Saturday, April 10, 2010

2-3-5-10 Workout Plan

I received an e-mail this morning asking me how to set up a 2-3-5-10 workout plan based on my post from a couple days ago (which is itself based on a workout by Dan John). The author of the e-mail wanted to know what kind of split to use and what exercises should be utilized.

This post is my answer. (I decided to post my answer here since I have a feeling there are others interested in this kind of workout who have similar questions.)

First, let's talk exercise selection. Obviously this program is one of those where you need to select "bang-for-your-buck" exercises. Squats, front squats, and hack squats (real hack squats as I performed in my training entry) would all be great lower body pushing movements. Deadlifts, platform deadlifts, snatch-grip deadlifts, high pulls, and power cleans would all be excellent lower body pulling movements. Dumbbell bench presses and barbell bench presses of all sorts, as well as overhead presses and dips would all be great upper body pushing movements. And chins, bent-over rows, dumbbell rows, and machine rows (of all sorts) would be excellent upper body pulling movements. Also, don't forget to do a little direct arm work.

Second, let's look at the layout of the program. I think there are several ways to set it up. I think the three best ways would be with 1) a 3-days-per-week, full body workout plan; 2) an upper body, lower body split; or 3) a 3-way bodypart split.

The Full Body Plan
If you decide to go with the full body plan, then use a full-body "split" program—and, no, I'm not being oxymoronic here. Your 3 day-per-week, full-body split plan would look something like this:

Monday: squats, dumbbell bench presses, barbell curls
Wednesday: snatch-grip deadlifts, close-grip chins
Friday: front squats, dips

On the following Monday, you would select another lower body pulling movement and another upper body movement.

Upper/Lower Split
This one's fairly straightforward. For instance, on Mondays and Thursdays, train your lower body. On Tuesdays and Fridays, train your upper body. This one's a little better for more "advanced" lifters, however, since you can do more total work at each session.

The upper body workout could be comprised of bench presses, standing overhead presses, chins, and barbell curls—trust me, that's a hard workout when using this method.

The lower body workout could be comprised of squats, deadlifts, and hack squats.

One word of caution: don't use workouts this tough until you've built up the necessary work capacity to do them.

3 Way Split Program
This one is only for advanced lifters. Your split should look like this:
Day One: chest and back
Day Two: legs
Day Three: off
Day Four: shoulders and arms
Day Five: off
Day Six: repeat

The reason this is for advanced lifters is because by the time you reach this level you should have the need to do a lot of work in a single workout.

Here's a sample shoulders and arms workout, for instance: behind-the-neck presses, standing dumbbell presses, barbell curls, dips, and reverse curls

A few other points
I want to mention a few other points to make your workouts effective:

Pick a weight for your "work" sets where—if you were to perform only one set—you would reach failure somewhere around the 15th rep.

Move as fast as possible between sets, but not too fast. You should stay strong throughout the workout.

Have as much fun as possible. As I mentioned in my last post, workouts should always be fun. That way, you stick with them.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Training Entry #3: The One with the Dan John Workout

First off, before you read this entry I would advise that you head on over to T-Muscle and read the latest article by Dan John entitled "The Problem with Hypertrophy Programs." Otherwise, you might just be lost.

With that out of the way, let's get to the post...

Training Entry #3:
The One with the Dan John Workout

Tonight, I had a cold. (Odd thing about these "training entries": When I wrote the first one, that was the last time I had a cold.) I didn't feel too good, but I also wasn't going to miss a workout. I don't miss workouts—period. I might take planned layoffs on occasion; even if the plan pops into my head a day before the workout. But the planned layoff is different—it's only because I know that my body needs a break to recover.

"I got a plan" I told Puddin upon his arrival at the Wreckin' Crew gym. (Okay, it's not really called "The Wreckin' Crew", but to understand you need to read the past entries.)

"You always have plans with our workouts," he replied. "You're like some sort of mad scientist whose twisted mind is locked in primordial battle with the bodybuilding gods. But..." he paused briefly, "there's nothing that you can throw at me that you haven't already done before." After another pause, he went on: "And... you happen to be sick. I'm not. Which means your butt is getting out-trained by yours truly." He had a great big smirk on his face. Trust me: it's a great big smirk. Puddin's head—like the rest of his frame—is enormous.

"Funny," I said. "But this one is different. We're going to perform a workout that we haven't quite done before."

I then explained to him the basics of Dan John's 2-3-5-10 workout.

"Nothing to it," was his reply.

Since I was sick—and Puddin' hates the exercise we chose for our quads, the hack squat (and when I say hack squat, I mean good, old fashioned George Hackenshmidt hack squats, not the crappy machine hack squats you see in most gyms)—we decided to go with an easy 205 pound hack squat.

The first cluster of 20 reps wasn't too bad. The second cluster—oddly enough—was the one that I found myself the most tired on, the third, fourth, and fifth clusters really weren't troublesome at all.

For the 2-3-5 portion, we moved very fast. In fact, I don't think we rested more than 20 to 30 seconds between each one of those sets.

On the sets of 10, we stayed strong throughout the workout. However, 205 really was too light—even though I'm sure my quads will still be sore tomorrow—so I was interested if the strength on the 10 rep sets would hold up when we switched over to a tougher upper body pushing exercise.

For our upper body pushing exercises, Puddin' chose the flat bench press and I chose the flat dumbbell bench press.

Puddin' benches around 400 pounds at the moment—but since he bench pressed 315 for a lot of sets of 3 reps on Monday—I decided that 225 pounds would be a good weight for him.

I used 80 pounds dumbbells.

Both of these weights—the 225 pounds for my partner and the 80s for myself—are good starting points for this kind of workout since they are the weights I would have chosen for us if we were to do a more traditional 10 sets of 10 reps program.

As with the hack squats, we moved very fast on the 2-3-5 portion of the workout. (I like using the dumbbells for this kind of workout—they force you to work more since you have to constantly pick them up, then set them back down.) 30 seconds rest between sets was the norm.

After we finished the sets of 5, we always rested a minute or two before doing our sets of 10.

Sure enough, as the workout progressed, not only did both of us stay strong on the sets of 10, we actually got stronger. I have a feeling this is because this style of workout potentiates your nervous system—which means as the workout progresses, you become stronger due to your nervous system becoming more efficient. (That might not be the exact science behind it, but I have a feeling that it's close.)

Although I never train just to get a pump, both of us had enormously pumped upper bodies by the time the workout was finished. I also have a very good feeling that my chest, shoulders, and triceps are going to be rather sore come the morning.

"Heckuva workout," Puddin' said upon completion. He vaguely reminded me of an odd hybrid of powerlifter/bodybuilder/polar bear/pit bull. Don't know why, but that's what crossed my mind.

"More of a workout than we realize," I said. "We just did 100 reps in no time flat, with more weight than any traditional workout."

It was fun, enjoyable, allowed us to use a high workload even with the lighter weights, and we'll definitely be doing it again.

(On a side note, I want to say this: Make sure that your workouts are always enjoyable. Sure, lifting weights can be hard and tough at times, but a workout should also feel good. It should be a pleasurable experience. It should be an expression of joy.)