This routine has a simple goal: make you look great.

Will you get stronger on your compound lifts? Absolutely. But let’s make it clear up front: this is not a powerlifting routine.

There’s currently a gym-culture of forcing powerlifting programs down the throats of those who are more interested in improving their physique. When questioned, a circlejerk begins over how anyone who cares more about aesthetics than strength is just a pansy too scared to lift heavy weight.

Heavy compound movements are useful for hypertrophy, but looking down on others for their choice of goals is just childish. Different people want different things in life. Deal with it.

If you want to powerlift, this program is not for you. However, if you want to sculpt an attractive body, you came to the right place amigo. Let’s roll.

What makes this program unique?

This routine addresses a critical aspect of human nature often ignored by other programs: curiosity.

It’s natural to want to change a routine around. Small tweaks, here and there. The problem is that after a few months of “just small tweaks”, the routine becomes a disorganized mess. Or even worse, the individual becomes interested in the next flavor of the month, constantly hopping from program to program at the vaguest hint of faster progress.

In this routine, you will leave the core days (Sunday-Friday) alone. You are given one day to customize yourself, Saturday. You can do a day of forearms, one hundred curls, 5×5 bench press, bodyweight training, endurance cardio, hill sprints, I don’t really care. On Saturday you satisfy your innate need to constantly be changing things. After this flexible day, you are given a rest day to be fully recovered for the next week.

This extra day also has the added benefit of making the routine adaptable for any trainee. This means both beginners and advanced lifters can make optimal progress under this routine.

Most routines contain a set amount of volume, and as the individual becomes more advanced, they eventually need to switch to a new routine. Now you can adapt to the volume & frequency to suit your individual needs without potentially compromising results.

Advanced lifters can benefit from additional volume (especially to target problem areas) on their flexible day, while beginners can simply rest on their flexible day to better recover for next week’s cycle.

Core Principles:

The program is unique in it’s overall adaptability. However, the core routine is built around tried and true principles that consistently return the best results:

  1. Both lower-rep/higher-weight and higher-rep/lower-weight sets are included to maximize hypertrophy.
  2. Compound movements are performed at the beginning of the workout, generally with heavier weight & lower reps.
  3. Accessory movements are performed after compound movements, generally with lower weight, and higher reps.
  4. The core program is designed to work each muscle group twice per week. (Using the flexible day, individual “lagging” areas such as calves/deltoids can be targeted three times per week)
  5. Your days are split into “Push” days, and “Pull” days. This allows you to focus your workout on muscle groups that compliment one another. For example, pull-ups are a compound movement that primarily work the Latissimus Dorsi (back muscles), with secondary recruitment of the biceps. You can then push your partially-fatigued biceps to failure with bicep curls after the compound movements.

DividerTemplateThe Routine:

If you’re wondering why each set is tracked individually refer to the “RPT & Set Notation” section below.

Monday: Push Strength
3-5 Bench Press
4-6 Bench Press
4-6 Bench Press

5-8 Leg Press (Squats are also acceptable)
6-10 Leg Press
6-10 Leg Press

4-6 Overhead Press
5-8 Overhead Press
5-8 Overhead Press

6-10 Standing Calf Raises (in a Smith Machine, or with dumbells)
6-10 Standing Calf Raises
8-12 Standing Calves Raises

Tuesday: Pull Strength
3-5 Deadlift [optional: see below]

3-5 Weighted Chinups
3-5 Weighted Chinups
5-8 Weighted Chinups

5-8 Weighted Pullups
5-8 Weighted Pullups
8-12 Weighted Pullups

10-20 Hanging Leg Raises (with a bent knee for beginners, legs straight for experienced lifters)
10-20 Hanging Leg Raises
10-20 Hanging Leg Raises

8-12 Dumbell Hammer Curls
8-12 Dumbell Hammer Curls

Wednesday: Rest or Cardio

Thursday: Push Volume
4-6 Incline Bench Press
5-8 Incline Bench Press
5-8 Incline Bench Press

8-12 Seated Calf Raises
15-20 Seated Calf Raises
15-20 Seated Calf Raises

8-12 Dumbell Bench Press
8-12 Dumbell Bench Press
8-12 Dumbell Bench Press

8-12 Seated Overhead Press
8-12 Seated Overhead Press
8-12 Seated Overhead Press

Optional: 2-3 sets of Tricep work

Friday: Pull Volume

4-6 Weighted Chin-ups
5-8 Weighted Chin-ups
5-8 Weighted Chin-ups

5-8 Weighted Pullups
6-10 Weighted Pullups
6-10 Weighted Pullups

8-12 Curl (any variant works fine)
8-12 Curl
8-12 Curl
8-12 Curl

10-20 Incline Situps (weighted if necessary)
10-20 Incline Situps
10-20 Incline Situps

8-12 Steps of Dumbell Walking Lunges (8-12 steps with each leg, not 8-12 steps total)
8-12 Steps of Dumbell Walking Lunges
8-12 Steps of Dumbell Walking Lunges

Saturday: Flex Day – Up To You

Sunday: Rest or Cardio

IF-WorkFAQ:

RPT & Set Notation:

In the routine, you may be confused that you don’t see the traditional “3×6-8 Bench Press” notation. This is because each set is allowed to move, and is tracked, independent of other sets. This allows for efficient progressive overload on your lifts.

I keep track of everything in the “Notes” app of my phone, but paper is fine. Here’s an example of what you could put into your phone one week:

5-8 Incline Bench 45lb+15lb x8reps (Write the weight added to each side of the bar, 60 pounds, and the 8 reps completed)
6-10 Incline Bench 45lb+10lb x9reps
8-12 Incline Bench 45lb x11reps

You may notice the progression from heavier sets to lighter sets on your compound movements. This approach is sometimes referred to as Reverse Pyramid Training. The reason is because when you’re “fresh” you can more effectively train heavier/closer to your maximum weight, while the following sets are designed to fatigue the muscle groups.

Continuing our previous example, the next week you might write down the following:

5-8 Incline Bench 45lb+17.5lb x5reps
6-10 Incline Bench 45lb+10lb x10reps
8-12 Incline Bench 45lb x11reps

As you can see, each set is allowed to progress independently. On your first set you added weight (since you reached the top of your rep window), and could completed 5 reps with the new weight. Your second set went up in reps with the same weight, and your last set stalled at 11 reps.

What should I do on my flexible day?

That’s entirely up to you.

As for what I would recommend, if you’re a beginner you should rest on your flexible day: you’ll need the additional recovery time. You could also use the day for recreational activities such as rock climbing, biking, calisthenics, etc.

If you’re an advanced lifter, you may benefit from additional volume and frequency. When bulking, use the day to target your “problem areas”: forearms, deltoids, calves, etc. When cutting weight, I would recommend using the day to rest for better recovery in preparation for next week’s cycle.

What about warm-ups?

Warm-ups aren’t included in the set notation above. You only need to warm-up for first one or two compound movements on each day. After that point, you’ll already be warmed up — there’s not point in warming up for your assistance lifts.

To warm up, I generally perform one set, using 50% of my working weight, for 5 reps. For example, if I normally deadlift 300 pounds, I would lift ~150 pounds for 5 repetitions before beginning my workout.

assisted-chinupWhat do I do if I can’t perform a weighted pull-up or chin-up yet?

Your gym likely has what’s called an assisted pullup machine. I’ve attached a picture to the right, basically the machine uses counterweights to make pullups easier.

Work on lowering the amount of assistance weight used, then move on to bodyweight pullups. Once you reach the top of your rep window with unweighted pullups, you can start adding additional weight.

Why deadlift only once per week?

I recommend performing only one set of deadlifs per week (not counting your warm-up sets). Not out of laziness, or because I dislike deadlifts — in fact they are by far my favorite lift.

However, deadlifts drain your CNS like nothing else. Attempting to do three to five sets of deadlifts would severely impact your performance for the rest of your workout. Once you reach a certain working weight for deadlifts, performing the movement twice a week doesn’t offer enough recovery time to push yourself to the limit.

Furthermore, there’s no feeling like getting ready for a set of deadlifts and knowing that you have only one chance to break your record. If you fail, you must wait a whole week to try again. This fires up my adrenaline and helps me dial up the intensity like nothing else. It’s a great way to break records and start a workout.

Why are there no squats?

I did squats for my first few years of training. I am now transitioning away from them due to their tendency to disproportionately develop the adductors and vastus lateralis relative to the vastus medialis — resulting in thighs that are too small around the knee area. To correct for this, I’m adopting leg press over the squat.

Feel free to continue doing squats if you like them. Substitute them for the leg press, I simply prefer the leg press to avoid vertical spinal loading and to control the shape of my legs.

Can I substitute different lifts/movements?

Use your best judgement.

For assistance movements, feel free to switch to a preferred exercise if it targets the same muscle groups, keeping the same rep range. For example: hamstring curls aren’t a good substitute for deadlifts, but if you’d rather do T-Bar Rows instead of Cable Rows, that’s fine.

Why so much calf volume?

Calves are a weak point for most trainers, and benefit from the increased volume. I’ve written more in-depth about calf training here, if you want more insight into how I designed calf training into this routine.

What about diet?

I go in-depth into calorie-tracking and diet planning in this article. However, the basics are pretty simple. Eat a lot of protein every day. On your core workout days, eat more carbohydrates and less fat. On your rest days (this includes your flexible day, even if you go to the gym) eat less carbohydrates and more fat. Eat more calories on your core days than your rest days.

If you’re more interested in a few basic tips for losing weight, but don’t want to go into detail tracking calorie intake, this page would be more helpful to you.

What about supplements?

Supplements are mostly a waste of time and money, but there are some exeptions. For those interested, I’ve written a page on the subject: A Skeptical Guide to Supplements.