As we established a long time ago, the goal of JTF’s Mount Crushmore was to reduce my body fat percentage. We do that by losing body fat while simultaneously increasing muscle mass. The entire program has two main components: eating and moving my ass.
I’ve detailed my meal plan several times over the last several weeks so I won’t spend much time on that today. I’ll just say that if you want to build muscle, you have to be eating enough. If your caloric intake is too low, your body will start converting muscle cells into usable energy, resulting in a reduction in overall muscle mass. With that said, if you want to get the full benefit of your workout program, it’s very important that your nutrition is in check as well.
But we’re not talking about nutrition today — this is all about the workout program. Let’s get started.
Conditioning — Let’s Burn Some Fat
Like it or not, if you want to lose fat, some cardio is necessary. Those who have followed my journey know that I started out doing spin classes at the Rush and learning how to run. Both of those things are super fun and if you’re into either of them, keep it up! Nowadays my cardio comes in the form of boxing/kickboxing classes at TITLE Boxing Club. I’m currently getting in 4-6 hours of cardio per week.
The intention of cardio conditioning is to increase the amount of calories that we’re burning, thus increasing overall fat loss (or minimizing fat gain). It also lends itself to improving our heart’s ability to pump blood and increasing oxygen uptake into our cells. Everybody wins when it comes to cardio conditioning!
But there’s more to it than that.
If we’re at a calorie deficit and burning calories with cardio, we must also be sure we’re eating enough (especially protein) and getting in some strength training during the week so as to not allow our bodies to catabolize and convert its muscle cells into immediate energy.
In other words: we still want gains.
Weight Training — Let’s Get Those Gains
I’ve developed a program for myself that’s a hybrid of Jim Wendler’s (T-Nation) 5/3/1 and Boring But Big programs with a few other additions. Combining these two means we’re going to take some of your core strength-training exercises (in this case they’re deadlifts, squats and bench presses) and combining them with assistance work. The goal is muscle hypertrophy while also maximizing pure strength. Let’s break it all down.
Jim’s 5/3/1 program gets hated on because it asks lifters to start lighter than they’d like. This program isn’t made for lifters with egos — it’s made for lifters that want to make actual strength gains with a gradual, quality progression. The program is cyclical with each cycle consisting of 1 week of doing 3 sets of 5 reps of specified lifts at 65%, 75% and 85% at your one-rep max (1RM), 1 week of doing 3 sets of 3 reps at 70%, 80% and 90%, 1 week of doing 1 set of 5 at 75% – 1 set of 3 at 85% – 1 set of 1 at 95%, then 1 week of 3 sets of 5 reps at 40%, 50% and 60% (de-loading).
The lifts I chose to focus 5/3/1 on are deadlifts, squats and bench pressing.
The Boring But Big program piggybacks on 5/3/1 by including 5 sets of 10 reps of an exercise that focuses on the big lift’s assistant muscles (or antagonists). For example, if the big lift focuses on hamstrings, the assistant lift would focus on quads. Chest and back; biceps and triceps, etc. You get the point. Week 1’s weight would be at 50% max, week 2 at 60%, week 3 at 70%.
The Other Stuff
I’ve ranted before about how “arms day” isn’t really necessary if your program is worth a shit and I still stand by that statement. However, the bro in me has to admit that working arms IS a lot of fun, so I’ve been including it into my program. There is a biceps circuit and a triceps circuit included in this program but they do not follow a 5/3/1 or assistant scheme.
I’m also including pull-ups in my program because it’s an exercise I’ve never really been very good at so I’m working really hard at getting much better at them.
Anything Else Before We Just Get to the Program?
Yes, of course. One thing I’m probably going to get dinged on is that I’m only strength training twice a week. One should understand that your workout program has to work on your schedule. As it is right now, I have a difficult time fitting in proper weight training with a schedule that includes 40 hours in an office, 10 hours of group class training / club upkeep and another 7-10 hours of PT programming and planning per week. If you have a problem with my training frequency, blow it out your ass because I don’t care.
Jim says that the 5/3/1 is designed to work if you follow it exactly; this isn’t to say it’s not successful if you modify it, but he makes it a point to let you know that if you DO modify it and don’t get the results you were hoping for, it’s not his program’s fault. This program works for me, though, so I’m happy.
The last thing I’ll mention is that I’ve always been a big fan of the warm-up set (or sets). For my big lifts, I do two warm-up sets so I can get used to the range of motion I’m going to need to employ to execute the lift. The first warmup set is just the bar, the second is at 40% max. Assistance lifts consist of 1 warm-up set at just the bar if it’s free-weight based and half required weight if it’s using a machine. No warm-up set is included for bodyweight work.
Workout 1, the Rundown
- Core Lift: Deadlifts
- Assistance Lift: Squats
- Core Lift: Bench Press
- Assistance Lift: Lat Pulldowns
- Optional Arm Circuit: Biceps EZ Curls
Okay, let’s talk about it.
Week 1: the 5 in 5/3/1
For Core lifts, the goal is 5 sets of 5 beginning with 1 warm-up set lifting just the bar followed by another warm-up set at about 40% of your 1RM. Sets 3-5 are the working sets and will consist of 5 reps at 65%, 75% and 85% of your 1RM.
Assistance lifts are to be 6 sets of 10 with the first set being a warm-up lifting just the bar (or 25% 1RM in the case of a machine) followed by 5 working sets at 50% 1RM.
For weeks 1-3, the biceps work includes 16 sets of 10 and looks like this:
- Begin week 1 by lifting just the bar x 10
- For sets 2-8, add 5 pounds
- No breaks between sets 1-8. After set 8, rest up to 3 minutes.
- Set 9 is the same weight as set 8
- For sets 10-16, drop 5 pounds. For week 1, set 16 should be just the bar
Week 2: the 3 and 5/3/1
Core lifts now begin with 2 sets of 5, again with just the bar and then another at 40% as a warm-up. Sets 3-5 are working sets of 3 reps and use 70%, 80% and 90% of your 1RM.
Assistance lifts are 6 sets of 10 again with the first set being a warm-up of just the bar (or 25% on a machine) followed by 5 working sets at 60% 1RM.
Week 3: the 5/3/1 in 5/3/1
Core lifts retain 2 sets of 5 with the bar and 40%. Set 3 is 5 reps at 75%, set 4 is 3 reps at 85% and set 5 is 1 rep at 95% 1RM. Though the reps are few, you’ll want to get plenty of rest between sets.
Assistance lifts retain the first set of 10 at just the bar (or 25% on a machine) followed by 5 working sets of 10 at 70% 1RM.
Week 4: Deload
Deload isn’t really a break but it’s intended to give your muscles a bit of an easy session after three weeks of heavy lifting.
Core lifts are now 4 sets of 5 with only 1 warm-up set (bar) then 3 working sets of 5 reps at 40%, 50% and 60% 1RM.
Assistance lifts change! I replace barbell back squats with bodyweight squat jumps (3 x 10) and I replace lat pulls with TRX inverted rows (3 x 10).
Biceps work is kinda like the wild-wild west. Nothing is defined — just get in there and get your pump on however you want to!
Next week we’ll go into Part 2 where there’s even more squatting and even more deadlifting but then there’s a ton of bodyweight workouts we get to do! RAD!
Anyway. Say hey if you need anything.