Showing up day after day - regardless if you're glowing with motivation or not - is the single most important factor in your fitness journey.
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However, there's a sneaky perpetrator that weasels his way into the consistency equation. His name is called least resistance.
Lets go back to the coast to coast trip to put this into context.
Your single aim is to get to Miami to Laguna Beach as fast as possible. You have a deadline to get there. This takes planning and organization. It also means you can't take any detours derived from pleasure or curiosity.
But along the way, you see an outlet mall that has a Nike store. You cut across three lanes to make the exit, pull in, and spend three hours trying on and looking at gear you don't even need. And after playing mental ping-pong about purchasing decisions, you walk-out with a $10 head-band.
Back to the road.
Then you get hungry and you happen to make it Texas. You yelp the best BBQ spot and go several hours out of the way to try the brisket at Salt Lick. It's delicious - but it also ate four and a half hours of your day.
Back to the road.
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Do you see what has happened?
The path of least resistance has made your trip easier and harder at the same time. It's easier to be free-spirited and not plan at all.
On the other hand, planning a streamlined trip without distraction takes work, preparation and discipline to stay the course. Nonetheless, this easiness comes at the expense of long-term satisfaction and the production of a good end-result.
In the case of the trip from Miami to Laguna Beach, since you let the path of least resistance get the best of you, you missed the business meeting. Consequentially, it also costed you a big-time account.
But the space museum was cool though right?
In fitness, we see this all time - even when consistency is present. Sure, you might be showing up to the gym, but is the path of least resistance getting the best of you at the same time?
Are you getting distracted with ho-hum exercises, ESPN top 10 plays on those mini-screens, too many water-breaks, and false grunts pretending that you're working hard? Are you showing up without a plan each day?
Showing up without purpose, planning or intent provides short-term comfort at the cost long-term satisfying results.
It's time to slay the path of least resistance dragon. Put it down once and for all and get on the shortest path from A to B.
To do that, I've laid out the push-pull-squat program below. It's a four day a week program designed to simplify your training in order to see faster gains.
Simplified 4 Day Workout Routine
Day One - Heavy CompoundsDay one is dedicated to big compounded movements under heavy loads at lower reps with adequate rest between sets. However, we'll keep the intensity up by using cluster sets.
The 20-40 seconds of rest of inter-repetition rest is enough time to resynthesize energy substrates such as creatine to recover from heavy loads. Utilizing cluster sets on day one allows you to move big weight (and stimulate the type II muscle fibers which happens to have the largest capacity for growth) while keeping the intensity of your training up.
In other words, you're going to be moving more load while building volume and maintaining intensity. Say goodbye to garbage sets.
Day one will consist of two movements:
- Front squats: 6 sets of 3-2-2 at 30x0 tempo. Rest 180 seconds between sets.
- Incline Dumbbell Bench Press: 6 sets of 3-2-2 at 30x0 tempo. Rest 180 seconds between sets.
For each movement, you see a 30x0 tempo required, here's how that works:
The first number: The first number is the eccentric portion of the lift. Using the front squat as our example, the three represents the amount of time in seconds it takes you to descend into the bottom position of the front squat. In the incline bench press, the three will represent how long it takes you to bring the dumbbells to your chest from the top position.
The second number: The second number prompts how much time you spend in the bottom of the lift - the point at which the lift transitions from lowering to ascending. In the front squat example, the zero means that you'll immediately hit the bottom position and reverse the movement with squatting the bar up. In the incline dumbbell bench press, the the zero represents the amount of time you'll spend at the bottom of the press - once you get there immediately press up.
The third number: The third number prompts the concentric portion of the lift - the amount of time it should take you to finish the lift. In our example of the front squat and incline bench press example, there is an X labeled. The X instructs that an explosive rep should be executed. It'll feel slow, but the rate of force development applied to the movement should be great.
The fourth number: The fourth number indicates how long you should pause at the top of the lift. In our example, you will not spend any time at the top of either lift.
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Day Two - HypertrophyDay two will be dedicated to hypertrophy. Rep ranges will fall in the classic eight to 15 range with minimal rest. The focus of these movements will be grounded in vertical pushing and pulling.
Why does this matter?
Arnold popularized the push/pull movement pattern during workouts. He didn't need 28 peer-reviewed studies to realize and execute agonist/antagonist training.
He just did it. And the method has stuck over the ages. Combining push/pull movements in on workouts offer several benefits including:
- The strategy of alternating agonist and antagonist movement patterns has shown to increase power output during training.
- It offers muscular balance since you'll be devoting a similar amount of volume to opposite patterns, but in a similar range of motion.
- A2 Close Grip Chin Up: 4 x 12-15
- A1 Push Press: 4 x 12-15
- B1 Lateral Raises: 3 x 15
- B2 Wide Grip Lat Pulldown: 3 x 15
- C1 Cable Flye High-to-Low: 2 x 15
Day Three - Arms and HamstringsDay three will be combo of high-rep hypertrophy work for the arms and low-rep work for the hamstrings since they are comprised of a high amount of type II muscle fibers which respond best to low reps with lots of tension.
- A Romanian Deadlift (Hip extension dominant): 4 x 5. Rest 120 seconds between sets.
- B Knee Flexion Dominant (Knee flexion dominant) : 3 x 10. Rest as needed between sets.
- C Superset 20-15-10-5 of: Close Grip Bench Press and Barbell Curl
- D1 Incline Dumbbell Curls: 3 x 12-15
- D2 Rope Overhead Extension: 3 x 12-15
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Day Four - Strength and Metabolic StressDay four will be broken up to a strength session focusing on a horizontal pull towards your body. Then, you'll transition into a circuit that provides high reps with little rest - Brad Schoefield, the hypertrophy specialist, would call this metabolic stress.
Metabolic stress can be characterized by a few things:
- Constant muscle contractions
- Lack of oxygen in the muscles
- A build of metabolic byproduct
- A Barbell Row: 3 x 10
- B1 Cable Crossovers: 2 x15
- B2 Wide Grip Pull Down: 2 x 15
- B3 Machine Assisted Dips: 2 x 15
- B4 Concentration Curls: 2 x 15
- C1 Lateral Raises: 2 x 15
- C2 Barbell Hip Thrust: 2 x 15
- C3 Leg Extension: 2 x 15
Wrapping UpYou know consistency is first and foremost. The habit of showing up must be burned into your existence. However, if you've mastered the art of showing up, and you still looking average in a cut-off shirt, it's time to back that consistency up with a potent plan.
You've got the plan now. Be consistent. Execute with purpose. Your gains are depending on it.