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7 workout  principles that ensures results in the gym

Vascularity, Daniel Schou, defined pecs, chiseled body workout, well defined shoulders, serratus, ripped and cut, Daniel Schou


A philosophy boiled down


Here on I am dedicating myself to the formulation and recording of my workout philosophy. This is a far-reaching subject that involves discussions on various topics, such as workout regimes, numbers of sets and reps, performance techniques, different exercises and combinations, etcetera, etcetera - within the frame of what I initially dubbed as my “workout philosophy” there is really no end to all the different details that in themselves merits elaborated discussions and particularized investigation.

  In accordance with the massively voluminous topic at hand will, eventually, come to hold a lot of information and material relevant to my ambitions. I consider muscle building, strength training and aesthetic body-sculpting to be a close-to inexhaustible subject – and I do not mind the daunting prospect of trying to bring clarity and a sense of overview to this vastness; on the contrary, I find great pleasure in it. The complexity is, in fact, one of the greatest reasons for my passionate attitude towards training and working out at the gym. To engage in serious body-sculpting and strength-training is like being engaged in ten or more different sports at once. In the gym awaits the infinite challenge - the ever-lasting undertaking that it is to really devote oneself to the pursuit of a chiseled body and a burning mind.

  Bearing all this in mind I do, however, see a strong value in occasionally simplifying the matters at hand. A good summon up of a few factors involved can often breathe new life into a larger and ongoing discussion.

  In this article I will list 7 different principles that sums up a lot of what I believe is important in the pursuit of the Pen and barbell physique. If one is looking for guidelines in one´s quest for the hard, sculpted and muscularly defined body, then these 7 principles will go a long way in the accommodating of this will. 

  I want it noted beforehand that it is a list of principles applicable at the gym more than anything else. I could have (and I will) write other articles where I let the scope broaden to take in life style factors, such as sleep, hydration, general health, nutrition and recovery – all very important factors for anyone wanting to achieve the Pen and barbell physique – but I will not include any of them on this list. This article is about guidelines in the gym, not in life in general.

  Following each headline I will elaborate somewhat on the principle in question. Further ahead I intend to write a follow-up article for each of the principles – and in doing so I will make sure to share with you my own application of all 7 principles. 

  These 7 principles are in many ways interconnected. The ideal is to be able to combine them all into one seamless unity. When blended into a general attitude these 7 principles will form the Pen and barbell-approach to working out.

Daniel Schou, photo by Meline Höijer Schou, vascular, vascularity, shoulders, defined pecs

The 7 principles listed in this article will - if applied - help you achieve a sculpted and muscularly defined body.

No 1: Intensity


It all starts and ends here, with this urging word: intensity. If your workouts are lacking in intensity it doesn’t matter which exercises you choose, how you compose your workout routine or what kind of schedule you are following. Intensity is decisive. It is what separates those who achieve their goals from those who don’t.

  Intensity is a wide-ranging term. It can refer to the time factor and the length of your rest intervals in between sets. It can refer to the degree of progressive overload contained within your routine. It can refer to the use of so called shocking methods (supersets, drop-sets, forced sets, etcetera). And it can also refer to your levels of concentration, presence and commitment while working out. When I use the word intensity I am referring to all of these factors; the level of intensity that you achieve springs from all of them. Your intensity, in turn, is both sprung from and – in a reciprocal manner - at the same time feeding your mindset at the gym.

  There is also another facet of the concept of workout intensity that I feel the urge to especially underline, namely the need – if you have advanced goals at the gym – to learn to embrace the pain. This choice of words may at first glance appear slightly intimidating for anyone who has yet to make working out a natural part of his or hers life. Nevertheless, if your goals are up to par with the Pen and barbell-ideals, then you will have to push yourself to endure pain and the burning sensation of lactic acid on a regular basis - and you will have to be able to successively increase your levels of strain and effort, mixing things up and taking yourself out of the comfort zone.

No 2: Quality


Building muscle is about technique, not blunt force. This remark appears contra-intuitive for people who have never taken up gym training. However, once they have become permanent inhabitants in this world of pain – sorry, I meant in this joyous and beautiful world of gym training – they will also have learned to appreciate the truth of this statement.

  If you want a chiseled and aesthetically pleasing physique, you will have to master all the different techniques that the variety of exercises demands you to. And they are many.

  You will also have to be able to lend a general quality to your workout attitude, your workout performances and the composition of your workout routine. All this requires the acquisition of a lot of knowledge, a lot of motivation and a lot of drive.

  Furthermore, achieving and maintaining quality in your training requires constant evaluation and change.

  In my opinion 5 sets of high quality can often be more worth than a whole session of just going through the motions. With the latter I am referring to those kinds of workouts where you tend to fulfill the numbers of exercises and sets that you have decided upon beforehand without ever committing yourself sufficiently enough for you to achieve any kind of real exertion or effort – and consequently no real results either.

  The Pen and barbell ideal is one of aesthetic quality – and such a goal demands a quality-awareness throughout both the planning and the realization of the workout formulas that one employ.

Biceps peak, vascular, vascularity, shoulders, Daniel Schou, photo by Meline Höijer Schou

Quality in your training will lead to a corresponding quality in your results. A few sets of high quality are worth more than a large amount of so-so sets.

No 3: Prioritization


First of all you have to prioritize in order just to get yourself to the gym. You could do something else. You could do anything else. You don’t have to be there. It is a choice you have to make – and you have to make it again and again and again, day after day, week after week, in order for it to become truly rewarding.

  Secondly, once you are at the gym it is all about prioritizing in relation to your goals. When it comes to strength training, muscle-building and body-sculpting you get good at what you do – and nothing else.

  How and what you put into your time at the gym will decide what you get back out of it in the form of gains and development.

Stretching, Daniel Schou,, Meline Höijer Schou, back muscles, rhomboideus

No 4: Customizing


Principle No 2, as mentioned above, requires knowledge, true. It is a good thing to read up on any topic that you intend to get really good at, also true. There are, no doubt, lots of benefits that comes with absorbing as much information as possible when preparing to achieving one’s goals and ideals.

  Here, though, I want to stress the importance of customization. If you are to be truly successful in your endeavors at the gym, there is one person that you need to pay extra attention to:  yourself.

  You need to be your own tailor in these matters. Let yourself be influenced, taught and inspired, absolutely – but make the finish your own. Don’t buy anyone else’s solutions flat out. Make sure to adapt and modify them in accordance with your own needs, your own goals – and, furthermore, your own persona. If you, for example, hate a certain exercise – then get rid of it, no matter how many articles you have seen where the exercise in question is called essential. Customize your workout routine so that it suits you and give you maximum results in relation to your own customized goals and ideals.

Yes, as in most fields in life, there are authorities whose words, tips and recommendations can help you go where go want to go faster than you could have done otherwise – but make sure that the finish is your own individual one. As already stated I will write several sequels to this article, in which I will go into detail on these 7 principles and share with you my own approach and utilization of each and every one of them. There I will give you a couple of concrete examples on how I customize my own training so that it suits me rather than any old dogmas, however well-spread and well-founded they may be. I hope I can inspire you to do the same. Gym training, in my view, is an adventure that one undertakes on one’s own. What you do at the gym will – if properly customized -reflect you as a person, satisfy the needs of your own personal goals in the way a tailor-made suit will satiate your own personal measurements. 

There is one person you need to pay extra attention to: yourself.

No 5: Regularity


Gym training is about a lot of different things but first and foremost it is about coming back. It is no coincidence that the world’s most famous gym-goer never stops repeating that line of his: “I’ll be back”. You don’t go to the gym and get it over with. You go to the gym in order for you to take one more step – one step out of the many that are required of you to take in the achieving of your goals. You must come back. Again and again and again. You have to keep at it. You have to make it a part of you. This is not about keeping a promise made at new year´s eve. This is not about doing something intensely for a short period of time and then quit. No. This is a vital part of you. This is about who you are and what you are all about. Let s face it once and for all: if you share the Pen and barbell-ideal – the strive for an aesthetically impressive physique – then you must be prepared to hit the gym over and over again if you are to accomplish it.

No 6: Variation


The body adapts to what you do. What seems hard today will be easy in time, provided of course that you repeatedly endure the difficulty in question. At a certain point it becomes too simple and you have to change things up in order to make further progress.

  Regularity in going to the gym is what lays the foundation. Varying the details of your workout routine is what needs to happen once you are there.

No 7: Free weights


This one is open to debate. Considering how I have already spoken warmly above about the need for individual adaptation of any one’s routine I have made it somewhat difficult for me when I now go on to claim that free weights is a principle to comply with for anyone who wants to achieve the chiseled and muscular defined look that is the pen and barbell ideal.

  For me it is nevertheless true that no great physique gets built sitting in machines only. I am not against training in machines in general, but I do feel that the free weight exercises will have to be part of any program claiming to lead to strength, quality and mass. Remember that I am talking about a sculptured, statuesque and visibly impressive body, that is both voluminous in its muscularity and hard in its details. I am not talking about strength training as a complement to other activities. If your primary goal when hitting the gym is building strength that allows you to run the English mile in under 4 minutes, or to swim the English Channel, then yes, machine-training might be enough, but the pen and barbell ideal really urges you to make the barbell and the dumbbells your predominant tools.


Chiseled physique, lats, back muscles, lean body, v-shape, Daniel Schou, Meline Höijer Schou

In my opinion machines does not suffice if you have advanced goals for your physique.

  Maybe there are exceptions.  Maybe there are chiseled men and women out there somewhere that have achieved their advanced goals by exclusively training in machines. But until I’ve seen such an example I will keep this as my principle no 7.

 It should also be noted that I hold calisthenics in high regard. I was tempted to call this seventh principle “Free weights and calisthenics”.

Daniel Schou, photo by Meline Höijer Schou,, chiseled physique, vascularity, aesthetic physique, muscular definition, defined shoulders, defined pecs, obliques

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