On resistance training routines

How are you going to make it happen, getting bigger or stronger, faster or leaner, over the next 3 or 6 months? Putting some thought into planning is definitely a worthwhile endeavor. Trust me that unless you are a pure beginner or genetically creepy, it is not going to happen by accident.

There was a point when I thought through such things far more than what was required or even healthy. With the dawning of each new semester or change in work or life status, I agonized over various minutia. A while ago I wrote approximately 500 words of what I learned from that [ found here.] Basically, you need not train more than 4 days per week. Even then, you would probably achieve the same or more in 3 or even 2 days of resistance training per week.

Someone recently wrote to ask what I thought of his training plan. His primary goals are to get stronger and leaner. How does it sound to you?

Monday: (Resistance training) Chest and back
Tuesday: Legs
Wednesday: Arms, shoulders.
Thursday: Rest / rec sports
Friday: Plyometrics and sprints (lower body power and conditioning.)
Saturday: Total body lift (press, squat, row, chin-up)
Sunday: Rest / rec sports

This is a decent program. It fits the four day per week requirement. But it's getting a little flaky in a few ways. I always think it's better to label training days by movement (push, pull, squat, etc) rather than body parts, but we'll keep that off the table for now.

The response depends on how many days you really want to go to the gym and the primary (goal) emphasis. Is your need to work out more about mental health (or illness)? If so that's fine if you label it as such and don't assume it's the best for you physically. As far as goals, are you interested primarily in upping the weights on your major lifts, or maybe running faster, or more on leaning out a bit?

While any of these are fine and reasonable goals, for the far majority of serious athletes, making strength their primary goal for a while will help them achieve almost every other goal in a more timely and efficient manner. Upping the weights slowly in the "big" lifts will demand more lean muscle, neurological efficiency, as well as joint mobility and stability, all of which keep you primed and healthy no matter what other goals you move on to...(hopefully after at least 6 months of focused resistance training ; ))

WARNING: I will be sarcastically talking about shoulders for the remainder of this writing!
As far as detail goes, the arms/shoulders day is a throw-away. What do shoulders need after pressing and pulling heavy on Monday and possibly dead lifting on Tuesday? Is it likely that horizontal and vertical pulling movements on Monday will interfere with your ability to rip hundreds of pounds off the ground on Tuesday? You betcha.

Muscles take far more than a day to recover from intense effort, much less supercompensate. So why not keep it simple?  There are so many ways to keep it simple yet work hard on 2, 3, or 4 days per week. Here's a suggested alternative that maintains some resemblance to the training program in question. It may be closer to ideal if there were no other considerations for work, school, or sports schedules.

The Look Ma, No Shoulders split

Tuesday: Dead lifts, split squats, accessory leg and core work.
Wednesday: Upper body pressing, upper back, arms.
Thursday: rest/rec sports
Friday: plyos/sprints conditioning
Saturday: Total body (Squats, upper body push and pull, core accessory)
Sunday and Monday: off/rec sports

If you can press a little more weight overhead each Saturday, add some weight to the chin-up belt, and dead lift twice your body weight for reps and STILL manage to have small or weak arms or shoulders, I will personally do forward, lateral, and reverse delt raises, both cable and dumbbell versions, with you three days per week for one year.

That's like 6 (exercises per shoulder workout) X 3 (workouts per week) X 52 weeks per year) =  936 sets devoted to approximately 1/10th of the body's muscle mass in 2014. Our shoulders will be given the attention of the Princes of Maine, and treated like Kings of New England.

But first you have to earn it with at least a few months of my wimpy shoulder program. 

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