T Nation

Best Plan for the Natural Lifter

Hey there,

So, I’ve read the article you’ve written on the best plan for natural lifters. The one here: https://www.t-nation.com/training/the-best-damn-workout-plan-for-natural-lifters

I was really thinking that I need a change because I think I am ooooverdoing things now. Natural lifter. Been lifting for about 2 years, but 1,5 years I wasn’t eating meat so I would say I really started training about 9 months ago, when I started eating meat again.

So, here is my actual program. I am not doing a days of the week workout, instead I have it on days (it is self made)

Day 1 - Back & Chest (with back as primary)

Straight arm pullover - 3 sets x 12/15 reps (for feeling the muscle)
T-Bar Row - 2 warming sets (usually done in between the straight arm sets) + 4 working sets (I go heavy)
Cable row - 3 sets, last one is a big dropset (about 30 reps, starting for 107 kg and getting to 6.5kg)
Individual cable pulldown (every hand gets a handle) - 3 sets
Slight incline DB Press - 4 sets (for hypertrophy, they are not heavy)
DB Fly - 3 sets

Day 2 - Legs 1 & Abs

Leg press - 2 warm up sets + 5 working sets
Leg extensions - 4 sets (heavy)
Reverse squats at the smith machine - 4 sets (heavy)
Sitted curls - 3-4 sets
Abs - weighted cable crunches and swiss ball crunches

Day 3 - Arms 1 (with emphasis on triceps)

Dips - 2 warm up sets
Weighted dips - 4 sets
Cable pulldowns - 3 sets and the last one a big dropset
Overhead cable extension - 3/4 sets with emphasis on the eccentric portion of the movement
Single arm triceps extensions - 2/3 sets
Straight bar cable curl - 2 warm up sets + 4 working sets
Cable curls with handles (it is the same position as the incline bench db curl, the long head gets stretched) - 3 dropsets
Preacher curls with cable or preacher curls with DB and isoholds

Day 4 - Rest

Day 5 - Chest & Back

Decline bench press - 2 warm up sets + 4 working sets
Incline DB press - 4 sets
Flys - 2 sets
GIANT SET of 110 reps at the pulley (I do 11 positions, from down to up x 10 reps)

Chest supported DB Rows - 4 sets
Sitted cable rows - Light, isoholds for 15-20 sec + 5 reps x 3 sets
Narrow grip cable pullovers - 3 sets

Day 6 - Legs 2 & Abs

Lunges - 2 warm ups sets
Weighted lunges - 4 working sets
Reverse squat at the smith machine - 4 sets
Leg extensions - isoholds for 20 sec + 3-4 reps x 3
Glute bridge weighted - 3/4 sets
Ab work

Day 7 - Arms 2

DB curls - 4 sets, last one big dropset
Hammer cable curls - 3 sets
Incline bench curls - 3 sets
Reverse cable curls - 3 sets
Reverse grip triceps pushdowns - 4 sets
Overhead press - 3 sets
Neutral grip cable pushdowns - 3 sets

Day 8 - rest.

Writing it down makes me think that yeah, Im overdoing it big time.
The progress of gaining muscle mass seems to have stoped, I am really tired and cant seem to gain any weight.

My nutrition is on track, about 200-250g of high quality protein, 100 - 120 g of fats and carbs, oh well, from 100 to 250g per day. I do peri-workout nutrition. I eat 30 mins before 30g of protein and 30g of fast carbs, I drink a protein-carb matrix during the workout, have one fairly large shake after and a big meal. Also, Ive started drinking casein at night.

The big ass question: Is there enough volume in your workout plan? Do I need to up the volume? What is considered high volume?


What’s the question?
Is there enough volume? If CT thought it didn’t have enough volume he wouldn’t have written the program. Seems like simple math to me.
Otherwise I don’t understand what you asking.

Yeah, as JC mentionned why would I had written it if I didn’t think it was enough volume???

I did even less volume for my photoshoot prep and kept progressing despite getting lean:

There are 4 main variables to play with:

  • volume
  • intensity/how hard you work
  • frequency (how often you train)
  • load (how heavy you go)

When one goes up a lot others must come down. I now prefer to go higher on the second (how hard) and third (how often) than on volume. And I keep the 4th variable, somewhat high, but not “strength training high”.

If 3 of the variables are high you will crash… in fact having 2 high variables can also be touchy if you go TOO high.

Now, “how hard” you train to me is how far you push your work sets. For example:

4- Going past the point of failure (rest/pause, drop sets, assisted reps, etc.) would be the highest level

3- Going to failure (but not beyond) is training hard

2- Stopping 1 or 2 reps short of failure is normal

1- Stopping 3+ rest short of failure is lower level of intensity

Right now I’m doing level 4 and 3 on most exercises and 2 on some movements like deadlifts and squats. So I can’t do a lot of volume: I do one work set at the highest level and 2 or 3 preparation sets at level 2.

In the past I did lots of phases where my intensity was mostly level 1 and 3 but did tons of volume. But I find that this is taking its toll as I’m getting holder and eat less.


Just try the program, go all out in the last set, and after 4 weeks come tell me there is not enough volume!

Well, thank you very very much for taking the time to respond. I thought I did wayyy to much volume, because I use level 4 at intensity at about every training session and went at about 90-100% of my 1RM every single session. And at six sessions out of 8 days, I think it was plenty of frequency.

I wrote my plan so that you could know where I am right now.

Starting wednesday, I will start you plan, but I have some small changes:

1. I am in love with heavy T-bar rows - want to swap the pulldown with them. Is that okish?
2. My shoulders don’t seem to agree to the BB bench press - can I swap them with DBs?
3. Can I do 3-4 sets of ab work in the pull days?
EDIT: 4. In the 7th day, can I do 15 minutes of HIIT swimming?

Thank you oh so much for responding!

Thanks really useful categorisation/post.

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Hey coach,

Thank you for your reply.
Been at the program for almost a week now, I feel great. Definitely the volume is not low. But after reading your answer again, I have another question. The frequency is high, the load is high (cause you go heavy in the last set) and the intensity is also high (?) because the working set is done at a level 4 - we go past failure. So it seems that three of the four variables are somewhat high. For me, intensity also could come from low rest periods. Normally, for heavy ass weights, you go for 2-3 minutes of rest.

What rest periods do you recommend between sets given the fact that the ”working set” will probably be close to my 1RM?

Thank you!

I am not trying to answer on behalf of CT, but I don’t understand why you stress things so much. The heaviest you will go on this program is at around 83-85% of your max, which is not that close to your 1RM is it? If you can decrease the resting periods without cutting from the intensity of the last sets, I would do so, that’s also a way to progress.

The load is not what I would call high, and certainly not on all days. A high load for me is 1-3 all-out reps. 6-8 is moderate.

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It’s not anywhere close to your 1RM. Close to your 1RM is 92-95%, Not 80%. 80% is moderate.

2 minutes between sets is about right for most.

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