“The tiniest changes yield massive results.” – Tony Robbins
A full-body routine covering all the major muscle groups, doing 5 – 10 compound exercises, one set to failure, has been shown time and time again now to be highly effective. Is it the only way? No, but if you are a full-time father and have a job too, this is efficient and will get you the most muscle, strength, and other health benefits in very minimal time. Plus, when you do this right, recovery from this has proven to take, on average, a week. Now, some people recover faster, and some slower, and you can always tweak this to your personal needs, but in the spirit of the post series about weekly habits, you can start with this and then take it from there.
This is also the first one I recommend you start doing. Because of the time being relatively short in duration and the weekly frequency, your ability to stick to this greatly improves. Then, as you get comfortable with it and you see the gains, you could start adding in the other parts to the weekly program. Also, whether it is machines or free weights, honestly, either is fine. If you are a power lifter, then using free weights would probably be the way to go, but for what we are trying to drive home, regarding momentary muscular failure, both work, so it comes down to what you feel most comfortable and safest with.
So what should it look like. Well, with my clients, I start them off with the smith machine squat. Then deadlift, chest press, pulldown, then I use a glute-ham developer (It’s awesome!) I named Ghilda. Then I do a hip extension exercise, then we go back to the upper body doing shoulder presses, then rows. Depending on the client and how the training is going, I will do a set of bicep curls and tricep pushdowns, but this is not a requirement due to the level of work these muscles will have already done in the other lifts. I finish with an abdominal exercise, which I alternate with my clients. Some weeks I use Dr. McGill’s stir-the-pot. Other weeks I throw in Coach Barry Ross’s torture twists. And sometimes, although sparingly, I will have them do weighted crunches. I tend to heed Dr. McGill’s research,expertise, and advice in not wasting spinal bends on needless sit-ups, when the exercises above accomplish so much more in abdominal activation and improving the strength of the whole “corset” of muscle. Then they are done, and I send them home huffing and puffing with a feeling that they have been detached from their bodies as result of all the fatigue.
On a side note, I know Dr. McGuff does upper body exercises first and then does the leg press. I tend to follow Arthur Jones’s approach, working the largest muscle down to the smallest. But I have also found that results tend to be better breaking up the upper body with leg exercises in between. The added recovery between the sets seems to help with consistency in the weekly progression. I also won’t keep the order steadfast. Sometimes I will flip the model and do the upper body to start before doing the legs and I will on occasion mix it up, where after the two leg exercises, I will do shoulders first rather than the chest press. That all being said, I don’t deviate too much, because there really is no need. This type of training is about intensity and progression and building overall strength. As much as I like Crossfit and other programs, don’t fall for the hype of “functional training,” and don’t be confused about training the muscle, and training or practicing for a sport. There is difference, and true success is in knowing the difference and training accordingly.
The last piece of this is the progression. Each week, you should be getting stronger! Now, that can come in two forms. One is adding weight, the second is increasing the number of reps. When adding weight, I generally increase by 10 lbs each week and 5 lbs for females for their upper body exercises. Starting out, strength gains come quick and the curve looks very similar to a sprinter’s acceleration curve; over time, as you reach closer and closer to your potential, the gains will slow. That is when it will become as much an art as a science. This is when changing certain exercises comes in handy, like substituting squats for Bulgarian splits. Instead of adding 10 lbs, it might only be 5. You can adjust the volume and use lighter weight pushing for a higher number of reps, and then other weeks, increase the weight, forcing a lower number of repetitions to be completed. Negatives, used sparingly, are great for this, but remember the ultimate goal in any workout is failure. Reaching failure is the stimulus we want that triggers all of the health and strength benefits we are looking to achieve. Then enjoy the rest of your week before you go and do it again.