There are a ton of exercise routines out there for a bigger bench press, squat, deadlift, gain x amount of muscle in so many weeks, etc.
Many of these programs focus on taking a % of your 1 rep max and doing 70% for 3, next week it's 80% for 2 reps, 90% for 1, so on and so forth. A beginner will solely focus on what his max lifts are at any given time. He may follow one of these routines and try and see if he can increase his lifts in x number of weeks. While this sort of training can work for strength and some size at first, eventually it will not.
If I could increase the weights I use every workout by 5 lbs I would be lifting up buildings and semi trucks by now! So as one becomes more seasoned in the gym and building his body these types of routines just don't work well.
So how do we progress from this point and stay motivated? Welcome to “growing from the bottom.”
Now I'm going to ask you a question. Would you consider a 5lb gain on your bench press to be a big gain? Maybe not on a 1 rep max, but how about 5 lb work weight for 12 reps? That, my friend, is a huge gain. You have just pushed 60 lbs more in a given set, and if your rest intervals are timed then it's an even bigger gain!
So lets take a 6 week program where you have increased by 5 lb work weight each week; by the end of the routine you have made a 360 lb gain and that is HUGE HUGE HUGE! The problem people have is the way they look at a 2.5lb plate or a 5lb plate. Do not look at them as plates anymore, look at them as overall work output in a given set or workout.
Legs can often handle 10 lb jumps each week. Just because you can bench press 405 for a single doesn't mean you can handle 225 lbs for 6 sets of 12, then 230 for 6 sets of 12 next week, 235 the following week etc. So when I speak of growing here, I'm speaking in terms of a different type of mindset and workout routine. The biggest strength gains I ever made (and safest) were from lower volume, a true 4 second negative, and 3 different exercises per week for the full body.
I'm going to give you a template here, this should be done for 6 weeks, after 6 weeks take a week off and just do cardio that week, then you can jump back into this with different exercises or take more time off. The bigger and stronger you are, the less frequently you should be performing this routine, it will break you down!
1 – Light warm up of 12 reps
2 – Moderate warm up of 8 reps
3 – Heavy warm up of 3-4 reps (usually 30- 50 lbs less than work weight)
4 – Work weight for at least 12 reps, but get as many as you can
Same protocol as bench, 4 sets, 1 of the sets being your all out work set
Same as above
Same as above
Bent over rows
Same as above
Same as above
Same as above
1 set of 20-30 reps, any exercise for abs you like
That's the workout!
You just covered most of your body in 8 different exercises. Same rep and set scheme as above. You will perform this 3 times a week (Mon/Wed/Fri) only now onto day 2 (Wed).
OK, same type of workout only different exercises. It may look something like this:
Side lateral raises
Different calve exercise than Monday, if you did them seated Monday, do 'em standing Wednesday
Overhead dumbbell extension
Different abs than Monday, if you did crunches Monday do leg raises Wednesday
You will find yourself fresh and strong despite just training those body parts 2 days ago, since you did just enough to trigger growth and strength, but did not slaughter it.
The next workout is Friday, you will perform the same thing but with yet different exercises than Monday and Wednesday.
It may look like this:
Incline dumbbell flies
Bent over lateral raises
Close grip pulldowns
Calve press machine
NOW, onto week 2. Try to increase your upper body lifts by 5 lbs. Those little 2.5 lb plates are gonna be your best friend for these 6 weeks! 10lbs for lower body! What you will probably find is that you will not only increase your lbs by those 5 lbs, you will also do more reps than you did the week before WITH THAT INCREASED LBS! Now you are making gains through double progression, you are going up in lbs AND reps.
Anything and everything is fair game with a routine like this. Hell, I've had workouts where push-ups were my chest exercise and last week I made it to 78 push-ups before falling on my face, and this week I made it to 79 or 80!
Maybe you can bust out 14 pull-ups, so next week you do 14 pull-ups with 5 lbs hanging from you? Get creative! This sort of routine makes the gym fun. You can see the progression on a regular basis. This sort of training is so fucking effective, I've had days I've gone in the gym on no sleep or even had a few beers the night before, and still beat my last workout! This is very similar to a Mike Mentzer or Arthur Jones routine, but a little more frequent and a little more exercise rotation before coming back to the same one again.
But I can honestly say that in my 17 years in bodybuilding, this is the style of training that has provided me my best gains in strength and size. This is even more beneficial to the natural trainer, because he can take full advantage of resting his muscles by exercise rotation, yet can still hit it frequently enough to make many gains throughout the weeks, months, and years to come.
DO NOT DO THIS ROUTINE WITH LOW REPS! This is for sets of 8 reps MINIMUM, but I usually push it to 12-15.
Pick a rep scheme and tell yourself “I won't increase weight until I can at least get 10 reps!” Don't lower your reps for more weight used, get that egomaniac bullshit out of your mind for this. And remember to keep those true 4 second negatives with your reps. We are not going for an inflated ego here, if you have to lower the bar by 40 or 50 lbs because you're slowing your reps down, DO IT!
When you're walking around big as fuck, nobody is going to question the weight you lift. You just know something they don't!