Let’s Talk Details
1. The Plan
2. Your Job
Deep Incline Dumbbell Press (Pause) (Key)
Dumbbell Flye (Key)
Barbell Row (Pause) (Key)
Hack Squat (Wide Stance to Close stance) (Key)
Barbell Flat Bench (slow negative) (Key)
Weighted Dips (Pause) (Key)
Barbell Back Squat (Pause) (Key)
Bulgarian Split-Squat (Key)
Add sets to these key exercises first when you are planning your workout. The accessory movements are not as important for you to add sets to because they can add extra fatigue too fast.
It is imperative that you focus on developing your form with these exercises to maximize the stimulus and have the best progressions week to week possible. Form is foundational to everything else.
View more cues on the movements in the section “Videos” to further improve your form. Cues are the secret to getting your body to move the way you want it to.
Visualize your form often. When you get to the gym, the only thing that changes is the weight because your form should look just like how you practiced on every single rep
Here are some more tips for your key lifts:
Deep Incline Dumbbell Press (Pause) – People have a tendency to flare their elbows way out and cut their range of motion. I recommend a slight tuck of your elbows to keep your shoulders safer and improve the range of motion. A good rule of thumb is to aim the weights to be in line with the middle of your chest. This forces you to tuck your elbows, and you may even touch the dumbbells to the sides of your chest if you have good shoulders. You always want to pause the deepest spot in your press, that will put the most tension through your muscle.
Dumbbell Flye – Always keep your shoulder blades retracted. As you lower the weights, squeeze the shoulder blades together and try to get a deep stretch in the chest. Keep the elbows under the weight. As you press back up, push your back into the bench to keep your shoulders safe. Finish the movement with the dumbbells over your shoulders. You do not want to touch the dumbbells together because it puts the weight between the shoulders and pulls the arm into a more risky position.
Barbell Row (Pause) – Anyone can use momentum to get the bar off of the ground, but it is very hard to hold the bar against your body at the contraction point. Challenge yourself not with weight, but with control. Pull your body into the bar and squeeze the back. It will reduce the weight you can lift, but it can transform your back.
Hack Squat (Wide Stance to Close stance) – Generally a wide stance is stronger because it uses more of your posterior chain. When I do a wide stance, I only do it slightly wider than my regular stance. This prevents me from putting myself in unstable positions. As for the close stance, make it slightly inside your regular stance. The goal here is to use the quads. If you are unable to go deep with a close stance, it is okay to cut the range of motion. However, if you can use heeled shoes and get a full range of motion, that is ALWAYS better.
Barbell Flat Bench (slow negative) – The beautiful thing about a slow negative is that you can focus on the way you are lifting. In particular, you can feel the bar path of the bench press. You will notice that you will feel stronger at certain points in the movement. Over time, you will find the strongest path to lift the weight. This will carry over when you get back to your regular lifting style and will result in more efficient technique. Pay attention to the path of the weight and how the muscles feel throughout the lift.
Weighted Dips (Pause) – Try to lockout, it prevents ego lifting. If you have concerns about elbow tendonitis then do a soft lockout, where you are about an inch from lockout. When you lower yourself, remember that the more bent over you are, the more you will hit your chest. The more upright you are, the more you put emphasis on the triceps but also the shoulder joint. Identify what feels strongest and most comfortable and stick to that form.
Chin-ups – The more upright you are the more you will feel your teres. The more arched you are, the more you will feel your traps and lats as it make the chin up more like a row. Always get your elbows down and back. Pulling your bodyweight into your as much as possible uses your back and not just your arms.
Barbell Back Squat (Pause) – Work on your mobility if your depth is questionable. A deep paused squat carries over to ALL kinds of squatting. A shallow squat barely carries over to much else except shallow squatting.
Bulgarian Split-Squat – Balance first, weight second. Really focus on controlling the movement and you will feel a huge difference in this lift.
Stay in a Good Spot this Block
You want to add just enough sets and weight to feel like you worked out, but it is not quite a challenge yet. You want a solid workout where you leave feeling accomplished.
Plan your workout and write down the weight, sets, and rep range in the Workout Plan PDF to get you ready for Week 2.
The rep range will be the same as the previous week. The only difference is that you may not be at the top of the rep range this week. This means you should still strive to hit 6 reps on key lifts and 12 reps on accessory lifts. Regardless of the number of reps you do, make sure they are improving the quality of your technique rather than detracting from it. Our goal is to find the way that lifts heavy weight with maximum repeatability and stability.
I encourage you to pick a single weight for your working sets for each exercise. As you add more sets, you will notice that on the last set, your reps are most likely to be the lowest.
As long as your last set is still in the rep range, this performance drop is okay and expected as your muscles get depleted. However, you need to keep your technique solid because that is our priority. Make sure you choose a weight that allows you to be at the top of the rep range for most (if not all) of your working sets. RIR 3 is the goal for each of your sets, however, it is possible that your last set may get closer to RIR 2.
Stay away from RIR 1! You do not want to build fatigue too fast or have to compromise your technique. It is better to have the reps drop and stay in the rep range. Achieving RIR 3 takes priority over staying at the top of the rep range.
Think about each set as a chance to practice your technique. You want as much practice as possible, however, you cannot do more than you can recover from. Aim to get a little sore, never a lot, so you always are fresh to practice technique. On days where you practice technique specifically, make sure you are not overworking yourself. Those are days to get low fatigue practice.
Do enough sets where you struggle to maintain RIR 3 on your last set of each key lift. This is a great way to measure your effort to make sure that you are not going too hard too early but also that you are not taking it too easy.
Week 2 is the Goldilocks week. It is good quality technique practice that gives you an idea of what weights you could lift if you flipped the switch and went hard.
I like to rest as much as I need before I do a top set for my key exercises. This assures that I give my maximal performance.
Afterwards, I drop the weight to something more manageable (usually around my week 3 weight) and do straight sets at 1 RIR with a given rest period. After my top set, I will drop the weight and try to get a volume PR where I pick a challenging weight that I usually do for only one set (of say, 4-6 reps) and attempt to do multiple sets (each set within the 4-6 rep range). This is a great way to test how good my form is and build confidence in it.
Above all else: Make sure your rest periods are not too short where it compromises your form! Rest periods are always a second priority to form.
Fill out the table with your expected weights and sets before you go workout, so you have a clear mission. Then adjust based on actual performance.
Here’s how I would fill it out for a workout:
Barbell Row (Pause)
Barbell Flat Bench (slow negative)
Weighted Dips (Pause)
Barbell Back Squat (Pause)