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By David LaMartina
With the popularity of full body weight lifting routines for beginners and body part split plans for more advanced bodybuilders, the time-tested upper body / lower body regimen often gets neglected. This is unfortunate because lifters of all backgrounds and experience levels have long used this kind of routine to add massive amounts of strength and muscle mass. Here is one variation of this effective muscle-building plan.
Like many good training plans, this one focuses on gaining strength in the squat, bench press, deadlift, overhead press, and a few other compound movements. Each day has a primary lift followed by several of the most important auxiliary lifts. Go through this rotation once per week on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday schedule. If these days do not work well, just make sure you do not have more than two days of training in a row, and that you have an off day between Bench Press and Deadlift days.
Lower Body 1 – Squat:
Squat – Use a strong, medium-width stance.
Dumbbell Split Squat – place one foot on a bench behind you, and squat down with the other leg while holding dumbbells to your sides.
Weighted Sit-ups – Keep the weight behind your head.
Calves – Pick one calf exercise, and stick with it for this day.
Upper Body 1 – Bench Press:
Bench Press – Use your strongest medium or wide grip, an arch in your back, and a full range of motion.
Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press – Use a moderate weight and a range of motion from your ears to lockout.
Decline EZ bar extensions – Use only a moderate decline. Lower the weight over your eyes while keeping your elbows in.
Pullups – Pick one variation, and stick with it for this day.
Chest-Supported Row – To keep your lower back out of the movement, use any apparatus that lets you row with your chest against a pad.
Curls – Pick one variation, and stick with it for this day.
Lower Body 2 – Deadlift:
Deadlift – Use a narrow stance and an over-under grip. Do not use straps for your heaviest set.
Leg Press – Place your feet as high and wide as possible without hurting your hips.
Calves – Pick a different calf exercise from the first lower body day.
Standing Cable Abs – Using a rope attachment, brace your back against the cable attachment and crunch away.
Upper Body 2 – Military Press:
Military Press – Use a medium stance and minimal hip or leg drive. Make sure your shoulders are doing most of the work.
Dips – Use a medium grip that taxes your chest and triceps. Dip at least low enough so that your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
Cable Pressdowns – Use a bar attachment and a slight swaying motion to help. Add weight to the stack if necessary.
Barbell Row – Use a medium-width grip and straps for your heavy sets. Use a little bit of cheating in the motion to help you lift more weight.
Pullups – Pick a different variation from your first upper body day.
Curls – Pick a different variation from your first upper body day.
Sets and Reps – Minimal Volume, Maximal Intensity:
If you follow what the biggest guys in the gym are doing, you will notice that they often focus on performing a few, very hard sets of a few heavy exercises. For this plan, you will perform two main sets per exercise. After doing whatever warm-ups you need to get your body ready for heavy weights, do one set of 4-6 reps and one set of 10-12 reps (in that order). The first set will be your main “strength-builder,” while the following, somewhat lighter set will further tax your muscles and stimulate growth. For some exercises, such as dumbbell overhead press, sit-ups, and extensions, you will need to up the rep ranges a bit for joint safety and consistent progression.
Making Progress – Increasing Your Weight and Reps:
No matter what the bodybuilding “gurus” continue to write about drop sets, super sets, or whatever fancy techniques are in vogue, the only way to make long term progress and gains huge amounts of muscle mass is to get much stronger on all of your key exercises. You should strive to add more weight and / or more reps for every exercise, every training session. Keep a log of your exercises, weights, sets, and reps, so you always know what you must do to surpass your previous records.
Eating for Massive Gains:
No matter how hard you push yourself in the gym, you will not progress in strength or muscle mass if your diet is not up to par. Make sure you are putting your body in a caloric surplus all day, and that 30-40 percent of your calories of coming from sources of complete protein such as beef, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy. You will need to work just as hard in the kitchen as in the gym.
Sticking with the Plan for the Long Haul:
Whether you are just starting out lifting weights, or you are changing your current program, stick with this plan for several months before even thinking about switching things up. Following the teachings of so-called “experts” and switching up your workout routine every few weeks to “keep your body guessing” will leave you with no progress and a lot of wasted time and energy. As long as you are eating enough to gain 3-4 pounds per month, you will almost certainly be gaining strength on your lifts and adding some serious muscle mass.
About the Author: David LaMartina is a competitive powerlifter who currently sits at a solid 250 pounds and has achieved a 590 squat, 315 bench, and 635 deadlift. If you found his muscle-building tips helpful, visit
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