Ok, so it’s not actually dirty but it is quick. Let’s say you walk in the gym, you don’t have a long-term program to follow (hint: you should) what do you do? I typically see the following (males and females):
- Run on the treadmill/eliptical/bike for 10-30 minutes
- Bicep curls
- Tricep kickbacks or some other arm isolation thing, maybe an overhead press
- Lunge? (usually only females do these and with little to no weight)
- Every ab exercise variation known to man for about 50 reps each
Stop. This. Nonsense.
First off, none of these work on the posterior chain, which EVERYONE needs to be doing, (if you’ve been reading SGW any length of time, you’ll know that I’m a big advocate of training the posterior chain both from a strength and an injury-prevention standpoint) and they’re isolation exercises (except the lunge). Isolation exercises have their place but if you’re going to the gym for an hour, you need all the bang-for-your-buck that you can get and isolation stuff doesn’t have much bang. Besides, if you want to get stronger, move better and look like you work out, there needs to be some drastic changes.
Dan John came up with this framework. I love it; it’s simple, quick and easy to remember.
Squat variation (goblet, barbell, bodyweight)
A Pull (such as a horizontal row variation or a pull/chin up)
A Press (i.e. push-up, bench press, overhead press etc)
Loaded Carry (Farmer Walk variation)
Now, be smart about picking both the exercises and the order of exercises. I wouldn’t pick heavy deadlifts and then go right into barbell back squats… not the best combination. I recommend making one of the lifts a “heavy” lift which you’ll perform first (it could be a front/back squat, deadlift or a heavy press) then make the other exercises higher volume (2-4 sets of 5-10 reps) with lower weight. Here are two sample workouts:
Deadlifts – work up to a heavy 3 x 5
Goblet squat – 3 x 8
Chin ups – 3 x 5-8
Perfect pushups – 3 x 10
Single Arm farmer carry – 3 x 20 yards/side
Overhead/bench press – work up to heavy 5 x 3
(Non)Weighted Pull ups (paired with the press) – 5 x 3
Back squat- light technique work 3 x 4
Swings – to be completed throughout work out, total 100 swings
Double arm Farmer carry – Load it up! 3 x 20 yards
There are countless variations to choose from and combinations to create with the simple template. (note: Single leg work can also be done. Lunge variations can be swapped in for the squat or SL RDLs for the deadlift.) Each exercise will be a multi-joint, global movement involving lots of muscle tissue which will:
- illicit a greater spike in hormones (which does all kinds of awesome for building strength)
- rev up metabolism
- groove important movement patterns (such as the hip hinge)
- force you to pick up heavy things which we know leads to strength
- nix the “need” to do cardio on a machine (Swings and loaded carries take care of that! You don’t “need” to do cardio. You NEED to get stronger.)
- allow you to high five everyone you meet on the way out of the gym
Follow this framework and reap the benefits! You’ll get stronger, feel better and improve your Jedi skills by 1000.