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Thread: How's this for a kickstart in basic strength? page

  1. #1
    norak's Avatar
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    How's this for a kickstart in basic strength?

    In an effort to lose weight while maintaining muscle I've set up a new workout program that I plan to follow for the next 8-12 weeks. It's been a while since I did any consistent strength training, but I'm quite familiar with all the exercises listed.

    So, here's the program:

    Monday
    Bench press
    Squats (heavy)
    Chin-ups
    Biceps isolation (typically curls or similar)
    Calf raises

    Wednsday
    Deadlift
    Lunges
    Dips
    Triceps isolation (typically cable pulls, kickbacks, french presses or similar)
    Shoulder presses/military presses

    Friday
    Bench press w/dumbbells (heavy)
    Squats
    Sitting/standing rowing
    Pull-ups/pull-downs
    Standing deadlift

    I also plan on doing 6-12 min. treadmill/spinning as a warm-up before strength training in addition to some form of aerobic activity (hiking, running, bicycling, etc.) hopefully 1-2 times per week (on the days I'm not in the gym).

    My primary goals are to reduce my BF from ~25% to the 10-12% range and hopefully also increase my strength in bench press, squat, deadlift, dips and pull-ups/chin-ups.

    So, what do you think? Is it a decent setup, or are there any things I should replace or shift around? Anything I should add? It's quite similar to a starting 5x5 program, so I hope it will get the job done.
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  2. #2
    Primal Fist's Avatar
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    It's not bad, but overcomplicated in my opinion. I would ditch the following (assuming you're not already a significantly strong person): dumbbell bench (normal bench will be fine), Romanian deads (which is what I assume you mean by 'standing deadlift' since a normal deadlift is standing), tricep isolation moves (overhead and bench pressing will be fine for this purpose), lunges (squats, again, will suit this purpose fine).

    Also I would have the compound movements at the start (shoulder press) and also do the press and bench before squatting and deadlifting always, because a really heavy pushing movement won't fatigue you so much that you can't squat effectively, but the reverse is not always true. Also I wouldn't curl and chin on the same day.

    So I would offer this revised version:

    Monday
    Bench
    Squats
    Curls
    Calf raises

    Wednesday
    Press
    Deadlift
    Chins
    Dips

    Friday
    Bench
    Squats
    Rows
    Curls


    So I would alternate the bench and press each workout, meaning next week would be press/bench/press from monday to friday, then back to the above. Same for curls and chins.

  3. #3
    Leida's Avatar
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    I don't think one needs isolation excersises when starting to build up strength. They are more for tuning and targeting for people who have developed strength beyond average and going towards body building. I mean, everyone has their favorite isolation excersise, so if it rocks your boat, sure slip in a set of curls. But for functionality, I would just go with your plan and skip all isolations for something like:

    Monday
    Bench press
    Squats (heavy)
    Chin-ups/pull-ups

    Wednsday
    Deadlift
    Lunges or Bulgarian Split Squat
    Dips
    Overhead Press with a Barbell

    Friday
    Bench press w/dumbbells (heavy)
    Squats
    Sitting/standing rowing
    Pull-ups/pull-downs

    I am not sure what standing deadlift is, but I heartily recommend one-legged stiff-legged deadlift if you are into variety. Other than that, another set of plain good old deadlift if you can handle it is just fine.

    I would also stick with bench press with a bar- it is safer with higher weights.

    I would also consider push-ups and weighted push-ups for Monday
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  4. #4
    iniQuity's Avatar
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    I've never understood calf raises at all. Your calves are going to be strong if you do any walking/jogging/sprinting/etc especially barefoot or with minimalist footwear. You should be sprinting around once weekly, that will take care of your calves plenty. I wouldn't bother much with isolation either, do heavy chins and also higher-rep chins to "target" your biceps.

    When it comes to triceps do extensions but where your body is the resistance not a weight, find a low-ish bar and flatten yourself, do extensions that way.

  5. #5
    norak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Primal Fist View Post
    It's not bad, but overcomplicated in my opinion. I would ditch the following (assuming you're not already a significantly strong person): dumbbell bench (normal bench will be fine), Romanian deads (which is what I assume you mean by 'standing deadlift' since a normal deadlift is standing), tricep isolation moves (overhead and bench pressing will be fine for this purpose), lunges (squats, again, will suit this purpose fine).
    I'm not sure how you define "significantly strong", but I'm 6'3" and ~107kg (~235lbs). Last week I did sets with 90kg in bench press, 75kg in squats, 80kg in deadlifts, weigted dips (8kg), body-weighted chin-ups and body-weighted pull-ups. I'm guesstimating I could max out at 110-115kg in bench, 85-90kg in squats and 95-105kg in deadlift, if I tried (I haven't tried in a very, very long time, as 1RM/5RM doesn't really appeal to me.) I've been lifting weights on and off for about ten years, so I'm not exactly a newbie. I've just been out of the game for a while.

    The reason I added dumbbell bench presses is for variation. I also like it for flexibilty/mobilty and that it hits the triceps and other small muscles harder. I guess I could switch it around with doing regular bench presses for a few weeks then do dumbbells for a few weeks instead.

    Same thing with lunges. I do them to improve my balance (which really, really, sucks).

    Regarding the isolation exercises: say I'm able to do 5x5 chin-ups, but then I'm too tired to do any more. I'm still able to do biceps curls, but you're saying I should drop them and not do any more biceps work that day? Same goes for triceps isolation. I added them as an extra after doing the other stuff, and thinking that I could skip them if I'm ever pressed on time.

    The standing deadlift is like this:
    Barbell Straight Leg Deadlift

    (although I'm not flexible enough to go all the way down.)

    The purpose being to train the backside of your thigs and butt. A major reason for me to do this exercise is to increase my flexibility. Squats help, but I can already squat down to the floor, so I need another exercise to improve flexibility further. I've found standing deadlifts to be a good one.

    Quote Originally Posted by Primal Fist View Post
    Also I would have the compound movements at the start (shoulder press) and also do the press and bench before squatting and deadlifting always, because a really heavy pushing movement won't fatigue you so much that you can't squat effectively, but the reverse is not always true.
    I see. I've always done squats/deadlifts before bench, simply because I find leg-work so boring that I have to do it as my first exercise, or I'm very likely to skip doing them at all.

    Quote Originally Posted by Primal Fist View Post
    Also I wouldn't curl and chin on the same day.
    Why not? The reason I'm doing curls in the first place is to "use up" whatever energy I have left after doing the chin-ups. Doing them on separate days seems counterproductive to me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Primal Fist View Post
    So I would alternate the bench and press each workout, meaning next week would be press/bench/press from monday to friday, then back to the above. Same for curls and chins.
    It's not a bad idea, and I've done alternating programs like this before, but it usually ends with me forgetting where in the cycle I am at any given day. This is especially true when life happens and I have to shuffle my days around. For now, I think it's easier to stick with doing the same exercises consistently on the same days.

    Quote Originally Posted by Leida View Post
    I don't think one needs isolation excersises when starting to build up strength.
    I don't either. I added them because I felt I still had energy left over to do them. I don't consider them an important part of the program. They're just a bonus for the days when I feel really energetic.

    I would never "hold back" on compound exercises to "save energy" for isolation exercises. I only do them when I feel like it after doing the important ones.

    Quote Originally Posted by Leida View Post
    I would also stick with bench press with a bar- it is safer with higher weights.
    I normally train with a spotter, so this is not a problem. Also, I usually feel that bench press with dumbbells is safer when training alone, since I can just drop the dumbbells if I lift to failure. I can't lift to failure with a bar by myself. I've used up to 40kg (~88lbs) dumbbells for bench presses when working out alone in the past, and I've never had a problem with this. It's a bit tricky to get from a sitting to standing position alone with heavy dumbbells, but once you have good technique it's no problem.

    Quote Originally Posted by Leida View Post
    I would also consider push-ups and weighted push-ups for Monday
    Yeah. I've used push-ups for warming up to the bench in the past. I've just never considered them a part of my program. Maybe I will start doing them again.

    Thanks for all your feedback. It's greatly appreciated.
    Last edited by norak; 08-31-2011 at 07:45 AM.
    Norak's Primal Journal:
    2010-07-23: ~255lbs, ~40.0"
    2011-11-03: ~230lbs, ~35.5"
    2011-12-07: ~220lbs, ~34.0"

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by iniQuity View Post
    I've never understood calf raises at all. Your calves are going to be strong if you do any walking/jogging/sprinting/etc especially barefoot or with minimalist footwear. You should be sprinting around once weekly, that will take care of your calves plenty. I wouldn't bother much with isolation either, do heavy chins and also higher-rep chins to "target" your biceps.
    I often do uphill sprints or flat sprints on the grass when I'm out hiking, but it's not something I plan for or set out to do specifically. Sprinting is just something I do whenever I feel like it.

    I'm not sure I buy the argument that calves are trained by walking/sprinting. In that case, why bother doing squats and deadlifts? After all, we use those muscles when we walk/run also.

    Quote Originally Posted by iniQuity View Post
    When it comes to triceps do extensions but where your body is the resistance not a weight, find a low-ish bar and flatten yourself, do extensions that way.
    Sounds interesting. Do you have any picture/video link for that kind of exercise? I'm not sure I understood the explanation.

    I don't understand why isolation exercises are getting such a bad rep? I would understand the critique if one is only doing isolation, but how can compound + isolation be worse than only compound? If I have energy for it, why should I not do it?
    Norak's Primal Journal:
    2010-07-23: ~255lbs, ~40.0"
    2011-11-03: ~230lbs, ~35.5"
    2011-12-07: ~220lbs, ~34.0"

  7. #7
    Leida's Avatar
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    I've never understood calf raises at all.
    +1 LOL! You are after my heart! Shrugs and calf rises. I don't know what has to happen for me to invest time in those!

    I don't either. I added them because I felt I still had energy left over to do them. I don't consider them an important part of the program. They're just a bonus for the days when I feel really energetic
    Oh, then you will lose them soon enough after the weight goes up a bit. Though I;d rather invest energy in body weight movements + body weight with weight than into curls, but that's me. I want a t-shirt saying "I don't do curls."

    By the way, just for completeness, you do do the warm-up sets and what's your sets/reps goals for each of the compound lifts?
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  8. #8
    Abu Reena's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leida View Post
    +1 LOL! You are after my heart! Shrugs and calf rises. I don't know what has to happen for me to invest time in those!
    Shrugs are a useful assistance exercise for deadlifts. You need strong traps to help with the lockout if you're going really heavy. I do shrugs on a non-deadlift day, and in addition to getting a cool yoke, I've found the lockout to be fairly easy. If i can break the weight off the floor, I can lock it out, and I attribute it to shrugging about 100 lbs more than I can deadlift. The only downside is my dress shirts don't fit as well!

  9. #9
    norak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leida View Post
    Oh, then you will lose them soon enough after the weight goes up a bit. Though I;d rather invest energy in body weight movements + body weight with weight than into curls, but that's me. I want a t-shirt saying "I don't do curls."
    Yeah, but if I cut down the program to only compounds, I feel the workouts just get too short... I feel like, hey, shouldn't I be doing something more?

    Quote Originally Posted by Leida View Post
    By the way, just for completeness, you do do the warm-up sets and what's your sets/reps goals for each of the compound lifts?
    Last week I did something like this (spread over three days):

    Bench press: 1x8 x 20kg (warm-up), 1x8 x 40kg (warm-up), 1x8 x 60kg, 1x8 x 70kg, 1x8 x 80kg, 1x8 x 90kg
    Squats: 1x8 x 20kg (warm-up), 1x8 x 40kg (warm-up), 1x8 x 50kg, 1x8 x 60kg, 1x8 x 70kg, 1x8 x 75kg
    Deadlifts: 1x8 x 20kg (warm-up), 1x8 x 40kg (warm-up), 1x8 x 60kg, 2x8 x 70kg, 1x8 x 80kg
    Dips (12 narrow push-ups for warm-up): 1x8 x (warm-up), 1x8 x 4kg, 1x8 x 6kg, 2x8 x 8kg
    Chin-ups (light biceps curls for warm-up): 4x4
    Pull-ups (light pull-downs for warm-up): 3x2, 1x3

    Right now I'm doing progressively heavier weights as I'm trying to establish what weight I should be doing in each exercise. Once I've done that I will be doing more sets with the same weight.

    I'm not too sure about my long-term strength goals, but I'm thinking somewhere around 120kg for bench press, 100kg for squats and 130kg for deadlifts within the next 3-6 months. I'm also aiming to manage sets of 8-12 chin-ups and 6-8 pull-ups with my own body weight, and sets of 6-8 dips with a 20kg added weight. Typically, with a heavy weight, I do 5-7 reps per set and 2-3 sets on the heaviest weight (i.e. 4x6, 4x7, 4x8 or 5x5 for the exercise, excluding warm-up sets).
    Norak's Primal Journal:
    2010-07-23: ~255lbs, ~40.0"
    2011-11-03: ~230lbs, ~35.5"
    2011-12-07: ~220lbs, ~34.0"

  10. #10
    iniQuity's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by norak View Post
    I often do uphill sprints or flat sprints on the grass when I'm out hiking, but it's not something I plan for or set out to do specifically. Sprinting is just something I do whenever I feel like it.

    I'm not sure I buy the argument that calves are trained by walking/sprinting. In that case, why bother doing squats and deadlifts? After all, we use those muscles when we walk/run also.



    Sounds interesting. Do you have any picture/video link for that kind of exercise? I'm not sure I understood the explanation.

    I don't understand why isolation exercises are getting such a bad rep? I would understand the critique if one is only doing isolation, but how can compound + isolation be worse than only compound? If I have energy for it, why should I not do it?
    I mean, do calf raises if you want (hell, isolate whatever you please) but sprints are enough given that the resistance of your body on your calves is greater than it is on your quads and hams since the surface area is smaller.

    This is what I mean, can also be performed with a bar like at a jungle gym for instance. The below exercise has the added bonus of engaging your core more so than the seated dumb-bell tricep extension or the standing tricep pull down machine. To progress make yourself even more parallel with the ground, notice the guy below doesn't have much of an incline, it's a brutal exercise when you're lower.


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