T Nation

Getting Back to Basics (Calling DJ)


Coach John,

I need help. I'm 32, and I've been training for 6 years; always careening from one training modality to the next. Chronic routine changer? That would be me. Weights, martial arts, a bit of running, kettlebells... Stop the madness!

So I've reached a point of paralysis by analysis, and I really need a simple, basic routine.

I'm a bit on the skinny side; 6' and around 180 lbs. Not much fat, but then again, not exactly bursting with lean muscle tissue either. So my goal is to gain weight and get stronger. Yeah, I know. I'm pretty unique.

I know I should just eat more, and I'm working on that. Lately I've discovered the wondrous cocktail of raw eggs and orange juice, and I've got plans to include more snacks and a second dinner. I won't see the abs for a while, but that's ok. I can only barely see them now, anyway.

Exercise-wise, I want to chin, dip and deadlift. An overhead press would be nice, and maybe even some curls. Back squats are out - there's no rack where I train. I could possibly include front squats, but I'll have to try them out for a bit first. The O-lifts are sadly not an option either. The bar and weights are not what you'd call first class, and there's no platform. Cleans could work, however. Basically, I'm open to any suggestions.

To avoid overanalysing, I'm thinking fixed rep range (3 sets of 8?), increasing weight only when I get all the reps. As for frequency, I'm at a loss. I can train up to 5 days/week (3-4 days would probably be better), but I'm unsure how to group the exercises. I realise your advice would probably be to Try It And See, but right now I absolutely need some rigid structure.

Should I lay completely off the cardio? I don't own a car, so I walk nearly everywhere. I've been doing a bit of hill sprinting and some light KB swings/snatches, but nothing I'm really addicted to.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!



Have you tried just the basic One Lift a Day routine? Check out the OLAD Support thread. It's a great program for your stated goals. Between the OLAD article (search the site for it) and the thread, you have all the info you need to do it.

Good luck,


Thanks, Bill!

I considered OLAD at one time, but flailed a bit.. Too much freedom, I suppose. As I said, right now I need to put some rigidity back into my training.

I'll definitely look into it again, however! Any advice on how to structure the week?

Am I on the right track if i do something like:
Mon: Dips
Tue: Chins
Wed: Off
Thu: Deadlifts
Fri: Military press

Thanks again!



Go to Dan John's "Lifting and Throwing Page" and down load "From the Ground Up." It is his free book. Many great things and programs are described. Start front squating now in about nine months your wrists will become flexible enough to do them with respectable weight. Crappy bar, no platform, so what. Doing oly lifts with junk equipment makes it more fun. Good luck. jim


Yeah, I've got From the Ground Up. Really good stuff!

I agree that doing O-lifts with crappy equipment has a certain charm. But dropping brittle metal weights on concrete floors.. I don't know. It's fine as long as I can control the negative, but as the weights get heavier that's not really an option.

I'll give the front squats an honest go. Thanks!



If you can do a full 5 days a week, I'd highly recommend it. My current routine is:
Day 1: BB Incline Press
Day 2: BB bent rows
Day 3: Back Squats
Day 4: rest
Day 5: Seated Military Press
Day 6: Romanian DLs or Power Cleans (haven't decided yet)
Day 7: Rest

Last cycle I went
Day 1: DB Incline Press
Day 2: BB bent rows
Day 3: Front Squats
Day 4: rest
Day 5: Standing Military Press
Day 6: Deadlifts
Day 7: Rest

I switched things up a bit just for variety. I used to go with a 3 day routine thinking more than that with my schedule was too much. Guess what, I made the choice to gut out 5 a week and I couldn't be happier (except that I'm going through Surge ($$$) like there's no tomorrow).

Proper recovery is a must though, particularly food and sleep, so make sure you stay vigilant about these aspects. I put it in as Day 1 as opposed to a specific day of the week because it gives you more flexbility, especially if you feel that you can't do more than 3 days during the week. You can always make Day 1 Tuesday or Saturday if you have more time on the weekends. Btw, the workouts themselves take very little time - week 1 is the longest and if I do 5-10 minutes of warmup and cooldown, I'm only at it for about 30 minutes start to finish.

Good luck,


Bill, this helps a lot! OLAD looks like it could be a lot of fun..

Doing 5 days/week shouldn't be a problem. Much better, in fact, as I'd like to include Cleans (or maybe Clean & Push-press?) in the routine.

I'm going on vacation in 2 weeks time - 1 week of serious R&R in Greece with the wife.. I'll start OLAD when I get back. In the meantime I'll try to get familiar with the OLAD loading parameters; I'm used to using a set weight for all sets. Wave loading seems too much like math. :wink:

I'm really looking forward to staring this. Thanks for the pointers!



I've found that wave loading is actually more intuitive than a set weight for all sets. I write down my weights per set before starting out to give me a guideline but I sometimes tweak the weight on one or more sets depending on how I feel. For example, I often increase the load for set 7 based on how I felt on set 4 (my target max for the day). Or, I may actually decrease the load for set 5 or 6 depending on how much between set recovery I think I will need as my goal is always to hit the daily max for the final set. Have fun on your trip and good luck with OLAD.



IMO there is nothing wrong with changing all the time. I do it all the time. I wake up and decide what I am going to do for my work out. I like the variety. I think I have good hypertrophy, so that would be one difference. I am a Former fat boy so I lean in that direction. I think keep your work out so you enjoy it and it will serve you well. Good luck.


Thanks for the encouragement, Pittbull!

I agree that variety is an extremely important part of working out. However, too much variety means zero progress, at least for me.

Generally, I last 2 weeks, 3 weeks tops, on any program before the mind rebels. OLAD seems perfect, as each cycle only lasts 3 weeks anyway..

After OLAD, I think I'll go with just picking 2-4 exercises from a limited pool, 3-4 days a week. That'll probably be enough variety AND structure. Maybe I'll even find time to finally start rock climbing..