Workout Routines

The workout plan to get back to basics

Skyrocket your personal bests with this four-week plan.

by
Barbell Squat
Erik Isakson/Getty Images
Erik Isakson/Getty Images
Duration 30
Exercises 1-4
Equipment Yes

Strength isn’t a goal as much as it is a habit. Practice it reg­ularly, and it will come naturally. For the next four weeks, forget about all the fancy newfangled exercises you learned from YouTube and rededicate yourself to the basics—you’ll need only a handful of lifts to change your body and set big personal records. By this time next month you’ll be putting up huge numbers in the gym, and seeing new muscle in the mirror as a result.

How it works

To build total-body brute strength, you need to squat, bench, and deadlift. These lifts let you load the most weight, and activate the most muscle. The only drawback is that they’re hard on the body. To get good at them, you have to do them a lot. But how can you get the practice you need without overtraining and getting injured?

The answer is to vary the intensity. You can train all three lifts in a workout, and repeat them several days a week if you change the sets, reps, and weights you’re using every time. The goal is to feel fresh at each workout so you ingrain good technique that allows you to handle heavy weights proficiently when you test your maxes. Be prepared for it to feel too easy at first.

The weights and volume will increase each week, so even if you’re not leaving the gym feeling crushed, trust that your training is working. You’ll know for sure in four weeks when you lift weights that would have flattened you before.

Directions

Perform each workout (Day I, II, III, and IV) once per week, resting a day between each session. The weights you use for the squat, bench press, and deadlift will be based on your max in each lift—the heaviest load you can handle for one rep. Test these numbers before you begin the program or take your best guess. (But be conservative; it’s better to go too light than too heavy.) The volume and intensity will change each week.

Week 1

Day 1

Exercise 1.

Squat You'll need: Squat Rack How to
Squat thumbnail
4 sets
-- reps
4 rest
70% of max

Exercise 2.

Bench Press You'll need: Barbell How to
Bench Press thumbnail
3 sets
2 reps
-- rest
80% of max.

Exercise 3.

Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Deadlift  thumbnail
4 sets
3 reps
-- rest
75% of max.

Exercise 4.

Chinup You'll need: Pullup Bar How to
Chinup thumbnail
3 sets
As many as possible. reps
-- rest

Day 2

Exercise 1.

Squat You'll need: Squat Rack How to
Squat thumbnail
3 sets
1 reps
-- rest
85% of max

Exercise 2.

Bench Press You'll need: Barbell How to
Bench Press thumbnail
4 sets
4 reps
-- rest
70% of max

Exercise 3.

Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Deadlift  thumbnail
3 sets
2 reps
-- rest
80% of max

Exercise 4.

Dumbbell Lateral Raise You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Lateral Raise  thumbnail
4 sets
8, 8, 8, 20-30 reps
-- rest

Day 3

Exercise 1.

Squat You'll need: Squat Rack How to
Squat thumbnail
4 sets
3 reps
-- rest
75% of max

Exercise 2.

Bench Press You'll need: Barbell How to
Bench Press thumbnail
3 sets
1 reps
-- rest
85% of max

Exercise 3.

Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Deadlift  thumbnail
4 sets
4 reps
-- rest
70% of max

Exercise 4.

Weighted Pullup You'll need: Pullup Bar How to
Weighted Pullup thumbnail
3 sets
6-8 reps
-- rest

Day 4

Exercise 1.

Squat You'll need: Squat Rack How to
Squat thumbnail
3 sets
2 reps
-- rest
80% of max

Exercise 2.

Bench Press You'll need: Barbell How to
Bench Press thumbnail
4 sets
3 reps
-- rest
75% 0f max

Exercise 3.

Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Deadlift  thumbnail
3 sets
1 reps
-- rest
85% of max

Exercise 4.

Dumbbell Lateral Raise You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Lateral Raise  thumbnail
3 sets
12-15 reps
-- rest

Week 2

Day 1

Exercise 1.

Squat You'll need: Squat Rack How to
Squat thumbnail
5 sets
4 reps
-- rest
70% of max.

Exercise 2.

Bench Press You'll need: Barbell How to
Bench Press thumbnail
4 sets
2 reps
-- rest
80% of max.

Exercise 3.

Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Deadlift  thumbnail
5 sets
3 reps
-- rest
75% of max.

Exercise 4.

Chinup You'll need: Pullup Bar How to
Chinup thumbnail
4 sets
As many as possible reps
-- rest

Day 2

Exercise 1.

Squat You'll need: Squat Rack How to
Squat thumbnail
4 sets
1 reps
-- rest
85% of max.

Exercise 2.

Bench Press You'll need: Barbell How to
Bench Press thumbnail
5 sets
4 reps
-- rest
70% of max.

Exercise 3.

Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Deadlift  thumbnail
4 sets
2 reps
-- rest
80% of max.

Exercise 4.

Lateral Raise You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Lateral Raise thumbnail
5 sets
8, 8, 8, 8, 20–30 reps
-- rest

Day 3

Exercise 1.

Squat You'll need: Squat Rack How to
Squat thumbnail
5 sets
3 reps
-- rest
75% of max.

Exercise 2.

Bench Press You'll need: Barbell How to
Bench Press thumbnail
4 sets
2 reps
-- rest
80% of max.

Exercise 3.

Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Deadlift  thumbnail
5 sets
4 reps
-- rest
70% of max.

Exercise 4.

Chinup You'll need: Pullup Bar How to
Chinup thumbnail
4 sets
6-8 reps
-- rest
Perform the chinup as described in Day I, but wear a weighted belt or hold a dumbbell between your feet to add resistance.

Day 4

Exercise 1.

Squat You'll need: Squat Rack How to
Squat thumbnail
4 sets
2 reps
-- rest
80% of max.

Exercise 2.

Bench Press You'll need: Barbell How to
Bench Press thumbnail
5 sets
3 reps
-- rest
80% of max.

Exercise 3.

Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Deadlift  thumbnail
4 sets
1 reps
-- rest
85% of max.

Exercise 4.

Lateral Raise You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Lateral Raise thumbnail
4 sets
12-15 reps
-- rest

Week 3

Day 1

Exercise 1.

Squat You'll need: Squat Rack How to
Squat thumbnail
4 sets
4 reps
-- rest
70% of max

Exercise 2.

Bench Press You'll need: Barbell How to
Bench Press thumbnail
4 sets
3 reps
-- rest
80% of max.

Exercise 3.

Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Deadlift  thumbnail
5 sets
4 reps
-- rest
80% of max.

Exercise 4.

Chinup You'll need: Pullup Bar How to
Chinup thumbnail
5 sets
As many as possible. reps
-- rest

Day 2

Exercise 1.

Squat You'll need: Squat Rack How to
Squat thumbnail
4 sets
2 reps
-- rest
85% of max.

Exercise 2.

Bench Press You'll need: Barbell How to
Bench Press thumbnail
5 sets
5 reps
-- rest
70% of max.

Exercise 3.

Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Deadlift  thumbnail
4 sets
3 reps
-- rest
80% of max.

Exercise 4.

Lateral Raise You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Lateral Raise thumbnail
6 sets
8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 20–30 reps
-- rest

Day 3

Exercise 1.

Squat You'll need: Squat Rack How to
Squat thumbnail
4 sets
3 reps
-- rest
75% of max.

Exercise 2.

Bench Press You'll need: Barbell How to
Bench Press thumbnail
4 sets
2 reps
-- rest
80% of max.

Exercise 3.

Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Deadlift  thumbnail
5 sets
5 reps
-- rest
70% of max.

Exercise 4.

Chinup You'll need: Pullup Bar How to
Chinup thumbnail
5 sets
6-8 reps
-- rest
Perform the chinup as described in Day I, but wear a weighted belt or hold a dumbbell between your feet to add resistance.

Day 4

Exercise 1.

Squat You'll need: Squat Rack How to
Squat thumbnail
3 sets
2 reps
-- rest
80% of max.

Exercise 2.

Bench Press You'll need: Barbell How to
Bench Press thumbnail
5 sets
4 reps
-- rest
75% of max.

Exercise 3.

Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Deadlift  thumbnail
4 sets
2 reps
-- rest
85% of max.

Exercise 4.

Lateral Raise You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Lateral Raise thumbnail
5 sets
12-15 reps
-- rest

Week 4

Day 1

Exercise 1.

Squat You'll need: Squat Rack How to
Squat thumbnail
5 sets
3 reps
-- rest
70% of max.

Exercise 2.

Bench Press You'll need: Barbell How to
Bench Press thumbnail
4 sets
4 reps
-- rest
60% of max.

Exercise 3.

Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Deadlift  thumbnail
4 sets
1 reps
-- rest
60% of max.

Day 2

Exercise 1.

Squat You'll need: Squat Rack How to
Squat thumbnail
-- sets
1 reps
-- rest
Work up to a new 1-rep max.

Exercise 2.

Bench Press You'll need: Barbell How to
Bench Press thumbnail
3 sets
3 reps
-- rest
60% of max.

Exercise 3.

Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Deadlift  thumbnail
3 sets
1 reps
-- rest
70% of max.

Day 3

Exercise 1.

Squat You'll need: Squat Rack How to
Squat thumbnail
3 sets
3 reps
-- rest
50% of max.

Exercise 2.

Bench Press You'll need: Barbell How to
Bench Press thumbnail
4 sets
4 reps
-- rest
60% of max.

Day 4

Exercise 1.

Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Deadlift  thumbnail
-- sets
1 reps
-- rest
Work up to a new 1-rep max.
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