The Back to Basics Workout Plan

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With all the new technology, science and theories on fitness, getting in shape can become more complicated than it has to be. Sure, there is always room for an exercise that can provide a new challenge, and when you introduce a new movement to your workout routine, you can definitely see results.

But there will always be something to be said for a simple, basic approach to weight lifting: Pick up something heavy and move it! For function and aesthetics, few things will yield more all-around noticeable results than going heavy with basic compound movements. To that end, we’ve created the NUTRISHOP Back to Basics Plan – a 1-month program you can use to break up your routine and introduce some low-complexity training, or that you can repeat for up to 12 weeks as you gain strength and muscle.

You won’t need much for this plan when it comes to equipment: A barbell, a rack, a bench, a jump rope and some weight plates is the majority of your equipment. The idea is to simplify your workouts, using a 4-day split to provide the rest you need while creating sensible muscle group pairings. You will get stronger and likely see a noticeable difference in muscle gain should you pair this plan with a sound, lean diet.

The approach you’ll use will be somewhat mixed, but the concept will be similar throughout: You want to warm up using the exercise you’re working with, and work up to your one-rep max (1RM). Challenging yourself with a progressive load will ensure you get stronger and some early mid-to-high-range sets will promote hypertrophy.

DAY 1

Legs & Core

Back Squats: 10 (warm-up – go light), 10, 5, 5, 3, 3, 1. Go deep enough that your knees are parallel with your hips – don’t cheat yourself.

 

Stiff-Legged Deadlifts/Standard Deadlift: 10 (warm-up), 10, 8, 5/3, 3, 1, 1. – Perform the first 4 sets using the stiff-legged variation, then perform a standard deadlift using heavier weight for the final 4.

Power Clean: 10 (warm-up), 6, 6, 3, 3, 1.

Planks: 3 sets of 45 seconds, followed by 1 set to failure. Focus on drawing your navel into your spine and keeping your glutes clenched hard.

Side Planks: 2 sets per side at 20 seconds each. Hold your upper arm perpendicular to your torso, with your hand pointing toward the ceiling.

DAY 2

Push & Pull

Barbell Bench Press: 10 (warm-up – go light), 10, 5, 5, 3, 3, 1. Grab the bar just outside of shoulder width with a wrapped-thumb grip. Don’t bounce the weight off your chest – and, if possible get a spotter for your final three sets.

Bent-Over Barbell Rows: 10 (warm-up – go light), 10, 5, 5, 3, 3, 1. Be sure to keep your back flat and shoulders drawn back, pulling the bar toward your belly and not your chest.

Incline Barbell Bench Press: 10, 5, 5, 3, 3, 1. Take note to keep your elbows in toward your torso, forming a 45-degree angle at the armpit – this will protect your anterior deltoids through the lift. Concentrate on the contraction – mentally, think of pulling the bar apart and putting it back together at the top of the lift.

Pull-Ups: 4 sets to failure. Use as wide of a grip as possible that will still allow the range of motion to clear the bar with your chin – for most people, this will be just outside shoulder-width. Control your descent and lower yourself completely, drawing your shoulder blades together through the movement.

Push-Ups: 4 sets to failure with weight plate on back. Concentrate on keeping your body board-stiff from neck to ankle, and use the chest, back and triceps to control your movements.

Hanging Rows: 4 sets to failure.

DAY 3

Rest Day

DAY 4

Legs & Core 2

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Front Squat

Front Squats: 10 (warm-up – go light), 10, 5, 5, 3, 3, 1. Keep your elbows up and forward and your upper arms parallel to the floor – this will help protect your back. Also concentrate on keeping your knees tracking out toward your pinkie toes – avoid letting them “dip” inward.

Deadlifts: 10 (Stiff-legged), 5, 5, 3, 3, 1 (standard).

Walking Lunges: 4 sets x 100 feet. You will need some space to work – if you can find a 20-foot hallway and can traverse it 5 times total, that’s fine. Alternate your lead foot, keeping your upper body upright and your hands on your hips (to avoid resting them on bent knees).

Planks: 3 sets of 45 seconds, followed by 1 set to failure.

DAY 5

Push & Pull 2

Pull-Ups: 4 sets to failure.

Seated Military Dumbbell Press: 8, 8, 6, 6, 4.

Incline Barbell Bench Press: 10, 5, 5, 3, 3, 1.

One-Arm Dumbbell Rows: 4×8 (per arm).

Diamond Push-Ups: 20, 15, 10, 5. If you cannot perform the prescribed reps, go to failure (diamond push-ups are much more difficult, especially for novices.)

Reverse-Grip Chin-Ups: 4x failure. With a close, reversed grip (palms facing your body), lower yourself to full elbow extension slowly on the descent. Contract your shoulder blades before lifting yourself, concentrating on using your back to begin momentum and your biceps as assistance.

WORKOUT WEDNESDAY: Skip Curls, Build Your Biceps

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Everyone wants impressive biceps — but are curls the best way to get them?

If there’s one image that’s synonymous with what novices think of when they think of weight lifting, it’s the figure of a python-armed bodybuilder curling a dumbbell. The biceps are the premier glamour muscle of the entire body — an eye-popping pair of upper arms is usually one of the first things people notice when they take in the sight of an in-shape person (who has a shirt on, anyway).

Functionally speaking, though, your biceps really don’t do much on their own. Outside of the gym, when was the last time you used only your upper arms to move or lift something? If it was heavy, you were recruiting your back muscles and forearms; if it was lighter, you probably didn’t need to use a curling motion in any form whatsoever. People joke about “12 oz. curls,” but seriously: Name another day-to-day movement that involves simply bending at the elbow to lift an object about a foot?

You can still build big, strong upper arms without donating a bunch of time to curls. Do you have to? Of course not. If you really enjoy wrecking your biceps once or twice a week, don’t let us stop you. But if you’d like to be a little more efficient, consider these alternatives that will not only tax your biceps, but do so functionally.

Pull Your Weight. Literally — just do pull-ups. Your grip and hand placement determine how you’re hitting your biceps on this classic movement, and it’s one of the most functional there is. Trying to build up your biceps peak? Close, reverse grip pull-ups will do the trick.

Want to simulate a reverse curl, to hit the whole biceps area and recruit your forearms, too? Standard-width overhand chins are the ticket. Even Hammer curls are bested by a neutral-grip pull-up.

The top reason people tend to avoid back movements like chin-ups and pull-ups is that, they argue, the back is doing all the work. Wrong. The larger muscles in the body will always tire well after the smaller ones, and there is no comparison between the orange-sized biceps and massive slabs of muscle the back makes up — in other words, your grip, forearms and biceps will all fail before your back does. The weak link in any chain is the first to break down — meaning that in doing pulling exercises to build your arms, your lats, traps, rear deltoids and rhomboids are all working as “backup” (sorry, we had to say it) as your biceps do the work. Once they’re tired, your back takes over fully, up to the point that your grip simply won’t allow it.

Bottom line: Curls will get you bigger biceps. Real, functional pulling movements will get you bigger, stronger biceps.