I was average, middle-aged (almost 40), and overweight. Until I dramatically transformed my body using the weight lifting, diet, and supplement routines of natural bodybuilders.
Not the over-blown, ridiculously distorted, cartoon-figure-lookalike male and (some) female bodybuilders you see on tv, but the healthy, fit, and muscular ones on the covers of fitness magazines. [By the way, that's me up there at 38 years of age]
If your goal is to look like them you've come to the right place. This page is all about designing highly effective weight lifting routines. (AND THE BEST PART IS IT'S FREE!)
Check out this video excerpt below from when I won the Body For Life contest in 1998.
Before you put together any weight lifting routines you have to know the answer to the "big picture" question:
"Why am I lifting the weight in the first place?"
If you don't answer this question first you can do all matter of weight lifting routines that work your muscles, sure, but won't effectively help you attain your "real" goal(s).
I'm going to show you how to design weight lifting routines that will help you reshape your body. You'll learn how to design weight lifting routines to maximize fat loss and weight lifting routines to increase body weight and lean muscle mass. Just stay with me, I'll cover a lot of territory. I'll also erase some myths that are holding many people back from attaining the kind of body they've always wanted.
Just remember that the weight lifting routines you create must be written down. Going to the gym without a plan of action is a sure-fire way to severly limit the chances of ever reaching your goals.
Can you imagine planning a vacation trip but never bothering to figure out how to get there? What are the chances of reaching your destination? The same goes for your weight lifting routines. They have to be written down.
Don't Do This
The majority of people do this. Do you? There's nothing wrong with having done it this way. AS LONG AS you realize it's a mistake to workout without having properly designed weight lifting routines specifically for your goals.
Look at it this way, if you're going to bust your behind in the gym, wouldn't you want to get the most from your efforts? Then listen up because the people with the best bodies on earth do exactly what I will teach you here today.
If you learn nothing else from this page learn this -- you must have weight lifting routines that change over time or you will never achieve meaningful results (In a second I'll show you what changes you can make to all weight lifting routines that will accelerate the results you're looking for).
Before I give you my recommendations on weight lifting routines, you might want to learn a little about me and my qualifications for designing effective weight lifting routines.
My name is Harry Johnson Jr, some people call me Hank (a nickname I picked up from Bill Phillips, author of Body For Life and creator of Muscle Media magazine and EAS sports nutrition). I am 43 years old and have been training and designing weight lifting routines for over 14 years.
Exercise and playing sports kept me fit through my teen years and into my early 20's. Until a "real" job working as an engineer for NASA at the Kennedy Space Center in FL caused me to lose focus on staying fit. Concentrating on "getting ahead" took priority over exercising so I quickly grew out of shape. The funny thing was I didn't really notice...or care too much. Until I turned 30...
Something about the "decade" years (30, 40, 50, etc.) usually causes one to reflect on their life and what they've accomplished to that point. For me I made the frightening realization I was getting old. In my mind's eye I saw myself as a fit, athletic teenager. But in reality my body was telling me a different story. Up to that point I just couldn't, or was not willing to, see it. When I turned 30 I "woke up" and discovered my body looked more like a 50 year old than a 19 year old.
I wasn't a pretty picture. In fact I looked downright awful. In my quest to further my career I had neglected my body. I was overweight and wheezed pathetically from the slightest exertion.
So I joined a gym. And I stuck with it for eight years (but without the benefit of any formalized weight lifting routines). Yes, after eight years I looked a little better than when I started. But if someone had seen me on the street they wouldn't have been able to tell that I worked out. I was 38 and resembled your average, slightly overweight, middle-aged guy.
My only saving grace during those eight years was I studied and voraciously read everything I could get my hands on about weight lifting routines, exotic exercises, supplements, diet, etc. I would try it all too. But my body still wouldn't change that much. I finally came to the realization I had bad genetics for losing weight and building muscle.
I had almost resigned myself to a life with a mediocre body. Until I saw the "before and after" pictures of some contestants that had entered a National body transformation contest. I was amazed at the changes these people made to their bodies. Some that started off in much worse shape than I did ended up with remarkable-looking bodies.
Pouring over photo after photo I finally said to myself,
"if they could do it then so could I...these people are no different than me..."
So I made the committment to myself and entered the contest. I simply said I would just do the best I could. I really didn't think I had any chance to win. It was more of honoring my self-promise to get the body I'd always wanted.
Well wouldn't you know it? I was chosen as the Grand Champion in the 1998 EAS Physique Transformation Contest (or Body For Life contest as it's called today).
What I did to win was deceptively simple. Yet I didn't see it until I decided to enter and give it my all (more in a second). I simply put together some weight lifting routines from all the knowledge I had accumulated over the years. Then, I combined it with a highly targeted diet and supplements and my body responded like I never imagined it could.
Here are my "before and " pictures:
As you can see from the photos above I made a remarkable transformation.
My Keys To Winning
Were simple really. I took advantage of synergy. There was no one thing that caused my body to change so much. It required everything done together for a long enough period of time to do it. This included using highly effective weight lifting routines, a fat-loss-stripping diet, and supplements my research showed would help me lose even more fat while adding lean muscle at the same time.
Now that you understand how I did it, I'm going to show you how to do the same.
The Most Effective Weight Lifting Routines
Have come from the bodybuilding community. But don't think you have to be a bodybuilder in order to benefit from their findings. However, if you want your body to change in the easiest and most dramatic way you HAVE TO use their methods.
Yes, there are other ways to work out -- Pilates, Tae Bo, Spinning, etc -- but none will be as effective as the methods bodybuilders use. Why is this? Because bodybuilders are constantly striving for new and better ways to lose more fat and gain more muscle.
And regardless of whether you're a man or woman the bottom line is you NEED to concentrate on maximizing your lean muscle mass. When you do, any fat you have on your body will come off much easier (more muscle makes for a higher metabolic rate. And a higher metabolism helps you burn more calories).
Anything else would not be making effective use of either your time, or the energies you will spend trying to get in shape.
Busting The Biggest Myth
Here's the biggest one (and especially prevalent with women):
"If you train like a bodybuilder you will end up looking like one -- complete with big, bulky muscles"
This is unfortunately one of the biggest myths holding most people back. Even men are sometimes scared of getting too bulky by training like bodybuilders do. The REAL FACT is it's incredibly difficult to attain a muscular body. And it's even harder for women than it is for men because they don't have the same muscle-building hormones that men do.
This "fear" of how your body may end up looking like has held back countless thousands of aspiring better-body seekers. So you'll see men, and especially women, lifting weight with low intensity, using too light a weight, and performing countless repetitions. All because they want to "tone" their body without getting too bulky.
Working out this way will not give you the body you want. If you just "go for the burn" and think that is enough to cause the stimulus your body requires for it to change you're in for a major disappointment.
Trust in what I am saying and you will be repaid with a Killer Body.
ABC's of Designing Weight Lifting Routines
This list is not necessarily all-encompassing. However, they are some of the most important factors to consider when putting together your weight lifting routines.
Understand also that there are thousands of combinations of the above changes you can put together when designing your weight lifting routines.
One can be the "perceived" exertion required to lift a particular weight. You may have heard of training to "momentary muscular failure." This means performing repetitions with a given weight until your muscles can no longer lift that weight.
This is not really an exact measurement. Some people will quit because of the pain they feel in their muscles instead of their muscles actually becoming incapable of lifting the weight. When maximizing your intensity you need to let your muscles tell you when to quit, not the pain your are feeling during the lift.
The other type of intensity is based on lifting a weight based on a percentage of your maximum for that lift. I recommend you concentrate on the first one.
Regardless of which one you choose, your weight lifting routines should be designed to cycle the intensity you expose your muscles to. Most people don't do this. They either don't subject their muscles to momentary muscular failure at all, or they do so in every single workout. Both approaches are incorrect and will lead to little and sometimes negative results and possibly injury.
When your weight lifting routines are performed this way you work with your body's limited recuperative abilities. It's been shown that while increases in strength can exceed several hundred percent, one's recuperative powers can only be increased by around 50%.
This means as you get stronger and are able to subject your muscles to higher and higher levels of intensity, you need to allow your muscles more recuperation time in order for them to get bigger and stronger.
By varying the tempo periodically you subject your muscles to a different stimuli -- necessary for continued gains.
Rest Period Between Sets
In general, shortening the rest periods between sets increases the intensity. Shorter rest periods are also excellent for increasing your body's Growth Hormone (GH) output. Increased GH helps burn more fat and indirectly can lead to more lean tissue gain.
Longer rest periods should be used when you want to emphasize increasing strength or lean muscle mass.
Achieving Pre-Set Goals
20% increase in strength in 6 weeks
By constantly striving to reach new, tangible goals, you are forcing your body to improve. The end result is you you take the guesswork out of achieving a better body.
Your Body's State of Recuperation
When continued it can lead to negative results and eventually injury. Ask anyone that has been training for a long time if they have any nagging shoulder (rotator cuff), bicep, elbow, or knee injuries. Most do. And it's because they don't consider proper recuperation as serious as they should.
Always remember that more is not necessarily better when designing your weight lifting routines. You must cycle your training, interspersing higher volume and intensity periods with lower ones. Also, planned rest periods must be included with all weight lifting routines.
Since your body's recuperative state is kind of hard to measure accurately, start out by planning periods of lower workout volume, intensity, and complete rest. I personally don't go longer than 2 months without taking at least 1 week completely off. Additionally, a few subjective measures can be used to measure your recuperative state as well such as:
If you experience any of these you could likely be "overtrained." The cure is to immediately stop training for at least 3 days (preferrably longer). This will probably be the hardest thing for you to do -- BUT YOU MUST if continued progress is important to you!
These guidelines above apply to women as well as men. All of your weight lifting routines should be centered around increasing your lean muscle mass. More lean muscle equals a better body. ALWAYS remember this!
And the only way for your body to put on more lean muscle is to give it adequate rest and recuperation. Working out at the gym is the stimulus for lean muscle growth, what you do outside the gym determines how much growth will happen.
Example Weight Lifting Routines
What follows below are several example weight lifting routines you can use.
Weight Lifting Routines for Fat Loss
The first one is entitled "Fat Loss Weight Lifting Routine." But don't let the title fool you. It is not strictly a fat loss workout. It is designed with very short rest periods to help raise your natural production of GH (Growth Hormone).
As I mentioned before, increasing GH production in your body helps you burn more fat and indirectly helps you build more muscle too. My experience with using this weight lifting routine, as well as countless others, is a big reduction in body fat along with a moderate increase in lean muscle mass (provided your diet is dialed in).
Perform Letter Pair Exercises in Sequential Order
Perform this weight lifting routine by doing the "A1" exercise first, resting for the given time period, doing the "A2" exercise, again resting for the given "A2" exercise time period. This counts as the first set (of the three you will do for the "A" exercises). Then repeat the "A1/A2" combination (making sure you stick to the given rest periods) for two more sets.
Then, move on the the "B1/B2" combination the same as the above. When complete with the three sets for them then do the "C1/C2" combinations. Finish off with the "D1/D2" exercises.
In summary, perform the A1/A2 exercises first, then do the B1/B2 exercises second, the C1/C2 exercises third, and the D1/D2 exercises last. [See the exercise matrix I've created for you below to better understand how to perform this routine].
Short Rest Periods are KEY to Maximize Fat Loss Effects
This weight lifting routine is designed to be fast-paced, moving quickly from exercise to exercise in a rapid manner. At first you may feel slightly nauseated. If this happens just rest for a few more seconds than prescribed and continue if you can. As you become more fit you shouldn't experience this feeling again.
The effectiveness of this Fat Loss Weight Lifting Routine is based primarily on its short rest periods. Make sure to stick to the listed times.
Work Largest Muscle Groups First
This weight lifting routine is also designed to work the large muscles groups in your body first, ending with the smallest ones. This is done so you work the hardest body parts first when you have the most energy. Plus, an added benefite is you will get a greater GH output by working your larger muscle groups first.
Alternate a Lower with an Upper Body Exercise
Use the same weight
When choosing a weight to use for the exercises in the routine below, choose one that is the same for all three sets of each exercise. You don't necessarily want to achieve "failure" on each set, just close to it. 1-2 repetitions in reserve is about right.
The only warm up you'll do is at the beginning of the workout. Perform a couple to three sets of the A1/A2 exercises only. Then, don't warm up any more during the workout. This will be counterproductive to the results you're after. Your body will already be warm enough from the prior sets.
Your main focus should be in keeping to the prescribed rest periods. This will maximize your body's production of GH, helping you burn more fat.
However, as you get stonger you'll eventually have more than 2 repetitions in reserve. Increase the weights used by 5-10% when this happens.
*Tempo (below) refers to how fast you should do the movement. The first number means how many seconds you should take to do the eccentric, or lowering, part of the movement. The second number means how long you should pause between the eccentric and the concentric, or lifting, portion of the lift. The third number refers to how fast you should lift or move the weight in seconds. An "X" means to move the weight as quickly as possible.
Fat Loss Weight Lifting Routine
Do this weight lifting routine no longer than 4 weeks. Then you MUST rest completely for 3-5 days, doing no workouts at all. Remember, planned rest periods are critical for continued progress.
You can then move into other weight lifting routines that focus on maximizing strength and/or lean mass (like the one I've created for you below).
***Finally, a weight lifting strap for holding on to the weights is a must-have.***
Due to the intense nature of this routine there is little time for your forearm muscles to recuperate between sets. Therefore, you must have some type of strap device that will allow some of the "gripping" stress to be taken off your forearms. If you don't use one your forearm muscles will tire out before the body part you're working does. This will diminsh your results.
Weight Lifting Routines for Lean Muscle Mass
The Lean Mass Building Weight Lifting Routine is a complete departure from the Fat Loss Weight Lifting Routine. The Lean Mass Building Weight Lifting Routine is designed to build as much muscle and strength as possible in the 4 weeks you'll be on it. Remember, your main goal is to build muscle. More muscle helps reshape your body and burn more body fat.
Advice For Women
If you're a woman, please don't be scared of what I just said. You need to work on increasing your muscular strength and lean tissue as much as men. Men will make greater gains in the "mass gaining" department because they have the underlying hormonal makeup and muscle density that most women typically lack.
Trust me, it's very hard to build muscle. And it won't happen overnight or without a lot of hard work.
With the increased muscle mass you will gain on the Lean Mass Building Weight Lifting Routine your body will burn more calories every day. If you then switch back to the Fat Loss Weight Lifting Routine your rate of fat loss can potentially increase even further.
And don't be scared that you'll look too "bulky". All the fitness models you see on the cover of magazines, the ones whose bodies you wish you had, design their weight lifting routines to maximize their lean muscle mass. They know muscle is where it's at for a more shapely body.
Perform Only Basic Compound Movements
The Lean Mass Building Weight Lifting Routine will have you working with basic exercises only: squats, deadlifts, bent-over rows, pullups (lat pulldowns for women), bench press, shoulder press and upright rows.
This focus on only the core and basic ‘heavy' movements is what will give you true strength, power, and muscular size and definition.
Sequentially Work Opposing Muscle Groups
First, let me give you an example of the structure of your workouts. On Chest, Back, and shoulder day you'll work chest and back together. The first set will be a chest exercise followed by a back exercise. You won't ‘superset' them in the traditional sense as you'll be resting 1 ½ minutes between the chest and back exercise.
The reason for doing it this way is two-fold. First, studies have shown you'll be stronger during a chest movement if it was preceded by a heavy opposing muscle group (back) exercise.
Conversely, you'll be stronger during a back exercise if you performed a chest exercise before it. There is a positive neurological effect this imparts on your muscles making them stronger than if you just worked all the chest exercises first and then did all the back exercises.
Second, by working one group of muscles first then working the opposing group for the following set, the first ‘worked' group of muscles gets a longer rest period before being worked again. This will allow you to use heavier weights. Consistently using heavier weights leads to more strength and fat-burning lean muscle.
I could have you do all your work sets on chest first, increase the time rested between sets, then do the same with the back exercises. But this would waste a lot of time. PLUS you wouldn't take advantage of the increased neurological efficiency from alternating the two opposing muscle groups.
Use Heavy Weights and Low Repetitions
You'll be using heavier weights and lower repetitions in the Lean Mass Building Weight Lifting Routine. This helps build strength and lean muscle mass.
Progressively Increase Weights Used
Choose a weight that allows you to meet the prescribed repetitions. However, always attempt to exceed them. When you do, increase the weight used for that exercise by 5-10%.
For example, if in the past you could perform 8 repetitions with 55 lb dumbells but find that in a subsequent workout you can now do 9, increase the weight to 57-60 lbs.
Increase Rest Periods Between Sets
Studies have shown it takes your muscles longer to recuperate from this type of routine compared to a higher repetition, lower weight set.
Limit Ancillary Exercises
You'll notice there is no direct arm work (biceps and triceps) in the Lean Mass Building Weight Lifting Routine. Don't let this scare you.
The point of this routine is to stimulate your muscles while doing as little "volume" of work as possible. This will allow your muscles to recuperate and new muscle growth to occur. You will still be working your bicep and tricep muscles very hard with this program. Bench press and shoulder press will work your triceps; pulldowns and bent over rows will work your biceps.
And trust me, it will be more than enough. You'll be tempted (especially men) to add in a few arm exercises here and there. This will be a mistake. Please don't think more is better, it won't be.
Keeping the amount of work you do to a minimum is especially important after you've done high volume weight lifting routines. If you follow the Fat Loss Weight Lifting Routine with the Lean Mass Building Weight Lifting Routine you'll experience a surge in muscle growth that will, quite frankly, surprise you. But only if you do as I say.
Lean Mass Building Weight Lifting Routine
I, and thousands of others, have gotten the best body-shaping results by following this schedule:
I wasted many years and lots of money trying to get a better body. It was only when I learned how to design effective weight lifting routines, eat correctly, and take the right supplements did I finally get it -- in a matter of months. You can do it too if you follow these steps:
1. Decide on What you Really Want -- a specific goal -- then write it down.
2. Prepare Yourself
4. Never Quit
Last bit of advice
The info I've given you here is based some on science and a lot on "real-world" results. It is not a lot of theoretical, psuedo-science, mumbo-jumbo. This stuff really works -- but only if you use it as recommended.
It's human nature to learn about something new and then try to change it. Most usually take what looks or "feels" right and then do only that -- most of the time leaving out the very part(s) that will do them the most good.
One thing I've learned about changing your body is nothing is intuitive. Most of the things you need to do to get it to change don't feel or sound right.
Whether you use my example weight lifting routines or design some yourself based on the prinicples I've showed you, remember one thing...never use intuition to guide you. Instead, follow the well-worn path and methods of those who've accomplished what you want.
Even after reading this last bit of advice you may still not believe everything I've recommended . And that's ok. All I ask is that you trust what I've told you. For only a couple of months apply everything I've taught you. Then, based on the results you get, you can make an informed decision on whether what I've taught you is a bunch of hogwash, or the "real" way for your body to change easily and quickly.
All you are risking is a couple of months out of your life to find out if what I told you is true or not. Or, you could modify it immediately and possibly waste much more of your time. It's your choice...
Go to School
There's a lot of information here on how to design better weight lifting routines. And just like going to school, you don't read something once and expect to become an expert at it. I recommend you re-read this page several times, studying the key points I've made.
"Through repetition comes mastery"
I can't tell you how many times others have told me that only after reading through my material many times did they finally "get it." Here's what one said:
"Hi Hank -
When More is Better
If your goal is to build an impressive body use a holistic approach. You'll achieve greater body-sculpting results if you apply several different (and effective) ways than by using a single-shot approach.
Combine the lessons you've learned here on building better weight lifting routines with a diet program and supplements designed to all work together towards a common body-sculpting goal.The best of luck!
P.S. The information I have provided you here has been graciously provided for free. Don't discount it because it is free. It is a 17 year compilation of the most effective methodologies I have encountered. And what I used to win the 1998 Body For Life championship.
P.P.S. If you want an all-encompassing program all laid out personally for you, ready to transform your body at lighting speed, then please visit my page here: Body By Harry
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