T Nation

Looking for a Workout Plan

Hello. I’m a rookie here. I’ve been searching for a push/pull/legs routine that also lists the exercises to do on each day. I can find tons of info on frequency of the workouts, just cant find any specific info. I ask also because I don’t want to build a plan that has errors like performing 2 exercises for a specific muscle on the same day that shouldn’t be worked together. I hope that makes sense. Ultimately I’d like to have 2 separate push/pull/leg routines to cycle for variation. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance. Brian

A good template here and variation ideas:

1 Like

Thanks for the link. Now, to deadlift or not to deadlift. 38 yr old, 5’9, 167, semi-athletic build, suffered broken back when I was 15 and have been scared to death to deadlift since. 100% of my lower back exercises have been in form of roman chair extensions. I have a power cage, can I set it up any way to be beneficial by cheating the range of movement or is it an exercise that NEEDS full ROM to give any benefit at all. Thanks for your advice.

Do you need to deadlift? Absolutely not. You can get plenty strong in the hamstrings, glutes, lower & upper back, and forearms & grip without deadlifting, and really, if you’re not planning on competing in a strength sport, then there’s no absolute need for being a good deadlifter.

First thing I would do is some daily glute activation. Normally, I don’t like the term “activation” and I think many scoff at these movements and say squats, deadlifts, and lunges hit the glutes good enough, but my best friend broke his back in early middle school, and both he and several others who deal with mild to severe back pain have benefitted from doing this daily:

A: Glute Bridges: 2x10 w/ 5 sec. squeeze at the top of each rep
B: BW Bird Dogs: 2x10 w/ 5 sec. hold at the top of each rep (do all 10 reps on one side before doing the other)
C1: Lying Leg Abductions: 2x20
C2: Clams: 2x20 (do 20 reps of C1, then 20 reps of C2, both on one leg, before switching sides and doing 20 reps of both movements on the other leg)

Do 1 set of each movement, rest 1:00 or so, then repeat once more.

This should be fairly easy. You may feel the burn, but it won’t exhaust you or ruin your workout for the day. Just do it daily, maybe when you wake up to make sure you get it done. Or it can be done as part of your warmup on lower body days. Don’t worry about adding weight, just really feel the muscles working. Maybe once the glute bridges are quite easy you can try doing them with one leg, and once the leg abductions and clams are quite easy, you can put a band around your legs, but otherwise just work on FEELING the muscles. In my experience, having a strong butt does much more for a healthy lower back then having a strong lower back does, for some reason.

I think the best movements for the posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, lower back) would be:
glute-ham raises: https://www.t-nation.com/training/the-glute-ham-raise-from-a-to-z
back extensions (eventually add weight to increase strength): https://www.t-nation.com/training/150-pound-back-extensions-for-glutes-hams
hip thrusts: https://bretcontreras.com/how-to-hip-thrust/
and pull-throughs: https://www.t-nation.com/training/pull-throughs-for-elite-strength

(NOTE: these are the best movements that won’t stress the spine like squats and deadlifts.)

For further info on some of those, read this: https://www.t-nation.com/training/best-damn-posterior-chain-exercises

I’d also recommend the reverse hyper (a lot!!!) and belt squat. I think Jim Wendler once wrote that the glute-ham raise, reverse hyper, and belt squat would be the top three movements for an athlete with a back/upper body injury.

If you get really good at the above movements - 20+ reps of the GHR, and heavy weight on the hip thrusts and back extensions, you will have a strong posterior chain. Simple as that. No deadlifting necessary.

For your upper back and lats, do lots of rowing movements and chinning movements. Horizontal and vertical pulling. Do slightly more horizontal pulling (rowing movements) as this is better for your shoulder health than vertical pulling (chinups, pullups, lat pulldowns) is. But do some of both to maximize muscle growth.

For your grip, if you simply want to kill 2 birds with 1 stone, getting strong at rows and chins with heavy weight and/or high reps will be best. Kroc rows are great. You can also do loaded hangs (hang from a bar with added weight in the form of a vest, belt, between your feet, etc.), and loaded carries (be careful and watch how your back feels with these).

If you want to try to deadlift, try the trap-bar deadlift. It’s a little easier on the back. Progress slowly. Be smart. Romanian deadlifts (RDL’s) can be done too - if you don’t go overboard on the weight, and really push your hips back on the way down, you’ll feel it more in your hamstrings than your lower back.

And finally, as far as ab training, I’d stay away from lots of spinal flexion movements (crunches, situps, all the other common ab movements) and do more stability work. Read these articles for examples of that:


The first one does a good job of explaining what you’re doing and why, but the movements are more “warmup” movements. The second article will give you better examples of what to do for an actual workout.

Sorry this was so long! Just wanted to make sure you have all the info needed. But that’s what I’d recommend: daily glute work, various options for posterior chain movements, various options for back work and grip work, the proper “ab” movements, and what to do if you really want to try some type of deadlift.

Hope it helps. Keep us posted.

1 Like

Dude, I dunno if you copy/pasted that or you took the time to write it all out yourself, but that was exactly what I needed as far as instruction and also to “just hear”. This advice is very much appreciated! Today is leg day so I will load some of these new exercises up and let ya know how it played out. Thanks again!

1 Like

No problem! And yeah, I wrote it all out haha. But yeah, give those a shot and I hope it helps!

Is your back 100% now?

Great write up @jshaving Definitely stuff I’ll look into during my off season

@buj818 I personally believe that nobody HAS to deadlift unless they compete in powerlifting and/or enjoy it. After you try all that for a while, build up your strength and confidence, I suggest trying some deadlifts and see if you like it. Trap bar deadlifts and sumo can also be pretty forgiving on the back.

1 Like

Not exactly. Ill have sciatica until I die. This 2 decade mental block just prevents me from even trying both a single deadlift or a heavy squat. My lower right disc (C5 I believe) is still compressed. Just had it scanned in March. I can do dumbell weighted bench lunges with no problem, and dumbbell squats with 50s. But as soon as I setup the bar and mount up, game over. I get all freaked out and bail.

My aunt dealt with sciatica for several years. It wasn’t crippling but fairly intense, and pretty frequent. She hasn’t eliminated it, but stretching out your glutes and piriformis (look up Joe DeFranco’s Agile 8 - do it 2-3 times a day, every day for 2-3 weeks, then you can back down to once a day, every day forever) seems to help a bit.

Also, doing some strengthening of the glutes and abductors has helped a bit (this is exactly what’s done when you perform that little glute circuit I recommended doing daily!).

Maybe you’ve done all this before, and I’m just repeating stuff you’ve heard, but at least in the case of my aunt (granted, it’s just one person), stretching and strengthening those certain muscles helped a decent amount.

Reverse hyper’s have been proven to help with those serious back issues - as I stated before, my friend broke his back and this helped him tremendously with crippling pain that he dealt with all through our high school sports career, and worked better than 2-3 years of on and off physical therapy. I highly doubt you’ll find it at your local commerical gym, but if there are any powerlifting or strongmen gyms in your area, I’d strongly consider joining one just for the use of this machine (if they have one), and the atmosphere of such a gym itself could be invaluable. Being surrounded by stronger people always seems to make people stronger?! Huh?!

If no such gyms exist anywhere near you (Tony Gentilcore and Eric Cressey, both frequent contributors to this site, have both mentioned the period of time they spent traveling an hour both ways to go to a powerlifting gym in a nearby town for the simple fact that they wanted to get stronger. How seriously you take your body’s strength and wellbeing will affect if you’re willing to make a decision like this, but it’s doable! (maybe figure out that sciatica before doing all that driving :laughing:)), then I’d consider buying one. It’s expensive, but if your back gets better because of it, and you can live your life a little more pain free, it may be worth it.

And finally, you can not worry about this one machine. It’s not magical. It helps. It’s a good machine, that does often work, but it’s not going to cure cancer. I’m a fan but you do what you think you need to.

Regardless of if you ever use the reverse hyper, do lots of hanging, whether it’s just hanging or if you’re doing chinups. And lat pulldowns work too, but chinups are harder so you’ll probably get stronger. This will “stretch” out your spine to some degree. And work your glutes - get them strong as hell. I think this combo will help your back out a lot.

If you’re doing various forms of single leg movements (bench lunges? Is that another term for split squat? Is your rear foot up on the bench?), then you can still get extremely strong legs from that. Read Ben Bruno’s articles on here - he seems to do the majority of his “quad” work in the form of single leg movements and has built up a decent amount of strength.

Really, like @SOUL_FIGHTER said, do what you’ve been recommended, and build up confidence and strength. If you never attempt a max squat or deadlift, you’re fine. Life goes on. You can still build a healthy, strong, good looking body. Don’t worry about it until you’re at a place where you feel mentally prepared, because really, it doesn’t matter and no one cares how much you squat.

Good luck man! Ask any questions you need to and stick with it!

2 Likes

I am happy to report that for the first time since Oct 1999, I barbell squatted! Chose it for my 2nd exercise to ensure I was warmed up. My numbers were small, I’m not afraid one bit to admit it, but here’s how it went… 2 sets of 15 (Olympic bar only) just to get a form check. Went slow and deep (yeaaaaah, haha) ensuring full ROM and squeeze at top. Followed up with 2 sets at 95lbs for 12 reps, again focusing on purest of form.

To be honest, I felt no pressure on my spine, but started to get great burn during that 2nd set at the 7 rep mark, banged out 5 more. My 2 working sets were at 135lbs for 9 reps, then 6 reps. The burn and pain really set in during the 2nd working set from rep #2, but it was the good pain and burn, not in the spine. I halfass failed on that 6th rep, had to Kaepernick down to the safety bars. Played it safe. I know I wasn’t making it up cleanly.

Afterwards, I did 4 sets of barbell glute bridges, 3 sets of loaded bench lunges, then 4 sets of leg extensions. I knew workout was complete when I knelt down to put the plates on the rack and my legs gave out and I fell into my Bowflex. :slight_smile: Before y’all laugh, I modded the bowflex with a fab’d cage with a dual pulley system and loading pins so it runs purely off of plate weights.

I lift alone in my basement. Got 2 kids under the age of 5 and there’s zero possible way for me to join a gym. But I gotta say, if it weren’t for yalls words of encouragement, I never woulda attempted to squat tonight. Can’t even begin to thank you enough. Ima continue for the next 4 weeks without any worry of increasing weight until muscle memory returns to form. Then ill make small increments from there. The surprise of the night was how hard it was to just rack the bar on my shoulders. Its been 19 years and my arms definitely didn’t want to stretch that far back to grab the bar! It felt amazing to stretch like that again. Again, thank you so much for the input, and its time for my post meal and creatine! God bless y’all!

1 Like

Great work! Stay safe lifting alone!

1 Like

Just watched a video on reverse hypers. After about 2 minutes of looking at my roman chair, I definitely think I can quickly fab up a removable attachment to give those a shot. The bench lunges I talked about probably isn’t the right term. I stand facing the bench with dumbbells, do a controlled step up, give a quick toe tap with the opposite foot as I squeeze at the top, then step back down. I’m sure there’s a proper name for them, but hell if I know what it is. Ha.

Oh I think those may be “step-ups.” If I’m picturing it correctly, I belive that’s the name.

Great job on the squats man! If I may, once you’ve reacquainted yourself with the squat, I would recommend doing them anywhere 1-3 days a week (maybe 2 days would be best. 1 might be a little too infrequent, and 3 may be pushing it if you’re still being cautious of your back), and after doing some warmup sets, doing 3 sets of 5 reps, and either repeating the weight once more the next squatting session, or going up 5 lbs if it felt easy.

So like this:

Day 1, Week 1: 3x5 w/ 135 lbs
Day 2, Week 1: 3x5 w/ 140 lbs

Day 1, Week 2: 3x5 w/ 145 lbs (felt pretty hard)
Day 2, Week 2: 3x5 w/ 145 lbs (again)

Day 1, Week 3: 3x5 w/150 lbs

And so on. If you can follow that until you get to a point where progressing that often becomes impossible, then you could do something like Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1:

That’s a pretty good beginner into intermediate progression model. You increase weight fairly slowly so you’re never really rushing things. You can also follow that model for your bench press and overhead press if you want. I know you don’t deadlift currently, so I’m not saying you need to follow that program to a T, but just the progression methods could help your squat.

As far as your shoulders, try doing these before squatting (and before upper body work):

Those really help me feel loosened up to get my hands back there, and I think many have claimed it’s probably the best all around shoulder mobility drill, in case you ever feel like you’re getting tight up in the chest/shoulder area.

Check these out for reverse hyper replacements. The second one may possibly be what you’re referring to - just looping a band around the machine you use for back extensions.


(skip to 7:45 to see the exact part I’m talking about)

For future reference, both of those YouTubers are two of the very few YouTubers I’d ever say actually have anything helpful to say. They may both have some good tips for training.

But again, that’s great about the squats! I hope everything continues to go well!

1 Like

If thats the case with bad discs then i would vere towards forgetting deads all together

If you do give them a shot: try from different heights and try snatch grip as a variation -gives big bang for buck using lighter. Start light and progress super conservatively, never go over sets of 5-6 for work sets to avoid form break down

2 Likes

My wife started lifting, and I have her prioritize the squat, even though she likes the deadlift.

1 Like

Good job, Penny. Stick with it dude, the gains and confidence will come. Best wishes.

1 Like