The best bodies in the world were built with these basics.
There are multiple ways to go about achieving the same shredded look with resistance training. There is already too much training information available on the internet. My goal is not to add to it, but to simplify it. The topic is too vast and varied to cohesively guide on everything without confusing and paralysing people with information. It’s simply not necessary either.
We will focus on a training style with a bias towards progressive strength gains in the main compound movements. I believe this is the fastest way to get strong, fit, and change your physique with the least risk of spinning your wheels (i.e. effort without results).
I don’t want you to waste years of your life, as I did, before finding what really works.
You can achieve amazing change by training just 3 days a week for an hour.
If you are new to training, you’re in luck. This will be the best training year of your life, and is your opportunity to make the most dramatic changes to your body. You will have ‘beginner bonus gains’ as I like to call them. Do not waste this opportunity, and do not suffer fools that try to steer you off the path toward ineffective routines.
If you have been training a while and haven’t seen the progress you thought you would, a renewed focus on the basics will benefit you greatly also. It’s not too late to start now, but it would be a waste to continue something and expect a different result.
[I will expand on this section heavily and plan to make it into it's own article.]
An effective training routine must follow The Principle of Progressive Overload. This means it must allow for you to consistently adding reps, or weight to the bar over time to drive physical adaptation and change.
Barbells exercises are best. They are one of the easiest tools for allowing incremental loading, they are toughest to cheat on, and the easiest to gauge your progress with.
A beginner needs less overall training volume to bring about change than an advanced lifter. Do the minimum you can to keep progressing at a sustainable rate. The pros train 5+ days a week because they have built up the workout tolerance for it, and also because they need it to still make gains. (You’ll also see skinny guys down the gym copying them without knowing any better. Focus on your own training, not others.)
<—- Beginner — Intermediate — Advanced —->
Cutting: 3 days — 3 days — 3-4 days
Bulking: 3 days — 3-4 days — 4-6 days
Do not jump to something more ‘advanced’ as you’ll simply make slower progress. Most trainees are not nearly as ‘advanced’ as they think. Everyone carries less muscle mass than they think. Following a 5/6-day split routine like your favourite bodybuilder you read in a magazine is not going to be optimal for a drug-free individual. Simple training routines focused on barbels do not make for a sexy article in a magazine.
Always use good form.
‘Correct Form’ When Training
If you do not use correct form you will not only sacrifice your gains, but set yourself up for injury somewhere in the not-too-distant future. Good form is critically important, I recommend you to:
- Read Mark Rippetoe’s ‘Starting Strength – 3rd Edition‘. He’s considered one of the best. It is the best ‘how-to’ guide to performing barbel exercises I have ever read.
- Watch his Youtube video lectures.
- Invest in a good personal trainer to check your form. (Not always that easy to tell. Here I’ve written more about choosing a good trainer.)
Making a small investment now will pay big dividends in the future.
Suggested Training Programs
Here are two tried and tested, proven routines:
1. ‘The Big 3′ Routine Whenever anyone mentions ‘The Big 3′ they mean the Squat, Deadlift and Bench-press. Hundreds of thousands have got big, and defined physiques just using these three exercises.
2. ‘Three Day Split Reverse Pyramid Training (RPT)’ For those with training experience. This is recommended by Martin Berkhan of leangains.com, and builds on the principles and minimalistic style recommended by Stuart McRobert in his highly acclaimed, much recommended book, ‘Beyond Brawn’.
How do I choose the ‘right’ training program for me?
If you’re new to serious barbell strength training or haven’t done it in a while then consider ‘The Big 3′. If not then you may need the full 3 day split or somewhere in between the two. Have a read of both the articles as I’ve recently rewritten them to help make the decision easier. Also see ‘How to progress from the Big 3 to Split Routines‘ as this explains what I mean when I say “somewhere in between the two”.
From the article, ‘The Principle of Progressive Overload‘:
- The most important thing for the beginner trainee is that you get on a good strength training program then stick to it.
- The most important thing for the intermediate and advanced trainee becomes not what program you follow (for you must have followed a good one or you wouldn’t be intermediate or advanced), but how you tweak it to follow the principle of progressive overload so that you keep advancing with your training.