Whenever you do something over and over eventually you hit that point when it starts to suck.  The thing you used to love now has become more of a pain than a pleasure.


When that thing is working out it makes you not want to get up before the roosters to do it.  The bed seems to get more and more comfortable and no matter how long you slept you could always sleep just a little longer.


I hit that point around Thanksgiving.  I had wanted to come out with a new workout but I would never think about it until I hit the gym.  So I trudged along for a while until it sucked to get out of bed in the morning.


Rather than going with a simple workout like the 15-minute workout or the GVT, I went off the deep end.


I mixed everything I knew into one workout.  Strength training, bodybuilding and lifting by muscle fiber.  Sounds a lot fancier and complex than it really is. 




In the fall I decided to start strength training but I had no idea where to start.  I’m not a powerlifter and the only strength training I’ve done is deadlifting everyday.  So I did what any red-blooded American would do – I Googled that shit.


I came across Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 method over at T-Nation and something just clicked. 


Jim’s method is simple which is why I like it so much.  Not like my clunky concoctions. 


The 5/3/1 method uses 90% of your 1RM as your baseline and you do 65% of that for Week 1 Set 1 for example.  This is for the compound exercises (deadlift, squat, bench etc.)


  Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
Set 1 65%x5 70%x3 75%x5 40%x5
Set 2 75%x5 80%x3 85%x3 50%x5
Set 3 85%x5+ 90%x3+ 95%x1+ 60%x5


At the end of 4 weeks add 5 pounds for upper body exercises and 10 pounds for lower body exercises.  Rinse and repeat.




Everyone that has done 3 sets for 10 reps and knows that Friday is international arm day has done some bodybuilding. 

When I think of bodybuilding I think of trying to make my muscles as big as possible and the rep range of 6-15 does that.  This rep range provides just enough weight to create little tears in the muscles which cause it to grow back bigger and stronger.  Not enough weight where the nervous system does most of the work and not too light where you have to pick up the pink dumbbells.




This last method is something I’m still experimenting with but so far I like it.  I’ll hit the 30,000 ft view of this method because I would bore the casual reader to tears with the details.


This method is acting on the premise that to get the most out of a muscle you should lift based on if it’s predominately fast twitch (heavy weight, low rep) or slow twitch muscle (lighter weight, higher reps).  There is heavy debate in the fitness community if this actually does anything. 


I’m not 100% convinced either way but it’s something new to experiment with so it is in!


I used this method mostly for the shoulders.  The shoulders are typically more slow twitch fibers so a higher rep range will hopefully make me fill out a shirt better.




If you’ve been tired of the old 3 sets of 10 or just want to shake it up a bit this is a good way to go about it.  Plus, you get a little exposure to different workout paradigms which is worth the price of admission itself.




Monday and Tuesday are your strength training days.  Wednesday is your active rest “ab” day and Thursday through Saturday are the bodybuilding days.  I’ll give you Sunday off (I’m generous like that).


Monday and Tuesday find your 1RM and take 90% of that.  Then figure out the percentages for each set from above.  The chest focused dip exercise is meant to be done with weight.  So either stick a dumbbell between your feet or use a weight belt.  Now if you can’t do a dip in the first place then replace it with a decline barbell bench press, preferably with a real barbell but the Smith Machine will work in a pinch.


Keep the rest periods here to 2-3 minutes.


For Thursday through Saturday as you see the reps go down that means the weight goes up.  I’ll jump 5 pounds each time the reps go down or 10 pounds for the compound movements.  If the rep scheme is 20,15,12,10 then I would use 50 pounds for 20 reps, 55 for 15, 60 for 12 and 65 for 10 using dumbbells.  It’s not scientific but it’s practical.  Try to find a set of dumbbells that go up 2.5 pounds.


Keep the rest period for the bodybuilding section in the 60-90 seconds range.




Day 1 Sets x Reps
Dumbbell Bench 5/3/1
Dumbbell Row 5/3/1
Pullup 5/3/1
Dumbbell Incline Bench Press 5/3/1
Chest Focus Dips 4×4
Pullovers 4×15,12,10,8
Day 2  
Squats 5/3/1
Standing Military Press 5/3/1
RDL 5/3/1
Dumbbell Lat Raise 4×15,12,10,8
Leg Press 8×4
Rear Delt Machine 4×20,15,12,10
Day 3  
Toes-To-Bar 4×10
Cable Crunch 4×20-25
Side Bends w Weight 4×20
Good Morning 4×6
Leg Raise 4×10
Myotatic Crunch 2×10
Day 4  
Machine Incline Bench Press 4×20,15,12,10
Cable Row 4×12,12,10,8
Machine Flat Bench Press 4×20,15,12,10
Lat Pulldown 4×12,12,10,10
Cable Fly 3×20,15,12
Straight Arm Pulldown 4×10
Day 5  
Leg Extension 4×20,15,12,20
Arnold’s 4×12,10,8,15
Bent Over Lat Raise 4×20
Barbell Shrugs 3×15
Deadlift 5/3/1
Seated Calf Raises 4×25
Day 6  
Rope Press down 4×15,15,12,12
Wide Grip Barbell Curl 4×10
Skullcrusher 4×20,15,15,15
Hammer Curls 4×15,15,12,12
Close Grip Bench Press 4×15,15,12,10
Dumbbell Preacher Curls 4×12,12,10,10



As always, here is the pdf for your tracking pleasure. The Mixed Bag of Tricks Workout

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