Let’s Talk Details
1. The Plan
2. Your Job
Barbell Back Squat (Key)
Barbell incline Bench (Key)
Barbell Bicep Curl (Key)
Barbell Skullcrushers (Key)
Barbell Banded Back Squat (Key)
Barbell Banded Romanian Deadlifts (Key)
Barbell Flat Bench (Key)
Barbell Row (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:
Barbell Back Squat – A great squat is one that is deep, for you. As upright as possible, for you. And lifts some good weight, for you. Mobility exercises and stretches can help with squat depth and being upright. Intelligent progressions and patience will increase weight over time. However, everything is based on your own circumstances. Do not expect your squat to look like another person’s, there are a lot of variables at play and you must learn to play your own game.
Goodmorning – The Goodmorning is a great core and posterior chain exercise. If you keep the hips high, you will feel a huge stretch in the hamstrings. If you keep your weight on your heels, you will feel your glutes and you can contract them at the end of the lift. If you keep your abs braced and middle back tight, you will feel the power of your core building. This exercise is a great one to test all of your stabilizing muscles as you fight to keep a straight back. Never let the low back round!
Barbell incline Bench – Lead with the elbows. Row the weight down into your chest as you tuck the elbows. Feel the back contract as you get the weight in a strong position at the bottom of the lift. It is easy to feel this when the weight is light. When your muscles are activated, you will feel a difference when the weight gets heavy.
Barbell Bicep Curl – Keep the elbows in tight. Keep the wrists slightly contracted to keep tension in the arm. Point the elbows down as you lead with the pinky corkscrewing up. Try to keep the elbows pointed down the entire lift. Lower the bar slowly to feel the biceps stretch deeply.
Barbell Skullcrushers – make sure you warm up your elbows well beforehand. Keep you elbows in and pointed up. As a note, you may try using a slight incline to your bench to add more emphasis to the long head of the tricep. I like to touch the weight to the top of my head for a good split of tension between the long head and lateral head. The more you reach the weight back behind you, the more you will feel the long head.
Barbell Banded Back Squat – Bands are great. If you do not have any, i highly recommend getting some. They will teach you how to power through the lift as the resistance increases on the way up. This translates into a lot of confidence when the bands come off.
Barbell Banded Romanian Deadlifts – This is a great exercises to get more out of your hamstrings and glutes. It has a huge carry over into improving the strength at the bottom of your deadlift.
Barbell Flat Bench – An upper back arch can make the lift a lot more comfortable and place less tension through your shoulder. Although it cuts some of the range of motion, this safer position can allow you to lift more weight, so I think it is an overall positive. When you use your arch, you can touch slightly lower on the chest and this can put the shoulders in a better position. Make sure to keep the legs tight while you press. A stable base results in more power output.
Barbell Row – A strong row can do wonders for your pressing. Think about pausing the weight at the bottom of a bench press as you row the weight into you. Even if you cannot pause the barbell row onto your body, the intent will place a lot of tension on the back muscles.
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: