Let’s Talk Details
1. The Plan
2. Your Job
Dumbbell Flat Bench (Key)
Pec Deck (Pause) (Key)
Reverse Grip Barbell Row (Key)
Smith-machine Calf Raise (Key)
Hack Squat (Key)
Close-grip Barbell Flat Bench (Key)
Mid-grip Lat-Pulldown (Key)
Neutral-grip Cable Row (Key)
Dumbbell Flat Bench – experiment with your hand position on the dumbbells. It can be beneficial to have your thumb on the bell of the dumbbell and have the dumbbell hanging more so off of the pinky side. This will help you push more through the pinky as you press the dumbbells both up and in. This can be a great way to feel the contraction more and it may also help you lift more weight depending on how you’re built.
Pec Deck (Pause) – This machine can provide a huge pump for you. Make sure you get that big stretch and contraction. As your arms come back, stretch the pecs by pulling your chest up. As you contract the pecs, keep the back tight with the traps contracted as you press your back into the pad. This protects the joints and places a lot of stress on the pecs and will engorge them with blood.
Reverse Grip Barbell Row – You may need to go lighter than your traditional barbell row since it places more tension on the biceps and forearm flexors. The benefit of this row will be that your elbows will stay tucked and your lats will get hit very hard. Consider touching lower on your stomach for more lat involvement. Always focus on controlling the weight on the way up and down and use controlled movements to prevent cheating.
Smith-machine Calf Raise – The smith machine is the best way to focus on the muscle rather than on the balancing act. Use a bumper plate or a way to elevate your heels 2-4 inches, so you can get a deep stretch at the bottom of each rep. Make sure to use the toes to grip the floor the whole set to activate the musculature maximally. As you calf raise up, think about pushing the floor away from you rather than lifting the weight up.
Hack Squat – At the bottom of each rep, brace the core as hard as you can as you push your back into the pads. This will make sure that the force you produce with your legs translates into lifting the weight. This means that you will be able to get more reps if you make your technique more efficient. When you combine that with a large range of motion and go mobility to place the tension on the muscles, you get great growth.
Close-grip Barbell Flat Bench – The triceps can be hit hard from this exercise, but it depends on how you do it. If you do pump reps without locking out, it defeats the purpose. I personally like to lock out fully and squeeze the triceps on each rep while keeping the elbows tucked with the arm making about a 30* with my body when looking at the position from overhead. If you have bad elbows, do a soft lockout where you do not fully lockout.
Mid-grip Lat-Pulldown – You want to pick the grip that is just outside of your shoulders because you can focus on leading the lift with your elbows and pulling them towards your sides. As you pull the bar down towards your chest or clavicle, flex at the bottom position and make sure you can control the weight. Grip the bar as hard as you can and imagine you are flexing for a picture at the bottom of each rep to get the maximum contraction in your back.
Neutral-grip Cable Row – Decide your form based on what feels comfortable. You either can do a shorter range of motion with a more upright and static position that focuses more on the contraction with maximal weight or you can do reps where you reach forward as the torso leans forward and get more of a stretch on each rep. Make sure you always keep the back straight no matter which you choose. Personally, I like to pause the first rep to feel my back more. I always try to pull the cable attachment through me to get a hard contraction.
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 5 reps on key lifts and 15 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. Males tend to overestimate how strong they are while females tend to believe they are closer to failure than they are: try to be unbiased. It takes practice.
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: