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Plan for Big-Gain Hunters

Plan your workout before you go to the gym so that you know exactly what you’re going to do. That way you won’t have to waste any time once you get there.


 Q: I just finished reading your article in IRON MAN and was very encouraged by the results you’ve seen in your own workouts. As an over-40 guy, I’ve been trying to find out what routines I should use in the gym. My goal is to gain muscle and lose fat (isn’t everyone’s?). I’ve been lifting weights the past year on a whole-body workout routine three times a week. Not only am I bored, but I also feel I don’t really have a plan when it comes to workouts and diet. My hope is that you can point me in the right direction for what I should be doing in the gym and at the dinner table. I want to feel that I have a plan and mission when I show up at the gym each day. 

A: I’m glad to help. There are so many folks in the same boat. You don’t have to be over 40 to find yourself carrying too much bodyfat and just generally out of shape. The good thing is that you recognize it and decided to do something about it. Unfortunately, a lot of people decide to make the change but don’t know how to get it done safely and efficiently. You’re absolutely right—you need a plan. If you were going to attend a party in an unfamiliar town, you wouldn’t just jump in your car and drive around aimlessly until you happened to find the venue, would you? These days you’d MapQuest the address and print out the map and directions. Achieving the physique you’re after is no different. You should think of your workout and diet plan as the map to your fitness destination.

So let’s lay it out. I’ll give you a specific split program a little later; first I want to discuss how to plan your workouts. Since you’ve been working out regularly, you won’t be starting from scratch. With the full-body workouts under your belt, the next step is to split your body into upper- and lower-body workouts. You can continue to train on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; just alternate between the two workouts. 

On that schedule you train your upper body twice one week and your lower body twice the next week. Always work the major muscle groups first, spending most of your time and energy on the basic compound movements. The basic exercises include squats and leg presses for thighs; deadlifts, chins or pulldowns and rows for back; flat-bench and incline presses for chest; and overhead presses for shoulders. Those should be the mainstay of your workouts.

Start each session with two basic exercises, performing three to four work sets per exercise. Progress to isolation exercises for smaller bodyparts, performing one exercise per bodypart for three to four work sets. Always perform the movements smoothly and deliberately, feeling the muscle contract on every rep of every set. Keep your repetitions in the eight-to-12 range.

Plan your workout before you go to the gym so that you know exactly what you’re going to do. That way you won’t have to waste any time once you get there. Record all of your workouts, including exercises, sets, reps and weights (I even record my bodyweight, the time of day and which gym I’m training in). When you start your new program, record your bodyweight and measurements in your journal. If possible, get your bodyfat assessed by skinfold calipers. Jot down 12-week goals and long-term goals—be realistic. 

You can go back through your journal to monitor your progress in strength, weight and measurement from time to time in order to keep yourself focused. You can also use your journal for motivation. I always look back at my workout from the previous week, and I try to beat what I did then. Even if I add only one more rep for a particular exercise or add five more pounds, I know that I’ve improved. Small weekly improvements add up to huge annual gains.

As for your diet, the first thing I tell everyone interested in losing bodyfat is to cut out all fried foods, junk foods and desserts. Most people will shed fat rapidly with just that adjustment. Take in plenty of protein from lean sources, such as poultry breast, fish, egg whites, lean beef and high-quality protein powder (I highly recommend Muscle-Link’s Pro-Fusion). For your total protein intake multiply your target bodyweight by 1.5, and try to take in that many grams. For example, if your target weight is 200 pounds, 200 x 1.5 = 300 grams of protein per day. 

For carbs eat only fresh fruits, vegetables and low-glycemic-index starches, such as brown rice, sweet potatoes and oatmeal. Since you’re interested in dropping a considerable amount of bodyfat, you’ll want to restrict your carb intake somewhat. To get the appropriate number of carbs, take your daily protein intake and multiply by a factor of .7 (300 x .7 = 210 grams of carbs per day). You will be getting some fat from your protein, so the only fats you need to add are the essential fatty acids.

For basic supplementation in addition to the protein powder and EFAs, you should take creatine and a high-quality vitamin-and-mineral supplement. During your workout sip a drink that contains about 15 to 20 grams of carbs and 10 grams of protein. I use about eight ounces of water, 10 ounces of Gatorade and a half scoop of Pro-Fusion. Immediately after your workout have another drink with 20 to 30 grams of carbs, 25 to 30 grams of protein and one serving of creatine. I like mixing vanilla Pro-Fusion with lemon lime or orange Gatorade for my postworkout drinks.

In order to speed up bodyfat reduction, I do 20 to 30 minutes of cardio first thing in the morning, six days per week. If you’re accustomed to weight training first thing in the morning, do your cardio around noon or in the evening.

Above all, be patient and be consistent. I can’t stress that enough. It’s not going to happen overnight, in a week or even in a month. If you’re consistent with training and diet, in just a few months you’ll see incredible changes. Train like a champion on every rep. Live like a champion every day.

Here are the workouts:

Lower body:

Hanging knee raises 4 x max
Crunches 3 x max
Squats (warmup) 1-2 x 8-12
(work sets) 4 x 8-12
Leg presses (warmup) 1 x 8-12
(work sets) 4 x 8-12
Leg curls 3 x 8-12
Leg extensions 3 x 8-12
Standing calf raises 5 x 12-15

Upper Body:

Deadlifts* (warmup) 1-2 x 9
(work sets) 3 x 8
Bench presses
(warmup) 1 x 8-12
(work sets) 4 x 8-12
Incline dumbbell
presses 3 x 8-12
Cable rows (warmup) 1 x 8-12
(work sets) 4 x 8-12
Pulldowns to front 3 x 8-12
Overhead presses 4 x 8-12
Barbell curls 4 x 8-12
Lying extensions (skull 
crushers) 4 x 8-12

*Do deadlifts only at every other upper-body workout.

 Editor’s note: See Dave Goodin’s blog at www.IronManMagazine.com. Click on the blog selection in the top menu bar. To contact Dave directly, send e-mail to TXShredder@aol.com.  IM

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