Here is a program designed for the summer. The time spent in the gym is minimal and meant to get you functionally strong. The program incorporates running outside, so hopefully you’re already comfortable with that but if not – don’t worry. The distances can be modified to gradually get you running more.
It’s a program I will use to train for the Tough Mudder and those of you on the No Shortcuts team can expect to confidently tackle the obstacle course by following this program. If you’re looking for a team to join, we’re welcoming members! And now you have a way to get in shape for it. For anyone else who just wants a training program, look no further!
Here’s what to expect:
- Build lean muscle and full-body strength
- Improved cardiovascular capacity
- Effective time spent at the gym (no need to spend 5 days/week cooped up inside a gym when the sun is shining)
- Ability to climb, crawl under and smash your way past 10 miles of obstacles
- A 6-pack of abs in August or the faint beginnings of one (given the right nutritional food plan)
Why follow a program?
If you ever go to the gym without a clear idea of exactly which exercises you’re about to do, you’re not following a program. If strength is a goal and you’re not sure about what weight to do and how to handle more weight each month, you’re not following a good program.
Programs give consistency and structure. You come to the gym with a purpose and you don’t waste time. If you’re about to “do a bit of chest and back”, I’m sorry maybe you think you’re about to shower. I’ve already outlined the goals and benefits above, but there are plenty of other good programs out there such as Westside for Skinny Bastards. Ours is a progressive program designed for a specific end-goal. It’s split into two phases, each 6-8 weeks long:
- General mobility and strength
- Applied strength endurance
We’ll go more in depth on running soon and the second phase later on. In this article, we’ll start with the first phase. I’ve omitted pictures, but please click the links for some videos and visuals. I wanted to make the program printer-friendly and easily distributable. Let’s get to it.
Overall, this phase will set your body up to function as efficiently as possible. This is done by building strength and correcting the imbalances or issues that might become bigger problems down the road. I cannot stress mobility enough. It will change the way you move and think about your body. It will make you stronger and perform optimally.
At the same time, we’ll work on cardiovascular endurance through running. Running is a technical skill. We may think it comes naturally, but just like squatting, most of us have lost the ability to do it properly and safely. We’ll troubleshoot common problems and injuries and go over all the latest theories (pose running, barefoot running, running being a waste of time) in another article soon. But since an obstacle course requires plenty of running, this will be necessary!
The structure will be weights 3x/week, run 2x/week.
Here’s a sample of what the first month would look like:
If you find the alternating pattern too irregular and prefer to get to the gym on the same day each week, another option is to do a lighter or upper body-focused weights workout followed by a run for a cardio portion afterwards.
Week: Weights A, Run, Weights B, Run, Weights C + run, Rest
Get warm before each workout with either a 1000m row or a quick 6 min run on the treadmill. For weighted exercises, do 1 or 2 warmup sets at 50-70% of the weight before the working sets. For the real sets, pick a weight you can comfortably lift without failure but feeling like you’ve exerted a reasonable amount of force. Especially those who are less experienced with weights, spend at least two weeks with weights you can handle with near-perfect technique.
The right technique = engaging the right muscles = getting functionally strong.
Do not skip the mobility portion! We’ll use Mark’s article and do most of the stuff outlined there. They don’t take long and the materials can be found for under $30 total (good gyms will have these items around, but if not its a great personal investment and mobility can and should be worked on at home). This phase is meant to get your body moving well. Strength will come once you move well.
The exercises are carefully picked to maximize the muscle groups worked and mimic all the fundamental movement patterns. Even the order of exercises has reasoning behind it, so stick to the sequence. Rest roughly 2-3 minutes between sets.
- Deadlift: 5 sets of 3
- Lat Pulldown (narrow grip underhand): 3 sets of 8
- Dumbbell Chest Press: 3 sets of 10
- Walking Lunges: 3 sets of 12, 6 each leg
- Front Squats (Substitute with Back Squats if needed, Why do Front Squats): 3 sets of 10
- Bent over Row (overhand): 3 sets of 8
- Overhead Press: 3 sets of 8
- Single-Leg Deadlift: 3 sets of 6 each leg
Mobility Warmup C – At this point you should know how to set up your own personal mobility warmup to prep for the upcoming exercises, look to Mobility WOD for more ideas
- Pullups: 3 sets of 8 or as many reps as possible
- Bench Press: 3 sets of 8
- Side Band Walk or Cross Band Walk: 3 sets of 12 (6 one direction, 6 back)
- Seated Cable Row: 3 sets of 10
Optional Core Exercises:
To be tagged on at the end of a workout. Try them out! If you’re too wiped and can’t maintain good form, stop. Practice these on a rest day instead with fairly light weight until you get it right.
Strength is built by adding weight progressively. Like I said, if you’re newer to these exercises, take the first 2 weeks to feel it out and get comfortable doing them properly with lower weights. Once you’re ready, increase each weighted exercise by 10% every two workouts (of the same type) or even more if the last set feels easy. This would likely be 10-20lbs for the Deadlift and Front Squat and 5-10lbs for all other weighted exercises. An exception is the Dumbbell Chest Press which would likely need to increase by 5lbs each side (10lbs total) depending on the weights available. In the month of May, following the calendar example, we would increase the weights for Workout A and B three times if we start today.
When you hit failure: (hopefully it was on the 3rd set) Keeping proper technique, try to squeeze out every bit of energy left before putting the weights down. Rest 1 min. Switch back to a lower weight (such as the warmup weight you used, 50-70% of the working set) and do two more sets of half the reps. Next workout, try again. Example: if you fail on your third set of 8 reps for the Lat Pulldown at 100lbs, switch down to 60lbs and do two more sets of 4 reps, resting only 1 min between sets. Next Workout A try for 3 sets of 8 at 100lbs again.
These last two sets are not the typical “de-load” meant to exhaust your muscles. The failed set at your working weight should’ve already exhausted your muscles. But since failure meant you likely compromised technique (as hard as you’re trying not to), these two sets will reset your neural-muscular system to remember reps done with perfect technique. This is how your brain should leave the gym so that you stand a better chance of completing the exercise next workout.
If you’re more experienced with strength work, by all means attempt a weight increase every workout instead of every two. However, don’t keep trying if you find yourself stalling again and again. If this happens, you’ll likely need to take an entire week at lower weights to rest before hitting it hard again.
There you have it. A free program to get in shape this summer. Ideally meant to begin preparations for an obstacle course if you’re into that type of thing. Look for an upcoming article on running and more on Phase 2 down the road. Time to stop reading and start lifting.
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