Built Around Compound Lifts
Many programs you see in bodybuilding magazines are all over the place. Following a typical bodybuilding split, a chest day for example might include incline flies, decline flies, chest presses, pec deck, and lots of other smaller movements. This is very ineffective for most trainees.
Compound lifts such as the bench press, overhead press, squat and deadlift variations, and some Olympic lifts should all be staples in your program if you are serious about your results. Once you’ve taken care of the basics, you are then free to do what you wish with accessory lifts and isolation movements.
Focus on Progressive Overload
You need to get strong, no way around that. It doesn’t matter if your goal is fat loss, muscle gain, or performance – a strong base will help with just about any goal. Now, the exact breakdown of your program will be different person to person, but you should always try to get stronger at your main lifts over time.
It won’t be always be linear progression, and there are many ways to go about it, but if you haven’t made progress on your big lifts in a few weeks, you need to re-assess what you are doing. In a pure fat loss phase, with restricted calories, you may not make many strength gains, but you should still try to keep as much strength as you can if you want to hold on to your hard-earned muscle.
No Training Imbalances
If you bench press every other day, and only train your rows once a week, you are going to give yourself some serious postural issues and mess up all kinds of stuff in your body over time.
You should be doing just as much posterior chain work, if not more, over the course of a week. Add up your sets of horizontal pressing, such as bench presses or pushups; you should be doing the same number of sets at minimum for horizontal pulling, such as rowing variations.
If you sit most of the day, or have problems with posture or shoulder tightness, do twice as much pulling. The same goes for your hamstrings and glutes – hammer those bad boys just as much as you do your quads, probably more in fact.
Work in a Variety of Rep Ranges
A great way to set up your program is to include rep ranges in both strength and hypertrophy ranges. Pick your main lift and use lower reps, then work the repetitions up for your accessory work. This ensures you are chasing strength, as we discusses above, and you can still get your hypertrophy and endurance training. A sample pushing workout might look like this.
Bench Press – 4 sets of 4-8 repetitions
Incline Dumbbell Press – 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions
Cable Flies – 2 sets of 15
Close-Grip Bench Press – 3 sets of 8-12
Tricep Rope Pressdown – 3 sets of 12-15
Last but not least, we come to the topic of nutrition. You can have the best training program in the world, but if your diet is awful, your results will be mediocre at best.
In a fat loss program, you absolutely have to be in a caloric deficit to lose weight, but the most important part is to make sure you are getting enough protein and then limiting your carbs to specific foods for maximum body composition changes. However, even if you are trying to gain strength, you still need to control your diet.
Eating nutritious foods in the right quantities, at the right time, will allow you to develop lean muscle from all your hard work. Eating junk food all day, with maybe a protein shake? You’ll gain weight alright, but you have a pretty good chance of just getting fat – not the ideal situation.