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Be Like Bruce Lee, My Friend (or How to Stick to Your Training)

There’s a famous interview with Bruce Lee where he describes his philosophy of his life. As he was most notable for his martial arts and movies, he applied this mindset to everything. He was truly a man of deep reverence by his peers, the public, and an ever-growing audience from every generation to this day.

His philosophy was a profession of adaptability. To conform with the winds of change. To take the form of whatever is challenging us and use it to our advantage.

Bruce Lee still fascinates me to this day. I can’t get enough of his timeless voice taking on life’s biggest struggles with simple (but not easy) approaches.

How to adapt your mind

As we all like to restart our training efforts from time to time we need to equip ourselves with a few steadfast principles that can be applied to our long term plans.

Notably, I like to take Bruce Lee’s philosophy to the heart of my training. Lee stresses that we must be like water. To take the shape of whatever we are presented with (more or less). It’s a unique perspective on how to adapt. Not to complain about the situation, not to feverishly find ways to get out of the work ahead of us, and not to subvert any entity to make things easier on us.

When it comes to your physique goals, make this time one of adaptability. This time you’ll start with the philosophy of water before you lift a single weight or perform a single pushup. Know that life will always throw wrenches your way big and small and that you have the ability to assess the challenges and act with flexibility.

How to adapt your training

I’ve said it many times, “Don’t plan a break from training, life will provide it for you.” With that said the first order of business is to become consistent with training, eating habits, and recovery.

Are you hitting on all your training days each week?

Are you preparing and timing all of your meals?

Are you sleeping and resting enough?

Nothing beats consistency. Once you have that established you are miles ahead of the crowd.

“There are no traffic jams on the extra mile because most are not willing to put in the time to get there.”

Next, be aware that those perfect plans will get squashed, guaranteed. This is when we need to adopt Bruce Lee’s philosophy on whether it’s cancelling our training session for the day due to an unforeseen family obligation or shifting gears on our workout plan because every squat rack is taken by some kid scrolling through their phone.

You see, most hiccups that perceptually derail our training have two surprisingly unique parts. One, they usually don’t last as long as we think, and two, they aren’t as severe as we fear. So adopting an adaptation mindset will transform those mythical mountains into mole hills.

But what about the big things like a gym closing and being forced to workout from home for a while or some sort of lifestyle change that has us training sporadically, later or earlier than you prefer, or limiting your time? The same principle applies.

If we are as creative and adaptive as we like to think we are, why not put it into practice? Why beat our head against the wall when we can simply adapt, go with the flow, and be like water? Take the form of whatever is presented to us and make it work to our advantage?

The best laid plans

I know what your thinking. Why not just force my way there? Why not tell that kid to scram off the squat rack? Because we have too much to learn if we don’t.

If you always start with squats during a leg workout then here’s your opportunity to shift gears and try a new sequence. Can’t bench press due to crowding today? Perform an all dumbbell chest routine. Can’t use your favorite cardio machine? Try a new one. Or better yet, go outside.

The opposite will only keep us frustrated, angry, and stagnant.

The point is that adapting moves us forward. If applied liberally, we will always be moving toward a better circumstance. We may perceive roadblocks as such, but there is another, more effective perspective to adhere to. One of water.

In the middle of chaos lies opportunity.

Bruce Lee

I’ll leave you with this reminder.

You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.

Bruce Lee

***

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Blog Motivation Training Workouts

What I Did on My Week Off

Most of us will treat a week off from the gym as just that: a week away, usually indulging in some bad food, and giving our joints, tendons, and ligaments a break.

I have a quote I tell almost every client:

“Don’t schedule time off. Life will do it for you.”

In other words, life will find a way to keep you away from the gym, your workouts, and anything else that has you on a productive schedule toward your physique goals. Things like family matters, injuries, sickness, natural disasters, or anything else you can imagine will surface and take their toll.

So I say train, maintain, and keep on the gain train until you either experience one of these episodes or you simply start getting burned out and desperately need a break of sorts.

How to take a break

Aside from the obvious scenario of enduring some sort of serious setback such as a sickness or injury there are some loose rules I follow when I’m in need of a break due to a muscle strain or the all-too familiar burn out we all experience.

If I’m just burned out, my body isn’t getting the pump I want in the gym, I feel flat and low on energy, my appetite has waned, and/or I’ve just lost my enthusiasm to show up to the gym I’ll take some deliberate action.

I will take one of two options. Option one, I will take around three or four days off from the gym completely. It’s not a week, which feels too long to me. It’s just enough time to start missing the gym by day four or five and regain that excitement and enthusiasm to get back to work.

Option two would be taking a week or two to downshift my training. That is to avoid taking any sets to muscular failure, reduce my volume and load a bit, and not pour on the intensity so much. I get in, get a little pump, eat a little more, and get on with my day. In other words, each workout isn’t taken as a step forward in progress, it’s seen as maintenance only. The pressure is off.

What I did on my week off

This past week I took a bit of a hybrid approach to those listed above. I started to battle a severe tightness in my shoulder which spread to my other shoulder and neck areas. My range of motion was terrible and I knew instinctively that it was something I shouldn’t fight through. It was time to take some time off.

But I wasn’t ready to take a break.

I decided to give my upper body a full week’s rest. No training from the waste up at all.

Instead I focused on lower body only for that week. In order to train more days than not I decided to split my leg training into two days working everything twice. It was broken down like this:

Monday: Quadriceps
Tuesday: Calves and hamstrings
Wednesday: Off
Thursday: Quadriceps
Friday: Off
Saturday: Calves and hamstrings

Each workout looked a little like this:

Leg extension 3-4 x 20
Leg press 3 x 20
Box squat or Bulgarian split squat 3 x 12-15

Standing calf raise 3 x 10-16
Seated calf raise 3 x 10-16
Seated leg curl 3 x 10-16
Standing single leg curl (on leg extension) 3 x 10-16
Romanian deadlift with dumbbells (optional) 3 x 12

This enabled me to keep training all the while taking a break where it was needed most. Additionally, I was able to keep training most days of the week and not bury myself with a ton of volume and intensity each workout since I split my leg training up like this.

What’s next? Well, with much-needed rest my shoulder feels better and I will be posting on here soon about what split and routine I’ll go to next.

Stay tuned.

***

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New Split New Muscle Gains

I’ve been on my current training program for some time now. As one of the three programs I absolutely love to do and produces an appreciable amount of gains in muscle mass and strength, I think it’s time for a change.

Has the current routine stopped working? Not necessarily. It’s just a number of factors go into switching body part splits.

  1. Interest. Over time even the most routine animal (me!) can get a little tired of the same ole split after a while. I’ll be returning to it soon enough, but it’s time for a little mix-up.
  2. Patterns. As a creature of habit I’ve experienced great gains in size over the years, but over time patterns start to manifest themselves and my body starts to “catch on.” After a while it starts to feel a little like going through the motions.
  3. Recovery. Because of the inroads of patterns made and the waning interest my body starts to lag a bit on recovery. The same-ole same-ole gets to be taxing and things start to slack.
  4. Focus. A new split gives me the opportunity to shift some things around a refocus my energy in a different sequence. So instead of training back after chest, it’s now front and center.
  5. Experience. I hope by now (at 46 years old and over 30 years of training under my belt) I know what I’m doing and can detect when it’s time for a change. But I will always be a student and hungry to learn more.

New split

So what does the new split look like? I’ve written a little about it before, but here I want to flesh-out what I’m actually doing each day. Group A and B are alternated for each cycle. I usually train five days per week so this routine will rotate on different days each week.

Group A

Day 1: Chest, shoulders, triceps, abs.

Incline bench barbell press 4 x 8-16
Flat bench dumbbell press 4 x 8-16
Feet-elevated push up or flat push up 2-3 x as many as possible

Seated or standing side lateral raise 3 x 10-20
Seated dumbbell press 3 x 8-16
Rope face pull or upright row (optional) 3 x 10-20

Lying triceps barbell extension 3 x 10-16
V-bar press-down 3 x 10-16

Abs.: choose two ab exercises to be superset for three rounds.

Day 2: Calves, quads, hamstrings

Standing calf raise 3 x 10-16
Seated calf raise 3 x 10-16

Bulgarian split squat 3 x 10-12 each leg
Leg extension 3 x 10-16
Leg press 3 x 10-16
Dumbbell Romanian deadlift 3 x 10-12
Seated leg curl 3 x 10-16

Day 3: Back, rear delts, traps, biceps, abs.

Wide-grip pull up 4 x as many reps as possible
T-bar machine row 4 x 10-16
Medium-grip pull-down 3 x 10-16

Bent-over lateral raise 3 x 10-16
Barbell shrug 3 x 10-12

Incline bench dumbbell curl 3 x 8-16
Barbell curl 3 x 8-16

Abs.: choose two ab exercises to be superset for three rounds.

Group B

Day 1: Chest, shoulders, triceps, abs.

Incline bench dumbbell press 4 x 8-16
Incline machine press 4 x 8-16
Push up 2-3 x as many as possible

Machine or one-arm cable side lateral raise 3 x 10-16
Front plate raise 3 x 8-16
Rope face pull or upright row (optional) 3 x 10-16

Overhead rope extension 3 x 10-16
Straight bar press-down 3 x 10-16

Abs.: choose two ab exercises to be superset for three rounds.

Day 2: Calves, quads, hamstrings

Seated calf raise 3 x 10-16
Standing calf raise 3 x 10-16

Single leg press 3 x 10-16 each leg
Leg extension 3 x 10-16
Walking lunge 3 rounds

Seated leg curl 3 x 10-16
Dumbbell Romanian deadlift 3 x 10-12

Day 3: Back, rear delts, traps, biceps, abs.

Close-grip pull up 4 x as many reps as possible
Bent-over barbell row 4 x 10-16
Wide-grip pull-down 3 x 10-16

Rear delt cable lateral raise 3 x 10-16
Dumbbell shrug 3 x 10-12

Dumbbell curl 3 x 8-16
Cable curl 3 x 8-16

Abs.: choose two ab exercises to be superset for three rounds.

*Rest between sets are 60 seconds for large body parts (chest, back, quads) and 30 to 45 seconds for smaller (shoulders, arms, calves, hamstrings).

What’s different

Aside from the obvious (the split) I’m also lowering my reps a tad. Now, this isn’t groundbreaking, but it does reinforce my belief in making small, intentional changes. Since I know my body pretty well at this point there’s no need to make some monumental shift just for the heck of it. I’m from the school of “change only a few things at a time.”

We’ll see how this goes as I’ll post about my results here in the near future. I’m excited to get started on the new split as it’s rekindled my enthusiasm and I’m predicting I’ll only see great results.

Until then, happy lifting!

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Blog Training Workouts

New Leg Training Routine for My Bad Knee

My leg training has been mostly successful for the past few weeks. However, as with all things it can get a bit stale.

Always willing to change, I once again shifted gears and came up with another knee-friendly leg routine.

What’s different? I didn’t reinvent the wheel or anything, but I did throw in two important changes with my tweaked left knee in mind.

  • I went a bit heavier on most exercises. This lowered my rep range just slightly.
  • I included some unilateral (single limb) work.

Here we go:

Routine A (rest periods are 30-60 seconds)

Standing calf raise 3 x 10-16
Single leg seated calf raise 3 x 10-16

Bulgarian split squat 3 x 12
Leg extension 3 x 10-16
Leg press 3 x 10-20
Dumbbell Romanian deadlift 3 x 12

Routine B (rest periods are 30-60 seconds)

Seated calf raise 3 x 10-16
Standing calf raise 3 x 10-16

Leg curl 3 x 10-16
Leg extension 2 x 16
Single leg press 3 x 12
Walking lunge 2 lengths
Dumbbell Romanian deadlift 3 x 12

***

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Are Your Early Morning Workouts Even Effective?

It’s been a few years since I got up early (like 5:00 am early) to go train. I’m not foreign to it by any means, but it’s been a while to say the least.

With changing schedules and other reasons I decided to get up at 5:00 and be warmed up and ready to go at the gym by 5:30. At 45 years young I was as curious as any to see if I could still get in a decent workout with less sleep, less food in my stomach, and less blood in my extremities.

I can’t help to hearken back to my twenties when I was on some military job barely sleeping, eating like crap, and still killing it at the base gym. No matter what, I now not only have age to deal with, but, more importantly, I have mileage — 30 plus years of training to be frank. So my tires are a bit worn.

What I didn’t do

The one overall thing I didn’t want to do was to overthink anything. Early doesn’t mean that I must eat my usual breakfast, wait for it to properly digest, take supplements, and then go through my normal warm up routine as if it was 2:00 in the afternoon. If I attempted that I would be seeing 3:00 am.

Now, I wake up early anyways, and when I do I am instantly hungry. If I don’t eat within a few minutes of waking I get weak, lightheaded, and a bit cranky.

But things needed to change.

Time was a factor. I had to get home at a certain time to start the day so I couldn’t think about those details. I not only avoided overthinking, I also refused to lament on the fact that I was doing anything out of the ordinary. More on that next.

What I did

I took my usual mindset. I would get up, drink around 12 ounces of water, eat a small breakfast fig bar for some instant energy, drink 1/2 scoop of protein powder, and get after it.

As I mentioned earlier I also didn’t think too much into anything. I practiced what I like to call “sneaking in a workout.” That is, I showed up, trained like I always do without harping on the thought that I haven’t eaten or that I didn’t sleep enough. I “sneaked” my training in without really worrying too much about my circumstances.

And to top it off, I trained legs. So, there’s that…

Was it effective?

In a word, yes. The weights I used were roughly the same (basically I did what I did from my last workout without hitting my head against the wall trying to lift more weight or get more reps).

It’s a ton off your back when you don’t focus on the lack of sleep or prep and just do the dang thing. I do think that mindset had a lot to do with the workout being a success.

I also noticed two important things. One, training early was just another thing to get used to. Over time I could adapt to the new schedule and each day would prove to be more and more effective just like an afternoon workout would be.

Two, it was nice to experience training this early again. I forget how getting training under your belt early gets you into an action mindset. After a shower and my regular breakfast I liked the feeling of getting the workout out of the way and it put me into a productive mood for the rest of the day.

***

I’m writing this before lunch so I ‘m sure I’ll take a 5 minute power nap soon and hit the bed early later, but for now let me know your thoughts about this in the comments below. Are you an early trainer?

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My Current Complete Workout (Full Program)

I’ve received several messages from those who wanted to see my current workout in full. Thanks for the messages and here you go.

First a couple of points to be made:

  • I train around five or six days per week. I usually go with Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.
  • Each workout is an hour or less. Any longer and I’m not keeping track of rest periods enough.
  • I’m 45 so my reps are higher these days. This has actually proven to be better for muscle mass, for me at least.
  • Rest periods are kept between 30 (for smaller groups) and 60 seconds (for larger groups). Pay very close attention to this. It’s the special sauce in how all this works.
  • I operate my training on an A and B routine. I have two workouts for each day that I rotate on a regular basis. This keeps it interesting.
  • I’m more interested in putting on muscle and reshaping my body instead of building pure strength. These workouts will still get you stronger, but that’s not the main focus.
  • Abs are trained each day except leg day. 3 or 4 sets of crunches and 3 or 4 sets of leg raises.

Group A

Day 1:

Incline bench barbell press 4 x 10-20
Flat bench dumbbell press 4 x 10-20
Feet inclined push up 3-4 x as many as possible

Cross bench dumbbell pullover 3 x 10-15

Wide-grip pull up 4 x as many as possible
T-bar row 4 x 10-20
Medium-grip pulldown 3-4 x 10-20

Day 2:

Standing dumbbell side lateral raise 4 x 10-20
Bent-over rear lateral raise 4 x 10-20
Front plate raise 3-4 x 10-20
Barbell shrug 3 x 10-15

Single arm cable pressdown 4 x 10-20
Lying triceps extension 4 x 10-20
Incline bench dumbbell curl 4 x 10-20
Barbell curl 4 x 10-20

Day 3:

Standing calf raise 4 x 10-20
Seated calf raise 4 x 10-20

Leg extension 3 x 20
Leg press 3 x 20
Walking lunge 3 lengths
Dumbbell Romanian deadlift 3 x 10-15
Leg curl 3 x 10-20

Group B

Day 1:

Incline bench dumbbell press 4 x 10-20
Incline Hammer Strength press 4 x 10-20
Floor push up 3 x as many as possible

Cross bench pullover 3 x 10-15

Close-grip pull up 4 x as many as possible
Bent-over barbell row 4 x 10-20
Wide-grip pulldown 3-4 x 10-20

Day 2:

Seated side dumbbell side lateral raise 4 x 10-20
Seated dumbbell shoulder press 4 x 10-20
Cable rear lateral raise 3-4 x 10-20
Dumbbell shrug 3 x 10-20

Overhead rope triceps extension 4 x 10-20
Dumbbell lying extension 4 x 10-20
Standing dumbbell curl 4 x 10-20
Straight bar cable curl 4 x 10-20

Day 3:

Seated calf raise 4 x 10-20
Standing calf raise 4 x 10-20

Leg curl 3 x 10-20
Dumbbell Romanian deadlift 3 x 10-15
Leg extension 3 x 20
Rear foot elevated Bulgarian split squat 3 x 10-20 each leg
Leg press 3 x 20

***

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My Current Training Split

I’ve experimented with a lot of splits over the, ahem, decades. I’ve always gone back to just about three that have given me the greatest results. Plus, as a forty-something I have to pay a little more attention to recovery.

Currently, I’m back on an old, reliable standby. I call it my golden era split since many bodybuilders from the 70’s used it. It’s not a “bro split” or anything, but it does split things up just enough for recovery and engagement.

Okay, enough talk. Here you go.

Day 1: Chest, back

Day 2: Shoulders, triceps, biceps

Day 3: Calves, quads, hams

That’s it. Pretty simple. I’m able to train everything over three days and when life gets in the way and I miss a few days it’s easy to make up the time.

I’ll do either three days in a row and then take a day off or train five days per week and just rotate the workouts whichever days they may fall.

***

What’s your favorite split?

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Over 40 Leg Training for More Mass

Check out this knee-friendly, over 40 leg training routine I did the other day. I will warn you, it’s tough and you will be sore, but your knees and back will thank you.

This is solely for building muscle. You will get stronger, but it’s not the main goal. For rest periods go with 30 seconds for everything except for leg press which will require around one minute. Wear a watch to track rest, don’t bring your phone, it’ll only distract you, and stay focused the entire time.

Good luck, Here we go!

Seated calf raise 4 x 10-20
Standing calf raise 4 x 10-20

Seated leg curl 3 x 10-16
Dumbbell Romanian deadlift 3 x 12

Leg extension 3 x 20
Bulgarian split squat (no weight) 3 x 20 each leg
Leg press 3 x 20

***

This should only take you about 45 minutes, max. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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Simple and Quick Dumbbell Arm Workout

Someone recently wrote to me about different training techniques and touched on one I’ve known for a while now and recently revisited. If you’re at all familiar with Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson from the old Ironman Magazine days you’ll know they popularized the POF system. That is the Positions of Flexion training technique.

I remember using POF for many years during my competitive days. I liked the fact that I could organize my training pretty easily around it and I didn’t need a ton of volume to get great results. Let’s break down this oldie but goody technique and then plan out a quick, but very effective arm workout around it.

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Blog Training Workouts

At Home All Dumbbell Workout

At-home full body dumbbell workouts are everywhere, but many are structured for those who just want a quick “get-in-shape” program. I’ve always been a student of muscle. If I’m going to spend time training I want any routine I follow to build muscle, strength, and give me a great pump so I can walk away with a smile on my face and the sense that I really moved the needle.

Following is an all dumbbell workout that addresses everything: all body parts, compound movements, and practices efficiency of effort. That is, it doesn’t waste time and energy on useless exercises, gets straight to the point of training, and will yield the fastest and best results possible.