THE PEN AND BARBELL WORKOUT
REP BY REP
A week'S EXAMPLE, WITH DETAILED COMMENTS
The Pen and Barbell Workout routine shared, part 1
A week’s example
In most of my articles I focus on principles, methods and general approaches, rather than sharing my own concrete reps-by-reps routines. Here, however, I will do the opposite. I will share with you a week’s routine. Furthermore, I plan to make this an occasional habit. Every now and then I will follow up with another shared week of the Pen and barbell routine. I am a big believer in workout-variation and it is my hope that these articles will help me illustrate my approach to the different alterations and irregularities that I employ in my own training.
First and foremost I will share what exercises I have performed, from Monday to Sunday, on an ordinary week – and, of course, how many sets and reps I have performed of each exercise. After each day’s program I will also make comments that I feel contributes to the creating of a fuller picture.
I want to stress the fact that my routine differs from week to week. It differs a lot. I do not have a fixed number of workouts per week (it varies between 4 and 6), nor of exercises per muscle group. I do not stay within the same rep range from workout to workout, etcetera, etcetera - as this and the following routine articles will make clear, I make a point of always changing things up.
That being said, though, there are certain themes and a certain approach that I stay true to. I will let the shared routines in themselves reveal these “red threads” of mine and comment on them as I go along.
In my comments I will also, at times, dwell a little further on different training techniques, combinations of exercises, “shocking” methods and alternative ways of approaching the different exercises.
Before we dive deep into the actual routine I would like to mention that I have written an article focusing on the different principles that guide me, both when it comes to composing the content of my workout sessions and when it comes to getting them done. You can find that article here: 7 workout principles that ensures results.
This article is the first in a series where I will go into detail on my own workout routines.
To be abundantly clear I would like to explain that in the following I always list the number of sets first and the reps range thereafter. So, 8 X 5, for example, means 8 sets of 5 reps, and 3 X 7-10 means 3 sets within the reps range 7 to 10.
A PEN AND BARBELL WEEK, EXAMPLE NO 1
Barbell Biceps Curl - 8 X 5
Triceps Dips - 5 X 30
2. Dumbbell one-arm Triceps extension - 3 X 7-10/side
3. Barbell Biceps pump - 30 reps
4. Inclined Biceps Curl, “Rising bench” - 2 X 6+6+6
5. Narrow grip Bench Press - 2 X 10
Comments for Monday
I performed 3 sets of Barbell biceps curl, before I started super-setting them with the triceps dips. When I perform triceps dips I usually have my feet elevated on another, opposite bench, but sometimes, as today, I just let the heels rest on the floor. This works just as well, as long as one makes sure to hold the performance tempo down and really put the triceps muscles to work by descending slowly each rep.
It is rare for me to perform less than 3 sets of an exercise, but here that is what happened, both with the narrow bench presses and the inclined biceps curl (though for the latter every set could be said to consist of 3 sets, adding up to a total of 6 sets of 6 reps each).
“Rising bench” means that I performed 6 reps with the seat set rather high, where after I lowered the bench and immediately performed 6 more reps, etc., so that one set of inclined biceps curl consisted of a total of 18 reps with a few seconds of rest within it (the time it took to lower the bench and get seated again) every 6th rep.
All in all this was a rather short workout session for me. A more typical arm session usually lands at 30-40 sets.
Back, Shoulders, Abs
1. Deadlift - 4 X 3
2. Standing Military Press - 4 X 4-5
3. Chin-ups - 5 X 8
4. Hanging Leg raises, feet to bar - 4 X 6
Standing lateral raises - 4 X 6-10
Seated bent-over lateral raises - 4 X 10-12
(6. Abfloating - 4 X 15 seconds)
Comments for Tuesday
In this workout I enjoyed the sensation of mixing low reps and heavy weights with higher reps - and even some static strain in the Abfloating.
“Abfloating” is my own word for doing the following: sit down on a bench or a chair, lift yourself up and support yourself with your hands only, thus “floating” above the bench or chair, all the time making sure to really flex your abs as hard as you can for the duration of the floating.
The abfloating was performed in between other sets, as a kind of “active resting”. That is why I put it in parenthesis – I don’t really consider it an exercise, since the intensity level doesn’t seem to earn such a naming - at least not in the same sense as the others.
When doing the chin-ups I had decided beforehand to perform 8 reps per set. This meant that the first sets were easy since I was far from reaching failure. On a good day I can perform up to 20 reps in the first set, would I choose to go for failure. I mention this because I consider this an important strength-building technique; these kinds of sets where you avoid failure and instead increase the intensity by keeping the rest intervals short (20-40 seconds). The first three sets were easy – and then, suddenly, things became harder. In the fifth and final set I was close to failure. Sometimes when I use this method of deciding a number for each set it all starts out feeling really easy, but ends up with me performing something similar to drop sets when the strain forces me to take mini-rests before I can complete a set. This way I can, in one workout and within the performance of one singular exercise, have the varied experience of being far from failure to the opposite; hitting failure and going beyond.
I sometimes have workout sessions where I use this avoid-failure-technique extensively - even, at times, exclusively. It is a good way of training hard without getting sore afterwards. It builds strength, but in a gentle way that allows for quick recovery so that you can target the same muscle group again within shortly.
Walking 90 minutes
Comments for Wednesday
When I say “rest day” I mean a day where I don’t hit the weights and don’t go to the gym. It doesn’t mean that I lay on the couch watching TV. Most often I have active rest days. On this particular day that meant 90 minutes of walking in the sun.
Pecs, Abs, Forearms, legs + Cardio
1. Inclined Bench Press, barbell - 5 X 8-12
2. Bench Press, barbell - 5 X 8
3. Dips - 5 X 10
4. Flyes, dumbbells - 4 X 6-12
5. Cable Cross - 3 X 7-12
6. Forearm-curls, dumbbell - 3 X 8-10/arm
7. Myotatic Crunch on Bosu Ball - 3 X 12
8. Lunges, with dumbbells - 4 X 10/leg
9. Sisyphus Squats - 3 X 15
10. Running, treadmill - 10 minutes
Comments for Thursday
The running was built on intervals, as is usually the case for me; I very seldom perform steady long lasting cardio. Here I was running at a certain speed for 1 minute, after which I accelerated and ran much faster for 30 seconds, slowed down again to the same speed as before, accelerating again after 60 seconds, and so on, alternating between “march speed” and high speed (I wouldn´t call it sprinting; I do not consider anything performed on a treadmill proper sprinting).
Sisyphus squats are by many known as sissy squats, but I prefer this more origin-aware name, for several reasons, not at least the poetic appeal. I do these without weights, as a body weight exercise.
Walking 120 minutes
Comments for Friday
I spent a couple of hours walking, making sure that this rest day became an active one.
Abs, Calves, Biceps, Triceps
1. Captain’s chair Leg Raises - 3 X 15
2. Twisting Crunches on Bosu ball - 3 X 15+15
3. Seated Calf Presses - 5 X 8-12
Triceps Push-Downs - 5 X 12
+ drop-sets: 4 X 6
Biceps Curl cable, two-handed - 5 X 10
+ drop-sets: 2 X 6
Inclined Biceps curl - 5 X 6-10
Dumbbell one-arm Triceps Extensions - 5 X 8-12
Dumbbell, concentration curl - 3 X 8-10
Triceps Push-Downs, one-handed - 3 X 10/arm
Comments for Saturday
As you can see I combined two different shocking-techniques when performing the triceps push-downs and the biceps cable-curls; super-setting the two exercises while also putting in some drop-sets. As you can also see I didn’t perform drop-sets throughout, but only 2 times for the biceps exercise and 4 times for the push-downs. For me, those kinds of shocking-techniques are often performed in the spur of the moment. I hadn’t planned to perform those drop-sets – they came about as a result of me having a good workout session. When I’m “in the zone” I often push myself with those kinds of surprises, prolonging exercises and making sure things get truly challenging.
As a way of underlining the earlier mentioned belief in variation I want to point out that the cable-curls for the biceps is a rarely seen exercise for me. In fact, I hadn´t performed that exercise for several months before I decided to involve it into this workout session. I wouldn´t be surprised if this results in some muscle soreness tomorrow, as so often happens when one mixes things up. I don’t rate the exercise in question especially high when it comes to targeting the biceps, but, nevertheless, this kind of sudden and unexpected variation often hits the muscle in a way that brings about both a great pump during the workout (as was also the case this Saturday) and soreness the following day.
Back, Shoulders, Abs
1. Deadlifts - 5 X 2
2. Lat Pull-Downs - 4 X 6
3. Standing Military Press - 4 X 6
4. Chin-ups - 4 X 5
5. Standing lateral raises - 4 X 8
6. Dynamic Side-Planks - 3 X 20 + 3 X 20
(7. Abfloating - 3 X 15 seconds)
An observant reader might have noticed that I involved the abs in no less than four different sessions this week. Anyone who have spent some time reading up on different workout regimes will have encountered (and maybe also been drawn into) the never-ending discussion regarding the recommended frequency for abs training. For me it varies a lot on a weekly basis. Sometimes I perform abs during several different workout sessions, as it happened this week. Other weeks I am content to train the abs only once (but instead much more intense, often going through as much abs-work as in this example-week, with the difference being that I perform them in one single session).
It is very rare for me to go as low in reps as I did with the deadlifts in this example. Even for deadlifts I rarely go lower than at least 3 reps.
Regarding the chin-ups, I had set a fixed number – 5 – to be performed each set, far from failure, with only 10-15 seconds of rest in between. These chin-ups were performed in what could almost be called slow-motion. I made sure that it took me several seconds each time to lower myself back to the “dead hang” position.
The week summed up and compared to my “basic routine”
I thoroughly enjoyed all of the workout sessions this week. It was mixed and varied and I managed to surprise myself more than once. The body most often responded well, in the form of a good pump and a good sense of well-being.
As a whole I would rate it a medium, verging on light, week as far as intensity and training volume are concerned. Monday, Tuesday and Sunday all featured workout sessions where the total amount of sets were rather low when compared to my usual levels. Furthermore, I spent less time at the highest level of intensity. There were many sets where I stopped more than just a couple of reps short of failure.
To better understand the context of this week’s example I will, in a few sentences, outline the basics of my general routine as it were when this week took place. (I change the grand scheme of things every other month or so – which will be illustrated and accounted for in detail when I post future follow-ups to this article.)
My Basic Routine when this example week took place
4-5 workout sessions/week
At the time I divided the muscle groups as follows:
The ever-changing daily sessions still always rest on a well-planned foundation.
This was the foundation - the skeleton, if you will - of the routine. Then I added the abs, the forearms, the calves and the cardio work. Most sessions featured at least one of these extra muscle groups and/or cardio. Their different frequency varied a lot, depending on my most present goals or what I found to be the most fun at the moment.
Pen and Barbell.com will occasionally and at irregular intervals contain new articles where I share concrete to-the-reps-examples of my weekly routine. In the example given here it is possible to read about – and hopefully draw some inspiration from – five different workout sessions, together covering all muscle groups.
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MELINE HÖIJER SCHOU
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