Is this workout routine a bad idea?
December 17, 2008 5:59 PM   Subscribe

A trainer at my gym recommended this workout and I'm not entirely sure it's safe or effective or the right one for me. I've itemized the routine below, but in short it involves both upper and lower body workout every day, Monday through Friday, three sets of 10 -12, with one muscle group off per day after what he considers the toughest exercise for that body part.

The trainer says it's worth doing for 12 weeks and will help build strength and muscle endurance and that working the same muscles a for five days in a row isn't wrong to do as each exercise targets different parts of the muscle and I'm using fairly low weight.

Here's the workout. Does it make sense? Or is it a mistake? Or should I consider making some substitute exercises?


Chest - Bench press
Triceps - Rope pull down
Biceps - None
Back - Close grip row
Shoulders - Front raise
Quads - None
Traps - Shoulder Shrug w/straight bar
Hams - None
Calves - Seated calf raise


Chest - None
Triceps - Dips
Biceps - Preacher curls
Back - Wide grip pull down
Shoulders - Lateral raise
Quads - Squats
Traps - None
Hams - None
Calves - Donkey calf raise


Chest - Incline db press
Triceps - Overhead extensions
Biceps - Alternating db curls
Back - None
Shoulders - Military press
Quads - Leg extension
Traps - None
Hams - Seated leg curls
Calves - Angled calf raise


Chest - Machine Fly
Triceps - Close grip bench press
Biceps - None
Back - Close grip pull ups
Shoulders - Rear delt machine
Quads - None
Traps - Upright rows
Hams - Straight leg dead lifts
Calves - Standing calf raise


Chest - Hammer strength bench press
Triceps - None
Biceps - Seated Incline hammer curl
Back - Wide grip row
Shoulders - None
Quads - Lunges
Traps -DB shoulder shrugs
Hams - Standing leg curl
Calves - None
posted by mizrachi to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You do know that personal trainers can get "certified" by sending money to a website by Paypal, right? This looks like a one-way ticket to overtraining and eventual malaise. Anybody that treats biceps and "back" as equivalent "muscle groups" is probably better cut out for another line of work. Dump this idiot's advice and seek out somebody that knows what they're doing. You could maybe get away with this stuff at extremely low weights for "aerobic" purposes, but that would be pointless anyway.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:20 PM on December 17, 2008

Actually, I'm going to pick apart this guy's advice point by point until I get bored:

Traps - Shoulder Shrug w/straight bar

If you're doing deadlifts, why do you need to do shrugs? This sounds like a vanity thing to me, because everyone's amazed that they can shrug 200 pounds out of a waist-level power rack pin setting.

Chest - Hammer strength bench press

Yup, nothing better than motion in 2 planes to build up a false sense of security before you move to the actual bench and drop a barbell on your neck.

Curls 3 times a week

I'm beginning to see why this guy isn't on the professional bodybuilding, powerlifting, or strongman circuits. People that focus this much on biceps inevitably end up with strained brachialis muscles and eventual shoulder problems from doing only internal rotation movements.

Bench presses 3 times a week, machine flies one time a week
See immediately above comment.

Repeat ad nauseum. This is fucking stupid.

Read some beginner-oriented articles on Testosterone Nation, EliteFTS, etc. to get a sense of why this is counteproductive. You might also want to pick up a copy of Starting Strength to get a better overview of weight training generally.

I bet this trainer curls in the squat rack. What a doofus.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:27 PM on December 17, 2008

Oh, and sorry to post three times right off the bat, but about the calves-whenevr-possible bit: The trainer obviously lifted that from Schwarzenegger's account of how he developed his calves, which he considered to be his most lacking bodypart as he moved into competitions. Schwarzenegger claims to have done brutal calf work nearly every day, and obviously that has become received knowledge among some part of the meathead set. What Schwarzenegger didn't mention was that he was doing truckloads of steroids at the time.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:36 PM on December 17, 2008

You have not stated what your workout goal is. Are you wanting to gain strength, muscle, increase fitness or as you elude to, increase muscle endurance (which this workout scheme does not do by the way.)

That said:
1. Training five days a week is a recipe for disaster unless you are a serious athlete who is periodizing their training, eating for it and not doing much else.
2. Skip the isolation exercises (biceps, triceps, calves etc). Stick to compound movements such as squats, lunges, deadlifts of all varieties, presses of all varieties. Other things like farmers walk, turkish get-ups and swings are great as well.
3. What kind of rest periods are you using?
4. Start with some sort of dynamic stretching and end with static stretching.

Find another trainer. Be specific about what you are hoping to gain.
posted by pazoozoo at 6:49 PM on December 17, 2008

Most trainers are bullshit. Your program looks like ineffective bullshit.

Pick up a copy of "Starting Strength" and/or read through the wiki. Do the beginner's program, and focus on form because form is important. If you're trying to lose weight, don't take the gallon of milk a day, that is for skinny kids who want to gain. But do everything else. Come back in six weeks. You will probably be able to keep it up for months and continue to see strength gains.
posted by schroedinger at 6:56 PM on December 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

Try to get a list of trainers at your gym, and their credentials.
My gym has trainers ranging from.. a 2 week training certificate, to a 6 year degree.
Some have 2 years experience, others have 20 years experience.
They charge essentially the same rate too.

Personality matters too of course... but you don't go to a dentist who learned at home.

Also, you need to have a goal so that a proper program can be built for you.
posted by gomess at 8:32 PM on December 17, 2008

You don't mention if you're a woman or a man, but I've found Stumptuous to be a good resource. She includes a lot of good info about weight training in general, photo examples of the correct way to do exercises, and full on routines, which is what I linked to.
posted by theantikitty at 8:49 PM on December 17, 2008

That seems a little too complicated, unless you're an intermediate/advanced level athlete (for definitions see here) stick to basics, which is "Starting strength".
posted by aeighty at 8:53 PM on December 17, 2008

Yes, as mentioned about, what are you goals? In general this looks like a bad program: too much emphasis on individual muscles and too many exercises on machines. You should be able to get great results lifting every other day (or even twice a week) if you use heavy weights, low reps, with lots of compound movements that involve many muscles in your body: squats, deadlifts, pushups, etc.
posted by Bella Sebastian at 8:54 PM on December 17, 2008

This looks like garbage to me. I think you'd do just about as well by wandering the gym doing random things five days a week. There are heaps of open source training resources out in the world that would allow you to put something better together for yourself. Or, heck, memail me and I'll put a better plan together for you.

Also, generally speaking your question would be easier to answer with more info about your status and goals. But I honestly haven't been able to think of anything to which this is the answer.
posted by Shutter at 8:55 PM on December 17, 2008

No offence y'all, but frankly, "overtraining" is Western-world precious-snowflake bullshit.

Did farmers "overtrain" when they threshed all week til the harvest was in? Do husky dogs in the arctic "overtrain" when they run all day dragging entire families?

Your body is nice and tough, and the Western mindset of coddling ourselves like preemie lambs- with sterile surroundings and Lysol wipes and hermetically-sealed hand lotion and SPF60 and sockettes at the shoe store and Purell hand sanitizer and disposable tissues with aloe vera and organic hotdogs and a pressing need for rest after a few triceps dips? I call bullshit.

Sure, if you're an anorexic ballerina who dances 8 straight hours a day on a glass of water and a handful of toilet paper, you're asking for a stress fracture. But an average person hitting the gym for an hour a day? There are agrarian communities in Asia who laugh at our donkey calf raises. They shove actual donkeys up and down parasite-filled rice paddies for 12 hours a day under the blazing sun, then go home and birth seven babies in a tin shack. There's Amy Winehouse pounding heroin into her veins and eating nothing but cigarette smoke for months at a time, and all it's doing is making her complexion spotty. Humans are TOUGH!

This trainer's workout probably won't turn you into a MMA fighter, but it certainly won't "overtrain" you on an hour or two a day. Go to the gym and make yourself sweat a few times a week, and sore a few times a week, and as long as you can still walk & function without real pain, you're FINE. if something actually hurts- like hurts sharply- stop what you're doing and rest that body part, obviously. Don't go out of your way to use bad form, obviously. Use common sense- if you feel like crap, stop, obviously. But tiredness, muscle aches? That's just a sign you used yourself, and kudos to you whenever you feel it!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:34 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Assuming you are a novice lifter, this is a terrible workout and will probably not be effective.

No offence y'all, but frankly, "overtraining" is Western-world precious-snowflake bullshit.

Do you have some evidence for this idea, or is it just a feeling you have? Because I'm pretty sure you're completely wrong.

You can get some information about overtraining here.

It'd probably take you a very long time to overtrain on this program, if it were possible at all, because you're likely to be using very light weights as a beginner, and your capacity for recovery will far exceed the amount of stress you'll be able to cause your body. It's still a goofy program.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:43 PM on December 17, 2008

There's Amy Winehouse pounding heroin into her veins and eating nothing but cigarette smoke for months at a time, and all it's doing is making her complexion spotty.

yeah, the emphysema just isn't worth mentioning, must be more of that 'western-world precious-snowflake bullshit'.
posted by missmagenta at 4:10 AM on December 18, 2008

This plan leaves me wondering about motivation and boredom. If, like most people, you have to go to the gym right before or after work, 5 days a week sounds like a demanding schedule. You might start slacking off sooner than you would with a 2 or 3 day weight training routine.

If your trainer will be with you for each workout, that smells like a bit of a money grab. If you want to go to the gym 5 days a week to validate spending X dollars a month on the membership, that doesn't make a lot of sense either. Certainly research another trainer in your area (lucky Toronto area people will find that Krista from Stumptuous is taking clients). I'd agree that compound moves and free weights are probably more effective in developing real-life strength, similar to what you'd get to acculturating yourself to years of physical labour.

You may be happier, fitter and more motivated if you do something physical every day. "Rest" days would include a few minutes of stretching or yoga. Light days would add some walking or a reasonable bike ride. Reserve some days for heavier weight training and more challenging cardio. But pushing yourself into the gym every day to do a bunch of rather random exercises, some focusing on small stuff, like calves and biceps, that could be trained more effectively with compound movements, may not give you the best results in the long run.
posted by maudlin at 4:57 AM on December 18, 2008

To those of you who are saying that it is impossible to over train using this program, I disagree. First, you have no idea what physical condition the poster is in. Second, you don't know the intensity with which they are lifting including rest periods. Third, if this person is a complete newby, it would not be hard to overtax their CNS. Fourth, if they are training five days a week and are not using proper form, which is often the case with beginners, they may suffer from overuse injuries. Last, part of the definition of over training is that one does not give the musculature and the CNS time to recover, so no gains are made.
posted by pazoozoo at 5:03 AM on December 18, 2008

No offence y'all, but frankly, "overtraining" is Western-world precious-snowflake bullshit.

And I guess the scientific evidence for it therefore means nothing. Your whole little "intuition is greater than evidence" hypothesis is approximately as valuable as the flat-earth theory. If you don't want to do the requisite research about a particular subject, fine, but don't try to pass on your ignorance to other people.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:14 AM on December 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

Third, if this person is a complete newby, it would not be hard to overtax their CNS.

Yes it would. The definition of a novice lifter is that their capacity for recovery exceeds their ability to induce stress through resistance, therefore they can make linear gains, i.e. lift more weight every time they step into the gym. Again, I'm not saying this is a good program, but it would probably be difficult for a novice to induce systemic overtraining on it.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:03 AM on December 18, 2008

I'd recommend taking a look at The New Rules of Lifting, a lot of sensible advice in there. I think he recommends 4 days training, and has a comprehensive diet plan to go along with the weightlifting. There is also a version for ladies.
posted by sararah at 12:14 PM on December 18, 2008

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