Whether you’re a beginner, an intermediate looking to take your training to the next level, or a grizzled iron veteran with the scars to prove it, once you’ve learned the truth about strength training, you’ll make faster, easier progress without any more pain or wasted time and effort. That’s the goal of the New Year Muscle workout plan that follows.
What is the truth about strength training? Simply that most of what you’ve been led to believe is necessary to build muscle and burn fat isn’t important at all. It’s hype to confuse you and make you buy things you don’t need and do things you don’t like. Here’s a short list of stuff you don’t need to worry about anymore if you want to get big, strong, and lean: intermittent fasting, circuit training, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), low-carb diets, and body-part splits.
I go into detail about what isn’t important and why in my book, but for now, I’ll tell you what you do need to make 2015 the year you achieve your goals: a simple plan to get stronger, a diet you can live with, and a workout regimen that lets you avoid injury while packing on muscle long-term. New Year Muscle helps you do that by building your numbers on the squat, bench press, and deadlift—the most effective strength exercises around and the ones from which the greatest muscle gains come. It also offers joint-friendly training that allows you to train hard regardless of age or injuries and helps prevent aches and pains from starting. Combine that with a sustainable, well-rounded diet (very similar to the one Arnold and other Golden Age bodybuilders followed), and you’ll reach your potential without having to waste another year experimenting with all the other inferior methods out there.
Follow the routine here for four weeks, and go to truthaboutstrengthtraining.com for a complete 12-week program.
This routine is based on my e-book The Truth About Strength Training—a 12-week program that condenses everything I’ve learned (mostly the hard way) from all my years in the iron game. Get it here.
Perform each workout (Days 1-4) once per week. You can perform Days 1 and 2 back-to-back if you like, and 3 and 4 back-to-back, or rest a day between each session. Allow at least two full days between lower-body workouts (Days 1 and 3).
For example: Perform Day 1 on Monday, Day 2 on Wednesday, Day 3 on Friday, and Day 4 on Sunday.
Or, you could do Day 1 on Monday, Day 2 on Tuesday, Day 3 on Thursday, and Day 4 on Friday.
Exercises that are paired (marked “A” and “B”) are done in alternating fashion. Perform a set of A, rest as prescribed, then a set of B, rest, and repeat until all the sets are completed. Note that exercises with no rest mean to go immediately to the next exercise.
Exercises that don’t have a letter attached (are not paired) are done as straight sets. Complete one set, rest as prescribed, and repeat until all sets are complete.
Choose loads that are challenging but allow you to complete one or two more reps than are prescribed on each set (unless otherwise noted).
How To Do The Main Lifts
On the squat, bench press, and deadlift, you will need to “work up” to the heaviest load you can handle for the given number of reps—your rep max. However, even though we’re calling it a “max” it shouldn’t be a load that pushes you to the absolute limit. Be conservative.
Start with the empty bar and do 10 reps just to get warm. Then add some weight and do a set of 8. From there, go up in weight gradually and keep your reps low. This is very important. Do not rush through this and quickly attempt a max set. These work-up sets make you stronger. And safer. Also, none of these sets should be difficult. You should be many, many reps away from failure on all of them. They’re just serving to prepare your nervous system, joints, and muscles.
Here’s an example of how you could work up to a 275-pound squat for 3 reps:
Bar x 10
95 x 8
135 x 5
175 x 5
215 x 3
245 x 3
275 x 3
Aim for 5 to 8 work-up sets before your rep-max set.
I gave you some options for the main lifts.
You can do the conventional squat, bench press, and deadlift every week throughout the plan. Or, if you want, you can vary it up. You can do the front squat one week or the floor press in place of the bench press. But if making progress on the conventional lifts is important to you, you should stick with them more often than not.
For example, you could squat onto a box the first week, then front squat the next week, and then do a regular squat after that.
You’ll work up to a 7-rep max the first week, 5 the second, and 3 the third no matter what exercises you choose. The weight you use will vary depending on the lift.
After your main set of 7, 5, or 3 reps, you’ll do one more set with a lighter weight. Reduce the load by 10 percent and perform the same number of reps. So, if you squatted 275 for 3, you’ll finish the exercise by doing a set of 250 for 3 (10 percent of 275, subtracted from 275, and rounded off).
In Week 4, you will deload. Perform three sets of 5 reps using 60 percent of the heaviest load you worked up to in Week 3. Do this for the main lifts only.