Let’s Talk Details
1. The Plan
2. Your Job
Barbell Flat Bench
Close-grip Barbell Flat Bench
Dumbbell Flat Bench
Dumbbell Incline Bench
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 Flat Bench (Pause) – when you are doing the pause, think about engaging your back. Your back will stabilize the pause and teach you how to be very stable at the bottom of the lift. It can be helpful to think about pulling your chest towards the bar as you lower it. Almost like you are rowing the bar into you.
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.
Front Squat (slow descent) – A slow descent is great for learning how to feel the quads stretch on the way down. Work on your ankle mobility and stretch out your hips to get comfortable sitting down in a deep squat and getting a lot more out of each rep. Work on mobility as a method of active recovery on days after your leg day and see how it carries over into much better form over the weeks. The goal is a heavy deep squat with perfect positioning.
Romanian Deadlift – the range of motion depends greatly on your mobility, not flexibility. Just because you can reach down deeply does not mean that you need to. I like to keep my chest up and slightly rotate my pelvis anteriorly while keeping the abs braced to prevent excessive pelvic rotation. This helps me get a large stretch on the hamstrings without needing to stand on something and create a deficit to get more range of motion on my deadlift. The goal is to hit the hamstrings, not test flexibility in risky positions.
Dumbbell Pressing – remember that dumbbells are a great tools for getting a deeper range of motion since the weight is more free than fixed. Use the weight along the orientation of the muscles fibers to make the weight as effective as possible in stimulating the pec fibers. More mass means more strengths later.
Block Deadlift – These are best if you start below the knee. Otherwise, it becomes an ego lift. The goal is to practice fast hips and a strong upper back lock out. Lead the lift with getting the chest up.
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: