1. BENCH PRESS. Warm-up, but don’t wear out. Let’s say your working weight will be 245 pounds for your two sets. Start with some active stretching, then six to ten reps with 135, five reps with 185, and finally one rep with 225. Now add a ten-pound plate to each side and get psyched. The goal is twelve reps. Don’t hold back. This is the set that counts. If you reach twelve reps on your first set – stop! Rest three minutes then try to get twelve reps again. It doesn’t matter if you do or not, you made your goal so you add five pounds next workout (just a measly 2 ½–pound plate to each side). If you do not reach twelve reps on either set, then stay with the same weight next workout.
2. BENT ROW. You follow the same basic procedure as you did for the bench press but your target is fifteen reps. This one will surprise you, especially if you have been doing sets of ten or fewer on this exercise. You can just about get fifteen reps with what you thought was your ten-rep limit. You will be breathing when you’re done though. If your working weight is going to be 185 pounds, you’d do a warm-up set with 95 (optional), 135 for six to eight, and then go to 185 and try for fifteen. Remember the warm-up set is just that ’ a warm-up and that the work sets are WORK! If you get fifteen reps on either set add five pounds for your next workout. If you think these five-pound jumps are silly or too easy just remember that you will do these same exercises for sixteen workouts over the next eight weeks and a five pound jump per workout equates to a 75 pound increase over the length of the program. Just think about that!
3. BREATHING SQUAT. Here is the keystone of the program. This exercise is the hardest and most important exercise in the program. It is often recommended that you start with a poundage that is your ten-rep max and do twenty reps. That sounds nearly impossible but by taking a few deep breaths between each rep, and using tons of willpower, you can do it.
But, let’s start conservatively. If you can normally get ten solid reps with 275, use 225 pounds for your work set. First, warm-up with 135 x 10 and 185 x 5.
At 225, concentrate on taking a deep breath on each of your first five reps. On the next five reps, take one extra breath between each rep. On reps 11-15 take a second additional deep breath between reps. Finally, on reps 16-20 take a minimum of three additional reps each set, and you can take as many as five breaths each set.
Each workout add ten pounds to the bar if you successfully completed your twent reps the previous workout. Since there are two squat workouts per week, you’ll be using your original ten-rep max for twenty reps by the end of the third week. After that add five pounds each workout for the final five weeks. Believe it or not, you’ll be squatting for twenty reps with fifty pounds more than your previous ten-rep max. No wonder this program works!
Let me warn you. This exercise is not easy. If it is you are not taking it seriously enough. You’ll want to stop before you hit twenty, maybe even feel dizzy, but don’t quit – get twenty!
ADVANCED BREATHING SQUAT TECHNIQUE: As your weight increases and your conditioning improves, you may even want to try the traditional approach to the breathing squat. In this approach you take five, full, deep breaths before each rep – even the first. On your sixth breath – hold it – squat to slightly below parallel – come up as you blow out the air – then five more breaths and repeat until you get twenty or even twenty-five reps. Whew!
4. STRAIGHT-ARM PULLOVER. After your set of twenty-rep squats, lie dow lengthwise on a bench and do twenty reps of the straight-arm pullover with a very light weight (fifteen to twenty pounds is all you need). The purpose of this exercise is to inhale as much oxygen as possible so take the deepest breath as you can each rep.
An alternate breathing exercise that I used is called the Rader High Chest Pull (invented by and named after the aforementioned Peary Rader). Stand and grasp a stationary, overhead object about one foot above your head (door frame, cable crossover upright) so that you are standing about eighteen inches away from it. You are going to pull down with your arms while simultaneously inhaling deeply and lifting your chest as high as possible. Your arms do not really move but you’ll feel a contraction in your lats and an uplifting of your chest each rep. Twenty reps work for this one too.
5. STRAIGHT-LEG DEADLIFT. You will eventually work up to a pretty fair poundage in this exercise but start conservatively. Remember, you have sixteen workout sessions where your goal is to improve five pounds per session. Keep your back flat when performing this exercise. Warm-up as on the other exercises, then two work sets striving for fifteen reps as your target on the first set. Same weight for as many reps as you can get on the second after a three-minute rest period. Add five pounds the next workout if you reach fifteen reps on your first (or second) work set.
I know that this workout is probably fewer sets than you are used to. But think about doing twenty reps in the squat with a weight fifty pounds more than your current ten-rep max eight weeks from now. Imagine how that will affect your metabolism, particularly your anabolic hormonal environment. There is nothing that will increase your natural growth hormone levels than a single set of twenty rep squats as described above. And, when you have completed this program and go back to a more traditional type of program, envision first the increased strength and muscular endurance you will have developed, and second how you will respond to the varied stimulus of increased volume with the heavier weights you have achieved.
1. SHOULDER PRESS – do one light warm-up set of eight to ten reps, a heavier warm up set for five to six reps, then two all out work sets with a target of ten reps. Use the same weight for both work sets. If you get ten reps on your first (or second) set that means you go up five pounds next week (or after the first couple of weeks 2 ½ pounds, if possible). This workout is performed just once a week for a total of eight workouts over the course of the program. Still, it will be very difficult to increase five pounds each week in the press and curl. I’d recommend getting some 1 ¼ pound plates or "platemates" and taking them to the gym with you so you can increase just 2 ½ pounds per week on these exercises.
2. BARBELL CURL – same procedure as shoulder press.
3. PARALLEL BAR DIPS – no warm-up needed but do the first few reps very slowly to avoid injury. Do as many reps as you can for one set. If you can do thirty or more reps, add a ten pound plate your next workout. Don’t neglect this exercise. It’s been called the "upper body squat" and will have some very positive effects on your triceps, chest, shoulders, and serratus.
4. CLOSE GRIP CHIN – Hands should be six to twelve inches apart with your palms facing you. Do as many reps as possible. If you can’t make fifteen reps on your first set, rest sixty seconds and do another set. If you get nine reps the first set and six the second – that’s your target, fifteen reps. Try to add at least one rep each workout shooting for thirty. If you ever get to thirty reps on your first set, add a ten-pound plate.
5. Ab work is optional, you could do a couple sets of crunches or a couple sets on the ab machine.
6. Calf work is also optional; I recommend three sets of twenty reps on the standing calf raise.
I found there are five keys to the success of this program.
1. The breathing squat – work hard, don’t quit until you reach twenty, and add weight every single workout.
2. On the exercises which you do just two sets – treat these like a "heavy duty" workout. That first set needs to be all-out, but if you reach the target rep number, and are feeling lazy that day, it’s OK to stop. You’ve reached your goal for that exercise, that’s your sign to add weight next workout. The second set should also be very difficult. It is probably unnecessary, but I do it in case I slacked even a little on the first set.
3. Add very small weight increments consistently throughout the entire program. If you make your target reps on a particular set, no matter how hard it is, add a small amount of weight to your work sets the next time.
4. Have a "one-set" mentality. Don’t think in terms of I have four sets of ten to do so I’ll hold back a little on the first set. The first set is the one that counts. The second set where indicated is just in case you left a couple of muscle fibers unscathed on the first set.
5. Recovery is important. Don’t add a bunch of exercises or sets. This program is perfect as it is.