T Nation

Program Feedback, Please!

My schedule recently changed and I have 9 weeks before my schedule changes again for the summer. I’ve come up with a workout plan for the next 9 weeks and would appreciate some feedback/critique.

My goals are to lose about 15-20 more lbs and to build a solid foundation of muscle. I’ve been back to the gym for a few months now and am starting to feel stronger and fitter. Eventually I want to look pretty muscular and get a lot stronger.

I’ve read a lot of the articles and info on the site (my head is starting to hurt) and am trying to incorporate all this great info. It seems that women should train pretty much like men, but add additional cardio for fat loss and use a few more reps per set for muscle growth.

I want to take advantage of the extra boost of early morning fasted cardio. This will also help me get up and going in the morning before the kids get up (a struggle for me), and means I can spend my precious gym time focusing on lifting weights. I can get to the gym 4 days a week in the afternoon/evening, so I will also get an extra metabolism boost by working out twice a day.

I want to build a solid foundation and have tried to use compound movements in a 4 day upper/lower body split routine. I’ve read great info on full body workouts, but wasn’t sure doing one 4 days was best (great William Boone thread!). I am a little confused on the best set/rep & tempo scheme to use and am thinking of sticking with 3 sets of 8-12 (with an addt’l light warm-up set) and lifting the weights faster, pausing and lowering them slower until I am more experienced.

Mon-Sat (6 days) - early morning fasted cardio 20-30 minutes
Tues/Thurs/Sat - Ian King’s 12 week ab program after cardio
Mon/Fri - upper body (chest, shoulders, biceps, triceps)
Wed/Sat - lower body (back, quads, hamstrings, calves)

Upper Body Workout:
Chest - bench press, db flyes
Shoulders - military press, Cuban rotation
Biceps - bb curl, db curl
Triceps - dips, French press

Lower Body Workout:
Back - bb row, lat pulldown
Quads - squat, lunges
Hamstrings - stiff-legged deadlift, leg curl machine
Calves - standing calf raise, seated calf raise

What is the best set/rep and tempo scheme for me?

Should I repeat the same workout twice a week or pick 2 different exercises for the second workout?

Do I need 2 biceps, triceps & calves exercises if I’m doing good compound movements? Should I omit one and add another compound movement?

I am unable to do any pull-ups right now (but I will someday, dammit!) and was thinking of doing assisted pull-ups instead of the lat pull-down machine. Good idea? (I’ve done well with assisted dips, slowly using less and less weight…)

I’ve read about the snatch, clean-and-press, clean-and-jerk, glute ham raise, hyperextensions, reverse hyperextensions, good mornings, push press, power clean, push jerk, etc., but I’m not sure how to do them. I’d like to learn, but I’m not comfortable just reading and trying it out by myself. Also, I don’t see these being done at the “family fitness” gym I go to. Any thoughts on the best way to learn them?

I’ve been doing step aerobics videos for my cardio, but am thinking of trying the cardio rowing option on my dust-collecting home gym. I didn’t feel “fit” enough to do it in the past, but I think I might be now and it will probably give me the most “bang for my buck”. Any tips on rowing machines?

I have also focused on my nutrition and feel that I’m on target there. I’ll spare you the details :slight_smile:

Any tips, thoughts, feedback is greatly appreciated. Thanks! -Jill


Sounds like you’ve really thought things out and know what you want. Great job!

As for your plan, let me give you some of my suggestions.

First, I don’t believe in “fasted” cardio or any other type of training. It can actually increase burning muscle for energy rather than fat. Instead, I recommend at least a small meal of some protein and carbs prior to your cardio (10-15 grams protein and 20-25 grams of carbs). This will ensure that you don’t use up your muscle for energy, but still use your fat and carbs!

Second, if you have nine weeks of training and plan to follow an upper body/lower body split, I suggest going with lower reps and heavier weights. This will ensure that you keep or gain strength while dieting down. You don’t want to get weaker and smaller (remember, muscle takes up 1/3 the size of fat…so gain some muscle to appear leaner and meaner and help burn more fat!). My recommendation would be to start with 3 sets of 4-6 reps. You can add sets later on. As Staley suggests, do the to find out how much volume you need…then feel free to increase or decrease as necessary.

Third, if following an upper/lower body split, I like to base it on movement patterns to make sure you keep a balanced attack.

For example:

Upper Body Day:
Bench press (horizontal push)
Barbell or dumbbell rows (horizontal pull)
Chins/pulldowns (vertical pull)
Military presses (vertical push)
Biceps curls (biceps)
Triceps pressdowns or skullcrushers (triceps)

Lower Body Day:
Squats or lunges (quad dominant)
Stiff-legged deadlifts (hip dominant)
Step ups (quad dominant)
Leg curls or glute ham raises or reverse hypers (hip dominant)
Calves (standing/seated)

Hope that helps! And no, you don’t need to do two arm exercises if you are already using compound lifts and also one single-joint movement.

Wow Jill, you’ve got a ton of information in there and a bunch of questions to boot! I know I’m not going to do them justice, but I’ll at least say something and help get the ball rolling…

Most of us have a hard time losing fat and gaining strength and muscle at the same time. More so if we are trained. If you have been training for a while already I’d shoot for maintaining your LBM while trying to drop the weight you mention.

At the same time, the faster you drop weight, the harder it will be to keep up a demanding workout schedule – due to lack of calories to fuel rest and recovery. Generally, this often leads us to adjust to lower reps with higher weight.

I’m completely unable to talk about a “best” set/rep & tempo scheme, but I would say that I believe picking heavy compound lifts will never steer you wrong. It is possible that you will be able to back off from additional isolation work until you’ve stopped making fast gains based on the compound lifts themselves.

Again, I think you’ll have to judge whether or not you feel energetic and are getting adequate rest and recovery based on the nutrition you get while trying to lean down.

While people do grouse about the use of pulldowns or assisted work, you have to start somewhere. If you are making good progress, check out whether or not you can pull a single every once in a while. If you can do a single, then you can do sets of singles and before long you’ll be doing short sets.

While I’m no expert, I have done a lot of lifts that were once new and are now part of my routine. If you have a training partner it gets a bit easier as you can get immediate help with form and so on.

Anyhow, I like to incorporate a new lift on a friday evening. The gym is generally pretty empty and I’m not in front of that many people while I’m experimenting with a new lift and struggling with very light weights. I usually only add a new lift after I get more comfortable with a previous new lift… maybe once ever two or three weeks. I’m sure you could learn them all at once if you wanted, but this is how I have been doing it.

Hope this helps get the ball rolling on opinions and feedback!


With the amount of cardio you are doing, you will need to be very careful that a big chunk your weight loss does not come from lean mass. You did not include details about your diet, but you should be no more than 20% below your daily maintenance calorie level. I would also recommend about 1 gm/lb of protein.

I think your strength training program looks good. Are you using a training log? If not, you may want to start. In order for your muscles to grow, they need to be put under more stress each workout. The idea is to add at least one more rep or a little more weight each time. This is difficult without a training log showing what was performed in the last workout.

Do you have any way of testing your body fat? Some gyms offer body composition analysis as part of their membership. You can also find very inexpensive (and easy to use) calipers on the internet. By tracking your body fat along with your weight you can ensure that the weight you lose comes from fat and not lean mass.

Thanks, guys! Great tips!

Nate, I really like the split you posted. I’m going to use it (actually I did the upper body workout last night and liked it).

The idea of trying a new exercise on a Friday night when the gym is less crowded is a good idea. Maybe I’ll reward myself with session with a trainer to learn the more technical lifts when I reach my goal weight…

I do keep a gym log (I’d be lost without it) and am trying to keep tabs on my body fat % so I don’t lose lean muscle. I try to eat lots of protein (1g/lb bw), moderate carbs and fat. I just had Surge for the first time yesterday, too.

Thanks again!!!

Great! Glad to hear you liked it! You can easily use that for several weeks before switching the exercises (use dumbbells instead of barbells, or switch hand position).

This way, you can still do the “same” exercises by using different grips or equipment. Oh yeah, try to keep your rest periods short (60 seconds or less). You can do these exercises as straight sets or as supersets depending on what you prefer (or can do depending on how many people are in the gym).

Definitely try to stick to lifting heavier to preserve your muscle mass. At the same time, make sure your diet is dialed in so you can lose fat during the process.

And do interval training (HITT) immediately following your workouts or on your “off” days. Interval training is definitely superior to fat loss rather than steady cardio. And it helps preserve the muscle! :wink:

Good luck!