the case, though. “Workout Diversity”, or more commonly expressed as “you gotta always be changing up your workouts, Guy!” can have a few different interpretations. The most common theme among these ideas is that changing up a workout routine is necessary for more substantial muscle stimulation as well as mental engagement so workouts don't get stale - and this is highly accurate. The reason for this is centered around the fact that your body builds up tolerance to certain movements, a phenomenon called “muscle memory” (you know, like when you feel like you can ride a bicycle or throw a baseball all day long because you’ve practiced the movement so much). If you practice the same motions in the gym, you’ll certainly become good at those movements, but it doesn’t mean you are actually getting stronger or improving your physique. Different movements will provide different stimulation to your body, not allowing them to adapt to any particular exercise. This will lead to better growth and overall improved strength. As I'm writing this, it is worth noting that some movements (Squats, Deadlifts and Bench Press) should still be focal points consistently involved in your workouts without fail, and there are hundreds of variations of each of these movements as to never leave you bored or stagnant.
When I lived in Australia not so long ago, I saddled up with my nicest white tee and Air Jordans to ride over to the local gym four days per week - always 75 minutes per trip. One day (usually Saturday) was dedicated to core, it entailed ab wheel rollouts, laying leg lifts, decline bench crunches and some light cardio. The other three days...well those are easy to review as well because I did the EXACT same workout every time – something I know some of you are also guilty of. I went through my progression (which didn’t include nearly enough lower body) – flat dumbbell bench, weighted chin-ups, machine leg press, triceps press-downs, standing barbell curls, and seated neutral-grip machine rows. Needless to say, after my four-month stint in Aussie, I came back and I was able to show off my new lifting skills with my college buddies.
I ran my fraternity brothers through the same workouts I had been doing in the southern hemisphere, and my numbers were worthy of at least a half dozen lunk alarms (you're welcome for the shoutout, Planet Fitness). I was sitting at 165lbs body weight, but was doing full range-of-motion chin-ups with a 95lb dumbbell between my knees (sets of 6, bruh!). I was able to lay down on a flat bench with the 100lb dumbbells and bang out sets of 8 (each arm, alternating, baby!). I’d stand in front of the barbell rack and curl the 110lb barbell for 21 sequences barely breaking a sweat (O.K., well these were tough but I was still able to get through the full set with minimal “cheat” reps). This story goes on and on for the rest of the lifts I mentioned practicing in Oz…but if you were working out with me and suggested another lift outside of my comfort zone, I’d tell you that my shoulder hurt or that it would bother my back. This was to protect my secret - there was no way I could keep up how “strong” I made myself seem with any lifts that I hadn’t practiced. My point isn’t that my ego held me back (even though it did), rather that I really wasn’t nearly as strong as my few “good” lifts would lead my buddies to believe.
Working out in this type of manner can also lead to muscle imbalances and ultimately injury. It also means you’re taking it easy on your nervous system because your body knows exactly what to expect each time you're under the bar - which prevents you from achieving optimal growth. I found myself nursing a few serious injuries – most notably my forearm and back. This was all I needed before I got my shit together. So I started research and changing it up. When I say “changing it up”, I didn’t buy into the idea that I should be doing a completely different workout split with different lifts every week, but rather to incorporate complete training with a split that I like (pairing body parts), seven days a week keeping variety as a key component to these workouts (you’ll see in my split below). I am a big believer in keeping the same workout splits for long periods of time, but changing the workouts within them to achieve that variety. Some of the best bodybuilders and power lifters have only changed their split a few times, so let’s get into my actual split, shall we…
DAF Workout Split July 2017 – Present
PUSH - PULL – LEGS
As a basic explanation for those not familiar with "push-pull", the idea behind my version of push-pull is to pair muscle groups that involve a pulling motion with those that involve a pushing motion. The reason I have embraced this split for the last year+ is that it is easier on my joints and I have found that it works well for my goals (which are largely aesthetic). I get a great pump, the exercises don’t contradict each other and it’s fun – I look forward to the lift every day. In this split, legs remain the most important muscle group for maintaining proper posture, body symmetry and power. Back is another focus as it is immensely important and often neglected, taking a back seat to our Day 3 activities. Pairing back with biceps and chest with triceps is common, but biceps are very important for back pulling, and triceps are very important to chest presses. How can you reasonably expect to grow your chest or back when the movements you are doing in between sets weaken the larger muscle group movements?
Another tip, do core at least 4 of the 7 days after each lift. You don’t need to do it every day but you do need to incorporate core for both physique and practical purposes.
Repeat each pair below at least three times unless specified otherwise. Keeping a split consistent over a long stretch of time is perfectly fine, as long as there is plenty of variety of lifts within those splits. Also, change the order of the lifts and do different variations of the lifts for even more stimulation.
Day 1: Legs (spend most of your leg day in the squat rack)
a. Squats: Three warm-up sets, four working sets, two high volume lower-weight sets – Total of 9 sets
b. Deadlifts: Work up to max 8-rep weight, do four working sets at that weight
c. Lunges: Sets of 10, backwards or forwards. One leg at a time (10 reps each leg)
d. Machine Squat (sets of 8-10)
e. Leg Extension Machine: Four drop-sets
f. Calves: Body weight 1-leg standing on rack support, seated machine calf press, standing machine calf press.
Day 2: Back and Triceps
a. (Pull) Bent over rows: 8 reps overhand, 8 reps underhand – four sets with fifth set high rep lower weight burnout
a. Paired with slow-rep wide-grip pullups (Sets of 6 to 10)
b. (Push) Triceps cable pressdowns (sets of 10) immediately followed by Overhead cable triceps extensions (sets of 10) – so 20 reps total, same weight.
a. Paired with weighted dips (sets of 8-12)
c. (Pull) Reverse flies to work rear deltoids (lying stomach on incline bench) – sets of 20
a. Paired with Olympic dumbbell rows (lying in same position) sets of 15
d. (Push) Triceps skull crushers on flat bench – sets of 15
a. Dumbbell triceps kickbacks leaning over bench, sets of 15 each arm
e. (Pull) Lat pulldowns (sets of 10-15)
a. Paired with seated machine cable rows
Day 3: Chest and Biceps
a. (Push) Incline bench press (more chest and less triceps than flat bench) – five sets of 5 paired with pushups to failure in between.
Get a spotter
a. Paired with standing alternating twist curls
b. (Pull) EZ Curl barbell preacher curls (over 180* vertical side of preacher curl setup)
a. Paired with Heavy hammer curls (alternating, sets of 10 each arm)
c. (Push) Decline chest press machine (sets of 12)
a. Paired with High cable flies – drop sets – 3 sets for each, each 10 reps
d. (Pull) Straight bar cable curl drop sets – 3 sets for each, each 10 reps
a. (Push) Paired with Incline chest press machine (sets of 12)
e. (Pull) Dumbbell bicep curls 3-3-3 fashion
a. Paired with standard preacher curl drop sets (3 sets for each drop set, 8 reps each)
Day 4: Legs (overview)
a. Front Squats
b. Dumbbell straight-leg deadlifts
c. Wide-stance squats
d. Leg press (close stance)
e. Leg curls (four sets)
Day 5: Back and Triceps (overview)
a. (Pull) Weighted neutral-grip pull-ups
a. Paired with Seated reverse fly machine
b. (Push) Single-arm cable kickbacks leaning over bench
a. Paired with Close-grip bench press (light) keeping elbows tight to body
c. (Pull) One-arm bent over DB row
a. Paired with smith machine reverse&wide-grip rows
d. (Push) Weighted dip machine
a. Paired with Seated Overhead EZ curl bar triceps extensions
Day 6: Shoulders and Biceps (overview)
a. (Push) Standing behind-the-head barbell presses (sets of 10)
a. Paired with horizontal deltoid raises
b. (Pull) Paired with standing close-grip EZ bar curls
b . (Pull) Seated light strict dumbbell curls (sets of 30)
a. Paired with heavy seated twist curls
c. (Push) Seated Arnold presses (sets of 10)
a. Paired with standing front barbell deltoid raises (sets of 12)
d. (Pull) Heavy preacher curls, full ROM (sets of 8)
a. Paired with Light standing barbell 21’s
Day 7: Legs