Monday, January 26, 2009

The Minimalist

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When it comes to training, I'm a minimalist.

I don't "attack the bi's from different angles". I do chins with an extra 100 lbs around my waist.

I don't spend any time "working the core". I never do ab work. I squat and do triple body weight deadlifts.

I don't "feel the burn". I give every set a 100% and only concern myself with adding an extra rep, or another 5 lbs, on the bar.

And most importantly, I don't go to the gym to have a nice and cozy time.

Sometimes people ask me things in between sets.

"Nice arms, man. How do you get that veiny look - do you go for the pump to really bring those cuts out? And what's the lowdown on preacher curls with a straight bar vs the EZ-bar?"

"I don't curl"

"Yeah right, c'mon..."

I then give them The Look. The Look let's them know I am dead serious and that the conversation is over.*

-------------------------------------------------------------

I think it was Iron Addict that once said

"The people that should not be touching a high volume/high frequency routine are usually the first people to do them"

That was true for me back in the days, wasting my time in the gym 5-6 times a week. While I did gain a bit the first few months, I certainly didn't get the same results as most of my buddies I trained with at the time.

Now, I am competitive by nature. I couldn't stand watching my friends outlift me. I figured if I can't beat them in the genetics department, I have to beat them on smarts. I needed to find a superior training routine or suffer humiliation every time I went training with them.

I started looking around online, and was lucky enough to come across a site called Cyberpump. Here, I found a very different perspective on weight training. Articles by Ken Leistner, Arthur Jones and others, talking about high intensity training and how people screw up by trying to emulate the genetic elite.

A minimalist approach, very different from what I had been doing up until then. I had my doubts of course, but I figured I didn't have have much to lose. And boy, did my gains take off.

Now, if I remember correctly, this is how my training routine looked back then.

A (day 1)

Bench press
1 set to failure
Immediately followed by pushups to failure
Followed by another set of bench (with a lot less weight)
Immediately followed by pushups to failure
and repeated one more round.
10 mins rest
Chins for 2-3 sets to failure

B (day 4)

Breathing Squats (20 reps)
Leg extensions, 1 set to failure

C (day 7)

Deadlifts (started at 20 reps here, added weight and decreased reps until I was working in the 3-5 rep range after several months).
10 min rest
Pullups for 2-3 sets to failure

And then days 8-10 were spent resting. And eating.

How much did I gain on such a routine? I remember that quite well. I started benching 135 for a few reps, ended up with 225 lbs after a few months. Squats went from about 200 lbs for 8-10 reps to 300 x 15-17 and deads from 175 x 6 to 380 x 3. Weights jumping op 5-10 lbs each session and often with a few extra reps to boot. It was amazing; like newbie gains multiplied by ten.

Was it a walk in the park and do I think everyone should be doing HIT from now on? No. The intensity used for each set was ridiculous. The sessions were painful and I dreaded them every single time. Was it productive? Yes, it was time extremely well spent. Since the training frequency was low, I made sure every session counted. It wasn't long before I outlifted my friends who were still in the gym 5-6x per week.

Since then, I've always taken a minimalist approach to training. Though I've added some lifts to my arsenal, my training routine is still quite spartan by any conventional standard; however, the few lifts I train, I give a 100%.

My point in writing this isn't to say that high intensity training is superior to any other form of sensible training ideology. There are other training approaches out there that I agree with; Starting Strength, 5x5, DC, RPT, and so forth. All of these put focus on principles that really makes the difference (hint: it's not about swiss balls or working different angles). HIT just happened to be the turning point for me, and has influended my view on training ever since.

The take away message here is twofold.

Part of it is a homage to abbreviated training routines, which I feel deserve more attention. You can go a long way just focusing on pressing, squatting, deadlifting and chinning. Throw in some calf and ab work if it makes you feel better.

Another part of it is encouraging change. If your training routine isn't working for you, ditch it and maybe start at the other end of the spectrum of whatever the hell you were doing before. You have nothing to lose.


*Ok, I made that up. I don't really give people The Look. The rest of it is true though.

81 comments:

Anonymous said...

Awesome post. Post more often man, seriously.

JC said...

Sheesh, I thought my bread and butter routine was low volume. I knew you were a low volume guy, but had no idea your days starting out looked like this. I realize you went through the old typical routines that were a dead end. I did the same, then found someone who beat the bro out of me and put me on an upper/lower EOD split, 3x per week, only eating and resting on my off days. What do you know I began growing like never before. That turning point has forever influenced my training ideals.

norpx said...

Good post and good quality, keep it up. 3 weeks on IF now and I love it.

Keenan said...

What sort of rep ranges/weight (for bench press, for example) were you using when you did "one set to failure"?

Did you just up the weight once you could 15-20 reps of something?

Martin Berkhan said...

Thanks, guys.

Keenan,

I did something like this

Bench set 1: 6-8 reps
Weighted pushups to failure: 15-20 reps
Bench set 2: 4-6 reps
Weighted pushups to failure: 8-12reps.
Bench set 3: 4-6 reps
Pushups, body weight to failure: 15-20 reps (?)

And done. Next ten minutes was spent lying in a fetal position on the floor.

Martin Berkhan said...

Forgot to answer - I was actually able to up the weight linearily with 5-10 lbs each session, staying in the rep ranges noted (I never had to do double progression which is what you're asking, i.e wait til I hit x reps and then increase).

Al said...

Martin, whats your current workout structure look like? Also, do you have any sort of workout supplementation - peri workout BCAA's or Whey?

Great Blog by the way. Inspiring stuff.

Martin Berkhan said...

Al,

the routine I'm currently running has me working out every 4th day and looks like this

A1

Bench Press 2 x 6-8
Incline Press 1 x 6-8
Rest 5 min
Squats 3 x 4-6
Close-Grip Bench* 1 x 6-8 Pushdowns 1 x 10-12
Chins, body weight x max

* paused for 3 s on chest


B1

Deadlift 2 x 2-3
Overhead Press 1 x 4-6
Rest 5 min
Reverse Leg Curl 1 x 8-10
Leg Extensions 1 x 8-10
Chins, weighted, 1 x 6-8

A2

Same as A1, but reverse order of pressing (incline/bench).

B2

Chins, weighted, 3 x 4-6, alternated with overhead press 3 x 4-6.
Probably going to add deads at 80% of B1 weights here, non-failure, 3x3 or similar.

All sets done in reverse pyramid fashion (see the blog post 'reverse pyramid revisited'), or in the case of 1 set, to failure.

I created this routine in order to allow for maximal results per time unit invested - my goals are currently to increase relative strength at a slow pace, not necessarily to put on slabs of muscle as fast as I can. I'm quite busy as it is, and have no great desire to spend too much time in the gym for the time being.

Since I'm currently doing fasted workouts on most days, I add 10 g BCAA pre-workout. Besides that, fish oil and a multivitamin. Not a big fan of supplements overall.

Keenan said...

Martin,

Thanks man, I appreciate the feedback. I'm going to second the request for you to post more often.

You always have great insight, and your results clearly speak for themselves.

I've been tweaking my workout plan for the next couple months(cutting, sort of) and it's pretty similar to yours. I'm working out 2-3 times per week, starting workouts with one of: squat/DL/RDL, then doing one of: Chest press/dumbbell press/weighted dips/Overhead Press and then doing one of: Rows/weighted chins/standing pulldowns.

Between each set is jumps, pushups, unweighted chins, or unweighted dips. I'm doing drop sets of 15x8x4, so the workouts are between 20-30 minutes, depending on how much I have to rest after DLs/Squats. I totally feel you on the fetal position. I've had to grab something keep from passing out on more than one occasion.

Are you doing any other work, in terms of non-weight training exercise? Sprint intervals or any sports?

Keep up the good work man, and keep posting!

Anonymous said...

like the others said, great post. keep it up.

Yavor said...

The LOOK lol.

Anyway, Arthur Jones' stuff is great. Though having to push yourself like that is really tough on my nerves. But can't argue that the stuff works.

Martin Berkhan said...

Keenan,

some comments on your setup

"squat/DL/RDL, "

What intensity are you doing the DL/RDL's at? Personally, I hope it's heavy/light, or the other way around, as I generally wouldn't recommend deadlifting 2x/week. For me, even heavy deadlifts 1x/week is pushing it in terms of what I can handle if I intend to be squatting heavy within that same week.

"then doing one of: Chest press/dumbbell press/weighted dips/Overhead Press and then doing one of: Rows/weighted chins/standing pulldowns."

Well, that looks like a pretty basic, solid, setup. Volume/intensity are variables to consider, but I assume you got those locked down and don't overdo things.

"Between each set is jumps, pushups, unweighted chins, or unweighted dips. "

I do some brisk walking in between sets, just to get my heart rate up - seems to aid in recovering between sets (there's actually a study confirming this as well).

"Are you doing any other work, in terms of non-weight training exercise? Sprint intervals or any sports?"

Sadly, no. I wish I had time - been thinking about trying my hand at MMA after I relocate in a few weeks, so let's see what happens.

"Keep up the good work man, and keep posting!"

I will, thanks. Glad you like my blog.

Martin Berkhan said...

Yavor,

I agree, but you can't beat it from a time invested/results point of view.

Kimpa said...

Hey Martin,

If you had more time on your hands and if you were aiming for more muscle mass and strength, How would you train?

Anonymous said...

Very inspiring read Martin. Looking forward to trying those routines out. :)

/Jonas

Doug McGuff, MD said...

Great post. I couldn't agree more. Never underestimate the power of brief workouts. Also, try longer recovery intervals. Even if the workout is perfect, nothing will happen until recovery has transpired. A workout composed of 5 big movements (leg press, chin, chest press, row, and overhead press) done once every 5-7th day is a great starting point. These movements done in a fasted state are a powerful anabolic stimulus. Check out bodybyscience.net and look under the "WOW" heading (stands for workout of the week) to see some more awesome minimalist workouts.

Martin Berkhan said...

Kimpa,

last year I had good success with an every other day routine, hitting each muscle every fourth day; intensity was high, but not gut wrenching, and total amount of volume for the big muscle groups were in the 20-25 reps. The routine wasn't that much different from the every 4th day routine I posted as my current routine, just condensed into an 8 day cycle.

I would probably do something similar if I had more time on my hands, and I might experiment with alternating workouts intensity/volume;

For example, using bench press as an example

A1

Bench press 1-2 x 8-10 (failure)

and then four days later

A2

Bench Press 4-5 x 4-5 (stopping 1 rep short of failure)

Something like that perhaps. Key point, volume and frequency would be higher than what I'm doing now, and I would cycle intensity.

Martin Berkhan said...

Jonas,

you're welcome to, let me know how it goes (and don't try to "improve" them...because that's when people screw up).

Martin Berkhan said...

Doug,

thanks, just checked it. Seems you're using machines primarily (MedX), as do the posters on the site? I'm highly biased towards free weights.

Doug McGuff, MD said...

Martin,

I just found your blog and its great. The concepts in my previous post apply with free weights as well. Big movements such as squat, chin, bench press, deadlift and military press would be the substitute for the machine/Med-X listings. In Body by Science we advocate breif high intensity workouts,a hunter-gatherer diet, and a definition of health that includes an appropriate balance between the anabolic and catabolic state...which fits nicely with IF principles.
Once again, a great site that I will keep reading.

Doug McGuff, MD

Martin Berkhan said...

I see. Thanks for the kind words, Doug. I'm glad to have found me another reader.

Lars Henriksson said...

Good post! I can attest to Martins routines being very effective,,,even tho i was in doubt at first!

- Lasse

Keenan said...

Thanks for the feedback!

You asked:
"What intensity are you doing the DL/RDL's at? Personally, I hope it's heavy/light, or the other way around, as I generally wouldn't recommend deadlifting 2x/week."

1x deadlift per week (*either* RDL or DL) is all I do. I never do squats very heavy - I use them for volume work. I also left out my leg-press/one-legged leg press, which I throw in the mix, again as a volume workout. DL and RDL are where I go heavy because I feel I can do that with the least risk of injury. I use squats/leg press to really "feel" all of my leg muscles, hit glutes, and work on speed/power. Intensity is high, but weight is lower.

In regards to martial arts:
4-5 days a week, I study Hapkido. It's essentially an MMA in that it distills the practical techniques from many arts, so we learn striking,locks, throws, and submission wrestling. Best of luck to you if you get into some MMA. You'll find your conditioning very valuable as it will let you focus on the technique because you won't always be winded and tired while trying to learn.

If you get the time, I'd like to see what you do in terms of your warm-up and injury prevention work. Do you do mobility work? Soft tissue work? etc.

Cheers,
Keenan

Martin Berkhan said...

Keenan,

I only incorporate some very basic streching after workouts. I don't feel that there is a lot of wear and tear with the amount of training I'm currently doing. Had volume/frequency been higher, you'd probably have gotten a more sophisticated answer.

Spector said...

It's cool, man. I appreciate the feedback.

If you get into MMA you might find yourself with a strange desire to get a foam roller and do some soft tissue work (you can only take so many knees to the IT band before it locks up). You acquire some interesting bruises doing that...

Cheers!

Anonymous said...

lmfao@teh Look

great post

Anonymous said...

Martin, don't get into that MMA stuff. Your face is too pretty! haha

Chainman said...

Martin,

Ive currently changed my low volume routine to the one you posted in your blog, the 3 passes per 10 days, Breathing Squats, 20 Rep deadlifts and Benchpress with pushups.

My first training year was volume based, 2nd year was more Low volume, gains took off and ive now stagnated or reps go up and down, hence my search for a new routine.

Im curious if you find that kind of routine outdated as youve have changed your own routine quite a bit to 2 worksouts, with more exercises per workout.

Im currently under an IF/Low carb diet and i find 2 exercises per workout exellent as i can squeeze out all juice i have without saving it for the "next exercise"
Its too early for me to say if your "old" routine works for more but so far it feels enough.

Any words on your old routine? Is the intensity too high for body mass or is it strength focused.
Progress = Strength and mass right?

Great blog btw, keep up the good work.

Martin Berkhan said...

Chainman,

"Im curious if you find that kind of routine outdated as youve have changed your own routine quite a bit to 2 worksouts, with more exercises per workout. "

No. It worked very well for me considering the stage I was at, at that time.

"Any words on your old routine? Is the intensity too high for body mass or is it strength focused.
Progress = Strength and mass right?"

I've never since gained as much strength and muscle as fast as I did with that routine (it bears to mention I was still in the newbie stage - but rapidly progressed to quite respectable strength and muscle for my age).

I ate like a horse though, plenty of carbs. Not sure how well this would work on a carb restricted diet - some of the sets, i,e the bench/pushup combo, are quite draining on muscle glycogen (which might be negatively affected on a low carb diet).

Chainman said...

Martin,

Are you recommending your old routin as it is? If not, what changes would you do to it if you knew what you know today.

Martin Berkhan said...

Yes. None. Changing it might produce a less favorable outcome. As often happens when people try to fix stuff that doesn't need any fixin'.

d said...

Martin,

I like the blog. I've got a beginner's question. I've recently started lifting. Right now my routine looks like this:

1 set of :

Squat
Military Press (seated)
Deadlift
Bend over rows
Chinups

I've been doing this about twice a week with 2 days break between each session. I've decided that I'm not giving myself enough rest time, and have been debating between trying your origonal program and McGuff's once a week program.

Since I'm about 20 pounds underweight, my primary goal is muscle gain. Also, I am unable to Bench Press due to a shoulder injury. The bend over rows help keep my shoulder stable, so do you think I can substitute the origonal workout with one looking like this:

A Deadlift (1 set)
Chinups

B Breathing squat
Pullups

C Military press (2sets)
Rows (2sets)

Thanks for any comments.

Martin Berkhan said...

That might work, sure.

When you say you just recently started lifting, you might also consider checking out Starting Strength before trying out higher intensity routines like the one posted.

Anonymous said...

Hi Martin!
Thanks for a very inspiring read. I follow your first workout routine. I have a little less developed triceps and calves than the other muscle groups. Do you like me to add any extra training for those in the program? In this case each, which exercises, failure, rest-pause set and how many sets and reps?

Martin Berkhan said...

Well, it's called the minimalist for a reason.

But yea sure, you can try adding some assistance for tri's and calves.

I'd maybe put triceps on B, 1-2 sets of pushdowns and/or seated triceps extensions. I usually recommend a higher rep range for tri's, as form goes to shit + risk of injury increases if you go low rep to failure on these movements. 8-12 reps is a good range generally speaking.

Calves on C, one long drop set or however fashion you prefer to train them.

Both of these additions last in the session.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Martin for this quick answer!

You are the person i look up to most, in terms of body building.

Is Chins when you have palms against the body?
Should i use the method "Breathing" on the deadlifts?

If i have forward rotated shoulder ,should i change something in the training program or does it work anyway?

Does this training program work, although i have trained for 10 years. How long can I run this training program before i have to change?

Martin Berkhan said...

"Thanks Martin for this quick answer!

You are the person i look up to most, in terms of body building."

Thanks


"Is Chins when you have palms against the body? "

Correct

"Should i use the method "Breathing" on the deadlifts? "

Yes, you should rest a few seconds between each rep. On the last reps, when the going gets tough, rest as much as 10 sec.

"If i have forward rotated shoulder ,should i change something in the training program or does it work anyway?"

Depends on the severity of the problem. If it's something you want to try to correct, you probably shouldn't run this template in the first place. This is not my area of expertise, but do a seach for Eric Cressey and Neanderthal No More.

"Does this training program work, although i have trained for 10 years. How long can I run this training program before i have to change?"

Don't know, depends. Try it, don't try it, your decision. I just posted the routine that brought me the best gains in the beginning of my training career.

Anonymous said...

Hello Martin,

Just found your blog and I can just agree with the others, its truly awesome.

I got very inspired to try out your first training routine and I just wanted to make sure I got everything right. So I thought Ill ask you on the parts im not sure off.

Day 4
Only 1 set of squats with 20 reps? No adding more weights and decreasing reps?

And only 1 set of leg extensions to failure?

Day 7
Deadlift 20 reps and then increasing weight till im down on 3-5 reps?

Thanks in advance

Martin Berkhan said...

"Day 4
Only 1 set of squats with 20 reps? No adding more weights and decreasing reps?

And only 1 set of leg extensions to failure?"

Yes, do a search for breathing squats. Increase weight 2,5% per session, double progression as long as possible.

i.e

200 x 18

next session

200 x 20



Yes on 2nd q.

"Deadlift 20 reps and then increasing weight till im down on 3-5 reps?

15-20 reps. Yes, add 2,5% per session, linear progression until you hit 3-5 reps (and then you may choose to start over at a higher starting weight, at a lower rep range preferably, or proceed with double progression)

i.e

300 x 15

next session

310 x 14

after many weeks..

450 x 4

next session

450 x 5

next

455 x 4

Anonymous said...

I admire you and your training program Martin

How do you warm up before Breathing squat?
Your calves are huge. When you train them, how you train them?

What exercises do you recommend for the back shoulders?

Thanks in advance.

ProSkiller said...

"A (day 1)

Bench press
1 set to failure
Immediately followed by pushups to failure
Followed by another set of bench (with a lot less weight)
Immediately followed by pushups to failure
and repeated one more round.
10 mins rest
Chins for 2-3 sets to failure

B (day 4)

Breathing Squats (20 reps)
Leg extensions, 1 set to failure

C (day 7)

Deadlifts (started at 20 reps here, added weight and decreased reps until I was working in the 3-5 rep range after several months).
10 min rest
Pullups for 2-3 sets to failure

And then days 8-10 were spent resting. And eating."

Not sure if I understood this right..
Does this mean that you did each session every 8-10 days or that you had 8-10 days just resting after you finished a week of training?

Martin Berkhan said...

The aforementioned.

Anonymous said...

Martin what do you think about this routine?

Day 1:
Deadlift
Bench Press
Barbell Row
Calf Raise

Day 4:
Squats
Dips
Pullups
Calf Raise

Squats, Deadlift and Calfs 1 set with 20 reps.

Other exercises, i do reverse pyramid 3-4 set, 4-6 reps.

Martin Berkhan said...

I generally don't recommend high rep deadlifts, not 15 reps+. 12-15 reps is fine at the start of a cycle, adding weight heavy enough to reduce reps by 1 for each session.

Otherwise it looks ok.

Anonymous said...

hey martin cool site, good and "diffrent" information!

i have a few Q. that ive asked on bb.com but were never answered, hope u can answer them...

training:

ive been working out for about 3-4 years on and off, and for about a year now just been doing bodweight workouts.

just wondering how should i go about training whyle IFing?

should i follow ur 1st routine posted "the minimalist" for until i dont c results the go on 2 another program uve posted?

whyle bulking and cutting and mantaining how does the routine change or dosent it?

nutrition:

im currently at 170 lbs and 10% bf currently wanting 2 cut down the fat 2 around 7% or so.... how whould u sugest my macro intake be per pound as far as grams of protein fat and carbs, on workout day and non workout days?

as well as how how much grams per pound for gaining lean mass (bulk)? for worjout and non work out day?
---

sorry for 1 many Q. and i understand ur a personal trainier and all and thats how u make ur liveing but id be very thankful if u can help me out...

Martin Berkhan said...

'just wondering how should i go about training whyle IFing?'

Any non-retarded routine will work.

'should i follow ur 1st routine posted "the minimalist" for until i dont c results the go on 2 another program uve posted?'

You're a complete newbie, look into Starting Strength.

'whyle bulking and cutting and mantaining how does the routine change or dosent it?'

This routine aint for cutting.

'how whould u sugest my macro intake be per pound as far as grams of protein fat and carbs, on workout day and non workout days?'

I'm not. I don't hand out half assed advice in the comments section of my blog. Don't have time for that. Take it to a forum somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Maybe a stupid question but, are you saying you did only one 20rep set of squats and one 20rep set of deadlifts ?! Im interested in trying that program...

Martin Berkhan said...

Yes.

Anonymous said...

Hi Martin,

i have question about you're current routine.

you write: B2
Chins, weighted, 3 x 4-6, alternated with overhead press 3 x 4-6.

What do you mean with alternated.
Do you mean first one set weighted chins and then (with or without rest) one set of overhead press

or do you mean.
B2 : weighted chins - 3 sets and then as second exercise overhead press 3 sets.
and then next training session B2 alternating witch exercise you start ??

Thanks for you're response!

Anonymous said...

leangains.blogspot.com; You saved my day again.

ProSkiller said...

Hi Martin, I`m thinking about starting a low volume training program with a slow weight gain of 1 kg a month.
Does this routine look solid to you?

Tuesday:
DB press: 3 sets x 5 reps
Pushdowns: 2 sets x 8-10 reps
Squats: 2 sets x 5 reps
Ab-machine: 2 sets x 8-10

Friday:
Chins: 3 sets x 5 reps
Neutral grip row: 2 x 6
Biceps curl: 2 x 8-10
Deadlift: 1 x 5

Martin Berkhan said...

3 x 5 for db movements is a bad idea, because you'll lose a bunch of reps when you up the weight (since the % increase in load is great, unless your dbs come in 1 lb increments). Use barbell bench, not db bench.

Deadlifts first, never last.

ProSkiller said...

Okay, got it.

But would maybe 3 x 3 at 70% Deadlift be better since I`m doing Squats the same week? Or could it be doable do do both heavy in the same week if volume is this low?

Martin Berkhan said...

3 x 3 @ 70% will do jack shit for anything. That's 3 sets of 3 of your 12RM. You have two full rest days in between squats and deads so 1 set of deads all out is doable.

Anonymous said...

Hello Martin!

I know you don't want to tell people exercise form over the net. But I've a question, if you use mixed grip for your deadlift?. I think my right shoulder is forward rotated because of the mixed grip. What's your tought?

I really appreciate any answer.

Thanks in advance.

Martin Berkhan said...

If that's the case, and if it concerns you, do one set with your strong grip (i.e right overhand if you're right-handed) and one set with your weak grip (left-handed). Or don't use a mixed grip.

jimbodiny said...

Hello Martin!

I have a question about this;

Bench set 1: 6-8 reps
Weighted pushups to failure: 15-20 reps
Bench set 2: 4-6 reps
Weighted pushups to failure: 8-12reps.
Bench set 3: 4-6 reps
Pushups, body weight to failure: 15-20 reps (?)

After the first set in Bench, how much do you lower your weight to the next set? And do you also lower it in the third set?

Best regards,
Jim

Martin Berkhan said...

If I recall right (this was a long time ago), I lowered approximately -20% from first set to second set and 15-20% from second to third set.

90 kg x 8
Pushups
70-75 kg x 6
Pushups
60 kg x 6
Pushups

Something like that.

jimbodiny said...

Thank you so much!

I actually have another question on the Bench day.

Is there any rest between the sets?

I'm in my second week on this program and it feels good!

/ Jim

Martin Berkhan said...

No rest.

Mike Robinson said...

Speaking of minimalist routines, here is something I've done in the past with good success, and what I am doing now (after a long lay-off).

I believe that one gets very strong from just these 4 lifts then that is all needed to build a solid, massive foundation of muscle.

Workout 1:

Squats: 2-3 sets
High Pulls: 2-3 sets

Workout 2:

V-Bar Dips: 3 sets
Chins: 5 sets

What I plan on doing now, which is different than in the past is the reverse pyramid scheme. I never approached my sets like that.

I also prefer to take about 3 full days of rest in between each of these sessions (my recovery is slower now that I am approaching 37 years old).

So workout 1 might be on Monday, with workout 2 on Friday, then back to day one again the following week on Tuesday.

- Mike

Anonymous said...

No rest between the 3 sets/rounds of Benchpress + Pushups to fail? That sounded really intense.

Regarding Chins and Pullups, did you use a RPT approach?


Best Regards // Boden

s.m.f said...

Hi Martin
Like you view on training, have been doing mid/low volume for some while now, before that high volume, for many years with poor progress over time.

My thoughts now are regarding frequency. Lowering volume has given me better results, still I do more volume than you, I am looking inte getting closer to your workout volume. However I feel good after being in the gym, the endorfines are superb would like do up frequency to 3-4times a week and have been looking at low volume mid frequency options like Dc, what are your thoughts on a program like that, or put it this way, what do you consider to be the weakness in a program like that?
/Johan

Martin Berkhan said...

Boden,

"No rest between the 3 sets/rounds of Benchpress + Pushups to fail? That sounded really intense."

That's the whole point.

"Regarding Chins and Pullups, did you use a RPT approach?"

Yes.

Martin Berkhan said...

Johan,

DC is fine but the frequency is and should be kept to 3x/week.

Anonymous said...

Martin,

You were training 3 times every 8-10 days. But did you include any off weeks from training in your regimen?

Thank you!

Martin Berkhan said...

Nope. Weren't needed.

sajo said...

Hi, Martin. I want to start your "beginner" program, but I don't have access to machines, only free weights. With what exercise should I replace leg extensions?

Michael Amyes said...

Hi Martin, I've found your blog really interesting and have read through most of your stuff over the last week or so.

I'm looking at switching to this minimalist program and seeing how it works for me for the next few months. I've started an IF diet, combined with Paleo Diet (paleo for 2 weeks)(IF for 3 days). So far i'm loving both.

Having read through all the comments there's just one area I'm looking for a bit of clarification on. Rest.

I'm taking it that there is no rest between bench and pressups, and then no rest again between pressups and the next set of the bench? So the entire 3 sets of bench and 3 sets of pressups are done without rest?

Also what rest is there between sets of the chin/pull ups? If none, how to do you differentiate between sets? Just drop down and shake arms then jump straight back into it?

And finally just to confirm, there is no rest between breathing squats and leg extensions?

Goran said...

Hey Martin,

I naturally have quite large Pec's that stick out more than majority of people.
I really dont want to make them any bigger ... until the rest of body catches up.
What would be your suggestion when it comes to the "A" section of this minimalist workout seeing as it (except for chinups) centers highly around the working of the chest?
Obviously theres great shoulder workout in the bench/pushups too. What would you suggest I replace this with to avoid working my chest for the time being?
Thanks mate!!

Matt said...

Is that only one works set of deadlifts, one set of squats ?

James said...

Hello,

Been doing this routine for about a month and seeing some steady strength gains in everything except the bench press which actually seems to be going down. I think this might be due to the fact that I can't seem to train this exercise without a spotter as intensely as the other exercises. So I was thinking about changing it for dips, but my question is would this warrant some extra shoulder work ?

Richard said...

Martin,

If this workout isn't for cutting, what do you do when you are cutting?

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing he's consuming a calorie deficit as a result of a non-measured reduction of carbs... and training the same.

Braulio said...

Hey Martin

I will start lean gains approach this monday for losing fat and build muscle.

What do you think about doing a 5x5 3 times per week?

A.

BENCH PRESS 5X5
BB CURLS 5X5
SQUAT 5X5

B.

BB DEADLIFT 5X5
MILITARY PRESS 5X5
PULLUPS 5X5

REPEAT A AND SO ON...

3500 kcal training days
2100 kcal rest days with 2 times per week cardio..

Thanks for your help

5'10 190 lbs around 15% bf

Anonymous said...

Thats all god what I read, but it suits me badly. I can´t train Deadlift and Squats the same week without getting water in my knees. I can´t go very heavy , because I train at home in a multigym ,20 reps fits nicely .And Benchpres and pullups works only one set , next set I can´t lift or pullup anything. With Frendly Regards Bent Nissen , Denmark

Paleo baer said...

Hey martin, wicked page.

I'm a bit confused by this sentence:
""Was it a walk in the park and do I think everyone should be doing HIT from now on? No. The intensity used for each set was ridiculous. The sessions were painful and I dreaded them every single time. Was it productive? Yes, it was time extremely well spent.""

I don't understand why you changed your workout. After what you wrote I don't see any reason why somebody should do anything else then HIT (except beginer). It seems to me like you found the holy secret of weightraining.... and then you went half way back to a less time effecient version.

I'm wondering what's Superior about RPT compared to HIT that you are using it instead of your most timeeffecient apraoch.

Cause from what I understood you want to find the minimum effectiv dose. Be as little as possible in the gym by getting maximum return.

b.

Paleo baer said...

Hey martin, wicked page.

I'm a bit confused by this sentence:
""Was it a walk in the park and do I think everyone should be doing HIT from now on? No. The intensity used for each set was ridiculous. The sessions were painful and I dreaded them every single time. Was it productive? Yes, it was time extremely well spent.""

I don't understand why you changed your workout. After what you wrote I don't see any reason why somebody should do anything else then HIT (except beginer). It seems to me like you found the holy secret of weightraining.... and then you went half way back to a less time effecient version.

I'm wondering what's Superior about RPT compared to HIT that you are using it instead of your most timeeffecient apraoch.

Cause from what I understood you want to find the minimum effectiv dose. Be as little as possible in the gym by getting maximum return.

b.

Leighan said...

So you did no direct shoulder work (overhead press) on the routine? How did your shoulders turn out? Shoulders are my weakest point so I was thinking of adding in the overhead press instead of pull ups after the Deadlifts, what do you think?

Vidura said...

Hello Mr. Berkhan,
I have a few questions about the Minimalist routine:

On day 1, when you say "and repeated one more round", is there any rest time between the two rounds?

What is the rest time like between the 2-3 sets of chins to failure on both Day 1 and Day 7, are are they weighted or done using bodyweight only?

On day 4, is there any rest time between the breathing squats and the leg extensions?

And on Day 7, is it a single set of deadlifts, or do you add sets as you progress from 20 to the 3-5 rep range?

Thank you for your help and i apologize for all the questions.

Arthur Veeeeee said...

What do you guys suppose one should do if they cannot get to "lift heavy things" before breaking their fast? How much of a role does the EPOC from high intensity heavy training play on the results? Thank you all and Martin in advance!




My name is Martin Berkhan and I work as a nutritional consultant, magazine writer and personal trainer.

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