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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Blog Motivation Training

The Best Body Part Split for You: A Reader’s Question

I get some great questions about training, nutrition, recovery, and motivation from readers. Many of these questions are common among you so I’d like to answer some right here for all to benefit from.

Here is an email I received from Nick. He has a few concerns about training splits.

Hey Brad,

This is a little different question that may or may not have an easy answer but I need your advice and reasoning to finding my way.

At 40yrs old, I’ve probably reached my genetic potential being that I’ve been lifting almost 20 yrs now. I would like to know your reasoning for hitting each muscle twice per week? I mean, on paper, it seems great- lots of volume per week, science backed being that muscles recover in a few days and most approve. But how effective is it in reality compared to any other workout? At the end of the day, if your not progressing in weight, reps no matter the rep range, the progress halts. So I find trying to fit 3 muscles in a workout, then doing it again in 4 days just making the process harder… ?

I personally haven’t gained any more muscle regardless of the frequency I’m training.  1/2 or 3 times per week. The reason I’m asking is because I feel like I want to make things simple. Sometimes my wife says, “If want to workout before we leave to run errands you have about 30-45min.” Chest/Back and abs could work but I cant really push hard enough. This brings me to my next point.

A couple times last week this happened where I had very little time. So I decided to do just chest-4 exercises, 4 sets each abs at the end. I even wanted to do some cardio after which never happens. My intensity was higher, my focus was greater and I was lifting heavier than I normally do due not having to save intensity and energy for multiple muscles per workout. 

I find the bro split quite enjoyable and honestly effective. Even with the low frequency, I really can’t find too many other problems with it. I enjoy each workout separately and can really give all my attention to the muscle I’m working. 

Since I have arthritis in my knees, hitting legs once per week is great and who doesn’t love hitting arms? Haha. I follow the splits you do because you know what works, but I don’t feel I truly enjoy them because I’m constantly researching or finding ways to sway my decision to doing a bro split but I know you don’t agree with this approach so I’ve hesitated sending this email.

Thanks Brad, Nick

Your thoughts are appreciated 


Nick makes some great points and has some legitimate questions and concerns. I’ll do my best to help out by breaking down a few things.

My best splits

I’ve posted before about my favorite body part splits. I must stress that these are my personal favorites. If you’ve followed my writing for any length of time you’ll know that I’m a fan of a bit more frequent training and also grouping several body parts together on each day.

I’ve also talked a little about how this fits into our over 40 crowd–how splitting your training isn’t all that much different than that from years ago. I do, however, replace exercises, perform a few differently, and pay very close attention to recovery. But I must repeat that those splits work for me. I’ve had and continue to have success with them and don’t have a need to change at this point.

I also like to prescribe those splits to readers and clients for the simple fact that the majority of them are under training and need something to shock them into new muscle growth. In other words, what they are currently doing (normally a “bro split”) just isn’t working for them. This may be due to the fact that the “bro split” just isn’t for them or that they just aren’t working hard enough.

Whatever it may be, they voice that what they’re doing simply hasn’t reaped the results they’re after.

Are my splits working?

Now let’s address Nick’s concerns. He states in his email that the more frequency coupled with appropriate intensity and volume is a tough box to check day after day and week after week.

One of the many lines stood out to me:

I follow the splits you do because you know what works, but I don’t feel I truly enjoy them

That tells me volumes. Nick also states the research and what others have said regarding more frequent training, but motivation toward your plan is pivotal. Simply put, if you’re not enjoying your training, if you’re not excited to show up every day and hit the iron hard then something needs to change no matter what science says.

Now, I love science. I’m a believer in peer-researched studies touting the benefits of specific protocols, but we are all built a bit differently and we all have our little silos we live in. I, for example, have always trained the way I do: more frequency, moderate volume. That has worked for me and I am incredibly adapted to training that way. I’ve tried “bro splits” and honestly don’t like them. But that’s me.

Back to Nick.

Are your splits working?

Nick made some other interesting remarks regarding performing a traditional “bro split” due to time constraints.

My intensity was higher, my focus was greater and I was lifting heavier than I normally do

Then he concluded with this.

I find the bro split quite enjoyable and honestly effective.

This tells me through life’s unexpected circumstances and ultimately self-discovery Nick virtually stumbled upon a solution to his dilemma.

And I understand Nick’s frustration. We all scour the internet for answers. We read the research, read blogs (like mine) and think those are the only ways to execute their plans for more muscle.

I am the first to tell anyone reading that I do not have all the answers and that my way isn’t the only way. Nick has found where he needs to be: training with a traditional “bro split” under his own terms and conditions. My advice to him is to limit his intake of other programs and information with a filter and keep listening to his body. He should continue to fine tune his plan with small changes only where needed and pave his own way.

I hope Nick can update us all on his progress in the comments section below. I’m sure there are many more readers in the same boat.

Happy lifting.


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Blog Training Workouts

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!