I am going to lecture on the best lifting routine that I have found, well, developed, over my many years. I have let myself go and am a scrawny, lean fuck right now but this is what put my last 30lbs of weight on me and got me to ie (315lb)x(9) close-grip bench. Skeleton routine first:
You will do one work set of each bullet point to total fucking failure. If you are not able to push yourself to that limit, or if you do not have good enough mind-muscle connection yet, this is not the routine for you. Ramp up to each workset. What that means, reps, exercises, etc below. 8-12 reps unless otherwise specified. Adjust the weight as needed to stay in that range (if you’re doing your shit right, this will be steady increases).
Day 1 – Legs
- Squatting exercise; if you want to do something like deadlifts on Day 3, this should be front squat, hack squat, etc – nothing lower-back heavy.
- Leg-press or hack squat ‘Please Kill Me’ set; 20 reps. This is very specific type of set. You will do 20 reps of a hard weight — you will pause between reps as needed until you get to 20. This will be incredibly unpleasant and I strongly recommend not having eaten within 2 hours. Stomach likely to get sick. As an example, I used a weight I could do around 8 reps before failure in a regular set. And I did 20. It’s fucking miserable. Remember you just squatted before selecting the weight. Also, no ramp up to this one past figuring out how much to put on the machine.
- Hamstring exercise
- Calves; 20 reps with deep stretch at the bottom
Day 2 – Off
Day 3 – Delts / Back
- Overhead pressing exercise; seated is better
- Side delt; if you have a good machine that’s ideal
- Back exercise 1 thickness (rows, deads, etc)
- Back exercise 2 width (weighted chins, pulldowns, etc); do whichever you want to emphasize most. Do shit like deads first regardless, which is basic common sense.
- Rear Delt
Day 4 – Off
Day 5 – Chest/Biceps/Triceps/Forearms
- (low) Incline press exercise
- Flat pressing exercise
- Hammer Curls (or second normal curling exercise)
- Tricep pressing exercise
- Tricep extension exercise
- Forearms on cables
Then start at Day 1 again. No off day after day 5, straight to legs next day.
It’s important to ramp up to the actual working set. You will have to just get a feel for it, what works with you and the weights you use, etc, but it’s pretty straightforward – do a few sets first of ever increasing weight. You should feel like you expend some effort on each one, but it should not feel like you did a ‘real’ set of any kind. I generally ramp it 8/6/4 reps, then the 8-12 rep work set (I prefer to be on the 8-10 side of that).
Use a Spotter
If you do not feel the need to use a spotter for benching then you are not working hard enough. You will regularly not manage to finish the final rep.
Thumbless grip is simply much better. If you are comfortable using it then you should. If you need a thumb around the bar to not drop it on yourself you are doing something wrong.
Alternate exercises cycle to cycle
You should not be randomly swapping it up – you should have a pool of 4 or 6 exercises, depending on what you want and what your options are and they should be scheduled. As in, maybe you have a Cycle 1, Cycle 2, Cycle 3; each should have its own static exercises, you just go from 1—>2—>3—>1… etc. Make sure they are good exercises, not just diversity for diversity’s sake. If your only option aside from Incline barbell press is mediocre machines, do the fucking barbell every time. There is no need to have more than 3 different cycles, 2 is plenty.
Pay attention to what’s tired
This is mostly relevant for squatting and heavy row / deadlift exercises — you can’t do both in the same cycle. Both are heavy on the lower back. If you want to deadlift, do front squats. Use your judgment and your brain.
Do exercises that are ‘heavy;’ holding a barbell overhead is very different and overall more difficult than most machine overhead presses. Otherwise, here are some specific exercises that are strongly suggested; I have found these to be incredible.
Front Squats over back squats; otherwise nothing special. Properly done straight-leg deads (meaning you should slightly bent knees) are great for hamstrings; hard to fit in though.
Behind-the-neck smith machine overhead press is very good; don’t let the bar get below your ears. There’s a certain behind-the-neck (as far as where the muscles are hit) Hammer Strength machine that’s incredible, but I have only found it at like two gyms.
Deadlifts. If you can do deadlifts, do deadlifts. This is why I advise front squats – so you can deadlift. Weighted pull-ups are very good as well. I am also a fan of T-bar machine rows as long as you are carrying the full weight throughout the set.
Incline barbell. Do not flat barbell bench; there are so many other options that will not fuck your shoulders. You can do it for close-grip, but to flat bench and hit your pecs hard you will be 100% damaging your shoulders over time. Flat dumbbell is my recommendation.
Not really anything special here. EZ-bar is better than straight bar, and bar is better than dumbbells (use dumbbells if you have unbalanced arms obvs). Preacher curls are good.
These are the exercises that made me bother to make this section. Fucking amazing. The first is Reverse-Grip Close-grip Smith machine bench; mouthful. You know your body, but for me the bar hits slightly above solar plexus. Reverse grip means your palms are facing you – it is also reasonable to use your thumb now. Make sure you’re facing the proper direction in the machine for the range of motion. This is just an amazing exercise. The second is Deadstop Floor Skullcrushers. Use an EZ-bar, lay on your back and do skullcrushers. The bar *stops* on the floor after each rep, like you would for a deadlift. Hence the name. I want to say that both of these exercises are mandatory. As well as regular close-grip flat bench.
Pinwheel curls are good if you know how to do them properly. Otherwise use cable attachments to change it up – the important part about doing forearms is to flex your hand back before starting the movement. It’s easy to do reverse curls and not be flexing your forearms super hard, which is what you want to hit. This is the body part where mind-muscle connection is especially important to do it right.
Getting Bigger and Stronger
Make sure you eat and sleep enough. That’s literally all it takes. And let me say it one more time: if you think one work set per exercise is not enough it’s because you lift like a baby and don’t know how to push yourself to the limit or you are a relative newbie who doesn’t know how to recruit muscles properly. No other way to put it.